Shades Of Words


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PINK

pinkmovieposter

I will start with the obvious. PINK is not just a movie but social commentary – and it is done really, really well. It’s the kind of movie that will (hopefully) impact the discussion on sexual consent for years to come. At the least, it will bring this discussion to your living rooms. If you haven’t seen the movie, stop reading this review and go watch it.
The plot is straightforward enough. Three girls –Minal, Falak & Andrea- join a few guys at their resort for dinner & drinks after a rock concert. Something transpires and the girls flee the scene after hitting a boy almost fatally with a bottle. While we are never shown what happened, it’s implied heavily that Minal was molested. Alone and scared of the incident, the girls just want to move on with their lives. The boys Rajvir, Dumpy and Ankit hatch plans of revenge. They are going to show these modern ‘characterless’ girls their place in this world. The threats and the harassment begin. The girls finally go to the police which make matter worse for them. Minal finds herself in prison on charge of murder and the girls truly hit rock bottom. Help comes in the form of Mr. Deepak Sehgal, a retired lawyer who defends their case.
The first half of the movie is a slow stretch – establishing the premise, the characters, their dynamics and desperation. It’s like elastic being pulled back, and then it snaps in the second half. The courtroom drama is the moral center of the movie. It takes on the trite and over-used ‘she was characterless so she deserved it’ approach head on. The defense aids in establishing that she may be characterless (whatever that truly means) – but did she consent to sex. The emphasis on consent is the core theme. The movie also calls out on the inherent feudal mindset that prevails on today’s urban men that appear deceptively modern. Rich, educated abroad, trotting about in designer wear – they still don’t see women as equals or people with free will.
Taapsee Pannu as Minal and Kriti Kulhari as Falak bring in fine, nuanced performances. Taapsee Pannu does a phenomenal job in the portrayal of an assault victim. Sexual assault may not always leave physical marks but the emotional scars are as important. She easily outshine Amitabh Bachchan in every scene (a side note – his towering presence was really not required on the poster of a movie about a women’s issue). The movie is low in melodrama until Bachchan appears on the scene (just kidding – well not really). I do like the fact that even then the focus remains on the girls. Mr. Sehgal’s character breaches on the edge of sermonizing but is often stopped short which is a relief. It’s important for movies to drive social messages without occupying the pulpit.
Some narrative decisions seem very deliberate. As an audience we never see the actual incident till the ending credits roll. Along with the court, we rely on the testimony of the girls and the witnesses. It’s a parallel to real life where often in cases of molestation there are no witnesses and the onus of establishing the incident often falls on the traumatized victim. The movie makes an important point of mentioning that consent is important even if it’s the women in question is your wife – a pointed barb at the lack of laws around marital rape.
It’s important to note that this movie is not about rape in general. It deals with a very specific type of incident about a very specific section of society. The focus of the movie is rather on the deep seated patriarchal values that drive men in India to assume themselves as the proprietors of woman and self-appointed judges on their transgressions and habits. ‘You drink, so you are fair game. You smile ‘freely’ at me, so you are fair game. You refuse me, how dare you, you slut! Let me show you who I am!’ These values extend to the police force whose job is to protect its citizens. The condescending and dismissive inspector who discourages Minal from filing her original complaint; the rude and unsympathetic female police officer who arrests the girls without proper investigation. They are not characters in fiction – they are characters that you read about everyday as yet another rape story hits the news.
Minal, Falak and Andrea are normal working girls. What happened to them continues to happen to a lot of girls like them. And they are not as lucky to have a Mr. Sehgal help them.


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India May 2012 – TAKEN ABACK, BUT STILL LOVING IT

I was in a shock of total five minutes when our car left the Delhi airport driveways and hit the main road. Somehow, the state of the Indian traffic and the congestion had passed into deep recesses of my brain and it was pulled back into the front with a jolt. As our cab weaved in and out of insanely blocked lanes, my heart skipped a few beats. However, in a few minutes I could locate some system in the madness and my nerves calmed a bit. Even though I was taken aback, I was surprised to how less severe my reaction was.

