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?

Remembrance2011Film2

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”.

One more rebel… yet again, an American!

A sick mind, a sickening situation, or is it the beginnings of a sick nation???

Way back in July 2009, I referred to Bryant Neal Vinas, an  American rebel who trained with Al Qaeda; he had actively engaged in discussions to blow up the Long Island RailRoad in NY. Then, there’s the  case of Najibullah Zazi, a Colorado-resident, who, in 2009, had plotted to blow up NYC’s subway system. Then again, the case of David C Headley, age 49, a Chicago resident, also American, who colluded with Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group, which caused havoc in Mumbai in November 2008. Since then, ostensibly, all these guys have co-operated with the FBI and/or other authorities, to reveal further details regarding proposed heinous crimes. There are others… many others, in the US, American-born rebels in their 20s who have been uncovered… many others may be in hiding, or in the making, who knows… until next time!

The Tucson terror last weekend is not likely to be the last, I’m so sorry to say so.

For the families who lost their loved ones, the pain must be deep; the anguish unforgettable! If it turns out that the gunman is “sick of mind”, it is unlikely to lessen the pain caused by the crime/s he committed…

For the nation, Tucson will be yet another event – sad – but again, sorry to say so… soon to be forgotten. After the initial angry outbursts, and a few op-eds later, each of us will get on with life. What’s more, some may even callously say, “So what, s..t happens.” Can’t you hear those NRA guys touting that? “To prevent that in future, let’s make it even easier, to procure guns…” Are Americans progressive in their thinking? Think again… if so, NRA couldn’t possibly have such a strong lobby.

It’s not “Gawd”… open your jaw wide to say, “God”!

Or, again, it’s not “Dawg“, but a jaw-wide-open “Dog”! Again? O, Gawd! Oops, sorry, Oh, God!

A long time ago, Hima Devi – a graduate of Trinity College, England, taught drama to kids at ‘elite’ schools in Mumbai; she also trained them for ‘elocution’, improving their pronunciation, diction, grammar, reading skills, etc. While reading Sam Roberts’ Unlearning to Tawk like a New Yorker, I was transported back in time, into my classroom at middle-school.  Appalled by our diction then, Hima Devi’s rasp cut through our reading session. Her outburst shocked us… a bunch of 24 kids. We were rather shaken by her voice as it jarred on our (then tender) ears; peeking through her smoker’s ‘voice-box’, her anger seemed magnified even further.

[Adding references to “Hima Kala Kendra” after a search in January 2016! ]

Hima1

Hima 2

Of course, after all these years, I searched for references to Hima Devi on the internet. I think she was quite a lady… in a class of her own… very elegantly turned out, always! My search lead me to this 30th anniversary issue of India Today.

Bhanu Athaiya

It seems that Bhanu Athaiya, costume-designer, and winner of the Academy Award for ‘Gandhi‘ (Richard Attenborough’s 1982 film), once lived with Hima Devi. Hmm… now that’s interesting. I would read the article, “Lost and Found”  in India Today – July 03, 2006 issue.

This issue of India’s # 1 magazine at one point, has another interesting Cover Story, “Golden Moments”, and as used to be the case when I read this magazine fairly regularly, several other facts and figures, which make interesting reading. However, now India Today seems to sport a new look; I wonder if it continues to lead news stories, or if it follows the media maxims of our new era. Ouch.. tweet, tweet!

Well, after all this, I’m still searching for more information on Hima Devi… Amazingly, in cyberspace, there’s so little information available about someone who contributed so much to the theater world. Furthermore, towards grooming school-going kids to enable them speak with finesse… an attribute that often defines an individual’s persona!

But, hey, for all Hima Devi fans, here’s a photo, courtesy Bruce Bayley of UK… how could I possibly forget to mention that  Hima Devi, besides being a theater doyen, also expressed herself through dance!

Shrimati Hima Devi

Thank you, Mr Bayley, and I do hope you will not take offense to this reference. 🙂

Getting nostalgic… about New York City

Soon it will be a year since I left New York!  As spring creeps up here, I’m beginning to miss those day-long trips to NYC!

