There is always a light

There is always a light
Don't be afraid if you are alone or surrounded by darkness. In some part of the world, the day has just begun. There is a always a light waiting for you to find your way to touch its radiance.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chin Up, Always...SaChin!

By Kingshuk Poddar

When Sachin debuted for the national team, I was in the third standard. When the curly haired lad was sending Abdul Qadir over the fence, I was more bothered about elementary Maths, drawing classes, English grammar and….. and him. When Imran’s bouncer broke his nose, I cried. Then wept my tears to go out to play for the para (bong for locality) league. Every single bowler there was Imran Khan in disguise. I waved my bat and went for sixes and fours with the cambis ball, ravaging window panes and windshields of 1990 made fiats and ambassadors. Every boundary was pain-killers for him. I played well and Sachin recovered. Years later when the tennis elbow thing happened, I wished I could play some tennis to help him recover quicker.

Much to the dismay of most people of our generation, Sachin became the auto-adopted son of most mothers. They sat in front of the television, understanding nothing about cricket, cutting vegetables as Sachin tackled deliveries. A self appreciative smile appeared in all faces whenever the ball went past Sachin’s bat. The local kaku’s (uncle in bengali jargon) blessed the youngsters whenever they touched the formers feet during durga puja, pre- and post-exams, birthdays, et al. with the magical words - “Sachin er matan hou” (“may you be like Sachin”). In a nutshell, this next door cricket playing lad had occupied a big chunk of love in the hearts and minds of Indians elders, which apparently was reserved for us. Much to our dismay and joy. We loved him more.

A whole genre of lesser mortals like us, spent rest of our life counting and keeping track of how many runs Sachin scored, how many sixes he hit and the rest. A random google will yield more results. But what no one keeps track is how many Qadir’s, Kasprowicz’s, Henry Olonga’s career has went down the drain just because they dared to challenge the god of cricket in the field. Sachin demolished and we cheered. Some yelled, some shouted, some just smiled. The hostel common room transformed into a party with every stroke he played. Something that he did even Buchanan’s laptop could not even apprehend. Or else which algorithm in the world could calculate how to hit Shoaib Akhtar for a six with a square cut. This single shot made Pakistan loose the match.

There is a special way Sachin runs for singles. This man has been playing for some twenty-one years now but still runs as if his first and last single. In intolerable Jaipur heat or in windy, sultry London weather, every single moment notice his intense intent to score more runs and win every match. Or else how do you explain his anchoring to the crease and going for short runs as soon as he reaches forty five, ninety five, hundred forty five and now – a hundered ninety five. Twenty one years and the same intensity and nervousness before a milestone. His sciatic nerves should be cultivated. We grew up admiring superman, spiderman, batman. But no superhero can match the level of talent, hardwork, conviction, dedication rounding them up to the perfect combination at which he delivers.

I could go lengths as to how perfect deliveries he has bowled. How even in the tightest of tight matches he also chewed his finger nails better like dada or looked emotionlessly cool like the wicket keeper captain of India. He is a superhero of flesh and blood. When not playing he does ask people to buy colas or credit cards and nowadays mumbaikars take bath less frequently. Like most superheroes he has a uniform, something in the shades of blue, the hue of which turned darker from the skyish shade earlier. He wears underwears not over but underneath the pants and has a unique pose (which reportedly Michael Jackson tried to copy) to settle the guard which complements the former. He is the standard to idolism. Just look at Tiger Woods. If he be rated, that would be some nano Sachin units if standards be set straight with <0.05% error.

I did not watch him live scoring two hundred runs. But I know how he did and with what intensity. A hunger for runs which would double the whole of what continental Africa can have for bread and pulse water. He is GOD. Otherwise even in this tense India-Pakistan situation The Dawn writes, “Pakistanis are heartbroken with Saeed bhais record being broken, but thankful to god to have no one but Sachin achieve the feat.”

Sorry. But thankful to whom?

Nothing is static in this world. The only thing constant is perhaps the term “change”. May be Sehwag will score a triple century someday or may be Ponting might end up with two hundred centuries. Whatever anyone else achieves, they will have to set their standards against what Sachin has set for them to better upon. He is the FPS and IS of everything ultimate. Both on and off the field.

