Arike

Image

Just watched the malayalam movie Arike (So Close) by Shyamaprasad.

Now I’ve not been a fan of Shyamaprasad’s previous endeavours. I’ve always felt that while he does have his heart in the right place and knows how to weave in humor in unexpected ways, his movies often skim the surface of what he really wants the viewer to feel – thereby missing the point completely.

Arike however, is good. Languid and unhurried, a summer afternoon movie that let’s you soak in lives that could be just about anywhere in the world, and yet resonate with you. There’s no overt attempt to benefit from the Kerala/Malayalee background (script is based on a bengali short story) and that’s (for me) a huge plus.

There are subtle hints about relationships that are mostly just a scene and a few words: a father whose expectations from his daughter and obsession with fatality narrows down to a man who lives with the fear of having almost lost his raison d’etre: his wife; a guruji who’s compassion towards a beautiful child reflects in his outpouring of joy in her presence – there’s a message there – true spirituality is unconditional love; an indulgent mother who hasn’t been able to make her daughter grow beyond frivolousness perhaps because she is guilty of the same; a boy who feeds on perceived weakness of those around him using them as a channel for his anger at being deprived…

In most movies, not devoting enough time and space to develop the ethos of the characters often makes them seem hollow and unnecessary in the script. In Arike, Shyamaprasad manages to avert the danger smartly, without spending reel and air-time. I would put it to his skill as a director in extracting unspoken words out of the actors and using their body language to the maximum – works beautifully here.

This is not a review btw, and is just my appreciation of the movie, so I won’t belabor on the plot per se. Mamta Mohandas stands tall in her role – strength in softness devoid of feminity. It’s something I didn’t think could be shown on screen, but she does it and how. Muted and yet intense without needing either dialogue or action. There are scenes where she could just merge into the background and yet, the story flows through her. I’ll probably have to watch this movie again to see how that’s done.

There’s Dileep and he proves my belief yet again that he’s an actor who can rise above the crass and comic when he needs to. He’s almost feminine energy in this movie – in movement, words and emotions. The scene where he realizes that the woman he loved chose not to be with him – there’s denial, trauma, a hint of anger, helplessness, and finally a revelation w.r.t what she & her friend meant to him – all in a few minutes. I watched that scene closely because that is something that could easily suffer from a casual treatment and emerge dramatic or worse insensitive – no dialogue can really convey the intensity of the loss if the character was really in love. But here again, the cleverness of the director and the actor scores.

Samvritha: in this movie she’s like little silver bells; pretty, enamored by herself and the state of being in love, and obtuse about everyone else. As a character, there is intentionally nothing that draws you to her – she’s eye candy and that’s it. Maybe there would have been merit in exploring just why she changes her mind at the end, but I don’t grudge Shyamaprasad for his slightly meager treatment of this considering the rest.

Having spoken about everyone else and everything else in the movie, I come to the one reason why I’m writing this post first of all. Vineeth and his cameo. The cameo is crucial only to divulge why Mamta’s character is what she is and even with the first hint of his presence, one could easily guess what follows. But Vineeth bursts through the screen with a presence that is at once magnetic and repelling, and is riveting in the process.

I’m just marveling at how he managed to nail it like this with the brief that he got. Here emerges a man for whom no one else exists in the world but he. And yet, he manages to reach out and make the person next to him feel glorified. You know exactly what he is upto and Mamta’s character, sitting next to him – you know she knows to say no if she wants to, but she doesn’t. His occasional sighs, the shower of abrupt laughter, the inappropriate casualness, breaching personal boundaries without a flicker of worry, and throughout it all, conveying that his lust is the most natural thing in the world. There’s a dialogue that, when loosely translated, is him telling her “I want to make love to you”. It’s said with so much ease that the implication doesn’t even register in the consciousness. Because it just seems right that a man would want to appreciate a woman of beauty and flawlessness with all the love in the world!

Gautham Menon needs to take a page out of Shyamaprasad’s diary on how it’s not enough to have these words in the script for the shock-value but to express it’s real worth 🙂 (remember Vinnaithandi Varuvaya?)

For me, Vineeth is really the pick of the movie. And as a movie that explores with honesty several facets of love and lust, and makes no attempt to be complicated in the process – I really enjoyed Arike.

