Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Book review "In Other Words" by Jhumpa Lahiri

“What does a word mean? And a life? in the end, it seems to me, the same thing. Just as a word can have many dimensions, many nuances, great complexity, so, too, can a person, a life. Language is the mirror, the principal metaphor. Because ultimately the meaning of a word, like that of a person is boundless, ineffable.”
Jhumpa Lahiri
An award winning novelist of English language wants to travel the uncharted sea of mastering a foreign language. Jhumpa Lahiri in her latest (and Non-fiction debut) shares her experiences in learning Italian. With a series of metaphors this creator of The Interpreter of Maladies describes how learning Italian has been her long standing wish come true.
In these 203 pages, she tells us the story of her metamorphosis from an American Born Bengali Indian to an Established Italian Author.
She describes in detail how the seed of the desire to learn Italian was sowed, and how many struggles she had to go through to learn the language.
Learning a foreign language for the purpose of professional interest is one thing, and learning it for finding one’s own soul is a different thing. Here, Jhumpa Lahiri describes how she felt estranged from the Bengali which she inherited from her parents, and from English in which she was born and raised. She perfectly captures the emotions of people who are born in ethnically discongruent places. People, who can neither belong to the place of their ancestors (for they don’t live there) nor in the place they currently live (for their cultural & ethnic differences).

She has mentioned a few incidents of sheer frustration she felt when her efforts to this big decision in her life were ignored or misunderstood. The incident where her husband was misunderstood to be ‘Speaking good Italian than you‘ just because of his physical appearance, and exclamations of ‘How come you speak such an impeccable Italian‘ requiring detailed answers with demoralising need for repetition. A very disheartening incident in which she was asked- in plain English- “May, I Help You?”, tells you how serious was she in accepting a foreign language as her own.
Similar to moving to a new country, learning a new language too can remove you from your nativity. Here, Jhumpa Lahiri describes an incident when she felt discomfort in translating her own work from Italian to English, which formed the reason why this current books has been translated from the original Italian  by Ann Goldstein.
Very simple and lucid narration and without any of the unnecessary details, the piece of Autobiography runs through you as smooth as her previous fiction works. The metaphors are so well placed, that not one moment do you miss the tone of fiction you so fondly remember her for.
Get this book from here
Other books by Jhumpa Lahiri

Friday, December 30, 2016

A thought experiment

Try to think about this woman—poor, illiterate, beaten by her drunkard husband, stranded by her family in the last month of her pregnancy. Delivering a Babyboy at a hospital in Sabarmati at 10 in the night, taking a Rikshaw (*Alone*) to take him to CHA because he didn't cry after birth.

Her only ray of hope in this whole wide world is battling between injections, and Intracaths, and oxygen hose, and Ryle’s tubes, and ventilators and sensors and tangles of lines of iv fluids. Struggling to stretch every ounce of its existence to keep the tiny heart beating. Against failing kidneys and seizuring brains. And loads of ischemic insult, The tiny creature labours to breath.

She—tired and sore—both from the unfairness of the world and the pricking episiotomy stitches. Broken by the toughest of contractions, lays awake, on the stony cold bench outside the nursery, not able to get up and quench her thirst without the pain ripping her apart into bits and pieces. Bright light, loud noises, and people—yelling, weeping, and fighting…... mayhem and chaos everywhere….

Waiting for one tiny miracle, staring at the smiling metallic face of the idol of Krishna in the corridor, she holds her hands in a prayer, muttering the words urging for some divine intervention. So longing she is, to hug the only soul on earth she is living for; but the fear of the unknown—of white coats, and pink scrubs—keeps her at bay. The security woman, bored by the hordes of relatives crowding in the NICU, is definitely giving her the glare of a lifetime.

She knows that she has nowhere to go, no one to look up to, no one to shoulder her crying head, but it is this- this piece of her soul she is clinging to live with. No one else.

At six in the morning, just as she gets barely a wink of much needed sleep, she gets jolted awake by the hoarse voice of the jamadaar yelling her name; it’s the doctor who is summoning her.
Once in, she folds her hands with a fistful of her saree, and barely able to stand, finds herself in front of you. Readily, with part reverence, part fatigue, she falls to her feet--almost prostrate—in front of you, clutching at your slippered feet, tears streaming down her face and matted, tousled hair.