I guess Sir Don Bradman is doing well up there and would be busy blogging how in his prime days he played like this Indian lad. I googled but there ain’t website for heaven. But I found one on earth. Happy reading and Hail Sachin.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Touch

By Arghya Saha

“Areef, come lets go back, it’s getting dark,” screamed his mother.
 That’s how Safa knew his name. Every morning Areef would bring his modest herd of sheep for grazing to this patch of lush green pasture on the lee side of the hills. He never played around like the other boys, never tended his cattle. Every morning he would come and sit on this stone outcrop and gaze at the lovely valley below. The valley was indeed beautiful. The thin line of deep blue stream of River Banias sleazed though the green grass, meandering like the gymnastics’ body on the bar. The folds of the mountains cast a plethora of opulent shades of green, punctuated with the rhythmic movement of the red and yellow flowery trees. Small patches of wheat fields shook their golden heads in unison conceding to the wishes of this beautiful day. In the distance the sunflower fields were glowing in full bloom craning to look up to the setting sun. The crimson sky in the late afternoon, painted with streaks of white clouds created a perfect welcome for the majesty of the moonlit night.
 Safa never realized when she fell in love with Areef, not even why she fell in love. Perhaps that is how all love stories begin. She had never spoken to him, never known how he was - only this sensation by providence. She remembered that day she looked at his eyes the first time. She picked up her hijab which had blown way towards Areef. Clutching her hijab in one hand she had one cursive look at Areef. His deep blue eyes met hers and she saw the angular features of his face, the curly dark golden locks spread carelessly over his broad forehead. He moved his eyes away perhaps more out of embarrassment and a bit of shyness. Areef must be more than ten years older than she was. Since then Safa had stole a few surreptitious glances from between the herds of cattle or the small trees that dotted this patch of land.
 The war had changed the lives of many in the surrounding hamlets, some outrageous, some bloody, some torturous, some lost and forgotten, but every one with a tale of despair. Nobody, absolutely nobody got anything from this war. For Areef it had taken away his life, his words, and his ability to react or even cry. Time had frozen for him like a merciless monolith cluttered with bloody tales of oppression and carnage. He did not have a tale to tell anybody.
 The tranquility of golden sunlit valley was suddenly filled with roars from the Hamas Rebels and clattering of gunfire. A smoke bomb landed just behind where Areef was sitting and dark white smoke enveloped the place around. Areef seemed oblivious of what was happening around him and Safa managed to see him through the transient cracks of this white smoky shroud. She could hear the screaming of the children, braying of the cattle, the confusion of scurrying footsteps interspersed with gunshots and screams of death, many voices she recognized even in this mayhem.  She lifted her abaya off the ground and began to run, only to stumble and fall, get up and scamper towards where Areef was still sitting. The abaya gave way and she did not care for the bits and pieces she left behind.
 She reached Areef, got hold of his hand and shook him vigorously, but still he did not move; only gave a stupefied look at Safa. She could hear more gunshots and could hear the footsteps advancing towards them. She put her arms around Areef and pulled him down to the ground. She could hear the clattering of bullets against the stone. With Areef wrapped around her they began to roll down away from the stone outcrop on which Areef used to sit. She remembered the edge where the cliff went down to a small step like recess a few meters below the edge. They reached the edge and dropped down. After dropping down, they disentangled, not aware of the discomfiture of the moment. The screaming voices and the footsteps began to wander away and recede. The smoke was still in the