The watched/read it list

Talk about starting with a difficult one!

I can’t possibly list all my must-watch movies and must-read books. Which self respecting movie buff/reading nerd can possibly do such a thing? It’s like asking a girl to choose her favourite lipstick. Ok scratch that- its like asking me to pick my favourite lipstick. Ok, now I’m breaking out in hives.

I think the key to answering this question is pretending you’re on a quiz show…where you must answer off the top of your head. So the top of my head is telling me to say this…

My top five must-watch no matter how you do it movies of all time *gulp*

1. Dirty Dancing
This movie has my all time favourite soundtrack; it is 2013 and I can still listen to it on repeat, that my friends, is timeless. And who can knock Patrick Swayze shimmying those hips in that inimitable way! A fantastic coming of age story, the movie was as much about social change in the 60s as it was about a simple, oft-repeated love story.

2. The Pursuit of Happyness
The ultimate rags to riches story. This movie never fails to inspire. Chris Gardiner’s story of a father who works against all odds to provide a better life for his son, is not just Will Smith’s best work till date but a story with a personal significance for me. Chris’ character always reminds me of my father, the ultimate dad who never let’s disappointment stop him in his quest to achieve a better life for his family. It makes me cry every single time, and the fact that it is a true story just makes it the ultimate feel-good film.

3. Monsoon Wedding
You have to have an Indian family to really appreciate a big fat Indian wedding, but Monsoon Wedding is one of those films that captures the essence of a shaadi like no Bollywood film ever has. The big, loud crazy family, with the colour, laughter, and of course deep, dark secrets makes this film an absolute must-watch. As realistic as they come, yet filled with all the bonhomie, dramatics and an adorable love story to perfectly capture the essence of India in the monsoons set against the backdrop of the best kind of wedding- the Indian kind.

4. Aladdin
This has to be my favourite Disney film ever. Set in Arabia, Aladdin brought Disney fairy tales somewhere very close to home. Aladdin has to be the most charismatic Disney beau and Princess Jasmine has done for brunette, doe-eyed beauties what Marilyn did for blondes. Robin Williams as the Genie, and of course Abu the monkey, make this a timeless classic I can never cease to enjoy watching.

5. Devil’s Advocate
This is a fairly new addition to my list since I only saw this movie a few years ago. An amazing Milton inspired tale of the age old battle against the Devil set against a backdrop of Manhattan’s criminal law scene. Aside from a stunningly fragile Charlize and the perfect lawyer Keanu, the films obvious stand out is Pacino playing the Devil himself with his zingy, double entendre and raw magnetism. I love the way it has captured New York and managed to bring the classic Paradise Lost into a Hollywood blockbuster. A must-watch for sure.

There. I did it. Like ripping off a band aid. Now for the books.

My top five die only after you read them books of all time. *double gulp*

1. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
I re-visit this book time and time again and never get tired of re-reading the story of Gogol. I have never read a book that was so easy to read, easy to relate to all whilst being some of the most beautiful, simplistic prose ever written by an Indian Diaspora writer. Lahiri captures the first and second generation immigrant’s identity so perfectly, and while the book is more than a little melancholy in places, it always lights up my soul just stepping into the beautifully crafted and painstakingly described world of the Ganguli’s.

2. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
Oddly enough, one lazy summer on our Annual month long vacation in India, my mother introduced me, a 14 year old, to the crazy world of The Godfather. The movie happened to come on television and my mum and I watched it, her talking me through every single scene and detailing at every minute how brilliant the film was, but how I must read the book. She gave me the back story to every single character that the film skirts over but the book details in intimate brilliance and like her, I was hooked. I bought the book the next day and read it feverishly in four hours, devouring every brilliant word. Coppolla bought Puzo’s story of the Italian underworld to the masses, and one sleepy afternoon in India, my mother bought it into my life. An absolute must-read for the characters that have now been immortalised in that movie. A true fan can only every appreciate the movie once they have read this amazing book.

3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
One of my childhood favourites. I love that this book was written in the early 1900s, yet the lessons and character resonate so strongly even today in 2013. I simply love the sisterhood and the way each sister is etched out, and their simple journeys through life with all the mirth and mischief in between. One of my favourite classics.

4. The Shining by Stephen King
I never thought it could be possible to be absolutely shit-scared by a book. The horror echoes through every single, gripping page. The movie is a mere shadow in comparison to the way the tension builds and the madness erupts through King’s evocative imagery. I’ve read this about a dozen times and I need to sleep with the light on at every hotel room I go to ever since.

