Let it go…

…even though the cold bothers me terribly.

Bad joke, moving on.

2017 comes to an end as well. With it the realisation that I’ve been out of school for a decade now, but somehow, I don’t seem to have learnt much since. Meh.

So, I do these year-end notes fairly often, where I do a round-up of everything I have learned/been forced to learn that year, and then basically have it as a testimony of all the growing up I did. But this year, I am shaking things up a bit. Why? Because I can.

Here goes nothing…

One of the toughest parts about growing up that everyone warns you about, yet you never believe it (or think it won’t happen to you) is letting go. Letting go of dreams, of beliefs, of your values, your unshakeable faith that you’ll be the exception to the rule. Just about everything.

***

This past year, for the first time in a long while, I didn’t read as many books as I planned to. Well, boo-hoo you might say; but that’s actually a very big departure for me. And frankly, I didn’t care too much about it. And that’s what bothers me the most. I read one series in its entirety this year, and probably 40 more books by themselves. While that does seem a lot, my average for the last 3 years is 56 books. In the previous years, by September, I’d be making up a list of everything I read and then flaunt it in everyone’s faces. This year, I couldn’t care less.

***

My resolution for this year was to upskill – learn to ride a bicycle, learn to drive a car, learn to swim, and learn to bake. Guess how many I learnt? None. And that’s not due to lack of trying, it’s plain and simple not having the will/motivation to do so. Yet all of my resolutions from the last few years? All perfectly done.

***

We moved houses this year. Our childhood home of over 23 years was sold-off and we upgraded to a new and improved bigger house. Thankfully, I wasn’t around for the day of the switch. It was extremely overwhelming to not see the same walls the first weekend  back home after the move. But I guess, we just have to make new memories now. I’ll miss the walls that Nishu and I wrote on though, afterall, they bore testimony to our growing years and changing handwriting. 😛

However, all was not lost this year. This year (technically from the last quarter of 2016) I moved out and lived with a flatmate. It was a struggle – financially and emotionally. Yet, when the lease ended two weeks back, it was very difficult to let go of the house. That house, and my flatmate were good to me. In fact, when the going got tough, having my own space got me through a lot of shit that would’ve otherwise been one more issue left to be dealt by a therapist.

That was my first try at adulting, and though I didn’t crack it perfectly (at a given time I can do only two out of cook, clean, and work), I do think that cooking breakfast for myself every single morning did bring about an unexpected change in my schedule. Letting go of my freedom, my space, and the massive weight of taking all my decisions was perhaps one of the tougher things I did this year. Not the toughest though.

***

Which brings me to the tougher change of this year. I quit sugar. While health has been a struggle, bringing in some form of physical activity into the mix helped me massively. Up until October, I stopped eating sugar after 5pm. And post Diwali, I basically quit on all artificial sugar in general. I do occasionally enjoy the one-off iced tea or a bite of a chocolate, but my sweet cravings are gone. Completely. I’ve lost weight and fit into old jeans (yay me!), I’ve been more active than I ever was, and most importantly, my blood sugar levels are optimal. Plus I found a diet that 100% works for me. So that’s a win.

***

My politics has changed and so have my opinions, and yet that’s not what has caused this change. For a while now, I’ve struggled with movie-watching. For all practical purposes, I think, I am done being a theatre-goer. I always found the experience of sitting in a dark room, and watching movies with a hall full of people in their own bubbles, very isolating. And I am nothing if not a peoples’ person. (It’s true!) In fact, one reason my movie watching experience was warped towards the ones seen on the big screen was because of the tumultuous emotions I went through in a dark space. After all, emotions have to be felt acutely in a movie-hall – that’s the point! Therefore, if you went movie watching with me, there was a 9/10 chance I’d cry. Sometimes bawl my eyes out, and at most times, simply be overcome by this vast sense of sadness. Thanks to Prime, Netflix, and probably Vodafone Play, I am just letting go of the immersive experience. Maybe someday, I find my way back.

