Feb 21, 2011

Labour Death Counter - Bangalore

No. Dead
Nov 7, 04
Commercial Building,
RT Nagar
Dec 14, 06
Infosys Campus
May 12, 08
Luxury Appt, Banerghatta Road
Sep 27, 08
MG Road
Oct 24,  08
Prestige Shantinikethan
Dec 09, 08
Prestige Shantinikethan -II
Jan 28, 11
Under Pass, Hennur
Feb 2, 2011
Banerghatta Road
May 6, 2011
Building site of ex- CM  Dharam Singh

More to Come

Total  Dead

Dec 27, 2010

Adfilm Shootout

START ..  CAMERA…ACTION    Jeeth called out

A white sedan is  parked on a village road with three tracks - lush green in the middle and solidified red path on the sides. The road goes straight for about hundred meters between a fully pregnant paddy field and turns left.

Ben dressed in formals walks hastily towards the car . He slings the woolen sweater on to his shoulder as he walks.  The harassed look on his face is amplified by the calm chill in the air. He is closely tracked by Akash – the domestic help with a timid look as if his whole life depended on Ben. Ben pays no attention, gets  into the car, closes the door with a thud  and starts it. Akash follows the car as it revs up slowly with his hands folded asking for Ben’s forgiveness. Ben ignores and speeds away.

CUT .. CUT …the director Jeeth called out. “ For god’s sake Akash… can’t you feel it. You need to look desperate. This is taking too long”   and walked to grab a cup of coffee.

A makeup man brushed Akash’s face off the sweat. This is not going per plan, he thought.  Countless hours spend rehearsing the expression and movement for this role. His guru used to savor him sparring with co-actors at theater workshops.  But roles were not easy to come and auditions were a mere ritual. Every one wanted to work within the comfort zone of known actors or ones who came with references. Without contacts in the actors mafia and circumscribed social skills Akash could never land up in good roles. He was almost giving up when he came across Jeeth few weeks back.

Jeeth was a close buddy of the mad advertising days. Days where Akash believed that  one has to be defined by their work. Campaigns for undies to sugar water - they had been through it all until one day Akash snapped and quit the make believe. Jeeth limped a little more and resigned to wander a bit. The lust for unknown propelled him to places far and wide , the Bombay ad world, managing communications for a health resort that turned out to be elaborate money laundering venture and a host of others.  Finally he landed up as an ad film maker in his home town and made it in a few years.  Not as a success with money and power. But with a string of uncompromising films that took the adworld  by its clarity of purpose.  The wild bunch met over arrack after a chance encounter at a concert, chastised by the years in between. That is when it took off. Jeeth was casting for a new film and  Akash seemed to fit perfectly.

For Akash this role meant a entry to the world of fantasy. For him a character was a tool to explore the depths of his mindscape. Akash pitted again himself. He fought with it, loved it and even imagined how the character made love. The Freudian approach to character building injected a strong dose of realism into his performances. No wonder the times that he played Iago in a modern adaptation of Othello was when his marriage broke up, irretrievably. By then he was smitten by the acting bug and quit his regular job. A good performance in Jeeth’s ad film will get him in the view finder of film czar’s and a maybe meatier role in the feature film that Jeeth was secretly scripting.

“By the power of grey skull I haaaaave the power” he roared inside as Jeeth cranked up for the next take.
This one was more forceful and came from the depths of kundalini. He dug into the hearts of all the maids who looked after him while his parents very busy going up the corporate ladder.  It came effortlessly. The quality of emotion varies only in tones. You just have to be able to project your pain to another.

“CUT, that was good” called out Jeeth as he canned the shot and moved towards the next.

“Thank God”      

Ben got out of the car and they started walking towards the next shot. It was set in slightly elevated platform after the sharp left turn ahead. The crew was setting up the lights and equipment. A buffalo with a white tuft between the muddy horns dragged its head from the thick undergrowth and gawked intensely at Akash as if he were a star.  He   chuckled at the ovation.

Abruptly a loud clamor erupted from where the new shot was being set. There were sounds of metal clanking and a boom from a blast. Jeeth was shouting for help on the top of his voice. The buffalo darted away with a below that shook the life out them. They scurried in top speed towards the turn which was a little far. As they were running an open Jeep advanced threateningly waving swords, metal sheaths and daggers like mahakali of ten hands. A gang of screaming rowdies, swinging swords asymmetrically, chopped the foliage and anything that came in between. Akash hopped away from the road to evade the trajectory of an iron rod that hissed death.

He puffed and gasped beyond the turn to the scene. The musical show set designed  by the art team was thrashed into a temple ground after the festival. Destruction was all around. Light bulbs and glass pieces powdered the floor. The cutter stands bend to gravity defying shapes and sets chopped with the plaster of paris clinging in oddball shapes. He rushed towards Jeeth perched on the edge of the set - a cutter stand on him. They had sprayed a bucket of red paint from the art team all over him. He was alright but for a minor bruise on his left arm. Light boys, art director and others in the set were limping back to their frames over a layer of smoke, their spirits sullied.

Jeeth hitched on to a stool as he scanned the remnants of the sets - dreams beaten to pulp. This was to be his last. Ad-films is not what  he wanted to do. Peddling a rotten  whisky or making a murky builder look cool. Advertising had lost all its sanity  - dressing up a pile of crap into a femme fatale, complete with oomph and character. But there was money in pimping and he needed it, to make his feature debut.  Being a national brand there were loads of cash in this project. He just had to deliver on time and the feature film was in sight – not as a reams of paper that it had been for the last ten years. But there it was razed to the ground like a pack of cards.

“What happened ? ‘ Akash called out in anxiety.

