Sunday, May 20, 2007

Post 271 : Music 22 : Tere Ishq Nachaye (Sona Mohapatra)

Indi-pop - thats a genre that I like to drop like a hot potato. Its basically crappy electronic stuff served without any garnish or lettuce.

I first heard of Sona - when they were airing some pop song of hers last year. I dont even remember the name, all I know is, I was tempted to brand it in the same category.

Then came "Aaja Ve", which they started airing some 6 months ago. A very different groovy-folksy number....with a haunting clap-thumping in the background.

Still I was inclined to pass this off as a "one-good-song-wonder"(notice that I did not say a one-hit-wonder, since I dont think even ''aaja ve" became a hit.....our average listener considers Himmesh as 'alternative' music).

Then came "Tere Ishq Nachaye" about a month ago. One listen and you are hooked...and mind you not to a raunchy catchy beat, but instead to the:
1. The lovely interpretation of the classic.
2. The interplay between music and vocals is impeccable....when the music is on, you are just allowed to savor in some complicated riffs and tricks, and when Sona sings, its just her slingshot voice travelling the entire ranges. This one is something that every good composer should learn.....a good listener wants music to play hide-and-seek with him, almost a peek-a-boo.

The music and the song has a grand quality to, almost megatonic proportions....both within the vocals and the instruments playing in the background.

Lastly, the video is a pleasure to watch too. Everyday people/artists dancing, matching step and fantastically meshed into the song.

I could have easily downloaded this song, but for this quality, my heart winced and said, I must pay for this art, (wrode to the anti-Himmesh brigade).

Go buy it, if you can afford it, I promise you this album is worth just that single song. (It helps that at least 4 other songs on this album are intelligent).

Dance to the music of joy and beauty.


These are lyrics of the song Sona has sung, it is missing the paragraph which is about the peacock-passion-stabbing......the song does not have it

Tere ishq nachaya kar ke thaiya ve thaiya
Jaldi aaja ve tabiba,nhi te main mr gyiaan..

Iss ishq ki bagiya, me mayura gaye
Maine kaba-te-kibla yaar me paaye
Mujhe kar ke jo ghayal,mud ke khabr na laiya..

Iss ishq dagar se, mujhe mod na maye
Lahoo jate bede, kaun mod ke laye
Meri aakal jo bhulli, sang maalaahon ke gyiaan..

Bulleshah chal chaliye inayat de boohe
Jisne pehnaye hame , sawe te soohe
Maine maari jo addi(ankle)mil gaye peeya o dhaiya

Tere ishq ne dera mere andar keeta
Bhar zehar pyala,main aap hi peeta


Original extracted from - includes a very decent translation as well

Post 270 : Music 21 : Top song for 2007 (Strings - yeh aakri Alvida na ho)

Strings - Yeh Aakri Alvida Na Ho from "Shootout At Lokhandwala" will feature in my top song for 2007.

It gets added to
1. Ya Rabba - Salaam-e-ishq
2. Strings - Yeh Aakri Alvida Na Ho - shootout from Lokhandwala
2. In dino....Life in a metro

I love strings, especially their classic rock sound - (Songs from last year which I liked - Mera bichara yaar, and the song from Zinda - Yeh Hai Meri Kahani)

Here goes the lyrics from Aakri Alvida....

Dhadkane khamosh hai
Kuch kehti nahi
Yeh Akhari Alvida na ho
Chahte ankhon se Behti nahi
Yeh Akhari Alvida na ho

Is dard ko dil mein
Dil mein rehne do
Jo kauf hai Ankhon se
Ankhon se kehne do
Dukh ki Nadi chup chap Behne do

Jo kehna hai tum dheere se keh do
Yeh Akhari Alvida na ho
Akhari Alvida na ho
Dhadkane khamosh haiKuch kehti nahiYeh Akhari Alvida na ho
Sab yaadeein jo bandhe the Bandhan
Kajal bhindya haathon mein kangan

Mehki rehti thi menhdi
Gata rehta tha saawan
In yaadho ko sapno mein rehne do

Yeh Akhari Alvida na ho
Dhadkane khamosh hai
Kuch kehti nahi
Yeh Akhari Alvida na ho
Chahte ankhon se Behti nahi
Yeh Akhari Alvida na ho

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Post 269 : Dont look very far ....YOU are the banana republic

Bhartiya Kamgar Sena is protesting against a restaurant called Bombay Blue, saying it should be changed to Mumbai Blue....

My point is why dont you also change

Bombay Duck to Mumbai Duck
Bombay Dyeing to Mumbai Dyeing (Nulsi Wadia please note!!!)
Bombay Sapphire should change to Mumbai Sapphire (surely that must be easy Mr. Bacardi)

An extract from this article....

"A more Indian protest ensued a few days after the artistic outrage of the beautiful people, when over 300 members of the Bharatiya Kamgar Sena demonstrated outside a restaurant called Bombay Blue and demanded that the name be changed to Mumbai Blue. In the unlikely event of the matter taking a legal course, it will probably reach the Bombay High Court, as the institution is called. This is a kind of protest that is more emblematic of an Indian demonstration. "

Post 268 : Great Brand Lines - 2 (I love the thump)

The Sony W200i ad featuring Hrithik is a very cool ad. There are people who feel it is very Hrithik focussed, I think thats exactly the winning point than otherwise.

What I actually love about this ad it says " I (sony-ericsson logo) the thump"....

Almost everyone instinctively reads it as "I love the thump".....

What a clever use of our subconscious reading.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Post 267 : What moves must be true

I was re-reading this post from SR SV and felt a sense of exaltment, a sense of joy - the kind one has after having achieved something - why? - its probably one of the finest literary pieces from the greatest writer I have ever encountered....yes, quite easily, R is right at the top for me. It gives me something to look forward to.

Post 266 : Book 8 - The reluctant fundamentlist - Mohsin Hamid

I was at my mom's house yesterday. She had just bought "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" by Mohsin Hamid. Had read enough about the book, and decided to give a few pages a shot.

I started reading at around 8pm, and by 10pm I was done and over with the book.....all 185 pages of it.

Did I like it? Its in your face, it has a honesty very rarely seen in fiction, and hence it touches an inner chord. Short answer, I did like it in pieces and saw shortcomings in others.

What I liked? As I said, I just loved the honesty of the book, and the self-deprecating look of a south asian on his own life, in the wake of the terror attacks. Also, it touches a very 'touchy' topic of working for a foreign land.....Its very insightful at points (lookout for the conversation between Jim and Changez, where Jim tells Changez, who has been aloof in a corporate event, that "you are quite a good observer, that comes from feeling like an outsider"...or something to that effect).

What I wished was better? Its a little narcisstic, could have explored the angst of the doubted ethnic within US a bit more, it almost seems to just scrape the surface. It wont convey any angst to a non south-asian....a standard western reader will read this to be akin to the rumblings of a grumbler - the plight really does not come out, the context is not clearly explained.

Yet, I would go as far as to give this book 9/10....go buy it and read it. Thoroughly worth every penny you might spend......Mohsin Hamid, take a bow.

