Friday, November 25, 2016

The Gilmore Girls Revival in an Age of Too Much Information

The world of Gilmore Girls lovers waited with bated breath for the big revival. All the characters -- big or small, were coming together. There were theories and opinion pieces and the world of the internet was filled with what is going to finally happen to our favorite girls. Because the day arrives earlier in India than the US, I , in an anticipation of miracles, stayed up to see if I could really be the first one to start binge-watching the show. The world does not work the way I want and so I waited till it was Friday evening. And should I say I was a tad bit disappointed?

Now here is the big problem in the world that we live in. When it comes to information for an internet junkie like me, the websites love to throw red,juicy, meaty but useless information about everything around us. So much was written about how the original run of GG left the world unsatisfied because the writers, the Palladino couple, left the show after season 6, how season 7 just felt out of place in a universe that the writers had created and don't even get me started about the men in Rory's life.  There was too much information out there -- we knew that Melissa McCarthy was super busy but she still joined the cast at the last minute. We knew that there were going to be those last four words that Amy Sherman-Palladino had in her mind from the very beginning , we knew almost everything that was going behind the scenes.

In retrospect, I wish I had not gobbled up every article about GG that I laid my eyes upon. If I hadn't known that ASP planned this ending since the beginning, I would still have been shocked but maybe lesser than what I am right now. This reaction has again to do with something that I read online about how ASP thinks that it is just sad that all people are concerned about is who is the man that Rory will end up with. Why are there no discussions about if she made it big in the world of journalism or did she win the Pulitzer prize? This article got my hopes soaring high. But what do I get?  I get a Rory still struggling to find her foot in the journalism world , still being with Logan knowing fully well that he was engaged with another woman! Didn't she do the same thing with Dean? Didn't she learn anything from her previous mistake? What is she -- the perpetual 'other woman'? Wasn't she a traveler? Couldn't she find one interesting man during her travels? And even if she can't, how hard it is to stay single?

And those last  four words!! "Mom? Yeah? I am pregnant" Those are the last words that we would have got if ASP still had the reigns of the show? I am glad she did not have it then! I was happy to see Rory step out in the world. And why that concern over Rory's love life discussions if all you wanted to do in the end was leave her jobless and with a child that too out of a relationship built on the grounds of cheating? That does not make any sense!

Rory in the last episode of the last season goes on to cover  Barrack Obama's campaign trail. Because of the other several articles I had read, I knew Rory will be struggling in her career in the revival. But to the extent shown takes away all the hopes and dreams that we as viewers had set up with Rory in the initial seasons. She is shown to join her prep school in the middle of the year and she still comes out as Valedictorian. She went to Yale! She went on a campaign trail with the biggest publishing houses. Could she not make a single contact? All we hear about in the revival is her New Yorker piece. Okay, she wrote one piece. Next, please! How much can you harp about one achievement? See, I understand a person struggles in their career. It is great to see the struggle. It was great to see Rory jump back to her feet after she was torn down by Mitchum Huntzbeger. There is a struggle and then there is a victory. We saw Lorelai struggle with the DragonFly Inn. But the sweet victory is what I was waiting for. At least show us what happened to the book that Rory was writing!

Now that my anger has been vented out, I admit that the rest of the show was great and I enjoyed myself. Not the one to cry easily while watching a TV show, I felt myself welling up when Lorelai calls Emily to tell her about her favorite memory of her father. I loved how Emily found her freedom and identity after being just a wife for more than 50 years. I loved the boredom that seemed to seep in Luke and Lorelai's relationship (or was it just the lack of chemistry between the two actors?) I loved the impromptu wedding. It was disappointing to not see Sookie in the wedding but thanks to those million articles, we know it was because McCarthy was not available. But like I read somewhere, that does not make sense narratively.

All in all, my GG revival experience was a mixed feeling especially because of Rory's character arc and that ending. This revival was supposed to give us closure. Instead, it has opened up a whole lot of new questions.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Let me (not) take a selfie!

Before the invention of cell phones with the front camera, there used to be just the camera -- with no cell phone. Before there was pouting, there were candid moments and awkward poses. Most importantly, before there was narcissism, there was capturing a special moment. 

