Come on, India. Let’s football!!

I still remember the first football match I saw on TV. It was the opening match of 2006 FIFA World Cup and Germany had demolished Costa Rica 4-2. The gawky teenager who had been secretly disappointed at the absence of their charismatic leader Michael Ballack was mesmerized by the sheer energy of the players and the beauty of the game.

Fast forward 8 years and things are not much different. Through all the frenzy of Ferguson retiring and Germany winning the Wold Cup, there is a question that has haunted every Indian football enthusiast – when will the Indian football set the world on fire?

The answers to this question have always been a combination of words like ‘negligence, ‘lack of facilities’, ‘insufficient support from the authorities’, ‘lack of fund’ and ‘overshadowed by cricket’ – all with good reason. The fact that a good portion of Indian football enthusiasts who can spit out Zaltan’s height in their sleep find it hard to recollect the name of the captain of the Indian National football team speaks volumes about the hold Indian football has over its masses. (FYI, his name is Sunil Chetrri)

Sunil Chhetri, the current captain of Indian National Football team
Sunil Chhetri, the current captain of Indian National Football team

When Sepp Blatter, the current FIFA president, described India as a “sleeping giant” of football, he may not have been much off the mark. Indian football, with its rich history, has been always under-represented and ended up playing second fiddle to the legitimate First Lady aka cricket. Even though clubs like Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting have managed to survive against all odds, it is a sad truth that there are hardly any clubs that the soccer fanatics of the country can identify themselves with. Even in Kerala, which has churned out many a talented player like I.M Vijayan and Jopaul Anchery, the game of football, though widely played, is yet to be popularised as a profession. It is a great hobby – nothing more. As Nilanjan Datta of Times of India once wrote, “the coconut trees among the picturesque lagoons have, in fact, seen only the death of many a bold dream.”

The team logos.
The team logos.

It is into this scenario that ISL makes its brave debut. Preceded by the I-League which failed to reach the expectations due to financial instability (among other reasons), Indian Super League has a huge burden to shoulder. The IPL-type football league, first launched in the early 2011s, has stoked much debate even before its official commencement. The latest ISL promo, unlike the first one, have been much criticised for giving undue focus to cricketers and film stars with just a glimpse of Alessandro Del Piero. It is indeed a matter of great distress that not a single Indian footballer, from past or present, is featured in the promo which aims at the “birth of a footballing nation”. It is unclear whether footballers were asked to be a part of the feature or they were sidetracked completely. However, a section of supporters see no harm in involving the celebrities. “Yes, they [the makers of the ad] could have included footballers too. But we have to remember that football is yet to be popularised in India. If including a bunch of celebrities can bring some much-needed visibility to this sport, then why not use them?” asks Ajay Reddy, an avid footballer. Sruthi Menon, an mass media student based in Bangalore remarks that too much attention is given to such trivial matters. “ISL is gonna be big. It is set to be telecasted live across multiple channels and will even have vernacular commendatory. When is the last time this happened in football?”

Bhaichung Bhutia aka the Sikkimese Sniper. He is India'a most capped player and my fav Indian football (after I.M Vijayan, i.e)
Bhaichung Bhutia aka the Sikkimese Sniper. He is India’s most capped player and my fav Indian footballer (after I.M Vijayan, i.e)

Good or bad, ISL sure seems to be attracting a lot of attention. The mainstream media, which initially trotted around with an air of condescension, slowly seems to be catching up to this new phenomenon. The buzz in the air seems to be that ISL willsurely go a long way in spreading the base of football across the nation. Whether it’ll go on to fulfil their vision of India becoming a global football power and qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, only time will tell.


This article of mine was published on Youth Ki Awaaz. My first article that is published anywhere other than my blog. Yay!! 🙂

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Rant! – Desi Kalakaar??

STATUTORY WARNING: This is a rant – there is a good chance that none of what is said below will make sense. You enter at your own risk.


One of the many strange habits I have (like I-hate-talking-over-the-phone thing) is that I rarely watch TV. Of course, this might be due to the fact that most of the time, you’ll find me holed up with my laptop. Even if I do watch TV once in a while, the channels are mainly confined to music channels and Fox Life. I absolutely hate the serials and beyond-words-stupid stuff like Bigg Boss & Satyameva Jayate (more on that later).