Post 265 : Nandini Mehta - You Fume, I smoke - Outlook India Feb

I dont smoke, I have never smoked even a single cig in my life. I think its too late now to try....too much smoke has passed under my lung :-)

Yet (as in yet, inspite of non-smoking), I have complete and total compassion for the smokers in the world today. Our freaking world has just used them as the punching bag for a whole generation of self-fuckers....(whoa!!! what does that sentence mean....It means we all eat chips, we will drink black tea, coffee, whiskey, red meat, colas, car emissions and whatever else represents a generation of those indulging in slow-suicide, and yet, we shall go ahead and ban smoking, make life difficult for those who want to have a drag).

I am sure, with or without statistics, the hamburger kills more people than smoking, so does the extremely poisionous allopathic drugs...and they kill similarly, slowly, subtlely.

Where we fail is, when we dont realise that smoking is probably more personal than any of the acts mentioned above....its a way of life.

I am perfectly fine with us not allowing it in our presence because we dont want to passive smoke, thats a choice....thats like a Jain saying, please dont eat meat in my presence....okay sir, respected.....on the other hand, why should we push smokers to the fringe of a area...why have no smoking lobbies in airports or malls or offices....the easy holier-than-thou-answer is 'we want to discourage them'....

Well, holier-than-thou-fuckers take a life, your freaking SUV's daily drive is equivalent to pumping a 1000 cigs into the air for everyone else to passive smoke.

So much for my angst against the system.....we are myopic and we are irrational, lets face it, we are all in search of that easy, single bug-bear who we can beat to death, hiding our other fallacies behind its viel.

I read this nice article by Nandini Mehta in outlook India, Feb Issue....


You Fume, I Smoke

Each cigarette is a tiny, sublime intimation of mortality—that's the seduction

Nandini Mehta

Getting ready to go to an old friend's house for dinner last week was a bit like preparing for a famine, or a long siege. For an hour before leaving home I chain-smoked frantically, tanking up on nicotine to stave off withdrawal symptoms over the next four hours. Not so long ago, the same friend's drawing room used to boast a well-filled cigarette box—though a non-smoker himself, his definition of hospitality meant not letting guests smoke their own cigarettes. About five years ago, his cigarette box vanished. A couple of years later, the ashtrays were gone. But one still didn't hesitate to light up at his home, knowing that he would obligingly scrounge around the house and produce a chipped teacup or saucer.

But the rules of hospitality have changed now—in my friend's house, as in countless other middle-class homes. The smoker today asks permission timidly, tentatively, half-knowing what the host's reaction will be—an embarrassed shrug which means: "I really do wish you wouldn't pollute my drawing room"; or a more artful: "Well you know X has asthma/Y is just recovering from a bypass, so maybe..." If you still have the courage to light up after that, you'll find other guests inching away from you and pointedly opening windows.

When smokers are asked (for the zillionth time) why they smoke when they know it could kill them, they're usually stumped for a simple, convincing answer. It's hard to explain to the uninitiated that life is about more than mere longevity; that what makes cigarettes so seductive is the very fact that each one is a tiny, sublime, intimation of mortality. As to the reformed ex-smoker who tells you smugly to follow his example and "just give it up cold turkey", he absolutely doesn't want to be reminded of the particular pleasures that only a cigarette can deliver. How the simple act of lighting a match to a cigarette can instantly dissolve mental blocks, help you concentrate or relax, savour a coffee, fuel social small talk with strangers or intimate conversations with friends, ease you into the start of the day and help you end it in tranquility. But don't bother explaining all this to the growing tribe of anti-smoking zealots who, under the guise of "healthy living" or "public health concerns" are simply indulging their puritanical, intolerant instincts.

I think the rot set in with globalisation. As the sensex climbed and our annual growth rate began to touch the magic 8 per cent figure, we took to alien habits like sipping wine, going gymming, replacing keema-kaleji and paranthas with sushi and zucchini. It was all part of the First-World image we were now so desperate to cultivate. And smoking, with its radical chic days now well and truly over, was so Third World—it put us in the same category as those bastions of '60s socialism, like Cuba, or relics of the Old World Order, like those new Central Asian republics ("the Stans").

The smokers' space began to shrink rapidly at offices and public places. Cigarettes, already forbidden in your office cabin, now began to be banned from conference rooms, staircases and balconies, pushing you up to the terrace, to puff away in the company of broken office furniture. At most airports, the smokers' section has gone, and if you light up to ease a fit of pre-flight nerves, you risk being slapped and arrested by a CISF cop, as a French journalist was recently, at Chennai airport. Even at an open-air plaza like Dilli Haat, a few drags to stave off stall-hopping fatigue will get people walking over to tell you that you're spoiling their day out.

Job applicants who smoke are disqualified already—especially from positions in service-sector industries like banks and hotels, or from MNCs and infotech and management firms with global links.These are all full of fitness fanatics, and hypochondriacs who can write theses on passive smoking. Bhutan has to be crossed off the list of places one wants to go to—the whole country has turned non-smoking; Amritsar did it long ago.

And now the smoker's last refuge is threatened—a smoking ban in the bedroom is acceptable, but No Smoking in the bathroom? That sends out an altogether more sinister message—you begin to feel unwelcome in your own home. It's happening to more and more of my smoking friends. We're the new pariahs, the new outcasts. We need someone to fight for quotas for us—how about 5 per cent reservation in public areas, offices, restaurants?

Meanwhile, Outlook, staunch defender of individual freedoms, is one of the few places left where one can still smoke fearlessly, anywhere, anytime. When colleagues paste up No Smoking signs, they are immediately torn down by our (non-smoking) editor. It's why I can't wait to get to the office every morning.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Post 264 : Over the top (Ed Douglas)

I dont climb mountains, not yet....I still struggle to climb 3 railings to reach my apartment :-)

I was browsing through a magazine, reached this article. For some reason was intrigued by it. Read it with rapt attention....Climbing everest seemed just as esoteric (and probably a million times more difficult) than running the 42k marathon.

I am beginning to see, what makes (some of) us humans tick. We all have this hidden battle against the 'outside' - which is everything but us (and sometimes us too - especially when someone is told he has just 2 months to live, have you seen a few of us rally against that pronouncement....I have been lucky to see that 'show'.).

Everest represents everything which is beyond us, a bit like the 'moon' is the 42k marathon, and so is swimming the English channel.

Do people who have the desire for this slug-fest represent a higher race? No, not really. Maybe a bit more 'foolish', narcisstic - but definitely more 'alive' race.

Enough ramblings from goes the article.....


