Continuing on roads and drains

After exploring what leads to good roads, it was time to go down the tunnel of what constitutes good drainage when it rains, so that roads stay good. Words were piled up, places visited for photos and photos taken.

Easily done. Then began the more difficult part, getting quotes from BBMP. As someone who is very wary of BBMP, this was something that made me extremely nervous. I tracked down one “Executive Engineer” who answered questions reluctantly while asking me to file RTIs for anything more. I needed a few sentences and got a few sentences. I also discovered that BBMP has a PRO, who helpfully gave me another number, who gave me a few more sentences.

The article is finally out, a reasonably long time since my last. I understand the need to be quicker, get things out faster. It is so much about having parallel threads running at the same time. I hope to make it at least 2 a month and see what else can be done.

The bookshop days are over, ending spectacularly in a burst of invective laden emails. So there is also that time.

The article can be read here.

Article on roads

A trip to Electronics City was made, to check how the roads are. To get there I had to ditch the bike and drive the car as it kept raining throughout. Foggy NICE road wasn’t encouraging, if anything it only makes me scared. I don’t really have a good opinion of the way my fellow city-people drive. Especially when it rains, or when it is dark, or in heavy traffic, or when the roads are empty, you get the drift.

NICE road is now Fastagged and I realised I didn’t have much balance. I ended up placing my phone in front of the tag when driving past the toll box and paying cash. I didn’t have cash either, but had managed to borrow some from the house just as I left. On reaching Hosur road I missed the turn, and had to go all the way past the expressway exit, take a U-turn and get back. I cursed and banged the steering all the way.

While there, I was given a lot of data about how things are done, which was pretty much all the basics being covered. But then, most of life is taking care of the basics, you mess up in one place and it cascades all over. Why should roads be any different? I tried to take pics and was told not to by the private cops there. I made do with what I got.

For the return, I called a friend and had some money filled into my fastag account as it turned out their portal doesn’t function on mobile data, at least not the one you get in Electronics City. Also turned out I was short of fuel and had to fuel up there. The return was a lot less messy than the onward journey. The article was written, some more quotes obtained, and finally filed. You can read it here. For the messiness that went into writing it, it seems to have blown up all over twitter, with everyone taking potshots (sorry) at BBMP.

But then, I guess the end result is what matters. The writing process is different from the gathering process. Learning that gathering is generally a messy process, you have your questions, and people have their answers to give, and the two are not always related. Whatever messiness shows up in the gathering, the writing is something that has to work with it, and around it. It is an interesting journey, and a steep learning curve.

Home in the rains

I lived for 3 years in Redmond, across Lake Washington from Seattle, before I gave up my tech job in a fancy tech company and returned to Bangalore. For a good while the question would pop up in social gatherings, the few I attended at least, “why did you move back?” It was tricky to answer, not least because the reasons were a vague longing for what the Bangalore I grew up in offered, like the rains.

April sees the first major rains of the year, the ones that herald the end of the summer’s heat leading to a season uniquely Bangalore that is part summer, part rains before the Monsoons take over. In the Pacific Northwest, April was the end of the Winter and the start of Spring. You waited for one last snow before the season turned. And it never failed to show up – it could be a smattering that was never seen falling down, but it would be there, you’d notice it and know that the season was going to change.

Continue reading “Home in the rains”

On electric autos and the process of mobility

A few backs, I found myself on my bike riding around Mysore Road, looking for an electric auto. As anyone in Bangalore would attest, there were a gazillion normal LPG autos, the green ones, but not a single blue/white electric one. It was slightly surprising that all autos are now green. There was a time when green ones coexisted with the black ones.

Eventually I found one standing on the side and proceeded to find the driver, and interview him about it. This finished the whole process of asking what can bring electric autos on Bangalore roads, and what is preventing them. It was an interesting experience, where you start with nothing and move further asking questions of the right people. A journey that led me to talk to Pawan Mulukutla of an org called WRI India (World Resources Institute), and then to Cedrick Tandong, CEO of another called Three Wheels United which works on getting autos on the street and identifies as a tech startup.

You can read the piece here.

Pongam Life

The new year would always bring some new life to the Pongam trees (Millettia pinnata) around my house. Come January, they would start shedding their leaves. By February-March they’d wear a coat of fresh green leaves, and be ready to flower by March-April. Their flowers would bring forth a horde of bees. So many that during the day they’d come into the house if the kitchen light was left on and struggle to find their way out. I would have to intervene and open windows and let them out.

