Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Game on

“I’m in love,” I told Shweta.

“Twentieth time this year!” she said.

It’s true. I’m what they call a dil-phenkh. My heart waits eagerly to find something worthy of worship – and in the world of East Asian drama, there are so many, so many demi-gods.

I’ve stayed for the most part with Korean dramas, but a couple of Taiwanese series, one lovely Thai story and a few Japanese pieces (mostly movies) have made it to my binge list. Chinese dramas, I’ve hitherto steered clear of, simply because of their length. 30 to 60 episodes per story are a bit daunting without strong recommendations.

But the mood came upon me and I watched a movie called Love O2O. Such an intriguing concept for a love story, I quickly devoured it in all its forms – I read the exquisite manhua (still in progress), watched the 30-episode drama version and sought out an English translation of the novel (A Slight Smile is Very Alluring) that all these are based on.

University Days: A frame from the manhua

Love O2O: The drama version

The movie version

[HERE BE SPOILERS – because I’m going to rave about it and don’t know when to stop]

Bei Wei Wei is a computer science student at Qing University, Beijing, who is addicted to an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) called Dreams of Jianghu – she’s an ace player and ranked among the top ten gamers in the server. One day, she gets proposed to by the No 1 ranking Yi Xiao Nai He – in the game, of course. They should ‘marry’, he says, to win an upcoming couples’ tournament. She agrees. What follows is an immensely sweet (and yet not cloying) courtship. They battle monsters together in beautiful synchronisation, take down enemies, Yi Xiao Nai He fights some badass duels to protect her honour, they fly across the game landscape on a giant phoenix... and the two find themselves spending a lot of time at the game’s Sunset Point – a beautiful cliff edge overlooking a low sun that never sets, and where players hardly come because there are no monsters here to kill, no experience points to be gained, no missions to accomplish.

Normally not interested in meeting her online friends in person or in outing her gaming identity, Wei Wei is still all a’flutter when he finally suggests they meet. Yi Xiao Nai He turns out to be Xaio Nai – computer geek, hacker, programmer, super achiever and all round University star. They take their online love offline (which explains O2O) and then from a university romance, the story of this Alpha Pair becomes immersed in the mechanics of a new game that Xiao Nai and his team are developing.

Running contrary to every screenwriting formula, the love story has no hiccups, no misunderstandings... just development, development, development. To the last, Wei Wei is Xiao Nai’s most devoted fangirl and while he’s cool, impassive, unruffled in all his dealings, his eyes soften for Wei Wei every time he looks at her. The characters are wonderfully drawn. The leads are very alike: strong, passionate, decent and kind. The support characters, particularly Xiao Nai’s band of boys, are delightful.

Had I come across this seven or eight years ago, I’d have had no time for this post. I’d have been hooked to the nearest MMORPG I could lay my hands on and hacking at monsters. But older, wiser and altogether much more wary of my obsessive nature, I have not done so. (Yet.)

The graphics in the movie are better of course, but the drama is beautifully detailed and benefits from the build-up that 45 minutes x 30 can offer. The lead actress Zheng Shuang is fine but you’ll forgive me for throwing the better part of my love at the feet of the scrumptious Yang Yang.

I’m still caught in the tail-spin of this binge. What shall I do next? There are two more dramas based on novels by the same writer, Gu Man. Or if I’m willing to wait and keep pace with it as it airs now in Korea, there is the very tempting ‘The Great Seducer’ which is loosely based, I hear, on Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Friday, December 15, 2017

Dheera sameere...

Very so often random browsing of the internet and youtubing is a fairly useless occupation, yielding an hour's entertainment perhaps but very little of enduring quality. But today I've hit upon a sublime album called Tranquility by L Subramaniam. Five ragas, all creations of the master violinist himself.

On Wynk Music, if you have access to it: https://www.wynk.in/music/album/Tranquility---Dr-L-Subramaniam---Violin/si_9206

I am not blown away but rather, wafted away on calm, scented breezes.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Taking it slow

My life tends to alternate between intense activity and luxurious nothingness. I enjoy both immensely.

After a whirlwind three months during which I went on the Rally for Rivers, went off on a birding trip to Africa, came back to get the house painted and overhauled, we are now in the easy phase. And I’m taking the time to catch up on a K-drama I’ve put away to savour at just such a time as this.

The Descendants of the Sun is everything they said it would be. Of course, with a mere 16 episodes, it will be consumed in one satisfying three-day binge. Bingewatchers believe that sleep is for the weak, and so it seems – the next episode at 3.00 in the morning, or a few hours of shuteye... it is so easy to hit ‘play’. However, this time, I’m determined to stretch it out. So an epi at a time... breaks in between, and I haven’t subsisted on sandwiches and bananas, or left my father to procure his meals from the local curry point. But still seven episodes have zoomed by and I would be there right now, avidly drinking in the eighth but there’s a power cut and this blog gets an emergency update.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Travelling light

Part of the frenetic time we've been having is because we got our house painted, while, of course, living in it. That sounds like a pain, and it was. We shifted everything out from one room into the next, and then back again, trying to fit everything back into barely dry cupboards, and trying at the same time to cull and limit what went back into those dark caverns.

Some decisions were easy. Some stuff from the attics that we had only seen the last time we painted the house - clearly they had to go. So we threw away, gave away, sold away masses of things - old tables, vessels, a cooker, steel cylinders, dubious ceiling fans, a couple of metal trunks... paring down to strictly what is needed.

People who need to shift homes occasionally have it easier - there is only so much you can carry and you tend to focus on the essentials. But when you live in the same house as we've done for close to four decades, you don't even realise how much stuff you gather, even if it's only bags that will someday be "useful".

