My first love: altered books

I’ve shared some of my photography here, so thought I’d go ahead and share a few pages from one of my altered books called Life 101.

Dawn
dawn
This is the first spread of my Life 101 book, which I used to explore life, its meaning, and its various hues.
A pale pink background, signifying the hope of a new day, a circle punched out of the page with an image peeking out from behind the window, screened with gold thread.

Music is the Language of the Soul
music

This page combines a Planet M postcard insert and a quotation. Background created with sponge and string.

Maya
still-i-rise
This page is a tribute to my favorite poet – Maya Angelou.

Tea stained background with sponged stamping in purple and grey, illustrating one of my favorite poems – Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. The images, which show capured slaves and slaves working in fields, were tea stained and distressed.

Friends forever
friends-forever
Ripped page pockets hold tea bags, postcards, etc.–ephemera that speaks of friendship. Text stamped along pocket reads Memories.

So, what's my personality like?

According to Astrology.com (thanks, Avi, for telling me the site was wrong!), based on my birth date and time:

How You Approach Life and How You Appear To Others

You are very strong-willed and proud, but intensely private and not easy to know well. Behind your quiet exterior lies a great deal of emotional depth, sensitivity, complexity, and also fierce determination. When you want something you go after it rather quietly but insistently and wholeheartedly – and you usually get it.

The Inner You: Your Real Motivation
You are a person who thrives on challenge, and you often feel that you must battle your way through life, depending upon no one and nothing but your own strength, intelligence, and courage. You believe in being totally honest, true to oneself and one’s own vision and convictions, even if that means standing alone.
Honesty, integrity, personal honor, and authenticity are your gods, and you have no sympathy for weakness of character in others.

Interesting! And largely accurate!

Revolutionary road

I watched Revolutionary road recently, and really loved the movie. A didn’t want to watch the movie — thought the story line sounded too morose — but he was around while I was watching it on DVD, and said “Oh my! They’ve been fighting throughout the movie!”

Yes, April and Frank did fight a lot in the movie, and some of the fights were really nasty, but the movie was set in a time when women were supposed to be dutiful housewives and nothing else, and it was about a woman who wanted out of that role.

April:
Just because you’ve got me safely in this little trap, you think you can bully me into feeling whatever you want!

Why is it, I wonder, that I connect so effortlessly with neurotic women onscreen? I’m not suppresed; I have an equal marriage; but I just think that I’m really not what is called “marriage material.” I like my independance and freedom more!Continue reading

Sunday afternoons…

…are made of this…Cleo sleeping in my lap as I read the newspaper. What bliss!

Some more moments from our lazy Sunday afternoon….

For more Cleo madness, check out my Picasa album!

Slumdog millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire has raised the hackles of a vast section of the Indian society, with a large section of population up in arms at the portrayal of Indian slums in the movie, slamming director Danny Boyle’s realistic cinema saying “this isn’t a representation of true India.”

Well then, what is? It certainly is NOT Kiran Desai’s Inheritance of Loss. Nor is it Arvind Adiga’s White Tiger. Both of these writers have written about India for Western audiences. Desai paints first-time Indian visitors to foreign shores as poor desis who cannot wrap their heads around the biting London cold, nor use a western loo, nor adapt to their food. Her portrayal of middle class residents in India isn’t flattering either. In her world, Indians who enjoy English classical music, read English books, and enjoy continental food; whose interaction with the “slumdogs” is limited to their daily chats with their maids and watchman, are mere wannabes, who only want to ape the goras and live in a world totally detached from the realities of their poorer brethren.

Slumdog Millionaire, however, has none of those pretentions. All Indians are not portrayed as mere wannabes or totally devoid of adjustment skills. Instead, Boyle focuses on the journey of two slum children who lose their mother in the Hindu-Muslim riots that gripped Bombay. The movie then follows their trials and triumphs, as they move from one odd job to the next, escape a scheming “orphanage” owner who picks up street kids and forces them to beg, to selling odds and ends on trains, and finally landing up in Agra, where, through their fast-thinking and innocent looks, they manage to make enough money to live a comfortable life. Until, of course, they return to Bombay, where their paths diverge. One brother joins an underworld don; the other becomes an office boy at a BPO company, and through sheer luck, participates in a TV reality show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. His life, which we see in flashback through the movie, helps him answer all the questions on the show, and he walks away with a cool million bucks to his name.

