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Book fiend,culture-vulture, world traveller, daughter of the tropics now living in the Great White North.
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Sunday, July 29, 2007

postheadericon Yakuza Moon: Memoirs of a Gangster's Daughter by Shoko Tendo

Translated by Louise Heal

Hardcover 192 pages

Genre: Memoir/non-Fiction/Japan

Publishers : Kodansha Intl Jul, 2007
Price : $22.95

Distributers (Canada):Fitzhenry & Whiteside

I grew interested in this story after reading about it in the Guardian UK. Shoko Tendo is the daughter of a member of the Yakuza in Japan. According to Wikipedia, the Yakuza (ヤクザ or やくざ ) are members of traditional organized crime groups in Japan. Yakuza groups are referred to as the "Japanese mafia" with reference to Italian-Sicilian organized crime.

Shoko had a pampered childhood but when she was six her father was sent to jail and that event triggered his descent from a top ranking member of the Yakuza to a man hounded by debtors. His descent also meant troubling times for the home and family and when she was 12 years old Shoko, in a fit of rebellion, decided to follow in her older sister's footsteps to become a yanki. Yankis are usually a sub-culture of bored, disenchanted Japanese youth between the ages of 14-19 years. They love to ride fast bikes, sniff paint thinner and embrace a lifestyle of sex, drugs and violence.

Soon, running around sniffing paint thinners didn't do it for Shoko anymore and she graduated to hard drugs (speed) and would attach herself to men who would be willing to buy the drug for her. Many of the men she hooked up with just used and abused her but she put up with it because she needed the drug, also, going home to a house besieged with creditors made her very depressed.

Finally, in her late 20's after a botched suicide attempt Shoko decides to ask forgiveness of her parents (especially her mother) for putting them through all of us and settles down into a more normal lifestyle but not before she takes herself off to a tattoo parlour and gives herself
a tattoo that winds its way to her chest and across her back, culminating, on her left shoulder, in the face of Jigoku Dayu, a famous courtesan from the Muromachi era with breast exposed and a knife clenched between her teeth.

I was quite disappointed with the book. Shoko is not terribly different from any adolescent anywhere in the world who falls in with the wrong crowd and adopts the sex,drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle. As the daughter of a Yakuza I expected there to be more information on the Yakuza, their origins, how they operate, the culture, etc., instead, what you get is the story of a desperately unhappy girl who makes so many wrong decisions in the early chapters of her life. I guess some would argue that
much has been written about the male members of the yakuza fraternity already, the drink, the money, the women, the fast cars and the violence. Much less is known about the women in their lives, their wives, daughters and lovers. Tendo has been all three.

The book made me think about tattoos though and their significance. For some they are just body adornments done on a whim and sometimes regretted because of their permanency; for others, it is a religious ritual and they will, as mentioned on Chumma Chumma's blog have a prayer or a deity drawn for strength or spiritual well being ; some sport military tattoos that tell a story of the battalion, brigade or platoon they belong to; some use tattoos to indicate which street gang they belong to, but I am most interested in that group of people that use tattoos to commemorate milestones in their lives for they always have the best stories.

If you would like, feel free to chime in with favorite your tattoos or tattoo stories. Mine has to be the one of the woman who had "DO NOT RECUSITATE" drawn across her chest. Guess she was really serious about doctors not trying to prolong her life. Read about it at the BBC site here.

Finally here's a cool site mooched from Tanabata's wonderful blog

What is your Japanese name?

My japanese name is 長谷川 Hasegawa (long valley river) 千秋 Chiaki (very fine in autumn).

Take your real japanese name generator! today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.

Pictures of the author, Shoko Tendo
Wednesday, July 04, 2007

postheadericon Faces of India...part 2

Thank you so much, all of you, for your wonderful responses to the first set of pictures...here's the next lot. Hope you enjoy them as much as my dad enjoyed taking them.
Ok, so this little boy doesn't look too happy to have his picture taken! BTW, the sale of old newspapers is a thriving business in India.

A clothing store on Bangalore's famous Commercial Street. Wait, those mannequins don't look Indian!

A Sari-Clad Janitor

A roadside temple on an overcast day...you see a temple on almost every road in Bangalore
Temple roof detail
Ohhh, look at all those fresh vegetables!
A roadside butcher at Cox Town market. I have to wonder, is there an extra charge for the flies packed along with your leg of lamb?
Never been good at identifying fish, so if you want to give it a go, please do!
I am told the vigorous head massage is the best part!
A prize if you spot the cracked pot...
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

postheadericon Faces of India..Part 1

My father has a new pastime, he takes his camera with him on his evening walk through the market and captures the local people as they eat, work and play. Thought you might like to see some of his pictures. Feel free to click on the picture for better clarity.

Bhelpuri Vendor with a happy customer!

An equally happy cement store worker

Shy coconut-seller

Casket makers...I kinda fancy the mustard-yellow one! ;)

A dirt poor cobbler or Mochi as they are known as in India

A Mango and Banana seller. Can anyone identify those mangoes?

Who will buy these wonderful shirts and trousers?

An urban beggar man

I have no idea what these lads are smiling about. I'd be so glum if the ice cream store was closed as it seems to be.

Clusters of bananas, not my favorite fruit!
Saturday, June 02, 2007

postheadericon Born -Again Virgins

Hymenoplasty: I first heard of this procedure when I lived in the Middle East, but since it was always spoken of in whispers, I thought it was an urban legend. Fast forward to now...several leading newspapers last week reported that hymenoplasty, or restoring a woman's virginity by surgically reattaching the hymen, is fast becoming a phenomenon of sorts among women of Muslim origin in Europe, especially France, Germany, Sweden and indeed other parts of the world, too.

