Get Out – The Thriller

I catch up with most movies late, does that make me sound lazy…perhaps I really am.

But watching ‘Get Out’ did get on to my nerves. Literally!

The last time I had sleepless nights after watching a movie was after ‘The Great Debators’. It did strike a few chords and ask a few uncomfortable questions.

I mean everything about the movie, the premise, the casting, the setting and slow but eerie surprises the story line you tossing and turning in the bed, unable to catch a wink.

I liked how Daniel Kaluuya walked into a death trap in a different twist to honey trapping. It is amazing how Alison Williams plays her character and her mother played by Catherine Keener. Goodness! I am suddenly suspicious of anyone who stirs a tea spoon too long and too slow here after.

Get Out

Somehow it eerily reminds me of the numerous instances of child kidnapping we read about in the newspapers and in the social media. Is it really impossible to do any thing about it?

Are our children to grow up fearing for their lives constantly? Is it possible that continuous updates on social media of families boasting of their pretty, handsome, smart children is somehow driving a demand for such kids?

I don’t know maybe, I am just getting a bit lost!

CTR for Benne Dose

If you are in Bangalore and if you do not visit CTR and have their classic ‘Benne Dose’ well, you have missed an experience of a life time.

Tucked in the busy corners of Malleshwaram, a corner of old Bangalore that is always abuzz, like my friend Suma would travel to Malleshwaram in search of stuff like the bindis, the bangles, saris, ready made blouses and what not. It was Suma who over repeated narrations instilled into me a certain respect and awe for ‘Malleshwaram’.

So me and my daughter visit the very famous CTR after a stroll at the Sankey Tank presumably to regain whatever calories we lost in the ‘good for health morning walk’!

The space is crammed and has an old world feel about it. People are jostling in and out busily in search of the best dose in the world. There is a rush!

The rush is an everyday event though, what with the popularity and awards that this place has been winning over the years with the ‘apps’ furthering the appetite of the city.

We tuck into our own Benne dose with glee and seal the deal with a cup of filter coffee.

We go back again greedy for another round many days later and guess what after a belly full of benne dose, I go tumbling down the narrow, buttery staircase and end up looking like a fool with blood gushing down my chin and bruised lips, pain in unspeakable places and what not.

A few stitches later, the doctor making small talk, so you are from, but you speak good Hindi and stuff and a very frightened look on my daughter’s face, I try to bring about a broken smile through it all, no choice right!

But yes, benne dose wins the day, and I get stitched all over, nevertheless, I might just go again, stitches or no stitches, the dose calls can’t be resisted.

Benne Dose

But if you are planning a visit, be there like real early, grab your chair and hold on to it, because a few others are eyeing your chair and waiting for you to get up for their share of Benne Doses.

So good luck for your visit to CTR!

My Last Duchess – Robert Browning’s Dramatic Monologue

It is impossible not to be drawn to the intense drama of a Browning poem. Infact, I have often thought that his poems like Fra Lippo Lippi or My Last Duchess or the dark and eerie Porphyia’s Lover can all be made into movies. There is enough passion, love, lust, anger and what not so cleverly woven into the dramatic monologues in which Browning excelled.

Let’s take a look at this master piece in which the speaker invites the guest to take a look at the portrait of his ex-wife, the duchess. Ironically, the visitor is some one who has brought with him another prospective alliance for the Duke.

Does the Duke sound shady, villianish to you?

(Lines 1-4) Notice how the Duke draws attention to the portrait of the duchess , ‘looking as if she were alive’. As you read on you will get to the reason for this cryptic comment. He goes on to complement the painter Fra Pandolf who worked hard over a day for the portrait.

