Thursday, June 25, 2015

Versedays: Make the Ordinary Come Alive

I was browsing the net looking for something inspired me to write a blog post for a content writing project am working on. Something extraordinary, something different that would trigger those thoughts and get the pen flowing. How ironic then that I should come across this poem called "Make the Ordinary Come Alive," by William Martin. A modern reinterpretation of some aspects of the ancient classic the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, Martin addresses parenthood through verse.

The reason I selected this particular poem is because I felt everyone, not just children, can try to follow what the author has said. There is no great philosophy. The thoughts are what we have all thought a million times. But he puts it in a beautiful manner that made me read it a few times. Hope all of you enjoy it as much as I did!

Make the Ordinary Come Alive
William Martin

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Versedays: Summer Rain by Amy Lowell

 The rains are a constant presence in South India. Sometimes I feel there is no season for them. It can rain anytime. I love watching the rain pouring down, as many of us I suppose, creating muddy little rivulets on the road, and making the leaves look fresh and green.

And that's how I thought this week's poem should be Amy Lowell's "Summer Rain," to denote the rain that occurs at the edge of summer. Lowell was an American poet who posthumously won a Pulitzer Prize for her collection of poems named "What's O'Clock." She was highly influenced by the Imagist movement, which is evident in today's poem, in its vivid imagery making the scene come alive. Lowell's lifelong relationship with actress Ada Dwyer Russell has been the primary subject of discussion in most articles on her, with Russell being described as friend and lover alternatively. Whatever it was, biographer Richard Benvenuto has pointed out that Lowell's "great creative output between 1914 and 1925 would not have been possible without her friend's steadying, supporting presence."

Hope you enjoy reading today's poem!

Summer Rain


Amy Lowell

All night our room was outer-walled with rain.
Drops fell and flattened on the tin roof,
And rang like little disks of metal.
Ping!—Ping!—and there was not a pin-point of silence between them.
The rain rattled and clashed,
And the slats of the shutters danced and glittered.
But to me the darkness was red-gold and crocus-coloured
With your brightness,
And the words you whispered to me
Sprang up and flamed—orange torches against the rain.
Torches against the wall of cool, silver rain!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Movie Review: Evil

Image Credit: IMDB

I discovered two things tonight. One, that Evil or Ondskan is one of the best movies ever made. And two, that Andreas Wilson, who plays Erik in Evil is also one of the most good-looking men ever made. This movie was on my wishlist for a while, but it took today for me to watch it. I think I was partly petrified because I thought it might turn out to be some kind of gory horror flick on the nature of evil, but nothing could be further from the truth while being close to it.

Image : IMDB
Evil is horror. The horror of depravity that human beings can sink to. But at it's heart, and here I go, becoming cliched again, is a story of redemption and courage. Add that gooey Andreas Wilson to that mix, this makes a wonderful and compelling movie indeed. We see at the beginning of the movie that Erik is expelled from his school for fighting. He has a tempestuous relationship with his stepfather who canes him for the smallest altercations. His mother sells some of her family heirlooms to give Erik one last chance to graduate from a prestigious boarding school. It's Erik's brooding presence that captivates you from the beginning. At Stjärnsberg, Erik decides that there is too much stake and resolves to not pick a fight and get himself expelled. But he is immediately picked on by the seniors. At the school, there is a system of kamratuppfostran" ("schoolmate upbringing"). It's supposed to keep the school orderly, but Erik will follow rules, but not succumb to humiliation. It's here that the drama of the movie reaches its highest point. It's a cat and mouse game where the two members of the school council, Otto Silverhielm and Gustaf Dahlén push Erik to the limit, and you can only watch in frustration as Erik refuses. You know that the thread is going to break, and you watch the movie sitting on the edge of your seat as it becomes taut, then frail, and, I won't tell you.

To me, the rest of the movie is not about fighting back. It's not about knowing that the fight lies in not fighting. It's not about the friendship between Erik and Pierre. It's not the slow blossom love between Erik and the nurse Marja (forbidden at the school). But the movie was just an exploration on the nature of the human psyche. Why was I waiting for Erik to lash out? To turn on his perpetrators? Who is truly evil? Was it Erik? He is shown earlier in the movie violently beating a boy. Is it his step father? Or is evil the bullies at the school? Or is it you? Because you are waiting for the thread to snap? Compelling drama such as this, I believe, deserves more than a 68% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Watch this movie. I would do so again.

