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Dear TV, I’m just not that into you (and I’m not sorry)

I don’t own a TV. Well, there is a flat screen television that came with our apartment but we have never bothered to switch it on. Along its edges hangs bunting with our little girl’s name on it, something children were being encouraged to make at one of her classmate’s birthday parties. This was before we moved, when Delhi wasn’t sure if it wanted to rain on a Toy Story themed party in a school-that-rents-out-space-for-birthdays. That was in August, barely weeks before the flight to a new life, or at least that’s what the postcard in my head said.

In 2011, while our girl was growing from the pea sized spec on the monitor in the ultra sound clinic to the thing with hands and feet I went everywhere with, I was glued to what had become urban India’s prime time fetish – Masterchef Australia. I don’t know what everyone else’s excuse was, but I was then a bloated vegetarian cow who wanted to eat a horse and the frenzy of the competitive kitchen coupled with all the food flying around was enough to satisfy all visual cravings. When the calf arrived and began moving her head around, I banned television in the house. People had to choose what they wanted more, baby gurgles or insipid television laughter, which was the enemy of my child’s brain and eyes according to an article that suggested no screen time of any sort (phone, television, tablets), till two years. I had liked television, sure, but I liked sleep more and after heading back to work in six months, anytime I had left was happily spent away from the box. This meant of course that I didn’t know Mad Men from The Good Wife and was none the worse for it. I caught up with and completed the former in entirety last December, in two weeks really. It brought back memories of student life – late night binge watching and days filled with remorse over approaching deadlines. Then I sulked for two days because it was all over. There was nothing to treat myself with when I’d been a good girl at work and all else.

I have little memory of television growing up. I know we had one, because there is a picture of me dancing in front of it with the late Shammi Kapoor’s face plastered on the screen. I’m wearing ghungroos, highly inappropriate for the sort of music I guess must have been playing. Then came boarding school for four years where I kept busy reading library books inside texts during study hours and spent the remainder bouncing ‘crazy’ balls off the boundary wall and into a stream that purportedly led to the lake below. My real television moment, that I have a recollection of, was as a teenager when we had moved to Delhi. It was with Blossom, the quirky teenager growing up in a house full of men – her divorced father and two older brothers. I couldn’t exactly relate to her but she made me smile, sometimes laugh, and that has been my checklist for a lot of programs and films thereon. Then came Friends, again not in tandem with how it was playing on Indian screens. I watched it much later in entirety with borrowed DVDs, followed by others like Sex and the City and Grey’s Anatomy, and more recently True Detective (Season 1 only please) and Narcos.

As fate would have it, my first job right out of college was in television production. Any starry-eyed ideas I may have held about the screen, which I didn’t to begin with, were lost in that time seeing the clockwork up close. It was days of hard labor, little rest and lots of sparks, the sort of thing that will outlive any human being’s enthusiasm for an adrenaline rush. I appreciated people who could make their lives in the field, but knew that it wasn’t for me, just as the act of putting my feet up and watching the telly for hours wasn’t for me when I had my mojo on. That perhaps made it easier to let it fade into the background, even more so with things like You Tube and now oh-how-I-love-you Netflix, which I would like to believe was built for mothers with little time and even less patience. Get-to-the-point is all that we wish for and get.

My parents speak of the early days when only one person in the neighborhood would have a television, and everyone would gather around to watch news or cricket or a sitcom. When cable television hit our shores it was often banned for children stuck with dreaded board exams in Grade 10 and 12. Looking back it feels like much ado about nothing. All the advertisements and shows with stories that didn’t go anywhere were better missed. But there were some gems, like detective Vyomkesh Bakshi, which thanks to You Tube we can enjoy today too. While stories still rule and make even people like me turn into nefarious gluttons once in a while, the television set itself is now discarded furniture. It’s there because no one will take it and because we think someday we might use it, which is never going to happen because we’ve lost that loving feelin’ and it’s not coming back.

