Friday, September 25, 2015

Books, Movies, Ballet

V and I have very different audio preferences when we are driving. I like to bop along to the blast of the local hit music station (while crossing my fingers that my preschooler can't catch some of the more questionable lyrics); V insists on tuning into the hushed voices of National Public Radio. I tease him about NPR lulling me to sleep but the truth it I am a fan. I'm always surfing over to their website and listening to their podcasts. Every summer, NPR picks a genre and publishes a list of 100 must-read books in that genre. I love books and I love lists so I'm all over this.

This year, they published a list of 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances. (You have got to look at some of those covers. Gah.) I had not read a single one of them- somehow I've managed to overlook an entire genre in my reading life. That was it- this would be my summer of romance reading. Such luxurious fun to sit around and read a romance novel. Well, in the frenzy of summer guests and travel, it did not work out in quite that romantic fashion, but I read a few books off their list and plan to read some more.

The first was a YA romance, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Anna is in high school in Atlanta, GA when her father uproots her and sends her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year. She is miserable until she meets a new group of friends including an irresistible French-English boy. This was a fluffy but sweet teenage romance. Recommended if you're in the mood for a bonbon.

The second book was from the romance suspense genre, more appealing to me for the suspense than the romance, I'll admit- Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart. This one reminded me strongly of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. And oh, it was a good read. A young English governess, a remote French chateau, a sinister employer, his dashing son, an escape in the middle of the night...this book started slow but I thoroughly enjoyed it by the end. Recommended! (Psst...Arpita, you will like this one.)

I did check out a third book off the list from the library, A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev but just couldn't get past the first few pages. I'll have to try this book again another time.

Some books other than romances that crossed my path this summer:

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. This bestselling novel from a decade ago narrates the aftermath of a brutal crime and the afterlife of a teenage murder victim as she watches over her family. A strange and disturbing premise, and the plot was meandering. I don't know what else to say about this book.

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed by Alan Alda. M*A*S*H is probably my favorite TV show ever, and Alan Alda makes M*A*S*H what it is. I was excited to read his memoir, and it was an engaging read. I wanted to read more behind the scenes stuff about M*A*S*H but this is a true memoir, the story of a boy who grew up with a father who was a burlesque actor and a mother who battled mental illness, his struggles as a young actor and father of three daughters, a man who's been married to the same woman for 50 years and who doesn't fit into any showbiz stereotypes. I adored Alan Alda already and this memoir made me love him even more.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. My dad, who was visiting for a few weeks in summer, is crazy about aviation. He spends all his free time building really complicated model airplanes. My aunt suggested that I get him this book that was published very recently. We got a copy from the public library and after my dad read the book (he loved it), I read it too. This is a work of incredibly detailed narrative non-fiction that tells the fascinating story of the Wright brothers and how they built a flying machine. Today, we take it so much for granted that we can take a flight to another continent and get there overnight, while eating a hot meal 40,000 feet in the air on the way there. It is amazing to think back to how this all started.

There has not been much screen entertainment in my life lately. We subscribed to Indian channels for a while for visiting family members, and so I watched a bit of Sony TV- specifically, the finals of Indian Idol Junior! It was fun to watch Indian TV after many years. And we watched a very off-beat and Piku, a very off-beat comedy-drama. I enjoyed this movie, it has a lot of heart and great non-filmy (you know what I mean) acting. I see Amitabh Bachan in a totally different light now.

After watching all three hundred thousand episodes of Midsomer Murders, I was missing British crime drama and turned to Broadchurch, a British detective mini-series on Netflix. The story involves a crime (what else) that rocks a small community (what else) apart, and follows two detectives, one a friendly local and the other a brusque outsider (what else). It is a well-written, sad and dark narrative but worth watching. It doesn't hurt that it is shot in a gorgeous seaside setting.

Oh and I watched First Position, a documentary on Netflix that follows six young ballet dancers as they prepare for an elite competition that may decide their professional fate. (The name of the documentary, first position, refers to the one of the 5 classical foot placements in ballet.) The dancers are so young, so ridiculously talented, so insanely hard-working. This is a well-made documentary that is totally worth watching.

I love dance SO MUCH- all forms of dance, classical, contemporary, you name it. Dance moves me to tears the way music moves some people to tears. I took Kathak lessons for nearly a decade as a child and have been missing dance in my life these days. Certainly there's no Kathak teacher for tens of miles around me. We do have a dance studio in our town, but classes are expensive, the times and locations are not convenient and it is just really hard to fit one more thing into my schedule right now. I've been satisfying my dance cravings with an hour of zumba every week.

