The greatest thing about weather, I believe, is how easily you can use it to find a topic of conversation when you have nothing else to say. Since I am often faced with this problem because I tend to get very tongue-tied at times (although I’ve been miraculously improving in this department lately!), I know how to effectively use it as, not just a conversation-starter but as a conversation piece instead. Which means I can talk about it for a really long time.
‘Oh my God, isn’t it hot today?’
‘Don’t you hate it when the humidity makes everything so sticky?’
‘Isn’t that an oddly shaped cloud, right there? When do you think it will rain?’
In fact, I could easily be this woman when you’re talking to me:
But to be honest, I’m NOT a winter person. While I have friends who go around, all:
I’m right there, going:
So I like the sun and the beach and that perfect combination of water and heat. I like shorts and summer drinks and sunglasses and bright sun-kissed days where the world’s lit up. Occasional rains are okay but too much can get really gloomy. In fact, I want to be Olaf, just chilling at the beach with a tall glass of lemonade and maybe going into the water once in a while.
It doesn’t always work out. I spent three years living in a place where it rained perpetually, religiously almost every day. Feeble sun days were very few and far between. It was really gloomy, facing the stickiness and the muddiness and having to trudge through ankle deep water puddles all the time.
The one winter desire I really want to fulfill but never get to because it’s just not cold enough where I live is to have boots! Winter boots- really pretty ones that go with everything. With a long coat or a cardigan and slacks, it’s my favorite winter look which has never seen the light of day. So far.
I must suffer thus
In weak wintry resolve
In a fight that will fall all around me
While the whole world will dissolve
I will seek a happiness that only pain can bring
And the kind of music that silence produces
I will linger in your hands
In the parenthesis of your sentences
I will briskly fall like adulterated rain
Into the lap of your smiling soul
I will run a race against time and think,
You will love me for my benevolence
Not for my crumbling steely resoluteness
I will become something less and something more
Than the whole world would dream of
I will state in words so calm
That love cannot be bought but it often is
And shamelessly I will give up
Everything that feels painfully unreal to me
I won’t be just another word
I won’t be just another name
I won’t live for my poems but
I’ll let my poems live for me
I won’t live for love but
Will let love live in me.
The first book of the Shiva trilogy explores mythology from a new angle- by the humanization of one of Hinduism’s reverented Gods and creators. The book sets up a realistic timeline and sends a tribal avatar of Lord Shiva to shatter the forces of evil. Called into the land of Meluha by the advanced Suryavanshi clan whose folklore is interspersed with references to a savior who will be recognizable through his Neelkanth (blue throat), Shiva is entrusted with the task of bringing within grasp what the Meluhans believe is their stolen birthright- the sacred Ayodhya of Lord Ram, where their nemesis reside in the form of the Chandravanshi clan. As Shiva struggles to find his identity, he starts to embrace the truth of his destiny. How right is he, though? Keeping the basics straight, The Immortals of Meluha strings together a story of war and love along with a straightforward presentation of the “values” laid down in Hinduism- but with a modern twist.
Immortals of Meluha is light entertainment which aims to connect with its readers by presenting a relatable protagonist who is nonetheless hailed to be God and protector of the realm of Meluha- where opposing clans remain at loggerheads with each other over questions of superiority. While one believes in practicing constraint and disciplinary, the other insists on giving its people the freedom to engage in whatever they see fit, which may include vandalism and rebellion.
The modern rendition of Lord Shiva curses, cusses and blasphemes his way through the narrative. Intentionally likeable but very cult-pulp-heroed, he comes across as a devilishly charming character from an 80’s movie- he wins his heroine over with cheesy punchlines and easy stalking and delivers his villains punches which send them flailing like a house of cards. If Shiva is meant to be flawed and human, however, the object of his affections Sati is equally shown to be the epitome of perfection in woman. Proud, coy, lethal and seductive in equal parts, she craves respect and affection but chooses to disguise her wants underneath a layer of self-righteousness which Shiva cracks through by following her around and watching her activities, often interrupting them with remarks of his own, further strengthening the Indian illusion that women admire and fall for men who stalk them.