But now the chair of the French College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians is calling for an end to this practice in France. Dr. Jacques Lansac believes there is no place for this kind of surgery in secular French society...he believes that giving in to a procedure like this goes against all that France stands for...equality of women, human rights, religious extremism etc.

But how do we turn our backs on these women who in all likelihood could be killed by their fathers, brothers or husbands (Honor killings) if it is found out that they are not virgins? Aren't doctors morally bound to help these women who could face certain death if they are discovered to be non-virgins?

But I could also make the argument that if we give in to the fundamentalists in this matter, what's to stop them from making more demands as the years go by? What if they want to stop sending their girl children to school, are we to stand by and watch that happen as well?

Apparently, this (having to be a virgin when you get married) has given rise to a very creative alternative...many immigrant Muslim women in Europe are now very keen to marry non-Muslim men who do not care if they are virgins or not. Is fundamentalism pushing young women away from Islam?

Hymenoplasty is not uncommon in the North America, however here women do it for the thrill of appearing virginal again or as a treat for that special someone in their lives. Is that just plain weird? Ok, I do understand vaginal rejuvenation (surgery to tighten one's vagina) because that has certain benefits for the woman as well...but hymenoplasty or even labiaplasty (which surgically reshapes or reduces the external appearance of the vagina, but in doing so one gets rid of skin rich in nerve endings) for that matter escapes my understanding.

Anyway, if you want to weigh in on any of this I'd be pleased to see your comment.
Thursday, May 17, 2007

postheadericon Lust in Translation

Book: Hardcover |304 pages | 19 Apr 2007 | The Penguin Press

For those of you who do not wish to read on, I'll understand, but for the rest of you,
Pamela Druckerman, former foreign correspondant for the "Wall Street Journal" came upon the idea to write about infidelity when on a trip to Columbia she kept being propositioned by married men all the time. Once she got over her shock and horror, she realized that extra-marital affairs are not frowned upon everywhere in the world and she decided to explore what the rules of infidelity were in different countries resulting in this cracker of a book, "Lust in Translation: The Rules of Infidelity from Tokyo to Tennessee".

T0 make it more interesting and readable, I've decided to share, countrywise,what Druckerman found out about infedilty in her research and trips abroad and how it contrasts with the American view:

Let's start with
Finland, because, in sexology circles, Finland is known for having Europe's best sex research (in 1970, Finnish researchers sent uniformed nurses door-to-door to question people on their sex lives and got a 91% response rate!). The Finns aren't ambivalent about sex...they see it as a positive experience. Unlike elsewhere, the Finns or their media do not focus on the perils of sex, such as diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Also, they travel a lot, creating a lot of opportunities for affairs. Although they value being faithful to their partners, they believe that if there is an opportunity for an affair that no one will get to know about, they will grab it with both hands because they consider it a positive and valuable experience!

The French surprisingly (and I say surprisingly because watch any French romantic comedy and you will imagine that l 'adultere is a national pastime) are boringly and staggeringly faithful to their spouses. When, and if, they do stray they don't tell their spouses and their spouses don't seem to want to know "...Extramarital sex becomes "adultery" only when your partner finds out". Also, although they view adultery as a transgression, they seem to understand that it can and does happen and do not usually experience terrible guilt over it. The only realm of French life where infedility is derigueur is politics (there are some very nice passages on Mitterand, Chirac and even France's new PM, Sarkozy in this book)

The Russians probably have the most laidback attitude when it comes to extramarital affairs, a fling is almost always welcomed and enjoyed, not at all surprising when you read about the problems facing today's Russians (alcoholism, violent crime, cramped living spaces, poverty, illhealth, car accidents). An affair seems like therapy for all the problems they have in their day to day lives. Another reason there's so much adultery in Russia is that there are so few men. "...For Russian women in their 30's and 40's a man who isn't married or an alcoholic is as rare as a Feberge egg."

From all accounts, the Japanese are probably having the least sex of anyone around. It's the land of the single bed. The minute a Japanese wife has her first child, she moves out of her bedroom and into the child's room and sleeps there until he is 5 or 6, giving rise to a phenomenon they call a "sexless marriage" or the abbreviated, "sexress". Many of the men actually pride themselves on having chaste marriages. Sexress has spawned the development of a thriving sex industry with hostess bars (where businessmen pay by the hour to talk to young women); Sex clubs (self-explanatory); love hotels (where couples can rent rooms without comingn face to face with a clerk.) Japanese couples have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. "Have your affair, but be discreet about it" is what Japanese women seem to be saying to their husbands.

The chapter on South Africa was the saddest chapter to read...the culture seems to not just accept, but even encourage promiscuity and with AIDS being so prevalent, not being monogamous is a death sentence, literally and yet, King Mswati III, King of Swaziland (the last absolute monarch of Africa) with his multiple wives is held up by most South African man as someone to admire and emulate.

Polygamy is legal in Indonesia and although it has fallen out of favor, the fact that it is legal makes easier to justify. "...Polygamy legitimizes the idea that one woman isn't enough and effectively gives married men permission to date , even if they have no plans to convert thier mistresses into wives." Although extra-marital affairs are forbidden by the Koran it doesn't stop Indonesians, especially the upwardly mobile, from having them.

China's new economic boom means that even working class men in China can now afford to keep second wives or yi lai as they are called. Many Chinese explain away their extra-marital affairs by saying it is not cheating when you fall in love with someone other than your wife. Does that sound familiar to Westerners? Although you can sympathise with the Chinese when they say it because romance was considered a vice during the Cultural Revolution. Are the Chinese simply making up for lost time?

