Sunday, December 27, 2009

Movie Review: 3 Idiots





Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone may not be called a literary masterpiece, but it sure is entertaining with its guffaws and its Indianized English. I read the book a while back, and I was highly impressed by the author's straightforward and vitriolic views about the sagacious education system. Bhagat had introduced Ryan Oberoi to play the role of the rebel, an anarchist who wanted to do away with the grumpy system of education system prevailing in India. Ryan was never his protagonist; he simply played the second fiddle in the book. It was Hari, the mundane narrator of the book who was the hero. But things turned topsy-turvy when Bollywood walked into the scene to dramatize the already dramatic story Five Point Someone. And then when in the book everything went happily ever after with the three idiots, namely Ryan, Hari, and Alok, Bollywood begot its own idiots Farhaan (R. Madhavan), Raju (Sharmaan Joshi) and Rancho (Aamir Khan)the great for its new cinematic endeavor 3 Idiots .

3 Idiots can be summed up in one word as extremely majestic. It surely will make you laugh your guts out with its slapstick jokes, its funny sequences, its bathetically emotional scenes and make you to shed a tear or two in the emotional sequences. In short, 3 Idiots is a perfect desi dinner for your bulbous eyes which has all the spices in almost perfect proportion. The genetically modified melodrama has all it takes to hit the Indian audiences hard, and I see it topping the charts in no time. The movie definitely followed a major part of the book, only the incidents were either jumbled or heightened for greater effect.

3 Idiot' is a laughter riot right from the first scene where Farhaan fakes a hear attack while onboard an Air India flight to the last scene where Chatur finds out that his role model Mr. Phunsuk Wangdu is none but his college rival Rancho. I especially loved the portrayal of Raju's glum family in black and white. Despite scenes of hilarity, 3 Idiots does suffer from backlogs of vague emotions which seem at some portions of the movie vaguely put on, unorganized and unneeded. Another thing that stuck me was the heroic character of Rancho. I know it doesn’t look good for the perfect image of a movie if its hero fails to live up to the standard and flunks in exams or scores 5 point something, so Bollywood made Ryan Oberoi (of the book) alias Rancho become the class topper thus bringing forth the idea that we cannot still accept a flawed hero in our movies. In the long run, the act actually exemplified the character of Rancho and brought out the real essence of the movie. But the child delivery scene in the movie was definitely overtly exaggerated. I don’t think Chetan Bhagat has ever imagined his Ryan to do a child delivery with the aid of his friends. Since everything is fair in Bollywood and war, such sacrileges add to the vivacity of the movie's plot.

3 Idiots is a star studded affair which presents us with the grand acting skills of stars like Boman Irani as Professor.Viru Sahastrabuddhe or Omi Vaidya as Chatur Ramalingam. But Kareena Kapoor seemed a little unwanted as Pia, she didn’t add to the character of the fashion designing student Neha of the book, instead she is here a smart would be doctor who falls for the charm of Rancho out of the blue. One thing that stuck me about the movie is the way the real ages of the stars have been camouflaged fruitlessly. Even though Aamir Khan is a perfectionist as an actor, he seemed a little too old to be an engineering student in his early twenties. Nevertheless, the movie is a first hand example of great filmatography and fabulous humor. Like all Rajkumar Hirani' movie, this one has treats for all its viewers. The peppy song "Aal izz well" reminds us of his Munna Bhai movies.

The dialogues used in the movie will definitely come as eye openers to brainless muggers. 3 Idiots deftly bring out the very quintessence of Five Point Someone bringing to light the fatal flaws of the Indian education system. And though at some pint Aamir Khan does look like a know-it-all holy spirit inculcating others with his words, he does reciprocate Chetan Bhagat's ideas that the Indian education system lacks creativity and spontaneous love for knowledge. I hope Aamir's words reach the generation next and come as a harbinger of a utopian vision of a new educational system in India. Movies with messages such as this one should be taken as ground breaking attempts to change society.

The movie is an absolute delight when it comes to music. It features a galaxy of beautiful songs shot in great locations. I personally loved "Behti hawa" and "Zoobie doobie".


Overall, 3 Idiots is a wonderfully heartwarming movie that teaches us to stop being mentally troglodytes and introduce creativity in our minds. I give the movie a 3.5 rating out of five.

Friday, December 18, 2009


The Humorist
by
Barnali Saha

The man was sitting in front of the fireplace in his study throwing little balls of paper into it and was watching them burn. An almost tattered sheet of paper was sitting on his lap and he was tearing small bits from it and balling them. A leather bounded notebook lay open on the table next to the fireplace. The paper lacked even a single scratch from the pen, which the man was holding in is fist like some lethal weapon. It seemed that he had nothing to say or just that he didn’t know how to say it. The white sheet seemed to echo all the unspoken thoughts ringing in Miller Travis's mind, and he seemed not interested in marring its virgin beauty.

He was sitting upright in his chair, his head lost in thoughts and his mind consoling him that may be he would come up with something before the deadline. A few scraps of paper were lying on the ground; he had just torn away the three pages of pedestrian humor he had written. It lacked in compression and objectivity and was a no good article. Unsatisfied and beleaguered, he was trying his best to find out a streak of humor. There were deep wrinkles in his forehead; it was obvious that he had aged a lot more that he should have. At thirty-two he looked close to fifty with almost bald head and gray hair in the temples, the patina of wrinkles covering his face and his sunken eyes all accentuating his older age. Once upon a time Travis was a humorist who used to regularly write a humor column of great repute in the New York Times


Miller Travis was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to a not so well to do family of big tradition and small riches. His father, Robert Miller was a poet, his grandfather was a failed actor, and his great grand father, who was long dead by the time our protagonist was born, was a first class doctor who had amassed much wealth and tradition in his time. And that noble man had failed to expend his wealth in one lifetime left a part of it, rather a small part of it, to his future generations. One must agree that great grandfather Travis was one great man, for he had left such an enormous amount of money that the future generations almost had to demote their occupational levels to relatively nominal posts at the fringes of the fortune they had in hand.

Early in his life Miller's father introduced him to the al fresco. On several hot Sunday afternoons, father and son would head down to the bank of the little stream and sit there for hours until evening dawned and the biting gnats disturbed their sojourn.  On such lazy trips he would recite the sonnets of Shakespeare or the odes of Keats and his eyes would be swelled with deep seated imagination as his voice would touch on his favorite lines. Young Miller loved their trips and even though his father seldom published the poems he wrote after their excursions, he was forever enthusiastic to catch the charm of nature. On one such trip as his father recited, with bathetic emotionalism Keats's Ode to Autumn, Miller felt a stroke of humor inside him. And when his father had ended his monologue and stared at Miller with a questionable glance, Miller discovered that he wanted to be a humorist. And with that thought the bright prospect of another diminutive profession dawned on the Miller family.

