Monday, December 17, 2012

On 'The Fourth Protocol'

It is great to read a book and then watch a movie based on it.

I favour the order particularly. A book is an insight into the writer's mind. It is full of details, explanations and a great deal of elaboration. The writer has the liberty to proceed at any pace that the reader finds suitable.

A film maker on the other hand is constrained by time. He has to use pictures and actions to convey the same emotions that a writer uses words for. The idea has to be evident to the viewer without any elaborate explanation.

A book leaves a lot to the imagination of the reader. Though writers do create the entire setting, it is all upto the reader to imagine the place, the exact features, the clothes, the emotions, the colors! And readers generally do a good job.

A film on the other hand constricts the flights of the mind by forcing it to accept things as they are portrayed. There is very little work for the mind, except perhaps listen to the dialogues carefully.

I recently was watching the movie 'The Fourth Protocol'. I absolutely adore the way Forsyth has created a web of mystery around the story of a middle-aged MI5 agent versus a suave KGB Illegal. So a comparison with the book was inevitable.

There were no Jim Rawlings or Billy in the film. The brilliance of the theft in Berenson's apartment loses its charm in the film. All the details of how Rawlings works with the skeleton key, works his way with the alarm system, of Billy's excellent work the previous evening and the use of CLC and water as the shock absorber vanish in thin air. I am sure anyone who has seen the movie without reading the book has missed the relish of a mind-blowing robbery.

Then the excellent ferrreting in Pretoria to discover Jan Marais, constructing the nuke by breaching the Fourth Protocol, the entire stint of tying the goat and waiting for the tiger, they all vanish into ether in the film. Michael Caine is good, so is Pierce Brosnan, but the flavour of the book is lacking in the film.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A ten-rupee note

I was shopping for groceries with Mom one Saturday. It is the local vegetable market. Unorganized and yet organized in its own way. The vendors spread their offerings on gunny sacks in neatly piled heaps of french beans, cucumbers, beetroot, carrots, onions and coconuts. Men and women haggled alike to get a good bargain. People moved slowly from one vendor to another, enquiring about the prices, picking up a potato here or a cabbage there, checking if was worth its price and moving on with a this-is-so-damn-expensive pout. It was a welter of humanity with its myraid forms.

We stopped to buy vegetables from a lady. She had her son besides her, a lad of five. Crowded as the street was with people, vehicles played their role in adding to the commotion. BEST buses, cars, autorickshaws, and bikers trying to snake their way through the traffic, were aplenty. As we were sorting and picking up cauliflowers, a car crawled behind us. I did not pay any heed, but the little boy perked up. 

"Can we ride in it?", he asked his mother. 
"Hmm", said his mother very passively, as all mothers do when they see a tantrum coming. 
"What does it take to get a ride?", the child went on, "only money, no?". 
"Yeah", said his mother with some irritation as she tossed the cauliflower in our grocery bag. Life had perhaps taught her the hard way to avoid day-dreaming. But her son went on.
"Is a ten-rupee note enough? That thing is not as big as a bus!". 

I smiled. It was innocence at its best.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Flights of Life

An airport is never a dull place. Though it may not be a great idea to reach an airport 3 hours early, it certainly is a great time for a study in human behaviour. If you are lucky to be in a good mood inspite of the long queues at the ticket or check-in counters, you may well be surprised at the sheer variety of human species around you. There are people of all kinds - seasoned travellers, novices, well-behaved gentlemen, snooty aunties - they all add their own shade to the canvas.

There may be times when a gentleman in front is filling in for his entire family of 8 with tonnes and tonnes of luggage. Strangely deceptive, one may feel, while one spends the next quarter of an hour waiting for the aunties to sort out which bag will be checked in and where the bottles of achar should go. While it is the perfect way to a foul temper, a detached soul can smile at the predicament of the hapless head-of-the-family as he tries to fend off the embarassment and bring some order to the setup. Straight from one of Wodehouse's pages!

