Monday, October 29, 2012

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

It was in 1977-78, I guess that the University of Kerala conducted a film festival at the Tagore Theater in Thpuram.  Those were the days when the Hollywood genre held sway over young like I and in equal competitive measure with the Amitabh Bachan flicks. But there was much de ja vu about the retrospective that the University Students core was organizing.

There were a few Hollywood classics like the “Roman Holidays” and the marvels of Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen. But mostly the festival was of films that were till then unheard of-films from the Eastern Europe, besides classics of French directors. The one that stood out in memory all these years is a poignant film in black and white , that in fact help germinate a dislike and abhorrence to the  punitive punishment with death. Later the same film was screened by the Surya film society in their festivals.
“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, was a French film from the early sixties. It was adapted from the short story of by Ambrose Bierece. Set in the times during the American Civil war, the film captures the lust of human mind for life.
A Civil war prisoner, a civilian and an alleged spy is to be hanged at the Owl Creek Bridge.

It recounts the illusion the poor man has as he precariously stood on the edge of the bridge with the noose around his neck. He is to be dropped down from the bridge. The rope breaks as he is dropped down and he finds himself breathless and struggling in the icy waters down. 

He senses a superhuman strength as he breaks free from the rope that bound his hands and legs. He swims fast and gets carried downstream by the swift current. The soldiers fire at him when they sense that he broke free. Evading capture he is washed on the bank downstream from where he takes to heels running frantically towards his home. The wild, fatigued and desperate run is through the woods and thickets. He is drained and his feet are with blisters. His clothes torn and tattered, wearied he reaches his home desperately wanting to see his wife and child. As he sees his wife walk towards him with smile, surprise and open arms, he runs towards her. As he is about to take her in his arms he senses a pang...... .The shot we see then is the cut to the incident at the Owl Creek Bridge......

 His great escape was .......
I saw this film again yesterday, from Torrent. Perhaps you would like to watch this short film (of about 15 minutes) in the link here The print is not good but the poignancy of the shots is never fading.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


It is one thing to pat oneself on the back and proclaim that one is a pontiff of sorts; one is on a greater moral and ethical plateau than the ordinary denizens and even one’s spouse, children and friends. But it is a different matter to be humble to not proclaim oneself as the infallible, moralist hero. The pleasure one may sense by this sententious being and when patting on the back is narcosis and the state, narcissism-more so when an image of the wronged is created. This is not a liability found in the elite of the society or the celebrities who are caught with their trousers down, with foot in their mouth; it is also seen much amongst us ordinary souls.

Cheating on oneself is more dissolute than cheating on your spouse or the world itself. I do not know what would be for instance in the mind of Louis Armstrong now. Reading his autobiography, “It is not about Cycling”, I was impressed by the raw courage and perseverance he displayed from a terminally sick stage and come back into the world to inspire awe by winning the most grueling physically exerting sport, the “Tour de France”. I’m sure he would have felt empty within even when he proclaimed that he was wronged and unfairly handled or even when he wore the Yellow jersey of the winner of the tour seven times.
But Armstrong just happens to be another human being who perhaps led himself to be deluded. This deluding happens every day amongst many.

But I think not about deception perse as seen in the case of, say a Tiger Woods or an Armstrong. It is about the character we generally display to the world, the image that we create for public consumption and with some, for comfort of hallucination. What I’m, is best told by my spouse and my children. Mothers may be prejudiced in favour of their child. But I guess the wife/husband or the children may be forthcoming and candid. So what we are is best known from our spouse and kids. This is especially true in case of folks who claim a higher ground for themselves in character, outlook even in mundane or seemingly trivial matters. A person who champions in public the cause of women’s emancipation and equal treatment may be the most cantankerous and quibbling man at home. A man or woman who exhibits the air of a perfect partner may be the artist of malarkey and ruse back home. These fantastic revelations are closed circuited inside the walls of the house and privy to the spouse and the kids only. Some of them can be even misogynist.

I have known a close relative whose promiscuity was deftly covered up by his spouse all the while when she was alive. But it was shockingly made aware to me after her death, his profane indulgence with women and his disregard for his conduct being known to his teen aged daughters. When she was alive he used to assault his wife provoked by his temper and the matter seldom seeped through the walls of the house. He retired from a powerful position with a multi- national company. He was seen and known as a disciplinarian, a gentleman, an unfortunate bereaved, loving husband and affectionate father!

There are some who thrive by blaming the spouse, usually the wife. The image they create to the outer world is that of the gentleman, the tolerant and loving husband, a person who has much forbearance and patience with his spouse. It is a revelation that is opposite that we get to see if the wife chose to talk. Such people are always enjoying the image of the wronged.

