Monday, August 28, 2006

“Haven’t we Met in Odessa?”

It probably began when, as a kid, I was reading the adventures of Jim Hawkins aboard the Hispaniola or of Fletcher on the Bounty, Edmund Dantes before he became the Count of Monte Cristo. Or perhaps even Ishmael fighting the God within, and the whale called Moby Dick. With each account, I was progressively smitten by the sea. As a kid it was probably just the sense of adventure, of time to be spent away from the prying eyes of parents, of sneaking out of bed at night, to explore, to hear the clink of gold coins in my pockets, to get lost and find myself.

Later, in my hormonal teens, I heard somewhere that a good way to see the world was as a passenger on a freighter. Pay for passage, and work to earn your meals. Going from one port to another- Rio De Janeiro, New York, Tangiers, Genoa, Naples, Rijeka, Port Said, Port Sudan, Aden, Karachi, Yokohoma, Frisco, Penang, Singapore, Djakarta and Hong Kong… hopping off one ship and waiting for another after I’ve had my fill of the port. Would love to use the line- “Haven’t we met in Odessa?” at some point of time, but for now “Didn’t we meet at Paris?” is probably the best I can manage.

There is something about the sea that plays games with me. At times making me run wild, and at times just ponderous. Thoughts racing or just sinking deep within. Arrows leading to nowhere, or perhaps, the deepest of revelations. No experience in this world comes close to be lying face up on the deck of a ship, late at night, with a clear sky above and infinity all around.
And of course nothing can match the seas in its fury either.

But I guess I have made a start. Or am about to. In about twenty days, I join sailing classes in Bombay and set sail from the Gateway. The monsoon is over, and the time I am told, is right. It is an ideal pastime for drifter like me.

In Mark Twain’s words, twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade wind in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.

Seaward Ho!!!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Tag Attack!

I have been tagged by Anu. So here goes:

I am thinking about...

Joining that sailing class, buying new shoes, now that the rains are almost over.

I said...

"I am going to be so late!"

I want to...

Say something mean. But then she's bigger than me, and holds a black belt in karate.

I wish...

I didn't have to work everyday

I hear...

Into other peoples' conversations, and file away religiously

I wonder...

If I'll ever take to driving

I regret...

Nothing for too long, or for that matter, too seriously

I am...

Like a river. I think. Sometimes meandering, mostly bubbly

I dance...

Best when alone

I sing...

Loudly, very loudly. Especially when drunk.

I cry...

Never really.

I am not always...

Easy to be around.

I make with my hand...

Doodles of swastikas, stars, cubes, cones, arrows to nowhere, and other assorted shapes

I write...

Mostly at work, between spreadsheets and presentations.

I confuse...

People for a living.

I need...

A swank hair-do (considering I won't have any left in a year or two)

I tag...

D&C, Shuchika

Friday, August 25, 2006

An Ordinary Rant

A few days back, on a rare occasion, I happened to be watching news on TV.

On a certain channel they carried a story, which made me believe that fact was really rarer than fiction. Six members of a family in Rajasthan were stranded in the middle of a flood-swollen river, when their car got washed off a bridge. In the five hours, which followed, hundreds of people hearing their desperate pleas trooped to the banks of the river. This included a state minister who apparently arrived with much fanfare.

However, while the entire episode was captured on cameras- including the poignant moans, as they held on to each other for dear life, nothing could be done to save them. Not one chopper was in sight, not a single Navy diver. Nothing. Just the six of them, and hundreds of people on the banks. And time, ticking away. One by one, tired by a desperate fight for life, they let go, and were washed away by the merciless waters.

It makes me wonder how little we value human-life in our country. I mean for all the technological advances, and the 8 per cent economic growth, our people still live like cattle- sometimes getting washed away in rains, or are packed into trains like livestock, twice daily. What a living.

And I wonder, what must be going on through the minds of the men when they find themselves in a situation like this. For a while, a fresh hope with each development on the banks of the river, each arrival. And then after a while, hope evaporates, and is probably replaced by a panorama of your life, a bitterness for what you did to deserve this agony; the people who you have helped in your life, and why they couldn’t be here today. The great harvest this season, the baby on the way, savings for junior’s college education, the new roof. Five fucking long hours, to think about such shit that doesn’t matter anymore. And finally, flashes of your loved ones at home, and how this will change their lives forever, and then the final prayer, and the decision to let go.

I think today’s news channels are the single biggest contributors to a social befuddlement and a mass erosion of the national IQ. Take the media’s handling of KANK. I haven’t seen the movie, but am told by even those who douse themselves daily in the sentimental lather of the variety dished by Karan Johar, swear that they are not going back for more. I don’t intend to see the movie, but I am told that it is a soapy handling of a mature subject. Kjo, it seems, has broken paradigms of Indian cinema and thrust the ugly face of human infidelity upon the ordinary moviegoer. Thus, in the eyes of the media persons, he is a champion, a path breaker- someone who has taken the road less traveled, risking social ostracism. Well, then what about Silsila, and those many other movies? How about Arth? Apparently, they were not mainstream enough.

