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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The woes of traveling by Hyderabad Metro Rail - Part II

The security system

Modern day dictum requires the use of security system at entrances to crowded and eminent places.
The system is a pain for anyone. Who likes standing at the entrances and be probed, patted, have pockets checked, bags searched…? You learn to grin and put up for the 1-2 times mall visits a month, or 4-5 airport visits a year.
But what when you commute by the metro and are subjected to this kind of checking twice a day? And what if rules keep getting added with the least concern for the commuter? And executed with the least politeness? Being treated with suspicion twice a day is no fun.
When I started using the metro for travel, I was asked to put the backpack which contains, a laptop, an extra pair of shoes I carry every day, a water bottle and my wallet, on the conveyor belt for scanning.
I used to carry my lunch bag in my hand and a slim 7"x 7" sling bag across the front containing change for Rs. 500/- for my daily commute, my office ID card and my cell phone.
All the travelers are asked to put their bags on the conveyor belt and have the luggage scanned. I comply to this.
A few days later, one of the security guards asked me to put my sling bag also on the conveyor belt. Containing just a little cash, a cell phone, the metro card and the house keys, the bag is just too thin to cause any suspicion of a physical threat. A physical examination would have been enough. But the guard insisted I put it on the belt. The cloth bag comes without a zip or a button and I ran the risk of the contents falling out in the transaction. Moreover, exposing my iPhone to the hazard of x-rays twice a day was unacceptable to me. I feared it would cause a damage.
So, now I have another piece of luggage to be added to the backpack...this sling bag.
Third, my lunch-box is made of several tiny plastic boxes containing tiny portions of various items, solid and liquid. Because it is plastic, it tends to topple over when I keep it on the conveyor belt.
The security guards insisted that I put it on the belt too. During the return journey, the empty set of tiffin boxes would be knocked off the conveyor belt and fall to ground because of its lightness. (Was a disaster when I tried carrying a pastry daintily back home one day).
The next item to be added to the backpack in addition to the laptop, shoes, a water bottle, my wallet and the sling bag was now this lunch box.
I start out from home now by holding the cell phone, the house keys and the metro card in my hand. Rest of the things are now stuffed into the back pack, to be placed on the conveyor belt.
The next set of instructions came a few days later. ‘Take out all the water bottles from your bags and hold it in your hand’. Ok. So now, I go to the conveyor belt, wait for a few seconds to take the water bottle out of its slot in the back pack, keep it in my hand along with the house keys, the metro card and the cell phone, enter the cordoned security area for a physical examination by the hand-held device, emerge on to the other side, collect my backpack, re-insert the bottle in the backpack, swipe my metro card at the entrance, run upstairs while balancing the water bottle, the metro card, the cell phone, the house keys and a heavy backpack on the back,  and with no hands left to hold onto the railings of the escalator, I risk my safety.
The new weight of the backpack, now also with an umbrella due to rainy season, is around 6 kgs.
When I start from office, I perch the bag on the table to enable me to push it on to the shoulders. Heaving it across the shoulders otherwise, causes the handles to graze the arms.
Security system at Ameerpet is a nightmare. The conveyor belt there is just a few inches above ground level. And one needs to pause in front of the belt, peel off the back pack, put it on the belt, bend down again on the other side to pick up the heavy backpack and put it back on your shoulders as there is no table or perch to rest your backpack on.
Another very dangerous thing one observes at some of the conveyor belts is that the they keep running and have no perch preceding or following the running belt because of which, if you wear a flowing dress, beware, your dress is likely to be caught. Second, there is no table or perch when the bags emerge on the other side and that’s why a security guard is allotted to collect your bags to prevent them falling off the belt.
The most ironic thing about the security is that as your bag goes through the x-ray machine, sometimes, there is no guard sitting there to watch the contents of your bag. You could put anything inside.
And sometimes the guard is busy doing important things like making calls as your bag is supposed to go through. And you emerge on the other side wondering why your bag hasn’t come through yet. You see that it is still sitting perched at the entrance to the conveyor belt as it is not pushed onto the belt by the guard. So you go back, push your bag through the entrance onto the conveyor belt and breathe in relief as the bag comes through this time.
To add to all these woes twice a day, is the utter lack of empathy and politeness by the security staff.
Why are we commuters subjected to such security system twice a day?
How are they going to manage when the crowds thicken due to extension of routes?

Having a walk-through metal detector plus the hand-held one will give the commuter the freedom to to carry his stuff whichever way he wants to and also save him from the rules which change ever-so-often (about things that can go into or need to be removed from the bags).


