Teaspoon

“Life is difficult
this is a great truth, of the greatest truths.
It is a great truth because once we truly
see this truth, we transcend it.
Once we truly understand and accept it –
then life is no longer difficult.
Because once it is accepted,
the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

 – M Scott Peck, The Road less traveled

Life is definitely not smooth sailing but how does one negotiate the troughs of life. Mental conditioning with liberal doses of spirituality, positivity , stoicism,meditation and learning from other’s experiences are great coping strategies. Recent research has shown that repetitive mental activity can rewire and physically change the structure of the brain. So in effect,reinforcing and repeatedly being positive in day to day life,definitely goes a long way towards strengthening the neuron synapses. That throws up interesting possibilities, as it might be possible to condition oneself for being positive even in preparedness for an event ,that is yet to occur.

To maintain equanimity as age & time deal a hard blow, requires great inner fortitude.To suddenly find your physical strength deserting you,to be trapped within your own body, can be intensely traumatic and despite all the mental preparation, one can precariously totter on the verge of a complete collapse. And while the tide of destiny sweeps away the tenuous hold on a patient’s physical well-being, equally and if not more exacting is the role of a caregiver in taking care of a terminally ill or a bed ridden patient.

The Gita says – “If you only enjoy the gifts of the Universe, the life-giving sun, the nourishing rain, the fertile earth, the lofty mountains,the flowing rivers and not put your own shoulder to the wheel, offering your effort back to the Universe, you are no better than a common thief”

Duties need to be done, just like nature performs its role unerringly.Our own body,with its rhythmic heart beats infusing us with life-giving blood,is no less an inspiration. And no duty can be more urgent,more righteous than filial duty. Dwelling on this thought might help in cultivating the huge amount of energy,that being a caregiver entails. Being human and having a conscious choice in matters, weighs us down with enormous responsibilities. That,in which lesser men and women have been known to fail.

And so, we must not forget that a caregiver too is a human and unfortunately carries the burden of human fallibility. Most of us sympathize with the patient but few spare a thought to the continuous toil of a primary caregiver. And just like a mother,who becomes a primary care giver for a baby, needs support and needs to take a breather once in a while,so does a caregiver. Rachna wrote this beautiful post on a caregiver’s side of the story some time back.

The greatest strength lies within oneself and so does our greatest weakness. And it is times like these that truly test our mettle and although each step forward might be excruciatingly hard, the day will come when we can look back without regrets. There’s no weight that’s heavier to bear than a troubled conscience.

Presenting this beautiful 2015 short film today “Teaspoon” (Running time: 20 mins) by Aban Bharucha Deohans.

Advised reading after viewing:

The plot of this film was really rich with myriad perspectives. The overall direction and acting was quite good other than the slightly jerky acting by the husband. But what I loved was the theme, which has been explored with all its nuances. I give full points for the story and the masterful ending, leaving open possibilities which were left unsaid.

Viewed in a different light, what if the lady had actually been imagining things and had actually become unhinged.But in retrospect, there were teaspoon marks by the bedside. Our mind plays weird games and it doesn’t take long for the lines of imagination and reality to quickly blur. The story brings out the need to be compassionate to all. It’s also quite possible that, for the want of a bit of compassion from the husband, a tragedy could have been avoided.

Overall a beautiful and a very thought provoking film.

Do watch and tell me your thoughts about the film !

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Little Terrorist

There was an interesting article in The Hindu recently quoting Rabindranath Tagore on nationalism. To quote Tagore’s words –

“I am not against one nation in particular, but against the general idea of all nations. What is the Nation? It is the aspect of a whole people as an organised power. This organisation incessantly keeps up the insistence of the population on becoming strong and efficient. But this strenuous effort after strength and efficiency drains man’s energy from his higher nature where he is self-sacrificing and creative. For thereby man’s power of sacrifice is diverted from his ultimate object, which is moral, to the maintenance of this organisation, which is mechanical.

Yet in this he feels all the satisfaction of moral exaltation and therefore becomes supremely dangerous to humanity. He feels relieved of the urging of his conscience when he can transfer his responsibility to this machine which is the creation of his intellect and not of his complete moral personality.

