Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Children Of Heaven

Yesterday , there was a screening of movie "Children of Heaven" In ISC (India Social Centre).
Since I had seen the review of the movie a few months  back on NDTV by Anupama Chopra ,who had highly recommended the movie for young and adult alike , I decided to shrug off my laziness and take Pax (younger son -6 years) to ISC Abu Dhabi.
The bag was packed with Lays, Juices and cookies . I briefed him about the movie , so that he is not disappointed by a  simple sensible movie ( He is more used to watching eye catching colourful animations and little bit of  english and hindi  movies for kids).
Set in 1979and directed by Iranian Director Majid Majidi, movie is about a poor Iranian family's two out of three children , their bond , their understanding  of deprivation  and display of  maturity and innocense simultaneously .
The first scene starts with the boy getting  a   pair of already very  old  and  battered pink shoes   mended from a cobbler , which belong to the younger sister. While running other errands ,on the way back home, he loses them.
The younger sister is in a fix, how would she go to school without shoes? and if she tells the parents , both the kids were to get the beatings , for sure. They come out with a simple solution , sister would wear brother's shoes in the morning shift and brother would wear them in the noon shift of his school.
There are atleast 10 scenes in the movie where the little girl runs half way to home after school where she finds brother waiting impatiently to exchange his slippers to the shoes, lest he would be late for his school and run with all his might to his school.The children running zigzag through the alleys of the  village , gutters gushing with drain water  right in the middle of these labyrinth of alleys, unplastered dilapidated houses , simple make shift shops on the way make the whole atmosphere so realistic that I unknowingly got transported into the small town .
Picturisation of movie is very subtle but conveys a child's mind so well . The little girl's obsession for shoes,the boy's guilt for having lost shoes and gratitude toward sister for her keeping it a secret from parents gets conveyed completely.
And then there are those moments when a shoe slips off her foot and falls down in the gutter  or, once they wash the shoes and keep it for drying and it starts raining in the night;  all these moments show how difficult the seemingly small problem can become for a child.
The scenes inside the house are like a window to the Iranian culture and its household life.The carpeted one room  furniture less house, a common open place in front of a high walled row houses with a  common water tank and  washing place are  all  very typical of their village life style.
Its a very well cast movie. The kids are absolutely adorable , despite being in  ragged clothes, no make up looks , they are totally real kids .Kids this real in Bollywood movies can be  very hard to find.Father looks tired , affectionate, at times irritated and above all , just like anybody from the neighbourhood.
In the end , the boy runs a 4 KM race and aspires to be in the third position , as the prize for third position is a pair of sneakers.He runs really hard and comes first but still in tears .........
I got so involved in the movie that I was getting nervous if the boy would eventually win or not.And there is one of those last scenes where father after shopping  things for kids is  coming home, needless to say that there are shoes stuffed  in the basket stuck on the carrier of his cycle.(what a happy ending!).
(I actually felt wanting for one more last  scene when kids could hold their new shoes in their hands and had smiled back at us.)
Guys (parents) there is much more in the movie than what I have mentioned here so if you get a chance ,please do not miss it. I was thinking that deprivation is something very hard to understand and impossible to relate to, if kids have not faced it in their lives but Pax was all  eyes glued on the screen .He had to be explained many scenes, since the movie is in Persian with english subtitles and he as yet cannot read very fluently,but he was there understanding the children's struggle wholeheartedly.Pax , just like the hero himself ,wanted him to come third in the race and was all set to clap at the finish of the race.
This simple , low budget movie has a lot to tell . Pax did not take out a single biscuit or chips from his sack through out the movie , which tells a lot about how impactful a movie can get if the Director is commited and clear about  what he  wants to show and nothing more than that (for the sake of covering taste of large audience).
We enjoyed every bit of the movie and thought of sharing it with you.
PS- The movie has acclaimed 3 awards at-Montreal film festival, Newport film festival and Singapore film festival.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

