Snapshot of the 100 follows / followers' icon on my blog dashboard

100 Thanks

100 follows on the blog. That may not sound like much (I will still be a potential nominee for the Liebster Award, which is for blogs with less than 200 followers), but I have always said that I blog on various topics, which makes it difficult – as things go in blogosphere – to rack up the follows. And that being because I use my blog to show(case) my writing rather than to “attract” followers. So, whoever’s a regular here hopefully likes my writing. Anyway, a hundred thanks and more to all (and future ones) for all the love.

Cover pic for this post with the Liebster Award logo to the top right of my blog logo, like a certification

Liebster Award: Get Discovered, Fledgling Blogger!

I have been nominated for the Liebster Award. I didn’t know of this until two days ago, when in an FB Indian bloggers’ group, someone posted asking for bloggers with less than 200 followers. I am yet to touch 100, so I went ahead and shared my blog link. So, this guy (Indrashish Mitra, check out his blog here) nominated me among others. Like him, and like others before him, I need to nominate 11 other blogs / bloggers, along with answering the 11 questions he’s posed for me and then stating 11 random facts about myself. Before I do that, I’d need to know the 11 I can nominate. Of course, I can go through my followers’ list here, apart from going on other social-media sites, but it would be great if you could let me know if you’re interested via the comments’ section. That way, I also wouldn’t be nominating someone who isn’t keen.

Below are more details about the award from another blogger. (There doesn’t seem to be an “official” blog / page / site for the award, and I don’t even know what the winner gets, if anything. However, yes, it does get some more eyeballs for your blog and perhaps new followers.)

About the Liebster Award

And here’s an image with the rules of the award.

Image for the rules of the Liebster Award

I know this may sound like one of those chain mails, in this case for blogs, but not to be cynical for a change, it’s about helping blogs that haven’t yet caught fire catch fire, which may be the case for various reasons. One reason my blog doesn’t have “an insane number” of followers – though I’m okay with this, and also grateful to the folk who follow me – is because I write about several things, just as I’ve mentioned in the sub-head of my blog. It is universally acknowledged that the best way to have many followers fast is to write about one topic / category alone (and of course, write well). But that’s okay. I’m interested in showcasing my versatility. 😉

So, come on, get lobbying for the Liebster. And hit the comments’ section if interested…

Cover of 'Calcutta', Amit Chaudhuri's book on two years in the city

Irficionado | Book Review | ‘Calcutta’

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Toward the end of his books, Marquez typically reveals the message of the book, either in a subtle manner, as in No One Writes to the Colonel, or spelt-out, as in Love in the Time of Cholera. (He perhaps does this to reward the reader, for having stayed the course and waded through the stream of magical realism – not that you need this, if you’re a Marquez-lover.) In No One Writes, he leaves it to the very last line. Downhearted over their last-remaining scrapings and savings in their old age, the colonel’s wife fears to ask how they’ll now manage, what they’ll eat. The response, in a mix of anger, vehemence, and pride, and coming at the end of a volley of words: “Shit.” In Love in the Time, it’s suitably more romantic, though excrement does make a reappearance: “They had gone past the shit of marriage and family and kids, and went straight to the heart of love.”

Amit Chaudhuri, another of my favourite authors, seems to have done something similar in Calcutta, observations of two years in the city (2009-2011). On the second-last page of the second-last chapter, he keenly observes, “I realise this notion of ‘home’ is an invention: that, though I was born in Calcutta, I didn’t grow up here, and don’t belong here. Each year, I suspect I’ll begin to understand this city better, be more at ease with it: and every year I find this is less true.”

Writer Amit Chaudhuri against the backdrop of an illustration of old Calcutta

Calcutta seems to be an effort by Chaudhuri to not just understand the Calcutta/Kolkata he came back to (after studying and living in England and growing up in Bombay/Mumbai) but try and adopt his ‘home town’, make it his again. He embarks on this journey in typical Chaudhuri style – warm, moist, and writing non-fiction that’s like fiction (just as his fiction is like non-fiction) – with the delectable and perfectly paced and sized A Purchase. The 19-pager (one of the shortest chapters) draws both Chaudhuri and you into his again-new world, where he ventures to save a vestige of a time fast going by – a French-style slatted green window of a British-era house. Finally getting it into his modern-day apartment in an upmarket area in the heart of the city, he seems happy with the endeavour, like he’s again become a part of the metropolis.

Calcutta_OldBuilding

Seemingly buoyed, Chaudhuri goes forth to cover more ground, literally, in the ensuing chapters: traversing and striking up conversations with people on the ever-popular Park Street, the iconic and revamped Flurys, the mansions on Park Street with their street economies… It’s typical Chaudhuri celebration of the everyday, and it’s comforting.

He then steps into more intellectual territory, with discussions of the elections, the change of guard in the state after several years and the people’s feelings about this; he actually goes to several booths, during the actual voting, to speak with voters, campaigners, officials and politicians alike.

He then switches to humanistic ground, with detailings of a middle-aged couple who have seen better days, both physically and financially; of his ageing, ailing father; of foreign chefs who join the city’s hotels/restaurants, and leave soon enough, not being able to adjust their dishes to the tastes and demands of the burgeoning (and bourgeois?) Marwaris; of even domestic help; and finally of more ageing, and even, dying relatives.