In essence, it is a simple story of grit, determination and sheer luck — inspirational, actually. But the reason for it cooking up a hornet’s nest is because of Boyle’s authentic portrayal of slum life — the underbelly of India. It is this that is making us cringe.

True, there have been other Bollywood movies that have shown protagonists rising from the slum to become famous or notorious, depending on the movie —be it Satya, or Rangeela — but we didn’t protest against these movies because they didn’t become an international phenomenon. Nor did they show slums like Boyle did. Their slums were always glossed over; more fantasy than reality. And reality sure bites!

Yes, there is more to India than the Dharavi slums portrayed in Boyle’s movie. But then, Boyle did not portray Slumdog as the “definitive Indian movie.” He chose to tell an inspiring story, and he chose to make realistic cinema. And since that realistic cinema involved a rather unpleasant look at the slums, we just couldn’t digest it.

We could digest Suketu Mehta’s ‘Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, though. His book was hailed as the best book on Bombay. And what did his book focus on? The Dharavi slums — on Hindus who burnt Muslims during the riots and the tales of both Hindus and Muslims; of how the riot changed the landscape of Dharavi, leading to a palpable divide between Hindus and Muslims; and on the life of Bombay bar girls. His visits to the slums were interspersed with visits to Hindi movie director Vidu Vinod Chopra’s house, during the time he was preparing for the shooting of Mission Kashmir. A slim section at the end was a commentary on the rich and famous giving up their riches to take sanyas. If his novel were a movie, it would be far, far more graphic than Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire.

But, there lies the irony. Mehta’s book was hailed as an exceptional piece of writing, maybe because the Pulitzer Prize and Kiriyama Prize are not as hyped, well-known and universally loved as the Oscars and Bafta in India. Boyle’s movie, though, has become a runaway hit, and what’s more, it’s sweeping of all the awards ceremonies. What this section of Indians cannot stand is the fact that the rest of the world is looking at India’s underbelly, and applauding a foreigner — a Britisher no less —- for portraying the abject poverty in which a vast majority of Indians still live, instead of catering to the middle class Indian’s concept of “India shining.”

This & that & Cleo!

It’s been ages since I’ve had any time for myself! Work seems to have taken over my life. I work non-stop while in office; when I’m back home I’m planning the next day and working on providing feedback to my editor colleague; and these days, I’m looking (or trying) to look at a thought leadership report that needs to get converted into a microsite! Fun! I finally had enough, so I’m giving my work laptop a break and goofing off on the internet instead!

Continue reading

The Journey by Mary Oliver

I can’t remember where I read this poem — though it is all over the Internet! — but it really spoke to me in many ways and on many levels.

The last few lines of this poem, especially, are filled with meaning and imagery.

there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

There is so much right now that needs saving in my life, that I cannot even begin to list it all!

I’m still stuck with the many voices pulling me in different directions…many things that are “on fire”…crazy work schedules and deadlines, combined with unreal expectations and unwilling colleagues…and no time to let my voice be heard — by me!

For now, though, I leave you with the poem in its entirety. Read on…

The Journey by Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Learning to let go

As our lives get busier and more hectic, other things take precedence over relationships. While I have almost always relegated time spent with relatives to the backburner, I now find myself spending less and less time keeping in touch with friends. As the demands on my time increase, I’m pulling more into myself. All my walls have gone up…exchanges with people seem more like a collission. And this is leading to the relationship I care most about suffering the most.

We are both in a race against time, our days crammed full of work, with together time relegated to the backseat. It’s a situation that will last for some time into the foresaable future. Instead of trying to fight it, I have to learn to accept it…to learn to let go when necessary so that I can enjoy the limited time that we do have together.

One of my favorite postsecrets says it beautifully…

fireflyers

The war on Mumbai

On 26 November, terrorists struck India’s financial capital — Mumbai — in one of the most brazen attacks ever seen in India. They entered the city through the sea route, striking at the Victoria Terminus, Leopold Cafe, and Cama Hospital first. In this first strike, the nation lost three of its best police officers — Anti-terrorism squad chief Hemant Karkare, encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte.

The terrorists then proceeded to take two high-profile hotels — the iconic Taj Mahal hotel and the Oberoi-Trident — and Nariman House (also known as Chabad House) hostage. The siege, which lasted almost 60 hours, claimed the life of the rabbi and his wife, leaving their young son an orphan.