0

Two Hoots for Tom Cruise

New Yorker recently called him “the good kind of crazy“.
The husband said “go fall in love with him again”.
Two Hoots for Tom Cruise_Image via pagesix.com
In college cafeteria debates when he was pitted against Pitt, I always sided with Tom Cruise. He was formulaic, chiselled, too handsome to be any good as an actor. But I watched everything, even Vanilla Sky, or especially, because he was semi-naked in parts, though Eyes Wide Shut is better for that. And including the time we (then boyfriend, now husband, who makes an exception for Cruise starrers to his ‘Nothing below 7.5 rating’ for movie viewing) ran across an empty parking lot, chased by questions from napping bus drivers, to watch the first day first show of The Last Samurai.

Something went amiss when he became a Scientology crusader & to my mind went cuckoo. I was done, with reading everything about him. The films? That was another story.

Reprising his role as Ethan Hunt in the fifth instalment of the Mission Impossible series, he’s joined by the usual company of comic sidekick, trusted friends & a brand new leggy lass, this time taking on a ‘rogue’ former British Intelligence agent.

Adrenaline rush entry, check. High speed chase, in a car & bike, check. Masking, unmasking, check. You could not see it and still know everyone gets out alive.

On a Sunday afternoon in a movie hall full to the brim, Tom Cruise’s wide screen entry received whistles once reserved for gyrating sirens. Toddlers and octogenarians were also in attendance, to watch a quintessential Hollywood blockbuster, not the film, but the man. Jumping on Oprah’s couch in real life and, off tall buildings & flying airplanes & down into shafts in films, he is the entertainer who wants you to forget what you had for lunch. He does his own stunts and wants everyone to know that. This series in particular is his way of celebrating his awesomeness, while leaving no time for analysis, discourse, comprehension. You sit, watch, leave.

This is not Color of Money or A Few Good Men, opposite stalwarts like Paul Newman & Jack Nicholson. It is Tom’s world, where no one, not even the villain, overshadows him, quite unlike action packed thrillers in recent times like Heath Ledger as the Joker in Christopher Nolan directed Dark Knight or Javier Bardem’s slow, studied evil form against Daniel Craig’s Bond in Skyfall.

Mission Impossible is not the platform for anyone else to shine, to play the anti-hero, to lead an audience astray. In this self-created world, Ethan Hunt is Tom Cruise –  pure good, unmatched, and, as Alec Baldwin will tell us at the fag end of the film, “destiny”.

Few will complain or question. Off screen he may have missed the Golden Statuette thrice, but for many movie-goers filing out as the familiar M.I. soundtrack comes on, he had them at “Hello”. And if the end is anything to go by, we’ll be seeing him again, soon.

0

Redemption Ride

I am in love with the Delhi Metro. For one, I get to read (or watch Suits on my phone. Aha). Mothers who (can make time to) read is a group with fewer members than the Micronesian Parliament. And I refuse to be thrown off it. The metro also provides the best alternative to moving my feet vigorously on the pedal without getting anywhere. So everyday I shove, race and celebrate the acquisition of a seat, at best, and a space to place stationery feet at the very least.

On most days my head is bowed in reverence to the words in my hands. But often the action around is engaging enough to invite a look or disturbing enough to dread. While I’m almost always in the “women’s coach”, sometimes an empty seat in the “general compartment” draws me in. In the former, I have seen and heard (not eavesdropped but God some people are loud) enough life histories to feed a potboiler. Women have fainted, howled, offered a seat to heavy-set women thinking they were pregnant, proclaimed their love for possibly dubious men and first-rate rum.

Being part of a “general”-anything is sure to be fraught with mediocrity and the thus-named metro compartments come with their own share of debased drama. Nose-in-book is a cure for many things but is a meek defense against crotch-in-face. Especially, if said crotch is riddled with a fidgety hand that you want to smack with aforementioned book. A hardbound copy of Proust would be a possible weapon for it. But with only the last two volumes of In Search of Lost Time remaining to be devoured, I’ve placed Paris aside for the moment and am on a most fascinating journey with Rebecca West through (erstwhile) Yugoslavia. However, my copy of her tome is a paperback and hence ill-placed to combat a denim-dressed crotch.

Despite curious distractions we continue our journey, Rebecca and I, in Herzegovina, Dalmatia, Kosovo and beyond, past garish Turkish remnants and ruined cathedrals, with history dancing forever beside us. In the haze of a garrulous metro ride, the sights, scents and sounds of her world meet mine, ensuring that 2014 Delhi can be 1931 Balkans and our lot in life can truly seek redemption through reading.

