Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Watch Japanese today!

We are all inexorably programmed to be who we are. Mostly, that who is in total harmony with the greater majority of who’s around it. Sometimes, it’s like it is with me: I tend to effortlessly alienate myself from all common experience pools around me. I do not do it on purpose. I feel so lonely and wish I could like all the things which all of you around me do so we can meet and talk of shared interests.

In that vein, I find myself liking cinema from countries like Korea and Japan. While the infatuation with Korean dramas and films lasted it was relatively alright. Quite a few Indians also enjoy K dramas and films. However, I had to go and fall in love with J doramas and Japanese films.

It’s not as bad as all that because I do have a handsome hunk (my husband) with whom to share the joys of watching Japanese. There is another silver lining to the cloud: I get to bond aseptically with other weirdoes on line: random bloggers and others who share such exclusive likes.

Thus, I have begun to collect lists of Japanese films to watch based on blog and other reviews on the Net. Last week I hit on gold when I stumbled upon 
HamsapSukebe. Based on this blogger’s recommendations I've bookmarked the following:

2.       The Longest Night in Shanghai (2007)-see how the Japanese and the Chinese see each other, untainted by “White” visions. It’s very romantic.

3.       An Encyclopedia Of Unconventional Women (2009) A set of 6 excellent films. An absolute must see.

Yesterday I did some more niggling of the Net and shook down another excellent bunch of films.



 Admittedly, it will be a little more difficult for you to find these films and watch them. But it will have been worth it.

Japanese cinema has the gift of taking human experience and abstracting it so that there are moments of absolute Zen. 

I started with watching Korean before bedtime and now I've drifted to Japanese: it builds for a beautiful night's sleep and dreams.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thiruvananthapuram, mostly MG Road, November 2014

I had to kill a lot of time and so I walked around endlessly, mostly up and down MG Road and, eventually, in and out and up and down various little lanes in Thampanoor.
I popped into almost every shop on that road and the photo above is from a Khadi Gramudyog or some such there.
This man is making banana chips. The process smelled very good indeed.
There are innumerable Ayurvedic pharmacies and some of them have all kinds of plants waiting outside.
Ate here a couple of times. 
Although it's November, Thiruvananthapuram can be sweaty and hot. And so I'd eventually head for the splendid Pothy's to cool my heels for a bit. This lady in uniform, a rare sight here, makes herself useful.
The Indian Coffee House. Great coffee, always full, and the food smells delicious.
Gent's Beauty Parlours abound. And lottery ticket sellers.
A movie ticket costs Rs. 80.
A common menu at many an eatery.
Dinner at Kovalam was not Sushi. The cook was from Sikkim.
Now, is it or isn't it?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bali-Frangipani Memories

Long after some idyllic holiday, fragrant memories linger. Show me a champakali and I’m back in Bali. July 2008.
The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali

The music plays on in memories corridors, excited by a passing scent. In Bali you are captive to the Gamelan and to Frangipani. 

We had a light bite at KLIA before boarding the fairly small plane but I love Malaysian airlines- the staff is always very sweet and attentive and so we were airborne with our copies of the day's newspapers open at the Sudoku page. 

Lunch was quite awful but a good chill beer will help anything down and so I enjoyed my window seat to the hilt and had fun interacting with a cute Chinese baby boy. He was part of a family group consisting of a mother and two other sons –they live in France and had travelled down to meet the grand parents for the summer vacations. The landing was spectacular- with exquisite views of volcanoes and high mountain pools wreathed in filmy clouds as the plane almost plunges into the very ocean.

We reached Bali at a little before dusk and the hotel transport ferried us across the short distance to Westin. The welcome was exotic to say the least with pretty girls in Balinese costume greeting us with flowers and musicians playing the haunting melodies of this magic isle.

is played to welcome guests in some Balinese hotels. This music will follow you throughout your stay, be it while shopping or during some exotic excursion. And this music, the verdant landscapes and the exquisite beauty of the dancers will all be forever enveloped in the perfume of the frangipani. 

This fragrance follows you wherever you go during your time in Bali. Wafting down from trees, it comes to nest behind your ear. You are often given this flower as a token of welcome.

