A tea-break allows a few minutes of respite at any time during the day. It is a moment to place a hault on the demands of a whirlwind day in our highly accelerated modern society. It enables us to take a break from emails, BBMs, phone calls, pings, tweets, status updates and simply revel in the luxuriating warmth of the soothing beverage.
In America, there is the regimented 9 to 5 corporate environment, where the mantra is maximum productivity. Tea-breaks are not widely taken or encouraged. However, in other parts of the world, it is the norm. During a typical work day, people routinely take tea-breaks for a boost of rejuvenation and socialization.
In most parts of the world, tea is a connecting elixir, where even for a few moments you can get together not just with friends, but even with complete strangers, stand around a street tea stall and exchange the latest political sexl scandal, weather fluctuations or heavier subjects such as the fastest bowler on a cricket team.
Friendly invitations are usually cloaked in terms of tea invites, a common one being, “Please visit and have a cup of tea with us.”
The origin of tea spans thousands of years and cultures. Its origin is traced to China and started off as a medicinal elixir. It traveled through continents and cultures; went through compositional changes such as addition of sugar, milk, butter, herbs, flavors, powders and a plethora of condiments. However, the essence of tea stays static; it continues to unite and is internally and externally palliative.
The following are a few examples of teas around the world that I love. You will note that tea is brewed in diverse ways across the globe, with varying additives; yet the essence of it is constant. It soothes and fuses humans.
Qymak Tea from Afghanistan
Kaymak is clotted cream made from milk of water buffaloes or cows. It is used in Turkey, Balkan countries, Iran, Middle East and Afghanistan amongst other countries.
In Afghanistan, Qymak tea is made on special occasions. Green tea is brewed and a dollop of the scrumptious Qymak is added to the top that gives the tea the rich, creamy texture. Eat with a sweet Gosh Feel (elephant ear pastry) or Naan (flat bread), and you are in Jannat (paradise!)
Mint Tea from Morocco
If you go to Morocco, mint tea is a way of life. It is at every street corner, every luxurious upcoming Mall, every souk, every bazaar. The bunches of fresh mint in the beautiful filigreed silver tea-pots are beyond aromatic. However, the fun part is the pouring of the tea. The higher the stream, the more ambrosial the flavors. Caveat: You need skilled hands for the tea pouring to avoid 2nd degree burns!
Cutting Chai from Bombay
The name of this tea is deep-rooted in pop-culture lexicon. Its origin is most likely in Bombay, India. It is a concoction of black tea-leaves boiled in a big metal kettle with milk, fresh ginger, masala and sugar. The tea is boiled to a point where the flavors are pungent. The flavor is so strong that it is served by the half glass, hence the term “cutting.” “Chai” is tea. So, a literal translation, is “half tea.”
Earlier, it was the “go-to” beverage for the blue-collar workers, such as in the construction workers. Nowadays, it is a trendy treat for the 20-something, ultra- westernized crowd, trying to connect to their Indian roots! It is delicious, especially when eaten with bun maska (hot, buttered fluffy bun).
Gur-Gur Tea (Butter Tea) from Tibet
Consumed in Tibet and regions of Ladakh, India, it is drunk not by the cupfuls, but bowlfuls. It is made through a complex procedure of boiling and pouring in cylinders, thereafter adding fresh yak butter and a pinch of salt.
It is interesting to note, that tea originated as a medicinal elixir and continues to serve the same purpose. The dollop of butter in Gur-Gur tea is not only lip-smacking, but helps prevent chapped skin in the sub-zero temperatures of these high Himalayan regions.
Turkish Tea from Turkey
If you go to Istanbul, the streets are littered with cafes where young and old, surprisingly mostly men, sit and discuss the dire conditions in Syria over hot cups of Turkish tea called çay. (Pronounced as chai.) It is a pure form of tea, drunk black, with or without sugar depending on your disposition for sweet. It is boiled in two stacked kettles called çaydanlik. Turks are known to drink up to 50 cups a day. Uniting, right?
Milk Tea from Hong Kong
Milk tea is a remnant of the colonial British impact on Hong Kong. It is also known as the “Silk Stocking Tea” as sieved though a long stocking to intensify the flavors. A black tea mixed with evaporated milk and my very favorite, condensed milk for the thick, luxuriant consistency. You may want to ask for less condensed milk as at times can be undrinkably saccharine.
So, drink up, heal and connect.
I live in the ‘burbs called Orange County, mnemonically known as OC, as popularized by the debauched yet apt namesake TV show.
Wide roads, monstrous SUVs, Starbucks at every corner, strip Malls with ubiquitous generic American brands such as Best Buy, Costco, Target, and Subway. And of course, since it is upscale suburbia-littered with just a dash of “culture,” such as the painfully banal Daphne’s Greek cuisine or what I call the bastardization of Chinese food-P.F. Changs!
