Monday, March 30, 2009

A Moment of Respite from the Summer

People who have been following my blog for some time will know that deep down, I am an adventure-loving person.(if you are new here, you might want to have a look at this post). I adore adventure, as long as it happens to other people and they send me photographs later.

My buddy
Bokom and his friends Madhusree, Barnali, Soumi, Debpriya, Dipankar, Arnab, and Frah went all the way to Sandakfu so that I may sit in my office cubicle and drool over these fantastic photographs .I thought it would be good to share them with those of you who are being baked brown by the Indian summer and who cannot do more than hallucinate about sunkissed snowy peaks, ice-cold mountain brooks, and pine trees sparking in a sudden shower.

For your information, Sandakfu, located near the bengal-sikkim border, is the tallest peak in West Bengal. The tiny brook you can see in some pictures is called Srikhola (khola meaning river). Photographs have been taken by
Mainak, a.k.a Bokom.

Happy trekking :)

Amritorupa Kanjilal also writes at Rivers I Have Known: Books, Reviews, and More. Please visit her there!  

Thursday, March 26, 2009

25 Lifelong Friends

There are some topics that are so close to my heart that I don’t write about them for fear of going on and on. But I guess some things are just destined to be. Jennifer tagged me to make a list of 25 writers who have influenced me most. Now I’m a person whose life has been about her books. I was reading before I had learnt to walk. The way I think, the way I live, the way I talk, the way I write, the way I dream, the way I love, have all been shaped by the books that I’ve read.
It’s difficult to limit myself to 25, but I’ve tried, and come up with this list of people whose books I find myself going back to again and again. The list is not in any specific order, except for Marquez, who’ll always come first in any list of mine. And oh, though they’ve influenced me in no small way, I’m saving the Bengali writers for another list, another day.
The following list includes the names of 25 of my favorite writers and those books of theirs that I’ve read and loved. But I’m not writing about why I love them. If you’ve read them, you’ll know. If you haven’t, I just hope that some day in your busy lives you'll find the time to do so. And then you'll know.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez – (One Hundred Years of Solitude; Love in the Time of Cholera; Of Love and Other Demons; Chronicles of a Death Foretold; Strange Pilgrims; The General in His Labyrinth)
Milan Kundera – (The Unbearable Lightness of Being; Life is Elsewhere; The Joke; Farewell Waltz)
Ian McEwan – (In Between the Sheets; Amsterdam; Atonement; Saturday)
Arundhati Roy - (The God of Small Things)
Alexander McCall Smith – (The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series)
Jhumpa Lahiri – (The Interpreter of Maladies; Namesake; Unaccustomed Earth)
Joseph Heller – (Catch 22, Closing Time)

Helen Fielding – (Bridget Jones’ Diary; The Edge of Reason)

Hector Hugh Munro (Saki) – (All the short stories)
Melissa Banks – (The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing; The Wonder Spot)
J.R.R. Tolkiens – (The Lord of the Rings)
Pablo Neruda – (all poems)

Amitav Ghosh – (Hungry Tide; The Glass Palace; The Circle of Reason; Sea of Poppies)
J.K. Rowling – (The Harry Potter series)

Harper Lee – (To Kill a Mockingbird)

Ogden Nash – (All poems)
Alex Hailey – (Roots; Queen)
Franz Kafka – (Metamorphosis and other stories)

John Steinbeck - (The Grapes of Wrath; Travels with Charlie)
J.M. Coetze – (Disgrace)
Arthur Golden – (Memoirs of a Geisha)

Yann Martel – (Life of Pi)
Sue Townsend – (The Adrian Mole series)

Vladimir Nabokov – (Lolita)

Roald Dahl –
(All the creepy short stories)

Upamanyu Chatterjee - (English, August)

John Updike - (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit is Rich; Rabbit at Rest)

I tag:-Quaint Murmur, because her writing is so beautiful there is no way she’s not a reader.Happy, because I midwifed his lust for booksChirpy Paro, because she loves to talk booksAniket, because I want to know what inspires a man to write so deliciouslyShubhodip, because I know a bibliophile when I see one

Amritorupa Kanjilal also writes at Rivers I Have Known: Books, Reviews, and More. Please visit her there!  