And, suddenly, you too become exotic. Loathe to leave, you may end up buying some Plumeria hair bands or clips. I did! 

I wore it over and over for years until people began smilingly identifying me by the hair tie.

Of course it broke at last and, one day, a couple of years later, I saw a young woman in Gurgaon sporting something similar. I went up to her eagerly and asked where she’d bought it. She looked mildly uncomfortable (obviously!) and said that it was not “from here”. I smilingly persisted and broke into a loud exclamation of joy when I wrung it out of her that she’d got it from Bali. 

The hotel room was superb –perhaps not as fancy as Nikko hotel in KL but still high class- well, sadly we only had the one bathtub soak as I found that the room had separate beds. Of what use is a romantic holiday if one has to either huddle on one bed or sleep apart?! And so I got a change of room but,  alas, that one had no bath tub- sigh!

The first evening or two, we visited the nearby Bali collections
- a little shopping village all decked out to please the tourist. A shuttle bus takes folks from all the nearby hotels there and back but the restaurants at Bali collections also offer free transport if one eats there. So the first dinner was at one such place where we had a hilarious waiter and a truly delicious dinner (the wine was strange but offset the food fairly nicely). I'm afraid I do not quite remember what we ate- for the sights and sounds and smells all weave a hypnotic spell. But the "blachan" (I assume it was that- a kind of red chutney which is laced with dried shrimp paste) was spicy enough here compared to its tamer counterpart in KL and less stinky. Sprouts form an integral part of most Balinese meals as, of course, does sea food, and some strange stringy greens (sea weed?).

The next evening we ventured to a shopping complex a little farther afield and I bought some flip flops with the frangipani flower on them as well as one pretty dress. 

We also located a nearer market and did some more shopping there. But all these areas are mainly created for the Western tourists – a whole lot of them from Russia or some Baltic states and the rest from Australia, Germany etc. But there are also a significant number from Korea and Japan and China. Indians are greatly liked by the Balinese and this made my visit more joyful.

Well, except for the last 2-3 days of the visit, my life consisted of shameless lolling in the hotel.
I lazed on the beach and had a nice tan to show for it- I dared not venture into the sea for it looked very different from the one in Pondy where I spent many years as a child. The beach is always full of local vendors selling sarongs and kites and luring one to go for a glass bottom boat cruise to some tortoise island- alas, having no company, I could only lust after the idea!

Bali is where the senses come alive. Inextricably woven into the fabric of experience, sights, sounds, and smells will adorn your visit, while the gentle breezes caress your skin. Heaven is lounging on a beach for a relaxing massage. I didn’t go for the massage but the setting on the Nusa Dua beach was divine. The link has a picture just above the heading Nusa Dua. 

So, after a truly queenly complimentary breakfast at the hotel, I would either do a workout at the gym, go for a swim in the pool, read a novel from the small hotel library which is full of Russian, Dutch, Korean and other books mostly, or lounge on the beach amidst the other "corpses" ( men and women all worshipping the sun rear end first on the lovely loungers which just cover miles and miles of silken sands).

It was around the middle of the stay that I sallied forth to discover the Ramayana Mall in the main city of Denpasar, a mile's drive from the hotel. Well, the Mall did not have anything I wanted to buy as its products were mainly of the kind locals would require but I got a good look at the city and the passing scenery. 

I lunched on very local fare- something which seems to be chicken liver inside a kind of what looks like a wicker ball made of chicken flesh and Siapi which is what Indians call paya. 

I flaunted the odd word or two of Bahasha Indonesia thanks to my stay in KL. And I was very deeply moved by the sweet harmony between Hindu and Muslim in Bali. People would recognize my friend as "Islam" and she was treated with tender respect and once when she wanted to try some street food called Nasi Padang, some girls rushed to stop her shouting "Islam" for that food might not have been Halal. In that scene, the girl who was selling the food stuffs pointed at herself and said Islam and so did some other girls and the two who had rushed to save my friend from the non- halal food giggled and said they were Hindu- then we shared with them the fact that I was Hindu and she Muslim.