The American view:

"Adultery provokes more outrage in America than in almost any other country on record (Ireland and the Philippines are two exceptions)."

Americans have become more tolerant on practically every major sexual issue from having a child out of wedlock to divorce ... and homosexuality. They are more accepting of all these issues except infidelity, where they seem to have become stricter.

Not only do the Americans feel a lot of guilt, but they also believe there must be complete honesty between spouses, which means, when and if they have an affair, they will feel a burning need to confess every little detail of the affair to their partners once the affair is over. Americans are extremely bothered by "lies" or "witholding the truth" in relationships. Even when it comes to their leaders having affairs (eg. Bill Clinton) the American public were more concerned about him lying about the affair than the affair itself.

Adultery is traumatic everywhere, but in America it's especially so. The reactions of a betrayed spouse resemble the post-traumatic stress symptoms of the victims of catastrophic events like 9/11 or the Asian tsunami.
"Betrayed spouses" as they're called here, can take years to recover, they feel so out of control,they feel their going crazy. One person described a spouse's betrayal as feeling worse than when she lost her child. In Europe, betrayed spouses either take the affair with a pinch of salt or like in France, they may opt for a "revenge affair".

It's hard to sum up a book which is packed with so much information, but if I can make any conclusions it would be:

1.Religion is not a deterrent when it comes to adultery. In other words, religious societies can have the same rate of infedility as non-religious ones.

2. Location trumps religion because the stats have consistently shown that people in warm places are more promiscuous, with Scandanavia and St. Petersburg being the exceptions.

3. There appears to be more infidelity in poorer countries than others,especially by men.

While the evidence Druckerman presents is primarily anecdotal (this is not a scientific study by any means)she still manages to provide the reader with a cultural, albeit voyeuristic, guide to infedility in various parts of the world in an engaging and interesting manner. The anthropologist in me enjoyed this book! Oh, and one last word, don't be fooled by the cover, there is no sex in this book!
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

postheadericon The Seven Wonders of Canada

The National and Sounds Like Canada are searching for the Seven Wonders of Canada and need our help.

After pouring over 18,000 suggestions from Canadians all over, the Seven Wonders team at the CBC had the unenviable task of reducing all those pitches to a short-list of 50 nominees.

I want you to take a look at the nominees and if there is something on there you recognize and have visited and would like to see it nominated as a wonder of Canada, please feel free to do so, here.

Guess you're wondering which one gets my vote, well, even if you're not, I'm going to tell you :) ...It's the NorthWest Passage. The Passage is rich in scenic beauty and history and is also endangered on account of global warming, just for that I think it deserves a vote!

While CBC and the National were putting together the WOnders of Canada, I had to ask myself why they were doing it, what is the value of an exercise like this, and ofcourse many different things came to mind...

It instills a sense of pride in one's country

It honors monuments, institutions, natural wonders together as a nation

It encourages dialogue...Canadians are coming together from all parts of Canada and indeed, the world, to talk and debate on the various nominees

Last, but certainly not least, if you believe that your physical landscape has a lot to do with the making of who you are then this list is a representation of the Canadian people themselves...who they are, what they believe in and what they stand for. The list gives one a sense of place, a sense of what Canadians are all about.

Vote with me!

To read more about the Northwest Passage and what it means to Canada, go here

And listen to Stan Rogers' glorious hit, "Northwest Passage", here
Wednesday, April 25, 2007

postheadericon PROVOKED (the movie)

Jag Mundhra

Cast: Aishwarya Rai,
Miranda Richardson, Naveen Andrews,
Nandita Das, Robbie

Release: April 2007

In 1989, Kiranjit Ahluwalia housewife of Indian(Punjabi) descent living in London, set fire to her husband, Deepak, as he lay in a drunken stupor in their bedroom. Kiran admitted to killing him in self-defence (she was afraid for her life after he came close to killing her several times in their abusive 10-year marriage) She was sentenced to a life in prison because the judge ruled that self-defence could not be used in her case as her last physical beating from her husband occured more than two hours before the killing signifying that the murder was premeditated and not in self-defence.

Kiran's cause was taken up by a women's group called "The Southall Black Sisters" . SBS is a non-profit group working against domestic violence and they brought her plight to the attention of the media by organising rallies and gathering public support. When her appeal was heard, in September 1992 at the Old Bailey, Ms Ahluwalia’s plea of manslaughter on the grounds of "diminished responsibility" was accepted. The judge sentenced her to three years and four months in prison — the exact time that she had already served.

By acknowledging the state of "diminished responsibility" and of "being provoked" the British court allowed, for the first time, "the battered woman syndrome" as a legal defence, acknowledging that a battered woman doesn't always strike out in self-defence immediately, many a time the hurt and the abuse will lie smouldering within her and she might strike out even at a time of low abuse, because she believes she will be abused again. Kiranjit’s case upturned the British judiciary and her appeal and retrial are now the stuff of every basic criminal law text in Britain.

So, while the story itself is compelling...I thought director Jag Mundhra could done a much better job with the movie. The movie "Provoked" was based on Kiranjit Ahluwalia's memoir "Circle of Light". Aiswarya Rai who plays Kiranjit, was inconsistent...she was good in some parts but failed miserably when trying to play the shy, battered, non-English speaking Kiranjit. She does get better as the movie progresses or so I thought. The character of Deepak Ahluwalia, the abusive husband, played by Naveen Andrews (of "Lost" fame) could have been fleshed out some more...the viewer doesn't get to know Deepak well and why he was so violent towards his wife. The movie seems to point to alcoholism, but the viewer realizes there has to be something more. The one actress who stole the show is Miranda Richardson (who is also in prison for killing her violent husband and who befriends Kiranjit in jail).

