Tuesday, November 20, 2012

open air museums

kerala rice field against a backdrop of coconut palms

Weald and Downland Open air museum is one place I would like to visit in England. It is a total re-creation of old village living. and it made me think again about such museums in India. How wonderful would be a re-creation of the city of Ashoka? or Chandragupta Maurya? megasthenes wriitng.  The inns. The wayfarers. The markets. The horses. Men and women wearing long fine muslins, decked in gold jewelry, walking around talking and laughing -- well, not a Las Vegas style one, which, on second thoughts, isn't too bad. Or Emperor Akbar's city. They make movie sets easily, don' t they?

And the villages. in my state, Kerala. The dirt roads. The fences covered in blue and yellow flowers. the little shops. the smithies. the homes. the farmhouses. the pastures. the cows and goats. the little temple. the mango, jackfruit, and tamarind trees... .the lush green rice fields surrounded by the tall coconut groves. the brooks and ponds  filled with little fish. just to remember how it was. before all the developments.

or of Muziris. I hear that they are attempting to do something along those lines there. But it needs money and vision to make it to that extensive and expansive level. time will tell, I suppose. Apart from an educational perspective,  such living dynamic museums are job creators without the feudal system bearing on the employees, and it preserves the greenery along with the history.

more info about Muziris :

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

the falls of the season

sky is falling! hennypenny

This fall has been a season of falls from grace, for some great people. Lance Armstrong, Petraeus, now Gen John Allen... . As the astrologers would point out, Saturn's move into Scorpio was an indicator that such things would happen. And it has just started.

I am not saying that that means the sky is falling. far from it. All this have always been there, will always be. Talking of skies and falls, saw the newest James Bond movie. I know everyone is enamoured of it. skyhigh praises for the best Bond ever and all that. I admit it is an eminently watchable film. Like, as I have said before elsewhere, (I am sure you all are keeping track of what I say or not say, that you have nothing else to do ) a Jason Bourne movie -- almost. And more recently, a Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson -- Taken 2) movie.

deja vu -- to see the rooftops of Istanbul ( I believe) as the stomping grounds of both Bond and Mills.
to see the ruins of the island where the supervillain is -- didn't I see that in Stallone's Expendables? M and the Scottish gamekeeper -- was that Dame Judi Dench as Mrs Brown? Which is right for this season's theme of the falls-- the fall of a Queen. M, that is.

For me, and for many I know, Bond movies are great for their grand locations, outdoors, indoors, beautiful women, and of course the handsome and debonair Mr Bond. Nowadays other movies do that too -- so what is the difference? it's like been there, done that. There is not much of a difference, except that idea that this was once upon a time Bond. Like when I heard that familiar music -- when the old Bond car is revealed. The fascination for the Bond movies rose also from the quaint "Britishness" of the main characters. Their customs, their attitudes, their behavior, and the accent of course. There is a romance about all that, rightly or not, in spite of it all or not. Like a Poirot or Miss Marple movie. Or a Jeeves and Wooster gig. Like the English countryside. lLike high tea. All those are nice to look at, and eat in the last case. I read about the success of the British TV dramas like Upstairs, Downstairs, and recently, of Downton Abbey in the US. It is this same fascination. They are not that different from any other soap operas. It is the setting, the ambience, the whole baggage/package of Britishness. The old colonial power -- the greatness, the extent, the influence, the ubiquitous nature of the language. So in spite of our present day knowledge of the real effects of colonialism, we like to gaze upon its perpetrators' idealized vision of themselves,   idealize it ourselves to some extent, be nostalgic about it, aspire to it, maybe. Because of it, in spite of it. It is in the collective memory of a lot of people, for better or worse, so to speak. What I am trying to say is that James Bond is a British institution. a symbol. an ideal of Britishism, Britishness -- or the ideal idea of what it is in peoples' minds. As it is, Bryan Mills is a secret agent who has a personal agenda, and James Bond is a secret agent with a not-so-personal agenda, trying to defeat vengeful villains, like many other heroes.

