The change :2

Once upon a time in a mythical story, a dynasty had property issues. So, they took the easy way out and handed over a vast tract of forest to the unwanted appellants and considered it a done deal. However as the new owners of the forest realised, their troubles had just begun. There was no way they could tame or civilize this forest and live to reign over it.

A stranger showed up one day claiming to be hungry. Paupers but still princes at heart, his hosts asked him what they could serve him. He glanced at the dense forest around them and said, this should do. A raging ball of fire swept through the forest, sweeping up all that came in its way and turned it to ash. The smog cleared and the dazed heirs realized they had destroyed a mighty living habitat, a world with many worlds within, a home where prey, predator, parasite, and producer lived in a fine balance.

It was only later when the debris was being cleared that it became evident that there were remains of humans, some tribal settlers, some nomads who had been consigned to the flames.

To cover up the desolate landscape and the desolation of the new rulers, their mentor sent over a creator who built them a gleaming, magical citadel with unexpected surprises by way of illusions created by mirrors and so on. And yet none of these man-made marvels could ever match up to the wonders of nature that were destroyed just because rulers can’t inhabit, they must conquer and control and dominate.

What has changed since then? I write now of the events of kathua and the fate of the Bakerwals. Nothing. The same deliberate brutality was used to show the nomads who is boss and make them feel unwelcome. People who live in homes with facilities to make their lives easier were urged to mistrust others who are different by way of lifestyle choices and skills. And skilled at tackling nature which teaches resilience and adaptability first of all.

In all the political and social media babble that followed, I was struck by the fact that the attitude of those governing our nation was pretty much, it’s done, so let’s get on with it.

Perhaps this land will be burnt to a cinder just so a privileged few can recreate a palace of smoke and mirrors where nothing is real?

Dedicated to Tassaduq Mufti and the girl who loved apples and horses.

To blog or not to blog.

I’m stuck in a strange groove. Can’t seem to write and certainly don’t want to read. Particularly not newspapers. Why?

I begin each day with the firm intent that I will read or blog about something. I end up reading a bit but when it comes to blogging, there is a doubt in my mind. Who wants to know what I think? Does it matter what I think? Will my thoughts on any matter affect it at all?

Honestly, I can’t tell. All I can do is think, write, feel, and try to resolve my own confusions in the process of putting these thoughts out.

PS: this was triggered by a pioneer YouTuber who was disgruntled by social media and its lack of authenticity and expressed the same on a public platform. I do not agree with all that was said, but do agree that we can speak up and must.

The wild

Suman stepped out of the house, shutting the door quietly. She was at her mom’s place for the weekend and didn’t want to disturb anyone. She waited at the door, listening to the sounds of the bustling house. She knew her kids would be playing in the back garden, helping out with the gardening chores. They would be bathed, fed and put down for naps like clockwork. Her foster parents were like that. They ran a household that ran on greased wheels.

Somehow, she was reluctant to leave the house this particular morning. She checked her reflection in the mirror right next to the door. A strange quirk of her father’s. He had built this house in Mumbai from scratch. In 1950, Mumbai was Bombay, milk was delivered in glass bottles and the streets were washed. The city ended at Juhu and was then lost in the mangroves and dense undergrowth of the areas which would later be called the suburbs. As a child, Suman was brought into a bustling, vibrant home in the middle of the city from a plantation where she’d spent almost a decade of her life with another foster parent, after that lady’s demise.

Suman was 22. She was a young mother and had 2 kids, a husband who was a gifted architect and yet, she kept waking up every day to the feeling that her life meant nothing to her, that she was in the wrong place, the wrong time, just everything was wrong. She hoped today, she would maybe find something correct for her, for the first time.

Just as she was about to head for the bus stand, Bablya arrived in his convertible. He always had had an unerring instinct about her. Born when his mother was a tired 45 year old, he was fondly regarded as one last gasp from her already over worked womb. He was about 6 when Suman arrived as a solemn 9 year old and since the first time he grasped her little finger, he’d never let go. Now, he was a young buck with a talent for getting into trouble and a taste for Jewish starlets. The Bombay film industry had it’s fair share of them and they were beautiful, good performers, many of whom went to major stardom or even character roles. It was evident Bablya had been out all night with one of his gal pals since he was still dressed as he was the night before.

