My life is an open book with a sexy cover!

So this happened…

On Sunday, I woke up around 5:30 pm from a very satisfying afternoon nap. Immediately, I realized I was supposed to go shopping for a fancy dress to wear to the fancy annual office party the next day. At the same time I realized I was probably too late for that – because this was Sunday – the day the mall closes at 5:00pm in USA! Hoping that a few other stores would still be open by the time I got ready and got out, I staggered up from my bed. As soon as I reached the fish tank (which is about 3 steps from the bed) I noticed that the water seemed a little cloudy. In the morning, I had changed the water first time since I first got the tank. Worried about the health of my fishies, I decided to get that tested at Petco on the way. As soon as I stepped out of my room (still dizzy from that powerful nap) I realized I was supposed to do the dishes in the afternoon. But priorities! and dishes are never one, so.. eh! that can wait… thank goodness for understanding roomies 😀

I got hurriedly dressed up and rushed to my car – the first stop would be at Petco so that I could get the tank water tested by a fish expert. I also wanted to try and get some aquarium decor, especially a hiding place for my darling Cory Catfishes. The word try is the key – it seems that the aquarium decors does not get sold out frequently at the pet stores and, consequently, they are the slowest to move from the shelves. In fact, I have seen the same decor pieces st the Petco, PetSmart and Pet World stores near my home, for at least the last four months. Frankly, I don’t like any of them that much and so I have not got them yet, but now it looks like I have to select the best of the worst for my tank.

Mike, the fish expert at Petco is very knowledgeable and very nerdy about all things fishes (and may be other non-mammals, not sure) He will generally ask you a lot of questions and explain a lot of stuff in very great detail. Every time I talk with him, I always feel like I can do so much more for my tank… but then I remember all the things I studied about aquarium care on the internet and remind myself that everywhere it says “If you have too much stuff in your shelf for fish and water care, then that means you are doing something wrong with your tank.”

On this day, he informed me that the water in my tank was fine, only it had a comparatively low level of PH and a comparatively high level of ammonia. He suggested that I buy three different things to turn my fine water into ‘more’ fine (finer, anyone :P).  I knew that the ammonia level in my tank was high because I had myself added some bacteria starter to the tank when I changed the water to help in healthy bacteria growth. Plus, even if I bought all the stuff he suggested, I wouldn’t really know for sure if the water was finer because I had no means to test the water myself. The store would close in a few minutes, so there was also no way I could add all the stuff and bring the water back into the store for testing before tomorrow night (I had a party, so maybe the next day). But alas, I couldn’t say any of that to Mike. Instead, I took the stuff to the counter, paid the bill and came back quietly to my car.

By the time I got done at Petco, it was already around 6:30 pm. The next stop was to purchase that fancy dress I wanted to wear the next day. As soon as I entered Nordstromand looked at the rows of the petite dresses, I became conscious of the fact that less than 30 mins were not enough for me to choose, trial, decide and buy a dress. I decided to look for shoes instead, and once again reached the same conclusion. I came out of Nordstrom looking visibly dejected, but to my delight, I could see the lights of T.J.Maxx just across from there. I L-O-V-E T.J.Maxx. I love it because for me it is like a thrift store for new items, and every time you go there, things are very different, so never monotonous. I didn’t need anything but I had nothing else to do. So I decided to just go to T.J.Maxx and while away my time. Now the parking lot between Nordstrom and T.J.Maxx was huge, but it wasn’t that cold and I thought I could pump up the step count by walking that distance.

I went into T.J.Maxx without needing to get anything, and I came out holding two big bags containing several fancy coffee mugs. I was happy that I had bought something fancy after all. But I was even more happy to find big snowflakes falling from the sky covering up everything in a velvety white blanket.  Even though I have grown-up very close to the Tropic of Cancer, I have loved snow since I first saw a snowfall. I especially love the dry dusty snowfall in Nebraska which makes a crunchy sound when you walk over it. Massachusetts snow is often disappointing as it is more like slush with rain mixed in. However, this day it was big chunky snowflakes that made everything sparkle. As I walked to my car, got in and drove back home, I literally felt I was transported to the magical fairy tale world of Cinderella – everything was glittering like it was sprinkled with the fairy godmother’s magical star dust.  I am a big fan of all the fairytales, including the Shrek movies 😀 So much so that I have almost watched all the episodes of Once on Netflix. I think for me it is more about childhood nostalgia than believing in magical things. However, as Roald Dahl once famously said “those who don’t believe in magic will never find it”.

