Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Shrink Tales #6: In Which we Spoke of Punishment


'How are you?' is the question i hate the most. Unless it is my psychologist who is asking.
When Dr. Mullick asked me that that day i started speaking of how bad and defeated i was feeling about Sethuvamma staying back in Kolkata. She had made some arrangement by which she could work in Kolkata. The same central government job.

I was possessive about Kolkata. I just didn't want anybody around me. I felt cheated, miserable and violated when i got to know of her transfer. She told me how Sethuvamma needed help too. I shared my view that i considered Sethuvamma's belief as a revenge against my atheism. I was very apprehensive about it especially when i started noticing how she was even believing in 'healing' and other such 'miracles' that belief offered.
I felt everyone was punishing me for having attempted suicide. I often thought what it was that made me deserve all that and quickly settled on the tiny pills that i had taken as an answer. It felt horrible.  Ms Mullick said how people acted without giving any importance to logic when they were in pain. Sethuvamma was doing the same. Ms Mullick herself was going to a shrink every week, she said. That made me happy. I felt everyone was on the same sinking boat. Misery makes me happy.

In the flurry of emails which followed after i got to know of Sethuvamma's decision i spoke to her, Calico and Kunju Thalona. Nobody had anything promising to tell me. I would have to live with it. It being a constant presence in Kolkata which worried over every move of mine.

She asked me to learn how to forgive Sethuvamma. For all that she had done and was doing. I thought of it and felt bad. When someone asked me to be at the other end of forgiveness it was hard. I had to be forgiven for all the fuck ups in my life. Not the other way round.

At Ms Mullick's Sethuvamma was her crying best. I hated it when she cried. I always felt she had no reason to cry when i was around. I was to cry. Not her. Yes, i am a cruel bitch. Sethuvamma spoke of how she always thought that i would be there for her even when she lost all hopes with Kunju Thalona. That made me cringe. When was she going to learn that i would never be there for her. Not even for her, i would never be there.

Ms Mullick concluded that she needed help. I clung on to my hatred of feeling defeated and betrayed when i was asked to do things. When i felt i was being forced. 

I left the room after Ms Mullick fixed the next session's topic as forgiveness. I still haven't forgiven myself for having been born. I wonder how this is going to turn out. Fingers crossed. 
She  must be giving her knowing smile and nod and mouthing the words 'i told you so'. Damn her, my personal brand of psychology.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Pirannal Palppayasam

15th April 2015

I was drained after a shoot the previous night. I didn't even remember when i hit the bed. NN told me in the morning that when she was back in the room i had a chat with her. I had no memory of it. It was all in my sleep. NN is the one who was witness to my weird habits during sleep. For almost two years. We became roommates after we shifted from the staff quarters called D 11. It was in D 11 that she and i bonded over coffee and started having long conversations which pissed off my then roommate. I was always laughing and my laughter was not exactly a low pitched lady like one.

NN is leaving. For Pune. This month is going to be our last one as roommates. So when Bengalis and Malayalees were celebrating noboborsho and Vishu respectively i was thinking of what to do on NN's birthday which fell on the next day. I decided to make Palppayasam (a kind of rice pudding) for NN's birthday (pirannal). The matta rice that i used was the last cup from the packet NN brought me from Bombay. I had used it to make Palpaysam, ariyunda (sweet rice ball) etc the previous year.

Apart from being roommates we were also in the same crew. She did sound for our films here. With the playback project fast approaching i only hope she will somehow find time to visit Kolkata and work.

To NN, Palppayasam and much love.


I used the recipe from Spicyana except that upon Sethuvamma's instruction i cooked the rice a bit before adding it to milk and sugar.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

That Impotent Sun and Other Such Tales

It was in Kolkata that i saw an impotent sun for the first time. The hostel was separated from the various departments by a pond. Over that was a bridge. Next to that was a Shimul tree which shed its leaves and burst out in red blooms when one was least expecting it. I came to Kolkata in the winter of 2012. While hurrying towards class one morning i looked at the sun. I stared at it and saw that it refused to hurt my eyes. It was impotent. I could stare at it all i wanted and still not wince. That was when i realized there were places like that. There were places unlike Kozhikode, Kerala. Kolkata was my first infidelity to Kozhikode and i loved every bit of it. Even the impotent sun.

From the time i came and our first exercise in 'observation' was given i started jotting down things which interested me. Anything i felt was cinematic went into my pocket diary. I am recording all of that here so that i can burn all those books. My room is cluttered and a little more space wouldn't hurt.

From the time i started keeping journals they have been a joke in the family. Anybody would read it and even quote from it when they felt like it. When i questioned them about privacy they would just shrug saying my diaries never looked like they were personal. So once i wrote Diary in red on my diary so that i drove the point home. Made no difference. They continued to be wide open books.

Tried hard to make it look like a diary


So here is a portion from my reservoir of thoughts for cinema.

