Category Archives: books

I am Legend

I_Am_LegendNot me obviously, I’m talking about the film which I went to see, a little apprehensively yesterday evening in Bombay. I love the Richard Mathieson book and was terrified that the combined forces of Will Smith and Hollywood would have completely destroyed what is so extraordinary and powerful about the novel. Then I saw the trailer and thought, I have to see this.

The film was wonderful, really, really good and I don’t think I was relaxed for one moment. It’s involving, desperate, moving, thrilling and pretty intense. Okay, so they did Hollywood up the ending a little but I can forgive them that as it after 90 minutes of the film even I felt that I needed a slightly more uplifting ending than the original which is a little more dark and twisted. The only shame is that the ending in the book, where the character realises that he himself has become the perversion in society, the misfit and the abhorrance rather than the new, vampire like mutated humans that have overrun the planet, and that is why they are bent on destroying him, because they fear what is different, is one of the most interesting commentaries on the nature of humanity. Clearly not really mainstream audience though. Other than that, fantastic film and Will Smith is excellent in it.

What is fascinating and thought provoking about all these types of post-apocalyptic novels, whether it’s I am Legend, Mary Wesley’s The Sixth Seal, Cormac McCarthy’s On the Road, or Jean van Ure’s Plague 99, is that you, or at least I, invariably end up wandering what I would do in those situations. When the world around you has altered and changed beyond all recognition, when you become the few, the hunted or the survivors, what do you do? Would you have the strength, the perseverance, the sheer bloodymindedness to get up every day, to keep going, to hold onto hope when there is none to be found, to stick two fingers up at the world around you and say “fuck you, I will survive!”

Well fortunately for me there are no nuclear holocausts, chemical storms or mutated viruses to wipe out the world’s population leaving me in such a situation…yet! Instead yesterday evening I walked through the city of Mumbai, or Bombay as everyone here still calls it, a city of 13 million people, all still one hopes, warm blooded non-vampires, and stuck two fingers up at the vast numbers of taxi drivers who all refused, point blank, to take me back to my hotel and instead I found my way back to Colaba on my own two feet. Okay so it’s hardly surviving an apocalypse, but hey, it’s a start!

we need more power!

Some things in India are reliably bizarre. Power blackouts for example. They will generally occur during any of the following situations:

  1. 10 minutes before the climax of a film you are watching on TV or half way through the season finale of LOST
  2. Just as you are going to sleep on a hot night and the electric powered ceiling fan is the only thing keeping you cool
  3. When you urgently need to get anything requiring a computer or a fax machine done in a hurry
  4. Thursday afternoons starting between 2-4pm and lasting until about 7.30pm.

The house has been very bizarre this week. The supervisor, Aunty, had a huge blow out with the cook Kamal early in the week which meant Kamal seemed to have gone on strike for 3 days. No more over-boiled eggs for breakfast. I’d only just forgiven her for pillaging the entire box of Earl Grey tea bags when she ran out of tea leaves for the morning tooth-enamel-Kamal in the Kitchenmelting sweet chai! Also Manda who usually stays at night times to supervise us has been away so for the past few nights we have been footloose and fancy free. (Useful for a spot of mid week boozing and being able to come back at midnight without fear of reprisals!) Co-founder of DeepGriha, the Revered Basker came around and was planning on staying overnight to check all was fine, but upon realising there was a man (Emmanuel, 21, French, wouldn’t say bonjour to a goose) in the house decided we would be fine without his protection! Clearly all the strong, willful female personalities in the house were not deemed sufficient enough. Gotta love these patriarchal societies. Interestingly I think I am experiencing what it must have been like to go to boarding school…when the Reverend rocked up, everyone ran into my room to hide all the empty beer bottles in the toilet, (in theory we are not allowed alcohol in the house) and after he left we sat up till 4am drinking the rest and watching cheesy films on Lianna’s laptop and smoking cigarettes out of the window!

Just finished Stupid White Men by Michael Moore, interesting and illuminating but I feel he really should have included himself in the title.

mysterious girl

Well six countries in as many months and no debilitating diseases as of yet (touch wood), I should be thankful that the worst I’ve suffered in India is a bad cold. Not that this stopped me feeling sorry for myself, however, as I lay feeling weak and snotty in the volunteer house living room reduced to watching our only English movie channel which had such delights as ‘Predator 2′ and ‘Home Alone’, and let’s not forget the chick flick about the mermaid…actually I did rather enjoy that one. By Saturday life had started to return to me again and thankfully I felt sufficiently perked up to leave the confines of the house and went to do exciting things like booking bus tickets for Goa and Hampi over Devali break. Actually I did manage to plough through a good couple of books in my sickness including Adrien Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction which was hilarious, I’d forgotten how funny Sue Townsend is. I’ve also started reading Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder which I remember really loving about nine years ago. I’m finding it a little less enthralling this time round mainly because I find Sophie, the main character self-centered, abrupt, rude and totally uncharismatic. Funny how your perceptions of things will change over the years.