Monday, September 10, 2018

The woes of traveling by Hyderabad Metro Rail-Part I

Walk…walk…walk

No sooner did we Hyderabadis revel in the advent of the metro, than we started witnessing its rapid deterioration!
You can refer here to the extreme glee with which I welcomed the metro. Anything that caters to increasing the level of urbane infrastructure in Hyderabad, warms the heart at the prospect of improved standard of living.
After the usual Hyderabad frenzy of initial rush, I took a casual trip one day. My heart was singing as I saw the well-planned infrastructure, the cleanliness, the sparkling newness and the near-empty spaces within and outside the train.
All this experience was short-lived as my new job entailed a commute of 25+ kms to Hi-Tech city. And that’s when I realised what I was getting into.
I figured a combination of routes and travel and finally settled on getting down at Ameerpet and opting for another transport from Ameerpet to Hi-tech city.  I was at peace at finding a routine.
Well, what do you know?!
Traveling by metro is strictly for the physically strong.
Prepare for walking…walking long distances and climbing up and down staircases.
A typical metro station has four entry points...two on each side of the road. On one side is a lift and the other side an escalator plus steep staircases to go up/ down. Climbing all these can be intimidating. Escalators/lifts may not be on the side of the road you want to get off on and therefore climbing down these steep staircases can be gruelling.
Watch out especially for metro stations on SP road, most of which have access only on one side of the road.
The example of Parade Ground station…
While traveling towards Uppal, you come across the first entry to Parade Ground station. And what have you here? A formidable climb up two steep flights of stairs to reach the concourse!
If you want to be smarter the next time and take the second entry point to the station, you walk 300-400 metres further and get to use the lift to go to the concourse. But after reaching the concourse, you keep walking and walking… seems like almost a kilometer… to reach the platform! And I imagine it to be so for all the stations on SP road which have entry point only on one side of the road.
Once you reach the concourse, watch out for all the floor space you need to cover to get to the platform!
At least the train floor is on the level of platform and one needn’t have to labor to get onto the train.
Okay, now here comes the not so funny part….in all stations, 2 of 4 escalators are kept closed ‘to conserve electricity.’ In few of them all 4 escalators are closed, and only lifts are in operation. So, once you get off the train, you need to walk some distance from your coach to reach the lift.
How do I know the pain of walking all these distances?
I had hurt my foot and was working from home for a week. The first day I returned to work, I had someone drop me at the station (very close to my home) and made an effort to get into the train by walking slowly. But when I got off at Ameerpet station and asked for a wheel chair to my waiting cab downstairs, I was asked, 'had you asked for the wheel chair at you starting station? If not, you don’t get it here either.’
Slow walking (and delayed healing as a result) for the next couple of weeks was my only recourse.
Conclusion: Senior citizens, physically challenged…keep away! The metro is not for you.


Friday, May 4, 2018

How dare she!



Returning home, weary from work
suffering the sluggish traffic,
sprawling through potholes filled with pools of fresh rain
lost in thoughts.
Wanting to reach home
to plan for Friday and the weekend
...the usual stuff.

Unexpectedly, I catch this 8-9-month-old,
squeezed between her parents on the scooter
smiling and waving at me!
I looked up startled, waking from my trance,
wondering at what just happened…
I dismissed it…
just a fleeting moment in the humdrum of life!
Few minutes later, they cross me again
…and in those few moments, she smiles and waves at me, again!
I smile and wave back at her.

Shaking off the momentary distraction,
I got back to wondering how much farther my destination was.
But that vision comes up again…
the tiny being smilingly waving at me!
How dare she disturb me like this,
from my inane existence of Monday to Sunday
In this constant quest for ‘space’
when we all distance ourselves from one another,
how dare she disturb my space, break this reverie, and breach my world with her smile?
How dare she still revel in that innocent glee
unaffected by this world deluged with shrewd manipulation
How dare she smiles at me
and touches my heart in places I have closed to the world.
How dare she finds and targets those soft spots behind the hard shell?
How dare her parents gave birth to this little thing whose very fragility tugs at my heart strings

The image does not just cause transitory ripples.
But remains embedded as a memory, tapping at my heart again and again
asking me to raise my head from the hubbub of life, wake up, and live!
How dare she!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Madi

