So looks like we’ve moved on from Kasab’s hanging. Not that I had a doubt we would be hung up on it for too long, for in India there is always something else to beat to death (pardon the double-entrandre: that wasn’t intended, but seemed apt once it came out like that (being hung up on a hanging, is also a good mixed half-metaphor, isn’t it?), especially given our media, and our obsession with it. Continue reading
I remember the days
bitter aftertaste of coffee
poseurs we all were Continue reading
Here is a compressed re-write of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers for dummies (what Gladwell already writes for dummies? double dummies then). I’ve re-written it so that even a child can understand it. It currently has just introduction and epilogue. All the chapters are still missing, but not much is lost, I assure you. Continue reading
The music playing on FM radio, as I drove down Indira’s flat, was “Desi Girl” (literally a song about native girl, and how you won’t find anyone like my native girl, anywhere in the world).
The idea that the nakharas of desi girls are unparalleled in the world is highly suspect. No I wasn’t going back to native charms, I was leaving Uma to go back to Indira who had newly acquired a FB profile, where she was posting her photos in the latest western clothes, updates about her visits to spas, and hair stylists, snaps of pastas and enchiladas she was cooking at home; Indira whose father owned a, now prospering, packaged foods business; and all this with an additional promise of freedom from unmitigated feminism of the likes of Uma.
what we call courage
is just hardheadedness
proved wrong, even,
but rather than
to retell stories
in an otherwise
the right shades;
color our memories
to blank out
all red flags,
for every story
has to sound right
no song can
our re-colored memories
is all we have
to build the grand narratives –
we rationalize –
faced with stark reality
reality that seems allergic
to grand narratives
but that’s the thing
if you’re looking for
you won’t find it in grand narratives
it will stay hidden
taking refuge in the unlikeliest places
in an accidental
false stroke of a brush
a blemish on a canvas;
in one or two discordant notes
sung by some unsung master
like the courage
of someone who knows
there is no martyrdom
to follow …
who knows the odds
when she abondons
there in the dungeons
paying the price of courage
eluding our macroscopic
search for narratives
and we tell
When a movie cast boasts of the classy Meryl Streep, and at the heart of the movie is cooking, no third reason is required to watch a movie for me. And I wasn’t at all disappointed. Quite the contrary.
Julia Child, played in the movie by Meryl Streep — an awesome performance — for those who don’t know much about her, was an iconic figure in the gastronomical world; author and television host of a show that’s supposed to have really ‘brought’ french cooking to Americans.
The story beings with Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams), who moves to Queens with her husband, and is generally unhappy about her life — a failed writer with half-finished novel, and a job in a call-center for 9/11 victim. One thing that is saving grace for her is her love for cooking, and in-turn for Julia.
The plot moves between Julie’s pledge to cook each and every recipe in Julia Chilid’s book on french cooking (524 recipes in 365 days) — she would blog about her progress on the challenge — and Julia Child’s life in France a few decades back.
There are a few parallels between the lives of the two women — both searching for, and finding, a new purpose in life in their cooking exploits. While for Julie it’s the blog, for Julia, wife of American diplomat — Paul Child — posted in Paris, it’s her one calling. But almost every memorable scene in the movie seems to be when timeline shifts to Julia’s Paris days. Part of the credit goes to Streep who seems to have found a character that’s worth her talents after a while. But that’s not all. The chemistry between her and Stanely Tucci (who plays Paul Child) brings to screen an almost reassuring portrayal of a married couple’s love, made more special by the fact that neither of them is portrayed as glamorous or beautiful. That love, and Julia’s love for cooking (“What is it that you really like to do?”, asks Paul, as she’s searching for something to do with her life, and she says “Eat”. They both laugh, but then both know she’s damn serious) gives the movie its emotional foundation.
On the flip side, Julie’s story is much weaker — like her character, who almost seems to be living off Julia’s charms, and recipes. And every time the film lingers there a while, one has this sudden craving for more of Julia’s story, and Julia’s (or Streep’s) presence. I just wonder if they couldn’t have done a biopic based totally on Child’s biography instead?
By no means a great film, it’s still endearing, in its own way, and made special by, and I cannot stress this enough, Meryl Streep’s fascinating portrayal of Julia Child — who is darling of a lost-generation of America; in fact Streep pretty much ends up explaining why. I’d give 7/10 to the whole experience, 9/10 to Meryl Streep (because, she just makes us feel it’s the best she can give, and then goes out and does better, just making us feel stupid for giving 10/10).
If you’re sucker for ‘love of cooking’, like me, then go watch it already.
“What’s you name”, asks a fifty-sixty-something aunty living in my building to my kid as we get into the elevator. Never known to talk to strangers, he lets us do the talking.
“Rehaan”, says my wife.
Fifty-sixty-something aunty has an animated expression on her face — wonder concealing surprise, and the effort needed for that is not concealed — probably because no effort is made to conceal the effort.
“Isn’t that a muslim name?”, she asks, quite sure that we don’t look muslim.
“Yes. He’s Rehaan Phansalkar”, my wife adds.
I look away, trying to keep disgust about the line of inquiry off my face.
“It’s a persian name”, quips my wife.
Fifty-sixty-something aunty manufactures a smile at that escape route, as we get out at our floor.
