Sunday, August 27, 2006

Hrishida – another jewel lost


Another person, I adored, admired and respected has gone out of the world.

It was 1982; At 9 pm, My then colleague, Sudhir Kulkarni and I were waiting outside Bandra clinic of Late Dr. Ashok Tulpule- cardiologist when I saw a man wearing loose khadi Kurta and cotton pyjama briskly walked out of his consulting room.

My reaction was instant, “that’s Hrishikesh Mukherjee”.
Sudhir’s reaction was “You must be kidding”.
As soon as, we entered Dr Tulpule’s room, we confirmed he was indeed Hrishida. Sudhir was surprised that a man of such a fame in so ordinary attire. I felt happy as I could see the man who I admired most.

Those were the days, when I would relate to every personality associated with the movie that influenced me. And Hrishida did make a big impact throughout my school and college days with Chupke Chupke , Golmal, Mili, Guddi, Bawarchee, Anupama, Namak Haram, Bemissal, Buddha Mil Gaya, Khubsoorat, Satyakam, Ashirwad, Abhiman.

Now that he is gone, the above incident came to my memory alongwith his memorable movies that had quintessential Indian ness with abundance of humour woven around human traits.

Satyapriya – a protagonist in Satyakam remain forever embedded in me and unlikely would go away till my last breath. If I ever stayed away from indulging in corrupt practices that prevail in the medical world, it’s mainly because – a part of Satyapriya is in my soul. I wish, I had the same self belief and conviction to emulate Satyapriya in my early life when my goals of securing academic, professional, parental and societal acceptance relegated the means that I practised to get those goals. Would there ever be another ‘Satyapriya’? Who knows, one day it may happen.

Till then or otherwise , Hrishida with characters of Satyapriya, Naren, Babu Moshai, Vicky, Ram Prasad Sharma and Jijjaji would remain forever close to my heart.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Brands I am addicted to

No matter how frequent one travels, it’s not so easy to ensure that everything is put inside the briefcase. This time, I missed out on my new Sony Digital camera bought at Akihabara, Tokyo. This camera wasn’t that lucky purchase once I realized that memory card of Sony was at loggerhead with Toshiba laptop. I was fortunate that my laptop remained intact. But the resultant damage was repurchasing US$50 for 1MB stick. It is surprising that two big Japanese brands don’t work with each other but one from Scandinavian Nokia memory coo coo’s well with Toshiba. I don’t know why these companies can’t declare their compatibility with other devices. Perhaps they do in their manuals but lazy as I am, I never read those and rely on ‘on the job’ playing around with push buttons to grapple with functioning of these gadgets.

Camera is not something I missed that much, what it really affected was my Mach3 razor. How important is this ‘astra’ is when I used my backup single blade Gillette razor. Few cuts, blood stained spots and uneven shave convinced me of utility of high price of Mach 3 I pay. Now I have upgraded version – battery operated Mach3. Smooth and sliding shave!!

There was a time when I felt buying branded good was sheer waste of money. I am paying for the cost of model, advertising and promotion cost when intrinsic value of the product without brand recognition remained the same. It’s only after the some years, I have realised that I ended up in paying more for unbranded or less brand value goods. Very often, the lesser brand recognition offered less value of money. I remember, many years ago, a product was launched and they proclaimed in the press advertisement that average cost of advertising and promotion for their product category is almost 30%. They want to cut down this cost by 20% and offer the benefit to the consumer by slashing the prices by 20%. They stuck to this policy with just press releases. The product bombed and went out of shelf within few months.

Today, besides Gillette Mach3, I have penchant for Heinz Ketchup, Lays chips, Snickers – Choco bar, Budweiser Beer, Sarvana Bhavan–coffee, Tata Tea, Mysore Sandalwood-soap, Marmum Yoghurt, Al Marai Milk, Zain – Mango Juice, Black label – Whisky.



Monday, August 21, 2006

bismillah khan

Ye jo des hai tera, swades hai tera, tujhe hai pukaara…
Ye woh bandhan hai jo kabhi toot nahin sakta

A R Rahman so wonderfully captured the essence of Indian spirit by using Shahnai in this song . This song also in many ways relate to Bismillah Khan’s Swades - of his longing for his homeland - ‘Bana- Ras’ his longing for his ‘music’ as a religion in contradiction of his globetrotting and Islam.

