Did anybody watch that BBC TV documentary programme about Bernard Manning visiting Mumbai last night?
I could not but help feel sorry for this man. It’s not because of the tiredness of his jokes - which often have overtly racist overtones - or even the fact that he seems to have had his life reduced to being escorted everywhere by a minder and a nurse - due to his diabetic condition. Nope - it is not because he couldn’t cope with his inability to make the citizens of Mumbai laugh instantaneously at his particular brand of stand-up comedy - nor is it because he cannot articulate a single sentence without several illogically interpolated utterances of the word “fucking” (which he says in broad Northern accent).
No - it’s none of these things. I feel sorry for Bernard Manning because of something he declared at the end of the programme:
Bernard Manning’s “best place in the whole world” is - Blackpool.
A child in the seventies and a teenager in the eighties - my memory of being a second generation Asian in Britain in my formative years is dominated by my fanatical consumption of “Bollywood” films. Oh my - I remember most vividly wasting away whole weekends with my mum - watching film after film after film on rented VHS cassette - at first on a rented VHS cassette player and then on our very own (Ferguson) VCR. Sometimes three films on a Saturday - and two or three films on the Sunday. At 3 hours a go - you can imagine how much time was spent sitting on the sofa - drinking endless cups of Indian tea - shedding tears and laughing in hysterics along the way. Yep - this is Bollywood - gauranteed to play with the extremes of your emotions - but nevertheless highly addictive.
As I progressed through my teenage-hood and college, I shamefully lost all affiliation to my closely-mothered upbringing - and it is only now as a father of two lovely young children do I execute on the urge to ensure my own kids get some exposure to the sort of things that I did when I was as young and innocent as they. Only now it’s on DVD - and in full glorious surround sound!
There is a particular film that captivates us. Captures everything that mainstream Indian cinema is all about. Transfixes my kids to the point that they will not want to watch anything else - and want to watch over and over. It is a film called Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. A film that repeatedly makes us all shed tears within minutes of its start - makes us laugh throughout - and leaves a resounding sense of emotional bliss at the end. Only Indian Cinema can do this: play on your emotions so much. But this is what makes this genre so popular and successful with millions from the homeland.
It would sound so crass if I was to try to explain the plot to any indigenous “westerner” - as it is rife with political incorrectness - but to me it is all about a time and a place that has some place in my heart - and I would conjecture also does in the heart of any mortal, whatever the race, creed or colour, but do not dare to admit or acknowledge. A time and a place that is not today in any case. For this film (like many that precede and follow it) is centred around a value system that is exactly perpendicular to what we expect from society today - whether it be in the West or the East. A value system which includes the controversial man-is-dominant and woman-is-subservient - even if woman is demonstrably more capable than the man - both physically and intellectually. Yes - it’s downright silly - but it is fascinating nevertheless how in this day and age the spirit that draws upon the essence of Romeo and Juliet still lures the masses into the cinemas of India.
Anyways - in order to articulate the crassness of this particular film - I reproduce an “alternative” review of the film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai - (which when literally translated means “Something Happens”) by Premjit (http://www.mouthshut.com/user/premjit.html)
KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI
(Or How to be a sensitive lover in 10 simple steps: by the director Karan Johar)
Step 1: Ignore the feelings of love a tomboyish girl harbours for you (any blind retard would know that she loves him). Also, ridicule her in front of classmates reducing her to tears.
Step 2: Trample all over her feelings by wooing a college hottie right in front of her eyes. To make her feel worse, face her and say I love you 6-8 times without clarifying that you are merely practising it for the hottie.
Step 3: Marry the college hottie, who later dies while childbirth.
Step 4: After 8 years, feel a sudden surge of love for the tomboy, build up a fondness for her you neither felt nor displayed hitherto.
Step 5: Hunt for this tomboy ably supported by your mind-grating brat of a daughter.
Step 6: Return to her long after she has gotten over you, and lay claim on her like an ancestral plot of land.
Step 7: Cast doubts in her mind about marrying an eligible bachelor, who incidentally is better looking, loves her tenderly, is seemingly richer and has no added appendages like mind-grating daughters.
Step 8: Mess her marriage up by weeping copiously during the ceremonies, get your mom and daughter along to shed more tears.
Step 9: Chase the eligible bachelor away
Step 10: Marry the girl 8 years too late, after having sown all your wild oats with the dead college hottie. Obviously the post – domestication tomboy will now make a good wife and a good mother to your daughter. Congratulations!
