Sunday, November 10, 2013

Arbhaat short film club: 8th session

The 8th session of Arbhaat Short film club took place on the 7th. The theme was 'Gender'. Even though I had received the programme note beforehand, I had not had the time to go through it. So when I turned up at NFAI, I had my own preconceived notions about what type of films might be screened.

Gender - the very word evokes a dichotomy - male and female, man and woman. I was expecting something on these very lines - gender discrimination, female foeticide or violence on women, maybe. I had even wondered about the gender roles in India, juxtaposed against that in the rest of the world.

But the films were entirely different, and delightfully so. Instead of taking on these issues, which nonetheless important, the films touched a different range of issues altogether, which, though concerned intimately with the theme of gender, are hardly at the forefront of discussions on it.

But before, a short film on the life of Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar was shown. It was a good short film, informative and interesting.

Undress me
Sweden, 2012, 15 minutes
Victor Lindgren

A man and a woman are talking in the club - obviously attracted to each other. She has pretty blonde hair, an oval face with strong cheekbones, and he has dark hair. He remarks time and again on her height, her deep voice as they leave the club to go to a burger joint.

She confesses that she is a transgender and had changed her sex three years ago.

This is the pivotal moment in the film. There is no drumroll, no emotional musical cresendo which highlights its importance. The film, the characters do not change.

You do. As soon as she said those words, I began looking for the man in her. It was wrong of me, I suppose, and the realisation was momentous - was I judging her? No, of course not.

But by looking for the man, I was questioning the women she was, I was questioning her identity.

I suppose this is what most transgender experience everyday - the discrimination, the stares, perhaps the sniggers. The film takes a look at one side of being a transgender - the emotional connect.

As Prof Nakhate later said, the gender divide is permeable. It is osmotic. It is neither rigid nor definite. We have defined it. We have separated people into groups and the pointed at those who do not conform to the norms laid down by us.

The film then proceeds to show the interaction between Mikaela, and the guy. Even though they are undressed, they just talk. At the end of the movie, the guy, who's about to leave tells her, "You seem like a nice girl." She nods and closes the door, and then looks straight into the camera. Her expression is indescribable. Though he says that she 'seems' like a nice girl, she has not been yet accepted as a 'girl'.

Sexy thing
Australia, 2006, 14 minutes
Denie Pentecost

This film is a perfect example of how a story can be told with pictures alone. Apart from the opening lines, there is hardly any dialogue in the film.

Swimming in deliciously blue water, lying on hot tin roofs, a bedroom plastered with dreams of the sea. The longing for the sea, set against the dry, hot Australian echoes the same turmoil withing Georgie, a girl of about 12. She is assaulted by her own father, and the pain and rage is intersped with the escapist dreams of the sea. Her mother is driving, her brother is in the backseat-occasionally crying, but mostly asleep, and Georgie is in the passenger seat. The hot air is stifling, it blows in from the theatre screen straight into your mind, the flashes of the water become your salvation too.

It is the climax that is horrifying. While Georgie's reaction to the incident is apparent, we don't know what to make of the mother - she sobs, swears and rages by turn.

And then, when the car finally comes to a stop at Georgie's grandparents' house, her mother turns towards her and says, "We're here." The blue and red lights of the police car flash in the background and the police siren wails deafeningly.

Then we see the blood on her arms, and the wails of the father become clear.

A beautiful, amazing short film.

La Santa (The blessed)
Chile, 2012, 14 minutes 
Mauricio López Fernández


A thirteen year old intersex girl, Maria is forced by her father to play the incarnation of Virgin Mary during the village festival, to 'fix' her. She is reluctant to get 'fixed', and believes that peeing while standing up not a bad idea at all. She snips away a portion of her hair every night - her own personal rebellion - but dresses up like a girl, except for her pair of boxers.

Moi Marjaani
India, 2012, 20 minutes
Anubhuti Kashyap

Mona, a single Punjabi mom runs a cyber cafe in Patiala. She often talks with Paresh ji, a man she has met online, who lives in Bombay. The film was was really very funny both subtly and overtly. It was a brief relief from the heavy movies that had been screened earlier, but was nevertheless charming in its own manner.

Call it slut
India, 2006, 14 minutes
Nishitha Jain


Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is no stranger to the public eye. In this film, which portrays her outrageous, truthful, and quite interesting views, she becomes more than a person and almost a phenomenon. I loved her views, she is honest and fearless.

But at the same time, I was also struck by her flamboyance. The contrast of Laxmi's flamboyance and Mikaela's understated appearance is interesting. Mikaela is trying to fit in, trying to be one of the crowds, and desperately wants to be accepted. On the other hand, I felt that Laxmi, quite used to the middle class morality and the hypocrisy that exists in our society, flaunts her persona even more, to show that she is unafraid. She knows she is going to be drawing eyes anyway, so why not do it with style?

I was quite delighted by this screening, and it gave much food for thought. One of the best sessions yet!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cheese garlic bread

I had so much fun drawing the first doodle, that I finally succumbed to the urge and made this.

My Doodle recipe is a part of Easy Doodle Recipe contest at in association with

Saturday, October 12, 2013

cake in a cup

Aaditee taught me how to make cake in a cup. Here is the recipe:

My Doodle recipe is a part of Easy Doodle Recipe contest at in association with

Arbhaat short film club: 7th session

After a lukewarm 6th screening, I was looking forward to the 6th screening, hoping that the theme would be more cohesive this time.

Though there was no single theme this time, the films themselves were quite good. Some of my favourites:

Beyond the window
Israel, 2011
Chen Shumowitz

One of my favourite films so far. Yoni and Shira, two young girls, are seen kissing through the window of the family home by Yoni's mother. She is quite upset, but her turmoil is nothing compared to Yoni and Shira's trepidation. Yoni is reluctant to go home, because she is sure that her mother is going to berate her, possibly beat her. Yoni is not sure of how her mother will react, but she is sure that her mother is going to be very angry. This drives a wedge of sort between the two girls. But when Yoni does go home, her mother does not refer to the incident at all. In a tenuous silence, she serves Yoni dinner, and the two women sit side by side, their brittle smiles identical, making an effort to understand each other.