I was back in India after being abroad in the United States for almost 3 years, and it felt good.  It was 40C at 1.00 AM in the night and we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. Oddly, I felt alive and full of energy just like the chaos around me. I said so to my husband.

“You are suffering from jetlag” – sez him, ever the cynic.

Well, maybe so.

Of course, this is still Day 1 and I am absolutely kicked about everything – the sounds, the lights and the people. Not all of it is good and a lot of needs to change but I don’t feel the need to run away from it yet.


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My trip to the US of A

My mom recently traveled half way across the world to spend some quality time with us. This is her first time ever in the US and I thought it was interesting to see what she thinks of this place. So I present, her take on the ways of America after spending a few weeks here.  You can also follow her on her blog On the Top of my Mind . Her guest post below:

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After much resistance to the invitation from my children to visit USA, I was gradually convinced to consent to the offer. My reasons for hesitation were multi-fold; the top-most being the thought of long flying hours which I feared could aggravate my back problems. Another fear was leaving home for so long; I knew that I will face a huge pile of accumulated work once I go back. Last but not the least I would miss my routine and social circle. The fact that I would see my children and meet them and would get to spend time with them, weighed heavier against the reasons for my not coming.

Once I set off, I completed my journey comfortably as I found the hospitality level of Lufthansa airlines quite high. The staff (ground as well as on-board) was very polite, courteous and helpful. The food served was good and offered various choices. The airline though, should seriously consider updating its air-crafts – the seats were too congested, reading lights were very dim and fell somewhere else. There should be individual TV screens for the passenger’s entertainment as common screens are a thing of the past now. Moreover, their programmes lacked variety. Showing satellite pictures of the position of your plane for hours together is too much on the nerves of already tired passengers. Apart from these inconveniences, it was a hassle-free journey and I landed in one piece at St. Louis.

I was out of jet-lag soon (which I think I never really suffered from as my sleep pattern in India was quite erratic or Americanized as I am a late sleeper and late riser there). Here it has become an `early to bed and early to rise’ kind of a thing which suits me very well.

My children have already started taking me around and I am surprised to see all these places which I was not expecting in and around a mid sized town like St. Louis.

I want to share a few interesting observations about America compared to back home in India-

1. People are trustworthy here. The whole establishment runs on mutual trust and honesty. You can do shopping from choosing stuff to billing and paying yourself without any checking on you and nobody takes advantage of that.

2. If you have ordered something by mail and if you are not at home when the delivery arrives, the parcel will be dropped at your door-step and you will find it safely lying there when you return home. The parcel may contain an article worth 10 dollars or worth thousand dollars!

3. The staff on duty at tourist sites is very polite and most of these places may not charge you any entry fee. Sometimes there is a request for a humble donation for the upkeep of the place, that too in a very dignified way

4. People wait with patience in queues and there is no elbowing and pushing to `get in/out first’.  Not even from Indians…hmm why this happens only in amrika?

5. Americans, I observe, have no concept of saving, conservation and preservation of personal, public or natural resources. Everything is produced on mass scale to use and throw. I find it quite disturbing when I see there are electric lights in porch driveway/street etc which are switched on 24/7 and that this is mandatory and residents have no control on switching these lights off! And then Americans talk of global warming to the whole world

6. Every food package comes with the accurate calorie count which indicates a very health conscious state; on the contrary, I feel Americans indulge too much in eating and people are mostly over-weight, plump or obese here. This means no one is bothered about what is written on the food packet. This is another case of preaching and not practicing.

7. I fail to understand why the size of a dime coin (10c) is smaller than that of a five pence coin?..Strange! And do you know the cost of making a 1-cent coin is higher than 1 cent? In India, the cost of making the 20-paise coin was higher than the actual value of the coin which is why people are known to have started melting it and selling it for scrap metal !!

8. Wal-Mart is India’s Big Bazaar – `Isse sasta aur achchha aur kahin nahi’

9. I had heard that the weather forecast is quite correct and dependable in the US. This is correct but….I have noticed that the forecast announced for a day in advance of 4-5 days is changed according to the changing weather before somebody can say – you said so. In other words it means that you look out of the window, see some dark clouds and announce possibility of it raining. i.e., what you see, you get!

