Saturday, May 17, 2008

This Blog has Moved to

HI I finally saved enough money to buy my own piece of real estate - on the web. It took a while. Royalty payments are slow to take off. So it has taken me a few years to mop up the coins that paid for my new website

Moving is a pain. Spring cleaning is a pain. Following a routine is a pain. Among the many painful things in the world, they don't even stack up to the pain of virtual moving. I am having to mop up pieces of my writing from various parts of cyber space and collect them in to one spot. But then that's part of the deal. The website is still getting its final touches and if you want to see more stuff there, just let me know what is it you are missing and I will try to serve it there. You can mail me at

The party venue has been changed but the party continues. See you at

Abhijit Bhaduri

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Of Balladeers and Dreamers

Music does these strange things. It cuts across boundaries. While words tend to have walls around them when you mix music and turn words into lyrics, they suddenly get wings. They reach out and tug at heart strings. The MTV office at Time in New York is a favorite destination for musicians to strut their stuff hoping some talent scout from the office would listen and give them their big break. i am not aware of anyone actually getting their break like that. But heck, New York is the city where dreams are bought and sold everyday. I have stood by mesmerized by the sound of a bunch of musicians from Andes playing their folk tunes on pan pipes accompanied by an electric guitar powered by a makeshift car battery and a set of drums. I have seen an African American drummer play the drums on a set of plastic paint barrels. I remember missing my train to watch a group of teenagers from Harlem show the world what break dancing was all about. And of course who can forget the Naked Cowboy stand in the middle of Time Square in his underwear and have a bunch of screaming hysterical teenagers line up to photograph themselves with him.
Last evening I went to see Sushmit Bose perform. He calls himself an urban folk musician. Sometimes I see him being referred to as an urban folk balladeer. It is difficult to imagine this person once sported shoulder length hair and wrote protest songs. Well he still writes songs and I guess he still protests against a range of issues. He briefly mentioned Tibet and then also sang a song protesting against the inhuman treatment given to stray dogs in Kerala. He sings about urbanization and the loss of soul etc. His songs are set to simple chords and will inevitably remind listeners of the sounds of Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger. The only tragedy was that when he finally sang Blowing In The Wind, he mixed up the lyrics. This is where his guitarist and banjo player Deepak Castelino stepped up to the mike and sang along with the crowd.
Sushmit was accompanied by Deepak Castelino - one of the finest guitarists I have heard. Many years back when Deepak was still in college, I watched him on TV singing Me and Bobby McGhee. His flawless strumming and deep baritone voice has only matured over the years. Deepak worked for fifteen years in the corporate sector and left it in disgust to pursue music. He composes and teaches music to children. I loved his composition called Corporation (which he calls कर परेशान meaning Make Miserable)। May his tribe increase. Maybe someday I will get a chance to learn from Deepak not just how to play the guitar but how to chase my dreams.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sleepless in Seattle

I am a nervous traveller. Before I travel, I would ideally like to be at peace. Here is what I want it to be like. I should be able pack my suitcase comfortably, arrange my shirts in a certain sequence, add my shaving kit on the side - the stuff for meetings all laid out in sequence... Then I ought to sit back listen to some music and flip through my tickets - everything is in order, I tell myself as I leave home.

Reality is cruel. Reality is different. I have just rushed back home from office. The neighbor's dog is bringing down the house with his howl. I think he is sick - not the dog, I meant the owner. The dog is probably trying to send us a distress signal. I have no time time for all that. I rummage through my clothes and throw a few of them into the suitcase. They crumple up even before I have worn them. I lock the suitcase in a jiffy and open it back again. Rush to pack in my shaving kit. The last time I had left behind the toothpaste tube. The keys of my suitcase!! I had almost left them behind. But no, I have a sharp memory and I just caught myself in the nick of time from making yet another fatal error. The taxi is honking and competing with the neighbors' dog. I rush out of the house and then run back -the ticket. I collapse in a heap in the cab. The airport is a mess. There are people jumping queues, students listening to iPods and shaking their heads in approval and the cops eyeing all with suspicion.

"Who packed your bags, Mr Bhaduri?", she asks me.

"Since no one helps me at home, I have to do it myself." I answer.

"Have you accepted any gifts or packages from anyone to carry with you on this trip?' She quizzes me.

"Heck, I don't even get presents on my birthday. Who would buy me a gift simply for travelling on work? The answer therefore is a no.".

