Tuesday, February 21, 2017

60 and beyond...

60 doesn’t mean anything when you are 16 or even when you are 36. Youth has enough power to make ageing seem like a far removed reality. You take life as the force that propels you to greater heights, makes you achieve unbelievable feats and gives you the momentum to face challenges. You go about the business of living as if each day is your first and the last doesn’t exist.
Even when you reach the golden 50, 60 seems far away. You have a decade to get there and a decade is 10 blessed years. You smile when young people tell you, you don’t look your age. Of course, you don’t. You are only 50 and isn’t 50 the new 30 or something? You are still healthy, strong (some lifestyle or genetic illnesses may have surfaced) but by and large you are GOOD and the going is GOOD. And then before you can say Jack Robinson - WHAM the decade is over!
60 is a strange age to arrive at. A landmark of sorts and yet a dampener as it also indicates a kind of culmination – of a life well lived, possibly in the fast lane – but somewhere asking you to slow down (even if you don’t wish to). Physical ailments start playing mind-games and Google becomes your best friend – it either kills you or saves you from your real and imaginary illnesses! In any case, your memory plays bigger games and you often walk around trying to remember why you are walking around!
You are asked about your retirement plans and whether you are looking at buying a home at an Old People’s Community. People suddenly decide you look older than your age and even have the temerity to tell you so. You go for a simple eyebrow threading and the PYT doing the job tells you to go for Botox. You have to remind yourself not to walk like a penguin, wear clothes that are age-appropriate and generally behave like you are history. You are strangely and inexplicably not ‘with it’ any more.

Suddenly, life is no longer about treating each day as your first but more about living it as if it is your last! Cheers to the 60's and beyond!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Udta Punjab (not a review)


This is not a review. For that we have film critics, both self styled and certified, to tell us the merits and the demerits of the story, performances, direction and all the other technicalities that go into the making of a film. This is a heartfelt, emotional understanding of why this film touched the core of my heart and prompted me to write on it. 

Right from the time the film was announced I was waiting for its release. Reasons - I adore Shahid Kapoor, who I believe is a storehouse of talent much of which is still untapped, I have liked all of director Abhishek Chaubey previous movies, and because Anuraag Kashyap is a maverick whose work intrigues me. But these were reasons of an ardent Hindi movie buff - someone who can sit through all kinds of Hindi cinema (barring a few exceptions, of course! )

That I was going to watch the film was a given but that I would get so disturbed by it was unexpected. Well, not really unexpected because when you have been closely involved with someone who has wasted his life on drugs of every variety and composition, you are kind of prepared to see some of it on screen without cringing. My real sense of disturbance came from the fact that I spent almost a month and a half in three cities of Punjab recently and what I saw there and read about in the newspapers was horrifying to say the least. The malaise is deeply entrenched and if your are careful to notice there are signs of it everywhere. Watching the movie was like scratching a fresh scab, which you know is going to hurt but which you can't avoid scratching. Much like Addiction.

Some observations (culled from TV news, local newspapers and what I saw around me):

In my line of work I had to meet a lot of young people daily and there were many instances where I could tell that the person sitting opposite me was stoned.

There are daily deaths by overdose - sometimes in the fields and often in fancy cars and homes.

De-addiction centers, like the one below, are not hidden in some godforsaken places. They are very much part of the city's landscape. It is another matter that  not far from the centers stand the peddlers ready to lure the addict back to his misery. 

Medicines or controlled drugs that are used to treat the addicts are often misused.

There are innumerable doctors and physicians fighting their collective and lone battles, though none as pretty as the de-glamorized Kareena Kapoor, whose lives get totally entwined in the lives of the addicts they treat. They have to stay unemotional and treat patients not only physically but also psychologically. Sometimes the patients get attached to them emotionally and can become dangerous when asked to maintain professional distance.

The police raids and seizes contraband drugs, mainly heroin, everyday in some part of the state. But the flow doesn't stop. 

A large number of women are addicts - but unfortunately a very small number of women go for de-addiction. Addicts generally force their girl friends or wives (sometimes even sisters) into substance abuse but once they are into it they don't receive much help from the families so far as treatment is concerned.

Does UDTA PUNJAB deal with all this?  Oh yes - it does and in full measure. Anyone who believes he is going to watch fiction should not see this film at all. Cinema is supposed to be larger than life but there is nothing larger than life here - it is stark reality on an as is where is basis. The movie shows you all levels of society from a rock star Tommy Singh, to a middle class student Balli right down to the rural masses finding the easy way out to euphoria. The only part which is difficult to digest is the lead actor's quick transformation from a coke snorting brat to a reformed, do-gooder on a mission but given that the movie was running four tracks simultaneously this can be overlooked. 

Movies are a reflection of society because stories come from those living in society. However, movies are not reformers - societies are. UDTA PUNJAB may not be a perfect film but it is a telling commentary on what is plaguing Punjab right now. Since there are no band-aid solutions for this humongous problem let's at least look at this film as a wake-up call to not let Punjab become another Mexico. 


Sunday, May 29, 2016


So when do you 'pull the plug' - and how do you deal with the uncertainty called LIFE is what the film WAITING is all about. I, for one, can't remember how many times I have told my husband and kids that if I am in that state where it is difficult to keep me alive they should take the decision to 'pull the plug'. But when the time comes how easy will it be for a family member to do that?