air, only graying into clarity at places. Darkness began to descend and Safa studied the wounds left in her hands and feet and fell into slumber. A lonely footstep could be heard above them with the metallic sound of a gun barrel searching for survivors. As the sound reached the edge above them, a barrel stuck out and Areef could see a covered face leaning down at Safa, with a despicable surprise smeared in his eyes. In the fading light the person could not see Areef, who was guarded by the stone projecting above him. The man leaned down a bit more and tried to wrench at Safa’s blouse with the barrel of his gun with obvious covetous desire. Areef moved a bit more inside and positioned him directly above the man. Unaware of Areef, he left his gun on the ground and lowered his legs to jump down. Areef caught both his legs and pulled him away from the cliff edge. The man slipped off the edge and was whirled into the air and he plunged down the cliff into the valley below, rolling and crashing his way down to the bottom. This noise shuddered Safa from her sleep and she saw the man rollicking down the edge. She noticed the metallic barrel sticking out above them and gauged what must have happened. She was horrified to believe what Areef had done just now and looked at him in gratitude. The fire in Areef’s eyes softened like a volcano subsiding in the deep blue sea. Tears rolled down Safa’s cheeks ripping though the dark layers of dust which had plastered her face beyond recognition. Areef took off his stroll and gave it to Safa. By then the place was engulfed in darkness and there was no chance of escape. They could hear the crackling noise of the fire of their village and the air was filled with the smell of burning wood and clothes scattered with the stink of burning corpses. They spent the night sitting on the stony refuge, catching intermittent bouts of sleep.
 Safa was a strong lady and never let things slip off from her hands. For the last twelve years Areef had not said a single word, his stony eyes did shed a few tears from time to time. Safa could feel that he enjoyed staying with her. But that was all. During the travails of living a nomadic life, scuttling from place to place, crossing streams and borders innumerable times, Safa and Areef lost all vestiges of affinity with their nation, creed, custom, religion and livelihood. It seemed like a mad run from the claws of death and survival was of paramount and the only concern.  Without any compulsion, any social bond they chose to stay together; a divine spiritual bond seemed to bind them or was it necessity and lack of alternative.
 The civil war had its negotiated truce, not sure how long it would last. The dusty horizon was replaced by the blue skies once more. At least they could afford to breathe for a while without being afraid that somebody might hear them. They began living in some settlement, not knowing which side of the border it was in. Every evening after the usual chores, they would sit by the river bank, dipping their feet in the water.
 That Juma evening was no different from any other day. Safa kept on saying things she had said a million times, not expecting any answer; only an occasional turning of the head and a deep intense look of loneliness in the eyes. Just then a thunderous sound shattered the serenity of their life and western sky was illuminated with the light of a rocket. Suddenly Areef turned and cuddled into Safa and she held him closely; never did she see this happening to Areef; not even when they had been through more torturous times. There were no more rocket fires that night. Areef loosened his embrace and looked into Safa’s eyes. He caressed Safa’s cheeks with the back of his hand and then took her face in his palms. Safa recalled the days in prison camps and the innumerable times she had been ravished and plundered, and violated, even in her tumultuous marriage with Abdul; but for the first time in her life she could feel somebody so close, a touch so intense………………………….She buried her face in Areef’s chest and began to cry inconsolably. Areef patted her head till she was drained of all tears.
 They both looked up at the sky. Time is indeed the essence. 

