Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cinematic Escape

"Don't be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends."
--- Richard Bach, "Illusions"

I finally completed watching the entire season of "Death Note" (Kuro-Hana)and it re-kindled my love for a lot of things Japanese.  Shikata ga nai, it can't be helped.  This fact has no relation to the rest of this post.  I just had to say it; that's all. The aforementioned quote is apropos as more change comes into my life - even though I am somewhat insulated from it, as I am living here in Saudi Arabia.   Every phone call, every meeting, every e-mail is proof positive that life offers a short time for us, and exacts a heavy price.  The best way, then, to pay for it, is to be in the moment NOW.

Which reminds me, I just have to share my thoughts on a movie I saw on the plane from Mumbai to Bahrain last month on my way back from my India trip..  This is U ME AUR HUM  (You Me & Us), directed by Ajay Devgan, topbilling himself and his wife, Kajol.

I don't know to which film this movie pays homage --- there's certainly enough fodder from movies like "The Notebook" or "50 First Dates", but somehow there's something about the movie that takes an unexpected turn which made it more memorable than either. That is, if you do like some amount of melodrama. Please read on if you do.

The first half is rather talky, and the pace was quite slow (and of course, I was on the plane, de-stressing over my travel), so I didn't pay attention to much of the dancing-musical numbers. The premise is rather simple --- a young man makes a half-serious wager with his father over how well the latter can pick up a woman. So the son chooses a middle-aged woman from a table somewhere across the restaurant and this is where the father tries to score some points.

Enter the story of Ajay and Priya. Ajay, a twenty-something psychiatrist, meets Priya, a cocktail waitress working on a cruise ship, and is promptly bowled over. With the help of his friends, Ajay woos Priya. Naturally, the girl gives him the cold shoulder. The lovestruck idiot, however, breaks into her room, reads her diary (more like a scrapbook of her hopes and dreams), and using this privileged information, gets the inside track on her heart. In saccharine fashion, Ajay is guilt-stricken and 'fesses up, and she drops him quicker than you can say "cliche!"

Somehow, they get married and this is where the fun begins... well, she doesn't get disfigured and we have to watch some Florence Nightingale tale, but it's something along the lines of the two earlier movies --- and something that tests the limits of their love. The story in itself is rather homespun, but it does have an unusual receptivity to the supporting characters, and has a much more layered take on the way men and women fall in, and out of love. Of course, the central tenet is the responsibility people take as regards the people whom they love --- do we love because we feel better about the person, or that the person needs our love?

The best moods of the movie are the dark ones --- though sometimes the visuals are rather contrived, and while there is some attempt at levity, including a misplaced music number (danced with incredible zest by Kajol, and awfully treacly at that) in the middle of the heavier dramatic sequences, the serious stuff in the movie works best.

Some of the scenes are real heartbreakers --- as someone who has a close relative dealing with mental illness can truly attest --- which again puts into focus what we value out of our relationships. How many mainstream romantic movies have you seen where the hero confesses that he’s pushed away the woman he loves because she was a millstone around his neck?

Like "The Notebook," this movie succeeds in taking the conventional themes of the genre and gives it additional texture. One warning though --- those people who have no patience for dialogue shouldn't watch it. And oh, of course, get one with good subtitles.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I'm posting an old song from my high school days - a song which we used almost exclusively for recollections/retreats. It's a singer's song, as well, which makes it one of my favorites --- it is both a devotion and a means for catharsis.

It's my proverbial flower for the people who perished in the events leading up to, during, and after 9/11. It isn't much, but I do hope the Lord watches over them just as He is watching over you and me.

And in the meantime, for those whom we love, let us pray that we have the strength to watch over them the best way we can.

(David Meece)

As little children we would dream on Christmas morn
Of all the gifts and toys we knew we'd find
But we never realized a baby born one blessed night
Gave us the greatest gift of our life

We were the reason that He gave His life
We were the reason that He suffered and died
To a world that was lost He gave all He could give
To show us the reason to live

As the years went by we learned more about gifts
And giving of ourselves and what that means
On a dark and cloudy day a man hung dying in the rain
Because of love, because of love

We were the reason that He gave His life
We were the reason that He suffered and died
To a world that was lost He gave all He could give
To show us the reason to live

I finally found the reason for living
It's in giving every part of my heart to Him
In all that I do, every word that I say
I'll be giving my all just for him, for Him

And we are the reason that He gave His life
We are the reason that He suffered and died
To a world that was lost He gave all He could give
To show us the reason to live
He is my reason to live. . .

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Unforgettable Song Trip

Since we are not exactly in a cultural oasis, once upon a while we get an idea of how we are deprived of the things others take for granted back home. Take, for instance, the Judd Apatow production "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" written and starring newcomer Jason Segel and directed by Nicholas Stoller.

Now, it's not Shakespeare, or Scorsese, but the movie doesn't pretend to be. In fact, it's such a straightforward tale that guys can easily relate to it. It's actually a romance tale told from the male perspective. Cool!

Jason Segel should have a career somewhere in comedy, judging from this movie. He still has potential to be like Randy Newman. His songwriting is clever, the lyrics are spot-on. In "Inside of You," sung by the character Aldous Snow (played by Russell Brand), the double meanigs are really funny, and the song is very easy to follow. I've been singing it for quite some time, pushing the Ting Tings aside (and besides, I won't be stuck singing a girl's song forever).

