Changing Times

The straight line across the sea

The dull day with an overcast sky coupled with a sprinkle of rain didn’t deter this railway man from walking across the sea. The camera lens stayed trained on him, he walked. And walked. On the original Pamban bridge.

Oblivious to the camera’s zoom lens and and curious tourists who stood on the new road bridge that has come about in much recent times.

In the modern day world where ‘middle class’ apartments zoom into the clouds and stretch home loans all the way to the moon, architectural wizardy is commoner than common cold and everything appears ‘doable’ !

Well, take a look at this bridge.

In the light of all the fancy publicity that modern day bridges and buildings attract with fancier opening ceremonies that court controversy in some form or the other, this would look to have been built by folks that specialised in giving functional elements the ‘stodgy humdrum’ treatment ! Much Like the index pages of a history book. Rarely read. But greatly valued by those that read.

Here are some facts that are worth considering !

This bridge will complete a 100 years of holding up trains that whizz by ! A 100 years ! If only the bridge had a voice, oh what stories would it tell! Being privy to the many facets of British rule. Of the freedom struggle. Of simple life back then and the present day’s pervasive opulence ! That in itself is a striking thought pregnant with several reams of imagination !

Imagine the number of prayer laden people who have gone across the sea on this bridge !! Give a thought to the scores grief stricken relatives as they sat holding the urns containing the remains of a loved one ferried to be immersed in the sea !

Or perhaps think of the droves of the love struck honeymooners and seemingly listless tourists ambling along. From black & white to technicolour. From the horse carriage to heavy duty horse power inside hoods that sport Japanese, German, American, Korean..names ….

A 100 + years ago, folks from Gujarat were employed by the British to build this rail line across the sea ! It must have been a jaw dropping thought. To build a bridge across the sea, when the only transport was a boat ride that bobbed and weaved to the seas whim and fancy.

As though that wasn’t good enough, the bridge was supposed to open up to let those big ships pass through. Well not a big deal in modern times. But in the 1890s when work began, must it have not caused a sea of eyebrows to arch ?

Heres one more, like a maths professor who derives great satisfaction in complicating a simple problem : The place is supposed to be the worlds second most corrosive place after Miami !

Ladies and gentlemen, to rub it in, the bridge works! Till date !

The modern day world doesn’t speak much of those that built this (and such) bridge(s). No celebration is made of the the chutzpah they possessed to stand on this side of land and think it possible to draw a straight line across the sea to the that side of land, and leave it standing for more than a 100 years ! Much less is heard of their character which wove this all together without the tremor of a taint.

Perhaps it was a different time back then. Where it was fashionable to just stand up and let the work do all the talking. Exacting in expectations from oneself and superlatively uncompromising in its execution. Perhaps !

Of all the blessings and wishes that the tolerant old man up there keeps showering on us, perhaps of this quality, he can be more liberal, more can be asked !

The straight line across the sea that’s still standing, needs a cogent explanation you see !

Tamil Times !

This ad launched The Times Of India’s Chennai edition. A brilliant portrayal. With a ‘background beat’ that typifies Tamil Nadu, and a catchy ‘dance tune’ ( they said), i kept getting questions about the ‘meaning’ of the song from non-Tamil colleagues and friends !

Many of my friends and colleagues were impressed with the portrayal & capturing of life in Chennai as they could see ! Upon their goading, here is my attempt at translation !

Nakku Mukka is a ‘mascot‘ to whom the song is sung to. ( I think so). However, the song itself is about Cinema ( & its heroes’) hold out Tamil Nadu !

This is how it goes. Vaguely !!

“In Choolaimedu, Teynampet, Royapettah, T.Nagar etc ( all indelible parts of Chennai ) and across all roads of Chennai, cinema lives and rocks too !!

And here is a hero who has grown, donning many a ‘heroic’ role, asking people to have massive cut-outs for himself, and offerings of milk, dance, drums, garlands in his name !!

He aspired for power, started a casteist political party, called it ‘Rice Party’, contested the elections, and won it too !!

Only to become a minister and switch allegiance to the ruling party ! Dissolving the ‘Rice Party’ that he started.

And when this news spread to the country, his hometown turned violent !

After that he lost his reputation and was shamed.

