Thursday, December 05, 2013


pain is inevitable.. suffering is optional

- Haruki Murakami on running, ( and an old Buddhist saying)

It had been a time of suffering.. suffering that left me flabbergasted because it was so unexpected. How come no one had complained as much as I did? I had flailed around and asked that question a hundred times, finding no answers. Because everyone validated the pain, ( everyone who had been there at least). But no one seemed to suffer.

And it was when I happened on that quote, in the context of running, that I realized with a shock, I don't remember the suffering of the runs. When I look back on my runs, most of them with far inadequate practice, and completed with ( I have to remind myself of this) much pain, the overwhelming feeling is one of giddy happiness, joy. There was much pain, on trying, I can remember it, but the suffering was almost absent.

So there it is, while the blinkers were on for the runs, they don't work now. And unfortunately its not a switch I seem to be able to toggle just like that. It helps to explain perhaps why no one complains much. They have the blinkers. I wish I had them too. But things are what they are.. and I think I will just have to be myself. Quite a long way off from the lofty ideal of the brave me I wanted to be. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Gravity - Alfonso Cuarón

I quite liked it.

An astronaut repairing a satellite gets caught in a debris storm and finds herself cut off and isolated. Somehow she attempts to gravitate back to earth.

One of the biggest arguments about such movies starts with 'realism' and scientific accuracy. For me it was accurate enough. A couple of days back we caught some real footage of the hubble being repaired at one of the science museums. Without running a microscope over things, I'd say gravity looked pretty close. Other scientific concerns, the heights of the satellite's, the orbits, the under suits, the axis on which stuff explodes, the propelling , etc are probably all valid inaccuracies, however its not stuff that bothers me particularly. We've all seen movies with bigger inaccuracies, in science, in character development, in what not, and lived to like them.

The bigger problem was that the plot was rather thin, and that was perhaps part of the reason the movie stopped short of being great for me. But I still loved the visuals, and it still evoked all those feelings for me, disorientation, awe, alienation, longing, isolation, connection, fear... I loved the little things they had done to bring out those feelings, in terms of camerawork, foreign language keyboards, getting rid of Clooney, stuff which all added up to build on that raw emotion.

Overall, it was definitely worth a watch, specially in 3D at a hall. There would be nothing left of this on a small screen watched with interruptions. 

Friday, October 04, 2013

Life of Pi - Ang Lee

Liked it overall.

Its based on the book, and sticks to the story pretty faithfully. A young boy from Pondicherry, Pi , finds faith  of multiple hues, even as his family seem rather irreverent. ( And need I say , practical and sensible - but thats just me! ). The family plan to emigrate to Canada, along with many animals they owned while they ran the zoo. There is a storm, and then we have the story of Pi's survival. Him and the tiger. Its a story told in flashback, as a grown up Pi narrates his incredible story of being in a life boat out on the ocean with a couple of animals, who die soon, leaving only the tiger. And then in the very end, as we profess disbelief, he gives us the option of another story , with no animals.. a tad more sordid, ( and need I say , a tad more believable! )

I can't really understand most of the deep meaning and symbolism of either the book or the movie. After reading tons of analysis on the net, I can't say that  I understood the point about religion.. The better story ? I mean really ? You'd choose god created the earth in 7 days and Noah saved the gazillion species in the world in his ark because its a better story than evolution ? God saved Pi and not the others because its part of his grand design? leaves me cold this strange god.

However I had really enjoyed reading the book, just because I found it gripping. The movie was less so.. but it had its own charm, although a lot of it is just those beautiful shots of the sea, the sky and of course or Richard Parker.

Loved Richard Parker!

Overall its ok, didn't find it great or exceptional. 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Tomas Alfredson

Didn't like it.

Far too many characters and I couldn't understand what was happening most of the time.

There's a mole in the british secret service, planted by the russians. A retired guy from the service has to be pressed into service to uncover him, after another attempt goes awfully wrong.

I think i would need to watch it on a larger screen with the brightness turned up considerably, and keep a notepad of all the characters, their names, their nicknames and their faces, just to figure out who is who.

As for what the f*** really happened, was there a spy or wasn't there, and who was it.. I can't say I could understand it even at the end.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

A separation - Asghar Farhadi

Quite liked it.

It begins with a couple in family court, while the woman says, unless the family can move abroad, and utilise the visa obtained with great difficulty, she wants to separate. The husband brings up his ailing Alzheimer's stricken father , who cannot be left alone.

And so begins a separation as the wife moves out to her mom's place. Many things happen in the drama, as the husband and teenage daughter try to manage the house and the father. A help is hired, and things begin to get complicated the truth begins to get harder to get at.

At one level the movie turns almost into a whodunit. At another its still a commentary on family dynamics, on the role of women, of men, of children, of religion.. I like the ending also.. there are no easy answers..

Definitely worth a watch.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Butler - Lee Daniels

Good movie overall.

Starting out as a slave from the south, a man finds his way to Washington, and eventually becomes a butler at the white house. Over the years, various presidents come and go, and various laws and mindsets change.