It is true that we can find specimen in all matters in the society we live. This person a woman was a termagant - cantankerous and emotionally debilitating in attitude and conduct towards her husband that he was driven into alcoholism. His was not a case of silly excuses and self-justification to hit the bottle. He chose to drown himself in the trickery that inebriation and over dose of alcohol provides. Well his wife was in fact an image of friendliness and the wronged.

Why do I say so much? Because it is mentally comforting to have the image of what you are, of what your spouse or children would define you as.When you know you are a semi-outlaw and a fallible, an ordinary mortal who will stumble,who is not above infractions but moves on, rather than a contrived wax image of moralist and the wronged. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Livin-in my jeans

Jeans have evolved over the years into apparel that blend, adapt and cannot be torn away from one’s skin, if one is used to wearing jeans. The longer it stays on you, you live in it and Jeans becomes an indestructible part of you. You cannot do without. It becomes your second skin! You feel naked when you cloth in other garments and when you are not in it. You come to live in it, to say figuratively.

Live-in-Jeans or Live-in-relationship! The later has an added advantage unlike with the jeans there is no emotional bond that would restrain you from jettisoning out. Is it more a matter of convenience, or am I being prejudiced and or biased?

The Live-in concept that is now commercially attributed to the denim wear may have originated from the live-in relationships human beings have come to adopt. Though, not a rage yet, it is gradually and imperceptibly catching the attention and impending to be the choice of the “Generation- next”. But the similarity between a jeans that we live-in and the new convenience relationship does not extend yonder.
Can one be critical of this new concept of living together without the sanctity of wedlock, legal license or social acceptability? In a world that is increasingly resonating with the voice of intolerance, prejudice and simultaneously the demand for individual freedom, freedom of thought and way of life, I feel an individual need not have to cede to the scrutiny of the Jones next door. I guess, what my son or daughter does with their life as adults are their choice. Can I put the straight jacket of conventions and the overbearing of a sententious father? I feel my nose should not extend beyond my hands. albeit! And indeed it is a capital “BUT”!

I began to wonder about the live-in-relationships and convenience partner concept that is now seen in many case, when a close friend to whom we enquired if she could refer from her circle of acquaintances any matchmaking proposal for my niece. She did not decline, but at the same time expressed fear that it is now considered akin to donning the cross and heavy mantle when such an exercise is done in earnest. The incidences of broken marriages- divorces, separations and in extreme cases suicide are many that people are scared or frightened to engage in match making.

Now I would like to think if marriage is worth all the risk, that is being attributed to the system and in certain cases, uncritically so. Soon after the World War II and when the Cold war gripped Europe it was not uncommon for young men and women to choose not to have children as they did not wager much survival chances for the continent that was then threatened by Armageddon. Some even decided to stay out of wedlock and its collateral commitments.

What is it that prompts the young to disregard conventions of marriage – something that all may have seen practiced by their parents and elders, an institution that has been thriving for centuries? True there are and have always been cases of baleful and unenviable living in wedlock. Perhaps as true and chancy as a violent misfortune that may befall on a travel by Air, Sea or land!

Whatever may be the raison d'ĂȘtre that bring youth into cohabiting and in a living-relationship with out what they perceive as entrapment of marriage, can I as an adult and in the afternoon of my life criticise the right of individuals to live their life as they deem fit? Have not I accepted the conventions of the society and lived a life in compliance to the accepted rules of matrimony? Was not that my personal decision? And what if a young fellow or lass decides to break the boundaries of convention and trappings and chart a life they deem fit for them in their pursuit of happiness?

 Should I fret, fume, feel sad, morally offended, and be outraged?

But what disturbs me somewhere is the probable denial of the chance for posterity to be reared in the undeniably heavenly cocoon, a sanctuary of the family. Of a home where commitments are indeed what bonds the members.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


It is often that what is termed as the sixth sense or intuition, the sense of the unseen and things to come is felt when we meet certain people the first time. Call it premonition or clairvoyance, ESP, so on and so forth. I have felt that with some. In some cases I have ignored the alarm bells and have ended with bruises that would leave scars that stay. In yet other cases heeding the knell of warning have cocooned me from visitations. I guess that these were no exceptions and people out there all may feel the comfort zone with some and the putrid air with some others. We may have also felt an inner warning to distance or avoid some. In some cases it is reciprocal too.

The dead are usually left untouched and it is considered propriety to say no evil about the ones who passed on. But vile may be some of our minds, it happens that with some who are dead one may feel the revulsion that they ever walked this earth. We may wish to forget that such a one as he or she was ever known to us. I may sound mean and filled with malice.

