Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sister of My Soul - Part deux

Those who read my previous post called “Sister of My Soul Part I” and gave me their valuable insights, comments and advice, there is news. Last week, late one morning my phone rang and the number on caller-id was unfamiliar. I was on my way out and almost didn’t pick up the phone – but I did and now I’m so glad I did! It was a phone call that I’d been waiting 19 years for!!! In less than a minute, all awkwardness, all inhibitions and all trepidations were forgotten and two friends reconnected once again, like we were never apart!! And the entire credit for this unimaginable feat goes to one person – someone who knew both of us very closely, someone who took the time and effort to bridge the gap by constantly encouraging us to start afresh! You know who you are and I cannot thank you enough for re-uniting the Three Musketeers!

On the heels of this wonderful reunion came another news – not such a good one this time. News of someone – a very dear friend I once loved and cherished and then lost to stupid ego and irrational anger! She has lost her father. A part of me wants to pick up the phone and talk to her, be there for her and there’s another part of me recoiling in apprehension, in fear of rejection! She has moved on in life and what if there’s no place for me in her world anymore?!

I had known her for a long time. We were buddies at NCC camps and hung out regularly on Saturdays after drill practice. But it was during the last two years of school that we became really close friends – inseparable and each others’ confidants and allies! As young-adults, together we explored and enjoyed the taste of new-found freedom. Those were the wonder years…the sky was the limit for the free souls…the world was our oyster!

We went to different colleges – me in the drab, early morning jail for studious girls where I was complete misfit while she was in the most happening university campus. I spent a large chunk of my first two years of college life at the cafeteria of her university than in my own classroom! It was at that cafeteria, she introduced me to a boy – someone she liked a lot. He was perfect – in every sense of the word – good looking, from a good family, brilliant and on the brink of a promising career! I couldn’t be happier for my friend!!

Around the same time, she also developed a new habit – going for early morning walks by the lake. I’d join her once in a rare while if I managed to roll out of bed that early, which didn’t happen very often! Once, after I had ditched her several times in a row, I got a call from her – she was very excited and wanted me to meet her at the lakes early next morning! She had met someone at the park. He was a looker, she said – they had exchanged a few lines and she was smitten. What about the boy from the university, I asked. I thought they were getting serious about each other. She said she was confused – she liked them both and wanted my honest opinion before she makes up her mind.

Early next morning I meet my friend at the lakes. She was excited and nervous at the same time. We held hands as we approached the boy doing push ups in the distance. He was really nice to look at I admitted. He greeted us with a cocky grin as if he was well aware of his effect on women. We were introduced briefly. I don’t recollect exchanging more than a few words with him. But I remember having a long discussion with my friend, during which it came out that this boy was from a different religion, a school drop-out and earns his living by dancing at various shows around the city. Of course I was all for dignity of labor and stuff, but I couldn’t really see what could be so attractive about him except his pretty face. I implored her to think and act sensibly – her friend from the university held a lot more promise for the future than this boy I argued. If any amount of time and energy needed to be spent it should be after the boy from the university I reasoned. She seemed to agree with me which pleased my foolish ego to no end.

Over the next few months I saw my friend on and off, sometimes alone, sometimes at the cafeteria with the boy from the university. They seemed to be getting along really well. I once managed to corner the boy and asked about his intentions for her. He said, she was very special and that he liked her a lot and he saw a future together. I was ecstatic for my friend...everything was perfect! Little did I know that my world was going to fall apart in a matter of days!

A common friend came to my house couple of days later. He was very distraught. He had been keeping a secret for weeks he said and it’s been driving him crazy. He was afraid that if he didn’t get it off his chest he’d fall sick!! My friend had called him a few weeks earlier and asked him to accompany her to the house of the boy from the lakes who was laid down at home after a serious motor-bike accident. The “house” apparently was a one-room shanty in a filthy slum at a religiously sensitive area of the city. There the boy lived with his parents and about half a dozen siblings. Mortified, this common friend literally pulled her out of that hell-hole and berated her for dragging him to that place. She apologized to him and begged him to not to tell me anything about their little “trip”. Our common friend agreed not to tell me anything on one condition – she’d have to tell me herself. She promised that she’d tell me as soon as finds the right opportunity! But apparently it had been weeks since the incident and it seemed that she was still waiting for the right time, because I was clueless about all that!

