Nothing spells ‘alive’ like a hot, home cooked curry.
Imagine sitting at your cubicle at work, your tummy just about to grumble for its midday meal, and in rolls lunch.
A tiffin of two or three different curries, a chapatti and some rice.
You open up the insulated carry bag just to get a whiff, and OMG…
This hunger is really the premise behind “The Lunchbox”, a movie Ms and I saw on a desperate, mid-winter whim the other night.
Set in the heady bustle of Mumbai, it’s a story about Saajan, a lonely widowed accountant on the brink of retirement, and the misplaced tiffin of Ila, a neglected young wife.
The food is cooked with love, and delivered to the wrong man with the right appreciation for the cook’s craft.
A conversation begins through a series of illicit hand written notes, passed back and forth in the tiffin, courtesy of the dabbawallahs’ flawless delivery system (as declared by Harvard University).
From the moment Saajan encounters the first note, we are transported to our childhood – to the days before iPhones and email, when kids wrote notes and traded sandwiches.
Everything about this movie is real. The noise, dirt, sweat. The claustrophobia. The smell of yellowed office files, hot curry and cigarette smoke. The graininess of analogue video and romance of handwritten notes.
Looking at the overcrowded transport, there’s the sense of a city under strain. Development misplaced. Out of context. Fucked up in a million different ways.
And that is part of the reason the film has a universal resonance.
When Ila shares her dream of escaping to Bhutan, where the value of one rupee becomes five and the only GDP is “Gross Domestic Happiness”, we understand.
We’ve all been there. Longing for a simplicity lost to the world as we know it.
A world constantly filtered through a digital interface that screams for our attention, day and night.
While most of us manage some kind of escape – a tree change, a sea change or a holiday to Bali, for Ila and Saajan, there is no escape.
Except through food.
The poetry infused in Ila’s cooking comes alive in Saajan’s writing, as the very act of taste reignites his joie de vivre.
There’s a moment in the film where we hear the voiceover of Saajan as he writes to Ila. We see him standing on his balcony, drawing on a cigarette and Ila, pouring herself a cup of masala tea, as she sits to ponder on his note.
Right in that moment, there is nothing else in the world except two people connected by a single piece of paper, and the freedom to reflect.
It made me want to throw out my computer and write, the way I used to.
Uncensored and unencumbered. With a piece of paper and a pen. No thoughts. Just a feeling bleeding on the page.
A real page.
I’m heartened by that thought, as I am by the number of requests I’ve had these past two weeks for hard copies of the Hello Pepi books.
It’s a 3D world that tugs at us, reminding us that we are more than just a hologram.
We crave touch. And taste. And smell.
The kind we don’t even know we’re missing until we feel it, once again. We are alive!
There’s an oft repeated line in the film that goes:
Sometimes the wrong train will get you to the right station.”
Maybe books aren’t dead. Maybe it’s time to go and find a publisher.
And so the journey carries on… :)
When was the last time you tasted something so divine, the world stopped spinning?
Speaking of joie de vivre…
Pepi’s First Things, FREE until Monday.
This Toy Dog is for Real - Take him home!
Don’t believe me? Check out Mamta Chakravorty’s review – Pepi’s first fan from Bangalore!