However, I need to compliment the book for its simplified but dignified approach to the issues of the caste system and the Vikarmas (explicitly referred to as those mortals who are deemed unfit for normal existence because their poor luck apparently reflects mortifying acts from a previous life for which they must now pay by being ostracized). Where there was good, there was bad- like Shiva’s easy acceptance of Lord Ram as the idol of perfection, the similar easy acceptance of Shiva as a Lord in his own right by the other characters and the system of supposed fairness that was idealized in the book as the only method of unfairly judging and qualifying children into categories according to their skills- by taking them away from their mothers after childbirth and allowing families to adopt teens when they were ready to be put back into the caste system.
The narrative was weak and superflous, fluency was missing. It was marked by weak descriptions and lazy introductions to characters who were often taken for granted and wafer-thin for the most part. The book could have been a lot more than it turned out to be. It could have been deeper and have had more impact if the characters were given more space to grow, more transition period and finer justifications. However, as far as taking a break from serious literature goes, it was quite a pleasant change of pace for me.
The realization of not meeting again is making me miss you more.
It’s true- life is cruel. It brings people together briefly and then pulls them apart with an air of finality they cannot argue against. Life is like a toddler’s parent. The toddler might refuse to part with an old toy or argue incessantly for an ice-cream cone that its parents might refuse in an admonishment that carries an air of superiority with it: I know better.You cannot have it and that is the final decision. The child does not know why and is not interested in knowing why. It wants what it wants. That is not to say of course, that all such parents always have their child’s well-being at heart. Life could just as easily be the sort of parent who is a junkie and couldn’t care less about what the child does, as long as it is out of his way. Life may not be well-meaning, it may just be.
With time memories are covered with a sheen of blessed haze that makes it harder to remember details, recall events in flesh and blood through the mere act of closing one’s eyes. This is not the case when these memories are as fresh as they are right now. They will fade- transience is the only timeless truth we can fully embrace. It is sad that they must, though.
I don’t know how I expected adieu to be. I know I’ve spent time in the past imagining the final goodbyes but then pushed them out of my head with the certainty that they were still in the distant future. As they drew closer, I chose to block out all emotions completely and that stayed with me until the very end and perhaps even through it. That is why I was laughing when I didn’t want to and asking myself ‘how stone-hearted can you be?’
Because I knew once the moments were gone, sadness will just remain a constant echo. For a few days it would be a steady stream, then it would reduce to a pulse ad finally it would fade into tiny stabs of pricking hurtfulness aimed at everything I’d had and lost. There is no other way to it. There is nothing to do right now but sift through the sometimes haunting memories. It isn’t even a reality yet. But it will be.
So what kind of memories are better– the fresh ones I have right now or the ones I will have a few years down the line when, browsing through my Facebook photos I would come across a picture that will take me back to things and people and places I would no longer be able to claim to ‘know’?
I can only say that for now, it all feels painful. But with time and acceptance, the same memories will just be sweet recollections, less hard to behold and easier to delve into. Reminiscing is a part and parcel of existence and it will only grow bigger as we grow older and leave the golden phases further and further behind. It’s possible to smile and simmer but impossible to hang on and bleed.
“O Jerusalem, fragrant with prophets The shortest path between heaven and earth… A beautiful child with burned fingers and downcast eyes… O Jerusalem, city of sorrow, A tear lingering in your eye… Who will wash your bloody walls? O Jerusalem, my beloved Tomorrow the lemon-trees will blossom; the olive-trees rejoice; your eyes will dance; and the doves fly back to your sacred towers”
– Nizar Qabbani, Jerusalem
The story of Jerusalem is a story of 3000 years of existence in a city that is marked sacred for three of the world’s greatest monotheistic religions. It is a story of a city that has wept tears of blood while its own inhabitants fought for control over one another and conquerors poured in through its golden gates to capture the sanctity and revel in the deliverance that it inadvertently and perhaps unwillingly promised to the world. But not just that, Jerusalem- The Biography is the story of maddening lust borne on the shoulders of men and women who plotted, rioted and murdered but also wept, besieged and prayed for a chance to live in the city’s merciless bosom.