By this device people who love freedom perpetuate slavery in a large portion of the world with the comfortable feeling of pride of having done its duty; men who are naturally just can be cruelly unjust both in their act and their thought, accompanied by a feeling that they are helping the world in receiving its deserts; men who are honest can blindly go on robbing others of their human rights for self-aggrandizement, all the while abusing the deprived for not deserving better treatment.”

Nationalism can often come into conflict with humanism. And when it does, which direction should the moral compass point to. Should one choose to be a nationalist or a humanist, even if is at the cost of being deemed unpatriotic.It is far easier to be a rightful nationalist as one confines to a set of rules and enjoys the luxury of limited options.The blind following of rules for national identity sometimes leads to catastrophes like the disaster of the German camps. While more than a handful of people who orchestrated the whole machinery, could be classified as zealots and sadists, what can be said for the vast majority of SS people who blindly followed orders. How were they able to justify the atrocities they were committing ? It was probably easier to hide behind the cloak of moral responsibility as the rightful guardians of their nation than it was to face their conscience in the sunken eyes of their hostages.

When a country’s security becomes a machinery, it can no longer afford itself the luxury of humanity and innocent people caught in the cross-fire of border conflicts are often collateral damage.With this heavy backdrop, who would have thought that it was possible to capture so many emotions through a delightfully light short-film about a small child. I present this beautiful short film “Little Terrorist” (Running time: 15 mins), written and produced by Ashvin Kumar.

Advised reading after viewing:

I loved the way such deep aspects have been brought forth so delightfully in such a simple movie.The acting was polished and it was therefore, a surprise to know that not one of them was a seasoned actor. Zulfuqar Ali who played the part of Salim was a street child, Sushil Sharma a clerk and Meghna was a 12th student when the movie was shot.The movie was nominated for the 2005 Academy Award for Live action Short film.

The bonds that united and the bonds that divided, both have been woven intricately. Both present and undeniably woven into the fabric of their personalities and yet, ultimately it’s a victory for humanity.

There were slight inconsistencies that mildly rankled the “realism” bit, but these were easily overshadowed by the beauty of this wonderful piece of art.

Do watch and I would love to hear your thoughts on it !

Babette’s Feast

“Mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another. Man, in his weakness and short-sightedness, believes he must make choices in this life. He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear. But, no! Our choice is of no importance. There comes a time when your eyes are opened. And we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence, and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And, lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we rejected — has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected. For mercy and truth are met together. And righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another”– (Adaptation from Psalm 85:10) and thus spake Lorens Lowenhielm in Babette’s Feast.

– ooo –

Does self-denial really make us more virtuous ? Self-denial as a means to salvation has been pursued in various faiths and at various times. Self-denial is not the same as loss of desire for ‘denial’ inherently means that there was desire.Therefore self-denial takes infinitely more determination than abstaining because of a desire free existence.While I dwelled on this thought as I watched the 1987 drama film, Babette’s feast directed by Gabriel Axel,it left me much more to think about later.

In 19th century Denmark, is a tiny hamlet situated in an isolated stretch off the coast of Jutland.In this barren landscape, two beautiful sisters, Martine (Birgitte Federspiel) and Phillipa (Bodil Kjer), follow a rigidly devout path.

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They had opportunities to deviate from their chosen path, but they doggedly stick on.Initially I was tempted to attribute it to the high handed approach of their father, a minister in the church, but later was forced to renege when I saw their obvious devotion and joy in their faith.Many years pass, the father is now deceased and the two sisters still continue to follow their path with the same joy and devotion. And then on one stormy night, a young & desperate French woman knocks on their door and she brings with her a letter which rekindle some forgotten memories. They take her in as a cook and so it was that Babette(Stephane Audran) came to live with them and loyally served them for 14 years.

On the 100th death anniversary of their father, Babette requests them to let her cook an authentic French dinner. But when they observe the dinner preparations which includes wine,tortoise soup and quails, it sends the puritan sisters into a flurry. And the would-be dinner guests undertake a vow that not a word about the dinner would pass their lips.

And the meal would have received no verbal recognition had it not been for the sudden appearance of a former suitor of one of the sisters, Lorens Lowenheilm,now a general in the army.

