Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Matheran (flop) trek

Treks are not my thing. never have been. The only one day trek I'd been to, I ended up paralysed in the legs for a week and sick with fatigue. Since then I decided I'd trek when I physically get stronger. A year later, my friend self planned this Matheran trek and forced me to tag along. A lot of time had passed since the last trek, I felt stronger now (okay, maybe just fatter) and I decided to give it a try, see how far I've come in a year. The worst that can happen is I wouldn't finish it.

So at 7.26 on a weekend morning we boarded a fast Karjat train from platform 3 from Mulund. After reaching Karjat we crossed two tracks and started to walk through a narrow lane with dirt road that smelt of dried fish. It ended a few feet away at an auto stand. The climate was hot, but breezy if you stood at one place for long enough to let that soft breeze brush your skin. We didn’t.
The auto people were ready to take us to Borgaon village for 200 bucks which felt like a little too much. We asked a bus driver if they were going that way. He said not, but there would come a bus that would travel the side we wanted to go. Since he hadn’t any clue for how long we’d need to wait, we started to walk to the left, up the road until we found a man.
As we started to ask him, a six-seater Tum Tum pulled up. The driver was ready to take us on. So we sat in his spacious ride and he dropped us to the start point of Borgoan for 100 bucks. The drive up that road was probably the most pleasant one. Now the wind really ruffled our hair and made its presence felt. We passed misty mountains and the road was well paved. We had officially started our trek, was my first thought.
We got down before a narrow lane leading up the way to Borgoan village with a man selling roasted corn at the entrance of it and a bungalow on the other side of the road. We made our way up, passing many houses, pretty bungalows with protective compounds, big, round rocks that were perfect for a quick photography halt. When the road tilted downwards, we spread our arms wide and ran down the road, bouncing and tasting freedom. I was tempted to ride a bicycle there and almost imagined myself doing so.
The residences were unevenly spread throughout our route. We found a few huts and brick houses here and pretty modern bungalows with people that owned cars and bikes, a typical village school there. At one point we had to pee so we asked a woman living in one such bungalow if we could use her toilet. She was kind and seemed educated.
Her son (or so I assumed) washed his bike and the girl, seemingly younger than him, wearing a knee length jeans and a top combed her curly hair. The bungalows were closely built and the one beside where we halted had a man talking to another across the road. Both of them owned hunchback cars parked in their compounds.
On our way ahead, there were small shops that sold items for as little as 25 paise, something I assumed wasn't in use anymore. A lot of cars and bikes and scooties passed us. We were met by greenery, tiny water bodies, a few people— especially two women and a dog lounging on a huge rock watching their buffaloes graze under semi-clear clouds— and men who helped us find our way up to Matheran Mountain.
At one point we lost our way and on asking, realized we needed to walk on the trail of dirt road to our left. That path seemed far from where we stood and the shortest way was to climb down the steep rocks, pass a long stream with somewhat strong current, and climb up the not-so-steep way.
That was where my friend lost her shoe sole (which is an important turn of event, probably the gravest) and I scraped my shin and ball of a foot.
Getting down the steep rock was the toughest because there were scores of loose stones and broken glass. With one move we could send all those tumbling down, mostly on the person in front of us. I almost told my friend (who lost her sole) that she would soon create a land slide if she didn’t control her movements. But at the time, all she wanted was to live and get down safely, much like what I wanted.
I sat and crawled down, nudging every stone before either putting my feet on it or grabbing it for support with our hand. Then there was this jump. I threw my bag down, took one look at the ground which was well below my feet and the narrow cut in the rock that would break my fall in the middle. I put pressure on my arms (that are still a little sore) and jumped, and jumped twice in quick succession.
It didn’t end there. I flung my bag on my arms and this was the tricky part; sliding down on those loose stones mixed with pieces of brown broken glass everywhere. Somehow I successfully crossed it without hurting myself. My friend, though, scraped her elbow and lost her sole (soul, as she puts it).
Next came the stream and that was where I injured myself. The water was about three-four feet deep, cool and tempting. I took off my shoes and socks, pulled my track pants up to my knees and tried to immerse my legs in the shallow but slippery water. I jumped the first current rock-to-rock but in the second one, I slipped on the slime under the water and... OUCH.
My friend though, with lost sole, couldn’t bring herself to cross it like we others did. So she went ahead, and ahead, walking along the edge of the stream but never really crossing it. We sat there, watching her as she paused after every ten steps, contemplated if she could cross now, deciding she can’t and went a few steps father. I sat nursing my scraped leg, the others sat to take a breath while our hero on the other end too far for our voices to reach her, found the simplest way to reach to us.
After a long time while I enjoyed the breeze on my bums and pants that were soaked in water, we saw her finally cross. She explained it later as a near-death experience. Which was really an overstatement. Probably of the decade. I wish I had a picture of us crossing it.
Now we were on right track. Later when I felt my strength starting to give in, we decided to take the road instead of jungle and uneven paths. My friend tried all sorts of remedies to not let her shoe sole break apart. But it finally did. We tied it with a handkerchief, but soon we could see her big toe peeking out of her shoe, followed by all five toes. It was so funny I hadn't laughed so hard since a long time.
But she didn’t break a smile. She said it was the most embarrassing thing that has happened to her. She asked every single person passing us to lend her their shoe. She was even ready to pay. But of course, hardly anyone stopped to entertain us. Plus, nobody really knew what sports shoes were or where to find one in this village.
Another one of our friends offered his umbrella (to be used as a walking stick) for us to walk. I needed it because I was shit tired and my legs were screaming. It was a task just to put one foot ahead of the other and it took all my will power to do so.
But she wanted it too. We fought for it but then she won since her situation was graver than mine. She took it and said she didn’t think the time to walk with the help of a stick would come so soon.
The only thing that kept us going was the thought of having pasta and pohe I carried and cream biscuits she carried for lunch. Finally, we managed to reach the village that stood at the foot of Matheran Mountain. We dropped like autumn leaves and started to take out our lunch when our friend said we should go back from here. Neither of us looked in a position to finish this trek. Hell, we didn’t even look like we could go past this at all. And it shouldn’t so happen that once we start, either of us gives up.
That was when a van pulled up and they were ready to take us down for fifty bucks per seat. And so we sat in the van, hogged on food on our way down like hungry dogs and boarded the train back home.
Thus we touched the foot of the mountain we were supposed to climb, saw the one tree hill that we were supposed to go to if we had the time, clicked a few pictures for memories and returned home with sore everything. Turns out, I haven't come very far within one year.