I specially liked the parallel track of the butlers son, as he approaches the struggle with his own rebellions. The problem with a discriminated and battered minority trying to fight back, can never be an easy single story. And change can never come with a straight and narrow paths, there are curves and bends. Where does a non-violent group turn violent? Every little thing chips away. Sometimes you have to highlight your difference , and dig in. Sometimes you change and conform. And its never easy to just say that something is wrong and something is right. Perhaps the sons rebellion could never have come without the fathers conforming, and perhaps the fathers own battles got bolstered with the changes that came about with the sons efforts.

Definitely worth a watch, specially for the good acting. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

अवन्ती में अनाम

क्या इससे कुछ फ़र्क पड़ेगा
अगर मैं कहूँ
मैं मगध का नहीं
अवन्ती का हूँ?
अवश्य पड़ेगा
तुम अवन्ती के मान लिए जाओगे
मगध को भुलाना पड़ेगा
और तुम
मगध को भुला नहीं पाओगे
जीवन अवन्ती में बिताओगे
तब भी तुम
अवन्ती को जान नहीं पाओगे
तब तुम दुहराओगे
मैं अवन्ती का नहीं
मगध का हूँ
और कोई नहीं मानेगा
बिलबिलाओगे –
‘मैं सच कहता हूँ
मगध का हूँ
मैं अवन्ती का नहीं’
और कोई फ़र्क नहीं पड़ेगा
मगध के
माने नहीं जाओगे
अवन्ती में
पहचाने नहीं जाओगे

Will it make any difference if I say
I am not from Magadh
I belong to Avanti

Of course it will
You will be taken to belong to Avanti
You will have to forget Magadh

You will not be able to forget Magadh
You will spend a lifetime in Avanti
and still won't be able
to get acquainted with Avanti

Then over and over again
you will say
I don't belong to Avanti
I belong to Magadh
and no one will believe you
You'll whine
I'm telling the truth
I belong to Magadh
I don't belong to Avanti

and it won't make a difference
No one will believe
that you belong to Magadh
and you won't be recognised
in Avanti

-Shrikant Verma

Dabang 2


My sisters keeper - Jodi Picault

Pretty interesting overall.

A child is asked to donate her kidney to her sister. She refuses. Is she justified in that? Are those facts enough to decide? At what age can a child make their own medical decisions? How far can we hold on to life? Can you will a child into existence just to use their umbilical cord? Is there a measure of love?

It raised a lot of fascinating questions, and was overall rather a good read. Barring perhaps an extra love angle, which read to me almost like a badly written mills and boon ( i know, oxymoron there! ). But that was a very small part, and it can be ignored.

Most of all, I liked the ending. Maybe because it evokes the feeling that you could have had 5 different endings, and invalidated all your carefully thought out stands. Life is like that.

Definitely worth a read. 


I tried not to write this. I tried for many hours , many days, many decades. But perhaps it eats away at you, the not writing.

Why are we so up in arms about the death penalty for the rapists? Why isn't it about the death penalty for a brutal murder involving ripping out someones innards with rods and bare hands, and biting chunks of flesh off their torso and face? Isn't that what this is about? If a cellphone robber pins you down, slashes your stomach, rips your guts, batters your face, breaks your legs, stuffs an iron rod down your throat, would you then ask for 'death for cellphone robber'? Why would someone do that at all, wouldn't you ask? And if someone had done that, obviously the death penalty wasn't going to deter them.. They were determined to kill you, and there's already a death penalty for that. Why did they feel justified in punishing you so brutally then.. for having the cellphone? Or using it? Or just for existing?

Rape. That is such a blanket term. What has happened to half my friends as they grew up, done by family members, wasn't that rape? Would you like the death penalty for your uncles, your cousin, your brother? How about for your son? For every rape? The ones which go on for weeks, months, in our homes? No lets not get uncomfortable and change the topic. I know that over the last 30 years, almost every girl I know has had a few stories, a good few of them, of things that happened to them. Mostly friends and family members. Often for extended periods of time. Most never told anyone, except perhaps their 'best friend'. Sometimes, telling your mom was still an option. But if the perpetrator was a relative, telling your often powerless mom, was quite useless. Here we are not talking about police, or retributive justice for that cousin.. here we were often talking simply about preventing the ( common) recurrence. And yet there was a cocoon of silence.

Its almost as if by shouting death to rapists and exulting over the murder of these 4 torturers and murderers, we can dissociate that rape from the others. Rape, then becomes only this visceral, rage filled, blood bath, not the gentle emotional blackmail by the neighbor, who your father seemed such good friends with. Those 'victims' don't end up in the hospital, they look like the rest of us, outside the hospitals and the police stations. Those of us, who get together and justify the various reasons why we can't ever tell anyone. There is no point. We have moved on. Nothing can really be done. Those people have changed.

Those of us who have been abused, can feel vindication with someone else's hanging. Those of us who have perpetrated the abuse, can dissociate with the word rape. After all its only the outliers who actually act out the punishment fantasies, the rest of us can only make symbolic speeches about burning daughters for roaming around with a boy at night.

