Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Devdas Film PosterFinally finished watching this last night. I got the film from my brother as a birthday gift, who knew that I really wanted to see it.

Devdas stars the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai and the mega Bollywood star, Sharukh Khan. Also in a major role was the actress, Madhuri Dixit, who I think I might have heard of. She was (as are most Bollywood actresses) incredibly beautiful and her performance as a courtesan was amazing. She was by turns tough and calculating; and then love-stricken and anguished by the knowledge that Devdas would never love her in the way that she desired. I think she might have been a better actress than Ash (as her fans call her) – at least, I’m of the opinion that she outshone her in this film.

Devdas, according to the film's website, is "the saga of a man who loved, loved, and just loved ..." I thought that he was just an incredibly self-centered and self-absorbed so-and-so, who did not deserve the attention of the two women who loved him (played by Aishwarya and Madhuri). The story is a long and convoluted one, interspersed by many a happy song and dance routine, and which you will just have to go and read-up about. But, if I could describe the film in a few words, it would be "sumptuous" and "lavish." The set, the costumes and the glorious scenery all spoke of the no-expenses-spared budget.

While watching this film, I became aware of how my viewing habits have changed over the years. Now, I’m so pre-occupied with trying to get a million things done that I barely have the time to sit down and watch a movie, much less devote all of my attention to it. Thus, I find myself doing a multitude of things as I 'watch' movies. With Devdas, I could not do this of-course, because it is a subtitled movie and so I had to focus on every line of dialogue. As a result, I’ve been watching this movie since December.

Damn! How will I watch any movies when I have children and my life becomes even busier? My membership to the "Avid Film Fan Club" might actually be revoked.


Drat! I'd managed to avoid this so far, but eventually Sokari got me.
So, I'm passing on the (ahem) joy to: Adefunke; Everchanging World; Pilgrimage to Self and Frances. Enjoy as I have enjoyed, girls and may the force be with you! Here are my answers.

1. Black and White or Color; how do you prefer your movies?
ANS: Definitely full, glorious Technicolor! When I was younger, even the thought of watching a movie in black and white gave me a headache. Now, some of my favourite movies are in B&W ("All About Eve" and lots of Katherine Hepburn films).

2. What is the one single subject that bores you to near-death?
ANS: Probably politics. I feel guilty saying this, because it’s something that affects us all and so I know that I should be more interested in it.

3. MP3s, CDs, Tapes or Records: what is your favorite medium for prerecorded music?
ANS: CDs - without a doubt. Most of my tapes don’t play anymore and I have just a few MP3s. I like the crackly sound that records make, but that’s about it. Aren’t DJs really the only people still buying records?

4. You are handed one first class trip plane ticket to anywhere in the world and ten million dollars cash. All of this is yours provided that you leave and not tell anyone where you are going … Ever. This includes family, friends, everyone. Would you take the money and ticket and run?
ANS: So this means that I won’t ever see my family again? This is a no-brainer – of-course, I would not take the money.

5. Seriously, what do you consider the world’s most pressing issue now?
ANS: HIV/AIDS. Even though there are so many serious issues, I think this one is the deadliest because it’s wiping out generations of people at an alarming rate.

6. How would you rectify the world’s most pressing issue?
ANS: If one person could do that then it would not be the pressing issue that it is. However, education is very important to give people the knowledge of how the disease is transmitted and how they can protect themselves. Money to buy the needed drugs and make it freely available to people who need it is also very important. Reducing poverty is another important strategy, because poorer and less-empowered people (e.g. women dependent on a philandering husband who is the major breadwinner of the family) are frequently more vulnerable.

7. You are given the chance to go back and change one thing in your life; what would that be?
ANS: Nothing! I think everything happens for a reason and everything is the way it was meant to be.

