Friday, June 29, 2012

Q&A- A Novel by Vikas Swarup- An Inspiration of Slumdog Millionaire Movie

It was year 2009 when I saw the movie Slumdog Millionaire and I was amazed with the twists and turns of the story. The inspiration of the story of Slumdog Millionaire movie is the book entitled Q&A written by Vikas Swarup. I just got the chance to read the book. There are some alterations in the movie version (as usual) but the book version is full of intense, action, drama and mind boggling scenes. I will never get tired reading this novel again because you will learn about the culture of India and the trick of survival.

At the back of the book, there are 14 discussion questions about the novel. For the sake of arguments, I will post my answers to these questions here.

1. Why does  Vikas Swarup choose the name “Ram Mohammad Thomas” for his protagonist?

I think the reason why the author selected this name is because he wants to invite international readers. He wants to emphasize that eventhough the settings, the characters and the concept of of the novel is all about India, everybody can still relate to the story. No matter what race you are, as long as you can read, you can relate to this novel. So a combination of a Christian, Indian and Muslim name is a good idea.

2. Ram has a recurring dream of a tall woman with black hair that obscures her face. At what moments does he have this dream, and why? What does this woman represent? Is he his biological mother? A symbol of hope? Abandonment?

The dream about that woman recurs when Ram is in a situation of compassion. This happened when he became a brother to Gudiya and to Shankar. The common denominator between Gudiya and Shankar is, they are both helpless. Ram himself is a helpless boy, but he still extends help to other helpless kids like him. This help comes in a form of support or compassion or protection, other than that, he could offer no more. When he is in this kind of situation, the woman appears in her dream which for me is a symbol of hope. It’s ironic because the dream will recur when he is in a helpless situation. The woman is just like giving him the hope to go on  because the figure resembles to her mother.

3. In telling Gudiya’s story, Ram asks, “But what was Gudiya’s crime? Simply that she was born a girl and Shantaram was her father? Are there other women in this novel who are treated poorly simply because of their sex? Do any female characters not need Ram’s protection? How would you describe his relationship with other women?

Ram so far helped 4 helpless women in this novel. First is Gudiya, Ram’s neighbour who was maltreated and abused by her own father. Second is Neelima Kumari, an actress where Ram works as a servant, she was deliberately abused by her boyfriend and the society. Third is Meenakshi, a passenger in the train molested by a robber. And the last woman he helped was Nita, a prostitute girl and the love of his life. All these women, if not abused sexually, have been abused physically. However, some women like that of the Haiti girl and the mother of Shankar are wicked. They possess strong personality and power to become predator instead of prey. They are both antagonists in Ram’s eye.

4. Several characters, especially Ram and Salim, are big movie fans. Are movies simply a form of escapism or do they carry a more significant role in the culture?

Movie actually played a vital role in this novel. Aside from Salim and Ram’s obsession over movies, several characters like Neelima and Armaan Ali showed to us the scenes behind the camera. While Salim and Ram agreed that watching movie is a scapegoat of reality, the actors and actresses who played the role in the movie struggle to cover the reality. People expect them to act this way, to look like this, to react like that and to possess something. But they could not keep the show forever. As much as they keep as entertained by diverting our attentions from harsh reality, they too have their own issues in life. If we can escape from reality by watching movies, how can the people behind the movie escape their own realities?

5. What are Ram’s ambitions in life? Why does he tell Prem Kumar he doesn’t know how he’s going to spend the billion rupees?

Seeing that he is working as a waiter in a lowly bar, Ram has a simple ambition in life- that is to marry the love of her life and live a simple life. He was not able to answer Kumar’s question because he is not after the money in the first place. He was there to take revenge for Nita. If you will be asked of something you are not after or not interested with, you too will react the same as in Ram’s reaction in this story.

6. Why does Ram turn in Colonel Taylor? Is this the retribution for the colonel’s spying, his derogatory comments about Indians, or for the way he treats his family? Or does Ram just want to collect his wages before returning to Mumbai.