I may sound like a bitter old woman but I miss those special pictures. When I was growing up, looking at the photo album with photographs carefully placed in order of occurrence used to be a special time. Many times someone would say, "There is an interesting story behind this picture!" Today we have moved to, "We were bored so all we did was take selfies while making funny faces." Selfies are good when you meet a friend after ages and there is no one around to take a picture for you. Selfies are good when you have finally finished the crossword and there is no one around to hug you. I hope you get the drift -- selfies are still good when there is a memory to capture. But these days it's just , "Hey ! Let's take a selfie!" Also, a selfie is good only if "you" are looking good in that picture. If a friend demands a re-take because he/she is not captured in a way they would have liked it, you dismiss them by saying, "It's all good. You are looking perfect!" Isn't it? Admit it! The selfie culture is promoting selfishness which is already deep-rooted in our world.

Sigh! Memories have lost their charm. And so has "living in the moment". Go to a concert or a live event and all you find is people recording it on their phones. I stop myself from lowering their stretched out arm and telling them, "Dude! Keep the phone down. First enjoy the moment you are in". I understand Martin Garrix does not come to India every day and that does account for capturing the moment, but if you watch the whole show through your phone then when did "you" see it? And honestly, unless you are absolutely in front, all you are going to record is a sea of thousand heads in front of you and a tiny human being far off on the stage playing music. So just put down the phone! There will be a better quality video on YouTube pretty soon anyway.

I have always wanted a few answers from those who are obsessed with selfies. Here goes :

1) What do you do with so many selfies?
2) Kudos to the self-love but do you know there is a thin line between self-love and narcissism?
3) After you take a selfie, why do you send it to people on Whatsapp who are not in that picture? What do you expect us to do with them?
4) How do you manage your phone memory (I am genuinely curious about this one --even Google Photos comes with a limited memory)
5) What good comes out of pouting?
6) And finally Why.So.May.Selfies!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The battle of Egos

Human Beings -- We are , for the lack of a better word, strange. We fight over petty issues. We take each other's lives to just prove a point. Who stops to realize that the only thing we think about is our ego? That when a person fights for "My God' there is only a 'My'  and hardly any 'God'? Sometimes I think we are nothing but masses of ego as delicate as glass, moving around, craving to be pleased , to be bloated in self-righteousness. One strike of disagreement and the glass shatters, causing destruction in its wake but primarily, destroying itself.

I am not a very politically aware person. But what I see is individuals fighting for power -- to enjoy it, to take advantage and relish in it. I would love to be directed to a leader, who takes the podium because he has dreams for a country, that he wants to selflessly pursue. Closer home, I see a lot of "leaders" in a professional set-up who take decisions for their own personal gain, not realising that they impact scores and scores of careers. I wonder, do they really stop and think , "How will this decision bebefit my people?" Or are they really stuck to "How will this decision benefit me?"
I wonder what will I do as a leader. Up until now, I have always shied away from taking responsibilities as a leader -- the power of impacting lives is overwhelming. Incidentally, this is not how others think.

I do not have a point to proove here. Or maybe, what I am trying to say is that all of us are selfish to the core. Good or Bad? No. One cannot look for black and white under a gray sky. Each situation demands a different resonse -- but,  where is that thin lne between "thinking about your well-being" and "being selfish". And should we care? Should we collect the "Is" and the "MYs" and the "Mines" of our lives and live happily? I don't know. Someday, I hope to have an answer.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

How Do You Feel?

I write this a day after my Birthday ... And boy is it a relief! There! I said it. I am not a big fan of Birthdays -- Mine or anyone else's. Years and years of conditioning have one believe that birthdays are special. Ok, so I will quit being cynical and admit that Birthdays are special because that's the day you came on the earth as a human being. That's good -- so maybe a quick Thank You to God/Universe/Power is great. Thank You that I was born to a wonderful family and that I have been healthy all these years.  Having said that I like to have calm and simple birthdays.

Last time, someone pointed out that I only wrote about movies. So I tried to stop. Although I wanted to write about Dhanak. I will not write a lot about it but know this -- if you want to watch just one movie, watch Dhanak. I know most of you would not have even heard of it. So do the next natural thing -- Google.