One of the reasons for the coziness of the whole Bondwatching experience was the fact that Bond was killing off unmitigated villains. M is in his/her heaven and all's well with the world -- something like that. Now it seems the villain is M. And the other villain, Silva has a sad past -- he is an alter ego of Bond. Like many rogues, he is created by the supposedly good-intentioned.  Not difficult to understand in the postmodern, postcolonial world.

The new supposedly grittier, craggier ( ;) ) version of  Bond  is probably in sync with the new world, but I miss the old suave, stiff upper-lipped Bond with that cynical smile. The modern Bond for me would be that portrayed by Pierce Brosnan. He is the old Bond, in a new setting. He is aware of his dinosaur status, as M makes it  a point to tell him. Still, he acts the part. The show goes on -- a witty tongue-in-cheek interpretation. let me hasten to say that I love them all. all the Bonds, I mean.

Now for the Bond girls -- I keep hearing that the new Bond girls are women of substance -- well, more than the earlier ones. I beg to differ. Apart from Michelle Yeoh, ( memorably in a Pierce Brosnan movie)  I do not remember anyone as being that substantial. In fact, the earlier Bond women had a majesty, a presence that is lacking in the newer ones. Anyway who am I to say? What do I know?

When I was watching Bond and the bad guy on the roof tops, I couldn't help wishing that they would stop and decide to just run and jump around for fun. both say " oh forget it! and hold hands and dance. but that would be a spoof. which is not new either.

and -- whatever happened to Ralph Fiennes?  a great (and handsome) actor, and he gets these just-hangin'-around kind of roles. oh, they gave him a gun to wave about towards the end, but his talent is wasted  here. He is hero material. remember the Constant Gardener?  again, the actors I like seem to languish. maybe I am wrong. I like Heather Graham, Winona Ryder, I liked Lindsay Lohan. Leonardo di Caprio is another talented actor. He gets the roles and he does them exceptionally well, but the awards committee seem not to notice. anyway.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

how green was my valley

so -- election 2012 is over. them that dance the best win, the rest lose. or dance again.
as for me, I am still the same old flounder. like they say back home, shankaran pinnem thengil thanne.
earth-shaking events take place in the lives of some, in others' earth-shattering. and then we move on.let me leave all that to the champion dancers. people who are really good at doing things. I am just wondering at the going green phenomenon.

I was thinking of the plight of New Yorkers after the hurricane.  It was sad. Sometimes it looked like a so-called Third World scene. But then there are some countries that always look like they have been perpetually hit by natural disasters. But they are the ones who really live green. They don't even eat half the amount of food the so aware forward-thinking countries throw away in a day. They do not drive cars, nor do they have washers and dryers. Many use biofuels aka cow pie  to cook their scanty food. In fact, cooking gas is rationed. Petrol is costlier than here. God forbid, they don't use tissues. why, many, unfortunately,  use the great outdoors as their toilets. My only hope is that we will not all be asked to do that in the name of going green.

 Growing up, I remember people going to the grocer with cloth bags  folded neatly in their hands, and returning with the same bags filled with well, groceries. Sometimes I saw wet bags, leaking bags -the butcher wrapped the meat in teak leaves, not plastic or styrofoam trays, same with the fishmonger.  - I saw dirty bags, clean bags, but they were washed and used, and reused. Then came plastic bags -- all on a sudden I saw how useful they were. particularly in a place like Kerala, with its monsoons, and dust and such, these bags were a godsend. Not that they were plentily available like here -- people used and reused them again. As for paper plates - there was a time when we  ate our sadya on banana leaves. use and throw bio-degradable. well, there was discrimination there too, I got to admit. The so-called lower castes had to be greener than the rest. In the feudal system that we had, the poor workers on the farm were given their meals at the landlord's. Come lunchtime, these men and women dug a small hole in the ground, put a banana leaf in it, because that is what they used as a plate. The so-called high caste people of my country had many ingenious ways that helped their world stay green. but that is another story.

