Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Love

It was a glorious evening when breeze slowly descended on the park. The day before was pretty warm and humid as the climate was at its finicky best. To those regular visitors and irregulars, it was yet another pleasant evening breeze that they enjoy when they visit the park, for the breeze in itself was seasonal. The die-hard regulars, at times skipped the park visit whenever they had other priorities. The trees on the park, wither and flourish per the season. The trash bins start their day empty and end with full bin. Even the park benches, probably the most stable of the lot, undergo a coat of repaint, once in a blue moon or when council elections are round the corner. But for Ove and his evening visits to the park, everything changed.

Every single evening, he would turn up sharp at the exact same time. He would start with his routine of a brisk walk around the park and exactly after the third round, he would sit on the exact same bench. If it was occupied, he would go near the bench and suddenly collapse clutching his heart. That ploy almost always ensures, the seat is vacated, either to call for help or simply to escape from that moment. That particular bench had the best view of the park, with the exact amount of shade projecting a golden evening dusk, at the exact distance from nearest lamp post, when the evening grows dark and it was neither too far nor too closer to the entrance/exit. But these nitty gritties meant nothing for Ove, for his purpose, nay, penance like routine was for a totally different reason. And the reason went by a name as well.

It was the very bench where he first saw her, casually reading a novel, munching on an apple. Ove, who was part of the laborers involved on setting up the park. The bench where she was sitting was just laid and Ove wanted to paint it quick as he was losing sun. In all through his career, there was not a task that had slipped deadline. But the moment he saw her, he knew, he slipped, literally and figuratively. He tried his best to be deceptive, but for a person straighter than the shortest distance between two points, he was horrible at it. When he was about to clear the trash can near the bench, he heard a voice “Guess this must be the cleanest of trash cans in this whole block”. He stood motionless for a moment, like a kid caught in the act at the very moment, with a hand in cookie jar. He could feel blood rushing across his ears and cheeks and didn’t even realize how long he was staring at her. All the while he thought vocal chords just emanated sound. But for the very first time, he could sense that, they carried smile as well. How she managed it, he never found out. But every time when she spoke to him, he felt a new sensation and identified newer emotions that he had never ever felt in his life before. If she felt offended by his response, it didn’t show on her face. She spoke some more, none of which were audible to Ove, whose ears where ringing with the sound of blood rushing through. It was as if someone fixed a conch on his ears and forgot to turn it off. She stood and came closer to him.

“Will you come here tomorrow?”

He nodded his head vigourously, which must’ve amused her so much that she laughed. It was a different kind of laugh, devoid of mock, insult or arrogance but so full of mirth, life and joy. She waved him bye and walked away. He saw her all throughout, till she became a dot and finally vanished from his site. She even turned back a few times and watching him stand motionless, waved at him again from a distance. It took a while for Ove to get out of the trance and the very next moment he was on to setting up the bench. He wanted to make sure it was the best bench on the park, fit for a queen and by the time he felt he was kind of done with the bench, it was already past bedtime. He painted it and recoated the portions that felt overdone and to give an even coating he again redid the whole process. He tightened the screws, oiled them and wiped the whole bench clean more number of times than any bench had ever been across the whole wide world. It must have been several hours and he never felt a single strain on the effort. He still wasn’t satisfied, yet with fading light and lack of any more dry cloth to clean, he decided to call it a day and to come back early next day morning. He covered the bench in tarpaulin, like an artist protecting his canvass and went back home.

The next day, he was the first person to report to duty and went straight towards the bench. He touched it a few times and inspected it for close to an hour to locate any blemish. Soon the sun was at its peak and yet there was no sign of her. He pulled himself away from the bench towards other tasks, which he made sure where within eyesight distance from the bench. He skipped lunch in fear of missing her and started roaming around the park. On his third round across the jogging track, he met her. She was standing across the bench and as she saw him. She waved at him. He hesitantly lifted his right hand and half waved back and immediately dropped back in attention posture as if the air around was electrified. She laughed again and he felt the world go blur. When he regained his focus, he saw the worried look on her face and it was pretty close to his, as he was lying on her lap. He got up like a spring un sprung, only to wobble unsteady and settle back again on her shoulder. She laughed at his antic so much that he turned beet red in color. He mumbled his apology and stood up. When he was about to turn back she called out to him “What is your name”

