Tag Archives: monita soni

Aliza Vellani are Rani Singh in Netflix show 'Sweet Tooth'.

Dr. Adi and Rani Singh Come to Life in DC-Netflix Series ‘Sweet Tooth’

DC Comics and Netflix collaboration, Sweet Tooth, by Robert Downey had an uncanny way of relating to our lives today.

The hybrid deer-boy, Gus (Christian Convey), has a real sweet tooth. His story is universal though and is highly relatable to anywhere in the globe. Gus forms an unexpected bond with a wandering loner, Tommy Jepperd (Nonso Anoozie). They embark on an extraordinary adventure, something akin to the great epic Mahabharata, through a lush but strangely dangerous post-apocalyptic world. They form an atypical but strangely heart-warming bond. The quest for permanence, relationships, and belonging bind them by a frail thread where “home” and “shelter” no longer exist. The world is in the grips of a peculiar viral illness — an airborne disease “ the sick” alarmingly similar to the Covid-19 pandemic. Thousands of people succumb to it. At the same time, a few hybrid babies are born. Some babies have wings, others have snouts, some look like ferrets, while a few have turtle appendages. There is Gus who is half deer with antlers and deer ears. People are trying to hunt out the hybrid babies and kill them because they think that the hybrids are the cause of “the Sick”. 

Dr. Adi Singh and Rani Singh in Netflix show 'Sweet Tooth'.
Dr. Adi Singh and Rani Singh in Netflix show ‘Sweet Tooth’.

A parallel story highlights an Indian couple. Dr. Adi Singh (Adeel Akhtar) works with Dr. Bell who has been doing some top-secret research on the virus and has developed unconventional treatments. Rani Singh (Aliza Vellani), Dr. Singh’s wife, is affected by the virus and is being secretly treated by her husband with serum from Bell’s lab. The couple is devoted to each other. They play scrabble and enjoy simple treats like french toast, apple pie, and strawberry milkshake. Adi and Rani keep to themselves to hide their secret but things go awry when a snoopy neighbor (Nancy) comes to their house and tries to figure out why Rani has been avoiding her. 

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I had an opportunity to interview Candian-Indian actress, Aliza Vellani, for India Currents. I really enjoyed her as Rani Singh — a strong, supportive, resourceful wife. 

IC: How and when did you audition for the role as Rani Singh?

AV: I auditioned for Rani at the beginning of 2019. Reading the audition scene, I immediately fell in love with her warmth and strength towards Dr. Singh. Because this was a new character, it was great to read the Sweet Tooth comics after I realized I was cast as Rani Singh. 

IC: Have you read the comic book?

I got the chance to read the comics after I found out I would be working on the series. Because Rani is a new character, I got to dive into the comics and simply explore the world as an outsider. Jeff Lemire’s work is so captivating that you almost forget about how dark the comics truly are because of how rich the story is, as it unfolds. 

IC: How long did the production take?

The show has been in the works for quite some time. For filming, the first episode was over a few weeks back in June of 2019. When the pandemic started to unfold in 2020, we had to start production later on in the year to film the rest of the season in New Zealand. It took a lot of incredible work from the production team and we managed to complete the first season from August to December of 2020. 

IC: How did you feel during the process?

AV: It was so surreal and wonderful to be working with such an incredible team. Right from the beginning, you could tell that Team Downey wanted to create a beautiful story with a heartfelt message. During the filming process, we truly became a family which is more than anyone can ask for in this industry.  

IC: Special moments while filming?

Working on Rani’s wardrobe was truly such a beautiful experience. Amanda Neale and her team took so much time and care into really bringing these characters to life. What was so wonderful was Amanda’s attention to detail, especially when focusing on the cultural details of the Singhs, even 10 years after The Great Crumble. 

IC: Best and most challenging moment?

AV: Episode 5 — What’s in the Freezer? was both one of my favorite and most challenging episodes to film. I mean, we are literally wrapped in chairs and surrounded by fire! The stakes become so incredibly high at that moment as Rani and Dr. Singh think their lives are over and we had to dive into a very heavy place emotionally as actors to show the love the Singhs have for one another. They truly are each other’s ride or die. 

How did your culture impact your role?

AV: Looking at my relationship with my own culture as a South Asian Canadian, it was wonderful to be able to explore that through another character like Rani. Especially in a story where society as we know it no longer exists, it was beautiful that we were able to show an Indian couple still trying to maintain that connection to their culture and faith.  

IC: Any message for Indian Americans?

AV: Keep going! Whatever you are doing, whatever passion you are trying to pursue, whatever barrier you are trying to overcome, keep going. This road isn’t a straight path and everyone’s journey will be different. But, by continuing to live your truth, you are inspiring someone else to do the same. The road is also very long, so make sure to find moments to enjoy along the way. 

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How long can they hide her and where? Does Gus reach Colorado? To find out the answer to these questions and enjoy the amazing cinematography, I recommend you watch Sweet Tooth Season 1. Season 2 is coming soon!


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

Film poster for 'Sherni'

A Sherni Herself, Vidya Balan Tells IC of Muted Feminism in Her Newest Release

After watching the movie, when I come across overt/surreptitious sexist remarks in my interactions, Vidya Vincent’s face flashes upon my mind’s eye. Vidya Balan eloquently describes her connections to the universality of her character in our exclusive interview. Find the video below!

The title means “tigress” in Hindi. The -ni appendage highlights the female-centric theme of the film.

Vidya Balan was delighted that the name Sherni was selected after she signed the script. She is amazingly authentic as Vidya Vincent, a forest officer trying to navigate the cantankerous machinery of government jobs in the wilderness of Madhya Pradesh.

Amit V Masurkar of the Newton fame (India’s submission to the Oscars in 2017 ) takes his camera to a tiger preserve and focuses on the struggle for existence between wildlife in their natural habitat and humans. It’s a satirical bare-bones exposure to the lethargy of the Indian government’s Forest Department. The film Sherni is not about the female tigress who has attacked two people. It’s not about forest conservation. It’s also not about the livelihood and safety of the people who rely on the forest. The filmmaker’s purpose is to expose the indifferent government officials, the power struggle between opposing political parties, and corrupt contractors who blatantly pocket taxpayer rupees.

