Apr 18, 2013

What does it take to make you happy?

The latest iPhone?

A huge promotion?

A giant shopping spree?

Sometimes teeny tiny things are enough to make people happy, like this...

A few dried leaves, a few twigs...

It made him a king for half an hour

Lord of all he surveyed...

Best of all, it brought out his lovely smile.

Ani was so pleased with the crown I made that he wore it to school last month (you can tell I was desperate to keep him from mischief while we were waiting for the school bus?!) AND brought it intact at the end of the day. He said his teachers and friends had admired the crown and his teacher had kept it on top of a cupboard for safekeeping till the end of the day. Isn't Montessori great?

Apr 10, 2013

Movie Review: Amen - A Divine Comedy (Must Watch!!!!)

It is seldom that I get the privilege to share a movie with you that I can genuinely call a must watch. Lijo Jose Pellissery's Amen certainly fits the bill! Starting from the catchy title tune (Aatmavil thinkal kulir... has been the all-pervasive tune in my home for three days now) and lovely, quirky graphics, I was hooked and ready for a joyful two and a half hours.

This movie is testament of the fact that the story can be as old and cliched as the hills, but the treatment can make the movie. The story takes place in a fictional Kuttanad village, Kumarankari. It centers around the St. Geevarghese Church diocese, especially the church band which was once very famous, but has been humiliatingly defeated by other bands in the New Year competition. At the fringes of this band, Solomon (Fahad Fazil) lurks, pleading for a chance to perform although so far all he has to show is his departed father's prowess as an unmatched clarinet player. Predictably, his sole supporter and beloved Sosanna (Swati Reddy) belongs to one of the richest and most influential families in the parish.

Things take an ugly turn after yet another humiliating defeat in the annual band competition and Fr. Ottaplacken (Joy Thomas) decides to give the band a decent burial. This is the cue for the entry of the hip, young curate Vincent Vattoli (Indrajith). But is his intervention enough to save the band? A young curate has his limits when dealing with the higher echleons, Vattoli soon finds out. Can Solomon ever get over his stage fright? Will the ever-troublesome Vishakkol succeed in his sabotaging efforts? Will the centuries-old church building be demolished by vested interests? You may know the answers to all these questions, but I was certainly willing to put it all away to see how the story would play out.

Highlights: Joy Thomas as Fr. Ottaplacken - the slight squint of his light-colored eyes added to his spookiness. Truly gives one the creeps. Fahad as the repressed genius Solomon. 

Lowlights: A few instances of bathroom humor, one or two needlessly elongated scenes. But these were tiny flaws in the gem.

Biggest highlight: The camera by Abhinandan Ramanujam (Who is he? Where was he till now???) He presents the best views of our Kuttanad after what we saw in Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya. Simply superb. If for nothing else, go to see Kuttanad as you have never seen it before. You will agree with S.K. Pottekad that Venice is nothing before it.

This movie certainly makes my "must have in DVD collection" category.

Apr 4, 2013

Bengaluru Hogi!

Wheeze, wheeze, air-conditioners and I really do not mix. Fortunately, this time my preventive measures worked somewhat well on the journey (Vitamin C, warm head covers), so I have escaped with minimal damage. This time we took a long-weekend trip to Bengaluru.

If it had been left to us, we would have spent all the time visiting our various friends and relatives. But there are the little people to consider. They want excitement. They want fun. They want time to play and jump around. They want NEW experiences.

Our first kiddie stop was Snow City in the Palace Grounds. Anikkuttan, our younger one was the most vociferous in the demand for this. He's always been asking us to "get on a plane and go somewhere with snow". At Snow City, DH and the kiddos waited for almost an hour to gain entry into the 1 p.m. slot for some snow fun. They were provided with a protective jacket, gloves, ear muffs and snow boots. They also waited in a somewhat cold chamber to acclimatize themselves before being exposed to the -5 degree Celsius of the snow room. For the first few minutes everything was hunky dory as they rolled snow balls and pelted each other and posed for pictures taken by their doting Dad. But soon enough, a few snowballs found their way into the boots and poor Ani's feet were chilled to the bone. Ten minutes into the much-awaited snow experience, Ani was out for the count and DH had to follow leaving the hardier Kunjunni to enjoy himself to the max on all the rides. He didn't come out till HIS 45 minutes were up.

