06 December 2008
A couple of days ago, they were showing Munich on HBO. Coming so close after the Mumbai attacks, a lot of the anger seemed familiar.
But this post is not about Munich or Mumbai, there's only so much you can discuss hate. Munich just reminded me of Eric Bana's other movie I recently watched: Romulus, My Father.
The movie explores the relationship between a father and son very intimately. It has speaking silences and spaces (something that I loved very much): the director, Richard Roxburgh, doesn't see the need for dialogue or narrative in some of the strongest moments of the movie. The movie had potential to be a very melodramatic one, yet it shies away from the overt expressions of melodrama.
This is perhaps Eric Bana's best performance till date. There is a natural, quiet way about him that suits this movie well. Kodi Smit-McPhee, Bana's son in the movie, is very lovable and shows very sensitive acting. There's a lot of joy in the movie, thanks to Kodi, despite the sadness that runs through it.
The movie is based on Raimond Gaita's memoir. Gaita grew up in rural Australia through his mother's painful absences and unstable behaviour and his father's resilience.
I would love to watch this movie again for its silences and the gaunt Australian landscape.
04 December 2008
09 November 2008
I am ill and looks like will continue to be ill for some more time. I sleep almost all day and then wake up abruptly in the middle of the night, fully alert and nothing to do. So I gaze at Linc's calm, sleeping face, listening to his little breathing sounds.
After a very long time - I really cant remember when was the last time I slept non-stop for 6 days - I have some quality time to myself :( And I have been thinking ...
I have been thinking of:
a) how illness/disability can wipe you off from the public scene. Not that I am being wiped off. Nah, not yet. It just made me think - of people who have been pushed behind the scene, who have to be 'lugged' in and out of their homes once in so many months for something absolutely unavoidable like a visit to the doctor's. They might be in their teens, but there's no movies for them, no eating out, no flirting, in short, no life.
It is all the more harder on those who have known a 'normal' life until the crippling event happened. Yet, people with real hard cores crawl and limp back to where you can see them once in a while. I had interviewed one such person - Mahesh of Mobility India. He wasn't very bitter about what he had been through, and I remember wondering why not.
b) Sir. His typical reaction on hearing that I was sick would be, "Oh Viju! That's horrible! You must do this ... and you mustn't do this..."
Linc often catches me talking of him in the present tense. For me, he refuses to be relegated to the past. I get a feeling I will miss him throughout my life. Some people just don't have the right to die. At least not him.
c) all the bedtime stories my father told us. He has amazing story-telling powers, complete with sound and visual effects, making the whole thing very dramatic. He dug out stories from - where else - the Mahabharata and Ramayana. He never repeated stories unless we requested for it, but he absolutely refused requests for more than one story at a time.
I wonder what stories today's parents are telling their children. Is it the TV that puts them to sleep? I dont know... how many stories do you think you could tell your children, day after day?
11 October 2008
But working from home has its own rules, which, if followed, will work well for you. A few things I learnt from my short stint as a freelance writer and editor are:
a. Discipline. There’s no one to watch over you, which is good and bad. It’s up to you to keep your mind on track all the time, without giving in to tempting distractions like watching TV or chatting/talking to family and friends during work hours.
b. Clarity. The terms of work should be very clear between you and your client. If something is not getting through over e-mail or chat, call your client and discuss it thoroughly. Unless you completely understand your role, do not commit to anything. And if the client says the details can be worked out later, insist on doing it before you take on the task.
c. Do not compromise. You should know what your rock bottom price is and, however hard the client bargains, do not go below this. At the end of the day, after all the hard work, you want to be satisfied with what you earned. Otherwise, what’s the point? You might as well take up a regular job.
d. Be fair to yourself and your client. There is only so much humanly possible. Keep this in mind when taking on new assignments.
e. Take time off. You might end up working all the time and sometimes it may be necessary. But take at least an hour off each day in which you do only what you love to do.
f. Smile. Yes, handling clients can be tough, but relax: at least you don't have a boss to manage. How many people can afford such luxury?