The Hinduism here is hardly recognizable to us! Although the temples look like those in Kerala as do the landscape and villages… For example, we had quails eggs on sticks like lollypops which were coated with beef paste- nothing to write home about frankly, that one! Otherwise it seems more like Ladakh or Bhutan or even Nepal…

The photo to the left shows some offerings placed on a kerb. I did not get the chance to visit a Balinese temple but some houses seem to have the concept of having a small temple in front of the house.

In many taxis and shopping centres Hindu music was being played. I recall the Gayatri. 

Later when I read a book by a famous Indonesian writer, I gathered more insight into how Hindusim traveled there and how the mythologies morphed. Most roads have some statue depicting some sequence from Hindu mythology.

The last two days were hectic but enjoyable with organized tours- the first one was a long ride to a village where we dined at the residence of a prince 
and were entertained with many lovely dances and a special 'trance dance" drama that was thrilling. All the villagers had gathered around also to watch from discretely. 

Must visit spots include the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park. This special park has a huge statue of Visnu. 

We were greeted at the entrance by a "creature" which you can see in the second photo above. I also recall a giant Garuda. It is, all in all, an enchanting excursion.
There is also a small zoo somewhere which we only visited to have lunch. 

Let’s not forget shopping! I wish we’d had more time in Ubud where I picked up a couple of tops to wear with jeans.  A lot of strange monkeys roam around Ubud. 

Ubud is where I would hang out most if I ever get to go there again. It has so much to see and do. Most of the shopping can be done there but there are also other places to visit in that locality.

There was a most memorable dinner as the sun set over Tanah LotEven at 
Tanah Lot, we were greeted by the famous monkey dancers. 

This is another splendid place to stroll through and evening is the best time to visit it. Before you enter the complex there is a sprawling local market and inside there was a large snake near the entrance. But nothing can compare to the breathtaking experience of sunset from Tanah Lot.

A mere bus ride through the green paddy fields delights the heart. The sky is alive with kites

I was also most taken up with the Rudana art gallery framed by green fields, where, in the courtyard, artists worked on beautiful projects. 

Almost each paragraph here would require its own blog entry! But I leave that task to you, dear reader, hoping this blog entry of mine will inspire you to fly to Bali and I look forwards to reading all that you will post and enjoying all your photos.

One whiff of a Frangipani flower is enough to put me back in a Bali state of mind!

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Christine Jordis- Myanmar Through Very Jaundiced Eyes

This is my second Christine Jordis. The cover looked inviting. The title, Promenades en terre bouddhiste. Birmanieeven more so.

Alas, a brief saunter through the pages left me feeling far from any Buddhist serenity. Flipping to the end in case I was too hasty in my judgement, I continued to want to punch the author silly. 

Rangoon, 2003, mostly describes train journeys. A couple of pages are devoted to a young man from the military who is lounging (Christine finds this abominable) on a berth. A young woman with a cute baby enters the compartment. It is his wife. She lets loose a tantrum. The sequence ends with the youth lying near his wife and looking up at her and his child. Our prurient Jordis finds that there is a lack of modesty in this "joute érotique". What the White blather rafting?! 

Grabbing a good handful of my store of Buddhist Samata, I took a deep breath and delved into the book at random. Counting to ten didn’t help. Ma Hnin Khin, une femme independente, is a chapter lovingly devoted to the demonising of a myanmarese lady. This poor woman has a malicious smile, her very entry into the author's life is imp-like, and, horror of horrors, she speaks at least three languages (French, English and German)! How in the name of every colonial god can such base creatures dare to possess any skills?! It's a chapter where the author's full blown paranoia takes on gargantuan dimensions.

Christine Jordis epitomises what a good many “white” folk do. I’m often told by some of the latter that they are not personally responsible for the misdeeds of their forefathers. Fair enough. Yet a few laws making certain terms politically incorrect seem only to have thrown the onus on the victims. Thus, Indians beat themselves up about being racist. Rather unfair, what!

To return to my White bête noire, Ms Jordis has the unfortunate gift of despoiling every Asian land that she visits. Her book about Indonesia, Bali, Java in my dreams, painted a very depressing portrait of a people and a culture I found entirely enchanting. 

And Myanmar being a country my husband has visited and raved about, I blindly picked up Promenades en terre bouddhiste since it purported to be about Birmanie.

