& occasionally about other things, too...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hind Swaraj

Extracts from Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule) by MK Gandhi: As relevant today, as it was more than a hundred years ago.

Reader: How can they be one nation? Hindus and Mohammedans are old enemies. Our very proverbs prove it. Mohammedans turn to the West for worship, whilst Hindus turn to the East. The former look down on the Hindus as idolaters. The Hindus worship the cow, the Mohammedans kill her. The Hindus believe in the doctrine of non-killing, the Mohammedans do not. We thus meet with differences at every step. How can India be one nation?

Editor: Your last question is a serious one and yet, on careful consideration, it will be found to be easy of solution. The question arises because of the presence of the railways, of the lawyers and of the doctors. We shall presently examine the last two. We have already considered the railways. I should, however, like to add that man is so made by nature as to require him to restrict his movements as far as his hands and feet will take him. If we did not rush about from place to place by means of railways and such other maddening conveniences, much of the confusion that arises would be obviated.

Our difficulties are of our own creation. God set a limit to a man's locomotive ambition in the construction of his body. Man immediately proceeded to discover means of overriding the limit. God gifted man with intellect that he might know his Maker. Man abused it so that he might forget his Maker. I am so constructed that I can only serve my immediate neighbours, but in my conceit I pretend to have discovered that I must with my body serve every individual in the Universe. In thus attempting the impossible, man comes in contact with different natures, different religions, and is utterly confounded. According to this reasoning, it must be apparent to you that railways are a most dangerous institution. Owing to them, man has gone further away from his Maker.

Reader: But I am impatient to bear your answer to my question. Has the introduction of Mohammedanism not unmade the nation?

Editor: India cannot cease to be one nation because people belonging to different religions live in it. The introduction of foreigners does not necessarily destroy the nation, they merge in it. A country is one nation only when such a condition obtains in it. That country must have a faculty for assimilation. India has ever been such a country. In reality there are as many religions as there are individuals; but those who are conscious of the spirit of nationality do not interfere with one another's religion. If they do, they are not fit to be considered a nation. If the Hindus believe that India should be peopled only by Hindus, they are living in dreamland. The Hindus, the Mohammedans, the Parsis and the Christians who have made India their country are fellow countrymen, and they will have to live in unity, if only for their own interest. In no part of the world are one nationality and one religion synonymous terms; nor has it ever been so in India.

Reader: But what about the inborn enmity between Hindus and Mohammedans?

Editor: That phrase has been invented by our mutual enemy. When the Hindus and Mohammedans fought against one another, they certainly spoke in that strain. They have long since ceased to fight. How, then, can there be any inborn enmity? Pray remember this too, that we did not cease to fight only after British occupation. The Hindus flourished under Moslem sovereigns and Moslems under the Hindu. Each party recognized that mutual fighting was suicidal, and that neither party would abandon its religion by force of arms. Both parties, therefore, decided to live in peace. With the English advent quarrels recommenced. The proverbs you have quoted were coined when both were fighting; to quote them now is obviously harmful. Should we not remember that many Hindus and Mohammedans own the same ancestors and the same blood runs through their veins? Do people become enemies because they change their religion? Is the God of the Mohammedan different from the God of the Hindu? Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take different roads so long as we reach the same goal? Wherein is the cause of quarreling?

Moreover, there are deadly proverbs as between the followers of Siva and those of Vishnu, yet nobody suggests that these two do not belong to the same nation. It is said that the Vedic religion is different from Jainism, but the followers of the respective faiths are not different nations. The fact is that we have become enslaved and, therefore, quarrel and like to have our quarrels decided by a third party. There are Hindu iconoclasts as there are Mohammedan. The more we advance in true knowledge, the better we shall understand that we need not be at war with those whose religion we may not follow.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rajesh Khanna

Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore in Amar Prem
- one of the best romantic films ever made

Two songs and two movies that seldom make it to the top list of Rajesh Khanna are Humen Tumse Pyaar Kitna from Chetan Ananad’s Kudrat (1981) and Phool Aahista Phenko from Raj Khosla’s PremKahani (1975).

