FRIENDS CLOSE TO HEART

Remembering  Chetan  Datar


















It is very difficult to write about someone who quietly arrives as a stranger, saliently remains as a friend close to heart and vanishes as if nothing matters. I met Chetan Datar during the Ranga Shankara theatre festival 2007 in Bangalore, where he directed Mahesh Elkunchwar’s HOLI. I helped him with the Kannada script and designed sets for this play. I was there all through his rehearsals mediating between Chetan and the actors. We improvised the script, changed parts of it and contemporized most of it to suit to today’s needs and voice relevant issues. Apart from this, we gossiped a lot. Laughed a lot and argued on various things trying to convince each other on ones point of view. He had a great sense of humour. He had very well understood the equations that work within the contemporary Indian Theatre circles. His dedication, brilliance, and goodness at heart made him more attractive.

Working with Chetan is an experience in itself. HOLI had a young team of theatre practitioners mostly from Bangalore South. There were students and fresh graduates. Most of the actors newly employed in private companies were keen on their ‘bread winning new jobs’. They said theatre was their passion and job was a necessity. With passion on one hand and job on the other, they either had to leave early or got late to the rehearsals. This used to upset Chetan a lot. Boys were scared of him. Some of them even risked their jobs for being part of the HOLI project. Though Chetan yelled and screamed at them in his typical gaand me ghuso! sort of gaalees, he did not want them to loose jobs. His short temperedness overlapped with his affection and concern. He not only directed the play but also tried to sort out differences that prevailed within the group. Chetan was a very sensitive person. He had a strong political stance. Concerned with the marginalized, be it class, caste or gendered; he could easily sense if something went wrong. The Brahmin politics that prevailed strongly within the group made him shuffle the assigned roles. We spoke of the subtle caste and gender hierarchies that rule the mindset of people. He criticized the pretentious ‘good boyz syndrome’, that did not mind practicing violent behaviors in real life situations, but resisted utterances of the same when it came as part of a play. HOLI in particular unveils the hidden violence in different layers. Chetan would skillfully block the scenes. He would discuss his drawings before he did that. The play staged, would unwind frame after frame like a scroll painting. Each move was planned carefully. Every element on the stage contributed towards the highlighting of particular situation.
It was my idea to do the entire backdrop in black and white. It took me a whole day to convince Chetan on this. We had long discussions regarding what all should go into the backdrop panels and how should it look like.


The next morning Chetan and I were at the computer. I designed all the three panels and they looked good.

Chetan was convinced. He used bright florescent costumes as against these. Chetan filled his visual space with ideas that triggered meanings that were multidimensional. He simultaneously addressed the local and the global power politics. Among various issues that Chetan addressed, homosexuality took the forefront. He mentioned about his play Ek Madhav Baugh and gave me the English translation. This play was later staged at the Ranga Shankara Fest ’07.

This same festival also showcased a poetry reading organized by me. ‘SADHYADA PADYA’, was a programme where poems of ten contemporary Kannada poets were rendered by theatre personalities. Girish Karnad, Surendranath, Nagabharana and I read poems in Kannada while a few poems in Hindi translation were read by Chetan and in English by Sharanya, yet another friend. Chetan gave me suggestions towards the stage design, costume for the readers etc. His ideas contributed towards visualizing the programme in a much better way. With HOLI, Ek Madhav Baugh and his participation in Sadhyada Padya, Chetan dominated 2007’s Ranga Shankara Festival. In a way, the festival geared up around Chetan Datar.
Chetan was someone who could read between lines, understood the pun and perfectly responded to humour.You successfully execute a prank, turn around, wink at Chetan, he would get the message. I found it comfortable sharing all sorts of pranks with him exactly the way I felt comfortable sharing issues that were serious. I always believe that one who has a good sense of humour understands people’s pain in a much better way.

Chetan spoke of his childhood, the insecurity he lived with and the way he managed to overcome it. He loved his brothers who were his great moral support. He cared for his friends. Their stories of pain and sorrow brought tears in his eyes. We were in touch even after he left Bangalore. We exchanged emails long and short, one liners, SMSs and phone calls. I remember how he panicked to save one of his friends who had announced to commit suicide. He once called from Ellora to tell how wonderful he felt roaming in and around the place.