Your Money Philosophy

By Abhishek Chatterjee

Let’s face it, money to most of us is not just something we exchange for goods and services, it is much more, and how we employ or spend our cash tells a lot about us, our goals and aspirations. In some ways, ‘money behaviours’ indeed define our personalities. There is therefore little doubt that money is almost an emotional issue. And as with most emotional issues, it can take a heavy toll on our well-being, and given the nature of the beast, a difficult relationship with money can lead to more than just emotional damage; it can cause real and physical shortages, which inevitably leads to even more stress, thus perpetuating a vicious circle of fear and anxiety.
Sameer Singh, a Singapore based media executive, is 28, single and successful. His relationship with money is, well, ‘irreverent’, in his own words. “I never think about it”, he says. “I know I make a decent amount of it, so I don’t ever think about a worst case scenario. And I don’t have a fixed spending pattern as such either and generally spend as and when I like. Weekend getaways and the latest gadgets are particular focus areas. I absolutely hate living on a pre-drawn budget…I like a bit of flexibility.” And what of savings and the future? “Yes, when I blew up over a thousand dollars on a designer jacket last month, I did feel guilty about it later, but you only live once, right? In the end it’s simple math, isn’t it? Whatever’s left in the bank account at month end is the savings.” he grins. “I’ll think about a serious savings plan in a couple of years.”
This attitude towards money is quite symptomatic of the larger prevailing attitude to money amongst many of Sameer’s age-group. The ‘my cash, my way’ and ‘have money, will spend’ slogans are popular ones, and indeed we are no one to judge; after all, what one spends on is purely a case of ‘chacun-a-son-gout’. The glitch with this is an undercurrent of guilt and anxiety that builds up over time, aided by a gnawing realization of thoughtlessness and a search for a more considered approach to managing one’s finances, amidst the constant temptation to splurge, either for that fleeting fuzzy and comforting feeling after a purchase, or simply to keep up with the rest of the gang. The continuous acquisition of the latest gadgets and luxury items and a disregard to savings and the future, does give a short term rush, but in the long run, it can be devastating. With indiscriminate spending comes the precarious situation of being just one unexpected event away from financial Armageddon.
A way to rise above this constant tight-rope is to define for oneself a personal ‘money philosophy’. What is that, you ask? Well, according to Alla Sheptun, a well known Russian finance academic, "The philosophy of money is the mode of the intellectual inquiry of the essence of money as a social phenomenon and its influence on the world of things, the world of people and the inner world of the individual." To put it simply, having a money philosophy is to know the 'how' (much money is enough), the 'why' (is money important to you) and the 'where' (will you spend it). It should ideally work like this. We all have our goals, both short term and long term, and in most cases, we need money to realize them. In that sense, money is just a means to an end and not the end itself as a lot of us make it out to be. The money that we make, according to well known personal finance writer, Dave Ramsey, is only good for 3 things - creating wealth, having fun with and giving away. One would largely agree with him. Therefore, all we need to do is figure out what our goals are, and then allocate our spending patterns accordingly in the 3 categories above mentioned, the composite result being our money philosophy. For example, 29-year-old investment banker, Prashant Nichani’s long-term goals involve retiring from active corporate life by the age of 45 to pursue interests in the arts, a house in the suburbs of Chennai and a small independent business of his own. To achieve this over the next 15 years or so, he would therefore need to use most of his disposable income to create as much wealth as possible to take care of his and his family's future needs as well as to invest in his business idea. Using his money to have fun would therefore sadly have to occupy a much smaller piece of the pie. How this pans out is, of course, open to conjecture and only time will tell of its success or failure. But putting together the philosophy, and importantly, internalizing it, engenders a clear thinking and an internal peace. The benefit of thinking up a clear personal philosophy helps to articulate clearly what our money is going to do for us, and more importantly, helps to filter out all the money noise we hear all around us every day, both positive and negative, thereby eliminating a bit of the stress, fear and self-reproachful negativity that stems from financial mismanagement. Again, being mindful of the long term and being conservative with spending patterns comes highly recommended. “Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like", said actor Will Smith, very sagaciously, one might add. Having a money philosophy (more importantly, a positive one) in place, will help us take a step back from unproductive spending, purchases that will get us no further to our goals, and crucially, will help to keep us grounded.
It’s clearly hard not keeping up with the Banerjees, but a constructive philosophy of money can certainly help us remember that the measure of all things must in the end always more than just 'stuff'.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Lifetime in Seven Years

By Anima Dey
Bangkok, Thailand

I am Melanie, the “Soulful Melody” as all my hostel friends called me. I have written over a hundred essays in my life, I accomplished myself the title of being “soulful” only for all my essays wistfully brimming with emptiness, But this letter is my euphoric masterpiece, it is in fact an essay I dedicate to each one of you, and believe while reading this, you would feel blessed and telepathically coerced to live - “the me”, live “The soulful melody - Melanie” at least once in this lifetime. As I write this letter to my “Ma”, I breathe her faith, feel her love, touch her soul, and see her persona. I feel proud to have been born to her, and if I had a hundred lifetimes to choose I would only want to be her baby. Come and read along with faith, feel along with love, touch along with soul and see along with me the persona of the Woman, I called “Ma”.

“I don’t really know where to begin, there is much to say and yet I need only a few words. Those were the days, when mornings dawned with your gentle fingers tickling on my warm cheeks, your kisses on my closed lids, and then slowly in a laze my body cuddled and curled in your lap. A bower of love with that moment to last forever, and your fingers stroking my hair, Oh! I’d give away every morning of my life to hear your soothing hum, as I awoke to a dawn of dreams. Your smiling eyes behind those lovely glasses, as you took me in your arms to hold me tight.