Vidya Vincent and the tigress are caught as unexpected but tenacious bystanders in the flawed patriarchal system. Male characters in the movie indulge in overt and covert actions to save face by ignoring, talking over, and finally transferring the resilient officer, Vidya Vincent, out of their midst. The hungry tigress who cannot hunt deer and other small herbivores to feed her hungry cubs becomes prey to a macho gunslinging Pintoo Bhaiya (Sharat Saxena). He is eager to kill any “tiger” he can lay his eyes on without properly identifying the wild animal. The nauseating mediocrity and male bravado percolate the fabric of the film like pug-marks. 

It was funny to watch Brijendra Kala as the weaselly Bansal who is totally disconnected by the responsibilities of his seat, serendipitously placed in front of a humongous tiger portrait. He is just going through the motions. He would much rather be a snake oil salesman or a poet.

Vijay Raaz is refreshing as a zoologist and educator. His professorial duties run the gamut of collecting a rustic “punch and tiger” show for the villagers, collecting DNA samples, and making biryani. The camera exposes the gut-wrenchingly meager subsistence of local sharecroppers and their disillusion with the local elected officials. Frustrations climax with the burning of government vehicles. Vidya Vincent wants to resolve the problem by capturing the tigress alive. She rebels against her superiors and politicians.

As an actor, Vidya Balan is famous for playing strong female roles and is very expressive. In an interview for India Currents, the actor said It was challenging for me to portray the identity of Vidya Vincent in a quiet way.” She said, “I have a very expressive face even in real life.” I think that her deliberately obtuse performance is commendable on multiple levels.  

Film stills from the movie Sherni.
Film stills from the movie Sherni.

Dressed in muted earthy tones, she sets a precedent that she wants to blend with the environment. She knows what her job demands but after spending nine weary years, we get the impression that she knows that she cannot change the system. Then an inciting event of a tiger sighting, followed by the death of a villager, pulls her attention. Vidya is overwhelmed by a sense of doom and wants to resign. But her husband who is nicely tucked away in their apartment in Mumbai advises her to keep her recession-proof job: “Apne kam se kam rakho aur ghar chalo”. It’s easy for him to say.

She is not confrontational but is also not intimidated by men trying to outmaneuver her. Her impudence in pocketing the oil bottle to thwart the clownistic shenanigans of Bansal (Brijendra Kala) is funny. Vidya Balan laughed in merriment when I mentioned that sneaky move to her. She said, “I have received so many texts, phone calls, and accolades from all over the world. Siddarth Roy Kapoor loved it. How so many people found out my number and texted me, was amazing!”

Vincent’s anger at a failing system, deep concern for the villagers, grief while handing the compensation check to a bereaved widow are apparent in the strained look in her eyes and her tightened lips. When Vincent pulls the jewelry off when she is called to duty in the middle of dinner, it shows her attitude towards feminine trappings and the subtle oppression of domestication. Balan mentions, “Her character did not want to be confrontational. If it was easy for her to wear the jewels, she just wore them.”

It would have been more appealing to watch the movie in the jungle outdoors but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the film was released through Amazon Prime Video on June 18, 2021, and reached viewers in over 200 countries. As a woman in the professional arena, I was proud that Vidya Vincent tried to save the tiger cubs. I felt as though I was punched in my guts by the alarming visuals of the decrepit state of our government offices. I applaud Masurkar and his team on meaningful cinematography. Masurkar has cleverly exploited Vidya Balan’s acting potential by building her character with nuanced yet realistic complexity.

Vidya Balan has dazzled us with her kaleidoscopic performances as the innocent Parineeta, vivacious Jhanvi in Lage Raho Munna Bhai, a determined pregnant woman in Kahaani, and now as Vidya Vincent in Sherni. She left us with a parting message for young girls. She said: You are unique. There’s no one like you. Be the best version of yourself.” Commendable!


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

Family Man 2 Poster

The Family Man Returns: A Must-Watch Macabre Drama

Manoj Bajpayee returned as Srikant Tiwari, an undercover intelligence officer, in the much-awaited The Family Man (Season 2) on 4 June 2021. If you are still unfamiliar with the series, this is an Indian action thriller streaming on Amazon Prime Video and is written and produced by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. The riveting screenplay and quick-witted dialogues were compiled by Sumit Arora and Suman Kumar. The series exposes the national security dangers faced by India because of her rough and complex geopolitical terrain. Security is made more challenging with disparate attitudes, language, lifestyles, tensions, cuisine, economy, bureaucracy, foreign threats, and fatalistic humor. How the seemingly ordinary hero Manoj Bajpayee navigates danger with an extraordinary sixth sense makes The Family Man special

Sri, as his family and friends call him, a middle-aged man with a small-town air (born in Belwa village) is sharp as a whip. He gets under one’s skin with his sensitive, emotive face, deep smoldering eyes, and sinewy body language. He is the arch-nemesis of terrorists but under his tough-guy persona, he is only a family man. His interactions with his kids, especially his provocative precocious little boy Atharva (Vedant Sinha), are authentic.  Sohaila Kapur, the School Principal is constantly summoning Srikant for meetings. His attempts to understand what his wife, the conflicted psychology professor, Suchi (Priyamani) is thinking, expose his vulnerability. He is worried like any man in his shoes that his wife is having an affair with her co-worker Arvind (Sharad Kelkar). Despite all this, the family man that he is, keeps reassuring the family that better days are ahead of them to compensate for his low-paying job. They don’t give him the time of the day because they are not privy to the workings of his day job. At the end of season 2, when he is being celebrated by PM Basu (Seema Biswas), the only favor he can think of is asking for a “no interest” home loan. Which is, of course, denied. 