Return to Thin Air: Everest '96 Revisited

Over the Top

David Sharp's lonely death on Mount Everest revived the old, raging debates about personal ethics and the wisdom of commercially guided climbing. But whatever went right and wrong in 2006, the bottom line remains: You challenge this peak at your own risk, because its punishments are swift, terrible, and blind.By Ed Douglas

AT AROUND 5 A.M. ON MAY 15, 2006, Dawa Sherpa's luck took a turn for the worse. The 30-year-old Nepali was 28,215 feet up Everest's Northeast Ridge, working as lead Sherpa for an expedition to put the first Turkish woman on the summit. Burçak Poçan, a 36-year-old university lecturer, seemed poised to reach the goal—she'd already made it halfway up the Second Step, the treacherous cliff just 800 feet shy of the top. But suddenly, as she inched up the fixed ropes, Poçan slumped over and lost consciousness. Half a dozen Sherpas lowered her slack form down the rock, and nearly an hour later she awoke and was able to stand. That's when their troubles really started.

"After she is coming alive again, I carry her," Dawa told me, explaining in broken English as we sat in a Kathmandu café weeks later. He and another Sherpa, Phurbu Temba, began half lifting, half supporting the woman down the ridge, above dizzying drops of thousands of feet on either side. Then, just below the Second Step at a spot called Mushroom Rock, Dawa's exertions brought on a coughing fit so violent that it tore muscles in his chest. Every breath left him wincing with pain.

For the next three hours, Dawa and Temba helped Poçan down the rocky spine to the bottom of the First Step, the technical pitch above a system of frozen gullies leading to the comparative safety of high camp, at 27,000 feet.

"I say to my friend, 'This look like new body, man,'" Dawa told me. "And my friend, he say, 'No, this one die long time ago.' And I say, 'No, no, he is another body, a new body.' I go and look, and he is alive!"

Then something caught Dawa's eye. He expected to come across one dead body here: an Indian climber, presumably Tsewang Paljor, who lay curled under an overhang, a victim of exposure in the storm that hit Everest on May 10, 1996. Twelve climbers died that spring—eight of them on that single day in May—fixing the mountain in the public imagination as a place where rich, inexperienced clients tried to buy their way to the summit, often with deadly consequences. Paljor's plight had been noticed by two Japanese climbers, but they'd trudged past to snag the summit, leaving him to become a macabre landmark now known simply as Green Boots.

This morning, however, Dawa saw two bodies where only Green Boots should have been, the second tucked against the corpse's feet. "I say to my friend, 'This look like new body, man,' " Dawa told me. "And my friend, he say, 'No, this one die long time ago.' And I say, 'No, no, he is another body, a new body.' I go and look, and he is alive! He can speak nothing, but he is still watching with his eye, and I ask him, 'Where you from? Which group? You have a Sherpa?' And he didn't answer me."

The man was David Sharp, a 34-year-old British climber scaling Everest alone. A quiet and determined engineer who'd recently decided to shift careers and become a teacher, Sharp had failed in two previous Everest summit bids, in 2003 and 2004. This year, going the budget route, he'd arranged a climbing permit through the Kathmandu-based Asian Trekking, and used the company's no-frills food-and-shelter services at the north-side base camp. He'd chosen to climb without a guide or Sherpas, relying on two bottles of oxygen he'd bought, instead of the standard five. He didn't even have a radio to call for help.

Dawa said Sharp's condition was shocking: "Legs just like wood. Face already gone. Black, black." The Sherpa pulled long icicles from the climber's nose and unzipped his down jacket to feel his chest. Sharp's trunk was icy cold, an indication that hypothermia and lack of oxygen had almost done their work. It appeared he had spent the night in the deadly cold and thin air above 26,000 feet.

"We feel very bad, but we can do nothing there," Dawa told me. "It was very hard." If half a dozen fresh Sherpas had been on hand, they might have been able to drag Sharp to high camp, some two hours below. But Sharp's legs were frozen stiff. Dawa and Temba were exhausted. Each time Dawa moved, he felt as if there were a knife between his ribs. And Poçan was still near collapse. The Sherpas agreed to leave Sharp and continue on.

Moments later, Poçan's husband, Serhan, and another Turkish climber, Bora Mavis, arrived at the overhang. They stopped to give hot water to Sharp, who wasn't responsive, but moved on when Serhan's wife collapsed again farther down the ridge. Within an hour, by about 9:30 a.m., as climbers straggled down from the summit, Sharp also got help from Turkish-team members Soner Büyükatalay and Lhakpa Sherpa, and from Phurba Tashi, the lead Sherpa for the France-based Himalayan Experience (Himex), a guiding company run by New Zealander and veteran expedition leader Russell Brice. The climbers gave Sharp oxygen and dragged him from the shade of the overhang to sit him in a patch of sunlight. They tried to get him moving, but Sharp could not stand up, and they couldn't carry him. They continued on.

Burçak Poçan, shepherded by Dawa and Temba, reached high camp at 11 a.m. She'd suffered hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation, after having problems with her supplemental oxygen, said her husband. After several days' rest, she went back up the mountain and reached the summit on May 24. Dawa's injury stopped him from joining her. But climbing with her was Serhan, who walked up to pay his respects to Sharp. The body looked ancient to him, he said, as if it had been lying there for years. When Sharp's possessions were packed up at base camp, a scrap of paper told more about the real story of Everest than all the yards of newsprint that would follow. It was a receipt for $7,490, the entire cost of his final climb.

DAVID SHARP'S FATE was barely reported at first, just one on the list of 11 deaths that made 2006 the second-deadliest spring season on record, pushing the total known Everest toll to more than 200 since adventurers first set foot on the mountain in the 1920s. The uproar started on May 22, after Mark Inglis, a 46-year-old New Zealander who'd become the first double amputee to reach the summit, gave post-expedition interviews in Kathmandu to a New Zealand television show and London's Daily Telegraph. "About 40 people" went past Sharp en route to the summit without stopping to help, Inglis declared. Unaware of the Turkish team's efforts, Inglis said the only climbers who offered aid were Sherpas with the Himex team, led by Brice, who was stationed at the North Col below. A few people in the group radioed Brice, Inglis said, and the Himex leader told them to leave Sharp behind, because the man was beyond saving. Brice disputes this and says no one told him about Sharp during their ascent. In any case, the climbers moved on. "It was a very hard decision," Inglis noted. But "at 28,000 feet, it's hard to stay alive yourself."

Inglis has since revised his statements, which he says he made when he was physically and mentally exhausted and in a lot of pain. He'd suffered severe frostbite—he later had five fingertips amputated—and his leg stumps were badly injured from climbing on prosthetic limbs. When he e-mailed me this summer, it was between hospitalizations back home, where he'd undergone additional amputations on both legs.

In truth, Inglis wrote, "I remember little apart from the intense cold and from trying to keep my hands warm"—in temperatures as low as 30 degrees below zero—"as I need to use my hands much more than legged climbers." Inglis now says he can't recall whether, during the early-morning ascent, he himself called Brice or he heard others contact the expedition leader—or whether no one called Brice at all. It's possible, Inglis added, that the radio traffic actually occurred during the descent, the most dangerous part of the climb, when people's strength and oxygen supplies are spent and rescue efforts can easily end badly. "My recollection is unclear," he wrote.

Whatever the circumstances, Inglis soon found himself the target of worldwide media wrath. Never mind that being disabled made him the least likely individual to help Sharp: Editorialists from all corners stepped forward to confirm the moral collapse of climbing, a charge led by Sir Edmund Hillary himself.

