Friday, 14 October 2016

Why Must One Watch Pink?

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Yes, Pink has amazing performances. Every scene, every act and every move in the movie is well-taken and well edited. Scenes with and without dialogues are equally powerful. But, Pink stands out in the box office because there is lot more to it than great performances. The message it conveys and the manner in which it is conveyed is truly exemplary.

When I was watching Pink, I was reminded of:
  • A friend who was totally uncomfortable staying with a girl who had many guy friends. Please note that these guys never came over to their place. She was simply uncomfortable thinking that she was in the ‘wrong company’. 
  • Friends who are embarrassed/feel worked up or concerned if their kids, who are boys love the color pink or purple, love cooking games or ask their mother for a bindi, while dressing up.
  • My friends who have empathized with me saying, ‘after all you are a girl!’
  • People, strikingly even girls, who have commented that in the movie ‘No One Killed Jesscia’, the victim, after all, wore short skirts and she was ‘too’ bold.
  • Guys and girls who felt a celebrity woman was over reacting to a bad touch or making it up, owing to the fact that she played the leading role in a cult movie.
  • Weird advises - you stand too close to guys when you talk to them.
        Me, really? When?”
    Not when you stand face-to-face when you stand side by side.
  •     Don’t tell anyone that you are abused/raped – if there’s anyone who will be left ashamed – it will be you.
There is a proverb in Malayalam which transliterates to ‘whether the thorn falls on the leaf or vice versa, it is the leaf that is at a loss.’ I am sure there are versions of the same proverb in all languages. This dictates and mirrors a social mindset. Guys will after all be guys. It is high time we break this mindset. If the thorn is at fault – it is; period. Do we consider it respectful and a matter of honor that men rape? If the answer is no, why blame the victim?

There needn’t be a prejudice that a girl/woman is friendly because of a hidden agenda. Character cannot be assessed with the length of one’s skirt, the choice of attire or by her choice of drinks.

Subconsciously we – women and men alike - always try reasoning out why a rape or misbehavior occurred – the girl wasn’t dressed well, the guy was provoked, she was out at night, she was walking alone. Have you ever caught yourself saying, “Oh my God! And all this happened in broad daylight.” So, we have separate rules for days and nights. The truth of the matter is - a crime is a crime is a crime.

A stranger has no business to teach a girl, on the road, how to dress, who she should be with, and when she should be outdoors. Rape, abuse and torture has nothing to do with upholding the moral values of our country.

I have often asked men who, I am sure are sane, what they would do when they see a girl who is skimpily dressed. I have often seen a surprise reality dawn on them when they realize that they would never resort to raping or teaching anyone a lesson. Again, a verdict to the fact that rape and emotional/verbal abuse is a crime. It may stem out of feudal upbringing or many other myriad reasons. But, at the end of the day, there are no other explanations or excuses - it is a crime.

Watch Pink to see things in a different light. Watch Pink to be aware of what you need to advise your girls and boys. Watch Pink to instill the most precious of qualities in your children - compassion and mutual respect. Most girls freeze when they are in a situation where they can be abused. Girls are most often confused and believe that they are the ones at fault. This is true even in the case of child abuse – girls and boys alike. Do we parents have a role in instilling fear in our children, to make things easy for us? Think about it.

As parents, teachers and mentors, I believe, we need to modify our advise patterns and methodologies. Don’t just like and share valuable pieces of parenting tips you read on the Internet. Practice them! Do it for yourself. Do it for the next generation. It is not for us to fear a mistake we may have committed and take a whole crime scene, if any, on our shoulders.

Watch Pink simply because it makes sense. Watch it for yourself. Watch it for your children and with your children.

I'll stop with a few - very few - negative comments of the movie I came across, which I think is worth discussing. They are:

1.       There was too much drama in the court scenes.
2.       The climax is predictable.
3.       Why Pink?
4.       Pink fails to ring a bell in the feudal minds and thus, is a failure.

I, personally, love the movie from the title to the climax. The title breaks your expectation of seeing something cheerful and girly if something’s termed as Pink. The movie is out and out about changing mindsets.

The tears, the drama and the uncertain faces in the court is a true verdict that fear is a common factor no matter what we know about legal rights of women and the social trend regarding these laws. Nobody really wants to go to court. So, I think, Pink is pictured as realistically as it can be.

About the climax - I am grateful that the maker did not weigh the thriller aspect over the intent of the movie. I am truly glad nobody jumps with joy in the court room after the verdict. That would have been unwanted drama. The confused look on the face of the antagonist deserves a special plus. 

