#AtoZChallenge – Letter T – Tintin

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As a boy, I was not really fond of comic books or comic strips. I used to make a passing glance at the strips that appeared in newspapers or magazines. When I was 9 or 10 years old, I happened to see a book at a local bookstore, which was totally different from my concept of a book. This one was, length wise, a gargantuan. As I browsed through it, I was quite stunned by the clarity of the pictures. I fell instantly in love with a short, young man with the front of his hair curled upwards. That was the introduction of Tintin to me.

Before my teens ended, I had almost completed reading most of his adventures. He appeared to me as a sensible reporter but never saw him in a newspaper office or anything like that in the series. Perhaps he was a freelancer who used to mail his stories to the newspapers. The world in which Tintin lives is mostly real. His adventures focus on solving mysteries or being involved in a science fiction adventure or fantasy. He is ably assisted by that cool, white dog of his – Snowy. I don’t think there has ever been a much talked about man-animal combination in literature. Snowy was temperamental, feared spiders and had an uncanny knack of getting drunk. But his loyalty and love for Tintin remains unflinching.

Tintin’s friends are also a source of great reading. There is Captain Haddock, the retired sea captain who becomes Tintin’s strongest human ally. Then there is the eccentric Professor Cuthbert Calculus, very absent-minded and half-deaf. His USP is the pendulum which he carries with him. There are the Thompson and Thomson twins, largely ineffective detectives. Between these characters, there is so much humor, many a source of dry wit and some long-lasting friendship.

My favorite Tintin adventures are ‘The Seven Crystal Balls’, ‘Destination Moon’, ‘Explorers on the Moon’ and ‘The Castafiore Emerald’. Though I like him in all his adventures, I feel he is at his best in these four. To this date, Tintin remains my favorite comic series. I’m glad that gargantuan book at that bookstore helped me discover Tintin. Goes to show that a visit to a bookstore can sometimes be magical.

Written as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge – http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

#AtoZChallenge – Letter S – Samiksha

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Just over a year old, Samiksha sat up on the floor. She then supported her hand on the floor and stood straight, balancing herself ever so delicately. Looking around sheepishly, she did not see anyone. As she licked the fingers of her hand, apparently thinking what to do next, she saw her favorite doll a few feet away. Immediately, she stopped what she was doing. And then, just like that, she began walking – her target was the doll.

“I can’t believe what I’m seeing,” Samiksha’s mother Sumitra said excitedly. Sumitra had been afflicted with polio since childhood and had since walked with a limp. In spite of all the assurances from doctors that her baby would walk normally like others, Sumitra was apprehensive. But seeing Samiksha take her first steps, she was delighted.

Sumitra said a silent prayer and watched as her daughter grabbed the doll and displayed an expression of sheer pride and contentment.

Written as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge – http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

#AtoZChallenge – Letter R – The two Rooneys

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A football legend and an extremely talented movie star are the topics for today’s post on the letter R. Wayne Rooney and Rooney Mara have a special place in my mind. I was initially confused whether to do a post on just one of them or both. Ultimately, I decided to cover both of them – leaving one out would have been harsh.

I first saw Wayne Rooney when he came off the bench as a 16-year-old and scored a stunning winner for Everton against Arsenal in the English Premier League. From then, I have been attracted to his style of play. The way he scored goals, I secretly wished he would join Manchester United, my favorite club. That did happen, much to my elation, in 2004. The rest, as they say, is history. He has been extremely successful with the club, helping them win five Premiership titles and a UEFA Champions League title. He is quick, dribbles with phenomenal accuracy and finishes clinically. He has a shrewd footballing mind, developed by a combination of being under the tutelage of one of the most successful football managers, Sir Alex Ferguson and his own precocious talent. Of late, his wares have weaned, but he is still a force to reckon with for United as well as England. Wazza as he is popularly called, is a true Manchester United legend.

Rooney Mara rose to prominence portraying Lisbeth Salander in the movie version of Stieg Larsson’s critically acclaimed novel ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’. Her performance was brilliant in the movie – in terms of the intimate scenes she was involved in, dialogue delivery and acting prowess. She lent her own color to the character, subtly different from the one portrayed in the book. Rooney Mara is extremely passionate in the work that she does, evidenced by the lengths she went to make her own interpretation of Lisbeth in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and Therese Belivet in ‘Carol’. Interestingly, both the roles fetched her Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively. There are some exciting roles in future for her, and I’m looking forward to see her in ‘The Secret Scripture’, ‘Weightless’ and ‘Una’ which release this year. There is no doubt she has the talent to go many miles in Hollywood and be a legend.

