The unparalleled Alan Rickman

How do you write a tribute to someone you are not yet ready to let go of and didn’t even know you felt so strongly about them. And yet, somehow, actors and performers make you feel like you knew them, after all you have spent time with them, thought about them, sometimes more than even real people who exist around you.

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In case of Alan Rickman, Professor Snape has kept a generation on the edge. Snape may have been boxed into anti-hero list, Alan Rickman played Snape to such a perfection, that I feel somehow that also affected the way Rowling wrote Snape right from the third book on.

Remember ‘turn to page 394’?

There would hardly be any reader of Potter-verse who doesn’t conjure up the image of Alan Rickman while reading the books, or even think of Severus Snape without him in mind.

There are no literary parallels to the type of character Snape is, just the same way, you can’t categorize Alan Rickman the actor. He could fit into a silent brooding Jane Austen hero mould as simply as he could be the first Die Hard villain.

i am more disillusioned than ever with the world, the industry i work for, the way people and politics function these days, and yet, even while feeling sad, Snape and Rickman make me feel hopeful, not everything that’s grey is black.

Rickman immortalized Snape in such a way that his own passing has suddenly reminded the world how much we love him, and will continue to do so. Always!

Search for balance continues…

I was waiting and waiting and waiting to feel positive enough to write here and that moment has finally arrived.

Too much awareness of what’s going around you can often result into numbing of senses, or at least i seem to think that happened to me. My excitement levels about things that i actually loved doing were scarily subdued. Yet, i knew and waited for a random trigger that makes me want to be excited and happy about things i love.

Many such triggers came this year:

– We bought our first German apartment

– We survived a crazy, emotionally taxing road trip in the US, not to mention the constant loop of travelling and writing about it.

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– I finally got back to the classroom to teach

– My first longish short story in Gujarati was published.  If you can read the language, here you go: No-Hard-Feelings

Still i could not find my trigger. Turns out, when you are looking for getting excited about little things, big changes are not going to cut it.

So comes along an enthusiastic Hank Green video about feeling all charged up while looking at other people getting excited about their own interests, set me off.

I am glad i saw it on the morning of Gujarati New Year. Great wishes to everyone who celebrates, while i sink into my little bubble of new found excitement.

I also kind of feel inspired by this School of Life piece on ‘Wisdom of Pessimism’ that sensibly talks about pressures of constantly being positive. But wallowing in harsh reality doesn’t work either.

Search for balance continues…at least i will be writing about subjects that excite me while that goes on.

St. Vincent

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St. Vincent. Picture from Fandango.com

Award seasons open up a lot of fake praise for genuinely cool movies, and also bring up more heartburn for the snubbed real deals.

Anyway, I fancy myself a movie connoisseur and end up watching most of the Oscar worthy performances during the first few months of the year. Not the best way to reach the gems, i know!

Though i have a crush on the Lego Batman this year and that snub will be difficult to get over this year. This year seems to have a very good list of snubbed flicks.

I watched St. Vincent last night. The story and Vincent’s character had a lot of flaws, just like the real world. Of course Bill Murray was Bill Murray. Vincent’s real agonies, family, beliefs are never discussed, but they flip out revealing the real him nevertheless. His story was predictable in a way, just like Oscar nominations on most years.

Melissa McCarthy had toned down quite a bit and was a very realistic mother going through a divorce, but it was Naomi Watts who had turned it a few notches up with her East European Lady of the Night act. It was the boy, Jaeden Lieberher, who stole the show. As if the whole movie played through his eyes.

There is something about the growing up and finding positive role models and keeping yourself together in the world that we live in is going to be a more challenging task for the coming generation. Little Oliver is willing to believe in the goodness in an unlikely Vincent who drinks, gambles and swears (which are no excuses, mind you), we can do with more such searches around us in reality as well, can’t we?

The whole world at the moment can do with a little dose of ‘grow up’ medicines, sugar coated kinds of course. That idea is flawed too, just like everything else i guess.

Boyhood

So I’m playing Family of the Year’s Hero on loop and like millions of movie buffs, ‘Boyhood‘ made me obsessed with that song.boyhood

We watched ‘Boyhood’ over the holidays. It was followed by a very big stack of discs and all the leftover movies that we either missed in the theater or decided to wait for the DVD. Turns out our library only had the German version of it. We decided to go with it any way. So watching Boyhood in our newly acquired language made it even more special.

Everyone interested by now knows how the movie was made over the span of 12 years, and Richard Linklater shot the movie for a few days every year and captured the real life growth of a family. And it is so subtle it hits you on a very different level.boyhood2

Music, hobbies , existential crisis, bad decisions, good and bad haircuts, dwindling confidence, it has everything that makes a normal life. And I get a feeling it has had a very profound influence on Ellar Coltrane who plays the central character Mason who grows up to a unique boy, just like everyone else.

