Tuesday, November 22, 2005


(Read on only if you're a Harry Potter fan. Possible spoilers, but what the hell, you'll know the story anyway.)

Ever since the first movie released, I've been wondering about the fourth one. The fourth book is the first of the long ones and I was rather curious to see how they would manage to fit in everything. Well, I got my answer yesterday.

The 1550 show at PVR Priya, and the people milling around are mostly kids; a couple of grownups hover around, clearly uncomfortable among the chattering teenage crowd.

The beginning of the movie brings a huge reaction from the audience. Whoops, whistles and very obviously feminine screams, as if it's a red carpet show, and not a movie screening. More whoops when the title is shown, and you know that it's a movie they've been waiting a long time to see.

The plot, of course, we all know: Harry is in his fourth year at Hogwarts and must compete in the Triwizard Tournament, a highly dangerous tournament between the schools of magic. As for the execution of the plot, the script isn't different from the book at all; to bring in changes, would, of course, have been considered sacrilige by the millions of Harry Potter fans the world over, but having read the book more times than I would care to admit, I did find myself wishing that the scenes weren't so predictable.

The movie mostly does live up to expectations. The special effects are truly spectacular; the dragon, the lake scene, last task - everything is as it should be. Though the Quidditch match, after a brilliant beginning that had me wanting to shout and scream alongside the Quidditch fans in the stadium, is a huge letdown, if I may use that word for something that - well, you'll see. I don't want to spoil it.

However, if you ask me whether I liked the movie - well, no, I didn't. Where this movie lacks is in the atmosphere. They've obviously made a conscious effort to keep it dark, but somehow they can't quite capture that Hogwarts atmosphere that the third one portrayed so well, so that you feel like you're being led through all the important scenes, but there is no connectivity.

Also, of course, they've had to cut out some scenes. Which is justifiable, but they've left out such brilliant pieces of Rowling imagination as Winky, Ludo Bagman and Loony Luna Lovegood. And several of the old characters are missing - Dobby, Mrs Weasley, Sirius Black, and of course, our old friends - the Dementors. Hagrid hardly makes an appearance, and the Dursleys are not even mentioned. I would so love to have watched that Ton Tongue Toffee scene.

Other peeves: the graveyard scene wasn't scary at all - Voldemort is supposed to be sinister and snake-like, not loud and so - well - underwhelmingly evil. Also, whatever happened to the Parting of the Ways? Isn't that almost the most important part of the book? And Dumbledore, as usual, disappoints: there's one scene in which he literally shakes Harry in his anger - and that is NOT in accordance with Dumbledore's character, dammit.

What I love most about the Potter books is the history - Harry's parents, the family connections, Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. It's this stuff that makes the books appealing to me. And the movies can never capture that. Even the third movie, which remains my favourite, couldn't quite capture what I consider the most important thing in the third book - the bond of friendship between Harry's father and his friends. This movie, like the previous ones, does make an effort to give us an account of the past, but again, like the previous ones, it doesn't quite succeed.

So, yes, do go and watch it. Even if you don't like it, you'll definitely be mesmerized by the special effects. In fact, I think I'll be watching it again soon.


P.S. - Which country is that Krum guy from? Cuz, dude, if they make 'em all like that, I for one am moving to that country, he-he.
• • •

Monday, October 31, 2005


I heard of the bomb blasts the day before yesterday, an hour after they had happened. MS, TK and I were sitting in a CCD outlet about two minutes from my house, catching up on a year and a half's worth of gossip, when the TV suddenly showed images of bomb blasts and BREAKING NEWS started flashing on it. At first, only the Paharganj and Govindpuri blasts were reported. And then I saw that Sarojini Nagar had been hit as well. My parents called in quick succession, asking me where I was. It was only when they realized that I was within walking distance of home that they calmed down.

The TV presenter said that Delhi had been put on Red Alert. I looked around me, at the people calmly sipping coffee and chatting, at TK telling MS about the grand reunions our class has had recently, at the cyclists and pedestrians strolling by in the darkness outside and wondered what the hell Red Alert meant.

Sarojini Nagar market is sort of our neighbourhood market. It's the nearest of the major markets, and it's the place we go vegetable shopping every Saturday night. "Let's go to SN" is what my friends and I say when we're at a loss on where to spend a lazy afternoon. In fact, that had been my suggestion to MS earlier in the afternoon, when we were debating where to go.