I was surprised why this movie did not raise the hackles of feminists. And the tomboy…does she have a mind or not? Later Sensitive Lover accepts her as marriage material only after she is suitably domesticated (that means donning heavy silk costumes, applying kilos of make up, wearing everything available in Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri, and losing to him in basketball.)
Girls loved Shahrukh Khan’s character (“Rahul is so sweet.. he is so cute..”) Somehow, I missed the point!
A superhit is declared. The movie sweeps all important Filmfare awards …
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was conceptually one of the worst love stories ever written. Terribly sexist and flawed. The lead character, Rahul was selfish without any justification. The only upside was the breezy music score by Jatin-Lalit, and of course the leading ladies.
And so there you have it! But this review does no justice whatsoever to the fact that this was an enormously enjoyable film in the eyes of millions of people. Why? Probably because it’s PURE ESCAPISM - and this is what mainstream India is always desperately in need of.
I recommend any “westerner” to get this film - if there’s any “Bollywood” film you should have in your DVD collection it is this one. You will almost certainly liken it to “Grease” - and you will probably cringe something rotten at the plot and certain scenes throughout the film - but if you watch it on your own with your emotional barrier lowered - you will understand what makes this film so great. (But remember to turn on the English subtitles!)
PS - By the way: the music in the film is simply brilliant. And here I reproduce for satirical purposes a property of most Indian “formula films” - there is almost always a song that gets the Indian cinema-going crowd going. Usually a male/female starring-role duet - that almost always starts with the “he he he heee he heeeeeeaaaay” invocation. Click on the red button below to hear it and you’ll know what I mean!
I rediscovered this great technique to brighten the day after brushing my teeth this morning. I actually first discovered this a few years ago whilst aimlessly surfing one weekend - and posted an article on the Views from Broadway pages - but since I have been too busy attending to work stuff to update this journal with anything new in the last few days - I thought I’d reproduce this original stress-combating technique right here for all you out there in need of some relief from the every-day pressures of life …
I remember, for many years when I was younger, not knowing what the phrase “skeletons in the cupboard” meant. I can’t actually recall how old I was when I eventually discovered the meaning - could have been whilst I was at college. Anyway, whenever I hear the phrase being used nowadays, I always get a mind-recollection (sort of like a movie being played back in your mind’s eye) of a a scene from a Fawlty Towers episode; the one where Basil and the Manuel are trying to hide a dead body inside a cupboard in a hotel bedroom. Funny isn’t it?
Anyway - it’s interesting how the reference to the human skeleton is used in a very negative context in the phrase “skeletons in the cupboard”.
Images of skeletons (or parts of skeletons) are also, unsurprisingly, used as indications …
of something really terrible
or mortal danger
… and yet, for each and every one of us - beneath our own personal, beloved, squidgy flesh lies our very own object of mortality.
Sometimes I find it really helpful to be reminded that I am built on my own skeleton. I think everyone should. I’m calling it “skeleton awareness” - and here is a best-practise that really works for me
As you go through your morning bathroom ritual - stop for just 30 seconds of skeleton awareness: Look into the mirror, then use both of your hands to pull your lips wide apart, then snap your teeth together open and closed. (As in the photo.) This really makes you aware of your skull. It’s a really effective way of reminding you that your face is just a layer of meat! (What if you woke up one morning and it was gone!):
Starting every day with such “skeleton awareness” changes everything! When you sit on the train or the bus or the tube - skeleton awareness makes for a much more interesting journey-to-work. You will be so much more aware of all the people around you - as walking skeletons with a layer of meat all around. Keep your skeleton-awareness whilst you’re at the office - in meetings. If you start to lose the skeleton awareness effect - then just pop into the office bathroom and repeat the “stretch your mouth open” procedure to restore the effect to it’s full-blown level - it only takes 30 seconds or so.
This evening I decided to create a device of vengeance against any teenager with a loud walkman who dares sit near me on the bus again. Turn up the volume right up to MAX and play the following keyboard as randomly as posible:
Play by clicking your mouse over the keys
be inventive - be LOUD - but most of all: be really ANNOYING
There - that’s made it so much more readable - don’t you think?
I am fed up of the number of photos amassing in my “legs” folder on my laptop hard drive. I have decided to transform them into “art”.
Ladies and gentlemen: I hereby announce the grand opening of:
Please help contribute your work to the gallery. Together we will take the Internet by storm and make this the next killer application.
I’m really thrilled!
Thrilled because I have made it into a BBC video production. Well - for a fleeting few milliseconds anyway. BBC Videonation have done the production of Marcus’ walk from Dover to Croydon - click here to see it. You will need RealPlayer to view. My cameo happens when Marcus arrives at the Home Office in Croydon.
