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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Our good old minister

Kailas Nagar is a peaceful residential colony in the developing suburbs of Thrissur, Kerala. People belonging to the so called middle class lived there. People with permanent jobs, steady income and timetabled lives. And since they had to leave for jobs early in the morning, they could not afford to stay up late in the night except on Fridays and Saturdays. That day was a Sunday. The time was well past eleven in the night. Unsurprisingly, all families had retired for the day. Well, all but one. The two storied green house, the third one to the right, housed the young and handsome Manu Madhavan and his family. Manu was a tutor at a renowned school in the capital city Thiruvananthapuram. His long distance job demanded that he would be at home only during weekends. His family included his father Madhavan, mother Radha, and his newly wedded wife, Akshara. The wedding was only a week ago. Not a very lavish affair, mind you. The majority of the week that followed was spent in visiting the relatives. Relatives from his father’s side, mother’s side, her father’s side, her mother’s side…there was a whole lot of relatives. A week had gone real fast. In fact he had not got enough time to actually talk to her. To know her more. And tomorrow his leave would end. It was an exam season, and the school could not extend his leave. Reluctantly, he was packing his bags for the late night train. She was sound asleep, obviously tired after all the excitements. He badly wished to simply spend some more time with her.


                ***


‘Why did Ebenezer Scrooge wish that Tiny Tom live? Explain in about 150 words.’
What a ridiculously stupid question that was, thought Kaveri. Anyone who has read the Charles Dickens classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ knew very well that the stingy miser Scrooge had a change of heart after all those visions shown to him by the ghosts. Kaveri threw her textbook on her table. She was a class 11 student, and her final exams began the next day. English was first. Kaveri loved the stories and poems in her textbook. She hated it when she had to study them for exams. Stories was meant to be read and enjoyed, not answered. Nevertheless she had to take her test the next day. The time was already midnight, and she was not halfway through the portion. She was tensed.
‘Only if I had a bit more time’, thought she.


***


The famous Shri Chithira Thirunal Hospital, situated in the capital of Kerala did not distinguish between days and nights. Over years, its walls had seen through lots of blood, horrible causalities, major surgeries, sincerest prayers, heart wrenching cries, and tears of joy. That day was no different. The intensive care unit of the hospital housed an octogenarian. He was admitted that evening after he complained of severe heart pain. A sizable crowd waited outside, apparently to inquire about his well-being. The person was a popular political figure in the state, one who still mattered when it came to policy making. Currently he donned the hat of Education Minister of the state. Despite the media calling him heartless, the fact was that he actually had one. In the quiet of the night, his heart decided that it had faced enough pressure for a lifetime. The time was up. It quietly stopped beating and came to a rest.


***

‘Hello?’

‘Hello Manu sir. I am Kaveri. Sorry to disturb you this late.’ Manu was her class teacher.

‘That’s alright. What’s it Kaveri?’

‘There’s some news that our honorable Minister has passed away.’
Manu had just spoken to the Principal regarding the same. Right from the beginning he knew why she was calling him.

‘You’re right, my child. Our good old minister passed an hour ago. How tragic!’

‘Definitely, sir. I was very shocked. Poor soul.’
There was a brief pause, and she continued.

‘Well sir, some of my classmates called me to know if the exams would be held tomorrow.’

‘The principal had phoned me. Classes would be suspended tomorrow in respect of the deceased soul. You would have your exams on Tuesday.’

‘Alright, sir. I would inform them.’

‘Use this extra time you got to prepare better.’

‘Yes sir. Night.’

Manu had stopped packing when he heard the news. He was not a great follower of the leader. Some say he’s good. Some say he’s bad. Manu did not know. Manu did know that he was old. Wasn’t old age a good time to die? He did not know. He looked at his beautiful wife, sleeping unawares. Quietly he undressed, and slipped into the comforts of his warm bed on the cool silent night. 

