I cannot remember quite how I got persuaded to purchase a DVD of a film with Robert Duvall and Michael Caine called Second Hand Lions, but it must have been a strong recommendation from a friend. I had bought it bought it way back in April of this year and it just piled up with the various other DVDs that I have been buying over the last few months without finding the time to see them.
I finally got around to seeing it a couple of days ago and was quite pleased with it. I am not about to bore my readers with a review about it, but let me just say that I quite enjoyed seeing it.
When I opened the parcel, I discovered that I had in fact bought two DVDs to avail of a free delivery offer and so found another DVD inside. That turned out to be Ned Kelly a movie on a true story about an Australian outlaw of the late 19th century. The film was based on a novel Our Sunshine by the Australian writer Robert Drewe.
I am glad that I bought the DVD though I had no clue as to what I was getting into when I ordered for it. I am particularly impressed because it is an Australian movie and I haven’t seen many of them.
This is a remarkable story about how high handed misuse of authority by police officials drives a young man and his mates to becoming outlaws. Though full details are not shown, apparently in his lifetime Kelly had become a legend. The viewer cannot help getting involved with the underdog and wishing him success when injustice after injustice keeps piling up. The director has succeeded in that effort and till the end one keeps the faith that justice will prevail. That it does not in the end is neither here nor there, but the viewer is hooked from the beginning till the end. I have no hesitation in giving the film a full [rating=6] rating.
A very well made film with tight editing and some very good acting. There are moments when the background music becomes too loud and that is the only criticism that I have for the movie. If you get an opportunity to watch it, I recommend that you do for some emotional roller coaster rides.
Lin, the promised bonus post on the Travel Series. I had written this three years ago!
During my recent trips to the South of India, I had a couple of misadventures with the Indian Railways.
To start with, I was unable to reserve my seat on a train from Bengaluru to Chennai either directly online or through an online travel agent because, the Indian Railways reservation system has blacklisted my name for some strange reason. I am told that it is most likely because my account with them has been dormant for many years now. Others including my sister Padmini, too confirm that this happens when one does not use the system for a long period of time.
I therefore requested a friend in Bengaluru to physically go to the station and book the ticket which he kindly did. Unfortunately however, he failed to check the hard copy of the ticket before couriering it to me to reach me before I left Pune. On receipt I found that my gender had been entered as Female!
You have to know somethings about the Indian Railways to understand the horror I felt on finding myself classified as a Female. The IR is a government department under the charge of a full time Minister in the Central Government of India. It is therefore highly bureaucratic and as with other bureaucracies, open to misuse of authority. If a ticket examiner had decided to make my life miserable, this was a perfect opportunity, which he would have considered as a blessing from his favourite God.
On arrival at Bengaluru I rushed to the main railway station to see if the ticket could be altered to avoid my being offloaded and was directed to the Assistant Station Superintendent. In that office there were two worthies sitting at empty desks doing nothing. The first one, a male, I went to was seated immediately to my left as I entered the room. He was very polite and asked me what the problem was and on learning what it was, promptly yelled to the other person, a lady sitting across the room to solve the problem. I took myself over to the lady and handed over the ticket and she scrutinised it and the following discussion took place;
Lady: “Are you Ramana Rajgopaul?”
Me: “Yes Madam, I am indeed Ramana Rajgopaul.
Lady: “But you are not a female!”.
Me: “Yes Madam, I indeed am not, as you can see.”
Lady: “So what is the problem?”
Me: “I would like to ensure that I am not offloaded from the train due to this misrepresentation and would appreciate your amending the ticket to make me a Male.”
Lady: “That is not possible sir. This is an e-ticket and we cannot access the computer to edit such mistakes.”
Me: “So, what do I do?”
Lady: “Have you got some identification proof with you?”
Me: “Yes, my Income Tax Permanent Account Number Card, my driving license and if need be, I can carry my passport too.”
Lady: “Please show me what you have now with you.”
