People of Clay

I

Gunjan still plays with her doll.  It is ridiculous; I make fun of her, taunt her, and laugh at her all the time. She is taller than Mother and nearly as tall as Papa but she still has that doll tucked tightly between her hands and waist. Minutes after she carefully lays her doll in its cot as if the doll would wake up if you’re not careful enough. I am beside there kicking my feet in the air, laughing at Gunjan. Mother comes and brings me up to my feet, yes, she nags and shakes her dainty little index finger at me and then she sighs and gives up. It just makes me smile more. And I love having Gunjan by herself, when she is so vulnerable. You take her doll away and put it on top of the cupboard, she’ll cry there for hours. The funny part is, she is just tall enough to reach the doll. But that’s Gunjan, she’d rather sit with her hands pulling at her hair and crying for the doll than tiptoe on her feet to bring the doll back.

Like I do.

This one time I found Gunjan in front of Mother’s mirror with lipstick making a clown’s smile on her face. It was one terrible sight but the thing with Gunjan is, she looks at me with that half-scared and half-amused look on her face that makes every disaster so funny that I can’t help but hoot with laughter. And since I cannot help it, it is certainly not my fault that Mother comes rushing absolutely knowing what she is going to see. Oh then, Mother grabbed her by her arms tightly and gave her a good shaking. I laughed because to and fro is sort of giddy. I laughed harder because Gunjan’s hair was all over the place- on her face, on her shoulders, in the air. Bottles of perfume, lipsticks, lotion cases and make-up boxes flew over heads. I screamed then but not because I was scared like Gunjan was. Mother said that she was sick of Gunjan but she cradled her in her arms again and rocked her silently.

I cannot understand her at all.

Gunjan feeds her doll even though the mouth is but a black thread sown across her face. The oatmeal and milk dribbles down the doll’s already filthy clothes, to Gunjan’s skirt then to mine. It sometimes makes me so mad that I tip the bowl all over the doll. Gunjan does the same but for a different reason. She does it when she scolds the doll for not eating. The doll used to have a white dress but now that Gunjan bathes it almost everyday in her breakfast, it is yellowish brown now. Her hair used to be soft, brown and curly but now it is frail and frizzy.

But Gunjan carries it with her all the time.

Mother had tried getting rid of it once. I told her that Gunjan would be very angry if she did but Mother was determined to get rid of it. Nobody does listen to me, do they? Gunjan threw a wild tantrum. She threw herself on the ground like a mad person. I felt really bad for her. I told Mother again and again that she should return the doll to Gunjan or else she would probably die. Gunjan got her doll back but whenever I want something from her, I threaten to burn her doll. She clutches her doll like I would carry out the threat that very instance. I told you, it is very funny.

Gunjan is not wrong though.

Gunjan is older than Mother because she is taller than her. How can that be so? She still plays with her doll. She talks to it all the time. Even in my presence they carry out conversations. I can, of course, never hear the doll reply ‘don’t leave me.’ But I do hear Gunjan tutting at the doll, explaining that she has to go get dressed for a party. I can also see her say, ‘okay, okay, there is no need to cry now, there, there.’ And carry the doll away as if it actually has a weight. Oh dear, she can be a darling at times. Did I ever mention that Gunjan is very pretty? She has these huge eyes, brown curls that she rests on the window sill. Last week, or was it last month? Well, Gunjan had her birthday and Mother made the best sandwiches ever. I ate mine and the doll ate Gunjan’s. It was okay, Gunjan said, because she didn’t feel hungry then. I thought that was pretty stupid of her so I made fun of her. And also made her cry on her birthday. I threw the doll in the little fishpond we have behind our house.

I ruined my perfect white dress.

Gunjan still has the doll.

Mother comes. Gunjan is telling on me. I want to tell on her too but I don’t want her to lose the doll.

‘Gunjan. Gunjan! Where do you have it? Give it to me, this instance.’

‘I don’t have it.’

‘Where is it?’

‘Gunjan’s got it.’

Mother searches me impatiently.

Mother puts her hand in my pocket and takes away that piece of mirror too.

‘Good riddance, Gunjan and her stupid doll’.

II

‘I cried because she wouldn’t give me my doll.  I would run to tell Mum on her. Then I would turn back because she’d get the doll down from the cupboard. I hope she gets her punishment too; Mum is always shaking her dainty fingers at me.

