Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My expensive habit.

So in the past year, I developed a habit of antique cameras.  

I think it all started because of my wedding and my friend Rafe.  He began taking photographs with film.  "Film?," I gasped.  Why in the world would anyone go back to film when you have the convenience of digital photograph?  Well, what did I know?  Apparently, nothing.  When the photos from my wedding came in, including the photos of my hired photographer ( which for the record, were GORGEOUS), I think the single best photo of my husband and I was taken by Rafe.  I realized that I love what I love about movies: the grain, the way the film as a medium captures natural light.  

It made me realize the pleasure of film that I experienced in my early youth.  Snapping photos, sending them off to a lab, returning with an envelope and reliving memories.  I have spent hours of my life looking through old photo albums.  My mother stores a pile of them, filled with old photographs of her time before marriage in Bombay----women with fake hair buns and a thick swipe of eyeliner, people sitting in a train cabin, people piled into shots, cavorting around a table in paper hats, all those singular moments weave a tapestry of temporal texture that make me nostalgic for a time before I was even born. 

Anyhow, I got myself a Contax T3, which served me well.  However, I had an old flame who was a maestro of sorts with photography and did the loveliest polaroid photos that I had ever seen.  I realized that I enjoyed instant photography, even procuring an Instax for my wedding.  Anyhow, I tried to resurrect some of that nostalgia with older polaroids, using the Impossible film but found the film a bit unpredictable.  Don't get me wrong. I love the imperfections intrinsic to the creative process----the mishaps that happen from a slight lack of control that adds to the journey and even final product.  BUT, in this case, I found the whole process was too much out of my control.  That is when I happened upon Photobooth in San Francisco in the spring/summer of 2012.  On a whim, I bought an old Land camera. A brick of a camera, built like a tank, that took some of the most amazing photos that I ever tried.   The Land camera doesn't just take photos, it captures things as I see them.....

I went to Paris.  I grew to realize that my camera was a magnet for middle-aged men.  My husband, I realized, was also a game model ( his patience with me!).  But I also realized there was no negative.  And as I delved more into photography, I realized the value of film not just for aesthetics but also for posterity.  Films lasts.  Digital doesn't, without maintenance.  Resolution of film is better and captures a greater spectrum of light.  But these photographs from the Land Camera, while amazing, were not on film.  

So, one day, my husband sent me a link about Mamiyas and medium film format.  As I delved into this process further, I found myself lusting after what many would deem a classic camera used by legends:  The Rolleiflex.  And I got one.  Like my land: I regarded this as a wonderful, mythical creature, in its twin reflex beauty.  I imagined myself to be Richard Avedon --or better yet Fred Astaire playing a variation of Avedon, in Paris, shooting Audrey Hepburn with bunch of colorful balloons.  Ah, I suppose I strive to live in an MGM musical, produced by Arthur Freed, ha.  Without too much practice, I took my Rollei and my Land and my Contax to India and took some photographs. You realize, the square format of the medium format Rollei and the way it captures light is very cinematic.  It is a very discreet machine, in that people barely notice you taking a photograph.  Of course, that also means, more people are likely to walk across your frame and block, mid-way through the shot. 

Anyhow, the idea ---is to capture these  moments.  Make my own album of moments so one day, my nephew or someone will look back and be the same way as I am looking at my mother's photographs: Ah that's how it was then.  Until then, I will continue to preach the gospel of film.  I think the kids these days will think it's a gas.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Rings of Saturn.