Working on your own can be dicey, as you never know if a client will come back or not. But good work is noticed, and what the heck? No job is secure unless you are employed with the Government of India, is it?
28 September 2008
19 September 2008
I thought of all of our lives. Our great little magnificent lives. And I thought of the things that we used to talk about – homework, boys in class, Shah Rukh Khan, periods and how evil they were... Aah, we talked a lot then. And sang and laughed like crazy.
I felt amused by the things my friends remembered about me - it was like looking at myself from the window of a time machine.
My friend said we couldn't keep in touch because of our changed priorities. Is that so, I thought. I'd give my right arm to talk away to glory to my friends on the terrace of my Hubli house. Have priorities changed? I don't know, I'd rather say we are too involved with our lives, any which way you look at it.
Few people have the presence of mind, the will, and the opportunity to step aside a moment and go after the thing they started out looking for. Praveen is such a person. He amazes me with the single-minded way in which he's trying to seek something that's close to his heart.
Whenever I think of him, I think of my life and what am doing with it. But then I realise that our lives cannot be compared. In fact, no one life can be compared to another, I'd say. Each to his or her own.
13 July 2008
06 July 2008
He’s running away from a lot of childhood trauma brought on by his constantly fighting parents. His pain is so intense that he cannot think and act like mainstream people do. On his way to Alaska, he meets different and interesting people and some insightful experiences happen. I especially liked what Ron, the old man, tells Chris, “When you forgive, you love. And when you love, God's light shines upon you.”
Almost the entire movie is about is trying to wish away, nullify or deny some hurtful memories/people. His entire endeavour of running away is shaped or motivated by two people he desperately wants out of his life. When you do such a thing, you have not overcome it. It’s like you owe your entire existence to the pain. You are shaped by exactly the person or thing you hate or want to avoid. But then, what do you do when something bites inside you? Everything you do will naturally be driven by that pain, wont it? What do you do to overcome that pain? Hard questions, no easy answers.
When ‘rubber tramp’ Jan tells him that he should not be so hard on his parents, Chris says, “I'm going to paraphrase Thoreau here... rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness... give me truth.”
So, what is truth? Or, should I rather say, what is the truth for Mr McCandless?
“Happiness is real when shared.” (This is the last thing that he jots down in his diary.) Is that his truth? And does he realize this truth only because he forgave his parents? So, the thing he was running away from was right within…?
Certain things this movie made me think of: if, say, there are people in similar life-situations who cannot walk away and have to face pain each day. How do they realize their truths (if at all there’s one to be realized)? What are their truths? Are they vastly different from McCandless’?
A thoughtful movie, well made. I loved the background music, too.
23 June 2008
That made me think of the many calls we receive from banks, begging us to take loans. It doesn’t matter that you already have one and are on the verge of selling your furniture to pay back the loan. They’ll still try to shove another loan down your throat. I don’t understand how this works.
If 60-70% of a person’s income is already tied down in debt payments, on what basis do banks ask that person to take another loan? I know that loan begets loan if you have a good credit history. Am no finance guru, but isn’t it necessary, amidst all that hard selling, to think about the loan repayment capacity of the borrower?
I was wondering if this was happening only in India. But recently, I saw a documentary, The American Nightmare, with the same subject, that is, people falling for easy loans that quickly become traps. I think the documentary was set in Cleveland where houses in whole localities were boarded up and put up for auctions. Pretty scary.
05 June 2008
Aww, mosquito bite here and scratchy-scratch there. And if it's a Kolkata summer, wipe the sweat away for the hundredth time, before it makes its way into your eyes or mouth. Or just lie down and wait with each panting cell of your body for the slightest of those evening breezes, and feel grateful for even that.
But introspection continues unabated amidst all the mosquitoes and the perspiration. Some music would help and off you are into your very own private world. Memories that you'd thought you had forgotten long ago come back and it's such a joy. Memories of days when you didn't have tomorrow's to-do things on your mind and all you wanted was daddy to come home and sit you on his lap and tell you how strong he was.
