Can I have Infinity Wars in 5 D?

So I saw it and all I can do is rant. In bullet points. No time for full sentences.

1st question –WHY?!

2nd observation made with extreme annoyance. Every single woman/ female character in it was de-humanized in a series of ways. Almost everyone but whatever. They took Karen Gillian who was gorgeous and feisty and superb in Doctor Who and made her into a blue robotic thing who was suspended face down for most of the movie. And at some point was peeled like making zoodles.

One of the other women was green. One looked South East Asian and had antennae and spoke like a child. The two Caucasian women looked like themselves but although they were powerful they were clearly not the most strategic.

The only ones who were still badass in their blink and miss screen time were the two fabulous ladies from Wakanda.

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Which brings me to the fact that for once we have this fabulous superhero world populated only by black people and they bring in a random white person who is hanging around with one arm.

And then he and Thor eventually become more of the saviours than the actual warriors of Wakanda. Come on ya.

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The one armed guy and Thor both have disabilities —one missing eye and one missing arm. So of course they have to be fixed before they can be useful.

They take Tyrion who is the only dwarf to have ever had a mainstream role in living memory in GoT and they make him into a frigging GIANT dwarf. WTF.

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I saw the end credits and realize that Idris Elba was apparently in the movie. Hahaha. He died in the first minute. Worst use of Idris Elba I can imagine. Seriously?! Are they crazy??!

And what exactly does Chris Pratt’s character do in the entire series ? Besides playing the ‘I am such a cute white boy and you love even when I am naughty and break all the rules and make bad judgement calls??’

So feminism, inclusiveness, race, disability –everything is all wrong.

The only funny thing , which was probably un-intentional, was the Hulk who could not ‘get it up’ so to speak. Was it a side eye to erectile dysfunction??! Haha.

The end credit rolled on and I noticed that almost 25% names were Indian. Seriously. I saw a Dnyaneshwar, Shefali, Pramod, the lot. How many Indian faces were on screen? ZERO.

The weird chamak challo step that Doctor Strange does to open up portals and whiz those green chakras around, well Wong also does. So why is Wong not a superhero but just a librarian side kick ?? The white man’s burden.

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If Strange had the Time Stone all long, why didn’t he go back in time and make sure Thanos was not born? Why was he doing lotus position mumbo jumbo and stupidly getting caught and having his ass kicked and then pixelating into the ether?!

The goat face lackey of Thanos is already so freaking powerful that why do they even need anything any more??

Turns out at the end of the day what Thanos wants is to kill half the population of the universe so the others can live comfortably.

Hello? So the population policy of India and China is the actual villain of the Infinity Wars?!

Who would have thought…….

Now for the 4 D experience. The chair shook a bit randomly at times, like a temperamental massage chair. Sometimes there were gusts of air. Fortunately there was no water spraying and certainly no bubbles. It was all a bit underwhelming honestly, given the cost of the ticket and the fact that they told us to come 20 minutes early to ‘settle in’ and when we came the hall was closed for cleaning in progress. They took half an hour to clean making us speculate if there had been some limbs lost and blood on the dance floor.

After it was over I realized that for desis especially Mumbaikers who travel by local train or even on our lovely potholed roads on a regular basis, the 4 D experience was just like trying to watch a YouTube video during a regular commute. ‘

What we really need is a 5 D experience. We would prefer to have every seat to have a personal attendant. Who will feed us, hold the cup , get popcorn refills, turn the phone to silent, check it every fifteen minutes for urgent calls, take the kids to the loo and get the neighbouring kid to shut up or get lost, and then who will massage our legs during the interval. Maybe the attendant can also get us some Facetime with Benedict Cumberbatch?

I think I need to get my idea to Reliance entertainment asap.

Unless of course since I spoke to my daughter about it on WhatsApp, Mark already has something in the works……….

 

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It’s party time!

Party: a gathering of people who have been invited by a host for the purposes of socializing, conversation, recreation or as part of a festival or other commemoration of a special occasion. A party will typically feature food and beverages, and often music and dancing or other forms of entertainment.

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When we think of a party the image that popular culture throws up is sweaty underdressed young people writhing to insanely loud music and a dangerous undercurrent of drugs, drinks, unprotected and sometimes unwanted sexual activity. (Check out ‘Safe’ on Netflix. Within hours of the parents leaving the house, teenage girl has not only thrown a wild party but is also dealing drugs. Sigh. Whatever happened to reading books for fun?)

Surely this is not something Sister Alicia Donohue would have imagined in her wildest dreams when she invented the disco party!

In The Pirate’s Dilemma, Matt Mason tells us that in 1944 Sister Alicia was working in St. John’s Home and interfaith home for orphans and troubled children from birth till age 6. The world was at war. The children she dealt with were an equally unruly mob, violent and almost feral. She thought back to her happy childhood and how her pianist parents used to create music and peace.  She created what she called a ‘party room’ and filled it with balloons, decorations, a fridge and a record player.