Story of the desert
UK/Spain, 2002
Celia Galan Julve

A fictional account of Rosita Guzman, who broke out of prison in 1962 and disappeared in the Mexico desert. It is like a documentary, and is very entertaining.
This film was in Spanish and I was very, very happy to discover that I could follow most of it without even glancing at the subtitles!

Bon voyage
Switzerland, 2011
Fabio Friedlei

A story of immigrants. Though humorous, it has a dark undertone. Beautiful film!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Arbhaat short film club: 4th session

On the fourth screening of Arbhaat, the theme was Rebel. Instead of putting in the program as I usually do, I will stick to the films I loved the most.

India, 2009
Director: Vinoo Choliparambil
Length: 24 minutes

Vitthal is angry.

His grandfather has passed away, and being the eldest grandson, he has been forced to shave his head. His anger is the focal point of the film. The reactions, those of Vitthal and the rest of the characters, stem from this rage. A delightful film that will first leave you numb, then sympathetic, but angry. You want to admonish Vitthal for his thoughtlessness, but you know that he is suffering. You want to protect him from the world, but you know that it would be wrong. You want to wrap him up in cotton wool and expose him to harsh realities of the world. This conflict regarding the main character drives the movie effectively. We have been Vitthal - petulant, hurting, sad and lonely, even in the crowds.

Arbhaat Short Film club: 3rd session

Arbhaat Short Film club had its third screening on 27th June.

I was initially hesitant to go - the sky was leaden, overcast and torrential downpour seemed imminent. The weather, however cooperated and I found myself in the NFAI auditorium at 6:30.
The theme of this session was 'cityscapes'. I have often thought that cities have personalities.

First was a set of 3 movies, black and white and shot in the years, 1956, 1958 and 1959 respectively.

Warsaw '56
Poland, 1956
Director: Jerzy Bossak, Jaroslaw Brzozowski
Length: 7 minutes

I loved this film. Truly. There is a poignancy in the narration and the images of the film that I cannot forget. After the bombing in Warsaw, Poland, buildings are still in ruins. But people continue to inhabit these dangerous places, making it their own. A mother is happy because her child cannot yet walk - a small topple can be dangerous here. The building has precipices, treacherous ledges. The women resort to tying their children to the bed with a string if they are busy. A child escapes and wanders through the building, the string trailing behind her. I think I will forever remember that image - the end of the string being dragged over rubble, the soft patter of young feet and the dangerous stillness of the building.

A day without the sun
Poland, 1959
Length: 19 minutes

Urban reality, loneliness.

India, 2010
Director: Umesh Kulkarni
Length: 12:42 minutes

Umesh Kulkarni always manages to touch my heart. In all his films, I find a part of myself, and I hate him for showing it to me and pity myself. Vilay is a story of two individuals - a grandson and his grandmother, who is slowly dying. As she deteriorates, their ancestral home is being dismantled.

This is a movie about change. About death and dying. About things that have been lost. About the holes in our hearts.

I remembered my grandmother, who would also dress in a shirt and a loose skirt to hobble around the house. I remembered the house we left behind - a modern garden flat, but my memories of it, are quite the same as that of the boy and his house.

India, 2012
Director: Bharat Pawar
Length: 5 minutes

An unusual take on a mundane object - the local. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Wander Girls

My summer has not been uneventful. I have been reading books, which is like living decades in a few hours and I have been interning at a new start-up The Wander Girls. I am a content intern, so I basically write travelogues and stuff. What I like about The Wander Girls is that -

a)The name - pretty self explanatory. Girls that wander. Hah.

b)It is a women-only travel based company. They arrange trips and mixers for women. This is a part of the tourism industry that is not much developed. Women need escape from their lives every now and then. They have to get out of that kitchen and leave the washing in the machine. They shouldn't need to worry if the milk boils over or the dog pees in the middle of the drawing room. They needn't hear the litany of work related and study-related problems from their husbands and children. They need to escape from their surly bosses who are grumpy every single day for no reason. And The Wander Girls provide this opportunity.

Here is to The Wander Girls and my summer of internship.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Love and Lokpal

Keeping in the spirit of 'A room of her own', I succubmed to the phenomenon of 'A book of her own'. Indian writers are churning out new books every week. Most of the books in the market fall in the IIT/IIM category, popularised by Chetan Bhagat. They contain travails of love and live and offer a commentary on the world from the point of view of today's youth. Nobody can vouch for the language or the content, but one thing is certainly true. These books instill the habit of reading in english in Indian youth. These are the stories of the people themselves. They have the same insights, concerns and ideologies and hence, these books become favourites of the students and young professionals.

The 2011 Lokpal Bill movement was, in many ways, a turning point for me. I had begun my FYBA. I was reading classics and books about Indian history. I was writing about the politics in India. I was immersed in a world where the need for change was glaring - I could see that, but I knew not how to bring about this change. The Lokpal Bill movement started around that time. It was love at first sight for me. At the Saras baug protest, I was one of the protestors, carrying a banner and shouting myself hoarse. I attended lectures, went to protests, wrote about the cause furiously, gave impromptu speeches in front of my friends in the canteen. I was enchanted. We all were. India was going to change. We all believed it. The air was on fire with expectations and emotions. The transformation that everyone had been longing for was here, and we all pinned our hopes on it.

It was around that time the idea of the book came about. Harsh Agarwal, a good friend and agent who runs The Asylum played an integral part in the development of the plot. I hashed and rehashed the characters, played them, watched them change. Indeed, in the course of the movement, I had seen many Shloks and Kaveris. I had seen their struggle, their beliefs and passions.

