Tuesday, February 24, 2015

PK review in the magazine...

Been a while since I visited this place, I keep making notes (on my phone) of all the things I have to write about here, but I never get around to it. Anyway, here's the PK review I wrote for the church magazine... 
Having recently seen this movie, I thought I’d write about it and let you know why it’s causing a furore among the religious fanatics. The movie tells the story of an alien, portrayed by Amir Khan, who lands on earth sans clothes (the prudes in society took offence to this and launched campaigns to clothe his cardboard cut-outs), but with a glowing pendant around his neck. Apparently this pendant functions as a remote control to his spaceship, and it gets stolen by the first human he comes across. The rest of movie depicts his search for this pendant which ultimately details his search for God, because the answer he often gets when he starts his search is; only God can help you, only God knows where it is. The alien has no idea who God is, so he starts asking around and going to all these places of worship and confusing one religion with another. This leads to many comedic situations like the alien breaking a coconut in the church and after realising that a priest in church was lifting the chalice containing wine, he thinks that God prefers wine over coconut water. So he buys bottles of wine and starts walking to a mosque, cause someone told him God resides there too. And that’s how the name PK comes into play; when he does all these funny things, people ask him whether he is drunk: Peekay ho, kya? (did you drink?). And the alien begins to think his name is PK. So anyway, there is a self-proclaimed swami in this movie who is more corrupt than holy, and he gets hold of this pendant and tells his ardent followers that he received it from God in the Himalayas and he asks them for funds to build a temple. This no doubt, must have stuck a nerve with the saffron brigade who wanted PK banned, but thank God sense prevailed when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the movie, saying that people who don’t like it shouldn’t watch the movie. 

PK is a satirical take on godmen and the blind belief they instill in the people. It is also a satire on the state of this country, as the alien PK says in the concluding part: It is okay to defecate, urinate, spit, shout and fight in public… but kissing, hugging and other displays of affection are not allowed here. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it… where we went wrong. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Il Postino : The Postman

I saw this movie recently while travelling to Chennai in the train and before I knew it I was transported to a sleepy little Italian village on the coast where beauty abounds in every frame. Beauty herself forms a major character, she is everywhere you care to look and that's what the protagonist Mario (Massimo Troisi) discovers after he interacts with a well known poet in exile, Pablo Neruda. The Cuban poet, Pablo Neruda (portrayed by Phillippe Noiret), arrives in a small island in Italy after being exiled for his communist beliefs. And Mario, a reluctant fisherman, longs for another job and when the necessity of a postman to deliver mail to the most famous person on the island arises, Mario lands this job. He hesitantly starts befriending Pablo and reading his poems, this awakens his soul to the beauty of being, of observing, of existing. As I sat there on the upper berth watching this movie while everybody was fast asleep, I was moved by this fisherman who found magic in metaphors. The words he reads and the way he begins to grasp the nuances of poetry, in both the written word and the living poetry found in the sound of gently lapping waves, the breeze as it hits the cliffs and in everybody around him... it envelops you too. You are struck by the beauty of a chugging train sneaking away into the night with everybody fast asleep and you wide awake, marveling at the power of words and discovering new ways to love them. 

Most of the movies these days focus on love (even this movie starts out like this), most of the songs are about love... this is understandable; being in love is a really heady feeling, you tend to be consumed by it. But love like this, about the evocative power of words is more revolutionary. It seeps into your consciousness making you evolve as a person, and this is exactly what happens to Mario. Massimo Troisi was so involved with this movie that he postponed heart surgery to complete it and suffered a fatal heart attack a day after the movie was completed. But he has immortalized himself as the simple postman who shares a beautiful friendship with a famous poet who awakens in him a higher level of consciousness. 

So if you are in the mood for a heartwarming story about friendship, love of words, poetry and nature then be sure to check this 1994 Italian movie... 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Of Paddy fields and Daddy fields...

I've written lots about my hometown, Nagercoil, in this blog... about how every trip home is like being embraced in earth's bountiful bosom. So you can imagine my surprise when for the very first time in my life, I felt bereft and speechless at her decrepit state. The past few weeks were exactly like the earth in Interstellar, a dust bowl, that's the only way to describe Nagercoil now. All her roads and mudukku's have been dug up, vehicles ply over these pathetic roads leaving a trail of dust in the air. There is a fine coating of the characteristic red mud on every visible surface... and amidst all the dancing and swirling red dust, people go about their daily lives, unfazed and undeterred, patiently waiting for their little town to go back to it's former glory of quaint roads and angel rays that flit and float through tree branches, playing shadows with the ground below. I was pretty much covered up like a terrorist there, a duppata covering my entire face except my eyes... my family refused to walk with me sometimes. That was my dust bowl existence, it kinda made coming back to the city less painful... 

