Monday, January 26, 2015

Alice in love land

i saw two downloaded from the net movies over the weekend and i shall mention that both were excellent. i say this because i never carry the unnecessary baggage of pre conceived notions that media hype or reviews load you with. i watch movies not only for entertainment but look for stories i can identify with when i am watching a drama. It should have something of my own in it. That which touches my core, raises questions i never would have asked and yet despite all those questions inspire me with a great message. Well that's just the 'my' kind of movie.   
First one was, 'The Judge' and the second was 'Still Alice'.

Both are dramas and both talk of major issues and relationships especially among family members but today i have to share my thoughts about Still Alice only.

Since i am going through with one of the diseases which i am told is an inherited one the first thought that struck me was, " Should a mother feel sorry if she discovers suddenly that she is inflicted with a terrible familial disease and chances of her passing on that disease to her kids is a fifty to hundred percent?  The flip side also. " Should she feel grateful and pat her tears dry in consolation if only one of her three kids has her sad bad disease? "   
The story got me thinking what if one knew beforehand that at the pinnacle of one's successful intellectual career he or she will lose it all
All that she or he worked passionately all his life for. Well then should that prior knowledge determine the decision to have a child?
How would it affect other relationships? 

In this movie Alice and her husband John seem the ideal made for each other couple.
What if  her rare familial debilitating disease was known beforehand would that prior knowledge make a different story altogether?  What if they knew it before...would they prefer marriage or part ways in peace...judging from how strong her character is portrayed in the movie... Okay maybe not have her own child but she being a woman wouldn't she long to adopt one. Perhaps be married to the man she loved and lead a fuller, complete life. Have someone she could pour her unfulfilled desires of motherhood into...of weaning, nurturing, teaching, cooking and caring...
So many what if's and situations presented itself as i watched. Mainly because we have become obsessed about controlling everything.

And this feeling stuck-i guess because i am a mother myself and a carrier of a genetic disease too which sometimes makes daily chores difficult. Maybe not to the extent as it is shown in the movie ...yeah not yet...but then sometimes there are real bad days as shown and said by Alice in the movie.

Motherhood is beyond SORRY' s and THANK YOU' s i feel.
i am talking of our own Homo sapiens here because although in the animal kingdom motherhood is for a limited period there is no specific limitation as such in our own. A tottering octogenarian with wrinkles that feel like warm velvet making hot parathaas for her 40 year old lovingly even when she can barely stand up just because she wants her 'baby' to have a good healthy meal instead of the junk that her child would be seen nibbling into sitting by the computer is quite a familiar scene of warmth, love and care. Some might scornfully call it a weaning that never ends but that's the way it is. One can always count on mothers no matter how debilitated, old, she has might appear to be.

There is so much love, hard work, sacrifice involved in bringing up a child and making one a fully grown, free thinking and yes independent enough adult that a mother need not feel sorry for anything. Also she needn't be thankful/ grateful either to her own child if the offspring pitches in to take care of her when she needs him/her the most. She actually earns it, SHE DESERVES IT. Period. 
It also got me thinking if we in India have woken up to this possibility...and thus the prevention.That our babies are carrying our DNA and it is better to get tests done. The sooner we do it and get prepped up the better it would be. i mean our precious babies shall live better healthier, fuller lives than us. 
i have rheumatoid arthritis...early onset and my doctor after studying my tests and my family history informed me that i probably inherited it from my mother. Ignorant and blissfully unawares i have done no such tests for my very own 24 year old. Nor have i heard or read anything about any such tests excepting of that of preserving Stem Cells.
And there too again because of ignorance and lack of information i have missed the opportunity to provide my own and only child some health insurance. But do i need to feel sorry about that. i guess not. For this being a mother is all i believe in. One that is caring and yet selfless. One that does not expect but only knows to give. Nothing new that i am doing or taking credits for. i guess it is one great basic instinct this being a mother and doing stuff.

In the first part of the movie Alice Howland feels sorry and apologizes to her grown up independent children when on being informed of her condition by her doctor and upon whose advice she asks them to take the test which would determine who might or might not be inflicted with the same early onset of this rare case of familial Alzheimer.
But it is again later when she is trying to convince her maverick of a daughter Lydia to do college because she  wants to see her daughter 'secure' before she went ( passed away) she says," I don't have to be fair. I'm your mother."
So then there it was, the essence. One instance feeling sorry and another instance using the same as an excuse for 'emotional blackmail' as today's generation calls it.

