Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Dear Zindagi: Life happened

Rating: 3.5/5

Another movie on how to live life, or is it?

Kaira (Alia Bhatt) dates a guy whom she cheats on with another guy. This other guy wants to take the relationship to the next level that’s when Kaira behaves very cool and odd. Now this other guy gets engaged with his ex, and let’s not blame him here because Kaira is a bitch. But that’s not how it is portrayed. She is heartbroken because she doesn’t have an open relationship now and the love of her life (apparently) leaves her high and dry. There is a break up song during which every guy in the theater hates her guts and then she goes to Goa. This is where she meets the psychiatrist Jug (Shahrukh Khan) who, somehow has only Kaira as his patient and learns to resolve her unresolved childhood issues. During the second half of the movie, the director forces the spectators to fall in love with Kaira but can we? Let’s journey back. She behaves like a slut, she goes out with way too many guys, she works in the film industry, she is hot and she works in the back-end (which is oddly unsettling for those judging eyes who judge her for working in the film industry in the first place), she goes to a psychiatrist to open up which is a big taboo in India, then she goes out with another guy, she confronts her parents with her character and her issues and blames them too. As an Indian, are we accepting her character? Or do we just fall in love with Kaira because she is the protagonist and her character is shoved on our face by Alia Bhatt?

Now let’s look at it from another angle which is totally not permitted: from the eyes of a westerner.

Kaira is the independent woman who lives on her own, earns her living and strives hard in an industry where it is tough to get into. She follows her dream to the end and she doesn’t expect her parents to support her. She dates a lot of men and gets heart broken by a few, and breaks some hearts along the way. She doesn’t deter nor does she take crap from other people. Yet she is bound by the society and the culture that judges her every time she follows her dreams. She meets with a psychiatrist without hesitation to get out of her insomnia. All that I just described now is very common in Western countries.

Let’s fast forward and cut to a few scenes where the real message (in my opinion) is conveyed. Kaira objects to being called jobless and being ridiculed by her profession. She confirms she is not a lesbian and she also jokes about the presence of gay people in the film industry. In a country where love marriage is still a taboo, movie like Dear Zindagi is slowly injecting the possibility of the homosexuality in the culture stream. I am not one to discuss if this concept is right or wrong. I am just saying, this movie is not about how to live life, although that is what Alia Bhatt and Shahrukh are yelling in the movie, it is also subtly bringing forth such controversial concepts to the surface. These are warning signs of our culture taking a turn so don’t come complaining when your son/daughter is gay after you enjoy this movie. Though we all know Western culture has a great impact in Bollywood already (or should I call it the Gollywood?) and the culture is trending, the existence of such among the public is still in the closet. In a country where rape is hushed about and never psychologically treated, Kaira goes to a psychiatrist to look into her past and her fears. This is considered the most shameful and embarrassing situation for any person and their family. But this is so openly dealt with in the movie by the end of which, I am sure most of the audience are okay with dealing with their problems with the help of a psychiatrist. Okay, that may be a long shot, but I can safely say that this movie will change the perspective of people who judge those who seek psychiatric help. Yes I used the word “Psychiatry” a lot, and no, Kaira doesn’t go mad nor does she lose her mental stability after her break up in the movie. Even the tiny details which are hard to miss while concocting such a story are captured here. Patients normally fall in love with their psychiatrist because of their vulnerability. I was expecting the Bollywood touch there; I thought Shahrukh Khan and Ali Butt would be singing duet in the next shot. It was a sweet surprise when Jug turned down Kaira on professional ethics.

The story fits Kaira’s character perfectly and sequentially. Her character is chiselled as a strong character; bold yet afraid to face her fears, independent yet emotionally fragile, shy but not so shy to ask guys out, daring yet vulnerable. Alia Bhatt played the role with ease and matched her acting opposite Shahrukh Khan. About Shahrukh Khan? Well, there really isn’t nothing much to say. SRK did his part so well that no one even noticed the King of Bollywood in him. That is a man who knows how to act. There are some clichéd-bollywoodie-senti scenes here and there but this movie is about Kaira and Alia Bhatt made it about Kaira, SRK made it about Kaira and the director sure threw lime light on Kaira.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Ae dil hai mushkil: Desi movie in London

Cliché = Karan Johar

I know it should go the other way around but you will understand when you watch the movie. Twisted and complicated love triangle, immature decisions, pretty actors, scarce cladding, desi songs, shot in London. Should I go on? Because this pretty much summarizes all his movies. Karan is looking for a signature in all his movies which I'd say he got long back when he directed Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. You would think that he will bask in that glory and let it go, but no. Clichéd dialogues, title song, hit songs from his previous movies played in the background, logic that is so ridiculous that it is beyond explanation are his combination to success (if he calls it so). In this movie, there are slight changes to the formula. His sentiment is moved on from Rani Mukherji and Kajol in guest appearance to Alia butt.. Change of season goes for thorns too, not just for flowers. But he couldn't deviate from the tradition of killing the heroine with cancer. And just when I thought the movie was over, Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) and Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) started to live life again. By then, two hours of the same crap was already over.

I went to the theater with lot of expectations and excitement not because it was a Karan Johar's movie but because Aishwarya Rai and Shahrukh Khan were starring in it. Had I gone with the bollywood enthusiasm that every Karan Johar's movie demands, may be I'd have been bored less.