I finished the book at the start of the year 2013.

Book blurb:

Shlok Kulkarni, an architect by day and an Assassin's creed junkie by night is being bombarded with eligible girls by his matchmaking mama. In a bid to escape her and maybe check out a few hot girls while he’s at it, Shlok flees to Delhi, where a massive protest for the Lokpal Bill has been building up.

Kaveri Gokhale has been searching for a cause her whole life. When the winds of the Lokpal blow through the country, she eagerly catches the next train to Delhi to witness history.

When Shlok runs into Kaveri at Jantar Mantar, the sparks are undeniable. As their relationship blossoms, Kaveri discovers a dark secret that leaves her devastated . . . and endangers the fate of billion others. Will Shlok and Kaveri’s love wither or will it withstand the uncertainties of the corrupt politics? Can love truly conquer all ideologies?

 Here is the author bio:

Pooja Wanpal considers reading books the sole aim of her life. In addition to writing, she gives unsolicited advice to people and tries indefatigably to avoid her textbooks. She studies at Fergusson College, Pune and spends most of her time chatting with people over endless cups of coffee in the canteen. Owing to her almost unhealthy enthusiasm for politics, she was a part of the crowds that protested for the Lokpal Bill in 2011. The event left an indelible inspiration on her, and further conversations and debates about the movement culminated into this novel. She can be reached at

Preorder the book here


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Pu. La. Deshpande : Punekar

Disclaimer: This is a translation of  the Punekar part of the essay, 'Mumbaikar, Punekar and Nagpurkar' by Gaurav Sabnis. This essay was originally written by the celebrated Marathi author Purushottam Laxman Deshpande, popularly known as PuLa.

Here is the link to the original post. Kudos to the author for the translation. I love it!

Ok, so now... do you want to become a Punekar? Go ahead. We have no objections. But our advice is... think again. Do you really want to? OK, if you insist then your preparation needs to be thorough. And once you are fully prepared, then being a Punekar is as enjoyable an experience as any.

Firstly, do not nurse the notion that you are inferior to anyone in any aspect of life. You are not. You are a superior being. Secondly, learn to express dissent on every issue possible. I mean seriously, stop thinking about minor things like who you are, how educated or uneducated you are, what your achievements are..... don't think about any of these things and just express a contradictory opinion. Whatever the topic under discussion, your opinion needs to be strongly voiced, and it has to be contrarian. Even if the topic under discussion is "How to get the American economic machine back on track", and you are just an employee of the Pune Municipal Corporation's Rat Extermination Department, don't let it stop you from holding forth.

At least once every few hours you need to cluck your tongue, shake your head and say "Pune just isn't the way it used to be." There are no age-related requirements for saying this. In Pune doddering geriatrics and school-going striplings say "Pune just isn't the way it used to be" with matching conviction. So you will get to hear this statement with comforting regularity in offices, colleges, tekdis, temples, markets and even kindergartens.

Marathi, or in general any language, exists in several forms in Pune. Public Speaking Puneri, Shopkeeper's Puneri, Domestic Puneri.... are all various dialects with little in common with each other. Let me demonstrate the difference between the language used in private conversation and the language used for public speaking, with an example.

Imagine that a Prof. Bhamburdekar is talking about a Prof. Yelkuntkar with his wife - "What nonsense! Yelkuntkar is being felicitated? Utter nonsense. Actually he should be thrashed with his own shoes. What is he being felicitated for? Translating the rigved? More like transmutating the rigved. But still he gets government grants, thousands of rupees."
Note- One of the typical ways for a Punekar to vent his anger about someone else is to rant about the money he is making.
"Yes, you fool! Live it up! Embezzle that money! Live the big life! Eat banana pudding and peas curry everyday!"
The most superlative form of living the big life for a Punekar stops at thse humble heights - eating banana pudding and peas curry everyday.

Now let me show you the transformation of this sample of private Puneri language into public Puneri language. Imagine, the same Prof. Bhamburdekar at the felicitation, giving a speech about Prof. Yelkuntkar.

"Felicitating Guruvarya Prof Yelkuntkar is like felicitating in person the Sun God of Scholarliness. Friends, today's date will be carved with gold in the annals of Pune's cultural history. This great teacher of mine.... I mean I have always considered him my teacher.... I am not sure if he considers me his student..."
At this point the audience laughs a little. According to Puneri Public Speaking rules, if you don't make the audience laugh after your third sentence, it is counted as a foul. So all aspiring Punekars preparing for the daunting task should keep this in mind.
"Now of course, in a way I am his student. Because when he was a teacher in the municipality schools, I was his student in Class 1"
See how cleverly he slipped in the information that Prof. Yelkuntkar was once just a school teacher in a rundown municipality school.
"His father was an employee of the nutritional department in the palace of the Sardar Panchapatlikar"
Another masterstroke.... the good professor's father was just a cook!
"Having spent his childhood in extreme poverty, Professor must be feeling great contentment living in his spacious bungalow in Aranyeshwar Colony"
i.e notice how he's embezzled all this money under the garb of education.
"Prof Yelkuntkar and our Honourable Education Minister have been friends right from their school days"
i.e now you know why he gets all those government grants he doesn't deserve.

So you see, unless you are Marc Antony, you will have to prepare a lot before your public speaking skills can match up to Puneri standards.

Now when it comes to Puneri language to be used in day to day life, the standards are pretty stringent too. Let me illustrate with another example. All over the world, the convention is that when you answer the phone it should be with a polite "Hello?". Not in Pune.

In Pune when you answer the phone, your voice must take on that natural irritable brusqueness that descends when someone wakes you up from an afternoon nap, and you must yell "WHO'S THIS??". It helps to pretend that it costs you money not just to make a call, but also to receive a call.
Now if the caller responds with "Err...could you please get Mr. Gokhale to the phone?", then his non-Punekar status will be blindingly obvious even to a child. A true Punekar will respond testily "CALL GOKHALE TO THE PHONE".