In 1949 David Mancuso left as a five year old to be reunited with his mother. In 1965 he moved into a disused loft on Broadway, and finally in order to earn money he threw the first rent party in 1970 where he played music, offered food and drinks and for some reason felt like filling up the entire space with balloons. One day an old fried Eddie who had been at St John’s came by and was stunned to realize that David had re-created Sister Alicia’s party room.

The reason why this story is also important is that not only is The Loft legendary for the entire party culture but in his quest for perfect music for the parties David is also apparently the inventor of pioneering sound systems such as sub- woofers and tweeter rigs. Disco emerged from the mixture of music and the concept of shared enjoyment which was part of the rising psychedelic flower power zone.

Way to go Sister!

 

Of course the dance party is only one kind of party.

We go from birthday parties as kids where the girls wear frilly pink dresses (the haunting description of the birthday girl in God of Small Things), boys make wishes (Liar Liar), then they blow the candle (spraying the entire cake with microscopic saliva droplets. (Ugh. Yes, I am a doctor haha).

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There are theme parties where everyone dresses up as Egyptians, or zombies or Tarts and Vicars (only the British would do this and it’s in the Bridget Jones movie).

Celebration parties, funeral wake which is a kind of party by the above definition (Death at a Funeral is the best one to date), wedding party (Four Weddings and a Funeral), break up party (Love Aaj Kal), baby shower (Didi tera dewar dewana).

Naming ceremony party, stag night/ hen night, both of which are apparently fuelled mainly by the desire to get all sexual fantasies out if the way before I Do. (Ya right. See the stag night game in Sherlock and the Hangover movies), farewell parties, welcome parties, after- party parties, pre-party parties and every single party in Love Actually which have deadly and tragic undercurrents.

There is of course the best of them all –the Tea party with the Mad Hatter and Alice. ( not to be confused with the Boston Tea Party which is in your history books)

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There is the beach party, the surprise party, routine dinner party, pot luck party (Orphan Black, Alison’s house), garden party, street party, cocktail party, sleepover (which involves more pajamas), card parties during Diwali, board game parties, (my favourite kind which could involve What’s your like, monopoly and quizzes. Lots of quizzes.).

Those whose lives make headlines and cover pages also have debutant parties As this article says “Most explicitly, it is an elegant way of presenting a fresh crop of wealthy and pedigree genetics up for harvest (read marriage)”.

A friend even throws Oscar parties at her California residence although she is not a professional actress (but she is a drama queen 🙂 )

Of course not all parties are fun.

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This one is for my sister 🙂

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But the creepiest party I have heard of are those where young girls pledge their virginity to their fathers. Did no one see the irony in naming this a Purity Ball haha ?!

And of course since this blog was created to share things from my life J here are photos of a Harry Potter theme party for my daughter.

We have all waited for our letter from Hogwarts but as Toni Morrison said if there is book you really want to read hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

So we wrote our own invitations and had ourselves a party! We are like this only 🙂

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Let them eat cake !

It’s one of the most famous quotes in history. At some point around 1789, when being told that her French subjects had no bread, Marie-Antoinette (bride of France’s King Louis XVI) supposedly sniffed, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”—“Let them eat cake.”

Whether she really said it or not, it was that attitude which became one of the tipping points of the French Revolution.

Ironically her suggestion is what the ‘peasants’ are doing in USA at present where the rich are eating organic steel cut oats ( which would have been traditionally horse feed) and the lower socio economic strata are stuffing themselves with sugary treats and cakes.

As Yuval Noah points out in his latest book Homo Deus, currently many times more people will die of obesity than terrorism.

Other countries may not each as much cake as the US. Still, the world probably eats between 50 and 100 million cakes a day.

Cake is part of our celebrations but also our daily life and we say easy things are ‘a piece of cake’. We speak of something fabulous being the ‘icing on the cake’. The Koreans have a proverb that says ‘give an extra piece of cake to your step child’. Sometimes we say ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too.’

Well maybe sometimes you can………..

Q: What happens when no one comes to your birthday party?

A: You can have your cake and eat it too.

Haha. Basically we all LOVE cake. If you are a fan of the Great British Bake Off then do watch this hysterical spoof video that my nephew shared with me.

 

Thoughts of cake always remind me of the great British tradition of high tea and if you have seen Downton Abbey you would have seen that in all its glory.

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For some reason the sight of the tiered serving is just so much more exciting than if the plates were paid out side by side. It is just that tiny bit of exotic.

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High tea is the stuff of childhood memories and my generation grew up reading Enid Blyton whose stories always had the most delectable tea times. There is also a very poignant poem by Rupert Brooke, one of the soldiers/ war poets who wrote nostalgically of homesickness and asks in The Old Vicarage:

“Stands the Church clock at ten to three?