Move ahead to the check-in counter and one may encounter a long queue. There always is someone who has a bottle of cough syrup neatly tucked in the bag for her kid; or the lady who forgets to take her boarding pass out of the handbag before she checks it in. Then comes the long wait for the flight. One may be seated next to a Chilean family, not understand a word of what they are saying and yet know that the mother is scolding her daughter for not sitting still while she braids the kid's hair. One may see an old couple waiting patiently for their flight, silently grateful that they have each other for company. There are professionals who scream into their cell phones while pacing near the doors; and parents who have a tough time ensuring their kids do not wander off.

Humans. This grand prologue to the travel makes the flight itself pale in comparison. Its best to catch up on some sleep.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Romancing with Heels

As an ardent lover of flats, I never really understood the magic of heeled footwear. Flats are so comfortable, they are easy on the heels and toes. And so much more lower-back-friendly. I always found heels difficult to walk with. I had a pair that an aunt had gifted me. They were pretty, black, pencil-heeled shoes. I wore them the day I got them, strutted across the drawing room and crashed after a few steps. I sprained my ankle and could not wear my usual sneakers for a week after that. And the laughs my cousins had were even more painful. Since then I have been dead against heels. I would almost feel like a bohemian when I would fervently articulate the hazards of heels during discussions with my girls' gang.

But after almost 25 years of resisting, I finally fell for them. The temptation of heels was so overpowering, I was just drawn into the welter that I so hated. I must admit I was apprehensive when I gifted myself a pair of heels. The first day was very difficult to manage. I feared I would trip at every step. The distance from the road felt weird. I was extra-cautious of the uneven roads and kept a tab on my speed of walking. The second day was better. Though my knees hurt a bit because of the shift in weight, I found myself managing better. By the end of the week, I pranced as if I had walked about in those shoes all my life.

I love them. They have a charm of their own. You feel you are on a pedestal. There is a sense of power and confidence that a good pair of heels inspires. Most of it is psychological, but who cares. As long as it feels good!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Garba Nite

Garba and Dandiya - things that describe a true-blood Gujarathi. After jalebi and fafda of course!

My best friend Nikita is getting married this weekend, and she had organized a Garba yesterday instead of the traditional Sangeet. I was there for around 3 hours, dancing most of the time. But in that span of time, I got to know almost all of the 40-50 people assembled there.

For those of my friends who do not know what Garba is, here is a brief history.

It felt like a whole new way of learning about human beings and their behaviour. The evening started with catching up with old friends. The traditional Gujarathi songs felt good and few of us could resist hitting the dance floor. The good part of Garba is that it is a traditional dance form which has evolved over the years with the incorporation of more liberal and complicated moves. Yet the age-old form of clapping to the tune and moving in a circle is still as relevant. So even Uncles and Aunts who were on the other side of 40 could participate as easily as we did.

They say the best way to participate in Garba is to get on the dance floor as early as possible. The enthusiasm is infectious, and soon people start following your moves. So we took the lead and started off. Easy steps at first. It felt like a warm up. There was plenty of space here, unlike during Navratri, when space is at a premium and everyone jostles each other for a little more room. Soon Nikita's relatives joined in and we were dancing like a big, happy family. I love the free-style dance at a Punjabified wedding, but the Garba, with its disciplined layout, has a charm of its own.

After an hour or so, we switched over to Dandiya. Its an extension of the Garba, only with the addition of foot-long sticks in both hands. Dandiya is generally played in pairs, people keep moving and pairs keep changing after every set of 5 beats. It was an eye-opener for me. Each person had a unique style. And the way they played said a lot about their attitude. Some were shy or reticent, some were enthusiastic, they exuded a warmth with their smiles. Some were outright arrogant. Some were patient, some were not. I realized even 4 year olds knew how to play the Dandiya, (and I need to revise the steps each time I start playing). It was as rudimentary to them as learning the alphabets.

After 2 rounds, I knew almost everyone there. Atleast, I knew what their nature was. I still have a few more encounters till the wedding to know them better. The way you dance for an hour says all about you that even a week of conversation would not reveal. Its not surprising that Navratri is so popular for scouting prospective soulmates :) Gals are you listening?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why do we need friends?

1. To tell us what is missing in our life. The new dress on sale, the new cell phone in the market, the new car that he bought.

