Rain Clouds

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Meanwhile, in University of Hyderabad, now in the new state of Telangana, it is raining heavily for the last two days. To tell you all the truth, I had been disappointed with the Monsoon. Though not as strong as the usual Monsoon, these rains aren’t that bad. This photo is clicked during one of my usual visits to South Campus. Generally, I ignore South Campus since it is too far from where I stay. But a new restaurant has opened up just outside the gate of South Campus which serves Kerala Cuisine and there’s no way I’m missing that. Rains or not, I will go there to get a plate of Puttu-Kadala Curry or Appam-Beef Fry or Porotta-Chicken Curry. 

 

The Fault in Our Stars (2014) – A Review

The Fault in our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars

 

I was a bit reluctant to watch The Fault in Our Stars because it simply is not my type of film. While I admit that I watch all sorts of films, I do have preferences and I go by it all the time. I know most people differentiate between films into easy genres; explosions, love, sad, funny! It can be understood by the way they get interested in a movie. ‘Hey, is it a funny movie?’ or ‘Oh man! That’s a sad sad movie!’ or ‘There were lot of explosions!!!… a lot….!!!’ Or ‘That was all about love.’

…. Mine is sort of different; ‘violence-action’, ‘war-drama’, ‘political-thriller’, ‘legal-thriller’, ‘science-fiction’, ‘spy-drama’, ‘romantic-drama’… I’d classify The Fault in Our Stars as a Romantic Drama. Not Romantic Comedy. In fact, if someone say that a film is romantic comedy it actually might put me off from watching that film. Hey, everybody has their favourite genre and mine is just not that!

-14fad7a8-8c7c-43a8-86bc-bd9c6f889becThe Fault in Our Stars is based on a novel of the same name (which some idiots may be buying now, just to show off that they can read!) by John Green. It is a simple film based on the complexities of the life of a teenage girl, Hazel Grace Lancaster who is suffering from Cancer. At a Cancer Patient’s support group meeting, she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), another cancer patient who had lost his leg to Osteosarcoma. The film revolves around how the rest of their lives are depended on each other.

Willem Dafoe as Peter Van Houten in The Fault in Our Stars

Willem Dafoe as Peter Van Houten in The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in our Stars does not boast of a big star cast except for Willem Dafoe, who plays Peter Van Houten, a mean and reclusive drunk, whose novel The Imperial Affliction becomes a topic of discussion between the central characters and helps them to build a bond.

 

Everyone’s been talking about how apt Shailene Woodley looked the part of Hazel Grace. But it was Nat Wolff who got my attention in his portrayal of Isaac, a blind friend of Augustus. Nobody in the whole film performed with so much conviction as Nat Wolff as how a character that would have been obviously side-lined otherwise in the charming way the lead protagonists were shown. While Shailene Woodley projects herself as a perfect fit to the role with an apparent easy portrayal of the character, I doubt if it will ever have looked so complex without the solid performances from seasoned actors like Laura Dern and Sam Trammel.

Nat Wolff as Issac, a blind friend of Augustus, brings a lot of energey into the cast of The Fault in Our Stars. It is a surprisingly brilliant piece of acting by this young actor.

Nat Wolff as Issac, (in the center) a blind friend of Augustus, brings a lot of energey into the cast of The Fault in Our Stars. It is a surprisingly brilliant piece of acting by this young actor.

It is obvious from the film that script chopped off some important things when the screenplay was written from the book. It would have been prudent to keep the author in the screenplay department. The Fault in Our Stars is one of those feel-good films showing the good in people when they are being let down by the rest of the world. It is about how people stick together when they are faced by an unfairness that discriminates them from everything else.

The Fault in Our Stars is a director’s movie. Although not an experienced one, Josh Boone seems to be a promise in an array of new directors that are coming up in the recent times. The way in which the narration goes is the reason why The Fault in Our Stars as a movie looks less like an adaptation.

My rating: 3/5.

 

Photographing White Breasted Waterhen

I have always been interested in birds. My home (in Kerala) is surrounded by trees on all sides of the property. Although that makes it a bit difficult for us to catch phone signals (and TV signals when it rains!) in there, our home is the coolest of all the households in the area. My room on the top floor has windows that opens up to a wooded part of the plot. Birds are not just seen but heard too. Early mornings are filled with cacophony, thanks to our ever beautiful flying friends.

