Friday, October 31, 2008

‘Fashion’: Amour with glamour

-by Swetha Amit

http://content.msn.co.in/msncontribute/story.aspx?PageID=5f1d25c2-22c4-419b-aea6-2a9dee9ecd69

When one thinks of glamour and glitz, words like superficiality, fame and wealth instantly come to their minds. Envious of their status, the fashion fraternity are often dismissed as frivolous beings whose lives seem to be easy and plush on the surface. Little does one realize that a mere walk on the ramp leads to different and unique walks of life? It delves deep into the human psyche of these beauties emphasizing the saying that “There’s more than what meets the eye”. Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion showcases the other side of this glittering world where dismissal feelings are replaced with stunning reactions leaving a lingering impact on the viewers.

The film cruises through the eyes of its protagonist whose narration embarks her journey as an aspirant model from a small town into the big bad world. Meghna Mathur (Priyanka Chopra) breaks all the conventional barriers and arrives in Mumbai from Chandigarh to fulfill her ambitions. Being a struggling fresher with the right attitude takes her slowly from one show to another eventually. To an extent where she even replaces the most sought after show stopper and the reigning model Shonali Gujral (Kangana Ranaut). However the saying goes that what goes up ultimately has to come down. Meghna Mathur shoots up to fame in the starry world only to come crash landing to the grounded hard hitting realities little realizing her own folly as a cause for this down fall. The pressures and stress makes her fall prey to the substance abuse syndrome.

In just a flash of a second, much quicker than the flashes of a flamboyant camera still, her entire world comes crumbling down. With steadfast support from family and few friends including the not so successful fellow model Janet (Mugdha Godhse), Meghna pulls her strings together to sort out her assorted aspects of her shattered life. Whether she will taste the sweet pinnacle of success again forms rest of the narrative. The film also showcases a few interesting characters who offer a pillar of support to Meghana at different junctures during her tryst with the modeling world.

After Chandni Bar, Page 3, Corporate, Madhur Bhandarkar delivers yet another brilliant hard hitting reality concept in a seemingly candy floss world. Priyanka Chopra gets into the skin of the character and portrays her varied emotions in different facets with utmost conviction. Kangana Ranaut blows one away as the arrogant top notch model with a borderline streak of psychological imbalance. Mugdha Godhse is surprisingly good as she plays her part well as one who goes all out to help her counterparts during dire straits quite defying the cut throat element of this profession. The film is well supported by rest of its cast like Arbaaz Khan and new comer Arjan Bajwa along with a few surprise appearances. Music by Salim Suleiman adds flavor to the theme with the title track ‘Jalwa’ finding its rightful place amidst the chartbusters.

Some of the scenes depict a close resemblance to real life instances which enhances its realistic aspect. The concept is well weaved out and wouldn’t be surprising to find its winning streak in another national award.

What one sees isn’t what they get as this movie takes them behind the scenes of the stylish era. Emotions and thoughts find no place as the fast paced nature takes a toll on every rung of ladder to success. This is enhanced in the dialogue of Mugdha Godhse to Priyanka Chopra stating, “Jitna kam sochogi utna zyada kamaogi”. The mounting pressures give rise to huffs and puffs gradually leading to destruction of one’s self. As the film tagline says “In the word of fashion one has to give up more than just their morals”. The soul is sacrificed immensely which is worse than compromising on values and integrity.

‘Fashion’ would indeed satisfy the curiosity that many have about the fashionable world. It would cease one to view the other side of the coin which no doubt depicts grey shades in this otherwise resplendent lifestyle.
Written for www.msn.co.in
Appeared as Editor's choice and story of the day

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Distorted perceptions

-By Swetha Amit
She came out of the library with books stacked in her arms and glasses firmly perched on her dainty nose. A roar of laughter from a noisy group drew closer as she self consciously walked down the passage. Straightening her Kurtha, she strolled past the popular crowd whom she knew would pass a scornful look at this ‘oversized’ bop. A silence followed as they seem to stare at her and even heard a faint whisper about a ‘bookworm’ and a drab. Scuttling away, she buried herself into a pile of fiction gaining solace in the interesting characters of the literary world. As she glanced at herself in the mirror nearby, a plump girl with not a bad looking expressive face looked back at her inquisitively. Was being on the heavy side a crime? Everywhere she went, it was all she heard. The constant jibes at her physical appearance, the drone of ‘how not to binge’, etc etc.