Generally, experiments of art can be interpreted as pretentious at some or the other level. Boyhood defies that. It tells you your own story. No matter what culture you come from, growing up is hard and normal and everything we never expected, but have to go through anyway.

You have to watch it for yourself. Award season has its own process, but for me this movie wrote a permanent place on my all time favourite list.

Charmed by Tenerife

Published in BTW magazine – August 2014

Mars-like lava wasteland, Beaches with golden and black sand, cliffs, mountains, and valleys drenched in flavor of Sangria, Tenerife offers the entire Canary Islands experience in a nutshell…

Pratiksha Thanki

Every time we take off in an unknown direction there is a list of sights, internet research and a determination of not to miss a single sight worth seeing. This had to end. And there was no better place to unwind for two weeks and not follow a schedule than a Canary Island. And we were headed to the largest one of the seven: Tenerife.

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It’s not called ‘The Land of Eternal Spring’ for nothing. These islands enjoy a moderate climate of 25 to 30 degree Celsius all year round with only a handful of rainy days. Tenerife has two airports, one is in the North near the capital city Santa Cruz, and we went to the Tenerife South Airport since we were booked in Xavi and Mike’s villa near the coastal town Adeje.
Even before approaching the airport, the Island unleashes its most beautiful views. The peak of the volcano ‘El Teide’ shows up first wrapped in clouds as tiny planes fly parallel to it and then in a few minutes you land on a runway that almost looks like a beach. Right from that moment on, you can’t decide if you want to run to the mountains or to the beach.
We landed up with an old battered car from an airport rental service and then started the adventures on the roads with hairpin curves and steep climbs. This is also the region of resorts offering packaged holidays. Almost every area we passed had at least a couple of high-rise resorts with the balconies facing the sea and large swimming pools and unlimited buffets that attract large groups of British and German tourists.

Right after we checked-in to the villa we got to know that our neighbors, a retired German couple were there for six months. Looking ahead at the beach, the Atlantic sea and the Gomera Island, one could get used to the view and may never want to leave.

Teide National Park

Old-craters

With El Teide as the highest peak of Spain and the islands in the Atlantic, the area surrounding the volcano might as well have been on Mars. Just a half-an-hour drive took us in the boundaries of the national park where the only human connection we could see was a car driving in front of us. The moment we stopped for taking a picture, that car zoomed away; suddenly there was no one around and we could have been on an imaginary planet. It almost felt like a scene from a sci-fi movie. And indeed, it was a location for one of the ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Clash of the Titan’ movies and has been often mistaken for a location for ‘Star Wars’ too. Standing there surrounded by red, black and brown lava rocks, our rental battered car almost looked capable of time or space travel.

Further science fiction like experiences were waiting for us, as we took a cable car all the way to the top of the El Teide and saw the craters of the volcano first hand. At 3718 feet, tasting the clouds seemed like a normal experience compared to the visuals from the outer space. We even ventured into hiking up to the astronomical observatory. The reddish, barren landscape was surrounded by green Pine forest and just about 15 kilometers away from the border of that lay the Atlantic. Such diverse and almost dramatic geography changes the way you look at Nature and all you can do is gape at the landscape open mouthed.

When in doubt, head to the beach

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Almost every evening and sometimes entire days were spent at a different beach and Tenerife has plenty of them. Though the natural sand of the island is grey and some beaches like Puerto dela Cruz have unique black sand, the popular beaches like Playa de La Teresitas, Playa de las Americas and Playa de la Vistas have artificial golden sandy beaches, of course the sea and the sunset are 100 per cent natural. The sprawl of beach umbrellas and deck chairs was a tricky business. Often we ended up heading there way before time to grab the best seats for the sunset. Playa de las Americas and Vistas are too popular and have those crowded resorts full of tourists. In an otherwise secluded southern part of the island, they make a perfect place for people watching. As a lot of tourists come here with longer plans, beaches offer a lot more than just shacks and music, one could enroll for a beach Yoga or Zumba class, join a beach volley ball team, take up a cocktail mixing class and make the vacation even more exciting.

