Month: April 2014

Never Can Say Goodbye

I was at the Apex Plaza Landmark last Friday. Not surprisingly, they didn’t have the book I wanted. What was surprising, however, was the fact that the staff seemed fully involved in what looked like a major moving operation. Finally, I’d thought to myself. A renovation that was long, long overdue. Unfortunately, the next day, I read in the news that the moving operation was not because of a renovation, but because they were shutting down. The news really killed me, it did. Landmark was my childhood.

I’d always read the occasional book when I was in preschool and such, but my reading habit really began when I was about 8. I had met with an accident that left me bedridden for about a month and a half, and the only way to kill time was was by reading. My mother got me new books every week, and I read, and I read, and read some more. I had never been the sporty kind, and after the accident, I loathed the outdoors and everything connected to it. My friends were my books, and books, in 90’s Chennai, were Landmark*. I grew up between those shelves. Every time I returned to the store to get another book by my favourite author at that time, I’d discover a new one, and again. I went to the store every month, without fail, to the point where Amma would whine about how my father would have to work extra hours just to feed my reading habit.

Landmark was more than a store where you went to to buy books. It was a place that you went just to spend time in. Sometimes, you enter the store, take a look at the Best-Sellers shelf, flip a few pages from the books there and put them back because who reads popular stuff anyway, and head to your favourite shelf in the store, the shelf you know so well, occasionally stopping on the way to look at other books that aren’t particularly your favourite genre, but they’re books, and all books deserve a look, because who knows what you’ll discover, maybe it’ll even be your new favourite author. Some other times, you go to the store telling yourself that you have come here to buy one particular book and that book only, and you enter, and head straight for that shelf ignoring the other books on the way, pick the book out, feeling victorious and then you pause for a second, look around, see yourself surrounded by books, and you’re like, NO I’LL TAKE THEM ALL, but then realize that even if you can afford to buy the store out, it wouldn’t be the same to have all of them at home so you decide to just sit in the little chair between the shelves and get lost in the stories that surround you.

The last five years, with the change in ownership, online retailers taking over the scene, and brick-and-mortar bookstores all over the world shutting down, Landmark deteriorated. The books were old, the selections, dull and the place had the air of a graveyard. The penultimate time I went there to pick up a couple of magazines, the girl who did my billing told me I had Rs.250 in my loyalty card and asked if I wanted to use it. I’ll use it the next time, I told her.

If only.

* (or Fountainhead in Mylapore but it’s a well known fact that Landmark was much better) 

How I Wish You Met Your Mother

The TV sitcom How I Met Your Mother ended last week, and I’ll admit that I was in that majority which hated, hated, HATED the season finale. Is this what I spent close to 6 years of my life waiting for?

I started watching HIMYM right after I finished watching reruns of all 10 seasons of Friends from start to end which was sometime around 2007. Looking back, I ought have just watched all ten seasons of Friends again. Let me put down what I hated about the finale. It’s full of spoilers, but in my opinion, the entire finale episode was a spoiler.

1. WTF BARNEY AND ROBIN:
Two people, both wary of commitment, but completely in love with each other, getting married and living happily ever after. After watching season after season of Barney and Robin pining for each other, being perfect together and screwing it up and then getting back together again and screwing it up and getting back together in the most perfect way, after watching AN ENTIRE FREAKIN’ SEASON dedicated exclusively to their wedding and how their love is true and forever, they’re made to divorce in an exceptionally lame way.

2. WTF MOTHERKILLERS
Let’s write a show on based around a character. Let’s never show that character for 8 years. Let’s make the audience crazy by driving the show into becoming a steaming pile of garbage, knowing that they will stick on *just* for that character. Let’s introduce her, let’s make the viewers fall completely in love with her, while making them think about how perfect she is for the guy who’s been narrating the story of how he met her for 8 years, and then, LET’S KILL HER.

Replace Chucky with Carter Bays. 

3. WTF TED’S KIDS
You guys are like the worst kids ever, and should be grounded, and made to listen to the story of how your dad met your mother all over again.

4. WTF MARSHALL AND LILY
Kidding. Those two managed to stay adorable.

Anyway, that ends this rant. There are a lot of other fans who thought that the ending “made sense” and was “realistic” and that irrespective of how the show ended, there would always be criticism. Uh, no. If it had ended the manner it had been building itself up to, there was only one way it could’ve finished. No twists, no gimmicks, and no blue fucking french horns.

