Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Chronicles of a journalist - The first article for which I got a by line =)

August 19th 2007, The Sunday Express

Nikita Lalwani
Penguin Books, Rs 395

Nikita Lalwani’s debut novel ‘Gifted’, traces the life of Rumi Vasi, Cardiff's mathematics prodigy from age 5 to age 15. Her empathetic novel has been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize of 2007. From Rumi's addiction to cumin seeds, her love of the number 512 to her self-consciousness and feeling for India, the author describes her fictional genius' every fleeting emotion in the novel.

To enter the mind of a child, let alone a child genius, is an extremely hard task, yet Lalwani has captured Rumi’s thoughts in vivid detail. Rumi finds solace in her number-crunching, but is terribly lonely as a child. "She felt her inferiority; the weight of her books and the clothes on her back seemed to deform her posture appropriately, forcing her to bend over like a true outcast..." She can accurately calculate that her probability of walking home with the popular John is 0.2142, but the probability that he maybe interested in her could be a negative digit. But it is not John, it is her equations with her family which form a major part of Lalwani’s novel.

We encounter Mahesh Vasi, Rumi’s father, in the very first chapter, pondering over something from his daughter’s exercise book. Something pricks him like “a tiny dental tool piercing soft gum”. Seemingly insignificant at first, the novel’s opening is quite telling encompassing most of Mahesh’s characteristics especially his ignorance regarding his daughter. Shreene who never stands up to her husband, is emotional and very unlike the logical and precise Mahesh. Despite this emotional side, she also cannot decipher her daughter .

Education plays an important role for Mahesh, a first generation immigrant. Living in his bubble of clear pros and cons, dos and don’ts, he is a hybrid – a victim as well as a villain. He wants his daughter to have the opportunities he never had, and aspires for Rumi to shine in her field.

And that is Rumi’s tragedy. Driven by her father, she leads a friendless existence. Working out problems in the library, fighting hunger and cold, she is forbidden to talk to anyone during these sessions. Her math skills however flourish and she joins Oxford at the tender age of 15 years, 3 months and 8 days and opens her eyes to a whole new world. More importantly, to a world where she can do as she pleases. Away from her tight study schedules and the hawk eyes of her parents, it is only a matter of time before she follows her heart.

Though comic in places, it is Rumi’s anguish which comes through clearly.. The novel is fast paced, drawing the readers into its inner depths.. Screaming bouts with Shreene, a thrashing from Mahesh, all leave Rumi scarred and lost, without anybody to lean on except her numbers. The conflicting values thrust on a child brought up outside of her country are painted clearly in various hues by Lalwani. Unable to comply with her parents’ wishes, yearning for a bond with someone, and without any friends of her own, she rings the emergency services to simply hear the voice of another.

Nikita Lalwani is of Indian origin, born in Rajasthan and raised in Cardiff, Wales, she has directed factual television and documentaries for the BBC. Weaving many post-colonial themes into the novel as well as delving deeply into the minds of her characters, especially her child genius, it is a novel of social as well as psychological relevance. Wonderful and poignant, it is a well-written, tight and an extremely evocative debut novel.


Who knows what people think,
Why some are nice while others stink,
Why they laugh, why they cry,
Why they smile and why they lie.
Do you know why some do both at the same time?
Why some illuminate lives while others are mere grime?

Why do some never accept the truth,
Tis hard, but that’s life, forsooth.
Why do some paint grey in others’ lives,
Use their daggers, stab deep with knives.
Keep your grey to yourself alone,
Someday about you all will be known.

They say what goes around comes around,
What was alive once, has to go deep underground.
They live in the hope that this is true,
They live with hope; it takes away the blue.
Hope can mislead, can lead to disappointment,
Will you risk hoping and wait for contentment?

Some brush it off – “C’est la vie,
People are mad, leave them be”.
They move on, forget the past,
It’s over, they don’t let the pain last.
They go home, eat, work and sleep well,
Above the grey people do their souls dwell.

Some lose bits of their colour, soul and spirit,
They weep inside trying not to let others know it.
Ouside it’s “C’est la vie, unaffected is me”,
Inside the hurt and rage twists; others cannot see.
Forgive not, forget-it-not, secret pain is the worst,
With steel exteriors, tender interiors, such people are cursed.

