Friday, March 27, 2015

This shoe does not quite fit!

The Cinderella movie left me feeling like something was wanting. Like a shoe that does not quite fit.
"Now, now, you say", pretty much like Cinderella’s mother, “Have courage and be kind.”
Okay I am going to do both. 

I had watched the trailer. With much magic the fairy godmother turns Ella’s dowdy ballet flats into glass slippers!
Cinderella exclaims, “But these are made of glass!” 
And the fairy godmother replies with aplomb, “And you’ll find them very comfortable!”
Now that’s a modern day fairy tale for me.

Brought up on large doses of fairy tales, I still love watching movies based on fairy tales! That part of me has not grown up I think. And most of these films respect the fact that a movie made for children will necessarily have a (maybe reluctant) adult audience. Most of these films therefore seek to amuse the adults while the children remain happily engaged.

I found Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella sadly lacking in that department.

A modern remake of Cinderella necessarily had to have some contemporary overtones. The statement of the fairy godmother about the glass shoes being comfortable was one. But it seemed to begin and end there. I just wish they would have added more. So much more.
The movie stretched in the first half. Just to establish the overarching statement from Cinderella’s mother:  “Be kind and have courage”.I get that. I'm vacillating between both - kindness and courage as I write this. I will be kind, but I do have courage to say that the sugary sweetness of the film was almost bordering on large doses of aspartame. 

The stepmother! Most of Cinderella is about the stepmother isn't it? Yet, the stepmother is a somewhat insipid character sporting the latest makeup shades – her only misdeed after she moves in is that she loves partying! Cate Blanchett does do a fine job here but then that’s Cate for you, not the stepmother. 

Her two daughters, somewhat like Alice’s Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (more Tweedle Dumb) could have been given smarter stupider lines, if you know what I mean. There could have been humour in dumb and dumber. Yet it ends with somewhat slapstick running around and fighting crassly.

The farmhouse setting for Cinderella’s home is idyllic, what with the adorable farm animals. Much could have been built around that. To be fair the four mice have been adequately portrayed – and the fat one does seem to love his cheese. The goose that goes honking to meet every arriving horse carriage is funny too.
But heigh-ho! There it stops. And you’re left wanting. More geese. More mice, even more lizards please? Oh yes, to be kind, the little touch of the lizard footman flicking his tongue for a passing fly was good. See? But that’s not enough.

I’ll be kind. I think the fairy godmother brilliantly redeemed not just Cinderella but even the film with her magic. The pumpkin outgrowing the greenhouse was unexpected and fun.  I loved the glass slippers. I loved how they are ‘slipped’ in with large doses of humour from the fairy godmother. (Watch the trailer if you haven’t seen the film yet). And the bit of the carriage and the coachman and the footmen turning back to their original selves was very well done.

But here comes courage. The song! The song: the lullaby that Cinderella’s mother sang to her in her childhood. Nice touch. Nice lullaby. But nowhere else is she seen singing that song. Nowhere else is she even singing!  Logic eludes me here. Something tells me that’s not the song Cinderella would be singing the day the prince arrived at her house. It’s neither happy nor sad. It’s a lullaby for God’s sake.

Yes, it’s a fairy tale. Yes, it's for children. Yes. I've to be kind. But, the Cinderella film leaves you wanting. Wanting for more. More wit. More humour. More fun. More song. More animals and maybe...more time. 

The clock striking twelve has left a lot of work undone, hasn't it? 
What did you think? 

Haven't seen the movie? Watch the trailer here!


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

South by South East - Day Two

Words cannot describe... 

We turn to Nature when we want a breather.
And then Nature gives us this moment that just completely takes our breath away!

My second day was relaxed. With a planned outing to the Kovalam beach in the evening. I had heard about the beach being beautiful... but it was more than that... and I'll let the pictures do the talking!

An infinity pool greeted us as we walked in to The Leela Kovalam

The setting sun was in all its glory... but that was just the beginning

Going behind the main facade of the hotel we came upon the real picture!
If I saw this picture elsewhere I'd think it very cliched! 

But here it was a picture-perfect moment! 
And then! The Sun decided to get even more gorgeous!

Like this!

Or closer still... almost saturnine!
Till it set...
Leaving the sky like this...
And then finally giving way to a beautiful crescent moon

And then we had lovely dinner on the beach 
with the waves gently lapping the shore in the moonlight, little crabs scurrying along sideways on the wet sand,  
a light dinner served to us under the twinkling stars, 
feeling blithe after witnessing the beauty of the Sun, the Moon and the Sea, 
all in the space of one spectacular evening. 
SG, SV & AK.. thanks for a memorable evening
We'd see much more the next day, but that's Day Three, isn't it? 

Have you read Day One? If not, click here 
South by South East - Day One

Monday, March 16, 2015

South by South East!