Despite all this, my time there was pretty exciting... Sajeeve, a cousin, gave me the idea of lighting candles arranged in the roman numeral way of depicting 2015. Nam and another cousin, helped me out with this...
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How pretty they look flickering away, welcoming the new year. Those motifs are kolam patterns made using kolam stencils... dad bought these pretty cool stencils in the fish market, it was fun playing around with them.
Visited the farm too with the old gang, and hung out at the water tank munching on chocolates... 
Visited the special school too with the girls and it was nice seeing all my old friends and children... met Mother Magdalene after ages, she introduced me to A. J. Cronin and I fell completely in love with him.  
Hung out in these paddy fields...
And took lots of pictures. 
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And a video of the swaying crops with the mountains in the background... I can never tire of this sight, they always seem to beckon...
Ate lunch on the riverbanks... it was a potluck, so I made masala coated eggs, and roast potato masala, the others brought mint rice, coconut rice, tomato rice, poppadams and kesari. 
Nam took this picture of me and the river..... 
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And finally welcomed the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, Pongal... 

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Ringing in 2015...

Christmas turned out to be wonderfully surprising this year. After the midnight mass I ended up having Irish Bailey's and plum cake with nuns in the convent. Clinking our glasses to Sláinte! (the Irish version of 'Cheers' or 'drinking to your health') we sat around the dining table swapping stories. For a person missing her choir friends from the church back home, these friends from the religious fraternity made Christmas night pretty memorable.

New Year's was pretty exciting too, it was great being back with family and friends... meeting the shepherd boys of 2006, those small little boys who now tower over me... hanging out with the choir girls after mass, baking and eating the rum cake, and drinking bacardi while being extremely glad for a wonderful 2014 and hoping that the years to follow will be filled with good memories, exciting times and a lot more adventures... this is what I wish for all you readers too.

Today being the feast of Epiphany or the Three Kings feast (Jan 6th), it usually only means one thing... taking down the tree, the crib, the lights and all Christmas decorations. Here are a few pictures before I woefully pack everything away, to be opened after eleven months... 
The creche at my Nagercoil home... 
The Christmas tree... 
I like this little wooden cow near baby Jesus... bought him in Brienz, Switzerland. The Nativity figurines were purchased in Velankanni,
This doesn't look all that good, but my twin brothers birthday makes the Christmas week even more joyful, and even though they weren't around... I wanted to make something to mark the occasion. Settled on making a wheat base Superman pizza... made the S with sausage.  
When I was part of the parish community here, I used to make different Christmas greetings for the parish priest. This year I made Christmas card chimes, here it is hanging in father's home...  messages from the catechism children are stuck behind the card. These messages are really funny, the kids all like him... so most of them are about how cool father is. 
And this is the crib in father's house... he really did a great job here. You know how mud gets caked onto walls, and they develop a character of their own through rain and sunshine... well, father managed to scrape one such mud structure and he placed it in his creche, and it looked so natural in there, with the shepherds at the base of this mud hill while the holy family resides in that small little cave in the corner from which light shines forth... how profound, true Light who came down from heaven.
A house in the colony... Christmas is always fascinating down here... 
Houses are beautifully lit up...
The whole colony seems to glow, with festive cheer.... 
This is the creche at a friends place... 
The crib in the special school.... 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Interstellar Crib...

Every year, setting up the crib is an experience... when we were kids, the crib was made with this sweet smelling wild reed that dotted the landscape back home. I don't know what they call it, but the scent of the freshly built crib wafting through the house spiked the excitement levels. The reed though it smelled nice and looked great, was a time consuming project that involved dexterity, planning and patience.  So over the years, buying the reed gave way to other forms of constructing the Nativity scene... it became much easier to form a basic structure in the shape of a hut and then put a different spin on it every year. like the one in 2013 and 2012...
Here is this year's crèche, named it the Interstellar crib... cause of those floating specks of light wafting through the time space continuum. You can't see it here, but it sort of looks surreal with only these specks lighting up the nativity scene. 
And with a little bit of light, it becomes more clearer... see the angels, Cooper, Brant and Murph flying through space...
I saw pine cones lying everywhere on the ground in Geneva... I would pick up the good ones and stuff them in my bag. Painted a few of them gold and placed them in the crib, they complemented the curls of wood... and they looked like they could be alien pods. 
This little angel holding a golden star, I saw her in Salzburg and she spoke to me... so I bought her and here she is keeping watch over the Divine Child. 
Another look at the Interstellar Crib... see the speck over Joseph's shoulder casting an ethereal ray over this scene. 
One of the many stars at home... 
The tree peacefully radiating all the wonders of this season, from a corner...
Another star spilling out its light... 