Suman handed Bablya her key to the house, without a word. She knew what he would need to do. He would have to sneak in, bathe, look halfway human and meet dad and mom before getting on to his job. Of course, her parents would know the truth, but they weren’t going to make a fuss about it. They shared a very no fuss relationship, in fact. Even the fact that her dad had a second family was taken with a tranquility that Suman was still amazed at. Her foster mother was thrown for a bit, since she had married for love, but her spirit was too indomitable to curl up and die. She took it on the chin and moved on.

Bablya waited patiently for Suman to settle into the car before talking. She knew he would escort her wherever she had to go before going home. It was just like that. Driving off, he looked at her carefully, for the first time. Suman wasn’t a stickler for clothes. She loved color, texture and soft fabrics. But, she never dressed to please. She wore what she wanted. For a long time, it meant that the family got used to seeing her in kashtas that she draped by herself even at 9 years of age. She was coaxed to try other clothes later. But, when she took to the running track in high school, she lived in t shirts and sweatpants and running shoes. A fan of the long distance Ethiopian runners, she could run long distances at an even pace, and kept at it despite an education as a commercial artist, marriage, kids and a thousand other social engagements.

Anyway, today she seemed dressed to please. She was wearing a Persian rose pink silk sari with hand painted panels along the border which she’d painted on herself. Her hair looked puffy, so Bablya guessed she’d used mom’s hairpiece which she would rather die than do, normally. She was wearing her pretty glasses, the kind with the slightly cat eyed shape. They were more necessity than fashion, but she made them work.

At the next traffic signal Bablya asked, “So, who is the date with?” Suman was thinking deeply and started before replying, “Date? Have you lost it? My husband is in Rajasthan, who would I go on a date with?”  Bablya with a smirk,”Certainly not your husband. All you both do is fight about politics and you working for  the socialist party. Seriously Suman, you’re a handful anyway. Why do you make it harder for the poor guy with a political viewpoint that no one really gets?”

Suman bristled. “What does he have to get? It’s just sound common sense. People have a right to lives that they help to create, they have free will and should get just and equal treatment.”

Bablya laughed, “Well, rumor has it, your husband may very well be recommended for a government job, so don’t be surprised if you have to wave goodbye to the socialist party and your workers of the world unite mindset.”

“That’s not just for workers, it’s actually people of the world unite, or it should be. It will get there. People will see, they can’t allow themselves to be taken for granted. They must…how do you know about the government job? Mom hasn’t mentioned it to anyone yet.”

“I heard dad and your hubby talking a while ago. Dad wants him to settle down. Your guy is getting too involved in the writing, lately. He was showing dad his writeup on the temples of Dilwara and the photos. He wanted a second opinion.”

” So, weren’t they good?”

“Too good, actually. In fact, dad worried that he may drift from being an architect to a researcher on it and write maybe one article a month for some magazine that would pay him to sustain that lifestyle.”

“Well, that sounds good.”

“Yes, but mom and dad want him to have a steady job for you and the kids.”

“Yes, okay, but I work.”

“Right, you paint saris, portraits, make fancy beaded bags, do embroidery, bake cookies in a clay oven. You’re a regular small scale industry.”

“And that’s bad?”

“Not to me! Come on! You’re my second mom. But, you know what it’s like, you’ve got a certain lifestyle to match up to, you know. That’s dad verbatim.”

“What do you think?”

“I think, your husband should do what makes him happy and tell the whole world to go **** it’s ****.”

“Eww!”

“No, seriously. He knows what he wants. He loves you and the kids. Why the **** should he give it all up for others who don’t know him or care for him?”

“Are you saying dad doesn’t care for him?”

“He does, but he doesn’t know what makes your husband tick. That’s all I’m saying.”

Suman was silent. Bablya was a maverick. He stuck out like a sore thumb at all family events, but he didn’t care neither did anyone rub in the fact that he was different. They left him to his own devices, as long as he showed up clean. They knew of his shenanigans, but again expected him to be discreet and didn’t mention anything they may have heard. But Suman knew he was fiercely protective of his own take in life. She wondered if she should tell him what was on her mind.