Later, I thanked God for a lot of things. Thank God my parents didn't go to Sarojini that particular Saturday night, because they felt that the market would be crowded because of Diwali. Thank God MS didn't want to go shopping and we ended up going for a stroll. Thank God nobody I know is in that death list published in the HT today morning.

But still, my blood boils every time I think of what happened.

Sarojini Nagar is a wonderful market. It has none of the pretensions of upscale markets like South Ex or GK. It's the common man's market. Stores with branded stuff are rare; most of the goods are within most people's reach. What makes Sarojini the market it is are the hawkers and the encroachers. In fact, earlier this year, when the police evicted the encroachers, the market wore an uncharacteristically deserted look - what was the point of shopping when the only people you could buy from were the non-bargaining shopkeepers?

During Diwali - in fact, any major Hindu festival - the market is so crowded, you can hardly find space to move. All the shops put up pavilions outside, displaying their wares and adding to the chaos by taking up walking space. No doubt, this was ideal for the terrorists - high people density, lots of combustible goods, what else do you need for a good bomb blast?

But what makes me really angry is where the bomb was placed - near Babu Market, a part of SN that well-off people rarely go to. Did those terrorists know that this section would contain the happiest of the people, the people who were finally allowing themselves to spend the money that they must have saved for months so that they could celebrate this festival well? Is that why they picked it - to create as much shock as they possibly could?

I know that my theory is improbable - that poorer people can't have been deliberately chosen for death. But then why weren't the bombs placed in South Ex or GK or even Lajpat Nagar? Those places, surely, would be as crowded as SN.


Aapke seat ke neeche dekhiye. Lawaris vastu bam ho sakti hai. Turant shor machayiye. Inaam payiye.

(Look under your seat. Ownerless bags could be bombs. Raise alarm Earn reward.)

This is what is written on the backs of all the seats of DTC buses. I've made fun of this message at least a couple of times. In the light of what happened in that DTC bus near Okhla, what I did seems so ignorant and so insensitive. I swear I'll never ignore warnings ever again.
• • •

Monday, October 10, 2005

Random Thoughts on Reading

Has anyone ever heard of a phenomenon known as Reader's Block?

Yes, I know, lots of people suffer from Writer's Block. In fact, I suffer from it myself at times, though with me, it's more laziness than Writer's Block.

What I'm referring to is the inability to read. I haven't read a book in ages. All books look equally unappealing, and whenever I do steel myself up to start a book, I fall asleep before the end of the first page. It's very very scary.

On the other hand, I have started reading newspapers, which is a good thing, though I think that will stop once my vacations end. Also, I only read the editorials and the articles that come under the 'opinion' section. Not a good thing, because I ought to know the facts before reading the opinions that other, more learned people have formed from those facts.

I've tried everything to counter my Reader's Block, from trying books that have "Absolutely Unputdownable!" printed in bold on their front covers to actually sitting up when reading books. Which I really hate. I like lying down and reading. Years of being scolded by parents and hearing dire warnings that the power of my eyes would go down even further have not changed me one bit. Which is probably why my lenses and my specs have such unmentionably high powers. Actually, I like mentioning the power of my lenses, because I like to watch the astonishment on people's faces on hearing it.

I've digressed.

I've finally figured out, on recognizing the fact that I could read articles, but not novels, that I was suffering from a short attention span. Obviously, the solution was to read short stories. Which is why I'm reading Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allen Poe. My copy has a rather beautiful cover. It's bound in dark brown, with raised golden letters. However, that's as far as it goes. I've already spotted a couple of spelling errors.

Hopefully, my Short Attention Span Syndrome is short term. Because I've got my hands on a copy of Captain Corelli's Mandolin. It seems to be a very readable book, from the couple of pages I managed to read before I falling asleep. It starts off with an ear surgery - a doctor removing a pea that has lain in the ear of a man for many decades - and what could be more promising and more - satisfactory - than an ear surgery? I haven't watched the movie, chiefly because I was under the impression that it was a purely romantic thing. The book seems to be quite funny, though.

