Thursday, December 31, 2009

Curtains Redux

It so transpires that this year has come to pass. When I wrote my New Year's Eve post last year, I was particularly incensed at the Kappal Antry procedures in most places which basically meant that I was sitting across the road from Cafe Morrison (where happened a 60s rock night, free entry, kappals only), sipping coffee with two of my fellow cronies as the clock struck twelve. This year, things are different. A friend who has never previously organized a party (and therefore) has consented to host a get-together tonight. What better way to start the new year than with a single-malt in hand and a devastating hangover later!

I had planned several things for the year that terminates today. Turns out that nothing went according to plan, and it was by far the best year I've had in the last five! So here's wishing all my readers who keep this blog from dying a pariah's death (that it might truly deserve on some days) a very happy new year. Plan a lot, dream more!

Hippie New Year.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Of Blue People and Metaphor Overdoses

Spoiler alert: If you haven't seen Avatar, read no further.

Avatar had the promise of a great watch. It was the first movie I was going to watch in 3-D after Chhota Chetan for which I had gone as an eleven-year-old and thoroughly enjoyed. Looking back, I strongly recommend the movie for cinematic experience. That, despite the feeling of watching a patchwork collage of other movies, that you get from time to time in the two and half hours. Everyone gets plugged into the Avatar body (quite inexplicably, because the blue blokes know who it is inside the nine-foot behemoth) through a system that is very reminiscent of getting plugged into the Matrix. At other times in the movie, I was distinctly aware of the similarities with other movies like The Day After Tomorrow and on one occasion, even Kingdom of Heaven.

Then there's rich dose of metaphors that the movie churns out. We start with the whole humans teaching the Na'vis to communicate in English which is probably a straight take on the "Civilizing Mission" that most countries of the West undertook before colonizing countries around the world. Then there is a strong critique of American foreign policy, which is a horse that everyone loves to flog. Last of all there is also the "revenge of mother nature" metaphor when the animals come to the support of the people of Pandora and wipe out the attacking army. Another interesting thing emerges from the romantic angle between the two protagonists. The display of affection is distinctly human, even American. A friend suggests that it is important to maintain a sense of connection to the story unfolding on screen. While he might be right, I still find it interesting that one assumes that a hundred and fifty years in the future, people of a different colour on a different planet would express their love in ways characteristically human.

The movie's a good watch otherwise. The very fact that so many of us have written about it or plan to do so is a reflection of the fact that it makes for an interesting two and a half hours.

Monday, December 21, 2009

An Ode to Thee...Delhi

It came as quite a surprise to me when an aunt of mine who had come from abroad to stay with us for a few days, suggested that we take her and her family to old Delhi for a visit. I was surprised because, for the longest time I have held (and continue to hold) her secular credentials under serious doubt. I wasn't sure I had heard the request correctly. Then again, my religious credentials are under serious doubt.

It started with a fairly innocuous suggestion- "let's go and see the light and sound show at the Red Fort". At this point, I am ashamed to admit that in my nearly 23 years of living, I have never been inside the Red Fort. I'm perfectly aware of the fact that a lot of my readers who hail from Delhi and are reading my shameful admission, are also identifying with it (let me not get started on the Lotus temple). Funny as it is, I have been inside the Red Fort's twin at Lahore, some half a thousand kilometers away. This, despite fairly frequent visits to the old city, or scores of drives past the Red Fort. There was a certain level of cautious excitement that was growing inside me as the hour approached. Caution, because the old city is a little bit of an acquired taste for most, especially for those who are used to the open, empty roads of vilayat. I, personally had hated it when I had gone for the first time years ago. Then I started to visit it quite frequently and soon enough I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the chaos; the best experience being that of walking out of the modern Chawri Bazaar Metro station into the cycle-rickshaw-jammed Hauz Qazi Chowk.

We reached the Red Fort just after sunset- a little too soon for the light and sound show, but a little too late to explore the interior. Then came the surprising suggestion- a walk through the by-lanes of Chandni Chowk to Jama Masjid. About half an hour later we had managed to snake our way through the narrow streets and were on our final approach to Jama Masjid. I looked around and realized that the younger fraction of my guests were beginning to feel extremely uncomfortable. I, for one, have always enjoyed the streets around the gate to the mosque and was having a great time trying to avoid getting run over by cycle-rickshaws. We couldn't enter the mosque because we had arrived after sunset but as we stood on the mosque's steps, absorbing the heady mix of people, prayers, walking animals and those being served on plates, I could sense my sister having a change of heart. An "epiphany in life" is what we decided to call this sudden sense of love for old Delhi, that had managed to spring forth from her hatred for the same place. Other sections of our group may not have had the same change of heart.

We finally managed to make our way back to the Red Fort in time for the light and sound show. This is where I make a recommendation to all my friends who have walked the streets of Delhi and never managed to go inside the fort; go. The ambient lighting of the fixtures inside the fort were quite a sight. The light and sound show itself wasn't much to write home about. But as I sat there on the lawns in front of the Diwan-i-khaas bathed in the light shed by a full moon, I was having an epiphany in life of my own:

I love Delhi. I love the fact that this city is in itself such a poetic mix of contradictions. We're far from perfect. And even though I may never win an objective debate on whether this city is better than any other in the world, this is home, and home is where I will always belong. I may complain about it, I may get angry with it; I might even hate it sometimes but I will never be disillusioned with it.