Ciao, La Vita

Image Courtesy: BlogAdda

Image Courtesy: BlogAdda

#DearZindagi,

It’s been long since we had a chat, or met with a cuppa reckoning the balance sheet so far. I believe I’ve crossed the threshold called ‘half-life’, and like an unstable radioactive element, will continue to decay exponentially for the rest years. This isn’t just a chemist’s blabber, dear life. It is the exact summary through midway, rather midlife.

Let me begin with gratitude for not deserting me. I know it has been difficult for you to put up with a brooding brat like me, but – you’ve been damn good so far! Since I gained enough maturity to ponder upon stuff, I’ve realised that you have clung to me. When the going got tough, you were tough enough to get me going against childhood bullies, teenage crushes, adulthood heartbreaks, or the corollaries of wedlock. Do you recall the huge transition that I had to make from a suburban school to a metropolitan high school? I was lost in the sea of people, everyone rushing past me in a bloody busy city, pushing and jostling me to the brink of oblivion. While I would sit alone on the penultimate seat of the school bus on chilly winter mornings, the fog mixed with strong but sweet charcoal fumes from tea stalls would remind me that you were right there, with me. When I have ambled along the college lawn, both alone and lonely, you have thrown surprises with vibrant yellow petals of Radhachura (Gulmohur) strewn all over the trail, just for me.

You’ve been holding my hand during every major decision I ruminated upon and led me carefully to what my heart desired. I would have been a failed, incomplete scientist if you hadn’t put words in my pen and prodded me to be a writer. It’s been quite a few years now, and I know you still stand by me despite a number of futile results. I’ve been worried that I can’t write as well as others, distressed that I haven’t been published yet, exhausted of rejections and writer’s blocks. And yet, when I open a new page and tap at the keyboard, you make me a writer – impervious to the mediocre and convoluted world. You’ve manoeuvred quite enough to get me a little accolade, a tiny prize, a monthly salary and exciting work to keep the ball rolling. Each instance I falter and risk crumbling down, you’ve sprung a sweet surprise and motivation to clench me up.

It’s you, life, to whom I owe the joie de vivre, the pleasure of creation in the form of words and stories. I have scooped up inspiration from you, life, and woven stories that have touched a few peoples’ hearts. They have praised me, but it’s you whom I should shower with thanks. If I have ever felt the fear of losing you, I’ve resorted to poetry and reading and waited patiently for you to resurrect. Because –

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. – George Bernard Shaw

So long,

Yours.

————

I am writing a letter to life for the #DearZindagi activity at BlogAdda.

 

Book Review : HiFi in Bollywood

Blurb View:

Image Courtesy: Amazon

Image Courtesy: Amazon

An aspiring filmmaker. The dizzying heights of Bollywood and a strained father-son relationship.

Rayhan Arora’s long cherished dream is to be a filmmaker in the Hindi Film Industry but his formidable father has other plans a successful financial career in Corporate America and a marriage of convenience with Vanita, a medical student in the US.

In a final act of desperation, Rayhan abandons his promising life in California and secretly returns to Mumbai to work as an Assistant Director in Bollywood. The characters he encounters along the way become part of his journey of self-discovery – a self-proclaimed local goon with a penchant for acting; a powerful local politician who wants to marry Rayhan’s part-time domestic help, who in turn covets stardom; an angst-ridden, homosexual film director; ego-ridden film stars with twisted agendas; and the mysterious Viola who captures his heart.

HiFi in Bollywood takes the reader from the streets of Berkeley to the film studios of Mumbai; from red-light areas to police stations and from reality to dreams and back to reality again!

Review: 

Being a lover of Bollywood, I hadn’t much choice but to read the book. As I’d grown up on a staple of Hindi movies, ‘Bollywood’ as we call it, seemed very alluring from a distance. Most of the audience looks only at the glamour and glitz of it, ever aspiring to be on big screen, rather than acknowledging the gruelling work that goes behind a film. Rishi Vohra, being an insider in Bollywood, decided to write this book, fictionalising parts of it, blending with some of his own experiences.

The story is of Rayhaan, it’s all about him actually. He struggles between his dreams of being a director of movies in Bollywood, but ends up with a Berkeley degree in Finance, due to his father. It is a struggle of father and son’s aspirations, not too uncommon in our country. Innumerable readers will instantly identify with Rayhaan, as they go through the same turmoil. I’ve met Graduate students in the USA, who perhaps wanted to be something else, but had to toil in a wrong choice of industry. Rayhaan is also set up with a girl of his father’s choice in California, and he ditches meeting her, instead landing up in Mumbai to pursue his dreams.