I may say, ALL OF THE ABOVE. The Colonel has been so good to him, and in return Ram showed loyalty to his master for several years. He worked hard for the Colonel because he trusts him, they both trust each other. While Colonel Taylor treated him well, he could not really take how he calls Indians as “Bloody Indians”. But he just let it pass because he is good to him. If you stay in one roof with the other person, you will get to know him better, and Ram discovered more nasty stuffs about the Colonel such as spying and hurting his wife and kids. You know that if you are considerate with things around you, time will come that your patience will run out. Ram did not turn in Colonel Taylor for revenge, he did it to correct what has gone wrong with the Colonel.

7. “The city may have chosen to ignore the ugly growth of Dharavi, but a cancer cannot be stopped simply by being declared illegal”. Are there any problems that go unacknowledged because they’re too painful to face? If so, what impact does this have on the characters?

The injustices in the society are the prime issue that we must face but we are too afraid to face and resolve it. Salim and Ram could always turn to the police if they found murder or robbery or any form of crime, but they could not do so because they could not even trust the police. Everybody in the community, whether you are the victim or you are the suspect, are all victims of an unjust and crooked society. If you grow up witnessing all these kind of crimes, what kind of outlook in life will develop in you? We could not blame murderers, robbers and all the people doing illegal, because nobody stopped them and nobody has the courage to tell them upfront that what they are doing is wrong. Unless justice is served, the cancer in the community will continue to grow.

8. What do you think of Salim’s decision to give Ahmed, the hit man, a picture of Maman? Did Salim have another choice? Is he guilty of murder? Did Ram have other options besides throwing Shantaram down the stairs? Are these violent acts justifiable considering the behaviour of the victims?

If you know that a good man will be killed and you have the option to change the target, I am sure you will choose the person you loathe with to replace the target. Salim has the opportunity to change it, and it is wise of him to choose Maman because this man has been hunting him and did not treat him well when he was still under his custody. In fact, Salim has no other choice. It is either he will let Ahmed kill the person who can help him fulfil his dream or replace the target to a person who is hunting him to death. Salim murdered Maman, but in the account of Ahmed, so it’s justifiable. Ram is the one who committed murder when he threw Shantaram down the stairs because he did it with his own hands. But both Salim and Ram are just defending themselves. If they will not do anything to kill their oppressors, they will be the one who will get killed. It’s a survival of the fittest; you must defeat your enemy to survive. Seeing that both Shantaram and Maman are both bad guys, Ram and Salim just did the right thing.

9. Consider the impact of Western culture on Ram. He dreams eating at places such as McDonalds and Pizza Hut, and he practices “speaking Australian.” Why is this important to him? What does the West signify him?

For somebody who grew up in a chawl independently, the thought of a Western culture is a dream that temporarily let him forget the reality of India. Dealing with Western culture made Ram feel first class, he is even proud he could speak English because he know this is his passport to deal with other people.

10. Why does Ram want to have a “manageable dream”? What does he mean by this? And does this conflict with him appearing on a game show to win one billion rupees?

He has been into a lot of troubles and his journey in life has not been that “manageable”. When he says “manageable dream”, he means a simple dream, a simple life and a happy lifestyle. He wants to stay as simple as possible that he went to the game show without even dreaming of winning one billion rupees. He was there for a different reason. But when he was able to streaked the questions and he was offered undeniable amount of money, Ram knows that this money can take him to a dream beyond manageable.

11. Considering he believes he’s already murdered two people, why is Ram unable to kill Prem Kumar?

Because Prem Kumar’s case is different. He planned to kill Prem Kumar while the first two murders he committed were just spur of the moment decision. Those were acts of self defence, he needs to kill those people to survive, to fight and to live. However, with Prem Kumar, he planned to kill him for the sake of revenge. If he will kill him, this will make him a certified murderer.

12. How do you think Ram changes, if at all, during his eighteen years? Which journey had the greatest impact on him, either for better or worse?

I think the journey with Nita had the greatest impact with him. When he met Nita, he knows he will marry her and this is the first time he fell in love with a woman. Because of this love, Ram learned how to fight hard and broke the law just to protect and save Nita. With all those 18 years of journey, Ram learned a lot in life. This learning is far beyond the education could offer. It is through his experience that he learned how to deal with injustices in life.

13. “I realized a long time ago that dream have power only over your own mind; but with money you can have power over the minds of others”. In relation to this novel, would you agree with this statement? Are there characters without money that are able to influence others?

