Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Piece By Piece

Are we all incomplete, by design?
Employed by force
Expected to find
The matching pieces of the jigsaw puzzle
That add up and construct the “I”

A touch, a smile,
A tacit acknowledgment
An emotion deciphered without words
A sentence as complete as it is broken
A tear, half-welled from its inception
Shed by someone for a foreign pain

Each a small victory, each a small piece
Each peeling off
Layers to reveal a paragon

And so it happens one day
The picture is completed
With hands that helped
And chunks borrowed
From someone else

And whilst I know
That the lien will be up
And drifting winds
Will take the chunks away
To annul
Another imperfection

For a day,
I will be
Complete

P.S> Strange things have happened, and this would qualify as one of them. Thanks to suggested movie watching from Curbside Prophet, I watched the movie 'Before Sunrise' and was duly impressed and glad I saw it. Hours before that, I had written the above piece which fits in perfectly with the theme of the movie. For those who dream of the perfect day with the perfect person and live their imperfect lives in perfect anticipation of it, here's my tribute.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The n+5 theorem

This post was due on the 27th of July. I wrote about Allan Border instead. You know, birthday boys and girls are special. However, the day marked another significant little personal milestone for me. An anniversary of significance. Five long years ago on that day, Avinash and I boarded a Delta Airlines airplane wearing a ridiculous suit, with loads of relatives happy to see us off and a Brief History of Time as reading material (We were sad, sad people then. I’ll reserve my comments on the situation now). The trip abroad for a Masters is a strange little journey. It is a shift of the magnitude of the movement of tectonic plates. The breaking up of world into continents. Literally. It is a fabulous experience, a coming-of-age for home-grown boys like me, a step into a life which is tangentially opposite to the one you know (today’s generation is much more informed than us, you know the one’s the pronounce the J in Jansport with a Y), a rite of passage that will shadow you for the rest of your life.

Therein lies the dilemma. How influential is the shadow? How long will the effects linger? How long are you bound to stay in this country? Graduate students often fail to clearly answer the one question that they should have answered foremost: why exactly are they here? For the love of God, money, education, partying, freedom, women, men, rental cars, Walmart, rental apartments, unlimited refills of soda, Taco Bell, long weekend deals, rolling R’s: one of these, all, or none? They get to the US, get through their Masters, get their first paycheck, their first car, first serious attempts at arranged nuptials, actually getting married, getting their H1B visa stamped, applying for the green card, buying the first house, fussing about their lawn, buy bulk groceries from Costco and if productive, have a couple of babies too. The seemingly unbreakable sequence of events stated above is punctuated with trips to India where a few tears are shed with the parents, comments made about how India is progressing, observations made about how the country has changed beyond recognition, pleasant nods made when told that kids are best brought up in India, US’s role in world affairs is tch-tched, and a general doomsday prediction is made about how your life will go down the drain if you decided to stay on forever in the US.

Sum of all fears, expectations and conversations is a common refrain: I’ll come back to India in five years. Somehow, the magical number of five has stuck. Perhaps it has do with the arithmetic around finishing your degree in two-three years, getting a job and recovering or accumulating some money, depending upon how graduate life has treated you. Somehow, five seems the talismanic number that people agree upon is a good time to have enjoyed the good life before they head back to their roots. Somehow, five seems to be the acceptable threshold at which you haven’t done too much to break all ties with your family and friends, where you and your American passport-holding kids will have least trouble adjusting back to the reformed India.

Which is what makes the five year anniversary a significant date. I have gone through the above mentioned steps but find myself firmly entrenched in a life that I have built out of choice. There are still the trips to India, still the talks about how it is better than ever before to go back, to blend in. There are still beliefs that one so attuned to the comforts of the west will not have to cut back heavily on the benefits as India is fast catching up. There are still talks about how life is empty without having family close by.

However, if it were all so easy to pack up and start all over again, why isn’t it so? It’s a vicious cycle of voluntary entrenchment. You dig your heels in, enjoy the stability and yearn to be swept off by the ocean waters you see from your stakeout place on the top of the trees. There is still always the hope, always the desire, for you know you don't belong here. The plan to return is always existent, just difficult to implement. So, here, ladies and gentlemen is my most realistic assessment on the situation. My theorem about returning back to India. I’ll go back to India in five years time … from today.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Halla Bol!

That, for the unintiated is Mangal Pandey a.k.a. Aamir Khan in flowing hair and puffy eyes and striking moustache's call. Yes, I saw 'The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey' first day first show on Friday at the most disgustingly maintained theater in the whole world: Roxy Cinema in Kirkland. The fact that this is the only theater that shows Hindi films in the Seattle area, they charge $10 for a movie experience like none other. The sound stinks, the movie roll might just slide up such that you see the head below the feet (it happened in Hum Tum), the floor is sticky and I don't want to know what caused it to be that way, the restrooms are terrible, and the service is appaling (they wait a good half hour after the movie's scheduled time to fill in more seats). That said, I have seen more movies in this theatre than any other in my life :-( Why do I like Hindi films so much??