Now, there are several humorists readily available in town, but Miller never wanted to be a stand-up comedian in a play or a joker in circus. He wanted to make skillful use of humor in the form of writing, and thereby create literature of exquisite value with his magic words. However, the transition from dream to reality is a big leap, and Miller realized the significance of this Brobdingnagian task of making dreams come true when several of his humorous articles and prose pieces were returned by the local newspapers with comments like "not up to the mark" that they "have decided to pass on." And that even though "there were some moments of extraordinary and lovely humor" they had found the voice of the writer a bit distracting. Criticisms as it is are hard to digest, they are the stale, rotten eggs you never wish to smell in your life, but inevitably, at some point of your mortal existence, those rotten eggs of cynicism are thrown at you.  And when Miller Travis faced the stinky weapon of mass destruction, he revolted back with great spirit.  For several months he burnt the midnight oil and read the great pieces of humorous literature. From P.G Wodehouse to Nikolai Gogol, re read it all with laborious cogitation. And after years of reading and pages of writing and a MFA degree from Columbia University, Miller finally managed to grab a job as a weekly columnist in The Daily Star, a local newspaper. His journalistic abilities flourished with time. After working at the Daily Star for almost five years, Miller applied for a job at the New York Times. He presented some of his best humorous articles about politics and social norms at the interview and managed to get a weekly column at the newspaper which paid him $1 for a word. But Miller was happy; it was exactly what he had wanted from his life, a job at the prestigious NY Times. He toasted to his success and joined his new vocation with enthusiasm.


In the beginning, everything was working just fabulous for him. People appreciated his creativity and he received rave reviews for his marvelous write-ups which combined the wide-eyed imagination of a rustic with a mordant city dweller's social criticisms. He made friends with great intellectuals and drank with some of the brightest men in New York. Travis attended book parties, discussions and interviews, in short he did all those things a literary luminary should do. But then everything turned upside down when he decided to volunteer for the Iraq war. His urge to see the action first-hand took him to the crux of the battlefield. Travis served as a supply truck driver and while delivering the supplies he imbibed with the exciting first-hand action the macabre side of a war. He saw dead and injured shoulders, civilians with their limbs broken and twisted like twigs; he saw bodies of children lying around, dead and burnt. His friends back home who had thought that a humorist like Travis who successfully derived humor from all aspects of life might be able to have a column or two of his Iraq experience. But their ideas proved utterly long when two months later Travis retuned home with PTSD. The war sight came as a shock to his senses and he began suffering from irritability, hyper-vigilance and hyper tension.  The condition worsened over time and Travis began having horrific nightmares. With PTSD haunting his life, Miller's ability to concoct humorous articles steadily worsened. His new articles were drab and unexciting; the humor was seemed put-on and stupid in some cases. The disheartened readers emailed The New York Times about the wild and irrational articles of Miller Travis. The directors of the paper contacted Travis with an ultimatum that if he failed to write a truly humorous article up to the taste of The New York Times for the weekender, he would lose his job. And since the time he had received the email, Miller had locked himself in his study trying to write something.

After almost twenty hours of forces incarceration, Miller Travis had no luck working. He just failed to get anything going and rejected all the drafts. He sat on his chair, his hands cupping his drooping head, the nerves pulsating rapidly in his temples. HE felt like a failure. For twenty hours he had been trying fruitlessly to discover a dollop of humor in his drab, whitewashed study. There were no true sentence, no real wit in him. All his creative abilities seemed to have died a sudden and horrific death. Travis looked at the clock in the mantelpiece. It was four thirty, but he didn’t know whether it was the beginning or the end of a day. Travis stood up and tied his gown, put on his sleepers and walked out of the room.

Travis lived in the top floor of a six storied apartment building with a small enclosed terrace which looked across the Manhattan luxury. He went to the terrace and soaked in the sights and sounds of the city. It was almost daybreak; the sky was a vast canvas of some unknown artist who had put several shades of red, orange and pink with care. The diffused lights from the sky brought out the soft beauty of the sepia tinted city that lay before Travis's eye.  His eyes suddenly fell down at the small green field surrounding the apartment building. The field was covered with thousands of dried fall leaves that the tree next to the apartment building had shed. The leaves looked so sad, so withered. They seemed to be staring at the vast sky with their listless eyes. They were like a sea of silent corpses lying in a battlefield after the war was over. Travis stared at them wondering how much life the leaves had only a few months back when spring was in full swing. The tree next to the building which was verdant with leaves stood specter thin, its bare branches screaming disgust. As Travis looked at the sight underneath his apartment, he realized the futility of existence. That everything in this world ends up in a big lump of nothingness to a sea of fruitlessness and hopeless exhilaration. It is strange that every year, everyday, with the march of seasons, with the end of days, with the movement of time, nature fills our staring eyes with false hopes of perfection. Travis understood that every year at that particular time the battered field would look the same only to be turned green and juicy in spring and then reduced again to a sea of fallen, dead leaves with the advent of winter. There was so much humorousness in nature; it is always fooling you with its sleight of hands. It was a manipulative necromancer ever challenging us with its deceptive devices, but we always fail to understand its illusive strategies, its unspoken challenges or winks. Travis could feel the invisible and illusive hand of nature tickling his body. He suddenly began to laugh. After a futile day, he had managed to find the humor he was looking for, it was indeed the truest sense of humor--the humor of nature, the humor of life. Travis's laughs echoed in the corners of the sky and then died down to a wave of nothingness.





Friday, December 11, 2009

Short Story


The Poet
by
Barnali Saha




The Poet
by 
Barnali Saha


Matthew Jacob was a man of very few words. He was an ordinary, uninspired gentleman who lived his life based on certain indistinct rules that his mind had written for him decades ago and he had been following them without questioning like a well bred myrmidon. For so many years, he did not exactly know how many years; he had been waking up at a certain hour in the morning, eating cereal and milk for his breakfast and walking a good seven and half block from his home to his office. Jacob worked at a private car insurance company called United Auto Insurance in their customer service department. Jacob's whole day would revolve around the telephone. It is strange how an omni-directional device devoid of any element of life could be so dear to somebody. But Matthew Jacob loved his job. Everyday his heart would buzz as he would wake up at his fixed morning hour and sip in his dark coffee wondering who would make the first call to him. It was not that the calls that he received through out the day were happy calls of Christmas wishes or holiday greetings, in most cases the calls he received happened to be unhappy or unpleasant calls when people would talk about an accident in the highway or a car wreck near the central park and if the day were good, about the procedure of procuring the insurance and how much coverage would a certain annual scheme offer. You see, there wasn’t anything in those calls to look forward to, but it was the sheer joy of using the telephone and talking into it that made Matthew Jacob yearn for more. It was these modest elements of daily life--the waking up in the morning, the walking to office, the short nap in the afternoon in the privacy of his cubicle, and talking on the phone that made Jacob's life the way it was. In one word an outsider can sum up his life as serene. People in office often wondered how Jacob managed to be so calm and unassuming while living in a city that is known for its exhilarating tickles, fashionable lives, nighttime parties, discotheques and hot carnal pleasures. It seemed odd and even uncanny that when the dusk light lathered up the city Jacob would walk back home alone in the darkness while his co workers and the rest of the New York City would plunge in a sea of new found pleasure. But Jacob laughed at their quaint ideas of clichéd New York life in his mind. It was not that he did not love the city or did not care about the incessant revolving faces that thumped the Broadway, it was just that he associated himself to the other side of the city, to that other character of the town that nobody would dare talk about. Matthew Jacob was more like the cold snowy evenings of winter when the whole city covered in a blanket of white snow would look so sad, so secluded. Many a times on those lonely evenings Jacob would look out his apartment window and stare at the snowy alley laid before his eyes and try to hear the hidden voice of the city.  There was something in that snowy cover that made the city suddenly seem vivacious to the eyes of Matthew Jacob. He wondered if the city had a living heart, if it was a being of flesh and blood forever trying to make its human entry in the consciousness of its inmates. Thus, even if people swooned over some hot new bar, a new restaurant or the lights in the Times Square, Jacob forever adored the secluded wet look of the city.

