Signs Of The Times


By: Humra Quraishi
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 each 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 nor milk , for then , the flavor cum aroma of those leaves gets throttled and 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 . Whilst traveling in and around Tehran and some other cities of Iran , those chai –cafes held out …yes, ,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 of the day go a step ahead and open chai cafes in this capital city and in other locales too ?


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 . The other is Bollywood’s Rekha who is making her entry into the Parliament …

On those two earlier occasions when I ‘d interviewed Zohra Segal what impressed was her spontaneity and with that , that 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 traumatized .And it was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who helped her at that crucial juncture. Thereafter she left Mumbai , to re – establish herself in the U.K . Only to return to New Delhi …And last week when this book landed – Zohra Segal ‘Fatty’ ( Niyogi Books ) I was pleasantly surprised to see its been written by her daughter Kiran . A trained classical Odissi dancer and Jatin Das’ former spouse, Kiran has well webbed those happenings and turning points in those one hundred years of her mother Zohra Segal’s life .

A full fledged feature film on the life and times of Zohra Segal can easily be made … And more and more celebrating their birthdays in old age , it gets writ large that life spans are getting stretched and with our imagination should also lie stretched.


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 , Eternal Romantic -My Father , Gemini Ganesan ( Roli Books ) carries some rare and off beat photographs and the lesser known aspects to Tamil cinema’s veteran super star of that era …The very backbone of this volume is Narayani’s candid style .Narrating some very touching incidents .Like this one, which she writes with stark honesty – “At Presentation Convent , Madras , where I studied a girl struck 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 . ‘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 .”

And though Rekha couldn’t have possibly studied beyond high school ( because she’d ventured into films when she was a teenager ) but 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 very 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 ,with teaching stints in , who knows ,Pudukkottai , Chennai , Delhi , U.K , U.S.A …He let his laurels rest lightly on his shoulders – to him success was neither a crowning glory nor a heavy cross. And at a time when celebrities made it a point to publicize their acts of charity he did it quietly , without fuss …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 – I cannot forget the experience as they held me close in their arms , their ‘child’. I began addressing them as ‘Amma’ and ‘Appa’ on and off the sets …I’m told I had to be ‘weaned’ away from my screen parents…”


N.D . Tiwari is in a tight spot . And things could get worse for him as he is shying away from taking the deciding DNA test . Why ! After all , it will pave way for Rohit Shekhar to call him ‘Pa’ . And going by this young man’s focus and determination it seems certain that Tiwari had at some stage befriended his mother and fathered him .So why shy away now !

Unless , Tiwari is worried that this DNA test could prove to be the very turning point of his life. More young men and women could queue up to his bungalow , crying out ‘Pa’. And with that he could become India’s official sperm donor or something along that strain …At 86 he could be much sought after !


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