MiSF!T – Level 1

Everything has a purpose. Every decision you take has a reason. What was my reason for joining MiSF!T?

‘Why do you want to join Level1?’ This was the obvious question that I was asked during my interview. I had two answers back then. And I was truthful to every word. One – ‘I feel being in touch with your creative side is very satisfying.’ Two – ‘I can feel some inner voice telling me to go ahead and join this course.’ And this is how it started. Now let me tell you something about myself. I had never been on stage earlier, except as a volunteer during college fests. Art form was something that I was miles away from. Some inhibitions or the other had kept me away. Far away. Whenever I used to see someone perform, be it a drama or dance or anything, I always used to think – ‘How lucky these guys are. Talented ones. I wish I could become one of them.’ But thinking never helps in these cases. What one needs, I believe, is to take the first step. Taking that first step is the most difficult, and the most critical one.

It was sometime in early 2009 that I came across a blog: anuragjain.blogspot.com. This blog contained information about upcoming events in Bangalore. And one day, I came across this info about an Acting Course for Beginners. Curious to know more about it, I registered for the online egroup, Misf!t Play Pals. I also sent a couple of mails to get the course details, all out of curiosity. And then sometime in April, I got this mail about a show, a public presentation by students of Level1. The show was titled ‘Shattered: Shaadi Ke Tukde’. I had never seen anything of this kind, apart from a couple of exaggerated dramas in college. Performance by students of an acting course, now this sounded something interesting. But I was undecided as I had my MBA coaching classes at Koramangala clashing with the show timings. I wanted to be there for the presentation. And I didn’t want to miss my class as well. I got into one of the 201 series BMTC buses which goes to MGRoad via Koramangala and I had to get down at NGV. 10mins. of journey, strong urges, an inner struggle and I had decided. I didn’t get down at NGV. Instead decided to bunk the class and go for the show at Tunbridge High School, Infantry Road. I don’t know what I did was correct or not but what followed that evening was simply magic. The performances, the energy, the ‘Take Hands’ before the show, and most of all a teacher supporting his students at every step during the audience feedback session, Mr. Ratan Thakore Grant. Combine all these, and this is what I realized much later, was my motivation for joining MiSF!T. The show ended, but it had started something very unique in me. An urge to be there on the stage. In front of public. And deliver a performance some day. I took the first step and got registered for L1. The classes getting shifted to Koramangala was a relief, but being there on one of the weekdays seemed difficult considering the fact that the two years of my life that I had spent in IT, all my projects had been Fixed Price Development projects, which meant stricter deadlines, late-nights and working on weekends. For the first time I had decided to defy the project norms. I will work and I will work hard. But one day of the week, I need to leave early come what may. I deserve the right to decide as to what to do with at-least one day every week of my precious life. These were the thoughts that were going on within me. And worst, I couldn’t share this whole thing with my colleagues because I knew people out there would get pissed off. An IT guy going for an Acting course!! Till date I get to see shocked faces when I tell people about it. Anyways, the first milestone had been achieved. And I reached my first class.

This was the first time that I was meeting people of so many varied professions under one roof. IT guys(even Managers), Models, Architects, Teachers, Entrepreneurs, Fashion Designers, Students. Huh!! Quite something to digest in the first place. This was the introduction class where-in we had to pair up with a batch-mate and gather information about him/her. Then we had to share the same in the class. And we had to listen carefully to each of the groups and note down our perception of the person, the purpose behind it we came to know much later. What I felt then was that my purpose of joining this course was not as clear as others. Almost everyone had a very strong reason for the same. Anyways, the sessions followed and we learnt the basics of Breathing, Voice and Concentration. The statue and the thief exercise, where-in you become a statue and others try to break your concentration without touching you, will always remain special. My concentration didn’t break and I got the first compliment- ’This guy is really good’. One simple line and it was the first boost of confidence. We went ahead with Dialogues, Stage positions, Stage movements, and then our first performance with the standard set of dialogues. It was interesting to see groups come up with such nice themes using the same set of dialogues. Then we went ahead with the definitions of Acting, the equation of Method Acting, Gestures, Mannerisms, and landed up in ‘Creating Characters’. For this performance we had to get out on the streets with partners. Say I found some person interesting as a character to be played, my partner would ask the person a couple of questions on any evocative topic. And I had to observe and perform like the person had replied to the questions. This was an important exercise in observation. Though the character that I performed on was not completely real, I got another nice compliment- ’It sometimes amazes me that a guy who sits so silently in the class comes up with such a performance.’ It was another booster. And that was the day I realized that Acting is addictive. I was developing a certain addiction for Acting, an urge to be there on the stage and perform. After that started the series of Improvisation sessions. I realized that the faster you think, the better prepared you are to perform. And this is what was and still lacks a lot in me. The creativity that was projected after those one-minute gaps between the situation we were given to perform and the performance itself was really amazing. We moved ahead with Mime, Pantomime and Using Space. And then came across the most-awaited Blind-folded/Trust exercise followed by sessions on Characters and Stage Management, the Stage Set-up and Stage Lighting. And now the time had come for an important landmark.

