28-Feb-2011

The simple joys of a weekend away

I am back, refreshed and happy, from a weekend away with the family.

This is what my routine was like -

Saturday – Reach Mahua Bagh, located close to Murud. Enter 25 acres of greenery and a handful of cottages, with just a tiny village nearby to remind me of civilization.

Eat yummy lunch.

Nap.

Pluck green mangoes from the bunch hanging onto our balcony

Read book on the hammock in the garden

Go for a walk to the sea.

Sit on the rocks, soak feet in the water and let the breeze play with my hair.

Return via a fishing village, with feet occasionally getting damp in the water.

Check out the home grown plants in the garden.

Gobble up gooseberries by the dozen straight from the plant. Tiny, plump, fresh gooseberries hanging in light green bunches. Gooseberries that don’t have to be washed before I plop them greedily into my mouth.

Eat yummy dinner

Play cards with the whole family

Sleep

Sunday - Wake up to the sound of the ocean and the bright light streaming through the white curtains

Have a round of intense badminton. Ignore the slight ache in the right shoulder from the utter lack of practice

Yummy breakfast of parathas stuffed with fresh methi plucked off the garden

More cards

Light game of throwball in the shade of the mango trees

Yummy lunch with veggies, again from the garden.

Nap

Gobble up tea and homemade carrot cake while watching bro-in-law playing with the four well-behaved dogs on the farm

Leave.



Veggies from the garden, the sea, trees and quiet, exercising for fun – I could do this everyday…

18-Feb-2011

A Tale of too many books

Every book lover has a dream scenario. It is usually a variation of the same theme – rows upon rows of books lined up against walls. My variation includes the grouping of books by categories, the shelves being painted white, and a sunny, comfortable window seat in a room ready for me to recline and read.

My reality had a tiny, wooden, open bookshelf that had long ago reached maximum capacity. Books were lined up two deep to begin with. Then they were wedged a little tighter together. Then two piles began to grow on the topmost rows to such levels that they could have qualified for a circus balancing act. Finally books were just tucked into any space that could be spotted.

Just as the number of books began to increase and overwhelm the shelf, my mood began to get sourer and sourer. This was a bit puzzling because I have always loved owning all those books. Then I realized that I now hated the fact that I just could not find anything to read in the mess.

I had earlier made a modest attempt at trimming my collection. I made a solid set of rules about which books were to be culled (pirated books, books never to be reread, books never to be read and so on and so forth). Of course, I had also decided to exercise some judicious discretion. Much discretion later, I had about eight books I was ready to throw away.

Then I had set my sights on a larger bookshelf – a lovely wooden structure with glass doors that would provide a large and loving home to our books while keeping the dust out. Scouring the likes of Lifestyle, I realized that such a shelf in a decent budget was as close to reality as Santa Claus.

Thus, one fine evening, I finally took a hard decision (Had I been in B.R.Chopra’s Mahabharata, thunder would have sounded and lighting would have flashed). I would put away some books in the cupboard, abandoning my long-held philosophy that books are meant to be displayed.

The division was done in a simplistic and non-emotional manner. Books I was yet to read were kept in the bookshelf. The rest went in. No tears were shed over the fact that ‘To Kill a Mockingbirdwould be left huddled in a dark space.

When the task was done, I was a bit shocked to see that practically one-third of my books had never been read/ completed. I had not quite realized that I had a veritable bookshop of my own. I mentally decided to go easy on buying books till I had made a reasonable dent into this one.

The decision has been successful in the last three weeks it has been operational. My very first book, a long ignored copy of Bill Bryson’s ‘Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid’ was a wonderful read.

I have also noticed that it is handy to be able to see books I usually just dip into, like comics or books of essays or of poems.

Unfortunately, my resolution not to buy books for a while has already been broken. A couple of days ago I spotted Jose Saramago’s The Elephant’s Journey, read a few pages, fell in love with it and bought it.

Evidently, good intentions and a temporary reorganization are not going to solve my storage problems.

Much thought later, I have made more easy-to-stick-to resolutions
- Popular reads I am unlikely to want to own, will be borrowed from Librarywala.com
- More active exchange of books with friends considering most of them are prolific readers themselves
- Try and begin reading on my brand new IPad (hurrah to D for getting me one!) so that I atleast stop buying physical books

But then these are for some other day.

For now, I am just content knowing I can finish a book in the middle of the night, walk up to my bookshelf, examine the unread titles without setting off a minor avalanche and then snuggle right back with a brand new book.

17-Feb-2011

Dumb and dumber

Progessing (albeit rather slowly) through D’s Alfred Hitchcock collection, I began to get perspective on how female characters are treated in Hitchcock’s movies. The last two I saw were ‘Birds’ and ‘The problem with Harry’. In both cases the women are not simpering fools who sit by the sidelines waiting to be rescued. Infact, they act like how normal human beings, who are a bit enterprising and sometimes clever, would act. In one, the heroine chases the male lead to a small town and acts rather brave when things begin to happen. In the other, both the female leads keep their heads in a sticky situation and take an active role in shaping their love lives.

Compare this to the last Tamil movie I saw and I feel like hanging my head in shame. ‘Robot’ was a movie that was wrong at various levels but one of the points that irked me was the absolute stupidity of the heroine. The narrative starts off by establishing that she is a doctor. You delude yourself into believing that atleast this time, unlike in Shankar’s last movie ‘Sivaji the Boss’, the heroine may display more I.Q. than a piece of wood. Alas! That is not to be. Within ten minutes, she goes on to prove that she is a brainless twit and has no spunk whatsoever. The rest of the movie continues along those lines.

I am not sure if it is just our directors who think women are stupid or if it is the audience which expects women to be stupid in the movies and hence directors are forced to write such roles? Why can’t we have a baseline intelligence level for women in our movies?

Or perhaps it is just an extension of the fact that our male characters are not particularly smart themselves. (Look at the scientist character in 'Robot'. He spends a goodish amount trying to teach a robot 'feelings' and then suggests the plan of the heroine seducing (!!) a robot).

Given the average Indian male loves his dream girl to be slightly dumber than him, this really does not leave much room for women to appear intelligent as well, does it?

P.S. This issue has been irking me for a while. I thought of gathering more examples of Hollywood vs Kollywood portrayal of women but figured out it would become an academic exercise meant for well-researched publications. Besides, I would have never gotten around to completing the post ever then.