MY Driving Lessons

I learnt driving car about 8 years ago.I learnt it the hardest way possible as,

1)It was my husband's car , it was brand new and .....I was no more new ( I hope you understand the subtleness).
2) My eldest son was   6  years old at that time and had become articulate enough to opine about my driving skills.
Looking to the circumstances I was not very eager to learn driving at first but since we were staying in a township then and those who have experienced township life would know that things happen en-masse in a township and on  an epidemic proportion.
Most of the employees go to their factory/plant at the same time,punch together  at the time office , their kids go for karate class on Monday , Tuesday and Friday together and  go for Synthesiser class on Tuesday, thursday and Saturday together.Their wives  meet on bus stop to wave byes to their school going kids together and meet for a kitty party in the noon together. That's   about everything   of township life.
So, it was now the onset of a new epidemic in our township . All my freinds were learning to drive car.Every weekend I used to receive a phone call from one of my friends claiming that she had got her freedom of movement now.Losing a friend like this from the non driver's  end was not  a very good feeling.
A recently converted friend tried to convince me that  driving will be very useful to me as the college I was working in ,was far off and I could drive to college myself instead of depending upon the bus service.She also told me that now whenever her son misses the school bus she goes to drop him to school without having to plead her husband to drop the son to school first .I can't say which prospect , former or latter , enticed me more but I finally decided to learn driving inspite of all odds against me.
I declared to husband that I wanted to learn driving .Since driving institute guy would not be available by the time I came back from work, it was incumbent upon my husband to teach me  to drive.
The tumultous journey began on the following evening.The Standard Operating Procedure  (SOP) was decided.
Husband : seatbelt
Me         : yes
Husband : left foot on clutch , right on accelerator
Me         : yes
husband   : steering wheel straight , do not  hold very tight
Me          : OK
Husband : ignition
Me          :vroom vroom( I would key in )
Husband : Now , press the clutch , take the car in first gear ,pull the foot off  the clutch and apply accelerator gently
Me         :  (confused inwardly ) yes  yes.

Here was the glitch as my right foot had a mind of its own . My right foot just could not apply enough acceleration  and as a result the engine would cough and sputter ,the car would take a small jump and stop.   It happened about 10-15 times and my husband who was committed to try to be patient gave up.apparently it was a case of "failure to launch".
Although so far there had been no success in driving the car ,I had atleast been able to drive him crazy.
 Husband : you can not learn it (in this life)
Me          : let me give it one more try
Husband  : OK , one last time .give good acceleration
again we went through the drill of SOP
and,I actually accelerated this time  .The Car was jumping and moving and jumping and moving (I was thrilled that it did budge finally) but Husband was wild ,"Oh God! you have applied third gear instead of first , that's why its knocking". I learnt an important technical word from driving jargon that when car jumps and moves forward , its called "knocking".Husband was obviously less than amused about the progress made about my practical as well as  theoritical learning.
Next day , as  luck would have it , my brother(elder) came to visit us.Now , our domestic driving school had 3 male instructors (one in command , 2 on back seat driving ie my brother and my son) and poor me on the hot driving seat. The driving endevour began ............ I could now start the car alright, take it into first gear and go.Its only while shifting it into second gear  there was some problem.I  could not put my foot off the accelerator while putting it in second gear . "you will spoil the gears of my car"he screamed.
Me: your car! OK , now I wash my hands off your car. I am not learning .
Brother on the back seat ,who was all the while joining the instructor brigade ,came forward to pacify me.
Suddenly husband brightened up and said"why don't you choose whom you would learn the driving from , me or your brother?" I was speechless .How would I to make a choice between a     sty and conjunctivities? They both irritate and cause tears. Anyway the baton was passed on to my brother the next day and , it need not be mentioned he was not only harsh and impatient , he was ridiculing me too .He was  settling his previous score with me.( I still suspect that he was doing it all this just to make things even with me  because as a child I always went to Mom and backbited against him).
Brother: you should have been  staying in US .
Me    : Why?
Bro    : because you drive on the right side of the road and you need  a vehicle with automated gear so that     there is no need of manual changing of gears.
Me    : have patience with me , I am only learning
Bro    : How long will you keep your status as a  learner? someday you will  have to declare that you have learnt.
Me     :( brooding ) hmmmm
Slowly and slowly I started driving the car , independently . Husband was still issuing instructions, finding faults ,criticising   my reflexes but I was beyond  any   dissuasion.
Even Sonny boy would sometimes  ask
son: mommy is the car in first gear? .
Me: why do you ask?
Son : I thought so because you are driving pain fully slow.
Me : Shut up or get down.
Son : Ok. let me get down.I want to reach fast .I would better walk.
Husband: ( he was kind enough to not  to say anything ,he just laughed)
Despite everything , it was a wonderful feeling to be able to drive , I felt like a fairy with a pair of wings (If you think this is too narcisstic then may be I was like a witch with a brand new broom).
In the early days of driving ,I even had dreams of driving past my friends,driving on highways , crowded places, maneouvering car in reverse gear with great skill.sometimes I used to get so stressed  in my sleep that I used to clinch my fists. I told this to my friend who was now driving on high ways regularly.
She said"You should not have learnt driving from  your husband or brother. they are the men who can wield power over you .This direct learning is actually bad for a beginner's confidance."

