The Competitive Indian

One night after our finishing our dinner at a ‘kwality’ dining establishment in Kazhakuttam, near Thiruvananthapuram’s Technopark, my colleague and I were waiting in his car for a break in traffic. In the twenty seconds we were stationary, I saw:

  • a motorcycle in the centre of the road whip across in front of a speeding bus;
  • an Ambassador taxi, with its wheels half on the road and half on the dirt beside it, speed at 60 km/h alongside the slighty slower-moving traffic;
  • and an autorickshaw drive the wrong way down the highway until it could pull across to the correct lane.

I remarked to my colleague that people sure are in a hurry in India. “Mmm,” he acknowledged thoughtfully as he inched the car backwards into the chaos. “We’re so impatient,” he said, forcing a space in traffic by jutting the rear of the car out into the road so other motorists had to veer around us. He turned to me and laughed. “Even I am like that! And I don’t know why.” The way somewhat cleared, we sped off on the way back to work.

…read more at The NRI…

The Kerala Wedding Experience II: Christian

My mind soon drifted away from comparisons as I understood that in Kerala, a Christian wedding is all about devotion. It is less a celebration of two lives and families coming together as it is a testament to God’s glory at allowing them to reach this point in their lives. No less than four priests held court before the happy couple, all dressed in flowing robes of white/black/red and suitably official headgear, as verse after verse was recited to the letter. The church itself was grand in that impeccably Christian way: imposing purely for the height of its ceiling, all angles, points and wings, but certainly not wanting for ornate carvings and elaborate stained glass windows.

…read more at The NRI…

The Land of Open Expression

Over in the central Palace Hall, there seemed to be more of a calm that befitted such a princely and tradition-filled room. I remained there for the rest of the weekend as part of an extraordinarily varied audience. There were: distinguished local retirees with a passion for language; twentysomething Malayali men asking me for my mobile number within minutes of meeting; young tourists in summer dresses and sunglasses; local professionals, well groomed and dressed; adolescent children sitting unusually still; fellow resident foreigners of all backgrounds; and many of the authors themselves, catching another speaker’s session.

…read more at The NRI…

Your Moment of Horror is Waiting

It begins with a gold-tinged scene of a waterway at dawn. Burnt-out husks of dead trees rise from the water like the Devil’s fingers – and after more than ten seconds, one of them moves! The landscape is alive! Run for your lives! It is in fact a humanoid figure, long-legged and brandishing a spear. There are no signs that it will be aggressive, but one senses that it might become so at any moment.
WHAT THIS MEANS: Welcome to Kerala.

…read more at The NRI…

Writing a NOVEL now, wahey

I just realised that I self-promoted my National Novel Writing Month all over Facebook, Twitter and the NaNoWriMo forums, but didn’t make it obvious on my own site… so in case you didn’t know about it, and are interested in how my NOVEL is progressing – with all the searing insights gleaned thus far – click on ‘NANOWRIMO’ in the buttons at the top of the page.

If you can’t be bothered scrolling all the way up to the top of the page, or are sneakily reading this via Google Reader or similar, click here.

“the blog has given me a reason and the freedom to enjoy writing again”

Jill Haszard is the author of Just Bung It In, a blog about being a mum, wife and PhD student. She is also my sister-in-law, married to my DJ brother, and mother to my nephew and one of my nieces. After spending a few years in Sydney in the early part of the 00s, she and her family decided NZ was the place they wanted to be and started making a life in Dunedin; her posts reflect the various aspects of family life in NZ’s deep south – school, work, holidays, the neighbourhood, renovating, househunting etc.

Her words and photographs are obviously very meaningful to me as a close family member, but my enjoyment of them is not merely obligatory. I feel her writing style has just the right amount of detail and is very easy to get lost in – not to mention some charming experiments with the structure of her posts. Seeing my niece and nephew grow through her blog is an important part of my life, and it’s also fascinating and informative to learn more about her PhD study in nutrition.

Like most of my interviewees, Jill is a very busy person, but still found time to answer my questions. I suppose that busy people are much better at getting things done!


Why did you start blogging?

To connect with friends and family that live far away. To share photos of my children with those that I want to be a part of their lives.

Have you ever kept a personal journal? If so, do you see Just Bung It In as an extension of that journal?

I have kept journals in the past but I think the blog is quite different because it has that immediate audience. However, I do see my blog as a diary of sorts. It is a record of bits of my life and I really enjoy reading over past blogs and looking at the photos, as I would a photo album or a scrapbook.

What is your first memory of writing creatively?

When I was 5 years old I wrote a story that was at least a whole page long. I drew a picture to go with it and I felt that I had written this epic masterpiece. Mum sent it into the local newspaper and they printed it – I was so proud but it was a reality check to see my story printed in only two lines…. I guess my hand-writing was quite large when I was 5.

I’ve always enjoyed writing to some extent. What I’ve lacked is the confidence that I’m any good at it and I eventually came to the conclusion that it will never be a great skill of mine. However, the blog has given me a reason and the freedom to enjoy writing again.

Describe something that is beautiful to you.

