Me, Julie ‘n’ Julia

Me and Prabhaker went to the good old Family Video store to grab a few movies for the weekend. Every time I looked at the promotion display of this movie, I would tell myself I want to watch it..sometime. It didn’t happen for a few trips until that day. Along with two other ones (some hedging here), we finally we picked up Julie & Julia.

Julie & Julia: The Movie

The movie is about this girl Julie Powell who is a writer of a half-finished novel, suffers from ADD  (like most of us ‘multitaskers’), her job is not the greatest, three of her friends apparently are way successful than her and she is still trying to figure out something that really makes sense! After a long day, pushing herself through the train to come to this little attic in noisy Queens for home that was atop a local pizza place, made it worse. The one thing that she loved that would take her mind off the monotony: cooking! Talking on blogs, one night her husband suggests she start a blog on cooking. She has her mothers copy of  Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. And she sets herself up against a challenge – to try all 524 recipes in the book in 365 days! With some successes and many failures with the recipes she pours out her frustration and her moments of joy on the digital pages and sends out there in the colossal cyberspace, and her blog starts shaping up. She doesn’t know if anyone on ‘the other side’ will stumble upon her blog. It’s almost like sending messages in outer space and expecting a response. Interwoven with Julie’s life is shown Julia Child’s life decades back in France: the food, the lifestyle and her transformation as a cook!

Without giving out much, and explaining the whole story and critiquing for the nth time, I would save it for you to watch, if haven’t already. What I would say is, its a simple story that is beautifully told. It is not a story of  someone with an exceptional work of rare genius, but one of common people like us who have a job to do, have our own issues within or outside, and our unique ups and downs. Life is not a novel or a movie where ‘one big finite and defined obstacle”, once overcome, everything is happy ever after. For (most of) us, this ‘big obstacle’ is broken down in several big and small pieces sprinkled randomly across our lifetimes, and life goes on.. and on. It is a daily challenge on an individual level to find our peace and happiness. The movie takes us on a ride and the little  ups and downs of Julie’s life while simultaneously traveling in time to enjoy Julia’s French living.

The movie reminded me of my Chicago days when I lived on-campus as a student sharing the apartment with three other roomies – Smrithi, Athiya and Prajna. Smrithi loved cooking, and whenever upset or bored, she would cook!  She would find it therapeutic. We’d tell her about your hunger pangs in the middle of the night, say, after watching a late night movie , and she will whip up some quick recipe. And more often than not, it would be delicious! Another food lover was Prajna – she loved to cook, to feed and to eat! She has fed almost all of us including the boys who lived upstairs, who were ‘permenant visitors’ for dinner when it came to meals. We would always have about 8-10 of us, if not more, Prajna was the perfect hostess for our ‘1018 community dinners’. I felt as if tThese two ladies were the Annapoornas of the den! I must admit, living with them was a “training” of sorts to get back into the practice of cooking. 

Back to the movie, Julia Child is played by Meryl Streep. Needless to say, she is nothing but great and adorable. The movie leaves you with a happy feeling. It inspires you to do something that appeals to you, to get your personal joy. And, the bonus: you might actually see yourself trying out recipes with a transformed perspective to cooking as well as eating! Thats the magic of this film!

Bon Appétit!

The Fall, that was…

Leaves strewn on the lawn in the backyard, laying quiet.
Some leaves on the deck after a drizzle..
Some trees in our subdivision. Can you hear the leaves dragging with a scrunching sound?

The leaves had started to fall. It was not yet evening, but darkness had started to descend. Yes, it might not be the most pleasant picture for most. But to me, there was a strange familiarity and tranquility in this mood. What did this ambiance mean?A few things…

It ignited some pleasant memories I guess, as it felt comforting! Was it the picture of “fall leaves on a cold evening” that I had once seen when visiting a family friends place when I was 13? The picture on the wall had intrigued me so much that I kept staring at the beauty of it, and a strange familiarity, even though when we do not have Fall colors in India!

Or was this mood a messenger of memories of warm evenings in cold days we spent with friends (my initial days in the US) – where weather would be the last thing that would dampen our spirits! 1018 – the haven of buzz and activity with never a dull moment!

All the houses and roads were quiet but for the leaves preparing to leave, quietly.  I wondered where they would go after spending time with me all along in summer. The bright yellow and orange and red leaves, decked up at their best, before leaving forever. It was so beautiful yet so poignant! “Poignant”, thats the closest I can get to expressing in words. I wanted to hold on to all this, but it would soon slip the more I try to grip with both hands! So I tried to capture it all with my phone…This was last week.

This morning as I sit in my living room, I can see just the woods with hardly any colors. They are bare, all set to bear the snows with stoic courage.

I miss the leaves and the life they exuded!

....and when one evening the sun was ripe; our home and the new-born moon (the white little spot on the top right).

A handshake with heights…

The other day, as we were about to leave from the gym after a workout, Prabhaker pointed to the wall-climbing section. We went over and observed the walls and admired a girl climbing up and down the wall. Clearly, and as Prabhaker informed me, it is not about the legs, but the strength of your arms that it takes for this sport. He casually asked me why dont I try it out. I have always found it a good practice to  avoid saying “no” instinctively. So here I was, all set with the suspension cord (or whatever it is known as – but a real life saver to me!!) belted around me after a brief 7 min crash course and “dos” and “don’ts” of wall-climbing from one of the instructors.