Now he stands as a scare-crow, after losing it all !!”

Subtle sarcastic undertones to the story, creative portrayal of the state of affairs, leave me impressed ! So, does the filming. I particularly like the way in which our film hero segues from film star to minister !

So does calling the party ‘Rice Party’ the dissolution of which leads him to become a ‘scare crow’. Poetic justice, so to speak !!

The ad is but a realistic & sad commentary on the daily life of Tamil Nadu. Living a celluloid life, Tamil politics has filmdom woven into it. Face paint, stunts, dialogues, music and comedy rule the film world. So does it rule the politics there.

The ad though, has a polyannish ending. With the film star being reduced to a scare crow. In Tamil politics, such stars, shine ! And new ones continue to emerge !

A good friend told me, ‘Forget all of this ! Just enjoy the music’. Yeah right. I said. And forced an apathetic smile reside within.

Sure. Enjoy the music ! But catch the meaning too.

foolproof by waterproof !

Lets talk alliances, collaboration and innovation !

This news item caught me by surprise and had me thinking for a while. It talks about a wonderful collaboration between Dupont & the Indian Postal Service !

Dupont and India Post ?!?! Well, that was my expression too.

Well, they have come up with a water proof envelope, specially for having Rakhi’s ( as in the ornamented thread tied by a sister & not the (in)famous woman who wears one, for clothes) dispatched.

Its the Raksha Bandhan season ! And for all of Rs. 5 /- you get a Dupont engineered water proof envelope that has been lapped up by junta !

The Rakhi itself is more about sentiments than symbolism. So, if its going to take an extra three rupees for that sentiment to travel well, so be it.

It makes sound business sense. Doesn’t it ?!? And its pretty refreshing to figure that India Post is keeping its ears to the ground. I haven’t visited a post office in ages. And my bet is, that must be the case with most of you reading this page ! That doesn’t matter. The post man and India Post still stay relevant to the nation !

For instance, did you know, that there is still a post card available for as little as 25 paise ! For many, that makes a difference !! On the other end of the spectrum, did you know that India Post has acquired its own aircraft to get connectivity going fine !?!

Some path breaking work continues to happen out there. I guess the battle to stay relevant is well and truly on.

And with such waterproof innovations, staying relevant will be foolproof !

The New Shopping Times !

The weekend saw us visit Garuda Mall. The agenda, besides adding a few elements to my wife’s wardrobe, was to park the car on any of the 13 odd floors available for parking. Without much of hassles.

The Ground Floor on Garuda Mall has space enough for promotions to happen. And usually it is one or the other marketer exhorting the general public to buy that life insurance, try that make up, ride that car, eat that snack and so on. This week there was considerable excitement. As ‘Pioneer’ was promoting its audio players, speakers etc.

As we meandered, there was enough noise and four floors of packed audience with balcony view, shouting, hooting and having a great time. We followed our ‘natural instincts’ to see what was happening.

It was a contest for couples. The rule was that couples needed to dance “on & within” a strip of paper. The size of paper keeps getting halved. So you found rather inventive couples, trying hard to fit into a small sheet of paper which later became a strip of paper. Some atop each other’s legs. Feet. Backs. What not.

The prize : A Pioneer DVD player worth Rs.5000/-.

The size of the paper was inversely proportional to the enthusiasm and energy of the crowd (and the participants too). It was an interesting experience to me. Just to see the crowds cheer and the participants glow. And the range of energy that was created.

The participants seemed to care two hoots to any possible ‘protect-my-culture’ activist as they hugged, carried, danced etc in the middle of a shopping mall. And had a great time doing it all. So did the crowds.
On the one one side, we have a judge arresting somebody for a peck on the cheek. Ok, a slightly longish one at that. But, on the other side we have a society which is moving beyond to a new realm. Looking at. Learning from. Yearning for. Something that is far different. A new pattern is indeed emerging.

What was inconceivable a few years back is common place now. The choices that the marketed nation is making, is more of “doing my own thing”.

Well, well, well, it was indeed a Pioneering evening for me. One that brought me face to face with a new mindset, that i always knew existed.

In the shopping mall ? Well that was a surprise !

Todays song Ironic by Alanis Morisette represents my thoughts !