Category Archives: writing

The Postmaster

After watching Satyajit Ray’s adaptation of The Postmaster, a short story by Rabindranath Tagore, and I am forced to think how little I had understood of Ratan’s plight, and the subtext, when it was taught to us in school. I wonder if the opinions were even our own. Then the only interpretation that flew was the teacher’s. We weren’t encouraged to apply our brains much those days. So many years down the line I don’t even remember who taught it. That’s what memories are. Fleeting and evasive, just beyond your grasp when you need them. You seem to remember some things while forgetting others. That’s where people come in. You ask them what they remember of an incident or something that happened, and you will be amazed to hear the stories, real and imagined. Everyone thinks they remember it correctly, the way it happened. But it is the prism of perspective that colours everything we view.

Chandana Banerjee as the young Ratan is outstanding. I couldn’t have expected more. She brought Tagore’s Ratan to life. I have no love lost for the postmaster but it was portrayed well by Anil Chatterjee. Incredible acting. The fish out of water-ness and his loneliness were apparent. I can’t exactly call him unfeeling or unkind but in the end he thought only of saving himself. That is human nature, the survival instinct kicking in. I won’t reveal much that may spoil your reading or watching. But I shall say this, you will be surprised by what you feel once you have finished watching or reading it.

It’s a pity I found subtitles only for a part of the story.  It wasn’t that big a problem because I do understand a bit of Bengali, especially when it is spoken slowly, it being similar somewhat to Odia and all.

The Postmaster is one of three short films collectively titled Teen Kanya. I have only seen The Postmaster which is so nuanced that even though you don’t understand the language completely, by dint of what’s unfolding on the screen, the feeling will find its way to you. What the director was trying to convey  is in tandem with what the writer was trying to say. Do you know how rare that is?

I loved the black and white minimalist cinematography where every single thing that unfolded on screen added something to the story. Nothing was extraneous. I found this podcast online where Anita Desai narrates The Postmaster which is followed by a discussion. Listen to it now. It is of course thousand times better than me reading the text. Needless to say I love and admire Anita Desai having read her The Village by the Sea when I was young (for school again) and the book has stayed with me all these years.

It’s been a while since I read Tagore. It’s time to reacquaint myself with his prose. And what better time than the monsoons, when loneliness and desolation walk hand in hand.

There May Be An Asterisk Involved

 

At the third edition of the Think Literature, which I recently attended, Prof. Harish Trivedi was moderating the session on Feminism and at the end of the session he pronounced that chick lit, written by and for women is somewhat on the lower literary rung. I admit chick lit isn’t what you would call ‘great literature’ (that’s again debatable) but it has its own place firmly set in stone and, from what I see, the market is only going to increase.

I read chick lit though I don’t prefer the term and love that they work with women’s themes, deal with relationships and see the world through a woman’s eyes. I don’t see anything wrong with reading a book about a woman in a fictional world that may (or may not) resemble my world, working in a place that’s suspiciously real and facing the same issues that I may (or may not) face, all told with a sense of humour?

I recently finished There May Be An Asterisk Involved by Vedashree Khambete which falls into this genre.I liked the cover, dare I say it’s cute (for the lack of any other word springing to my mind) and minimalist. The blurb on the back makes you want to dive in.

 Ira Bhat, copywriter by day, sleep deprived copywriter by night, has only one goal: to not go utterly bonkers as she negotiates the perils and pitfalls of a career in advertising. These include, but are not limited to: comma obsessed clients, award obsessed bosses, obnoxious marketing executives, high-strung creative types, impossible deadlines, obscure briefs, fiercely competitive colleagues, the death of many a big idea…and the ever present danger of falling in love with the new account planner. Sounds doable, but is it?

Because when it comes to advertising, somewhere, hidden in the fine print there may be an asterisk involved…

Ira works in an advertising firm called J. McCarthy. The writer herself comes from an advertising background and you wonder what’s fact and what’s fiction and perhaps, that is how she intended it. See what she says before prologue begins-

 This book is a work of fiction.
That means it’s not based on any people 
who are, or ever will be in a position to give me a job.
Just saying.
.
I loved the book as I had anticipated. I laughed out loud more times than I could count in recent times reading a book and even copied her words and used them to recount to friends later, for a repeat laugh. In one instance Ira talks about economy of words, which is paramount in advertising. She tells an intern to read Hemingway to learn from the master himself. I found myself nodding in agreement.

I like that she explained the terms related to advertising* with foot notes (rare in a contemporary trade book) which aren’t apparent to somebody outside the world of advertising.

*A baseline or tagline captures the essence of an ad campaign or of the brand itself. It’s made up of four, maybe five words at the most, which copywriters take four, maybe five hours to come up with. And that’s when the muse is being especially kind.

Ira as a character has a lot of comic potential. She is imaginative, sharp, quick tempered and her antics make for a fun read. Her two friends added to the charm, keeping the atmosphere light and jokey (is that even a word?) with their banter. Witty motormouth that Ira is, she reminded me of an articulate friend of mine who has a comeback for every line, can combat every situation and turn every comment on its head.