The drive back home was magical. The traffic was almost zilch. I guess everyone knew it was going to snow and they decided to stay in. I didn’t want the magical evening to end. I decided to stay out longer in the snow – I would clean my car. The left side of my brain kept telling me, it is going to snow tonight, there’s no point. But the right hand side was hardly listening to her. I had recently went overboard buying snow cleaning supplies for my car (I matched the color of each and every time with that of my car) and I was so excited to use them. Some of the supplies, like the snow brush and scraper were still in packaging. So I went back home to get my scissors. When I came back down, the scenery looked even prettier. Everything was sparkly, as it was not that cold. I spent a good thirty minutes cleaning and re-cleaning the car to my heart’s content. It was now time to go back.

As soon as I wanted to open the trunk to store my supplies, I realized that the car keys were not in my hand. I looked for them in my pockets, on the ground, searched in the snow, but it was found nowhere. It was then that I realized that I must have put my car keys in the trunk and locked them in while closing the trunk. The car was already locked from when I went to get the scissors. So my car was securely locked with the car keys inside it. I know I had my spare keys somewhere, but I had a pretty good hunch that they were inside the glove compartment of my car. What was a very nice evening was quickly spiraling into a anxious scary nightmare. My car was safe, I was not worried about that. I have so many friends in the same building that it was not an issue hitching a ride and then there’s of course Uber, making our lives easier. But since I was a child I had very selective memory. During my friends’ reunion, I would sit quietly at one corner, listening to them talking about things that happened in school that I didn’t remember.

As I grew older it became even worse. My friends and relatives would talk about incidents that have been totally erased from my mind. And sometimes, when someone would accuse me of something, I couldn’t go back and explain because frankly I didn’t remember that stuff. I think may be I read too much and keep only things I want to remember in my mind – may be some kind of coping mechanism that by mind has prepared to protect itself. So I never paid much heed until I watched the movie Still Alice. I was convinced that I will get Alzheimer’s. I spoke about my real concerns to someone I held very highly, but they disregarded my fear as paranoia.  So I consciously erased that thought off my mind. However, this incident brought all those fears back in a whirlpool.

I searched for my spare car keys, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I knew I have kept it somewhere very safe. I just didn’t remember where. The next day, when the AAA folks came to rescue my car keys, I found them lying in the trunk exactly where I thought they would be. However, I couldn’t find my spare keys in the glove compartment. This was strange because I had looked for them everywhere and didn’t find them; My explanation, since I had already made up my mind that both the keys were in the car, may be I did not put in as much effort in searching as I should have. I also realized that through this agonizing process of anxiety, search and rescue of my car keys, talking to dealers for extra pair of keys, paranoia about getting Alzheimer’s etc. I never once regretted my decision to be in the snow to clean my car. I guess if something gives you immense joy, then it becomes hard to be disappointed about it. In fact, I remember that night as a nice evening I spent with myself, being lost in my own world.

 

P.S. 1 I should probably clarify the title… The first thing I do when I wake up is I check my phone, and this was the first message I read today. I do have some hilarious friends 🙂

P.S. 2 I am reading about Alzheimer’s and if there are ways to delay getting it. My life deserves my best effort 🙂

 

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This is Not a Movie Review: Venuto Al Mondo (Twice Born)

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probably I’m never going to meet a bunch of interesting strangers, fall in love impulsively and dance in the snow to rock n roll and classic American music

Director: Sergio Castellitto

Writer: Margaret Mazzantini (novel)

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Emile Hirsch, Adnan Haskovic

Release Date: 6 December 2013 (USA)

 

Last night I was eating dinner at my friend’s place when my sister pinged me saying she’s gonna watch “Twice Born”. After she finished the movie, she told me that I should probably watch it but warned me that it is intense so I might be sad.

