22 May, 2010

Powers of Perspective

I've always been a strong proponent of the Powers of Perspective. When one weighs things on the Relatometer, the significance of our actions, emotions, thoughts and other such abstract things become so clear. OK so you're pulled down by a particularly rough day, you're faced with that terribly blinding sorrow, the world seems a miserable place to be in, life basically appears horrendous, you could bash up someone, a boss or an aggravating friend, you know, the things we do when frustration becomes our middle name. (I sound like a cross between Oprah and a priest now).  

You see people hit each other with road rage, a friend soaking in glumness for eternity, your Self hit by the blues all the time. That's when you have got to summon your Powers of Perspective. Ask yourself, "How does this compare to the unhappiest time in my life?" (But do not go on wallowing in that line of thought. That would just be suicidal.) More often than not you will realize the utterly unnecessary weight you attach to events. Two weeks later, this tremendous calamity may be shrugged off, so why rant about it as if it were the end of the world? Then go a step further (I should really stop preaching) consider would your unhappiest moment even compare to that of another person? I mean seen through the eyes of Perspective, does your chant about being so unhappy or dissatisfied or whatever grumpy emotion you're awash with really matter? It just makes you and everyone around you (and everyone around them...ever enlarging circles basically) weary and frankly, jumpy. In the face of such a realization (that your sorrows are not world altering and that, yes, as absurd as it may sound, you will survive to tell the tale) you have no reason to be anything other than content. Happy. There are bigger sorrows to be dealt with. Go and at least throw yours out. 

I like living in a state of content and ecstatically content. It's like this taxi I once sat in with only two volume buttons. High and very high. I couldn't sleep but then neither did the driver. He didn't nod off, and I reached safely. Perfect. It's unnatural you seem to be saying to me. You can't be in a perpetual state of contentment, you'd wear out, get bored. It's like eating ice cream for all three meals. You won't like it anymore. You'll be sick at the sight of it. But I seem to find it fascinating to find new ways, new places to be content. It's like having a universe of flavours to choose from. (OK that's enough of optimism for a lifetime you say. I agree.)

I was once told that I was going to become a monk by the age of 30 : | With this brand of preaching, they'll ban me from any kind of monkdom.

18 May, 2010

Question 20

  • My favourite key on the keyborad is Ctrl. What does that say about me? 
  • I often find myself reading too much into nothing. I read as a kid that nothing is a "bottomless bucket without any sides". I used to repeat that to everyone I met which, in retrospect, sounds quite annoying.
  • Remember sone pe suhaga? Yesterday I saw 'suhaga'. Turned out to be an extraordinarily ordinary looking white powder. Like baking soda. I had expected it to be something magical and perplexing (?). Like a unicorn. Or a phoenix at least.
  • I am in love with italics. So?
  • Why are bulletpoints called that? They sound so menacing. And yet I get into them. Every single time.

"If you like Pina Coladas
And getting caught in the rain
If you're not into yoga
If you have half a brain
If you'd like making love at midnight
In the dunes on the Cape
Then I'm the love that you've looked for
Write to me and escape."

14 May, 2010

Sole Mate

"People think a soul mate is a perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person that shows you everything that's holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. Thank god for it."

Richard from Texas to Liz in Eat Pray Love.

PS: I found the book frivolous and poorly written. It made me do the unthinkable. Leave a book half-read. The above insight, however, seemed so simple and correct.

12 May, 2010

3. Ijaazat

Last night I think I watched my favourite Hindi movie. No, I don't suppose doubt belongs here. I definitely did watched my favourite Hindi movie. It's story washed over me, touching different emotional orbits, careening all those electrons and protons and othertons into a frenzy. (I told you I make up words to cover up for my lack of vocabulary)

Today's state of mind: Bliss

11 May, 2010

Women's Lib

"Leave it to a girl to take the fun out of sex discrimination."

2. Aakrosh

Termed as a 'bold film' in its time, Aakrosh is a powerful portrayal of the rot in the legal system, the helplessness of the downtrodden and how money and power can buy justice. A review I enjoyed can be read here (a good space to read about some movies in Hindi and regional languages. Tragically, it has not been updated since long, perhaps because of the paucity of meaningful films these days?).

What appealed to me most in the movie was a conversation between Naseeruddin Shah (a young idealistic lawyer, who believed the legal system could provide justice to his adivasi client) and Mahesh Elkunchwar (a Marxist, working with adivasi communities, helping them organize into a body that can create leverage). The helplessness and angst within Shah's mind is challenged by Elkunchwar's disgust and contempt for the 'burgoise' who, according to him, find the poor man's vulnerabilities too lowly or insignificant a cause to fight for.

With a National Award for Best Film and Filmfare awards in several categories, Aakrosh, is as relevant today as it was three decades ago. A must watch.

10 May, 2010

1. Mirch Masala

Pre script: I decided on random watching, simply because of movie availability issues. Now, I'll plunge in head on.