There are only two things in this world that actually make my tummy flip with their beauty: my children. Sorry to be such a cliché Mum!

My daughter’s smattering of freckles; my son’s brown eyes; their knees; their necks; their skin; their lips; all the little parts that amaze me. When they are busy and lost in their own little worlds I don’t want to take my eyes off them because they are absolutely stunning to me and perfect in that moment. Nothing in this beautiful world even comes close to the beauty that I see in my kids.

You maintain a posting frequency of about once or twice a week, despite being very busy. Do you set specific time aside in your weekly routine to write, or is it whenever you get a chance?

If I go for longer than a week without posting a blog Mum rings me up and complains. I write for my Mum!

I do prioritise blogging because it is something that is important to me. I also know that if I left it three weeks, or more, it would become this massive task to catch up and I don’t have the time to do that. So even if it is just a small story, a thought or a stack of photos, I keep it chugging along so that things don’t get away from me. I don’t put too much pressure on myself to make it perfect, I just do it (hence ‘That’ll do’) and that works for me. Usually a Saturday night offers itself to blogging.

Has your blog helped you in other areas of your life?

Interesting question. I’m going to say yes to that one because it helps to form my ideas and thoughts more. When I’m mulling over something I want it to develop and mature a bit before it becomes a blog topic. Also, having a blog about my life helps me to see the good side of things. It helps me to see myself as worthwhile. Oh, and I can’t forget that the regular writing will probably have been a good thing when I come to write my thesis – eek!

Do you feel that you have complete control over ‘Just Bung It In’, that it has a life of its own and evolves on its own, or somewhere in-between?

I feel I have total control over it. It’s my life story really and I pick what goes in there!

Is there a post on your blog that you are most proud of?

No I don’t think so. The blog posts that I enjoy rereading the most are the ones with pictures of holidays and the little stories of things that my kids and husband do. In the end, this blog is for me.

Name two countries: one you’d like to visit, and one you’d like to visit again.

At this time in my life I have no pressing urge to travel the world. I love New Zealand. My dream holiday is the one that we take every Summer: camping on a classic NZ beach with friends and family. If I won Lotto I wouldn’t change the destination, I would only buy a bigger tent and a flasher beach lounger.

Ask me this question in 10 years and it may be a different answer!

Do you believe in God?

I believe that every individual has their own reality so God does exist for some. I don’t deny the existence of God for others. However, my reality does not have a God. I believe in nature and the wonder of the world. I believe that there is more. But I don’t believe in a God.


This interview is part of Inside the Bloggers Studio, an ongoing project of short interviews with bloggers I read and admire.  (Apologies to James Lipton.)  To view the archive, click here.

Being Changemakers with CRY: Child Rights and You

The biggest barrier to undertaking activism often isn’t a lack of desire. For example, India is a nation of desperate and disadvantaged children, but the apathy towards their dire situation isn’t based purely in a disinterested and uncaring middle class; it’s also the product of a society who have given up on idealism, perhaps wanting to help but not seeing any practical way to help, and ultimately hoping that somebody else will clean up the mess. With millions of children in need on the streets of India’s metros and all over the country, airline purser Rippan Kapur decided he wanted to do something about it. He decided to found an organisation that wouldn’t simply get their hands dirty for the sake of child rights; they would provide a base for volunteers everywhere to effect positive change. In 1979, with six friends and a base fund of just 50 rupees, he set up CRY: Child Rights and You.

…read more at The NRI…

You Too Can Travel In Style

That age-old desire to flaunt more wealth and status than your neighbour ties into another growing sector of the luxury travel market: weddings. Shifting your son’s or daughter’s wedding to foreign country is still a rare thing, but if you can manage it, you’ll be the talk of the town. This from the Wall Street Journal tells of nuptials in Macau and Bangkok and bills of up to USD$5 million – that’s over 22 crore rupees – with nearly a thousand guests flown from India, along with full catering staff and a host of top entertainers. The location is not chosen only for a hotel’s willingness to submit to the parents’ lofty requests, but also for its attractiveness as a tourist destination, which makes doubly certain that all the guests will return home with nothing but good things to say. more at The NRI…

“your senses become overwhelmed with the sheer brilliance of what you are watching”

'Forty Guns', directed by Samuel Fuller

Bill Georgaris is the webmaster of They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?, a regularly updated film site that aggregates film criticism and opinion for the benefit of curious cineastes – a ‘cinematic traffic cop’ to sort the wheat from the chaff – with a focus on directors.

TSPDT comprises sections such as comprehensive  director listings, the best films of the 21st Century, appreciation for unsung classics and a resource on film noir; there are lists, links and essays to provide a wide base of knowledge if you’re eager to learn which films, directors and actors are important and why they are revered. By far the most popular part of the site is the 1,000 Greatest Films, an annually updated resource that collates the ‘best of’ ballots of over 2000 filmmakers and respected critics into one mammoth list.

