Saturday, 29 December, 2007

Those Hidden Jewels...

As I rummage through the countless photographs on my laptop - my weary eyes light up as they see some timeless expressions captured by my seeking companion. The pictures leave no room for the written word and rightly so. These little jewels do justice to the hours that I have put behind the camera. Because, the heart of photography is not as much in technique as it is in the humble intention of reducing life's beautiful moments into an immortal frame.

Children of the Mountains

The Discovery of Innocence

Dil Chahta Hai kabhi naa beetein chamkeeley din

The Anatomy of Dissent

Leg Glances on Sunday Afternoons

The Freedom of Imagination


Gandhigiri - Live

The Magic of 3

The Gateway of Expression


Campus Flamboyance

Miracles in the Wind


Thursday, 20 December, 2007

Sunday, 2 December, 2007

Hotal Relax International

India is fascinating. Not only for its diverse landscapes and the eclectic mix of cultures but also for its eccentric sense of humour.

In tribute : Pasted below are 10 photo-stamps of how we tweak English, Intellectual Property Rights and the rules of grammar to create some silly, some ridiculous and almost all ignorant, instances of PDI - Public Display of Indianness.

For me, I love this grammatically incorrect flavour of India. It gives me enough reason to spend a couple of hours in the hotel-crowded, people-infested streets of Pahargunj in New Delhi. And I come back to my room with a huge grin on my face. The grin stemming not so much from what I see but from the underlying humour that misses the eye.

Tibetan Market, Nainital, Uttaranchal

And we thought it was Adidas all this while? I was so disappointed to know that the brand I long cherished, admired and flaunted was actually Adedas. The Tibetan Market in Nainital - pioneers in original imported goods were the ones who enlightened me two weeks back. Anyway, its not too late - Ribok and Nikke have not yet entered the market. Waiting for some competition in the high-performance sports goods sector...

Streets of Vapi, Gujarat

Aptly abbreviated, BP met the eyes of three innocent young men on their way to an innocent young village named Sonwada near Vapi. The title demonstrates the surplus of creative talent in our country and that directors like Farah Khan can do better than call their movies "Om Shanti Om"

Pahargunj, New Delhi

Imagine a bamboo hanging right in the middle of a bustling street. Its height - just about enough for you to scrape under it. Why the bamboo? Cuz Dal Fry is Rs. 8/- and Roti is Rs. 1/- only. Reason enough to paste a huge yellow banner on a shaky bamboo to create yet another Indian promotional delight.

Bhimtal, Uttaranchal

This unique board was stationed outside the scenic Bhimtal lake. Sometimes good intentions can go awry. But nonetheless, my heart-felt (devoid of sarcasm) appreciation for the tourism board for initiating awareness. You left me with a message and a smile. For both, I am thankful.

Pahargunj, New Delhi

Now, Pahargunj in New Delhi could make its way into the Guiness Book really soon. Since my hotel was in this locale, I had the opportunity to soak in the place. My hotel was in this lane named Ram Nagar (famous for everything Lord Ram wouldn't have associated himself with.) And in a lane of 300 metres, I hand-counted 40 salons (or saloons as they call them here.) Now they can't possibly be cutting hair off from anywhere besides the head - atleast me thinks. Nonetheless, these barber-shops had some hilarious names and taglines. Some offered massage service in your room and others like the one above were for both Ladis and Gents. And yes, they are not barber-shops... they are Beauty Saloons.

Off Palika Bazaar, New Delhi

From Connaught Place, on your way to the New Delhi Metro Station - you will find *hold your breath* India's largest collection of desi porn magazines. A feast for the senses, this place is nothing short of a heritage site. You will find Amisha Patel pose in the double X rated - "Love Hua". Then there is the globally popular "Madhosh" and "Sabnam", both of which were selling like hot cakes. Unfortunately, these magazines did not offer pictures and were only erotic reads in Hindi. But probe the guy a little and he will show you his private collection of nude photo mags. And boy! - he had some collection... As you may have guessed, I spent a chunk of my time here when I visited Delhi.

For the travel weary in Pahargunj, let me present to you, none other than Hotal Relax International. The tagline is the classic "We care for you". Look closely and you'd be able to appreciate the slick logo that makes this hotal truly international.

