Friday, November 24, 2006

The Seasons Change...

It's incredible how seasons have been changing in Pune, where this is my twelfth year of enjoying the greenery and hilly terrain. On a macro scale perhaps the entire state of Maharashtra has been witnessing progressively more rainfall. The underground water table has gone up. This sounds like prices of petrol going down, which never happens, but these days one has to be ready to take another sock in the jaw without allowing one's eyes to pop out.

Been addicted to reading The Times Of India for more than forty years now and lately it seems to have adopted the sensationalism wholeheartedly. In continuation with the ponderous para above, I was aghast to read a cat named Mimi (nickname of my daughter who didn't like this piece of news at all) in some nowhere place in Brazil has given birth to a litter with three pups and three kitten with faces like pups. Our family friend Atreyee Dey was busy sketching me, and oh boy what a pair of sketches she produced in two or three minutes -astonishingly well done. She said it is the beginning of the end of the world. Nino my wife who speaks Bengali with this zany artist agreed, though I tend to think such changes are glacial and several millenia would float by before any end could be perceptible. Unless some monkey presses the Nuke option button somewhere... anything is possible.

Traditionally Pune receives scanty rainfall in September and October and the greenery folds up and dies without a murmur. The green hills in our Bavdhan valley become as bald as a priest in a missionary school once again, and a bland, desolate sense of brown prevails. Not so any more. This year, it is the end of November, and there has been no let up. It's been raining for the past three days. Just when the winter smell was discernible in the cool evening breeze, today I got the old familiar rainy season smell after a few days of no rain. No wonder my neighbour's rooster gets up in the middle of the day, to do his cockadoodle-do bit as if dawn were breaking. Nino thinks he is going crazy with the imminent end of the world looming up larger and faster. I think he is showing off to the brood, some dotty female may fall for him. Hope never dies.

Our neighbouring city of Mumbai has been at the receiving end for a while, with amazingly heavy rainfall. All the shortcomings of the rain drain system came once again to the fore this year, with flash floods raising blood pressure all around. Horror stories matching last year's didn't accrue but people were restless all right. Perhaps infrastructure is improving now.

Pune city has bad roads. Nowadays we have forgotten what roads are. We clamber over ditches and potholes, with an occasional glimpse of a grey matter that used to be a road centuries ago. The highly corrupt and lethargic municipal corporation has been brazenly awarding the road making contracts to proven defaulters, thus sinking spirits sank lower this year.

Congestion, traffic snarls, inefficient cops, road rage... one wonders if this could be the genesis of a Prachanda avatar here too? It was rather amusing to see World Bank seek an appointment with the dreaded Maoist leader in Nepal's capital Kathmandu where the banned leader is staying in a posh hotel. If you want to be amazed at crazy turns, study politics, I tell many youngsters. The unthinkable always happens.

Finally, the Supreme Court called the city of Chennai 'unlivable'. Ah, much fodder for thought... and gruel for future posts.


(c) Max Babi

Sunday, November 05, 2006

My Continuing Holiday Mood...

With Chennai I seem to have left the hustle and bustle behind me. It is obvious that being a link in a chain whirring daily onwards to greater economical gains, the temptation to return to Pune as a tourist and not another chain in a smaller but whirring chain, was always strong. I am glad that holiday mood continues, for I do walk around in Koregaon Park and Bund Garden feeling as much a tourist as I used to do in 1970s.

Had a lunch date with a jazz-loving friend who sits lording over an empire of business, sharpening her skills and yet not letting her soft feelings for people take backseat ever. A compassionate heart is rather rare to find these days, and she is one for sure. Due to some unforeseen work, she had to postpone the meeting at Shisha Cafe, one of my favourite haunts at the ABC Farms complex where a lot of jazz live shows are taking place these days, by one and half hours.

Thus I decided to take a bus to Bund Garden, since my car has died completely, and take a leisurely walk through Mangaldas Road onwards to Koregaon Park. Others had reached early too, so on receiving a desperate sms from my daughter I had abandon my last leg of this long and leisurely walk to reach earlier. Shisha Cafe looks bewitchingly unreal at night. The day somehow lends a duller touch due to one's ability to see things outside. All my guests who ever visited this high on stilts, wooden masterpiece with its Iranian decor and glass-moulded hookahs that are called Shishas in Persian, have always commented on the ambience.

Two weeks back we had a lovely time with Julien Derek, an ageing Rocker on electric guitars, very ably accompanied by a younger set on drums and electric bass, and on a keyboard. I had my own doubts about a rockstar switching over to jazz, but Julien did that with consummate ease. His jazzy renditions of Summertime and Autum Leaves went down very well with Mimi, my daughter who is barely 15, with a decidedly pronounced inclination for jazz. Mehdi Noormand, the almost fully bald pinkfaced Iranian with thick glasses, had met me earlier at his other restaurant Sunrise Cafe in the Deccan Gymkhana area and asked me to show up with friends. I did, and nearly ten guys showed up, enthralling Mehdi. Though I guess, Mimi enjoyed the music, perhaps she did that all the more in mid September when Pune Jazz Club celebrated its fifth birth anniversary. We had four live bands, and she did have a gang of cousins with her to enjoy the music with. Will write about that experience in a separate post.