Tag Archives: Winter

Rising and Falling with the Seasons

Winter solstice has come. A time symbolically used to celebrate the rise and fall of the sun. A time of year when we reflect on the past year and nurture hopes for the coming one. A time of year for reconnecting with friends around warm food and lights. 

I turned the thermostat up a couple of notches and the white light effused a warm glow against the curtains. As I surveyed the house, I felt a surge of warmth course through me. Dear friends and family were visiting, and I was glowing from the companionship. The house had been through a deep clean: which is to say that the closets were stuffed and groaning. I warned guests to open any closet with care: a dozen things could tumble out at any moment, I said widening my eyes. The adults laughed, while the children nodded with sincerity, but an hour later I found them playing hide-and-seek, and finding a place to hide in those very closets. Oh well!

As time spun its way through the evening, strands of conversation were coming together too. Light-hearted topics were interspersed with hefty ones and laughter was sprinkled with wrinkled looks of concentration. It was beautiful to hear opinions changing ever so slightly; of course, it was not without the exasperation of trying to string complex thoughts into words that would convince someone of their perspective. I marveled at humanity once again. 

“The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.” 

― William Hazlitt, Selected Essays, 1778-1830

Can we get better? Absolutely. We lose sight of the marvelous gift we have of empathy and of trying to understand one another. Moments in which we bestow upon one another the inestimable gift of attentive listening are irreplaceable. Like the stuffed closets the children found a place to hide in, there is always room for our own mindsets to grow and expand.

With all the additional means of communication at our disposal these days – whether instant or otherwise, we are so intent on telling the world what we think that I fear we may slowly start losing the art of listening, weighing, offering our opinions without being attached to our own viewpoints, and allowing ourselves the beautiful vantage point of changing our minds. 

The appreciation of merit from multiple viewpoints is an Art in itself. 

It is a lesson that Nature herself teaches us in the simple act of the changing of the seasons. How wondrously we admire the same surroundings for different aspects during different parts of the year? The bursting of new life, and flowering trees in Spring; followed by the joyous long days of summer with their blooms of flowers; the beautiful fall foliage; and the cold rainy winters enabling us to reflect, change and poise ourselves for the cycle to begin again. 

Each season brings with it a new physical aspect and a philosophical one.

I find winters winter a good time to look back on the year gone by; reflect on the grains that made up the texture of the preceding months, and those months layered upon years, like a tree, adding a ring to its makeup. A time for reflection of the past year and a time for hopes in the coming year.

Every year our hopes and aspirations for ourselves and our collective future differ. This year, given the state of political affairs in the US, and the deep divides that separate us, I hope we can strive towards truthful, honest dialogue. As we usher in the New Year, it becomes doubly important for us to remember that our strength lies in listening to each other respectfully; to engage in conversations sans ego so that we may learn to appreciate the beauty of human thinking and its many perspectives. That seems to be our only hope to collectively move towards a future that is filled with integrity and compassion.

As the French philosopher Simone Weil said in the early twentieth century, let’s bestow on each other the generosity of spirit so beautifully outlined in this quote. 

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity – Simone Weil

Now is the time to say thanks for all the small and big things in life. The time to appreciate friends and family. The time to appreciate the gifts of nature and of our place in it. The time for us to refocus our energies on what is possible and our duties towards society. I am looking forward to a new year informed by the past, yet open to the future.

Saumya writes regularly at nourishncherish.wordpress.com, and some of her articles have been published in the San Francisco Chronicle,  The Hindu and India Currents. She lives with her family in the Bay Area where she lilts along savoring the ability to find humor in everyday life and finding joy in the little things.

Lion in the Winter

BAJIRAO MASTANI. Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Players: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Tanvi Azmi, Mahesh Manjrekar, Aditya Pancholi, Milind Sonam. Music: Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Hindi with Eng. sub-tit. Theatrical release (Eros)films_bm

As one of the most-talked about Hindi filmmakers of modern era, Bhansali’s works have included noteworthy movies some of which were huge box office hits (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas, Black, Ram Leela, and Guzarish). Bhansali’s pet project since Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) was Bajirao Mastani. Finally seeing the light of marquee during Christmas in 2015, Bajirao Mastani, a period costume and action-adventure epic, achieves both a box office juggernaut and makes a commanding artistic statement.

