Sad, Glad.

My grandfather, lovingly called Papaji by everyone from his grandchildren to his younger brother, passed away last week.

We were close and the news of his passing broke me. I did fly down to pay my last respects, attended his cremation and spent time with my grandmother, but nothing has been able to remove that big black hole he’s left. However much I may try, smiles refuse to linger, brain suddenly breaks for jaywalks into past and tears start bubbling up.

His passing was sudden – he hadn’t been ill or weak, other than the frailness that comes with age. And more than anything, it is that suddenness that hurt the most. I didn’t get to say good bye, to hug him one last time, to share a few old thoughts, to thank him, to be scolded by him one last time… to do those small things that help provide closure on a long and treasured relationship.

However, in that suddenness of passing, is also a sense of satisfaction. He passed away peacefully in his sleep having spent his last morning just the way he liked – chatting to ma, flirting with grand ma, soaking in the sun and reminding dad of sundry chores. It was during his afternoon siesta that he chose to leave us, with a smile on his face. I wonder what was he dreaming that brought that smile on. At least, it is clear that he didn’t suffer any pain in his passing. At his age, in late 80s, this was a blessing.

He had lived a long life and varied life – born as the eldest son to an extremely rich landlord in what is now Punjab in Pakistan, lost a little family and all his possessions during partitions, spent 30 years working in the UK away from his wife, mother and kids, and then came back to spend his last decades as the patriarch of a large and loving family. To pass away peacefully at the end of it is just the way he would have liked it.

Yet it hurts. And not just me. My sister, my younger cousin siblings, dad’s younger sister and grand dad’s younger brother – all people who had been really attached to him, all people who were far away when he passed away, all people who didn’t get to say their good byes, all people who quietly sob in a corner whenever left alone.

We all miss you Papaji. We all inherited your strong head, now is the time we need your strong heart as well.


Your grandson.

Continue reading Sad, Glad.

Sar zameen-e-hindustan, as salaam alaikum!

Sar zameen-e-hindustan, as salaam alaikum!
Mera naam Baadshah Khan hai.
Ishq mera mazhab, mohabbat mera iman hai.

jiske liye Shiri aur Laila ke naam phulon ki khushbhu ban gaye,
jiske liye Farahad ne pahadon ka sina cheer kar dhood ki neher baha di,
jiske liye Majanu ne sehraw ki khaakh chhaani aur aaj bhi zinda hai taarikh ban kar,

Ussi mohabbat ke liye Kabul ka ye pathan Hindustan ki sar zameen se mohabbat ki khair mangne aaya hai.

Aazmayish kadi hai,
imtihan mushkil hai,
lekin haunsla buland hai.

Jeet hamesha mohabbat ki hui hai,
Sadiyon se yahi hota aayah hai, yahi hoga.

Roshani gar Khuda ko ho manzoor, aandhiyon mein chirag jalte hain… Khuda gawah hai!

The Bombing

I have often wondered – why did the Americans drop bombs on Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and not on Tokyo itself?
Because Tokyo was better defended, because they wanted the leadership to be alive to ensure a quick surrender or was there some other reason? Another plausible reason that comes to mind (haven’t checked) is that these two cities might have been the industrial heart of Imperial Japan while Tokyo was only a political centre. Can anyone confirm the actual reason?

Jan 2011: A great movie month!

January was the best movie month I’ve had in a long, long time. Other than the lone hick-up of Henry’s Crime, not one movie I watched counted as even mediocre. Weekend after weekend, movie after movie – surprise and delight. It was heaven for the movie lover in me.

It all started with an otherwise boring weekend being turned around with 90-something minutes of awe inspiring story telling. 127 hours. As the movie began, I thought the title sequence was one of the best screen footage I’d seen in some time. Well, rest of the movie just kept on trying, successfully, to outdo that little sequence. As if the sights weren’t enough, the soundtrack was magical and used like only a master could. Take all of this and add the incredible real life story of Aron Ralston, played brilliantly by James Franco – it’s a sure shot in my ‘forever’ library. And to think of it, we had actually gone to see another movie but saw this when we didn’t get tickets for the other one.

That other movie, which we saw the next weekend was King’s Speech. It did not have the technical brilliance, with camera or music, of 127 hours. It did, however, have a lot more going for it – brilliant performances, a simple yet powerful story and an emotional touch. Colin Firth is simply brilliant. Geoffrey Rush is secondary, but powerful. And the hidden star, for me, is Helena Bonham Carter in her role as Queen Elizabeth. It was the first time I saw the stiff British public breaking into a spontaneous applause in a theatre. As is the first time I see the movie still running houseful on weekdays weeks after its release. Of course, it could be as well explained by this Economist blog as by the film’s quality.

Now, unlike the first two, Black Swan was a movie I wasn’t very sure that I wanted to watch. The reviews on twitter had been varied – from brilliant to vaguely dismissing its success as based on the apparently lesbian love scenes. Take those mixed reviews, add the fact that I have never seen the Swan Lake and that Rags had been working that weekend, and you know why I didn’t want to watch this movie. Anyway, Rags got a few hours off, and a set of friends coerced me to come for the movie. I could never have thanked them enough. The movie couldn’t be more different from the previous two, yet it is just as brilliant as them. And there’s just one star here – Natalie Portman. Yes, the production was great, as was the music and the other actors. But what put the life, and blood, in that movie was the Swan Queen. And now I can never see the Swan Lake again, for the fear of disappointing myself on the high standards that this little lady has set.

