Month: December 2014

WHY PK’S PREMISE IS COMPLETELY ERRONEOUS

[Image source: http://www.santabanta.com/wallpapers/pk/]

*Spoilers ahead

The film has already broken all sorts of records at the box office, only behind Dhoom 3 perhaps, and has garnered more attention than it probably ever expected to- religious controversies and orders of banning the movie will get audience to the theatres faster than you can say PK. Rajkumar Hirani, after tackling the need for love and kindness in Munnabhai MBBS, and the Importance of Going After What Really Interests You in 3 Idiots has taken on a big issue this time: religion.

PK is an alien, abandoned on Earth by his mothership, where a smart-ass Rajasthani steals his only point of contact with his planet- PK’s blue coloured locket, which looks a lot like the Heart of the Ocean locket in Titanic. A complete stranger to the peculiar human culture, unsocialised by human behaviour, and not even born into any of the human languages, PK is a tabula rasa at its best. He quickly learns a Hindi version of Bhojpuri and seeks to understand this strangely complex world full of ‘dancing cars’, soon bumping into Jaggu, an annoyingly perky television reporter, recently returned after finishing a television production course in Belgium. He encounters the diversity of religions and mannerisms and is obviously confused, being told that only God can help him, but then there are so many Gods, and all of them quite ineffective.

Jaggu had fallen in love with the Pakistani Sarfaraz in Belgium, and sought to excitedly tell her parents about him over videochat. Didn’t she know all Indian parents were against a Pakistani groom? Appalled, her father quickly makes her videochat with his favourite godman Tapasviji, who immediately told her that since he is Muslim, he will use her body, refuse to marry her, and leave her in the worst possible condition: an Indian girl, not a virgin, and whose boyfriend refuses to marry her. Jaggu reacts in a manner which was deemed extremely logical by her: no, she says, I will disprove what Tapasviji said- I will disprove it by making Sarfaraz marry me tomorrow ITSELF! Will you marry me tomorrow, Jaggu asks him in a fiery tone, and Sarfaraz, taken aback as one would obviously be, utters a scared affirmation, and as always, the solution to everything becomes marriage. At the church however, Jaggu receives a note which says that marriage is a marriage of families, and hence he is not okay to marry in this manner, and asks Jaggu to not contact him ever again, and so Tapasviji’s prediction proves true, and heartbroken, Jaggu returns to India where even her parents won’t accept her, despoiled as she is.

If one were to think of PK as a clever satire on religion, the movie tends to lose a little bit of its ridiculousness- the alien form of PK becomes a vehicle, and a reflector, to expose the oddities and absurdities that religion has come to take in India. The setup may not be very realistic, but it does the job- we are forced to think why we believe in a lot of shams that operate in the name of religion. We are made to acknowledge that God is personal, and faith is more than a money making business. PK utters simple truths that we have always known, yet chose to suppress at the back of our minds, and in that lies the movie’s redemption, which otherwise functions on a completely erroneous premise.

In the big show-off between Tapasviji and PK on Jaggu’s talk show, the discussion starts with Tapasviji asking what is so bad in religion if it gives people a little bit of hope- and ends with a full-fledged discussion of Jaggu’s affair with Sarfaraz on national television. As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, Tapasviji uses his prediction of Sarfaraz’s betrayal as a defence of his powers, and consequently, a defence of the type of religion he propagates. As the whole country waits in bated breath, the entire production team attempts to contact Sarfaraz right there and then, as PK reveals that Sarfaraz, in fact, might not have betrayed Jaggu. Turned out that there was a huge misunderstanding and that the note in the church was meant for someone else, and that Sarfaraz was completely willing to marry Jaggu.

As I sat watching this ludicrous unfolding of events, I couldn’t help but wonder if nobody in the movie team found this stupid.