To be a true Punekar, you have to have a burning pride for something. Not just normal pride. Normal pride can be felt by anyone. It has to be fierce burning pride. It is not necessary to feel this pride just about major things like the life of Shivaji or Tilak. It could be something as flippant as the rank of your lane's Ganpati statue during the Ganpati immersion procession or even peanuts from the rural regions of Pune district. But no matter how flippant the issue is, the pride must be fierce and burning.

This burning pride is very helpful when you have to make dissenting arguments. So then, on the day of Tilak's Death Anniversary, you could tap into burning pride for Gopal Ganesh Agarkar. On the day of a cricket test match, you could tap into burning pride for kabaddi.

Expressing your dissent merely in private conversations is not enough to get you the Punekar tag. You need to frequently write in your dissenting opinion to the 'Letters to the editor' column. It does not even have to make sense. For instance, this letter appeared in one of Pune's leading newspapers a few years back -

This year the monsoons have been particularly fierce. The roads are in a horrid condition and crops have been washed out. May I ask the good people at the Meterological Department, who draw their fat salaries from our taxes, what they are doing to stop this deluge?"

Dissent is of primary importance. Logic is secondary.

Now another art you need to perfect, and that too in a specialised Puneri way, is driving a bike. Just sitting on a bike and going all around town on it does not qualify you as a bike rider in Pune. The verb "driving" when it comes to bikes in Pune, is used in the same sense as "driving an axe into a block of wood" or "driving hordes towards revolution".

A bike in Pune is viewed, not as a means of transport, but something to sit on when you meet for chit-chat with a group of friends in the middle of the road. It really helps in training new traffic policemen. It also helps in making access to any building virtually impossible for pesky salesmen. Managing to cluster bikes together to construct such a barricade is as crucial as being able to extricate your own bike from the cluster without toppling others.

Bikes should not be driven alone in Pune. There should be at keast 3 bikes together going parallel to each other in the middle of the road, at a leisurely speed while talking to each other. Your eyes should not be on the road, but on the walking-and-talking attractive scenery on the road. Having unnecessary accoutrements like horns, mirrors, lights, indicators is a sign of cowardice on the streets of Pune.

In this way, as you are crossing various levels in the game "How to be a Punekar", you should also parallely keep up efforts to beome an office bearer in some social or cultural organisation or a Rotary Club. Holding a hollow post in a useless organisation is central to the completeness of the Punekar's existence.

It is also necessary to attend as many lectures, talks and seminars as possible on topics as diverse and vacuous as "Bajirao the Second's Handwriting" or "The Fungus on Bajra crop". And after the lecture, it is imperative to catch hold of the speaker, and in full view of at least half a dozen people say to him with an earnest expression on your face "I would like to discuss this topic in more depth with you some time."

All this preparation should be enough to make you a normal Punekar. But if you want to operate a shop in Pune, you need more lessons. You especially need lessons on language. Only then will you be able to heap maximum insults on your customer in minimum possible words. Because in Pune, the verb "operating" a shop is used in the same sense as "operating a bull dozer" or "operating a machine gun". The most negligible entity in a shop in Pune, is the customer.

A shop operated in this way can realistically make money only for 7-8 years until all the customers desert it. Once that happens, you can sell your shop to a Sindhi or a Marwari. The price of land must have appreciated enough to get you a hefty bank balance to last you for the remainder of your life. And you are free to conduct seminars and panel discussions on the topic "Why are Maharashtrians unsuccessful in business?" in the Tilak Smarak Mandir.

Summing it up, to become a Punekar, every action of yours should be aimed at ensuring a felicitation ceremony for you some years down the line.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Midnight's children by Salman Rushdie

After a first disappointing read, I set my sights on Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie.

What can I say? I was rendered speechless by this stunning novel. The characters leapt out of the pages - these are people I know, people I have seen and those I have heard about.

Saleem Sinai, the protagonist is one of the midnight's children... Born on the stroke of midnight on 15th of August 1947, his fate is entwined with that of India. He is affected by all the major events of India, and he is, indirectly and directly, responsible for many events that shape the destiny of the country. The novel spans sixty three years, starting with the grandfather of the protagonist and addresses four generations of the family.

The intricacy of the novel leaves one spellbound and Rushdie's singular writing style is just...awesome.

I will definitely be re-reading this novel in the future, dwelling on the characters and the events.

It makes for a wonderful, wonderful read.

What Young India Wants - Chetan Bhagat

I launched off my reading list for this year with What young India wants by Chetan Bhagat.
I led me to the conclusion that India, and Chetan Bhagat both have no idea of what they want.
Oh no, I am not criticising the book. It was lucid, had easy language but had none of the perspicuity of thought or the depth that other tomes, like The Argumentative Indian (Amartya Sen)  or We, the People (Nani Palkhivala) possess.

I do not dislike Chetan Bhagat. Indeed I do not. His books have compelling stories that seem to resonate with the youth. Last year, I was enrolled in an introductory program to the UPSC in one of the coaching institutes in Pune. We were asked to discuss our favourite works of literature and to my horror, half the people had a Chetan Bhagat book as their favourite novel. Makes me wonder if the novel, as a genre has become so stilted, stagnant that the young people read only the literature that has the emotional depth of a rainwater puddle. These books are windows to the lives of the educated, fast-living, fast-loving middle classes in urban India. But they are in no way, promoters of 'reading habits'. I have read all Bhagat books. His writing has been steadily attaining maturity, which is a very good sign indeed, because it indirectly reflects the reading maturity of the class described above.

But all things said and done, Chetan Bhagat has no business writing non-fiction. No siree!

His reactions are spontaneous and instantaneous. Hence they lack the thoughtfulness that makes up good non-fiction.

