if thoughts had a canvas

Category: Arts & Culture

A short, practical definition of art

For an incomplete definition of art click here. For a complete and simple explanation, read on….

For any act, formation, gesture or object to qualify as a work of art, it must achieve one of the three conditions –

it must be authentic, new, even if it builds a new construct by destroying an old one
it must strum emotional sensations in the human mind
it must add to the wealth, repertoire and richness of the human experience

There is no good or bad art, only art and non-art. It is art if it passes the litmus test of conditions above.

And once it qualifies as art, it transcends from being its creator’s property to being collective legacy of the  human race, and the artist a universal citizen.



Guide – a true classic movie!

Truly iconic!I  saw  Guide  in  early 1966  as  a 12 year  old. At  that tender  age it  was  obviously  not  possible  to  fully  understand  and  fathom  the  theme. I  enjoyed  the  songs  and  liked   the  story. The  only  thing  that  disappointed  me  was  its  tragic  end. Till  the  very end  I  kept  on  wishing  that  Raju  & Rosie  re-unite  and  end  up  to  live  ‘forever’  as  a loving  couple. Understandably, as  a  teenager, it  was  not  possible  to  come  to  terms  with  such an  end  where  the  hero  succumbs  due  to  a  fast unto  death – a  fast  undertaken under  social  pressure  to  appease  the  Rain  Gods  in  a  drought  stricken cluster  of  villages. Between 1968  &  2008  I  have  seen  the  movie  umpteen  times. The  more  I  saw  the  more  I  could  realize  the real  worth  of  this  precious  jewel  in  celluloid. I  never  felt  I  was  watching  something  old  and  known. There  was  no  sense  of  ennui   since   there  were  so  many,   henceforth  hidden,  treasures  in  the  film  which  could  be  discovered  and  re – discovered  with  every  subsequent  viewing. I  was  thoroughly  soaked  in nostalgia  because  the  film  brought  back  vivid  memories  of  my  childhood every time.

I  subsequently  gathered,  in  those  times  it  was  unthinkable  that  a  ‘married  heroine’  would  desert  her  ‘husband’  and  plunge  into  an  adulterous relationship  with  an ‘unmarried  hero’. I  am  told  Waheeda  took  a  very  bold  step  in  accepting  the  role  which  was  a  taboo  in  those  days. She  acted  so  well  that  it  silenced  her  critics. That  was  a  turning  point  in  the  contemporary  Indian  Cinema.

The  film  is  based  upon  a  novel  written  by  R.K.Narayan  in  1958  the  rights  of  which  were  procured  by  Dev  Anand. An  English version of  the  plot  was   written by  Pearl  S.Buck  and  made  into  an  English  movie  directed and  produced  by  Tad  Danielewski. The  movie  miserably  flopped  at  the  box office  causing  huge  financial  losses to  its  makers. Despite  this  fact  Dev  Sahib  mustered  real  courage  and  decided  to  go  ahead  with  the  Hindi  version  directed  by  Vijay  Anand – his  younger  brother  nicknamed  ‘Goldie’. It  was  a  bold  decision  which  only  Dev   Sahib  could  take. I  appreciate  his  vision  and  foresight.  It  ultimately  paid  rich  dividends. In  the  process  a  masterpiece –  an  exquisite  jewel  of  the Indian  Cinema – was  created  for us  and  the  future  generations  –  for eternity. The  credit  for  its  success  largely  goes  to  ‘Goldie’  who  also  wrote  the  screenplay. The  film  proved  a  turning  point  in  his  career. Every time  I  hear  Aaj  phir  jeene ki tamanna hail…..”, “Gaata  Rahey  Mera  Dil …..”, ” Tere  Mere  Sapne  Ab  Ek  Rang  Hain ….”,   I  invariably  begin  reciting  the  timeless  lyrics  myself.

The  songs  ” Yahan Kaun  Hai  Tera ….”  &  ” Allah  Megh  Dey ….”  have  become  virtual   classics.  Here  was  a  Music  Director – in S.D. Burman – who  sang  in  his  own  voice.  These  songs  merged  with  the  theme  in  their  totality.

Guide  is  probably  among  the  best  ever  Indian  movies  produced. Some  critics  have  rated   it  among  the  top  ten.  Time magazine  rated  it  at  Number Four  in  its  list  of  Best  Bollywood  Classics  during  2010.


India needs to move on to freedom

India, much like my own blog, has not moved on for a long time.

Moving on implies a major and demonstrable diversion from the past. We have been in a time warp for sixty six years and it is time for India, its citizens and everything Indian to wake up…The wake up call comes from an experience called Aam Aadmi Party

AAP represents a shared and collective hope. Of freedom from exploitation, corruption and inequality.