And everyone can be happy again.

ps - for those inclined to think in bullet points, here are 2 points to think about.

1. Dissociate the act of rape from the brutality. The brutality itself warrants almost any retributive/preventive punishment you want. The law already covers that.

2. Isolate the act of rape, and think about possibility that at least a few people you know, and who seem perfectly normal, are rapists. ( statistically almost inevitable). What causes that ? Does the headline 'death penalty for rapists' now worry you a bit more than it did? 

Friday, September 13, 2013

1Q84 - Haruki Murakami

Okish read, begins well, but gets rather boring midway onwards.

Its sort of a fantasy novel, and has far too much of 'magical power of love' as its central theme. Too much for me at any rate, I get easily irritated by lowy dovyness. The first part builds up like a rather tautly written murder mystery, which was what had got me hooked. Unfortunately, the second and third parts don't close out all that neatly, some random fantasy, magic realism, a few murders, and an interminable love story later, I was glad the book was over.

So much for the book, even though I do like Murakami's writing ( or at least its translation)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Madras Cafe - Shoojit Sircar

Had gone in with zero expectations.. ( if anything, with negative ones, thinking perhaps it would be like ek tha tiger or something). So overall was pleasantly surprised.

Its mostly a somewhat simplified story of the LTTE, Prabhakaran and culminated with the Rajiv Gandhi assasination.

Its a strangely uneven movie though.. some pretty bad acting and scenes that could've just been chopped off. A strange and convoluted story.. unnecessarily vague. Nargis Fakhri, gaah the woman just makes me want to slit her throat, even in the very few scenes that she's there.. The unnecessarily Arun Govilish smile of the guy playing Rajiv Gandhi and the constant hero - worshipping.

But overall , its still a decent watch, specially the second half which picks up considerably pace, even though the story is hopelessly lost and muddled by then. It also does try to avoid too much simplification in terms of heroes and villains, although a bit more nuanced background of the causes of the strife, and Indian's own ambiguous role might have served the story better than the silly wife. I did love the unexpected cast members though, Siddharth Basu, Dibang, Prakash Belawadi.

Not sure if its worth a watch overall.. maybe just barely if you are prepared for its unevenness.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Before Midnight - Richard Linklater

Was nice in parts but didn't leave the overwhelming love I had for the previous two.

Mostly because I just couldn't identify with Julie. Sure I was rooting for some of the lines, (wiping the toilet seat comes to mind!) and yet she just seemed too contradictory, and Ethan not self absorbed enough, assuming that those were the two stereotypes the movie was aiming for.

But mostly I just felt like giving her a hard shake during the crucial final argument. She was far too unreasonable. Ethan was far too reasonable. I also couldn't get over the fact that Ethan looks old , while Julie doesn't look old enough. I do realise that it just me, since there's not a single review out there which says that. Sigh I've heard this a lot lately.. I'm wierd!

In a way that is a pity, because I really thought so much else in the movie was quite perfect. The whole argument for example was a great idea. Meeting a stranger in a strange city is all very well, but anyone who's been married knows that there are arguments about fairies who do the dishes and an uncertain job suddenly becoming a dream job. I loved Ethan in many ways, unwilling to say the obvious, trying desperately to reason, struggling with food and sex, and yet struggling to fight against becoming what he most feared, struggling for his son. I also loved the changed tone.. while the earlier movies bristled at the edge of the possibility of 'will they' , this one lays bare what can end up happening, even for a dream come true couple who are obviously very much in love.

Overall it still a movie I'd not have missed, and the trilogy is worth seeing. I do hope, a decade or two, or three later, we'd get to see this couple with such awesome chemistry. I do wonder that they'd call it then though, sunrise, sunset and midnight, all done! 

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A delightfully heart- warming book. Thanks m for the reco!

Its set in the 40s, with the war just over, and people still reeling from its after affects. Its written in the form of letters that are exchanged, between a writer in London, and various people in her life.  These include a publisher, a school friend, her not-quite-fiance, and most importantly a group of people who were members of a literary society from Guernsey, which was an island occupied by the Germans during the war.

I loved the general tone of the book, letters written with humor and passion. Some familiar, some formal. Tangentially touching so much that we mull about in life, about love and passion, and war, and god, of right and wrong... and of course, of books and authors. I loved the constant references to books and their authors, almost as if they were family members, and living breathing things, rather than some academic mind improvement exercise.

Since I read this one for our up-coming book -discussion, I did something I'd not done in a long while.. I actually jotted down words and page numbers that struck a chord.. something that I used to do back in school, but hadn't done in a long while. It was strangely satisfying to  reread the passages, to smile and ponder.

Here's one that definitely stuck a chord.

' I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect reader. How delightful if that were true.'

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

So Much For That - Lionel Shriver

Liked it overall.. although its a prime example of one of the formats of writing/movies that I really avoid - one in which we can see the protagonist going down a spiral.. I've always disliked the sinking feeling one gets as you see someone getting sucked into the quagmire..

