Usually, as a family tradition, a mother gifts her daughter standard few things at her wedding. This is a brass idol of Krishna given by my mother as I started my new life. She loves Krishna and his stories. I myself find great wisdom in the Bhagavad Gita, a unique scripture (could very well be called secular) with answers to possibly all questions that have and will plague the human mind.
Krishna’s message : let your life be a celebration.
I inherited this idol from my mother, and also the blessing to be able to make my life into a celebration.
This book gave me a lot of trouble because I was quite moved by it and so, very much wanted to talk about it, but feared just might spoil it (you will know why*). None of the approaches I took felt right, yet I could not abandon it. Ergo, this is a simple account of a few themes that ran through the compelling memoir of the poet, singer-songwriter and rock ‘n roll artist, Patti Smith.
Nostalgia. Barely twenty, penniless and unsure, but not without an intense desire to become an artist, Smith steps into New York City, then a petri dish for the counterculture of the 1960’s, with widespread use of recreational drugs, free sexual expression & exploration, psychedelic music, and the Beat generation giving way to the hippie culture. Once past my initial shock over their avant-garde lifestyle (credited entirely to the author’s honest and sober narration), I pictured those times in curious wonderment: the nobodies with the potential to be trailblazers; the weirdos, the drug addicts, the experimentalist; the searchers, the idealists, the artists… Those must have been interesting times!
The Chelsea Hotel, where, in a peculiar turn of events, Smith and her friend Robert start living. Known to be a haven for writers, musicians, artists, filmmakers and colorful personalities, famous and yet to be famous, one could trade art could for the room-rent. “The Chelsea was like a doll’s house in The Twilight Zone, with a hundred rooms, each a small universe“, she writes. At this point in the book there are several names mentioned, some known to me, others unknown: Andy Warhol, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Allen Ginsberg and the other Beats, and a multitude of others that I googled as I encountered, only to get woefully intrigued by their life-stories. Some made it, the rest succumbed to drugs or AIDS, and never lived to see the times they were ahead of.
Patti and Robert. What will stay with me is the tender friendship Patti Smith shared with her lover for a while, and best friend forever, Robert Mapplethorpe. It is a beautiful thing to see how they really understood one another, not only as friends but also as artists. “Nobody sees as we do, Patti” Robert would say, and “whenever he said things like that, for a magical space of time, it was if we were the only two people in the world.“
Their relationship went through various definitions, but belonged to none. “We were evolving with different needs. I needed to explore beyond myself and Robert needed to search within himself.” With time Robert would discover and accept his homosexuality, and go on to become a famous (albeit controversial) photographer. Smith, a sketch artist and a poet, would finally find her niche and become a musician and the leader of her band ‘The Patti Smith Group’, and start a new life with her husband, Fred. Notwithstanding that, both of them would remain as close friends as they always were.
The last part was heart wrenching and yet there was a sense of innate beauty in its naked truth. Robert gets diagnosed with AIDS. For Patti (and for the reader who is now so invested in their lives), the idea of losing him is extremely unsettling. On his deathbed he wishes that she write their story.
Just Kids is Patti’s a fascinating and poignant tribute to their friendship. *There was something quietly private she tore apart and put out there for the world to read, and it feels like sacrilege to “review” it; one can just relate and respect and carry it in one’s heart. Of course, there is more to the book: Patti’s love for poetry and for poets like Rimbaud and Baudelaire, their times of struggle, their friends and their interesting journey in interesting times. It deserved 5 stars on my Goodreads.
I loved this excerpt from the epilogue ‘A note to the reader’ by the author:
“…There could be many stories I could yet write about Robert, about us. But his is the story I have told you. It is the one he wished me to tell and I have kept my promise. We were Hansel and Gretel and we ventured out into the black forest of the world. There were temptations and witches and demons we never dreamed of and there was the splendor we only partially imagined. No one could speak for these two young people nor tell with any truth of their days and nights together. only Robert and I could tell it. Our story, as he called it. And having gone he left the task to me to tell it to you.“
Poem by Smith for Robert- who had the greenest of eyes- for his Memorial:
Little emerald bird Wants to fly away If I cup my hand Could I make him stay?
Little emerald soul Little emerald eye Little emerald soul Must you say goodbye?