Suggestions on antidote to Short Term Short Attention Span Syndrome are welcome.
• • •

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Last Sunday, I visited a couple of temples, after a gap of more than a year.

It was in the month of May last year that I'd last visited a temple, and that too because a friend of mine had suddenly found religion, thanks to the Boards. Not only did she drag me off to a neighbourhood temple the day before the exams began, the stress-busting walk that we took the day before the results were to come out also somehow had a temple pitstop.

Neither of the visits was particularly enjoyable. Why on earth do these North Indian temples have so much marble? That particular stone strikes me as very artificial and worldly, probably because of its overuse in rich people's homes these days. Also, marble gets damnably slippery when it's wet. It gets rather hard to concentrate on peaceful Godly thoughts when one is trying not to land up on the floor butt first. Or when its much more fun to watch the people nearby as they flail about, trying to keep their balance.

Not that I'm an authority on temples, mind you. I'm not a very religious person, probably because neither of my parents is. It's been ages since we carried out the mallu tradition of lighting a lamp at dusk and praying by it. My brother and I know no bhajans and no keertans. In fact, when I was watching that bus scene in 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer' last year, I was wondering what I would do if somebody asked me to prove that I was a Hindu.

However, despite not being religious, or perhaps because of it, I expect certain things from temples. None of the crowd and bustle of famous temples for me, thank you. I don't see any point in standing in queue just to be able to file past the deity and catch a glimpse of a stone idol smothered in colourful silks. Nor do I see any point in praying to any particular version of God, out of the thousands that we have in Hinduism. Vishnu, Lakshmi, Parvathi, Ganesh, Shivji, Brahma - what differance does it make?

I have a fixed idea about what a temple should be like. Unfortunately, my expectations are rather high. You see, I had the misfortune of living in Thrissur at an early age. I say misfortune, because Thrissur is choke-full of beautiful temples. Which is, of course, a good thing, except that my parents, displaying an enthusiasm I've never seen in them since, insisted on visiting them all one by one. And they dragged me along.

Now, in case you don't know, Thrissur's temples are so many and so varied, that there's something for everyone. You just have to fall in love with at least one of them. My favourite was the exquisite Vadakkunnathan. I have memories of walking barefoot inside the temple compound, the wet stone beneath my feet, breathing in air moisture-laden from the previous night's rain. Even then, aged eight or nine, knowing nothing of the temple's history or even which deity was which, I felt at peace.

Since then, no temple has come close to fulfilling that need in me. I need a temple that offers me sanctuary and allows me to think, to reflect. I need quiet. I need temples made of rough stone, with simple stone idols that are not revered as Gods, that are present only to act as points to focus on. I need temples with plenty of space to walk about in and maybe a couple of banyan trees to sit under and think.

I need temples that give me peace. Isn't that what they are supposed to be for, after all?
• • •

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Just An Image

Then suddenly, you want to run - run so hard and so fast that your lungs give up and your heart bursts and you end up on the ground with blood on your lips. And then people will walk around you, and walk past you, and some will tut-tut irritably and some will say poor thing, but none will stop to help, because they'll know that some things are beyond repair.
• • •

Friday, September 23, 2005

Blood Letting

I donated blood for the first time this week.

The Rotary Club of Delhi had organized a blood donation camp at my college on Wednesday - a big, invitingly open white tent in the middle of the front lawn. The Rotary Club members then wandered around the college, collaring hapless students and asking them why they weren't out there - in there, rather - donating blood.

I'd been wanting to donate blood for ages, but hadn't cared enough to actually go and find a place to donate. Not that I'm all selfless and generous, mind you - I just felt that it was an adventure that I ought to undertake as a part of turning eighteen. Anyway, I was delighted at the opportunity. So I tried to get my friends to come along with me, but they refused outright, giving reasons ranging from the practical ("Suppose they use infected needles?") to the plain ridiculous ("Tujhe pata nahi hai, blood donate karne se kala ban jata hai!")