In the same vein, we can talk about claypot/earthenware cooking. I am attracted to that too like any other foodie. Rustic = romantic. Environmentally safe, healthy as opposed to the teflon coated pots and pans (and cosmetics and sofa covers and all that  and more -- teflon is God -- omnipresent). But then i remember the women back then. How much time they had to spend before the stove fanning those flames and keeping the pots and pans at a certain temperature -- manually. And the cleaning. It is good that the peasants did not have that many varieties of dishes to cook for a single meal. But again, the landlord could -- his servants or women at home had all that fun.  Women could come out of the kitchen and laundry room because of these new technologies. However it will be good if they could invent technology that addresses all these factors including protection of the environment.

Years later, I see the West touting green living, and I am reminded of those godsend plastic bags. I read  that they blame the overpopulation of countries like India for the depletion of nature's resources, and the pollution of our atmosphere. Then I come to live in the West, and I see the amount of paper and plastic and electricity we use, from the milk cartons to the mountain of tissue, from take out trays to holiday/party stuff and so on. I don't mind. In fact I am glad that there are no power cuts, that the gas for cooking appears as if from nowhere, that the lights are brighter, the machines - -esp. the washer and dryer, and the dishwasher --work faster, there is hot water all the time. I am grateful for the faster cars, the cleaner surroundings. All that paper and all that bleach and Lysol  helps. In fact i wish there was enough bleach in India to clean all the public restrooms there --and that's not too many.. But just when the third worlders are starting to hope to enjoy a little bit of comfort and light, the ones who really stripped the earth of its resources for their factories and railroads, are grandstanding. Please let those poor third worlders  enjoy their earth for a bit, then they themselves will make their world greener than the greenest. till then, let'em breathe.

Why did we make  those chemicals and plastics and cars in the first place? because of their utility. there was a need for those, as human beings went forward -- to kill germs, to transport material in an efficient and clean manner, to travel faster and farther easily etc.  They genetically modified the agricultural crops to feed many with a lot of well-preserved food. Again, in the warmer climes, were pests and water abound, countermeasures had to be found too. Little land, too many people - necessity for faster, more abundant crops. It would be good if we invented nutritious tasty items which could assuage the hunger of many with the least quantity of it. Quality vs quantity.

There are times when I long for that old village where my grandmother lived. It had quaint little streets with each little thatched or tile-roofed houses surrounded by bamboo fences covered in flowering creepers. These days they have modern concrete homes with concrete compound walls. The thatched and tiled roofs leaked and needed to be replaced time and again. The concrete ones seem to be stronger , and of course, people want to be modern -- wrongly or not. The green rice fields and coconut palm groves are disappearing. I seethe at the indiscriminate developments that crop up all over my homeland. But then I think of the people who work abroad just to make enough money to build a home of their own in their homeland. These are not rich men flaunting their riches -- well, at least the majority aren't. These are poor men and women who break their backs working in foreign, unfriendly lands, bowing to inhuman treatment, just because of a little dream in their hearts -- of building a home. I can't grudge them their small joys and wishes just so that I have this nostalgic feeling for the old ways. And when I am enjoying the comforts of the western world.

The earth needs greening. sensibly. not by depriving the great suffering millions, but slowly finding new ways for new times. ways that work. I still want clean surroundings, clean food, enough food, and faster modes of travel. What I do not want is war and disease. Now, if people and nations can focus on preventing and eradicating those, then the earth would be greener. Also, later, I hope someone does not say we have depleted the sun off all his energy, that it is raining tears of ashes on us. just saying. green is my favorite color.

Go green!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Julia Gillard

now that is a woman of substance.what a  great lady.

Monday, October 29, 2012

regarding Swedish hasbeens

Let's talk shoes. I 've only just recently heard about hasbeens. Among shoes. Among people, oh yes, a lot. In fact, now I think that it would have been better for me to be one.  But then how can a would-have-been or never-have-been be ever be a hasbeen?

