Monday, May 30, 2016

Books: Running with the Kenyans

Adharanand Finn writes about his experiences in training for a marathon in this book. If you look at running, Kenyans have been dominating this field. They have been winning medals in most of the famous events. This book tries to understand what make Kenyans such good runners based on the author's experience. As Finn tries to learn running from the Kenyans, Kenya seems to be the best place for getting that education. So, Finn packs his bag and moves to Kenya for a year.

Finn has a family. So it is not easy to relocate to Kenya even for a short duration. Fortunately for him, his partner and his children are excited about the move. The life in Kenya is different from the one they are used to. But they make the best use of it. This aspect is inspiring for the reader. It is not easy to embrace the unknown when you have a comfortable life. The non-fiction genre is full of authors trying out different things once they attain a certain age or after a breakup. Unlike the other, Finn is not undergoing any existential crisis. He sincerely wants to surpass his personal best.

The book is not a comprehensive training material for a marathon. But the book effectively captures the Kenyan spirit and their aspirations. The author tells us why there is an onslaught of Kenyan athletes and what does it mean for them to win these races. The book also gives us the information about various camps and races in the country without endorsing any one of them.

See for yourself. Any expert will give you this advice. Finn takes this advice seriously. Instead of lightning visits to the camps and interviews with various people, he prefers to live in Kenya and undergo training for a year. This way, he can understand the culture better. So the book is like a travel book with a sports background. The narration is factual. Although the language is not humorous, it is not dry either. Having spent a year in Kenya, Finn is the best person to write about this topic.

When compared to Born to Run, this book is less entertaining. But for someone who is a challenge the status-quo in training or life, this book is an inspirational one. You may pick it up if you are athlete and needs reaffirmation on your goal.

Tags: Books,Adharanand Finn,Kenya

Monday, May 23, 2016

Lets do curry for dinner

What is British cuisine? Fish and Chips, Sunday Roast, Bangers and Mash... A few years back, I used to treat British cuisine as an oxymoron. After having lived over here for the past two years, I have grown respectful towards my host country. But there is also another interesting phenomenon in Britain as a result of two factors. The first one is the empire where the sun never set and the second is the liberal immigration policies towards the Commonwealth countries when the sun finally set on the Empire.

While living in colonies, they must have developed a taste for local food. They carried the love for ethnic food back to their country. The immigration policies during the second half of the previous century ensured the ethnic restaurants sprouted up in various parts of the country. The majority of these restaurants feature Indian cuisine. For ease of convenience and also to bulk up the numbers, I have grouped Pakistani and Bangladeshi cuisine under Indian cuisine. Sometimes, simplification is best for comprehension.

A few months, I was traveling by a single carriageway. Out of nowhere, I saw an Indian restaurant. I looked around for signs of prominent office buildings, supermarkets or houses. I couldn't find any. I was passing by Exeter, and I found a Kerala restaurant there. These restaurants do not feature dumbed down version of food sold in India. The food is equally spicy. A Brit will eat the food without upsetting the decorum featuring one of their prominent characteristics namely stoicism.

The Indian cuisine has almost become the national cuisine over. To tell you the truth, I do feel jealous. What do you expect? They have adopted my cuisine. At the same time, I do feel happy too. To understand this feeling, you will have to hear the praises heaped upon the Indian cuisine. The discussion of cuisine invariably leads to a discussion of culture which in turn is fascinating for both the parties, me being one of the parties.

It all leads to a dilemma when you arrange for lunch or dinner at work. Everyone wants to eat Indian. When you are the host, everyone expects to go to an Indian restaurant. When you love food like me, it is really a dilemma.

Photo Courtesy: Johnny Silvercloud

Tags: British Lessons


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Photos: Looking into Bristol

The suspension bridge is always a wonder. Bristol has one. With a curious wonder of the nature, there there is a hill where we can watch the suspension bridge and also look ahead into Bristol. There is also an observatory on the bridge.

This photo was taken from the hill near the observatory. If you like the picture, please feel free to visit my facebook page and like it.

Tags: Photos, Suspension Bridge, Bristol

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Weather and We

The first thing I noticed was the abundance of summer dresses. The setting is office, and hence, such sights invoke two conflicting emotions in me. The first one is warm, happy feeling while the other one is a well-hidden surprise. Are summer dresses an appropriate office wear? The temperature predicted for Leeds is 20 degrees. It is becoming warmer, and by the looks of it, the Summer is here although we are still searching for that elusive Spring.

It is afternoon now. The temperature has soared up to 19 degrees. I can hear occasional laughter. Everybody is in a holiday mood. The cheerful mood warrants a question. Does the weather affect your happiness? For writers, the weather has always been a worthy ally to bring out the emotional turmoil. Mention the rain to any Keralites. You will immediately find an elevation in their happiness levels. I will not be surprised if they do not bring in Padmarajan to their discussion. I wouldn't be surprised if they say Padmarajan invented the rain or Padmarajan & rain are the same thing.

I believe weather often dictates our behavior. I long for Summer. I like the longer days and enhanced energy levels for activities. As a photography enthusiast, Summer does present challenges especially if you are waiting for a sunset photo. On the other hand, Winter is easier. In Winter, you click the sunset and it is time for aperitifs whereas it is time for the bed after a sunset photo in Summer. Will we able to free ourselves from the evil clutches of weather? My friend is unaffected by the weather. I am going with that statement for now. But what about you?