You take a step back.

Now it’s your job to look at her straight in the eye, and declare:

બેન, તારુ બાળક મરી ગયુ છે.

Do you still think being a doctor is easy?


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Speed thrills, but it Kills

આપણી અમદાવાદીઓ ની traffic sense કેવી?

વખાણવા જેવી
કે વખોડવા જેવી?

અમુક દિવસો પહેલાં, મારાં એક Head injury નાં પેશન્ટ ને લઇ ને CT scan કરાવી ને આવતો હતો.

રસ્તા માં ડાબી બાજુ વળવા માટે એમ્બ્યુલન્સ નાં ડ્રાયવરએ ઈંડિકૈટર આપ્યું. ને ત્યાંજ એક લબરમૂંછીઓ એની બાઈક પર ઝૂમ ઝૂમ ઝૂમ કરતોક ને ડાબી બાજુ થી સાઈડ કાપી ને નીકળ્યો, ને એમ્બ્યુલન્સ થી ભટકાતા જરાક માટે રહી ગયો.

આ તો ભલું થજો અનુભવી ડ્રાયવર નું, કે જેણે સમય સૂચકતા વાપરી બ્રેક મારી. બ્રેક વાગતા આખી ગાડી ને જબરદસ્ત ઝાટકો વાગ્યો, જે Head injury નાં પેશન્ટ ને જીવલેણ સાબીત થઈ શક્યો હોત. મારા મેડીકલ નાં ફ્રેન્ડ્સ ને ખબર હશે કે Head injury નાં પેશન્ટ ને cervical કોલર શું કામ પહેરાવતા હોય છે.

નસીબ જોગે કોઈ મોટી દુર્ઘટના ઘટતા અટકી ગઇ.

મને એ નથી સમજાતું, કે એ બાઈક સવાર ને એવી તે શી ઉતાવળ હશે કે એને આવડી મોટી એમ્બ્યુલન્સ ના દેખાઈ, ના તો એને ગાડી પર નું બ્લુ કલરનું લબૂક જબૂક થતુ બિકન દેખાયું, કે ના જોરથી વાગતી સાયરન સંભળાઇ. સાંજ નો વખત હતો, પણ રસ્તો ય કાંઇ અંધારીયો ન્હોતો, અમદાવાદ ના સારા રોડ વાલા વિસ્તાર ની ઘટના છે.

ને કદાચ દેખાઈ પણ હોય, તો એ ભાઈ ને એવું તે શું યુદ્ધ લડવા જવાનું હશે કે માત્ર અડધી સેકન્ડ બચાવવા માટે એણે પોતાની, અને પાછળ બેઠેલી એની પત્ની ની,કે એમ્બ્યુલન્સ માં સવાર પેશન્ટ નાં જીવ ને જોખમ માં મુકી ને સાઈડ કાપવી પડી ?

કપડાં પર થી તો કોઈ સારા કામ થી જતાં હોય એવું લાગતું હતુ. એ મૂર્ખ ને એ ખબર નહીં હોય કે આવા કરમ કરતાં જો એ મરી જશે તો ત્યાં જે લોકો એની રાહ જોતાં હશે એ લોકો પર શું વીતશે ?

એ ડોબા ની અડોડાઈ ને કારણે એણે પોતાનો તો ઠીક છે, પણ જેમનો કોઈ જ વાંક ન્હોતો એવા એની પત્ની નો, અમારી એમ્બ્યુલન્સ માં અમારાં પેશન્ટ નો, ડ્રાઈવર નો, પેશન્ટ નાં પેરેન્ટ્સ નો ને મારો, એમ છ લોકો નાં જીવ જોખમ માં મુકાયા.

મિત્રો, મારી તમને નમ્ર વિનંતિ છે કે પ્લીઝ પ્લીઝ રોડ પર આવા મોત નાં ખેલ ન ખેલો,
તમે તો મરશો પરન્તુ કોઈ નિર્દોષ માનવી ને પણ લેતા જશો.

બે સેકન્ડ મોડા પહોંચશો તો તમારાં વગર કોઈ રાજપાટ નથી લૂંટાઈ જવાના.

જીવતાં રહેશો તો મોડા પડીને ય જવાશે.

બાકી સ્મશાન માં કોઈ વહેલું-મોડું નથી હોતું.

