Friday, March 26, 2010

Two poems

Srishti Shenoy, the lovely daughter of my Sharjah-based friends Vidya and Praveen Shenoy, has arrived in India on annual summer vacation, and guess what she has started doing lately – writing poetry! And I remember a line from Polish poetess and Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska: I prefer the absurdity of writing poems to the absurdity of not writing poems!

So, I reproduce the first two poems Srishti, who is eight years old and will join Class III this April in Sharjah’s DPS School, has written for her school magazine.

If I were…
If I were a butterfly,
I would spread out my wings
If I were a bear,
I would eat sweet things
If I were a crocodile,
I would go snap snap
If I were a fish,
I would go swim swim
But I am happy to be me…

Lovely Colours
Red is bright
Orange is light
Yellow is a sun
Green lettuce in a bun!

Blue is water
Indigo is darker
Violet is the last
So lovely are the colours of the rainbow!

I don't think I even knew how to clean my running nose when I was eight, forget writing rhyming poetry. When I pointed out that the last two lines don't rhyme at all, she replied matter-of-factly, "No they don't". Thats good I thought. That way, she would come out sooner out of the confines of rhyme meters.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Inge Morath

Picture copyright: Magnum Photos

I came across Inge Morath’s legendary photograph of Marilyn Monroe on the sets of Arthur Miller’s The Misfits in a photo exhibition Leica, the great camera-making company, brought to Mumbai a few years ago. That exhibition also had some images from Henri Cartier Bresson, who always used a Leica 35mm camera for all his pictures. Two images - Morath’s Monroe, and Bresson’s painting like portrait of Kashmiri women dressed in traditional clothes on a hill top at the crack of first light – remained etched in my memory.

Like Cartier-Bresson, Inge Morath has also captured some of the leading global thinkers, poets, artists, writers, film-makers and film stars in portraits. Born in Austria in 1923, she completed her studies in Berlin, and became first a translator and then a journalist. A friend of photographer Ernst Haas, she wrote articles accompanying his photographs. It was Robert Capa who invited Morath to join Magnum Photo agency as an editor. She began photographing in 1951, and later assisted Cartier-Bresson as a researcher for two years. In 1955, she became a full Magnum member.

Morath travelled extensively and worked for a number of world’s leading magazines. She shot photographs on the sets of John Houston films. Her photographs of Marilyn Monroe on the sets of Houston’s 1961 film The Misfits (which was scripted by playwright-writer Arthur Miller) brought her instant fame. In 1962, she married Miller. Her initial work is black and white, but she continued shooting in colour right up to 2002, when she passed away.

Thanks to the wonderful re-design by Magnum Photos recently, about 12 different features of Morath’s work are now available for us to see on their website. Apart from portraits of Houston and Miller, her camera has captured painters like Pablo Picasso, Francoise Gilot, writers Francois Sagan, John Updike, Anais Nin and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, playwright Harold Pinter, fashion legend Yves St Laurent, French couturier Pierre Cardin among others.

Apart from the Marilyn Monroe series, Morath has captured pictures of Hollywood legends like Yul Brynner, Audrey Hepburn, Peter Houston, Ingrid Bergman, Elia Kazan, Dustin Hoffman (who starred in Miller’s Death of a Salesman), Liam Neeson (who acted in Miller’s play The Crucible in 2002). There is also a beautiful portrait of Anthony Quinn shot in 1959 at a cafĂ©. Quinn’s two companions can’t get their eyes of the star!

Since her death in 2002, Magnum Photos gives away the Inge Morath award for women photographers below the age of 30 who want to work on a long term documentary photography project. Please also check the work of Olivia Arthur , the 2008 award winner.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Women in Parliament

Picture Courtesy: Office of President, Rwanda/Frederick Munyanbuga

The sickening drama over the Women's Reservation Bill is finally over. I hope it does not repeat again in the Lok Sabha.

I came across this interesting chart showing the percentages of women in global parliaments. The data has been compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union on the basis of information provided by national parliaments of 187 countries as of Jan 2010. The chart gives percentages of women in both houses of parliament, and India ranks a pathetic 99th in the list. But guess who tops the chart? Rwanda

Rwanda has 45 women in the 80-seat lower house, and 9 women in the 26-seat upper house. Thats 56 per cent in the lower house and 34 per cent in the upper house. COmparatively, India has just 59 women in the 545 seat lower house, and 21 women in 233 seat upper house. Thats 10.8 per cent in the Lok Sabha and just nine per cent in the Rajya Sabha.

Even Pakistan has better figures. In the 2008 elections, 76 women were elected to the 342 seat Pak lower house (22.2 per cent), and 17 women found a place in the 100-seat upper house (17 per cent). Our other neighbour Nepal has sent 197 women in its 594-seat lower house (33.2 percent) and ranks 19th in the list. China ranks 55th in the list.

Leading the list are countries like Sweden, South Africa, Cuba, Iceland, Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Mozambique and Angola in the top ten with more than 38 per cent women in their parliaments.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Tree squirrel

Spotted this big one on a jackfruit tree at Periyar wild life sanctuary, Thekkady. She was attacking the jackfruit when I distracted her with my shots.