It would have been about 2004 that I first discovered TSPDT, though it had already been around for a couple of years. In those days the site was much smaller, but its director database and Recommended Reading links became the starting point for every time I wanted to feed my burgeoning film obsession. The first 1,000 Greatest Films list came out in 2006, and the site has grown a great deal since then but, thankfully, has kept the same straightforward and easy-to-use interface.

As always with these interviews, it was a wonderful surprise to get a response to my initial inquiry, and then another when I received Bill’s answers. There is a relatively comprehensive About page on the site, but I tried to ask questions that would offer a little extra insight into who he is. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Bill & Vicki, his partner-in-crime, for the letter grades which I have co-opted from TSPDT’s rating system.


Why did you start They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?

Looking back, I’m not sure if there was any one reason in particular. I think it was a combination of probably three factors. Firstly, I had time on my hands (not so much these days). Secondly, I thought building a website would be a good outlet for my okay PC skills. And thirdly, and most importantly, my deep affection for cinema. It must be said that two books in particular hugely influenced the way I approached the initial version of TSPDT. They were Geoff Andrew’s The Film Handbook and Andrew Sarris’ The American Cinema.

Have you always kept records of the films you watch and how you feel about them? If so, what form(s) have those records taken?

Absolutely. I’ve maintained a database since 1992 (currently in Microsoft Access format) of the films I have seen, and of the films I wish to see, and all else in between. I think it contains approximately 29,000 titles at the moment. I rate each film I see in the same manner we do on TSPDT (Highly Recommended/Recommended/Worth a Look/Approach with Caution/Dud).

What is your first memory of enjoying watching a film?

There isn’t one particular moment in time I could nominate, but I can say that my first fond film viewing moments were on Saturday and Sunday afternoons when I was aged probably between 6-10. These afternoons were spent watching matinee sessions on the local television channels. The films that left a mark on me were the Lewis/Martin films, the shockingly dubbed Italian sword-and-sandal films (who didn’t want to be Steve Reeves?) and – most memorably – the 1950s Westerns (particularly those with Randolph Scott). I only realised later that the Scott films I loved as a kid were in fact the very sparse and terse (and very adult, I might add) films he made with Budd Boetticher.

Randolph Scott in Shoot-out at Medicine Bend

Describe something that is beautiful to you.

In cinematic terms, that very moment in a film where your senses become overwhelmed with the sheer brilliance of what you are watching (tingling sensations normally ensue). An extraordinary film like Black Narcissus, for example, contains more than a handful of these moments. In non-cinematic terms, my partner Vicki, and my youngest cat Syd. Jean Seberg’s screen presence and Syd Barrett’s singing voice also come rapidly to mind. Stanley Baker in Hell Drivers is also a thing of beauty, as is Carrie Snodgress’s performance in Diary of a Mad Housewife.

What is your chief purpose in compiling ‘greatest’ film lists?

Mainly to keep a record of what films have received, and continue to receive, the most critical acclaim. I don’t know why exactly, but this is of constant fascination to me. These list compiling shenanigans assist me to plan my own film viewing experiences, and I hope that they also prove useful for those that visit TSPDT. As snore-inducing as it may seem for many, I genuinely enjoy playing around with formulas and collating data.

Jean Seberg in A bout de souffle

In the TSPDT 1,000 Greatest Films list, which film do you think should place much lower in the list (or be absent altogether), and which film do you think should place much higher?

There are countless films amongst the 1,000 that I feel should either rate higher or lower, so picking two is difficult. For me, Battleship Potemkin is perhaps the most over-acclaimed film on the TSPDT list. I can think of a hundred silent films that deserve to place higher. It’s an important film, that applied some groundbreaking techniques, but its 10th placing does irk me a little. Somewhere in the 500s would suit it better. In terms of deserving a higher placing, Sam Fuller’s Forty Guns, which is currently placed 985th, should be in the top 200 at least.

Have you ever made a film yourself?

No, absolutely not. I don’t consider myself to be a creative person. I try to keep within my limitations. I wouldn’t subject my lack of creative talent to anyone. That hasn’t stopped Michael Bay or Baz Luhrmann though, has it?

'Battleship Potemkin', directed by Sergei Eisenstein


Is there a section or page on your site that you are most proud of?

It’s hard to feel pride for the provision of an assortment of letters, numbers, images and hyperlinks. I don’t consider it that big a deal. I’m prouder of the fact that I’m still breathing after all these years! ‘Pleased to be of some use’ is perhaps a more accurate summation of the way I feel with regard to my TSPDT endeavours. In answer to your original question though, I’m pretty happy with the Film Noir pages at TSPDT. I think they are a decent resource. Additionally, I’m also pleased with the (mainly positive) reaction towards the 1,000 Greatest Films listing.

Name two countries: one you’d like to visit, and one you’d like to visit again.

I am not the best person to ask this, because I am not much of a traveller. I’m a homebody at heart, but I am heading to the UK and France next May.

Do you believe in God?

I do not believe in imaginary beings. Watching films is my preferred mode of escaping reality.


This interview is part of Inside the Bloggers Studio, an ongoing project of short interviews with bloggers I read and admire.  (Apologies to James Lipton.)  To view the archive, click here.