8. You are given the chance to go back and change one event in world history, what would that be?
ANS: Slavery and the colonization of Africa

9. A night at the opera, or a night at the Grand Ole’ Opry – Which do you choose?
ANS: Had to check this up, as I had never heard of the Grand Ole’ Opry. Turns out it’s a famous concert hall in Nashville, TN and the "mother church" (according to a website I found) of Country music. Uhm, safe in that knowledge, it will have to be a night at the opera.

10. What is the one great unsolved crime of all time you’d like to solve?
ANS: Why hasn’t Idris Elba won any major acting awards, when far less talented actors are getting wholely undeserved recognition.

11. One famous author can come to dinner with you. Who would that be, and what would you serve for the meal?
ANS: Argh! How can I pick just one, when I love so many? I think it might have to be Jhumpa Lahiri. Even though she’s not my favourite writer, I really like her books and I think we’d have a lot to talk about. (But ask me this question on another day and you’d probably get a totally different answer).
For food? Nigerian and Indian food. So maybe, we’d start with samosas and some small chops (stick meat, puff-puff) and for the main meal, some rice with chicken jalfrezi, fried plantain and moin-moin. And some Indian sweets for dessert.

12. You discover that John Lennon was right, that there is no hell below us, and above us there is only sky — what’s the first immoral thing you might do to celebrate this fact?
ANS: I never do immoral things anway, so this knowledge really wouldn’t affect me. Hehe! Seriously, I *know* there is a heaven and a hell and so I’d dismiss this as the latest scientific finding, which will be disproved in a few months by another new finding.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Author Octavia Butler Passes On

Octavia Butler passed away over the weekend at the age of 58. I became very fascinated with Ms. Butler, 6 years ago, when I first heard an interview with her on National Public Radio. I was living in Boston at the time and didn't have a television, so the radio, together with the Internet, was my only source of news and entertainment. I'm so glad that it was, otherwise I would never have heard that wonderfully engaging interview.

I had read about Octavia Butler before then, when she won the MacArthur Genius Grant. However, what really made me remember her was her genre of writing. She wrote science fiction, but not the typical "Beam me up, Scotty" sci-fi stuff. Her books dealt with issues of race and gender (with particular emphasis on being black and female). She posed a lot of "what if?" questions in her books.

I bought two of her books, which are still on my 'To Be Read' queue, so I cannot yet share my own opinions of her work. However, the favourable reviews and respect that she earned during her career for her body of work speak volumes of the type of inspiring writer she was.

Edited to Add: Author, Tayari Jones, has a great collection of tributes to Octavia Butler on her blog.

Where the Women Bloggers Are

Found this blog, called BlogHer, for and about women bloggers. I haven't gone through this site extensively, but it looks promising.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Jhumpa Lahiri on Writing

I've been thinking a lot about the writing process and issues of cultural displacement recently and the author Jhumpa Lahiri came to mind. Her books are filled with characters torn between different cultures - usually Indian and North American. I found an interview of hers online in which she talks about her writing process and how she navigated life between two cultures. It makes for interesting reading. I wonder when she'll be coming out with something new, because I really enjoy her books.

On a slightly different note, the film-maker, Mira Nair, was/is adapting "The Namesake" into a movie and I really hope she does the book justice, because I LOVED that book. I think Mira Nair is a talented film-maker and I also believe that she can relate to many of the book's themes, having lived in several countries herself, so really it should be a great film. Shouldn't that be coming out sometime soon?

Yellow Oranges

The title of this post is a tribute to my dear best friend who was worried by some of my recent entries, particularly "The Blues." She felt that my posts have become increasingly negative about life in general, and more specifically about life in Nigeria. We had a good discussion and I (think I) convinced her that all was well and that my posts merely reflected my feelings at the time.

However, it made me start thinking about the nature of writing: what makes 'good' writing; is writing more authentic if it’s drawn from real-life experiences (and conversely, is it false if it’s not)? I think I read somewhere that good writing comes from looking deep into your heart and pulling out emotions that you might not really want to deal with. Growing up, I had always equated good writing with the ability to create worlds that were miles away from yours. Now, I think that good writing could lie anywhere between the two ends of this spectrum.