Not after that film called 'Masoom' (1983) starring Indu , DK and their lovely two plus one adorable kid have i felt so deeply involved.

The tears silently gathered and dropped and i felt it dry up i watched the story but it had other such scenes which felt so real that eyes would start smarting again.
This movie too like ' Grace of Monaco' had a speech. And the way the speech was written and delivered made me quiver with emotion too. This time i sensed the corners of my mouth twitching as i tried to control. For i wanted to hear and see clearly those Simple Honest Words Spoken from the Heart.

Here it is that speech:
Julianne Moore as Dr. Alice Howland delivers:
"Good morning. It's an honor to be here. The poet Elizabeth Bishop once wrote: 'the Art of Losing isn't hard to master: so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster.' I'm not a poet, I am a person living with Early Onset Alzheimer's, and as that person I find myself learning the art of losing every day. Losing my bearings, losing objects, losing sleep, but mostly losing memories...
[she knocks the pages from the podium]
I think I'll try to forget that just happened.
[crowd laughs]
All my life I've accumulated memories - they've become, in a way, my most precious possessions. The night I met my husband, the first time I held my textbook in my hands. Having children, making friends, traveling the world. Everything I accumulated in life, everything I've worked so hard for - now all that is being ripped away. As you can imagine, or as you know, this is hell. But it gets worse. Who can take us seriously when we are so far from who we once were? Our strange behavior and fumbled sentences change other's perception of us and our perception of ourselves. We become ridiculous, incapable, comic. But this is not who we are, this is our disease. And like any disease it has a cause, it has a progression, and it could have a cure. My greatest wish is that my children, our children - the next generation - do not have to face what I am facing. But for the time being, I'm still alive. I know I'm alive. I have people I love dearly. I have things I want to do with my life. I rail against myself for not being able to remember things - but I still have moments in the day of pure happiness and joy. And please do not think that I am suffering. I am not suffering. I am struggling. Struggling to be part of things, to stay connected to whom I was once. So, 'live in the moment' I tell myself. It's really all I can do, live in the moment. And not beat myself up too much... and not beat myself up too much for mastering the art of losing. One thing I will try to hold onto though is the memory of speaking here today. It will go, I know it will. It may be gone by tomorrow. But it means so much to be talking here, today, like my old ambitious self who was so fascinated by communication. Thank you for this opportunity. It means the world to me. Thank you.

The question that riddled me with so many if s and tugged my heart at the beginning of the movie came a full circle at the concluding part of the movie.

In the ultimate scene Lydia is reading out an adaptation of Tony Kushner’s 'Angels in America '  for Alice her mother.

Alice looks lost holding on to that glass of whatever she was drinking and i am presuming it was good green tea she was so fond of. ( While videochatting or perhaps skyping with her daughter Lydia she made one for herself in a scene earlier...when her caretaker was on leave)  

Lydia reading like she knew the words from memory...
'' Harper Pitt, the emotionally frazzled, estranged wife of a gay, Mormon Republican looks out  across a dusk horizon from the window of a plane and addresses the audience:
Night flight to San Francisco; chase the moon across America. God, it’s been years since I was on a plane. When we hit 35,000 feet we’ll have reached the tropopause, the great belt of calm air, as close as I’ll ever get to the ozone. I dreamed we were there. The plane leapt the tropopause, the safe air, and attained the outer rim, the ozone, which was ragged and torn, patches of it threadbare as old cheesecloth, and that was frightening. But I saw something that only I could see because of my astonishing ability to see such things: Souls were rising, from the earth far below, souls of the dead, of people who had perished, from famine, from war, from the plague, and they floated up, like skydivers in reverse, limbs all akimbo, wheeling and spinning. And the souls of these departed joined hands, clasped ankles, and formed a web, a great net of souls, and the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them and was repaired. Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there’s a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead. At least I think that’s so.''
After the reading this is the concluding scene.