Through the first half of the movie I thought, "Okay, so I am gonna give a bad review for this movie." After seeing Aishwarya Rai in such a role, I felt that this movie didn't deem a review at all. We have seen the world beauty fall in love with great actors on big screen, we have seen her sexy, hot, lusty, lovable and emotional. But to combine all of this in one movie just because Karan got her to sign the call sheet was a little too much to take. To see her starring opposite a kid like Ranbir Kapoor and lusting after his handsome demeanor was disgusting. I couldn't accept the scenes where she was kissing him, I couldn't bear the scenes where she cried for falling in love with a guy like Ranbir Kapoor instead of Shahrukh Khan and I couldn't avert my eyes when her beauty filled the screen.

I don't wish to go in detail to dissect the characters and study under the microscope as they weren't so great. But on the whole, I enjoyed Anushka Sharma's charming beauty, Shahrukh's poem, Ranbir crying like a child in every scene and of course, Aishwarya Rai's everything (except acting).

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Public nuisance?

This was the scene this morning in Mylapore Tank bus stop. Usually a crowded place, this road on this busy morning was swarmed with people from all over the city. Reason? You’d be wondering if a foreign delegate is meeting the CM today or if the PM is visiting Chennai. Oh it’s not that. Today is Malaya ammavasai. Sorry non-Tamil folks. There is no literal translation for such words in English. This is caused by the local people. People paying their respects to their ancestors and forefathers by causing chaos is how we can describe this occasion. This time we can’t blame the government.

This beautiful lady set up her small stall in the bus stand to sell flowers and garlands to those who have arrived today. The buses that usually halt there to pick up passengers had to speed through the limited space graciously left out by these vendors. “The hustle and bustle of the traffic is not my problem”, she says dismissively. Most of the bikes were parked on the road and there were beggars everywhere stopping everyone who passed by, asking not begging, mind you, for money. All this is happening on a weekday, blocking the road for office goers, delaying an ambulance that should reach the hospital, delaying the buses and the pedestrians.

I was there as usual, waiting for my office bus this morning. Apparently my bus driver had to drive 2 km to take a turn and reach the bus stop to pick us up. He was visibly annoyed by it. Not only were we delayed but also we were stuck in the same place for a long time. I couldn’t contain my irritation. The rustle of the vendors and the commotion created by the people there who couldn’t do their personal work quietly didn't make it better.

My bus mate arrived and as was everyone, she was irritated by this too. Only later did I find out that she was irritated for different reasons.
“I don’t know why the police are not here to control the traffic. I think the buses should be diverted to some other route”, she said with a serious note.
I was shocked. Was I thinking in a different perspective here or was she? There I was, completely annoyed on a Friday morning by the hindrance caused by the people and she was complaining about their discomforts. The flower vendor didn’t bother to feel a tinge of regret for being a part of the commotion there. People were moving here and there and no one even cared to stop one minute to think what they were doing to the public.
Just then, a heavy vehicle (cement mixer) was trying to crawl its way through the otherwise narrow road. She made another comment, "Look at that! The big vehicle is slowing the traffic."
"Really? That’s the only thing slowing the traffic? What about these people who have parked their vehicles in the bus stand? What about the beggars? What about the vendors?"
"They are seasonal and this is a one-day occurrence. We have to bend according to our tradition", she said in an irritable tone.

I am sure the same girl would complain when the police block the traffic for the CM to reach his/her destination. The audacity with which the flower vendor replied to me would be nothing less of a rage when she has to take a detour because some lineman is laying the ground. The guy who parked his vehicle in the bus stand would not stay quiet if there is a 'Take diversion' sign on the beach road for the military air force rehearsal.

Blame the CM if he/she plans to take a stroll in the city to do his/her work. Crib about the traffic rules when the police are trying to ease the traffic. Curse the Indian military when all that they are trying to do is to pay respect to our country on Republic day. We take the liberty to dish out our anger when the government is at fault but we fail to see our own mistakes. When the voters are bringing their personal work to the public places, causing nuisance it is overlooked and must be tolerated but when the lineman is doing his job, when the CM is going to work and when the soldier is rehearsing, we cannot tolerate the inconvenience. Why? Because we are the public? We outnumber them? We have the freedom to do anything we want? Because we can point our finger at the government anytime without any repercussions? Let’s make sure that we don’t have three fingers pointed at us when we point one at others.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Failure Race: Personal Diary

This review is going to be very discouraging to the author as well as to those who are planing to read the book.

In my opinion, 1 star is worse than no star. And no, the rating is not just for the story. It's for the writing and narration. The author couldn't have made it more indirect. One page into the book and I was tired of facing yet another inept writer. I am not saying my English proficiency is off the roof but all I am saying is do not publish an ill written work for hundreds of people to read. I will say this again, it is okay to write a book in your mother tongue or in the language you are comfortable in and have it translated in English if needed. Or the least you can do is to have someone proof read it! Someone who is good at it. It's good to learn and improve your English but it not fair to publish it and test the readers' patience. There can be only two reasons why such a writer would prefer English. Either he thinks writing in your mother tongue is too demeaning and it's cool to write in English or you thought this is the best way to offend English. Whatever it may be the author lost his respect among the readers.