Tapasviji said that Sarfaraz is a Muslim and hence will betray Jaggu after using her body, and Jaggu decides to prove him wrong by asking him to marry her the very next day. Let me emphasize this- she asked Sarfaraz to prove his love by committing the rest of his life to her, because she wanted to prove a godman in India wrong, and also reassure herself that their love is true and pure. This point could have been reluctantly digested had it not been raised later in Jaggu’s talk show- if its true that Sarfaraz was willing to marry Jaggu, then PK’s questioning of religion receives a validation. On the other hand, if Sarfaraz was not that obedient a person, PK’s debates on the frauds relating to religion would be rendered lull and inadequate.

PK might have a good message at its core, but its way of sending the message across is fallacious on so many levels. It reinforces many stereotypes that people across the globe have been trying to battle for years, that a relationship necessitates marriage, that if someone refuses to marry you after having sex with you, you have been betrayed and abandoned. It posits a girl as someone who has been ‘exploited’ and ‘duped into’ a relationship by false promises of lifelong support.

Do you love me, Jaggu asks Sarfaraz to which he obviously says yes. Then marry me, she asks of him, and with a one day notice at that. What if Sarfaraz thought himself too young for marriage? What if Sarfaraz thought it too early in the relationship for marriage? What if Sarfaraz had mixed views about marriage, and just wasn’t sure yet? What if Sarfaraz thought that the best way to prove your love for someone is not immediate marriage? What if Sarfaraz wanted to consult his family before getting married like that? He didn’t have a quarrel with his family, unlike Jaggu- why was he needed to hurry into it!

As I mentioned, this ‘test of love’ preposterousness could have been overlooked had it not been used to validate PK’s concerns regarding religion- because Sarfaraz was not a bad, betraying boy who did not refuse to meet Jaggu’s marriage demands, Tapasviji was a liar and therefore, PK’s thoughts about religion were accepted and praised, by the audience of the talk show, and the audience of the real life. Bringing Sarfaraz in the debate between Tapasviji and PK messes up the politics of the movie- if it had turned out that Sarfaraz had refused to marry Jaggu as a result of a personal choice, would that make PK’s ideas about religious broad-mindedness and your faith being unique and personal, and not a site for exploitation, any less authentic?

The problem is not that Jaggu asks Sarfaraz to marry her, hell at even a day’s notice, whatever floats their boat.

The problem is that his misconstrued refusal is shown to us as ‘betrayal’, as guys being guys, and even more unpleasantly so, as ‘Muslims being Muslims’.

The problem is that it reinstates the idea that sex, unless it leads to marriage, is essentially meaningless.

The problem is that a matter as important as tolerance required in religion is reduced to the personal squabble of a couple.

The real problem is that instead of PK being condemned for its botched up gender politics and narrow mindedness on the issue of marriage, it is being banned for questioning religion and its tolerance.

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Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Y Tu Mama Tambien and the the Fluidity of Sexuality

“Life is like the surf, so give yourself away like the sea.”- Y Tu Mama, Tambien

YTuMamaTambienPic

“The trick is to enjoy life, accepting that it has no meaning whatsoever.”-Vicky Cristina Barcelona

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[Image sources: http://www.anialexander.com/vicky-cristina-barcelona/ , https://blogcritics.org/blu-ray-review-y-tu-mama-tambien-criterion-collection/]

Y Tu Mama, Tambien (And Your Mother, Too) is a Mexican film in Spanish, made in 2001, of the road-trip genre, a teenage coming of age story, and explicitly political at the same time. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is an American film in English, based in Spain, made in 2008, about the materialistic versus the artistic, the normal versus the bohemian-rather, a satiric approach on all of this.

There are striking similarities in both the movies which strongly suggest Woody Allen’s inspirational take from Y Tu Mama, Tambien while making Vicky Cristina Barcelona. For starters, both the movies have a strong Spanish setup. Y Tu Mama, Tambien is set in Mexico, the most populous Spanish speaking country in the world, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona is set in Spain, with Penelope Cruz as Maria Elena jabbering away in Spanish. Allen, who focuses on particular cities in his movies (Midnight in Paris, Manhattan, Annie Hall) chose Barcelona for this movie- his choice is significant.