The Family Man still (Image from Amazon Prime Video)

When I think of men on the silver screen, there’s nothing more attractive than their ability to engage, unless it’s also coupled with dazzling looks. Can he look smart in an old T-shirt, shirt sleeves, and can he clean up in a suit and tie? And Bajpayee does all that as Srikant Tiwari. One can’t deny that guys fighting crime with beautiful eyes, high cheekbones, and a dazzling smile are easy on the eyes. The name of  Benedict Cumberbatch comes to mind as the star of the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes. I cannot look away from the glittering eyes of Dame Christie’s Hercule Poirot, played superbly by David Suchet. Although the performances in the Family Man are not as sophisticated as BBC and don’t display exotic locales as the Bond movies, the raw appeal with Indian accents, and absurd humor feels closer to home (Muthu ko hindi aati hai).

The first episode, of the second season, exposes Sri’s discomfort with his IT job. His manager is an insufferable mealy-mouthed man, who incessantly reprimands Srikant for not performing. In a melodramatic showdown with the manager Sri quits and returns back to Threat Analysis and Surveillance Cell. This time to investigate another potential terrorist attack in the southern tip of India by the Tamil rebels in Chennai. He comes face to face with a Srilankan guerilla fighter pilot Rajalakshmi Chandran (Samatha Akkineni). Her dark, utterly fearless character development and backstory is intense, sad, and unsettling. Also disturbing but ominous are the shenanigans of Dhriti Tiwari, daughter of Srikant Tiwari, with a young boy she met online. A possible romantic spark may develop between Devadarshini, as Umayal, Chennai Police, and Srikant’s apparently indestructible colleagues Jayavant Kasinath Talpade or “JK”. The inscrutable, paranoid but surreptitiously reachable old intelligence officer Bhaskaran Palanivel comes to Srikant’s rescue when he is unable to unravel the cryptic clues.

Season 1 was the most-viewed web series on Amazon Prime Video and won five critic awards. I am sure if the macabre violence can be overlooked as necessary for the sake of drama. Samantha Akkineni, is masterful in her first digital debut. She outshines the others hands down!! This season ends with Sri asking his wife what is actually bothering her… which will be uncovered in Season 3.  


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

Sardar Kaur Is the Irascible Dadi That I Might Be

I saw the title Sardar Ka Grandson pop up on Netflix. I kept on scrolling, assuming that this may be a Punjabi movie with a macho flair. Perhaps it was a remake or sequel of Son of Sardaar (a 2012 movie directed by Ashwni Dhir). After an arduous workday, I was not keen to watch Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt engage in dishoom dishoom or explosions in sugarcane fields.

I was surprised when my daughter recommended it to me. She said: You would like this movie, it’s a story about a dadi and her not-so-savvy grandson.

Sardar, a masculine name for princes, noblemen, chiefs, leaders, and turbaned North Indian men of Sikh faith, but I had forgotten Sikhs have a tradition of transporting masculine names like Jaspreet, Harpreet, Kamaljit to feminine by just adding a suffix kaur, a synonym for miss in English or kumari in Hindi.

I fixed myself a large katori of kheer and sat down to watch this dramedy c0-written and directed by Kaashvie Nair and co-written by Anuja Chauhan.

I became a grandma ten years back, and ever since that day, I have come into my mettle. I have realized that I was born to gain notoriety in this role.  My temperament is amiable but I confess that I am a tad bit stubborn (God help those who get on my wrong side). It’s but natural that I have admired irascible grandmas on and off-screen.

My most favorite is the crusty dowager of Downton Abbey played by Countess Violet Crawley (the one and only dame Maggie Smith). Her candid aphorisms, withering looks, and haute couture sweep me off my feet: A woman of my age can face reality better than most men.”

The other hilarious character is Sophia Petrillo played perfectly to the last cheeky wisecrack by Estelle Getty. She is the scrawny, unglamorous, and yet most unforgettable of the Golden Girls TV series. Sophia Petrillo’s dry sense of humor reminds me of my great grandmother and raconteur Madame Hukam Devi Mehra, aka Maaji, whose tales of wit were famous in the orchards along the banks of the mighty river Ravi.

But I am certain that the credit of my headstrong gene goes to my paternal grandmother, Madame Krishna Kumari Kapur of Lahore, British India. She was willful and quite “the talk of the town” with her beguiling pink rose and pearlish complexion. Her Lahori friends grew accustomed to her and often turned a blind eye to her shenanigans!

Now our own Neena Gupta as Sardar Kaur has added her name to the legion of unforgettable grandmas of the silver screen.

Neena Gupta is one of the most versatile actors. When I saw that she was the dadi,  Sardar Kaur, I could not wipe the grin off my face.

My heartbeat quickened to learn that the movie was filmed in the two historic border towns, Amritsar and Lahore, straddling the line of partition drawn arbitrarily by Sir Cyril Radcliffe. My ancestors migrated from Lahore to Amritsar and settled in Shimla after the partition. They had similar double-story row homes with Persian-style balconies, ideal for observing street processions and engage in chit-chats, gossip sessions, or full-blown street fights with their neighbors. My grandparents talked with great nostalgia about the homes and hearths they left behind in Lahore. My dad always wanted to go to Lahore but he never did. He used to recite a poem with so much love in his voice. 

Daal dus khan shehar Lahore ander

Kinne boohey tay kinnian barian nein

Naley das khaan aothon dian ittaan

Kinnian tuttian tay kinnian saarian nein…

(There is no place as beautiful as Lahore,

 with millions of doors and millions of windows, 

sweet wells for water and beautiful maidens…)

The high spirits portrayed by Sardar Kaur are very characteristic of the hardy women of Punjab. My daughter said that she rewound the final scene when Sardar Kaur enters the home of her dreams. She flows like water into the reverberating memories of her youthful days with her beloved husband. She relives her youth by touching the rose-painted window panes. There is laughter and tears. It’s authentic. It gives her closure. It’s a true homecoming!  

I suggest that you watch the movie. The movie has a smattering of Hindi, Punjabi, and English dialogue written by Amitosh Nagpal. Neena Gupta on and off the frames carries the movie “gently gently” with the swig of Lahori whiskey and in her hand-knit pink mittens like a true sardarni! Her faithful black rottweiler guard dog would definitely agree! The music score has a catchy folksy feel. I enjoyed the lyrics and beat of “Mein Teri Ho Gayi” and “Bandeya“!