It was while flipping through one of those channels that I saw Poogyaneeya Shri Honey Singh maharshi’s new single, ‘Desi Kalakaar’. Now I’ve heard his previous songs, so I had braced myself to be OMG-ed at his beyond-belief lyrics. However what I was not prepared for was to see Sonakshi Sinha dressed up as a…erm, how to put this politely…hooker? And what was with all the 5-day-old-make-up and barely-there shorts?? Okay, I realize that I am coming across as a kind of judgmental ass here, but hey – this is one of my fav heroines we are talking about!

Sonakshi, right from the start, had charmed me with her unconventional slightly-plump look (which I personally refer to as the ‘Indian look’). My admiration for her had been heightened by her performance in ‘Lootera’ a movie which I loved. So you can hardly blame for being pretty disappointed to see yet another actor bend to the industries pressure and lose their identity. After all, this is an industry where Aishwarya Rai’s and Kareena Kapoor’s malnourished look received much traction as the infamous ‘Size Zero’!

And it is not just the heroines either. One of my roomies, a slightly chubby, rather cute (and extremely immature for her age) 22-year-old keeps asking me if “Di, mai motti hoo kya?” (Yes, she calls me ‘di’. Yes, I cringe every time I hear that. But that is not what we are talking about here. Focus, people!) I initially thought that it was a ploy on her part to just hear it being denied, but turns out, she has been told that she is a ‘moti’ and should lose weight by her boyfriend, her relatives and a good percent of the people she interact with. Is there any wonder that she is so insecure about her looks??

What is it with people and their obsession with body weight? Million dollar question indeed. I found myself asking this question when I was watching ‘Spanglish’ the other day – in the movie, the uptight and snooty mother keeps on telling her slightly plump and very intelligent daughter that she needs to “lose weight”. The obsession we Indians have with skin tone is bad enough, but weight too??

Seriously, WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL??

The Amma Show

Jayalalitha’s conviction in the 16 year-old disproportionate assets case has been celebrated as a triumph of justice by her detractors and the aam aadmis of our country. The high profile case which was moved to Bangalore in 2001 and saw 4 judges come and go was ridden with drama and would be remembered for its many firsts – the first judgement against a sitting Chief Minister, the ruling of Rs.100 crore as fine and so on. Needless to say, the days following the judgement saw sporadic violence in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka borders and the unsurprisingly insane show of loyalty by many of her followers – last I heard, 16 of her fans had committed suicide, apparently heartbroken at the ‘harsh’ judgement. When news like this surface, I’m reminded of the words of a acquaintance of mine. He, a top-level member of a political party, used to narrate stories of how, whenever news that tarnishes the image of their members come out, the party used to silently ‘encourage’ their gullible followers to create a scene, often by giving up their lives or fasting to death so as to make a statement. I remember laughing it off as an exaggeration then, but now that I think back, I don’t think he was joking.

One of my Facebook friends had put up a post that gained much traction considering the current atmosphere. He wrote “People are terribly angry at the court for finding out that their leader stole a lot of money from them.” Fair enough. After all, the response to her conviction has been nothing but confusing. Keeping aside her supporters, the politically neutral diaspora has been reacting to the news with a mix of ‘justice prevailed’ and sympathy. The reasons for this are two-fold. One – she was, as far as Chief Ministers go, a pretty good one. In between all the gold and property she is said to have amassed, she is one CM who actually managed to try and give back to the poorer-than-poor section of her state with her rice for Re.1, Amma canteens, Amma school bags and her latest, Amma Cements. Of course, the choice of name did provide for a lot of amusing one-liners then and now, but it is an irrefutable fact that her schemes did go a long way in easing the pangs of being poor in TN. Another, and in my opinion, more prevalent reason for the sympathy towards her is the fact that she has been caught in the net of justice of which many of her contemporaries have eased through like slippery eels. In a country where politician is synonymous with corruption, it seems to many that Jayalalitha has been singled out and prosecuted, particularly in light of the upcoming elections. It doesn’t need a rocket scientist to figure out that the ruling could not have come at a better time for DMK, and, interestingly, to the BJP who has been, for long, looking for ways to weasel its way into South India and Tamil Nadu.

