Wednesday, June 17, 2009

True Incident

After many goodbyes, hugs and tears, it was with extreme sadness that I reached domestic airport in Delhi to get on the flight to Frankfurt. The flight from Chennai to Delhi was delayed by 40 minutes so we were on a tight rope to catch the plane in Delhi.

12:05 A.M.: I get the boarding pass.

12:07 A.M.: I leave for Indira Gandhi International airport(A 20 minute drive).

12:30 A.M.: I fill out my immigration form.

12:35 A.M.: On request, I fill out a 60 year old woman’s immigration form.

12:38 A.M.: I proceed towards the immigration officer’s counter.
(Credit for accurate time goes to the big digital clock in the airport)

And now, a strange conversation ensues:

12:45 A.M.:

I.O. (Immigration Officer) (This particular gentleman delayed calling me to his counter since he had one of his colleagues with him. I later discovered both gentlemen were engaged in a rather amusing discussion about their wives’ jobs): Aaja beta.. Kaise ho?

Me: Well sir. Thank you.

I.O.: Akele ho kya?

Me: Yes sir.
(I have lost the will to write in my poor hindi. The following is a loose translation).

I.O.: So how come you are going to Amrica alone? You look so young.

Me(Amused): I am a student, Sir.

The conversation proceeds to what I am specializing in (I.O.: Computer architecture? Woh kya hota hai? Are you an engineer or an architect?!) and how his son refused to do engineering and so on. Halfway through the conversation, I realize that he has not even looked at my passport. He must have realized it too, so he looks at the first page.

I.O.: How old is the photo, beta? You look like a very small girl in this.

Me(Getting impatient at the irrelevance of the talk): It was taken six years ago, Sir.

Then he tells me about his 24 year old daughter who used her 10th grade photograph for a library card! I suppress a yawn. Noticing,

I.O.: You look sleepy. Would you like a cup of Chai?

Me: No thank you, Sir. I might be getting late. My flight is at 1:10 A.M. What time is it now?

I.O.: It is 1:05. But it is ok. I know all the Air India people very well. I will call and ask them to wait. A cup of Chai?

Me(Shocked at the indifference): No Sir, I am good. Maybe I should proceed towards security check. That will take about 5 minutes, right?

I.O.: Yes Yes, you are right. Ok, carry on. (Now he looks at my passport and does whatever he did) Have a safe flight.

Me: Thank you. (And I run)

At security check, a security personnel informs me that I am the last passenger to board. I rush through the security procedures and request him to let me run to the nearest pay phone to make one phone call to my parents. He regretfully apologizes and tells me there is no time to even walk and that I have to run. I whine unstoppably about the irresponsible I.O. and the poor devil lets me use his cell phone to make an STD call as we walk towards the boarding gate(he was instructed to escort the last passenger). As I reach the gate, I thank him and take out a Rs.10 note to pay him for the phone call. He refuses and says “Kya madam, itna bhi nahi karsakte hai hum?”

1:12 A.M.: As the cabin crew head announces into a microphone, “All passengers on board …”, I am already lost in thought. What is this country; where respectable government officers in uniform are willing to put duties aside, where a simple security personnel is willing to do more than his duty; where money and influence can buy time and integrity?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Marley & Me: The book vs. movie

When my brother gifted Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan, I started off without realizing it would be one of my most favourite books forever. .. Hilarious, brilliantly well-written, sweet, emotional, exciting and crazy! Whatever happened in Hollywood, though? It is well-known that when attempted to translate a book onto big screen, more often than not, readers are utterly disappointed with the result; but I was desperately hoping for a different feeling after watching Marley & Me.

The book beautifully takes us through the lives of the young and newly married couple John and Jenny Grogan, who start off their family with an adorable furball of a puppy, Marley, who turns their life into a whirlwind of disasters- chewing furniture, gouging walls, eating jewelry, terrorizing neighbours… every little anecdote characterized by pithiness, yet detailed finesse, of life with “the world’s worst dog”. Marley in many ways reminded me of my own hyper Labrador retriever who chewed up friends’ books, hid guests’ shoes and thought the entire world was always four feet above the ground! Despite the madness, Marley is most affectionate and unconditionally loving. Not strictly being within boundaries of Marley’s antics, Grogan brings into the book the element of how much Marley contributed to the family at times of distress and depression, and how Marley bonds with each family member. Unfortunately, the movie takes a little extra lenience at that point, going into a little overdrive of detail of John and Jenny’s love life, which is quite unncecessary, as is the excessive description of John’s career as a journalist and interactions with his boss, albeit perfectly portrayed by Alan Arkin. We all know the movie is licensed two hours of the audience’s time, but the only question ringing out loud for half the movie is “Where IS Marley??” and “Why do I need to see so much of Sebastian(John’s hot bachelor friend)??”. Sadly, the movie treats Marley as more of a background shade in the Grogan family.

Grogan’s punchy, witty style gave the storyline a beautiful shape; a delicious sense of “Oh, I know EXACTLY what he means!” The movie, however, departs largely from the book in that a person who could relate to the book in such a great sense could hardly make sense of the detachment clearly detectable in the making of the movie. The glaring shock of Owen Wilson, who played John Grogan, stating that he never had a dog is atrocious; the very first chapter of the book mentions a ten year old John Grogan and his first ever dog Shaun!

There are some moments in the book which made me clutch my tummy and laugh- Marley being thrown out of obedience school, the strict mad dog trainer, one whole day’s filming for Marley’s 15 second movie clip and havoc on the sets, Marley’s caretaker when the Grogans are vacationing in Ireland, Marley dragging the iron dining table in a lovely Florida restaurant, Marley’s jumping out of the car, dog beach mishaps and many many more! The many sensitive moments that the Grogan family goes through from the excitement of their first pregnancy through the disappointment of the subsequent miscarriage, the author describes Marley’s role in the family with utmost perfection. The movie, however, selects very few of these incidents and tackles them oddly; most times just mentioning the incident or combining them into one scene and the laughs and cries are fewer than in the book.

Strangely, for a movie that condensed what could have been the funniest scenes, Marley’s death was a painful 15 minutes of the movie. It left me with an unbelievably large amount of sadness and I suspect the stretched time of Marley’s death was just so the actors who could showcase their acting prowess. The scene with Wilson, Aniston and the kids made me weep but I am sure Grogan would have wanted his audience to exit the theatres cherishing memories of Marley as the mad disastrous doofus than grieve excessively over a natural death.

All in all, the #1 New York Times best-selling book, Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog is a blend of emotions and a must-read for any dog-lover/pet-lover/book-lover or anyone who can appreciate the true joys of life the way Marley did. If you only saw the movie, you missed out the real Marley- foolish, funny, fascinating and absolutely lovable.