With a stunning cast of Naseeruddin Shah (as the subedaar or tax collector), Smita Patel as Sonbai (the strong female protagonist), Suresh Oberoi as the Mukhi (village head), Deepti Naval as Saraswati (his willful, brave wife) and Om Puri as Abu Rahim (the caretaker of a chili warehouse or mirch karkhana), Mirch Masala promises a lot. And then it goes ahead a delivers much more. Supporting roles are played by the lovely Supriya Pathak, Ratna Shah and Raj Babbar among others. I am not going to give you a synopsis, because a perfectly well-written one can be found here. [Do read it, might motivate you to watch the movie!]

What I want to discuss is this. Naseeruddin Shah portrays the stern dark character of the terrorizing subedaar, the tax collector of a village set in the parched landscapes of Rajasthan. He is depicted as a whimsical mean man, abusing the village women as he pleases, exhorting the high lagaan inspite of a prolonged drought - a crude man without remorse or compassion. The craftsmanship with which Naseeruddin Shah portrays the dark character, skilfully introducing shades of unexpected humour in the man, makes the villainy at once so tyrannical and yet so fractured.

Early in the movie, Smita Patel's Sonbai exhibits gumption in trying to stop her husband (Raj Babbar in a guest appearance) to stop going to town ("sheher") to take up a job, in talking back to the terrible subedaar as he terrorizes over the village women. By standing up to him and slapping (!) him to avoid his advances, she does the unthinkable - a women standing up for her dignity. It is her steadfast courage and quiet willpower that propels the movie to its breathtaking climax. The other strong female character is Deepti Naval (whom I believe to be one of the most beautiful woman ever) playing Saraswati, the Mukhi's (village head's) wife. Her will to educate her daughter in a society where female literacy is unheard of, courage to stand up to her chauvinistic husband and powers of persuasion to gather the village women to stand up to the men is often painful in its chilling portrayal. Her plight is well-depicted in the following conversation with her husband:

Mukhi, retorting when asked about where he sleeps at night: "Itne bade gaon ka mukhi ek aurat nahin rakh sakta?"
Saraswati in indignant anger: "Aur main aurat nahin hoon?"
"Tum biwi ho."

And then there is the undertone of comedy I enjoyed so much: Marvelling at the sound emanating from a gramophone (something the subedaar doesn't fail to show off at every occasion), a villager remarks, "Yeh cheez kya hai sasuri?" The naai or barber (a pivotal figure in any rural society) hovers over Shah with his razors and foam in perfect synchrony to the scratchy voice. Perfect.

Just before the climax of the movie, comes the most poignant scene (and my personal favourite). The village women, imprisoned in the mirchi karkhana, taunt Sonbai for her precocious behaviour, insinuating that she must have provoked the subedaar and how the entire situation was her fault, whoever heard of a woman shouting at a man, leave alone hit at him? This reaction is a tragic commentary on how women view themselves. As flesh to fulfil a man's insatiable desire, as beasts of burden carrying infinite pots of water, as bodies that take the fierce lashes of anger, as wombs to undergo the pain of childbirth. They see nothing wrong in the subedaar's carnal demands. Sonbai appears a fool to not comply.

I will not mention Om Puri's role for though it played a pivotal role in the movie, I felt it was the virtues of his character and not his acting that deserve a mention. So let's leave it at that. What I would like to mention is that even today, in any given situation there are the honest and the schemers. In any time frame and society, there are those who will cower and those that will lead through their courage and foresight. The best part is, to do right, you do not need to be part of a revolution. You can almost always 'be the change you want to see'.

08 May, 2010

My Very Own Amazing Race

The Inspiration

Its a strange coincidence that I watched Julie & Julia the same day that I decided upon a rigorous (?)resolution for myself (for further details, will have to plough through the entire post). 

The movie charts the story of Julie (played by Amy Adams refreshingly simple this time unlike her overthetop Enchanted performance), a young married woman, employed at a call centre providing counselling for 9/11 victims, who is utterly disgruntled with her life and her own knack for leaving things halfway. A second story follows Julia Child (played by the wonderful Meryl Streep, who perhaps is the Morgan Freeman amongst female actors) the wife of an American government servant, who marries her love for cooking and intense boredom and produces a wonderful cookbook: "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".  In an attempt to 'achieve something', Julie embarks upon cooking the 500+ recipes in Julia's mammoth masterpiece, all in the span of a year or 365 days. She starts a blog to chart her adventures and soon becomes a celebrity in her own right. The story weaves through the two women's lives, drawing parallels and following the laughs and goofs they make as they cook their way through boredom towards popularity.

Meryl Streep of course was delightful, with her accent and ungainly height (Julia Child was 6'2" and Meryl at 5'6" had to wear huge platforms!). And she gets more fascinating with age (ABBA lovers should see her lend that powerful voice to her cheeky character in Mama Mia, Its Complicated was worth a watch for her alone). But I could gush about her acting and her crazy all-over-the-place laughter. I could make a list of Best Meryl Streep movies ever and rant about favourite scenes. But let's not.