My five day sojourn in Kerela! Day One

It is with a bit of embarrassment that I admit, I had never been to Kerela. Two plans made earlier did not fructify. And it rankled. So it was fortunate that this happened one cold December evening. 

Obsessed with putting that one pin on the map, I made a sad face as I said, "I've never been to Trivandrum..." (now known as Thiruvananthapuram TVM for this post). 
SV rose well to the occasion. 
She promptly invited me over. 
While it seemed polite and casual at that time, it was, minutes later, followed up with a concrete plan. 
"Come, end of February", she said, "I've planned something."

Here's where context-setting is important.

SV is a dear friend's dear sister. And I've known her for the last 3 decades or more. We've met off and on but (sadly) not frequently enough. Yet the wonderful part is that when we meet we just pick up the threads from where we left off. Of late, we've reconnected on Facebook, and I've discovered that she's an avid traveller and I follow her trips with vicarious pleasure!

When we met in December, it was at the reception of my friend's dear daughter.

Coming back to the point at which I got my invite to TVM, it was a social occasion so I did not actually whoop with joy, what with decorum and all. But to say the least, my inner travel spirit was doing the samba (or probably Kathakali)! 
I was thrilled

That was in December and while this was almost three months away, I really wasn't sure it would happen.
I got more words of wisdom from SV, "Why don't you book your tickets, you can always cancel if you can't make it."
Sounded like a plan and between travel for work, an offsite, and some time off the tickets were booked and I was ready for my first-ever visit to Kerela!
And so it came to pass.

This year, 2015 from February 21st  to 25th, I spent some wonderful times with SG, my childhood friend, SV and AK her sister and husband - my hosts, in the heart of Kerela, better known as God’s own country.

There are many ways of seeing a new place but experiencing it with the people who know it from their childhood is quite something else.
I'm not the one-place-a-day kind of traveler. I'm not even the must-see-everything kind of person. I prefer to soak in the sights and the sounds, understand the background, pick up a recipe or two, basically dig up the roots behind what we do and how we are and why we are the way we are. 

Throw in a bit of history and legend and my holiday is complete.
As an Indian in India, I was still foreign to the language and culture here and that's what I was eager to learn. With my three companions (and the several others who hosted me with great warmth) I discovered with unbridled joy what makes this God's own country.

What follows is an day by day, outing by outing, travelogue of my brief (5-day) sojourn in Kerela - my first time but definitely not my last.

Stay with me...

Day One - 21st February 2015

I was told jokingly, as I waited in anticipation for my flight, by my dear friend that I will have to speak in Malayalam when I get off at the Thiruvananthapuram (say this with the speed of lightning and you've got it right) and ask for a prepaid taxi! As a rejoinder I asked, "what's Malayalam for Hurry up and get me there already!

But to my relief English was pretty much understood so before I knew it I was in a cab and off to my destination. We turned away from the airport and I caught my first glimpse of a beach, the sea gently lapping at the brown sands, boats beached on the shore, nets cast and a midday sun making the sea sparkle. The southern coast of India, my first view! Five days from now, I’d be sadly bidding farewell to this very same sight.

Recognised !
In about 30 minutes I was there! Put up at a guest house which was an erstwhile palace, I was greeted with great glee by my friend and taken to our room!

A flight of stairs opened out to a verandah and a hallway and then led to a passage with rooms. Room No 4 was large and spacious with an ante room and a rather large bathroom. While exuding old-world charm it was equipped with every modern amenity - from an air conditioner to a coffee maker.

It’s an old maharaja’s palace,” gushed my friend, SG! I wasn’t complaining. Who would,  when you are recognized as one befitting a palace. While simple and elegant the hall both above and below still had old furniture and large frames of Raja Ravi Verma paintings adorned the walls. The grounds around it were expansive and one could well imagine the days of yore when the place was in all its glory.

An erstwhile private residence of the Maharaja, the Belhaven Palace had been passed on to the British and later on the estate with the palace came to belong to the RBI management who turned it into a guest house. Apparently it had old passages as bomb shelters underneath, which were later sealed during the British rule. How interesting. 

Our evening that day took us to another ‘royal place’. A bit in the shadows but royal nevertheless. 

The Villa Maya (link below) was made expressly for one of the king’s consorts. An imposing multistoreyed structure in fine teak wood and brick, it is now refurbished in all its glory. Now a heritage place for dining and and outdoor events, this is where the evening celebration was on. The place is beautiful. Teak wood and stone stand silent witness to the days of yore as ancient, traditional artefacts still grace the place. Frangipani trees lit with twinkling lights added to the ambience and we had a lovely evening of celebration.

What a wonderful time… and yet just my first day!

(The next day would take us to a lovely beach to witness an epic sunset and a beautiful crescent moon!
But that's Day Two...)

Want to know more about Villa Maya? Here:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hearing Aid?

Last weekend I became the proud owner of a much-awaited iPhone 6. (Broke the bank, but put an un-wipeable smile on my face!)

