Saturday, October 07, 2006

Brangelina in Amche Pune

Bustling monsoon morning in Pune. This year the rain has stretched into October, bringing apprehensions of a wet Divali, thanks to Global Warming, designed maybe, to prohibit bursting of crackers, (a form of golbal warming, some say. ) . Unlike Mumbai, (and like me :-) ) , Pune cools down after a shower.

Between sips of nice ginger tea, sitting with one leg over the threshhold, newspaper in her lap, glasses sliding down her nose, my elderly aunt massages her tired knees, and wants to know "Who is this this Brangelina they keep writing so much about. And whats so great about their taking a ricksahw to travel in Pune ?"

Fed up as I am, of using the adjective, global, to describe stuff,
I sort of hesitate a bit before trying to explain things to my elderly aunt.

'Why have they come now ? They should have come during Ganpati and Navratri; there is so much stuff to see', she asked. "And , the best way to see every thing is really on foot, dont you think ?" she adds.

I can just see Pitt and Jolie , gulal on their faces, one kid on Pitts shoulders, one on Jolie's, trying to hold their handycams steady as the ganpati procession whirls about them on Laxmi Rd. Some one from the outlying villages, visiting pune for the Ganpati immersion day, sort of sneaks into place next to Brad, pulls a little girl up front, and says, "Zara Sarkoon Ghya ." Just then vada pav vendor, plugging his extra chutney- jumbosize -special- vadapavs slithers past giving Jolie a whiff of what our desi hamburger is all about. "Char rupaya, dus ka teen " and he gives Brad a special look, expecting him to say, 'Theek ahe. Chutney zyada." Then Brad pulls out a 100 rupee note, ("Can you believe it, just two dollars ? Wow."). The vadapav guy's mouth opens to almost the size of his vadas. "Kai Bhau, udya pachshechi dyaal; zara sutte Dya ki..." ; and Pitt, in the best traditions of the society he belongs to, makes the vada pav guy fall into a complete daze when he says "umm. Just keep the change fella".......

Agobai. Bhaltach.

Reports say that Pitt and Jolie spent an entire day moving around Pune in a ricksha. ( I mean, this is absolutely , well...., the pits. )

They fly in , in a private aircraft; Mercedes vans meet them on the tarmac , and they go in and out of their hotel through the basement garage. Guys move around with walkie talkies alerting each other to every consecutive step taken by the duo, and all they could get was a ricksha ? Pune Police are supposed to be taking extra care of the situation, and the entire security cavalcade contains the mandatoy police jeep.

So heres this ricksha, with "Aai tujha ashirwaad" painted on its back, rain - side-curtains flapping in the wind, whizzing through posh areas of Pune, with Pitt and Jolie totally aghast at the willfull breaking of all traffic rules, sudden 360 degree turns, holding on to the railing behind the rickshawalla for dear life, and Bunty aur Babli playing full blast as background score on the ricksha speakers, and a whole bunch of suited and booted stiff upper lip British security guys following , totally perplexed in a convoy of armored cars, not to forget, our friendly pune police pandu havaldars making up the rear, posing in their sunglasses , whistles, nosemasks in their Maruti Gypsy.....

The latest is that her children are about to visit the Katraj Snake Park, and every newspaper has despatched reporters to pester the Khaires who run the park, and know nothing about this impending visit. In fine Pune tradition, the Brangelina kids will be made as welcome, as say , my cousin's nephews who are also planning to visit at the same time. Of course the inability of the snakes to take cognisance of global visitors and icons is a definite plus.

How do you explain Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to may aunt , someone who retired from her job as a primary school teacher; she walked 3 miles everyday to work, saved every penny she could, so she could educate her two children, and give them a decent start in life ? When she retired, careless processing on the part of the authorities delayed her pension by 8 months, which she spent running, sorry, trudging , from pillar to post, getting her papers to move fast, ignoring those who suggested that money would make things move faster ? How do you explain "Brangelina" stuff to someone who actively worries about the state of the cities roads and corruption today, and writes letters to editors, and participates in volunteer groups in the city.? I mean, why get carried away over their travelling everywhere with their kids ? Like she says "We do it all the time, there is no alternative. "

To her, its like one more movie to ignore; not that any of the movies today are a patch on Shyamchi Aai, Umbartha, Jait re Jait, Gulacha Ganpati and the likes.

Pune is in a tizzy because of the visit of these two American icons, for the shooting of a movie based on the life and death of Daniel Pearl. Apparently it was to be filmed in Karachi. some crew, predictably from India, were denied visas, and so Pune was chosen, and parts of Aundh , made to look like Karachi.

Every vernacular paper in Pune has photos on Page 1, showing all kinds of security folks hovering over someone purported to be Brad Pitt. In a compeletely 'me too' fashion, these newspapers, who till recent days, specialised in reporting very ordinary happenings in large red color headlines across 6 columns , now report hour by hour movements of the couple and their 3 children , all of whom are supposed to be staying at the Hotel Meridien in Pune. In the fine tradion of "Billary" , newpapers keep talking about "Brangelina " with levels of familiarity that would imply they actually grew up playing marbles with her/him.

Maybe this is what globalisation does to people. A city , fed up with corruption, the state of its roads, the posturing of its leaders, the deafness of those who are supposed to have their ears to the ground, constant news items of terrorist encounters, selective blindness of those up there, farmers suicides, the rising prices .... so much more.

Sometimes Brangeline fiction provides a breath of fun.