Anyway, needless to say, I fell in love with these clog-like shoes right away. The colors are mindblowing. Coupled with the natural toned soles, they look friendly and free and neutral. Apparently, they have been around for some time now. They are from Sweden, by the way. They look comfy, and you may know of my natural affinity for clogs, from my previous post. And these hasbeens look stylish old fuddyduddies, to me. I can imagine myself wearing them and walking around. A kind of ageless me. I like what they wrote about a hasbeen on their website too.

But I haven't tried them on yet, probably never will. Like many other things in my life. hehe. No, seriously, these are rather costly for me. Still I think I can find some in there that are affordable. We'll see. But just look at them -- aren't they adorable?

Swedish hasbeens

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

the trouble with umbrage

The recent riots in Libya by angry Muslims certainly had sad consequences. Many commentators here seemed to be puzzled by the extreme anger at such a little matter.  A perplexing conundrum. Why do these people get so exaggeratedly emotional  about their faith? What makes them go berserk at what they consider slights against their religion? Doesn't matter if the slight is imagined or not. It seems like they cannot take some constructive criticism calmly, let alone a joke. What is their problem?

Well, I have to point out that there could be any number of reasons for their taking umbrage so. For one, when the majority of a group has nothing much except their faith, when they consider it as part of their identity, their dignity, then it kind of becomes pretty important to them. And there is a long, complex history between the West and its religion, and Islam. Losses have been incurred , by one side more than the other-- of wealth, of land, of resources, and after all that, being left powerless. When insulted, they cannot wage "legitimate"wars, only self-destructive unreasonable riots that affect plenty of innocent bystanders too, fatally. But having said that, I am aware of those who exploit the faith of the faithful. Most often, the majority wouldn't even have noticed the slight, they have other things to do. But the dabblers in power will bring it to their notice, and whip them up to a frenzy, blowing things out of proportion. Another facet of that animal called "politics". So, while I can try to understand the reason for their anger, I do not condone their disproportionate reaction. After all, it was a movie, and destroying their own country for that wouldn't do anything, except get some attention, and reprisals. What I am amazed more is at the puzzlement of the  commentators at the very emotions of these people. Listening to them we would think that this was a phenomenon that is very rare, that nobody else gets riled ever, when they think that they have been subject to an indignity.

Actually,  this taking umbrage is not so unusual among cultures. The reactions vary in degree and in kind from nation to nation, community to community. Everyone has a sensitive  point which someone can poke at, knowingly or unknowingly. The use of the phrase " Third  World" by a Westerner puts my back up -- although I don't go bashing the person, I feel insulted.  But then I am always taking umbrage. (Like an umbrella?) I took umbrage at Bourdain's disdain  for my homeland's cuisine. More at the people who said mean things about India, than at him ,but it was there.  In America, try being pro-life or pro-choice. You will get a taste of that umbrage, from all sides! Why does anyone in the West try not to use the N word anymore? Because they know it is not politically correct. And if someone did, he will be made to apologize right away. But "Third World" still does not get any respect. Which is all right too, because sometimes I feel that my country doesn't deserve any respect, in spite of its ancient greatness, when I think of the way it treats its women. that goes for much of the Third World, by the way, not just India. But that doesn't mean anyone else can call my country names!

The other day I read about Romney's son being asked by a reporter about his feelings when his father was called a liar by the President, publicly. (By the way, the President didn't actually call him a liar, but said some not nice things) Anyway, the poor guy said what came to his mind , as a citizen of a free country. As a son, like any son or daughter who loved their father  would say, he said something not nice. And he also added that he wasn't going to do it, that he understood the nature of the whole process. We have to remember that he did not do anything. What did the reporter expect to hear when he or she asked that question? "Oh, yes. my dad is a liar. we all are. and we are proud of it!" ? Of course he could have walked away, saying "no comment", or better, retort " YOU are a liar!", like a teenager :) But he chose to vent his frustration, honestly. But then people took umbrage. again, understandably. This is the President of the USA that we are talking about.  We have a right to take umbrage.But we needn't have really, not very much anyway,  as he had apologized to the President.  I am relieved that the President accepted his apology. (So it seems there's some extra umbrage that was wasted there,  that can be kept on reserve when the next incident of insult occurs hehe) When someone here made fun of Gandhi, Indians took umbrage, and many here were surprised. Why are they being so sensitive? What's the big deal? Can't they take a joke? But isn't it all a bit confusing? when it comes to standards? It is as if some insults and some protests are more justifiable than others, some insults are more punishable than others. As if the self-respect of one group is more valuable than others'. "All are equal, some are more equal". Who is the arbiter of these? Respect, a little bit of that would go a long way in easing that "anxiety of influence" of civilizations, of cultures. And it goes both ways. Along with that, empathy, and moderation.