Most people move to the ‘burbs for a sense of community, the big homes for entertaining “friends,” the white picket fence, the neighborhood park where all can assimilate and interact. The purpose is to be in physical proximity with other people, which should lead to interaction with other human beings!
The general consensus is life in the ‘burbs is wholesome and uniting versus life in the big city is lonely and isolating. .
During my bi-coastal trips I have, on many an occasion, pondered over this premise and tried to decipher the truth or fallacy of it.
I have lived in the ‘burbs for many years. But for some reason never felt at home, always felt disassociated and disconnected with my environment. Could be the result of being a migrant. Let’s say I am a citizen of the world-at-large, using a term of modern, globalized vocabulary. Sounds more well-adjusted rather than the rant of a dysfunctional immigrant.
I understand and subscribe to the theory of living life inside out etc. But our environment does play a critical role in shaping us, in molding our personality, our thought processes, our preferences, hell even our choices. Would a lion cub grow up to be a vicious man-eater if he was taken out of its natural wilderness habitat and raised say in the ’ burbs by PETA! Its carnal nature, even if not completely obliterated, would be significantly tempered, one would think so.
When I look around suburban environment, under the cosmetic appearance of a “community” all I see is people living inside their homes, surrounded by an assemblage of people they know and are familiar with day after day, year after year. All the talk of being a “community” is limited to immediate and extended family and a small group of friends. The streets are empty, the parks reek of territorial family gatherings and the restaurants promote family nights. There is a vacuous hole in the soul of suburbia.
In suburbia, the only gathering of people you will see is in a mall, where everyone is in a rush to consume, jump into their SUV’s and guess where do they want to rush back to-their insulated homes of course! The touted sense of community in the suburbs is as mythical as the unicorn!
On the other hand during my visits to cosmopolitan cities of the world, I can feel a palpable sense of community. Yes, you may not know your neighbor’s name or may not pop-in to borrow the proverbial bowl of sugar, but in modern times of stevia and agave that has truly become an extinct adage.
The communal feeling in big cities comes from the people itself. It comes from the sea of humanity that surrounds you. It comes from the brimming streets jam-packed with people. It comes from sitting in such close proximity at cafes that one has to interact with the person breathing into your latte. It comes from walking in Central Park and striking a conversation with a complete stranger from the other side of the world, who in turn is seeking the same bond as well. It comes from sharing a seat on the subway where you can help your fellow passenger with Word Search.
In big cities the concept of space becomes smaller (as opposed to gargantuan suburban spaces), to a point where it becomes non-extinct. Unlike the notion of conceptualized ghost-proximity proposed in the Utopian suburbia, there is actual physical proximity in big cities. The proximity is what unites.
I have also noted that the element of creativity, innovativeness, discovery and inspiration is intensely lacking in suburbia to a point that it is soul and spirit crushing. The dullness of it often grips my heart like the choke-hold of an LAPD cop.
Environment motivates one to innovate, create, observe, reflect. That is the reason the great thinkers, artists, painters, sculptors lived in vibrant, vivacious cities such as Paris, Rome, London, Milano, NYC. Would Hemingway and Dostoyevsky be inspired to write great masterpieces sitting at a Starbucks in OC!
So, my point, to a great extent, is validated that our environment does play a pertinent role in providing inspiration.
A mundane window display of paper towels in the corner store can strike up an intellectual discussion amongst passersby regarding the contribution of Warhol to art and pop-culture, thereby leading to a possibility of lifetime friendship and interaction. All because the big city gives an opportunity to walk amidst humans rather than sit behind the steel door of an SUV door.
“Wallah” is a term used in India as a suffix to describe a person who performs a specified task or business. I won’t call it slang, but certainly a term that has become part of linguistics. It is used to describe a specialist in a particular task, with the specialization obtained through years of experience and apprenticeship. For example, a chai-wallah is one who is in the profession of making tea, an ice-cream-wallah is one who sells ice-cream, a dhobi-wallah is one who does your laundry, a rickshaw-wallah is one who drives a rickshaw. The person doing this specific task was probably born into a family who has done this task for generations; he too will most likely work in this profession his entire life and will do so with great pride and joy.
My last blog was about TMC (Too Many Choices). I talked about how certain things in life are most enjoyed in their simplest form such as a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice or a hot cup of fresh-brewed coffee. Too many choices are not necessarily optimal. In some instances, too many choices clutter the mind, thereby inhibiting a pleasurable experience. Too many choices are absolutely no substitute for taste.