A middle aged family man in America has always dreamed of 'getting away' to a place where life is simpler and the cost of living much lower, primarily on converting the famed US dollar. But just when it looks like he might just act on the dream, he's confronted with his wife's diagnosis of mesothelioma, and the reality of healthcare costs and insurance in the land of plenty. What does this do to him? To the dream? To the marriage? What is the cost of a human life? The value? How would you calculate the cost and expense and value..of living for an additional 3 months? Why are we not allowed to ask that, when the lawyers can, at settlements and divorces and what not?

Perhaps the book left a stronger impact, since one of the biggest shocks I got after coming here was the unexpected cost of a small bottle of 30 vitamins. It was quite clear that for that cost, one could get all the  fruits and nuts with those vitamins, for a month. Why then was it priced so exorbitantly, specially after a hefty insurance premium? I really don't know. Costs of research, the overhead of bureaucracy, the problems of capitalism, all weigh in, but it remains a complicated question. I've heard horror stories from UK, about the NHS, and of course having lived in India, with its own multiple healthcare options and their pros and cons, I'm not sure I'm any wiser to solutions.

At any rate, for such a gritty book, I was happy with the ending.. sometimes one doesn't need unmitigated reality all the time! 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pages from an immigrant's diary - Sudhir Jain

okish read, gets a wee bit repetitive and boring to be honest.

Its a collection of short pieces about bits of daily life from an Indian immigrant who travels around and eventually settles in Canada. It goes over the many many decades of  multiple different cultures, difficult illnesses, lesbian daughters, and of course the inevitable quotidian life narrated with a dash of humour. It looks mostly autobiographical, although it was marked down as fiction.

But more interesting than the literary merits ( or otherwise) of the book, was the author who gifted it to me on an impulse. While waiting at an airport, when I first saw the couple across the aisle, I wondered what their relationship could be. Which made an Indian looking man and a British looking woman, both past their 60s, travel together ? They seemed too familiar with each other, to be business associates.. However they seemed too considerate with each other to be a long time couple. Had they perhaps just started dating? As they dug out their scrabble boards, and I couldn't keep my eyes away from the game which I loved but hadn't played in ages, they offered to have me join in the game. And it was with some surprise that I discovered that they were married, and much longer than I would have guessed. Now that I look at it... the book hints at much that gets you there!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Things you are unlikely to hear in a good cultured indian household..

Relative/maid/random stranger to father of the girl

"Arre aap kyon kaam kar rahe hain.. ghar mein damad hai na"

Monday, June 24, 2013

Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts

Quite enjoyed it for the first three fourth of it or so. But totally got bored by the last fourth. I think it could have been really cut short in the end, it was so dragged out, that I finally just flipped through whole pages without reading, and ended it feeling rather irritated. 

But at any rate, most of it in the beginning is quite engrossing. Written like a thriller, something keeps happening, and then in between there are bits of philosophy which i quite love. 

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness - J J Abrams

Decent watch. At least found it better than the last one, which I didn't like at all.

Although, now that this post has been lying in my drafts for a month, I realise that I remember very little about the movie. Which perhaps says a lot!

How to get filthy rich in rising Asia - Mohsin Hamid

Like the reluctant fundamentalist, somewhat mixed feelings on this too.

I liked it overall, I found it a bit sappy in parts. Didn't much care for the prose style in some places, found it a tad too convoluted. I didn't like the way it way it was addressed either, the sort of parody of the self - help bit.

But still overall, I found it quite readable, and worth pondering over. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Restarting - 10k

Completed in the usual time, 75 ish , although with many aches along the way, and a more-than-usual painful recovery of 3-4 days. The finish wasn't too good either, people overtaking in the last km usually tells a lot about your state !

However the run itself felt great, as always. Almost 6 months without regular practice. But I thought the best way to reboot, was to throw the hat again. I'm really hoping the next one will be with practice, and at some time I will be able to hit a sub 70.

Here's to some hard gym work and training runs in the next few months! The weather and the lovely pavements of this country, unlike back home, should help..

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cloud Atlas - Tom Tykwer and Wachowskis

Quite liked it.

Its got multiple different stories going on simultaneously, set in different time periods, ranging from a few hundred years back to a few hundred in the future. The stories tread on each other very indirectly, and obliquely, through shared artifacts, legends and of course the actors themselves,  but are pretty much complete pieces in themselves. There are stories set long back, of black stowaways were fighting for their life. Or the tortured love story of two men, and a piece of music, and the price of freedom. And then there are futuristic sci - fi stories of cloned women in world where they are little more than pieces of machinery, and a time even more in the future , post- apocalyptic so to speak, where the cycle is almost complete.

So do we see the same themes and people over and over? What does it all signify? Trying to sort through what it all means, is of course a different thing altogether. My first, multiply interrupted viewing, on a tiny screen did very little justice to this complex and well made movie. Maybe I'll watch it again, or perhaps read the original book, and flesh out my thoughts on this again.

Suffice for now to say, that it is definitely worth a watch, and perhaps another watch too.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Dancing in Cambodia - Amitav Ghosh

Slim collection of essays , quite liked it. Had been picked on t's reco.