On the other hand, where do we draw the line with regards to the extent and nature of of these protests against slights, and fights for freedom and faith? For I sometimes feel that a sound thrashing by their sober fellow countrymen would be very effective against these 'fighters" who make their statements by attacking women and children, innocent people, and by destroying public property, and in its extreme, committing murders. The numerous Civil wars, the supposedly ideological political party members' fights, - all these turn so ugly and in the end, hurting and taking the lives of fellow  human beings.

The problem here is not that cozy Wodehousian umbrage-taking really. It is what these protesters do with it, and how they do it. The mad fury that is unleashed at such times. The violence, the bloodshed, most of which are on themselves. and we have to remember that sometimes it is this sensitivity and self-awareness, this taking umbrage, that leads to great revolutions and struggles for independence from oppressive regimes , be in the area of politics or of gender or of race. and sometimes issues that many of us dismiss as silly at the time, can at some point turn out to be dangerous ideas of supremacy which cause holocausts of massive proportions.In any case,there should be more peaceful ways. But then a Gandhi would have to be born. But even then in this century, will it make any change?

Let's just hope that at some point in the future, these old "macho" civilizations will reach a place where they can vent their frustrations in a well-orchestrated, well-rehearsed, well-mannered function where all are dressed in the latest designer wear, sipping champagne. They will watch comedians and talk-show hosts act out the matter and make fun of the insulter in a very funny, endearing and sometimes rebellious manner. They will laugh and roll their eyes and go watch some more Reality TV, look for sales on well-co-ordinated, or mix-and-match, seasonal room decor, and have breaded snacks. Instead of lashing out at everyone blindly, they would have learned to deal with insults,  in a very civilized manner.Oh, and apologize. just apologize -- both sides. And write in their blogs, talk to a reporter if one can, and post on facebook and tweet on twitter and so on - go viral, and go on with more important stuff. forget what that idiot of a cartoonist or movie maker did, with a religion, or what that politician said about women.

For a society to reach that level of disinterestedness, albeit not completely impartial -- which level once we all reach, the world would have truly evolved into a peaceful place, where all are equally equal -- that society has to be at a certain happy place.The larger the number of the  citizens of a nation enjoy a comparatively stress-free life, whose basic needs are met more or less, have a higher standard of living, the less trouble they get into -- usually. (curiously, and very sadly, the number of serial killers seem to increase then). As it is, only those cultures that have that sense of pride, that sense of self-confidence can be really disinterested. And that number now is very low, almost nil. (There are those that have an inflated sense of importance, their superiority -- that is troublesome. )The majority of nations do not enjoy such an elevated status in their own eyes, or in the roster of nations. This disparity appears in other areas too -- gender, class, race -- not just nations. So there will be conflict -- slights, imagined or otherwise. Another side of the Foucaultian power and resistance to power. What I called ' the anxiety of influence of civilizations". And if all the leaders can be bridgers of gaps, instead of touting the differences to feel superior, rather than as an example of complexity,  we wouldn't be talking about this.