When I joined the University almost a decade ago (shit!!!) I was taken by the abundance of birds. My own hostel, although a very old building by itself, was surrounded by huge trees often inhabited by wonderful birds. We used to have occasional raids by monkeys. It was sometimes so scary that you’d actually start thinking it was the beginning of the Planet of the Apes. Monkey Dads, Monkey Moms and cute little Monkey Babies sucking the tits of Monkey Moms! Red Ass Monkeys, Red Faced Monkeys and Red Eyed Monkeys… all these accompanied by the sounds of people closing their windows… like shots fired. Our hostel windows were huge and they didn’t have bars. Two or three monkeys could easily jump in and beat our sorry arses back to a pre-homo sapiens era. Peafowls were another attraction. With all due respect to them and Peacock being the national bird of India, their cooing in the wee hours of morning right outside my window used to be a major annoyance.

I used to go around and photograph these birds and animals on the campus whenever I got time. I remember a time when I was chased by a pack of wild boars while trying to photograph them. (There was another time when I and a former friend of mine was chased through the dark forests by a pack of wild boars. We were pissed drunk but we ran fast enough to save our lives from being blots on the goat path!)

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This bird has been on my mind for some time. I have seen it wandering in the woods very often. Initially I thought it to be some sort of a duck. The first thing that crossed my mind was how delicious this would be if served in a sweet sauce. But a careful observation I made later made me think that this bird is actually too beautiful to hunt, kill and eat. Nevertheless, I photographed it. Then I started working on to find out more details about this bird. It belongs to the crake family Rallidae and is called The White-Breasted Waterhen aka amaurornis phoenicurus. According to Wikipedia, “they are dark slaty birds with a clean white face, breast and belly.” They are largely seen in the Indian subcontinent and different varieties of them can be spotted all across South Asia. So, my dear non South Asian readers, I’m introducing this beautiful bird to you. :P

I was photographing a family of them but this one was the largest of them. Wikipedia calls them the ‘boldest’ in the Rallidae family, but these birds were kind of shy (except for the one photographed!).

Pay-Day

Today has been a particularly great day for me. A day of not so great but no small realizations. I wouldn’t want to get into the details for the fear of turning this into some sort of a typical rant post. I do rant. Although, not so often. Who doesn’t? It’s the ultimate equalizer. We rant. We listen to others’ rant. That’s how everything works. I mean, countries and leaders rant at each other all the time. Why can’t world citizens rant at each other?

I don’t see a problem unless it identifies itself as a problem. I have never been someone who has been looking out for problems to show up in the horizon so that I can cock my gun. So, naturally I get a bit annoyed when other people point out my problems for me. Today has been one of those days when I feel the lowest. It was terrible. I may have a problem or two in my hands. Things that only I can figure out.

So, imagine a car breaking down in the middle of nowhere. There are two passengers. Only one knows how to drive. The other one suggests alternative methods after everything fails. The driver thinks that he can go alone and get help. But the co-passenger’s idea is to push the car forward with the driver in it. Obviously, the driver would think that he got into shit.

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Then, imagine this. The car had been bought using a loan from a finance company. The company thinks that it has a say in the situation. The company thinks that the driver is inexperienced which is causing the problem for the car. The company’s policy in such cases is to send a fat ass to suit up and go down there and read the terms and conditions of the company aloud into the drivers’ ears!

Let’s imagine a third side to this. The road that this happened has not been repaired by the government for years. Bad roads could make vehicles go bad; Universal Rule. So, the driver calls up the local authority and threatens to sue the government for causing damage to his vehicle and time. The authority, after listening to the driver, politely says, ‘Fuck Offf!!’ and hangs up.

So, we have the driver, being pushed by his co-passenger, bugged by the company-sent fat ass in a suit and yelled at by the government official. Then comes the car company; with the claim that their car cannot be gone bad. They land one of their officials at the spot, with instructions to accompany the whole procession of the driver, the co-passenger and the fat-ass in a suit… his job is to check if the driver had been careful with the car. He is also instructed to make the driver buy an upgraded version of the same car. So, the driver has the other window taken up by this guy who narrates the amenities and utilities of an upgraded version of his broken down car.

I’m the Driver. And, this is my day.

P.S: Branding the day as a bad one will not do justice to my friend SKC. The afternoon had a small surprise when a delivery man from amazon called me up. He had a package for me. I was a bit perplexed. I couldn’t remember ordering anything from amazon and in my present condition when I’m going through a bad economy, paying off a delivery could take meals out of my pocket. The package was gift-wrapped with a sweet note on it.  DSC_3115It was a book. V.S. Naipaul’s ‘Letters between a Father and Son’.  DSC_3116I was emotional as well as happy. There’s always someone to make your life worth it when you have a thousand reasons to destroy it. Saying a ‘Thanks’ to SKC would earn me a smack on the head. So, I’m not saying it.

