Sunday, June 8, 2014

No Non-Sense Chayaisms from 80s...Want to be filmy Ma

Want to be filmy Ma   
As a teenager, I nursed a secret ambition - to become a star. Not for me the dolled up, glamorous looking, heroine’s role. All she has to do is be coy and be a prop to the hero’s image. She is only an ornamental addition to his alter ego. I hankered for a more coveted position – that of a mother! Strangely enough, in most Hindi films, it is this white. saree clad, weeping woman who has the pivotal role. The hero adores her, gives her a bear hug with an affectionate ‘maaaa’, shattering the silence, rests his handsome head on her lap while she gives him maternal glances, picks her up and twirls her around in glee when he gets a first class first in B.A., and vows to avenge the whole world when she coughs her way into the grave. She is indeed, the moving spirit behind the He man’s success!The best mother to date, who has brought errant sons to the straight and narrow path, has been Nirupa Roy. With her godlike goodness shining out of her eyes, she has turned the most toughened criminal sons into slobbering cry babies. The famous temple scene in ‘Deewar’ comes to mind. The fugitive son and the ‘farz nibhaoing’ police officer son, come together at her bidding. How many sacrifices she had made to bring up her ‘ankhon ke tare’. The father is conveniently dead.If he were alive, he would have used the rod to discipline them while ‘maa’ only uses her love.
In ‘Muquaddar Ka Sikander’, it’s ‘maa’ who befriends a waif and gives him love and security which the cruel world had denied. She fondly ruffles the little loveless child’s hair, and he grows up. Of course the most pathetic thing about a ‘maa’, is that you have to forego riches and suffer poverty.
But there are rich ‘maas ‘too. These are portrayed as dishing out money rather than love. Remember that svelte socialite mom in ‘Bobby’? When she isn’t patting her coiffure into place, she is careering off to parties and do’s after giving ‘sonny boy’ a tweak on the check. The poor lad finds solace in the arms of the nurse maid and later, girl friend. 
Then there is the mother in ‘Shiksha’, who smothers the ‘eklauta beta’ with love and lucre and he becomes a spoilt brat. (Note how love and money don’t go hand in hand). When papa ticks him off, the brat walks out of the house with mama’s cheque book which she insists on giving to him. The redeeming feature is that the guy repays mama’s trust and becomes a good boy.
Some hero’s sing lachrymose lyrics to their mothers, refering to them as ‘Bhagawan ki surat’, while she gets all glassy eyed with emotion. Lucky indeed are these women, because in real life such devotion is hard to come by.
We must not forget the vicious mother, often played by Lalitha Pawar whose pinched eye gives the right degree of venom. Just as bad is the strict mother of ‘Khubsoorat’ who frowns on every giggle or whisper at the dining table.
Shashikala is a perfect example of the comical mother. She dresses like a teenager, coos like a love bird in distress and flutters her eyelashes like a Japanese fan. All this, to attract an aging doctor in ‘Dulhan Wohi’. Dear indeed is the mother in “Prem Rog‘, who makes her daughter aware of her love for her childhood playmate. Though her own life is pretty shoddy with her husband boozing and coddling the local wench, she is mother enough to feel the throes of passion in her widowed child’s bosom and awakens her to it.
This is where papas step in. They come in a wide range. The typical father has a big moustache, is burly with a bluff manner, is a retired colonel and has a big weakness for his daughter. The wife is often dead – thus giving him an opportunity to stand before her garlanded picture and reel off soliloquies.
Unlike the mama who is generally poverty stricken, he is loaded with cash which he brandishes in the face of the son or daughter smitten with love and threatens to disinherit the progeny.
He is more often than not, engaged in nefarious activities like brewing illicit liquor or manufacturing spurious drugs. He gets a whacking kiss from his daughter who flies into the house with a ‘dadeee’ and a hug to put Boa constrictor to shame. The sons usually are estranged from the father. The mamas and papas of screen are to be envied. They get away with hugs and kisses the censors are waiting to chop off, if indulged in by the hero and his gal. It’s perfectly ok if  Sharmila, with powder in her hair and wrinkles on her cheek, clasps Rajesh Khanna to her bosom – but as his beloved?- sacrilege Oh! sweet hypocrisy!   