The Grading, the test of what we had been learning since the last couple of months. Because of some circumstances, my grading got screwed up. But the words- ’From the snippets that I saw, if I had to grade Amit, I would give him a 10+.’ was a relief. One important thing which got registered that day was the fact that you cannot stop while performing till you reach the end. A play is a ‘Single Take’ thing. There is no scope for pausing once you have started. Post-Grading started the preparation for the final landmark, the Presentation. Gosh!! This was the moment I had been waiting for. A public performance. Finally the moment had come. At the same time my project had also reached a very critical stage. For the last two months, I had been leaving office every Tuesday at 5:30PM, reaching back my office at Electronic City at 10:30PM, working till midnight and then returning back to my room in Madivala. It was stressful, but it was Acting that had helped me persevere. And the last week before the presentation will always remain memorable. The studio had shifted to Bannerghatta Road and I didn’t have a bike back then. So travelling from EC, reaching the studio at around 8PM, rehearsing well past mid-night, reaching back home at around 1-3AM and then getting back to work the next morning. Frustrating at times because of lack of sleep. Frustrating even more because the fellow actors stop reacting to your performances as they see the same thing every day. You start thinking- ’Why are the fellow actors not reacting like they did the first day? Has my performance gone down?’ And these thought made me realize one very important aspect – Never stop improvising. Each time you perform, keep scope for improvisation. Do not be mechanical. The first day of the rehearsals, I could hear reactions as my team was seeing my act for the first time. We got praises. And we were so held up by those appreciations that we stopped improvising. We wanted to keep the same thing for the audience. And it became so very frustrating doing the same thing, trying to replicate. Not Act. One very good thing was that the last week made us come even closer and prepare together as a group. I also realized that as a performer, I could have any number of rehearsals and still project the energy. Juggling with work pressures and rehearsals finally came the day for which I had waited so long, the day of the Presentation. Our Presentation was titled- ‘The Disgraced’. Waiting for the audience to get seated, ‘Taking Hands’, getting into Character – it was a journey through all the phases with utmost satisfaction. We pulled off a pretty good show. And I had achieved what I had started for. This was the first time I believe that I had desperately wanted to do something and achieved it. Performed in front of an audience of 85 people. I believe if my work pressure was a bit less, I could have done a better job. But as we say, no excuses. This show also meant much more because some of my friends were not convinced with what I was doing. And the only way to make them understand was to make them watch a presentation. And I believe their perception certainly changed after this show. We were lucky to get a responsive audience. And I realized how the small responses of the audience charge up the Actors and the performances reach unforgettable limits. One of the audience feedback touched me a lot- ‘It’s always good to see what people love to do.’ A simple statement but got me completely bowled over. Apart from the performances, my friends were also touched with the same fact that I had observed during ‘Shattered’ and they ended up saying, – ‘Hats off to your teacher. He was supporting you all at every stage.’

I took a path that none whom I knew six months back, had taken or had any plans to take. It was a completely dark path with a small glimpse of light at the end. I could see the light but not the underlying hardships. As I proceeded, I opened new avenues for myself. There were moments of high as well as moments of low. Moments of happiness, sorrow, anger, frustration, exhaustion and surprise. Somehow I managed to survive and reach the end. Which in fact is the beginning of another journey. A more difficult one though. Level 2.

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An unplanned trip..