June 2014-November 2014

  • In winters she was like a dog. The tip of her nose cold. She would brush the tip of her nose on his brow. You are a dog. It's cold like a dog's [nose]. 
  •  കരച്ചിൽ എപ്പോഴും വരണത് ഭയങ്കരനിശ്ചയദാർഢ്യത്തോടെ പലതും ചെയ്യുമ്പോഴാണ്. [you cry when you are doing something with enormous effort] Best example is Cache. The man saying now i am going to eat, i haven't eaten all day. And then making a sandwich quickly and starting to cry in between. 
  • Child going missing-thread-like what Sethuvamma and Kunju Thalona went through when you went missing. Someone calling Appachan and Amma saying kunjila has met with an accident. 
  • The word game you used to play with Appachan. URGE is a nice word to think of
  • She always makes the wrong choice of marking a place. Like identifying a house by its curtains. The curtains could go, they could paint it [the house] all over again. She could have looked for another landmark. A post office or a paan shop. But she always chose the curtains or something such. 
  • Like how a bread crumb/a pastry falls down your dress into the cleavage. Hangs in the bra to be picked up and eaten again. 
  • ഒരു മൈക്രോസ്കോപ്പിനടിയിലേയ്ക്ക് യാത്ര പോയ ക്ലാവ്. [A fungus which went for a trip to under a microscope]
  • Nobody always stands for the most important people in your life. For example when you say nobody calls me what you mean is 'my mother calls me'.
  • On a black computer screen the reflection of a tube light which is switched on on screen. 
  • How can we not have music in our movies. We have music everywhere. In an auto. Especially in the north that is. That is why their movies are like that. The music you heard in the auto. You looked out and what you saw is a young goat. Its forelimbs tried with a red cloth. It was limping. The cut point was a little off. So you in your head cut it in the right place. Editing is brilliant too.
  • People disappearing from frames. The time you take to adjust your exposure and they look up-they disappear from your frame. 
  • Two girls who are clicking selfies. 
  • വിജിയമ്മായുടെ വീട്. കല്യാണം. വാളകത്തെ ഉഷ്ണം. ചൂരൽകസേരയിലെ ആട്ടം. അതിന്റെ കരച്ചിൽ. പാചകം. വളപ്പിലെ പാചകം [Wedding at Viji aunty's. The heat of Valakam. Swinging in the cane hammock. Its creaking. Cooking in the yard.
  • വൈകുന്നേരത്തെ വിഷമങ്ങളെല്ലാം ഉറക്കഗുളികയുടെ ഒരു കുപ്പിയിൽ. All the sorrows of evenings safe in a bottle of sleeping pills.

A sketch from the diary. That's me going to cross the road and dee bee, one of our dogs trying to follow me. I try to send her back with a glance. Never worked.

 I am publishing these so that anybody can use them if they feel like. It's an open reservoir. No copyright. I might or might not make use of it in my films. There is nothing called original anyway. Cheers!

Friday, 3 April 2015

Good Friday Gone Bad



When i went to bed on Maundy Thursday i asked Sethuvamma to soak some rice in water. I had made up my mind to make Pesaha appam the next day. The only time Pesaha appam was made in our family was when we were with Amma, my grandmother. She called it Inderi ഇണ്ടേറി (some call it INRI appam or indri appam) appam. I liked the name but had no memory of its taste. I decided to try it out even though i was late by a day.

So on Good Friday gone bad because all days are bad when you are not working, i made the bread and milk porridge which was to be made on Maundy Thursday. I had two recipes with me. One was from Ria's Collection and the other was from her. I knew that she liked making food from scratch. If she liked it that way i liked it that way too. Sometimes i think i need no evolution. My likes and dislikes which were formed in the course of years matched hers so much so that i felt it was better to ask her what she liked and didn't and just copy it blindly. So many years saved. But you know what they say, that the process is important. So i rebel against her likes and in two years end up exactly there. Dare anyone question me about undergoing the goddamn process.

Speaking of rebellion i am reminded of the first year after losing belief that all atheists have. They feel liberated all of a sudden and want to rebel against everything they gave up. They would oppose everything religious around them in that first year. I was there once. It was the long break of uncertainty after SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) exams. Till then every year i would observe lent before easter. No chicken, no meat, no eggs no fish and all boring veggies. It was hell for a person like me who loved meat and fish. The whole of that year i went vegetarian. Food was where i wanted a rebellion first, i must have thought. By the time i was in +1 (higher secondary school) my folks had stopped being surprised at my vegetarian phase. They had other things to worry about anyway with the principal calling Sethuvamma to say that i had 'killer instinct'. That wasn't true, i was only throwing calculators at my Chemistry teachers not stabbing them with a knife... What my folks didn't know was that on the very first day of Lent i bought a very bad chicken biriyani from the nearest restaurant and ate it while no one was at home. I buried the plantain leaf and bones in our backyard. I placed a stone over it so that dogs wouldn't dig it up. My folks would be devastated if they knew that i had not observed lent i thought.