Bablya noticed her long silence and said just to break the mood,” So, who’s your date for today? You never told me.”

“ My dad.”

“What?! But, dad is at home.”

“No, my birth father.”

“Oh, heck. Suman, are you sure about this?”

“No. I’m not. I’m scared shitless.”

“Oh! Suman swears, this is serious.”

Bablya parked at the side of the road, at once. He turned to Suman and said, “Talk.”

“Well, you know my foster mother who died down South at that plantation?“

“Yes.”

“So, my father received news of it, finally, since he visited the place. And he asked about me and was told I‘ve been in Bombay, since I was 9.”

“Wow, so he’s not known for so long?”

“No.”

“And he didn’t think to find out?”

“No.”

“Oh, and when he found out what did he do?”

“Had a sudden attack of conscience and decided to contact dad.”

“Wonderful. Smart move. What did dad and mom tell him?” It was implicit, you could tell dad something and he would always share it with her. While she was going to carry many secrets for many folks to the grave.

“They told him, I should meet him in a neutral environment. They also said he would be doing so as a family friend, not a father. And so I’ve been sent out to meet him.”

“Don’t you want to?”

“I want to…get this over with.”

Bablya was uncharacteristically silent. When the constable hauled him for holding up traffic, he didn’t swear too much and drove silently to the venue of the rendezvous.

***

Suman entered the tiny Irani/Parsi restaurant. She and her kids were regulars here, coming in for buns slathered with butter after matinee shows at the cinema. Which was usually a day before exams began. She didn’t believe in last minute studies and didn’t pressure her kids in any way, except to say that education was about progression not overnight success.

She sat down at a table but the proprietor inclined his head and pointed her in the direction of a table at the back, not easily noticed. She stiffened and looked more carefully. The first thing she noticed was the cap which was shaped like a Gandhi topi but covered in velvet. Next, she noticed the waistcoat and the lean back and upright posture which was uncannily like her.

She squared her shoulders and walked up to the table. She settled into the chair and looked up only when she felt composed. The man sitting across her took off his cap, in response to her pointed glance. He then waited for her silent scrutiny. Suman was disconcerted since she could see a lot of herself in this leather faced, weather beaten slim and straight man who had almost no hair to speak of. She didn’t want to say the first words, but they came out of their own accord anyway.

“Why now?” She asked and immediately wished she’d stayed silent.

He looked uncomfortable and said, “I felt I should make the effort to connect.”

“Do you need help of any kind?” She hated that it had a hint of an accusation to it. She didn’t want to feel anything for this person, but still could not tamp down the surge of very real anger that was welling up within her.

“I thought, you should know what lies in store for you in life.” He had the grace to look shamefaced while saying that.

“I see, so it’s not enough that you abandoned 2 young daughters and left to be with that dancer. Now you’ve got to return after years and ruin the little peace of mind that we have.”

“Actually, I didn’t meet your older sister. Her husband told me I was not to contact her or their family at all. It’s a clean break. I don’t mind. She was almost 15 when I left, she wasn’t a child like you. She seems to have figured things out for herself.” He fiddled with the cap.

“Oh, and you thought I hadn’t figured my life out? Let me bring you up to speed. I’m married, I have 2 kids, and a husband and parents and no need for a man who ran away with his lover, leaving his children behind with a vicious caretaker who made our lives misery.” Suman was about to burst into tears and welcomed the arrival of the waiter with two miniature cups of tea.

He waited for the waiter to leave and thanked him before speaking. “I didn’t run away because of my love for the dancer. I ran away because I loved music and I was the tabla player for her troupe for the next 15 years. I’m sorry about your caretaker. But, it seemed better to leave you and your sister at the  plantation. I left it to your caretaker who was actually your mother’s cousin. She swore she’d take care of you both very well. It was only later I found out about her brutality from a neighbor who I met by chance. I got away as soon as I could and well…here I am.”

Suman struggled to breathe. That was her life he was talking about, something she’d tried to forget almost without success. She had the urge to run away at once, but she wanted to see this through to the bitter end.

“What do you mean, you want me to know what lies in store for me?”

“I mean, you’ll always love the arts in any form. If you ignore that, you’ll regret it.” He paused, uncertain because of the look of outrage on her face.