Boston’s climate was confused whether it should rain or snow today – so it decided to shower both. I was curled up in my comforter, refusing to get up before 5 pm on a Saturday and that ‘sad’ keyword had attracted me to the movie like a bee towards a jar of honey (not sure, honey is artificial, wouldn’t it be more attracted to a flower with nectar, I give up!). I also checked imdb.com and I was surprised that it had 7.4 which is a pretty good rating. So I decided to watch it. Plus I love Penelope Cruz.

The description on imdb focussed on a mother bringing her teenage son to Sarajevo, where his father died in the Bosnian conflict years ago. But the movie was so much more. Throughout the movie, I kept thinking that I would love to read the book, just to understand the depth and complexity of the characters and the conflict in Bosnia that the movie could not reflect. I’m sure I would love the book even more than the movie, because, isn’t that always the case?

The movie starts with Gemma (Penelope Cruz) receiving an early-morning phone call from her old friend, Gojco (the boisterous Adnan Haskovic), urging her to return to Sarajevo. The work of an American photographer is the subject of an exhibition there. She agrees to visit with her son, to expose him to a different part of the world. Immediately, memories of this thrilling and tumultuous time come rushing back to her. The year is 1984, Gemma arrives in Sarajevo for her research for the Winter Olympics. Her guide is a poet Gojco who introduces her to a bunch of eclectic artists including the American photographer Diego (Emile Hirsch). Diego pursues her in a very reckless American way “Drop everything, and run away with me,” he purrs. They have only one night and then both are leaving for different parts of the world. Diego is leaving for Brazil to photograph children working in mines, whereas Gemma is going to Rome where she is getting married to her long time boyfriend.

Gemma’s marriage doesn’t last long and Diego comes back to meet her in Rome. “Every day will be a party with me, baby.” She resists the attentions of the younger man. Until she doesn’t.  Both of them want a family, but after multiple miscarriages they get to know that Gemma is 97% sterile and due to the past drug abuse and police records for Diego, the police would not approve them for adoption.

Their struggle to have a child is tragically and beautifully portrayed in the movie. In one of the scenes, Gemma tells the psychologist that “I’m here because I am afraid. I am afraid of losing the man I love. I want to give him a child, to tie him to me.” I couldn’t help but wonder is this why most people have children. To tie another person to you, so that they remain in the relationship with you even if they do not want to. I have a friend I have known for a very long time. People who are not close to her know that she does not want children. But since we were close, I Know that it is not that she did not want children, she just didn’t want to have a child with a man who is not there to raise the child with her. She did not want to have an absentee father or someone beside her but not in love with her anymore, which is often true in an Indian society. What she really wanted was a man who wanted to create something together, to build a life together, a family together. In the movie, both Gemma and Diego want that family, however they falter.

As their inability to have children starts wrecking their marriage. war builds up in Bosnia. Gojco is part of a Sarajevo arts community where denial about the war runs deep. Lines of people fleeing the city when the shooting starts only earn a “they would never touch Sarajevo” from him and his friends, the silly dreamers. The war plays out on television, until the snipers show up in Sarajevo and the power is cut off and the city is under siege. Meanwhile, Gemma’s efforts to conceive play out against that bloody backdrop.

At one point, Gemma and Diego are on the verge of splitting, but instead they decide to travel to Bosnia, to go back to their old friends and past life. In Sarajevo, Gojco comes to know about their sterility issues and he gets creative with the idea of surrogacy. This brings us to the one of the films vibrant and intriguing characters, an outspoken Croatian musician named Aska (Saadet Aksoy). But like every other character in the movie, she gets saddled with some truly awkward dialogue, much of which revolves around her obsession with Kurt Cobain. (This is also an easy shorthand to inform us that it’s now 1992, the year the Bosnian War began.)

