Mhaisal - a village, on the banks of the river Krishna, is in Sangli district of the western state of Maharashtra. Being on the boundary between Karnataka and Maharashtra, it is a confluence of cultures, languages and religions. Though the official language is Marathi, almost seventy percent of the population is bi-lingual. The highway to Bijapur and Belgaum, passes through the village. Agriculture is the main occupation, with sugar-cane, and grapes being the most important crops. Mhaisalkars are lovers of festivals, which are celebrated all year round with fervor and gaiety. (Map)
It is fortuitous that not only do I hail from Mhaisal, but chose, to spend my life here.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Day In The Sun

Last evening, I thought I would watch a Guru Datta movie. As I flipped through my collection, I first picked 'Pyasa', but felt it would put me into a sad brooding mood, for which I wasn't ready. Next I looked at 'Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam', but felt the pathos created by Meenakumari, would be contagious. Finally I settled for 'Mr. & Mrs. 55', with Madhubala at her vivacious best.

As the movie progressed, and Johny Walker in his inimitable style, started wooing 'Julie' the typist. His dialogue comparing her dimples with those of an apple, suddenly struck me. This 'Julie' was indeed exceptionally beautiful, I scratched my brains as to who the actress was, but I just couldn't remember her name. This in spite of the hugely popular song "Jane Kahan Mera Jigar Gaya Ji, Abhi Abhi Yahin Tha ...", being picturised on her.

I did a search, and found that the information available on her was extremely sketchy. The film credits gave her name as Yasmin, searching for Yasmin led to some other actresses by the same name. At last I got her real name as  Vinita Butt, the last any one had heard of her, was that she was supposed to have married James Vining, a British make-up man, who had come to India, for an Indo-European film venture "The Three Headed Cobra". That's all.

For eons philosophers, have mulled over the purpose of our being, sadly, no convincing answers have ever been found. For the theist, this poses no problem, as he believes he is but a part, of some Divine Scheme. But if you happen to be an atheist, there are certainly no answers. There simply does not exist a purpose. In fact why should we - in all our puniness - even suppose, there could be some purpose for our existence?

Yet we all yearn for fame and recognition, we want others to like us and praise us, and feel enchanted while basking in some or other form of glory - be it short lived. Our greatest fear is to depart unsung.

Even John Keats initially could not come to terms with this reality when he says in this sonnet,
"When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charactry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance" 
Yet finally he realises
"Then on the shore of the wide world,
I stand alone and think, 
Till Love and Fame do nothingness do sink"

We can also think of the millions, who have come and gone - maybe more talented, more beautiful, yet withered unknown and unsung.
And for solace, shouldn't we be grateful, for we certainly had our Day in the Sun?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

This Promise - I Shall Never Break

In the Eighties, I used to travel to Mumbai quite frequently, the trips were usually very short. (Longer ones would  burn larger holes in my pocket, which I could ill afford then.) In spite of the tightness of the schedule, I invariably found time to do a round of a couple of places, I loved. One was the Jehangir Art gallery, where  I would gaze at the paintings, and try to fathom the emotions that the artists were trying to convey through their works of art.

I would then spend what ever time I could spare, at Fountain with the pavement bookwallahs. Just thumbing through the pages of the books that caught my fancy, was therapeutic. Those were not the days when such pavement sellers would simply sell pirated books of the popular kinds. The books displayed, then. were usually collections sold by people who had no use for them, may be a relative of a demised bibliophile, who had inherited them but did not care a dime for books, or a new tenant of a house, who had found the lot in the attic and did not know what to do with it, or simply someone gone old and unable to re-read them any more.



On one such occasion, I was flipping through an old hardbound copy of 'The Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte, when suddenly a folded paper fell from the pages. I, picked it up, it was a handwritten letter. I put the letter back in the book. I already owned a paperback edition of the book, and did not really need another copy, but curiosity prevailed and I bought the book with the letter inside - without even haggling for the price demanded.

