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Cowbells and Canola fields

17 Oct

Imagine a rolling field of canola flowers, a gentle breeze blowing across the nodding heads of yellow buds, the tinkling of genuine alpine cowbells, mandolin music….a man straightens up, slowly and dramatically, opens his arms up to welcome you in to an embrace….. sigh

(if that doesn’t make your heart go wummmm like a tuning fork, I don’t know what else can- oh yes, forgot to mention, there are dimples involved!)

If you had been a teenager growing up in India in the early 90’s, you would immediately know what I am talking about. The scene that came to epitomise romance for millions of teens in 1995 – ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya leh Jayenge’ lovingly called ‘DDLJ’ – loosely translated: ‘The Brave gets the Bride’ (I like alliterations). This movie made every Indian teen believe that Switzerland is heaven, not just a tax-haven. Alpine cowbells probably beat the sale of Swiss chocolates that year because every Indian that went to Switzerland that year or thereafter did not leave that country without acquiring one for their loved one.

My regular readers know of my turbulent relationship with Shah Rukh Khan (King Khan). A friend asked me recently how can I be so besot with that man – he overacts all the time. It is not just Shah Rukh Khan I adore, it is the character he plays – the larger-than-life romantic hero and yes, he can play that to the hilt and that is not overacting!

He never ever gives up on his lady-love, he never ever would turn away from a confrontation (be it with his father, the girl’s father, his boss, the police or even terrorists), he who would fight till the end with whatever means necessary. He rarely harasses the girl to fall in love with him – he just wins them over by being naughty, silly, with his over-the-top antics and look-into-my-eyes look. In his movies, love develops over a period of time- sometimes it takes the entire length of the movie which can go up-to 3 hours but hey, all good things take time. So you wait till the credits roll, do you hear?

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Shameless(ness)

11 Oct

Recipe to make a shameless movie

(Besharam)

1 thin plot (might completely crumble during editing of the movie – beware)

3-4 stellar actors (depending on stellarness, if small, then take 4; available in family packs)

6 non-melodious, useless, pointless songs (look in special mediocrity stores)

1 completely nondescript overacting heroine (taken in large doses causes severe hatred)

1 villain in Jodhpuri pants and diamond earrings

2-3 fast German cars (make sure they are red and shiny – you can contact the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce for support)

1  famous director (could also be famous for controversies – adjust according to taste – there is no accounting for taste anyway)

  • Mix all the above ingredients together
  • Add a few kids and babies from an orphanage to give it a nice dreary tone.
  • Sprinkle it generously with toilet humour
  • Layer some atrocious looking clothes and dialogues to make it completely unpalatable.
  • Put in the oven for a couple of years.

When it is done and stinking, if you still have any taste left, you may share the misery with your friends.

I am going to wash off the taste of ‘Besharam’ with some pangalactic gargle blaster. I might never recover – I might need some therapy!

Made in Heaven or alternately, in China

24 Sep

This was an advertisement I saw in Face Book today:

Mangalsutra – Buy 1 get 1 free!

What is the fuss?  What is a ‘Mangalsutra’?

It is the Indian equivalent of the wedding ring, but unlike the wedding rings, this chain-with-a-pendant(s) is worn solely by the wife. Every community in India (irrespective of religion) has its own version of this ornament that signifies that you carry your husband close to your heart. You can look it up on Wikipedia here.

In my family, making of a Mangalsutra is a ceremony by itself. After the wedding date has been set (with or without the agreement/acknowledgement of bride and groom), a ‘holy’ day is chosen to cast this all-important pendant that carries more weight than its mere weight in gold. Yes, it is cast out of 22 carat gold. This gold may partly be contributed by the groom’s ancestors or could be purchased completely new. It has to be the groom, though, that pays for it.

Of course, the melting and the final casting will be done by an artisan who has been doing this for at least 25 years, if not more – he has to be a master goldsmith. Because, the belief is, if not done with a pure heart and holy blessings and in the right manner, it could make or break a marriage.

And you thought making of the ‘One Ring’ was difficult! Move over, Sauron!

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Hit or Miss (America)

18 Sep

I know a lot has been written about the Miss America pageant already and I have probably missed the boat (sorry, I have been busy living my life) but better late than never, right?  So here goes – my rantings on this subject for your personal pleasure!

My question for all americans that made sarcastic tweets about immigrants – I paraphrase Chris Rock’s question from Lethal Weapon 4

“Your ancestors were native americans, were they?”

And now, for my most important question, to the Indians and Indian newspapers who oh-so with righteous wrath poured acid remarks on Americans:

“do you seriously believe that Ms. Davuluri would have won Miss India?!?”

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Ghosts of the past

4 Aug

When I was little my grandmother told me that there are no ghosts. I believed her. And then she would tell me stories with all sorts of spirits and demons in them and assure me that these are all stories made up for entertainment. I believed her. I grew up only slightly scared of the dark. The stories fascinated me though and I would read all kinds of trash with ghosts in them. I remember cheap Tamil paperbacks from the small library near my house that had cheesy titles like ‘Bloody Vampire’ or ‘Ghost villa’ and I would lap it all up. What made a lasting impression though were the ghost movies. That was mind-blowing entertainment.