She was hardly spoken to at social gatherings. Disinterested expressions were what she noticed among people who cast their first glance at her. Does it take an hour glass figure to entice folks into a casual conversation? It was worse with the opposite sex who either pretended that she didn’t exist or seemed in a hurry to get out of her vicinity. She knew that she wasn’t dumb. In fact she had varied interests and was quite well versed in the field of literature and its works. Yet nothing seemed to penetrate her ‘tough’ looking exterior in this world of superficiality.

Sayings like “Beauty is only skin deep” and “there’s more than just what meets the eye” were confined to the quotes within old pages of a book which were referred to as a technique to impress the ‘right’ people. These were the words of wisdom which she had grown up with. She recollected an incident as a child when she playfully teased her governess as ‘spotty’ due to freckles on her face. The unforgettable reprimand later was what stayed with her during her years of growing up. The strange aspect lay in the fact of elders themselves indulging in such shallow behaviour and pretended to appear as know it all when it came to deeper meanings to life. It seemed that she was physically outcast as she was forcibly reduced to a sad state of solitude.

She couldn’t ignore the fact of sometimes wanting to mingle more with others and a secret longing of her inner self blossoming out to the rest of the world. Little did she realize that her wish would actually come true with just an accidental stumble?

It was like any other evening as she went to pick up her cousin from the neighboring gym. Waiting at the reception, she was soon enticed into the persuasive marketing gimmick by a rather attractive looking man who convinced her of the theory”Impossible is nothing”. She soon found herself engulfed in the puffs and pants along with others who were heading towards a similar goal. After a few weeks she gradually began to realize the positive impact that was occurring. It seemed like a rainbow creeping slowly amidst the dark stringent clouds. The opportunity of making friends more than made up for her otherwise loneliness that had developed like overgrown weeds in an unkempt garden. The supportive gestures of her instructors managed to help her shed a few pounds. Her entire world seemed to take a drastic turn in just a month’s time.

Confidence had become her staunch companion along with others whose attention she seemed to be showered with. Sudden spurts of recognition happened to come from all sources with respect to her verbal intelligence. Those who shunned her were vying for her attention like little dogs which would be content with just a smile of acknowledgement from their master. Social gatherings were no more a nightmare. The disdainful expressions were replaced with beaming smiles some which she noted were false, yet were smiles nevertheless. She felt like a new being altogether and strangely she was the same person a month back.

As she glanced again at the mirror, a slimmer girl wearing contacts looked back at her smilingly. However the reflection seemed synonymous of one who would have loved to share her views with the like minded. It was strange that those individuals found her only now. Was it her new fitness regime which acted as her fairy God mother? Was she to be thankful or disgusted of having being accepted socially as one of the fish in these shallow waters? It was ironical that she didn’t seem elated as she should have been. When what she wanted had actually come at a cost and that which even a plastic surgery wouldn’t have done justice to.

The veil of hypocrisy was what the world is. Dark complexions and deformities are actually ridiculed with such insensitivity that would put words like compassion to exile of extinction. It is true that beauty does lie in the eyes of the beholder of that which delves deep into ones soul and not what is depicted on the mere sole. She recollected the famous saying of “The worlds a stage”. How true she thought. The world indeed was a stage which seemed to host a beauty contest with judges who took it as their birth right to decide the admissions of the ‘socially approved’. And reject those like unwanted pile of rags that were a burden to ones cupboard which should ideally contain nothing but designer gowns.

As she walked out of the library this time, she couldn’t help but notice a stark contrast in the approach. The silence was accompanied with admiring gazes and whispers of “Who’s that chick?” And this time it was she who gave them a mocking smile as she geared up to explore the deeper waters in this ocean of life. And glad that she didn’t suffer from the disease of ‘distorted perceptions’.

Written for www.msn.co.in

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bearing the sole brunt


-By Swetha Amit
He rushed through his project work that day. It was an evening he had been waiting for ages quite eagerly. The invitation had reached his parents a couple of weeks ago stating his cousin’s wedding on his paternal side. How long ago it seemed. He recollected those memorable days of playing in the huge garden indulging in notorious pranks that were inimitable of kids. A decade almost had gone by and things somewhere down the line didn’t depict cordiality. Certain issues which had cropped up had led his family to the brink of estrangement from the rest. Too young to understand the intensity of such problems, he had hoped things would die down as each went their own way. Never did he see his cousins, uncles, aunts or grandparents since that tension filled afternoon. For some vague reason, his parents seemed to avoid this ‘tender’ topic whenever he tried to broach it with a firm stress on academics and scores.