"I think the whole attitude towards climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying," Hillary told the New Zealand press. "People just want to get to the top. They don't give a damn for anybody else who may be in distress."

Basque climber Juan Oiarzabal, the sixth man to climb all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks, put it even more scathingly to the adventure site "That mountain turned into a circus years ago," he declared, "and it's getting worse."

WHEN I FIRST SET OUT to report on Everest this year, my focus was the strange mix of horror and fascination the mountain seemed to have taken on—a high-altitude Wild West filled with summit-grubbing rogues and desperadoes. What I discovered when I landed in Kathmandu at the end of the spring climbing season was a story more bizarre, more complicated, and more human than anything I imagined. I sat in cafés with zoned-out climbers sipping sweet, milky tea. In the tourist bars, weather-beaten men shared drinks with frostbite victims dressed in bandages. Climbers told tales of jostling crowds, clients so clueless they'd hardly walked in crampons before, and one woman being taught how to rappel—on the Second Step of the Northeast Ridge.

True, there was no shortage of vaudeville on the mountain. On the south side, an ultra-fit former Polish Playboy cover girl named Martyna Wojciechowska reached the summit on May 18. Newspapers in the Philippines reported a bitter rivalry between maverick Dale Abenojar—who claimed the first Filipino ascent, via the

Northeast Ridge on May 15—and a national team that summited from the south side two days later. A young Sherpa, Lakpa Tharke, was reported to have stripped naked for summit photos. (He actually only bared his torso, but the flash of flesh left some of his colleagues horrified.) A team on the north side had their ice axes and crampons stolen; other groups saw their tents looted and their oxygen filched.

In a frustrated May 16 dispatch to his expedition Web site, Brazilian Vitor Negrete—an independent who, like David Sharp, had gotten his permit from the cut-rate Asian Trekking—described reaching his cache at Camp II on the north side only to discover that thieves had taken his food and tent. Resupplied by fellow climbers, Negrete would summit without using oxygen, as he'd wanted to do, only to collapse and die of acute altitude sickness after his return to high camp, on May 18.

As the season wore on, Everest began to resemble a deadly reality show populated by self-obsessed contestants reaching for a prize discredited by their very attention. But then, in an instant, the whole crazy ride whipsawed, and Everest became a theater of heroism instead.
Early on May 26 on the Northeast Ridge, American guide Dan Mazur, his lead Sherpa, Jangbu, and two clients—Canadian Andrew Brash and Briton Myles Osborne—were approaching the Second Step when they saw a man sitting cross-legged just inches from the edge of the 10,000-foot Kangshung Face. He wore no gloves or hat, and his fingers were deeply frostbitten. "I imagine you're surprised to see me here," the man said.

His name, he told them, was Lincoln Hall. He was lucid enough to speak, but thought he was on a boat and, in his advanced stages of hypothermia, had started to shed his clothes. Mazur's team checked the logo on Hall's jacket and realized he was on Russian Alex Abramov's 7 Summits expedition. When they radioed Abramov at base camp, he explained that Hall had been left on the mountain the day before, after he'd collapsed and appeared lifeless, and Sherpas couldn't bring him down. Now the astonished Abramov dispatched 13 Sherpas to aid in the Australian's rescue. Unlike David Sharp, Hall could stand, and when help arrived, he was led down to safety. Unfortunately, Abramov's team had already called Hall's wife, Barbara Scanlan, and told her Lincoln was dead. When Scanlan answered the phone the next day, she could hardly believe the thin whisper she heard belonged to her husband.

THE RUSH OF NEWS STORIES from the slopes of Everest this spring reduced the mountain to a kind of Himalaya Horribilis, where human ethics crumble under the mountain's terrible grind. What most of these stories did not mention was that far off-stage, in a very different scrum zone—the decidedly thick air of a London courtroom—the very business of guiding was being tested. There, in Southwark Crown Court, an unprecedented criminal lawsuit threatened to put the entire expedition industry under scrutiny.

The case, unfolding at press time, concerns 22-year-old Michael Matthews, who on May 13, 1999, became the youngest Briton to scale Everest, then vanished on his descent. Matthews hadn't scrimped on expense, paying $40,000 to the Sheffield, England–based Out There Trekking, an outfitter with an impressive safety record. But he'd struggled with exhaustion during the climb up, and OTT's lead Sherpa, Lakpa Gelu, had advised him to turn back. Despite the warning, he went on to reach the top, accompanied by OTT guide Michael Smith. As the men climbed down, a blizzard swept in. Smith went ahead to clear the fixed ropes of accumulating snow. He never saw Matthews again.

Smith told London's Mail on Sunday that he'd tried to make it up the slope to find Matthews, but the storm beat him back. After waiting an hour, feeling his feet go numb with frostbite—he would ultimately have a toe amputated—Smith said he was faced with a stark choice: "Do I stay there and wait ad infinitum and fall asleep and never wake up, or go down?" Smith said he consulted with Nick Kekus, the team leader, who was stationed at the South Col. Kekus told him the choice was his; Smith decided he had to descend.

I first wrote about the Matthews incident for the London Observer, in 2001, when Michael's father, self-made millionaire David Matthews, was preparing to file a civil lawsuit against OTT. Insurers for OTT would eventually pay an undisclosed amount in an out-of-court settlement, admitting no liability. Matthews, meanwhile, continued to investigate his son's death, which he increasingly believed was caused by negligence—something that, as he saw it, plagued commercial expeditions.
One of the team's oxygen suppliers, Matthews discovered, was Henry Todd, a longtime Everest outfitter who also refills used oxygen canisters and sells them to scores of climbers each year, saving them the exorbitant cost of buying new top-of-the-line Russian-made Poisk bottles. No oxygen system is failure-proof, so it's crucial to bring backups, climbers say. Once you do that, "it makes sense to recycle—it's silly not to," as New Zealander Guy Cotter, owner of Adventure Consultants, told Wellington's Dominion Post this year. The veteran guide said he brings new bottles for summit climbs, along with refills from Todd, adding that his company has not had problems with them. But in 1999, Todd was offering Poisk regulators wedded with British bottles; the hybrids sometimes required modification on the mountain before they worked properly, but by summit day they operated satisfactorily, OTT said.

Matthews was unconvinced, and in December 2005 he took the extraordinary step of filing a private criminal prosecution, in which a citizen pursues legal action in place of the state. Believing that negligent guiding and defective oxygen equipment left his son debilitated and at risk, Matthews alleged that Smith, former OTT co-director Jon Tinker, OTT itself, and Todd were guilty of manslaughter.

At first, as Matthews explained it to me, he'd believed what he'd been told by OTT—that his son's death was an accident and that the outfitter was in no way to blame. Two months later, however, he received a phone call from John Crellin, one of Michael's fellow OTT climbers. Crellin said some of the team's oxygen equipment had failed or was substandard, an allegation that Matthews would later hear from two additional OTT clients.