“Right. So, now, would you advise that I should run away and abandon my family just so I can do something mediocre and self satisfying and absolutely selfish?” She almost spat the words out.

He held up a hand as if to ward off the hit of those syllables. “No, no. Just don’t give up on being who you truly are.”

Suman drank the tea in one gulp. She stood up and hurled the cup on the floor. Her father looked at the broken bits of china on the floor. He stared up at her and she could see the unshed tears in them. She said goodbye and walked out of the door, unsteadily. This wasn’t the last time she would see him and she knew it. But, at that moment she had to leave.

Bablya was waiting in the car. When she slid in, he handed her his handkerchief and she sniffled for a bit. She looked into the distance, eyes blurred with tears and counted her breaths, a technique she used to cool down after a run. Slowly, the scene before her eyes cleared. She sat up straight and noticed that the sun was high up in the sky, almost noon. Bablya took her handkerchief back without a word and held her hand for the rest of the drive back home.

At the gate of the house, she turned to him.” I need you to help me.”

“Anything, Suman.”

“I don’t want dad to interfere in what my husband is doing. He has to do what he wants. He must. I have to do what I want, which is paint and work for the party. I must.”

“What about the kids?” Bablya seemed a bit aghast.

“They will be with us and we will do the best we can for them. But, we won’t kill off who we are or what we believe in just so they get a head start in life.” Suman said that very easily and it surprised her. The credo she was brought up to accept was very different. Yet, this one seemed to come very naturally to her.

Bablya nodded. “I’ll do everything I can to help.”

“I know you will, but you have to live your own life too. Never give that up.”

Suman stepped out of the car and smiled at Bablya. He smiled back and drove off, with a flourish.

***

Dedicated to the real life Suman who unfortunately did sell out both as artist and human being. One of the great loves of my life, she was misunderstood and a closet dreamer who always had a hint of the wild in her.

Tough Guys Shouldn’t Dance.

In a scene from Padmaavat, Alauddin Khilji makes an emotional plea to his demoralized soldiers to carry on. He makes a case for the nation, and encourages them to rise as patriots and uphold the flag, in spirit. In a silent tableau, his aide Malik Kafur brings forth the flag of the army, which Alauddin drops to the ground with dramatic elan. His soldiers rush to hold the flag up, falling over themselves. Alauddin turns to his doubting commander in chief with a triumphantly raised eyebrow. Like any marauding conqueror knows, the sentiments of the populace are meant to be used, not understood or even deemed important enough to matter.

Marauding conquerors and rulers of kingdoms operate from a different set of rules. That much is evident, from the outset. The former seeks to increase boundaries at any cost, subjugating any signs of rebellion, independent thought, making an example of anyone who gets in the way. The latter is meant to bring stability, improve the lives of subjects and create a base for civilized life and behaviour.

So, what’s common between these two categories? They will face off in battle at some point and the marauder will fight to win, while the ruling king fights to protect his way of life, his subjects and family. What tips the scales in favour of either one is the strategy employed. You don’t play fair with someone who is going to play dirty. You take the chance when there is an opportunity and end the menace. Something which Padmavati suggests to her lord and master, and he, smug in his position as righteous ruler refuses to do since that would be an admission of weakness. However, he was weak and so were many of the ruling kingdoms of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Weak due to lack of unity, lack of unanimity and loyalty, they held on to personal pride and lost the bigger battles. Many clans were simply burnt out due to Alauddin’s relentless campaign. They chose to die in battle and burn in pyres rather than unite and fight.

But, it’s ironic that years later there is a united view that the burning of Padmavati on a pyre was an act of glory and Alauddin’s true defeat. For a country that’s plagued with the disposition of being literal, the act of Sati is ostensibly a woman dying for her honour, in the event of her lord and master’s death. Though the actual legend was more about a petulant daughter who consigned herself to flames when she could not bear that her father called her husband a wandering mendicant and refused to accord him the divine stature he could lay claim to. Another version has it, she offered herself up as an offering to the holy fire since her husband wasn’t on the list of the gods being worshipped and she wasn’t about to let that kind of blasphemy be committed. Through it all, the divine husband stayed alive.

