The mean reds

Paul: I’m….sorry. Is he all right?

Holly: Sure. Sure. He’s okay. Aren’t you, Cat? Poor old Cat. Poor slob. Poor slob without a name. I don’t have the right to give him one. We don’t belong to each other. We just took up one day. I don’t want to own anything until I find a place where me and things go together. I’m not sure where that is, but I know what it’s like. It’s like Tiffany’s.
Paul: Tiffany’s? You mean the jewelry store?
Holly: That’s right. I’m crazy about Tiffany’s. Listen. You know those days when you get the mean reds?
Paul: The “mean reds?” You mean, like the blues?
Holly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat or it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Don’t you ever get that feeling?
Paul: Sure. Some people call it angst.
Holly: When I get it, what does any good is to jump into a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness, the proud look. Nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany’s, then… then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name…


Everyone should watch Breakfast at Tiffanys (or better, read it) 

“I’ve made up my mind I was going to find someone who would love me unconditionally three hundred and sixty five days a year, I was still in elementary school at the time – fifth or sixth grade – but I made up my mind once and for all.”

“Wow,” I said. “Did the search pay off?”

“That’s the hard part,” said Midori. She watched the rising smoke for a while, thinking. “I guess I’ve been waiting so long I’m looking for perfection. That makes it tough.”

“Waiting for the perfect love?”

“No, even I know better than that. I’m looking for selfishness. Perfect selfishness. Like, say I tell you I want to eat strawberry shortcake. And you stop everything you’re doing and run out and buy it for me. And you come back out of breath and get down on your knees and hold this strawberry shortcake out to me. And I say I don’t want it anymore and throw it out the window. That’s what I’m looking for.”

“I’m not sure that has anything to do with love,” I said with some amazement.

“It does,” she said. “You just don’t know it. There are time in a girl’s life when things like that are incredibly important.”

“Things like throwing strawberry shortcake out the window?”

“Exactly. And when I do it, I want the man to apologize to me. “Now I see, Midori. What a fool I have been! I should have known that you would lose your desire for strawberry shortcake. I have all the intelligence and sensitivity of a piece of donkey shit. To make it up to you, I’ll go out and buy you something else. What would you like? Chocolate Mousse? Cheesecake?”

“So then what?”

“So then I’d give him all the love he deserves for what he’s done.”

“Sounds crazy to me.”

“Well, to me, that’s what love is


Everyone should read Norwegian Wood too

Tsundoku

I seem to buy more books than I can read. Which is ideal. I also seem to read more books than I can blog about. Which is less than ideal. I’ve managed to read Mrityunjaya, 1984, Norwegian Wood and Behind Closed Doors. But I’ve just not found time to write reviews. Two line reviews then.. … 

Mrityunjaya is as amazing as it was the first time, when my mum read it to me. Must read for anyone interested in ‘the other side of the story’, and Indian mythology 

It’s chilling how close 1984 is to today’s reality. A guaranteed one-sitting-read

Norwegian Wood is strange yet enticing like many other Murakami works. It takes some getting used to. 

Behind Closed doors featured on my ‘you may also like’ list on Amazon and was an easy, predictable read. However, it was great to read a thriller after so many months of reading ‘serious’ stuff

How ‘Pink’ are we really?

My work and travel schedule has not allowed for much cinema-going these days, but I made an exception for the movie Pink. The initial reviews were raving about how everyone should watch this movie and take their friends too. The fact that Shoojit Sircar’s name was associated with it was certainly a contributing factor for me to go to the movies to watch this one instead of waiting for it to come on TV.

Now, I fully understand that a movie is only a commentary on the topic at hand. Sometimes it doesn’t even need to be a commentary and could just be an an artistic expression of a thought or a point of view. I fully understand that there need not be a ‘moral of the story’ or a ‘solution to the problem’ in a movie. Sometimes the storyteller only needs to broach the subject and leave the rest to the viewer’s imagination/discretion. But here’s my issue with the movie Pink: The movie’s second half is filled with rousing monologues and satirical one-liners in an attempt to portray to the viewer that ‘there is hope’. They ‘win’ the case at the end. Ironically, I left the theatre feeling more forlorn than hopeful.

Was that the emotion that the makers of this movie were targeting? Full marks to them for bringing up the subject, though.