I remember, that I returned from school straight into your arms, when your embraces struck the chords to play the song of our love at home, when my favorite food lingered in your hands to reach my tongue, the way you’d read me stories explaining the moral at the end of each tale, You know Ma, I hardly could fathom any moral but yet I had faith in your words and they meant the whole world to me,  the way you taught me to dance, dance for passion, feel the rhythm and move to the beats, how I would fuss to play Sarod every evening while my friends played and frolicked. How every night I waited until I’d see you finish all your house hold chores so you could lay your arms on the bed for me to rest my head and sleep. I never understood how tired you could have been then… I just felt so secure so warm and cozy. You just made home such a perfect place to dwell. Your smiles teased and your hugs cared. Those were really the days Ma when under the canopy of your embraces and love my childhood traversed a path of hope and faith.

It was March, a soulful spring this year, exam time for me, but I didn’t gather why we would have loads of people in our house, screeching endless discussions, each striving hard to conclude and become the intrepid socialite rather epitome of selfless helper, and I would have to hide behind doors to lull-fully listen, feeling so lonely in those blaring crowds. Each eye that fell on me, took pity and yet I didn’t have a clue what future was daring for me. Time was ticking into a storm, I failed to see - You weren’t wearing your smiles, as I often perceived your croons of pain when you gave your arms for me to rest my head, and you looked tired by the second. You forgot to embrace me, failed to pick me up & tuck me. Your morals dropped at bed time into silent tears; your fingers trembled in my knotted hair, our dance awaited the movement of your feet, and music patiently stood awhile your fingers did the tremor. I stood bewildered at life, alone and all alone, with disappointed expectations and thwarted ambitions.

You pushed my independence to stand strong before time and I felt hurt believing you just didn’t love me the same any more. My little heart wondering every minute; why, my world that had curled to your bosom stood to an empty sky. Why did you shun me for no reason? -  So questioned my na├»ve childhood. You started talking of growing up when all I yearned was to remain your baby forever, You spoke of being strong and level headed when all I hankered was to be your carefree teddy in the arms that rocked me, you persuaded me to learn to take care of everyone but all I wistfully longed was to be cared by you, You taught me lessons of never giving up when I was afoot to give up the world for that one warm embrace. You equipped yourself to groom me so I could learn to survive without you, & you expected me to behave like an adult when I wistfully yearned for my childhood to bloom in your realm. This entire ordeal you just handled it alone, you knew didn’t you, that I could never give you my shoulder, I was a child, feeble and helpless.

All the moralistic rebuke of life that you did sermon, seemed so shallow to me then, there is one moral in particular I cognitively reminisce today which I just didn’t comprehend then, and it goes - “Death is just a myth, actually it’s all just an idea, it has no substance in it, it is purely nothing, but we give it a reality by believing in it. The moment we withdraw the belief, then reality disappears, it evaporates. Life goes on, soul moves on. It’s alright to feel life again, live again.” Your words purported what my soul denied, my childhood rebuked and my heart forsake. How could I have apprehended, that which you were preparing me for, and that which you were already destined to face. I loathed the crowd at home who sat hours to share your pain; I felt they were all taking you away from me.  

After days of despaired controversial discussions dawned the moment when you had to actually leave me and move on with your treatment. That day as we parted, friends and family explained that you have Cancer that needs immediate medical attention; they said you would have to live away from me for a while and that I can visit you in my vacations. That doomsday, the sky collapsed on my jejune childhood, I felt my breath sinking, it meant you would be away for endless summer days and winter nights, and all I could recall then were those sermons in which you were preparing me for this day of separation. Life was being such a ruffian, never understood however, that it could have been harder for you, until the day I held my own baby in my arms. To let go of your little bundle of life who is not yet prepared to face the world alone, who needs your guidance, protection, love, and embrace every minute, yet you didn’t have time, did you? You were deprived of it yourself, just that I couldn’t believe it then.

