Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Indian, 601, is now closed.

[ mood :: Nostalgic and Happy! ]
[ music :: None ]

I am closing this blog. I suddenly realized that while I continue to publish at Indian, 601, I do not work at anything related to 601 anymore! (I started this blog when I went to work at 601, Brannan St, San Francisco, the head office of my former workplace.)

Its time to move on.

This is a good time to thank all the people that have helped me write and think. The list is too numerous to put down here; thank you all. I would specifically like to thank:

Joydeep Mitra, for introducing me to the possibilities of the internet, sometime in 1999. (Its been so long!)
Subhash Rai, for introducing me to blogging, September, 2001.
Curt Hopkins, for helping me keep my faith in blogging, November 2004.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Saint, or, A dead fish sea-smell hung around the harbor.

[ mood :: Nostalgic ]
[ music :: None ]

Information bureau had issued advanced warning about the Saint. He had the bad finger, said Bureau, the sort of finger that picks up the brush to draw an angel- and draws a nude woman instead. Thus forewarned, I did the only sensible thing left to do. I threw caution to the wind and approached the Saint unarmed, offering an olive branch and a string of rules.

And the Saint accepted.

For the Saint was broken. Ever since he first saw his pheromone bubbles glistening in the sun (as opposed to them blowing about in the wind), the Saint had pledged his life to the worship of an angel. A very definitive angel. But then the angel fell fell fell oh she fell through centuries of black holes, and oh his dratted luck she rebirthed as Liv Tyler. Distant, bitten lipped, smiling only for le Signor Bertolucci.

Completely broken, the Saint drew reams of Liv Tylers. His pheromone bubbles had nearly all burst. Slivers of thin pheromone flapped (and blew, as eyewitnesses have later documented) about in the wind, holding on to cobwebs, twigs, the spacebar, for dear life.

"I hate the post industrial fetish for space," thundered the Saint in his white room. "I want closeness, claustrophobia, death by asphyxiation in a crowd with my angel, angel, closeness, death." And he broke the long spacebar with his fist.

Needless to say, the inevitable happened. The non-Livings, ie, the mere girls in this world, were encouraged by the promises of asphyxiation. And meekly they offered to the Saint the three fundamental bases of life: money, vodka, and flesh.

But the Saint was androgynous to their offers.

"Too much stink," he explained.
"Yeh," I said. I loved space and hated vodka.
"No, really," said the Saint, "Really. The non-Livings, they do not use le deodorant."

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Blame Game

[ mood :: Giggly ]
[ music :: None ]

Aradhana and Alessandra have come up with a simple rule that can be applied irrespective of situations- Blame it on Swati. It has made our lives much simpler. Instead of spending time and conscientious thought on who to put the blame on, they can now simply put it on me, and be at peace and go about their work. My life has become simpler too; my roles in life have been slashed by a score. I have been reduced to (or elevated to, as most people think of it) a sort of a bumbling goddess who has enormous powers, but who just can't get it right.

Try it once. I am sure you will find this rule quite handy. Here are some of the situations we have applied it successfully to, till now:

"The grocer has sent up the wrong kind of sugar."
- "I am sure it was ordered by Swati."

"My husband is mixing up his time zones again."
- "And we know who it is to blame for, don't we, dear."

"Damn! I deleted the file!"
- "Ahem!"

"They've been building this bridge for over two years now!"
- "AHEM!!!!"

"Geological Survey says they failed to warn the people of Andaman about the impending tsunami."
- "They're very kind, but who are they trying to fool?"

Monday, February 28, 2005

Finding Neverland

[ mood :: Happy ]
[ music :: None ]

Though I am not as exhilarated as I was 72 hours ago, I am, nevertheless, exhilarated. This exhilaration can be attributed to many facts. The fact that my one month long vacation is over, and that it has been lovely. The fact that I am now at home. The fact that the poltergeist of overwork at my former workplace is finally dying out. That I have had girls' nights out by the pool again, listening to Suzanne Vega. That I have seen sixteen films in five days.

