I see a woman standing at the traffic light
Even in her shabbiness, she’s neat and clean
She stands on the wayside wondering
For the hundredth time what she is doing on the street.
People look at her from their car windows
A nonchalant glance up and then away
Their psycho-social barriers
Comfortingly coming down to save their day
From unpleasant pangs of conscience
As they niggle at the edges of their minds
The world is troubled, their impact small
Sometimes it’s just better to be blind.
She looks at the faces in the cars
Indifferent, unseeing; wishing her away
She clutches the hem of her tattered shirt
Picks up the gumption to still walk their way
She looks at a lady who hasn’t averted her eyes
The shame is too much and she swallows hard
Even so, she manages a faint little smile
Hoping for kindness, compassion, regard
The lady looks up, seeing her for the first time
She’s irritated, she’s irked for letting her guard down
Beggars, pleaders of various requests
Destroy her peace of mind, she frowns.
She waves a dismissive hand at the sight
And looks away, she will not lock eyes
Maybe the beggar will go to the next car
With her chafing, imploring enterprise
The woman feels the withering blow
As she hurriedly backs away from the car
The wounds in her heart are bleeding anew
Everyday there are fewer healing scars
She stumbles back onto the foot path
Eyes stinging with hopelessness and fatigue
This world seems done with the likes of her
She too is done with her destiny.
How some people call all the shots
For you and me; on what’s right and what’s not
On how we should all live our lives
On what we should want to grow and to thrive.
And we follow them like so many mice
The Pied Piper surely leaves us no choice
How some nations are on top of their game
And others continually parry insults and blame
Some swirl around in their blood, sweat and tears
While others race on winds of good cheer
And yet we stand by like so many sheep
The First World Dream will not let us be
How the spirit of our humanity
Has gone into permanent servitude
For the battle of egos of the few
Losing our grip on what’s right and true
And we circle around like so many moths
Burning our wings in the flames of their wrath
How hard it has become of late
To step out of the comfort of the bell curve
Created to kill off the being that’s you
Teaching you how you must hate and love
And we fight on like so many soldiers sore
Thinking one more battle will win us the war
Even as I write these lines
A question skips on the edge of my mind
No, there are two for misery loves company
Who’ll tell me the answers that I seek to find -
When did the glow inside you cease to exist?
When did Instinct and Courage let go of my wrists?
“What is your name my dear
Where do you come from?”
(IN HER MIND)
I like the basic look of you
But what place do you call home?
I look at her expectant face
It’s so brimful of hope
I wonder if I should in fact
Play to her embedded tropes
I smile a little smile and then
I look her in the eye
“I’m from _____, my friend”.
I see her excitement wilt and die
She rallies as best she can
She goes to a lot of trouble
But I’ve put a big fat pin into
Her socio-cultural bubble
Her smile, it slowly wanes and then
It falters to a grim
Look of being unsure, like she’s
Invited the enemy in
I look into her eyes and see
I smile a bigger smile now
To appease, to be an ointment
A chance I give to those who seem
Caught in a state of flux
Their hearts and minds, in a grind
That confusion surely sucks!
But She doesn’t warm up to me
Her face is now quite set
The name and the person
Are no longer relevant
(IN HER MIND)
You’ve told me where you come from
That’s enough for me, thank you.
My steadfast biases have
Second-guessed the rest of you.
The advances, hesitant at first, became more tenacious and vigorous as Sherry Kumar began to actively pursue Manel. She, for her part, was first puzzled, then agitated and finally began to perform a series of vanishing acts which left her breathless and her pursuer more ardent than ever before. This relentless cat and mouse chase continued for a month before a mentally exhausted Manel finally allowed herself to be cornered by her beaming, zealous stalker. She faced him shaking with unspent fury – How dare he! How dare he make her want to run away from her own home!
‘How dare you! How dare you chase me like I’m some leyna*! This is my home! Stop hassling me or I’ll – I’ll hit you!’ she raged, her racing heart threatening to break through her rib cage.