(Jason Segel, Peter Salett, Lyle Workman)
(Russell Brand - "Forgetting Sarah Marshall")

Oh these ancient skies
I've had these wandering eyes
but you took me by surprise
when you let me inside of you
Inside of you

Inside of you
There's got to be
Some part of me
Inside of you

Inside of you, I could cross this desert plain
Inside of you, I can hear you scream my name
Inside of you, while the stars unfold
I've crossed me heart and I've crossed the world
And I need you here and I need to be
Inside of you

Now the flowers bloom
I feel you creep into my room
And if this should be our tune
I'll die here inside of you

And the world explodes
I've never been down this road
Teach me how to glow
While I'm moving
Inside of you

Inside of you, the restless find their dreams
Inside of you, this king has found his queen
Inside of you, all the stars unfold
I've crossed me heart and I've crossed the world
And I need you here and I need to be
Inside of you

Inside of you
Bay blue
So say it's you
To thoughts untrue
Who I woo
It's you I woo

Through and through
And through and through
There's so much more than just a screw
Inside of you

And I was blizzard blind
Felt like I've lost me mind
But you've treated me so kind
I don't know what to do.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Pooped-Up from Pune

It's been two days since I've arrived from Pune where I spent six days on business trip.

Do I have anything to report? Do I?

Pune is about 160 kilometers southeast of megalopolis that is called Mumbai. Unlike my first trip to India where I read up everything I could about Madras, I had sufficient work-related worries to keep me from preparing for the trip. Besides, from my previous experience in Chennai, any attempt at going for some nightlife would prove to be either disappointing or unsavory (I'd choose the former over the latter, but sometimes just for the heck of it...).

The Pune airport is still very much provincial. It at once reminds me of Cagayan de Oro, another industrial city nestled in hilly/mountainous terrain. The temperature is likewise comparable to CDO.

That's where all comparisons cease.

Historical Pune is all over the place - dating from the rule of the Marathi overlords who held sway over this area until Westerners came onto the scene. Sadly, I didn't have all the time to visit the sites and the work much too much to allow for sightseeing --- I would rather have curled up on my bed, doing some reading or following on the Democratic National Convention (side note: what a broadside Barack Obama's team fired that night. You've got to give it to the Democrats - the candidate they chose has moxie.)

Our factory is several kilometers away from the city proper, far enough to be zoned into an industrial area. The head office was somewhere in the suburbs as well, apart from Pune central which is built along the banks of the Mula-Mutha rivers (known for its diverse flora and fauna - hmmm... I wonder how these can survive in industrial goop).

It is said that Pune people are among the best in terms of technical education because of the many schools built within the city area. The military has its National Defence Academy here (which I saw only from a distance) while there are a number of government and private educational institutions based in the city as well (I saw only one, Symbiosis University).

I distinctly asked for a guest house instead of staying at a hotel - a hotel has too many distractions, and besides from being expensive, would not offer too much added value - at least to me. The place they selected was an upscale housing development located near our office which reminds me a lot of developments in Singapore or Hong Kong but the flats are much bigger (similar to standard Arabic configurations) and the buildings are not as tall. My only (and biggest) gripe with the place was that there was no Internet connection in the evenings, which annoyed me to no end. I therefore had to track but my Dammam work and my current work in India at the same time.

My colleague and I would have breakfast in the guest house (which came free) while lunches were at the office. Now there's an experience - personally I have nothing against Indian food. It's just that --- well, sometimes, you just don't know what you're eating. To be fair, the food at the office, which was vegetarian, was tasty and they served plentiful amounts. The tea boys were always around to offer you hot tea or coffee and the office environment, at least by Dammam standards, was palatial, Epicurean even.

(That shows how much we could do to liven up our work environment.)

I'd leave out the rest of my stay (ummm, confidentiality, confidentiality!) but I would say that the visit was not altogether satisfying (some things were left unresolved) but I left with a feeling of optimism (excellent potential for growth within India for our company).

I thoroughly hate Indian airports. I mean it, yes, thoroughly. If traveling in the Philippines is bad, in India it is worse. In some cases, I am told, it is more expensive to travel from one point in India to another than it is to travel from Saudi Arabia to Mumbai. The availability of air connections is a problem, and the trains or buses don't offer the same level of convenience.

It took me three hours just to check in my bag through two x-ray machines, get myself frisked several times, all the while pushing away people who always wanted to get one place up (some idiot even used the airport police as his alibi, ano ka, ulol? Lokohin mo lelong mong mabaho!)

On the flight back I was touched by the discipline of my fellow passenger (German or Austrian by his first name, Christoph) who took copious notes of his travels (in long hand, no less). I wish I had the energy or the desire to do the same again, at least during that trip. But I was tired. Dead-tired.

I also missed that wonderful flight attendant who made my Dammam to Mumbai flight memorable. I don't know your name, miss, but you've got one more admirer, at least.

The worst part was that we were at least thirty minutes late landing in Bahrain and my connecting flight to Dammam only had a forty-five minute window. The immigration desk was a half-nightmare, and I literally did myself two Roadrunner cartoons running from one end of the airport to the other (How did they add so many gates in just the four months since I last traveled here? And the new gates didn't have tubes, so the bus it is for you...)

I was dripping with sweat and had no semblance of poise when I got to the bus --- but at least I ran into one of my colleagues coming from vacation back home and we had a blast. One of the highlights of this trip was the smarmy way one of our kababayans was sidling up to him during the bus ride. I guess she was already doing that to him during the trip, only he never noticed ... it would have been great had she been the bomb, but of course, ehem, 'wag na lang, manahimik na lang ako, hehe.

So now I'm back. Ramadan has just started --- one whole month of lovable craziness. Ramadan Kareem!