Monday, February 11, 2013

The Magic of Snow

Evoking God
Nature has a way of reinforcing our faith in the unknown force, ‘god’ that most of us prefer to call. Today, walking through the snow-carpeted roads, the ‘Thank you god’ prayer that I used to say in school, quickly escapes my lips. I simple can’t stop smiling inspite of the immense difficulty in walking through the snow and ice. The Tamil song ‘Kaakai siraginile nandalala’ ehoes in my heart. The poet and social reformer, Subramanya Bharathiyar in this song says that he is able to see, hear and feel Lord Krishna in everything from the crow and trees to all sounds and even the fire that singes his hands. On this snowy day, I feel that my favourite god, Krishna touches me with his freezing white hands!

Out-of-the-world experience
Snow, for most of us who are tropical citizens of hot humid countries, is simply an out-of-the-world kind of experience. The first snow fall of the year fills even the adults with a child-like delight and glee. The silence when it snows evokes a thousand emotions and ideas in my heart. Nature conspiring in silence! At night, against the street lights, snow falls light like silver dust. It looks like thin cotton flakes, but feels like small and chill pricking needles. During the day, the sun is taking a break. Yet it is bright and the grey clear sky provides a perfect background for the stark white of snow that envelops every bit of the geography and all that is part of it. At night, the vast stretches of snow fill the neighbourhood with an eerie white brightness.

Magical!
The first thing I do ever morning when I wake up in winter is peer out of our balcony and amaze myself with the panoramic view of bright white. Snow capped mountains in the distance; buildings, rooftops, churches, supermarkets and parked vehicles carefully and neatly covered with a natural icing; snowmen in the nearby parks, all have a magical effect on me. Yes, magical and fairyland-like! Man and every sign of civilization such as the glass buildings, the street lamps and automobile look every bit out of place in this beautiful fairyland. Only the huge and lanky trees with bare, leafless and white outstretched arms perfectly belong in this land.

Nature’s Spa and beauty parlour
Snow, as I said, is conspiring. It is a tool in nature’s hand to take a break. To keep man away for a while. The traffic thins and very few people venture out as snow makes roads inaccessible. This is when nature relaxes and rejuvenates herself. She turns her world into a spa for her true citizens, the trees and plants to exfoliate, moisturize themselves and breathe free of all pollution. Snow is the natural treatment she uses to cleanse herself.

At the end of winter, as snow melts, it gives way for new life to spring, for nature to paint everything in her canvass with the fresh and warm green.

Meanwhile, I let my eyes and heart awash with the colour and touch of winter!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What a comeback! It's all about acting-shacting!

Choose a contemporary subject, weave an interesting story around it, set it in Uncle Sam’s land, sketch a few credible characters; add a few good actors, some foot-tapping music, a typical Bollywood style wedding; and cast a yesteryear star…KHAABOOM!! You get English Vinglish and a Superb Comeback Queen!

Wah Sridevi Wah! To be honest I have never been a Sridevi fan. Her gimmicks and slapstick humour bordering on overacting always irritated me. So when I went to watch EV with hubby and daughter, I wasn’t really expecting a lot. But Gauri Shinde, the director, has successfully helped the 40+ year old actress do full justice to her acting skills.

Perhaps Shashi of EV is one of Sridevi’s best characters in her entire film career. Sridevi uses perfect subtlety and moderation in playing the role of Shashi, a Hindi housewife and mother who knows little English and consequently suffers ridicule, especially at the hands of her husband and teenage daughter. Although everyone loves her yummy ladoos, no one really recognises her culinary skills and her success in running a small catering business. Thus the movie is about Shashi’s journey towards ‘confidence and self-respect by learning English.’

The journey begins with her lonely flight to New York to help arrange her niece’s wedding. Amitabh Bachan, who has done a cameo role as Shashi’s friendly and helpful co-passenger, rightly advises her to live life, ‘Be shakh, be fikar, bindaas! (without doubt, without worry and in style) She starts succeeding in this as she improves her proficiency in English through a four-week English Leaning Course in New York.