Finally, suddenly infected by the Rotarians' zeal, a friend of mine agreed to come along with me. We went to the big white tent. It was like entering a circus. There were people all around - the doctors, the Rotarians in their blue caps and the students from Pathways World School, who were supposed to be helping the Rotarians. Also, of course, students from my college who'd wandered in, wondering what this was all about. We were supposed to register first and then fill out a form that had questions like "Have you ever had Malaria/Typhoid/Jaundice/A-Dozen-Other-Diseases-Whose Names-I-Can't-Remember?" and "Have you taken any medication/vaccination/alcohol in the last forty-eight hours?" and "Have you ever had sex with multiple partners?" (huh?) and "Are you HIV-positive?" (double huh?)

Then we had our haemoglobin levels and our BP checked, and, when we passed those tests, were given one plastic bag each, with tubes coming out of them. After that, we were finally allowed to enter the place where the actual blood letting was happening - a huge room inside the tent, with a couple of dozen beds, on which people were lying with their arms connected via tubes to rapidly filling bags of blood.

A rather nice doctor took my form and made me lie down on a bed. Then she put a cloth thing around my arm and asked me to make a fist. She said it in Hindi (muthi or some word like that) and, me being me, I didn't understand what she said, so I folded my arm at the elbow. So, of course, she thought that I was nervous. She smiled at me very reassuringly and said, "First time?" and I smiled back and said, "Yeah." She was even nicer to me after that.

She put the syringe in - still have a hole by my elbow to prove it - and gave me a sponge ball to squeeze, I suppose so that the blood could get pumped out faster. So I lay there like that for some time, squeezing the little ball regularly and trying not to look at the sun that was shining into my eyes through the white cloth of the tent. It was rather nice and peaceful.

She came by regularly to check on me. When 350 ml had been pumped out, she pulled the syringe out of my hand and put a white gauze thing inside my elbow. I lay there for some more time, again trying not to stare at the sun. And that was that.

She made me get up some time after that and asked me if I was feeling okay. I felt perfectly fine, which, to be honest, was rather disappointing; I'd expected at least something, but no. Apparently, I'm too healthy.

And then, to the best part of the whole experience - the free food! Let's see - we had soft drinks (I had three glasses), orange juice (one packet), baby samosas (three), puffs (one), chips (innumerable), cup cake (one), apples (one), banana (none, I hate them). Plus one free gift, a clock, which I promptly donated to a classmate of mine.

All in all, the actual donating part was the least painless. Standing in line to get my form submitted was, in fact, more of a hassle. And, of course, the only sickly feeling I had at the end was from all the overeating!
• • •

Friday, September 16, 2005

Another One


4. The Numbers

She worked with numbers for forty years. And then she retired.

But the numbers wouldn’t go away. They stayed before her eyes, burnt forever into her retina. They danced before her, orange-red, and she snatched at them, trying to make them disappear. But they wouldn’t.

Finally, she gouged out her eyes. It didn’t help, though.

(55 words, not counting the title)


This story came to me at two in the morning and it's sort of inspired by something from my life. Oh, and the last bit? My mum's idea. I was just going to shoot her outright, but my mum said that that was rather staid (!).


• • •

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Tagged! 3

*This Post Will Keep Getting Updated*

Well, so I've been tagged by the Smugbug. I'm supposed to write a story in less than fifty-five words. How easy, I thought. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way. The last thing I wrote was this and, as you can see from the date, that was a long time ago. The following story just popped into my head and it's not what I thought I would end up writing, so please excuse - well, pretty much everything..

1. True Love Bypassed

"Him? But he's so ugly!"
"No, he's not!"
”Look at his nose!”
"There’s nothing wrong with his nose!”
“Sweetie, you need someone to make P jealous, not make him laugh. You should pick someone handsome.”
“Yeah, I guess..”
“What about that guy over there?”
“Better than your guy. Ask him, go on.”
Sighing, “Okay.”
(55 words, not counting the title.)

2. Puking by the Roadside

The images kept haunting him throughout the drive. Finally, he stopped the car and puked by the roadside. Vehicles roared by. He wondered what those drivers thought of him. He wondered if she would be stiff by now, inside the trunk. He wondered if he would puke when he buried her. He rather thought not.

