Wednesday, August 22, 2007

a story with a capital ‘S’

The Story behind the interesting site What is Stephen Harper Reading? is

Life, it seems, favours moments of stillness to appear on the edges of our perception and whisper to us, “Here I am. What do you think?” Then we become busy and the stillness vanishes, yet we hardly notice because we fall so easily for the delusion of busyness, whereby what keeps us busy must be important, and the busier we are with it, the more important it must be. And so we work, work, work, rush, rush, rush. On occasion we say to ourselves, panting, “Gosh, life is racing by.” But that’s not it at all, it’s the contrary: life is still. It is we who are racing by.

Yann Martel wonders as to what makes the Prime Minister of Canada tick? when he refused the funds for the Canada Council for the Arts, so he decides

'For as long as Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada, I vow to send him every two weeks, mailed on a Monday, a book that has been known to expand stillness. That book will be inscribed and will be accompanied by a letter I will have written. I will faithfully report on every new book, every inscription, every letter, and any response I might get from the Prime Minister, on this website.'

A wonderful compilation of books recommended by Martel along with his letter to Stephen Harper which slowly prods the subject, albeit in a gentle manner.

One of them is this poem from the Short and Sweet: 101 very short poems, edited by Simon Armitage:


'ad 'em

and he says

'Busy? Tired? Feeling nothing? You’re missing on the depth of life that you know is out there.... '

Do read and if you have similar books you would like to recommend to Dr. Manmohan Singh do let me know.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A pick among great sagas

As I pause at the 330th page of Book1 of Ashok Banker’s adaptation of The Ramayana, I am amazed to find that a single day of Rama’s life is vividly brought to life in 330 pages of this 550-paged tome. Banker’s story-telling is full of colorful imagery, mental picture of different sounds and presenting the seers and kings without making them appear as caricatures.

This old mythological tale is packaged to suit the literary tastes of the current generation of fantasy-fiction lovers without dwelling on it’s religious elements.
Banker banks on the strength of this epic saga leading us along the main arteries of the story without getting lost in the by-lanes of the minor tales this epic abounds in.

He presents an ensemble of philosophy, action, rivalry and jealousy interweaving it with petty quarrels and mundane conversations.
But I thought the language could have been better than what appears to be school-bookish.
Can’t help but pick nits, what was ‘Harishchandra Avenue’, PFs, the Dark Lord??? Wasn’t it supposed to be set in the 4th century BC !!

Inspite of this, I do not deny that this is an interesting read, wonder if it can be sustained to complete the entire series of the 7 books.
I suddenly morph into a 5 year old sitting on my mother’s lap and listening to this amazing story of good vs evil.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Sojourns in Southeast asia

It is almost a month since I’m back from **what-my-friends-call** a South East Asian trip and I haven’t blogged about it (what a shame especially when one of the reasons to travel is to blog (read brag) about it) And so what if the entire neighborhood and their pets have already been there and done, did I mention that I’m not someone to be so easily discouraged.
A friend of mine in Singapore has been inviting me home for the last couple of years, without having a clue of the danger she is beckoning and so I decided to surprise her (perhaps, she got a shock!)
Well actually I could go ahead and dedicate the entire post to my friend’s posh 7th floor sea-facing apartment and her cutesy set of fraternal twins but I refrain lest it becomes a Sooraj Barjatiya film.

Singapore was an even bigger surprise than Minehaha falls. If you have a sudden urge for chewing gum, feeding birds or throwing papers at random then avoid landing in the Changi airport(which by the way has free internet, there I told you there are incentives) and banish any thoughts of basking in the glory of the sky-scrappers and the lush-green streets of Singapore.
I hadn't planned to do any sight-seeing in Singapore so that I could catch up with my friend , unfortunately the gossip session had to wait until the kids grow up.
So I headed where the tourists in Singapore head to - downtown,Esplanade, Sentosa and Night Safari.

Below are some of my favorite picks out of the album of this trip.