Friday, June 6, 2014

No Non-sense Chayaisms from the 80s…Those filmy gods
Those filmy gods
Indian mythology unfolds vistas of ‘yugas’, with their respective stalwarts, like Rama and Krishna. Rama embodied the qualities of dutiful son and king, while Krishna with his exploits with the fair sex and some pearls of wisdom addressed to the public at large, gained popularity.But they fall short of perfection when compared to the inhabitants of the silver screen today. In this age of religious skepticism, we find it difficult to accept the credibility of Rama and Krishna. But the demigods and goodness of celluloid, rekindle the famous sentiments of faith, hope, and sometimes charity. Like true devotees, we flock to the ticket booths and buy ourselves a few hours of communion with the Almighty.
Take the hero-he is so handsome, wealthy, intelligent and, Oh! so good. He is dutiful and highly principled, idealistic and has a strong sense of purpose. Nobody can lure him from his goal, the nature of which is considered to be beside the point and left to the imagination of the mortals. Even the gods wetted their palates with ‘somaros’, but not the hero ‘I don’t drink ‘, he says with an air of a saint and we women give our men folk accusing glares.
The gods of yore had to marshal the help of monkeys and other animals to rout their enemies. But our ‘god’ can take on a whole brigade single-handed, for he is an expert in karate and judo. Even though he appears to be a lounge lizard by and large, when the time comes, he can shoot like ten Ramas, ride a horse, swim across an ocean, fly a helicopter, and also sing a song –Oh! How we women worship these ‘devas’!
But the heroines are no less. They put us to shame with their sterling qualities. They have the beauty of Rati the steadfastness of Sita, the patience of Draupadi and the valour of Chamundeswari! No standing on tables at the sight of a rat for them! They can pick up the nearest sword and fence with the demon and dance on glass pieces to save their lovers from the jaws of death, while all that Savitri had to do was to catch Yama off guard in verbal combat!
When molested by the wicket brothers, Draupadi had to appeal to Krishna, but these paragons of virtue, have foresight and wear skin-tight jeans and carry knives in their boots and defend themselves with aplomb.
The omnipresence of God pales before that of our earthly ones. Rama had to send an emissary, like Hanuman, to find out what Sita was up to. But our hero is more self-sufficient. When parted, he sings a lachrymose song and the refrain is picked up by his beloved some hundreds of miles away and they bring the song to a glorious finale after the third verse, holding hands! They chase each other playfully round a pine tree in botanical gardens and end the frolic under a banyan tree in Gulmarg. I am sure Rama and Sita couldn’t have thought up that one even in ‘Panchavati ‘!
Which brings us to the ‘rakshas’ of today-the villain! Mareech and Dhundubi could easily be spotted with their buck teeth and hairy chests not to mention foot-long nails and a heavy mace. But look at the degenerate one on the screen. He is just a degree short of the hero in looks, has a band of leather jerkined followers and a hideout equipped like the NASA. He doesn’t charge towards his victim with a feral cry as Bakasura did. Instead, chewing gum, hangs him upside down above live coals and asks psychological questions. The villain has all the bad qualities one can think of and comes to a sad end at the end of the battle. He actually dies!

The working class in the earthly paradise are not without special endowments. The ‘sakhis’ hovering round the heroine have a trim waist shown off to advantage in revealing clothes , the modest modern hair style  and a swaying gait. They don’t do anything much generally and seem to be around only to giggle occasionally and look ornamental.
We must not forget the children of the gods.As youngsters, the Pandavas
brother don’t impress us one bit. They learnt archery, prostrated before their ‘guru’ and waited till they grew older to hit the headlines. But the offspring of the screen couple are much smarter. They can hold up a police inspector with a toy gun, be chased across heaths and meadows by ferocious dacoits and still not lose their nerve. They can make world-shattering resolutions at the pyre of their loved ones and grow up a day later to carry them out. They are quick on the uptake and cannot be easily coerced into cutting off thumbs, like Ekalvaya did, for the teacher’s whim. On the other hand, they can see a series of ‘gurus’ out of employment. They are, in short, lovable little devils!
Of course, we have those luscious ‘devis’ who provide a terpsichorean delight to the lesser mortals. They wriggle in “out of this world” costumes and never seem to burst a button. They appear to tempt the ‘devas’ and only end up getting a ‘slip disc’ for the invincible god of the screen is not to be taken in by these ‘Mohinis’.