It is no doubt that justice have been served. The idea that no politician, not even a CM, is above law is a comforting thought, especially to the Indian youth who are increasingly frustrated with the Indian politics. The lack of transparency has long hampered the enthusiasm of the youth, so much so that a mention of development is all that it takes to fire their bloods. By its brave judgement, the Indian judiciary has indeed set an encouraging trend. It has proven that justice delayed is not justice denied. Of course, it is naive to assume that just because the ruling is passed, Ms.Jayalalitha is going to spend 4 years in prison. The law is ridden with infinite loopholes and second-chances – no doubt her team of lawyers will find a way to bring her out. As often is the case, the ruling here is symbolic. Yet, this symbolism is a breath of fresh air to the citizens who are being starved of its faith in judiciary and the law. One can only hope that the wind of change would someday fondle the likes of Mr.Amit Shah who has, allegedly (aah..how I love that word!), blood in his hands and yet holds one of the highest positions in the ruling party.

But then again, money & development triumphs lives, so it is befitting that a case for corruption is viewed with much more seriousness than that of a ruthless massacre.

Bollywood Bandwagon – My first taste of puppetry

“Bollywood. Puppets. Scandals. The never-aging superstar. The item girl. The love triangle. Super hit songs. Exotic locations. The spot boy. The stuntman. The casting couch. Bollywood Bandwagon has it all! It is a hilarious comedy for adults, which is based on stories from Bollywood, presented with puppets and actors,” promised the BookMyShow page of Bollywood Bandwagon. It had been a long time since I last went to Rangashankara and Jo was also rather keen to watch a live play. Plus, we had both never been to a puppet show!

So off we went – only to be joined midway by my other play-enthu buddy, Shyam (who, incidently was the partner in crime for The Open Couple too)! On the way, we were aided by a very helpful auto bhaiyya who first took us to the wrong place and on discovering that it was not where we had told him to take us, took us to the right location, absolutely free of charge. After this no-minor miracle, our mood was rather upbeat as we filed into the Rangashankara’s beautiful stage. I’ve this habit of unconsciously fidgeting when I’m excited and by the time the show started, I was a mess of twiddling thumbs and jiggling toes. And what a show it turned out to be!

The Hero and his brother
The Hero and his brother
Maya - My fav item girl
Maya – My fav item girl
The Hero
The Hero
The crew of Bollywood Bandwagon
The crew of Bollywood Bandwagon (Picture Courtesy: skimble-scamble.blogspot.com)

And this time, once the show ended, the Katkadha crew were sporting enough to let the audience take pictures and to interact with the crew and the puppets as well – one of the artists even let us take pictures with the puppets! The director of the show Ms. Anurupa Roy, is a postgraduate in History from Lady Shriram College, New Delhi. She is a puppeteer and a trainer and is one of the trustees of the Katkatha puppet arts trust. In between other things, she mentioned that she has been working on this particular act for the past 7 years!

That's me and Jo with a puppet (Thanks Shyam for the pic!)
That’s me and Jo with a puppet (Thanks Shyam for the pic!)

The Bollywood Bandwagon has just completed a tour of Switzerland and Austria and will move on to perform at Delhi from the coming Monday.


Picture Courtesy – http://www.rangashankara.org/

Unexpected Kathak treat!

It was a usual Saturday. Jo and I had spent the better part of the day debating over where we should got out for our ‘evening walk’. Now don’t let that fool you into thinking that by the end of it we had a solid plan – after all that discussion, the only thing we had agreed on was that we really need to ‘get something to eat’.

After a few errands to that we had to see to, we decided that we are hungry specifically for burgers – you know how it is. I knew of this place called The Tuck Shop and Jo had never been there, so we decided that today was as good a time as to go there. Now came the tricky part. You see, I’d just been there once with a friend and being the geographically challenged person that I am didn’t have any idea how to get there. Not that we let THAT deter us. Armed with the address of the place, we attacked every passerby, requesting them to direct us. One of the directions was that we should pass in front of a Ganapathy Temple and it was while passing in front of it that we witnessed a beautiful Kathak performance. Needless to say, Jo and I were drawn to it, hunger all forgotten. We didn’t even care how out of place we looked, in our ratty jeans and tees!

Before I go on, a word about Kathak. Kathak is the major classical dance form of northern India derived from the dance dramas of ancient India. The word kathak means “to tell a story” and the dance is famous for its graceful pirouettes, expressiveness and striking costumes.