Your presence was fading away in my life and I was striving hard to stop thinking of you and wait for you. When I visited you in vacations, you would be sleeping most of the times, you looked bemused, your face had lost that gleaming shine, your smile was tearing away. I could infer pain on the outside and the inside of you. I sensed something was going to change forever in our world. I just didn’t know what that was. I’d have to leave sooner than I desired as vacations ended and I really can’t recall much of what I did after returning home without you and whether I even thought of you. I had a feeling that you cheated on me and I was so baffled, if you really did love me the way you did before, then why was the sky quaking- ripping me and you apart?

Life did its breathing inside me, yet all was perplexed, no one to embrace when I returned from school, none to make me eat the first bite of my favorite food, no one to sit in the first row to clap on my performances, none to watch my shows on stage at school, none to read my favorite stories at bed time, no one to stroke my hair at sleep time, no one to offer me the arm to sleep through dark nights none to give the morning kiss, no one to see me off at the door , no one to wait at the door for me when I return from school, no one to teach me music &  no one to pray with me. Despite life’s malevolent ways, I tried to cope up Ma, as much as I could although at times vindictive. I expressed myself to you in my letters that I could never post, I wrote my diaries for you hoping that some day when you return I will show you how much I missed you and loved you and needed you in my life. Somehow that day never came. While your treatment had deteriorated your health more than ever, I could sense that your returning home was becoming evitable.

One summer vacation I visited you, I found you were felicitous again, smiling wide, embracing me often although your clasps weak yet warm, and kissing me more than you’d done before. I was allowed the luxury to lie down besides you with your arm under my head again, your trembling voice narrating me stories, with no morals to comprehend this time, your soulful eyes following me around. Ah! I finally could percept life was inducing back what it had unjustly snatched away. Although you were so weak that you just could not get up by yourself, you seemed so relieved as if all was going to be well and conventional again. And that was the day. In moments, you were lifted from bed; I was hesitating to budge from your side. They put you on the floor, and your blood turned purple, your eyes stilled peacefully, your smile transcended love , your pain ceased, the trance in the room echoed your enamor. You’ll become a shining star in my sky to guide me, lift me when I fall, is what they all told me, and that day I believed them, you left me no choice there Ma. Oh! How I prayed with my heart, soul, and folded hands, you’d stay with me just one more night, so I could cuddle next to you for awhile, why did it have to end so soon?

Each hurdle ever since, sieved through your sermons, I nailed in my heart. I believe your soul protected me in every failure, and your smile nurtured all my hurts with an unbound charm. But believe me the biggest miracle I ever lived was the potency in my soul and confidence in my heart, which was so dormant in me while you lived which now was engraved in my soul since the day you parted. I realized we were two bodies with a single soul. My friends, and family who knew me, called me soulful, and I am just not awed by that at all. I know and believe that something in me will not let me rest with a regretful opinion of life. I learnt that I would have you each time that I really needed you & not when I desired you. I understood that I could have you when I am in the right and yet ridiculed by others, not when I am wrong and pushing it on others. I understood I could have you when I am alone, not just feeling alone. I felt your hand in my hand when I was walking the path you desired me to walk, not the path that led me astray. Actually you have lived in me as my conscience, so I could mould to be what you desired of making me.

I see your persona now, and what you did in that very little time that God gave you. You made me into this woman who seeks life’s lessons from within herself and who justly lives every moment of motherhood & womanhood herself. You are the true Hero and I want to be your baby in every lifetime that God grants us both. The seven years of this one life with you have taught me the lessons of a seven lifetimes. Only you could have done so much in so little time. I wish I could award you the way you deserved to be, but what I write today is my award to you, and I hope the world sees this through my eyes. I now want you to know that I believe in your moral, yes, death is just a myth, I gave it reality by believing in it, and as I withdraw now, I believe you exist and will grow to exist, to live a lifetime with me again, but this time I plead you, please live with me more than seven years of my lifetime.

A touch of faith in every word
Your wings to embrace all my fears
A trusted voice I always heard
Your kisses to dry up all my tears

You lived your life to teach the lesson
That I thrive hard to encompass
You throng to see my battles won
As your dreams in my soul amass

Bless my love with your divinity
Embrace my baby with your heart
Engrave my motherhood with your dignity
& Let not death do us apart!

