Friday, 29 January 2010

The Supreme Irony of Life

It is a paradox of life... bittersweet moments that take you to the highs of pure joy and then plunge you quite immediately into heart-wrenching sadness. I found myself in this impossibly contradictory situation over the past few days.

First came the high... one of those ''pinch-me-I'm-dreaming'' moments when I was selected for a play that is to be performed later in the next month. I was stunned and paralysed when I was told that I had bagged the lead role in the play. A call from a friend and an assurance from a professor opened the floodgates. They were full of pride, praise and love.. ecstatic for me, and I could feel it so strongly through the phone calls I received. I was so happy that I was able to make my parents feel proud and happy... to hear the praise and pride in their voice, because if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have any of the success I enjoy today. I was glad that I could give them something in return that went beyond academics.

These two amazing human beings gave up so much and put their lives on hold to make up for the absence of a father. They managed to create a very stable life for me with strong values and a stable home base in Bombay and over the years they have stood beside me and behind me as I pursued different hobbies like writing, photography. Sitting in the canteen that day, I realised that I needed to pause and acknowledge their love and the sacrifices they have made for me. I needed to articulate all that I was feeling. I didn't want to leave it unsaid. I didn't get much time for myself as I was talking to innumerable people as I was flooded with congratulatory phone calls and messages. It was truly wonderful to share something so special with people who mean the most to us!

And then came the bad news... My grandmother left for Guruvayur in Kerala. Being so attached to her and she being so far away from home and the very thought of coming back to an empty house, I was suddenly lost. My grandmother personified the word "homemaker" in the literal sense. She has been with me throughout since childhood and the support she has given me has been tremendous. I am so blessed to have her in my life and also to have had the opportunity to grow as a person.

Family is something we take for granted. But every once in a while, you need to make the time to tell them and also show them how much their love and support means to you and to find ways to reciprocate. There is nothing more important and meaningful than doing this simple task.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Space Crunch

All scientific research suggests that tempers are likely to be frayed when ten men are packed into a space meant for one. Therefore, it was no surprise that a heated argument broke out in a Vashi train when a group of newly boarded passengers tried to make their way from Wadala in and another bunch wanted to fight its way out. Matters seemed to be settling down once the train started with a jerk, but the two factions were still measuring each other up for a fight.

It was then that a timid old man squealed from under the crowd, "Each one of you try to move by just a millimetre. That will help." The whole compartment burst out laughing, and needless to say the fight was over before it began.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Movie Review: Paa

Paa is a simple film that is told in the most simplistic manner and that's one of the prime reasons why the film works big time. Paa scores in all the three departments namely editing, writing and music.

Auro (Amitabh Bachchan) is an intelligent, witty 13 year old boy with an extremely rare genetic defect named Progeria that causes accelerated ageing. Mentally, he is 13, very normal, but physically he looks five times older. Inspite of his condition, Auro is a happy boy. He lives with his mother Vidya (Vidya Balan), a gynaecologist, but is completely clueless about his father's identity. Till he meets him, Amol Arte (Abhishek Bachchan), who is a full of ideals politician.

Paa looks at the varied relationships so minutely. It may've been touted as a father-son film, but the women--mother and grandmother--play equally pivotal parts. Paa is not a typical Hindi movie that tries to gain sympathy. It's a very positive film with funny moments in plenty. Paa does not show Auro as ''different". He's one among the kids and there's no discrimination which is remarkable.

A firm salute to the director R. Balakrishnan for thinking out of the box and also presenting Amitabh Bachchan like never before. The writing may be erratic, but his handling of emotional scenes is exemplary. Make-up artists Christien Tinsley and Domini Till deserve the credit for making a veteran actor look like a kid and making Auro look so real.

No amount of praise, no amount of adjectives and personifications would do justice to Amitabh Bachchan's performance as Auro. Paa is something different from the other movies we've usually grown up watching Amitabh Bachchan. Paa does belong to Auro but Abhishek does not dither from his track idea. Vidya Balan takes a giant stride as an actor and proves again that if given right roles, she can match up to the best. Paresh Rawal is effective and so is Arundhati Nag. Jaya Bachchan's presence in the opening credit is lovely.

Paa is an amazing film which makes us realize the fact that the Hindi film industry is capable of narrating fresh stories.

