Sunday, January 31, 2010


He'd leap from rock to rock, sure-footed and steady, like he'd been climbing mountains all his life. She, enthusiastic but clumsy, would follow, her face flushed with excitement and the afternoon heat. She would link her arms with his, like so, so that that he could pull her up. He could climb trees with the agility of mowgli. His steamlined physique bestowed a lifting buoyancy of body and spirit, and he moved lightly. She stumbled, sometimes on all fours, sticking her tongue out unconsciously during the steep parts. Sometimes he'd crack a joke or two, and they'd break into peals of laughter that would result in her almost falling off. His openness made her shy and she secretly admired his ease. He'd walk in and out of thorn bushes unscathed, seeming to know the earth he was treading. But she'd almost always have cuts on her soft round arms, though he made way, holding the branches away from her.

Self conscious , she asked him not to look when she was going to cross a ditch on the way. He went first to the other side and patiently waited with his back facing her. She then prepared herself to jump, only to miss, landing awkwardly and off balance. She cried out to him (don't look don't look!) but he turned around just in time to see her fall; he laughed and helped her up, petting her like she were a child, even as she grew red in the face and dusted herself.

Friday, January 22, 2010

TAAQ at HRC Hyderabad

I screamed myself hoarse.

After four years in Vellore, and getting to see most of the gigs around in Bangalore and Chennai, but somehow managing to miss TAAQ each time, the wait was finally over.

The show was brilliant. They started off with one of my favourites, Look at Me, and by the end of the song I was already filled with that feeling only Bruce's tu ta paraburapurooo can express. The new song, Where the State has No Name is a bluesy, catchy number and has one of those choruses that comfortably settle down in your head. A total singalong song. I really liked that they wrote this one. I've always believed that TAAQ is an intelligent band; from their lyrics to the structure of their songs, there's a characteristic subtle wit that underlies. They're classic, they're contemporary. They reach out to the audience with songs like this one, and previously, with Keep the Promise, One Small Love and Shut up and Vote.

It was the first time I heard them play their signature cover, with its long intro (oh what tones on the guitar!) delightfully breaking out into Roxanne. At this point I glanced at the bouncer, contemplating my fate if I did get hysterical. De-arranged was anything but. I love how all the parts come together in their songs. I grinned throughout the show, and everytime Bruce went hic! during Drunk I grinned a little more.

Its always interesting to observe musicians during a live show. Bruce, with supreme confidence, picking, strumming, singing away in his strong steady voice, doing his plectrum-dropping act; at the same time not losing track of the audience. Rzhude, closed eyes, completely with the flow and completely enjoying himself, his thick basslines underlining clean riffs. You could almost hear him say as he cradled his guitar: this is my baby. Rajeev, swift, fresh young energy. I squinted at him intently for a large part of the show, counting in my head. Jason (haven't heard him play before), effortlessly fiddling about on the keyboard, bringing out some mind blowing solos like it was child's play.They played a fun version of Wonderwall with some interesting chords there. Mighty strange was mighty good, so was Bend the World. Paper Puli was trademark. And finally, Surrender stole the show. (Nice harmony, shouldaii shouldaii still rings in my head.)

The only disappointment was that there was no song from This Is It. They got our groove, yes, but what happened to mom made butter skies and all that?

But moving on. You can listen to TAAQ at home, scribbling those clever lyrics down with your tongue sticking out. Drive with them to work and do a BLM into the window of the nearest car at the signal. You can jog in the mornings with that TAAQ playlist on your iPod. Blast their music on a Sunday afternoon in an empty hostel.

But TAAQ, live?

Oh what a feeling.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Every morning I go for a fifteen minute walk. Even though there is some sort of a jogger's park nearby, I stick to taking the long and winding road. (Which winds back to square one and does not lead to anyone's door.) I tried walking in the park a few times, but the sight of so many people out for their morning exercise was overwhelming. Plus I like straight roads better than having to go around a circular track over and over again.

I see the same people everyday during my walk, and now I feel like I almost know them. There is uncle in the white t shirt and shorts, who walks with his son. Boy is usually dressed in blue and insists on pushing his red tricycle with great care. I suspect he's got an imaginary friend. They seem a happy pair, father and son. Once they got mom along and there was a whole new dimension to the picture.

Another companion is the great dane who confidently strides down the road like he owns it. His owner, a small man about the same size looks meek, positively scared and at heel.

Bespectacled aunty holds two big bulldogs on either side that look only half as intimidating as she does.

Short man jogs in the opposite direction, looking remarkably fit.

Old uncle gently ambles along with his Dalmation, whose head perpetually is in the nodding state, quite an agreeable dog. He peers at passers by, nodding and stepping towards them till uncle gently and absently pulls him away.

Strangers to each other, yet the mornings of our lives overlap.

Monday, January 04, 2010

kadambi booksellers

I have been living in Marredpally for quite a few years now, and every time I cross the main road, a big sign that says Kadambi Booksellers catches my eye. I had heard that it was an old bookshop, full of rare books, but had never got the opportunity to take a look inside. I walked into the shop today, expecting to find ancient treasures, but what followed was nothing short of a life-changing experience.

The owner of Kadambi, a man who is into his 84th year, sits at the front fumbling about with a radio. R N Acharya, who started the bookshop over 60 years back, tells me how the store has evolved over the years- starting off as a small bookshop in a garage to becoming one of the major landmarks in the city, and finally shifting to the current location on account of 'road widening' at Clock Tower.

The shop is neatly stacked and is organised by category. There are whole racks of NBT books, and it was thrilling to see the collection. The shelves are covered in dust; yet the books seem carefully preserved. He knows exactly which book is where, as he fingers for the book he wants to show me. 'Come read anytime', he says. 'You can stay here the whole day and nobody will disturb you.' One section of the shop contains technical books, mostly engineering, that he wants to distribute for free. 'Impart knowledge, not exploit knowledge', he tells me as he shows me his own personal collection of books that he read at school, standing on the bench for not doing homework. ('But I consistently topped my class!' he adds.)

'If you have the time, I will give you a synopsis of my life.' R N Acharya was born into a well-educated and modern family. His father was multilingual, a graduate of Presidency College in those days (three generations above us) and a correspondent for Reuters. His mother worked for LIC and even drove a car. After her early death, his father left the city. Acharya and his brother got jobs as clerks in the army and took care of the younger ones. Later, he started selling fiction books and also worked as a newspaper delivery boy. His shop picked up over the years and brought him to where he is now. He showed me photographs of his family, a collection of letters and postcards.

He talks of India before and after the British Raj, of readership, of the education system, of his own struggle for survival. 'It is only now that you have these modern conveniences. Back then, things were very different..' I realise that his voice speaks for his entire generation. So much about him reminded me of my own grandfather. While he uses an old typewriter to put his thoughts on paper, his brand new computer sits on his desk, covered with a blanket.

Here is a man who has regularly corresponded with politicians and literati (even Somerset Maugham-imagine!), has had bigwig customers, has earned the respect and goodwill of everyone he has interacted with, and is sought after by authors and publishers from all over the country. Yet, he humbly says- 'I have braved through the times. I don't know how, but I'm still surviving. I earn very little.' Acharya plans on writing a book, which will tell the story of his life. But I urge each one of you to go see him in person, drop by the oldest bookstore in Andhra Pradesh, buy a book, meet this simple yet heroic man who is an icon of generations.