Monday, November 23, 2020

The Suitable Boy

All these 27 years since it was published, I have wanted to read The Suitable Boy, the acclaimed novel by Vikram Seth. But it's too long, said to be one of the longest in a single volume; over 1,300 pages.

Watching the six-episode film adaptation is easier. And that's what I did. 

It's on Netflix everywhere, except the US and Canada, where it's being streamed by Acorn TV.

The film is by BBC One, directed by Mira Nair and written by Andrew Davies, who has previously adapted Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair, George Eliot's Middlemarch, and Charles Dickens's Bleak House.

I thought the advent of web series, which can have many seasons and episodes, is a good option for writers who want to turn novels to movies. It seems Davies had written it for eight parts. I wonder why it was reduced by two.

The Suitable Boy is the story of four families -- the life of a 19-year-old college student torn by not only her mother's obsession to find her a suitable boy but also by the fact that she has three suitors waiting to hear a yes from her. She finally chooses one.

The story is also about the India of 1951, four years after becoming independent, with a heavy legacy of Hindu-Muslim animosity, a consequence of the manner in which the freedom was won.

A very well made movie; good acting; the plots jump from one to the other without creating too much confusion, and there is enough drama as well to keep one watching.

One thing though struck me as a bit jarring, especially initially -- the language. Though there is a smattering of Hindi and Urdu, the movie is originally in English. That's fine, but the accent of some of them looked a tad contrived. It made me switch to the Hindi version, just to see the difference; and that looked a bit more natural.

But I think overall the movie has come out very well. Enjoyed watching it.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Declining coronavirus numbers

The last five months of a year is a time of religious festivities in India. The globally well-known Diwali (known as Deepavali in the South) is arguably the high point. It was on Saturday. Now we have Christmas and New Year coming up.

The fear has been that the coronavirus cases will peak with the progress of the season that began in August. Usually, during this time, large crowds of people throng places of worship; friends and relatives call on one and another, or go out on vacation. 

This time, the festivities have been somewhat muted, though people are out in the markets in large numbers. As of now, contrary to fears, the numbers nationally have been on the decline over the past one and a half months. After hitting the all-time peak of 97,894 on September 16, it was 30,548 yesterday. Hope the trend continues.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Back to the 'old normal' in the US

Around three years before the pandemic struck, Donald Trump ushered in a new form of public engagement and governance in the US, in a radical departure from the past. 

A whole swathe of presidential conduct changed dramatically -- aspects ranging from decision-making to implementation; from interaction with the media to engagement with world leaders; from honouring time-tested traditions to characterising as enemies people who had divergent views.

This was a 'new normal' people in the US and many people abroad were forced to get accustomed to.

They now won't have to. It's back to the presidential demeanour and diplomacy that we have always known.

This video popped on my YouTube feed ... as if reminding me of where the thread was left ... President Obama surprising Vice President Joe Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on January 12, 2017. (It's 37 minutes long.)

Fast forward three years, 10 months ... President-elect Biden delivers the acceptance speech on Nov 7, 2020.

Biden seems to have recouped his energy during the four-year break. Good for him. Hopefully, good for America and for the rest of the world.

Can't leave Kamal Harris out. A great speech.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Countdown to chaos or decision?

Image courtesy: Pixabay
I hope it's the latter.

The day after tomorrow is the day, or rather the night. 

It's not for nothing US Presidential elections are keenly watched the world over. 

It's one of the oldest democracies and one of the most powerful nations in the world. Its dollar and military are still a force to reckon with. Its institutions are strong and resilient enough to withstand the frequent destabilizing forces that keep cropping up off and on. Its culture has a profound influence all over the world. 


That's a phrase we keep hearing on the election night, as winners for each State are announced by media organisations. 

(How strange everyone looks to the so-called "biased" media networks to declare - unofficially - who the winner is!)  

The popular opinion was that Donald Trump, during his four years of presidency, will script his own defeat. Let's accept this -- there is nothing so far (from the "unreliable" pollsters) to suggest this will definitely happen.

That means we are going to hear that phrase many times over on Nov 3 night and, who knows, well into the next day too.

The outcome might be uncertain, well in keeping with this year's pan-global theme. But the battle lines are crystal clear.  


  • Conspiracy theories vs Science

  • COVID-19 is a ploy to destroy America; don't panic and buckle vs COVID-19 is a disease; take care of your health as well as of others

  • Mask symbolises shackles and tyranny; wearing it won't prevent you from getting COVID-19 vs Wearing a mask is a recommendation of health experts to keep you and everyone else safe

  • Our well-being and health can't be at the cost of the economy vs It's possible to keep the economy running even while we take care of our well-being and health
  • People who disagree with you are all wrong vs People who disagree with you could be right

  • Recklessness vs Prudence

  • Don't think too much, act (you can correct later) vs Think through before you act (because by the time you correct, the damage is done.)

  • Reach your destination, don't bother about the road vs The road you take to reach the destination is equally important

  • Don't waste time waiting for consensus and to take everyone on board vs Getting as many people on board is important. Correctness and inclusiveness of decisions matter as much as the speed with which decisions are taken

  • Security and economy is more important than everything else vs Everything else is as important as security and economy

  • Only America and Americans matter, don't bother about the rest vs The rest of the world matters too


  • Narrow win for Trump (The show will go on)

  • Landslide win for Trump (The show will go on; the likelihood of more pomp and fury)

  • Landslide for Biden (The Red camp might smell a rat but the celebration in the Blue camp might overwhelm the shock in the Red camp)

  • Narrow win for Biden (The Red camp might smell a rat. But the worry is will they let emotions spill on to the streets?)

  • Counting disputed in one or many states (Court battles. If not long-drawn-out, the Supreme Court will declare the winner. Remember 2000? There is also the possibility of the contingent election. It has happened thrice: in 1801, 1825, and 1837. SG in his blog describes how it works and the interesting outcome it could throw up.)


If Trump loses, narrowly or by a wide margin, will he and his supporters be sporting enough to accept the verdict?