It’s the festival season in India. Amid the lockdown (let’s not remember the bitter fact that it’s all unplanned and messed up), we still have our holidays. Schools, colleges and universities are not to open on campus for the fear of Covid19 transmission. But we can celebrate festivals.
Here is wishing all my fellow citizens a very happy festival – Ayudha Puja (worship of implements that help our livelihood), Durga Puja/ Kali Puja… worship of goddesses dear to us in specific regions of the country. It is Navarathri – the nine night of religious fervour.
In Karnataka, it is Dasara or Dussera – it is the state festival come down to us from the time of Mysore / Mysuru Maharajas. This is year it is going to be low key festival.
All of them celebrate goodness; victory of good over evil. May good, peace, happiness prevail in our land.
But the spirit is there. Very happy Dasara. Happy navarathri to you all.
I watched it two weeks ago. A commercial film by Louis Malle.
Jeanne Moreau stars as the restless femme fatale Florence Carala.
With her husband still around, she doesn’t seem to be happy. When you are not happy with your husband, of course, there comes the lover; or because there is a lover, the husband doesn’t make you happy, probably. Here Maurice Ronet in the role of Julien Tavernier is ready to make her happy by getting rid of her husband.
Jena Wall (in the role of a wealthy mercenary Simon) hardly exists. But what’s the problem, we can see Julien get rid of Simon, Florence’ husband.
Sad, one mistake – there is something he has left behind while returning from his murder. And that is the McGuffin. He leaves his car on the road, and goes back to settle it to Simon’s office, via the elevator.
IN the meantime, young little Fransesca and her boy-friend have some fund – the poor boy can’t afford his own car to make Fransesca happy; he takes Julien’s car and goes, and things pick up momentum for Julien!
Malle’s 1958 classic has action. Memorable are the moments in the opening sequence, when you see Florence in close-up repeating Je t’aime! Je t’aime! You feel for her.
The Jesuit priest Fr Gaston Roberge is no more. He slipped into the eternal this early morning n 26 Aug. 2020.
Fr Roberge, an affable Jesuit from French Canada, but a citizen of India came to India in 1950s, and made it his home.
He was a Jesuit. He was a priest. He was one of most affable Jesuits I have known. A rare combination of the three. May be because he didn’t preach these things, so he could live them.
At a time, when watching films was considered a taboo in Indian society, Fr Gaston Roberge emerged a maverick. A paradigm shift.
He made friends with people who knew and were interested at making films: one of the most notable was the world-renowned Satyajit Ray. With the help of Ray, Fr Roberge set up Chitra Bani or Chitrabani – literally means audio-visual- to train people in film appreciation and also to produce audio visual material for training purposes.
Whoever thought film appreciation could be taught! But Fr Roberge was convinced.
Fr Roberge wrote a book on film appreciation – Chitra Bani – a manual for film appreciation. Satyajit Ray wrote a foreword to it. The book made the rarest of readings – with indepth comparison between Western and Indian appreciation paradigms; his knowledge of Bharata Muni, Anandavardhana, Panini, Kalidasa, et al seemed too good!
I was privileged to meet him in Bengaluru in 1996; he was very warm to a little young college boy, who didn’t know what was cinema! Imagine an expert like him addressing my level! That was quite an experience, then.
During my theological studies, while I was writing a Comprehension Paper, I chose a topic something like theology through cinema for which Fr Gaston was my main source of books and articles; he would photocopy and post me his books and articles! Packets and packets of material! He was also kind to put me in touch with Fr Paul Soukup SJ of Santa Clara University, California, USA, though we never met till 2016! And the latter was just as kind and prompt – he sent me his original books on film and religion by post! For free! Thanks to Fr Gaston! That was in 2000.
Later I met him at St Xavier’s College Calcutta in early 2000s when I went there for something; again in 2007 when I spent a month in Hoogly. Again a couple of years later. Then in 2013, when I was writing my dissertation on Samira Makhmalbaf’s film, studying at University of Warwick in the UK, I wrote to Fr Gaston for some help. He was too kind – he reverted to me by a return mail. With plenty of scanned material. And then we got into a lot of personal chat on email. He told me how he wasn’t aware of Iranian cinema, how he was ignorant of UK’s Warwick university and prominent film scholars like Victor F. Perkins (my emiretus teacher at Warwick) and James Monaco of How to Read a Film book fame.