Me: Produced the PAN Card and the Driving License.
Lady: :Good! It is clear that you are not a female. All that you have to do is to show this to the ticket examiner on board the train.”
Me: “Supposing he refuses to accept and offloads me?”
Lady: “Don’t worry Sir. This happens all the time and all TEs are quite used to seeing these mistakes. He won’t offload you.”
Me: “Just suppose he does, what do I do?”
Lady: “Come back here and submit a written complaint about the whole matter.”
Me: “Thank you very much Madam. It is a great relief to know that there is a complaint mechanism that I can use by returning to Bengaluru from wherever I am offloaded which will give me some relief.”
Lady: “No mention. It is my duty.”
I duly boarded the train on the due date and after about an hour into the journey, the TE did come and asked for the ticket and this is what transpired between the two of us.
TE: Sir, you are not a female.”
Me: No, I am most certainly not!”
TE: Have you got some ID with you?”
I produced my PAN card.
He took a pen from his pocket and circled the ‘female’ entry, wrote ‘Male’ inside the circle, affixed his signature in the form of a squiggle and said “Terrible things, computers. Here you are a male and it has called you a female.” I agreed with him and took my ID card and the ticket back from him and that was the end of the story.”
Lin, I wrote this one too for the LBC over three years ago. The topic was suggested by Padmum. This gives more than just one incident and to that extent kind of sums up my travelling days and some of the incidents that took place. There are many more but I shall, write new stories without committing to a series and recalling older blog posts. So, the five posts that I promised you conclude with this one, but there is one more that is really funny which I shall post as a bonus tomorrow.
Having been in a career that involved a great deal of traveling, I have had my share of the usual troubles that all travelers face; delayed/cancelled/missed flights, trains, taxis breaking down, bad weather, flash strikes by transport and hotel workers and so on and so forth. I had one experience of lost luggage that was more due to a language problem, more about that later.
The unusual troubles that I have had are few, but I shall list them here.
The lost luggage incident was at the Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. My suit case did not come out on the carousal and I had to run from pillar to post to find some one who could speak English. That was when I understood what a disadvantage speaking English is in France. After about an hour of running around, I found a sympathetic policeman, who helped me locate the luggage and I left the airport with the suitcase. There was another incident where language was not the problem and I had to wait for three days for the suitcase to be located and returned to me in London, but something good came out of it as I had to buy some essentials till BA could locate the suitcase for which they very efficiently paid up.
In 1982, I was touring the Eastern Uttar Pradesh and had left Varanasi for Gorakhpur by car late in the evening, hoping to reach the latter by about dinner time. On the way, luckily near a small town, our car broke down and we were forced to catch a rural taxi leaving the car and the driver behind so that we could go to Gorakhpur and send a relief vehicle. The driver of the taxi misbehaved with us on reaching our hotel and left in a huff. He took his own back by going back to the abandoned car and driver and a big police case had to filed and I had to return to that God forsaken place a few times before everything could be settled.
On another occasion, we were returning from Chennai by train to Pune after a family wedding. We left well on time and were driven by our friend’s son in law, but about half a kilometer before we could reach the station, we were caught in a traffic jam caused by communist trade unions taking out a march. Urmeela, Ranjan and I had to carry our suit cases and walk to take a pedestrian subway to reach the station. Luckily for us, as we neared the subway, a railway porter who had brought some one else’s luggage across the road came to our rescue and we reached our time well in time. The railways meanwhile, apprehending such difficulties for other passengers, decided to delay the departure and all our sweaty physical endeavours were for nothing.
On another occasion, while on tour by car in the South of India, I was harassed by the police and a false case lodged against me, during our infamous emergency days about which you can read more here.
