Waterboarding- Bragadeesh Prasanna

Title: Waterboarding

Author: Bragadeesh Prasanna

Published: 2017

Pages: 201

Genre: Fiction

What’s in words?

Forgetfulness is one thing. Forgetting a phase of one’s life is another. How would it feel, if there existed a love story in those erased pages? Tricky and scary, right? That is what the book is about.

The story revolves around Ved, Sara and Maya. It swings between the past and the present and ends in the threshold of the future.

“A little pain is always nice. It helps us appreciate the normalcy when it returns”- Ved

Ved meets with a gory accident, which leaves him plastered. He is immobile and as a result frustrated. Worse, he seems to have forgotten his pre-accident life due to trauma. He takes the help of two of his trusted friends- Ramesh and Sara to figure out the missing details and to get back to normalcy. Ramesh, Robin, Sai and Neena are the other named characters in this story, who play their own significant part.

Who is Maya? What is her role? Where is she now? What about Menaka? Guru?

“Darkness has that capacity to coerce the truth”- Guru

Answers to these questions form the remaining part of the story.

Woven along an intricate maze, the author keeps the story moving. There is no dull moment anywhere in the 201 pages.

“One can only drink so much from a mirage” –Sara

The story has been written in a ‘Peter Swanson’ style. Three people narrate the story to the reader, giving three unique perspectives. While Ved and Maya say the story themselves, Sara records it in her diary. It is nice to have a change of narrative once in a while.

One thing that I liked the most about this book is the selection of verbs. I have been learning this for a short while- A strong verb gives the sentence its punch and helps improve any description. It is true. The change in the quality of description is extreme, when compared to the author’s previous book, 300 days.

Apart from the gripping story, the book has some nice lines to mark and cherish.

“When someone says something bad about us, we are ready with piles of justifications and incidental sequences to defend ourselves. But compliments always work the other way round” – Ved

There are few editing issues with the book which could confuse the reader. But ignore that and proceed with the core idea, one can still relish the book. I am sure all of us will relate to at least a couple of parts in this book. Waterboarding is NOT torture. Not here at least.

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Lakshmi- Feminism? or not?

I believe that movies are a great medium to talk to the masses. Of course, it is a one-way communication mode, but it makes us think. Powerful stories with the apt background score and cinematography can create magic on screen. Short films are no less effective than feature films.

My post is about the short film, Lakshmi, and its widespread discussion in the social media.

The movie is about a woman in a sad marriage and her thoughts. It doesn’t stop with her thoughts, it manifests in her actions too. At least for a short while. I am not spoiling the movie further, please do watch it here. (It has subtitles too!)

So a few of my friends tagged me in one of the discussion pages where the movie was being dissected beyond the normal level of human comprehension. I mean, it is a movie. It could represent the societal realities as much as it represents the overhyped and unrealistic aspects. But a few comments alarmed me. When did this become anything related to feminism?

Nobody questions when a man cheats on his wife, but why is the hell breaking loose when a woman does the same? asked one of the ‘feminist pages’.

From what I saw, this had zilch to do with feminism or the absence of it. The movie was about abusive marriage and infidelity as a tool to set off such abuse in the marriage. How is it even justified? The last I checked, two wrongs do not make one right. Just because one person in the marriage is abusive, it is not a license to indulge in an extra-marital affair. It does not address the problem. It creates a new problem for the couple.

Individual freedom is a different concept from relationship rules. Any relationship revolves around an unsaid charter, I feel. There are points classified as Green, Yellow and Red light ones, signifying the acceptability of each of them. The red ones are the deal breakers. What I don’t understand is that why is everything linked to feminism these days? So much that the mere term scares even the well-meaning people off.

I personally felt that if one is in an abusive marriage, one must either talk and sort it out or walk out of the marriage. The individual frustration is not a good reason to cheat on the significant other.

In fact, the movie left the crucial bits to the audience to conclude. So the views might change according to the way each of us perceived those crucial junctures. I liked the movie for what it is though. It made me reflect on the ideals of a relationship.

Mindless thoughts after a movie

Three love stories. Two had a ‘happily ever after’ ending.

A fiery-filmy one, a slow and uncertain one and a mature one. It is confusing, isn’t it? I was just speed-watching the movie Kandukondein Kandukondein and couldn’t help but notice the contrasts in the storylines.

I am not sure if the director meant the audience to notice this. Did he imply that the fiery, too-good-to-be-true affair to fizzle out eventually and the ones that withstand the odds to survive at the end? I really don’t know.

A tiny note about this movie- Amazing songs, beautiful cinematography (worth remembering for a long time) and star cast. 

I am not qualified to talk about love or relationships. Heck, my reputation till recently was of ‘breaking up relationships’. No, before you conclude, let me explain why.

If someone asks me for a ‘relationship advice’ (dressed up term for ranting about the significant other), I listen. I listen with all the patience I can possibly muster. I realise at the 23rd minute of the rant that this person is just a party to an abusive relationship and is being taken for a ride by that other person. So, as a good Samaritan, what do I do? I express my expert opinion on that subject.

It is not as if one aims to split people up. Often I find people getting swept away by the glitz and glamour of a relationship. The honeymoon phase, you know. It is after it wears off that one gets to the evaluation mode. So yes. I advise. Free of cost and only when solicited.

So post that phone call, these people wake up from their self-imposed slumber and see what I said. They understand the nitty-gritty of my opinion and the rest is history.