Oh - I also sent in a submission to Heather Champ’s Mirror Project too - and it’s been accepted. You can view it by clicking here. (It was Stu’s recent entry that gave me the idea to send something in after he did the same recently.)
It was 5:00am. My head hurt bad. My face felt like a huge blocked sink full of steaming, swampy, freshly cut grass emanating the sickening fumes of pollen-fogged summer morning. No matter which way in the bed I turned - the solidifed mucus at the back of my nose wouldn’t budge. I was suffocating - and I wanted to murder my unhelpful pillows. Somehow I staggered out of the bed and groped and fumbled around the cupboard looking for the capsules in my rucksack. I felt like a drug-addict desperate for the next fix. Blood rushing to my head as I bent down - throbbing violently like it was going to explode at any moment. Popped a capsule from the foil - it went flying onto the floor somewhere. Didn’t bother trying to find it - popped another one instead - I was battling against time. Quickly placed it onto my tongue and then drank water using my mouth around the cold tap in the bathroom. It came out lukewarm but I didn’t care. I was desperate. 20 minutes and 50 violent, near-death-experience sneezes later I lay there on the bed staring at the ceiling. How long is this daily morning nightmare going to last? Hopefully only another couple of weeks. I prayed for it to only last another couple of weeks. When I was sure that the drug was doing its work I jumped into the shower and it felt good.
3 strong cups of coffee later and my head was relieved and the whites of my eyes became white again. I was breathing again.
I am dreading tomorrow morning. But Benadryl rocks!
And the BBC says that in fifty years time EVERYBODY will be suffering like this.
A pile of freshly cut, nausea-inducing grass
“I feel alive, I feel a love, I feel a love that’s really real
I feel alive, I feel a love, I feel a love that’s really real - I’m on sunshine baby, oh
Oh yeah, I’m on sunshine baby, oh“
By Katrina and the Waves. (Did you know:this band won Eurovision Song Contest for UK in 1997!)
Was three stops from home on Route 79 when a girl who looked like Tracy Chapman got onto the bus and sat down a couple of spaces away from me at the back of the bottom deck. I imagined her to be an artist. The way she walked onto the bus, the clothes she wore. There was something fascinating about her. Something interesting. Her blue jeans had a left-wing, sort of socialist feel about them. Her purple top had a smattering of feminism in it. I would have loved to have started up a conversation with her; the surreality of Salvador Dali perhaps - or maybe the fugues of Bach’s symphonies. Or the brilliance of Tracy Chapman even. But protocol inhibited such a possibility. And besides, I was only three stops from home. As she sat down she looked at me for a second - and I offered a plastic smile back.
This momentary intrigue and fascination was shattered in seconds by what she did next though - and I still haven’t gotten over the shock of it. She so confidently bent down from her seat and picked at a blob of freshly discarded chewing gum stuck to the floor right near her feet. She pulled at it until it stretched right up to her head - until the stringiness of the gum broke apart - just like you remember doing with chewing gum in your mouth when you were a kid. She then turned her head upwards and with her upstretched arm manouvered this string of stretched chewing gum over her mouth and drew it right in - a bit like you do with a long string of spaghetti. And she started chewing!
She obviously caught me watching her do this out of the corner of her eye - because when she was done with what she just did - she turned and smiled a plastic, gum-chewing smile back at me. I didn’t know what to express at that moment. What she had just done was so in-your-face disgusting I just couldn’t believe that she had just done that. I quickly put my head down and pretended to carry on reading about the aerodynamics of paper aeroplanes (long story) but just could not stop thinking about what she had done. I just didn’t believe that that was her “style” - it was so at odds with what I had imagined her to be like in those few seconds after she boarded the bus. She had performed this shocking act so self-confidently that I wondered what had posessed her. A moment of madness perhaps? Or was that an example of her “normal” behaviour?
Alas I will never know. I got off the bus at my stop a few moments later and stared at her fixatedly through the bus window from the pavement as I walked on. She stared at me. Expressionless. Chewing that gum. We were still staring at each other as the bus pulled away - until it was gone.
Marcus completed the challenge yesterday. And Margareta launched the exhibition that evening. I played the part of taxi driver. And I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Here is a selection of pics from the photo-diary of the afternoon and evening. Hover mouse over image to read description. (Sorry about the bad quality - it’s the best I could do.)
Preparing for Safeway
Marcus is over halfway there. See my earlier posting titled “Leave to Remain” for the background.