After a string of people have quizzed me, I get my boarding pass. I settle down into the seat. Aw heck! It is the middle seat again. I attract screaming kids on a plane like a vacuum cleaner attracts dust. Sure enough, this trip is no exception. I have a mother holding a wailing infant on one side and a glum faced senior citizen on the other. The flight takes off to the howling of the baby. Look I like babies especially when they don't cry or need a diaper change. This one missed my affection on both counts. I try not to puke as the lady changes diapers and constantly tries to talk in what she thinks is a tone that is building the kid's self image. The gentleman on my left is sleeping with his mouth open as if in wonder (what IS he dreaming about?) and he is snoring loudly. The snore sounds like a squeaky wheelbarrow being dragged back and forth on a cobbled street. I try to read. There is nothing decent around to read either - except for the in-flight magazine which is usually a by the juveniles and for the juveniles affair. I might as well use the washroom. I am on the horns of a dilemma. Who should I wake up to go to the washroom? The snorer? Or the infant who has just fallen asleep and has a steady stream of drool flowing as proof? I like proof except that it is going to start flowing towards me. I keep a few tissues handy. The snorer has changed pitch. It now sounds very close to the aircraft's engine. I vote in favor of the snorer. I try to jump over the old man and get to the aisle and miss. OUCH!! The man's loud protest wakes up everyone. I am the culprit. I pay the price for it. The baby starts howling again and wakes up the whole planeload of irritated passengers. I rush to the loo and wait there for a good five minutes before I return back to my seat. The world is at peace. Snorer is in dreamland. The baby is quiet and the mother is sleeping. I need to get back to my middle seat without disturbing the equilibrium of the earth. I have learnt my lesson the last time. I avoid hassling the grumpy old man. I try to get into my seat and land up waking the baby instead. "OH GOD!! CAN YOU LEAVE THE BABY ALONE??", someone shouts at me. I apologize to the world at large as I hide in my seat under the smelly blanket and pray for the baby to stop howling. It is going to be a long night.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sarod Less Travelled

India is a rare country with two equally well developed traditions of Classical Music - Hindustani (from Northern India) and Carnatic (from South India). This post is about Hindustani Classical music.
You have vocalists and instrumentalists to choose from in each category. The classical set of instruments that played solo were traditionally Sitar, Sarod, Bansuri (bamboo flute), Shehnai accompanied by the drone of a Tanpura to keep scale and Sarangi and to the beats of a Tabla. Over the years other instruments have been brought in to add variety. The Sarangi has moved up centrestage from being just a sidekick. Some instruments like Esraj (more popular in the Eastern States of India especially West Bengal) have faded away even though in some traditions (Vishnupur) or gharanas it played a prominent role. "Over the years many western musical instruments like violin, harmonium, mandolin, archtop guitar and electric guitar have come to be accepted in Indian classical music." Brij Bhushan Kabra and later Vishwa Mohan Bhatt popularized the Guitar as an instrument that can play Hindustani Classical. Just as Shiv Kumar Sharma has brought the Santoor (meaning a hundred stringed lute) to the mainstream of classical music.
Indian Classical Music has been developed over several generations with knowledge and skills being passed down from father to son (most of the instrumentalists are males in Hindustani Classical Music - is that the same in Carnatic Classical too?) or from teacher to disciple known as the guru-shishya tradition in India. The guru or the maestro would have the title of Ustaad (in case the teacher was Muslim) or Pandit (for the Hindu).
My parents were both Hindustani Classical music addicts. My mother played Ragas on the Acoustic Hawaiian Lap Guitar (known simply as the Hawaiian Steel Guitar in India). My father never played an instrument or sang but made sure he taught himself ragas by reading, meeting musicians and attending concerts whenever possible. The concerts, the vinyl LP records and the ubiquitious radio with the All India Radio Sangeet Sammelan or the classical music hour at night were a part of my universe. Just as I was beginning to get excited about The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cliff Richard, Pat Boone and all, thanks to the efforts of SPICMACAY (an acronym for Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Among Youth) my love for Indian Classical music co-existed with my love for every other sound that I got familiar with over the years. SPICMACAY used to organize Lecture Demonstrations (LecDems for short) to bring the best of the best Indian Classical Music maestros to explain the basics elements of the classical musical vocabulary and grammar and made it "cool" to listen to. The very first one I attended had Ustad Amjad Ali Khan xplaining the basics of Raga Yaman by playing raga based popular Bollywood hits on the sarod. Accompanied by the long haired Ustad Zakir Hussain on the tabla (who taught a semester at Princeton University in 2006) , they mesmerized the college crowd. Last fortnight I bumped into Ustad Amjad Ali Khan at Mumbai's swank new airport terminal. Here is a photo capturing that moment.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Love Letters