Asiatic honey bee (Apis cerana) on Pongamia flowers
Asiatic honey bee on Pongam flowers
Continue reading “Pongam Life”

Cud-chewing on old thoughts

Long time, no post. So here it goes. I remember reading David Graeber and David Waingrow’s “The Dawn of Everything” and coming across this paragraph.

“Before exploring what he means, let’s define slavery itself. What makes a slave different from a serf, a peon, captive or inmate is their lack of social ties. In legal terms, at least, a slave has no family, no kin, no community; they can make no promises and forge no ongoing connections with other human beings. This is why the English word ‘free’ is actually derived from a root meaning ‘friend’. Slaves could not have friends because they could not make commitments to others, since they were entirely under someone else’s power and their only obligation was to do exactly what their master said. If a Roman legionary was captured in battle and enslaved, then managed to escape and return home, he had to go through an elaborate process of restoring all his social relationships, including remarrying his wife, since the act of enslaving him was considered to have severed all previous relationships. The West Indian sociologist Orlando Patterson has referred to this as a condition of ‘social death’.”

It’s been 3 months since I read this book, and this definition of slavery has stayed with me since then. At one level it seems too broad, and at another it seems to capture it precisely. Forming social relationships is about time. And if your time is committed to someone else, you are effectively a slave.

Can a job thus be reduced to slavery by this definition? Especially if you are stuck in something toxic, where you don’t particularly enjoy who you work with and the job takes up most of your obligations, which is increasingly the deal these days.

But then I am diverting the focus away from me. The reason why this hits so close is also when I think about my life over the past decade. (One of the things the middle ages brings you is that you can think of your adult life as encompassing decades.) There is always the inability to forge any close relationships because it has always been (made) clear to me where my priorities are.

This always brings me to the essential question of freedom. And the nature of freedom in a consumptive society. If you are really free, what does it mean you are free to do? How do you define your freedom? This has always been a question I’ve struggled to answer. Is it possible to live a life where you are not obligated to anyone? A family means that they tend to be your first priority. Having a pet means that the pet becomes a priority. Increasingly I see people choosing the option of not having any strings attached. This was my life too when living away from home, before I returned.

But then is being tied to a system where you can’t exercise full control over your time slavery? And this is where I find Graeber’s definition stumbling. Vast number of peoples suffered for generations through actual slavery. Their experiences cannot be reduced to a concept of being unable to form “social relationships”. It was much worse, there was a bigger loss of agency. There was a loss of access to justice. It was far worse than just a lack of access to time.

for some reason it also reminds me of Shivranjana‘s tweet recently.

This has been a long time motif for me, that we can only go around in circles, just that we have a (limited) set of circles to choose from. It is likely a necessary thing, as underlying all our needs is the need for a community and these circles (or the more accessible word: lifestyles) define our community. But then her point seems less about that than the belief that we are being different from everyone else, and also needing to be different, while actually not. And also what seems to be happening is that more and more people seem to be living less and less diverse lifestyles as the choices that you can make are narrowing down further. This could also be about the way capital is moving currently and how the number of options seem to be shrinking with time, even though we tend to think they are expanding.

It has been almost 5 months into not having a job, and I expected to reach a state where I am not thinking about time. That phase is yet to come. At the moment there is still the pressure to do something with my time. And this materialises in the form of anxiety while getting through lighter days, or in conversations with friends, where I struggle to explain that sometimes you should learn something without thinking of how it can help you make money in the future. They listen, but come back to the same question of utility from a different direction. It is as if we’re also losing the ability to learn something for the sake(and joy) of learning, without thinking of its utility in earning a living.

It has been more than a month since my recovery from Covid, and I now struggle to write sentences properly. Every few minutes I scroll up to find ridiculously formed sentences that need a lot more editing than earlier. I don’t know the paragraphs cohere either, likely a lot of jumping around. But then it has been a while since I wrote something, and here it is.

Books list from 2021

What started in 2012 with the list for the previous year, has now progressed to its 11th edition. As always, my list follows Anush’s list which can be found here. I finished with 43 books this time, much more than what I thought I would manage around middle of the year. This was helped in no small measure by the last 2 months where I was at home mostly. I finished 9 books in the last 2 months, including 4 tomes. Anyway, without much ado, here’s the list in the usual order.

