Changing shades of heroes and villains in Disneyworld

Heroes are all the same. Tall, handsome, brave and in love with the lead lady. In a Disney movie, it is even more so. To me they have always been the most boring characters in a story. They are all cast from the same mold and sickeningly nice.

The villains, now they are the meat of the movie. From Cinderella’s stepmom, Captain Hook, Voldemort, the wicked witch of sleeping beauty the variety, breath and range that a villain can have is truly amazing. So expecting to see some serious badass, I eagerly got the tickets to Angelina Jolie starrer Disney’s most iconic villain – Maleficent.

NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD

The trailer and the hoardings were scary enough. But I was in for a surprise and how! Maleficent was just a name. She was so benign in the movie. The movie, adapted from sleeping beauty tells the tale from the wicked witch’s point of view this time around. I guess it would be logical to expect arrogance, attitude and some scheming plots resulting in gruesome climax with the Prince slaying of the protagonist. The movie confused my simple concepts of hero and villain.

The Prince was not the true love, Maleficent was not really cruel and happily ever after did not lead to marriage.

But wait! This is not the first time Disney has changed the logic this way. The last three movies of the Prince-Princess genre has this different ending.

The change may have begun with the orange haired impulsive Merida who defies the necessity of a Prince for her to lead a happy life in the movie Brave. It was a movie on girl empowerment and a tribute to mother daughter relationship though with some distaff twists.

Later came the magnificent Frozen – a movie where again the stereotyped Prince did not thaw the ice but the sister’s true love.

Now we have maleficent – a witch who cursed in rage and slowly over years becomes attached to the baby, whom she incidentally calls beasty. And finally it’s her maternal tears and kiss that brings sleeping beauty out of the spell.

I am not sure what upsets me more. Maleficent not having a good villain or the Disney has stopped believing in regular true love stories.

I think this opinion is in continuation with my previous post on changing faces of the female protagonists in YA fiction. This maybe yet another facet. Women do not need the love, affection and approval of a man, not even if he’s a Prince and not even in a Disney movie.

As a lover of all things fiction, I have ambiguous feelings – my hero and villain are greyer now than black or white but as a marketing enthusiast I wonder what will companies like De Beers do now? Will we now have diamonds for sisters and mothers as the only way to say we love them?

Collect them all this New Year!

Winter’s set in and even Google is knitting warm gloves….hot coffee, warm food and lovely movies releasing every week. As the year ends, don’t let the red and white make you forget the warm green and fiery orange of the past months.

Now may be the perfect time to reminiscence on all the achievements of this past year, month by lovely month. It can be a promotion, a new job; maybe you built a new house or travelled to a new place. Celebrated your 10th anniversary perhaps? Every enduring relationship, fruitful plan and success is an achievement.

While you are on the month by month mental journey, pause to count the blessings that came your way…. A baby in the family, new friends, even testing times that made you stronger. Of course don’t forget those everyday moments of joy that is really God’s blessing on our lives.

If the room around you has not become warm yet after those fond memories, pick up that phone or mail to say thank you to all those who touched your life this year in the best of ways. Got a not so warm relation with someone? What better time than the new year to wish  and make up?

I can already feel the temperature isn’t so cold anymore. For that I’d like to thank each and every one of you for making this year an amazing one where I learnt a lot, laughed like a child and lived in hope and happiness every day.

Thank you and Have a Very Happy New Year!

May 2014 be your best year yet! 

I walked the untraveled road

At the crossroads of decision making, I’ve always chosen the untraveled road. Was it my sense of adventure (I am not really a risk taking person), the lack of competition, the lure of the unknown or a longing to be original? I never know. It may be something even more mundane like the thrill of being different. Whatever the reasons for they are unclear even to me, my walk down the path has definitely been new and original.

After a decade, I am glad. Where at first the road seemed lonely, unconstrained and leading towards an abyss, today it seems familiar. My path still doesn’t have the flash, the dazzling lights and traffic of other well chosen ones and few have traveled the path with me, it is now a cozy patch.

But the best part of the journey has when I kept falling down initially. The lonely road does not offer support. In it’s silence there’s a patience. In it’s firmness there’s a challenge. It waited for me to get up, dust myself and walk again. At every fall it also challenged me to stay fully expecting me to run to the other well lain paths.

On  my solitary journey I discovered more about myself, my strengths and weaknesses than my years at college.

A complete awareness of myself – that is the gift of the untraveled road.

Books, Books, Books

I have been the believer of the magic of languages and its ability to form better relationships ever since my childhood days, trotting along with my dad in his various transfers along the country. And being in a multi-religious, multi-linguistic country like India, where around 33 different languages and 2000 dialects are identified in usage, picking up 5-6 of them did not seem so difficult.