(55 words, again not counting the title)

3. Decisions

There wasn’t much time left. She had ruled out the blue one, so there were just two choices left. Moisture trickled down her back. The cutter in her hand wavered, first over the red one and then over the green one. Finally, she decided on the red one. Snip went the sweater’s price tag.
(54 words)

Update # 1:

I forgot that I was supposed to pay this forward, so here are the five people whose literary genius I want to - er- stoke? As in, you know, stoke the fire sort of thing?
  1. Arnav
  2. eM
  3. Pradyot
  4. Inky
  5. SOxy
Some of these people won't do it, since I'm aiming rather high here, but whatever. I want to read stories written by these people, so there.

Update # 2:

To see how this should actually be done, visit this place. This blogger has posted a lot of stories, in different posts, so I can't link to all of them. But his tales are so much better than mine, they shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence.
• • •

Monday, August 15, 2005


It's a quiet day, an overcast day. The sky is grey, a breeze flutters the leaves outside.

It's Independence Day. A day for flying kites.

I watch them flying about in the sky. There are dozens of them - pink, yellow, green, red against the grey sky. The distant ones are mere black spots. They could be birds, except for the way they fly.

There are other watchers. Other people on other rooftops, faces upturned. They're too far away for me to read their expressions. I wonder what's in their minds. Nostalgia? Wonder? Or are their thoughts far away from the kites? Is it just a duty to them, a mere ritual, this watching of kites on Independence Day? Bring out a glass of nimbu pani and sip it slowly, watching the kites, listening to the children's laughter and shouts.

There's a kite stuck on the tree outside my house. There always is, this time of the year. Last year, it was a tricolour kite - green and white and saffron. This time, it's black - with a white stripe and a red tail. It flutters in the wind - a tug-of-war between the breeze and the tree. The poor kite is stuck in between. The breeze will eventually win, though. And then it will carry its prize a few yards, before it gets tired of it. And then the kite will fall to the ground.

I've owned a kite only once in my life. My father made it for us - my brother and me. I must have been about six or seven. I don't remember if it could fly, but it was really pretty. Purple all over, with a purple tail and purple streamers. I remember buying the purple paper, I remember watching my father make it, but I don't remember if it eventually flew.

The vehicles outside all have tricolours. They flutter from the handlebars of two-wheelers; they stick out from the side-mirrors of four-wheelers. All probably bought from the kids at the red lights. I wonder if those kids have kites. Maybe they'll buy some with the money they get selling the tricolour.
• • •

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Miskeralytis - An Antidote

Tee hee. This happened about half an hour ago.

My mother had sent me out to get some milk from the local Mother Dairy shop. When I reached the place, there were two customers standing there already - two thirty-something men.

The first one was buying icecreams, two each of about three different varieties - for his kids, I assumed. The shopkeeper - a mallu - totalled up everything and the guy paid for it. Just as he was leaving, his phone rang. He picked it up and said, "Aa, Verghesey, enthokke ondu?"

The second guy asked for a couple of litres of toned milk. The shopkeeper asked if he wanted anything else. So the guy went to a red car parked nearby and asked the lady sitting inside, "Vere enthengilum veno? Ice creamo vallom?"

Why do I even bother missing Kerala?
• • •

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Middle of Nowhere - II

Continued from here.

Bats. Dozens of them, hanging upside down on the giant tree. Most of them were still, sleeping no doubt, but some of them gave out intermittent shrieks; some shook themselves every few minutes, while others flapped and stretched their wings.

I couldn't understand why I'd never noticed these creatures before, in all the years that I'd been visiting the place. They must have been hanging up there every time I came. And I'd always taken the shrieks for granted and never bothered to look up at the tallest trees, so busy was I with climbing the dead snake vines.

I stood there for a few minutes. My grandfather soon became bored - after all, he had been visiting this place for years - and went outside. I followed him out.

We sat down on the half-wall surrounding the one-roomed temple. It was peaceful. The noon sun was warm, there was a slight wind, and the paddy fields stretched out below us like a green waving carpet. There were a few white birds here and there, paying scant attention to the scarecrows.

Soon, a figure came into view, leading a cow. My grandfather sat up and said, "Look, that is my brother." I squinted at the figure, but couldn't see much. "He'll cross the fields and come here to let the cow graze. We'll go down and meet him."

