Revelling in the Silence

It has been 10 days since my last post, and that was a review, so not really a proper post at all. After the frenzy of posting that was September, I sort of fell out of the habit in October. Also, plenty of project deadlines were approaching and I need to buckle down to some serious work.

Other than paid content work, I’ve also started helping make my mom’s jewellery designs. I have some terrible photographs I took to send to my aunt, but they are really too awful to put up here. Each design is a complicated affair with multiple changes of thread, thanks to clear crystals, and complex patterns which draw on my completely forgotten school geometry skills.

But more than all of that: I needed silence.

I don’t know why the year is starting to take its toll on me now, but real fatigue has now set in. I deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps off my phone, so I only see notifications if I log into the sites on my laptop – which is rare. I deliberately swiped away all Whatsapp notifications as they appeared, and ended up staying away from it for about a couple of weeks. And more than all of that, I haven’t left the house in over a week.

It was marvellous. I listened to podcasts, happily plugged away with my work, and watched movies and TV shows by the bucketload. I didn’t read any books, which is awful, but I was too drained for the effort by the end of the day.

Today, I had to trek to the parlour, because I was looking unkempt to say the very least. I have a meeting tomorrow and the day after, and I have to look somewhat human, rather than primate. And because of the anxiety I was feeling about going out, I gave myself a stress headache in the morning.

India is not a quiet place, at least Mumbai most certainly isn’t. One is bombarded with sensations as soon as you step out the door. The smells, sights, and sounds are so violently physical, they assault those who are not used to it. And having emulated a hermit for the last so many days, I wasn’t used to it any more.

I actually was anxious about going out. Something so simple, something I did every day for years without a thought. My only attempt to protect myself from the assault was my earphones and podcasts playing on my phone.

I don’t know why or when or how I became a hermit. But that’s what I am now. The silence is amazing.

Series Review: Mysteries of Laura

I started watching Mysteries of Laura mostly by accident. I saw it had Debra Messing, who I remembered as the vaguely annoying Grace Adler from Will & Grace, and decided to watch one episode.

I was hooked.

Premise: Laura Diamond is an NYPD detective who is smart, unorthodox, and a recent divorcee single mom with twin sons. She juggles all the components of her life fairly well, until her ex-husband is appointed to be the police chief at her precinct.

Review: Mysteries of Laura was a great show that was sadly cancelled after two seasons, and on a cliffhanger no less! The tone was light, even though each episode was built around a murder.

The first season was truly exceptional, as the focus moved from one team member to the next. There was even spotlight on her children. The intermingled personal stories made for interesting watching, and a difference in storytelling. The second season was entirely about Laura’s love triangle. It started to pall a bit, although the writers and actors did a great job of making it super difficult to pick sides. By the end of the show, you were left truly caring about the characters.

Theme: Mysteries of Laura is a light procedural, with lots of humour thrown in. It is especially liberally peppered with feminist and equality overtones, with a distinctly multicultural cast.

Characters: The first season really developed each character, even though Laura Diamond is the principal character. You see snippets of Billy’s, Meredith’s, and Max’s lives, even if it doesn’t directly move the plot forward. It served really well to develop well-rounded characters that weren’t merely living props in Laura’s path. The second season dropped some of this focus, and the other characters took on a sort of settled quality, like their storylines were over. That was sad, because it would have been wonderful to see some growth.

Acting: I wonder why all American shows have impossibly gorgeous people, but that didn’t bias my opinion of the acting. Debra Messing was magnificent, because the lady is one glamorous woman in real life, and here she comes across as a harassed mother of twins perfectly. She wears oversized shirts over jeans, and she is truly fantastic. The others played great supporting characters, and it was fun to watch the quirks they incorporated into their roles. Also, being an Indian, it was pretty thrilling to watch Janina Gavankar on a mainstream American show.

What I liked: Everything. Josh Lucas + Laz Alonso + Neal Bledsoe = Tremendous eye candy.

What I disliked: It got cancelled far too soon.

I truly hope another network picks it up, but I doubt it will retain that wonderful chemistry in a new avatar.


Off One Hook, Onto Another

So, I met my target of blogging daily for the month of September. In fact, I got so into it, there were days I had so much to say, I wrote several posts all at once. I did schedule the posts, so that my feed wouldn’t be inundated though.

Then October dawns, and I needed a break. So I took one. I was rather pleased with the success of one resolution, and I was hot on the heels of another: weight loss.

Now, I have a tendency to get derailed if I encounter a setback. And I did encounter a setback. I went for the first session with my trainer, and promptly pulled a muscle in my back. While this was a real setback, there is another one that exists purely in my mind: I weighed myself. The number on the scale shocked me into acute humiliation, even though I was the only one there.

