Thursday, April 30, 2009


While a good piece of music is growing on me, the events happening in my life at that time somehow get knitted with the notes. The association becomes so strong that years later the song summons, albeit in a subdued way, the same emotional experiences. "Coming back to Life" takes me to Pup's gravel-strewn parapet-less terrace and revives the idealism of four clueless souls. "When the Levee Breaks" invokes the drive to Pondicherry. "Where is My Mind?" reminds me of letting a best-friend go. "Why Georgia" is about Sequioa.

This last week I've been falling in love with Phish. The list of songs I like is really long but I'd have to pick "Taste", "Chalk Dust Torture" and "Prince Caspian". They're already one of my favorite bands. I'll seek out every album of theirs and wear them out. However, they will always be associated with an interminable bus journey and with letting people (and a cat) go. I know that their songs will make me intensely poignant, but never truly happy. That's the only shame.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Capt. Gopinath

I find door-to-door campaigning irritating. I hate the whole scam; the fake modesty, the circle of cronies, the paper handouts, those jingoistic promises, the khadi, and not least the look on the candidate that says "Look at me! I'm gracious enough to leave my crown at home". What irritates me most is that the candidates I have to choose from don't come close to representing me on any one of the issues that I care about.

Last evening, however, Capt. Gopinath dropped into our office like a waft of fresh air. He addressed us for an hour and narrated his progression from a serviceman to farmer to businessman and now to a politician. He had some fascinating stories to tell us. He gave us a fleeting glimpse of his beliefs too. I disagreed with him often. When he referred to India as a nation of "one billion consumers", I cringed and realized how far left I've ended up in my ideology. I cringed again when he referred to how we was inspired by China's model of development. In his defense, he quickly clarified that he does not condone the curbs on liberties. But mostly I agreed with him. That's not the point though. The encouraging bit was that throughout the hour he spoke my language.

It's a pity that he is not in my constituency. My instincts tell me he's going to lose in Bangalore South. That might still be the start of something.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Have you heard people look at a breathtaking landscape and say "The Government should develop tourism here"? (You'll have a better chance of hearing that if you take a fresh NRI to that place). That's the kind of philosophy that takes a beautiful, bio-diverse, rich vista and converts it into a mall! If you don't know what I mean, you've never been to Manali or Goa. Some of my favorite places in my home state are those that are really difficult to get to and ones that you'll never hear of in a tour guide. For all those who say that beauty should be shared, I say "buzz off!". Maybe, developing tourism fuels the economy, but it also excuses raping a land without paying the ecological costs.

Let me get to the point now. I like Gokarna. I like it that there were so few people there. I like it that we virtually owned the beach. I like it that it's not as tourist-friendly as Goa. Or was it just the 'wrong' time of the year? Whatever the reason was, it was one hell of a weekend.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bellary Trip

It's too soon for me to talk about Prof. Trilochan Shastry without appearing star-struck. Prof is behind the Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch. I had the privilege to travel with him to Bellary on one of his campaigns to snap people out of their cynicism. This trip had been born out of a request to the prof to do something about the craziness in Bellary. For the uninitiated, Bellary has recently become the epicenter of politics in Karnataka. The money from the mines, it is universally known, routinely makes a marketplace out of the votes.

Before we landed there, prof had managed to reach out to NGOs working in the district, irrespective of whether they worked on Electoral reforms or not. When we got there, there was a healthy gathering that had congregated in the Gandhi Bhavan. What followed next was a master class in how to influence people. While the meeting had begun in an atmosphere of dispassion, by the end of the session, there was an ad-hoc committee formed that couldn't wait to get on the ground to spread awareness about the dangers of selling votes.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the sterilized cocoons of various civil servants; election observers, the superintendent of police et al. There came my lesson 2. Irrespective of whether the audience was patronizing, indifferent, non-committal or even uninterested; nothing but nothing seemed to bother prof S. It was fascinating to see such unblemished single mindedness. All that despite the knowledge that the results his labour won't show for another decade or so.

I must have learnt something every minute of this trip. I remembered what Santayana said about escaping "into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.". I realized that travel is about knowing my world a little better and in the process knowing a bit more about myself.

My tales of Bellary won't make people jealous. Bellary was never on any of my 'Things to do before I ...' lists. Bellary does not boast the manicured landscapes or the sanitized locales that we love to photograph against. Bellary won't figure in any formula-traveler's almanac. It's no surprise, though, that my trip to Bellary last Sunday is probably my favorite ever