Saturday, September 24, 2016

Pink is the colour of a shaken but clear conscience

Story telling and dramatization in Bollywood have always catered to the lowest common denominator. And that is because the movie makers and their producers know that your average movie  going audience  needs drama, super star ( mostly male)  and a dose of common man’s pseudo morality to come back satiated from the movie theatres. 

Any variation in the formula and it would be money gone down the drain for the producer.  

Here is a real and contemprorary example.

Angry Indian Goddesses is a 2015 Hindi drama film, directed by Pan Nalin with Sandhya Mridul, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sarah-Jane Dias, Anushka Manchanda, Amrit Maghera, Rajshri Deshpande and Pavleen Gujral playing lead roles with Adil Hussain

There are no super stars there.
Pink is a 2016 Indian courtroom drama film directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, written by Ritesh Shah, and produced by Rashmi Sharma and Shoojit SircarIt was released on 16 September 2016. 
And it has the super star Amitabh Bachchan in a mind blowing stellar role.

Angry Indian Goddesses was screened in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, where it finished second in the voting for the People's Choice Award.

Pink on the other hand has emerged a super hit at the Indian box office.

Angry Indian Goddesses and Pink  possibly follow a very similar and familiar storyline.

Where Pink scored better is in being able to reach out to a far larger audience who would flock to see the first man of Bollywood in action. 

And that is the bait with which he traps them.  

 He sits us down and in a very dumbed down manner questions our attitude towards freedom of choice, morality, hidden and sub conscious biases and the pseudo morality that is different for men and women.

He is dramatic.  Very very dramatic.  At times he pushes the dramatization beyond the threshold that your self proclaimed liberal minded self  can put up with. Just as you think he is making you look at the higher common denominator, Falak ali, played by Kriti Kulhari breaches the boundary even further and makes you look at the highest common denominator. ( oh-my-god-what-a-mind-blowing-conscience-stirring-act-that-was-lady)  

As a society we fool ourselves in believing that within the limits of our social structure we are liberal. Broad- minded, honest ( as much as is practically possible) and law abiding. It is the neighbour next door or those living in the next apartment, street, state, country or those  south, west, east , north of us who are the real cause of all the social troubles.
The movie Pink succeeds in pushing each one of us to our limits and think about the sub conscious biases that we carry and sermonize on behalf of others.   

One hopes it does this to a large section of the audience.    

Every woman who watches this move will secretly wish that someone she knows or knew should watch this movie.   It might not cause a revolution but  it may just ever so slightly shake up their conscience.  

It could be her father, brother, husband, boy friend, ex-boy friend, the lecherous colleague at work, the biased  boss, that irritating idiot who stalks you on facebook or that faceless stranger behind you in that crowded bus who rubbed his err…. that thing against you back side because you would be too ashamed to protest.     

    Pink is an intense, gripping fast paced movie.  It is rather over dramatic, but that is where its success lies. It succeeds in nailing down a harsh point down our conscience and that is what makes it a movie that stands apart.

Speaking for myself, I came back terrified (oh-it-could-have-happened-to-anybody-including-me),  amazed (what-a-superb-piece-of-dramatization), reflective ( really-are-these-my-sub-conscious-biases) but most importantly I emerged with a clear conscience when the screen fell and the credits rolled down. 

The movie convinced me about one thing.  I have made some unconventional but brave choices in life.  A couple of those choices came , one more that two decades ago after a brief but intense physical abuse,exploitation and trauma that scarred my soul and  another after a decade long dull ache that comes from living a life filled with falsehood and pretense.  That too had chipped away my sense of self worth slowly but steadily  like a colony of termites that can slowly crumble down a perfect piece of furniture.   Many a times I have had to silence my conscience,  struggle with intense unhappiness, and try to settle into a shell shocked life reeling with the dull mediocrity and of having to compromise in order to maintain a social fa├žade.  

When I took those unconventional decisions, much against the practical sense of worldly wisdom  and against the wishes of loved ones and got ready to face the social stigma that surrounded them, I was pleasantly surprised to find supporters amongst those that I feared and believed to be the ones who would actually taunt me.                     

In doing so, I learnt an invaluable lesson. When you listen to your conscience, refuse to buckle down to stifling  social norms and go ahead with the choices you make, life is’nt devoid of struggles. But you go with the flow knowing fully well that the struggles that you are dealing with are a result of your choice and not the  ones thrust down upon you. Because somewhere along those chosen struggles We accept the love we think we deserve.

And that is when your conscience feels good. 
When it feels good it glows.  
The colour of that shaken yet clear conscience is Pink.       

