Apr 5, 2019

Spring/Summer Projects

Gosh, isn't it baking hot in God's Own Country these days! In accordance with the government's guidelines, we seldom venture outside between 11 am and 3 pm. Even at 9:30, our yard becomes unbelievably hot and we retire into the cool interior of Karthi, not coming out till it's well past 4:30. But some people in our yard seem to find this weather all very fine. Don't believe me? Then what do you make of this?

Just look at those lilies trying to compete with the fiery ball in the sky!

And what about this jasmine? Bringing the star-studded sky down to earth seems to be its ambition!!!

And the frangipani that needs a trimming is just reaching into the sky with all its blossoms. Our garden is nothing if not ambitious!!!

As for the denizens of Karthi, at first the biennial festival at our local temple had us waiting for sundown to join the festivities. It culminated in the Pakalppooram and this time I was lucky enough to get a ringside seat for the shinkari melam...

The dancing and the drumming had me itching to join them, I can tell ya! 

That over, we braved the heat and drove to Guruvayoor just before the holiday rush started and had a peacefully unrushed opportunity to say our prayers, especially for a good academic year for our elder son who has his 10th standard board exams the coming year. 

And what was happening with my balcony garden in the meanwhile? Did the climbers languish or shrivel while we were gone? See for yourself!

Not only are they happy, they have grown!!! And what is the secret? See those plastic bottles sticking out of the pots? That is what kept them going while we were gone for three days! I can tell you I was so happy to see them peeking above the balcony railings when we drove up!

This week the kids (aka conscripted labor) and I have been working on a new project. We're clearing swathes of our back yard jungle. This is the uncleared part...

and this is the cleared half...

The difference is more noticeable when seen together...

The aim is to relocate all the dead leaves (safely transported to the bases of our coconut trees to decompose there in peace, not burned!) and remove undesirable vegetation, leaving the kind of ground cover that I like to have in my backyard. Because don't make the mistake of thinking that all that brown stuff is dead. No sirree! In the first magical rains of the monsoon, all that area will erupt into lush green vegetation to tame which I will have to resort to my trusty grass cutter. My gardening team and I are taking it easy, working only half an hour each day to save ourselves from burnout and dehydration. 

One of the highlights of the week was my first proper homemade pizza. This week it was my fifth attempt to make pizza. I've tried baking them in my OTG and my microwave. Each time something or the other seemed to go awry. Almost always the base turned out uncooked and soggy in the middle and tough and overcooked at the edges. This time, I baked the base alone first for three minutes before taking it out and putting on the toppings - and they came out perfect!!! Okay, they were not picture perfect - but the flavor of the toppings and the baking of the base were spot on!!! It was definitely much, much better than the pizza we ordered in from a local cafe two weeks ago. And this brings me neatly to the news that our little corner of the world is finally in the Uber Eats service area. (And to avoid any temptation, I have NOT installed the app on my phone)!

So what are you up to these hols??? Are you prepping your garden before the monsoons? Or is it still too cold to work in the garden in your corner of the Big Blue Marble? Let me know!!!

Mar 16, 2019

Beginnings of a balcony garden

Our front yard, being a little spacious, is the favorite play area of our sons' friends. I love having them over and hearing their constant teasing and mild trash talk while they are playing. I love knowing that they are building their bodies and friendships and not sitting all hunched over cellphones or tabs and obsessing about some trashy online game. It especially soothes my heart to watch them scarf down the snacks that I occasionally make with healthy appetites and evident enjoyment despite the imperfections of my culinary products.

But, well, nothing is perfect in this world, huh? The price for the above is that I cannot grow anything in our front yard. Neither can I have any hanging ornaments on my porch. I had to keep seeing beautiful clay creations, so lovingly hung up, break apart piece by piece and finally get rid of them altogether. I have one row of plants along the wall separated by a diagonal brick border. The bricks  of the border are so broken and battered, they look like old people's teeth now. The plants, being sturdy varieties like hibiscus, ixora, and mussaenda stick around despite getting battered by footballs. But they are not happy, they are not happy at all. When I go to water them, they show me their mangled and stripped limbs, seeming to wail, "Why, why???"