5. The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling
Words cannot sum up what a big fan I am. I can re-read these a million times and always get lost in the symbolism, the beautiful parallel world and the simple but enchanting prose every single time. Frankly, I think this is as much a ‘children’s’ book as 50 Shades of Grey is literature. If you haven’t bitten the bullet yet…do it. NOW!

There you have it, the top of my head’s must-watch/must-read list.

“I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself” – Oscar Wilde

May a bag of popcorn, a comfy sofa and great lighting always be at your behest,

If I had six minutes to live…I’d write a little faster.


The worth of human life

So today is 10th of September 2011. I don’t usually blog this often but there is something I need to get off my chest. In hope and earnestness, I present to you the current state of the world.

The media hysteria is starting to heat up considerably, because tomorrow is September 11th 2011 and it marks the ten-year anniversary of when a handful of hijackers flew commercial airliners into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. I have a lot of opinions on the matter, but I will keep my view on the mass hysteria that surrounds the 9/11 attacks to myself for now.

I do so with a great deal of restraint, because ultimately I feel like we are losing the bigger picture. Ah, that elusive big picture which makes us hone into the grand scheme of things rather than the personal, the particular and the specific.

Over the coming few hours if you grab a newspaper, log in to read articles or blogs, or catch the 9’o clock run down, chances are somehow somewhere, wherever in the world you are, you will be subject to a discourse on the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

10 years on…the tragedy, the great loss, the most shocking outcomes, the victories (death of Osama, ding dong the witch is dead, hurrah etc.) the defeats (so many other attacks that followed, Islamic Extremism still prevails, watch your back, don’t trust thy neighbour, those crazy Moslems, the world divided, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sharm el Sheikh, Bali, Mumbai etc.) what we can learn, what we should do, what we should think and what we should believe. All because a bunch of crazies raped the sanctity of Great Country United States of America and carried out an attack on home soil harming home civilians.

I’m saying it here and while  I may be vilified for it, here goes:

I really, really couldn’t care less about 9/11 for a moment longer.

Here is why:

I stand in respect to all those who have lost loved ones at any moment in any given time, especially so where those loved ones are innocent civilians caught in the wretched web of shady politics, power-hungry leaders or ill-advised, illogical extremists. However, I think it is time we stop ignoring the giant pink elephant in the room and stop focusing on an event that happened 10 years ago, to instead shift our valuable time and effort to something that is taking place under our very noses:

The catastrophic famine in the horn of Africa means 12 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

750,000 people are at risk of death in Somalia.

4.6 million people in Ethiopia, 4 million people in Somalia, 3.5 million people in Kenya and 120,000 people in Djibouti are in desperate need for the very basic aide.

The mind boggles. Have we become so insensitive to human life that figures like thousands and millions mean nothing anymore? For us, in the land of plenty and excess, are we that ignorant or shallow that we have the heart to spend time, money and useful brain space on obsessing over an event that happened 10 years ago, rather than thinking, worrying, and doing something about an even more catastrophic event that is taking place under our noses right this very second?

I appreciate charity and issues of poverty make some people uncomfortable. It doesn’t draw in the crowds, because there is no bear to bait, it is just the one simple emotion of empathy and the one constructive act of help that is needed. There is no political discourse, no bad guy, no endless obsessing…just the act of giving that is needed.

I am an optimistic person so I am going to repress my inner demon that says, the worth of the life of one person who died on 9/11 is far greater to our world than the worth of the life of one person suffering from the famine in Africa at this moment. What other explanation can there be other than : 3000 deaths on 9/11 are worth talking about 10 years later, while a potential 750,000 deaths happening today are not worth talking about for more than 10 minutes.

Give one pound if you can afford it. Give more if you can. Everytime you leave an unfinished bite of food on your plate just take a minute to consider that no matter how ‘un-appetising’ that morsel seems, for someone out there it is the solution to the predicament of prolonged life or instant death. Charity is personal. Don’t yell about it. Don’t expect an award. Do it because you are guilty, hopeful, upset, angry, helpful, whatever. Do it because you are human…Just give.

Never forget:

“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”- Mohandas Gandhi

Don’t let the future be witness to the fact that, to us today, the worth of each human life is not equal. Do something.

“Where is that accent from again?”

