Archive for January, 2008

Juno

B-e-a-utiful movie.

Two scenes really stood out in the movie. Juno’s father and step-mother, had been really supportive of her, but still, the family functioned as the typical dysfunctional American family ( as Aishwarya put it, we Indians do not need an appointment to meet our parents and really really rubbed it in!!)

It was really touching, as in the only way he would know, he lets his daughter know about love, and then cutely asserts that he really loves her, for what she is. He may have known the context of why her daughter asked him the particular thing about love, but very nicely, he managed to tell her how much he really loved her.

Juno MacGuff: I’m losing my faith in humanity.
Mac MacGuff: Think you can narrow it down for me?
Juno MacGuff: I guess I wonder sometimes if people ever stay together for good.
Mac MacGuff: You mean like couples?
Juno MacGuff: Yeah, like people in love.
Mac MacGuff: Are you having boy troubles? I gotta be honest; I don’t much approve of dating in your condition, ’cause well… that’s kind of messed up.
Juno MacGuff: Dad, no!
Mac MacGuff: Well, it’s kind of skanky. Isn’t that what you girls call it? Skanky? Skeevy?
Juno MacGuff: Please stop now.
Mac MacGuff: [persisting] Tore up from the floor up?
Juno MacGuff: Dad, it’s not about that. I just need to know if it’s possible for two people to stay happy together forever, or at least for a few years.
Mac MacGuff: It’s not easy, that’s for sure. Now, I may not have the best track record in the world, but I have been with your stepmother for 10 years now and I’m proud to say that we’re very happy.
[Juno nods]
Mac MacGuff: In my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person will still think the sun shines out your ass. That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with.
Juno MacGuff: I sort of already have.
Mac MacGuff: Well, of course! You’re old D-A-D! You know I’ll always be there to love and support you no matter what kind of pickle you’re in… Obviously
[nods to her belly]
Juno MacGuff: I need to go out somewhere just for a little while. I don’t have any homework and I swear I’ll be back by ten.
Mac MacGuff: You were talking about me right?



Juno’s step-mother is not the Cinderella type wicked. She too cared for Juno, but hid it. She never really wanted Juno to feel the same way, nor did Juno ever try. But, towards the end of the movie, when Juno was in labor, she actually asked her step mother, when some relief (spinal whatever) would come. She tried to smart-ass her way out of it, but seeing the pain, she yells out for the spinal whatever to be given to her, and shouts out ‘my-kid’. Her love, again, shown subtly and beautifully.

Amazing movie making

Juno MacGuff: Ow, ow, fuckity-ow! Bren, when do I get that spinal tap thing?
Bren: It’s called a spinal block. And you can’t have it yet, honey. The doctor said you’re not dilated enough.
Juno MacGuff: You mean I have to wait for it to get worse? Why can’t they just give it to me now?
Bren: Well, honey, doctors are sadists who like to play God and watch lesser people scream…
[Juno lets out painful scream, Brenda checks her watch]
Bren: Shit.
[to doctor]
Bren: Hey, can we get my kid the damn spinal tap already?

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happily ever after

‘…And they lived happily ever after’.

He looked into her face, as she slept, a smile on her face. He was sure, he could see her dreams, of a beautiful world, of kings and queens, of talking fishes and flying horses,of evil witches and bad curses, of courageous heroes and great wars, of a blue sky and green earth, and of happy endings.

Secretly he wished, he could be the kid again, and listen to bed-time stories of fairies and everything that is beautiful, and believe, as his daughter now does, that every story, indeed has a happy ending. But, instead, he knew, he was facing the hardest decision of his life yet.

A poor immigrant in a poor country, not many jobs were available to him. And today, the job he knew to do well, was gone. His owner, moved on to the bigger city, to work for another master. Yes, he had to find some work, but he knew the other decision would be harder.

We had never planned for her, he said to himself. Cold logic kicked in. A child was never a good decision, for a poor man, in a country ravaged by war, looking to flee from home. But, the pregnancy happened. They ran away from the war. With no shelter, no money, he could just listen to the doctor in his new country say, that his wife may not survive child-birth. Later, he could just see her live the last moment of her life, as her child, his child lay crying next to her.

No, I never bargained for her, he thinks again, as he looks towards the angelic 4 year old face sleeping next to him, oblivious to his torture, in the dream world of happy endings.

He chided himself. For cold logic to have taken over his thoughts. She was his child. He had raised her. She had given him those fleeting moments of happiness, which was as hard to come by as a good meal in the last 4 years. He had seen happiness in her face. He had worked through long hard days, just by seeing her play all by herself from the corner of his eyes. He had felt the surge of happiness and excitement in her, when he threw her up in the air and caught her every evening. He, once again, had believed in happy endings, when he cooked up bed-time stories for her.