‘I just want to talk to you …’ Sherry Kumar responded placatingly. He hadn’t realized how deplorably his earnest efforts to just have a chat with her had been perceived. He was a little stunned, but mostly exhilirated at finally having the chance to lay his heart bare. For Sherry Kumar was in love; he had been, in fact, since his first fortnight at Serendib Lodge. Usually he’d beam and blink in blue-green tones at his object of affection and that sealed the deal, or not, with both probabilities playing out in equal measure. This was a first where he’d had to so passionately chase after someone for over a month and then be called a stalker for it.
‘What do you want?’ asked Manel, her face set in a frown that, by its sheer comical ferocity, indicated that it was far from being a regular visitor on that usually peaceful countenance. Even while she showed her unmitigated displeasure on the outside, she was more in control on the inside, seeing the man in front of her for the unexceptional mortal he was and not the fire-breathing dragon who’d been chasing her right into her nightmares for the past month.
‘I like you and I want to take you out to dinner’, said Sherry Kumar also back in control of the situation, and continuing down the oft-beaten path of his love lusts.
Manel looked at him as if she had just been handed a bag of rotten eggs.
‘I don’t want to go out to dinner with you. Stop coming after me or I’ll tell Melba’ she said in what was supposed to be the ultimate threat.
It has to be said that her complete and utter disdain and repulsion was borne more from her complete naïveté regarding relationships and their tortuous, sometimes awkward beginnings, than any real distaste for the man. She, however, wasn’t able to tell the difference – not yet.
And so Sherry Kumar retreated – for now.
After their first tumultuous meeting at the foot of the stairs, life had gone back to being ordinary and unremarkable. Manel remained wary but kept herself prepared for any recurrence of the earlier embarrassing episode, with regular doses of fortifying self talk. She went about her day, studiously avoiding her pursuer’s eyes but steadfastly fighting the urge to flee whenever he was around.
It was in February, three months after Sherry Kumar arrived at Serendib Lodge that he came down with dengue fever, the mosquito borne tropical disease that reduced brawny men to waifs of their former selves while in the throes of the fever. Sherry Kumar was no exception as the fever ravaged him for the next fortnight. He lay listlessly, sometimes appearing half dead and at others, quite completely corpse-like. His ruddy face was wan and the healthful glow of his bald head had reduced to a feverish, clammy glisten.
Manel became his inadvertent nurse and caregiver. Through those two weeks of delirium and exhaustion, she was at his side, feeding him, cleaning after him, helping him to the toilet, sponge bathing him and medicating him. As with most situations which show up the vulnerability and frailty of creatures, this too inspired sympathy, kindness and in Manel’s case, a softening of the heart. She now looked at the man lying lifelessly before her, willing him to heal and be whole again; to smile again; to talk to her again … to say some things to her again …. She looked away, blushing with the brazenness of her own thoughts; and then regained her composure with that censorious self deprecation that is such a hallmark of both, actual women of the cloth and those that avidly and truly imagine themselves to be nun-like: you’re 60 years old – love is for the young and carefree. Stop behaving like a giggly teenager!
With that, she went back to her nursing responsibilities with the chill of abstinence in her eyes and the armour of prohibition around her heart.
On the tenth day, Sherry Kumar woke up to Manel’s strained, serious countenance. She was reading a copy of the Pirith Potha*. He looked at her, instinctively wary of reigniting the fuse; and yet, there she was, so close, so reachable.
‘Hello Manel, nice to see you in my bedroom’ he said rustling up his characteristically optimistic spirit even as he lay there physically weak and spent.
Manel smiled in spite of herself. She allowed herself to look into the depths of those green eyes, mustering up the courage to briefly speak the language of the heart with this strange man; this oddly endearing man.