(Painting seen on an elevator)

(Fullerton hotel in Singapore)

Don’t miss the Chinatown where you have salesmen declaring that they eat live lizards (and not as a joke, mind you).(I tried to capture it on camera)

Thailand – the messiah for all those men-in-50s-seeking-a-companion (you know what I mean) must have been guilty about the women tourists which explains why it is a shopper’s paradise.Don't forget to take your shades lest you are hit with the garnish colors , that is Thailand.

Photos below are testimony to the above statement:

(entrance of grand palace)

(golden figurine, bonsai adorns Grand Palace)

(huge poster of Harry potter in Thai in the metro station)

For a country where Buddha is found at every street corner, the Thai cuisine has only non-vegetarian fare but one could still find at some corner(if you are a relentless searcher like me) a veggie version of Pad Thai.

(one of those Bhuddha temples)

Ok, I’m not complaining about India being dirty or it being the only country where men urinate in public, neither am I complaining about broken-door-ambassador taxis unlike the Toyota Corollas which come at the cost of an auto, I’m also not complaining about not getting sexy lingerie at throw-away prices, Neither is it about not having the sky-train or the metro, but yes, why can’t we get alcohol at the prices that are in Thailand? Aren't vacations all about drinking binges?

(You can find more colorful photographs here)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Krishi darshan or kekta kapoor?

Recently I removed the dust jacket off my TeeVee , to watch the third season of Indian Idol (yes, we idle indians watch Indian Idol) .
Guilty of not cheering for a fellow Hyderabadi in Season2 (blame entirely on my Belgium trip) ,I ensure that I try to remember to watch it this time(alas! I forget to most of the days) .
The highlight of the episode I’d watched last Friday was unfortunately not from Indian Idol but from where I’d sauntered off during the break - ‘Koffee with Karan with Kekta Kapoor’ (all the Ks only added to more disgust than the usual) I’d watched just 2 mins of the show and it was even more intolerable than all her 'Saas-Bahu' sagas put together – and so here is the highlight WTF comment by her ‘I make serials for the middleclass housewives and not for the upper strata of society which needs something more creative!’ ; I mean, she might as well say ‘I’m not creative enough!’ and all that ‘I’m going to marry you Ekta’ by Karan J made me run to the washroom (to puke of course!) .

Suddenly I see the room around me revolving and I’m transported to the -good old didi (our pet name for doordarshan) of the ‘80s and my mom rationing my television time where I could watch only 1 hour of ‘Fauji’ and 1 hour of ‘The world this week’(time not enough to drool over ‘I say chaps’ guy and Pranoy Roy).
Perhaps television in ‘80s came with a disclaimer -‘Viewing is injurious to children’s health’ but recently must have been modified to ‘Viewing is injurious to health’ .

So what went wrong? From 1 channel to 101 channels and everything churns out the same junk as if they wouldn’t want to miss the prize for the world’s trashiest sit-coms.
I am not asking for ‘Friends’ or ‘Seinfeld’ , atleast give us something like good old DD– ‘Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi’ , ‘ Nukkad’ , ‘Ados Pados’, ‘Mungherilal ke sapney’, ‘Mr.Yogi’ , ‘Karamchand’ , ‘Chunauti’, ‘Subah’ , ‘ Choti Badi Baaten’ , ‘Rajini’, ‘Vikram aur Bettal, Babaji ka Baiscope,’Ek Do teen char’, Indradhanush , ‘Neev’, ‘Circus’ , ‘ Udaan’
(Diversion1: I am avoiding Hum Log, Buniyaad, Khandhaan for the obvious reasons that I never watched them but I know for sure they were way ahead of the K-serials)

If the lack of creativity concerns you, why not adapt books into serials – ‘Kachi Dhoop’ was based on ‘Little Women’, ‘Trishna’ was ‘Pride an’d Prejudice’ and ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’ which was based on a fictional Bengali detective and of course the famous R.K.Narayan’s ‘Malgudi Days’ (diversion2: recently I heard someone using the famous Malgudi days title track as a cell phone ringtone and I wished if the current channels revived the serial as well).

And does anyone remember this immensely cute animation called ‘Ek anek’?
For those who do, take a look at this and re-live your childhood memories…

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Are you spineless???

David McKie at the Guardian Books muses about his ‘uncontrollable urge to seize the nearest magnifying glass and try to decipher the titles’ from the spines of books in a photograph.