I wonder how British tourists react to such nuances of the English language as is in the case on our left. Massorie, Jambu & Udaypur (Yo!) are must-visit places. Of course, if there are commuting problems then "Availabl on Haire are Latest Car & Coaches"

Ram Nagar, New Delhi

Bhimtal Lake, Uttaranchal

"The public toilet is ahead. Please control till you reach your destination. Don't soil the road like a shameless fucker. This message is for both Ladis and Gents"

Kala Ghoda, Mumbai

In the heart of upmarket South Bombay. In the artsy-fartsy surroundings of Kala Ghoda. In an ambience that respects the power of words and visuals - Why would you name your shop what you have? Why?

----------------The End---------------

Thursday, 22 November, 2007

Come and Get Lost

As my feet slipped on the morning forest dew, I bent to clear the assortment of forest witherings to make my way towards Ram Singh - my forest guide. An unattended brochure of a luxury forest resort met my eye. The leftover of a reckless tourist gave me the words I was looking for.

It's title read : Come and Get Lost - The Binsar Forest Retreat.

And that is what this cozy haven perched on top of Almora is all about. It brings to life Pico Iyer's words like never before :

We travel, intially, to lose ourselves;
and we travel, next, to find ourselves...
And we travel, in essence, to become
young fools again - to slow time down
and get taken in, and
fall in love once more...

Nestled in the heart of Kumaon hills is Binsar, a picturesque, sleepy hamlet only 30 kms off Almora, Uttaranchal. It is 120 kilometres from Kathgodam, the nearest rail route. Perched at an impressive altitude of 8,000 feet, it offers a majestic view of the snow covered Himalayan peaks - the mesmerizing ranges Chaukhamba, Trishul, Nanda Devi, Shivling and Panchchuli. From here, on a sunny day, you can have a glimpse of the holy shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath and Gangotri. Binsar also happens to be a trekking paradise. One can trek in the salubrious air, amidst misty mountain tralls, towering oaks and rhododendrons. This sleepy hamlet amidst orchards, silver streams and green meadows, has unmatched beauty to offer.

For my trip,I opted for a taxi ride from Kathgodam to Binsar which cost me Rs. 750/- I was riding with my mother and the price worked out to Rs. 375/- per head. Taxi's normally don't go all the way to Binsar and most tourists take another ride from Almora to Binsar (30kms). The ride from Kathgodam to Almora (90 kms) is across the Kumaon hills with dense pine and deodhar forests to add to the delight which some scenic rivers that flow through the valley provide. Almora is a lovely town with a population of 40,000. Uttaranchal is dotted with places that have a connection with the mystic mythological stories of ancient India. The stories sound ridiculously surreal to the naked ear but the people here strongly believe in the existence of the tales. In any case, they are very imaginative and interesting to hear. It is unfortunate that tourism here does not get the attention it deserves because the place is truly beautiful. But the lack of development ensures that you break your head bargaining with taxiwallahs for every ride. My experience backed by some research tells me that I paid a just price for my ride.

The ride from Binsar to Almora is back-breaking to say the least. I thought of using 'bumpy' but realised I would be very biased to the place to call the ride only 'bumpy'. But the place does justice to the pain. At 8,025 feet is an isolated rest house that offers a remarkable view of over 300 kms. of the Himalayan mountain range. The rest house is a property of the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam which has access to some of the best locations in Uttaranchal by virtue of it being a government body promoting tourism.

The price at Rs. 900/- per room is undeniably very good. The charm of the place is that they offer only three hours of solar-generated elecrticity per day from 6p.m. to 9p.m. The nights are candle-lit. Sunrises from the hotel are the most awaited. The darkness of the night breaks into the madenningly beautiful dawn. At dawn you can see the sun rays kissing the western face of the Himalayas to create a stunningingly picturesque moment. So much so that I am ashamed to use words to describe it. Each morning of my 3 day stay was unique.

On one particular morning, after it had rained the previous night, the clouds formed a carpet of white over the nearby villages to create an unreal scenery for all of us at the Tourist Rest House. For kilometres across the Kumaon Hills, the valleys were covered in a thick layer of white clouds. For hours - unmoved, sleepy and languid - these clouds revelled in the early morning sun. The image still creates magic as I write about it.

Lastly, Binsar is not a place to go with family for 3-4 days because it offers precious little for tourists on the move. But if you want to lose yourself to the rhythmic beauty of virgin nature. If you want to heal. If you want your soul to dance again. Come to this incredible little place in our country.