It would be wrong to say that Matthew Jacob had no knack for entertainment. There was a certain kind of hidden pleasure that he had been indulging in for quite sometime. It so happened many years back, Jacob forgot exactly how many years back, after a very bad day he had returned home from office. Beleaguered and totally frustrated, Jacob started doing a self appraisal of his life and what he lived for. After a terrible one hour of self examination, he discovered, to his surprise, that there was nothing, absolutely nothing whatsoever to live for in his life. He realized he had no friends, he hated going out, and he hated talking to the idiots in office who nagged him forever and that he had no girlfriend. After dinner that night Jacob spent ten minutes before the somewhat dusty bathroom mirror to discover that he was getting old and wrinkly. His hair had started to thin and there were unattractive bags under his eyes. That night Jacob could not sleep. The fear of dying alone in a city where no one knew him weighed heavy on him. In the moment of despondency, he brought out his diary and started writing a poem which he named On My Life. In the poem he wrote about his fears, his pains and his still unfulfilled desires. Jacob's pen went on, unruffled, for an hour or so and when it finally finished, he discovered to his disbelief that he had written ten complete pages about his own insignificant life. Jacob read what he had written, again and again. He felt a heavy weight that had just been removed from his heart. The next day he went to his office in unusually good spirits. To the surprise to his coworkers, he cracked jokes, ate donuts for lunch with them and even ogled at the pretty PR lady. "Is everything alright with you, Jacob?" a co-worker asked surprisingly. "Well, everything is just fabulous," Jacob replied with a big grin.


That very week Jacob procured a beautiful brown leather bound diary from the posh stationary store around the corner which cost him eight dollars and seventy five cents and a Parker pen to commence his new journey of being a poet. Every evening, after dinner, Matthew Jacob would sit on his bed and stack the two pillows one above the other to make a desk and write. Some nights when he was in mood, he would look at the starless city sky and write about love. In high school a girl named Mary Hopkins was his first crush. She was beautiful and had soft blonde hair and red cheeks. Jacob had adored her and had kissed her once, on her left cheek. But the girl was never serious; after high school she left Philadelphia and went to the South with her parents. Jacob never met her again, but in his imagination she often came sometimes like a femme fatale, sometimes like a benign Southern belle with deep blue eyes and he would write about her in abstract poetic verse. Jacob was never good with rhyming. When some poems dealing with mundane subjects like the advent of Christmas spontaneously rhymed well, other poems, especially those dealing with love, never rhymed.

Matthew Jacob suddenly felt a strange emotional transference at the age of forty five. He was never meant to be a poet, although on several occasions during his school and college years he had fondly spent his hollow time with Wordsworth, Keats and Robert Burns and being inspired by their mellifluous lines, often scribbled, mindlessly, a series of poetic lines, but those pedestrian lines never showed his genius as a poet. During his adolescent years he had wanted to be a preacher, and then after a long hiatus, one day at the age of forty five, he did a whirlwind and found a new vocation: he chose poetry to God. Those of you who think that an actual creative nature develops during the developing years should come down to Central Park just at the hour of dusk and soak in the play of magical colors in the horizon and feel the gentle breeze brushing your face. On such moments you would feel your heart spontaneously singing paeans to the last lights of the dying day. Whenever Jacob left his office early, he would rush to the Central Park and imbibe the setting of dusk in the New York City. And as he would stare at the sky his heart would compose lines of poetry, lines he would write down when he went back home.

One weekend, two and a half years later, Matthew Jacob composed his masterpiece. It was a six page poem about a lost traveler’s journey back to his home. It was wonderfully written, the lines rhymed, the tone was consistent and soothing. After writing it he felt proud and realized that it was time that he let people know about his innate talent. At office that week Jacob met Marcus, his boss, a prosaic, portly, red skinned British gentleman who had no interest in the romantic aspects of life. “Marcus” Jacob said “Do you read poetry?” Marcus was looking at the tax files at that time and looked up, surprised and said, “ Poetry, me? God! No. Why?”  “Never mind, I was just asking.” Jacob replied and left the room. But in an office where the inmates lack any kind of entertainment all day, the prospect of a juicy gossip often seems tempting. And so the next day when Jacob reached his office all his colleagues including Marcus began pressing him as to  why on earth would he talk about something as insignificant as poetry? Jacob felt irritated in the beginning, but then he realized that his colleagues who had never respected him might show him some admiration if he displayed his talent. “I write poems and that is why I asked Marcus about poetry,” he said. And soon after his words had dropped from his mouth, a pin drop silence seized the whole room. The men began looking at each others’ faces, open-mouthed, unable to believe that a car insurance company worker could be so romanticized by his daily life that he would compose poetry. Well, you cannot blame these people, most of whom were married and therefore, too engaged in family lives to even listen to a good song play in the radio or too engrossed in paltry pleasures like poker and wine to appreciate a thing of beauty. But Jacob had expected their reaction to be tad different. He felt embarrassed on seeing their dumb faces stare at him with disbelief. Jacob coughed to break the silence and tried to get back to work. “You should show us your work, why don’t you bring some of your poems tomorrow and we could listen to them at lunch,” a colleague said. Jacob realized his mistake and said, “No, no. I am not that good.” But then Marcus said, “Why are you always so chicken, Jacob? It’s just us, your friends. People share everything with their friends.” Jacob had to finally agree to them. For the first time in his life Jacob suddenly wanted to prove that he was not an insignificant bauble, that he was far more talented than those pedestrians at office.

The following day Jacob went to office, and at lunch brought out his diary to read his poems to his colleagues. His heart began to beat faster and his fingers shivered as he opened his diary. Every person was present that day and they surrounded Jacob as he sat in his cubicle with his poems in his hand. “Come on, Jacob, read,” said one. “Don’t keep us waiting,” said another in a terribly mawkish tone. Jacob cleared his throat and read:
“Unbeknownst to the mighty blue I have traveled lands afar, high seas and rocky mounds
My drooping eyelids have scathed the broad universe with unremitting ambitions
The traded turfs have traveled through time and are worn out like me
One unquenchable North Star rests high above, looking down at the earthly grace
The molten lava of the last rainy season ooze from the sinews of the mud
Unbeknownst to me I have been delighted, cradled and nurtured
When the weary feet stomped on the pricks, I saw brambles, new aspirations align.”

After Jacob had finished reading he looked up to see the faces of his friends. There were no reaction in the beginning, they all blankly looked at Jacob, and some of them were smiling without any reason. “It was good, did you write it?” Marcus asked from behind. “Of course, he did,” said another colleague. “You should get these published in the New York Mirror. My daughter once said that they publish poetry on Sundays,” said Rob another co-worker, and as soon as he had spoken those words, the whole office began pressing Jacob to send his poems to the New York Mirror. Jacob had never wanted his works to be published and felt embarrassed, even insulted, by the behavior of his colleagues. He tried his best to turn them down, but failed. Marcus soon found out the address of the New York Mirror and Rob and few others made him copy some of his poems and write a cover letter. After a few hours, they accompanied Jacob to the post office to make sure that he sent the document to the right address. All the while Jacob followed their instructions, without questioning, he even thought that his friends were trying to help him be a published poet. But as he was leaving his office that evening, he heard loud guffaws coming from Marcus’s room. He went near the room drawn by the conversation, where he thought his name being mentioned a couple of times. “It was fun, isn’t it?” some body was saying. “Yeah, I laughed the whole day. Did you see his face when he wrote that letter?” “I hope the New York Mirror derives a good laugh of his poems too.” “I know they will,” Marcus said, “Uncle Jacob is getting all mushy and poetic, can you believe that? I think he copied them from somewhere.”  “Yeah, he must have,” some one said. Jacob couldn’t stand any longer; he felt warm tears soaking his eyelids. He rushed out of the office feeling dejected and sad. Never in his life had he felt so much like a failure like he felt that day. He realized he shouldn’t have shown his colleagues his poems in the first place and allowed them to laugh at his talent. That night Jacob tore up the pages of his diary and threw them in the trashcan.