This is a submission for Write Tribe

Prompts for September 23:

Where I am writing for the prompt 
“We accept the love we think we deserve.” – Stephen Chbosky

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Chaliyar River Kayaking challenge

Kayaking was a foreign word to me until last year.  

An odd reference by a colleague, who had recently  returned from an onsite assignment many years earlier, it was not something I had given much thought to.  All I inferred from his conversation was that was something the corporate team building activities were made up of in countries where there is the luxury of long meandering clean rivers where one went along to relax and for some fresh air, recreation and an outdoor sport.

But there here I was, around July the 04th and all of America was holidaying for the entire week. Well not exactly July the 4th, but the week preceding and succeeding that all important day of American Independence.  I find myself in Boston, locked up in my hotel room, looking at things to do in Boston. 

Well, having grown up in the frugal and aspirational Indian middle class society, I pick up the pamphlet at the hotel lobby and go over all the sight seeing touristy things to do where the entrance fee is free. I soon realize that the Capitalistic America does not have too many of them. 

For sure I go over to visit the Harvard university campus, go to the Boston tea party museum ( what a big fuss about nothing ) and then am short of what more to do to kill my time when I am not at work. 

And then I stumble upon this pamphlet that promises a nice experience Kayaking along the River Charles.

River Charles when viewed from the 14th floor view of our office flew serene, clear and beautiful dotting the urban landscape of Boston city.

I had never kayaked before and had no company to take me along.    But I had time to kill and I decided to venture out.

The ever so friendly Google maps took me to my kayaking point so effortlessly.  There were a few students from nearby universities who went about hiring their Kayaks as effortlessly as we would hire an ‘hour cycle’ in small town India of yesteryears and set forth kayaking.

I was skeptical. I showed my passport to prove my identity, paid up the advance, signed the declaration that said something like you-are-responsible-for-you-own-safety-and-hold-no-one-responsible stuff  and 
The guy at the boarding point strapped my water proof safety jacket and just pulled up a Kayak ashore and asked me to go.

But …. Err...How do I …? I ask him. 

He was getting busy to onboard his next customer in the next kayak and paid no heed to me.

Surely American Customer service isn’t so bad, I murmured to myself, almost deciding that this adventure was just not worth it.   

I waited till the guy boarded two more kayaks and then I asked him what is it that I need to do.

Just row left if you want to turn right and row right if you want to turn left and there you go … he said with a sheepish smile on his face.   Looks like he had seen many a dumb Indian like me before, or most probably he simply could not care.

The thrifty Indian in me knew my dollars, that i had paid up as non refundable advance could not go waste, and so I set forth. 

For those who know me, Differentiating between right and left are not exactly my strong points.  
I failed my driving license test twice because of this handicap. To this day I insist this is some form of undiscovered dyslexia, but I guess, my folks, my driving instructors (of whom I have had many) and the doctors just think I am making it up, all because I am vying for that coveted blue badge - the handipcapped sticker that gives you privileged parking spots in supermarkets. 
Anyway to cut the long story short, here I am sitting in a kayak, rowing myself, not knowing what is left and what is right.    I go backwards and then I go forwards .  Some movement occurs and then I think I have figured it out.

I row my kayak a few meters away and I am all by myself. And then I hit a shore, something under a bridge across a wooden plank or something like that. And I am stuck.  Right, left, forward, backward, I cannot figure out what to do.

I am panicky and am almost in tears. Everyone who boarded their kayak before me has sailed far away and here I am stuck right under a bridge against a boulder or something like that and there is no one at a calling distance. Panic, loneliness, fear, regret and an overall repulsion to the individualistic American culture grips me. 

And then someone who is kayaking along pulls by, and gives me dumbed down instructions. 

He probably knows my left- right paralysis and therefore shows the gestures using his own rowing equipments. 
Like an obedient child, I follow his instructions. In a few minutes, there I am, in my Kayak safely and happily rowing towards the middle of the river. 

He wishes me well and moves on. 
Maybe I should not have cursed those Americans... after all. 

And here I was, in the middle of the Charles River on a nice and bright July afternoon overlooking the Boston skyline, kayaking at my own pace, far and deep down the river for nearly three hours and thoroughly enjoying it.

I was enjoying it so much that I did not even think of a selfie moment until I was about to reach my destination.
But nevertheless here are some pictures.
The views were breathtaking, the experience was amazing and most importantly for me, it was a valuable lesson into, how to let go of my inhibitions and just take the plunge.  

Talking of taking the plunge, years ago, learning to swim made me experience a similar surge of self-confidence that just cannot be explained in words.   