10. I have seen a very interesting thing here. Parents tie a small, soft toy at the waist of their small kid and this toy has a long belt, like a leash, which is held by the parent when the child is walking along on the road. And I have also seen people walking their dogs in prams. This is just the opposite of what we do back home- we walk our pets tied to a leash and carry small kids in prams!

11. Motorcycles are allowed to emanate any decibels of noise!

12. I saw this friendly discrimination at a local store for the benefit of the Asian community living here – whole of the Indian Sub-continent clubbed together in one aisle – yes we are so alike !!

-Saroj Gupta

http://onthetopofmymind.blogspot.com


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Hampi Temple City

Hemakuta Temple Complex

Hemakuta Temple Complex

Though its been some time since we made this trip , the fact, that this was the last trip we made before we left for India kind of makes it special !

A sunny Friday saw two Santros exit Hyderabad towards the state of K arnataka via National Highway &. Our destination was a small town , quite nondescript actually , of the name Hampi.
Though quite a smallish place today, Hampi , was the capital of the famous south Indian kingdom, Viajaynagara

Old mini temple structures

Today a UNESCO world heritage site, Hampi boasts some of the most numerous, spread out and expansive ruins of the Vittala Kingdom,

Hampi is about 400Kms from Hyderabad which makes it around 6-8 hrs of drive. That can be quite exhausting on Indian roads.Thought the road is good , some patches really slow one up and there are also stops that need to be taken for tea and snacks. We planned to make it around midnight and check in at our place of stay, Hotel Mallagi. Ofcourse, we did not factor in getting lost and we finally hit our beds at some 2.30 am in the night. Since its a small place the maps are not accurate and as we were trying to use the GPS ( which is definitely a bad idea in India) , at 11.30 pm in the night we found ourselves totally lost. We were for sure in Hampi, but dead in the middle of the ruins. We could not a see a single soul and the ruins just made it more spooky !! Since there were eight of us in two cars we really weren’t scared but definitely did not want to spend the night on road. Finally , we found a helping soul ( god bless him) who put us on track and we were back on the right route.

Intricately carved pillars of Virupaksha temple

Next morning we got up leisurely , had a hearty breakfast , and headed towards the ruins. Since we had just one  day with us we decided to hire a guide and hit the ‘must see’ spots. If you are a student of history or art or if you have time on your hand, plan to be in Hampi, for 3-4 days. You can walk or bicycle around from ruin to ruin. They are all spread out in a maximum of 3-4 kms radius.

Though I keep referring to the structures as ‘ruins’ they are actually quite stoic remains of one or more vast temple complexes. We started our trip with the Hemakuta temple complex. As I walked amongst the structures, my mind marveled at their architecture and thought of all that must have gone in those halls that are today just broken pillars. One could smell the burning incense and lamps and could hear the footsteps of hurrying townspeople going home towards their huts near the river.

I was rudely awakened from my reverie as our guide shoved us towards the Virupaksha temple down the hill- the most intact and the most busy of the temples.This temple is believed to be functional since the 7th century – much before the Vijaynagara kingdom came into existence. What is visible today , is the original temple plus the multiple shrines that were added over time. The temple is full of visiting devotees and you may seem a little out of place trying to admire the structure instead of trying to pray. I am not a big fan of hustling and bustling temples and we stepped out of this quite fast. The thing to be noted here is the practical implementation of the pin-hole camera in one of the chambers , the almost 7 story gopuram with intricate carvings and underground Shiva temple

The Stone Chariot

Our next major stop was at the famous Vitthala temple complex. On the way we passed several interesting ruins. Though we wanted to explore more, we were on a tight schedule and only stopped at the more famous structures.

The Vitthala temple is situated near the area as to what seemed to be throne of the Vijayanagara kingdom. One could see the remains of the old cobbled streets that led to the gates of the temple city. As you approach the city, a long row of 4-5 feet high columns appear. Instantly images of long forgotten busy street bazaars came to my mind. These columns must have formed stalls for vendors and they must have peddled their wares to all the crowd passing by the main street! The most famous structure that finds it way to all the tourist brochures is the Stone Chariot- more magnificent than it looks in photos – this huge and heavy chariot is actually a shrine devoted to multiple Hindu deities.The Vithala complex is sprwaling and has several other major temples and halls and dining areas.

