25-May-2011

Can we kill Chivalry now?


There are three or four of us in the lift – me and three men.

The lift races down. We stand in the polite silence.

We reach the ground floor.

Suddenly the Chivalry Tango begins.

The three men try to press themselves to one side of the lift to let me out first.

I have tried standing in the furtherest corner of the lift, behind someone, and still they do the Tango.

Everytime I feel like yelling ‘but will you just stop now’

Back in the days of yore, when women were considered delicate creatures with inexplicable female problems, a code seems to have been defined on how to treat women. This included opening doors for them and laying out coats in puddles so they did not wet their flowing dresses or their expensive shoes.

In today’s day and age is it still relevant?

I think not.

Women have come a long way. We work in equal opportunity jobs, we have incomes, we plan vacations, buy properties, open bank accounts and do pretty much everything that men can do.

So why this pretence at treating us like China dolls?

It is not logical and if anything, a bit presumptuous and sometimes, patronizing.

I can open my car door myself thank you. Infact since I may be driving, I would rather that you were belted up in the passenger seat.

I don’t know if this persists because of some sort of age old code that men pass on to each other about treating women well. I do know that it also persists because sometimes women themselves like to be ‘treated like a lady’

I just hope they remember that once upon a time being ‘treated like a lady’ meant not having the vote.

Taking away the chivalry code is bound to leave a vacuum in appropriate social behavior. Why not replace it with a new rule, one in which we agree to treat everyone with some kindness and a little bit of understanding?

Can we all open doors for arthritic, old men who suffer the indignity of fiddling with tricky knobs?

Can we let a young father managing a toddler and carry-on bags ahead in the airplane boarding queue?

Can we give up our bus seat for a college going boy with a plaster cast?

In all the above situations, substitute a woman, and it is still kindness and understanding, not chivalry.

So, can we kill chivalry now?


10-May-2011

India by Sanjeev Bhaskar


Rating – Read if you have the time

The first time I went to the international side of Delhi’s spanking new T3 airport terminal, I was bowled over. Especially by W.H.Smith’s wonderfully arranged book display. Which explains why I bought books even though I was about to fly out of the country for a week and travel part of the journey on low cost airlines with strict baggage restrictions. I was simply buying books for the sake of buying. This book and Bill Bryson’s latest on Shakespeare were on a 1 for 1 offer, and that is how I came to own this one.

India has been well covered now from a lot of angles. Economic developments, social changes, travelogues, personal accounts, pre-independence, post-independence..you name it. In that sense, Sanjeev Bhaskar enters a very crowded space. However, he uses his Indian origin tag and his professional comedy background to try and make the best of it.

Imagine you are teenager who just cannot get your parents. As you grow older, you come to appreciate and perhaps, understand them. To your delight you realize that they have more than kept up with the times, and infact have a Twitter account. Bhaskar’s relationship with India seems to be something like that. From a young child who was possibly not particularly impressed by his visits to India as a child and now, making peace with the country and starring wide-eyed at the changes that has happened in the last couple of decades, Bhaskar makes for an enthusiastic observer and writer. What he lacks in depth or in too many original insights, he makes up with a keen approval of practically everything he sees. Even as he does that, he also notices the funny and absurd things in the minutiae of life and gently pokes fun at all of them.

India was written while filming a BBC documentary in various parts of the country. It covers the usual suspects – IT professionals in Bangalore, Royalty in Rajasthan, Houseboats in Kerela, Big money and Bollywood and slums in Bombay and so on. The most personal part of the book is his visit to Punjab in India and Pakistan and revisiting the ground his extended family covered as they migrated from the latter to the former. The stories that Bhaskar comes across are moving and make you think yet again of the mindless violence and wasted lives from those days.

India is a light and easy read, to be used as a buffer between more involving ones.

p.s. I am not really sure what the book’s title is (funny thing to say about a book, huh) given the multiple sentences in the cover. The most comprehensive version would be – BBC, India with Sanjeev Bhaskar: One Man's Personal Journey around the Subcontinent

09-May-2011

Shor in the City



Shor in the City is a movie that evokes mixed feelings. It has so much going for it and it has some truly brilliant moments. Yet, the movie does not sit together in a way that makes your heart strings tug for any particular character.

The premise is interesting enough. It captures the lives of a cross section of Mumbaikars in the midst of that truly Mumbai festival – Ganpati.


We are introduced to three small time ‘publishers’ who print illegal copies of popular bestsellers. Apart from dabbling in publishing, the three also hang out together and indulge in activities that sometimes border on the dangerous. They do it in the good natured manner of people who are not really sure about the serious consequences their actions can have. Heading up this gang is Tilak (Tushar Kapoor in a cool haircut but looking as stiff as ever), newly married and fast domesticating.

Sendhil Ramamurthy plays Abhay, an NRI returning home to set up a small business. As he finds his way around Mumbai, he acquires a hot model girlfriend and at the same time learns about ‘protection’ provided by small time gangsters to carry on a business.

