Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On theater, spaces and seating

Click to get cool Animations for your MySpace profile
Free MySpace Animations!

We were at the experimental theater of NCPA to watch Padmashri Leela Samson dance. This is not about the dance, which I would not dare review (One, I  am arts illiterate, plus two, she is the principal of the college where my daughter is learning dance:)..This is a general letting off at how seating is organised in such spaces in Mumbai.
My husband swears he booked the seats after seeing the layout in their website (he booked online).  And chose some good ones, giving front view. Yet, when we entered the auditorium, we were asked to walk up the steps and sit  on the sides... I first thought, wow, I get such a wonderful bird's eye view of the dancer. Alas, and woe betide and the rest of the sad exclamations later, all I can say is that it was very bad place to be sitting. And even if Rs 200 is less than Rs 300 (were all sold out, no doubt to members at a discount), I felt like a pariah who had to twist her frame completely to get a decent view of the profile of the dancer:( It was physically taxing. Thank god I do kickboxing and am used to twisting from the hips and may actually think that sitting awkwardly for more than an hour  is good exercise and will def make my future kicks better:)
 These top side seats run along, and over the auditorium, along its side walls. Some seats, far down and ahead,  must have been even worse... Seeing that the seats to our right were empty, we moved a few seats to better our experience. It still felt the same... :(

I recall once we were at a Shiamak Davar show (the annual thingie where students perform) we were given seats near the speakers(at Shanmukananda Hall, Matunga). I thought my heart would break, since the thud from the speakers  (that too Bollywood remixed for high-energy dances) was something else altogether: hellish and if you know any biology you will that sort of proximity can be extremely dangerous. Can u imagine? Rs 300 for a seat and win a heart attack?!!!

Prithvi theater is getting by with it old fashioned style of having no numbers. This means when there is great play (like Chanakya, Manoj Joshi's, which I thrilled to, despite most of the shudd Hindi going over my head) there is a maha scrunch for space. I have seen stragglers coolly moving the early-comers to squeeze their butts into non-existing seats. Scrunch, scrunch, some hip-twists and everybody in chalta-hai Mumbai is happy. And cash-starved Prithvi Theater is ok with a few extra bucks. Does Sanjana have a ceiling on the number of tickets Prithvi sells? Is this based on any informed study on the size of Indian butts? Maybe some research to also indicate that certain plays attract the starving sorts (smaller butts) and some more popular plays attract the well-fed butts (big butts)? I would dearly like to know. Do journos who write flowery pieces on restaurants in the city ever think of looking at the city from this angle and churning up a story worth reading? Along the way get more flowery quotes from theater lovers. Here would be a sample: " we  love theater and we don't mind the sweaty neighbour. We can even tolerate the deprived Indian male (oh, not many of them come  to watch plays, maybe?) moving his elbow over our love handle and breasts."

And since the seats are not reserved, u don't pee during the interval. Some brazen ones, I have seen, can argue their right to more space or walk over from where they don't want to be sitting, to take over the space of some poor fellow with a weak, incontinent bladder. U can see really brazen behavior and nobody says anything... ushers try gently to tell people from sitting on the wooden steps...
So somehow we manage... in this city where space is such a problem, we are sooo  happy we still have culture, what?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Commuters' strike: I am participating

This Thursday commuters -- the ones who take auto regularly -- plan a strike. I plan to offer my moral support by not taking an auto too on that day.

Did u people read Quadros' interview in the Mumbai Mirror: (He is the auto-drivers union leader). He says auto drivers are not slaves and they are also human or other such sympathy-milking statement. I do not think at all, for one moment, any commuter treats an auto driver as a slave. On the contrary, most of these fellows, with the biggest chip on their shoulders about the rest of the world, treat commuters like shit. I believe union leaders, like political parties, must create the idea of `the evil other' against whom they will protect you. For long, political parties in India have thrived on dividing and ruling, and are still thriving on that unbeatable formula that they inherited from the British. So, I am not surprised Quadros is making out like commuters are the evil ones who are making unnatural demands (He says what if the poor auto driver must sign off, or may have a problem at home..It seems 99 per cent of the auto-drivers are suffering some such malaise day in and day out. 24 X7 ?) .