Madi…మడి ...मडि

People from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and some pockets of Karnataka will perhaps understand what this word means...
Madi...this Brahmanical way of life originated from the concept of ‘purity’…a concept which, like all other traditions, lost its meaning in later years with its rigid and blind adherence.
Essentially madi meant keeping a distance from and not touching anything considered impure or unclean.
How it was practiced:
My grandmother would rinse her 9-yards saree the night before and hang it in the kitchen. The rod that she hanged it to dry would be placed way above anyone’s reach…close to the ceiling. To dry out one’s garment at that height was tricky indeed and was done with the help of a long stick pushing the garment hither-thither till it slid smoothly without folds over the rod. This practice also meant that the cloth couldn’t be touched by anyone else and become impure.
The next morning, after a bath, she would come, wrapped in a wet saree, heading straight to the kitchen, discard the old saree and wear the clean saree off the kitchen rod. This was normally worn as ‘adda-kacha’ meaning a garment that runs between your legs, dividing your legs trouser-like, giving you the liberty of free movement.
This was madi, a state considered pure. After attaining this pure state, you are not supposed to touch anything till the cooking and eating was done. No touching of beds, bed sheets, previous day’s discarded clothes, curtains, sofas, another human being… Considered safe was a chair with its cushions and covers set aside.
Once the cooking was done and the food eaten, you could change to another saree and then free to touch anything.
Breaking of Madi by accidently touching one of those not-to be-touched things or people meant a bath again and, as there was no back up madi saree, continue cooking in those wet clothes, sometimes shivering in the cold winter mornings, and with water dripping all over the kitchen floor.
Madi is even considered broken if you attend to nature’s call and you'd need a bath to purify yourself again.
Come pooja or festival and the rigorousness increased…more madi, more arduousness in following it, more fervour…
The flowers, coconut and all other things meant for pooja were to be strictly kept separate from cooking and dining areas. If any of the pooja stuff was kept on the dining table by mistake, it was considered impure and had to be washed before using it for pooja. The oil for pooja lamp was kept separately in the pooja room and was not to be touched or used in kitchen for cooking purpose.
Large canisters of oil or pickle could be touched only after madi and not any time we wished to use some.  Small quantities were kept in jars for everyday use.
Some madi rules during eating…
Serve food with left hand but every time you  touch any cooked food, wash your hand. This meant you had a puddle of water on the floor at your left by the time you finished your meal. All meals happened sitting on the floor, of course. Serving uncooked food like oil/ghee/salt/pickle/curd did not mandate washing your hand. Later, and especially after the meals started happening at the dining table, this ritual translated to tilting your glass of water ever so slightly…just enough to wet your fingertips! Who’d want those puddles of water on your table?!
My grandmother though, never ever in her life time ate at the table. The tables only get wiped, they never get washed like the floor, no?
In the night again, the madi saree was ready for getting rinsed and dried again. This saree was not washed along with clothes of the entire household.
This practice was carried through her lifetime.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Rangasthalam

Can something in this world be described as being ‘too’ perfect?
Sukumar, the director of Rangasthalam, has achieved the state of near-perfection with this movie. So perfect in fact, that it’s eerie!
While watching a film through a critic’s eye, one tries to see beyond what is apparent on screen. Waiting to watch for discrepancy in the screenplay, maybe a backdrop that should not have been in a period film, a garment that looks a tad too modern, a diction that betrays a background that’s not in line with the ethnicity portrayed in the movie…
Rangasthalam is a tad too perfect. The hero’s beard, for example, is the perfect length and trimmed oh-so-well, with not a hair out of place. The hero's is hard of hearing. Because there is never a flawless human being, no?
Again, there is no irrelevant moment in the movie. Before you start wondering, the deafness too has a role to play.
The one place I caught him out, was when he calls the ‘doctor’ with a soft ‘r’ ending and not ‘daaktar’ as normally the villagers might do….
But let me set aside the mind that looks to nit-pick…
The movie is charming. It has a great script supported by some great acting.
Everyone has done his/her best in the allotted roles. Ram Charan is supported by a strong author-backed role. Samantha may not have an equal screen presence in terms of the length of the role but how well she lights up the screen when she appears on it! And how natural she looks in her simple non-matching cottons!
And no, she isn't just a dumb belle. She was the first among the villagers, in fact, who questions the President's clique about the debt repayment, mentioning that she was '6th-pass' and therefore knows that she had actually repaid the loan and owes nothing more.
The simple dance moves are a delight to watch…reminding you of how you hop, skip and jump around when you feel happy and there’s no one to watch you.
Naresh and Rohini as Ram Charan’s parents, Aadi as the brother and Jagapathi Babu and Prakash Raj are so right for their roles! Jagapathi babu, especially, portrayed as a man of a few words, makes for such menacing presence!
The story is about how the villagers of Rangasthalam live like frogs in a well, thinking that this is how their lives are meant to be…living in poverty and debt, believing that the President of the village is their God and savior.
But Aadi, Ram Charan’s brother, who is educated and Dubai-returned, makes the villagers realise the need for changing their leader.
What ensues is, politics at its worst…wicked deeds executed silently.
The movie keeps you riveted through all its twists and turns. Didn’t feel it was 180 minutes long.
Do see the movie on big screen. You will come back feeling it is worth it.
People, who aren’t Ram Charan fans will also succumb to this simple, yet, engaging movie.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Dear Sri




Amma brahma devudo
Kompa munchinavuro
Entha goppa sogasuro
Yeda dhachinavuro

Pula rekkalu
Konni thene chukkalu
Rangaristhivo
Ila bomma chesthivo

Asalu bhoolokam
Ilanti siri chusi untadha
Kanaka ee chithram
Swarganiki chendhi untadha

--Ram Gopal Varma's tribute to Sridevi's beauty in this song from the movie Govinda Govinda
His love and admiration for her could not be expressed better. All meaning, passion and feelings will be lost in translation to a non-Indian language, but here is an attempt.