Because of a gag order, all parties in the suit are barred from discussing it with reporters, but Todd, Smith, and Tinker have strenuously denied any wrongdoing. Tinker became ill during the expedition and had already left the mountain by the time Michael Matthews died; OTT has since folded. For his part, Todd says his oxygen supplies are safe and always have been.
"I have a legitimate business which is tested and proven," he told me in 2001. "People who use my service take huge risks. I can't afford to let them down."

At press time, the judge in the case was preparing to decide whether to dismiss the suit for lack of evidence or let the matter proceed to a trial this fall. If convicted, the defendants could face lengthy jail terms.
"Some will suggest that we're wealthy people who want to make people suffer for the death of our son," Matthews told me in 2001. "But our boy died, we've looked into the reasons why, as most loving families would do, and what we've found out is a shocking tale of deceit and desertion."

Whatever the outcome of the case, guides fear it will usher in a new age on Everest—the liability era. Even if this suit is dismissed, it may be only a matter of time before similar disputes end up in court, they say. Nothing can truly protect them from grieving family members or wrathful clients.

Consider the recent example of Dan Mazur, the SummitClimb expedition leader who helped rescue Lincoln Hall. Mazur says that, this spring, his company also rescued an Argentinian client, Juan Pablo Milana, from the Second Step.

"Dude, he was facedown in the snow mumbling Ave Marias," Mazur says. "Literally."
How does Milana remember it? He says the rescue never happened and faults SummitClimb for failing to give him medical help when he suffered altitude sickness, leaving him to climb down by himself. "I am considering suing them for irresponsible behavior that put my life in danger," he said. "I lost the summit because of them."

THE CONTROVERSIES about the Matthews case and the death of David Sharp underscore a huge shift on Everest over the past ten years, one that makes it more important than ever to remember this: Buyer beware.

Until around 1996, most climbers summited on the south side, shelling out about $60,000 to do so. Only a few commercial outfitters in the early 1990s—Brice most prominently—offered trips up the more difficult Northeast Ridge. By the last part of the decade, the majority of summit attempts were made from the north side, a trend that continues still.

The south side, controlled by Nepal, remains dominated by established commercial operators, but the Chinese-governed north side now attracts growing numbers of no-frills outfitters and independent climbers—some of them sacrificing safety for a bargain. What they get in exchange is a longer, riskier, more technical climb.

High camp on the Northeast Ridge is at 27,000 feet, a debilitating altitude from which to launch a summit bid; on the south side, the top camp is the South Col's Camp IV, at 26,200 feet. Wig out from oxygen starvation on the north side and you have to traverse rocky terrain for hours before you reach thicker air; on the southern route you can get down a lot quicker. For these reasons and others, eight of the 11 fatalities on Everest this year occurred on the north side—and this during a long spell of good weather.

The deceased include semiblind German Thomas Weber, 41, and Russian Igor Plyushkin, 54, both of whom collapsed and died high on the mountain but did not summit. Both men were climbing on permits from Asian Trekking, the same company that outfitted Sharp, Negrete, and Lincoln Hall. (Officials at Asian Trekking say the business provides goods and services to many expeditions each year without incident and say the 2006 deaths were not the responsibility of the company.)

So why head north? It's cheaper. On the Nepal side, a permit alone costs $10,000. On the Chinese side, you can get a permit, a ride to base camp, lodging, and yaks to carry your gear to advance base camp, on the East Rongbuk Glacier, all for $4,000. If you can cope with bare-bones base-camp services, grim food, and no Sherpa support, Everest becomes less Bergdorf's and more Wal-Mart.

For strong climbers, bargain-basement trips can work. Austrian speed climber Christian Stangl, for instance, paid Asian Trekking even less than David Sharp did—a rock-bottom $5,300 total, including supplies—and managed to summit in less than 17 hours, without bottled oxygen. But was Sharp skilled enough to go solo? Richard Dougan, his Everest teammate in 2003, told me Sharp was "a fantastic lad, strong at high altitude." Nevertheless, without a climbing partner, guide, Sherpa, or radio, he vastly reduced his chances for survival. Resources are everything on Everest, either those you bring or those you buy.

Even when you have help, there are no guarantees. Take the case of Nils Antezana, a 69-year-old Washington, D.C.–area pathologist who disappeared on Everest shortly after scaling it in 2004, becoming the oldest American to summit. According to a lengthy investigation in The Washington Post Magazine, Antezana offered Argentinian mountaineer Gustavo Lisi an all-expenses-paid trip to Everest, including a two-Sherpa crew and a $10,000 bonus if the doctor summited. But the exhausted Antezana collapsed soon after reaching the top, leaving the Sherpas to carry or lower him down by ropes. As the afternoon wore on, Lisi himself began suffering from fatigue. He left Antezana and the Sherpas and slowly descended alone.
Lisi did not mention the doctor's plight to anyone he saw en route or at Camp IV, which he reached at 11 p.m.—and immediately went to sleep. Antezana, meanwhile, had spent the afternoon drifting in and out of consciousness at 27,500 feet. The Sherpas stayed with him until nearly nightfall, when their own lives were at risk. They propped oxygen bottles by his side and said goodbye.

The next morning, Lisi called his Web-site manager to report his summit success, the magazine reported. He waited another two days before phoning the dead man's wife.

Lisi, who works as a guide in South America, disputes this entire version of events and, in particular, denies being Antezana's guide, saying he went to Everest only as a friend. "I have nothing to hide about my expedition," he wrote in an e-mail, adding, "only true alpinists understand when things happen at such altitudes and the risks associated with a mountain like Everest."

Then there's Gheorghe Dijmarescu. The 44-year-old native Romanian, now a resident of Hartford, Connecticut, has summited eight times since 1999; his wife, Lakpa Sherpa, is a six-time summiter herself. In 2004, on the strength of Dijmarescu's reputation and the low quotes from Asian Trekking regarding services and supplies, Hartford Courant reporter Michael Kodas convinced the newspaper to send him and his wife, also a Courant reporter, on what promised to be a dream assignment to the north side of Everest, as part of a seven-member team. Dijmarescu, Kodas believed, would help people summit.

But according to Kodas's stories in the Courant, the expedition turned into a nightmare of arguments, fights, and intimidation. At base camp, Dijmarescu became angry about the critical dispatches the Kodases were filing and threatened to burn Kodas's tent down, sue him, or "whack him," Kodas wrote.

"Mr. Kodas's accusations are false," Dijmarescu wrote in an e-mail. He stressed that he is a climber, not a professional guide. "I have assisted many climbers and participated in numerous rescues, but I have never received money."

Allegations and counter-allegations like these aren't typical on Everest, of course. But the guiding scene there has always had its lawless elements, and that's not likely to change. Reluctant to undermine the Klondike on their doorsteps, the Chinese and Nepalese governments don't check credentials before letting people lead expeditions: If you pay, you're in.

Guides are left to distinguish themselves, for worse or for better. Increasing numbers on Everest have done the latter by seeking accreditation from the Switzerland-based International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations and its national chapters, a certification that requires rigorous testing, years of training, and proficiency in everything from skiing and crevasse rescues to first aid. If certified guides lose a client, they can face a professional inquiry, which might result in suspension.