In 1994, I was to catch a flight at Bengaluru for Pune to return home for Diwali. On reaching the airport, I was advised that the flight had been cancelled. This was quite common those days with the Indian Airlines being the sole airline in India. I decided to take a taxi from Bengaluru to Pune and was able to secure one with two drivers alternating and after a journey of 14 hours of driving, reached home in the wee hours of Diwali morning. I offered a bed and some rest for the drivers, but they opted to drive back home for Diwali too. They reached by afternoon of the Diwali day and phoned me to say that they had reached safe.
On another occasion, I was stranded at the Bahrain airport after having checked in for flight that did not arrive from London. I was forced to travel by another airline which was the worst flight that I have ever had. The ground staff and the flight attendants were extremely unprofessional and to be transferred to that kind of an airline from BA was most unfortunate. For diplomacy’s sake, I do not want to name that airline, but people familiar with flights in and out of Bahrain will no doubt find it easy to identify that.
Many such stories of travel troubles come to mind, but one flight out of London’s Heathrow to Mumbai is etched deeply for its uniqueness rather than for any trouble. The trouble was that our Air India flight was delayed due to fog and we were stuck at the Maharajah Lounge at the airport. I had the good fortune of meeting personally two great Indians there in similarly waiting mode, J R D Tata and Dhirubhai Ambani. The former all alone and the latter with Kokila Behan in attendance. The memory is strong because of what happened when we landed in Mumbai. All three of us along with the few others ahead, checked out of Immigration and I saw Dhirubhai immediately surrounded by a crowd of people who whisked him away leaving a few minions behind to collect the luggage. JRD waited with me at the carousal and chatted with me and a few others too, and when one suit case came ahead simply took it off the carousal and sat on it to wait for the next one. When that came, he took both and walked out of the luggage bay all by himself acknowledging the greetings of many who recognised him. What a contrast! JRD was the founder of Air India and only recently had been ousted from the Board of Directors by the petty minded government of that time.”
Dada Vaswani is a much in demand person for the Sindhi diaspora. He is therefore a much travelled man who has seen more of the world than most of his followers would in a lifetime. He was once asked by a follower as to which in his opinion is the best city in the world and without a moment’s hesitation replied “Simplicity.”
Is there such a city anywhere? I doubt it. But we can make ourselves live in simplicity which as Da Vinci points out is the ultimate sophistication.
Let me share with you my idea of the ultimate simple man. He is Jack Reacher. He does not have a home and lives in the clothes that he wears changing them every few days in a supermarket. He sleeps in motels and in whatever mode of conveyance that he uses to drift. He just carries a toothbrush in his pocket. I have written about him earlier and in that post had also introduced a great simplicist blogger Tammy. I had also mentioned my own regrets in the following words.
“My one regret in life is my physical limitation that prevents me from taking to the life of a Sadhu. Indian Sadhus are somewhat like Reacher except that they do not get into the kind of adventures that the latter gets into, nor are they likely to be retired Military Police officers. These are the people who have successfully broken out of houses as Wilder suggests most would like to. I would dearly love to and take to a life of wandering not quite begging to survive but like Reacher living on the move with no baggage.”
This topic was suggested by Padmum for the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where currently nine of us write on the same topic every Friday. I hope that you enjoyed my contribution to that effort. The seven other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, Ashok, gaelikaa, Lin, Maxi, Padmum, Pravin, Shackman and The Old Fossil. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, or not at all this week, do give some allowance for that too!
Lin, this story goes back to 35 years and I had posted it in my blog five years ago! The main story again takes place in an airport but not with any officialdom! There is a follow up story to this story as well written three years later for another series that I wrote.
“I had gone to our local supermarket to get some vegetables and fruit on Tuesday. As I was entering the main door, a portly gentleman was exiting and I waited for him to, as he was carrying many bags in both hands. He duly nodded and said a mumbled thanks to me and went on his way.
As I finished my shopping and was leaving, I found the same gentleman waiting outside the door and nodded to him. He asked me if I was Mr. Rajgopaul from Delhi. I replied that I was indeed Rajgopaul but currently residing in Pune. He then asked me if I remembered meeting him at Delhi. I tried to place his face but just could not. I had been stationed in Delhi between 1980 and 1983. My recollection of that period is overwhelmingly one of the constant pain that I lived with till 1985, when I had my first hip replacement.