Asking my opinion, Chetan mailed me the set designs made for the play Aankh Michuli he was directing in Delhi. It looked colourful, bright and a bit gaudy. I had asked him whether he was casting all his characters in black and white!!

Chetan was a believer. He always prayed for peace and happiness. He would write, ‘bagwan, guruji aur parents ke ashirwad se everything went on well’. Once he had called me from Delhi. For some reason I was feeling a little low, a bit depressed, not in a mood to speak to anyone. The same evening he calls me again. I was heading homewards in a rickshaw. Chetan asked me to stop the auto… get down… and… look at the sky… I realized it was a full moon evening. He was at the gurudwar saheb. I am praying for you. Look at the moon all your pains will vanish! comes his voice from the other side. I was crying. The auto driver did not know what had happened. I asked him to come out of the auto. Look at the moon. All your pain will vanish, I said. Oh..! these believers have so much strength in them, I envied.

Very few people allow others to be on par with them. Without any expectations or returns, fewer allow others to enjoy the luxury of remaining as individuals with independent thoughts. Chetan Datar was one such person whose company allowed an absolute freedom. Chetan found Delhi a little snooty. After getting back to Mumbai on the 27th of Dec 2007 he wrote, let me tell you, I missed you so much in Delhi… I was alone… looking for sensible company… someone to talk… you made my Bangalore trip so worthwhile. I treasure this mail of his.

He also wrote, Believe me, like Bangalore actors these Delhi actors are now “missing” me… isn’t it funny.. when a person is in front of you, you don’t value him but when he goes away you miss him. This I suppose is Indian hypocrisy. He seemed a little depressed. Chetan called up to say he was not well. Later wrote to me that he was suffering from colitis. On 30 June I was in Mumbai for a day and called him. Chetan spoke to me for long but did not want to meet. He said he would be embarrassed if I go and see him. I was leaving for Colombia to attend a poetry festival and jokingly told him if he does not recover before I get back, I would drag him to Bangalore and admit him in a special hospital there. I now regret for not realizing seriousness of the situation. Chetan was young. Young to die for sure!

On Friday the 1 August 2008, around 10.30 pm or so, I tried calling him. Then sent an SMS. I don’t know if he ever read it. May be he wanted to remain in our memories as a broad smile that bloomed into a big laughter, open arms that hugged with all its warmth and the concern that keeps you going.

- Mamta Sagar




Remembering Francisco Ruiz Udiel
    a wonderful poet and a great friend from Nicaragua

   Fran ended his life on the 31st of Dec 2010.

Dear Fran,
you should have taken a chance to embrace life instead of death.

to all of us who live an intense life, a life wanting to live up to the brim have this strange attraction to death. we fall in love with everything and everyone in this world and every other disappointment is death. therefore to live is nothing but to die consistently and to survive from this attraction to death.


Later on . . . .

the cool cold air
slides into the insides; the senses
are like snow-beads – frozen; prickly;
the blood in the veins
like rubies – shiny, stone-hard;
wishes, dreams, both speech and silence,
                          like the SILENT COLD.

In the womb of darkness,
everything has the same hue.

('IN SHIMLA', a poem by Mamta Sagar translated from Kannada by Chitra panikkar)

   
 We all love you MACHO!!
You live in our hearts and for ever through your wonderful poems.
- mamta sagar
6th Jan 2011







Mukhtiar Ali @ our place




my soul tipsy with music, the hangover haunts this heart for ever...


Dear Aryan,
I have been wanting to write to you since last sunday about a music concert we had @ our place. Mir Mukhtiar Ali, a dear friend and one of the finest sufi singers in India came home with his group and performed @ our place on the 11th Apr 2010. it was a wonderful evening. sham (my husband) and myself initially decided to invite a small group of friends. gradually the list expanded and around 50 and odd people came home. this informal concert was followed by a BIG party.

Mukhtiar Ali hails from Pugal village in Rajasthan(India), hardly 80 kms from Pakistan’s border. Mukhtiar Ali is very important for various reasons. His music is an embodiment of communal harmony. he sings composiions of sufi saints. All the songs are about love and against social discreminations. they condemn the communal fundamentalism. For me Mukhtiar is very important because, I understand Mukhtiar and his music as hardcore activism that reaches the grassroots and transcends poeple’s minds and gives them the taste of love as against violence. Aryan, I have been talking about the religious fundamentalism that is dangerously destroying the secular core of India and great singers like Mukhtiar Ali generate a sort of hope within ones heart. I am a great fan of his music. and imagine, Mukhtiar wanting to come home and sing @ our place!! what else do i wish for!!