I do not want to give away any more of the plot or the climax in here. I give Penélope Cruz credit for her role of Gemma – she is tragic and earthy as ever.  She is a wonderful actress. Gojco, has the best lines in the movie “Poetry is God when he feels nostalgic for man”, “For me the most beautiful word is ‘grazie’”. Emile Hirsch plays exuberant and callow well. Diego has a childish charm, a man-child vibe and reminds me of someone I fell in love with a long time ago, and which made watching this movie such a personal experience for me. I never understood, which is also a big flaw in the movie, how Diego moved away from Gemma or why. In fact, the two of them, Cruz and Hirsch, never really click in the movie, there is a serious lack of chemistry.

Irrespective of the flaws in storytelling, when the third act of the movie rolls in, the surprises start piling up. Events from long ago are shown through a more accurate lens in the backdrop of the war and in the context of love and motherhood. This is where “Twice Born” rises to something nobler and closer to heartbreaking.

The movie has really terrible reviews on Rotten Tomatoes which only goes to say that it’s not always the film critics opinion that counts. The movie hit me… hard. The mix of history, great performances, and an arresting plot, brought home the reality of what war means to civilians caught up in it. I didn’t enjoy the movie because it was hard to watch, but I loved sitting through the emotional journey that this movie was. If you have watched it, what did you think?

Sreeja

Movie Review:: Sicario

 

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Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writer: Taylor Sheridan

Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin

Release Date: September 18, 2015

 

When I went to watch this movie, I didn’t know what to expect. Uncharacteristically for me, I didn’t do much research. I knew it was a crime thriller, I wanted to stay away from all things romantic for a while and I just chose to go watch it. Plus, there was Emily Blunt.

The movie really surprised me. The first scene of the movie was as gory as it could ever get. There was a police raid, shooting, horrific smell from decaying corpses, scores of dead bodies and even a blast. I was amazed that I survived the first scene (mini feat).

But the movie got more interesting from there on. The plot of Sicario focuses on an FBI agent named Kate Macer (Emily Blunt). Kate is enlisted by government officials to track down a drug lord, who has been responsible for multiple grisly murders. She is going aid a number of people who, we find out in the course of the movie, are often on the other side of the law. The plot though simple, is very engaging.

The characters are well developed. Emily Blunt gives an incredible female lead performance as Kate – she hates violence, but is serious about her job. Both Benicia del Toro and Josh Brolin are great in their roles. I especially was intrigued by del Toro’s character. There were many moments that I never saw coming. The haunting score and the unpredictable plot line consistently engaged me. The movie was very dark, sometimes unsettling and even scary. There’s a lot of suspense and the recurrent darkest sentiment of the movie is the sense of hopelessness. I don’t like violence and gore, and I still I enjoyed the movie a lot.

I would recommend the movie if you like dark stories, crime thrillers and good acting.

I watched “O Kadhal Kanmani”

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!! my most favorite scene and shot from the movie !!

Yes! I watched a Tamil movie, myself, without anyone forcing me to watch it. Thinking about it, it’s not that strange so as to make a headline. Being a huge movie buff, I like to watch all movies, irrespective of their language. I just don’t prefer watching movies in foreign languages that much because I often find myself paying more attention to reading the subtitles than feeling the emotions. I have watched more western foreign language movies than foreign language Indian regional cinema by myself, so I thought I can make it a big deal.

I my opinion, one of the best feelings in life is when you realize that the one you love completely, loves you back the exact same way. This movie is about that. It was a simple story: Adi, a happy-go-lucky game-designer, bumps into Tara, a bubbly architect at their friend’s wedding. They started talking in sign language during the wedding (which was annoying, but I guess Mani) and find out that they have a lot of things in common, the most striking one being they both hate marriage. Adi being a boy needs no explanation to Indian movie goers for his beliefs. But Tara being a girl needs one, and it is because her father left them when she was young.

Now Adi wants to go to USA for advancing his career and Tara is moving to Paris for higher studies. So they both know there is no future to their relationship. So they casually flirt for a while, and then very soon they move in together for a live-in relationship. The movie was sometimes too simple – the main protagonists convince an elderly couple to let them live as paying guests for a live-in relationship in Mumbai, by singing some Classical Tamil song.