Kudos, Shyamaprasad!

Happy 2013

It’s a *brand new* New Year, and how I love that feeling of being able to write a new number one fine day :).

For several reasons, 2012 has been a tough year for me, and at the end of it, the most profound realization I carry with me is that nothing in this world can bring me as much happiness as being with and Being ME.

It’s what Kareena says in Jab We Met.

“Main apni Favorite Hoon”

It’s a lovely line, right? :).

Everyone should be their own favorites. And if they aren’t, they should figure out how to get there. And do whatever it takes. After all, YOU’re the only person you spend every moment of your life with!

I’ve spent years on this journey, and it’s not easy. Every day is a new experience. There are new thoughts to distil, new discoveries about myself (not always pleasant :P), and choices to make – not necessarily with enough time to allow you to reflect and choose. And then there are consequences.

As 2012 comes to a close, I realize that there are a few realizations that have helped me make peace with this process and move forward:
~ Negative emotions – fear, anger, sorrow, guilt, regret, helplessness – can make you experience a lesser person than you really are, but can never make you that.
~ Patience is not a virtue, it is a muscle. Exercise it intentionally, and keep it supple. When all fails, patience and the knowledge that time erodes even the biggest mountains – that’s what is going to keep you ticking.
~ Change – yours, and of others – is always voluntary. There is merit in trying to attempt change and being a trigger for change, but… BUT… You need to know when to try, and you need to know when to stop.
~ In the midst of all the evolution and choices and complications of life – it helps to maintain a stock of a few key aspects about yourself that you consider as the Essence of You. Could be anything… something you consider a core value that you live by, or maybe something about yourself that gives you a high… as long as it is what identifies you to you. Every once in a while, take out one of those aspects, have a good long ponder over it, mentally polishing and lovingly going over the feeling of that as you. If it is possible, find new ways to explore the aspect and to engage the energies that it generates inside of you.

I did something such, a few days ago as I was trying out (yet. another. social. networking. platform.) Pinterest. It occurred to me that creating a Board was a fun way to explore and unravel something that I consider an aspect of myself… and what better than a visual reminder?

An aspect of me (that I love) is my ability to evoke a sensual pleasure in everything in the world – touch, feel, sound, taste, see, breathe, and experience. (ahem, I also scored a 93% on the Sensuality test, so there. *cheeky grin*).

As I thought about topics for my board, there was a resonance when I thought “sensuality” and it took me a few hours to put together a board that was my kind – Here it is:

The process of searching for the right images and compiling this was great because it wasn’t just about being the Me that I know about, but about Remembering the me that I am.

The outcome was even better because I realize now that dormant energies that are awakened and directed towards your SELF – it reinforces you from within. And that, my friends, is Power.

So, on that powerful note, let me wish all of you a Wonderful Year of Self-Belief, Contentment, Discoveries and most of all, Happiness from being your own favorite :). Happy New Year!!!

2013

Holiday spirit

bg-red-wine-white

I recently realized that Christmas and New Year have this sneaky effect on me.

Despite my life’s-all-so-wonderful-yay pollyannaism, I turn an unbearable carper the moment someone expects me to participate in the Vishu/Onam/GaneshChaturthi/Dussehra/Diwali/KarvaChauth festivities in India. I hate the traditions with a vengeance, turn my nose at the merrymaking and incorrigible sweetness of it all, and sulk my way through most festival (holi-)days. Given a chance, I would rather lock myself in at home and work myself to exhaustion. (now isn’t that fun! ;))

But it’s odd that where all other festivals and religious occasions have failed miserably, Christmas and New Year have sort of been sneaking into my carefully-guarded stony mind and spreading holiday cheer. (Well, I’ll be damned!)

Ok, so it’s not that I run around in aprons baking Christmas pudding, putting up trees, and crooning Auld Lang Syne – the word was “sneak”, not conquer. But there IS a certain red holly, silver bells, gilt-paper-wrapped-presents, tall dark green tree and decorations affliction I carry around during the season… the insides of my heart sort of starts resembling this:

decorations

The onset of the disease was, if I remember right, in 2006. Bangalore is in general, a land of spirited people who, despite all their best intentions, hang out in large numbers in malls. (On a side note, yes, so the place doesn’t have a beach, the parks are for senior citizens or kids, and IT companies are … well, IT companies. So where else can your average-entertainment-seeking-Indian-stranded-in-the-IT-capital go for said entertainment, huh???).