...And your soul will not stop dancing again

Wednesday, 23 May, 2007

The 6,57,000 Hour Long Movie

Who does not enjoy going to the movies? Scrambling through Bombay Times at a random time on a random Tuesday to catch the latest offering is an experience missed by few. Be it your college gang, the promiscuous couple or the solo movie buff – each of these categories makes its way to the cinemas to celebrate the movies.

And as the hours inside the theatre tick by, an interpretation makes its way into the recesses of the mind. Ofcourse, this interpretation is supported by the very versatile F word. Ranging from “What a Fuckin’ good movie dude!” to “Fuck All” to “Fuck man, it was sooo lengthy”. And as the junta moves out of the theatre it creates a place for this movie in the archives of cinema history.

I also know of some 6 Billion people directing movies too. And it’s a mere 6,57,000 hours long or 75 years for the numerically challenged . The movie is unanimously titled “My Life” for each of these filmmakers.

It’s a fascinating idea this and it struck me as words poured out of Raju Hirani’s (Munnabhai fame) mouth. He opined that the seat of the editor is a most powerful one. The position allows the movie-maker to ensure that the movie is tailored to suit the director and the audiences’ taste. It also gives him the ability to delete irrelevant parts. Surely, its an amazing place to be.

The question that hit me was – What if we could edit our own lives? Of course the flipside and the irrelevance of the question was that editing is a post-production process or atleast a post filming process. Thus editing can only happen at the age of 75 when we are reciting tales to our grandkids using the powerful tool of selective memory.

The above paragraph may have been a futile exercise of the unemployed mind but I thought I'd hang onto that thought. And the question that followed was rather interesting. For obvious reasons the seat of the editor holds no value in our life. So the question is – How do we direct “My Life”?

The answer screamt out – Direct your movie without an Editor.

And that captured it all.

The Underlying Philosophy – We are on the sets of “My Life” all the time. The camera is rolling all the time. And there is no CUT. So, the challenge is – To shoot it in a way that is fulfilling as a scriptwriter, satisfying as a director and entertaining for the audience. Remember you have 6,57,000 hours. Unbelievably long or short depending on the script of your movie.

Remember :- The challenge is that you can’t ever edit it. You can’t ever change a frame once its shot. It could either be the most exciting movie making experience or one that you’d get tired shooting mid-way. If it’s the latter, spare a thought for your audience.

So make sure you’re directing the right script. Make sure the actors are ‘your’ best choices and that your soul sinks into every frame of your movie.

I want to ensure my movie is worthy of directing. I am searching for ‘my script’. I hope you’ve found yours.

Anuj Gosalia
‘My Life’

Monday, 14 May, 2007

On Travel

We travel, intially, to lose ourselves;
and we travel, next, to find ourselves...
And we travel, in essence, to become
young fools again - to slow time down
and get taken in, and
fall in love once more

- Pico Iyer

Friday, 27 April, 2007

The Strange-r Connect...

6.15 p.m. : Mapusa Station, Goa, India

The Sun sets beyond an unassuming brown hill as Sam and I sit on the benches of this picturesque Goa station. Our eyes meet a firang backpacking couple's as they prepare for another 'Indian Railways' journey across our diverse lands. "Would you wish to sit?", we offer the lady some room on the bench. She gladly accepts it. I wasn't surprised (the backpack seemed heavy).

"What train are you taking?", "Where are you from?", "How was India?", "Ooo.. How's the weather like in Italy?", "What you saying, you don't like cricket?", "How can 10 men wait for the ball to come and do nothing till then?", "Varansi is mystic, don't you think so?", "What! You haven't been to Varanasi?", "Ain't India a religious country?", "Is India still elephants on road and snake charmers for westerners?"

What started as a simple act of chivalry ended up becoming one of the most beautiful human connections i've experienced so far. Fred and Joe, the lovely Italian couple, allowed me to marvel at the unpredictability of life and the realisation that there must always be room for such unusual, unexpected connections. The kind which make life not seem like a computer generated programme.

Because when you look back at life, you don't want to see a time-table that you followed rigorously. I don't intend to prophecise a vagabondish existence nor am I promoting randomness. What I wish to share is : that in my humdrum of daily existence I have lost so many Fred's and Joe's that, until I met them, I had come to a point of indifference to the strangers around me.And you may wonder why the need to be open to such random quirks of fate?

All associations - frivolous or intimate - begin with a mutual statement "We were strangers till we got to know each other." So you never know, there may be a beautiful person waiting to know you.