Kannada:

  1. ಒಂದು ಬದಿ ಕಡಲು(Ondu badi kaDalu) – Vivek Shanbhag: Typical Shanbhag tale of a family living by the coast of Karnataka, their ways of life, and family politics. Shanbhag’s is an interesting gaze where he looks at individual families and the threads that hold them together, while at the same time placing them in a society, a landscape and a time in such a way that is hard to say where the lines between them are.
  2. ಶಾಲೆಗೆ ಬಂಡ ಚಿರತೆ ಮತ್ತು ಇತರ ಕಥೆಗಳು(Shaalege banda chirathe mathu ithara kathegaLu) – Sanjay Gubbi. Collection of essays and articles by Sanjay Gubbi about his time in the wild and the story of the leopard attack told in first person.

Fiction – Indian writing:

  1. An Atlas of Impossible Longing – Anuradha Roy. A story set in Eastern India, around W Bengal/Jharkhand. This is very heavily based on Dickens’ Great Expectations, but makes for good reading. Read it during a tough time early in the year, and it is surprising how much remains in memory.
  2. The Folded Earth – Anuradha Roy. This one is set in a Himalayan town, where the author also lives. An interesting tale of changing lives and changing worlds.
  3. A day in the life – Anjum Hasan. Some stories were interesting, but she’s tending to be too tropey.
  4. Latitudes of Longing – Shubhangi Swarup. Re-read this one. Reads much better on the reread. Especially those parts of the book that were a plod the first time.
  5. Em and the Big Hoom – Jerry Pinto. Another re-read. A perennial favourite.
  6. In custody – Anita Desai. An acclaimed work about a washed up poet and a college teacher with a midlife crisis trying to interview him.
  7. These, our bodies, possessed by light – Dharini Bhaskar. Again, families. About 3 generations of women and having to deal with men who just aren’t there for them. For a first novel, it read really well.
  8. The Dharma Forest – Keerthik Sasidharan. Got this because I follow the author on twitter, and it is a take on the Mahabharatha. Very disappointing read for various reasons that I’ve mentioned in the linked review.
  9. Along with the Sun: Stories from Tamil Nadu’s Black Soil Region – Ki. Rajanarayanan. An excellent set of short stories from parched Southern TN, well translated too.
  10. Hangwoman – K.R. Meera. Finally found a copy in the library. One of my favourite reads this year. And extremely well translated too by Devika.
  11. A night with a black spider – Ambai. Another translation of a set of short stories. Made me wonder why I hadn’t heard of her. Need to pick up more of her.

Fiction – Foreign Authors

  1. A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin. The first of the Earthsea series. Need to pick up more. This is almost like the Harry Potter books, much better written. I hope to read more of Le Guin too in general. About time.
  2. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong. Vuong is a poet who has written a novel, which is almost autobiographical. About Vietnam, about immigration, across generations. And about growing up gay in the US as an immigrant. A beautiful book, beautifully written. At some point I should reread it as I was still in a fugue state when reading this.
  3. *The House of Unexpected Sisters – Alexander McCall-Smith. The 18th of the Ladies Detective Agency series. This was read during said fugue state when I couldn’t process anything too serious or needing my mind.
  4. *The Colours of all the Cattle – Alexander McCall-Smith. The 19th of the series. Read later in the year, always good to be back in Botswana. Smith is one of those writers who makes you feel happy about others’ happiness. Yes, read that sentence again.
  5. *A Midsummer’s Equation – Keigo Higashino. Murder mystery where Detective Galileo gets pulled in. Always amazed about the human element in Higashino’s mysteries.
  6. The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide. A year in the life of an author involving his neighbour’s cat. And about Tokyo itself. Beautifully written and translated. Again, read during tough times, and much helpful.
  7. My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite. Nigerian thriller. Good fun during the trashy mystery phase.
  8. The Memory Police – Yoko Agawa. An acclaimed novel by Agawa. This is about losing one’s memory and vocabulary and learning to live without it. And what it eventually means. So apt for the present times.
  9. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A re-read. And much loved again.
  10. Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White. As I wrote in my previous post, made me a bit jealous about kids growing up now and the access they have to so many such good books.
  11. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse – Charlie Mackesy. A book about kindness and friendships, beautifully illustrated.
  12. And then there were none – Agatha Christie. A Christie, enough said. Taut thriller about murders in an island with no detective solving anything.
  13. Bring up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel. The sequel to Wolf Hall. While Wolf Hall was about the rise of Anne Boleyn, this one is about her fall and eventual execution. Will pick up the last of the trilogy in a few years I guess, if I get a good second hand copy.