My problem is this. Someone makes a bold but crappy movie. It will recover costs, but definitely never be a box office hit. Unfortunately, the director is not used to such treatment at the hands of the average Indian audience. So he takes to the streets, or worse, the TV screen. And the media just panders to it. On a certain show on NDTV, where 80 per cent of the talk time is hogged by Shah Rukh and Kjo, who incidentally have hogged practically 100 per cent of the screen time in a 3 hour 45 min, are found explaining their stance on the subject- and how the movie does justice to it. Great! I have no problems on who spends their money how- even if it is to buy airtime, but it makes me sad to see the media pander to mediocrity.

In my humble opinion, even though it is a serious issue, there is nothing new to infidelity in any society. People by nature are polygamous, and by conditioning monogamous. I have never been married, but feel that everyone feels a stirring, down under or up there, every once in a while. But then society and individuals who make it up, have been dealing with it since mankind made the transition from trees to caves. Sometimes the stirring wins, sometimes the inertia. But we have dealt with it. Debating the merits of something so basic to humans, though makes for interesting conversation, is unlikely to serve any purpose. So of course there is nothing ground-breaking about this movie.

Of course, I am the wrong person for such a debate- I have a congenital commitment problem anyway.

Anyway, I had a wonderful time watching Manhattan. The audio was a bit screwed, till about I figured what was wrong with the configuration. Beautiful shots of New York- the city of a million dreams, and a few passions. In monochrome. Just wonderful. Woody Allen’s impeccable portrayal of the complexity of human relationships, how we come together and how we tear apart. And what we do with all the despondency that goes with it. And at the end of it all the single, looming question- Why?

I do so want to watch Factotum, but can’t just get my hands on the DVD!!! Any leads?

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Thought Last Night... Over Alcohol and Onion Rings

If you can't make an exception, it probably wasn't worth in the first place...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ah... Love!!!

“Love is Lucy always lifting the football at the last second so that Charlie Brown falls on his ass.”
-Jennifer Weiner

