Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Addicted to Downton Abbey

The mother's been trying to get me to watch Downton Abbey for the past two years. About two or three weeks ago, having exhausted every other TV series I had, I finally played the first episode.

I'm hooked.

Downton Abbey is a country estate in Yorkshire that belongs to the Earl and Countess of Grantham. The British series follows the lives of the Earl's family and servants, and is set during the reign of King George V. The primary plot line of the series is the question of inheritance, since Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) has no sons. Who will the heir to the estate be? Will he be well-bred? In walks Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), a practicing lawyer with no respect or understanding of the aristocratic ways of the Crawleys.

What I love about Downton Abbey is the journey through Britain's most interesting days, how writer Julian Fellowes has weaved in historic events and their effect on mindsets and lifestyles into the story line. The Spanish flu epidemic for one, bare shoulders and reducing hemlines for another—the sinking of the Titanic, World War I, the installment of electricity and subsequently the telephone in the house, flashy new automobiles, the suffrage movement, the Irish struggle for self-government, the imprisonment (and later execution) of Czar Nicholas II and his family, even a mention of Charles Ponzy! In the course of 8 years (1912-20), everything changes for the Crawleys, and so much of it is because of World War I. I suppose the war did some good too—women wanted more from their lives; they wanted to employ their time and mental faculties in meaningful and useful pursuits—but it was all at such a high price.

I have experienced a wide array of emotions while watching series 1-3. Delight at the Dowager Countess's (Maggie Smith) delicious dialogues, delivered with tongue firmly in cheek. Respect for the head of the household, and his American wife for adjusting so well to an English society. Disgust at the Earl's 'moment of weakness'. Intense dislike and perhaps even awe for the lady's maid O'Brien and the first footman Thomas for the ramifications of their connivance and intelligent manipulation. Sheepish grins whenever Matthew Crawley walked into a room. Head-splitting grief at the death of one of the most beloved characters on the show. Heartbreak at the third season finale (unfortunately, the mother is a walking spoiler divulger, and I knew about the horrific finale before I even started watching the show).

Not to mention longing and admiration for the beautiful vistas, and the grandeur and resplendence of the house that is Downton Abbey. Every time the scene took shape of one like the picture below, I'd pause the episode and click a snapshot of it on VLC Media Player, which evoked the remark, "you're such a Japanese tourist!" from the sister.

It sure is a sight for sore eyes.

The show also reminds one of how cruelly unforgiving the world was and still is, with regard to Lady Mary Crawley and the housemaid Ethel's pasts. The price they, especially Ethel has to pay, for one mistake is much too great.

It's funny how modern they believe they are. Today we're narcissistic enough to believe we're modern and open-minded, but I wonder how backward we will seem to the generations to come?

One of the funniest (and thought-provoking) dialogues is uttered in the scene where Matthew Crawley and Lord Grantham dress in black tie for a very la-di-da dinner. Black tie appears to be a form of undress, as the occasion demands nothing less than coattails and white tie. Their informal appearance invokes horrified looks from Lord Grantham's family, and his American mother-in-law (Shirley McLaine) comments: "You two look like you're dressed for a BBQ."
A black tie for a barbecue! Imagine that!

The series is rife with brilliance in terms of dialogue. A gem from the Dowager Countess, Lady Grantham:

Lady Grantham: "You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal."
Mrs. Crawley: "I take that as a compliment."
Lady Grantham: "I must've said it wrong."

I've finished watching the series and am so bummed that season four will begin in September. It's no wonder the show has received rave reviews and broken so many ratings records. It's brilliant, well-written, well-directed and informative. Nobody's perfect (except perhaps Matthew Crawley, honestly he seems too good to be true) and some of the characters have many layers to them. Each trial and hardship they must endure peels off a layer and reveals something about them.

September is just too far off.

Monday, 14 January 2013

just me and the road.

A zephyr blows tirelessly, accompanied by a drizzle. The light rain patters down on my hair forming an effect of early morning dew on a spider's web. Toes clutching onto my cousin's chappal* two sizes too big for me, every step I take is accompanied by a risk of the abysmally large footwear flying off and exposing my feet to the dirt, grime and muck that lie in plenitude on the streets of Bombay.

Damp hair hurriedly pulled into a wild bun with a side ponytail while they're still manageable, make for a bizarre 'do. Having forgotten my scarves in Pune in the last minute rush to leave, I had to make do with a peach chiffon scarf my nani** lent me to mismatch on a light grey tee which on account of its stretchable cotton material, had grown a size.

Completing my ensemble with a nonchalant scowl, I walk fearlessly like I own the road, enjoying the gorgeous weather that is so hard to come by in this city. People go by unconcerned; everybody's minding their own business. It's just me and the road.

I think that's what I miss most.

*chappal: flip-flop.
**nani: maternal grandmother.

(Bombay, July '11)

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Resolutions for 2013: Writing, Reading & Continuing Education

Some of my resolutions for 2013, in conversation with myself.