Non-fiction – Science, data etc

  1. Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures: Merlin Sheldrake. Interesting book about fungi and their world. This needs a reread as I was in a bad state when reading this.
  2. Wild and Wilful – Neha Sinha. Know the author through instagram and picked up because of that. Excellent take on the natural world and conservation, by looking through the prism of 12 species – from the humble tiger butterfly to tigers, leopards and the Great Indian Bustard.
  3. Assembling California – John McPhee. Fourth in the Annals of the Former World series. This is about California and its Geology.
  4. Spider Behaviour: Flexibility and Versatlity – Marie Elisabeth Herberstein. A collection of essays from different authors looking at different aspects of spiders – their web building, predation to reproduction.
  5. Braiding Sweetgrass – Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants – Robin Wall Kimmerer. A favourite this year. About plants, foraging and what there is to learn from the indigenous ways of not only coexisting with nature but also benefiting from it.
  6. Mama’s Last Hug – Frans De Waal. De Waal is now a favourite author whom I return to every year almost. This book is about emotions in chimpanzees and apes, and how humans are not that special when it comes to emotions. He makes a key distinction between emotions and feelings, and how we don’t have much control over the former.
  7. Horizon – Barry Lopez. Another favourite. About Lopez’s travels in different parts of the world, and his reflections on pretty much everything.
  8. *The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity – David Graeber and David Waingrow. This is about prehistory and how humans before agricultural revolution had a lot of agency in how they lived and under what political systems they wanted to live.

Non-fiction – General

  1. The Biggest Bluff: How I learned to pay attention, master myself and win – Maria Konnikova. About poker, chances life offers etc. Reads less like a self-help than a personal story of trying to get ahead in something. Interesting read.
  2. Despite the State: Why India Lets Its People Down and How They Cope – M. Rajshekhar. About the non-existent system that is the government in various states and how people are forced to cope without that. In many ways this is a followup to P. Sainath’s “Everybody loves a good drought”.
  3. Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times – Katherine May. About coping with difficult times in one’s life, by comparing it to the seasonal coping with winter in Northern climes. Very interesting and refreshing read.
  4. Chasing the Monsoon – Alexander Frater. He lands in Kerala and then heads to Chirrapunji chasing the monsoon’s arrival at different points of the country. Written in the early 90s, it is an engaging read, also about how the country was those days.
  5. *An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination – Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel. An excellent take on how rotten the system is inside FB and how their mismanagement of usage of their platform for genocide and pogroms is almost by design, as they cannot care enough about fixing things that don’t matter to their bottom lines.
  6. Dear Ijeawale, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions – Chimamanda Adichie. A short single sitting book about how to raise a child to be a feminist. A must-read for everyone.
  7. A Life in Words – Ismat Chugtai. Her autobiography. The translation is very up and down, but her interesting and quirky life comes through.
  8. How I Became a Tree – Sumana Roy. A meditation on trees. That’s it. While there is so much literature on different types of moving creatures, like elephants and tigers, trees don’t produce that much. This book is mostly about the author’s love for trees in general, looking at trees in art, religion, history etc without going into the scientific details.
  9. Travels with Charley: In Search of America – John Steinbeck. Steinbeck drives around the US with his dog Charley and recounts his experiences. It is interesting to read about the US on the cusp of a polarising election.

And there, that’s the 43. The split is 18/43 non-fiction (including Sanjay Gubbi’s book), around 40%. In term of number of pages, it is around 45%. I have been trying to maintain a 50% women authors ratio, and this time 22/43 books are written/edited by women. I hope to keep this ratio going every year.

(* – Read on Kindle)

Sewage in the time of Covid-19

I write for citizenmatters on wastewater surveillance and what it means for SARS-Cov-2. You can read it here: https://bengaluru.citizenmatters.in/coronavirus-presence-in-sewage-data-72192

The last 2 months have been a learning curve, working almost as a freelance writer. It is a whole new world – pitching, chasing contacts, getting “quotes” to use. You start with pitching an idea. Some respond, some never. Most are polite when they respond, even if they are declining. One said they are working on the exact same idea. A few days later I see the article and it is the exact same thing, with the same flow of arguments, but with quotes from scientists etc. You learn something there. I have been trying to do this more now – reach out for quotes.

And this is another new world to learn. First, what’s the right way to approach? A text/whatsapp before you decide to call? Or would email work? (Of course, you try to keep their quotes in text. Calling and asking gets your memory into the picture.) Is Sunday evening fair game to call and ask? What if someone never picks up, and then responds two days after the article is out? Almost everyone has been good to give their inputs. In a way it was easy that I started with Vishwanath of Biome (twitter.com/zenrainman), who is easy to approach. The folks at precision health were also helpful even when they made it clear that they are not supposed to interact with media and don’t want to be quoted directly. You learn from the editors to work around that when putting their words as your words.