"Having done my under graduation through correspondence and having studied almost alone" and "not having experienced co-education" These are gerunds, which are very complicated when you put it in writing. You need to know where to use it. It's not fancy to use gerunds in every paragraph. And don't get me started on the choice of words in the above sentences.
"Gave a reasonable answer" is a transliteration from your mother tongue. And so is "I felt good to get noticed by a pretty girl." It is not linguistically right..
"With so much vegetation around" really? Vegetation? Can't think of a better word that is not from your social studies text book?
It took me five mins to try and understand the 2nd and 3rd page.
The words 'view' and 'watch' have different meanings. Viewing the birds and watching my profile is simply wrong.
I really feel bad to throw these sentences at the author's face but I seriously can't take it. I have never been so mad at any author before. Even when Jeffrey archer babbles on about politics and uses the same plots in almost every book I haven't been this disturbed. This book is the last straw of all the inefficient Indian authors trying to make it in English. Even if this author is narrating the most heart touching story: Titanic, I wouldn't turn my eyes on it. This level of inefficacy is over the top.

Even the way the author has penned the narration is very immature and conservative. Expressing his derogatory opinions on social media, thinking that Susan would be more beautiful if she wore a bindhi, being embarrassed by a "lip to lip kiss" (author's words) between foreigners show how conservative one can be. Advising and sharing conservative thoughts in between paragraphs while ogling a pretty girl is not noble. And these are the flaws in the first 15 pages.

Advice to author:
If you are planning to write another book I suggest you write it in your mother tongue.
If you are planning to spread conservatism through  books I suggest you don't write at all.

P.S : Thanks to Goodreads and the author for exposing me to bad penmanship.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The Alchemist: Golden

Clear thoughts translated into many languages. The translator has done a great job. The shepherd's destiny takes us through a path of desire, dreams,  hard work, epiphany, realization, relentless approach and love.

This was the much awaited book that I always wanted to read and I finally had some time to invest in this book. I was rather disappointed by the length of the story as I expected the book to be very big. The story travels along with the boy in search of a treasure that he has recurring dreams about. His journey albeit a little adventurous, is more of a philosophical dogma that we may or may not agree upon.

"Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should live their lives, but none about his or her own"

The boy's thoughts seems purposefully mature to entrap the readers into turning the page. His perception on how the sheep might think or his consideration of the sheep's perception itself is astounding. He is a simple boy with simple desires.

"If you start out by promising what you don't have yet, you'll lose your desire to to work toward getting it"

The king's appearance and role in the story is an enigma. The boy's patience and perseverance is maintained throughout the story to paint a picture of the suspense that was in store. He is robbed, he has to work hard in a crystal shop for bread and butter, his confidence is shaken to the ground and yet, he continues to believe in himself. The omens and the Language of the World guide him throughout and till his destiny. The readers may miss out on tracing the king's identity but is made up for in the alchemist's character.

"It is not what enters men's mouth that's evil, it's what comes out of their mouth that is"

The boy meets an Englishman who is also in search of his destiny. The boy gets to know of the alchemist from the Englishman. It is almost towards the end of the book that the alchemist is introduced in the story but his part is what I enjoyed the most. He is not a person who just spits proverbs. He is not a person who simply transforms lead into gold. He is a guide. He is a well-wisher. He is a superstitious Arab. He is an irritated desert wanderer. He is a gentle breeze that everyone wishes for in the desert. He is the light in the darkness. He is the teacher. He is a healer. He is the Soul of the World. He is the one who makes the boy realize that he is also the Soul of the World. He is the alchemist because he is an alchemist (I know this is confusing but read the book and you will understand).

The boy faces a lot of obstacles throughout the story but he believes in the omens. The alchemist teaches him to believe his heart and to speak to his heart. Now, this part where the boy and his heart speak to each other can be interpreted in many ways. Leaving this to your speculation, the boy's heart sure seems like his conscience telling him to never give up.

"Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time", saying this the alchemist bids goodbye to the boy. It doesn't make sense. This is what is disturbing me. The first sentence contradicts the second. If something happens once and can never happen again, then how can something happen twice? The premise is contradicted by the latter sentence. Coming out the alchemist's mouth, this was a little disappointing.

The world ends where it starts. The story ends where it begins. I laughed along with the boy at the pyramids. It was satisfying to see the boy dig out the actual treasure as I expected a wild goose chase with an opportunity to enlighten the readers. The story beautifully ends with a content kiss that is carried along by the wind, which leaves the boy as well the readers with a broad smile.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Iraivi: Got the message

Karthik Subbaraj has given another good one. His direction has streamlined on feminism from a guy's point of view. Three guys steer their life in different ways around three women. Their approach and behaviour towards women and their idealism in their own way is pragmatic. The story is smooth and entertaining. When I heard that the movie is about feminism I expected something on another level. Movies like Aval appadi than, Kalki, English Vinglish, How old are you (36 vayathinile in tamil) scream of feminism. This one sends a very subtle and indirect message to the spectators without antagonizing either gender. I am sure this is one of the very few movies which has not offended either gender.