Written as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge – http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

#AtoZChallenge – Letter Q – Quid Pro Quo

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Gulab was stunned to see a fixed deposit receipt for a large sum of money. There was no return address on the envelope. This was strange, she thought. As she flipped the receipt, a piece of paper fell down. She picked it up and opened it. A letter? The day was certainly getting mysterious by the hour.

She began reading the letter:

Dearest Gulab,

Do you remember the summer of 2005? I was in the doldrums desperate for a job. You had helped me find one in the local bookstore. You don’t know how happy and elated I was. Not just at the job, but by your kindest gesture as well. We didn’t meet much after that, did we? You might have wondered where I had disappeared to. The bookstore job helped me find my feet, Gulab. I worked there for two years before jumping ship. I didn’t tell you because it would have pained both of us to be in different places. Besides, I wanted to start my own bookstore and make you proud. I had developed a few contacts while working the bookstore and it helped me.

Today, I’m proud to say that I’m the owner of a bookstore that is increasingly popular. You may have heard of the bookaddictilitious chain. That’s what I started, Gulab. It’s yours too. I don’t know how to repay the faith you had in me.

You will find a fixed deposit receipt along with this letter. It’s in no way a measure of the help you provided. That’s infinite, immeasurable by money! I heard that you are having some struggles of your own. Hope with this you will be able to provide the injection to cure your husband’s cancer. Consider this quid pro quo for what you did to me that summer of 2005.

You will find an email from me containing all the details you want to contact me. The day is full of surprises, eh?

Look forward to receive your phone call. We have lots to share.

With gratitude unlimited,
Your dearest friend and well-wisher

Nihar

Gulab was moved to tears. She had missed Nihar all these years and had tried to contact him with no success. Yet, he knew exactly where she was and her situation. She was extremely proud of Nihar.

With a spring in her heart, she attempted to check her email.

Written as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge – http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

#AtoZChallenge – Letter P – Poetic hope

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One of the best lines on poetic hope I like is this one by Malayalam poet Kuttipurathu Kesavan Nair:

പ്രദോഷദീപാവലി കണ്ടുകൊണ്ടു
പാശ്ചാത്യഭൂഭാഗമണഞ്ഞ സൂര്യൻ
പ്രഭാതദീപാവലി കണ്ടുകൊണ്ടു
പൗരസ്ത്യ ദേശത്തെയണഞ്ഞു വീണ്ടും!

It roughly translates to:

The brightness of the dusk the sun saw as it set in the west;
Only to smile and rise in the east to illuminate the morning!

You may wonder what hope has to do in those lines. There is nothing like seeing a bright morning after a particularly dark night! Day and night are just metaphors here. I think the poet wanted to convey the message that there is brightness at the end of every dark road; hope at the end of despair; light at the end of every tunnel. The fact that dawn is mentioned after dusk is significant here. It clearly shows that the poet wanted to illustrate the beauty of hope through those lines!

The first time I read those lines, I was instantly attracted and over time, have come to appreciate the meaning. I always chant this whenever I feel down. On some days, it gives me an instant upliftment. On others, it takes a while for the lines to have the desired effect on me. But it has always been with me and has never failed to inspire me.

Written as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge – http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

#AtoZChallenge – Letter O – Omanathinkalkidavo

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One of the most popular lullabies ever, not just in Malayalam but all over the world, happens to be the topic for my post today. ‘Omanathinkalkidavo’ was composed by Irayimman Thampi at the request of Maharani Gowri Lakshmi Bai, the then ruler of Travancore. She wanted a beautiful song to put her son – Maharaja Swati Tirunal, to sleep.

The prince was born in the backdrop of the kingdom facing the very real prospect of being annexed to British India because there was no male heir in the royal family. The birth apparently was a source of joy to the family who wanted to do everything that they could to make the prince happy right from his infancy. The Maharani wanted a lullaby which would make him sleep peacefully.

It’s such a majestically composed song and I particularly like this version sung by K S Chitra:

https://youtu.be/7XciqrFsPnc

Written as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge – http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

#AtoZChallenge – Letter N – Nakhakshathangal

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It appears my love for the 80s knows no bounds. For here I’m going back to that era for a post on another letter – this time it is the letter N. The 80s was not just a time when watching TV was a good option, but it was also a time when the big screen was equally, if not more, attractive. A host of great movies hit the screens in those times, with beautiful stories and some memorable performances from the actors.