There was this guy who was heading the bank I was then dealing with for my business account. I felt the wind howl and the skies turn ghoulish dark, lightning strike like lasting firmament and thunder rock deafening the moment I met him. The premonition was felt in my body. A profane and reprehensible man! To narrate his conduct- machanisation, ignobility is delving  only the surface.  He lost his daughter in a freak accident at home the very day he took charge after a promotion. The tragedy hardly evoked introspection or remorse in him. There were occasions when I wished that the ground beneath his feet parted and swallowed him, lest I may have to wrench his neck till he ceased breathing. He died of heart attack and when the news came to me a few days after he died, it was just another day at work and though a mortal myself, I felt a sense of justice that he is no more. How villainous I’m!

Yet there were a few who, whom when I met first was rather insipid and not entirely without portentous feeling. But later proximity and course of events saw me in close liaison with them, even drawing nearer by fate or call it destiny. Eventually the not so comfortable feeling that clutched me lead to the realisation, how true it is that fortune does not change men, it unmasks them!

Sometimes it is a flaw in the character that supersedes and is the cause of ire and resentment. There was this person and at the sight of his shadow I used to be bedeviled by irritation and anger. It was a strange dislike for him. Not that he offended or did something bad to me. He used to visit my office purely on his assignment as the employee of another firm. Sometimes I have noticed in his eyes a confounded question, an ask –“why”? And I have asked myself after he was gone, “why?” and I still have not stumbled upon an answer.Inexplicable!

Sunday, October 7, 2012


It is often a fact that men harbour lecherous fantasies and intentions more than women do I think so even if someone disagrees with my contention. It is however not untruth that women do not have imaginary or real time liaisons outside wedlock.

Woman as a rule may show predilections for amorous affairs with a man who gives her a sense of security, which can be both financial and emotional or either. Men on the contrary are still in the realm of beasts where financial trappings and emotions play a lesser role when it comes to libertine ways. This is my take from the experiences of the past many years and I do not think I must have to specifically quote any novelette to argue my point

Lamia is married to a wealthy man and the mother of two. She hails from a conservative religious society. But she is dressed impeccably modern and ravishing. She can by simply strolling by, taut the neck of any man, how so ever monogamous and of piety. She is tall, with flowing dark hair and wheaty complexion. She speaks well but accented English and Punjabi flavoured Hindi and Urdu. She drives around in a Toyota sports utility. The few occasions I happened to chat with her I could not resist impressing upon her subtly and politely how I was awed by her feminine beauty. She must be in her late twenties or very early thirties.
Albeit the tag of bored and disillusioned housewife as the clichĂ© goes did not suit her countenance, when the story of her uncontrollable amour and lust was narrated to me in the first person, I was more devastated out of jealousy than out of genuine amazement or shock which only exasperated further when it sunk into me that, for she fell for a man of vapid taste and intellect, a man who can torture you with ennui in his company.
I need not have to doubt his narration, for a day previous I heard her on the speaker of his Black Berry, plead with him in Hindi.”Kal ka plan pakka hai, or naheen?” He said, "abhi thak confirm karney ka mushkil.”She was furious at the other end, “if that is so, I will be in your office tomorrow morning. Mein udhar baitteyga. Until you say yes and come with me.”

Further, his explicit narration of their togetherness till almost day break- driving around the town, sneaking into a pub for beer, schnapps and gin tonic; buying their seat in a cinema and being cuddled, fondling and stimulating mutually in its dark environs when the movie went on for the sparse late night movie goers. All was too disdainful and an insult to my ego who would not agree that I ‘m a lesser candidate for such liaison than he was.

He was rather disillusioned when she was unwilling to leave him at almost day break. She wanted him to swear that he would go with her to the ends of the world. He tried to deflect the matter by reminding her she was proclaiming the impossible and when she had  husband and kids. But, he found her tenacious than a limpet. She trivialised her husband and was not keen about the kids either. She told him that money was not an issue with her and she would not mind leaving the man and children. For she was yearning and craving for a life that did not deprive her of happiness and companionship! She stated that after years since her wedding day she found happiness and comfort in that nocturnal excursion with him. And she wants to ensure that the moon stays in her grasp.

To debate about the psychology and thought of this emancipated, educated and wealthy woman is not my forte or intention. There is not great pleasure in a holier than thou plateau either. But it does make me wonder if the moral picket fences we have are imaginary hurdles with taboos as barbed wires, seldom capable to restrain or resist the primeval infatuations human beings are disposed too, be it man or woman. The waters that beckon with the tranquility and the seeming air of pleasure are often mirages and treacherous!

Did I not mention when I began this that men harbour lecherous fantasies and would desist if it dawns that a long term commitment beyond carnal pleasure outside wedlock threatens?