And is there honey still for tea?”

So back from high tea to cake itself—here are some fun facts about cake:

  1. According to the food historians, the ancient Egyptians were the first culture to show evidence of advanced baking skills. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the English word cake back to the 13th century. .
  2. It is believed that the first actual birthday cake was made in Germany in the Middle Ages. The Germans would celebrate children’s birthdays with cake, calling the celebration Kinderfest. (as an aside Happy Birthday To You is the most recognized song the world over and has an interesting history involving lawsuits and such.)
  3. The world’s oldest oven was discovered in Croatia in 2014 dating back 6500 years ago. The Ancient Egyptians baked bread using yeast, which they had previously been using to brew beer. Bread baking began in Ancient Greece around 600 BC, leading to the invention of enclosed ovens.
  4. Cakes were called “plakous” by the Greeks, from the word for “flat.” These cakes were usually combinations of nuts and honey. During the Roman period, the name for cake (derived from the Greek term) became “placenta.” Placentae were baked on a pastry base or inside a pastry case. In ancient Rome, basic bread dough was sometimes enriched with butter, eggs, and honey, which produced a sweet and cake-like baked good.
  5. The candles were lit to make them glow like the moon, a popular symbol associated with Artemis. Many ancient cultures also believed that smoke carried their prayers to the heavens. Today’s tradition of making wishes before blowing out your birthday candles may have started with that belief
  6. The earliest extant description of what is now often called a cupcake was in 1796, when a recipe for “a light cake to bake in small cups” was written in American Cookery by Amelia Simmons
  7. The first person to put a recipe for “brownies” in a cookbook was Fanny Farmer, who adapted her cookie recipe to be baked in a rectangular pan, in the 1896 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook
  8. “It was in November 1883 that Mambally Bapu made the first cake in India at Thalassery in his Royal Biscuit Factory founded in 1880,” said P M Sankaran, president, BAKE. There was only one bakery other than this in the country then. That was in West Bengal and only catered to the British.
  9. India is probably the only place where you can buy ‘cooker cake mix’ for which you don’t need to have an oven.maxresdefault
  10. Many countries have slight variations of their own traditional cake and of course the UK indulges in philosophical debates on the nature of cake and its identity.
  11. The most famous cake in the Bombay-Pune belt has to be Kayani’s sponge cake. It is rich and sinful even by itself and you can make it even better (worse?!) by soaking it in pineapple juice and then making it the base of a decadent trifle pudding.

Here are some photos of cakes baked by yours truly for various occasions, mostly birthdays but also congratulations and welcome back.

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alice cake

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But the grand finale is this cake. I did not bake it but I asked for the message written on it 🙂

At a recent gender and rights workshop one young man revealed that beyond a certain age they are discouraged from cutting cake for their birthday because it’s considered ‘not manly’! He said that young men punch each other instead of wishing happy birthday. Of course they cannot hug or hold hands or touch in any way for fear of being ‘labelled’ gay. And of course they don’t exchange gifts. So in fact they prefer not to let men friends know when it’s their birthday. Some other young men in the group agreed vigorously.

I found this depressing on so many levels! Intimacy is denied, simple pleasures of celebration are blocked out and worst of all—expressions of affection are getting tied up with acts of violence. Any wonder that we live in the kind of society we do?!

So I decided that we were going get a cake and have this young man cut it and we sang and celebrated and I hope he has this happy memory with him for good.

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What better way to destroy toxic masculinity than one cake at a time?!

Let us ALL eat this cake!
 

 

God is dead. Women killed him. Finally.

So you may have heard the news that broke today about Morgan Freeman aka Hollywood face of God who has been accused by 8 women of sexual assault.

It is a terrible blow to imagine that the Voice we all love and the smiling wise character of God he always played has turned to dust in our mouths. His net assets are worth 200 million dollars so of course he has good lawyers and he has of course issued a denial.

As did Bill Cosby initially. And Woody Allen. And Harvey Weinstein. And…….

But you know what? Whatever the eventual outcome, this is a good thing! It seems unfair in case he does turn out to be innocent, but this is lifting the final curtain and peeking beyond the shadows on the walls of our cave.

Plato’s cave is one of the most important and powerful allegories forming the basis of Western philosophy.

Briefly– it talks of a cave where some people are held and they only see shadows on the walls of the cave as things move around outside. One of them final goes out and sees the actual reality which is casting the shadows. He comes back to tell them and they threaten to kill him for breaking their illusions.

That in a nutshell is most people……

We may speak of Feminism and Equality endlessly but Patriarchy and Power will never be amendable to mere ‘modification’. The entire edifice needs to be shattered, the uprooting and re- building may take raging ages and cause a lot of collateral damage but this is war that has to be won.