Both the movies centre around a trip that changed that changed their lives- in Y Tu Mama, Tambien it is Tenoch and Julio’s road trip with Lousia to the beach strip Heaven’s Mouth, and in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, it is Vicky and Cristina’s trip to Barcelona overly, and the mini trip they take with Juan Antonia to Oviedo, focally.

Both the movies make use of an omniscient narrator, speaking in a straightforward, unamused tone to drive the action forward- he relates not only the logistical and circumstantial bits of the story, he also explicates what the characters are feeling at times. In Y Tu Mama, Tambien  the narrator goes beyond and even ventures into social commentary on rural and urban Mexico.

Tenoch and Julio are best friends, and so are Vicky and Cristina- both Tenoch and Julio sexually engage with Louisa, and end up in a three-way sexual encounter. Both Vicky and Cristina sexually engage with Juan Antonio- difference being that Cristina’s dalliance with Juan Antonio begins later, once the trip has ended, and lasts longer. In Vicky Cristina Barcelona too, there will be a threesome- only Vicky will be replaced by Maria Elena. Both Louisa and Juan Antonio are older than their two respective partners, and have a sort of mentorship imbued in their roles.

However, it is the treatment of sexuality that is the most interesting to me in both the movies.

Y Tu Mama, Tambien begins with Tenoch and Julio having sex with their girlfriends, who plan to leave for Italy in the summer. Both the boys excitedly discuss girls, and there are even overt scenes of masturbation. On the road trip Tenoch, Julio, and Lousia have lengthy discussions about their sex life- “You have to make the clitoris your best friend,” Lousia tell the two boys, to which Tenoch asks, “What kind of friend is always hiding?” The night they spend in the motel, Lousia seduces Tenoch as he comes out of the  bathroom, and he jumps at the opportunity. Later, when Lousia seduces Julio in the car, in an attempt to make the score equal and end the conflict with the two boys, Tenoch casts the outside judgmental eye and calls them ‘animals’. Both boys reveal that they have slept with the other’s girlfriend, to which Louisa says, “Who cares who you two fucked when you come that fast!” At Heaven’s Mouth, all three of them get drunk and end up having a threesome, with Tenoch and Julio waking up naked in the bed together, after which things get very awkward.

Y Tu Mama, Tambien treats sex with comfort and ease- the discussions of Tenoch, Julio and Louisa are neither glorified nor shamed; they are as realistic as can be. Their thoughts about virginity, sexual techniques, self-pleasure and their own sex life flow into the conversation smoothly, without making a big deal of it in any way- sex is treated as it should, a normal and exciting part of life, as available for discussion as any other topic.

It is when Lousia and Tenoch have sex that things get rusty, a situation which Lousia attempts to smoothen by sleeping with Julio as well- the plan works out. Once these sexual encounters take place, the movie automatically deviates from socialized, normalized morality- now the story and its lessons do not have to necessarily apply, or appeal, to the viewer. But this deviation occurs in a largely realistic setup- in the class differences and political realities of Mexico that is depicted along the road they travel and Tenoch’s family background, in Julio who becomes the embodiment of the middle class-ness emerging in developing Latin American countries and in Lousia, a beautiful young girl who regrets marrying too soon and finds herself out of tune with the intellectuals, by whom she is surrounded- which resists the very concept of deviation, unlike in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, where all the free flowing sex happens in a bohemian artist’s paradise, outside the purview of the puritanical and capitalist values of America.

Sex, in this road trip, doesn’t have to have a larger meaning, or a future- Louisa is attracted to Tenoch in the moment, seduces him, and they have sex. She doesn’t have to regret it or even delve on it, when she later dismisses both Tenoch and Julio –“Play with babies, and you’ll end up washing diapers.”

Things actually get complicated once the threesome happens- Tenoch and Julio, realizing that they slept together, react in the typical, male, homophobic manner and converse little on the way back home, and break contact with each other until a chance encounter one year later. The end of friendship between Tenoch and Julio reflects and critiques the realities of the psychology, throwing to light the fears relating to the dynamic nature of sexuality.