But I think I will attribute most of my exhilaration to Finding Neverland. I can do with some life affirmation every now and then. Despite its errors and omissions, Finding Neverland remains- for me- a film well made.

Everyone knows the story, I suppose. 1904, and James Barrie is an author, a little boy grown up, starved of love and recognition from a negligent mother. In turn, the child author neglects his wife (and no one neglects the lovely Radha Mitchell without the unfortunate but predictable results), preferring to befriend children instead. His special interest is Peter Llewelyn Davies, one of the four Llewelyn Davies children.

Peter inspires James to create Peter Pan. James has a crush on Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. The children call him Uncle Jim. Arthur Conan Doyle warns James that the world is calling him a womanizer and a paedophile. The next day, James turns up at the Llewelyn Davies doorstep dressed as a red indian.

Really, what can one do about Johnny Depp? How much attention to perfect that soft scottish accent? How much maturity to underact and yet leave a mark? It wasn't till the last quarter of the film that I realized: "Gosh! This man is supposedly the star of the film and I have been so busy seeing the film that I have neglected to watch his performance, specifically and individually. I must come back and watch it again, just for him."

Also, there are the four children (wrong number of children, there were five, and Margaret Henley, the inspiration for Wendy, should have been shown too) and the big Newfoundland dog. How nice children and dogs are. They are so direct. When, for example, they (children) say something like "I think I have left behind my jacket in your room" (Bill Murray, Lost in Translation), they do not mean something like, "I think I have left behind a piece of my heart in your room". When they say, "the dog is not a bear," they simply mean that the dog is a dog. And who doesn't know that dogs go wild with happiness by just being around children and childlike adults.

The children act very well too. The little girl who (over)acted in the recent Hindi film "Black" would do well to watch children actually act in Finding Neverland. Good films build in peaks and troughs- the drama interspersed with the everyday conversation, the hawk-eyed direction balanced with the freedom to improvize, the music followed by the silence. Finding Neverland achieves these peaks and troughs; Black merely manages a 2.5 hour peak.

Last, but very important, you can take your children to see Finding Neverland. And it is important that children see films. So- take the children, take friends and loved ones, and- enjoy!

(and no, they did NOT pay me to write this post!)

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Land slide

[ mood :: curious ]
[ music :: Billy Joel - Piano man ]

We climbed. The city fell behind, full of decorated women, crying children, and stiffly lipped men carrying the children around (we were festivating that day, you see). Heat was replaced by breeze. Big red blocks of laterite and granite and basalt looked us in the eye. There was dry grass, thorny limbed xerophytes, and unnaturally green grass manicured by the government. Awed by the rocks that looked like pigs and gods, laughing at the lovers sitting forlornly after a fight, ignoring the two old men that looked like the only original gay couple in the city, we made straight for the pergola on top.

It has a beautiful view, said the pirate. And I can show you where I work.

And it had a view. Surrounded by a perfect rim of civilization, we stood there ruminating over directions.

That’s east.

No silly, that’s not east. That’s the lake.

Yes, but its also east.

Does it matter?

For it didn’t matter. It all looked the same, whichever direction you looked. 360 degrees of under construction housing blocks. The people, it seemed, had discovered the perfect way of ensuring rooms with views- preserve nature in a roundness, and then rim it concentrically with circles of houses. It was brilliant. The people would always be in the upwardly mobile niche of being “away from the city”. Their guest rooms would have a brilliant view. The children of the people would always have a park where they’d collect grasshoppers for school projects. When twelve, the people’s children would carve the name of their first girl into the sides of menacing rocks. And if they wanted, they could gobble up the roundness of nature, and build inward concentrations of houses, with just one pillar of rock in the center.

And then the people’s wives worshipped the rock as god.

The workplace was powder-puff blue. And it was a sleek tall line, perfectly proportioned, breaking every asymmetry of the nature around it, breaking the theme of green and brown and red, a monstrous unnatural line that dominated everything for miles around and made nature look like an anomaly.