Gurgaon has over the last few years begun to be known for many things - malls, Call Centers and BPOs and lack of infrastructure. Going to see a play, art exhibition or a music concert meant that one had to go to the cultural hub of Delhi. That could mean anything from an hours drive or more depending on the time of day when you hit the road. But that was then. We now have Epicentre (Apparel House, Sector 44, Gurgaon) - a complex that boasts of a lovely auditorium (it possibly has 300+ seats??), an art gallery, an amphitheatre, a restaurant, conference & banquet rooms and a 45000 sq ft exhibition hall. If you want to be on their mailing list, just write to
This month for instance had the Puppet Theatre putting up Almost Twelfth Night. Smita Bharati put up two plays there - As The Sun Sets and 45-35-55. Feisal Alkazi's A Matter of Life and Death.
Yesterday I went to the Epicentre to Rahul Da Cunha's version of ‘Love Letters’ . The Pulitzer award winning play written by AR Gurney, describes the romantic and poignant relationship between childhood friends Melissa Gardner (Shernaz Patel) and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III (Rajit Kapur) over fifty years. The story unfolds through the letters the two characters have written to one another. The play was first performed in 1988. Shernaz Patel is just so amazing in the way she brings the impetuous Melissa. Rajit Kapur is a versatile actor for but last evening's performance seemed just a tad short of expectations.
Inspired by Love Letters, Feroz Khan has directed Tumhari Amrita तुम्हारी अमृता adapted by Javed Siddqui and had Farooque Shaikh who plays the politician Syed Zulfiquar Haider and Shabana Azmi playing the painter Amrita Nigam. In 1996 I saw them perform at Darpan Academy in Ahmedabad. It was was perhaps in one of the most powerful performances I have seen in theatre. By the time the play ends, there was no dry eye in the audience and Shabana Azmi was so deeply entrenched in the character that she just sobbed long after the play was over.
There is also the sequel Aapki Soniya (आपकी सोनिया), directed by Salim Arif, starts from where Tumhari Amrita ends. It has been years since painter Amrita Nigam, whose relationship with politician Syed Zulfiquar Haider had spawned a series of letters and Tumhari Amrita, has died. If you have seen it, let me what you thought of it.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

World Book Fair, New Delhi 2-10 February 2008

This year should see a spate of Indian books. From graphic novels to cookbooks. From Science Fiction to Short Stories, the publishers are ready to pull out their trump cards. With a growing confidence in everything Indian, the Indian reader is also ready to give Indian writers a chance to share stories that are desi and in a language that feels real. There is no need to add a glossary of Indian words or phrases used like they did before. I agree that it is an insult to the reader's intelligence if you do that.
"Even as Chetan Bhagat’s book (Rupa), Abhijit Bhaduri’s Married But Available and Karan Bajaj’s Keep Off The Grass (HarperCollins) are being touted as bestsellers in the making, other books are vying for the top spot. Penguin India has biggies like Sea Of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh, Bombay Tiger by Kamala Markandaya and Lost Flamingoes Of Bombay by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi lined up. Penguin imports, Age Of Shiva by Manil Suri, Something To Tell You by Hanif Kureishi, and The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam are also all set to rock readers. Picador lists... blockbusters in 2008 as The Palace Of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, An Atlas Of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy and Escape by Manjula Padmanabhan."
The World Book Fair started off yesterday at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. This one promises to be even bigger and better than the one they did in 2006 which was spread over 38,000 sq metres of display with around 1300 publishers . In 1972, with 200 participants to visit the modest display at Windsor Place, New Delhi the World Book Fair made a beginning. Expect to see celebrity authors cutting deals with publishers or literary agents trying to woo the next big literary phenomenon. I am going to see if any one of the books mentioned above are available at the WBF.
I will be around at the HarperCollins stall possibly over the weekend. HarperCollins titles will be at Stall nos. 677-692, Hall no. 2. from 10 am (don't expect to see me there!!) to 8 pm (more likely to see me).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

India Finally Achieves Perth Control

This is my 100th blog entry. My hundredth run in the world of blogging.
So it is about a topic I have never written about - cricket. I may not know anything about cricket or ... for that matter I know nothing about sports. I suspect I was born without a sporting gene. Yet while I was using the remote control of the TV to flick aside channel after channel like an expert batsman, I could not but help take a peek into the world of cricket.

If you, like a billion Indians (make that billion minus 1) watch cricket more than you watch your own receding hairline, then you are probably celebrating. Australia was sixteen going on seventeen test victories in a row. Indian cricketers played spoilsport and broke the magic spell. Now Aussies will need to start working on that record creating spree all over again. The last time Aussies were halted was at Eden Gardens in 2001. Then it was Steve who had to say Waugh Bhai Waugh to the winning Indian team!!

Umpiring decision related controversies ruined the spirit of the Sydney test. Well there were umpiring gaffes in Perth too - but this time in favor of India. The odds are that bad and good decisions even out in life.
More photos at Indiatimes