Having said that however, I think the movie should be seen because it speaks very strongly about domestic violence suffered by women. And in recent years, South-Asian women in Canada, especially from the immigrant Punjabi community, have witnessed a rise in the number of domestic violence victims. "...One in every four South Asian women is abused - physically,
emotionally, financially or psychologically,"
says Baldev Mutta, community development officer at the Peel Health Department, Toronto, a government agency.

This raises some troubling questions:

Why is this happening to this group of women? How do we empower them? Why are these men so violent? Do they need help too? What happens to the children when they witness such terrible abuse in their homes?

I guess there will always be more questions than answers.

Read more about Kiran Ahluwalia go HERE
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

postheadericon I've goneTunic-Mad and "Thinking Blogger Awards"

Yes! Finally we can leave the cold weather behind us and step into spring! The best part about spring as we discussed in my previous post is swapping those heavy winter jackets for beautiful light clothes. Every year around spring time I indulge in a new trench coat and a few new tops and pants. This year, the tunic is all the rage! The tunic reminds me so much of the "kurti" we wear in India so ofcourse, I am over the moon at being able to wear all the kurtis I picked up when I was in India last year. But, ofcourse, because kurthis are not readily available in North America I thought, that if you shared my passion for tunics, you might want to see what's available in our neck of the woods...pictures below are some of my favorites this season, enjoy!

This black and white ensemble is from Tory Burch's collection. Ever ever since Oprah wore one of hers on the cover of the Oprah magazine, Tory's name has become synonymous with tunics (her recent dalliance with Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, has also helped push her into the limelight). I love the black and white piece because it has gorgeous embroidery and that mandarin collar is so beautiful as well.
Another one from Tory Burch...I just love the colours here...and the border is vintage Tory..it's this particular style that first made her tunics famous. If I am not mistaken, this is the one Oprah wore on the cover of her magazine. For spring she has new colors in this same style.
I love this one from softsurrounding.com because it looks so much like something out of India, also, I haven't seen too many sleeveless tunics with embroidery so this one was quite unique.
Doesn't this look like something that could have been taken out of a Middle Eastern dress catalogue? Love the colors and embroidery, again from softsurroundings.com
This is from BCBG Max Azria...I could easily wear this...I love the floral print and the contrasting geometric designs on the cuffs..also it's stretch material...my favorite..the belt is a nice touch, too!
Last, but not least, one from Bebe...I have something similar but because it's not from Bebe it cost me half the price!

So you thought these tunics were nice? So did I, but when I visited Maryam's blog this morning, I was blown away by some of the tunics she was showcasing, take a look here.

Thinking Blogger Awards:

While I was on hiatus I had a few wonderful bloggers nominate Lotus Reads, my book blog, for the "Thinking Blogger Award"...it was such an honor and I feel so bad this post is so delayed for I, in turn, had to nominate 5 other bloggers for the same award.

I decided to nominate 5 people or blogs that rarely post here (some never have), but I nominate them because they have blogs I like to visit and you might like to visit them too.

Paris Parfait: Stays very true to the promise her blog makes to muse about a "parfait sundae" of art, antiques, culture,poetry and politics. If you love Europe in general and Paris in particular, head on to her blog and enjoy her pictures with the accompanying write up.

Daylight Again : Rauf is a wiz with the camera and takes stunning pictures as he travels all over India...his recent pictures of Benares and Hyderabad are "must see's" (beenzzz, you'll enjoy these) . Rauf is also a very entertaining and witty guide.

The Buddha Smiled : You can alway count on 'the buddha smiled' to give you the most candid, thorough reviews, be it books,films, cultural events or anything else. He's the source I turn to if I truly want to know what a film was like...I trust his judgment but wish so much he would update his blog more often.

Hindu Mommy: I love HM's blog because it's a great resource for Indian parents bringing up children in North America, not just that, HM has some great posts on Indian culture, festivals and the Indian community in North America. I hope she continues to blog for a long,long time!

Youth Curry: This is the blog I use to stay in touch with India. Rashmi Bhansal, does a great job of keeping her readers up-to-date with the goings-on in that big country, especially if they are youth related. Insightful and topical, you won't want to miss this blog if you are interested in what's going in contemporary India.

So, there you have it the five blogs I have nominated for the "Thinking Blogger" award. Thanks to Bellezza, Tanabata, Laura of Maude and Mozart,
Deepika Shetty, and Gaijin Mama for honoring me with this award. Thank you, thank you!
Saturday, April 07, 2007

postheadericon The Summer Tag

(painting by Jerry Waese)
The lovely diyadear has tagged me to write on 8 favorite things about summer. Truthfully, I am not a summer person (shocking, isn't it?), I am more a Fall person, but having said that, there are several things I love about the lemonade season:

1. The longer days: Being a day person ( I always prefer the sunrise to the sunset...there's something rather sad about a sunset, don't you think?) I love the extra hours of daylight...I feel like I get so much more accomplished in my day.

2. I love that the rose bushes are in full bloom! After the lotusflower, the rose is my favorite and I have a ton of them around our front lawn, they exude the most delicious fragrance ever...especially our English tea rose.

3. I love hearing the happy cries of children in their pools and the squeals of delight as they play basketball in their front yards and the birds twittering...summer is full of happy sounds...wish I could capture them on my mp3 player to listen to in the winter.