I briefly contemplated putting it out here, so it would goad me into sticking to the plan. But I couldn’t. And the tug of war between embarrassment and the guilt of feeling the embarrassment [my mind is such a mess!] rendered me incapable of doing anything.

Today has dawned differently though, and I have been tackling projects all over the place. I have an ongoing tussle with procrastination, and I need to kick it more firmly in the butt.

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

There was a time in my life that I insisted that weird stuff happened to me all the time. Now I realise, thanks to the Internet, that weird stuff happens to everyone. In spite of that, I still find texts like this from unknown WhatsApp numbers incredibly funny:

<Unknown person>: “Karishma get broom and dustpan tomorrow”
<Unknown person>: “Cleaning day”

Be right back. Currently dying of laughter.

PS: My name is Karishma. Also, I have absolutely nowhere to be tomorrow.

Om Namah Shivaaye

I come from pure Hindu Indian stock, meaning there is no other religion or nationality mixed up in my lineage. Also means that I have a boring-ass family tree. Purity is for the Nazis. The saving grace is that my mum is from Maharashtra and my dad is from Kerala. [For the non-Indian folk who read this, this state of affairs is unusual.]

My mum and her relatives speak Marathi and Kannada, and are part of a community called lingayats. This is a Shaivaite community, in that the primary form of worship is Lord Shiva/Mahadev/<enter a gazillion different names here>.

My father’s family are more erudite, with PhDs liberally sprinkled across the generations. They are not particularly religious, even though they are Hindus. They often stick to English, but a fair few of them do speak Malayalam too. My father’s Malayalam was terrible, and thus mine is non-existent.

Now, I have had more interaction with my mum’s relatives during my lifetime. They are mostly awful excuses for human beings who I have to interact with, because society. Most have been pleasant to me though; when I was younger, because of my parents’ prosperity, and now because they are downright nervous around me. [I am unpredictable in their eyes, and very few of the girls in the family lead independent lives minus husbands. Also, I retort fairly sarcastically when riled.]

One of my mom’s cousins is married to an overly sanctimonious weasel, who we will call MalMham for the purposes of this story. He is the sort of scumbag I am ashamed to be related to, because he is dishonest, unkind, unscrupulous, greedy, nasty, and much more. His wife is not much better, because she shirks work, and burdens other people with her needs. But, regardless of their obnoxious behaviour, the pair of them spend at least three hours every morning doing their ling pooja. Now, this is a prescribed ritual for all lingayats, but most normal people spend about five minutes doing it. Work and life don’t really allow for elaborate daily rituals after all, unless you are retired and have someone else do all your work for you.

My mum never taught me this ritual, so I don’t even spend five minutes doing it, even though I am technically a lingayat. Ditto for my dad, as he became one after marrying my mum. However, we are deeply spiritual people, and believe in being good people is far greater worship, than a token prayer coupled with atrocious principles.

One day, mum and I were on our way to Bengaluru from Mumbai. However, because we couldn’t get tickets directly there, we made a stop at Solapur. Solapur is my maternal grandmother’s town, and it is filled with her degenerate and disgusting relatives. Due to necessity, we were forced to spend a few days with MalMham and his family. [To refresh your memory, my mum and his wife are first cousins.] The stay was awful generally, except for one very amusing moment.

You may feel I have gone on and on about how fake their sanctity appears to me. The reason I set that stage is because of that one amusing moment.

My mum and I were sitting in the living room, and we suddenly heard a metallic voice say, “Om Namah Shivaaye,” loudly and repeatedly. Since the members of the family each happened to be elsewhere at that moment, we looked at each other in utter bemusement. This refrain, which is a typical greeting between members of a Shaivaite community, kept on and on. We couldn’t figure out what it was, because it didn’t sound like a bhajan [a devotional song].

Then MalMham’s younger son burst into the room, and asked us why we weren’t answering the door. The refrain was their doorbell! The realisation was so electrifying that we were struck dumb for a few minutes – which was fortunate because he was occupied before the overwhelming urge to shout with laughter came over us.

Hindus can be spiritual people, but this sort of display is certainly not usual. So my mother and I laughed till tears came.

Fast forward to a few years ago, and my mum’s family were attending a wedding. The groom was MalMham’s wife’s brother’s son, and therefore also my mother’s cousin, once removed. [In India though, they are referred to as nephews and nieces.]

Of course, MalMham was in attendance, and so were my parents. My father didn’t speak Marathi or Kannada, so he interacted with my mother’s family in mostly Hindi. And again, he is so different from what they are used to that 38 years of marriage had not made them comfortable around him. My father, however, had no such difficulty. He just interacted with them, with a slight air of amusement. [I think they realised that he really couldn’t care less about them.]