I remember feeling very numb while the story was being narrated to me. I felt like a fool…that made me very angry! I loved her and trusted her…it was unimaginable that she’d hide things from me. The very thought hurt me so much!! Her secret now became my burden and it sat really heavy on my shoulders. But I wanted to wait for her to come clear…confide in me just like she always did and for the next few days I made sure that we had ample time by ourselves to chat… for her to tell me her secret. She didn’t…and every time I said goodbye to her, my heart broke a little more.

I still remember that evening quite clearly. I was at her house. Our favorite place to hang out was the terrace. She was making small talk and I was distracted. I had so many questions…why wouldn’t she tell me anything!! What was she afraid of? My disapproval? But she knew I’d disapprove – in spite of that she went ahead and contacted that boy! Does that mean she doesn’t care what I think!? Does it mean that my opinions are meaningless to her? But she had asked me for my opinion when she called me to the lakes. What was she thinking? Was she ashamed of her actions? If that was the case, she could just tell me and we’d laugh it off and move on!! The questions kept swirling in my head like a tornado. I was feeling sick!! I finally blurted out everything…I took the name of our common friend and told her that he had told me everything! She was quiet for a moment and then she got very angry. She was angry at the common friend for betraying her trust…he was not supposed to say anything to me…he promised to her! But he promised on the condition that she’d tell me herself I reminded her! That got her even angrier…she said, she never found the right moment to tell me. But its been weeks I argued…there were so many times we were alone…she could have told me anytime! “What are you afraid of?” I asked her, “My disapproval?” She looked at me with cold eyes and said she didn’t care much about my opinion and she was perfectly capable of taking her own decisions! And that I should stop trying to run her life for her!!

Every time I look back at that conversation, I feel that if she had shot me in the heart with a gun, it’d have hurt less! “As you wish” I said and walked out of her house and of her life that day. I moped around for days…sometimes heart-broken and in excruciating pain...at other times blinded by extreme anger. And in that fit of mad rage, I ended up doing the absolute worst deed of my life!! I sought out the boy from the university at his dorm and ratted my friend out to him! I still don’t know what I was trying to accomplish that day…but when I left him, I felt so low that I wanted to drop down in the gutter and die!! In one fell sweep I finished off whatever chance there was to save the friendship by my one stupid and irrational action!

I never stepped into that university campus ever again. For the longest time I refused to hear anything about my friend. Time dulls all pain…everyone moves on. I did too. So did the boy from the university and my friend - but in different directions! Some years later, I heard from common acquaintances that he’s settled somewhere in the windy city…married to a beautiful girl chosen by his parents, doing really well for himself. My friend never married…she’s working with a multi-national bank and lives alone in a city once known for its gardens. Nobody knows what happened to the boy from the slum! Sometimes I wonder if I hadn’t acted in such a reprehensible manner that day, whether my friend would have ended up with the boy from the university!! Did I change the course of their fate?

The burden of my guilt and my shame is too heavy to let me pick up the phone and call my friend again. What will I tell her? Ask for her forgiveness? Yes, I am sorry for ratting her out. But did she ever feel bad for trampling on my feelings? For belittling my trust in her! For crushing my faith in our relationship!! I suppose these questions will go unanswered, because I don’t have the energy in me to bridge that gap anymore, no matter how much I want to. So In this time of her personal loss, all I can do is wish her strength and pray for her well-being from afar!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Of Pirates And A Sugar-free Romance

One long weekend and two movies…both highly anticipated albeit by different groups of people…well mostly! Because there are some people, like yours truly for whom cinema is like oxygen irrespective of the language and genre!

