To a Temple and a Play

While the logic behind time-travel itself is vastly debatable, even on a fundamental level, everyone of us have a fascination to travel back in time. To somewhere personal, to a place of historical importance, or perhaps to a place so still and away from the daily hustles. Personally, I am very much drawn towards history which extends a bit further to the myths too! Of-course future is intriguing, but it can wait. Setting my mobile phone between different time zones is the closest I could get about time-travel. However on the brighter side, there are already immense opportunities to peek into the past – through the timeless sculptures, the mind-blowing literary works that pass through generations and live along as folklore and subtle classic art forms. Even an unearthed ware of the past would hold stories to be told.

Visiting Rameswaram and watching the play Ponniyin Selvan recently, in successive weeks, were quiet a stroll in the past. Ram-Eswaram is where Lord Ram worshiped Lord Shiva (Eeswar) to absolve the sins caught upon killing demon King Ravana. And Ponniyin Selvan which translates to “Son of River Cauvery (Ponni)” is a play based on semi-fictional historical novel of the same name.

Lakshmanan Temple Pool at Rameshwaram

The Island Rameswaram in the southern most of India was the happening ground, as the epic literature Ramayana nears the climatic war in the neighboring island Srilanka. The myth runs in the very air of the town. Only that its real sense of spiritualism is getting lost with the growing commercialism around religion and superstitions among mindless people. Nevertheless, as the local cabbie took us through important landmarks, it gave me an imperssion as though the myth was only a history and Lord Ram, his consort Sita, his brother Lakshman and his devout Hanuman, they all once walked the place. Places like Villoondi Theertham (Arrow-Hit-Water), floating stones supposedly of present day Adams Bridge, Ram’s footprint they all suggest a real nature to the epic.

Villoondi Theertham is a well, very very close to the ocean waves that is unbelievably fresh, but reasonably, which per the epic is because Lord Ram struck the well point by his magical arrow to quench his lady’s thirst. Later on when Sita was kidnapped by Ravana, a floating bridge was built by Ram’s army to reach Ravana’s lair. As much as the water I tasted was fresh, the rocks in the display of a nearby temple were floating. But I didn’t feel like researching it’s authenticity when they offered the rock for a price so cheap as 500 bucks. But the fact remains true about a bridge (floating?) walk-able until a couple of centuries ago.

While various temples of Lord Ram around were simple, old rock structures, the prime temple where Lord Shiva is in the form of Linga, astoundingly covers a length of two to three streets with arrays of rock pillars intricately carved and aligned to utmost geometric perfection. Within the temple there are 22 holy-water wells each with a name and meaning and every pilgrim gets a bucket of water poured over the head from each of the 22. That was fun. After all the drenching in holy waters and temple visits, one is suggested to visit ultimately the temple Ekantha Ramar Kovil where Lord Ram finally had peace after a troubled phase of exile and war. It is believed that the pilgrims too would find happiness in life upon visiting this temple of Exultant Ram.

From there time got forwarded by a week, to 10th century exactly on the stage, where the titular character Arulmozhi Varman (Ponniyin Selvan) ultimately becomes the crown prince over conspiracies, royal murder, vengeance and unprecedented twists that are subtly linked like a web. And he actually went on to become the greatest Chola king in the history.

Crew of Ponniyin Selvan Play

Given that the classic novel has more than two generation old fans and quiet a big plot spanning five books with numerous characters, the expectations were high.  And to put such a huge book into a three and a half hour play, keeping up with the key aspects and characters of the book, were definitely a difficult task, which the Magic Lantern team produced in an inspiring way on stage. The simple stage was preset cleverly to exhibit a fort at the background and a bit of rocky ledges around and a puddle of water upfront. The puddle was sometimes a pond and some times the ocean. Oh! we got the picture very well there. Only a little manual work was required to add details to the scenes in between.

As the story travels with the protagonist Vanthiyathevan the quickwitted warrior, who carries the message of his friend  – the crown prince Aaditha Karikaalan, to the sick Emperor and his sister Kundavai the princess, he stumbles upon conspiracies, falls in love with the good-beautiful princess, double plays with the evil but the most beautiful usurper Nandhini, gets  into neck deep trouble often and finally ends up being a good friend of young prince Arulmozhi Varman at a distant island Sri Lanka. He also encounters Aalvaarkadiyaan a wandering pilgrim who turns out to be the Minister’s spy, a carefree fisher-girl with a dream of becoming a queen one day and Paluvettaraiyar the commander in chief of the empire who plays a pivotal role. Despite the extended hour, the play kept us seated throughout and the performance as a whole including the folk dances in between enthralled the audience who had been waiting to see the classic in some live action form for a long time.

Now, talking about the history, time travel and all, it raises in me the question,
“Do we now have our earth as a place worth visiting from the future?”