Lydia: That's it  (coming closer and sitting closer to her mom and softly but gently asking her mom) hey, did you like that ?
Lydia:W...What i just read, Did you like that!
Lydia; Hmmm... Wh.. what  was it about?
Alice: (looking into her daughter's eyes smiling nodding in affirmation and not looking lost anymore and saying) Yea Love...
Lydia: Yeah it was about love.

The super smart beautiful lady seemed to be losing it all but she could never seem to lose the essence. The essence of her being which was to love and to be loved in return for what she was and that she still can tell and figure out from all the jumbo mumbo her world has turned into.

Needless to say then that this last scene the tears would not just stop and i just let it flow...i let it flow along with the pony and the boat...
And i missed someone very badly by my own dear sweet sister...

Ost- If i had a boat written by Lyle Lovett sung by Karen Elson

My sincere thanks to Mr Piyush Dewan for Recall and Relish: Lost Chapters of Hindi Cinema and,

Friday, January 23, 2015

Colors of Foliage

In the Western countries they have a season called the ' Fall' or the autumn when the trees are ready to shed their leaves. The air i believe becomes crisp and turns chilly but the foliage dons a new hue which is a feast to the eyes. i guess we can see it too in the hills...probably in Srinagar where we have Chinar trees. Chinar aka Booune in Kashmiri language resembles the Maple to a certain extent and though it's incredible beauty is all through the year, the majestic tree is at it's most elegant and exuberant self during this season which precedes winter. Which the West calls as Autumn.

"Formerly green leaves turn to brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red. These color changes are the result of transformations in leaf pigments. The green pigment in leaves is chlorophyll. Chlorophyll absorbs red and blue light from the sunlight that falls on leaves."

This much about the green pigment was all that my ageing brain cells have retained. Of all those chemicals and pigments and reactions that happen when plants make food by absorbing sunlight through the leaves. i guess to all those who have had schooling and read biological sciences to a certain level and then left it to that have never forgotten the word CHLOROPHYLL. 
But why am i taking about chlorophyll is because watching my beautiful red leaved plants don a new DRESS i had just these two precise thoughts:
1. Colors of the Fall and,
2. Chlorophyll. because i didn't retain much of my earlier learning to go any further than that...

i have a better idea...let me show you the pictures... stage wise...meaning from the changes that took place over a period of time within a month before the winter chill took over. It was sheer delight watching these changes. As if one watches oneself try out the favorite clothes one has bought i was seeing this happen...on a favorite one on the terrace. The one which helped me break the monotony created by just greens. Commonly known as Tropical smoke bush i am talking about none other than of Euphorbia cotinifolia.

i am so taken up by the brilliant foliage of this bush especially the way it glows. See it in the morning when it is just catching the light of the sun, or else at noon and each time the bush will appear magically different. Just a few days back i had done a post on the bush but then my feelings were totally different then.

Now i watch, stare and peer into those veins of the same resplendent bush seeing it shorn of  it's glory  yet taking me to another world and thus granting me a feel of the ' Colors of the Fall' even when i am not in Kashmir or in one of those picturesque locations of the West that one sees in a calendar or on travel sites online. 
i am sitting here on this foggy terrace of mine partially in wonder and partially curious to know the science behind these colors that i see my bush wearing today.
Also as the bush has a new wardrobe and it seems to be wearing less and less of foliage and i have been able to figure out the culprit. Seducing my Smoke go all the way...NUDE. The Delhi Fog not only making visibility poor but also responsible for all my babies who earstwhile looked full, healthy and bright seem like homeless destitute. They look the type whom you'll happily, selflessly donate your favorite cardigan to. 

My penchant towards plants and trees is quite familiar but my fussing over this particular bush makes some wonder if i am obsessed but do i care. 

''The most familiar things, objects which I had gazed at all my life, now became an unending source of wonder, and with the wonder, of course, affection. A tea pot, an old hammer, or chipped cup, whatever came to hand I looked upon as if I had never seen it before. I hadn’t, of course. Do not most of us go through life blind, deaf, insensitive? Now as I studied the object’s physiognomy, its texture, its way of speaking, I entered into its life, its history, its purpose, its association with other objects, all of which only endeared it the more… Have you ever noticed that the stones one gathers at the beach are grateful when we hold them in our hands and caress them? Do they not take on a new expression? An old pot loves to be rubbed with tenderness and appreciation. So with an axe: kept in good condition, it always serves its master lovingly.''  Henry Miller from his book ' To Paint is to Love Again'

And before i quit i think it's better to share that which nourished me once again...and restored the glowing color and good health to my dull graying cells.