So which one are you, or which one do you want to be.
Who will you let inside, how many people will really see?

Love comes with its own terms and conditions,
Lovers lie, proclaim love, have a private list of sins.
Friends judge, want what you have; they also lie.
Sometimes you’ll wish they would all just die.
People, they come and they go, but you go on forever.
Malaise may remain.. but never become one of the grey. Never.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Fantastic . . ?

Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Andre Braugher, Laurence Fishburne (voice), Doug Jones, Beau Garrett, Brian Posehn, Zach Grenier, Kenneth Welsh, Patricia Harras, Gonzalo Menendez
Written by: Mark Frost, Don Payne, based on a story by Mark Frost, John Turman
Directed by: Tim Story
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of action violence, some mild language and innuendo
Running Time: 92 minutes

The Fantastic Four : Rise of the Silver Surfer

It’s up to the spandex-clad Fantastic 4 to save our world. Ahem. I have to admit, I went to see the super visual effects and CG, but despite the cool visuals the movie was quite a let-down.

If the director was attempting to show the more human, less super-hero side of the Fantastics, he failed miserably. Glitz and glitter affect the soon-to-be-married couple, and the notorious playboy is having, or trying to have, an emotional crisis. The characters have plenty of potential for real humour, what with a sexy girl who can turn invisible and her brother who goes up in flames. But her lying naked in the middle of a New York street mumbling “Why does this always happen to me?”. Lazy, lazy. Oozing with unnecessary cheesy lines, the script would have been better off if it was written by my Labrador puppy.

Acting. What’s that? Jessica Alba’s blue contact lenses, peroxide hair and fabulous figure do not make up for her lack of acting skills. And that’s just one of the Fantastics.
Villains are supposed to be fun. Doom was far from it being simply unconvincing with a lot of messy lines. Forget clichéd, this is a cartoon meant for kids, it has to be clichéd. That doesn’t mean the same as nonsensical however. The ending, in addition to being a letdown, is nonsensical. A lot of what happens in the film, including the re-introduction of Dr. Doom, feels completely arbitrary.

The special effects will have many slack-jawed though, like the kid behind who loudly gasped “Woooow!” every once in a while. And the Silver Surfer is the only one in the movie who deserved to have his name in the title of the movie. In fact, it should have been called just ‘The Silver Surfer’. I found myself groaning because I knew he would sacrifice his life for the silly Sue (Jessica Alba).

If I didn’t like it, I can only imagine how cartoon lovers may have cringed or cried at the movie.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Borrowed chronicles

" Does she know?

Take me in the kitchen
Also in the hall
Does she know what you're doing
Whenever she calls

Ask me to make you happy
Ask her to marry you
Does she know what she's getting
By being in love with you?

Wrap your arms around me
Kiss her delicate face
Tell her that you love her
And spend the night at my place

Tell me I'm your lover
Tell her she's the one
Have your fun with me
Go to her when we're done

This is for all the lying, cheating, w***heads I know and have heard of. "

this is by a friend. at http://nrithyaundiluted.blogspot.com/

Chronicle one - chronicles of the insane

I hate hospitals.

I’m sure quite a few people do… why would anyone in their right mind love hospitals? The smell of disinfectant, pristine white surroundings, sick people, conceited doctors, inefficient medicines... you get the picture.

And a sickeningly pristine white screen in the pristine visitors room.

It bugged the hell out of me. A plain white screen. How many exciting things can one do in a hospital? People like me come and go through that visitors’ room. Ninety out of a hundred would end up staring at the screen and wonder why a sickeningly white screen was sitting there. Its sole purpose seems to be to irritate the hell out of people waiting to hear if their loved one (or most hated nemesis) was dead or hanging by a thread or hale and hearty.

I wasn’t exactly waiting. I was just sick of being in my ‘loved one’s’ room. I realize it’s strange how many times I use the word ‘sick’ while sitting in a hospital with people far sicker than me but well. It’s just a word.