Agatha Christie Trail

The deliberate not-do anything decision didn’t last too long as we got to know Agatha Christie had a special Tenerife connection and there was no tailor made guided tour available for that. We made a rough itinerary based on references around the now inactive Taoro hotel she stayed in. Depressed Christie arrived in Tenerife in 1927 after a messy divorce, her mother’s death, dealing with a writer’s block and this is the place that inspired her to one of the most productive phase of her life. We just thought there would be a hotel and a plaque, but there is a small monument of hers at Puerto della Cruz. A glimpse of the black sand and the mystique of that beach can make it easy to understand the effects. The slope of Sitio Litre was where she would often go for walks and then settle in the park to write. She loved to walk all the way to La Paz plateau from there; we couldn’t help doing that too. A guide book notes that the Orotava valley and the deep seated town of La Orotava known for its ancient, aesthetic balconies also were supposed to be her favorites. The town of Orotava that Christie saw in 1920s has hardly seen any changes in time till 2013. Tenerife has cropped up directly or indirectly in her stories ever since, especially in ‘The Mysterious Mr. Quin’ and ‘The Man from The Sea’.

Gigantes and a 1000 years old Dragon tree

We were lured into the professional looking Loro Park that housed a lot of extinct bird species and held orchestrated dolphin shows. The park was cool, but the road leading up to it from the South took us to some of the most scenic and rustic views of the cliffs, coastal towns and the real local life of Tenerife that was missing from the touristic areas. Though now Canary Islands are a part of Spain, the original natives of the island the Guanches still delve in the villages around these areas. Especially around the 1000 years old Dragon Tree that bleeds red when it is cut and the exhibition hall leading up to the tree houses many Canary Islands folklores. The grandeur of that tree could render one speechless but the same can be said of the giant rock formations Gigantes just a few minutes’ drive from the tree. Ranging from 500 to 800 meters height, standing near these cliffs can be awe inspiring. No wonder the ancients Guanches called it the ‘Wall of Hell’.

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The Island of Tapas

Freshly made ice cream at Mercado Nuestra Senora Africa in Santa Cruz, buying fresh island fruits, baked goods, spices for Paella can all be a part of Tenerife experience, but one thing that you end up doing the most around the island is stop by for some Tapas. Pitchers of Sangrias, some in giant glasses and tiny umbrellas, some with sparkling sticks and some smelling of fresh fruit wines, almost all bars and restaurants have their own recipe for Sangria and a unique selection of Tapas. Xavi did give us some really cool tips and showed us around. One needs to head to ‘the Patch’ section of the Playa de las Americas if looking for the nightlife on the island. Sea food and variety of fish is to die for too. And no matter what you order, you’ll always end up with a side dish of a plate of Papas Arrugadas (tiny boiled potatoes sprinkled with sea salt) and mojo rojo, the chili sauce that can brighten up almost any dish. Once I ordered Paella to take a break from Tapas and then I couldn’t take a break from Paella for the rest of the trip. That Paella is slow cooked and they warn you about the time it may take, but keep refilling your Sangria till it arrives. And when it does, you may want to move to Tenerife just to eat that every day.

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Off you go!

  • All major carriers from major cities of mainland Europe or Dubai fly directly to Tenerife.
  • If you plan to move around within the island, renting a car or a bike will be sensible and non-expensive.
  • It is a special low tax zone that also results into much affordable shopping, though beware of fake gadgets.
  • Sea creatures and flora are much easily accessible, if you swim well, instead of going for expensive scuba offers, you can buy your own scuba glasses and experience the sea life without going too far or deep in the sea.
  • English is widely spoken, in fact the island is dominated by British tourists and some have settled there with their own businesses.

Good things about life…

It is just not possible to stay calm after you get news these days. I mean the world news. And ironically, they all feel like incidents that would happen to someone else, till they happen to us.

So, before I go to sleep, if I can that is, I have decided to list five good things about my life today.

1. A home cooked meal.

2. The Classical instrumental music channel on the radio – no words, no language

3. Writing about rare places I have visited (Today, it was Lokrum, a secluded Croatian island).

That's tiny Lokrum where no one is allowed to stay past the sunset...
That’s tiny Lokrum where no one is allowed to stay past the sunset…

4. Listening to P G Wodehouse audio book while working out.

5. Listening to excited Dad about his latest acquisition of DVDs on Skype.

Just in case if i can’t sleep, the bonus will be a mug of hot chocolate.

Good night.

Time to reset

Past half a decade, most of the beginnings of the New Years have been spent in transit. So, for me the end of the year would be like that scene in Edge of Tomorrow where Tom Cruise dies, knowing he would wake up at the same moment again,  time will reset. Or like in a video game, you know you have some ‘lives’, some ‘chances’ left. And you set out to do things differently. Not getting crushed by bad habits, fighting the alien forces that aren’t in your control, trying to figure out to get some success, reach a level you haven’t reached yet.

The new round has already started. I must not let the giant black hole of social media gobble up my time. Almost everyone i know is worried about this. The resets we get are limited. Wait a minute, Is that an Alpha behind that boulder? Oh No!!

Writer

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