This is what Jessa Crispin is saying in her book Why I am not a Feminist. She says we cannot work on the inside to change this structure that imprisons us all. Do not be under any delusion that patriarchy is good for all men either! It is good only for those who are heteronormative or rich or educated or high caste but yes, within any intersection the men will ALWAYS have more privilege that women and hence the continued need for feminism.

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But perhaps the time has come to stop negotiations and begins the demolition.

How long will we just accumulate lists?

  • Abuse by Church ‘fathers’: Wikipedia actually has an alphabetized list by country. Seriously.
  • There is also a long list of our own ‘Gurus’ and Swamis in India accused and found guilty of a range of sexual assault, rape and other such cases.

 

 

  • All men in power: Example IMF President Straus- Kahn who assaulted the maid in his hotel room.

 

 

  • Bill Clinton who inserted a cigar into Monica Lewinsky’s vagina and then said under oath ‘I did NOT have sexual relations with her’.

 

  • Rape as a weapon of war: “In the sick logic of war, rape is a highly effective weapon. Its crippling effects can last for years. By creating shame and humiliation it destroys ties within families and communities. It silences and paralyzes. We know it’s a crime. It’s been defined as one in international law. But it’s still happening. And it will continue to happen until we can make the perpetrators truly accountable.”

We see it everywhere, in all ages and spaces. Women have endured witch burning, dowry deaths, female infanticide, violence, rape, abuse.

From Shurpanakha whose nose being cut off may well have been a euphemism for being raped by Laxman to Malala who was shot at for the heinous crime of wanting to go to school.

From the Boko Haram kidnappings: After the 270 they kidnapped so many years ago, they recently kidnapped 110 more. It did not even make front page news.

To our beloved Indian government which refused to criminalize marital rape. “India’s government has rejected calls to outlaw marital rape after saying it could destabilize the institution of marriage and put husbands at risk of harassment.”

Statistics say one woman is raped every hour somewhere in India. Most rapes are by someone known to the survivor. You do the math.

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Even the relationship between Brahma and Saraswati is a bit dodgy to say the least. Did she not exist before him? or was she his daughter or his consort ? Or both?

Kali and Durga as goddesses have always had to rise only to fight evil men.

It is time now to use our energies to not just have to defend and attack but to grow a positive human civilization, not a ‘man’ made one.

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As Alexander Solzhenitsyn says “The battle line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.”

Maybe someone like the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo can photoshop the face of Morgan Freeman away from everything and replace it with Toni Morrison or Arundhati Roy or Beyonce or Ruth Baden Ginsberg.

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Or better still, replace it with a mirror so we can recognize the power within all of us to harness the good and overcome the evil.

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As Nietzche said ‘God is Dead’. He used the phrase in a figurative sense, to express the idea that the Enlightenment had “killed” the possibility in a belief in any god having ever existed.

And I say ‘About time and Thank God for that!’

Towel Day

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This day is celebrated on 25th May in memory of Douglas Adams, one of those brilliant minds that the United Kingdom seems to produce at regular intervals. (Alan Turing, Stephen Hawking, JK Rowling, Rosalind Franklin (whose original X ray gave Crick and Watson the idea for DNA).

He was born Douglas Noel Adams in 1952 in Cambridge and liked to joke that he was DNA before there was DNA (the double helix was recognized in 1953 in Cambridge).

While he is famous for the increasingly badly named trilogy in five parts –the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, he has also written the Dirk Gently series, The Meaning of Liff, The Last Chance to See and a book that was published posthumously– The Salmon of Doubt.

The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff, both by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd are like a dictionary. All of the words are actually place names, taken mostly from locations in the UK, but also from the rest of the planet. These place names are matched with meanings that don’t yet have words of their own, usually with very humorous results

Aboyne (vb.): To beat an expert at a game of skill by playing so appallingly that none of his clever tactics or strategies are of any use to him.

Climpy (adj.): Allowing yourself to be persuaded to do something and pretending to be reluctant.

Dalmilling (ptcl. vb.): Continually making small talk to someone who is trying to read a book.

Farnham (n.): The feeling you get at about four o’clock in the afternoon when you haven’t got enough done.

Motspur (n.): The fourth wheel of a supermarket trolley which looks identical to the other three but renders the trolley completely uncontrollable.

How genius are all these?!

He also contributed to cult classics like Doctor Who and it is also believed that Men in Black movies were inspired a bit by the Hitchhikers series

I stumbled upon his books when I was lent a well- worn and obviously much loved copy of the first book in my teens and I was swept away. Much as I loved Alice in Wonderland for its absurdity, this was a whole new spectacularly mad universe on a vastly different scale! The sheer insanity of it all was like being in freefall throughout the book. Curiouser and curiouser!

I almost breathed the book in, I read it so fast and then the next and the next and finally the last one. So long and thanks for all the fish. I read these in the late 80s when there was no internet and no access to reviews and fanfics and even fan clubs were conducted painfully via snail mail. I shudder to think that it is quite possible for me to have carried on being on this planet and perhaps missing out on Douglas Adams books altogether! Thank you friend who made the introduction!