The Resolution

What this is really about is that I wanted to embark upon something I have been meaning to do since the time I saw Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. I was not even a teenager when I saw it first, laughing along not because I understood it, but because everyone around me was having a great time. But I do remember enjoying watching this tall lanky bearded man, with his camera and poker face. The next time I saw the movie was several years later where I understood the humour (oh the dead body rolling down the slope!) and the subtle social commentary that would become the backdrop to most of his films. The lankiness and beard remained, the fascination grew. Sometime during my undergrad years I vowed to watch every movie Naseeruddin Shah had acted in or was remotely associated with. It was one of those "when I have more time" resolutions that manage to take a backseat in the Big Bad Race of That Thing Called Life.

[other resolutions include reading Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass again, going to the Gwalior Fort and exploring every nook and corner like a self-respecting Tourist, living in The Claridges, Shimla for a night, doing the Darcha-Zanskar 17 day trek, learning how to cook the world's yummiest Russian Stroganoff ...oh its endless].

I chanced upon the resolution yesterday (the one about watching all of Naseeruddin's movies, in case you were wondering) and finding Free Time in Ample Quantities (such a subjective notion) around me, decided to take up the challenge. I have around 140 days of Variable Freedom before The Next Big Step. And 159 movies to go through (5 unreleased, so let's keep it a round figure: 155. I decided to stick to the IMDB list which has the maximum number of movies listed as opposed to the desigurus and bollymasalas). Of which 13 have been seen. These are the rules of

My Very Own Amazing Race

Days: 140
Movies: 155
Watched: 13
Net movies to be watched: 142
The 13 remaining movies will be watched in the end, as per convenience (hell they are my rules, I can make them up as I go along)

The countdown begins this Monday. Why am I doing this? Perhaps to cross off one of the million To Do lists I make all the time on variously coloured papers, different diaries, little notepads and more recently, on OneNotes. Perhaps to spend the Free Time in Ample Quantities in a more useful, self-gratifying, recline-supporting manner. Definitely to watch a very-watchable body of work from the Meryl Streep of India. And of course to rediscover my lanky man in flared pants. The bearded face with its expressions. The upside of this exercise is all of the above. The downside is that you will get to hear about it.

Here I go!

P.S: Still toying with the going sequentially or randomly, as I get my hands on the movies.

06 May, 2010


And then there was
No sound
Gulleys of
Unkempt silence
Interrupted the

I heard my echo today after a very long time. I had almost forgotten what I sounded like!

04 May, 2010

Rasmai Ramble IV

An impromptu trip to Rasmai is perhaps the best way I know to unwind. And that too with my favourite people? Could life get any better? Exhausted from my recent month of literally mapping Uttaranchal and it's gentle slopes [chanced upon this must visit place in Pithoragarh district, a 20 km drive from Gangolihaat called Patal Bhuvaneshwar], I allowed the plains yawning on either side of the highway soothe my senses. The golden stumps of harvested wheat covered the fields, somewhere bajra and chari were sprouting forth providing green relief. The sky was a dusty haze of speckled sunlight, the birds were croaking in thirst, a summer was underway. At the toll gate the ticket man gave us a Rs. 5/- discount and didn't give us a bill. Later comprehension dawned, he'd pocket the Rs. 20/-. We paid less, he made pocket money on the sly. A symbiotic relationship at its ugly best.

This time, I went to Rasmai with an inquisitive mind, my ears and eyes receptive not only to its brown beauty but also to the little details alongside. I enjoyed the brown goats as they pranced around the tube well to whet their parched throats. They bent their knobbly little knees on the grass and sipped the water with their tiny mouths, noses grazing the surface. Once done, they sprang about, delightfully rejuvenated. The old man herding them was gnarled and browned by his years in the sun. He wore a white dhoti turned yellowish brown. His head had a large white turban on it, an unwiedly protection from the unforgiving sun. His face had lines 'running from everywhere to everywhere'. And seeing his goats jump about in glee, he seemed content, a job well done.

We carried onto the mango orchard, laden with tiny green mangoes, amiyaas, still untouched by the several dust storms that would ravage the crop, reducing the bounty by almost a third. Collecting a few, we munched at them, mouths puckering in their tangy sourness. The gool or water channel was full of sweet water, now pumped from 180 feet below instead of the 80 feet it used to be available at just a decade ago. Pumping charges had gone up, wells were being dug deeper, water was a lot scarcer. For an economy dependent on agriculture, this sounded like a death knell to me. One of the two village pokars or ponds had dried up long ago, now serving as a place for people to scrape out mud to plaster their houses. 

The bajra fields were being watered. Egrets or bagula were walking around in the water on their stilt-like legs, picking on insects, munching at a tasty grub. They looked regal, white in this dusty landscape,  unperturbed and cool. I saw the sun set, an orange orb, glowing fiercely as it set. It's light, reflected in the water in the fields, seemed to fill us all with its peace. Only nature can, so beautifully, make us fee so humble and beautiful. If only we could constantly live it this state of awareness. 


01 May, 2010

Baah humbug

Oh they were right.  

Money is the root of all evil. 
Honesty? Yes, the best policy. 
Home is where the heart is.
Seek and ye shall find.


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