શાંતિ થી ડ્રાઇવ કરો, ને સમજદારી થી નિર્ણય લો.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Movie review: Queen of Katwe: a moving tale of hope and perseverence

“In chess, the small one can become the big one. That’s why I like it.”

Directed by the talented Mira Nair famous for "The Namesake", "Salaam Bombay!" and "Monsoon Wedding", "Queen of Katwe" is a moving tale of how hard work and determination can literally bring a person from lives of struggle to life of glory. Just Like the  Phenomenon called "Promoting"  in the game of Chess, in which the Pawn, if it can reach to the last row of the opposite side of the board can be promoted to the rank of Queen. Phiona Mutesi, who calls this manoeuvre "Queening" is in full rights to attain this honour.

The film features the story of a 10 year girl living in the slums of Katwe, Kampala, Uganda, who while selling Maize on the streets to support her family starts taking an interest in chess, and with her guide Robert Katende's strong determination beats all odds to become the youngest international chess champion from Uganda.

The film opens with the hesitating feet of young Phiona entering the tournament, asking her coach will she be able to do it or not. Its the first scene, that will make you contend that this going to be a very fine work of art.

Very strong performance by the newcomer Madina Nalwanga as the protagonist. Madina, totaly captures your attention portraying Phiona. With her hesitating, humble ways, to the innocence dripping from her eyes, she totally lives up the character of a brilliant chess player fighting against the world to achieve the success she deserves.

David Oyelowo playing her mentor Robert Katende is a very fine actor. He has already proved his worth  in the role of Martin Luther King Jr in  "Selma" (2014)

Lupita Nyong'o, playing the mother of Phiona has done her  best performance in playing the roel of a hardworking single mother, who would go any lengths to protect and provide for her family.  You would remember her playing Patsey in "12 Years a Slave", and Raksha in The Jungle Book (2016)

Mira Nair has a mastery in weaving her characters with the finesse of a Patola worker. Bringing out the most intricate emotions with the simplest materials of dialogues. The good thing about the movie is that it is not pretentious. From the start you know what is going to happen next. I mean, if you are looking for a drama film full of twists and turns, then this might not be your cup of  tea. The plot here is the all the same known to mankind since the evolution of the art of storytelling. Poor, underprivileged person, working hard to achieve a dream, fighting all the hardships life can offer, in the end winning against all the odds. There is nothing new in the story.

But the beauty lies in the journey, not the destination my friend! The beauty of this film lies in the way the story is opened, the characters introduced one by one, and the way the setting of a ghetto of a third world country is portrayed in all its full colors.

For cinematography, Sean Bobbitt deserves an Oscar! The way the hardship of the ghettos have been portrayed so beautifully is not less of a masterstroke. The colors of otherwise unwealthy surroundings have so very well been pictured. The slum here is full of overflowing gutters and muck and shacks made up of tattered wood and plastic. But it is also colorful, it is alive. It is not grey, it is bustling with the shades of red and yellow and orange.... The colors of spring.

The costumes have their very own story to tell. The dirty dress Phiona was wearing when kids yelled "Pig!" at her, to the one gaudy dress Harriet puts on to sell to the greedy cloth merchant who is having his eyes on this still young widow.

The story of Phiona is not just all Goody Goody tale only. It also shows the weak side of Phiona when soon after winning a game she stops following her mother's commands, and does not help in the household chores. It shows how easy it is to be carried away from the reality by  a small success.

The film gives a very important message, that no matter how hard your life is, how poor you are, if you work hard, then no one can stop you from being the Queen that you deserve to be.

You can imagine how great this movie is by the rating on Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 91% on its Tomatometer.

Real life Phiona Mutesi

Lupita Nyong'o as Nakku Harriet
David Oyelowo as Robert Katende
Madina Nalwanga as Phiona Mutesi
Mira Nair
William Wheeler
Writer (based on the ESPN Magazine article and book by)
Tim Crothers
Sean Bobbitt

Queen of Katwe on
Phiona Mutesi on Wikipedia

Friday, March 11, 2016

गुलों मे रंग भरे

गुलों मे रंग भरे, बाद-ए-नौबहार चले
चले भी आओ कि गुलशन का कारोबार चले

"let the blooms fill with colour, let the first zephyr of spring flow,
do come over, so the garden can get on with its daily business"

कफ़स उदास है यारों सबा से कुछ तो कहो
कहीं तो बह्र-ए-खुदा आज ज़िक्र-ए-यार चले

"Gloom reigns in the cage, my friends; do say something to the breeze somewhere, for God's sake, (there must be) discussion about the Beloved today!"