In a wistfully poetic fashion, the author traces the often-complicated and blood-thirsty history of which is perhaps the world’s most inextricable city, tangled in its own stories and in a web of overlapping ambitions and counteracting dreams. It is written in unbiased prose but is a mesmerizing account of everything Jerusalem’s people have been through.
From the Kingdom of David and the Herods, to the crucification of Jesus Christ and the subsequent formation of Christendom, from the prophecies of Muhammad and the Arab conquests to the much-glorified Crusades, from the modern politics and the world wars and the mandates, to the conclusive Six Day War and right up to the Israel-Palestine stalemate of the twenty first century, life in Jerusalem has hardly ever seen a peaceful period. Aside from bouts of undisturbed culture that rises like a crescendo, the remaining phrases of Jerusalem have been distraught with frenzied killings and invasions, riots and pogroms, all in the name of God. Could a solution ever be reached in a city which is ‘more a flame than a city and no one can divide a flame‘? Dr. Sebag-Montefoire hopes that such a solution will one day be within grasp. he acknowledges Jerusalem’s fragility and describes a daily modern-day dance of rituals between the various sects that call their holy shrines on its soil but he seems to think peaceful coexistence is possible. I would not venture to be so hopeful.
This book is like a lilting tale passing from era to era with a flowing timeline. Jerusalem changed hands often enough- from Jewish to Christian to Islamic and back full circle, she saw hundreds of rulers. Each of them have been carved out distinctly and impartially here. It may be impossible to remember names and events unless you have a photographic memory or resort to taking notes. But what am I taking away from this book?
Probably a better understanding of the convergence of the Abrahamic religions. The knowledge that all three spawn from one another and share the same stories and the same ultimate goals, yet each claims superiority and remains in a constant state of hostile retaliation with the other. Although it is easily observable that Judaism has almost always been at the persecuted end of the spectrum and Islam is mostly irreconcilable and rigidly violent, without taking sides one can be wishful that all three would simply see some sense. Their histories are common, they share the same shrine and worship the same God (if they must do so at all). Why then must so many human lives be pointlessly sacrificed for no visible goal? If Apocalypse is coming, must we face it with our hands reddened and our hearts leaded? This question will remain on my mind.
As the dust settles on what was clearly a clean-sweep for BJP (the incoming government is slated to be one of the strongest this nation has ever seen), it remains to be seen without flowing away with the euphoria of the winds of change, whether or not these sky-high expectations would be met. It is quite something to have vision, quite something to etch it into manifestation in one state of a nation so diverse. But it is something else indeed to bring out that vision to encompass the whole country, especially when that country is adulterated with a culture of hero-worshipping, idolizing, emotionally blown away men and woman.
The biggest factor that changed in these general elections was the coming of age of a whole new generation of youngsters with the Internet on their fingertips, with an urge to do away with the ‘everything-works-just-fine’ complacency and the passion to exercise their democratic right by stepping outdoors to cast a vote and coupled with a tech-savvy, performance delivering, witty-comeback-spawning, visibly active leader, this proved to be the downfall of the opposition. Or it could be the way the opposition chooses to smile when life ain’t a bed of roses anymore:
Something else for Twitterers to rip to shreds.
Either way, with the ‘Modi wave’ having fully formulated into a real saffron wash across the country, potential questions come up regarding the what next? Development is something that is clearly going to be on the cards. Media is bursting with anticipation and goodwill is pouring in from most sectors, deniers of the wave having been silenced for the meantime. I think that with the mood swinging upwards, there should possibly be a big boom on the cards. Take for example, the announcement by Amul, a diary cooperative which burst out in the 1950s and led to India’s very own White Revolution, to expand business into Varanasi by setting up a plant for Rs 200 crores. Varanasi was the seat for which Mr. Modi contested during the elections. This seems to be a part of the trickle down effect that is naturally associated with him. Although it would be simplistic to expect everything to carry forward on hopes alone, mere palpitation cannot be enough and global factors would come into play as well; strong governance is what we are in need of, along with a stricter protection of the country’s sovereignty against external forces.