It was now, after 3 weekends and 3 brilliant movies, that I pointed out to Rags how well the month had been going. And she pointed back that in these 3 weekends we could have potentially seen the movies which between them could sweep most of the Oscars this year :)

Next up was a break from Hollywood with Dhobi Ghat – another movie with a wide variety of reviews from friends on twitter. While a few liked them, most dismissed them in the worst of manners – not by pointing out the flaws in movie but by pronouncing it pretentious and meaningless. I am glad we listened to the few who did like it, because I loved the movie. Amir Khan may have been the established star but it was the youngsters – Monica Dogra, Prateik Babbar and Kriti Malhotra who stole the show. It could be attributed to my distance from the city or my love of ordinary life, I loved the movie as much as I love that city. The movie, for me, was a visit back to Bombay – the stories of everyday Bombaiya, the rain (specially the rain, always the rain!), the town-side life, the closely woven, yet carefully separated lives of people from different social classes and religions, the human element that aspires, corrupts, creates and destroys us all. It was a beautifully told story of the Bombay we loved, and we loved it back.*

I saw Seabiscuit back in my pre-MBA days and loved it. It was my first ‘horse movie’. It was also the first movie that, on a weekend evening, had 11 people in the hall when it began. Five when it ended. So, when the person on twitter who liked Dhobhi Ghat also recommended Secretariat, I knew the likelihood of it screening in a hall was bleak. Watching it on our not-so-small TV may have reduced the size of action but never reduced the size of emotion that movie carried. I’ve been an avid animal lover ever since that dog bit me more than a decade ago (strange? yes! story some other time), so most movies with with a human-animal bond move me and horses are, for me, second only to dogs in the animal world. The strength of a lady taking over a huge estate, smashing into a men’s club and winning everything on offer is an inspiring one in itself. That she did it without the support of her family, but with the manner of a cunning fox, and with a horse no one else expected to be last is one a lot could be learnt from. Of course, like all the ones before this, the camera work, the music and the acting is brilliant and a mild sprinkle of humour only adds to the movie.

Even if it had been just these 5 movies, I’d have gladly counted this month as my best ever with movies. But the magic was not yet over. There were two more in store. Both, not originally on my list but pushed up the order by Rags.

Tradition Prepared Her. Change Will Define Her.

First came The Queen. Based around the period of Princess Diana’s death, this movie would come out as just above average to most people. The performances were really good, but not brilliant. That could also be due to the currentness of the topic – that I could compare the characters to my mental images of The Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Tony Blair and Cherie Blair and find them different, created some dissonance in my mind. What I liked about this movie though, as I did about The King’s Speech, was the humanisation of Royalty. Rags, in fact, had a great trouble in accepting the queen as someone with such strong views, being so outspoken inside the palace and as being someone who would drive around the Balmoral estate alone in a Range Rover. Her image, as we’ve developed from her few public appearances is of speaking little, if at all, and being a smiling, benevolent matriarch to the British nation. That the same person could have such strong views on her ex-daughter-in-law and could be so out of the times, was revealing. That the same domineering character who put down Tony Blair in beginning was also smart enough to learn and humble enough to accept her mistake later, was surprising. Specially, given the blind views, as presented, of the DoE and Queen Mother (the wife in King’s Speech!). That tumultuous period may have become a small crisis for the Monarchy, but this movie’s presentation of it has only made me respect this Queen even more. A friendship based on trust in King’s Speech, and a relationship forged through crises in The Queen – there’s still a lot we ordinary folk could learn from the royals.

Those big green eyes, perfect smile and a spunky character – Rapunzel, I love you!

Last weekend of the month, last movie of the month, probably the latest genre of them all – Tangled 3D. The movie had been recommended by a couple of friends and Rags was eager to watch it. Sensing my disinterest, she made me watch a trailer on her phone while out at a cake shop and I agreed to go – not because of the trailer but because of her enthusiasm. Glad I went. It doesn’t compete with most movies above on the classiness of storytelling, or the story itself. But it succeeds wildly at what it’s intended to do – provide light-hearted entertainment. The story was well known but the characters were new and, I must admit, I lost a bit of my heart to that spirited Rapunzel. To add to it, the music score is good and the animation brilliant (can’t expect anything less these days from Disney). That we had to watch the 3D version was a slight downer but that didn’t stop me from laughing out loud (for real) in the hall. After a relatively tense week, and a great movie watching month, this was a perfect send-off :)

Is it too much to ask for one such month every year in terms of the quality of movies I get to see? Nahin na, I thought so. So, here’s hoping that we all get a lot more of such great movie months.


Continue reading Jan 2011: A great movie month!


‘…I can’t keep apologizing for something I can’t change.’

– Hank in Californication S04E03

So true and so little understood. Accept apology, define punishment. Don’t accept apology, breakup. Either way, move on. Can’t just keep hankering back to an act in the past that can’t be changed.

…All I can do is keep moving forward and try to become someone you can love again.