“Those  were Mini’s goons” 

“Mini who” Akash cried out. Then he realized. It was a couple of days ago. Akash had been with Jeeth since the start of this ad-film helping him out with creative inputs and running errands. Busy days usually ended at a local bar, over rice brew and choicest sea food. The conversation was good with an eclectic mix of mill workers, fishermen, traders etc and always bordered on the political. They were discussing the candidates for the municipal elections once and  Jeeth with his strong center of left politics went ballistic on Mini the current member from the ward. She hadn’t done much  except for pushing the contracts for her loafer husband called Mr fifteen percent for the cut he demanded from municipal projects. Few folks in the next table who had come after Mini’s election campaign didn’t take kindly to Jeeth’s diatribe and picked up the argument. The political animal in Jeeth got unleased and he challenged them for a bet that Mini would be defeated in polls and would loose her margin money. Akash had to be at his persuasive best to get Jeeth out of the bar that night.

“Is she crazy to take a bar brawl so seriously” Akash couldn’t help.

Mini was defeated badly in the elections as Jeeth predicted. Maybe this was her way of getting back at Jeeth for declaring the obvious.

“They have taken the camera and all the lighting equipment. My film is dead even before it is born” Jeeth was beaten. Akash looked around. If only they could get the camera they could continue with the shoot. The production guys can arrange the smaller equipment and sets pretty quickly he thought. They could atleast restart the shoot tomorrow. It was important for him too.

“Let me try talking to my brother” Akash sparked. His brother was a contractor in the Municipality and was in first name terms with Mini’s Husband. Maybe he could broker a compromise. There is quite a lot at stake here for everyone. The sets were bumping back into action. The whole incident was big fight sequence to the production boys and they were back in business after it.

Akash’s brother called back. Apparently he had arranged for a compromise discussion and Jeeth had to meet Mini. But the skeptic in  Jeeth  lost the verve to fight, even to salvage his reputation as a filmmaker. Akash had to nudge with all sorts of dire consequences to get him for the meeting.  They drove through winding roads to Mini’s den – a beautiful compound  with impressive brick house in the middle.

Mini was perched on a reclining chair with her cohorts around. They walked in and stood sheepishly in her durbar. Did it beat Jeeth to think that a Woman was reigning over his destiny.  He hadn’t seen her much earlier , but  She looked very familiar. It had a calmness that reminded him of someone. yes ..yes  the lead character in his film- the one for which he had sweated all this while. It swiftly hit on Jeeth. Hers was the demeanor that remained elusive, a middle aged mother struggling with a paraplegic son. Money woes apart he never could identify a face true to role.  In all the auditions for ad films he was secretly looking for that unique face- a continence that takes all the pain in the world with a smile. And there she was, at the most unexpected of places. Jeeth cried Eurekaaa inside.

“Do you remember me?” asked Mini stoically. “I had auditioned for an ad-film with you . The one for an ayurvedic soap.”. That was his fist film done at a shoestring budget for a client who was bend on selecting the models himself. But he couldn’t remember her from the hundreds he auditioned.

“She is too dark for the role. That’s how you dismissed me”

Nov 8, 2010

ചെക്ക്‌ പോസ്റ്റ്‌

അക്ഷരതെറ്റുകള്‍ ക്ഷമിക്കുക. ഇംഗ്ലീഷില്‍ മലയാളം എഴുതാന്‍ പഠിച്ചു വരുന്നതെയുള്ളു.

രാവിലെ ബൈകുമായ് ഇറങ്ങമ്പോള്‍ ഇങ്ങനെ ഒരു സ്ഥലതെതെമെന്നു വിചാരിച്ചിരുന്നില്ല. ഒന്‍പതരയോടെ ഞാന്‍ ഇടുങ്ങിയ ഒഫീസ്സില്‍ എത്തിയിരുന്നു. കാര്യം ഇടുങ്ങിയതണെങ്ങിലും ഇവിടം ഇച്ചിരി ഭംഗിയൊക്കെ ഉണ്ട്കേട്ടോ. കോണ്‍ക്രീറ്റ് കൊണ്ടുള്ള നരകത്തില്‍ എന്റെ ഓഫീസ് ഒരു വേറിട്ട കാഴ്ചയായിരുന്നു . മെയിന്‍റോഡില്‍നിന്ന് അല്പം മാറി ഒരു രണ്ടു നില കെട്ടിടം . വളരെ പണിപെട്ടലെ ഉള്ളില്‍ ഒരു വീടുണ്ടെന്നു പുറത്തുനിന്നാല്‍ കാണുക ഉള്ളു. റോഡിനു ചേര്‍ന്ന് നിര നിരയായി പലതരം മരങ്ങള്‍, നാനാ വര്‍ണങളിലുള്ളബോഗൈ൯വില്ലകള്‍ എല്ലെം പടര്ര്‍ന്ന് പന്ദ്ദലിച്ചു മുറ്റം ഒരു ചെറിയ കുറ്റികാടു തന്നെ ആയിരുന്നു. പണ്ടെങ്ങോഇവിടെ വളരെ അഠിത്യമുള്ള ഒരു കുടംബം ജീവിച്ചിരിക്കണം . മെയിന്‍ റോഡിനോട് ചെര്നുള്ള ഒരു ഇരുമ്പ് ഗറെറ്റിന്‍ഉള്ളുടെ വേണം അകത്തു കടക്കാന്‍.