But somehow, as the chapters progress, you sense Chaudhuri’s developing disenchantment with the city (although he’s not one to write excitably about things), and a sense of unavoidability at his situation (as his wife and he came back for his ageing parents and also not “wanting to die in a foreign land”), and therefore find the writing getting increasingly academic. It’s like he started the journey enthusiastically (by getting something new into the house – the window), and then realised this (the city) is not somehow he likes, or at the very least, gets; so, his mood begins drooping. As if reflecting this, the last chapter is about an exit, something going out of a house – his ailing aunt eventually passes away.

Calcutta then seems to be less about the city and more about the writer and his attempt to make it his own – in vain. So, though you feel the trademark Chaudhuri writing dipping as the book progresses, there’s still enough of it. Which makes you wonder: If Chaudhuri can still manage to write warm and moist and everyday about a city he eventually, plaintively shrugs off as not one he can call his own, what wonders would he weave about the city he does consider his own? Appropriately, at the beginning of the book, he declares, “I could have grown up in Calcutta, and had a very different relationship with it, but I am a Bombay person.” Now, that’s the book you hope he writes next. At the very least – being in a similar situation myself (living in my “home” town, Chennai, for only 3.5 years of my life, the more recent ones, and having lived in Bombay/Mumbai for the better part, 23 years) – at the very least, I do.

Evening shot of Bombay's heritage Crawford Market

Movie poster of Pawn Sacrifice

Irficionado | Movie Review | Pawn Sacrifice

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Years of playing Spider-Man seems to have done something to Tobey Maguire that we may have overlooked all along, or not thought about. Either he was quietly developing his acting skills beneath Spidey’s mask or that he is very eager to prove that he knows more than just to swing from buildings and kiss upside down.

Tobey Maguire holding up his Spidey costume in one of his Spider-Man movies

Tobey then takes to Pawn Sacrifice with a vengeance. As the madcap, mercurial, maverick mid-70s US chess GM, Bobby Fischer, he fills up a good deal of the movie. (The movie is about him, after all.) But not content with getting a meaty role, he goes about actually trying to fill up the screen. There are sequences and sequences that feature only him and his slow but steady descent with paranoia. And when that isn’t enough, you get scenes and scenes of his eyes moving from one side of the socket and screen to the either, as a display of his increasing suspiciousness.

Tobey Maguire with suspicion large on his face in Pawn Sacrifice

But forgive these, and you spot enough instances of Tobey possibly receiving a nod for a nomination. He gets into the character like the GM into his game (or does he ever leave it?), ostensibly living it as much as Bobby lived chess. He allows you to get very close to the character too. He conveys his growing loneliness, detachment, and annoyance with the world very well – to the point of you beginning to lose your patience with him, much like many of the folk around him, who possibly tolerated the genius only for his genius on the square board.

But that’s the limit to which Tobey, or maybe, the screenplay goes. It shows you his journey, and allows you at most to be a bystander, but doesn’t allow you to get into it and be a passenger with him. Unlike a similar movie earlier this year, also about a beleaguered genius and in similar territory of war, The Imitation Game, about the WW1 Germany-codebreaker and computer inventor, Alan Turing. In that ‘game’, you cheered for him (while he’s inventing the machine, and taking his time doing so, in the eyes of others) as well as felt his pain about his gayness, both as a boy and as an adult. There, you feel the film. Here, you merely view it.

Pawn Sacrifice though doesn’t suffer only on these counts. In trying to make its protagonist the hero, or king, of the piece, it reduces the supporting cast – all of them – to mere pawns. Be it his team of Priest and Paul (the one starts strong but slowly lets his light and presence fade in the shadow of the genius; the other begins commandingly – “I have been the agent to the Rolling Stones” – but next scene on, becomes softer than a marshmallow); the few odd women in his life (Mom leaves early on and resurfaces only as a faded figure toward the end; Sister makes weepy appearances, and ok, one cheering one; Hooker’s make-up and clothes have more to do than she); and the most incorrigible, his adversary, Boris Spassky. Boris is reduced to a wussy caricature, and if ever Liev Schreiber, who plays him, wanted a role to come out of his perennial fringe-line presence in Hollywood, he chose the wrong one. He is shown as a man of few words, and those words are all Russian, and someone who fails to even offer resistance, cinematically, to the emerging genius of Fischer.

And then, when the end credits roll, you understand why. Why all the pieces are stacked in Tobey’s favour. He’s produced the movie, damnit. Check and mate, viewer.

Self-ad for 100 posts on my blog

One-Oh-Oh

I’ve hit 100 posts on the blog. (This is the 101st.) Thanks to all who like/follow this blog, and to the many who’ve liked individual posts. And not to forget the ones I follow – I follow you folk for a reason: because I like what you write/develop and also because it encourages/inspires my different interests (writing, poetry, animal love/care, veganism, movies, arts). Now, as the self-ad that the ad guy in me created for the milestone (included as the post image) too proclaims, here’s to irfinity, er, infinity.

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