But the worst fate was not reserved for the ornaments or the plants on the border. For years, I optimistically bought clay pots during the rainy season and planted beautiful flowering plants in them to grace the front of our porch, only to have them broken apart in the playing season. I switched to cement pots. If the clay pots were turned to powder, the cement pots simply broke into bigger bits. At least clay gets mixed up with the soil. But I couldn't have big bits of rubble littering our yard, could I? So I gave up trying to make our front yard pretty. 

When you can't go under or around an obstacle, try climbing over it. That is how I started looking up and thinking about a balcony garden and wondering how to go about it. Of course the queen of procrastination drew out the process by planning up a number of steps and a grandiose plan. And then kept it on the shelf to ripen and mature! ๐Ÿ˜ But this month, having some time on my hands after quitting my job, I finally managed to garner the supplies and set it up!!!

My idea is to start a quartet of climbing plants first. For the frames, I bought 6-foot lengths and 2.5-foot lengths of PVC pipe and fixed them up as frames with PVC elbows. Then I tied them to the railing with rope. I fixed wire netting to the frames with cable ties. To prevent being overwhelmed, I did one frame a day till I had all of them up. Then I had my kids help me with acquiring some dried cow manure, some soil and brought up a block of cocopeat.

Mixed them all up on a crumbly old plastic mat right there on the balcony and filled the pots. Here are my plants.

Please don't expect me to know the names of these plants... I went to the nursery and asked for climbers with pretty flowers. The one above and another one with pretty yellow flowers(shown below) are what they gave me!!! I've lined the top of the pots with coconut husks to prevent the soil from being completely dried out by direct sunlight. As part of the mulching process for the dry season, I've swept all the dried leaves around the plants and trees in my yard and weighted them down with coconut husks. These will provide protection during the dry season and will help catch the rain and rot down into the soil later.

I've also planted two pots with passion fruit vines. The common variety of passion fruit available here is lemon yellow in color and so sour that even ladles of sugar can't make its juice sweet. But I got another variety from a cousin in Kottayam. The vines bear purple fruit and the pulp is so sweet that there is no need to add sugar. Even though I was the one to first grow the seedlings and gave some away to my father and neighbors, it was my father's vine that just took over a golden shower tree and has become so prolific that my father can reach up his hand and pluck a fruit from his front yard whenever he feels like it. What happened to mine? Yeah, well, it was in a huge cement pot right next to my front porch. Shall I stop here or show you the shards? It's so depressing!!! Another one has climbed up the jackfruit tree that you see behind the frames in the photo below. I think it's still trying to find a bit of sunlight to work with.

This photo is in the interest of fighting perfectionism on the internet. Just to show that my once pristine balcony is now messy as can be! No doubt it will get messier as I add more plants.

And finally, here are the guys who did all the dirty work. Let's give them a big hand!

Oh , yeah, they've had a good soaking to remove the loose dirt and have gone to the wash. Which reminds me... I have to go and water the new plants. See y'all later!!!

Mar 1, 2019

Two types of leadership

Nothing goes to waste. Everything is useful. This is the mantra that I am chanting to myself these days. Why? Because I have just been through a very bad experience and am still reeling from its bad effects. 

The experience has led me to examine the phenomenon of leadership in great detail. And from my personal observation I have come to the following conclusion: 

An Inspiring Leader

  1. This leader usually does not seek to gain leadership. It is most often given to them.
  2. They are usually people of great integrity even if they lack personal magnetism or many other seemingly "leadership"qualities.
  3. They seek to accentuate the positives in their followers.
  4. If they have a complaint about one of their followers, they call them aside and tell them about it.
  5. The inspiring leader doesn't show any overt familiarity or partiality to any of their followers.
  6. They listen to everyone in the group and come to the best decision possible.
  7. They strive to show that they value everyone in the group.
  8. They sing the team's praises in public, remonstrate in private.
  9. They lead by inspiring the best behavior in their followers.
  10. They gain trust and respect by exhibiting constancy in their decisions and are ready to admit it if they are wrong about anything.
  11. They accept responsibility for goof ups on behalf of the whole team.

