Friday, July 07, 2017

The ministry of utmost happiness - Arundhati Roy

Not really my cup of tea.

Began somewhat promisingly, and she surely has a way with words, but by the time political cataloguing began a 100 pages into the book, it became tiring.

The story of the hijras, of Anjum, of identity, ( and the problems with it)  was interesting to begin with. But everything subsequently looked like a catalogue from a left wing journal. The rise of the lalla, Kashmir, Maoists, caste, religion, the endless horrors of torture , oppression... I am sorry but  inspite of trying to live under a rock, I am very well aware of all of this. This is less a thought provoking or interesting story, and more a call to arms, a pamphlet, a shining of the light on the terrors of establishment. There is some beautiful prose in between, but unfortunately that is not enough. The ending I found specially terrible. Even making allowances for a lack of plot, character development. Even giving her the leeway  that this is more lament, litany and history, than novel. Even then, its almost like a cop out.

I am not sure who the targetted reader is, who would enjoy this.. but obviously looking at the ratings and reviews, there are quite a few who do. I am guessing that a fair number of them might be people not familiar with indian current affairs of the last 20 years. Perhaps if I read a similar novel set in Tibet with shallow plot and characters but some pretty writing, I would have been more charitable, since I would not find the cataloguing tiring.


Saturday, July 01, 2017

Sapiens - Yuval Noah Harari

Really liked it.

In a way its a history book, tracing the history of homo-sapiens right from the times of and closing all the way in 2014. But its history viewed more from a lens of living conditions, what, and why. There is mercifully much less of the 'when', at least not in meaningless dates. After all, looking across millenia, what is a few days, or even decades, here or there?

It begins with a time which has always fascinated me, the 50 thousand years ago to 1 thousand years ago. As a kid, in the truncated and geographically limited history we studied, the focus was always on how awesome our indus valley civilisation was, and oh ok, we also traded back then with a few others, here read a bit about egypt, mesopotamia, china. Perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking that everything beyond these was just jungle and monkeys. yet, there were a lot of niggling doubts, like how and when did places like america and australia get populated? But they stayed buried as niggling doubts. Then, when I read A history of the world in 100 objects, I was thrilled to find that there was indeed a lot happening all over the world in that period. This book covers a good bit of it, and is more provocative in its tone, putting forward interesting facts, and then building theories to explain them. Then hopping to the other side of the fence and demolishing some of those theories.

I found the initial parts the most engaging, the latter parts had considerably fewer facts or opinions/theories that were new to me.

Good read overall ! 

A death in the gunj - Konkona Sen Sharma

Quite loved it.

A family gets together in the quiet sleepy mccluskiegunj, for a week in the late 70s. Old friends visit. Jokes are cracked. Old alliances rekindled. Soon you can see that one of them, Shutu, doesn't quite fit in. To make matters worse, he is the youngest, the most quiet, and right then perhaps the most vulnerable. Family reunions can sometimes be celebrations in cruelty. Shutu , and his alienation are perhaps at the center of the film, but it languidly and economically takes in a lot more. I loved all the 7-8 of the actors, their performances probably make the key contribution in holding the tension in a slow moving but richly observed film.

It isn't a thriller, or whodunit. I thought the opening scene left no doubt about what happens a week later. Its not the 'who' or the 'what' .. but the why. And thats a hard one to answer. One of the most moving scenes for me was when one of the characters was being urged to empathize, and he suddenly lashes out as to why 'Shutu' needed to pull himself together. Giving out the common wisdom on what is an acceptable level of hardship to break down under, (or not) and what is the expected age to 'grow up'. It reminded me of another conversation I once had with a friend, as she rebuffed my urges to empathize with another struggling soul, and basically again listed out 'this xyz is what constitutes hardship. Our mutual friend is nowhere near this. ergo she needs to pull it together'. Most of the time, we are not on Shutu's side, he has broken too many societal norms, failed too many exams, missed too many phone calls, not participated adequately in communal revelry.

Probably won't be everyones cup of tea, but I would recommend it highly.

ps - as an aside, this movie already had an 'A' certificate, whats with the beeping out of words? so irritating. 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Keep calm and carry on.

Its been an uphill few months. A few bad blips even. Mostly a case of one step forward, one step back. Unfortunately on occasion its two steps back. 

So now will have to catch up again on the things I have dropped after doing them for a bit. Routine, yoga, meditation, reading, limiting screen time, eliminating social media ( hah maybe it should be called anti-social media).  Reading up a bit on CBT was useful, maybe I need to find a book that explains it better and use it. 

Also need to give myself a break, forgive myself. Everything can't be up to my arbitrary standards, and specially since I am not in a position to chase or live up to those standards myself. I need to let go. k will survive in the school whose food habits are not ideal, better some random sugar and biscuits, than..  Its ok to lean and take help. Its ok if others judge, leave.. It is what it is.  

And will have to deal with the frightening thought that sometimes things don't go back to 'normal'. Sometimes when you lose a limb, its just gone. Staying strong, and positive thoughts, and just waiting for it to blow over, or willing the universe to conspire might not work. Maybe you just need to get artificial limbs. It is a relief to also stop pretending finally. Infinite gratitude for all the love and help I have got. 

Keep calm and carry on.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Fast and the furious - n - F Gary Gray

Observation:
fatf (n+1) < fatf (n)

assuming n =0, fatf (0) = 0.
when n = 1,
fatf (1) < fatf(0)
fatf < 0
fatf (2) < fatf < 0
....
fatf(8) <<<<<< 0

Sigh , I like Vin and Dwayne and Jayson and Charlize , but dumping them into the screen with a bunch of cars and no script and only cgi seems like a waste of my time.