What can one say about the Rising? The first Aamir Khan release in 4 years, first after Lagaan, this movie had great curiosity value from the moment it went on the floors. So what is the movie about? Mangal Pandey is the man purported to have started the first freedom struggle of India (called the Sepoy Mutiny by the Brits). The story goes that the British made bullet cartridges made off cow and pig fat which was unacceptable to both Hindus and Muslims. Mangal Pandey protested against this, led a small revolt where he injured some English officers and was ultimately hanged.

So, that's the story. However, there isn't enough matter to fill in a two and a half hours. So, what do we do? We throw in the story of a friendship with a British officer (this was still ok with me), throw in a romance with a nautch girl, throw in three unnecessary songs (barring the title song and the mujra, none were justified), throw in yet another romance with the British officer and a sati, and brief references to other key players in the uprising (Tatya Tope, Rani Laxmibai, Bahadu Shah Zafar etc.).

There are a lot of good talents involved in the movie. Ketan Mehta handles quite a few scenes with flourish, Aamir Khan is superb in portraying the firebrand sepoy, Toby Stephens impresses with his performance and the technical team is in fine form. But the obvious mistakes are too much to overlook. I had hoped that Aamir Khan would have good 'script sense', but he errs in picking the right script here. The music from Rehman is appallingly bad (if someone disagrees, be my guest) for a big production like this, and the women are completely wasted.

I see a great future for indian cinema in the coming years. I have a firm belief that the presence of songs in the story is our USP, and that we should not bend to the diktats of a western audience or an impatient generation. The key to making a quality product is the presence of a good script where the songs flow with the narrative. There are instances of perfect movies (Sholay, Mughal-E-Azam) on that account so there is no reason it can't be done again.

I would definitely recommend The Rising to be seen at least once. I probably succumbed from the pressure of my expectations and came away a litle dissapointed.

No issues. Its Halla Bol, definitely not Dabba Gol!!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Panoramania

Generally, when it comes to photography, I have developed a strong liking to be in front of the camera than behind it. At about 24 years, 5 months and 13 days, I realised I was photogenic. Or so I have been told.

Nonetheless, a couple of years after that, I purchased my first digital camera. A Canon Powershot S50. It is a utility camera which is at the higher end of the point and shoot family. The standard features notwithstanding, it does very well in daylight photographs. Additionally, the freedom that a digital camera gives in taking a large number of photographs, dismissing those that aren't upto the mark and seeing your results instantaneously is priceless.

One of the things that fascinate me is the 'stitch' mode photos. You can take a series of photos, that can be stitched together to get a panomaric effect. Be warned that I am pretty ordinary photographer (I have seen the work of fellow bloggers like Aparna and Deepak and it is really good), but the photos might interest you.

1. Whistler mountain, Canada
This was my first attempt at using the stich mode and the result is an undirected mess. There is no specific feature of the area I am looking at besides it being part of the mountain range.


2. Lake Chelan - Columbia River
This one is much better and is a striking view of a river flowing on the left and a an independent lake on the right. This would not have been possible with an ordinary camera. The shame is that the 360 degree view from where this photograph was taken was so breathtaking that this area of capture is but a small part of the story


3. Mount Rainier
Fresh from the press. Two days old. Drove to Rainier on a picture perfect day and got a perfect picture. Notice the solitary cloud right in the centre. Produces a terrific effect. This mountain is one of the reasons I like the Northwest so much.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Soli - Lowkey no more

"Finally. After months of procrastination based on my inability to agree upon a title for the blog, here it is. The blog, that is. There is a title too, but it isn't witty by any means. How long could I have continued without doing this? The "Shoot for the moon" theory wasn't working for me. This is much better. I have decided not to fly to the moon. I will jump off the table and land on my two feet on my carpetted floor. Lets see where the baby steps lead."

Thus began my blogging journey exactly a year back. What started as an experiment has blossomed into a full-fledged engagement. I have got to know some truly interesting and smart people over the year, inspired some to start their own blogs, discovered periodically how much I enjoy writing, struggled with the medium like everyone else, and all in all, had a lot of fun. I also met a few long lost friends through the blog, had about 10,000 visits to my site, and was suitably humbled by the sheer magnitude and ability of fellow bloggers. I have also enjoyed the creation of a space and a world that is entirely my own. I spent some time revisiting my blogs from day 1 (you can do it too if you have the time and inclination), and I can see the evolution of a better writing style and clarity of thought. I also enjoyed seeing at what point the 'regulars' to this blog joined in. The first year is probably the toughest. That is of course till you start the second :-)

Stay tuned for more updates as the journey continues. Solilowkey is low key no more! Happy Birthday, dear blog.

P.S> I am on work-inflicted break right now, hence the posts are far and few in between