Book Review: The Hindi-Bindi Club

Hindi BindiFor the longest time, I have not read fiction. One sunny afternoon, I find a book that my brother shipped thinking I’d enjoy reading: The Hindi-Bindi Club by second generation Indian-American Monica Pradhan.

This book is about 3 women from India settled in the United States, and about each of their daughters. The way the book is written, each character speaks for herself.

There is Saroj Chawla from Punjab who is a great cook and runs a catering business. Her daughter is Preity, the Miss Perfect, as viewed by one and all. The other character is Meenal Deshpande who hails from Maharashtra. She is more philosophical than others and has learnt from the experiences she had to deal with. Her daughter is Kiran, a physician and a divorcee in her early thirties who comes across as smart and stubborn. And then its Uma Basu, a Bengali scholar and professor. Her daughter is Rani, a wild child growing up but now an artiste.

From the eyes of these three mothers and daughters, you get to experience their wonder years growing up, their challenges with motherhood/daughterhood in a foreign country and all the gossip of what the girls call “The Hindi-Bindi Club”. As I read on, at different points, I could identify with some, the goosebumps, the nostalgia. And above all laughed and laughed at the humor! Saroj has her roots in the cosmopolitan Lahore, a part of India before the horrifying Partition, to become a part of Pakistan. With the character, you go back to the days half a century back with the description of the beautiful city, the festivals, the cheer, the Basant (Spring) in Lahore. Its poetic. Reminded me of the old Hindi movies. Meenal represents the typical and realistic Marathi woman and her life as a girl in Mumbai. The Mumbai rains, the paper boats, the street food, the beach etc. Uma is from Kolkata – the city of so many shades and contrasts. She is an intellectual, has a tough past, how she deals with it and her triumphs, her perspective towards life- its all is very inspiring.

Then there is the second generation of the daughters and their lives and challenges. Thus, it is a seamless patchwork of old and new Bollywood movies into a spectacular melange; now who wouldn’t like that! The book is very entertaining and brings that warm and fuzzy feeling. Its one of those I didn’t want to end. I highly recommend it to women, especially women from the Indian subcontinent settled abroad. They can most identify with it. I will be surprised if no one makes a cross-over movie out of it.

The best part is, each chapter is followed by a recipe. That is a real treat in more ways than one! I actually tried out a few!

My last word: A delightful book that is a must read! ūüôā

Bas…

puchhe jo koi meri nishaani
rang hina likhna
gore badan pe
ungli se mera naam ada likhna

Kabhi kabhi aas paas chand rehta hai
Kabhi kabhi aas paas shaam rehti hai

aao naaaaa aaao naaaaa
jehnum mein beh lenge
vadi ke masuam bhi
ek din to badlenge

Kabhi kabhi aas paas chand rehta hai
Kabhi kabhi aas paas shaam rehti hai

aau to subha jao to mera naam saba likhna
burf pade to burf pe mera naam dua likhna
zara zara aag vaag pass rehti hai
zara zara kangde ke aacha rehti hai

Kabhi kabhi aas paas chand rehta hai
Kabhi kabhi aas paas shaam rehti hai

raatein bunjhane
tum aagaye hoo

jab tum haste hooooo
din ho jata hai
tum gale lage too ooooo
din so jata hai

doli uthaye ayega din to
pass betha lena
kal jo mile to
mathe mein mere suraj uga dena

zara zara aas paas dhup rehegi
zara zara aas pass rang renhege

puche jo koi meri nishaani
rang hina likhna
gore badan pe
ungli se mera naam ada likhna

Kabhi kabhi aas paas chand rehta hai
Kabhi kabhi aas paas shaam rehti hai…

~Gulzarsaab

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ever since a friend referred this song to me, I have watched it over and over. Gulzar‘s lyrics, of course. Him and her revel in love, passion and emotion. I feel it entering through my eyes and ears. The love is intoxicating. Buried to the world, it vivifies that yearning romantic in me wandering in wilderness…

Bas…. uski baahon mein umar yu hi kat jaye
Bas…. uski aankhon mein zindagi yu hi beh jaaye
Bas… yahi par khatm hui meri arson ki talash
Ab tujme mil jaaoon to rooh chain zara paa le …bas..