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Reading his books opened up a world of so much madness from the Electric Monks who were created only to believe, to the simply insane plot devices that use Xanadu poems and a sofa in the stairs and Valhalla and the homeless.

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It is also so British through and through with the cup of tea that paralyses the ships computer and the rain clouds that follow Dirk because he is a reborn Rain God, or the Improbability Drive.

Douglas Adams has come up with so many original and frankly insane concepts whereas someone would be happy with having created just one unique character.

The Hitchhiker series started as a radio show and then became a book. The titles include gems such as Life the Universe and Everything, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and So Long and Thanks for all the Fish !

In this series an alien race programs a computer called Deep Thought to provide the ultimate answer to “Life, the Universe and Everything”. After seven and a half million years’ calculation, back came the answer – 42.

In slightly less time – two years- a team at the Cavendish Laboratory has managed the same feat, using a new technique to estimate the value of the “Hubble Constant”. This measures how quickly objects in the universe are receding from each other – a natural outcome of the Big Bang that created the universe. Dr Richard Saunders, who led the research, sounded a trifle abashed by the result.

“We have taken two measurements for the constant, and the average of them is, well, it’s 42,” he said.

But he insisted this is “entirely fortuitous” – though thousands of fans of the Hitch Hiker novels might disagree.

When Douglas Adams wrote the novel 20 years ago he chose the number especially for its bathetic nature: “I wanted a nice, ordinary number, one that you wouldn’t mind taking home and introducing to your parents.”

He also casually said things like this in speeches “I remember once, a long time ago, needing a definition of life for a speech I was giving.  Assuming there was a simple one and looking around the Internet, I was astonished at how diverse the definitions were and how very, very detailed each one had to be in order to include “this” but not include “that.”  If you think about it, a collection that includes a fruit fly and Richard Dawkins and the Great Barrier Reef is an awkward set of objects to try to compare.”

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In a speech about an artificial god and the idea that the universe was created for humans he says : “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in – an interesting hole I find myself in – fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it?  In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!”  This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be all right, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise.  I think this may be something we need to be on the watch-out for.”

And he came up with this fantastic concept of 4 ages of sand, in which human progress has used sand to make glass. This glass was used for telescopes then microscopes both of which radically changed the way humans being saw their place in the universe. Then came silicon chips which allowed computers to be built and now finally the 4th stage of fibreoptics which allows the great world wide web.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is now a TV series which I must confess to liking because they have managed to capture the spark of galloping madness that inhabits Dirk despite having literally almost nothing to do with the books. I spent the entire first episode shouting at the screen because nothing was like the books till my kids were ready to throw me out. But somehow it works. And some touches are so brilliant that Douglas Adams would have approved. I mean seriously what can complement a holistic detective better than a holistic assassin, right? And then of course there is the ‘pararibulitis’ which is its own universe of being crazy as a bag of wasps.

Of course the books are brilliant beyond anything the TV series can hope to encompass, no matter how well it does. I mean how can anything top a book that includes the real meaning of the Xanadu did Kublai Khan poem, a sofa that is stuck on a staircase, a time machine that works through a dial up phone and the origins of the very life on our planet, all into a seamless and almost plausible plot ?!

So if you have not yet discovered these books, all I can say is– Don’t Panic!

Start slow and easy and enjoy the ride.

After all it’s Mostly Harmless.

 

 

 

The khichdi that is India

 

Some months ago there was one more fake news doing the rounds (when raja is feku then praja only gets fake news).

We were told that khichdi has now been declared our national dish.

Eventually it was found to be fake news despite photos of resident khichdi master, Ramdev baba stirring the pot with a hygiene cap on his head while his large hairy beard was waving around over the cauldron.

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Is it a surprise to anyone that we took it seriously?! We have gotten so used to waking up every day with new plans and proposals to somehow add to ‘Brand India’ with the Bhagwat Gita becoming the national book, UNESCO awarding our PM as the Best on the world, mangoes becoming the national fruit, cows becoming more precious than women and girls, and everyone (including Pushpa) wanting to cry peacock tears.

So why not khichdi as the national dish? It was at least believable because after all, besides zero we have also given the world the concept of jugaad. We are like this only.

We are a country where 4 of the world’s major religions have originated. (and if you believe that Jesus met the Buddha and that Judas is buried in Kashmir, then we can take credit for a bit of Christianity also.).

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India has offered unconditional refuge to Zoroastrians fleeing from Iran, Tibetans feeling from China, Jews fleeing from everywhere. There are as many as 8 synagogues just in Mumbai!

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Indian Muslim women have been seen wearing mangalsutra like jewellery and also wearing chooda, while Bangladeshis still celebrate Durga Puja with great enthusiasm!

