|Image Courtesy: Clipart|
But I was in India for a much longer time than usual, and enjoyed every minute of it. (I could have done without the bronchitis though. Perhaps I should travel by air conditioned cabs instead of auto rickshaws. Or perhaps it was divine retribution for my snarky remarks about the travelling Ninjas.) I still ate pani puri, drank gallons of ganne ka ras (my neighbourhood juice-wallah learnt quickly enough to give me two glasses of juice), or mosambi juice. I walked the length and breadth of my old neighbourhoods, took the local to town, walked around old haunts - Rhythm House, Strand Books, Jehangir Art Gallery... we bought books, music, DVDs; I mourned the disappearance of my second-hand bookwallahs...
I was supposed to go to Delhi. I had planned to meet up with fellow bloggers Dustedoff and Bollyviewer. Unfortunately, that trip did not materialise. Perhaps another day. But we did meet Akshay Manwani, the author of Sahir Ludhianvi: The People's Poet at The Prithvi Cafe in Bombay. I forgot to take my copy of his book - I could have had my own autographed copy. But I did have the theatre cafe's famed samosas and lemonade. No, not the equally famed Irish Coffee... it was too early in the day.
We went back to Prithvi the next day, to meet the lovely Banno of Banno, Dhanno and Teja. I had a doctor's appointment and had left more than enough time to get from Bandra to Juhu - or so I thought. I hadn't bargained with my doctor running late and had underestimated the traffic. Poor Banno waited graciously for us, while we trooped in half an hour later than we had agreed to meet. But we did have a fine time after that (she too, I hope!), and we chatted about films and theatre and books over cups of tea. We also ran into Shashi Kapoor, now a mere shadow of his old self. (S didn't recognise him!) Old, ailing, but still charming, still a flirt... And no, I didn't take photographs. He seemed imposed upon already. I do wish I had taken one of us with Banno, though. I never remember to take the camera along; I hate watching my experiences on film instead of living them.
I watched two movies. Both blockbusters. One day, when my sister and I trooped in at 9 p.m. one night. We were too tired to do anything, even eat. We needed a break. My sister wanted to forget about anything to do with weddings. And so, we walked up to the multiplex just behind her apartment complex. Our only movie of choice then was Happy New Year. I came back with three thoughts: Farah Khan has never been able to meet the promise she showed in her debut film Main Hoon Na. HNY was filled with some doubtful slapstick, some very regressive lines of dialogue, and some definitely unfunny 'comedy' scenes.
Two, Shahrukh Khan really needs to revisit his career agenda. Is this really the sort of film he wants to be remembered for? He looked wan, tired and totally disinterested. And his much-hyped eight packs? He looked physically ill.
Three, I came back more in love with Deepika Padukone than before, and feeling sad for Abhishek Bachchan - the man has more talent than he's been given credit for, and so much potential that is being left untapped. Where are all those directors who mourn the lack of talent in the industry and why aren't they giving him more work? Truth be told, Deepika and he were the best things about that film. (Even the usually competent Boman Irani seemed to be sleepwalking through his role.)
The second film was PK. If there is one 'star' whose films I eagerly await, it is Aamir Khan. (Banno, I think, disagrees with me.) Like him or hate him, his films are different. And Rajkumar Hirani is a director whose previous offerings have appealed to me. But this outing was a letdown - PK could have been better. I do not think they were being disrespectful to Hinduism. But there were moments, during the film, when I felt that neither Hirani nor Khan would have dared make a film like this about a maulvi. We are an easy religion to bash. (And deservedly so, in the context of the film.) But there was an earlier film, a film called OMG with Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar that took on the religious establishment much better. The satire was sharper, the dialogues were crisper, and the plot tighter. (I wish Anushka Sharma hadn't botoxed her lips [or whatever it is she did]; I wish Sushant Singh Rajput had a better role than he did; I wish Parikshit Sahni would stop playing the father who doesn't understand his progeny and has a built-in redemption at the end of the film.) I must confess to liking Aamir in the film, though. I thought he did a fantastic job.
I read many books in quick succession, hogged sweets by the dozen (kilo?), met aunts, cousins, and other assorted relatives, many of whom I hadn't seen in years, some of whom (the kids) I didn't even recognise... We survived the wedding and its aftermath, by literally and figuratively letting our hair down - so for three riotous days (nights?), my siblings and I, our spouses, kids, cousins, their kids... all sat around in my aunt's living room, laughing, drinking, remembering old times. We have some perfectly outrageous photographs to offer as proof - but my sister vows to disown us if we make them public.
But finally, the wedding reception was also over, and one by one, it was time to leave... with a promise that this will not be the last time we meet like this. It would be a shame if we had to wait for another family wedding in order to have a family reunion of sorts.
Then came the awful chore of packing - again! And if I have my way, I will never again fly out of Kochi. Let me fly in and out of Bombay, and I will be an infinitely happier person! But we managed to keep our luggage well within the allowed baggage limit despite buying tonnes of books, arrived at the airport with more than enough time to spare, and landed in the US five hours after we were supposed to land. One day before the old year wound down.
The new year hasn't heralded us much joy - a very close family member is not keeping well; a very dear friend's health is of grave concern... hopefully, it can only get better. Keeping fingers and toes crossed for a better tomorrow.
There's a feeling of gratitude towards my readers, without whom this blog would cease to exist; a very Happy New Year to all of you. Thank you for continuing to visit even though I haven't posted anything for more than a month. Perhaps we all needed this break. But it's good to be back! And I will soon get going - more reviews, more lists, more reflections... so much to do, so little time. For as long as I have readers, this blog shall continue - with its fits and starts, and with built-in sabbaticals...
To make an end is to make a beginning. (TS Eliot)