Thursday, August 27, 2009

IBN coverage

A small segment that appeared on IBN Lokmat sometime back.
My 4 minutes of fame on TV :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Vigilantes and Vigil Aunties

Published: Sunday Midday, 9 Aug 2009
When I was a little kid of six or seven and my Dad bought me the Phantom comics that were being published by Indrajal back then, there were a lot of things in them to capture my imagination. The Denkali jungle and the whole skull mountain thing was as enrapturing as ever, but the basic and most attractive element of it all was a man in a mask.
Likewise with Batman. Behind the dystopian setting of Gotham city, replete with the visually stimulating Bat-signal and the behind-the-waterfall-Batcave, is the alluring tale of a man who wears a mask. A man with a secret. A man who does things without his identity being revealed. What fun! It seems a particularly wonderful idea when you’re six and you’ve just broken Mum’s favourite flower pot. You hear her yelling from the kitchen, asking you what the ‘crash’ was and then you hear her footsteps approaching. You want to pull out your sword and yell ‘By the power of Greyskull!!’ and transform into He-man. You’re certain Mum won’t have the guts to ask He-man anything about a measly flower pot… But you’re wrong. Not only does she have the guts, she has the cheek to wring He-man’s ears as well! The problem is, at six, He-man is only four feet tall and wields a plastic sword.

But the trivial details are easily missed when the greater goal is having an alter ego no one knows about. You’re a few feet shorter than He-man and you don’t ride a big green tiger…So what??
We formed a secret superhero team once. We decided one of us could fly, the other could see through things and the third could turn invisible. The next time we broke a window pane playing cricket, Mr. Invisible simply stood there grinning at the grumpy uncle who came charging out of the house. We were all in for a shock when Mr. Invisible was hauled up before his parents by the scruff of his neck. Undaunted, we formed a G.I.Joe team a couple of days later. We took an oath of secrecy and utmost commitment on the terrace – commitment to what we weren’t sure of, but we took the oath anyway. We didn’t have cannons to solemnize the event, so we lit Laxmi bombs instead. For the next few weeks, I only responded to the code name ‘Torpedo’. An unfortunate fallout was, I was marked absent for a month in school.
Boys severely infected with the vigilante-hero bug, show symptoms well beyond the ages of six and seven. My immediate neighbour and I were thirteen when we decided to become superheroes. With secret identities of course! So one evening, when the lights went out, we went into his house to don our costumes. A couple of his old T-shirts with holes cut into them, became our face-masks. Then we put on old jerseys or something and we were ready! We strode out into the dark night – two vigilantes on debut.
There was a dearth of super-villains to fight with, since no crazy scientist or Martian menace was plotting to pulverize our housing society with harmful radiation. So we decided to ambush a five year old inching his way down the dark staircase. A poor substitute for a Martian but he would do on our first night out as superheroes. Besides, he was a bad mannered brat who always came cycling in the way when we played cricket in the evenings, so technically he qualified as a miscreant needing to be given a good scare. We hid ourselves in the passage till he’d passed us and then signalling to each other, pounced on the unsuspecting villain.
“Tejas! Rohit! Leave me leave me!!” he cried out. That hit us pretty hard. We were supposed to be superheroes in costumes!! Secret identities!! And a five year old had recognized us? In the pitch darkness?? Needless to say, that was the only night our housing society had its own team of vigilantes. We dropped our costumes, but it took a while to get over the heartbreak of having been recognized.

Roughly thirteen years later, I’m sitting at the Mahanaaz cafĂ© with a friend of mine. A lady walks in and I realise I’m looking at my old seventh standard class teacher! Oh how fearful she looked back then! Intimidating, stern and steadfast in her mission to keep us from yakking, brawling, fooling around or indulging in any of the other scholastic pastimes. Our teachers knew us inside out back in Vincent’s. They always had an eye out for all the mischief we tried to pull and the same eye would turn moist at every batch farewell party. Years later, we coined a phrase for them. They were the ever alert ‘vigil aunties’. The vigil aunties who saw everything; who knew every boy in class by name.
I’m pretty certain she’ll recognize me and I’m smiling as I jump in front of her and yell “Good evening!” She only blinks a couple of times, a trifle stunned by having her path blocked by a bounding stranger grinning from ear to ear.
This time it’s the heartbreak of not having been recognized. How things change…

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sculpture sketches

Another trip down memory lane...

Sketches of sculptures done in Sasavne at the museum of the late sculptor Shri Vinayakrao Karmarkar. We spent several hours sketching here. Karmarkar was a remarkable man and an unbelievably gifted sculptor. A lifesize stone buffalo in the lawn outside looks like it'll move any second. The sculpture of a young adolescent girl - Hira Kolin - in the museum upstairs frequents the imagination of boys fifty years after it was sculpted. The two sketches here are of sculptures of JRD Tata and a young lady.