Malar's (Pooja Devariya) character is a controversial one whereas Ponni's (Anjali) and Yazhini's (Kamalinee Mukherjee) are typical tamil girls'. Malar's character looked like something derived from one of K. Balachandar's female characters. Anjali, who usually takes up strong roles has played her part decently in this movie. She has not over done her role by acting bold or rude. It is her character that added to the spice of the movie. Vijay Sethupathy(Michael) has delivered what is expected of him, nothing less nothing more. There is really nothing more to add on his acting as he has not added anything more to his skills. His role does not demand adept performance. His displaced anger and his blind definition of marriage stirs up the crowd.

Jagan (Bobby Simha) is the feminist who goes around the place stealing theirown work of art to support his brother's movie. Bobby Simha has proved his talent almost in every scene. His style of dialogue delivery is very effective. Jagan's love for Ponni, his decent withdrawal from her when she doesn't choose him and his care for her that leads to his death speaks of his ideology. The wholesome nature of his character is brought to the audience on a silver platter garnished with his mother's silence.

Yazhini's character appears to be very bold and brave initially when she threatens her husband now and then of their divorce whenever he drinks. Her understanding nature and her loving character is very adorable. Kamalinee has deftly done justice to the role. Karunakaran's humour sense is very light like breeze on a busy day. One can take a break to enjoy his comedy whilst watching an otherwise serious movie.

Last but not the least, S.J. Surya steals the show! He might have bored us with his over acting or disgusted us with his insensitive puns in the past but not today. His acting is par excellence and is well appreciated. It is necessary to mention that it is not entirely his talent either. It is the role that facilitated his skills to be brought forth on the stage. His character, Arul, is balanced between male chauvinistic Michael and feminist Jagan. His love for his wife, his passion for movie and his care for his brother is intricately written and well enacted by S.J. Surya. There was pin drop silence in the theater in the climax scene. His last few words on women and men are really to be pondered over. Even there, the story takes a slight unusual path. Arul doesn't directly say that women are great. The level of digressing from the bottom line is tolerable when he calls Yazhini to show what men are capable of. A caring husband that he is, he cannot risk her life by being good to her in the last minute, so he tells her what she can believe. Here again, the screenplay is neatly woven to satiate all kinds of people. This movie does not leave a bad taste in anyone's mouth. I love the the way the dialogues are written. Songs are not very appealing though and are out of context with the story.

The last scene where Michael leaves Ponni stranded in the train reminds me of Meera Jasmine in Ayutha Ezhuthu. I am not drawing a comparison here but just a thought out loud. The three women choose their own way of lifestyle in the end.  Yazhini chooses to be a homely mother while Ponni chooses the path of freedom as a single mother. Their freedom and liberation from men is marked up on by the rain; one chooses for it and one chooses against it. Feminism really came home in the last scene. Symbolically and with no doubt, very beautifully the message is conveyed. Takes a genius to know one.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Curse of Damini: Nice try

For most part, the story revolves around the time when India was struggling for independence although except for the part where Gandhi is quoted and Renuka, the protagonist becomes a krantikari and bombs a British officer, the slavery and the struggle is scarcely mentioned. Renuka is a headstrong girl of 14, when her character is introduced. She meets the love of her life as she hides from the British police in a bungalow. Shashank, the gentleman every Indian woman wants, falls for this brave little girl on the first sight. He holds his emotions and shelters her and protects her till he drops her off at her house. This episode is long forgotten for a few pages until Renuka's maasi finds her an alliance with the son of a Zamindar family. One would think that is the stranger from that night but no. Lalit is a spineless guy who couldn't raise his voice on the wedding night when the groom's father, Nagesh Choudhry, rejects the girl for not producing enough dowry. To everyone's shock, Renuka voices out her anger when Nagesh insults her family. A girl arguing with a man is unacceptable, a girl insulting her to-be father-in-law is out of question. Everyone blames her and considers this inauspicious. That's when Shashank, who didn't know that the bride is his love at first sight offers to marry her. Shashank is full of secrets but proves to be a decent guy in every turn. Renuka and Shashank fall in a streotypical whirlpool of love very soon. Nagesh marries off Lalit to a beautiful girl Papia, from a nearby town. She is very fragile by heart and a caring person. The two girls get along very well. Lalit, who is a chain smoker, drunkard and a philanderer, abuses her and ill treats her.

Renuka and Papia have a terrible encounter with their mother-in-law, Ichamayi, who is mentally ill. She curses them and yells at them and swears to kill them. People in the village believe that she is possessed by the evil soul of Damini. Renuka and Papia learn about the curse that has befallen on their family. Hundreds of years ago, their forefathers and ancestors were serving the Nawab at the time and procured a lot of land. They were bullying everyone in the town and molesting the girls of the poor family for their pleasure in exchange for ration. Most of them had to give in to this atrocity to save themselves from starving to death. Some chose to die in dignity. One such incident cast a curse on the Choudhry clan. Damini, a young girl was used and abused by the then Choudhry. Damini ended her life to save what is left of her dignity but not before cursing the entire family and their generations to come. It is believed that Damini still lingers in the family and it is her curse that makes the Choudhrys suffer. No one is spared from the curse, or that is what the members in the family believe. Nagesh's brother died young, Shashank's earlier fiancees died young, Shashank's Kaaki-Maa has no chidren and Naresh (Nagesh's youngest brother) is a widower. Papia starts to believe that the curse is true and that Damini will get to her very soon.