The 4th point stated above is sadly true to a large extent. However, drastic changes never happen. Change is a constant but it takes time. Time will tell and prove it. Let us firmly hope that Pink will be what a movie like Arth, for instance, seems today versus when it was at the time it was made. Until then, we should be happy even if one out of million mindsets change.

Thank you to the makers and the actors - thank you for Pink! 

Friday, 10 June 2016

Movies That Touched My Heart: My Sister's Keeper

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Do a Google search on cancer survivors; the results are numerous. Do we check for the tragic stories? I don’t think so. It’s not that we don’t care; it’s just that we rightfully seek hope. But hope may not always take shape of how we know it to be. My Sister's Keeper is a verdict to that.

It’s amazing how we force ourselves to stay positive, be supportive and not lose hope - to motivate and help a loved one fight terminal illness. We need to get them to believe that it’s not the end of the road. No disputes – we should. However, sometimes we are so focused on keeping someone dear, with us that we forget to see the bigger picture. We take it for granted that the afflicted shares the same dream as ours. After all, who doesn't want to stay alive?

My Sister’s Keeper, an adaptation of the book by the same name by Jodi Picoult, relates the story of the Fitzgerald family and their journey through one of the most toughest of times - helping a member fight cancer. Director Nick Cassavetes has carefully sewn a bunch of moments together and wound them around a reel. The highlight is he has done the job without being preachy. Nick strikes the balance of capturing sorrow camouflaged in smiles - a rather difficult feat. This family drama adds a new dimension to the phrase - 'respect life'. 

I watched the movie wearing the cap of a sibling and a friend – I understood where the strength came from. I watched it with the heart of a mother –I could feel the turmoil, I sensed questions rising, I welled up and searched for strength. Most importantly, I understood that no mother can ever be fully understood.

If somebody told me this story before I watched the movie, I’d never imagine Cameron Diaz having anything to do in it. But, she is in it and she’s done a fabulous job. Every member of the cast and crew deserves a special applause. – yes, every one of them!

Be prepared to smile and cry. It’s intense but it carries a lot of warmth. If you haven’t already, watch My Sister’s Keeper.

To the makers and the cast – speechless and sincerely grateful for this truly brave attempt!

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Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The Jungle Book – A Story Retold With Much Finesse

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The number of times I have watched Disney’s Jungle Book as a child is countless. That was a time when it seemed like I had befriended Bagheera and Baloo. I felt Mowgli was the luckiest boy on earth.  Who would dare harm a kid who had a panther, a bear and elephants for friends? Shere Khan and Kaa were scary but the cartoon made me fall in love with them too. I used to try waking up Bagheera to throw Kaa down the tree and wait for Shere Khan’s screen space with Kaa. Why? I even loved the vultures!

In an effort to get my son to enjoy this magic, I got him the Diamond Edition of this legendary cartoon. Watching it with him was like reliving my golden childhood. With so much of love for the cartoon version, you can imagine the kind of excitement I felt when Disney announced their 2016 movie version of this age-old cartoon. To my relief and amazement it was a pleasure to see my son even more excited when he saw the promos during his TV time.

And so it happened this Sunday – two generations sat in front of the big screen, all set with 3D glasses; equally excited to watch something very close to their heart. For us elders, it was like watching some of their role model celebrities come back to life and for the kids it was all awe!

The makers have brushed up the characters to give them a more realistic touch. The elephants, for instance, have been altered to be majestic rather than comic. There are many characters, which are not included and yet many have been added. I don’t know if you will or will not miss the ones, which have been omitted. But, I promise you one thing. Jon Favreau has ensured you get a great expedition through this jungle.

I loved the way Justin Marks has remodeled the story for the movie. It works well even for those who do not know anything about the past versions of Jungle Book – the book or the cartoon. Most importantly, the story is remolded for us adults. Though the older version is complete in itself, you get a greater sense of completion when you watch the movie. This time they dwell into Mowgli’s flashback and do I love the way they’ve used Kaa’s character to relate that part, or what! The climax is also something I just can’t stop raving about. It captures the zeal of a little boy who decides to do something with no one to turn to for advice. Most importantly, they succeed in including the flaws he can end up making in the process, simply because he is unaware of what he is going to experiment.

I caught some comments once we were out of the movies. Some people wanted more of Shere Khan, while others thought there should have been more of Kaa. That, in itself, is the hallmark of a movie well-made.