Commentary on life in India is easy. India is a land of critics. Almost everyone in our nation has been raised to have an opinion, perhaps due to the long history of prejudice we share, and every single person is a self-proclaimed critic. What separates the true critics from the masses is the research that goes into the formation of their verdict. This is where Chetan Bhagat comes up short.
He highlights the problems in the Indian society - and as we know, there is no dearth of them! But he fails to provide conclusive, solid solutions to any of them.

But anyway, my question is that who went and made Chetan Bhagat the spokesperson for Indian youth? That is probably a no brainer, because as I said, everyone in India is a self proclaimed critic.

What young India wants can be a light afternoon read. But do not expect it to be an akashwani.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Arbhaat Short Film Club - 2nd screening

Though there have been only two screenings, I have come to love the ASFC. I love the short, snazzy films that keep me hooked, provoke me and challenge me.

We watched many films this time (2nd may), but these are the ones that appealed to me the most:

Iran, 2012
Director: Omid Abdollahi
Length: 18:30 min
Summary: The aged optometrist keeps his shop open every day, hoping for his last customer to come and pick up their spectacles.

There is a subtle irony in this film, that runs through it's entire length. The optometrist wants to close his shop because of his weak eyesight. He opens the shop every day, waters a lone plant on a stool, whiles time away, sends away potential customer and generally, spends his time waiting. He then embarks on a journey of sorts, to find the woman who had ordered the spectacles. In a twist, he finds her at a hospital, where she has gone blind. He returns home, to his beautiful oasis of flowers and plants on the terrace. The simplistic plot is highlighted by the beautiful use of light, the stills and waht not.

I confess that I do not know much of film-making. I understand the techniques even less.

But the stories...I understand them, and I like to think that they understand me.

Printed Rainbow
India, 2006
Director: Gitanjali Rao
Length: 15 min
Summary: The story of a lonely old woman who escapes into the fantastical world of matchbox covers.

What a beautiful film!

I simply loved it. There cannot be enough words to describe what I felt about this movie. The old woman resonated within me, and I could understand her escapism - indeed, I longed for it myself. I was held spellbound, yearning to know what new adventures she embarked on, what people she met, what sights she saw. The end was excellent and truly deep. I lost my grandmother a few months ago, so the movie felt extra-special. Because in the round, open face of the woman, I saw my aaji.

I am looking forward to the next screening. The only complaint that I have is that there is no forum for the people to interact after the screening. An online group, on FB perhaps, would serve well. What would be the use of watching the movies if not dissecting them afterwards and relishing them all over again?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Reading list: 2013

The exams are over and done with, and now is the time to read!

Seriously, summer for me means long, lazy afternoons spent lying on the cool floor of my room, with the curtains drawn and the fan squeaking above me.

So here is my reading list for this vacations (depending on the availability of books) and for the rest of the year:

1. The train to Pakistan - Khushwant Singh

2. Millennium series: The girl with the dragon tattoo - Stieg Larsson

3. Millennium series: The girl who played with fire - Stieg Larsson

4. Millennium series: The girl who kicked the hornets' nest - Stieg Larsson

5. The catcher in the rye - J.D. Salinger

6. Patriots and Partisans - Ramchandra Guha

7. Makers of Modern India - Ramchandra Guha

8. What young India wants - Chetan Bhagat

9. Glimpses of world history - Jawaharlal Nehru

10. Narcopolis - Jeet Thayil

11. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

12. Enchantress of Florence - Salman Rushdie

13. Those pricey Thakur girls - Anuja Chauhan

14. Battle for Bittora- Anuja Chauhan

15. One hundred years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez

16. Love in the time of cholera - Gabriel García Márquez

17. Sea of Poppies - Amitav Ghosh

18. River of Smoke - Amitav Ghosh

19. Great expectations - Charles Dickens (re-read)

20. The strange case of Billy Biswas - Arun Joshi

21. The apprentice - Arun Joshi

22. Wuthering heights - Emily Brontë (re-read)

23. Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë

24. The brothers Karmazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

25. The Hit - David Baldacci

26. Home and the world - Rabindranath Tagore

27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -  Douglas Adams

28. The trial, Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka

29. The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera

30. Les Misérables - Victor Hugo

31. A passage to India - E. M. Foster

32. The room with a view - E. M. Foster

33. Middlemarch - George Elliot 

And that's that!  Of course, there are a lot of romance novels too...

Friday, April 19, 2013

Arbhaat Short Film Club

An initiative of Umesh Kulkarni and Girish Kulkarni and their productions, Arbhaat Nirmitee, Arbhaat Short Film Club was launched today at the NFAI amongst a star studded audience.

The three films that were show today simply left me spellbound.

The first was the iconic short film made by Mani Kaul, Before my eyes. The beauty of the images, the compelling sounds! Umesh described it as a film to be 'experienced', and rightly so. Nancy Lesh Kulkarni, the cellist from the movie was present for the inauguration today. Her cello in the film is a beautifully haunting sound that merges seamlessly into the seemingly still vistas of Kashmir.

The second film was 'Three of Us', directed by Umesh Kulkarni. I loved this short film. Indeed, I could think about nothing else for the rest of the day and I think that it will continue to haunt me.

The third and the final was 'Kaatal', the short film that recently won many national awards. It is seemingly casual, but the stills, the cinematography is wonderful and the rocks and the landscapes become a character in themselves.

A movie - and indeed any book or novel too - does not need to have a conclusive, clear end. It is only a glimpse in the lives of the characters and even though it is a story in itself, it does not need to have an end. Just because one does not understand or approve of a particular end does not mean that it is bad. The motive of any work (literary, cinematic or otherwise) is to provoke thoughts. If you keep thinking about it, if it lives in your thoughts, the director has been successful. The gist of the story matters not. All that matters that you got it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Demasiados Cocineros

Me gustaría montar un restaurante. Esta un producto de ese sueño.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Arvind Kejriwal

There is something about this man that I absolutely LOVE!