Do you have this intense urge to reach for the nearest sharp instrument and use it to scratch your body parts, which in other words can be termed an itch – now imagine that we bibliophiles have a similar feeling when seeing books anywhere ;only with double the intensity.
I have known people to wade through the ocean of people in Mumbai local trains only to find out the title of the book being read by the last person seated at the last window seat near the exit.
Also if the DVD you had borrowed from your local DVD store suddenly starts imitating a mouse – with squeaks ; I am sure that there would be at least one guilty person who seeing a book featured in the movie would have hit the FF and RW buttons a few hundred times.(remember ‘Crime and Punishment’ in ‘Matchpoint’?)
Old houses with books, libraries, bookshelves in any building form other parts of this serpentine queue of obsession.

But this saga of the spine-obsessed continues to haunt those who are not.
As is evident from one of the comments ‘How about just reading 'em and shutting up about it?’ to which comes the apt reply ‘Down in the antipodes, we have something called the "tall poppy syndrome". Means that anyone who takes a risk and tries to be interesting gets shot down. Guess it happens in the northern hemisphere too. WHY shut up about it? What's wrong with conversation?’

As for me I keep looking at any books hovering in the background until the person in front feels that I am more interested in inanimate objects rather than the conversation ,wish I could say, ‘Yeah, please take the hint!’ .

(Update: Much thanks to Lotus Reads for this site.Very interesting)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

This and That - Killing Batteries and DNA pendant?

As a rule I do not link to any good write-ups, but who says I live by rules!!!

Aren’t we all on the look-out for that one piece of writing which would beat the shit out of our mundane existence (ok, sorry did I say ‘we’ all, please read it as ‘I’) and that is how I stumbled across ‘Killing Batteries’ – I know, a zany name for a travelogue, I mean it does not seem to have anything to do with travel; or does it?

Currently in Tuscany for Lonely Planet’s Italy 8 and Tuscany and Umbria 5, Leif Pettersen is one helluva laughter riot - read this to know on how he landed on this job –

“How did this unlikely, professional madness come about? The gentleman who usually writes about Tuscany, nay owns it, fell ill. LP needed to fill that slot like yesterday. As I understand it, they went into their extensive Author Psychological Profiling Database (APPD) and ran a search with the following keywords: ‘Italy’ + ‘available now’ + ‘workaholic’ + ‘willing to do a four month assignment in two and a half while juggling several iron-clad magazine assignments’ + ‘weak willed’ + ‘nutter’
The rest is very recent history.”

Also his comprehensive, research-free list of hostel etiquette to live is a Must-Read for people with plans of visiting Europe in the near future.

(Update: One must read this post on what he calls good for nothing kids who later became saints and in response to my comment as to how i wish i had the courage to write on similar lines about the hindu Gods, this is what he had to say
"Zinging Hindu gods might be a bad idea. Did you see how fast they turned on Richard Gere after he kissed whatshername on the cheek? In less than 24 hours he was charged with like three felonies and burned in effigy! I ain’t an idiot. I know what lines not to cross…" :D)

(Trivia (which you can ignore): He worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, which calls for another trip to Minneapolis in search of his twin)

Now what has the DNA pendant got to do with this you ask? Thatz another story, err…another interesting blog. I was pleasantly surprised that one can actually do something with one’s own DNA – check this. Apparently one can preserve DNA(yes, the double-helix that you last read about in high school) in a life-jewel pendant or a portrait – imagine wearing a pendant made of your DNA –it would take Narcissism to new heights or perhaps it would be the ideal gift for your unsuspecting partner. :D

So what would you like to do with your DNA? (Weird question, I know)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Where is the credibility of freedom?

What was it that Rousseau said ? ‘Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains’ and looks like this adage is true to this day.

- Chandra Mohan, a student of the Fine Arts college, Baroda was arrested for (hold your breath) paintings which apparently hurt the (non-existent!) sentiments of some VHP and BJP activists. The paintings were not for public display but were exhibited for assessment for a MA in Fine arts.

