Saturday, 12 October 2019

Confessions of a bibliophile (of paperback kind)

Online retailers may have 'click-baited' book lovers and Kindle may have hooked them on to computer and smartphone screens, but I still find going to book stores (especially the second-hand ones) worth the effort.

Entering a book store with hardly any particular book in mind, and being surrounded by shelves and shelves of books. Spending time thinking which book to buy or to buy anything at all, or suddenly coming across a book which I have been thinking of buying all these days but couldn't lay my hands upon. These are some of the unexpected thrills that attract me to a bookshop.

While in Mumbai I often used to visit those pavement book shops near the good old Central Telegraph Office on Veer Nariman Road (I am told they no longer exist) and spend hours squatting in the hot afternoon sun and rummage through the piles and piles of Harold Robbins, James Hadley Chase, Mills and Boon and not to mention the pornucopia penned by 'anonymous' writers, to find an Ernest Hemingway, a George Orwell or Somerset Maugham.

Quite often they used to be cheaper than the popular bestsellers. They were also old books with off-white pages and considering the modest demand I hardly ever came across any pirated xerox prints. I guess the booksellers used to feel relieved that finally, a taker has arrived for a book that has been languishing with them for long.

I have spent many afternoons and evenings at these pavement book stores and one of the booksellers seemed to have taken note of my preferences. A couple of times as I was going through the drill of mining for my favorite book, he would hand over a well known classic and say 'Yeh sir aapke type ka kitaab hai'. In hindsight, I wish I had made efforts to know more about him, but his actions often used to leave me surprised and startled, as if someone was reading my mind.

Thanks to him I got a copy of Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar and quite a few other books. He seemed to know a thing or two about an Aldous Huxley, a Henry Miller or Sylvia Plath and other English writers.

Rest of them I doubt whether they could even read English (or angrezi as they would say). They were only concerned about the price listed on the back cover and were least bothered about what lay between the covers. 

These second-hand books will often have names of previous owners scrawled on the front page. Some even had the date on which they were bought and some were given off as a gift for birthday. Some had library seals. Probably stolen and sold to booksellers or the library itself sold them. Some had both the previous owner's name and library seal. Probably some families may have donated them to a library for want of space or death of a bibliophile family member.

In some books, I even came across the good old local train ticket (made of thick cardboard those days), which probably were used as bookmarks.

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While in Chennai I once got the chance to visit the famous second-hand book shop on a pavement near Luz Church road run by one R.K. Alwar. There were piles of books housed under a tarpaulin cover. Alwar was present and since it was a hot afternoon he was wearing only a veshti and no shirt, and his flowing Tolstoy-type grey beard covered most of his torso.

His fame had traveled far and wide and his clientele included the intelligentsia of Chennai, ranging from Alladi Krishanswamy Aiyar to Cho Ramaswamy. It is said that when Chennai's municipal authorities tried to remove his shop there were public protests, something Mumbai ought to have done when booksellers from CTO were told to move. And when he died last December, city newspapers accorded him a rare privilege of running obituaries.

The obits had stated that he was not literate, but when I had gone there he spoke decent English and came across as someone who eats, drinks and sleeps books. When I saw a copy of the Discovery of India and made a weak attempt to haggle about the price he said, "This is a classic written by Jawaharlal Nehru, I cannot give at a lower price."

At that point, I missed those booksellers in Mumbai who had little idea of what lay between the covers of what they were selling, and hence open to some bargaining.

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Second-hand booksellers in Bangalore are a more empowered lot and thriving. Though there are places Avenue Road where they sell on the pavements, the two famous sellers Blossoms and Bookworm, which trace their origins from pavements, have now become gentrified.

They are located on the prime Church Street and housed in proper shops running into more than square 5,000 feet, with modern-day payment trappings such as credit card swiping machines and mobile wallet facility thrown in. 

These two book stores have in fact bucked the worldwide trend of brick and mortar book stores closing down across the globe due to falling readership and onslaught of e-commerce companies. They, in fact, moved to bigger premises to cater to their patrons.

