Friday, February 29, 2008

A Lament for an Unknown Soul

Last Thursday night at around 9pm we received "the" call from Bombay. My mother's brother had passed away at the hospice early on the morning of February 22; less than 3 months after he was first diagnosed with cancer. It was a phone call that we had all been expecting. The last word we'd received just a few days before that was that the doctors had told the family that absolutely nothing more could be done and now it was just a matter of time. 

So when I finally heard the words that he had passed away, it was a mere numb feeling that went along with the confirmation of a fact.

Once the news had settled in, there was the unpleasant reality of the truth that I was left to deal with. The truth that I did not really mourn his passing. The truth that I did not feel a loss. The truth that his death would only slightly affect me and my daily life.

This was a person who for as long as I could remember had been at odds with most of the family. I had not said more than 5 consecutive words to him in all of my life. I had never shared a meal with him, never indulged in a laugh over common family jokes or memories and never really knew him as an individual.

Everything that I knew about him was either through hearing negative stories from other family members or watching first hand his actions and words that were very often hurtful and destructive and downright mean at times. The family got together last Friday to have a prayer service for him. The entire time I tried to focus my thoughts towards some kind of happy or positive memory. I could not think of even one.

I was highly disturbed by the fact that I had known someone for my entire life, and that I could not come up with a singular positive thought or feeling or emotion to link to him. Isn't that what one is expected to do when one thinks of the dead? Especially at a prayer service FOR that person. But try as I may, I was drawing a blank.

I wondered what the rest of the family was thinking. There were 3 siblings present that night. One of whom hadn't spoken to him in around 30 years. The other 2 met him once every few years when they went to India. What were they thinking and remembering?
I looked around the room at the respectfully bowed heads of my family. There was a sense of loss in the room. But was there a sense of grief at that loss?

And yet, if there had been tears and other signs of unabashed sorrow I probably would have been more surprised. And I would have known those to be false tears. False mourning.

So I whispered a prayer for the soul of an unknown man. A prayer that he finds the peace he was lacking in life. A peace that will be forever.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Book Review - Before Green Gables

For every one of us who fell in love with L M Montgomery's beloved character, here is a real treat! For those who might have asked - what made Anne... Anne? What gave rise to her vivid imagination? When did she begin to dream big dreams and how did she learn to spin that web of magic that drew all to her? Award winning author Budge Wilson has lovingly and tenderly taken us deeper into the journey of that bewitching little "carrots" from Avonlea and shone a light into a past that is very illuminating, often disconcerting but always inspiring. Before Green Gables is not only a tribute to Anne - but to fans of hers, everywhere.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

8 days of 27

Having a birthday is always fun - for me at least. I know that a lot of folk get a bit grouchy around their birthdays coz all they seem to think about is the fact that they are "getting older". I on the other hand completely revel in birthday de-light! Seriously, a day that's all about ME..... people giving you prezzies..... and if not prezzies - lots of love and wishes and kisses..... getting together with your family and friends to celebrate - ME. Honestly, what's NOT to love about this day?

This year's celebrations were especially nice and actually lasted an entire week with various friends and family contributing to the birthday merriment.

It all began last Sunday when I was invited over to Menace's house for dinner and a movie and girlie chitty-chatty. Dinner with Menace is always nice. For that matter, any meal at her place is always nice. Menace is a very very good cook. And excellent hostess. And lots of fun. Yet, Menace is surprisingly single, but until then her friends (like me) benefit (a lot). For example, she makes the bestest "morning after" breakfasts. Her always freshly ground coffee and scrambled eggs and honey toast and fresh fruit are awesome to chomp down after a night of drinking with the gang. If she's not feeling too rough, she'll make you her award winning (amongst friends) pancakes and then you KNOW you're in heaven! Anyway, I digress. Menace invited me over to her place for dinner last Sunday and we watched "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" followed by the 50th Grammy Awards. Both enjoyable to watch and terribly entertaining as well!

On Tuesday, I met up with Penguin Pal to attend a special event at the Royal Ontario Museum to celebrate 100 Years of Anne. L M Montgomery's "Anne of Green Gables" is by far one of my most favourite stories and I loved the character Anne from the very first time I read about her - so many moons ago. Well think about it....little girl, big imagination, rather dreamy and chatters non stop!! Sounds familiar??
The evening was a wonderful tribute to Montgomery and a wonderful experience for "kindered spirits" to get together and experience the magic of the story from a whole new pespective. Although it was a snowy, windy, wild winter night, the room was still packed with folks who were all there to celebrate the launch of the prequel to the Anne books - Before Green Gables. We got to hear from the author Budge Wilson (who I might add is rather a dear) and from Montgomery's granddaughter and many other, all who have made that evening and this new book possible. And best of all, we were served Raspberry Cordial and Pound Cake! Could it get any more like Green Gables??? I did mention to Penguin Pal that for the high price of the admission ticket, they might have considered serving *ahem* Anne's version of cordial instead! (Insider joke, must read the book to find out.)

