Washington - Ron Chernow

Washington: A LifeWashington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Thats two in a row - or almost in a row. After reading Chernow's 'Grant', wanted to follow it up with another one from him and ended up with 'Washington' and took me close to about a month and half to finish this one. I would have to say that I did not plod through - like I use to do with a lot of boring books. This one was interesting.

The interesting factor may be due to the fact that a lot of what I read was unknown to me and that always fascinates. While I've read a lot about the Revolutionary war and the presidency of Jefferson (thanks ,not in least, to Vidal's politically-charged 'Burr'), Washington, till this point remained that stony-face on the one dollar bill, serenely looking at you with absolutely no expressions, whatsoever.

So, it was interesting to read about the pre-revolutionary times - when he grew up in a family - visited regularly by untimely deaths of near and dears, which while unfortunate, inches him close to his destiny in a sure way, as Chernow keeps reminding while announcing every death.

While destiny may be an easy way out to explain how Washington ended up being the commander in chief of the Continental Army, the hard truth is that he is mostly a self-made man - who while trying to get free of an over-weening mother, makes a life for himself which makes sure that he is in the right places all the time, saying the right things and most importantly, doing the right things as well.

Unlike the other founding fathers of other countries I know of, Washington is not a overtly extrovert kind of person, who lead a revolution by rhetoric or through a spiritual influence or by sheer blood bath. He comes out unique, because of the way he conducts himself, there is no other way than to say, as a well-bred Southern Gentleman. That also does not account for that uniqueness as the other Virginians of the same time - Madison, Jefferson or others - are equally gentlemanly or more so than him. He comes out unique because he is a doer than a speaker or any of the other things. This is the most important aspect of his character which Chernow keeps emphasizing at every juncture of his life.

While I try to 'like' him while going through that monster of the book, he does not inspire a worship like Lincoln does or the charm which JFK brings. He does not want to be liked, I guess. He just silently wishes not to be disturbed and let him just do things. And the list of accomplishments , each a path-breaking precedent in its day, is long and that fact that he was chosen for each of these positions through acclamation creates a new kind of respect for him.

But what actually surprised me is the romantic in Washington. Of course, his marriage to Martha comes out more as a necessity than anything and they remain absolutely wonderful couple till the end. But his short lived love affair with Sally Fairfax has all the elements of that tragic love story that repeats through the ages and to think that he writes prose like this is absolutely fascinating to know.

"You have drawn me, my dear Madam, or rather I have drawn myself, into an honest confession of a Simple Fact. Misconstrue not my meaning, 'tis obvious; doubt it not or expose it. The world has no business to know the object of my love, declared in this manner to - you, when I want to conceal it. One thing above all things, in this World I wish to know, and only one person of your acquaintance can solve me that or guess my meaning - but adieu to this till happier times, if ever I shall see them. "

Of course, there are some grouses as well with the well-written book. For one, I don't think I wanted to know so much about Washington's teeth. I mean, at this point, I know more about his than I ever know about mine. I would've like to read more about the charged political environment of that initial days of the country and it was a dampener to slide over a lot of stuff that would've made some explosive prose. But then I may have to pick up the one on Hamilton for that, I guess.

Overall, a well written, absolute delightful book.

உன்னை எதிர் நோக்கி..

இரண்டாம் ஆண்டு கல்லூரி ஆரம்பத்தில் எழுதியவை. இன்றைய என் கவிதை அளவீடுகளின்படி பெரிய அபிப்ராயம் இல்லை. ஆனால் அன்றைய எனது சிந்தனைகளின் ஒரு பதிவாக மட்டுமே இன்று வாசிக்க முடிகிறது.

காய்ந்த சருகுகளாய்
உதிரப் போகும்
மல்லிகை மொக்குகள்.

வந்து கதவைத் தட்டி
கடத்த போகும்
கன்னிகள் .

மனதில் பொங்கும்
சொல்ல முடியாது
வானில் இருக்கும்
நட்சத்திரங்களை எண்ணிக்
கொண்டு வாலிபம்.

நுரைத்து பொங்கும்
கரைத்து குடித்துவிட்ட
நிம்மதியில் முதுமை.

தொலைத்து விட்ட முகத்தை
தார் ரோட்டில்
                தேடிக் கொண்டே..

கிழிய போகும் பக்கங்களை
                 எண்ணிக் கொண்டே..