A few hundred kilometers away, the table lamp at a sixteen year old girl’s study turned off, and a tiny green light indicating she was online on Facebook turned on.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Movie Review : Baishe Srabon

Title : Baishe Srabon
Language : Bengali
Year : 2011
Director : Srijit Mukherjee
Genre : Mystery, Crime
IMDB Link
Watch trailer on YouTube
Lead Role :  Parambrata Chatterjee, Prasenjit Chattarjee, Raima Sen

Baishe Srabon (22 Srabon) is a Bengali crime thriller with enough mystery elements thrown in to keep you the viewers enthralled and guessing. A serial killer is on the prawl, who finishes off people at nights and leaves verses from poems behind. The clueless police seeks the help of a brilliant ex-cop who was suspended from service thanks to his infamous torture methods.


The script is intense, with cross references to Bengali literature and some history. The casting is perfect, and background score stands out. The movie is not exactly a fast paced thriller, but never loses the flow. Parambrata Chatterjee is turning into one of my favorite actors.






Friday, September 18, 2015

A Case Of Murder



She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. The heat that welled up inside her made the coffee feel lukewarm. Rithu glanced around. After making sure was nobody was prying on her, she fished out her cell phone from her cluttered handbag. With mechanical precision, her fingers opened the tab where she had begun typing out a note.

‘This may seem to you as a confession, or as an admission of guilt. It is neither. This is me recounting some of my actions of the past and the circumstances that led me to the situation I now find myself in. For starters, I murdered a person.’

 She sighed after going through it. For one last time, she asked herself if sharing her life with others was a good idea after all. After convincing her confused conscience, she resumed writing the story. Her own story.

‘The way I stated the fore-mentioned action may make me look like a cold blooded murderer, or a nut job who is not aware of the consequences of own actions. I am neither. I am a normal person who wishes to lead a normal life, just like other normal people out there.  Before we get down to details, let me introduce myself. Well people call me Rithu Sahil, so that’s my name. Usually when people call out my name, they refer to the five feet seven inches tall, lean structure that accommodates me. Most do not seem to care much about how different the body and the mind actually are. If you look from a distance, it is highly likely that you would miss the picture. It is only when you interact, you would come to know that there were not just one, but two of us in there. Two very different persons who happened to have the same external identity.

From our childhood, I have experienced people preferring my body-mate over me. Though we seemed alike, we were vastly different. If one is to use adjectives, I would be called ‘rude’, ‘ill-mannered’ or ‘rash’ while ‘sweet’, ‘well-mannered’ and ‘nice’ would be attributed to her. I shall tell you what happened during our school days, years ago. Our friend Tina had bought a new watch, and was proudly showing it off in the class. In one look I hated it. It was orange, with a big square dial and a funny strap. I told her what I felt, so that she could get herself a more beautiful watch. But my advice did not go very well with Tina. She felt I was being jealous, and stopped speaking with us for two whole weeks. Since then, my body-mate took over me when it came to giving opinions. Whenever a person showed us something new, she would go all ‘awww’ and would starting praising it, no matter whether she liked it or not. And once the person left, she and her group would laugh and make fun of him/her. To my surprise, people liked her more than me. Soon I had not many friends while her circles grew.

I had learned to live with this as a child, but there were other differences as well. For instance, if I had a problem with any guy or girl, I would prefer to say it to that person’s face, and try to settle differences. But she would not do that. She would act all friendly and nice to that person, and then would start complaining on his back. And that made me ‘stingy’ while she was ‘sweet’, like honey. Gradually I began realizing that as more acceptance she would win in this image craving society, I was to be pushed back to the corner and silenced even further. I knew my identity was at a risk. I knew I had to act.’

“Excuse me ma’am.” The manly voice distracted Rithu. She looked up. A young man stood near her. His green apron over the black tees indicated that he was an employee at the cafe.

“I did not mean to intrude, miss. But I could not help notice that you have not touched your coffee in a while. It might go cold.”

Rithu realized that she was too engrossed in her note and had forgotten everything else. She thanked the young man, who smiled and left. She drained the remainder of the coffee down her throat in a gulp. After wiping off the cream from her lips, she went ahead with the unfinished note.

‘I tried reasoning out with her, but she seemed hell bent on maintaining her image. I was feeling suffocated. No one bothered about my presence. Soon things started getting worse. I was not allowed to behave the way I wanted. Apparently I needed the acceptance of others in deciding what I wore, ate, saw, read or did. She lived in the constant apprehension of what others would think. I told her that it was our life and we should decide what to make of it, but all my words fell on deaf ears. Once reasoning was out of question, I began looking for other options.