So Friday night was reserved for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. I was slightly apprehensive of subjecting myself to the latest 2 hour 50 minutes long pirate extravaganza, especially when I totally hated the last installment which was too soggy for my comfort. Well, I’m happy to report that Gore Verbinski has once again redeemed himself in my esteem. Here’s the low-down. Lord Cutler Beckett has control of Davy Jones' heart, (which sounds sort of gay when you're just reading about it, but it's not — the heart's in a box). And because he's got the heart, that means he's going to rule the seas. All the pirates and their friends call on all the other pirates around the world to battle it out against the dark forces of uncool un-pirate-ness. And they do this by sailing off the literal edge of the world's map. I think. I just said, "I think," because it's very long, with a hundred characters and lots of plot, and most of the pirates, while speaking, actually sound exactly like "Arrrrrrrhh!!" so you're sort of just waiting for action to speak more clearly than words — truth be told. Eventually it does - in a way that's been designed to deliver maximum sensory blast. It's loud, the effects are cool, the action explosive, the décor opulent and there are surreal scenes of mayhem and madness -- including a mass crab-and-ship exodus, an apocalyptic-looking waterfall along with multiple Jack Sparrows and great Fish People, as well as a fantastic finale battle that'll simultaneously confuse and thrill you.

Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow's in fine flighty form and the enterprise as a whole has reconnected with some of that fun stuff that made it such a pleasant excursion when it first set sail back in 2003. Joining him are Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa (as delightful as ever) Orlando Bloom as Will Turner (blander than a bowl of mashed potato without salt), Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann (coming off as downright tough and Pirate Queen-ish throughout) and Chow-Yun-Fat as the ill-tempered Capt. Sao Feng leading the pirates of the Singapore. The extensive passenger list also includes Bill Nighy as the heavily tentacled Davy Jones, Stellan Skarsgard as Turner's imprisoned dad Bootstrap Bill, Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma, the gypsy queen who turns out to be a true force of nature, and, most notably, Keith Richards in a brief but memorable cameo as crusty and mumbling Keeper of the Code and Sparrow's dad, Captain Teague. And I must mention the funny pirate monkey – if I weren’t so smitten by Johnny Depp, I could watch At World’s End just for the monkey! I have a feeling the ride is not over yet…so watch out for the fourth installment in a few years or even earlier!

This evening I ventured out all by myself and treated myself to a sugar-free romance. It’s been a while since I’ve watched a movie alone and believe me, for the longest time I was alone in the entire theater. It almost felt like a private screening with samosa and hot chai for snack, till noisy and late-latif desis started trickling in and messed up my reverie!

Coming back to Cheeni Kum – I’d call it a romantic comedy with a difference. While it isn’t path breaking, it is eminently watchable!! It was short and well, low on mush! Amitabh Bachchan as 64 year old pony-tailed London restaurant owner - the egotistic, caustic and cynical Buddhadev Gupta and Tabu as the strong, independent 34 year old Nina Verma, a software engineer from Delhi are the most unlikely people to fall in love. But they do and their chemistry is awesome and you want to root for them when they decide to tie the knot! Of course there’s a kabab-mein-haddi and completey over the top Paresh Rawal who’s Nina’s father and is actually six years younger than his potential son-in-law! The movie was going great till Paresh Rawal showed up post interval and made it a tedious watch! Also a monolgue by Amitabh Bachchan rationalizing why Paresh Rawal is freaking out at the prospect of his daughter marrying a man 30 years her senior slowed the movie down to a crawl!*yawn*

Watch out for the scenes where Mr Bachchan shares screen space with Tabu and Zohra Sehgal who plays his mother! The grand old lady is still such a delight to watch. Lately, I’ve been noticing a trend in Hindi cinema where strong and entertaining characters are being written for supporting roles( Khosla Ka Ghosla, Pyar ka Side Effects) – Cheeni Kum too has a wonderful collection of supporting cast – the guy playing toothy Colgate (I totally loved his accent) and Swini Khara as Amitabh Bachchan’s 9 year old friend and neighbor Sexy stand out - she undoubtedly had the best lines in the movie!

Sometimes, they say, less is more. In this case, a little less sugar made Cheeni Kum a fun caper and saved it from being too sappy!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Obiter Dictum

As I write this, there’s a tiny little humming bird right outside my window flapping its wings frantically to stay afloat while drinking nectar from the freshly bloomed maple flowers from the tree that frame view of the yonder. This is my most favorite window in the house. If I look down, I can see the community garden where people grow herbs, flowers and vegetables and right now there are tulips and hyacinths and poppies and calla lilies blooming in riots of colors. A little beyond is the park where children play on the swing set and run around the fountain on a sunny day. And over the absurdly green tree tops that border the park, on a clear day Mt Rainier looms like the giant sentinel that guards the horizon. These days every time I look out from this window, I get sad…this view won’t belong to me for long! We’re moving…yet again! And this time I have no one to pass the blame on…it was solely my decision to move back to the suburbs; to be close to spouse’s work place; to get back into the big house, big garage, big yard lifestyle of the suburbia. It was a decision made with my head (or so I keep telling myself) and not with my heart! Because my heart breaks every time I think of moving away from this place!