Life is made up of tears and laughter, happiness and sorrows, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Three hours, spent in the sanctum sanctorum of the local cinema, will assure one of this philosophy. But what pleases the pilgrim as he  comes out of this is that God is , after all , not in some woolly cloud above, beyond reach, but is around us  just a couple of rupees away, and, what is more, will also send the devotee an autographed photograph, if appealed to, through the ‘pujari’ the secretary.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

No-Nonsense Chayaisms from the 80s… America at last!

 America at last!
I had stopped believing in palmistry. Hosts of palmists have deciphered the rather strange line on my left hand as the ‘Foreign Line.’ “You will go to foreign many times,” said one of them when I was ten years old. The closest I got to this promise was the glass doors at the Sahara(as it was known then) Airport in Bombay, where we received and sent an endless stream of relatives. I almost gave up till the line justified its existence at last. Anita Raj, a New York based producer invited me to write scripts for her programmes on India to be telecast on her Bombay Broadcasting Network in New York. Bidding a fond farewell to my family, I stood in the long line of passengers at the Air India counter. It was 4.30 a.m. Like a typical first time “foreign goer, “I wove dreams of what I would do in the Promised Land and occasionally pinched myself to make sure it was all happening. It seemed to be happening rather slowly because the computers at the counters were misbehaving. So were my newly acquired shoes, which pinched me as I inched my way to the counter.Two hours later, my enthusiasm considerably dimmed. I presented my economy ticket and passport. My adventure had begun! The economy class was over booked and I was upgraded to the business class. “They also benefit who stand and wait,” I said to myself and hurried to the exchange section for the $ 20 before I was whisked off to take the flight to dream-land. Dragging my pinched feet and my overloaded sling bag bursting with MTR mixes, pickles and agarbattis, I wended my way to the seat.
“Are you Chaya Srivatsa?” asked the lady seated in the third row.” I met your aunt who told me you would be on this flight. I am Lily and this is my husband. We know your aunt very well.” Its a small world !Later, Lily invited me to her daughter’s wedding in the famous Balaji temple in Pittsburg.
I also met four very lively officers from KEB, Bangalore who were on their way to London for a short course. If KEB could afford Business Class for them, it must be thanks to us consumers who pay hefty bills! They were ostensibly on their way to study some sophisticated method of conserving energy and were themselves bursting with enough of it as they chatted away in Kannada, exchanging notes on what they would buy in London. I got talking to one of them and complained about the lack of proper street-lighting, erratic shut-downs and fluctuating voltage, in Bangalore city. He was politely attentive but more interested in the delicious food the air hostess started serving, minus the papad and pickles promised in the snazzy menu card.
Palmistry is a believable science after all, I said to myself as I walked out of the Air India tunnel into the JFK airport. Following others, I went to get a luggage cart. Trying to look like a seasoned traveller, I tugged at one of them, tugged again, tugged harder the third time... nothing happened. I then spotted a sign which said to insert one dollar. I only had the two crisp $ 10 notes I had exchanged in Bombay so I went to the counter nearby for change.”
“May I please have one dollar notes? “I asked the gum-chewing officer who looked slightly puzzled for a moment and then brightened up with a “Oh, you want bills,” counting out the change!The first thing that struck me was that the cart would cost me Rs. 16. “Don’t convert” was the advice my recently foreign returned friends had given but that is more easily said than done. The Customs officer eyed my cardboard box with suspicion, “Mangoes there?” he asked and I told him they were only books and shoes. He didn’t believe me.
            “Show me the mangoes,” he persisted.
            “They are not mangoes,” I persisted.
            But he had come across too many mango carriers and was in no mood for debate. I opened the box and satisfied with the absence of mangoes he said, “OK, have a nice day.”
            “You bet,” I mumbled under my breath as I repacked.
            “Welcome to New York,” said Anita Raj effusively in American style and ushered me out of the airport onto the sun-drenched pavement. I looked around with curiosity.
            Is this the land that absorbs all the brain that drains out of our country? Is this the attractive monster that swallows up the talent produced by India? Is this the EI Dorado that pulls fortune-seekers so irresistibly? Is this the country that stands for human rights and dignity of labour? Is this the dreamland of my expectations? Questions like these crowded my mind as we drove through the city towards Manhattan where I was going to stay in an apartment.
            Of all “foreign” jaunts, America is “top of the Pops” and I wondered if it would live up to its reputation. Well... I was there and I would wait and see...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