Anyways, as I was saying, I spotted this around one of my regular chalo-Forum-chale days and I guess it jolted the avid-Enid Blyton & Chalet School reading kid inside me, triggering memories of magic and faraway lands and the comfort of freshly baked cakes inside warm homes in winter (not that I had actually the experience, I was just an imaginative child :)).

forum_christmas

The dormant memories would have withstood the jolt and sunk back into oblivion had I not stumbled onto this in 2007 (pls. forgive the poorly made video, I couldn’t find a better one online :()

The Rothenburg Christmas Museum (which is featured in the video above) in Germany is a Christmas decoration collector’s heaven… If balls in metallic shades and bells and snowflakes in glass, and wooden puppets and ornamental clocks et al is your thing, you can attain nirvana here.

I didn’t attain nirvana but I oohed and aahed and spent a magical few hours in the museum, believing that I had actually been transported to my childhood world of imagination

The Christmas decoration desire btw, doesn’t augur well for a pocket with a limited euro supply, and also for luggage that gets heaved across continents, so I couldn’t really give in to my heart’s content worth of decorations. Nevertheless, the last year I was in Germany, this below was where I yielded to temptation, courtesy which I have now in my home, a few pretty little reminders of my excesses 😉 :

DSC00010

A post with tidbits about Christmas in Europe would be incomplete without a mention of these fabulous Christmas markets. Just have a look at this picture and tell me if I’m wrong to be so besotted!

ChristmasMarket

I got a whiff of the Christmas market last year, and a permanent memory etched itself into my conscious: that of glühwein. Ah how ineffective words can be when narrating this experience … the sheer drama of being handed a piping-hot cup of sweet smelling red wine and having it slide down your cold-numbed lips and throat, dissolving you and your shivers into this delightful golden pool of warmth inside…

gluhwein  gluhwein2

… pure unadulterated contentment.

And if that didn’t do it for you, here’s another picture that will send your desires into riot – don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!

DSC00072

This my friends, is a crepe. Cranberry sauce, almonds, cranberries & raspberries, and vanilla icecream, and fluffy white cream, lovingly resting on its folded warm surface – a treat for sore eyes, minds and hearts. And yes, if you do want to know – I and my friend (2 plates above, yes?) DID scoop and scrape every last bit of it :).

So now that you’ve sampled a bit of what this dreadfully-sneaky season does to me, I’m off to bask in the glorious 20 degree winter in Bangalore, sample some sensuous red wine (…erm or maybe masala chai?), walk up and down the decorated aisles of Forum and the like, treat myself to some baked-specials & decorations to add to my collection, and feel all pretty and warm and festive inside.

(So much for festival-holiday-hating, hmph)

Happy New Year everybody!! 🙂

The murder of innocence

Sheetal pulled at her uncle’s hand as she watched her favorite cartoon channel. He was sitting on the bed, a few feet away from the TV, and holding her as she stood between his legs, swinging from side to side, and holding his hands and knees for support. All of 5 years, her eyes were transfixed on the screen as she watched keenly the antics of Tom and Jerry, her favorite characters.

So absorbed was she that she didn’t realize that her uncle was holding her still, and had nudged her closer to himself. As she watched the screen, she suddenly felt something. Something wierd. She looked down and saw his hands on her chest. They were rubbing her. She couldn’t understand the significance of the action and was puzzled, more so by the fact that it felt wierd. And wrong.

She took her eyes of the screen and looked back at his face. He smiled at her, and pointed to the screen and told her “Look! Look at what Tom is doing!”. The rubbing continued, and she began to think she wanted to go away. But she couldn’t move, being locked in by his strong, adult legs. She pulled at his hands, trying to pry them away. It didn’t work – she just felt the pressure of his hands further. She felt his body envelop her, and a whisper next to her ears “Don’t worry. Just stand. Nothing is wrong. Don’t tell anything to mummy. She’ll scold you”. And with that, the hands began to proceed lower.

Repulsed? Disconcerted? Angry?