In Marcus’s “live” blog of his walk from Dover to the the Croydon Home office to mark the start of Refugee Week and the opening of the Leave to Remain art exhibition - he writes:
“To sum up my current state I resort
to the biblical saying The spirit is willing but the
flesh is weak.…“
Here is a picture that Marcus took on his walk from yesterday. Except I have played around with it in Photoshop in order to transform the beautiful English countryside into a bleak, minds-eye image of a nightmare-ish landscape.
England’s pleasant pastures
“And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?“
From a patriotic song called Jerusalem - still sung at English public school assemblies.
Composed by Charles Hubert Hastings Parry in 1916.
Words are from a poem called Milton by William Blake (written 1804-1808).
I am amazed at some of the things I didn’t know about my friends at work - didn’t know until I found out earlier this week. (Whilst in Woking). Like for example:
- One of my friends is the only “Westerner” EVER - to marry a Tibetan Muslim.
- Another has crossed the Andes by foot, boat and mule.
- Another used to be a TV presenter in Spain.
- One of them (with last-name Clapton) pretended to be Eric Clapton for his teenage daughter’s joke on schoolfriends.
- Another is one of only a handful of non-Israeli men to have served as an officer in the Israeli Army.
And these are only a handful of the ones that I can remember.
I am told that everyone has some startling quirky fact about themselves. So - please leave your startling quirky fact here by clicking on “comments” below.
Back. And glad to be.
After Woking it was Hamsphire. For a work-related conference. A day and a night at a place called Tylney Hall.
What a beautiful place it was! To be honest I don’t really like places like this - being a city boy - but this place was really cute. It’s the sort of place that you just don’t know exists until you go there - if that makes sense. The sunshine also made a difference. As did the hayfever.
Reasons why I didn’t enjoy this place as a hotel:
- My bedroom was like a little chalet all of it’s own - an external outhouse with a downstairs and an upstairs. Very cute - and spacious - but a long-ish walk from the hotel reception.
- The upstairs was the bathroom - with two sinks right next to each other (Why?) and a corner bath. Again - cute - but the shower was simply an ornate golden-finish attachment which didn’t have anywhere to hookup the thing and no shower curtain - so couldn’t have a proper shower - and when I tried to hold the thing up above my head - the pressure was so low that hardly any water came out. Also - the taps on the basin sinks were separate hot and cold - no mixer taps - which mean that you have 30 seconds to use the hot water until it gets so hot you have to switch to the cold water to finish washing.
- The towels were so heavily starched - it was very unpleasant using them.
- The soap was designer label Molton Brown’s Pure Vegetable Soap - but I just couldn’t get rid of that greasy feeling after rinsing my hands for ages after using this soap. Why can’t hotels simply supply ordinary soap like Imperial Leather or Palmolive or Dove?
- There was a wooden box-like fixture with a lid on the outside of the room next to the door - which if you leave your shoes in when you go to bed - you will find that they have been magically polished when you take them out of the box the next day. Once again - this is really cute - but does anybody actually use it? I doubt it - but guests end up paying the premium for facilities like this.
Anyway - here are a few pictures taken from my stay there. Hover your mouse dead still over the pictures to read a description.
Got back home to London yesterday evening. It felt great to be back home.
I smiled as I stared out of the minibus window at the traffic jam on the M4 as we drove back from Hampshire.
I didn’t make a grab for the crispy new Evening Standard (and ES Magazine) lying there on the seat beside me - I was just too tired - and didn’t want to interrupt that feeling of partial-elation as I surveyed the view both inside and outside the tube-train carriage - soaking back into me what I had missed for 5 days.
Was anything different about the world I came back to? Perhaps.
Got off the bus one stop before my usual - in order to prolong the joy of being out there. Here.
I strolled passed a crowd of people gathered around policemen - gathered around the scene of a crime involving a smashed up motorbike.
Stopped to check that the man who was half-lying down on the bench and emptying his guts out onto the floor was doing it because of too much Vodka rather than being otherwise ill.
The wheelie bins outside the rows of houses looked like they were in slightly different positions to where they had been when I had left last week. So - the world had changed - but just a little.
“Where’s your head at, at, at, at…
Where’s your head at
Where’s your head at
Where’s your head at“
The same words repeated a further 20 or so times.
By Basement Jaxx
The first three days of the week just gone were spent Working in Woking. A very appropriate name for that town - because for three days I started life by waking in Woking at 6:00am to start working at 7:00am and was working in Woking WITHOUT any scheduled breaks right through until around 10:00pm - by which time I was back at the hotel for maybe some dinner and sleeping in Woking (with some middle of the night waking) to do the same stuff the next day. All I remember of Woking was the Holiday Inn Woking - the walk down the dual carriageway to the office - and the office - which I have to admit was very nice. The office was the only reason why working like that was possible.