No-Nonsense Chayaisms from the 80s… The dyeing day

The dyeing day
IT all started with my father developing an age complex. When he got his first born married, he didn’t feel the age syndrome. When his first grandchild appeared on the scene he was slightly shaken and insisted on being called a non-committal name like “Lallu”. When he retired, he said it had nothing to do with age as he wanted more time to play tennis anyway. As a doctor, he believes that age is a state of mind and has nothing to do with years, or grandchildren or pension or any extraneous phenomena – so he thought till I visited him last month after a gap of two years. He took one look at my graying hair and said, ”God! I’m growing old.”
 I could appreciate his distress as that was my first reaction when the streaks appeared in my hair. But familiarity with my appearance had bred acceptance. Friends and relatives had stopped reacting with exclamations ranging from “oh, you’ve greyed“ to “you are aging fast“ to “you look distinguished.” My husband seemed quite content with my wise look and my sons secure in the comfort of my “maternal streaks.”
But not father. ”You can’t go around looking this way- what will my friends think? You make me feel ancient. You must dye your hair.” Throughout my weeks stay with him, father harped on his growing old. At the dining table, when we were playing cards, while chatting in the drawing room – I’d catch his gloomy expression, his eyes dwelling on my grey hair. Even my mother intervened with a “why don’t you do as father says? So many women do it and there’s no harm - you get such good dyes.”
 When l left, father gave me a gift wrapped box and said “open it when you go back”. He actually looked a couple of years older –or was it my imagination? When l got back, l opened the box and was amused to find a bottle of hair rinse! Father had bought it from a “smuggler”.
My filial obligations overcome my resistance and armed with the bottle, I stepped into the beauty parlour down the street. In the evening, my husband took one look at my bouncing black hair and exclaimed ”what have you done to yourself“ (like I’d smeared myself with war paint). My son’s reaction was even more scathing and our dog silky barked his disapproval. I hastily scribbled a letter to my father asking him to go ahead and feel young again.
Later in the evening my friend Usha called and my son who was seething with rejection – his contention was that I was trying not to look like I was mother… without any preamble, told Usha, ”Mummy dyed....” click and the phone went dead. Half an hour later, there was a persistent ring and we wondered who it could be at that hour. I opened the door to find Usha and her family who nearly swooned when they saw me! We all had a hearty laugh when Usha explained that they thought my son said. “Mummy died“ and had rushed to console him and my hubby. ”Thank God only your hair dyed!“ she said , patting my jet black head.   

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

No-Nonsense Chayaisms from the 80s… Lost.....and found!

