On Chocolat

Have you ever come across a book that you really liked, and you kept reading it over and over till it resonated with every cell in your body and became a part of your very existence; an extension of your self?

If yes, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. If no, you should be reading more!

For me, Chocolat is that book. It is not just a story that I read. I see, smell, taste and experience it. If books could be our soulmates, Chocolat would be mine. If I thought calling something my ‘bae’ was cool, Chocolat would very much be my bae. If I was an evil wizard (a female Voldemort, maybe… Voldemorte?), my copy of Chocolat would be a horcrux, because it does essentially carry my soul. But I’m digressing.

As I’m sure I have established by now, Chocolat is  one of my favourite books. Why? Because it’s a book about chocolate. It is literally called chocolate!

Now I know what you’re thinking. I have just taken you from soulmate to chocolate; not quite the climax you were expecting. But it gets better, I promise.

Chocolat does not just have a flirtatious encounter with chocolate. It has a committed relationship with it. The entire book describes different kinds of chocolate, how chocolate is made, and how our preferences in chocolate depend upon the kind of people we are. As a reader, you don’t just read about chocolate, you see it looming in front of your eyes, ready to be devoured and you smell its strong scent emanating from the book.

But the chocolate doesn’t just stand for chocolate. It stands for indulgence and individuality, for passion and proclivity. It stands for happiness. It stands for Vianne Rocher. Nothing describes this better than a quote from the book, a slogan that is used in an attempt to drive chocolate, and Vianne, out of the little French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes: Church, not Chocolate.

This brings us to Francis Reynaud, the priest of the above mentioned Church, who has a vendetta against chocolate. Here Church doesn’t stand for religion as much as it stands for impositions of morality and socially appropriate behavior. Vianne is an abomination because she does not go to Church on Sunday morning, because is an unmarried mother, and because she just arrives in the village one day and opens a chocolaterie.

Through the story we slowly begin to see the unhappiness that lurks beneath the perfection devotion of the people of Lansquenet. Sorrow at losing a beloved pet, fear of being beaten up by a husband and regret at being estranged from a grandson. Slowly, the chocolaterie becomes a space whether these feelings can be expressed; a substitute for the Church confessional. Here, the unacceptable is accepted, the unmentionable is mentioned, and deepest desires as shared over a cup of chocolate.

Meanwhile, the fight between church and chocolate, which is essentially the fight between Vianne and Reynaud becomes more and more personal. They both battle their own demons, their own fears and desires. Reynaud does this through God. Vianne has her own magic, a remnant of her mother’s legacy. This magic is never truly explained, but is felt throughout the book, a mixture of hope, intuition and fate.

So Chocolat isn’t really about chocolate. It is about love, and fear of loss, desire and self-restraint. It is about the magic of happiness.

And that’s what makes the story so beautiful. The complex themes that it covers, but the simplicity of the message it gives. ‘Be happy’, Vianne Rocher tells me. ‘Be happy no matter the cost.’

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Sita Sings the Blues: A Modern Ramayana

Adaptations mean different things to different people. Some like them, some don’t. Some do not care enough to have strong opinions about them. Personally, I dislike adaptations; especially book to film adaptations. They are either boring  and lack creativity, or they are too concise and unfaithful to the original. But what irks me the most is that the movie is never as good as the book.

Since I’m interested in mythology and folklore, the Ramayana and Mahabharata hold a special place in my heart. So when I was told to watch Sita Sings the Blues for my Film and Literature course, I grudgingly obliged. I was surprised to see that the film was not what I expected. It was so much more.

The film had me hooked from the start, with its artful animation, satirical elements and the beautiful blues songs. I loved Nina Paley’s understanding of Ramayana as a breakup story, drawing parallels between it and her own life. I loved her interpretation of the Hindu gods, especially the sassy dancing Shiva.

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My favourite thing about this film, though, are the three shadow puppets. A fusion between narrators and spectators, they take the story forward while raising questions that we, as readers or viewers of Ramayana in the 21st century would ask.

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Masked with satire and humour, their profound questions stayed with me long after the film was over.

Why did Sita not go back with Hanuman? Why did Ram send Sita away? Was Ravan really as bad as he is believed to be?

