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The thing that *really* bothered me about La La Land’s ending

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There’s been a lot of debate about the ending of La La Land, the musical that almost won the Best Film at the Oscars. Obviously, if you haven’t seen the movie, stop reading now, because there be spoilers ahead.

**Spoiler alert**

The ending has been aptly described as ‘bittersweet’. People love it, people hate it. It’s been proclaimed as the best thing about the movie, and the thing that totally ruined it. Basically, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone), after two and something hours of being madly in love, decide to part ways in order to follow their dreams. In the final portion of the film, they meet five years later — they’ve found professional success, but lost each other. She’s married to the drummer from That Thing You Do and he’s alone, and there’s a gorgeous musical sequence as they think about what might have been.

On a purely visceral, emotional level, sitting there in the theater, the ending worked beautifully for me. I loved the bittersweet tone, the ‘what if…’, and the final lingering glance they exchange at the door, and got all choked up. Logically, though, I wasn’t sold. The more I thought about it later, the more I found I wasn’t convinced that they couldn’t follow their dreams and still invest in their relationship. Why couldn’t the jazz-loving Sebastian spend four months in Paris while Mia acted in her breakthrough film? He says himself that there are great jazz clubs there… so what exactly is the problem? Or why not even consider a temporary long-distance arrangement? They wouldn’t be the first couple or the last to Skype their way through a four or five month separation. Or why doesn’t she look him up after the four months are done and she returns to the U.S., if, as she says, she’ll always love him? I never got the sense that there’s any personal or professional incompatibility that necessitated separation. To me, it seemed like director Chazelle wanted this ending, this bittersweetness, and so he tacked it on. It didn’t feel like the relationship naturally found its way there.

The only sort-of explanation that’s offered is when Sebastian tells Mia that she has to give her 100 per cent to her dream of making it in the movies — no distractions or demands due to Seb and their relationship, presumably. Fair enough. But let’s see how that works out for Mia, shall we? (And this brings us to the part about the ending that really bugs  me). Five years later, she’s a super-successful actress, yes, but she’s also married to Generic Husband Man, and has a Cute Toddler Daughter, who is at least two years old, maybe 2.5. Back-calculating, that means that she got pregnant just barely two  years after breaking up with Seb. Let’s assume that this wasn’t a case of her getting knocked up and hastily tying the knot while showing off her six-month baby bump. That means she married GHM maybe six months before she got pregnant. They must have dated for at least six months-ish before they got married (this isn’t some quick-gun desi arranged marriage after all). So that means that she met and got into a serious relationship with GHM just barely a year (probably less) after breaking up with Seb, just about when her breakthrough film was wrapping up/getting ready to release. See the problem here? The logic doesn’t hold up.

So if Mia wasn’t so focused on career goals that she put her personal life/marriage/children a far second (clearly this isn’t the case if she is happily ensconced in domestic bliss and is preggers just two years later), then the choice was more Sebastian’s than hers. And this is more believable. Because he’s the one who’s living like a hermit at the start, and still is living that way, five years later. He’s the one who tells her they should go their separate ways. And all Mia does is agree. We never actually get to hear her point of view. She asks him, “Where are we?” and he tells her, and she agrees. That, to me, is really annoying on closer inspection. This is clearly a favoured trope of Damien Chazelle’s — the male artiste who eschews love for his art (e.g. Whiplash). Mia, really, has all the will and agency of a damp dish rag in this particular scenario.

That final sequence, where we see their life together if they’d never broken up, then, is truly her fantasy. That’s what she would have wanted, only she never fights for or even makes a case for it (see damp dish rag). Sebastian throws away their relationship and is content to ‘suffer for his art’ because, in Chazelle’s world, that’s what men do. And she fantasizes about domestic bliss with him, while sitting beside the man who was actually willing to commit to her, because… I don’t know… that’s what women do? (Not).  Suddenly, it’s not all bittersweet and romantic anymore. It’s just… annoying and blergh. And also really unfair to GHM. Poor ol’ Guy Patterson of The Wonders deserved better.

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The five stages of an IKEA visit with my five-year-old

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Stage 1: Vigorous protest. The night before/the morning of the visit:

Kid: “But Amma! I don’t want to go to IKEA. I want to go to the park/beach/indoor play area with my friend! IKEA is booooring!”

Me: “No, it’s not! It’s full of interesting stuff.”

Kid (arms crossed): “Does it have clothes?”

