Saturday, August 29, 2009

Park Politics

Roughly between 12th Main and 1st Main Defence Colony, Indiranagar, lie about 5 to 6 walking parks. There is no real explanation for so many of them being there, except that Bangaloreans..especially the retired old fogies in Defence Colony, love to walk..and thus seize upon any empty plot of land and convert it with vengeance into a park. This sort of wonderful thing goes on in Sadashivnagar also. The Sankey Tank park and the Sunken Garden there are at the height of landscaping achievements. But the park which has always been my favourite is the relatively humble BDA Park.

BDA park is famous all over Indiranagar for being one of the oldest parks around. It is also right next to Indiranagar Club and is thus frequented by Club goers, both young and old. In my first standard or so, we were taken out to BDA Park for a field trip or something like that. The park seemed like a wonderland to me. It was so big and green, the children's play area was so well equipped. Coming from an area that had no real children's park (that time I lived in the less prosperous but infinitely more exciting Gitanjali Layout), this park seemed to posses world class facilities.

We finally realised the Defence Colony dream in 2003 (in the middle of my 10th Boards) and the BDA park became a reality....a place which I could frequent! Of course, it seemed to have diminished in size and coolness, but it was still as beautiful and exciting as ever. BDA Park thus became the initial and consequently the most important step in my weight loss program, which has been running on and off for around 5 years now. I would go to the park everyday and 'power-walk'. Of course, I have an unfortunate habit of screwing up my face in concentration while doing this and striding very purposefully. Young mothers and maids would move their children/ charges out of my way for fear that I might send them flying as I crossed them. Park Veterans would glare at me, wondering how I dared to upset the equilibrium of the park with my thundering style. However, it was a great source of amusement for some of my friends/ snobby classmates who would see me as they crossed the park on their way to the Club ("I saw you walking in the part yesterday da. You looked damn determined", sniggers). Well, all these things happened and slowly but surely, I worked my way up into the higher echelons of park goers.

For BDA Park has a hierarchical structure. There are the Veterans who get the Right of Way and the Young Upstarts who make their Right of Way. However, if you are a Young Upstart and a frequent user, the Veterans do not mind giving you the Right of Way. The key ways in which to accomplish this are to come regularly and more importantly, come in the early mornings. The fact that you came in the morning showed that you were a serious walker and were willing to work for your walking status. I would come every morning at about 6:20 and walk rigorously for an hour; and this more than anything else, made the Veterans of the Park recognise me. As made my way up, I did not get smiles or nods or conversations in return..I hate walking with people anyway. But I got the Respect and famed Right of Way...I was a Young Upstart who had proved herself worthy.

The Park has always been a very interesting place to observe people. The crowd is primarily upper middle class, given the general demographics of the area. Out of these, nearly two thirds are senior citizens and middle aged people, while the young people of course children, young mothers and couples. One of the most interesting things to observe in the mornings was the Laughter Club. This club is more amusing for the onlookers than the participants themselves, I have always felt, and takes sometime getting used to. Mastering the natural reaction of laughing at the doings of the Laughter Club is an important sign that you are on the way to becoming a Veteran. Another interesting thing is to see how some people have continued coming to the park regularly for the entire duration of the 6 years for which I have been using the park, and perhaps even before! It is fascinating to observe routine in such a rigid, unchanged fashion, especially given our chaotic lives in law school. Another thing which amuses with unfailing regularity is the distortion of the Right of Way principle by bitchy women walkers. These women (usually middle aged) move in packs, blocking the whole path and gossip incessantly, while not letting you pass. Some of the single walkers deliberately walk faster, or come in front of you to prevent you from overtaking them. Earlier, I used to respectfully get off the pathway and jog on thhe grass alongside them, till I managed to overtake them. Now, after becoming a Veteran, I simply force my way through. And then, there is always the element of the odd and obscure..a man playing the flute once, a couple of Rastafarian foreigners (there are a surprising number of there in Indiranagar) another time and if you're lucky, an arguing couple every now and then.

BDA Park will always retain an important place in my life's history, not merely because I have immortalised its memory with this entry, but also because it gave me some early important lessons in social manners and decorum and also helped me lose weight. And it has always been a very pretty park! The incident which prompted me to write this entry serves as a fitting conclusion to the post: An elderly lady and her daughter (both obviously new to the Park) were walking around in the Park, and the lady for some reason, stopped over one of the flower beds and began to pick some flowers and leaves. From somewhere in the background noises of the Park floated a child's voice "Aunty, no picking flowers!" The difference between Veterans and the newbies was clearly established.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I don't think I need to go into how music can set the mood for so many different things. Something which struck me in Bombay this time was how some kinds of music were just suited for a particular city..or an area of a city. The life and pace of the city blends with the perfect kind of music to create a sort of background music, which seems to just 'fit in'. For example, South Bombay and jazz go almost perfectly together. Jazz is about spunk, sophistication, sipping champagne and enjoying a cigarette and elegance. Yet it is also about passion, confusion, improvisation and celebration of the liberating power of music. South Bombay is also about a lot of these things. The old buildings of Fort and the Art Deco of Marine Drive are perfect to stare at while listening to some Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald. The trippy and cult atmosphere in Causeway and the madness of VT and Churchgate finds expression in Dizzy Gillespie's almost impossible compositions. Yet as you move North, towards Bandra, the crowd becomes increasingly younger and yuppie and the music changes to classic rock..pretty much the music which reflects Bangalore the best. Here beer, corporates, techies, college kids and school kids 'come together'. Whether it is angry intensity of The Who and Led Zeppelin, the psychedelia of The Beatles and Pink Floyd, or The Doors, Deep Purple and various other bands, they somehow reflect the mindset of the young crowd in areas like Bandra or Brigade Road, Koramangala and MG Road..a mix of optimism and skepticism tinged with the surreal.