On the whole, Paa strikes a chord with every Paa, Maa and just about everyone with a heart! On the ratings scale, a full five on five which means speechless!!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Growing City

This year too

we had scanty rainfall

scantier than the year last

with snowballs getting thinner

the city goes on growing

You can see

people standing

where once stood the trees


and yet

unlike trees

men cannot invite snowfalls

to visit them

The city goes on growing

growing like wilderness

with hands spread on the back of the jungle

one can see

a few mortals running

running yet ignoring

the call of the left out trees

instead of fog

the jungle is now enveloped in smoke

In this raging storm

while covering the glimmering wick

with his bare hands

the city climbs the bare mountain

toward the volcano

in the waiting

--Keshav Kumar

(Marathi poet)

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Movie Review: Ekantham

"Ekantham" which means Solitude is a sensitive creation based on the loneliness felt in old age, with no one to take care of. With bringing in, the two of the best performers of the present day Malayalam cinema--the late. Murali and Thilakan, to do the pivotal roles, the film tells the in-depth story of today's human relationships.

Opening with aged Achutha Menon (Thilakan) performing the last rites for his deceased wife Saraswathi, the film follows his loneliness since he has no children and no immediate relative. Being a bureaucrat, he had never taken care of his family in his village. Tired of leading a lonely life, he decides to go to his younger brother Ravunni, who lives in their native village. Ravunni too is a widower, but has a son named Viswanathan and a daughter named Chandrika, both of whom are settled in the city with their respective families. Since Ravunni is suffering from a severe ailment, his son and daughter visit him at regular intervals. Both the brothers meet after a long time, they cherish the memories of old times and are happy being together.

As Ravunni's health deteriorates further, his son and daughter decide to shift him to the city for better treatments. On the advice of his friend Captain R.K. Nair, Ravunni decides to move to the "Karunyam Pain and Palliative Care Centre", a place that provides holistic treatment.

Once at the centres, the two brothers come across a bunch of very different characters like Velayudhan (Salim Kumar), Dr. Sunny (Manoj K. Jayan), who is in charge of the centre, Dr. Sophie (Meera Vasudevan), who is working there and is deeply in love with Dr. Sunny. All the incidents in the centre is a relegation to Achutha Menon, who is also staying back with his brother. A world of uncanny human relationships opens before him, who decides to look into them in a novel way that he had never experienced before.

The highlight of the movie is M.J. Radhakrishnan's cinematography, which captures the mood and feel of the film at its best. The film has one of the best song of recent times, "Kaiyeththum doore oru kuttikaalam" soulfully rendered by Yesudas.

The film which moves in a leisurely pace may find it hard to reach the masses looking for crass entertainment. Even though the film has a good storyline, the script drags at intervals. All in all, the crew must be appreciated for creating such a meaningful film on such a sensitive subject.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Racism on tracks

My cousin was recently a witness to prejudice on the city's lifeline (read: the commuter trains), twice in a single week. Unaware of the compartments on trains, some obviously poor and illiterate rural families accidentally entered the first-class compartment on the western line, only to receive disgusted looks from passersby. Many of them were quickly shooed away.

Cut to the next day in a second class ladies compartment on the harbour line. A group of four Germans--three women and a man--boarded the compartment from Mumbai CST at about 10 pm. They were greeted with a wide smile. To top it, the man was allowed to stay on after the quartet pleaded that the general compartment was too crowded.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

"Don't Give Up!"

The number of suicides being reported across the state this week has been horrific and alarming. What is scary is that really young people undergoing pressure with exams have committed most of them. It is sad that minds that have not yet developed have fallen prey to such levels of depression that has made these kids reach a place of hopelessness towards a life that could have been a glorious one. It's significant that none of these cases come from the underprivileged class, where striving for a good report is a means to an end. They come from families that fall in the middle-class bracket. What's the solution?

Let us, for a minute, examine forms of pressure related to what happened. The educational institutions in our country has a cruel system of admission. Little children are interviewed and rejected as if they are not 'top-of-the-line'. A four-year old then feels serious pressure. Good colleges like St. Xavier's in Mumbai or St. Stephen's in Delhi admit students with cut offs above 95 per cent! However, what choice do these institutions have? They have to screen thousands of applications and so do schools. Not that jobs are awaiting them after their graduation. Most of the graduates are in fact unemployed and still seeking job opportunities.

Next in line are the parents. Even though love is a relative term, I can easily say that all parents love their children and want the best for them. However, parents too get caught up in a cycle of pressure to get their children to perform. Most times it is for the future of the child. Sometimes parents may also want to show off to their friends and relatives about their child; hence being the parent of a 'loser child' is unacceptable.