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Book Review : Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai

Blurb View:

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Autistic. Schizophrenic. Psychotic… 

They use these words to describe Babloo the doctors, his family, his teachers everyone except Vandana. She treats him the way he wants the world to see him. 

Mumbai the city that defines his ultimate desires. Will it allow him the love and normalcy he so craves?

Vandana yearns for a soul mate to rescue her from the confines of the Railway Colony they all live in. Is she looking in the right place?

Rail Man a fearless, real-life hero who succeeds in doing all that Babloo secretly wishes to do is Babloo his inspiration or is it the other way around?

A random twist of fate on Mumbais endless, serpent-like, jangling local train tracks ties all these characters together in a complex weave of love, heartbreak, and courage. 

Babloo draws the reader into his fascinating, heart-rending journey through the twisted, choked lanes of Mumbai, into an open space where he can finally exhale, be born again.

Review:

Babloo Srivastav is not your usual colony guy. Bandra Railway colony, that is. He wakes up with the vibrations of the first train in the morning and explores the railway tracks which are his own. He feels more at ease with the tracks and trains than his kin and kith. He doesn’t have any friends but is devoted to his lady love, Vandana. There are mysteries in his life that he isn’t much aware of.

Sounds good enough for a thriller?

The book cover and blurb suggests a love story, probably a one between Babloo and Vandana. But I would surely label the book as a thriller, not a romance. The adventures of Babloo are more important than his obsequious love story. He struggles to find a meaning to his caprices and is guided by an inner voice. Compared to his younger and efficient brother, he’s nothing, really. And yet his steely resolve and demeanour is frightening even to his parents. I can’t reveal the story here, but it is about Babloo turning into a different person altogether to prove himself to his lady.

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Book Review : An Incurable Insanity

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Blurb View:

Her heart fluttered when she heard the sound of the key turn in the lock. She quickly adjusted her maroon silk sari with the yellow border, the one that had caught his eye, and waited eagerly for his footsteps. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven… Yes, exactly seven steps before he stopped, hesitated for a few moments, then removed his shoes one by one and arranged them neatly side by side on the shoe rack. She smiled. He had been mindful of taking his shoes off every day now. “I am not used to it, but I will if you want me to. It’s probably a good thing to do anyway.” As he settled down, he would pick up the TV remote and, without looking at her, would say in his smooth baritone, “So how did you spend your day, anything interesting?” Shaan Ahuja found himself bowing to tradition and agreeing to an arranged marriage to the beautiful Ruhi Sharma. He went through the motions but had no intention of carrying through on his vows. His last foray into matters of the heart with an American girl had left him scarred and unwilling to try again. Thoroughly disillusioned and disgruntled he wasted no time in making his intentions clear to Ruhi on their wedding night. But, he was completely unprepared for what his new wife had in mind.

Review: 

Just when I had thought I had enough of Romance novels in 2013, another one came to me as the first book to be reviewed in 2014. I don’t know if it is coincidence or serendipity that the more I wanted to run away from Romance genre, it keeps coming back to me to usher the new year together. I’m not sure which genre the others have put this book into, but when I read it to the entirety, I would definitely term is as a Romance novel.

Author Simi K. Rao had me into a little surprise when her first chapter introduced the protagonists as Punajbis. Now, I’m strictly not a racist/provincial here, but being a writer myself, I know that most authors stick to their comfort zone in their debut books. Simi has managed to inculcate the perfect Punjabi flavour to her protagonists. The story is a racy, passionate, fierce, often violent, and completely on-the-edge romance. It is that kind of romance which most people are afraid of since its a little too much to handle.

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The Serpentine Kiss

Circa 1975, Bombay…

James had invited me to a party at his place. He said it was a debut party for someone. Since I was not alone in Bombay anymore, I decided to take my new friend Marie to his party as a plus one. We reached his place at Parel on the particular evening. Marie was more excited than me as she was about to meet James for the first time. A man servant ushered us inside the huge duplex apartment. I had come here twice before, though I doubt if he had recognized me. He led us directly to the floor above where I had never been in my earlier visits. As we entered the hall through an unusually bolted door, it felt as if we had stepped into a different world altogether. It was an extremely strange and eerie hall for a debut party. The entire room was lined with cages as far as I could see. They had live snakes. And frogs. And baby alligators. The hall was dark except for soothing matted lights above each cage. I wasn’t absolutely dumbstruck, knowing James, but I surely had forgotten about Marie. As soon as I spotted James under the light of a cobra cage, I turned to Marie for an introduction. But she had vanished into thin air.

