Sep 25, 2010

From my bookshelf - 3

There are some things which we take for granted in life. For me, one of them is my choice of newspaper. It has always been Malayala Manorama. When I started reading, we were in Dammam, Saudi Arabia and my parents used to buy MM during the weekends - the news was always 5 days old, but that did not matter. I remember my family and friends discussing the actor Jayan's tragic death 5 days after it happened. In the time of trunk calls, no one wasted money or time to convey such "trivial" news to their relatives abroad. The only time my choice for Mallu news wavered was when I was in the US and we had to make do with online newspapers. Deepika was my favorite then because all the news loaded on one page and the only thing I had to do was scroll down. But at all other times, it's always been Manorama...

This August, Malayala Manorama's chief editor, Mr. K.M.Mathew passed away. He had been the chief editor of the paper since the time I knew about it, or rather, he was Manorama to me. So when I saw his autobiography - Ettamathe Mothiram (the Eighth Ring) - at Kottayam, a month after his death, I couldn't resist buying it.

Although I am a native of Kottayam, I was never fortunate enough to see Mr. Mathew in the flesh. I had never heard him speak and have only read his serious opinions through his editorials, so the easy and informal style of his autobiography was a complete surprise to me. Indeed, the whole book was an eye-opener. The author has omitted much of his grown-up personal life because he has dealt with it in another book Annamma, which is named after his wife who was better known across Kerala simply as Mrs. K.M. Mathew. Most of what is left is is essentially Manorama's story and the struggle of a family to keep itself afloat on a sea of misfortunes during Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer's persecution which I was already familiar with. But the author's perspective of it - how the family members passed through the troubling times and how they rode over it makes the events more real and all the more touching. His memories of his childhood home, Kuppappuram, his tussles with his siblings and amusing anecdotes on some of the more colorful characters of the newspaper family are all superbly interesting. Pervading all this is the author's trademark humility that extols all around him as having been great, but seeing himself as only having reaped the benefits of the hard work and excellence of those around him. 

What touched me the most was a passage in the introduction to the book. He explains that when his mother died, his father got nine gold rings made after melting down her jewellery. He had all his children wear it for the first time on a special occasion, stipulating that they say an oath before they wore it. The oath exhorted them to think of their mother in times of temptation and to adopt a course of action that would be pleasing to her when she looked down upon them from heaven. With parents like that, is it a miracle that their family has prospered so much over the years? It really made me think about what we should be teaching our children. Now I am looking forward to reading Annamma too.

And yes, Mr. Mathews has taken the title from the ring incident as he was the recipient of the eighth ring. He still had it when he was 90 years old and was writing his autobiography.

Sep 20, 2010

Movie Review - Pranchiyettan and the Saint

I was in two minds today as to what to share with you - a wonderful movie or a great book. The movie wins for the day.

Before reading: The following is written by a huge fan of Ranjith, the director. All excesses may be excused. Please turn away if you are not a rabid fan :-)

Ranjith has done it again - you have to hand it to him. We saw what he can do with fantasy in Nandanam. He's done it again in Pranchiyettan and the Saint. I hadn't read any pre-release news of this movie and my first intro to it was a poster on the wayside with the picture Mammootty in a fluorescent purple jubba, horrible gold framed eye-glasses with folded hands held up. I checked the title:  Pranchiyettan... what the h*** does that mean??? was my first reaction. I certainly thought it was just another mafia movie of sorts and laughed at the horrific name. Two days later, I came to know that it was by Ranjith and heard that it might be worth watching. So this weekend, we went to book tickets for the first show Saturday evening, only to know that all reservation seats were already over. But, we were just in time to get middle class tickets for the matinee and before we knew it, we had tripped and trampled over 8 or 10 college guys to get the last three seats near the wall and were safely ensconced for a treat.

Let me take away the suspense about the name: Pranchiyettan is a local corruption of the lovely name Francis chettan. Pranchiyettan is the sole survivor of a prosperous family in Thrissur. His family business was selling rice, so he has this nickname "Arippranchi" which is his nemesis. The movie centers around the efforts our hero makes to get his name glorified somehow. And all his efforts are hilarious. Where does the saint come in? Well the movie starts off when Pranchi visits a church at a crisis in his life and his namesake St. Francis of Assissi appears in the flesh before him and serves as a receptacle for all his grievances. From there onwards the laughter and the wistfulness start us on a roller coaster ride that lasts till the end of the movie. I will not divulge the plot details here - one, because there is no plot as such and two, you really do need to see this movie!

