I had wanted to see The Big Sick since I heard the name and now I want to see it again for the razor sharp dialogue and the insights it provides. And, of course the humour. Love isn't easy. That's why they call it love I thought. Maybe staying untethered isn't all that bad. But at the same time it has given me unrealistic expectations and hope that other than my parents and friends someone significant will stand by me. Spoilers ahead. Would you stand by a very sick if not dying (but the threat is imminent) girl when you have just dated her for a couple of months, and broken up with her because you could see no future with her? Then, while waiting for her to wake up from a coma you realize you are in love, and willing to go that extra mile for her. I know! Truth is always stranger than fiction.Can this happen for real? Isn't cinema the fantasy that we escape to? The ideal. And then I found out that this was the story of the writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon around the time they started dating. I was done waiting for Augustus and now here comes this guy. How will real people match up to their standards? I realized that if I have to watch movies and read books I have to believe in things working out, realistic fairy tales in other words, and not be sister grim(m. Emily doesn't magically go back to Kumail because she heard from her parents he was there for her during her illness. She takes her time to figure things out. He was there but she wasn't there there to witness it. In a relationship two people have to be on the same page for it to work out. The intense scenes were done well by Zoe Kazan whereas Kumail Nanjiani looked like he was a throwing a fit or having a nervous breakdown but I have to say signing up with an acting coach was a good idea.Her parents played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are superlative as Emily's parents. The jokes about 9/11, ISIS and religion were really out there and it was brave of them to put it in the movie.Family, rejection, heartbreak,the question of race - all so wonderfully handled with humour. I realized as a writer you cannot be embarrassed about using things in your life as fodder in the most obvious way as long as you don't really break someone's heart. I know asking for permission or waiting for it to be granted isn't realistic but you could at least avoid the heartbreak. This was my first white movie which had a Pakistani protagonist (Next will be The Reluctant Fundamentalist which has been on my watchlist since I read the book). The family values are very similar and their expecting you to do certain things or you will be kicked out of the family is quite relatable. India and Pakistan have so many similarities because the germline is the same. Anupam Kher played the father without making it desi. You will know what I mean when you see the film. Ray Romano seemed familiar too but I couldn't put my finger on it and then I found out he's the voice of Manny the mammoth in Ice Age, and later on when I saw Parenthood, he plays a rare character on TV who's a loner and very comfortable in his own skin. Go watch it for the cast if not the subject matter.
What are the odds of me peeling an orange at the exact time as Simon Baker is peeling one in The Mentalist? It’s a pity I have never broken off an orange or for that matter an apple from a branch and eaten it (another one for my bucket list). You can call it a coincidence but looking at it as a matter of chance takes the magic out of life and makes the words serendipity or happenstance (if you prefer) redundant. I understand that sometimes you have to let go of fanciful notions and think practically. What. I didn’t get to be three decades old without knowing something about how the world functions.
It wouldn’t do to complicate life by overthinking I have realized. (Turtles All The Way Down was a great help in this regard, thank you John Green). As a bookish reflective sort I have a tendency to brood and try to figure things out (read stew in it) when it should be left to life to sort out the mess.
And here I see Patrick enjoying an orange plucked straight from the tree after knowing something terrible. Don’t dismiss it by saying it’s fiction. There are people who feel deeply but don’t shed tears. I knew such a person. They internalize their grief and hide their disappointments from the world. They deal with it on their own.
There’s always a reason to smile and many reasons to live for, that is if you look at life the glass half full way (sometimes it pays to be an optimist) and not in the pessimistic glass half empty manner. I need to keep reminding myself of that.
Disclaimer – Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the book(s) in return for a honest review.
Relationships and Emotion written by Sadhguru, are two books in one volume. It is a good combination because you can’t have relationships without emotion and vice versa. These books are for people who want to live their life free from the tyranny of emotions which make and break our relationships.
I didn’t know much about Sadhguru or his philosophy before these books came my way. These books questioned and shattered some illusions I had all my life. I wasn’t willing to part with them because there is comfort in the familiar but they don’t work for me so it’s time to let them go.
Relationships – Bond or Bondage
We are all a little less rational (or not at all) when it comes to our emotions and how we conduct our relationships. Life amounts to nothing without the connections we have forged and yet we struggle with them. In the introduction he talks about how easily bond can become bondage. So with that thought I delved into the book and got some surprising insights. The book is mostly in question and answer format which makes it relatable to the masses since most of us are looking for answers to the same questions.
In the first chapter, Within Four Walls, Sadhguru talks about love, the nature of romantic relationships, marriage, reproduction and parenting. He also talks about the nature of bondage in each scenario and the level of detachment needed to live in this world with joy.
The reason why you go into love is because it is supposed to bring you blissfulness. Love is not the goal; blissfulness is the goal.