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi Film Poster

Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi: A Movie That Highlights Victim Mentality In the Indian Diaspora

Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi (2019), a Hindi-language family drama, was released on Netflix in April 2021. Written and Directed by Seema Pahwa, Produced by Manish Mundra of Jio Studios and Drishyam Film, the film features an ensemble cast of several talented actors including Naseeruddin Shah and Supriya Pathak.

In short, Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi embodies the quixotic extended family melodrama. 

The family members of Ramprasad are all alive and kicking but they all have their own ax to grind. His unexpected death forces them to come face to face with the age-old hurt they have been nursing against everyone else. The narrative is presented as a theatrical performance by the director, Pahwa, and is well edited.

Opening scene: Ramprasad dies while giving an informal piano lesson to a neighbor’s kid. His wife calls her kids to inform them of his demise.

Scene Two: Four brothers, their three wives, two daughters, and their husbands, Mamaji and Mamiji,  Tauji, buaji, assorted kids, and neighbors descend on the home. In less than a few minutes, their grief is vaporized by their selfishness. They are not evil, just wonderfully flawed like so many of us who think that someone else is responsible for our failures. 

Following scenes: There is a struggle for control between elder members of the family, namely mamaji, tauji and buaji about after-death religious rituals (reminded me of a similar movie following a death: Pagglait). They haggle over the cost of firewood after they successfully cremate their father. Tears are brushed away and they are back to their normal routine, requesting jaggery sweetened tea and complain about the bland food. Then they blame their parents for all their misfortunes. Finally, they all depart and take with them their own agendas, giving interesting glimpses of their true selves. They all weep when they leave but not for their departed father or their widowed mother.

Song: I loved the song Ek Adhoora Kaama lighthearted moment that plunges the brothers into their childhood, giving us beautiful insight into Ramprasad’s musicality as a father.

Humor: There are a few chatpate “nok-jhok” between the old buaji and tauji, reminding us that childhood rivalry continues to the grave. 

Climax: Ramprasad has a loan of 10 lakhs, which has to be repaid. They all have been borrowing money from him but still, it comes as a surprise to them and they blame each other with a vengeance.

Solution: Instead of shouldering any responsibility, they come with the solution of selling the shop or house without care for the financial security of their mother. “Kya karogi Amma akeli itne bade ghar mein?”  No one wants to think about the mother’s welfare. They all keep talking in circles:  “Kya karen amma ka?”  

Best performance: Vikrant Massey, Konkona Sen Sharma, Parambrata Chatterjee, Vinay Pathak, Manoj Pahwa, and Vineet Kumar have acted very naturally. There are certainly so many characters in our households who are masters of that trait that it may be easy to draw from personal experiences. We have all witnessed a comical Eeyore-persona older brother, a cry-baby middle child, an opportunistic mamaji, a self-righteous sister, an instigating sister-in-law, and an amoral nephew. Veteran actors Naseeruddin Shah (father) and Supriya Pathaak (mother) emote so effortlessly through their expressions without long-winded dialogues. They have a common ally, Ramprasad’s diary.

Subplot: There is marital disharmony between the youngest brother Nishant and his wife Seema. The family interferes with this even though they don’t fully comprehend the problem but jibes and subtle taunts continue uninvited.

Solution the family proposes: Do they complete Ramprasad’s tehrvi at the allotted time on the first of January or do they shorten it to ten days or select a mutually convenient time for the thirteenth-day ritual to bid their father’s soul adieu? For that, and to find out what solution the mother comes up with, I recommend you watch Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi. 

Last scene: A voiceover by Naseeruddin Shah’s soul dressed in a pure white kurta, pajama, and shawl delivers the important message. It’s not an obvious one, ie. that we must respect our parents and love our siblings. Rather, it is a more musical one and the piano lesson.  The first scene sets the stage.


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

Cremation grounds in India (Image unrelated to ongoing currents events in India)

Firewood: Processing COVID in India From Afar

I was fully vaccinated in March 2021.

In the third week of April, I was planning to fly to India to check on my mother and extended family. My sister was in line for her second shot of the Covishield vaccine against COVID-19. We were excited to celebrate April birthdays and Mother’s day after 2 years. My bags were packed.

India, the second most populated country in the world with over 1.3 billion Indians seemed to have a decent handle on the pandemic. The world watched the initial twenty-day lockdown in India, followed by the mass exodus of migrant workers. Perhaps innate immunity to tropical diseases was helping Indians against COVID. Was the blistering heat not conducive to viral proliferation? Was the COVID-19 strain in India less infectious?

The Serum Institute of India was gearing up for vaccines for domestic and international use. Before Indian citizens were vaccinated, Indian vaccines were exported out of the country. Indian government and citizens were confident of their innate immunity. Steeped in a false sense of bravado, India reopened for business in early 2021. Unmasked gatherings, cricket matches, political rallies, and weddings continued while the B.1.617.2 variant of COVID-19 was raging in a vulnerable unvaccinated population.

Meanwhile, the weeks-long Hindu Pilgrimage congregation in Haridwar (Kumbh Mela) was not canceled. This year Hanuman Jayanti was on 26-27th of April the night of the pink full moon (Chaitra Purnima). This holy dip in the Ganga (Shahi Snan) was considered to be very auspicious. Many devotees tested positive and spread the disease in crowded trains and buses and to their contacts back home. The infectious curve changed from a plateau to a wall. The health care system was overwhelmed. Hospitals ran out of beds, oxygen, medicines. Meanwhile, there was an acute vaccine shortage, and hurdles in getting the vaccine.

My friends and family members are not fully vaccinated to date. So many innocent lives were lost! Fires burnt nonstop. In the first wave, it took five months for the 98,000 a day caseload to about 10,000 a day. This time, the peak is much higher and the downward trend of the second wave could be prolonged. The only hope is to raise herd immunity by mass vaccinations.

I composed two poems, out of my anguish. My idea is not to criticize. I am trying to process the trauma in my community. My poems document our complex human frailty. 

******

 Firewood

“I will make such a wonderful India…” @Narendra Modi 4/11/18 

Maskless. He addressed them. 

Rows upon rows, their

brains steeped in fervor. 

