Monthly Archives: April 2006

Let there be light

God said, “Let there be light”. And then man said “Let there never be darkness”. Thus came the inverters, generators and the 100% power backups that we have in today’s world. Some days back I made a trip down memory lane when there was a power outage. On a side, I must mention that the power outages in Gurgaon are so frequent now that I would be permanently living in the past instead of making frequent trips down memory lane. Thankfully that does not happen since I also happen to have that contraption called the inverter. But on this particular night I made the trip down memory lane since my inverter had a problem and I had to resort to the “not-so-ubiquitous-anymore-stuff” – candles. I don’t even have candles at home. Luckily, with a birthday just gone past, and with age beginning to fast forward as they show in movies – pages of a calendar flipping past before you can say J for January – I had lots of teeny weeny candles to spare. I lit those up and then it was time to go back to … childhood.

Power outages were very very rare occurances in childhood. But when they happened, they were a delight. It usually meant good quality time for the whole family. Things like the summer heat or the buzzing mosquitoes would be a nuisance but then who cares when one can have so much fun. Some of the things that we did during such times include
– playing with the candle flame by passing a finger through it.
– playing with the wax that trickles down and making shapes out of it.
– making the wax trickle down with ones bare fingers. It’s great fun because one could make finger imprints.
– playing shadow games with ones hands.
– making eerie noises and scaring others.
– playing guessing games.
– relating ghost stories.
– remembering old anecdotes as the whole family bursts with laughter.
– antakshri.
– general chit chat with family, tantamounting to quality time spent.
– inventing new games to be played for the next power outage.

As part of growing up, the frequency of power outages increased and certain areas of interest (during such times) changed. For eg. With time I also became interested in studying the structure of a flame. The games kept getting more innovative. Watching the stars and the night sky when the power is not there, is something everyone should do because the street lights don’t hamper the view and on a clear night one can see proper constellations. During hostel life, the areas of interest changed yet again. Night walks, singing, guitar sessions, Antakshri across girls and boys hostels (with them being locked inside respective hostels), shadow dances done by guys (in guys hostel) by holding a candle against a bedsheet and then doing some sapera naach for the girls (watching from girls hostel), calling spirits on the ouija board; entered the “interesting things to do list”.

Now the situation is different. Seamless integration of devices like the inverter, doesn’t even let one know when the power is out. My mother’s favourite quote is “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. It certainly needs to be changed with today’s times because there isn’t any darkness anymore. I need to concentrate really hard to recollect the last time the power was out and I had a great time the way I have had some years back. One of my senior managers was relating an incident at his house where his inverter wasn’t working and a power outage happened. Both his daughters aged 5 and 2 screamed like anything and got absolutely terrified. He in turn got quite shaken up and got the inverter rectified the first thing next morning. It certainly makes me realise that there are already some people in this country who have never seen absolute darkness. How they will be able to deal with the fear of the dark is another thing altogether, but what they are really missing out on is something that can never be compensated. Tsk.

Rahul and I

Ok, the title here isn’t the Asha Bhonsle album. It could probably be the title of the picture I got shot with Rahul Bose (no, it’s not appearing anywhere here). But before I describe that foolishness here, here’s some bhoomika. On 7th April was Kitaab fest in IHC and the main reason why I wanted to go there was because one of my favourite most authors – William Dalrymple was participating. He’s a wonderful writer and is the sole reason behind my sudden interest in Indian history. Textbooks could never do what he did with a couple of books of his. I had written a review of the “City of Djinns” a year or so back and I wanted to write about “White Mughals” but then let it be. I’m currently reading “The Age of Kali”. The immense desire to meet WD in person and to be able to talk to him, was enough for me to slog in the week so as to be able to take leave on Friday. People got quite flabbergasted when told that I took leave for “this” event and that too when I am not even a writer (well not with critical acclaim at least), journalist, critic, random media person and am instead a software person. Of course the other attraction was Rahul Bose who I think is one sane actor and last but not the least, he blogs too!