Memories of power cuts in those days, when you learnt to make ghost figures on the wall in the candle light with just a twirl of your fingers. As the memories come in stronger and vivid, you realise how far away you have come since then. And then, as you dig deeper you find other memories covered by a layer of dust, and no matter how much you scrub, they remain hazy, out of reach. This makes you anxious. Is it actually possible that you could have forgotten something? Something tender, something treasured? Aww, that's bad. Because, that means, slowly all the memories will slip away. And one day, when you're too old, you'd have none left for the power cuts to come.
Damn, will getting an inverter help?
28 May 2008
There’ll be fury, there’ll be cry.
There’ll be laughter, too.
But what matters is
Standing up to the test.
Life will scare you, tickle you no end.
Something or someone will forever be out of reach.
What matters is
Smiling through it all
And loving through it all.
Coz life’s but your dog, and before you know,
He’ll be gone.
18 April 2008
17 April 2008
Linc said, “Considering your capacity to cry rivers and oceans, you didn’t cry much.” And I thought, yes. Linc, who is usually much stronger than me, was breaking down every now and then, and frequently had a lost look in his eyes. How was it possible that I wasn’t reacting similarly? What stopped my tears?
It is his voice in my ears. I hear it all the time. To me, he is ever-present: in each book I read, each comma, each apostrophe that I will ever use, each sentence that I write, and re-write, for I hear his voice in my head, “Be human, be clear.” Somehow, his absence is not as strong as his presence was.
I was changed from the first day I met Jyoti Sanyal at journalism school seven years ago. He overawed me by his passion for lucid writing and also his sweep of knowledge, but I never remember being terrorized by him, as so many others do. I saw through his sound and fury quickly for the compassionate man he really was. (I realized his anger was not directed at individuals, but at the obsolete way of writing that has entrenched itself in India. He set up Clear English India in Kolkata, where I still work, to fight the evils of legalese, officialese, circumlocution and the like that plague Indian writing.)
He was fired from that school by a maniac, but Linc and I kept visiting him every week at his place in Fraser Town. It was there over cups of coffee he made that I learnt my editing. I pasted newspaper clippings on to a sheet of paper and edited on the hard copy. He corrected them with his red-ink pen. I think I still have them somewhere, must look for them. With each visit, my horizons of knowledge expanded and my love for him grew.
Sometime during those meetings, our relationship graduated from teacher-pupil to father-daughter. What fun and joy-filled moments those were! Those raunchy jokes he cracked, the anecdotes he shared, those conversations rich in information…, everything is cherished. Going back home after each visit, I remember thinking that each conversation could be the subject of a book.
My writing bloomed under his watchful eyes. About a year after I met him, he told me he saw a maturity in my writing. I felt like I’d won the Pulitzer prize. Those people who have ever been complimented by him know the weight and sincerity of those compliments. Then, one day, he told me I was among his smartest students. I simply laughed it off. That was too huge a compliment for me to handle. But he kept looking into my eyes, and said, “Yes Viju, you are.”
Just a year ago when I did a series of stories on street children for an NGO, he asked me to send it to P Sainath and get it published as a book. These are landmark moments in my life.
When he gave these compliments, I had shaken my head incredulously. But now I know I have to believe in myself and cannot look for reinforcements. He believed in me, so shall I.
He lived a simple life, and though he was associated with a business in his last years, was never really money-minded. What he loved to do was to teach and make more people convert to plain language and practise it. I hope I shall be able to further his work here at Clear English India.
You don’t meet too many great people in one lifetime, and get to know them closely and then work for them. I can’t believe my luck sometimes.
I remember you, Sir, for everything you gave me.
Continue to be the voice in my head,
and hold my hand as I write each word.
Sit here beside me as you would,
with answers to all the questions I asked.
You would say these words are unnecessary,
and would have deleted them right away from this post,
But Sir, thank you.
02 April 2008
Me, I don't know much. I would still crave for my mother even if I had never known one.
Leaving home is difficult, especially when you don't want to.
And to all those twinkling stars vying to run with the Olympic flame: "Citius, Altius, Fortius" does not mean 'Snub The Weak.'
