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Archive for May, 2006

Our manager got promoted recently and will be leaving our department to join a bigger department to take bigger responsibilities. A jolly good fellow and as much as we like him to stay back with us, we wish him all the best for the future. We have a team of almost 20 people and as a parting gift he decided to take us on a small boating trip.

Yesterday we visited Spakenburg, a small town near a lake. From here we took a ride on a Botter, which is a boat with sails. It is primarily a fishing boat. The boat moves on motor as well as sails. It is completely made of wood and can have 10-12 people easily. A small room can save you from rain. Fortunately we did not have rain when we were in the lake.

The trip started with garlic bread and optional tea or coffee. We were divided into two groups. We sailed through small canals slowly until we made it to the lake. The temperature was somewhere between 8-10 degree Celsius but the wind was strong which made it much colder than the actual temperature.

We had two people handling the boat who would lower or turn the sails. The strong wind on your face, the fluttering sails, the water around, the clouds making patterns and laughing and laughing with your friends is a experience in itself.

After more than 90 minutes into the lake, we made back for a barbecue dinner. We had to barbecue our own dinner instead of somebody else doing it for us. We had a good time at the dinner with everybody pulling each other leg. At the end we had laughed so much that my stomach was paining.

All in all it was an experience to cherish. Below are some of the photos we took at Spakenburg. Some good and some very good.

 

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This is what is called a Botter. Although it looks small in the picture, it is actually very big. Below another view of a Botter.

 

 

 

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Spakenburg and its bay. We started the journey from here.

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We saw a number of Botters on a small race across the lake. The botters across the late evening sky. Below the old aand the new, a botter and a modern windmill at the background

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The clouds forming a beautiful image in the sky. One of our boat.

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The shipper house, a small cafe where we had our dinner.

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The Shipper house, a small cosy cafe at the bay where we had our barbecue dinner and the barbecue below
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The drinks the botter owner gave us to keep us warm in the lake winds. It helped a lot. hic!!

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The view of the lake from the front of the boat through the anchors

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The best photo of them all to display my photographic expertise (thats an overstatement). We were having a lot of fun and clicking photos by the dozens when Jolanda was posing in front of the camera. She is pregnant and was standing with her hands on her back. I asked to pose against the sun in the background which she did giggling wildly. What I could capture was the above. I am going to get a prize or something for this. I called it the “The Birth of a Son” (Son or Sun – the sun shining from behind her – get the picture). She is also known for her PJs, asked me “What if its a girl?” After much thinking we have decided to keep it a secret.

More photos here

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Its early in the morning, say 6:00 AM. The alarm clock next to your bed is set to ring at 6:45 PM. You are fast asleep having beautiful dreams or nightmares depending on the dreams you normally have. In this case it is always a good dream.  

For some strange reason, you wake up at 6:00 AM. You may have slept late or early, it does not matter but you get up at 6:00 AM, with absolutely no reason at all. You glance at the clock and check the time. You still have some time before you actually get up. You feel blessed, you feel happy and you feel relieved to find out that you still have time to get back to your beauty sleep. But then you feel the need to go to the toilet. Its not that its going to be an emergency but still the sensation is there, the need to clear the gall bladder, the need to get it over with. The toilet is just feet away but removing the sheets, getting out of bed, walking to the toilet, putting on the lights and getting it over with looks like a difficult task.  

“Its just few minutes before you actually get up”, you think. A few minutes means that much needed sleep. You close your eyes to continue with the dream just like a paused movie on the DVD player. You tend to ignore the gall bladder for now. But the nagging feeling of the need to go still remains. You cannot concentrate on the sleep anymore.  

Even Hamlet had an easier problem than the one you have now, “To go or not to go”. You look at the clock again. You already have spent 10-15 minutes deciding to go or not to go. The need to go is much stronger. The sleep and the dream will not come now unless you finish the task.  

You get up with much efforts, walk to the toilet and finish off. You still have 15-20 minutes before the alarm rings. It’s a race against time. You lay on the bed and try to sleep. It will be sometime before you actually sleep and start dreaming again and then the alarm rings.  

You just hate that!

Moral of the story, When you got to go……..GO.