ഒരു ഒറ്റയടി പാത ഗേറ്റില്‍ നിന്ന് വീട് വരേ നിവര്‍ന് കിടന്നു. അതിനു ഇരു വശവും നല്ല കട്ടിയോടു കൊടിയ പഴയ തരാം പുല്ല് . കാലത്തിന്റെ ഒഴുക്കില്‍ പെട്ട് ഒണങ്ങി തടിച്ചു അങ്ങിങ്ങായി നിന്നിരുന്ന ചില റോസാ തണ്ടുകള്‍. അതില്‍ ഒന്നില്‍ വളരെ വൈകി പ്രസവിച്ച പോലെ ഒരു വെള്ള റോസാ. പാതയുടെ വലതു വശത്തുള്ള മുറ്റത്തിന്റെ ഒത്ത നട്ക്ക് യവന മത്രികയിലുള്ള ഒരു പ്രതിമ കയ്യില്‍ വെള്ളം എന്നോ നിലച്ചൊരു ജല്ധാരയുംമായി ആരെയോ കാത്തു നില്‍കുന്ന പോലെ. അതിന്റെയ ചുറ്റും ജല്ധാരക് വേണ്ടിയുള ചെറിയ ഒരു തടാകം. വഴി ചെന്ന് നില്കുന്നത് വീടിന്റെ ഇട്തുവഴതുള്ള ഒരു ചെറിയ കോവണിയിലാണ് . പണ്ടെങ്ങോ വെള്ള പൂശിയ കോവണിയും അതിന്റെ മതിലും പൂപല്‍ പിടിച്ചു ഇരുണ്ട നിരംയിരുണ്ണ്‍ . കോവണി കേറി ചെന്നിനിടതുള്ള ഒരു ഒറ്റമുരിറിയായിരുന്നു ഞങ്ങളുടെയ ഓഫീസ് . അങ്ങിങ്ങായി പലതരം ഫയലുകള്‍ അട്ടിയിട്ടു വച്ചിരിക്കുന്നു. അധികമാരും അങ്ങിനെ വരാത്ത സ്ഥലമായതിനാല്‍ വൃത്തിയാക്കാന്‍ ആരും വന്നിരിന്നില്ല.

രാവിലെ ഞാന്‍ അങ്ങിനെ ഓഫീസില്‍ വരാറില്ല. ശരിക്കും എനിക്ക ഒഫീസ്സില്‍ തന്നേ പോകണ്ട കാര്യമില്ല. മദ്രാസിലുള ഒരു സ്ഥപനിതിന്റെ ഇവിടതെ ഓഫീസ് മാനേജര്‍ ആയി ആണെന്റെ ജോലി. പട്ടണത്തിലുള്ളപഴയതും പുതിടിയതുമായ ഇടപാടുകാരെ ഇടകൊന്നു പോയി കാണുക, പുതിയ ഉത്പന്നങ്ങള്‍ വിപണിയില്‍ ഇറങ്ങുമ്പോള്‍ അതിന്റെ ഒരു സാമ്പിള്‍ എത്തിച്ചു കൊടുക്കുകാ, ചെറുതും വലുതുമായ അവരുടെയ പ്രശനങ്ങള്‍ ഹെഡ്ഒഫീസില്‍ റിപ്പോര്‍ട്ട്‌ ചെയ്യുക , കുസ്ടൊമെര്സിന്ടെ ഓര്‍ഡര്‍ എടുക്കുക തുടങ്ങിയ ചില കാര്യയങ്ങള്‍ മാത്രമേ എനിക്ക് ചെയണ്ടിയതോളു. സാദാരണ ഞാന്‍ വീട്ടില്‍ നിന്ന് നേരെ ഇടപാടുകാരുടെ അടുത്ത് പോകുകയാണ്പതിവ്. ഇന്ന് പക്ഷെ ഹെഡ് ഓഫീസിലുള്ള റാം വിളിച്ചു ഒരു സാമ്പിള്‍ ആയച്ചിടുന്ടെന്നും അതുമായിപട്ടണത്തിന്റെ അതിര്‍ത്തിയിലുള്ള ഒരു വ്യവസായ ശാലയില്‍ എത്തണമെന്ന് പറഞ്ഞതിനാലാണ് എനിക്ക്ഓഫ്സില്‍ വരണ്ടി വന്നത്. സാമ്പിള്‍ എന്റെ ബാഗിലാക്കി ഞാന്‍ ഓഫ്സില്‍ നിന്ന് ഇറങ്ങി.

ബൈകുലൂടെ ചില ഇടവഴിക താണ്ടി ഞാന്‍ യാത്ര തൊടങ്ങി. വ്യവസായശാല ഇരിക്കുന്ന സ്ഥലം ഞാന്‍ അധികം പോകാത്ത ഒരു ഭാഗത്തായിരുന്നു. പട്ടണത്തിന്റെ പഴയ ഭാഗവും കടന്നു വളരെ ദൂരം താണ്ടി വേണം അവിടെഎത്താന്‍‍. കാലങ്ങളായി പുറം ഗ്രമാങ്ങിളില്‍ നിന്ന് വന്നവര്‍ തിങ്ങി പാര്‍ത്തിരുന്നു ചെറിയ ഗലികളില്‍ ആയിരുന്നുഇരു വശത്തും. ഞാന്‍ ബൈകുമായി കാഴ്ചകള്‍ കണ്ടു നീങ്ങി. പതിയെ ജനവാസം കുറഞ്ഞു വന്നു. ഇപ്പോള്‍ നല്ലപച്ചപുള സ്ഥലമാണ്‌ ഇരു വശവും. കൂടുതുലും ആപ്പിള്‍ തോട്ടങ്ങളായിരുന്നു, ഇടയ്ക്കു കൃഷി ചെയ്യതെ ഇട്ടു തഴച്ചു വളരുന്നചില തൊടികളും. ചുറ്റുമുള്ള വശ്യ ഭംഗി ആസ്വദിച്ച് ഞാന്‍ ബൈക്ക് പതിയെയ ഓടിചു.