Damn but the woman just loves to hate us Asians! All the women in her Promenades en terre bouddhiste are depicted as malicious slant eyed sluts. Actually, if one just takes an anthropological stand, one could say that this presents a fascinating insight into human female behavior. The young women of Myanmar seen through my husband’s camera lens looked so innocent and pretty that I did feel a qualm. Could it be that Jordis’ journeys through these lands left her feeling insecure?  

I have observed that, often, “White” men and women visiting the Far East and other such “exotic” destinations, end up making money out of these jaunts.  A book about some art form or aspect of culture, and, nowadays, a website where an Indian can even learn how to tie a sari. An almost obsession to co-opt anything that seems worthwhile. “You may have done all this but, by writing about it, I display a superior claim to it”. And so they teach you Yoga, how to play the sitar and, even, how to cook your own dishes.

What is wrong with such cultural give and take, you ask? Nothing. Save that when an Asian or other such does anything of the sort, cries of “plagiarism”, monkey see monkey do and similar expressions of mocking outrage stream out at us. Also, give and take takes on a very nasty flavor if one converts it to take and give. Remember how cloth was taken and clothes were given? Geographies were taken and readymade enemy nations were given?

Jordis is in direct lineage of those who once claimed that there was scientific evidence to prove that some races are inferior. She travels and writes for the primary purpose of showing down the peoples she visits. She is, in short, a rather unpleasant visitation.

With her connections she gets away with published books in inviting covers. A fulsome over ornate style serves to voice her mourning of neglected colonial architecture and, if such an appetite moves you, her books might enlighten you about various authors from the colonial times. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Gu Family Book-Of Mythical Beings, Love and Other Dramas

Of late I've been watching one Korean drama after the other. The latest one is Gu Family Book.

A mythical guardian of a mountain sees a damsel in distress. The immortal chooses to become mortal so that he may love and be loved by the human woman. Tragedy ensues. But that is just the beginning for a child has been conceived and this serial deals with his life. History repeats itself. Love and tragedy are framed within a complex web of stories, yet the threads are rich with humour and the triumph of good.

With 24 episodes, I've still a lot to watch but at Episode 9, I'm glued and ever eager to get to watch the next one.

I do hope Indian Television will start broadcasting Korean films and dramas. Not only are they enjoyable and more so given the similarities in culture but they are also less laced with poisonous versions of reality such as we see in the few "foreign" shows available on Indian TV.

Exposure to Korean dramas will also improve the quality of Indian serials which, so far, seem to continue to reflect a twisted face of our realities. Without plagiarism, what should emerge from such a relationship is a richer stock of stories and better technical skills.

Korean dramas display a refined sense of moral values, including family values, on the one hand, and on the other, they manifest a concern for good government. To be able to do these heavy duties and provide ace entertainment is indeed laudable.   

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Theroux's Sunrise with Seamonsters: An enchanting introduction to English Literature, random authors, Theroux and other demons

Long long ago, I used to enjoy Paul Theroux. And then I chose not to read him and others who view the world as through a film of scum. He is, undeniably,  among those living authors whose works can be classified as Literature. Yet, like many such of these times, or, actually of a certain chunk of history, he manages, mostly, to leave one feeling distinctly soiled, leaves that which he writes about, tainted.

It was a random pick when I was in a bit of a hurry, that left me reading Sunrise with Seamonsters.

This is a book I would choose if I were to give one class on English literature. Theroux's pieces, of which this book is a collection, deal, as we are wont to expect from him, with his travels, on the one hand: Burma, Malaysia, Africa and India, among other places, lands he has traveled or lived in.

On the other side, the book has outstanding essays on authors like R L Stevenson and Henry James, to mention a few. One of my favourite chapters concerns the time he met Naipaul and how the latter became his mentor, in a way. I later found, by surfing the Internet, that they had a major feud along the way. So, this book is a great read for anyone who enjoys English language literature and a painless way for the amateur litterateur to acquire some knowledge about the great authors of that genre.

An added bonus is his splendid though sometimes noxious style. Little wonder that he chose to look upon Naipaul as a guru! And it is this trait which, of course, made the Singapore Government wary of him.