We clambered down. The figure was still only half-way across the fields. Appooppan went and stood under the shade of a coconut tree while I investigated a low-walled well. There was a tulsi plant growing nearby and I idly plucked a few leaves and ate them - they are supposed to be good for the body. The water in the well was dark and unwholesome-looking. I remembered that there was some story attached to this well. Perhaps somebody had jumped in and died and now haunted the well. The waters didn't appear deep enough for drowning, but, looking up at the jungle brooding above me, I felt that I could well believe that a ghost might choose to hang around.

Appooppan, meanwhile, had gone to welcome the figure. I followed him and Appooppan asked the other man, "Recognize her?" It wasn't a very hard question, since I am the only female born in my father's family in two generations. The man scrutinized me carefully and said, "How can I not? After all, she is family."

He smiled kindly at me and went to tie the cow around a tree, in an area where there was plenty of grass. Then he made small talk with us. He discussed the weather and the crops and how long it had been since he had seen me.

While I was listening, I couldn't help but wonder why I had no memories of him. Perhaps he was only a cousin. He was a short and scrawny man, with pleasant eyes almost hidden by folds of skin. Unlike my grandfather, who doesn't look his age, this man looked as if he had been baked by the sun all his life and had dried out as a result.

Soon, their talk turned to local matters and I was left to my own thoughts. I looked out at the fields and thought of how different the place was from Delhi, how much more peaceful. The only sounds were the voices of the two men, the harsh crying of crows and that beautiful sound that coconut trees make when they are swaying in the wind. In that moment, I couldn't, for the life of me, understand why anyone would want to leave this place.

Only for a moment, though.
• • •

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Metro

The Delhi Metro ROCKS!!

I came back from college on the Metro yesterday. Delhi University to Central Secretariat in eighteen minutes - I thought I'd stepped into another dimension.

And it's not just the speed - it's everything; the cleanliness, the simple decor, the lack of crowds, the punctuality, not to mention the airconditioning that makes the station seem like heaven after the heat outside. It's almost like a plane ride, only even better, if that's possible.

The Delhi University station is the first on the line and you can get a seat if you're quick enough. Otherwise, there are some stations where the people get off in huge waves, like Kashmere Gate and Connaught Place (though the computerised Metro lady calls it Rajiv Chowk, for some reason) and you can get a seat.

You pay your money, you get a token that you use to get to the platform, you wait for the Metro - there's one every five minutes and there are signboards telling you how long till the next one - you get on board, you sit there watching your fellow passengers' faces - not much of a view outside, since it's underground - you reach your station, you use your token to get back outside. That's it, done.

In spite of the fact that I'd never ridden the Metro before, I was amazed at how familiar everything seemed, thanks to the countless movies I've seen that feature at least one scene in a Metro; the most recent of them being one of the earlier scenes in The Lost World, which I watched again on TV recently.

One of the most fascinating things about the stations are the rails themselves. In India, we're used to dirty, stinky, litter-strewn rails at the platforms. These Metro rails are so clean, I'd willingly bet that they're swept every hour. In fact, they're so clean that they look rather inviting. I've always wondered what it would be like to be directly in front of a speeding train, though I've never felt the slightest desire to actually find out, thanks to the stink and the dirt of the Indian Railways. But these rails look.. tempting. Even if I did jump, I doubt I'd be in any serious danger, though, because the Metro comes in so slowly at the stations.

Since it was my first time, my friends gave me a guided tour. I kept jumping about like a little kid, exclaiming in an awe-struck voice about every little thing. We speculated on what would happen if we took a ticket for a nearer station and rode the Metro till the last station. Do the authorities fine the offenders or make them ride back to the station they took the ticket for? Do they have some kind of computerized system keeping track of each of the tokens? Maybe they have different coloured tokens for each of the stations.

In fact, I wondered about it so much that I dreamt about it last night. In the dream, I took a ticket for Rajiv Chowk and the clerk gave me a blood red marble instead of the blue token for Central Secretariat. Unfortunately, I already had a bag of red marbles on me and this marble got lost among them. I kept trying each of the marbles to find out which of them would let me get out of the station. Finally, I tried the last marble and that didn't work either. So, well, it was a nightmare rather than a dream.

If you're a Delhiite who hasn't already tried the Metro, please do, because it's a wonderful experience.
• • •

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Middle of Nowhere - I

A left turn from NH 47 between Kollam and Trivandrum, a few hundred yards and then you can say hello to the Middle of Nowhere, folks. No, not the place Courage the Cowardly Dog lives. This is Middle of Nowhere, Kerala, India.