He missed those vivacious get- togethers especially when he would hear of his friends’ family reunions. Yet he let it pass thinking that his solitude would end at the right time. And indeed it was almost here. Didn’t that invitation embark it? It would just be like old times again where he was sure that such pettiness would be submerged under a pool of warmth. After all wasn’t blood thicker than water?

He reached home to find an uptight expression on both his parents’ faces which he ignored. A stoic silence prevailed in the car as they drove down. As they reached the venue, he jumped out being the enthusiastic twenty-year old he was and ran inside the hall. The crowd was yet to come and the rest of the family was already present. As he walked towards them with a smile on his face, he stopped in his tracks suddenly. What he saw seemed almost unbelievable. The reciprocation of his warm smile was met with such severe frozen stares that would have put Alaska to shame. Some of them turned their backs at him. It couldn’t have been mere tension as they were making merry a minute before he had spotted them. As his parents entered, the animosity further engulfed the air.

“Arush!!! Is that you?” As he turned, he noticed his cousin’s ecstatic face beaming beside him. How much he had grown into a handsome young man and now all set to enter into a new phase in his life. At least one person was happy to see him. Nothing had changed his affection towards him. They started to catch up only to be ushered by his uncle who gave a stiff nod of acknowledgement.

The rest of them seemed to look at him like a worm which had crawled out from nowhere. He spotted his grandparents nearby and rushed to touch their feet with a hope of breaking the ice. To his dismay they moved their feet and instead posed a question that pierced through his heart filling him with incurable agony. “Where were you all these years?” Couldn’t you even look upon old souls”? We didn’t realize you would turn out to be ruthless and selfish like your parents.” As he asked rather politely that they didn’t seem to exhibit any signs of knowing about his whereabouts either; he was rudely interrupted by one of the members who said he seemed to have inherited his parents’ "arrogance."
A stupefied silence followed and left the ambience like that which would be in the presence of a corpse. His parents’ face went red with indignation as their son was been made a scapegoat all this while. Feelings of disgust surfaced and a heated argument followed which led to pointless accusations and hurling like weapons in the olden day wars. It was proving to be an embarrassment and his expectation had entirely turned into a nightmare. As he mulled over in anguish, he found himself dragged by his parents who were seething with rage. Reaching home, he shut himself in his room and pondered furiously about the incident.

Was he living in denial all this while? An illusion of a happy ending? Bitterness carried over after several years even with one's own kith and kin. Whatever happened to the good old days? Will they ever come back or had too much water flown under the bridge? What was his fault? Had the love of the elders towards him faded away along with that for his parents? Why was he targeted? Why did children have to get embroiled in such controversies?

As he forced himself to sleep; he couldn’t forget his grandparents’ remark which stayed with him all night and life. Everything came at a cost and yet he was paying one of the heaviest prices that even a millionaire couldn’t afford. Those happy days were recollected as he dozed off rather exhausted. He could almost feel his grandma’s voice calling out to him only to wake up startled from what had been a dream. Sadly, he slung his backpack and glanced at the calendar. Infinite years of solitude were what it spelt out while his parents acted as though nothing happened. In spite of having innumerable friends he realized a void which had been created in him only never to be filled again.

Feud in the family tree is quite known to occur over several issues. Yet what remains important is the fact that friction between those concerned should strictly be retained within their chambers of dispute. A carry over to the others would only upset the apple cart. As adults, a mature stance should be adopted to let their children remain unaffected and discourage their involvement in matters concerning grown ups. Allowing such dishevelment to be exhibited towards grandchildren especially can cause immense insecurity in them. While trees and branches are spread out, it takes strong roots to firmly hold in unity and not let any branch bear the brunt unwarrantedly.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ahead of times


-By Swetha Amit
“It’s been six years”, she said to herself. It seemed just like yesterday when they were engulfed in merriment and mindless leg pulling. A bunch of youngsters were on the brink of adulthood and were yet to face the harsh real world. Everything was so oblivious back then apart from their notorious group. She could still recollect the last day of College where solemn vows were made never to lose track/touch with one another. A few tears were even shed. Each traced a different path for herself and the journey of life resumed from a bed of roses to encountering a few thorns.