Aditi sent me this beautiful video ( click on the word 'waltz' down below.)  Shostakovich brilliantly outfits this winding journey exploring Saturn.  Watching this, a story materialized in my head about an old man, residing in the thick of a jungle, haunted by a desire to visit a planet that he once encountered long ago.  In this quiet fever, he discovers a portal into some strange void when he opens an ordinary closet.  He dreams of a horizon sliced by a perpetual line.  Following this line, he finds himself back where he start

It seems a galaxy dances to a waltz, an obscure trait that Kubrick shared with us mere mortals.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mark Twain's lumber

A few weeks back, I decided to revisit a friend who spends his night working a bakery.  While there, we ran into some of his other friends who work with wood pieces that they sell in the monthly antique fair in West Bottoms.  While surrounded in warm light and smell of bread, these semi-inebriated acquaintances proceeded to tell my friend that the wood they provided for his ceiling came from a house that was once occupied by a young Samuel Clemens.  For a second, they searched the room, curious if anyone caught the reference, when they noticed my bugged-out eyes while I yelped: "MARK TWAIN!?"  Suddenly, I was struck with images straight from a brilliantly bad Hollywood film that was never made:  the ghost of Mark Twain emerges from the wood and becomes the pesky, loveable roommate of my friend, intruding on dates, and reciting necessary diatribes about society at large, while guiltily imbibing commercial vices like reality television.

If Mark Twain had a blog, or better yet, a reality show, I'm curious at how it would play out. Either way, the house where he resided was apparently dilapidated but by the river and looking out onto it, I would love to think he imagined Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer and how the entire growth of a fledgling nation played out on the banks of this meandering flow of water.  It also made me wonder about appreciating the relics of our heritage.  T.S. Eliot grew up on the other side of Missouri.  When my friend Julie went in search of his childhood home, she found a mattress factory.

But undeterred by this minor tragedy, she recited bits of his poetry.  That fortunately still lingers.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Battle: Phrases Awakened by Revisitation.

She pushed the door ajar, animating ethers of dust, which she initially mistook for ghosts.

A chandelier made of stolen necklaces.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New York-post graduation, 6/2012

Graduation felt incomplete.  Partly because the work I started in fellowship continues.  Many say this is something I should be grateful for, yet I wish there was still a sense of a chapter finished, which there isn't.  Even after I cleaned my desk.  Even after I got my certificate.  It just felt like I was going through the motions.

I did go see the Flaming Lips at Liberty Hall in Lawrence, KS.  I wish Lawrence was closer to actual KU Med Center.  It's such a cool little pocket of enchanted liberalism.  The concert was wonderful, a relatively small venue, literally suffocated with hipsters, confetti, large balloons, laser-lights, and Wayne Coyne inside that inflatable ball.  Kris and I managed to find the perfect spot to see the entire show, and Wayne Coyne and I even had a moment where his hand and mine touched....though the plastic ball of course.

Also on a sidenote regarding Lawrence, KS:  After looking at some dismal living options on the KS side near KU Med, I walked down downtown Lawrence, where there was this gorgeous loft lit up and across the street from a charming cafe called Henry's that made a great Italian Amaretto soda.  It is open til 2 am and felt like a slice of the West Village without quite the NY buzz.  It was perfect. I wished and hoped that perfect situation could've been walking distance to the hospital.  Alas.

What, however, did give me a sense of completion was the ability to go to NYC for an unprecedented 10 days.  I was exhausted.  The morning of my departure, I woke up at 4 am, had to deal with some contentious issues, before finally leaving for the airport with no warning over the internet of the crazy encounter I was about to have in the airport. I went through security without a hitch or too long of a line.  And suddenly, while patiently waiting for the flight to board, a frantic blonde woman announced there was a problem with the plane, likely hydraulics, which probably will amount to hours-long delay, if the flight is not entirely cancelled.  The flight was then cancelled, half-boarded, emptied again, cancelled, and then another flight was coming in.  By sheer luck, I got on a plane and arrived in NYC in the early evening.

Katherine baked me a chocolate cake when I came and I got to hug my baby who was laughing and touching my face.  Such a gorgeous, happy child!  Holding him was the salve I needed to deal with all the catastrophes of the day.  I couldn't sleep in the night, but woke up early to see my baby rolling around in the crib, talking to himself.  He is fascinated with the crazy mangled froth of my hair in the morning, touching it softly, his eyes full of curiosity.