Oh God!
I am devastated
by this charm
where have you been hiding it?

Some petals
a few drops of honey
mixed together
to transform into this doll

Has the earth
ever beheld such richness?
therefore this miracle
must surely belong to the heaven

Yes. Indeed such ethereal beings do not belong to earth. She has returned to her right home.

Sunday morning I opened my sleepy eyes to view this whats-app forward. Shocked, I quickly searched the internet hoping it was just a hoax. But it was not to be!
And the posting of these messages was not with a feeling of grief, as they would be followed by the usual cheerful  'Good Morning' messages. All eager in their attempts to sensationalize, nothing more!

On phone, someone calls and says, "Do you know that your favorite Sri has..."
I froze when I heard that word, wondering, 'how can you say that about her?!'
I couldn't and haven't till date said that dreadful word.

Within a few hours, even before the news could sink in, an analysis about she, her beauty regime, her surgeries etc. stormed the internet.
I couldn't tolerate this nonsense.
Never more have I been thankful of absence of a TV connection at home. I protect myself from allowing the image of Sri from being tarnished and blindly delete any forward I receive about her.
For me, she is a goddess, someone inviolable, sacred, ethereal, a blemish-less gossamer fantasy!
From my childhood, I have worshiped many an actor but sooner or later they would be unseated by someone more good looking or talented. But not Sri..
Someone made a very insensitive remark in one of the newspapers about 'her mediocre movies in Bollywood, apart from one or two'.
But that's what Hindi cinema extracted from her! Have a look at her rich repertoire of movies down south. Her movies with Kamalhasan remain unsurpassed to date
Just look at her big, round eyes and the gamut of expressions they capture in this bewitching lullaby with Venkatesh, both at the peak of their beauty and talent. (another RGV ode to his muse)


Even before the dhak-dhak song was enacted in Hindi, Sri had already done it in a Telugu film with an actor who could match her step-for-step:


Coming to pairing, where else have you seen an actress paired with, both, father and son, ANR and Nagarjuna, in not just one film but many of them, fine tuning herself according to the pairing all the time?
Where else have you seen an actress playing the grandchild (of NTR)  and romantically paired with the same actor in several movies?
Films have proved time and again that beauty and tragedy go hand-in-hand.
So, with Sri.
We are blessed to have captured her on screen for eternity with all her pristine beauty, charm and  performances in tact.
I am glad she is free of all the strife that she had to undergo in her temporary abode here.
We have proved ourselves unworthy of her in her existence on earth and beyond!
God will now take care of this special child!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Hello: a charming love story

Has Akhil proved the Akkineni lineage with this movie?
Saw Hello with not much expectations and was pleasantly surprised.
The movie opens with a fight and chase scene. The filming in the yet-to-be-inaugurated Hyderabad Metro is something a proud Hyderabadi will very well relate to. Akhil tries to nab the thief who is running away with his phone. From here, you are taken back to Akhil's childhood and into the reason that phone was important enough to warrant this chase.
Akhil, an orphan, befriends Kalyani Priyadarshan (a debut) and their bond strengthens as they hang out playing childhood games together.
This goes on till Kalyani's father gets transferred out of the city. Very filmy as the heroine throws the phone number scribbled on a 100 rupee note and throws it out of the window which in turn gets stolen by the thief...the same thief who steals his phone years later!
In pursuit of the thief, the hero dashes into Ramya Krishnan's car. Ramya and Jagapathi Babu adopt him later.
Though separated, Akhil and Kalyani pine for each other through their growing years.
Years later, and through a wrong call, Akhil hears a tune in the background, A tune that he had composed in his childhood for Kalyani. How he, after the phone gets stolen, tries to trace the caller and finds his childhood love back forms the rest of the story.
The movie is clichéd to the core. There is nothing that you have not seen before. But then why does it work?
Remember the movies of the 80s?  'Love Story', 'Qayamat se Qayamat Tak...'? This belongs to the same genre...a very cute love story, without being silly.
The director, Vikram (of Manam fame), has taken care to not portray the villain as too  wicked. With shades of comic, he (Ajay) is just vile enough  to allow Akhil show off his skills in action.
Both the hero and heroine at 23 and 22 respectively look convincing for this love story. So, if you are ready for a mushy-mushy film and want to come home feeling good about it, this is the movie for you.
Ramya Krishna and Jagapathi Babu's acting makes you long for seeing them back in main roles.
My rating a 3.5/5