Millennium Post

Signs of the times

Signs of the times
The good news is that chai is getting the recognition it deserves. Anyway, for years I’ve sipped tea on all possible occasions and at all possible places. In fact, I feel somewhat low and depressed if I start the day sans tea. Can’t imagine passing a single day without sipping tea at regular intervals and lots of it. It has been my emotional drink for years. And, mind you, without any of those added frills to it - no, no sugar and no milk, for then, the flavour cum aroma of those leaves gets throttled, subdued and ruined. No matter what the milk producing companies might say, tea is tea without any of those milk and sugar bandobasts to it. Don’t dilute its properties and benefits by thrusting those add-ons. For then, it becomes a concoction of sorts. Also, with diabetes striking as never before, tea is best drunk without milk and sugar. And with that it gets not just healthier but cheaper too.

And without getting into the philosophy of connectivity, it’s a fact that tea connects. While traveling in and around Tehran and some other cities of Iran, those chai cafes hold out sheer nostalgia and great connectivity; transporting me to the chai cafes of the Kashmir Valley, set amidst those majestic Chinars and well laid out gardens.

Why doesn’t the government today go a step ahead and open chai cafes in the capital city and at other places too?

BOOKS: Zohra Segal: Fatty and Eternal Romantic - My Father, Gemini Ganesan

This week I’m focusing on two books, for they focus on two personalities who stood out this week. One is theatre personality Zohra Segal who turned hundred this year. The other is Bollywood actor Rekha who is making her entry into the Parliament.

On those two earlier occasions when I'd interviewed Zohra Segal, what impressed me was her spontaneity and her tendency to offload. Telling me details about her personal life, along the dastangoi/story telling strain as though we’d known each other for years. She didn’t shy away from narrating those financial lows she’d been through after her husband Kamleshwar Segal had killed himself. His death had left her and her children traumatised. And it was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who helped her at that crucial juncture.

Thereafter she left Mumbai, to reestablish herself in the UK, only to return to New Delhi. And last week when
Zohra Segal: Fatty
landed in Delhi, I was pleasantly surprised to know that it was written by her daughter Kiran. A trained classical Odissi dancer and Jatin Das’ former spouse, Kiran has well webbed her mother Zohra's hundred years of events and turning points.

A full-fledged feature film on the life and times of Zohra Segal can easily be made. Also, it gets writ large that life spans are getting stretched with more and more people celebrating their birthdays in old age.

And to get those glimpses of Rekha it is important to read her half-sister Narayani Ganesh’s book on their father, Gemini Ganesan. In fact, in
Eternal Romantic - My Father, Gemini Ganesan
(Roli Books) carries some rare and offbeat photographs and the lesser known aspects to Tamil cinema’s veteran superstar of that era. The backbone of this volume is Narayani’s candid style of narrating some very touching incidents.

Like this one, which she writes with stark honesty. 'At Presentation Convent, Madras, a girl happened to strike up a conversation with me after school one day. I must have been nine or ten years old. 'Why do you and your sister go home in different cars?’ she asked. I was puzzled. My two older sisters had finished school. My younger sister was still a baby. 'Come, I will take you to her’, she said, holding my hand and leading the way. I met Rekha for the first time. She was pretty and her eyes were lined by mascara. She said her name was Bhanurekha. 'What is your father’s name?’ I asked her. 'Gemini Ganesan,' came the pat reply. My eyes were filled with tears. How can that be? He was my father! When Chinamma came to take me home I blurted out the story. 'Never mind,' she said. Another day I pointed out Rekha to Chinamma and she said, ‘She is like your sister. And she’s pretty.’ Then, there was Rekha’s younger sister, Radha, who was even prettier, I thought. Her resemblance to Appa was startling. When I was a little older I learnt that they were born to Pushpavalli and Appa, and that they lived with their mother and other siblings too.'

Though Rekha couldn’t have possibly studied beyond high school [because she’d ventured into films when she was a teenager], she seems to have inherited her father’s love for books and those offshoots. Gemini Ganesan did have a scholarly aspect to him. As actor Kamal Haasan offloads in the foreword to this book, 'Gemini mama (uncle) was larger than life; there was so much more to him than his screen persona. That was what was so exciting - cinema was not his entire life, it was a vocation, a profession he chose over others. ‘To me, life is oxygen, not cinema!’ he would say. If he hadn’t been an actor, he might have retired as an academic. He let his laurels rest lightly on his shoulders - to him success was neither a crowning glory nor a heavy cross. I touched and felt film ‘stars’ for the first time in my life when I was three-and-a-half years old. The stars were Gemini Ganesan and Savithri and I was to play their son in the film Kalathur Kannamma. Till then, I had no idea that actors were flesh and blood humans.
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