It's a delightfully gossipy and irreverent way to learn something of how famous authors, including Theroux, write, how they live and how the mighty can be flighty or just plain petty.

This is an excellent book for the traveler, the student of English and American literature, the reader who enjoys fine writing laced with piquant spice and anyone who enjoys a good  read.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Me, Amelie Nothomb and Other Japanese Dramas

Given my attention deficit disorder when reading or watching movies or serials, I must confess that Stupeur et tremblements has held me in thrall so far. I am not in a stupour when I read Amelie's entertaining story but I do kind of quiver with amusement. Each line draws such a caricatural vision of a French woman trapped in a nightmare world of Japanese enterprise. It strikes a familiar chord in me as I have had close encounters with the sort of experiences about which she writes. This is surely also true for many other Indians who live largely via their English language (or other European language) selfs. For those of us who live this schizoid life, our own cultures are inscrutable to us many a time.

Almost every Indian who lives this duality feels faced with insanity when dealing with various situations in India. And often we apologise to visiting Westerners when we perceive their exasperation at the "mysterious" behaviours often encountered in India.

In the book, for example, the young lady is made to perform mindless chores and is humiliated at every turn. The person she considers to be friendly is actually her worst enemy. I recall experiencing a lot of bewilderment when I was a school teacher in India briefly as I often failed to process what I found to be very strange behaviour from other teachers. There are ever so many pecking orders, a lot of intrigue and most of it is processed via some prior socialisation that does not take place overtly. Indian bureaucracy is still strongly capable of confusing many (sometimes even those who are in on this phenomenon).

In more than this do I empathise with the heroine. Take for example the trouble she has in copying figures from a sheet on to the computer. I will, exactly like her, commit many mistakes. My mind freezes when it beholds numbers. But, for all that, I will look forwards to a chance to visit Japan. I will crave Japanese friends. And, for the moment, for want of all that, I have discovered a taste for Japanese dramas.

Although I have watched a few Japaneses films earlier  it is only now that I have broached the dramas. I'm well into Bull Doctor, a series about forensics with two very strong female leads. I'm also thoroughly enjoying Gyne which as the name implies is about gynecology. Both far outrank House and other so called Medical TV serials that I've seen.

And in viewing these, I find myself at odds with Mlle Nothomb. It is so easy for me to follow the cultural subtleties these dramas portray. This is, obviously, not a world in which Mlle Nothomb would feel comfortable. She and her ilk perhaps think they invented the world and its cultures. Yet I will not condemn her and will hasten to recommend Stupeur et Tremblements as a very good read. Especially for those who cherish the special brand of French humour. 

Alas that more Indians who reach this blog entry will turn to her book than to the dramas for we are still, for the most part of the population who easily interacts with the world beyond our borders, schizoid: the deeper being has cultural resonance with other countries which were once colonies of Europe and the external interactive being is conditioned to think that it vibes with the people on the shows one catches on Star World and the like.      

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Wedding Campaign- Korean

When we lived in Gurgaon between the late nineties and the mid-2000s, I had a Bengali cook. She was a widow. Apparently she'd been married off to an aging Haryanvi. Although she had no complaints about her in-laws and stressed that she only took on such work to pass the time of day, her story opened my eyes to this sort of marriage in present day India.
We are told, time and again, by the media that the Indian sex ratio is very skewed. While the major blame for this has been laid at the doorstep of supposedly traditional practices like female foeticide, I have heard of other explanations. Be that as it may, I was curious to look at a film from another country which talks about a shortage of women.

The film is a little slow to begin with but that is not, in itself, a major put-off. There is a lot of tenderness, a pace of life so far from the rat race that there is time to chew on a straw and gaze at faraway hills. A farmer, in his late 30s, living with his mother and grandfather, finds that he has to go to Uzbekistan if at all he is to find a bride. And so he and his best friend set off and the film's pace picks up for a while.

We are deeply moved by the naivete of this man as is the heroine although she is struggling with her own issues. There are cinematically breathtaking moments throughout.

Which is why the end is rather abrupt and I wonder why it had to be so.  