They cheered and rallied, then

thronged on the shores of a 

weary Ganges, sullying her body

of water. Over and over again.

Inviting Lord Yama to extinguish

their breath. 

 

He came with a vengeance. 

Coronavirus vanquished thousands. 

Breathless, their bodies crumpled on

the streets. 

No oxygen. No vaccine. No potion. 

No healers. No chant. No mantra.

No yantra. No tantra. No soothsayer. 

No friend or family member 

could save them from their own folly.

 

They burnt in communal fires in 

parking lots. The stench of death 

smearing the khadi shawl of 

Mother India. She wept

and rued their misguided deeds.

The pandemic raged on, 

mindless of caste, creed, age, gender 

or status. Even the mighty were 

snuffed out. 

 

But who will be held accountable

for cremating those innocent souls 

who died without rupees for firewood? 

*****

Flying Monkey Moon

The moon maiden was full

and deliciously pink 

A bit pompous, 

A butter macaroon, freshly baked 

Double pink peony daydream. 

Cumulus cloud carpet

Covered the midnight sky.

Sweet salutations were whispered

She smiled and lowered her veil.

 

Millions gathered on the bank of

the Holy Ganges to take a religious

dip with the Moon and floating diyas

The last day of the Kumbh was 

specially ordained to wash away 

their sins. Coronavirus raged in 

homes, hotels, sky scrapers and 

hovels. Hospitals were out of beds, 

doctors, nurses and life support ran dry.

Fires burned day and night in open 

crematoriums. Mortals chanted the 

Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra for protection.

Hanuman opened his eyes and flew

across the heavens. He thought,

they only remember me on

my birthday. 

*****

I do not want to criticize the government, their policies, or the people who helped spread this scourge.

I am very worried. I am one of the millions who do not know when they’ll be able to see their dear ones – parents, daughter, son, grandson, brother, sister.

In the interim, I keep watching the news, donate money for COVID relief, pray to Hanuman every day.


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

Film poster for 99 Songs.

99 Songs: An Oscar & Grammy-Winner Launches His Latest Bollywood Endeavor

Is it an ode to the global music community or the life story of the Mozart of Madras: Allarakha Rahman?

A.R. Rahman is an Indian film composer, record producer, singer, and songwriter who works predominantly in Tamil and Hindi films. In 2010, he was awarded the  Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award. He has won an Oscar, six National Film Awards, two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, fifteen Filmfare Awards, and seventeen Filmfare Awards South. His first soundtrack, for Roja, was listed on Time’s all-time “10 Best Soundtracks” in 2005.  He is hailed as one of the world’s great living composers in any medium.

I can understand that such a musical genius with a wide global network would like to share his story with his fans and other actors. When I hear his songs: Jai Ho, Chhaiya Chhaiya, Dil hai Chhota Sa, Tu Hi Rai, Ae Ajnabi, O Ri Chhori, and more…my heart skips a beat.

Vande Mataram, an album of original compositions released for India’s 50th anniversary of its independence in 1997 brings me back to our motherland. A.R. Rahman’s amazing repertoire of Carnatic Music, Western, Folk, Hindustani Classical Music, and Qawwali is incomparable. He is very cosmic in his outreach, incorporating birdsongs, a gurgling brook, a child’s laughter and fusing them with traditional instruments with new electronic sounds and technology. Rahman has worked as a pianist in Ilaiyaraaja‘s troupe for hundreds of movies, which may be seen in 99 songs. The soundtrack is awe-inspiring and holds a torch to Rahman’s love of experimentation with orchestra and Indian pop music.

In August 2013, A.R. Rahman announced that he will be producing a one-of-a-kind musical love story. He originally wanted to launch it under EROS  but it became his maiden stint as a scriptwriter, producer apart from composing the original score and songs. This film is Co-Produced by Ideal Entertainment, Directed by Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy, who is best known for the Mumbai band Scribe, and distributed by Jio Studios. The movie, 99 Songs, was finally released on April 16, 2021.

I think I perceive it to be the magnum opus of a young prodigy who has a burning desire to be a successful music composer.  The hero (Ehan Bhat) has a wager to make 99 songs before he can marry his beloved debutante played by Edilsy Vargas. Veteran actors Aditya Seal, Lisa Ray, and Manisha Koirala add depth to the narrative. 

 The film features 14 tracks including the musical talents Shaswat Singh and Bela Shende. Each song creates a different mood. Every frame has a different meaning. The film is in three languages – Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.

A.R. Rahman said, “If I knew earlier that we’d do three languages, I would have only made five songs and not 14!” But I don’t believe him. He has unstoppable energy beyond human comprehension!

Songs ‘Teri Nazar and The Oracle and “Jwalamukhihave received an incredible amount of love and support. The music is the soul of the film. It is a musical but not in the genre of Broadway which supports the narrative. Here the music overpowers the story! 

One song can change the world! These words are prophetic. The maestro wants us to experience the film with high aspirations.

Rahman on the film: “At a period where we are all unaware of the future, I think this movie will definitely bring hope into your lives. It talks about dreams;  It talks about the internal struggles of a creative person. Music is the last magic left in the world.”

He goes on to talk about his experiences leading up to the film: “I’ve been working since ‘81. I worked with so many different composers doing almost two sessions a day. Though I wasn’t intending to continue as a film composer at that time, love is a magnetic force. The more you get from people, the more you want their love.”

His journey has been magical and let’s just revel in his magic. I have added the soundtrack to my playlist and I can’t wait to watch it. I am completely in awe of his extraordinary musical gift. Wishing 99 songs a grand success!


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

My mother's Rajasthani painting (Image provided by Author)

My Mother Shines Through Her Paintings

The most valuable painting in my art collection is one of my mother’s masterpieces.

My mother, Kaushal Kapur, was born in Sikar district of Rajasthan. The city was studded with large airy havelis with white-washed walls decorated with colorful Rajasthani folk murals. My mother loved decorating her parents’ courtyard with colorful rangolis or painting henna tattoos on friends’ and sisters’ palms. Once at the School of Art in Jaipur, she saw an artist engrossed in painting a miniature.