All the things that we pursue All that we dream Are composed as nature knew In a feather green
Little emerald bird As you light afar It is true I heard God is where you are
The poem Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou doesn’t really need any foreword or introduction. It does the work for itself- to ruffle something within you and your heart takes a leap! I write this nevertheless, as I can’t contain it.
In her eulogy to Angelou, the First Lady Michelle Obama referred to this poem saying the former ‘…celebrated black woman’s beauty like no one else‘. But I think it doesn’t just confine itself to women of color; its for any woman who thinks she’s too short, too tall, too pale, too dark, too underweight, too over weight… Beauty is all about that Spirit within that shines forth transcending everything without. The poem encompasses all women: our grace, our power, our love.
The admiring mans eyes can make a woman feel she is the most beautiful woman there is, regardless of the fact that she meets the established beauty standards or not. Interestingly, Angelou does something similar: she describes herself through the poem, but she makes you feel she’s actually describing you to the world (replace the I/ me with ‘you‘, ‘my‘ with “your“, and ‘you‘ with “they“). It feels like she knows who you are deep down-that is the greatness in her love as a human being,
A lovely video that Maya Angelou talks of Love that liberates:
As regards the poem Phenomenal Woman, call me overemotional, but the first time as I read it, I choked halfway through as I heard in my mind Maya reciting the poem: that spark in her eyes, the music in the verses, the power in her charm.
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
One weekend, while going through the Foreign Films category on Netflix, hubby P came across the Spanish movie “Medianeras”, literally meaning “Sidewalls“. Unlike the front or the back of buildings that have balconies or grand entrances or decorative motives, sidewalls are the useless parts, at best used as a canvas for advertising something.
Set in Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires, one of the largest cities in the world, the movie begins with pointing out a striking correlation between the architecture of the city with dissimilar buildings, and its inhabitants. We create cities in our own image which reflect our own lives – unplanned, chaotic, contradictory, hostile, unpredictable. These cities charm us, yet there is the all pervasive “urban loneliness”- the isolation in a big crowd and an eerie silence within amongst loud noise without !
With this backdrop is the story of the protagonists of the movie, Martin and Mariana. They are both loners and have their phobias or neuroses they are dealing with. Martin is a web designer and most of the last decade has been a denizen of cyberspace, locked up in his tiny “shoe box” apartment. It is similar to Marianas apartment in the neighboring building who moved in after her failed relationship. She is an architect by qualification but is decorating shop windows. They both need love but the feeble attempts they make at attaining it only proves what misfits they are amongst the ‘regular’ lot! It wont take long to realize that they both, however, could be such perfect compliments to one another, only if they meet. But how?
They decide to break open small windows in their sidewalls to let some sunshine into their dark and dingy homes. How does that change things? Watch the movie to find out 🙂
There are a few very interesting themes running in the film contemporary to our generation: the ever-growing big cities with the changing (not ‘evolving’) architecture, its sure impact on peoples lifestyles and lives, technology and internet that made the world a global village keeping us apart, and the search for love.
The movie is the Director Gustavo Tarreto’s debut feature, based on his 2005 short film based on the same name. There are very few characters. Most of the film is a voice over as the thoughts of the two main characters which makes it very easy to identify with them in a short time. Its a cleverly made film with subtle humor and a delightful ending.
If you are one of those, like me, who are constantly looking for good cinema, and secretly wish for happy endings, this one is for you!
It is when one is in despair and depression that there is struggle, and danger of falling in a deep dark pit that is very difficult to come out of. Or there is possibility of light, albeit a flicker, at the end of the tunnel, should one take those heavy first steps. A poem written several years back still gives me hope to go on. To keep running…
I struggle to go on with no light in sight Like a runner out-of-breath and hope, halfway Books, nor the Scripture, seems to come to my rescue My knock on the Heavens doors falls on deaf ears! I struggle to go on with no light in sight.. I come to you who is busy in a world not mine Cant you tell in my indifferent pretense? Read my eyes honey, I am breaking down! I struggle to go on, but give up the fight Where do I go and what do I do! None but me knows my suffering the best Almost dead, and without hope, I come back to me I don’t struggle anymore, I just give in, hopeless Thats when is born pure strength, a twin to my suffering That takes me in its arms and wipes my tears Whence did That come, who art Thou? I catch some breath and start running again…