In our present society we are brain-washed into believing that multiple choices and options are a prerequisite to maximum pleasure. This is a fallacy and I have evidentiary data to support it. I have example after example to prove that an activity can be enjoyed without having multiple options. In fact, most of these activities are so simple that they are most enjoyed in their unadulterated state i.e. without murking them up with multiple choices.
Today’s blog is a follow-up of my last blog. It is an elucidation of unadulterated rapture without multiple choices.
He is the tea-man. He makes and sells simple piping hot tea. Just tea, no other options. Sometimes he may add ginger or cardamom to the boiling hot water for that extra fragrance and flavor, but that all depends on his mood! There is no corporate manual that he has to abide by and no test audience to please. There are no cup sizes in foreign languages, no flavored shots offered, no options of caffeinated or decaffeinated beverage and no complex menus to decipher. There is no paraphernalia that goes with the paper cups such as the sleeve and the lid, as he is not familiar with the term “tort lobbyists” or “burn lawsuits.” What he offers is a fragrant, flavorful, sweet, milky concoction in one size, that has been brewed to perfection and poured with such expertise that can only be attained after years of experience and training. There is only one size and one flavor, but it is so pleasurable that it fits the taste of all. The concoction delights the senses and soothes the soul. A single option perfected to the “T.”
He is the juice man. His skill is to make the freshest, pulpiest, sweetest, purest orange juice that one can ever taste. There are no options of a gazillion kinds of fruit, no mixtures and combinations, no sizes, no add-ons, no ratios and no fractions. Finally a “no-math-involved” glass of orange juice, just the way nature intended it to be.
He is the milk man. He delivers fresh milk with a thick ring of cream on the top that transports one to the Swiss Alps. There are no options of low fat, skimmed, non-fat, 1%, 2%, lactose free, vitamin D added, etc. etc. There are no strippings and no additions. It is milk in its pure form just the way it should be, squeezed from the udders of the cow rather than churned and manufactured in an assembly line container, stripped off its innate element. Nature has already added the necessary vitamins and minerals. We don’t need to add the extra synthetic junk! If calories is your issue, put down the toxic burger and drink another glass of simple milk. Isn’t it a stipulated that Milk Does a Body Good!!
He is the fruit man. Caveat: If you are looking for laminated labels advertising “certified,” “organic,” “preservative free,” “fertilizer free,” fruit, priced at the amount of some worker’s daily wages in a developing nation, then this fruit is not for you.
There will be no fancy labels and no re-cycled packaging (which in most instances is a marketing ploy rather than genuine environmental concerns.) There are no lofty claims advertising fruit “fresh from the farm,” which ironically is located 2,000 miles across the nation!
What you will get is a small sampling of fruit that your olfactory senses will detect from miles away. What you will get is fruit that has not been sitting in the cooler for weeks. What you will get is fruit that provides a burst of flavors and oozes with juice when you bite into it. What you will get is a sensory delight. So what if the sampling includes only apples and bananas, I will happily forego the variety for fruit that at least tastes like fruit and not cardboard with an overly polished skin.
What should I say about Tiffin-wallahs. They have become a phenomenon especially in cosmopolitan cities like Bombay and Delhi. In fact, New York City is aping the food delivery service to cater to our accelerated lifestyles. Tiffin is a stainless steel lunch box consisting of a few food compartments. In India, the Tiffin-wallahs deliver the tiffin lunches to hundreds and thousands of office workers on bicycles with such precision and timeliness that they could be the brand-ambassadors for Raymond Weil’s new ad campaign for precision.
There are no menus or multiple choices for the tiffin. There are two options, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Yes, imagine that, just two choices. What do you get in lieu of hundreds of choices that you could find in a restaurant? You get scrumptious, perfectly flavored, healthy, preservative-free, fresh, home-cooked lunch for the busy worker. No garnishes, no choices of cooking style, no less of this and more of that. Just plain good old-fashioned lunch.
And finally diverging from the “wallahs.” In my last blog I discussed the bombardment of social media and its somewhat redundant and repetitive effect. Above is an example of social media in its simplest form. There is no streaming, no YouTubing, no Live-casting, no plasma flat-screens, no 70-feet screens. Here, is a family enjoying simple television viewing in their flooded living room during the heavy monsoons of India. It is not just TV viewing, but family bonding time as well. I will take this form of social media any day over the faux socialization on say a Facebook!
Options are good, but certain activities are unparalleled in singularity.
Since childhood we are taught to make choices. All of us at one point of time or the other have heard the familiar rendition from our parents, “Make the right choice,” “Whatever choices you make now will impact your life forever,” “Once you make the choice there is no going back,” etc. etc. We are taught to carefully weigh our options and pick one.
The premise of making a choice is that you have at least two alternatives available, thereby giving you the opportunity to choose one from the other. Either you choose “this or that,” go with “one or the other,” settle on “A or B.”