The last few months have been crazy. Something new in life always drives you to the wall. Last month and a half were like a fight under the water. One is delusional thanks to less oxygen and then there is a struggle to stay afloat. I know it sounds like I have been in some kind of a power struggle but I exaggerate. Although I did realize that I have a serious case of FOMO -- especially when it comes to work which is stupid because I am not exactly in love with being a developer.

I also found out that I am changing in my head as I am growing older. One MAJOR change I see is how aggressively I go to any length to avoid the human company. I don't want to sound full of myself here. It's just typical introvert behavior. When I come back from work, all I feel like doing is stay at home. On weekends, my only motivation for leaving home is a seemingly good movie. I have a friend who practically asks me every Friday to hang out and I straight out refuse. He now thinks my behavior is strange. "I don't know what's wrong with you?" He muttered under his breath when I turned his invitation down this Friday for the third time. This becomes difficult still when the husband wants to go out and party and I slump down even deeper inside my bed. I think I have pretended enough of being a people's person. I have stopped going to the writer's because there will be people there. I can still chit chat when it's just one on one company and that too occasionally.

But I guess there is more to this behavior than just being an introvert. I mean, have you seen my Netflix list? It's growing bigger and bigger every day as is my to-be-read books list. My Pocket app is FULL of these articles waiting to be read on my phone and my YouTube offline video section has as many as 130 videos waiting to be seen. I cannot consume all that great content in a party with deafening music now, can I?

 The last time I wrote an article around my Birthday, I spoke of how completely uninterested I was to get married. That post was quite popular actually. I am told I was even discussed during lunch. Well! I eventually did get married and I am happy. Now that the line of "30" has been crossed, there are talks of motherhood. The interesting part is how other people are so interested in knowing when will I "plan" a baby than my own family. In fact, my immediate family has never asked me my "plan" Some people however do not understand the concept of boundaries. Now dare I write here that I do not want motherhood. Even though this blog has minimal readers, somehow people will be appalled by this statement. Sigh! I wish everyone just concentrated on their own lives.

Anyway, it will be wrong to say that I do not want motherhood. As stupid as it sounds, it will give me a lot of content to write about here. I don't know if I will get the time, but I will definitely get the material! On a serious note, the thought of running behind a tiny little human being does not disturb me very much especially now. And after I watched Gilmore Girls, I sometimes even feel good about it. However, Gilmore Girls is the story of a very lucky Lorelai. She got lucky with Rory --everyone knows that! I am not sure what is going to happen in the case of yours truly. Rest assured this blog will be a testament to that.

Speaking of Lorelai, I recommend everyone to watch Gilmore Girls. It MAKES you want to be intelligent and well-read. I am so excited about its revival that sometimes, it is the one thing I look forward to and genuinely feel happy about it. I want to know what references will they make this time and how many I understand without having to use Google. I know and understand that world better than I used to when the show was first made. I also have my Rory Reading list (adding to my reasons for staying at home). I am far from finishing it yet, but I have started and that's not bad at all.

Another thing about that show is that it makes you want to live the lives of the Gilmore Girls. The small town charm, their minds --everything about them -- you just want to steal that life. Aah! That small fictional world one wishes to escape to!

This was fun to do. I will come back -- I promise!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Vipassana Experience -- Bangalore, India

I clearly remember a day, usually not worth remembering. I was sitting in the office, upset and frustrated with something, wanting to run away from the world, from everything. I remember opening google and searching for Vipassana. I remember booking a slot. Although what I don’t remember is how did I know about Vipassana. I seriously have no clue. But, in the last five years, I have booked and cancelled Vipassana at least 3 times. Twice, I chickened out. Once, I was being sent to Chennai for Visa processing. Finally, this time, my stars aligned in the perfect position so that I could make a journey to Dasanapura in Bangalore and thus make a journey inside. These 10 days were different – almost indescribable.  The experience is very very subjective. It can be 100 different things to 100 different people. I was one of them too. And this is my story.