Set in Barcelona and a cast comprising of Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, Vicky Cristina Barcelona already presents itself as a movie which must be considered outside the ambit of what is deemed to be normal. Juan Antonio, in a chance meeting with Vicky and Cristina, asks them to fly with him to Oviedo for the weekend to see a sculpture which inspires him, and also to make love. “Who, exactly, is going to make love?” Vicky asks Juan Antonio in sarcasm, to which he replies, “Hopefully, the three of us.”

Vicky Cristina Barcelona explores sexuality differently- when Vicky expresses incredulity at Juan Antonio’s suggestion, he asks her simply, “What offended you about the offer? Surely not that I find you both beautiful and desirable.” He asks us to cast a look at relationships with an eye that is not socialized by moral lessons. For if we were not conditioned to believe that monogamous, heterosexual love is not the ‘natural’ way relationships should be, things could have been a lot different. When Vicky tells Juan Antonio that she doesn’t engage in meaningless sex, he asks her, “The city is romantic. The night is warm and balmy. We are alive. Isn’t that meaning enough?”

Simply put, sex and pleasure for its own sake, divesting it of all the connotations of power and purity with which it is associated in the world. Vicky Cristina Barcelona raises these issues, and builds a reality where alternative relationship structures are held up and mocked at the same time, may those be Vicky and her aunt looking for fulfilment outside marriage, or the three way love affair between Crisitina, Juan Antonio and Marie Elena. When Cristina confesses that she has made love to Maria Elena, she explains that it was in the moment, and it doesn’t necessarily have to classify her as bisexual- sex and pleasure for its own sake. Vicky Cristina Barcelona again traverses how sex doesn’t necessarily have to have a larger meaning, and that there can be multiple layers to a person’s sexuality.

There is no “true” nature of sexuality, and we were not meant to be one thing or the other, heterosexual or homosexual. When it comes to sexuality, there is no standard to deviate from- there is no centralized, consistent being that draws boundaries, outside of which lies the bohemian, the hippie, the lesbian, the orgiastic or the debauched. One could have sex with one person their entire life and still be said to living life to its fullest- one could have sex with a hundred men and women and not be of ‘depraved’ character. One could not have sex at all. The point being, in the case of sex, there is no too much or too little- it is just nothing and everything. It is beyond measurement and comparison, beyond the milestones of life and definitely beyond the rigid Victorian morality of our times.

This ideological bend is reflected in the inconclusive endings of both movies- in Y Tu Mama, Tambien Tenoch and Julio after encountering each other one last time never meet again, facing the changing political age of Mexico with confusions and apprehensions, the memories of a homosexual encounter long suppressed. Vicky and Cristina return to America, uncertain once more- Vicky, dissatisfied with her clichéd married life also realizes that the artist paradise is not for her by getting shot on her hand by Maria Elena, and that it is only a question of what is more tolerable, while on the other hand, Cristina is able to strike off one more thing off her list of what she ‘doesn’t want’.

Plight of the Indian Woman

[Image source: http://evangraedavis.com/indian-mother-kills-eight-daughters-the-story-behind-the-story/ ]

Let us explore the life of an average Indian woman- not implying that all Indian women fit in the following mould. I understand that there is no such thing as ‘Indian’, that there is diversity in terms of regions, religions, communities, tribes, and a huge rural and urban divide. But for the purposes of examination, let us pick a crude representative-a woman born in the 60’s, lower middle class. Add and subtract the benefits of a class, money, a few distinctions here and there, but the struggles you would find will be more or less be the same, as long as we are talking about the generations of the 50’s or the 60’s or the 70’s, and maybe even further on. Let us see what they may be.

She is born into a family where there would definitely be other siblings- a brother to protect her, a sister to teach and nurture, most likely another waiting to get married. She is doted on by parents but not how you would expect today, with incomes rising and technology pervading- there was a household to be run. Father had to earn for five or six family members at least, and similarly, mother had to manage those five or six members. Their food, their clothing, their fights, their values- she had to care for the house, dust, clean, sweep, wipe and make sure it remains so. Mother also had to make sure the milk didn’t go bad, that the children had their milk, that they had their fair share of rotis, of carrot juice and green dal, put them to bed and wake them up, accommodate the hordes of guests for weeks on end, if and ever there was a wedding.

