Monday, 27 May 2019

Of pre-adolescent gods and demi-gods!

Growing up, I used to collect posters/pictures of actors, Aamir Khan and Madhuri Dixit obsessively. I had claimed that I liked them and had a diverse assortment of pictures (sourced and cut from popular magazines, Filmfare and Women's Era, among some) of the two which had multiple poses/expressions and clothing. Thinking of those times in the present make me seem a tad foolish because a) I had never watched any film of the two, b) I could not claim why I had liked them enough to collect many pictures and c) I was/am not a fan material. No one had the courtesy to even ask me why I had gone on a steadfast mission of collecting the pictures except my mom who believed that idolising anyone except Jesus was a crime!

Well, I collected and proclaimed my love for them. Their films were released and I did not know much about them because we did not have a TV. My only knowledge of these actors were their songs which I heard while passing by the tea-shops which blared their latest top hits and my friends who had the fortune of watching TV and creating envy in the mind of the naive little girl who believed that TV was the gift reserved for only some lucky households.

My love for stars and celebrities extended to cricketers as well - Kapil Dev! I vaguely remember the wild winning of the World Cup in 1983 - I was 3 and we had no TV but I remember maybe because of the adults (my father, uncle, neighbour) discussing the matches or my father reading aloud from the newspaper - The Times of India (when it was still worth its salt and not reduced to TOIlet!). I had also developed a fondness for Vivian Richards, the charming West Indies erstwhile captain! I had followed the lives of these celebrities who I had liked and got to know of the various dalliances - all through people who discussed them!

Today when I think back, I wonder how this all could come about - Kapil Dev had huge bunny teeth and had a horrible voice - the Palmolive ka jawab nahi! effect. Then the Television entered our lives. The enchantment with these celebrities started to wane. I started discarding the picture-cuttings of Aamir Khan and Madhuri Dixit. I had grown past the pictures and started watching their films. I liked some and disliked many but never let go of the fact that I liked Aamir Khan; Madhuri had completely worn off my mind and whenever I see Kapil Dev and Vivian Richards, I cannot stop myself from exclaiming, "I used to like them. They were my favourites."

Today, while reading The Hindu's sports column, the toothy smile of Kapil Dev and him jubliantly holding the 1983 World Cup made me travel to the time when I was a three-year old who liked Kapil Dev and wanted to meet him some day!

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Manto is not for everyone


In one of the dialogues in Manto (2018), Saadat Hasan Manto, the writer reads aloud few lines after witnessing a horrific account of the Muslim-Hindu riots after Partition, to his friend whose family has been affected. The friend, morose and gloomy tells Manto, “For God’s sake, stop giving everything a literary spin. They are not characters from your story. They are my people. Living, breathing, real people.” 



Manto was an unknown writer to me until I picked up a copy of his short stories in Bangalore airport some years ago. I suspect that bookstores started stocking his works after Nandita Das announced her plans to make a film out of his life and stories some time in 2015-16. Being a fan of Nandita Das and anything she writes, speaks or ventures into, I was quite fascinated by the film without having read Manto.

Googling his name, I found that he belonged to the era of writers who wrote on Partition - a topic that has not much interested me. I think this is the problem of people like me who have not experienced any sort of war or the after-effects of war. I had always associated tales of partition to a topic that belonged to a time that was often dealt and finished with and something that piqued the research sensibilities of scholars who dissected and (over)analysed a time in history that was sure bloody but outdated.

How wrong I was! When I thought that nothing about partition that could shock me, Manto came breezing by rather shockingly.

His stories are not something that one could sip tea, sit by the window and turn page after page with a pleasant smile on the face. Manto is acquired taste. At first instance, I wondered, what is so great about Toba Tek Singh that everyone sings paens about! After all it's about some lunatics belonging to Pakistan and India. I regret that quick judgement, rather immature and premature one clouded by reading many stories of partition enough to be unmoved. Nevertheless, I completed reading all the sort stories in that book. Manto, like any intoxicant grows on you slowly until you can never rid your mind of his characters.


Then, I saw the film, thanks to Netflix after years of reading his short stories. I was moved beyond words - the stories seamlessly woven into the script pierces the heart and the sensibilities of the viewer. Toba Tek Singh was no longer just a story - it was the truth of India's most gruesome migration where homes, memories and kin were either lost or dead. Partition was no longer a mere event which happened ages before I was born. Toba Tek Singh was but one of the stories that belonged to a million. Manto was not a writer, he became a chronicler of lost lives and unwritten tales. If not for him, I would've lost the truth of Partition.

Sometimes films add body to the literary work and Das's Manto did exactly that to me. 

Friday, 15 March 2019

The driver gaze!

You've heard of the male gaze and perhaps even the female gaze, but have you experienced the driver's gaze. You would've at some point in your life. The gaze could be either out of admiration or out of anger+frustration but the latter seems to be the most common. I don't drive but I do observe drivers, especially my spouse and his various 'looks' if it could be called that way. His admiration gaze is reserved only when a Ferrari or a Jaguar zips past him but rest of the time, I leave it to you to guess/imagine.