Few weeks later a guest, namely the flu, decided to visit Matthew Jacob’s home. After the guest had attacked him, for several days he coughed and sneezed and lay paralyzed all day long wishing that somebody would come up and take him to the doctor. As the fever increased, he lost his ability to think straight. His organs burned in fever and he hallucinated. He saw that he was getting a Nobel Prize for his poetry and to his surprise; it was Marcus who was giving him the award. Then he saw himself reciting his poem, naked, in Central Park to a group of zombies.  He suffered for five days and on Sunday, June 11th 2001, he breathed his last. A couple of days later somebody from the apartment building called the police when the person realized that she had not seen Jacob come out of his room in a week, and there was a terrible rotten smell reeking in the corridor. The police discovered Jacob’s half rotten dead body from his apartment. His face was yellow and his body was swollen. No body came to his funeral and the police cremated him with the unidentified dead bodies. They had informed Marcus about the sudden death of Matthew Jacob, but had not heard back from him. Within a week a new person occupied Jacob’s seat in the office and just like that, the whole office forgot about Matthew Jacob and his poems. They got back to their usual routine and hardly talked about him except when they explained the duties of a customer service representative to the new man who joined the office.

On the following weekend, the New York Mirror published Jacob’s poem in their poetry section. They thought it was a brilliant piece and even sent a congratulations letter to the poet. Rob Marshall saw the poem in the paper and brought it to the office the following day. At lunch he shared the news of Jacob’s publication and laughed at it saying that the “copy-cat” had finally found a page in a paper to show off his writing skills. After the laughing session was over, they balled the newspaper clipping and threw it in the bin. That night it rained in torrents and the New York City life was stuck for sometime. At some unknown corner, in a pile of garbage, in the rain soaked city, a news paper clipping of a beautiful poem lay abandoned. The paper was almost frayed; the ink had dissolved in the water. Like the poet who had once composed the poem, his work was also annihilated by the cruel city which had once inspired him to be a poet.

Picture from internet: http://www.palaceofworms.com/POWReleases_file/poet.jpg













Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Little Red Book
by
Barnali Saha





© Barnali Saha (Banerjee), all rights reserved. 


P.S. Picture from internet.
http://www.tagnwag.com/bearyscents/102106/images/mylittleredstorybook01.jpg

Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday Shopping!!



With holiday season round the corner and Christmas about to ring its bells, holiday gift is the talk of the town. Now for those of you to whom this time of year is the full moon night of wish fulfillment and heartwarming gifts, they need not worry, but for those of us, who are awarded with useless souvenirs and tchothkes, the holiday season is nothing short of a scary Halloween party. Close your eyes and luxuriate in the grim memories of age old chocolates, expired gift cards, customized pj's. Aren’t they a delight to reminisce? Ah…Not so much, you might say. So buckle up butter cups and bring worldly order to your gift ideas. Here are some tips for choosing the perfect gifts for someone special.
1. Grandparents hate skydiving gift certificates and children hate those Christmas socks and lunch boxes. So keep in mind the age of the person while choosing gifts.

2. Even an inexpensive gift look good if wrapped well. So wrap it up gals, use your imagination, get vibrant wrapping papers and include a small note of how much you care about the person you are giving the gift to.

3. With recession in its full swing take full opportunity of the holiday sale and buy your gifts early. You may get a great gift for some one special at a mind-boggling low price.

4. Check online for store deals and get those coupons printed before you hit the shop. Internet shopping is good too.

5. Do not repeat last year's gifts. You can give your old gifts to somebody provided it is well wrapped and well kept and unused.

6. Never wrap anything you find at home. Remember a map of New York is a lousy gift to give.

7. Investing on a pair of sexy hot pink underwear for your adorable boyfriend is complete no-no.

8. Every person has some interests and hobbies. Think about the interests of the person before choosing gifts for him/her. Remember your wife will hate a microwave oven or a Good Housekeeping Guide DVD. Instead give her a perfume, a book by her favorite author or a Macy's gift card.

9. Chocolates, flowers, wine, jewelry and books are evergreen gifts.

10. Give some local love. Choose local and seasonal gifts that are en vogue for your friends and loved ones.

Lastly, choose your gifts judiciously. Be prudent and not extravagant. Don’t forget that gifts are the tokens of love; be sure that you choose the right tokens for your loved ones. Happy shopping!!



Picture Courtesy :http://catherinemarie.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/christmas-gifts.jpg

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Trash Superpower!





Doesn’t it feel just fabulous to know that we can win the Nobel Prize? So what if the prize comes for filth and grime. As long we get the award, it doesn’t really matter on what subject it has been awarded. Everything is fair in Nobel and War! Shouldn’t we be proud that we, the citizens of India, have successfully polluted our country to such an extent that even Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had to curtsy to our success and say that “I think our cities have the dubious distinction of being the dirtiest cities in the world. There is no doubt about it. But if there is a Nobel Prize for dirt and filth, India will win it.”

It seems that our minister-ji is a good-Joe who knows it all, and like the rest of the country, brushes off any responsibility by merely saying that everything bad can happen in India. Let us delve deep into the problem ourselves and see how India became pollution and grime superpower. Well, Indians are merciless martinets about the cleanliness of their interiors. But then why are our cities so unclean and dirty? The reason is our basic character. Over the years we have learned to care more about ourselves and less about our society. The healths of our families are more important than the well being of our neighborhoods. Moreover, the neighborhood is our neighbor’s place and we derive great enjoyment in polluting it. Desecrating the neighborhood by spitting on it, throwing the smelly plastic bags at it or simply micturating on the roads can be elaborate entertainments for many. We all look at the unclean neighborhood and complain about its untidiness without realizing that it is us who pollute it. We blame the government for its lackadaisical attitude regarding pollution control and the government blames us that we, the people of India, cannot keep our society clean. And since India is a democracy, the citizens cannot be forced to accept the regulations for cleanliness which the government might create. A great deal of importance is given to the conscience of the people who ‘might’ one day wake up and realize the importance of creating a Green-India. But when India is on the verge of a population explosion and its cities are becoming dumping grounds, isn’t it time for the Environment Minister to wake up and do something instead of calumniating the citizens?

It is time that we wake up and take responsibility for the mess that we have created. As citizens we should all pledge to stop using plastics and dispose garbage properly. Recycling is indispensable to both the natural environment and us; it is the first step to clean India. Eradicating poverty and increasing the affordability rate so that a basic standard of living is set for the whole country are important steps. We don’t want to see an image of dirty, spitting, dumpster like India portrayed in the canvas of the world. It’s time to say Jago India!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Henry or Aunry!

Bonjour!