Still, this is Everest, a place where consumer watchdog groups won't ever exist—what frontier has them? It's left to clients to figure out what they're getting. Even if they sort it out, unfortunately, things can always go wrong.

EVEREST GUIDES wish the bad stories would go away. Ditto for the naysaying about commercialism. No one calls it a problem when people pay guides to climb Mount McKinley, they point out, so why all the fuss about Everest? Local people earn much-needed cash from the climbing scene. The overall fatality rate on the mountain has improved in the past ten years, they add. In 1996, there were 15 deaths and 98 summits. So far this year, there were 11 deaths and an estimated 400 summits.

Guides now have a better understanding than they did in 1996 of how much gear, oxygen, and Sherpa support and how many fixed ropes people need (lots more). They pool data from high-tech weather forecasts, keep all manner of equipment to treat and evacuate injured climbers, and spend huge amounts of time fine-tuning summit strategies.

The real problem, guides and expedition leaders say, is climbers who underestimate the challenge and unscrupulous outfitters who take them on. All the guides I spoke to said they'd screened and turned down inexperienced clients, only to see them show up on another company's permit. Match weak climbers with the tougher side of the mountain, guides say, and you've got a recipe for big trouble. Independents have every right to try for the summit, they add, but they need to be realistic. If they're climbing solo and need a rescue, they can't count on assistance from mountaineering strangers, most of whom aren't skilled or strong enough to help even if they want to.

But never mind the nuances—when tragedy strikes, the media looks for easy targets, details be damned. More than 40 people were on the upper reaches of Everest the day David Sharp died, but the only two to face widespread condemnation were Mark Inglis and Himex leader Russell Brice, who wasn't even there. Factor in the base-camp gossip that filters into Web sites and headlines and, as one British outfitter told me, "it's the media that's the Everest circus."

Shortly before leaving Kathmandu, I met with Brice to ask him about all this. It was a sweltering afternoon, and we sat in the garden of a backstreet restaurant and ordered pizza. Brice has been guiding on Everest's north side for 13 years; he's put 270 people on the summits of 8,000-meter peaks. Tuk Bahadur Thapa Magar, one of his Sherpas, succumbed to pulmonary edema low on Everest this spring, but he's never lost a client. Brice has been involved in 15 rescues, taken charge of fixing rope on the north side, and repeatedly offered oxygen, tents, and supplies to climbers in trouble.

Nevertheless, Brice's reputation had taken a public lashing over the Sharp affair, and he seemed crushed by it. He said he had no knowledge of Sharp's existence until his climbers were descending. Pulling out a thick file crammed with the season's details, he ran a finger down the list of radio calls received and sent that night, all meticulously logged, and confirmed that he first heard of Sharp's plight at 9:30 a.m.—some eight hours after Inglis's team reportedly first passed the dying Briton. By that point his clients were heading down with big problems of their own. He did tell his team to keep moving, because he believed Sharp was beyond recovery. "A man who can't walk," he said, "is very different from a man who can, like Lincoln Hall."

Imagine yourself on the scene, trudging through the Death Zone—every step agonizing, your headlight casting a beam only a few feet ahead, and in the back of your mind the knowledge that, through the slim range of vision afforded by your hood and oxygen mask, you'll soon be gazing upon a corpse, Green Boots. Some climbers told me they kept their eyes averted. Even the highly respected Phurba Tashi, a ten-time Everest summiter, said he did not see Sharp during the climb up. Another Turkish climber, Eylem Mavis, said she did see Sharp and thought he was resting, since he made no signal of his distress.

"If I'd known about Sharp earlier," Brice said, "of course I'd have tried to help." Even so, he added, "the outcome might not have been any different."

I understood what he was getting at. Many of us don't act generously at sea level. We fail to call 911, we don't investigate the huddled form—asleep? dead?—on the steam grate. But we want adventurers on Everest to stand above us in every way. We think of the old days, the era of Mallory and Hillary, as full of common purpose and lofty goals, and disparage the profit-motivated present. Everest is worth millions; for the nations that regulate her, Chomolungma has become the Mother Goddess of Revenue.

Maybe the idealized Everest really is gone forever. But the morning I left Kathmandu, I saw something that made me think otherwise. I sat drinking coffee with Dan Mazur's client Andrew Brash, a teacher based in Calgary. Despite sinking all his spare cash into his shot at the summit, Brash didn't think twice about giving it up once he and his companions discovered Lincoln Hall alive after a long night in the Death Zone. "I never could have forgiven myself if I walked past a climber who was so clearly in need," he said. Still, he told me, "I did have a few summit pangs back at base camp."

No sooner had Brash spoken than Lincoln Hall himself appeared at our table. His frostbitten hands were bandaged, his voice was still hoarse, his speech hesitant from his ordeal. He'd come to see Brash in person.

"I want to say thank you for giving up your summit," Hall said.

"I appreciate you saying that," Brash replied. "It was our pleasure." And then he gave a wry smile: "Sort of."

The article is also available at

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Post 263 : When a Maritian weds - Mrinal Pande - Mint

This is why I love Mint, intelligent writing...unlike the slinky world of Bennett and Coleman....


Article at

Where a Martian weds a tree, a shrub and a man

Abhishek was also said to have a similarly placed Mars in his horoscope, but no one ruled that he also be married to a holy cow or a she-snake

The Other Side Mrinal Pande

In the year 2007, India’s reigning Bollywood queen Aishwarya Rai became the first ex-Miss World to marry a variety of holy trees and shrubs before tying the knot with a human being. The reason, we were told, was that she was astrologically a Martian, a manglik. A manglik, according to Hindu astrology, is someone who has the combative planet Mars sitting in the house of marriage in his or her horoscope. Mars thus situated is said to make the Martians strong-willed, assertive and somewhat intolerant of bullies in general, besides posing a grave threat to the physical well-being of the spouse and possibly his/her family.

What made Aishwarya’s manglik status fodder for media debates was the fact that the father of Aishwarya’s husband-to-be was no less a man than the fabled Big B of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan, who is known to have a deep faith in astrology and shamanic rituals. Initially, there were doubts whether Abhishek Bachchan would get married to a Martian at all, but obviously his love for her was strong.

So, after many astrologers had been consulted, it was decided that the marriage could take place, provided that the Martian bride, before tying the knot, visit several temples and perform certain rituals for propitiating the angry red planet. This meant, the astrologers said, that Rai marry a peepul tree and the holy basil bush. These would absorb all those vicious rays from Mars. Interestingly, Abhishek was also said to have a similarly placed Mars in his horoscope, but no one ruled that he also be married to a holy cow or a she-snake to ward off danger posed by Mars to the lives of Rai and her family.