ps: are politicians saints? do they all speak the truth all the time? do we? but we don't count. let's talk of politicians. Do they all lie? Can they afford not to? Can they afford to be saints? I think it would be kind of like the great Ashoka's embrace of Buddhism -- which is not conducive to empire-building or maintaining. If all nations were to be saintly, then maybe the saintly politician can exist. Even then there is that fascination with power. How many can resist it? With education in the right manner things can change. But won't that be indoctrination? Looking at our current political atmosphere here, it was only recently that I heard about a candidate who stood for all the right issues . The ideal candidate. But how practical would his ideals be in the real America, in the real world? How would one pigeon fare among all the cats? I have seen how hard it has been for the current President to be the "bridger of gaps" among the people of his country, among nations etc. that he promised he would be. I do not see that humility, the humaneness, and the understanding that shone like a bright hopeful beacon after a dark period of arrogant jingoism, anymore. That is  probably not because he is not idealistic or humane anymore -- but that  he cannot afford to be, if he is to survive and succeed. Priorities changed.(Aside: Are saints politicians? oh well. we all die anyway.) But I do believe that if politicians are saints, then saints are politicians. They are all saints in the strength of their convictions, in their visions, and in  their willingness to work with determination towards their goals. They are all politicians, again, for the same reasons.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

run for your life

health- posts two days in a row -- am i some kind of a health nut? I know I am not, but do I get to pretend or what? it seems doing all those crossword puzzles or sweating your brain with sudoku ,or reading tons of books is not going to help prevent brain shrinkage when you get older. Instead, they advice walking.(BBC news). Or running, I guess if you can. Which I heard many can -- I don't know how I am going to be. Not that there's too long to go to get there. I read somewhere that people in Colorado, esp Denver, are very healthy, they are always riding bikes, and climbing mountains, and trekking and whatnot. They are ageless, they say. So that is one place I should never go to. Why go buy depression?

But if I can run when I hit 70, I wish I could do it like Phoebe and Rachel. Now that is running. Sometimes I try that on the treadmill  (to "I'm going nowhere... somebody help me!" ):) Actually, that is friendship too. Which I think is more important. When you have someone to talk to, not just once a day, or once a week, but someone, or people around you, that makes a difference. That is one of the reasons why the older cultures have lesser number of patients with Alzheimers. Or, it could be that they aren't diagnosed as much, but I believe there are studies that indicate that some Asian and European communities have lesser incidence of this sad, dignity-robbing disease.

Monday, October 22, 2012

to supplement, or not to?

This is for the ladies -- especially of a certain age. When we get to that age, there is apparently the problem of thyroid disorder, and it is pretty serious, broken bones, kidney stones -- there's a rhyme to this. Now they say that it is connected to a deficiency in Calcium. The good old Calcium -- the proverbial case of water, water everywhere -- not a drop to drink! I mean, they ask you to take supplements because it is hard to get everything from one's food. Then they say supplements are no good, because our body can't process it. And milk is a great source of Calcium. So we drink lots of milk -- and then we hear milk is for calves, not for humans. Human body cannot process milk. So what does a body do? oh, and you need Vitamin D to help process good old Cal, and again the same deal with Vitamin D -- to supplement or not to? that is the question.

Anyway this is what Iam doing for now.

I take a multivitamin 5 days a week. There is some Cal in it. With my oatmeal I use a cup of fat free milk, and I add a few almonds and raisins and craisins. All those are said to have Cal. And I eat fish, especially sardines now and then, and I have lots of veggies in my sambar. Hope this will help with  my Cal needs, and thereby, my thyroid. And I will live happily everafter.

Read the latest :

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Guruvinethedi -- In Search of a Guru

my short story published in 1986 in the Malayalam film magazine, Chithrabhumi. a historical curiosity now. can't read it now without cringing, nor without a silly grin. that was such a while ago! :)

In Search of a Guru

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Stromboli (1950)

It's been a while since I have written something.
There were times that I wanted to, but just couldn't bring myself to it. what for, what for, was the dominant voice in my head. Now there are some who would ask me if I was mad ( in the crazy sense). That seems to be the usual response to anything remotely funny that I try to do, in my world, these days.
Well, that definition of madness is wrong, according to me. Madness is when you hurt people -- with words, with actions. Not when you try to make people smile, maybe ,even happy -- a little, for an instant. Now that -- trying to make people feel good -other people- is stupid.

What for, anyway? When I look back at my life, I realize it has been pretty much cringeworthily stupid, and meaningless.
So much so that at times I feel I should have become a nun when I had the chance!