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Visit to Finesse Spa & Salon, Aundh, on a timesdeal Steal

In a moment of delightful idleness I chanced upon a timesdeal steal which seemed too good to be true: 
Pay Rs 499 for Full Body Massage/Waxing, Pedicure, Manicure & Threading worth Rs 3400 @ Finesse Spa & Salon

Although in a fairly popular commercial area, the salon is discretely tucked away above a bank and easy to miss. Which is a pity because, once the pretty glass door is opened, you enter a very relaxed, clean parlour. The decor at Finesse Spa & Salon has been handled with a lot of finesse. I was in for a very luxurious experience-a real steal at the price.
First came the threading and I must say I'm impressed that I did not have to wince even once which I normally do several times over when threaded. 
This was followed by waxing, carried out in a little room to one side, clean and functional. The waxing was, again, painless and swift and not at all messy. 

Finally, I was ushered back to the main space and led to a plush and comfortable seat with a large fancy tub before it. This was filled with nice hot water which kept changing colour as it swirled and bubbled around my feet. For the third time in a row I was delighted that the pedicure did not entail anything painful as it normally does for me-the use of the pumice stone by the wrong pair of hands can leave my feet scraped of the very skin and hurting for days to come. Thankfully, the FSS specialist did all her work with care and a gentle touch. I opted for some nice deep blue nail polish as she refused to put a different colour on each nail-a ritual I've adopted after watching Populaire.
As I lounged through this blissful pampering, soothing "Oriental" music wafted over me, emanating from behind the closed doors of the massage room.  
It was time to move on but I'd like to thank these young ladies from the bottom of my heart for making my day!

Friday, March 07, 2014

Bridging "Across Forever"

Married to a freelance film maker, I hardly had any time with my husband as he toiled day and night and most weekends to meet deadlines and chase payments. This was in the eighties and most of the nineties and he had to cover the long, nerve racking, dusty distances of Delhi's sprawl on our old Java. 

With the 2000s, he was settling down a bit but he is restless at heart and, in next to no time, he was back to freelancing after a stint at a desk job.
The times were hard and, when he was selected for an Intergovernmental job in Malaysia, he took it up. I stayed back as I had others to think of for whom the move overseas was not to prove so easy. 

It was something like six months of long distance love and plenty of heartache as, though he had not been home much in the earlier years, something is always better than nothing. I could at least get that bear hug however late he got home at night.

When I was in college, Leo Sayer sang to me
The telephone can't take the place of your smile

Skype love is often more frustrating than soothing.

However, nothing but nothing stands in the way of true love and, with all problems smoothed out, I joined him in Kuala Lumpur where we lived for some five years. Five years in the sweet land of love and gentleness and amazing food! 

Yet, home is where the heart is and India is my home, my heart and the day came when we returned and it was sheer bliss to be back, to be engulfed in the mind boggling diversity, where every sense comes alive, the mind is always challenged by a myriad issues, where a gazillion beautiful eyes sparkle at you even when you are just one in a billion, and where you can see cows on busy highways and monkeys and donkeys and where children can make joyous noise and the neighbour can barge in whenever. This is home! And I love every second of it!

But! Sayer may sing
Honey that's a heavy load that we bear
But you know I won't be traveling a lifetime
 Some people just can't gather no moss and, after about thirty years of being married to him, I can safely say that the man I love cannot grow roots! I enjoy traveling with him, leading a semi nomadic life and never taking tomorrow for granted and I've learned to love his dreams. 

Over the years I've seen my dreamer's dreams come true-a film on this, a book on that, such and such project and so many other things. 
And that is why I know that one day we'll be flying to the land of the midnight sun to get a ringside view of the Northern Lights!