Sherry Kumar got well and back on his feet over the next ten days. He was gentle and subdued in his interactions with Manel – he had realized the discordance of his customary romantic ways with this extraordinary woman. Manel, in turn realized that she enjoyed his company; and more importantly, that she permitted herself to enjoy his attention. There was no trace of his earlier brutish, overbearing attitude. She was convinced that the sickness had changed him in some mysterious but blessed manner.
Mel saw the burgeoning friendship of the two with some foreboding. She wasn’t sure whether it was her own sense of self preservation or her concern for her friend of four decades that stoked her apprehension. She didn’t dwell on the motives for too long; those were irrelevant. What was important was that she talk to Manel; drum some sense into her. She had lost her head nursing that idiot.
So she sat Manel down and delivered a sermon full of horror, fire and brimstone. Manel listened with awe and then misgiving and finally, shame.
Sherry Kumar approached Manel once more, hesitantly but earnestly: Would she marry him he asked. Manel was adamantly clear – she would not.
It was November again and Sherry Kumar had left Serendib Lodge six months ago. He had remained in touch with Mel through text messages and FaceBook posts. He had no connection with Manel.
‘Manel look at this photo, aney*!’, said Mel one afternoon while they were both sitting in the veranda while billowing grey sheets of rain fell outside. It was a photo of Sherry Kumar with Shilpa, a girl who had frequented their home for years until she had moved to Kandy as, first a caregiver and then a companion to a recently widowed elderly woman. The caption read, “Just married! With my dream girl”
‘Aney ara pissa*, he’s finally got married!’ chortled Mel.
Manel looked at the image for a while, a crowd of emotions ricocheting through her head – sadness, regret, relief, disappointment and finally, defeat. She knew she had made the right decision and yet her heart fluttered brokenly. In her mind, even though she had rejected her suitor, he would remain devoted to her; even in the sea of people around him; amidst his cresting and waning relationships, he would continue to hold a candle for her. She smiled and then without warning even to herself, she cried, the tears falling like a river down her face while her heart shrivelled into a ball.
Mel looked at her incredulously, bewildered by her behaviour, ‘what’s wrong? God knows how long this will last. Thank God you escaped his clutches’.
Manel wept silently for a while and then nodded in acquiescence … resignation. She looked outside at the garden, trying to let go, to reach ahead; to reach beyond herself and her inexplicable grief.
The rain had stopped and turgid drops of water fell from the leaves on the trees as they stirred almost in sympathy and understanding for the lonely woman who walked among them.
* Leyna: Squirrel, in Sinhalese
* Aney: colloquial Sinhalese for “Aww, bless!”
* Pirith Potha: Book of Buddhist religious verses that are recited for protection. “Pirith” is the Sinhalese word for “Paritta” (in Pali) which means Protection.
* Aney ara pissa: colloquial Sinhalese for “oh that crazy lovable idiot”
‘Chhip! Yanna!’(1), Manel scolded a cheerfully departing squirrel as it scampered off with a big chunk of foam from one of the sofa cushions in the veranda. She had a love-hate relationship with these feisty little denizens of the garden: she screamed and hollered at their fervent pillaging of everything that could be bitten or gnawed off, while she tut-tutted in sympathy when she found one of them dead in the flower beds; the victim of either a rodent-hunting garandia* or of the easeful burden of old age such as it tended to come upon them in their bountiful lives at 75, High Level Road.
She picked up the maimed cushion and dusted it down as if re-settling it diligently into its comfortable nook would somehow repair the damage. With Manel, a lot was symbolic and much was left to the quite often, fickle good graces of the universe.