WAITING takes you through the stages of frustration, anger, dejection, acceptance and utter helplessness a family member goes through when a loved one is on life support - dead but not quite yet. When does one decide to let go and for how long does one hang on to the hope of life?

Subtle references to the commercial needs of the medical profession and the nexus between insurance companies and hospital boards only increase the futility of the wait. How much of what the doctor tells you is true? How much does he or she know? Are his decisions based on commerce or empathy? 

Fragile relationships in these times of Facebook and Twitter, strangers bonding for no other reason except shared pain, efforts to rise above the morbidity and snatch moments of hope and cheer are some of the layers the film explores through its beautifully montaged scenes.

Excellent, nuanced performances by the two protagonists makes this film a treat to watch. Naseeruddin shah - and this is the Naseer one waits for years to watch - is flawless. Kalki portrays the mercurial Tara with great ease. Her eyes convey a gamut of expressions and make her silent moments as impactful as her loquacious ones. 

Go watch WAITING not only because sometime in your life you may, in all probability, be faced with a similar dilemma but also because it's only once in a while that you get a chance to see good cinema! And such a chance should not be missed. 


Monday, May 23, 2016

Age is an issue of mind over matter....

I started going gray at a very young age - an event in which heredity played as major a role as did a chronic sinusitis ailment. For a few years I went the natural way using Henna to color my gray strands but soon the gray far exceeded the limits to which henna could hide it - leading me reluctantly to chemical dyes. Initially, and because I was younger, more flexible and definitely very enthusiastic about it - I colored my hair myself, but a fading eyesight and a cervical problem drove me to salons for professional help.
The guys and gals at the salons are terrific sales people. They tell you about your imperfections with such finesse that you are left with no recourse but to believe them. You think you have 25% gray in your hair and they convince you it is  hundred percent. You see three wrinkles and the girl threading your eyebrows will see a hundred - 'madam, your skin is very lose. Too many lines. Facial nahin karate kya?' The premise being that if you don't go in for a facial every 15 days your jowls will hang low enough to touch your shoulders. 
One of them (herself a 30 something) tried to convince me of the benefits of taking Botox injections to ease out the lines on my 60 year old face.  No amount of telling her that I loved my wrinkles (they do add character to my face) helped. Her logic was simple. If she at the age of 30 something was taking Botox why was I at 60 refusing it. I had to run out of the place to save my skin! Well, I do admit to certain vanities - despite my age. Dying my hair is one, swathing my face with day and night creams is another, dressing well and being aware of my appearance can be added to the list and I guess there are a few more foibles in the running which need not be mentioned here. But it's all normal everyday stuff. I don't want chemical in my face that would probably freeze me so much I won't be able to smile. 
However, of late I have started getting second thoughts about coloring my hair. Too much chemical, too much hassle, too much waiting for the color to act on the stubborn gray, waste of money and a myriad other reasons I conjure up just after getting it done. No more I tell myself. There's going to be no next time. I will go bald - okay not really, really bald - maybe a sharp crew cut to let the gray grow our fast and what will emerge from the mess will be this silver-haired, elegant woman who despite the silver hair will not look old! 
The point is I am so very unsure about who will emerge - a silver-haired elegant woman or a dull gray old one. And therein lies the dilemma!! To do or not to do - that is the question. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

ज़िंदगी भी क्या अजीब शह है
कमबख़्त बैंक के लोन की तरह
किश्तें चुकाते चुकाते गुज़र गयी!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What's in a name...plenty if you ask me!

'What's in a name?' asked Shakespeare and then went on to give a fitting reply to his own question by his ever famous quote that a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet'. I am no rose and have no inkling of my sweet smelling elements but for the entire 57 years of my life I have been known by a name which identifies me as a particular person whom some people on the face of this earth happen to know. My name though ordinary and very common is unique to who I am and has remained just that for a better part of my life. A name, an identification,  a label - call it what you may. It has never ever given me trouble and being simple and easy to pronounce has always been hassle free except in the last few years or rather from the time I have moved to Ahmedabad.

The minute I introduce myself to a person or on a forum I evoke responses bordering on the incongruous - ah don't bluff - you can't be her! to the ludicrous.- you look so different in your pictures. Some people exude an effusiveness bordering on euphoria which of course wanes immediately on knowing I am not the celeb they thought I was. This either embarrasses me - I disappoint yet another person who was hoping to meet THE illustrious Ms. Kiranbir Sethi and has the misfortune of meeting me instead or puts me on an explanatory mode - you know there are two of us with the same name, in the same profession, blah! blah! 

Then there are also those who make me feel like an usurper. These may be friends or colleagues who know her well and I become a victim of their reproachful, accusing looks suggesting that nobody else can have a name they so look up to. It is amusing and irritating at the same time.  I don't think my namesake Ms. Kiranbir Sethi has ever had to face such awkward moments given that she is the celeb and I am the hoi polloi but for the people out there - just a few facts - I did a Facebook search for my name and found an endless list of Kiran Sethis and since the entire world is not on Facebook I am sure there are many more that we don't know of. I am not peeved but yes it would definitely be pleasant next time to meet someone who would wait to complete introductions before making casual, flippant remarks. For the sake of good manners if nothing else!

Friday, September 27, 2013

The journey inward can only begin when the journey outward ceases to matter.