कभी तो सुब्ह तेरे कुन्ज-ए-लब से हो आगाज़
कभी तो शब् सर-ए-काकुल से मुश्कबार चले

"(at least once) let the dawn commence from the corner of your mouth,
(at least once) let the night be rendered fragrant by your curled tresses"

बड़ा है दर्द का रिश्ता, ये दिल गरीब सही
तुम्हारे नाम पे आएंगे गमगुसार चले

"the ties of pain run deep; poor as this heart is, comfort-givers will come along, thanks to your name"

जो हम पे गुजरी सो गुजरी मगर शब्-ए-हिजरां
हमारे अश्क तेरी आकबत संवार चले

"i may have endured whatever i endured, but (on the) night of separation! my tears left your future course adorned"

हुज़ूर-ए-यार हुई दफ्तर-ए-जूनून की तलब
गिरह मे लेके गरेबां के तार-तार चले

"The Court of the Beloved (conveyed) the desire for (seeing) the 'documentation of infatuation' (Tied) in a knot (I carried) the tatters of (my) collar"

मकाम कोई फैज़ राह मे जचा ही नही
जो कू-ए-यार से निकले तो सू-ए-दार चले

"no location/station en route caught the fancy, Faiz after quitting the Beloved's lane, (I) walked on (directly) towards the gallows"

I am very much grateful to Takalluf-bar-Taraf... for these lines and their translation! You should visit that blog, it is awesome.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Arrey O Henry- Play review

This play is a bunch of Four stories, from the repertoire of the greatest storyteller of all times,  The magician of words, O. Henry; and adapted to Indian stage by Gulzar. Directed by Salim Aarif, this play was brought to Ahmedabad by Coconut Events, and performed at the Gujarat University Convention Centre this Sunday. Welcome to relish this 90 minutes treat of emotions, and drama, and joy and sadness. All with a witty and shocking end.

1- Salma: a graceful woman, with a heavy poetic accent recounts the story of her lost love affair with the help of the choicest Urdu Ghazals. What tale did she tell ?

2- Nuskha: A young couple wants to get married, but they are afraid of the girl's Military father. This father has developed a liking for a young pharmacist, who stays as a paying guest in his house and who also has his eyes on the said girl. Who will get the girl in the end?

3- Madam: a man gets enchanted by a woman of high class, who reads Urdu poetry, and talks in a very haughty accent. Will he be able to woo her?

4- Bal Bal Bache- A phenku barber tries to swindle a bald man with a recipe for growing wavy curls of dark hair.  But things don't go as expected. How?

The set is simple, 4 pieces of furniture, and each with its artistic background. The stories are carried with many Blackouts between the scenes. There is background music, synchronous with the expressions of the characters on-stage, and the hint of something being "golmaal hai bhai sab golmaal hai!"

But acting!
Oh my god!
Acting is marvellous. Even to someone who has known the plots, the characters never lost their grip on the narration of these so tightly written scripts. Albeit the  use of Urdu Shaers and the heavily accented Hindi seem somewhat mid '80s, but that thing kinda adds flavour to the whole experience.

Not an inch of stage remains unmapped during the rendition, even with the narrow spatial dimensions, the director has given the events a great width in terms of portrayal of locations.

The character of Salma and of Dolly , apparently played by the same actor,carried their role with such a grace!  I mean, who does, in this present world speak with so Shahi an Andaaz!
The scenes are sharply cut, not wasting time in the so-called catchy dialogues we usually associate with theatre.
Overall, the play provides a sumptuous mixture of comedy on a creamy layer of romance, sprinkled with the tantalizing surprises at each end.

A wholesome entertainer!

On the basis of watchability, I would rate this play 78/100. Out of which, 20 is for Salma, 20 for Madam, and 19 each for Bal bal bache, and Nuskha (or, Aarti Pahechaan Legi!)

A special mention is well deserved by the Shahid Anwar/Papaji for his stage presence.....

PS: you can read my review of "100 selected short stories by O. Henry" here