Well, you can be one or more of those things, but you certainly can’t be in the shoes of Sheetal. You can’t feel what she felt as a child, and can’t understand the pain. You can’t understand what’s going through her mind, even as she grapples with coming to terms with something she cannot comprehend. The pain of trusting someone and having herself violated by that very someone. The pain of being unable to defend herself, or stop what was happening, because she was scared. And worried. And traumatized.

Fear. He taught her what it was to fear. He made her think that what he was doing was right. She needed to be afraid only because she was wrong. Wrong to not want it to happen. And she would be more wrong. If she spoke out. Because then, everyone would abandon her. And they, her family, would suffer.

Because it seemed like he could make them.

This is a true story; of not just one Sheetal but of several. Several little girl children who encounter one or more forms of abuse, every day. Abused by random strangers on the road. Abused by teachers, drivers, watchmen, guardians or friends. Abused by family. Abused by people who’re their very own – a parent or a brother.

Indeed, it isn’t even just girl children. Boys are abused too. The person, the age, the gender, the religion, the family, the economic and social background, the language, the country – nothing matters. Abuse happens each day, each second.

When adults get abused, they know instantly that they have been wronged, for no fault of theirs. They know they have a voice that’ll get heard. And a choice.

When children get abused, they have none of these. They can’t understand that they have been wronged. They can’t understand that they can speak about it to someone and they will be understood and protected. They can’t understand that they have a choice to be pulled out of their pain and trauma – and a choice to rebuild the fabric of trust that they had within them. A fabric that was ripped to shreds by an adult.

An adult. A psychopath. Some who took care to be funny, and nice, and understanding. For long enough to build a child’s trust. Someone who everybody in the household instinctively trusted. Someone who would be left alone with the child, without a thought. Someone who would wait for a defenseless moment to do the most despicable act: sexually abuse a child.

And then such children grow up. Dysfunctional. Untrusting. Overtly cautious. Promiscuous. Confused. Even demented.

More than 53% children report facing one or more forms of sexual abuse.

Are you one of those 53%? Or do you know of a child, who, unbeknownst to you, could end up being in that 53%?

If so, protect our children. Speak up against Child Abuse. Vouch to fight against those who murder a child’s innocence. And be aware. Aware that any moment, your belief in the trustworthiness of a person, can be destroyed the moment, he or she touches your child in a way that should never ever happen. Keep your eyes open, tell children what they need to know: that they have done nothing to deserve it if it happens, that you are there to fight for them, and that you will be able to handle it – and protect them, and all they need to do is to come and tell you.

* * * * *

This is a topic that’s very close to my heart and something I have wished to write upon for years – and for sure, this is not the last post on it. I have personally experienced abuse as a child, and I know several women – almost every other woman I know – have had one or more experiences of being fondled, or molested, or sexually abused as a child. April 2011 marks a month-long initiative by CSAAM – an effort by bloggers, parents and non-parents, to bring this topic to the fore, and spread awareness on it. The initiative has a presence on twitter – @CSAawareness – and Facebook

Several blogs have been written already, as part of the blogathon:

Monika Manchanda

Mad Momma

CSA Survivor Story

Recognize Child Sexual Abuse by Desi Girl

Let’s laud the effort of these bloggers to talk about a topic that hardly gets the attention it deserves.

At the same time, pls. remember to support, talk about it, educate ourselves, and others, so that the children of this world can get the protection they need. Do you have a voice? If so, please make it count!  (This post tells you how to participate)

A tale of two women

Update:
BlogJunta found this post worthy of an Editor’s Choice mention :). Here’s what they’ve graciously given me:

BlogJunta - An ode to the Blogosphere

Lakshmi, 34, is educated. The youngest of three children, she’s studied upto 10th (her family is poor, but her dad believed in educating all his children, and has managed to provide them with a basic education. As is the practice in their community, Lakshmi got married to her cousin when she was 15. Today, she has two kids, a girl aged 14 and a boy aged 9 – both are studying.

