Female Friendship in Indian Cinema

Women friendship as a central theme has been barely seen in the silver screen. Before Aisha, Angry Indian Goddesses and Parched happened, when was the last time Bollywood actually depicted women and their relationship in the centerfold? I sat thinking but failed to come up with a convincing response. Does Bollywood celebrate female friendship enough? Women can drive a motorized vehicle as well as any man, so why are there not any roadtrip movies about women?

In Dil Chahta Hai the boys from Bombay went on a roadtrip to Goa. They celebrated bro-hood, rode bikes, sang songs, played beach volleyball, went fishing, and not to forget poor Saif’s character who get conned by his girlfriend. In Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara the roadtrip went international and the boys drove down the country roads of Spain. Here also bro-hood is in full display.  We have a Jai and Veeru (Sholay), Vijay and Ravi (Dostana), Sameer and Kunal (Dostana), but not anything to showcase the female bond. Is it because women are too jealous of each other to remain friends? Why do I feel that this concept was the invention of a male mind bent on stereotyping the behavior rather than understand its method of function.

Contrary to the prevalent popular belief girl talk is much more than exchange of juicy bits of neighborhood news. It is a highly functional emotional support system in those moments of life when the family fails to understand. That manager who turned down your request for leave, the case of the missing help after Diwali celebrations, the cute intern in HR department, the creepy man who stood too close behind you in the MTC bus, the PG lady who insists on behaving like Mrs. Havisham – all these stories would go untold and would have undone our minds if not for our reliable friend.

Now that Bollywood has just started acknowledging women as independent assertive righteous beings who are fine with being just friends with men and don’t quite enjoy gossip as much as they would like believe, isn’t it about time we get our own Thelma and Louise?

Edit: This post was selected by BlogAdda for their Tangy Tuesday 20 December 2016 edition.

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Netflix Diaries: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell

Off late I have been watching quite a lot of British dramas. Maybe it is the post effect of watching Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones, but its certainly a spell I am enjoying every bit of. In my quest for a fantasy British drama I stumbled upon Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – a BBC One mini-series production. It is an adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s popular book which has been identifies as a fantasy novel set in an alternative history in the Napoleanic wars.blog The drama opens in a war torn Great Britain where magic was shunned and magicians looked at with suspicion. The drama begins on a slow note with the introduction of a gentleman from Yorkshire, Mr. Norrell who has taught himself magic spells by studying ancient books and nurses a strong desire to keep the knowledge of everything magical to himself, buying off books of the magic subject in the kingdom. Half knowledge is dangerous thing and he meets his fate when he summons a faerie without respecting the proper rules. The story progresses as he takes up a political role in the country’s effort in the war against Napolean and how he meets his future student and nemesis Jonathan Strange as they fight the Raven King and his old magic.

Though I am yet to read the book which promises to be a thriller, the drama had me captivated with its tight story-line, rich scenes, compelling characters and dramatic climaxes. As I reached the end of this seven episode series I mostly rued the end of an entertaining series. Thinking about it I was drawn by the passion and commitment of the protagonists to pursue their interests even in turbulent times. As a human living in the twenty first century with access to internet and technology, I have stopped reaching out to books, libraries, or dictionary for my queries. Google seems to be the help at hand. This attitude of dependency fills me with dread. Of all the points the drama depicted, the part about the importance of books and the expanse of knowledge they hold which has the power to influence thousands of minds of a generation or the next one – affected me deeply. The books are here to stay and I on my part try to reconnect with them.

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Trip to Lower Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend – AZ

Lower Antelope Canyon is one of the two parts of the Antelope Canyon located in Page, Arizona. The main canyon is a slot canyon type which are more deep than wide. From the numerous Yelp and Tripadvisor review that we scoured through while planning the trip suggested that the ideal hour to visit the canyon is about 11 am. The sunlight shines down on the canyon, its light reflecting off the yellow sandstone reflecting off a warm, golden hue.

The entrance fee for accessing the Navajo National Tribal Park is $8 per person. Its best to carry the exact change as they often run out of small cash. We booked our guide services with Ken’s Tours and were charged a nominal $20 fee which seemed significantly less compared to the $40 fee for touring the Upper Antelope Canyon. All bookings were made online and we paid in cash only after arriving at their tour offices in Navajo Nation, Page.