Again, It is a very personal choice and one that I strongly adhere to. One of "my" primary reasons of existence on planet earth is to travel new lands not through a Raj Tours & Travels but with my Lonely Traveller book, camera, backpack and compass. To meet new people not because its cool to chat up with foreigners but to genuinely exchange a part of my life for theirs. To part with some of what I am and what my country and my upbringing has made of me and take back some of theirs.

My travel ideas are primitive and it probably explains why I get this strange sense of comfort when i meet like-minded foreigners travelling in India. I feel responsible to fulfill their need to explore by showing them not what the guide book asks them to see but to help them connect with our country, our people, our joys, our sorrows. Its no good to travel as a tourist because what you come back home with is mere photographs of exotic locales, magnificent monuments and a heavy shopping bag. But the essence of travel is beyond these obvious. As Coelho says "Its in the cafe's and bars - the alleys and small homes - Its in the ordinary guy who you may be able to talk to and who shows you the oft unseen"

The essence of travel is in meeting the one stranger who makes the journey worth it. It is in this very strange-r connect that the heart of true travelling lies.

Wednesday, 24 January, 2007

My India

My Dream

As I snuggle into my blanket warm,
I sense the magic come along;
The magic... of an India New,
Of domestic virtues and a worldly view;
My India transcends me into lofty dreams,
Of triumphant mountains and sunlit gleams;
Dreams of men who strive to lead,
Sowing global plants with an Indian seed;
And I see empowered women too,
Powerful in thoughts, words and the things they do;
Communal harmony, abolished casteism make their way,
Into my India, my India of another day;
Our culture too soaks in out heritage,
My India is akin to a bird out of cage;
My nation finds flight in prosperity,
What with economic freedom and eradicated poverty!;
India dances in colours as well,
Its vibrant diversity makes me swell
with pride; I sleep and nurture my land,
Holding its sanctity in a grain of sand;
Well Almost.

Almost till Mr. Reality dawns on Me,
Tells me "Son, dreams are never meant to be!";
I ask him, "Mr. Reality what makes you so convinced?";
He says, "Do not argue! - Take my heed";
Anguished, I tell him : "I seek the Truth!",
Aggravated, He says, "Go Ahead. I will follow suit";
So as I live another Indian day,
Mr. Reality lets his tongue wagger the Real Way;

The Indian Day, The Real Way

As I gently brush my pasted teeth,
I observe the toothbrush and its manufacturing feat;
"Son, by falling prey to multinational brands,
You aren't increasing domestic but their selfish demands";

Pondering over that nationalist thought,
I let the water run unstopped;
He said, "Water, like other resources, is flowing away,
You will sell diamonds to buy water, someday"

The train, as I get in, for college today,
Is crowded with men and sweat gone astray;
"Crippled infrastructure and population disorder,
Is the way of your Law & Order?";

My college meets me with a lecture free,
My dissent for the professor compounds my glee;
"The essence of education is the stimulation of the mind,
Alas! for the multitude who seek but do not find";

And as my friends and i engange in mindless banter for hours,
We spare little thought for a country that is Ours;
"The mother needs her children strong,
Mental strength, brute force and an attitude that tolerates no wrong";

Tolerates No Wrong in the judiciary
Tolerates No Wrong in the administration
Tolerates No Wrong in the name of liberalisation
Tolerates No Wrong in the name of conservatism
Tolerates No Wrong in the name of right
Tolerates No Wrong...

In the darkness of the night,
I see a beggar's plight;
"Poverty, my child, is not God's delight,
Together to uplift - We must strive, We must fight";

I looked at Mr. Reality in the eye,
And as he looked back, he heaved a gentle sigh;
Of concern, of despair and helplessness,
Of feeling disempowered, of feeling less;

He spoke of inflation, corruption and disparity too,
His voice now louder and it only grew;
Questioningly, as I retire after my day spent,
The last ounce of optimism I need to vent;

A Belief

Civilizations survive in their quest to become the ideal society. Over two thousand years my India has relentlessly strived to become its absolute self. It has stumbled, stuttered, scraped, fallen...risen to fall again but It never gave up. At this moment in time, heroes from the hallowed portals of our ancient past voice their wisdom - "Tread the path of excellence with a fearless mind. Live the noblest life for yourself and your India". Because when dreams meet vision and vision meets clarity, they form Belief. My India is no longer a dream, it is my Belief.

