Sunday, March 29, 2015

Learning new languages

I am trying to learn new languages and keep getting confused. Also, as I'm self-teaching myself, I've found that I'm not a very good student. Yikes!

So I have to practice, practice and practice....



I am: sono                  
You are: sei   
He/she/it is: è 
We are: siamo
You are (plural): siete                      
They are: sono          


I am:   je suis             
You are: tu es            
He is: il est
She is: elle est
One is: on est
We are: nous sommes
You are (plural): vous êtes
They are (m): ils sont
They are (f): elles sont 

Really need to memorize this!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

PK- My take on the movie

SciFi movies have got to be my least favorite genre and if they consist of aliens, I avoid them like my least favorite vegetables- I push away the plate and pretend that they don't exist.

In spite of the impressive star cast, I wasn't going to watch the movie until I read the controversies surrounding it. The debate it sparked among people piqued my interest and I finally watched the movie.

After watching the movie, could I stop thinking about the story? No. Did I enjoy the movie as a whole? Again, no.

I envy Rajkumar Hirani's work and writing. His past movies have been entertaining and interspersed with important social messages that I have always agreed with. Let's just say that he and I are on the same wavelength where opinions about education and religion are concerned.
This movie, however, was a bit of a disappointment for me and only because the plot didn't flow as seamlessly as his previous movies.

The movie begins with an excellent opening scene and the first half too, tries to adhere to the main plot. But from there on, the story starts to crumble under the onus of too many plot turns.
An alien has his 'transmitter medallion thing' stolen and on his journey to find it, he finds the role religion plays in people's lives.

At first he is introduced to the variety of religions and learns the differences and similarities between them. Then he learns about the superstitions associated with each religion and finally the movie becomes all about debunking the astrologers.

Midway, I had to remind myself that the alien was trying to get his transmitter back so that he could head home. It seemed that he too had forgotten about it as he kept asking thought provoking questions to enlighten the people.  

Then he falls in love with Jaggu- the reporter who was helping him. And all this time I was wondering about how his kind of aliens behaved on his planet. I mean, he siphons the knowledge of language from a woman so how did he start speaking in a male voice when apparently the aliens on his planet didn't speak. I can understand that in the last scene he must have taught the other inhabitants of his planet the language too, but how did they develop their own distinctive voices?
And are we to believe that aliens behaved the same way as humans and fall in love and make filmy sacrifices?

Then there's the small love story between the Indian girl and Pakistani boy which I thought was kind of sweet even though the conclusion of that was a bit implausible. It was hard to digest the fact that the guy called the embassy every day to find out if there were any calls for him from his lover. He should have had tried to find her and sort everything out. She was a reporter and he could have easily found out where she lived. I mean, really? One letter that wasn't even signed and both of them thought that the other had written it? They didn't recognize the handwriting or anything?

Anyway, that part of the story was hurriedly wrapped up towards the end along with the actual message of the movie that got lost in all the chaos.

In my opinion, the alien preaches that there are two types of gods- the one that created us and the other that is created by the astrologers, the latter apparently being one that puts fear in our hearts rather than reverence.

Religion is a sensitive issue and people will never give up their beliefs by watching a movie. It seemed that the writer did realize this and that is why the second half seems jumbled. While the alien is trying to bring forth his point about god, he quickly diverts attention towards Jaggu and her Pakistani lover.

From thereon, the audience obviously focuses on the Indian-Pakistani relationships rather than what the movie was supposed to be about- an impartial person who learns about religion, god and its impact on society.

The story would have worked if only the script had been tighter and identified its main plot. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Clearing my Mind

Being a writer is hard work! And having writer's block is the worst. So in order to clean my mind and try to break through the blocks that were being an annoying obstacle in my creativity train, I took a long walk one evening.

After weeks of dust storms and unruly weather, the city was finally graced with pleasant weather. The winds were cold, the sun was setting and the water was a beautiful blue.

The sky was turning sombre as I reached the end of my walking goal. It was so nice and peaceful; the air was clear and crisp. Love evenings like these.

I absolutely love the brief time in which the sun has already set and the sky is still not dark. There's something calming and romantic about that time.

There were so many seagulls and crows in the corniche. The first thing that always pops into my mind when I see them flying overhead: Don't poop on my head!!! LOL They all gathered up on that grassy patch for some reason. Away from the waters. 

Except for this little guy. I wish my camera could have been clearer to capture this. This bird was the only one near the water, sitting on a rock. He seemed so magnificent as he stood on it. 

The lights! The gorgeous lights! Again, disappointed that my camera couldn't capture the magic of the evening and the city lights that well. But I guess I should be glad that the memory of this peaceful evening will be etched in my mind. I really felt relaxed after the walk and hey, I'm back to writing, aren't I?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Having a Bad Day

What is a bad day?

It's having the channel go off right before a favorite show comes on.

It's trying to cheer up a person and end up having your heart broken by that person. Misery loves company apparently.

It's being alone with your thoughts and feeling like nothing will ever work out and no one will ever be there to say that things will get better.