Recounts his meetings with people in Cambodia, Burma and its neighborhood  Covers some background of  Pol pot, and some of Aung San Su Kyi.

I like the understated cadence of his writing, just the way he puts the facts and his take on them, without making it sound too ponderous or too facile.

Definitely worth a read.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Ek Thi Daayan - Kannan Iyer

I have to admit, I should've reminded myself before going, that omnivorous though I am about movie genres, there's one I don't enjoy - and that is horror.

And this is a horror movie. Maybe better made than the raaz, darna zaroori hai etc, but horror nevertheless. And quite soon into the movie, I felt trapped in the hall, wishing I could leave, but the movie wasn't bad enough to justify leaving, not to mention it was nn's dream cast! So we sat through it..

Given that background, my reactions are bound to be very biased. I can't say I enjoyed it, and I can't say there were any interesting plots in it, but it held a decent pace. Emraan was pretty tolerable ( like in Shanghai), and although the daayan's are quite traditional and the story fully unbelievable, its ok. Konkona was gorgeous as ever.

The scenes where the daayan shows all the claws and leaves nothing to the imagination, were far too long, and rather a drag. One of the things I've always found more horrifying than make up, dark contacts and special effects has been where the camera hints, glazes and often leaves much to your imagination. Eg the lift which I thought was the scariest thing in the movie... Would've much preferred a more allegorical hell to the literal one.

Okish, but I'll be giving horror a wide berth for some time now!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I wish there was some way to just filter out the news.. closing tv, and rarely reading newspapers isn't enough.

Was reminded once again of the 4 times I'd had the privilege to go to police stations in Delhi. The first when someone flinched my purse during a bus ride.  The first station I went to simply told me it wasn't in their jurisdiction. I was 19, alone, frightened, and losing my bus pass , identity card, and 700 rupees, which was probably over an years saving,  had seemed like the end of the world. I found correct police station, and the lady officer flatly told me that it was a loss not a theft. ( Kho gaya likho. likho usmein koi paise nahi the). Thus was the FIR filed, with most of the information being provided by the policewoman, and I threw in a few bits of information as well.

Couple of years later, someone stole my phone. This time I again went to the station, they again redirected me based on 'area'. This station had cleverer cops, after sniggering among themselves and ensuring that I was discomfited even before I started talking, they listened to my story, saw my bills for the phone, and told me that I need to go to court, get an affidavit on stamp paper, get it counter signed, and then they can register the FIR. I was older and wiser, and knew by now , that there are no such requirements for the FIR.  I looked at the man smirking in front of me, and thought of the office work piling up, and the trade offs of fighting with him, vs getting those unnecessary affidavits, vs doing nothing. I looked around, saw the next policeman's leer, and walked out, leaving the theft unreported.

An year later, as another phone got flinched, this time while I was barely 200 metres from the police station, I rushed there and insisted they register the FIR. While the junior policeman argued with me that it was a 'loss' not a theft, his boss, came and told him 'nahin, jaisa madam bol rahi hain, vaisa hi likho'. I could barely believe my ears. After shouting at them ' Maine kitni baar kaha hai, jaisa woh kehte hain chup chaap vaisa hi likho', he gave me a reassuring smile, told me the phone would be traced, and went to another room.The minute he was out of ear shot, the constable again told me ' chori thodi hui madam, yeh to aapse kho gaya hai', while I looked speechlessly at him. The senior happened to comeby and shouted again, got my FIR registered, apologized to me. His eyes belied his reassuring words, and I wasn't surprised when the angst showed in the words  'Main koshish karta hun magar.. ' his voice trailing away helplessly..

The last time I had to enter the police station, for a friends purse snatching, nothing surprised me anymore. I knew the script. First the 'jurisdiction', then time wasting and convincing about the pointlessness of FIRs, and then of course the insistence on usage of the word 'loss' vs theft.

These were what are probably labelled as 'petty crimes'. Low priority bugs, P4s. And the system seems quite geared to prevent them from being reported.

I was reminded of these again and again over the years, at the time of Nithari, at the time of the bus full of men gone amock, again this week...

stricter laws and death penalty makes me laugh... because the alternative to laughing is of course to cry.. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Where there's a will @ Rangashankara

Finally after a rather long break, thought I'd catch a play again at Rangashankara, and luckily there was one playing with decent reviews.

Quite enjoyed the play, ( not to mention the first day in a long long time, when I actually went all over town, and didn't feel dead) . A rather overbearing rich  man tries to bend his family to his way of thinking, although his wife , son and daughter in law don't seem to be quite falling in line. In fact his son just seems to be waiting to get his hands on the money. But our wily old man has made other plans.. but then we know what they say about the best laid plans..

Its a tongue in cheek look at the characters, as they jostle for power and control, and the dialogues are mostly a laugh a minute. Barring a brief interlude of 2-3 minutes much later in the day when the tone dipped ( really didn't think that jelled with the rest of the play), most of the play is really enjoyable, with a clever sub-text which isn't too much in your face.