A Belief that rises to the occasion and exults : "Its time to fly..."

Monday, 1 January, 2007

What's your New Year's Resolution?

The concept of a New Year, the celebration and all the hoopla has missed my probing mind for twenty years now. Apart from the alcohol and a pseudo school reunion that invites my attention every year, the higher purpose has deluded me - always. So today, from my exceedingly busy schedule of doing nothing I spare whatever time is required of me to understand the significance of a New Year.

The New Year for obvious reasons will make us write 2007 or 07 in our notebooks if and when we choose to go to college. Also the accounts sums will feature the new year in the form of "You are required to prepare a balance sheet as on 31st March 2007". Beyond these academic significances none have been important enough to draw my curiosity.

Anyway, I am pleased that I am now exploring the fundamentals of a New Year albeit a little philosophically.

A school friend of mine and i'd liberally take his name, a certain Mr. Mayav Movdawalla worked under the premise that what you do on the first day of the year more or less sums up the year for you. He would practice mathematics etc. rigorously on any such auspicious day. I did something similar. I got drunk.

Sorry to go a lil' off tangent but this is a very candid write. So logical sequence and other such inconsequential things will obviously be missing.

Coming to why Mayav practiced such unpopular practices was I believe to anchor his priorites in life. Anchoring or soaking deeply into the subconcious your innermost commitments is very essential. Because when you anchor or commit deeply enough, your subconcious does the hard work of remembering your priorites for you. Its akin to the subconcious action of shifting the car gear into neutral mode every time you take the driver's seat. Subconscious Reinforcement, i'd say. Aanh... and thus resolutions happen to be an integral part of a New Year celebration.

Hmmm... that puts forth the questions then :

A) Would I participate in the "What's your New Year's resolution" activity?
B) If yes, How should I go about?
C) Pehle haan to bol.

NO would have been my obvious reply and would also make for a lame end to this uber cool exercise. So, after donkeys' years I shall be a part of the "What's your New Year's Resolution?" Event. I would obviously choose to word "Resolution" differently because resolution as on Pg. 445 of the New Oxford English Dictionary means a promise to self, lasting for as many hours as the alcohol effect on the day of such an act of promise to self. (Often used in logic examples as If alcohol then resolution)

Now that question A) is answered we will look at the seemingly trivial "How should i go about it" question. I mean isn't it as easy as :-

Ladies and Gentlemen, on this special day, December the 31st, of the year 2007 which allows me to live like Bond (007) I, Mr. Anuj Jayant Gosalia, resolutely resolve to drink alcohol only socially and that I am inherently an introvert and that social gatherings along with alcohol shall henceforth be restricted to social gatherings which serve alcohol. I also on this sacred day resolve to resolutely resolve. And also to understand what resolve and resolutely mean in the New English Oxford Dictionary.

By around this time I should have received my first round of applause by my goodwill ambassadors. Thankyou.

So as seen from the aforesaid extract of my friend Mayav's very popular "How to take Effective Resolutions & Doing Other Unpopular Things" (Pg. 792) you can see that it is an easy task.

Damn. Lost ground again. Question B) and typical self-help answer beckons.

Going about what resolutions to take and how to go about them is a very personal issue. Typically the 4R's should work well namely Reflection, Realization, Resolution and Resurrection. I personally too wouldn't want to glamorize the exercise and wish to retain its sanctity. Because our year just like our life is in our control. Some moments, some cirumstances, some freak events do disturb the alignment but not our faith. Because life like history is a bad motorist. It will not warn us of the upcoming hairpin or an unnerving bump nor will it flash the "Express Way" banner. Year after year and moment after moment we are asked to make a choice. We don't need a special day to make special choices. But if our unspecial, ordinary lives walk that lil' extra on this day towards an extraordinary life, then this day is worth celebrating. I've always held that our values, our beliefs, our passions, our family, our work, our friendships and our integrity to all of these will determine the kind of life we will eventually lead. So today I raise a toast to Integrity. Integrity in thought. In words. And in action. Because many men come on the battle field with bold thoughts, some with words too. But the man who triumphs is the one who does what he thinks and at the age of seventy years and forty seven days speaks to his grandchild about it.

So to all, including me, who think and talk but little do. Lets turn the tables this year. Let all gas and no shit be restricted to gastro-intestinal disorders only.
And for all those who've read until here, may I ask you :

What's your New Year's Resolution ? ;)

Anuj Gosalia