During the nuptials that followed, it became clear that Rai was set to enter what the poet Adrienne Rich once described as the Kingdom of the Father. Ritual, language, tradition, custom and etiquette were all bent to service the traditional notion of male supremacy in the marriage. The beautiful, well-dressed and bejewelled women—Big B’s wife, daughter and grand daughter, and the bride’s mother—were relegated firmly to the margins as symbols of their men’s wealth and social status. The wedding party was shaped and led by Big B himself and his close male friends. After the marriage ceremonies were over, he was the one who drove the car with the bride and the groom, thus ritualistically bringing home a bejewelled bride for his son. One just caught a glimpse of a coy Rai, all lost in the glitter of gold and diamonds, sitting demurely at the back, her head bent low. The next day she was seen being led little-girl-like by the husband who held her hand, into the Tirupati temple courtyard.

What did all these images tell us? That power remains both a primal word and a primal relationship in the Kingdom of the Father, and the individual family unit that defines and showcases that power is rooted in the idea of women being men’s property. Following the logic that drives the Kingdom, the prime expectation from Rai hereafter will be that she now hurries up and provides the Big B with a grandson to perpetuate the Bachchan clan. Big B has been embarrassingly frank for sometime now about his desire to have a grandson ASAP. It is obvious also from several remarks made by Mrs Big B on a subsequent TV show that she also expects Aishwarya to be a traditional dutiful daughter-in-law, and relieve her of the immense burden of catering to the whims of her two extremely demanding male ‘babies’.

One can understand Mother B’s desire to have her bahu help her run the house. Jaya Bachchan herself gave up a successful career in films to stay at home and care for a large family consisting of her husband’s parents, brother and his family and her own two children, leaving her man free to build his career in films. But that was her decision. One does not quite know yet whether young Rai would like to be a clone of Jaya. Similarly, one can understand Big B’s desire to perpetuate brand Pater Familias Indicus, and hand down the reins of the Kingdom to his son and grandson, when the time comes. But the question many would like to ask is: Why is an intelligent, modern and immensely successful career girl being subjected to such nonsense in the name of a tradition, which turns women in most rich Indian families into either a vacuous Barbie or a plump and matronly Matrushka doll?

The fact is, as Gloria Steinem pointed out ages ago, unlike men, who are free to sow their wild oats in their youth, young women, especially ex-beauty queens, remain full of insecurities. Most of them perhaps crave a social role that would guarantee them mental and physical security and, of course, approbation. Don’t beauty queens tell the jury routinely that they wish to be like Mother Teresa and help society and the downtrodden, instead of confessing to their dreams about making it big in Bollywood? Men grow more and more conservative with age. But as they age, intelligent women radicalize and begin to question the definition of niceness. The reason? They have by now experienced marriage and maternity, two of the most radicalizing events in every woman’s life.

Niceness may look nice on screen, but in real life, Rai will soon discover, it often keeps fairness at bay. If she is to survive in Bollywood as a successful actor in her own right, she has a big task of resisting pressures and challenging someone else’s definition of what makes a nice wife and mother. Perhaps this is where her strong Mars, that combative army general among the stars, will give her the courage and the strength to overcome doubt and despair so many female actors from Shanta Apte to Meena Kumari have faced.

—Mrinal Pande likes to take readers behind the reported news in her fortnightly column. She is chief editor of Hindustan. Your comments are welcome at

Post 262 : Music 20 (Hazaron Khwashien Aisi - Ustad Shujaat Hussain Khan)

This album is on Music Today, its sold as a classical album...I would say its just a extraordinary Sufi - search for meaning kind of album.

Ustad's vocals and Sitar create a magical combo. Grab it while it last....(Lamentable fact, Music today would have published no more than 1000 copies of this album, because in probablity thats all it will sell....why? because everyone is too busy buying "Aap ka Suuuuurooooooooor" sung by a bearded cap donned nasal voiced character....

Remember, life only gives you what you think you deserve. The choice is yours....( :-) , Strangely, my hyperlinked brain asked me. "Am I pro-choice?"....and my answer was....."Ours is not to question why, ours is but to do and die")

Post 261 : Music 19 - In dino - Metro

Top song contender for 2007....

This song is an uncomplicated song....has no great strange riffs....just plan old classic rock.

Simple vocals...a bit husky (almost east-indianish...bongish or assamese types).....nice guitar strums....

Sung by a group called Metro Band.

Joins the list for best of 2007
1. Ya Rabba - Salaam-e-ishq
2. In dino....Life in a metro

Do listen to it if you will definitely enjoy it....has a nostalgic classic rock feel to it.


Lyrics of In Dino

(in dino, dil mera, mujhse hai keh raha
tu khaab saja, tu ji le jara
hai tujhe bhi izaazat, karle tu bhi muhabbat - 2) - 2

(berang si hai badi zindagi kuchh rang to bharoon
main apani tanahaayi ke waaste abbb kuchh toh karoon) - 2
jab mile thodi fursat - 2, mujhse karle muhabbat
hai tujhe bhi izaazat, karle tu bhi muhabbat

(usako chhupaakar main sabse kabhi le chaloon kahin door...
aankhon ke pyaalon kse pita rahoon usake chehre ka noor) - 2
iss jamaane se chhupakar - 2, puri karloon main hasrat
hai tujhe bhi izaazat, karle tu bhi muhabbat - 2
in dino, dil mera, mujhse hai keh raha
tu khaab saja, tu ji le jara
hai tujhe bhi izaazat, karle tu bhi muhabbat - 2

Post 260 : Stanley Bing - The charge of the Fortune 500

Stanley Bing, remains one of my favorite writers, probably thats why most Fortune readers start reading the mag from the last page - I defintiely do.

To appreciate this piece fully, you have to be familiar with the Alfred Lord Tennyson classic - Charge Of the Light Brigade (something I read in school)...if you are not, here goes

My earlier post around Stanley Bing


The charge of the Fortune 500
Bing poeticizes this year's Fortune 500 companies.

By Stanley Bing, Fortune contributor
April 25 2007: 11:07 AM EDT
(Fortune Magazine) --

1. Quarter by quarter,
Upward and onward - All in the valley of Wealth
Rode the 500.
From Wal-Mart at No. 1
To SunGard when day is done;
All into the valley of Wealth
Rode the 500.

2. Exxon moves down a notch!
Do they break out the Scotch?
Not tho' with foreign oil
They are encumbered:
Theirs not to cringe like mice!
Theirs not to ponder twice!
Theirs just to raise the price!
Into the valley of Wealth
Rode the 500.

3. Sarbanes to the right of them,
Oxley to the left of them,
Watchdogs in the face of them
Sashayed and rumba'd;
Stormed at by journalists,
Boldly they raised their fists,
Into the jaws of Wealth,
With friendly analysts
Rode the 500.

4. Flashed all the brilliant toys
For all us girls and boys,
Stuff that we all enjoys!
iPods and TVs and
Gizmos unnumbered:
Driving our wants and needs,
All of our mouths they feeds;
Every competitor
Crushed as their massive deeds
Rend them asundered!
Fearsome 500!

