I have opinions. Like it or not.

Posts tagged ‘reflections’

Alai Osai

I just finished reading my very first Tamil novel, Kalki’s Alai Osai. I have never read a full fledged Tamil book before; my reading of the language was limited to reading those bit-jokes in Ananda Vikatan. And now I realize everything I have missed out on all these years.

Kalki’s Alai Osai is an exquisite creation. A magnificent work of art that has no parallels, no comparison, that is quite unlike anything ever written. The free flowing language, the beautiful descriptions of pre-independence India, the little villages of Rajampettai and Devapattinam – all bring forth the magic of the simpler life. And yet set against the stark backdrop of the British Raj, they drive home a harsh truth – one that spanned a  100 year long freedom struggle, causing the deaths of thousands of innocent people who voluntarily or by circumstance laid down their lives to usher in India’s freedom.

Kalki’s characters are sketched with such clarity, that it is difficult to believe that what you are reading is mere fiction. At no point are you made to think that one particular character is good or bad. Everyone has shades of gray and they all make decisions that are only as sensible as the situation permits. Seeta’s vivaciousness, Dharini’s surreal grace, Lalita’s all-too-simple devotion to her friend, Raghavan’s monstrous desires and Surya’s ever steady ideals – all make for a collage of very distinctive and memorable characters that won’t leave your thoughts for a very long time.

Kalki brings alive the cruel reality of human nature, one thought, one action of ours that affects the lives of everyone around us and those of our future generations.  He makes you realize that no matter how noble one’s intentions, the repercussions of one impulsive act can be catastrophic enough to haunt them for the rest of their lives. He depicts the contrasts in his characters by embellishing their similarities. He takes you on a sepia-tinted journey to the far-flung corners of the country, starting from a tiny village post office to the vast streets of Mumbai to the banks of the Hoogly in Kolkata to the buzz of activity in Karachi, all the while making you aware of the unrest in the country and its eventual culmination in the barbaric riots of ’47 and the subsequent partition.

As a story teller he remains completely neutral throughout and never allows his personal opinions to jade the narrative. Hence the events of the time remain in the background, affecting the protagonists but never trying to send out a social message of any sort. He also remains extraordinarily detached from his characters, never once lapsing into pathos-evoking descriptions of Seeta’s hardships. He just narrates. You decide your feelings for her based on what he has told you. He builds up the narrative with such ease and class that before you know it, you are possessed by an insurmountable curiosity to know the climax which is sure to leave you shattered and numb. Not because it comes as a surprise to you, but because you realize how futile it all is. And how realizing your mistakes may just not be enough, and if even a little late in coming, may be too late to really do anything about.

I cannot help falling in love with the book over and over again, with every chapter, with very line. It is indeed a pity that a writer of his caliber is not recognized anywhere outside Tamil Nadu.


Sunday Evening Musings

Cary Brothers playing in the background, you have a weird sense of expectation intermingled with a sense of self doubt. You wonder if this was worth the wait. The frustration, the anger, the surrender. And then the resurrection. At what cost? To spend these lonely cold evenings alone? You read, you listen, you write. But nothing seems to fill the emptiness that threatens to consume you. You check the watch every so often, hoping, praying that it’s time to sleep. The clock seems stuck at 8.33. And what will sleep bring? You know you will sleep, eventually, because your body will overpower your thought. Which is what the purpose was anyway.

But while you wait for that to happen, you have no choice but to live with your thoughts. Thoughts that seem to be all around you, in your head, out of your body, ricocheting off the silent walls, creeping into your brain and draining you of any semblance of hope or happiness you might have left. You wonder why it has to be this hard. Why, after all these months of struggling to get here, now that you have it you wish you didn’t. You wish you had something better. Human nature. Never ceases to surprise you.

The clock is at 8.42 now. You are surprised that it took you this long to type out the few sentences above, even though your mind is flooding with thoughts. The pain, the longing, the solitude: how do you express what they are doing to you? How do you explain why it is that you made this particular choice? Does the alternative seem more appealing now? Certainly not. Logically it follows that you chose well. Then why is it leaving you feeling this lousy?

You pick up the phone. You want to call the one person you know will make you feel better. And yet you don’t. Because calling him will only serve to emphatically drive home what you already know.

It’s 10 minutes off 9. You decide to get something to eat because you need your body functioning normally if you want to get through this week. And then the phone rings. You smile. Because, after all, you wouldn’t have this feeling of pleasure and hope, of the joy of your next meeting if you hadn’t chosen this path.


I just got back from a 2 day road trip and man, does it feel amazing!

I love driving. And driving on the interstate at 70 80 mph is a feeling I don’t think I can get anywhere else. It’s a feeling of calm and a rush of adrenaline both at the same time. It’s exhilarating.

The thing about the US is that they have these amazing resources, and they have maintained them exceedingly well. All through the trip I couldn’t help thinking how beautiful Connecticut is, and how gorgeous it would look in the fall. I couldn’t help admiring the spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline from the George Washington Bridge (the bridge is so congested you can actually take a few minutes off to sight-see). I couldn’t help gazing in wonder at the incredible view all along Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Also, they have rest stops every few miles, so that even if you miss one the next one isn’t too far away. You wouldn’t believe how cramped your legs and back can get if you don’t rest every couple of hours. I tried it on the return trip and I paid for it dearly. Also, NEVER trust the GPS. Stupid thing is so stubborn, it won’t listen to me even though I’m telling it that I see signs that tell me to take a simpler, less congested route. But no, I’m in love with the blasted GWB, I have sworn to make you rot in hell and you will take the bleddy route I ask you to take. And I’m the king of the world.