A Toxic Leader

  1. A toxic leader often seeks leadership because it gives them a sense of power over their fellow men.
  2. They may appear confident outside, but they might have hidden self-esteem issues.
  3. They make it clear to the followers that the only way to survive on the team is by continually pleasing the leader.
  4. They either criticize team members in public or let their displeasure be known by gossiping to others and let the "erring" person come to know about it from indirect sources.
  5. They present pleasant faces to their seeming rivals while plotting their downfall.
  6. They keep criticizing their team so that the team members remain unsure of themselves at all times. 
  7. They sing their own praises at all times to show the team why they are the leader.
  8. They never hesitate to air the criticisms in public and never appreciate the positive things.
  9. They change their decisions and opinions according to their own whims and fancies and are never constant.
  10. They will plant the responsibility of their own goof ups on the first person who comes to mind and wash their hands of any culpability.
  11. They control their followers by taking hold of the lower personality traits of their followers such as fear, greed and guilt.

After a gap of fifteen years, I took up a part-time job where I got to watch both these leadership methods in detail. In spite of giving all the positives I am capable of, I found myself run down, unable to sleep, getting frequent fevers and having my hormones go haywire. So I quit. It's been a month since I quit and I haven't been able to shake the feeling of failure and inadequacy. Was I a wimp to have given up? Why couldn't I just ignore the jibes and stayed on? Why? Why? Why?

Today I decided that enough is enough. This experience too has its uses. It's given me the subject for a blog post after a long time. Now it's up to me to go past the bitter aftereffects and get back to my wonderful life. 

So on to my next projects!!! See y'all next week!

Jan 9, 2019

Happy New Year, dearies!!!

Yep, that's what it says, nine days after the fact! That is what happens when you go gallivanting off at the end of the year and return with a nasty two-week virus that cripples but doesn't incapacitate. This results in a sojourn in a germy twilight with umpteen symptoms and just a semblance of life. 

Not any more! Today I finally took down the Christmas lights, filed away the bills and papers of 2018 and dusted the cobwebs out of my flu-ridden brain. Cleared out my desk, copied what I needed for this year into my new BuJo and diary and put the old ones away in the archives. Now I am truly done and dusted with 2018. A tardy friend said in wishing me a week after the New Year, "I wasn't caught up in the wrong timeline. Just tardy as usual." I have the privilege of blaming the virus for my tardiness!

So what has 2018 done for me? In the second half of the year, it threw me back into work and that too, teaching!!! So now I am no longer the woman of leisure (which a homemaker never is) I used to be. Getting back into work mode after a fifteen-year gap has thrown a spanner in my works in a major fashion. Besides, my work place is a new institution which is in a state of flux, with barely enough staff and therefore requires a lot of adjustment and commitment more than a part-time job requires. In addition to teaching, the lecturers have to share clerical work. This has disrupted all my routines and now I am still struggling a bit to get my life back into a semblance of normalcy. 

I have had to suspend a lot of activities that I love doing. There are days when I dread getting out of bed because it is a working day (a common malady among the working people I believe), but on the whole it has been an enriching experience so far (in all matters except financial - still to receive salary!) in that it has brought more people into my life, new colleagues, students and a motivation to put back some care into my appearance now that I have to meet people on a daily basis! 

The greatest thing that going to work has done is that it has forced me to take a good look at all my activities and pushed me to cull out all the inessential things that I kept doing on a daily basis. For instance, I have stopped wanting to try new craft techniques and buying supplies for them. Instead I am concentrating on a couple of projects at a time and planning to finish the supplies that I already have. I have become more jealous of protecting my craft time too. Now I schedule time each day so that I can work on my projects on a daily basis.

The thing that is still disturbing me the most is the Sabarimala issue and all the hoopla and violence surrounding it. This year, I am taking a break from it and going to concentrate on domestic life so that our home will be a peaceful haven from all the madness going on outside. My cousin who was literally at death's door has survived and made an almost full recovery. That is one big thing that I am grateful for this year.

Our year-end journey to Chennai fulfilled a wish that I have been nurturing in the past year. On our trip to Hampi,  I had learned that the Balagopal icon in the Krishna temple on Matanga hill now resides in the Chennai Government Museum. So off I went pulling my family to the museum on our first day in Chennai. But the Chennail Museum is a vast network of treasure caves with no maps. Docents I spoke to had no idea where the icon could be. I decided to try the bronze section. We saw a lot of Shaivite bronzes that were absolutely breathtaking. But the Vaishnaivite bronze display was closed for maintenance. That was where the idol was likely to be. Choking down the disappointment, I went to see the displays in the main building.