“mmm…Ove”
“That’s a nice name”
He mumbled a thanks and stood there watching the grass beneath his feet with impeccable attention.
“Did you had lunch?”
Then only he realized he didn’t eat since the day before. He felt embarrassed to have missed his routine and shamefully nodded his head.
“Will you join me for lunch?”
“Sure”

It was the beginning of numerous luncheons and the routine was always the same. Ove would book his favorite table, favorite since the day they shared it, in his regular restaurant, would order his regular roast and wash it down with a gulp of his regular bitter. Except for anything that was even remotely associated with her, there was no “favorite” in his life, but just “regulars”. On the other hand, she would fancy herself and try out a different item on the menu which pretty soon was exhausted. Yet they continued that restaurant as their haunt where the luncheons followed dinners and eventually their wedding reception as well. On the day of their wedding, the entire staff of the restaurant threw them a party and the lead chef whipped out his list of specials. Ove was adamant on paying the bill, but the restaurant owner, threatened to beat him to a pulp if he even took a nickel out. He did relent after constant posturing by Ove and allowed him to redo and repair their furniture, which was gladly accepted by Ove.

On the night of their wedding, she teasingly said, “You know what, till now you’ve never called me by my name”
A visibly embarrassed Ove said, “I didn’t need to. From the moment I saw you, I felt ..complete..in love”
She laughed till her cheeks turned pink and said “actually we do complete each other in love..my name is Elle”
“Oh my God..you are smiling. You should learn to do this more often” and she started laughing again.
The laughter continued for many years and finally when Elle was on her death bed, she began to worry about Ove and that derailed her health even more. Ove being ove, seldom showed it in his face but internally he was quivering in anguish. During one of her better days, she insisted on being taken to the park where they first met. He felt as if she introduced him back to the world. They took a silent walk around the park and without exchanging a word, they reminiscence the number of times they visited the park and when they crossed the bench where she first met him, she made him stop and they sat in silence watching the sun set. It was a glorious evening with cool breeze, with the park dotted with regulars and irregulars, trees beginning to show the effect of impending autumn. She held his hand in silence and they watched the evening glow from fading sun, slowly settling into darkness. That night Elle breathed her last.

Since then, every day, Ove makes his sojourn to the park, awaiting his time to reunite with Elle. For only she can make him complete, in love.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Anatomy of an alapparai

If finding a seat in crowded cafeteria is an art, I am Sam Anderson of it. Kaadhal Kondenla Dhanushku kuda kadisi rowla seat kedachirum, but I would often roam the length and breadth of the food court and still wouldn’t find a solitary seat. It’s even worse when I go with friends as I would often end up with the task of finding seats for all of us. If by some miracle, I do manage to find a couple of seats, it seldom lasts long. Every alternate second, someone or other will come and ask if anyone is coming to the table I am holding for my friends. It makes me wonder, why would people ask that question? Unless I carry a lunchbox like Mayabazar Ranga rao, it would make little sense for a single person to hog a whole table, right? And it’s not that people are that dumb, not to notice my single Tupperware dabba, sitting on the table and the only possible explanation could be I am waiting/holding the place for someone else. Unless they may think that, a single person sitting alone on a table, with unopened lunch box, has no other job, but to watch other people eat, by blocking a whole table for himself, I don’t see any logical explanation to those queries. Some are even brilliant in their approach. They would simply ask for the chairs for their own table and not for the entire table. As if, their group are having elai poatu soru and my guys are going buffet.