Manel lived with Melba aka Mel, her companion and friend of 42 years and the matriarch and grande dame of their house in Nugegoda. She had brought Manel to her home from the Evelyn Nurseries orphanage in Kandy when Manel was 18 years old. Recently divorced and on her own for the first time in her 28 years, Mel had embarked on this enterprise of companionship with much deliberation and reflection. She was the product of missionary school education and the Colombo elite, a combination that, while breeding the well-heeled socialites of the city, also begot dozens of cultured, articulate but professionally unqualified widows and divorcees . These inhabitants of the now fringes of privilege – since the elite bell curve was usurped quite entirely by the debutantes and the still-married – were not only summarily launched into solitary independent lives but also into a world where they had to learn to fend for themselves. And Mel had gone at it with the tenacity of a bull dog: unlearning, relearning, challenging and changing the day to day norms and expectations that had bound her life so fully in her maiden days and even during her short wedded life. After four decades of dealing with the petulant, cantankerous universe of her existence, she had ripened Into a woman of many words and a somewhat short fuse that quite persuasively masked a still tender heart.
Manel was the antithesis of everything Mel was. Where Mel was loud and commanding, Manel was soft and placating; where one bull-dozed into situations, the other treaded with caution. It would be unjust to imagine that Manel’s reticence of nature and restraint were borne of Mel’s draconian demeanour; the matriarch was especially gentle with her beloved shrinking violet and protected her fiercely from the waywardness of the world. It was quite logical to imagine then that Manel was most likely bestowed with her acute sensitivity by the frivolous hands of nature itself. Physically too, the two were in serene discordance with each other: Mel was tall and willowy, while her companion was short and plump. One fiddled with the food on her plate, preferring instead to have a cigarette dangling from a mouth that was simultaneously engaged in an epic telling or retelling; the other made short, efficient shrift of every fulsome meal in front of her. And so the two women had lived together in almost improbable but perfect harmony and neither could imagine being without the companionship of the other.
Over the last twenty years, the two women had made such basic arrangements in their home that had allowed them to let out the three rooms upstairs to paying guests. Staying at the Serendib Lodge was just a little less than checking into a bed and breakfast and a tad more than residing in a friendly stranger’s home, where there was no expectation of guests at all. The set up, despite its informality and simplicity, did quite well, supplementing the meagre income that Mel received from her other modest assets. Their guests were multi cultural and for the most part, gracious and undemanding. Some even put down semi-permanent roots staying six months or a year in the hospitable lodgings of the two women. Mel revelled in the new company while Manel’s associations were mostly limited to the quiet sharing of meals and the simple exchange of pleasantries when she passed them on the stairs or at the main door. She liked it that way – the house alive with energy she could feel but activity she could, for the most part, not see or be a part of.
It was the festive season, a day in November in fact, when Chirkoot Kumar first came to stay at Serendib Lodge. Better know as Sherry Kumar, he tended to hide the hapless burden of his first name, a dubious gem bestowed on him by his paternal grandfather, away from the judging eyes of the world. He was a short, stout man with a gleaming bald head and a perennial smile on his round face. Looking at the world dead on from the otherwise unremarkable face was a pair of striking green eyes. They were large and chameleon-like, changing colours in congruence with their surroundings. He swept into the two women’s lives like a ship into harbour – grandly, triumphantly and with the resounding drop of an anchor. To all intents and purposes, it appeared that he had come to stay. At 65 years old, he was still in love with life and went about it with the zeal of a teenager. Mel immediately took to him, spending every hour that he had free and in the house, at his side. They talked about politics, cricket, the sorry state of the world, the even sorrier state of their social peers and the best koththu in town. She had in her earlier gusto for the scintillating company, tried a bit of flirtation too which was met with smiling equanimity by Sherry and a soon-to-follow chiding, deriding note to herself. She wasn’t the “falling in love” type! She was the chatty, smart-alecky sort who liked nothing better than to regale and be regaled; to banter endlessly until the sun came up or went down depending on what defined the tail end of a 4 hour session of gab and gossip.
