Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Hungry Tide!

If I had to describe this book in one word, PASSION would be it.

A beautifully written book, it takes you away into a real but fantastic land. I am young and haven’t read many books, but it is one of the best pieces of prose I have read. Poetically interwoven with little stories, traveling back and forth in time, and describing a new phenomenon or event in every chapter, with such passion, it is a delight to read it.

As I kept reading it, I wondered how much Amitav Ghosh must love the Sunderbans. He describes it with great passion like a poet might of a lover. He describes with such wide-eyed wonder, its ecosystem and inhabitants. He describes with such great pride, its dangers both living and the nature.

I fell in love with it when I was on page 6. To quote the exact words that created magic:

“In our legends it is send that the Goddess Ganga’s descent from the heavens would have split the earth had Lord Shiva not tamed her torrent by tying it into his ash smeared locks” … “there is a point where the braid comes undone; where Lord Shiva’s matted hair is washed apart into a vast knotted tangle. Once past that point the river throws off its bindings and separates into hundreds, maybe thousands, of tangled strands” … “The islands are the trailing threads of India’s fabric, the ragged fringe of her sari, the anchol that follows her, half wetted by the sea.”

I could go on.

“When these channels meet, it is often in clusters of four, five, or even six: at these confluences, the water stretches into the far edges of the landscape and the forest dwindles into a distant rumor of land echoing back from the horizon. In the language of the place, such a confluence is spoken of as a mohona – a strangely seductive word, wrapped in many layers of beguilement.”

Now you know what I mean.

The main character of the story is the Tide Country itself. It is about the elements that make it what it is. It talks about the history of the country, the locals and their beliefs and lifestyles and folklore, and the main human characters just live it. It is not about the human characters but about the country. It seems like these characters exist so that they can tell us the story of the country as they discover it.

It talks of an old school teacher who sees himself as a failed radical communist and how this land has both helped him and hurt him. It talks about a young woman in search of a rare species of dolphins and comes into this ecosystem and discovers its hidden wonders. It talks about the life of a young illiterate fisherman who is at peace and is one with the country.

It talks beautifully about love; most of them unspoken but all beautiful; Moyna fiercely protecting her love, or Horen confessing his, or Nirmal’s pursuit for his muse. (If there is one that was not told so beautifully it was of Kanai and Piya. I could not see it develop through the story. Maybe it was meant to be that way.)

It peaks in both literary style and imagination. It has a un-put-down-able story and yet it is almost philosophical. It is a piece of fiction, sprinkled well with facts, with such fertile imagination, that the plot grows into a beautiful creation and the reader grows with it.

Go ahead, pick up a copy and discover the magic!

Muscle of Mumbai

I have watched, yet again on the plane, two movies about Mumbai, both about the muscle of Mumbai. One is about the immigrants who form a large part of the society and are the muscle of Mumbai. And the other is about the conflicts of men in mafia (supposed based on true story). One is an art film with outstanding actors produced by the National Film Development Corporation of India. And the other is a mainstream Bollywood Boxoffice hit produced by a rich daughter of an old time Bollywood actor.

Disha has Nana Patekar moving to Mumbai as an immigrant, living in terrible conditions, always wanting to go back to the village and yet stays on after he loses his wife’s loyalty. Om Puri plays a man who would never give up hope and sticks to the village in spite of terrible finances, proving that hard work and dedication will prevail in the end. Shabana Azmi plays a nagging wife, who acts tired of Om Puri’s never giving up attitude but loves him deeply and is proud of the same attitude. The plot unfolds delicately with the actors’ abilities rather than dialogues. It talks of the simple village life, its struggles, its malicious nature as well as protective nature and the male ego. A beautifully made movie! Yet, I would say it is only a onetime watch. But it stays with you for a while.