In many ways, the act of Sati in the film is more cruel than the actual act, since it’s brought back a social evil to the fore and made people acknowledge it as a fact. Perhaps, given all the other liberties that were taken in the film, cinematic, artistic and historic, the one liberty which was called for, would be not showing the Sati sequence and certainly not as martyrdom.

Note to reader : The title of this post is credited to my neighbor, Mr. A. A staunch Marathi gentleman, who refused to watch Bajirao Mastani since the great leader Bajirao was depicted dancing in a sequence. His words, translated from his mother tongue were Tough Guys Shouldn’t Dance, emphasis on Shouldn’t. Not can’t, not won’t. Shouldn’t.

I hope his ire is assuaged now, since Allaudin Khilji is depicted in an energetic item number in this version of Padmaavat.

21.

This originally started off as an ode to someone who turned 21 the past year. But, I soon realized, that although my admiration is immense, and my love great, there is very little I have to say beyond a certain point, which can be done within limits of decency. A show of cards is not possible on this particular table, some will always be kept close to my chest.

However, 21 is important in the game of cards, blackjack or teen patti. A classic example of probability theory, I first learnt of this in the 90’s along with a bunch of other confused 12th graders. Confused because, for some reason, we had all opted for maths, despite hating it to the core. I couldn’t even hate it. I didn’t get it.  I remember a teacher laughing out of sheer mirth, since the answer to a question I provided back in 4th grade was so ludicrous. I guess, she also realized I would say anything to get the ordeal over with. Kindly, she suggested ways to increase my mathematical abilities. Do puzzles, count stones, play around with number quizzes, etc, so on and so forth. Basically, face the fear of the math and vanquish that numerical demon.

Easier said than done.  I continued in denial mode, relying on the kindness of vegetable vendors, sundry strangers and my own stubbornness to resolve petty maths problems, only to land up in Maths 103 taught by Prof. Moogat in Wadia College. It was the kind of class that had wooden rafters on the ceiling. The classroom itself was the entire size of my 2 BHK house. I was humbled. Why would a maths class need such a roomy lecture hall? All the interesting and popular guys and girls never attended a lecture except to sign the roster and move out while the professor had his back turned.

Later, that same room resembled a tin can of sardines. Prof. Moogat began his class, and we had kids sitting on the big French window panes, which could seat 4 skinny boys very comfortably. And well, they were all pretty skinny, back then. So was Prof Moogat, skinny, but vital, in a suit and tie in mid March. I wondered why he bothered to dress up, but that was clear when he began to speak. The man meant business. He didn’t care, if you were here to please your unbelieveably difficult to please parents, to get out of language studies, or to make up for attendance. He was here to teach and he would do a bloody good gaandphat job of it, while cussing like a sailor’s parrot (he sounded like one). Apart from his cussing with ease and ability, which I adored, he looked extremely weird, but intelligent with hawk eyes that you didn’t want glaring at you in anger. And anyway, he made the subject so awesome, you even ended up in the improbable position of enjoying probability theory.

So, what is the theory about? Simple. Say, you’ve got 3 cards. You want to get the total of 21 with the value of the cards, combined. You can get it by in various permutations and combinations. It could be 10 plus 10 plus 1, 3 sevens, 4 times 5 plus 1.

Basically, there are many ways to a particular destination. You can get there in many ways, all of  which are dictated by the cards you get, the ones you choose to let go, and the ones the other players let go of or that come from the deck and you choose to keep.

I sat in the lecture hall for a good 15 minutes, after everyone dispersed. Just basking in the glow of having understood it all, for once. Savoring the fact that, there was some element of choice. 2 plus 2 is not the only way to get to 4! You can add 3 plus 1! Of course, there is a limited range of  probabilities, but that is what is interesting. It’s all probable. As in, within the realm of being done. After years of trying to understand possibilities in terms of life, career, education, it was nice to know, there are probabilities and they are all up to one’s choice. Again, you may find the longest or shortest way to get that elusive 21. You may delay things by choosing the wrong card at the wrong time, letting go of the right one at the wrong time and the probability that you can get it back again depends on whether it’s chosen by another or not or emerges for you, later. There, I think, gut instinct and standing by your choice is what matters.