Nakhakshathangal (1986) was one such movie. M T Vasudevan Nair’s superb story and screenplay were brought to life by the master director Hariharan. A very young Vineeth and Monisha donned the roles of the lead actors ably supported by Thilakan, Jagannatha Varma and Kaviyoor Ponnamma. Of course one cannot forget Saleema who played Lakshmi, a girl afflicted with loss of hearing as well as the ability to speak.

A teenage love story is brought before the audience by the MT – Hariharan combination. This is in the backdrop of the Guruvayoor temple, a favorite place for worshippers of Lord Krishna who himself was the lover extraordinaire. As the lead characters depart Guruvayoor, they have no idea they will end up meeting again. The love story turns triangular and what transpires between the three of them forms the crux of the rest of the movie.

Monisha played her heart out as Gowri. For a person so young and making her debut, Monisha was a revelation. She ended up winning the prestigious National Award for the Best Actress in India. Fame certainly came to her at a very young age only to rob it off her as she passed away tragically in an accident just 6 years later, when she was only 21. Vineeth looked a bit out-of-place initially as Ramu but gradually picked up the nuances of the role as the movie progressed. Saleema played the deaf and dumb Lakshmi with elan, proving that love does not need speech and hearing to find eloquence; it comes from the heart. Thilakan as Ramu’s difficult uncle and Jagannatha Varma as the lawyer and father of Lakshmi played their roles quite well.

The scenes I liked the most are the ones which show the Guruvayoor temple complex as well as the song sequences. ‘Manjal prasaadavum nettiyil charthi’ and ‘Aaareyum bhaavagayakanaakkum’ are such beautiful songs that they are popular even to this day. A critically acclaimed movie, Nakhakshathangal is a poignant take on love especially proving the point that in matters of the heart, the young minds could as easily be touched as the older ones. A must watch movie, especially for today’s generation.

Written as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge – http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

#AtoZChallenge – Letter M – Manchester United

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Football/Soccer is my second favorite sport after cricket. I started following cricket sometime between 1987 and 1988 (it’s an interesting story; more on that later). Interest in football came a little later. I used to follow football news appearing in newspapers but wasn’t so keen to watch on TV although I used to play when in school. It was in the early 90s that I started to develop a much broader outlook towards football, courtesy of the 1990 World Cup held in Italy.

Interest in club football was sparked by a news item about Manchester United which I happened to read. I don’t recollect exactly what that news was about but it did light the fire. Once I started watching them from the mid 90s, my fondness for the team increased. It only strengthened throughout the 90s and has now reached a stage where no other team can take its place in my mind. Such has been the influence the team has had on me.

If you ask me why I like Manchester United, I really wouldn’t be able to pinpoint a single factor. It has really been a function of several factors. I particularly liked the way they played under Sir Alex Ferguson. It was under him that the team found wings in that terrific last decade of the 20th century. The team produced stalwarts as Peter Schmeichel, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Roy Keane, Gary and Peter Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to name a few. The team also saw Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney rise to prominence during their tenure at the club.

Old Trafford (OT) is another reason I like Manchester United. It’s an imposing stadium – so imposing that it’s known as the Theatre of Dreams. This is where Manchester United play their home matches and they have tasted so much success at OT. Opponents regard OT as a difficult place to win. Although things have changed in the recent past, OT still continues to inspire awe among footballers. Another thing that makes me proud to be a Manchester United fan is their 1998-99 season treble. It was truly a special moment and happens to be the pinnacle of their achievements so far. Their anthem is also quite unique – Glory, Glory, Man United!

Since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club in 2013, 27 years after he took over, the team has been in a state of flux which has spurred some indifferent performances. I am a bit saddened by the fact that they are not playing like they used to but take solace from Allan Border’s Australian cricket team of the late 1980s. Border’s team was one which went through a lot of difficult times but eventually set some very high benchmarks for future Australian cricketers. I’m sure this transition stage is only temporary and it will not be long before they start making me a happy and contented Manchester United fan. To borrow and tweak an ad jingle of a popular cricket tournament that is now being played in India – ‘Ek Manchester United fan happywala’ – that’s what I hope to be soon!

Written as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge – http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/