Through this reverberating environment of ceaseless chatter, Manel continued to be quiet and retiring. She had yet again seen the entire sequence of a relationship, such as it occasionally tended to assail Mel, unfold in quick time and then settle into an easy camaraderie. She had at its various junctures, felt amusement, anxiety and finally a peaceful acclimatisation to its newest flame, who was now a friend in Mel’s life. She didn’t resent the fact that Mel spent less and less time with Manel these days. She had her hands full doing the laundry and the cooking for the three and sometimes four and five residents of Serendib Lodge; and of course, she loved her time in the garden. It was a little patch of emerald green surrounded by a wondrous array of colours and chaos that looked like it had dropped right off a nature painter’s canvas. She had a flair for creating life that revelled in the joy of wild abandon. Cats claws and Thunbergia climbed curving and looping around Araliya, Mango and Indian almond trees, leaving bright splashes of yellow, purple and white in their meandering wake. For the time that she was in the garden, Manel was one with the burgeoning, budding world around her.
(1) Chhip! Yanna!: Colloquial Sinhalese for “Shoo! Go away!”
* Garandia: Sri Lankan Rat snake that feeds on rodents
Read Part Two here: https://theroamingdesi.org/2021/05/24/serendib-lodge-part-two/
This piece is inspired by the dramatic elements of surprise that are innate to tropical weather. An ethereal tribute to Sri Lanka.
Title inspiration from Mark Medoff’s 1979 play titled “Children of a Lesser God”. Screen-adapted in 1986 by the same title.
Indra: Hindu storm god
Yu Shi: Chinese rain god
Zeus: Greek storm god
Calandra: Greek goddess of rain
Olympus: Abode of the gods and site of the throne of Zeus
Having lived in the golden arms of a tropical island in the Indian Ocean for over 5 years now, I have had ample opportunity to experience its whimsical flirtations with the weather gods. From a spirited lightsaber play with Indra*, to a blitheful dance in the rain with Yu Shi* to a gladiatorial display of stormy rage and thunder with Zeus*, the tear drop island of Sri Lanka has perfected a celestial theatre all its own. The spectators, all its creature denizens, are left sometimes daunted, sometimes dazzled but mostly awed.
Here’s my attempt at describing a not so unusual day in the equatorial climes of Serendib.
Act 1 - Scene 1:
I wake up to a pale amber light filling the space above the curtain rails in my bedroom. The usually glad-eyed sun is in a somber mood today as I draw back the drapes on an overcast day. I can feel the fickle aura of the atmosphere seep into my bones and I know it’s going to be one of those weather-wise dramatic days. I arm myself with an umbrella as I step out into the late morning torpor. For while the heavens prepare to unleash their elemental surprises for the day, the moisture laden warmth of the tropics continues to caress all and sundry with sticky-wet fingers.
The clouds continue to gather in thick-bodied eskers along the horizon while the sky above shifts between a myriad shades of grey. The trees sway to the side favoured by the wind, rustling prophetically of things to come. Then suddenly they are still, silent.
A storm is brewing.
Act 1 - Scene 2:
As far away as the rain bearing clouds appeared 20 minutes ago, they have magically, mysteriously traversed the curvature of our atmosphere and are now directly overhead. The grey of the sky becomes opaque like thick wedges of granite. Even though you’ve witnessed this drum roll of a scene a million times, it stops you in your tracks, makes you look up, sends the smallest of cold shivers down your spine. If you’re indoors, you look on from the safety of your enclosed space. If you’re in your car, you hurry home; if you’re walking, you quicken your steps to the nearest shelter.
And then the weather gods begin their ethereal orchestra as big fat drops of rain begin to pelt the earth in an opening prelude.
Act 1 - Scene 3:
Lightning forks through the sky in an ever widening mesh across the city, its jagged ends tearing into the clouds overhead. Jeering, threatening, laughing Thunder strides along with its booming megaphone. The stuporously falling rain has now transformed into sinewy sheets that cut diagonally into the stinging, singing earth. The usually bustling streets are almost empty; when the gods are at play, the mortals look on from safe distances. Maternal Calandra* cloaks the city in a gentle haze, blurring out the most riotous parts of the explosive crescendo.