Let’s explain where we are left off before the interval. The first half is an interesting set-up. Three women get into a dicey situation with 3 young men after a rock concert. The viewer doesn’t really know what happened, but the women make it home shaken but safe. From there, the misogynist, patriarchal mindset of certain men and society at large, that cannot comprehend a free-thinking woman’s lifestyle, is beautifully portrayed. Three schools of thought for dealing with such situations are wonderfully depicted through each of our 3 friends. The feisty one wants to fight the injustice, the pragmatic one attempts a diplomatic resolution and the moody one takes to her guitar and retreats into her shell. The story builds up to a point where, very convincingly, the women are at odds with the situation they are in, and are helpless. Blow after blow is delivered to their morale, and  whatever brave facade they put up is methodically demolished. It’s an uncomfortable truth portrayed in the worst case scenario. The men in my up-scale theatre in Bangalore were feeling squeamish in their seats and there were many unconformable silences. It’s the 3 of them against the world- or so it seems till Amitabh Bachchan rises to the occasion.

Here’s where we are when we break for popcorn and to check our phones. At this point, I thought to myself, I’ll be disappointed if the second half only shows Amitabh as the superman who saves our damsels in distress. And unfortunately, that’s what the second half is. While is is not as straight forward as that, the gist of it is that their bipolar lawyer neighbour saves the day by fighting their case and delivering many thought-provoking, but monochromatic dialogues. I say monochromatic because it’s all one-sided. Yes, we get the loud and clear message – No means No. Even a husband cannot have sex with his wife without her consent, let alone some stranger who has just met the girl. And the fact that a woman is sexually active, wears certain clothes, is independent, lives away from her family, or is friendly with guys, should not be considered an invitation or a certificate for ‘looseness’. We get it. But is it really as simple as that?

My main issue with this movie is: what about the women who don’t find an Amitabh Bachchan? What about women who are not lucky enough to find a saviour? What is this movie telling me about those cases? There is a feisty quality in one of the girls. She loses all confidence in the first half and is trapped. If the movie would have somehow shown that the introduction of this one strong male character brings the grit and confidence back in her, I’d have been so much happier with the outcome. And more importantly, the metro-sexual men who where watching this movie in Bangalore were perhaps made uncomfortable by the strong message of the movie, but did the movie drive this point home in the rest of India? I read an article by a girl who travelled to her native town in North India and watched this movie in a local cinema. Her account of things states that the men only jeered and laughed through the movie, and mouthed the bleeped out ‘Randi’ in the same entitled misogynistic attitude that the movie has tried to mock!

Maybe I’ve misunderstood the whole point of the movie. Maybe leaving the viewer unsettled and forlorn is the idea. Because that’s certainly the reality of our world today. Not more than a week ago, while walking to the bus-stop near my home, I encountered a young man who locked eyes with me and wouldn’t look away. I looked at him angrily as he passed by me and he gave me the ‘come hither’ version of eyebrow raising. I stopped in my  tracks, turned around and asked him for his mothers number. He walked away after that looking at me as if I was off my rocker. It may seem like a simple thing, but why do men feel that if a woman is looking at them in the eye it’s flirtatious? Why are women taught to lower their eyes with fear? Why are men not taught to lower their eyes with respect? It was a meaningless event, but it left me fuming a long time after my bus had pushed  off toward office. I’m no feminist, but this silly event made me as angry as I was as a child, being admonished by my mother for putting my little finger in my ear in public. What if it’s seen as a symbol for ‘penetration’ by the men watching me? Only this time, it was my husband telling me not to lock eyes with such people. ‘Look away’, and don’t invite trouble.

