Wednesday, March 19, 2008

On the kitchen table, along with the cups and saucers is a long steel glass, the type that is usually used in hostels for serving and drinking milk. S’s father had bought it when he was with us for a few weeks. He doesn’t like to drink water from Mineral Water bottles like us, or from any other type of cups or glasses.

He is not much different from my father or any old person I know. Call it idiosyncrasies or eccentricities, we tend to acquire it more as we grow older. I sometimes see it as plain old stubbornness judging from the way old people want to have everything their way. Their inability to see, hear or feel others’ point of view, and their refusal to accept anything or anyone that don’t agree with them.

Perfectly understandable when they are senile, very old people; but what about those able bodied senior people who are still working or who have just retired? Age and experience teaches us patience and empathy. So where does it all go when the sunset approaches? S’s visits to old age homes always bring me tales of old people sulking, crying, screaming, and stomping their feet until the other people around give in to their demands. They also do the same thing when they don’t get the attention they want.

Not much different from babies if you consider the fact that a lot of old people come to that stage where they can’t clothe, eat, piss or shit by themselves. There’s nothing cool or romantic about dying young but the shame and indignity one goes through in old age makes me wish for an early death.

There are some songs that send a thrill down your body whenever you hear it, no matter how many times you have heard them.

Audioslaves's "Like A Stone", Alter Bridge's "Open Your Eyes", Steel Dragon's "We All Die Young", Skid Row's "I Remember You"..... - not the songs in their entireties but there's a part in all these songs where the guitar wails or the vocal shoots up to new unscaled heights. And that's exactly where I stop everything to listen and savor that exact moment.

And folk songs, I just love them. I remember that time just after I saw King Arthur. Spent hours on the net to find and download that song "We Will Go Home", and when I finally heard it in full, it was pure bliss. Hotel Rwanda has a lot of African folk songs/music which are just unforgettable.

There's this very popular Irish folk song called "The Fields Of Athenry", and it has been sung by countless number of bands/artistes. But as far as I’m concerned, the best rendition has to be the one sung by a street singer called Brian O’Donnell for the OST of "Veronica Guerin." He was 11 years old when he sang that song. Listen. And don't miss the movie either.

Eastern Promises is one hell of a movie. The fight scene in the bath house is one of the best, bloodiest, most realistic and brutal fights I’ve ever seen in a movie. No stuntmen were used, and according to IMDB, it took 2 days to film that scene alone. Guess Hollywood actors and our own Bollywood actors will always remain poles apart. Hollywood actors took rigorous training, visit and stay in foreign countries to develop accents, spent time in prison and other institutions, learn new hobbies and skills to prepare themselves for their roles. And here we have someone as big and rich as SRK or Sushmita Sen killing me every time they play rock stars in some of their movies without even bothering to spend 5 minutes to learn how to hold the guitar properly, forget about playing. Monkeys with coconuts, that’s what they remind me of.

Rendition, American Gangster, Charlie Wilson’s War, Atonement, and Juno were other great movies I saw recently.

No Country For Old Men was not that great but Javier Bardem was awesome, brilliant, evil and very very scarry!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I reached Imphal on the 16th of February. I didn’t realize it on that day of my arrival but my brother who came later, told me that he felt like he had arrived in a ghost town. The roads were bad, and the whole stretch from the airport to our new house looked very deserted.

All the roads in the main shopping market had been dug up in the name of a renovation, expansion and beautification drive. Vehicles were blocked in many of the roads and people had to walk for all their shopping. Mom told me the CM wanted everything to be done in one go instead of doing it step by step because he wanted to take his cut before his term gets over. Everybody calls him the 10% CM.

I sometimes wonder whether we are the most optimistic people or the most stupid and cowardly ones. You rarely see the army in any of the Indian cities but in Imphal, the army is everywhere. The Assam Rifles, CRPF, BSF, the commandos…everyone is there. There are no civilian areas, and the army patrols don’t stop. On the main roads, they patrol in their armored cars that look like tanks. All you can see is this huge vehicle, and on top of it, right in the center is a dark face under a helmet and a big machine gun that means business. The commandos are the most fearsome ones because they are mostly poor, angry frustrated matriculates with no respect for anyone. They are rude, and trigger-happy. And the fact that they are armed with mean looking machine guns doesn’t help either.

Someone or the other calls a bandh almost everyday for something or the other. But most of the times, it’s to protest the monetary demands made by the countless terrorist groups in the name of some fucking dream called “Independent Manipur”. Even a 4 year old kid knows they are just thieves with guns. As for their so-called revolution, they can all shove it up their asses. So one day, it’s the petrol pumps shutting down in protest because of bomb threats over monetary demands not met, one day it’s the bus operators, one day it’s the schools, one day it’s the shopkeepers…but then everyone needs to eat, the protest ends and life goes back to that normal despair and frustration.

The army, police and commandoes have also started killing a lot of civilians for money. They kill civilians, and steal their money, even the jewelry on their bodies. Once the deed is done, a gun or bomb is planted on the bodies and the innocents became terrorists shot and killed on the run. During my vacation in Imphal for about 3 weeks, I read about these killings EVERYDAY WITHOUT FAIL. On an average, 5-10 persons were found shot everyday and these are just the official published reports in Imphal area only. And then on the other side, there are the civilians killed by the terrorists EVERYDAY WITHOUT FAIL. Guess NGOs and Human Rights organizations found Manipur too insignificant for their PR.

Everyone’s scared, angry and very frustrated. Whatever everyone thinks or says, I know nothing less than a civil war will turn the tide and bring a change in Manipur. The central & state governments don’t give a damn, the armies are reluctant to give up their power under the AFSPA, and the terrorists will never start a dialogue because they are mostly illiterates who only know how to threaten, steal and kill. The terrorists, the police, the army and the politicians all get a cut from the monthly and annual collections made from almost everyone living in Manipur.

Forget the men, most of the women in my family including relatives’ and friends’ told me that they won’t hesitate to kill the terrorists or the army if they were given a gun. Power supply’s almost not there; except for the VIP areas there’s load shedding every alternate day and when the power’s there it usually comes for 5-6 hours a day. A civil war looms on the horizon of Manipur while the national media and the nation as a whole continue to ignore everything here. Bollywood and cricket are far more important for their TRP ratings and revenues.

It was cold back home, especially in the mornings and dusks. Every morning and evening, I used to sit near a bonfire or sometimes a brazier, and talked with my parents about everything. Mom had grown her flowers in front of the new house but this time the roses were sadly missing among the marigolds. The trip brought new revelations too; I learnt that in his younger days, dad had been a lot crueler to mom than I initially thought, and mom had suddenly become very orthodox and superstitious. I also had the chance to enjoy all the vegetables and herbs that are not available anywhere outside my state.

My family and friends asked me when I will visit them again but to be honest, I don’t know. The beauty of the mountains surrounding Imphal valley, the climate, the food and sometimes an old familiar folk song reminds me of the once innocent and happy days I and everyone had in this beautiful land. But like a dream, it fades slowly day by day.