“Chandramohan is being charged under sections 153A, 114, and 295 of the Penal Code for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc, commiting acts prejudicial to the harmony of the public.
He was denied bail and transferred to Central Jail. Emboldened by this, BJP is demanding that all
faculty and students in the department be suspended or expelled. The University has also suspended Dean Shivji Panikker who publicly backed Chandramohan.”
(Courtesy: The Statesman)

Meanwhile All-India protests are underway against the assault on the student and callous attitude of the university authorities.

Date and time for all: 14th May, 2007, 6p.m.
New Delhi - Rabindra Bhavan
Mumbai - Jehangir Gallery
Vishakapatnam - Faculty of Fine Arts, Andhra University
Cochin - Kashi Art Café
Hyderabad - Fine Arts, S N School, University of Hyderabad
Bangalore - M G Road, opposite Gandhi statue
Santiniketan - Kala Bhavan
Guwahati - Press Club

Those attending are requested to wear black and/or white.

Peter Griffin has more details on this.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Two cities and a river

Minneapolis did not extended a warm welcome to me –instead it was a cold one at minus 7 degrees even in April (statistics revealed that it was the first in 82 years that temperatures dipped in April)
Having heard about the Minnehaha Falls and the famous The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow my reaction was akin to someone who was handed a diet Pepsi when expecting a dirty martini.
If you are wondering why, see my picture below:

The sculpture garden had interesting works of art in metal and I walked all the way across the Irene Hixson Whitney Bridge just to read John Ashbery’s poem inscribed on it. And this photo below is my personal favorite considering the amateur status of my photography skills.

Think Mississippi river and you can’t help but remember Mark Twain which is infact a Mississippi River term "Mark number two” which means the second mark on the line that measured depth signified two fathoms, or twelve feet—safe depth for the steamboat.

The twin cities of St.Paul and Minneapolis are similar to Hyderabad and Secunderabad and that is definitely nothing to do with trafficJ. It is in the way that there is no exact line of demarcation between the cities and both seemed to merge into one another.
The St.Paul Cathedral close to the St.Paul downtown is a sight to behold and could easily compete with any of the famous cathedrals of Europe.
We had to cross the street to capture it’s glory on camera.

It was an all outdoor sights trip; other visits include Coon Rapid Falls, Mississippi Dam and of course how can a trip to the City of ten thousand lakes be complete without a lake? So took a long walk on the banks of Lake Calhoun stopping to admire kids making sand castles and men trying to hold on to their colorful sail boats.

A Collage of other photos of my trip is below and if anyone thinks of using it for things other than their desktop wallpaper you know whom to ask….

Monday, April 30, 2007

I thought Cinema Paradiso is the saviour of the good-movies-starved people of Hyderabad until I discovered that there isn’t a single DVD of any of those Oscar nominations and is this not reason enough that they should stop robbing people in the blazing daylights of Hyderabad?

But I’m glad I caught some of those my-kinda movies on the KLM flight
and I know you must be saying ‘come to the point ,lady’ so I proceed with my note on Notes on a Scandal.

Someone (don’t ask me who!) rightly said ‘I enjoy Solitude most of the time but I need someone to tell them that I enjoy it’ .
There is a subtle difference between solitude and loneliness and high school teacher Barbara only knows it too well.

Unlike Miss.Violet (of 36 Chowringhee Lane), Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) is not a kind troglodyte, she is a malicious woman who resorts to blackmail just to get some company in her shriveled and lonely life.

Barbara’s diary informs us of the new teacher Sheba (Cate Blanchett) who enters into the school of unruly 15 year olds and captures Barbara’s attention.
Barbara becomes watchful of her and capitalizes on the opportunity when Sheba has an affair with one of her young students, justifying the tagline of ‘One Woman's Mistake Is Another's Opportunity...’
Barbara is willing not to disrupt Sheba’s burgeoning family life - a teen daughter, an older husband and a son with Down’s syndrome, on the condition of undying friendship from Sheba. But Sheba is unable to give the kind of attention that Barbara forcefully tries to extract and that is when the scandal is out of the bag. I wouldn’t want to delve more details but rest assured that it isn’t about the affair between the school teacher and the 15 year old student but about how Barbara totally manipulates Sheba for some ulterior motives of her own.