That evening in the train, I got the book out, and there was the letter again. This time, I couldn't help reading it, albeit not without some guilt. I thought I was being voyeuristic. The single factor which helped me  overcome my guilt, was that the letter was very old, it was dated Sunday July 20th. 1952.

The letter was from a mother to her teenaged daughter. She seems to have been recently separated or divorced from her husband when she wrote it.

A few days back, while looking for a book, I came across this book with the letter, I had forgotten all about it, As I took out the book, the letter fell down, and old memories came gushing through. I am now in a dilemma whether I should bring it in the public domain through this post or not. But the letter is so good that despite the breach of privacy, I felt it can be published without naming either the author or the recipient, whom we cannot identify anyway.

The fragility of human relationships, is what is most striking in this letter. Here, I am presenting an abridged version of the letter.



 Bombay,
Sunday, 20th., July 1952

 My Dear Annie,
By the time this letter reaches you, I will, in all probability be far removed from this presidency. Though physically, the distances that separate us may be vast, yet you shall never cease to be an inseparable part of me. At the time of your birth when the doctors cut the umbilical chord and made you an individual, you showed your resentment by bawling, you were consoled only when I held you to my bosom. This time, I know for sure, you will not make a scene, but my heart tells me, that you would be shedding silent tears, and trying to grapple with the fact that when you return from school I will not be there to hug you.

You are far too young, to understand, why these things are happening to the people in your life. As you grow older, you will see the compulsions that made these events inevitable. For now, I want you to remember that, you in no way are responsible for these developments, and should never feel the burden of guilt for the same.

Many years ago, I had made a promise that for better or for worse I shall always be with your Dad, but I hadn't realised then, that keeping promises is not an effort in isolation, but needs active cooperation of the parties concerned. I, certainly do not want to create the impression that I am a victim, or the one wronged. At this stage, let me just say, Your Dad and I,  were not compatible, and realised this a bit late. It is quite some time since the drift between us began, and I can understand the trauma you have gone through, specially during the summer holidays, when you were with us. Though we meticulously avoided making scenes in your presence, the coldness of our relationship, could not be kept away from you. I could see the myriad questions in your eyes, but I simply did not have the nerve to even look back into them, leave alone answering your unasked queries.

I know, home to you will not have the same connotation as it did before, yet I hope that you will soon accept the new realities. One thing will certainly not change, you shall continue to be the pivot around which our lives will revolve, albeit separately. 

I do not want to end this letter under a pall of gloom, The future is much more important than the past, and you have in store much more 'future' than any of us. Hope life  brings to you all the joys that it can offer. As for me, I shall always have you in my heart- and this is a promise I shall never break.
Love,
Mamma.

Credit: above picture from stockpicturesforeveryone.com

Saturday, June 23, 2012

2012- Mantralaya Fire -1933 Reichstag Fire, Does History Repeat?

               Hitler had just come to power, and was the Chancellor of a coalition government (does that sound a resonance?). He was desperate to increase the number of seats of the Nazi party in the Reich, to pass an 'Enabling Act', which he needed  to consolidate his dictatorship. It is strongly believed by many that to tarnish the image of the Communist Party, and subsequently ban it, the Reich-stag fire came in handy, and was probably the handiwork of the Nazis themselves. Though a communist, Van der Lube, was condemned for the crime, and executed. It was later proved though, that he was insane.

                  It is certain that the Reich-stag Fire was used very effectively by the Nazis not only to consolidate their power, but also to wipe out all opposition. I do not have to delve in any greater detail, of what history had to witness, as a consequence of this consolidation.
               
                 This was then, there was no live media coverage, or 24/7 panel discussions. Today when people watch the flames raging, and the smoke trails touching the skies, and a pensive Chief Minister with his other colleagues a mere spectator, they cannot but feel ashamed at the sheer incompetence of our administrative set-up.
                As for sabotage, how ever vehemently the powers that be, care to deny it, the street verdict is - as in the case of the Reich-stag Fire- this fire too is the handiwork of someone who stands to gain by it. Trust deficit at play? Maybe, but why so? Let the pensive CM and his team ruminate on it!