When I met Fr Gaston, I used to ask him why did he not write a companion volume to Chitrabani. He has no answer – he simply would say that it was over, though in 1996 when we had met in Bangalore, he told me he was thinking of a second volume, which never materialised.
Fr Gaston also was instrumental in founding the EMRC which has now become EMMRC, one of the finest EMMRCs of the country, which has been considered a model EMMRC for it voluminous and quality production.
When in 2016, I invited Prof. Shiv Visvanath, the well-known sociologist and a thinker, to St Joseph’s College for a training session on research for the teaching faculty, he made a special mention of Fr Gaston from the stage. That became our point of personal encounter. The former challenged me why I couldn’t write memoirs of Fr Gaston. I said, I would. But didn’t get a chance to visit Kolkata after that, due to uneducated dictatorship.
I feel sad, I could not meet him for the one last time. I so loved to see him. But could not.
Fr Gaston, rest in peace. You will always remain very dear to me for a variety of reasons – excellence, pioneering spirit, intellectual, social, media-connections, and personal! I will remain in your memories.
Bahman Ghobadi’s Turtles Can Fly has never hit me so hard. I had watched it earlier – a few years ago; probably close to a decade and a half ago?
But this time, when one of my students wanted to discuss with me, I realised that the film had been pushed into temporary oblivion. And then I revisited it.
In general, the post-revolution Iranian films have been a treat to watch – extremely simple, often the road-movies, the world seen through the children’s eyes, and depicting lugubrious landscape are bereft of the spectacle that we are accustomed in most parts of the globe. Thanks to the ‘wood’ film industries which serve the ready-made and-they-lived-happily-ever-after stories. The mundane, the profane, the tidious, and the timorous. All served on a single platter.
But the post-revolution Iranian films have been a league apart. Bahman Ghobadi, who acted in Samira Makhmalbaf’s Blackboards (2000), is a new age Iranian filmmaker. A Kurd from Iran, the filmmaker knows the pains and sufferings of the Kurds on both the sides of the border. The lachrymose lives of Kurds have evoked some curiosity among filmmakers, even if the bombing nation America hasn’t bothered beyond destroying it.
After his A Time for Drunken Horses and Marooned in Iraq, Ghobadi comes up with yet another memorable masterpiece Turtles Can Fly (2004).
The weepy little girl Agrin is raped by the hitherto unseen American soldiers (well, they call themselves ‘saviours’ of democracy’ – thanks to their leader’s larger than life ego!), and she has a blind child, the symbol of her shame. Her brother Hengov, has lost both his hands – but is resilient to life’s rough edges; his never-say-die spirit keeps the three of them floating, if not flying. Agrin wants to get rid of the living memories of her rape. Hengov would have none of it.
Then there is Satellite, whose name nobody knows, except the spectators. He is the leader among all the illiterate men who know nothing outside their village, except that their lives are destroyed by the war.
Satellite is their source of information, because they think he knows everything, he knows English, the ‘OK’ language. That is the language of Americans, that is the language of wealth and dollar. OK?
The village is full of landmines, and the hundreds of Kurdish children live on them – they unearth them -under the guidance of Satellite- and sell them to a local dealer for money, for pistols, for bullets, for ammunition. They live on them. And they die on them, too, like the little child.
For a generation of children who know nothing of childhood, the language of war is a part and parcel of their lingo. They know what a landmine means, they know Americans, they know and live in tankers which kill them.
The film portrays the dreary, arid landscapes of Kurdistan, made more arduous by the American war on Iraq in the name of Saddam. Now that Saddam Hussein has fallen, will the Kurds rise again? Can the turtles fly – living partly in water, partly on land, oscillating between the grim joys of their childhoods and teary gloom of their sufferings?
Can we reconcile with the moral dilemma of the armless Hengov who wants his innocent, chirpy nephew to be taken care of while his sister Agrin wants to get rid of the symbol of her shame, humiliation, and destruction, a dilemma which further vitiates the sanctioning of rape as a weapon of subjugation of an entire nation in the name of war?