(Lines 11-17) The quality of the painting is such that it requires attention and care so the Duke invites the visitor to take a seat. It is not an ordinary painting and the Duke emphasizes the Fra Pandolf whose name he says he took for a reason. When strangers meaning those who have not seen or met the duchess when she was alive, look to the Duke for further explanation when they see the intensity and passion in the eyes of the figure in the portrait. It is he pompously announces a rare privilege to catch a glimpse of the portrait to which he alone reserves the right to show it to others. (Lines 5-10)

Anticipating the question in the eyes of the visitor the Duke continues that he is not the first to ask so. It is says the Duke not his presence that of her her husband that made the Duchess blush so. The Duchess was easily pleased with the silliest of things. Even if Fra Pandolf made a causal comment that ‘the mantle is covering your wrist mam’, she might just as well go all red! Note the jealousy in the words of the Duke, who probably resented that his wife smiled at everyone. It is possible that the painter said that no paint can capture the color of her neck and it was enough for her to go crimson , added the Duke.

(Lines 18-32) She being naive could not understand that such compliments were often false or made simply out of courtesy and that she need not really take them to heart and respond in such an intimate manner. Her fault, a heart, too easy to please, she was inordinately happy with everything she saw or experienced and her eyes ‘went everywhere’. To her my love for her, the setting sun, the bunch of cherries some one gifted her, the white mule were all alike, equal and she rejoiced in everything as if it were all the same. The ease with which she bestowed her love and affection on all these silly things some how insulted the 900 year old name of the family which I gave her with the marriage. It was as if the name of my family of 900 years which I honored her with was equal to other unworthy things.

(Lines 33-46) Why would I stoop so low as to explain it to her that I did not like a few things about her? That this is too much in you and this too less. Maybe she would have changed. Yes, she smiled at me,but who was there not smiled at? This grew. I chose not to stoop. I gave commands and all smiles stopped together. Now, there is stands as if alive.

Lines (47-56) Would mind getting up? He politely inquires. We can meet the company below. I am sure my expectation of dowry will be met though of course, the company of the bride is what I hope to win. Please take a look at that bronze sculpture of Neptune, the lord of war taming a wild horse, it was custom made for me by Claus of Innsburk. Its a rare piece.

The Duke with his malevolent and dubious character unwittingly reveals too much about himself. He not only confesses to his crime of killing his ex-wife,the duchess but also places a direct threat to the incoming bride.

The drama and the eloquence the tightness of the verses which create suspense and drama is a Browning specialty, perhaps one he picked up from John Donne and his contemporaries.

Isn’t it interesting that the Duke has painted a rather charming picture of

his wife, one who is loving, generous and of a happy disposition?

The poem – My Last Duchess

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call 
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands 
Worked busily a day, and there she stands. 
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said 
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read 
Strangers like you that pictured countenance, 
The depth and passion of its earnest glance, 
But to myself they turned (since none puts by 
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I) 
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, 
How such a glance came there; so, not the first 
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not 
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot 
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek; perhaps 
Fra Pandolf chanced to say, “Her mantle laps 
Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint 
Must never hope to reproduce the faint 
Half-flush that dies along her throat.” Such stuff 
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough 
For calling up that spot of joy. She had 
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad, 
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er 
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere. 
Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast, 
The dropping of the daylight in the West, 
The bough of cherries some officious fool 
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule 
She rode with round the terrace—all and each 
Would draw from her alike the approving speech, 
Or blush, at least. She thanked men—good! but thanked 
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked 
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name 
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame 
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill 
In speech—which I have not—to make your will 
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this 
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, 
Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let 
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set 
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse— 
E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose 
Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, 
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without 
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; 
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands 
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet 
The company below, then. I repeat, 
The Count your master’s known munificence 
Is ample warrant that no just pretense 
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed; 
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed 
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go 
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though, 
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, 
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

Rain Dance

It’s how he came yesterday

slow and steady and in no hurry

its as if he was

prepared for a long conversation

he stayed slowly spreading his legs

ever so slow in stretching his limbs

she watched him like never before

its new, she chuckled

as the slow night grew intense

she was calm and cool

some parts of her soul re-awakening

much has she been through

yet her spirit being indomitable

woke bit by bit piece by piece

its been long since he came, she thought

but he does know to make his presence

each little pore felt caressed

poured in with love

each little breath

now more alive

he knew what was at stake

and nothing could be more important

there was no music, no light either

just his slow breath and deep voice

a slow dance it was

to the rhythm of life

If this be living, stay on!

