Monday, 28 June 2010

Of toys and stories

When I was in school, I always vaguely loathed the way teachers would try to reveal hidden 'layers' within a book. To me a book was about its plot and its characters- all the alleged symbolism and allegory that people were forever finding in books was more accidental than deliberate. Then again, in high school I believed all sorts of things that turned out to be untrue, starting with my belief that a moustache would suit my countenance perfectly.

I left the theater in 1995 after seeing the original Toy Story feeling strangely moved. I was only seven and probably didn't know who Tom Hanks was, never mind Tim Allen and Joan Cusack, but I did know – at least on a basic level of storytelling – that it was fantastic. As you age, nostalgia often has to compensate for quality (or lack thereof) in your perception of the books and movies you once loved. Suddenly Small Wonder isn't as hilarious as it once was. Tinkle is monotonous. Tom and Jerry is plain silly.

Toy Story, oddly, has always been the exception to the aforesaid rule. It is, perhaps, another of those works of art with 'layers'- there is more to it than meets the eye. There is a scene in the new instalment where Woody, Buzz and co. end up having to choose between a life of luxury at the day-care centre and a less-enjoyable one in the place they once called home. I have an odd feeling a large chunk of the largely-expatriate audience was reminded of the choices they had made themselves. Or perhaps that's just my month-long stay outside India getting to me.

The allegories don't end there. There is another scene that seemed straight out of 1984. And another that smacked of Holden Caulfeld-esque cynicism. Toy Story 3 is, in many ways, the most complete movie ever made.

Or perhaps I am just reading too much into a Pixar flick where toys talk, fall in love and do lots of other crazy stuff.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Smoke through a keyhole

Anonymity is a luxury. I came home little over a fortnight back looking forward to spending the month in the snug embrace of my quilt, with the World Cup and Mum's coffee to keep me awake. Earlier today, I received a call from my old school requesting me to turn up and share my two fils' worth on IIT, the universe and everything, being one of the most prolific students to emerge from the narrow corridors of the Indian School Bahrain. Their words, not mine. As it turns out, I am something of a legend in these parts, with a fan base comparable to that of Shakira. Or, for that matter, Puneet Singh Jaggi.

One of the reasons I come home as rarely as I do is the confrontation with the past that it inevitably results in. Reminders of the estrangement of my past and present selves await me at every turn. A Westlife CD here, a Full House poster there- my search for answers only yields more questions. Is there no part of us that survives the irrevocable march of time? If change was indeed a good thing, wouldn't nostalgia lose its purpose? Are the things we do and the people we like truly a reflection of who we are underneath? Do our inner and outer selves ever match up? Is life really worth all the effort it takes to survive? What exactly makes it worth it? Why ask useless questions? How deep is the ocean? How high is the sky? Who is John Galt?

Late edit: Six hours after I typed this post out, I found this