Thursday, December 06, 2018

Great Expectations

I was watching a video this morning about a clinical psychologist and family therapist who unequivocally denounced the way we love our children depending on how much of our expectations they can or cannot live up to. I was about to dismiss the video as yet another diatribe on old school parenting and its pitfalls. However, once I reached the end of the video, I was already converted to her perspective, proved by how uncomfortable her words made me.

Dr Shefali's video

It is certainly a fact that we spend most of our lives living upto the expectations of our parents, relatives, teachers, peers and society. Our parents said we argued too much and as a teacher, I was awed that the students I taught knew their minds more than we did at their age.When I examined them as individuals, however, I felt that there was seething discontent and simmering tension underlying their apparently personal beliefs and aims. There was what we call the Freudian superego which took a prominent role in their way of approaching life in general. As the parent of a little boy now, I keep on feeling unnerved this morning at the possibility that I might be loving him conditionally for how much and many of my wishes, commands and interests he might be meeting or not. Everytime he rebels, even if it is over his choice of food or clothes or TV programme, do I not quell his enthusiasm or opinion by imposing mine over him, dictator style? And when I say he has disappointed me, do I not overlook how his eagerness to be loved or accepted for what he is and how he is is being trampled underfoot by well...overparenting?

I have spent endless hours of my waking existence rueing how my not doing a PhD or studying medicine or going abroad for higher studies have frustrated my parents' and wellwishers' benevolently extrapolated career trajectory for me. Am I not repeating their mistake of not accepting me as a slightly less ambitious person in general, who would rather be contented in her own little world of good books, good films, good food, travelling and writing? Do I not still spend nights hating myself for not fulfilling desires that I never had for myself? Am I still not struggling to accept myself for what I am and good enough at it?

Then why would I want to do the same as a parent/ teacher to my own child? Who is after all, a different person altogether?

While I think about this, I would like you to do so too. Self evaluation and self assessment is radical in our scheme of living, after all, in this day and age of mindful parenting.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Film Review: Stree

Image: Facebook

'Stree' is an odd film. It is difficult to categorise, for starters.

 It is not exactly a horror film, it is not exactly a thriller, it is not exactly a comedy, it is not exactly a tragedy. It has elements of all of these, in a wonderful amalgam of various genres. And it is relevant and post-modern in its approach and treatment. Most importantly, it subverts all given Bollywood labels and creates a zone of discomfort. It leaves you with a tearful smile, at the end. That is certainly a feat in present times, when audiences have become more discerning and dubious about shelling out money for something that might not entertain them after all.

Shot on location, the film concentrates on building up an atmosphere of suspense around and about the 'Stree' who haunts the city for four days of an annual religious festival and removes men travelling alone, albeit if they answer her call, leaving only their clothes behind. However, the moment one begins to believe in the truth of the legend, humour steps in and one's hypothesis begins to waver. At no point of time in the entire duration of the film, can one rely on one's previous cinematic experience to predict the outcome of any situation in the film. Remarkable performances from the entire cast make the story credible and the screenplay eminently watchable. Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi, Aparshakti Khurana, Atul Srivastava, debutante Abhishek Banerjee and Shraddha Kapoor all pitch in with the correct dose of knowledge and naivete needed to inject vitality into the 'Stree' premise. Right till the last frame, one remains gripped to the plot, wondering at the fine line between reality and romance.

Two well penned reviews from The Times of India and NDTV are just enough to generate interest in those who haven't experienced 'Stree' yet.

However you feel about the film, one thing is certain. It will keep you morally awake and mentally agile, right till the closing credits.

Monday, December 03, 2018



It is a compelling and layered account of the childhood and adolescence of a young girl growing up during World War II. What distinguishes this book from many other biographies is the candid yet casual trajectory of her highs and lows against a checkered, poverty-riddled backdrop, told in a wistful yet witty tenor. The importance of family and school in forming the emotional template of a child’s mind and preparing it for the journey of life is reinforced through the feelings of the narrator as she strives to express her struggle for a place and person/s to call her own. One cannot but identify at various points with the narrator as her adult retrospection is mellowed by attempts to analyse yet empathise with the constraints and considerations that were inescapable factors in her parents’ mediocre lives. Her rebellious rants against class are subtle yet stubborn in their understanding of how the best of potential in man can be subdued, stemmed and subjugated by a lack of love or lucre.

To generations born amidst war and strife, the book cannot but fail to touch a chord with its Cinderella undertones as the protagonist conquers pain and poverty to present a stolid fa├žade to a judgemental society. However, it is to the author’s credit that at no point of time does the book either glorify poverty/war or directly descend into a pathetic critique of life and its general bleakness. Be it at home or at school or even later, at work, the protagonist finds enough variety or novelty around her to justify her renewed efforts to revitalise and review her own circumstances. Her adolescent awakening into sexuality and her unfortunate encounters with aberrations and perversions in this aspect of life is reviewed through the filter of maturity and even a certain level of detachment. Her preference of certain family members, her foster parents during the war and her future husband is so well scripted that it unconsciously yet subtly draws into it the sympathy of the reader. Through graphic description yet nuanced perspective, she resurrects in the topography of one’s imagination the violence, waste and horror of the Second World War which practically ripped London apart, literally as well as metaphorically.

As a vivid- almost at times visual- depiction of a life that shall surely inspire the individual in each of us, the book shall stay with me for a long time to come and perhaps, possibly help in the personal realization of a more generous perspective of life in the post-war age.


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