The God of Small Things [Book Review]

God-of-Small-Things-Quote

We wake up. We eat. We work. And we sleep. That’s how life has been for many of us, almost all of us, between any time frame.  But beyond the grey line there are lives that has seen the wicked turns of life. Being merely puppets that has lost the hang of the strings by their smallest actions, smallest words that were not really meant. Ammu too wouldn’t have meant when she said to her twin kids, “If it weren’t for you I would be free.. You are the millstones round my neck-“, in an outburst. But that’s what made them to “Prepare to prepare to be prepared” that changed their lives forever.

Reading “The God of Small Things” by Arundathi Roy is a total delight. This 1997 Booker Prize winner hardly needs any new adulation or critical review. The cover page covers that precisely,

“Intricately plotted, it captures to perfection the magical and anguished world of twins Estha and Rahel. Luxurious, tender and devastating”.

It is magical in the way the real world of  Ayemenem (Kerala), a green part of southern India, is brought to our minds unadulterated. Some might perceive it melancholic and that’s only because it lacks the conventional happily-ever-after ending. On the outset the book beautifully contrasts the death of two people.  Sophie Mol, the little white girl from England, who was loved by all and the other, the untouchable carpenter, who too was loved equally but secretly. But in the greater depths of the words there are many emotions than just sadness. The way Roy narrates the things will keep you holding the book in awe. Consider this, when Chako describes History to his young twin cousins,

“He made them imagine that the earth – four thousand six hundred million years old – was a forty-six-year-old woman.. It had take the whole of Earth Woman’s life for the earth to become what it was. The Earth woman eleven years old, when the first single-celled organisms appeared.. She was over forty-five – just eight months ago – when dinosaurs roamed the earth.. And we, my dears, everything we are and ever will be – are just a twinkle in her eye..”

However the best thing about the novel is the way things are described, the way the events are drawn in our minds with utter sarcasm braced to metaphors. As the twins and their family wait in their Plymouth on a rail crossing,

“There were so many stains on the road.
Squashed frog-shaped stains on in the Universe.
Squashed crows that had tried to eat the squashed frog-shaped stains in the Universe.
Squashed dogs that ate the squashed crow-shaped stains in the Universe.”

And at a later point Joe’s absence becomes,

“a Joe shaped hole in the Universe.”

The pace of the story remains constant throughout, even though it jumps between the past and the present. Yes, this is one good non-linear fiction. It never rushes to meet a climax. Even at the penultimate chapters when the emotions pile up, the Kathakali (regional dance-drama) playing at the temple is a much needed respite for Rahel and the readers too. There we also get to understand the contemporary status of Kerala’s iconic art and its artiste,

“The Kathakali Man is the most beautiful of Men. Because his body is his soul. His only instrument. From the age of three it has been planed and polished, pared down, harnessed wholly to the task of story-telling.. But these days he has become unviable. Unfeasible. Condemned goods. In despair he turns to tourism.. He becomes a Regional Flavor.”

In all “The God of Small Things” is a breezy read that might dishearten you here and there, but by the end you will find yourself at peace for the way the characters get on with their lives. You will feel a thirst quenched with every turn of the page.

Raagam Bakery

“The Tea Shop” is just around the corner of the road to my place. This has become a regular pit-stop on my way back from work, to take a breath from a long day. It is much of a tea shop and yet goes around with the suffix “bakery” to the name in line with a decade long tea shop tradition in the locality. They do bake, boil and fry a variety of stuff. Stuffs that are mouthwatering like the pineapple cake, jammed cakes, photo printed birthday cakes, assortment of biscuits, cubes of colorful homemade chocolates, all stacked in order, inside temperature controlled glass displays. And yet a couple of files are already in, sampling the freshly baked. Life always finds its way. Meanwhile the common favorites the puffs (veg and non-veg), it’s cousins the mushroom puffs, paneer puffs, and what-not stuffed puffs are put inside containers of optimal temperature. Just below the ceiling a series of black, orange and green colored bottles ran for almost half the length of the shop – beverages, many on the verge of their expiry date. Today, just like any other evening, the bakery is crammed with people who just got off their work. The construction workers in rags, travelling families just out of their SUVs, neighborhood mothers with their kids, carefree old men and me with an ID tag hanging down the collar, all staged perfectly, some seated, some standing with their eyes popping and nose making macaroon against the glass displays.

I didn’t make any order today. But in no time a plate with four salt biscuits and a tea was served. The guy serving is so accustomed to my routine that he never bothers to ask me what I want. I am happy with that. However at times, it severely backfires if I had something else in mind. I could hardly make anything out of the buzz around. Teen groups laughing on their particular jokes, merchant yelling in his mobile, kids keenly slurping ice creams, coins clinking at the counter. So while I wait for the tea I involuntarily pick my phone and start scratching it. But once it is on the table, business is business. I start dipping the biscuits into the tea and munch it to ecstasy, hardly gazing around the movements inside or across the busy road.

For “The Daily Post’s Writing101 – June2014″.