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Note: Written after many similar experience on a Monday Morning

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The earlier movie by Aparna Sen, “Mr and Mrs Iyer” was good. Though slow like her earlier movies, it was a beautiful woven fairy tale. Naturally I had many expectations from her latest “15 Park Avenue” (15PA).

Aparna Sen’s movies are slow and would not be categorized as regular Hindi Masala movies. 15PA is a story of two sister one a university Professor, highly intelligent and the other suffering from schizophrenia. The older sister played by Shabana Azmi is divorced and taking care of her mother played by Waheeda Rehman and her younger step sister, Mithi played by Konkana Sen Sharma. The story revolves around these two mostly but also looks at other relationship. Mithi is suffering from schizophrenia which is further aggravated by her gang rape when she goes for a journalist assignment. Her boyfriend Joydeep, played by Rahul Bose, who first thinks he can handle her illness backs up and leaves her after the rape.

But this situation leaves Mithi devastated where she goes from bad to worse. He imagines himself married to Rahul and has 5 children of her own and leaves in a house in Kolkatta calle 15, Park Avenue.

Years later when Joydeep or Jojo as Methi calls him is holidaying in Bhutan with his wife and two children. He sees Methi and feels guilty about the situation she is in. Methi fails to recognize him and takes him as a friend who will find her house for her. Jojo accompanies Methi to Kolkatta where he tries to help her find 15 Park Avenue

The subject of schizophrenia is handled well by the director. Schizophrenia patients are seen as insane by the society because they tend to believe in something which the society knows does not exist. They have created a make-believe world of their own which they are confident that it exists. However this make-believe world of theirs has a negative impact on the people around them. They don’t know what to trust and what not to trust.

15 PA is exploring this impact on the people around a schizophrenic patient. The same way the Marathi film Devrai did. “Devrai” was a much better movie and educated the mass about the diseases at the same time telling a beautiful story. You actually feel for the main protagonist (Atul Deshpande). In 15 PA its just a story. The audience does not identifies or feel for Methi or her sister. At some instances the movie drags but then with the re-entry of Rahul Bose, you wait for the climax. The climax is confusing when Rahul and Shabana themselves start searching for the imaginary 15 Park Avenue.

Shabana Azmi as the frustrated sister, Rahul Bose as the guilty boyfriend, and Shefali Shah as Rahul’s jealous wife does justice to their role. Their roles are brief and hardly gives them a chance to show their talent. Shefali however scores over Rahul. Waheeda Rehmaan does not have much to do except cry. Dhritiman Chatterjee plays the doctor who is treating Methi and plays a very significant part because his conversation and discussion with Shabana are the high point of the film. Their discussion attempts to look into the mind of a Schizophrenic patient. Kawaljeet Singh has a very short role of a professor who wants to marry Shabana.

Konkana Sen Sharma as Methi is good and I mean real good. She acts, behaves, walks like one. She plays the confused, under-confident and scarred methi to perfection. Like “Devrai”, the actor who plays the patient holds the key to the movie.

 

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Although the movie tries to capture the life of a Schizophrenic patient, it misses something. The story moves at a very slow pace. The movie is certainly not made for the masses as the whole movie is in English. You really have to think while watching the movie.

Compared to the earlier “Mr and Mrs Iyer” this movie fails to create interest and even hold audience attention.

Rating : 5/10

 

 

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I haven’t even read the book so cannot say that the book is better or the movie. But like every other movie fan who waits for a good anticipated movie, I too waited for the screen adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci code”.

The movie had already generated enough publicity and controversy and most of the crowd in the theatre were just to see what was it that people were afraid of? I have been to the theatre after a long time now and that too for the second day show was something out of the ordinary.

The story is something which was supposed to shake the very foundation of Christianity. The story starts with the murder of the elderly curator of the famous Paris Museum Louvre. While being injured with a bullet in the stomach, the curator in his dying moment uses his body to make leave some clues about is killer. The French police invites symbologist Robert Langdon to find the meaning of the symbols the curator leaves for them. What follows is the journey from Paris to Zurich to London to find the mystery behind the meaning. Assisting him is the French cryptologist Sophie Neveu.

Now the story is supposed to be thriller with a lot of history thrown in. The way the history is interpreted is convincing enough. The clues lies in the painting by Da Vinci paintings.