I am excited about the Chaliyar river Kayaking Challenge, because if kayaking across Boston’s skyline was such a nice experience, the amazing views across god’s own country right here in India, must be unbeatable. 

The Indian rivers are indeed facing a crisis. I am not sure how many rivers In India are clean and navigable for a Kayaking experience.
For that reason alone, this one seems like something on my bucket list.

Make it a part of your bucket list too. 
I would love to have some company this time.
Are you ready for the adventure …on September 23rd/ 24th and 25th 2016 .

For more details Click here to read on…     

 “I am participating in the Chaliyar River Challenge activity at AdventureN in association with Jellyfish Watersports”

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Pudhchya Varshi laukar yaa...

Pudhchya Varshi laukar yaa...

The last few months have been back breaking for Mai and Baba.

It all started in the scorching heat of summer months.  The drought was bad  last year.
They worked on the thatched roof tops so that they would be  monsoon proofed before the rains. The cattle shed too was barricaded high with stones and cemented together with clay so as not to let the monsoon waters enter the shed.   The hay for the cattle was covered from the rain over the thatched roof tops.   

A month later the grey clouds loomed over int the horizon.
There was hope and happiness in the air.
This year would not be another drought .

Rain gods would surely bless them. 

As if to answer their prayers the grey overcast broke out and it poured. 

Suddenly greenery  sprouted all around.     The rice fields were inundated with rain water.  The river banks  threatened to breach the barriers , but thankfully did not.  The thatched roof held itself against the fury of the monsoon.

Dhyaneshwar who was eleven years old and his kid sister Vaishali who would be eight next month played with their friends from the village and soaked themselves wet in the rains.  They would swim in the  river streams against the flow of the river and compete with each other and check who came first.

 Some children fell ill with fever, but no one really worried.
Afterall what  is childhood without the fun of drenching in the monsoon rains ?

Dhyana and Vaishu never fell ill. 
They never realized why until they grew older and wiser.

Come Thursday mornings,  Ajji their grandmother made sure the children gulped down  a glass of gaumootra even if they wrinkled their noses up.  It was those Gaumootra Somavara, as she would call them that ensured all the virus, bacteria and the worms inside them fought and eventually lost against their immune system.

 That is why Ajji and Mai never worried much when they came home drenched wet and muddied from playing in the rains.  

In three months, the river’s fury had abated.
It was now flowing  calm and serene along the river banks.    
The vegetable fields were lush green, the little yellow flowers were seducing the butterflies and bees swarming around them. The air was moist and humid and the pathways along the fields were all slushy. 

Mithi – the cow was pregnant.  What with all those long days and nights grazing in the far way grounds  with  Ganya the oxen, it was only expected.
But she is not alone.
Looks  like she would have plenty of company in the maternity ward.
The bleating  goats are going through their bout of morning sickness and Kombdya, the ferocious rooster too seems to have gone on a over drive this season in the poultry. 

Ajji, with years of wisdom gained from her age, gives a knowing smile to herself  because by now she instinctively knows that  there is going to be abundance in the months to come.  Before Sankranti, the harvest festival, there will be little calves hopping about the cattle shed and the cows will give milk and there will be eggs in plenty. 

There is a riot of red, yellow, orange and purple flowers  all around.  Soon they will turn into bitter gourd, brinjal, pumpkin, okra, beans and peas. There is good news from the fields where sugarcane and paddy seem to be in good health as well.   

Everyone knows Ganpati Bappa has protected them this monsoon.  He has ensured, the river did not over flow and flood  the mud huts or kill the paddy crops.  He ensured the wind did not blow away the thatched mud huts and  the bacteria, viruses and worms did not kill the children and the old.

Ganpati Bappa ensured  all living creatures worked hard before the monsoon and relaxed in the coziness of their thatched homes, cattle sheds, ant hills , tree top nests and pig pens when he sent the rain gods to visit them.   The coziness ensured there would be more of them before the next monsoon.  The harvest season would culminate in the festival of Sankranti when there would be abundance of food, sweets, grains and pulses from this year’s monsoons. 

But all that is many months away now. 

Right now it is time to get ready for  the festival of Ganpati.

The slush that the monsoon has left behind is fun to play with.  

The brownish red clay along the river banks soaks and sucks their feet inwards like a sponge.  Dhyaneshwar  is playing a friendly wrestling match  with his friends in that slush. Vaishali is gathering the clay from the river bank  and carrying it to the base of the banyan tree where she and her friends would make clay dolls out of them .