Eh sorry, what was that? Sports not to be mixed with politics? Oh well, I just assumed sportspersons too are from this planet and need to eat, drink, sleep, love and hate like the rest of us. But then, maybe they aren't, eh?
22 March 2008
Throughout the book, I kept thinking how much work Bryson must have put into this book…, the amount of reading, cross-referencing, travelling, etc., he must have subjected himself to. All to know the why and how of things. Amazing. His effort was worth each page he must have painfully ploughed through.
It starts with discussing the ‘Big Bang’, weaves its way through the many inventions and discoveries that have changed human life since, and then traces the origin of life, right up to us. Not that it answers every random question you ever thought of (my favourite, when I was a kid, was ‘Are there black flowers?’). And I don’t think it was ever meant to be.
It’s a book that should have been written long ago ideally when I was a kid. So I would read it and realise science has more to it than what my textbooks made it out to be. I didn’t hate science. I quite loved it. But when things started getting slightly complicated, say, by Class X, chemistry seemed intimidating, physics dull, and biology was full of complex diagrams I couldn’t, for the life of me, fathom. I remember my biology teacher saying that half the marks apportioned to diagrams were awarded to the drawing and half to the labeling. I always made sure I got the labeling right. I had to, else how would you know a heart from a large intestine?
Coming back to Bryson, there were some chapters, especially the ones that dwelt on the age of the earth, which did drag. Now, how would it make a difference if the earth is 9,000,000,000,000,000 million years old or if it is 9,000,000,000,000,001 million years old? I would still prefer my chicken curry hot.
I do appreciate his efforts in going behind the scenes and bringing to light very shy scientists, or sometimes even laypersons who were never credited for their insight just because they were laypersons.
The book does remind me of Shivram Karanth’s column for kids in Taranga. You could send in any question on science to Karanthajja and it would be answered in the column. I did send in my black flower question but never saw it answered :(
It also reminds me of similar attempts to popularize science by a Kannada author, whose name eludes me now. If anyone reading this can, then please let me know. He was the son of a famous poet is the other thing I can remember about him.
15 March 2008
we would sneak up to the 'bimblekai' (a very very sour berry which is green and oval-shaped) tree behind the house and grab handfuls of it. To make things better, salt would be stored in sacks in a sort of shed right beside the tree. So, there we sat in the afternoons, drooling, biting into bimblekai dipped in salt, squeezing up our faces because it was so sour, and thrilled because our teeth became sharp like daggers.
we just kept running. My grandfather's place is huge. There was one corridor through the middle of the house, both sides of which there would be rooms or halls (jagali). And then there was a parallel corridor on the other side of the house, which was used as a quasi-workplace and a quasi-dining hall during fesivals, etc. These two corridors were connected, of course, in the front and back. And whenever we got bored of all our games, we'd get this brilliant idea of running through the house along these corridors.
My brother, our two cousins and I... what a quartet! I was the youngest of the gang, and invariably, I would be the person to get caught by my grandfather. He sat on the wooden bench, a baanka as it is called. All he had to do was wait till I neared him and then put out his walking stick. He used the walking stick as a hook and pulled me backwards by the collar of my dress. He would release me after a pat on the head or a peck on the cheek, but it was agonising to see the others get ahead. Incidentally, this is the only memory I have of him. It is funny because I see my granpa and myself. Now, how can I see myself? Maybe my mind has built images of me as a kid from the pictures I have seen of a younger me.
We were always terrified a particular uncle who insisted that all of us sleep in the afternoon. How many mangoes remained uneaten and nooks in the areca estate unexplored because of these forced afternoon siestas. But things weren’t always bad. Many afternoons we got lucky: as soon as the uncle started snoring, we would slowly tiptoe across the upstairs hall and down the stairs. But here, too, I had problems. For one, the uncle was a light sleeper and the hall too big. And, I usually wore these horrible silver anklets, which wouldn’t come off that easily. So, you can imagine. One tinkle of the anklet and there booms Uncle, “You, get back here!” Everyone else would be ordered back, too. Their glares would then make me more miserable than the siesta.
