That’s the title of the book my roommate gave me for my birthday. As it happens, my birthday was bang in the middle of a week full of lab exams and surprise tests; I gave the book back to Roomie and asked her to keep it at the back of her cupboard and not give it to me until the exams were all over. It’s more than a month now since then, and I neatly forgot to bring it back here.
I’m regretting that. It’s easily one of the best translations I’ve read [The original is in Hindi, Suraj Ka Saathvaan Ghoda by Dharamvir Bharti, and somehow I wish I'd read that], and the eponymous movie based on it is really good, for a change [by Shyam Benegal, starring Rajit Kapoor, Pallavi Joshi, Neena Gupta, Amrish Puri and a whole host of other 'art' film actors]. I’ve read the book only once, and concluded then that it wasn’t really relevant in our world now. More of an ’80s socially conscious book, I said.
Plotline: The novel [or should it be novella?] is in the form of a collection of six incidents narrated by Manik Mulla [the chief protagonist, Rajit Kapoor in the movie] to the gang that gathers at his house regularly to escape the afternoon heat. I won’t go into the detailed storyline here, for the story weaves into a tangled web where the different characters enter more than once, affecting each others’ lives at various times.
From one point of view, it’s about the protagonist’s involvement with three women, each from a different strata of society. The first story deals with the middle-class Jamuna [Rajeshwari Sachdev in the movie] whose lover Tanna can’t muster enough guts to defy his father [Amrish Puri] and come to her, and foists her pent-up affection on Manik, then a young lad. The next story deals with her being married off to a much older man and how she circumvents [as opposed to overcome] her middle class moralities in order to get herself a better life.
Next, we see a bit of Tanna’s life, his individuality being quashed by his overbearing father. He is married off [in exchange for a hefty dowry] to the well-educated Lily [Pallavi Joshi], who happens to be Manik’s lady love.
That’s that, you think, but there’s more. There’s the soapmaker, whose name I’ve unfortunately forgotten [Neena Gupta], who holds all the men in raptures, and is enraptured by Manik. He, at this stage is in a stage of worry about his future plans, and confides in her. In time, he understands she isn’t his intellectual equal, and never will be. Tanna’s father now wants her, and so buys her off her uncle. She runs to Manik for help, but his middle-class mentality falls in the way of him rescuing her, and he delivers her to her uncle and Amrish Puri. He gives her up for dead, and resumes his life.
Flash forward to Manik narrating this last tale. The group reflect on how the lower-middle class aren’t able to break free of the pseudo values they believe in, which keep them shackled, inhibiting them from following their dreams and aspirations and bettering their lives. He likens the stories to the six horses of the sun’s chariot, saying that they have grown old and bent, and don’t pull the chariot as well as they used to. But there’s hope in the form of the seventh horse, [or that the seventh horse is the embodiment of hope] who is young, vibrant and enthusiastic, and will pull the sun towards a new day, which, hopefully will be better than yesterday.
<><>The climax comes after this, and… well, I won’t divulge it here, but it is one of those that leaves you feeling the same way when you spent a good five minutes polishing your shoes, and someone comes along and stamps them dirty. But then, it does leave you thinking about the stories for a long time…
<><>The book is a good work of socially conscious fiction, but the reader needs to keep in mind that this book was written in the ’80s, when he is thinking of how relevant the issues the author deals with are. The movie is, for a change, faithful to the book. The only place where it departs from the book is in the omission of the climactic ‘punch’, which, on hindsight, I feel, could not have been included in the movie.
The translation is a good piece of work, but it made me wish I’d read it in Hindi, for the phrases and idioms in Hindi obviously convey more than the English versions. The pace is easy, and the story flow is smooth, with each story blending into the other with ease.
Same can be said of the movie, which is an ‘art’ film, which means the actors can actually act. The characters are convincing. More so, since I was not aware of the ‘actor’ status of most of them, save Pallavi Joshi and Amrish Puri, when I watched the film. Editing is deft, and the scenes blend seamlessly into each other.
All in all, I’ll say it’s a good read, and a good watch. Unlike most other film adaptations, this is one film you can watch before you read the book, and not feel backstabbed when you read the book. You can even catch the flick after you read the book, and not feel like ranting about what a bad adaptation it is for two hours.
PS: Phew! My first book review and first proper film review are done. Hmm… I’d say not too bad a piece for when I’ve read the book two months back and don’t have it with me now, and when I’ve watched the film two years ago.
Listening to: Title track of Freaky Chakra [crazy movie, crazy track, you can listen to it and the other songs from the soundtrack here .]
It is, as Nitin reminds me, a month since our vacations began. Everyone and his brother seems to be doing a project at IISc, or BARC or some such equally [for me] inaccessible place. And most engineering students in Bangalore have two weeks of Study Holidays, which, for some weird reason, they use to study. But that isn't it. The guys doing commerce are studying for their CA exams [why, it beats me, when the exams are in November] and the remaining Commerce and Arts students are already cramming for CAT and GRE, doing wordlists [somehow it feels stupid to me, poring over lists of words you never would be caught dead mouthing], Class XII math, and the like. Some ingenious souls targeting top universities in the country and abroad have discovered the need to be able to hold a fluent conversation on "Pink pajamas on Red Fort" and similar topics that make infinitely loads of sense to mere mortals like me, and have resolved to religiously dig into newspapers everday, solve The Hindu's cryptic crossword, Sudoku, Kakuro, Spellathon, Scramble and Mindbender in ToI[let paper, I maintain].