@ our place, Mukhtiar sang some of the rarest compositions and some of the most beautiful love songs. one of his accompaniments on the string instrument, “SARANGI” palyed 2 numbers and that was too good. the programme started @ around 7.45 pm and went on 10.15. I was floating in musik and love. it was as if the sounds resonating from within the heart spread around like fragrance of love. the whole house got drowned in musik and drenched in love. everything looked beautiful. mukhtiar was so..sooo… good in his singing… this time his singing seemed a little different than always. looked like his inclination was more towards the classical mode, which made the rendering extraordinary. as he sang, one could feel the subtle ways in which he was improvising the singing and trying to render something new out of those permutations and combinations. that evening turned out to a transcending evening. He sang a series of sufi poets like Kabir(his favorite), Bulleh Shah, Meera Bai, etc and a few folk songs from Punjab(Pakistan) and Rajasthan. With songs of love so subtle and beautiful, soooo.. mystical and musical…. by the end of the day we were all tipsy with music and the hangover haunts our house for ever…………

love
mamta


College Days and later......



"Kuriteiru" - NMKRV, Arathi, Revathi, Mangala and Mamta.


Talakaadu Trip: Arathi, Pratibha, Vasudha, Ratna, Vinathe, Jayashree and Mamta















St Joseph's Convent School, Sagara
Class V batch, 1975

St Josephs Convent School, Sagara, BATCH  '77
 
AND then....
                 35..... loooooooooonnnggggg..... year pass by......... 
memories down the lane... they arrive after 35 years!! as if the past contains in the present and the present existed in the past... we the embodiment of past and present... walked hand in hand in search of something precious that we found and treasured (otherwise would have never bothered to realise the great loss) my schoolmates.... 
17th March 2011.... wow!! a memorable day!! lucky.. we happened to be part of it... when I see these pics I have a strange feeling.. even as kids we never imagined a day like this would come... nor did we 'bother to wish' to meet again some time in our lives... everything just happened.. like magic... so beautiful.. so genuine...
 ANIL - KISHORE - RAKESH

Wooow..... a dream come true.. the re-union has been launched today!!
YEAH!!
today (17th Mar 2011) is a memorable day!!

this morning I cancelled all my appointments with my students and wound up a few discussions before 12.45. hurriedly sent a note to Sunil about the arrival of friends whom I had not met since past 35 years??

AND.......... tring...tring... a call from Anil.... (OMG!! these guys are already there on the campus... Rakesh drives all the way from the far off Hoskote... picks Anil from Indiranagar, not very close at all from where I am located and come all the way to Bangalore University Campus... Thanks guyz for making this day happen!!) wel... wel... where was I ?? hmmm and then..

appear Anil and Rakesh @ the door, a few minutes before 1pm... it took me a lil time to realise that I was in my work place and I am not supposed to scream!! (I did not, though.  I wanted to whistle... sing... scream aloud so that you all cud hear me!!
I am sure all of you wud do the same when we meet... )

Before I saw them, I imagined a very formal meet up. a stiffness leading to getting used to know that we knew each other once upon a time sort... or a silence.. searching for words with pauses, commas and sometime full STOPS!!
... strangely, no such things happened. so much of affection, fondness, and love... and you don't believe it... this is one of the most wonderful moments in my life. @ this point.... 
ENTRY: Dr Raj..(Kishore) Kumar!! he dives into this pool of nostalgia and friendship. Kishore walks in sans Rajendra and Shankar :(

We remembered you all... spoke about each and everyone. called a few.. tried calling a few others(who might have been busy)
I felt nice that we could go home... Guyz. we are lucky!! this does not happen to all. after SOOOOOOOOO   LOOONGGGG!!
this is amazing!!

MAMTA, RAKESH and ANIL. KISHORE on the swing.....

20th March 2011:
Met S.Uma and Shobha during the launch of Illi Salluva Maatu @ Rangayana, Mysore. meeting Shobha for the first time after 1980.
L to R: Shobha, Mamta and Uma.