Once Upon A Time in Mumbai has all the glitz and glamour of a mainstream Bollywood movie. It talks about the rise of a good-hearted, helper of the poor, mafia don played by Ajay Devagan who is shot dead by a dark character played by Emraan Hashmi whose main goal since childhood was to get the power, money and fame that comes from being a mafia don. The movie was well made keeping up to pace and makes for a good watch. Except that I do not like bad endings, this one is almost lame. But some say it is about some true story and I am not aware of it so I still feel it is a lame ending. Also, I thought both of the love stories were randomly put and sort of stupid. Everyone has to agree with me that Ajay Devagan and Kangana Raunat’s romance was outright nonsense. And Prachi Desai’s role was more like made for an award and all that. She apparently won a lot of Supporting Role awards even though I do not see how her role is in anyway supporting the film. Remove her from the movie and the story will not suffer. However, remove Emraan’s father, the sub-inspector and the narrative will suffer. He played his role perfectly. All in all it’s a onetime watch.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I WISH I hadn't Watched it

I did not know it was a Sanjay Leela Bhansali production till I completed watching it. Had I known I would never have bothered with it, like I did with Black.

So, whatever my review is goes for all of his films.

Guzarish was made to be ‘wowed’. Picked up a sympathical (quiddaled) controversial (to allow or not) topic (euthanasia), added a lot of jazz (world’s best magician) and glamour (Aishwarya Rai) to it, tagged at all sort of sentiments (the ‘I understand’ girlfriend, the ‘I am Sorry’ enemy, the ‘sir, sir’ apprenhentice) and some crazy story of sadness and battle (Project Ethanasia) sprinkled with emotionally stirring scenes (letting the air through his hair in the car or his mothers support and her subsequent death or the scene when the roof leaks and no one takes care of him) and lots of close up shots on the eyes that show deep deep deep deep deep rooted pain and of course the love story (the abusive husband and the further ‘Mrs Mascerehnas’ scene and the dialogue of ‘walk to me’ thing) and there you have it – a complete wanna-be great movie, made by a movie maker who wants to get the Oscar! The movie, and all his movies, amplify all kinds of feelings to a point of no return deeming them simply unrealistic and a show, forgetting the realism in movies. Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Ghum is a better movie. At least you expect all that drama.

Guzarish consistently reminded me deeply of a movie called ‘My Left Foot’, an Italian Irish low budget film that won the Oscar in 1989 (also known as the year that Oscars got it right). The only difference is that My Left Foot was a brilliant movie while Guzarish is just a bad movie inspired out of it.

Colorful Imaginations!

This book my Ranjit Lal that I read had three short stories: Big Neem, Red Jaguar and Mrs. Samson’s Lammergeir. That was the title of the book as well. They are about strange incidents that happen to a young boy called Anirudh over summer vacations. I mean different summer vacations, so keeps growing up.

Big Neem is a tree that talks to him and is in the cemetery next to his house. Now really, how creative! And there are ghosts and other animals in the cemetery talk to him as well.

Red Jaguar is a ghost car driven by a ghost who drives it to protect his daughter and the good. Now, the only human who gets to drive it is Anirudh.

Mrs. Samson’s Lammergeir is a spirit trapped inside a Lammergeir and rescues Anirudh and his friend from death, also visible only to a select few.

Amazingly imaginative are the stories that took me back to my childhood summer vacations when a friend of mine and I construed stories about ghosts, spirits, conspiracies, aliens, etc all attributed to an empty old house that we referred to as the Bhoot Bungalow !

I simply loved it. It inspires me to write a few of that kind myself.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Another New Header: Vacation

Like I promised. A new header in a couple of days. :) And a new theme

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Convo Header

I know I am overdoing it. I promise this header will stay for less than a week.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Vacation and Work

Two Sundays after we left home, we reached home. And with us we have tiny little replicas of the Merlion, the Twin Towers, Buddha and some shopping, and of course, my black cap and a PGDM certificate. And did I forget to mention, that India won the World Cup? Again, All Hail SBI!

The minute we came home we had to head to gather supplies for the next morning. The next day was Ugadi, the New Year according to the Telugu calendar. And hence the festivities continue and everything goes back to normal once you are back home.

Or so you think. I didn’t feel like I came home, I just felt like I left home and sort of lost. Not that I was utterly in love with Joka or Kolkata (though I love them both), but of the fact that I have stayed in a college campus for six years now that it feels weird not to.

And now I have 4.5 months at home. Even to think of it freaks me out on how to spend my time. I have already begun looking for options like internships. If anyone feels like doing something fun this summer drop a line.

About Internships:

If anyone would like me to write for them, that would be great.

If anyone would help me get an internship with a magazine, that would be awesome.

If anyone would want to keep me busy my giving me some work and getting some work off your back, let me know it just might be what I am looking for.

Of Calcutta and Climaxes!