You can imagine my joyful reaction when my regular old gym announced some new fitness classes for Fall, and one of them is a ballet class. I've been going for a few weeks now (swapped in this class for another fitness class I was attending). It is a low-maintenance class in terms of gear; we don't wear tutus and ballet slippers- just any workout clothes and socks/bare feet. The instructor has 40 years experience teaching ballet; she retired from running her own ballet school. She either doesn't notice or doesn't care that none of the students in this class are spring chickens; she just teaches us in the same intense way she probably taught her 10 year old students. "Ballet is a bit like being in the army", she said in the first class, which just about sums up her approach! Not complaining. I actually love teachers who expect a lot from their students.

We're learning basic ballet positions and moves. It is all about posture, balance, core strength, discipline, intentional and controlled movement, and learning a lot of French ballet terminology as we struggle to plié and relevé and dégagé. All while being commanded to "feel beautiful". LOL. I don't know how beautiful I feel as I pick myself off the floor and hobble home after class, but this class makes me so happy. It is a mental health boost as much as anything else, and sheer delight at being able to live out a fantasy and feel like a dancer for a few minutes. 

What are you reading and watching these days?

40 comments:

  1. Wow! You are learning ballet. I always thought it was meant for tall people with right hip to leg ratio. When you said you hated exercise did not know you once learnt dance. Good you got back to it.

    About Piku, it is such a funny film and such a common story of single child and old parent. One easily identifies with it even if it is not exactly your own life.

    Hope reading romances has made everything a little bit pink around you :)

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    1. Anjali- Anyone in the whole world can learn ballet. Now, to do it professionally needs many special physical and mental attributes! Yes, dance is the only form of exercise that I have truly loved all my life.

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  2. Wonderful post Nupur. You have made me want to read a few books and resume my Midsomer Murder watching (I know that there is a new season on DVD waiting for us at home). However, I will skip the ballet for now!!!! P.S. If you have only watched the MM that are on Netflix, we have the DVD's of the newer ones. Let me know if you would like them!!!

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    1. There are MORE Midsomer Murders?! I thought it was all over, and yes, what's on Netflix is all I have watched. I would love to borrow your DVD sometime, thank you :) Tell me, have you watched any Indian movies while in Bangalore??

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    2. MM is still in production so there are lots more shows. There is a new sidekick now but he is really good. I will write myself a note to get them to you when we return. I have picked up bits and pieces of Indian movies, but we haven't watched any of them all the way thru.

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  3. Nupur, I read Nine Coaches Waiting back in the 60s! (It was first published in 1958) Such a good read. It spoiled me for romance. I read more of Mary Stewart's writing after that but even they couldn't match it. I agree, it does remind me of Rebecca. Have you read Jamaica Inn? Another good one.
    Haven't finished reading your post. Just had to tell you about NCW> :-)

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    1. I only just discovered Mary Stewart and I am glad I did! I do like this romance suspense genre :) I have not read Jamaica Inn but will put it on my to-read list right away.

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    2. Nupur, Just found your response. I just picked up another Mary Stewart "Airs Above the Ground". Nothing like thrift stores for older books. You can always tell when a book-lover (or their heirs) are cleaning out. :-)
      Will be interested in what you think of Jamaica Inn. I am currently Netflixing "Doc Martin" which takes place in Cornwall. It's not comedy, not romance, not drama - but a nice mix of all and just a little strange. Happy they have the whole series. I got to go back to the beginning and get a better understanding of what's going on.

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    3. I love Doc Martin! I watched the whole series (or a lot of it anyway) when it first played on PBS, back in the good old days when I had network TV. I agree the genre is a little mixed- not quite a drama, not quite a soap opera, not quite a sitcom. But fun to watch nevertheless!

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  4. Congratulations on starting Ballet classes! I am one of those moved to tears people when it comes to music so I completely know what you mean about your love for dance. We watched L. Subramaniam perform at the world music festival in Chicago last weekend and the performance blew me away to a degree that I could not hold back tears. I had no words. I rarely have no words .. Haha. Remember I was taking Bharatnatyam classes a while ago (I remember you left a comment about wanting to start dance lessons too) .. My teacher had to stop her classes because she wanted to focus on her own dance career. I haven't continued on with another teacher after that. :(

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    1. Oh how wonderful for you, getting to watch a live performance of a legend. Living in a big city does give you those opportunities once in a while! Sorry your Bharatnatyam teacher stopped teaching :( I know what you mean about wanting to continue with the same teacher. My Kathak guru is so amazing that I can't imagine learning from someone else.