On Sunday, I had brunch with Jeehee, Henry, Cara, and Lisa at this lovely place called Morandi.  The gay pride parade was going on and it was fun to walk alongside floats with men in cut-off shorts and trannies, dancing to that Jay-Z New York song.  At the restaurant, I was taking pictures with my 680 with the Silver Shade film but unfortunately, at some point the camera crapped on me.

Lisa and I then walked to Pippin as I was hoping to surprise Aditi with a brooch she was lusting after.  Aditi apparently already put it on hold!  We made some purchases and then decided to go see Annie Hall at the film forum.  Man, if ever there was a film to watch in Film Forum, it is Annie Hall. While waiting in line, we ran into Lisa's bosses who seemed absolutely lovely and strangely familiar with KC for New Yorkers.  I offered an open invitation, as I apt to do with anyone with a trace of enthusiasm for  the spare, forgotten expanse of ghostly Americana that others derisively refer to as the Midwest.  We went to a cafe lit in a pink neon glow after and ate some couscous, bread, tomatoes, and avocados.  During that time, I relayed my story of a modern-day trilogy employing the lore of Hinduism which I now call the Blue Star Trilogy.  Lisa, as she is apt to do, gave a whole-hearted endorsement as I relayed the entire story----it was on the whole a lovely evening.

Monday:  I was so tired.  I spent the day with Kiran, half-asleep.  We skyped where he was so active, giggling, gurgling, even resurrecting guttural sounds which I've called "Baby Yiddish."  He smells so sweet, of a fragrant, warm milk, flowers in a meadow.  There is something spiritual of nuzzling into a little babe's belly and neck.

In the evening, I went with Lisa to see the recitation of the letters between Chekov and his heroine in real life ( and muse) Olga Knipper.  I've recently resurrected an interest in Chekov, as I started to read some of his short stories, and also with this persistence of Chekov in the New York Theatre scene, it's hard to avoid him.  My first exposure was seeing Ivanov years and years ago.  Not so coincidentally, perhaps, the lead character was played by an extremely understated and dour Kevin Kline, and that performance stands out as the one that illustration how movie acting and theatre acting can be so different.   Anyhow, I recall watching Ivanov and thinking oh geez, what IS his problem?  And it is easy to feel that frustration with Chekov in general.  But it's also his strength.

But Diane Wiest and Kevin Kline---both kids from Missouri---how could I say no to that?  Also, recently, while looking up Chekov, I realized how little I knew of the man.  Despite his own depressing take on mankind and relationships, in real life, it appears the man was affable and actually was successful in love, faithful to a woman, encouraged her to pursue her career even if it meant a distance that they both could barely stand, that when he died---he was not alone, he was loved.  Both, it appears, were intelligent, generous, sweet, and it was this large spirit that they both shared which one could argue fed the feverish output of masterpieces that Chekov produced towards the end of his life.

I watched the letters recitation.  It had some attractive, overly theatrical, somewhat sloppy pianist who played songs of the time while the two actors played Anton and Olga.  Lisa told me that watching the love story play out gave her faith in love, but also reminded her of my own marriage, though....there are obvious differences.  Ha.  After the play, we went to eat burgers in the upper east side.  It used to be my old haunt, but the diners were a bit of distance away. So we found a burger place which was delightful.  I had elk sliders and blueberry soda.  Delicious.  I recall the place being called Elk Burger.

Teusday: When I came home the night before, I found the toilet to be in a state, so to speak.  So I spent the morning dealing with the odious maneuverings that involves plumbing that goes beyond the help of the bread-and-butter plunger.  I spent most of the day dealing with it and called for a cleaner to help refurbish the place from the dust and sloppiness that has accumulated from neglect.  I was supposed to spend the day with Aditi and Lisa, and alas had to excuse myself from the event.  I did, however, treat myself to a lovely keiseki dinner at Sugiyama, which is in the neighborhood.  The meal was prepared in front of me by a rather quiet, stoic yet smiling chef and his sous chef was a Latina man.  Seeing them orchestrate the delightful, surprising little dishes felt like a story told in small moments,  the story of men from other countries, one learning the fine art of another's.  There's a novel, movie, documentary, whatever you want in that.  The most memorable dishes for me were a chilled tomato stewed in sweet sake and a grapefruit in cream dessert.   After that, I decided to go see Grand Illusion at the Film Forum.