She needs me, he argues to himself. She is living in this protected, magical, beautiful world, that he had made for her. She is not ready, yet, to learn that the world is lot more crueler then she can ever imagine to be now. He has to stay with her, and ease her into the real world, slowly. It has to be him that has to do it.

The mental war of emotion and logic is leaving him, nothing but confused, as logic presents its case again, inside the courtroom of his thoughts. Happiness, you argue, emotion, but tell me how will you give her happiness. So far, you spent more money for tiny gifts for her, the nice frock, the rainbow ice-cream, the talking doll, then for your food. You have not eaten for two days, just so that she has some food. How do you reckon, emotion, that tomorrow, jobless and helpless, unwanted in this new country, you are going to keep her happy and content. How do you even think that you can shield her, as you have, from the cruelties of the world.

Moments such as these come, when logic feels right, but emotions and memories, which have no place in all that is logical, contradict. Decisions, however, need to be taken.

It was getting late, and in a split second, he decided. He had to let her go. It would be hard for her tomorrow, and the day-after, but maybe one day she will realize that father was correct. It was the only logical thing to do. He picked her up, and walked down the road, to the orphanage, that had been tempting him, for quite some time, and which had been his only thought, all evening, after he had lost his job.

He placed her gently, on the stairs, and turned back and left. He knew, that the one last look, he promised himself, when he made the decision, would be the worst thing to do. Fighting tears, he ran up the street, to collect all his belongings, and ran all the way to the railway station.

The train, was not to come till the morning. He laid his belongings down, and decided to sleep. As he closed his eyes, his thoughts only had place for the beautiful smile that he had seen on his daughter’s face as he finished the story earlier in the evening. He knew what he had to do.

He ran back to the street, to the orphanage, picked her up, shook her, woke her up, and in a shower of kisses, let her know, that they together will change the story. They deserved a happy ending, and he will find it for her and himself.

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PS: The idea just came, when lazing on my bed, I thought about fairy tales and how every story was ‘ Long long time ago…..and they lived happily ever after”. Suddenly, this story( if I may call it), occurred to me, and I though I will write it. Obviously, there are a lot of borrowed instances, coming from a lifetime of watching movies. But, I wanted, somehow to highlight the turmoil inside the father’s head. I hope I could do it.

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PPS: Why is it that work gets done only when deadlines knock on your door? I have a bad feeling about my PhD. The whole 4/5 years is a big exercise in self-motivation, but I need huge huge, XXL doses of it. Right now, the whole research excites me, I can spend hours thinking what I can do, but it does not count, till I do something.

Cheers!
Kaushik

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A Separate Peace- My perspective

The journey from the land of innocence to that of knowledge and maturity has no return path, and perhaps that’s what keeps us yearning for the innocent days, like the neverland that never will be.

I have to reference To kill a mocking bird (which is most popular among books that deal with innocence and loss of innocence), which presented an outlook to life and society, that only kids with their unadulterated minds can have. It showed, what we can be, highlighted how much away from it we are.

A separate peace, does not set out to do all these. Instead, it is about the journey of Gene, from the perfect innocent world of a kid/pre-teen to the real one. John Knowles, has penned down the turbulent feelings that Gene and you and me, have invariably gone through, as we understand ourselves, our society and the world as a whole.

Knowles, tells the story in a simple setting, that of high school boys, a year away from enlisting in the war (world war- II), and a small incident that takes place in the school, which changes forever, the nice little joyous world of Gene and Finny and Leper and Binker and reminds us of our younger days.

The book is a work of art in detailed character sketching. Most of the book, is written so as to dissect the thought process of a confused teenager, unsure of himself. Each event, has been described through the ambivalent and mixed feelings that we have had, when what we believe and what we see don’t match up, and then we think differently, take a different standpoint, and end up contradicting ourselves again, and continue an inner turmoil to achieve our mental peace.

As I read the book, I connected with a lot of feelings that Gene went through. It was as though, I read the book on two different planes, whilst a part of my brain, connected the dots in the book, another traced dots previously connected when I was 13-14-15-16 years old.

Phineas, is the unspoiled, untarnished character, preserving his innocence and inner peace. In the whole book, the only character to stay clear of confusions and ambivalence is Phineas. Gene, the narrator, on the other hand, is in the center of turbulence. The book traces the thoughts of Gene, slowly as maturity and understanding creeps into him, and how he fights himself to hold on to the insane and playful and irresponsible thoughts of Phineas, which reminds him of how he was not so long ago, and how he yearns to be forever.

The death of Finny, is the touch of brilliance in the book, as Knowles, leads Gene and the readers through the point of no return. It is the coming-of-age of Gene, as he finally loses all contact with Finny and his innocence, and faces the reality, the war.