What’s the fun package in Gauri Shinde’s bag? The English Class with a bunch of men and women trying to overcome their common weakness of English: A quiet gay Black, a Chinese girl working in a beauty parlour, a Rotund Mexican nanny who knows only Spanish, A Pakistani cab driver, who wants to become eligible for the marriage market by being able to speak good English, a talkative Tamil who misses his idlis and mom in that order (whose passionate description of Rajnikanth as god capable of even removing Superman’s underpants gives way to a roar of laughter!) and my favourite of all – Laurent, the pleasant, handsome, and love-sick French man with an attractive stubble, who silently moons over Shashi and tries to spend more time with her. (my hubby vehemently denies that Laurent is handsome. So I leave that to you to decide!) Professor David is also impressive in his performance.

The problems faced by people who know very little English is precisely reflected in the funny conversations of the class that becomes a close-knit family at the end of four weeks.

The other funny element is of course Shashi’s awkward encounters with people in India who refuse to speak in Hindi and nervous situations in the US when even buying a sandwich becomes painful and embarrassing. But in fact, more than being funny, these bring out the hurt and pain felt by the leading character and highlight the insensitivity that has become so prevalent in our society.

Sridevi has shown a lot of maturity in all the emotion-packed scenes and does manage to bring a lump in our throat, especially in the final toast scene. Now who said powerful speeches in Indian movies can be delivered only by big heroes like a Shah Rukh, an Amitabh, a Rajnikanth or a Mammooty?

Sridevi delivers a toast at the wedding - a calm, composed and confident speech. No shattering background music for effect, no grand body language or no anger. Hats off to whoever scripted the speech! No wonder Amitabh cried watching the scene. The entire message in the movie resonates in it with quiet impact, leaving us a little teary-eyed. And oh yes, the husband and daughter, who never knew that Shashi was taking English classes, are shocked and full of regret. Their tears stand testimony to the humiliation that Shashi endured all along and their shock is a witness to her confident transformation.

I loved the music by Amit Trivedi. The lyrics of the songs are fresh and suits the theme of the movie. The director has done a great job of not going overboard but restricting Sridevi’s dance numbers to a few trademark moves and a nice catchy wedding dance in the end. The French classmate’s budding romantic love for Shashi is also handled with maturity. And Shinde makes sure that New York does not overwhelm the story, but dazzles a bit in the song sequences.

What I didn't like: Shashi need not have draped the sari pallu over her shoulders, the daughter's insensitivity to her mom seems a little too exaggerated, Sridevi's voice sort of grates with too much sweetness( I hate her voice!)

Directors such as Gauri Shinde and Sujoy Ghosh (of Kahaani fame) prove that ‘good, box-office-friendly scripts can be written exclusively for heroines, even 40+ ones, without props like a star hero or saucy item numbers'.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Protima Bedi...the free spirit


Just finished reading Protima Bedi’s memoirs, ‘Timespass’, edited and collated posthumously by her daughter Pooja Bedi. It offers an intimate and no-holds-barred peep into Protima’s personal, professional, sexual and spiritual life. She also lays bare the world of film stars, socialites, the hippies and a few politicians in the 70s and 80s. Before reading this book, I only knew that Protima was the mother of the famous film star and that she died in a landslide.  I now realise that she was in fact a subject of more sensationalism, gossip, and titillation than her daughter.  

Imagine being able to have parallel sexual relations and affairs with more than one man, even as you are married to the ‘man of your dreams’, and making absolutely no bones about it to anyone including your own husband! That’s exactly what she professes to have done. Well, eventually, the universal rule of marriage wins over Protima’s freewheeling spirit and Kabir Bedi manages to get a divorce. It is another story that while Protima was romping around with her endless ‘soul mates’, Kabir Bedi was sneaking away from his wife into Parveen Babi’s arms. Sigh.  It is also interesting to know about Kabir's budding film career.