Making a choice has a positive connotation in our society as it comes with a plurality. It consists of choosing one option from multiple options, thereby honing our discriminatory skills, sharpening our minds and developing our judgment.
Somehow in modern society singularity is not seen in a positive light. A single option is never good enough. “One” simply does not have the pizzazz as “multiple.” So, I stipulate having the freedom to choose from multiple choices is good in many circumstances.
But, along with the benefits of choices come the burdens as well. At times there are “too many choices,” leading to the fatigue of mental capabilities and a bankruptcy of the brain. A “brain-drain” if you will.
Yesterday I went to my local, organic, over-priced, yuppie, bulk-cereal selling grocery store. I wanted a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and since they have a juice bar thought it would be the perfect place to have it. It is only logical that an elaborate juice bar will have a simple thing such as orange juice. My salivary glands went in overdrive thinking of the whirring of the machine squeezing the warm, pulpy, sweet, tangerine juice from a succulent ripe orange. No fuss, no complications. Sweet, simple bliss.
Au contraire! The “juice specialist” reached into the refrigerator and brought out a plastic container filled with juice! As she started to pour, I stopped her in mid-pour and demanded where the “freshly squeezed” juice was. I was advised with disdain that this is all they had. There was nothing “fresh” about the cold, “sitting-for-hours-in-the-refrigerator” juice. Needless to say I was crestfallen.
But, hey we live in a world of choices, so I exercised my right to choice and ordered a mixed carrot, pineapple and apple juice. I thought it would be an easy one as the store offers an extensive convoluted mixed drink menu. The clerk looked at me with a dropped jaw and asked what “base” I wanted so that she could make the necessary division of fruit. It was my turn to drop my jaw, as I had never imagined that a glass of juice could get so very complex. It seemed that a simple drink had turned into a flow-chart of multiple choices with off-shoots in various directions. Would I now be asked to divide my drink into fractions and percentages? I shuddered with fright as my math skills border on being cipher and the calculator on my Blackberry gets stuck on the division key.
The array of choices had turned into a nightmare and needless to say my taste for the sweet juice had soured by now.
I don’t know if you guys have noticed it or not, but in today’s times we are constantly faced with an overabundance of choices even for simple things. Items where one would not expect or want to make a choice, such as ordering a glass of juice that should not require algorithmic equations.
It makes me wonder, do these choices really help us or are they unnecessarily using up our brain data that should be reserved for higher, more complex and loftier purposes.
Another example is coffee. I have written about coffee before as I love the heavenly elixir. I go to a coffee shop looking forward to a cup of hot, milky, divine brew. What am I faced with? Choices, choices and more choices. Complex volume sizes in faux-foreign languages; measurements of coffee shots in metric sizes that I am unfamiliar with; milk calculated in percentages; coffee whiteners made of items that I usually associate with eating rather than drinking, such as coconut; use of a “shot” glass that reminds me of a Russian vodka bar rather than a warm, soothing, literary coffee shop.
Historically, coffee shops were used as meeting places for scholars, artists and the literary. Ideas were born, debates were held, classics written and labyrinthine theories pondered upon over umpteen cups of coffee, yes plain and simple coffee. The likes of Hemingway, Picasso and Henry Miller used to hang out in cafes such as Le Select in Paris. I wonder if Hemingway could have written The Old Man and the Sea if he was spending time ordering a complex coffee drink and flustering between choices such as non-fat, 2%, low-fat, one shot or multiple shots, venti, grande or whatever the hell the third size is latte!!! Or if Picasso would have time or the energy to doodle Dance of Youth on a napkin after ordering a drink from a “not-so-easy-to-decipher” multiple-choice menu!
How about social media? We all love it and use the gazillion choices in social media. I understand it is all about visibility. But after some time doesn’t it get redundant, repetitive and non-innovative. The same content is posted on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Instagram, Pinterest, Hootsuite, Tumblr etc.
Are we creating new content in the various mediums of social media or is it simply transmission of the same content to various channels. Would the works of Leonardo di Vinci be masterpieces if he took photos and blogged, Tweeted, Facebooked and Tumblred them. Wouldn’t the glory of his masterpieces be diluted by the number of choices available?
Choices are great as they give us freedom. They give us options. However, certain things in life should be kept simple. They are enjoyed most when in their simplest form such as a simple cup of coffee. Too many choices create Horror vacui, cluttering the mental faculties and debilitating the brain, thereby leaving little room for the brain to perform at its maximum capacity.
I am out of my hibernation. The reason: The cruel, barbarous, brutal mutilation of a $100,000 Hermes alligator bag! For a worshipper of FAME (fashion, art, music and entertainment), the act is as abhorrent as the destruction of the 6th century Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Okay, maybe not of that magnitude, but still a destruction of a beautiful piece of art!
