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A date with Jonathan Koshy

No mushy candle-light dinners here, as the weekend swooshed between pages of my freshly autographed copy of the book. Commonwealth Prize nominated author and 6-times Pushcart Prize nominee Murzban Shroff launched ‘Waiting for Jonathan Koshy’ (published by Independent Thinkers, INR 295, 186 pages) at a private gathering with the lively Sumeet Shetty, President of Literati, India’s largest corporate book club hosting it at the British Council Library on October 1, 2016.

 

‘Waiting for Jonathan Koshy’ by the ad-man turned writer is the second book in his trilogy of writings set in Bombay. ‘Breathless in Bombay’- the first in the series, was subjected to court cases on the mistaken context of one of its regional lanuistic terms, and ironically, the book won many prestigious accolades abroad at the same time. Sensing these contradictory facets, Murzban weaves a larger than life personality dwelling in discrepancies in this character-driven piece. Explored through the eyes of his closest friends Anwar, Prashant, Dhruv and Gussy, we experience Jonathan’s audacious, outrageous and yet vulnerable presence.

 

The narrative brims with Bandra’s heavily contradictory essence, sheltering vastly different faiths and economies as an aggregation that is intensely shocking, witty, idiotic, right and wrong, all at once. There is a lively description of Anwar’s residence in Pali Hill, the default adda for scores of explorations and journeys, where friends create memories out of their own free will. Jonathan jokes,”104 Pali Hill is like Hotel California. You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.”

 

Jonathan is in murky waters of his turbulent personal life from a broken family. He manages to help friends, acquaintances, prostitutes, their kids and many who he encounters on the way; everyone except himself. For instance, he convinces the madam of the brothel to allow for a small party for Shabnum, the prostitute who had broken down to him, for a memorable birthday surprise. Trysts with Kavita Desai heading Manshakti, a non-profit organization counseling prostitutes and their children, inspires Jonathan to volunteer for constructive and meaningful work to uplift the boys there. He is conscious of a sense of responsibility dawning on him, devoting his time in teaching them to remain updated with recent happenings from news, sports and history channels on TV, engaging them in debates, imparting basic knowledge on Word, Excel and the internet, and everyone’s favourite – his drama classes.

 

There are entertaining instances that can leave you smiling baffled, like when Jonathan turns into a fictitious Prem Kotiyal, son of a shipping tycoon from London, a non-resident Indian who was a life member at the club, paving the way to getting himself and his friends live it up by the luxury poolside of “The Palms”, a club patronized by the upper crust of Bandra. Or when he feigns being a journalist working on a tip off to report the drug-ridden rave party that the cops had just bust into, covering up for being part of it in the first place. Add to this his exile from home, his distraught family, an inconsolable actress, two henchmen, from a politician and a multitude of interesting characters and situations.

 

On varied perception of people, Jonathan says, ‘This country is an original wonderland. It never fails to amaze me.’ For the creatives that he conceptualized using the visual of a snake in their HIV awareness campaign, the sponsors were impressed with it being a universal concept that instilled fear and encouraged people to take action. However, when the symbol was launched, people came up and prayed to it with folded hands and lowered heads, the context being that locals in India worshipped the snake, and had turned it into a symbol of their devotion. There seems to be a parallel to the people he meets, and the community at large itself, as in his words – ‘India is a woman, a puzzling, enigmatic woman. Try as you might, you can never figure her out. You can love her, yes, or feel frustrated by her, but you can never fully understand her.’

 

Personal demons that constantly catch up with him leave him with sticky decisions that are reflected upon later, like backing off from his otherwise great relationship with Ruchita wondering if he took the right decision leaving her when she had got pregnant. His strong feeling of burdening himself being in a serious commitment lead him to leaving the hapless girl left out quite suddenly. What brings the book together beautifully are the importance of all the minuscule acts of great love and care in our relationships that are otherwise taken for granted, like the stance taken by his mother Karuna Koshy after Priti uses her former husband Thampu Koshy for her professional benefit and then divorces him, leaving him shattered and suicidal. It lets Jonathan reflect on prostitutes he encounters, doing in the role of being mothers so that their kids can leave a better life, and people like Kavita, relentlessly fighting her hatred for a father who abandoned them, in working for the upliftment of the society in all the ways she can.

 

My takeaway from this reading is the witty and spirited attitude Jonathan rebounds adverse situations with, coupled with his dynamic sense of humour. And the journey, the passing, emphasizing redemption for those who persist till the end. Also on the ideation and effort behind the book itself, every land accommodates mindsets of all kinds of people, and that shouldn’t be a setback for any unbiased creative work, I think to myself as I await the third book.