(P.S. The picture of the Reich-stag Fire has been taken from Wikipedia and is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 535790.
The Mantralaya fire picture is from Deccan Chronicle e-edition.) 
   

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mhaisal Birds - Through Mayur's Lens

A few months back, I received a call from Dr. Mayur Davda, from Mumbai. He is a Dentist by profession, and an avid nature lover. He had visited my blog and was keen on coming to Mhaisal to see and photograph birds. We decided on a date, I had requested him to come early in the morning at day-break. To my surprise, he was at our door at 6:00 AM! He and his cousin had come all the way from Sangli by motorbike in the chilling November weather.

We went to the Krishna river bank, and began our 'nature walk' from the Kankeshwar (Shiva) temple. We first walked along the bank, and spotted quite a few water birds, like Herons, Egrets, Coromonts, Kingfishers, etc. A large number of swallows, (could be easily around one to two thousand,) were sitting on the H.T. power lines. The interesting thing we observed, was the almost equal spacing (about 20 to 30 cm) between the swallows, as they sat on the power lines, each swallow had allowed a rightful space to it's neighbor.

We then walked along the Mhaisal Irrigation project road and came to our grape vineyard, which is on a lake front. We spotted Munias, Black Drongos, Shrikes, Kites, Hoopoes, Mynas, Peafowls and Sunbirds. Besides the birds, we also spotted a Rat-snake!

At Kedar-Laxmi Niwas, our house, we saw, the spotted Owlet, perched on the canopy support, and Brhamaney Kites, who have decided to make our garden their nesting place, sitting majestically on the tall Drooping Ashoka trees.

Dr. Mayur, went on clicking with his camera. His enthusiasm was so great that some times, when he got engrossed with a particular bird, he would simply not stop clicking and we had to plod him to come with us. 
I must say we enjoyed Dr. Mayur's vist to Mhaisal.

He has just uploaded a compilation of some of the pictures he took at Mhaisal. It is really good. Do watch it.

 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mhaisal Birds - Rendezvous with the Bottle Brush

Yellow Bellied Sunbird - "What a sweet kiss? Gives me nectar too!"

Yellow Bellied Sunbird, - "I dont mind going upside down, when nectar is at stake"

Oriental White Eye - "Looks like a brush, but mamma said there is manna in it"

Oriental White Eye - "It sure tastes heavenly"

Purple Sunbird - "Would you like to join the party?"

Purple Sunbird - "I, cant wait any more."

Red vented Bulbul - "I just dined on a worm, but I have a sweet beak too"


Monday, October 10, 2011

Of Aves and Humans

"Let's go to Kolhapur", Varsha, called me up and said. It was nearly five in the evening, and I would have to drive.The state of the road left much to be desired, and I, wanted to say "no", yet. I agreed. We left by six, and had just crossed Hathkanangle, when suddenly I saw something fluttering on the roadside, I pulled over, and Varsha went to see what it could be. It was an injured bird, with streaks of blood on its feathery coat. It had obviously been hit by a speeding vehicle. She tried catching it, but she couldn't hold on to it. I got a napkin from the car, and was able to hold it perilously. It was an immensely beautiful 'Black shouldered Kite'. Being a bird of prey, it had fierce talons and a hooked beak, and was in every mood to make maximum use of it's defense assets. I was driving, and Varsha had to hold it for over half an hour, till we reached Kolhapur, which ordeal, I must say, she bore bravely.

At Kolhapur, my friend Vinod Digrajkar and I, after a brief council, thought it best to consult some one who knew what the best course of action would be. We contacted Dr. Karnad, (who is a bird lover, and had rescued quite a few injured birds). He showed us how by covering its face, the bird becomes docile, he also examined it and declared that the injury to it's wings wasn't too serious, and the bird could recover in a couple of days, provided it could be fed.


We, went to the 'बुरूड गल्ली' (a lane, where bamboo products are available), and bought a biggish cage, and then bought some offal from the local mutton market. We returned to Mhaisal - and now the difficult task of feeding the bird began. We kept the offal in a small plate in the cage, and hoped that the bird smelling the food would eat it.