4. I love eating alfresco at my favorite cafes, watching the world go by as we sip our coffee or dig into our pastas.

5. I love seeing my neighbors come out of hibernation after 4 long months...it's always nice to discuss who has put on weight, who has grown a beard, and how Sally went from a brunette to a platinum blonde. Bet they discuss me too! :)

6. Love being able to wear flipflops and show off my new pedicure! ;)

7. Love the free concerts all over Toronto...man, come July and we are so spoiled for choice, seems like every park is vying with the other for who can put on the best show! Ofcourse, the Harbourfront wins every time. A couple of years ago I saw Lila Downs, Youssou N'Dour and Autorickshaw perform there and all for free!!!

8. The best part about summer, however, is to feel the sun kiss my face, arms and shoulders...wish I could remember to slap on the SPF sun screen though!

If you would like to tell us your favorite things about summer feel free to go ahead...you can either use the comments section or write up your own post!
Sunday, March 18, 2007

postheadericon The sexy older woman - is she now an endangered species in Cinema?

Seems to be my week for watching onscreen unconventional pairings.

Two days ago I saw Bollywood's "Nishabd" where a 60-year old man falls in love with an 18-year old girl and today I saw "Unfaithful" with Diane Lane and Richard Gere.

This is one those movies where an affair goes badly wrong (not sure an extra-marital affair should go any other way, but I digress). In a nutshell, Diane Lane is a suburban housewife who has a hot and steamy affair with a much younger French book dealer. Diane Lane was 36 when she made the movie and I have to say she looks great! No attempt was made to hide or cover her wrinkles and yet she looked hot! But, matching a younger man with an older woman is not regular Hollywood faire, is it? After Ann Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson in 1967's "The Graduate", I can't think of a movie with a sexy older lady paired off with a younger man that became a box office hit. Is the cougar an endangered species in Hollywood? I would think so. And yet, offscreen romances abound, with Demi Moore, Susan Sarandon, Madonna, Cameron Diaz and Barbara Hershey all landing younger men and quite effortlessly too.

Ok, let's move away from the older woman-younger man scenario for a while. How often do we get to see women over 40 playing sexy and romantic roles in Hollywood? Sure, there are exceptions...Meryl Streep in "Bridges of Madison County", Diane Keaton in "Something's Gotta Give", Helen Mirren and the ladies in "Calender Girls" but they are usually few and far between.

What keeps Hollywood (and Bollywood) from celebrating an older woman's sexuality? Surely they're not scared of wrinkles? Or does the problem lie with us viewers? Do we have trouble accepting older women in sexy roles? Are we just more comfortable with them playing frumpy mothers or aging queens? Bollywood is especially guilty I think...when was the last time a woman over 40 was caste as the female lead in a romantic role?

BTW, feel free to agree or disagree. Maybe you think the older women aren't getting such a bad deal after all, write and let me know, suggest movies, I'm open to all points of view...
Saturday, March 17, 2007

postheadericon Nishabd: A very casual review

Duration: 1:50 hrs (approx.)
Genre: Drama
Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Story, Screenplay: Kusum Punjabi
Dialogues: Amrik Gill
Music Director: Vishal Bharadwaj

Saw Nishabd yesterday and I don't know what I was expecting before I sat down to view the movie, but whatever it was, I was disappointed.

So here's a man, Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) with an 18 year old daughter Ritu (Shraddha Arya) - he obviously had the child quite late in life because he is over 60 years old. One summer Ritu brings a friend, Jia (Jiah Khan), home for the holidays and Vijay is captivated by her youthfulness, her spontaneity and her zest for life. It doesn't help when Jia is equally captivated by him and goes so far as to tell him she loves him, which to my great horror he believes!!!!!!!!!

Ok, I am not saying an 18-year old is not capable of love, but for goodness sakes, if you have learned anything by the age of sixty, it's that love is a mutable, changeable thing. What seems like love today may change into respect or some other quality tomorrow, and the younger you are, the greater the possibility of that happening.

Anyway, so he falls crazily in love with her. Jia does perhaps remind Vijay of his youth and when he's with her he feels half his age...but is that good enough reason to throw your family over for a nymph? Or perhaps it is... when I reach 60, I will have to revisit the post to see if I still feel this way. But then again, being a woman, it is perhaps unlikely that I will feel like Vijay did. Who knows?

Is getting older really such a terrible thing? Do we have to fall down on our knees before youth all of the time? If we didn't worship youth so much, do you think we'd have fewer men wanting to have a woman half his age on his arm and will we have fewer women courting botox and other bizarre forms of cosmetic surgery?

What about in societies like India and China where the old are revered? Do the men and women there feel the same way when they reach their twilight years or are they too busy basking in the adoration of their family? Ironic question this, when you consider Vijay is an Indian man....but hey, that is Bollywood. What goes on in real life in those societies I wonder?

Nishabd has been promoted as Amitabh's "Lolita". I am now in the mood to watch Stanley Kubrik's interpretation of Vladimir Nakobov's novel Lolita, to see who really captured the essence of Lolita better. I think I already know who wins!

Oh and I know the concept of "older man-younger woman" isn't an alien concept in Indian cinema, however, no titles come to mind, can anyone suggest a few?

Finally, I have called this a casual review because I have not bothered to go into details about the acting, the script, music or cinematography - I just wanted to explore what I took away from the movie - society's obsession with youth.

However, I will say that Amitabh has excelled in his role as 60-year old Vijay. Was it deliberate or is he really looking his age in the movie?. There are more wrinkles on his face than I ever seen and noticable pouches under his eyes - I am guessing it's the makeup. Jiah is also quite convincing as the manipulative, and also misguided nymphette, but I found her high-pitched whine very irritating at times. The movie was shot in the beautiful tea plantations of Munnar, but everything seems to have been filmed through a blueish-green lens, which lent the movie a rather melancholy look. Perhaps a cineaste would appreciate it, I didn't.