The rows of metal shelves at Blossoms may remind you of government offices. The books arranged on them burst at the seams. Bookworm too had that old world crammed look when it was housed in an outlet on the Shringar Complex on MG Road. But now after moving to Church Street it has acquired a high-street supermarket look.

Also Read: Bangalore Short Takes

Monday, 29 July 2019

Article 15: Holding a Mirror

Anubhav Sinha's Article 15 lives up to Cesar A. Cruz dictum “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” For those who believe that caste is history this movie will be a rude awakening, and those who have to deal with casteist slurs, innuendos or even violence this will provide a small token of comfort that caste has finally reached the mainstream cinema.

The movie is an English August on steroids. While in Upmanyu Chatterjee's novel an urbanized, freshly minted IAS officer Agastya Sen, who probably would have been more comfortable working in an advertising agency or a foreign bank, comes face to face with the idiosyncrasies of rural and subaltern India in a town named Madna, in Article 15 it is a foreign-educated IPS officer Ayan Ranjan's (played by Ayushmann Khurrana) brush with Laalgaon, his first posting.

However, the similarities end there, while Agastya Sen gets 'hazaar baar fucked' by ungovernable Madna and retreats to soft drugs, Ayan decides to take on Laalgaon's storied caste system and its 'santulan' (balance), though the movie's ending seemed too good to be true, considering the way the wheels of justice in our country roll in such cases.

The movie begins with a starry-eyed Ayan who has a romantic notion about the beauty of rural India. He had lived most of his life abroad, as his father was in foreign service, and later studied in Delhi's St Stephen's College.

His drive in a jeep on a road bordering verdant fields with Bob Dylan 'Blowing in the wind' in the background is the brief interlude of innocence and sangfroid, before he comes face to face with rural and semi-urban India's heart of darkness.

A lot has been written about the movie and I don't want to get into the review mode. But there are some poignant scenes that got etched in my mind, thanks to some haunting dialogues written by scriptwriter Gaurav Solanki. 

The most prominent was Dalit activist Nishad's (a loosely based amalgam of Dalit activists Rohit Vemula and Chandrashekar Azad Ravan) remark, "Hum kabhi Harijan ho jate hain, kabhi Bahujan ho jate hain. Bas jan nahi ban paate hain taaki jan gan man me hamari bhi ginti ho” (There are times when they treat us as ‘Harijans’ and at times just as a part of the crowd, only never as individuals with rights).

It is a marginalised person's cri de coeur to be heard and recognised. It is the grim reality of a person whose social status is in the bottom of caste hierarchy and faces abuse from the rest of the society all through his life.

Ayan's WhatsApp exchanges with his girlfriend, a social activist, were quite witty and keeps the idealist Ayan grounded. Her remark, Hero nahi chahiye Ayan.. bas aise log chahiye jo hero ka wait na kare (We need people who don't wait for a hero) was a very telling statement. It has been a malaise afflicting our country for too long.

When he feels alarmed by casteism in rural hinterlands, she provides him a gentle reminder of similar discrimination in urban areas, though in a more subtle manner - of separate plates and utensils for servants.

When Ayan enquires with the scheduled caste Jatav policemen whether he and the victim belong to the same community, his response is classic. The policeman explains his community repairs shoes, while the victims' community rears pigs, hence below them in the caste hierarchy. The people of his community do not even drink water provided by them, he claims. 

This particular conversation brings out what B.R. Ambedkar had succinctly described as 'graded inequality' - the watertight hierarchies of casteism that has survived for centuries.

Ayan's conversation with the contractor who had raped the minors reveals the chilling manner in which rape and murder are used as a weapon to keep the poor in a leash. 

Contractor: Aukaat mein nahi rakhe hain sir.....Kam nahi kar sakte. Ayan: Aur aukaat kya hai? Contractor: Jo hum dete hain vahi aukaat hai sir. (Contractor says unless they are shown their place, they will not work. When Ayan asks what is their 'place' contractor replies it is what we give). It gives away the entitlement culture of the privileged in the society and how they lord over the downtrodden.