He has been on an indefinite fast in Delhi from 23rd of this month. I trawl through the news clips and the photos to look at this man, this veritable giant of a man for whom, nothing is insurmountable.

I know. Perhaps I exaggerate. Hyperbole has been a particular weakness of mine. But I do admire this man.

He is the face of the new India, whose leaders know what they are talking about. Who make more than ritualistic, customary visits to regions of conflict, poverty laden households and areas hit by calamities.

He is a man who knows.

P.S. - My mother is terribly worried about him because he has severe diabetes. So take care, Mr. Kejriwal!

Monday, March 11, 2013

85th Regatta and some thoughts

COEP's boating extravaganza, 'Regatta' is known to every self-respecting collegian. The fest is extraordinary due to its unique nature. No other college in Pune, as far as I know, can boast of a boat club that competes at national level. Or a boat club at all.

So last Sunday, (10 March), we reached COEP just fifteen minutes before the events were to start. The stone bleachers were full and people were even crouched on the rocky river bank. We managed to find places to stand as the first events began. The sun was low in the sky and in the evening light, sleek sculls and kayaks and other boats (that I can't remember the names of, but were nevertheless, quite beautiful) streaked on the sedate, sparkling river. I was very much impressed by the synchronisation of guys in the two person kayak. The movement of their arms was pure poetry as they raced. Their movements were the epitome of grace.

The theme of the evening was 'Women empowerment'. A noble and a pertinent issue, indeed. I particularly loved the event (kayak ballet), that depicted the struggle for recognition by females and advocated feminism. It used pyrotechnics, which looked amazing in the twilight.

I cannot say that i was delighted with the voiceover. No doubt the girl who was narrating was probably as feminist as I am, but some of the things she said made no sense to me.

How can one possibly equate 'westernization' with 'crimes against women'?

The stock answer would probably be that the Indian culture has a rich tradition of honouring females. We had great scholars like Maitreyi and Gargee and we revere the femininity by worshipping goddesses.

But to me, this rings hollow. India respected females. But that was in the long past. In the recent times, however, women are and were nothing more than commodities to be traded, used and abused. That is something no zealot can refuse.

Westernization is not the cause of crimes against women. Education liberated females. It allowed them to pursue a job, earn money and become independent financially as well as socially. This means that the presence of females in the outside world increased because they stepped out of their houses. And wore clothes that were not modest, stayed out late at night and drank and smoked. And talked of conquering the world. They became more sexually independent. But this alteration is not in any way, an invitation to be violated by men. 

We need to separate the demure, modest image of womanhood from the reality. Any deviation from this standard invites castigation by the society - 'she brought it on herself'., she didn't. It was all you!

To be utterly frank, it encourages the anachronistic mindset of the society. When a scantily clad woman is out of the house at midnight, men think that she's probably a prostitute or a woman looking for thrills. It is taken as a license to force her. If a shirtless man walks on roads, women do not go and tear the rest of his clothes off. It is okay for him to be underdressed because he is a man. And by that single virtue of his - genetic lottery, if you will - he is allowed to do anything.

Women need to be careful because they have no other option. But they shouldn't need to be.

The sooner we understand the identity of the modern woman, the better. It is time to let go of all those women in our myths as the ideal of womenhood. If Satyavan will not follow Yam for Savitri, damn well she won't do it for him either. Because now, they are equals. Or at least, they are supposed to be.

'Mere jagah to aap ke charnon mein hai' - was the staple dialouge in the 60s and 70s. Not in this age.

And everyone, especially Indian women need to get this straight.

And back to Regatta again!

The story of the farmer regarding the sex determination test was wonderful. The edges of the boats were lined with lights that changed colour and as the story progressed, the students formed different shapes with their boats - a stalk of wheat, a swastik etc...

The mashal dance on the opposite bank was amazing.

Since the boat club is just for COEP students, I couldn't help but feel jealous about them. Maybe FC should start one too. (And row where? On FC road or JM road? Or maybe FC should really accquire more land and invest in a pool...or a lake...anything related to water.)

So all in all, the 85th Regatta lived up to its hype and I will definitely be there next year, cheering on the participants. (Though I will keep wondering who the handsome dude in the two person kayak was! :D )

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Crime and Punishment

My first tryst with Russian Literature was the novel, One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

 It chronicles a day in the life of Ivan, a prisoner who is serving in a Soviet labour camp. The slim volume was quite evocative, in terms of the prose and the plot.

I moved on to Anna Karenina, the novel by Leo Tolstoy.

I could not make peace with it. Anna Karenina did not appeal to me in the way that it should have - by all accounts it is a great classic. But maybe I think I'll read it after a few days and it will make sense to me.

That is something I have observed. To an immature mind, a great book may seem ridiculous. But when read at the right time, it rises to sublime heights. The first time I read 'Gone with the wind', I hated it. The story was garbled, the characters shallow. But I read the same book three years later and then I saw it in a new light. The circumstances in America and a deeper understanding and acceptance of people allowed me to come to terms with that book.

This year, I embarked on Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

It is undoubtedly a complex novel. A murder, subsequent guilt, the complex and specious logic behind it, other complicated and fractious characters who vacillate between extremes...If I would have read this book a year ago, I would probably have thrown away after reading a few pages. When I started reading it, I struggled through the first few pages. And if I have to admit it, I would have to attribute it to the Russian names.The story picks up pace in the second part but again, peters out towards the end. It is fraught with complications and there is a curious symmetry to the plot. The plot can be described as such:

Rodia is a young ex-student in St. Petersburg. He kills a pawn-broker and her sister. He murders her to test out his hypothesis that there exists a breed of men who can transgress the laws of the society in a bid for utilitarian good. Ultimately, he recognises that he is not of the those men. He often compares his actions with that of Napoleon. Ultimately, he confesses his crime and is sentenced to labour. Of course, the book is not simple enough to be summed up in half a dozen sentences. There are enough sub-plots and symbolism to keep the head turning.