me       : then, what should have I done?
Friend  :You should have asked husband's brother , friend's husband or brother's friend to teach you to drive
  me    :  (Iwas clueless) so that.....?
Friend : Oh! don't you know, men can be wonderfully sweet and sensitive when they are dealing with a woman who is neither their wife nor a sister .They are the guys to be looked for when  patience and sensitivity is required.
me      : HMMMMM
Friend : I hope , I have driven the point home.
me      : absolutely.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A thought (full )of gifts

 I am loved abundantly , infact disproportionately , that's the  reason I always get flooded with gifts. Even those gifts  ,which I do not want .
I am gifted so many lipsticks  by one of my cousins , over and over,  for many years  that  I can easily cover the entire China wall with graffiti  with   these lipsticks.
I have a whole lot of decorative candles in  store that  will suffice  entire Delhi to light up in case of a  grid failure .
I even have bags and purses of various shapes and sizes , one of them is a bamboo weaved hand bag which cannot hold more than a folded news paper but can be an excellent penetrating device specially handy while travelling in a crowded bus.
A well meaning friend of mine gifted me with floating candles"these will decoarte the dinner table when you have a party at home"she said. Little does she know that when I have a party at home , I can barely find time to decorate myself  in  the time available  between massive cooking and arrival of first guest . Dinner table  would stand poor second  here. Anyway, I thanked her and  put this floating population of candles along with the permanent resident ones.
I have  about half  a dozen bangle boxes  which I got as a gift in my wedding  . Some practical and forsighted people had  already  invisaged that soon I would be yearning  for  many hands like Durga devi to  churn  out the lunches , dinners, fold clothes, roll chapatis ........and in case my wishes were granted , these bangle boxes would  accomodate the extra bangles which I would need to wear in those supplementary hands.
I even have a whole lot of cookery books  as gifts.Soon after marriage when  I would have  preffered being invited  for dinners rather than cooking  them,I only had these books to  fend for myself.Obviously there were some  people  with  fishy intentions among the invitees, who thought it better to teach me to fish rather than providing me with one. How I wish , reading receipes could make our stomachs fill.
And did I mention about the volume of crockery I have got which is sufficient to handle  atleast a double century of fights  between me and my husband just in case we fell short of  words.
In case you are inclined to jump on a conclusion that I am complaining about receiving these not so useful gifts , No! not at all. I loved to receive all these gifts because they all convey the same meaning to me that I am loved , remembered and cared for. Its only the utilitarion me who keeps wondering what to do with these gifts.
 I am a person very easy to go with. I did not mind it when my husband went to Hyderabad and, on my threatening him not to come  back empty handed, bought me a very expensive set of "Bombay Dying "bed sheets.I am not so insensitive to not to understand that it's  the feeling and thought behind it which is so important and not the gift per se.  Ofcourse I would have  been equally pleased if he had bought me pearls  instead , but Bombay Dying bed sheets were also fine with me.
Next time , he bought me pearls(from Amritsar)  but that's  an entirely different story and his personal matter , my fighting and sulking about the colour of bedsheets has nothing to do with it. Afterall every husband gets smart with the passage of time , right ?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On The Pretext Of Women's Day -08.03.2010