Oh Mother dear! I live your virtues
Hold me in your arms, forgive my failures
How could I ever repay your dues?
Of One Lifetime in just Seven Years?

In Retrospect

By Pritha Lal
Springville, Utah, USA

Date: January 26th 1979
Location: Raj Path, New Delhi
Time of day: Mid morning, sunshine and the cool Delhi winter breeze
My little brother and I sat awestruck by the wonders of the various tableaus that were a part of the Republic Day celebrations. While our parents sat at the back on chairs, Jayant and I were like 2 little eager beavers upfront, right next to the long ropes that cordoned the main road of the parade from mere mortals like us. The wonderful men and women of our armed forces, the glory and splendor of agriculture and industrialization in our nation, the showcasing of the geographical beauty of the country, all interspersed with beats that gave you goose bumps and made you feel proud of your country, your people, almost in a childish naive sort of way but was heady nonetheless. Then we saw her, as if a vision of an alabaster sculpture, strong, proud, dignified, the signature hand loom sari beautifully draped, a hint of the tuft of white hair showing from under her “ghunghat”, a small glimpse of the rudraksh around her neck…Mrs. Indira Gandhi – the Prime Minister of our nation at that time. We had read about her, written essays about her father, were waiting to see what her sons would do so that all our schools would have computers. It was a proud, poignant moment for me, something that I thought of often, wrote in my next “Republic Day Parade” essay in school.
Date: January 26th 2010
Location: Broadway Theater 5 – Salt Lake Film Society – Salt Lake City Utah
Time of day: Cold, wet, wintry evening, standing in a wait-listed line for tickets to Peepli Live ( India’s first entry in to the Sundance Film Festival) , getting in to the theater, and making to the only seats left there.. the VERY FIRST ROW.
My husband Indraneel and I decided, if we sat on the first row along the side section, we would see things LARGE but at least view the entire screen without having to play tennis with our eyeballs. Settled down to watch the movie and then interacted with the director and the producer and the cast of the film during the Q&A session of the movie. 2 hours later, I felt this was one Republic Day I will remember for a verylong time. This time I didn’t have to write an essay for my English teacher, but my blog demanded my attention and here I am obliging.
What was interesting for me in terms of yesterday was that it was the 60th Anniversary of the birth of the Indian Republic; it is evident in the world community of nations, the role India plays or is seen to have the potential to play. It was a matter of huge pride when we talk about the Indian technocrats who rule different disciplines of the sciences and arts at a world arena. At a very up close and personal level, on this momentous day, a phenomenal Indian movie was screened at one of the most prestigious Film Festivals of the world. The director Anusha Rizvi made her debut as the director with this movie. The producer Aamir Khan apart from being everything that he is, has also been nominated as the recipient of the Padma Bhushan. 30 years after that vision of Mrs. Gandhi, this Republic day will remain indelible for this haloed effect of being the company of a great people in a great setting. I was under the euphoria of the feeling all through our drive back and gradually the poignancy of the day dawned at a very different level.
Bypass the glamor of the day, and once you get to the movie Peepli Live, that was an eye opener at so many different levels. A lot of readers of this page (read my sad captive audience) may not have seen the movie yet and I would hate to ruin anything for them. So in the humble attempt of adding my 2 cents worth, I will not stray from what the Sundance website says about the movie. The film does tackle a very difficult subject rampant in rural India. The starkness of the characters and the reality of the situation are made even more gut wrenching by the satirical handling of the entire issue. The humor is simple, and spontaneous but the smile it leaves after the laughter has died down, will invariably turn into a thoughtful process of introspection for anyone who enjoys this film.
The director and the producer made no lofty claims of changing the world with this movie, but merely use this platform to bring an issue out into the open.
It was not one issue though; it was a plethora of political, bureaucratic, social-economic tentacles that form the quagmire of this tale. Watch for Natha, played by Onkar Nath, who made his debut in acting with this movie. There is nothing I could say to describe the superlative nature of his performance. Watch of Raghuvir Yadav in the role of Natha’s elder brother. Natha’s wife and mother will leave your spell bound as will various other entities in their film and the role they each play or don’t play. Watch Hari Mahato and you will question who is this movie really about. It is a seamless, effortless presentation of facts, of census statistics with a story; a story real, honest, and brutally relevant in a nation that celebrated 60 years of being a “sovereign democratic republic”
So am I at cross roads about whether I feel pride or dejection about India after the movie? Well there is no question there. How can you not feel proud about being a part of a nation that thrives on the paradoxes she does? How often do you get to be part of the world community both as an example of excellence and a source of inspiration?
That is what the evening was for me.
On a very, very, very personal note, getting several smiles up close from Aamir and getting to see those warm brown eyes.. does tickle the senses at a very different level too.
Signing off for now with the sincere wish that each of you find joy and inspiration from things around you and continue to be the same for those around you.


