Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Short story - What's cooking!

A brownie, deliciously warm, gooey and topped with nuts! Or something spicy like chaat. Even a thick milkshake of banana would perk him up! When exams near and especially, when they are just round the corner, the mind and the brain ticks for something else. Sighing, Neel let the Chemistry textbook rest on the table and turned around. Anu, his best friend, was sprawled over her Geometry and Anuj her twin, was yawning.
They looked at each other and burst out laughing.
"This group study isn't helpful. I am unable to concentrate. I feel like sleeping," said Anuj.
"Well, my mind has drawn a blank. I simply can't comprehend Geometry," Anu added.
"And, I have been thinking of FOOD," sighed Neel.
"Food...like chips or sev puri. Mmm... munchies would help me concentrate," Anuj mused.
"Let's see what's there in the kitchen," said Anu jumping up from the bed.
"What if Mum discovers that we had been prowling around in the kitchen? You know, how she hates if the kitchen is in a mess. And, plus there's Bahadur to convince," Neel hesitated.
On cue, Bahadur stepped into Neel's bedroom ostensibly to check if they were studying. Looking at their tired faces he asked, "What's wrong?"
"Bahadur...make something for us, please! We are SO HUNGRY," Anu wheedled.
"Didn't you just finish your lunch?" he asked.
"But that was two hours ago! Come on, Bahadur, please make something for us," she tried again.
Irritated and restless, Anuj announced that he would rustle a meal for all, if Bahadur didn't make something for them.
Bahadur was quick to stop him. "Remember chocolate shake, Anuj?"
Last time when Anuj had entered the kitchen to make a milkshake, he had forgotten to cover the blender's jar and as a result the wall had chocolaty squiggles running down it.
"Oh Bahadur! Why don't you supervise us in the kitchen? You issue orders and we will follow them," Neel chimed in.
Thus cajoled, Bahadur led them to the kitchen and the trio opened jars and tins.
Anuj found leftover bread, Neel brough out a bowl of boiled potatoes, steamed cabbage and french beans from the refrigerator. Anu picked out tomatoes and onions from the basket. They surveyed the ingredients and came to the same conclusion. Pav Bhaji!
"But is there butter in the fridge? And, the masala?" Bahadur growled
The vital two ingredients were available and so Bahadur assigned tasks to his team.
Anuj was asked to peel and slice onions. Anu chopped tomatoes, while Neel added butter to the kadhai.
Soon, a delicious aroma wafted through the kitchen. The three exchanged delighted looks.
"Can I have a bite? My stomach's rumbling and grumbling," Anuj said looking down at the sizzling contents in the kadhai.
Bahadur gave him a LOOK and asked Neel to add some more butter and saute the bhaji. He then took the bowl containing chopped coriander leaves and sprinkled them generously over the bhaji. Anu, licking her lips, toasted the bread.
Bahadur and Anuj set the table and then sit down to dig in the deliciously, piping hot snack. It was simply WOW. His mouth full, Anuj blabbered, 'Thanks Bahadur! Mindblowing! This makes me feel good about exams.'
'What?' asked both Neel and Anu.
'This...snacking while studying. I bet I will memorise Maths equations easily,' said Anuj. Their tummies sated they went back to Neel's room and to their respective positions. Words no longer swam before their eyes, they could sit upright and concentrate better, until two hours later, someone yawned and complained that their's stomach was rumbling and grumbling!