Despite many shortcomings and criticism of projecting a Brahmin messiah in Ayushmann Khurrana, Article 15 director wades into the malaise of the caste system, where many of his peers fear to tread.

Also Read: Bangalore Short Takes

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Buffoonery Omnibus

The recent viral video of college students sitting on the roof of a Chennai city bus and tumbling down when the driver applied sudden brakes, really sums up the city's youthscape. One can find boisterousness among youthful commuters in all the cities, but Chennai takes the cake.

With hardly any pubs and other recreational places to hang out, and Tamil cinema promoting stalking on an industrial scale, for most college students in Chennai, the city bus is a mobile vanity fair - the big stage to display their physical agility and singing abilities to impress women passengers. These guys will hang on to the footboards of the wider middle door of the buses, even if seats inside are empty, and sing latest Tamil chartbusters.

At every bus stop, they will alight and then allow the bus to move a little and then make a dash to get a toehold on the footboard. An exemplary camaraderie exists within these gangs. They will lend a helping hand if someone among them is finding it difficult to make it to the footboard after the bus leaves a stop. 

During my stay in Chennai, I often used to meet these boisterous groups while on my way to the office in the afternoons. They would board from stops near Pachayappas college, an institution of 1842 vintage, but well past its glory days. It counts noted Mathematician Ramanujam among its alumni, but somewhere down the line, it lost its plot. A few decades ago it earned the sobriquet 'rowdy factory' and now it is engraved in stone.

The songs are often accompanied by thumping of bus body, and they get shrill when the bus reaches women's colleges like Ethiraj or Women's Christian College.

Quite often their attempts to daredevilry of jumping into a moving bus used to end up as damp squibs. Once as the bus left a stop a guy started sprinting towards it, but to his dismay, a lamp post came on his way and he was forced to slow down. By then the bus sped away, leaving him to fret over his tough luck.

In another instance, a guy nearly got into the bus after his sprint but his slippery fingers gave way and he fell off. As the bus was not moving fast the impact of the fall was not that strong.

As the bus moved on I peered through the window and saw him spring back on his feet in a jiffy. As this happened in the month of May - the 'high noon' of Agni Natchathiram, Chennai was at its searing best with the tar on the road close to the melting point. So probably for him, it may have seemed like landing on molten lava and hence he got up quite unmindful of his pain!

Needless to say, they were a perpetual nuisance for other commuters, especially while boarding and alighting. And I often used to wonder what type of woman gets impressed by such buffoonery!

Also Read: Bangalore Short Takes

Monday, 27 May 2019

Inimitable Keshu


When he came into our lives he was a tiny little bunch of fur, small enough to fit in our palm. He was very delicate with his prominent head dwarfing other body parts.

My wife found him abandoned outside and decided to provide him a home. We took out a long-abandoned perforated plastic box with a lid from the loft and stuffed it with some old clothes to set up his new abode.

He was motionless and weak, and we were clueless as to what should we feed. Mostly he lay curled with his head buried between his body and the curled up tail.

My zoology-deficient mind was caught in a three-way dilemma - whether a squirrel is a reptile, mammal or a rodent. I sought refuge in the universal Mr. Know All - Google search, which enlightened me that our new visitor is an Indian palm squirrel or three-striped palm squirrel. It is of class Mammalia and order Rodentia.

Knowing about its mammalian link, we decided to feed it water and milk. But that was easier said than done.

We had to rummage through our medicine box to look for a filler that probably came along with tonics my daughter took in her childhood.

But making him drink milk was like taking the proverbial horse to water. Whenever it complied to take milk or water, half of it used to spill out through the sides of his mouth. Later we switched over to a syringe, minus the needle, and it proved more effective. But feeding him continued to remain a challenge.

On the back of our minds, there was this worry whether this little fella would survive this delicate stage without his mother's love and care. Will our faith and a daily dose of a few drops of Nandini milk help him see through.

