Saturday, 8 February 2014


     I love fantasy fiction; the more fantastical the story line, the better. But when it comes to movies I seek verisimilitude. I know that all movies call for varying degrees of suspension of disbelief; my threshold for that, however, is very low. As a result I find myself frequently bemoaning the fact that fewer movies today are grounded in reality. I am bothered by logical inconsistencies, scientific inaccuracies and anachronisms. I find myself obsessing over trivialities and fail to truly enjoy a movie. So, when a movie stays with me for days after watching it, it is one to be treasured.

     Watching Gravity in imax 3D was an experience, the likes of which I haven t had in my life. The visuals are breathtakingly spectacular. Awe inspiring vistas, the beauty of which cannot be described by mere words form the backdrop. Yet they do not distract from the story line, in fact they are integral to it. The vastness of Space feels paradoxically confining, stifling. The soundtrack is effectively used; the crescendos adding to the urgency, the silences terrifying, chilling, sinister even.

    George Clooney as Lieutenant Matt Kowalski is engaging and effective. His easy manner and joie de vivre are all the more impressive as they stay in place even in the face of imminent and unavoidable death. But the true star of this movie is Sandra Bullock. Her Ryan Stone is her career best performance ( Yes! better than her Oscar winning role in The Blind Side ). I know the odds on favourite for the best actress Oscar is Cate Blanchett. Her work in Blue Jasmine is being lauded and rightly so. But I believe that Sandra Bullock deserves the Oscar. In the space of ninety minutes, she goes through the whole gamut of human emotion - fear, sadness, resignation, determination, joy, anger and victorious exultation in the end. She holds this movie together.

     The director's vision must be commended. This is the best use of 3D since Avatar; I contend that this is better than Avatar. There are many themes I could identify in this story. First and foremost, this is a thriller with many of the elements of a shipwreck story. The Space setting underscores both the urgency and the improbability of a rescue. This movie also very subtly, almost subliminally suggests the need for moving past tragedy. The visual of Sandra Bullock floating in the ISS is very reminiscent of a foetus in utero. The final sequence in the film is one that reminds me of birth and evolution.

   The four elements Air, Fire, Water and Earth feature prominently in this movie. Religious motifs are presented ever so deftly. The movie also raises the question of divine inspiration very tactfully. That the many themes are neither glaringly obvious and gratuitous nor too subtle to discern is a testament to the skill of the director. There are probably many scientific inaccuracies in this movie. For once, I don't care.

    I love this movie because it celebrates the very best of human nature - the will to survive, the resolve to overcome adversity, selflessness, ingenuity and creativity of the human mind.

    This was the movie I was waiting to see for a very long time. I just didn't know it.


Thursday, 9 January 2014


     The Texan Sun was unforgiving; its excoriating heat relentless, much worse than the stifling humidity of my hometown, Visakhapatnam. The El Paso Botanical Gardens looked unusually verdant against the arid landscape stretching endlessly to the horizon. The floor was being swept, tables were being moved, cutlery was being set, flowers were being brought in.This flurry of activity was punctuated by instructions delivered in English, Spanish and a garbled mixture of both. There were a few hours remaining before I stood by my brother's side at the altar. I sat on a stool languidly, leaning against the wall, my legs moving restlessly of their own accord, pondering the extremely long odds that brought me here.

     I was in Texas for my brother's wedding, an elaborate celebration that spanned three continents and four countries. A few months ago, my brother announced that he was engaged. His fiancee was exceedingly pretty, charmingly effervescent and eminently likeable. She was also Mexican. The announcement was received with much less palaver than I, as someone preternaturally attuned to our family dynamics, expected. I was not expecting earth shattering tectonic shifts but the calm almost resigned acceptance was decidedly out of character for my traditional family and a tad too anticlimactic.

     The ensuing months were a whirlwind of planning; the specifics of which were relayed from the UK, where my brother lives, to India where the wedding took place, through Abu Dhabi, where my parents live. All the preparations culminated in a boisterous, unapologetically grand celebratory spectacle that was my brother's Indian wedding.A little more than a month later, my family and I packed our bags and made our way to El Paso, the site of my brother's wedding - part deux.