Me: “Er… no.” (But it has toys. For once, I have enough thought-to-mouth-control not to say it out loud. We’d cross that particular bridge when we come to it <see Stage 4>).

“Shoes?” (My daughter, the diva.)

“No.”

“Hairbands?” (Note: We’re currently obsessed with hairbands)

Me: “No, but…”

Kid (throwing up arms in exasperation): “See? It’s boooring!”

*

Stage 2: Enter Festival City Mall, where IKEA is located in Dubai. “Amma amma amma! I want to go on the toy train! I want the Sophia the Princess balloon! I want to go to that play area…” Curse you, Festival City. Why do you need to have so, so many distractions for the pint-sized brigade just outside the entrance of IKEA?? Do you not realise we parents need to reserve every ounce of our strength for the ordeal of the next 3 to 4 hours, as we stagger zombie-style through the winding maze with whining little person(s) in tow, laden with a shopping cart full of junk we don’t need, and unwieldy boxes and shelving units to store it all in?? We can’t be wasting energy battling past helium balloon and tooting red-and-yellow engines!

*

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Stage 3: Enter IKEA. Cue amazement. “I LOVE IKEA!” This is the best portion of the trip, so one must make the best of it. The daughter has shelved the diva-ness and demands for balloons, and is totally charmed by the pretty, pretty bedrooms and kitchens and dining rooms on display. She pretend cooks at the kitchen, has a tea-party at the little kiddie table on display, lies on the beds (while I pretend not to notice), and generally makes like she’s living in a life-size doll house. “I don’t ever want to go home! Can we live here forever, amma?”

*

Stage 4: BOOM!  By that, I am referring, of course, to the wretchedly attractive and colourful toy section of IKEA, strategically located at the halfway point of the maze, right about when your kid is getting bored of amusing herself with pots and pans and pillows, and is starting to get tired. What happens when a bored and tired little person who’s been looking at shelving units and kitchens is confronted with an oasis of toys? Exactly. BOOM!

Now, there are two options here for the also-starting-to-get-tired-and-cranky parents — a blanket ban on any more toys, and damn the consequences (you brave souls you), or multiple rounds of negotiations before you settle upon a mutually agreeable, not-too-outrageous toy purchase. We bought a stuffed cat, who has been christened Mia (don’t judge me… virtually every kid walking out of IKEA was carrying a stuffed animal of some species or the other.) Of course, sometimes the peace talks fail and you end up with a toddler lying on one of IKEA’s pristine aisles throwing an epic tantrum. Let’s have a moment of silence to express solidarity for every parent whose ever been in that position (there but for the grace of Mia go I.)

*

Stage 5: Exhaustion. This stage has both its advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, your kid is too exhausted to wander off or break things or demand to buy new stuff, and is likely to sit in the shopping cart quietly for the first time in the entire expedition. On the other hand, she’s more likely to whine (“I’m huuuungry! Are we done yet??”) and make irrational demands like “Carry me!” and “I want to lie down!”. I settled this by placing a random cat-motif pillow I’d picked up (in keeping with the general feline theme of the day, and the compulsion one feels to buy random stuff at IKEA) on the handle of the cart and having her put her head on it. I no longer had a handle to push the cart with, but hey, the whining was down, so I’ll take it.

*

We eventually did finish and make it back to the car, stopping only 10 or 15 times to pick up Mia and/or the cat pillow along the way. Our annual visit was done; there were no tempers lost or tantrums thrown (only the husband’s blood and sweat  lost over setting up the shelves later), and at least 50 per cent of what we bought was actually useful. As IKEA trips go, I’d give this one a Grade A – (half a grade point reduced for unnecessary purchase of cat pillow, which has already since been abandoned.)

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Mia says meeoww

 

 

 

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To All the DivyaKs out there (Part 6): Matrimonial Mayhem

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Ladies, we need to talk. Again. For years now, I’ve been getting your travel itineraries, your bank/credit card statements, your phone bills, your job applications/CVs, your online shopping lists, even your missives to long-lost friends, etc. etc. because, it seems, a hundred or so of you believe you have my email address. *Deep breath*. In the beginning, I worried. I worried about you guys missing out on stuff. That I’m receiving so many of your private/important documents. I used to write back diligently, saying, ‘Yo, you’ve got the wrong email address’, and feel that glow of having done something good. But those days are long gone now. I’ve reached a point where, unless it’s a question of life-or-death, I don’t bother. I figure, if you couldn’t be arsed to properly remember or type in your own fricking email id, it isn’t my problem. Mostly, though, I don’t even notice them anymore. I just blindly go delete delete delete when I see random bills, office memos, PowerPoint presentations, etc. addressed to me from organisations I’ve never been a part of in my life.