There is some more in the pipeline, but needs a fair amount of data trawling. Would be curious to see where that leads.

One more year of reading

As the year draws to a close it is again time to cud-chew on the year gone by in terms of books. The year started badly, laid low with back issues, health issues for the parent, and the passing of a dear uncle. There were days when I tried to eat breakfast and found it difficult to process any taste and only the lime pickle sent out its pulippu. But the books were there. I remember working through Merlin Sheldrake’s “Enchanted Life” about fungi and their beautiful world and not being able to make sense of it. The words were words, but they refused to coalesce into meaningful sentences. The worst days were spent reading Anuradha Roy’s “An atlas of impossible longings”. It took a long time to finish, and the book is now permanently associated with some of the hardest days I’ve endured in years.

As things slowly picked up, with lots of gratitude to friends and family, the reading picked up, but it stayed difficult. The days plodded along with work as a source of distraction. They were days lived one weekend at a time, slowly pulling my horizons closer again.

During this time Shubhangi Swarup’s “Latitudes of Longing” was a welcome reread. Higashino and McCall-Smith were the go-to authors to get through the days. It was only in April I ventured back to serious reading with M Rajshekar’s “Despite the State” which looks at the dysfunction across the country in the way administrations are run.

Neha Sinha’s “Wild and Wilful” followed despite my worries about another depressing read. I was surprised to find it very matter-of-fact about 12 different species, how they are faring and what can be done. If anything, it was a call for empathy, rather than trying to pull out the tears.

The year picked up slowly at the personal level, but April and May were also the worst months in terms of the pandemic second wave, and it brought along a lot of fear of how things were going. The only hope was that I had gotten both the parents vaccinated.

I was good enough to revisit Jerry Pinto’s “Em and the Big Hoom”, and Marie Elisabeth Herberstein’s “Spider Behavior” was an interesting intro to how spiders work. It was fascinating to go into detail about creatures that I’ve only been looking at from the taxonomic perspective – see spider, take pics, find out name, that was it.

I had put off reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass” and finally got around it. The only thing I regretted was finishing it. It was a beautiful look into living a slow life, co-existing with plants and trees, and foraging. A life lived in gratitude with nature knowing what all it provides.

For the next re-read I picked up Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. I read this at a particularly stressful time at work and it helped a lot.

As I quit my job, I picked up Barry Lopez’s “Horizons”, a book with a large sweep, looking at his travels and his experiences from different parts of the world. Reading Barry is about slowing down, trying to process every sentence and letting it sink in. He doesn’t make it easy, raising important questions about life, how to live, what is important, where we are, and where do we go from here. The biggest challenge of our lives would be to find meaning, when it is easier and enticing to consume and fill our lives with stuff instead. I hope to read more of him, but given the small number of books he’s written, I might have to keep revisiting him often.

“Charlotte’s Web” by EB White was a favourite this year. So much of our reading as kids, at least us kids of the 80s, we owe to Enid Blyton and Amar Chitra Katha that I do envy the kids growing up later, who had more access to authors like White, Seuss or Dahl. It is such a travesty that many grow up with Chota Bheem instead.

I renewed my acquaintance with the IIWC(Indian Institute of Wold Culture) library now that I have more time in my hands. Probably the biggest draw would be the Dosés, vadés and kharabhaths of Basavanagudi. I started the library borrowings with K.R. Meera’s Hangwoman, one of the best books of the year. A woman in charge of hanging and the world going crazy about it around her. And then there’s the history of executioners, a family stretching back to the 3rd century BC as they claim. An execution is supposed to be about the executed and the one who orders it. Meera turns the eye towards the hangman/hangwoman and tells their story, and that of the world from their perspective.

Speaking of perspective, David Graeber and David Waingrow’s “The dawn of everything” turned out to be an excellent book on human history. It is largely a critique on existing study of pre-history, and takes a lot of fun lampooning the Hararis, the Diamonds and the Pinkers (I loved that part). Most of the history we study as students is a chronological parade of kings and their dynasties. We barely look below them to see the people who lived under their rules and how they lived, how they chose. Graeber/Waingrow turn our eyes towards the common folks and show how they had a conscious choice in who ruled them, and what kind of rule they wanted to live under. A lot of this freedom was to do with being able to turn their backs and move away if they didn’t like a particular rule/way of life. That freedom has been lost to us. Hate Modi? Where can you go unless you are privileged enough to get a one-way visa to, say, New Zealand?