     When my brother asked me to be his best man, I accepted without giving it a moment's thought. It was quite possibly the nicest gesture directed towards me. Upon further reflection, I started having misgivings. To put it mildly, I am not the most prepossessing of individuals. Add to that my utter lack of charm, my maladroit, accident prone, klutzy, disaster magnet of a body and my morbid fear of public speaking, you have a decent comedy movie plot but not the requisite elements for a best man at a wedding. With my mind visualising disaster scenarios ranging from my accidental burning of the church to misplacing the wedding rings, I watched the cater-waiters setting up the reception area.

     I looked at my watch and saw that I only had an hour to get ready. I walked at a brisker than normal pace to the hotel, showered and changed into my tuxedo. I checked myself out in the mirror. " Not too shabby", I remarked to myself. I joined my family and took a cab to the Church. My mom looked resplendent in a beautiful green sari, my dad respectably decked out in a dark blue suit. We talked about trivial stuff as the cheerful cabbie took us to the Church in about twenty minutes.

    I checked my pockets - the rings- check,

                                  - my wallet - check,

                                  - my phone - check,

                                  - a pack of gum - check,

                                  - some tissues - check.

     I had everything I needed or so I thought. We were intercepted by one of the other groomsmen at the entrance and whisked away to one of the rooms to the right of the altar. My brother was sitting in one of the chairs with his coat off, checking something on his phone. He looked up as we entered, shot a smile in our direction. I noticed that my brother was smiling a lot more these days. He had about him an air of bewildered joy, an expression that indicated he hadn t quite processed his emotions. He confided in me earlier that he was surprised by the depth of his feeling and that the myriad shades happiness can manifest in had taken him all unaware. I am genuinely glad he found someone who appreciates him for the person he is. Our reserved self effacing family sat close together in silence basking in the warmth of the love of our unvoiced endearments, our undemonstrated affections - a perfect moment of intimacy, a calming spiritual instant, that revealed to me the true meaning and strength of family. I will forever cherish that memory.

      We were all brought out of our reverie by the abrupt opening of the door. " Ok people, the show's about to start.", the altar boy announced in an oddly informal manner. The ceremony that followed was beautiful, poignant and mercifully brief. I was feeling faint towards the end of the ceremony but thankfully nobody noticed. I hugged my brother awkwardly after the ceremony. To our mutual surprise, neither of us gagged or fell to the ground seizing. Before he joined my new sister-in-law in the car to the reception, he said the five words that sent me into a near apoplectic state, "Looking forward to your toast"

      I had downloaded a speech off the internet and modified it to suit the occasion, an unexceptionable if slightly boring collection of words that I thought adequately represented the message the occasion warranted. Unfortunately I left it back at the hotel. I raced back to the hotel and turned my room upside down looking for it, during the course of which I tripped three times and hit my head twice. I then realised that room service would have chucked it away with the trash. Dishevelled and disappointed, I headed to the reception after futilely trying to make myself moderately presentable.

      Battling trembling hands and an imminent panic attack, I made my way to the table where I was seated to the right of my brother. He shot me an enquiring glance to which I replied non verbally with a shrug and a half grin. I was busy shovelling the delicious red velvet wedding cake into my mouth when the maid of honour attracted our attention by striking a fork against her champagne glass. She must have delivered an emotionally stirring toast because I saw people dabbing their eyes with hand kerchiefs. I could not hear a single word because all I could concentrate on was my rapid heart beat, which drowned out the words. I was sweating, hyperventilating and my hands were cold and clammy. I could suddenly hear applause and then silence as people were looking at me. I realised it was my turn. I was handed the microphone.

      I spoke the very first words that came to my mind. " Umm... Tough act to follow." I observed while laughing nervously. There was polite laughter from certain quarters. A pause during which murmurs of the audience could be heard followed. I took a deep breath and composed myself.

     "People always talk about Love at weddings. It is appropriate, I suppose. Never having been in Love myself, I don t think I could wax rhapsodic about the alchemy that is love. As an introvert, I may not be particularly loquacious, but I am a keen observer of the human condition. I can usually tell with nary a doubt when I am in the presence of Love. And today, I am."

     There was a loud " Yeah" from somewhere within the tent.

     "No more Champagne for him, please." I remarked to one of the wait staff which elicited muffled laughter from the crowd. That was when the tension broke; my speech, from then on, did not falter.