The oscar-nomination-worthy performance by Dame Dench is one which would leave you with the dark bitter taste for the woman who is Barbara and Cate Blanchett is not far behind in matching the senior with her own acting prowess.

I know most people might want to give this movie a miss but I would recommend it for it’s taut script without actually making it an edge-of-the-seat thriller and of course it totally showcases the actor who is Judi Dench.

(btw, I had always wanted to blog from an airport and here I’m doing exactly that from my favorite Schiphol airport)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Flying through Schiphol Airport

Flying to US from India is no doubt a painful affair, but the entertainment provided by Mumbai airport officials, lack of bawling kids and the ladies loo in Schiphol Airport made it quite entertaining for me.
Arriving at the Mumbai airport, I was relieved to see that Jet Airways had a tie up with KLM and my luggage was checked-in through from Hyderabad to Minneapolis. I heaved a sigh of relief –no struggle to haul my luggage off the belt, instead I had to deal with one of those aforementioned airport officials who went through the routine ‘Do you have any liquids or gels in your bags?’ and when I answered in the negative I noticed that he was busy looking elsewhere pointing to someone named Kim Sharma –now, I wonder why do men who don’t want to watch her on screen are interested at gawking at her at airports while on duty ?

The flight from Mumbai to Amsterdam wasn’t very good – it was boring – there were no bawling babies or fights for the restroom, only horrendous service and of course no guy reading 'Death in Venice’ or any such in the entire flight! **sigh*** And guys complain about not sitting next to any interesting girl - it is an unfair world I tell you!

As I was cursing my luck after landing in Schiphol airport, I suddenly heard a voice from within (in the strictest grandmotherly voice it could muster) ‘Count your blessings’ and count I did, the number of women from different countries who formed a serpentine queue in the airport ladies restroom and the time taken for the makeup application of each of them. An Ethiopian mother of two who was flying to Florence was braiding the kid’s hair, a French business woman was just in her second coat of mascara and a Canadian housewife was busy brushing her teeth – it could have easily been a United Colors of Benetton advertisement. What is it about restrooms in the West which have only a portion of the door –Is it to observe the latest trends in women’s shoes? Or is it a means of forest conservation? Whatever it is, it makes one so uncomfortable after having the comfort of an entire room for oneself in India.
And then there was this McDonalds waiter who talks Tamil to anyone remotely resembling an Indian and a very handsome dutch airport official who was interested in knowing who Pamuk was – pointing to the book I was reading.

So that being the case I can say that the last leg of my journey from Amsterdam to Minneapolis was what I would call mildly interesting - co-passengers who talked incessantly in an alien tongue , and a Swedish father and son who were struggling to find out what ‘US citizen’ meant and I try to help them using sign language.
Of course the most interesting of them all was getting to watch ‘Half Nelson’ and ‘Notes on a Scandal’ on the flight (the DVDs of which haven’t yet arrived at my local Cinema Paradiso)
So now you get an idea of what my next post is going to be about…

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Are we clinically detached?

There is a moment in this video of a student, who supposedly saved many lives by barricading the door at the Virginia Tech University , when questioned whether he is a hero, does not answer but bends his head down as tears well up in his eyes and I suddenly found tears in my eyes too – all these young people with dreams in their eyes squashed like mosquitoes in a jiffy just by some lunatic and obviously left me to deal with questions swarming my mind about life and death.

Meanwhile Chris Floyd , says that ‘Tragedy in America is Normality in Iraq’ – but aren’t these mutually exclusive events? Sorry, but I do not seem to share the sentiments of this gentleman.

The Virgina Tech incident does not belittle any other tragedies occurring around the globe.
For someone watching the news I think whether it is people getting killed in Iraq or Virginia, it produces the same reaction – anger at people who are responsible for it and sympathy for the victims – unless people have become so clinically detached that another mass tragedy is just an addition to their coffee-break discussions at office.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The terrible Twos

I feel like a lousy husband who, on the verge of forgetting his wife's birthday,
rushes to the nearest Archies store to buy that last minute gift for 500 bucks with promises of diamond rings the next year.
So here’s wishing a Happy Birthday to my blog for turning two and yes baby, those diamonds which I promised have to wait .

