Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Darjeeling's Tea Gardens

Darjeeling's tea gardens take you back to colonial times. There's always a nip in the air and longing for freshly brewed hot tea that you feel tempted to have to keep warm. It's a place I know I'd like to visit again.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Not a Movie Review: Michael Clayton is a Bore

MICHAEL CLAYTON is a movie about a lawyer who has spent too much time 'negotiating and fixing deals' and the theme interested me. George Clooney plays the protagonist. The movie hints at the huge stakes that a law firm has in an environmental corporate sort of case and the way Clayton's personal problems of being broke and in debt come into conflict with his professional interests. One fine day, his car explodes before his eyes and that is when he realizes that some one is trying to get rid of him.

Too often, we find Clayton looking lost and staring without expression, at what's in front of him.

The actress in this movie is Tilda Swinton. She is the epitome of an ambitious corporate lawyer whose greed for fame and publicity fuels her need to prove herself infallible. She spends most of her time practicing lines before a mirror. Her character lacks substance in the way its been etched out and it is clear right from the start that she has to maintain a dour expression, without even the hint of a smile.

The theme was a good one but was badly executed. It just rips apart your patience and kills your interest in the movie. The end was brilliant and worth the wait, to some extent. If you can stay patient, this may be a movie that will try it further.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Not a Movie Review: Defiance is an Attitude

When I saw that "Defiance" is a movie directed by Edward Zwick, the maker of some brilliant flicks like "Glory," "The Last Samurai" and "Blood Diamond," I couldn't resist picking it up. Here's the story, not that I am the best person for story telling but I hope you'll be kind enough to still read on.

In 1941, in an area that we now know as Belarus, Jews are being persecuted mercilessly by the Hiter regime. Tuvia Bielski (starring Daniel Craig) is believed to have saved the lives of more than 1,000 Jews by keeping them safe in the woods, which came to be christened as "Jerusalem in the woods." Tuvia's brothers are Asael, (starring Jamie Bell), Aron (starring George Mackay) and Zus (Liev Schreiber).

First, the brothers avenge the death of their parents who are killed ruthlessly by the Nazis. Later, they help to save many Jews who were hiding in the forest, not knowing where to go or where their next meal would come from. Even a drop of water is not there for all of them to drink. The brothers think through the hopeless situation and become leaders who take charge to do what is required to stay alive. They create a system whereby every Jew is assigned a task to do and a role to fulfill. They lay down a hard rule - no babies on the settlement because it is no decent place for a baby to grow up.

The tensions between the brothers are played out very well by Craig and Schreiber because they are such opposites in attitude, passion and values.Their story is one of courage, not victimization. Typically, most real life stories on the Holocaust portrayed the horrors that the Jews went through and how they were victimized by it. This movie showed how a band of brothers became warriors, though they could have chosen to feel helpless and victimized by the turn of events around them. Somewhere, it seemed as though Zwick was getting lost in a melodrama of his own making, not necessarily that of the brothers.

Still, I 'd say that what the Bielski brothers did by saving and empowering so many Jews deserves to be remembered and documented. It tells us that even when we face the worst situations in life, we can deal with it by choosing a different route of action, one in which we don't prepare ourselves to be victims.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Life is Cruel but You've to Survive

Every day, I wait to hear about my son's day in school. It's the highlight of my day - to unwind with him and hear him talk about how well/badly his day is. Sometimes, he has good days. There are times when he has bad days because a child in class behaves nastily. I had read somewhere that kids are territorial in nature. Like lions or hunting animals, they can sense fear and act upon it to their advantage. I never believed it then but from the time I've started observing how children behave, I've noticed its true. Kids pick on kids who seem frightened or timid in their presence. In my son's class, the girls are more aggressive and dominating. I remember that it was the same in my school too. Perhaps these are scraps of memories and may have nothing to do with it being girls or boys. I am sure that today's little boys and girls are more influenced by the movies they see than we were. That too has something to do with the aggression in their behavior.

In an English movie that I saw, I recalled the words of a father to his son, "Life is cruel but you have to survive."

The words stay with me when I think of some children who say or do cruel things to other kids. They feel its their right to survive. The weaker kids give in or become dominated by it because they too want to find an easier way to survive. It's no different when we grow up and pass through high school, college and the battleground of life. We learn ways to tackle cruelty and we find the means to survive somehow.

Maybe we know deep within, that there is no choice but to survive.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Kingdom of God is Within You

From the time my son, Jyotiraditya, was born, everyday has been a new dawn. Through his eyes, I see the world differently. I see life differently.

And I realize what is meant in the words, "The kingdom of God is within you."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Use of Coconuts and Monkeys in Thailand

When time permits, I like to watch cricket, FIFA or Travel & Living. One such time, when I was watching the travel channel, they were doing a feature on Thai food. It was quite interesting and similar to the Kerala cuisine and naturally, I paid attention to some interesting facts that came up.

In the 16th century, the Portuguese introduced coconut as an integral part of Thai food.  They showed a sweet crispy wafer that is a very popular snack in Thailand and it is made from a mix of rice flour, sugar, eggs and then flavored with coconuts and peanuts. They claim its an awesome snack and by the way it looked, I can't really doubt their claims.

Kerala too has considerable Portuguese influence but it is believed that coconut was a part of Kerala cuisine even before their arrival. In Kerala, there are traditional coconut climbers who climb the trees and throw down the coconuts that are ready to be used. Nearly every home in Kerala has coconut trees, so the role of a climber can be well-imagined, isn't it?

Interestingly, in Thailand, the people train monkeys to do the same job. Initially, it was almost offensive to know that but then it is just a sign of efficiency at their end. Each monkey is trained to pick upto a thousand coconuts per day and expected to work eight long hours. 

Before the documentary could be seen completely, my son switched the channel to watch Tom and Jerry and I didn't have the heart to stop him. So, there ends this post. Hope you found it interesting too.