Before it is dusk, Dhyaneshwar and Vaishali  would take home a basket full of clay in the bamboo basket that Ajji has sent along with them today.

Mai and Baba would then drain the moisture out by leaving it over night in the bamboo basket. 

Next week they would make an idol of Ganpati Bappa,  give him shape with a trunk, two huge ears, eyes,  a bulging stomach and not to forget his vehicle, the little mouse.

Vaishu and her friends would go round the village and  gather the bright orange Mahua  flowers from the trees, grind them to a paste and  then paint Ganpati bappa with the bright orange paste. 

Mai will pound the white rice flour and grind the yellow turmeric powder to paint His face.
The fine charcoal powder gathered from the soot of the kitchen chimney would be his big black eyes. 

Years later  Dhyanesh would learn in his chemistry class in school that when the calcium from grandmother’s  chuna ( limestone)  box mixes with the acidic yellow haldi  ( turmeric)  powder  the acid - base chemical reaction that follows would bring out a dark red mixture that Mai would use to paint the Tilak over Bappa’s forehead. 

For the entire year Mai’s stock of kum-kum for her forehead would be stored into her ornate silver trinket box that came as part of her dowry when she got married to Baba.                 

But for now it is thanksgiving time.
Ganpati Bappa will reign for the next 11 days.  
There will be festivities and feasting all over. 
They will go over to visit, Aathya, Maushi, Mama, Aajoba , kaka and also have all of them visiting over to see their Ganpati Bappa.
Mai and Maushi make the yummiest modaks in the entire world.
It would be filled with puran made out of freshly scraped coconut, the jaggery from the sugarcane and pound rice flour steamed in a mud vessel wrapped with the turmeric leaves. 

Soon it would be time to bid farewell to Ganpati Bappa.  

On the eleventh day they would all merrily dance along to the river banks in the pouring rains while that Ganpati Bappa, sweet and stout would sit pretty at the back of the bullock cart and daintily follow them . 

Over there they would immerse Ganpati Bappa in the flowing river and watch him turn to what he originally came from, the clay of the river bank.  

The orange paste of the Mahua flowers, the yellow from the turmeric paste, the white rice flour that Mai pounded, and the red tilak vermilion on his forehead would all dissolve in a haze and bring out a dash of colour in the flowing water before it disappeared as if in a hurry to go somewhere else. 

It would be so much fun. And it would be really hard to let him go.
But letting go is what life is all about. 
Promise, you will come back soon, next year …. Pudhchya Varshi laukar yaa…they all cry out loud.

Ganpati Bappa Maurya,
Pudhchya Varshi laukar yaa

Dhyaneshwar would be wading his way through waist deep of flowing river water holding the idol. Ganpati Bappa  would dissolve away  from him like candy floss in a child's mouth.

With a heavy heart he would hold on to a handful of clay as if refusing to let go.  Later he would walk back to the river bank with a little mound of clay held in his hand, where Ajji, Mai, Baba and Vaishu would be waiting for him to get back home.   

The little mound of clay will now be kept  near the shrine as a memory of this year’s  Ganpati bappa in thanksgiving for the bounty that he has blessed them for the year ahead.   

This is how it is all supposed to be in an ideal world.  

Instead most of us brought our Ganpati Bappa from the pavement in the neighbourhood, from the superstore or may have even ordered it online. 

We have not really gathered our own clay from our own river bank. We have not painted him with the bright orange mahua flowers, turmeric, rice and kum kum , but with  plaster of paris, acrylic paint ( heavy with lead content) and beads of cheap plastic that form his garland.

We may not have physically worked as hard as many others have to deserve this abundance.
In a complex economy like ours we know that  a Mai, Baba, Dhyaneshwar and Vaishali somewhere in a remote village will ensure that they are producing our share in exchange for the money that we will give them.

Therefore we  have no right to pollute our lakes,  rivers, wells or any other water bodies  when we go to immerse Ganpati Bappa this season.

Let us have fun when he is around.
Let us thank him for this abundance.  
Let us NOT pollute the rivers.  


Instead let us take this Bucket challenge and immerse our Ganpati Bappa, responsibly this season.

Happy Ganesha.

Share it with others and do your bit in saving the lakes, rivers and  the sea from an over dose of chemical paints.

    This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

“I am participating in the Chaliyar River Challenge activity at AdventureN in association with Jellyfish Watersports”

Want to do your bit in keeping India's rivers clean .. participate in the Chaliyar River challenge and Kayak your way on 23rd/ 24th and 25th of september 

To know more click here 

Watch the Chaliyar River challenge  video by clicking  this video and follow #ChaliyarRiverChallenge  

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