No trip to Hampi is complete without a meal at Mango Tree Restaurant. Located on the banks of the river , this restaurant is famous for its own version of Indian food and a large variety of pancakes :).Being one of the places that serves full meals this place is always jam-packed and its find your own place to sit arrangement adds a touch of bohemia to the atmosphere.

Lotus Palace

Once we were well fed , we headed towards the last stop of the day – The Lotus palace and the elephant stables. The Lotus palace was one of the several housing establishment for the queen of Vijayanagar. In the twilight, it looked like a place from another time. I could be a queen for a place like that :).

Elephant stables

The Elephant Stables were very high on the WOW factor…these were essential the parking lot for the 11 Royal elephants !

Our very long and satisfying day was over in Hampi and we headed towards our hotel rooms. We did get up early morning to catch the cool breeze and pretty photos. But apart from that we were ready to go back. With the wish to return some day.


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Srisailam – The Temple Town near Hyderabad

There is not much you can do on a weekend in Hyderabad especially if you are single and bored to death. There are only so many rounds of malls, restaurants and pubs that one can make.

A good weekend getaway is what you need to shake out the monotony of the city and Srisailam is the perfect place if you are looking for fresh air and peace.

Located 232 kilometers from Hyderabad, reachable by road, Srisailam is your atypical south Indian temple town. Home to one of the 12 jyothirlingams in India , a trip to  Srisailam is worthwhile even if you are not religiously inclined.

Taking the car on the Srisailam state highway, one whizzes pasts lush green farms dotted with bright orange marigold fields. The highway is not really busy and the occasional roadblocks are caused by mats of drying grains or village people doing dishes or laundry on the sides.

Not to be missed is the ‘Malaytirtham’ waterfall that comes some 50 kms before Srisailam. It’s a hidden spot some 8 kilometers off the highway. To reach the waterfall one has to climb down some 100 feet and this is not recommended for old people or people with babies. Remember you will have to climb up too! Though you are not allowed to enter the waterfall you can play around the streams. Completely untouched by tourism or habitation, it’s hard to believe that this place is so near to the bustling city of Hyderabad.

Located at the banks of River Krishna, Srisailam lies in the midst of the dense forests of the Nallamalai hill range. The drive gets prettier as you head towards the Srisailam Tiger Reserve Sanctury which spans across an area of 356,000 hectares and sprawls over five districts of central Andhra Pradesh.

As you enter the forest reserve area, the air gets cooler and the road gets quieter. You often find yourself poking out to the window hoping to catch sign of some exotic wild animal amidst the dense vegetation. The Srisailam sanctuary has safari facility for visitors which is reasonably priced at 500 rs/- per jeep ride. However owing to the nature of wild animals and their unwillingness to appear in front of curious eyes, it’s very rare for anyone to actually spot any living creature at all.

As you near Srisailam , the sight of the long and winding river Krishna takes your breath away. As your eyes fall on the Srisailam dam and the 200 MW hydroelectric power plant that it, you cannot help but be impressed and awed. You just have to get down from the car to drink in the sight before you. A very narrow bridge take you across the river to Srisailam where you drive uphill to reach the town. There is very little to do in the town itself except for walking, sightseeing from several view points and the round of the temples.

Sirsailam is best visited in the October to April time frame and remember, the journey is more fun than the destination.

 
 

 

Some good links that can help plan your trip better

http://www.indiasite.com/andhrapradesh/srisailam/

http://srisailam.co.in/

Things to keep in mind

  • Carry food for the road, restaurants are few and of highly questionable hygiene
  • If you are planning to stay overnight , book a room in the several hotels in SriSailam. APTDC guest house is also a good option.
  • To get to Srisailam you will have to cross the forest reserve checkposts whcih have restricted timings for entry. So confirm those before you travel or you might be stranded on the road!