The rules -- Vipassana is a technique of meditation and it is taught in centres where a person has to take residence for 10 days in the meditation centre. You are not allowed to have a phone, bring books or any writing material. There is also no music and obviously no Television. You cannot get in touch with your family members and neither can they get hold of you unless of course there is an emergency. One also takes a vow of silence in the 10 days where you do not talk to other participants, do not look at them, smile at them and definitely do not touch them. Men and Women are completely separate as well. All you do is meditate, eat and sleep. It sounds pretty tyrant-y but it is not. The idea is to keep one away from all possible distractions and focus only on a single thing.

The packing – Although one can easily do laundry there, I preferred to take clothes that would last me for 10 days. They list a lot of things that you should be taking-- like a torch and an umbrella. It will be also helpful if you take Odomos, a comfortable pair of slippers, extra soap to wash hands and socks. The most important thing, however, would be a pain relief spray. I had a minor accident before going to the camp and so the husband packed a pain relief spray for me. I had hurt my lower back in the accident and he wanted me to have it in case the long hours of sitting brings back the pain. The lower back pain did not come back, but a lot of other pains did emerge.

The silence – I talk – a lot. In fact, when I told a friend, also an ex-roommate, that I was planning for a Vipassana camp, the first thing she told me was, “How do you plan to stay quiet? You even talk in your sleep!” Honestly and surprisingly, not talking was not an issue at all. For what it’s worth, it was actually good. Not talking to anyone around me was a relief. There were no unnecessary small talks, no obligatory smiles, no “Oh I forgot smiling at her, now what will she think”, nothing at all!! .  Like I said earlier, I longed to stay in a place where no one cares about me and I don’t have to care about anyone. It was a complete disassociation with the world and it was blissful. It was just me and my thoughts. I wish it was just me but my thoughts tag along with me everywhere I go and there is pretty much nothing I can do about it

The schedule – Following was the schedule:
Get Up
Chanting from Goenka
Group Sitting Meditation
Meditate in hall
Meditate in hall
Group Sitting Meditation
Meditate in hall
Group Sitting Meditation
Teacher's discourse
Meditate in hall
Day over

The Experience --  For the first three days, all you do is annapanna technique of meditation, which means focusing on the moustache area to feel the breath and any other sensation that comes along with it. I never felt the same every day or even every moment. The first day was confusing. We were just getting to know the schedule. The second day was again pretty neutral. I was going with the flow – making sure that I am getting the schedule and instructions right. The trouble began on the third day. I was okay with not talking, but obviously, I was far far away from my comfort zone. I wanted to go back there. I wanted familiar faces around. I wanted to surf the internet, know what’s happening in the world. 

The fourth day was worse. It was actually the most painful day among all the 10 days. This is the day you are taught Vipassana. The first instruction was to try and not move. Then the voice of Goenka booms across the hall, asking you to scan the body from the top of the head to the tip of the toe and to look for sensations. As he walked us through each body part separately, the only sensation I felt was pain – pain and numbness. Whatever Goenka said was being translated in Kannada, hence increasing the duration of the session. That was hurting me more. By the time we were done with the whole session, the back of my neck, the centre of my back, my knees and my feet were throbbing in pain. I still had not thought of my pain relief spray until I smelt it on someone. That’s when I ran to my room (actually limped as fast as I could) to use it. Thankfully, the solution that I had was non-sticky and would evaporate fast. So, nothing would get transferred on my clothes. 

On the fifth day, I saw a carrier auto coming inside. I wanted to go up to the driver and ask him to wait while I pack my stuff and then he could drop me anywhere. "I don't want to be here.“This was a mistake" I thought while coming back from a 5 min pee break. “Why are we doing the body scanning? What are we going to get out of it?” That’s when I panicked. I took a deep breath and calmed down. “Let me hear today’s discourse and if I don’t find satisfactory answers, I am heading home,” I told myself. Interestingly, there were no definitive answers in the discourse. But from what was being spoken, I knew there was so much more to this technique. So I stayed. And I am glad.