Shedding

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I
the lonely tree.
You
My skin.
Guarding me
all along.
In fact, keeping me
Hidden.
Shackled, to my own
reflections.
We shared the
same Memories.
We shared the
same Feelings.
I peel you off.
Finally.
I’m naked.
Stark naked
to feel the wind
and the light.
I’ll never grow a
new skin.
I’ll never Grow.
Ever Again.

‘Problems’ I faced while ‘Translating’

I translate. I study ‘Translation’. Yes, I’m a student of ‘Translation Studies’. I have been one ever since it was explained to me in 2008 that Translation wasn’t merely an affair that happens between two languages. In 2009, I officially became a student of Translation Studies and have been working on topics related to it. It has been five glorious years of working in a department dominated by people pretending to do works on Linguistics. They also pretend to understand ‘Translation’ more than us. I have seen one of them running away from one of our reading-group meetings, with his tail burning behind him.

giphy6In the department meetings where we discuss our work (and pretend to understand them!) there’s a common question that is thrown at us, the students of Translation Studies.

“What were the problems you faced while translation this work?”

From the year I stepped into this place, I have been wondering about this question. It seemed to be coming from every single teacher I faced. What problems? Why does it have to be problems? Why can’t it be something interesting? No! It has to be ‘praablems’!

200So, years of research on the discipline of Translation Studies by people like Mona Baker, Walter Benjamin, Susan Bassnett, Edwin Gentzler, Robinson Douglas, George Steiner, Lawrence Venuti etc. are reduced to this one stupid question!

‘Tell us about the Praablems you faced while translating!’

This is How I respond when I hear that Question

This is How I respond when I hear that Question

So, there I was. Presenting a paper on my thesis-in-progress! A silverback of the department decided to throw that question at me.

‘Manu, where’s Translation in it?’

‘Sir, my third chapter is fully dedicated to ‘Translation’.’ I said.

‘Have you Translated anything?’

‘I’m in the middle of that process, Sir.’

(No Manu, you can’t grind your teeth when you’re addressing a senior professor!)

‘Then, tell us about the praablems you face while translating….’

(Oh, No! You didn’t….)

These are the times when I black out and the other guy kicks in.

Oh! You Really Want ME to be ME!!!

Oh! You Really Want ME to be ME!!!

The thing is, I have heard this question more than enough and I have an answer for them. While I was translating a short story for our journal Kalpana, I faced quite a few problems. I would like to share them here with those who are so concerned about the ‘problems while translating.’

Since we were so engrossed into the project of a seminar and a journal, my usual punctuality was at stake and it started affecting my stomach. By the time I translated a page of the short story, I was suffering from serious constipation. This was the first problem I encountered. Once I was half way through the translation, I decided to go ahead and consult a doctor. While swiping my card at the pharmacy, I managed to tear it a bit, which made the card invalid in most ATMs. This problem made me penniless for a while. Also, I could not buy medicines for my constipation, you know…. And….

And... this is what I am going to do with people who asks such questions...

And… this is what I am going to do with people who asks such questions…

 

Surname Distortions

 

I know surnames are purely regional. It identifies your ancestry, family history, caste, social position and forms a major part of your identity. My surname (Kurup) has done a lot of good things as well as damages to me, over the period of time. My father bears that surname. So did his grandfather. Incidentally, my grandfather (maternal) bears that name too and so does his father and his father before that. I’m a 9th generation Kurup from two families. My mother often fondly says that I bear traits of two Kurup families. Maybe true. Maybe it’s a bad thing, but actually who gives a damn?

Keeping surnames attached to first names had almost gone out of fashion when I had joined school. Manu S Kurup; as a child, I didn’t know what ‘Kurup’ meant. When the rest of my mates stylized their fathers’ names and kept them as a funky tail to their own names, I was carrying around a surname that didn’t mean anything to me.

‘What is it?’ I whined at my Mom, one afternoon.

‘It is your name.’ She said.

‘I don’t like it.’ I whined again.

‘Your father has it. Your grandfathers do. Their fathers do. Your son will have it.’ She poured more soup into my mouth.

‘I don’t want a son. I don’t want this name.’ I didn’t know which was more terrible; having this surname or having a son.

Tom-HiddlestonI knew little about caste, then. If you are not from India, my dear reader, let me tell you that Caste is a big thing among illiterates and nincompoops in India. The rest of the India (Mind you, that’s a very small minority!) don’t give a damn. There is a third category. People who are milking ‘caste issues’ like a cow and feed off that milk so that they’ll get some mileage from it. In academics, I know people who are born in supposedly lower castes, and howls for caste equality and at the same time turns heaven and earth to avail every single penny that the government provides to people belonging to ‘weaker’ castes. It’s like a female asking for equality but fights for a separate queue for women! How absurd.