***

The toughest thing I did this year though, was coming to the realisation that I have to have my back. Literally, and figuratively. Your family, friends, and mentors can do only so much for you. In the end, it’s your dream, your life, and so it’s not going to matter to anyone, as much as it will to you. It’s easier once time passes, and you get used to it, but when you’ve been dependent for a very long time and then are forced head first into reality – the sting takes a while getting used to. Everything that I’ve let go of this year, has forced me to learn something new about myself. And in turn challenged notions I had about myself. I thought I had thresholds, but they were pushed. And how! In the end, there’s no choice but to deal with whatever is dished at you. I wish there was a choice though… how I terribly miss having a choice.

***

Hopefully, I never have to let go of this blog.

***

PS. I got my first (and second) tattoo this year. Some very serious, long-term commitments have been made.

PPS. This is a rather drab to end the year on/begin a new one on. And so I must add something that I am truly thankful and privileged to have had this year – my travels. This one’s from Kinderdijk, arguably the best day this year was spent under these windmills.

Kinderdijk

Hope you have a happy new year!

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Day 39 – 46: “Petrichor waale gaane” Part I

After a huge hiatus that involved a lot of procrastination, some body aches, some cursing my fate and some more cursing everyone in general, I’m back with the songs that I am sure you missed! 😉

Sunday mornings in the monsoon are my favourite, especially when I am indoors and have a cup of chai (green tea now) in my hand to watch the rain flow on the window.. did you imagine me with a book? Yes, I most certainly have one in my hand!

But what of the times that I am travelling? Or when the luxury of sitting and staring at the clouds is not available? I listen to these songs. This list was initially 5 songs, then they became 10, and now after a lot of playlist searching, they’re two posts! And hopefully this will help me fill the void in my challenge! The second one will be here on Monday morning! 😀

The following list is a LONG one, trust me on that! But none of them have anything to do with the monsoons – no wet saris clinging to the body, no wet hair being side swept with a half grin and certainly no tip-tip of the boondein. It’s just songs I love to listen when it’s raining.

Have a listen when it rains next time and tell me if you like them as much as I do. Mind you, all new and soulful numbers. Let’s start shall we?

P.S. Petrichor is the smell of rain on dry earth! 😉 Happy monsoon-y Sunday! 😀

Day 39: Tu Bole

Movie: Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (2008)
Music: A.R.Rahman
Lyrics: Abbas Tyrewala
Singers: A.R.Rahman

Genelia and Imran. Xavier’s and Bandra Fort for the backdrop. This movie and it’s soundtrack got a lot of attention but for all the wrong songs. Listen to this version from MTV Unplugged and then the original here. Tell me you don’t love it. I challenge you. 🙂

Day 40: Mar Jaava

Movie: Fashion (2008)
Music: Salim-Sulaiman
Lyrics: Irfan Siddiqui
Singers: Salim Merchant, Shruti Pathak

Fashion was a very forgettable movie but an unforgettable soundtrack. It was one of those that made me notice this music composer duo. Mar Jaava is the correct mix of ambition and ruthlessness that drives Priyanka Chopra in the movie.

Day 41: Ramta  Jogi

Movie: Taal (1999)
Music: A.R.Rahman
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Singers: Sukhwinder Singh, Alka Yagnik

This is my cheat song. I promised new songs and I am giving you one from the 90s! But yes, cannot do without this one. Also notice the sounds in the background – the continuous bells and then the swishing of the water. There is a bell that plays throughout. And yes, a song where my eyes never left Anil Kapoor.

Day 42: Kitni Baatein

Movie: Lakshya (2004)
Music: Shankar Ehsaan Loy
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Singers: Hariharan, Sadhana Sargam

Love story in the middle of the war. Guns, artillery and reminiscing about love gained and then lost. Farhan Akhtar makes a good case for his actors- no words spoken but looks exchanged; but it is Hariharan and Sadhana Sargam who steal the show.