The Jungle Book turns out to be a movie exceeding expectations - a movie strong in story line, brilliant in direction, wonderful in cast and crew, superb in dialogue delivery and precise in editing!

I am still in awe of Bagheera, Baloo and the elephants. King Louis, the orangutan, is larger than I imagined. I really didn’t expect the movie picturing the monkeys taking away Mowgli just the way it is shown in the cartoon. In fact, it is done with added zing. Shere Khan is intense, in gesture and dialogue delivery; even the threats are so feline in nature – subtle and intense. You wish you could see more of Kaa; and Rakhsa - she is so very endearing – my heart went out to her. From the porcupine to Mowgli to the mighty Shere Khan everybody gave a scintillating performance.

Get your children to taste this fantastic sense of wonder. The U/A certification is only to ensure that you need to be beside them. There are many scenes, which they may want to watch sitting on your lap or holding you close. However, their eyes are sure to be glued to the screen.

The messages are a plenty in this movie. Watch it to find out about how rules are adhered to in the jungle – you have law breakers everywhere. Watch it to remind yourself that your fears will continue to haunt you unless you decide to face it. Watch it to believe in yourself and accept yourself for what you are.

Watch it even if you do not have children of your own – relive your childhood!

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Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Say Yes to Equality

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Last year on Woman’s Day, I used this space to narrate tales of two women who were bold and beautiful. While I am still in awe of every woman out there who dares to live a life of their choice; my thoughts have taken a slightly different route this year.

I’d like all you pals, men and women alike, to help me understand a few things:

Why Women's Day?
Are we only entitled to a minor share on the number of days on the calendar, as well?

What exactly is this term called women’s rights?
I prefer calling it human rights.

Why is there a need to empower women?
Just recognize our power and worth, you won't need to empower anybody anymore.

Women’s Liberation – what’s that!?!

I am true to my ideology when I ask people not to put women on a pedestal. There is no need. Just treat them as an equal. We come with our own strengths and weaknesses. Yes, we are special and so are men. As a woman, I’d plead to live and let me live.

In the recent past, the papers announced that a certain celebrity couple was contemplating on divorce. Among the many ‘duh?!?’ comments I heard flying in and around me, this one was the undisputed ruler – ‘Nowadays, just because they work and make some money, women think they don’t need a husband. Just look at the rising number of divorce rates!’

When you logically decipher that comment in your head you get an equation, which looks like:
Women + Job = Divorce + Happy Women

Is that so? I have a question to people who justify this thought:
Is financial security the only thing a man has to offer in a marriage?
The comment I heard can be justified only if the answer to this is a yes, right?

If it is a yes, I'm sorry but you were cooking marriage with the divorce recipe.

Coming back to women's day...

Thank you for all the cheers and messages glorifying womanhood. I know that there are people out there who really mean it too. 

But, what we really need is peaceful co-existence, which evolves from mutual respect. I am not a feminist and I don’t intend to be one. Feminism, to me, is the same as that of chauvinism.

Try shedding the coat of chauvinism; chances are that you will see feminism vanishing like fog disappearing on a sunny morning.

Let us join hands to gift a world of equality to the younger generation. We need to be together simply for the joy of being together! Relationships are built on emotions; it is the application of logic that often spoils it.

Let's strive to be humans with compassion. Everything else will just fall in place.

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Monday, 25 January 2016

Let Us Drive!

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When I was much younger and dreamed of the woman I would be someday, I always saw myself driving my own car. To think of it now, I really don't know how I pictured that dream back then; I grew up in an era when not many women even cared to be behind the wheel. Anyway, that's what I pictured; and that is how I commute today.

Today, we are in an era where almost all girls take driving classes. It has become almost as staple as it used to be to take typewriting classes in the past – you graduate or post graduate, learn driving either after working hours or while trying for a job. It is not alien to see women driving nowadays – not even on highways. Yet again, the ‘learned-driving-have-a-license’ to ‘yes-I-drive’ ratio is quite low.

Some say they do not want to because it can be a cause for husbands to shy away from their part of household help. Some say they just can't, even though time and again driving instructors have assured them that they are driving just fine. I even have a friend whose last-so-far driving instructor started dozing in the passenger seat hoping at least that would be assurance enough for her. There are others who admit it to be a combination of both.

This post comes to all of you gals and pals who have several demons in their heads keeping you away from getting behind those wheels. It's not that any of us who do, never battled demons, you know?