Ek film aisi bhi…

I watched Dostana the other day. This was, in fact, for the second time. It is once again a wonderful “formula movie” that has one song of a popular genre each (a disco, a sufi, a bhangra and¬†a soft number), it is a farce and has attractive faces (not to forget the attractive bodies!). The plot revolves around the pretty Priyanka Chopra and the two men John and Abhishek who pretend to be gay. It certainly entertained me and I laughed and laughed, though I saw myself in disbelief with the unprecedented breaches of the bollywood’s “fine lines”, well protected in its mainstream stereotypicality, until recently.¬†Such violations are abundant in the movie with its¬†constant humor on and references to homosexuality and the double entendre. I call this the ‘Borat-ish’ way of humor! On the other hand, I completed the movie Ek Vivah Aisa Bhi, in two instalments, when I didnt have much to do one evening on a business trip to Tupelo, TN¬†! In comparison, the latter lacked the¬†“pace” and the “masala” of its contemporaries, especially formula¬†movies like “Dostana”. However, there was something that was stood out.¬†I realized that for ‘Ek Vivah…’ the movie revolves around two young people in love. Yet, quite differently,¬†this love¬†subordinates the feeling of sacrifice. The feelings of¬†romantic love were not based on self-centric gains,¬†but on self-control and deference of self-gratification, the¬†emphasiss being on ones¬†duty or “dharma“. Such concepts did seem “old school”¬†because of their sheer absence in …. er.. in, I guess, the films, in our lives or¬†in moslty everything and everywhere!¬†As I say this, I¬†wonder if its the movies that had¬†the impact on the society (along with¬†so many other factors, of course),¬†¬†or is it¬†vice versa.¬† Priorities¬†have changed in bollywood, and so also¬†in our¬†society in general, and¬†in our generation in particular.¬†

What actually was an eye-opener in this atypical¬†movie was¬†the not-so-positive character in the film¬†Natasha – the newly wed bahu¬† with a “modern outlook”, entering this household of sacrificing beings. Whatever she said or did sound so plausible and certainly not beyond reason in the contemporary lifestyle; it seemed very acceptable. A lie told often enough becomes the truth, I thought to myself. I am saddened to see how the rights and wrongs have changed over the years, especially when I see myself as the link generation between the older and the newer. Cinema reflects the present society; but cinema also has the power to change and shape the society to a large extent. And Rajshri Productions have been steadfast in their attempt to showcase finer feelings and emotions. I applaud them for it. I find such values, as depicted in¬†their movies,¬†¬†close to my heart, and it was good to see them on screen – for a change. I am sure it has made its impact. At least, it made me think and look at my ‘life rules’ with a renewed perspective.

“Khwaja mere khwaja” from Jodha Akbar

Jodha Akbar
Jodha Akbar: Aishwarya Rai as Princess Jodha Bai

I happened to watch Jodha Akbar in the theater for more than once. Rather, I chose to. I liked a lot of things about the film,¬†especially the song “khwaja mere khwaja“. Interestingly, it¬†turns¬†out that the track wasn’t originally meant for the movie; AR Rahman had composed it sometime back for himself to listen to.¬†A regular visitor of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti shrine for¬†a decade and a half,¬†Rahman agreed to let Ashutosh Gowarikar use it in the film “only if gets the respect it deserves”.

In the film, a group of white clad Sufi mystics from Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti sing this song to Emperor Akbar in the open amidst burning torches. As¬†words of praise¬†for the saint start pouring with the gripping beat, it enchants the audience. The chorus and the singing elevates the listeners to their higher selves. Young emperor Akbar’s¬†uninterrupted fixed¬†look¬†reflects his intense involvement. As the song progresses, ¬†the seated group of singers who are now completely in a trance rise and with one hand raised, start dancing still singing Khwajaji’s name.¬†¬†As the chanting increases, Akbar shuts his eyes for a moment and as if in a flash, slips into a divine trance,¬†rises from his seat oblivious to the people around him and joins the dancing singers! With one hand raised¬†with his¬†gaze towards the sky, he loses touch¬†with this world¬†to enter a higher one, which is the hallmark of the song!

Jodha bai (Aishwarya rai) during the song Khwaja Mere Khwaja from Jodha Akbar.
Jodha bai (Aishwarya rai) in the women’s quarters during the song Khwaja Mere Khwaja from Jodha Akbar.

Composed an sung by Rahman himself,¬†“khwaja mere khwaja”¬†certainly generates a¬†strong spiritual sentiment in its listeners. Once you¬†listen to it, the song keeps playing in your mind for a long time.¬†In the film, it tries to successfully establish¬†a strong spiritual inclination¬†as part of¬†Akbars¬†character¬†which¬†possibly lends him wisdom while making several¬†significant¬†decisions in the capacity of an Emperor who is¬†still young. I was appalled to¬†notice how some viewers¬†ridiculed Akbars reaction. Probably¬†this cross-section is not conditioned to think or expect beyond the mediocre confines set by the commerical Indian cinema. So they dont know how to handle it.¬†According to me, this song has set a remarkable precedent for filmakers now and in time to come.