And the rain continues to come down.
Act 2 - Scene 1:
The glistening leaves on the rain-washed trees rustle in the evening breeze, shaking off their watery burdens drop by drop. The Earth rises from her lotus position, stretching out her arms, a sweet petrichor exuding from every pore. Flying, crawling, creeping creatures poke out wary heads, blinking at their shimmering world. The more intrepid venture out for a last meal before their day is finally done. Fledglings raise a stridently petulant clamour, instinctively aware that the beast has moved on and their world is once more safe and bounteous.
People hurry on with their lives, still guarded, still weather-anxious but impelled by that unceasing urge to get up and go on.
There is a final roll of distant thunder as Zeus laughs one last time.
The clouds clear and a rosy orange sunset appears on the horizon as the rest of the deific thespians head back to Olympus*, their cosmic romping done for the day.
Act 2 - Carpe Momentum:
The late evening breeze is cool and crisp as it darts nimbly into gardens and homes, nipping gently at sun-browned skin. The sky is clearer, brighter as Orion and Taurus blink in nocturnal wakefulness. The smaller creatures are abed, while the bigger ones slow down in the gentle luminescence of a clear, fragrant night.
Tomorrow will be another day with its own atmospheric act and aura, for that is the way of the lusty tropics. And the children of the weather gods will awaken to a new day, fresh beginnings and another chance to get it right.
My trek across the galaxy that began with Star Trek, Deep Space 9 (DS-9), has continued with the constant state of high adventure of the Voyager. Although I’m still traversing the Delta quadrant with the intrepid crew in the middle of season 6, the glimmers of home in the alpha quadrant seem brighter with each episode. And after almost 150 episodes, I feel like I can put some pixel energy behind the cause of the on-screen Voyager effort.
Straight off, I have to get this little confession off my terran, earth-bound chest: the Voyager despite its majestic galavanting across uncharted space, just doesn’t warm the cockles of the heart as DS-9 did. The fact that DS-9 was a space station and therefore some semblance of “solid ground” where the inter-galactic shenanigans took place, could have been the magic bullet; or it could just be the quirky wholesomeness of all its alien characters. Either way, my sojourn with Voyager has seen its fair share of hoping for a quick photonic catapult to Earth, which would also gracefully allow me to wormhole out of a few episodes! And when frustration with the elusive Caretaker and his speed devil of an invention becomes over-powering enough for me to pull the plug on the whole thing, a fabulous little episode or two come along and I continue to fondly persevere through yet another ST-Voyager cloaked pandemic evening.
All the main characters of Voyager appear to be doppelgängers of the primary DS-9 crew: Tom Paris is fashioned after our endearingly narcisstic Dr. Bashir; B’ellana Torres, like Kira, is as fiery as she is compassionate; Harry Kim is the youthful avatar of Chief O’ Brian; Tuvok is as painfully forthright as Odo and carries himself with the same idiosycratic panache of one who is obliged in his professional capacity, to deal tolerantly with the rabble around him; Neelix is like a glorified Rom, compassionate and wise under a jocular exterior; the good doctor is a combination personality imbibing traits from across the spectrum while holographically catalysing the episodes where the usual flesh and blood would put a quick (and gruesome!) end to the story. With his cool temperament, Chakotay is the Jadzia Dax of Voyager, bringing that essential equilibrium and balance to the management equation. Seven of Nine is definitely the embodiment of many an adolescent male’s fantasy: beautiful, robotic and not shy. Captain Janeway though makes a much better captain than her DS-9 counterpart. That husky voice and the southern drawl combined with her peculiar professional maternity quite nicely clinches the part.
Other Deep Space Distillations:
-The staff quarters are like 5-star hotel suites, roomy with panoramic views of the stars and any number of cosmic aurora borealis. The experience is further authenticated with the complimentary chocolates (read: replicators!) and floral arrangements from across the galaxy.