It was a climax in many ways. And forgive for the length of the post. But trust me, it has it’s drama.

So we got off at Calcutta, my parents headed to Ranchi to visit family and I had to stay on reach Calcutta. I was on a train while the Ind-Pak World Cup Semi Final was going on. Oh, what fun it was! The pain of not being able to watch it, the anticipation of trying to figure out what’s happening when people in the train start shouting through all the noise thanks to their 3G sim cards and broadband service providers! It was not that Pakistan would win, because in my memory we always one (I know there are statistics and I don’t care for them). It was just the fact that I was missing the match. But I reached my hotel room with 30mins left of the match. And I did get to see the lovely part of the match. And then I headed out from my hotel to Joka. The rejoicing crowds on the streets went crazy. By the way, there were two men in black with a black dog sniffing up and down the entire train and my cab along with all cabs was stopped by police and questioned on the way to Joka. Security on a high!

I reached Joka in time for a party and woke up next day in time for rehearsals for the PGP 2009-11 batch named the Golden Whistle (owing to the fact that this was the Golden Jubilee year and whistle best left unexplained ; also I thought it was a lame name for a batch).

Now for the last lap:

On April 2nd, we put on robes and posed for pictures while India and Srilanka tossed for the World Cup finals. We marched on the procession into the auditorium already packed with family and friends to watch up in my black robes, purples sashes and funnily, our black caps. Also slowly as the news poured in of each wicket, each boundary and every ten runs, we heard the speeches and walked up to the stage to pick up a certificate. I walked hesitantly, aware that my dad was filming it, hoping I don’t stumbled over my pink saree and held that pose with the certificate that stands as proof of my successful completion of PGDM at IIM Calcutta. And then there was a rather honest and inspiring speech by our chief guest, the former SEBI chief, Mr Damodaran.

If you think it ended there, well you don’t because you know what happened afterwards. After introductions, pleasantries and photographs, we all went for the dinner where there was live streaming of the match. Soon professors left, parents left and all was left was staff and students. We all found television sets here and there and stuck on to them.

We were all cramped for space at different places, yet together, and as one entity, not just one entity called India, but also the one entity called IIM Calcutta for the last time and the last few hours, we watched history being made. We sat together and watched Dhoni slam that sixer and Team India raise that cup that was last touched in 1983 and teased us in 2003. We jumped up in joy and rejoiced and our last night in Joka resonated with the sound of victory, just like every other part of the nation, except it was rather special for us. On the day of our convocation, Team India renamed the PGP 2009-11 batch as the “World Cup Batch”.

And though I hope memories will help me revisit this label, here is to the official last entry of Joka Days from an Alumnus, IIM Calcutta (World Cup Batch)! Cheers!

Thailand, Naturally!

We reached Bangkok and drove directly to a tourist city called Pattaya. We watched the enchanting and quick changing sets of Al Cazar and its wonderfully perfect transsexual performers. More than the changing of sets and the sets themselves, what was fascinating was the way the performers took your attention away while the set changed, right under your nose and yet you wouldn’t have noticed.

The next morning I did para-sailing, to tick it off on my list of 30 things to do before I turn 30! And the best part, so did my father! And other people who accompanied us on the trip! And then we reached Coral Islands. Beautiful they were, clear sky, green islands, white sands, crystal clear waters. Except for the occasional sound of the motor boat, the atmosphere seemed natural. It was touristy enough, yet natural. We just lazed on the sands till our speed boat took us back to the hotel and to Nungnooch garden with dancing elephants and then back to Bangkok.

All we got to see in Bangkok were two temples but astonishing they were. It was not just the main idols of the huge Reclining Buddha (that reminded my dad of the lying pose of Vishnu)

or the Golden Buddha under the serpent hood (that again reminded my dad of Vishnu and his Adisesha).

The temple exterior, the temple decorations, the sculptures, the external idols, all of it was just amazing, even too much to soak in. A couple of things that caught my eye: a dragon snake thingy, the Chinese roofs of course, and a line of Buddha statues painted with gold. Breathtakingly beautiful! If I traveled to Thailand alone, I probably would have spent days hopping from one temple to another.

We also went on a river cruise, though there was nothing much to see except a few bridges that refused to succumb to my camera in the night because of their gaudy lights, the speed of the boat and the gaudier lights of the boat.