Day 43: Aas Paas Hai Khuda

Movie: Anjaana Anjaani (2010)
Music: Vishal-Shekhar
Lyrics: Vishal-Shekhar
Singers: Rahar Fateh Ali Khan

Strangers with a suicide pact, seen that before and know what happens in the end. What you haven’t heard, is this song sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan that is like him and yet, so unlike him!

Day 44: Maula Mere Maula

Movie: Anwar (2007)
Music: Mithoon
Lyrics: No clue!
Singers: Roop Kumar Rathod

Anwar is a movie that deserved to be noticed because of the theme, but unfortunately, it lost all direction halfway through and then, disappeared entirely from all our collective movies. This song, however, everyone remembers. Partly because of the music and the way it is sung, and partly because of Nauheed Cyrusi. Watch her in the song and you’ll know why.

Day 45: Lukka Chuppi

Movie: Rang De Basanti (2007)
Music: A. R. Rahman
Lyrics: Prasoon Joshi
Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, A. R. Rahman

I have spoken a lot about the soundtrack of RDB. It’s genius. This one is a song that makes it to my list of exceptions – I don’t like the voice of the Nightingale of India much, but this one.. yes this one does it for me. A tearjerker and what composition! Rahman just compliments everything beautifully! Listen to the full track here.

Day 46: Iktara (Male Version)

Movie: Wake Up Sid (2007)
Music: Amit Trivedi
Lyrics: Amitabh Bhattacharya
Singers: Tochi Raina, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Raman Mahadevan

They say you get only one chance to prove yourself, for Amit Trivedi this one was enough. In a soundtrack by SEL that was extremely formulaic and absolutely lackluster, Iktara stood out. Amit Trivedi shone. While the female version by Kavita Seth is the famous one, give this an ear. Tell me what you think of it. And oh yes, it rains at the end of this song! And Mumbai during the rains! ❤

So that’s it for today! 🙂 Hopefully, I’ll soon be back on track! 😀 Leave your comments about what your feel about my monsoon playlist!

Day 34: Tu Hi Re

Movie: Bombay (1995)
Song: Tu Hi Re
Music Director: A. R. Rahman
Lyrics: Mehboob
Singers: Hariharan, Kavita Krishnamurthy/K.S. Chithra
Actors (in the song): Arvind Swamy, Manisha Koirala

Considering the number of Rahman songs that have made it to this list, I could do 100 days of Rahman! Though, I should probably finish this one first! 🙂

If this song doesn’t give you goosebumps, then I think little else will. Though I do insist you must try Bombay Theme from the same movie. And if you haven’t already seen it, do watch the movie, if only for the music. Though, there is a lot to love in it, it’s a movie that hits hard with the riots and rioters.

My sole memory of this movie is the one with the grandfather and the grandson walking the streets one night after the riots begin and them meeting rioters of the other religion. The grandson quickly covers for the old man, a close brush that to this day I have vivid recollections of.

Like every Rahman soundtrack worth its salt, this one too is difficult to find fault with. The man leaves no stone un-turned, to get you to feel the music when you hear it, even if it has been almost 20 years since it’s release, the songs are just as evocative.

Which brings us to this song. Uyire Uyire in Tamil (movie is dubbed into Hindi) is sung by Hariharan, a first time for him as well as Rahman who has experimented much with his voice later on. Tu Hi Re is a long song at almost 7 minutes, but it is never once boring. It keeps throwing one emotional punch after the other that hits you right in the feels.

Kehna Hi Kya is my favourite of this soundtrack, not only is the music exemplary, so is Manisha Koirala. Watch out for the part where Chithra sings “wunhe mein pukaaru“, typically Southie style! 😀

Humma Humma is a classic you cannot not hear. Even Benny Dayal (Cue for me to go Ooooooooo) infused it with his own brand of enthu and groove! You must watch this video even if it is only for the Carnatic bit in the beginning!

There are three versions to this song, in Tamil, Hindi and English. The two videos today are:

The original in Tamil:

The live performance which is bilingual (Hindi and Tamil):

Au revoir, Montréal!