However, you’ve succeeded in getting my attention. Again. Because now, I’m getting marriage proposals that ought to be going to one of you. And really, I draw the line at that. Is nothing sacred anymore?? Every morning, I open my inbox, and there they are, another four or five ‘expressions of interest’ from men viewing your profile on BharatMatrimony.com. I kid you not. Every day. I do feel a tinge of pride on behalf of us female DivyaKs (I’m sure you male DivyaKs are very attractive as well, no gender discrimination meant) everywhere… this is one popular profile. But I digress. I’d like to point out that I’m a much-married mom of one, and I, for one, don’t want any more expressions of interest from matrimony-seeking males. That part of my life is (thankfully!) done and dusted. No more, thank you.

But there you are, a lovely, talented, sweet woman whose only faults are having a) a wretchedly common first name, b) an equally common last name/initial, and c) an annoying inability to remember your own email address properly. And you can’t even be blamed for (a) and (b). Yet, you’re sitting there, day after day, staring at your email inbox wistfully, wondering why, why none of those matrimony-seeking men are interested in seeking matrimony with you. And scattered across the internet there are all those men, at least about 20 by my last count, staring at their inboxes, wondering sadly why this Divya isn’t interested in their expressions of interest.

And the wedding nadaswarams fail to play for another day. *wipes away a tear*

You see? You see, DivyaKs? This isn’t a joke anymore. You miss a phone bill, your company calls you. And you probably don’t want to see your credit card statement anyway. But this, this is a question of the rest of your life! You may never meet the man the you’re meant to be with because you didn’t check your email id properly while filling in an online form! This is tragic stuff, y’all. And let’s face it. This isn’t You’ve Got Mail or something, alright? You’re not going-to-meet-the-guy-anyway-because-you’re-destined-to-be-together-and-already-know-him-but-don’t-realise-it’s-him-until-the-last-five-seconds-of-the-movie. Because if that was our lives, we wouldn’t be on BharatMatrimony or Tindr or PerfectMatch or whatever, see?

So get your act together, ladies. This stuff is important. Check. Your. Email. Address. Repeat after me: “My email id is not your email id.” Stop signing me up for stuff I don’t understand or care about. Stop trying to marry me off to random men, when all the while, your Prince Charming is out there, pining away, staring at your profile. *sniff* Go! Change your email so you can be with him!

And please, for the love for holy matrimony, leave me out of it.

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Uhm… what?

Moms, have you seen this one? If you’re like me, you’ve probably learnt to tune out whatever nonsense your kid insists on watching on YouTube. I usually just ensure she’s watching something kid-friendly and then block out the rest. But recently, the words of this rhyme filtered past my defences while the daughter was having her half-hour of YouTube time on the tablet (i.e. kid nirvana). Did I just hear what I thought I heard? Five strict mommies jumping on the bed? Uhm… what?

YouTube nursery rhymes are, of course, for most part, the absolute dregs. I’ve written on this in depth in the past, and won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say, the channels that advertise most aggressively, and therefore are most likely to be clicked by your YouTube video-surfing toddler, are the absolute worst. It’s like they set aside all their resources for the pimping and keep nothing at all for the actual content.

But, even by those low standards, this one is… uhm… strange. So you have five mommies jumping on the bed. There appears to be no cause to call them strict mommies — if anything, they seem to be all about letting their hair down and par-taying — but, apparently, strict they are. You have a grinning kid who calls the doc each time one of the mommies falls off the bed and bumps her head (you get the feeling she’s enjoying this role-reversal a little too much). At this point, you start to wonder… are these moms drunk and on a bender? ‘Cos lil monkeys falling off and bumping their heads… kinda understandable. Mommies, strict or otherwise, with such poor physical coordination? One too many bottles of wine would seem the most likely explanation for both the jumping and the falling (is that why they don’t seem strict too? Alcohol tends to do that). As an aside, who is this wonderfully available doc in these rhymes who picks up each time the mommy/kid calls with the exact same complaint? I must find me one of those.

But I digress.

Now, this is important — watch closely to see what happens after each mom has bumped her head. That’s right — she goes back to her regularly scheduled housework, like a good, chastened homemaker mommy. Her head hurts like a bitch (bump plus hangover… ouch), and she’s learnt her lesson. No more silly shenanigans for her! She’s going to stick to nice safe, ladylike activities like cooking and ironing and cleaning.