With my Theater classes shifted to Sundays, my weekends are comparatively more organized now. Sunday, full day devoted to Theater. Which leaves me the complete Saturday for other things, of course if I don’t get panic calls from my office. Last Saturday was one such day and I got ample time to rest. Had a nice nap after lunch, woke up at 5:45, went up to the terrace to collect the clothes that I had left for drying. And I was dumbstruck.
The weather that day was simply magical. Light rays of the sun. Cool breeze, not chilling though. It was just the weather when you would want to be away from the city, far from traffic, somewhere in the midst of nature and enjoy this bliss. An instant decision, no one to give me company, still I started. Zoomed on my bike. Towards Lalbagh.
What better place could you find to enjoy such a nice weather. And in such a short time, considering the fact that it was nearing sunset. The traffic was a spoiler. And it took me almost 20 mins. which would have taken less than 10 mins. without traffic. I reached there at around 6:20. And to my utter disappointment, the gates had already been closed. In the sudden urge to enjoy the magical weather, I had forgotten that there is a closing time as well. It was really annoying. Such a nice weather, driving through traffic only to realize that you would have to return back. Sad. There were some 40 schoolkids waiting to get in. They had some permissions I guess. I wondered if I could become a kid for a minute and join the group to gain an entry. If it was not for the strict-looking school teacher with the group, I would have definitely risked an attempt. And just when I was about to return back, I saw this aged security guard. Old, yet full of energy. And somehow I felt that maybe he could help me. I turned the bike towards him and asked :”Entry Closed.” He looked at me, looked around and said:”Twenty rupees”. And that’s it.
I knew I was promoting corruption but at that moment getting into Lalbagh meant more to me than anything else. I took out a twenty rupees note and moved my hand towards him. But suddenly I realized that the guard had started acting strange. He looked into some other direction, completely ignoring me. I was surprised. This man who had asked me money a couple of seconds ago was refusing to identify me. Then I looked towards my left and saw this traffic policeman observing us. And I understood. I withdrew my hand. And stayed calm for 10 secs. The policeman walked away. I gave the money. And got in through the exit gates. Parked my bike. And rushed to the top of the Peninsular Gneiss hillock inside Lalbagh. And I felt time stand still.
It was simply awesome. Visibility reducing every second, a cool breeze and a lesser crowd. The only disturbing elements were the innumerable crows inside the garden. But anyways, they were far away to create any appreciable impact with their noises and I enjoyed my solitude. Looking at the gates, the terrific traffic ahead it and I didn’t getting disturbed because I couldn’t hear the traffic. I was too far from the killer noise.
I waited patiently for the lights at UBCity come up one by one. The majestic towers looked magnificent from the hillock. The ambiance was just perfect for some contemplation. Things to ponder about. And I got lost in my thoughts. Preparing myself for the sad story class I had the next day. I stayed there for almost 40 mins. Then decided it was time to return back. Some unplanned trips remains so very special.

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A passing thought..

A passing thought when you are not very passionate about the work you do..

I used to love coding. You could see a smile on my face when my code worked. Visually reflected on JSPs. Did I have the same love earlier? I reflect back. I loved coding when I was in school. Hated coding in college. And now again. After training and during the first project, it happened again. Got back my lost love. I loved it so much that I used to leave office by 9. Weekends. Holidays. I didn’t mind. Do you ever mind being with the one you love. I never liked sitting and reading new technologies or attend trainings. If I had to learn anything, I could learn it only through coding. I used to love coding.

Then one day my project got over and I had to leave office early. So early that I could see the sun set. And there was a big smile on my face. A big satisfaction that I could feel. I returned back the same time the next day and on and on. And the happiness that I felt on seeing the setting sun was much more that coding. Had I changed? Or had I again come to the phase where I didn’t like coding anymore? Had I liked the setting sun earlier? I look back again. Yes. I had always liked the setting sun. It was not like a phase as coding. But something that was inherent in me. From eternity.

