Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Book Review: June 2009

The figure just refuses to budge: 2. And this month the coveted place goes to:

  1. The Gift by Cecelia Ahern
  2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by Scott Fitzgerald

The Gift
Cecelia Ahern

The blurb is short (if it’s a blurb at all): If you could wish for one gift this Christmas, what would it be? And from my point of view it’s definitely inviting. The introduction is nice too. It closes with the following words – ‘This is a story about people who, not unlike parcels, hide secrets. They cover themselves in layers until the right person unwraps them and discovers what’s inside. Sometimes you have to be unravelled in order to find out who you really are.’ And there, I had to buy the book as it had aroused my curiosity enough.

The Gift is a nice story. In fact it is even gripping. I finished the book in 5 hours straight because I found it hard to put it down. I found myself saying, ‘Ok just one more chapter and then I’ll sleep.’ It keeps you wondering about the next event that’ll take place in the life of the protagonist Lou – a workaholic and ambitious person who is running around practically the whole time. Even while he is in the middle of something he is thinking about the next meeting or appointment and never finds himself relaxing or spending quality time with his family. The reader finds that he’s lost track of what is most important to him in life and the arrival of Gabe, who constantly reminds Lou of what he is missing, is a welcome addition to the narrative. And it is Gabe who awakens his sleeping conscience and has him doing the right things to his utmost irritation. An insecure Lou perceives Gabe as a threat when Gabe is in fact his saviour of sorts. The story progresses in this manner as a Tug-of-War between Lou’s liking and dislike of Gabe and keeps the reader guessing till the end.

There is a bit of fantasy in the story (if one perceives it that way). And I felt the focal story of Lou and Gabe hasn’t been woven very well into the supporting story (a police officer narrating a moral story to a teenager who has been caught for vandalism). But that can be excused given that the focal story by itself is quite nice and has a very simple yet strong message – the value of time and how we all have a limited amount of it.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a nice Christmas story and is willing to be hit hard by the paucity of time on our hands. I enjoyed this book quite well and hope you do too.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Scott Fitzgerald

Ok, this is not a book-book but it’s a story. Yet, I’m making it count.

I saw the movie first and then got curious about this curiously titled story. I realized that the movie and the story hardly have anything in common other than Benjamin Button who grows young as he grows old. The story isn’t even that spectacular, doesn’t tug at your heart the way the movie does…its didn’t leave me with a sad feeling the way the movie did. It’s just a story…hilarious in parts…but that’s that. There’s no clock that goes back in time, no boy given up on the steps of the old age home, no adorably sweet Queenie, no childhood sweetheart to marry later in life and have a baby girl with, nothing…so the movie is really very remotely based on the story.

Anyway, read this as an independent work altogether. I kept drawing parallels with the movie and spoiled it for myself : (

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

City Of Angels

“You’re an excellent doctor.”
“How do you know?”
“I have a feeling.”

-A conversation from City of Angels

That conversation from City of Angels had a familiar air about it. Saying “I just know” or “I have a feeling” and then letting perceptions take over faith. I watched it last night and I really liked the movie…more for what all it had to say at various points than anything else.

The movie is about an angel Seth who makes it easier for the dying to embark on their last journey. He moves among mortals invisible to everyone and becomes visible only to those who need his help. While helping a heart patient who dies on the operating table, Seth sees the cardiologist Maggie and falls in love with her. His love grows as he gets to know her better but he is distressed that he cannot be with her as he is an angel and she, human. It is then that he meets one of Maggie’s patients Nathaniel who turns out to have been an angel in the past but has decided to take on human form for the sake of his lovely wife. Meanwhile Maggie’s colleague and boyfriend Jordan asks her to marry him and she is torn between him (who knows her well and understands her life) and Seth (whom she loves). She finds out from Nathaniel during a check-up that Seth is an angel but he can and would give up everything – his immortality, his lack of fear and pain, everything – just to be with her and because he loves her so much. She meets Seth and tells him about Jordan before leaving for her uncle’s cabin in the mountains to spend some time by herself. After this meeting Seth realizes that he cannot let her go and he cannot have her marry Jordan. So he decides to take what the angels call the ‘Fall’…from being an angel to being merely mortal…just to be with her. He finds her uncle’s cabin and arrives there broken and beat. Seeing him bleed Maggie realizes that he has given up forever to be with her and confesses that she loves him too. The movie ends tragically though and that left me feeling sad. But overall I loved it.