First I started pushing my way ahead of her. I would give others my honest opinions; I would wear what seemed suitable to me, and told her that it was okay. She protested strongly, and society smirked at me. All my life I have never heeded too much to others’ opinion, but what actually broke me was our boyfriend Varun’s decision to break things up with us. He told his friends that we were strange. One day we would be all meek and playful, while being brutally frank and rebellious the other day. By then I knew that if I continued to let her live, she would grow stronger and indestructible. Rithu Sahil would continue to be the girl who is the society’s answer to a good person. I would die a silent death. That meant if I had to achieve my goal, I had to eliminate her like forever. I pondered over means of achieving the same. The weapons designed by man were helpless. Knives or pistols only caused physical damage. Here the elimination would be at a higher level.

That’s when our cousin Sreenath came home for a vacation. He was doing some high level course in literature, and hence a load of books had accompanied him. One particular book caught my attention. It dealt with social memes and how various false notions affected our mindset and so on. I began reading it in depth and tried explaining the core ideas discussed in it to her. The book also led me to an online social group where I met like minds. They all joined me in trying to convince my twin soul on how to live the way you are.

It was a considerable effort, and I was skeptical. Gradually there was some light at the end of the tunnel. She seemed to listen to reason. In a first, she had given in, although by a whisker. If there was a do or die moment, that was then. I could either strive to impose myself over her, or could suffer in silence till the end of our lives. I had suffered enough already. I decided to suffocate her. All day, all night I told her facts and tales that favored my view. This was my custom for days. I would not listen to anything from her. After days of hard labor, one day I found her completely broke. Either she had finally realized I was right, or she no longer had the power to resist. Nevertheless, she lay there trying desperately to catch a breath. I decided to quietly sit beside her and watch without blinking an eyelid.  I wanted to make sure that she was completely gone. After several painful, long moments, she finally bid adieu. The 5’7” tall and lean structure did no longer house two persons. It was all mine, to be lived in my way until natural death conquered me.

So that is my story. I am Rithu Sahil, who murdered Rithu Sahil, hoping to live a life that maybe labelled rude, but definitely not a fake.’

She proofread the write up for bugs, and then posted it on her blog. She picked her handbag from the table, and stepped out of the cafe. The sun was beginning to set, and cool breeze made the evening pleasant. She had barely crossed two blocks when a commotion arrested her attention. Many had gathered, including the cops. She assumed that it was a scene of crime. Driven by instinct, she went near the crowd to check out.  Two men were speaking to each other.

Man 1: What a tragedy!

Man 2: She could have let it pass. Eve teasing is not the first of a kind, is it?

 Man 1: Girls usually go away without retorting back. This one was big mouthed. She wanted to “teach the boys a lesson”.

Rithu made her way forward through the crowd, and the sight she met there made her speechless. A five feet seven inches tall, lean body of Rithu Sahil lay on the ground. Her ex-boyfriend Varun sat in the vicinity, sobbing uncontrollably. A blood stained knife lay next to her blue silk scarf.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Movie Review : The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Title : The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Language : Silent Movie
Year : 1920
Director : Robert Wiene
Genre : Horror
IMDB Link
Watch movie on YouTube
Lead Role :  Friedrich Feher, Werner Krauss

The movie is widely acknowledged as one of the landmark revolutionary offerings from the long gone era when movies did not speak. It may be technically incorrect to call a silent film German, nevertheless it was made in Germany during a time period when the European nation was in turmoils after the devastating World War I.


The story begins with a young man by the name of Francis starts narrating the hardships faced by him and his fiancee (Jane) and the very peculiar, even horrifying doings of a strange man, Dr. Caligari. Dr. Caligari owns a stall at a nearby exhibition, and on display is a somnambulist Caeser, who allegedly has slept for 23 straight years! The doctor awakens him, and he answers questions asked by the spectators. To the horror of the locals, his prophecies comes true. Meanwhile, the town is gripped in fear as a series of murders takes place.


The makers have chosen very unorthodox lighting and skewed drawings throughout the picture, and there is a reason which I shall not reveal for the delight of watching it. Anyways, I am pretty sure the movie would not end where or how you expected it to.


A lot has been discussed about this movie since then, even drawing parallels to the autocratic rule of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party.