റോഡ്‌ ഇടത്തോട്ട് പെട്ടന്ന് തിരിഞ്ഞു. വേരെയ വഴിയൊന്നും ശ്രടയില്‍ പെടാതതിനാല്‍ ഞാന്‍ തിരുവെടുത്തു. വഴി കൊറെ കൂടി ചെറുതയിയിരുന്നു. പക്ഷെ ഇവിടം കൂടുതല്‍ സുന്ദരമായിരികുന്നു. വഴി തെറ്റിയെനറിഞ്ഞിട്ടും വഴി തന്നെയആണ് ശരി എന്ന പോലെ. ചുറ്റിലെ മാസ്മരികമായ വിജനതയും താണ്ടി പെട്ടന്ന് ഒരു ചെക്ക്‌ പോസ്റ്റ്‌കണ്മറായി . അതിനടുത് പുത്യ തരാം A K 47 തോക്കുകളുമായി മൂന്ന് ജവാന്മാര്‍. ബൈകിന്റെ ശബ്ധം ദൂരെ നിന്ന് കേട്ടഅവര്‍ വഴിലോട്ടു നോക്കി നില്കുകയായിരുന്നു. എന്ത് കൊണ്ടോ പെട്ടന് കണ്ട ചെക്ക്‌ പോസ്റ്റിനു മുന്‍പിലുള പെട്ടികടകരികിലോട്ടു ഞാന്‍ വണ്ടി ഒതുക്കി. ബൈക്കില്‍ നിന്നിറങ്ങി ഒരു സാദാരണ ഭാവത്തില്‍ ഞാന്‍ കടയിലോട്ടു കയറി ഒരു സിഗരറ്റ് ചോദിച്ചു. മരപള്ളികള്‍ കൊണ്ടുണ്ടാക്കിയ കടയില്‍ ഭംഗിയായി സോപ്പ്, പേസ്റ്റ് മുതലായവ അടുക്കി വച്ചിരിരുന്നു.

വഴി ആദ്യമായിട്ടനെന്നു തോന്നുന്നുകടകാരന്‍ ചോദിച്ചു

ഞാന്‍ വ്യവസായശാലയിലോട്ട് വന്നതാ. വഴി കണ്ടപ്പോള്‍ ഒന്ന് കയറി നോകാമെന്നു വിചരിചൂ

അത് കുഞ്ഞെ ഇവിടെ അധികം നില്‍കാന്‍ കൊള്ളത്തില്ല. ദാ ചെക്ക്പോസ്റ്റിനപുറം കൊടും കാടാ . തീവ്രവാദികളുടെ വിഹാര കേന്ദ്രം. ചെക്ക്‌പോസ്റ്റു കഴിഞ്ഞാല്‍ പിന്നെയ ഇന്ത്യന്‍ പോലീസിനും പട്ടാളത്തിനും ഒരുഅധികാരവുമില്ല. അങ്ങനെയ ആരും വഴിയിലൂടെ പോകാറില്ല രണ്ടു പട്ടാളക്കാര്‍ അപ്പോള്‍ എന്നെ തിരക്കി വന്ന പോലെ

ഹുമം" ഒരാള്‍ മുരണ്ടു. ഞാന്‍ സിഗരറ്റ് കുത്തി കെടുത്തി

അതേ സാറെ വഴി തെറ്റി വന്നതാ. ഇവിടെ അടുത്തളാ വ്യവസായശാലയിലോട്ട് പോകണ്ടാത്താകടകാരന്‍ ചാടിപറഞ്ഞു

ഐഡന്റിറ്റി കാര്‍ഡ്‌ വെലാതും ഉണ്ടോ കയ്യില്‍ഞാന്‍ പോക്കറ്റില്‍ കയിട്ടപോഴേക്കും അയ്യാള്‍ ഒരു സിഗരട്ടുംഎടുത്തു തിരിച്ചു നടന്നു കൊണ്ട് പറഞ്ഞു പെട്ടന്ന് തിരിച്ചു വിടോ ഇപ്പോള്‍ പട്രോളിംഗ് വണ്ടി വരും

എന്തോ അവിടെ അകെ ഒരു തരാം നിഘൂടത തലം കെട്ടിയിരിക്കുന്ന പോലെ. ഒന്നഅപ്പറം പോകണമെന്ന് തോന്നി. ഞാന്‍ പട്ടാളക്കാരന് പോയ ഭാഗതോട്ടു നോക്കി അങ്ങനെ നിന്നു. വേറൊരു ലോകം, വേറൊരു പ്രഭാതം, വേറെസമസ്യകള്‍ എന്തോ വിശുധിയുള സ്ഥലം പോലെ ചെക്ക്പോസ്റ്റിനപുറം തോന്നിച്ചു. അങ്ങോട്ട്‌ പോകാന്‍ഉദ്ദേശിചവര്ക് ചെക്ക്പോസ്റ്റ് ഒരു ചെറിയ തടസം മാത്രം . കാട്ടിലൂടെ മറ്റനേകം വഴികളുണ്ടാകും .

എന്റെ ചിന്ത മനസിലാകിയെന്നോണം കടകരനകുഞ്ഞെ ആധികം താമസികണ്ടാസിഗരെടിന്റെ കാശുംകൊടുത്ത ഞാന്‍ കടകരനൊടു സലാം പറഞ്ഞു. ബൈക്ക് സ്റ്റാര്‍ട്ട്‌ ചെയ്തപോല്‍ വീണ്ടും ലോകതോക്ക് ഞാന്‍ഉള്കടമയി ഞാന്‍ നോക്കി. ഇവിടം താണ്ടി ഒരിക്കല്‍ പോകണം

ഫക്ടറിയിലോട്ടുള വഴി കണ്ടു പിടിക്കാന്‍ വലിയ പാട് പെടണ്ട വനില്ല. കയ്യില്‍ കരുതിയിരുന്ന സാമ്പിള്‍ അവിടതെ മാനജറെ ഏല്പിച്ചു ഞാന്‍ പെട്ടന്ന് ഓഫീസിലോട്ട് തിരിച്ചു. പോകുന്ന വഴി ഒക്കെ ചെക്ക്പോസ്റ്റിനപുറംമായിരുന്നു മനസ്സില്‍.

തിരിച്ചു ഓഫീസില്‍ പോകുന്ന വഴി മദ്രാസില്‍ നിന്ന് രാമിന്റെ ഫോണ്‍ വീണ്ടുംപെട്ടന്ന് ഓഫീസിലോട്ട് ഒന്ന്വരണം ഞാന്‍ എതികൊണ്ടിരികുകയാണെന്ന് പറഞ്ഞു ഫോണ്‍ വെച്ച്. എന്താ ഇപ്പോള്‍ പെട്ടന്ന് . സാദാരണപുള്ളികാരന്‍ ഇത്ര സംഘര്‍ഷഭരിതനായി കേട്ടിടില്ല. ചുറ്റിലോന്നും ശ്രധികാതെ ഞാന്‍ വണ്ടി വേഗം ഓടിച്ചു.