-Many of the episodes are tear jerkers in their overload of drama and emotions. I admit to having wiped a tear or 3 at the fag ends of an unusually large number of episodes! (I did put it down to PMS the first few times but the Voyager and I have been steady roommates through the last 5 weeks and the lachrymal glands continue to keep pace).
-There is little to no chemistry between Torres and Paris, except maybe of the phonetic kind regarding their last names. The directors did well to keep that relationship nuanced rather than giving it an all-out screen presence. However, Seven of Nine’s largely unemotional “Borgness” and the Captain’s authoritarian maternal aura were spot on; permanent/ deep-seated love interests would have detracted from the believability of their characters.
-The little red thread that goes through most of the Voyager episodes is the almost fable-like quality of its various plot lines. Social issues across a wide gamut are sometimes playfully and sometimes poignantly portrayed. From wars, to parenting, to AI/ holographic rights and ethics, to sexism and racism, the intergalactic heart is mostly in the right place, even if human ethnocentricity does come across from time to time. (After all, as far as we know, the audience species for the series is one: Earthly and humanoid!)
-Since the DS-9 and Voyager productions overlapped for over 4 years, there was a fair amount of character trading as the same actors embodied various species and personalities aboard the 2 galactic strongholds. A few noteworthy examples are Tony Todd who was Worf’s brother and an older Jake Sisko in DS9, was also an alpha hirogen in Voyager; J.G.Hertzler who played General Martok on DS-9, was also a johnny-come-lately, well-meaning hirogen in Voyager; and Jeffery Combs who played Weyoun and the relentless Ferengi, Brunt in DS-9, continued to be the wringer of inter-galactic skill and strength in Voyager as Penk, the insidious organizer of galactic gladiatorial competitions.
I have about 40 episodes to go before Voyager reaches home or arrives at the fate sketched for it by her creators. And I still have to see a heart-warmer akin to the Vic Fontaine episodes of DS-9. The Voyager crew, however, does make ample use of their holodecks to recreate 19th and 20th century European utopias such as they are/ were. And so, between leisurely trips to Sandreine’s in scintillating Paris, and Fair Haven in old world Ireland, the crew and I are calling upon all our Netflix binge prowess to go a-tripping across the last 30,000 light years or so to the final finish.
Will I be embarking on another Star Trek sojourn after this? Unlikely until Discovery puts forth new material.
Until then, live long and prosper and while you’re at it, stay safe and be kind to one another.
Read my blogpost FILM PICKINS | STAR TREK- DEEP SPACE 9 here: https://theroamingdesi.org/2021/01/22/film-pickins-star-trek-deep-space-9/
GENRE: Action/ Thriller
CAST: Hillary Swank, Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Amy Madigan, Emma Roberts and Ethan Suplee
DIRECTOR: Craig Zobel
PRODUCERS: Damon Lindelof, Jason Blum
Straight up, it was like a grownup version of The Hunger Games. I call it “grownup” on account of the many shining personal examples portrayed by so many of the septuagenarian leaders of our world today – power mongering seniors dealing in their own oddball ways with the ideas of freedom, rebellion and the corrupting nature of power in a 21st century twist of Orwell’s Animal Farm.
It was actually pretty entertaining satire on the current state of (arguably!) the most powerful country on the planet. And there were no gentle veneers to soften the brazen cinematic finger-pointing at the current administration’s many “foibles”. The director went straight for the throat of the Trump electorate and their manifesto of mindless conspiracy theories and misplaced outrage.
It also showed the rather ominous moral turn the liberal Left is capable of taking when push comes to shove: of giving blood thirsty life to Right wing paranoia and grievance.
There is also this bit of limbo that is left swinging gently in the aftermath of all the Quentin Tarantino inspired blood and gore – whether in fact in an ironic twist of fate, the conservative Right was onto something after all, and that there was a concerted Left wing effort to wipe the slate clean of the vocal “red neck” illiterates and take back their country. The ploy lay in whose moral outrage was strong enough to deploy their “Napoleon” (the dicatatorial pig in Animal Farm) as Head of the new America where “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”.