Uma, myself and Shobha with Arathi


25th MARCH 2011
Veena Serrao and Vanitha arrive..........


 

5th July 2011: 
"Rajendra Lost and Found"

Thus goes the episode...............

1. we go in search of Rajendra!!

Anil, Rakesh, Kishor and myself.... (on kishor's advice ) we desperately hunt for him (actually his bank!!)..... on the streets of Bangalore (Kengeri outer ring road behind University campus) Ah!! Eeeeeeee!! we got the bank! THE BANK!!

creak......zzzz..........goes the break!! surpriz surpriz rajendra!! we are here!! Rakesh and me carefully climb the steps of "this bank".

we: "Rajendra?"
man : "what is that??"
we : "RAJENDRA"
man : "we only deal with money"
we: "we want rajendra.. we want rajendra"
man : "Uooz dat?"
Rakesh: "My Chaddi dost"
me: "dost..dost naaaaa raha..ha..ha..ha.."
man  "wel..wel.. he is transvared 3 yrs ago to a branch far far beyond seven oceans..to the other bank... ban! ban! bya...bya.."

back into the car K I S H O R !! (our scream almost sounded like we'll kill you!!)

2. Operation Rajendra executed...
search for Rajendra.. Anil with all his skills (appoints a few jasoooses  and) manages to get his number.
cal.. cal.. cal.. me cal (many many times..) others cal too... hero dosn't get back..
Oh!! we got him before the Bangalore meet!! all of us cal.. Rajendra very busy with his BANK!!
CAL 1: Rajendra very busy
CAL 2: Rajendra very busy
CAL 3: Rajendra very busy
CAl 4,5,6,7,8,9,000000: Rajendra very very busy with his bank!!

3. 15th April, we meet @ RR Nagar Bangalore and THE VERY BUSY rajendra never makes it...all of us upset!! we all feel bad (for him).

4. Operation Rajendra continues (this time the operation takes the form of dissection)
We collect information about him and get to know that...
he leaves home early... on his vehicle with "lunch boxes", bag and baggage, travel a long distance to reach his destination THE BANK located beyond seven seas. there he wroks..works..works..AND works again.. no time to cal friends nor receive their cals... tired Rajendra return home very..very..L  A  T  E from "the bank"
his weekly off is on Mondays. 
IMPOSSIBLE TO MEET..........

5. A Hope Beyond A Few Horizons....
But he promises to meet me on my campus one of the Mondays and assures he live not far from there. I make it a point to cal him.. keep callin him... and cal him again and again till he gets tired and remind him of his Mondays!!

6. Sagara meet and Rajendra.
This Monday, yesterday; I cal him and ask if he can come to the campus which is not far from where he stays...
R: my gaadi got punctured I can't come.
Me: wel my gaadi is not punctured, I can come. (and therefore I drive down to his house (hardly five minutes from my dept.)
There I catch hold of him!!
exactly the same.. hurried speech, warm, hospitable, another treasure of fond memories... only change is he's stopped wearing the uniform (white shirt and blue chaddi, and had decided to forget his chaddi dosts... sad...sad!!)
we had lunch (wonderful huruLikai HuLI and mosaranna). I insist that he goes with us to sagara on the 29th for the BIG BASH to be held on 30th.

Me: U hv 2 go with us ... no choice ... pack up ... apply leave... hw can u not come .. u wil go.. you wil go with us to sagara ... you will take a break from your bank and u wil go..

R: no.. no.. ma.. I can't.. if I leave my Bank, the Bank will feel bad... Bank will cryBank wil be heart broken ... Bank might even commit suicide

Me: grrrrrrrr hey(I scream and yell..yell..yellow..yel yello) Rajendra!! if U don't come we'll arrange for a SUPARI in your name and beware!! it is your BANK which will loose youdo you want to hurt your BANK tel me..tel me...

R: no..no.. plz don't put my bank into trouble!! plz I'll come with you guyz...
plz..plz.. i'll stay in touch with the group here onwards

And I kidnap him from his house take him to my dept... then to our house and offer a hot cup of filter coffee!!
CHEERS Rajendra

NOTE: Rajendra attachedHis phone number is: 9480047850.

(hi guyz.. hope you had a good time going through the RAJENDRA episodes)
Lots of love,
waiting to meet you all.
mamta G.

The Forty Rules of Love in KANNADA

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