In the first hall, I looked at examples of stone idols dating back to the Pallava era and going forward. I had completed four such alcoves when the next one took my breath away - it was the alcove for idols from the Vijayanagara period and there was the Balagopala I had been searching for!!!! He was mutilated, with parts of his arms having been chopped off in the attack, but the sweet expression of the baby Krishna is intact. The description says that King Krishna Deva Raya had carried off the icon from a temple in Udayagiri fort in Andhra. I don't blame him in the least, because that sweet expression could have beguiled any one.

That was the highlight of the Chennai trip for me. Well, there was a little interval at a silk sari shop in Kanchipuram...ahem! As well as another at the biggest Higginbothams store... well. ๐Ÿ˜Š

For those who asked, Akrami is alive and well. He has made a full recovery and there are no lesions to be seen. We suspect he has got a new girlfriend since he makes only sporadic appearances clamoring for food. We are looking forward to having him curled up on our front mat in the mornings.

That's all from Karthi this new year! Hope you all had a wonderful beginning to 2019!

Nov 9, 2018


We have a cat... Hmm... that doesn't sound quite true. It would be better to say the cat has us???

Anyway, this particular cat was left with us by the same mother cat who starred in this episode of the blog. She was a very prolific mother and we discovered that she was behaving exactly like a Malayali mother - in that she was shipping off her kittens to distant places by putting them on the engine floor of our car and have them hop off wherever DH parked. We were alerted to this trend by a few kittens who were not ready to leave hold of the apron-strings as yet and came back from his office with him and mewed to us plaintively from under the hood!!! 

So, back to the story of Akrami - the goon - as we call him. He came by this name because one of the first things he did after he got here was to scratch DH when he tried to get hold of the kitten. The doctor recommended a series of anti-rabies injection for the same. He is not a pet cat. He is to all intents and purposes a feral cat who occasionally visits us for food and shelter.

I would like to say that Akrami the kitten grew up to his name, and has become a magnificent tom cat who is the king of the neighborhood and so on. But it wouldn't be true. In fact, he is scrawny compared to some other tom cats in the neighborhood and very often we hear a screech and see him streaking away followed by bigger cats into the next panchayath. A couple of days later, he will appear with a swollen eye or scratched up visage and coolly ask us for food. His favorite hideout is our garage and an advantage of his scrawny stature is that he can crawl under the gate while his adversaries cannot.

Akrami has his preferences. He despises rice or milk. His favorite dish is dried anchovies followed very closely by chicken. He clearly shows his preference by actually going "Nomm, nomm" when he eats his favorite dishes. We give him food just to hear him eat with this audible sign of enjoyment. If we mix a bit of rice with his fish, he will dig out only the fish from the rice with all the delicate maneuvering of an archaeologist.  My DH who felt the fury of the little firebrand kitten is his biggest fan. DH who is a vegetarian and barely tolerates the aroma of frying fish and never touches non-vegetarian food will happily go to the local market, haggle with the dried-fish seller to buy dried anchovies and personally feed them to the cat. Akrami occasionally contributes to the family food kitty by leaving gifts of dead mice on our porch on some mornings. We accept them graciously and then bury them in the yard once he is gone.

This is how we usually find him in the mornings, right in front of our front door:

That is how he likes to sleep to the envy of the household that is rushing about here and there to leave in time for work. The front paw is there to stop any little ray of light that is intent on disturbing him.

For all his scaredy-catness, he is pretty independent too. Last year, we saw him nursing a swollen foot which looked in bad shape, but he would not let us get close to him to get him medical help. We decided that we should get him inoculated against rabies and this year, we managed to catch him in a thick jute sack and pacified him with anchovies till we took him to the vet and back. To his credit, he never treated us as enemies afterwards.

So we were astonished when Akrami hobbled up to us last week, with two swollen front legs, and a scratched up cheek and ear with pus oozing out of lesions on his legs. He wouldn't eat or drink, but sat on our front mat, crying pitifully. DH, who was down with a cold couldn't bear to see him in that shape. We bundled him up and took him to the district veterinary hospital. The prognosis was very bad - they x-rayed him to find no broken bones, but his liver and kidney were enlarged with infection and he had a very high fever. The doctor said that it looked like he had been bitten by a dog. We thanked God at that moment for giving us the forethought to have him inoculated.

But how to take care of a feral cat who is only half-domesticated? We put him in an unused room on the upper floor, washed his wounds everyday with saline solution and put antibacterial ointment on it, wearing gloves all the time. It hurt him, but he was too weak to protest. But he did take off the Elizabethan collar the first time we put it on him to prevent him from licking off all the ointment. But after that, he tolerated even that because he had used up all his energy jumping up and down to take off the collar. The true proof of his weakness came when we saw him drinking up hitherto despised milk! 