I’ve been religiously going for walks last few weeks…probably to get my fill of this place before I say goodbye. I walk on the tree lined avenues of Capitol Hill, past the historic multi-million dollar mansions with their impeccable lawns and flower beds, listening to the soundtrack of Metro and Ek Chaalis Ki Last Local, up and down the hill, sometimes through the winding roads of the Interlaken Park, enjoying the sunshine and the fresh air, stopping to smell the flowers and realizing how much I’ve come to love this neighborhood! My walks have become my daily pick-me-up, my time to unwind, plan the day, plan my life and come up with hare-brained schemes to make more money among other things! Beats going to the gym any day!!

Finally I caught up with the Koffee with Karan Season two. Interestingly, Karan Johar seemed a lot mellower and talks about his mom all the time! His guests are as boring and predictable as ever, barring of course Rakhi Sawant…I absolutely loved her! The girl has spunk and doesn’t believe in mincing words! My kinda girl! Even La Mallika Sherawat seemed a little subdued compared to Rakhi Sawant! Also caught up with the first two episodes of Indian Idol 3. Anu Malik should be fired with immediate effect for being obnoxious in general; Alisha Chinai should lose 20lbs and that weird accent; Udit Naryan should first fix his own diction before commenting on others' (Koi enzineer ka kaam karega, anyone?) and Javed Akhtar should leave his insecurities at home before coming to reality show as a judge! His constant bickering with Anu Malik was borderline juvenile. There was a sense of déjà vu while watching him bitch and moan about Anu Malik’s high-handed attitude…Javed saab had a pretty similar spat with Ila Arun during that pathetic show called Fame Gurukul last year (or was it the year before? ...who cares!)

Thank god the news-sites have stopped obsessing about Abhishek-Aishwarya’s wedding and Richard Gere-Shilpa Shetty’s highly erotic kiss! Now I can go back to reading news in peace without having to devour the minute by minute details of the wedding of the century. From the pictures that made their way into the internet, I have only one thing to say - Aishwarya Rai needed a stylist at the Cannes and she needed one real bad for her wedding! Ok so I have more than one thing to say...sue me! Abhishek Bachchan’s jewels would put the Nizam of Hyderabad to shame…that Sarpech alone would have cost an arm and a leg; I’m not even getting into the string of pigeon-egg sized emeralds that were hanging from Baby B’s neck!! But whats with the garish mandap Mr Bachchan? It looked like something straight out of Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan!! Then media brouhaha caused by Gere-Shetty PDA and the subsequent arrest warrant was even more ridiculous than the Aishwarya-Hrithik lip-lock controversy! Whether or not the media blew everything out of proportion, Richard Gere, the old goat should have known better!! And I own the DVD of Shall We Dance…there is absolutely no scene in that movie that is even remotely close to what transpired on stage that day! Having said that, I also must admit that Ms Shetty was looking particularly yummy that day and Richard Gere yet again proved the old adage “Bandar kitna bhi budha ho jaaye par gulatiya marna nahi chhodta!”

This afternoon on a whim I called a friend I haven’t spoken to in nearly seven years. No, we were not fighting or anything…in fact we’ve been in touch over instant messengers etc., albeit sporadically. But it was wonderful to talk to this person after such a long time. Reminded me why we became friends in the first place…even after three hours of marathon talking (during which I ran errands, picked up sonny boy from school, took him to the park, came home and started dinner) we were reluctant to say bye. Well lets see if it takes another seven years to pick up the phone again!

Spider Man 3 has apparently become the biggest hit of 2007 in India. Cool! I saw it last week…didn’t think it was anything to write home about. Now I want to watch the Bhojpuri version…I’m sure it’ll be infinitely more entertaining than the original!!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Yet Another Farewell

Last night Bhalo left us to join Chhotu somewhere in dog-heaven. We were expecting it and had braced ourselves for the eventuality, but that doesn't lessen the pain and the sense of loss even a bit!