Flying Fuck…Udta Punjab(AAA)

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Finally I saw the so very controversial Udta Punjab. First things first….I loved it. Why ? Probably for all the reasons that it became controversial much before it released . Drugs ? Well this was my first up and close brush with the menace as it is corroding the society. Or as up and close as it can get ,blessed as I am to have a life where I spend few hundred bucks to get a closer look at a problem that is ruining lives and generations. With my cosmopolitan sensibility and upbringing , drugs till now had merely meant rave parties and the sleazy under belly of the life of the rich and famous. That it is eating up our society from within at a very grass root level, this stark reality I faced for the first time. Or whatever sorry imitation of facing it was, sitting in an air conditioned hall, munching on popcorn and sipping cold coffee. We indeed are a spoilt, privileged lot and the sooner we realise it ,the better it is. Maybe that realisation can jolt us out of our happy lethargy  and incessant complaining .

The central theme of drugs brings me to the super “A”(AAA ? An acceptable rendition of XXX ?) certification that our blessed Censor Board would have liked to give it and that too after the ridiculous 190 or so proposed cuts. I for one would definitely want my son to see it and much before he turns 18. I don’t think a menace like drugs will wait for the potential target to touch the legal adult age and then strike. Lest my son too thinks of drugs as the done thing limited to rave parties of Goa, I would want him to see it in all its naked ugliness. ..”see” as much as he can from his privileged station in life. However, I would want him to see the movie not just to see the murky side of life but also the indomitable spirit which in fact makes life worth living..the never say die spirit, beautifully captured by the nameless character played by Alia Bhat. Rising against all odds ,like the phoenix, hers is indeed the admirable spirit that we as human beings are blessed with and need to wake upto.

Coming to the other objectionable part of the movie that earned it the AAA certificate – the “crass, vulgar language” of the movie where there is barely a dialogue without a cuss word , much to the anguish of the Censor Board. Would I want my 11 year old to hear and to that extent learn this kind of language ? No. And that is the only reason why I would not want him to watch the movie right now…soon enough but not yet. The social setting of the movie probably warrants such liberal use of the choicest of expletives though I do believe that the sophistication, refinement we see around us is but a veneer. Scratch the surface and it reveals pretty much the same vulgarity underneath,  albeit in a different form. The hypocrisy of the urban intelligentsia is such that it makes English swear words more than acceptable…cool , hep even. Their hindi renditions however are a different story. Pray what makes “I am so fucked up” more acceptable than “Chutiya kat raha hai”? When it suits us we will deride the use of English, holding high the banner of our national language and pride, happily forgetting that English is today a global language. But a cuss word in this colonial language is perfectly acceptable; In our mother tongue, however, not so much. I, for one,  am not particularly impressed, repulsed or intrigued with the use of expletives by anyone in either of the 2 languages, in fact , in any language. To me, resorting to the use of these words indicates an alarming bankruptcy of ideas and inability to articulate a wide variety of emotions and thoughts we human beings are blessed with. In any case we are nation obsessed with banalities where it’s ok to murder in the name of religion but not ok to release a movie that raises uncomfortable issues in a language that is widespread ; where “fuck you” is the “takia kalaam” of the educated urban youth but “chutiyapa” is vulgar. My take on all this uncalled for hullabaloo and controversy ? I loved the movie and anyone who has a problem with it can take a flying fuck ; my life has plenty of chutiyapas of its own to bother with non issues !

Love and Longing in Shimla

 

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Honestly, I can’t recall my first distinct memory of life in Shimla. A host of images crowd the mind vying with each other for attention as it were. Is it cuddling up with a hot water bottle on cold December nights? Or hiding below the wild bushes on the cool and short lived summer evenings? Or picking up an Enid Blyton from Minerva Book Shop and eagerly devouring it in the idyllic surroundings? Or perhaps reluctantly trudging behind my mother near Oak Over on our way back from the Mall Road on a foggy monsoon day? Or is it waking up in winters to find white beauty all around, much in the manner of Disney’s “Frozen”?  Perhaps it is of running to catch the HRTC bus to school, Tara Hall, while dreading missing it as no other means of transport were available. Maybe it is gobbling up a humongous amount of pastries and cream rolls from the vendors who regularly came by the house with their iron trunk full of pastries, rolls and breads, the mobile bakeries of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Or is it the real bakeries of those days, Trishool, Krishna on The Mall Road, that enticed the senses with their never fading smell of freshly baked bread? Or Baljees with its hot Gulab Jamuns? Park Café, with its lingering smell of coffee and pizzas came much later- of that I’m pretty sure.

All these and much more come to the mind. And as is the habit of the mind, past is always seen through rose tinted glasses, with a hint of nostalgia and melancholy. It’s been quite many years since I left Shimla as a permanent residence. Yet every time I come back, a myriad of emotions take over- nostalgia but also a strange disconnect as if the Shimla I grew up in was some place entirely different. That Shimla, like every other place has changed, is rather obvious- a fact sorely lamented by the inhabitants and visitors alike. The haphazard mushroom growth of buildings, the reckless deforestation, rapidly increasing population and traffic- all perils of modern day ideas of growth and development. Yet what troubled me was the strange emotional disconnect that I felt- as if, after having been born and brought up here, lived and breathed the Pine laden smell of the hills, I just didn’t belong here. The hills seemed to have disowned me. And me, them.