Many fundamental questions have been asked in the movie and they left me pondering...like “What is the point of having wings (of an angel) if you can’t feel the wind in your face?” There was another interesting conversation about why humans cry –

“Why do people cry?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean what happens physically?”
“Well, tear ducts operate on a normal basis to lubricate and protect the eye and when you have an emotion they overact and it creates tears.”
“Why? Why do they overact?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe…Maybe emotion becomes so intense your body just can’t contain it. Your mind and your feelings become too powerful. Your body weeps.”

Your body weeps…when the emotions are too intense. That’s why one cries…

Aside from all these small thoughts to ponder upon all night, the movie left me ruminating about a bigger idea…Seth’s fall from an angel to human…from immortality to being vulnerable to death…from forever to now, here…the extent to which he went for love. His words when one of his angel friends asks him whether he would have gone ahead with his fall if he had known that Maggie wouldn’t be around too long struck me hard – “I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss of her mouth, one touch of her hand than an eternity without it. One…”

Seth gave up his fearlessness, his lack of pain, his ability to be anywhere he wanted at the speed of thought, his power to read other’s mind, his everything and life as he knew it to become human…to bleed when he was cut, to feel pain when he fell, to have to drag himself after being mugged just to find Maggie in the mountains, to not knowing what she was thinking – that uncertainty…he took it all up for her, for love. And he stood by it.

Angels must feel pain and hurt. So they may be healed and rewarded with love. Angels must fall. If you were someone’s angel, would you?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

PUP

No, I haven’t got one (though I’d like to). No, I don’t feel like one either (though I know I am very good at making puppy dog eyes). PUP simply stands for Picking Up the Pieces…

Do you know that feeling when you come home one evening to a messy house? You know yourself to be neat and orderly at most times. But a newspaper kept in that corner instead of the magazine stand, a half-read book on the table instead of inside the shelf, the receipt from the supermarket on the centre table and soon it starts piling up until one day you realize that the house is a mess and you can’t figure out why. Life can be that way sometimes. And it needs some cleaning and arranging to be done off and on.

I started PUP this week. I got back to reading more both in terms of quality and quantity and it felt like coming home. Picked up Outlook Money (and surprisingly wasn’t flummoxed by the contents at all…which is reassuring in a way) and Outlook Traveller while coming back from Hyderabad and realized how much I enjoyed reading a magazine or two occasionally. Bought R. K. Narayan’s The Financial Expert also (which I started reading yesterday) and found that I had been missing out on this classic flavour in my reading for a while. Started my day by reading ‘The Power of Your Subconscious Mind’ today and it injected the feel-good I needed in my day. Honestly, a good book can do so much for how you start or end your day…it’s just amazing.

I restarted my study of the Bhagwadgita…something I skipped for a while. As of now I am only concentrating on simplifying the verses and breaking down the Sanskrit compound words, mainly to revise my Sanskrit while doing a cursory read of the Gita. But it still feels good to be able to connect to that heritage that this country and culture has endowed us with. And though I am nowhere close to decoding the hidden meaning behind the verses and understanding the philosophy, it gives me immense satisfaction to be studying this monumental piece of literature.

I got back to some serious photography and I hope to put my Panasonic DMC FZ8 to its justified amount of use soon. It’s a good camera and I have been wasting its capacity all these days, much like using a racehorse to pull carriages. Here are some pictures I took over the weekend in Hyderabad.










I plan to bring my guitar out tonight and practice what our guitar teacher taught us. And then I’ll take it from there. I had always wished to be able to play the guitar…just enough to be able to sing along to if not like a professional. And the only reason that wish is unfulfilled is because I came in my own way. So tonight, the guitar will be resurrected and there will be some music filling the air…maybe a little Yellow and Wonderwall…A Horse With No Name…something nice.

Radio Indigo has been playing some very good music lately…both on Indigo Rising and the Hard Rock Hour. That ensures that I start and end my day with good music. My ride to office is laced with good songs too…some old favourites and some discoveries. Playing right now online is George Michael’s I Can’t Make You Love Me…a song I hadn’t heard in ages. I used to love it…playing in the silence of the night as I sat at my table studying. It has been sung with so much love that it pulls at the heart’s strings. Take a listen if you haven’t already.
George Michael - I cant Make you Love me
I Can't Make You Love Me If You Don't by George Michael on Grooveshark

I got back to writing more seriously. I am looking forward to travelling for travelling’s sake. And I am hoping to pick up training in Hindustani Vocals from where I left it. That’s what the past week or so was all about…PUP, running away and running around…all in the hope of finding myself again. I will…soon. Meanwhile, it’s PUP and putting them where they belong.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Before The Worst

It is going to seem like I have lost my mind but for reasons of my own this song makes me LOL…the words! My theory about people having similar experiences more than they can imagine is probably right and it’s not even funny…

This song called ‘Before The Worst’ by a band called The Script is a recent release and I’ll leave it to you to decide how you like it. Hope you enjoy it....

