A Man Called Ove

Ove, a character so endearing that I spent my entire Sunday binge-reading this novel moving a mere 40 feet around the home.

A man of principles, set in his ways, who only understands the black and white is left with a body but no life when his wife of 40 years, the only person adding color to his life, passes away and he is pushed to take early retirement from work because he isn’t open to adapting to the new ways – aka computers. The entire story is set in his residential neighborhood where he is the unofficial Head of Homeowners Association despite being voted out because of his strong opinions. Ove is a complete coconut: hard and rough on the outside and soft and supple on the inside. Six month after his wife’s passing he has made up his mind to end his life and despite repeated tries he is interrupted by something or the other – his new neighbors, the kid who needs his bike repaired, his friend who is about to be taken away to an institution because his wife is too old to take care of him but more than anything the challenge, or shall I call it ‘reason to live for’, he is presented with at every turn of day. He tells himself he is doing it because his wife would like it that way. He is too manly to admit he has a heart that’s too big to not help others.

Fredrik is a first time novel writer but his prose turned me into a complete fan. I can’t wait to read his other novels if Ove is anything to go by. One of my favorite paragraphs from A Man Called Ove:

“Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the great motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before is has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.”

This man certainly has a way with words that is one of the most attractive qualities in a person in my eyes.

In a lot of ways Ove was a reflection of some people I know in my life and reading this gave me a newfound appreciation for them.

Be careful when you start reading this because you won’t put it down before you finish. (9/10)

A Man Called Ove

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Reenergizing Is The New Retiring

I sometimes wonder if the way we word concepts has to do with the way we feel about them or the way others make that concept look like. Take ‘falling in love’ for example. What part of the process suggests that one “falls” into love? Similarly, was “retiring” coined because most people that reached that stage of life were tired?

For many that may be true but for Barbie and Ken that term should be “reenergizing”! Barbie & Ken – no, not what you are thinking. Barbara and Ken are the incredibly warm and hospitable AirBnB hosts I stayed with in Oregon over this past Thanksgiving break. And before the next question pops up in your head, yes, these are their real names.

For most of us the most lasting memories of a trip are pictures we take or souvenirs we bring back but for me it’s often interactions I have with people I meet. Barbie & Ken have certainly left a lasting impression on me. They are a couple rounding up on retirement from their jobs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Military intelligence respectively with a beautiful house in Oregon where they have been hosting AirBnB guests for the past couple of years. Money is not the motivation. They do it because they like meeting new people and – more importantly – they are practicing and preparing for a beautiful “Reenergizement” in Sicily, Italy in 2020!

About 10 years ago Ken coincidentally happened to sit next to someone on a bus who was in the process of leaving the US to go back to his home country. That idea caught on to him and he came home excitedly to tell Barbie all he had learnt from the stranger on the bus. Their conversation led Barbie to research how hard it would be for her to apply for an Italian citizenship given both sides of her family were originally from Italy. After some digging around she found out she needed to procure some paperwork about her grandparents’ status as Italian citizens, their birth certificates, etc. to become Italian herself. Diligent as she is she traced back her family tree, met with her second cousins in Sicily and found everything she needed to finally become a citizen and also bestow that privilege upon her husband and son. On their visits to Sicily, Ken and Barbie fell in love with a little town by the beach and decided this is where they want to retire – no! scratch that – reenergize! They found a large property with a recently renovated, spacious house on it and bought that from the previous brother-sister duo owning it as part of an inheritance. It’s on an expansive land with parts of it containing old aqueducts built by the Greek, which Ken is eager to explore.

Now I should tell you that beyond having their day jobs both Ken & Barbie are people of multiple talents. Ken started his career being a gemstone dealer (yeah! speak of this being a small world for those of you who know my family history) then became a machine engineer, then an automobile engineer, taught himself programming, followed by a job in the US Military intelligence. He basically already lived five average people’s lifetimes in his one life and now he’s gearing up for his next adventure. Similarly, Barbie has some amazing life stories too, which I won’t share that many of because she may publish a book about it soon. Suffice to say she is the type of go-getter that appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal with a chicken under both her arms because she fought for a change in a city ordinance that now allows people in the City of Salem to keep hen in the backyard.

For their Golden Years these two have planned to proverbially live the life in Sicily running an AirBnB out of their newly acquired property and making it a place not only for people to stay but have full experiences. Barbie, an extraordinary cook, is planning to run Italian cooking classes. You should see her self-made giant binder of recipes, all neatly printed with step-by-step pictures and filed away by categories of food. I thought I was organized until I saw Barbie’s binder and learnt that she has a 100+ week plan in a spreadsheet leading up to their day of departure to Siciliy in 2020. I am still in awe!

While Barbie will be delighting her guests with authentic cooking classes and is going to teach English to locals, Ken’s geek mind is already planning how to run the entire property on self-built solar systems and irrigation power plants. He is going to teach local kids practical engineering. People who are apprehensive of immigrants should look at these two who are going to change the face of that little town for the better!

I got a little sneak peak of Barbie’s cooking classes when she taught me how to make fresh pasta from scratch one morning:

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Barbie & Ken

We are all given this one life. To a large extent, with some variance, we are all equipped with the same start capital of a body and a brain. There is no blueprint of what each one of us is supposed to make of our lives. We are the architects left with ample of room to construct the following 70-80 years of our existence. How we spend our working years is a choice within constrains but it’s completely up to us if we work towards a reTIREment or a reENERGIZEment.