For a change I had a delightful ride back home this afternoon. For one the traffic was bearable. And then it was one of those times when the rain kept playing catch-up with me. Sometimes went past the car, spraying my lenses with blobs of water, sometimes tugging my sleeve, asking me to slow down and savor the moment. And the breeze, when the rain was behind, and I could roll down the window, was this wicked thing, wafting in and out and smelt so fresh that for once I didn’t have to worry about acrid, sulphurous burnt fuel residue in my hair.
So love… and I have been thinking about it lately. First an update- after a brief brush with a “relationship”, I am back to my steady state single self. There was that instant and unexplainable attraction, those butterflies, without which it is never worth the effort. In retrospect, I realize that we took the completely wrong path i.e. Connection, Chemistry, a debatable Relationship, Mistimed Expectations, Bitterness, finally Disaster. And now the worst - misplaced nostalgia. A month and half of frenetic activity, followed by God only knows how many weeks of despondency. At some point she decided to draw the line, so did I, and made the LJBF offer (Let's Just Be Friends - I don't quite like the thought, primarily because friends don't put themselves in such boxes, and personally, I'd never do something unless she was entirely comfortable with it, but when you're nearing thirty, it is not very advisable to burn bridges with people you get along with easily), and she seems ok with it. Suddenly, everything seems strangely somber, the alcohol less heady, the smokerings less dense, the music a little less foot tapping, the rain a little less romantic. Well… but whatever it was and however short, it was good!!!
Everyone my age has been in love at least once. Reciprocated or otherwise. However, brief. I guess like death and taxes, a desire to belong, albeit for some, fleeting, is a given. An attribute, which like speech is given only to humankind.
Now historically, in the long run, I have had a problem with relationships. The malaise is actually a commitment problem- I either over commit or under, and at most times, it can be such a pain. But then this post is not about my problems.
The thing about relationships, and this I remember writing some time back, is this- that they are unavoidable. The consequences of the impulse (which might include the option of doing nothing), under the scope of the present discussion are immaterial. I am often reminded of this line in Annie Hall where Woody Allen in a then famous monologue likened relationships to a person going to a shrink and telling that his brother thinks he’s turned into a chicken. When asked by the Doctor why he doesn’t turn the sibling in, he replies simply, because, um, I need the eggs. That’s it. We NEED the eggs.
The interesting thing about life though is what I wrote earlier- that relationships are unavoidable. They’re always lurking around the corner, waiting to happen, to catch you unawares, just when you’re settling down in your own comfort zone. Being in the places I have (for instance, an engineering college), I have seen people pine for a relationship for years and finally bump into their partners many years later, in a Wal-Mart checkout lane in Idaho.
Now comes the tough bit- staying in a relationship. Even in today’s day and age I am surprised to find so many of my friends, relatives, acquaintances stick around in relationships long after the expiry date, long after time has peeled the label off, primarily because they now wear the hat of a husband or a wife. I realize that being in a relationship is not so much about being in love, but about sharing experiences, spaces. It is about a steady state, a sad but undeniable search for someone else.
Personally I feel converting an impulse into a relationship is disastrous. The surest way of straitjacketing a cosmic encounter is to tame it by making a relationship out of it. Why we do it is a different story altogether. Whoever has been in love will vouch for the fact that the first few weeks or so are the most memorable. Who doesn’t remember that first glance, that touch, the bitterness of the first fight, the intensity of the first lovemaking … I could go on. However, they will also tell you that it was also humanly impossible to sustain that kind of intensity for any considerable length of time- the cracks begin to emerge (the shows on TV, which plays to see, I don’t really like reading what he writes), insecurity surfaces, and basically the enormity of the situation looms. And hence the decision to apply a few thumb rules, turn a few knobs and viola, the proposal, the relationship (or perhaps the denial) and here we are, in a few months- possibly man and wife. The problem I feel is this. People attach too much importance to being in a relationship. Being alone in most societies still a mild stigma, which one would rather not deal with. Single women, irrespective of their age, looks and sexual orientation, are hit upon by men at work and elsewhere. And single guys- well, that’s a different post altogether. And once you think you’ve hit upon the first speck of doubt, you just over estimate the searches costs, and convert, no matter what.
And then there is expectation. Since most people I know are by conditioning monogamous, they seek to fulfill all their expectations through the ONE person in their lives. And that is the root of disaster. Since you think your partner must admire Schubert’s second symphony as much as you do, and since she doesn’t and since that new person you met many years later, at the Laundromat does, doesn’t mean that you’ll click with that person on all counts. As you will not with your present partner. Likewise, most suspicions of infidelity have roots in the sense of insecurity, which stems from a notion of not being able to share a certain aspect of your partner’s life, which someone else can. I mean have been dealt with insecurity in an absolutely amazing individual, who felt that since I shared an evening with someone else who appreciates Sukumar Ray’s poems a lot more than she does, I was probably losing interest in her.
The truth is that there is no 100 per cent match (even though I admit having told this lie, sometimes successfully, many times over). If I connect with somebody, it is likely that the person will have traits I will discover eventually that I don’t like as much. If I can continue to remain with that person in the knowledge of both the good and the bad, it is left. However, it is unlikely that I will be able to reconcile myself to that.
Having said that I must also add that I do know a few couples, who seem to have reconciled to all this and more. Who have managed to find happiness which each other, despite the odds. Having spent a number of years around one such lot, I figured that sometimes you just don’t know what caused the attraction. Not even years down the line. If you don’t know what brought you together in the first place, and aren’t extremely bothered about it, there is no question of losing it and suffering the nostalgia by consequence, which goes without – “You’ve lost that loving feeling”. And as long as the place downstairs is still warm, and most other things broadly in place, there is no reason to look for love elsewhere.
Now that’s the pragmatist’s view of love and such things. What follows is mine.
According to me, love is not a feeling. It isn’t a sentiment. Love is a person. And not realizing that is the mistake we often make. We look for reasons to be in love with a certain person, not realizing that the object of our desires is the reason itself. We view a relationship as a means to a certain end and not an end in itself. And so if things don’t go so well, and you end up being out of a relationship, it depresses us to no end.As far as relationships go, I have been in a few, the durations of which range from a few weeks to a few years. I don’t take separation well. When I walk out, I feel lousy. When I am dumped, I hate that as well. But I guess I recover better than most people I know, because somewhere I realize that at the end of it all and irrespective of the consequences, I am a better person, because I know myself a bit better. And because every relationship, every crush, makes you a slightly more evolved person. Indulging in God’s greatest gift to mankind has to be an uplifting experience after all.
Being in a relationship is an experience in itself. Having a certain person in my life tends to open me up in a way that nothing else quite can. It makes me ask questions to myself, and makes me do things, which in a singular state I would find idiotic. That there is a pleasure in idiosyncrasy is a documented fact. That being in love makes you indulge in it more often is a fact too. Love (and remember, I am using the word as a noun for some time now) heightens your senses. We seek highs from various things- work, nature, the rains etc., but as love grows old we often forget that Love itself is a 24x7 high. That a certain person can deliver that to you is an incredible thought. And forgetting that, or not feeling that way in your life, is I guess the greatest loss of them all.
In a certain respect, all relationships are quite similar. I mean a lifetime is all about experiences. It is such a crucible of a series of highs and lows. If you’re lucky, you go through them all. Perhaps it was pain that characterized your life. Perhaps rejection. Even that is a fairly potent experience. And in the endgame, what really matters is what you have experienced rather than what you have achieved, and who you have experienced it with. The one thing that all successful relationships do (and I do not define success by longevity) is to amplify the impact of each experience. The birds chirp louder, the grass is greener, the mornings more beautiful, the night deeper, the wine headier, the music more sprightly, the rain, ah the rain, that promotion at work. Almost everything.
And that is precisely the reason why, after a rough experience, one must never close the door on Love. It might never come knocking again, but keep looking. Each time I break up, I might end up saying never again, and I hear people saying it all the time, but I also realize that the reason why it happens again and again, is because to Love (verb) is to make an exception. That’s the point, when we let someone into our lives, we make the exception. Because every relationship is unique in its gene code. Because every individual touches you in a very different way. A relationship is a set of beautiful individual experiences, which in retrospect you lay out on the mantelpiece of your mind. Yes, as I maintain, no two relationships can ever be compared, cannot ever be replaced. But then I guess that’s only because of the way people are. I think of each one of those rare people in my life, and remember in them such unique and specific little details that move me and that I miss about them. And miss the trust they placed on me. And I always will. And I remember writing this a long time back- you can never replace anyone, because every person is made of such exquisite specific details. And I treasure each little specific detail, each memory, because if not anything else, then at least in the winter of my life, I will take them from the mantelpiece of my mind, and smile, and say to myself- “Yes, I’ve lived it”.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