Me looking… was off out on Saturday night and I finally agreed to come as long as we weren’t going anywhere too crazy I should be okay for a few beers. And if you can’t see where this is going then you clearly don’t know me very well. We ventured over the river into Kalyani Nagar to an outside bar restaurant called Soho which was very cool but with a surprisingly large number of white people. It’s amazing how defensive we all get when we spot loads of other non locals, you’d think we had the prestige of being the only ones! We ran into Mike, the guy who runs the Sahara HIV care home, and ended up heading off with him and our Ethiopian student friends to a hip hop party in a nearby hotel bar. I’m amazed there were that many black people in Pune, all students I think, and it ended up being a very late and very entertaining night, lots of dancing and some excellent music…although what Mysterious Girl was doing cropping up in the middle of a hip hop night is beyond me. Peter Andre, for the record, they love you in Pune! We are waiting to be lectured on coming back two hours after curfew. Seriously, I’m 27 years old and I have a curfew…don’t get me started!

Sunday afternoon picnic Sunday was a lazy day, Sophie, Aeysha, Jo and I went for a picnic in the Empress Gardens with our ipod, speakers and lots of cake and biscuits from the Diamond Bakery near our road. Sadly the botanical gardens is currently being slightly refurbished but we found a peaceful spot away from prying eyes and sat down on rugs for food and scrabble.

Painting “Diya” for DivaliToday our fragile internet connection has finally given up the ghost despite my attempts to decode the rather complicated wiring system and everyone is rather vague as to when the engineer might arrive. So I have done all I can in the office and decamped to the internet cafe to access the rest of the big wide world. It really is a worrying sign that without the internet I feel slightly like I’m trying to get things done with only one hand. It’s taking over my life….

bombay mix

Clubbing in Mumbai On Friday evening I had just about recovered for the previous night where a post work business meeting near Koregan park in an unassuming restaurant called Prem somehow got a little out of hand and Ayesha, Lianna and I ended up drinking vast quantities of beer and getting slightly pissed. Those of you more familiar with the drunken Claire will know from experience that my voice does tend to increase ever so slightly in volume after a few drinks. Given that we were sitting in a restaurant of families and couples and that generally India does tend to be more conservative, I think my contributions to the general topics of conversation may have been slightly inappropriate. As also may have been singing Disney songs incredibly loudly all the way home and having to tip the rickshaw driver as Liana jumped out the back as we rounded the corner into our main road and hopped in beside the driver announcing she was driving the rest of the way home as Ayesha and I were impersonating Jordan and Peter Andre singing a Whole New World in the back. Clearly reaching the age of 27 has done wonders for my maturity!

Sunset on Marine DriveAnyway friday night in Deep Griha was the DISHA party for all the DISHA clients (people living with HIV) and their families on the terrace of the Tadiwala Road centre. The kids all did performances of Bollywood dance numbers, sang songs and read out poems (the little ones were so cute) and then we all danced like crazy for an hour on the roof with all the kids. My arms were completely dead by the end from carrying all the kids around whilst trying to be taught Bollywood moves by the younger girls. Good fun though.

CST terminus in MumbaiThis weekend after a Saturday morning partners meeting for Wake Up Pune, four of us, (Ayesha, Sarah, Lianna and I) decided to head off to the coast to the big city and spend the weekend in Mumbai. Love Mumbai, really fantastic town. I think it was the reaction I was expecting when I first arrived in India. Everyone has such strong reactions to the country one way or another but Pune is relatively unstressful and I guess I’d not felt polarised either way. Mumbai, however, I loved. We met up with Ben and Kev, a short and tall comedy double act volunteering with the same organisation as Ayesha and Lianna but they are teaching in a catholic ashram in an old fort an hour from Mumbai. After arriving on Saturday evening we had beers, amazing kebabs from a street stall in Colaba and then went in search of a bar to watch the rugby. Due to the “moral police” all the bars were closing before the game was due to start and by midnight we were starting to wonder if it was worth the fuss. Usually I love the rugby but having been in India during the whole world cup and hearing virtually nothing about anything except cricket I haven’t felt that bothered. We decided sod it and went clubbing instead, which given that England lost, was definitely a good decision. Instead we danced to cheese, rock, bollywood hits and hip hop in a heaving club called Polly Ester drinking suspicious looking shots brought by Ayesha and being taught moves to the recent Bollywood hits by the locals. Continue reading