Reading a book and seeing a movie are two different things. A book holds a magic where the imagining is left to the reader. A reader can imagine a number of ways a situation can happen but when you try to squeeze a 300+ pages book into 150 minutes, the result can be a fast paced thriller. What happens here is nothing of that sort. The movie takes its own time to set things up. Although the action starts right after the opening credits, there is hardly any excitement.

The other problem was the use of French in the movie. As we sat in the Dutch theatre, the subtitles were in Dutch. So many things were lost to us. Another problem is for people who have very little or no idea about Christianity and its history. The story and the motive is completely lost to them. The conversation between the actors does not make it simpler.

Tom Hanks plays Robert Langdon. He is good actor but aging and his age shows in the movie. He does not much scope for acting though. Audrey Tautou is a French actress and plays Sophie Neveu. She is a good actress and speaks with a French accent. For the first 10 minutes I thought she was speaking French.

In a thriller, when the lead actors are caught in a desperate situation, what matters is the chemistry between the two. Here there exist no chemistry between the Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou. They act through the movie like a pre-defined script with pre-defined conversation.

As for the supporting cast, they are ok. Jean Reno as Captain Fache of the French police. Paul Bettany as Silas who would do anything for the religion.

 

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As for the controversy, there seems to be none. The writer suggest a theory based on history interpreting it as he wants to. Though doing a much convincing job, the climax falls short on expectation. When Christian organization threatened to protest against the movie, it would have been better if they would have just seen the movie. After seeing the movie, we wonder what was the whole fuss about.

It is worth seeing once but does not have repeat value. Not one scene which would remain etched in your mind.

Rating : 5/10

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My parent got married when my father was well into the late 30s. My mother was somewhere in her late 20s. There was at least a gap of 10-12 years between them. I never knew what the age difference was because they were never keen on celebrating their birthdays so they never remembered their age. I assume from their talks was that he was 39-39 and she was 26-27. He was not the marrying type. He had a brother and a sister. He wanted to get his sister married first. His brother was already married She was the third child in the family with 6 children. He was a no-care person who knew no responsibilities. He would hand all his salary to his brother and then roam around with his friends. A lot of convincing from his friend did not prompt about thinking about his marriage. At 39, it was difficult to find a girl until mother came alone.

“He is just a worker”, my mom’s sister had said. “He does not look good.” another of her sister had said. But she saw something in dad which the rest of her sibling could not see. She agreed to him much to his amazement. His brother did not want him to get married to my mom. “She wear spectacles” “You have to listen to us” was his brother warning. He stood his ground this time. He had agreed to marry my mom and marry they did. It was a small affair, smaller than anything. Both were married because of the efforts of his cousins and her determination. Dad’s family was not so enthusiastic about the marriage. I guess that is why there is not a single photo of my parents wedding. My dad’s brother was opposed to the marriage but gave in to the wishes of other elders in the family. My dad’s brother, my uncle was the elder in the family and rules the family with an iron fist and sometimes even using physical force on dad.

When mom came to stay with dad after marriage, she was shocked how blindly my dad obeyed his brother and sister. Mom was the smart home manager in her father’s house. With no saving and no scope of progress in the family, my mom started saving for the future from the meager pocket money my dad kept with him even though he was the only earning member of the family. She suffered many taunts from my dad’s family just for dad’s sake.

A day came when things got out of hand and my uncle raised his hand on dad for an insignificant reason. He was nearing 40. That was the breaking point for mom. That day my parents walked out of the house. That day, life changed for all of us. Staying with my mom’s elder sister they moved out from there in a couple of days refusing to stay in her sister’s house. They moved to a small house in a slum for some days taking a loan from her elder sister and dad’s cousin sister. In addition dad had a loan to replay which he had taken for my uncle.

This entire time mom stood firmly behind dad, encouraging him and giving all the support he needed. Dad worked in the factory and mom brought work home using her sewing skills. My dad was not money-wise but mom sure is. She saved, invested and re-invested. I was born then and their responsibilities increased. Still both of them worked harder to give me a better living. In a year’s time, mom took the risk of buying a house on loan even when dad opposed it. He did not see the money coming but mom was like “jo hoga dekha jayega”. We moved to a new suburb in Mumbai, a bigger house and a better future. Slowly and steadily my parents repaid the entire loan. I was admitted in an English medium school even though the fees was very high according to our financial standard.