Renuka, who is a logical and a practical person falls prey to the curse when she miscarries her first baby in Germany. Shashank and Renuka set sail to Germany for an assignment that Shashank undertakes. Catherine, her friend from England sends her a lot of books and urges her to write a story to divert herself from superstitious thinking. Renuka takes to writing and soon they forget about the miscarriage. They rekindle their love for each other at the fireplace. The voyage as well as their stay in Germany goes at a fast pace. When they get back to India, Papia is in a bad shape after giving birth to the twins. She ends her life after a lifetime of misery and depression. Lalit is remarried to Renuka's friend Mandira.

Mandira is a brave girl like Renuka. The author paints the contrast characters very carefully. Renuka is a very honest girl who wants to take the right path to her destination. She is a chirping bird when she is with her loving brother, a responsible fatherless daughter, a caring friend of Mandira, a dedicated wife and a feminist writer. Throughout the story she comes off as a great influence to many people including Mandira, at the end of the book. Mandira on the other hand has a bold personality and would go to any extent to have her wishes fulfilled. When she feels cheated by the Choudhry family for hiding the facts about Lalit's personality and Papia's death, she develops a hatred towards all of them. She controls and manipulates lalit using sex as a tool. After Lalit's demise, Mandira reaches heights in the world of business. Renuka's character is equally bold and strong but the difference in their decisions and opinions shows how much feminism can be misinterpreted. Mandira thinks it is a bold step to have a live-in relationship with Anirudh, Shashank's friend, Renuka thinks that what Mandira does with her life as widower is not anyone's concern. Both of them become very successful in their lives, one in literature and silk industry and the other in Fishery business and making money. Renuka is celebrated for her ideologies on feminism.

Renuka's literature work is spoken of in every other page in the story yet there is no focus on the story that she writes. Renuka's character must have a strong influence on the female readers, but it didn't. How will I be inspired by a girl who changes her dreams in every chapter of the book? First she wants to be a doctor, then she becomes a krantikari, then all she wants to do is be Shashank's soulmate and lover, then she wants to be a graduate, next minute she wants to be a writer, then a silk industrialist, a savious at one time, a philanthropist at another.

Actually, the book rubs feminism on the wrong side. Ranuka's desire to bear a girl child or her helping Papia out of depression is not really feminism. Giving a girl baby to most characters in the book is not feminism either. Saying "Her generous husband maintained a comfortable distance between them" during Renuka's exams or saying that "soon the men got into their discussion, giving ample time for the womenfolk to have some girlish time together" is not the right way to approach feminism. Damini has been wronged and there are so many Daminis and Nirbhayas since, not just in India but in every country. The book is titled, the curse of Damini yet the story of Damini is sidelined. I was expecting a horror story that would send chills down my spine but I got nothing. The rattling of window shutters in my room when I was reading was much more thrilling than this book. Renuka's achievements and aspirations are projected bigger than they actually are yet her achievements are not very inspiring. The author has tried to touch all points on feminism in one book but in vain. The inept writing style and the pathetic language adds up to the in-cohesive narration. When a lot of the words are in Bengali or Hindi, using thesaurus  on every English word in not advisable. At one point there was a French word! Most Indian authors write a book in foreign language (English is a foreign language, FYI) with no/less help from a language editor and dare to publish their work with grammatical errors. It is totally fine to write in one's mother tongue and have it translated to convey the message that one wants to pass on to the world.

P.S : Thanks to Goodreads and the author for the book.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Songs of the mist: Spiritual

***Spoiler Alert***
The writing and the quotes were so deep that shows how much one should have dug into self realization to write such a book. I am only reviewing the book and not commenting on spirituality or divinity. This is just a few remarks on the beautiful thoughts and insights shared by the author which has touched me and inspired me and given me a few moments of peace of and clarity while reading the book. I hope that it lasts forever.

"When the living gets unburdened with needs and desires, the life becomes simple and easy to carry."We all have so much to do in the short span of time, but we never really are sure what we are doing and why we are doing it. We just follow what is being done for generation to generation. We don't even find the time to stop and think for a second. When we look back at our life towards the end, we realize that we have been running a race without noticing that we were on the wrong track.
I am not a big fan of spiritual books or divinity for that matter, but I must say that I was really looking forward to reading this book and the author didn't fail to impress me in anyway. I was so entranced in the story that I was reading even while travelling in bus, something that I normally don't prefer doing.

I am not going to analyse the characters in detail here but instead I shall share a few thoughts that popped up in my mind while reading this story. The line of narration along with the varied characters threw a new light in the area of story telling. When it comes to books like these (Spirituality, philosophy or divinity), the author is burdened with the responsibilities of getting the readers' attention. They have a high risk of going off track from the story and concentrating too much on the theme of their book that will end up fetching a snore or two from the readers. This book on the other hand was quite interesting and the deviation from the story to the message that was bound to be conveyed was very subtle. Although towards the end I felt that the discussion on love and life was getting out of hands. There are a few pet peeves about this book like there were one too many metaphors here and there, and a few sentences were way too long to follow the thought process of the author. Ayan's search for the Monk from his dreams was left incomplete. But these can be excused when you are presented with a fulfilling story and a pressing message.