When I was younger, my burning ambition was to be a writer. Somewhere along the way that dream died-out as I adopted more 'realistic' goals. I also became extremely self-conscious about my writing, refusing to show them to anyone (whereas before I had been only too eager to show my stuff to anyone who would sit with me long enough to read even a page). I became convinced that this new trait meant that I could never be a writer – I mean how are you going to share your writing with potentially the whole world, if you can’t even bear to have a few friends read your work?

My stance now with this blog is to write whatever feels comfortable. If it feels too personal, then I will not share it. However, the longer I write in this blog, the more I find that my boundaries of what’s fine to share are being pushed and stretched to limits that I could not have imagined. I have always wondered how so many writers and journalists are able to lay open their feelings with seemingly such ease. I’m beginning to understand how. When even a little speck of an idea tugs at you and begs to be written, you HAVE to write it. And the more you write, the more insistent these urges become.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

It’s a Small World After all

I attended an event called "Small World" on Saturday. It was described by my friend who invited me, as a food-tasting event for charity. Many countries would be represented there and guests would have the chance to sample their food. I love food and I am a big supporter of charitable work, so this combination sounded perfect to me.

Getting there was hell! It seemed like all the expatriates in Lagos were there, either enticed by the thought of some good, home cooking or they are all just extremely altruistic by nature. The downpour that let loose out of the sky JUST as I was leaving the house did not help either (rain cripples the already congested Lagos traffic situation). It took me about an hour to get to the school, where Small World was been held even though it would normally be a 15-minute journey from my house ("normally", though, means hardly ever). It took another half hour to park, after which I waded in the tropical-style rain puddles to get onto the school grounds.

Small World is organised every year by, what I believe, to be an association of foreign-born women living in Nigeria (I’ll have to check the program for the exact details). Funny that I’d never heard of it, even though it’s apparently been going on for several years now. The program detailed the various schools all over the country that will benefit from the proceeds of the event. These were mostly schools for children with special needs. I’ve put away the program in a safe place, because it’s such a good compilation of schools for the less-abled and who knows ... NYSC might actually decide to find other organisations to raise money for every Christmas aside from the Motherless Babies’ Home.

Back to Small World, the rain had driven many people away but a surprising amount still chose to brave the rain and stick around. Maybe the food was just too good. My friend and I wandered from tent to tent sampling the various delicacies. Although the cultural performances had been cancelled on account of the rain, a few groups still broke out into spontaneous song and dance.

As the rain started-up again, a group of (new and old) friends and I sat huddled underneath my umbrella and talked about life in Brazil (well, some of us talked and some of us listened).

It was surreal to be surrounded by mostly white faces and so few black ones. That Nigeria attracts a huge number of foreign workers is not news, but to see so many people in one place definitely has an impact that figures alone don’t have (at least, not for me). From the stalls, I could also see the variety of nationalities represented in Nigeria from the U.S, U.K, China, India through to Romania, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Brazil, Israel, and many others in-between. It makes you think: there must be many good things happening in a country to attract so many foreigners, even if we, the locals, miss some of it from time-to-time.

Monday, February 20, 2006

More on NYSC

My NYSC experiences have been edging towards hopeful ..... thankfully.

With NYSC, like anything else in life, what you get out of it is closely correlated to what you put in. I decided that since I will be doing this until August and I will be doing it just this once, I might as well make the most of it and enjoy it. Besides, community service is something that I have long been passionate about, so what could be more apt than making some positive contributions to my local government?

After several months of doing absolutely nothing, my group is starting to make some gradual but decisive moves towards activity. I think many corpers were really tired of coming to the local government secretariat and doing nothing. I mean, you might as well just stay in bed then! My group (the Anti-Corruption group) really has our work cut out for us. No one is under any grand illusions that our group of twenty-something odd people will stop the scourge of corruption, but we have mapped out a series of activities aimed at encouraging young people to think about their role in the fight against corruption and to act on it. It's a big task, but I think ultimately rewarding. In social or development work, you so often have to take pleasure from the small changes you help effect, so I'm well-prepared for that.