Altogether we took him three times to the hospital where he was given injections and intravenous fluids. At home we cleaned the wounds and fed him. But when we checked on him this Wednesday to take him to another vet appointment, we found that he had escaped from the upper floor room through the window!!! For two whole days we wondered if we would ever see our Akrami again.

Yesterday, he did appear, minus the Elizabethan collar. His wounds are still raw, but not suppurating any more. He is keeping himself very clean. He ate his fill of anchovies and a piece of boiled chicken and loudly clamored for more. It is clear that he is back in independent mode. Because he refuses to come in the house or be mollycoddled. 

Today morning, Akrami looked disdainfully at the milk DH left for him, but cleaned up the bowl after he had left for work. Here is a picture of him taken today morning:

The wounds are still very gruesome, which is why I haven't taken a picture in better light. But I think it will be enough to trust Mother Nature from now on to heal him.

Oh, what is that I hear? A very energetic mewing ... Akrami is here and he is hungry!!! Let me get him some food!!!

Oct 30, 2018

Thoughts on a Hill Shrine

2018 has been surprising so far in the things that it throws up. Living in Kerala is like being caught in a particularly vicious vortex that has one so turned around and confused that there is no telling which way to go in order to survive. First there was that deluge of the kind that occurs once in a century or so which brought in floods and landslides on a scale no one has ever seen. The people and the government are still limping along in the process of getting things back to normal. For many it meant loss of life, for others - loss of their home and all belongings. The loss in terms of public infrastructure and the danger to existing structures is incalculable. 

Kerala also saw a wonderful resurgence of community feeling. Malayalis all over the world lent a hand to help those in need. My current hometown's fishermen who had borne the brunt of Ockhi in January remembered the help they had received in their time of need and rushed to the help of those stranded in the flood all over central Kerala. It was a time of pain and it was a time of heart-squeezing pride and happiness too. 

But in another twist of fate, all that fellow-feeling seems to have evaporated as though it had never appeared at all in the first place. Barely a month after the receding of the floods, on the 28th of September the Supreme Court made a judgement on a long-drawn court case and ruled that women of child-bearing age can worship at Sabarimala now whereas it had been banned in 1991. And all hell broke loose....

And now, friends have become foes. Everybody has an opinion on Sabarimala and will concede to no one else's views. Hindus are now divided in two groups - those who are against the ruling and those who are for the ruling. My whatsapp is flooded with videos that mix mystic lore with pseudo science to prove why women of child-bearing age should not worship at Sabarimala. (I delete them without watching). Both factions refuse to back down. Ironically in this divine matter the worst behaviors of the human race have been brought out. 

Why is this happening? Why are women themselves out on the roads proclaiming that they are ready to wait till menopause to worship Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala? Why is there so much bad feeling? I had to take a break from (sometimes acrimonious) debates I was having with friends and family and delve into the Scriptures and approach great thinkers to find out the answer.  My answers mostly come from Swami Vivekananda's works.

This is the conclusion that I have come to: People have different consciousness levels. In devotees of every religion, there are only a few who question the beliefs of their ancestors and try to learn for themselves what lies beyond the rituals and rites of day-to-day religion. These people lead the renaissance movements that purify the religion of extraneous matter that builds up in every religion over time. Our own Sree Narayana Guru was one such great soul. Swami Vivekananda says that souls transmigrate slowly by stages into advanced life forms and finally reach the human form and make spiritual progress from there. It stands to reason that at any point of time, there are a large number of people then who are neophytes in spiritual growth and therefore consider themselves religious solely because they follow the religious rites and rituals that have been handed down to them.

Swami Vivekananda also quotes the Scriptures which say that "External worship, material worship is the lowest stage; struggling to rise high, mental prayer is the next stage, but the highest stage is when the Lord is realized." He further goes on to say "Idols or temples or churches or books are only the supports, the helps of his spiritual childhood: but on and on must he progress." Another relevant quotation from the same source is "...every soul is a young eagle soaring higher and higher, gathering more and more strength till it reaches the Glorious Sun."

