Thursday, 30 May 2013

The day when we grieve alone

On the day when Film Director Rituparno Ghosh breathed his last, at the age of just 49, I felt, after a long time, an overwhelming need to be back in my city, Kolkata. Rarely in the last 15 years since I left home, have I felt the need to be back home so ardently and passionately.

To most people in most parts of the world, the news meant nothing. It was not breaking news; neither was it related to the IPL scam, nor was it about the ground-breaking fashion choices of our Bollywood Cannes contingent.

But for a few of us who have watched his films, who were touched by the sensitivity of his characters, the brilliant nuances of his dialogues, his courage to live his life so differently and on his own terms; for all of us waited with bated breath for his next masterpiece, it was a sad day today.

The brilliant director with his bold and hard-hitting ideas who brought Bengali films once again on the global map and who was so often criticized and ridiculed by people who did not appreciate his vision will enthrall and shock us no more. We grieve alone today, as utterly alone and lonely as he would have felt his entire life.

In only, we were back in Kolkata today - there in the middle of a crowded state bus, there in the evening rush hour metro, there at the local tea stall, there would have been strangers sharing our grief, talking about his films, talking about him, his courage, his bravery, his brilliance and his loneliness.

There would have loud voices and arguments, hotly debated opinions and eagerly shared beliefs. We may not have shared all the views but we would have joined in, even if silently, and felt our grief and pain melt away in the shared exchange.
But alas, we need to grieve alone.

We might pride ourselves on being global citizens, on leaving our old homes behind and finding new homes. But on days such as these, do we ask ourselves, have we really found where we belong?

Maybe Don McLean would have dedicated his "Vincent" song again today to another genius, another misunderstood soul.

“This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you”.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

The many faces of Manila

Does Manila signify 'the gates of hell' as referred to by Dan Brown in his latest book, 'The Inferno' or does it signify the 'gates of heaven' as another author, Paul Coelho has tried to defend it?

You decide.

The Manila I saw last week cannot simply be summed up in 1 witty caption. It is a conglomeration of 16 islands, of centuries of invasion and integration from various nations ranging from Malayasia, Indonesia, India, Japan, Spain and US among others, of a past that is steeped in culture and history and a future that stands poised to engulf it in its steel and glass modern facades visible across the city in its new business and residential districts.

The Manila I saw in pictures and captions below:
The American cemetery: To honor more than 17,000 who died and 30,000 who were missing in action in World War II

Intramuros - the 400-year old remains of the Spanish walled city and the last bastion of the Japanese army; reportedly it took the American army 5 days to enter the gates  
Once a moat that surrounded the walled gates of Intramuros and acted as the first line of defence, the Americans turned it into a golf course after they successfully entered the gates
St Augustine Church, one of the few buildings that withstood the onslaught of time in Intramuros
Pineapple plantation - Once famous for its plantations and for its rice exports,  Manila today has started importing rice from other countries
Manila bay - for a view of the setting sun
The ubiquitous jeepney - left behind by the US army post World War II, the jeepney is a common sight in Manila and part of its public transport system along with pedicabs, rickshaws, taxis and the like. But all of them combined seem ill equipped to cope with the massive traffic situation in Manila as traffic and tourism grinds to a literal halt in the absence of efficient and mass transit system 
The coconut palace - Built by Imelda Marcos during the 1981 Pope  John Paul visit, the  palace is more famous in history because the Pope refused to set foot inside the expensive and pretentious place. And I am not even beginning to talk about Imelda's shoe museum, which still stands today.

The Spanish rulers may have left Manila but the Spanish Ayala family is still one of the richest, they still own real estate and companies in Manila with net worth amounting to ~$11B - an example of their staggering wealth and richness is the Ayala Museum which we felt best to view from the outside
A short day trip from Manila - Tagaytay and Taal Lake offer views of an active volcano and crater
A view of the New Manila - Makati City, Pasig City, Bonifacio Global Street all stand tall with imposing structures and modern facades that could easily pass off for any global city in the world, a sign probably of the rising urbanization, consumerism and wealth disparity in Manila
Food options in Manila are plenty - due to its multi-cultural background and experience but any description of Manila is incomplete without a mention of Halo-Halo, its local desert that tastes divine and transports one back to a world of enjoyment of simple pleasures

Manila may well be at the cross-roads right now, a city trying hard to retain some part of its unique cultural identity and history even as it grapples with the issues of poverty, traffic, pollution and the like and gets thrust onto the world stage as an upcoming economy that is already home to a mushrooming BPO industry and could lead to other new economic opportunities .