But then, the human mind innovates: I’d bend down, hold each anklet up and make my getaway.
Hide-and-seek was the best game you could play in these old houses. Many corners of the house or even parts of the corridor would never be touched by sunlight, and we had enacted a law that you couldn’t put on the light. One had to feel his/her way through the cool darkness if one wished to catch someone there. The ‘hidee’ meanwhile had a merry time because he/she could see but not be seen.
I could go on... of how once my cousins and brother ganged up to give me sherbet spiked with tobacco, of our innovative kitchen at the ‘maala’ (open space where areca was dried) and even more innovative dishes (read imaginary or dished cooked with mud and stones) we served up, of our unsupervised dips in the river and mind-blowing hikes up random hillocks ... I really could go on. And this is just one part of the story, that is, these were our adventures at our maternal grandpa’s place. We had an equally great time at our paternal granpa’s place.
Hmm, silly nostalgic me.
27 February 2008
So, why do we like to be scared?
1. Just too bored with the daily crap of our lives?
2. Get a kick out of seeing scared people running, getting hacked, mutilated, and the blood being sucked out of them. We just like to see blood? Just curious to see in which of the above ways will people die?
3. Because, it’s akin to what you feel when you see an accident on the road. You know it’s a gross scene, something you shouldn’t be keen to see, yet everyone crowds around, and you vie for a good view?
4. It’s way better than watching mushy stuff?
5. Helps you show off your sound system?
6. Fear turns you on? (Even better, being near a scared person turns you on?)
As is perhaps obvious, I don’t watch too many horror or shall we say supernatural movies. Serial killer types? No way. More than being scared, I find them so predicable. I did love The Sixth Sense, though. It’s sense of horror was so subtle, a quality you would never associate with a horror movie.
Was mighty depressed when I saw that my favourite channel BBC Entertainment too is going the scary way. They had such a good mix of shows, and now, of all things, they have shows like Primeval!!! Help!!
Sigh. Maybe it’s just God’s way of telling me to get back to reading. Yeah, Hollywood can even make the Devil boring.
21 February 2008
Hence, I stay put and watch them. And if I must watch them, I must also write about them sometimes. So, here goes ...
It's Feb, and T stands for tax. Enter: Mr Long-term Chintamani and Mr Short-term Chintamani. Mr Chintamani was always adorable, and the ads were smart. Now, there's a teeny weeny Mr C, too. The dialogues are told a lil too fast, I thought.
15 February 2008
It almost hurts when Lolita calls Humbert a pervert. Oh, doesn't she realise he loves her so? But then she is just 12 (in the movie she's 14) and he is way older and you shouldn't think it's love. He's obviously taking advantage of her. It's just lust. Right? If he's a pervert, let's call him so, eh? But it's obvious we've been carried away by Humbert's fantasies, and 'to be carried away', by definition, means that you aren't thinking, .
The one scene from Lolita that will stand out in my memory is the one in which she is reading a comic book and giggling to herself. And suddenly, she shuts her eyes, throws her head back and lets out orgasmic moans. The camera zooms out to show Humbert lying back on the rocking chair with Lolita on his crotch.
So, isnt she an adult, or well, at least almost there, the movie seems to ask. For a moment there, you had us, Mr Director.
[Thanks, M, and keep them coming :)]
The plot reminds one of Schindler's List. It makes its point by playing down violence as far as possible, except when it turns up at the doorstep of Hotel Rwanda. When Rusesabagina's jeep goes off the road and he steps down from the vehicle to see what's wrong, he simply cant take a step without tripping on a human body. Very strong scene that.
It's the story of five assassinators recruited by the Israeli government to track down and kill the perpetrators of violence at the 1972 Olympic Games. Action is standard stuff, but this movie is not really about action. As there is one killing after the other, the assassinators arrive at the inevitable questions: will the violence serve any purpose? When will it end? Why should we as Jews do like the Arabs? What then does it means to be a Jew? (“Jews are supposed to be righteous.”) What does it mean to be killing for one's country?