Short story - Meeting M



Pizza!' screamed Sharada.
'No pizza! Only sheera,' countered Aniruddha or Ani.
'Ma! You promised to make pizza on the first day of the vacation,' said Sharada, sticking out her tongue at Ani, her older brother by six years.
'Ma! Why don't you order pizza for the baby? And, make sheera for me, huh?,' winked Aniruddha.
Fed up with the constant silly banter, Gayatri had her own tricks to deal with the children. She pulled out the vegetable tray and called out to Sharada.
'Chop them for the topping. And get the pizza base from the bakery,' she said calmly.
With murderous look, Sharada set to chop the vegetables. But, she knew that she won't be 'punished' alone. Soon, Ani was summoned to measure semolina and roast it to perfection. In the kitchen, Ani whistled and hooted and drove his little sister up the wall.
Later Gayatri surprised Sharada by asking her if she had cleaned her room.
At her quizzical expression, Gayatri said, 'Have you forgotten already? Meera is coming to stay with us tomorrow.'
'Ooops! Yes, I will get my room ready,' Sharada jumped to her feet.
'By the way, cleaning your room doesn't mean shoving stuff under your bed,' Ani butted in, neatly dodging the cushion Sharada threw at him.
Meera was their aunt's daughter. Born and brought up in US, Sharada and Ani had met her couple of times, at some uncle's wedding or family get-together.
Next day when Gayatri drove Meera home, she looked a little worried. Seated besides her was Meera, not looking like the 10-year-old girl she was.
Sharada rushed to envelope the girl in a warm hug, when she was rudely pushed away.
'Maasi, who's this wild banshee?'
'Don't you remember Sharada, your cousin?' Gayatri said, signaling Sharada to keep quiet.
'Oh! She has shot up like a palm tree! Look at her hair, all sticking out like blades. Run a comb through your hair, dear!' Meera smiled.
Frowning Sharada stepped back and allowed Meera to move past her, checking out her cousin's short silk skirt, the very adult semi-cultured pearl necklace, and wedges.
Feeling rebellious, Sharada decided to forget welcoming her cousin and instead went to meet friends. Ani had gone for his cricket practise and so didn't meet his grown-up, younger cousin till lunch.
Sharada didn't turn up, preferring to eat at a friend's place, and so Ani enjoyed Meera's affected behaviour all by himself. He nodded with amusement at Meera's request, 'Please call me M. Meera is too raah!'
Ani noticed that M was too polite.
'Maasi...I am sorry, but can I not eat dal, chawal,' she began.
'Maasi, if it's not a problem, can you please order mineral water? I had a tummy upset last week...'
When Sharada trooped in, all muddied after playing a rowdy match of football, Meera squealed, 'Maasi! Look at her! Ugh! She stinks! Go take a shower, Sharada.'
Gayatri again signaled Sharada to stay quiet and pushed her towards the bathroom. At night, after Meera had 'retired' to the bedroom, Sharada asked with a dangerous quiver in her voice, 'How many days more?'
Gayatri replied, 'Ten days'.
Sharada gritted her teeth, while Ani laughed uprorariously.
'Outwit M! Do you need me to tell you how? Think! Think!' Ani winked at Sharada.
Next day, when M was busy unpacking gifts for her cousins, the AC stopped functioning.
'Power supply will be restored in some time Meera', Gayatri soothed her.
But, it didn't. M kept on complaining of the heat, and not having to drink fridge cooled mineral water was driving her crazy.
'I can't wear silks in this weather. Sharada, can you lend me something decent to wear?' she asked.
Sharada choked on her chips and looked up to see M looking harassed. Ani standing behind her, smiled encouragingly.
Clad in Sharada's shorts and tee, Meera looked reassuringly normal. But, soon she was back with her complaint box. This time, however, politeness deserted her,
'I can't stand this heat! Can we go to a mall? Pune has some malls, right?' Meera said.
'We do. But, we stay a long way away from the city. And, Dad has taken the car to office', Ani replied.
'So are we supposed to suffer in this heat!' Meera asked agitatedly.
'You can,' Sharada said trying to keep her tone neutral, 'go to the park and play a few games.'
Meera hesitated before agreeing to join Sharada and her friends. After a riotous game of football, at which Meera was surprisingly very good, the gang of girls headed to an ice cream and juice parlour.
'The litchi soda is magical! Gulp, gulp!' exclaimed Sharada to Meera.
But, Meera was on a different track. 'Sharada, this parlour is right next to your place. How come we got chilled drinks? The refrigerator must have stopped functioning, right?'
Sharada was stumped for a moment, before replying, 'You are right. But, the stores here have generators to supply power, when the regular supply is disrupted.'
'Oh!' nodded Meera in understanding, while Sharada winked at her friends!

Short story - Karishma's secret

A short story for kids.