Aching for a change from the wintry whites and suburban life on Long Island, my escape to Manhattan with its urban cityscape used to provide me with all the forms and colors I needed to satiate my visual senses! Here are some random images from my ramblings in the Big Apple.

What jumps out from my tag cloud?

Fly’n’ Past Flickr…

Flickr… alas, I seem to have drifted away from here… this past year.

In the war against Al Qaeda, how will the US cope with rebellious local youth!

Billions of tax dollars are spent by US to wage a war against terrorist groups outside the nation. But then a young man from Long Island, New York, travels all the way to Afghanistan, receives training from Al Qaeda, then plots a terror attack over his home base, then goes on to confess… who and what should the American people fear more?

The anger and terror lies within the common people of the US. The reasons may be varied… frustration about the status quo, ignorance, prejudice, poverty, skewed perceptions, unreasonable expectations of life…

It’s odd though… people from other parts of the world have thus far believed that Americans have it all… with no reason to be frustrated, that they are all rich, beautiful and smart! The irony of it all… and now in the present downturn, we have already heard of how these pent-up emotions of frustration and anger of the unemployed can take shape!

“As Indian Growth Soars, Child Hunger Persists”… a comment

Yesterday, a friend wished to post a comment on the much-discussed article that made the headlines in The New York Times. Some readers thought the article was newsworthy, others expressed their furore over the skewed perspective, and yet others posted counter-comments. The following is one which was written, but was not published, since all comments were being screened by the newspaper.

March 13, 2009 2:33 pm
In response to Editor’s selected comment # 167:

Editor's Pick of Interesting Comments
Editor's Pick of Interesting Comments

“Glad to hear your husband visited India. However, am amazed at the one-sided observations: Of the four months he spent there, he saw “people simply cut wires to hook into the electrical grid… “: Did he pay a visit to the electricity Bill Payment Centers (especially in the major metros), where there are long-winding queues of men and women, who do take time off from their work, or from lunch-hour to go pay their bills?
Daily power outages do not prevail in all parts of the country.

A woman who “stands up for herself” would be killed; yes, while Indira Gandhi stood up, she was “killed”, no doubt… but that has been not just her fate, but the fate of many leaders (in India and even in our part of the world and elsewhere)… incidentally, Indira Gandhi was India’s Prime Minister (stood up not just for herself) for several terms… of course she had ups and downs, but that’s history. (I am not particularly her fan.) The point is there are several strong women in the history of India – both, on the political front, as well as in every household in the country. The current President of India is Mrs Pratibha Patil, a woman – educated and an accomplished sportswoman.
Despite the high incidence of the infamous female infanticides, if women were so easily killed (as your husband may have observed), India would not have such a high population (over a billion) and the ratio of women to men is certainly not low at 930 women:1000 men. It is not as “simple as that” to kill women in India… incidentally, a woman, who (almost) could not read nor write, was even leading one of the largest states i.e. Bihar, as their Chief Minister
(circumstances notwithstanding) – and a totally male-chauvinistic state at that.

You’re right about the tax evasions (even among the ‘elite’ and people in power), hence the advertising to “beg people to pay their taxes” comes as no surprise. Even Rabri Devi’s husband was chased by the Income Tax Officials a decade ago.
And here is the very same Rabri Devi… almost an illiterate, happily married (not forced into it at the age of 14) who is the mother to 7 daughters (no less) and 2 sons… who has the “wisdom” and “guts” to comment on the ‘historic’ budget.

You’re right in drawing attention to the hospitality of people towards your husband, despite their poverty. Tourists and visitors (especially the fair-skinned) often have a fan following of poor kids and street urchins, in cities (or at touristy attractions) smiling and laughing around them, begging and chasing them for just a pencil or pen, while their tummies are probably growling with hunger.