It's been a while since the two of us talked
About a week since the day that you walked
Knowing things would never be the same
With your empty heart and mine full of pain
So explain to me, how it came to this
Take it back to the night we kissed
It was Dublin City on a Friday night
You were vodkas and coke, I was Guinness all night

We were sitting with our backs against the world
Saying things that we thought but never heard
Who would have thought it would end up like this?
Where everything we talked about is gone
And the only chance we have of moving on
Is trying to take it back
Before it all went wrong

Before the worst, before we mend
Before our hearts decide
It's time to love again
Before too late, before too long
Let's try to take it back
Before it all went wrong

There was a time that we'd stay up all night
Best friends talking till the daylight
Took the joys alongside the pain
With not much to lose, but so much to gain
Are you hearing me? Cause I don't wanna miss,
Set you a drift on memory bliss
It was Grafton Street on a rainy night
I was down on one knee and you were mine for life

We were thinking we would never be apart
With your name tattooed across my heart
Who would have thought it would end up like this?
Where everything we talked about is gone
And the only chance we have of moving on
Is trying to take it back
Before it all went wrong

Before the worst, before we mend
Before our hearts decide
It's time to love again
Before too late, before too long
Let's try to take it back
Before it all went wrong

If the clouds don't clear
Then we'll rise above it, we'll rise above it
Heaven's gate is so near
Come walk with me through
Just like we used to, just like we used to

Let's take it back
Before it all went wrong

Before the worst, before we mend
Before our hearts decide
It's time to love again
Before too late, before too long
Let's try to take it back
Before it all went wrong


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Stimulating Memories

I sit here sipping on a cup of Chamomile green tea and let it soothe my senses. I seem to be developing a cold and the warm beverage provides much needed relief. What it also brings along is a flood of memories today and for some reason I find myself thinking about the good times I have shared over a cup of tea or coffee…

When I moved to Bangalore in 2006, I stayed with an aunt of mine for a very short while. It was great since there was a familiar face in a new city as I came down here and that time allowed me to get acquainted with the city before I took off on my own. I spent some very good time while I was there since she is only a year elder to me (just don’t ask me how that is possible…it is complicated). We would spend many hours chatting away to glory and more often than not the conversations would continue early into the morning. The ritual towards the later part of my stay was to prepare two cups of Chamomile tea at (excatly) midnight and continue the chat. I think for the rest of my life the fragrance of Chamomile tea will remind me of her and those conversations…it’s a nice memory to have.

While walking the pavements of Jayanagar this past weekend we needed a place to sit awhile and chat. So we headed to the renovated Kalmane Coffee place (I do not like the new look guys…without Sankar’s your place just looks incomplete). While my sister went for a cold coffee, I ordered the regular favourite Nelyani Gold – filter coffee with a dash of cardamom. It was the first coffee I’d had at Kalmane way back in 2006 and the one I order most…I love it. Of course it also brings back memories of a very jobless Sunday spent in Forum mall the highlight of which was a rather long conversation in the company of Nelyani Gold and with some traditional Carnatic music playing in the background. That was my introduction to Kalmane Coffees and to good conversations…and it was one of the best-spent afternoons of my life.

Tea made a prominent appearance even as I travelled abroad with the familiar sound of the word ‘Chai’ falling in my ears (spelled as Caj in Slovak but pronounced the same). Of course they do not drink the same milk-boiled version as we do in India but it is just heartening to see the beverage being served in foreign land. And the experience was underlined by the fact that my dearest friend turned out to be the biggest connoiseur of tea. We could spend hours discussing tea or sharing descriptions of the lush tea-estates in the Nilgiris…and all over a heartening cup of tea. In fact I brought back a small sample of Nepal tea that she had given to me so I could drink milk-boiled tea there (which I had been sorely missing) and it is a prized souvenir now : )