The girl, meanwhile, watches her elder sister helping her Mother and believes that she too must contribute- so she is only 13 or 14 when all household tasks are taught to her, and she never minds, as long as it eases the burden of her Mother. She goes to school on a bicycle with her brothers, she is taught to stay away and avoid any talk with boys (which would not be difficult as its more likely a girl’s school), and she pedals back in the afternoon heat to resume with her household duties.

Finishing the work, she goes on to play with her neighbourhood friends, taught to never stray too far away, stay close enough that she could hear her brother’s loud call, or at most, be found easily by him. She begs him to take her out for a treat, some chaat or some samosa, kulfi or chuski and if he has money to spare, and is feeling generous, he grants her this favour.

Passing out from school with good scores, she requests her father to let her go to university, and after careful deliberation, and deciding that 17 may be a bit too young for marriage, he selects a college that is not too far off, has easy hours, and has girls in the neighbourhood attending the same place. He tells her to not run after something too difficult like mathematics or science, which would require her to go to special engineering colleges away from the city, but picks for her something manageable, a little art, a little home science, and a tad bit of commerce. Nevertheless, she is happy, and those years pass by quickly.

Life was hectic with managing college and housework, but she had been taught not to complain. Meanwhile, maybe her sister got married, and maybe even had a baby, so her visits back to her house was what she waited for. Watching her, and those few other brides she saw in marriages, she wonders what life would be like after marriage, how her husband would be, what kind of family she’d be living with. She had a few good friends but even they maybe shed as people got married, and the less trouble you made about meeting and catching up with friends, the happier your parents are with you. And she was an obedient sort of girl, happy to please, scared of her father’s anger, and eager to not upset her mother- it was easier that way, and her brothers too never failed to side with them.

Finishing her college, she begs her parents to allow her to work somewhere, only if part-time, to go out and understand the world, but they refuse point blank. She cries and throws tantrums, she sees a few of the girls she had heard about, the ones from rich families, of getting a job and going to parties, of travelling in fancy cars and even having an affair or two. She was definitely not asking for that, but she too wanted to know what having a job meant, of how it felt like to earn money. She goes out and secretly fills forms, to be a teacher, a secretary, a government worker and when the answer arrives back in the mail and discovered by her brother, wrath had her. She is scolded, reprimanded, and told blatantly that this is not what she is supposed to do. She is told that time has come for her marriage and working is a useless enterprise for girls of her sort, that the world outside is big and bad, that she would be confused, misunderstood, exploited, that she is simply not meant for this. In her innocence and dejection, she agrees and gives up, unable to see her parents so troubled, unable to be another one of the miseries that her parents had to endure and agrees to the first match that comes for her.

Life had not been very fair to her up till now, but perhaps now would be the time for change. Her husband’s family comes to visit her, and she is dolled up and fawned upon. How fair she is, they exclaim, how beautiful they look together. They come and sit beside her, smiling constantly, posing for pictures, making polite conversations, all the while asking her relatives how much work she is able to do, and are delighted to hear pretty much everything, as they made her do household work ever since she was a child. The match is fixed and they declare her to be the most beautiful thing that ever happened to their family, and she is granted a few minutes alone with the person with whom she is to spend the rest of her life. They fumble and stagger in their conversation, wait for the other person to say something, and finally manage to reveal basic facts- where they grew up, where they studied, their favourite sibling, how many times a day they have tea. She finds him quiet but charming, not saying much but displaying a kind sort of spirit, a gentle smile, and maybe a promising life.

Marriage preparations begin and the whole family puts in all their money and energy. She is taught to cook a few more things and tie her sari, do her hair and impress the guests. Expensive gifts are bought and the day of the wedding has just arrived, but she isn’t really a part of the decision-making process, maybe not even of her wedding dress. She wonders how often she would be allowed to visit home, but the forces are out of her control, so she does what all other girls she has seen do, she smiles at the cameras, quietly takes the pheras, says namastey to one thousand relatives and cries a bit at the end, and finally goes to the place where she is to spend the remainder of her life.

