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Monday, February 27

Emotions in Motion Page III

Concluding from Part I and Part II. Unforgettable scenes from movies around the globe, this time from Hollywood and World Cinema.

Film: Once Upon a Time in the West
Year: 1968
Director: Sergio Leonie
Cast: Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson
Scene: The Final Duel. Frank learns about his shadowy, nameless nemesis on his very last breath. The film is being heralded as the finest of the Wild West genres, and many sequences have cult status even after 40+ years.  'Once upon a time in the West' and its peachy scenes are being celebrated like no other. The legendary Ennio Moricone and his groovy background score added to the tense aura of this climactic reel. What more to say, Bollywood's own colossal film Sholay is visibly inspired by this movie, especially the Frank introduction and massacre at the beginning of the film. Pure class.

Film: Pulp Fiction
Year: 1994
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman
Scene: The Mia Wallace adrenaline shot scene and build-up. Pulp Fiction is a movie 100% filled by unforgettable characters and legendary scenes. Picking one from this fantastic hip-hop film was quite an effort, but for me the sequence of resuscitating the OD-ing Mia takes the cake. A tense, rip-roaring sequence, absurd at times, but somehow the director managed to load some outrageous humour in the reel, if fact Tarantino has overloaded it with whimsicality. The near-clinical expressions of the characters need special mention, as if it has been a extensively rehearsed scene. Pulp Fiction is one hell of a dark humour-film, without any direct stand-up comedy. Butch, Marcellus Wallace, Pumpkin, Honey Bunny or Vincent Vega, I just can't get enough of PF!

PS: What's it with Pulp Fiction that has made the film a modern epic? I still get my monthly dose of PF on one lazy weekend beer o' clock or late night. I never get tired of it while my wife can't understand what is there in the film that obsesses me. Well? Probably it's a man-thing baby, its a man-thing!

Film: Forrest Gump
Year: 1994
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright
Scene: Forrest meets his son for the first time. Tom Hanks lives the perfect role as Private Gump where he exhibits his surprise of finding out that Jenny is a momma, and the shock that he is the dad, followed by the overwhelming anxiety if his son is smart or "like me" and the incessant relief that he was "one of the smartest kids". The ambiguity on how to approach the situation, the overwhelming emotions taking over and the initial attempt to bond with his offspring, "the most beautiful thing in the world" according to him. Subtle scene, great direction and riveting performance. Forrest Gump is one film you must not miss for any reason.

Film: The Shawshank Redemption
Year: 1994
Director: Frank Darabont
Cast: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman
Scene: Andy earns his first serious points with the vicious Sergeant, on way to the Supt, not to mention his mates. The classic movie, out-winding in the foreground of a captivating Morgan Freeman's (Red) voice-over, celebrates what the essence of  'hope' could do to human spirits, even in the distressing and ruthless stetting of a penitentiary. Andy has a purpose behind every single move he makes, not known to anyone except him, even Red, and unleashing the meticulous plan only in that stormy, uncomfortable night at Shawshank, 20 years after he was convicted. 

Film: The Dark Knight
Year: 2008
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Dale, Micheal Caine, Heath Ledger
Scene: Joker crashes the mob 'group therapy'. Heath Ledger's unforgettable performance as The Joker was the USP of the Nolan Batman franchise II. Honoured post-humously for the mind-blowing portrayal of arguably the most sinister villains in Hollywood, Heath gave the comic-book character some bold new mannerisms, ruthlessness and coldness. This scene, where the Joker starts off with the 'pencil trick' to lay his cards on the mob table, in their own courtyard, is just a culmination of the evilness Heath could attribute to Nolan's Joker.

Film: Shutter Island
Year: 2010
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo
Scene: The point where Andrew 'snaps'. One of the most disturbing meters of film in World Cinema. The Bipolar Dolores drowns the kids in the lake by the house and waits for Andrew. Andrew's universe collapses around him after seeing the cold, lifeless bodies of his angel-like kids. Andrew loses it, shoots his wife and turns into the monster that he became. 'Shutter Island' goes back from there, though the deep, dark and disturbed labyrinths of Andrew's (Teddy) lost mind and the Psychiatrist's attempt to bring it back to reality from which he was deliberately running away. The kind of mind-f**k movie which warrants more than one viewing to gather all the tangled threads.