This post was written on my phone at Montreal airport when waiting in the long queues for check-in and then security. However, due to some reason, it just got saved in my drafts and never got posted! So, though it is late, here’s my farewell note. 

P.S. If you find it soppy, it is because I did cry at the airport. I didn’t bawl, but I cried a little. :’)

An hour away from going back home, I think I should say my farewell before it’s too late. I will miss you Montreal.

I will miss smiling at random strangers and exclaiming “Bonjour!” every time a person initiates conversation. Quickly followed by “ça va bien?”DSC_0067

I will miss the extra fifteen minutes every morning in leaving the house to check the weather and dressing appropriately.

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I will miss seeing snow. And miss being frustrated by snow!

I will miss your abundant statues on every corner.

I will miss the culture of get-your-food-to-your-workplace instead of eat out everyday.

I will miss the love and care of the people who were absolute strangers to me 60 days back.

I will miss the Metro with it’s complications in ticket fares and a distinct odour that reminded me of hot water pouring on plastic.

I will miss the breathtaking scenes of the city from Mont Royal.

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I will miss being aloof and lost in my own world because I never understood what people around me were speaking.

I will miss the music and the art that thrives on your street.

I will miss the curiosity of people on what I was doing in a Francophone University with no knowledge of French and immediately helping me out with directions and making sure I was absolutely comfortable.

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I will miss you streets full of graffiti and even mundane walls being turned into pieces of art.

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I will miss the labyrinth  that is UQAM and finally giving up and starting all over again by going down to the Metro.

I will miss the chocolate vending machines that were just enough to give me energy but not too much to give me a sugar high.

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I will miss the friends I made.

I will miss the people I met.

But most of all, I will miss you Montreal. The city that’s my first home away from home. The first time living alone. The first of many experiences I had here. And no city could have been more perfect or more welcoming. Thank you!

A bientôt Montreal! 🙂

Day 22: Yeh Hain Bombay Meri Jaan

Movie: C.I.D. (1956)
Song: Yeh Hain Bombay Meri Jaan
Music Director: O. P. Nayyar
Lyrics: I don’t know!
Singers: Mohammad Rafi, Geeta Dutt
Actors (in the song): Johnny Walker.

My first introduction to Johnny Walker was through the movie Chachi 420 as the make up artist who turns Kamal Hassan into a woman. I remember my father telling me that though he played the role of a drunkard all his life and was most famous for it, he was in fact a teetotaler.

This song takes even more meaning when you understand that Johnny Walker (born as Badruddin Jamaluddin Kazi) moved from Indore to Mumbai when his father lost his job. Walker had to work and support his family eventually working as a BEST conductor where he was “discovered”.

Interestingly, he was named after the scotch whisky because he portrayed the role of a drunkard so well. You can read about his life here, here and here.

Watch him do actions for every word in the song here, especially in the second antara:

Day 19: Raftaarein

Movie: Ra.One (2011)
Song: Raftaarein
Music Director: Vishal-Shekhar
Lyrics: No Clue!
Singers: Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravijani
Actors (in the song): SRK and Kareena Kapoor.

This song should hopefully be the only one on my list that is here solely because I love the video more than the music… 🙂

When I think of Mumbai, I think of the trains. As much as I may despise the daily commute in the trains that usually runs into hours, I cannot help but miss them.

This song from Ra.One is one of the best picturised on the Mumbai Suburban Railway network, especially since a lot of it is graphics. The train, the small tidbits of conversations in Marathi  and the fear of there being a bomb – it’s all too real and well represented.

Personally, Ra.One was a well made movie, but sadly I was bored too soon. Especially with SRK and his noodles with curd habit. Really?! However, I  love the soundtrack of this movie as well as the background score. It’s a pity that some really great numbers got over-shadowed by Akon’s songs. My favourite song from Ra.One is Bhare Naina – the perfect blend of Western orchestra with Indian instruments and vocals.