Nevertheless, the annihilation did wring my heart and make my knuckles white. Oh the horror! For those of you who have not heard of it, the act was performed by Clint Eastwood’s daughter on the reality show, Mrs. Eastwood and Company (the specific use of the last name obvious for rating purposes). In the show, Eastwood’s daughter cuts and burns an alligator Hermes bag with a ferocious beastly expression on her face, in the name of performance art. Really, destruction of art in the name of art, justified? (An idea to be explored at a later time).
The heinous act performed on the reality television show stirred the following thoughts in my brain: First, what is it that attracts a person like me (with discriminatory tastes and a reasonable level of intelligence, to watch reality television); second, what are the limits/parameters that reality stars have to cross week after week to get viewers like me return.
Between the Kardashians, Shahs of Sunset, Jersey Shore and now Mrs. Eastwick and Company, there is an overdose of reality television. They have become part of a pop-cultural phenomenon. The shows have high ratings, so even if we are closet watchers, the fact remains that a good number of us are watching. In an intellectual tete-a-tete, most of us decry the social evils that such shows are breeding, yet we watch them.
One reason is voyeurism. It is titillating to spy on the intimate behavior of others. A spy-like feeling is evoked while watching such shows-their highs and lows, their make-ups and over-dramatized break-ups, entering their homes and boudoirs, seeing what they eat or not, how they look like with gobs of mascara running down their cheeks while crying, hearing the profanities they use, Bentleys they drive, mansions they live in etc.
Vicarious living is another reason. An average person’s life between work, chores, home responsibilities, running errands is bound to take a tone of monotony, no matter how hard one tries to spice it up. It becomes rote living. There is no way around it. Reality TV provides that dose of glamour, excitement, enchantment and razzle-dazzle that an average person lacks in day to day life. It is the same as buying a Tattler magazine to get a peek inside the lives of the “oh-so-exciting” crowd.
Yet another reason for such viewing is because it makes us feel good about ourselves and our relationships. Most of the reality shows have a high level of disfunctionality (rightly so, otherwise why would I watch it!!) Despite all the wealth, fame and glamour, there is angst, anger, treachery, heartbreak and a degree of mental retardation (not from a medical standpoint of course!) This makes us feel good about ourselves and for some of us even provides hope. After all, if a dysfunctional, limited intelligence person can reach the pinnacles of success, why not me.
Such shows, also provide a certain amount of social interaction in our very isolated, heavily dependent on the World Wide Web, modern lives. The stars invite us into their drawing rooms and bed-rooms and there is an element of reel human interaction, even if for a fleeting moment.
Whatever the reason, reality TV is here to stay. There is certain stickiness to it.
Now, the question is how far do the reality stars have to go to create the stickiness. What do they have to do or more appropriately “out do” in order to get me back on that couch week after week? What boundaries do they have to cross? In fact, are there any boundaries?
Mere providing of glamour, hot surgeried-up botoxed bodies, designer clothing, long fluttering stick-on lashes is not enough anymore. The ante has been upped, the stakes are higher. Gone are the chaste days of MTV’s Real World. The audience needs bombshells, hysteria, shock and awe and the studios are ready to dole our dollops of it. Extravagant weddings are broken up in less than 3 months, a gay Jewish Persian man is united with his conservative Islamic father, paternity issues are raised and resolved. Over the top tactics such as the mutilation of a $100,000 Hermes bag get the necessary notoriety necessary for a hit reality show.
In the case of the Eastwood show, other than Mr. Eastwood who even knows or cares about the other members of his family. If they portray themselves as a normal (synonym for functional) family, why would we want to watch them. There will be no ratings and in turn no renewal for the next season. So, the demolition of the Hermes bag provided the necessary shock and awe element for a hit reality show. Proof is in the pudding, I am writing about it, even though I am least interested in Mrs. Eastwood or her Company. The studio execs used the obliteration of the Hermes bag as a perfectly strategized move to Bite me with this Reality!
I have an elitist attitude towards mainstream Hollywood cinema. I always come out of the theater complaining that the movie was not intelligent enough; not real enough; not thought-provoking enough; not nuanced enough etc. etc.
My friends say I have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to mainstream cinema; that my views have become deeply distorted related to cinema; that anything related to sane and wholesome entertainment escapes my warped sensibilities.
They laugh that my taste in movies borders on being quixotic, surreal, distorted, kinky and torturous for them. My dossier of recent indie movies include lesbians making out in an oppressed foreign land, their passion expressed in sub-titles; a man fully masturbating in front of his mother, a sort of Oedipus complex; primitive stoning of a woman where her extreme pain and anguish is expressed in sub-titles.