The most romantic part of the movie was perhaps the relationship between the old couple. I have always had very bad memory, so much so that I would sit blankly when my friends would discuss any incident in school or college that was not related to me. I even forget things and incident that did not involve me in any way.  always used to tell all my friends that I have a “memory like a sieve”. And when I watched Still Alice, I was convinced that I am going to get Alzheimer’s disease when I grow old and I am pretty sure I will no have someone to take of me. Anyways, through the slit on the open doors the young couple observe the old couple and learn that love is not only about the fun and frolic but it is more than that. Love is about genuine affection and commitment to each other. What I like most about the movie is that how the couple’s ask each other clarifying questions and then they answer those questions “truthfully” in the context of the movie. In my experience, it is hard to ask difficult questions, especially in a relationship. It is easier to assume and reach a conclusion, sometimes a decision; or to put things in the back of your mind, and ignore it completely.

The soundtrack of the movie was beautiful, even though I don’t understand the language! It was so beautiful that even the translation seemed nice. I am also a big fan of the cinematography. Overall, it was a nice movie to watch curled up in covers, sitting at home, bonus it was on Netflix. It was a feel good movie so if you are asking for in depth character analysis or something deep and thoughtful, then this movie may not make you happy.  Overall, I enjoyed watching this movie.

Something Fishy

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I grew up in a suburban area near the big city of Kolkata, India. Even though the area was not rural, we had several big ponds surrounding our neighborhood, which is unlike any of my friends who grew up in the city. I hear now from my parents that the ponds no longer exist as the area has been claimed by the ever growing concrete jungle. This makes me sad, specially for there were so many anglers in that place.

On our Summer and Winter vacations, me and my little sister would go for walks around those ponds. Often we would find one or two anglers sitting at distance, their fish rods resting beside them with the fish hooks dipped in the water of the pond, smoking a bidi. Interestingly, according to Google bidi is “a small, thin, hand-rolled cigarette imported to the United States, primarily from India and other Southeast Asian countries. They comprise tobacco wrapped in a tendu or temburni leaf (plants native to Asia) and may be secured with a colorful string at one or both ends”. Google makes it sound like such a novelty! Anyways, these ponds would be filled with fish. I don’t think anyone would cultivate fish there, they just had a lot of fish specially charapona. The kakus (uncles in Bengali), as we would call them would have a vessels beside them which would contain fishes that they had caught over the course of the afternoon. Me and my sister would pester them to give us a fish so that we could keep them as pets. The kakus would be so nice and would actually give us a fish to keep.

We would hurry back home, get a vessel and then carry the fish back home. We would wash a huge Horlicks jar and fill it with water and keep the fish there. We would make tiny balls from bread or flour and feed the fish. Some of the fish, confined in a small jar and already injured from the inhumane fish hook, would survive for a week or two, but most would die in a couple of days. Then me and my sister would cry bucket of tears and my parents would have to console us. Growing up, this became a routine. My mom was frustrated with the whole drama and she forbade us to get any more fishes. But we kept doing it over many years.

I distinctly remember one such incident – once again we sisters had convinced one unassuming kaku to give us a tiny little fish that he caught. We were happily carrying the fish, but as soon as we came near our house suddenly it dawned on us how angry our mom would be to find us getting another fish. We were really scared and with our childish aka horrible decision making, we dropped the fish in an open drain (yes India!) near our house, thinking it will swim back to the pond. As soon as we dropped the fish, we noticed that it was having some difficulty navigating the dirty filthy water of the drain. Extremely worried, we decided to pick up the fish and take it home even if mom was furious. Now selfishly, I made my little sister pick up the fish from the drain, even though she was two years younger than me. I know I know I get to hear about this every time we fight on anything, so you don’t have to remind me I was evil. In my defense, I was myself a child.

