Once upon a time …

A record of my life on the planet

Body and Soul: A Love Story

Her purpose was his life; her energy in his veins

They breathed together, and the love story was born…

 

His heart beat her rhythm, his blood pulsed her power

He anchored her airy self, in more ways than one…

 

They did not have forever, didn’t commit to each other

Thus, space was never an issue; and intimacy, never enough…

 

He pursued adventure; she focused on purpose

A match made in heaven, which death tore apart…

 

One winter’s night, they slept; cocooned in each other

One woke up, while the other… slept on undeterred…

 

She, scattered by winds; he, claimed by earth

Star-crossed lovers; here, my story ends.

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Author | Leave a comment

Rani Padmini: A movie review

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Rani Padmini is the story of two young women, Rani (Rima Kallingal) and Padmini (Manju Warrier), who meet, bond and become fast friends while on a life-changing journey. Their experiences, their adventures and the people they meet en route form the plot of this fundamentally travel-based movie. The brilliant cinematography and soulful music try their best to hide the weaknesses in the plot and the numerous untied story threads. However, as enjoyable movies having women alone in lead roles still remain a tragic rarity in the Malayalam film world, Rani Padmini deserves support and applause in that it is funny and touching without causing an emotional overload.

The highlights of the movie are its cinematography and music; see the film just to enjoy the spectacular shots of the Himalayas and its valleys if for nothing else. Madhu Neelakandan has done such a wonderful job of capturing the Himalayan locales in all their grandeur that a trip to the Himalayas is a sure entry to your bucket list after watching this film. Further, the racing scenes are scenic and packed with energy. The songs by Bijibal and Rafeeq Ahmed are melodious. The scenes and lyrics of the song “Varu pokam parakkaam” touch a chord deep within you. Another song that stays with you long after you leave the theater is “Oru makara nilavai.”

As mentioned in many reviews, the movie hardly does justice to the acting potential of Manju Warrier. But it is rare that a female actor plays nearly ten years younger than her real self in a movie and gets away with it; for this, Manju deserves praise. Padmini is the pleasant, charming and dutiful girl next door, a must-have wife in any traditional Malayali family. What makes Padmini remarkable is her capacity to love, her passion for life and her steely determination to get what she wants. In a way, Padmini’s character is better defined than that of Rani. We have seen heroes moving mountains and travelling long distances to declare their love¬, as though only men are capable of great love and sacrifice. Rani Padmini is a nice detour from the traditional, where Padmini risks her mother-in-law’s wrath, her secure married life and conquers her inhibitions to find her husband.

Rima Kallingal’s performance as the tomboyish Rani is very convincing. It reminds us that our obsession with homely good girls as heroines is vastly outdated. But one does wish that Rani had received more thought and care in terms of character development. As it is, she frequently seems at a loss and sits idly by in many of the combination scenes with Padmini. Still, there is obvious chemistry between the lead actors, which actually saves the film. Jinu Joseph deserves special mention for his controlled acting. The actors playing the gangster and his goons and the reporters are quite funny and provide comic relief to the slightly monotonous narration. Sreenath Bhasi raises expectations that fall flat once we realize that he is not really in the story.

Among films that carry the label “comedy” and collect lakhs at the Malayalam box office by little else other than double entendre in dialogues, Rani Padmini is a refreshing change. It relies on fun that has nothing to do with double meaning. Another thing that must be applauded is that the movie tries its best to spread a very positive attitude regarding women travelling and living alone away from male protection. It also shows how alone and vulnerable a woman can be even when living in “the most secure place in the world,” her husband’s home. In a country where only negative behaviors towards women like eve teasing, harassment, rape and murder capture the imagination of the public and the attention of the media, such movies are needed to spread the message that a lot of solitary women do use public transport and stay in hotels away from male protection without getting raped or murdered.

However, a lot of the narration is taken up by unnecessary deviations from the storyline. For example, the stories told by Rani and Padmini. They start off with flair only to end as a disastrous joke on the viewer. Further, at the rather clichéd ending, the viewer is left with many unanswered questions. But let us forgive such weaknesses in the hope that more such films will brave the box office verdict and more viewers irrespective of gender will come to appreciate such films as routine films and not “female-oriented” films.

October 30, 2015 Posted by | Author | Leave a comment

To my mother

When I think of

Every tear you spent on me

Every thought you spared for me

Every penny you saved for me

Every story you made up for me

Every dream you brightened for me

Every light you lit for me

Every dark day you made sunny for me

Every rainbow you conjured up for me

Every prayer you prayed for me

Every illness you healed for me

I wonder

What does God do that you don’t do for me …

September 12, 2014 Posted by | Author | Leave a comment

Independence Day thoughts

This post is long overdue.

