Sunday, February 22, 2009

Colour of Paradise

Its true that cinema does not need language to communicate. That's what i felt when i watched Majid Majidi's " The Colour of Paradise". The movie centers around a blind boy Mohammed who attends a blind school in the city. The movie starts with sounds of different tapes and the warden asking whose tape each was . students identify it as theirs and explains whose voice is taped. This is a practice perhaps where the parents tape conversations instead of writing letters to their blind children. Mohammed identifies his tape which had songs sung by his grandmother. The bond Mohammed has with his granny is revealed right from the beginning.

As all pack their stuff , Mohammed is seen taking out and displaying few gifts like a hairclip, few stickers which he tries to feel and make sure is beautiful enough.

Next day when every children wait eagerly for their parents , Mohammed is left behind with all his friends leaving for home. Finally when Mohammed's father arrives he begs the warden to keep Mohammed back as he cant manage him home, but the manager explains its a boarding school and not an orphanage , while Mohammed hugs his father and cries saying " i thought you would never come". All the way back home , Mohammed's father is seen grim faced while Mohammed is excited to meet his granny and sisters.

Mohammed's father buys two gold bangles on the way home. Mohammed is greeted by his sisters who take him to the field and he meets his granny.He gifts them what he had saved for the past few months surprising his granny with a colourful hair clip she feels is too fancy for her and later agrees to clip to her dress.

Colours of Paradise is the story of innocence, its the story of colours in a blind boy's world. Though blind what makes Mohammed different from others is his perceptive nature. There is a shot in the movie where Mohammed waiting for his father hears a bird crying and a cat moving nearby and he realises a nestling is in danger and must have fallen of the nest , the shot captures how beautifully a blind boy gets the bird and climbs a tree to put it in the nest something even people with eyes ignore.

Perhaps a quality acquired from his own grandmother. When Mohammed's grandmother leaves home after a fight with her son she is shown helping a fish which had flown in the rain to a less filled area and is struggling to breath , she lifts the fish and puts into a pond with more water.

Both the scene somehow connects the feelings of how the weak, the marginalised , the voiceless nurture those around them even in their adversity. Mohammed and granny respects the right of the weak , gives them an opportunity to life .

Mohammed's father feels lonely and wants to marry a young woman but he feels his son is an obstruction as noone would want to take care of a blind boy he slowly tries to get rid of him by taking him to a blind carpenter hoping his son will learn a trade. But Mohanmmed's grandmothers sees this as her son's selfish motive to marry getting rid of his son because of which she leaves home and gets drenched in rain, though she is brought back home she doesnt live for long and dies without seeing Mohammed.

The marriage that was fixed is called of considering marrying to such a house as ominous. Mohammed's father realises his mistake and goes back to bring Mohammed home but on their way back Mohammed falls of a bridge.

In the last sequence of the movie we see Mohammed's father struggling to save his son and hitting the shore helpless. But when he wakes he sees Mohammed lying adjacent to him and as the shot closes Mohammed is shown to be moving his fingers.

In the whole story the unhappy father considers Mohammed as a burden to his life while Mohammed qualifies every parameter perhaps one step beyond normal people. He reads in his Sister's school correcting students who pronounced wrongly, he perceives sound and is resourceful. When left to learn carpentry he proves he is capable contrasting many normal children who with sight cannot do these things deftly.
Mohammed's life is a question to the normal world as to who is blind and who should be ostracized. Is what's handicap to the majority a handicap to the affected ? Are they not more than normal with their skills honed to cope their disability?

Colours of paradise ends with many such haunting thoughts that would make us rethink how much we utilise with fuller potentials.

After all How much do we really see with a fuller sight? Can we really see the colours of paradise?

Haunting eyes

I still have nightmares of that night. Noone would believe me if I say a kid of 3 years could remember that vividly. But I remember those eyes. Those scars , those disheveled hair and that plea for help.I lived in the Gulf . It was perhaps very easy to get domestic help from India those days . I have heard dad say Arab mansions with 10- 15 children required many cooks, servants , drivers and governesses. Many of these servants were from India or other Asian countries. Stories of harassment and ill treatment were nothing new.

One such day When I was cycling in the front of my building with my mother nearby I heard that scream . A woman came running to us and spoke in Tamil which I could not follow, she was asking mom for help as I heard mom explain to dad later. She was being beaten and burnt using cigarettes for not fulfilling her master's desires.It's after I grew up I understood the word " sexual favours".