Then of course there was that beautiful evening in that tea-house in Bratislava just before I left for Bangalore. There was an oriental tune playing befitting the ambience and the décor and people were looking very relaxed in that setting. For the first and last time while I was in the Czech Republic or Slovakia, I saw people sitting on the floor and absolutely at ease with it. I sat myself down while wondering if I hadn’t been transported to another land magically and absorbed it all in. It was a proper tea house where you actually smelled your tea before you chose what to order from among a wide gamut of teas spanning at least three continents and having all kinds of exotic names. A tea called ‘Sencha O Iwase’ is what I had…it was Japanese and was a nice mild concoction. The conversation I had that evening spanned so many topics that it felt like I was listening to an encyclopaedia. And the best part was the sight of the snow washed in the orange Sodium Vapour light and lined by black skeletons of leafless trees while walking alongside the Bratislava Castle wall…I will never ever forget the beauty I beheld.

Such and more stimulating memories make every cup of tea or coffee that I sip on an experience in itself. Here’s to the two well-loved beverages in India – tea and coffee…cheers : )

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Drive

For someone like me who gets uncomfortable with any uncertainty in life (by in life I mean important stuff like companion, career etc…not absolutely everything…don’t ask me how I took off on a four day unplanned trip to the West Coast…that’s part of being adventurous) I found the perfect song – Drive by Incubus. And fell in love with it…

I found this song being crooned from the microphone at Opus last Wednesday where I landed for a mid-week party…thought I’d do some crazy stuff and get crazy out of my head to see if some sanity returned. I am still unsure of the sanity part but I am glad I went since I found this song there…

This song has kept me going the whole of last week and has been playing over and over on my old faithful W300i. I love the lyrics. I find the song telling me to take charge of my own life…earn whatever I get in life. And it tells me to be ready to welcome what life brings…with open arms and open eyes mind you.

Brandon Boyd’s voice lends an additional appeal to the song and so does the lovely guitar playing right from the start and throughout. In fact when it comes to picking up the pieces, the guitar riff at the beginning of the song makes me want to pick up my guitar, let me fingers bleed and learn to play it…and take it forward from there one step at a time. But this song has been a saviour and I love it for that…hope you like it too.

Sometimes, I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can't help but ask myself how much I let the fear
Take the wheel and steer
It's driven me before
And it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal
But lately I'm beginning to find that I
Should be the one behind the wheel

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
With open arms and open eyes yeah

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
I'll be there

So if I decide to waiver my chance to be one of the hive
Will I choose water over wine and hold my own and drive?
It's driven me before
And it seems to be the way that everyone else gets around
But lately I'm beginning to find that
When I drive myself my light is found

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
With open arms and open eyes yeah

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
I'll be there

Would you choose water over wine
Hold the wheel and drive

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
With open arms and open eyes yeah

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
I'll be there

I might be hitting Opus again tonight…might kroak at KroaKing 4 again…might find another song to take me through the next week, handhold me until I can walk again…for now it is Drive that is driving me…

Keep the faith…until the next post then.


Incubus - Drive

Sincere? What Is That?

This morning while entering the office, I followed a group of 5-6 people to the main door. Now, in our office it is mandatory to swipe the access card at the door even if the door is already open…in other words no tailgating. I and a friend, much to the amusement of our other friends, swipe our access cards every single time we encounter a door. And this morning, among all the people who gatecrashed (so to speak), the guard picked me to remind that the card needs to be swiped (when I already had!)

What really got me wondering about sincerity in addition to this morning’s incident is another independent incident yesterday where my sincerity was severely questioned. Why is sincerity so hard to take? Why are the ones who follow the rules all the time picked and questioned? Why is someone who always means what she says misunderstood and punished for it? Why is it so hard to believe that for some people their hearts, minds, words and actions are in perfect sync? Is it because others by themselves are hardly ever sincere and we see the world as we are? Could it be that we look for twists and turns in someone’s words or just plain disbelieve them because we are used to being distrusted with our words…because we never mean what we say?

People believe the most frivolous of rumours and talk, the most casually delivered statement accompanied with the bat of an eyelid…but when you beseech someone to believe what you say, something that comes from deep down inside…a goodwill wish, a prayer, affection…they take it with tons of salt and try and derive what your hidden motive might be. In fact you are told on your face that you sound insincere. Sometimes one takes it in one’s stride…at others, it hurts.

So how should one express oneself in that case? With eyelids fluttering and fake smiles? Or with the same old defeated sincerity?

I ask as if I knew any better than to be sincere…misunderstood, mistaken but sincere.