Why apart from the video did I then choose Raftaarein today? It’s because there is something to be appreciated here about Vishal-Shekhar. The song clearly has the feel of an R.D.Burman number(typically the voice in this song) and since it’s sung by the duo as well, it just becomes much more fun! For a while now I’ve liked Vishal-Shekhar for what they do beyond music, they make it fun! Whether it be having Bappi Lahiri to do two lines in Bangla at the beginning of a song, a full song when he’s not been heard for ages, Usha Uthup with a peppy number in her inimitable style or SPB in a psuedo-Tamil one, singing for other music directors, or getting other music directors to sing for them, they’ve done it all. Which is a great shift from the previous generation of music directors who were so rigid that two songs with the same tune <– (explicit language) and battles over which was the “original” were far too common. This makes me connect with them, because for them music is part nostalgia and part novelty! Just like it is for me. (Sorry for the links! Proving a point. 😛 )

Coming back to this song, I love the feel of the song. It’s fast, peppy and in my opinion was put to perfect use as the promotional song for the movie. Coming to the video, there are some details that you cannot miss. The “secret control room” from where trains are monitored, the “fast train aahe ki slow” comment etc. are typical to Mumbai. Delnaaz Paul’s cameo matches her persona and somehow not funny at all but SRK warning the kids not to try his stunts at home certainly is.

There are some details so wrong that I’m surprised no body from the post-production team caught it before. CST (Main) train not stopping at Bandra station? Really?! It’d be weird if it did stop at Bandra. And what is the gibberish that the man speaks from the control room? “Panchbatti se CST local Varla station pe nahi ruki“(?!) even after 5 hearings I didn’t get that. Though I may not be knowledgeable, when Kareena increases the speed of the train, it is at around 35-40 km/hr. Is that how slow a train that’s not stopping anywhere will go at?

My favourite lines:

Khayalo mein bhi jo mumkin nahi ho,
Wahi kar dikhana himmaton ki to pehchaan hai

(That which is not possible even in imagination,
Performing that is the recognition of the brave.)

Enjoy the song, the singing, SRK and the Mumbai locals here! 🙂

A Month in Montreal

This post is in two parts, me being homeless (my drama) and the homeless in Montreal (not my drama).

Homeless in Montreal

Perhaps the most common question asked to me by all and sundry after “Montreal mein kaisa lag raha hain?” is “Are you missing India?” No matter what my answer, the response is “Awwww.”

This is my first time away from home for any period of time, both alone and on a trip that doesn’t include visiting relatives. So obviously, apart from the worries that people had (food, cold, new people etc.), I had my own. The first and the foremost included living in a student’s dorm that was very different from “home”.

I have had a really nice life as a student where albeit travelling for hours, I have always had the option of coming home and staying with family, eating meals at home and curling off to sleep in that cozy corner of my bed. Not being a fan of loud music/people and having never worked and cooked for myself, my biggest doubts were if I could cook, clean and work at the same time. The answer is a loud and resounding NO. I can do two of those three options on any given day, and yes I have systematically skipped one of those.

My stay in Montreal is divided in three: a week spent with my mentor’s Francophone family, a month at the UQAM Residences (dorm/hostel), and three weeks with an Indian family. I have now been to two countryside places for short trips and later this week will be spending a night each at Toronto and one at Niagara. This just fell into place so, but in hindsight, I think it is a perfect blend of experiencing a little of everything.

I write this from Sutton, a small countryside town outside of Montreal, that is so idyllic that I cannot even describe this. I am here on an invitation from a professor from UQAM who owns a cabin in the woods, literally. The cabin is straight out of a storybook and it does remind me of the very forgettable series of books that is the Inkheart trilogy. And I digress.

The point of this part of the post is simple, I am homeless here. Relying on the charity of the very nice people I have met and trust that it will be great no matter where I am. The people of Montreal deserve a post of their own in the stories of my trip, but it feels really home-like when my roommates on a trip to another city message to check in on me when unwell, while another girl who didn’t know me a month back, drops in with chocolate brownies after a long day at work because she knows I will appreciate it.