Of the two dancers performing that day, I found the movements and posture of one rather arresting as compared to other. With expressive eyes, subtle smile and high cheekbones, not to mention the incredible grace of movement, she was truly mesmerizing – so much so that we, who thought we’ll “see just one piece and go” stayed for the entire recital! So enthralled were we that we even plucked up the courage to go and let the artist, Ms. Simran, know how much we enjoyed her performance. As always is the case with great artists, she accepted our compliments with a graceful smile and when asked if she had been dancing for long (‘coz, frankly, I thought she was in her early 20s), replied, rather humbly, that she has been “for a while”. Just how humble she was I found out only later in the evening.

Ms. Simran Godwani [Pic Courtesy: Krshala Dance Theatre]
Ms. Simran Godwani [Pic Courtesy: Krshala Dance Theatre]

Ms. Simran Godhwani (aka the graceful dancer) is, her bio tells me, an accomplished Kathak artist as well as Founder & Director of Krshálá – the performing arts school in Koramangala. She was an HR professional for four years in a leading MNC in Bangalore. She is a senior disciple of Guru Murari Sharan Gupta, who is one of the senior disciples of the legendary Kathak maestro Pt. Birju Maharaj & the artistic Director of Samam-Center for Movement. She is a principal dancer at Samam. She learnt the classical dance of Bharatanatyam form for 17 years and Kathak for over 7 years.

No wonder she is as good as she was! You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that it takes immense courage, dedication and hard work to succeed in performing arts and to actually make a career out of it – more so once you’ve known the perks of an MNC life. Especially in dance, which is often considered as nothing more than a frivolous hobby for girls in our society. As always, I am much moved and inspired by people like her who go on to do what THEY want to, oblivious to the society norms.

More power to such passionate trendsetters!


P.S: In case you are curious – Yes, Jo and I did manage to find our way to The Tuck Shop. And it was lovely. Though the food ain’t all that exceptional, the ambiance was worth the entire trip. A decent meal for two can be managed under Rs.500. I’d recommend that you check it out!

My choice for the evening - 'Oh Basanti'. Yeah yeah, I choose food based on their name.
My choice for the evening – ‘Oh Basanti’. Yeah yeah, I choose food based on their name.
The menu card that I kinda loved!
The menu card that I kinda loved!

[Her bio as given at the official site of Krshálá Dance Theatre]

THE PAINTER OF SHANGHAI

As often is the case, I found The Painter of Shanghai by pure chance. I had lent my library card to my roommate because she was utterly bored and wanted to walk it off and had no place to go except the nearby library. So off she went and when she came back, she had this book clutched in her hand. Though I didn’t say anything just then, I was secretly disappointed at her choice. I had once tried reading ‘The Memoirs of Geisha’ and was unable to enjoy it even slightly, so the description of ‘Can a concubine escape her past?’ didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Which explains why this book was left untended to for about 2-3 weeks before lack of alternate reading materials forced me to pick it up.

The Painter of Shanghai
The Painter of Shanghai

The Painter of Shanghai’ also published as ‘The Painter from Shanghai’ is a fictional version of the real-life story of Pan Yuliang, a young orphan who went on to be celebrated, if rather controversial, woman artist (a term that irritates her to no end) of China. It traces her journey from an innocent girl sold to a brothel by her opium-addicted uncle, to that of a young woman who ends up being a concubine to a virtuous government official (Pan Zanhua) at Shanghai. There she discovers the talent in herself and goes on to pursue a life as a painter. Her choice to paint nude self-portraits creates much controversy, particularly in the war-ridden Shanghai of 1930s until she moves to Paris where she attains the acclaim she deserved. Jennifer Cody Epstein, the author of Painter of Shanghai, has done a wonderful job of recreating the life of Pan Yuliang. I particularly loved the poems that are intertwined with the prose. One of my favourite is the last line of Li Qingzhao’s poem that goes:

I caress the withered flower, fondle the fragrant petals

Trying to bring back the lost time

As always, Pan Yuliang’s remarkable legacy was honored in the way it should be much after her death in 1977. However, even today, her nudes continue to cause controversy and furore – in 1993, an exhibition of her work in Beijing caused enough concern that several of her nudes were removed.

After all, it is not in vain that the famous French artist Henri Matisse once remarked “Another word for creativity is courage”.


Driven by curiosity, I managed to locate a few of Pan Yuliang’s works – ‘The Lingnan School’s‘ site offers much more insight to her artistial journey. I’ve attached two of my personal favourite paintings of hers’.