Ps: slow and steady be the rain in Bangalore

Monstrous K

She devours

in large unlimited quantities

qualities of every kind

patience, perseverance and discipline

aesthetics, conscience and much more

demands attention like a bawling child

growing in need every moment

no wonder, so many have turned against her

even with captains at their hand

she is messy, wild,insatiable

leaving you with a sense of worthlessness

the mistress who is so assured of herself

even in times of calamity or scarcity

not a moment is free of her service

now the sink, now the cupboards, now the stove

and her many die-hard fans who swear by her

but will never lift a finger

bloating her ego and compelling you somehow

to play the servile attendant

often I have put up my hands

cried in exasperation and vowed never to return

but widening girths around the waist

a bottom too big to be hot

drives you back to the tyrant

gleefully laughing at your discomfort

I told you so’s too many

nodding heads and whistles taunting

there has to be a way

there has to be a way

get around thee and still be happy

soon I shall have my day

let this be yours

I drop the spoon with a thud

until evening, then!

Woman of the wall

She was busy building it. He was busy too, in removing the building blocks of the wall. It was a continuous, consistent effort on their sides, each to his own.

‘I have to build it’ she insisted. ‘It will protect me, may be even you’, she added as if she was not sure of him. His presence, his company or just him, it’s difficult to say.

‘You build it, again and again and get yourself walled in’, he argued trying to gain some authority in an argument which was tilted towards her right from the beginning.

It was not for him to argue with her. He could not stay with her sullen face. He preferred the sunshine even if some times it rained right on to him. It didn’t matter.

As long as she was there, he was happy. He had decided that long back. That is how it is going to be. Her happiness, his happiness.

‘Come help me’, she shouted. She was good at that, ‘loud noises’, whether it was joy, sorrow or anger, it was always loud with her, ‘even pleasure’, he smiled to himself.

What was this woman to me, he asked himself. Why can’t I tell her that the wall she was building was going to kill her, her free spirit, her joy, it will not be seen now, but feeding it with love, she was nurturing a monster, perhaps monster is too gross a word, but you see, you must get the flow, right?

There was no use arguing with this woman of ‘loud noises’, with whom his life is so intricately bound, woven, warp and weft, she is decided if she is decided and that’s it.

It has been like that for the past so many years. Some said, talk it out, he smiled, nodding his head, no, he was not desperate as they thought him to be, nor was he bound without his will, it was a knowing commitment, I am with thee, come rain or sunshine.

There was never a need to run away, yes, in spite of the wall, the many walls she built and so delicately designed, decorating them with mosaics of experiences, feelings, fantasies, observations, hearsays, she was important, yes, despite the wall, so he stood through, just being there was enough and it gave him joy to do that.

Once in a while though without her noticing, he climbed the stairs, clambered on to the wall, peeped outside, in fact, even jumped out and ran away, panting at the effort, it takes a lot of running to actually run, if you know what I mean.

He breathed in fresh air, rubbed against fresh faces, clung to fresh fantasies and ran straight back to the woman with the wall.

The wall that kept him in and kept so much away from him. Ha! life!

‘Are you there?’, she called, the woman of’ loud noises’, a warm bosom and a tight clasp, far too tight!. ‘Coming’, he shouted back and ambled in her direction.

Kannada Baruthe

Been in Bangalore, Karnataka for almost a decade, yet all I know is rudimentary Kannada. Why did it never occur to me to put myself to the task of learning a new language, when supposedly I love languages?

It must be sheer laziness and the fact that in Bangalore, you can speak any language you know and still get the work done. Bangaloreans in general are conversant with Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and more and that is a deterrent.

With the desire to interact more with youngsters at college, talk to colleagues and feel more at home here in Bangalore, I am trying my best to get a hold over Kannada.

Well, reading and writing can wait, speaking Kannada decently enough would do for now.

I used to speak Telugu fluently way back in my primary school when I studied in Vijayawada but soon forgot all of it after moving back to Kerala.