It is an Iranian film made by Bahman Ghobadi in 2005. There is plenty spoken and written about this film which reflects reflects critically on the American attack on the Iraqi Kurds in 2003, and the violence it caused to millions of children and helpless.
I watched this films many years ago. This time one of my students was keen that I should comment on it for he was making certain observations on it. I decided that I would watch it one of these days. And hopefully, I would make it this weekend.
Today the KCET-2020 (Karnataka Common Entrance Test for aspirants of professional courses like medical, engineering, agricultural, veterinary sciences, etc) results are declared. Its results are out on the official and other sites: kea.kar.nic.in, karresults.nic.in, cetonline.karnataka.gov.in. About 195,000 students had appeared; and a big number of them cleared these.
But that is no news; there are hate-mongering media TV channels like republic, Times Now, ABP, public, zee, news9 & its variants, scores of noise-polluting #bhowbhow lords on these idiot boxes. Then there are thousands of papers which call themselves ‘newspapers’, but actually like their noise making boxes, also end up creating divide in the country along religious, caste, class, gender, tribe, culture, and language lines. You can’t even use them to clean your dirt, their dirt would stick to you.
It’s lockdown due to the all pervasive pandemic #COVID19 or #coronavirus. I am not supposed to comment on this pathetic lockdown for fear of clampdown on criticising the obvious.
There is the notorious case of the Public Interest Litigation activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, for the alleged contempt of court. Well, honestly, I never changed my opinions based on Bhushan’s tweets or anyone else’s tweets. All along, -against all odds- till 2018 I have always told all my friends and acquaintances that we -in India- have the best judiciary, and that ‘at least we have a good judiciary’!
But be sure, I am educated, and am capable of making my own assessment about things, events, persons, and institutions. I just read multiple reports, reflect hard, discuss with number of persons, go into the background of these things concerned, and come to my own conclusions. So in my opinion nothing but the judges themselves can bring the judiciary and the courts to disrepute. Probably, the emperors can influence some sections; but if our systems are convinced of the constitutions they swear by, nothing can bring down their dignity.
I am pained at the way a case is made out against Bhushan. Against its own past judgements. We need to remember that we are condemned by our own judgements. I hope for better days.
I identify myself with Prashant Bhushan. It is my tale.
I pray for better sense. I pray one day we shall overcome; one day those who profess justice, peace, goodness and compassion will try to live it out too. You can’t do anything to or about dictators in politics and religion; you can only pray that one day God miraculously implants a moral conscience in them
It was never as painful. Never. A major accident to a pet. Our dear pet Alsy met with a major accident last evening – right in front of our gate; brutally run over by a car, that left her bereft of her identity.
Pain comes haunting her, me and all of us at Arrupe Nivas. A little bundle of activity silenced against her irresistible will. I have never been saddened as much as by this accident to a mute, deaf suffer.
[As Alsy writhes in pain, can’t but slowly raise her head and see helplessly]
I had pets for good part of my life. But never did a tragedy hurt me as much as this one, though Alsy hasn’t been my most favourite pet here. Nor do I privately own a pet – it’s always a common community/ home pet. And my favourite has been the ever dignified, affectionate Wilsy.
I love animals; they have always fascinated me for their innocence and affection – be they dogs, cats, cows or sheep. As a child, we used to have many dogs, cats, and cows at home. Many of them. I would take cows and calves to forests/ hills for grazing, and take personal interest in them. I would resist my best when they were sold, would cry when any of them died.
Since in a typical Mangalore village, houses would be separated by their estates/ fields, common childhood wasn’t as common as is in cities or elsewhere. Often, we experienced common childhood only at schools, churches and on occasional gatherings of wards and parishes. Really rare before early 2000s. In such circumstances, pets were our friends, guardians, and family.
Since I was the youngest of my siblings, I was not lucky -in certain respect- to experience the company of my siblings, for they had already dispersed either for their education or for jobs. Besides my studies, what occupied my day (and often nights, beyond the watchful eyes of my mother) were books. I read plenty of novels, magazines, newspapers, and stories; I wrote them. And of course, my pets.
