Saturday, April 28, 2007

we move but our words stand become responsible for more than we intended and this is verbal privilege

says Adrienne Rich.


The Namesake,
the movie is better than the book. When I found out that they were making a movie of the book, I wasn't very keen. How would it translate, I thought? For a start, there wasn't much dialogue and most of the book was introspective reflections of the characters, particularly Gogol. But the movie reflects scriptwriting at its best- I loved how the character quirks have been fleshed, especially Ashima and Ashok. And Calcutta was another character as well.

I remember feeling the angst of Calcutta many years ago in Anita Desai's Voices of the City. There it was a city of desperation and pain. Now, in The Namesake, it is a Calcutta of coming and going, heaving and lurching, absence and longing. It's been a long time since I left a cinema hall feeling moved.


I have been holed in at home a lot these days, working furiously. Inevitably have fallen into the routine of watching old TV re-runs at lunch time including Ally McBeal and Sex and the City. What strikes me is how male centred these shows are. Sure, the main characters are women and their friends and lives. These women are successful, beautiful and talented. And yet, their lives revolve only around men, the ones that they like, the ones that they think are cute, the ones that got away and broke their hearts. If these shows were such hits, do they reflect how women are wired? That life must revolve only around men?

I think one of the most progressive series on TV ever has been the Golden Girls. Bunch of girls living a full life with or without their men.

Time to reach out for Marilyn French, who talks about chic-lit type of books but the context is the same:

'Male character is less important than male centrality. In a male centred novel, the heroine clearly needs a man; whatever her fate, the male reader does not feel threatened since he knows she could be happy if only she had the love of a good man-one very like himself'

Introduction to the Woman's Room
Marilyn French

I think of my young cousins who read/watch this stuff and the kind of impact such shows and chic lit can have on them and shudder. I am not anti-man. I live with one and they are generally quite fulfilling (emotionally and physically) but the premise shoved to women of all ages in such literature and media is that without a man, life is somehow hollow and meaningless.

Time to burn all that chic lit? Too radical?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Top 10 books of all time

I hate lists of all kinds. I am one of those persons who goes grocery shopping without a list and always forgets the garlic/tomatoes/coriander (and ends up coming home with a horseradish). I am the one who forgets the toothbrush on the weekend away because she didn't make a list. In my final year exam in law school, I forgot to bring the Criminal Procedure Code and realized too late that I should have made a list the night before of all the things to take into the exam hall (one of the lecturers had an extra copy, no doubt in anticipation of nuts like myself).

I know people who make major decisions in life by sitting down and drawing a line marking Pros and Cons on a paper or computer. They are able to make life altering decisions based on such a list. I envy the method and precision that goes into such a task because it is something that eludes me. Most of the biggest decisions I make are ones that remain a congealed mess in my mind until I just decide.

I tried to do it once. I wanted to follow the rational and sensible path. Should I make the big career change that I wanted? A list will get me there, I thought. But as I drew the dividing line with a black marker on a fresh paper, I knew deep down that what I wanted would not be the most sensible thing to do. To leave a well paying job with all the prospects for the great unknown? I didn't know if what I wanted would make me happy or if it was right or where things would head after that. In all probability making a list would urge me to do otherwise. But in the hinterland of my heart, I knew what I wanted. I threw the piece of paper away.

I am a resolute non-list maker married to an assiduous one. The ever methodical M has lists for everything including a master list for travel which is filed according to event-weekend away, annual trip, short trips. I am kind of used to it though-I grew up with a whole load of Virgoans who made lists for everything under the sun.

It didn't daunt me then when Sharon Bakar put her loyal readers (me! me!) to task with the Star challenge for their Top 10 favourite books of all time. Here's mine:

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Possession by A.S.Byatt
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

There are a few must haves on the list like Old Man, Lolita, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Anna Karenina. Beyond that, Catcher in the Rye may be a bit esoteric but if it has touched so many young people and continues to do so, surely it must feature? Midnight's Children because it changed the feel, sound and soul of English as a language.