August 14, 2012: Today, a baby girl of 10 days old was found abandoned in a shop veranda at the busy SRM road, Kochi, Kerala. She was lying in a basket covered by a woolen blanket, screaming at the top of her lungs, when she was found being sniffed at by a stray dog among packets of discarded waste.  Her “thoughtful” parents had left milk and baby frocks for her inside the basket. On medical examination, she was found to be of lower intellect than the children of her age. Obviously, her parents are not people who could not afford to look after their child (the basket, blanket, milk and frocks). Yet they abandoned her. They could have left her in front of one of the orphanages in the district. No, they chose a dirty, littered roadside complete with loitering stray animals to abandon their baby daughter. And we celebrate Independence Day tomorrow. Long live India!

P.S.: I hope the baby’s parents sleep soundly for the rest of their lives …

August 21, 2012 Posted by | Author | | 1 Comment

Damsels in armor …

The subject of this post is a report that came in the The Guardian. The report says that India is one of the top five most dangerous places for a woman among the G20 nations. It goes on to mention several cases that support this point. I felt disturbed after reading a few and will not be mentioning the sordid details in this post. (If you can stomach it, please read the full report at www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/23/why-india-bad-for-women?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038). Whether or not one agrees to this rating is not important. The point is whether as Indian women we are failing to instill in our children respect for themselves and for human life and dignity. The gang that publicly molested a 20-year-old woman in Guwahati, Assam, comprised men who I am sure have mothers and, at least some of them, sisters and daughters. Yet they did it. Why? What fun did they get from it?

Molestation (rape included) reflects some deeply ingrained sentiments on the part of the perpetrator. By molesting a person, the perpetrator tells the victim: You are weaker than me; hence, I can do whatever I want to you. You CANNOT stop me. The perpetrator chooses a weaker person; by “weak” the reference is to a victim who retaliates only weakly. A husband chooses his wife for physical and verbal abuse because he knows she will not retaliate. The “pati parameswar” effect. If a person feels the need to prove anything, it means he or she has some insecurity that needs to be addressed. Doesn’t this make the perpetrator weaker than the victim, the victim who has nothing to prove?

In India, female molestation is widespread. It is rampant on roads, buses, trains (I will never forget Soumya), parks, restaurants, homes, any place where there are women. Female infanticide is on the rise; even in Kerala, with its “100% literacy” label, it has reached shockingly high rates. Even educated women prefer sons: Less reasons to worry about, no dowry, no fear of molestation. What can we do about it? Scream at the police. Scream at the government. Scream at everything but the perpetrators.

Knights in shining armors exist only in fairy tales. So do damsels in distress. In real life, there are only grownup women who have lives to lead and the strength to do it, although they are not often aware of it. Hence, our daughters and sisters suffer silently in public transport systems everyday for the fear of becoming conspicuous in a crowd. Our daughters are married “well” at the “right” age and get murdered in the name of dowry. Still more daughters are killed before being born for the fault of not being sons. Why? Because we are “good” Indian women, we never attract attention, we never yell or scream in public, we never get angry. In short, we never retaliate. Shame on us!

Education is important. But it is not going to prevent you from being gang raped. Or getting killed for falling in love with a man of your choice. Or having acid thrown on your face for enjoying a drink at the nearby bar. But if you scream loud enough, someone might hear you. If you learn to fight back, you might live. If you die trying to fight back, you might set an example. If you support another woman who tries to fight back, you might start a revolution. Mothers, if we do our job well, we can have a whole new generation of confident youngsters both male and female who are not repressed, insecure, bullies, or victims.
Damsels, it is time we became the knights.

July 25, 2012 Posted by | Author, Thoughts | Leave a comment

Tonight I killed a firefly

Tonight I killed a firefly

In the kitchen sink.

When I was washing dishes

There lay the poor thing in the water.

Filled with compassion I moved it

From the water on to the kitchen floor.

I went away thinking a million thoughts

And came back an hour later.

There was the firefly

Wet and unable to move

Being eaten by red ants.

What would have been a quick and painless death in the first place

I had prolonged by one hour

Adding suffering to injury.

As it was making the floor dirty

I moved the firefly back to the water

And flushed it down the kitchen sink.

Anyway, who am I to play God?

December 29, 2011 Posted by | Author | Leave a comment

Cares

What will happen when all my cares disappear
When there is no one to look after
Nor anyone to mourn for
When there is no mouth to feed
Nor any field to seed
When there is no office to go to
Nor any cleaning up to attend to
Won’t life suddenly stop
Like a flowing river in midstream
Trapped by a fallen tree?
What will I do, where will I go?
How will I pass time
Till the day I die?
They say that sorrow
Is just the other side of happiness
Can it be true after all?
Can it be that cares lend color
To the colorless hours we must spend
Before it is time to leave
This world for the one above?

December 27, 2011 Posted by | Author | Leave a comment

Movie review: Salt N’ Pepper

Aashiq Abu’s Salt N’ Pepper is a breath of fresh air among the films released recently. This romantic ‘foodie’ comedy revolves around the lives of five people whose common denominator is a passion for food and cooking. The theme is fresh, as no known Malayalam movie deals completely with the love for food. The movie also portrays Malayali women as having the same passion for life and food and same vulnerabilities as the male characters. Moreover, the emotional vulnerabilities and insecurity of all characters have been treated sensitively by the director.