Based on this premise, at most times I am a solitary figure at the movie theater devoid of any company. I am a forsaken indie film buff!
I do enjoy the stark realism of indie films. I enjoy the depiction of nuanced emotions embedded deep within the psyche–emotions that only several years of Freudian therapy can bring to the surface. I enjoy the honest portrayal of psychoses, complexes and neuroses that most of us have, but hide from even ourselves. Such psychological disorders in their stark nakedness are brought to the surface by brave indie directors. I like the lack of glamour, the chapped lips, the “bitten to the bed nails” and the bedraggled hair—all illustrating palpable realism.
Lately I have been on a spree of watching indie films. I saw the Iranian lesbian flick called Circumstance; Michal Fassbender as the deeply disturbed sex-addict in Shame; an Iranian son trying to take care of his dad with Alzheimer’s’ while going through a divorce in A Separation and Tilda Swinton playing a desperate mother to a sociopathic killer in We Need to Talk About Kevin.
I have come out of the theaters deeply depressed and melancholic. The movies leave me with a lingering despondency for several days. Of course, since the movies are well-made with intricate plots, they are hard to brush off and forget like mainstream cinema. I analyze and re-live the movies spiraling into an abyss of somber pensiveness.
Imagine the extreme sense of loneliness one would feel if at Christmas you are eating alone an over-cooked dry piece of turkey in a lonely diner with a flashing neon sign named “EAT” in the window, except the letter “E” has short fuse and does not flash.
Imagine the plight of a mother whose sociopath teenage son takes a sick delight in masturbating in front of his mother.
Imagine two young girls living an oppressed life in Iran, but find solace in each other’s arms, except that one of the girls is married to the brother of the other girl.
Imagine, a sexual addiction being so overpowering that it prevents you from ever having a meaningful relation in your entire life, I mean ever!
You get the point right? The despair, drudgery, hopelessness, agony, existential angst that is the essence of most plots of indie films.
Cinema is escapism. It is entertainment. It takes us away from our lives for a few hours and transports us to another world. However, if the make believe world of cinema not only mirrors, but magnifies the shortcomings of real life, it ceases to be escapism and at some point becomes painfully torturous. It becomes an affirmation of the misery in the world, the wretchedness of human existence.
Life is hard enough. At most times it is a struggle. Do we really need a confirmation of its trials and tribulations magnified on a 40 feet celluloid screen for a whole uninterrupted two hours?
I will always be an indie film loyalist. But for the sake of sanity, I may become a temporary Hollywood neophyte.
As I was putting on my make-up, I was reminded of my childhood days of coloring in color books. It is the same concept. Arrays of colorful pencils are used. There is a wide use of electrifying colors from vibrant fuchsia to smoky green to petunia pink. The coloring rules are the same too. Stay between the lines, blend the colors, don’t over-color.
Fashion is like child’s play. True, it is a multi-billion dollar industry and run by mega corporations. Intimidating abbreviations are used such as CEOs, CFOs, COOs to describe titles of very important people. Serious terms such as stocks, IPO offerings, listings on the NASDAQ are used to gauge the worth of a company. Board meetings are held behind intimidating mahogany double doors where board members sit around tables that are longer than the train of Kate Middleton’s McQueen gown.
Shiny silver haired men and women attend the meetings wearing Savile Row tailored pin-striped cashmere suits; .walking with a determined and purposeful stride in their John Lobb loafers and Jimmy Choo heels and toting Birkin bags with such ease and comfort that one would think that the proverbial “born with a silver spoon” was replaced by “born with a Birkin bag.”
Despite all the gravity and sternness there is a silly, delicious, lighthearted playful side to fashion. One possibly cannot take fashion seriously. In fact, if you do take fashion seriously it ceases to be fashion as the laxity of creativity is lost. It becomes regimented and constrained. Rules restrict creativity.
To be truly creative the adult inhibitions need to be curtailed. True fashion icons or for that matter even designers, embrace the child in them. They have fun with fashion without inhibitions. In fact, multiple fashion campaigns and advertisements appeal to the child within us by depicting a comic book, mischievous, even cartoonish element.
Givenchy’s “Cat” cap for a measly $2,124 is a purrrfect example. I was so drawn to its devilish charm that was almost on the verge of cashing out my IRA until NPR’s analysis on the state of fast dwindling economy acted like an allergic reaction to cat dander, thereby deterring me from cashing out my nest egg. The Givenchy cap intrigues the child in us and plays on the age-old clichés of the black cat, naughty cat and maybe even the superstitious cat.
Fashion legend Iris Apfel who is 90 years old continues to wear the grandma oversized glasses with her designer duds and the overload of clunky jewelry. She reminds me of the animated series Daria- smart, acerbic and eccentric.