The morning of 7th saw me get up quite early so as to make it to IHC at 9am from Gurgaon. I shouldn’t have made that effort because I made it at 10am and was greeted by a hall which was absolutely empty with not even the ghost of a program lurking nearby. Shortly William Dalrymple arrived and started setting up the projector with his slides for the reading of his new book – The last Mughal. I didn’t have any problems in procuring seats in the second row, right in front of the stage because the hall was fairly empty. The program started when Rahul Bose arrived “fashionably late” (in the compere’s own words). The book reading by WD started with a gusto but got converted to a sleep inducing murmur in some time. The chilling AC anyhow made me feel like curling up in a blanket and sleeping. William Dalrymple and Rahul BoseI somehow managed to keep myself awake. William Dalrymple appeared to be the bonhomous and affable guy next door. He tended to stretch on with his reading, quite unaware that he was doing so. This thing of being oblivious to it all, is what lent him a non-starry air. After the session, Rahul Bose asked him some questions related to the apparent change in the amalgamation of the British and the Mughal cultures, over a period of time. He also talked about how history takes shape by word of mouth or how it would be for our coming generation because of the difference in our perceptions and the things which are recorded down in history books. That is something I have always found rather interesting. It has also been highlighted quite well in the Da Vinci code.

One of the advantages of sitting right in front was that I could minutely see every expression of Rahul Bose Rahul Bose in deep thought(some of which I captured on my cam). I suddenly felt all school girlish about a celeb being there right in front. I also felt silly for feeling that, since clearly no one else treated him like a celeb except for the NDTV, CNN IBN and Tehelka guys. For a moment I even did the admittedly shameful thing of giving him the attention Rahul Bose with a faraway look in his eyesI had initially reserved for William Dalrymple. But in spite of all this I knew that I wanted to get a picture clicked with him. So I waited patiently till most of the “bees” had stopped buzzing around him and then I asked him if he would mind getting a pic clicked with me. He acquiesced and pictures happened. He instantly rushed out, before I could even utter a thanks, with some autograph mongers trailing behind him. That made me feel rather foolish for having given “bhaav” to a celeb. As it is, he doesn’t get a chance to get his picture clicked with me everyday.

After the WD & Rahul session there were several interesting discussions with eminent South Asian and British writers as the panelists. By this time I had exchanged my seat for a row which was way back in the hall so as to facilitate easy exit. Around lunch time when the discussion got rather boring, I thought of exiting the hall. Just as I reached the cornermost seat next to the aisle, a thought bubbled up in my head. It said, “What if I were to fall right now. This whole area looks rather precarious.”. And somehow that’s exactly what happened. My thoughts translated into reality with me wondering whether I had had a premonition or something! I had twisted both my ankles quite badly. More than the pain in my ankles, I was quite shaken up by the happening as I had actually been cautious and ended up falling. I had a feeling that for a split second there, I had hogged the limelight from the panelists and perhaps the whole hall was looking at me. I quickly did what I was in the process of doing viz. exited the hall and then collected myself. The pain wasn’t that much in the day but by evening I was beginning to walk like a wooden legged pirate. Thankfully I wasn’t driving as I had company. It took a day for the twisted ankle to get ok by using a painkiller and a muscle spray. As a result I missed the 2nd day at IHC when Goldie Hawn had to talk about her book. Since this “twist in the story” happened, I was also unable to get William Dalrymple’s pic clicked with myself. But I had managed to run into another celeb. Suchitra Krishnamurthy had a painting exhibition ongoing at IHC. And do these celebs make some dough or what! Her paintings were in the range of 2.5 Lakh + 12.5% VAT! If someone is as foolish as to leave buying a good enough car and buys a painting done by Suchitra, then he actually deserves that painting. I didn’t expect her to be there, but there she was, wearing HUGE goggles that looked like Mickey mouse’s ears, asking me whether I wanted the rate list. After taking the list I realised that it was her. I actually used to like her in her Lakme ads, but here she looked like a cartoon.

On the 3rd day of the Kitaab fest, I visited IHC for the sole purpose of meeting WD, talking to him and possibly getting a picture taken. The panel debates were rather interesting and engrossing. Soon enough William Dalrymple got free. He looks pretty much at home in cotton kurtas and all. I went and talked to him in bits and pieces with myriad “bees” buzzing around him from time to time. He even started greeting me with a “hi” everytime I pinged him, ignoring all the news channel dudes! Was I pleased or what! I also learnt that he lives right here in Gurgaon (Kapashera border to be precise). I talked to him some more and our conversation ended when eventually the picture titled “William and I” happened. A very unique and well spent weekend.