And then I discovered the fancy moulded earphones! 

Now I do know that there are some problems with the earpiece. People hear crackling sounds and stuff. 

Me? I don't hear anything! Chiefly because they just don't stay in my ears! And that reminded me of something I had written some years ago. To be exact, in 2008! 
Well,  ears don't change! 
So here goes. 

Yes. I need a hearing aid No I am not stone deaf (nor tone deaf for that matter). 
Just a case of less-than-perfect ears.
It couldn't have been at birth. I am sure my solicitous parents would have done something about it. After all, didn’t my mother trudge from homeopaths to allopaths alike to get rid of my ‘common cold’? 

Unfortunately when it was discovered it was a bit too late. And a trifle embarrassing. Because unlike me the world had moved into the ‘Pod Age’ and anything (except maybe a washing machine) had earphones!

It started with the walkman. But that was not so bad. It reminded me of my school days when truant hair was kept in place with a hair band. (That it quite stopped the blood flow to my brain is something I could go back with to my teachers now. But I digress.) The walkman, like I was saying, was not all that bad. It had ‘headphones’. A band round the top of your head, ending in earmuffs on both sides. 

How cool was that!
That unfortunately got progressively worse. Before you could really start walking with the walkman, the disc player came in to force. And with that came a change in fashion. (Electronic fashion maybe, but then I have never been able to keep up with the latest trends. Bags, shoes or clothes, I always find I am outdated. Outshadowed by quite a few years, by those ‘today’ women. I mean, I was not born yesterday, but in the wardrobe department, I am still there.)
Anyway, there I was with this metallic purple disc player, the right thing to carry when you are on the move. For me, this was a sort of ticket into ‘today’. I mean, what does it matter if the shoes belong to the nineties as long as the disc player is the centre of attention? No one will ever notice, I thought. And so jovially I started out to make my almost first impression in this impressionable world.
The cd I was going to listen to was slapped together by today’s generation. Hip, happening music. Bands whose names you dropped to get raised eyebrows and a nod of approval from the younger generation. I was there… or at least getting there.

Then horror… 
I start the player, the cd revolves madly in the player, I am supposed to hear the music, but I can’t. I just cannot. To my dismay, I realize that the earphones have slipped out of my ears. I hastily put them back, sponge and all… and get ready for the grooves again. 

The music starts. I listen to the first few beats and as the music builds up… a trifle too much on the right! Mono…it’s mono…I turn my head to the left…’s the left earphone… slipped out… wonder how.

Quite un-cool but guess I should not be moving too much. 
So I decide to sit still. And it happens again. These earphones are not quite there in terms of product design, I think. My solution to this was to stop using the disc player. Later on, an attachment to small speakers made the Discman more desirable again. 

But before that could happen, the cell phone came into power. And with that the ubiquitous handsfree. The rules the traffic police came up with in terms of using the cellphone while driving still confuse me.

Any woman worth her multi-tasking life will tell you that the handsfree is really a boon to her existence. For the simple reason that, whether she is driving or not, her hands have to be… you guessed it, free. Free to put on the final touches of make-up. Free to comb her hair. Free to look for that laundry receipt in her bag. Free to even paint her nails while she is talking to a client. So handsfree it was for me.

I was undeterred by the fact that the wires would get inextricably tangled. The fact that it was ‘mono’ was initially a great delight. At least it would fall off only one ear. Besides, I had a choice. Two ears, one earpiece! Voila! If I could get them to stick to my tympanic membrane I would have done it. But while I unsuccessfully tried them on my left ear and then my right, the single earpiece kept falling off.

The roads, I blamed this time. The bumps on the roads. Extra air in my tyres. But imagine my frustration when it would fall off even when the car was stationary. I started looking around: at other people. No one seemed to have the problem. The earplug seemed to be glued to their ears. As if made to size. I tentatively asked a few youngsters if they had ‘a problem’ with their handsfree. They looked at me confused. Problem? Why would there be a problem? They listened to FM, mp3 and had conversations with friends with the device safely lodged into their aural cavity and it did not seem to bother them.

It was then that I started looking inwards. 
Looking inwards at your own ears is, if not difficult, close to impossible. It’s worth a try if you haven’t done it before. And on no account was I going to get the friendly neighbourhood ENT specialist to look into my ears. But even without expert medical opinion something inside me tells me things are drastically wrong. 

While I can hear, I do have a hearing problem. And while my ears (unlike Tyson’s) are all there, there’s something missing. The shape, the model, the construction. There is something that could be drastically wrong.

Recently I heard that there are new soft spongy earphones that kind of adapt to the shape of your ear. I have not tried them. Something tells me that if these do not work, it could just be the final proof that something is wrong with the ‘shape’ of my hear.

In summary, today, I'm coming to these thoughts I had back in 2008! 
My ears are funny! My years are not helping! SIGH!