Lifeometer: Ooooh la la. Just movie watching heaven. Even if I sound like a teenager in saying so.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Movie Review: Stand By Me

There is something about movies made decades ago, isn't there? Stand By Me reminds me of that old song by Ben E King, and the many versions that followed that all-time classic.
Stand By Me has just the right nuances of friendship, a journey, and life lessons to make you watch it with a feeling of nostalgia. The movie is based on the story "The Body" in Stephen King's 1982 collection, Different Seasons. There are no screaming guns. Just a bunch of kids as they take their own little road trip of a lifetime, in the process uncovering some truths about themselves, and the meaning of friendship. Narrated by Gordie (Will Wheaton) after the death of a friend, he talks of how he and his 3 other friends who at the age of 12 go in search of the dead body of a boy presumed missing. That makes you think the story has a dark or sinister element to it. But it is not. The boys, Gordie, Vern, Chris, and Teddy come from a little town called Castle Rock. Each of them have a troubled family life. Gordie and Chris share a closer bond in the movie. Lying to their parents, they set off on a day long hike into the woods to discover the Brower kid's body. All four of them have easily identifiable personalities. Gordie is the serious writer with an air of melancholy about him. Vern is the 'fat' one who is always the target of their jokes. Teddy has an ear burned off by his father, who the town says is in the 'loony bin,' and Chris is the one who you would want as a friend - the one who stands by you. Always. And believes in you. 

As they make their way through the woods, they learn that danger lurks on the tracks. They evade trains that come screaming through them - and always, someone is there to help the other out of a potentially life-threatening situation. To me, these are the precious little episodes that mean the most to me. It might seem like a series of capers from boys who should know better. But each scene in this movie is rich with nuanced meaning. Rich with messages. And possibilities and discovery. From fighting off leeches to angry men with dogs, they stick together. Yes, that does sound cheesy. But what's wrong with cheese? It's not unrealistic. It's just a little snapshot of life. Maybe not as we know it, but no one said movies have to stay true to what we go through.

Lifeometer: Up, up, and away.

You can buy the DVD at Stand by Me

Sunday, May 31, 2015

In The Mood For Love

The rain outside. Thunder. Sparkles of rain you can hear. And as you watch on the screen, Maggie Cheung's evocative face dissolves into a hundred emotions. In The Mood For Love is a masterpiece. It's in the list of Empire Online's greatest 100 movies ever.

I started watching this movie on Saturday. It wasn't raining then. And I finished watching it now, on a Sunday. Stretching to a little more than 2 hours, the movie feels like 4 hours. I don't watch run-of-the-mill movies. I watch a lot of movies that may be called 'art-house' or offbeat or non-mainstream or whatever it may be called. I have come across a lot of beautiful movies because of this openness. I was fascinated by In The Mood For Love because it had an Asian and more so, a Chinese connection. But just like Amour, this will be one of those movies that is rendered beautifully on screen, capturing all the nuances of emotions in an understated and subtle way. But it is a movie that will put me to sleep.

Here's what IMDB describes:

Two neighbors, a woman and a man, form a strong bond after both suspect extramarital activities of their spouses. However, they agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs.

The key thing here *spoiler alert* is that they suspect their spouses of having an affair with each other. Drawn by this strange bond, Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) form a platonic friendship that belies the strong tension and intimacy between them. While that tension is beautifully captured, their spouses are never portrayed. Only their voices. Their noisy and nosy neighbors form the only lively part of the movie. 

So what happens? Leung and Cheung exchange glances. Have dinners in restaurants. Stand next to each other in pouring rain. Pass each other by on their way to buy noodles. And Cheung helps Leung to write a series on manga. 

We watch them feel. And I feel for them. Feel for watching such excruciating beauty in such slowness. Mistake me not. The film is beautiful and I know and understand that not all movies have to be fast. But this made me sleep. Sophoric. And may be that's just me. Maybe I wasn't in the mood for love. You can watch the full movie here or buy the CD.