But yes, the driver's gaze is something that all drivers do irrespective of their vehicle's status. I have tried interpreting a few:

The livid gaze: When one is right but the other is wrong, the right one does not indicate it except while gazing at the other driver with a look which if possible, would smoulder the other.

The frustration+livid gaze: When one is running late but the other driver is taking time to either restart after a green signal or does not move fast when the traffic jam is clearing.



The irritated but quickly turning civil gaze: Reserved for women-drivers. When a male is driving and the opposite vehicle is slow or turning on the wrong indicator, the male driver gets quite irritated but fearing backlash pretends to be civil.

The checking-out (could be male or female gaze) gaze: When drivers of any gender check out people on the road and make it seem quite obvious.

The triumphant gaze: When the driver succeeds in overtaking or securing a parking space when someone else is also eyeing the same.



There could be many more but I'm stopping here hoping that most drivers would nod in agreement to the driver's gaze!

Are you guilty?

Image courtesy: Internet

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The prasad and the Christian

Prasad is any offering made to the deity in the Hindu religion. Any festival or visit to the temple is incomplete without offering the god/goddess in question the choicest food, which of course would be later consumed by the people who offered the goodies to the god/goddess. Sometimes, the offerings are made in the temple and the prasad is distributed to the devotees present. Well, I wish it was as simple as that!



Now, Christianity has the concept of clean and unclean food - unclean foods include any food which has been offered to any idol or deity. This idea of unclean-ness forbids majority of Christians from partaking of the prasad which is kindly offered to them.

When I was growing up in Bombay (now Mumbai), we lived in a colony allotted to staff who worked for the Airports Authority. There were people belonging to different communities and food was also freely distributed. But there was a problem. My parents forbid us to touch any food item that was offered to gods and goddesses from other religions. Obviously we were protestant Christians. My parents were (and still are) quite rigid about anything to do with other gods/goddesses. We being children, we tagged along with our friends to every festivity which was organised by the colony. Ganesh Chaturti was always celebrated with great pomp and splendour. While the celebrations were fun, I used to hate the time when prasad was being distributed - I could neither run away nor eat the offering. I was always in a confused state and did not know how to tackle the issue at hand. I devised a way - I neither wanted to hurt the Hindu by refusing the prasad nor anger my parents by eating the prasad. So, I would receive the prasad and then throw it away into the nearest dust-bin. Such was my fear of god.

We grew up and then food was just food - be it prasad which was offered or biriyani which was shared. It took me a great deal to stop seeing the religious attachments with food. But today around me I see many Christian staff who point blank refuse the prasad. I start to scoff at them, but stop, thinking of my parents.

I still don't accept the prasad when my mother is with me. Luckily, I don't have to do anything because my mother refuses on 'our' behalf. 

Monday, 18 February 2019

Casually . . .

He wishes me 'Good morning'
And in the passing
while I respond to his greeting,
I see his eye on her breasts.
It lasts perhaps for three seconds
but the gentleman who wished me 'Good morning'
crumpled in my sight!


You were discussing Maya Angelou
we were discussing Feminism.
You mention, 'Ah! Feminism is a fad.'
Your Maya Angelou talk 
slips like the grains of sand on my hand.


Passionately, you speak for women's rights,
Your tone convincing
and body quivering.
At home you say,
"But cooking is the domain of women!"
Your talk IS definitely convincing!


I see you sizing up women,
that hungry look and pleasure of glee,
The next day, you are seated in the
Internal Complaints Committee,
discussing sexual harassment.
Irony died!

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Walking Backwards

Yes, you read that right! This post IS about walking backwards. Literally and not figuratively as we netizens are trained to look at every phrase that hovers in the radius of our vision. My passionate walks and jogs have always been in my Chennai's jogger's park which is located where I live. Today, after many years, I managed to walk and also jog for a bit. But then, I was itching to try out something that I have never done before. And voila! I tried walking backwards.

                                             Image result for walking backwards

It was not something that belonged to my comfort zone! Quite obvious. I was afraid that I would trip or perhaps a stone would come in my way and might twist my ankle. It was quite similar to the aspects of life that demand us out of the comfort zone. My life in 2018 and early 2019 is a mixed bag of challenges and situations that I have never remotely anticipated or experienced. I tried walking backwards for a while and then it seemed better. It got better with each step but not without a tiny bit of apprehension. I was also on the lookout for any joggers/walkers who I would scare or even stumble against. Well, I was turning behind from time to time -- a nice-looking guy was a bit startled but I decided to stall my experiment, happy that I had managed quite a bit without much ado.  It was indeed a nice sense of achievement.

I thought of all the motivational posts of Facebook and Instagram which nudges you to do at least one thing that scares you everyday. Well, I have just opened my account. I did not think that walking backwards would prove so much of a hassle when I first began but I must admit that the first step was quite scary and caused trepidation. And while I was writing this post, i also decided to check whether walking backwards has any benefit at all - and yes! it is indeed and Japanese folklore says that walking 100 steps backwards is equivalent to walking 1000 steps forward. I would like to walk longer backwards - and try moving forward with the challenge of making my steps steady.

                                              

Cheers to the new year and wish you many opportunities to step out of your comfort zone!

Image 2: Internet

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