As for me, I'm stuck at home with broadband Internet and my very own laptop, and all I've become adept at is doing nothing. Well, I've developed a hobby of sorts – I sit in a corner all day and collect dust. Apart from that….. I've been compiling A Dozen Ways to Do Nothing, taking inspiration from Contraption at Shaastra. Here's a sample:
- Decide at night to wake as early as you can as you want to go for a walk. To your surprise, wake at the appointed hour. Step outside, and run back in shivering muttering about how the weather here is aeons colder than what it is at the coast. Spend an hour watching soothsayers and spiritual gurus on the morning shows of various channels. Since you've woken so early, you're feeling tired and deserve some rest. Go back to sleep, not heeding mum's wake-up calls. Wake up close to noon, and curse about how half the day is past without your knowledge.
- A lot of people maintain that Orkut is the foremost way to waste time. But naah, not everyone seems to be orkutting these days. You almost get bored to frustration reading others' so un-happening scrapbooks, or checking out profiles of people who are "a eclesiastic mix of extremes" or "hard to get to know" and are "looking for genuine friendship". There are better things to do, like classifying your friends list. Put your friends into groups like "Bigtime Leeches", "I have eyes for", "I'd prefer not laying my eyes on", "Wouldn't mind sharing my toothbrush with", "Best kept at an arms length", etc.
- Argue with yourself about whether reading the book prejudices you against the movie. To prove or disprove your theory, decide to watch The Motorcycle Diaries before you read the book[btw, today, ie June 14, is the day Che Guevara would have turned 78 if he had lived]. Spend a day and a half downloading it off Limewire. Refuse to preview the movie while downloading, as it is a waste of time. When you finally get down to watching the movie, discover to your amazement it's in Spanish sans subtitles. Decide to watch it anyway, as, if it doesn't help you, it will build character. Spend the next two hours preventing yourself from nodding off, and wishing Ernesto never had to leave Miramar.
- For Stage II of your experiment, try obtaining the ebook online, as you have gotten unused to buying paperbacks. For once, a request goes unheeded on the various Ebook communities on Orkut. Sullenly go to your corner bookstore and spend the better part of half an hour looking for a thick volume in the upper shelves, cursing yourself for not being taller. When your neck muscles can't seem to take it anymore, ask the assistant for help. He will locate a slim volume in one of those shelves you hadn't bothered looking into. Curse yourself for your oversight. Curse yourself some more when you see the bill.
- Arrange to meet an old friend at one of the various malls of Bangalore. Catch 40 winks on the bus. Wake up in an area totally different from the one you hoped to get off at. Hurriedly get off the bus, only to discover you should have stayed on until the next stop. Decide to walk the rest of the way. During the walk, discover new muscles in your legs, and the effect of heat on a hotheaded girl. Get to the mall and hunt all around for your friend, who happens to be nowhere in sight. Discover now that you are low on your prepaid balance, and that your friend seems to be in the same situation from the way he's been replying to your missed calls with… missed calls. Look around for a half-an-hour more to see if you can spot the tiny guy you used to sit next to in school. Finally concede defeat and call him up, and give him accurate directions to reach you. Then discover that your 'ickle ex-classmate has morphed into a six-foot tall hunk, the same one who you thought was leering at you ten minutes back. [No, he wasn't leering, he thought you looked familiar.]. Marvel on how much people change on the outside, but still stay the same inside.
- Decide to finish atleast half of Tolstoy's War and Peace. Have one look at the ebook and decide the font's too small to read. Select all, copy-paste into a Word document [or OpenOffice.org Writer] increase the font size and convert it back to .pdf, 'coz no other format seems as comfy. In the middle of the process, feel it's taking too long, and begin to chat on Y! messenger and Gtalk simultaneously. Then in the thick of a good conversation, begin to feel it's distracting you from the epic book, and piss your friends off by raving about the book, and how they should be reading it too, instead of talking about those inane topics you suggested. When they finally leave you in peace, decide the book is too long, and too boring to be read in one go. Since it's bad for the eyes to read at a stretch from the screen, shut down and go to bed.
- Locate a link to download that textbook everyone wants, but is afraid to buy, thanks to its dimensions which are larger than the average laptop, and its correspondingly massive cost. With joy, click on the link to download it. Don't be too surprised at its size which is around 40 MB. Agree that two hours is worth its while in downloading such an esteemed publication. Spend the two hours doing something as inane as writing this post. When download is completed successfully, open it with anticipation, only to find that the book is all Greek to you….. no, wait… isn't that how French is written?