I will now fast forward to a last lecture in the same lecture hall. The entire class was in tears. We had just finished our final prelims, and were headed for the final frontier. Prof. Moogat’s last class was legend and you didn’t miss it. If you did, you knew there was no probability of getting back to it.  He spoke not of math, but of life and somehow the old hawk had a unique take on it, too.

Priceless pears of wisdom like, “I have great faith in the bureaucracy, they will always **** things up.” “When people give up in life, they decide to change the young.” But, the one I really loved was his unabashed admission that Indians didn’t value hard work or encourage it. In his view, our greatest deficiency was being unable to work on a level of personal integrity and give the job it’s due. After seeing a year of thrilling maths lectures delivered in spiffy suits and fantastic ties, I knew he meant every word.

Shush the Push for War

Alexis Chateau

It’s almost impossible to make it through a week without seeing Americans debating in public forums about whether or not the U.S. should go to war. To bomb or not to bomb ISIS.That is the political question of 2017.

While I sympathise with the desire to fix a problem that has clearly grown out of hand, people forget thatfixinga problem was how ISIS was born in the first place. So before you launch into your arguements for why war is the best be-all-end-all solution, let’s take a moment to reconsider.

To better understand my line of arguement, let’s briefly change the topic to discuss another touchy issue: imperialism and slavery.

Offshoring Slavery

pexels-photo-147635.jpeg

If you’ve ever taken a business class, you’ve probably heard the word “offshoring” before. In a nutshell, it means that a certain process physically takes place in another location – usually another country.

Many people…

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fifty shades of ambiguous

It all started with a newspaper article in the Sunday Times. Just a little note about Twilght the book being made into a movie. The write up mentioned that the book had a youth following. It was popular, but not as popular, perhaps as the movie that followed. Suddenly Robert Pattinson was all over the place and well, to be honest, there were a lot of older people who were reading the Twilight books once the movie was out. I believe the film Jai Santoshi Mata did for the Goddess Santoshi what the Twilight movie did for the books, brought in increased popularity and a larger fan base. So,  I dutifully read all the books in the Twilight series, and was introduced to the romance novel or rather serial romances for the millennium.

All through the early 2000’s I’ve heard people grousing that young people can’t be in relationships, they don’t grasp the concept of constancy, they don’t get the values involved, they don’t know how to be there, they don’t know the protocols. Obviously, these people are all baby boomers, or  much older or people who still remember the bad hair of bands in the eighties. However, it seems to me, that they or even I am in no position to have an opinion, since we don’t really know the levels at which millenials live.

When I heard young people talking about Fifty Shades of Grey, I heard the premise and harrumphed. My contempt was evident in the questions I asked. After  Christian Grey beat the crap out of Ana Steele did she manage to make it to work the next day? Didn’t her bruises show? Isn’t the whole putting up with S and M thing just another take on women putting themselves through the wringer for a man, hoping he will eventually love them? Isn’t this kind of franchise seriously harmful at a time, when anything goes is the norm? It will merely encourage more bad behavior and so on and so forth. The only response I got from a large number of evolved millenials was a simple ”It’s not like that” and a roll of the eyes, of course.

I didn’t read the books, I went onto the movies. I respected the chronology and watched Fifty Shades and Fifty Shades Darker.  I still don’t think, I am going to be able to read the books, but that’s just me rebelling in my own perimenopausal way. So, before I delve any deeper, a word of advice to the wise. The feats in the movies are not for the fainthearted. You need a serious commitment to fitness, a good cardio vascular system and overall agility, since watching some of the action gave me a cramp. Of coursed, unlimited wealth would help too, as that kind of Howard Hawks lifestyle can’t be created on a daily bread winning job. Consider yourself forewarned.

For a country and culture that prides itself on creating the best concept of marriage, of a dominant male and overtly or covertly submissive female, we may find ourselves seriously outclassed here. The concept of submissive that is being put forward here is not easy to find in real life. Simply because, a relationship is an act of will. You decide to be with someone and take what their personalities and upbringing bring along. The stray quirk or kink is accomadated, maybe even becomes something to look forward to. But, to live that way in every situation and space? That’s far fetched. Or it’s indicative of an ingrained problem which will have to be resolved before any kind of relationship can be created.