So much had happened in those six years that followed as she almost felt her teen self being a stranger to her. Little did she realize that a move to a different city would actually bring out a facet of her persona which ceased to have existed without her knowledge? Was it suppressed all these years due to being a conformist all the while? Or just a mere case of ‘growing up’?

Different people and experiences highlighted steaks of her individuality that even took her by surprise. It appeared to have pushed her into a different league altogether. Her current attitude and frame of mind were certainly shaped up by weathering a few storms. And certainly not the seasonal monsoons everyone was accustomed to on a yearly basis. Her earlier days almost seemed hazy like a misty morning up the hills. It sure had been an uphill task on coping up with the ‘metamorphosis’ and retaining minimal touch with her old acquaintances. The rest appeared to be sailing on the same boat from what she had gathered while she had migrated to greener pastures. Feeling almost guilty for her rather ‘superior’ feelings, she tried to look forward to the reunion which was happening in an hour’s time. She ignored the little voice which popped up the same question repeatedly “Will you still be able to identify with them?”

After one last glance at the mirror, she set off to the neighboring coffee shop for a rather long evening. As she reached the entrance, it occurred to her that she was fashionably late. Amidst the sea of faces were a few ecstatic hands waving frantically at her. Forcing herself to smile, she walked across slowly with every step spelling apprehension. She couldn’t help noticing how much each had changed superficially and yet they hadn’t on a deeper level. How ironical, she thought. Two hours dragged along as the initial bouts of enthusiasm faded away like wisps of smoke into thin air. Moments of awkwardness began to creep in and pounded loudly like the heartbeat of one just after an exhilarating work-out.

The same old gossip, clinging on to the past, catty remarks made her feel like an old haggard amidst a bunch of teens. The only thing being she was still in her twenties chronologically. Her entire life equaled her to have descended from a different planet entirely. The unbearable mode reached its peak which prompted her to indulge in a gracious exit rather politely but thankfully. Thoughts precipitated her deep cerebration mode as she left. Had things really changed to such a drastic level? Were these the same people she had shared an inseparable bond with once upon a time? It had been worse than expected. Unable to relate to anything of their talk, every inch of tolerance had been exhausted leaving her rather drained out. As she introspected further, something in her snapped to reality which reminded her of the inevitable and the need for the acceptance factor immediately. It was like a sudden jolt of lightning that startles one out of their wits. Yet it enlightens the people below at least for a brief moment.

It was hard to accept the fact of leaving them behind as faint memories from the past. The laughter, cries and bonding didn’t cease to exist anymore. Transformation had slowly found its way through as an anchor ready to steer her through rest of her life. She seemed to have gone far ahead in the learning curve of life where the rest would either reach late or probably never do so. Torn between the past and the future she faced a different crossroad of life this time. A decision which was difficult and easy at the same time. That which would leave her feeling selfish and selfless. Right or wrong spelt relativity as realization dawned upon her that it was time to say goodbye. Why was the obvious always so arduous? The dark skies above portrayed the same shade as that of her mental state as she dozed off into a tiresome slumber.

The clarity of first rays intruded into her cognitive haze as she resumed normalcy of a Sunday morning. Later that afternoon, she managed to clear old stack of papers amidst which were a bunch of old photographs of that ‘stranger’.

Sometimes in life, there are many who move ahead of others along the steep curve of change resulting in unexpected estrangement from old ties. Selfishness seems the only alternative which surpasses the need to hold on to old strings. The latter would only make one feel stifled and redundant, like a bonsai plant with no scope for growth. True that it embarks a hard hitting reality and bitterness. While one needn’t indulge in cat fights, moving ahead of times can be done by holding their heads high with dignity and graceful acceptance. And certainly not blaming one or the others.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Night without dark spells

-By Swetha Amit
It was the sight of the swirling Ghagras and electrifying lights as we entered the stadium at 8:00 pm. The drum beats geared to lead us into a foot tapping fiesta. It almost seemed like the celebration of the onset of spring with the lively singing of Falguni Pathak on stage and the merriment of brilliant smiles worn on the faces.

Standing amidst the sea of jubilance, we keenly observed the unmistakable enthusiasm portrayed by all. Feeling rather lost initially, we were trying to find our feet literally amongst the graceful dancers, foot tapping to the tunes of Garba/Dandiya. As we finally got into the groove of an eclectic group, our spirits soared high as we swayed along. The two hours of elation seemed to remove the toxics of evil elements residing in our souls as our soles were in rapid action. Every inch of stress and anxiety dissolved like sugar into a hot cup of tea.