As per our itinerary we intended to stop for breakfast at Flagstaff which by I10 is 2 hours away from Scottsdale. Our breakfast stop, The Northern Pines is located next to the Days Inn. They open early for breakfast and had been highly recommended by reviewers on Yelp. The restaurant was buzzing with people and we were quickly shown to our seats. While reading their extensive menu to decide on the order, we recharged ourselves with some hot coffee. Husband opted for the Chicken Mixer breakfast meal with a side of fresh fruits and cranberry juice while I settled for a Fried Chicken Steak breakfast meal. The meal was warm, delicious with huge portions and we left carrying boxes with the leftover food.

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Next stop – Lower Antelope Canyon. We got the tickets from the counter at Ken’s Tours and were asked to wait for our turn in the rooms attached to the office. Soon after our guide arrived to take us down for the canyon tour. He explained that these formations were the result of water erosion over millions of years. Wikipedia tells me that:

Antelope Canyon was formed by erosion of Navajo Sandstone, primarily due to flash flooding and secondarily due to other sub-aerial processes. Rainwater, especially during monsoon season, runs into the extensive basin above the slot canyon sections, picking up speed and sand as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the passageways eroded away, making the corridors deeper and smoothing hard edges in such a way as to form characteristic ‘flowing’ shapes in the rock. [Source: Wikipedia]

There are staircases fixed to the canyon wall. The descent was a sharp down, so we were instructed to put away our cameras and focus on the steps and be careful. There were quite a few points which involved climbing up and down the steep stairs making this hike not quite suitable for children. In all times the guide was very patient with the group.img_1607

Down in the canyon the sunlight filtered through the narrow gap between the rocks and light up the walls. We could see a strip of the sky through the gap. The play of shadow and light resulted in some surreal images which had all of us mesmerized at the first sight.

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A short 12 minute drive away on I89 is Horseshoe Bend a meander like formation for Colorado river. Since it is a short hike to the overlook point, it is advised to carry a bottle of water and cap as there are not many rest points on the way. The overlook offers a striking wide view of the rock walls that contain a variety of precious minerals like hematite, platinum and garnet.

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Statistics

Total distance traveled: 750 miles                              Total duration of travel: 12 hours

 

 

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My Outer Layer

 

The place where I come from is known for its hot humid climate. Its situated in the south western coast of India. The temperatures reach a high of 42°C during the summers. Cotton – the fabric that allows the skin to breathe even in extreme temperatures is my choice of material. So even when I covered in a layer of perspiration, a warm breeze will cool the sweat, the bus stand will transform into an cool covered shelter for that second. The illusion of pleasure is good while it lasts.

Relaxed. But reserved. That’s how I would describe my personal style. My mind refuses to work in order if I am not dressed comfortably. On a regular day, my uniform is a pair of loose harem pants and a cotton blouse. But there are the special days. As a country which has its roots in the ancient culture and beliefs, we continue to believe in co-existence and celebrate all religious festivities with equal enthusiasm. I also take pride in wearing the saree. It is a seven yard piece of clothing that is draped across the body over a cotton crop top. Young girls are encouraged to wear the saree during religious and cultural festivals. And we have so many of them in India! As a garment the saree appears intimidating, but once draped it is a picture of grace and poise. It is worn by women across the country from all economic sections.

I grew up seeing my mother, grandmother, the next door auntie, teachers at school draped in this wonderful garment. This has been their preferred choice of dress for decades and so it is mine. I have become one of them. I belong.

Outer Layers – Daily Prompt by WordPress

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Disagreeing with Mother

The hotheaded obstinate girl in a peaceful Bengali family – the character is a part of me that is going away soon. My husband found that out after we tied the knot. The image of the docile timid girl is probably being gathering dust in the attics of his memory for about two years now.

Growing up my mother and I never saw eye to eye on a lot of things. Sometimes it was that ghastly yellow dress bought from the store or the unsavory dal for lunch or the matter if I should stay up at Shreya’s place for the night – we disagreed on everything. There were times I fancied that I was a runaway and maybe was found on the streets. When I told this to my father he quietly got up and left the room. He came back carrying the old photo album and showed me a photo where he was carrying me in his arms. Needless to say much to my chagrin this incident continues to be one of the top running jokes in my family till this date.

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Over the years the urge to rebel became stronger. Teenage made it easier for me. It wasn’t me, it was the hormones wreaking havoc on my mind. That is what I told everyone. Soon it became a sort of show for power. Giving up on my opinion meant being the weak one – and for a long time I chose to be blind and deaf to the truth and facts taking solace in my own version of reality. There were the few occasions when I felt that I did like my mother’s choice, but was tempted to be the defiant girl just for the sake of remaining true to my reputation.