Hands on the Board

While I contemplate over where to start with on unlocking the mind, I struggle. Cos, it’s not so easy to pick just one thing out of the mind, at a time. Like a shuffled iTunes. You won’t know what comes next. Like a monkey. It never ceases to jump branches, even when you never wanted it to. Had it stopped, things would have been a lot better. But then that’s the fun part of life. Thoughts wandered over almost everything of my much shrunken world. It ran past the obvious. Love. My Family. My Friends. My monotonous weekday. I tried harder to focus on something different and specific. To give something reasonable to read. But with a quick bolt over my head I realized it’s too much to look for a point in everything. I went on with the flow. That reminded me of a quote from “Doctor Who”,
“There’s no point being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes.”

And also Roland Barthes’,
“We no longer look at the world with the eyes of a confessor, of a doctor, or of God himself but with the eyes of a man walking in his city with no other horizon than the scene before him, no other power than that of his own eyes.”

Simple and profound. Isn’t it a fact that we always see what we wanted to see leaving the rest to the oblivion?

Moving on, I was watching “What Women Want”, a fantasy-comedy movie starring Mel Gibson. It opened doors for more than one thought to me. Just thoughts, no answers yet! Would it not?  That’s a million dollar question in the title. Cos somewhere under the sun the apple went missing. The apple that rolled down the Newton’s head. The apple that had all the answers. The simple apple that Adam had to pluck to woo Eve.

For “The Daily Post’s Writing101 – June2014”.

The 3 Questions I Fear!

I am being interviewed by a Pulitzer winner reporter! While just the idea of that seems absurd for a commoner like me, I have to pursue the following note with pure imagination. For I think I could possibly get interviewed ever only by my spouse (future) for constant financial irregularities or by my manager for successfully maintaining late in-time. However I wouldn’t fear an interview by a Pulitzer winner on any matters for she could never ask anything beyond my social network status updates – I believe. Said that, I sincerely suggest her to touch base with my siblings or the next door guy whose window (or teeth) I broke with a ball or my pet kitties and puppy I constantly pestered as a kid, if she still feels like I should be asked those tricky questions. If nothing has worked better, you can still look out for my best pals. They never showed the slightest hesitation to pull my legs, ever!

Anyhow, here are those three that I really hope she doesn’t ask me,

1. Have you ever kissed a girl?
Answer: I am afraid I haven’t!

2. Do you know how it feels?
Answer: I am sure you understand by my prior answer this is a mutually exclusive question and incidentally the answer is NO for this too!

3. That seems to me like you are going no where!
Answer: No, I am going to be a Pulitzer winner and ask questions!

For “The Daily Post’s Daily Prompts”
Trick Questions “A Pulitzer-winning reporter is writing an in-depth piece – about you. What are the three questions you really hope she doesn’t ask you?”

For “The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt″.
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/trick-questions/

Godzilla 2014 [Movie Review]

Godzilla-2014

First things first. For the uninitiated, be aware that it has been sixty years since the conception of the King of the Monsters ‘Gojira’ and so far 28+ productions under Toho Co., Ltd (Japan) which has garnered millions of fans worldwide as a pop culture. However this doesn’t necessarily mean that you knew how the original Godzilla looked like if you don’t confuse him with Roland Emmerich’s (American) Godzilla 1998.

Meanwhile in 2013, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim did baffle the upcoming robot, monster genres with its Jaeger-Kaiju action fantasy. It surely must have put Michael Bay to rework his Transformers fourth installment. Our Daikaiju (Giant Monster) stood no exception to Toro’s benchmark. That being said, I hope you can appreciate the expectations the great beast shoulders for its 2014 reboot. And I must admit that British director Gareth Edwards gave a movie that Godzilla deserves in the digital era.

In Legendary-Warner Bros Pictures’ Godzilla, in every bit of a scene Big G was on screen, he was in his entire splendor being so true to the classic characterization. When the beast shows up for the first time with a thundering roar, you would rather adore him than getting spooked. And this directly attributes to the fact that the facial design of Godzilla involved bear, dog, eagle and komodo dragon. Albeit, when it comes to battle Godzilla is as fierce as his size and it is a spectacle best watched on the biggest screen when he fights the MUTOs when they get on his nerve. MUTOs however were no less, making up for equal and much darker adversaries. And the best part of the screenplay is that not much of anything is revealed so quickly. We get to see the monsters only almost after half the movie and their battles as a flash of scenes up until the end which keeps us engrossed throughout.

For any movie, especially a monster flick, human drama is so essential for us to relate to and Bryan Cranston (as Engineer Joe Brody) pulled off those emotions well in his tireless attempt to find answers for his personal loss. And that falters halfway when the gargantuans take on each other and the plight of the humans was not captured as much as the colossal catastrophe of the monsters. However there is an underlying message amidst the hardcore monster action that is evident in the line of Ken Watanabe (as Dr. Ichiro),

“The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around.”

Last but not the least, when you witness this tallest 350 feet incarnation ever, you will find J. Robert Oppenheimer’s quote from Bhagavad Gita so fitting,

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”