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Oh, and as always, happy reading 🙂

The Open Couple

At Thrissur, the place I hail from, there is a place called the Regional Theatre. It is one of the many cultural hubs in the city of Thrissur widely known as the Cultural Capital of Kerala. Also it is barely 5 minutes away from my home. Hence it is a matter of colossal shame (to me personally) that the first play I ever saw was after I came to Bangalore – a month or so back, to be precise. It was a wonderful experience and it certainly moved me enough to decide that I’d be back to theatre many a time in future – a promise I was not able to make good of until yesterday.

On Sunday, a friend and I decided to go to a play called “The Open Couple”. I had been harping on about how Bangalore’s cultural strength is overshadowed by its bright new malls and discotheques (not that I’m against it!) and it is perhaps to gain momentary relief from this that he came up with this idea. Besides, there is something exhilarating about paying 300 bucks to watch a play as compared to spending the same amount for watching a less than decent (and often downright crappy, IMHO) movies, don’t you think?

So back to our play. The Open Couple is a satirical English play written by Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo and his wife Franca Rame in 1983 and is directed by Faraz Khan who was recently featured in Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus. It revolves around the life of Antonia (Vaishali Bisht) when her husband, referred to as ‘The Man’ (Anuj Gurwara) decides that he is bored of their normal married life and proposes that they be in an open relationship. The play opens with Antonia as a suicidal emotional wreck and through a series of funny, poignant vignettes, concludes with a complete role reversal.

The Open Couple (Pic Courtesy: http://metawards.com/)

The Open Couple (Photo_Courtesy:http://metawards.com/)

The play is nothing like you expect it to be. For one, the first thing I noticed when I got inside the hall was that there was a commode at the center of the stage. Just a commode and no other furniture except for 2 wooden stools. Also the troupe uses painted faces and includes some miming techniques and several exaggerated body movements to convey the ridiculousness of certain situations. It goes without saying that the two actors have done a wonderful job of portraying Antonia and The Man, especially the adorable Italian accent – so much so that I actually thought that the actors were of Italian origin! (Of course, this was a source of great humour to my friend!) It was only after I got home and Googled the play that I realized that the actors are rather acclaimed in the theatre world. Vaishali Bisht, Google tells me, is a graduate in theatre and drama studies from the University of Kent in Canterbury, England and Anuj Gurwara is an active theatre actor in Hyderabad and has worked in films with directors like SS Rajamouli, Sekhar Kammula and Nagesh Kukunoor.

At the end of the day, The Open Couple certainly lived upto its promise of being “A larger-than-life and bizarre with unexpected dose of life and laughter.” The show is on at Jagriti Theatre, Whitefield, Bangalore everyday till 28th September 2014. Online booking is available at bookmyshow.com

Happy watching!

The new-found freedom

It was only the last evening while talking to a friend on phone that it dawned on me that I’ve been away from home for nearly 6 months now. Which, of course, in the larger scheme of things is kinda like a drop of water in the ocean. It’s just that I absolutely loved these last few months. And I find that amusing ‘coz if you were to call me up at this moment and ask me to educe my memories of Bangalore, I’d probably come up with more rotten ones than the other.

Huh.

On second thought, that shouldn’t surprise me so, should it? En masse, we humans have this tendency to highlight the bad over good, haven’t you felt? Trashy movies, shoddy books, third-rate politics, mediocre celebs, their sub-standard tactics…all this makes us have collective mini-orgasms. The good stuff usually makes us go “Damn, why didn’t I think of that? And now I have to sit through others praising him. And smile while I’m seething with jealousy.”

And so, it is a truth universally acknowledged that bad experiences end up being a damn good story. And yes, I realise it echoes of the first line of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. And that, keeping in with the tradition, I’ve drifted off the topic. Focus, Navmi.

So yeah, Bangalore. I keep saying Bangalore ‘coz even though I’ve been here for just 3 months, life in Gandhinagar had been a breeze compared to that here. There, everything was handed out to us in a platter – all we had to do was to shell out a few bucks to keep ‘em coming. Here, we had to start everything from scratch. You know how you watched Ayesha paint her cute little apartment in ‘Wake up Sid!’ and told yourself “That’s how it is gonna be when I move to a new place”? Well, I really don’t want to rain on your parade, but THAT is utter bullshit. When YOU move to a new place, you’re probably going to end up in a P.G which advertises free wifi, “homely” food, and a bunch of smiling owners only to realise by the end of the month that (a) it takes an hour to load Google, (b) you can only have so much dal in a day (c) you are the little Red Riding Hood and the owners may as well be the big, bad wolves in your Grandma’s clothes. So there.