As the couple of hours came to a halt, we gathered our things and prepared for a long ride back home. Strangely we were feeling as refreshed and energetic as ever, realizing that fatigue seemed nowhere in our dictionary at that moment. On retrospection into the unforgettable night out, a flurry of thoughts seemed to creep in like the first rays of the rising sun.

It makes one marvel at what the festival of Navarathri brought about at least on a temporary basis. For starters, the entire crowd comprised of a blend that was contemporary and traditional; the young and the aged. Yet the dissimilarities which are normally are a hassle in day to day life, were beautifully bound with unity of uniqueness. It almost made us feel that such festivals were needed to celebrate the differences instead of being at logger heads. Class differences which were strikingly visible otherwise played no role here as everybody shed their inhibitions and got jiggy with whoever came along. Anyone was welcomed with open arms as they unconsciously joined a circle that was already in a full swing. Yet none seemed to find this ‘interruption’ a hurdle. Instead the ‘more the merrier’ attitude prevailed constantly. Even in the case of people who had come in large groups showed no animosity towards an ‘outsider’.

Feelings of awkwardness of ‘what will people think’ evaporated into the air of vivacity as an unspoken veil of unconditional acceptance prevailed. Even those who probably never danced for fear of being ridiculed let their hair down to participate in this commemoration. The folks were transported into a different world as they indulged in a gregarious folklore.

No wonder, it embarked the triumph of victory over evil. Every possible social, emotional and physical stigma was encountered with an enigmatic ecstasy. Enlightenment was glaringly obvious as the murky elements of condescending nature, hatred, caste; creed and sex were undoubtedly oblivious to all. Equality was attained as thousands came together under one roof to bow their heads humble to the Goddess who defeated the vile Asura. The divine mother who would have been proud to see her children ‘well behaved’ sans any traces of ‘impurity’. Not surprising as undue efforts went into the fierce battle without which the world would have been doomed to darkness.

We couldn’t help but draw parallels to this effervescent sight to that of a rainbow post a rainy day. Where the torrid clouds are battled out of their wits only to succumb to the valor of sunny rays penetrating furiously to drive the spells of gloom.

The beats and the sound of the tinkering anklets still echoed pleasantly in our ears as we dozed off to a slumber. It almost felt like a dream as we woke up the next day. The ‘picture perfect’ set up played in our minds: The laughter, glory and the musical trip. It felt like being escorted from the land of fantasy to the hard hitting reality with the evils grinning back at us in a tiresome way.

As we got around to our routines one question taunted our minds constantly “why was the Pandora’s box opened’? The answer seemed to spell the significance of this festival-which illuminates the realization within us; the specialty of this night without darkness or nights in this case.

Written for www.msn.co.in

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

‘Ramchand Pakistani’: Borders on sensitivity

-By Swetha Amit
http://content.msn.co.in/MSNContribute/Story.aspx?PageID=c517cd50-9090-4f32-8080-aa977e76beb7
Sometimes an innocent stray can cause one to pay a heavy price leaving them stranded on crossroads between life and death. Often we are told about not crossing our limits in several instances. Yet many do either deliberately or unknowingly not realizing at what cost the consequences come hurling at us like furious paced winds of a sandstorm.

Little did the lad realize that his sulky stance of strolling far from home would result him and his father being imprisoned for six years. Were they used as mere pawns for the occurrence of terror at the warring borders? Or was it the case of their ‘untouchable’ selves that led to their shabby treatment?

Ramchand Pakistani is a film that narrates a story of one such Dalit family and the subtle appalling conditions that they are faced with.

Amidst the terrains on the border in Pakistan resides the 7 year old Ramchand (Syed Fazal Hussain) with his father Shankar (Rashid Farooqui) and mother (Nandita Das). Poverty stricken and famished they work hard to make ends meet and strive in isolation. It was that one hot afternoon search for his wandering son which lands him in the clutches of the security and being accused as a spy. Their innocent pleas fall on deaf ears as manhandling reaches its severity in the cold cells of prison. Their tryst with other prisoners and their appalling plight of their six year journey yearning for freedom forms rest of the narrative. On a parallel basis is a woman who lives with hope of her husband and son returning home safely. And also the political tension between neighboring states which eclipses the lives of the faultless beings.