These songs are my perennial favourites. Both the movies were released long after Amitabh Bachchan had replaced Rajesh Khanna – quite decisively – as the reigning superstar of Hindi cinema.

Both the movies didn’t do too badly but were released at the height of Amitabh rule (1981: Naseeb, Kaalia, Silsila, Yaarana, Lawaaris; 1975: Deewar, Sholay) and therefore didn’t get the attention they probably deserved.

Incidentally, both Chetan Anand and Raj Khosla, too, have never really got the attention they deserve. A retrospective is the least their aficionados expect, and perhaps someone at TIFF should think about it.

In the last few hours, almost everyone I know on Facebook who is in India (or is of a South Asian origin in Toronto) is talking about the end of an epoch – Rajesh Khanna is no more.

All evening, I have woefully missed being in India – missed being in the midst of the saturation coverage in the media of the superstar’s demise.

I’ve spent a major part of the evening reading reports and obituaries on the internet, and watching hurriedly put together documentaries on news channels on the man who often made me jealous of my cousins older than me as they would talk about him as if he was a member of the extended family, living with us during the hot summer vacation in a small house in Bombay’s Prathna Samaj.

I grew up being teased by them to the Aradhana song – Bago mein bahaar hai.

I didn’t belong to the generation that worshiped Rajesh Khanna – and the only Rajesh Khanna movies that we (my sister and I) were taken to see by our parents were Dushman (1971, Dulal Guha) at Gaiety (Tardeo), and I remember walking back home in the rains; HaathiMere Saathi (1971, don’t remember where I saw it, but must’ve been at one of the theaters along Lamington Road) and Bawaarchi (1972, Hrishikesh Mukherjee) at Metro, (Dhobi Talao).

In 1972, my family moved to Teli Gali, next doors to three giant movie studios. In a couple of years, Hindi movies became an integral part of my life, thanks largely to the Sunday evening movies telecast on Doordarshan, and all of us – about a few dozen kids – would flock to Dr. Mankodi’s living room to watch anything that was telecast. And the multiple times I saw Yadoon Ki Baraat.

By the time I began to go to movies on my own, Rajesh Khanna had already begun to fade away. Although I remember collecting hundreds of Honeydew cigarette wrappers (or was it Wills?) and exchanging these for a wedding photograph of Rajesh Khanna and Dimple, and then a little later for wedding photograph of Amitabh Bachchan. And still a few years later, for the photographs of the West Indian cricket team that had Lawrence Rowe in it.

I saw Prem Kahani in Baroda with about a dozen or more cousins – all on a vacation. I just loved the movie. Since then I made it a point to see all the Rajesh Khanna movies that would be shown in what we then called the “second round” – movies that were re-released after a gap.

I seldom missed any of his releases thereafter, although I saw all of these movies on my own because it’d have been embarrassing admitting to anyone that I liked him. That’d be so like a woman. Also, in those days there was a particular popular and nasty ditty, which went something like this:

Rajesh Khanna
Haath mein ganna
Picture dekh ke
Nanga chal na

In those years, I always wondered why hadn’t he been paired with Hema Malani more frequently in the 1970s. Yes there was Ramesh Sippy’s Andaz, but Khanna’s role was a cameo in that movie, and there were Prem Nagar (1974) and Mehbooba (1976) but they had bombed badly (although both had awesome songs – Prem Nagar: Yeh Lal Raang KabMujhe Chhodega; Mehbooba: Parbat Ke Peeche Chamb da Gaon).

Then after a few years came Kudrat, a movie that lived up to the Rajesh Khanna-Hema Malani billing, it also had the hysterical Priya Rajvansh, the pompous and theatrical Raaj Kumar, and the seasoned Vinod Khanna, with the versatile Aruna Irani. Incidentally, Praveen Sultana's version of Humen Tumse Pyaar Kitna being the best one.

In recent years, thanks largely to social media, there has been a revival and rediscovery of the Rajesh Khanna phenomenon, which I find a bit astonishing. The easy access to his popular songs on youtube is really a great boon for Indians who aren’t in India anymore.