It took 4 years for my driver's license to graduate from an address proof to what it was actually meant to be! When we decided to buy a car, I took a crash course only to find the instructor thoroughly disappointing and annoyingly nosy. I switched to taking weekend classes with a cousin, who was an awesomely fearless instructor. However, weekend classes proved to be too less for me. So, my brother offered to come down to give me full-time classes for a fortnight. I drove, with him beside me, to office and back. In my final appraisal, he said that I had learnt to connect the dots. Basically, if I got out of my gate, I would reach the destination – the whens couldn't really be answered then.

The Monday after the weekend my brother left, I was left with a debating head. One side of my brain prompted how lazy I was to take the bus or an auto anymore. It reminded me how much at ease it would be if I braved to drive down. Then there was this other voice screaming out in paranoid, playing a slideshow of demons – gear-shift, half clutch, parking, etc. - which got my heart to pump extra blood into my veins.

The first step I took was called up my husband and declared that I am taking the car – alone. 

My head was still debating though; it was a trial to cheat it or convince it, I guess. Throughout the whole process of getting ready to work, I kept telling myself that I would forget the car key before I locked my front door and would be lazy to get back in to get it. Fortunately or unfortunately, that never happened. And so, with a pounding heart and a head full of demons I chose to drive alone. The traffic on the street I lived on back then consisted of everything from bicycles to bullock carts. Owing to the limitations of the expert level I was at that time, there was no way I could turn back once I hit the road. So, in a way, I was compelled to drive all the way till office – poor me.

So, here goes a list of crazy things I did on the road:

  • Answering my brother's question, "is that fine? Can you see now?" as he helped adjust my rear-view mirror with a counter-question "What exactly am I supposed to see?" - yea, I was that dumb!
  • Honking at a poor old man on a bicycle, on an empty and wide 2-lane road, when all I had to do was change lanes and move on
  •  Shifting gears from 3-1 (3 being the highest I would ever switch to in those days) because I sensed some huge vehicle coming by; I gave way to a truck and shifting gears from 2-1 in the next couple of seconds; this time to give way to an aircraft, which flew over me
  • Flying over road bumps, which if spotted, would have earned me a role in the Fast & Furious or at least one of the Dhoom series
  • Lifting my right leg to give way to the car overtaking mine
  • Praying hard for every place in town to be blessed with valet parking
  • Calculating if it was worthwhile hiring a driver just to park my car
  • Driving in the rain on 1st gear alone to avoid skidding

The list can go on and on… But, I realized that driving, just like any other skill, just follows the practice makes perfect policy. The sooner you realize that and the lesser you think of adversities, which may or may not befall you, the better. Just do it!

I'll stop with one advice a dear friend once gave me, which made sense and went a long way for me. When you are in your car – think Transformers! Don’t alienate your car and think of it as its gears, its rear view mirror, its steering, etc. You need to feel your car and for that you need to get into a joint partnership with the same. So imagine all the ‘its’, mentioned above, to be your limbs. In turn, you get to be the brain and the eyes of your vehicle. The only way you can slow down or pace up your automobile avatar is by shifting gears – that’s all. Then, do whatever you do when you walk or run. Try it, to believe it.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Happys Birthdays

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Once upon a time there was a girl, who like most other children her age, was super excited about birthdays. Birthdays then, made it to the top of the list of special days. The attention, the gifts, the leeway one gets on birthdays, etc. made it all the more cool. The birthday parties with neighbor friends was most often an event by the kids, of the kids and for the kids! The bill and food excused as parents’ responsibility, of course. That big box of Quality Street chocolates and the new birthday dress were pieces of treasure. In a world of school uniforms, she would tread around like a queen in a civilian outfit, popularly termed as ‘color dress’.

She was born in the month of October. It was not just her birthday that was dear to her. The month of October itself held a very special place in her heart. In the beginning of the year, before the new calendar took its place on the wall, she would secretly flip to see the image for the month of October. Every year she secretly hoped she would forget her birthday and be surprised when others wished her. The excitement, however, always made sure that that never happened.

