Friday, March 30, 2007

Things musical...


Music is one prime reason why I continue living in Pune, though at times, like millions of others well the city treads on my toes and yelps emanate at time with a gush of profanities... have had many fights uselessly. My silver beard lets me get away with reactive assaults on ill-mannered youngsters.

Baroda or Vadodara as it is called, used to be my nowhere-place, my private little heaven where for years I would have prospered in total anonymity for the city never had any pretensions of being a metro -and if that has contributed to my solitude-seeking nature, well... so be it.

Pune has often been described as a bigger and brighter version of Baroda. Not for nothing, that has been said often. Countless times I have parked my car or got rid of an auto-rickshaw to walk around aimlessly in the labyrinthine mazes of Sadashiv Peth or crumbling houses crowding Kasba Peth or Bhavani Peth with their indelible stamp of poor Muslim families herded together in sub-human conditions... and Baroda swings back in my mind like a steel pendulum and knocks me nearly unconscious. All the mazes of bylanes around Nyaya Mandir or Mandvi even parts of Champaner Gate area would be very similar to what I experience here. Nearly the same architecture, the same passion for a spot of greenery -which could be teeny weeny potted plants, a great amount of cleanliness, quite a lot of useless junk thrown in heaps in the courtyard or in a tiny veranda depending upon the size of the dwelling. People show the same friendliness to a lost stranger, and give very precise, correct and true answers.

'True' may be an odd man out in the sentence above, but I do recall several friends in the upmarket Alkapuri area who used to sit on compound walls to while away the hours every day from 4.00pm to midnight -colossal waste of time, but then does it matter, when you are an adolescent? Now it does perhaps, in our times it did not. Several of my cronies, otherwise good sons and disciples, good boys nicely brought up, used to be averse to stranger stopping and asking :" Which is the way to Baroda People's Society?" One of these boys would point in any random direction and send the guy on a wild goose chase. Many times, the same guy would be back sweaty, fatigued on his bicycle and with glowering coals in his eyes : " Waah yaar, aavun karvanun? (hey pal, why did you do that?) and with profuse apologies the same guy will direct him to another wrong lane... we would disperse long before the guy would return with loud abuse and intent to maul.

Baroda had its musical overflow -one could hear some singer or the other practising virtually in every lane. Some of my best evenings in that unforgettable city were spent listening to the heavenly voice of Ranjana Dharwadkar, then an All-India Radio artist and a huge celebrity for us to rub our shoulders with and exchange civilities. We were a bunch of unwashed college students, or guys who had just taken up jobs and the university still attracted us so much we would be spending most of our wakeful hours either in the university, either at Fine Arts faculty (now called Performing Arts) or in the Science/Arts section where we had buddies. Many of us would cancel appointments when Mrs. Dharwadkar was scheduled to sing on the radio. A borrowed transistor radio would be arranged and a hold-your-breath sort of silence would prevail. The occasional teas-shop boy with his loud voice and loutish manners would be violently suppressed into silence when the lady would be singing. Endless bidis and cigarettes would be rolled and smoked with rapture in everyone's eyes.... some of us were very knowledgeable, apart from yours truly and his music-crazy younger brother, for instance Simeen Punegar who had trained for 14 years under Pandit Dinkar Kaikini. She would do her own riyaz in the tiny cottage where Renjan lived -with his larger than life reputation of a painter who painted, not talked but really produced paintings... there was every year a profusion of young girls barely out of teens, who woud descend upon this ex-drug abuser who had seen it all, and spend days and nights at his place. Talented youngsters flocked to his place -soon we found out why. He could tell stories.

And that can be a huge attraction -it has been so for millenia. More about music later.

(c) Max Babi

Saturday, March 03, 2007

More On Benumbing Denumbing

Well, my numb foot didn't bother me hugely, for I had been told by a doc that diabetics do get now hot now cold sensations in their feet.

During the last year's whole body check up I mentioned to the young lady inspecting my nervous system that numbness in feet is normal amongst diabetics. She reacted, rather reared up like a scared horse, and told me in no uncertain terms that no numbness can ever be normal.

That dart stayed in the stormy petrel that my mind happens to be, and the haunted chamber with whimsical flashes that it can become now and then... and when I started stumbling too often on wobbly feet, I sought expert help. Well that was two months or more, ago. Things had come to a sorry pass by then, I was slipping and falling in bathroom without any soap on the floor, and at times I felt hallucinations. The floor, hard solid ceramic tiled floor would feel as if muddy up to a depth of an inch or more. Sometimes the floor would tilt. But the worst effect was being helpless whilst falling. How many face-smashing bone-crunching and blood-curdling accident possibilities passed me by would make a litany of miracles.

The youngish doctor at a speciality hospital laughed at the idea of a brain scan (been an incurable hypochondriac, so new symptoms and tests get my adrenaline pumping like nobody's business. Almost with the fierceness of a Russian pump. Why Russkie? Well, they like to do things big. In the 1960s their science magazines had reported a pump large enough to empty out a whole river in spate....whew, mind boggling indeed. That was the time when they had made cranes big enough to dig out and lift up five storeyed buildings from a street to the next. Wow.
At the end of my fatigued list of symptoms the good doc laughed again and started me off on a regime of tonics and medicines aimed at the nerves.

The first month seemed like a chain of miniscule miracles stringed up together... my benumbed feet became alive. I could feel the sensations creeping right back into portions that must have been dead for months not weeks. It was rather like the temporary numbness induced by sitting in some clumsy posture for hours... even the pinpricks that a normal person feels whose nerves have not been mauled by long term diabetes, returned. It was fun to realize and tell myself :
hey I used to feel like that before 2000 or like this before 1996.

On my second visit to the immensely good doc I made the mistake of telling him, based on his explanations and my extrapolations that probably my sensitivity, newly gained was a bit too much, so he changed one medicine. Another time I told him my motor nerves had not gained so much as the sensor nerves. Another doc would have seen to it that the bouncers threw me into the river nearby. But not our cool cat. He looked amused, as if his pet dog had claimed he could ride the bike... so he made me lay down on the couch and hammered my ankles and pressed here and there. Finally he made me stand up with feet touching each other and watched me sway a little with my eyes closed. I have been doing this, a little cheating during the Friday prayers at the mosque -where nine out of ten guys around me seem to be swaying much more than me.

Strangely enough, the doc said my diagnosis was right. Whew, I was thrilled. This probably coincided with hearing from a lady adminsitrator at a medical institute in Chandigarh. I have been mailing proposal to such establishments to run a 1-day o 2-day workshop on advanced materials for surgeons and medical folks. There are indeed magical new materials available in the market and not too visible. Materials like shape memory alloys that remember a particular shape given to a piece at a certain temperature. Plunge this piece into cold water, and the shape changes. For yet another shape, shove it into boiling water.

Doctors today carry one surgical device instead of several... cold water makes the tool it had serrations (like a hack saw blade or a file) and hot water makes it remember it had a sharp piercing point. To lend a little panache and flair to my feeler I had sent a list of ten queries to be asked to the good docs, if anyone could answer even two, he or she didn't need my course. Another medical society in Bangalore has bitten the bait too. So things are taking a positive new turn in a new direction, these days. A whole gamut of new challenges cropping up...


(c) Max Babi 040307