four children playing
one smaller than the rest
is also the eldest
four children playing
one smaller than the rest
is also the eldest
To those who did not help, for introducing me to life
To those who helped, for upholding my belief in humanity
To those who were impatient, for helping me practice patience
To those who were patient, for giving me the space to be and become
To those who were weak, for the opportunity to be strong (for you)
To those who were strong, for inspiring me
To those who were dishonest, for the examples that it is just not worth it
To those who were honest, for telling me it is worth it
To those who were unkind, for testing my ideals (and hopefully I lived up to them)
To those who were kind, for encouraging me to be the same
To those who did not love, for the moments of soul searching
To those who were loving, for showing me the only way to live
Mann Hall, which houses the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering was plunged into “darkness” for a few hours today due to a transformer failure. In the two and a half years I have been here this is the first such incident. And it was tons of fun! No internet and spooky corridors. There was enough light in the corridors and rooms with windows while some of the inner rooms, like my office, did not. During my stay here, I have experienced Mann Hall every possible hour of the day. Some day I was here at 9 pm, another day at 1 am, and yet another day at 5 am. Yes, every one of those 24 hours. And I have never ever seen the corridors without man made light. Until today. It felt eerie for a moment, as if the building had been killed. But within no time, I was having fun, working in the dark, experiencing the corridors, or just chit chatting with fellow researchers about this “event”.
And my mind wandered to younger days in India when load shedding was a commonly heard phrase. It would be 8 pm and the young me would be reluctantly struggling with boring history texts when suddenly, poof!, we’d be thrown into darkness. In that split second following power outage, I know for sure, every child’s face was lit with joy. If our teeth had any irradiance it might have blinded our families, such was the total number of teeth flashing across the neighbourhood. With peals of laughter we’d spill into the streets outside and start playing. History was history and the present was running amok or hiding, depending on the game. We’d continue till power was restored and our mothers would call for us to come home. Exams were an exception because it meant studying under the flickering light of a lamp or a candle; we had battery operated electric lights only later.
City life is mostly artificial and insulates us from relishing the natural joys abound around us . So much so that we are bereft of the amazement that comes from looking at a star studded sky. “Lights out” restored some of that balance. And in those hours of darkness I had some of my brightest moments.
I was 9ish when she got married. So, I have no real memories of her from my younger years. Except some grainy recollections of her as the stern teacher at home. As I collected years, the bond between us metamorphosed. I went from young child to teenager to young adult to a brother. Yes, it took me a good 25 years to become my sister’s brother. Because only by the time I was 25 did our 11 year age difference stopped making a difference.
Somewhere along the way a few traditions got established, just like that. On her birthday, I would send her a personalised card. And she would send me a rakhi every year. It did not matter whether we were in different cities, countries, or continents. And just like in the past, this year too, my rakhi arrived well in time. But what makes this one more special than any before is not just the few thousand miles it has travelled but the letter that accompanies it. For this is the first time, I am being reminded of my duties towards my sister – love, care, and responsibility. Letters and the words printed on them have a surreal permanence to them. As I read the letter I witnessed the faith my sister reposes in me. For it takes nothing less than complete love and trust and the conviction of having done your duties to demand love like you deserve it. I can only hope to give back a fraction of what my sister has already given me.
And for being given the opportunity to do that, I must say I am blessed.
We all fall in love. And we are all the better for it. Whether or not our love ends in a long, happy relationship is besides the point. And that is exactly the point that this 1967 masterpiece makes. Directed by Stanley Kramer and brought to life by Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, and Sidney Poitier, the story is about how we reason with love. And the truth that, sometimes, love is beyond reason.
I am very much a person who looks for character development in the movies I watch. And I have come to realize that movies in which the story takes a character and molds it right in front of my eyes, are the movies that I find inspiring. For isn’t that what we find inspiring in life too? IN this movie the stage is set for confrontation when a young white girl brings home a negro as the man she wants to marry. We hardly hear the term negro these days, but I use it because it is uttered generously in the movie. Other than the couple, we have the girl’s mother and father, the girl’s nanny (a black woman), the boy’s father and mother, and a priest who is old time friend of the girl’s parents. We start with certain people expressing what I would call as almost disgust at the prospect of a white girl marrying a black man. And we have some people expressing a restrained disapproval. And how that changes over the course of a little over an hour and a half.
The movie is rich, very rich, is serious, moving dialogues. Some of them might very well live with you forever. I could specially relate to a few since I happen to have experienced similar situation. Like when Sidney Poitier (as John) says “It is not just that our color difference doesn’t matter to her. It is that she doesn’t seem to think there is any difference”. There is a lot of difference between the kind of persons in those two sentences and you just have to know it to know it. Or the part where John’s mother (played by Beah Richards) remarks about men losing a perspective on love as they grow old, of not remembering how it was when they were young. The movie is replete with what I’d term as swashbuckling American language, the kind that makes you smile and thump even when the scene is somber. Here are some examples.
Spencer Tracy as the girl’s father and Katharine Hepburn as the mother put in stellar performances. You rise and fall with them. You feel their anguish and their joy. The movie is set within the span of half a day and in that little time scale it runs the gamut of human emotions giving you a glimpse of your own self many times over. Developing along what I said about characterization is the point that in this movie, any person who gets more than a few minutes of screen time comes across as a complex real person. As examples, I present the African maid and the white Priest. You’d think they behave a certain way. But they do not. They both startle you and yet you will immediately connect to them. And you will recognize the larger statement the movie makes about being non-judgmental, free spirited, liberal, and finally accepting the grandeur of love.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is effective prescription for anyone suffering from excess objectivity. And a resounding confirmation for those who revel in the celebration of love.