Miniature art was introduced to India in the sixteenth century by the Mughal ruler, Humayun. He brought with him Persian artists who specialized in the fine art of painting. Humayun’s descendent Emperor Akbar built an art gallery and many schools of painting. Akbar era paintings were aristocratic and strong in portraiture. Elaborate court scenes and hunting expeditions were favored.

The word miniature comes from ‘minium’ which is red lead paint used in illuminated manuscripts. These paintings are very intricate and rendered in minute detail. Strong line drawings were rendered on paper, ivory, wood, leather, marble, and cloth. Colored with vegetable and mineral dyes in complementary colors: pale greens, reds, blues, and yellows. Embellished with real silver and gold they sparkle like multifaceted gemstones. Preparing colors and mixing is a complex process. It takes several weeks to get the desired results. The fine brushes were made from the hair of squirrels, and were highly valued. Today many artists replicate the originals in poster colors for affordable merchandising.

My mother was mesmerized by the king in light blue skin as Krishna with his beloved as Radha. She requested the master to teach her how to paint. The art teacher was reluctant, thinking that it was a passing fancy for her. He tried to dissuade her. But the pursuit of creativity takes courage and persistence. My mother visited the art school daily and did not give up. Her resolve was apparent at a tender age. One day, the teacher asked her to draw straight lines on blank paper. Before he could say Radhe Krishna, little Kaushalya had drawn hundred straight lines on the paper. Impressed by her steady hand, the artist enrolled her in his class. 

Mother painted several gouache watercolors under his tutelage. I grew up with her paintings in our home. They are exceptional works of art in delicate harmonious colors. I adored her paintings as a child but over time I have grown to appreciate her style even more. There is unique clarity of form and apparent ease of composition. My eyes linger for hours on fine uninterrupted lines, and exaggerated features in the frames. Long necks, large almond-shaped eyes, long fingers, and elegant toes.

My mother’s full-length painting of a maiden in her hut. (Image provided by Author)

My mother’s art is imprinted on my mind. Perhaps that explains elaborate doodles in my workbooks. My classmates would line up at my desk to request their doodles. School chalkboards were also covered in my art in all free periods.  My teachers can vouch for that.  After coming to America, my mother visited me and we both made a Bani Thani style painting together. I can clearly visualize her able hands patiently mixing the watercolors for me. This painting is my anchor. It portrays the universal twin souls Radha and Krishna engrossed in mutual adoration. I have the painting on my mantle. In the grandeur of this rendering, I can visualize my mother’s being in the Bani Thani. I also have her painting of Ahalya, the most beautiful woman petrified in stone kneeling in front of a handsome Lord Rama. Another one of a lovely young maiden on a tuft of lotus leaves with a serene expression which I think is a self-portrait. 

I never feel alone when I paint because my mother’s hand guides me from across the oceans.  But my piece de resistance is her prize-winning painting of a maiden in a hut waiting for her beloved. It is a 9 by 11 monochromatic watercolor painting in shades of green and aqua. She has created a wonderful rustic atmosphere and depth with a limited palette. Color blending is flawless. I can enter the living space, hear the rustle of her skirt. Touch her long fingers, admire her delicate lashes as she engages in small talk with her parrot.

As a child, I often wondered what she was cooking on the earthenware stove. The solitary lamp in the alcove and four flickering flames are so poetic. But more than anything else, I love her beautiful feet strongly planted on terra firma despite the faraway look in her eyes. The painting embodies the body, heart, and soul of my mother. She is an angel and the salt of the Earth. And she is mine. 


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

'Looking For A Lady With Fangs and A Moustache' Film Poster.

Searching For a Dakini on a Motorcycle in the Himalayas 

Looking For a Lady With Fangs and a Moustache, released on April 9, 2021, was directed & written by Khyentse Norbu and produced by Max Dipesh Khatri and Olivia Harrison.  

This is the story of Tenzin (Tsering Tashi Gyalthang), a forward-thinking Tibetan young man who has a dream of creating Kathmandu’s best coffee shop. It would be lovely to sip a chai and bite into a croissant on the mall road overlooking the Himalayas.

But there’s a proverbial fly in the ointment. Tenzin is afflicted by a recurring prescient nightmare. He has a modern mindset and is not superstitious like some of his townsfolk. However, the recurrent dream of his incumbent death drives him to seek out ancient Buddhist monks for guidance. The monk gives him a black thread with six knots and a cryptic message to seek out a dakini and ask her for a life-saving boon. Now starts an incomprehensible and somewhat shady trek of the protagonist. Armed with a red ladies slipper, he follows many young women down the hills, on busy streets, in long skirts, ankle bells, and kohled eyes. On his own personal quest, Tenzin also tries to help his friend in his romantic aspirations to woo a Tibetan singer. His journey takes the viewer on a motorcycle ride from dawn to dusk, through winding roads, misty mountains, elaborately carved ancient temples, and waterfalls. This part is quite picturesque and effortlessly crafted by the executive cinematographer, Mark Lee Ping-bing.

 The film has English subtitles, and snippets of Hindi prayers, chants, and also lines of a popular Bollywood song…Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein. But most of the conversations are in the local dialect.

The end was a bit jarring considering that the narrative was about mystical feminine spirits – dakinis. We were in search of these mythical tantric beings possessing supernatural powers on the human destiny that are rooted in the Himalayan Buddhist tradition but I failed to experience a climactic moment where the protagonist comes face to face with the mysterious feminine energy. And yet, everyone seems content in the parting celebration.

The initial angst is replaced by warmth and camaraderie. Perhaps pigeons randomly crossing paths or a flock of flying birds in the sky are symbolic of resolution. This film explores the esoteric belief of Tibetans in mystical life forms in a sort of “ show” and not “tell” genre and I was somewhat underwhelmed. I was intrigued and left with more questions. Perhaps that was intended? Regardless, I made a mental note to go and check out the cafes in Kathmandu! 


Monita Soni, MD has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.