Lakshmi works for a living, as a cook, earning about Rs. 5000 per month. Her husband works at a factory, and earns the same. He gives her Rs. 1500 a month, for expenses at home (spending 2000 for himself, and giving his mother the rest) + her son’s education. He refuses to give her a rupee extra for the daughter because he never wanted the child in the first place – he says she’ll be nothing but a burden. When the daughter was 4 months old, he told Lakshmi he’d kill her. Lakshmi threatened to kill him if he did anything of the sort and he backed off. She’s managed to keep her daughter safe since then, but he refuses to look at or talk to the child – and objects to any of his money being used for bringing up the child.

He loves his son though and insisted that he be sent to an English medium school (even if the fees is prohibitive for a family with their kind of income). To cope with the home expenses (given that her husband’s contribution is meagre), Lakshmi is taking on as much work as possible. She gets up at 4 am, starts work at 5, and finishes at 9.30 pm, and sleeps at 11.00 (after finishing work at home).

This month hasn’t begun so well for her – as is with most months. Her employers pay her during the first few days of the month, and her husband’s been making life hell for her, for the past 10 days – since he’s been eyeing her salary. Today she has had yet another fight with him and has been crying, because he’s asking for more money, as dowry. For the past 19 years, he’s been accusing her and her family of cheating him out of what’s due to him and his family.

Lakshmi’s father isn’t alive, and her only brother doesn’t care enough to negotiate with her husband (or take action against him).

Her only solution? Put on a smile and continue to work every minute of the day – so that her children can go to school, and she is able to provide them with an education that can get them employment in the future. When asked about it, she says, “It’s ok. I and my children will survive. The only anger I have is with God.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Maya is turning 31 this year. She’s working in an MNC, and earning much more than guys of her age. Smart, confident and exceptional at what she does – she’s starting to become a subject of envy more than appreciation. She’s begun to see that there are unseen lines she’s not expected to cross, and though her rise to the current position has been meteoric, she’s beginning to think that the onward journey will need more than credentials, experience and capability. However, despite recent run-ins with bosses, she’s willing to try as hard as possible, and navigate around the prejudices – she’s worked hard on her career, and she can’t afford to give it up all now.

At home, Maya has an entirely different terrain to navigate. Her parents are beginning to fret about her marital status and she sees the worry writ large on her mother’s face, day after day. Maya had her chance at 25, to marry a guy she really liked, and who loved her for what she was. But her parents objected to him, and even threatened her with dire consequences. They argued that they could never face their relatives/friends, and would die of shame, if their Brahmin daughter married a non-Brahmin from a different state. Eventually, she decided to concentrate on her job, and let them look for someone “appropriate” once she was truly over him.

That was 3 years ago. After that, its been an endless ordeal: of horoscope-matching, being visited by prospective groom’s parents, sisters or relatives, getting dressed and being subjected to the same questions over and over again, talking to guys on the phone, to even meeting them more than once, so that they could “get to know her better”.

Some of the initial proposals didn’t go through because she thought she wanted to make sure she was marrying someone she could visualize spending the rest of her life with – and the guys she was meeting didn’t fit the bill. However, soon after, the issues weren’t from her side anymore. Her darker skin met with various frowns, and often, mothers or aunts would ask her mother openly whether she was “white” or “wheatish”. Then, they had a problem with her age. “Why exactly is she single even now?”. And then, it was her career. “Will she adjust to my son’s timings, and accompany him in case he travels to a different country? We don’t want a career-oriented girl for him”. The last straw was “At this age, will she conceive?”

Maya has been mulling on a decision for a month now. She’s had it with the emotional abuse and trauma of each visit from a prospective groom’s side (and the corny/wierd guys she gets to meet after surviving such onslaughts) – and she’s beginning to think her mother’s health is degrading because of the intense worry she carries.

She’s going to ask her parents to stop looking for a partner for her. She’s convinced that she’s destined to be single – after all, if you can’t find a companion to share your life, it’s better to be single and independent, right?

Right. She just wishes though, that this thought doesn’t make her feel like her insides were crumbling.

* * * * * * * * * *
P.S. “Women’s Day” is day after tomorrow. While newspapers and tv shows are all waxing eloquent on the topic, I was contemplating a blog – after all, there are things that need to be said, right?
But today, I came across these two stories (these are people I know – names have been changed though), and realized that this is all that needs to be written about.

Dreams that come true

Have you ever had dreams – and I mean, aspirations here – come true?