However a week later he started showing signs of activity. He began moving around within the box. Soon the confines of the box became restrictive and we began letting him gambol around in the bed.

He soon began climbing on to our hands and shoulders and found it very cozy to hide in the tresses of my wife and daughter. Quite often only the tail will be visible. Hence we named him 'Keshu', taken from Sanskrit word Kesh, which means hair.

Keshu soon began taking solid food and oats became his initial favourite, which later got replaced with cooked rice. Perched on his hind legs he would use his forelimbs to hold the morsel as he fervently nibbled. He later developed a taste for wood and began nibbling away my daughter's pencils and edges of wooden furniture.

He also soon discovered his way to the window sill and it became his favourite haunt. We kept the window permanently shut to prevent him from going out. Climbing up the window grills became his favourite past time and when he was exhausted he would languidly relax on the window sill. It was indeed a sight to behold - with all his four legs stretched apart to make the most of the sunshine. His idea of sunbathing.

Needless to say, the window sill required much more frequent cleaning due to his droppings and leftover food. 

The much famed three stripes became more distinct on Keshu's back and he became very swift in his movement with lightning reflexes. He turned out to be an artful dodger and I soon found it almost impossible to catch him. My wife and daughter, however, had a better success rate in this respect. It became a challenge to put him to bed at night inside the box.

Whenever he is not seen on the window sill or the bed, we used to feel concerned and immediately launch a search for this little fella. The usual suspect locations used to be under the pillow or blanket. Sometimes he won't be there either, thereby raising our worries and apprehensions. Then out of nowhere, we would find a moving protuberance under the bedsheet, pillow cover or blankets. It would move randomly then at the end of the sheet his head would pop out. 

Keshu was quite a natural in Houdini act. He would always improvise new ways to make himself disappear from our clear sight. We always had this fear that we might end up accidentally sitting on him while he is busy with one of his vanishing tricks. Hence were quite mindful while sitting on the bed or reclining on the pillow.

Gradually Keshu began exploring other rooms. He would climb up the sofa in the drawing room and recline on top of the headrest. Sometimes he would snuggle and bury himself between the cushions, sending us on a panic-stricken hunt.

While browsing my laptop on my study table, all of a sudden I would experience a pinch of his claws on my shoulder. He would undertake a Spiderman type leap from the bed on to my shoulder and then descend to the study table through my hand that is wielding the mouse.

We used to take him out into the balcony under strict supervision as we feared he might fall off or get attacked by predators such as crows or even bigger squirrels. At the balcony, he loved climbing on to the flower pots and savouring the flowers. The flowers from nearby Tabebuia Rosea tree that used to fall on our balcony was an added attraction.

He once gave us real fright after he fell off the balcony. Some frantic runs downstairs and timely alert to our apartment watchmen saved the day.

Soon we realised it was almost three months since Keshu came to our house. He had grown up in size, though still not large enough to be a full grown squirrel and the tail still not that bushy.

It had also become much more mature. When he used to feel sleepy at night he would descend from the window pane, or wherever he was, and get into his sleeping box on his own, bury himself up with clothes and call it a day. We would later put on the lid, which he will knock open from inside the next day to come out.

Then we decided to let him enter the final frontier - climbing trees. The Tabebuia Rosea nearby had branches abutting our balcony railings. We even used a tiny rope to tie up one of the branches with our balcony railings so that he could easily move from tree to balcony. 

When we first released him, Keshu gingerly moved on the branch and after going a few feet returned to the balcony. Gradually he began gaining confidence and the duration of his outings became longer. He started venturing into extreme ends of branches and even started jumping from one branch to another.

However, whenever Keshu was out we used to anxiously keep a watch from our balcony to see whether he was out of harm's way. He was savouring every moment of his outdoor sojourn - nibbling at barks, flowers and some mysterious objects he found on trees which he used to fondly hold on his forelimbs and nibble. But whenever he felt hungry or tired, he used to climb back to the balcony through the 'ropeway'.