ஏதோ ரோட்டில்

   எதிர்நோக்கி ..

ஜூன் '94

 Edward Munch இன் 'Madonna' எனக்கு பிடித்த ஓவியங்களில் ஒன்று. ஏனோ இங்கு சேர்க்க தோன்றியது.
எல்லாம் முடிந்த பின்னரும்
தலைக்குள் குடைச்சல்.
கண்களில் தூக்கத்தை நிரப்பும் இரவு.
குளிரும் நேரத்தில்
ரோமக்கால்கள் சிலிர்க்கும்.
நாளைய சூரியன்
எங்கே உதிப்பான் என
சிந்திக்க தோன்றாமல்
பல மாதங்களுக்கு அட்டவணைகள்.
எல்லாம் என்றால் எதுவென
தேடி அலைச்சல்.
முடிந்துவிட்ட கனவை மட்டும்
தொடர தொடர..
எங்கிருந்தோ வரும் எதோ


துப்பறியும் சிவாஜி

சிவாஜி கணேசனுடன்
நேற்றிரவில் துப்பறிய

சிவாஜி கணேசன்
துப்பறியும் கதையின்
நாயகர் அல்லர்.
அது ஜெயசங்கர் ஆகும்.

அது சிவாஜி கணேசன் தான்
என் கனவில்.

பல மாடிகளில்
இறங்கும் படிகளில்
தலை தெறிக்க
இருவரும் ஓடி வந்தோம்.

ஒரு ஓட்டலில் இருந்து
அவருடன் தப்பி
ஓடி வரும் போது
ஸ்ரீதேவியுடன் ஒரு
டூயட் பாடிக்கொள்ளவா
என்று கேட்டார்.

பதிலுக்கு காத்திராமல்
இறுக்க கட்டிய பெல்ட்டுடன்
கொட்டும் மழையில்
டூயட் பாட சென்றுவிட்டார்.

இங்கே வில்லன்களை
அடித்து துவைப்பது யார்?

அடுத்த முறையாவது

Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) , Doha

After that eventful flight over persistent storm winds which made the travel such fun, it was entertaining to cross the Atlantic through the Canary Islands and over the Mediterranean with a little over Africa as well. The result of this delectable journey was that the flight landed 3 hours late in Doha, clearly missing the connection to Chennai.

So the airlines arranged for an overnight stay and the next available flight was not until evening 7pm, giving enough time to spend in Doha. The moment I know that I am getting a few hours in Doha, I know where I am going to be spending those few hours.

The Museum of Islamic Art  is probably unique in that it exclusively houses works of art from the Islamic world and from places of Islamic influences in the past. And it has probably one of the largest collection of such art to be found anywhere in the world. Though I've seen the Islamic art collection in The Met - another large collection - it just was not enough.

I am no expert in any art. My interest flow from my reading and to me, art is the visual form of a poem or a beautiful prose. That, I am always on the look out for. Just like the literature from different parts of the world, art differs in content and the medium based on the geography and people, but speaks the same language of human artistry and passion, if only we chose to listen.

 Now that that is out of way, Islamic art - in comparison to the Western - is unique for a variety of reasons. The medium , the bright, boldness of the expression, while there is a deep under pining religiousness in all, there is quite a bit of themes outside the same as well - especially the ones related to war (conceivable as the medieval period of Islamic flourish was accompanied by constant wars) and love (I mean, the Mughal emperors - to me - are the most spoiled romantics of all!).

The Museum of Islamic Art is impressive because the museum itself is a work of art and that is the first thing that gets noticed. Located at the edge of the beautiful blue waters of the Doha Bay of Persian gulf, built in the traditional  limestone structured found across the Gulf - the building evokes an abstract structure of the dome structures of the mosque. In line with the geometrical features , so commonly found in the Islamic architecture, the building itself is a collection of patterns all across. With the huge glass facade overlooking the Persian Gulf, the interior of the building is flooded with light at all the times of the day. With the accompanying parks around the structure, the building itself is worth the time to visit the place.
The collections in the museum is one of the largest and takes time to walk around the structure covering a variety of mediums - paintings, ceramics, sculptures, calligraphy, wood work,  textiles, jewellery etc. And are all displayed in a very tasteful manner - by the medium, place of origin and period of craftsmanship.
 It takes a while to walk around the museum - about 2.5 hours for me - and try to absorb as much of it in. There is a lot to look at and admire and understand. There are 3 floors of exhibitions and one with a library and the ground floor has the auditorium. gift shop and the cafe.