 

Pagglait Approaches the Insular Hindu Family With Humor and Heart

Pagglait is a Hindi dramedy film that released this past March on Netflix. The narrative follows the emotional reaction and circumstance of a young widow, Sandhya (Sanya Malhotra), after the death of her husband. The film is set in a small town near Delhi and chronicles the aftermath of the death of a breadwinner in a middle-class joint family.

This film, written and directed by Umesh Bist, is a winner! The producers Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Guneet Monga under the banners Balaji Motion Pictures and Sikhya Entertainment deserve praise.

The film plunges us into the middle of a drama. Astik has passed away. Sandhya is alone in her room, amidst a house full of grieving relatives, sifting through “routine” condolence posts on social media about her dead husband, Astik. Sandhya is very natural in her confusion and state of shock.

When asked, “If she wants some tea?” She says she would prefer a cola

Ghanashyam, a relative, suggests she has PTSD and Sandhya’s mother tries to ward off evil spirits by burning chilies. Sandhya’s attitude leaves the others puzzled but the viewer gains more insight into Sandhya’s character after her friend Nazia (Shruti Sharma) arrives. This vegetarian “chips” craving, Muslim school friend helps Sandhya process her grief. Sandhya admits that she is not feeling sad and sneaks away with Nazia for spicy street food while Astik’s brother is performing rituals for Astik on the river bank.

Ashutosh Rana looks sufficiently tired and hapless as a grieving father of a young son. Raghubir Yadav as the interfering orthodox uncle who orchestrates the funeral arrangements and thirteen-day right of passage of the deceased soul is natural. Another easy feather in Sheeba Chaddha’s professional cap as a traditional middle-aged mother who has no time to grieve. She just carries on cooking bland food for visiting relatives, massaging her mother-in-law’s ankles, giving her enema, offering support to her husband, and seeking guidance from her “guru”.

Sandhya admits that in the few months of marriage like any other arranged married couple, she was not very close to her husband. The loss of her pet cat affected her more than her husband. It takes time to develop feelings for someone…

The other family members are distressed but I think they are more concerned about the repercussions of the loss in their lives rather than genuine grief for the departed soul. Meanwhile, Sandhya discovers a photograph of Astik’s crush in his book. Sandhya is angry at her dead husband and is curious about Aakanksha, played flawlessly by the lovely and well-groomed, Sayani Gupta.  Aakanksha, who worked with Astik, came to offer her condolences with others from Astik’s office. Sandhya confides in Aakanksha and tries to gain more information about Astik from Aakanksha. She meets her a few times and tries to dress, act, and live vicariously through Aakanksha. Sandhya finds it hard to believe that Aakanksha and Astik were not involved after marriage and broods over it. 

The plot presents a twist when the family finds out who is the sole beneficiary of Astik’s life insurance. Questions arise. Will Sandhya remain in the joint family home or return to her parents’ home? Will she accept another proposal of an arranged loveless marriage? She has been craving soda and “gol gappas”, is she expecting? Can she find a job with her Master’s in English literature?

There are so many questions for Sandhya who is caught unawares at a crossroad.

But if you look closely, this ludicrous state is not Sandhya’s alone! This is the state of so many female denizens of a repressive society in which all decisions are made for them. From birth. Whether they have a right to be born to upbringing, education, toys, books, clothes, career choice, marriage, emotional and financial stability. Their ability to choose food, love, happiness is nullified by others. All decisions are made for them.

I highly recommend this film to everyone who supports gender equality. To quote the beautiful Sanya Malhotra, “Pagglait is a person who listens to their heart!”

A round of applause to Bist for hitting a home run with his flashlight on an insular Hindu family, the predictable characters with their hypocrisy (coming late to the funeral and drinking while making others abstain), warmth (treating the old dadi with respect and cuddling up in her comforter), jibes (at the in-laws), stress (of one bathroom), prolonged rituals (despite poor financials), every attempt to draw a line between a high caste Hindu and a Muslim, and the rather odd raunchy doorbell!

Death opens doors for self-realization in unexpected places.


Monita Soni, MD has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.


 

Exclusive Zoom with Bandish Bandits

Bandish Bandits is a romantic drama series between two opposites:  Radhe (Ritwik Bhowmik) a musical prodigy from the Rathod Gharana of Jodhpur and Tamanna Sharma (Shreya Chaudhary), a young and beautiful rockstar.

Shreya fits the role to perfection because she is brimming with daredevil energy! Ritwik has a mischievous demeanor with sparkling eyes! Serendipity forces them to form a Rock band with an exciting name “ Bandish Bandits” which has so many connotations!  As they create exhilarating fusion music together, their pretend romance becomes a real thing! How lovely!  But will this love story hold up to family expectations or will destiny throw them a curveball? Set in the backdrop of picturesque Rajasthan steeped in ancient traditions and unique culture, the series is written and directed by the energetic young duo Anand Tiwari and Amrit Pal Singh Bindra and boasts a host of talented actors.

I really enjoyed chatting with Rajesh Tailang and Sheeba Chaddha. They talked about the process of selecting roles, being honest to their work, and letting the audience judge them on their merit. The actors’ commitment to acting and balancing their work on set with their personal life and hobbies is admirable. Both of them were very complimentary of the work ethic of their young costars and very impressed by their charming director, “ He likes to keep everyone happy while working together”. I could see that they all had a blast on set! I was intrigued about the roles they play but they skillfully kept that under the wraps and I think they were right!

The script of this ten-episode series is imbued in the exceptional music score handcrafted by the inimitable Shankar Ehsaan Loy! Be prepared to enter into a transcendental journey of love, adventure, and longing! Garaj Garaj Jugalbandi and Padharo Mhare Des are on my playlist now! I enjoyed hearing the backstory that just the preliminary practice session run of Raga Megh Malhar brought down torrential rain in the desert. That was helpful! I was heartened to hear that the actors were touched by the air, magic, and hospitality of Rajasthan. The desert never fails to cast a spell!