I chose to greet you all with a French term since it seems that Bengalis have become French fanatics these days. Last week I was reading a sports report in Anandabazaar Patrika, our very own Bengali daily, and I was struck by the report on Thierry Daniel Henry, the French footballer. Anandabazaar insists that we call him: 'Aunry' and not ‘Henry’ (the normal way we say it like H-E-N-R-Y). But what I don’t understand is why Frenchisize Bengali? I mean is there any reason to do that? Keeping in mind the fact that people who ‘eat water’ (jol khae) and interact daily with Bengalis and not French, ought to care less about a metamorphosis of their language. But Anandabazaar knows it all, and perhaps thinks that to reach an elite class of Bengali people, they need to experiment with the jargon of the hoi polloi, and when there aren’t any legible ways to do that, why not introduce Spanish, French, Russian etc words in the Bengali daily and voilà—there you have it, a posh Bengali language, oft using foreign phrases (without understanding). But excusez-moi isn’t a French-Bengali combo a little unappetizing to the ears? Well, it may be to you, but not to all. In fact, the intellectual midwifery that is going on in Kolkata thrives in most cases on the use of such baseless superficiality. But if Bengalis need to speak French everyday they should better twist their tongues. I wonder how that auto driver or a cab driver or someone representing the lower middle class would pronounce 'Aunry'. I wish I could ask Anandabazaar the question.

Modernization of a culture and modernization of a language are two different things. If you have a closer look at the Bengali culture in Kolkata you will understand the dichotomy better. A great number of people in Kolkata live on pennies, a chunk of its youth population thinks that shopping malls and not libraries are the ultimate destination of life, a part of its middle class considers more the innovative ways of accruing wealth and turns a blind eye to knowledge. To them a modernization of language would mean nothing, I doubt if they would ever appreciate Anandabazaar’s bold effort of introducing a French word in Bengali lexicon. Then why do it for people who couldn’t care less about your effort and might dismiss it as a misprint? You might say that I am being parochial, but put on your thinking caps and you might also come to the same deduction that Bengalis need a modernization of their lives. They need a clean metropolitan, a less avaricious government, and eradication of signs of poverty much more than a put on superficial language at this moment. Anandabazaar should better try and find novel ways of encouraging the people to be good and responsible citizens and provide more though provoking articles in future instead of transmuting the Bengali language.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A translation of Rabindranath Tagore's song "Ache Dukho, ache Mrittu" by Barnali Saha



At the heart of pain, death and the inferno of desire

There still lie peace, pleasure and unbounded bliss.

Everyday life meanders in its usual course

The smiling Sun, moon and stars

Fill the blue with eternal bliss

Spring unfurls its beauteous shades

Waves rise to fall back

Flowers depart this life to live again

There is no loss, no end, and no exhaustion in this world

So my soul seeks to dwell at the feel of this profuse delight.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

New Publications

Muse India: http://www.museindia.com/showcurrent17.asp?id=1483




Long Story Short: http://www.alongstoryshort.net/Checkers.html









MUSED
BellaOnline Literary Review: http://www.bellaonline.com/review/issues/fall2009/f004.html









Palki: http://calcuttans.com/palki/
http://calcuttans.com/palki/decipher-english-short-story-by-barnali-saha/

Thursday, November 5, 2009

An Indian Experience


I have always felt that there is a wall, a barrier perhaps, between me and the outside world, and that barrier appears to be impenetrable at times. Many a times I have wished to tear down this wall, but each time, I have failed. I cannot deny the fact that in many ways I am afraid of the scathing real world; it is so different from my own glass house of comfort and warmth and however much I try to be a citizen of this other world I know I would be unsuccessful. The dichotomy between the real and the unreal became evident during my last India trip. I was surprised to see the new India (after three long years)—polished, brand conscious, bragging, rich and hostile and the old India—poor, emaciated, crying and broken. One who has an eye can catch these images very easily and store them or delete them from his mind. I chose to delete them temporarily and I cannot deny that I was kind of relieved to see no signs of poverty or desperation after I had disembarked in Nashville. In my one and half month tour of India I have often felt inhuman because there was nothing I could do to erase the terrible signs of pain and desperation. I tried to be philanthropic but when I thought that my one philanthropic act wouldn’t change the whole scenario, I felt helpless. What struck me most is that the canaille who are perpetually trying to act, live and pretend like the super-rich upper middle class and middle class people are successfully drowning into the false glory of excessive superficiality. In fact the whole country at one point seemed a superficial globe of unthinking people who only care about themselves. I know I sound harsh, but this is what I have felt. On many occasions I have seen signs of poverty raging in the city pavements, street children, crying beggars, specter thin child labors trying hard to survive for one more day while the unthinking, roll eating, food wasting crowd walking past them without even casting one glance. I cannot deny that modern India with its sky-scraping malls is a model of advancement, but I have to say that advancement hasn’t reached the nooks and corners of the country. Underneath the facade of avant garde gadgets and posh shopping malls, people still gloat in the darkness of caste system and racial discrimination. Women still now are the second class citizens of the patriarchal land, and however much a woman tries to explore her innate super abilities, she cannot be equal to the male members of her household. A group of women are even proud being subservient to the will of the male members. People often say that I am cynical, but I feel if one only sees good the evils of the world would go unnoticed and if that happens, there will be no opportunity for the evil to change its color. I think the quality of people in India has declined terribly. In the streets I found people yearning to find an opportunity to fight with each other and insult each other. Like the city traffic that does not care about the walkers, the city people too have learned to care less about their neighbors. I was wrong in expecting courteous behavior outside the aegis of my family. Overall, my India trip was an eclectic experience where in one hand I spent lovely time with friends and family and on the other hand it was a blow to my sensitive soul seeing the ugly part of India that no body cares about. India needs to grow up in spirit; mall culture and brand consciousness will do no good to the country until the citizens learn to respect and care about each other. Respecting women is an important thing and judging them by their attire is wrong. Growth and development come first into one's mind and as a country India needs to broaden the horizon of her mind and create generous and loving people in future. I wish that the next time I visit India the ugly scars of poverty, pain and disrespect would be eradicated from the face of my country.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Net Lingo - How Cool Is That?


I am wondering when the avant garde technological companies will be coming up with a "Cool-Meter"--a device like a thermometer to measure how cool you are. Wouldn’t that be cool especially during this time of the 'Web-Age' when the internet has just finished blowing out its forty birthday candles? I think that would be cool, rather super cool! Don't mind the pun folks, its totally unintended!! And by cool please don’t think that I am talking about a sudden drop of your normal body temperature (that could be fatal, by the way), I am talking about the coolness of your 'Attitude'--your unruffled comport, your dress, your language and expressions as influenced by the Zeitgeist. Well not many of us can survive in this evil world of the web without being cool, and what is the easiest thing to look or feel or show how cool one is--a change of one's language. Do a complete metamorphosis of the alphabets and syllables and vowels and grammar (whatever you have learned in school, but you rather not tell your teacher about that, I bet he/she wouldn’t be very happy with the space-age transformation of a language) and voila, you get a cool outfit to dress your mouth (your language silly, I am not talking about lipstick).


Let me give you a couple of examples and elucidate my point: "HW ru?" "howz lyf" or even shorter "tc" "thanx" "vre impressiv" and the list goes on and on and on. Mind you there isn’t any difference between 'caps lock on' or 'caps lock off' in cool net lingo. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I heard a complete sentence from a series of people I interact with in the virtual world, most of them talk in such great and cool net lingo that an "uncool" person like me cannot just catch up with them. I think people are getting so busy these days that they seem to have no time to type a full sentence, even though typing "how are you?" takes only a fraction of a second more than typing "hw r u" (the question mark isn’t always there). It is the text messaging revolution and the instant messaging culture that begot this 'nuevo net lingo'. And soon after its birth, "be right back" became "BRB", "laugh out loud" became "LOL" and so on. I do understand the usage of such abbreviated forms of expressions in a text message or while chatting because there one has a shortage of space to write on, but I don’t know why people use such lingo everywhere (from emails to Facebook)? Pardon my troglodytic idea about cool lingo, but I simply don’t get it. I some how feel that a language is sacrosanct and therefore inviolable, and when I see people around me are conversing in this language at social networking websites, blogging sites and even in emails, I cannot help but feel agitated. I guess this is high time I get used to this revolutionary new English or whatever it is else I might end up as a loner in this world.