Stay tuned for Stanley Kubrik's "Lolita"
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

postheadericon Sleeping with the enemy

I saw this picture in yesterday's "Globe and Mail" and the contrast between the beautiful Western-dressed bride, the Arab-veiled mother and the barbed wire, stopped me in my tracks (wish I could have got a clearer picture for you).

The bride, Arwad Shahin, was being given a send off as she prepared to leave for her bridegroom's house. But this was no ordinary send off because although Arwad and her husband-to-be were both Syrians from Druze families (the Druze are a breakaway Islamic sect following al-Hakim, an Ismaili caliph, as the embodiment of God), they live on opposite sides of the border, with Arwad living in one of the villages of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Harb (the bridegroom) living in Syria. Once Arwad crosses the border into Syria, she relinquishes her residency and any right to return. Infact, from now on, the Israelis will consider her a "foreigner from an enemy state."

THis also means she will never be able to meet with her family again as she will never be allowed back into Israel and nor will her family be allowed into Syria.

Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights and parts of Palestine has separated 100's of families. Not being able to see your family must be the hardest thing for anyone to endure. No doubt it happens in other parts of the world too, I am reminded here of the 100's of Indian families that were separated when India was divided into India and Pakistan and also, families from North Korea and South Korea. Still, some of those countries have come around and now special dispensation is given for visits between family members...why isn't this happening on the Israel-Syrian border as well?
Friday, March 09, 2007

postheadericon Before Sunset (2004)

Before Sunset

Directed by
Richard Linklater

Written by
Linklater, Kim Krizan, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke

Delpy and Hawke.

Imagine this: You're a young, single man or woman and you're travelling through Europe as many young people are want to do. You meet this really wonderful man (or woman) on the train and have a wonderful time conversing together. When you realize you have a common destination (Vienna) you decide to spend the day together taking in the sights of the city. You find, as you walk and talk, you have even more in common than you dared hope, and at the end of the day you do what only seems natural - you make wild, passionate love in a park to this person you have enjoyed the day with. Obviously, you want to meet her or him again, but in typical youthful impulsiveness you decide not to exhcange addresses or phone #'s, but instead, you both plan to meet 6 months from now on the same train platform in Vienna that you disembarked from.

However, 6 months later, you find you are unable to make it to Vienna because of certain commitments. You torment yourself for a while, for not being able to make it, you curse the fact that you never exchanged addresses, but such is life. Nine years go by, you have never forgotten this person, but life goes on.

Have you ever had that happen to you? Have you ever clicked so wonderfully with someone for an hour or two and wondered what life might have been like if you had more time with them?

Anyway, I digress...the story I was having you imagine is the story
of Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) from "Before Sunset". In the years that go by Ethan Hawke becomes a writer and recreates that day in Vienna with Celine as a theme for his first bestselling book. A chance meeting in Paris (where Jesse has gone to attend a book signing) brings the couple together after 9 years. Hawke has only an hour before his flight takes off and they spend the hour reminisicing, first in a beautiful Parisian cafe and then on a stroll in a Paris park and suburbs...they even manage to squeeze in a quick boat ride.

This movie takes place all in a span of 60 mins and I found its main characters are not Jesse and Celine, but the conversations that take place between them. If you ever want to watch a movie with impressive dialogue, this is the one for you! Their conversations provide such keen insights and understanding to the human nature: our wants, our needs and what we are able to sacrifice to achieve them. Their chats touch on human relationships,religion, the environment, love lost and found and the tenacity of bonds that develop between people that are truly connected to each other. However, you also realize how often we choose to live our lives by default, content to let things happen to us rather than to go and make it happen for us. You learn that no man is an island and sometimes, we will be with someone we don't love only because we can't bear to be alone. But, as wonderful as the conversations are, what is equally wonderful is what is not said but merely suggested by the very talented actors' expressions and body language. If you have 1hr and 20mins to spare before your day ends, go rent the movie, you will enjoy the experience!

Technically, "Before Sunset" would be considered a sequel to "Before Sunrise" (which is a movie about the couple's day spent in Vienna), but it is also a stand alone movie.
Saturday, March 03, 2007

postheadericon Anwar and what I learned from the movie

I saw "Anwar" the other night. When I rented the DVD I had no idea what it was about, but I was determined to see it because I loved the songs.

In a nutshell, most of the movie takes place on Valentine's Day with a ton of flashbacks. Anwar (Siddharth Koirala) is a depressed young man (he has lost several people near and dear to him, in horrific suicides and murders) and in his disturbed state, takes refuge in a ruined temple (although a Muslim he is fascinated with temple art). Someone discovers his drawings at the site and news spreads of a Muslim terrorist hiding in the temple. Soon the police, politicians and hoardes of RSS men gather at the site asking Anwar to surrender, but he does not.

In flashbacks we learn that Anwar loved a girl Mehru (Nauheed Cyrusi) but she was in love with his Hindu best friend Udit. Understanding that their parents would not approve of a inter-religious marriage, Mehru and Udit elope. Mehru's mother with the help of all her relatives begins her search for the eloping couple and Anwar provides the information for where they could be found. We are not exactly sure why he let his friends down, but one can assume it was due to jealousy. The couple is caught, Udit is murdered and Mehru hangs herself after a couple of days leaving behind a very distraught and guilty Anwar.

On the surface of things the movie, set in Lucknow, appears to be about the age old Hindu-Muslim rivalry, but really, Anwar is a love story. What I took away from the movie is this: everyone, whether that person is a criminal, a Lord, a servant, a law enforcer, a media darling or just an ordinary person like you and me, is somebody's love and at the same time, someone's fool. No matter who we are or where we are placed in the social heirarchy, we love someone enough to be their complete fool and someone (not necessarily the same person) loves us too. So the next time someone gets on your nerves try to see him as the love of someone's life and hopefully you'll be able to feel more charitable towards him/her.