A good watch overall.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

All things bright and beautiful - James Herriot

Had read all of this books long back in college and totally loved them.

Along with Wodehouse he has been my all time favorite authors. Yesterday while scanning my book shelf looking for something light and easy to read to tide me over, I found the whole set of the Herriot series and picked one up after many years. Was reminded of a conversation with a friend who had been in a pickle once, and while discussing Wodehouse, we'd both agreed how the humour was just so precious.. the perfect antidote to life's blows.

Stuck between heart warming stories of the dogs and sheep and cows and horses, was the stoic philosophy of 'these things happen'.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hitch 22 - Christopher Hitchens

Not really meant for a reader like me.

The autobiography is steeped in mentions of his literary and political contacts, most of which ( yes even the literary ones, since they are the intellectual luminaries) are not familiar to me. It would really be enjoyed only by someone who's familiar with the people and literature mentioned.

There's also a lot of stuff about his political outlook, how it evolved and changed, which might also make more sense to someone with knowledge of politics.

Not much about his family, I daresay some people wouldn't like to write about their spouse and children who are still alive. much easier to write about tracing your ancient historical roots, ( which he does on his mothers side). Not much about the evolution of his atheism either.

Overall, the books still holds your attention in the way its written, notwithstanding the large vocabulary, both in terms of language and contacts.

another year goes by..

did a couple of girls only trips.. had a lot of fun.. realized that some of the fetters are mostly of our own making. specially the guilt trips.. about work, about family..

ran a few half marathons, some with preparation, some without. enjoyed them thoroughly.  before taking a break from running altogether.

improved on yoga, helped get the dvd out, and then pretty much took a break from that as well..

tried working in a new work place, starting from zero. realized that with a handful of supportive people, its not as difficult as I'd thought.

lived in a guesthouse for a couple of months, and realized that some lucky people get to live most of their lives in this blissful state. arrive at the meal times, and have fresh hot meals served to you. never have to worry about groceries. come back from work, and find the rooms and loos all clean and ready. never worry about bills and stuff. but then of course, its an empty room to come back to..

finally after many years of waiting, chucked my job, and tried doing absolutely nothing for a while.. which was quite glorious. wake up when you want, sleep when you want, read , watch movies, travel. unfortunately the glory only lasts while the money lasts, and when that runs out...

traveled and met some long lost relatives and friends...

tried to learn swimming again, made a small bit of progress. maybe one of these years..

and finally of course rounded off the year with an 'illness'. tried hard to change, and realized that i'd only found new reasons not to.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The deer hunter - Michael Cimino

Its an interesting watch, packed with some pretty good acting. 

A bunch of steel workers in America are getting ready to leave for Vietnam, and we get a glimpse of their life. The life isn't idyllic, and thats partly what makes us so invested in it, the work, the romances, the marriage, the little fights and the not so little fights. They go deer hunting, and the main character, Michael views the exercise as one of skill, as game, the whole point being to get the deer in one shot. Once in Vietnam, they are captured, and forced to play the russian roullete. So much for the one shot. Much follows on from there, as in many ways they escape from the physical prison, but remain in many ways imprisoned. 

As a slow moving movie, I found that it still held my interest, inspite of the length and the lack of action in many places. However, for a movie which shows the turn-around of a deer hunter, I found it ironic that it couldn't help avoid rather jingoistic scenes of american 'rightness' in many places. Hey if you want to have an ideological discussion of the Vietnam war lets have one, it doesn't take much to see how ridiculous it is to defend your 'capitalism' by bombing a land you have no locus standi on. However the movie does not take any idealogical stands about capitalism etc. And given that, its a little unwarranted to show one sided depiction of north Vietnamese cruelty. I mean either you show both sides, or you leave well alone. 

However, those are somewhat minor quibbles, overall it was pretty watchable.


Conviction is such a lovely thing. The conviction that you're right. What mountains you can climb with that. But what if you don't have it? What if at every stage you're assailed by doubts, as new evidence emerges, as things you expected, don't happen, as you're forced to rethink, again , and again.. and again?

What then do you do with your vacillation, that most abhorred of all states? 

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Bad Boy's Guide To The Good Indian Girl - Annie Zaidi & Smriti Ravindra

Quite disappointing overall.

I'd read 2-3 short stories by Zaidi before, which I had really liked, so took a chance on this one. Plus the general theme had seemed interesting... where do the double standards of our society's judgement of bad boys and good girls intersect?

The topics were all promising, but most of the stories just didn't seem to flow effortlessly.

Does he know a mother's heart - Arun Shourie

Can't say I liked it, inspite of the fact that its sub - title ( how suffering refutes religions), should appeal to my atheistic views.

The book cover shows a family photograph of Shourie, his wife and their son, with the couple pointing towards the camera, and looking straight at it, obviously urging their son to do likewise. One can't say whether Aditya with his cerebral palsy is really looking at the camera or not. The slim first chapter of the book is an emotional autobiographical summary of Shourie's life before and with Aditya.