Adichi pudichi if you manage to get a table, the next step would put Hercules tasks to shame. Oru sila tableslaam paatha, you may be tempted to check out the person who was using it prior, to ask if his parents ever thought them how to eat on their own. There would be several designs and patterns in which food would’ve been spilled that, there wouldn’t be a single area untouched by their leftovers. Platela thaan saptangala, illa “mann soru” pola “table soru” nu edachum start panitangala nu doubtay varum. Catching the attention of the cleaning crew in a crowded food court is actually nothing short of the twelve tasks of Hercules and could very well be made the thirteenth one. If it’s a pain to catch a table, it’s a bigger pain when you are half way into lunch. There would be “scouts” on reconnaissance missions like border patrol teams, who would keep staring at your plate and walk around your table, literally trying to be on your face, telepathically pushing you out the moment the last morsel makes its way into your mouth. Some would even force their dabba on vacant portion of the table, as if they are putting thundu to reserve their seat in moffusil bus.

Rulesay illatha edathuku evanda food “court” nu per vachathu!!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Aah - Sujatha novel

Few months back when I had posted about “Saithan” movie, I had quoted that, the movie was based majorly on “Aah” by Sujatha. I happened to read the novel recently and was amazed at how fresh the story is, despite having seen its adaptation on screen and having read the story once long time back. Considering that it was first published quarter century ago, some of the situations and terminologies involved were astonishing!! The reason why Sujatha is much sought after even today, is his ability to weave futuristic technologies and identify, amongst those, which will be most relevant and would be popular and above all, present such a nascent idea in simple language, all the while making a story out of it!! Such was his genius to spot technologies that would change the world was that, almost all of his sci-fi stories from 2,3 decades back have become common place situations in present day world.

Going with the theme for the month, the works of Sujatha are master piece case studies on how to mix science and fiction in the simplest form possible. More than that, with so many new inventions and discoveries being made almost on a daily basis, keeping track of them, understanding their application and making a story out of them requires amazing levels of observation and relating capacity. Needless to say, the master had this all in abundance as a mere look at the vast areas of topics his novels covered and his penchant for ancient Tamil literature.

In “Aah”, he beautifully mixes up the concept of rebirth with auditory hallucinations and takes it to an almost logical conclusion, even though it feels hurried and forced, only to make the final flourish of a twist as ending. The novel is so gripping, wonder how it would’ve felt to read it as a weekly episode on any magazine. Would’ve been a raging hit is what I am hoping and guessing. After reading the book, I somehow feel, the climax of “Saithan” movie felt a more logical ending, albeit cinematic.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Of words and meanings

When you are introduced to a new word, what would be your first feeling? Especially when its thrown as such a commonplace item, about which you had been so ignorant that, such a casual mention of it makes you wonder, why you never came across it in first place, till that time. I’ve had my fair share of such words and each time the emotions were no different.

I wasn’t even introduced to a computer, when during a theory class on operating system, my compskey (school time slang for comp. sci – computer science) teacher casually mentioned about THE word – “version”. It was the first ever time I was hearing about it and even before I could contemplate its meaning from the context or the sentence, he had passed on to several other topics. Yet that one word, kept lingering in mind, like that solitary wet cloth, refusing to fly away in wind, holding on to its clip. I asked my friend immediately after the class is over what the word meant. He was clueless but somehow wasn’t much troubled by it. I somehow sensed a conspiracy, wherein he was able to absorb its meaning by context or simply showing off that it’s not such a big deal after all. I pestered one of the top rankers from my class few days later and asked him the meaning of version for the meaning from dictionary couldn’t satisfy my query. The word assumed monstrous proportions and started bugging my conscious. When I asked for the nth time, he simply said it’s not a big deal and shrugged it off. It began to eat my mind that how one can be so cool about something that he has no idea about. It began to dawn on me very late that, as a student, you always need to take the correct judgment call on what you really need to know and what is nice to know. I was pretty bad at this and was always at a loss to understand which are the things you are supposed to remember by heart and which one are not so important.

The next word that intrigued me no less was “Versus”. Infact the expansion for “Vs” drove me nuts for long and no amount of searching across dictionaries could get me the word. Whenever there is a mention about any two teams in sports section, the newspapers would put it on bold “Team A vs Team B”. After a while, I got to know that the expansion for “Vs” was “Versus”. But again, why that word? What it meant was a constant nag. After a while the context helped a bit and considering that the word always found its place amidst two parties, I kind of understood its meaning. Yet there was a long time longing for someone to approve my understanding. It was a forever fetish of mine that unless someone signed off on my understanding, I never felt complete and as I think about it now, was probably pushing the responsibility on others plate to confirm. Overcoming this block was the biggest of the personal challenges that I had to face across all walks of life.