But coming back to the movie, the acting was mediocre, the storyline a little tedious and there is nothing to recommed it except for the music which was created by Mithoon and Pankaj Awasthi. I beseech you to listen to the songs, especially the Sufi- inspired "Javeda Zindagi", Maula Mere Maula and Dilbar Mera. Songs available for download here
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

postheadericon Kung Hey Fat Choy

Kung Hey Fat Choy, albeit belated! Hope everyone had a very Happy Chinese New Year!

Many of you might know that this is the year of the Golden (Fire) Pig (which comes once every 60 years) and because babies born in this year are considered supremely lucky, maternity hospitals in China are bracing themselves for a baby boom which makes me wonder what that will do the 1980 One-Child Policy?

It's funny how years ago babies born in the year of the Dragon were considered the ideal babies (dragon babies are considered to be intelligent - they will work hard and do well career-wise ), but now that Chinese society is becoming increasingly capitalisitic, the focus has shifted from academia to prosperity and wealth, and the pig which stands for both those qualities has come to be the most sought-after Chinese Zodiac sign.

Speaking of the Chinese Zodiac, do you know which animal rules your year? I've been doing a little sleuthing and found I was born in the year of Fire Horse. Apparently, Chinese girls born in the year of the Fire Horse traditionally have a very hard time finding husbands because they are not considered docile enough...lol

CHARACTERISTICS (general) about Horse People:

Self-reliant, Joyful, Outgoing, Sophisticated, Greedy, Resilient, Arrogant

The Fire Horse is animated and sociable. He has a wild side that leads him to a life on the edge. Fire Horses are generally either incredibly lucky or ridiculously unlucky. They love the excitement of action and the change it brings. The Fire element makes them passionate about their feelings and they always take a stand in a situation. Fire Horses are never on the fence about anything and have definitive opinions about the world. Their tempers can be overbearing.

Go here to check your Chinese Zodiac Sign
Monday, January 29, 2007

postheadericon Meme: Five Unknown Aspects About Me

I was tagged by Gautami for this meme. Thank you, dear one!

1.I have stylish handwriting (or so they would tell me in school/college) and was often selected to write the Bachelor degree certificates in calligraphy for the University of Bombay for a small payment.

2.My college dorm was right next door to a famous Mumbai Auditorium or theater as we would call it here in North America and it aired popular plays every night. The ushers were our friends and every evening at intermission they would tell me and my friends where the empty seats were and we would watch the second half of the play. Now when I look back, I realize that I spent three years of my life watching a play almost everyday. Why am I not in the performing arts or how is it I review books instead of plays?

3.I love "people watching". When I travel, I will deliberately go to the airport early so that I can watch people...not sure what that says about me, but it's one of the most interesting things to do. Often I will strike up conversations with people that interest me and I'll have to say I have learned a lot. I would like to take this to the next level and travel with my camera in tow (a la Desmond Morris), but I'm not sure how well that would go down with most people!

4.I am a gypsy by nature. I find it very difficult to settle down in one place for a long time. I have lived in India, the Middle East, the UK and now Canada...I love Canada but am starting to feel the 7-year itch. I'd like to go live in Singapore (closer to India) for a few years, but we'll have to see.

5. I love attending seminars, conferences, talks etc. I think it's because it fits in so neatly with my love of learning. I love to record things I learn at these seminars - I think I might have made a good reporter!

Well, there you have it, 5 aspects that you may or may not have known about me.
Thanks for tagging me Gautami, I have enjoyed playing!
Monday, January 22, 2007

postheadericon Vot men? You don’t know how to tell a typical katlic? by Joan Pinto

When I first moved to Bangalore from Bombay I was often asked (after establishing I lived in the suburbs ofcourse) if I had been to a lot of Mac parties. Mac??? I didn't even know what the term meant until one helpful person pointed out it meant "Macca Paus" the term by which Bombay-Catholics are affectionately called. It came as a surprise to me, but people outside Bombay really do dig the "macca paus" - let's face it, they're one community that really, really knows how to have fun. So when I came across this article by Joan on her blog, I couldn't resist asking her if I could put it up on this blog. The Bombay Catholics, in particular the Bandra Catholics, have their own little unique thing going on, something you don't often get to see outside of Bombay.

This is a great article...if you've lived in Bombay you will read, nod your head and smile, and if you don't, you will be just as amused. Read and smile.

A big thank you to Joan for letting me use the article on my blog.

Here we go:

Vot men? You don’t know how to tell a typical katlic?

By Joan Pinto

‘Thou shalt drink. Thou shalt jive.’ If there were commandments requiring you to be a ‘katlic’ these would be first. ‘Vot to do man, bugger it comes with the genes.’

People are always exclaiming, “You don’t drink! What kind of catholic are you?” - As though the Pope decreed it. Then, as if the answer to the next question would redeem me they hastily ask “Do you jive?’ An affirmative nod saves my soul and I am admitted back into the fold.

By religion, we are Roman Catholic. Roman, because we are governed by the church in Rome, not because we have dual passports. By culture, katlic. Or ‘Mac’ as people refer to us after they’ve known us for two sentences. How can anyone miss the “Vot men? Or “kya man? ” where the ‘man’ comes free with every sentence quite oblivious to the fact that you’re a woman. Or other phonetic jewels like tree (three), aahks (ask), ‘doll’ (dal), dat (that), or the “faader - mudder” (father/mother) that I would like to believe is some dialect of German, but nein. It’s trademark ‘Mac’ talk.