Film: Amores Perros (Spanish)
Year: 2000
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Scene: Anticlimax. The 3 threads reach their reel end. El Chivo decides he's had enough, leaves the sinful brothers to their ambiguous fate and returns to the previous self after 20 long years. The transformation is quite remarkable; almost unrecognisable from the wretched image prior to it. In the meantime Octavio waits in futile for Susana who was never going to turn up, and leaves the city probably for the last one time. And as El Chivo departs his squalor, the massive, sexy hoarding of Valeria is being brought down, probably leaving her with the lone faithful companion in life: her dog Richie. This coming-of-age Mexican movie tells the tale of love; that of the treachery of man and the honesty of dogs. In fact dogs play a vital role in all the three threads in the movie. Love's a bitch. Amores Perros.

Film: Amelie (French)
Year: 2001
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Scene: Amelie finds and returns the long-lost childhood collection of 'Bretodeau'. Amelie's search for small pleasures in life reciprocates to her finding 'absolute harmony'. In the backdrop of the fair city of Paris, which is a strong character in the film, Amelie is a whimsical feel-good movie of everything good in life, not of the Utopian category, but of ordinary humans leading extra-ordinarily simple lives. The fast-paced, clippy movie rushes through the virtuous protagonist's search for goodness-rich life which culminates in her finding true love.

The list is potentially unending, and I had to leave out some of my all-time favourite scenes from Inglourious Basterds, An Officer and a Gentleman, Father of the Bride etc. Rest assured, cinema still is the most influential medium of entertainment in the new age just because it's been most successful in realistically portraying and transferring basic human emotions from the stage to our hearts.

Friday, February 10

Angels of a forgotten league

We all know this one thing about Nurses, especially nurses in India. Over-worked, inhumanly underpaid, systematically abused and vulnerable to all kinds of exploitation. Not to mention the constant emotional and physical harassment being meted out by co-workers, superiors, patients, by-standers, passer byes and the society itself as a whole.

Nursing in the democratic Republic of India cuts a sorry saga. Its still in Jurassic era. The femme-oriented profession represents a perfect cross-section of the abject, rural, middle-class Indian woman: enduring, submissive, tolerant, obliging and expected to absorb everything and anything like a super-giant sponge. Even with all the social and financial leaps the nation has made, Nurses in India still shy away or are deliberately kept out of mainstream socio-political advancements.

I'm forced to come out of my short blogging hibernation because of two factors:
  1.  The ongoing nurses agitations and not-so-surprising stories of cruel exploitation dribbling out from various corners of the nation.
  2.  Being a Registered Nurse myself, it's my duty and responsibility to stand up and fight for the vocation which provides me my livelihood.
There is more to it. It's not just the pay-scale, working conditions or the abuse which has appalled me. It was the incessant apathy some sections of society exhibit towards nurses and the profession, even during times of need. Even in this nifty age, large sections of our parochial society still view nurses as pure sex symbols or as easy-to-trod-on defenceless creatures, credits to India's socioculturally hierarchical background and our equally partisan film/ entertainment industry. Personal and professional respect is something the unfortunate, hard-working and extremely loyal nurses in our country never received, or expected.

Kerala has been a torch-bearer in Nursing profession in India, mainly due to Christian-dominated Central Travancore pockets. Easy job opportunities, chances in the affluent Middle-East and the West allured young women with an attitude to care. Over time, with the career graph looking up, the male gender and even sections of Hindu and Muslim societies which once frowned upon the profession, took up the job. Negative stereotype gradually got replaced by an opulent image, though some cliched caricatures still linger.

One aspect which increased the luminosity of the 'white frock', apart from the larger Catholic population, is the America-magnet, which was direct effect of the quality of Nursing education in Kerala. The reference books and curriculum is set cent-percent on Western standards which made that India-to-America transition a hell lot easier. The curriculum, especially the 3 year Diploma and 4 year Bachelor's Degree Course offers a comprehensive syllabus with generous clinical hours, on par with any advanced countries in the West. Precisely why Kerala Nurses are much sought after in the civilised world. But that's where the high standards in Indian Nursing end, unfortunately. I mean, with the curriculum.

Nobody bothers to glance into how well/ ill equipped our state or country is in helping nurses adhere to the Professional Code of Ethics, crucial in maintaining the standard and dignity of the profession. In the unregulated Private sector, a Nurse looks after 20-30 patients in a General ward when she should be handling 10; working hours are a gruelling 12-15 hours with lack of proper breaks, 6 days-a-week rosters, no sick leave or non-existent annual leave allocations, shift allowances are unheard of and a salary which would just about pay the laundry, transport and hairdressing charges. All this, after putting up with unruly administrators, Medical Officers, patients and relatives and an often pathetic infrastructure.