Faced with fractures from possible overreach into huge sections of the sub-continent, the expansive 18th century Maratha empire, based in Pune, urgently needs a new Peshwa (prime minister). Overcoming strong rivals with a show of successful military campaigns and single feats of bravery, the dashing Bajirao (Singh) clinches the much-coveted post. On one such military campaign, Bajirao comes to the aid of the beautiful warrior-princess Mastani (Padukone) and gets drawn to her even though he is already married to the influential and equally beautiful Kashibai (Chopra).
The concept of a flawed leader who is at a major crossroads of his life is the stuff of legends. On that level Prakash Kapadia’s script posits Bajirao as a conflicted man, a lion caught in the doldrums of a personal winter. Or more precisely, his world forces him into conflict he can’t easily navigate. The battlefront emissary, a shrewd war tactician and by all accounts a hardy and brave warrior, strangely, is more-or-less at peace when he is vanquishing his elephant-back or horse-back foes in the empire’s far-flung vistas.

The other, more urgent, battle Bajirao must overcome is on the home front, where Bajirao’s secret marriage to Mastani makes not only Kashibai unhappy but has the entire capital in an uproar. There are also the palace politics of Mastani’s arrival into the household, albeit at first housed with courtesans—thanks to the icy reception from Bajirao’s mother (Azmi). Then there is Bajirao’s political nemesis (Pancholi) who harbors a hidden agenda. Finally, the fact that Mastani —who has a Rajput father and Persian mother—is of Muslim background is used as a ruse by the local priestly class to instigate the nobility against Bajirao.

A sizable boost to Bajirao’s success has to do with music. Bhansali, who previously scored the soundtrack for Guzarish and Ram Leela, again takes up the baton. The result is a spell binding score that more than once touches light classical ragas, especially “Mohe Rang Do Laal,” a duet with Pandit Birju Maharaj and Shreya Ghosal and Ghosal’s “Deewani Mastani.” The hit “Pinga” duet, choregraphed superbly by Remo D’Souza, is a fetching tandem dance featuring both Padukone and Chopra in a dazzling explosion of sights, colors and sounds.

The box-office results for Bajirao have been nothing short of amazing. As if validating the raves, there was the near sweep of many of the popular industry awards. Now that Filmfare gives out its famed awards in early January for the previous calendar year, Bajirao won Best Film, Best Director (Bhansali), Best Actor (Singh) and Best Supporting Actress (Chopra). In an amazing achievement, Bhansali’s film won nine out of the 12 categories it was nominated for. In the Awards’ 61-year history, only three other movies have won more Filmfare Awards; Bhansali’s Black (2011) won 11, while Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) and Bhansali’s Devdas (2002) each won 10.films_bm2

Bhansali and a small army of artisans and craftspeople make it seem effortless. Sriram Iyengar, Sujeet Sawant and Saloni Dhatrak’s gorgeous set pieces evoke upper crust chivalry from an era when tradition ruled and stepping out of line was tantamount to treason. The period precise sensibility is extended to first-rate culturally-appropriate costumes for both Mastani with her Mughal gowns and Kashibai in her queen-like Hindu attire. While the lingo at times gets annoying going from street-wise Mumbai Hindi to classical Marathi, the eyes are too busy chewing up the scenery.

Based on respected Marathi writer Nagnath Inamdar’s historic (and fictitious) novel Rau and set on southern India’s vast Deccan Plateau during the 18th century when the Mughal empire was generally in decline and the Maratha empire was in its glory, Bhansali’s Bajirao captures the historical imagination like few other recent Hindi movie entries. While the historical Bajirao, Mastani and Kashibai were real life figures, Bhansali goes to pains to point out that this movie is a work of fiction. Fiction that is worth standing up and cheering for!