Never again!



Friday, April 21, 2017

Logan - James Mangold

Finally got to see a movie alone at the hall recently,  after quite a while.

Liked it quite a bit, and yes I am a fan of x-men, so this isn't a neutral review!

Its a funny feeling to see your drool drool heroes grow old. Those actors you saw 25 years back looking so gorgeous and drop dead handsome, now with a slower gait, leathery skin and fraying hair.  Reminding you more of parents, who are already grandparents. A 'superhero' movie at that, which does not gloss over the last painful chapters, in an age where everything is white washed.  This one is mostly not about the shiny new powers someone is getting, its about the dulling and losing of those powers.

Its a tightrope walk of course for such movies and their directors, they can't go all out and make this only about  about those 'heroes' struggling with daily life, cooking, sleeping, disease, ablutions, death..  Of course the franchise must go on.

But much though I loved Hugh Jackmen and the x-men series, this was perhaps a fitting farewell. All things come to an end. This is how it ends.. its not pretty, but it is what it is. 

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

navratri yog class.

Completed the 9 days of navratri yoga class today.

Wasnt easy to leave at 6 in the morning as I had hoped. s woke up at all hours like, 4 , 5, 6 on all days except today. But somehow managed, although p had a tough time.

I liked the few classical poses, short and nothing fancy, and the following chanting. For someone who always hated all the chanting and temple nonsense , thats a strange thing to say. I guess partly because I stopped trying to 'believe' or argue with the belief , in a literal shiva or durga 'god'. I  let it be more like a way of centering/meditation. Like I am not 'praying' to a literal 3 eyed god sitting in a cave, asking for immortality, but just using the mantra to center my own thoughts. Using the group energy and the discipline of a schedule , since I can't muster up the self motivation to do it on my own.

And a huge part of course was that p himself was taking the class, it makes a very big  difference. I don't think I would have made the effort if it had been any other teacher. Why exactly ? Thats harder to answer. His own ethos is quite traditional and  firmly rooted in things that I have a hard time believing in. But there's something about the way he says things, without seeming to force it down, which makes it very accessible.

The post class food that different people brought was a lovely touch. Tasted a lot of things for the first time. In general, hunger , cravings and food consumption has reduced drastically, probably a combination of the weather, general attempts at healthier, smaller meals, and probably my annual episodic lack of hunger. One good thing is that sugar cravings have not only gone, but I find excessive sugar distasteful now! Mixed feelings on that one.

Would I be able to keep up with the personal sadhna going forward? I hope so. I never completed the 50 hours of solitary yog that we were supposed to do. Will try that.






Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Restarting yoga.

Finally after a long break for 8-9 months from all yoga/gym/physical activity, I somehow dragged myself and paid up to rejoin yoga classes.

I still love the classes, specially the slightly slower paced ones, emphasising body/breath/mind awareness rather than the faster paced 'power' yoga styles, which without a very talented teacher, can soon resemble the boot-camp classes. I have enjoyed boot camp classes too, but they have a very different focus.

Thanks to the long break, my stamina was at an all time low, I usually had to break the holds and take rest quite often. With the body slowly creaking back, I am also reluctant to push it right away into new, unfamiliar asans, which earlier I would have jumped at.

But perhaps consciously taking it easy, and allowing myself leeway for starting slow, also means that the practice feels lighter, less stressful, more comfortable.

The highlight for todays class was the tree pose held on both sides for quite a bit. I loved it. I hope some day to stop wobbling too!


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Looks like no one blogs anymore. A chance memory yesterday got me all nostalgic and I went back a decade, and realised that all the blogs from that time are pretty much dead. 

People tweet I suppose, or use instagram. or even facebook. or other stuff that i dont even know about ! At any rate, lets see if I continue blogging or this one will die soon too! 

Thursday, March 02, 2017

deaddiction

One of the things that really make me feel depressed and unproductive is the time I waste on the phone and internet. 

Like any other addiction, it gives a temporary high, a little bit of instant gratification, and then makes you want more and more of it, and eventually leaves you feeling very depressed. 

Plus the social media and news has been getting more and more depressing, and I know just like I stopped TV, I need to get off these social media platforms. It will mean that my already depleted friends circle and limited social interaction will take a further nosedive, but considering how much negativity I will be able to avoid, it is a no-contest. Besides , there is always good old email and the still useful whatsapp to stay in touch. 

So operation taper down has been on for a few weeks, will try to add momentum to it. Bring down daily phone use below 1.5 hours. Lets see in a week how it looks. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

connection..

sigh, with all the technology around, video chats, countless 'social media', ubiquitous phones, with all of supposedly 'connecting devices', I miss the human connection.

I miss being able to sit across a human being, without a phone, without a screen, without deadlines being counted in minutes, with just conversation, silence and the minuscule expressions on the face, which gave away so much.

I have often wondered: how much of the disconnect, is simply due to a busy life , with kids, office, responsibilities, geographical distances... and how much is just meaningless busyness.

Every now and again, a few stolen moments on chat, throw back the curtain on a huge labyrinth, and then before theres a chance to explore, the curtain appears again, the moment is lost, and we go back to our islands, with pretty pictures on the curtain.

Unfortunately, I don't see any hope of any of this getting better. The only hope is to try and limit my own use of 'technology' and keep trying to catch real life.  Which is also hard to do, more so in my current frame of mind.

A friend had once written a few lines by Nida, applies now in a different context, more than ever..

dhoop mein niklo, ghataon mein naha ke dekho, 
zindagi kya hai, kitaabon ko hata ke dekho..