Have a fantastic colorful weekend folks :) and to all who love the colors of spring especially that of mustard flowers and shall be celebrating Basant Panchami...Wish you a very Happy and joyous Basant Panchami.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Peelu and Those Yellow Vented Bulbuls

The last time i visited Rajasthan it was done with a desire to trace my roots. Mharo des Marwar ( Marwar My Country My Home) was the calling.  The roots of my very own 'Rathore' Clan of heroic Rajputs hail from the land that sings of their bravery as well as of all the betrayals and treacherous deeds of the traitors who plotted against each other and did i trace my roots out there i guess not. Instead i got caught up in retrieving in my mind's eye all of the lost glory of the Golden city Jaisalmer i could afford to in my brief sojourn and went chasing the glorious visions that have braved the test of times. Although it was rather disheartening to feel that much more is getting eroded rather faster than one can even imagine mainly due to human neglect, ignorance and disrespect and that too from none other but from our own country folks. However what i came back with was a pleasant sense of accomplishment of having been to the land of my forefathers. i loved the brilliant colors and getting the whiff of the dry earthy smell which wherever i went i found was also laced with a faint smell of some kind of spice, Sometimes chillies that is roasted in hot oil and other times a faint aroma of asafoetida which wafted out and mingled with the atmosphere making me feel like grabbing some food, and thus so savored the awesome local cuisine that i would never be able to conjure up no matter what in Delhi even if i tried to (for i did get the recipe and the ingredients) because it's not only the hands that cook or the correct amount of spices that needs to be sprinkled in but it's also got to do with the place, the soil the air and everything of that place. At least that's what i feel. Why then the vada pao never feels uniquely tasty if it is eaten in Delhi. i guess the air, the soil the atmosphere plus something extra or everything goes into making that dish taste special...and i call it regional. Don't believe me then try and make the oh so common Rajasthani  Kair Sangri  following line by line the recipe that was handed out to you and then eat it. It will never be as it was when you had in that Guda Bishnoi me on this...
Sry i digressed but i always do...

So the one vision that remains implanted in this tree loving mind's eye of mine is that of Rohido, as they locally call Rohida of Tecomella undulata.

This time my mind got stuck on a particular ruby tree in Jodhpur. i had just finished what i had to of Umaid Bhawan Palace of that part which is open to visitors and was taking my time to admire the areas around at least that part which was permitted for visitors to roam around freely when my eyes caught on to something that shone like a ruby from one of those green bushes that hung about the precincts of the wide campus that surrounds Umaid Bhawan Palace. And up close and personal with those rubies gave me some serious thoughts and they are few but serious enough that require attention so i can enlist them quickly.
a) If you need a good zoom lens then get one. It's such a shame to miss amazing shots just because your own a camera that does not have sufficient zoom.
b) Even after having a good and heavy Rajasthani meal certain things just look just too delectable...too juicy... and you just want to grab them and put them in your mouth even when you have no frigging idea about it's edibility and even when your stomach can't even take air.
But however irresistible a fruit might look please think twice before doing so. Know it first to safely eat it.
c) Chances are that you might be sucked up in a wonderful clueless world of creatures yet it will give you some immense sense of achievement and pride to have at least witnessed something you have never seen before. Enjoy that moment without being distracted about the camera or anything. Absorb every single detail of it to hear yourself speak, " i never did see this color before... all i saw was ... . these definitely look so different and oh God i actually am seeing them for the first time."
d) Then finally pat your own back for having done a total paisa wasool (bang for the buck) tour of the destination you had visited. You did it all...