Sadhguru denounces the idea of perfection in any sphere of life related to the material world.
You life will become wasteful and fanciful if you seek such things.
The second chapter named Friend or Foe is a misnomer because he talks not only about what friendship means and who is a true friend, but also about who’s a leader and what is leadership. Through a story he aptly shows that friendship cannot be sustained if it’s superficial and built only on commonality. Haven’t we all experienced it – losing ‘friends’ as soon as we changed schools, colleges, workplaces, cities and realized that there’s connecting us together?
In Cosmic Connect, the cyclical nature of life is discussed when a question is asked why the same emotion, situation, pattern keeps on repeating in our lives. He explains the cyclical nature of life and how we go about it depends on what we want from life.
Cyclical movement is the basis of everything that you call physical in the universe.
In the last chapter Beyond Life and Death he asks us why we crave relationships. I appreciate Sadhguru saying that some people won’t be able to function to their optimum if they are not bound by a relationship. He also states that different people have different needs and marriage or an intimate relationship might not work for everyone.
I understood the nature of time and space because of the way we relate to our bodies, and how it relates to life and death but didn’t understand the difference between intelligence and intellect the way Sadhguru explained it.
He talks about energy based bonds which transcend life, like the one between master and disciple.
All other relationships come together for convenience. Once it is over, it just breaks apart.
Unexpected intrusions of beauty. That is what life is. – Saul Bellow
There are no words to express the way you feel when you hold the hand of an eleven year old, let her take charge and be your guide. For a few moments I felt like the schoolgirl I had once been, carefree, innocent and oblivious to what the world looked like to grownups. I thought I had left that self far behind but it was hiding in the open underneath the veneer of adulthood. I desperately hope (in spite of knowing that it will) growing up doesn’t rob her of her curiosity.
This child was knowledgeable about the technicalities of photography and that impressed me, I am still an amateur photographer years after professing interest in photography as a hobby. There lies the difference. It is more than a hobby for her. She is passionate about it.
I took to her immediately. Our vibes matched. It would appear strange when I say that because I am a world weary adult (even though I cringe while saying it) and she’s a bright kid. My inner child connected with her and perhaps in her I could see a glimpse of the happy-go-lucky child I used to be.
I have always connected well with children. At the same time, I have been told by my older friends that I am far too mature for my age. I am an old soul with a young heart. And only with a Gemini it won’t be a conundrum.
She was cheerful, restless and bubbling with enthusiasm like children are. It was something I could not have asked for but got in spades interacting with her that day. I was not supposed to meet her but she had come with my friend and how funny it was her that made my day.
The same night I found a book I had been looking for ages, Oliver Jeffers’ The Heart and the Bottle. I don’t have to tell you that the illustrations are beautiful because it’s a book by Oliver Jeffers. Spoilers ahead. It talks about a girl shutting herself away from the world because something bad happened to her. To live and to just exist are two different things. She allowed grief to overwhelm her and forgot to live until a little girl shows her what she was missing, just by being herself, full of life and not being afraid of the future (the great unknown for most of us unless you are a seer). I was that little girl but I don’t want to be that adult. Finding the way to yourself, and discovering who you are, isn’t that the purpose of life?
Life mirrors art. Art mirrors life. And we continue to live on trying to find meaning in the things we do.
Yesterday I read an insightful interview about Oliver Jeffers’ new book Here We Are which comes out today. The cover looks stunning and I cannot wait to read it.
The first thing that struck me about A State of Freedom is it’s cover. The book jacket has a large bear on the cover, which is unusual and arresting but surprisingly aesthetically pleasing. When I began reading A State of Freedom, it reminded me of Lahiri’s oeuvre because of the way it started and the themes it deals with. But I soon realized Neel Mukherjee’s book is quite different.
The book is edgy and each section ends with a cliff-hanger. You want to gallop ahead and connect the dots, and at the same time, you want to take your time to savour the way it’s written.
A State of Freedom has a large canvas and deals with many issues in only 275 pages. The book is divided into 5 sections and the events that unfold are in different geographical locations. The way the stories of these characters are narrated gives them depth, and makes them appear real.
In the first section a man wants to familiarize his increasingly Americanized son with his roots. So they visit Mughal monuments like Fatehpur Sikhri and Taj Mahal. Originally from Calcutta, he has been living abroad for two decades, and now feels like “a tourist in his own country”. He wants his son to see India, and understand the culture he was born into. But they are like aliens from another planet.
I felt disoriented as the first section ended and wanted to stop but I urge you to read on (and not be put off by big words).
The second section flows more easily. A Bengali couple, the Sens, live in Mumbai and their son, a young writer, lives in London. He returns to India periodically to visit them. He is working on a cookbook which will contain authentic recipes from India as cooked in Indian households. The cooking at their home is done by Renu, who works as a cook in many households in Mumbai. Their son is curious about Renu because of her surly manner and tries to draw her into conversations but she doesn’t respond.