‘Sanai’ or ‘Shahnai’ is something I have been used even before I knew anything about music. In my early days, as green band on Philips radio would narrow – the musical notes of Shahnai would follow a signature tune of Akashwani at 6.00 am. The journey with Shahnai continued in subsequent years with – melodious notes of Shahnai accompanied by Drumbeats – Chowgahda would announce the arrival of marriage season, festivals.

Ustad Bismilla Khan. with his unswerving perseverance and genius, elevated this ‘King of Bamboo’ afghan double-reeded wind instrument with a eight-nine holes into one of the most important classical concert instruments that has now become synonymous with India and its spirit.

Today, he passed away. His wish was “I won’t mind if people forget me but hopefully they should not forget Shahnai”. Its unlikely people of Indian origin would ever forget both Shahnai and Ustad Bismilla Khan as long as India is kicking in the pursuit of the civilization.

Mitti ki jo khushboo, tu kaise bhoolaayega
Tu chaahe kahin jaaye, tu laut ke aayega
Nayi nayi raahon mein, dabi dabi aahon mein
Khoye khoye dilse tere, koyi ye kahega

Ye jo des hai tera, swades hai tera, tujhe hai pukaara
Ye woh bandhan hai jo kabhi toot nahin sakta

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Penang: Hi Tech Island of Temples



When it comes to high density temple towns, Haridwar – a holy place and Kurukshetra –a battleground of Mahabharata, come to my mind. But with the exception of BHEL factory in Haridwar, neither of these two places have anything to do with industries. Penang, probably is the only place in the world that can have Hi Tech silicon industries such as Dell, Siemens, B Braun , Bosch, Panasonic ,Blaupunkt, Osram alongwith host of religious places like Snake temple, Tamil Mariammam temple, Thai and Burmese Buddha temples, Chinese Taoism, Confucianism temples , Anglican Church and scores of Muslim mosques.

High technology silicon industry with tourist inflow has transformed this small turtle shaped sleepy, quiet verdant island into business and leisure town. A town with almost 700K residents swells to a million with influx of 600K workers from mainland. Plentiful of rain with equatorial warm, sunny weather with long coastline and economical lifestyle bring tourists. Foreign nationals can buy property in Penang as long as it is more than 250K Ringits. This brings retired foreign nationals who choose Penang as their destination in their twilight years.

Penang airport is not as big as Kuala Lumpur but more organized than another tourist city like Cape Town. As my plane descended, I could make out Penang’s turtle shape island joining the main land by 4 km long bridge.The Hotel Equatorial was spacious like any tourist resort. Lobby was amidst green environs and adjacent to a sprawling swimming pool with a waterfall. From the balcony, I could see picturesque view of Penang Bridge and golf course. But elevators and lobby does get stuffy without ac and proper ventilation. This hotel may be close to the airport but far away from most places.

It’s difficult to understand direction in Penang but being an island one is never away from a shoreline. Going to a Sea food restaurant at Ocean beach took me through some wonderful palm tree lined neat roads. Behind that palm tress, were some exquisitely decorated villas and colonial buildings. From Georgetown to Batu Feringghi Beach – lay Gurney drive - an evening place that gets filled up with delcacies of Penang laksa, hokkien mee and char koay teow.

Khoo Kongsi clan house is another interesting place. Chinese families have their own temple that symbolizes patronage of family lineage. This is similar to many ‘community halls’ that Mumbai has for the benefit of their community migrants. They support in terms of arranging marriages, setting up a book library or social gatherings. But Khoo family is unique in making their family tradition grow and succeed. It all started when first Khoo came to Penang in 16th century from China. By 18th century they build their own clan house. Only a person born with Khoo surname father gets support and this support is generous enough to pursue higher education abroad to study Law, Medicine and Business. These people, once successful, provide handsome donations to the temple and their effort gets rewarded by having their name plaque. The outside of the building is Chinese influenced architecture in dragon form adorned with intricate carvings that cover the roof line. Outside the temple are two stone dragon statues that have stone balls inside their mouths .These stone balls were carved in place from the cavity of the dragon's mouth and are thus larger than the mouth opening. Most interesting is the statue of Sikh Sardar who symbolizes the fierce loyalty in guarding the temple (what a blot to this legendary tradition by Sikh bodyguards who killed Indira Gandhi). Inside is even more intricately decorated that feature tapestries, wooden carvings laced with gold and other artifacts.