The last word, with which I would sign this post off, ironically is FAQ. In “Hindu” supplement paper, there would always be this section, which spoke about specific questions and responses for them. Unlike many other papers, “Hindu” always had expansions for abbreviations * mentioned at the end or on the corners of the columns. But to my dismay, FAQ was never expanded full, not even once. I even used to check across age old papers to figure out have they even mentioned it once anywhere. Out of a blue moon, one fine day, I saw the full form of it as “frequently asked questions” and my joy knew no bounds. I memorized it and even wrote it on a piece of paper, only to lose them both and was back to square one. Later that very word become a catchphrase for most of the activities that I did.

P.S: ivlo thedinathuku, simplea oru google adichirukulamaynu varinjikatikitu vara makkas, this was P.G.E – pre google era.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The art of opining

If at all there is a place to venture out with your opinion, internet should be the last, if not never, on the list. Especially social media. Such has been the abuse and opposition from trolls on SM platforms that, even to state your name can get you into controversy, based on your other opinions. The reason behind this post is due to the ongoing hue and cry over a lady and her comments on a south Indian star’s well known dud movie, which incidentally is acknowledged as a flop even by the star’s own fans, the response from the online community of self-proclaimed fans of the star and the aftermath. The effort taken by the trolls (as they are collectively and individually labelled as), who dug up several years old posts of that lady and established a criminal conspiracy behind her actions in targeting their hero alone for mockery and criticism, would put tax officials and CBI to shame. Armed with random links between posts scattered across several years, the trolls went hell bent on shaming every single person remotely or closely associated with the lady and spammed her space with choicest of abuses that would shame a sailor.

Is the actor really responsible for every Ram, Rahim and Robert who claim to be his fan and take up cudgel on his name? Is the lady trying to seek attention by riling up the crazy in the mob? Could she have taken the easier way out by removing the post, the moment she could sense the tension brewing? Even if she was right or wrong in her comment or her continued targeting of the star, does that justify such blatant abuses and name calling and shaming by the trolls? Are they really person or fake profiles created to vent out frustration? Are those profiles being maintained and paid for by unknown sources to make viral sensations and quick promo (this could be for either side concerned)? Whenever there is a teaser or a trailer releases, there are lot of background forces that work overtime in ensuring fake hits and likes and comments for those videos. Are such forces again at work here in trolling on behalf of the actor?

Note that, the actor in contention here is just another case in study and is not referenced for his purpose alone. Whenever there are any injustice or crazy reaction by the fringe, the mainstream leader of that group is always the target for not having control over his gang. No one bothers to figure out if the online profiles are actually real or even if real should the icon/leader/actor be held responsible for every single comment by every single fan/member of their club/party, begs a question. Even if they come out condoning such acts and disassociate themselves with such people/profile/activities, will that in anyway absolve them of all these sins or will it clear the problem for the person getting trolled? It may only help in the big guys, washing away their hands of such issues. Should one sit down and let the muck flow over head for a simple opinion, which by happenstance, trod over some fragile egos? Definitely not. This is where, the need for stricter and more stringent law enforcement comes into picture. Unlike any other media, anything on internet is traceable back to its owner with reasonable level of certainty except in case of brainiac nut cases who cover up their tracks. Such trolls should be taken down, every single time and every single one of them and should be punished per law and to be made example of, which would definitely set as a deterrent for others, for the vast majority of trolls are basically cowards, hiding behind fake profiles. If they are made aware that they can be and will be caught, that fear and subsequent shame would deter them from doing such heinous things.

There is a scene in the movie “Notting Hill”, when Julia Roberts gets angry with Hugh Grant over his comment, not to give that much importance to Paparazzi media. She would respond that anything that goes on print is irreversible and would stay on forever. It’s a lesson that applies for social media as well I guess. As long as you’ve internet and search history option, none of your comments can be claimed harmless and whatever you said or posted, will be used against you at any point of time in your life or as long as the profile survives. Freedom of expression is often the most misused of freedoms. With social media touching and reaching individuals like never before and unlike any other medium, it’s all the more important to enjoy our freedom responsibly.

