Friday, April 23, 2010

Its Magic!

I recently watched a ‘Mary Poppins’, Broadway show about the magical nanny on a lovely evening.  'Magic', the term has such an aura of mystery and charm to it.  I have always been fascinated by everything to do with magic starting with the elves and goblins of the Magical Faraway tree of Enid Blyton to the magic by Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings to the recent very magic Harry Potter series.  The characters of all these authors seemed (still do honestly) so real in a parallel universe, which I 'ld like to believe exists.

But of course magic does exist, albeit in different forms rather than witches and wizards waving their magic wands and staffs or brooms.  I just looked at things anew from a different angle. There is magic in the way nature works.  The sun rising and setting every day, the rains, the twinkling stars, the massive sand dunes in deserts, the terrifying as well as mystic and beautiful sea, the beating of a living beings heart or two.

Humanity itself has come far in the quest for advancement as Ayn Rand, the author and philosopher rightly acknowledged.  We take so many things for granted now but what technology has achieved is nothing short of magic. For a moment, I ceased to wonder about the logic of a lot of things.   I can see what is happening at the other part of the world on TV, on a web camera, now isn’t that magic?  I can fly in the air in a helicopter or aeroplane even though I don’t have wings..Magic? I can speak to my dear ones, wherever they are and from wherever I am on the mobile phone..Magic!, I can search a million computers from mine on Google..Magic…

There is magic in a spell binding book, an enthralling performance on stage or on tv, an awe-inspiring painting, a delectable dinner with that just right spice, the scent of a rose, the sweetness of a strawberry, sitting and staring at the vast ocean on a sunny beach, a little child's innocence, a genuine smile or laugh, friendship, a beautiful day with loved ones...

So, the next time you want to feel the magic, just look around you and let me know what you see!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Train Travails

Here is a piece I wrote long back when I used to travel regularly on the Mumbai Local Train..

The Great teeming mass swarms ahead. The drone of voices, footsteps, the heartbeat of throbbing millions, mellifluous announcements made ceaselessly, the clamor of vendors, the haste of the multitude, the hanging on for dear life, the heaving and pushing, the sluggish movement on the tiny footbridge, the agony of losing a fast, the swearing, the compunction of that extra sleep that caused the missing of the fast…Welcome to Mumbai local station.

Chug chug chug chug… There she comes like a beacon of hope, winding her way and halting with geometric precision impeccably at the same location every time. Whooooosh...a new mass of heaving human bodies extrudes from the train. Great amounts of adrenaline is pumped to board the train and the cacophony grows manifold as seconds tick away and amidst the imprecations uttered, the horn blows and the train moves on. The ones left behind look away disgruntled, to the next opportunity. No, train travel at Mumbai during the rush hour is certainly not for the faint hearted.

Once inside, one heaves a sigh of relief for the toehold available thanking ones stars with the density of people per millimeter square varying according to the station. There is an entire range of humanity and a sea of different faces in different garbs. Fashionably dressed teens, local fisherwomen, tired teachers, smartly dressed office goers in saris, suits, western formals, cheerful students, students poring over their notes for exams, some old grouchy women, girls in love fighting with boyfriends on their mobiles, you name the type of woman, she certainly will be found in this great leveler of people in the women’s compartment. Smells of deos, perfumes, lipsticks, garam samosas, food from dabbas and smells from outside mingle as the train and the people move along..

The hum of voices discussing everything from love affairs, relationships, office gossip to recipes, the fights over the place to stand or seat available, the announcements made about various stations, beggars singing terribly… are heard over the chug chug chug of the train. Vendors selling accessories, magazines, cosmetics, fruits, vegetables, snacks, clothes and much more call ones' attention to their wares in this mini shopping mall. With a phenomenal sense of balance, they carry their bundles through the crowd in the moving train. Stations whiz by as the train moves on with great celerity. Minutes tick by and the somnolent grow alert wiping their sleepy eyes and await the moment when the train halts.

Well, however trying it might get, this experience is one of a kind and the short journey has a life of its own.  However crowded, they may get, they are the lifeline of millions of the commuters they ferry to and fro day after day after day. That is the Great Mumbai train travel.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Story Telling

Story telling is an art that I have never ceased to marvel about.  It just makes me think: to have the words they write, flow that way is just a divine gift.  Though a lot of hard work goes on to make it what we, mere mortals finally read, writing is not something that can be inculcated with continuous training or hard work. To conjure a story or several of those is one amazing thing, and to put them down into several thousand words and at the same time keeping the reader going, is quite another.

A book of Somerset Maugham, ‘The Moon and Sixpence’ has me hooked at present.  The classics, I realize are called so, because they are indeed timeless.  Even if the costumes and the way life is led changes, the universal emotions of the people remain perpetually the same.  Some of the situations continue to be so.  I enjoy Maugham because it is these ironies of life that he depicts so well.

“Mrs. Strickland had the gift of sympathy. It is a charming faculty, but one often abused by those who are conscious of its possession: for there is something ghoulish in the avidity with which they will pounce upon the misfortune of their friends so that they may exercise their dexterity. It gushes forth like an oil-well, and the sympathetic pour out their sympathy with an abandon that is sometimes embarrassing to their victims. There are bosoms on which so many tears have been shed that I cannot bedew them with mine. Mrs. Strickland used her advantage with tact. You felt that you obliged her by accepting her sympathy.”

“It was the kind of party which makes you wonder why the hostess has troubled to bid her guests, and why the guests have troubled to come. There were ten people. They met with indifference, and would part with relief. It was, of course, a purely social function. The Stricklands "owed" dinners to a number of persons, whom they took no interest in, and so had asked them; these persons had accepted. Why? To avoid the tedium of dining tete-a-tete, to give their servants a rest, because there was no reason to refuse, because they were "owed" a dinner.

I am certainly an ardent admirer of the abilities and the great works of several of the old writers, but it is not to say, I do not enjoy reading some of the less accomplished modern day writers who may not use bombastic parlance, but do have a story to tell.  My opinion about them certainly isn’t sky high as it is for the other writers.  But even then, even though their books could be trashy or crass, many of them still manage to provide some ephemeral entertainment if not wholesome satisfaction.  The characters in most detective or crime thrillers are hardly as powerful as Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot were, but they still manage to keep one hooked and that is a talent in itself.  Hats off to all those who have this talent.