 As I key in these words I am feeling a bit overwhelmed for the fact that when I was born ,or for that matter, all the women of my generation  or previous generations were born in India atleast , their parents had never heard of  sex determination tests  , nor did they contemplate   female infanticide the solution to the problem of having  to raise one more unwanted girl in the family. 
Ofcourse I was always given to beleive that my parents longed to have a girl child  and when I was born their joy knew no bounds.I had  no reason to doubt that yet as a little girl I always suspected a thin  biasedness in their actions towards my elder brother.
When they thought it was a right age for my brother to learn cycling , he was bought a brand new cycle (men's cycle) ,he learnt cycling and so did I ,on the same cycle, but nobody ever thought of buying a girl's cycle for me .In those  time   parents did not buy books, cycles , toys seperately for  each kid.These things used to be a shared property, even handed down to younger cousins later on .Despite this fact I always took this personally and thought it was partial of them to not to buy me a cycle. They always bought new dresses for me on every festival which made me feel very special as a girl and I took it as a celebration of girlhood to be able to receive gifts on Rakhee /bhai duj or get  a new dress.
In the course of time I realised that when my brother planned to go for a movie , he was given money and was allowed  without  much hassle  whereas I couldnot dream of any such adventure without having to answer a series of questions  and any slight reason was enough to get a clear big No. To save myself from such disappointments I stopped getting into any such plan.I took it as a trade off , If I wanted to be pampered as a girl  I had to give up my idea of fun to go out with friends for movies .

Similarly, One of my best friends, lets call her  V , only sister of 3 brothers was raised with a sole focus , to teach her every skill which would make her an outstanding wife. Her father was the most indulgent father I have  known .All  her over protective brothers and father used to talk 24X7 was about  giving her away to a prince charming(which they only were going to choose ofcourse) in the most grand weddding they could afford.My friend took this doting , a bit stifling albeit,  in her stride.She would cook, stitch, knit ,weave the dreams of her wedding and feel thrilled.
She too, just like me, took this whole game plan as a trade off.If she was to be loved so profusely she had to  give up certain freedom  in her life.

Me and my frined V were the two examples of daughters who were wanted and welcome in the family but , I knew many of my friends who were one of the many sisters before a badly wanted brother was born in the family. The sisters were raised on hand me downs ,old books  and shared all the deprivations to be able to save something for their  young  brother. One such  classmate of mine, named C here , used to cook for the family, bath the baby brother, helped in many household chores before coming to school.She knew this Home Work was priority for her. Just like us, she also took it as a tradeoff .If she wanted to continue with her studies she had to give up her certain rights .

Another friend  of  mine, lets call her D , who was second daughter in the family and had two  more brothers was removed from an English medium school  and was sent in a vernacular school because father could not afford the fees.
She and her sister studied in Vernacular school while brothers studied in an English  medium school. The girls had little choice but to accept the decision . They took it as a trade off between a good school for them and a good future for their brothers and may be parents.

There must have been many more examples around   but the point here is , all these girls were allowed to be born and their parents did what they thought was best for the family(not necessarily for the girl) .
The girls were treated less than equal in the family but   more  importantly these  girls did not brew contempt.They accepted the unfairness meted out to them without protest and yet remained forward looking.

V is now  a mother of  3 daughters , all equally loved ofcourse. I cannot say how good she proved to be as a wife but she is an outstanding mother. Her daughters are learning swimming, badminton, aspiring for good careers .She knows that  ostentatious weddings  for her daughters  can not be the  agenda of life.

C is happily teaching  Maths in an Engineering   College.Her daughter is learning Bharatnatyam.

D too is  a teacher . Happy and independent .
Now, about me, though my sacrifice looks really lame before what all C, D and V had to sacrifice in their lives  , we all learnt the same thing in the course of changing times that celebrating girlhood is not all about giving up things in life  . We all have brought this correction in our thinking . All these friends of mine are celebrities in their own right who till today do not hold grudge against their parents . The  parents did what they thought was best as per their discretion and their daughters did what they thought was best as per theirs.
So my this post is a toast and tribute to all those women who succeeded  against all odds and never became bitter in life.

                  Happy women's day to all of you .