And that’s when it hits you. This video isn’t really strange at all. It might look like a silly, badly-animated nursery rhyme for kids, but it’s really a finger-wagging cautionary tale for mommies not to stray too far from the kitchen. No more mommies jumping on the bed! Except, presumably, with Daddy (oh c’mon, I know you were thinking that too). But only, of course, once she’s served him a nice hot dinner.

There. Aren’t all you good, strict mommies glad I brought this important video to your attention? (There are multiple versions for you to watch, in case you feel the message hasn’t hit home strongly enough with just the one). Now, please excuse me. I do believe there’s some housework I need to go finish.

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Kadais (Part 4): That sinking feeling

There’s this tiny food stall on a by lane of R.A. Puram, off C.P. Ramaswamy Road, that sells noodles and biriyani and the like. I’ve never paid it much attention until recently, when my brother pointed out its signboard to me. It said: ‘Titanic Fast Food’.

Given that the fact that the stall is about the size of the cardboard box my refrigerator came in, that title is a tad incongruous. Ironic, even. But, I told my brother, good for the guy. He might be small, but he dreams big. Real big. He might be a roadside vendor, but his aspirations are palatial. Nothing wrong with the owner of a cardboard box wanting to be a Titan, you know? It’s praiseworthy. Motivational, almost. I was almost giving myself goosebumps at this point. Then my brother told me to look at the sign again.

Here, I even remembered to take a picture for once, so you can see it too:

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See that, on the left side of the signboard? Right beside the picture of the chicken rice? Yes, that’s an image of the Titanic. The ship. And yes, it’s sinking. Like, tilted-at-45-degrees-and-heading-for-the-ocean-floor sinking. If this were the movie, it would be the point at which Rose is on the raft and Jack is freezing his skinny butt off in the water and Leo fangirls everywhere are shedding copious tears.

Not, you’d admit, the most appetising image. Not particularly motivational either. Because now we’ve gone from Titanic Fast Food, the grand, imposing, colossal seller of roadside biriyani, to Titanic Fast Food, the roadside seller of biriyani who is doomed to sink without a trace.

I found myself coming back to that question I ask so often in this Kadais series of blogs: What was he thinking?? Why would you want to equate your business with catastrophe? Why would you want to give your customers a sinking feeling before they even begin to eat?

I mean, I’d understand if he’d used a picture of the Titanic as it was when it first sailed… majestic, a feat of human ingenuity and engineering. Yes, it did eventually sink, but it was pretty awesomesauce to start with. But why, why would you want to show it mid-tragedy, semi-sunk?

Unlike all those previous times, I’ve got nothing. Zilch. I have no explanations of the possible thought process behind the name. Except for one thing — he did get my attention. I may not ever actually eat his waterlogged biriyani, but I certainly won’t forget this roadside vendor who, apparently, adds a dash of disaster to dinner.

May his (food) cart go on and on…

 

 

 

 

 

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How to (not) use band-aids, toddler-style

1. Demand band-aid for non-existent boo-boo. The operative word here is ‘non-existent’. The vociferousness with which a toddler demands a band-aid is inversely proportional to the actual need for the band-aid. Tiny bumps, barely-there scratches, invisible ant bites… and your toddler will clutch at the (supposedly) injured limb and pitifully ask for her Dora/Hello-Kitty/Princess band-aid. “I need it amma!” she’ll cry, “please, please, please!”

Of course, you give in because you can’t take the whining, and because these band-aids are just a more expensive version of stickers at the end of the day. At least  she uses the band-aids just one at a time; with stickers, an entire entire sheet is dispensed with in 4.3 seconds flat.

So you put on the band-aid, and there is peace and quiet as the child admires it and declares she is much, much better. You may even receive a hug for being such a wonderful ‘band-aid doctor’, and if your kid’s into Doc McStuffins, a rendition of the ‘I feel better’ song. She’s happy, you’re feeling pretty pleased and all iz well… for about 5 seconds. Then your toddler will…

2.  Demand to have the band-aid removed. Why? Why, if you love these band-aids so much, do you need to get them off so fast? Wouldn’t you want your pretty Hello Kitty band-aid to stay on for longer? You whined and whined for 15 minutes to have it put on, and now you can’t keep in on longer than 5 secs? What is the point?