Till her last breath, she hops, skips and jumps from one lover to another, including a French man (who once sexually abuses her daughter) who leaves his wife and children for the Indian beauty; and Pandit Jasraj, the master exponent of Hindustani classic music. 

Fiercely  independent and daringly experimental, Protima is proud to have lived life on her own terms. She and Kabir Bedi began their love life as hippies relishing the rave and booze parties. She claims to have instilled the same spirit in her daughter and son, Sidharth.  

Unable to adhere to the conservative orthodox values and rules set by her Marvadi father, Protima broke ties with her family and landed in the glamourous modelling industry, making quite a splash with her sexy looks and bold decisions. Her stark nude photo, which she claims to have been taken on a nude-beach in Goa, made big news in the 70s. Her kids were the butt of jokes in school as the media had published that Protima had streaked on the busy roads of Bombay. On one hand she is proud to have been a different, friendly, loving and liberal mother, she also regrets not having spent enough time with her daughter and son, especially after her divorce with their father, Kabir Bedi. I also find it strange that she had to depend on Kabir’s alimony for taking care of her children.   

While she loved being a free bird not bound by social norms, Protima had her share of tragedies. Her brilliant son, who was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, committed suicide at a young age, leaving her shattered.  She also lost a couple of her lovers to cancer and other illness.

While Protima’s reckless life left her without any anchor, she regained confidence through her unending quest for learning and mastering Odissi, the dance form which she started learning in her late-30s. She was so soaked up in the spirit of Odissi, that she gave up her western clothes for the sari and the big red bindhi which was to become her trademark, classic look.  

In spite of all the seeming decadence in her life, Protima is credited to have strived and struggled with an endearing passion to establish ‘Nityagram’, a gurukul-style dance school dedicated to all the Indian dance forms, in Hessaraghatta, Karnataka. It is here that she changed her name to Protima Gauri, because bedi in Kannada meant ‘loose motion’! She then took to being a sanyasin, exploring spiritualism and the pristine beauty of the Himalayas, where she was finally killed in a landslide during a trek to a shrine.  Her body was never recovered. A free spirit she perhaps became one with nature, says her daughter.

Protima believed in not taking life seriously. For her life was a ‘timepass’ where one had fun and learned and experienced as much as possible. 

 

 
 

Writing is like labour


Three and a  half years back, when my daughter was still inside me, I was waiting in tears for my ultrasound scan. Tears, because, my bladder was really full and I had been waiting for an hour. I just wanted to get the scan done and pee and put an end to my ordeal! Finally when the radiologist called me in, he had this Birbal story to narrate to me.
 
When King Akbar asked the court jester Birbal what really is the ‘happiest’ moment in a person’s life, he advised Akbar to command his citizens not to pee for 12 hours. Even Akbar followed this with a little bit of curiosity. At the end of 12 hours, there was a collective sigh of relief as Akbar and his people experienced the happiest moment in their life. They could finally relieve themselves! My radiologist claimed that the same holds good for a pregnant woman. ‘‘When the urge is at its peak, one has no other option but to pee. When a woman is in labour, no matter how scared she is she will push and deliver her baby. That will be the happiest moment in her life.’’
 
And my inference from my doc’s story?? Writing is like labour. A writer, be it a blogger, journalist, novelist or a poet,  just got to pen down or type her ideas when inspiration strikes. The words simply have to get out of a writer’s system. And yes, when she looks at her piece of work in the end, the joy is surreal.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

BBC's partial Olympics commentary irks

A big boo to the BBC!!!
I am absolutely furious about the BBC's Olympics commentary!!! While Roger Mosey, the BBC's director of London 2012, promised an impartial and independent coverage of the London Olympics, the fact is otherwise, especially in team/individual events involving the home team of Great Britain. Commentators are hysterical and screaming in joy when team GB is winning, it is irritatingly comical to see them jumping out of their seats during crunch matches and most of all speak condescendingly of losing players from other teams.