1

Finding (Digitally Enhanced) Mojo and then some

There is never a dull moment when you’re living with a toddler. For the most part you are juggling the ball, trying not to get a bloody nose (like Daddy did earlier this week) and mostly attempting to keep things on your turf. Basically to not play like Brazil against your German-inspired toddler.

At other times you just sit back and marvel at the things she says and does, knowing well enough that in time her eyes may not light up at describing the things she did at school or when you were not around.

As part of our customary rhyme/cartoon viewing at dinner (because it’s easier to hold a child down with that and 20 minutes isn’t killing anyone and go feed a two year old before you go judging) we get on YouTube (no TV since that always plays the wrong things when you’re watching), I ask what she wants to watch, she points it out on the screen and then we sit back and have dinner in quasi-peace. Usually we end up with the Famous Five, not the children’s book series but either the Five Little Monkeys that continue to jump on the bed and bump their heads or the Five Little Ducks that disappear for a bit only to resurface towards the end.

But yesterday, thanks to search result algorithms powered by the Google Gods, the screen showed up a new item, a series called ‘Peppa Pig’. It was new and looked harmless enough so we gave it a shot. Within five minutes of watching, I felt elated at having discovered something wonderful. Peppa Pig is a little girl pig living in Britain with her younger brother George (what else could he possibly be called) and her parents. They go about their happy routines like visiting the amusement park, taking a holiday or getting lost in the fog, with Daddy Pig always managing to do something stupid that is made nicer still with the narrator stating the goof up in a nonchalant manner. I love it.

British comedies have always been super special. Peppa Pig is a pre-school series but heck no one does sardonic better than the Brits. Look at Outnumbered, if you haven’t already; a sitcom on a middle class family in London with the parents being ‘outnumbered’ by their three delightfully unruly offspring. The beauty of the show is that the dialogues of the children are not written by 30 year old TV writers. Instead, these are improvised. While the scene and the setting are discussed with everyone, the kids are left to being themselves and what a crazy bunch they obviously are.

Or spend a rainy afternoon with Withnail and I. The adventures of two unemployed (and decidedly unemployable) actors makes for perfect alone time viewing. From the squalor of their city apartment to the marsh madness at the country cottage, this acerbic tale of two men performing the sacred art of ‘resting’ before taking a holiday by accident is enough to make you smile years after you first discover it.

And then perhaps you can walk up to a barman and delight him thus (quoting Withnail):

“We want the finest wines available to humanity. And we want them here, and we want them now!”

Mommy said TV was bad for you, and it probably is. But there are delights that it could throw up without turning anyone into gun toting villains or broccoli hating dimwits. And it is for these delectable treats that one should (under adult supervision after ensuring the said adult is wine-proof) indulge in audio-visual activities, with the hope of compressing a little bit of sunshine in deftly produced tales meant for joyous merrymaking.

4

Are We There Yet? OR It is the Penultimate Day of the A-to-Z Challenge, Yay!)

“I must write something” she whispers to herself, sitting by the balcony trying to save the letter ‘A’ on the machine from being pulled out by the toddler.

I wonder if anyone stays in the apartment in the opposite building. Never seen anybody there but that empty clothes rack and mop in the balcony surely belong to someone.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry. I wonder if “I’m hungry” is as contagious as a yawn. Really wouldn’t mind a fruit yogurt right now but who’s going to walk to the grocery. Laziness is a disease with no cure. Talking aloud about hunger helps. Husband offers…banana, apple, garlic bread…no prizes for guessing which one I’m going to eat.

I have a very tricky relationship with bananas. Mother never tires of telling me of the goodness of that (godforsaken) fruit. Maybe because I know its so good, I can hardly ever bring myself to eat it. Buy it I do. Perhaps that helps me stay comfortable with the idea of ‘healthy eating’. Maybe if someone chopped it and served it in a bowl with tangy masala on it I’d gobble it down. But you see, laziness is a disease with no cure. If banana and I were the last thing on the planet, would I eat it? Sure. Until Armageddon, pass me something else.