Early next morning, to our dismay we found that it had not, so much as, touched the food. We tried feeding it with forceps, but were successful only to a meager extent. It stubbornly held its beak shut, but would make every effort to grab my hand with it's tallons. Varsha was the butt of it's fury, and had to contend with a painful gash on her finger. I, was a little lucky with just a skirmish. After many failed attempts at feeding it, we contacted Dr. Vijay Tulajapurkar (who, though an oncologist by profession, is also a renowned ornithologist and nature photographer). He in turn contacted Pabrez Khan, at Sangli, who with his associates, have, the expertise to look after injured birds and animals. The next day we met them and handed over the bird to them. Pabrez was kind to keep me updated about the birds recovery. They not only managed to feed it but also took good care of it. 

Pabrez called me up just today, to inform me that the bird, was released and flew away with all it's glory. It, did not pause, to look back at it's recent abode, nor it's rescuers. When the blue skies beckoned it, it just flew away. Though, our guest for a couple of days, we, already looked upon it as family, and will miss it.



Strangely, a fortnight or so ago, I had a similar encounter, this time it was an injured man. It was nearly Eight PM, and I was returning to Mhaisal. The headlights of our car fell on a couple of vehicles, which had obviously crashed. One of the vehicles was perilously hanging over the balustrade of an under-construction bridge. As we stopped, we saw, a mangled bicycle near the crash. The crash had just happened and though the people in the vehicles were not injured, they were searching for the bicycle rider, who seemed to have disappeared. We too backed our car and searched the area with the car headlights, luckily we found the person, in a pool of blood, thrown almost ten to fifteen meters away from the crash. He was motionless and seemed dead. I, asked my driver, to turn the car,as he would have to be taken to Miraj. We then put him on the back seat. I, requested some of the by standers to get into my car, but they all looked at each other and backed out. Only Bandu Bubnale, who also hails from Mhaisal, assured me that he would follow me to the hospital on his motor-bike, and he really did so. On the way I called up the Civil hospital at Miraj and the Police, and informed them of the emergency. While on the way to the hospital, the patient on the back seat did not even stir, and we were almost sure that he had passed away. 
We reached the hospital and called for a stretcher, we were relieved to see some movement by the patient, who was alive after all. As the hospital staff took him in, we managed to fish out a small note-book from his shirt pocket. On examining the same, we saw a name and a phone number scribbled on it. By then the patient had regained partial consciousness, and had told the medics examining him, that his name was Pandurang Mali, and he hailed from Narwad, which is a few kilometers from Mhaisal. He again lapsed into delirium and then unconsciousness. The lady, whose number was scribbled in the note-book, happened to be his daughter. We informed her of the incident, she assured us that she and her brother would come to the hospital as soon as possible. 
The police arrived in a quarter of an hour, and conducted the preliminary inquiry. Bandu Bubnale, was present with the patient, we requested him to be there at the hospital, till his family turned up. A couple of hours later, I left for home, as there was no need for me to stay. 
I visited the hospital a couple of times, in the next few days, and was informed that the patient was in the critical care unit, but improving. Last I, heard a few days back, that he had been shifted to the recovery ward. He may have been discharged by now. 
The strangest thing though, is that neither the injured, nor his relatives cared to call me and tell me about his well being.

But isn't it true, what George Moon, a character in Somerset Maugham's inspiring short story, "The Back of Beyond", has to say on the subject? 

"Oh, my dear boy, one mustn't expect gratitude. It's a thing that no one has a right to. After all, you do good because it gives you pleasure. It's the purest form of happiness there is. To expect thanks for it is really asking too much. If you get it, well, it's like a bonus on shares on which you've already received a dividend; it's grand, but you mustn't look upon it as your due."