The next day, she is back at it, “Rehaan Khan”, she chides him/me/both. Or perhaps no one really, Just jesting. Showcasing her sense-of-humor. However sick. And I keep looking away to hide the disgust.
But then I start thinking. Why am I offended? When we picked up that name, we knew someone like that was going to say/do something like that. It’s the most benign form of bigotry even. And being offended about such a line of inquiry is actually giving it a validity it does not deserve. So next time I see her, I manufacture a smile.
Same place, different time, different individual. Actually, we don’t really call the watchmen and the other helpers in the society — like that person who picks up the trash in the morning — individuals. They’re just people. They’re just the jobs, even. Watchman. Cleaner. Maid. Driver.
But anyways, this elderly guy who collects trash in the morning, and dumps it into the compost pits, and collects the compost at times, is an individual. I’ve seen him trying to clear up a road space for vehicles in Ganpati celebrations time, near where he lives — a basti through which a road that I have to take to visit my parent passes — trying to control rowdy/boisterous members from his basti, already high, I believe, on spirits other than the religious passions sparked by Ganapati visarjan occasion. When the road is partially cleared up, I pass him, thanking him silently for helping out, and saving probably half an hour of noisy celebration and traffic jam on a narrow road. I applaud him later in person, the day after for helping out so many people. Probably because of that interaction, for me, he is an individual. Not just a job.
But again, I digress. I asked him about the compost that’s generated from the pits and whether I can get some, and he brings me a polythene bag filled with compost a couple of days later.
“Just don’t use it in the Tulsi pot”, he requests.
“Why, does it harm the Tulsi plant in some way”, I ask instinctively, as that’s the only thing that I can think of.
“No. This compost is made from all sort of unclean things, no. Meat pieces and what not”, he says.
I smile. Not a condescending, I know better than that smile, but rather a “I know what you mean” smile. And I know, even the radical atheist (to borrow a category created by the great late Douglas Adams) like me, will think for a second, before adding that compost to a Tulsi pot — even if it’s only to remember the innocent faith that made the elderly individual to tell me, an almost total stranger, something like that.
Same place, or thereabout, different people.
We’re walking around the complex, taking my kid to the Ganapati temple in the complex, when another couple turns up with a boy, almost same age as my kid. We smile at them. The boy, in just the half minute or so he had to notice, notices that my kid was wearing a dark pink T-shirt.
“He’s wearing pink”, he says animatedly to his parents.
Me and my wife laugh.
His mother scolds him, “They heard you”, as they drive away on their scooter.
Yes. The only thing (probably) that they found objectionable in the sentiment (what else do you call it? reflex?) was that it was uttered loud enough for us to hear.
Pink is for girls.
And then, different place — or same actually, depending on how broadly you define ‘place’.
I switch on the TV and I find the great Farhan Akhtar sporing a thick mustache, later also adorned by the lovely (well, I’m not just cynical, you know) Preity Zinta. The MARD pledge. Is the irony of girls sporting a mustache, as a symbol for real maleness, the one that’s supposed to save girls from being molested/raped/groped, is it intentional? Wouldn’t it be better for men to sport bangles, say, claiming solidarity with the victims of a typical male thing. Wouldn’t it be better to challenge the whole stereotypes of bangles as sign of weakness, mustaches a sign of strength (mooch katwana and all that melodrama), or machismo (whatever the f it is). To reinforce, even if unintentionally, a much problematic stereotype, could very well be counterproductive. But then are celebrity social drives ever really supposed to be productive? Beyond counting eyeballs, that is.
Bangles are for sissies.
Mustaches are for the real men.
Men don’t cry.
Good girls don’t wear skimpy clothes and its corollary.
Men love sports and cars.
New religions are formed each day.
Sometimes they’re imported from more prosperous lands — like the great USA in the boys Vs. pink case — and hence come pre-approved. They get to bypass the usual slow organic decay that is necessary for other ones, produced locally, need to take root (which incidentally has just one o more than rot).
But organic, or GM, or hybrid, or whatever, they all seem to thrive in this land called India which is a fertile land for bigotry. Mohammedans are this, parsis are that, south-indians are what not, xyz is abc. Pink is sissy. Make him wear bangles. Blacken his face to shame him.
In all these fifty thousand shades of bigotry and stereotypes, there are a few innocent ones, like in the case of the elderly individual. But when one looks at the spectrum, how does one feel hope that the picture will be painted in better shades anytime soon?
For the picture looks pretty grim with all the shades of religions — godly or not, major or minor, deep or trivial.
Let’s aim for eternity
and we should be good
for the lifetime
we did not
waste our breaths
on subsequent lifetimes
what’s the point
when you have to
aim for eternity
again and again
we did dwell
on the issue
of multiple lifetimes
surely, she said,
it’s very unlikely
that this is our first
if there are many
probability is loaded
the talk of seven or so
has a grain of truth
and if it’s indeed not
then not remembering
what we learned
the last time around
kind of makes the case
for keeping it simple
it would be enough
for this lifetime
traitor, he bellowed
emphasizing each syllable
words need our support
to stand out
maybe they do
words like those
words like those
used to being
thrown at random,
and in their acceptance
is their death
of their own meanings