Gunjan threw my doll in the fishpond behind our house. I cried for it for an hour or so. Gunjan would just laugh louder so I ran to the pond myself. But she was such a dear; she ruined that white dress for me. I got my doll back. I fed it as I watched Gunjan dry her pretty brown curls on the windowsill.

III

I wiped my tears. I feared the food would get salty and soggy. It is my daughter’s birthday. My daughter, my only daughter, how pretty she looks with her brown hair on the sill. I cannot cope up with it anymore. My daughter, she laughs tyrannically to herself and cries madly. I had hoped to bring her up as such a lady. And she still plays with her dolls. Gunjan still plays with her dolls.

I had carried the tray outside. Below the huge tree sat my dear daughter talking to herself in the little mirror she carried. The same mirror that she carried along with her doll. The mirror and the rag of a doll, she always walks around with. Tears welled in my eyes again. I had gone back to the kitchen. Through the window I suddenly saw Gunjan throw her doll in the fishpond and I was somewhat relieved to see the last of that doll but suddenly she herself jumped after it some time later. I screamed.

I got rid of the mirror but the window is still there and so is the pond.

IV

I cannot answer. I am a doll.

Bollywood is a time machine (no kiddin’)

 

— Ashesh Maharjan
https://amaharjan.wordpress.com/ 

Hindi movies are crap. And I know it isn’t the first time you are hearing this, they really are, except for few (very few). But here I am taking this challenge to write against this cliché. No kiddin’.

Hindi movies have a special place in our (Nepalese) hearts. Cheesy as it may sound, but it’s true. Whether you like it or not, whether you admit it or not, it has become a way of life for almost all of us. I don’t mean bollywood movies when I say ‘it’, I mean our secret admiration for the cheap, corny bollywood movies. Now, don’t tell me you don’t, once in a while, feel like doing nothing but sit back relax and watch a hindi movie channel. The fact that those channels stretch an hour long movie into what seems to be for ever with their advertisements matters less. You just want to get hold of the remote and turn off your mind and watch. The ‘mind turning off’ part wasn’t figurative, you can literally turn it off since you already know (not guess) what’s next in the movie.

I’m a huge fan of, say, Ron Howard or Steven Spielbergh. And I’m not kiddin’ when I say I watched this movie, as recently as a few months ago, in which the so called ‘hero’ is a dancer, singer, super-man, every good thing you could possibly imagine, and of course romantic at the same time. My point? Is that I don’t ‘not watch’ them. Reason? I feel damn good. Not good as in ‘wow!!! WTF’ good, but ‘good day, sunshine’ good. Now, don’t get me wrong, no, the director of photography of these movies aren’t at all masters, most of them are crap. Well, I know you are dying to know (LOL) where my talk is heading. Ok, here is what I mean.

Imagine yourself as me. No don’t do that. Imagine you as yourself but you are a 10 year old and you feel swell as hell because you just learned how to ride a bicycle by yourself though you sit on top tube instead of the seat coz you aren’t tall enough. You rush to tell your sister that you didn’t even notice you were riding by yourself and that you are ‘awesome!’ Your sis gives a damn coz she is a Sharukh Khan fan and Zee TV’s showing ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’. And you go and lay flat on the couch and start watching, though the sound of people cycling and playing cricket just outside your room in the courtyard makes it impossible for you to fully hear the movie. These are the days when movies start making sense for the first time in your mind. These are the days when you have your first of crushes on a girl in your school. Not because she is a John Petrucci or a Blink-182 fan, but because she doesn’t cry on the way to school or she has neatly cut fingernails.

The movie ends’¦ You stretch yourself up (coz hindi movies are at least 2 hrs long and with the advertisements they are 3 to 4 hrs at the very least) and you dab your tired eyes and you open them to find yourself in the present.

Enough of time traveling. Basically, what I mean is that it’s obvious that hindi movies are the first movies that we relate to. We weren’t born movie critics. We can’t watch the first movie of our lives and tell that the plot of the movie was shitty and all. So, we have no choice but to feel fine watching these movies of our times missing our sisters and our brothers (he was the one backing up my bicycle LOL).

The Big Bookshelf

— Ajit Baral

In February 2005 Sunil Sethi, a journalist, columnist and television presenter, started a weekly program on NDTV called ‘Just Books’, in which he interviews famous writers. He has interviewed over three hundred writers so far. Some of these interviews’”thirty, to be precise’”have been collected in this beautifully produced book, ‘The Big Bookshelf.’

