The ten word story

Thank you for last night. This should cover it. Kisses.

 

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{I have always been intrigued by the sheer ingenuity of conveying a story in as few words as possible. There are those that excel at it. This was my little stab at this nascent genre of story telling.}

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Wadjda

Saw the break through Saudi-German film, Wadjda, last night. Had read much about it, and the trials of the first Saudi female director, Haifaa al-Mansour, during the making of it. From trying to find the financial backing, to getting filming permission in Saudi Arabia for the authentic locales, to having to work from the back of a van and communicate via walkie talkie with her cast and crew, so as to not be seen to publicly mingle with men in the hugely orthodox Saudi milieu, the movie is a testament to perseverance and talent.

Wadjda is a simple story of a young girls yearning for a bicycle. She is a resourceful, bright and competitive child, who refuses to be slotted by her gender or her financial incapacity. Wadjda makes mixed tapes and woven bracelets to supplement her pocket money. She acts as an intermediary for young lovers. She bargains with the shop keeper with an ease beyond her years. She is a girl, who is yet to have the fire in her extinguished.

Interspersed with the main theme are various sub themes that highlight the position of women in Saudi Arabia. There is Wadjda’s beautiful but insecure mother, whose worst nightmare of her husband taking on another wife, does come to pass. Simply because she is unable to give him a male heir. Then there is the uber strict headmistress at Wadjda’s school, whose own rebellious past has been stamped out forcefully, making her a staunch proponent of female subjugation. There are references to the religious police, to the inability of women to be seen in public in the company of men other than family members, the slow but subtle change that a few rebellious women and girls are trying to engender, through not toeing the line.

Strangely, none of it is strident or in your face. There is a warmth, a simple elegiac richness that make one identify and empathise with this diverse assortment of characters. One can’t help but champion Wadjda through her fruitless attempt to win the money for her precious bike at a Qu’ran recital or feel a certain pity for her mother’s equally fruitless attempt to hold on to a husband who is slipping away.

Ultimately, Wadjda is a gentle, uplifting and rare glimpse into a world that co exists with ours, and yet, is so very foreign. I urge as many of my readers as possible to watch this beautiful gem of a film. It is one that will stay with you for many years to come.

 

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In praise of Simplicity

A few weeks ago, a headline caught my eye. It was about a crane mishap that happened at a wedding in Gujarat. The bride and her sister, were suspended off a 40 foot crane, in a crystal platform. This was being lowered to the ground, with accompanying music, and pyrotechnics, when suddenly something went very very wrong. The crane toppled over, with the platform crashing to the ground, killing one man and injuring a few others, including the occupants.

 

What a way to begin what should have been the happiest day of their lives!

 

Which begs the question, why was the bride arriving via crane? Surely, the normal modes of transportation would have been safer, even cheaper? But of course, it’s got nothing to do with safety, common sense or even the couple themselves. It has everything to do with keeping up with the Joneses, showing how wealthy they are, and the absurd lengths the families are willing to go to, to top the competition.

 

Weddings in India have become ostentatious affairs. There had always been various little ceremonies leading up to the main event. However, the scale has suddenly expanded exponentially. Where a decade or two ago, a sangeet function would have been a small gathering of relatives and friends, singing and dancing together; these days, it is a choreographed exercise in complexity. There are rehearsals prior to the day in order that not a foot is put wrong. The bride and groom themselves become performing monkeys for the entertainment of the guests. Bollywood numbers are executed with more precision and gusto than  the originals. Even the old and decrepit are obliged to shake a leg. 

 

Each function- and trust me, there are numerous ones- require various changes of attire. Nothing less than designer will do of course, if Daddy is loaded, and Mummy a society bird. The fashionista bride will settle for no less than a Sabyasachi or a Manish Malhotra. Whereas Mummy and other assorted females might have to have a mature Ritu Kumar. The bridegroom will be buffed and polished (and buttoned into his bundh-gala) to within an inch of perfection, lest he fall short of the spectacular narrative that this wedding must be.

 

And the food! Don’t get me started on the food. 

 

How many types of cuisine are there in the world? Well, give or take a few, they will all be laid out for the guests’ consumption. Never mind the fact, that most of these guests will either be too drunk to bother, or on a perennial diet that precludes sniffing at, let alone the actual eating of food. Conspicuous consumption be damned. Here the mantra is more likely to be wasteful extravagance!

 

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that arriving at a wedding in a crane or a helicopter (or on the back of a flipping unicorn, if it could be stage managed!), is far more common place than it first appears. Well, at any rate, if you have money to burn. Which, in India, at the moment, there seems to be plenty of!

 

Now this may seem like a rant that stems from sour grapes. Seeing as I never had a wedding of such epic proportions. Mine was a simple ceremony at the Gurdwara, followed by a lunch. At a stretch, we would have had, maybe 35 guests. Circumstances led to the simplicity of my wedding. Admittedly, I was disappointed, as was my husband. We were gregarious by nature, and wanted a large wedding with the usual hoo haa of the time. That did not come to pass. For several years after, I nursed it like a sore that I didn’t want scabbing over. Till one day, a dear friend, who had had the big wedding, and whose marriage was now on the rocks, pointed out the obvious to me. It wasn’t the quantity (to use that much abused cliché), but the quality that mattered. 

 

For all the money in the world, the biggest, the most lavish celebrations cannot guarantee one thing. A happy married life.

 

I hope that at some stage this message starts to filter through to the generations ahead that plan to tie the knot. No amount of Bollywood kitsch can ensure the longevity of a union. That amazing society wedding is yesterdays news already. The audience has moved on. They are looking for a bigger circus, and while there are fools out there, willing to bankrupt themselves to provide the entertainment, more cranes will crash to the ground and more casualties will suffer the excesses of a generation gone mad. 

 

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Conflict of interest?

I was asked recently why my stories have petered off. I seem to be blogging more about random things, than posting that which I am “specialised” in – short stories. Well, there are a couple of reasons for this. One, quite simply, the store has diminished. What I mean is, that when I began blogging about a year ago, I had a good stock of stories that I had built up over the last 4 odd years. Some that had placed in competitions, and some that hadn’t. Seeing as I was not planning to re use them (as in, submit them any further), I was quite happy posting them on here.

Now, I have a concurrent problem. The ones that I do have in stock are ones that I plan to polish, tweak, re do and submit. And a lot of competitions these days, state quite clearly in their T&C’s that prior published material, regardless of it being print or digital, will not be entertained. So, there you have it! The old supply and demand problem. The supply, unfortunately, has dwindled.

I’m hoping that the blog in itself, is fairly thought provoking, and topical. If it isn’t, do not hesitate to complain! I was accused by a friend, of treading way too softly, and tackling subjects way too tame. That maybe. However, as a blogger, I merely put my thoughts out there to you. Sometimes I tackle my personal demons on here. This is not an incendiary blog. It’s merely a little nudge from time to time.

In the meantime, I keep reminding myself to knuckle down and write. Solitary, painful and largely without recompense, writing is still something I love. So, back to the drawing board it is. Time to produce, birth, create my fledglings…..

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