What Really Happened or How Nice It Is Not To Have Anybody To Blame

Otousan wa Nido Shinu or Father Dies Two Times is a Japanese drama in four episodes.

A man is stabbed. His family of wife and two adult children attend his funeral. What happened? Why is this father never present in any family photo? Why was he stabbed? Who is the lady presiding over the funeral? Was he stabbed or …?

Replete with twists and turns, this drama takes you through a minor crisis only to resolve it most sweetly and benignly. The bereaved wife, who looks quite in control of herself, who is ever reassuring her daughter and son that their father really loves them, appears to us to be heaving with sobs as we see her from the back, huddled and racked with grief. Actually, she’s eating sweet bean paste buns!

The absent father whose funeral forms the background of the drama is a high class actor.

Sadly I can’t offer you any videos of the drama – Do try and see it though!

And then on to another and again it’s no big deal though the triggering crisis is worthy of a mighty explosion. And so on for a set number of times and, finally, it’s daijobu really.

It’s really zen, zen, daijobu!

Which is the name of another must-see Japanese film. The link has a trailer with English subtitles.

Kenichi Endo has not much of a role at all here but do try and watch Tamiou, where he’s an apparently heartless minister and his spirit gets exchanged with that of his good for nothing son and Otosan to Yobasete, where he’s son-in-law-to-be of a man somewhat younger than himself.

The DVDs seem expensive! But worth it if one has the money as most Japanese films and dramas are worth watching over and over again.

Tip For Indian TV: Take A Page From J Dorama!

Growing up in India in the sixties it was a taken that few had access to education. When I entered graduation years, the sister of a young girl who worked as our maid went to the same college as I. By the late nineties, I’d spent a few afternoons participating in an initiative to bring schooling to the children of migrant labourers in Gurgaon. Enter the mid 2000s and it was not uncommon to see classes being conducted on the roadsides, in the open. Fast forward to somewhere in 2010 and all children went to school – some went after hours. Zip to now and all children go to school when it’s school time.

Today, most people in their twenties and maybe even thirties, in India, have attended school. And I can well imagine an Indian version of Grade A Reversal or Gekokujo Juken being a hit here.

Shinichi Sakurai is a real estate agent who has not studied past middle school. Neither has his home maker wife. Kaori, their daughter and only child, is not so good at school either.

One fine day, her terrible grades stir a bee in her father’s bonnet and this lets loose a whole wasp’s nest of hilarious measures he takes to see her pass an entrance exam.

His pretty wife is at first of the opinion that the child requires to focus on friendships and the now and that making her attend “cram school” will be harmful to her.

There is also the question of expense.

Somehow a whole lot of people get tugged into this exuberant current of a father who wants to be worthy of his kid by struggling through schooling along with her.

All sections of society are represented from the super richie rich classmate of the kid whose father happens to have been classmate of Kaori’s father to the cute school teacher, almost a kid herself, whose attitude is well representative of teacher mentalities even here in India, to Sakurai’s workmates, his carpenter father…

Such a TV drama can be made anywhere in India and would be a huge hit if suitably adapted to our current conditions. I’d suggest only the most minor of tweaks.

Sadao Abe is such a great actor that I’d watch anything that has him in it. Crazy For Me or Kokoro ga Pokkito ne deserves a blog all to itself. A superlative experience.

It’s hard to get good trailers/teasers of Japanese shows 😦

Kyoko Fukada is just too cute as is to say more about but it’s not that she’s not a great actor in her own right.

I’m so sorry I can’t give you anything other than this but she’s just toooo pretty! Khaaaaaaaawaaaaaaaiiiiiiii!
Kyoko Fukada - red carpet at Harry Potter 2007 Tokyo
Grandfather, Kaoru Kobayashi, is a veteran  and entertains as always.

Midnight Diner is a must watch, drama or film, season 1, 2 or 3 and, hopefully, the new Part 2 of the film.

Japanese dramas routinely tackle school stories.

However, the sad fact remains that most of us cannot access J dramas, easily or at all. And this blinds us to a wealth of beauty.

In the name of copyright, piracy and DMCA, we’re being herded into a narrow pen where we shall, in the name of so-called law and order, only watch anything made in India (or whatever region you are in) or from Holy Hollywood and ilk.

Growing Hope And Nourishing Sustainability

Late November 2016 saw us in Chennai for a workshop on writing science. This was held in the MSSRF building there. The M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation brings together people interested and engaged in sustainable livelihoods among other things. And, indeed, throughout our brief stay there, we not only interacted with such men and women as part of the workshop but also witnessed the coming and going of others. Each one involved in something thrilling like coastal systems, fisheries or forests.

As for the workshop, you will find more about it here.

This blog post is about the garden in the main Foundation building.

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We were told that the garden reflects a classification of lands into 5 categories in ancient Tamil literature dating some 2000 years back. Sangam literature, we were informed, contains references to this phenomenon.  

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Kurinji or hilly areas, Mullai or forests, Marutham or croplands, Neithal or seashores and Pālai or deserts.

There were even iconic animals for each region: Monkey, elephant, horse and bull for Kurinji, deer for Mullai, water buffalo, freshwater fish for Marutham, crocodile, shark for Neithal and fatigued elephant, tiger, or wolf for Palai.