Monday, August 07, 2017

To be and how not to be

Whenever there is talk of a new political party being formed, the first thought that runs in mind is what difference these guys are going to make which the others haven’t tried before. This could be due to the fact that, none of the newbies, for that matter even the existing ones, ever share a detailed plan on how they will accomplish whatever they are claiming. They could say that due to the fear of the rivals copying their approach, they may not want to share it. But even after coming to power, the secrecy (cluelessness maybe) remains. Even if they are open, the lingering doubt anyone willing to throw in their hat into the political arena is mainly due to the fact that, how will they identify 200 good candidates who are honest!!?

Most of the major parties always have a figurehead around whom they rally. So it is, for the newcomers, say for example, if, at all, Rajini decides to start a party, unless he opts for an unconventional way of selecting candidates, in all probability it’s going to be members of his fan club, without satisfying whom, there is no point in him even making the attempt, for it’s the very base he may be trusting his judgment. But the key thing we tend to miss out is that it’s not about him or anyone finding 200 good MLA’s but cleaning up the entire government machinery off corrupt officials. Time and again, it’s been proved that, people do roll up their sleeves and vote for change. But one group they can’t vote against are the officials of the government, whose jobs are more secure than the server where they store the scripts for Game of Thrones. Come whichever party to power, they simply have to share their cut to a new lordship, ensuring their supply remains steady. How do you scare someone or punish someone into submission, when they remain protected by invincible, centuries old laws.

The very issue that the wannabe political parties try to project as the core issue that they would clear, once they come to power, often becomes the bane of them. Every issue gets identified with some party or other and the moment they are identified as opposing a party, they get tagged with their opponents by enemy’s enemy is friend logic. They immediately lose all credibility and soon the purpose. Example would be captain’s party, which shot into fame pretty quick and whose demise, if not, even quicker. Every political party claims vote for them in the name of rooting out corruption, by which they mean their opposition and tag the party as the poster boy of corruption. But not a single group, to my knowledge, at least, has called out for rooting out corrupt officials by their action. For they know very well that, they are their mother lode for making money and cannot antagonize.

Who forms these government officials group? Where do they come from? The answer could be a bit closer home than expected. Every single family, who have some or other connection to government officials, tend to exploit their position. Be it getting recommendation, being benami, bending laws when caught, getting special treatment to as simple as bypassing queues, pretty sure all of us would fit in either or many of these categories. Rather than choosing a good servant to serve us for five years, why can’t be a good master which should be an even easier choice? Next time before we approach any one, known or unknown in government, let’s think for a minute on the chain reaction it sets. There would be delays, loss, pain and suffering, momentary frustration, depression and all. But considering the price we all pay, it’s really huge as against the smallest of sacrifices. End of the day, when the masters are at fault, one can’t expect the servants to be perfect.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Saboteur - book review

This “How to” and “How not to” seems to have become a theme for this month, at least for the first three posts. While the first one dealt with how not to screw up a good story, the second post was about how to package old wine in attractive container and make it a success. This post is again a review post, about a book that I got as a gift 2 months back. Either I am going dud by reading only ebooks, which has resulted in me going super dud on hardcopies or the book, “Saboteur” was such a page turner by itself!!! I want to believe the reason is a mix of both.

Of the few authors that I’ve Arthur Hailey is my favorite, for each of his books are almost like thesis on the theme of the novel. You read his “Airport” by the end of it your perception about the entire place would go for a 360 degree change, especially those airports located at places with extreme weather conditions. You read his “Hotel” or “Evening news” , it would give you all new dimension about these otherwise common place topic. You read his “Final diagnosis” end of the book, if not a doctor at least it will leave you feeling like a lab technician. The point being, despite so many different topics, each of which are pretty niche and involves lot of technical talk, none of the novels leave you reeling with over dose of information or making it feel like a daily soap opera, where the setting is just for the sake of it, full of human drama. It’s the fine balancing act of correctly placing the human elements amidst a niche topic, make him what he is I guess. Same goes for Michael Crichton. Considering that they take such seriously technical topics on medicine and science in general, yet make you believe that either you understood the premise and terminology or even if you didn’t you can still follow the story and all more importantly, relate to it, makes these authors a winner in their own aspect. This is exactly where RV Raman, the author of “Saboteur” falls short.