Older areas in Bangalore like Jayanagar, Banshankari and Malleshwaram somehow just call for Carnatic music in any form. The shaded roads, markets, temples and older population of these areas seems to blend only with MS, DKP or any of the other greats. These areas are after all the most 'South Indian' as it were in Bangalore.

The most Bob Dylan place I have ever been to is in fact Pondicherrry. This time, I went for a walk on the beach, listening to Dylan and the setting was perfect. There are some songs which should be listened to by the sea. The sea seems to add a rhythm of its own to the song, making the whole experience very harmonious and agreeable. Dylan's soft guitar and poetic lyrics merge perfectly with the mildness of Pondicherry and its eclectic populace.

I not sure if the above post makes sense, but I think its a fairly funky way of looking at a city and its people. Music has always enhanced and completed things for me. And now it has go on to greatly enhance my travel experiences..two of my favourite things together. Sigh, the limitless powers of music!
It was exactly 40 years ago today that Abbey Road was released. 40 years since 'Something' first played on air. Now that's "something"!

Bless The Beatles.

Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze,
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees,
Send me off forever but I ask you please,
Don't fence me in.

Sea breeze, a sharply curving coastline and a bunch of art deco buildings facing nothingness. I miss it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Top Five

I was going to make this into a question on the 'How Well Do You Know Divya Suresh?' quiz on Facebook (just so you know, it doesn't still exist, and probably never will), but I thought it would be far more interesting as a blog post:

My Top Five Rock Music Albums

All these albums I'm sure figure on the Rolling Stones list. They aren't very original or different, but I always like to talk about them. So here they are in descending order (most most favourite to least most favourite):

1. Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zeppelin
I don't know how many of you find this a surprising first choice, but yes, this is my favourite music album of all time. Incredibly surreal, evoking images of long forgotten gods, mythical landscapes, mighty battles, treasure etc with sudden bursts of nostalgia; this album is simply magnificent. I really can't find enough superlatives to describe it. It starts off with the upbeat and brilliant "Black Dog" followed by "Rock n' Roll" a nostalgic song in both style and lyrics. The fun however ends there. From then on, the album progresses in 'Lord of the Rings' fashion telling stories, weaving allegories and painting a picture of greed and destruction through music. The standout track in the album according to me at least is 'The Battle of Evermore'. Robert Plant's vocals are amazing and the mandolin accompaniment creates a mythical feel to the song. Enough has been said about the next track i.e. 'Stairway to Heaven'. 'Misty Mountian Hop' is another upbeat LOTR influenced song with a fairly sinister feel to it, which is carried forward by 'Four Sticks' and John Bonham's extraordinary drumming. The tone of the album again softens with the acoustic track 'Going to California', but ends in the hard edged and somewhat merciless 'When the Levee Breaks', my second favourite track. All in all, a fantastic album..not just for the music and the immortal songs it has produced, but also for being one the most visually evocative albums I have listened to.

2. Tommy - The Who
Again, an album about which a lot has been said. I discovered this album in these January hols and I was completely blown away. Tommy is a concept album that tells the story of 'Tommy Walker', a deaf, dumb and blind boy who is psychologically adopts that condition on witnessing his mother's lover being murdered. The album is a again paints a vivid and disturbing story and the music is loud, desperate, surreal and angry..conveying the moods of Tommy and his parents and their frustration. While the album is too long into every individual track, my favourite song is undoubtedly 'Welcome'..the song in which Tommy calls people to a 'holiday camp' which he has set up. The song is incredibly fascinating due to its frequent changes in tone, chords and pace. And Keith Moon's evil whisper "Welcome" at the end of the song actually manages to freak you out a bit, the first time you hear it. Another fantastic song is 'Amazing Journey', a psychedelic song about how Tommy starts sensing everything through music. Townsend's gentle vocals and the soft guitar work with crashing drums nicely capture the contrasting nature of a psychedelic trip. The disappointing song in the album is the 10 minute long 'Underture', which is supposed to represent a drug induced experience that Tommy goes through. I guess Pink Floyd is better accomplished at long drawn out psychedelic jams. John Entwhistle's contributions such as 'Cousin Kevin' and 'Uncle Ernie' are wonderful as ever, with an orchestral ensemble and dark humour. This is one album you must listen to as a whole. Truly a great musical achievement.