The most impressive item to me was the war mask from Iran which was quite the opposite of what you would expect from a war mask. It was more like a mask you would wear to a ball, there was very much a dancing quality to it which made it quite lovely to look at.
There is a complete section on the sea faring Arabs and the tools and maps from that period of time and it was very educational and interesting to see and know that they, at one point in time, ruled the seas from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.
The jewellery and small arms (daggers and muskets) collection were extensive and impressive as well. There was a lot on display from the Mughal period and from the Iran Safavid periods which were probably the best of the lot.

If you like art and have 3-4 hours to spend in Doha, this is the only place to be.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Right when I saw Frances McDormand in that fully pregnant police woman role in 'Fargo', I became a fan of her. She has that infinite quality of grief built into her that anything she does reeks of sadness - even the jokes.

So during that long, dreary, turbulent flight across the Atlantic - flying out in the slamming Nor'easter - in a longer path flying over Africa and what not, it seemed only apt that she was there to give me company in that economy class misery.

There is a moment in 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' where Mildred (Frances) talks to the police chief Willoughby who is asking her to remove the billboards. She is adamant in her stance when suddenly he spits out blood and Mildred, who till that point was defiant, shows agony for a moment and helps him to get into an ambulance.

The movie deals with loss and grief and almost everyone in the movie go through one. Mildred loses her daughter, Jason loses his job and the Chief loses his life. It is how they deal with each of these loses and what it transforms them into are the core of the movie.

The characters etched in the frames are poignantly sad, angry and almost in grief through the movie. And mostly every frame of happiness follows a tragedy - like the last day of Willoughby.

However, this is not a tragedy movie though. It is black, I mean, the blackest of black. But the jokes - though sometimes morbid - keeps coming. Everyone has a moment to quip and the side story of Mildred's ex and his new , young girl friend from the zoo keeps the family life interesting. The story of Red Delby and his act of kindness towards Jason is something to restore faith a little.

Mildred is a difficult woman to understand - much less, be rational with. She is so bitter with grief, she becomes obstinate. She does go on a date with the town midget - as an act of kindness - but then she also becomes the one who insults him in the end. She doesn't care and all she wants is justice for her raped ('raped while dying' - one of the billboards say) and killed daughter. She wants closure. 

When that becomes elusive, she tries to find closure in a way she think she will get it. There the movie ends leaving us to guess what she may do next and what she may become. 

It is a tale of loss and grief and a lot of conflicting behavior which comes up with that.  The movie does not try to answer anything but try to let the characters take the course. There is no let up of the grief once the loss is encountered and while some try to bury it deep inside, some erupt with it splattering it across anything or anyone who stands around.

And it is difficult to avoid that splattering here.

ஜின்னின் இரு தோகை - அனார்

ஜின்னின் இரு தோகைஜின்னின் இரு தோகை by அனார்
அனாரின் புதிய கவிதை தொகுப்பு.

தமிழில் தற்சமயம் எழுதும் கவிஞர்களில் அனார் மற்றும் தேன் மொழி தாஸ் மட்டுமே சிறந்த கவிஞர்கள் என்பது என் கருத்து. அதிலும் அனார் நம் முன் கொண்டு வரும் உலகம் மிகவும் ரசிக்க வேண்டியது.

அனாரின் கவிதைகள் அவரே சொல்வது போல் 'மௌனத்திற்கும் உரையாடலுக்கும்' நடுவே உள்ள வெளியில் இருப்பவை. பெரும்பாலும் காதல் கவிதைகள். Impressionism போன்று மனதில் காதலின் நிலையை வார்த்தைகளில் வடிப்பவை. வான் கோவின் சித்திரங்கள் போல இவை எழுத்தில் வரையப்பட்டவை.

காதல் கவிதைகளில் அனார் ஒரு தனித்துவமிக்க கவிஞராகவே இருக்கிறார். அவர் வரையும் காதல் கோடுகள் இதுவரை இடப்படாதவை. 'ஒற்றை முத்தம்' ஒரு எடுத்துக்காட்டு.