Considering his professional background, the theme of the book must have been bread and butter category for him in his career days. But one can easily make out his cadre, even without the information from the “About author” notes. Economics has always been a hazy topic to say the least, for me personally, with which I always have this confusion of, whether to treat it as maths or as theory. To me it looks as if the author has woven a story around several chapters of economics and modern day accounting and has somehow managed to insert a story into them. I can be a big buck that he is either a GRE guy or somewhere down his time, he has at least attempted for that exams. If not I would be really surprised, for his vocabulary would put those preparing words for Spellingbee contests to shame. Some of the choice of words were almost at an arrogant level, that if you care to know the meaning run to your nearest dictionary, for they were being used at such casual tone, expecting the reader to know the terms. Same goes for technical stuff. Most of the conversations are like reproduced verbatim from office conference rooms, but the content is way too technical for those from different domain to pick up. Probably this is the key area where Raman needs to analyze how Hailey and Crichton managed to convey complex medical procedures in layman’s term.

The other aspect being the human element. Till almost 2/3rds into the novel, it sounds so monotonous and being a near exact replica of a typical start-up as setting, the conversations always border on project level discussions, there by losing the focus on the participants. In other words, the story is content heavy and may, in all probability, be a real life one, told with little alteration.

Gils verdict - Got this book as gift from fiction crate, subscription box. Maybe, for those from same field of work or those who can follow and understand the concept of startups and unicorns and valuations and GMV’s, it might give an adrenaline rush while reading the book. But for the rest, give it a rest.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Vikram vedha - review

Tamil movie world is split across, those who’ve seen Vikram Vedha and those who are yet to. Such has been the response the movie has been garnering that, people are already awaiting the next release from the husband-wife director duo. More often than not, the movie that wins at BO is not always because of the uniqueness of the story, that is never told before, nor always on the strength of the leads. There are times when, despite being so ordinary and repetitive, the art of storytelling, carries the movie to its success. Vikram Vedha is a perfect fit for such a case to study.
Even with success of author backed movies, there is somehow a reluctant tendency amongst movie makers to opt for such scripts. Whatever the reason may be, its high time, the tide changed. Also, rather than aping everything from Hollywood and Korean movies, lifting scripts from international movie festivals, we need to see within our treasure trove of stories, is another lesson for others to follow, which the success of VIkram veda conveys to all. Story wise, it’s so simple and redundant that every single cop story follows the same pattern and it literally writes itself. You’ve an upright cop and an all-powerful villain (at least by projection). Be it the questionable moral fiber of the cop, flashbacks that kind of justifies the misdeeds of the villain and finally a lame twist of backstabbing, we’ve seen it all across numerous cop stories. But what works here is the way in which the entire story has been packaged. There are flashbacks, but instead of someone voicing out the reason behind the killings by the villain, we’ve the hero himself validating the situation and how he would’ve reacted in such a scenario – a take back to the way it happens in Vikram-vedal story series. The way each time Maddy catches up with Vijay Sethupathi and how he escapes each time by telling a story, leaving the justification part to Maddy is a brilliant synchronization with the original story telling technique.

Just like in the original vikram-vedhal series, despite the main characters being just the narrator and the listener, with the original story happening around so many other characters, we hardly remember any other character but for these two. Ditto for this story as well. Its where the screenplay scores heads and shoulders above every other movie that has been released this year. It can very well be a trendsetter movie in this regard and probably worth a lesson in study on how to make a gripping screenplay by using ancient techniques.

Gils verdict – the movie is already a blockbuster. What is interesting about the movie is not its story line but how its told. Wish this becomes a trendsetter for future storytellers to adopt and succeed.