I walked out of the visitors’ room. The entrance. Now why would a visitors’ room be opposite the noisy, claustrophobic, phones-ringing-off-the-hook entrance of a hospital? As if the visitors didn’t have enough to worry about in a life or death situation. One more thing to think about if I have nothing else to do. I can hardly wait.

I could see the ramp clearly. Two wheel-chaired people were brought in, one who was a young boy who obviously did not want to be in the speedy, creaky transportation device. (well, what else can I call a wheelchair??) They brushed past me. The skinny mother spat on her hand and slicked her son’s hair back. Who cared what you look like in a hospital though?

I needed some air. ‘Loved one’ had many visitors. He didn’t need one more. I didn’t have to entertain him for now. I was liberated from the sickening building. For now.

It was dark, I couldn’t see much. As a result I couldn’t run from my relatives. I crashed into them head-on. “Bachchu, you look so tired!”, “How IS he?”, “Oh the poor boy, he must be in so much pain..” Yeah right. Who asked him not to wear a bloody helmet in the first place. But I bit my tongue, muttered formalities and fled for my life.

After the first few deep drags of what I call air, I began my descent back to earth from wherever I was earlier. I stood there smoking by the side of the dark road, next to a claustrophobic hospital, drinking a bad cup of refreshing coffee. I collected my wits and watched the electrical wires send off sparks high above my head. They reminded me of me in a strange way. Suspended far away from anything else, sending off temperamental sparks and watching the rest of the world. No, I’m not suspended above anybody else, levitating like some peaceful, enlightened sage. I’m just different, I suppose. Like the wires. If that makes any sense to you.

Standing by the side of the road with my coffee and my cigarette. You can see what a health-freak I was. Health-freak. Alarm bells went off in my head. I had to meet my daughter’s teachers the next day. The ‘council’ she called them; ‘Cold Ogres Under Nun Control Inside Loos’. Made absolutely no sense to me. Well, at least her vocabulary was expanding. I’d have to skip the meeting. I loved meeting them and rattling them though. A couple of sharp questions and casual remarks and they never knew what hit them. My daughter loved me more after these rattling sessions. She would rub noses with me and say what a cool parent I was.

I thought of the hospital again and shuddered. How I hated it. I would sit outside the visitors’ room these days, studiously avoiding the white screen and the relatives I could see walking up the ramp into the building. And later I would go and entertain my ‘loved one’. Which wasn’t too bad I guess. I suppose there was a reason why I had married him, helmet-less or not. It was quid pro quo. He drove without a helmet. I smoked.

As I blew the smoke through my lips I laughed. That was the only thing he liked about my smoking. He liked watching me. Watching me blow the smoke out through my lips. Said he loved my lips. Eccentric ‘loved one’. He had a thing about lips. They had to be perfect on a woman. Not too thick, not too blubbery. Maybe that’s the only reason he married me. For my lips.

I decided to be nice and thoughtful for a change and bought him a nice non-pristine-hospital meal. I don’t know what we saw in each other, it was like a character from a nursery rhyme marrying a character from a Sidney Sheldon. Or something. I thought I better bribe him with good food once in a while or he would get sick of me. Sicker than he already was, that is.

Puff, Puff. Chew, Chew. In between my meal, he called, strongly hinting that I should return to room 2017 and shoo the schmaltzy relatives out, feed him and entertain him. I ignored him, savoured my last smoke for the day, fed the mongrel by the side of the road, did my good deed for the day, successfully cheered myself up a bit and convinced myself that the hospital wasn’t so bad.

I would not see the white screen again, I promised myself. I exhaled and viewed the exterior of the sickening hospital suspiciously as I waited for ‘loved
one’s’ food to be packed. I made friends with another mongrel. Fascinating animals they were. We had adopted two so far thanks to me. I picked up the bag and began to trudge back to the hated hospital after flicking my cigarette to the ground.

I contemplated another smoke. I drew out another cigarette but he was waiting for me so in a brief spurt of affection I decided I would be the dutiful wife and trot back to my husband laden with goodies.

And then …. A van came out of nowhere. The bloody thing hit me before I could blink. And I saw a pristine, white screen again. If only I had waited and had another cigarette. If.