It's surprising for me to say this but Jean Renoir on the small screen cannot compare to him on the big screen.  Yes, I most always prefer a film projection, but the difference is somewhat muted when it comes to film that deals with something as sweeping yet intimate as the human condition in small strokes---which Renoir is famous for orchestrating. You will run to see Star Wars or Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen but not necessarily Ingmar Bergman or Woody Allen, where the genius is in the dialogue or histrionics.   But with Renoir, it's a little different.   Seeing the same scenes I've seen a million times on my larger screen TV at home did not nearly resonate the same way as it does in an actual theatre hall, the black and white images flickering on an unassuming screen.  Suddenly, the bits of dialogue, the quiet yet dramatic interplay of class during the war, the sacrifices made with little fanfare but deep appreciation----all play out in complete, heartbreaking sincerity.  It's really hard to argue against any notion that the man, Renoir, the son of the painter, was a bonafide genius.

Wednesday: Finally, I did what I tend to do in New York.  Shop.  I bought film, camera batteries, and stopped by the new outpost of Pippin, where I snagged the loveliest necklace I have ever seen.   It's from the 1800s with an unassuming pendant of three small minecut diamonds, mounted in succession on a lattice of white gold ( the charming showgirls educated me on the intricate and beauteous facets that make the 'minecut').  I also bought colorful baubles for the Vera sisters.

In the evening, I slipped into a Temperley blouse in a charming print called Japonica ( black blossoms and soft orange starbursts against a cream-colored backdrop) and headed off to some fancy-pants Law Firm function with Cara.  Cara was all Farrah Fawcett locks and smart heels.  Professionalism forces even the most stubborn of Peter Pans to grow up, but Cara has managed it in spades.  She looked gorgeous.  We discussed the inadequacies of our lives with amused resignation while eating the sub-par food in a beautiful window-ed penthouse that peddled faux-gambling, silent auctions,  over-friendly and generous bartenders ( the ginger ale was delicious like crack...or so I imagine) and bad DJ music.  At one point, we found ourselves talking to flamboyant, clever men who live in Brooklyn and discussing the rather old trend of fixies ( fixed-gear bikes.  At one point, we did mention the inevitable resurrection of the Penny Farthing) and coffee among trust-fund hipsters in Williamsburgh.  It made for a diverting 20 minutes.

Cara also introduced me to one of her colleagues who was fetching and fashionable girl from Puerto Rico, and this girl's equally fetching and fashionable non-lawyer friend from home  joined us.  While the former PR beauty had long, black locks, her friend had long, curly red hair and looked like a less gaunt, more conventionally pretty Florence ( of the Machine fame).  Both girls, when left to themselves, spoke in Spanish and when we intruded in their conversations, apologized and returned to English.  Also, oddly, both had French last names. Conversation inevitably turned to the idea of whether PR should ever be a state or its own country or continue to be the nebulous entity that it is.  Apparently, the two friends disagree on this matter, one who is resolute that PR should remain as it has been and the other unsure of how she feels, seeing pros and cons to the other possibilities.

In the evening, we had a hilarious run-in with Cara's inebriated co-workers who could not guess the nationality of the red-head from PR.  They heard an accent, a pretty face, and couldn't place it.  And despite some obvious clues that she provided, they eventually guessed that she was from Goa and I--the Indian girl--was from Latin America.  The whole conversation was incredibly hilarious.

Cara and I and another friend then abandoned the crew who were intent on luring us to the after party ( which we later heard inadvertently landed in a gaybar) and went to an Irish pub to hang.  We talked briefly about life, love, being a single woman in our thirties ( though I am married.)  Eventually, we parted.  Cara and I walked partly towards Cheslea reminiscing of our days together traversing midtown and Chelsea, before eventually we said  goodnight.