A few quotes from the book that I loved and would like to refer to...."To really live, one has to break the shackles of time which contains one to doing things in a limited way.""To make lasting memories, it is important to be within that moment, with the whole of your awareness involving all your senses rather than get distracted by being involved in actions, like taking pictures.""You don't grab the air that's slipping through your fingers."

The eccentric character Kyaka came off as a cool tribal girl who heals Ashutosh's wounds. Her part in the book was very little compared to the protagonist she was trying to make an impact on, but I'd say that she played a vibrant role that leads the readers to speculation. It makes one wonder if she was real or his apparition. Ashutosh's old life had left him with a daughter he wasn't aware of. But his last words in the book saying "Kyaka lives with me" was a shocking surprise that was in store for the readers. 

Now, I am not going to say this book brings God to you or makes you look at spirituality in a whole other angle, because that is something you should experience and realize for yourself. But I will say that if you want to try and understand the inner divinity and the true meaning of life, look no further, you start with this book. 

The three stars is not because the book is only okay, it is because I am not wise enough to understand the mystical ways of life yet. When I reach that point in my life, I shall read this again and I am sure it will be so popular by then that my five stars may not even matter.

P.S: Thanks a lot to the author and Goodreads for the book.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Tom Boy

It was raining. We were sitting in the cafeteria on the terrace. Class was over before the scheduled time so that the students can reach home safe before it started pouring. Few of the students took this opportunity and left even before our teacher could announce that the class was coming to an end. So it was only me, Shalini and Sabrina in the cafeteria, enjoying the after-class mirchi bajji in the cold weather. Shalini was busy copying previous day's notes and asking questions to Sabrina that would make her wonder why she stayed back after class.

"Did mam teach how to use articles with respect to adjectives yesterday?", asked a curious Shalini. I didn't want to be the geek and answer that question and invite glares from Sabrina. Sabrina said, "Just copy the damn notes." Shalini pouted for a while and went back to writing. She was so engrossed in it that she didn't notice Sabrina eating her bajji. We had some tea while we waited for it to stop raining. Sabrina and I got to talking about some random stuff to kill time. Shalini was sitting on the one side of the table and Sabrina and I on the other side.

Sabrina was short, fair and skinny. I still remember the first day I saw her. Sincere girl that I am, I reached early to class on the first day. So early that no one was there in the whole building except me and the guy who issued books. I collected my books from him and sat in the class. The class room had too many charts and sheets with German words in colors for beginners. I was wearing a black top and jeans complemented by a pony tail. I wanted to look like a student on my first day though I look like a student on every other day. I waited for someone to show up early although I knew it was too early to expect anyone. Only crazy nerds show up one hour early to a class. As time passed by, a little girl came in. She was wearing a cool T-shirt and jeans and had a backpack. But that wasn't the first thing I noticed about her. It was her hair. Everyone I know is fascinated by long hair on girls. Not to be immodest or anything, I have straight long hair that falls till my waist oh-so-beautifully. But I always hated it. It is very tough to maintain and I am not exaggerating here. You need at least two sachets of shampoo and two hours of your precious time to wash it every time. Ufff! So tiring to even talk about it. This girl had a cool look with the boy cut and her black shell framed spectacles made her short stature look cuter. She looked at her watch on her right hand as she saw me sitting in the front bench early in the morning. She looked at me again and held her glance for a second longer than needed. She might have thought that I had no better job than to show up to class so early. She realized that I was getting conscious of her staring so she quickly came in and sat beside me and kept her bag on the table. She looked at her watch again. I think she was getting anxious on her first day.

I said, "It is five seconds past the last time you checked."
She smiled and extended her hand, "Hi, I am Sabrina." I told her my name and we exchanged the usual courtesies like "nice to make your acquaintance." After that we maintained an awkward silence that every person experiences after meeting someone new. A tall guy got rushed in, saw us and stopped at the entrance. Some guys can't handle two girls at a time.
He saw the books in our hands and pointed at them, "Where do I get those books?"
I said, "These books? You can get it only from us."
Sabrina giggled and said to him, "Down the hall, take a right."
He frowned at me and left the room. Aah, who cares! I was sitting there, bored, for too long. I had no choice but to pull his leg.
Sabrina looked at me and we smiled at each other. Back to awkwardness again. Then we got back to our mobiles to disturb the fortunate people who had the luxury of sleeping late on that bright morning. Two more guys came in and placed themselves in the corner seats, as far as possible from us girls. Shy guys I tell you! Then Shalini came in. She was my friend from college and I knew she had enrolled for this class. She came straight to our table and sat in front of us.
"Hey, When did you come?"
"I came half an hour back."
"Huh? For what?"
"They said that we had to come early to get the books. They didn't say how early we should come. So I came as early as possible." I was blabbering in my sleep. Kill me kill me now.
Sabrina giggled again. Shalini turned to her and they showed off with the English courtesies. From that day on, Sabrina, Shalini and I were terrorizing the class with our comments and Shalini's brains of course. We formed a group on Whatsapp too to torture our classmates after going home. Sabrina messaged me everyday and I really enjoyed her company.