ഓഫീസിലെതെയാപ്പോള്‍ റാം ഒരു വെരുകിനെ പോലെ അങ്ങോട്ടും ഇങ്ങോട്ടും നടകുന്നു. ഒഫിസിന്റെ വലതുവശതയീ ഒരു മുറി പൂട്ടിയിട്ടിരുന്നു. ഞാന്‍ തന്നെയ വല്ലപോഴുമെ അത് തുറക്കുറൊളു . റാം അതിന്റെ വാതില്‍ തുറന്നഎന്തോ തെരഞ്ഞിരികുന്നു. റൂം എന്തിനു തൊറന്നു എന്നാ ഭാവത്തില്‍ ഞാന്‍ രാമിനെ നോക്കി

രണ്ടാഴച്ചതെക്ക് ഇവിടേയാ എന്റെയ വാസം . രവില്ല താന്‍ പോയ ഫാക്ടറിയില്‍ ചില്ല ജോലികള്‍ ചെയ്യാനുള്ളഓര്‍ഡര്‍ കിട്ടിയിരിക്കുന്നു. നാളെ തന്നെ തുടങ്ങണം പോല്‍ അത് ശരി എന്നാല്‍ എന്തിനയാളെ കുടുസുമുറിയിലോട്ടു പറഞ്ഞു വിട്ടു

ഇവിടെ അടിച്ചു തളി ഒന്നുമില്ലെറാം ക്ഷോഭിച്ചിരുന്നു . ഞാന്‍ മിണ്ടാതെ കുടുസ്സു മുറിയിലോട്ടു കയറി. അതിന്റെമുക്കാല്‍ ഭാഗവും കോളേജ് ഹോസ്റ്റലില്‍ ഉള്ള മാതിരി ഒരു ഇരിമ്പു കട്ടില്‍ ആയിരുന്നു. കട്ടിലിനു മുകളില്‍അട്ടികളായി ഫയലുകളും , രേഖകളും, വര്‍ത്തമാനപ്പത്രങ്ങളും. ബാക്കിയുള്ള സ്ഥലതു ഒരു ചെറിയ മേശ . എല്ലാത്തിനും മുകളില്‍ ഇരിഞ്ചു കട്ടിക്ക് പോടീ. . പതിയെയ ഒരു കേട്ട് ഫയല്‍ ഞാന്‍ എടുതപോള്‍ ചെറിയ പാറ്റകള്‍അങ്ങോട്ടും ഇങ്ങോട്ടോം ഓടി.

ഏതു ദുഷിച്ച സംയ്താണോ ജോലിയില്‍ ചേരാന്‍ തോന്നിയത്റാം വിലപിചൂ. രണ്ടു പേരും കൂടി പിടിച്ചു കട്ടില്‍ പുറത്തിറക്കാന്‍ ഒന്ന് നോക്കി. പക്ഷെ അതിനു വീതി വളരെ കൂടുതല്‍ ആയതിനാല്‍ ചെറിയ വാതിലിലൂടെഅത് ഇറങ്ങുംമായിരുനില്ല . കട്ടില്‍ താഴതിട്ടപോഴാണ് മുകളില്‍ നിന്ന് ഒരു കിളിയുടെ ശബ്ദം. തട്ടിലെ ഓടു ഒരുഭാഗത്ത്‌ മൊത്തമായി പോയിരിക്കുന്നു. പുറത്തുള്ള മാവിന്റെയ ശിഖരങ്ങള്‍ അതിലൂടെയ കാണാമായിരുന്നു. ഉള്ളില്‍ഒരു ചിരിയുമായി രാമിനെ നോക്കിയപൂല്‍ അയ്യാള്‍ ആരോ മരിച്ച പോലെ മുകളിലോട്ടു നോക്കി നില്കുന്നു. അയ്യാല്ളൊടു അല്പം സഹതാപം തോന്നി. രാവിലെ കണ്ട ചെക്ക്പോസ്റ്റ് വീണ്ടും ഓര്മ വന്നു. എങ്ങനെ അവിടംകടനെത്തം എന്നായി വീണ്ടും ചിന്ത.

അപ്പോഴാണു കട്ടിലിന്റെ പുറകു വശത്തൊരു വാതില്‍ കണ്ടത്. മതിലിന്റെ അതെ നിറത്തിലുള്ള പെയിന്റ്ആയതിനാല്‍ പെട്ടെന്ന് ശ്രധികില്ല. വര്‍ഷങ്ങളായുള്ള പൊടിയും കൂടി ആയപ്പോള്‍ വളരെ പണിപെട്ടലെ അത്കാണൂ. കട്ടില്‍ പതിയെ തള്ളി ഞാന്‍ വാതില്‍ തുറന്നു.

വളരെ വൃത്യായി സൂക്ഷിച്ചിരിക്കുന്ന ഒരു ഇടതെകന്നു വാതില്‍ തുറന്നത് . ചുറ്റും ശുഭ്രമായ് വെളുപ്പ്‌. തറയില്‍ വേലു കല്ലുകള്‍ പടിപിചിരിക്കുന്നു. മതിലികളില്‍ പുതിയ തരാം വെള്ള പെയിന്റ്. വെള്ള അടിച്ചിരിക്കുന ജനലുകള്‍ ക്ക്മുകളില്‍ തൂവെള്ള നിറമുള്ള ജനല്‍മറ. മുറിയില്‍ എല്ലാം വെള്ളമയമായിരുന്നു. സ്വപ്നങ്ങളില്‍ കാണാറുള്ള സ്വര്‍ഗംപോലെ. മുറിയുടെ ഒത്ത നടകു മുട്ടതുള്ളത് പോലെയുള്ള ഒരു പ്രതിമ. കയ്യില്‍ ഒരു ജല്ധാരയുംമായി. അതില്‍ നിന്ന്നിരയെയ വെള്ളം വരുന്നുണ്ട്.