The names of my house dogs were Tiger, Rony, Mingu, Julie, etc. My cats were like Bosthu, pinku, billu/ billy, etc. Even cows had their names, and that’s how they responded.
[Image below: Wilsy, my favourite; she feels for Alsy; refuses to eat or move; but be with Alsy in silence in her sufferings]
One of my pets -Rony, for example- was my regular companion at playing cricket. I was the bowler and batsman; Rony was the fielder! That was the maximum cricket I could play for a few years of my childhood.
Pets came and pets went. As a child, I always cried when they died. But that is life all about. Coming and going; birth and death; happiness and sorrow. For a boy from an agricultural family, who was one with the cycle of nature, this wasn’t new or strange, though sad.
But, since my higher secondary days, I have been away from pets, for system-ic reasons. But in the last six years, in Bengaluru, we have had some dogs, fish, and birds. To begin with two lovely dogs in December 2014. Ebo and Wisly. Crossbreed. I was very fond of them; they were my great friends, and daily companions during evening walks. Everyday for about 60-90 minutes, if the walk were inside the campus.
Then came in Chotu – the really small fellow; a bit stupid. But adorable. Actually, none of us wanted a third dog. But Shah is a Shah; dictator are dictator. All the same, Chotu fascinated us for close to a year. And one fine day, he suddenly “disappeared” just as he had appeared, without anyone’s consent.
A few months after Chotu disappeared, the big Ebo disappeared too. This time mysteriously. None knows if someone stole him (because he was crazy after people, and massively adorable too)! He was really huge; well-built; had a massive voice belying his innocuous nature. Neither he nor Wilsy could say boo to a goose (except that both of them would drop bones from their mouths to chase anything flying! An obsession, which Wilsy carries to this day!
Ebo never returned. None of us ever heard him thereafter. And Wilsy became all alone; but gradually, she came out of her shell –she grew to be the queen of the campus; gradually we started hearing her voice and seeing her movement. She grew to be a darling of most of us. And mine, ever since. Full of poise, elitist dignity and affection.
In February 2020, someone offered a little puppy to us – a Labrador. Someone misinformed us that she was an Alsatian; I named her Alsy – in Konkani ‘alsi’ means lazy. Of course, I didn’t want the Arrupe Nivas attention from Wilsy to be diverted to this little pup; so this name convinced me that she would be an outsider.
Wilsy wasn’t happy with the new arrival; while she never ‘shouted’ at Alsy, neither did she welcome her. Alsy longed for her mother’s milk and warmth; and Wilsy anything but gave it! She would always run away from her, against every attempt I put in to bring them together. Wilsy is not the type to bite or be harsh with anyone. She can’t say boo to a goose.
But within a couple of months, Alsy managed to break the ice with Wilsy; just about. Relatively a long time, though not friends yet.
Then came in, at the end of April, Whitey, a badly build KSRTC passenger double-decker bus-like dog with his master. Hardly mobile. Though, initially he was sullen, Alsy managed to win him over first, within about a couple of weeks. Whitey, who could not move more than 5-10 steps without stopping, gasping for breath, and resting for about every five more minutes, started getting active because of Alsy. With her pranks and tricks, she wouldn’t spare him. She would jump over him, bite his ears, tail and sleep over his huge tummy. Whitey, who could hardly move or looked any friendly, gradually started showing some signs of activity; shed a bit of obesity too.
Both of them became friends, of course, around the little chirpy Alsy. If Wilsy stole all of our hearts with her dignified demeanor, Alsy stole everyone’s hearts with her pranks, restless activity, unrestrained movement, and uncontrolled expression of affection. Often it looked our lives revolved around Alsy.
My first was/ has been Wilsy. But I couldn’t ignore Alsy. She has been so cute. Like with Wilsy, you could put your hand in Alsy mouth and pull out food or bones, and she would give it happily (though with some fuss!). One thing Alsy couldn’t tolerate – petting anyone else in her presence –and Alsy would be around 24 hours! She would jump on you and the other you were petting – drag you, pull you, lick you, pet you, all sorts of tricks. Alsy has been adoringly jealous. Too cute to generate any ill-will.