There is a long way to go yet but if anything can ever make you believe in democracy, it is this. The coming together of the world’s second most populous country and striking down the dynasty rule of a family seen as majorly reduntant to the machinations of that nation. That, if nothing else, is reason enough to hope for good things.
PS: My first ever political post comprises of just a few things that I really wanted to say.
This is where I leave you
When the sky meets the sea
You’ll travel forth in pomp and grandeur
And maybe I will stay back and see
You came out of the mountains
Gliding like an angel on wings
But nothing is for granted here
When winter songs the summer brings
This is where I leave you
We were promised an adventure
And in the bright night moonlit sky
We sought instead a meaningless surrender
That came upon a gloomy wave
And galloping through my deep dark storm
It grew into a full-fledged monster
Glorious in its devastating form
This is where I leave you
I always knew this day would come
When sun-stroked I would seek you
Belched out from unfaithful scum
But silently I whispered knowing
I was always all broken up inside
And goodbye rose on lips uncertain
Because everything else we had to hide
This is where I leave you
I don’t think you will be gloomy now
The sun is rising on your back
You’ll find your way without knowing how
I’ll find my peace of mind somewhere
Flip through imagination’s web
Or turn a page in memory lane
To protect myself from the burning ebb
A brilliant episode with a blazing second-half and an impressive performance. There is no Wall here but the focus shifts to a new location- Braavos is finally on the GOT map, rolling coins and a gargantuan swordsman statue announce the new locale.
“You can see why these numbers seem to add up to an unhappy ending from our perspective”
A CGI shot of Stannis and Davos sailing through the gates of Braavos opens the latest GOT episode. Stannis and Davos request the faceless, merciless Iron Bank of Braavos for a loan. Mark Gatiss has been cast as the bank representative. Cunning and cleverness he portrays well but falling into the skin of an Iron Banker did not come across as his strongest point to me. Nevertheless, Davos manages to point out quite convincingly that since Tywin is the real brains behind the King’s Landing farce, his death would create quite an un-fillable void with a pre-teen king, his wicked and despised mother, a dwarf on trial for king-slaying and a man who is a proven kingslayer. He puts up a strong case for Stannis. This is followed by a generous display of unnecessarily nude women but that is necessary for GOT of course.
“As long as they can hurt our prince with impunity, the word Ironborn means nothing”
Elsewhere, Asha Greyjoy sets out to bring back her brother from the hands of Ramsay (now Bolton). She shakes up her men into action but on confronting Theon, who keeps chanting ‘I am Reek’ and refuses to accept that this could be anything but another ruse meant to test him, she realizes how far gone he is. Although she wouldn’t have left him to his own fate, Ramsay’s entrance compels her to take leave. ‘My brother is dead’, she declares, once out. And Reek remains with Ramsay.
“I need you to play a role. To pretend to be someone you’re not. Theon Greyjoy.”
The strongest competitor for Most Evil Game of Thrones Character, Ramsay Bolton and Reek share another scene that was almost painful to watch. Ramsay draws out a bath for Theon, something the poor creature has been denied throughout his long and painful imprisonment. You would think this was a good thing but it is hurtful to watch Ramsay’s taunting glare as he makes Theon strip and then looks him over, lingering at where his man-parts were supposed to be. It is a physical relief to watch Theon sink into the tub and imagine how it must feel to have your filthiness washed away after so long. But Ramsay’s torture does not stop there. He brings out a wet cloth and proceeds to rub it down the trembling Theon’s back before crooning on about how he wants Reek to do something important for him. Storm a stronghold. The Stockholm syndrome-affected Theon is more than eager to follow any orders his lord gives him.
“Your Grace, I cannot defend the actions of the Masters. I can only speak to you as a son who loved his father.”