What made this a birthday treat you ask? Well at the end of the night as we left with freshly autographed copies of the new book tucked under our arms, I turned to give PP the money for the ticket, she waved me away and declared it to be my birthday treat! Ah the way to my heart truly is via a bookcase!

On Thursday I met up with good friend from Jays for lunch. We got to the restaurant and then realized it was Valentine's day as the trio of giggling girls gushed over themselves trying to seat us. Thankfully we'd chosen a Texan steak grill for lunch and there weren't too many lovey-dovey people around. We did have to put up with the gaggle of gigglers and our waitress (who had the inexplicable name of Whiskey) wasn't all that sharp either. Still, when the meal did arrive it was good and we got some good catching up in between bites!
On Friday, we got let out of work early (yey!) and I dashed over to the salon to indulge in my birthday treat to myself - a full pedicure with all the fixings! Lord, I needed one too judging by the stern look I got from the esthetician! Shutterbug joined me after the pedi and we had a nice saunter through Bloor-Yorkville as we window shopped. I love window shopping. And I especially love it in the Bloor-Yorkville area. The shops are all so expensive that there's simply no way you'll be tempted to buy something you see. And even if by some freak of nature you DO find something in your price range (HIGHLY unlikely), chances are it's not going to fit anyway coz most of the people who shop in that district are all built along the lines of the Olsen twins and Kate Moss. Still, I do love the beautiful window decors and its a great (and cheap) way to kill time! Very soon it got too cold to wander around anymore, so we settled down to a great sushi dinner on Yonge Street and then headed off for a night of ballroom dancing on the Danforth.

And then yey... it was D Day!!!

Right at 12:05 am (just as I was nodding off to sleep) my cell phone rings! I finally get to it after first scrambling around for my alarm clock and sending various items flying off my side table and nearly overturing a full glass of water in the process! After a couple of groggy "hellos?" I finally clue in that its a friend from Australia and that snaps me awake in no time! We then proceed to chat away for the next 2.5 hours all the while totally ignoring what her bill is probably adding up to! We hadn't spoken to each other in YEARS and of course, we had tones of catching up to do. I'm SO looking forward to being at her wedding in Sydney in December this year.

My mum and dad presented me with a beautiful birthday present - jewelery from India. We're not a family that normally trades gifts at birthdays and Christmas and so on, so this was a real surprise for me!

That evening, I met up with a whole lot of my close friends at the home of the Lady Killer and Cosmo Girl. Lady Killer and I share a birthday and it was very nice to him to let me share in his celebrations as well. And in any case, almost everyone who I'd want to be at my birthday was there anyway and I just tacked on a few of my other friends to the guest list. I did also have a very new pair of amazingly beautiful boots to wear that night which added several inches to me and made me feel rather Amazonian!
Cosmo Girl had a cake all ready for me, with thankfully not ALL the candles on it! Everybody contributed to the food and as a result we had a veritable FEAST going!

And a "mini kegger too!

Sadly, I could not partake in the keg being on an alcohol free phase right now. But the one birthday drink I DID have ..... I made sure it was a good one - a pint of Innis & Gunn!

And then finally today, was the round up of my week long celebrations when my family all met at my aunt's place to celebrate my and my cousin's birthdays together. The Kimlette is born just a day before me - but several years apart!

And so ended the 8 days of 27. So far, I'm loving this new year of life!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Blood on the Dancefloor

The always insightful Jo has raised a very interesting point in her latest blog post. In short, she was talking about how Japanese schools have what ultimately equates to a "No Fail" policy so that even student who score as low as 25-30% in courses have their grades artificially inflated so that they can move on to the next level or next grade.

Reading about this, and the subsiquent comments to the post got me thinking about this whole issue from a different angle - my dance classes. Things are always fine and dandy each time I start learning a new dance style with a level 1 class. Everyone in the class is a beginner and no one is expected to know anything. But, when it comes time to register for the next level, you can pretty much group a class into 3 categories:
  • Group A: students who know what they are doing and who want to continue to learn
  • Group B: students who don't know what they are doing, but want to continue and are willing to practice extra
  • Group C: students who don't know what they are doing and should not be allowed on a dance floor for the overall good of the class - and the rest of mankind!