The downside, if I may call it that, of displaying above-average enthusiasm in any situation is that you get classed as 'eager' and 'available' and are sucked into a lot of other work. I have already been conscripted to the "photo album book committee" (something tells me there will be a lot more of these committees). I'll have to start thinking up believable excuses to get out of any more committments.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Blues

Feeling blah! And I don’t know why! Maybe this is something that everyone who moves to a new place (or in my case, old-turned-new) goes through. I long for the things that were familiar to me and rail against the unpleasant bumps in the road.

The “bumps” for me would be the inefficiencies I see everyday, causing so many resources (peoples’ minds and talents included) to go to waste; the overt aggressiveness of many people I meet, which somehow lives in perfect harmony with an overall lackadaisical attitude about life; the establishment of rules, which don’t seem to serve any purpose other than just being there, and the expectation that you obey these rules without question; the deference to older people as being wiser and thus worthy of your respect (How does this follow? I meet so many stupid, older people everyday.); the insane traffic in Lagos, with every driver trying to be ‘smarter’ than everyone else and so contributing to increasingly gridlocked roads; the perpetual lack of electricity, which means that, although you might pay your bills faithfully each month and indeed be harassed by PHCN for not putting up a copy of your receipt on your gate as proof of payment, you still have no electricity far more times than you actually do. And besides, how much work can you get done when you are constantly switching over from PHCN to the generator and then back again?

And the list goes on …….

Well, this is life in Nigeria. Some days are definitely better than others. On some days, I remember all the reasons I wanted to move back home. And on others, I’m just spilling over with impatience and rage.

Life goes on nonetheless.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A Quiet Weekend

Now this one was very different from the one before. It was very much a time for recharging my (quite spent) batteries. I napped on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons (and I hardly ever sleep during the day).

I was able to devote time to private projects and finish reading a book. I'd almost forgotten what that felt like, with so much time torn between work, Internet and the general business of life. With so much going on, reading can often feel like a luxury that I cannot afford. I finished Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull. I've never lived in Paris, but I understood the ups and downs of adjusting to life in a new place. I'm not sure that I want to do a lot more moving around in my life (at least to another country), but with life you never know.

I am still reading Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks. It's not a difficult or uninteresting book, but it is dense with ideas and I need to take my time ruminating over them as I read. So I may be at that for a while longer.

I started Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer, which I had been thinking about getting for a while. Short stories tend to be so unsatisfying for me, so I tend to stay away but something drew me in with this. So far, so good.....

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Nigeria HIV Info.com .... is an initiative set-up by the media in response to the discrimination faced regularly by people living with HIV and AIDS. I don't know how long they have been around, but I hope that this site, and the other work they are doing, will go a long way in providing people with accurate information about HIV/AIDS and reducing the surrounding stigma.

The Weekend

I'm normally a homebody, so this was my "going out" weekend. I went "out" everyday from Friday through to Sunday - and by "out", I mean I went places that required me to be somewhat social, and not just to buy my weekly supply of yogurt and snacks for work (which I also did, BTW).

On Friday, I had dinner with friends at Yellow Chilli. This restaurant is tucked away somewhere behind Bar Beach Towers in a very low-key area. I had heard good things about the food there and was happy to discover that they were all totally warranted. The menu was Nigerian and my food was off the hook, so I will be back there. Afterwards, it was off to Thistle Bar for drinks and music. The crowd was somewhat older than I expected, but also far less pretentious. The bar obviously has its devoted crowd, who return there week after week - or at least so it seemed. The easy camaraderie was unlike anything that I had seen in any other Victoria-Island establishment. Aside from having to fend off a couple of slightly inebriated admirers and being subjected to deafening arguments about the energy and telecommunications sectors and (what else?) politics at the next table, I enjoyed the vibe there.