2. To help us judge our social standing and success. It feels good when we earn more than our friends.

3. To gossip to and gossip about

4. To listen while we crib. About topics ranging from parents and bosses to the latest stock market crash.

5. To dole out advice to. On food and looks, life and love, so that we feel all good and smart.

6. To stay over with, when we have a fight at home.

7. To pamper our mood when we are feeling low. Throw a party, order some icecream.

8. To take care of the kids when we want to go to the movies.

9. To make us feel that single (or committed) is good. We all are in it together.

10. To pamper our egos. To read the silly stuff that we come up with at 1 am and tell us that its a creative genius.

I guess we all are selfish when it comes to friends, though we hate to admit it. That is what makes friendship so cherished - we can all be selfish together, without feeling guilty about it.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

'A'typical Girlfriend

Sia loved the journey back home from work. It was around 2 in the night when she finished her shift. The cab was ready to leave by 2.15. Anusha was seated comfortably near the window. But Richa was late as usual. She came rushing down the stairs, balancing herself precariously on six inches of heels. "I'm sorry, lets go", she said. The driver eased the car out of the basement parking lot and breezed towards the highway.

Sia looked out of the window. Both Anusha and Richa were busy with their cell phones. Sia looked at them and sighed. "What do a gang of girls do when they get together after work? They call their boyfriends.", she thought. The thought of her boyfriend brought a smile to her lips. She loved Arun dearly and was proud of him. They had been dating for a year now, and he had never given her a reason to complain. He had always been caring and supportive. He respected her fierce attitude and complemented it with his patient temperament. And she prided herself about being the perfect girlfriend. "If such a species exists", Arun always joked. But Sia knew in her heart that she was not the typical girlfriend. She never nagged, never demanded a lot of attention and never cribbed. She was always independent, spent a good deal of time with her gang of friends and always let Arun have his space in the relationship. She never acted like a GPS around Arun's neck, calling him every few hours to check on his whereabouts.

But today Sia decided to call him. It was rather late, so she settled with texting him. She was delighted when she got a reply, but the smile soon faded. Arun was not well. He had a bad cold and was trying to get some sleep, he said. "Will call u 2moro". Sia understood perfectly well. "Any other girl would have been suspicious, but not me", she thought. "What are you doing now?". Sia heard Anusha shouting into the phone. "Why dont
you stop eating those oily bhajiyas? Your will put on. And the cholesterol is not good for your heart." Sia smirked. A typical girlfriend, she thought. She went back to her window and gazed at the moving world outside. Suddenly her eyes widened in alarm. Did she see Arun at the end of the road? It was a blurred figure in a green t-shirt and very far away. As the distance between them closed, Sia stared in disbelief. It was Arun! What was he doing there? There were three friends with him. And they all looked drunk! Did that mean Arun had lied to her? She was too stunned to answer that.

Arun woke up the next day to a bad hangover. The sound of the doorbell made his head ache even worse. He slowly made his way to the door. The sight of Sia surprised him. She smiled sweetly and came inside. Closing the door after her, she sat down at the dining table. "This is such a pleasant surprise", said Arun bending forward to kiss her. She turned her head away. She would never have done that. "Where were you last night?", she shouted. "You told me you had a cold and were too busy to meet me. And I see you in the middle of the night, dead drunk with your stupid friends. How can you lie to me?", and Sia started sobbing. If Sia's visit had surprised Arun, this was a jolt out of the blue. He was visibly stunned. He tried to offer an explanation, but she would hear nothing of it. She kept sobbing and flung all the cushions on him that she lay her hands on. "I hate you", she kept saying. After a minute or two, she stormed out of the house. Arun ran after her, but she simply brushed him aside and left. 

The next two days were living hell for him. He tried to call her, but she did not answer his calls. He tried to meet her on her way to work, but she refused to acknowledge his presence. It took two weeks and an endless trail of phone calls and emails, visits to coffee shops and one to Swarovski to finally get Sia to forgive Arun. Its been twenty-five years since then, and Arun has been absolutely honest to Sia.

How do I know this? Because I am twenty and have been dating a nice guy for a year now, and when I told Mom today about him, with the customary maternal advice, she added "Dont behave like a typical girlfriend, though I once did,". And told me this story as an afterthought. So fond of proving herself smarter than Dad! A typical girlfriend!

P.S: This is a totally fictitious story churned out by the writer. There is absolutely no resemblance to anyone :)