The sixth day was pretty neutral. I was neither happy being there, nor was I agitated. Maybe it was the meditation. Maybe, the discourses, maybe logic or maybe everything together. Day seven was actually good. I felt calm, happy. I had a few story ideas. While meditating, I had a few ideas for problems I was facing in my life. It felt nice – like getting closure, like entering a clean room after cleaning years of mess. Rest of the days were a see-saw again. We were so close to the end and yet it was not over. Sometimes, I would get restless. At one point, I was so worried about work, that I started sweating. I had to calm myself down. “Everything is okay. “ I told myself. Finally, walking, running, falling, strolling, we reached day 10. The day when I had a much-focused mediation session.

Throughout the 10 days, the time of discourses was the best time. Goenka is more like those cute grandfathers who love telling stories. But I did find a lot of sense in the content of the discourses. Sometimes, there were things I did not agree with, like his view on sexuality or some other things, but I took them with a pinch of salt. There is no force to accept anything being said. You can choose and take only what you agree with. 

Calming the mind – People, books and text compare the mind to a drunk monkey bitten by a scorpion. What an apt description! My thoughts would jump from one topic to another. Another thought would usually wait in the queue before I would even finish the current at hand. At one point, I remember yelling at myself, ‘How much do you talk! Can you just be quiet for 2 minutes?” Ironically, this comes when I am quiet outwardly for days together and in the normal days when I can talk, I have never, ever in my 30 years scolded myself so severely. Even if I did reprimand myself for talking, it was because something I would say would land me in trouble. But never have I ever been worried about the volume of my chatter until now! But my efforts paid off – I did find 5 seconds of silence to begin with. Some days, it would last for a whole 2 minutes. Those were the good days. Only on the last day, I realised I was zoned out for a really really long time. The fun thing about zoning out is, if you know you are zoned out, you are not! The wild monkey was calm –only if for a small duration.

Expectations – As usual, I did not go to the camp expecting any miracle. I knew I am not in a position where I will see a divine light or have an out of body experience. The peace of mind for those tiny moments were enough miracles for me. In fact, most of the times, I would nor even feel the body sensations. But as Goenka puts it, “It’s all impermanent. Just observe that there is no sensation and move on. No craving, no aversion!” Thank God for equanimity!
The Food – In all the gazillion blogs that I read before going, there was no description of the food available in the Dasanapura centre. Before going there, I was a bit worried about it. Although I am not a picky eater, there are a few things that I just cannot eat. Biscuits, oats, cornflakes are a few of them. But here is the good news – the food was great. Alright, I did not like the breakfast, but the lunch was awesome! The breakfast was mostly poha, idli sambar, idli chutney, or oats and lunch was roti, dal, curry, red rice, white rice, ragi balls and buttermilk. Usually, the food was always given at a point when I was damn hungry. I never wasted the food although I made sure that I actually curb my diet because I have a slow metabolism and I was doing nothing active except sit and meditate. Oh and you are also supposed to wash your utensils.

The People – My roommate was a pretty girl who would hardly come back to the room. More often than not, she would be busy staring at nature or petting the dogs.  Fortunately, we found out we had a lot in common once we started speaking. In fact, the last day, the women were chatting like there was no yesterday and there will be no tomorrow. It was a little disheartening to see people lost in their mobile phones as soon as the noble silence was lifted up, but it was fun to see strangers becoming friends as well.

The TakeAway -- At least, as of now, I have been getting up every morning to meditate. Even if one does not take  the technique, take the discipline. I took Annapana. I took the beautiful teachings. I took the stillness. Unless you are very blocked with your own version of things, the 10-day retreat can teach you many things!

I can go on and on about so many things about this experience. But it would be most unfair to call it good or bad. Because it is not a holiday. It is not somewhere you go to take a break. We don't realise it, but just being with our minds all alone , with nothing to distract is damn scary. Sitting cross-legged with a straight back was and is painful. But like all other things, it becomes easier as the days go by. If you are planning to go there, you can read almost all the experiences everywhere, yet, what you will come out with is going to be totally your personal adventure. All I can say is one thing -- while you are there, do follow the rules. One takes out 10 days of one's life. 10 days is a long time to be away from family -- there is a lot of work (officially and otherwise) that one leaves to go there. It only makes sense to give a 100% or as Goenka says, "a fair trial" to the whole event.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Stories ...