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Walk in the Rain ...( OR, How Mistaken Self-Perception Can Freeze Your Sorry Ass)

It was raining when I stepped out of the office last evening. Not hard, just a windy spray.
My first thought was - the autowallahs will charge double... and then, another tiny voice outshouted the first- you are a writer, a romantic, a born poet, of course you'll walk in the rain, you'll walk to the bus stop and take a bus, and feel the rain invigorating every corner of your tired soul...
So that was that, and the professional-with-a-poet's-heart turned her face heavenward, smiled and the black-blue sky, and began her walk in the rain.

Except, it was windier than I thought, and very soon the gentle hum of the drizzle turned into the roar of a downpour, and i was drenched through my thin summer-y kurta. The roads had water-logged, and walking was replaced by wading. The slush of garbage, usually at home on the sidewalks, had taken the opportunity to discover what the middle of the road might be like. There was no bus at the bus stop, and I had to wait a good quarter hour for one to come along, meanwhile the wind numbed me to my intestines. The bus was very very crowded, everybody was wet, and the smell in general was that of wet underwear and rotting vegetables. The bus belly-crawled through the city, picking up other hapless individuals in drenched throngs, and I was so late that I missed F.R.I.E.N.D.S, and what more, the calling bell gave me such an electric shock that i was thrown backwards.

This got me thinking. There is often such a gap between what we like to think of ourselves, and what we really are. Sometimes we fall through the gap, sometimes we leap over it, but its there and very often we don't even notice.

I, allegedly an agent of chaos, like to think of myself as someone who is neat and organized, and so I bought myself a really groovy planner (the first 28 pages of which I've already filled with equally groovy sketches).

A very dear friend of mine, a gentle Rabindrasangeet person whose only exposure to music in the English language till last year was, for some reason, Seal's
Kiss From A Rose, suddenly saw himself as a hard rock addict, and took it upon himself to progressively listen to all ... err.. music? under the hard/metal/death genre. I suspect its for the same reason that at the age of 28, he has begun experimenting with cannabis and woodstock like concerts (free booze dope & sex, folks).
But even as he head-bangs wildly, something inside nags him constantly- what would ma-baba think if they knew?

Another very close buddy, a self-proclaimed misogynist, went through a heart-ache and suddenly began to think of himself as a suave lady-killer. He began socializing, turned into quite a party animal, and was thronged by women of all ages who promptly fell in love with him (women love misogynists). Unfortunately, he is still women-shy at heart, and would probably have be shunted to an asylum somewhere if I weren't there to save his neck.

Another friend, who was very much a Saas-Bahu lover, suddenly began to believe herself a cultured intellectual, and made a project of going to see all the famous plays that were going around in her city. Sadly, a conversation with her made it very clear that she couldn't make head or tail of what the plays meant, and was for most parts bored. But she still goes. It's how she sees herself, see.

An inflated self-perception can take you higher than you were ever destined to go (I cleared CS, didn't I?). A deflated one might hold you back your whole life. A wrong one, however, just keeps you miserable, directionless, and continuously at odds with your real self.

Or, in my case, very very wet.

PS- my apologies to the aforementioned friends , who I know will recognize themselves and be vehement in their disagreement of my analysis. You guys are probably right. It's time I stopped seeing myself as a scholar of the human nature.

Amritorupa Kanjilal also writes at Rivers I Have Known: Books, Reviews, and More. Please visit her there!  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

One Afternoon at the Seminar

To escape the monster's black jamun mood , I rushed into joining a 15 day seminar, but this was truly a case of running out of the frying pan and into the fire. Its a miracle I managed to come out with my sanity intact, (ok, whatever little i had in the first place). There were 42 sessions, and each was a serious contender for the most boring two hours of my life. Boring as in desk-crashingly, fist-eatingly, murder-inducingly BORING!

But it had its moments too...

One sleepy post lunch session, the faculty, who was a very learned man in his owned field (please don't ask what, I dozed through all the introductions), a young balding, unsmiling goat, literally shot into the hall and without any opening words, any greetings, any acknowledgment that the 34 of us were there, he began to bark out of his notes. We stared at him in mute horror, his focused energy so completely at odds with our state of stupor, Finally after a quarter hour of this horror, someone's prayers must have payed off, because the faculty, Mr. Sipani, suddenly shot out his seat (he tended to move like a ricocheting bullet) and shot towards the white-board.