This latest and most brazen attack, which the media dubbed India’s 9/11, has horrified the nation. For three days Indians sat glued to their television, in mute horror, watching the drama unfold on television. We watched, helpless, as the terrorists set fire to the heritage Taj Mahal hotel, we cringed as we heard gun shots and grenade blasts ring out, we watched with bated breath as NSG commandoes engaged the terrorists, and we cried when we heard about the number of hostages who are killed, and as we saw some hostages released. Once it was all over, though, we became a nation angry. This time we will not call upon “the spirit of Mumbai.” This time we want to see political action. Platitudes will not work anymore.

But, this is India.

Politicization of the attack

On day 1 of the attack, leader of the opposition L.K. Advani said he would work together with the UPA government and not use this event as a political campaign point. The next day, he forgot all about his promise and the BJP released full page color ads politicizing the issue. Its leaders like Rajasthan CM Vasundhra Raje are using the Mumbai siege as a topic to gain political mileage.

Then we have other politicians that give a gem of a soundbyte. Sample this:

Some women wearing lipstick and powder have taken to streets in Mumbai and are abusing politicians spreading dissatisfaction against democracy. This is what terrorists are doing in Jammu and Kashmir. These are difficult times for the nation. In times like this we should unite in our war against terror and the Pak sponsored attacks rather than waging war against the democratic institutions.

This, gem of a quote was given by the BJP’s Mukhtar Naqvi, his view of the candle light vigils being held in Mumbai and elsewhere around the country condeming the terror attack.

Weak-kneed response

PM Manmohan Singh called for Pakistan to send ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha to New Delhi to present him with hard evidence about the involvement of Pakistani elements, including Lashkar-e Toiba (LeT) terrorists, in the Mumbai strike. After agreeing initially, Pakistan refused to send his over. Now, Zardari is saying that there is no evidence that the terrorists were Pakistanis, and even if they were, they are stateless elements and Pakistan can do nothing about it. This, despite India having given them evidence of ISI involvement in the attack. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to India was also make to placate India and to ensure that we do not take military action against Pakistan. If we do, their war on terror will be affected, as they are using that country as the base from which to launch attacks on Afghanistan.

Intelligence failure

The attacks also point to a total intelligence failure, with agencies initially claiming they had no evidence about the attacks. Later, though, it became apparent that they simply ignored the evidence that they did get. Fishermen had submitted written letters stating there was suspicious activity at ports. Fishermen in Gujarat also reported that Indian trawlers were crossing over into Pakistani waters, meeting trawlers there, and coming back into Indian waters without being arrested. After repeated requests to improve safety at the Gateway of India, stating the sea route could be used for an attack, one police van and two policemen were stationed in the area. On the day of the attack, this motley security was also missing.

All of this points to the fact that this attack couldnt have been carried out without political sanction. This is not to say that the politicians were involved in it, but just that they chose to ignore warning signs and ensure the saftey of civilians. The reason? Simple. Political gains.

Hostage stories

One of the stories that really stayed with me was related by a foreign couple who had come to India on a 1-month holiday. They were happy to be safe, praised the commandoes, and said that they had no plans to cut their trip short. Though the wife got teary while relating their terror while they were held hostage, her husband said that this episode would just serve as a road bump to their plans, they did not plan to give in to fear.

You cannot give into fear, or you let the terrorists win. When they are holding a gun to your head, that is the time to feel fear. But to let fear rule your life is to let them win. And I will not let that happen.

Isn’t this the mantra to live by?

The beauty of a wedding…

…lies in its simplicity.

I was at a very good friend’s wedding this weekend. She had decided to have a small wedding at her house, with just about 35 – 40 people in attednace — a real rarity for an Indian wedding! Her reasoning — a wedding is actually a relegious ceremony, and a sacred one at that. So she wanted to be surrounded by people who love her and who she loves back, where the wedding rituals are the focus, not food and drinks for the guests. This truly was one wedding that I enjoyed and felt happy being a part of — happy for her, of course, and to be able to focus on the rituals, which is the real fun of a wedding, instead of being constantly bothered about being over or under dressed!

Another thing that probably added to the enjoyment at the wedding was that my friend’s best friend, who is based in the US, had brought along a colleague with him. Explaining the rituals and significance behind all the rituals to her got me even more into the wedding mood, probably because it highlighted the sanctity of the ceremonies and vows. And of course, I was glad to know that I know so much about wedding ceremonies and Indian relegion and mythology — I guess you never really know the extent of your knowledge until you are called upon to use it!