For a couple of days, it went smoothly. Then one day a pair of squirrels, both full grown ones, who were in an adjoining tree, sighted Keshu and approached him. He grew scared and beat a hasty retreat. After giving them a chase he managed to land in our balcony. Keshu looked very tensed and refused to go back to the tree and preferred to stay at the window sill for the rest of the day.

However the next day he seemed to have forgotten the unsavoury episode and left for tree outing and it was more or less incident free for a couple of days.

Then he came across a lone squirrel, which later proved to be his nemesis. This squirrel used to hang around the terrace room of a building opposite to ours and used to lord over the Tabebuia tree. He perceived Keshu as a threat, an intruder into his territory.

Whenever he happened to see Keshu on the tree he would launch a chase. And Keshu would valiantly run towards the balcony by performing some daredevil jumps from one branch to another (making us miss a few beats) and romp home.

This went on for a few days and one day while I was at the office I got a call from home. "Keshu has run away," said my wife. I was struck with dumb despair and could not comprehend. Then she explained that when Keshu went on a tree outing, he failed to notice his rival lying in wait amid the thick cover of leaves. He sprang a sudden ambush and it disoriented Keshu, who lost his balance and fell on the road below.

Though my daughter rushed downstairs to catch him, it was too late. He had crossed the road and got into a vacant but densely wooded plot that was walled and had an imposing gate that was locked. Keshu got in from the gap below the gate and climbed on to one of the trees there. It was nearly dark and we also did not know who owned the plot.

The next day we managed to contact the plot owner, who stayed in the house located in the next plot. The house owner, an elderly woman with US settled children, was cooperative and opened the gates of the empty plot for us. However, we could not spot Keshu though there were many squirrels, of various sizes, chirping on a mango tree that was loaded with fruits. Probably sensing our disappointment the house owner offered us a few mangoes.

Though quite often while discussing Keshu's future we had always accepted that one day we would have to let him go - after all, he is a creature of trees. But the fact that it happened so abruptly was something we found very difficult to come to terms with. All three of us were struck with a pang of despair as we cleaned up the window sill and put back the plastic box, Keshu's abode for a few months, on to the loft.

Postscript: We did not remove the rope used to tie up the branch with our balcony railings, hoping that Keshu may someday find his way to our house.

Also Read: Bangalore Short Takes    

Saturday, 6 April 2019

The Troll Mantra


Hitting above the belt is a strict no-no. It is a sign of a lack of killer instinct. Anyone doing so will immediately be pink (or saffron) slipped.

Political discourse is meant to be debased. We should see it as a bottomless abyss. The moment people think ‘ok, it can’t get any worse’, we should spring a surprise by plunging to new depths.

Red lines are for the sissies. We should see every such line as a new frontier to be crossed.

Knowledge of choicest expletives should be your second nature, as they form the crucial building blocks of our arguments. Ability to coin new pejorative terms (for example sickular, presstitute) would be an added plus and richly rewarded.

Making the opponents and our readers feel perpetually nauseated should be our all abiding motto and we should work tirelessly with amoralist fervour.

The other elements include a gift for sophistry, whataboutery, and demonization. All these tools should be used as and when the situation demands.

If you or your leader is under attack, try to look for skeletons in the opponents’ closet. If not manufacture one. Referring Postcard News can be handy, make that your home page.

Another time-tested tactic should be to deflect the issue by whataboutery. This who-cast-the-first-stone argument helps in immobilizing opponents and misleading people.

Keep in mind some important dates such as 1947 (Congress raj began) and 1984 (anti-Sikh riots), 1975 (Emergency) and 2014 (the advent of Ram Rajya).

Depending on the context hurl back the questions. If it is on the slow pace of development then ask: ‘What good has happened in the last 70 years since 1947?’. If it is about riots and communal atrocities then ‘Where were you in 1984?’. For matters related to the curtailment of civil liberties ‘Why you did not speak up during Emergency?’.