We have the largest number of Hindus and third largest Muslim population in the world. We speak 22 official languages but according to Census of India, the total number of mother tongues spoken in India is 1652. However, only around 150 languages have a sizable speaking population.

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We have the Chitpawan Konkanastha Brahmins who may or may not have Bene Israel or Artic home origins and who are considered so high caste that they are beyond caste, and we also have the Jarawa tribals in the Andamans who may or may not still be practising cannibalism. We have 50 million Adivasis or native tribals, which is the largest amount of any country in the whole world.

We have the Himalayas and snow as well as deserts, plateaus and valleys. We have one of only 5 crater lakes in the world, here in Maharashtra. We have the world’s largest Banyan tree in Kolkata.

Our genetics will probably reveal a delightful mix of everything from Afghans to Greek blood, Burmese to Tibetan. Gandhari of the Mahabharat was apparently from Afghanistan and Kaikeyi from Ramayan also from somewhere in that region. Alexander the Greek came with his armies to India and not all of them returned from the borders. The retinue of Thebaw, the king of Burma also stayed in Maharashtra and of his four daughters who were exiled with him, at least 2 married men from India. Helen, the famous dancer from Bollywood movies of the 80s is partly of Burmese origin though SD Burman, despite his name is from the Tripura royal family.

 

We have descendants of the Bantu people from Africa living as Siddis in Gujarat and the Tibetans in Dharamshala as well as those who moved down further into the country.

Babar’s mother was a descendant of Genghis Khan. As are just a few million men.

Even Taimur Khan whose photos flood social media is the son of a man who is 1/4 Assamese.

India currently hosts refugees from Bangladesh, China, Iran, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Meanwhile Arab states which are like next door to Syria have actually actively banned them.

We have amazing armed forces and abysmal politicians controlling them. We have so much wealth still trapped in the Kerala temple (estimated to be more than one trillion dollars at face value—not taking into account antique value!) and we also have billions of unaccounted dollars in Swiss banks but we continue to have as many citizens as the population of Russia living under poverty. (170 million)

80 million people eat beef, over 70% of Indians eat some form of meat/ chicken/ fish (the Bengalis call fish the fruit of the sea, so there you go). But we also have Jains who are not only vegetarian but also do not eat anything that grows underground (no potato fries, no garlic, no ginger, no onion. But they happily wear silk and pearls. Yes I know. It’s a religious thing. Logic does not apply.)

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We manage to worship the Goddess and kill infant girls with the same passion.

We had Dr AP Abdul Kalam, literally a rocket scientist as our President and we also have the Akhil Bharatiya Gau Sewa leader telling us to cover the mobile phone in cow dung to protect from its radiation and to feed women cow dung to help with labour pains. We have love stories of Bajirao- Mastani and also of ‘love jihad’. We have women and children dying of completely preventable things like childbirth complications, unsafe abortions and diarrhoea while we are also one of the world’s leading destination for medical tourism.( worth USD 8 Billion at last count)

We have Dr Ambedkar who steered us to the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world and we have politicians still using caste politics for power.

We have Bollywood. Full stop !

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Why just a national dish, India itself is a khichdi!

With increasing intolerance, bigotry and an attempt to homogenize everyone into one mould of acceptable Indian-ness, how long this dish will stay palatable is the question for the next generation.
 

What’s your life worth?

A friend asked her husband if she had life insurance. He didn’t even look up from his latest smart phone and said– what’s the use? She didn’t say anything then but she thought to herself:

Really what is the use? I don’t earn any money. What is the use of insuring my life? If he dies we will lose the only earning person and we need to replace him with cash.

What do I bring?

I gave birth to the children, breast fed them. Lost my job in the bargain cos the corporate sector doesn’t look kindly upon a work life balance for working mothers.

Cleaned them and fed them and played with them and kept them from dying on an almost hourly basis. Sang to them, entertained them, read to them, bathed them, dressed then, took them out to the playground. Pushed swings, stood below the slide, sat in the sand pit. Rolled balls up and down. Assembled dolls houses and made paper dolls. Cleaned, fed and sang to sleep again.

Took them to play school. Picked them up. Cooked special treats. Read some more and sang some more. Played some more. Accompanied them to all the birthday parties. Sat through ridiculously loud music, ate unhealthy food and got them home sticky but happy. Planned special treats for them, sat through Disney movies and then Harry potter. When one was 10 and the other was 6 finally I could think of working as a volunteer at the playschool from 10 to 1. But two months into that my mother- in- law fell ill.

So I had to give up and stay at home to supervise her care. We kept a full- time carer but there was still so much to be done. Special food, supervise the bath, the toilet, the cleaning, prevent the stealing, read to Ma-ji every evening, take her for her clinic visits.

She passed away after 2 years. By that time I had been unemployed for almost 12 years. I had not updated my skills nor attended a single training programme.