But all in all, I would advise this book only to a serious reader. Others may pass.

Birds of feather

Birds of Feather
flock together

A crow surrounded by peacocks – a deep abyss of darkness coated with the varnish of jealously flits amongst the iridescent eyes of gold, blue, green unblinking and staring.

He crows. They crow along with him. A stray feather plucked off an unsuspecting wing, another surrendered by reverence for the scratchy crows – so simple yet apparently filled with meaning and the secret of life. Rubies, emeralds, gold dust and diamond sparkles on the sharp, black beak and the circlet of holiness on his head.

He pecks the ground. They pretend to find fat, juicy worms, slurp in delight as he closes his eyes in a state of supreme satisfaction. More feathers, more unblinking eyes perch on his short stubby tail.

He flies away one day and they watch him. The long, silken tokens of mental servility hang off his dark tail as he flaps his wings, far above them. They come off as he traverses the miles. Diamonds and dust fall off the slick texture of his wings and the painted adornments remain just on the surface – underneath, still the dark abyss and still the sheen of envy.

A single feather falls in their midst as he takes off. They blink at it, cock their heads and peck it. It gleams and glitters – the trinket of folly and insecurity, glazed by beauty.

Their eyes are heavenward, waiting for the next one like the one who left, to deliver them from their impression of self imposed doom.

Monday, February 11, 2013

First rain

The first rain of the year.

It's not quite surprising for the rain to drop in unexpectedly before the summer. As I write, the drops are pattering away steadily, the smell of the soil permeates the air and I long for things I know not.

 I lean out of the window and the drops fall on me, rolling down my cheeks in a cool embrace of reassurance in the face of the oppressive heat of the day.

 The wind is more playful and he lifts the white and red curtains of my window, and with him, he brings the dreams of the earth.

The smell...I could keep inhaling the smell of the arid, parched soil cooled by the rain. There cannot be a more potent harbinger of optimism...

The scent clings to my body and my hair and will come to me in my dreams and tell me, that after a long, hot day, the rain will come.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Jane Austen and P&P

Pride and Prejudice turned 200 this January. It is hard to imagine that a story set in rural England 200 years ago could have this much sway over the minds of thousands of women, but Pride and Prejudice does just that. I believe that P&P is the original chick-lit, but in a language and a form far superior to those we have today.

(not owned by me)

Pride and Prejudice marries two of my most favourite characteristics in romance novels.
The first is the heroine - Obstinate, headstrong girl, as rightly called by Lady Catherine De Borough.

And the enigmatic, slightly rude hero with a heart of gold.

All in all, it resembles a firangi version of a Bollywood movie. Upper class and lower class protagonists - an excellent conflict if there was one - hatred that blossoms into love - much more entertaining than the sappy stories - and clever quips and biting dialogues. But there is a freshness of the prose that I feel our films can hardly aspire to. But with the changing face of Marathi cinema, I remain hopeful (no hopes from Bollywood for me!)

There have been many versions of Pride and Prejudice on the screen. Most notables:

1. BBC Version

The best of the lot, seriously. I LOVE IT!

It rocks. Colin Firth is the perfect Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle does a stunning job as Elizabeth. The music is beautiful, and right from the opening credits, all 6 parts manage to leave one spellbound.

2. Pride and Prejudice

The movie. Truly speaking, I did not like it. Everyone is far too thin and stylish to be believable.

See what I mean?

3. Bride and Prejudice

I am cringing as I write this.

I did not like the movie. I found the dialogue insipid, lacking the pithy quality of the original. But it is overall a good watch.


Pride and Prejudice has done well in the merchandising department. Following are the items I have been coveting:

Earrings of 'It will not do...' from Etsy.

Bags from Cafepress

Clothbound book from Penguin (I am SO going to buy this):

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Wada pav

There is something to be said about wada-pav. It is the ultimate comfort food for me, right in the line behind pani puri and warm mugacha dali chi khichadi.The crackle of the wada, the hard, crunchy exterior of the pav, the hot steam emanating from its deep yellow interior. The dry garlic chutney and the tamarind paste, the deep fried chillies that have crystals of salt stuck to it like minuscule diamonds...

(Do not own the image!)

There are very few places in Pune which prepare wada pav according to my taste. Joshi Wadewale, the erstwhile eatery famous for its wada pavs has disappointed me quite often with stone cold pavs and lukewarm wadas. No other famous joints have managed to tempt me.

Indeed, there is only one place in Pune which can make my heart sing and bring tears of joy to my eyes. The wada pav is always heavenly and wonderful. Almost always, it is hot. If not, the taste makes up for the temperature.

And that place is (drumroll, please),

Bipin Snacks

It is a tiny tapri across the road from the Karve road Kshetriya Karyalay and next to the Sahyadri Hospital. You will never find it bereft of customers.

So if you want to try out the world's best wada pav, head over to Deccan corner and you'll find yourself going back to Bipin, not only for the wada pav but also for the super awesome items on the menu, like pohey, upit, sabudana khichadi-kakdi, bhel and sandwich.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pani Puri

I love food. My parents may not agree because I complain a lot about many items, but on the whole, I enjoy eating.

The list of my favourite foods is quite long. But among the top contenders is pani puri. It is simply engaging, and delightfully so. I crave it often. I dream of  the puri rising out of the waters with a calm swish, but the composure is quite misleading. I know that the ragada is lying in wait to enchant and entertain.

(do not own the image)

First, there is that crunch of the puri...It rocks your heart and even while you are trying to bite into that puri, you smile and laugh and you feel an absurd pleasure. Then the puri bursts into your mouth and fills it with the tamarind and chilli water. It's sweet, spicy and cold. You can taste a hint of pudeena and then it's gone but it lingers like an afterthought. Then comes the ragada. It is coarse and large but warm. Sweet and spicy. Hot and cold. Crunchy and soft. It is a gastronomic pleasure. The delight of a gourmet and the secret pleasure of the gourmand.

