Remembrance (2011): My Take

Last evening, I watched this foreign film, “Remembrance”.

It is the story about a Jewish woman, Hannah Silberstein, who struggles to break free from the dark memories of her past life in the Auschwitz concentration camp during Poland’s SS occupation.

Young Hannah falls in love with an inmate, Tomasz Limanowski. Together, after they escape from the camp, he returns home, introducing Hannah – his fiancée – to his mother. Instead of warmth and joy, they face Mrs. Limanowski’s wrath. Circumstances compel Tomasz to leave his too-ill-to-travel fiancée in maternal care — for just a couple of days. 30 years later, Hannah catches a glimpse of him on TV. Truly, was this the same Tomasz who had rescued her? Where did he go? Did his mother reconcile? Now, what?

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An interesting story set in the mid-’70s, the film’s narrative moves back and forth spatially and temporally, transposing audiences from Brooklyn, NY, to a tiny village in Eastern Europe. Paced perfectly, you will savor the romance and anticipation, while feeling the pain of separation when two people are in love, the circumstances notwithstanding.

The older Hannah – played by Dagmar Manzel – plays a fine role of an anguished woman battling her demons during her 30 year old marriage to an affluent businessman. Based on the true story of Jerzy Bielecki, a Polish social worker born in the early 1920s, and Cyla Cybulska, a young Polish-Jewish woman, the only one to have survived after her family was murdered. Played poignantly by Alice Dwyer, you will see glimpses of defiance and determination even during her stricken youth. Mateusz Damięcki and Lech Mackiewicz, as the young rebel Limanowski, and as the older Tomash, respectively, both portray the character deftly, and with just the right portions of passion and aggression.

Remembrance2011Film

Director Anna Justice has delivered a fine film, with the entire cast in tune with the story. In 105 minutes of the film’s duration she has unfolded the characters at a pace that holds your attention, while developing every one of them – short, or tall – as a strong presence – whether brief, or long. Hannah’s husband, their adult daughter, Tomasz’s brother and his wife, Janusz – a family friend… every character is memorable.

This German film was released in late 2011, so NetFlix aficionados are fortunate to be able to watch it now… before they pull it off from their drama and foreign film categories. Original title: “Die verlorene Zeit”.

A story of human resilience… and society’s humaneness!

Tales of compassion, resilience towards life’s adversities, and stories of hope in the face of unthinkable challenges are always so fascinating… I just finished reading one such story, “The Hard and the Soft“, brought to us by op-ed columnist, David Brooks, of The New York Times. Speaking of Norway’s winnings at the recent Winter Olympics, he states that “This was no anomaly. Over the years, Norwegians have won more gold medals in Winter Games, and more Winter Olympics medals over all, than people from any other nation.” He cites the story of Jan Baalsrud, a young Norwegian in 1943, from the book, “We Die Alone” by David Howarth. (I should read this book.)

A while back we watched Akira Kurosawa’s epic-like film, “Dersu Uzala“, an Academy Award winner from 1975. Again, this was a riveting film, and I’m reminded of it today!

Returning to the spirit of Norwegians, is yet another compelling story of Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian zoologist — and later in 1922, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize — who ventured to go “Farthest North” to the North Pole… way back in 1893. This is the adventure narrative of a man who struggled with the most extreme forces of nature.

Undoubtedly, we hear, read, and watch stories of human survival through man-created atrocities and challenges. But those are for another day. For now, I silently congratulate not only those who succeeded and won medals at the Winter Olympics, but also those who toiled to make their way to the West Coast, Canada, this year. Kudos to you all!

Michael Pollack’s tale of terror, horror and hospitality at The Taj Mahal Hotel

This morning, over a week after the news of gunshots and terror struck Mumbai, I read a first hand account from a word doc that appeared in my mail box: Michael Pollack and Anjali’s story of their nightmare at the Taj. But through it all, they express their gratitude towards members of the hotel staff who were so hospitable despite the adverse conditions; some of them even lost their lives in efforts to protect the guests at the hotel. This narrative epitomizes the Indian cultural belief of “Atithi Devo Bhava“, translated from Sanskrit loosely, as “The guest to your home is divine; treat him thus.”