Though I hate the idea of contributing to global warming by taking an auto (does a gas-cylinder auto also contribute to that?) instead of the BEST bus or the sardine-can trains, I still do it because commuting by public transport is becoming hell in Mumbai (The Borivli station has become a knee-breaking maze for me) I have been resorting to autos to go to Kandivli for music classes. Fare comes to a whopping amount.. which I won't reveal..
But the last one month I have discovered the worst side of auto drivers:
On every route, to-and-fro -- and I am not exaggerating,  they would agree to come, then mid-way, they will flag another auto down and tell me, some even acting with tears in t heir eyes(!!), that the brake is broken, something is cracked up, they are on reserve and whatever else they mumble ...
I realised the pattern: since the traffic police drive against auto-drivers has become strict, these fellows are making up this ruse, so somebody who looks militant like (note those muscles?) does not call the police control room to complain .. otherwise how come on six trips continuously I have been dropped midway and shoved into another auto?

So now, before getting into an auto I tell them that this trick has been played out before me and so to kindly spare me a repeat... Its been working, touchwood. I have gone in one auto for the entire trip ..

However, before that, once, I had to change thrice!!! On the second leg of this eventful  journey, this auto driver suddenly says he won't come to Pali because I said Linking Road before I said Pali. What!! I told him that some northern suburban auto-drivers do not know where Pali is, so when you board an auto you give them the destination broadly (Like Bandra West, Or Linking Road) then lead them more specificially to the exact location. And Pali Village is off Linking Road, it is two shops off KFC, yet this fellow says he won't turn right to take me to my home because  I had said Linking Road first. He said I was doing a BIG WRONG!! (I think you can guess where this sort of behavior comes from -- the sort of propaganda which keeps drumming into their heads that they are the victims of the commuters and must be protected from them? Otherwise what would union leaders do for a living?)  So I completely forgot that I am aspiring for monkhood and world peace, then bristled and told him to stop the auto. I told him:" Please stop. I rather walk then travel in the vehicle of an adharmic person like you... Here is your money." Then I walked a long long while in anger at my own anger, stomping to cool it off, before I flagged another auto driver.

And btw. If you are smart enough to buy your own auto meter fare card, you will catch on that it is very different from what they have. The auto fare on their meter is a round figure. For instance, if the meter comes to 178, it wil show 180 and so on... This is something Value Added Tax, I guess. If hotels do it, why not poor driven auto fellows who just want to say they are not slaves?
What happened to my beautiful Mumbai of yore, where auto drivers gave back money, or often told you to keep the change (if you did not have one buck, they will say, chalta hai!!). I used to love Mumbai for its auto drivers. But Chennai is worse, a nightmare .. Delhi as bad I suppose. So I guess I am destined to put up with autowallah's khunnas and forget I have any rights of my own...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Poha gone wrong: terribly wrong

Ok, this does not qualify as a review. But I bought the ticket and went for the play and sat through it, so I have a right to an opinion, even if it is an unintellectual one.

The whole thing is about Sudama. As a concept my husband and I were excited: it wants to, in the beginning, explore the possibility of whether it would have changed the course of the big battle or of Indian philosophy if instead of Arjuna, it was Sudama who got the Gita's message. But though Sudama is made to sound like a left-out friend who keeps on resenting Arjuna, this idea, as the play unfolds, did not make any sense to me. Meaning, first a man who resents so much cannot understand the Gita. And if, as it is well-accepted that Sudama was intellectually and spiritually fine (he is said to have taught a mantra to Krishna, so you get the point) then he did not need the Gita: it makes more sense to give the message to someone who needs it (like Arjuna) rather than someone who already knows everything about it(like Sudama), so what is the point.

Then this Sudama who apparently is also That Sudama (Krishna's friend) gets rather rude I find. He is constantly calling people moorkh (maybe my spelling is wrong, but it sounds like a rude word) and laughing at people doing B.com (why, they are intellectually and spiritually less?) and in fact, I found that sad sack he kept calling moorkh was a rather chilled out guy who is actually one of the few people who finds some substance in Sudama when the whole world rejects him. So, that sort of loud, lunatic behaviour in the name spiritual advancement I found difficult to swallow. Not on, Makrandji.
The actors were all superb. But the script was lost. Suddenly, the spine of the story crumbles completely, and we find we are asked to believe in people who could be (maybe this Sudama is not, but so many tantric priests and Djinn-driven babas in this country who would love to have their halo certified by such a play) some quacks making  a fast buck. To prop this silly ending, the story crackles with a `believe-it-or-not' superstitious finish (where u can sense the whole cast and Makrand in particular is getting goosebumps because he is so carried away by that idea) that shows the playwright had completely forgotten the original intellectual intention. It is essentially a showcase for Makrand Deshpande and his six-pack. The other actors are all superb. The whole audience stood up to clap, clearly having enjoyed the play. I resisted it. Then since it looks rude, I too stood up. But did not feel like it, really.