And then you are going to realise that life is bloody expensive. I’m not talking about the ‘No cash for petrol’ kinda crisis. I’m talking about the one where you realise a packet of Surf Xcel costs as much as a king-sized Diary Milk Silk! And once you realise the number of chips packets you consume in a month, you’ll start wondering how your parents could afford to stay off the streets. Seriously. But hey, jokes apart, there is nothing like being completely in charge of your finances that helps you grow up. A few of us taste the first spurt of this growth in your college days. For a few others like me, it’s a completely new arena. There is nothing as baffling as watching your carefully scripted monthly budget plan falling apart in the first week of the month. From then on, it’s like increasingly depressing cricket match. Theoretically, there is hope till the last over is bowled. And yet, you get a picture of how things are gonna be in those crucial initial overs.

And somewhere between all these, you’ll start getting hounded by a newfound worry that you are not doing enough for your parents – financially or physically, whether they need it or not. There’ll be times when you’ll be astounded by the heights of your selfishness in choosing to put your life, your dreams, your independence above that of theirs. You are gonna fret over those calls that start with “I have this headache for the last few days…” or “Cholesterol level is quite high…” When they call you up to inform you about the demise of an acquaintance or a friend or are uncharacteristically silent on the phone, you are gonna catch yourself wondering “If only I were there, we could have talked about this…” You are gonna brood over that for a while and will, almost certainly, try and shake it off by watching a movie or reading a book. After all, you gotta do what you gotta do.

And in between all these, strangely enough, you’ll relish the life you live. You’ll enjoy that you can go out at 9.30pm to buy a jar of jam. Or that you can go jogging in the morning just because you felt so. Or that you can blow off a good portion of your salary on books and no one is gonna give you THAT look. Some days you’ll go up on the terrace, look at the stars and simply lie there, listening to the distant rumble of traffic, the impatient horns and wonder where everyone is going. You’ll gaze at the apartments nearby and wonder what they are doing. You’ll have the luxury of being at your whims and fancies…

Some days, most days, that’ll be enough.

Could’ve..

It was killing her. Literally killing her. She didn’t know where it was coming from, this fist that was squeezing her chest. This burning in her eyes…oh the burning…if only she could put it off with a flood of tears. But she couldn’t. That she was sure of. It had never been in her to ease the pain with tears. The irony was the pain had an audience within her. A part of her that was standing back, slightly amused, saying “Hmm…so this is how it feels to have loved and lost.

Loved? Is that what she had been doing for the past few days? If that was so, then Gautham Vasudev Menon sure as hell had it wrong. There had been no violins or stolen glances or even a lingering smile. There as sure as hell were no proposals or ‘I’ll-love-you-till-the-end-of-my-lifes’. Not even an ‘I-have-a-thing-for-you’. Nor had she know, by some inexplicable cosmic suggestion that he was in love with her. In fact, to this day, she had no idea if he was.

However, it had all begun in a fashion that was the baap of all clichés – through a common friend. This ‘common friend’ (let’s call him – for it is a he in this particular story – Mr.CF for the moment) is the most evenly distributed species that has ever walked the earth – every gang has at least one. He is the most cheerful, vibrant guy you’ll ever meet. He has been in a relationship, a very exciting relationship since you’ve known him which is probably why he thinks his mission in life is to match of the people who are ‘meant-to-be’. And he is good. Almost 90 % success rate he has, even though his methods of connecting the people who are ‘meant-to-be’ is often questionable.

Regardless, it came as a surprise when Mr.CF came in one day and told her that someone has a thing for her. “Uvv…!” was her reaction, for that sure she was that he was pulling her leg. “No, seriously. Swear to God”, he insisted. She grinned at him and shrugged it off. A few days passed. Every time he passed her in the corridor (the CF i.e.), he’d ask her “Have you thought about what I told ya?” and she’d smile at him and wave it off.

