Thursday, August 18, 2011

Silly Girly Blah!

Enrique should be sued for spoiling girls; filling their heads with all sorts of romantic crap. Otherwise how can you explain them going gaga over him whenever he whines in front of the screen with hands outstretched, mouth wide open and shouting some insensible word? Sometimes you don't even have to see him behave like a maniac; his voice is enough. Such whining, God! Such screaming. Such panting. Such passion. Such love.

Making a girl feel really wanted, that's what these stupid girls probably like in Enrique. The way he makes them feel as if they are the most important things in the world to him. No one, nothing else matters. No matter how imperfect you are; he is there to love you. No matter how tormented you are, he is there for you. No matter how boring, how insecure you are, he is there for you.

But look at his albums. All his videos deal with lust more than love. Right from Hero to Tired of Being Sorry; all he seems bothered about is sex. Look at the kind of girls he falls for. Supermodels. All of them. Killer cats. 

Look at the kind of girls in love stories. Most love stories which are from the guy's perspective make him fall for the supermodel. Spiderman (which is not really a love story) makes Peter Parker fall in love with the beautiful Mary Jane. I have lost count of how many films implore the hot women to look for the character (more than looks) in guys! 

The underdog, is not good-looking, he might not even be bright. But he almost always has a good heart. He falls in love with the school or college heartthrob. The girl is too blind to see his love but often at the end of the story, she comes around. She sees him for his real beauty

Now the guy might or might not find love with his childhood sweetheart (who is usually opposite in character to the heartthrob but equally hot). But c'mon, who does not like being squashed between two hot ladies, one completely different from the other?

So while occasionally you might get a Steven Carell 40 Year old virgin story or a typical Jack Black fat guy story, such stories are extremely rare in case of women. Never Been Kissed and Bridget Jones' Diary come to mind. The girl gets her first kiss when she is thirty working in an office. And Glee. Nice program. But such cases are rare. 

And now let's divert to real life. Does the fat girl get the hot guy? Does the lonely girl get the popular guy? Does the introverted girl get the charming guy? I have not heard of any such cases. But these girls listen to Enrique, John Mayer and those typically whiny male singers. Dream of love. Not just anyone who will accept them the way they are. But someone they genuinely want. Does dreaming repeatedly make it come true?

Not necessarily.

But then, who doesn't try? ;)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Ailing Man

The ailing man by the bedside
Trying to reach for a glass of water
By the table.

The glass falls down
A loud sonorous noise
A thousand little pieces.

Standing by his doorway
She watches. 
Eyes cold, hands folded
She watches the man ail
For a little glass of water.

The ailing man is naked on the bed
He wears transparent tubes
His eyes are blind; his ears deaf
All he pines for is a little water.

Thirst, so humble, so basic
Yet so vital.
A glass of water- cool still water
Flowing down the throat.
Lips relish the drops
Tongue eagerly kisses the shy water.
The more you try to grasp her,
The more she slips away. 

The water slipping away
Life slipping away...
Standing by his doorway
She silently waits.

The cries, his cries become intense
Thirst of an ailing man
Thirst of a dying man.
Not a muscle in her face flinches.

A sudden cool breeze blows
From the window on the left.
The intimate smell 
Of bygone Bougainvilleas
Suddenly drives her to the past.

Hands holding the flowers
Strewing them in the air
Strewing them upon her
Her mother.

The fresh starch of her cotton sari.
The fragrance of her hair
The thousand lights of her laugh
The merry twinkle in her eye
And her cries.
And her tears.
And her pain.
Till one day she cut herself.

And the stone cold expression on her face since that day.

It's been a decade.

The wounds have healed
But the marks remained. 
Now he is on the same bed.
The perpetrator, the tyrant
Her father.

And down the doorway she stands
With folded hands.
And waits.

Doctors come, as do relatives.
Nurses come
Tone of sympathy
Fake concern.
Telling her not to lose hope.
Applauding her courage
Worrying over her health

In awe of her austerity.

She simply stands by the door
And watches the ailing man
Surrounded by well wishers.
The dying old man,

The blind weak man
The man on the bed
The murderer of her mother.
Her father.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Divided We Fall

There is something about films made about the Nazi reign that attracts me. Divided We Fall is one such film. It is a 2000 Czech film by Jan Hřebejk. Not a usual critical Nazi movie, Divided We Fall, presents the comic side of things. Josef and Mari save their boss's son, the Jew David Wiener even though their neighbor Franta refuses to help him and calls the Nazi authorities. This same Franta spits on the wall when he sees Josef make merry with Nazi officials so as to avoid suspicion. He ironically becomes the representative of the Resistance when Soviet forces invade Czechoslovakia. It is he who calls Josef a traitor when he arrives to a Soviet official to get hold of a doctor for his pregnant wife. 

Horst, a Czech who has collaborated with the Germans, brings gifts to the house. He is interested in Marie and even tries to force her once, but in the end, he is the one who becomes her doctor. The Soviets have captured all the Germans and their supporters. Even the doctor is dead. So Josef saves Horst among all those captured, saying he is the only doctor there. The wife is extremely horrified when she sees Horst becoming her doctor even though he tried to rape her once. But it happens, the husband pleads with the wife to keep shut. Horst is saved because he protects the family from the Nazis by not giving away the fact that they are in fact hiding a Jew in their house.                                           

Tense situations are also brought out in the end when the stupidity of power changes are shown. A change of power only necessitates a change of the master and not the system. This is why, while in the first half of the movie, Josef had to hide David to save his family, in the later half too, he is about to be killed because he cannot produce David to prove his "hatred" of the Nazis. Truly comic. As a viewer you are left wondering whether an innocent and kind man as Josef will be shot because of some idiot despot, who is too engaged in bureaucracies to even judge the worth of a life. 