Let me begin by saying, like all naive Dubaians, I never used to believe I had an accent. An immigration official at LAX airport set me straight. After a gruelling sixteen hour flight to Los Angeles, the last thing I expected as I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes was an immigration official asking me “So, what accent is that you’ve got…it’s pretty interesting.” One thing led to another, as they often do when one is travelling and at their most-vulnerable best, and the next thing I knew, I was being led to be strip-searched and interrogated for three and a half hours, all on the basis of an accent the blessed officer “couldn’t quite place”, naturally arousing suspicion. United States of Paranoia.

It did make me think though, how would I categorise my accent? Born and raised in Dubai, the Cosmopolitan melting pot that it is infused me with a global fusion of an accent. I told the officer the same thing I tell foreigners when asked about my accent “I’m a French citizen, though I was born in the Middle East where I went to an International School. I watch far too much American television, grew up with a Sri Lankan nanny, have a Canadian sister, Indian parents, a South African best friend and a Mancunian fiancé- of course I sound strange” The best part is, I would be considered decidedly uninspiring and boring in Dubai, with others affected by even stranger concoctions of nationalities, dialects and accents.

The fact of the matter is that those who live around here are constantly bombarded with different accents every single day. Live in Dubai for more than a year and you’ll realise you’re living a multi-national existence rivalled by places like New York and London, famed as cities filled with diverse immigrants. The interesting part is, unlike New York and London, where immigrants tend to stick together and form close-knit communities like Chinatown and Little Italy, Dubai is too small and too concentrated for such segregation to take place for long. There is absolutely no escaping the bombardment of accents and languages that hit a Dubaian as soon as they step out the front door in the morning, making it next to impossible to escape the ‘Dubai accent’.

Take for example a simple day out buying groceries from your neighbourhood hypermarket. As soon as you park your car you are accosted by a Sri Lankan gentleman asking if you would wish to have your car washed as you shop. You head over to pick up a trolley where a friendly South Indian security guard greets you as you enter the crowded hyperspace. You bump into your Australian neighbour as you pick up milk, and after exchanging pleasantries head over to the deli counter where you are served fresh olives by a Jordanian. You buy meat from the Pathani butcher behind the meat counter, and when you can’t find eggs, a cheerful Bangladeshi supermarket stacker directs you in the right aisle. You head over to scan and pay for your items, as your Philipina cashier asks if you would like to pay by cash or card all while a swift, Nepalese boy bags your groceries. You head back to your car, make small talk with a Local policeman giving a ticket to an illegally parked car, jump in and drive home. Over the course of 20 minutes and the simple act of getting groceries, you were faced with 9 different accents. Isn’t it but sociologically inevitable to find this infusion of accents creeping into your own?

The Dubai accent is a mish-mash of Arab phrases, British spelling, American slang and Indian-inspired diction with a generous peppering of Philipino voice inflections and Persian lingo, all blended together with the individual’s home-grown tone. Chameleon-like in its quality to borrow from what it sees around itself, the Dubai accent is pretty much synonymous with the Dubai expat entity itself. It takes defining aspects of the dynamic stuff it is exposed to, and infuses it with one’s own touch, coming up with a unique hybrid accent that leaves many stumped. As one lives life in this crazy little bubble we call Dubai, we don’t just learn to curse in five different languages and say “Good Morning” in another seven, we actually get influenced enough by the accents we hear swimming around us to start sounding a little bit different ourselves. Whether it’s imbibing phrases like ‘yalla, ‘kaisa hai’ and ‘cheers mate’, to being able to sound like a perfect parody of put-on Americanese with an ‘awesome, how you doooin’ that could put a Southern California cheerleader to shame. The Dubai accent is a feisty little fighter, making its mark even in the most fastidious of environments.

So for all those expats who have just moved and plan to stick around for a while, be prepared to expect changes to start affecting your accent after a couple of months. You can run but you can’t hide…The Dubai Accent triumphs over all, from the strongest Kenyan baritone to the most pronounced Yorkshire blend.

As always, I end with a quote:

“I have travelled more than anyone I know and I have noticed that even the Angels speak English with an accent”- Mark Twain

If it suits the Angels, it suits me fine…

If I had six minutes to live, I’d write a little faster xxx

The Doctor says, a blog a day keeps the devil away

Well, that’s the theory really.

My first blog is coming soon, keep your eyes peeled.


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