Portrait of the Artist was tossed around with other stream of consciousness novels notably To the Lighthouse but I chose this simply because it is my personal favourite. The Unbearable Lightness of Being had to be mentioned, being a paean to post-modernism. Possession because of its mastery and expanse. And the one book that leads me into the heart of nobility and restraint -The Remains of the Day.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Thinking Blogger

Kak Teh has given me a Thinking blogger award!!! I am not entirely sure if I deserve such an honour (suddenly I am gripped with thoughts of the quality of this blog. The thinking bit is often nothing more than a repository of rants and random spiel). But I am deeply touched that she thought this blog worthy enough to be mentioned. Hers is a friendship that emerged from blog-world and spilled easily into the real one. We exchanged a few emails and discovered that at that time, we worked in adjacent buildings in the Bloomsbury area. I was a bit apprehensive about the first meeting as I had seen her by-line many times in leading publications, a known no-nonsense, respected journalist. But all was quelled when I found her to be warm, kind, opinionated and fairly mad. And I also discovered in her a master storyteller who kept us mesmerized with anecdotes of her various adventures over the years. This is a friendship that continues to be cultivated over many a curry mee, nasi goreng and nescafe tarik.

So now I must set about tagging five more bloggers. This is a difficult task though a few names popped in my mind immediately. The problem is that I don't know some of these bloggers that I am going to mention- I have just started reading their blogs and haven't left a comment or exchanged any kind of contact. I just hope that they don't think of me as a random weirdo- I genuinely love these blogs and they also leave me with brain fodder.

1. Starlight : Starlight and I have become virtual friends. I always feel a sense of lightness emanating from her entries, how she is always striving to learn from all the life lessons that are thrown to her and the inner contemplativeness to always check herself, her thoughts and views. Of yoga journeys, introspections and always, exhaling.

2. Masalachaii: If there is one thing that strikes me about Ms Chai, its her infectious upbeat, fiery and kick-ass attitude. She is always doing doing something, going somewhere and learning something . Of maximum living and joie de vivre.

3. Amir Muhammad: He doesn't know me but through his blog, which has been a repository of his film work, I read about the trials and tribulations of making Komunis and Kampung, the political brouhaha and the ban on the movie as well as the new one, Apa Khabar Orang Kampung. I love that he never loses his sense of humour in all this and that he remains undefeated, moving on with his next project. Of history, sense of self and a certain up your a***

4. Nursamad: I've just started reading 3540 Jalan Sudin but it is such an addictive blog-opinionated, passionate and honest. The biggest draw are the stories about her father's imprisonment, the emotional journeys and the intersection with the larger political background during that period. Of politics, passion and family.

5. Ms Blabs : We have become firm friends now. What I love about her is her honestly written posts. Through her, I have traveled vicariously to Egypt and shared all the angsty adventures of moving to a new country. Of travels, learning and always, cats.

This award was started here:
And now my dear recipients, your award comes with a price. You have to award five others whose blog you think deserve this award.

Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging. The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

Please, remember to tag blogs with real merits, i.e. relative content, and above all - blogs that really get you thinking!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

If you shed tears when you miss the sun, you also miss the stars

says Tagore. Writing is a catharsis of sorts.

We sit in the half light of dusk. A few birds streak the purple-blue sky, rapidly disappearing from view. The crisp evening air chills the room. Somebody should get up and turn the heating on. But nobody does.

I hold on to my cream cable sweater, not thinking of putting it on. The tea my mother made has gone cold. The liquid that slides down my throat is unpleasant. It tinges my mouth with the slight acidic aftertaste of tea that has been left undrunk for too long.

Grief-numbed silence engraves the room. Opaque, dumb eyes stare at each other momentarily. We are still figures slumped on brown cushion chairs, watching the day sinking away. A few hours ago, a phone call comes through bringing results that breaks each one of us.

I place the phone down the receiver. It takes time for the news to be coherent. A numbness sets. An almost detached, clinical logic to the information. I am familiar with viable research projects. One that wins you grants, funding and jobs. Here, it is a question of a viable pregnancy. Of not being viable that is.

Suddenly, like a burst of molten lava, reality explodes. The tears come in a wrenching profusion.