Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Moon's a Balloon

The Moon's a Balloon is the hilarious, honest and tremendously entertaining autobiography of that impressive actor, David Niven.

Ok, since I've used so many adjectives in the first sentence, I don't have to tell you how much I loved the book.

Sometimes, I wonder how it is that so many things can happen to one person. If Niven had written his autobiography at ten years of age, it would have been many times longer than my autobiography if I wrote one now, at 30. My autobiography would finish in one page. But I am digressing.

Niven writes with panache and ease, and has the most wonderful way of describing funny incidents. He also has the knack of laughing at himself, which makes him very endearing.

He writes about his rebellious childhood, how he was expelled from school, how he joined the army, how he left (After a General finished a long lecture and asked, "Any questions?", Niven said, "May I know the time, I have a train to catch.").

After he left the army, he floated here and there for a while, after which he drifted to Hollywood to try his luck. The going was difficult at first, but only until he signed a contract with Samuel Goldwyn. He then did some good work, and he was just tasting success when World War II broke out. He dropped a promising career in Hollywood against the advice of all his friends, and sailed back home to join the British Army. Six months away from the industry, he says, is suicidal for an actor, but Niven came back after six years (the duration of the war), was accepted, and he went on to star in some memorable roles and picked up an Oscar on the way. And oh, the Oscar story is wonderful!

He writes candidly about his personal life, the various women who came in and out of his life, some named, some unnamed. He writes about his love for his first wife, her tragic death, his second wife, all his friends in Hollywood, the army, and elsewhere.

He has apologized right at the beginning for name dropping - and does he do it with panache! I will never look at some of the Hollywood greats in the same way again - having got just that minute insight into their lives, through the eyes of Niven! No, no, he has only good words for most of them - and those few that he doesn't speak so well of, are unnamed.

Some of the passages in the book had me clutching my stomach and rolling about, laughing. The advantage of reading a book by an actor you have seen and liked, is that you kind of imagine him saying it all aloud. And when I imagine that upright bearing, and that stiff upper lip rattling off all that he says, it makes it all the funnier.

I highly recommend this book. Especially if you like David Niven.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Letters to people in the park.

Dear Man in the Red Tracks,
Can't you see that the poor lady is already in tears to see her child crying so much? This is the time to help her, ask her if the child needs to be taken to a doctor. Definitely not the time to give her a lecture on how not to leave her child unattended on the monkey ladder.
P.S. You can pull in your tummy as much as you want to - your paunch is still obvious.

Dear lady in the handloom kurti,
No, it is not funny. Your three-year-old pushing aside my not-yet-2-year-old to get on the slide first is not funny. No, don't give me that indulgent look of, "These kids!" Tell your child not to push. He is old enough to understand. It is never too early to teach them manners, you know.

Dear lady with the frown,
Bringing along a maid to the park does not automatically absolve you of your duties as a mom. Can't you see that your child needs you to wave at him as he goes down the slide? Can't you see that your child would like you to help him on to the merry-go-round? Oh, and your maid is too old and weak to lift him, so here I am straining my back, lifting the heavy fellow onto the merry-go-round - don't just sit there and frown. It is basic courtesy to come and do it yourself.
All of us have bad days, but everyday cannot possibly be a bad day. Come on, erase that frown. And please, look into your son's eyes. He craves for your attention.
With concern,

Dear Uncle,
Relax. Just because my daughter can play the slide on her own, and your grandson who is a couple of months older, cannot, you need not worry. Don't push him. He is not ready yet, can't you see? Kids are different, uncle. Didn't you notice how clear your grandson's speech is, and how unintelligible Puttachi's is? They'll learn. Don't worry.

I did say the last one aloud, in different words, though. Now if only I could say everything out aloud.... and oh yes, I also wonder if someone is writing a letter to me somewhere on their blog.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What I have been up to.

I don't have a valid reason for my hibernation. But for a few days, the words refused to flow from my fingers.

Anyway, here I am, back, with a short update about what's been happening here.


A long weekend visit to Mysore happened, with trips to Ranganathittu bird sanctuary, and a trip to Karanji lake thrown in. So this time, it was a Birdwatching trip. I am in love with Sarus Cranes. Have you seen them? Tall, graceful, and just so beautiful.


Part of my silence for a while was because of some sad news. A friend, who was my hostelmate had an ectopic pregnancy, her tubes ruptured and she was taken to hospital where her heart stopped for a while during the emergency surgery. She is now in a coma - has been in the same state from the past two weeks. Her loud, clear laughter keeps ringing in my ears, and I find it terrible to imagine her lying motionless in the ICU. I hope she pulls through, and soon.


20-month-old Puttachi is on a roll. I sometimes have to clap my hand on her mouth to stop her from talking. She has excellent vocabulary, and shocks me each day with a new word or a complicated new sentence. Or paragraph. "Teddy fell off from the bed, onto the floor. Teddy got hurt. Let's take it to the doctor. I will not come to the doctor. You take teddy. Take Teddy in Auto. Juiiiiii." [In Kannada]. Or after she finishes a papad, "Innu happala idya?" [Is there more papad?]. I think she ought to be saying, "Happala! Happala!", not making a polite enquiry!

She now sings more than 10 or 15 rhymes and songs, both in Kannada and English, completely. The only thing is that her speech is still terribly unclear - and only if you know her well can you understand what she is saying.

And oh, when she says something and I don't understand it, she gets very upset. She scrunches up her face and screams a couple of times. Then she stands up and does a frustrated foot-stamping act, as if she is standing on a hot tin roof. She then runs around the room in circles, still with a knotted brow, runs out to the next room, stands leaning against a wall, her back to the wall, her hands behind her, lowers her head to the ground, but looks up at me through her eyelashes, looking like a baby cheetah. I either have to urgently fathom what she has been saying, or divert her attention to something completely different.

I leave you with a puzzle - a popular English rhyme as sung by Puttachi. Guess which one this is :)

Tinta tinta titta taay
Aaba banda baatu aay
Appa baada
Taata dyman dinda ty.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


.... And just like that, what little anonymity I had left on this blog, goes up in smoke as soon as you click on this. [Page 7 in today's Sunday Herald (Sunday Supplement of Deccan Herald]].

Thank you all for your wishes on my previous post. And the story is not yet available - it will be published, I think, three weeks from today.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A prize!

Coming out of hibernation to tell you that my story won the Third Prize in the Deccan Herald Short Story Competition 2008. Details here. Will tell you when the story gets published.
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