At the wedding reception, my mum was sitting opposite MalMham and my dad. My dad, after having heard the story about the doorbell several times, turned to MalMham, and with barely concealed glee, said, “Om Namah Shivaaye!”

I wasn’t there to witness this, but my mother has described it in great detail. MalMham sank into his chair, deflated with annoyance and impotence. He knew my father was teasing, but didn’t have the wherewithal to respond. My mother sat in complete stupefaction, torn between wanting to laugh desperately and wanting smack my father hard for being cheeky.

I had no such compunction. I laughed till the tears came again, and wondered if they ever changed that doorbell.

Movie Review: The Fundamentals of Caring

Netflix threw up this suggestion for weeks before I took the bait and watched this movie. Somehow, road trip stories do not appeal to me, because they seem too literal in the interpretation of a journey. Plus, I detest actual road trips; unless they are under very specific (and rare) circumstances.

I’ll be honest; I decided to watch this movie because of Paul Rudd. I have had a major crush on him since Clueless (who hasn’t?), which was only intensified by Friends, and was only slighted dented by This is 40. And when Ant-man came out? Crush maxxed out.

The first blurb I read said that it was about a writer stuck in the past and a young shut-in, who discover friendship on a road trip. That sounded like the beginning, end, and middle of the story. I wondered what was left to discover.

Story: Ben (Paul Rudd) is a writer, who decides to become a caregiver. After his course, his first assignment is for a teenager suffering from muscular dystrophy, Trevor (Craig Roberts). The teen is irascible and fond of awful practical jokes, and makes Ben’s job quite difficult.

During the course of Ben’s caretaking, Trevor expresses huge fascination for the roadside attractions abounding in the US. Ben suggests that he go visit some of them, and after an initial reluctance, they go.

The trip is eventful, and each event deepens the understanding and friendship between the two.

Review: There are no surprises in The Fundamentals of Caring. The story is made with great sensitivity, without waking on eggshells around a disabled person. Some of the elements are beautiful, and some profoundly sad. There are equal doses of almost every emotion, and the characters are eminently relatable, and not picture-perfect.

Story: The story is paced well, and has its share of interesting points. The narrative doesn’t become flat, and the editing carries away top honours for that. Since it is set firmly in the present, the past unfolds slowly in a very effective way. This is a drama, and not a thriller, so there are no surprises – which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Characters: Trevor is in a wheelchair, but he is a jerk. He uses his disability to make people uncomfortable, and manipulates them. His character is very strong, and thankfully not saccharine sweet. Ben has spirit too, but it appears to be crushed. Trevor’s jibes do a lot to penetrate the miasma that Ben chooses to envelop himself in, sometimes shocking him back to normal. Elsa, Trevor’s mother, (Jennifer Ehle) is not a long-suffering mother, but a strong woman who has accepted her life, and chosen to get on with it. The characters are amazing.

Acting: Superb acting on all fronts. Trevor’s role seems to be the most challenging, as he is suffering from a debilitating disease. He copes with the disease, and sometimes flounders under it. The rapidly fluctuating reactions of Craig Roberts is a beautiful thing to watch. Paul Rudd is incredible too. You can see the cogs turning in his character’s mind, and the mental transformation he portrays is sublime.

What I liked: Everything.

What I disliked: Nothing.

A must-watch movie: for the reality without grittiness, for the likeability without the overt sweetness, for the superlative acting, and most importantly for the sensitivity without condescension.


Biting the Bullet

After deciding to make an active effort to lose weight, I finally went back to the gym today. I am at the tail end of a 3-month membership, which I fully intend to renew.

I live in a relatively middle class area, without flashy homes or outlets. In keeping with the theme of its surroundings, the gym too caters to a gentler pace of life. It doesn’t have state-of-the-art equipment, nor ultra-buff trainers. It has a comfortable sort of appeal, and welcomes any kind of person to work out.

True to its overall appearance and rhythm, there aren’t pushy trainers. The gym is peppered with them however, and they more or less leave people to do their workouts as they wish. They are on hand for assistance or advice, but they are not overtly aggressive.

I’ve been a member for a little over two years now, and I have been prone to go in, do a little exercise, and leave shortly thereafter. There was no method to my workout, and I merely did the exercises I knew or remembered from previous sessions. I wasn’t particularly keen on getting a trainer to oversee my workout, because I have been severely low on energy, and as it was, my motivation was at an all-time low.

But today I walked into the gym, and went directly up to the trainer. I committed to coming in regularly, and sticking to a plan. For my part, I did tell her that I don’t have much energy, and I would prefer to move slowly. I am not in a rush to change my body, and would prefer a comfortable pace.

Tomorrow, she will take my measurements and set up a workout plan. I have finally taken the first step.