By Shoumik Das
Kolkata, India

Begin now, begin within;

Begin today with a loud din;

Begin a craft, begin a draft;

Begin something just don't be daft;

Begin to hate, begin to love;

Begin to fly like a free dove;

Begin to write, begin to play;

Begin to fight and shun dismay;

Begin your life, look within;

Leave your thoughts and just begin!"

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dress Circle: My Name is Khan

By Abhishek Chatterjee
 Well, it could have been a lot worse. Think women sobbing while continuing to look gorgeous in perfect costumes and make-up, and Shahrukh Khan running in slow motion, with loud temple bells ringing in the background. Karan Johar, or the all grown up KJo, in his latest attempt, thankfully, chucks out his usual film making manual, moves closer to reality and serves up a memorable, almost 'Forrest Gump'-ian character in Rizvan Khan, and well... thats about it.
The film, which not unlike 'Forrest Gump', uses a challenged protagonist as the eyes through which a period of time is examined, in this case the period being between 1983 and 2009. The film masquerades as a love story, but quite clearly has surreptitiously lofty ambitions, and it is on this account that it fails, as it indubitably takes on more than it can handle with any degree of coherence. The value of love and family, Hindu-Muslim harmony, post 9/11 paranoia, Muslim alienation, America's recent turmoil with natural disasters (read Katrina), and the country's new found hope for a better future, are all taken on here.
After Rizvan Khan's step son is killed in a post 9/11 induced, racially motivated attack, his wife leaves him and in a fit of anger asks him to explain his religion to the president of the United States. Suffering from Aspergers Syndrome, Khan is wont to take this literally and sets out to meet the most powerful man in the world with his message, and in the process becomes an unlikely hero across the country. One gets the feeling that if the film had focussed entirely on the protagonist's journey to meet the President, with his message of peace, it could have been more powerful. But instead we are fed needless back stories in flashback after flashback, through numerous vignettes of Khan's life, his love story and his family life. And in doing so, we are introduced to several competent supporting actors who deserve more than the walk on roles they get. Jimmy Shergill, Vinay Pathak, Praveen Dabbas and the divine Sonya Jehan are wasted in the parts they get (which is a real pity). Perhaps only Zarina Wahab, playing Khan's compassionate mother and the 2 young actors playing the journos who take up Khan's case after his incarceration, register any sort of lasting impact on the viewer.
This is of course entirely Shahrukh Khan's film. And King Khan puts in a winning performance as the Aspergers afflicted Rizvan Khan. He is consistent in his portrayal and really gets stuck in to the part. Here's to more such experiments. Kajol, in another effortless turn, supports him well enough but SRK goes one better in this one. The film's music, however is a bit of let down. KJo's films generally have fine sound tracks and Shankar Ehsan Loy don't do justice to the film, apart from a couple of soothing numbers. The writing is mostly good, though inconsistent (watch out for a couple of signature KJo moments).The film, shot with an entirely international crew, is visually arresting, with Ravi K Chandran doing a bang up job with the cinematography. This is a welcome departure for KJo and the film should be seminal in SRK's filmography. Its heart is in the right place, but is let down
by execution. The film's opening sequences raise much hope, only to be belied soon after, as the viewer battles tedium. Kuch kuch hua Karan, but only just.