Coming back to the movie, could there have been a better way of showing a ‘win’ than just a lawyer pulling the helpless women out of their misery? Could there have been a more just counter-filing of a case against the 4th man who, even if not involved in the initial incident, enjoyed showing a woman her place by molesting her? And what happens after the win? Do his friends just let the women be? Does everything go back to  being handy dandy? Then there is the issue of sensibility. I may sound like one of the men in the movie when I say this, but how moral are girls who willingly go with 3 strangers to their private rooms in a resort after a rock concert? Perhaps the movie uses this extreme as a way to show that regardless of the girls own morality, consent is required. Even if the girl is a prostitute, she can change her mind and withdraw her consent. Fair enough. But in the process of doing that are you not painting all ‘working women’ with the same brush? Are you inadvertently saying that a so called ‘free-thinking woman’ is forgiven all sins because rape is still rape? Is is really too archaic of me to think ‘They should have known better’? Sure, ‘It was a mistake’ and they should not be punished for it, but are we going a bit too far with the changed ideals of the modern woman? But then the story of a middle class working mother who is harassed in her work-place, and doesn’t do anything about it, would not have made for such a shocking and riveting story. In the end, how ‘Pink’ are we really?

I’ve mentioned in an earlier post how much I love the random music that one can hear in the London underground. I’ve also mentioned how intriguing I find the artists. Recently I had the chance to record some of the action. This may not be representative of the skill level of all the musicians, or ‘buskers’ in general in the city, and one of them asked me to stop recording so I couldn’t capture his compete cover of Nothing Else Matters,  but here they are anyways. 

Music in the London underground 

I absolutely love this idea

http://52parindey.in/

These initiatives need a lot more publicity than what they usually get. Do click on the link and follow them for some heartwarming and ‘hatke’ stories. 

As a story writer for my company’s CSR outreach program, I cannot stress how many times I get the feeling that awareness and PR  are lacking greatly for almost all such initiatives. Just doing my bit. 

Carpe Librum: a book lover’s opinion on Kindle v/s Book

So I bought a Kindle. About 3 months ago.

Motivation:

I’ve already mentioned this in previous posts, but the main motivation for buying an e-reader is the ability to travel light. I thought I would save space and it would be handy while traveling. This theory has already been proved to be imperfect. I’m currently in Chennai and I’ve carried a physical book with me. If I go around the city on the weekend, I’m likely to buy some more books to take back home. But it works most of the time.

So why do I still need a Kindle? Because I’ve opened the book once in the last week. If I had my Kindle with me, I would have turned it on and read a couple of chapters every night before I slept. This is simply because there’s almost a Pavlovian urge to scroll through a device before you sleep. And it’s a hard habit to break. That’s one of the reasons I opted for a Kindle against other e-readers because it’s one of the few that is dedicated to book reading and is not a tablet. If the aim is to read more books, the device you use for it shouldn’t  tempt you with other options. I sure didn’t want to play games on the thing that was meant to help me read more. That and the fact the Amazon has a rich collection of free content.

Pros

  • Travel light
    • I can carry the Kindle on any trips I make. It fits in my bag along with other necessities and is a great way to pass commute-time. Definitely a good alternative to scrolling though Facebook on a phone
  • Free classics
    • If you really search for them, you’ll be able to kind free kindle versions of all your favorite classics (not pirated). From Kafka to Austen. From Shaw to Conan Doyle.It’s extremely satisfying to know that you can carry any number of these re-readable favorites in one device wherever you go. Want to brush up on Mowgli and the gang before you watch this version of Jungle Book ? No problem. Feel like reading poetry at night in a guest house away from home? Not an issue. Want to read a play instead? Just open Pygmalion again and start where you left off last time.
  • Cheap bestsellers
    • It costs barely anything to publish an e-book. Although nothing beats the memory of standing in line at a book shop waiting for the latest edition of Harry Potter series to be un-boxed;  a couple of years ago, I pre-ordered And the Mountains Echoed on Amazon and it was at my doorstep 3 days after it was published in India. And now I can queue the latest most-anticipated book up on my Kindle; and whenever it releases, it’s on my device sooner that you can say ‘download’.  I read The Girl on the Train on my Kindle instead of buying it from a bookshop. Being the bestseller that it is, it was only slightly cheaper than the paperback (the more popular it is, the closer the e-book price is to the real thing). It wasn’t great, but I’m not unhappy that I read it. What I’m happy about is that I didn’t spend too much on the paperback instead.
  • Features
    • Highlighting. Ever wanted to underline some lines on a book because the words resonated so wonderfully with your own thoughts? Ever desisted from doing so because you didn’t want to spoil the book? Ever saw others’ underlined quotes in a library book and smiled at the connection you’d just made with some random person? Amazon has tried to capture this in the Kindle feature that allows you to highlight text. It stores all your highlights in a separate file that you can access anytime to browse through your favorite lines and quotes from all the books you’ve read so far. It also indicates where other readers have highlighted some text of their own.
    • Dictionary. The next generation will never understand the intuitive vocabulary augmentation that happens when you read a lot. Our brains automatically recognize the context in which certain words are used and interpret their meaning. That’s why most voracious readers pronounce some words differently. It’s because nobody taught us those words. We read them in a book and we pronounce them as we thought they would sound like when we read them first as kids. All that will now change when there is technology that allows a reader to long press over a particular word and the dictionary feature tells him the meaning, pronunciation and usage of that word.
    • X-ray: Ever grew tired remembering all of Tolstoy’s characters? Just long press on a character’s name or any other key word, and see all past references of that term in the book.
  • One-handed reading
    • If you like to munch while you read like I do, you’ll know the tussle that you have with the book, trying to keep it open while you reach for the food. Not to forget the crumbs that get lodged near the spine of the book that are practically inaccessible.
    • It’s same if you like to fall asleep reading. I usually end up on my side, trying and failing to keep the pages apart one-handed. The thicker the book the worse it gets.
      The Kindle’s dimensions are just right for one-handed reading. And it’s a touch screen. You can swipe or tap to move pages. It’s perfect when it comes to multi-tasking while you read, and it solves many of your eating-while-reading and sleeping-while-reading problems
  • Privacy
    • Have a ever judged a fellow book reader by the cover of the book they’re reading? Sometimes it’s nice to be able to keep it to yourself. Now the public need not know. They MAY however judge you for owning an e-reader instead of being loyal to the real thing 🙂