And that is nothing new either. Let me explain.

I saw this movie, Stromboli by Roberto Rossellini. An island in the Mediterranean in the late nineteen forties, after the Second World War. The movie starts in a camp for displaced persons. Karen (Karin?) , a Lithuanian woman in that camp chooses to escape her situation by marrying a young Italian soldier, Antonio.
He sings to her from the other side of the barbed wire that separates the two camps, she is not that into him, because she has plans to emigrate to Argentina. But when that plan falls through, she marries this man. She has a past too of which he knows nothing much. And for her part, she doesn't have a clue of what he or his home was like. One cannot help thinking of the parallels between the usual arranged marriages that used to ,and even now, take  place in my country.

Karen, played by the great Ingrid Bergman, is an independent, courageous woman of the modern world (no wimp like some of us). When she marries this young fisherman turned soldier, and follows him to his world, she escapes from a camp of women, but what for? To a place and people stuck in the past. A petrified barren island with no sliver of green in sight. To top it all, there is  an active volcano looming over them , controlling, terrorizing. That island kind of shook my idea of a romantic rustic Italy filled with poppies and olive trees and sunflowers and vineyards. (I know they are there, but, obviously, this is another part of it). This island is a symbol of the world in general, of life.

Why do I say that? Because like the people in that village, we struggle along. holding on to our petty desires, possessions, fears and prejudices. and a pathetic faith in an indifferent, superior power who protects us. all for what? to die. the absurd drama of life -- the upward climb of youth, then the downward fall to old age, sickness and death. Well, I read that Rossellini was known for his neorealistic ways of moviemaking. So obviously, he intended it to be understood as a realistic piece of story telling about existence.

And such an existence! I cannot imagine what these people have gone through. Each of those women in the camps, each of those soldiers, the villagers -- I am not talking just about the movie here -- the havoc that war wreaks, the choices we make at such times, It creates grey areas in the  so called moral world. (Karin, in her past life, had chosen to have an affair with an enemy soldier. Remember Kate Winslet's character in The Reader? That would be another facet of such times) But there is another side to this. It is these same disasters that changes values, beliefs and status quo. .  No one welcomes wars, or any other catastrophes, but sometimes it is these hardships that act as catalysts for great change, especially for the next generation. And that makes greater nations, where the rights of till then forgotten masses are acknowledged. For instance, that is when women started to get lives of their own, outside their homes.

Karin's needs are not seen as important by her simple husband. He is not being mean or bad. It is just what he is used to, what he knows. He takes it for granted that his wife will follow him wherever he goes. So what if it is completely alien to her? That no one welcomes her, that the very harshness of the land chokes her? She is supposed to adapt, to adjust.

Karen rises above the rest of the characters, because of her longing to be free, to be courageous. But she has her petty sense of pride and feelings of superiority too. And the need to be free -- another Madame Bovary. But  Karen is different in her self-realization. And in that she is not punished by being killed off in the end.

That is enough of the serious stuff. phew! what I want to mention is the beauty of Ingrid Bergman. There is a scene where she languishes on one of those lifeless black rocks that line the sea. She is breathtakingly, divinely, one with the rocks there, a luminous part of nature. So different, yet so much a part of it all. Innocent, and knowing simutaneously. For a brief moment, she is free, happy. Now that is an image that speaks to me -- the message being that we are all part of this universe, which at once is alien to me, and my own. The final epiphanic scene where she becomes aware of the mystery and beauty of the universe, to me, is foreshadowed here. And also that the director was in love with her. ( I don't know if my eyes are failing -- but to me, all the main male characters looked like Montgomery Clift, one of my models of male handsomemess) yikes!.

Now for the ending -- open ending, I am glad. But instead of the "what for" the voice now is "God" "oh God" . Did she find God ? I had gleefully watched her dismissing the villagers' God all along, even trying to seduce the priest to aid her escape. But no, she sees the world through new eyes -- of appreciation, of humility and of love. Which is all very sublime.

But I think she is going to be a nun. hehe.