Is love enough?

Image sourced from the internet

As soon as Sir dropped on Netflix I pounced on it because I had heard about the film before. I can’t believe I got an autograph and had a conversation with Tillotama Shome (honestly I just gushed about Qissa) years ago when she came to my city for a literary festival. It seems like that happened in an alternate universe now.

Two people sharing an apartment yet not sharing lives because they inhabit separate spaces. What happens when their paths cross inadvertently and they connect, is what Sir explores. Tillotama Shome as Ratna is lovely as is Vivek Gomber who plays Ashwin. His voice has just the kind of gravitas to it where even when he utters a few words, they hang in the air, and you wait impatiently for him to speak again. 

Like Ritesh Batra’s Photograph, Sir cuts across class and education. We see the divide between the rich and the poor – we also see how they come together as human beings. When people are on the same page the world around them doesn’t fade but it makes the possibility of their world’s colliding or perhaps sharing their lives a possibility. I dare you to still call me a dreamer.

You are left with the feeling that they see each other as they are and acknowledge each other’s hopes, dreams and aspirations, even though there’s a huge chasm between them. The premise of Sir works because Ashwin never laughs at Ratna’s dreams. He treats her dreams with respect and takes it seriously. Ratna and Ashwin nudge each other in the right direction so they can lead more fulfilling lives. We know how rare that is because Sir shows us the other side in Ratna’s sister’s marriage.

Ratna is the more pragmatic of the two having seen a harsher life and knows the world won’t look kindly on this connection. A young widow who came to the big city, Ratna makes it clear that she’s here to build a life for herself. In the dignified way Ratna leads her life, she shows that we have to be courageous to go after our dreams; however silly or unattainable they might seem to others. 

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Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

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First off how good is the minimalist cover of Olive Kitteridge? I really thought I got lucky with this edition not just because I love lighthouses.

I have been delaying talking about Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge because I read it within a month of my grandfather’s death. Saying we were very close would be an understatement. At first the book hurt terribly. I thought I knew heartbreak and then life decides to say ha let me show you how you wrong you are! Initially, you want to escape the pain not experience it more deeply. But then the latter is more cathartic in the long run, and you start to heal when you realize this is the way of the world. We are all connected by loss, love and longing.

I was astounded by Elizabeth Strout’s writing. There’s a kind of gentleness about the everyday life she writes about. It is never banal. I never thought everyday life could be written about so poignantly and have such an immediacy to it. Ordinary people, everyday entanglements and normal lives in the hands of a gifted writer makes for a compelling narrative.

Henry Kitteridge, the husband of Olive Kitteridge, reminded me of my grandfather – kind and affable, never wanting to make a fuss and trying his best to be in harmony with what is.

Possible spoilers ahead.

Olive Kitteridge is the portrait of a long marriage and of an only child’s failed relationship with his parents. It is learning that marriage cannot alleviate your loneliness completely even though you are bound together for life. It is about the deterioration and fatigue that sets in old age. It is about finding companionship when you least expect it. It is about tender unexpected love that has no name but which gushes forth without caring if it’s appropriate. It is a deep yearning to be connected yet unable to bridge the gap.

It is about the truth and being straightforward being the kinder way in some cases. It is about the meek and submissive becoming vile when it is they who wield the power.

It is about small things, things of no apparent consequence and almost invisible to others, having the capacity to cause such tremendous heartbreak that it takes you by surprise.

It is about compassion lurking under battle hardened hearts and letting go of judgement, living with everything as is. It is being true to yourself above all because in the end when Death is coming for you, that’s all that matters.

Olive Kitteridge showed me all that and more. I could identify with many things. Things I didn’t know I felt, things I suppressed because they weren’t important in the scheme of day to day living. And there were things I could foresee myself identifying with in the future. When a book does that you know it’s a keeper.

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