There are many ways to remember Rajesh Khanna. I remember him for putting the fear of Bhagwan Ram in Lal Krishna Advani’s heart in the 1991 election when Advani won by the thinnest of margins from the New Delhi constituency.

And, of course, as the other half of the most romantic pair ever (with Sharmila Tagore), in the most romantic movie ever made in Hindi cinema - Amar PremHere is another of my favourite songs from Safar. I see it on youtube when I have a lot of work and don't want to do it. Nadiya Chale re

Monday, July 09, 2012

Race + Fashion

Long time readers of the blog will have joyously noticed that my postings have dropped considerably during the last few weeks.

Well, it’s summer here in Toronto. I’ve taken a break of sorts, and unlike most people I know who read a book during their summer break, I decided to stop reading and do a few things that I don’t normally do.  

Hondo Indy in Toronto
Last week I went to the Toronto Indy car rally and then attended the International Fashion Festival Toronto 2012. And I had the most wonderful time at both places.

I accompanied my son to the Indy. If you’ve watched FI on television even once, NASCAR just doesn’t feel right because the cars just don’t look like race cars. 

Not surprisingly, considering NASCAR cars are regular cars that you’d see on the roads in North America. Incidentally, NASCAR is National Association of Stock Car Racing.

The open wheel vehicles of the Indy cars are similar to FI cars, although as my son Che explained to me, only three manufacturers – Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus – provide the engines. 

So there’s no Ferrari in the race, although Ferrari Ontario had a large space at the venue, with the California model occupying prime place at the Direct Energy centre off Lakeshore in downtown Toronto.

Seeing the race in person is a unique experience. Right from the pre-show flypast by Canadian Air Force jets to the mighty roar of the engines, to the amazing speed, and deft skills of the drivers all make for a breathtaking three hours. The sun, of course, was merciless.

After an exhilarating time, I went to the fashion event’s grand finale where the stars were Walid Atallah (UAE) and Vikram Phadnis (India). The show had designers from across South Asia and the Middle East, and loads of local South Asian talent from Toronto.

Fashion festival kickoff party (photo: Ali)
Atallah’s range of wedding dresses was an absolute stunner, with the audiences gasping at the intricacies of some of the designs; Phadnis’ charming, Hindi movies-inspired, collection evoked delirious responses from the audience.

A big kudos to the organisers – including all my dear friends at Black Diamond Entertainment – for bringing fashions from the subcontinent to Toronto.

Tomorrow, I’m off to the City Hall for an installation of my eyes. More about it later.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Canadian travel blog about India makes list of top 50 Indian blogs

Mariellen Ward at IIFA in Toronto in 2011

Breathedreamgo.com, a blog about India published by Canadian travel writer Mariellen Ward, was awarded Platinum status and recognized as one of the top 50 Indian blogs of 2012 by Indian Top Blogs.

"I'm thrilled about this recognition as Breathedreamgo is one of the only blogs on the list by a non-Indian, and it is one of only five travel blogs cited," said Mariellen Ward. "It is an extraordinary honour to be included."

Top Indian blogs uses specific criteria for judging blogs including (http://www.indiantopblogs.com/2012/05/june-2012-blog-ranking-parameters.html):
  • The blog should have high quality content. 
  • The blog should be maintained regularly.
  • The blog should have a good quantum of original resources. 

Top Indian blogs says: “We can claim that all the Platinum rated blogs are among the top-most blogs on India and by Indians. We’d also like to claim that in ranking blogs, we have been as fair as is humanly possible.”

Breathedreamgo launched on August 23, 2009, and has steadily built a strong following. In February, Breathedreamgo won an award for travel by the Canadian Weblog Awards and recognized as one of the top three travel blogs in Canada. 

The site covers travel in India as well as Indian culture, such as Indian cinema/Bollywood; and "meaningful adventure travel." Since her first visit to India in 2005, Mariellen has spent more than 14 months travelling in India and living in Delhi and she has been to 14 states so far.

"I created Breathedreamgo out of passion for travel in India -- passion for the beauty of the culture, the country and the people," said Mariellen. "I am also passionate about telling stories that evoke the wonder of the world and the way that travel can change you and give you a broader perspective on yourself, the world and even the cosmos."