We met and passed, like shadows.

It must go down as one of my shortest lived crushes.
It began with a few clicks, and ended likewise.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I Like it French

This a long delayed post about a film I liked. I have this thing for continental European films. This one is French. Title translates in to The Apartment. Actually, I had seen the Hollywood remake - Wicker Park, some time back and had found it interesting and visually impressive, but the ending was far too tame. But the original is really something. Really, really something else. It is an intense romantic thriller. The first hour or so is bizarre, absolutely. So much so that it took me about 6 hours of real time and multiple separate sittings to get through the first hour of screen time (in between brunch at Indigo– which was awesome, but more on that later; trip to a book fair in Juhu, the weekly catharsis at the Mission, dinner with my sister’s friend and then Ashes- again phenomenal).

So this movie has this guy who is this young, upcoming investment banker in Paris, who is on his way to Japan to close this mega deal, and otherwise engaged to be married to the partner’s sister. So everything’s perfect? Think again. The guy is having serious second thoughts about the girl etc. and a chance overhearing of a conversation in the adjacent phone booth in a swank restaurant brings back memories of a girl he once loved two years ago, hours before his flight throws the plot in to a different orbit.

Needless to say, the flight is missed, and the hunt for the woman begins. I shall stop the narrative here, because you will call me a spoiler. The imagery is vibrant, set mostly in a Parisian winter, along the streets of which I have such brief but fond memories of. The entire story is told in a series of tandem flashbacks. The beauty of the French version is the tight leash that the director maintains over the plot and characters, even as he weaves through every possible permutation of intense relationships between five individuals over three different time periods. Man… it is so elegant, and so crafty, and so absolutely gripping. The imagery is so damn powerful that even while this complex maze of relationships is woven along the coordinates of time-space-fantasy, that one would need an IQ of 80 for it not to register. Not once in the last two hours I felt lost or left out. The sheer talent of the director, the script is something one just cannot miss. Colour, music and everything else is used so, so beautifully. The suspense is killing and riveting, the ending is so much more powerful (unlike the Holly version which is just so flat, so predictable after an otherwise decent build-up) and leaves such a powerful etching- I just can’t seem to get it out of my head.

The high point is the characterization. While the leads play their roles really, really well- Monica Bellucci plays the female lead, the other woman who plays a slightly deranged friend is splendid (so is Rose Bryce in the remake, but Diane Kruger in the lead is so ordinary). Her face is so, so real, so expressive that … well, I don’t have words for it. Anyway, I think Monica Bellucci is brilliant. And in stark contrast to the Holly version, her on-screen chemistry with the male lead is pulsating (probably has to do something with the fact that they were briefly married in real life as well). There is this one sequence when she is shown looking out of the window with a distant look in her eyes and wry smile on her lips, while in the same shot the other female lead is shown, on a spilt screen, relishing a secret and long sought after victory, hidden on her lips but given away by her blazing eyes. In fact the woman who plays that role in Wicker Park is also quite good. But there is no one quite like Monica Bellucci, anywhere in the world . Malena, this one and then so many others…