Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Unexpected Delight of 'Twilight'

The appeal of 'young adult' fiction lies in the nostalgic empathy it evokes in the 'mature' reader.'Twilight' was presented to me on the occasion of my birthday(I'm old enough to have a quarter-life crisis and wish that I was 15 again);I started reading it more out of curiosity than from the desire to fit in.'Twilight' makes me want to be 15 again. If only Stephanie Meyer had written it when I was 15.

Ms. Meyer's writing is akin to what a low-profile teenager with a growing flair for writing might pen in her journal.The over-descriptive text peppered with gushing accounts of every look,every touch,every accidental brush of the skin and the slow frustration of young love, ever reminiscent of that first high school crush;forms the substance that holds the reader,irrevocably glued, to the manuscript.'Twilight' sits comfortably,filling the void left by overused cliches in the romance and horror genres.

'Twilight' is surprisingly gripping and a lot less hilarious than I had anticipated it to be.It may be the substance for good satire,but even the unparodied original has its own share of charm.Stephanie Meyer is far from being a new age Jane Austen but she has certainly found herself a niche.'Twilight' may never qualify as one of the most loved books of all time but it is definitely one to be remembered.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It Happens Only in India: High Tea in Disposable Cups

I miss reading books by English authors that had elaborate accounts of the ritual of 'high tea';perhaps a less cultured and studied version of its Japanese counterpart but nevertheless,treated as an integral part of the 'English' way of life.I attended a 'tech talk' at 'The Leela Palace';where the attendees were treated to a scrumptious assortment of goodies, good enough to keep the naive epicure satisfied.They called it 'high tea'.I was pleased to note that they had kept their word,unlike some other event organizers who skimp on their promises.

Educational institutions organize similar events quite frequently.It is understandable that universities must skimp in order to avoid budgetary and logistical nightmares.It is also an accepted fact that most people(disinterested students in particular) attend technical lectures at universities with the hope of getting the much coveted 'high tea'.The lengths to which people go to get free stuff is amazing; considering the fact that every lecture in an Indian university begins with a prayer,an invocation song and the ceremonial lighting of the lamp; and then moves on to the actual lecture(at least an hour long) followed by a question and answer section completely devoid of questions.Guests wait in eager anticipation for the announcement that sounds something like ,'please assemble outside for some high tea'.

So what does high tea look like in this context? There is a queue that originates at a flimsy wooden table(covered with a white tablecloth or a plastic sheet) ,runs for some finite distance and then diverges into two(and sometimes three)distinct lines.The point of divergence(or convergence depending on how you see it)is usually the location for a potential scuffle.As one approaches the 'tea table',one will see a large stainless steel dispenser,minuscule disposable cups made of plastic and biscuits(or sometimes a slice of cake per person).It is customary for people to gulp down the tea and gobble up the snack and return to wherever they came from;satiated and content with the fact that even though the lecture sounded like ancient Greek,they stayed long enough for high tea!