Kim Kardashian is a perfect example of Betty Boop with the ample buxom and the oh-so long fluttering lashes. Except, Kim’s are most likely courtesy of Shu Uemura!
Bryan Boy ups the Aladdin factor with harem pants. Instead of a rope tied around the waist, he uses the Hermes belt. If you can give a plug to a product while embracing the child in you, why not!
The Row designer looks innocently delicious with the Heidi style braid.
How can one forget Minnie Mouse and her contribution to fashion at large. Between the polka dots and the head piece her contribution is unmatched. Marc Jacobs ad campaign featuring Helena Bonham Carter is a distorted, gnarly, modern homage to Minnie Mouse.
The sartorial Carine Roitfield’s French sensibilities of fashion noir are similar to Elvira’s.
And the hot Rooney Mara who will bring to life Stieg Larsson’s nail biting thriller is a Dora gone wild! Very wild!
And finally the style icon herself, Anna Dello Russo, whose mantra appears to be fashion without boundaries. She changes her looks faster than a chameleon. Here she is lovable as the animated Dalmatian with the black and white dots and the burst of red.
So, have fun with fashion. Forego boundaries and rules. Play with fashion and release the child in you.
Paraphrasing a quote I read-If you act like a certain person, after some time you become that person. I have also read many books purporting the value of being true to oneself. Hence, there is a dichotomy between projecting an image and staying true to oneself.
We live in a world where the image supersedes substance.
Image creation, image projection, image control, these are new age buzz terms revolving around creating an appearance, an illusion, an impression.
Image creation and control businesses are booming these days. Stars are being created overnight with little, marginal or negative talent. Case in point, reality television stars with an international fan following. Interestingly enough, their only talent being a ceaseless and impressively seamless supply of profane vocabulary. Or bloggers whose fashion lexicon includes a repetitive use of the words “chic” “stylish” and “to die for” and yet their Twitter and Facebook following has far surpassed the actual designers they are blogging about. Or for that matter most people in the entertainment industry whose “talent” is an inebriated night out on the (in)famous Sunset Strip or a one night stand with an underage Lolita or putting their fallopian tubes on overdrive by producing kids that would be akin to a bombshell being dropped on the policies of Premier Wen Jiabao.
Projection of an image has become crucial for people in the public eye for example in the entertainment industry, sports, politics or even religious leaders. Even the Pope is seen wearing Prada loafers! To give him the benefit of doubt, he lives in Italy, so most likely it is his personal style rather than projection of an image!
To some degree we are all in the public eye at one point of time or the other. We present a certain image to the various people we deal with during the day. Most of the times, the image varies from person to person. It is not an image that is uniformly consistent. We present an eager, ready to take on the world image to our bosses, a workaholic image to our co-workers, a sexy, coquettish image to our new love interest, and if you are a lawyer, a ball**** image to your clients!
For mortals like us, even though our images may not be meticulously managed by a high-priced agent, we are still projecting an image.
If we are projecting an image then how much of that image is a projection and how much of it is a true representation of our true selves, or is it an amalgamation of both. Or could it be that at some point the projected image takes over and the true self merely becomes a caricature. Could it even be that we actually become the projected image and loose ourselves?
I sometimes take an introspective look at myself. By profession I am a lawyer and I am mandated to project a certain image. An image of being aggressive, fearless, combative and for a lack of a better term a bitch!
My true self is contrary to the projected image; I am creative, sensitive and shy.
I have noticed that since I spend a greater part of the day projecting an image, it has tendency to creep into my personal life as well, where the image is not needed. It makes me wonder, have I allowed my projected image to perform a hostile takeover of myself. Does my true self exist anymore? Or have I simply become the projected image?
Since, I am writing this introspective piece there is probably still hope. Possibly a conjunction of the self and the projected image. Or on a higher, more spiritual plane letting the Self shine such that the Self is the Image.
Travel is the spice of life; it is crème fraiche on a basic sponge cake; it is the vibrant lipstick on a bare face, it is the statement necklace on a basic black dress, it is the bold stroke on a plain canvas.
We live our daily lives performing various duties, chores and activities. Some we enjoy some we don’t. In any event no matter how exciting our daily jobs and lifestyles are after some time, well they become “daily” or “routine.” The familiarity even though comforting brings with it some vacuous boredom.
Travel jolts us from the quotidian routine and infuses the requisite amount of fervor and excitement to get back into the “routine” upon return.
Upon her return from a world tour, my friend told me that she could not find the food that she is accustomed to in her home country and hence from that aspect it was a little hard for her to travel.
It made me think, what is the point of traveling if you cannot immerse yourself in the culture, the traditions, the food, the style of that country and get a true feel of its soul. When I travel I have a ritual, I visit the grocery store and the pharmacy of the new place. It provides me an opportunity to get a true local feel of the country. I also try to buy at least one small traditional clothing item and incorporate it with my daily wardrobe. It enables me to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane when my life returns back to being “daily.”