Verdict: One of the masterpieces of world cinema. This was sadly not for me. 

Rating: 3/5 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wild: Cheryl Strayed

Image Credit: Writer's Edit

This is a first for me. Reading the book AFTER I have seen the movie on which it was based. I saw Reese Witherspoon put in a compelling performance in the 'Wild.' And that stayed with me enough for me to pick up the memoir also called the Wild. Cheryl Strayed as been vilified and glorified after she wrote her experience of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or the PCT as it is more commonly known. I read some of the reviews on Goodreads and I was amused. So many people have vented their ire because they think Cheryl was 'self-absorbed' and doesn't really gain in experience or understanding through her trek on the trail. Others have said that she was inspiring. For me though, I find it hard to dislike a memoir. There is something intensely personal about that genre. Something that invites us to lay bare the starkest of our follies and the most mundane of our experiences to the harshest of public views. It's the relentless exposure to the most private part of yourself - and a good memoir becomes personal to the reader when the writer has stripped all the last layers of selfdom. A memoir screams. This is me. Read me. Hate me. Love me. Or like Cheryl does on the PCT, burn the book.

Cheryl as during her hike in 1995. Image Credit from NY Mag
And that's what we to got as well. A cross of hatred and love for this book. Cheryl Strayed is a deeply flawed individual and her writing has been slammed as pedestrian. But it doesn't matter. There  is a brutal honesty to it. To her. I felt at times I was reading a murder mystery or a thriller. I would settle down for lunch at my office waiting to read the next page. I would imagine the snow. The sheer harsh terrain of the desert. I could feel Cheryl's search to find herself almost as my own. It's because I am at on my own search. I am not on the PCT. I have fleeting dreams of me doing it but like everything else in my life, I dream a lot and do not a lot. So, I keep searching for an alternative version of myself. The person who I think is inside somewhere, who can be happier, more laughier, more kind and somehow more of a better person than what I have been.

The book might just seem to be about Cheryl. But there is also the secondary character of her mother who looms large over all of her anguish. For someone who so deeply adored and loved her mother, it surprised and amused me to read that Cheryl has started a new brand of feminism that screams itself as 'motherfucker.'

Image Credit: Melville
But being a motherfucker, it’s a way of life, really… It’s about having strength rather than fragility, resilience, and faith, and nerve, and really leaning hard into work rather than worry and anxiety. 
But how much of the book is of the PCT? Not much. Yes, you learn of blackened toenails. Missing toenails. Hardened as a tree bark skin. You read of loving strangers. The agony of blistered feet screaming for rest. But you don't get to read ALL of the PCT. It's not meant to be a travel book in that widest sense. It's a book that was made by the PCT. But it's a book made by Cheryl for a journey that was her own. I am happy she made me a part of it. Yes, she was stupid in not preparing. But she does show us that fragility and resilience exist in equal parts. Which do we feed first?

Verdict: Tough as nails memoir that can change the way we think. I am kidding. It's brutal and effective. Read it because it's worth it.

Rating: 4/5

If you like the book, you can buy it through LW's own affiliate link on Amazon.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Movie Review: Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Image Copyright: Eros International
This is a first. A movie review on Lifewordsmith. It's been a while since I have been to the movies. I have been watching a fair number on my laptop though. This week though I was back to the world of popcorn, wide screens, and lush seats. Relatively. Along with the stink of 500 people crammed into one space for 2 hours.

Last year, I had seen one of the most progressive movies in Indian cinema through Queen. That movie was a celebration of one actress's prodigious talent - Kangana Ranaut. It was a movie that deserved the accolades. So, it was with the same expectation that I went to see Tanu Weds Manu Returns. Having seen a sassy performance in Queen, I thought that Kangana would offer traditional Hindi moviemaking that has been dominated by helpless simpering heroines the same difference she gave to Queen. How wrong I was! I hadn't seen the original, but if it was as bad as the sequel, I would not want to even think of trying this.