The sound of a basketball dribble. Don’t get me started on that either. Not basketball, but exercise. Its kind of like the banana situation. I know its good for me but I can’t get myself to do it. And the garlic bread is here. Now I type with little finger as others are smeared in butter and I’m not done eating so why get up and wash hands. But I will not wait for Armageddon to start exercise…just not today honey.

“Life is ours, we live it our way”, Metallica to the rescue of all rebellious children (and certain adults). So I saw them Live last year on my birthday. How I managed to make it happen is a helluva story. You should stick around long enough to read that when I get to it.

There is now most certainly melted butter and cheese running through my veins. Shoot me and you’ll see.

“I must end this” she whispers to herself, very aware of the ridiculousness of all the words above.

Forgive me oh unfortunate one for your eyes have witnessed this dreadful scene.

May the lord above grant you dreams of happy places and may you find no further reason to utter “Oh the horror, the horror”.

3

(M)elody Moods

Haunting tunes of old Hindi music. Poetry set to melodies that mingle with countless emotions in one’s head. Some tragic, some too real to ignore. Yearning for those absent. Waiting for life to begin.

And then there’s the overwhelming indescribable feeling…Sadness? Love? Nostalgia? Who knows.

Memories float in the air, mixed with images of the times to come. The intangible. The unknown.

Songs bring forth thoughts, all but mundane. The playlist, as if by design, reflecting the highs and lows of one’s emotional trajectory through life.

And soon enough its all over…the feeling, the train of thought, the acute sense of the past, present and future.

All that remains is the tune, reminding one of nothing more than music itself. And with that one rests, knowing it shall all happen again.

They say it about love, but its just as true for melodies.

If music gets you to it, music will get you through it.

4

Twisted (K)aleidoscope

Eating fruit yogurt (pineapple flavour, if you must know) and listening to INXS is supposed to help me generate ideas for my new piece. In between the will it, won’t it game, I consider the convenience of writing my thoughts (random as they always are) in the sequence they come to me. Let all who read on be forewarned: This is an experiment.

If one could sort life like a music playlist, things would be just fine. That i can get the late Michael Hutchence to start the show, have Kurt Cobain and Roger Waters follow, is the exercise of one of the best kind of personal choice.

Incidentally, the Pink Floyd song ‘Coming back to life’ reminds me of the time a friend and I wanted to hear the song so bad that we were ready to leave a trying-to-be-a-party at another friend’s home and go sit in the car and hear it (the only option available at the time).

That day also happened to be the time when one witnessed brilliance from close quarters…opening of a wine bottle with a screw driver as the cork screw could not be located. The cork fell into the bottle after being pushed this way and that and as expected, didn’t enhance the taste of the ‘warm’ (it had been worked at for a long while) wine. Someone floated the sacrilegious suggestion of putting some ice in the tall wine glasses. Rest assured, things didn’t go as far that.

From wine glasses to another kind. What is the most difficult thing to find without your spectacles?
Well, your spectacles.

For reasons unknown, I just remembered this restaurant in Delhi (lets not name it), that had created two seating areas demarcated as ‘smoking and non-alcoholic’ and ‘non-smoking and alcoholic’. Asthmatic non-alcoholics could not have been happy.

Have you ever wondered how marketing managers of cigarette companies live with themselves? For several years now they have probably been taking inspiration from the film ‘Thankyou For Smoking’ (some people will tell you I really sell this film). Three words for you : go get it.

Come to think of it, there are quite a few things I sell to people around me: contact lenses, bananas as breakfast, taking notes to keep from sleeping, carrying a book to read everywhere, etc.

Perhaps after reading this piece people will also see the benefits of blogging. How else can you get away with something like the above.

Needless to say, this stream of randomness could flow on forever.
I must practice restraint and build impenetrable obstacles in its path.
Au revoir dear reader.

Rest assured there are better days ahead. Amen.

5

(F)lashback ’07: The Night of The Fog

On a balmy weekend in June nearly seven years ago, I found this film The Fog while surfing channels. It is supposed to be scary so I watched in eagerness. I got to it after it had been on for about half an hour so it took me a while to understand who or what was going to spook me. Of course they made it easy by putting the name of the scare-element in the title.