Where my grandparents live.

It's not even a village, really. A few houses are planted here and there amid a lot of different trees and shrubs - rubber, tapioca, pepper, coconut, cashew; you name it, it's there.

The ground is rather slopy and if you go a bit downhill from the house, you reach the paddy fields. Just before the fields is the Sarppakavu - where the Snake Gods live. I wanted to visit it. I've been roaming that place since I was born, but my grandfather still insisted on accompanying me, since it was the first time that my brother wasn't with me when I visited.

My grandfather is eighty, but he doesn't look it, since he's a farmer and has always been very fit. He has a breathing problem now and doesn't do much farming - his land mostly has tapioca plants now.

We went downhill silently. I was looking out for all the familiar spots - the big hole that my father dug when he was a bored teenager; the tree that marks the end of my grandfather's land; the big cashewnut tree that the three of us - my brother, my cousin and me - used to climb.

Finally, we reached the fields. There is a temple there, called Madan Nada. It's a basic one roomed building, overrun with vines and creepers - a very creepy and lonely place. Appooppan showed me a hidden well. The shoots of a nearby tree have almost covered it up and it's invisible unless you go inside the jungle.

Next stop was the Sarppakavu. We followed an overgrown footpath to the big dark opening in the woods that is the entrance to the kavu. Inside, muted half-light greeted us. The sounds from outside seemed muffled somehow, as if from another dimension. In contrast, the screeches of the birds inside seemed magnified.

Waist-thick vines hung from towering trees. They crisscrossed the ground and themselves. As a child, I used to think that these vines were giant snakes - still for the present, but watching the trespassers with their hooded eyes. Now, in this twilight, it was very hard to forget that image and the thrill of fear that used to accompany it.

At the far end of the kavu, just before the ground rises steeply to meet the fence that borders the rubber plantations, is the main Snake God. This one is the only one with a proper concrete block to his name. The others are just black stones on stone platforms on the ground. I saw that the remains of burned out incense sticks lay in front of the black idol, along with bird droppings, dry leaves and rain water in tiny craters. Apparently, people still visited this place for worship.

I looked up, my eyes following the trunk of a nearby tree - its girth so much that it would take more than a handful of people to surround it. The tree just went up and up and up, its leaves mingling with those of the other trees, so that my neck suddenly gave out and I had to look back down again quickly. But only for a second, because I had seen something interesting up there. It looked like a hanging nest. Suddenly, even as I was looking at it, it extended its leathery wings and gave out a sudden shriek and a shudder. My eyes widened as I realized what it was. They widened still more as they took in the scene up above, on the highest branches of the trees surrounding me.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005


I can't figure out if it's a good thing to go for a movie with absolutely no expectations in your mind. Having had no T.V. for a long time, I didn't get to see the trailers of Kaal. I pretty much had no idea what the movie was about. I only knew who the lead actors were and that the movie supposedly had something to do with tigers.

I was pleasantly surprised, which is probably an indication of how low my expectations were. There actually were good points to the movie! So if this pseudo-review reads like a lambasting, it's probably because of my anti-Hindi-movie bringing-up.

The Beginning:

It may be that I'm dense, but what exactly is the point of beginning a movie with a dance number featuring a married forty-year-old man, a sultry goddess and a bit of raucous noise that - surely - can't be called music, even in these permissive times? I didn't have to wait long to get my answer. After the butt-shaking ended, the screen informed me that the movie had been Produced by Shah Rukh Khan and Karan Johar.

The scene that introduces John Abraham's character - Krish - should be mandatory viewing for any person who wants to get to know Bollywood. Apparently, a snake has escaped from Krish's private snake zoo and he must run half-naked for about five minutes to catch up with it. And when he does catch up with it, he rolls around in the grass for another five minutes, like he's wrestling a tiger. And then, when he is lying on the grass with the snake wound around his body like a spring, he kisses it. Well, no, he doesn't. But he was going to, before his jealous girlfriend (Ria/Priya - take your pick) interrupted him.

