Monthly Archives: August 2013

Column: The hand behind a Word

Alphabet Written on Notepad

After a recent team meeting at my workplace, I happened to visit a colleague’s bay to have a short work-related discussion. I took a seat as he was still making notes from the meeting we just concluded. This must be a cliché that guys do not have a neat handwriting, but as I watched my colleague make notes, I gave it a second thought. You have such an excellent handwriting, I said still staring at his notepad. He acknowledged my compliment and went on to say that he in fact had a neater handwriting a couple of years ago. But with the introduction of computers, smartphones and tablets his handwriting was taking a beating.

Really? Better than this?

So this is what the digital age has done to our handwriting. Today, my handwriting is what we call doctors’ handwriting — illegible, messy, hard to read, untidy and scrawly.  There was a time when I scored marks during exams only because I had a neat handwriting. But today, given the fact that I am typing throughout the day, there is very little time to make notes.

It’s surprising how I love to collect notebooks and pens. But now, considering the digital age, pens and notebooks are nothing less than antique pieces. This shows us how dependent we are on technology and slowly we shall see ‘traditional’ writing slip away from our hands. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a paragraph in a book. The crackle on a keyboard can go unnoticed nowadays. We’re all so used to the sound our fingers produce after hitting some keys that flash some words in the neatest of handwriting on a computer screen.

Last week, I was attending a meeting and how I wished I was carrying my laptop. I was tired making notes. More than being tired, I was hoping that no one would peep into my notebook because my handwriting looked pathetic. Every time I look at a notebook in which I have scribbled, I remind myself that this should never reach my mother’s hand. She will disown me considering what a flawless handwriting she has.

Handwritten notes or letters have a charm of their own. Such writing came across as personal unlike digital writing that’s become so depersonalized. Losing our handwriting feels like we’ve lost a part of ourselves. Today, even a signature is restricted to official documents. When was the last time you signed a note? I can’t remember either. There are times when I just sign my name on the last page of a book to remind myself of the uniqueness my handwriting adds to my name. We no longer use paper to note down an address, but instead save it as notes in our smartphones.

Technology is indeed great, but what about the art of handwriting? With technology sweeping in like a storm, writing seems nothing less than a bygone era.

Image courtesy: punctualityrules.com

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‘If not a photographer, I’d be a painter’

Diane Vaz has carved a niche in taking photographs of band performances and artistes and is a self-taught photographer.

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With technology advancing by the day, everyone seems to be attracted towards the most talked about profession – photography. “A few good pictures and everyone has a Facebook page. It’s great to explore hidden talents and showcase them, but what takes a backseat is when budding photographers start working for free,” says photographer Diane Vaz, commenting on the current scene of photography.

A girl with Goan roots, Diane kick-started her photography career in 2011 by giving birth to Diane Vaz Photography. “The photographer in me just didn’t wake up one day,” she says, “I had a flair for art and colour from the start,” she adds. In the beginning, Diane would attend a gig and take photographs with her digital camera. But a digi-cam had its own limitations, and she had an appetite for better photography. So this drove her to save sufficient money to buy a DSLR camera and a couple of lenses. Since then, the 30-something lady has been experimenting with light.

Diane has carved a niche in taking photographs of band performances and artistes and is a self-learned photographer. Some of the lovely stage performances captured by Diane include Karnivool, Ken Stringfellow, The Mahindra Blues festival ft. Dana Fuchs, Popa Chubby, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Jimmy Thackery and The Drivers, Walter Trout and The Radicals and some of India’s best musicians such as Soulmate and Indus Creed.

“Every shoot teaches me something new — lights, angles and exposure. I am still learning, and it’s a continuous process. I wanted to do a course in photography but due to time constraint, I am unable to take up one,” says the alumnus of Nirmala Niketan College, Mumbai.

Her first event shoot was at BlueFROG with the band Dischordian followed by a French band called Betty Argo. “I was not quite happy with the photographs I had taken for Dischordian. Some of them were shaky, blurred and not up to the mark. However, the band was kind enough to use the images along with their press release. On the other hand, I was quite happy with the pictures I took for Betty Argo. I was even happier when a small remuneration and most of my photographs exchanged hands.”