Net Lingo surely and undeniably has a great influence on the world, wait till the day the Times of India reads something like this:

TOI: NWS, SPRTS, ENTRNMNT, LFE&STYL, HT ON THE WB, OP, BLGS, CLASS
Hdlns: Jt Arwys flghts canclld coz plots go o9 mss casl leav

I tell you that day is not far when every thing in this world starting from your résumé to your formal letter to the boss would be written in cool net lingo. I wonder how my resume would look, probably like this:

"FN: BSB

POB: Kol, WB

DOB:…"


The process would undoubtedly be great since we are
all engaged in the marathon rat-race of career to such an extent that our lives are devoid of leisure or entertainment or feeling good about our work, during these tough times who wants to worry about a malleable language? But I think the spirits of Shakespeare or Keats would never compose even their random thoughts in this net lingo. May be people are losing originality these days or may be it is the "chalta hai" culture that is responsible for the transformation of language (English in this case) or may be people like us who love the English language and try to learn it to the best of our ability should better give up their high hopes of listening to or learning an unstained, pure English and try becoming cool like others.



© Barnali Banerjee., all rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bollywoodi Copy-art

If somebody wants to have an in-depth knowledge of the subject called “copy-art”, I suggest him to pack his bag and take the next flight to Bollywood. Last weekend my husband and I were watching a Woody Allen classic, Husbands and Wives; and after barely five minutes of the movie, we both felt that we had watched the picture before. I taxed my brain trying to find out where I had seen it, but sadly my mind couldn’t reply, the inability of my brain to solve my query led me to believe that may be I need to take a memory supplement to boost my comatose memory level. But then, as we went on watching the movie for another ten minutes or so, it came to us, like lighting, we had indeed seen a Hindi movie, a retrograded Bollywood version of the Husbands and Wives. It is called Dil Kabaddi, and I remembered how I had thoroughly enjoyed the mature directorial work and even had recommended the movie to some of my friends. Little had I known then that the movie which I had so enjoyed was copied directly, even painstakingly, from the Woody Allen movie. I know I should have googled the name before because that night when I did, I found a series of film reviews that stated how Bollywood is becoming a masterful copycat. I am not doing a vivisection of the Bollywood animal, but I feel at heart that copy art is fake art, a sort of art that is trivial and therefore worthless. It is true that all that glitters cannot be gold, all films made cannot be classics, but Bollywood should aim at something original rather then copying directly from Hollywood movies. I went on to watch the full movie and at the end of it, I felt like emailing the director with the question what good it did to him copying a whole classic movie—scene to scene, frame to frame, dialogue to dialogue—did it bring out his creativity or did it show us how utterly hapless he is as director? The fact that he employed the Bollywood stars in his movie put dialogues in their lips and made them act so beautifully barely shows his management skills. I feel bad for Rahul Bose and Konkona Sen who have acted so well in the movie, they are well deserved actors who brought out the essence of the film, but their work will not be given any importance in international film community because of the director’s action of shameless copying the Woody Allen movie. In fact, not only Dil Kabaddi, a series of Bollywood films that are released every year are merely copies of some Hollywood movie or the other. Ghajni, the Aamir Khan classic, is inspired by Memento, and I am sorry to say that Ghajni didn’t do justice to the subtle and emotionally stark Memento by incorporating the theme and putting in all the Bollywood spices and thereby creating a jambalaya of god knows what. Now the question is why Bollywood thrives on copy-art? Are the directors and producers not confident in creating original screenplays anymore, or is it another marketing technique, the sole motive of which is big-cash-less-work. It is sad that they don’t realize that by doing a complete replica of a Hollywood movie they are sacrificing the quality of the film industry, and are using the acting skills of so many talented actors for their vile, money making strategies. Compromising the quality and creativity of such good actors is nothing but an offense to me. Added to that, they are encouraging the Indian audience to indulge happily in plagiarism and forget all originality and creativity that they might have in them. Being inspired by a piece of art—a movie or a book—is okay, but copying it from start to finish is a transgression.



I felt bad for Woody Allen, who had put so much thought and effort in his movie, and now some nameless Bollywood director took everything and stripped his work of its gravity. I also detest the way the Bollywood copy-movies never mention the name of the actual movie or the name of the director who they copied their movie and screen play from. I found no referencing, not a word about Woody Allen in Dil Kabaddi; the director just used Allen’s art to glorify his own name. He must have thought how a large section of Indian audience would come to know about the art-theft? Keeping in mind the fact that a large portion of Bollywood loving people have no access to internet or Hollywood movies; his theft would be unknown to the world. But there sure are people like us, bloggers and intellectuals, who before garlanding the director with beloved praises would love be critical to the form of art he has produced. There are so many good Indian writers and they have produced masterpieces in literature and art, I wonder why Bollywood never thinks of using some of such great creative works in their movies. If you watch carefully most of the recent Bollywood movies, you will notice that it is ‘love’ which is the sole topic of almost all the movies, often blended with hot spices like ‘religious clashes and vendettas’, ‘gangster wars’ and then again ‘love’. The circle is so small; they only have a handful of topics. As for the dialogues, let’s give that part a blind eye. I cannot recall one good movie after Taare Zameen Par and A Wednesday or Madhur Bhandarkar’s Page 3 that touched me. And after watching Husbands and Wives, I have decided to abstain from watching Bollywood movies unless they are original and creative. When Bollywood talks about class and quality, I know they are merely rodomontading about their marketing skills.


Finally, I have forever wondered why Satyajit Ray is the only film director Hollywood and International Film Community respects? I now have the answer. Ray was original and talented. His passion for art was real and not adulterated with money making strategies. That is probably why his works are classics in the world of cinema, and even if he is no longer with us, his masterpieces—Apu Trilogy, Ghare baire and other works—have broken all the boundaries of time and space and they will continue to be the only Kohinoor in Indian cinema. I am angered even with the idea of comparing a genius like Ray with the modern Bollywood directors, who lack the zeal of producing quality cinema. They can never be Ray, because they never try or aim to become somebody like him.


A few weeks back, I was having a conversation with a friend, and we were talking about the Oscars and why Bollywood never gets one nowadays. Slumdog Millionaire is NOT a Bollywood movie, even though it used Bollywood technicians and musicians, it is a directorial work of Danny Boyle. Slumdog Millionaire in fact is a slap on contemporary Bollywood movies since it depicts in its central theme and structure the Indian author Vikas Swarup’s book “Q&A”. Couldn’t an Indian director have made this movie? Couldn’t he have used the genius of A.H Rahman and Gulzar to make the heavenly music for it, but did they do it—No! Then why does Bollywood treat Slumdog Millionaire as its own property when the truth is, it is not. Bollywood has all the talent it needs to make an Oscar winning movie, the problem is they never use their talents in a proper way, they never channel creativity in masterful fashion. I am happy that talented actors like Anil Kapoor and Irfan Khan are exploring Hollywood and not being incarcerated in the cell of the Bollywoodi world where they have no scope to flourish and express their creativity.