I am encouraged that this series aspires to showcase the cultural, aspirational, and musical diversity of the youth of our vast Indian subcontinent to the world. I have yet to converse with veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah in person but I kept hearing the same phrase repeated unanimously: “Naseer Sir is my guru and when he is on the set, everything changes for the better”!  I am more than certain that Naseeruddin’s role as a “Sangeet Samrat” will be rendered with the distinctive insight and finesse akin to Picasso. All in all, this is a delightfully curious narrative with a Bandish of stirring melodies! I can’t wait to binge-watch “Bandish Bandits”! I invite you all to tune in to the interviews and watch the show with us! 

The story is all about one exquisite thumri that twinkles in the heart of anyone who has ever experienced love!


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.

A Mason Jar of Fortunes

The most far-fetched prophecy I have ever received is: maybe you can live on the moon in the next century! Although all Bollywood and Western romantic numbers croon about flying up to the moon, I feel safer on terra firma.

To pull out a fortune from a cookie seems gimmicky to me. Regardless, it’s okay to succumb to a little bit of self-love and to justify this behaviour,  we read our message in a cookie with an enthusiasm that slowly dwindles as we go around the table and read each other’s luck. 

Unfortunately, the United States has the largest number of COVID-19 infections in the world and with it, we have seen a rise in anti-Asian sentiment. I chose to remind you of all of the precious fortune cookies that unite families at a dinner table.

In 2013, our friendly yoga teacher gave us a mason jar with a picture of her place of worship, a fragrant herb, and a colored strip of paper with a blessing. Mine was – “Get up and out, the day is bursting with moments.” by Rabindranath Tagore. We all went home with our jars and I put mine on my kitchen alcove. Over the years I kept putting other blessings in this jar along with strips of fortune. 

Growing up, we ate Indian food at home every day and so to change our taste we went once a week for and Indian Chinese dinner in Mumbai. Hakka noodles, American chop suey, chili chicken/paneer, and big bowls of hot and sour soup were our favorite entrees.  Indian Chinese food is not available in Huntsville but the next best option for my Indian friends is the American style Chinese food at PF CHANGS, doused generously with extra hot chili sauce. After spicing our palettes and clearing the sinuses, it’s time to read our fortunes. Unlike my other friends, I don’t like to eat the sugar cookie. I just hold the twisted fortune crisp in my hand and take a tentative bite of the vanilla and sesame flavored shell. Then I put it down and after everyone else has read their fortunes, I read the vague aphorism silently. Then I put it in my purse and at home transfer it to the mason jar. Every time I open the jar, I think of my yoga teacher and once again I read my fortune. I turn it over in the palm of my hand, look at the random lotto numbers and stash it away in my jar.  

I did not know that these fortune cookies are not Chinese. They were popularized in America by Japanese immigrants in the 19th century. They were first made in the Benkyodo bakery in San Francisco and served with hot tea. Later, Kito the founder of “Little Tokyo” in Los Angeles sold his flour tea cakes with fortune slips to the Chinese. During World War II, when 100,000 Japanese were in internment in America, the Chinese started mass producing these cookies. Ever since that time, they appear as a courtesy dessert along with the check at Chinese restaurants. These cookies are accepted all over the world, including India, where people are fond of fortune-tellers, soothsayers, and Palm readers. Strangely enough, they are not popular in China and are considered to be too American. 

I have never visited China but I have lived in America for almost three decades. We live in a sparsely populated region in the South but my American friends, family members, and strangers are all sheltered in place. A few of us go for solitary walks or wave at people from our porches. Friends FaceTime us to update us about their health or share their thoughts on social media. We wash our hands, run fingers through our hair, take naps, and spend days and nights in our pajamas. Time as we know it has slowed down. There’s nothing rushed. We all are running out of projects at home. We clean, purge, organize, sort, grow herb gardens, sew and donate masks, cook, share jokes, indulge in arts and crafts, read the stack of books put aside for a rainy day. 

Today, I decided to open my jar of fortunes to look for a clue to solve the viral pandemic. I pour a cup of coffee and pour out my fortunes on the floor and arrange them in a cyclic semblance of destiny.  

Affirmative:

  • You will be honored with a prestigious prize or award.
  • Your dearest wish will come true.
  • A pleasant surprise is in store for you.
  • You will always be surrounded by true friends.
  • You have a strong desire for home, family comes first.
  • Good news will come to you by mail.
  • You have the ability to sense and know higher truth.
  • You will conquer obstacles to achieve success.

Sarcastic:

  • You are an evening star in someone’s romantic eyes.
  • You are competent, creative, careful. Prove it.
  • Generosity and perfection are your everlasting goals.
  • Focus on your long-term goals. 
  • Good things will happen sooner or later.
  • Golden hours are coming to you eventually.
  • A cynic is only a frustrated optimist.

These strange words remind me of the hilarious attempts of two Asian women working at the Fortune cookie factory in Amy Tan’s novel “The Joy Luck Club” who are not able to translate these proverbs into Chinese. They give up thinking that they don’t contain any wisdom but just bad instruction.

Cryptic:

  • Your smile is a curve that gets a lot of things straight. Answer the call to help a friend.
  • Now is the time to call loved ones. Share your news.
  • Don’t pursue happiness, create it (Mango?!).
  • Your luck has been completely changed today.
  • Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen?
  • The joyfulness of a man prolongs his days.
  • What you plant now you will harvest later.
  • You will learn about love and a peaceful heart. A smiley face and a Spanish translation. 

Mysterious:

  • Be prepared to receive something special.
  • The best times of your life have not yet been lived.
  • Everything will now come your way.
  • You will discover an unexpected treasure.
  • Now is a lucky time for you to take a chance.
  • You are going to change your present line of work.
  • Soon someone will make you very proud.
  • You were born with a sixth sense. 
  • Confidence is at a high? Whose?

Ominous:

  • If it seems fate is against you today. You are right!
  •  A closed mouth gathers no feet!
  • You will die alone and poorly dressed!

Duds:

  • How about another fortune
    • Blank fortunes are the scariest because you freak out that something bad is going to happen to you. 

I look at all these fortunes and put them back in the Mason jar and sit on my deck under a blue sky. I pray for all the people who are ill with this virus and especially for those who have succumbed to this terrible illness. I take a strip of green paper and tune into higher consciousness. I breathe in and out. I write, “VIRUS BEGONE!” and put it back into my mason jar.

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.