Now since Diane has her feet firm on the ground, she has a couple of projects in the pipeline where she plans to collaborate with fellow photographers to work on a final concept. Till then, she will continue freelancing and will also work on her ongoing project called Colour Me Red — A project that will narrate a story with the colour red. But why red? “Red is a powerful colour. It symbolises love as well as war. It is exciting, and the amount of red is directly related to the level of energy perceived. Red is also the colour of beauty and draws attention. Red in mythology denotes bravery, protection and strength. And finally, red speaks out loud in every picture.”

Apart from running Diane Vaz Photography, she also works as an Executive Assistant at Flame Business School. That’s not all; she qualifies as a multi-tasker, as she’s also a part of a music journalism company where she heads the team in Mumbai.

Over months of taking photographs, Diane confesses that she has discovered joy in capturing moments when an artiste takes a break or when an artiste forgets a line and flashes a smirk. “I do not prefer my pictures to be in grey scale. I personally love colour and at times, I take the risk to blow them up.”

As a photographer, Diane says, all her assignments have been memorable. And being a female photographer has its challenges. “Some venues usually do not have a Photographers’ pit, and if the event has a celebrity, we are mostly squeezed. Worse, there are times when we get butt cheeks pinched.”

Being a Goan, Diane visits her ancestral house in Cuncolim at least twice a year, if not more. She also speaks in Konkani with her family. When asked about an alternate profession, Diane says, “If not a photographer, I’d be a painter.”

My favourite photographs by Diane Vaz:

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(Please note: This story first featured in The Goan on Saturday)

 

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Bring on the Tiatr, say Mumbaikar-Goans

(Please note: This is my weekly column that was first featured in The Goan on Saturday)

Price Jacob Tiatr

On one Tuesday in July, when it was pouring incessantly, I was heading to meet a journalist friend, Joanna Lobo. Joanna and I were planning to meet-up since a couple of weeks and then the best event was here, plus she was also assigned a story on this particular event. So she invited me to join her knowing how much I’d enjoy my evening. So wading through knee-deep flood water, I made my way to Damodar Hall in Parel. Oh, what event you ask? It was a tiatr (Konkani theatre)! And not just any other tiatr, but it was Price Jacob’s Pap Tujem, Prachit Mhoje (Your Sin, My Repentance).

The tiatr was scheduled to begin at 8:15pm. I reached the venue around 8pm, and Joanna was already interviewing Prince Jacob for her story. Till she returned I took a seat in the hall. I waited in the auditorium sitting with fear of whether the show will be cancelled or not considering the persistent rain. Joanna was done in five minutes and we headed to another room to interview some more veterans. As I stepped out, I confirmed if the show was still on. And well, of course it was on! Joanna and I weren’t sure if anyone was going to attend the show or not. But I was taken by surprise when I entered the auditorium that had housed just me and a couple of crew members a little while ago.

At first, I just peeped through the main door and voila! The hall was decently packed. Most of the seats were taken and we couldn’t spot an empty seat under the dim glow. Curtains were already raised and the show was about to begin. Luckily, two seats were reserved for us. But I must confess that I underestimated our Goans. I would never have imagined everyone to brave ceaseless rain and come to watch a tiatr. But that’s the craze about Price Jacob, I believe. Considering that the king of comedy comes with his shows to Mumbai only twice a year, no one wanted to miss it for a thing!

The show began with a couple of songs followed by a family in the middle of a dispute. Everything went hush and all eyes looked in only one direction — the stage. The tiatr was three-hour long, and everyone had already come prepared for the performance. What do I mean? As soon as the curtains dropped at interval, elderly aunties started opening up their bags and pulled out tiffins filled with typical Goan snacks. The faint air in the hall carried the aroma of fish cutlets, chicken sandwiches, sanaas and everything that set my mouth watering. This episode reminded me of my childhood days when I used to accompany my grandmother to tiatr practically every month. She would carry something delicious for me to munch on.