Eating dinner at Mumbai House restaurant managed by a Tamilian was a welcome change. Food quality was nothing great but once you are deprived of indian food, anything that comes along is relishing and so was the Papad and Bhaji. A chance meeting with Malaysian born and raised Indian Tamil origin couple was a pleasant surprise. They were owners of Chettinad restaurant in Bansar at Kaula Lampur and I had even dined at their place on previous two occasions. Little did I realize that I would meet them in Penang and discuss about their new Chettinad in Penang. I do feel his restaurant- famously known as banana leaf restaurant – has a great chance of success in Dubai- that house more Indian immigrants.

My association with Buddhism that began with Ayuthaya, Yangoon, and Nara continued in Penang with Wat Chaiyamangkalaram, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, and the Dharmikarma Burmese temple which is across the street. The Temple of the Reclining Buddha is the fourth largest reclining Buddha's, which is over 100ft long. I have been to 1st one inYangoon, 2nd one in Bangkok and now 4th one in Penang. The gold plated Buddha is placed in the middle of the room and is surrounded by statues and paintings depicting various tales. Behind and underneath the pedestal holding the Buddha are thousands of urns containing the remains of devotees. The outside of the temple was equally impressive, with two large statues standing guard outside the temple. Two long dragons lie at their side and in the middle is an incense burner where worshippers can add their offering to the burner. Across the street was the Dharmikarma Burmese temple, which housed an approximately 20 ft tall Buddha.

The Snake Temple built around 1850 in memory of Buddhist priest and healer, Chor Soo Kong is next to B Braun factory along the highway to Penang International Airport. According to the legend, lots of snakes appeared when the temple was built and they have been there ever since. When we entered the temple altar, we were wondering about Snake’s presence. Only when our guide goaded two wiry parrot green yellow pigmented coiled creatures, we realized that they were snakes- similar to Russel Viper. They were fast asleep, It seems strong aromatic fragrance of incense make them sleep. On the altar table was chicken egg tray. Soon it became apparent that these coiled creatures were everywhere on altars, vases, tables and even tree outside. In an adjacent room photographers, would take photos with snakes around visitors head, neck or arms. Those snakes have no poison fang. Exhibition center with entrance fee of RM 5.00 didn’t interest having seen Snake Park in Chennai.

I could see from the bus Sri Mariammam Temple - ornate with statues of deities- like the one on Serangun road in Singapore. Our guide was quick to point to a corner house that filmed ‘Anna and the King ’staring Jodie Foster.

By the time we reached Pagoda of the Kek Lok Si (Temple of Paradise), heat and humidity took its toll. We had to walk through the stairs to reach pagoda. Walk is through small alley lined up on both sides by shops reminded me of going to Mahalaxmi temple in Mumbai. On way, we stopped at little pond that had literally hundred of baby turtles. Behind the Kek Lok Si rises a bronze statue of this Goddess. The temple itself is amazing, but with energy levels quickly draining, I galloped as fast I could to reach on top and get a view of Penang city only to run down and hop into ac bus.

Penang - The Pearl of the Orient has enjoyed a colorful past replete with merchants and traders. Since post 9/11, it is getting packed with Arab tourists. At buffet breakfast, I was amused to see an Arab woman, passing buttered bread through her hanging scarf that covered her nose, much the same manner elephant would swallow under his trunk. Every time she did that, she had to take tissue paper to clean bread crumbs that would gather on her expensive black silken veil. Even in Middle East, I have never been witness to this spectacle. In Saudi, woman are covered from top to toe, but you don’t see them eating. Their section is away from curious prying eyes of souls like me. In Dubai, if one sees a fully clad woman, one is lucky!
Four nights and three day stay in Penang let me see Georgetown but missed out on Penang Hill, Botanical Garden and traveling along the Hyundai built bridge that links Penang with mainland.