So back to this movie, I was wondering what would I have done, if it was my friend, who fell for Bharathiyar poems? ( I would totally fall for the poems, for the record, and not the guy who recites it. Okay, maybe for the guy who sings it just like Hariharan did in Suttum Vizhi Sudar thaan) Would I have stepped in, suo motu and given her/him a piece of my mind? Probably no.

Over the years, the one thing that I learnt the hard way was to not give my opinion on something unless asked for it. Expert opinion is not meant to be given free of cost, right? I just smile and move on. Whatever has to happen, will happen.

I also was surprised that the director chose to make the underrated love stories in that movie, a success. I was talking about this to my mom. We often discuss these issues. She says that a relationship must be tested as much as possible before it becomes anything significant, culturally ( you know the socio-cultural ceremonies and recognition). She says that it must witness quarrels, distance, possessiveness, helplessness and a whole range of concepts before one can safely trust it.

I am not sure I agree with this fully. To an extent, yes. It makes sense. I would go for the practical aspects of any relationship to its theoretical version. To carry my SO in my pocket and roam around is just impossible. Even if we decide to take the plunge, it is not as if we are gonna sync our office timings to the T and spend amaaaazing weekends together. C’mon! I have seen my parents, and hell no! They don’t do that. And theirs is the perfect marriage I have ever known.

So is love a compromise? A decision? or an impulsive feeling? Did Meenakshi settle to marry Bala because he was the most accessible and available person then? Did Mano come back to marry his love because he knew she would remain unmarried for the rest of her life, given her so-called bad luck?

I must not be allowed to watch movies. Hence proved.

A Glimpse of the Past- Dakshinachitra

Faint notes of ‘Saamajavaragamana’ struck me, when I stood at the reception of Dakshinachitra to buy an entry pass. This krithi in Hindolam is by Saint Sri Thyagaraja, who lived in the 18th century A.D. The fragrance of agarbaththis wafted through the air, bringing with it the scent of Arali (Nerium) flowers. All these eased me up for a laid-back walk inside Dakshinachitra.

Dakshinachitra is nothing like a conventional museum. The absence of glass-covered artefacts and long corridors can confuse anybody. Reconstructed traditional houses from the four south Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh find their places here. Dakshinachitra is a walk through the memory lanes of our ancestors and the lives they lived.

Checking my pass in, I crossed over a small archway, to see the vast expanse of land. Huge canopies lined up along stony pathways. A tiny market made its presence felt, thanks to the bling that were up for sale.

All the old houses that are replicated in Dakshinachitra are bought from the contractors who are assigned to demolish them by their owners.  More often than not, the owners want a modern house in the places of these old houses and hence sell them off.

We do extensive research on the background of the house and its people and try our best to recreate it here,” says Sharath Nambiar, Deputy Director of Dakshinachitra.

My favourite was the Chuttillu House, which sadly is placed at the fag end of the trail. Found in the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh, the structure in Dakshinachitra was specifically from Yelamanchilli, Vishakapatnam district. These houses are made of mud and circular. They have thatched roof that extends until the ground, in order to drain off the water, from the incessant rains that the storms bring. These roofs are built at an angle of at least 45 degrees to drain the rainwater away. The round shape of the building is to combat the raging winds, which are usual in the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh.

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The Chettiar house from Tamil Nadu was another memorable piece.

The term ‘Chettinad’ denotes the region Pudukottai, Sivagangai and Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu. Trade was their main occupation and it reflected in their lavish lifestyle. Polished wooden interiors, which kept the temperature inside the house in check and a collection of expensive articles that were given as gifts during their weddings vouched for the prosperity of the Chettiars.

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A typical Chettiar house has a long thinnai , which is the porch at the entrance of the house and an inner open-roof courtyard in the middle of the house. The thinnai is for the men and outsiders to meet and talk while the courtyard is for events that are more intimate. It is the sacred space and is designated only for family members.

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The Syrian Christian house is characterised by the woodwork, mostly with timber and jackfruit wood, the well in the kitchen and long verandahs. The polished, dark brown wooden walls were attractive and gave a rich texture.

IMG_20171026_114309These houses had huge granaries too, which were built immediately at the entrance. The Syrian Christians used to pray in front of their granaries and hence their houses were built to store huge quantities of food grains. Their settlements were concentrated in the districts of Kottayam, Kollam and Aluva, mainly in the valley of the river Pamba.

Karnataka is a state, whose history is rich. From the mountainous regions of Coorg and Talacauveri to the heritage of Hampi, it has it all. The exhibit of the Chikmagalur house told the story of its original inhabitant, a Muslim trader named M.A.Ismail. The house’s special feature was the patterns in the doorways and windows made of fine limestone. Houses in Chikmagalur are built with varying grades of limestone, found in abundance in Karnataka. The most coarse grade would go to building the base of the building while the finest will be made as floral patterns over doorways.

Chikmagalur was populated by Muslim traders, credited for bringing the art of perfume oil extraction from Arabia.

On my way out, I stop by Nambiar’s office to ask about the loud voices that sang the basic notes of Carnatic music all along.

“We work with a lot of folk performers and expose them to various other styles of dance and theatre,” he says.

Dakshinachitra is also planning to hold thematic exhibitions and environment awareness programs to school students who visit the place. I take a quick walk inside the craft shop and being broke, started on my way back home, with loads of memories and pages of heavy notes.

*Dakshinachitra is located on the East Coast Road (ECR), very close to MGM and is well connected by bus.