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He was the only person present who could genuinely appreciate the meal unhindered by austerity.He found that the superlative meal could easily parallel one of the finest dining experiences he had  long ago in an exclusive French restaurant.The power of the delicious dinner is such that it breaks down the distrust and the rivalries between the guests and after partaking the wonderful spread, they are uplifted to a different level of equanimity.

It was then that Loren Lowenhielm says – ‘Mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.

The film has been shot at some very realistic locations which bring alive the bleakness of the countryside.Every actor plays their part to perfection which is not surprisingly considering that they were specially selected from the same nationalities as the part they were playing.The film won a lot of awards including the 1987 Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.

The movie has some interesting thoughts at play.Does moral uprightness result in small-minded pettiness ? Does one’s humanness take a backseat when confronted with religious intolerance? Did it make the guests hypocritical who in spite of savoring every morsel, felt ashamed to state the obvious ? Was it the bliss of good food alone that brought forth the halo of congeniality ? The film also brings to the fore, the unfailing faith of the two sisters.Before leaving for dinner, Lorens Lowenhielm also ponders about his life’s choices – whether he has won or lost. But after the dinner,he realizes that life was not only unpredictable,it was also beyond reason.Winning or losing was too narrow a boundary to confine God’s wishes.The film also has lent itself to very deep religious interpretation owing to its use of Christian symbolism.

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Babette is a great artist and as she herself declares ‘An artist is never poor’. Paradoxically, the meal was never meant for the sake of the guests.It was,in fact, for herself that she cooks.It was just as she had intended it to be – Not only an artist’s statement but also her personal spiritual en-devour.

The movie kind of grows on you and it will linger long after you have watched it. Watch it if you don’t mind watching slower paced movies and for the interesting interpretations that follow.

Here are some interesting links which talk at length about the religious interpretations..

http://www.unomaha.edu/jrf/BabetteWW.htm

http://home.snu.edu/~ghackler/babette/bancroft.htm

http://www.cgjungpage.org/learn/articles/film-reviews/710-the-discovery-of-meaning-in-qbabettes-feastq

Lemon Tree

“We are born with the capacity for empathy. An ability to recognize emotions transcends race, culture, nationality, class, gender, and age” says Mary Gordon.

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‘Empathy’ was the foremost thought that struck me when I saw this beautiful Israeli movie.Lemon Tree is a 2008 movie directed by Eran Riklis.The movie is set in West Bank,a part of the Israeli occupied territory -as classified by the UN.A land-locked territory near the Mediterranean coast of Western Asia, it has perpetually witnessed upheavals and finally was occupied by Israel following a six day war in 1967.Ensuing the military occupation, Israeli settlements in West Bank comprised a sizable population in an area predominantly dominated by Palestinian Arabs.

It is in this combustible landscape that two women’s lives intertwine – a Palestinian Arab widow and a Jewish Israeli woman married to the Israeli defense minister. Salma Zidane (Hiam Abbass) is a middle-aged Palestinian Arab widow who lives alone with limited financial support from her three children. Her life revolves around nurturing her small lemon tree orchard from which she manages to derive a meager income.Her simple life is unsettled when an Israeli defense minister moves in as her neighbor.Barbed wires, tall check posts and round-the- clock security men invade her life and peace. But she finds her life careening, when the orders come in to uproot her beloved lemon trees,as a security measure to deter any armed attack on the defense minister’s house. Salma, a woman brought up in a strict patriarchal society, refuses to be cowed down and decides to take on the Israeli government to save her lemon trees.The story is about her determined struggle to get justice.
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When she hires a young lawyer – Ziad Daud (Ali Suliman) to fight for her, long forgotten emotions resurface. The story is also about loneliness and desires.