© Barnali Banerjee., all rights reserved.

Say No to Junk Mails

M-ma
U-ulive
M-many
M-many
Y-years

Forward this message 2 ur ATLEAST 10 friends including me

2 make ur mom live long”



Have you ever thought what could happen if you don’t forward this message from some anonymous philosopher? I guess your mother would have to die an untimely death and that too because of you and your skepticism.



I received the above message from a virtual friend at a social networking website. I was instantly shocked that he, who is a lawyer, could forward an utterly illogical, brainless forward message to his friends. These spam forward messages and mails flood our mailboxes everyday, and each one has some imperative message in it. They ask us to forward the message, in most cases, to all the people in our contact list and thereby save ourselves from utter mishap. If you read them carefully, you will feel that Cassandra’s clairvoyant spirit might have haunted these divine philosophers who write these predictions in their dream, and her specter might have insisted that they read the mind of the world. But Cassandra would never do such a thing, since she, I guess, has more important things to do, and I think people who write these baseless messages and use the softer side of our mind to propagate their bogus ideas, should better find another useful profession.



The soul aim of these forward junk posts, as I call them, are to make us truckle in the face of misfortune. We as human beings should have the courage to face life; and our minds, in order to prosper, should be devoid of baseless fears and superstitions. I agree that faith plays an important role in our lives; I think religion and belief are an intrinsic part of our existence. But these people use the suppleness of our mind and force us to believe that if we don’t cater to their wishes (i.e. forwarding the mails or messages) something really bad would happen or we would miss the chance of changing our checkered lot. My question to these people is where on earth did they know all these? Did they meet the Almighty? Or did they decipher the codes of life and death? I know they cannot answer me, because their prescience depends on chicanery. They make a series of chimerical stuff up and throw them at humble and honest people. And these people, mostly out of fear or out of sheer practice, instead of stopping the process of sending and receiving these junk mails altogether, send the mails to every contact in the list and thereby propagate the bogus ideas.



Here are a few mails that I had in my inbox:




I do not have any personal acquaintance with the President of Argentina, and due to my lackadaisical social skills, I totally forgot to forward this important message. I did have a lot of disorder in my life, well, we all do, but I am not intending to blame my act of not sending this mail to others for my personal problems. I am not agnostic, I am a believer in divine grace, but I detested the mail because it intimidates me and God never threatens or intimidates His children. I realized that Jesus or Mother Mary didn’t mail me so I discarded this message. My passive approach to the juggernaut of future did make me feel powerful. I am glad that I am not swayed by common practices and that I choose to bear my individuality and judge every situation by my own wit rather than listening to others and following their views blindly.





Here is another one:




Even though, at these strenuous economical situations, we all need Mahalaxmi to bless us fiscally, I don’t wish an electronic message to convey my wishes to her. I am old fashioned in transmitting my wishes to God, and I trust a silent prayer more than this email. So, I did not forward the mail and dug a pothole in my fortune.


Finally, I would like to say that faith and belief are one's personal choices and I don’t intend to denigrate one’s personal believes, but if people read the junk mails before forwarding, I am sure we will be receiving them less often than we do now. Exploitation of believes have become a thriving industry in India, and I wish to see a newer India devoid of a pile of superstitions in her mind. Destiny can not be averted, misfortune and good fortune come in circles; and happiness and sorrow would come and go even if you send these mails or not. I believe in the inner goodness of humanity and I detest the art of trickery that these junk forward messages are using to sway the human mind. As a blogger and a writer, I would be happy and would consider my effort positive, if you abstain from sending the next forward mail you get in your inbox.



Cheers!

Barnali



© Barnali Banerjee., all rights reserved.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Journey With A Dream

This evening I went to see a fascinating movie Julie and Julia. The movie depicts the lives of two women who are lost in the jungle of life. It is a movie about how these two seemingly ordinary women find their ultimate passion, their ultimate goal. As I was watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think about myself, yes about ME! I couldn’t help but think how for long I have been indulging in an intellectually abstemious diet which lacked completely the nutrient I call the ‘Metamin’. In a second I realized that I have deliberately stopped thinking about myself as a person, and as a writer. However small and insignificant I might be, I still deserve one blog, one write up, wholly dedicated to my small journey as a struggling writer. Like Julie and Julia I too felt like “drowning” at one point of my life, I too was “lost” and yet, after a period of considerable struggle, I could find a ray of light, even if it is a faint one.

My little journey began when I got married to my childhood love and disembarked at the O’Hare Airport, Chicago on May 18th 2006. I was then in my early twenties, newly married. I had no idea what I was up to. I didn’t know what to expect from an immigrant life with a dependant visa in my passport. I could do nothing—no job, no study—nothing. When my friends in India were basking in the glory of their new jobs and bold career decisions, I was being merely a homemaker. Being a homemaker label on you is popularly held as some kind of an offense; people have pestered me with innumerable queries as to how I spend my time at home. “Must be painful for you?” “Why don’t you get a job?” are some of the queries I am now used to hearing. So there I was, lonely as a winter night, totally dubious about the prospect of having a career, trying hard to get an admission at some universities, but nothing was working out. I was depressed, shattered, and friendless. Then I took to writing – I had always loved writing something creative. Even if I never thought of taking it seriously, I decided to spend the ocean of time I had writing some meaningful stuff. When I was in India, I wrote a short story “Dead Madonna”, and read it to my then fiancé, now husband. He was ecstatic, even though now I regard that story as an immature experiment; he told about it to everybody and had encouraged me to start writing seriously. Now, when he saw my current situation— my intolerable state of coping with a new country and a new community where every one I see around is working, he gave me the idea of repeating the writing experiment again. I still remember the terrible bouts of loneliness I had when I would spend my days crying for help, and there would be no one beside me to soothe except my dear husband. I took his words seriously and wrote couple of poems and started dabbling in writing.

One night, as I opened my email, I found an unexpected email from the editor of DNA-ME. She had written in her email that my short story, Dead Madonna, had been published in her magazine. I was ecstatic! It was a moment I would never forget in my life. That was my first big publication, I couldn’t believe my eyes. My husband spent the whole night even calling up folks back in India who had the idea that I was a failure! I jumped and cried, called my parents, and showed everybody the story. That was my first life changing incident that led me to believe that may be I can write! The following day I activated my comatose Sulekha blogging account and decided to pour some energy into it.

From then on, I began to write, and believe me; I never knew where the ideas came from. The plots of my initial writings came almost like some sudden storms in a tropical country. My hubby bought me several books on writing style and technique, and inspired me to read them and talk about what I learnt from them with him after he is back from work. Even though he is a scientist, he listened to my creative ideas, and even inspired me to submit my works to some magazines in the USA. I was not confident, and I detested the idea of criticisms and rejections by magazines in USA who have this highly competitive submission process. But he was all encouraging, he told me about his PhD research experience in this country – how his advisor taught him everything from designing an experiment to conducting the challenging research work by overcoming occasional failures, and finally, presenting the results in a written form of a peer reviewed paper. He was so nice to me and he still is, more than my parents, my friends, my relatives who at one point had the idea that an ordinary woman like me with average education could never make it to the point I have reached today. It was my husband who taught me to think big, or at least to aim for it.