I couldn’t stop laughing every time Price Jacob and his brother hit the stage with their witty songs and dialogues. Nothing could transport me to Goa the way that evening did. And a huge round of applause to the audience. Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine such devoted spectators.

Image courtesy: http://www.dnaindia.com

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Leon de Souza: I always wanted to become someone who sang well

Oscar-winning Indian music composer, A R Rahman, introduced singer Leon de Souza through the film Ek Deewana Tha that released last year. Since then, Leon has continued his journey with the maestro who described this Goan lad’s voice as the voice that has universal appeal. Below is the unedited interview with the 27-year-old singer.

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Tell us about your association with A R Rahman. How did it all come to you? Do mention some of the popular projects.
AR Rahman is always on the look-out of fresh voices and sounds. When he is not working on commercial projects, he spends time experimenting with different sounds, projects, and I think it is this exercise that worked for me. I got a call from my friend Suzanne D’ Mello who sings regularly with him. You may have heard the beautiful female voice in the Slumdog Millionaire theme? She told me that AR wants to try out my voice for a project. That night, was one of the longest nights I had ever seen. I remember doing several voice and breathing exercises to ensure that everything goes on well. It is not always that someone gets to meet an Oscar winning maestro!

I have worked with him on a few Bollywood tracks and commercials. Hosanna was my first playback song with the maestro and it was also the first time I had sung for a Bollywood movie. I have also worked on other smaller projects for him, some of them are lending my voice for the background choral score of the movie Jab Tak Hai Jaan. I have also lent backing vocals for his international album Superheavy that features one of my favourite artistes, Joss Stone.

Share with us your experiences with AR.
Whenever I have met AR (sir, that’s how I address him), I have always been a nervous wreck. But he has this ability of putting you at ease. It’s how he is. Peaceful. Anyone who has met him will talk about the aura surrounding him. So the first time I met him, and that day we worked through the night. At one time he asked me, so, Leon, are you going to college in the morning? And I was like Sir, I am 24, I am way past college. He couldn’t believe me when I told him my age.

You write songs. Do describe the themes your songs revolve around.
My friends point out to me that my songs are typical “torch-bearer” types. I have always been fascinated with the topic of love and unrequited love, so they are reflected in my lyrics. I haven’t promoted my songs yet, as I feel there is a lot of work to do in terms of production. You will hear them when the time is right.

What’s the process you follow to write a song?
Song-writing is not an easy process for me. My mind is always in a cut-edit mode, so it takes me time to freeze on lines. It’s easy to get a thought, but it really requires me to be in a certain mood to make justice to the words. I also compose the vocal lines, and am finicky about the chords too.

What are the other activities you’re involved with?
I love this question. I am learning the piano from a very gifted musician. When I am not working or singing, I am on the keyboard trying out new combinations of chords, or singing along with it. I am a travel freak, so I read a lot about places to visit, and when I have saved enough, I take off.

You are a publicist, singer and songwriter. How do you manage your time?
I have learnt that doing things to stay healthy is the best way to do the stuff that I do. Time management is very important. I take up projects toward the evening, so I am able to justify both. I also believe in utilizing time efficiently, so I try doing my best in very little time possible. I learnt this from a certain colleague of mine from a previous organization. I think this trait is very important for individuals who multitask careers.

You’re also working with music composer Andrew Ferrao on his new spiritual album project. Tell us about your experience.
Andrew is a very gifted musician. I think it is his ode to the Almighty about his life and the many graces he has received. The melodies and music is very fresh. I am sure that the album will strike a chord with gospel music lovers.

Did you always want to become a singer? What did you find most fascinating about singing?
I always wanted to be someone who sang well. I used to listen to artists across several genres and mimicked the way they sang. While doing so, I developed a style of my own. When I sing, I feel powerful. I feel like I have been teleported to a place of my own, and it is this feeling that is most fascinating.