Saturday saw me attending an afro-salsa concert put on by the band Salvador Sango at the Goethe Institute. Salvador Sango, as the name implies, plays a fusion of African and Cuban beats and is led by Sotiris Papadopoulos, a Greek musician who has lived in Nigeria for the last 17 years. (This is totally off the topic and deserves it's own post, but foreigners who choose to live in Nigeria really intrigue me – particularly foreigners who are not making boatloads of money here. Nigeria is a beautiful country, with great weather and, mostly, friendly people, but it IS a tough place to be. Consequently, I have always thought of Nigeria as a place that only a Nigerian could love enough to live in, but of course I know enough people to disprove that notion.)
Afterwards, at Prime Chinese, I got an eyeful of something that I REALLY did not need to see: a girl wearing her jeans so low that her butt crack was in plain sight for all to see. Now WHY did we need to see that????

Moving on very swiftly .... on Sunday, courtesy of friends, I discovered an oasis of Indian food in Lagos. Hmm, the name fails me now, but it's called Bombay something or the other. I’m a big believer that all-you-can-eat offerings are usually not as well prepared as dishes that are specially prepared for you, but this buffet was actually quite good, so I can only imagine how good their food would be were I to go there at any other time. It was, all in all, a great weekend, though it felt very weird to have barely touched my computer or a book.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Valentines’ Day Wahala

Now, I really don’t get this. I never have and don’t think I ever will. The fuss made about V-Day is, to my mind, overblown – and that’s putting it mildly.

In the States and in England, I always saw it as a huge marketing gimmick. Indeed, the stores seemed to profit quite nicely from this silly celebration. I don’t mean to suggest that it is silly to celebrate love, but to earmark one ENTIRE day out of 365 to show that special someone how much you really care counts as a truly woeful effort in my book!

Now back home, I am seeing the seriousness with which people regard this day taken to a whole new level. The promos for special Valentines’ Day dinners, weekend getaways, etc; as well as the ads by various shops for the de rigeur tokens of love (teddy bears, flowers, chocolates, wine, underwear – could we be any less imaginative people?) are everywhere. But, when I read that it is a common occurrence for people to leave work early to get a head start on their celebrations, I thought that was taking things too far. Call me cynical. Call me jaded, but you can’t call me a Valentines’ Day fool.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Discovering Some New Book Blogs

I found these on Black Looks (she has an extensive list of links, btw).

First is the blog belonging to author Tayari Jones. I read a profile on her in Essence magazine sometime last year and shortly after read her book The Untelling, which I thought was very good. I am looking forward to reading her first novel, Leaving Atlanta, whenever I get my hands on a copy.

Colored Girls is another book-themed site (also discovered on Black Looks), but this one devoted to female writers of color.

The Amazing Grace

Almost saw this film yesterday. Directed by young filmmaker Jeta Amata (also a member of the famous Amata family), this film was shot for cinema release (unlike the rest of Nollywood fare, which are mostly straight-to-video). Hopefully, The Amazing Grace and other films like it will herald in a new era of professionalism in the Nigerian movie industry. There are definitely a new crop of young, talented filmmakers out there eager to unleash their creativity onto the local movie scene - and we all know it needs it (BADLY!!).

Article: Africans, camera, action: 'Nollywood' catches world's eye, the Christian Science Monitor

In Memory: Coretta Scott King

I read yesterday that Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., passed away in the early hours of the day. She had been in ill-health since suffering a stroke last August ago.

After her husband's death in 1968, Mrs. King continued to campaign for civil rights and non-violent social change. In 1969 she founded the Martin Luther King Jr Centre for Non-violent Social Change in Atlanta and in 1986 her husband's January birthday was recognised as a national holiday.

Read more about the life of this incredible woman on the New York Times and the BBC sites.