Thursday, July 31, 2008


A few days back, when I was watching Aparajito – alone, late into the night – a strange sense of sadness came upon me. There was this particular scene where adolescent Apu, sitting by his somewhat dazed mother, is trying to explain a globe to her, and she looks at him with a look that is a mix of tenderness, awe, and happiness. Or the scene where the mother is packing Apu’s suitcase with much care, remembering to put all the things he might need for the journey ahead to Calcutta where he is going to study in a college – while Apu is eager and impatient to experience the new life of freedom and learning, his mother is concerned about the loneliness she feels to let him go away from her, which she comes to realize, is probably forever.

Aparajito, probably the least recognized of the Apu Trilogy, is an amazing film. It might not have the early lyrical appeal of Pather Panchali, or the later beauty and romance of Apur Sansar, but it’s a film of poignant realization – a film about growing up and growing apart, a subtle portrayal of increasing alienation from the one who loves you most.

Aparajito essentially is a story of mother-son relationship – a relationship that changes inevitably over time. It’s about a lonely mother who invests all her life to her son with the hope of a better future, only to realize that their futures can only grow apart, and about a son who is caught between the excitements of his dreams and his duty to remain close to his ageing mother. In fact, there’s nothing new to the theme, but the way Satyajit Ray crafts the film makes it an indelible experience to watch, almost emotionally draining.

It is a very difficult moment when you have to let go. It is specially so when you have to let go of something/someone you have nurtured all your life. You know it’s for better, but you can’t accept it either. Like Apu’s mother, who sees her son off with a vague smile, only to plunge into terrible loneliness the moment he is out of her sight.

Friday, July 25, 2008


"There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. Consider this utterly commonplace situation: a man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically, he slows down. Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time.

In existential mathematics, that experience takes the form of two basic equations: the degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting."
- From Milan Kundera’s Slowness

I started reading Slowness a few days back. And either as a result of paying too much heed to the book’s title, or because the book contains some wonderful passages (which demanded pausing and re-reading and pausing again), I am finding myself still stuck at around the first quarter of the book.

But, of course, I am in no hurry.

P.S. Also, by the way, here’s a somewhat related piece I wrote long back, In praise of slowness, which is neither about Kundera nor the book, but about slowness nonetheless.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Up there

  • Atop the hill, after a steep climb, the gate of the fort is a welcome sight. There is nothing very majestic about the gate – it's rather narrow and without any decorative curving – but it's still strong and sturdy, and it's standing there even after centuries of guarding and protecting. Before I enter, I touch the cold stones and wonder what all this gate must have witnessed.
  • The clouds keep enveloping the rocky fort – hiding everything behind the veil of mist. Occasionally, the veil lifts and the valleys below are visible – tiny little villages, fields, waters of a dam, thread-like trails vanishing in the hills.
  • We sit near an edge, sweat trickling down our face after all the climbing, as the cool moist breeze caresses us. The grass flutters in the wind and there is no sound except the buzzing of wind through bushes.
  • Tall strong walls of the fort, once invincible, stand dilapidated. The stones slabs are covered with soft velvety moss, wet with the drizzle. From some cracks in the wall wild flowers bloom with abandon.
  • A stray dog climbs with us and keeps our company, probably knowing that at the end there will be some food. We feed him crumbs of biscuits.
  • There is a little chit-chat for a while, as we stretch our legs and take some rest, eat, and drink. But after some time everyone sits quiet, immersed in own thought. Only silence floats around us.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In the Mood for Love

It’s 1962 in Hong Kong. Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) have just moved into an apartment building as neighbors. They both lead a rather lonely life because their spouses are always away on business trips. Over repeated and prolonged absences of their spouses, they both come to realize that their spouses are actually carrying on a clandestine affair. They are both heartbroken as they realize the truth. And over time, out of their mutual loneliness and sorrow, there grows a tender relationship between them as they seek refuge in each other’s company. But they are so conscious and dignified – they don’t want to be like their spouses, they say, and they vow not to get carried away – that they refuse to acknowledge the love that they both start feeling for each other. Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love is about the subdued melancholy of love that both these characters experience, the tumultuous feelings they want to bury within them, and the enormous restraint that they exercise to avoid ending like their partners.

In the Mood for Love is a vibrant, colorful, and dizzyingly romantic film. It’s about love – unrequited and unconsummated. So when, near the end of the film, four years later, Chow, in the ruins of old temples in Combodia, whispers his secret in a hole in the wall and buries it up with mud in the hope of getting rid of his secret (it’s an old belief), it becomes a scene of extreme poignancy. And, of course, what heightens the mood of melancholy of the film is the impeccable acting, the dreamlike cinematography and the haunting background score.

I found the whole film to be available on YouTube (that’s where I watched it but probably it’s not the best way to watch the film). Incidentally, the film will also come on Zee Studio on 24th of August, just in case you didn’t know already.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

At the dentist's clinic

I am waiting nervously at the reception of the dentist’s clinic. There are quite a few people waiting for their turn but looking at their faces I cannot tell if they are at all nervous – they just sit quietly reading glossy magazines. Which, of course, do not make me any less nervous. The dentist is going to drill my teeth today and all the while I am repeatedly asking myself “How painful it is to get one’s teeth drilled?” Obviously, the only way to know it is to wait for my turn.

I do just that – wait – when I overhear a conversation at the reception counter. A woman has come looking for an appointment with the dentist and the girl at the reception counter is asking her some preliminary question before fixing up an appointment.

“Name?’ the girl asks, the woman replies.

“Phone number?” the girl asks, the woman replies.

“Date of birth?” the girl asks. “Why do you need that?” the woman counter-questions, a little annoyed. The girl understands, smiles, and replies (with a mock apology) that she needs it because the software on the computer asks for it. The woman, somewhat irritated, tells the date of birth anyway – the date and month quite audibly, but just before she tells the year she leans over the counter and whispers in a manner reserved only for top secrets agents.

“Wow! You don’t look like it,” the girl says, excited. The woman is visibly pleased and mumbles something to the girl.

Meanwhile, I am much amused with all these happenings and am quietly smiling to myself, oblivious of the drilling thing I am about to undergo. And probably because I was sitting very close, or because I was unknowingly eavesdropping, I overhear the year that the woman mentions so surreptitiously. My head automatically starts calculating. But before I could calculate her age (I am rather slow at calculating) the dentist calls out my name and in an instant I forget everything else and run inside the chamber.

And now, while I am writing this, I have already calculated the woman’s age, but the drilling experience have made me so completely forgot her appearance that I cannot remember if she actually looked too young or too old for her real age.