If none of the above work, then there is Jawaharlal Nehru, the ultimate fail-safe option. Even more than 50 years after his death, India’s first prime minister has the unenviable reputation of being the most invoked scapegoat and demonized for all the ills plaguing the country.

Lastly, to blow one’s own trumpet there is always UNESCO. This UN wing is a low hanging fruit and its officials sitting in distant shores have no idea what all gets concocted under its name and gets lapped up as gospel truth on Indian WhatsApp groups.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Working class heroes: Apna Time Aaa Gaya


Working class heroes have quietly carved a few sweet spots in the Bollywood box office. Actors like Ayushmann Khurrana and Rajkumar Rao with their boy next paan shop looks and non-filmy backgrounds have succeeded in becoming ‘bankable’ with their movies turning out to be money spinners.

In their movies they hold regular middle-class jobs - a private company executive or a government bureaucrat and move around in two-wheelers or not so fancy hatchbacks like a Wagon R or a Santro and live in very middle-class colonies and apartments. Their love lives also would be far from perfect and sometimes even their love interests need not have ‘heroine’ looks as in Dum Laga Ke Haisha.

However, both Ayushmann and Rajkumar partly owe their success to Amol Palekar, probably the first working class hero with a middle-class background in Bollywood. It was Amol Palekar, who in association with director Basu Bhattacharjee and Hrishikesh Mukherjee painstakingly carved a niche for such characters in the 1970s, when larger than life heroes held a vice-like grip over Bollywood box office.

During my childhood days in the 70s heroes were six-footers with drop-dead looks, while heroines dazzled us with their flawless skin and even more flawless aadarsh Bharatiya naari character, someone above all forms of suspicion.

Those movies were three-hour long dramas with highly formulaic plots, laden with distinctly black and white characters and copious running-round-the-trees duets. Needless to say, our young impressionable minds easily got hooked to it.

Along came Amol Palekar with his aam aadmi demeanour harried about the challenges of life. Back then it seemed sacrilegious to us that a hero could go about the whole movie without even getting involved in a single fisticuff; not court his lady love in fancy cars, but BEST buses and local trains; drive a rickety Lambretta scooter or Standard Herald car. No Impala or Ford Mustang car chases, no horse riding ... tsk tsk, how can he be a hero!! We wondered.

After some initial tut-tutting people started warming up to him thinking that cinema need not always be an escape from reality, a little dose of realism with a pleasant middle-class setting as a prop was welcome.

Then came guys like Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri, and it led to further unlearning of our concept of heroes. They came with hard as nails reality and provided a peek into life in lower middle class and slum localities. It took a lot of time for people to appreciate their style of acting.

Their legacy was carried forward by the likes of Manoj Bajpai and now by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. However, though this particular category enjoys greater critical acclaim, its bankability in the box office is low.



Monday, 4 March 2019

Goa: Weighed Down by Desi Beats

Goa has been a land of languid charm. It is how it has been picturized in cartoons by Mario Miranda and mainstream Bollywood movies. While early Bollywood movies had easy going happy-go-lucky anglo-Indian characters longing to go back to Goa, or some wine drinking, cigarette smoking vamp with names like Suzy or Rosy (often played by Helen), who stood as a foil to the sanskari heroines; the new ones show new age millennials from Mumbai and other cities heading to its famous beaches to let their hair down.

I never had the fortune to visit Goa during its halcyon day of the 1970s, the high noon of its much-vaunted hippie counter-culture, as I was still in school. The now-defunct Illustrated Weekly of India and Caravan, in its earlier avatar, used to sometimes carry photo features of hedonistic life in Goa, the annual carnival and the King Momo.

It stood in stark contrast to the social mores, steeped in prudery, of the rest of the country. As if to make up for all that monkish deprivation, now every domestic tourist visiting Goa hopes to see the fruition of the fantasy he had nurtured after seeing those magazines or watching films.