Tolkappiyam deals with it in detail.

It was indeed very gratifying to see that this foundation has replicated those categories in the small garden that nestles in the heart of the main building!

MSSRF works hard and with youthful vigour, celebrating global initiatives like the Year of Pulses and Pulses Panchayat through the many men and women engaged in implementing and broadcasting its mission.

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There is also a Touch and Smell garden for the visually impaired in another part of the complex.

Such keen engagement with the human and geographical environment interface is surely a reflection of aspirations of the Foundation!

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Unexpected Faces Of Death In Japanese Films

What if Death was not a Bogeyman?

What if Death was a cute little girl?

A down on his luck Samurai, one day, drunkenly invokes the gods. Inebriated, he does not realise that he has called on the gods of misfortune!

After a roller coaster ride through the many and hilarious things that befall him the hero comes face to face with the worst of them all. A film to be enjoyed again and again and again.

Sadly, the above trailer is not subtitled but do try to get your hands on this film!

Japan seems to have evolved a concept of shinigamis. There are many dramas about these beings who help humans through the time of transition between life and death.

In this film where God is possibly a cute dog and the hero, a most adorable Shinigami, could it be that a human has finally found a way to outwit Death?

Watch Sweet Rain if only for the exquisite beauty of Takeshi Kaneshiro.

Among dramas, I’ve watched and enjoyed the following:

Loss:Time:Life

Ryusei Wagon

One such is actually ongoing and quite cute

Omukae desu

Please do find a way to watch these films and dramas and if you’ve seen any of them I’d love to discuss them with you.

Tampopo -Food Porn And A Takeoff On Movie Genres

Dear readers, you’ll have to forgive me for wandering off my usual circuit but, for now, at least, my parikrama takes us on a tour of some fantastic films from around the world. We’re starting with Japan.

For a 1985 film, Tampopo is surprisingly easy to watch if you can break out of the usual habits of watching. As the opening scenes caution, it’s a sin to crunch popcorn or have phones beefing when watching a film. Blink and you’ll miss the connections.

But I confess I’m abnormally restless and had only a fleeting idea of the film when I first saw it. Flashes remained – a spaghetti eating scene, an erotic scene involving food, a scene where a master explains how one should eat ramen…I was drawn to watch it again and now I end up watching it at intervals – each time I notice something more – a sound here, a piece of acting there, a reference, a lighting…

As it happens, in 2006 there appeared a Ramen film which makes many references to Tampopo.

With a high score on Rotten Tomatoes and supposed to be a favourite of Edward Norton on IMDB, this is a film which will tickle you enormously and it’s a must have, an absolute collector’s item.

Rent it on Netflix or buy it on Amazon, I promise you’ll have acquired a treasure.

SHEROES Meet – Women@Work, Pune, June 17, 2016

India has some 586.47 million females, according to a census site. Of these, the adults too form a significant number. Alas, not many of them can easily find employment. Many take a maternity break after a period at work and find it hard to return to jobs. But this is only one reason why a lot of smart and sincere women in India today languish in unemployment while rising costs and personal fulfilment dreams soar with each passing day.

Sheroes Pune Venture Centre June 17, 2016
Sheroes get together at Pune’s Venture Centre June 17, 2016

Beyond the individual needs, it is the nation, too, which suffers without recourse to this able skilled and talented task force.

In early 2011 I’d joined an initiative called Fleximoms which offered, as the name suggests, freelance and home based work for stay home mothers and such.   As I wasn’t too sure what I really wanted to do  I never really visited the site much.

Along the way it grew and developed into Sheroes, a warm and very user friendly web site for women looking for employment opportunities. But it’s much more than just another job site.

And this Saturday I had a chance to see Sheroes in action at a cosy little Meetup in the Venture Centre, Pune.

I reached there at about 3 and met the few others who had also arrived early: a young lady with a career background in HR, a software specialist, a psychologist and a content writer. The latter’s life had literally been turned around after she discovered Sheroes.

Shweta Shalini of he BJP
IT professional, politician Shweta Shalini

The first speaker, Shweta Shalini,  broke the ice with her exhortations and humour. Besides some very acute observations on how to balance family and profession, she loosened up audience tension with her wit and charm.

Sheroe Sonali Brahma
Sheroe Sonali Brahma basically introduced the concept and invited questions

Sheroe Sonali Brahma followed up by briefly discussing what the website was all about and quickly invited and replied to questions.

By then there was a goodly crowd of women of various ages and from various professional backgrounds. The questions flew fast and furious, showing how thirsty the participants were for more information on Sheroes and how much they craved the mentoring on offer.

Sheroe Paroma Sen
Sheroe Paroma Sen

Young Sheroe Paroma Sen then sketched some plans for the future and opened the floor for Venture Centre to tell us about its vision and mission.

Talk on Venture Centre
Talk on Venture Centre

And then we all trooped out for some wonderful tea and biscuits and group photos and networking at the canteen.

Which is where I met author Madhuri Maitra.

Equinox

And loads of starry eyed bubbly young ladies of all ages variously into art from recycled materials, organic farming, entrepreneurs and financial experts…

I look forwards to future Sheroe interactions with a heart full of hope and I actually did a little dance on the road on my way home!