With its simplicity and sensitivity, the film manages to portray several aspects at the same time. The relationship between the father and son which consists of mutual sympathy and blame games for their pitiable conditions. Accusing Ramchand for their imprisonment, Shankar manages to adopt a fierce protective stance towards his little one. Even going to an extent of pummeling his fellow jailers when the latter casually offers to cigarette to the seven year old.

The inexplicable rapport between the female warden and Ramchand is portrayed in a poignant manner. From a shaky beginning where she labels him an untouchable, it blossoms into an inseparable bond. It almost seems that the latter saw streaks of his mother with whom he was forcibly estranged from.

It also showcases the fact as to how simple folks were merely used as pawns in the great battle of two turbulent nations. Entwined in an emotional turmoil, it leaves them wondering if their plight was an act of fate or faith. This is especially when a ray of hope seeps in the first half announcing them of their release only to be thrown back into the jaws of jail yet again. The cynicism and indifference adopted is portrayed in the scene where a particular inmate mentions the lack of ‘concern’ exhibited by Shankar on whether his name would be called out. This is just after the two countries agree to release their respective prisoners from their territories.
The scene where Ramchand’s name is called out without being followed by Shankar’s arouses mixed feelings of indignation and helplessness in the former. An angry protest of being separated from his father is convincingly portrayed in the scene where he questions the inspector with admirable boldness. Unsure of his mother’s existence and being separated from her at the start was unbearable enough not to be met with estrangement with his father as well.

Touching and stirring, the film is well directed by Mehreen Jabbar. The performances seem like the characters are for real and occasionally causing the viewers to go moist eyed.

Watching such hard hitting realities at times can make one thankful and horrified at the same time. Humanity remains absent even before proving those caught guilty. Those who are burdened with problems are only saddled with more due to the tumultuous nature of two nationalities. Thankful for those who aren’t ‘bordered’ at the zone of ‘insecurity’ ironically where there is a border security force. Showing the other side to a troubled situation, Ramchand Pakistani nevertheless manages to touch the audience where it matters the most. While the destination may depict a rosy picture, the journey showcases nothing but a series of thorns, each which pricks ones pride even when he is so called an ‘untouchable.’ It’s a sorrowful plight and yet the truth which is unseeingly bitter.
Written for www.msn.co.in

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Atrocities at the Zoo

-By Swetha Amit
http://content.msn.co.in/MSNContribute/Story.aspx?PageID=c9a9149a-8d0b-4175-8c32-87f978f11356

It was the image of a petrified leopard on the front page of the Mumbai mirror edition that jolted me out of my sleepy Saturday morning mode. As I frantically tossed over the page to read the story behind it, my feelings were that of disgust, horror and outrage. It almost seemed like a storm brewing out of a teacup literally as my cup of tea almost got knocked over in distress.

The lack of ‘civic’ sense exhibited by the so called ‘civilians’ at the Byculla Zoo seemed to spell atrocity all over. It was shocking to read their appalling treatment towards animals which were chain bound. Adults were found screaming into the lion’s cage to harass the big cats. And another man was caught pounding on the glass of the snake’s abode. Pelting stones and flashing beams with torches: they portrayed nothing but a shame to the civilization altogether

Apparently the zoo authorities reported this as a ‘regular’ stance adopted by visitors towards these helpless creatures. Was this due to an ‘irregular’ monitoring by the ‘concerned’ authorities? It sadly seemed to be the case. It was reported that the shortage of staff was what led to this unruly and hooligan behaviour. Were the latter as helpless as the fauna species? Words like ‘strict vigilance’ seem to disappear conveniently which undoubtedly would enrage animal lovers/activists.

As I pondered on the ‘who is to blame’ theory here, quite a number of them played in my mind furiously. Children who were failed to be taught the manner in which they needed to conduct themselves anywhere. Parents - who seem to shirk off their dutiful stance in imbibing a ‘humane’ touch into their kith and kin? Zoo management who neglected their responsibilities to ensure a no-nonsense approach?

I couldn’t help but compare a rather contrasting situation on foreign soil and reminisce about the safari world in Thailand/Mauritius. Would such instances even occur there? Not in a remote chance. Even a trace of disturbance to the animal would be reprimanded with immense severity. The civic senses there are blended beautifully with compassion and care for the four legged species. The probability of one odd occurrence nevertheless is bound to happen depicting the dark streak of human nature.