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Karishma's secret

Heard the latest goss?' Annie squealed as soon as she saw me. When I shook my head in negative, Annie proceeded to spill the beans. But, the bell rang for the first period and we entered the classroom. Whatever Annie had to say, was important, because unmindful of Ms Aarti's watchful eyes she turned back to whisper.
'No whispering Annie. Or you and Shweta will have to leave the class and continue talking in the corridor,' said Ms Aarti sternly.
Annie settled down, but I could tell she was bursting to share the news. At break, Annie, Ira and Divya spoke all at the same time. It sounded something like this, 'Karishma...nnsuisususcomingtoschool'. I could only catch the name, Karishma.
'What about Karishma?' I asked.
'Karishma is coming back. Don't look so blank!' Annie exclaimed.
Karishma, the school scholar, who had relocated to Hyderabad last year, would be joining again. I had joined my present school after she left, and so had not met Karishma. But, I had heard a lot about her. Scholar, brainy, multi-tasker, versatile, brilliant – you could add any adjective to her persona and it would suit her. She was truly the wonder kid, just like her name.
In a week's time, Karishma started school and I realised that nothing was impossible for her. She excelled at all. A few days later, during the break, Ira looked a little upset. Her position as class topper was now threatened. Even Divya, a graceful dancer and sought by all the teachers to perform at school functions, looked worried. Karishma with a little guidance could match her steps!
I didn't like the look of them and to cheer to my friends, I said, 'Nothing is impossible you know. Karishma is not a superhuman. She must be average or bad at something.'
Annie quickly replied, 'Find out what Karishma is weak at, and we will do whatever you say. Challenge!'
I was forced to accept the challenge. In a month's time, I realised that my friends were right. Karishma had no chink in her armour. And, frankly, it was difficult to hate her or envy her, because Karishma was pleasant and helpful.
I had almost accepted defeat, when most unexpectedly, I discovered Karishma's secret.
After writing our first term exams, we soon got involved in various competitions before school closed for Diwali vacations. I was a a part of the team making wall paintings along with Karishma. I happened to spill colours on floor and my brush also broke.
Karishma shared her brushes with me and also offered her paintbox.
I forgot to hand her brushes after we finished with the painting and so went over to her house in the evening. Annie and her dog, Sheru, joined me. We met Karishma, who was watering plants in the garden, but instead of waving or greeting us, she just stood still. After Sheru, the big, friendly lab, rushed towards Karishma, she went white in her face. and the water hose hung limp in her hand.
Annie pulled back Sheru, and a trembling Karishma sank in the grass. She began weeping, while Annie and I looked at each other. In between hiccups, Karishma revealed, 'I am scared of dogs, after one Daschund pup bit me. He was being friendly, but I ran and he too chased me.'
I patted her on the back and Annie apologised for Sheru. But Karishma continued sobbing.
'I wish I could overcome this phobia. I have tried several times. It's too embarrassing, when I am around dog owners,' she explained teary-eyed.
My mind was in a swirl. I knew if I revealed Karishma's secret to others, I would win the challenge. But, wasn't I being petty? Karishma was very talented, but at no time, did she boss over us. So I decided to keep her secret. Annie had caught my eye and nodded. She told Karishma, 'No worries! I will help you get over the phobia.'
Karishma looked up and smiled , 'No harm in trying yet again.'
'I am sure that you soon be a dog lover and an expert at training the canine too!' Annie

Book Review - Talking Cinema

Name: Talking Cinema
By: Bhawana Somaaya
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers India
Price: Rs 299
Pages: 222