'மரத்தின் இடைவெளிக்கூடாக விழுந்த
இறந்தகால வெட்கங்களின்
வெளிச்சத் தீற்றல்களைத்
திரும்ப நினைத்து நாணமுறுகிறேன்
கற்களின் இடுக்குகளுக்குள்ளே
தாப திவலைகளின்
நீர் வளையங்களாகிறேன்.

உன் கண்கள் ரகசியங்களுடன்
சுழலும் பொழுதெல்லாம்
இரவின் சதுப்பு நாணல்களுக்குள்
புதைகின்றன நட்சத்திரங்கள்.'

அனார் உருவாக்கும் காட்சி படிமங்கள் இதுவரை இல்லாதவை. அவரின் கவிதைகளின் உலகம் இத்தகைய மாய தோற்றங்களில் உருவாகும் படிமங்களின் வழியே வெளிப்படுகிறது.

பெரும்பாலும் காதலின் மெல்லிய வெளிப்பாடாகவே அவரது கவிதைகள் இருக்கின்றன. துயரங்கள் ஒரு நீர் கோடாக வழிந்தாலும், காதல் மனதின் வெளிப்பாடாகவே அவர் எழுதுகிறார்.

'பல்லாயிரம் உப்புக்கோடுகளாக
மழைக்கொட்டும் தனித்த இரவொன்றில்
கண்களில் இருந்து பெருகும்
வெளிப்படாமல் அழிக்கிறாள்..'

போன்ற வரிகள் வேறு சிலவே. அனாரின் மாய உலகம் வசீகரமானது. நம்மை ஈர்த்து அதனுள்ளேயே வைத்துக் கொள்வது. இதுவே அவரின் கவிதையின் வெற்றி எனலாம்.

'மௌனத்திற்கும் உரையாடலுக்குமிடையே
பெறப்படாத முத்தங்கள்
நம் கண்கள்'

View all my reviews

Mayaanadhi (2017)

There is a moment in the movie which comes a little later into the film. Aparna (Aishwarya Lekshmi) and Maathan (Tovino Thomas) had sex after going through a breakup and it is the moment just after that. Maathan brings up the topic of going to Dubai and settling down. Aparna says 'No to that' and Maathan has a difficult time of comprehending that answer. She says 'Sex is not a promise, Maathan'. Maathan calls her a prostitute for that.

Mayaanadhi is full of little moments like this.That highlight the way boys and girls look at love and promises. The difference in that perception is something that forms the basis of the movie. When her friend asks her if she loves Maathan, why is she not ready to go with him. Aparna replies that she cannot trust him as he is still a boy at heart. The next shots shows Maathan peeing from the balcony.

Mayaanadhi is partly a love story and partly a crime thriller. And it manages to keep the two ends tight and when the two threads meet, the movie ends. At the start of the movie itself, we understand that there is no 'happily ever-after' for this one.

While Aparna comes out as a pragmatist with a focus on her - struggling - actress career, Maathan is a petty criminal who is still a boy at heart - in love with her hopelessly. He is ready to keep finding her wherever she is and try to be near her as well. In a way, he never grows up.

The backstory of their love only comes out in pieces through their conversations and as just a couple of clips of their college days. While we understand that their breakup was driven by Maathan's petty criminal acts, given Aparna's coolness towards him - it may be due to the boyish nature of Maathan as well.

This is more a struggling-to-be-in-love story than a love story per se. They have some beautiful moments but the moment they meet in that roadside shop in Kochi, we know that that relationship is doomed.

The fundamental difference in the way the boys love versus the way girls perceive love stands out through the movie. The moment mentioned at the start is one such. While Maathan sees sex as an act of affirmation of love, Aparna uses that more as a moment to share her happiness and nothing more. This fundamental flaw in the understanding of love splits them again and again and ends up in the bloody climax.

However, this is not a sad movie or we do not see Maathan raging about girls and all (like his Tamil counterparts do!). He is able to understand this difference and is ready to wait for her till she understands his love. That fleeting moment arrives but passes as soon as it arrives. Their love ends up being incomprehensible to both of them all through the movie.

Mayaanadhi impresses because of the way it handles the story and the characters. There is no sag or a unwanted moment in the entire movie. It just happens on screen and you are immersed. There is no drama or sentiment, just wry humor through out - slicing out pieces of life as we move along.

A movie to watch and think over.

Washington - Ron Chernow

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow Thats two in a row - or almost in a row. After reading Chernow's 'Grant', wanted to follow ...