The three puppets have different opinions regarding these questions, and discuss them just like I would discuss this with my friends.

As if this wasn’t enough, the movie is from Sita’s perspective, and is a feminist adaptation, which gives it more points in my book. Although the representation is taken too far at times, dramatizing certain actions to emphasize Ram’s cruelty. The songs are beautifully heartbreaking, and the entire film is simply a treat to the eyes, ears and mind.

The film ends with Lakshmi or Sri relaxing on the Shesh Naga while Vishnu massages her feet, while in the beginning of the film, we see the exact opposite. This scene could mean different things. As a feminist adaptation, it  could signify the hope of women empowerment. Or it might signify that the story does not end here and they meet again and are united at last.

I would like to believe in the first interpretation. But no matter what you believe, the movie is definitely worth watching.

P.S. You can watch the movie online or download it here.

‘The Time Keeper’ by Mitch Albom

Man alone measures time.
Man alone chimes the hour.
And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. 
A fear of time running out.

‘The Time Keeper’ caught my eye from one of the many piles of books lying in the roadside bookshop I had aimlessly strolled into. Having read Mitch Albom before, (Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven) and having loved his writing, I was excited to see what this one was all about.The book’s blurb, short and simple, aroused my interest. I simply needed to read it. Back home, I opened the first page to start reading the book. And I was hooked!In ‘The Time Keeper’, Mitch Albom speaks a truth as ancient as time itself. A truth so simple and pure, put across through the story of three intertwining lives, that it seems impossible to have not known it for so long!

Albom has created a sense of timelessness in the book. As we delve into Dor’s quest to measure time, we somehow forget our own battles with time. Reading about time makes us forget about time; a paradox that is executed with utmost skill. In the end, the message is clear. Do not waste your life measuring time and wanting for more or less. Cherish your memories and experiences. And the people around you.

The book leaves us with a new awareness of and attitude towards our own life and surroundings.

I would keep this book on my bookshelf, for those times when time needs to be forgotten again.

Supernatural: A fangirl’s point of view

I think I’m adorable.

I lost my shoe.

Idjits.

These words make any SPN fan go gaga. And how can I forget the beautiful song by Kansas – ‘Carry on my wayward son’ that has now almost become an SPN identifier!

Supernatural. A show about monsters and hunters, angels and demons. The story of two brothers against the big bad world, their only help being a runaway angel.

You may think I like Supernatural for the three deliciously hot guys; Sam and Dean Winchester, and Castiel. And you might be right.

Sam’s sensitive brown puppy-dog eyes make my heart melt, and his height and incredibly hot body makes my bestie’s ovaries melt (her words, not mine!). And who doesn’t love Dean’s cheekiness and wit, which have provided us with some of the funniest SPN dialogues ever! We smirk in amusement as Castiel tries to figure out the ways of human life.

We see Sam’s dilemma; his conscience reproaching him for going back into monster-hunting. We worry as he moves towards a fate he can’t control. We watch, horrified, as an addiction takes over him, leading to an outcome he was trying to prevent all along. We support him as he tries to pick up the pieces, to gain his brother’s trust back. We shed tears as he finally gains control, and sacrifices himself, to save the world.

And this is just the end of Season 5! I could go on and on about the characters. Because though SPN is mostly fantastical, the characters are real. Knowing their hopes and fears, seeing them in times of joy and sorrow, they become closer to us than real friends, and we learn from them.

Sure, we learn things like always carrying salt wherever we go and never ever touching a rabbit’s foot and what we consider alien abductions are actually fairy abductions. We can all recall those suspicious or hateful glances we’ve received for discussing with loud and excited voices about the beginning of the apocalypse and how awesome Lucifer is, how all the angels have lost their wings or how the Leviathans are slowly taking over the human race!

But we also learn that the world is not set in black and white. There is no right and wrong; just differences in point of view. That there are nice, misunderstood monsters who mean no harm; just as there are power-hungry, weapon wielding angels, ready to destroy the world.

But most importantly, we learn that we are not doomed to a certain kind of fate by the actions of others. We determine our own destiny. We can choose not to lead an army of demons. And we can choose to end the apocalypse.