3. Rubber Soul - The Beatles
Well I'm not going to say very much about this album because at some point in life, I have complimented and raved about each and every song. Its an album which fits together perfectly and can actually be summed up in one work 'longing'. Unrequieted love (Norwegian Wood, You Won't See Me, Michelle, Girl) , jealous love (Run for Your Life, Do What you Want), the desperation of the misunderstood (Nowhere Man), love for the present (In My Life), hoping for love (Wait, If I Needed Someone)..every form of emotion associated with love and longing has been covered in this album. The lovely folksy sound and McCartney's poignant bass (it somehow is) lend each song a sense of coheisiveness which is absent from many albums which seem to be just a collection of songs (outside of concept albums). Definitely recommended for easy listening and something to sigh along with.

4. A Rush of Blood to the Head - Coldplay
Another surprising entry, but definitely one of my all time favourite albums and definitely the album I have listened to the most number of times. Coldplay's music is angry and at the same time emotional..the theme varying in almost every alternate song. The gem of the album is undoubtedly 'Clocks'. I still remember the first time I heard the distinctive piano riff on the seemed to open up new doors of music to me! However, one of the loveliest and most underrated songs in the album is 'Warning Sign'. A poetic and beautiful song about unrequieted love, it has a lovely bittersweet to it through out. 'Amsterdam' is another wonderful song with its soft start and catacylsmic ending, which gives a perfect end to this album. While several albums of this song has made their way into mainstream popularity, this album is worth listening to for having some of the best B-sides any album has ever produced. Some might say that this is the album in which Coldplay perfected their 'formula'. For me however, this is the greatest album of modern rock..which became a trend-setter for several other bands - a feat which Coldplay has not been able to repeat!

5. Piper at the Gates of Dawn - Pink Floyd
Yes is "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Wish You Were Here" but "Piper" is Floyd's most intersting and electic offering, largely due to the genius of Syd Barret. The album is a psychedelic masterpiece..again a very visually stimulating experience. The songs lyrics are childlike in simplicity and yet weird and otherwordly musically. I haven't heard another album which merges complexity and simplicity so well, except perhaps 'Sgt Peppers'. But 'Sgt Peppers' never borders on outrageous, which 'Piper' often does. Apart from 'Interstellar Overdrive' (I somehow just hate that song), every song on the album is fantastic. My favourite of course is 'Astronomy Domine' followed by 'The Gnome' and 'Kite'. Definitely the best album (along with 'Revolver') to listen to when you're drunk!

Those who almost made it:
1. All That You Can't Leave Behind - U2
2. Revolver - The Beatles
3. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd
4. Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
5. Blood on the Tracks - Bob Dylan

So here they are. Do tell me what you think!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

O lalala Oo le O

I am a very very nostalgic person. Funnily, I don't get emotional at momentous events. I did not cry when school ended..I doubt I'll cry when law school ends either. But sometimes good periods of life re-visit me like a stomach ache, making me long for 'the good old days'. Something which brings up very powerful waves of nostalgia in me is music, for the simple reason that it has seen me through life. 'Novocaine for the Soul' - The Eels, reminds me of my 12th pre-boards and reading 'Going Solo' by Roald Dahl. 'Don't Leave Home' by Dido always reminds me of Math tuition. 'Bedshaped' - Keane recalls the tense days before the class 12 board exams. Random songs, random memories - but all important nonetheless.

I recently saw Jimi Hendrix performing at Woodstock on Fox History and this performance, more effectively than anything else has fully made me realise that this is my last year in law school. In fact, most rock songs by artists who I have listened to extensively at one point of time have this effect on me these days. The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd etc have all become constant companions. However, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Jethro Tull, CSNY and many of the other Woodstock artists remind me, in an emotional, stomach ache-esque way of 2nd and 3rd year in law school. Of all those beer soaked and smoke filled hazy evenings at Mojos and Pecos. Of getting soaked in the rain to watch Thermal and a Quarter perform live. Of crying on Surya terrace about love and love lost. Those were the true carefree years, when I was (un)happy and drunk, obsessed with Hippies and Counter-Cultures, thoroughly unmotivated and having a wonderful time. I know this is in direct contrast to my previous post, but yes..there was such a time, and I loved it.

I especially miss those evenings at Mojos, which have greatly reduced in frequency and the unique set of individuals who accompanied me to the same. I in fact hadn't realised how much I truly miss those evenings, till I watched Jimi Hendrix in concert that day and surprisingly felt a lump in my throat. Of course, the times have changed now. I am extremely wary of slipping into that mid law school apathy again and have pulled myself out of the seeming 'bottom'. The nature of evening outings has has the company, all equally enjoyable and entertaining. Jazz music is now the preferred choice. I have been meaning to blog about how 'New York, New York' is slowly becoming one of my all time favourite songs; and how it reminds me of one of the best nights of my life at Opus, with three of my favourite people. Yes, I am happy now as well. Happier in fact, because my life has taken direction and because I finally feel complete as a person (3rd year did produce the most number of 'I hate myself' entries).

Yet, it is nice to let nostalgia engulf you every now and then. A cheers and bottoms up to Pecos, watery beer, classic rock and the eclectic company and freewheeling lifestyle; before we all started taking each other too seriously.