Book: Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction, selected by Joyce Carol Oates and Christopher R. Beha. Out of the forty-eight stories in the anthology, I have read 1-900 by Richard Bausch, Lavande by Ann Beattie, Off by Aimee Bender, The Love of My Life by T.C.Boyle, The Identity Club by Richard Burgin, Aurora by Junot Diaz, Reunion by Richard Ford, The Girl on The Plane by Mary Gaitskill, ‘Adina, Astrid, Chipewee, Jasmine‘ by Matthew Klam, Once in A Lifetime by Jhumpa Lahiri and Incarnations of Burned Children by David Foster Wallace. Each story is a revelation in how words can be stringed together in myriad ways to hurl the reader into a space rife with characters so well-sketched that it takes only a couple of pages before an involuntary familiarity is fostered. The plots vary from being elaborate and including multiple time leaps to ordinary encounters. What keeps the pages turning is the versatility of the content and style of these accomplished writers. Little nuggets of pure bliss.
Film: Often they are larger-than-life, crude and garish, but no one can deny how Hindi films have marked us with its invisible stamp of magnanimous dreams, instilled an inevitable sense of drama, bound us with shared memories of favourite moments from the screen, and made us unabashed (or closet) romantics. And yes, there is a song for every emotion and situation. I watched Bombay Talkies last weekend. I won’t judge how true the four stories were to the common theme because each one of them brought in a new wave of delight. Each one told a story in twenty-five minutes, and told it well.
Karan Johar‘s story is about the angst of a man who has veiled his sexuality under the institution of marriage, the longing of a woman to be desired by the man she married, the overwhelming attraction of a gay man towards the husband of a close friend; and the confused, tender, passionate and brief entanglement of these three lives that changes them forever. Till date the only poignant film that I had watched about two men in love, devoid of stereotypes and caricatures, is Brokeback Mountain. And now in this film even though the moments were fleeting, Randeep Hooda brings in a passion, sensuality, repressed desire and tenderness that is incomparable. Rani Mukherjee had never looked more beautiful and real. Dibakar Banerjee‘s story is run by the genius of two men, Banarjee himself and the lead actor, Nawazuddin’s flawless performance of a common man with big dreams that loses steam after the first few steps on the road to realize them. He craves glorious destinations without the ordeals of the journey, and wants it all without questioning his own potential and calibre. And he has a pet Emu (‘ooi-ma’ to his neighbours :P) named Anjali! Zoya Akhtar questions if our dreams and ambitions should be tailored to meet the approval of society and be within the rigid constraints of conventionality. A little boy is torn between his uncontrollable urge to be a dancer and gyrate like the on-screen ‘Sheila‘, and his father’s desire of seeing him ace the football games at school. When his father hits him for dressing up in his sister’s clothes and applying lipstick, self-realization dawns that certain dreams are best indulged in secrecy till the right time arrives. His relationship with his sister is quite adorable too. Anurag Kashyap‘s story is witty, hugely entertaining and yet sad in the very premise of how the masses deify their screen idols, putting lives on hold for a mere glimpse or word from them. The delight of watching this particular story was comparable to that of reading a short story by Saki.
Food: Given that my mother harbours the delusion that someday I would consider getting married to one of the potential suitors whose names get dropped not so subtly in her conversations with me, the few strands of prematurely grey hair on her head is partly attributed to her long standing worry that my (future) in-laws and husband would use my complete apathy towards cooking to judge her parenting skills. Last weekend to appease her, I tuned into the Nigella Lawson show and diligently noted down few recipes. On Sunday morning, after a short struggle with the blender that involved the batter flying in all directions, I ended up baking a delicious chocolate cake…all on my own! And my mother’s frown lines were miraculously wiped off as she ate the first piece of the cake.
Everything else: I am relieved and somewhat surprised at the abrupt lightness of being brought on by the fading of a face into the darkest and deepest recesses of memory, because I wasn’t even aware how a quiet yearning had weighed me down for years. I watched a documentary on the quaint town of Omori in Japan.The Gulmohar tree outside my window is covered in blazing red blossoms. I no longer follow the IPL matches. I painted my nails coral pink. And the heart beats wildly in anticipation of a long awaited change.