Then one day I decided to venture out and see what those people do who don’t like seeing the setting sun but still leave early. And it was interesting. Some involved in physical activities. Gymming, Aerobics, Volley, Basketball, Tennis, Badminton, Yoga. But this was in office. What about outside it? I ventured out a little further. And it was even more interesting. Like the setting sun. Or even more. I don’t know yet.
Some zooming on their bikes, enjoying the breeze accompanying the setting sun. Some dancing. Some playing instruments. Some singing. Some acting. Some jogging in the midst of nature. Some chatting with friends over a coffee joint. Some reading. Some cooking. Some networking on the net. Some photographing. And yes the setting sun casts a glow that is very photogenic.
What each one was doing was his/her passion. Something that keeps the person going.
And what was I doing and am still doing? Coding? Not really. What if I can’t see the setting sun. I am writing a blog. Giving a vent to my thoughts. Something that is satisfying. Like the setting sun.

– Source: An IT Engineer who thought he loved coding until he saw the outer world.
– Note: Not intended to hurt the sentiments of code lovers or others who work late to meet their commitments or otherwise.

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A couple of days ago, I had come across an article on the importance of music in our lives:
‘ Music is a very colorful thread woven into the entire fabric of our lives. Soon after birth we hear our first melodies as our mothers hum soothing lullabies to help us sleep. We learn nursery rhymes that are designed to both entertain and educate us in our preschool years, which help build the framework for the social and language skills we need to function in society.We’re taught music in school, and some of us participate in the school marching band, orchestra, or theater. We sing church hymns to help build our spiritual being, and patriotic songs to give us a sense of national identity. In every step of our lives music places another brick on the foundation of who we are…… ‘
But for how long in our lives does music play an important part? And do the above lines hold true for everyone? What about someone who has never gone to school? Or someone who doesn’t know what patriotism is? For someone who has spent every moment of his life just to survive? Do the above mentioned lines hold true only for the privileged ones?
I am learning guitar at one of the classes in BTM. Every weekend, after the class gets over, I hire an auto rickshaw to reach my room. Last Sunday, the same thing happened. The only difference being the conversation I had with the auto rickshaw driver. The driver knew Hindi and he started conversing.
D: So you learn guitar.Me: Yes.D: Since how long have you been learning this.Me: Its been two months now.D: What all have you learnt in these two months.
Getting into the details was pointless.So I said: Some variations of “Sa Re Ga Ma ..” and some songs.D: So what all can you play.Me: I can play a couple of songs.
Till that moment I thought the driver was interested to know more about guitar or so.But his next statement bowled me over.
D: I think learning music is a waste of time.
Whoa !! I had a man who is telling the truth, something that he really felt. Something most people wouldn’t say. Especially to someone who is learning music.But why would he make such a statement. I had to get the truth out.
Me: Oh really. And why do you think so.D: I am a married man. I have kids. I have a lot of responsibility. Can you give me one reason why I should appreciate music. From morning to night I ride my auto rickshaw to make a living. Every moment is an attempt at survival. If I had time, I would learn something that would get me more money in the future. Maybe I could learn driving other vehicles or so. But there is no place for music. Absolutely no place. After you get married and have kids, life plays a music of its own. And you don’t have any control over that. That music makes you dance to its tunes. And you have no option but to dance.
I was dumbstruck. I could cite numerous reasons as to why someone should learn music. But I had never thought it this way. Reasons not to learn music. I couldn’t refute the driver because every word he said was like reading excerpts from the book of his life.
This case was of a person who could not afford to learn music.
My uncle had been to Bangalore a month back. When he came to know that I was learning to play a guitar, the first question he asked me was: Why are you learning this?
I remember my uncle used to take part in Antaksharis and other competitions during college. But the fast lane of life had made him forget all that. Music was no more important to him.
This case is of a person who has lost the passion for music.
So what is it that enables someone to learn music? What is the driving force?Is it only passion? Or only affordability?Or is it a deadly combination of both?