And my blog is like a middle-aged housewife who desperately wants to participate in beauty pageants and resolves to exercise regularly, alas! it always goes the Wild(e) way (Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.)

So she goes back to her siesta and dreams about those titles she would have won, which you would be surprised to read ; surprised because they are all self-declared!

Bestest Mushy Post: (Memories associated with Songs)
Sing me a memory

Creative Best: (A Roadmap of my culinary skills)
I cook the same way I dress - to Kill.

(Obsession with Calories)
I have never met a Calorie that I did not like.

Best of the Worst Tags : (a 55 word horror story)
The short-cut of a long story.

Maximum-Comments post : (Ghent-oh no, not an insect but a town in Belgium)
Quaint Lille Town

Best Birthday Gift: (first birthday post talks about my sojourns in Italy)
The Day I fell in love with David

Best Guess: (Can you guess the blog from the title?)
Death of heroes,pilots and fountains

I think the middle-aged woman is feeling happy and dreamy and perhaps she would after all participate in the Mrs.World event coming soon. Any suggestions for preparation?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

To weep is to make less the depth of grief ~William Shakespeare, King Henry the Sixth

Anna Beer at the Guardian blogs says I am too self-conscious to read in public places, because I might start sobbing’ while discussing schmaltzy books.

The responses to this post, form an interesting pattern which varies from Anna Karenina to Brothers Kharamazov, Charlotte's Web, A Time Traveller's Wife, The Mayor of Casterbridge and what appeared like a cute cartoon called 'The Cat Came Back'.
Many readers seem to think that the demise of Beth is in Little Women but I distinctly remember Beth's death as described in it's sequel 'Good Wives'
(Brings back memories from school where I had devoured the entire pack of Good Wives, Little Men and Jo's Boys in a single week.) Does anyone else remember Beth in Good Wives?

I'm a little shocked at the mention of 'The Wind in the Willows' ?? A scornful look at self for not shedding a tear even as a kid. Is the sentimentalist in me dead?

But no, I remind myself about the incident where I needed a tissue or two while reading the last chapter of the “Remains of the Day’ and the only other instance I remember being misty-eyed was while reading ‘Of Mice and Men’.
I think moving to tears by a book not only depends on the type of person you are but also on the mood while reading and there are some books which leave you with a melancholic mood -Maugham comes to my mind at this juncture.

And in the words of Anna Beer ‘Sometimes the tears are a sign that a book has truly, deeply moved me - but too often there are shadows of Dickens at his most manipulatively sentimental.’ Do you agree with this?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dor and In Pursuit of Happyness

The Hyderabadi in me is always curious about any movie by Nagesh Kukkunoor, hence 2 hours of last weekend was spent in watching Dor.

Two women - Meera and Zeenat –diverse in all aspects come together for a cause.
Zeenat’s husband Aamir is accused of murdering Shankar, Meera’s husband, in the Middle East. Aamir could be saved from the death sentence only if the wife of the deceased gives a letter forgiving him.
Determined to save Aamir, Zeenat travels from Himachal to Jodhpur in search of Meera and to extract a signature on the letter from her.
One would wonder what Shreyas Talpade is doing in the movie? But he seems so essential to bring those light-hearted moments to the otherwise heavy movie.

It is a rarity that heroines are shown having a head above their shoulders , the only heroine that I can recall in recent times is the character of Antara Mali in ‘Naach’ – totally individualistic, fearless and strong-willed – an anti-thesis of the usual cry-babies of Bollywood. So I found myself drawn to the character of Zeenat, excellently portrayed by Gul Panag. This movie isn’t as much about the husband’s death as it is about the emancipation of women and the power of saying ‘No’ to something that they do not want to do. Many reviews have praises for Ayeasha Takia but my vote goes to Gul Panag for her subtle yet powerful performance.

Having said that, I would also ask Why do film-makers feel that they can’t do away with the clichés?. – especially the last scene in the railway station? (haven’t we seen enough with this ending?) and also Shreyas appearing out of nowhere to save Zeenat from the goons and last of all Shreyas declaring his love for Zeenat – totally uncalled for.
Though they might be overlooked in the greater view of the movie in totality, they do mar the effect of the otherwise well-made movie.

