Vegetating the old-fashioned way

Vegetables on coal
Vegetating the old-fashioned way

Let’s call it end of summer tetchiness or just my innate grumpy outlook on life. Having quit Facebook nearly a year ago and not looked back even a teensy weensy moment, my aspirations to a hermit-like existence might just be getting further impetus. This weekend, sick of my own compulsive tendencies towards checking email and the almost non-existent traffic to this blog (come here if you want a long ride on the empty information super-highway – remember that road?), I made the grand gesture of pressing the off button on my phone at 8 o’clock on Friday night and not turning it back on till 8 a.m. on Monday morning. I didn’t look at my computer either – so 60 full hours without the internet. In this endless tug of war of life, this was time to pause and look closer.

Abstaining was not a problem at all. I didn’t feel as tetchy as I did with the constant craving for that intangible something, that seeking of solace and reassurance from the ether, of all places, that is almost certainly not there. My thoughts felt definitely lighter, uncrowded by trivia. I managed to buy and read the paper without skimming the articles online and going straight to  the comments below. I didn’t click on catchy tweets to be irritated by absolute vapidity at the other end of the link. I didn’t need to waste time deleting the daily emails from all sorts of stores with bright ideas to refresh my wardrobe at the onset of autumn or the endless lists of places that I ought to visit (Sardinia, Sicily, Peru, Iran…Devon, Cornwall). They could all wait and be ignored – they didn’t deserve the importance of even being noticed. I was staying clear because I was aware that I’m linked in a neurotic way – by that shaky wisp of a neuron transmitting and receiving messages from here, there and nowhere. I wrote longhand for longer and just had an old-fashioned leisurely time.

Instead of random nonsense online, I chose a once main source of frothy entertainment – TV. It’s been the week when Goodness Gracious Me (click for a clip) has had a reunion after ten years or more. The more than middle-aged crew were slick and still quite funny – loved the burqa-clad daughters of Raj Grantham in the Brownton Abbey sketch – but it was too short. Considering how the path-breaking show didn’t exactly pave the way for more exciting Asian comedy, it confirmed my view that Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Nina Wadia and co. have the exclusive rights to being funny Asian people. Tokenism, Zindabad!

Jodhaa Akbar cover
Why bother with history when there is a love story to fabricate?

This somehow segued seamlessly into me reaching out for a Bollywood film from a few years ago – Jodhaa-Akbar, the sumptuous period drama set in the romantic backdrop of the palaces and forts of Rajasthan. There was gritty warfare to kick off proceedings. After all, Akbar was first and foremost a warrior, intent on conquering territory with a much bigger and better trained army. They were dressed in black, wore a lot of metal and looked lean and mean. The Rajputs, the once famed fighters were on the other hand riding mammoth elephants, dressed in flowy white clothes and intricate turbans with very little armour as protection and soon wilted under the force of the Mughal army and were on their knees waiting for the ritual beheading. But Akbar, it was shown, was a tolerant king who says no to the abhorrent practice. It was just that we kept getting distracted by his good looks, rippling muscles, his sword-play and taming of a wild elephant and also by a little-known fact that he was never taught to read and write.

Amer Fort Jaipur
Princess Jodhaa has to leave this humble fort behind to become Empress of India

When a Rajput ruler offers his daughter in marriage for some peace and quiet, Akbar says yes, sure, I quite fancy a Hindu princess. Jodhaa makes a couple of demands on the Shahenshah (Akbar) before agreeing to the marital vows – to be able to follow her faith and to take her idol of Krishna into the Mughal palace. There’s some evidence to show that she existed in reality but under a converted Muslim name. More relevantly, this grand romance that plays out like a Mills and Boon story, doesn’t quite take into account the other wives of Akbar at all. There are a lot of white doves being let loose as a handsome Hrithik Roshan drools at his screen-wife from a distance. She plays hard to get for most of the film – she tells him he has conquered her but not won her heart. There is an entertaining Mask of Zorro style sword fight between the star-crossed, yet to be consummated husband and wife during which I really worried for her overlong hairpiece of straight black hair that fell almost to her ankles. Jodhaa seemed very good at fencing but Akbar wins the game and her heart. We know this because there’s a smouldering moment between the two against an ornate pillar in Amber fort. After the longest foreplay in movie history, there is a glimmer of hope for their success under the sheets but we are left guessing. The clinches were more photogenic than passionate. But Hrithik Roshan as Akbar and Aishwarya Rai as the (spurious) Jodhaa are two very beautiful people. I remember being disappointed at how superficial it all was when I watched it on the big screen. I discovered that it has not dated too badly at all – in the realms of a cheesy romantic tale that it was always meant to be- who wants to be bothered by real history (The Guardian’s Reel History column).
After a detox of sorts – here’s to a new season!! Come September (remember this tune?).


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