Talks about revamping this Zoo with transporting exotic animals from world wide here will remain only a distant dream. After such taunts, do we really deserve to have a Zoo? Instead of admiring the animal kingdom, mankind chooses to indulge in callousness that would drive a psychiatrist to frantically trace the ‘suitable’ remedies. It is an entirely different scenario when being attacked with wild beasts and retaliating in defense.

Such acts of human behaviour fail to reach my comprehending level. Is it considered as an innocent child’s play? That certainly doesn’t justify the same showcased by grown ups. A defense mechanism adopted to scare away the wild? To prove ‘MANpowerment’ over them? A sort of redemption for their earlier attacks by wild beasts? A mere sadistic pleasure?

I couldn’t help but wonder at the irony of humans and animals falling in the same boat without a hint of realization. On one hand we are victims of masked terror who have cast a shadow of insecurity in our own abodes. The unforgettable fear factor which lingers in our minds perennially. And on the other hand the same is meted out to animals in their man made abode.
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Saturday, October 04, 2008

The other side of the coin


-By Swetha Amit
http://content.msn.co.in/MSNContribute/Story.aspx?PageID=6ab0313b-ea1e-4d7a-a67e-f13eb6188f4e
The newly wed couple stood on stage lost in their own world of bliss with occasional greetings to the flurry of visitors. She was clad in a beautiful light pink sari which spelt ethnicity all over with its fine mirror and chamki works. The groom stood next to her with his suave gentlemanly attire of a dark suit that complemented the bride’s soft get up. Admiring their ‘happy to be with one another’ stance I stood in the rather long queue eager to offer my heartfelt wishes to the lovely couple.

Standing in line with my husband, we were reminiscing about the similar ‘wedding daze’ we were in, a couple of years ago. Amidst our conversation were the occasional smiles that flew across the room at familiar faces. All the while we couldn’t help but overhear a rather booming voice that was right behind us. The tone spelt ‘critics’ all over as the lady went on chattering away. Little did we realize that the initial impression of that conversation would later make us look at the other side of the coin literally?

“The girl seems rather short in comparison to the guy whom I’ve known since he was a naughty child. I believe that he saw plenty of girls from affluent backgrounds before he finalized on ‘this one’. I wonder what he managed to see in her. He could have just gotten anyone he wanted, being the dashing fellow he is. She is darker in comparison to him, only a graduate while he has acquired two masters’ degrees. She doesn’t seem to be someone who can fit into his social circles. I would never have married my kith and kin to someone like that”. And the ramblings went on like an express train which was yet to arrive at its station to resume a halt.

As I was listening to all this in indignation, I glanced back to see the lady who seemed to be quite poised and educated to look at. And yet such conversation depicted that of an extremely narrow minded person who thought she could assume the right to decide what and who was best for others’.

Such talks were no doubt the favorite among gossip mongers at weddings. It seemed rather inevitable but nevertheless amazed me to the extent of vindictiveness in their talks. The constant comparison is always made between the bride and the groom as to whether they are good for one another. And they fail to realize that the important aspect lies in the fact of the twosome are happy with one another more than anything else. And yet the question always lingers in the mind of third parties as to “who is the better half”? It proves quite impertinent as it doesn’t concern them in any way. Except perhaps provides a ‘brainstorming’ session at least for them.

As I made a gesture to express my disgust, I was stopped hastily by a common friend with an expression which made me decide against it. In hushed tones much to my surprise was pulled aside. The lady seemed oblivious to what was going on and continued her chatter.

What I heard the next few minutes changed my entire perception; as my feelings of annoyance gradually dissolved into a pool of analysis. Her only daughter married a man much against the formers’ will. Rationalizing that as a mature decision of her young one which was reassured of happiness came as a rude shock much later. Her son in law had deserted her daughter for greener pastures which apparently left her scarred perennially. This apparently had prohibited the rather young girl to move on in life which still remained shattered. The mother encountered several thorns in the society which saddled her with bitterness and to forcibly adorn a mask of arrogance.