The premise of the movies is exactly that. There is a connect of some kind. Obviously, the boy is stinking rich and the girl is a virgin. (I am doing an eye roll as I type that) but, apart from that, he is good at people, manipulating them, reading them, getting them to do what he wants.While she is looking at life to provide the kind of love that literature throws up, preferably Thomas Hardy style. He has a deeply disturbed, abused childhood,  troubled teenage years and a complicit abusive relationship with an older woman, who was his dominant for his growing years. She has a father figure in her stepfather, a mother who isn’t  always available and is involved in her own love and life, but still pretty much a decent parent.

There are a couple of hats doffed in the movie, which I must acknowledge. Melanie Griffith’s lines to her assistant said by her daughter Dakota Johnson in the movie and Kim Bassinger as the older dominant Mrs. Robinson. Seems poetic , since she was the submissive to Mickey Rourke in 9 and a half weeks.

To all those who can still bend over without looking for the nearest soft spot to fall on, or not get stuck in that position, this one’s for you. The great white hope for romance novels, considering that chick lit is getting us used to all those flawed, quirky, regular guys who eventually lead regular lives, Fifty Shades will end the same way too. Regularly ever after .

An education.

What does it take for a scam to work? A hustler.  And someone who is willing to be scammed, of course. Why, you may well ask. The fact is, most of us do take things at face value, are willing to trust and believe that essentially that others are good, decent, just like us. It’s only time, experience and life that educates us, grows us up to see that people may not be who they seem, our impression of them may be colored more by our wistfulness rather than any fact and that in many cases, people who fool us do so with our unwilling or willing complicity.

Jenny, the protagonist of An Education is the kind of girl who most parents would tut tut about. Something about having her head filled with too many fancy ideas, or thinking too highly of herself, having too many expensive habits. But, actually, all she really did have was discernment, taste and a load of fortitude. The creation of journalist Lynn Barber, the character is inspired by an event in Lynn’s life, when she got taken in by the charms of a married con artist, much older than her.

However, Lynn’s story didn’t end tragically, with this event ruining her for life. Actually, it kickstarted her life, and took her places, good or bad depending on how we see it. Good, because she put aside any thoughts of doing things any other way but her own. Bad in a way because she lost the ability to trust. Although, ironically, it seems to have taken her places, leading to her incisive celebrity interviews where she stripped  facades, earning the title of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

There are a very select few of us, who having realized that they have outgrown their parents in terms of the mind, method and worldliness actually have the courage to move beyond them. A home is a safe haven and a place for dreams to flourish. But, what if the dreams are turned upside down or dismissed just because they don’t understand them? What if the protectors of the safe haven themselves end up inviting an intruder in?

Jenny’s parents got bullied by the con artist’s smooth demeanor, his suaveness and his subtle superiority. In a society where hierarchy rules heavy and people don’t venture out beyond their assigned rut, he seemed exotic, accomplished and all together the ticket. Yet, Jenny held her own with him and didn’t let him treat her as a child. She let him have his lies, since they gave her a chance for a wider, although not better world view. She learnt that all that she had within her, would lead to a bigger life and she seized it, thinking that he would be by her side.

Having dropped out of school, the fact that the con artist is married, comes as a rude shock. Jenny is all of a sudden in the strange predicament of realizing that while her parents regimented her life to the T for a good degree, all they really hoped for her was a better marriage. They trusted her instincts, when it came to the con artist, although they didn’t say so and now that she was in a soup, they were not really going to be able to help.  Her headmistress, who had warned Jenny of dire consequences believes giving her another chance would be a waste, since she was so ungrateful and obviously not ready to be penitent.

Finally, Jenny’s English teacher proves to be the guiding light of sorts. By now, Jenny is feeling really low and pretty jaded, but meeting her teacher puts her back in control. It’s clear to her that educating oneself in the subject of one’s choice is an intensely solo experience. You have to educate yourself, live your life by what you believe in and carry on despite the screw ups which are actually an opportunity to learn more.

I recently heard a very sorted out young man tell his peers, that when someone gives you the courage to live your life and make your own choices, he or she is trusting in your judgement. Use it to your own advantage and advancement.  It seems to me, that is the crux of a real education.