To nobody’s surprise, as days passed on, the idea started growing on her. Curiosity came first. What was he like? What did he like in her? Did he find her gorgeous? Was there anything about her that he didn’t like? Did he notice her when she walked into the room? To find the answer to the first question, she did the obvious – landed up on his Facebook profile. And there, between the books he liked and the music he loved, she realised that she and he bowed to a different deity. Uh oh. A casual mention of a ‘hypothetical situation in which she falls in love with a guy of a different religion’ was presented before her parents. Negative.

“So..did you think about it? He’s really into you, you know…” CF told her.

“Religion scene aavm”, she told him.

“What if we work around that?”

“Na…you can’t work around that. At least, my folks can’t.”

“What if his folks can?”

“They can’t. No one can”, she responded.

“He’s gonna ask them. He wants to, but should he?”

She didn’t know what to say. The logical part in her, the realist, knew well that no good was ever gonna come out of it. It was one thing to spout “religion is bullshit”, another to practise it. After all, one’s life was never truly one’s own. What she didn’t anticipate was the part in her that wanted it to be true. Like the camel that crept in to rest its hump, he had crept into a corner of her mind and before she knew it, he’d carved out a cosy corner for himself.

Which was why, when CF turned up one evening and said “It’s not gonna work out. He asked his family. They said no. He’s devastated, but that’s just the way things are, I guess. You guys’ll be friends, right?”, all she could do was smile and say “Of course! I told you it’ll never work out.” She pretended that she couldn’t feel the tightness in her chest, the piercing needle of sorrow (or was it regret?) that threatened to burst her heart. It wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t mentioned, much less promised her anything.

And it wasn’t like she was in love with him. You couldn’t be in love with someone over a week’s time.

No, she definitely wasn’t in love with him.

But she could have. Over the week, she had realized that she could easily fall in love with him. It’s almost like the bud of a flower, ready to blossom but it’s just not quite there yet. And she liked him a lot, she really did. She thought about him often, but she didn’t love him.

She could, though. She knew she could.

PERSEPOLIS – MARJANE SATRAPI

You know how sometimes you pick up a book with the hope of achieving nothing but a lightness of mind, sort of like a distraction from all that is going on around you? That is the reason why I started reading Persepolis. It had been introduced to me by a friend and though I found it mildly interesting, I had put it on my ‘Must-read’ list. Well, if you must know, my ‘Must-read’ list comprises of widely acclaimed books like those of Marquez’s and Tolstoy’s that I’d really love to be in love with. Someday.

For one, Persepolis is a graphic novel. You know, the ones with cute illustrations, characters speaking out in bubbles and rouge-on-the-cheek shown as a blob of pencil shade. Like Tintin. Or Calvin n Hobbes. Funny, but a bit juvenile, I thought. Boy, was I wrong!

Persepolis 1 & 2 traces the story of Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian girl. With simple words and illustrations Marjane describes her memories of growing up in the war-struck country, moving to Vienna at 10, coming back after a few years, studying in Iran under the reign of Islamic Revolutionaries and finally moving out for good.

Personally, I’ve been very interested in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and other Islamic nations (except for the UAE. Yawn!) I know not where this fascination comes from, but it has resulted in me trying to read Quran, understand the fanatics’ perspective and such in my late teens. Needless to say, my grandparents were deeply disturbed by this, even as my parents tried explaining to them that ‘it was just a phase’. My mother blamed it on Kamala Suraiyya and stopped prodding me to read Malayalam literature. Anyway, my point was, as much as I tried to understand what is going on there, there were always holes in my theories, you know. For instance, how the entire thing started was a mystery – yes, I knew it was about the oil and yes, the ‘Burger-and-Fries’ nation was involved, but the real deal – no idea. I tried reading about it in magazines and newspapers but after 2 pages of words like ‘imperialists’, ‘savak’, ‘proletariat’ etc, I gave up. It took too much effort to understand what was going on.

What I find absolutely amazing about Persepolis is the ease with which the author explains what went wrong at Iran. It describes the effect of the countries mucked up political situations on the common man with simple words, instances and often, a tinge of humor. For example, Satrapi describes one of her brushes with the extremists and their obsession with women ‘maintaining their dignity’ in the following strip.

A page of 'Persepolis'
A page of ‘Persepolis’

I could go on and on about this, but nothing I say can do justice to Satrapi’s work. All I can say is this one is, officially, one of my favs.

So, happy reading 🙂

PS: If anyone is tempted to give Persepolis a shot, I have the ebook with me. Drop me a mail and I’ll let ya borrow it.