It is time to move on.


Kashmir Tales – 2


Flower of hope…

It was an unusually harsh winter. Old man Bab and young child Baccha passed most of the winter huddled together. Old man held the child close to his heart. They survived  because of the warmth that only human touch can produce.

Bab had seen many winters before, only to welcome the spring sun as it kisses the wet earth and see a  hundred flowers bloom and hear the air fill with distant rhythm of a ‘Chhakri’

But this winter is different, he thought. It is a particularly severe winter. It does not seem to end. 

“Baba, Where do flowers go when the ground is covered with snow?” asked Bachha as he cuddled closer to Grandpa.

“They wait, they pray, their roots huddle together…just like us” Bab whispered.

“Have you seen this happen before?”

“For hundreds of years. Our winter never ends. Our God has forgotten us.” tears formed in his old, arid eyes.

“But why does this happen to us?” innocent quiver of the eyebrow.

“Because we are full of hatred. We are wretched people, we hate our kin.”

“Is hate like this winter? Will it never end?” asked Baccha

“Yes. It can. You can make it happen. You can let all flowers bloom, red and yellow and golden…” said Bab. Both fell asleep under that pleasant shadow of a hundred flowers.

Baccha got up in the morning and peeped through the window. Golden rays touched the ground. He saw the snow melting away. He saw tiny blades of grass sprouting from the ground…and he saw this most magnificent of flowers. Grandpa is wrong, he smiled, God has not forgotten us.



Genesis of corruption

I could write a world class treatise on corruption, having seen it all around me for so many years. No need, though.

I shall attempt to explain how and why corruption seeped into Indian ethos:

Scarcity of resources: More people, less opportunity. Not only hard commodities in the marketplace but services, admissions, travel tickets, practically everything.  So in a state of near panic, we jump the que, neglecting all lessons on moral education we received in school. Our political system sensed this opportunity to make money way back in the 60’s. They made sure the equation stays this way. More scarcity leads to more panic leads to heightened desire to jump the que. So bribe your way out of any situation. QED.

Excessive laws and controls: Excessive controls in post independence era created a plethora of opportunities for the bureaucracy and at a more immediate level, the babus, to fleece the common citizen. Keep the laws twisted and beyond understanding. This was practiced in every single government budget, policy and procedure. Sadly, it continues even today.

Scant respect or fear of law enforcement: Not that a common Indian is not scared of law or officials. On the contrary it is the very fear which drives people to evade taxes, fines, regulations and at a more specific level evade punishment for offences of all nature. Law enforcement machinery will show you the way. viola!

Lack of education: and as a consequence little awareness of rights and no awareness of duties. Democracy without an educated people is the basic reason why we went corrupt and enjoy being so. As of today, the educated percentage of India’s population is a pathetic 74% (less than 60% for women!). India has the world’s largest illiterate population. Add to this the deficit of quality education that’s available to lower income groups, you have a perfect recipe for disaster. At the DNA level.

Dishonest Governance: I will not comment on this one. A dishonest society will get a government to match. This alliance has continued for a long time and the society has grown immune, insensitive and resistant to change. We get what we want. Quid pro quo of sorts.

Rise of the professional (murky) politician:  Seduced by the abundance of easy sleazy money, the more aggressive members of society took to politics as a profession, right after college, rather than as an avenue for service to the nation. They misinterpreted our constitution and threw all standards of morality into a dark and dirty pit where ironically, our political system has stuck its roots and derives sustenance from.

The greatest tragedy of post independence India is that it allowed corruption to seep in, take root and find a congenial, receptive, fertile social soil.

Who knows, this might be the undoing of this once great civilization.


Kashmir Tales -1



Kashmir-21-300x214Kashmir, our hero in these tales, is an old man. Just an old man, waiting for the day he will die. Wrinkled centuries are etched on his weathered yet handsome face. We will call him Bab, grandpa.

On this crisp November morning, he walks with determined steps, towards nowhere in particular. Close in his wake, walks his grandson. We call him Baccha, very young one. By now having walked for quite a while, Baccha was panting. Cold and tired to the bone.

“Where are you going, Bab?”

Silence.  Deep silence of the long, lonely valleys. Silence of the dead.

“Where are we going, Bab?”

“Nowhere. Just keep walking” answered grandpa after a long silence

“Then why don’t we go home?” asked innocence

“There is no home. Our home is lost. It is only fire and ruins and frozen dead.”

“Who did that to our home?” whispered innocence in a quivering, scared voice.

“Some people came from over the West Mountains and burnt down everything, killed everyone.”