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Homebound

The sky was a washed blue with wishful slivers of clouds lost in its infinite expanse, and the sun was mild like a joyous dream. Amidst the mighty unmoving mountains, calm waters and the wildflowers waving lazily, the fragrance of the Earth enveloped my being, my throbbing soul. And in that instance, all I could do was smile, acknowledging our very insignificance in this world.

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Untended grave matters?

Would you either be an osteologist, a physical anthropologist, or a zooarcheologist (spellings and meanings checked, yes) or the like, if encountering skulls and bones are your everyday? Or you’re probably dead, in which case, it is some small comfort if you stop reading this right here.

But what initially seems an extraordinary obsession with the dark side in ‘Man and the Skull’, a series of narrative illustrations by Clyde D’ Mello and curated by Ravi Cavale, will leave you bewildered with its turbulent tints of emotions ranging from the routine to the repressed. And perhaps, you progress with viewing each of the pieces only to be hurtled back into a kaleidoscope of timelines known within a life cycle, spurred by Clyde’s illustrations in pen and ink and the occasional daub of colours, and writing; very raw and personalized in its fluidity and echoing the experiential journey of exploring the roots of coffin making by his grandfather.

Also, it seems fascinating that skeletal structures can be remnants for hundreds of years, long after the dead are buried, decayed and gone, remnants with no life of their own, and yet present as physical tangible entities, proof of the living. Can it be a representational dialogue between the states of life and death? And perhaps, what lies in between? Do they let you confront and shake off certain fears? And in the entire process, does it immortalize the very idea and question of the cycle of life and death itself?

Waking up to the horror of your own reality, and the realization of the dark truth of itself buried somewhere within is probably what will leave you shocked.

Or will it?

‘All are parallels, and yet there is nothing similar.’

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God is not great?

Delving into personal experiences, interpreting religious scriptures and analysing historical anecdotes, Christopher Hitchens hurls radical questions on the very concept of God-a man made consolation. But can science and reason, entirely on their own, present answers to many constantly hovering questions? Isn’t it overly judgemental to discard a faith altogether, if a part of its followers are damagingly fanatic? Something to ponder over. #throwbackthursday

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Should you watch this?

THIS IS NOT FOR YOU, if you’re in the mood for inspirational anecdotes, preachy life lessons or romantic sagas. Or for replacing podcasts while throttling through the routine agony of traffic jams. Or for the unwinding hours after an awful day with the quintessential horrid boss.

 

What watching an indie-film like “A ‘Pitch-Dark’ Diorama” can do, however, is throw questions that consume you for answers as it unravels, variably to each viewer, as does the very identity design of its production house, ‘Vespertilio Motion Pictures’; an exercise in individual perception differences and imagination. As the 2 hour 4 minute long film progresses in 5 episodes, you shuttle between characters in parallel universes that command complete experiential attention, to a surreal drama surrounded by its varied under-layers.

 

Of course, slasher thriller lovers can rejoice as the indie-film intricately weaves together a pulsating storyline, intriguing direction and commendable cinematography with the joyful authenticity of the analog. Its disciplined crafting on 16 mm Kodak film, also, perhaps, reflects on some very organic acting experiences, for which Amjad Prawej as Indranil Deashi and Amit Ansshu as the detective deliver riveting performances with its subtle nuances.

 

Does each character seem compellingly honest to their persona, and yet vulnerable? Could this be the concealed appeal of the story, a piece fulfilling its initial intention to its best ability? Is the ‘end’ not definitive? Is it capable of inducing malleability in perception on another view? Experiencing the film perhaps allows the viewer some scope of indecisiveness, while, nevertheless, conceding its ‘completion’. And in this context, is this film incomplete, without the audience?

 

So, so, so, should you really watch this? Only if you enjoy the journey. The passing. And the conflicting realities it brings into picture. To unravel how it runs, or how you choose it to play out, rather. To answer the questions above. Or even better, to bring up many more. (Which I shall conveniently redirect to Vespertilio of course).

 

A ‘Pitch-Dark’ Diorama, exclusively on Vimeo on demand: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/apdd

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Painting nostalgia on bus tickets 💙

 
The rickety local bus sploshes through rain-drenched roads, magically gleaming with kaleidoscopic reflections of vibrant city lights. A stray dog meditatively rummages the now deserted corner of the street side with a trail of plastic bags, while a cow rests under the shelter of the steadfast metro rail tracks, seemingly in oblivion to its surroundings. Impatient dark clouds completely eclipse the misty sun as the metro train speeds over, hurtling through the city’s pace in more ways than one.