It was a pleasant trip as we took from Bangkok to land in Kolkata and like I mentioned, the best part is always the climax.

Malaysia, err, Truly Asia

It sort of comprises of the most boring part of the trip (the best is always the climax). There is a bridge that connects the two countries and the bridge being no-man’s-land.

The first place we were taken to were the highest limestone caves in the world, with stalactites and stalagmites all around and a temple inside and a huge Kartikeyan idol outside. And then we went to Genting Highlands.

To reach Genting Highlands we take a rope way for 3 kms. Pretty Cool. And then it’s an amusement park, indoor and outdoor and a Casino. So the outdoor was more fun than the indoor, ye the ‘thrill’ rides didn’t really scare it, except may be one called the cyclone or something. But that was a little feeling of scare that thrilled me only a little. But the best part of Genting Highlands and its amusement park was the 4D Motion show about some Pirates. It was awesome. I loved it.

And then we went to Kuala Lumpur. We saw some monuments, a cricket field called the Independence Square, went up (just) 41 floors to the bridge between the Petronas twin towers, came down, when to Putrajaya the new capital with all its manmade lakes where we had a huge mug of real good tea and some annoying bridges each in a different style, one Sydney types, one paris types, etc and then the next day we went up the tower to get a better view of the city.

And then headed out of Malaysia


In Chennai we caught a flight to Singapore, my mother’s first international trip. And then we headed out to see the city of Singapore. We drove around the city here and there looking at building and other building like buildings and then we went to China Town. Cute it was to see an eastern China Town. It was more authentic and had a lot more lamps than in the west. Later we went on a trip down the river looking at the lovely bridges, Clark Quay and the tiny eating places on the river bank that reminded a little of Camden Town (London).

The next day we headed out to the Jurong Bird Park. I was absolutely amazed to see the bird show, thrilled like a child. I loved the penguins and the flamingoes and had a fun time at the cage where bird climb on to you. Next stop was Sentosa.

I heard a lot about it but was not really impressed. First we went to the Merlion which I thought would have a wonderful myth. Sadly, it was a rather stupid story. Singapore decided it needed a symbol and paid respects to the Lion from where it derived its name (some kind was a cub when he found the island) and to the sea for having sustained the business at the ports and thus was formed the Merlion. Really! No story about spotting a lion that could swim or a fish that looked like a lion or whatever that gave rise to a mythical creature that protects the island, like the Lochness Monster ? Very disappointed.

After that we went up a space something tower or something from where we get a good view and then we went to the Underwater Oceanarium. The first thing I was an octopus in a little little space, the size of the boxes that Paul would choose. I wondered how its eight tentacles squeezed into that little space. But apart from that the Oceanarium was fascinating. It had such atiny fish that you had look through a magnifying glass. It had lovely jelly fish. It had a small tank where you could touch the fish. It had tank where you could feed the fish. It had the tube like aquarium where you feel like you are in the aquarium. And the best thing, Stingray! All kinds of them and I love them.

The day ended wonderfully though, with the “Song of the Sea” performance that was lovely. The best part I liked was when the water gives you the effect of lava and there are bursts of fire everywhere. That was the best part because if you minus that, Shaastra Laser Show was way more enchanting with the mist and the laser light right above your head.

Oh! And did I mention we are all to shop at Mustafa! Really!

Then we head out to Malaysia.

Vacation, After a Long Time

I can’t remember the last time I took a vacation. Sure, I did have fun in New York when I went to study in Boston and traveled to Ediburgh when I went to work in London. But I am talking about a real vacation, like those during summer holidays when you have free time and you travel with family and see you places or when you catch with your relatives and spend weeks together and have no connection to the outside world except say once in three days or something.

On the night of Holi, I took off on a tiny little Jet Konnect to Chennai for a two week long trip that included three countries and was planned to end very eventfully (it did) with my parents on my last eligible vacation my dad could take me on. Aboard the flight, the non-Indian pilot Ryan was kind enough to point it out to everyone that to our left, the moon was rising in the horizon. It was the biggest, brightest, rounded, rising yellow moon I have ever seen, crystal clear through the heavenly skies. But they do say that about Holi, that is it the brightest full moon of the year.

Image courtesy: (sadly, I didn't have my camera)

Now what follows is a series of blogposts about the trip. Oh, and All Hail SBI!