The movie opens with a wedding. Predictable. A lot of dancing. And then 4 years later, here we are in front of a mental institute that looks rather like a castle. A what? Yes, you read it right. We are shown inside a bizarre interrogation room where Tanu and Manu attack each other in a battle of "let's look the most immature" to 3 psychologists who I wouldn't want to trust my little finger with let alone my mind. One doctor speaks Hindi. Anger from Manu. Screeching from Tanu. And then for reasons I can't fathom Manu is taken away and locked up inside the mental institute. Yes! Is this the 21st century? There is even a visual of him receiving what looks suspiciously like an electric shock.

Tanu meanwhile is shown moving around London and then after a bizarre phone call with her best friend takes the next flight to India, while courteously informing Manu's friend/relative? about her husband's stay in rehab...or whatever I can think. I thought, ok, movies have bad beginnings. It should improve right? Tanu gets back. Makes friends with a lawyer who is a tenant at her parents house (no one seems particularly aghast she has left her husband), and is shown drinking copiously at varied times. Scene Two of the many bizarre scenes in this movie? A towel-clad Kangana sashaying down to interrupt a bride-seeing ceremony for her sister (?). Don't ask. It gets worse. Manu is rescued and makes his way back to India. Issues a directive asking Tanu to apologize. And that's enough for Tanu to break into a fiesty "Move On" song, where she cavorts around with the lawyer tenant and eyes another guy...who builds buildings, I think.

Mess gets compounded when Manu eyes a lissome young girl who with a pixie haircut he believes looks like Tanu. With his friend, they pursue the poor girl. Right. Best way to win a woman over. Standard Hindi movie formulae. Kusum (that's the poor girl) does give in (shouldn't all women give in to their stalkers?) and then, Manu decides to get remarried while thinking he has been served a notice for divorce.

Some absurd capers in between that I can't understand and then the finale. Tanu comes back teary-eyed and drunken, begging her husband (ex?) to take her back. Manu pushes her away once. Then promises to marry the hapless Kusum no matter what. Tanu vows to watch the wedding because of some internal karma she needs to expunge. Assorted characters hang around, adding to the confusion. Manu and Kusum start the wedding. And then, of course, Kusum asks the guy before they complete the saat pheras if he is sure. Manu grins stupidly and stupidly grins and grins some more. Wedding off. Tanu and Manu reunite,hugs, and kisses. Kusum is seen crying. And then laughing. Frankly, by the end, I was so happy for her that I believe she should have been dancing with joy instead of marrying this nut!

Have I seen anything worse recently? What was Kangana thinking? Yes, she is brilliant as Kusum, transforming herself from suave bitch to athletic chick all the time. But is there a worth in doing so? And what is this podgy Mahadevan who looks like he has to constantly cover his paunch underneath thick sweaters? This is regressive movie-making. The kind that encourages you to think that it's ok to promise to marry another woman and then jilt her at the altar. Of course, critics will say at least he didn't do that after the marriage, so the woman's honor is intact! What about the man? His honor is enhanced because he decides to get married in what seems like 2 days after his divorce?

Sigh. This is receiving fantastic reviews. I must question my own lack of insanity although Firstpost agrees with some of the inane logic. Maybe I shouldn't think so much. Maybe I should scream "Move On,"and take in absurdity as part of the experience of watching a Hindi movie. Along with the smug patronization of women in it.

Movie Sockometer: Stinking

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Versedays: Love and Friendship by Emily Bronte

Image Courtesy:

I have the good fortune of having few but excellent friends in my life. But just like any other relationship, friendships also need hard work to keep them. Friendship is the most neglected of all relationships as everybody gets busy with their lives. For me, it's been my friendship with my closest friend that has always helped me in life in a lot of ways. I am only the better, wiser and nicer for it. Thank you my friend, you know who you are.

Today's poem is thus in honour of friendship. Emily Bronte is known for her novels, most particularly Wuthering Heights. But she also wrote some lovely poems. Here is one that speaks about the nature of love and friendship. Enjoy!

Love and Friendship


Emily Bronte

Love is like the wild rose-briar,
Friendship like the holly-tree --
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms
But which will bloom most contantly?
The wild-rose briar is sweet in the spring,
Its summer blossoms scent the air;
Yet wait till winter comes again
And who wil call the wild-briar fair?
Then scorn the silly rose-wreath now
And deck thee with the holly's sheen,
That when December blights thy brow
He may still leave thy garland green.