Sunday, February 25, 2018

You left us too early, Sridevi. Rest in Peace

Updated on February 28

Photo credit: Rediff

First thing in the morning: utter disbelief; notifications on news apps on the mobile; and news flash scrolls on television news channels.

Sridevi was just 54. Cardiac arrest. Everything was perfect about her, at least from outside.

Okay, she might have had lot of tension in her life. That all of us have, don't we?

Whoever we are, death comes unannounced. It is probably that unpredictability, not the inevitability, that makes life valuable.

When life goes out, most of us try to find a reason. There might be. There might not be. That's just of academic interest. What is important is the life that was lived.

Sridevi, the first female superstar of Indian film industry, began her career at the age of 4, and went on till the age 54. The only interruption was after her marriage, for a few years. She has acted in almost all possible roles, entertaining a whole lot of people of my generation, who grew up watching her. Of course, with Youtube and Amazon Prime, her popularity stretched beyond any age barrier.

Mom was her latest movie, last year. Before that, English Vinglish, Sadma, Mr. India, Chandini, Lamhe, Nagina .. it goes on and on ... See the full list here.

Last year, she completed 50 years of her acting career, and The Newsminute ran a profile of her: From child artist to formidable veteran, how Sridevi has ruled hearts for five decades. Twelve days ago, The Newsminute tweeted this article, and she retweeted it.

Her last tweet was also a retweet, of a dance performance:
An eerie sixth sense Amitabh Bachchan seemed to have felt a few hours before Sridevi passed away.

I don't know which film clip of her I should leave you with; but there is a song sequence of hers from Mr. India, sung by Kavita Krishnamurthy. Here it is:

You left us too early, Sridevi. Thank you for all those movies. Rest in Peace.

February 28

Finally, Sridevi's body reached Mumbai last night around 9.45 after the Dubai police closed the case, and handed over the body to the family.

Today a huge crowd of people gathered in Mumbai to pay last respects, and for her funeral rites.

One thing conspicuous was that there was no live telecast of people filing past the body of the actor. A Malayalam news channel Media One reported that photographers and videographers were told to leave their cameras outside before coming in to pay their respects.

I wondered why. Was it because some news channels went berserk over the past few days, trying to recreate in studio the last moments of Sridevi and speculate on the reasons for her death? Or was it because the family just wanted no keep the grieving private?

Around 2.30 pm, news agency ANI tweeted this picture of Sridevi, dressed regally for her last journey.

She was grooming her elder daughter Janhvi for film career; sadly she won't be around to see her debut in film Dhadak. The younger daughter is Khushi. Life for them won't be the same again.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Book review: Rain Stops Play by Brian Johnston

I was introduced to this book many, many years ago by my English teacher in Sainik School, Mr Prem C Nair, who himself was a cricketer. He taught us not only prepositions and compound sentences, but he also spoke a lot of interesting anecdotes about the game, and the rich association between cricket and English language. That's how I got to know about authors like Neville Cardus, E W Swanton and John Arlott.

He also introduced us to the great Test Match Special programme on BBC. During my school days, I used to regularly listen to the TMS commentary; and gradually got hooked to the colourful, engaging and often hilarious descriptions about the match and the game in general, by commentators like Brian Johnston, Henry Blofeld, Don Mosey, and Christopher Martin-Jenkins.

Usually, when a match is interrupted by rain, commentators return listeners to the studio, where they play some music till the match resumes. But in the case of TMS, they never went back to the studio; instead they engaged in banter among themselves, and in conversations with listeners who called in.

This book is all about what used to happen in the BBC commentator's box with rain stopped play.

I read this book first in early 1980s, borrowing it from the British Library, Thiruvananthapuram. Recently, a conversation with a friend about TMS, rekindled in me a desire to re-read the book, and I ordered it on Amazon. It was a used book, but in very good condition.

It's an easy read book of 83 pages, full of anecdotes, categorized under various sections like In the Box, Jokes in the Rain, Batting, Bowling, Fielding, Umpires etc.

There are plenty of jokes that the commentators played on each other. Then there are those gaffes on air. One of them: "Rex (Alston) is reputed to have said: Over now to Old John Arlott at Trafford." And when there is one when an aghast listener called in on hearing that the batsman had been dropped when he was two. The commentators also tricked their colleagues into getting onto air, while the latter was least prepared to get on air; and all others having a good laugh.

It's worth a read, if you are interested in cricket and you can appreciate typical British humour.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Violence by students in school

If you give a web search for 'school shooting', you get only links about articles on violence in US school campuses. I am told by my friends in the US that shooting incidents are so common there that many of them don't even get reported in the media.

Now, here in India too, we are seeing increasing incidents of violence in school.

Last month, there was a report from Haryana of a class 12 student shooting dead his principal inside her office with his father's revolver.

This month, in Tamil Nadu, a teacher was arrested for allegedly attacking a student with a pair of scissors .

Again in Tamil Nadu, a 16-year-old boy was arrested for stabbing his school headmaster.

A place where children are supposed to learn - gain knowledge and wisdom - is also a place where tempers fray beyond reasonable limits with catastrophic consequences.

When adults themselves are violent, no wonder, children are becoming violent. I wonder if our children have the right role models in society.

When there is so much violence and bloodshed all around the world, the messages of peace, harmony, tolerance etc are all just getting lost out.

I wonder what is the solution; and what exactly is the problem with our society.

Friday, February 9, 2018

The post-text future of communication

At one end, people are learning to write. At the other end, text is passe. Photo, meme, audio and video are the new medium of communication. Think of the digital divide.

Welcome to the Post-Text Future (From The New York Times)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Car explodes in Bengaluru; woman, son charred to death

There are cases of cars catching fire. But this one in Bengaluru yesterday evening, was quite tragic.

A 30-year-old woman, who went out with her 4-year-old son, in her car, returns to her apartment. Parks her car their basement slot. The security guards hear an explosion. They rush to the place from where they heard the noise, and find that a car is in flames. They quickly call the fire tenders, who reach within 10 minutes. But the damage had been done by then. After the flames were doused, they find the body of the woman and boy. The boy's father was at work.

There is nothing more known about this incident. Forensic team is investigating.

Coincidentally, near Coimbatore, yesterday, there was a similar incident. It was right in the middle of the road, at a junction. Passersby noticed fire coming from the engine in the rear of the car. The two occupants got out in time.

A web search will show you many cases of cars catching fire, in many places around the world. Mostly mechanical issues are the reason.

I sometimes think how risky it is to travel in a car with its windows all rolled up. If there is some accident like a fire, and the door locks get jammed, there is no way of getting out. If the windows are rolled down, even if the doors don't open, one can at least jump out through the window.

It's high time, the car manufacturers came up with some mechanism to alert passengers of such dangerous eventualities, so that tragedies like the one we saw at the basement of a Bengaluru apartment are avoided.