My head seemed in a whirl as I suddenly sat down on a chair nearby. It must have been a sorrowful plight of any mother to see her daughter in pain. Sour experiences which come as a deal in life’s package can either make one stronger or leave one with a lingering bitter taste on a permanent basis. It is said that time is the best healer; yet it also manages to leave trace of a scar. Call it imprints which are painful reminders as a moral of lessons in life. Others’ behaviour may either please or puzzle us. At times it may not even be justified as the right one which would drive us to the pillar of fury. An analysis of the root cause behind their acts may enable a better understanding of our fellow humans rather than scorn them at least in instances like these.

It kind of gave me answers to the question. "Why do people gossip? Or why are they malicious?

It makes one wonder in this case,” Who or which is the better half?” Can we judge the better half of a coin or the better half of the earth?

As I finally approached the couple, beneath my smile was this concealed of turbulence in search for above question. As I stepped down I couldn’t help but realize that those who appear condescending of others’ are ones who are battling their inner demons of insecurity. This truth of human psychology remains stranger than even a fiction thriller.
Written for www.msn.co.in

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

‘Love in the Time of Cholera’: Surreal

-By Swetha Amit
Some diseases are a temporary block to ones course of life which act as heavy flakes of snow amidst the mountain passes disrupting an enthusiastic traveler. There are others which shatter ones life killing each living moment reducing them to nothing but ashes and dust eventually. While there are some which propel one to live with it till the end with a veil of remaining unaffected. Yet their ‘soul’ stirring moment occurs only when their purpose is fulfilled ultimately irrespective of the minutes/years that tick away.

Love in the time of cholera which is based on the novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a love triangular story intertwined between three interesting characters. What may seem like just another romance drama depicts several connotations and meanings in depth conveyed in a poignant manner.

The film begins with the accidental death of the aged Doctor Juvenal Urbino (
Benjamin Bratt) whose revelation of true love to his wife Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) compiled his last breath. No sooner did the funeral end with a rather grieving Fermina, than did an unexpected visitor turned her world topsy turvy. It was the unraveling words uttered by Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) that evokes the fury in Fermina and the flashback of events occurred in a span of 50 years.

Dismissing Ariza’s love as amateur Fermina moves on to greener pastures to marry Urbino at 21. The latter is approved by Fermina’s father who couldn’t digest the fact of his daughter’s beauty worthy of just a telegraph boy. However it failed to deter Ariza whose hopes were still set on his only love as he eternally waited for her reciprocal. As years flew by, his pain intensified which diagnosed him as being ‘lovesick’, strangely more dangerous than Cholera which was prevailing in those times. Attempts to nurse this wound led to his encounter with several women and yet his soul remained incomplete.

In parallel to this was Fermina’s marital life that was blessed with a faithful husband with an exception to a promiscuous adultery in the later stages. Yet it lacked the ingredient of love which unseeingly reveals her secret desire for what seemed as puppy love then. He almost seemed an illusion as she mentions while being conversant with her friend over the years. The story continues with elements of joy and sorrow as it gradually halts to the present. Fermina is immersed in deep thoughts as realization dawns upon her and propels her to plunge into the illusionary world as she termed it.

A couple of scenes depict a lot of meaning without being vociferous in their stance. What led to her brewing negativity as Ariza confesses his unadulterated feelings for her? Especially when she too once reciprocated the same only to be met with opposition from her status conscience father.

The probability of reason for her loveless marriage made her realize at a subconscious level that her suppressed feelings were locked inside her. A pertinent question arises in her mind as her husband asks her in one of the scenes whether she would have been happier with Ariza. It was a shield of defense mechanism that didn’t permit her to unveil her true feelings. Partly guilt of just having lost her devoted husband and didn’t want to express elation on seeing Ariza after donkey’s years.

The movie also exhibits aspects to life that actually make one ponder in an intricate manner. The physical flings of Ariza would contradict his virgin love for Fermina. Yet in a surreal manner, his soul remained unaffected with his intimate tryst with the fairer sex. To indulge in intercourse, does one need love? A million dollar question.

The everlasting wait exhibited by Ariza seemed to Fermina as an illusion. Was it his naivety or the delusion that his wait would be fruitful? It seemed that his condition seemed worse than a patient suffering from Cholera yet his undeterred stance made him appear as ‘normal’ as any mortal.

It can be termed as soul stirring, illusive or rhetorical, in terms of its characters, performances especially by the Spanish actor Javier Bardem. Its brilliant direction and cinematography keeps one absorbed till the end. Despite its mixed reviews, Love in the time of Cholera manages to leave an impact nevertheless.

Written for www.msn.co.in

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