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

***

I was confused as to what astonished me more: The weird debut party by James? Or the disappearance of Marie? It was dark, but I could gauge at least thirty more people in the hall. Marie could have sneaked into the other side, though it was more likely for her to have fainted by this time. I had not revealed to her till now that James was a reptile supplier for the Hindi movies. She was crazy about movies and the tall heroes prancing around trees. I had just mentioned to her that James worked in those movies and she was ready to come to the party with me. Marie was actually a distant cousin of mine. I had stayed with her and Aunt Lily for a month in their tiny flat in Colaba when I arrived from Calcutta six months ago. As of now, six months later, Marie was my only friend in Bombay though I had known James since childhood.

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The Sutra of Marriage

Woh_Saat_Din_DVD_cover

Image courtesy : Wikipedia

Yesterday I was watching one of my favourite movies Woh 7 Din (1983) when I realized, it might not remain a favourite anymore. The first half of the movie is absolutely endearing with the antics of a typical Punjabi Prem Pratap Patiyala Wale (Anil Kapoor) and the beautiful Maharashtrian Maya (Padmini Kolhapure). The lucid comedy would have you in splits, the gradual development of the love story between an innocent child-man and a matured lady would fill your heart with compassion. You would almost expect it to end on a happier note as the Indians love their movies.

The movie starts with Maya attempting suicide on the first night after her marriage with Dr. Anand (Naseeruddin Shah). Her love story is shown in flashback until the marriage happens. After getting to know that she was in love with another man, the husband decides to find the man and surrender his wife to the other man (as if she were a document or property, mishandled). Despite being forcibly married to the man she didn’t love, Maya refuses to go back to her lover because everyone in the movie (and the audience too in 1983, perhaps) believed in the power of the Mangalsutra. And exactly this part of the movie has always been disagreeable to me. The girl refuses to leave the state of marriage because she believes that a Mangalsutra once tied cannot be undone, her lover believes that he cannot take her back because she belongs to somebody else now and wears a Mangalsutra of the husband’s name, not to mention the confused husband who simply doesn’t know what to believe and had a perpetual perplexed expression. Why can’t forced marriages be shown in the movies as they ought to be? One might give it a benefit of doubt being in the 1980’s era and about two generations back from now. But I have another recent example for you – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999).

220px-HDDCS

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

This one takes its story loosely from a Bengali novel Na Hanyate by Maitreyi Devi (1974). The movie is pretty much on the same plot – Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) meets Sameer (Salman Khan) who comes from Italy to Gujarat in search of a music guru who happens to be her father. They have their share of tussles, fights and fun-fights before realizing that they are in love. But the girl’s family would not have a ‘foreigner’ among them and ask him to leave when they forcibly marry her off to Vanraj (Ajay Devgan). The husband, besotted with his beautiful bride slowly realizes that she is still immersed completely in the memories of the man she loved. He feels too, that he ought to ‘return’ her to the other man who deserves her (gift unwrapped, of course). Their journey in search of Sameer is shown quite explicitly throughout the second half, and none can forget the frantic shrieks of ‘Sameer, Sameer’ by the girl on some bridge in Budapest which was marketed as one of the high moments of the movie. Finally the girl is to be handed over to her lover at a concert and the husband is teary-eyed (because he too is in love with his wife of a few days and he has confessed it to her when he was drunk).

What happens then? No brownies or points for guessing. The girl meets her lover, the guy is ecstatic to have her back and the moment he wants to touch her, he notices the Mangalsutra. Bang. Phiss. Fizz. Freeze goes the screen. The girls goes back the same bridge, or some other (who cares!) to the husband who was retreating as slowly as possible. I’m sure his character had watched the earlier movie too and knew the wife would come back *evil grin*. He ties the Mangalsutra round her neck and we have a super hit movie of the 1990’s as well.

Why? Should we be encouraging forced marriages on the basis of religion and belief? Having a break-up, moving on, marrying a stranger and finding new love is NOT the same as being married off to a stranger just because the family doesn’t approve of the lover. Its time we ask these questions, to ourselves and to the older generations. Mangalsutra might be a very wonderful thing to adorn yourself with and hold on to, but it should not compel people to carry the burden of unwanted, forced marriages which do not bring joy to either of the spouses.

Its time, seriously. Before another such movie is made. Or watched.