Thursday:  The day before, while planning out how to secure Uncle Vanya tickets, I visited the website and managed to miraculously get tickets to the show.  So I spent the day with my little kiddo before venturing downtown to see the show.  Before I descend into my brief review of the show, I should mention a funny little incident.

I sat down in my seat, which was sort of a carpeted bleacher right in the living room set of the play.  A rather charming, greying man arrives slightly late with his younger date, who appears less engaged.  I immediately note the people in front of me ask him, "We were wondering which Horowitz would be sitting there, and it was you!"  I immediately grasped this man was someone who was important.  A director.  A playwright.  Someone with clout, obviously.  I notice as the play unfolds, he laughs at the jokes the hardest, he watches the play with complete attention, that is refreshingly visceral, a true lover of the arts.  During the intermission, a throng of more people approach him, and at one point, I was tempted to turn to him and say, "Sir, Who EXACTLY are you?!"  I finally called Cara to ask and she didn't know who he was, but fortunately, the internet came to the rescue: The Director of the New Theatre.  It was rather refreshing to meet a man who commands that level of respect but still relish a good production like a little child in a candy shop.

Anyhow, now my review.  This production of Uncle Vanya was touted as immersive, where the audience members are limited and literally sitting in the living room, where the play unfolds.  The performances were mixed, some great, some perplexing, but overall it's a brilliant bit of theater, I have to say.  I'm not sure if this is age talking, but my previous inability to grasp what was so genius about Chekov is completely gone.  Chekov never felt so contemporary, so perhaps the Chekov bug permeating NYC theatre has gotten to me, as well.  First off, the certain disillusionment that accompanies patient care- existed in his time, over a century ago, as it does today, when more organized menaces demoralize the profession.  Secondly, the implicit emptiness of good weather and life outside of the city fosters its own existential demons of wasted lives.  Before American Suburban Malaise found its voice mid-century, Chekov nailed it.  But you probably have to live life a little bit to get what he's driving at.  In my case, a medical education worked.  Finally, there's a profound pathos for suffering that is not overt, that is not simple, that struggles to find its own voice.  Looking at his plays, Chekov must've been a brilliant clinician.

The day was spent eating Japanese food at my favorite Totto Soba that serves this amazing dish of uni, roe, sprouts and warm rice.  It is accompanied by cold soba and pickled vegetables and a double serving of Calpico.  Seriously, my favorite meal ever.  I took a picture of the meal that I look at fondly, time to time.

As for the evening: so this was D-day, when Lisa and I decided to watch the musical version of Dogfight, despite our better judgement, out of sincere love of that film.  Dogfight the film belongs to a population of obscure gems that somehow don't quite get either the critical or popular recognition they deserve.  I'm not being facetious when I blame it on the patriarchy.  Other films that belong in this group are Me Without You ( the first film where Michelle Williams showed her dramatic acting chops---NOT Brokeback Mountain) and the New World ( far better than Tree Of Life).  These films tend to have complex themes with female protagonists, and I think the system as it is does not know how to market these sort of films, unless the women of concern are prostitutes, nuns, or  serial killers.

Anyhow, Dogfight is about a night between a kid about to be shipped to Vietnam and a girl who's trying to develop her voice, socially and musically.  They belong to opposite camps,  but for this one night, they realize they need each other.  The ending of the film is nothing less than perfect: it's a quiet and ambiguous note by which to end a quasi-romantic drama ever.  Anyhow, most of my friends and I are extremely fond of this film and may have seen it more than a dozen times, each.  It stars a really fetching and subtle River Phoenix and not-as-chubby ( as the film would have you believe) Lili Taylor.  The musical, however, is not a compelling work of its own.  Rather, it's a sub-par recreation that just makes you want to watch the movie again.  The male lead was great, but the music felt too Broadway with a score too stuffed with lackluster ballads.  Lisa and I left, both agreeing on two thumbs down.