Now for the story.
I was waiting for a flight out of Delhi and had just come out of the gents’ room when I heard someone calling for Ramesh. I just kept going to find a seat when someone joyfully calling me Ramesh and asking if I was deaf slapped me on my back. I turned around to find this joyous face hoping to have a chat with his friend whose expression quickly turned to disappointment on seeing me instead of Ramesh. He apologised profusely for the mistaken identity. He said that I resembled his friend from college days Ramesh quite a bit. Not being one to miss an opportunity, I quipped that my father is quite a colourful personality. He looked puzzled for a moment, but got the joke and guffawed quite loudly. He accompanied me to the sitting lounge and sat next to me and told me how much he enjoyed the joke.
I took out the morning’s newspaper to do the day’s crossword puzzle, when he excused himself and asked me if he could say something personal. I confirmed that he could and he very hesitatingly pointed out that I was wearing my singlet, which was peeping out of my open neck shirt, wrong side out. I informed him that I did that deliberately to keep the seam side out to reduce the friction. He just said “Oh, I see.” and turned away. After a few moments, he got up, requested me to keep an eye on his brief case while he visited the gents’ room and disappeared. He reappeared after a few minutes with a huge big grin on his face with the top button of his shirt open and told me that he too had gone and done the same thing with his singlet, and thanked me for the tip.
He then introduced himself. I don’t remember if we exchanged visiting cards, but the chances are that we did or at least I would have given mine to him. He recognized me after all these years from my walking stick, limp and my beard and was happy to confirm that I was the same fellow who taught him that trick. He said that he still wears his singlet the wrong side out. I said that I don’t anymore, as I had changed over to ribbed singlets instead of the old style interlock knits. He asked me to show what the difference was. I unfastened the top button of my kurtha and showed him. He told me that once again he has learned something new from me and he too would change over and took down the name of the brand that I wear. He also recollected the story of my father being colourful and how many times he had told this to his friends. I told him that my colourful father is still colourful and living with me and we parted with a promise from him to visit me again soon and to pay his respects to my colourful father.
Just imagine something like this happening after almost thirty years! Not only that, on my return home, I got a phone call from someone in Mumbai which led to another story from the eighties, but this time based at Ahmedabad, about which, I shall write another post soon.
My friend Abhaya is a movie buff who downloads movies from his satellite TV for viewing at leisure. He sends me a crisp message on WhatsApp recommending that I see it. Many of the older films that I have seen by purchasing DVDs are due to such recommendations from him.
Some weeks ago, Abhaya send a message that I should see Everybody’s Fine. Finding that it had Robert De Niro and Drew Barrymore in it, I had immediately ordered for a DVD and after it came just kept it away and forgot all about it.
Yesterday, feeling like seeing a movie but not quite willing to get out of the house to go to a multiplex, I picked the top most DVD in my collection and lo and behold it turned out to be Everybody’s Fine.
It is a drama film as its producers call it but I would rather call it a family drama. A retired widower’s discovery that his children have lied to him to protect him from himself under some impression that he will not be able to face and accept realities is the theme around which the story is built. There are many things in it that resonated with me but also some that did not.
There are some scenes which could have been completely eliminated as they serve no purpose like showing endless shots of coated cable running alongside trains and highways to remind the viewer that the father had once produced those cables while giving a rough time to his wife and growing up children. Such pruning would have allowed for expanding the emotions involved in some of the reunion scenes which due to underdevelopment fall flat.
Overall, a good movie to watch if one likes a bit of mush. Coming as it did more or less soon after my exposure to Cat’s in the cradle with a similar theme, it left me with a sense of satisfaction that I did not too badly as a father while my son was growing up. Worth a [rating=4] rating, possibly with half a star more which I am unable to put in.