Ranjith, you too are hunting whales in the ocean with Aamir and Hirani!!!

Next time you meet me don't be surprised if I bang you on the back with an "Enthootanta ishta viseshangal?" - so fell in love with Thrissur Bhaasha all over again!

Sep 17, 2010

The best time for gardening...

G.. and why I don't complete my weeding

It's tough for me to do any gardening during the week - for one I have housework to do. Also it doesn't help when one's two-yr-old needs full time supervision in the yard. Stooping and babysitting are so not compatible to each other. So last weekend I got up early and was in my garden by 6 a.m. Aah, no interruptions - I marked out a portion for deweeding and got it done within half an hour.

As you can see, there is still a lot of greenery left behind - but there is a reason behind it. I intend to have a natural lawn there instead of planting store-bought lawn grass. It's in part a homage to my most favorite college campus - CMS college. I still remember finding the gardeners in the college wielding two-feet long blades, squatting on the ground and mowing the lawns in wide arcs around them during our summer exam times. With the first monsoon rains, the grass would again shoot up and create the deepest green, sturdiest lawn you would like to step on. No fertilisers required, no extra care required. So I am transplanting all the specimens of this grass to the garden area from the rest of the yard.

Due to all the land-levelling activites in our plot, we have little fertile top soil left in our yard. Sadly, our early vegetable farming attempts died a speedy death. All the seedling sprouted, but in spite of the rain and shine, just withered away. We didn't want to add any chemical fertiliser to the soil, but also didn't know where to get some organic manure. Which is why I almost danced a jig when I found the organic manure stall at the Santhigiri expo last weekend. (More about that in the next post)

Santhigiri Ashram is just 5 km away from our home and they sell organic manure including vermi compost. So guess where we are going this weekend to stock up fertiliser for our coconut trees and garden! Once our biogas plant is in place, the sludge from it will supplement the fertilser. So this is a happy gardener signing off for the week!

Sep 7, 2010

Movie Review - Eclipse

Whew - it did take a while! The latest of the vampire series was released in the last week of July and took its own sweet time reaching Thiruvananthapuram.

For those not in the know - Eclipse is the third in the series of movies based on the vampire series of books by Stephenie Meyer. It centres on a high-school student Bella Swan who moves to the rainy town of Forks in Washington to be with her father for a while. She meets and falls in love with Edward Cullen fully knowing that he is a vampire. To make things interesting, there is another love angle with the werewolf/shapeshifter Jacob Black and different vampire covens who try to kill Bella periodically if her clumsy self does not do the job first.

If you plan to watch the movie, be prepared to read the books first or at least watch Twilight and New Moon in that order. Otherwise you might find yourself wholly muddled by the plot.

As a movie, Eclipse does a good job of editing down the endless, agonising mind chatter of Bella down to action-packed sequences. Contrary to the book, the love scenes detract from the movie being conducted mostly sotto voce and leaving the audience straining to catch the dialogues - I was personally wishing for subtitles! The actions scenes and the locales are great and the climax is all that I could ask for. Dakota Fanning makes a wonderful Jane and her red eyes and calm face make a lasting impression. Kristen Stewart's body language is so tailor-made for the role of Bella that I was surprised she could be anything else in other movies of hers.

What has intrigued me the most about this particular series of vampire books and movies? I think it is the portrayal of the Cullen family who are a bunch of superheroes who ditch the diet of ordinary vampires to become "vegetarians" (drinking only animal blood - please don't tell Maneka Gandhi). They also differ from Dracula in that they don't turn into dust at the touch of a sunbeam and are not scared by a crucifix. I believe the vampires and becoming the vampire is the culmination of our fascination with makeovers - and we have come a long way since Cinderella. Becoming a vampire is the extremest makeover! Imagine not having to dye your hair, gulp down all those antioxidants and never having to have botox injections or facelifts - it could well be the ultimate Western dream makeover!It's funny that Ms. Meyer does not mention what happens to slighly obese people who become vampires - do they become automatically sleek? Anyway, I could take being a vampire like the Cullens - especially when I think that I won't have to worry about cooking and how my vampire speed will take care of house cleaning in a jiffy. Not having to sleep would be good too...

Would you like to be turned into such a vampire???

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...