Do you have any family member/s who’ve been in this field?
My maternal grandfather was a violinist and he was very well known in his locality in Goa. He was invited to play in Church and at all the local religious meetings.

Do you play any instrument? If yes, name it and tell us how you came about learning the instrument.
I had learnt to play the recorder (a wind instrument), although I don’t play it anymore. I am learning the piano for the past one year. I have always wanted to learn the piano, as it is one of my favourites to listen to. My mother gifted me a keyboard for my birthday and that motivated me to take lessons.

How important is it for a singer to be well-versed with at least one instrument?
When you learn an instrument, it helps you broaden your musical mind. As a singer, you must be a technician too, and knowing an instrument helps you learn that.

What’s your take on the music industry in Goa?
I love the music there. It’s amazing to hear stories of Lorna and Remo and how they are globally renowned. Also, it is very inspiring to know of the fan base they have managed to create over these years. I would love to be part of a music festival in Goa and experience the extravaganza first hand.

How easy/ difficult is it to carve a niche in a city like Mumbai that’s overflowing with talent?
It is not easy living in a country of so many people. Every day, there are hundreds who enter the city with the hope of having their work acknowledged. I think what works in the industry today is the ability to adapt to the changing musical scene. Since movies are going international, directors want singers to bring a contemporary feel. It is very important for singers to see this change and trend and work towards expanding their repertoire, if that’s the correct word to use.

Where do you see yourself 5 years down the line?
I’m not sure about where I will be or what I will achieve. Only time can tell. But, having said that, I am working hard on my craft to ensure that I always manage to lead my niche and deliver to music-directors I work with.

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Oh! Umbrella

Please note: This column was first featured in The Goan on Saturday.

kutchibharat

It seems like nothing is going to change with me as far as an umbrella is concerned. I’m sure, I’m not the only casualty every monsoon who can’t handle an umbrella. It’s completely understandable that the rains in Mumbai this year have not just been heavy, but very ferocious as well. But that was not at all the reason for me walking around with my third umbrella of this season. I recently read a friend’s Facebook status that mentioned the tragedy of how her umbrella fell off a moving train and broke into pieces. Another friend left her ‘cute-baby umbrella’ (that’s what she liked to call it) in a cab and yours truly forgot the second umbrella in the train. But what happened to the first?

My first umbrella was a classic piece. It was gifted to me by my sister with a note stating, “I take good care of the gear as if it were my baby”. I took the note seriously, but only for a month. Last weekend, when I went trekking with my friends at work, one of my colleagues sprained his ankle and I offered my umbrella for support as he walked. Little did I know what was coming. After some time I realised that the wooden handle was like a frozen shredded chicken and the purple canopy looked devastated and incomplete without the handle.

The following day, I took a spare three-fold umbrella. At first, I couldn’t open it because it was jammed. I gave it some love and the gear reciprocated. I managed to take good care of the umbrella for three days. But then that day arrived when I had two bags in my hands and I needed to keep the umbrella somewhere as soon as I boarded the train. After letting go of a lot of hesitation and bad language from fellow lady commuters, I rested the umbrella on the luggage railing. Knowing how clumsy and absent minded I am, I thought of setting an alarm that would go off in half an hour. Alas! I forgot and I had to pay the price too. I forgot to pick up my precious umbrella before getting off at Lower Parel station. I realised it wasn’t with me only after the train left the station. Not that I could run and get it. Umbrellas lost in Mumbai locals are gone forever.

I couldn’t even think of spending a day without an umbrella considering the amount of showers the city is being blessed with. So on my way back from work, I stopped by a rain gear shop at Andheri station and purchased another classic umbrella. I will at least let it rest on my arm when it’s not being used. It’s easier to manage in a train as well.

A recent news piece reported that cops in Mumbai are banned from using umbrellas so that these cops remain vigilant and hands-free at all times while executing their duties. Taking a cue from here, I think, even I should cut some slack and (like the cops of Mumbai) invest in some fashionable raincoats for the monsoon. And if I lose this rain gear, heaven save me!

Image courtesy: Shop.InOnIt.in

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