സ്വീകരണ മുറിയും താണ്ടി ഒരു ഇടനാഴിയിലോട്ടു ഞാന്‍ നടന്നു. അതിനിരുവശവും അധുനിക രീതിയില്‍ അലങ്ങരിചിരികുന്ന വിസ്ത്രിതിയുള്ള കിടപ്പ്മുറികള്‍ . മുറികള്‍ക്ക് പിന്നില്‍ നല്ല അഭിരിചിയുള്ള ആരുടെയോ ബുദ്ധി പ്രവര്‍ത്തിച്ചിരിക്കണം. വെണ്‍മയായിരുന്നു അവിടെയും. കട്ടിയുള്ള മേത്തക്ക് മുകളില്‍ നല്ലമൃദുവായ വെള്ള വിരി. മൂലയില്‍ വെള്ള ഫ്രെമുള്ള കണ്ണാടി. ഏതോ ഒരു മായിക ലോകതെതിയ പോലെ. ഇത്ര ഭങ്ങിയായി ഒരു മുറി എങ്ങിനെ ഇവിടെ വന്നു ? . ഇത്രും നാളായി ഓഫീസില്‍ വന്നിട്ടും എന്തെ മുറികള്‍ ഞാന്‍ കണ്ടില്ല. വീണ്ടുമൊരു സ്വപ്നത്തിലേക്ക് വഴുതി വീഴുകയാണോ?

Oct 5, 2010

Nation on Selective Amnesia

As the Common Wealth Games juggernaut sets to roll with its pomp and gaiety there are cheer leaders from all sections of the spectrum thumping India has arrived. In the force of this submerging cacophony the one strain that stands out is the metaphor that the Games sort of peaked towards the opening ceremony like a big fat Indian wedding. That despite all the muck that preceded, all crimes of the past are forgiven because the opening circus gave an orgasmic high. And then there was the usual dollops of jingoism that comes with the not so subtle message of the relentless march towards super-powerdom.

No where in recent history has the idea of Manufacturing Consent so clearly substantiated. For weeks on end in the run up towards the games there was a collective fury against the gross mismanagement of the organizing committee. Starting with corruption about contracts to UK based company peaking with the collapse of a footbridge to false ceiling coming of at the weight lifting venue. Then as the opening ceremony got closer everybody apparently learned their lessons overnight whatever was bad about the games got forgotten. It reads like a classic Hollywood script where the hero is put to innumerable conflicts and finally comes out a winner despite all the odds. Can an entire population be hoodwinked into such synchronicity. Why is the debate always hijacked to a safe terrain where the question and answers make no difference.

The question has to start from the propriety of the games. In nation where there has 421 million people live below the poverty line is this 6 billion dollar extravaganza with tax payers money the answer. It is 15 billion by another estimate. Nobody knows and will ever know what it costs for this ten day orgy . This is when the state is slowly withdrawing form vital sectors like education and healthcare. There are elaborate numbers on the economic impact of the games thrown by the organizing committee. But these for now most remains in the area of conjecture. And doesn’t this game reek of colonial arrogance. As recently as 1970 this games was called the British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

Will this mela have an impact in India’s dismal performance in international sports ? Sports administrators across the nation have commented that a minuscule portion of what is spend in the name of games would have helped to create meaningful sports infrastructure and training facilities. This could have helped to recover from the ignobility of a single gold medal in the Beijing Olympics. This billion dollar jamboree is not the answer to India’s problem is world sports

An event of this nature does create construction jobs in large numbers. But a report by a committee appointed by the Delhi high court on the "condition of workers" engaged in construction work is Commonwealth Games sites points is appalling to say the least. Independent investigations have found that more than 70 workers have been killed in accidents at the sites since work began. There is very little regard to the safety of workers mandated when making such grandiose structures. The workers are being made to work in harsh and unsafe conditions without basic amenities. The labor is subcontracted many times over that the average worker pay at the CWG site is 114 while the minimum daily wages mandated in Delhi is Rs. 151.

The ten lakh treadmill that was trumpeted in the media is small change compared to the Rs 2500 crore irregularities uncovered by the Central Vigilance Commission. The report included the use of sub-standard material, rigging of bids, sanctioning of projects which were not needed, favoritism in selection of contractors and private bidders being allowed to tamper with figures post-auction. A Tehleka report points to organizing committee Secretary Kalmadi’s ingenuity in awarding contracts : find a foreign firm to act as a partner in crime, then tilt the rules in such a way that no domestic competitor met the requirements. Kalmadi’s killer clause in all the tenders is that the companies making bids should have “relevant experience of working with sports events”. Thus a firm which manufactures generators was disqualified because it had never supplied its products for a sports event. That is why gensets are coming from abroad — so are furniture, treadmills, toilet paper and sanitary napkins. The size and contour of the corruption basket will only be larger if the governmental agencies would have the gut to go behind this.

CWG is a smart enterprise to channel public funds to the rich and needy under the pretext of nationalism-on-viagra. With all the shady deals that has gone into it, the only hope is that some kind of disaster doesn’t strike while the games are on. Not because it will injure the cause of India. But it will be irredeemable loss to the families.

Jun 20, 2010

Corporate Psychopath and Carlton Towers

An oft repeated narrative after the Carlton Towers fire is the government’s lethargy in addressing the concerns of the victims and the lack of institutional mechanisms to avert similar events. But in the humdrum of the diatribe against the state, there is a class which conveniently chooses to be blind-eyed about its responsibilities – the Corporates. The Carlton tower tragedy is a definitive case of corporate negligence and culpability as much as it is a case of state antipathy.