In Meeren Daenerys has set up court to deal with the grievances of her new subjects. Even as civilians seek repayment for the goats her dragons seem to devour, we are introduced to Hizdahr zo Loraq who begs to have the right to bury his father with dignity. Daenerys is faced with a long and tedious line of applicants with problems that need to be settled and as a queen, she squares herself for the daunting task, simultaneously still refusing to accept any wrong in the act of ordering the masters’ crucification.
“Lord Tyrell, be a good man. Fetch my quill and paper.”
Perhaps the funniest part all episode was the dignified and sycophanous Lord Tyrell relegate himself to the role of Lord Tywin’s personal assistant during a council meeting where Tywin is most definitely starting to worry about Daenerys and acknowledges the need to take some action to deal with her appropriately. Prince Oberyn looks on with twinkling fascination (his dark eyes swim with wit and sarcasm) while the exchange occurs.
“Besides, the absence of desire leaves one free to pursue other things.”
Glimpses into the workings of characters such as Lord Varys and Littlefinger are always interesting because they plot the most and say the least. The tiny exchange between Varys and Oberyn was interesting for the very same reason, even though it was redundant to the plot.
“Yes, father. I am guilty. I am guilty of a far more monstrous crime. I am guilty of being a dwarf. I have been on trial for that my entire life.” I wish I was the monster you think I am.”
The most wonderful bits of the episode came out of Tryion’s trial- the whole thing is staged by Cersie, all the witnesses are hers and Tyrion seems to have given up before he started. While the trial keeps fishing out one insult after another against the best, kindest and most mature character in all of Westeros, the real shock for Tyrion comes when Shae walks in, distorting the truth into a horrible misshapen rubble by taking his words and twisting them around.
Jamie makes a good case for Tyrion, trying to protect him by offering his father the thing the man has desired for years- his resignation from the King’s Guard, his subsequent transfer to the seat of Casterly Rock, marriage to a suitable woman and grandsons who can carry on the Lannister name. Tywin is well pleased with this deal as long as Tyrion is ready to make a full confession and promises to pardon his dwarf-son and allow him to don the black of the Night’s Watch, in that case. Tyrion agrees to this although he realizes that this same futile deal had been offered to Ned Stark. But Jamie points out that Tywin is not Joffrey. However, he does hate his youngest-born and thinks of him as a deformed monster who stole his wife from him.
But Tyrion breaks down under the list of lies Shae spits out at him. That is finally when, broken beyond belief, he delivers an astounding performance to a courtroom full of people who hate him.
The irony of GRRM’s fantasy is that is forever persecutes the one character who can be the deliverance of the entire kingdom. The fact that this irony makes me love Tyrion all the more is because this is exactly how the real world works too. That is why Tyrion continues to be my favorite character on the show.
“I will not give my life for Joffrey’s murder and I know I will get no justice here. So I will let the Gods decide my fate. I demand a trial by combat.”
Until next week. Looks like next week is going to see some good Sansa-action. I hope!
I don’t know why but every episode that is spitted out of the HBO Game of Thrones factory is a marvel in itself, including the slower ones. Like every week, after you’re done humming along with the opening credits (parum-parararum-pararumrum) and rubbing your hands together with glee, you get to watch a bevy of characters plot and twist across the Westeros landscape for control over this malevolent fantasy-land. This week- the midway mark- was no exception.
‘He could be the first man who sits on that throne in fifty years who actually deserves it’
At King’s Landing, Tommen is crowned the First of His Name while Margaery continues to smile at him from afar, an act he returns with a lighting up of his cherubic face. This exchange is certainly not missed by Cersie who makes it her business to formally extend a request for marriage between her second born son and the mourning wife of her first-born. Cersie is clever in knowning what is good for the kingdom and acts accordingly. Whatever the inner mechanization of her mind might be, at this point she is cordial to Margaery and very frank in revealing what she thought of the shocking acts of her older son and how she fears for the good innocent soul of her second. Margaery, in turn, puts on an appropriate act of being mildly surprised by the offer but graciously accepts it in the same breath. A very fine line to walk on indeed.