But flop or not, it was still one of the most memorable and enjoyable expeditions I've had since a long time.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Accidental Discovery #2 If only (movie)

It’s a story about a guy who loves his girl friend, but takes what he has for granted. And then loses her in the blink of an eye. Just as his life turns into a wreck, fate gives him another chance— to live the last day he (didn’t) spent with her, again.

Jenifer Love Hewitt aka Emily is beautiful chirpy violin player and a singer. She is a girl next door who loves her guy as much she loves her work. She maintains a diary, lives in the moment, finds happiness in little things in life and values relations (all type of, be it with friends, students, partner or her parents) and is open about the love she has for all. The character isn’t overdone or perfect, and Emily isn’t a goody two shoes always morally right. Which makes her immensely real.

Paul Nicholas aka Peter is a handsome British business guy who works for a finance company.

The story stars on a lighter note with the couple just hanging out at their apartment. As the story unfolds, we learn that Peter is a futuristic, money minded guy who has his priorities set. For him work always comes first. And with that attitude, he tends to overlook major details about Emily’s life. Like her graduation and big musical performance. He is a loyal person to be with, but isn’t the type to pause and breathe the air for a second.

That is until he loses what he has. In a car accident he loses Emily and is forced to look into his life. He realises he’s been ignoring the one person who gave meaning to his life. And as fate might have it, Peter gets to live the last day with her again.

My thoughts:

The film moves you and the dialogues and acting are its highlights. What steals the show though is the story presented in a subtly outstanding way, the screen writing and editing. It remains focused on our two main characters and there is no unnecessary watering to side characters which keeps you hooked for every second of it.

So this is surely one of those movies that make you forget time. It almost flies by and takes you along with it.

The songs could have been better though. But otherwise, it’s worth an hour and half of your time.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Stop telling us to ‘be careful’. Tell them not to rape.