That's how far I'll go to get closer to the man I love. It's my promise to the next solar maxima and to my beloved husband.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Family Adventures in the JNU Ravines

Long long ago, sometime in the mid-eighties, I received massive amounts of documents to translate. My husband volunteered to keep our son engaged while I typed away through pages about Borobudur and Buddhist Art and Architecture. It was quite a satisfactory arrangement but I was curious about where they went and what they did.
One fine day I was free and we three set off on our ancient Java to the nearby Jawaharlal Nehru University Campus. After parking the motorcycle somewhere, we headed off into the wilderness which still surrounds much of the campus today.
At first we trudged through brambles and got all hot and dusty but just as I was at the end of my tether we reached The Adventure! There was an arduous clamber down rocks, well worth the making like a mountain goat for down there was a crystal clear stream. We rested, munched on sandwiches, and sipped on nimbu paani  after wading in the cool waters and splashing off the tiredness. 
As we lounged in the shade, we saw a big owl-a great horned owl I think it was! Even as I type out this account, I chance upon a newspaper article from some ten years after which talks of a Proposal for a National Park on JNU land. Smeeta Mishra Pandey reports that the Campus Development Committee of JNU had "initiated a project to convert 400-odd acres there into a national park for neelgai, horn owls, porcupines, foxes and snakes as part of the Save JNU Ridge campaign. "The JNU Executive Council has also applied to the Forest Department of the Delhi Government to declare a large section of JNU, from the Poorvanchal to Paschimabad area, as reserved forest area under the Indian Forest Act." goes her article where Depanjol Chakraborty, then security consultant, JNU is reported as saying:
I live in a staff quarter near the School of Physical Sciences. Neelgai often walk into the little garden I have in the morning. There were so many of them earlier. We could spot them at all places and all times. But now one gets to see them only in the early hours.
My husband had often spoken of seeing neelgai wander the JNU campus. According to the above quoted article, 
there is tremendous pressure on the vegetation and wildlife on campus from the people living in the nearby slums and villages in Munirka and Vasant Kunj. ``Every evening one sees people returning from the JNU campus with loads of firewood, '' says Prof Mridula Mukherjee, member of the JNU Campus Development Committee.``One can also see cattle returning to the nearby villages after grazing on campus for the entire day. Forest cover has thinned in certain areas of the campus which need to be protected now.''
The article mentions that the ravines are located deep inside the 1200-acre JNU campus, are about 100 ft deep and 220 ft wide and almost inaccessible, making them a natural reserve for wildlife. According to the write-up, 
the trees native to the region includes Khejri (Prosopis Cineraria), Babool (Acacia Arabica), Safed Kikhar (Acacia Leucaphloca) and Dhao (Anogeissus Pendula). These trees do not require much nurturing and grow in arid regions. 
We also saw many exotic butterflies but, alas, we did not glimpse the common palm civet According to another newspaper article
Some butterflies found commonly on the campus are Red Pierrot, Blue Pansy, Common Silverline and Lime Butterfly. The Indian Cabbage White, Painted Lady and Indian Fritillary are migratory, flying 400-500 km from the Himalayas to reach Delhi. 
I think I saw the Blue Pansy that day.
The Hindu reports
The 1,000-acre JNU is also home to nearly 80 species of butterflies, over 24 species of reptiles, hundreds of insects and around 12 species of small and large wild animals including the Indian rock python.
We wound our weary way back in the late afternoon, plucking wild bers, pungent but full of protein. Yet though we were thoroughly exhausted and had lots of scratches all over, this was an adventure I shall never forget and one which I'm grateful my son had access to in those tender formative years.
No urban adventure "parks" and other paid for enjoyments can ever bring to us, man, woman or child the wonders and sense of fulfilment that a foray into wild nature offers.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Some Korean Tonight-Rooftop Prince

Thanks to our Astro subscription in our Malaysia days, I got hooked to the delights of Korean serials, or, as they are more popularly called, dramas.
KBS has a major fan in me. And, even if I did not get to watch many programmes fully, it was via KBS that I got "tasters", so to speak, of many an entertaining drama.
To give you an idea of just how engrossing they can be, we once bought a set of DVDs of a Korean drama only to find there were no subtitles. Which did not deter us. My husband and I were so addicted that we could hardly wait for the sun to go down so that, all the day's work done, we could settle down to catch up on what was next on Spring Waltz.
After coming back to India, however, we lost touch with Korean dramas even though we found many Koreans in most of the Indian cities we visited. We are told that Korean cinema is very popular in the North East and a few Indian Face Book friends seem to also have a taste for Korean movies.
So imagine my utter delight to find Rooftop Prince!
A prince loses his princess, who is found dead in the palace pond. Along with his faithful retinue of three, all talented in various ways, he looks for clues to solve the mystery of her death when he and his servants are magically transported to our times.We can imagine the fun that ensues and are amply rewarded.
But this is not just a comedy.
There is lots of  intrigue and oodles of awwwwwwww-worthy love not to mention buckets of heartbreak and betrayal.
Costume dramas can be bore but here you have just the right mix of period and modern to keep you well engaged.
I strongly suggest you stock up on munchies, all kinds of snacks but most especially be sure to have steaming hot noodles to shlurp on along with quantities of tissue to mop your chin or your tears.
New to the genre? Then this is a good one to break you in.
While it won't be hard to find a way to watch it on-line, do consider buying it for yourself or as a gift for someone special.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bali, Java, In My Dreams by Christine Jordis-Just Not my Cup of Java!