Well, the whole point is the government certainly can do much, instead of filling their own coffers. It’s not enough to throw your hands in despair and say, “where do we begin”… Education is not an “impossible luxury”. The government can provide incentives to those who are educated, to teach or provide a basic education to just one other poor soul. Instead of having to scavenge from garbage cans, those who do have homes, could have just one homeless child come around everyday for one small meal – provide two rotis or a bowl of rice with a vegetable (or soup). In fact, come over to learn your ABC’s (K, Kh, Gh), learn the basics of hygiene, and grab a sandwich, for good measure! It really isn’t too much… many families waste and throw away so much food after every meal, that they can well-afford to part with a sandwich a day! How do you think those garbage cans get filled with wasted food that putrefies in there… followed by epidemics of diseases. So, the bottom line… no, the government has to take a lead, and so should those who have been blessed with far more than they can enjoy in their own lifetime… as their “giving back to the community”. They spend loads of money building schools for the rich and elite (so with their IB diplomas they can apply to schools in the US or UK). Those families are charged steep fees (no different from private schools here). How about schools in rural areas with nominal fees – a buck a day – nothing fancy, just the basics at least? Yes, they’re probably hoarding that for their future generations. Well, the future will take care of itself, if the present is provided for… even partially. Please follow my comment #206. India is a land of paradoxes (clichéd). Your observations may be true, but there is certainly another side. Something must be done to resolve the poverty issues… soon! Thanks.”


He wanted to be a “Quant”…

In the late 90s, my close buddy quit his well-paid job of ‘research scientist’ with a leading oil company. He wanted to be a “quant“. Lured, not by the money; that would follow (and plenty of it, although not quite as much as the obscene figures that Wall Street traders take home), but by the sheer mathematical elegance (I recall him using those very words way back then), which this new career would allow him to dabble with.  He spoke of the subject with a passion that sounded more like a woman’s dreams of luxury, silken sheets and Manolo’s!

His previously earned doctorate in hydrodynamics from M.I.T. was a mere starting point. He immersed himself in studying tomes of finance books – disciplined and motivated enough to “self-educate” himself on the subject. When he spoke of ‘vanilla’ or ‘exotic’ it had little to do with flavors of ice cream, or the fjords of Scandinavia. He pondered long over what he considered hot’ topics at the time – derivatives, futures, swaps and options – and seemed lost in a world of numbers!

To be honest, it was with immense difficulty that I had grasped the math entailed in regression analysis, linear programming and autocorrelation, towards earning credits for o-r and econometrics… in fact, I’m still fuzzy whether my present state is a result of “statistical error” or whether it may be deemed as a fitting error“. 😉 Random, or residual – why care! Instead, speaking again of my friend… when he first mentioned ‘modeling’, my brain – then skewed towards advertising, was farthest from ‘mathematical modeling‘. When he spoke of inverse problems my thoughts drifted towards micro-economics, juggling personal finances to fit month-end needs. Not in my wildest imagination could I have considered derivative pricing, or financial engineering.

Well, now as we approach 2010,  I can hardly pretend to have turned into some finance whiz, comprehending the jargon of Wall Street. Call it fate, or destiny, the events in the early years of this decade somehow did not allow my buddy with an opportunity to work as a ‘quant’ on Wall Street… something he had so deeply desired, and for which he toiled and sacrificed much, but which somehow eluded him.

Talking of predictions, futures, recent market volatility, financial debacles and gargantuan tumbles in the world’s financial capital, I am secretly thankful – at a personal level – that a perceived “failure” in finding a suitable position turned out to be a boon in disguise. For the past several years my pal has again immersed himself in science, and research towards what I consider a noble cause, and which, in my opinion, deserves far more genuine respect than what he would have earned through his computational genius on Wall Street.

Good luck to all those who have done well in their selected field, playing a clean, positive role, even in what is today deemed a maligned world, but which will undoubtedly rise again. When money begins to flow freely someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, memories of present times will fade, of that there’s no doubt, I’m afraid.

Hats off, to all those brave job-seekers in Manhattan!