Writing Resolutions:

1. Post at least once a week. Don't ever abandon the blog again.
2. Start reviewing books on Goodreads instead of just reading and forgetting about them. Get into the character's skin and the author's mind.
3. Give some thought to converting this blog into a website.
4. Send articles to publications every month and build a writing portfolio. Rewrite and edit the unfinished write-ups from last year.
5. Have a tryst with Fiction. Eradicate the mental block that you're no good at it. You did it before, you can do it again.
5. Make a wholehearted attempt at writing a screenplay.
6. Continue recording dreams. Skim through past records for potential material.
7. Add to the vocabulary arsenal and draw from it.
8. Get in touch with like-minded bloggers and writers; read and comment on their work.
9. If the words start flowing, put them on paper/Notes app/Kleenex/currency notes/what have you IMMEDIATELY.

Reading Resolutions:

1. Finish reading The Elements of Style; read more on English grammar.
2. Read Stephen King's On Writing again.
3. Dwell in more classic literature, including works by Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Elizabeth Gaskell, Anton Chekhov and, when in dire need of mirth, PG Wodehouse.
4. Read 25-30 books this year.
5. Read and learn about Impressionism from the books you bought in Munich.

Resolutions pertaining to Continuing Education:

1. Finish the Argument course on Coursera, absorb and apply the knowledge gleaned from it.
2. Pursue and complete some more courses on Coursera, at least two from: The Modern and the Post Modern, Gamification, Greek and Roman Mythology, The Modern World: Global History since 1760 and Learn to Program: The Fundamentals.
3. Learn some Arabic.
4. Revise French grammar and vocabulary. Attempt conversations in French. It's all there in the back of your mind.


What are your resolutions for 2013?

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

2013: My Year of Change.

It's that time of the year again. Time for another audit. Yes, I realize it's the second of January and that the time has passed us. It matters not.

You know the drill - note progress on last year's resolutions, mull over the past, set new resolutions for the year ahead.

Let's get to it.

2012 Resolutions:

1. Perform three good deeds everyday.
I lost track of this—not that I performed so many a day, mind you, there may have been days when I didn't do any at all—because I believe kindness should come unconsciously. Glad to note I'm nowhere close to losing touch with my humanity.

2. Never. Stop. Learning.
Never did =)

3. Exercise complete capabilities and mental faculties in the execution of a task.
I sometimes forgot about this. But the little voice inside me always spoke out when I was doing a shoddy job, albeit in a low voice. It never failed to gloat with "told you so!" when the shoddiness was noticed and I had to repeat said task. I need to pay more attention to it.

4. Continue having awesome experiences and meeting awesome people.

5. Read more classics.
I didn't read as many as I'd have liked, but did read more than I did in 2011. Jane Eyre, a PG Wodehouse novel (Jeeves in the Offling...CLASSIC!) and about two-thirds of the Sherlock Holmes series.

6. Get published. 

I DID!! I just neglected to tell you. Sorry about that. A piece was published in Bazaar Magazine's July-August 2012 issue; it was about the misadventures from the first Euro trip. If you've been around the blog, you've probably read some of the content in longer posts; the article was condensed.

7. No rice. No bread.

Pftttt. Pish tosh. I followed the 'no rice' rule for about 6-8 months, giving in generally but not too often, and then completely ignored it. Let's not talk about the 'no bread' policy.

My track record for 2011 was better.

2012 was a pretty decent year—I got a kick-start in marketing, I went to Europe again for 3 weeks, met some more people, spent some time with a couple of very close friends I hadn't seen in ages, had a few unique experiences in Kuwait. Went to India for my cousin's wedding and had an AWESOME time bonding with my family in Bombay. Watched The Hobbit on my birthday after waiting for it with bated breath for three years and fell in love with Middle Earth all over again. Also fell desperately in love with Sherlock Holmes (the literary character, NOT the British TV series—post on this in drafts) as I discovered the series on iBooks in Innsbruck, Austria, reading fervently against the backdrop of the Alps.

Again, I felt nothing as the new year dawned, not even a tinge of excitement. Just a realization that another year has passed and not too much accomplished. My whatsapp was abuzz with wishes from friends and even a couple of cousins whom I never thought would deem the occasion important enough to text. Apparently it was. I spent the last few hours of 2012 at home, cleaning up, watching the striking fireworks erupting from Burj Khalifa on Dubai Television (pretty sure TV viewers of the event had a superior view than the 1.7 million people in actual attendance of it, so many of whom witnessed the spectacular display through their  smartphone or camera screens while recording it) and writing my resolutions for 2013.

Resolutions for 2013? I went all out this year, contemplating on what aspects of my life need change. I ended up compiling a somber list of resolutions that fell under different categories: health including dental (yup), finance, religion, general, work-related, education, environment, reading and of course writing...some are goals, others are guidelines I intend to live by and weave into my lifestyle, hence the title of this post.

It's a daunting list, but I figure I must adhere to it so as to truly lead a more fulfilling life, get the most out of it and give in return. What troubles me is that I have issues with commitment and discipline, lack time management skills, am lazy and often lose sight of goals and other things that matter (I have a lot of faults), so this will be challenging for me. And because of these God-awful habits, I've decided to have a quarterly review in 2013, instead of the more traditional year-end audit. I doubt I'll post the entire list on the blog, just the ones pertaining to writing, reading and education, and will probably dedicate a new page to them, so they remain in plain sight and don't get lost in future posts or lie forgotten in one of my journals.

Wish me luck!

Good luck with your goals and resolutions if you've set any; may they bring out the best in you. Happy New Year!