But the importance of languages changed from being just a mode of expression to many things as I grew older. Better friendships in teenage with people who could speak the language. At a time I was the close friend of many groups of people.  My linguistic prowess showed its better features as I grew up and ventured alone in this wide world. A favour here, an easy booking there, people I found out where bound to their languages. Truly language had hidden powers, beyond the squeak of words.

As in the words of Angela Carter, Language is power, life and the instrument of culture, the instrument of domination and liberation.

So three years back when I came to Dubai, the magical land of Middle East, I was thrilled to get a chance to learn the lyrical Arabic. The Arabic language has a lyrical tilt in its words and the script just flows off the pages. A truly artistic language. I was really excited to be able catch the language on the streets so to speak and thus learn it the native way. (I had learnt all my other languages by just being in the city).

But the shock came in a few days of my being in Dubai. The shops, cabs, cleaners, workers, vendors, everyone could speak English, Chinese, Indian and Arabic. I simply didn’t get a chance to learn. So I armed myself with books and an online course to embark this learning experience. But the fun was just not there and Google just about translates everything.  The technology today has made learning something new unnecessary.

As Friedrich Hebbel rightly put in perspective, “ If language had been the creation not of poetry but of logic, we should only have one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flowers exchanged

 “I want it, I want it now” Sandy screamed at the top of her voice.

“But you already have so many games” her mother tried to calm her.

“No this game is the latest. I want it now. Come let’s go” Sandy was pulling at her mother’s hands. She was a pretty girl with dark brown hair and a dimpled smile. She was also a brilliant student. But she was an impatient child. Whatever she thought she liked, Sandy wanted it immediately.

Her latest tantrum was for the new game on her Xbox 360 Kinect. She didn’t really play with them so much but she liked the idea of owning them.

“OK Sandz, listen up” her aunt Kiran was visiting them. She was a travel journalist and loved new places.

“Here’s the deal” Aunt Kiran went to her backpack and brought out a small packet. They contained small grey seeds.

“These are seeds to a beautiful plant. The flowers look just like roses. Every time there’s a flower, you get one wish. But you need to take care”

Sandy was now interested in this deal. “What will I have to do?”

“Water the plants daily. Be patient and allow it to grow on its own. No tweaking, touching or shouting. Plants are sensitive to sound” Aunt Kiran gave her those seeds.

Sandy planted them in two beautiful pots. She watered them for a few days and then forgot about them. Then one day she wanted a new bag.

“But where is the flower to exchange for the bag?” her mother asked.

“Oh no. My plants.” Sandy ran to see them. Mummy had not let the plants die.

From then on Sandy took great care of her plants. When the first flower came out, she got her bag. For the second she wanted a new doll.

Sandy loved her plants very much and was proud of them. She took good care of them and now had added a few more pots to her collection.

When the next flower bloomed her mother asked, “What do you want this time?”

“Nothing mummy, this garden is prize enough” The beautiful flowers had made Sandy a patient and better person.

Nature is God’s way of teaching us. Have a pet, grow a fish, garden or simply feed the pigeons outside your window. You’ll learn to be a better human.

55 word fiction

I watched her as she came up the beautiful stair case. She was tiny but beautiful. Her face held the same shocked look that I generally see on any newcomer’s face and in these last ten years I’ve seen thousands of them. She could not believe she had not been allowed to live. Her hope, dreams and joy had been dashed to the ground in a single surgical procedure.

She came near me perplexed and asked “why? What did I do?”

“You did not have the Y chromosome, so they aborted you” I replied as I was told when I first came up those celestial stairs.

(This is a tribute to those 20,000 daughters have gone ‘missing’ in Tamil Nadu in the last 10 years, according to the Campaign against Sex Selective Abortions (CASA).

Coming Home

The dousing squall greeted me with soft sweet drops on my face and a churning sludge around me feet, spoiling my slippers. I quickly hurried to the car park. Rain, sludge or bog, this was home.

The smell of the city is always the first thing I notice stepping out of the Chennai airport. I revel in my olfactory trail trying to separate individual scents – the various trees, shrubs and flowers, the humid air, exhaust fumes and a unique scent of civilization; of having lived on this part of the Earth for more than 2000 yrs.

A taxi was waiting for me. After dumping my belongings, two massive suitcases and folding myself into its frayed seat, smelling of diesel we set off.

“Shall I turn on the AC?” the cabby asked

“No. I like the city air” said I.

We sped on towards dawn, through my city that was still asleep. The soft rain created a gauzy curtain and blurred out the details but I saw through my mind’s eye, memories of this busy city that would spring to life in a few hours. A rush to work, school, and college mixed with the shouts of vendors, kirana stores and little temples at every street corner.

As we came towards my street corner, I knew my mother would be waiting, filter kaapi freshly brewed, smiling from the balcony.

An act so simple yet so profound in its permanence. Do I love my city for the journey it is or for the destination – my mother’s smile?