 So before you shoot out of the door to your nearest pani-puri wallah, here are my top 3 places for Pani puri in Pune:

1. Pastures (MG Road, Camp)

The chaat is a wonder. It truly is. A bit on the higher side, but the food is totally worth it.

2. Ganesh Pani-Puri (next to Durga in Kothrud)

If you are a Punekar and don't know where Durga is, you probably have been living on Mars or under a rock for the past few years.

The pani puri taste varies, but generally, it is awesome.

3. Kalyan Bhel (Canal Road)

Beautiful pani puri. A bit expensive, but who cares?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tilgul ghya!

Sankranti is not supposed to be a 'good ' festival. Babies and newly married couples do not celebrate it as their first 'festival'. Instead, they wait for gudi padwa, the festival marking the beginning the new year of the hindu calendar. But for the rest, it is one of the most auspicious event of the year.

It marks the transition of the sun into the northen hemisphere and is celebrated across India. The names differ, however. In the north, it is called Lohri, in Assam as Bihu, in Gujrat as Uttarayan, Himachal as Maagh Saaja etc. It is a festival of harvest and prayers.

In some parts of Maharashtra, kites are flown. But the cinema has popularised it and now, kites are flown across the country. Black is worn and we exchange halwa (sesame seed coated with crystallised sugar), til wadis (cakes of jaggery and sesame seeds) and gul polis (jaggery-stuffed bread).

I personally love gul-poli as no other. It is flat and slightly hard because of the jaggery inside. I slather it with home-made ghee and eat it like there is no tomorrow. In homemade sweets, it tops my list of favourites.

While exchanging sweets, we say, "Tilgul ghya, god god bola!" (Accept this sweet and may your speech be sweetened as well!)

So here am I, offering you virtual sweets on this beautiful day.

Tilgul ghya, god god bola!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Shadows and smoke

Being a woman is hard. Being an Indian woman is harder still.

I am not a hardcore feminist who demands that 'history' is 'her story' too (which is etymologically incorrect) I am, however a person raised in a household that has a strong matriarchal sensitivity. I have been raised to give my opinion in matters that I find pertinent to me or close to my heart. Never have my parents shown preference for my brother over me or treated me with a callousness that stems out of indifference and ignorance.

There have been times in my life when I have discovered that equality to be specious. As I grow up, I am supposed to take my place in the kitchen with my other cousins on family functions while my male relatives discuss cricket and politics while lounging on the sofa. My female relatives are highly qualified professionals, but still they have to cook, wash and clean after the others.

This is tradition, they say. I refuse to accept this. We tilt the balance in favour of males with precisely this kind of attitude. Traditionally, women were supposed to cook while men took care of things outside the house. But that is hardly the case today. Women work and become financially independent but still, according to the tradition, they are stuck doing all the jobs. Lest you assume that I am against housewives, let me assure you that I am quite of the opposite opinion. I do not think that keeping the house is inferior to working outside the house. Being a housewife can be an immensely wonderful career with great rewards. But the financial independence, which is inherently linked with the feeling of liberation is absent in this case. A woman should be a housewife out of choice, not compulsion.

A working woman is a marvel. She juggles her office and house with a surprising dexterity and sleight. But she is still stuck in her traditional role.

One of my professors, while explaining the orthodox gender roles, gave us an example. He told us that though he and his wife arrive home at the same time, she is the one who makes tea. This struck me deeply. Women have not budged from their roles and the expectations of the society have not changed.

 I think that a housewife should be paid by the other members of the household. One of my friends vehemently opposed this statement. She opined that the things one's mother does is out of love for the child, and how can one put a price on love? But I think that to make matters easier for GDP calculation and giving dignity to the career of a housewife, this is necessary. We need to transform it from drudgery to a vocation. Of course, this is not possible in most households. But the thought (and the possibility of it materialising) can shake awake even the most orthodox of husbands and make them help out around the house. One day, I would like to see the woman longing around watching television while the man is busy in the kitchen. That would be the true stamp of equality.

Another thing that we have always been warned about is stepping out of the house late. For guys, this rule is relaxed and almost non-existent. In a city like Pune, I can stay out alone till 11, more if I am with friends. But as we have been reading in the papers such is not the case in the rest of the country.

'Damini' would have been just another statistic, but the media lifted her and people cried out her name from the roof tops. The stigma of rape is lessening in a way. People are discussing it as an important issue plaguing the country, instead of sweeping it under the rug and pretending it never happened. What kind of life is it when a girl cannot step out of her house after 7? Why shouldn't she? The society has robbed her of her right to watch late night movies, hang out with friends, walk along a deserted road without the fear of being molested! These might seem petty things but the idea of being closed up in the house night after night suffocates me. But at the same time, the world outside seems like a hungry, savage beast waiting to prey on innocent girls who dare to step out of the house.

Rape is not an expression of sexual desire gone wrong. It is the symbol of power of the rapist and subjugation of the victim. It is an act of violence. It is monstrously wrong to say that indecent clothes, outgoing nature or being alone out is the reason for getting raped. No woman deserves this. She has not 'asked for it'. It is not consensual sex gone wrong. When she says 'no', it means 'no'. When are all the men going to learn this?

I was going home today in a public transport bus. My stop was the last and the conductor was a young, shifty, chatty man who had been asking me personal questions during the entire ride. I had turned my head outside the window in an effort to prevent any communication. By the time my stop came, only two people were in the bus besides me. It was barely seven in the evening and the vehicle had been plying on a busy road. But still, I broke out in a cold sweat. I clutched my cell phone in my hands and kept calling people. A fortnight ago, I would not have toyed with my phone. My heart would not have been hammering and I would have relaxed against the green foam of the seat instead of sitting ramrod straight and alert.  

We live in unfortunate times.