Mira Navon (Rona Lipaz-Michael), the Israeli defense minister’s wife is witness to Salma’s struggles to save her trees. A compassionate woman, Mira is moved by her plight and empathizes with her.And in the process,she can no longer ignore her husband’s glaring hypocrisies and shortcomings. She doggedly sticks to the role of a dutiful wife but she can no longer cast aside the growing loneliness within her. Mira and Salma – two women who can’t even communicate with each other. There are language,nationality and history barriers, but they reach out to each other. In a human bond, which is devoid of all requirements of such frivolities.Two women, who struggle in their own way to break the molds society has set for them.Both choosing to revolt in their own way. There are no winners or losers. There is only a sense of completion.
lemon tree
It is a simple movie – brilliantly directed, poignant and depicts a plethora of subtle hues of the life, times and people involved.Hiam Abbass has acted exceptionally well and in several instances her face emotes far better than any verbal dialogues possibly could.Being a widow in a society, where social mores are rigidly imposed is also depicted through some well chosen shots.
Eran Riklis deals with the movie in a largely apolitical fashion focusing on people and relationships rather than on the conflict. The film did come in from criticism as it was said to be pro-Palestine and portrayed the Israelis, who wield more military power, as abusive and arrogant. Nevertheless, it went on to win several awards in Berlin Film Festival and Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

“The Double Life of Véronique” by Krzysztof Kieslowski

This French-Polish film by Krzysztof Kieslowski is a movie, which as critics put it, is very little on paper and lovely on the emotional connect. It is rather like the ethereal musical note whose melody impinges on your senses but try as you might, you would not be able to put that on paper. An artistic work beckons you and gives you that special insight into the artist’s thoughts and in these realms, casting aside logic and the rules of the conscious world, allows one to truly experience it to its fullest.
The Double Life of Veronique
I saw the film twice and I could appreciate a lot of nuances much better on my second viewing.

Two children in different locations are shown the beauty of nature by their mothers – a lone star below the fog of a million stars in the night sky and a tender leaf with fine veins running through.


This was such an artistic way to start the movie, though it was only during the second viewing that I actually could relate it back to the story.

Weronika (Irène Jacob),a Polish church concertist in Poland tells her father that suddenly she didn’t feel ‘alone’ and expresses a desire to go to Krakow to visit her ailing aunt. In Krakow, as she is walking down a market square where a protest was on, she suddenly spots a woman exactly similar to her, boarding a tourist bus. As she stands looking at her, the bus moves taking the woman who’s frantically clicking pictures.This was the only meeting of the two women, Weronika and Véronique (Irène Jacob), a french music teacher from Paris, who deep within their consciousness are aware of a strange sensation of not being ‘alone’ in the world and of being at two places at the same time.
In a quirk of fate, Weronika collapses and dies in her first orchestra and there is a strange sensation of observing the proceedings from above and seeing the soil flung down on the coffin.

Irène Jacob is a lovely actress and the different emotions flitting across her face is wondorous to watch.I found the shots sensual and magical. The camera zooms in on a very unlikely object and slows pans out.
The only thing that slightly jarred was the relatively short duration of Weronika’s life and her death that seemed a bit abrupt.The scene when Weronika dies and the sensation of Weronika observing herself is unnerving and is superbly dealt in the way the camera zooms over the audience.

The haunting melody by the Polish composer, Zbigniew Preisner, stays with you long after the movie is over.


Véronique feels an inexplicable grief coming over her. As she teaches her students the same notes which Weronika plays when she dies, she feels an agitation coming over her.Around this time, she comes into the acquaintance of Alexandre Fabbri(Philippe Volter) who performs a marionette show about a ballerina who dies during a performance and becomes a fairy.


The introduction of Alexandre Fabbri is interesting at this stage as it almost seems completely discrete from the main story. The only connecting factor seems to be the marionette story which is uncannily similar to the story of Weronika.

She keeps running into Alexandre and discovers him to be an author who’s written several works.She gets a mysterious parcel containing a tape with only some background noises and sounds of some musical notes.As she hears it over and over again and examines the postage, she discovers them to be the sounds from a restaurant in a railway station.When she follows her instinct, she finds Alexandre waiting for her in the restaurant.He explains that it was a test to see whether a woman would respond to the call of an unknown man. She feels manipulated and runs away from him but he manages to find her and apologize. They spend the night together and in the morning, he finds the photo she had clicked of Weronika in Krakow amongst her other photos and inquires about it.It was then that Véronique sees Weronika for the first time and comprehends and cries bitterly.

Later, she sees Alexandre creating two identical marionettes of her and when she questions, he explains that since he handles them a lot, they damage easily.He also tells her the play’s story of two people bonded together across different locations.


The film has a sense of calm with the haunting melody floating in and out. It explores highly metaphysical questions of soul connections. This film might not connect with viewers who favor realism.
A movie worth experiencing !