Then my older child developed some academic difficulty. I needed to help with her studies and also get the other one to do her homework. There was no time to even go for my evening walk any more. I joined a yoga class but my morning maid couldn’t come after 9 am so I had to give that up too.

What do I need life insurance for?? What is my life worth?”

I listened to her. She was not unhappy, or ranting, just thoughtful. Introspective.  Telling me through her recounting the story of countless educated women who had to give up their careers because of the expectations that they would manage the household and be an unpaid care giver to everyone in it, coupled with the complete lack of contribution by the husband or other family members to anything domestic except the earning.

It wasn’t going to make her feel better to know that she should blame the patriarchy and neo liberal capitalism for her unfulfilled potential, although that was true.

Instead I told her – You know what? The value of your life simply cannot be measured in money and hence it is not possible for you to have life insurance.

She smiled, knowing that I was trying to put a positive spin on things.

Just then her phone pinged. She looked at it and showed me the message.

‘Happy mother’s day’ it said.

From her bank.

The land of fire and ice

It started with a birthday present my daughter gave me. Falling Off the Map by Pico Iyer.

I read about Iceland in this charming travelogue written about a whimsical gathering of those countries that are so isolated geographically that it creates a unique culture.

I had already read often enough about Iceland and its feminist culture (especially the day their women went on strike). Iceland’s new prime minister is a feminist and environmentalist who is among the youngest leaders in the world. She has a degree in literature with a special interest in Icelandic crime novels.

Then there is Jules Verne’s journey to the centre of the earth starting inside a volcano in that country. Add to that the fact that it is a country where almost everyone will write a book in a lifetime and where they hold an annual Book Flood.

So we went there in the warm summer with temperatures of 1 deg Celsius. That’s not a typo. It was One degree Celsius. We hired a car at the airport where they suggested we buy extra wind insurance since the wind could sometimes blow the car doors off. My family was giving me looks ranging from ‘Why? Why are we here?’ to ‘I don’t believe I agreed to this!’ to ‘Can we go home already??’ ‘Couldn’t you have read a book about Disneyworld instead?’

Anyway, my cheerfulness saw us through this unwarranted hysteria and we proceeded to have a wonderful holiday driving around the country.

It really is the land of fire and ice and the untouched landscape feels like it is the way our planet might have at the beginning of time, when the interior was still boiling hot and the snow was still pristine and the sulphur fumes filled the skies for millions of years before the primordial soup even started cooking.

There is a stark and primal beauty in the landscape. Not surprisingly it has provided many locations for the shooting of Game of Thrones.

black peaks

Their architecture also reflects the aesthetics of nature, like this serene church seeming to just rise out of rock.

church shot

We did not have the courage to eat the fermented shark, sheep’s head nor ram testicles but we did eat delicious black bread baked in tins which are buried underground next to hot sulfur fumes. The food was excellent everywhere though expensive but we never really cared much for Skyr which is a kind of fermented yoghurt. We had the best carrot cake ever at a café which also housed a dairy with the most enormous cows.

We had showers using hot water from underground hot springs and we saw the original geyser after which all underground springs are named.

geyser

What was wonderful to see was that unlike in other countries the tourist spots were not barricaded and protected within an inch of their lives with turnstiles and gates and what- nots. The ticket cabins were discreetly placed at a quiet distance. Simple signboards said that this beauty was an inheritance of all humans and we should take care for our own safety and also to maintain the beauty and integrity of the wonders. Isn’t that truly civilized behaviour?

gulfoss waterfall

waterfall

notice.jpgWe saw gorgeous Icelandic horses, also in enclosures that were almost not visible. Just a rolling expanse of meadows and sky behind them.

horses and grey skyhorses4Sadly we missed the aurora borealis but the most breath taking sight we were fortunate to witness was a glacier breaking up as it reached the sea. Its pristine blue was just so BLUE and the floating icebergs in the transparent water seemed so ethereal. The grey sky with the occasional seagull swooping past, the rumbling of the water as it melted into the sea. It was all just mesmerizing. Like the end of the world. Beautiful and sad at the same time.

too blue

beautiful

girls' rock tower

The song Gerua from the SRK Kajol film Dilwale was shot on location in Iceland , resulting in a stampede of Indian tourists in the last few years. Shamefully this has resulted in such a trampling of the stretch of land where the shooting took place that it has now been closed to tourists.

Visiting a place like this is an out- of- the- world experience in a way, but I am always conflicted when urging others to visit it. More tourists to a place like this means more everything–from increased waste products to a bigger carbon footprint to more consumption ….but then we also did it….so…I don’t know.

Do visit it ? But be good 🙂

 

 

Jazzed up Bollywood songs

Here are my top ten awesome Bollywood songs with jazz elements.

(For details on how we got here please check out the blogpost just before this in the archives!)

  1. Of course the list starts with Madhubala 🙂

 

2. Have not seen this movie but love the song. Mallika Sherwat had also done a cute movie with Rahul Bose called Pyar ke Side Effects and then seems to have disappeared.

