As part of my daily routine of trashy blog reading, I was looking at this article on identifying the best thirty seconds of your life. Questions like this make me feel awkward, because I haven’t had a tragic life, so surely I can come up with an intensely happy moment. A moment that is, as the cliché suggests, as perfect as a picture. These are not moments of victory, of achievement or of, I don’t know, earth-shattering orgasms. But, while amount of dredging through my mind yields a single such memory, I know that I have been happy. I suppose the reason why, for example, doing really well at something doesn’t count as a happy memory in my mind is, well, I don’t know. That sentence lost itself. But I can tell you this, that happy memories are lit with a diffused, soft brightness, like sunshine through leaves. Victories, on the other hand, are hard and shiny. They are also two-dimensional, like a picture. I can never relive the memory of a victory- I can only see it like a picture on the mantelpiece. But I can live a happy memory, again and again. I can step inside it, walk around and stay for a while. I suppose that one arrives at happy memories often by accident. There is no association to be made, no larger significance to be added. Which is why it would be hard to pull them out, because what thread would you pull them by? But every now and then, a thread presents itself. Like, a friend of mine is going to Coimbatore. I have been to Coimbatore once, when I was very young. When I told my mum about my friend’s trip, she reminded me of the time we were there. It was during the Pujas, and we, my Mum, my Dad, my brother and I, were looking for any pandal. We were walking on this broad pavement, lined by young tamarind trees. Raw, green tamarind hung from the branches, and the sun shone through the leaves. I jumped up and down, trying to pluck the deathly-sour tamarind. It was a moment of unadulterated joy. I am not surprised that I forgot about this. Now, because of my friend, I have a bookmark for this day. 

“Do not let evil make you believe you can have secrets from it”

What does this mean? When I googled it, this came up. And this. I must read Kafka’s Zürau Aphorisms. And I should probably eat better.

But also, listen to this.

So I don’t write anymore. I used to write, and I used to write because I really wanted to. I would think of something, and write it as I thought of it. People sometimes read what I wrote, and sometimes, they even had things to say. Comments thrilled me, but what thrilled me more was the fact that I could write. That every so often, I would not have to labour over words, and what I wanted to say would be what I wrote down. Then, I stopped writing. And people stopped reading my blog. No one reads this anymore, because no one expects anything to ever be written here. I think I can start writing again. And if you are reading this, shut up.

Cloud Atlas

I love David Mitchell. I don’t love him the way I love Kazuo Ishiguro. For Kazuo Ishiguro I have a wistful, secret love. I like to lie in the spaces between his words and cry. But David Mitchell. I love him like I am drowning. David Mitchell gave me my happy place. It is a scene in a forest, from The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, that I go back to when I need comfort. A snowy pine forest on a slope, under siege by bowmen. It is an odd place to seek refuge, but I find it there. And Cloud Atlas. It was described somewhere as a Matroyshka doll, but I find that description inadequate. I don’t want to undermine anyone or anything, but it is a bit like the Universe. You know, how it is about everything, and everybody. I know what that makes David Mitchell, and I don’t find that idea unbelievable. But Cloud Atlas. What is that animal? How was it ever written? And how did the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer ever make a movie out of it? You can’t tell a story like Cloud Atlas, primarily because it isn’t one story, it’s several, and not just six. You can pair up any two stories, and they would make one story. Likewise for any three, or four, or five. To make a movie out of Cloud Atlas one needs to love the book, and movies. One needs to love the book enough to want to be true to it, and one needs to love movies enough to believe that such a movie could be made. And this film was a labour of such deep, abiding love. You feel it in every frame, in every actor cast, and in every sequence shot. The movie is steeped in a desperate desire to tell a story. Imagine the book in your hands. Now tear it int pieces. Now put it back together. Only this time, take six pieces from six different stories, and put them together. Make as many sets as make sense. Now arrange them in sequence. That is Cloud Atlas, the movie. But doesn’t the makeup jar at times? Of course it does. Most people would hate Hugo Weaving as Nurse Noakes, but I loved him. His makeup was terrible, but what was important for me was the continuity between the different roles played by the same actor, and that was preserved. I could believe that Nurse Noakes could look like Hugo Weaving in drag. Some women do. But what was truely terrible was Halle Berry as Jocasta Ayrs. She looked like she was made of CGI. At no other point does the makeup get that distracting. In fact, I found it fun to spot the actor and make the connections. That David Gyasi was Autua and Lester Rey, or that Doona Bae was Somni-451 and Linda Ewing, were like Easter eggs to me. But Jocasta Ayrs was ghastly. She had this unearthly golden glow, like Angelina Jolie in Beowulf, or Ryan Reynolds in every movie, and did not look real. She could have been played by Andy Serkis for all that I knew. But the movie resonates. I love telling stories, and as storytellers would know, telling someone the story of a novel is hard. You must work hard at distilling the core of the story, embellish with adequate details, and create something that stands on its own feet. Cloud Atlas does that. The colours are brighter, the themes more distinct, and the movie becomes what an adaption should aspire to be- a retelling. It doesn’t adhere to form or structure or sequence, and it creates some that there never was, but it does so in a way that you feel- this could have been there. The story could be this. This doesn’t change much (I am looking at you, Zach Snyder and Watchmen). I don’t know if my opinion is compromised by my love for the book. But I don’t care. For a movie adaptation of a book that is a mobius strip of infinite sides, Cloud Atlas does remarkably well at tearing that strip apart and piecing it back in a different, yet recognisable form. I see my book in this movie. And that is more than I could have hoped for.