The jealous wives of the master used to beat her blue when he was not around. Obviously they could not get his attention and feared a new woman taking their place.In the end they schemed to get rid of her by saying she had an affair with the driver. The Arab who took this for her reason of not cooperating with him was torturing her by starving her, burning her using cigarettes and using iron box.He cut her hair to make her look unattractive, prevented her from sleeping for nights and so she escaped when she got a chance. she asked us to call the police.

In a country like that were neither police nor embassy sympathised with a woman
( that too a Foreign National who was domestic help) getting involved with a case was a bad idea , so though mom wanted to dad did not allow her. I saw mom fighting over this for days something I do today , but those eyes begging for help as the Arab dragged her away beating with his shoes still haunts me.

Her half burnt body and ripped off clothes might have made some close their eyes and divert their attention to something pleasant believing world in unfair and nothing could be done.Some would have enjoyed watching it - voyeuristic the society is.

But it took me years to realise what it meant to that three year old, who gets antagonized at any injustice on women and has still not grappled why the world is unjust to her gender.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mike this one’s for you

Recently few friends of mine and I ( 4 of us) had to clean up an area near our chapel which was dumped with plastic food packets. One of the guys was a German who plunged in and started picking it with hands. Obviously the situation demanded immediate clearance( next day was Sunday and we had mass) and we were not prepared with gloves so the other two guys felt it awkward. For sometime they tried using a wooden board to move the boxes while the German friend and I were literally picking it by hand. Once the cleaning was over one of the guys told me( with reference to the title name evident) “I knew you were a social worker so all this is not new to you but I am surprised how a German cleaned this dirt he must not have seen such dirty places in his country”. And his final line was please don't blog this. I knew I would blog this then, to me it was something worth to be noted, shared. I don't know why they felt awkward but I disagree that social work education trains one to clean roads.

Well my friends who took up the course to land in foreign countries would puke reading this; after all they live selling their theories and principles of social work not cleaning streets and public toilets.

My involvement with NSS had some influence over why I chose Masters in Social Work. Unlike the students today who are forced to do it for a grade we were students who generally felt motivated to go for NSS and when you work in such a group it's an experience.

There's one such incident in a camp that touched me a lot and taught me who I was.
It might sound sick to many of you - neither am I writing this to say I am Gandhi's follower. But when this guy told me I clean because I am a social worker I was recollecting this incident that happened at his age when I was doing my second year in B.A psychology.

I was the Voluntary Secretary and the only lady V.S of my camp. We have Xmas camps for ten days. It used to be fun cooking and living with bare necessities and interacting with villagers. But this time we had few students for the camp because some Xmas exams were postponed after reopening of college. But smaller the better we enjoyed the days.

One morning when I was in the Kitchen I was summoned by the girls. We were staying in a government school with very few useable bathrooms (one for boys and one for girls is the exact number). I went to the ladies toilet and found a long queue. At first I thought someone was stuck inside. But then in hushed voices an executive said (the core team has 3 Voluntary Secretaries and 6 executives) “Well someone dropped the mug into the closet and passed ________ #*$% now wat do we do? We can’t leave it like this, we can’t ask the guys to clean it, neither get someone from outside”?. It was useless asking who did it that was not important either. It was waste asking who will do the honour of cleaning if they were motivated they would. When it comes to cleaning a toilet irrespective of class, creed, gender we are all reluctant Kasturba Gandhi’s.

I looked at all the girls and asked if anyone would clean? At the very utterance a girl vomited and now guys were curious as to what is happening near the girl’s toilet. I asked the executive to get a plastic cover she stared at me. I still remember her getting a plastic cover which had the name
“ Kairali puttu podi” with a Kathakali painting on it. I asked them to move – went in wearing the cover like a gloves with disinfectant in another hand lifted the mug, cleaned the toilet and came out, washed my hands with a disinfectant and walked to the kitchen. I saw girls staring at me with their mouths opened as if I discovered “Sputnik”. Some asked me you were brought up abroad how did you feel, how could you? People looked at me with admiration – oh god for cleaning shit after all.

Frankly but I am no Mother Teresa or Gandhi but I don’t think what I did was great I just know we had to do it to run the day and why we find it yuck talking about all these things shows how narrow mindedly we are brought up – talking about stomach upsets is L.S (low status) while having an indigestion is (H.S). Piles is (L.S)) but heart burn is (H.S). Talking about sex is (Oh my god) and so is toilet habits. Maybe its filth in mind that is on the streets, I am not appreciating the west but I guess where people speak it out, at least their surroundings look cleaner doesn’t it?