We're still cleaning up but there's light at the end of the tunnel -- and a lighter house at the end of it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Full throttle

एक लम्हे में सिमट आया है सदियों का सफर
ज़िन्दगी तेज़ बोहत तेज़ चली हो जैसे

That is how it feels. Life is whizzing past - a new thing every day, every week, every fortnight... a month seems like an age for all the stuff that has happened through it. The themes change. Colours, drapes, scenery... entire concepts. The complexion of each phase is different, the focus varies... and I am trying through it all to stay on an even keel... not rising and dipping with the ebb and flow of events.

It becomes somewhat easy to discern in such a state that things happen, that they come and go as I stay constant.

बाज़ीचा-ए-अत्फाल है दुनिया मेरे आगे
होता है शब-ओ-रोज़ तमाशा मेरे आगे

I never appreciated that sher so well before.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Bharatam, Mahabharatam!

Now listening to a superb Vrindavani Sarang by Pt Venkatesh Kumar, and it's lulling me into something approaching rest.

For otherwise, this last month has gone leaving me running very fast and gasping for breath. I was on the Rally for Rivers for a couple of weeks and even after I got off, I was so much with the convoy in spirit, there was an uncomfortable feeling of still being in movement... coupled with the even more disconcerting conviction that 'real life' was happening elsewhere. That's new because usually for me, where I am is where the universe is centered.

But the Rally has been accomplished, well-accomplished. A good start and it seems we'll be able to bring back our rivers after all into their former mighty glory.

Jai Hind!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Rally ho!

So I'm off.

Ever since my Sadhguru announced that he would be undertaking a massive nation wide rally to save our rivers, I have been wanting to go with. Rivers, travel along the length of my sacred land and my Master's presence... could you imagine a more appealing prospect?

It seemed difficult but when he wishes it, difficulties fall away.

I'm about to join the rally in Coimbatore. It's going to be crazy. And crazy-fun!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A dose of blue-green

On this day of incessant rain, I watched this little gem of an anime, The Garden of Words.
Life was beautiful, but it is a little more beautiful now.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Velliangiri diary

I’ve said before how much I like to spend a little time here, at the foothills of the scenic Velliangiri in the windy season. I’m lucky to be summoned here again and what a glorious time it is!

We’ve not had too much rain in these parts the past couple of years. The green hills had been showing brown and farmers were worried. But we’ve made a promising start this time. A couple of days of howling winds, gray days with intermittent drizzle and perpetually misted hilltops... the slopes are slowly turning emerald. Straight from my balcony, at about four or maybe five kilometres as the crow flies, is a hill stream and waterfall. It had slowed to a trickle but now it has turned frothy white again. Occasionally, when the wind dies down, you can hear the water thunder down onto the rocks below. The stream that flows through the ashram is swelling.


The gales howled so much the other day, I became a little fraught. Door hinges strained to hold their own and the walls felt constantly under siege. How long could mere brick and mortar hold out against such purpose? If not today, or this week, but sometime, something would give! 
I leaned out of the window to feel the wind on my face and found that the peacocks in the valley were having a wind bath too. They each had taken fence to perch on, and they sat all braced and hunched up, enjoying the drama of the gusts.


Wildlife sightings are very possible here, and ever since my sister saw a leopard in the valley before us, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled. Even so, it was a casual scan last week that yielded a gray presence push through the scrub. A lone tusker wound his way through the jungle, revealing only the trunk here, the body there as he walked towards the water. Barely two minutes and he was gone.

I spied three wild boar babies scurrying in the bush a few days ago, and today, a black-naped hare came out into a clearing to give himself a thorough wash in the pale morning sunlight. He would start every now and then, turning his long ears to the sound that had alarmed him, but it turned out to be nothing. He stayed so long, I even dropped my binoculars to go and get myself something to drink.


I remember once wringing my hands over my urban life, wishing for a forest full of trees to love. The trees here are not old, but the tree jasmines (the fast growing Akasha Malli - Millingtonia hortensis) that line our perimeter are very friendly indeed. My Sadhguru loves them and although they obscure the view of the hills from the windows sometimes, I cannot resent them.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Sahore Bāhubali!

Haha, just had to, you know! I’ve been fangirling Bāhubali all of April. I watched the first part again last week for purposes of revision and I’m off to see it at last! (So late, but my pre-booking hopes for ‘first day, first show’ fell through).

I absolutely loved the first part, and I have such admiration for this entire team for their commitment and attention to detail. Every frame storyboarded, every character thought through, the world marvellously detailed and then, there is SS Rajamouli’s sense of human drama. That kind of involvement shows through, and it gets communicated... no wonder it’s one of our biggest films.

This haiku by James Chessing is just perfect.

it begins...
a galaxy of dust motes
in the projector's beam

Monday, April 24, 2017

Drenched by Hallyu

So, I’m engulfed by Hallyu. This is the Korean Wave that has taken grip of so many parts of the world, and why not? Why ever not? 

I had read about K-dramas a few months ago and the incredible following they were beginning to have in India. Even K-pop, although that’s not quite my thing, has a cult following. I was intrigued but I hadn’t looked further.

Earlier this month, I had some time and a binge watch was due. Was it to be the next season of Suits? Or the Pakistani drama Besharam that I’ve been saving up? Netflix suggested a few Asian dramas and after a little research, I settled for Playful Kiss. So charming! I loved the experience, and have lost my heart to the hero Baek Seung Jo.

There is a rich world out there. I’ve since watched a Taiwanese drama, there seem to be quite a few Japanese offerings and I’m eager to sink my teeth into the iconic Boys over Flowers and later perhaps, Descendents of the Sun.

As it happens, I’m a prime candidate for this sort of addiction. I’m obsessive, I love television, I’m a sucker for romance and I like to sample different cultures. There’s next to nothing on the Saas-Bahu scene and this is just perfect.