I sit here writing and rambling about a movie while I should actually be making a job that creates a cartesian join in DataStage. My love for movies and good stories bring me here because it is very seldom that I come across a story that touches my heart. I know -- it is kind of ironical. I live for stories, don't I? Even when I am living a moment, I have words forming in my head for how will I narrate this story to someone who cares to listen. There are not many listeners in my life these days. When I was in school, I would be back home at sharp 1:30 PM. And every day, the one single statement that I would utter as soon as I entered was , "Mummy, pata hai aaj kya hua?" and then the rant would continue while I would wash my hands, change and sit down for lunch in that exact order.

Things are different now. The husband listens, but I feel him wandering when he loses interest. It is the same with friends. So, I try not to rant. Kapoor and Sons, however, was a story that I loved to see and hear and feel and live it with them. It was a story of 2 brothers and their family and I was in it with them. I was with the successful brother, wishing that one day I will see the same success. I was with the other brother, who was shadowed by his sibling. I felt him more. Somehow I feel the sadness of a failure more than I feel the happiness of success. I need to change this in me. I was with the parents too ..wondering how does it feel to live in a family with constantly bickering parents. Ok, I lie. I know how it is. The issues were different, but bickering is bickering. As kids, you don't want to choose sides.

I felt the sadness of the wife who fears she is being cheated on. I felt fear. I hope it never happens to me. But I don't know why I knew how it felt. It is a scary feeling, especially when you are in a relationship with someone you fear losing. Oh! Now I know why I could understand how she felt. Losing a loved one is scary, especially when he is your friend, your family, your whole life.

When the grandfather sends a video message to the sons ,folds his hands and requests them to come back home, my heart broke into a million pieces. There is nothing more difficult than seeing a perpetually happy person cry.

I was definitely with the goofy Tia -- I may not be as funny and I don't like to dance in shady discs (I don't like to dance in classy discs as well, so there is that!) But I have crushed hard on good looking guys. I have not kissed them for sure but my crushes were not Fawad Khan either. I have made inappropriate jokes, though!

There was never a moment in the movie which felt forced or useless. There was never a moment in the movie that lacked familiarity. Even the scene where Ratna Pathak Shah confronts Fawad Khan felt so true. There was a small moment in this scene. When the mother and son yell at each other, their dog "Kishu" sits on Fawad's bed and Fawad yells at the dog too, "Hat Kishu yahan se!" and I thought, Isn't it so natural? Don't we end up shouting at someone perfectly innocent, when in rage?  I wonder why do we like movies that mirror reality? Don't we go there to escape our realities? Isn't that the exact reason that I love Harry Potter? Because it transforms me to a world far away from the real one? But I guess when we see our lives playing out in front of us, it makes us want to realize that there are others who live like us ... who go through the same smiles and same tears. Maybe these "slice of life" movies tell us that we are not alone. Maybe, it is an understanding hug from a stranger saying, "I have been there and it will be fine"

Speaking of performances, everyone was fantastic. It was difficult to take eyes off Fawad Khan, but I did manage to check on others as well and they were brilliant. I thought the grandfather's hysterics were OTT and unnecessary. In a few scenes, I felt Siddharth Malhotra could have been better, especially the one where Alia Bhatt talks about her parents' loss. Alia Bhatt was pleasant and lovely and I loved her. I have loved her since Highway and seriously, what did people like Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone really do that made them fabulous actors?

Before Highway, Alia Bhatt was in Student of the year and she hardly did anything worth noticing in that movie. Before Cocktail, if I watched any Padukone movie, it was not because of her and honestly, I have physically cringed at a few dialogues in Love Aaj Kal. But then, what happened? She was mind-blowing in Cocktail and Alia Bhatt was beyond words in Highway. If it is a secret potion, I want it!!

Some say that a movie is not just a story. It is also the direction, the cinematography, the performances and so on. I agree. Or not. A movie is primarily a story but a story well told is a great movie. Kapoor and Sons in one of those great movies. And in  times like these, it is not a lesser feat.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

She Lived!

She dreamed.
She scooped a piece of sky
And placed it on her tongue
She walked through storms
And rammed into walls.
She bled her passion,
She shone, she dimmed,
She dared.