Whoever heard of blending into greatness. Stand out, if only in mediocrity. Who needed enlightened urban planning when all you were destroying were a mass of old dirty rocks. Who cared about beauty when there was the perfectly correct mantra of usability. Spew the mantra. Admire the view. Drill through the rock in the hills. Draw out the water in the lake. Take it easy. Don’t react.

And when the land slide comes, die.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Hammerstein and Kern/ Ol' Man River

[ mood:: sleepy ]
[ music:: Paul Robeson - Ol' Man River ]

Was it the Lord's love that made African races believe in Him so whole-heartedly, or was it the zeal of the missionaries in the cotton fields? Remember, these were just third, or fourth, generation blacks from Africa, so it must have been pretty difficult for them to trust a new religion, all of a sudden.

Or was it the majesty of vastness- the Mississippi? The voice of Paul Robeson? Just the pen of Hammerstein?

Dere's an ol' man called de Mississippi
Dat's de ol' man dat I'd like to be
What does he care if de world's got troubles
What does he care if de land ain't free

Ol' Man River
Dat Ol' Man River
He mus' know sumpin'
But don' say nuthin'
He jes' keeps rollin'
He keeps on rollin' along

He don' plant taters
He don' plant cotton
An' dem dat plants 'em
Is soon forgotten
But Ol' Man River
He jes' keeps rollin' along

You an' me, we sweat an' strain,
Body all achin' an racked wid pain
Tote dat barge, lif' dat bale
Git a little drunk, an' you land in jail

Ah gits weary
An' sick of tryin'
Ah'm tired of livin'
An' skeered of dyin'
But Ol' Man River
He jes' keeps rollin' along

Colored folks work on de Mississippi
Colored folks work while de white folks play
Pullin' dem boats from de dawn to sunset
Gittin' no rest till de Judgement Day

Don' look up an' don' look down
You don' dast make de white boss frown
Bend your knees an' bow your head
An' pull dat rope until yo' dead

Let me go 'way from de Mississippi
Let me go 'way from de white man boss
Show me dat stream called de river Jordan
Dat's de ol' stream dat I long to cross

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

[ mood:: Normal ]
[ music:: None ]

There was a boy called Christopher John Francis Boon. There was also a dog, called Wellington, but not for long, since he was killed in the first page. The police suspected Christopher of killing Wellington, since Christopher had taken the fork out of Wellington and was hugging him when they (the police) found them (Christopher and Wellington).

Chirstopher had Asperger’s Syndrome. Specialists refer to Asperger’s as “a dash of autism”.

There were many signs that Chirstopher had Asperger’s. First of all, he thought metaphors were lies. Similes were different. For example, a simile like, say, "his nose looked as if there were two mice hidden in his nostrils" is a truth, since it did really look like he had two mice hidden in his nostrils. But metaphors are lies because they say things like he is the apple of her eye and we laughed our socks off. These are lies. He wasn’t really an apple in her eye and though it is alright to laugh when you take off your socks, you have to do it with your hands, actually. This is the reason Christopher found his name confusing. It said Christopher but his mother said what it really meant was that he was kind and helpful.

His mother ran away but his daddy said his mother was dead. Actually, his mother ran away with Mr. Shears. Christopher wanted to find out who killed Wellington and an old lady in the neighborhood, Mrs. Alexander, told Christopher that his mother was sleeping with Mr. Shears.

Christopher found his mother’s letters in a shirt box, hidden in his father’s closet. His father had hidden the mail, as he had earleir said that Christopher’s mother was dead.

His father had also killed Wellington.

Then Christopher ran away. He took his pet rat, Toby, with him. He went to his mother. This was the first time Christopher traveled alone. He traveled by bus, rail, and tube.

Christopher was very clever. He knew about prime numbers and could make very big prime numbers in his head. He could read Greek. He knew about the Monty Hall Problem, Chain of Reasoning, The Hound of Baskervilles, Red Herring (which is a metaphor he liked, because Sherlock Holmes saw through a lot of red herrings), the case of the Cottingley Fairies, Conway’s Soldiers, etc.