The thing that fascinates me about SPN is how they’ve portrayed angels and demons. The angels are like workers in an organization. They are cold and mechanical, and simply follow the orders of their superiors. They do not or choose not to have minds of their own. They believe the orders come from God, the head of the organization, like a President. But the President has left long ago, leaving his company in the hands of his trusted power-hungry Managers, the Archangels.

Demons on the other hand, are scattered in the beginning. They pray to their creator, Lucifer, who is ironically a fallen angel. Later we find out there’s a King of Hell, (not Lucifer) along with Knights of Hell (who are now dead, mostly). Hell is like a Kingdom with a ruler. His appointed ministers rule the subjects. But they still have a mind and will of their own.

So the next time you dismiss us as fangirls, don’t. We love SPN for the plot and the characters. It just helps that they’re so good-looking.

Richard Bach

This is more of a ME post.

On a family vacation, I came across the book One by Richard Bach. The best book I’ve ever read!!!

And since then, I fell in love with Richard Bach.

The idea that we’re all connected to each other is an old one. But the way he writes about it in One blurs the lines between fiction and reality. Simply believing in the idea of parallel dimensions, where each time I’ve come across a crossroad and chosen one path, a parallel life begins on the other path, makes me lose all regrets I’ve ever felt.

Bad things are not the worst things that an happen to us. NOTHING is the worst thing that can happen to us.

Wrong turns are as important as right turns. More important, sometimes.

After coming back, I remembered another book of his – Jonathan Livingston Seagull. He wrote about how it’s okay to be different. Even if the people around you shun you for it. You just need to fly out on your own and find those who think like you, and you will be happy.

Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.

Overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now.

Jonathan sighed. The price of being misunderstood, he thought. They call you devil or they call you god.

After that I read The Bridge Across Forever. But my favorite Bach book is Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. 

It’s about a Messiah who tries to enlighten people but realizes that people don’t want to be enlightened. They just want miracles.

You’re never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true.

 Richard Bach inspires me to achieve great things. He tells me life will be an adventure, no matter what, because I choose to make it so. He tells me I’m strong, and makes me believe in myself. He tells me it’s good to be different. He tells me it’s OK to be me.

Harry Potter – A Survival Guide

Like I said before, I’m a huge HP fan.

Why you ask?

The world of HP is filled with witches and wizards, secret platforms and alleys, and a school with moving staircases! Yet it’s completely grounded in reality, more than books you’d usually read. Whether it’s the Statue of Secrecy that keeps the magical folk hidden from us muggles (non-magical people), or the kind of characters the story has, Rowling makes you believe that this world exists, without a doubt.

You grow up expecting a letter from Dumbledore to arrive in the mail any day, even better if it’s brought by an owl! The older ones, like me, remain certain that his letter has been misplaced.

Hogwarts itself is a fantastical castle of mysteries, with never-ending food and magical ceiling and moving staircases! Not to mention the ghosts! Who wouldn’t like to study there?! Learn magic and play quidditch and play chess with moving pieces!

But Harry Potter is much more than an escape to fantasy. Each character is real. And each character teaches us something new.

Harry shows us that you don’t need to have special abilities to win. You just need courage. And love. And awesome friends.

Ron shows us that even the most flawed of people can achieve something great. That each person has his strengths and weaknesses. He messes things up most of the time. But he gives Harry the two things he never had before. A true, loyal friend and a family. In PoA he tells Sirius that to get to Harry, Sirius’ll have to kill him first. When he can’t even stand.

Hermoine is my favourite character. She shows us that you can be a muggle-born (outsider, in a way) and still achieve great things. She’s intelligent, super-smart, beautiful, kind and she’s not afraid to be who she is.

I could go on and on, but you get the gist. Every character shows me how to stand strong in the most difficult situations. You learn their stories, their joys and sorrows, and you love each of them for who they are.

In OotP, Rowling shows a boy marked by destiny (Harry), a Weasley (Ron), another Weasley (Ginny), a nerd (Hermoine), a loser (Neville) and a weirdo (Luna) fight a swarm of death eaters.

That’s the message Rowling gives. Anyone can be a hero. Almost like Ratatouille’s anyone can cook!

Harry Potter is not a way to escape the problems of real life, but an inspiration to deal with them.

And pleeeease, don’t just watch the movies. Read the damn books. They’re all masterpieces I tell you.