“Wow!” said the cabbie in Gotham, and “Oh wow!” sez I, sitting at my desk after watching this video of gutsy New Yorkers. But for the video caption, I’d have wondered, “Who are all these people waiting in line outside the Sheraton Hotel on 53rd St in sub-zero temperatures!”

In contrast to the expected turnout of about 2000 job applicants at the Job Fair on 24th February, over 5000  applicants showed up! Including a few men but mostly women, they all waited their turn patiently outside the hotel in a long winding queue, until they could meet one or more of the 40 prospective employers that participated in the event.  With resumes and their portfolios in hand, donning business suits, here they were braving not only the bleak weather, but perhaps steeling themselves against looming possibilities that they may well have to consider even entry level positions, if at all… Most were mid-career applicants with numerous years of solid work experience and talent and these are tough times even for recent graduates! I learned later, there was another job fair at the Radisson Martinique in Midtown Manhattan just days before this one… thousands showed up, but with little luck.

The stock market reflects the goings-on in the job market… today, the scenario was even more alarming than last week. Did all those seeking employment at the Job Fair last week meet with success?  At this point, hard to tell… many of them were requested to apply online! It has the ring of “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”? Perhaps it is the 21st century tactic adopted by foot-dragging clerks-posing-as-hiring managers from companies who must at least pretend they’re not going the penny-stock way.

Frankly, at this stage, I fail to understand why companies e.g. AFLAC or even Home Depot would hire more people at this stage; or for that matter Sovereign Bank!

In the past year, AFLAC stock value has dropped by over 78%, and last January the Chairman magnanimously  turned down his $2.8 million bonus for 2008, not to mention even some of his $26 million “golden parachute”. But it seems some folks who have attended AFLAC’s “training” sessions say they’re hiring in every state; apparently, their hiring practices reek of a pyramid scheme! Hey, this is hearsay (I do not know this for a fact since I have absolutely no affiliation to them one way or another.)

Again, less than a month prior to their participation in the aforementioned job fair, Home Depot announced 7000 layoffs, on grounds that dismal sales had hurt them. A month down the line they would set out to hire a new set of people, eh, is that how it works? I find it really hard to digest such information. Likewise, “1000 to be laid off”, indicated the announcement from Sovereign Bank (in their effort to lower costs)… just weeks before Christmas 2008; then they are displayed as prospective employers at a job fair the following February? What in the world is going on? Dangling carrots in front of hopeful (and sometimes desparate) job-seekers… without any qualms whatsoever!

I’m afraid to further research all of the companies who may have been actually present at the Job Fair… to confirm whether or not they recently laid off hundreds or thousands of employees. Only those who waited out in the cold that February morning can really tell their story. Those who are still awaiting responses to their applications, submitted in-person or online, may have another set of tales. Yes, and I’m also thinking of all those who were laid off by these companies and who may now learn that their past employers are hiring again! What has become of them… are they also waiting at other obscure job fairs, or knocking on the doors of some recently laid off employee posing as a hot recruiter?

It’s such a shame, these shams… boy, what a scam!

Sham, or Scam?
Sham, or Scam?

Shifting Careers… they never write, they never call.

Now, they even think my comments are inappropriate (or who knows, may be irrelevant?) and do not publish them… boy, am I amused!

Yesterday, I was reading Michael Melcher’s rather common sense advice on how to handle the silence, which job-seekers are faced with during their job search endeavors. There were about 11 comments from readers, some with web-links to their blogs, or business pages. After reading this piece, I sent the following comment to the blog moderator at The New York Times:

“Eight months back I blogged about this very subject by putting my thoughts in somewhat blank verse (and based on my mood then, a tad tongue-in-cheek). Here’s the link to how I expressed myself https://chitralekhan.wordpress.com/2008/03/18/automated-voice-message-systems/
Michael, thanks for your online advice regarding offline job-pursuits.”

Is it abusive, off-topic, trite? Or holds a grain of truth? 😉

If you’re looking for career advice on job hunting, chances are you’ve already read Melcher’s post. No matter what, don’t lose heart. Hold this torch, continue with your search.