Every Friday, a new God or Goddess appear on the screen and soon enough their faithful multiply. We love, eat, drink and perhaps even pray in Bollywood ishtyle. Going beyond these cliches is Bhawana Somaaya's, Talking Cinema that captures the 'thinking aloud' moments of actors and film-makers, whose work has become the barometer of Indian cinema's history.
Most of the interviews were done in early 2000, when Indian cinema was in a flux. And, it's that changing mindset of film-makers and actors, Somaaya hopes to capture in this book. Talking Cinema succeeds in its objective, besides getting the timing right too – we are celebrating the centenary of Indian cinema.
The Q & A format of the book might at the outset seem pedantic and prosaic. But, it's not. Most of the questions posed to the actors and film-makers are simple and uniform, but have been answered differently, going beyond the breezy cheerfulness that you encounter in cinema reporting.
Somaaya has succeeded in getting the actors to drop their guard; as the interview progresses, their choice of words become more candid, revealing and honest. For instance, Shah Rukh Khan on being asked on the definition of good performance, says, “This may sound like a cliché, but I don't think there can be a fixed definition.... Acting is a complex exercise and works differently for different people. I am often criticized for being Shah Rukh Khan in all my films. My argument is that even if I do bare all, is it about being different or being about yourself? For fourteen years, I have exhibited bits and pieces of me on celluloid. The day I feel I have exposed myself completely and have nothing more to offer, I will pack up. Such a time can be described as creative salvation or it can be called burn-out.”
The Q & A format also enables you to begin reading from any page and even skipping some of the interviews, if you are not interested in reading the work philosophy of the actors/film-makers.
The only count on which the author could have bettered the book is by widening her choice of interviewees. For instance in the 'Director's Cut' section, Sudhir Mishra or Vidhu Vinod Chopra's approach their craft could have made an interesting read. Only one 'Badhshah' Khan has been featured, with Aamir Khan and Salman Khan missing from 'An Actor Prepares' or 'Character Speak' segment. No one from the regional cinema has been featured, barring Kamal Haasan and Mani Ratnam (of course it's their work in Bollywood, that's the talking point). Barring these glitches, it's a book to be read, if you want to understand what makes our cinema tick.

New home for the arts

Gyaan Adab, the newest literary space in the city. A report

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Does Pune, a thriving place when it comes to literary meets, dance and music performances, really need another centre which is going to bring all the arts under one roof? Well, Gyaan Adab, the newest addition to the literature spaces, promises the usual perks, but also tweaks some norms.
Entrepreneur, innovator Farook Merchant and his wife Nasima, whose brain child the centre is, say that Gyaan Adab will be accessible to both classes and masses. The centre, which is in process of registering itself as a charitable trust, is at present offering all its services free.
The pet project of Gyaan Adab is the 'mohalla libraries'. Merchant explains, “Our team will fan out in the city and get at least one contact person, preferably a lady in different parts, including the settlement, who will be the monitor of that area. We are going to provide the monitor and other residents she ropes in with a stack of books. Every three months we will provide them with new books. All we hope is to get them to pick up a book and read.”
Gyaan Adab is also open to book worms walk in, borrow books, and spend their day at centre's reading room. There's also space for research students to take down notes or pore over books in a secluded room.
Randhi Khare, who's Honourable Director, Programmes at Gyaan Adab, says there are going to be four calendar events related to literature and art in a month and more impromptu sessions where poets and writer can read out from their books, interact with the audience and seek feedback. There's an art gallery too where artistes can put up their work.

Box
Drop by at Gyaan Adab, Kalyani Nagar from Tuesday to Sunday between 10 am to 7 pm.

Multiply books
Donate your books to Gyaan Adab and also recommend your favourites. The team at Gyaan Adab will be happy to include it in their collection. At present, they have 2,000 books in their library. By year end, they hope to reach the number of 10,000.
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Spread the word
At present readers can borrow titles in Marathi, Urdu and English. They plan to spread the written word in more languages.
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Read, hear and perform
Upcoming artistes, here's your chance! For a critical feedback, head to Gyaan Adab.
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A place for kids
Gyaan Adab will also encourage children to read through activities like drawing, theatre and forming book clubs.

Advisory Committee
Mohini Khot
Satish Khot
Mumtaz Peerbhoy
Dnyanada Naik
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Quotes
Gyaan Adab's windows are open to all influences. It's going to be a dynamic play of words, music and images.
Randhir Khare


This is going to be a apolitical and areligious venture. We want to bring back the spotlight on our rich vernacular history. We don't intend to compete with other literature and art space in the city. Rather, we wish to collaborate.
Farook Merchant