I, like many I know (comfortingly so), suffer from acrophobia! But I had chosen to try it out (why in the world!?!). I climbed half of the wall, halted and laid my eyes below. That was it! I had a strong spasmodic sensation. I knew this feeling; in water parks rides with those crazy heights or in those nightmares as if falling off some tall tower in some endless pit! Phew! Prabhaker was constantly observing me and was trying to push me to go further up. But I gave up. Now that wasnt the end of it! This decision entailed the “part II” – I had to come down! For that, I had to let go of my grip on the wall, push myself away with my feet  suspending myself in the middle of … nothing! The cord (controlled by “hydraulic system”) would bring me down without jerks, the instructor had said . But I could NOT get to doing that. There was a constant battle in my mind. I was trying to tell myself that this is a reliable cord based on “scientific” principle, that I wont fall and die, that people have been doing this ever since the gym had ‘wall-climbing’, that people have been ‘wall-climbing’ even before this chain of gyms started, that even if I fall the floor had a thick layer or rubber shaves that would cause me no harm… Oh my endlessly “creative” mind!

As I was processing all this, it was a long period of my “mind -time” but a few seconds otherwise. I looked down at Prabhaker, heard his words echo “just let go, push yourself away and do not look down”. I ordered myself to obey, and I let go! One baby step towards facing my fear that was sitting there for three decades! Yes, the cord did hold me and I plunged vertically down, with two little pauses, and I touched the earth! Prabhaker smiled at me  with a sense of appreciation and applause.  “You did very good for the first time ” he said. Made me feel good, especially as I felt he meant it. I was so glad deep down to see how Prabhaker encouraged me. It seemed like he cared. That he understood I had this fear and that I must face it in order to get over it.  He didnt rule it out saying something silly as ” why are you scared like a little kid” or “come on, be a sport” or something.  This kind of genuine concern is rare, like a very close friend or a sibling or a parent would display. It helped me. He pushed me to go again. And I conceded, albeit with instinctive reluctance somewhere deep down. This time it was a little more. Then again I went telling myself, I am going to climb naturally, like a …er… monkey (whatever works, you see)!. I didnt look down this time around and went further up. Every climb brought me face to face with my fear as I reached a height. And each ride down, I dared, and let go (as if I had a choice!!).

Jokes apart, the danger wasnt outside, it was rather inside. Our fears, phobias, limitations, issues – be it anything- are nowhere in circumstances or people, as we might often attribute them to; they are all in our minds. The wise thing to do is to know it. To face it… head on!

Next time (sometime!), I know, I am going to myself volunteer to go wall-climbing and offer to extend a friendly handshake to my phobia. Acrophobia.. here I come!

…at first sight

Love at first sight… Not sure if that really exists. I would have said otherwise if I were still in my teens.

But what I do believe in is the what you know and feel  of a person when you meet him or her for the first time. As I look back into my life and the people I have met, and who of those were to be relationships for a long time to come, I did have some kind of a “gut” feel about them. There would be strong vibes and a “connection” that could be felt.

There are a few theories that seem to support this directly or indirectly, that I have read of. The first one is the few pages of Blink where Malcolm Gladwell explains how “logic” is more often than not, not be the best way to conclude something. In other words ‘spontaneous decisions/conclusions are often as good as—or even better than—carefully planned and considered ones’.

The second one is the the concept of past life, as I read in the books by Dr. Brian Weiss where he talks about souls travel in groups across lifetimes and how we meet those who we have to settle our “karmic relationship”. And so even if we meet someone for the first time, we get a feeling that we have known them for a long time! Reincarnation is something that I being a Hindu have grown up believing, as it forms a part of the Hindu philosophy.

It appears so strange yet fascinating, both at the same time. The more I think of these, the more intrigued I get by the mysteries of life and living!

Art for the sake of art…

I watched the movie Mona Lisa Smile sometime back. I am sure Wikipedia will do a good job describing about the general theme of the movie, so I will not. But as the movie got over, it had mildly stirred me. The underlying theme of the movie, seemingly, is feminism. But to me, it makes an attempt to awaken that human spirit dwelling in one and all; and that has nothing to do with gender really. For the seeker, the movie inspires and challenges her to reach where her heart points to. It is about fierce honesty to oneself and the great original work that is born of it.

The protagonist, an Art teacher, makes a reference to  Van Gogh‘s Sunflowers and The Starry Night, the contemporary masterpieces. These, as all his other paintings, were painted by the artiste of what he felt and not what he saw. He refused to conform to popular taste and went where his feelings and spirit led him. His paintings appeared crude and child like to the world initially. It took years for them to understand his technique, and to see “the way his brushstrokes seemed to make the night sky move”…

(Reproduced below is The Starry Night, courtesy Wikipedia)

The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh
The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

And  Van Gogh never sold a painting in his lifetime. What honesty! What courage! What art… for the sake of art!