I recently had a heated argument with one my friends. Someone shared on group a message regarding Delhi gang rape and it was kind of a nice salute to the guy friend who was with the girl and who fought with her and for her until the end. I loved that message. Salute to the guy.
The argument started when another one of my friends commented on it. ‘But I think it was also their mistake. Why should they travel in a bus at that time in the night in country’s crime capital?’
And another sad part, the person who shared the message thought the same. Kudos.
‘With Shakti Mills Compound rape, she should have gone there with her whole team. Why go with just one more person and then go into the woods?’
Well, not everyone thought the same. The criminals were given death penalty, the first extreme punishment given to rapists in the country.
‘Don’t go out at stupid timings and offer yourself to the monsters.’
That was the sentence that threw me off. Stupid timing, eh? Like at night. Right. Well, if you just google ‘rapes in broad daylight’ you get search results that would shame the entire world. This is just as bad as saying ‘what were you doing on CST station when the terrorist came and shot you dead?’
Another statement: ‘Don’t venture into dangerous places till the mentality of these people change.’
What does one define as a dangerous place? A deserted area, subway, call centre, a club at night, a bus, a train. If you have to list down all dangerous places where rapes have happened there isn’t a single place left that you would call safe.
And according to surveys there are more unregistered marital rape cases and rapes by members of family or friends than actual strangers. That makes ‘home’ one of the most dangerous places to live. So now do you reckon we ‘be careful’ at home as well?
‘Until the mentality changes, be careful.’
What makes one think the women who did get raped weren’t careful or alert? They’d have trashed and writhed, threatened to go to police, tried to escape or tried to kill the rapist in extreme cases just as much.
Women have a natural instinct about certain things. Without looking we can tell which person is ogling at us, passing snide remarks or inconspicuously trying to follow us. When the woman instincts kick in there isn’t an ounce of doubt we try our best to be safest. We might take a cab instead of a bus home, we can disappear in a crowd and stand around a bunch of other women in a crowded place to avoid the coward, we might keep our loved ones’ phone numbers on emergency contact list or check where the nearest policeman or policewoman stands. We are more careful than any of those people who ask us to be give us credit for. But that’s the point. Being careful’ was never the solution. And it never will be.
‘It takes time to change these people’s mentality.’
Agreed. But then as educated modern generation we should do something than just sit there hands crossed over shrugging the whole situation by saying the number of sex starved people is just too huge to be bothered. If you want to change this mentality any time in the near future, start with yourself. Stop with blaming the victim and trying to treat her as a ‘poor creature’.  Give her equal respect. Stop looking at her like she isn’t a human anymore. And most importantly, stop telling her to be more careful the next time. Tell them not to fucking rape.
The saddest part of the argument though was the person arguing with me was a woman. And no matter how much I love her, this is the part where I'll have to disagree with her through and through.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Writing Workshop Day 1 Exercise #1

I recently attended a creative writing workshop held by Half Baked Beans in collaboration with Of heroes and villains on how to write a short story. The lecture lasted for about three hours with four writing exercises. Fun, creative and interactive, I had a great time with each one.

       In the first exercise Deepali Junjappa, author of The twisted twenties and our instructor, gave us each a different photograph and asked us to write half a page scene without directly describing it. That way you had to tap your inner creative reserves and come up with a story, a scene or an incidence that is directly or subtly connected with the picture. Time constraint: twelve minutes that extended to fifteen.

This was the picture I got:
Photo credits: Deepali Junjappa
I loved that photo and it looks like it has been taken straight out of some movie. Other five Polaroid styled pictures were equally  catchy. For this exercise, this is what I came up with:

‘I told you to leave early. Radio just announced a storm is on its way,’ my mother wails on the phone. I hug my bag closer to my chest and bury my freezing palms in my sweater.
‘I’ll be there in a minute,’ I tell her and disconnect to distant protests. The last thing I want to do right now is pacify a panicked woman. I need to get out of this place before both my migraine and the storm hits.
I walk down the narrow street smiling at a man lounging on a far bench. I find him sitting by that deserted bench every single day, amidst worn down buildings. It is our regular routine, smile at each other while I pass by every evening. Today I want to ask him what he is still doing outside and if he knows about the storm. But I don’t.

That is tentatively where I ended it. I had no clue where I was going with that narration and I was as lost as most others, but I managed to come up with something to start off with. Time was so little I spent the first minute panicked. The second in being convinced I’d never write a piece worthwhile. The third in calming myself down and studying the picture.
The expression of woman and a lonely man sitting at the back was what intrigued me. So I used them and to add a hint of tension, threw in a little storm thing.

All in all, I loved the idea of crafting a story around a simple photo and the fact that I didn’t chicken out. This exercise could have been much better had I been prepared. But maybe that was the whole point. Seeing how creative you can get when you’re least prepared and creating something quick with limited information and time.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Litomania – My Experience, Day 2