Brilliant also, is the fact that Knowles has used 16 year old boys, enjoying school, but looking forward to war. The war looming ahead, and the last few days of fun in the school, symbolic of the inner journey, from the peace of innocence to the violent cruel mature world.

Quoting the book:

Everyone has a moment in history which belongs particularly to him. It is the moment when his emotions achieve their most powerful sway over him, and afterward when you say to this person “the world today” or “life” or “reality” he will assume that you mean this moment, even if it is fifty years past. The world, through his unleashed emotions, imprinted upon him, and he carries the stamp of that passing moment forever

Words so beautifully woven together, but read deeply, and I am sure you will not find it hard to find that moment in your lives. It may not be a moment, but a few events here and there, which are the pillars of the bridge to the journey I have been referring to.

A truly marvelous book, an amazing read, a book for your collections.

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Cricket, Racism and Everything Else

I am a hard core Cricket fan. I pray to all the Gods I know on every day that the Indian team takes the field that India win. And, as with billions of Indians, I am disgusted that we lost.

Just keeping to cricket, sure the umpires did us in. But, for a team that had showed so much fight, after the first test mauling, 72 overs should not have been a big deal. Kumble, of all people, could survive that cauldron. A big question mark must be put on Yuvraj. It is one thing, not to perform, if you have a settled place in the team, or even when, you are there because the ‘best’ player for that position is unavailable. But, to not perform for 4 innings together, when, the team balance has been upset, when the best Indian batsman has been asked to open, which he is not comfortable with, is unacceptable.

Everyone knows that the umpires gave a slew of wrong ones, and all against India. Much has been written about the unsportsmanlike behavior of Ponting and the Aussies. But to me, India is victorious as they managed to remove the veil of the champs. In the past decade, India has been consistently competing against Australia. Barring a match or two, all the matches have gone to the wire. Before this series, the last decade was split 6-8 to the Aussies. Throw an if- in for the rained out Chennai test, it would be 7-8 to the Aussies. And that is victory enough to India (for me). On the performance against Australia alone, India deserve to be a worthy 2nd best test team in the world ( not to forget away wins in Pakistan, Windies, England, an away test win in SA and Australia). The only flaw in the India’s test record would be the drawn test series in India with Pakistan and England. If India learn to finish matches, then this record would be much better.

IMO, this is a reason why Australia behaved the way they did. They are scared of the Indian Test team, and as the only team that has stretched Australia to the limit in Australia in the past decade, not once but twice, the ugly side of Australia’s professionalism and will to win peeked out. Even, this ugly side to the game would not have helped, if not for the deaf and blind and meek umpires.

They may be the best team in the world, but they do not have the balls for a fight.

The other thing that this test has thrown is the Racism abuse. I (and am sure many others) consider the ban on Harbhajan to be racist ( atleast, on the basis of the news available now, 1/7/08). It was the word of a couple of ‘white’ aussies against a couple of ‘brown’ indians, as the umpires and the referee agreed that there was no conclusive video or audio proof.

Given even this to the australians, does a ‘monkey’ chant constitute to be racism?

What is the timeline of this slang?

It started with a group of Baroda supporters chanting Monkey Monkey at Symonds. The average Indian cricket lover, is knowledgeable about the game, its history, records, consider themselves to be better umpires than Bucknor ( which they may be too :p ), but I am sure, that they will not be aware of the ethinic make-up of the Australian team.

Symonds had tormented India in the series, and for that calling him a monkey seems to be the most meek of Indian slangs that Symonds could have received, given the colorful expletives that Indians can dish out.

The Mumbai pictures of men imitating monkeys may have gone too far, but that too is not racial IMO. These are the same Indians, who dared to call Inzy as Aloo (Potato). Now, had he been equated to some really fat animal, would that have been resulted in racism??? That is a question to ponder about.

I just do not see how ‘Monkey’ can be considered Racist? Where does this even come close to the horrendous ‘racist’ acts done by the west on the asians. Even the meekest racist comments by the west would have been more derogatory than a monkey slang. Even Brad Hogg’s b******* is more derogatory than calling someone a monkey.

But from a broader perspective, IMO, this looks to be a pre-emptive position, that the west and the developed world is bound to take, as India and China grow more and more powerful.

As for everything else, the regular updates follow 🙂

1. Had a blast of a time in Vegas and LA and Tempe.
2. Relieved that the first semester in Wisc is over.
3. Have to work. Need an ‘enthu’ generating machine
4. This trip to the west coast, apart from the fun, has made me think a little, and make me contemplate a bit more. Maybe I will blog about it later.
5. Gambling sucks, if you lose money and your friends have all the luck in the world.

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