Of the several theories that float around, one says Mac is a derivative of ‘macca pau’ (butter ‘n’ bread) because supposedly that’s what katlics eat.

The drinking of course, we’re sure of. “Michael daru peekay dhanda karta hai” from “Amar Akbar Anthony” tells a small part of the story. We drink at Holy communions, christenings, at other festivals too: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays…. You get the picture.

And of course we drink at those crazy carnivals called katlic weddings. Where you dress up, quaff wine, slip on confetti, stomp at the Wedding March like drunk soldiers, get sozzled, stuff face with potato chops, vindaloo, sorpotel, pork roast, let face fall forward involuntarily into plate of salad, do the mandatory birdie dance, throw the bouquet, wake the neighbours with off-key rendition of “He’s a jolly good fellow” as you zig zag home.

Katlics like to sing. Where there’s a Mac gathering, not counting funerals, there’s a ‘sing-song’ session. “My Bonnie lies over the ocean’, ‘When the saints go marching in’ and the quintessential ‘Annie’s Song’. No Mac party is complete without a guitar and one sloshed uncle who will be dragged home by the toes.

Katlics mourn with the same passion. Wearing black at funerals and for months after, and fasting with fervour at Good Friday. But as December knocks on their doors you‘ll find Crawford market besieged by katlics from ‘Maim’ (Mahim) to Marine lines taking home so much lace you’re not quite sure if it’s for the curtains or the dresses.

At Christmas katlics eat guava cheese and cake and drink (more) wine, go to midnight mass at 8.00 pm. because Jesus said ‘Never mind, keep the peace’ or similar, then in 27 degree heat wear jackets to Willingdon or Catholic Gym and jive the night away.

Though being a katlic may be more about cultural togetherness than going to mass every Sunday we religiously fulfil the requirements. To be a really good katlic you must go inside the church. They have a name for people who don’t “Outstanding catholics”. And if those black sheep did go in it would be a miracle close on the heels of Jesus’ turning water into wine.

If you’re katlic you subscribe to the Examiner where katlic girls search for katlic boys with sober habits and own accommodation.

Good katlics go to confession. When we were kids we knelt in the dark confessional and sincerely asked forgiveness. Standard sins were ‘I beat my sister’ for the boys and ‘I told lies in school’ for the girls. Of course when we grew up we either stopped going or told only the simple one and hoped god would get the others telepathically. We didn’t want to give old father Andrew a minor coronary. Besides, our idea of what constituted a sin had changed.

Hindi movies have katlic girls rushing tearfully to church to pray to Mother Mary for the safety of their threatened love. Maybe that’s why it’s believed that Catholic girls will anoint themselves after every four-letter word and, ‘The morning after her wedding night, she’ll go to confession.’ Katlic boys are in a different league altogether. They play hockey or football till they die and are very eloquent with words like ‘pasting’ (beating), loafer, bugger, as in ‘Vot you doing men, bugger?’

Now some katlics don’t drink or jive or play the piano or chase football, or sing off-key. To them I’d say ‘Come let’s wash away our sins, let’s have a beer. Cheers and Hic!

Friday, January 19, 2007

postheadericon Learning Hindi from Bollywood Movies

A big "thank you" to all of you who responded to my plea for tips on how to learn new languages and how to retain my fluency in the Hindi basha despite hardly ever getting to hear or speak it - your suggestions were varied and most helpful!

Whilst researching the subject ( I told you guys I was serious,lol) I came upon this brilliant site which teaches you Hindi using Bollywood movies as a tool.

I tuned into their 16th podcast and now I can have a very educated discussion on malaria! Yeay for me! :)

Thank you Cutting Chai! ;)
Friday, January 12, 2007

postheadericon Speaking in more than one tongue

This being the month of January, many bloggers are talking about new year resolutions. Some abhor making them, but I just love them and regardless of whether I keep them or not, I always make them. One of my resolutions this year is to learn a new language or atleast to go back and polish up my Arabic. I haven't acted upon this resolutions thus far (well, to be fair to me, it's only Jan 12), but after reading in today's Globe and Mail about how a knowledge of more than one language has been linked to a significant delay in the onset of dementia symptoms, I want to get to my Arabic classes NOW!

According to the article, a working knowledge of more than one language can help stave off dementia by atleast a few years! (Among the unilingual people studied, dementia began to appear in men at an average age of 70.8 and in women at 71.9. But among those who knew two or more languages, dementia did not begin to appear in men until an average age of 76.1 and in women until 75.1.)

Considering that this disease is incurable, it is heartening atleast to know that it can be deferred with the right mental activities. Working as an ER volunteer I have seen so many Alzheimer patients and what I see makes me very despondent. It's a terrible disease, both for the patient and for all the people that love him/her or who have to care for him/her.

Having said all of that, however, how does one practice a language other than English in North American society? I used to be fluent in Hindi but now I find myself floundering everytime I have to speak it because I don't speak it enough. Any ideas?
Tuesday, January 09, 2007

postheadericon Which Superhero Are You?

I got this from Anocturne, who got it from ThinkTome

I am kinda embarrassed to admit this but the only comics I read growing up were Archie/Betty, Richie Rich and Amar Chitra Kathas, so when Anocturne tagged me with this, I floundered a little because although I had heard of most of these superheroes, I didn't really know what each one did, apart from "Superman", "Batman" and "Spiderman" ofcourse. I got the Catwoman, who doesn't sound very nice! Why do I always get these negative creatures everytime I do one of these quizzes? hmmmmm
Your results:
You are Catwoman

Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
The Flash
Iron Man
You have had a tough childhood,
you know how to be a thief and exploit others
but you stand up for society's cast-offs.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test