But she looks forward to a life with someone who she is told would love her and care for her, understand her in ways her family never did, stand up for her and spend her time like the way she sometimes saw in the movies, times of long walks and peaceful nights, romance and happiness.

It takes time, settling in, but she has always been an obedient girl; she quickly understands the routine and does as she is instructed. Cooking food for the multitude of people who come to see for the new bride, and cooking food in general for the entire joint family, she is the first one to wake up in the morning and attend to each member. There would be conflicts, days that she would endure taunts, but she soon learns to let it go- her husband might stand by her sometimes but he has work, important matters to discuss, politics, sport, life, business- he cannot sit and mediate every womanly argument.

Very soon, her life becomes an endless routine of repetition of making rotis and rice, serving salad and sabzi, washing dishes and wiping the table, stealing the leftovers in the confines of the kitchen as others sit back and relax after a hearty meal. She operates by the clock and begins her day restoring belongings to their original place, making breakfast, sorting the laundry, haggling with the maid if any, dusting, sweeping, cleaning and then stepping out to buy the vegetables. She rests for some time, flipping through the newspaper, all the while thinking what to make for lunch. Once she’s taken the afternoon nap, she might decide to clean the fans, rearrange this cupboard or that cupboard, help out her sister-in-law, teach if there is a small child in the house and maybe go for a walk. On the way back, she picks up the grocery and wonders what her husband would like to have for dinner. They sit and eat together, talking about his work and wondering if they would be able to get out on Sunday, maybe for a movie or a little drive.

One odd day, however she finds that old longing in herself again, the longing to work and understand the world in this new sort of way that has been denied to her up till now. A presenting opportunity, a snippet of a conversation, and she finds a chance to broach the topic with the person who is her life partner. He is surprised to find her entertaining such thoughts, and questions whether what he earns is not enough. She hastily assures him that it is  (even if it is not) but tries to explain to him, her desire to work for works’ sake; but he fails to comprehend that desire, trying to convince her how difficult it is, that his parents would never allow, that who would take care of the house. But atleast he did not seem as reluctant as her parents, she thought, and decides to try again. Even if the husband didn’t entirely disagree with her, at best he encouraged her to apply to be a teacher at the local school, that too, if at all.

That issue soon becomes moot, as she gets pregnant. With a child now in the picture, there was no question of leaving the house for work- life becomes an endless circle of taking care, of ensuring comfort, of setting things in a manner that would enable its ready use. There could be a vacation here and there, but that was all there is, when it comes to relaxation. Her mind soon starts to revolve around the microcosm- for the first time, she understands what people expect from her nurture, realizes the responsibility on her head, and takes the task in spirit, finally relinquishing hopes of equal help from her husband- she thinks of diapers and porridge, pig tails and feverish foreheads, of school grades, bad behaviour, craft activities, fee deposits, dance classes, of birthday party return gifts and the day when her child grows too old for them.

And then she worries about her child’s burgeoning sexuality (as her mother did for her), about bad company and influences from internet, about this girl or that boy who could be the girlfriend or boyfriend, about what the relatives would say, what the neighbours would say, what the friends from the other side of the town would say, because she had been told to take care of those opinions, to not disrespect anybody, to be an obedient member of the society, to remain in the ‘respectable’ purview.

Then they say that her mind is petty, that it does not understand the larger picture, that it cannot understand things of politics and economy and cannot nurse a passion such as for sports like men can. How would they realize that she was never given the chance to?

A few years down the line, though, she wonders where life has brought her, and was this supposed to be it- she thinks of the days when she was little, she thinks of the time when she believed that something greater, something more magical would be in store for her once she grows up, once she is free from ostensibly innocuous familial grips.