UPDATE:
Apparently the video has been taken off due to copyright violations. The alternate ending goes like this – There’s the wedding scene where Ted talks about how much he loves Tracy and how he’ll love her forever, and it cuts to the Farhampton station where they have their first conversation, cuts back to Ted saying “And that kids, is how I met your mother” and the credits roll. No plot twists, just a mushy, grin inducing happy ending. Call it cliched, but why is it so wrong to go the predictable route? Not everything has to have a twist, or an explosion or death or divorce.I mean, this was a show some of us took life lessons from! I can’t believe the writers thought it would be okay for Ted to be in love/obsessed with Robin THE WHOLE FREAKIN’ TIME he was with Tracy and that Tracy herself was just some consolation prize. It’s not okay for someone to be romantically obsessed with an another person for years together. If this is how the writers wanted the show to end, I hope it was because they had written a sequel series titled “How I Met My Psychiatrist”.

Bhima: The Lone Warrior

Bhima: The Lone Warrior by MT Vasudevan, is the Mahabharata entirely from Bhima’s perspective. The popular Mahabharata retellings have always etched a sort of stereotype when it came to the Pandavas. Yudhishtra the Righteous. Bhima the Strong. Arjuna the Archer. Nakula and Sahadeva the…ambiguous. Bhima: The Lone Warrior explores Bhima’s feelings and perspectives on the events that unfolded in the Mahabharata.

From the first chapter, when Bhima arrives as a child to Hastinapura, it is made obvious to the reader that the fates have never been kind to the second Pandava brother. Dronacharya ignores his talent in archery, Yudhistra dismisses his counsel, Draupadi manipulates his raw love for her and most painfully, the entire Pandava camp celebrates the death of his beloved warrior son, Ghatotkacha.

It is difficult to talk about the flaws in this book, for it is a translation. MT’s famed prose has not been preserved during the process of translation, and as a result, you don’t feel strongly for the characters. There is no anger when Dronacharya picks Arjuna to be the most talented among his students, no righteous outrage when Yudhistra blindly refuses to listen to his counsel, no sympathy when Draupadi carelessly drops the precious Saugandhika flowers that Bhima risks his life to obtain, just to fulfill her whims.

One of the few living memories I have of my paternal grandfather, is of sitting on his lap listening to him narrate the story of Gajendra Moksham to me. One day, Gajendra, the wise king of the elephants, came to the lake to bathe, and fell prey to a hungry crocodile who managed to trap Gajendra’s foot with his enormous mouth. Gajendra cried for help, but to no avail.
“Help me!” he cried to the fish. “Help me from this giant crocodile!”
But they were too afraid of the giant crocodile. “Ask the frogs!” they told him, and swam away.
“Help me!” he cried to the frogs. “Help me from this giant crocodile!”
But they were too afraid of the giant crocodile. “Ask the birds!” they told him, and hopped to safety.
“Help me!” he cried to the birds. “Help me from this giant crocodile!”
But they were too afraid of the giant crocodile. “Forgive us, Gajendra, but we can’t help you.” they told him, and flew away.
Gajendra was now alone. The crocodile tightened his grip on his leg by the minute. He began trumpeting loudly.
“Do not waste your energy, foolish elephant” said the crocodile. “No one can save you now. Didn’t you see the way those cowards ran away from me?”
Gajendra trumpeted even louder.
“Elephant! I have had enough of your trumpeting. I am going to be your death” said the crocodile, and bit harder into Gajendra.
Stranded, and unable to bear the pain anymore, Gajendra called out to The Lord.
“Narayana!” he cried. “Narayana! Help me! Help from this giant crocodile!”
No sooner had Gajendra spoken the words, the clouds thundered, lightning blazed and the heavens parted, making way for Lord Narayana to come to Gajendra’s aid. With a single swipe of his finger, he released the Sudharshana Chakra which killed the giant crocodile, and saved Gajendra.
This Hindu fable is supposed to illustrate Lord Vishnu’s loyalty and benevolence towards his devotees, and is narrated to to tell people that the Lord will not let you down if you call upon him. I can never forget this story – not because of the message it carries, but because of the way my grandfather used to narrate it. I cannot narrate it like him. He made me believe in Gajendra’s helplessness, Gajendra’s pain, and Gajendra’s faith. Truth be told, he could’ve made me believe that the crocodile was a poor, hungry reptile who was deprived by the nasty loud elephant and the masochist god Vishnu if he wanted to.

Today, the more I read, the more I realize that fables and epics are never about the story as much as they are about the story teller. MT Vasudevan’s Bhima: The Lone Warrior, has his story, but it does not have him.

Buy it here