This book is, so far (I'm hardly through with the first chapter), another example of how not to write. 
The very first paragraph is an excellent illustration. The author begins thus: 
Seen from the plane, during the rainy season...
and proceeds to describe what can never ever be seen from a plane. 
She then merrily carries on, wading daintily in her foetid imagination, through  a very depressing description of Jakarta-not at all how I saw the place. Could it be that I'm Indian and she is not? Could the colour of her skin have so blinded her that, with nary a care for the feelings of any Indonesian who might read the book, she wallows in a most obnoxious desire to follow in the footsteps of Conrad and co. 
Perhaps, however, Bali, Java, en rêvant  might be just the book for you if you want some trivia about Europeans who wrote about these regions in times past. 
A deplorable book, by any standard, but not an uncommon one.
In my childhood, I heard of Europeans, people of European origin, who visit the lands they had once systematically abused through the machinery of colonialism, and promptly publish a book upon their return. In the same vein, one noted in the course of the years, almost as if it were a matter of pride, a trait to be emulated, these white skinned foreigners visiting India, hanging around x or y artiste or crafts persons or the like and pulling a book out the top of their hats within a short time of their going back from where they had come.   In short, these modern day offspring of erstwhile bandits seemed to tell us: the only worthwhile thing in life is to make money. Whatever you see, hear, experience, go forth and make it your own, make money out of it. So, whatever be the subject, there exists a white person who has written a book on it based on "authentic" experience. 
Alas, most of us others still fall flat on our faces in abject adoration that so and so white person visited such and such sitar player or weaver or other local talent and, what is more, wrote a book about that person! 
It seems besides the point to most that one is minting money out of the talents of another to whom one never really gives much/any of the rewards gained by publishing one's "encounters" with the real salt of the earth.
To conclude, it is also necessary to remark that, more often than not, such works are riddled with inaccuracies which once published pass off as God's own truth. At the very least, such authors serve to perpetuate prejudice.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Théodore Poussin-Marie-Vérité

This week's graphic novel on my reading list, it immediately captured my attention over the rest of the books in the pile as it is set in the area around/near Malaysia.
Of course, it is as colonial in its depiction as any from all the Somerset Maugham clones. Yet the story is action packed and the graphics enchant.
To know more: 
Théodore Poussin is a comic book series created by French writer Frank Le Gall about a glasses-wearing hero - it was first published in 1984, in Spirou magazine. The third volume of the series, Marie-Vérité won 1989 Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for Best Comic Book.
 Read an extract at
Another extract and more about the author and his works ...

 The year is 1929. At Long Andju, the sultanate of Sarawak at Borneo, preparations to celebrate Christmas are afoot when the Marie Vérité sails in.
The European residents of the island are busy living it up at the British embassy when a stranger from the ship joins them. Théodore Poussin was invited by the daughter of the consul. Yet he is actually there to look for the daughter of Sir Laurance who disppeared during Aru-El-Kader's takeover 15 years ago. She was called Marie Vérité. Théodore Poussin is not welcome at Long Andju.
In the meanwhile another stranger arrives. Is he back from the dead? With a vengeance? (My rough translation from

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Aadhaar Farce!

We enrolled but have not got the Aadhaar card. I followed all the instructions given in TOI Jan 11 and emailed them -still no response. What will happen to the less advantaged people of India if such is the case with us?!