Maya, played by Swetha Menon, is a dubbing artist who tries to call a restaurant and ends up calling an irate archaeologist Kalidasan, played by Lal, instead. Soon they become the best of friends and Cupid plays its part without them seeing each other even once. Both are insecure about their age and looks, and turn to two other people for help. Asif Ali plays Manu, the nephew of Kalidasan, whereas Mythili handles the role of Meenakshi who is Maya’s roommate. Manu and Meenakshi meet in the guise of Kalidasan and Maya respectively and fall in love with each other. The climax is a comedy of errors and both the couples get their happy endings.

The noteworthy factor of Salt N’ Pepper is its simplicity of narration and dedication to the main story line. Each character has its own identity and is handled with ease by the actors. Asif Ali proves he can handle comedy quite well after his serious roles in Rithu and Apoorvaragam. The actor Baburaj gives a convincing performance as Kalidasan’s cook in the movie, and the coming of this character to Kalidasan’s house is pretty hilarious. One might argue Mythili has nothing to do but sit pretty in this movie. Anyway, the star performers are Lal and Swetha Menon as Kalidasan and Maya who finally overcome their self-absorption to find each other and fall in love.

But the film is not without its loose ends. The relevance of the Adivasi Mooppan character in the story is not clear. The Mooppan’s earrings are supposed to date back to the era of Ibn Batuta’s coming to India. Later in the movie the Mooppan is taken away from Kalidasan by his sons and grandsons. One expects Kalidasan to go after and bring back the Mooppan, but this does not happen.

The ending is truly filmy with flower petals falling from the skies on Kalidasan and Maya who finally find the courage to confess their love for each other in a movie set. The title song of SALTn’PEPPER also deserves special mention as it shows all the major eateries in Kerala from sophisticated restaurants to roadside dhabas and their various specialties. If you are looking for good wholesome entertainment for the entire family, Salt N’ Pepper is the right choice.

December 8, 2011 Posted by | Author, movie review | , | 6 Comments

Glass houses

There is a most elegant house opposite to ours. It has a traditionally tiled roof, which is characteristic of all old houses in Kerala. The house is sinlge-floored, vast and sprawling. The veranda is long and lavish, with white marble tiles making up the floor. Beautiful cane chairs and tables line the veranda, inviting one to come in and sit down. The whole house is painted white with big dark glass-paned windows reminiscent of the picturesque cottages in Ootty. In contrast, the gate is a splash of colour, of fiery red upon virgin white.
Occasionally, one of the two occupants of the house come out. He is a tall silver-haired old man with a skull cap permanantly fixed on top of his head. He has the genial appearance of one who is at peace with all in the world. But his regal bearing suggests he has seen better days, days of power and glory. His wife is rarely seen outside; she bears the unmistakable marks of being a traditionally brought-up Muslim woman. Her saree pallu always covers her head and there are glass bangles on both her wrists. She appears younger than her husband. There appears no servants in the house. The other occupants of the house are a grown man and a woman who appear to be the children of the older couple.
The older couple are like the house personified, old and dignified and beautiful. This is the way most houses are; one can get a good idea of who lives where from their bearing and behavior.

July 13, 2011 Posted by | Author | Leave a comment

Plum cakes and wine

During schooldays, Christmas used to mean lots of fun starting with the Christmas celebration held on the last day of school. The major events at school used to be dancing around the decorated Christmas tree to the accompaniment of carols, seeing plays featuring the Holy Birth, and exchanging cards and good wishes. Similar to Onam holidays, Christmas holidays were always spent with grandparents and cousins in our ancestral home. There would be plenty of plum cakes and our normally non-alcoholic family even indulged in the pleasures of wine drinking. The feeling was: no wine? then how can it be Christmas? Not being a Christian had never hindered us from waiting expectantly for the festive season.
A week before X’mas, a lighted star would adorn our garage. On a particularly fine evening during the holidays, we would do the Great X’mas shopping. Shopping for stars, greeting cards and cakes was really an occasion. A list of all the relatives, friends and teachers to whom cards need to be sent would be drawn up. I remember once I took cards for all the students in my class (about fifty or sixty in number) because I couldnot leave anyone out. Small presents and trinkets like tiny figures of Santa Claus, decoration items like crape paper and sparklers would all find their place in our shopping baskets. We never bought wine from the local bakeries; we always bought it from an old man who brought bottles of the amber liquid on a cycle. It was almost a family tradition.
On one Christmas eve, me and my father had visited our one and only shopping complex in my hometown at midnight. I was doing my tenth and because of my inexhaustive list of tutions, I had been unable to go to our ancestral home for the holidays with my mother and sister. So, my father had taken me on a midnight tour of the town to cheer me up.The entire place was decorated beautifully with lights and a lone ice cream parlor had been open. As we sat inside and placed our orders, we saw a beautiful procession start from the entrance of the complex; it featured a merry Santa Claus at the front followed by actors in costumes depicting the Holy Birth. At that moment, I found myself believing whole-heartedly in the fable of the little boy who had been born in a stable and later went on to change the world.

January 4, 2010 Posted by | Author | 2 Comments

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