I now take this opportunity to curse all those people I've been dying to meet from the past three months, and who have been luring me with false promises of reunions and suchlike things, who can't take a day off cramming and mugging for the godforsaken exams conducted by their Very Technical University. Guys, I know I'm being slightly unfair here, as I haven't called you all up or anything, but I just don't have the heart to distract you from your successful acquisition of an Engineering degree with my jobless ranting. I don't see the point of writing this, either, as y'all wouldn't read a word apart from your textbooks and the occasional Sidney Sheldon, much less come online and read the mails I send you [and if you do, the max y'all care about is replying as if it were an sms] , and least of all, take trouble to read my blog.
PS: Dee, if you happen to read this, don't be under the impression I'm pissed off with you, it's just the joblessness getting to me. And yeah, we'd better meet up sometime soon, it's been aeons since I saw you last.
I surprised everyone at home this morning by waking up early. No, it wasn’t because the mosquitoes refused to let me sleep, or ‘coz my sister pulled my sheet away leaving me cold. Well, anyway, I was up before the newspapers arrived, and I didn’t want to stick around shivering in the cold till then, so I gave my mum a heart-attack by going for a morning walk.
I’d first thought of just walking around the colony, but the surface resembles the moon’s, very unkind on the feet. Hmm… miniforest wasn’t very far away, I’d probably go there.
But when I got there, I decided the area’s too familiar to me, so I’d just walk and walk till I felt like coming back.
I won’t bore you with details of how good the walk felt, how amazed I was that my hay-fever had vanished, how beautiful things looked in the morning light, how vicious the street dogs were [mom maintains that they chase me due to the way I wear my jacket], and how far you can get carried away by your thoughts.
I don’t still know what possessed me, but an hour later, I found myself four km away from home. There I was, demented with fatigue and hunger, too sleepy to walk all the way back. To my luck, I’d forgotten my mobile at home, and so had to get back before my mum started worrying. Luckily, I had a little money [and I mean little], enough to get back home by BMTC bus.
As I walked to the bus stop, I watched the direct bus home rush past me, the conductor smirking at me as I waved frantically for the bus to stop. Ten minutes later at the bus stop, I was amazed by how many destinations there were in South Bangalore, and how mine was but an insignificant one, that there’s just one bus every ten-fifteen minutes to it.
The next bus did turn up finally, and my destination suddenly seemed to be very popular, everyone and his brother wanted to go to JP Nagar 3rd Phase just then. The bus was bursting at the seams, as aunties and tiny schoolchildren jostled for space, nay, entry into the bus. The conductor smugly asked some of the bigger aunties to get off, there was a rule against overloading a bus, and come to think of it, there isn’t enough space. Finally, everyone did get in, me on the footboard [a more nimble schoolgirl pushed me there, squeezing her way deep into the bus], only prevented from being pushed off the bus by the two huge aunties behind me… I discovered they really had more inertia.
I was relieved it was just the morning, and that it wasn’t all that warm, people sweated less, and used deo. I didn’t have to worry anyway, I was asphyxiated and the breath was knocked out of me by the pushing and shoving from all directions. As I gripped the bar, closed my eyes and waited for the next stop, [the bus was moving very slowly due to the load] flashes of my past flickered past my eyes. The asphyxia reminded me of another time when I’d gotten into an equally crowded bus [not on the footboard, though] just ‘coz this friend of mine who I used to travel home with wanted to beat the clock to get to speak to a certain someone. And the other time when I bumped into a long-lost friend on a bus….
Next stop. I had to get off and then get on. Now, this was tricky, coz once before, the bus had left without me. The aunties made sure I had no hassle. QED.
The conductor came around asking for tickets. Should I say “pass” like the girl in front of me and save myself the hassle of having to dig through my pockets for change? I unfortunately didn’t. The ticket costed five rupees, which was daylight robbery [I wouldn't say robbery without violence, the way people rush to get into a bus is pretty violent] for four kilometres! No wonder BMTC is the only public transport corporation that makes a profit. Well, I’d been used to travelling by bus two years before, when fuel prices weren’t as high as they are now. Didn’t feel all that Rip van Winkle-y though. Well, I got back two rupees change, and no ticket! Why, the cheating scum, how petty can you get?
“Ticket kodtheera?” I bravely ventured. “Illa ma,” the conductor said. Look, your stop is just a few minutes away, why don’t you do us both a favour and stop asking for a ticket? “Checking-avaru bandare?” Main hoon na, he said.
I was too weak to argue, and wasn’t ready for the consequences. Once before, when I’d asked for a ticket instead of half the fare, this conductor had the audacity to snap at me, and pull my leg the rest of the journey, and when I started raising my voice, had the guts to push this huge lady so that she fell on me.
Well, I finally reached home, tired and hungry. Sis was waiting at the door, ready to pounce on me, coz I’d worn her slippers for the walk. Thanks to all the pushing and shoving on the bus, I’d gotten bitten by the shoe [it can tell when it's in a hostile environment] and it was fully ruined.
She was done shouting at me, and then amicably suggested, “Well, you seem to like my slippers a lot, so you keep it, and I’ll go get some new ones”.
So I’m stuck with a pair of biting slippers, and I don’t think I’ll ever go out on a ramble again. Walking doesnt seem so good for my health anymore. I’ll lie in bed and watch action movies for exercise.