‘If I can’t control Slaver’s Bay, why should anyone trust me? Why should anyone follow me? I will not let those I have freed slide back into chains. I will do what Queens do. I will rule.’
Dressed in a stunning white bodice clasped with a necklace around her waist, her braided silver hair completing the attire, Daenerys has decided to stay put at Meeren. Even as Astapor and Yunk’ai suffer uprisings against her, she is unwilling to give up the slaves she freed and sail for Westeros. Although Sir Jorah is quite right in pointing out that Dany needs to be the ruler of Westeros and not of King’s Landing. Sailing forth with her unsullied and freed slaves at this point can get her the iron throne but not the lands the throne is supposed to control. And her dragons are small right now but getting unruly. So staying seems to be the only option for Daenarys until she comes up with a better strategy.
“What kind of stories do poor men enjoy the most? Ones about rich girls they’ll never meet”
Petyr Baelish in the meantime, brings Sansa to the Eeryie (which is supposed to be so much more intimidating and higher than they’ve managed on the show) where her aunt and sickly cousin are in on the secret of her identity. Aunt Lysa is very sweet to Sansa when Littlefinger is around but the moment Sansa is out the door, she reveals a Septon in-waiting who marries the two of them off. At the same time, Petyr’s scheming is revealed a little more in detail through his long seduction and subsequent betrothal to Lysa. Lysa however is not quite as blind as she is insane for she later confronts Sansa and demands to know whether Littlefinger ever did anything to her. Sansa also finds out that they plan for her to be married to Robyn, her cousin. Sansa is like a thistle blowing in the wind with no roots to hold on to but for now, she is safely out of harm’s way, in the physical sense at least .
“No jugglers, no jousting dwarves, no seventy-seven course meals”
Cersie talks to her father about the coming marriages between Margaery and Tommen as well as her own with Sir Lorenz. Cersie impresses upon Tywin the fact that she understands the sacrifices that must be made for the family, considering the large sums of money owed by them to the Iron Bank but the score with Tyrion must be settled, for she is convinced beyond any doubt that he is responsible for the king’s murder.
“Joffrey. Cersie. Walder Frey. Meryn Trant. Tywin Lannister. The Red Woman. Beric Dondarrion. Thoros of Myre. Ilyn Payne. The Mountain. The Hound.”
Arya continues to chant her list of names and practices a little with the retrieved Needle but for a while now the Arya part of the plot hasn’t seen any changes. It’s true that some major overhaul will be needed to the Arya plot before it can diverge down new roads but it’s about time Arya and the Hound stop travelling around in this purposeless manner.
‘Gods love their stupid jokes, don’t they? What good is power if you cannot protect the ones you love?’
Cersie seeks the Prince of Oberyn. Whether the purpose is to set him emotionally against Tryion (since he is to be one of the judges at the trial) or to enquire about her daughter’s welfare and send a message or both, Cersie does a good job. I enjoyed this scene because it was one of those times where Cersie’s innate motherliness was brought to the forefront. Of course this woman loves her children and will go to the lengths of murder, treachery, butchery and scheming to protect them.
“Meera and I, even Hodor. We’re here to guide you. It’s waiting for you. You have to find it. You have to make it. This isn’t the end. Not for you. Not yet.”
The most action in this episode was seen beyond the Wall. Like I predicted last week, the Brandon Stark storyline took only a slight diversion just to add unnecessary action. Craster’s Keep burnt however and Jon Snow continued to be an efficient Night Watch reformist but once again Bran and Snow passed inches against one another without meeting. Ghost was reunited with Jon Snow so at least someone got back together.
A little disappointing on the action front, this episode did manage to drop a few hints here and there. Until next time. 🙂 The next episode looks interesting. Tyrion’s trial is on the cards.
George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).
Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) is an NGO that undertakes development initiatives to impact positively the lives of the poor, deprived and marginalized sections of the society through a people-centred approach focusing on their participation, awareness and empowerment for sustainable development.