Sample this conversation between two characters:

You-you really think marriage is a good idea?

I think marriage is an evil, sadistic self abuse campaign that makes two people hate each other more than they can comprehend. But if you guys are in love don’t let that stop you.

Thanks, that’s reassuring…If you are looking for a light read and want to get an insider’s view into the world of advertising while laughing out loud, your search stops right here.

At cross roads, if not the (hallowed) mid-life crisis.

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
-E. L. Doctorow

Isn’t that how life is? We can only see a little stretch ahead of us at a time on life’s meandering road that we all travel on (with binoculars and maps and other paraphernalia). That too if we choose to move forward on the path( whatever it is and wherever it leads) as opposed to being rooted to the spot in indecision (which happens more often than one admits) until shoved(pushed will be kinder but a gentle push has lost its power in this generation of forced everything) in the proverbial right direction by people who care (or want to wash their hands off you for they absolutely cannot look at your woe is me avatar anymore). One is carried forward by the surge of the crowd all moving in the same direction(mind you the goals are different or so I’d like to think!). Towards death,one day closer to it. Towards the realization of dreams,one step closer to it.

If drawing a parallel between life and writing is easier said than done then how on earth can I call myself a writer.  Has that life  ship sailed ?  I hope not because I’m ready to run with my running shoes . And ipod in tow full of thought provoking songs.

Yeah, right.

See what I’m talking about? Kill me already.

Stupid is as stupid does – Forrest Gump

OK so here I am. Back after ages ! It feels that way even though it hasn’t been quite that long (Theory of relativity anyone?). Either way does it really matter? It’s just enough that I’m back. So the question is what I have been doing with my time? I have two lovely excuses- one, I was ill. Two, I was depressed because of it, which, literally made me unfit of even thinking coherently. Though that’s stretching it a bit (I am not known as a drama queen without reason but that’s also where I get my sensitivity from and also microanalysing stuff!) it’s the honest truth. I can hear my friends scream psychosomatic disorder because of the things going on in the department which I admit was a blow to my self esteem and ego. It doesn’t help one bit when one feels useless on top being close to being an invalid(that’s an exaggeration). There’s no use talking about dignity, not now at least. One thing I do have is a clear conscience. Ergo, sleeping isn’t a problem , which is a relief.

I have been ill for quite a while now. Should I say I am on the path to recovery? Hell no, I don’t want to jinx myself. Oh laugh all you can. I never believed that either but the words have a strange way of getting right back at you, so in this fragile state I am not going to risk it. Although I’m no stranger to chronic illnesses one never does get quite used to it, the tragedy and the monotony of it.  I really wish I could put “it” at the back of my mind (like it’s nothing but a walk in the park with some lovely shoes on to protect my feet) and live unchanged, unscathed by battle scars so timidly fought. I so wish I had been gallant but don’t expect knightly behaviour from me, not when I am at my lowest ebb (really lousy explanation I know). Every little thing changes you and shapes you into being who you are and the process is never-ending and compelling and directional. You learn, you live and you grow and that’s that.

 Illness compels me to think more deeply than usual and I tend to get philosophical (more than the usual craziness). All the big questions start haunting(or is it hunting) me (since I can’t employ my usual devices and run away) and I almost suffocate with the need to answer them. This time it’s time, the final time to GROW UP. There won’t be another call. Either I’m on it fully or dangling off the edges, holding on for dear life or the plane leaves without me. Childhood has long passed and so have the teenage years. And I’m about to be done with university and step into the REAL WORLD (as people keep reminding me every single day). Gee am I that dumb and naïve? Seems that is what most people think( I wish I could care a flying fig about what they thought about me). Yes I’m stupid (at least the blog title is justified now).

What are the questions ,you ask? Nothing, just basic stuff.How far have I come? What have I achieved? What is my contribution to the world? Am I good at something?  What is the meaning of my life? What is my role? What does it all mean? Where does it all lead ,if it leads anywhere in the first place?  What is the connecting link? Is this supposed to make sense in the end, all the strings tied up neatly and knots removed?
I did try to write but who the hell wants to read all this, a mass of jumbled intangible thoughts? Hence, no post for months and add to that I have taken to meandering more than is usual (read acceptable). I start somewhere and end up completely different and in between touch some points which become the fodder of many other independent posts (or so I would like to believe so please humour me). So in the end there’s a lot of mish- mash and I end up not that satisfied with “the treatment of the matter and the way it is presented” and so it stays ( read languishes )in the drafts folder and pending till I decide it should be worked upon so that it sees the light of the day, which it seldom does.
Doesn’t make any sense, does it?
P.S. The drafts folder is overflowing so I have taken up the gargantuan and arduous task of emptying it in this life time. Alas, readers bear with me.
P.P.S.- If you don’t already know, the quote “stupid is as stupid does” is from Forrest Gump.