Hey just a perspective as usual some out of the world philosophy as Mike would say ….

No frankly I was just tracing why I say and do certain things and that day when I cleaned at chapel it reminded me of what made me do it.

And you know what many people could not eat that day at camp but I did and since many did not eat some of us got lots of fried fish to eat.

Friday, February 13, 2009

John and Me

Talking to him was frightening, especially over the phone or chat. There would always be long intervals of silence, which gave me creeps worrying if he passed out and what would I do if he did. I once bluntly asked him how I would know if he left me. He casually called a cousin of his and said “please inform her when I leave”. He then smiled and asked me “ Now happy?” I have done all my duties towards you. He had crossed the stage to sense pain or judge its magnitude to qualify if it’s a pain carrying him to his end. Our conversations were always about death, silence, the long waiting. He never told me he longed to live; maybe he passed that stage too. He always said he would fight to the last minute. I don’t know if he was hiding his fear. When you see death before you and have time to prepare maybe you go soft over your head. He had turned philosophical lately. Patience was necessary while dealing him but keeping it off your mind that you are sympathizing with him by being patient. He hated that. He fell in love with me all of a sudden maybe something he could never do had he been normal."I would marry you crazy woman but I am short of time", he said. People calculate a lot when normal but when you got nothing to lose you can be irrational. "Marrying me is ensuring life long security, you get life insurance of your hubby" , he would tease. He wanted to use the best of his last moments trying everything giving it a shot. It put me in an awkward situation not knowing what to reply. Obviously I could not act irrational I was to stay back after he left. So I pretended I never heard him denying him any last minute pleasures which would haunt me life long.

We could talk about anything, even when I was upset he did not waste time fighting he wanted me to mellow down so he would not waste another day of his calling quits after a fight . He wanted everyone to be with him, his selfishness he often labeled “how long you think I would be the center of attention”, he would say. Everyone who loved him saw it he was never alone, when he could not sleep all he had to do was dial a ring or get online he had friends to sing, read, fight and even love him.

He loved chess, he said it’s a battle against life now, but that didn’t mean he would want his opponent to be lenient to him infact he found out if someone was making it easy for him.
I loved watching him for hours, the awareness of him not going to be around for long hurt me making me greedy for more of him. That was J full of life, full of life and fun. I loved him so much that it hurt to be alive. I repeated Auden in my mind “ I thought love would last forever, but I was wrong”.
He raised his head from the chess board and as if reading my mind, he smiled assuring me that Auden was wrong.

Spinster Bratz and Valentine's eve

Another Valentines day passed away. We the single women gang of five decided to celebrate the success of my comprehensive viva at cafe coffee day. I was dead tired but my wingmates seemed excited. In a researcher's world strings are pulled by our demi god- the guide. Mine seemed happy after the viva performance.He said something in German before we split for weekend which roughly meant " Have a gr8 weekend ". Another friend's irritating guide is out of town, though he saddled her with loads of work. But anyways all looked happy after a long time. CCD as usual had nothing the menu card claimed so devil' own ( guess who found the name) and chocolate frappes was our destiny on Val's eve.

Sometimes coffee stimulates brain that it makes you feel drunk, we counted the list of men enemy on campus and made a hit list to get our revenge on. Set out to labs to hunt them out. We planned strategies to corner them .Then our darling FOI said , lets stick to our standards, hunting men is substandard. But I said ok lets wish Happy valentines to some nice men. We were laughing cracking jokes on the road at midnight a sight which irritates the average man , a passerby commented these girls are mallus - so what you fool I yelled feeling satisfied. We paid a visit to a friend's lab his labmate a guy all alone got terrified seeing us four girls together especially me standing with my famous " hands on hips " pose.
" kya hua" the guy asked reminding us of helpless heroine in Hindi movies. I realised 4 women could terrify a guy. So satisfied with our saddistic valentines torture we walked back singing, joking, whistling, admiring couples, cursing our pasts, soothing our wounds and celebrating our singlehood.

As we signed our hostel register asking if this is a parole list , Toi remarked who knows when will we go out like this again? Life has got so confined to research world that words tumbling out are jargons , and life has turned so methodical that fun like this is made to look sin.