P.S. : Picture of flying "Black Shouldered Kite" is taken from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Black-shouldered_Kite_%28Elanus_caeruleus%29_in_Hyderabad_W_IMG_4418.jpg

 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Two Weddings and a Funeral

Just as I was sipping my morning tea, my cell phone, gave me a vibrating nudge. There was a text message. To my dismay, it coldly informed me, that a close associate had expired early that morning, and the funeral would be at 9=00 AM. I checked my other appointments for the day. I, was also scheduled to attend a wedding at 11=45 AM and a wedding reception along with my wife, Varsha, in the evening.

I, reached the घाट (cremation ground, on the river bank), a bit early. Quite a few of our set were already there.
"When is the cortege coming?, a newly arrived friend asked.
"They are waiting for his daughter to arrive from Pune." said another.
" Does that mean, we will have to wait here for the rest of the morning? another interposed with a degree of resignation.
" Why don't they inform all the relatives in advance? specially those who are far off".  This later remark brought out suppressed smiles all around.
"Don't be stupid", came a sharp rebuke, "He didn't know he was dying".
"He must have had some indication, if not he at least the family...", put in someone, helpfully.

The discussion went thus, later it shifted to the late monsoon, the political scams, the increasing power in the hands of  women (obviously as no women usually come to the ghat, which other place offers such a wonderful opportunity to deride those of the other sex.), the fall in the stock market, the rise in the price of Bullion, and land and commodities, and off course the latest achievements or otherwise of our 'men in blue'.

Once in a while, they remembered that they were at the "Ghat", for a specific purpose, and they would fall silent, and murmur under their breaths, that the departed was indeed a jolly good fellow. Never the less some one from the group would add, that though this was true, he had gone overboard with drink, and had brought this on himself.

After an hour or so, the cortege arrived. With the usual commotion that follows such an event, the rituals were performed and the body consigned to the flames. Every one was eager to leave, and soon the place was almost empty. Only the forlorn young sons of the dead, remained rooted near the burning pyre. I expressed my condolences to them, and too took my leave.


I, barely had half an hour to reach the wedding hall. The मंगलाष्टका (wedding invocations) had already begun, and along with other late-comers, I stood near the door of the hall showering blessings in the form of अक्षता ( rice grain) on the couple (off course not one grain of the rice thrown by me reached the couple, hope fully the blessings did!).This was done every time "सावधान", was uttered, by the officiating गुरुजी (priest). After the अंतरपाट (separating screen) was withdrawn, symbolising removal of all barriers between the couple, and  garlands were exchanged, we all went to the dining section for the wedding feast. An interesting fact to note, is that the guests will invariably dine before the couple, who would be occupied with the होम (offerings to the God of fire), and सप्तपदी (wedding vows) and sundry other poojas.

While dining I found myself in the very same company which was at the funeral. Obviously the morning discussions continued, the only difference was that, as the markets had opened, one could hear the latest performance of the SENSEX, and NIFTY, and off course the new twist in the 2G spectrum Scam!

The evening reception, was indeed another great opportunity for social intercourse. To the dismay of the early arrivals, the wedded couple hadn't yet arrived on stage. In a corner a lady was crooning old and new film songs, with a band in tow. The entire area was brightly lit, and buffet tables arranged all around.

Loitering here and there, I found myself again, with, who else but the same group. Now they were all in formals, and to complete the aesthetics, demanded by the occasion, were with their better halves, who were all aglitter with their gold and diamonds, exuding the loveliest of fragrances.

The ladies had their own topics, of how well their children had fared in the various entrance tests, and where they were seeking admissions, at the same time estimating the price of the sarees and the genuineness or otherwise of the jewelry their friends were wearing, and discussing which 'gym' offered the most effective 'weight reducing' programme, and where they could get the latest fashion accessories at a bargain. 

The men were again at the game of  'who knows more'. Finally the couple arrived on stage and we all stood in a queue to greet them. We helped ourselves to the exquisite fare that was on offer, and after some more discussions with colleagues and friends, we bid each other adieu, with a promise, to keep in touch. A promise we never keep, but we do manage to meet, off course at the next funeral or wedding.