He had a wonderful teacher called Siobhan. Siobhan tried to teach him smileys. But Christopher could understand only the sad, happy, and concentrating smileys. He did not understand other smileys. This is another fact that proves he had Asperger’s disease.

Ten other facts that prove Christopher had Asperger’s are:

1) Not talking to people for a long time
2) Not liking being touched
3) Screaming when I am angry or confused
4) Groaning
5) Not noticing that people are angry with me
6) Refusing to use my toothbrush if any one else has touched it
7) Saying things that other people think are rude
8) Doing stupid things
9) Getting cross when some one has moved the furniture
10) Not smiling

Many of us also do these things, but there is a difference between Christopher and us. He has Asperger’s Syndrome but we don’t.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Baby on the Bus

[ mood:: Amused ]
[ music:: Steve Nicks, Don Henley - Leather and Lace ]

Baby: Lathaa!!!!!!!! LathaAAA! Don’t go, Latha! Come back! Don’t leave me and go!
Mommy: Really dear. Stop it. One would think you’re not going to see Latha again.
Baby: La- THA!!!!!!!! LATHAA! Look at me! Look at me through the glass, Latha! Don’t go!
DJ Doll: Kaanta Lagaa…

Baby: Kaanta Lagaa! YES!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Mosquito

[ mood:: Giggly ]
[ music:: Chandra Bindoo - Ebhabeo Phire Asha Jai ]

Drat this mosquito. Whining whining whining near my ear. This ear this hand this ankle. I am waving a languorous this hand, but no- it wants more attention. As long as you don't kill it- it feels it needs more attention. As we say in Bengali- ishtupid!

As if it is more important than my sleep. What to do with this ishtupid mosquito, you tell me?

Now I am turning the other side, pulling the blanket snug, and covering my ear with the big fluffy pillow but no. It will also turn the other side and start the whining again. Making little little pricks on my palms and going ecstatic at the thought of taking my mind off my sleep. Really.

As if I will kill it! As if I will abandon my sleep and even sit up and blink! As if I will double-even touch its black stinky borrowed-blood-bloated self. Really, the self-love mosquitoes have!

Mosq, darling. Its called ignoring. I'm afraid you won't get more from me. I'll open the window and help you fly out- if you want- but the effort needed to kill you, I absolutely will not expend with.

And if you whine once more I'll put on the Good Night. Go catch death from some capitalistic mass poison.

Plays/ Chekhov

[ mood:: Bored ]
[ music:: Chandra Bindoo - Conductor ]

Chekhov is very pre-sold in Calcutta, especially Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard, the latter of which is produced every winter under the improbable name of “Blossoms! Oh the mango blossoms!”

I don’t like Chekhov but his plays are interesting.

At first reading, I failed to agree with Chekhov (and the theatre groups in Calcutta) that the plays were comedies. How can these four plays be comedies? The Sea Gull is the story of a young couple who follow the calling of their arts- each in their own way- and are disillusioned at the end. Uncle Vanya is the story of a man who has come to the end of his life and has nothing to show for it. In The Three Sisters, the lives of three young girls are at the crossroads. They are either forced to choose from the limited options available at the village, or go off to meet the unknown in the city. And The Cherry Orchard is the story of the inevitable but sad victory of the new over the old- only- you can’t help thinking that the old was better in so many ways.

None of these situations are comical- but then- the meaning of comedy is different in drama. Chekhov maintained that his works portray “life as it happens”- and what is life but a series of errors, miscalculations, and adventures that turn bland?

A grave illness patiently borne.

The plays are set just before the revolution- the whole countryside a mish mash of weary peasants, well meaning but clueless aristocracy, and a new moneyed proletariat at loggerhead with each other. (Really, one gets tired so, tired of reading about the same social setting. This is the only reason I prefer Gogol and his folk tales- social setting plays no part in these stories at all, and they are so refreshing.)

My favorite Chekhov play is The Sea Gull. It has great scope for stage decoration and lighting, and the play within the play is intense- something like a latter day Iris Murdoch.

I didn’t like The Cherry Orchard, but this maybe because of my dislike for the Calcutta theatre group that stages it year after year.