Though the emergence of Kerala and coastal Karnataka as tourism destination took some sheen off Goa, the erstwhile Portuguese colony still retains its charm as its society is more open and permissive than in other parts of India, especially with regard to dressing and drinking.

While it has been a repeat holiday destination for many, I happened to go there only twice - first in the 1990s and then this year. In the 90s itself, it was facing the onslaught of domestic tourists(especially those from the cow belt), but Goa back then was somehow holding on to its Western ethos. Moreover, those were early days of satellite television and the hold of MTV and Channel V was quite strong.

During the evening boat cruise on Mandovi river at Panjim, the musicians back then used to play the popular MTV pop chart busters such as Cecilia, the boy bands - Backstreet Boys and Boyzone and of course Michael Jackson.

The audience comprised people from the rest of India with some extended families, including grandparents in some cases, and north Indian newlywed couples with women wearing the traditional red and white bangles right up to elbows. It used to be a pretty uptight affair with the audience listening or foot tapping as the musicians played along.

Even the dress code observed by domestic tourists back then was pretty formal with most women wearing salwar kameez and men clad in shirts and trousers or jeans. Skin show? - Leave it to foreigners.

The boat cruise this year was a boisterous affair, bordering on riotousness, with DJs belting out latest tapori Bollywood numbers, the one to which a Ranveer Singh or Arjun Kapoor may gyrate to on screen and the crowd was more than eager to shake a leg. The compere was talking only in Hindi and exhorting them to come to the stage as they have come to Goa to 'enjoy'.

The dress code too had undergone a drastic change. Young brides still adhered to traditional red and white bangles, but salwar kameez and sarees have given way to tank tops, capris and even hot pants, to make the most of the short respite from Sanskari mores of their home towns. There were also much fewer extended families in sight.

Another major game changer was the mobile phone. My last visit was during pre-cellphone and even pre-digital camera days. One had to keep in mind the number of clicks and the exposures left on the film roll. 

Hence narcissism back then was purely mirror-centric and the word selfie was not even coined. But now thanks to smartphones and social media it has spilled over to the streets and every public place. In short, the selfie affliction has reached pandemic proportions. Every hawker or knick-knack seller had a small stock of selfie sticks to cash in on this obsession.

The beaches were swarming with those looking for the fulfillment of their long-held fantasies triggered by yesteryear movies like Dum Maaro Dum or Dil Chahta Hai, or more recent Dear Zindagi. I visited the Candolim beach (it happened to be a Sunday) and it resembled Mumbai's Chowpatty Beach during Ganesh immersion festivities or Chennai's Marina Beach on Kaanum Pongal. With free-flowing alcohol unshackling them from their repressions, the crowd was noisy and unruly, with some ugly brawls thrown in.

While driving through Goa I was quite fascinated to see some old tiled roof mansions with Portuguese sounding names beginning with words like 'Casa' and 'Cidade'. But like most ancestral homes they were well past their glory days. Some were so dilapidated that they gave the impression that no human habitation has taken place for decades. They had missing roofing tiles, moss-ridden walls and the front courtyard had lavish toppings of dry leaves accumulated over the years.

The whole state seems to have turned into a road contractors' Mecca with road widening, concretization in full swing in many stretches. I was also quite baffled by the number of flyovers being built, though the traffic volumes on Goa's streets and highways seemed hardly compelling enough to warrant it.

The copious Mandovi river already has two bridges and now a third one was complete. With pillars 15 metres taller than that of existing bridges, this cable-stayed bridge looks too imposing and appears to be a clone of the famous Golden Gate bridge of San Francisco. I am sure that for future tourists it is going to be a mandatory prop for photo ops.

However, concerns are being raised about its environmental impact as the starting ramp of the bridge at one end begins on a mangrove. Moreover, some construction experts have raised doubts about whether the bridge will be able to cope with the 'wind load', especially during monsoon months when the wind speeds are high.

Lastly, those who are fond of fish and seafood, Goa is a place worth checking out as the options are sumptuous. Burp!

Also Read: Bangalore Short Takes