Personally, I feel an affiliation to this heritage hotel not only because I have frequented the hotel’s restaurants often, but my friends and family also worked at the Taj a long time back, including one noble Parsi gentleman who dedicated 42 years of his life in this ‘company’ as their Chief Cashier; while another – today a proud American with over 500 Americans on his payroll commenced his working career at this hotel as a Clerk! I have other fond memories associated with this place, including their cake-shop “La Patisserie”, the bookshop “Nalanda’s” and the shoe store “Joy”. Nothing elitist about that, simply an association of excellent quality, service and yes, premium prices but for the best choices. In the classical sense, it symbolizes all that spells “excellence” as opposed to “cheap” or “shoddy”.

Michael & Anjali survived at The Taj
Michael & Anjali survived at The Taj

We have, by now, read many accounts of horror and negligence by government authorities. This story pays homage to those who died – commandos, staff members – during “service”. There are a few comments to this story published in Forbes, who refer to the staff sacrifices as “servitude”. I guess, one can understand Indian hospitality only if you have been fortunate to experience it first-hand. No matter how much the West has influenced India, or that Westerners condemn India and Indians, certainly today, Michael, and others like him who survived, may value India’s heritage of  “Atithi Devo Bhava“!

To read more, and to listen to Michael and Anjali’s interview with Charlie Rose, visit: NYC Hedge Fund Manager Saved by Heroes at the Taj Hotel.

Michael is a General Partner of Glenhill Capital. Glenhill is a global, multi-sector equities investment firm. Prior to co-founding Glenhill in 2001, Mr. Pollack served as an Associate at Reservoir Capital Group and as an Analyst at Colony Capital, both private equity firms.Mr. Pollack graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife and son. (Source: Zoominfo)

Anjali Pollack specializes in hi-end interior design.


“Interesting Facts about India”… I’m tired of the boast statements!

Every other day, my Inbox has a ‘new’ email which reflects the glories of India and Indians. While I’m indeed happy for this country, her countrymen (women, and children) and all their successes, I’m kind of tired of reading emails forwarded by hundreds of people, en masse, literally. It seems that the people who created these emails and those who forward them daily are folks gloating in glories that are dated so far back in history, that in the present day the email may initially evoke interest, but after receiving it numerous times, it tends to annoy. Here’s why…

Claim 1: India never invaded any country in her last 1000 years of history.

Me: But in the past 1000 years Indians allowed over 1000 invaders to plunder and loot their motherland (and continue to do so, in one form or another). Why look outwards… numerous scams within the nation more than make up for all the looting from the outside, in present day India.

 

Claim 2: India invented the Number system. Zero was invented by Aryabhatta.

Me: But since then, did India not regress to sub-zero (to the nth degree)? Could it possibly be attributed to the looting and plundering? A nation so wealthy but one that has always remained divided is invaded. Is that surprising? Or were the conquerors not invited to loot at will by ruling kings (so as to safeguard personal interests)? Inventors, please take the rear seat (so as to safeguard your inventions)!

Claim 3: The world’s first University was established in Takshila in 700 B.C.
More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects.
The University of Nalanda built in the 4th century B.C. was one of the greatest achievements of ancient India in the field of education.

Me: But in 2008, Indian students – who can afford to do so – flock to the US; if not, then to Australia, or to the Dominican Republic, or… all this in hopes of acquiring a string of ‘foreign’ degrees, so as to gain better employment in their own country!

Claim 4: The art of navigation was born in the river Sindh 5000 years ago. The very word ‘Navigation’ is derived from the Sanskrit word NAVGATIH.

Me: But today, wealthy Indians fly to the US, or to Canada, to board on a week-long leisure cruise that will take them to the Caribbean, or to Alaska… how many cruise-liners take Indians (or world travelers) around the coast of India? (All you hear about is how many boats sank in the Ganges!)

Claim 5: The value of pi was first calculated by Budhayana, and he explained the concept of what is now known as the Pythagorean Theorem. British scholars have last year (1999) officially published that Budhayan’s works dates to the 6th Century which is long before the European mathematicians.