Some years later, mom convinced dad to buy a shop. She use to juggle me, home and shop at the same time standing firmly behind dad. Sometimes dad was so frustrated that he wanted to sell the shop but mom stood her ground and managed to convince him, sometime lovingly and sometimes sternly.

I had a good childhood. Not that there were many luxuries to boast of but mom made sure that we understand the value of money. We had seen our parents work hard and we knew that we had to work harder. All these years mom always had been the decision maker of the house. I had seen her supporting dad in every move and in every step and still caring for him like a small child attending his every need. I have seen her fighting, arguing with dad but in some way make him see the sense of logic.

We never were taught to show affection at home but we knew that our parents always loved us. The way she told us stories when me and my brother would sleep on both side. She used to defend us from our dad’s anger and at the same time defend dad against our teenage outburst. She is the glue that kept us together.

I guess she is the only one who more than perfectly understood my dad. She nurtured him, encouraged him and supported him all her life and at the same time she knew that dad would stand by her in all situation never letting her down. I guess she saw that when she married him even though everybody opposed their marriage. There is a saying that “Marriage is like a cart where husband and wife are the two wheels” I saw that in my parents both of them balancing each other. She was devastated when he passed away. All these years she was close to him more than any person on this earth. She was convinced that we, her children would one day leave but he would always be with her. A few days after he passed away, she was making rotis and giving me and my brother as the rotis were being made. Without thinking, she just passed the plate from the kitchen and said “Give this one to your dad”. The next moment she was in tears.

But after three years, she has stood up again. When I left India, I was worried about her and more for my brother. But she is a fighter and she has stood by me and not holding me back. I know she still misses dad. It is natural after all they were married for 26 years.

I hope one day I will be able to make her proud. Her and my dad, both of them. I may never tell her but she knows that I love her. She has always been my strength even though of the numerous problems we have faced between us. She will stand by me and my brother no matter what just like she stood behind dad.

Yesterday was Mother’s day and we never celebrated it. She does not even know that there is something like a Mother’s day. But here’s to you mom for always being there for me.

Aai! Happy Mother’s Day

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Aai* – Mother is called ‘Aai” (pronounced aa-ee) in Marathi.

Note – This is the my 250th Post. Nothing could be better topic than this.

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This birthday has been going good even after the birthday. The whole week has been going great. Yesterday night was the icing on the cake. Ranjana had taken part in a singing competition organized by a local Hindi radio station.

She sang “Lambi Judaai” from the Jackie Shroff starrer “Hero”. The song sung by Reshma has a very rustic feel.

And she won. She was singing on stage for the first time.

She got a big cup.

It all started a few months back when after dinner, we had gone out for some ice-cream. The radio was playing in the car and we were listening to “Ujala Radio”. The program that was playing was called “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa” where listener could call in and sing their song. So just for the heck of it, we urged Ranjana to call. She is a very good singer but had never sung in public before that.

She sang a song which was so much appreciated that she managed to get a gift hamper for that song. The radio station also promised her that she could participate in a singing competition.

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The "Sa Re ga Ma Pa" trophy for the best singer

We did not think of much until the competition was actually announced. Then it was a big discussion about which song to sing when she zeroed on the song from “Hero”.  

A lot of practice session later, the day finally arrived when she was supposed to sing. We all rallied around her. There were many singers who sang popular songs and they sang well. “Lambi Judaai” is not a well known song among the present young generation.

 When Ranjana sang, it was obvious that she did not have any competition at all as if she was the winner from that moment onward. Its been a happy week.

 

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Mom sent me my birthday present. She as always, forgot the place where she had written my Netherlands address. Hence the delay.

Well she sent me Alphonso Mangoes (the best mangoes in the whole world), a box of Kaju katris (an Indian sweet), a packet of home made chiwda (a type of snack) and telpoli (a version of Pulanpoli).

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The Alphonso Mangoes, They taste good!

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Mangoes, Telpoli and Chiwda.
Some of the mangoes had gone bad but it’s alright. She wanted to send more mangoes but the post wouldn’t take it. She finally paid more to send them across.

Mothers!!!

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