As if this existential angst wasn’t enough, I committed the mistake of going back to the place where our house, Victoria Place, was- Nigam Vihar. The entire neighbourhood was barely recognisable. Where there was nothing but wild bushes and tall trees, ugly buildings stood. Our little mountain terrains, the familiar houses with their lovely gardens, the dilapidated Victorian buildings were all gone. As for our house itself, it had been razed to the ground to make place for a parking lot. Not a hint remained of what stood there once. While moving out after over 20 years had felt like the end of an era, this was the definitive final nail in the coffin.

This was a few years ago and ever since my attitude can best be described as that of an ostrich. Completely ignoring my past, the ties that bind me to this place, just visiting like an outsider. This time, strangely, after so many years, the place seemed to reach out to me. Or was it that I was willing to open the floodgates of memories, allowing them to wash over me with their hint of both melancholy and joy? Each day spent here has been cathartic in a way that it has not been in the past-  Every trip to The Mall and every walk meaningful.  The hills still are the same- appalled no doubt at what we are doing to them, yet welcoming as a mother always is. It was me, in my attempt to deal with the lost past, who had shut myself to the intrinsic calm of this place, its welcoming embrace.

Victoria Place doesn’t exist. Tara Hall has changed, as has The Mall and everything else. Yet even though things change, nothing really does change and that is the beautiful poetry of life. Is it just a coincidence that only yesterday I picked up Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” from Minerva and the words that leapt at me seemed to be echoing my sentiments – “The kinship I felt suddenly for the old land……it surprised me….I thought I had forgotten about this land. But I hadn’t …..Maybe (it) hadn’t forgotten me either.”    In the words of the wise Master OOgway there are no coincidences in life. May be it is time to come home and more fully than ever before.

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City of Love

 

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Did I ever mention how I fell in love with Paris, the City of Lights…The City of Love? Yeah it’s called all this but names are just nomenclature until they mean something to you personally. And strangely Paris meant all this and a lot more to me. The moment I stepped out of the hotel room I fell in love with the city. Sitting at a little cafe outside the hotel, sipping a hot cappuccino, all I could feel was …well not just love but joy, peace and, well, freedom! Why? I really don’t know.

That very evening, after a cruise on River Seine as we went to the Eiffel Tower, I told my BFF rather matter of factly – “I love you. I love being here with you. But someday I’d like to come here with my soul mate.” That she didn’t fling me down the Eiffel Tower is to her credit. Instead she just rolled her eyes and gave me one of her exasperated yet cocky looks- “The only soul/sole mate you have is me…like it or lump it!”

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Ever since that trip almost a year ago, I’ve been wondering once again about this entire construct of a “soul mate” that we all, especially the women, yearn for. Is there anything remotely like that? If yes, is it only for a lucky, chosen few? And if there isn’t anything like a soul mate, do we in fact waste our lives hankering after a mirage?

My wise teacher, who regularly surfaces to give me a fresh perspective on life, had said long ago – Love is over rated, fidelity more so. Freshly reeling under the magic of DDLJ, she had sounded like a Prophet of Doom and the voice of cynicism rather than of sanity. Strangely it was her words that rang in my ears on that cool night on Eiffel Tower as we looked at the beautiful city of Paris spread out like a map below. It was at this uber romantic place that Tom Cruise had proposed to his lady love Katie Holmes I believe. For the rich and the famous, proposals at the Eiffel Tower are pretty much a cliché! And so are divorces – How that fairy tale ended we all know.

And that once again brings me back to my “soul mate” question. Is there really another soul out there, our other half that you are meant to be with? And while it takes you a few lifetimes to find that particular one, you blunder along the way with others…is that how it is? Or is this yet another “construct” of the human mind? Another attempt to put the onus of one’s happiness on someone else? While the desire for companionship is perfectly understandable, what I fail to understand is why we end up handing the key to our lives, as it were, to someone else. Why do we become a de facto puppet in someone else’s hands? Before this is written off as some kind of a feminist rant, my question is addressed to all the men as well who pine away for their lady love’s approval. Why do we homosapiens, the most intelligent of all species, do this to ourselves?

After being shocked by “Love and fidelity are overrated” at the age of 20, today at 40 I’m finally convinced of it. In fact I’d say everything in life is overrated…everything except self-love. Self-love not of the narcissistic, egotistical selfish kind but a love and respect for one’s own life and self. The attention we shower on another, often bordering on the stifling, what if we were to show the same love, respect and concern for ourselves? Wouldn’t we make better lovers, companions, and in fact better human beings if we could show such kindness and consideration to ourselves? Instead of being so very critical of yourselves, your bodies, your roles in family and society, your achievements and failures, how about just loving yourself as you are? No doubt you aren’t perfect, but you are YOU…and that is something no one else can be. And well, if you can’t love yourself, no one else can.

So it is, that after almost a year of my love affair with Paris, the joie de vivre I experienced there, is beginning to make sense. After a life time of fighting with myself, rejecting myself, being over critical of myself and my failures, deprecating myself, I had finally started falling in love with myself, with my life. Am I perfect? Am I sorted in the head so to speak? Far from it. But I am me. And I am my soul mate- something no one else can be. Yes the promise to go back to a magical evening on Eiffel Tower with my soul mate stays, only that the soul mate is much nearer than I could ever think and the love affair has just begun!

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