All in all, very neatly edited, quick paced and chockfull of farce.
I’d have rated it at least a 7 on IMDB rather than it’s current 6.5. But then I may just be the small minority who saw the genius comedy in all that blowing out of countless brains and innards while each side tried to morally reason out their respective version of insanity.
De Khudai pe aman
We have indeed entered the Age of the Mighty Microbes as the days go by and mankind continues to buckle at the knees in the face of the latest onslaught. Welcome to 01AC – Year 1, Anno Coroni
Despite the obvious ravages wrought by the bacillus, one can’t help but take an existential view of the situation. Twenty first century Political ideologues, Economic powerhouses and Moral custodians all continue to be similarly baffled and besieged by the all-embracing, unrelenting sweep of the “invisible enemy” – some would say a Diviner, a harbinger of things to come.
In the midst of this unprecedented assailment, Melpomene and Thalia* have managed to do a few merry dances together choreographed by Dionysus** himself, as we continue to see blitzes of comedy, madness, revelry and of course, kindness and triumph in the advancing milieu.
The Comedy and the Madness: personified so aptly by our very own planetary resident uno – the 45th president of the US of A. His initially altogether bewildered, butted-in-the-stomach look has very rapidly evolved to his signature winging-it-with-the-confidence-of-a-rocket/ (microbiology!)-scientist avatar. This time though, the usual spin doctoring is very hard to believe even if one is a Die-Hard Trump supporter. Because when all’s said and done, there is a difference in dying hard literally, especially with the Corona at the helm of the transition from figurative to literal. Entertaining and cringe-worthy simultaneously are the expressions of the medical professionals of the American Coronavirus Task Force while Trump oscillates between making comically absurd statements (the “Chinese virus”/ we are hours away from a vaccine) to downright obnoxious ones (slamming a journalist who asked for his response/ reassurance for the troubled American populace at large). Other charming inclusions here are the Brazilian president who thought congenially rubbing shoulders with Senhor Corona was a political tour de force; and the Sri Lankan politico who was convinced that his act of taking off his own well-worn mask and putting it around the face of another was the ultimate apex of on-point political savviness.
Act 1, Scene 1 – Thalia and Melpomene are hamming a demented fox trot all over the summer harvest; the picture is both jocose and psychotic.
The Revelry: with the younger denominator around the globe and the fogyish in places where it is “UnBritish” to enforce controls of any kind, there has been an almost unhinged disregard for the calamitous prophecy embedded in the Corona DNA. Pubs, clubs and beaches have continued to be thronged by the Corona cynics; because communal drinking and socialising traditions that have prevailed even through the extreme exigences of WW2 can hardly be sidelined by the scare tactics of a (Boris) Johnny come lately.
Act 1- Scene 2: The Theatre twins are pantomiming a steroid-fuelled ballroom dance across the streets of the First World.
The Triumph: And then, the veni, vidi, vici moments of some nations as they adjusted for, battled and triumphed (at least for now) over the ‘C-adversary’. In an ironic twist of fate, the bulk of the nations here have been from the Asian/ developing world. The dignity, gravitas, foresightedness and pertinacity with which these nations brought their people together to ‘little by little, drive out” the enemy is unparalleled, given, in some cases, the relative vastness of their populations.
The Corona may yet turn the tables and angle the tide on the current world order. It may yet drastically change priorities and aspirations, visions and goals, neighbourliness and compassion, community and connections – the very essence of what defines us as humankind.
Act 1- Final scene: While Melpomene slumbers, Thalia sways gently to the rhythm of the swishing leaves as a fresh, new breeze blows lightly through the field.
De khudai pe aman.
*Melpomene and Thalia: the Muses of Tragedy and Comedy respectively
**Dionysus: Greek god of Theatre and other fun things! Look him up 🤓