Then the majority of the book turns towards religions. Christianity is torn apart, with its rather egotistical , chauvinistic and unforgiving god, not to mention the inherent contradiction I'd caught even as a 11 year old kid, wondering why we were supposed to hate Judas, when God had already decided that Judas was the chosen one to do the betraying. It was like a play, with an already written script, and we were just acting out the lines. There's no free will anyway , right? Why the vilification then ? Islam with its shared texts  of course fares no better. Then Shourie trains his guns on Gandhiji's superstitious statements about the earthquakes. A major chunk then goes into quoting and ripping apart hinduism's wishy washy - the world is an illusion, but wait no, karma is real silliness. And of course the free will debate - Not a leave moves..

All pretty much common sense stuff, organised religion seldom makes sense on critical analysis anyway. Whether it is still a useful crutch, is perhaps a harder question to answer. Shourie does leave quotes which suggest that it is useful to some people, even though his own conclusions are to the contrary. The central question of course remains unanswered convincingly by any of the religious texts - Why the suffereing ?

Overall the book is far too long, plodding and repetitive, and I honestly had no patience left to read the last few chapters, which I just skimmed through.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Beyond - Pernilla August

Loved the movie, although its the sort that leaves you wiping tears for most of its duration.

A phone call from her dying mother, forces a woman to confront her childhood once again. To remember anew the painful wounds, pull up scabs which she had papered over so well, with her picture-perfect life, lovely kids and husband. She tries hard to avoid the meeting and the memories, but at every stage, juxtaposed against the happy present, the flashbacks take us to the unhappy past, the trauma of a household with an alcoholic father, and a mother who gradually seems to be sliding down the same path. What does an almost adolescent little girl, learn in a home like that? Why didn't her mom do anything?

Why do women continue in abusive relationships, continue loving their tormentors? There was a time when I would have given simplistic answers about society and finances. Now I'm not so sure anymore.

Was reminded of a quote by Oscar Wilde - 'Children begin by loving their parents. After a time they judge them. Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them'.

Must watch, but keep the handkerchief handy..

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Gora - Rabindranath Tagore

Good read overall, although parts of it get boring specially the ones where there are longish descriptive passages of Gora's views on India.

The story is set in pre-independence Bengal. The story follows two friends and their views as they grapple with the conflict of the traditional 'hindu' culture with its rigid rituals, caste and untouchability, as it came in conflict with various changes, including the Brahmo Samaj.

I'd read a short excerpt of it long back, and I remember it had left a very strong impact on my views on 'identity'. The identities we pick purely by accident of birth, the castes, nationalities, religion.. what if you were to suddenly discover that you are adopted, or perhaps got switched in hospitals at birth. How much of your idea of 'self' would you still retain? How much of your identities? How many of your views? 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Jolly LLB - Subhash Kapoor

Quite disappointing overall.

The promos had seemed interesting with their dash of irony and humour, but the movie mostly slides into mush, song and dance.

A small time lawyer is trying hard to get a break. He takes a chance by filing a PIL in a sensational case, where he takes on a big shot lawyer. Unfortunately the story is predictable and told in traditional mainstream bollywood style, complete with all its melo-drama, sentimentality and pointless love angle. The one redeeming feature is Saurab Shukla as the judge who's in full form here.

Best avoided.

Monday, February 25, 2013

We need to talk about Kevin - Lionel Shriver

This was quite un-put-down-able. It had been on my waiting list for many years.. the premise had seemed interesting when I first read of it.

A mother reminisces about her life and her teenage son Kevin, who is now in prison for having killed a whole bunch of his classmates at school. Written as a series of letters to her husband, the chronicle traces through the time before they chose parenthood, and the years of Kevin's difference, and her own ambivalence. The many 'talks' she and her husband had about Kevin, each in their own coccoon.

Was Kevin born different? Was Eva a 'bad' mother? Why don't fathers pick any of the tab? What constitutes bad ? Was it the endless news of the mass-murderers in america which gave him this particular idea? What could have been done differently anyway? Isn't it inevitable that our perception will color what we see? We never can know about Shrodingers cat after all..

This book is perhaps a perfect example of something that you will interpret in your own way, based on your own world-view. Although the prose at times felt turgid, but the content was enough to keep you wondering. What Lionel meant to say , is perhaps immaterial. The book is poised with enough open-ends and counter - poised with enough certainties to tell you quite a lot about your own self.

Me, personally I found myself identifying a lot more with Eva, than anything else. Quite in complete disagreement with cover jacket blurbs and reviews, and even interviews with the author herself. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Auroville Half Marathon

Was very very pleasantly surprised to say the least!

I've been almost completely out of practice, having given up both yoga and running practice in the past 3 months out of sheer laziness. Added to that was a lot of travelling in the last month and a half, many nights in trains, buses, different hotels and houses, new food everywhere, not to mention a fair amount of drinking. The body was creaking, and the throat had been grumbling off and on for a month.

I'd been toying with the idea of dropping out of the run altogether, and things came to a head the night before the travel to pondicherry, when I had a major meltdown in the train on way back from goa, with absolutely the rock bottom of cramps. I remember crying at 2 am , unable to sleep, and telling myself, this is it, I can't go.