Many of these writers are literary heavy weights including Gunter Grass, Nadine Gordimer and Salman Rushide; others are the finest exponents of crime fiction such as Ken Follet, Jeffry Archer and Alexandar McCall Smith; others still are the immensely popular writers of the cheap and not chick-lit kind including Chetan Bhagat and Shobhaa De. Engaging the authors on topics such as the craft of writing and why they set out to write, Sethi’s interviews provide a rare insight into the lives of literary greats.

Anita Desai, a writer who twice narrowly missed receiving the Man Booker Prize, reveals during her interview, for example, that:

‘I was a wife and a mother and writing was not what I was supposed to be doing. I had to do it in hiding. I remember I used to scribble away when the children were at school or playing downstairs and quickly put everything away before they came back in. My children always remark that they never saw me writing. And the book would one day appear, as though it just happened, it came from somewhere else.’

Glimpses, such as Anita’s, of the struggles and successes of writing are littered throughout the interviews that make up ‘The Big Bookshelf.’  Interesting to for book lovers and inspirational for aspiring writers who don’t know where to start; this is one title that is a great addition to any big bookshelf.

However, some readers may feel as if they are tucking into an unripped fruit which isn’t quite there yet. That has more do with the fact the collected interviews are the transcripts of a 30-min television program. Being short, the program does not provide time enough for Sethi to tease out more answers from the writers, which would giving the interviews a more-rounded feel. Unlike the ‘Paris Review’ Sethi fails to engage fully with the writer’s oeuvre, often skirting more informed context based questions. Similarly, being a television program having a different’”and dare I say, a less bookish’” audience, the program skims over fundamental questions about the craft of writing. Inquiries about a texts plot, writing style, technique, characterization and pace are replaced instead with peripheral and controversial questions such as the break up between Salman Rushdie and his former flame, Padma Laxmi.

These shortcomings notwithstanding, you will find the book interesting’”that is, if you are not used to reading ‘Paris Review’ and ‘Wasafiri’ interviews, which are more engaging.

Rio

Prepare yourselves for 96 minutes of full and fun entertainment- adventure, comedy, fun, romance and little bit of action as well- Rio has it all! Produced by Blue Sky Studios and directed by Carlos Saldanha, this animated film is set, as its title suggests, in the Brazilian city, Rio de Janeiro. While the original theatre going film was released in 3D, the DVD version of Rio is equally as captivating in its portrayal of Blu, a blue baby Spix’s macaw, and his adventures.

Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) is the product of a failed smuggling attempt. After being rescued and raised by Linda (Leslie Mann) in Minnesota after she finds him in a box lying on the road, Blu begins leading a life atypical to most of his other feathered friends. As he was smuggled as a baby, who hadn’t learnt to fly, Blu never thinks about flying high into the sky in the years that follow. Instead he remains a flightless bird with intimate knowledge of the tricks of human life and of physics as well (surprising, but yes he does!). He knows how to open a locked cage, how to walk, how to open a soda can and so many others.

Blu is forced to return to his birthplace when Túlio (Rodrigo Santoro), a Brazilian ornithologist, insists he mate with Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and save his species from extinction. Thus the story of Blu, the flightless bird, who prefers being home with Linda in his cage with his veil and little swing, who is forced out into the real world and facing real dangers. The plot is complicated by the beautiful Jewel, who longs to escape and be able to fly freely in the sky forever. Evading the smugglers and, Nigel (Jemaine Clement) the mean cockatoo, the story follows Blu and Jewel’s travels, the problems that arise, the friends and enemies they make along the way and the little funny incidents, characteristic of this animation genre.

This is a story about overcoming your fears, believing in yourself and ultimately taking the bold step to be and do something different.  Blu, who has not flown for 15 years, is always scared of plunging into the open air and letting his wings guide him. When he managed to do that, I couldn’t help but smile. Blu encapsulates the notion that everyone has their own skills and talents. Though he’s not able to fly, it is Blu’s knowledge of the other things that make all the difference.

There are some parts of Rio that will literally make you laugh out loud and some that will make you make you go ‘aawwww’. The distinctly Brazilian setting offers a glimpse to their rich cultural heritage. The samba beats will make you dance in your seats while the beautiful carnival and the floats are bound to take your breath away. You won’t realize how soon the one and half hour has passed.

With no surprise plot twists Rio remains a sweet story of the birds’ adventures in Brazil. It’s simple and ever pertinent messages of individuality, trust and freedom make it a good watch for both the children and adults alike; you should not miss this movie!