“Because we called them in to drive our own brothers and sisters out of Kashmir. But they killed everyone in Kashmir.”

“Are we the only ones left?” little one was grey with fear

“Yes, Baccha. I have nothing to look forward to but death, and you are too fragile to survive on your own……” sighed Grandpa, his breath freezing in the chill.

He was worried, line of worry etched deep on his brow. Just like the long, lonely valleys of Kashmir.


Bangalore pays price for progress

Bangalore started getting strangulated in the ’90s. Once a sleepy hamlet, not exactly known for industry or innovation, but surely the finest town in India was known for its picture post card greenery, fresh air and mint cool weather.

Between 1970 and 2000 Bangalore population exploded. From 1.7 Million in 1970 to 5.0 Million in 2000. In 2011, hold your breath, it is almost 10 Million. Add to this human zoo, an astounding 5 Million vehicles of all sizes and shapes, belching poisonous fumes.

Bangalore’s arteries are choking with humans, vehicles, garbage, stray dogs,  ….

  • Bangalore has the highest number of 2-wheelers in the world.
  • Bangalore has the highest number of pubs in India.
  • Bangalore has the highest number of public sectors and government organisations in India.
  • Bangalore has the highest density of traffic in the world.
  • Bangalore has the highest number of Anglo-Indians in India.
  • Bangalore was the first city in India to receive electricity.
  • Bangalore has produced the highest number of professionals in USA – almost 60% of Indian population abroad are from Bangalore.
  • Bangalore was founded in 2nd Century and still has the same infrastructure drainage & sanitary systems – the oldest in the world.
What has left Bangalore (forever) are its big majestic  trees, lazy moments around dosa and coffee, aimless walk in the drizzle, old sprawling bungalows peeping through foliage, leisure and coolcool  breeze. Sad barter for an urban eyesore!

Indian Music ~ Ghazal Style

Genre : GhazalStructured, metered, lyrical, romantic, love, separation, pathos, philosophic, urdu, nineteenth century classics     

Jagjit & Chitra Singh:


Koi samjhega kya raaz-e-gulshan 

Ye daulat bhi le lo 

Sarakti jaye hai rukh se




Jagjit Singh – rest in peace……..


Fasila to hai magar, koi fasila nahin,

mujh se tum juda sahi, dil se to juda nahin…..

For those of us who grew up with Jagjit Singh’s music, today is a sad day.

He nourished and polished Ghazal composition to another level. He gave Ghazal a long lease of life with his very contemporary music  and technically correct rendering. He was the Mozart of Indian light classical music.

I go back to ‘Sarakti jaye hai…’ when I stepped out of college. It was pure magic. Those notes seeped into my soul. Ever since, Jagjit Singh has been a partner in my ups and downs, ecstasies, pinks, blues, greys and all shades in between. Cheeky ‘Mera na aitbar karo, main nashe main hoon….’ to the melancholic ‘ Tere khat……’ a  philosophic ‘Apni marzi se kahan apne safar ke hum hain…’ to an earthy ‘Ye daulat bhi le lo, yeh shohrat bhi le lo……’ it is an endless medley of gems.

To all of us Jagjit and Chitra loyalists he was a soul lifter who could make you walk on water. He selected his ghazals meticulously, crafted the music brilliantly and sang it like there was no tomorrow. Some said that he was a better composer than he was a singer. I think his true genius was in presenting each Ghazal as a complete and lovingly packaged product to a younger audience that was not mature for the classical genre…..and to a national ambiance, full of clutter and ‘noise’. I never saw him in a live concert (we bought tickets to a concert last year though, only to find the show cancelled for some reason). His audience connect was extraordinary. Jagjit was a bright star born in a country which has produced a whole galaxy of stars at regular intervals.

I am sad at his passing away, not that he is no more, but because he will sing no more. Legends are not lost, Jagjit ji, you will always live in our hearts and souls.


Hot Cup of Tea

Tea means morning, evening, anytime sojourn with friends and associates. Even  a silent soliloquy with self and all those special moments when you do nothing. Tea when you get up. Tea when you are tired, cold, happy, visiting friends, seeing off friends, birthdays, mourning. Tea is gender, occasion neutral. Trust me, a hot cuppa tea on a mistycold morning at a railway station is God’s personal blessing to mankind.

Welcome to Tea land, India!

Considering tea  is a recent habit, north of India did not take tea till late 40’s, south India, predominantly a coffee consumer, is still not an avid tea lover. Then how and where did tea take over as a national drink?

What range and variety? From pale gold aromatic ‘Darjeeling’  to dark molasses like ‘Assam’. India consumes tea in excess of 1000 m Kg every year. Now, that’s a lot of tea.


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