Serendipity and a second-hand book

Serendipity. I can sum up my day today with this one word.

It was a day that began very simply with my camera and I setting out to do a bit of exploration of my city. We first went to Sion, clicked some impressions and recorded some memories. And then to Matunga to have some hot filter kaapi. Happy and satisfied with the morning’s efforts and eager to see the results of my  photography, I turned homeward.

As I walked towards my bus stop, I came across this sight of booksellers setting up their stalls on the pavement at King’s Circle.

Pavement Bookstalls
Booksellers setting up their stalls on the pavement at King’s Circle in Mumbai

The late morning winter sunlight created beautiful patterns of light and shadows amongst the piles of National Geographic, Home & Garden, travel magazines, self-help books, classics, Mills & Boon, pirated copies of best sellers… It was delightful to see the books being dusted and lovingly laid out. Since, I had already packed my camera away, it was my cell phone camera that had the honour of capturing this sight.

As my eyes skimmed the book piles, the magazine stacks, and the neatly laid out rows of books, there came that little heart-stopping moment of the beautiful kind. The one where you see an unexpected treasure in the form of a book. One that lights up your eyes in anticipation, and quickens your breath just that little bit. And as you savour that moment, the world slows down just for you.

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Mumbai Lens: Bougainvillea and love poetry

One may have seen love between two people, experienced love, given love, received it in turn, etc.. But have you heard love? Sorry for the rather corny question, but this is what I experienced when I visited the Phirozeshah Mehta Gardens, a.k.a. known as the Hanging Gardens of Mumbai. I arrived there a little after 2 one afternoon to find the gardens blessedly quiet and fairly empty except for some people sleeping off their lunch or reading something. As I was walking along one of the pathways, I heard someone reciting Marathi poetry. Marathi love poetry to be precise.

Bougainvillea and love poetry 🙂

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Shakespeare in doubt !

William Shakespeare at Madam Tussaud’s

Willm Shaksp. William Shakespe. Wm Shakspe. Willm Shakspere. William Shakspeare.

These are the different ways in which the world’s (arguably) best known dramatist’s name has been spelt in documents dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. Funnily, the one spelling that has not been used is the one currently used today — William Shakespeare (1564–1616). One can also not be reasonably sure as to how the name was pronounced either. In fact, one cannot be reasonably sure about many things about William Shakespeare — what he looked like, what was the order in which his plays were written, did he ever travel outside England, his sexuality, his likes or dislikes… or even when he was born. It is quite ironical that while most of Shakespeare’s own works have survived, nothing about Shakespeare himself survives. It is almost as if he did not exist !

Although he left nearly a million words of text, we have just 14 words in his own hand… Not a single note or letter or page of manuscript survives… We can only know what came out of his work, not what went into it… It is because we have so much of Shakespeare’s work that we can appreciate how little we know of him as a person.

All this information and more form the basis of a biography on William Shakespeare by Bill Bryson. Simply titled Shakespeare, this book is based on information gathered from many sources, as well as previously published work and is presented in trademark Bill Bryson style. The book is not just about Shakespeare, his life and works, but is also about Elizabethan England, Protestantism, 16th century London and more.

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Love and poetry through the ages: A bharatanatyam performance by Alarmel Valli

Last Saturday, I attended a dance performance after many years—”Only Until the Light Fades: Love in Dance and Poetry”, a bharatanatyam performance by noted danseuse Alarmel Valli at the Tata Theatre of the NCPA (National Centre for Performing Arts) in Mumbai. This performance, which was part of the NCPA’s ongoing Nakshatra Dance Festival, was conceptualised in collaboration with the noted poet, Arundhati Subramaniam.

When I set out for the NCPA that evening, all I knew was that I was going for Alarmel Valli’s bharatanatyam performance at my favourite theatre in Mumbai and unaware that I was attending the premiere of a special production. I was also unaware of the fact that this was the first time that Alarmel Valli would be performing to an English poem, or even the fact that the theme of the dance performance was love and poetry!

“Only Until the Light Fades…” explored love through poetry in Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit and English from the Sangam Period to the medieval period to contemporary times and through the narration of a teenager, the feelings of a woman desolate in love, the actions of a jealous lover, and through the questioning thoughts of a contemporary Indian poet writing in English.

The dance programme was quite unusual in that there was no bhakti element at all. Alarmel Valli’s opening dance item was an invocation to love, instead of the conventional invocation to Ganesha or Saraswati. And yet it also followed the conventional pattern of a bharatanatyam performance by beginning with an invocation and ending with a tillana.

Alarmel Valli : Screenshot from

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The Poetry of Kites – The film

Source: Wikipedia

Poor Kites. The film, that is. The way reviewers have mauled the movie has been savage.

I’ll probably be lynched by a quite a few people and disowned by many of my friends when I say that I quite liked Kites.

It is not like the film is flawless. On the contrary, it is full of them—patchy story line, half-baked characterisation, overacting, underacting, … You must have read the reviews or seen the film to know what I am talking about.

But, in spite of the flaws, it has a redeeming quality that no one can ignore—the beautiful cinematography by Ayanaka Bose. It is sheer poetry.

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