After Dogfight, I went to see Sleep No More again for old time's sake.  Again, I ALMOST got to the 6th floor and missed it by one person.  I wonder if it will ever happen ( this is literally the fourth time I have missed the sixth floor).  Anyhow, I had magical moments where I was actually in Hecate's lair alone with her before she brought me into her secret chamber.  And I saw the amazing door dance again.  A nurse who looked like a lovely silent film star from the 1920s brought me into her examination room.  Also, I was brought into a chamber, where a man in the dark pressed me against a wall and procured black feathers from his mouth; cracked eggs revealed nothing but dust ( could this be Lady M's infertility?).  I of course loved the attention from the man who sounds like Noel Coward on the mike making eyes at me and calling me lovely over and over again.  Puddles the Clown did some serious crooning after the show.  Think a deep baritone in a smoky R and B melody.

I went home amazed how this show, now a mainstream success with plenty of douchebags lining up, can still be so compelling.  At one point, I had a rare moment when I felt like the only person walking down the hall and thought, how could this be?  Despite a throng of people at the door that grows larger with each visit. Who's to say?  It happened.

All I know is this: Felix Barrett and the Punchdrunk crew, you are all my heroes.

Saturday:  Leisurely day where I did nothing but sit on the couch.  I went to have dinner with Rahul after checking out his supremely ethnic digs near Chinatown, that feel more authentically third-world than even Queens.  The boy unpacks well.  Despite boxes, he already had a bed and a bookshelf.
We ate burgers, drank wine, and then met up with his friend who was leaving the City for Portland.  We sat on her terrace and talked into the wee hours.

Sunday: I had dinner at Fat Radish with the Wellesley crew.  We talked for five hours.  I cannot even recall what we were talking about for so long.  That's how it usually is when you get us together.  Later in the evening, I went to see Lisa's apartment ( beautiful, spare, with choice art on the walls) and we watched Dogfight.  I took the cab home and savored more time on the red couch, relishing the sounds of the street in the distance.

Monday: My last day before going home.  I spent time with my baby who gurgled and giggled and said words like "Uh-Duh" or "A-dah!"  I left NYC still feeling his embrace and listening to his giggles.

That's how I began my trip, and that's how I ended it.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Review

So I finally checked off something I had been longing to do all summer, just before the autumn equinox, as a bittersweet ending to a truly epic hiatus from work.  I finally saw Beasts of the Southern Wild, which piqued my interest back in the spring, while it was being hailed as one of the best films to come out of the Sundance factory and even managed to sway the judges at Cannes.  Also, with a sister-in-law whose roots belong in Louisiana, which now has become part of my beloved nephew's heritage, I felt a certain pride that the film took place in the bayou.  ( Whereas I call my Kiran "A Bengali Babu," among other things, Katherine's mother calls him the Prince of the Bayou.  He is so beautifully both.)

Anyhow, the film is poetry on film.  There is definitely some of the folksy nostalgia which seems to gripped the hipster sensibilities, but it manages to transcend it by transforming the story into fable about life, where everything we see on screen is not literal but rather functions as a metaphor.  The film resembles a T.S. Eliot poem, not a coming-of-age story of a little girl in poverty.  In this film, the people of the Bathtub live on their own terms; what we see as poverty they see as freedom.   When the world as we know it tries to save them, they kick and scream and incite rebellion.  

Hushpuppy, in the film, is not just a little girl of color---she is meant to be everyone.  As I always said, in some ways, the only person who really knows what it's like to be everybody is the person who has felt every bit of suffering---which is likely minority and a woman, not a male, not white.  The world that will punish her, not matter how good she can be.  In that way, Hushpuppy is literally the Everyperson.  Her father understands that, so he brings her up with a lot of heart and love but with a harshness that comes from knowing this world will not be kind to her, so she must be strong, she must face it and conquer it the best she can, without ever flinching.