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  5. Summer - ah - here is what I read and watched:

    READ:
    - A Path Appears by Nicholas Kristof - a book on giving - the philosophy, the marketing, the neuroscience (yes our brain does specific happy things when we give), the logistics.
    - "Jhimma - Atahavanincha Gopha" - Vijaya Mehta's autobiography in Marathi. I got it from our local library and am about 30% in. I am so intrigued by this lady - the sincerity with which she writes is moving and I am enjoying re-learning some Marathi vocabulary
    - Cooking for Mr. Latte - by Amanda Hesser - a love story with recipes - the best kind!
    - The Lighthouse - by PD James - again only 10% in but I love PD James writing. Nupur you will too.
    - The Joy of X - A guided story of Math from one to infinity - Math is my passion and it is a pleasure to find a book written so well about it.

    WATCH:
    - Last Tango in Halifax
    - Downton Abbey Season 6 - yes it is here already for some... ;-)
    - NCIS
    and may such similar things...

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    1. Vishakha- what fun- I loved reading your list! Will look for the books you mentioned. I've read PD James many years ago but would love to re-read them. She's a more literary Christie :) I'm excited to read the math book.
      More Downton Abbey? Yesss :)

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  6. knitting, crocheting, sewing, swimming, running, dancing and of course cooking all the while taking care of your family and a full time job! You live your life to the fullest and inspire so many of us to do the same.

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  7. Hah, I am exactly opposite when it comes to dance. Never really enjoyed it, watching or dancing. Though my mom tried hard to make me love it by sending me to a kathak class for few months. I forget who quit first- me or the teacher!
    I need to pick up alan alda's memoir. I loved him in MASH (my favorite TV series too).
    I am currently vacationing in india so catching up on my reading - time travelers wife is the current book. I am also watching an old DD classic TV series called Udaan. I used to love it while growing up and recently procured a dvd version. Good stuff this is.

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    1. Neha- Alan Alda's memoir is very thoughtful, not the behind the scenes scoop that most showbiz memoirs are. Enjoy your vacation! I totally remember Udaan from decades ago- what fun to see it again.

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  8. I am re-reading Nine Coaches Waiting right now! For the umpteenth time and I love it as much every time. I am a great Mary Stewart fan in any case.

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    1. Amber- I only just discovered Mary Stewart- and look forward to reading more of her books!

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    2. Hi Nupur, have you ever read Elizabeth Goudge's books? Some of her best are The Scent of Water and The White Witch. She wrote a wonderful trilogy about the Elliott family. She also wrote a magical tale for young people titled The Little White Horse, which this not-at-all young person still re-reads every year.

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    3. Amber- I have not and will look for them. Thanks so much for the recommendation!

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  9. I like music, am looking forward to acquiring a CD of Shastriya/ natya sangeet by Rahul Deshpande, he performed in Dallas recently and I was so disappointed that I could not go.
    I cannot dance. I used to go to the zumba class at the local gym, as always my 2 left feet and miserable sense of direction meddled and I was forever doing the most embarrassing things.LOL!

    I read that Bollywood affair book. Did you get the feeling that the author wrote the book with a Bollywood actor and actress in mind? like Hrithik Roshan and Kangana Ranaut..;)

    I am currently reading 'The Witching Hour' by Anne Rice.
    Finished watching 'Death in Paradise' on Netflix. Its a nice series. This very proper ( and brilliant) British cop comes to the Caribbean to investigate the murder of a British police officer and then has to stay as he is stationed there.

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    1. Manasi- I like Death in Paradise- my husband likes it a lot more than I do. It is lighter than the usual British detective shows. The locale is so gorgeous, and so is the actress playing Camille!
      Most people look ridiculous while doing zumba ;) it is all part of the fun.

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  10. Those Indian Idol kids are just supremely talented, isn't it? I used to wait eagerly to watch each episode. Piku wasn't exactly my kind of movie, so I didn't enjoy it. On the topic of films, I highly recommend watching a Marathi film 'Court'. It's India's entry to the Oscars. Clearly the best film I've watched in a long long time.

    I haven't read a romance novel in years maybe! Your list inspires me to pick one up and read. Dance, well, let's just say I'll have to be reborn a few times over to be able to do it :)

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    1. The Idol kids are amazing- how can tiny kids have such mature and resonant voices? Unbelievable.
      I'd love to watch Court- don't know if it will be playing anywhere nearby though. Maybe it will come out on DVD. I see it is available to watch free online on random sites but that can't be legal right? Did you watch it in the movie theater?