Holiday Inn Woking
“When I wake up in the mornin’ light
I pull on my jeans and I feel all right
Hey I pull my blue jeans on, I pull my old blue jeans on“
From a song that I heard in Woking - from I just can’t quite remember when.
I can’t seem to find it anywhere on the Internet - but if you click the
above you will hear a Real Audio extract of the song by a more recent artist.
… for a few days.
In Woking (Surrey) until Thursday - no email, no web, no mobile phone - and then in the forests of deepest Hampshire until Friday - somewhere called Tylney Hall.
Back Saturday. Hope the world changes just a little bit whilst I’m gone.
“Neon signs a-flashin’,
taxi cabs and buses passin’ through the night
A distant moanin’ of a train
seems to play a sad refrain to the night“
From “A Rainy Night in Georgia” by Brook Benton
(Please do click on the words above - and enjoy a great song that is gauranteed to make you shed a tear.)
Yesterday - we strolled down Belgrave Road - looking for cheap “Bollywood” CDs and DVDs.
Brandon Street - terraced houses - streets of childhood
Too busy to write everything up. Today I am going to a place in the countryside called Woking - which means no bus. Which means no note-taking. I cannot take notes on trains. Walkman instead. Which is just as well - because there are backlog of notes in my phone. A few of the more recent ones:
Whispering girl behind me
Piles of Mangoes
Now That’s What I Call Music 54
plus loads more for a later day.
Anyway - last time I went to Woking, I remember I got there about an hour early and so I explored the town centre - I wonder if the alien spaceships in the pedestrianised streets are still there? And then I stumbled upon a second-hand book stall in the market square. I ended up filling two carrier bags full of books. I just couldn’t cope with all that knowledge laid bare and unwanted on the tables in front of me. Two bags full cost me no more than £2. That was over a year ago - and to this day that are still sitting in the same bags I brought them home in. At least I found them a good home.
I cleared out my camera of it’s junky snaps. Here are a few that I found that I don’t know which folder to put it - but they seem appropriate for a train day.
Wembley Park Platform
Baker Street - way to City
I have now banished the term “blog”. So from now on - this is my “journal”.
All references to the “b” word have been removed from these pages.
I now feel much better. I don’t know exactly why - it just feels so much better.
A long stressful day at work.
Finshed up the day by going to watch a play at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith - just yards away from our office. The play: a comedy called When Amar Met Jay - and what an entertaining show it was! It was hilarious - although I must admit I’m getting a bit tired of the “arranged marriage” theme which is all to often the centre of the plot to stories like this. Not because I don’t disagree with the message - but because it is just one (albiet significant) aspect of the many that contribute to the “identity mix-up” that Second Generation Indians like me have had to tortuously endure throughout our lives to-date.
Later - randomly following Google-generated links around the web - I found a particularly poignant reflection of the sorts of real personal crises that second-gen Asians endure during their formative years - and although the account is of Asians growing up in the USA, there are in my view extremely vivid parallels to the experiences of second-gen Asians who grew up during the 70s, 80s in the UK.
Despite the laughs and rapturous applause during and at the end of the show - I can’t help but wonder deep down inside how my own relationship with my kids will take shape as they grow from the blissful, innocent ages that they are now - to the free spirits that they will become in their teenage years and beyond.
Another warm day yesterday afternoon.
Isn’t Wireless LAN just great?
Supervising the kids in the back garden no longer means not being able to take your laptop with you.
I’ve had wireless LAN for a long time - but the weather hasn’t really provided the opportunity to use my laptop in the back garden for quite some time. So - I sat there in the shade and cooked up my own version of Flash-based spoof pop-video in the style of Joel Veitch at rathergood.com - this time using the senior managers at work as “singing heads”. I did what I could in the couple of hours that I had - some of the song/text synchronisation isn’t brilliant - and it was a real struggle using the little mouse “nipple” in the middle of the laptop keyboard so it does look a little rough and ready - but I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically out loud at the end result.
So as to prevent pissing off people, the flash is not downloaded every time this page is viewed (because it’s approx 1 Mbyte) - you have to click the big red button below to load it. ALSO: Turn up the volume and enjoy!
I hope the senior managers in question don’t get offended if they see it.
(I resized the movie to fit in this blog. Click here to view the original-size version.)