      " I have been incredibly blessed to have the greatest parents in the world. I have watched first hand what love really is. People often mistake grand spectacular gestures as emblematic of love. I know better. It is always the little things. Remembering how thinly he likes the vegetables sliced or how much she appreciates a clean bed or the Bond movie he liked as a kid or the perfect shade of blue she likes. The cliches - Opposites attract, Birds of a feather - are patently untrue. I have always found that the best couples complement each other. They bring out the best in each other and they smooth out the rough edges. I called love alchemy and in a sense it is, it takes two individuals and makes them a golden couple like these two radiant people here." I said, pointing to the left.

     " A wedding is a celebration of love, the happiest of occasions and I am truly privileged to be a part of this one. This wedding is doubly special because it also marks the coming together of two families each bringing to this celebration a rich and vibrant cultural heritage. Wishing that this union is the start of a relationship that yields a lifetime of happiness, I invite you all to raise your glasses and drink to the health of the most beautiful bride in the world and the luckiest guy in the world, my brother and his wife, Mr and Mrs Alamuri."

     There was a respectably loud applause and clinking of glasses. My brother gave me an affectionate pat on the back as I sat down. I was shaking and utterly spent. I excused myself and ran to the men's room. I thought I acquitted myself reasonably well without embarrassing myself. I came back and was dragged on to the dance floor. I swayed to the music for a while and left for the hotel. I discovered my original speech in my wallet later when I left a tip for the maid who had to clean my room twice.

     The next day, I was sent a link to youtube which turned out to be a video of me on the dance floor and I was mortified by what I saw. I was moving with all the grace of a pregnant buffalo on roller skates having an epileptic fit.

     I have now been informed that the video went viral. My terpsichorean ineptitude has been recorded for posterity.

     So much for not embarrassing myself.

    This was my entry to a recently held Short Story Competition. It was my first attempt at writing fiction. It was a hastily written, poorly proof read work. Nonetheless, I am proud of this labour of love. I hope my sophomore literary undertaking turns out to be more successful.. 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Interpreting a Malady

     Some denizens of this Information Age have developed an unnamed infirmity of the mind, a benign but supremely annoying condition that sometimes turns their compatriots homicidal. The sufferers are blissfully unaware of their condition and continue to inflict a cruel and unusual torture upon hapless friends, members of their family, colleagues, acquaintances and any living being in their digital vicinity. The effects of this ailment have been amplified by the ready availability of phones and internet. The sufferers exhibit a paradoxical nature of being extremely sensitive to any negativity directed towards them yet completely oblivious to the discomfort to others caused by their own thoughtlessness

    . The first stage is a sudden bout of quasi-enlightenment  leading to a paroxysm of verbosity that is spewed artlessly as a Facebook status or text. This enthusiastically shared word vomit is usually a platitude or something so moronically simplistic that it makes any sane reader visibly cringe. This status is immediately liked by a coterie of people who I have to assume are either really good friends, fellow sufferers who can empathize, opportunistic sycophants or the mentally defective.This often syntactically unsound rendering of a pseudo-epiphany ( or verbal diarrhea, if you want to be mean ) is then attacked by a second wave of people, comprising the Grammar Nazis, the pretend intellectuals, the contrarian horde and the frankly bored and idle.

      In the third stage this verbal volley of the inarticulate and the asinine descends to the gutter. People get riled up and start hurling expletives at each other written in SHOUTY CAPITALS. After expending an inordinate and frankly ridiculous amount of time and energy, all the brain dead parties call it quits. If the sufferer has a shred of intelligence, retrospection usually brings a sense of clarity and a feeling of mortification . A total cure usually follows. If there is no sign of intelligence in their dead eyes and their skull is as hollow as a politician's promise, this cycle is endlessly repeated.

     There are options available to those who do not wish to get wounded by the ricocheting verbal shrapnel. The first is to defriend the offender. The second is to ignore them though it can be well nigh impossible to be a fiddling Nero when there is an ongoing rape of the English Language. Also lying in wait for the next bout of this nonsensical deluge to drench you can be excruciating and potentially hazardous to mental health. Apprising the affected of his effect on you can lead to the loss of a friend and is an exercise in futility . Of course you could always delete your Facebook account. But you 're not gonna...

      Because making fun of these ludicrous "pearls of wisdom" is endlessly entertaining and is a sure fire way to build your self esteem. So we wait for the next outburst gleefully with the macabre enthusiasm of one who enjoys a train wreck.