Archive | September, 2012

Violence Against Women Awareness Month 2012

30 Sep

Hands up all those who have never heard of or witnessed an act of violence toward a woman.

Thought so.

Starting tomorrow, or today, if you’re anywhere ahead of Pacific Standard Time, we kick off Violence Against Women (VAW) Awareness Month 2012, that will run through all of October.

I’ve shared this with you before and I am proud to continue to extend my support to the cause and the fantastic team of people behind it.

If you have a story to share, or are among the lucky ones not to have a violence story of your own, hop over.

Read, write, spread the word, encourage friends/family to speak up, offer support. Just don’t be an ostrich and pretend all’s hunky dory, and that if it doesn’t affect you directly, you’re going to sit pretty and not let it affect you at all.

This initiative doesn’t promise to change the world. It is intended to remind you–if the daily news doesn’t do that already–that violence, frequently gory, life-altering, vicious assaults on women’s bodies, minds and spirits, is far from declining. It could be happening next door to you as you read this. Or definitely down the street from your comfortable couch. Don’t believe me. Just read the statistics. And for the love of god or glitter, do your bit. Here’s your chance.

For more information on how you can help or contribute a post,

Write to: vawawareness@gmail.com

On Twitter, follow: @VAWawareness and RT our tweets

On Facebook, ‘Like’: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Violence-Against-Women-Awareness-Month

 

So am I going to see you on http://vawawareness.wordpress.com? 🙂

Alphabet Soup

27 Sep

When possible, eat your words.

They are low in calories and almost always make someone else feel better.

Documentary Review: Family Album

24 Sep

I am delighted to have made Chabi Ghosh’s acquaintance. She died in 2008, at the age of 91, unaware of my existence, never having met nor heard of me. How then, do I know she played the piano, was part of her college basketball team after delivering 2 girls, and had a naughty sense of humor that belied her nonagenarian-ness? For this and other stories, portrayed with simplicity and charming reserve, I have Nishtha Jain’s ‘Family Album’ to thank.

A documentary that I watched yesterday as part of the San Francisco South Asian Film Festival, Family Album generously allows the intersection of photographs, memory and cross-generational stories rather than forcing their paths to collide, and what struck me long after I had finished watching, was how little the filmmaker injected herself or her agenda onto the frames, letting the subjects speak for their own histories. And that is precisely what photographs become, irrespective of what we wish them to be—chroniclers of history, crystallized pieces of time that hold individual yet shared versions of stories that become the truth, regardless of the fleeting reality of the moment.

Taking us back to Calcutta’s old families and ancient baris (and reducing me to a quivering mess at the sight of all that achingly beautiful history), Jain introduces the viewer to clans that traces their kinship back to 38 generations, interviews multiple generations of the same family, facilitates their reminiscing ever so gently and occasionally, and asks very relevant questions.  Do we become our photographic memories? How do frozen frames elicit stories, how do we hold on to and pass on these stories, and in becoming the repositories of familial myths, how do we perpetuate stories? With one brief view of a family tree that abruptly ends after records of double-digit generations, the camera silently contemplates the white sheet of paper and we feel the story seeping away.

You guys know I’m a sucker for history. The confluence of time, architecture and the human narrative intrigues me. But what you may not know is that photography holds a terribly special place in my heart, given that I was born to my first teacher of this beautiful art form and am married to someone who continues my education in the field. For this and the reasons listed above, ‘Family Album’, a companion piece of City of Photos, struck a deep, resonant chord, but even without the personal context, is a delicate and valuable contribution to the world of documentaries. Catch it if you can lay your hands on it sometime. I reckon you won’t forget Chabi Ghosh in a hurry.

~~~

Updated to add: I wrote to the director, sharing this review with her, and here is her response:

Dear OJ,

Thanks for taking out the time and sharing your thoughts about Family Album. A lovely review. Reading it means a lot to me as I couldn’t be there in SF to present my film.
Yes, Chobi Ghosh is so endearing and unforgettable. I loved her spirit. She was about 90 when we were shooting, she had a clear photographic memory of things from her distant past but her present memory was very short. She wouldn’t remember things we had talked about a few minutes ago. In a way she was in a happy state. She was a great storyteller, there are many more stories in the footage. Unfortunately I couldn’t put everything in the film.
You can buy the DVD of City of Photos by making a payment on www.paypal.com to raintreefilms@gmail.com. It costs USD 40 plus shipping cost USD 5. This DVD is for home use only.
Warmly,
Nishtha

Your Friendly Neighborhood ‘The’

22 Sep

The streets of the South Bay are littered with them, lying forlorn and agape by the side of an open drain, watching me as I drive about my daily business. Occasionally, I’ll stop, pick one up and add it to my Bag of Definite Articles, to donate to yet another person who habitually drops them.

Writing and Reading

18 Sep

Sharing your writing with someone in its nascent form is like carving open your womb for them to inspect: You hold your breath and pray.

That they won’t: poke about with a sodden stick.

Won’t: Touch the tender bits.

Will: Notice that you’re inflamed.

And that, when done, they’ll hurriedly close the gaping wound and not tell you in agonizing detail about the tumors, the polyps, the cysts and fibroids, the bleeding cells, the lacerations, and the festering gunk they saw.

Hope. You can only hope. For once it is opened, it is owned by the sky. And you can only peer hiddenly from the shrunken margins of your own verse.

Loth the Troth

14 Sep

My honest answer to “Do you want kids?” depends on whether or not I’ve spent the last hour with a friend who has one.

Book Review: Island of a Thousand Mirrors

13 Sep

I went in with my eyes wide open, knowing the subject would be dark, unaware of the treatment of it by this woman with a dazzling smile who asked me to review it within an hour of meeting her. Growing up in India, some latitudes north of the Sri Lankan civil war, meant it had remotely touched me as a child and teenager through political rhetoric, waves of radiated human anguish and the assassination of a Prime Minister, but beyond that, I was a clean slate.

What I was unprepared for, was how much Nayomi Munaweera’s labor of love would demand from me as a human bystander, make me invest in the lives of its characters and their teardrop-shaped country, draw me in and make me stay, in spite of the savagery around me. There are novels you breeze through, nod “Good read”, and move on. Pick up Island of a Thousand Mirrors only if you’re willing to carry it within you for life.

Crafted in present tense and delightfully crisp sentences, one is busy falling in love with the emerald isle and the language used to sketch it, pretending nothing untoward will ever happen on this idyll where Munaweera’s father grew up. But that is the curse of history and hindsight: we’re forced to look back over our shoulder and bear witness to its horrors.

In the creation of drama, several authors rely on words of deafening thunder and grandiose landscapes of pain. Nayomi Munaweera makes you do the work, as her sentences play supporting roles in a beguilingly simple manner: her descriptors exquisitely gut-wrenching, her voice matter-of-fact, she draws out your blood, your angst, your despair at being human, like a literary shaman.

This searing debut, so beautiful it hurts, is pyrotechnics and poetry.  Award-worthy, absolutely, but ultimately, so deeply enriching that you’ll be infinitely poorer for giving it a miss.

Island of a Thousand Mirrors, published by Perera Hussein, releases on September 15th, 2012.