But this was a one hell of a Valentines day , unplanned gathering and loads of fun ... who says single women can't have fun?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

We’ll not spare dating couples on Valentine’s Day : Muthalik

For the first time I laughed rather get agitated reading news which was so irritating. We will not let couples date and if anyone is found together we will make the priest marry them at the temple nearby. If they refuse us will make the girl tie a rakhi to the boy says Pramod Muthalik, just after being released on bail for the Mangalore issue. Well when I discussed this on breakfast table a girl said “well girls need not go to pubs, so if they got thrashed its not completely wrong”. I have nothing for or against Valentines and pubs. I just realise its just one day some rose sellers and greeting cards companies make money ( Oh no – its not a leftist indoctrination – hey and I have received valentines cards so don’t bother thinking is she jealous coz she never got one  )

People react differently some blame the western ideologies for penetrating and making ‘ ours’ impure. Beggars with bowls, children taking up prostitution, women being raped , elders being deserted on streets don’t worry the moral dictators – perhaps that’s India to them. But a girl seen with a guy worries them (maybe they are worried about population explosion)

Well they seem to have forgotten homosexuality – nowhere did they mentioned people from same sex would be forced to marry or tie rakhi . It seems a great Valentine day for the gays and lesbs 

Well and what a piece of tag ( rakhi) and chain ( mangalsutra) could do ? I am skeptical. Maybe these bozos should check up the recent stats on rape and abuses , where incidents of incest between brothers – sisters have also been mentioned . So if they force strangers to tie a thread in hope of restoring morality things seem dismal to me . I wonder if he knows about marital rape and domestic violence or perhaps its an accepted dictate in his code of ethics. Once a woman wears that shackle decorated with black beads with an with an ICICI logo (the red line) who cares if she is beaten blue of burnt ?

Well a relief is that this time they would not beat up a woman alone, but the point is not about who gets beaten either. It’ s about how fundamentalists get strengthened in a nation and how the majority could be apathetic to it . People who disagree with this incident, still are silent because they are unhappy about how women have changed . The number of men questioning why jeans? What’s the ideal length of top, why women should not travel alone? women should speak in low voice and ideal place for the woman is at home is shocking in this highly evolved technological era ( as claimed).

Yeah now this will be rated feminist- But who cares I had a laugh reading the paper today. But then again a glimpse at Taliban -of women being shot in public trials for not covering face , wearing high heels, laughing in public by the moral dictators could send chills through your spine. If a country could transform to that level in two decades moral policing in a highly volatile nation like this cannot be left unnoticed.

Now if anyone wants to give me a moral dictate please lets have it on valentines day – I got no date.

A lot can happen over a coffee

Well the title sounds happening, but this is an account of a real story . I am fictionalising it a bit but I had a nice laugh listening to her. This is about a prospective bride ( my friend) and a prospective groom who met at " A lot can happen over coffee" . The groom looked like some constipated ape with an OCD ( obsessive compulsive disorder).I don't mean all men are jerks. Well he was.

The talk/discussion/No..No interview/ Rapid fire session? yeah the rapid fire session began with assessment of bride's educational history, after a thorough inquisition fell the first 'Shell' from Mr Shell ( he works for Shell) - Would you mind sitting home (as in house wife)?

The bride looked pained ( after all this empathetic lecture on research life - what a suggestion)

Ok we will think about it later , continued the groom. What about the length of your top you wear with Jeans? The bride's eyes popped out ( Now this is a tougher question than why do you wanna use regression or annova?) , she smiled ( I would have got a measuring tape and asked him to measure)

See I plan to buy a car - I got a license but don't want to drive , do you have a driving license ?( The case was clear he wanted a driver cum aaya )

The bride asked what do you do in your free time ?

I work from 2pm to 12pm so I sleep, walk and surf online in morning. ( and he expects her to sit home)

Groom asked the next anlaytical question - How do you travel from here to Adayar?
( did he copy questions from some SSB paper? )

Well I just take a bus from the institute to main gate or cycle she replied.

No...No how do you go to Adayar by auto or bus? ( was he testing her budget allocation, decision making?? god knows)

Bride started feeling helpless she started looking around but Mr Shell had no intentions of stopping the rapid fire session, she regretted not wearing white or else she could declare a cease fire, well showing a napkin would help but did Mr Shell's comprehension of cease fire seemed doubtful.

And in the next seat Mr Shell's mom tells the bride's sister , he somehow never likes any girl he meets, he get irritated soon and finds faults in everyone...My poor boy is so unlucky.....

Bride smiled ... contending how lucky she was to join those girls who survived similar rapid fires.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I just lost today

I just lost today.....
dont' ask me why

I just know I dont belong
Not to love
Not to friends
If this is a trial
It's a tough one

I just lost today
Don't ask me why

When tears choke
It hurts bad
when words pierce
It feels sad
If this is a trial
It's a tough one

I just lost today
Don't ask me why