And I am mourning her accident. She is alive, but hardly a trace of that livewire that symoblised Alsy. None of us had ever seen Alsy sad or silent or quiet. But now it’s quiet all over. Alsy is in her kennel – lying down motionless. When you pet her head, she just puts out her tongue for a second, and writhes in pain; but she can’t move – because her entire body is a huge sore. Plenty of wounds all over.
The biggest hit is on her waist – he has majorly damaged her hip. There is a huge fracture, which the vet says can’t be operated upon.
After the accident, last evening at around 6.30 O’clock, -when we were at a meeting- she was taken to a vet; an x-ray revealed a major fracture – her hip-bone almost broken into two. She was given saline; and a few painkillers. But no surgery can heal, he says.
Since the arrival of Whitey, both Alsy and Wilsy have been lucky to get some pedigree food (at least a portion of what that broken double-decker gets). But today neither Alsy nor Wilsy want any of it. Just lie down motionless, soundless, nearly lifeless.
She shouldn’t move for a month; the vet has advised us. If the pain reduces, who can stop Alsy from moving around? And if she is in pain, who can afford to see her suffering? It hurts to see the 6-month old little, innocent Alsy in so much of pain and helplessness. It’s the first time ever, I am seeing her motionless and without a smile and the fuss.
It has been four months and a half since nation-wide lockdowns were imposed overnight; and then -for a few weeks- it seemed that we had conquered the Coronavirus for good. People couldn’t move around – no workers, no students, no facilities, no nothing! It was sort of a dead calm. In about three weeks, it seemed like our country would be back on tracks – hopes for an upward-looking economy, plenty of jobs, everyone bubbling with life and love. Plenty of hopes.
The easiest way to defeat oneself is to indulge in self-flattery and chest-thumping. We were quick to do that in whatever form we could. Ignored every form of caution – we thronged roads and public places to clap and burst crackers; to shout slogans and even to praise our beloved leaders and abuse those SEEN as not in favour of our highly capable leaders; suddenly, all the deserted public spaces came alive with bee-hive like activity; dense crowds only meant quietly and surreptitiously, but in large scales, we were contracting the dangerous disease to everyone who we came in contact with. And from them to their families, friends and acquaintance.
When the lockdown was imposed, people were locked up, and weren’t allowed to travel back to their states, towns and villages. Then there was hunger and restlessness all over. There was much noise and criticism against the unplanned lockdown, how it had backfired, and how inspite of the massive feeding by NGOs and private individuals and organisations, it left millions of poor people hungry; we say pathetic pictures of poor people drinking the spilled milk from roads; we saw robberies and crime increasing – just to satisfy their hunger.
The next step was to lift the lockdown. The moment the lockdown was freed, it seemed like the steam out of pressure cooker – sudden burst of movement. Millions of migrants started travelling back home, some in inhuman conditions on public transport even for three-four days across the country. Now even those who did not have any contagion, contracted it because of the dirty and unhygienic conditions of the trains, buses and over-crowded vehicles. And the travels were too long to be safe.
Just as the world was praising India for its wonderful management of the Coronavirus and keeping it under check, the months after May have brought in nothing but pain, misery, gloom, despair, and frustration. COVID19 positive cases have sky-rocketed from a lowly thousands to now 15 lakhs and more. In the last one week since 24 July, we have been reporting positive cases in the vicinity of 48,000-49,000 cases everyday. India is just behind the United States and Brazil in terms of reported cases.
Only if our political leaders and their blind bhakts cared for people and the health of the country! All the politicking and money-making could have waited for a few more months, till we would be healthy enough to fight. Only if our religious and ‘cultural’ leaders and their blind followers were to wait for a couple of months to celebrate any festival, event, occasion so that we had enough time and energy to regroup as a strong as a nation! We needed to prioritize the national/ public good over individual greed/ pleasures.
Amid all this mess wrought by our leaders, we care for our country and its citizens: we pray to God to save us (as a few ministers -including Karnataka’s Health Minister- already have said it!), to save our country. We love our country, we love our people, we love our students and their families. God, keep them safe. May this pandemic be defeated at the earliest. May all of us live in peace and harmony, and in good health.