Savvy (Sundeep Kishen) is an aspiring cricketer, worried about being selected to the Under-22 Mumbai cricket team. The selection is also crucial for his girlfriend to reveal his presence in her life to her parents and forestall objections from them about his marriage-worthiness.

Various other small characters weave in and out of the story till all of them find closure of some sort on the final Visarjan day.

The movie has a lot of captivating scenes. Some of them push you into over-the-edge tension territory. Others have you laughing out aloud. In some, you are stuck by how well Mumbai’s character is captured, almost as if you are walking on the city’s streets and observing something yourself.

The problem is that though a lot of the scenes by themselves stand out; the whole movie is not strung well together. The pace picks up and falters. The stories are intertwined but the speed with which each twine cuts into the other, leaves you little time to develop empathy for any particular character. You really want to feel for the characters but are just not given enough material to.

So in the end, the one character that does stand out and is shown in many of its shades is the city itself. Possibly the genesis of the movie’s story explains why. The end credits inform you that all the incidents in the movie were inspired by newspaper stories. A regular reader of Mumbai Mirror or any local Mumbai newspaper can believe some of the incredulous episodes in the movie.

Worth a watch if you have lived in this city long enough to appreciate its quirkiness or if you are an outsider wanting to get a feel of some parts of the city.




05-May-2011

My notebook


I finally bought my little notebook.

Long ago, I realized that my penchant for making lists meant that I was constantly noting down all the stuff I needed to do, wanted to do or had to keep an eye out for, on various scraps of paper. The scraps of paper would invariably disappear alongwith all my bright (alteast they seemed so to me) ideas. So I got a little notebook to carry around and note down stuff.

It turned out to be brilliant.

I started a page with various songs I had to download. A song caught in the in-flight entertainment programme. A song on radio while driving. All of them went into my list and would faithfully be referred to when I had to download music into my IPod.

I began to write down all the books I wanted to read. Books reviewed in Business Standard’s excellent column by Nilanjana Roy. Books reviewed in blogs. An entire sci-fi list which a friend recommended. Every time I went to Landmark, I could pull out the notebook and I was ready to go.

Lists of shopping to be done for the week or in the long run.

Lists of home d├ęcor ideas.

Somehow everything I wanted to remember, I could write it down in a page in the notebook and it was safe there till I needed it.

Expectedly, the notebook ran out of space.

I bought another one but it turns out that not every book is amenable to being carried around in your bag or to writing down stuff.

My new one was efficiently pre-divided into little segments, was on ruled paper and small but bulky. I could not bring myself to write down stuff on it.

All my thoughts and lists on songs and books began to look like stale office memo lists.

It was one of those moments that I realized that being a list-maker and being in need of free form could co-exist together. Weird.

So the habit disappeared of noting down stuff gradually disappeared and a long period of wandering around with the vague feeling of ‘what was I trying to remember’ happened.

Today, finally I hit upon a store with lovely little notebooks.

My new book has got an unusual orange cover, it has a band that keeps the pages together, is light enough to be carried around everywhere and when I inaugurated it with making a list of all the little changes I wanted to carry out in our living room, the words just flowed.

I am back in business.

02-May-2011

Hunger games by Suzanne Collins



Rating


Part I - Read
Part II and III - Read if you have the time (and are curious)

Before I actually got around to reading the series, the book was recommended by three avid readers (coincidentally all of them had read the same physical copy I think). All of them gushed about Part I and I was immediately keen to get started.



The series actually falls in the category of Young Adult Sci-Fi. However, I have enjoyed Young Adult sci-fi in the past (read the Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman for a good yarn on astrophysics, cosmos and God) and I must say they can throw some good surprises at times.

The first part (titled Hunger Games) begins with an introduction to a reality show called the Hunger Games, set sometime in the future when North America is a country called Panem and is no longer a democracy. Panem is run by the rulers based in Capitol. The Districts, all of them slaves to the Capitol and living in a state of poverty and desperation, are forced to participate in the games. The actual games involve two representatives from each District killing each other in an ‘arena’ till only the victor survives. If this is not bad enough, it turns out that the representatives are children. The protagonist, 16 year old Katniss Everdeen finds herself as a competitor and the book deals with the game and its results.

The concept developed in this part was engrossing enough to keep me going to the next part.

The second part (titled Catching Fire) extends the story further. Another set of the Hunger Games is played, with the rules designed to be a reprisal for the acts of the previous games. By now, having digested the concept, the writing’s merits began to show and I can’t say I would have given a full score on that count.

The final part (titled Mockingjay) happens in a larger political set up, an outcome of both the previous games. As with any concluding book in a series, the pace is fast and you are curious to know what happens in the end.

Young Adult fiction usually involves walking a fine line. Especially when the story is rather gruesome and carries interesting messages on power play, manipulation, survival. The audience is old and intelligent enough to grasp the basics of these concepts but the stories cannot be too psychologically disturbing or challenging (though this one did border on the former). The Hunger Games series manages to walk the fine line. Which means it is not fleshed out the way a book for adults would have been but the basic concept is interesting enough for an adult audience.

Atleast it showed in the way D kept hovering over me to check if I had finished the last book when I managed to borrow it from a friend last weekend.