Amongst the most anticipated and probably one of the most houseful events of the entire fest was ‘Do happy people make great humour writers?’
While the anchor tried to bestow comic authors with compliments before calling them on stage, her mic ran into some technical error. In the middle of recounting his achievements and testing our patience, Vikram Sathaye barked from the front row, ‘Just call me on stage yaar’.
     And that invited the first howl of laughter from us.
The discussion and arguments sent roars of laughter through the crowd every five seconds with Sorabh Pant ‘disagreeing’ with whatever others said and providing humorous yet extremely insightful answers.
houseful, comical, total fun
The pretty girl who’s witty in her writings but admittedly not so much in real life, Parul Sharma and the round Rishi Piparaiya who gets a ‘chunk of days’ in a year when he’s ‘most witty’ so he can churn out a humorous book invited applause for their views on the topics too.
The discussion met the same fate like most other discussions do. With ‘no conclusion’, according to Vikram.
One of the situational jokes I’ll take home with me— a pilot saying to himself, ‘Oh clouds. Oh, more clouds. Oh my life sucks, more clouds.’ And after a swing of hoots and heartbeat of silence, ‘Oh WTO’. – by Sourabh Pant, amongst all his other spontaneous puns.

Another event included book launch of Ramayana- the rise of the Sun Prince by Shubha Vilas Das.
For the first five minutes Vilas Das narrated Hanuman’s flight to save Seeta and the hurdles He faced in doing so. Vilas Das weaved life lessons into it and i was amazed at his interpretations.
Not a huge fan of mythology, I surprisingly enjoyed the session and the two following this—

1.     ‘Does mythology need a twist’ and
2.    Book preview of ‘Ajaya- Rise of Kali’

‘Does mythology need a twist’ was led by mostly silent and invisible Christopher Doyle, prudent and kind Shubha Vilas Das, funniest and cutest writer with a typical South Indian accent Anand Neelakantan.
Meghna Pant moderated the discussion, accepting and asking questions on our behalf.
Christopher, Vilas Das, Megha, Ravi
Anand Neelakantan, the adored and popular writer of ‘Asura- the tale of vanquished’ previewed his latest, third book ‘Ajaya-the rise of Kali’.
What connected him to us was his modesty, simplicity and his lack of inhibitions to pull a joke on himself.
He  writes books because he questions everything. He says he's a common man and no scholar to rewrite Ramayana. ‘Even my mother won’t believe if you tell her I’m a scholar,’ he jokes.
But he dares to question and ventures to write what he feels. His first book gives the flip side of Ramayana, portraying Raavana as the protagonist. And he was thankful he  hasn't received any death threats for it yet, much to Meghna’s surprise.
All in all, I loved his casual, laid back stage presence, pleasant personality and his deep knowledge on these popular Indian writings of Ramayana and Mahabharata referred to by Vilas Das as ‘ithihaas’ or histories, as opposed to what British called it ‘mythology’.

After this session, we headed to the lighter side of fiction. Romance.
The topic discussed by moderator and writer Shoma Narayana; a soft spoken woman with a timid voice Leena Varghese, honest and funny Sudeep Nagarkar and Sachin Garg was ‘Are Romance Novels just a happy bubble? Does reality often burst it?’
A girl in the audience came up with an interesting solution to the discussion. Instead of marking romance genre as a ‘happy bubble’ far from reality, we can actually read and learn from it to be better lovers. And since the story is a part of the author and has elements the author has been through, they’re as much real.
Sudeep opined, ‘men are more romantic, they just don’t show it that often. And are neither daring enough to agree to it’. With a few smiles, the male audience seemed to agree.

After the session I met with Leena Varghese, the debut author of ‘A perfect mismatch’. I owned her book and asked if she could sign it for me.

Kind enough to sit down and have a chat, she did and wrote across the first page ‘to my first fan’.
We talked for about five minutes and I couldn’t be happier getting into the lift with all these amazing people.

Because of time constraints I couldn’t attend my most anticipated session where one of my favourite Indian authors Preeti Sheenoy along with Ravinder Singh and Madhuri Banerjee would discuss the ‘shades of love’.

Some of the events also included a musical evening with Swanand Kirkire, Shantanu Moitra and Vikram Sathaye. A masterclass by Priya Kumar – Follow your dreams and book preview of Daddy by Tuhin Sinha amongst others.

One of the stalls sold TTT t-shirts, post cards and other stuff at the desk. TTT or Terribly Tiny Tales are shortest tales told in about two or three sentences that blow your mind off. They’re trending wildly on Facebook lately. Wanting to help them as a regular reader of TTT, I bought three post cards.

Every reader went home with an eco-friendly bag containing a tiny notepad, a cute pen and a bookmark.

All in all, I hoped the fest was on for more days and I wished some of the events did not overlap. But suffice to say, this first attempt was a grand success. Thank you to the team for bringing a literary celebration to our doorsteps. :)
Litomania's Facebook Page

Litomania – My Experience, Day 1

I’d always been a fan of litfest which is an event where authors and readers stand on the same ground and talk about the common thread that bonds them, books. We have a few famous lit fests in India like TATA lit fest that takes place in Mumbai and JLF in Jaipur every year. But now we can add Litomania to the list.