Thus I have come to understand that it is the spiritually young souls that are protesting the change in a temple rite. This protest comes from a place of fear. They do not know what lies beyond the rituals and rites, their souls are not ready to progress to a level where devotion can go beyond the idol to finding the divinity in themselves. They need the rigid rules of custom and tradition in order to keep themselves on the path of righteousness. They fear that once religious rites and rituals are changed, they will find a frightening void that will lead to anarchy. They protest just like a cornered animal attacks out of fear for its life.

But if the devotees had been left to their own means, things would not have got to this level of foulness and acrimony. It is the agenda of political parties who want to turn that fear and rage into votes that fans the flames of this particular conflagration. They are behaving exactly like the power-mongers of the past who cash in on people's fear in order to achieve their own ends. It is their organized strength that has defiled the sanctity of the hill shrine's environs with violence and foul language. It is their goons who destroy the homes of those women who attempt to climb the sacred hill.

What do I think about the ruling? I have always preferred japa, meditation and study of the Scriptures over worship in temples. I do not like visiting crowded pilgrimage centers no matter how famous they are because I find it hard to concentrate in the noisy milieu. Predatory hands and protruding appendages of male devotees have a tendency to take advantage of the crowds too. I don't need to fly my feminist colors by visiting Sabarimala against the protestors' wishes, neither do I want to court notoriety or endanger my family. In fact, my husband and sons have postponed their annual pilgrimage indefinitely. It is a fact that when opposing forces collide, the innocent bystanders often get hurt. It is only wise to keep away.

I bow to the rights of the activists who filed the case for the inclusion of menstruating women, but I also feel it was unfortunate that the Supreme Court didn't take the vox populi into consideration for this verdict. If it is not retracted, Kerala will once again become in Swami Vivekananda's words "a mental asylum" of fear-crazed devotees who are egged on by politicians and getting mowed down by government machinery. 

I am therefore doing the only thing I can do at this juncture. I humbly pray to Lord Ayyappa, the Destroyer of Shani to remove the darkness of ignorance blinding everybody and show us the path to true enlightenment. Swamiye, Saranam Ayyappa...๐Ÿ™

Jul 27, 2018

Movie Review: Koode

All things happen for a reason. The last month saw several power cuts due to the incessant rains. One evening we switched off the electric lights and fans running on inverter to save its power and went out into the porch in the evening. All the neighborhood lights were out. And then we saw the magic... Fireflies...on the trees, floating on to the ground, lighting up the area like a magical light show. The kids and I watched mesmerized by the simple beauty of it.

It was the same feeling evoked by Koode, the latest in the Anjali Menon canon...

After a long time and quite a few duds along the way, comes a movie that stays with you even after you leave the movie hall. I could have written quite a few scathing reviews in the meantime hadn't I taken a vow not to revile anybody's creative expression๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„. But Koode took away all the bitter aftertaste of those movies.

Joshua (Prithviraj) is a lonely, shy young man burdened with the responsibility of wage-earning at the tender age of 15. Twenty years later he is desensitized, just going through the motions of life when a traumatic event happens. How the event breaks him out of the shell he has created for himself is the whole movie. The larva-like, vulnerable thing that comes out of it is not pretty and is very fragile. But as time passes, he comes to understand that the shell had not been a protection, but rather something preventing the full realization of his self.

Director Ranjith as Josh's father is a revelation. The whole cast has done a perfect job. Nazriya has effortlessly flowed into Jenny with nary a hitch after a sabbatical of four years from acting. Parvathy gets another tortured, repressed, brave character that she acts out with elan. Zubin, who plays young Joshua, is perfect for the role. As one of my friends put it, "He looks and moves just like Prithvi. It's as though the movie was shot while Prithvi was young and the rest as he matured".

As we have come to expect from an  Anjali  Menon movie, the supporting cast and their lives also enliven the background. Once our attention is finally turned away from the protagonists, we get to savor the humor and pathos surrounding the supporting cast. And there are subtle director touches everywhere... the dilapidation of Josh's house even though he's been earning well in the Gulf,  the vintage vehicles, the toy train set, and one or two Easter eggs that compel us to watch the movie again playing close attention to the background and asking explanations from our fellow moviegoers.

I can go on and on. But that could spoil your viewing pleasure, so let me stop here.

Verdict: Very good. One for the collection!

Spring/Summer Projects

Gosh, isn't it baking hot in God's Own Country these days! In accordance with the government's guidelines, we seldom venture o...