When Avner (Eric Bana)'s mother tells him she is so proud of the work that he's done, Avner just stares back at her with blood-shot eyes. And I think he's thinking, “You mean all the blood... all the devious ways in which we killed people... the children I orphaned, the nightmares that haunt me, you mean you are proud of all that? How could you possibly be? You dont know what you are saying, woman.”
On a different note: Eric Bana is so so intense. Ahem.
I had seen bits of this movie just a month ago under extra-ordinary circumstances. Coincidences don't cease, it seems.
05 February 2008
The internet helps or even gets most people to express themselves. People, who otherwise dont write or sing or paint. Has the Internet created this urge in us or did people always have it and just needed some sort of medium to express it?
Am not saying everyone's blogging or anything but almost everyone you know who has access to computers and internet is on some or the other social networking site, with their photos, travelogues, list of their favourite everythings, etc. We are more eager to talk about ourselves, to build some kind of public interest in our personalities, and also feel at perfect liberty to know about other people's lives.
Something like this was so unknown till recently. Like, for instance, it's a bit difficult for someone as old as my parents to understand the point of creating a profile, say, on Orkut, putting your pic there, 'adding' friends, and then 'scrapping'. They rightly ask, when you can e-mail or chat or text, why scrap or write on someone's 'wall'? Well, I dont know. At least as far as social networking sites are concerned, it's peer pressure, herd mentality... you get the picture.
I do most of the internetty things I mentioned above, and more. It's been close to ten years now I think that I began to use the internet. And it still overawes me, when I stop to think of it. Will I still be so attached to the net ten years from now? Or will I be disenchanted and have a more enriched offline life? But the internet does help you beat the problems of time and space: it's easier to catch up with people digitally. Many a mind-blowing conversation has happened online.
So, I do treasure my online life. And even if the power's gone, the modem disconnects and I connect back to the here and now, the virtual reality is intact in my mind.
03 February 2008
What drove me to watch the first one was Uber's high praise for it. It's definitely a good movie, but wouldnt quite put it in my list of all-time greats. It's just that it's so rare that Bollywood does anything out of the routine, that we cant help being thrilled.
In TZP, the parents are made out to be villains, which they may as well be. Blood cruelty, in this rampant sense, is a much unexplored subject though yes, we do have the exploitation of young love depicted in umpteen movies.
But the transformation from a child debilitated by dyslexia to one who's successfully managing it is a little too sudden, a little too 'filmy'. Yet, I'd say I have no complaints. Aamir, the director, may have a lot more to say than Aamir, the actor.
Mungaaru Male: Elru heldru chennagide antha, adakke nodide. The numbers were good. But was disappointed. The dialogues become a little too smart, and the twists a little too abrupt. What I did like though was the fact that a Kannada 'hero' could be chubby and cute and not dripping macho, and also not be a 'Rajkumar'. Yes, that needs to be celebrated.
17 January 2008
Ajji is standing beside me, peering into my laptop. I ask her if she wants to try her hand at the computer. She doesn't say anything, but comes closer, grinning. I type out her name in very big font. She reads out each alphabet, puts them together mentally, and says with a wide smile, “LAKSHMI.” She stumps me with her life spirit each time I see her. She always has been, all these years. Then, she asks if I can take pictures from the laptop. I say there's no camera attached.
“Oh, I wanted you to take pictures of me,” she says. Am a little surprised, but I just tell her that I can take pics from my mobile. “Oh good, then you must take pictures of me. You'll need it ... later ... give a copy to your mom here..., you too take a copy and go. Aamele bekaagtade (you'll need it later),” she says.
I understand, but only a moment later. My stupid grin disappears. I feel empty in the stomach. My mom is raising her voice over the din of the music am playing, and explaining some recipe to me. My eyes cloud over. I look at ajji, she's still smiling, standing beside me. I tell her I'll take her to a studio. She likes the idea.
My phone rings .... work calling.
Life's incredibly beautiful, isnt it, thanks to death?