Me: But today, Budhayana ki buddhi toh dur ki baat reh gayee; ask any poor man on the street… “Woh toh pi(e) pi(e) ke liye mar raha hai… mohtaj hai!”
[Translated from Hindi, it means that the poor man on the street dies everyday before earning a single (pai/paisa – the old Indian penny, almost literally!)]
Besides, why is the statement still touting that British scholars acknowledged Buddhayana… will it be centuries before Indians themselves acknowledge the fact, or are able to figure out Buddhayana?

Claim 6: Algebra, trigonometry and calculus came from India . Quadratic equations were by Sridharacharya in the 11th Century; the largest numbers the Greeks and the Romans used were 106 whereas Indians used numbers as big as 1053.

Me: But now the Americans and the world talks in terms of trillions… Indians also now understand billion, especially after India’s population crossed the mark, not too long ago, and Indian scam monies add up to trillions of rupees, or even dollars!

Claim 7: According to the Gemmological Institute of America, up until 1896, India was the only source of diamonds to the world.

Me: But Indian diamond merchants today gloat when they set up a single office in Israel or Amsterdam!

Claim 8: USA based IEEE has proved what has been a century-old suspicion amongst academics that the pioneer of wireless communication was Professor Jagdeesh Bose and not Marconi.

Me: Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose was born on November 30, 1858; he died on November 23, 1937;
Marchese Guglielmo Marconi was born on April 25, 1874; he died on July 20, 1937.

They were contemporaries; Bose was the first from Indian subcontinent to get a US patent in 1904. But as early on as 1896-7, Marconi was giving lectures on “Telegraphy without wires” and “Signaling through space without wires”.

Claim 9: The earliest reservoir and dam for irrigation was built in Saurashtra.
Me: But gloating about the past engineering does not prevent present-day floods and famines, year after year, in other parts of the nation. Wake up, Indians!

StepWell_Hampi_Chitralekhan's Photo Archives
The hyperlink transposes you from my pix (above) of a step-well in Hampi, to a beautiful image of the same structure. Thank you, Charukesi, your gallery is amazing!

 

Claim 10: Chess was invented in India.
Me: But who were the undisputed chess champions, year after year (until Vishwanath Anand displayed his skills at the turn of the millennium)? Ask yourself this question, search for the answers… they were not Indians. (But please don’t act like you’re shocked!)

Claim 11: Sushruta is the father of surgery. 2600 years ago he and health scientists of his time conducted surgeries like cesareans, cataract, fractures and urinary stones. Usage of anaesthesia was well known in ancient India.

Me: That was over two millennia ago… please do talk about why millions died in famine, child-birth, plague, pox, tuberculosis and during other epidemics in the last 1000 years. Why did numerous Indians need to flock to Cleveland’s Mayo Clinic for open heart surgery even 30 years ago? Please do give that some thought.

Claim 12: When many cultures in the world were only nomadic forest dwellers over 5000 years ago, Indians established Harappan culture in Sindhu Valley ( Indus Valley Civilisation).

Me: Then whoever put this list together with the objective of forwarding it for almost a decade now should be ashamed to think that given a chance, millions of Indians today would rather move away from India, away from the prevailing poverty, and from the lack of infrastructure even in modern times. A land where indeed there are numerous vehicles but roads and bridges cave in. Where dams are built but human beings are displaced without provision for adequate shelters. Where food grows in abundance, but a poor man, woman, child and a pariah dog may eat from the same garbage can! Where cotton grows in abundance, and yarns are exported, but clothing for the poor remains a dream unfulfilled.

Claim 13: The place value system, the decimal system was developed in India in 100 BC.
Me: Alas, India and Indians were decimated for hundreds of years!

Me: Stop gloating in past glories, Indians… If you wish to make progress, stop spinning tales, put an end to these urban legends, and please do discard those fragile yarns!

Someone has rightly stated that Indian culture has been petrified since the 13th century. Oops, I hope this does not begin a chain email related to how 13 was unlucky for Indians and is to be blamed for limited progress since then!

Finally, check this out… either the Government of India picked this up from numerous “forwards”, or numerous Indians found the easy way out and plagiarized from here. It’s futile to say anything further!