Okay now without much ado first the image of that ruby studded bush -

i asked the security guards posted there if they knew the name of this bush and one of them beckoned the other, the other called out to yet another who perhaps was the head maali ( Gardener) and sharp the answer came from the third but final an expert perhaps at plants, '' Jhaad ! '' . 
Jhaad actually implies anything , that grows by itself which is given the same status as it being like a weed. Something not of use for humans and definitely not at all ornamental. Something to be overlooked and not fussed over with.

i did not like that maali, that third supposed to be an expert by the other two at all. For not only did he call this beautiful bush jhaad but also that he had no idea if the tiny globules of filled with pink sherbet like juice was edible or not.
i on my part kept gazing and admiring the bush spotting and singling the darker red rubies from the light ones-

How can this be a jhaad i kept telling myself. Such a beautiful ruby laden bush can never be a jhaad... it has to be sure has to be something very very useful.

i tried bringing some branches close to me so that i can see them clearly. i was absolutely charmed by the juicy translucence of varying degrees of the tiny globules of all sizes.

And thus i kept looking this way and that at that lush green thicket laden with all shades of ruby colored tiny fruits. Thank Lord Almighty i had that time and the leisure to stop and stare and that i was not in a hurry to catch up with my next destination. Not really. i wanted to be easy and savor all that beauty that surrounded the beautiful palace.

And as i gazed i saw the lovely visitors who came to relish those tiny ruby red berries. The Bulbuls which looked different from the ones that i keep seeing in Delhi. For what i see in Delhi are the Crested Bulbuls and the Red Vented Bulbuls...but these had a prominent patch of white near their eyes plus a major yellow bottom. Just the color of pale yellow almost saffron like,

i tried to take a good shot of that yellow bottom aka vent in ornithology. i was so thrilled to see a yellow vented Bulbul because i was seeing one for the FIRST time in my life. Also now i was noticing many other features too which looked different from the ones that i regularly see. But my cute birds were hungry and very impatient to satisfy themselves than to pose for me. They took some bites from one and would at the wink of an eye flit to the another and thus this pic which finally gets the vent color alright but not of the bird. i know that my bird shots are not something worth a display. But then none of my bird pics are sharp enough because i don't own neither the skills nor the zoom to do so but i shall keep at it. Keep trying. What gives me intense pleasure now is in the joy of sharing my discoveries and keep talking about it. 

And thus i kept watching this couple as it fed on those juicy translucent berries but as i watched the couple it soon became clear to me that the berries were a favorite of the squirrels too.

Now sitting in the comfort of my bedroom and having by my side two excellent books to guide me i am clueless no more. 
The first one is this brilliant work of love and of somewhat the same kind that i can identify with.  i confess that the degree to which this gentleman has loved trees i can never even come anywhere close to that but just like him i too feel a lot of comfort near trees.
Thanks to yet another arduous labor by Shri Pradip Krishen and all those who have helped him my journey to Jodhpur feels an " exhilarating" one indeed. One which has imbued in me that sense of awe and wonder not a "thimbelful" as Mr Krishen  humbly hopes it perhaps could be in the preface of this book of his but of a kind which can perhaps be suitably called brimful. Enough for a not knowing anything at all to be hopelessly glued to it's pictures and descriptions and trying to match her own pictures and feeling the joy of knowing the names and characteristics of those anonymous trees she had taken a picture of. And then letting the knowledge attained thus from one container to overflow through blogging...
 Now i feel like going back and roaming once again those areas of Osiyan where i think i saw many of those that he has so brilliantly sampled, portrayed and explained.
And his book says about the transluscent, juicy, ruby red berries, '' The fruit are edible , sweet with a faint peppery tang".

Meetha Jaal, Peelu, Dhalu/ Toothbrush/ Mustard tree. Saltbush aka Salvadora persica that's what is the name of this ruby laden medicinal evergreen tree now that i know that it is not a bush but a proper tree.
i chose the word Peelu as the title because it sounded better and cuter than Jaal. However i wonder why Peelu and what language it is called Peelu. Because in Hindi Peela means yellow. If it should be named for the color of it's berries then it should be Laalee. For Lal in Hindi means red.
i digress again...uff

The other part of my enlightenment of course i owe it to my most trusted book on birds another field guide by Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp and Tim Inskipp , ' Birds of the Indian Subcontinent'.
So my Bulbuls have a name too. White-eared Bulbul (Pyconotus priocephalus )

That should be all for the time being but before i quit i would love to quote from the same book by Shri Pradip Krishen words that he himself has quoted from Gandhi... "What we are doing to the forests...[ of the world] is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to one another."    Mahatma Gandhi