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A Series Of Phone Calls

‘This is a work of observation. All characters and events are the product of the author’s real life observations. Any resemblance to real persons, living, not dead, is entirely intentional.’
First let me give you a brief introduction to the main characters and the scenario involved:
Milan, my roommate, a Wiproite.
ChandraSekhar, another friend of mine.
The time : 8PM
Situation : Milan had a night shift and was waiting for his cab. He had just received the call from his cab driver and was expecting him anytime. Just then he received another call. An unknown number and a girl on the other end.
Milan : ‘Hello.’
Girl : ‘Ya hello. May I know who I am speaking to.’
Milan : ‘Strange. You have called me up. You should be knowing whom you are calling. Tell me who you are. Tell me your name.’
Girl : ‘Mmmmm…’
Milan : ‘No problem. No need to think. You can tell me any name. Doesn’t matter as I don’t know you.’
Girl : ‘Actually I called you up because I wanted to make friendship with you.’
Milan : ‘With me ? Really !! So you must be knowing about me. Okay tell me my name.’
Girl : ‘Come on. I know that you are ChandraSekhar.’
Milan : ‘ChandraSekhar !!’
This one name brought a thousand questions to his mind and his immediate thought went to our other friend ChandraSekhar. Probably some girl got Milan’s number by mistake. Anyways what does he have to do with all this. The girl wants to make friendship with ChandraSekhar.
So Milan responded : ‘For your kind information, my name is Milan . I will forward your message to ChandraSekhar and ask him to call you back.’
With this he disconnected the phone.
A minute later he received another call from an unknown number, this time a boy. The boy spoke Hindi with much difficulty.
Boy : ‘May I know who I am speaking to ?’
Milan : ‘Strange. Everyone is calling me and asking me my identity. If you have called me, tell me about yourself. I won’t say anything.’
On listening to this the boy disconnected the phone. After all this drama, what Milan did was save the last entry in received call list as ‘STRANGE_GUY’ and the one previous to it as ‘CHANDU’S_GIRLFRIEND’. Then the cab arrived and Milan went for his night shift. The next day he called up ChandraSekhar and gave him the number saved as ‘CHANDU’S_GIRLFRIEND’. ChandraSekhar called up but it was not picked up by any girl as expected but a man, probably some kannada guy who knew very little of English and no Hindi .
In the evening, the next day, Milan received another call from an unknown number. Now Milan’s number is 9916428560 and the number from which he received the call was 9916482560.
‘A jumbled version of my number. Cool !!’ said Milan to himself as he picked up the call.
Guy : ‘May I know who I am speaking to ?’
Milan : ‘God ! Not again. Who are you guys. Why are you troubling me. I won’t give my identity. You have called me so if you want to disclose your identity you are welcome.’
Guy : ‘See sir. I have been receiving messages to call up on your number. So I called up. As far as identity is concerned, I am a student of Vishwesaraya Institute Of Technology and my name is Chandrasekhar.’
Milan got confused. What was this going on. Probably the girl who had called up yesterday wanted to make friendship with this Chandrasekhar . But how was Milan thrown into the whole scheme of things. Anyways he explained the previous day’s incident and gave the girls number saved as ‘CHANDU’S_GIRLFRIEND’ to this guy and disconnected the call.
It was around 7:30 PM. As Milan was waiting for the cab driver’s call, a number flashed across the screen of his mobile : ‘CHANDU’S_GIRLFRIEND’.
‘Oh..She has called again. I will finalize everything once and for all.’
But the response from the other side shocked him like hell.
Man : ‘Hello sir. Cab driver.’
For a moment the whole world became blank for Milan . From that moment till the time he reached his office, he kept on analyzing as to what had happened. Then the facts started appearing slowly. The girl and the boy had called from the same number and prior to that the cab driver had called up. But because of ‘Applying Thought’, more than what was required, he had saved the last entry as ‘STRANGE_GUY’ and the one prior to it as ‘CHANDU’S_GIRLFRIEND’.
And now the tragedy. He had given the cab driver’s number to both the ChandraSekhars.
Now there are a few unanswered questions :
Who sent messages to 9916482560 to call 9916428560 ?
Did the guy tell the truth ?
How was the boy, who called up from the girls number related to the girl ?
Who was the girl in fact ?
These questions and many more continue to remain a mystery so far.

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Skandagiri – The night trek

The 5th Of September, 2008 will be forever etched in my memory. And it has nothing to do with Teachers. This was the day when a gang of 19 youngsters decided for a night-trek to scale Skandagiri. But little had they realized that it would be one of the toughest moments of their lives. From rain to slippery paths to darkness. But as we say, difficulties lead to memorable moments. And below is a small attempt to capture the moments in words.