"When will it stop raining?", Sabrina asked, sipping her tea. She was desperate to go home. Shalini usually drops her home but that day she stayed back to learn the lessons she missed.
"I just messaged Varuna Bhagwan (God of rain) asking him to make the sun shine till you reach home safe."
She exasperated. She finished her tea and got up. She was pacing back and forth. I held her hand and stopped her from walking as I couldn't hear what she was speaking. We were talking about work, her least favorite subject. She changed the topic. "So tell me about your crush."
"So if you don't want to talk about work you will start something ridiculous?"
"Tell me. Come on."
"You asked me that because you have a crush on someone. Who is it?"
"I don't have a crush on anyone", she answered instantly.
"You were up last night till 2 AM."
"How did you know that? So you too were up till 2 AM."
"There is something called 'last seen' on Whatsapp. You should check that."
"Oh yeah", she blushed. "First you tell me. Don't be shy."
"I am not shy. I am engaged."
"Why are you shocked? I shouldn't be? Do I look like a prospective nun to you?"
"No.. Sorry. I just didn't expect that."
"Neither did I", I winked.
"Ahan....", she winked back."So what is he doing?"
"Naah-uh. I am tired of answering that. Enough about me. Tell me about your guy." I pulled her to the chair near mine and was swinging her hand as I spoke.
"Look who is shy now", I teased her.
"I am not shy. It's not a guy." She looked at me with puppy eyes and a naughty smile on her lips. Abruptly, I stopped swinging her hand.
"I am a lesbian." That did it. I just left her hand. Her hand dropped on the table. She looked convincingly hurt.
"Oh I am sorry. I didn't mean to react that way. I hope that wasn't offensive."
She laughed, "No, it wasn't. You are visibly shocked. Tit for tat."
"Oh! So you were kidding?" I might have sounded relieved but I didn't want it to come out that way.
"No I wasn't."
"Oh." I didn't know what to say. What do you say to a little girl who says she is not a heterosexual? I am sugarcoating it here for narrative purposes. She said what she said. There was an awkward silence again and she was amused by my reaction. None of these words diverted Shalini from her notes. For God's sake, a girl was declaring her sexual orientation to me for the first time and Shalini was sitting right across me, drowned in books. I could have used some help there you know. Poor me.

Anyway, I was happy that Varuna Bhagwan heard my silent cries and stopped the rain. Shalini and Sabrina left home. I went home and sent a text to Sabrina saying I was sorry that I reacted that way and asked her why she confessed to me. She said I was friendly to her and that she really liked me. I was beginning to get uncomfortable. I asked what was going on. That is when she texted back saying, "You have beautiful eyes. I love your eyes.” I didn't like where this was going. "And I have a crush on you."

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Jab we met

"He wants to meet you in a coffee shop", said my mother.
"No, let them come home", I said. It is bad enough that my parents are arranging a date with a guy for me, imagine meeting him in a coffee shop in maami's area! We all know how that would go.
Hailing from a typical Tam Bram family I was aware of the usual drill and kind of had an idea how this would end. At least I was prepared to make it end the way I wanted: make the guy say no. That was my whole idea.
"Ask them if they are free the day after tomorrow. I have an appointment tomorrow in the evening after work", I told her. She conveyed the message and I thought the guy's side would drop the whole idea as the girl was fixing the date. But that did not happen. He came home five minutes earlier than expected, with his parents of course. And there I was, meeting him comfortably in my house in my room.

He said, "Hi". Damn! I was going to open with that.
I said, "How is the US?". The first words out of my mouth were a disaster.
He was confused and said, "I work in Germany".
The problem with IT professionals is we are so influenced that our client's country is the only existing country outside of India. Anyway I quickly recovered from my face-palm moment and was simultaneously glad that no one was around to witness that. We talked about work for a while.
“People out there have a strong misbelief about India. They watch movies and TV shows and think that we sing and dance on the street for every occasion, there are elephants loitering around the streets and wonder why we speak English at all.”
“Oh! Does anyone ever ask you about Indian life style?”
“All the time. There are a bunch of guys in my office who think that we have elephants and camels crossing the road along with us in the signal.”
“Oh dear God! Did you tell them that is not so?”
“No, I just let them believe that. Now they have booked tickets to India to see the bedecked elephants and camels on the railway level crossing.”
I burst out laughing thinking of those poor souls wandering the streets searching for large wildlife.

“Can I have some water?” I looked at the fan and I looked at him. I was perfectly fine but he was sweating profusely and I thought it was because he was nervous about this sort of meeting. But it didn’t occur to me that he had been living in Europe for a long time and Chennai was too hot in summer. Then again, Chennai is always hot so it is not the first thing that pops up in your head when a guy is sweating at your first arranged date.
“Yeah sure. Just a moment.” I went out and brought him a glass of water. When I came back I noticed that he had moved his chair right under the fan. He didn’t want to move closer to me under the fan when I was in the room because that would look indecent. I smiled to myself.

We talked a little more and by this point I was getting warmed up to him. He sure seemed like a cool person. He was funny, sarcastic and smart. Well, handsome too. Check, check and check. But I had a mission to succeed. I had to make him say no to me. No, I am not gay. It is just that I find it very hard to accept that I have to marry a guy based on a 15 minute conversation. I didn't understand how this arranged marriage system worked. I mean, how do you marry a guy after talking about just elephants? That's insane.