When we travel, we all visit the famous sites recommended by Lonely Planet. The key to travel is to diverge from the well-traveled “touristy” path at least once and get a true flavor of the country.
Travel is about exploration and getting out of your comfort element, stepping out of self-imposed parameters and crossing boundaries literally and metaphorically.
If you are in Istanbul, you will of course visit Hagia Sophia as you should, but also take the time to sit in the little cafes and drink umpteen cups of cay with shakkar (tea with sugar). You truly get a feel of the old culture watching the men play board games.
If in China, eat the dumplings from the enormous steamed bamboo baskets.
If going to Italy, do buy at least one sartorial outfit from Via Condotti (no matter how small) to be a part of the most stylish culture in the world.
In Mongolia throw caution to the strong Gobi desert winds, ride a yak and later drink its warm milk! No need to crinkle your nose, it is delicious!!
So, pause your hectic itinerary for a few minutes, take a long breath, inhale and envelope yourself in the essence of the country you visit. You will get more out of it than visiting every miniscule “must see” site written in the travel book.
Perfection is not instantaneous, not exigent and not speedy. It is a laborious, tiresome and toilsome journey.
Perfection can be achieved in any field by giving it enough time, patience, perseverance and that “one more thing” as per Steve Jobs that is always required even when you think you are almost there.
Steve Jobs recent demise made me think of how everything that is perfect or even comes close to perfection takes time or that “one more thing.” There seem to be no short-cuts to perfection and no quick schemes. Interestingly, it does not matter what you are trying to perfect. It can be a small thing such as whipping up a perfectly risen delicate soufflé or a colossal and complex project such as inventing and designing the revolutionary Apple gadgets. It all takes time and massive effort. The question is what mettle are we made of? Strong enough to withstand failures and defeats, with only a steel drive propelling us to move forwards towards perfection. Or do we want to chuck the whole thing after a few tries as it is “just too hard.”
As a confession, in most instances I probably will take the easier or the latter path, only to be burdened later with a heavy sense of regret for having forsaken the sweet taste of perfection and my goal. Hopefully, writing this blog will be a cathartic experience and will steer me to strive towards perfection in achieving my goals in life, no matter how big or small they are.
Steve Jobs is an example of perfection. He was a drop-out from college, co-founded Apple Computer only to be ousted nine years later from the extremely lucrative company he founded. It was not a deterrent for him, but an opportunity to further hone his craft. He came back with marvels such as the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad creating a revolution not only in technology, but a cultural revolution that changed the way people listened to music, read books and used computers forever.
His designs are not only highly efficient but an example of style and elegance. He enabled the world to discard the clunky obsolete gadgets and replace them with minimalistic, highly efficient, utterly cool gadgets.
He can be analogized with pioneers such as Edison or the Wright Brothers. He was a visionary who with his intelligence, years of toil and hard-work, built a company that consumers cannot get enough bites of.
Hermes is another company that takes extreme pride in perfecting its craft. It is a rare company in this day and age of mass produced, assembly line, sole focus on “filling-the-quota” kind of products.
Yes, you do pay a premium for Hermes products, but perfection should not come cheap.
Thierry Hermes started the company 74 years ago with a vision. He brought his vision to fruition by using unsurpassed quality materials, attention to detail and hard work, lots of hard work. The Hermes bags are a superlative example of quality. Each Hermes bag is cut by hand, piece by piece with individually inspected materials. Each artisan works only on three to four bags at a time. They are made-to-order in the true sense of the word. Each bag is made by hand, inside and out!
Even the saddle stitch used by the artisans has been in use since the 19th century. In fact, nothing much has changed in the technique of the design and manufacturing since the inception of the company.
Along with quality, Hermes has been a visionary in marketing and branding. When celebrity endorsements were unheard of and a rarity, Hermes introduced the Kelly and the Birkin bags, an homage to Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco and the uber stylish Jane Birkin (trivia, she is the mother of Charlotte Gainsbourg.) The bags have acquired iconic status and cultural eminence.
What about a perfectly scrumptious, delicate, fluffy soufflé? It is not a dessert that you can order “off a menu” and expect it to be delivered instantaneously. No, it takes time and patience to make it. It has to be coddled, delicately whipped and baked for at least a good 45 minutes for it to rise to a cloud of warm, sweet perfection. You have to order the dessert even before you order the appetizer in order to enjoy it. It takes time to make a perfect soufflé!
So, to conclude and a note to myself-Keep working towards perfection. It takes time to perfect perfection, assuming that there is a Utopian point of perfecting perfection.