On Sunday I found myself heading towards Prasads multiplex to catch In Pursuit of Happyness -the biography of Chris Gardner which seemed a little over the top of the drama genre. We see Will Smith, with the junior Smith struggling to make ends meet by selling high-density bone-scanners; one might ask what is a high-density bone scanner?, to which, I would like to quote these lines from the movie , ‘that which provides a denser image than the x-ray at double the cost’, which would give you an estimate of how difficult it is to make one's living selling these gizmos. So realization dawns upon Chris that the way to happiness is to be rich and the way to becoming rich is by becoming a stock broker.

We are then hit with different visual images of how much Chris suffers along with his kid, after his wife abandons him. How he gets thrown out of his house for not paying rent, how he stays at a State run home for the homeless, how he spends a night in the jail .

Inspite of all this he manages to obtain a seat at the stockbroker internship programme.
How he loses one of his shoes in recess of his Internship and walks back with a single shoe and how his kid loses his favorite toy while they climb into the bus.

And if all these haven’t succeeded in inducing tears to your eyes – believe me, you are not going to enjoy this movie – my only regret is that I was not warned.

Ok, perhaps it is not such a bad movie like I make it to be, but yes it is definitely worth watching at home – in one of those re-runs of Star Movies.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

'Will you be my Valentine?' said the Spider to the Fly

I don’t have anything against pick-up lines – they are smart, innovative and above all provide great source of immense entertainment, especially on a day like Valentine’s.
While women dream about their gifts – red roses, candlelight dinners, perfumes, John Abraham(?) and all other assorted paraphernalia, the men are busy trying to invent excuses – the TV, Radio and posters galore (not to mention the Shiv Sena) would not let them use ‘forgetfulness’, which until recently was the well-tried-and-tested-requiring-no-racking-of-brains excuse.

Can someone please tell the Shiv Sena the factual figures (no puns!) about how Valentine’s Day contributes to increasing the national GDP by exactly 16.78% (ok, that was my wild imagination, but what the heck!) - from cell phone networks where lovey-dovey messages jostle for space to restaurants and pubs which are overbooked with men and women who have finally found the mantra to overcome their coy selves.
Not to forget the innumerable number of heart-shaped-balloons fluttering away at every street corner and the florists taking up the daunting challenge of supplying those flowers to the love-struck people as also the sale of cards on this ‘Hallmark Holiday’.

But gentlemen, if you think that Valentine’s day is passé think again, when was the last time you approached ‘that’ girl without getting into any bodily harm? Well Valentine’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to do so.
When provided with that one opportunity in the year to earn maximum brownie points in her little pink notebook, why let go of it?
And of course you can make a beeline for all those single women and shower them with compliments in the vain hope that it would be appreciated with something more than a ‘thank you’.
For those guys who are still skeptical –there are some ‘n’ number of dating sites masquerading as networking sites, which especially appeals to our Indian sensibilities (don’t we love camouflaging anything remotely amorous) where you can copy-paste movie dialogues to women who are Ashiwarya Rai look-alikes (going by the pictures in their albums).
So rather than thinking about it as an obligatory performance of an outdated duty, all you people must treat this as a fun-activity very much like how you would go about your annual appraisal at work.

While I plan to hang around with my group of friends dressed in our invisible cloaks (which the Potter kid has kindly lent me) in my favorite pub, you go ahead and book that table in your restaurant of choice else you'd be forced to watch the special episode of KBC at home! –Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Magical world at Diggi Palace

A gathering of like-minded people thronged the corridors of the Diggi Palace - venue for the Jaipur Literature festival,2007 and yes, yours truly was very much part of that.

Since a lot has already been written about this by indiauncut, jabberwock and kitabkhana,
I'm adding only little nuggets of information.

William Darlymple's post lunch session on the first day of the fest., was good till about 40 minutes after which I caught people dozing - I must mention this despite him being such a wonderful narrator but alas! a post-lunch session can sometimes prove to be a disaster. I wish there was more to the session other than just getting to hear extracts from his book.