"I don't know to cook and the reason I don't know is because I hate cooking and doing the dishes", I said with a hope that he would give a bewildered look and run away. Instead he said, "I hate doing the dishes too but I know to cook."
Shit. There goes my weapon. He was talking about how crappy he cooks there as he is alone.
“We cannot appoint a maid too because it is very expensive there so I have to do the dishes myself. As much as I hate it I have no choice.”
“Ahan.... Ahan...” I was hardly listening. I was musing over my first failed shot. But I am a meticulous planner. I always have a back up. 
“I am planning to study further after marriage too. If  I find a good course I will opt for it. If not, I will continue to work.” If anything this should chase him away.
But he said, “If you are sure of what you want to do, there are a lot of options in Germany for your course.”
Two down, one to go. Time to drop the bomb.
"You see, I am not a very religious person. In fact, I am not orthodox. And I am skeptic."
He had a confused look on his face with a not-so-sure-smile on his lips. “What’s skeptic? Are you people starting a new movement now?”
“No, its just that I am not an atheist and I am cynical about the belief system.”
“Aaaah....”, he was pondering over what I had just said. He didn't seem convinced. At least that’s what it looked like. Apparently, he had been thinking that all this was cute. Just to be clear, I am not cute. He thought this incident was.
“That is not a problem to me. I am an atheist. As long as you don’t have a problem with that I don’t mind your religious status. In fact I prefer skeptic to theist”, he grinned. Bomb defused. I never imagined that my religious status would change my relationship status forever.
“So.. Is there anything else you want to know about me”, I asked hoping that I am giving him one last chance. But he was too sweet to ask me anything pretentious.
“No, this is not an interview. I think we will get to know each other gradually.” 
I liked the word “gradually”. “But if you want to know anything about me feel free to ask me.”
I am a straight shooter. “Are you a teetotaler?” Not that it bothered me, but I was required to ask this question.
He smiled again. Come to think of it now, he had been smiling the whole time I was speaking to him. He might have thought I was childish.
“Yes I am. Is there anything else?”
“No that’s about it. Come let’s go out. We have been in here for too long.”
So we got up and went to the living room. They had some sort of code word to find out if their son is okay with the girl or not. Probably, if the guy wasn’t running out of the room screaming, it was a good sign. His parents immediately said that they were okay with our alliance.
He asked for my phone number. I was dumbfounded. I didn't know how to react for a second. I panicked and gave my mom's number. Oh come on! I just said I am from a conservative Tam Bram family so don't judge me here. He left home thinking it was my number and messaged my mother. That’s another story for another day.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Sita: A Misconception

You'd think that the book is from Sita's perspective but it is not.

Like every other girl in India I did not like Ramayana for the same reason that Ram abandons Sita on the account of being a righteous King. I was prepared to give only three stars to this book no matter what as I have been told and retold of this epic a million times so far. But this book by Devdutt opened my mind's eye to a lot of significant roles played by Ram. But that still doesn't mean I will disregard Sita's abandonment.

I liked Lakshman's character more than Ram's during their exile. When Ram was exiled from his own country, Lakshman was determined to go with him. Urmila's loyalty in helping out Lakshman by sleeping for fourteen years was mind-striking. Ram often snapped at lakshman. Like when Lakshman questioned about a tigress killing deer or when Surpanakha was infatuated to Ram, he rejected her, directed her to Lakshman which was totally unacceptable and uncalled for. Lakshman respected Ram ultimately but Ram was always snide with him. He didn't even respect his brother's fidelity when he sent Surpanakha to ask Lakshman. Ram was always condescending and stoic with Lakshman even though Lakshman was very humble and down to earth and obeyed his brother's orders to the letter.

Sita's love and sincerity to keep up her duties as a wife even during the hard times shows the moral values that were/are bestowed and beheld by Indian women.

Hanuman's character is timeless and pierced through the hearts of millions. He who loved Sita's Ram and Ram's Sita will forever be worshiped.

There is more to Ramayana than is narrated during bed times. Viradha was killed for touching Sita. Surpanakha is maimed for attacking Sita as a result of jealousy. Why is viradha's killing forgotten? It is unethical when a woman desires for a married man but it is ignored when a man wants a married woman? In all the stories and epics, only a woman's chastity is highlighted and blown up. But a man who is supposed to be a celibate or a sage who renounced the earthly possessions wavers for a moment, he is not judged or punished. He is not even remembered for his notorious behaviour. This sort of virtue is still considered though no one knows who set the rules.

She wanted the gold deer and ended up dropping her gold ornaments that adorned her body, for a trail. Epic has its ironic way of bringing its concept to people. I was not shocked when the self-righteous Ram wanted to liberate Sita after rescuing her from Ravana. But I was shocked when he said "But for me, there will be only Sita", when Luv and Kush got furious on learning Sita's abandonment. Now that's where Devdutt earned his fourth star for the otherwise three-star book!

Anagrammatic, Sita and Sati are incarnations of the same deity, Shakthi. They share the same integrity, they love their husband unconditionally and they are both brave and radical. All anger on Ram aside, I was touched by his ekapathni-vrath and his undeterred love for Sita and his loyalty to Ragu Clan and his kingdom. He is the ideal ruler that every king after him looked up to, he is the best one-woman man that every woman should yearn for but the combination of both has certainly made him infamous in one way or the other.