Lost.....and found!
Finders, they say, are keepers and losers weepers. But I have reason to believe otherwise. Call it bad luck or carelessness, losing anything can be quite heart rending. Finding what was lost is so exhilarating that the earlier agony will be more than compensated. Also there is a peculiar law of justice that is at work, which helps you when your loss is of that which belongs to you rightly!
I remember 12 years ago, we were visiting friends and when we came out after 3 hours, were horrified to find our car missing. The house and our wardrobe keys were in the dash–board and so was my husband’s Dock pass with his name and address on it! Besides the loss of the car, the anxiety of the thief having access to our flat and wardrobe,(especially my sarees!!) was unnerving.
Despite a thorough search by the police they could not trace the missing car. Friends, in their bid to console us, told us various incidents of people stealing cars and driving them away to Nepal. We just gave up hope, changed the front door and wardrobe locks and moaned our misfortune.
Just as we had reconciled our self to the loss, the police traced the car ten days later, parked before the suburban station. Not a thing was missing – expect the dock pass and 30 paisa! Even the police could not believe our luck and the only explanation I have for it is that Providence protects possessions bought of sweat and toil.
Another miracle incident is that of my friend’s son who had drawn two 10,000-rupee bundles from the bank and was returning home. From the bus stop, as he was walking homewards, one bundle fell and he did not notice it. Later, when he discovered the loss, he was distraught and hastened to the police to whom he reported the matter.
About 3 hours later, he was called to the police station where he was overjoyed to find his missing money! It appears a scooterist had found the money and as he picked it up, a cop passed by. The scooterist offered to split the money with the cop for his silence! The cop was outraged, dragged the scooterist to the police station and handed over the money! Wonders never cease!
The most amusing story is that of our friend Ravi Nair. He had stuffed his black pouch which he always carries, with the proceeds from the sale of his car. He went to a department store to pick up some tinned fruit for his wife, met a friend, got into a long conversation, left the pouch on the counter and went home with tinned fruit.
Meanwhile a customer saw the black pouch, looked at it with fear, whispered to the salesman that it looked suspicious and fled. The store manager called the police who brought in their explosive detector and diffuser. The counter was cordoned off and a large crowd gathered around the store. Wild rumours of terrorism circulated.
During all this mayhem, Ravi Nair and his wife were hysterical. She shouted at him, he shouted back and finally both agreed to try their luck and look for the pouch in the department store. They landed just as the police dogs finished a jig around the object. There was a great jubilation when the store keeper, the police and the crowd, discovered the menacing black object was only a pouch containing Rs.60,000/-!!    

Monday, June 2, 2014

No-Nonsense Chayaisms from the 80s… Loving the neighbour

Loving the neighbour
True love, they say, is rare and true friendship rarer. The rarest of all is a ‘true’ neighbour whom one can love as oneself as stipulated by the scriptures. The most pedestrian definition of a neighbour is, one who lives next door. To live amicably with this person requires mutual trust, friendship and above all, willingness to help in need.
The most important requisite is consideration - a do–unto-others–as–you-would–they–unto–you–principle.  Those living on the upper floors should avoid dragging furniture and thumping on the floors. It can be quite nerve wrecking to have a neighbour who does all her grinding at 2.30 in the afternoon and all her rearranging of decor half an hour later!
A helpful neighbour can very well be taken for granted. How often I bother mine by leaving my keys with her when I go to work. I’ll never forget Uma who rallied round when husband, children and l fell sick at the same time. She sent food, fetched medicines and even took care of a house guest. Then there was Vimala who turned out to be a ministering angel. Squeamish at the sight of blood, I’d call her every time I had to dress my son’s wound when he had a nasty fall. It’s a good gesture to send across some tea and snacks to a neighbour who has just moved in. This can be more appreciated than a well laid out dinner thrown as a social bait later. One good lesson is neither a borrower nor a lender be. It can be irritating to have a neighbour trooping in for a bowl of sugar or a couple of onions, all the time. If however, one is stuck for a thermometer or a tube of antiseptic cream, scrounging can be excused.
Genuine concern for the neighbour is often replaced by idle curiosity. Being interested in each other’s welfare doesn’t imply keeping a hawk’s eye on every activity. Imagine how irritating it must be to have someone screening all the visitors who drop in and all the letters the mailman brings! One must respect the neighbour’s privacy and mind one’s business till called to do otherwise. The other extreme is total indifference to what’s happening next door. I was ashamed to realise that the family next door had moved out a month after they did. It’s as bad as Mrs.Y who didn’t know I had given birth to my child till he was six months old.
Children are often the bone of contention between neighbours. They should also be taught the norms of behaviour applicable to their adults. Their quarrels should not be made much of. Children fight and forget quickly but when their parents interfere, it blows up into a family feud resulting in permanent estrangement. The next area of conflict is maids. They gossip about their respective employers and some of the employers encourage this. If your maid  is in a mood to chatter about the lady next door, ignore her and if you have a grouse against any of the neighbours, never confide in the maid. It sure will be conveyed in a distorted manner.
 Yes, it does require a lot of tact and effort to be a good neighbour and it can be very discouraging to be a good neighbour in a bad neighbourhood. One can only do one’s best and move out to a more congenial one.