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    2. I did watch it in the theater. Online streaming is probably not legal and IMO, a sincere movie like Court deserves a paid ticket. I'll keep an eye out and let you know if I spot the DVD.

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  11. Nupur,

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post :) every bit of it brought a smile especially the ballet part of it.

    I want to read at least some of the books you've recommended. And I am an ardent MASH fan too. I try to get my teenage kids to share my MASH joy with me but it never works. Even this time when my son was home from college with his friend I tried for a whole week and didn't succeed. Instead they made me watch Scrubs with them which I adore too.

    I am always looking for some good books and TV shows and and your readers give great recommendations.

    Hugs for a warm post!

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    1. Thanks and hugs right back :) Scrubs is a great show- how can one not love the banter between JD and Turk?

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  12. Hi Nupur,

    Great post, feels like I'm catching up with a friend :)
    I read Eleanor and Park this summer and loved it.
    It's totally fits the YA romance genre. I didn't know about this NPR list even though I listen to NPR almost everyday during my commute. Will check it out asap.
    I've also been listening to audiobooks lately and one you will love I think is "What I talk about when I talk about running" by Haruki Murakami.
    I'm now listening to "The Whole Brain child", good insight on how kids brains are structured. Although with most parenting type books I find that all this knowledge flies out the window when I'm in the throes of a tantrum or when both kids are fighting tooth and nail. I also read "Unaccustomed Earth" by Jhumpa Lahiri recently and loved it.

    My husband and I finished watching House of Cards recently. I'm now watching Gilmore Girls which I kinda don't like, everyone talks fast and all the dialogues are witty comebacks which is tiresome. But, it's one of those things that I use for mindless watching while folding laundry, prepping food over the weekend etc.

    I downloaded a couch to 5K app and started running a bit and my sciatica flared up so I'm back to my normal walking instead and I think will probably need to stick to low impact exercising for life. Which I'm fine with, I just need to make it a priority to keep moving. The fitbit helps if I do challenges every week with my friends/family.

    How are you making time to workout now that you work fulltime?

    - Anu

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    1. Anu- I read Eleanor and Park this week and liked it! The NPR website is great- they have lots of good blogs and interesting stories. I've never listened to an audiobook ever; it is on my list of things to try. Will look for the Murakami one!
      Gilmore Girls- I like it for mindless watching too. It drives my husband batty to listen to them taking too fast though, and the show is a celebration of first world problems most of the time :)
      About finding time to exercise: I drop off Lila to preschool, go to the gym (or for a run) and then go to work directly. Except for one dance class which I do once a week after work. So far the schedule is working well.

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  13. Haha. Nine Coaches Waiting does sound up my alley!! I've heard Mary Stewart is a great writer. Thank you.
    As usual I'm reading books at a tenth of the pace I want to read them, Currently reading, Dying in the Wool- a cozy mystery set in post WW1 Yorkshire; The Land Where Lemons Grow by Helena Attlee, and so so enjoying A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. The writing style is so simple yet endowed with such little nuggets of beautiful detail.
    On my radar to read next: The Eye of Love by Margery Sharp (heard wonderful things about this one!). Happy reading!

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    1. Oh my, Arpita, as usual you are adding to my to-read list ;) All those books sound totally cozy!

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  14. Oh Nupur how much I love your posts! It feels as if I am listening to you face to face. Very happy to know you are able to get back to your passion of dancing.

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    1. Sonali- You're very sweet- thank you!!

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  15. Oh and Downton - 3 episodes are done ;-)

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  16. First Marathon and now romance and Ballet - I wonder how your partner cope with your changing colors :) Very nice to read your blog on books and other updates. Piku is a really nice movie and my 11 year daughter already started thinking of how she will behave with her aging dad once she is all grown up and working.
    Keep writing - your schedules brings smiles to your readers sitting faraway in India :)

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    1. Thanks very much for this nice note :) My partner's not complaining ;)

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  17. Hi Nupur, how was your 5K? I did it a couple of years ago, but nothing as ambitious as you. :) I love the romance recommendations, will try them out. It is a luxury , you're right, to sit and read one now a days. Hope all of you are doing well.

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    1. Mandira- the 5K was a great experience- very hard but it left me with a feeling of accomplishment and wanting to do more. It is indeed a huge luxury for a mom of small kids to sit down and read a book, but hope you find time to relax and do just that- even for a little bit! We're doing well. Come visit us again soon :)

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