Risk assessment, mandated in western countries including the U.K and USA where many of the finance companies affected at Carlton Towers are headquartered is a thing of the past. Circumstantial evidence at Carlton Towers shows how little attention corporates paid to this important requirement. One of the companies had converted the fire exits into office space locking all the exit doors – a key piece which significantly delayed the response of the rescue team. . A private equity fund had senior personnel from Philippines to fire audit the companies it had invested in, but did not think it important enough to do a similar audit for its own office. A lot of these holier-than-thou companies would have gone bust if a similar event had happened in their headquarters. The Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007 in UK sets out to heavily penalize an organization where a failure in the way activities were managed or organized results in a person’s death.

The same sloppiness extends to their dad-to-day operations. Fire drills are passé. Most employees didn’t even know the location of the fire exits. A global major which provides real estate consultancy and advises clients on safety issues didn’t even have a smoke alarm which could have averted death and other injuries in their office.

But their conduct post tragedy has showed their real cold bloodedness. The best settlement done by the real estate major mentioned above was peanuts compared to what the company might have had to shell out in case they had to make a similar settlement elsewhere. A private equity fund made some verbal promises but has not done anything for the families of three employees who passed away. The relatives already beaten by the emotional trauma are in no mood to fight. And even if they want to put up a fight these companies would hide behind the legalize denying even the paltry sum they have committed in some cases. For the families it is a case of beggars can’t be choosers.

The treatment meted out to the injured is no better. A private equity firm promised to foot hospital expenses so that their injured employee could be shifted to a private room from the ICU as the government reimbursement covered only ICU+general ward expenses or none at all. As the hospitalization got extended and costs increased, the firm changed its stance citing that their head office in London would not approve of it. The affected had to go to the general ward where she was repeatedly struck with infections and is still far from recovery. An employee who was the point man for the company commented cryptically “Let us accept that she is poor and can’t go to a private room,” like the seven figure salaried MD of his company.

The plight of contract employees is better not said. The family of a deceased office boy who was the sole bread winner of the family has not received any compensation from his company and calls to the company head honchos by his family remain unanswered. A badly injured housekeeping lady contracted from a leading housekeeping service provider in Bangalore has not received her salary from March nor any reimbursement of her medical expenses. This is when her monthly salary is a paltry three thousand rupees. The dichotomy here is that these companies could have been sued for millions of dollars in their home countries for similar behavior. Unfortunately in India, corporate laws on workplace accidents are not well defined.

Where is the corporate social responsibility that head honchos of these companies profess from all possible pulpits. The companies in this case showed all symptoms of a corporate psychopath as expounded by the cult documentary “The Corporation” - Callous disregard for the feelings of other people, reckless contempt for the safety of others, and the failure to conform to social norms and respect for the law. With the focus on the responsibility of the Carlton Towers owners association and the state authorities in the tragedy, it has become easy for corporates to conceal their own involvement in and responsibility for the crime. It is high time that we stop them from preying and exploiting others without regard for legal rules or moral limits.

Jan 5, 2010

Love thy things as you would love yourself

A thought from the lady of the house struck as revelation one morning. How do we relate to the things around us? The refrigerator that keeps the food fresh, the cot that gives a good nights sleep with its warm embrace, the work desk that keeps us in good posture all through the day, the mobile phone that keeps us connected and all those devices and contraptions that we interact with every second of our lives. Do we respect them, do we thank them for their services. Does ownership give us the right to be inconsiderate and mistreat them ?.

At the dawn of civilization there were only a few equipments that our forefathers had to interact to – a couple of twigs and leaves to create fire, maybe logs of wood that helped them move heavy objects. The post-industrial society that we live in now has spawned millions of tools and devices that make living simple and comfortable. One way to look at the world that we live in is as the manufacture and distribution of devices/equipments to live our lives. They are every where and we touch them at every point in our lives from the scissors that the doctor uses to cut the umbilical chord and mark your entry into the world, to the spade that fills up mud into our graves and takes to the unknown – our lives could be read as a serial relationship with things.

Things have a grey, genderless, cold, non-living existence in our mental map. We don’t go kiss our refrigerators good bye before a holiday. Neither do we say thanks to the car for having driven us three hundred kilometers of rough country terrain. But they create a range of positive experiences and emotions in our lives. Imagine going into an air-conditioned room after walking through the streets of Madras in May or seeing world cup football for the first time - mine was a brazil match in 84 on a Sony TV. Things always give their intended output without much fuss. A reclining chair always gives a comfortable seating without asking to be fed and taken care of. At times it is their absence that reminds us of their presence. Try forgetting your toothbrush when on an overnight train journey or try making coffee without a gas stove. In being able to create a mood or sensation the objects fulfill one of the primary traits of living organisms.

A lot of our memories have links to the objects. One of my recurring images about paternal grandmother is a wooden chest in which she kept all her clothes and other precious things locked. She was very protective about it and only her favorite grandchildren among the fifty odd had the permission to have a peek inside. There were rows of white clothes, reading glasses of grandfather who had died earlier, some documents and sweet smell of attar ( perfume ) everywhere. On a recent visit to a close friend’s house the large sofa in the living room and meat safe in the dining stood out. He had changed homes about three or four times in the last fifteen years. But that sofa and meat safe were my locus standi to the fact that it was the same house where we spend endless nights - smoking cigarettes, sharing stories of first love.

Adaptability another cornerstone of the Darwinian world view fits well with object world. Any new TV could be programmed to thousand different set of color and sound combination. Washing machines now have intelligence to control the spin and amount of water to be used. If we look at adaptability from a higher perspective there is the equivalent of evolution in living organisms. The simple pen has evolved from a quill to the ball point variety through a process of mutation and inventions over centuries. Understanding of gravity, capillary action and metallurgy helped inventors of the time create the earliest fountain pen and since then the pen has gone through a cycles of adaptation. And with age of the computers pen is facing the threat of extinction. Maybe the pen might transform with another technology to create a device that will fit the new age. It is not difficult to imagine things as having a life of their own.