So basically the Fog is following people around and killing them. And I was sitting alone in my living room, trying my best to imagine that the Fog was going to get me too. It didn’t happen. I mean how unpredictable are car breakdowns or phone lines going dead or people (very stupid ones) going out into the dark, menacing night with a lantern. You will get killed.

And there is no forgiving the unpalatability of actually seeing a ghost in a horror film. Why do they assume that people with bad make-up can pass off as ghosts? Who actually decides that this is what ghosts must look like? Is there a council out there that lays down guidelines on appropriate ghost look and behaviour?

In real life people usually get scared of things they sense but don’t actually see. So when I was following the trio in the Blair Witch Project, I knew anything could happen and I was excited. Well yes it’s a jungle and there are going to be animal sounds and weird shapes in the dark. I didn’t get scared out of my wits but at least they weren’t showing me women in white or men in black.

I guess it is mostly a case of to each her own ghost. I remember getting spooked by the T-Rex dinosaur in Jurassic Park when I saw the film as a kid. It was raining that night and I could swear I saw that slimy thing outside my bedroom window. Then there were the late night visits to the boarding school bathroom, made spookily-special by rustling trees and howling winds and the knowledge that like every other Convent yours was built on a graveyard too.

That was ages ago. Now there aren’t any imaginary beings outside my window or monsters under my bed. I have to try real hard to let well-intentioned horror flicks scare me. Perhaps the time has come to send a message across to those who care: Spirits of the world unite and spook me baby one more time.

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The Bare-All (B)ucket List. Or simply, “My Birthday is coming, pick a cause to sponsor”. I suggest #2 or #7

These are a few of my favourite things, some of the things I want to do, at some point, before I croak.

1. Read all seven volumes of ‘In Search of Lost Time’.

I’m on the last 100 pages of Volume 3. This one is a slow train, but there’s no rush. It is oh so delightful.

2. Watch Eddie Vedder in concert.

I’ve screamed myself hoarse at The Scorpions, Iron Maiden and Metallica. Eddie Baby Call me soon.

3. Learn to swim.

Okay, in my defence, scuba diving in Havelock has been accomplished. And who cares about the neighbourhood pool. But Robert De Niro swam to safety in Deer Hunter and I feel like I should know how to do it too. Just in case.

4. Finish a Marathon.

Honestly, this one is just so that I can shut the husband and his like. I’d love to throw that in his face the next time he launches the You’re-not-working-out attack. Toddler care and driving in Delhi are legitimate workouts. And fitting into college jeans post baby-pop calls for a celebration. But I think the marathon survivor tee ought to do it.

5. Roll-on-the-floor Laughing.

I have chuckled, grinned, laughed out loud yes, but a floor-roll? Reminds me of a play I was in at kindergarten. It was based on a fairy tale in a Hindi book, the story of a princess who never smiles. Her father, the King, calls people from far and wide to make her smile. Nothing works, not even a monkey dance. And then a man walks in with a pillow disguised as a big belly. The ‘belly’ falls off and the princess laughs and laughs and laughs. I played the princess and I did laugh. So come on world, drop the metaphorical belly so I can show you how I roll.

6. Write a Book.

There are demons in my head, on the road and in the grocery store. They deserve to be heard. And if it can be Wodehouse-funny I’ll kiss my knees. Because they’re saucy and that’s where the books rest on curl-up nights.

7. Visit a new place every year.

This stuff is real. It has worked in the past. May there always be enough cash and whimsy wanderlust to support this cause. Amen.

8. Shake at least some manic depressives out of their sad skins.

Not with fake belly acts but something that lasts; longer than a hookah high, shorter than a lifetime will do.

9. Sky Dive/Bike Ride Tutorials.

Not a stickler for these but if they come my way, hell why not!

10. Kick a Bucket.

Not the metaphorical death sentence. I mean place a bright, big bucket in a field and kick the damn thing. Someone has to do it.

 

P.S.: See the green badge on the right? I’m participating in the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Read all about it here: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

We’re on Day 2 today with the letter ‘B’ for BucketList. Stay tuned, in April and beyond.