Coming to the victim, the young mind who cannot get the marks owing to lesser aptitude, distraction or any emotional reason, knows that failure means flak from school, aggression at home and ridicule from their peers. Lucky for the child if he/she understands the importance of academics, but what if he doesn't? What if he is unstable and weak? What if he/she is prone to depression and cannot bear the shame of failure?

My exams are almost done with just two more papers yet to be done. I hear my parents reprimanding and nagging me to study. Coming from an academic background, my parents need to see me put my face in a book rather than seeing my face on Facebook and they are unfortunately helpless in reducing the pressure. As a matter of fact when my parents did let go, my parents were pulled up by the college, after which my parents turned the screws back on.

There are no answers to the questions and the problem is mammoth. Children of today are growing full speed in all directions. Their fingers on the computer screens/mobile phones type faster than any other typist of the past and it is difficult to keep pace with them. We have to make the young believe in themselves, have faith in their ability, love them and give them space to shine. To do enough today, is to try and instill self-confidence, firmly make them understand right and wrong, yet have an ear for them. One must teach them to be God-fearing, hoping that this grounding makes them tread on the right path. The rest as they say, is their luck, fate and is in the hands of God!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Disco at the signal

Being a cop must be the toughest--and the most boring--job on New Year's eve. While the world parties, you're stuck on the side of a busy road, checking for drunk drivers. On Thursday evening, the city's cops made their job a bit more fun by converting their check posts into roadside discos. At the post under the Byculla bridge, ''Happy New Year, Don't Drink and Drive'' was spelt out in flashing lights.

At the crossing very close to Famous Studios in Mahalakshmi, a fuchsia banner splashed the same message in funky alphabets. The policemen marched about, swinging their incandescent batons that looked like strobe lights criss-crossing a dance floor. The only thing they didn't do was break into a jig in the middle of the road.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Traffic Speak

Recently, at dusk, a traffic policeman stopped my friend's rented car on one of the city's busy suburban station roads. He said that the car had been going in the wrong direction on a one way street. The driver pointed out that there was no prominent sign indicating the one way, and the fact that BEST buses were allowed in both directions added to the confusion.

Insisting there was a sign, the cop added that only he--no motorist and not even his own boss--could decide whether the driver had erred or not. He demanded her licence, but she refused to hand it over, fearing that she wouldn't get it back. My Mumbai-born and bred colleague was getting late for an engagement. So she got out of the car and tried to mediate the stand-off in Marathi. Pleading guilt on her chauffeur's behalf, she said the woman had driven carefully all day, and that the violation was a genuine mistake and not a disregard for traffic rules.

Shrewdly taking the cue, the driver pledged never to repeat the error. Suddenly softening his stance just a little, the cop said magnanimously, "You have admitted your mistake. I've done my job by making you understand that you were wrong. And I've decided to let you off."

Then, almost without a pause, he turned to my friend and demanded, "Do you speak Marathi?" She was flabbergasted. Not only had the entire conversation taken place in Marathi, but the question had no relevance to the situation. Surely the city's traffic rules are the same in any language.

Friday, 1 January 2010

It's time to start afresh

Put on your best outfit, bring out the band-baaja, pop some champegne, grab a hold of the one's you love and welcome 2010 with the biggest, brightest smile and your arms wide open. Happy New Year!! It's the first day of the new year and the world is looking bright and promising.

The new year has always been a special time for me because it signifies the start of something new, the time when you sit back and think of all the things you want to accomplish in your life and also reflect on the year gone by. Many will say that it's just another day... a change in the date, but for me new year's day is filled with promise.. that one day when you think that you can officially conquer the world!

I've had a very ''thanda'' 2009 yet am grateful for what I got and I hope that I can carry the positivity in 2010 as well. I have so much to look forward to... railfanning, coffee sessions, movies, becoming an adult being the highlight of the year. I've spent the last few days largely outdoors; catching up with friends and family, railfanning etc. It was the perfect way to end the year an enter the new one, cocooned by laughter, joy and love of my family!

This year I have decided not to have any resolutions but set more realistic goalposts for the things I wanted to achieve. It's not a plan of action but more of a work in progress report that will help me do the things I want to do. Because of the things I did last year and the people I interacted with last year, there were many interesting facerts to myself that I discovered last year and in 2010, I want to explore these nuances more... push the envelope as much as I can. Overall, things are looking up and there in a palpable air of positivity all around.

While you may or may not believe in the whole concept of the new year, I think somewhere all of us crave for new beginnings, the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start anew... and to able to scratch off one more things in our life's to-do list! As we all forge ahead into 2010, let's live, laugh and love... wholeheartedly!