Anyhoo, I also saw some horrible accidents on the way. One actually had traffic held up for 15 miles along the interstate. I actually felt like rolling down my window and sticking my thumb out at the people waiting in the jam and wiggling it to the tune of na-nana-naa-na. Ha. Evil me.

Also, the amount of roadkill that happens on these roads is unbelievable. The sheer number of animal carcasses I saw is mind-boggling. Shouldn’t they do something about it? But I guess they can’t cage or curb them because most of them come wandering from nearby natural preserves. Yet, one’s heart goes out to them.

All in all, a wonderful trip and I can’t wait to get back on the road again. Texas, here I come!

I dream

… of the world still beautiful, untarnished by the sins perpetrated by man.

… of possessing total and complete knowledge of something – anything.

… of sleep – blissful, peaceful, dreamless sleep.

… of capturing and permanently embedding in my mind the beauty in mundane things.

… of walking along the beach, feeling the wind in my hair, the water lapping at my feet.

… of curling up and going to sleep in my mother’s lap.

… of being able to relieve the pain I see in someone’s eyes.

… of playing in the rain, not a worry on my mind, not a sorrow in my heart.

… of establishing my existence as something to be reckoned with.

… of a love all-encompassing, pure and unrestrained.

… of a reason to live everyday like it’s my last day.

My experience with Jodhaa Akbar

Disclaimer: This is NOT a movie review.

We went to watch the movie last night. It’s a beautiful movie, everyone MUST watch it in the theater, because of the grand scale that the movie is in. I’m not talking Sanjay Leela Bhansali, but it’s still worth a watch in the theater. Admittedly, Ashutosh Gowariker needs some 101 lessons in editing, but overall, I liked and enjoyed the movie because it is so very different from the usual trash that Bollywood churns out every week. It’s a sensitive and intelligently made movie, placing emphasis on Jalal’s impulsive-innocent character (played to perfection by Hrithik Roshan) and Jodhaa’s courageous nature (only Aishwarya can execute those looks-of-burning-hatred scenes) and wins one’s heart. Of course, the last half an hour was completely pointless, and all he had to do was get rid of the silly conquering Hindustan and treachery sequences and he would have had a winner on his hands. But you cannot make a period film and get away without showing any war/dueling sequences, so that can be put away as giving in to commercial demands.

My main issue with yesterday’s movie is that I wish people would watch movies with a more open outlook. I went there in a gang of about 7 people, and save 2 (one of them being me) none of them seemed to get the point of the movie. They just sat there and made fun of the language, the costumes, the location, just about everything that made the movie enjoyable. They laughed throughout the movie and made contrived jokes that weren’t even funny. If the same movie had been made in Hollywood, they would have shut their traps and not said a word throughout the movie. Why is it that they cannot accept that a period film made in India, can actually have some class?

They all claim to be intelligent people, but nothing from their behavior last night displayed any of the so-called smartness that they so proudly seem to have on display all the time. Why is it that when a sequence shows Akbar’s impulsive, carried-away-by-the-moment nature by showing him (royalty) to be dancing amongst the khwajas, my friends cannot understand the implication and make fun of the scene as being pointless and irrelevant? Does everything have to be laid out clearly? And yet they claim that their intelligence was insulted when in another sequence something simple was explicitly mentioned for the masses to understand?

And it wasn’t even just the movie. We went to have dinner afterwards and people had issues with the food too. I mean, being able to get Indian food in an alien country is a big deal and here people have problems. They kept complaining that the food sucked and how it was so much better at another place, simply ruining my appetite right when we started. I personally would never complain about food, unless it was simply abominable. I would never curse food as being f***al because it is food, and you are about to eat it. It may have been better someplace else, their mom would obviously have made it better, there may be tomato puree in there, but it would do everyone some good if they just learned to shut their mouths and keep such strong opinions about anything to themselves, especially when they’re in a group and others may have different opinions about the food and/or the food may really not have been as bad as they made it out to be, but just because of their constant complaining everyone else started believing it was bad too.

I think it has everything to do with attitude and learning about public decorum. People really need to learn not to voice their opinions about every single thing that they may or may not like. There may be people like me, who wouldn’t want to pick an argument in public, but would be affected by others’ opinions nonetheless. They need to take care that the company they are in may not like that they have problems with everything. They need to have an open outlook towards anything that they may be trying, be it food, watching a movie, anything. And if they still have a bad opinion about something, they should refrain from complaining all the time, and let others have their peace. If everyone learned a little bit about social behavior, such outings could be so much more enjoyable.

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.. you don’t realize the value of things when they’re with you. When they move away, you feel a void. All my friends have gone to India this winter break. I languish alone. Sucks. Bah.

And to all you Santa-lovin’, Christmas adorin’, presents hoggin’ beacons of boisterous merrymaking, Happy Holidays!