We got that fish home and got a little scolding from mom, not too much, we were happily sitting at home, staring at the jar for around one or two hours… but every interesting story needs a villain. So while I was making my sister take the fish out of the drain, our house maid was going to fetch something from somewhere. She observed the whole thing. Instead of telling us anything, she came back after two hours and told my mom what had happened and oh! the scolding we got. I remember she actually beat us with rulers 😛 Oh the kids nowadays, they will never know the age when parents actually beat their kids to discipline them!

Our love for pets started with our dad being such a huge animal lover. We are told that as a kid growing up in rural Bihar, he had a mini “zoo” of domestic animals at his house. He had a cow, three dogs, rabbits, parrots and what not. In fact, he encouraged us to get our own “zoo” growing up – we had many cats, a cute dog, several birds and often the baby squirrels that fell down from their nest on the coconut tree right beside our house. And we had these fishes which we brought in from time to time.

As a child I was fascinated with aquariums and there would be ones to get fascinated about; I remember one which had a treasure chest and the lid would open and close with some hydraulic action; the bubbles coming out of the water from a treasure hunt scene with lots of skulls, sunken ships with rusted edges… and the most awesome things were the colorful fishes of different shapes and sizes… the world of aquariums would be so fascinating! I remember of all my father’s brothers I had a favorite uncle, because they had an aquarium at their home. I was intrigued not only by the fishes but also the wiggly live worms, stored in a dark corner under the staircase, that they used to feed the fish.

Even as an adult I was fascinated with fish tanks – I would selectively go to restaurants that have tank displays, I would watch the TV shows Tanked and Fish Tank Kings for hours, I would even go to the pet stores just to look at the fishes (and other cute animals). But interestingly enough, I considered getting dogs and cats but never considered getting a fish tank for a long time – in fact until, I got my pet hamster Montu and saw how enriching being a single pet parent was. It keeps you occupied – you are caring about some small life that depends on you, it makes you responsible, you have reasons to leave work and go back home early, you have something interesting to do all by yourself, and specially in the case of Montu, we had a bond that only we shared.

However, in grad school keeping multiple pets was not really feasible, so even though I toyed with the idea, it never materialized. Then I helped a couple of friends set up their fish tanks and I wanted fish tanks bad. I obsessed over youtube channels on fish keeping – my idea of fishkeeping had advanced so much from Horlicks jars and worm feeds! There was a point when I wanted to grow all live plants in my tank so I researched and researched on that. Seemed too much work but eh! if you want something, you do it right 😉

When Montu died and I was left with her 20 gallon horizontal habitat. I didn’t want to get another hamster, because you get too attached and then they don’t live that long. However, a 20 gallon tank  looked like a lot of responsibility – so far the past one and a half years, I had been considering the idea, dropping it and reconsidering many times. I almost got a smaller tank many times but then held back because the fishes I wanted to get and the plants I wanted to grow are difficult in a small space. So I waited.

This birthday my friends surprised me with a fish tank gift and I knew the time was now. So two months after my birthday I finally set up my fish tank. It was great that my sister was with me over the holidays and we set it up together as a project. The tank is 20 gallons horizontal and it doesn’t have any live plants yet… I will grow them a little slowly, starting with small simple ones… but I already have 10 fishes in there, two of which I introduced just yesterday. So far I have two Red Tuxedo Guppy, four Red WagTail Platy, two Sunburst Platy and two Spotted Cory Cat fish. The guppies were the first one to get in the tank, they are really feisty and make my tank so interesting. The corys are the last ones introduced. I have always wanted to get these since I first laid my eyes on them –  they are not much of a looker to most people, especially to my sister. But they have amazing dog like personalities and are so playful. I also love my platys, they have amazing bright colors and seem like a bunch of really hardy fish. However, I would like to go through a complete nitrogen cycle and water change and check how the fishes are doing.

I can have another ten fishes in my tank and eventually I plan to introduce the fishes I have always wanted, a school of Neon or Cardinal Tetras. That’s specifically why I wanted a 20 gallon horizontal as I’m sure I would just love to see how the school navigates through the length of the tank. I’m so excited about the future of my tank!!!

photo courtesy: Google