If I manage to convince myself of having learnt to speak good Kannada, I definitely want to brush up my Telugu.

Then comes, Tamil, which I being a Malayali, tend to think that I know already. In reality, it is definitely not so. It is only my good friend, Sudha who taught me a smattering of Tamil heavily laced with Malayalam.

When this much is done, well, it already looks like a 10 year plan, I am keen to pick up some Sanskrit and then maybe a foreign language.

If all this happens before I kick the bucket, I would be somewhat proud of myself.

Looks like a lot of work.

I did read somewhere that learning a new language is the best way to keep one smart… so that be the goal… a smart polyglot! Sounds good!

Frog in a city

It is strange she said that I should think of you so much

when there is nothing of you that I can hold on to

there is not a memory, not an experience

dreams yes, fantasies yes

of swinging legs,sitting idle, long silences

it is strange that I should think so much

of that ascent of your nose bridge

dividing the world into 2 halves

that half that you like

the half that you don’t

I must definitely fall into the second,yet

when rains fill the pores of the earth

with soft wetness, the drum and drill of moist drops

I think of you staring into something I cannot see from here

I could never see, could I?

perhaps I will never, ever, seemingly

it is still nice to think of a face I think I know

than to think of faces that think know me well

oh, too well, fitting me in and out

a case of ‘fitment’, strange it sounds, except you stranger

even if it is unlikely like the unmelting of glaciers

the singing of the dodo or the thumping of the dinosaurs

the skies roar in thunder,gentle folds of approval

heard a frog croak after a long time

a frog in a city, now that is something!

Ps: Post Mrs. Dalloway

Balloon- Bubbly, beautiful but not very eco friendly

I remember how while I was growing up in Vijayawada, a major town in Andhra Pradesh, the balloon seller would come to the street on weekends. Me and my brother, along with other kids would run after the balloon man and get our red and orange colored balloons. For a few days at least we would wake up and go to sleep with balloon by our side, that is if it lasts that long.

I loved the balloons and I would be lying if I said that I was aware of the dangers to the environment posed by the balloon at that age or even much later.

It never occurred to me that a light, fluffy , beautiful thing could cause any damage to any one at all.

This I am sure is how we look at most of things. But now the times we are in force us to evaluate the environmental cost of every item of use be it a balloon, a ball, the ubiquitous plastic bags or anything else.

Here is an example of a balloon fest that went horribly out of turn to become a major environmental disaster. In 1986,the city of Cleveland announced that it was going to set a world record by releasing 1.5 million balloons up into the sky. It was a mass movement with a lot of hype on the television and the print media, there was much enthusiasm, great community feeling and lots of positive vibes in the air. In fact the television anchors announced that it was time to prove that Cleveland was a happening city to the world!

Soon festivities took a serious turn when an impending storm hit the city and the balloons fell all over filling the nearby lake where two local fisher men went missing.

The rescue efforts were affected because it was impossible to identify the life jackets of the fishermen among the many floating balloons.

In fact, Cleveland Balloonfest became an example of what not to do in celebration!

Kids love balloons so do adults but it is important that we consider the cost to the environment of these blown up plastic bags.

With environmental damage causing flash floods, droughts and other major catastrophes across the world, it is time to act! Say no to balloons!

For further reading!

Of how she talks

To talk is to exist

so she does

it didn’t matter

who listened

who didn’t

sometimes the cat sat by

more out of boredom than interest

as she belted out her tunes

old tunes of old times

some sparkling new

smelling more of fantasy than reality

the other day I saw her talking to the sky

I didn’t interrupt her reverie

her holy communion

a few earth worms in hiding

came to the fore

volunteering to keep her company

a centipede or two joined

a crow cawed her approval

she spoke unabashed, uninhibited

of thin walls pressing on to her

of spaces cramped

of eavesdroppers

of rude turn-aways

of forbidden pleasures

of craving for what is not

of efforts to evolve

of struggles within without

a tear was shed from above

manna for her soul

a deluge for the earthworm and the centipede

each to his own…