Have you been passionate about something so much, that there wasn’t anything that could come in your way of getting it?

Have you achieved this something and felt – not exhilaration – but a strange sense of calm and satisfaction at the thought that it’s all worked out to be how you’d imagined it?

Well, I have.

TWELVE years after having first read about it and having a glimmer of a desire appear in my heart – I’m finally finishing PGSEM from IIMB.

* * * * *

If you ask me, I don’t still know what about it appealed to me – that one morning in 1999, as I sat reading in The Indian Express, Cochin, about a new course offered by IIMB for software professionals.

Perhaps, it was the thought that it was management for “software” industry people – and I fancied myself to be always a mix of both. Perhaps because it was from IIM, in Bangalore – the only IIM, I thought was ever worth studying in. Perhaps because it was a part-time course, and I knew I was *aching* to work after graduation, so I would never opt for a full-time course.

Whatever it was, it was a dream. And dreams do comes true, I realize.

Poetically ;), I would say that the universe conspired to bring it all to a reality. I landed up in Bangalore for my first job, I found that though I loved working in the industry, I still sustained my desire for the MBA experience. My parents for their part, thought I was loony :-). (Sample this: Why, just why, would you want to spend the first 3 years of marriage – supposed to be the best years in a relationship – putting yourself and said spouse, in intense pressure? Do you even realize you’ll have to spend ALL your weekends for THREE years, attending lectures in college? How would you handle work – esp. because you have to spend half a day on Fridays, IN class – and then spend the rest of your week worrying about what you’re supposed to do on Friday and Saturday? What about the travel that you’re supposed to do as part of your work ? And last but not least – just HOW are you going to be able to come to Kerala or go for any trips?). Can’t blame them, yes?

However, as all parents are – they did end with that one line: “If it matters to you so much, well, best of luck”. And for my luck, I passed the exam, and the interview, and got a call in 2008.

The past 3 years has been incredible – looking back, an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Nothing that I imagined about it would come close to what it was really like though. PGSEM has always been about the extremes – as every PGSEM-er will vouch: Intense pleasure and intense pain :D. But above all, for me, it’s been a journey – a  re-discovery of myself.

* * * * *

Very soon, there will be a moment, where my past and future will converge: A moment when a thought that was born 12 years ago will come face to face with its realization: the day that I get my graduation certificate – a piece of paper, that will be a testimonal for the learning, the effort, the friends made, and the time spent over the last 3 years.

*My* universe will be smiling at that moment :).

Dreams do come true, Corolla, United States
Source: TravelPod

Poetic Musings

[Prologue: Pls. don’t take the “poetic” part of the title literally. The serious-champions-of-poetry may take it as sacrilege that I dared to declare it this way ;). This is for now, just one of my inspiration-driven-attempts, and something to commemorate today.]

Wordless Music

She sat under the boughs of the tree,
unmoving, almost merging into the landscape.
Poring over a book, absorbing it in,
oblivious of the attention she had captured.

He watched her with guilelessness.
If he had asked himself what arrested his glance,
he would have casually tossed aside the question.
It was nothing, of course. He just knew that he wanted to watch.

She flipped the pages of the book carefully,
almost with a kind of reverence.
He watched as her finger traced the edges of the page,
and wondered how that page felt.

She shifted the position she had been in,
unwrapping her legs from beneath her,
wincing as the pins and needles bored into her,
as she arched out against the tree.

With amusement he wondered why
he perceived music in her movement.
Why he wanted to lend a hand, and pull her into his space.
Experience the melody that was woven around her body.

He was reminded of his violin, and
the strain of its strings against his finger tips.
In his ear, he heard those notes; the divinity that was them.
It was a song that described her. The song that she was.

The unheard strains of the music in his mind
reached her ears, or so it seemed.
For she looked up with a start,
and for a moment, he felt her eyes bore right into his soul.

Time stopped still for him,
as his eyes longingly explored the vision that was her face.
Words no longer told him what he felt. There was only the want.
To freeze in time, and never stop looking at her.

What seemed like eternity, was but an instant,
and she had only glanced at him.
Her eyes returned to the pages that had occupied her thoughts.
The pages that he now longed to be.

* * *

This could have been prose, but is a poem.

And oh, what’s today, you ask?

My birthday!! :).