The concept of Ayudha pooja inherited from our tribal past – bears testimony to the importance our ancestors gave to these tools and objects in their way of life. In the Adivasi way of life they had a place almost on par with their deities and were worshiped with due reverence. Compare this with materialistic society we live in, where objects are to be possessed and disposed of at will. It is somehow reminiscent of slave trade from our not so distance past and success is judged by the possession of the latest gadgets and things –flat screen TV, petrol guzzling SUV’s and washing machine that can do small chat. They are not there for the value they deliver, but more as show pieces for others. The industrial complex thrives on producing and obsolescing things at a rapid pace. Ten years back tea was still served in steel tumblers and china cups at parties. Now we have the ubiquitous plastic cups. The tumbler could be washed and reused many times where as the plastic cup is use and throw. The average life span of a car was more than twenty five years in the seventies while average life of the cars now is less than ten years. Remember the second-hand Ambassador or Lambretta scooter which had the pride of place when it came into the family. Constantly bombarded with advertisements for newer models we are branded losers if things are not cycled rapidly. Fat with slim. Twenty four inch with thirty six inch. Where is the time to form an engagement? When was the last time we washed the cars ourselves?

The question then is to discover their rightful place in our lives, without being overtly attached to them. A deeper commitment to them can help in breaking the churn of things and use them better. When we wake up after a good nights sleep, do we ever think that that the comfortable cot and bed played their part well. Yes it was our hard or easily earned money. But in reducing it to a purely transactional model aren’t we falling in the same rut of not acknowledging what gives us happiness and comfort. What if we wink at the cot and say thanks and smile at the tooth brush and say good morning. The story of Prahalada and Narsimha is a testimony to the underlying sanctity of everything we consider as non living. Like a sculptor who gives life to a piece of rock every object can take a living form when steered by the right hands.

The lady of the house had to once dispose a red refrigerator that she so liked. She went around identifying proper suitor for the lady in red and found a young couple who couldn’t afford a new one. The money was inconsequential, but the bride would be respected and looked after well in the new home - the marriage was arranged. You see love blooms when it is given without restraint and so I love.

May 15, 2009

Re-reading Gandhiji’s Experiments with Truth

The greatness of the man was his simplicity. I couldn’t help thinking of the advertisement in Dooradarshan promoting Gandhian values as I was reading the “My Experiments with Truth” the second time. Here was the man who gave India and the world at large, some of the potent non-violent tools of political struggle and a generation later, he seems to have vanished out our mind-space, except for some passing reference in school textbooks. I don’t even remember a lesson on Gandhiji in my school days though there was a lesson on a farmer going to meet Vladmir Lenin and extolling the simplicity of his life in our Malayalam reader. The left always had imaginative ways of using the school curriculum to inculcate their core values.

I did have a previous attempt at reading the book. Valipachi (Maternal grandfather) had a decent library at home. After school and hostel closed for summer vacations I would be at Najarakattu ( Maternal home) till my parents travel back from Vadakara or Tirur in north Kerala where Bapachi would be posted. One of the standard assignments that English public schools of yore had was to learn two English words daily during vacations. There wasn’t any active monitoring of this but Muvattupuzha being a place I didn’t have any friends and most of my cousins being much elder to me I started harking on Valipachi’s library.

My Experiments with Truth was a part of the attempt to learn new words . I didn’t traverse beyond the one-third of the book during that vacation –from eight to ninth standard. But an episode about Gandhiji’s childhood attempts at eating meat and how out of guilt, he confessed to his father remained in my memory for a long time. There was something sacred about that reading I remember. I would do it only after a bath in the morning and in the large cool drawing room of the house , it felt like I was touching a part of our history. Lolita from Valiapachi’s Presidency days did tempt me, but I don’t remember reading it until I was in pre-degree. Probably one of the few who has read a grandfather’s copy of the timeless classic that got sexuality into mainstream publishing.

In Gandhiji the private and public experiences came together in such beautiful combination that it was difficult to distinguish them. For him there was no political struggle without the personal. All the major political expressions that Gandhi founded came out of his personal quest to refine himself and find the true meaning of life. Satyagraha, Non-violence and Civil Disobedience owes it to a constant process of spiritual distillation that Gandhi practiced throughout his life that the essential moral timbre for these tools was built-in from his life experiences. In-fact for Gandhiji, Satayagrha – the quest for truth was a more a personal philosophy than a political tool. The origin and practice of it is captured vividly in the book Satyagraha about his period in South Africa and portrayed by Rajat Kapur in the film “ The Making of Mahatma” directed by Shyam Benegal.

Congress did have a tryst with Civil Disobedience that was not as effective and bordered on anarchy before Gandhi started to drive the national movement. For him the means was as important as the end and Gandhi would resort to a fast to reset it in the true course. A lesser soul would have winked at minor transgressions, but not Gandhi. He always looked at them as opportunities to strengthen the moral fabric.

Gandhiji approach to politics and religion was another facet that set him miles ahead of his time. Coming from a strong Vaishnaviate tradition , he believed that faith was an essential part of the political landscape of the sub-continent. Recognition of the cultural and sociological identities of Hinduism, Isalm and other religions was the primary to bringing the nation together. His personal view on religion was not very scriptural or traditional and tempered by a rational view of practices taking only the good ones. Though he strongly supported the revisionist causes, Gandhiji understood the religion was so ingrained in the Indian psyche that it was not possible to have a strong national foundation by ignoring them.

This view strongly contrasted with the Nehuru’s secular ideas that dominated the politics of the young nation. There was a sustained campaign to wipe religious symbols from all aspects of public life. Modern historians point to this persistent attempts at removing religiosity to be the prime reason for the strengthening of right wing parties from the late eighties. Religion is so elemental to the nation’s genetic make-up and it was foolhardy to think that it would go away if it didn’t find a legitimate expression. Rather it hoarded in national consciousness like virus that is subdued through induced medication and comes out with destructive force. In retrospect Indian’s early leaders should have co-opted religion into our constitution in more holistic ways as Gandhiji wanted it. This would have set the nation on totally different trajectory.