Litomania was a two day literature festival held at one of the plush B schools of Mumbai Welingkers Institude of Management, 2014 being its first year. The event was grand and generous.
On the first day Sangram Surve, brain behind this fest, introduced us to the festival in a majestic auditorium packed with people.
The hall was later addressed by confident and shrewd articulator Amish Tripathi, intellectual and wise Ravi Subramanian, subtle and kind Ravinder Singh and cute and witty Ashwin Sanghai.
They contemplated on ‘what is India reading’ and concluded with what Indians most relate to.

As soon as the session ended we headed to the quiet room of Nirvana. Four chairs for four pretty ladies— upfront, honest and sweet Madhura Banerjee; the quiet woman who exuded power, simplicity, intelligence and wisdom all with her husky voice, Amrita Chowdhury; and the strong willed woman who dared, adorning a beautiful white saree, Bhaavna Arora— sat at the panel to discuss ‘Is India exploring the fifty shades’.
They talked about struggles they faced with writing bold books and talked openly about sexuality amongst other things.
Rachel Lopez from HT, a young, vibrant woman who isn’t afraid of speaking her mind moderated and tossed questions around for everyone.
All four of them were an epitome of strong, independent women of 21st century and at one point I almost longed to be like one of them.

One of the most anticipated events of that day was master class by Ravi Subramanian on ‘How to write a book and get it published’.
Though it was an ‘invites only’ event, people without invites were allowed to sit in.
Ravi started off with asking the roomful of aspiring authors, ardent readers and dreamers why they wanted to write. All those who raised their hands ‘for money’ chucked the notion by the end of the session.
Someone asked him ‘how can one market a book? What was the technique that he used?’
Ravi sipped a glass of water and said, ‘I’ll give you my example.' When he wrote his first book ‘If God was a banker’ the first review he got in a newspaper said ‘don’t bank on this book’. One old lady approached him at one of his book signings and said, ‘you know, there’s a grammatical error in the title of your book. It should be if God were a banker.' One of the first online reviews he read said, ‘Ravi did what no one else has ever ventured to do. He wrote a book worse than Chetan Bhagat.’
    People shook their heads, and when the room fell silent again he explained, much with a sad voice, ‘But fortunately or unfortunately, that was what worked for me. Negative reviews created hype for the book. So don't be disheartened. Just keep writing.'

Amongst other events that ran in adjacent rooms were—
1.     The search of desi Harry Potter by Preeti Vyas, Payal Kapadia, Anusha Subramanian
2.    ‘India’s obsession with gastronomy’ by Sanjeev Kapoor,
3.    A stand-up comedy Act by Sorabh Pant,
4.    Shaping the future of corporate and B-school and
5.    When writing mythology, does the writing change the writer led by Amish Tripathi and Ashwin Shanghai.
old prized collection of authors present at the fest
I have never been to a true lit fest or been around other scattered book lovers who are not simply interested in the story, but also in the art of storytelling. How the characters come to life and breathe through the pages. How story tellers create a parallel world for us.
I enjoyed strolling through the floors, mesmerized and dazed, taking in the vibe, browsing through stacks of books and seeing authors live. My only regret probably was not participating in any of those amazing contests they held and getting to choose from those towering piles books. But apart from that, it was worth bunking college for.

Litomania Facebook page

Friday, 5 September 2014

Accidental discoveries #1 The Jerk Theory (movie)

Accidental discoveries will include all those things I accidentally found on the internet or somewhere, anywhere in the world and loved it so much, I had to share.

  It’s a movie about a good guy falling for a girl, getting his heart broken, turning into a jerk and getting his heart mended back again by a nicer girl.

I was bored one night and had hours to spare. So I browsed through YouTube and paused to watch this flick. An hour into the story and I was hugging my knees and smiling like an idiot. Needless to say, I loved it.

My thoughts:

Jenna Dewan played the part of Molly, our protagonist, and she did perfectly well. She captured the mannerisms of a girl next door and her face was just the right amount of genuine, cute and independent.

Josh Henderson nailed it with his portrayal of a nice guy trapped inside the body of a jerk. A little push in the right direction and he was the man of every girl’s dream.

What I didn’t like about the movie were its sidetracks. His friends meddling and goofing around just to keep the ‘humor’ factor intact. That futile absurdity to squeeze laughter from us wasn't necessary at all. The adorable love story was totally enough, without all those distractions.

But overall, it's an entertainer. 

Ratings: 3 stars