John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley” is an excellent travelogue of Steinbeck doing a trip around the US with his dog. It was interesting to read about a country on the verge of polarisation with the stage set for the most acrimonious election of that time – Kennedy vs Nixon. So much of what we see now around the world can be traced back to those years.

As the year draws to a close, I hope to finish with Hilary Mantel’s “Bring up the bodies”. “Wolf Hall” left the Tudors and Cromwell at an interesting juncture. Can’t wait to plow ahead.

And that’s it. Another year gone, another set of books done. Unlike a binge-watch on Netflix, which leaves you with a void wondering what next, with books there is always an assembly line and more authors waiting to be read. Sachin has put Wendell Berry on my radar, and sounds like this might be my next big author discovery. A short story collection by Ambai has made me want to check out more of her work. Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste” is sitting on my bookshelf staring down at me.

A new year, and a new set of books beckons!

Revisiting Ozu

Rewatching movies is always tricky. Most times you realise you have aged and outgrown what was once a favourite. Most Hollywood movies end up falling into this trap. I can barely watch Friends, except for nostalgia value. Seinfeld felt very tacky on watching it the other day and I gave up after a couple of episodes. Frasier might stand the test of time. Avengers movies look like kid movies these days with the same tropes repeated ad nauseum.

It was with such a sense of trepidation that I started watching Yasujiro Ozu’s “Late Spring (1949)” for the second time. This is a classic Ozu movie starring the usual set of actors – Setsuko Hara, Chishu Ryu and Haruko Sugimora (who usually plays negative roles). This is a typical family movie with no real suspense or whodunnit, so the term spoiler doesn’t apply here. Am going ahead with that disclaimer.

I remember watching this movie the first time in 2015 and being immediately hooked. I was more interested in the plot line and how it develops and this meant that I missed many nuances in the character detailing, the camera work and the plotlines too. It also was a time when I was in a different phase of life, more in line with Noriko’s character itself.

Ozu is known to use a single camera in a room, kept at a low level for most indoor shots. So the focus stays on the conversations which are held across the table. In this movie, there were some instances where he panned to face shots, in specific scenes to fine effect. More on this later.

Rewatching meant that I could appreciate the detailing of Noriko’s character better. She tends to come across as someone who is always out to please people because of a face that always seems to have a smile plastered on it. But what she tries to convey at specific points points to a stronger woman who knows what she is dealing with, and the smiles are only meant as a softening mask. Note the scenes where she tells her father’s friend that she finds his remarrying distasteful. And equally good is the way the friend takes it, also likely because of how she puts it to him.

And then the scene where she turns down Hattori’s invitation to a concert firmly, but with a smile. Even though a viewer may think that Hattori is anyway engaged, a later scene shows him in the concert with an empty seat next to him, suggesting that he was probably thinking of breaking his engagement for Noriko, and she knew what she would be getting out of by saying no.

Chishu Ryu as the father in most Ozu movies gets a lot of flak, apparently because of his non-posh accent, which a non-Japanese can anyway not make out. But as always his chemistry with Setsuko Hara, this time as her father is incredible. The scene where she eventually confronts him about his remarriage plans and he answers all questions with a gruff “mm” is very beautifully underplayed. Clearly the pair have managed to coexist in perfect peace all these years, knowing their boundaries, and their dependencies. Note the scene where when Noriko’s friend comes over, the father takes tea in a tray to her room without any self-consciousness. And then the confrontation when it happens is something that makes them both uncomfortable but both know is necessary to be done with. Note the camera work for the very important scene, focusing on his face.

Eventually, this makes possible the scene where Noriko confesses to her father that she doesn’t really want to marry and is happy in her current situation. His response is that marriage is not for happiness and that eventually she might create a beautiful family but till then it will be hard work with little to look forward to. Not exactly something to cheer someone up, but his main point is that he’s getting on and she would end up alone with no support.

But Ozu shows enough of Noriko’s life and her friends to show that she could have managed to be by herself. She has support systems in a divorced friend and her aunt isn’t too old either, and she was planning to learn typing to find a job if needed. So being pushed into a marriage that she clearly didn’t want leaves a bitter taste at the end, leaving you with a very broken father who did what he was expected to, even though it left behind two very broken individuals.

The movie is freely available on youtube with subtitles. You can watch it here.