The Plot:

Easy peasy. Apparently, there have been a lot of 'accidents' involving tigers in Orbit National Park in the last two months. Krish has been sent - by National Geographic, no less - to investigate. On the way, he meets a bunch of happy-go-lucky youngsters. They team up, for no reason other than that Krish's jeep broke down. Or maybe it's to make it easier for the director to kill them off one by one.

The Middle:

The movie actually takes off in the middle. It gets smoother; the narrative gets tighter; the tension builds up. Some of the best pieces of acting come in the middle, too. Plus, of course, all the "accidents".

The Actors:

The movie includes some spectacularly bad acting by Vivek Oberoi. One scene in particular stands out clearly in my mind - you'll know which one if you watch the movie. John Abraham didn't really have much to do, except look intense and broody and macho and intelligent - all at once. He manages it quite well and even pulls off the one scene where a bit of emotion is required on his face.

The two ladies don't really have much to do. I don't know how Eshaa Deol thinks she's going to become a popular actress if she keeps accepting roles in which she has nothing to do except look good and smile. Lara Dutta has a bit more of dialogue and she screams quite well in the two - count'em TWO - decapitation scenes.

Ajay Devgan has a rather difficult role to play - witty and brooding and scary at the same time. He does it with his characteristic flair. The minor characters are all well-played. I don't know the names of any of the actors, but boy, they're good.

The Ending:

One got the feeling that the director rushed through the last scenes. The viewer is left with a lot of questions. How do they escape? More importantly, why do they escape? I thought that the twist at the end could have been explored further. (An aside: I don't usually spot twists, but since a review had hinted that this movie did have a twist, I was on the watch for it and I actually did know what was going to happen when it happened.)

I can't understand why the film lets us down at the end. Did the director just get tired of the movie or is it an overenthusiastic editor who is to blame? Either way, the ending is almost as much a letdown as the beginning.


It's not a must watch, but it's definitely worth a watch. There are a couple of creepy scenes; a nice setting; hot babes; at least one hot guy; no songs. Aren't those reasons enough?
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Monday, March 14, 2005

Million Dollar Baby

Hers is a life far removed from your own. She grew up as white trash - a trailer, a mom who weighs three hundred and twelve pounds, a jailbird of a brother. Her life had more sorrow than yours ever will. And yet she dared to dream.

Clint Eastwood's movie is all about dreaming. It's about dreaming and working to achieve your dream - no matter how crazy your dream might sound, no matter what the obstacles, no matter how much you have to work.

Most of us are not priviliged enough even to have the ability to dream. And the rest of us, even when we have a dream, deem it unachievable and let it go. Maggie Fitzgerald - Hilary Swank in an unforgettable role - refuses to do so. She is thirty-one years of age and too old to become a boxer - at least according to Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood), a boxing trainer.

But she persists. She saves the money that she earns from her job as a waitress. She eats the leftover food that the diners at her workplace leave behind. She works out in the gym at odd hours of the night. She persists.

Until Dunn sees her potential and takes her on. But he's required merely to guide her. She has the potential. She has the willpower. She has the guts. She is a true champion.


Why should you watch this movie?

The three lead actors - Eastwood, Swank and Morgan Freeman (who is his usual brilliant self)- themselves make it worth watching. The film is darkly humourous - if you have the stomach for it. Eastwood, as usual, allows no bright colours in his movie. Everything is dark and "gritty".

Then there's the inspiration factor. Do you have a secret dream that you are holding yourself back from chasing? Just watch the first half of this movie. You'll find yourself biting at the leash.

The last half hour is overwhelmingly sad. I found myself surreptitiously wiping away the tears that had sneaked out all on their own. Yes, it detracts from the inspirational aspect of the movie. Yet, it provides a brilliant canvas for Eastwood and Swank to exhibit their acting prowess.

Reasons not to watch it?

Eastwood sometimes resorts to cliches. The white trash family has no trace of gray in them - they are portrayed as completely evil, greedy people who are blind to their own faults and after only money. And, of course, Dunn and Fitzgerald have no trace of gray in them either - they are wonderful human beings who help out whoever needs them.


Overall, the movie definitely lives up to the expectations raised by the fact that it won four of the six most important Oscars. Go watch it. Don't expect to enjoy it. Expect to be sucked out of your life. Expect darkness. Expect joy. Expect tears to stream down your face.
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