Photo Courtesy: Tobi Gaulke 

Tags: Musings, Weather, Rain

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Hair Factor

Every month is a Movember for us. So what is this exercise all about? I don't qualify to say the above words as I do not sport a moustache anymore. But I am sure several others voiced this question, openly and otherwise. The moustache is a man's sign. Right from childhood, I waited for the first external signs of manhood. I spent countless hours in front of the mirror checking for the evidence of follicle related activities. To accelerate the growth of moustache, I discreetly used the shaving razor. Little did I know, my action may have been discreet, but the after effects were clearly evident on my face.   It is easier to write on a blank page. The phrase found a new meaning in my life.

Everyone in Kerala sported a moustache. This particular categorisation included who were classified as grown up and was not referred to with an endearing prefixed with a grand as in grandfather, granduncle etc. Some of the older generation didn't have a moustache. Although I would encounter the real reason for this soon in my life, I attributed it to the aging process. This attribution was accidental but right on the spot. I would learn it later in my life. Growing up among moustaches of different sizes and shapes, the moustache was one of the criteria to define a handsome man. To rate a moustache, there was two critical factors in my lexicon - the density and the twirl endurance.

The excitement of nurturing and grooming a moustache is only found in certain parts of the world. The rest of the world do not share the same enthusiasm. As you travel towards north from the south, the chances are you find moustache losing the prominence. If you go outside India, there may be genuine interest in why you are sprouting facial hair over your upper lips and also, veiled requests to don a clean shaven look for seeking acceptance. Why is there a disdain for moustaches? 

I don't sport a moustache anymore. I will be lying if I say the losing moustache was not an attempt to be treated as an inside person. The truth is I wanted to be accepted. The other factor that drove me into committing this heinous act was the grays gaining prominence over the blacks. It was making me looking me look older. Stop right there with your hallucinations. George Clooney and Richard Gere may look smart sporting their salt and pepper look. Haven't you heard of "apples to apples, oranges to oranges"? I rest my case.

I am not only the one falling into the acceptance trap. Recently, my recently immigrated friend turns up sans the moustache. I couldn't help smile and ask why. He eluded the reason by citing lesser time for maintenance. What happens when he moves back to India? He might grow it back. While the older ones were dropping moustaches, the younger ones are eager to cultivate facial hair. A friend's son is visiting home on a college break. The son turns up with long hair, an overflowing moustache, and a beard. They are shocked. Then it dawns on them. We know why he had been avoiding Skype calls.

Photo Courtesy: Meena Kadri

Tags: Musings, Moustache

Monday, May 9, 2016

Photos: A carpet of blue

Although flowers comes in different colors, I never thought blue colored flowers would give me somethign worthwhile to photograph. The flowers are called bluebells. They are shaped like bells and the color is blue. I guess that explains how they got the name. 

This was the photo taken in Badbury Clump in Oxfordshire. If you like the picture, please feel free to visit my facebook page and like it.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Movie Review: Palm Trees in the Snow

What happens when culture and distance separate two lovers? Can they keep the flame of love going? There might be unpleasant items tumbling out of the closet when you dig deep to find out about your parents. Though the above themes might not sound coherent, the movie "Palm Trees in the Snow" brings them to together seamlessly. The Spanish film titled "Palmeras en la nieve" in the native language is directed by Fernando González Molina and is based on an eponymous novel written by Luz Gabás.

The story spans 50 years and starts when the colonialism is coming to an end in the world. In the same time, Spain is rapidly losing control on the exotic island of Fernando Pó, the present day Bioko. In 2003, Clarence finds a letter after her dad's death, and she decides to find the people mentioned in the letter. Clarence also finds a diary of her uncle Killian, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. From the diary, she comes to know her grandfather, her father and her uncle had worked in the coffee plantations of Fernando Pó. After attaining adulthood, her uncle moves to the island.

The story explores several themes, but the main point is the forbidden love. The main characters belong to two different cultures and races. The period of the story is turbulent. During those days, these two races had distinct roles - the ruler and the ruled. We could also term the relationship as the oppressor and the suppressed. Is a union of trust and understanding possible between the two? As the end of colonialism is nearing, will such a union be accepted?

There are multiple challenges for the director. It is easier to construct a bygone era in the pages of a book. However, it is tough to translate the same into the screen. If the above challenge is not enough, the director also has to say a story without turning both sides into a caricature. Fortunately for us, the director succeeds. Not only he strikes a balance but also shows us the good and bad side of colonialism. As the story happens in two timelines, the distrust of the cultures to each other is well portrayed. When there is a tug of war between two culture, there are three types involved. The people from the two cultures represents the first two categories. The people, who straddle between the two cultures trying unsuccessfully to act as a bridge, is the third type. This movie successfully captures the ethos of the third class.

There is always drama when two different cultures interact. The movie takes a serious look at it. At 163 minutes of running time, it is a tad longer than the standard feature films. However, it is an appealing one with timelines crisscrossing the narratives and keeping us on the edge. If you want a sensitive drama, then this is for you. At the same time, watch out for the nudity.

Language: Spanish

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ****

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 India License.