So, anyway, you give in again, because this is not a battle worth fighting. This is a band-aid she didn’t even need in the first place, so why bother arguing about how long she should keep it on? Of all the random, un-winnable arguments one gets into with a strong willed toddler during the course of the day, this falls under the ‘whatever- I don’t care’ category. Yes, the stupid Princess band-aids were expensive, but, you know, whatever.

Then, of course, your toddler will…

3.  Want it off but be scared of it hurting. The worst part of this stage is the realisation of how pointless the entire exercise was. Let’s do a brief review: you’re taking off the band-aid of a child who didn’t need it in the first place, but got it on after nagging you to death for it, only to want to take it off 5 seconds later. Only, now she doesn’t want to take it off. Well, she wants to take it off, but she’s scared on taking it off, so she doesn’t want you to take it off. If you catch my drift.

So you remind your toddler of how you took it off just the other day, and of how you were so good at it because you’re the best band-aid doctor ever! It won’t hurt at all, you promise, it’ll be over in seconds. She says nooooo! So you get impatient and say, fine keep it on. To which she says, nooooo! So you finally take matters in your own hands and ruthlessly rip it off. Ouch! That wasn’t so bad, was it? Only 20 minutes of your life you’ll never get back.

Now let’s fast forward ahead to a day or two later when your toddler will….

4. Refuse to put on the band-aid when it’s actually needed: So your baby has fallen and hurt her knee pretty bad. Or she needed a blood test and has sobbed her way through the whole procedure. You remember how much she loves her Hello Kitty/Dora/Princess band-aid and offer it to her as an incentive to stop crying. As a way to make her happy. Anything to bring a smile on her face. And yay! For once, the darned cartoon character band-aids are actually needed! They’re going to serve a purpose beyond cluttering the house and lying about here and there.

Caught up in the moment, you forget two important things. A) Your child does not like to put the band-aid over an actual injury. Those she likes to leave open, so she can pick at them and make them bleed B) You’ve forgotten what will transpire once you actually get it on.

5 a. Return to Step 2You’ve gotten the band-aid on at actual injury!!! Score one for the Mommy team! Hurray! Or, you know, not. Because we now go straight back to No. 2, bypassing the joy and 5 seconds of peace and quiet at the end of Step 1 altogether. Because your toddler wants the band-aid to be removed. Now.

But it’s worse this time. Because she actually kinda needs it. You want her to keep it on for a bit. This is not an argument that falls into the ‘whatever, suit yourself’ category. You make deals. You offer incentives to keep it on. You remind her you’re the band-aid doctor.

Of course, two minutes later, you cave and agree to take it off. Only… she doesn’t want you to take it off. But she also does. And this time it actually hurts her for real when you do. And she cries and cries and looks pitiful.

5 b. Return to Step 1: So after all that drama surrounding removing the band-aid, you’d think they’d be off the favourites list, right? Wrong. Because the next time she sees Princess/Hello Kitty/Dora band-aids anywhere in the house or the store, she will demand that you put it on for her,  on the invisible boo-boo on her elbow, right now. Because: “I really need it, amma! Please, please, please!”

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Five things that happen when you go out without your toddler

1. You re-discover the joy of walking in long, adult-sized strides without having a pint-sized person’s pace slowing you down every step of the way. And you can actually stop and look at whatever you want to! Clothes! Interesting people! Books! You even get to look at yourself in the occasional mirror and realise to your horror that you forgot completely to comb your hair before you left home.

2. You can walk past toy-stores or shelves filled with colourful trinkets or candy without dread striking your heart and without having to engage in a passionate, 15 minute argument with a three year old as to the merits of the fluorescent pink toy camel she really, really wants. Of course, you end up hovering around the store indecisively anyway, torn between wanting to pick up a little something for the kid, and not wanting to add any more to the already enormous pile of junk in your home…

3. You can walk down the street without having to stop to point out and discuss in depth the double-decker buses, cute pets, pretty flowers, and irregularly shaped reflections and shadows you pass along the way. Unfortunately, you find yourself noticing them anyway and longing to point them out to someone.

4. You can unthinkingly jab lift buttons without having to worry about a little person having a meltdown and yelling, “Nooooo! Meeee! I want to press!” You can also actually make the choice of whether you want to take the lift or the stairs, and do either in complete zoned out silence without having to make eye contact or conversation with another person for a change.

5. You come home and get the world’s most wonderful welcome from a little person who makes you feel like the centre of their universe. Perfect ending to the perfect outing! Though maybe you should have picked up that pink camel for her after all…

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