Soon it was time to leave the homestead for college. Life in an unknown city located in a state miles away from my home awaited me. Just to give an idea about how different this place was I will say that a whopping majority of the population, the local people spoke a language about which I had no prior knowledge. My parents were a bundle of nerves, I still remember asking my mother who was holding onto my hand to calm down and let me go as I was running late for the first day. Later that day she told me she knew I would fight and survive in this city. I would make it my own. She had expressed her reservations but knew in doing so she had allowed her daughter to emerge as a strong woman.

Sometimes one is obstinate for the sake of self-preservation. Other times when this obstinate behavior cuts down chances of self-development, it becomes an act of foolishness. I was committing this error for a very long time and am now on the road to correct them.

Disagree – Daily Prompt by WordPress

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Revisiting an Old Post

The sight of swaying white kaash flowers, the rhythmic beats of dhak, the voice of Pankaj Mullick chanting Mahishasurmardini, the resplendent face of the Goddess surrounded by her children – though the dates and years on the calendar has changed, these images reminiscent of Durga Puja remain steadfastly constant.

I wrote the following post during the first few years of blogging channeling the sentiment of the recent immigrant. Surprisingly years later, the post struck a familiar chord echoing the same feelings.


You can take the Bangali out of Bengal, but you can’t take Bengal out of the Bangali.

Being a probashi, I find myself in complete agreement to this statement. We may be living miles away from our homeland, but we remain very deeply connected to our bangali culture and traditions.

The Durga Pujo celebrated annually in my para in Jamshedpur stands testimony to this fact. It is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and ardency. With the beat of the dhakis, and dhunuchi dance, the presence of the goddess fills everyone with the spirit of religious fervour. The dawn of Mahalaya breaks to the tune of Chandi Path playing aloud from every household. Pankaj Mullick’s voice reciting the hymns from the ancient scripture, ushers in a grand home coming celebration of Goddess Durga that lasts ten days. The festivities also mark the death of the mighty Mahishasura, who meets his end at the hands of the powerful goddess.

The preparation start as early as a month before, with every member armed with their shopping list. For the kids, it means new clothes, footwear, and lots of pocket money. The elders are happy enough to let go of us, and have their own adda sessions.

Once the pushpanjoli (flower offerings to the goddess) is over, it is time for lunch. Amongst all the fanfare, food remains the most eagerly awaited part of the event. The bhog served in earthen pots with labra (mixed vegetable), and payesh has a different flavor altogether. Try what you may, this flavor is impossible to replicate in your kitchen at home.

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Now that paying our respect to the goddess, and partaking of the bhog is done, we move to the next activity of pandal hopping. The pujo spirit makes our favorite uncles and aunts become more generous as we get treated to that extra bit of cash, which is to be utilised for this very purpose of pandal hopping. We not only explore the pandals that line the nearby areas, but also the different roadside stalls that sell goodies.

Durga Pujo is indeed a special time for all of us, young and old alike. The goddess’s home coming is a very joyful event, even more tearful is the moment when we have to bid her farewell. Those ten days brings all of us together in a mysterious way, it’s her way of telling us about the importance of family and how they will be there for you even when you are away. My probashi self completely understands this feeling. And I still remain, very much, the bangali at heart.

This post was originally written back in 2013 for my old blog.

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Battling Writer’s Block – The Known and Unknown

I have been facing a severe case of writer’s block. The thorough nervousness of this block has rendered me incapable of handling any idea more than ten minutes. The interest fizzles out sooner than I can further contemplate on the plot. So here I am trying to type down as quickly as my fingers allow me.

The condition struck not long after I moved to my current place of residence, a country seven seas and thousand miles away from home. There was a 11280 degrees of change to my world. The dense mist of loneliness enveloped the mind, heart and eyes. The fingers keep scrolling down the Facebook news feed, looking at the colorful happy lives of friends and family back at home. The bug of non-existent of social life fed hungrily at the memories which seemed like a lifetime ago. All this happens while I am struggling to make new ones. They threaten to unravel and fly away in the storm brought on by the restlessness that wont lie still.

Back in my amateur blogging days, I could write until the clock read 3am and wake up at 7am for work. There was a fierce urge to write down the thoughts fighting for space in the mind. Blogging was the perfect outlet those multitude musings. But now I have about ten posts waiting in queue in the drafts folder for my attention.

In my quest for inspiration I found the tips from John Steinbeck quite useful. In fact I followed his second tip to the T. Linking the article here for anyone who might want to read it. Maybe there is still hope for the writer in me.

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