To a question by a wise,old man to Kiran Desai whether unlike her hero Biju , is she not fortunate enough to win the Booker?, Kiran replied (in her soft voice, much to the agony of the audience at the back who were constantly complaining that it was inaudible until she was almost forced to 'kiss' her mike) -'Winning the Booker is like a lottery - it depends on a whole lot of factors like the happenings around the world that year, what the other writers have written etc.'

One of the questions to Suketu Mehta was 'why fiction is more popular than non-fiction' , he replied 'Because it does not involve going around slums or a fat advance'.
Another question shot at him was 'If attending creative writing courses is of any use? ' ,he said that personally he found it useful ; had he not done the course he would have still come to Jaipur but not as a writer but as a diamond merchant(he hails from a family of diamond merchants).

William Darlymple who also moderated Suketu Mehta's session remarked atleast on two occasions about incurring the wrath of bloggers to which Suketu replied politely that he doesn't follow blogs too much.(Point to be noted, what??)

Amit Chaudari's session I thought was one of the best ,with Anita Roy doing a very good job which Barkha has apparently failed in case of Kiran Desai. Please read an extensive account of it here.

One would wonder if the crowd for Rushdie's session, which spilled the corridors and extended till the lawns , had any clue as to how captivating his session would be!

Whether it is "What kind of God wouldn’t strike you down for eating a ham sandwich?”“Karachi is a bloody big dump!” or

'Chhagan Bhujbal is an asshole' or

'Karachi is a dump' or

'this week's issue of Outlook has lies written about me'

Rushdie proved that he is indeed the walking, talking intellectual and is worthy of all the respect and recognition that he gets.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Mosiac of memories

“If this fall into thy hand, revolve.

In my stars I am above thee, but be not afraid of greatness.

Some are born great,some achieve greatness,

and some have greatness thrustupon them”

It is not often that you find lines from Shakespeare mouthed in Indian movies and 36 Chowringhee lane revels in it, complete with a cat named Sir Toby.
The scene where Nandita, who was a student of Miss.Stoneham tries to recollect these lines of Shakespeare, brings back fond memories of my school days where we used to frequent the houses of our schoolteachers.

36 Chowringhee lane is the story of Miss. Violet whose loneliness might leave you depressed but also appreciative of the fact that she does not wallow in self-pity (inspite of her niece’s repeated invites to join her in Australia).Color enters her humdrum life in the form of her former student Nandita and her boyfriend,Somresh. Miss.Violet lets the young couple use her home as a writer’s abode (‘A James Joyce in the making’, as Someresh puts across) but who actually (mis)use it as a love-nest. This change in scene refreshes Miss.Stoneham’s boring life as she looks forward to the carefree joy that Nandita and Somresh share with her – whether it is a movie or their evening tea (didn’t someone say that when in love the entire world presents a rosy picture…)But their marriage ends it all leaving a disappointed old lady alone with her Shakespearean thoughts.

If not for Aparna Sen, this could be termed as a family film of Shashi Kapoor . Jennifer Kendall as Miss. Violet is the heart of the movie with a superb performance while her father Geoffrey Kendall plays her diabetic brother. Sanjana and Karan Kapoor play cameos in a dream sequence.

Aparna Sen in 1981 shows such talent in her debut movie which the supposed stalwarts of Bollywood haven’t done in decades. Make no mistakes, this movie is not only about old age it is also about the Anglo Indians fear of interaction with the local Bengalis, the local school politics where old teachers are favored for the new ones with scholarly degrees and most essentially the spirit of an old woman who refuses to succumb to self-pity but lives her own life in dignity inspite of her failing age.
There is a dream sequence which is wonderfully shot (and reminds me of a similar one in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind’) which shows a younger Violet in search of her beau only to discover him dead.
But I thought the ending was too contrived and that was where Mr. and Mrs. Iyer scores way above this movie.

Having said that, this is arguably one of the finest movies of Indian cinema.
So be prepared to watch a well-made, sensitive and intelligent movie which might leave you a tad bit depressed especially since it ends with these lines:

“Pray, do not mock me;

I am a very foolish fond old man,

Fourscore and upward, not an hour more or less,

And, to deal plainly,I fear I am not in my perfect mind,”