Agreed that the Britons are proud of hosting the Olympics, but that does not give the public broadcasting services' news presenters and commentators to be jingoistic and lose track of a fair and impartial way of covering events. Imagine Harsha Boghle and our own cricket commentators screaming hysterically in joy when India is hosting the Cricket world cup and the host country is winning against the English or the Australians!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/rogermosey/2012/03/bbc_promise_impartial_news_cov_1.html

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Enthralling Sheffield!

Sheffield and its people have taught me to embrace life with a child-like curiosity and enthusiasm. Every single feature of this erstwhile mining town has managed to tease me, frighten me, comfort me, surprise me, seduce me, and even scrape mildly at those rough edges in my personality. Now it just doesn't matter what I am not. It just doesn't hurt as much as it used to. I look forward to possibilities and opportunities, not dwell on disappointments and failures.

Every day when I take my daughter to her school, the hillside view with its rich carpet of green trees instills me with a positive energy. It is so magical that I can hear my favourite song and I break into a Bollywood style dance, well, in my heart. The myriad rich colours of the city's landscape, the sensuous feel of its chill breeze that never fails to accompany me in my lonely walks, the quiet birds nibbling at berries in the meadows, even the thoughtfully crafted play areas in all public parks leave their indelible impressions on me.  owe it unmistakeably to the beauty and brilliance of nature, that is unconsciously cherished and effortlesslytaken care of by an English culture that champions living in the lap of nature.

People here go on long walks, they trek, they camp, they soak themselves in the sun, they ski and breathe in the biting chill airs, they enjoy their day out in the open even when it rains. Every season is welcomed and lived in to the hilt. Barbeques for summer, sledges for snow, kaftans and dresses for spring and boots for rainy puddles. The mantra is 'variety is fun'.  AND Thank God for the many dustbins in every nook and cranny, in every road and lane, and hurray to all the people here who throw litter in its rightful place!

Looking at the English and the residents of Sheffield, especially the kids, I sometimes feel that I lost my childhood and teen years in the stressful benches and desks of my school and college. What was I doing mugging up paragraphs and pages of answers, theories, dates, sums, essays, and chasing the top rank and highest marks!! Phew! From day one in LKG till my last day at work, I lived on the brinks of tension. Gosh!

I wouldn't say that I am a  person in a completely new skin. I am still petrified of being late, I still worry about my family's and my health, a stain or tear on my daughter's clothes still irritates me a wee bit, I am still moody at times, temper taunts me even today. BUT...deep inside there is a cosy corner which is full of confidence, courage and the thrist for new experiences.

Sheffield takes me to that part of my heart every day and together we look at the whole wide world with kind eyes, sparkling with gratitude and faith. Thanks Sheffield!
 




If Only!

At the end of every sightseeing here in the UK, I feel happy as well as sad. Happy for the good times spent in mindbogglingly beautiful locales along with our little one; sad that our own country cares a damn for its rich heritage. How long will it take for India to have similar facilities and governance? Will atleast Mayini's children see a cleaner and more beautiful India?

Clean public toilets, well-maintained tourist spots, good roads, men with more respect for women, efficient transport services, punctuality in all facets of life, citizens with a better civic sense, stricter enforcement of rules and regulations, better wages...Well, it all comes down to eradicating poverty, corruption and population explosion, and infusing in everyone an enlightened sense of responsibility and accountability. Easily said and written! Who really cares!

Looks like India will always remain a country of contrasts. The rich will wallow in wads of cash and keep worrying about ways of minting more while discovering newer ways of saving tax. The poor will let themselves be fooled by vote-bank politics and live in squalor, crime and hunger. The middle class will also live on dreaming their dreams of making more money and moving up the social ladder. Even yours truly will worry about whether to take up a job and leave her daughter in a daycare or remain a housewife than devising ways to make a difference to the country.

Sad...If only change could be implemented quickly through divine intervention!