The white-board happened to hidden by the projector screen, the roller being just above the board. So, in a blast of energy Mr. Sipani released the projector screen, which rolled up so fast that the roller was knocked out of its fixing at one end. The unfixed end happily oscillated a full 180 degrees and hit the switchboard on the wall, next to the white board. A blinding flash of sparks,and off went all the tube-lights in the hall.

We held our breaths in stunned semi-darkness, but the roller wasn't done in its path of destruction. It pendulummed right back and hit the white board this time, smashing its frame and blowing it off fixture at one end.

Both the roller and the board had finished oscillating by the time we figured out what had happened, and once we did, most of us fell to the floor laughing, tears streaming down our faces... Mr. Sipani was taken aback for an instant, but he springed back and barked at us "ENOUGH!". Then, to our unanimous surprise, he began writing on the ruinied and hanging whiteboard. But that aura of seriousness and terror had fled the class. Mr. Sipani had lost his audience.

He had his revenge though... At the end of the class, the big freak asked to see the attendance sheet that had been passed around for our signatures, read out all our names, and promised to block the certificates of the 9 people who had taken proxy, and all those who had helped them with it.

Do tell me if you liked the diagrams.

Amritorupa Kanjilal also writes at Rivers I Have Known: Books, Reviews, and More. Please visit her there!  

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Benjy Button- Curiously Deja Vu

Ofcourse it was a beautiful movie. And of course Brad Pitt was stunningly nuanced in his portrayal of a man whose body ages in reverse. But throughout The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the one name that kept flashing in my mind like a siren was - FORREST GUMP- FORREST GUMP-FORREST GUMP...

The similarities are obvious. Benjamin, like Forrest, grows up ( or is it down?) in a transient environment, an inn in one case and an old age home in the other. Both have mothers (adopted in BB's case) who love them fiercely. Both go to a war and both look death in the eye and survive. Both fall in love with a childhood friend, and both have to wait a lifetime for that love to be fulfilled. Death is a familiar and friendly presence in both movies, and both movies use a motif (a hummingbird in one movie, a floating feather in another) to tell the story.

The comparison is natural. And its also a bit sad, because Benjamin per se is a lovely movie. But if you want to make a movie in the Forrest Gump genre Mr. Fincher, it had better be as good as Forrest Gump. And cute as he is, Brad Pitt is NOT Tom Hanks

The good part? Cate Blanchett's very graceful body-work, and the fact that Pitt actually gets hotter as the movie progresses.

Ps.. People, if you wanted a real review, it might be a good idea to visit Shubhojit..

Amritorupa Kanjilal also writes at Rivers I Have Known: Books, Reviews, and More. Please visit her there!  

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Spot of Self-indulgence

I’ve been Tagged!!! Till recently I had no idea what that meant, but I know now. It means I have to write 25 things about myself because some veilla bloke wants me to. Now I’m not about to pass up this chance to inflict a meaninglessly self-indulgent, boring, and uninspired post on the rest of you, so here are 25 things that I am… (this style of giving myself bizarre titles was shamelessly stolen from Quaint Murmur, who does a much better job of them in her very lovely blog)
Addicted freezer wall ice scraper & eater
Weird people cultivator
Bedroom wall mural artist
Baby observer
Useless stuff shopper
Parties & weddings dreader
Almirah & study table agent of chaos
Dog fearer
Tattoo & Body Art aficionado
Non-fiction literature avoider
Irreligious. Heathenish, even
Blog readership poacher
A closet nudist
A drinks-to-be-cool person who secretly abhors the taste of alcohol
Firebrand anti-male chauvinist
Hard rock- phobic
Tone-deaf sing-alonger
Bus-drama spectator
Teddy bear lover
Falling hair counter
Funny dancer
Food adorer
Procrastinator who never finishes her assignments. Ever.

Amritorupa Kanjilal also writes at Rivers I Have Known: Books, Reviews, and More. Please visit her there!