Look at the poor forlorn guy in blue - doesn't his very pose say, "Please get me out of here!" And now here's his brother:

The very picture of true enjoyment and intrepidity!

While the guys were scampering through the snow, my MIL and I went on another expedition - to see the Bangalore Palace. Here is the castle-like exterior:

The entry ticket includes an audio-tour! We get a handheld device and headphones which explain the exhibits to us. First time I've seen anything of the kind in India. The tour is even available in Malayalam! Note: Please carry a photo-id with you because that needs to be given as security for the audio device. As for the tour - see all those interesting turrets and round rooms? There was no access to them or the balcony. Inside, the architecture and decor is a mishmash of Tudor, Victorian and Art Deco styles with a generous sprinkle of Indian all over. The general effect is not bad, though. There were beautiful stenciling patterns, absolutely gorgeous floor tile patterns and a few unique pieces like the weighing machine for the royal jockey.  To add to the fun, we had a celebrity sighting. We spotted actor Venkatesh in action for a Telugu movie! All in all, good for an outing if you have time to kill when the rest of the family are having fun at Snow City. Can't guarantee the celebrity sighting, though!!!

Next we took the kids to that school-tour staple - the Vishveswarayya Science and Technology museum. Well, it has changed a bit from what I remember of seeing 25 years ago. There is a life-size exhibit of the Wright brothers' first aircraft that greets you right in the main hall. The story of the creation of the replica to mark the centenary of the invention also gets pride of place alongside the exhibit. There is also an animatronic dinosaur that scared all the little kids who went in. Well, the rolling eyes which swiveled to nail one were a bit too much for me too, I must confess!  And I had to carry my almost-five-year-old to "make friends with the TOY dinosaur", swiveling eye or not. That's a huge perk of being a parent, one can hang on for dear life to another morsel of humanity and pretend you are doing it to give THEM courage! Planes and dinosaurs aside, the kids including our 6-ft one were entranced by the science toy store in the museum and spent almost an hour picking and choosing what to take home, worse than any group of women in a bag shop. 

Since all we ladies wanted to do after all the walking was to just relax, we went to the kids' play area at Cubbon park, where adults are not allowed in unless accompanied by children. Understandably, the attraction is free for the pint-sized whereas we have to pay! Apart from all the innumerable rides, swings etc., the kiddos enjoyed a ride on this...

Yep, the toy train!

And as for the adults: all we had was a very rushed one hour at Commercial Street, almost half of which went in walking to and from the parking area! Life is so unfair!!!

Having traveled in most of the southern and eastern portions of the fast-expanding city, one could not but marvel at the change and feel nostalgic about the old Bangalore. So many of the main roads of the old, elegant residential areas are now full of plate-glass showrooms of international brands. KFC which had just one outlet on Brigade Road back in 2001 now has so many outlets that it is like a rash that has spread over the city. "Development" is going on at such a fast pace that infrastructure is not even in the previous chapter, let alone on the same page. We went to a luxury apartment complex situated on the shores of a lake, only it was literally in the middle of nowhere - there was only a dust track of the kind seldom seen even in my road-wise backward home state! The state of our backs after we bumped our way to the apartment and were hopelessly lost on our way back, was pathetic. I thought that the old Bangalore was only a thing of fond memory until we were on our train back from the City Railway station. The train passed through some old neighborhoods and the Cantonment area and I heaved a sigh of relief. At least a part of old Bangalore was left unmolested. Thank God for small mercies!

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...