Cons:

  • The feels
    • Smell: A freshly printed book comes with a lovely musk, which only gets better with time. No such luck with an e-Reader
    • Ink: No matter how good the technology gets (I must admit the Kindle comes very close to mimicking the ink-on paper look that almost seems real), the touch and feel of ink on paper cannot be matched
    • Size: books come in varied sizes and weights. Sometimes the essence of a book is it’s weight. Dust must fly when I put a textbook on a table. I wonder how comfortable I’d be studying from a screen
    • Touch: Swipe/tap cannot match the satisfaction of turning real pages. What’s a ‘page-turner’ without the actual page-turning?
  • The rituals
    • I make it a point to buy books wherever I go. The experience of visiting a library or a book shop and feeling time fly simply cannot be replaced by online shopping. The e-library is a depressing place. It’s sad to think that eventually they may be the only kind left.
  • The Character
    • This may seem presumptuous but don’t we all have that copy of Catcher in the Rye from college, or the one book you borrowed from someone but never returned, or the one book that you’ve read so many times that it’s falling apart at the seams, or the book that someone’s written a note for you in? A kindle is just a kindle.
  • The legacy
    • There’s pride in having shelf after shelf of books lined up in your living room. There’s a story for every book. Each dog-eared collection matters. Perhaps my kids will read the LOTR series just like I did if I give them the books. Do you think the next generation will care for the e-books in our Kindles?
  • The data
    • The lower corners of the Kindle are troubling reminders that you are reading from a device and not from an inanimate object. Why is an e-reader non inanimate? It tells me that I’m 63% through and the rest of the book will take me 3.5 more hours to read. It’s not a race to the end, damn it! I don’t want to be told how much is left and how long it will take. I don’t need the data. Perhaps I want to dwell on a paragraph and go back a few pages and re-read something. Somehow the whole scrolling/swiping takes the fun out of the reading experience.
  • Loyalty to the writers
    • It’s a fact that writers get lesser royalty from e-books. Some are now insisting on not having e-releases. Also the front page art, the font and many other tiny details that belong to the real book are part of the contributions that the author and publisher make, to best represent the content. Somehow, I don’t think it’s right to take that away from them and allow the user to have control.

 

How do I end this? I think it comes down purely to convenience v/s emotional attachment. As with many decisions, the ‘lesser effort’ side usually wins. But that may not be the case here. Already, I find myself relegating less important books to the Kindle, while I opt for the real thing where it matters. Perhaps that’s the ideal mid-point. Use the tech as long as it’s giving you some value. Force the product’s innovation so that you, as a user, get the best out of it. And leave the rest to the old-school way. 🙂