Contrary to my fears of not being able to adjust, I have managed to find a nice corner, so much so that I might just cry when I move out of the Residences early next week. Montreal and its people have been exceptionally kind to me; it feels like being at home.

Montreal mein kaisa lag raha hain? Montreal acha lag raha hain. Do I miss India? I miss Indians.  🙂

The Homeless in Montreal

Have you ever noticed how every person who visits India talks about the poverty and the beggars in India? Of course you have! Which planet do you reside in?!

One of the things I have had to face practically wherever I am in Montreal is the number of homeless men. I consciously say men because of the twenty odd men I have seen there has been only one homeless woman. According to a professor I met here, the women enter prostitution and related fields but few do stay at the shelters for the homeless.

The homeless here in Montreal are an eclectic bunch. While there are a lot who simply stand outside Dollarama (Dollar stores) to open doors and expect a coin or two, there are others who’re accompanied by huge dogs that earns the sympathy of passersby. There are others that genuinely help, like this one time someone was looking at a map, clearly lost, but was helped by the friendly man of the streets.

Between Two Worlds.

Between Two Worlds.

Then there is the tale of the man whom everyone on the block knows because he greeted all and had a family that would visit but he chose to be on the streets with his “pigeons and cats”. Finally those who have nowhere to go in the freezing winters of Montreal and sleep in the small area between doors of commercial buildings so as to not freeze or bother the people inside the buildings.

These are not the kinds that I am talking of. I am talking of the kind that spins a yarn for a living. Nope, not authors or professors.

One would expect, and a lot of Montréalais (that hopefully is the correct spelling) think that I would know how to deal with the situation when a homeless man comes up to me on the roads. Sadly I don’t. Back home it is drilled into your head, “ignore and walk”- that applies to beggars, eunuchs, crying kids on the streets and practically everyone that would demand money from you for doing nothing in exchange.

That is a little difficult here.

Case One: My first week here. Friend showing me neighbourhood of the University when a man walks to us;

Man:    Excuse me Madam.
Me:      Umm… ya?
Man:    Thank you for responding. 90% of people do not even even bother to look at me.
Me:      Okay.
Man:    Would you have some change to spare for me because..
Friend: Keep walking. Don’t talk. Don’t talk.
And we walked off…

Case Two: Waiting for someone next to an old lady at a Metro station when a man walks up to me; (interestingly a lot of people have met this man.)

Man:    Madam, I need money.
Me:      Umm…
Man:    I need a surgery (points to stomach that is abnormally swollen), and have no money. I have no body to go to and I need food. Please, I need money.
Me:      (Not sure what to do and continue to look at him).
Man:    Please. It hurts. (Goes on about a story I didn’t half understand)
Lady:   Girl, keep walking. He’s here since years. (Throws a knowing-dirty look at him).
Man:    (Walks off muttering) Can’t a man have a beer!

Case Three:Walking back after making weekly grocery purchases;

Lady:   I need 50 cents. I really need to speak to my dad.
Me:      (Raised eyebrows)
Lady:   I have to get home. I need to speak to him.
Me:      Well…
Lady:   Never mind. (Walks off)

The most interesting tale that I have heard in India is of a man with a bag with him who says that he arrived in Mumbai, was robbed on arrival and wants to go home. The stories in Montreal are better, but always leave me with a ‘what if’ on my mind. What if that woman really needed to get home and I did not give her money? What if there were actually a man who needed surgery and people didn’t believe him?

Friend promptly juts in into this chain of thoughts: This is Canada. We have a comprehensive health cover and shelters. Nothing can be so as drastic as the stories you hear. This isn’t an Indian movie, you know?

Turns out this part was my drama too. -_-

P.S. What stumps me is all of these people whom I encounter know that I speak English and no French! How? Is it stamped on my head? And if it is stamped, then why don’t the bus drivers and people who ask me for directions on the street, read it.