The only thing in my life that i am absolutely happy about is my atheism. I am glad that it happened during my teenage and therefore i got more time to be in it. I am not hard on believers now. I don't rebel against them. My rebellions happen without noise and without chicken bones being buried. No energy expenditure. You could even think up revolts. You were a revolt by yourself. [Nothing of the sort. Just a plain girl, alive]

The reason why i decided to make Inderi appam was so that i had her year in food. Steal her memories and make it mine. Her mother was fidgety in kitchen and used only new cookware to make it. The children were asked not to waste any of the paal because it was all holy. I would imagine myself as a child and being told all this by Amma. Replace her with me and her mother with Amma. There! I had my childhood memories of Maundy Thursday albeit stolen. I could steal from her like how i could steal from Appachan. I felt good stealing.


To steam the appam i had to use a pressure cooker and a vessel with holes.
Pesaha Paal/ Milk Porridge


The appam didn't turn out to be perfect. I didn't lay the cross made of palm leaves either. May be next year when i think of Maundy Thursday on a Christmas day or something. Seasons came for no reason other than food.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A new Inmate and Things Like That


Pinchu was named that by Sethuvamma. She came in after NN left. She grew up fast. She goes crazy sometimes. I like Pinchu.  

Shrink Tales #5: In Which We Spoke About Escapism

That was the day i whatsapped Florence saying that D Jeet wasn't available till next week. I asked her to give an appointment for interview the following week. She didn't reply me. Whatsapp's blue check marks went in like swords in my head. I decided to drop out. Asked D Jeet to find a normal person to work with.

When i told Ms Mullick of that decision in the evening she said 'Whoa! where is that coming from!' She asked me what i was going to do. I said i was going to work and be financially independent. 'You are going to get a job which pays 15k a month. Then after some months of being there you would quit that too. You will come around to cinema gradually and by then you would have lost many years in the field.' She made a lot of sense. I made none.

She said i was trying to escape from the situation and was trying to justify my escapism with logic. It was true. I was running away.
She said that i had one of the cognitive dissonances in which i made myself believe that there were only two sides to anything. Either i have it or i don't have anything at all. Either i made the film i wanted or there would not be a film or even me at all. From what she had heard from Sethuvamma of my childhood i had already undergone a great amount of stress. [I had no clue what those tales were because i had no memory of stress in childhood] My mind and body didn't want to go through that kind of stress anymore and was asking me to turn my back to such situations.

I asked her what i should do. A break perhaps? She then spoke of the time when she was in a similar situation. When she broke ties with her mentor and went out of that place. How she decided not to use any of her mentor's contacts and had to struggle to find a place where she could practice. She had given herself 6 months and all it took was 3.

She said i was intelligent enough to know that my plan of quitting and working somewhere else was a load of crap. It was.
She talked about the people who worked at the hospital. All those young women in sick green attires. They made a lot of mistakes, she said. She had asked them to remove Dr. from her name and they hadn't done that yet. She asked me if the her name board outside the room still bore Dr. It did as far as i remembered. She shook her head in resignation.
None of them were going to quit the job because they made mistakes.
All of it sounded true but i was unable to think that way when i was under stress.

She spoke with Sethuvamma and asked me to wait outside. I had a smoke and when i came back i saw that there was no Dr before her name on the board outside the room. When she called me in to ask me to stay calm and think a lot before taking decisions and asking me to let her know what Florence's reply was because she would be concerned i told her that there was no Dr on the name plate. She smiled. I did too.

In the evening screenings Antonioni was playing. He was one among my favourites. I rushed to the theatre five minutes before 6 and realized it had started much before. They had changed the time of screening to 5.30 that day. I came out and called Florence. Another voice picked up and said she was her sister. She asked me what they would get out of the documentary. I was taken aback. I was not prepared for that kind of talk. I mumbled something about them getting wider exposure. She didn't seem convinced and i understood she had only money in mind. I said we were all students and that we couldn't afford much. She asked me to quote a figure. I asked her to quote a figure. She said that she was not doing that because we were students. I was trapped. Money and i had nothing in common.

I told the matter to D Jeet, NN, Sethuvamma and her.
Told Florence's sister that i would call back the next day.
I hope i will be able to buy my film from them.
This is why there has to be a producer in a crew. Venky was in Mumbai and i didn't think he could help anyway. I turned to her. In the end everyone turns to her. She complains that she has no her to turn to. Well, there can only be so many hers in the world.

I decided to wait till 12th when D Jeet would be free and then think of what to do with my life. NN was leaving for good on 20th. I decided to do a little reading and writing and forget about cinema for a while. I wish that was possible because Antonioni is calling me again. Have i told you about how 'Passenger' changed my life? Well...

She Leaves Me. Again

For years I have struggled to explain to her how she hurts me. How I get hurt even when she has no clue that I am getting hurt. She ...