SnapeLet’s come back to my issue. I don’t care about the caste remarks that have been made about my surname. I have heard people saying that I carry this surname to flaunt my upper caste identity. I heard it very recently too, which is why I’m writing this. I have never had any benefits from anywhere with this surname. On the other hand, this world is filled with people who can’t spell/pronounce/write it properly.

The FedEx/Gati deliverymen has the habit of changing K-U-R-U-P in to K-A-P-O-O-R. Leonardo-Dicaprio

I understand that the sounds are the same but I’m sure the sequence in which it is uttered is different. Also, I seriously have no interest in being branded into the family of some dumbass movie stars.

Cab on Click has my surname as ‘DURUM’. Even after repeated attempts at changing it, the people who work for this ridiculous cab company are unable to correct it. On every booking I do, I urge/request/plead/order them to change it, But when they send the confirmation message to the phone, I read that ludicrous distortion of my surname; D-U-R-U-M!!! What in Gods’ name is that??? Puck

I was so angry the last time I saw this that I called back and cancelled my booking. To add fire to that, their area manager called me back to inquire about the ‘praablem’ and he was so dumb that I abused his entire clan. Even after thinking about it a lot, I just don’t understand how spelling out a name as KURUP can end up as DURUM!

Then comes restaurants, hotels, malls and retail stores. When I say my surname, they write it down as GURU. As much as I’d love to be a wicked guru to people in several things, I don’t particularly enjoy seeing that attached to the name my parents gave me. Vlogger

There was even a time a manager of a hotel addressed me as Mr. Guru on my way out of their establishment. I turned back and told him in a very civilized manner that I hate people doing jobs that they are so totally not qualified for. He asked me what I meant by it. I just smiled.

 

P.S: These days I just say my Dad’s name as my surname. I surrender.

It’s India… not Hindia!

The Narendra Modi government’s recent hustle with Tamil Nadu government over the supposed imposition of Hindi language is something that had been raising concerns in social media. Under these circumstances, when debates are doing the rounds, about India and its languages, I’d like to ask a question. Do Indians need to speak one language to understand one another?

We have been one nation for over sixty years with multiple languages spoken across several states; languages belonging to different families – Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman…
And, English, the colonizer’s language serves as the second official language. Most of the urban class is able to speak English, in varying fluency levels. Why can’t we just go on like we did for the past six decades?

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My next question is quite simple and is aroused out of mere curiosity. Why Hindi? I have been looking everywhere for some valid reason to believe that Hindi can be that one language that is needed to bring the nation into some sort of convoluted togetherness. No one has been able to suggest a reason as to why Hindi is being chosen as the language the rest of the country should be learning. Is it linguistically better than other languages? Does it possess some distinct cultural traits that change the social status of the speaker? Or is it because it is believed to be spoken by the heartland of India? Newspaper articles and television debates fail to answer any of those questions that I have in mind.

Some people have a problem with me when I say that Hindi, as a language was imposed on me. I have never really realised why I should learn Hindi. It was forced on me when I was halfway through my schooling. One fine morning in the beginning of a school year demanded that I learn Hindi; along with Malayalam (my mother tongue) and English (the medium in which everything was taught). I felt stupid. More than that I felt angry. I was made to read and write a language that I had nothing to do with; a language that was of no use to me. At the end of that five year forced-learning of that language, I was able to read and write Hindi better than more than half of the native speakers of it. But when it comes to speaking, I would prefer acting like a dumb person.

When the Hyderabad stage of my life started, I was expected to pick up Hindi. With so many speakers of Hindi around, I was sure I will learn it. But my own stubbornness and the stubbornness of the Hindi-speakers to expect everyone else to speak Hindi, made me ignore it. All the girlfriends I have (had) were excellent speakers of Hindi and even that factor did not make it any important to me.

Some say Hindi is an easy language to learn. Is it? What if I argue that Tamil/Malayalam can be learned easily too. Why not try and teach some North Indians a bit of Tamil or Telugu? Why not put some young Hindi speaking kids through the ordeal of learning Malayalam letters, starting from their fifth standard? How about a including an option between Kannada and Telugu in North Indian curriculum?

Does learning Hindi makes me a better Indian? The idea of India itself is of a region where several cultures and languages cohabitate. Just because less that 10% of Hindi-speaking politicians had a loose motion does not mean that India and its non-Hindi speakers should ready their toilets. Native speakers of Hindi can continue to speak their language and keep on expecting others to speak it. People like me don’t give a damn.