As she grew up she attempted many an experimentation on this day. In junior school she asked the class prefect if she could ‘mind the class’(an act of making sure the rest of the class keeps it low in between two class hours) on her birthday. To her surprise, the class prefect not just gave her the responsibility; she did it like it was an honor to do so.  In high school she felt she needed to see how the Principal’s cabin looked like. Not everyone gets to tread in there. On one of her birthdays, after she was done distributing chocolates in her classroom, on her way to the teachers’ staff room, she decided to test if her ‘color dress’ would do its magic on the security guarding the Principal’s cabin. Today, she wonders if it were the clothes, the big wide smile or the chocolates offered to the security that earned her a pass to get into the Principal’s cabin. Talk about small pleasures… ‘He even touched me on my head and said, God bless you MY girl.” she boasted to her friends.

When she went to college, she learned that birthdays could be really messy, fun and full of surprises. Those egg smashes, the bucket full of God-alone-knows-what mixture poured over, the beautifully made-up rooms, which teenage creativity and some pocket money would permit; the gifts, the midnight cakes, birthday cards, hugs, wishes, and letters! No matter what difference in opinion one might have, birthdays always bought the teenage folk together, which truly meant a lot.

She grew up to learn that there are also people in this world who doesn’t care all that much about birthdays. Yes, of course, they felt good when they were at the receiving end but it seemed too silly to return the gesture. She felt the explanation too bizarre at first and then faced a thought provoking question from them– why do birthdays have to be treated special? It’s neither earned nor is it an achievement; it’s just an automatic process. She never had an answer for that.

A couple of years later, she got the answer during a casual conversation with a friend, who had lost her husband quite early in their marriage. “I’ll never turn 40 and it doesn’t feel great.” her husband once told her. He, who was a cancer patient, may his soul rest in peace. 

She is a mother today and is absolutely delighted to see the sparkle in her child’s eyes when he learned that mothers have birthdays too. Age has turned her birthday excitement to gratitude. Gratitude for life, gratitude for friends, for people who may have gotten on her nerves but invariably pushed her to discover the best in her and discover her true inner strength, gratitude to see that excitement doesn’t die off, it simply passes on to the next generation.

Appa, we should get a Barbie for Amma because she is a girl and it’s her birthday!” - this thought was the greatest gift she got this birthday.

Yes, birthdays are not an achievement. But, life is not always about achievements, is it? Life is like the air you breathe or like your best physical aspect you have- it may be your hair, your complexion, your teeth, anything.

We don't pay for oxygen so I don't know if we even care about the air we breathe until we get breathless. Similarly, most often your best is the one that is taken for granted. I have dark skin. I also have great hair and a wonderful smile. However, I have spent countless moments of my life trying to get fair. Today, I cherish myself so much more for what I am that I love my skin tone too.

Life is a boon; a blessing! Celebrate, cherish and respect it. 

Monday, 7 September 2015

Be Sensible and Secure: Be a Secularist

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Recently, I stumbled upon this YouTube video, which was forwarded over Whats App:

My eyes welled up watching this video, not just because it brought a smile on my face; it downloaded many a fond childhood memories. The books, which I most ‘greedily’ handed over to my Hindu neighbor-friend, every year, during vidhyarambham, the authoritative advises I gave friends that they don’t need to study on Good Friday either, the yummy evenings during the Holy month of Ramadan, the most awaited Eid holidays (I grew up in UAE), lighting those prohibited sparklers during Diwali, the pleasure and pride with which I took friends to church during Christmas - a childhood filled with so much of joy, peace and strong bonds of friendship.

I am secular because I grew up secular and am grateful for my secular self. Despite the various environmental changes, I have preserved this self only because it is extremely dear to me. Secularism, I understand now, is a religion in itself. The more you practice it, the more secular you are.

It takes a few clear-headed minds that can make a difference, for generations to come. As a parent, I am aware of the constant conflict of rights and wrongs that takes place up in the mind. But, the next time you stop your child from something as simple as eating something offered to a God alien to you, it would pay to stop and think about why you are doing so. If the only answer you get is to protect your child’s soul from perishing in the fires of hell, think again. Being happy breeds not just a tolerant crowd – it breeds a friendly lot. For years to come, it gifts them more reasons to smile and fewer hassles to deal with in this world, which will have enough and more stress to offer. One less is a lot that we can gift for generations to come.

Teach, by word and practice, about the love of your God.
Why focus on the wrath?

Traditions are and should be intended to bring people together, in every sense of togetherness.
It should not be to create a divide or show-off one's faith - whatever that means.

Thinking and brooding about this will bear no fruit. However, the moment you start practicing it, believe you me, you will not just help build a healthier and happier breed; you will feel the magic of peace within you.

Cheers to a happy planet!