5. Moguls to the right of them,
Moguls to the left of them,
Moguls behind them
Volley'd & blunder'd;
Hassled by stupid deals
Which spoiled their evening meals,
With uncompromising zeals
Leapt through the jaws of Wealth--
No one knows how they feels!
Soldiers of destiny
Serve the 500.

6. When can their glory fade?
How did they make the grade?
All the world wondered.
No one can say for sure.
Who cares? They will endure!
Noble 500!

Stanley Bing may be reached at
From the April 30, 2007 issue

Post 259 : Weight Watcher - 4 ( Adnan still beats me to the game)

How life has moved..... From a 105 kgs in August 06 (which actually shook me off my stupor) a target of 36inches waist, 90kg in March 08, running dream run in Jan sub-36 inches, 89 kgs in March 07, am already running 9+ kms at one go.....

Am I loving it? My jogging (never mind the hogwash) seems to be working....

For the record the monthly stats-
  • I started jogging on 5th Feb. In April, ran 13 of a possible 30 days. For the months of April-Feb 07, a total of 85 total days of which I managed to run on 51 days.
  • Of the 13 days in April, clocked 7 kms on 9 days and surprise :-) 9.5 kms on 4 days.
  • Today(1st May) I ran Bhandup-Mulund and back along the highway....9.6 kms again

My attitude to this is, if the targets are met, it was simply because they were easy in the first place.

New targets are:
March 08 - 82 kgs, 13 kms on the trot
Jan 09 - running the half marathon

Am I running too fast away from death? Yes, indeed, I intend to make portly Lord Yama a bit thin along the way....Hope he takes it in good spirit.

Jokes apart, if ever, no matter how long away (the further the better- how? on)....I do manage to run the whole marathon, I shall have shall be a big Red Letter Day for me........If I run it at 40, it means I shall still be in a great shape at 40.

Post 258 : Songs of dis and dat (Shoba Narayan - The good life - MINT)

God is giving me a sign....I should indulge and learn shall complete me......

Off the record, I am a big fan of both forms of Indian classical music (hindustani and carnatic)....though I love hindustani more, unlike Shoba below....western classical is sublime the next generation going to ever get all of this?


Article cut copy from

A glimpse of the cosmos is just a note away

To paraphrase Robin Williams in that wonderful movie, Birdcage, my guru is someone who knows who he is

The good life Shoba Narayan

Once, perhaps twice, a week, I drive to the old Bangalore neighbourhood of Seshadripuram for music lessons. My teacher is an 87-year-old man named R.K. Srikantan. Connoisseurs of Carnatic music know my guru to be among the doyens of the art, but he isn’t widely popular like, say, M.S. Subbalakshmi. No matter. He doesn’t care and neither do I. For one hour between 11 and 12 in the morning, we are quite simply, master and student. He sits on a chair; I touch his feet before and after class and sit on the floor, usually clad in a sari out of respect for his age. I sing and he corrects me. His ear is amazingly acute and finely tuned to dissonant notes.

Sound start: The South still offers many options for lovers of Carnatic music“The ga is wrong,” he will say after one sangathi or passage. “It is lower… like this.”

“Not enough practice,” he will say at the end of each class. “You need to sing the same piece a hundred times till it gets into your system.”

I cherish my hourly lessons, not just for the music I learn, but also because I believe I am in the presence of greatness. To paraphrase Robin Williams in that wonderful movie, Birdcage, my guru is someone who knows who he is. At 87, he has nothing left to prove except to himself. He lives for what he calls sangeetham (music) and shastram (Vedas). In him, I see someone untouched by the materialism that is overtaking our society. He doesn’t care about who I am or where I live. If someone gave him a million dollars, he wouldn’t know what to do with it. Pay cheque, Page 3, power lists—all these mean nothing to him. What matters are shruti, or harmony, layam, or rhythm, the gait of a particular raagam and how to sing it with integrity.
Musicians, like all artistes, are a breed apart. They enjoy external perks—standing ovations, packed concert schedules, income, and yes, alas in the younger breed, endorsements. Still, it is possible, especially among the older generation, to find musicians who practise their art just for the sheer pleasure of it; for that particular bliss attained from singing a morning raga at dawn in solitude. I can wax eloquent about these wondrous creatures, or I can simply recommend that you pick up Sheila Dhar’s delightful book, Raga n’ Josh, or her earlier, Here’s Someone I’d Like You to Meet.

We Indians have always revered our musicians. When my guru sings a note, he sings it with such wholeness of intent that every note becomes imbued with perfection. It is like blowing a bubble and watching it suspended mid-air. For a moment, you forget yourself and the world; you are transported to another realm.

For many Indians, reality is measured and measurable in numbers—third- quarter profit, advertising revenues and bottom line. Musicians, on the other hand, live in a world that is entirely intangible and immeasurable. How to put a value on the beauty of the Raga Abheri sung by someone who knows it intimately? How to put a price on an hour spent with such a person? Musicians, artists and poets allow us to glimpse this parallel, but completely blissful universe when the measure of a human is not in numbers, but in the perfection of a musical phrase, the gesture of a paint-stroke, the cadence of a verse or the lakshan or a raga. Being in their company is a gift, like a boost of pure oxygen.

The state of Karnataka, where I live, is the womb of Carnatic music. The music scene here isn’t as vibrant as Chennai, particularly in December. But here too, there are sublime concerts, offered for free throughout the year. As I write this, we are finishing the Ram Seva Mandali concert series which is held in a big pandal in Chamrajpet, an old Bangalore neighbourhood. I love attending these concerts for many reasons. The music can be soul-elevating or merely competent. As a feminist, I like to watch women compete on an equal playing field. Carnatic music offers a level field for musicians of both genders.

Some of the most popular artistes are women—crowd pullers such as Aruna Sairam, Bombay Jaishree, Ranjani Gayathri, Sowmya, Sudha Raghunathan and Nithyashree. In the hierarchy of Carnatic concerts, they command equal stature and fees as the men. This is nice to see. Also nice is to watch the play of tradition against pioneering change: Sukanya Ramgopal, for instance, is one of the few women playing the ghatam (the instrument made of a mud pot). There never used to be women playing percussion instruments.

The Ram Seva Mandali concerts are sponsored by banks and consumer-products companies: Bank of Saurashtra, Bank of Mysore and Karnataka Soaps, to name a few. No multinational or IT company in sight, yet the concert series was in its 69th year and thriving. Lastly, when the concert sponsor—the marketing manager of Karnataka Soaps—went on stage to garland and honour the artistes, he touched their feet. A distinguished gentleman probably twice as old and earning four times as much as the young musicians on stage, yet he paid his respects to their art by touching their feet. This, to me, is Indian culture.

Pretty soon, the Odakathur Mutt in the Ulsoor neighbourhood I live in will have their Krishna Jayanthi concert series. The best talents from Chennai will grace the stage. I, along with hundreds of people, will be sitting on the floor and listening to transporting music.

Music offers you a glimpse of the cosmos. Should we all be so lucky to have not one but two great music streams pervading our nation? Should we be so wise as to preserve them?

Shoba Narayan cannot levitate, but after a good concert, she comes pretty close. Write to her at