Right up there, on this page, under About me... it's easy to know what Christmas means to me, and this year with my brothers not around this George Strait song says exactly what I want to say too...  that it doesn't matter if family and friends are not around. their memories are captured in our hearts forever like a living Christmas card. Even though we are all scattered, it doesn't matter cause the magic never melts away... Christmas always draws you in. So readers, wherever you are... may the pace, hope, love and joy of this season drag you in and envelope you and may you radiate this peace all your lives, Merry Christmas, everybody... 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Signed poems, a book and a book plate...

I've written about Tyler Knott more than once on my blog... how I came across his poems, how one poem of his evocatively captured all I needed to say after my recent trips, and how the phrasing in his poems is what gets your attention even though you don't necessarily agree with all that he says. So when I read on his instagram account that he would be visiting New York in November (2014) I was behind my sister and brother in law to attend his book signing event at a Barnes & Noble store. I had to plead, and make deals with them to ensure that they would attend the event. They assured me that they would, but every now and then, they would resort to blackmails and threats. If I said something they didn't like or if I pulled their leg, they would be like... 'do you want your poems signed?'
So anyway, after all the trauma they put me through, they finally did go to meet him and they got my poems signed. Here is the man himself, Tyler Knott Gregson signing a few poems and his book... 
And now that they have come home for the holidays... I finally get my signed poems and the signed book and the signed bookplate. I have to frame the poems now, put them up at home. Thanks guys... Nam and Jude, this is a pretty cool Christmas gift... let's do country singers next.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The flight back home...

I started documenting my trip here and inspite of nobody  reading it, I've come to the final post of my 2013 Eurotrip. And there is only one way to describe it, like warm sunshine spilling over my being, shrouding everything in a warm hazy glow. Like Gene Kelley says, 'There's a smile on my face for the whole human race, why it's almost like being in love.' That perfectly sums up my three months roaming with the siblings in Geneva, France and Germany.. You know how a book can take you to faraway places... that's what I've been doing since I fell in love with the written word. Now to finally discover the world beyond books and pictures is nothing short of incredible.  

In a way the special school was like this too, those years are always shrouded in warm hues of sunshine. It was great being with those kids, every day in school was an adventure... I used to wake up thinking what is going to happen today, it was that exciting. I should visit the school and hang out with all those angels, when I go home for the holidays.  

Anyway, getting back to the last day of my trip, I didn't want to leave my brother's place... but that's not the way life works. So you console yourself, get on that flight and then your only worry is reaching your destination in one piece. On the flight from Geneva to Abu Dhabi, I had a headache which was threatening to explode so I asked one of the flight attendants for panadol, and after that I was asleep most of the journey. Then in Abu Dhabi after buying the customary duty free alcohol and chocolates, I boarded the cramped flight to Madras. I was in the middle seat, a guy from Bern was beside me and he turned out to be very entertaining. Just after take off, I started scrolling through the movie list and came across Superman and decided to watch that cause Anju was telling us about Henry Cavill and how hot he is. And after seeing him, all I could think was wow! he really scorched through his scenes. So anyway, there I am almost ready to fall in love with Henry, when the Swiss guy decides to start talking. And I'm not one to talk with strangers, I mean since we can remember, that has been one of the basic rules stuffed down our ears... don't talk to strangers. So I just listen, smile and nod to what he says... but then the conversations become interesting, and I let down my guard. After that it was quite fun, conversing with a total stranger for four hours nonstop, I didn't even know that we had landed, it was that engaging. This was in November 2013 and it was his first trip to Madras, he was here to watch the chess tournament. He is quite passionate about the game and he predicted that Carlsen would win, though he had a lot of respect for Aaa -nah-ndh (took me a few seconds to figure out that he was talking about Vishwanath Anand). So after establishing the basic stuff about why he was travelling and what I was doing, the food arrived and as usual I put a sign of the cross, said a prayer before meals in my head, and that's when I heard him laughing and saw him shaking his head. So I was like, what's so funny... and he's like, you praying, and that started us off on another conversation about religion, God and our beliefs. It was so random... it was nice, we spoke about books, literature and how the German spoken in Bern sounds harsh and explosive compared to the soft flowing rhythmic French of  Geneva.

So as it turns out, the journey back was quite nice... even the air hostesses were fun. I traveled by Etihad airlines and before the flight took off, they played the Etihad airline ad about beautiful people. The air hostesses were so chilled out, they were pointing at each other and singing the chorus, laughing and having a great time. All in all, it was a fun trip back... I seem to be meeting angels everywhere I go. 

In case you would like to read the different posts in this Eurotrip series :