Thank you Barbie & Ken for showing me what living it up really means!

Ittefaq

One ticket – Two stories

This mystery thriller is a remake of the 1969 movie starring Rajesh Khanna and Nanda. I haven’t seen the original but this is an entertaining watch with a good storyline that has reveals lined up as the movie progresses. Most of it takes place inside the apartment of Maya, a bored housewife indulging in an affair that adds interesting twists to the plot.

Akshaye Khanna’s acting chops are to watch out for. He’s found his genre and I hope to see him doing more of what he does so well.

Abhay Chopra tried to please too many audiences at once and introduced humor that simply has no place in a thriller. Do one thing and do it well, sir!

Good one time watch but no sit-at-the-edge-of-your-seat experience. (7/10)

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Tumhari Sulu

#MainKarSaktiHai

Every housewife is more – some of them far more – than just a housewife. While women in the workforce get to play out their personalities with a legit tag of a working woman, the ones working in their homes are often ‘discounted’ as bhenjis. Here comes Vidya Balan to show you that personality trumps title and ambition trumps education!

Never have I seen a non-body-conforming Bollywood actress carry herself with so much confidence on the silver screen. A housewife, married to a sales manager and with a 11 year old boy facing peer pressure she is living a middle class life. Her twin sisters rub in their success every so often on their visits and tell her what’s right and wrong for her but she doesn’t let herself be belittled and goes on to become a RJ for a borderline raunchy late night radio show. With her unique people skills she shows the owners of the radio show that a saree-clad bhenji has more to offer than meets the eye. She takes the vulgar out of the show and is fully enjoying her work when the typical Indian husband surfaces in her otherwise loving husband. The loss of authority in his job and the happiness of his wife in her job don’t sit well with him so she leaves her job for 5 minutes to join it back in a jiffy as soon as she finds him a tiffinwaala job with the radio channel. Yeah, the last 5 minutes of the movie were just as confusing as my previous sentence. Not sure what happened there and why all of a sudden she decides to rejoin when she just handed in her resignation – but maybe someone else can explain that to me.

Fabulous acting by Vidya Balan and Manav Kaur. Totally not important to this review but I have a thing for men with strong jawlines. 😉 (6/10)

TS

Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana

Ah, these little gems of cinema shining through brightly amongst the behemoths of big budget movies of Bollywood! With a tiny production budget of 9 crore rupees this movie does what many 100+ crore ones can’t – engage the viewer until the end. I watched this movie from 10 pm – 1am on a weekday night and didn’t regret the ensuing lack of sleep even a tiny bit.

The story of an arranged, then canceled and re-arranged marriage in a small town in India it felt like this story could have been your next door neighbor’s. So realistic, so down-to-earth and simple despite it’s complex topic.

Rajkumar Rao is a powerhouse of acting! It boils my blood when I see stars being treated as deities when they have zero acting chops and then there’s someone like Rajkumar who is one of the finest actors we have in the country and yet he only gets roles by lesser known producers and directors. Oh well, their loss I say. I would blindly go watch a movie starring Rajkumar Rao vs a certain star referred to by a three letter acronym.

I had never seen Kriti Kharbanda’s work before but was equally thrilled to see an actress who not only looks cute but also has the acting skills to match Rajkumar Rao’s. What fantastic casting!

Had it not been for the somewhat dramatic ending and the sudden change of heart of the groom’s family in the end this one would have gotten a full ten. Even with a 9/10 it gets a must watch recommendation!

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Mubarakan

It’s borderline harmful to have to watch Arjun Kapoor not only once but twice in a movie. Big daddy money at work at its best. I know not to be superficial but hey Bollywood is Bollywood. If you can’t act, at least look good. </politicalincorrectness>

Think of this as the classier, most tasteful version of a Sajid Khan movie. Many loud characters, convoluted story, senselessness…but Anil Kapoor, Ratna Pathak and Pavan Malhotra were the saving grace. Athiya Shetty causes visual dissonance in my head. I just cannot get Sunil Shetty out of my head when I see the lower half of her face. A trick to make it less obvious would be to avoid wearing magenta lipsticks…just sayin’. Nice settings, classy Indian clothing and tolerable songs rounded it up to a 5/10.

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Secret Superstar

The medium may not have been the most illustrative but the message was rock solid! Domestic violence is unfortunately a common occurrence – not only in the lowest echelons of society but everywhere. Physical violence, as in this movie, is visible but emotional abuse is a struggle not only grossly overlooked but one that women are often blamed for even if they are the victim. Anyhow, I digress.

Insu is a very headstrong 15 year old wanting more from life than the beatings her father gives her mother. She has a beautiful relationship with her mother in which she is at times the daughter and at times the mother. Her own strength blinds her to the sacrifices her mother has made and the reasons why she is not willing to divorce her father. However, since actions speak louder than words Insu’s determination eventually rubs off on her mother and this time she decides to put her foot down not inspite her children but because of her children.

A special shout out to the casting director who found the perfect actors for each character. Aamir Khan wasn’t the star of the movie. Meher Vij and Zaira Wasim shone much brighter this time! They looked like a real life mother daughter duo and acted so well that you could fever along with them as they went through the ups and downs of their journey.

Unlike other Aamir Khan productions this one was a little blurry at the edges with incongruencies – be it the way he portrayed social media to be a messiah of the passionate or the grandmother’s role that literally just existed to tell Insu how her mother saved her from being aborted. Overall a great watch and that will hopefully give more women the courage to be equals. (7/10)

SS