Treating the domestic help as a lesser human being is perhaps a relic of the Zamindari system. The son now straddles both worlds, old and new, and finds it increasingly difficult to deal with the way things continue to be done in India.
The love of food intersperses this section. If you pay attention, many a recipe can be mined out from these pages. While exploring India for recipes, he also visits Renu’s home at her insistence. It is here he witnesses the divide between the classes.
Another woman, Milly, comes to clean the Sens’ house. She reappears as a major character in another section of the book.
The third section is the longest, and is the soul of the book. Motherless twins brought up by a father, who dies in a forest fire. One brother leaves home to find work. This section follows the other brother, Lakshman, as he attempts to eke out a living. He finds a bear cub and keeps it to save it from being killed. He names it Raju. With his brother gone, the responsibility of feeding his wife and children along with his own family now falls squarely on his shoulders.
The way the bear cub is handled, in an attempt to tame it, is barbaric. This, in a country where cows are ‘worshipped’. It makes you question who is really savage, man or beast?
They are animals their pain doesn’t last. All these animals that live in the wild, in the forest, on the streets, you have never known them to need a doctor, have you? They heal quickly, they are strong. It’s we, humans, who are weak.
With hunger gnawing their insides, their lives are foremost about survival. They are largely unaware of the world outside of their existence. They have no time to understand the rights of animals. Lakshman has trouble believing bear dancing is a crime one could be sent to jail for.
Lakshman tries to train Raju to be a performing bear and wanders from place to place living like a nomad, trying to earn money by making him dance. Though Lakshman is cruel to Raju, he is aware that he is at the mercy of the ‘helpless’ animal. Lakshman depends on Raju; the bear can forage for food and fend for itself. It makes you think about freedom, who is actually free.
The book shows how leaving home in search of a better quality of life works out differently for people, and the price they pay for it. (Warning – Animal sacrifice is described in this section.) Continue reading “Book review – A State of Freedom”
In life there are few moments when you experience a kind of stillness which changes something in you, a perceptible shift occurs. Without being aware of it the conscious has changed. I hadn’t recorded my experience in any form then. It was days later I thought about that dusk inching closer to an inky night, in the wee hours of the morning in another kind of stillness, of dawn breaking and banishing darkness. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was but feeling centered and belonging to the moment as it unfolded was a big part of it.
The winding village road was bereft of street lights. The stars looked so bright without light pollution that I wondered why we were crammed in the city. The path through green meadows where a lighthouse like light moved on both sides made it all the more surreal. I remember there was a waning moon and it looked ethereal. Was it my imagination or the quality of light was different than the one in the city?
I wonder what would travelling alone on a bike, moving with the wind and experiencing it with every fibre of my being feel like. I guess that is why people travel. To live out their unlived lives.
The moment was fleeting (aren’t moments like these always fleeting yet so much is contained in that moment) and even though I was surrounded by people it was as if no one existed. In the silence my mind was completely still. In these rare moments of stillness I feel something I can’t quite explain. Is it what feeling one with the universe and acutely being in the present moment feels like? I intend to find out.
Have you experienced such moments of stillness?
Coming home to Tagore is always a revelation. I have probably owned this fine collection of short stories for over a decade now. My aunt had funded it when she saw me lurking in the aisle of the book corridor in Big Bazaar back when it still sold books, along with stationery. How little I must have understood of women’s plight and their predicaments, when I was a teenager if not a child, is dawning on me now. A great story is that which reveals itself anew whenever you pick it up to read. In short something which has repeat value. Tagore is a genius; every sentence has its place and importance in the narrative.
I never pick up Tagore lightly because I can never shrug off his words casually and carry on with my life pretending to be unaltered when the soul has registered change. Reading Tagore needs complete involvement of the brain and the heart, and I need to be on stable ground otherwise it would be tough to balance the emotions when I’m on uneven terrain. The emotions generated on reading the text will overwhelm me and teetering on the edge of a precipice isn’t good for my health.
Reading The Wife’s Letter I had to stop at a few sentences to completely understand them (I am not sure if it is brain fog or ageing in action) and compare it to the real world experience I have had in the last decade. My first hand experience might be very limited but observed or heard second hand experience is so much more. Women talk. Women share. Stories of friends, acquaintances, neighbours, stories from the media. A woman has empathy for all the women of the world (barring duplicitous mother-in-laws and conniving frenemies).
There is no doubt about that Tagore understood the female psyche and portrayed it in his writings better than any man could. I am really looking forward to reading another translation of Chokher Bali soon. Continue reading “Reflections on reading The Wife’s Letter”