Night has fallen, where have all gone
I have been waiting, my packing is done
Came from the office as early as seven
Planning to visit Skandagiri – the so called heaven

Its 11:30, already 1 hr late
Shall I call it destined by fate
Finally the bus came rolling along
Just like in solitude, a sweet song

The wood has been kept, the head count done
It’s time for a photo session
A hip-hip hurray to mark the start
And mimicry and teasers and songs apart

Mid of the night, and we are lost
What shall we do, wait for a ghost ?
We move along to find a way
As songs keep making us gay

It starts raining, the matter’s worse
But we keep moving on full force
Finally we find an auto-rickshaw guy
Who guides us on the proper way

The site is reached, all spirits high
Little did we know what lay our way
Carrying the sticks, the march began
To explore on earth, the so called heaven

Torch-lights flashing, the guide leading
Oh clouds, Please stop raining..
Crossing the barriers one by one
It felt like real fun

Then as the time passed by
And we climbed high and high
The path became difficult to trek
Sometimes felt like, Lets go back

But we moved, Hand in hand
Each one supporting another friend
Come what may we shall move
Be it terrain, be it groove

When one slipped, he was held
When one was tired, everyone sat
When one lost way, all moved back
19 people in one pack

We reached the top, its dark still
Trekking across the perilous hill
Lit a bonfire, had some dance
Everyone seemed to be in a trance

Then came light, and vanished the dark
Representing our heavenly lark
Standing among the clouds, I knew for sure
I had never felt this way before

A feeling, so intense, the sight, so zing
I felt like a worldly king
Spreading my arms, I felt sly
Oh God. I wanted to fly.

Securing the memory for a lifetime
The return journey began
True to the word,
Its real heaven.

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Late-night frauds..

The last week of July ‘07. Our joining was on the 27th and we arrived in Bangalore a couple of days earlier so that we could find a house. To begin with, we decided to stay in a lodge in Cotton Pet area, near Majestic.
Around 9:30PM my friend M suggested “Hey! We have been sleeping the whole day. Let’s go out for a walk.”
I knew the area, so I agreed. As we went on discussing our future and the plans for the next day, we came across a group of people, two families, what it seemed at the moment.There were two men accompanied by two women each carrying a child.
One of the men approached us and asked: “Hindi ?”
We replied yes and he took a step forward and replied in Hindi: “We are from Maharashtra. We had come to Bangalore for some medical purpose. But our bag got stolen from the railway station and we do not have any money. Please help us.”
I am not of the types who easily believe such stories. But my friend who had been out of his native for the first time was somewhat convinced with it.
Whatever be it he spoke: “We have come to Bangalore to join a job and we don’t have sufficient money”, to which one of the other guys replied: “Sir, at least give us some money to eat something. We haven’t eaten anything since morning. See our children and have some pity.”
And I can bet, however strong you might be, the sight of a hungry child can melt a thousand hearts.
My friend took out a Rs.20 note and said “I can only give this much. Take it, buy something for the children, they seem hungry. I won’t give you anything. You are grown ups and can manage.”
Although they pleaded for more, we moved away and continued with our late-night stroll. Moreover a Rs.20 isn’t much, assuming the children were hungry. After covering a kilometer we decided to return back.
Some half-kilometer distance later, suddenly my friend exclaimed:“Hey Amit, Stop. See those two families out there, the one’s whom we gave money. I think they are buying something for their children. Let’s wait and watch.”
After that what we saw was really shocking. One of the guys and the two women carrying their children sat in an auto-rickshaw and went away. The first thing that striked us was – The people who were begging for food a minute ago could afford to sit in an auto-rickshaw. Definitely we were cheated.
As we were analyzing, my friend suddenly asked me something interesting: “Where was the other man ?” to which I replied “Probably he was the person driving the auto-rickshaw.”
After living in Bangalore for around a year, I have come to hear many such incidents, the only difference being the name of the places that they describe. The two most commonly heard places are Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Actually it’s a side-job for many people. In our case, probably the man used to ride auto-rickshaws during the day and carry on with this fraud during the nights.
The next month I met another group who asked me the same question : “Hindi ? ” to which I replied “Yes. You from Maharashtra or Madhya Pradesh.” I think they got a hint and went away.

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