Private Nursing schools and Hospitals view the educational programme and workforce an easy way to save and mint money. Nursing students are substituted for free, quality labour to local hospitals and nursing homes. Students are forced to work hands-on in all Medical and allied Departments rather than attaining the goal of learning their trade. The real torture and exploitation happens when the freshly graduated nurses venture out to practice the job. Most hospitals exploit this free-labour in the name of 'bond' and 'internship' by offering stipends and salaries which range from Rs500-1000/month.

That's what you get for keeping awake all night watching over a living, breathing human? A securityman at the nearby morgue gets 10 times more for snoozing over dead bodies.

Worst of all, in such a female oriented profession, getting pregnant means a frightful prospect of losing the job by childbirth. Most private hospitals in our 'cultured' society does not provide nurses any sort of  Maternity Leave or benefits; and they force the nurses to resign...Oh yes, life isn't fair, isn't it...Endure?

In plain words, this is modern day slavery.

The situation of these selfless women, and men, should've shaken up the pillars of any ethical, democratic society long time back...Well, that's what our society is NOT...Ethical or democratic. Or compassionate.

But in the 'emerging' India hungry for a change, Nurses eventually decided "Enough is enough!" and chose to wage the war themselves.

The first major upheaval which occurred in Asian Heart Hospital, Mumbai, following the suicide of a Staff Nurse, has opened the flood gates for similar onslaught on high-and-mighty managements across the country, including in Kerala. The feeble voices of a scattered, non-unionized females had never scared the fat-cow managements in the past, and some chose to retest their previously successful model of 'intimidation, threatening and abuse'. Some bosses tried 'Quotation gangs' while in Cochin, a luxury 'charity' Hospital run by a prolific 'Godwoman' used their influence to manhandle the striking nurses using the Police!

Befitting a 'God', certainly! Well, when have God ever treated humans in a civilised way, especially the Nurses? Someone said to me Nurses are expected to be like candles, provide love and light by burning itself out. Lest you forget, that the same candle can severely burn your bum.

The strikes in Kerala, this time, have caused more than a flutter among the political and social circles. The iron fist and one-upmanship attempts by the Hospital administrators didn't yield the desired results as the agitation gained widespread public sympathy and support this time.There were funny sides too, the cream of it being the Indian Medical Association (IMA) asking the authorities to enforce ESMA on the strike; IMA is notorious for engaging in lightening strikes and arm-twisting tactics at the drop of a hat!

Perhaps if you look at it in another way, nurses severely missed a strong representative union like the IMA. The one's nurses had, the spineless Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI) and accreditation bodies like the inefficient and corrupt Indian Nursing Council (INC) are just bad jokes to discuss here. I'm saying nothing more about those pitiable organisations...

The Govt, though reluctant at first, have come out in support of Nurse's agitation. Labour Ministry and the Honourable High Court took a good step forward to ensure that Nurses are paid minimum wages, at least 9000/month, and better leave and working conditions. Opposition Leader VS Achutanandan, social and political leaders, Women's and Youth Organisations and common public en masse stood behind the striking nurses this time.

Anyone who wants to see the bare facts, the Nurses are NOT fighting for a piece of the moon. A decent wage to feed themselves and their kids, safety and security at work, to practice their vocation within set guidelines and to earn their living with dignity and respect.

Who says it's too much?

The only belly-ache was from the greedy hospital administrators who thought they could nakedly violate the Minimum Wages Act (from Labour Dept website) for decades and could get away with it.

Let's think about this. It is a Nurse who receives each and every life born into this world into their arms, who watches over each breath of our near and dear ones at their worst times and who sacrifice their sleep to care for them at wee hours when we're fast asleep under the covers. What justice or culture is it to treat the guardian angels of life in such inhuman ways just because their collective voices didn't have enough dB to be heard over the cling of money? When even a lesser productive Govt clerk with basic education earns 5-digit salary, a fully qualified Nurse is thrown crumbs.

Nurses are inevitable components of any health set up; especially when India struggles to protect the health of Indian women who give birth to our next generation. The more power they're given, the better it is for the society.

We're going through a phase in our history where the oppressed and the subjugates rise...and revolt, bringing down great temples of power. The anti-corruption movement in India, the Arab Spring, the "Occupy" protests...and now the 'Angels' Uprising'. Sometimes we've to believe justice will be served, even if late.