Good thing though that I decided to go after all!

As I started out , I remember thinking I'll probably be walking most of it. But luckily the body had some hidden reserves ( or as a said, perhaps it was all the feni I'd consumed in goa!). I managed to run a fair bit, and I actually had to slow myself down in the first half, consciously telling myself that I was out of both flexibility and stamina, and needed to take it easy. Probably that made all the difference, because it was a lovely run till the end, no cramps or unexpected pains, and the trail was pretty nice, auroville trees all around, and none of the crazy city traffic. Managed to finish strong, overtaking a few people in the last 3 kms, unlike the ultra where I had been quite miserable at the finish.

The timing was a few minutes over the previous bests, but overall the feeling was just great. Nice run, nice trip, and overall a very nice experience.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Poetry for the day.

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. 

-- T S Eliot

“You who never arrived 
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost 
from the start, 
I don't even know what songs 
would please you. I have given up trying 
to recognize you in the surging wave of
the next moment. All the immense
images in me -- the far-off, deeply-felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and un-
suspected turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods--
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open window
in a country house-- , and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me. Streets that I chanced
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled, gave back
my too-sudden image. Who knows? Perhaps the same
bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening... ”

--Rainer Maria Rilke

Becoming Indian - Pavan Verma

Quite an interesting read.

What are the long term impacts of colonialism on the colonised? At some level we do know our rather irrational need to for foreign approval, our obsession with english, with fairness, the subtle feeling of inferiority, of the abdication of our own culture in favor of the other.

It does not of course mean that the counter to that is a militant or misguided 'nationalism' which appropriates a greatness and superiority in everything 'ours' as opposed to 'theirs'. The case that the author makes here is more of a more balanced approach, of the essential taking pride in one's own culture, before one can truly become Indian.

Good read overall.

Summertime - J M Coetzee

Picked this on a's reco, and quite liked it.

A biographer is writing a book about a famous author, and is covering a period of time where the author was  living in obscurity. Summertime is written like the draft notes for the biography. The first section has notes from the famous authors old diaries. Then there are interviews with women who knew him during that time.

How do we make our conclusions about a person? How do our views of him change as we move from one narrative to another? Does our view of him change as we read his diary, and then hear from his lover who is rather dismissive of him ? Are we then forced to reconsider as we hear from someone who almost accuses him of stalking her and her daughter? Is the vehemence of her narrative countered by the more tender account from his cousin, whose affection for him, is nevertheless at odds with the instances she narrates.

It gets even more interesting, since the author in question here is also named Coetzee and the lines between a an autobiography and fiction blur. That part makes it even more fascinating.

Loved it overall.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola


Looks like a low level Chinese functionary was told to fund a propaganda movie for Chairman Mao.  He went and gave a shoe string budget to some loser 80's scriptwriter of bollywood. Who then wrote a crappy story about a group of farmers who are being forced to sell their land short for an SEZ. Complete with ridiculous uni - dimensional heroes and villains, below the belt jokes, and downright boring pointless scenes about the alcoholic Pankaj Kapoor.

Et tu Vishal Bharadwaj??

The cow was cute tho..

ps a week later - for a contrarian view, there's Rajiv Masand. However I guess this is another of those movies where there are no half measures, you either love it, or hate it. I found it interminable, boring, and certainly didn't catch references to Kusturica, who I'm not familiar with ! 

Friday, January 04, 2013

The unbearable lightness of being - Milan Kundera

It was ok, not really my kind of book..

Its set in the Czechoslovakia of the 60s, against a backdrop of the excesses of communism and the Russian invasion. A surgeon who's used to sleeping around , falls in love , but can't stop nevertheless. We trace the lives of this couple, and another couple, along with their dog, as the times change from bad to worse.

The philosophical thread throughout the novel went above my head as usual, I can't say I understand stuff like Neitzche, and the lightness or weightiness of being. 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

River of Smoke - Amitav Ghosh

quite liked it.

Taking off from where sea of poppies left off, the story continues, although this time we track back the rumblings in China, as the stage is set for the opium wars.

One thing that has always amazed me is the amount of research that goes into his novels. Here its the work on plants and on the background of the so called opium 'trade'.

Awaiting the final part of the trilogy.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Use-by date

Gulzar had recited this during the lit fest, and I'd loved it...

वोह जो इक मियाद थी ना

इस्तेमाल  की ..

वो गुज़र चुकी !

दवा की शीशीयों पे लिखी जाती है इसीलिए .

मियाद बाद इस्तेमाल करने से 

दवाईयाँ भी बासी होने लगती हैं 

फिर कोई इलाज कर नहीं पातीं 

फिर भी तर्क ना हुईं तो ज़हर बनने लगती हैं 

बासी हो चुके मजहबों के ऐतकाद सब 

वो जो एक मियाद थी ना, इस्तेमाल की 

वो गुज़र चुकी !

- गुलज़ार 

miyad means use-by date