Like the Nazi official who proudly showed that the value of one Nazi is equal to a 100 Jew lives, the Soviet official, takes out his gun, because "anybody could have been branded a Jew to escape the proceedings against Nazism". Director Jan Hřebejk shows the irrationality behind war through this master stroke.

The film is full of grey shades. The husband cannot have a child. But the wife says she is pregnant to keep a Nazi officer from taking shelter in their house (Courtesy: Horst). The husband realizes the gravity of the problem and decides that the wife has to become pregnant somehow. Devout Marie refuses to sleep with another man, and Jew David is all too awestruck to sleep with Marie. He even tries to leave the room but Josef, the husband forces both of them into the same room and shuts it behind him. As the lights go dark behind him, one sees the pain in his eyes. Truly, desperate times call for desperate measures. 

As is the case with wartime movies, the camera plays as important a role as the script. Unity is the motto of the film. Throughout the movie we see, Nazi forces use the saying, "United We Stand". It's corollary, "Divided We Fall" then stands to unite the oppressed at a time of crisis. It is especially symbolic when at the end, Horst delivers the baby and every one, Nazi, Russian, Jew, Slav, Czech crowd the room and Horst says, "Our baby has been born". This in short, is the message of the film. 

Life thrives in the midst of all death and destruction. The final scene in the movie is that of Josef with his new born baby in a cradle walking amidst the ruins of his city. The Nazi official who lost his youngest son (the child had tried to run from battlefield and was shot by German officers themselves. This is why the Nazi official wanted to stay in Josef-Marie's house unknowing of the fact that they were hiding a Jew) is seen injured. On the paths of the destruction, Josef sees the faces of all those who died, right from the young boy to the many Jews. 

The name Josef-Marie is also symbolic. Joseph and Mary brought Jesus Christ into this world when death and destruction was prevailing everywhere. Jesus was not Joseph's son by blood but he was brought up by him. Similarly here, the baby girl is not Josef's daughter by blood, but she is connected with the whole community by a much deeper bond. 

She symbolizes life, hope, optimism; she is the light at the end of a dark tunnel. May be sometimes, your race is not important. May be sometimes, punishing the guilty is not important. May be sometimes, the name of the father is not important. May be, sometimes what you need is Forgiveness. A little respite, a little letting go... is all you need to stay united.. and to dream of a better future. 

For civilizations tormented by violent deaths, only revenge is not a solution. You need something to look forward too. The baby brings in this hope in  Jan Hřebejk's Divided We Fall

PS: This film is extremely contemporary in our present strife ridden scenario. The film shows how extremes nullify each other only to leave pout moderation. The "You are with us, or against us" philosophy can only bring death and destruction; we can only move forward if we understand the importance of really being together

PPS- Happy 64TH Independence Day.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


Name: Sumana Chattopadhyay
Age: 29 years
Designation: PhD Student
Paper: Proliferation of Oral Cancer in Kolkata

Sumana Chattopadhyay is just like any other ordinary girl chasing her dreams. She dreams to do research in the field of cancer. She dreams of going abroad. Her house is filled with the latest articles in international journals on cancer. In fact, she has also written for some of these journals. Stephen Hawking is her inspiration. Sumana Chattopadhyay is suffering from cancer.

The realization hit her one afternoon as a lot of saliva began pouring out of her mouth. "I have to complete my paper fast. What if.. I don't get the chance to complete it later?" And that was it. While most research scholars take years to complete their thesis, Sumana completed it within three years. She submitted her paper in April, 2010. 

Her family has a history of cancer. Her grandfathers, father and even aunt have passed away due to this vicious incurable disease. This is mainly why she wanted to find a cure to this deadly disease. 

Her condition started getting worse. She went through several operations and chemotherapy. She started feeling a little better. But 7-8 months back, her condition started getting worse. She puked anything she ate and so had to be helped with a tube. Now that tube has been removed, but she still can't eat anything. She can't lie down or sit. But before her conditioned worsened, she regularly went to the library and her college for research. When she couldn't, she emailed her work to her Guide. She still dreams of going abroad if she gets a chance. And you know what? She loves eating Hilsa. In rainy days- the queen of fish adorns the plates of most foodie Bengalis. Sumana just stares at the rain, the waters perhaps bring a little moisture and life in her numbered days.

These are the facts.

I have a colleague who stays in Bangal, a relatively primitive place in Bengal. Every morning he travels for about twenty minutes to get the Santraganchi local. From there he travels for an hour or so to reach another station. From thereon he travels to get the Metro. After he gets down to the last stoppage from the Metro, he walks for twenty minutes to reach office. It takes him three hours give or take for the journey. 

I asked him, "So if you wake up at 7, you will be able to reach office by 10?"

He said, "Yes that's true. But I don't feel like getting up so early in the morning. I feel so sleepy." He gives me an innocent smile. I look down.

So does being a hero necessarily require you to be a flying alien in red shorts? Or do you have to be bitten by a spider to be extraordinary? Are Sumana and my colleague heroes? 

I think they are. Heroes are not extraordinary people, they are just ordinary beings from among us, who show the spirit to fight the most demanding wars of life. They are just ordinary people with a zest to achieve their dreams, and in doing so, they light our paths with a ray of hope. When you watch a hero, you are filled with a sudden burst of energy, you feel "I can do this too!" 

The people I have just mentioned, exist in real life. These are real stories. When I hear about them, I am filled with awe. I think they are true heroes.

What about you?