 

3. This lovely song is from the new Parineeta and Rekha looks dazzling !

 

4. Saathiya was a gem of a movie with very realistic characters, right from Rani Mukerjee as a medical student to her father who was loving but firm and AR Rahman’s fabulous music. This song is charming to look at and listen to.

5. Dev D which was Anurag Kashyap’s remake of Devdas needs an entire post to itself it was so mindblowing and radical and amazing ! Emotional Atyachar became very popular but this song and the context is equally breathtaking.

 

6. This song has one of the most insane sets and dances from that era. It’s like ‘planet of the apes’ people ( apes?) got hold of a large 3 D printer and all the colours in the world !!  There are so many Shammi Kapoor songs with jazz elements I think that explains why his dancing always seemed to be so freeform and un-choreographed ( probably un-choreographable in fact !)

7. This song is included because it is so manic and simply mad and please don’t miss the ‘kookoo’ yelling at regular intervals LOL

8. This song is from Talaash which was a psychological thriller starring Kareena and Aamir Khan. Do see it since it had a surprisingly deep and many layered storyline, but if that isn’t your thing , please most certainly check out Reema Kagti’s first directorial venture. A delightful rom- com kind of movie called Honeymoon Travels !

 

9. This is of course an old favourite of many generations

 

10. Difficult to choose only 10 but I am going to give Shammi Kapoor one more song here, just because he is so much fun to watch 🙂

 

And all that JAZZ!!!

This song is from an amazing Broadway Musical and later Hollywood movie —Chicago. If you haven’t seen it do check it out. It deals with corruption, scandal and women’s rebellion against the spaces they were forced into by the society at the time of the Jazz Age. I saw the show and the movie and I think the movie did a rocking good job of it. It stars Catherine Zeta Jones, Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere, go on, what do you have to lose?!

April 30th is International Jazz Day which I really didn’t know when I started putting this post together, just in time for it! I was just struck one day by how so many of my favourite songs seemed to have some jazz elements to it and started looking into it.

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It played off with and contributed to many social changes taking place at the same time such as the flapper fashions, the Women’s Liberation Movement and all those at the fringes who wanted to rebel against the set standards of society.

Here is the flapper style dance brilliantly choreographed in Zoya Akhtar’s movie Dil Dhadakne Do. I love the way she brings out women’s empowerment as well as relationship dynamics issues not only in the main story but also in subtle ways like this song.

Jazz is a musical form that relies on improvisation and rhythmic urgency requiring the musicians to be inventive and create music on the spot! So of course RD Burman loved the genre and incorporated it in so many of his songs.

But how did Jazz first reach Bollywood? Apparently a legend of the 1930s –Leon Abbey, brought a band to Bombay, which became a resident band. Soon, ballrooms and nightclubs became jazz hubs, where the British and Europeans found a refuge from anti-colonial sentiments building up outside. Indian elites, aristocrats and other public servants also took to the high jazzy life, particularly at the Taj Mahal Hotel ballroom in Bombay.

 

Owing to their early exposure to Portuguese and European culture and their music, Goan and Anglo-Indian musicians dominated this era and after independence, these musicians found their way into the Bollywood industry and had a profound sense of orchestral arrangements and full scale music. They assisted music director legends like Shankar Jaikishan, O. P. Nayyar, Laxmikant Pyarelal, and inevitably fused jazzy sounds with Indian arrangements. Chic Chocolate assisted C. Ramachandra to bring swing to Bollywood, through songs like Ina Mina Dika, Gore Gore and Chris Perry’s signature tunes can be noticed in the music for Kabhi Kabhi and Trishul. Frank Fernand is popular for Don, Zanjeer, Hera Pheri, Barsat and Victoria No. 203.

While jazz was influencing Bollywood, blending in easily with classical Indian music, Indo-jazz was also an emerging genre. The 1940’s was a great time of musical cultural exchange between Indian and the West, with The Beatles coming to India and Ravi Shankar gaining popularity worldwide. Pioneered by Ravi Shankar, John Coltrane, John Mayer and John McLaughlin, Indo-jazz fused sax, guitar, bass and drums with tabla, sitar and the violin. From the ever sexy Piya tu ab toh aaja to the opening saxophone in Badtameez dil, Indians have been steeped in jazz since forever !

 

From the peppy songs to the soulful ones, it is everywhere !

Apparently this sultry song even had to be cut from the theatre release because of the disturbance it created in the audience.

I am curating a second part to this post because there are simply too many fabulous songs to share but I am going to close here with this song form Taxi no. 9-2-11 because I just CANNOT get over how COOL Nana Patekar is here with his body language and dance moves. Please people, stop making him behave so intense and almost deranged and emo all the time. Give him a dapper suit, a saxophone and let him JAZZ it up !!