That's today for me and it feels like it'll forever be this.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Expectations from a Woman

Women’s Day is supposed to be a day where we celebrate all the accomplishments made by women over the years. Without some very important women, we wouldn’t have had the basic necessities like proper education or never have found a way to get our voices heard. Women would have been relegated to the background of every household and expected to make all sorts of sacrifices for the other members of the family.
That’s what is expected of every woman- to continuously make sacrifices for the betterment of their family and society. It doesn’t matter what she wants, all that matters is what she can do for others.
Yes, this sort of expectation is still prevalent today. Except, women now have to prove themselves in several other fields as well.
Before, all women were supposed to do was marry, cook, give birth to children and then take care of them. Most of them never had the advantage of education or a career choice. They rarely got a say in the household even though they were taking care of ‘said’ household. What they were fortunate for was the lack of pressure on them to continue to better themselves.
Today, things are different for women. A LOT is expected out of them. They are supposed to be pretty, well educated, knowledgeable on a variety of subjects, know how to cook, have a successful career, be good wives, give birth to healthy children….
The list is endless.
Women no longer have a choice on whether or not to be strong- they are and they have to be. In the process of being strong, they have to make sacrifices- not compromises. They are expected to give away more and expect nothing in return.
On top of everything, they must remain attractive to men.
That is perhaps the most outrageous strain to women- to be able to not only attract men but hold onto them. Not that women don’t cheat, but if a man cheats, a woman is stigmatized as a terrible wife who did nothing to keep her looks so the poor husband had to find someone else to excite him. If a woman cheats, then she’s characterized as a bitch or something much worse. The man in this case is a poor chap who deserves someone much better. In any case, it is the woman who is always ridiculed.
Then there’s the disgraceful way women are portrayed in some movies. They are given skimpy clothes to wear, made to dance on vulgar songs and are in turn given really tiny parts to showcase their acting skills. It’s as if some filmmakers are trying to show women their position and that is way, way lower than them men’s.
Of course there are some movies who portray women as strong women, like the recent ‘Mardaani’ where Rani Mukherjee plays a fearless cop trying to find and release girls from being trafficked.

Yes, initially I did wonder why a strong woman character oriented needs a movie title like ‘Mardaani’, but I guess it was more of a creative decision. I suppose ‘Aurat-daani’ would have sounded weird. The point was, that the movie focused on the strength of a woman and how she didn’t flinch even when she was being pushed to the limits by the enemy.
Moving on TV shows, there’s not much to learn about feminism from saas-bahu shows. Women are still fighting in the kitchen, most of them are not educated or have careers or aspirations and all their time is spent shopping for clothes and playing bitchy games with the other women characters.
Even when a track is introduced where a woman wants to fight for her rights or educate herself or has a career for herself, that plot line is quickly wrapped up in the most absurd way- usually with the character becoming pregnant. From then on, she has to prove she’s a good mother and quickly fall back into her lean figure for her husband.

The only family show I have watched with strong women who are good mothers too is ‘Modern Family’. Gloria Pritchett isn’t afraid to have her voice heard. She’s young and pretty and best of all, she’s a terrific mother. She may not have a career, but she’s a good role model because she handles her family well without giving up on all the things she wants for herself.

She doesn’t cry in a corner or resort to playing silly games against her family. She’s sweet and understanding and cares a lot about family traditions apart from being a supportive wife to a husband who is way older than her.
There is a lot to think about women and their rights. It doesn’t help that most what we watch from TV shows and movies don’t entirely show women in a good light. They are portrayed as weak and someone whose sole purpose in life is to make perpetual sacrifices.

Women’s Day should be used to shed light on the fact that women are equal to men and like them they too have aspirations and deserve to be happy. They aren’t someone that a lot of expectations are to be made from. Rather, women deserve to have expectations of respect, hope, happiness and equality from everyone and have these expectations fulfilled. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A True Friend

When I first read ‘Vikram and Betal’ I was perplexed by all the riddles and captivated by all of the answers. That book holds a special place in my heart not only because of the wonderful story and conundrums posed by the spirit who tries to trick the King but also because it made me realize that things are not always what they seem.

In the story, King Vikram is tricked by a saint to get him the corpse hanging on the tree so that he could gain ultimate power. The King doesn’t realize this at first and as a man of his word persists in capturing the corpse (Betal) and answering his many riddles.

In the end, when he finds the truth, he vanquishes the trickster and saves the corpse.

A few years back, when I picked up the book again, I was once again mesmerized by the depth of the story that I hadn’t really noticed before. It asked questions that not many literary works do and it had answers that I would have never come to.

The twenty-five riddles were not just puzzles and a plot device of the story, but a way for the reader to analyze a situation in a different manner. This was something I had not seen before, much less analyzed it.

At the end of every tale when Betal asked Vikram questions like who was the bravest of them all or who was the most loyal, it never occurred to me that sometimes every story that we come across doesn’t always portray the real hero.

For example, when Betal asks Vikram who was the most brave and who’s sacrifice was the greatest when the man guarding the King kills himself and his family and when the King learns of his servant’s sacrifice, kills himself too, I expected the answer to be different.