If she is lucky, her husband might encourage and support her, ask her to venture out, find circles beyond the family, work for something that drives her; if she is unlucky, she, along with the rest of the world, blames it on her fate, the indifference of her husband, his selfishness, his belief that he alone knows what is best. Either way, her fate is decided by the behaviour of her husband.

She could ponder, many years later on an idle Tuesday afternoon, if she has led an unhappy sort of life, if there was something like the joy of working that she never got to know. But even that is interrupted by a cry for her, when someone needs her- to which she responds with haste.

The Ugly Side of Reality

(Photo: AP)

Any kid growing up on a diet of cartoons and adventure TV shows in a time full of exciting movies is bound to fantasize about the extraordinary. We, I speak for myself and hope to crudely represent the generation to which I belong if only in little odd ways, fed myself healthy amounts of Scooby Doo adventures, Shaka Laka Boom Boom’s magical, problem solving abilities, and Spy Kids. What exciting times they showed us, that made me think, there must be some adventure, and I cannot see it, maybe because I’m on the wrong side. Maybe once I have grown up a little. Or maybe if we shift to a different city.

Never mind, I would tell myself, I will create that adventure in stories. Stories don’t have to face the limitations of reality, and my stories, I had decided, would be exciting, just like Spy Kids.

Hence I began to write the story of the twin sisters who, together with their friends, fought off the terrorists who had invaded their school. This particular band of terrorists, in my 12 year-old mind, feverish with excitement, called itself The Jungle, while their leader was predictably The Lion. In a systematic manner, the members of The Jungle had organized themselves so that each animal (terrorist) had to keep an eye on one assigned classroom. Each terrorist sat at the teacher’s desk waiting for their demands to be met, giving the students little toilet breaks in between, accompanied by a junior terrorist of course.

In my story, the twin sisters and their classmates realized the power of their own beings, armed themselves with sharpened pencils, compasses, chalk dust and other stationeries and accessories to overcome the might of their classroom terrorist, and went on to rescue other classrooms. The siege ended with all the children running across the massive playground, through the school gates, and into the loving arms of parents and friends, being awarded for their bravery.

But a twelve year old is not aware of the ugly side of reality.

A twelve year old does not realize that the brutalities of terrorism do not solely belong to the realm of make-believe stories and unfounded, ungrounded thirst for adventure; in the real world, the terrorist attacks in schools are in existence.

She doesn’t assign a religion to terrorism, unlike in the real world; for her, it is simply The Jungle, dark, unknown, and possibly cruel.

In the real world, how could she have known, in the real world, terrorists do not bother with organization or patience- they simply open-fire, wherever and at whoever. Oh, there aren’t no toilet breaks, no.

How could she have known, that maybe the pen is not mightier than the sword, that compasses falter before guns, that chalkdust vanishes in explosives, that one man’s monstrosity was enough to wipe off a hundred innocent smiles; in her mind, the good always won, so even innocuous little accessories could create big trouble for the terrorists, that there was strength in numbers.

In the real world, the playground was not smattered with fleeing, victorious, footsteps but with blood; the arms of parents clutched not warm, smiling children, but distorted arms and legs, and the lifeless coffins.

Death was outside the ambit of a twelve year old’s idea of adventure, may it be a terrorist invasion.

The ugly side of reality was starkly different.

As In..

William Wordsworth in The Prelude talks about those ‘spots of time’, spots because they  are literally little spots in the timeline of the giantness of life- little stains and little spots, when things become clear.

Things become clear- in that particular moment, you attain self actualization, the realization of which may itself be temporary, but such are spots. They can never be the background, for they will always be sporadic and irregular, and hence they are spots. Spots of time, when you are at peace.

No moment of peace can ever be truly peaceful, for the realization of the transience of that peace is ever present. Your happiness is always tainted by the knowledge that that very same happiness won’t last- yet Wordsworth talks about Spots of Time. The microsecond just before you realize the slippery nature of happiness, the moment you revel in the sweetness of the dream just before the dream tells you it’s just a dream, the moment before you take the last step towards the summit and relish in success before realizing that from then on, there just remains downwards to go.

One perfect moment of union- but never a perfect life.