The film begins beautifully, lyrical and happy, admist a spiral of sparklers and smoke, it's as if the Bathtub manages to conjure an entire galaxy of energy and light into their dark, jungled neighborhood. With such a beginning, the film must inevitably falter into scenes that sometimes can be trying on one's patience, and this is where the film remains imperfect.  I am not sure what they could've done differently---maybe some more editing, but even I, who has a notoriously good attention span, eyed my watch midway through the film.  The scenes do ramble but they also set the stage for the last 30 minutes of the film, the real gold, where it  fully embrace its more lyrical tendencies, the part of the film where it teeters on being a true opus.  This is where the movie truly deserves its praise, it is also where you feel more fully immersed not only in the land, water, the filth and beauty of the Bathrub but also into the very soul of Hushpuppy and her love for her father.  The film is inspirational. 

It is a tragedy but also a triumph.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Lions and Tigers and Bears....oh my!

A previous neglected post from over a year ago that I just posted:

The first time I took a friend from North America and took her to the subcontinent, it was a revelation. The country that I visited with fear and longing, with belonging and alienation----suddenly opened up, with details I merely took for granted: the paintings on the trucks, the inane grammar of "HORN OK PLEASE", the proliferation of public peeing, the busy roads with the trees growing in the middle, and of course---the animals. Linking Rd is a busy carpet of maneuvering, honking cars, yet in this bustle, not too long ago, it was not uncommon to find a cow in the road lazing around, while the cars and autorickshaws, without any hesitation, would swerve around it. My friend pointed out monkeys hanging around the ridge of building or climbing dangling wires, dogs going on about their business. It was this urban cohabitation with the Jungle Book that struck her and most tourists the most, when coming to India.

Today, I went to a lecture that addressed this phenomenon; it was given by Dr. Salman Akhtar, a renowned psychoanalyist and poet, an enviable achievement in my world view, especially as both come from a certain cultivation of mind and soul that is not easy to accomplish. What also struck me about Dr. Akhtar was a similarity he shared with my mother: they both have a Hindi Film Industry connection, coming from a family that boasts of an artistic tradition. They both left India and had more strictly academic ambitions than their siblings, who embraced the glamour of films. That said, I also think they both have an extreme fondness for their culture, for the lives that they left behind, and it is the personal anecdotes that peppers Dr. Akhtar's lecture that added the real masala to his already brilliant series of observations.

Dr. Akhtar spoke about Hinduism's perception of animals, in reference to Hanuman and Ganesh, and how the use of animals explains important life lessons that permeate the culture of the motherland to such an extent that it explains why it allows the cows to laze in the middle of busy intersection. I will not go into so much what he said, in case it eventually manifests itself into a book ( he already has a ridiculous number under his name), but his rhetoric was so fluid, so precise, both anecdotal but systemetic in its analysis---it demonstrates his ability to embrace the literal and the figurative, his background in science and art. He put it so beautifully when he explained Hinduism. "It is a religion of poetry." Ultimately, what Dr. Akhtar really brought to the table was a psychoanalytical take on how the stories in Hinduism convey a world view, that is really not specific to any religion. Just life, really.

A Coda:
After the lecture, he went to the Tivoli theatres to show and talk about the amazing movie the Pool. I did not attend the film as I was not feeling well and had seen the movie before, but my mother went. She claimed to have seen the movie before and wasn't very impressed by it, but when she returned from the film, she was gushing "What an outstanding film!" As it turns out, she had not seen the film.

The film, by an American Chris Smith, was one of those cinematic gems that gets lost in the hype machine (Other example: Me Without You, the New World). It came out the same time as Slum Dog Millionaire, which also dealt with street kids looking for a better life, but this film did it without the pulp, without the grandeur but within the quiet realm of a house and the pool, the boy-man who longs for its beauty, the secret tragedy that the pool embodies, and the family that resides in the house by the pool. The film was made with mostly non-actors, except for the outstanding Nana Patekar. It also showcases the mangled natural charm of Goa without a swell of orchestras or sweeping cinematography. The beauty speaks for itself.