I began trying my best to write. I started reading seriously the text books for the MFA courses in top US universities by myself, rather devoured them. I spent hours thinking about what I read and how the book influenced me. Although I became socially less active, and some time even little moody, today I think those books have become an intrinsic part of my life; they are my real friends, my soul-mates. During this time, I met a wonderful girl at a social networking website who is a master blogger, an experienced editor, and a poet. We became friends and I decided to show her some of my early write-ups. She instantly pointed out thousands of mistakes that I had made in my work. I was outraged and soon broke all ties with her. But, it so happened, that destiny brought us together and we became friends, confidantes probably. I began giving her my writings to go through them and check for mistakes. She was an editor at one point in her life and she masterfully pointed out the flaws. This time, I took it upon myself to write something so wonderful, so good that she would have to say, “You are an amazing writer” and yes, she did say it, a week back after reading one of my new short stories. She is another angel to me who taught me to take English seriously, to love that language and even feel it in my nerves. She modified my crude style and made me feel confident as a writer. It is because of her that I got the confidence of sending my works to American magazines, and guess what, even though I got several rejection letters, I did get some acceptance letters too. So, here I am, two and half years later, a completely changed and relatively mature human being who is thinking of taking writing professionally in near future. I have discovered my passion, my ultimate goal and now I know exactly what I love to do—write. I may be just a speck in the sea of writers, but I am confident that if am choosing the right path for me. Overall, I am an ordinary woman with a major role as a homemaker, and I love to take care of the man who makes my life worth living. You don’t get a “Thanksgiving Day” everyday, today I would like to thank these two people—my husband and my friend for being so wonderful and for teaching me to be confident and smart.

I love you!

*********************************************

Here is a list of my published and would be published creative works:

1. Critical Appreciation of “The Lamb” by William Blake: “Words' Worth”— Journal of the Department of English, Sivanath Sastri College, West Bengal, India (2004).

2. Dead Madona (Short Story): Published in the “DNA-Me”, Issue- August 2008, Daily News Analysis (DNA) group, Mumbai, India.

3. Being a Tree (Poem) : Published in the Palki magazine, Issue-5, October 2008

4. Friends Forever (Poem): Published in the 8th Day, The Statesman, December 14, 2008; Kolkata, India.

5. Ode to autumn (Poem): Published in the 8th Day, The Statesman, December 14, 2008; Kolkata, India.

6. The Game (Short Story): Published in the 8th Day, The Statesman, January 2009, Kolkata, India.

7. Tale of the Sea (Short Story): Published in the Palki magazine, issue-6, February 2008.

8. I Hope (Poem) published in the Palki magazine, issue-6, February 2009.
9. If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name (Book review): Published in the Windows and Aisles Magazine, official in-flight magazine of the Paramount Airways, India.
10.Road to Smoky Paradise (Travelogue): Published in The Indian Express, Chennai Edition, December 2008, India.
11.Road to Smoky Paradise (Travelogue): Published in The Indian Express, Hyderabad Edition, January 2009, India.
12.Addiction (Short Story): Published in the Many Midnights magazine, March 2009, USA.
13.The Kleptomaniac (Short Story): Published in the Pens on Fire magazine, April 2009, USA.
14.Welcome to America, (Short Story): Published in the Sristi magazine, May 2009
15.Remembering Suze (Short Story): Published in the Many Midnights magazine, May 2009, USA.
16.The Veiled Idol (Short Story): Published in the Palki magazine issue-7, June 2009.
17.Born Into A Brothel (Short Story): Published in the Muse India Literary Journal, ISSN:(0975-1815), July 2009, India.
18.The Unveiled Life (Poem): Published in The Pens on Fire magazine, July 2009.
19.Layoff (Short Story): Accepted in the Pens on Fire magazine, to be published in November 2009, USA.
20.Film Review of Chuhnyang (A Korean film review): Accepted and to be published in Silhouette magazine, November 2009, India.

21.Checkers (short Story): Accepted and to be published in The Long Story Short magazine, November 2009, USA.

22.The Relationship Adviser (Short Story): Accepted and to be published in Woman’s Era, Delhi Press, India.

23.Missed Connection (short Story): to be published in Mused — Bella Online Literary Review Magazine, 23rd September 2009, USA.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rakhi ka Swayamvar






It seems that Indian audiences have had enough of their delightful saas-sahu drama reigning their TV screen, and now they seek another exotic dish to woo their taste buds. Kudos to Rakhi Sawant, our very own controversy-queen, who took it upon herself to embark on an extraordinary visual- culinary feat to satisfy the taste buds of fussy Indian TV viewers via her ground breaking show “Rakhi ka Swayamvar”. The show is said to have annihilated with its fatal blow records that several TV shows have made till date. Rakhi managed to resuscitate a dying TV culture and created, what she can best do, a full on drama. The show seeks to help a series of young, (un) intellectual guys in their quest for the Holy Grail i.e. a connubial bond with Rakhi Sawant. The guys compete with each other to veto one another’s chance of winning Rakhi’s hand in holy matrimony and for that they take part in several outrageous, dramatic and bathetic games. At the end of an episode, a person who has been ruled out leaves the show and often gives an emotionally pathetic parting speech to show his innate romantic (or dramatic) side, while the queen of the show stands beside him soothing him with her husky voice. I was trying to watch one full episode of the show, but sadly my spirit fails and my ingenuity withers after the first fifteen minutes of the show. However, the knowledge I gained within the first fifteen minutes would surely bring me some nightmarish reverie sometime soon.

The heated music and the body language of Rakhi’s brave suitors and herself would horripilate the viewer and usher in the same kind of drama as evident in the unbearable slapping scenes of the saas-bahu altercation sequences in our favorite dinner-time sitcoms. The TRP drama that’s is going on has been a boon for Rakhi Sawant, who is finding all the media exposure that she needs, but I doubt if the same level of TRP will be swaying her personal life too. It is humorous that the sanctity of a marital bond is currently dependent on an unrealistic-reality TV show! It is being said that Rakhi has influenced (detrimentally?) the Indian women with her show, and now more and more woman crave for a swayamvar of their own. I pity the partners and the boyfriends of those women. These men may have to go through the rigmarole of formally winning the women in their life. They may have to take an agni pariksha or have to break an unbreakable bow to get their lady love. Such a practice would no doubt bring in an era of Shakespearean love heroes, but would destroy the sanctity of a logical Indian mind.
The idea that women can revive the lost mythological tradition of choosing a heroic husband sounds interesting to me; I wish I had thought about such a creative idea before I had got married. The fact that Rakhi Sawant is now on television all decked up as a bride, who has completed every matrimonial ritual and needs only a husband to take the final step, is no doubt bold. I found her argument that if “Sita” could find a “Ram” via her “Swayamvar”, why Rakhi Sawant cannot find a “Shyam” through her “Swayamvar” interesting. That’s a great logical point coming from an overtly illogical lady. But a study of the cartoonish suitors brought in my mind the idea that may be the “Shyam” that she has been looking for is dwelling in some other, possible lesser romantic world.

I seem have lost my romantic aura after being “realistically” involved in a real-life marital bond. And truly, I cannot bear the idea of Indian women resorting to a practice of swayamvar for choosing their partners. Such an act may have been relevant in an obsolete millennium, currently; in this twenty-first century such an act is stupid. The trust factor, the innate honesty and more importantly the true feeling of angelic love would be lost if women resort to such an irrelevant practice. I believe that Indian women are more commonsensical than Rakhi Sawant, and would not take her and her absurd show too seriously. However, in our modern stressful life, we do need a nonsensical program to eradicate out anxiety, and this show would be a chart topper in those cases; but viewer discretion is advised when Rakhi Sawant is concerned.