Hopefully, as Manila puts one foot firmly forward and tries to create its equivalent of the 'American dream' with people faithfully aligning with American influences in food, fashion, music and the like, it can keep its other foot firmly in its past with institutions like the Asian Development Bank trying to develop policies that can address its deep-rooted issues and people like Carlos Seldran (who runs historical walking tours in Manila) who can help residents and visitors look at Manila differently and give a boost to its tourism industry that till now seems very much dormant with travelers still asking the question 'Why visit Manila?'.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Who needs a manager?

For most of my corporate life, I have been remarkably lucky to have worked with managers who were more mentors and leaders, than mere managers.

But that said, there are managers who bring out the worst in us, managers who are trapped in their own miseries and can do precious little to help, motivate or guide their teams.

Being a manager is no easy task. This limerick is an ode to all of us in the corporate world and the managers we love to hate.

Who needs a manager?

Your calendar it is full, your mind it is blank,
You sit alone in the corner cabin as befits your rank.
You practice management by walking around,
Hovering like a headless chicken to check if everything is sound.
But when really needed, why are you MIA (missing in action)? Is this your idea of a corporate prank?

Why I hate small talk

So I hate small talk. Of course you know that. That’s why this blog. Small talk has been the bane of my existence right from childhood when I was dragged around to meet friends and relatives by my highly ‘friendly’ family. But quite predictably and rather to their growing alarm, small talk invariably took a back seat during these visits when I spied interesting books I could read or good food I could eat. And my current levels of small talk skills are not much better.
Recently I developed this theory which I call the “Hours and Minutes theory”. So  there are some people with whom I can spend hours at a stretch talking about books, music, films, travel and the like, people who share similar interests and tastes and who I can count among my close friends. People with whom I can be me.
Then there are people who I meet and start panicking in seconds, when I wish I could just become invisible and take out my book and start reading, blocking out the whole world. Of course, its rude, I know, my husband keeps telling me that and I keep getting feedback to be nice and to ‘circulate more’ during social gatherings from all sorts of people. But I am scared that the mask of politeness that I try donning for these occasions will drop off any second leaving me exposed, vulnerable and just not me. I may be a good friend but am quite surely a terrible acquaintance.
Take me to a party full of unknown people and I sweat and fret and falter and make gaffes of the worst social kinds. Recently, I resorted to watching the rain at a party when I ran out of polite things to say, which was obviously very quickly.
One such ‘no small talk’ gaffe is captured in the limerick below:
Why I hate small talk
O, how lovely, dear, so nice to see you today,
Do come home, we must catch up, so she does airily say,
French manicured nails in long fingers raised in an elegant wave.
Which day I ask? Silence descends. And it's another close social shave!
O when will I learn the art of small talk the right way?

Sunday, 12 May 2013

my version of a haunting song..with verse and pictures..

One of the most haunting songs that I have heard and tried to sing.

While singing it, I could almost visualize a portrait of lost love..

Hence this short movie, an amalgamation of sorts across mediums and formats..

- a song I sang, a poem I wrote and pictures that I clicked during my travels that all symbolize to me love that never was...

It's my first attempt at something like this.. Do let me know how you liked it..

Wish I could have drowned out the background traffic noise though:)

Saturday, 11 May 2013

In search

All I ever wanted
Was to be free,
Why does it seem so difficult now?
Was it never really meant to be?

The invisible bonds that now tie me
And the shackles that chain my mind,
Are they hiding the person I am trying to find?

Do I really need it all?
Are they taking my soul?
And pushing me further against the wall?

Who is my biggest enemy
Is it really I?

Am I the one that’s holding me back,
Making excuses for decisions
I never wanted to take,
Arguing against myself,
Taking the easy way out, being a fake.

Who am I fooling
Is this really me?

Can’t I be the child again
When I was really free?
Why is so hard now
To just be me?  

the relentless lashing of the waves of misery against the endless ocean  - the complexities of the human mind