The reality is that some people should not be allowed to continue to a higer level as they have not mastered the information/skills/steps from the previous level.

But of course, the dance school wants to make as much money as possible. So they allow poeple to register for an advanced level even if they know full well that the person is not capable of handling the new curriculum. Sometimes you'll get a consciencious teacher who will take the offender(s) aside and try to coach them some more, but most often these poor students are left trying vainly to follow the instructions and master complex steps and patterns when they can barely do the basics. The best case scenario is that they frustrate the folks who have taken the time to practice the steps and have essentially "done the required readings!" The worst case scenario is that they can seriously injure their parter (or others on the dancefloor) if they don't know what they're doing. And we're not just talking a stubbed toe - I've been at the receiving end of some hand yanks that have left my shoulder aching for days!

I do applaude the fact that these individuals are very obviously out of their comfort zone and are trying something new in life. I still feel that I should not be made to suffer through someone else's learning process.

After all, I too am a student there.

I too am trying to learn.

I too should have the best possible chance to do so. Without fearing decapitation in the process!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Recipe for the Perfect Masala

I first heard about author Stephen Alter last December when I was in London. Browsing through the shelves of my friend's home library, my eye caught upon an interesting title - Elephas Maximus - A Portrait of the Indian Elephant. The book was a unique blend of myth, legend, zoology and storytelling about the gentle grey giant of the Indian subcontinent. A must read for anyone who loves anything about those pachyderms! I was curious to read more by Stephen Alter, especially when I found out the subject matter of his other books and then a little more about him. I was finally able to get my hands on a relatively cheap copy of Fantasies of a Bollywood Love Thief recently and haven't been able to put it down.

A first hand insider's view of the world of Indian movie making, ....Love Thief tells about the making of the movie Omkara an Indian retelling of Shakespeare's Othello. Set in the harsh arid plains of North India the story and characters all take on very Indian personas. Othello becomes Omkara, Desdemona is Dolly and Cassio is Kesu. The island of Cyprus is the village of Cypra and instead of warriors and soldiers the story is about a local gang lord and his lady love and his lieutenants.

More than just a telling of one movie, the book takes us through a journey of movie making that is as similar and yet as different from any other. Going behind the scenes, the author explores not only the movie but what lies behind it as well - the actors, directors, producers, musicians and the host of other unknowns on who's shoulders lie the success or failure of an industry that produces on average 900 movies a year.

Growing up in Bombay - the LA to India's Bollywood - Hindi movies were always part of my life. Although I didn't start going to see Hindi movies in the theatre until I was in high school, I remember settling down with my grandmother's maid most Sunday evenings to watch the week' showing. At a time when TV was limited to 3 channels 1 of which was in a regional language I didn't quite follow, we took what we got on TV and we cherished every moment. My grandmother was not really a Hindi movie fan, but was nevertheless obsessed with 2 particular Hindi movies - "Bobby" and "Aradhana" and because they owned the VHS we would watch those over and over until we all knew the dialogues by heart!

When I began college in my mid teens, movies... and Hindi movies in particular took on a whole new persona. There were 4 cinema halls a mere 10 minutes walk from the college and another 3 a short cab ride away. My circle of friends expanded from the very "Christian centric" group that living in a Catho-ville suburb like Bandra accorded, to a more multi cultural group from not only all over Bombay.. but all over India as well. Although everyone liked a good Hindi movie as much as the next guy, one friend in particular was passionate about the world of movies and through his passion, I was drawn into this glittering, gaudy, girating world of Bollywood at the movies.

In his book, Stephen Alter says
"The precise ingredients for a good blend of masala may vary according to the cook, but no matter what the recipe, this pungent concoction of spices excites all five senses.
Masala is the word most often used to describe a combination of elements that go into making a successful Bollywood film. Once again, the ingredients and quantities may be adjusted, with extra measures of romance, sex, violence or suspense, depending on the script. All these are simmered together to form a saucy cinematic curry that keeps audiences coming back for seconds."
And since my life is entirely devoid of masala right now - be it romantically or literally in my food, I turn to my daily dose of Bollywood to spice things up and raise a fire in my belly that keeps me warm through these oh so cold... oh so un Bollywood-like winter nights.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...