As the popular maxim goes, there are only 8 kinds of plots in the world and Shakeaspeare covered them all. Indian movies belong to the same school of philosophy. They would have the ‘Hamlet’ type – revenge of the ghost, ‘The Tempest’ type – naughty spirits with nothing else to do or ‘Macbeth’ type where the ghost was all in the head more than reality, it could also be the reconciliatory type that comes in the end and blesses everyone’s unions. Being Indian, we also had the ‘reincarnation’ variation which Shakeaspeare had missed out. There would be combinations and permutations of these themes that would inevitably have haunting melodies, no pun intended.

But our ghosts are not to be confused with Hollywood ghosts with their satanical inclinations and special effects. Indian ghosts can be summed demographically thus : ‘young female, white-saree clad, long black hair, wears anklets and sings haunting melodies‘.

They are way too scarier than your special effects because just the tinkling of the anklets can send people screaming from the theatres. Alternately it could also be the overacting, but as a kid I could not tell the difference between fear and disgust.

The Indian storyline does have its problems though. You see, Hindus burn their dead, so it becomes impossible to come back as the walking dead with your head oozing, arm broken etc. So the plots have to have usually people of other religions as the ghost or it all becomes rather hazy and spiritual with the soul getting involved. To resolve this problem, sometimes the screenplay resorts to the time-tested method of the villains getting rid of the body in a haste and hence, not doing the job properly.

This also opens the story’s scope to bring back that character not as a ghost but as an actual un-dead, meaning they were actually alive but presumed dead but saved by some strange tribal elders or a handicapped couple or a woman of questionable nature and nurtured back to life. It all gets rather complicated after that, especially because the character continues to pretend to be a ghost to exact revenge.

In one of the more enjoyable Tamil ghost movies, a ghost goes hunting for a Drumstick-tree to ‘roost’ on… in Japan.

Ah, see if you can beat that Hollywood! We will see your special effect and raise it a thousand-fold!

Sweets Vs Wooden toy

1 Aug

[Order] [Order in the courtroom]

In the case of ‘Sweets Vs Wooden Toy’, I plead not guilty, your honour!

Let me present my case:

India is a complex nation. If you cross a state border in India, you will be in a different culture altogether- different language, cuisine, festivals and traditions. It should actually be called ‘Indian Federation’. We are a cauldron of flavours and texture like a stew rather than the uniform sliced bread.I get carried away by food, sometimes. Please bear with me.

I am a tamilian from South India and had had very little exposure to Hindi, which is a common language spoken in many parts of North India (north Indian languages have some common roots). Bollywood movies, for example, are in Hindi and for a South Indian, not always easy to follow, if the words are not something you hear everyday.

I learnt Hindi in school as my third language – after English and my mother tongue Tamil. My proficiencyin Hindi can be summed up thus: I can read nursery rhymes in Hindi but cannot understand poetry.

20 years later…..

I live in Goa now where the state language is Konkani but almost everyone speaks a smattering of Hindi. I can converse in Hindi and I was mighty impressed with myself as I could pick up the language after being away from the country for 13 years during which there was absolutely no chance to practise it at all. So I try and keep in touch via Hindi movies.

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Colour

17 Jul

True Match is the name of the compact powder range from L’Oreal and it supposedly matches your skin colour to the last pigment. When I read about the controversy with Beyonce and this product, I thought why people have no better things to do than complain about everything. So what if they listed all her other colour connections, she never claimed not to be african-american? I would love to have a flawless, glowing skin – I am vain about that. And if I can’t have that, I will settle for some make-up. Now if I wear make-up a shade lighter or darker, am I denying my heritage? No, I am not. It doesn’t matter what shade of make-up I wear, I will always be a curd-rice eating tamilian. My passport says I am a German national but I will always like pongal, vadai, sambhar!

After Trayvon Martin, I realize how I do not understand the complexities of race and colour at all! I have no clue!

I am a south Indian, I am dark brown and get darker in the sun. In India, we have skin-colour range that could put any paint-palette to shame. The gradients of black, brown yellow are a testimony to what nature can pull out of her enchanted hat. Now that I am older, I can see it for what it is, a kind of magic – genetics is magic. Two cells merge to form a new human being with various complex body-parts covered by a skin with a colour of its own. Amazing isn’t it?

The fact though, there is a lot of racism in India. Lighter skin is considered beautiful and when I was growing up, I tried out those ‘fairness creams’ too. It was all-pervasive and like any teenager, I wanted to belong and be considered pretty. But then the lazy nerd in me reasserted itself and I just lost interest in trying to keep up. And it stopped affecting me too, I know that I can out-talk anyone, so how does my skin-colour matter? I am an arrogant girl.

I recently spoke to a person of african descent and was trying to argue that we should let the bygones be bygones and move forward because, if we teach our children to hate based on the past, there will never be an end to all this. The discussion was not about race but rather how not all ills in India today can be laid to rest at the feet of imperialism. But how can your children not learn to hate when you openly discriminate based on skin-colour? I cannot preach forgiveness to a man that has suffered blatant racism.

In India, I have been told that it is good that I married a white-guy, my children at least do not share my skin-colour. I have also been asked how come my husband does not say anything to the way I look, does he not insist that I wear make-up? All this was said, not to hurt my feelings, no, these people thought they were actually consoling me or giving me good advice. There are some of course, who are suspicious about why a white guy would marry me(India – must be something wrong with him) or why I would marry a white guy (in Germany – must be the money). As I said, I am an arrogant person and I know my worth, so I don’t get rattled by all these free advice, I usually pity all these people on their ignorance. But now, I do worry about the world all our children will live in.