Clearly, the servant’s loyalty was commendable and I thought the King had been foolish to sacrifice his life after the servant was already dead. It turns out that the King’s sacrifice had indeed been greater because while it was the servant’s job to protect the King, it wasn’t the King’s duty to do so.
Vikram’s answer to the riddle, took me by surprise and from thereon, it gave me a different outlook on how I perceive things.

The other day I was watching an episode of ‘The Adventures of Tintin’. Tintin in Tibet is one of my favorite comics in the series and the animated show did full justice to it- stretching it to two episodes and highlighting all the great and memorable scenes in the comic.

The ending of the story had always bothered me and learning from ‘Vikram and Betal’ I asked myself a question: Who was actually a true friend?

That was when I realized what it was about the ending that didn’t make sense to me. Right before the story ends, the monks from a nearby monastery revere Tintin for having a brave heart and being a true friend to Chang.

Chang was a young boy who Tintin had befriended in China a long time ago. When he has a strange dream about him and learns that Chang may have been involved in a plane crash, he immediately makes his way to Nepal to search for him.

Despite all obstacles- rough weather, avalanches, etc.- Tintin perseveres, eager to find his friend and bring him back home. Obviously Tintin is a noble person and a great friend for doing all this for Chang.

Bu then there’s that nagging question that I asked myself at the end: Was Tintin really a true friend and deserve all the praise from the monks for being the noblest?
Yes, he was. He did a lot for Chang and that did make him a good friend and noble. But, Captain Haddock was a better friend.

Like the riddle Betal poses to Vikram, Tintin knew Chang and wanted to save him; Captain Haddock did not. He was friends with Tintin and faithful to him. He saw that Tintin wanted to save his friend and embark on a perilous journey. The Captain could have stayed back, but he wanted to be there for his friend.

Captain Haddock then proceeds to show what an incredible his friend he was and ready to sacrifice himself for Tintin’s sake. When he slips and falls off a cliff while still tied to Tintin, he is ready to sacrifice his life by cutting the rope so that Tintin could be safe and continue to search for Chang.
Fortunately he is saved, but that scene cemented the fact that Tintin was lucky to have Captain Haddock by his side- a man who was ready to face just as many obstacles for a boy he barely knew.
Too bad, his sacrifice is hardly acknowledged, but I hoped Tintin did appreciate the Captain’s sacrifice of hauling himself all the way over to Tibet to find his friend.

Reading these two stories, gave me a different perspective and made me realize that the hero is not always the one standing in the front or the one who’s face is plastered all over the covers of books.
Sometimes it’s the ones standing at the back who make sacrifices for the hero without being too flamboyant about it.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Focus on Love

Valentine’s Day is known as the day of love-- a day where you make your loved ones feel special. Some use it to proclaim and propose their loved ones and woo them with flowers, chocolates and jewelry.
It's a day where couples indulge in a little pampering, have candlelight dinners and watch romantic flicks.
There have been many romantic movies over the years that have become cult classics. Some are based on tragic regional stories and Shakespeare's plays (Heer-Ranjha, Romeo-Juliet, etc), others are given a romantic twists on real-life events like the Titanic. Most recently, romantic movies focus on physical compatibility more than anything else.
There have always been movies to reflect every woman's fantasy, be it classics or modern fairytales. But the concept has always been the same. Guy and girl falls in love, the guy is aloof but hides a heart of gold, the girl misunderstands him at first then realizes what  wonderful man he is and the film ends with a romantic gesture- usually a kiss against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset.
It's only when you look at these stories from a different perspective that you notice the sexism and flaws of the plot.
Why can’t the guy show he's a nice guy from the beginning? Why does he treat the girl shabbily? Most importantly why is obvious manhandling by the guy seen as sexy by women?
Barring these questions, modern love stories end up posing even more questions and the most important one of all: does love exist in the real world?
The classic love stories spoke of great sacrifice and tragic deaths of the couple because they rather die than be torn apart by some of the superficial standards of society such as age-difference, race, etc. that separates them .
It’s only recently that stories have been about the guy being confused about what he wants from life. He ends up not seeing that the love of his life is right in front of him. But it’s never too late to get the girl. She’s ALWAYS waiting for him.
The only realistic romantic movie I have seen recently in the last decade is Love Aaj Kal. The characters are both confused and chasing their dreams, not realizing that they are both deeply in love with each other. Towards the end, yes the girl waits for her hero but that’s because she knows that like her, the guy too hasn’t realized what is missing in his life.
She waits for him and in the end, when the guy comes for her, she cries not because her love has returned, but because her wait is finally over and the guy has finally realized that he loves her.
That story made sense because it was realistic. It wasn’t about physical compatibility and it wasn’t about being stuck together with an unwanted pregnancy- a plot overused in rom-coms nowadays.
I've always loved stories that have focused on the different phases of love- falling in love, being in love, doing whatever it takes to keep that love in your life.
Isn’t that what love should be like?

 Instead of flowers and gifts, shouldn't love be about having the courage to accept love and doing something that makes your loved one feel special?