I don’t agree with the statement. Look at how Ram influenced Gudiya, Salim and Shantar. He even influenced the housemaid of Shantar’s mother not to steal. He doesn’t have much money to influence these people, but still he was able to talk to them, convince them and make them feel somebody without money cares for them. If you want to influence other people, you can do that with your money, but with your kindness and sincerity, your influence is better than the influence of money.

14. Despite his lack of formal education, Ram is able to answer twelve questions correctly in order to win a billion rupees. What do you envision the future holds for Ram?

Ram is a street smart kid. If he was able to answer the questions without learning them from school, he can manage his money using his own instinct. He met a businessman, he met a colonel, he met an actress and he met a priest. I’m sure Ram knows how these people managed their money and maintain their wealth. With one billion rupees, Ram can kick start a wonderful life and rest assured that this money is in good hand. He is a wise kid with great instinct, so nothing to worry.

VIkas Swarup did a wonderful job for this novel. I learned a lot not only with the culture of India but also on how to deal with life’s injustices. If you will stay humble, strong and sincere, justice will be served in due time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How to Know if a Medical Course is Right for you?


When I was young, I wanted to be a doctor. I imagined myself wearing white laboratory gown and dealing with wounds and bloods and what not. I was still young then and brave enough to declare that I will become  a healer someday.

But that dream has faded when I realized that it’s not easy to become a doctor or to take any medical courses in that sense. Aside from the fact that it requires money and brain, you also need to have a passion on medicine. Even medical teaching course and medical management course requires dedication and effort and time to learn the materials. It’s not an easy path to take, but this profession is very rewarding.

Despite the level of difficulty, many young people still want to pursue career in medicine. But before you enrolled in a medical course, consider the following steps to identify if this course is really for you.

1.      Seek Advice

I’m sure that your parents and your family will support your cause but I am sure they also have something to say about your choice. Ask them for any advice. Their words can help you decide whether to pursue the medical career or not.
You can also seek professional advice. You may ask relatives or friends who are into medical profession. If their experiences spark your interest, then this maybe the right career path for you.

2.      Consider your options

Medicine is a very broad area of expertise. If you have fully decided to pursue a career in medicine, you need to carefully select what are would you like to study. You can try consultant interview course, maybe nursing course, pediatrician, obstetrician or optometrist. There are a lot of choices, so you must consider your options carefully.

3.      Know your battlefield

There are more than 101 things you need to know before starting a medical school. In order to win a battle, familiarize your battle field, know your enemies, do your homework and prepare for whatever may come ahead of you. Even when you teach the teacher course, you still need to prepare yourself.

Being a doctor isn't all about grades, you are studying to save the life of the people. People will rely their health and life on you, so you must be serious when you choose this path.

Nobody could really tell you if medicine is the right course for you. Only you can tell it. Just bear in mind that this is not just a career, this is a choice. Decide wisely.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Parable of the Scarborough Shoal and the Nest

This is the epic and the controversial Scarborough Shoal:

This is the reason why Philippines and China are not in good terms. Both countries are claiming territory over the Scarborough Shoal and nobody wants to compromise their own prejudices.

Human as we are, we tend to really grasp on what we think we own. If somebody claims ownership over the things that we own, we tend to go haywire because it is human instinct to defend ownership.

I know how it feels to be bullied, one moment you are enjoying your ice cream, and the next moment somebody will grab it out of your hand and claim that the ice cream is theirs. Eventhough you and the bully know that you are the real owner of the ice cream, you can’t do anything but try to get back your ice cream to the best of your martial arts ability, and if you can’t still get it back, use your ultimate sumbong power.

When I was a kid, I am fond of climbing trees. I maybe can’t justify it now but I am really a tree climber way back elementary days. There was this one instance that I literally created a nest in the guyabano tree. And because I am not a bird, I can’t really create a perfect nest, so what I did was, I put some haystacks on the tree branch and leave it there hoping that a lazy preggy bird will find it and will form the haystacks into a nest. I was so excited that every other day, I kept on checking for any progress. On the first day, no signs of progress. Second day, still, no nest created. Third day, I was so frustrated because the birds did not bite on my bait. Just when I am about to give up on the fourth day, I found out that the scattered haystacks are now formed into a nest, and as a bonus, I saw three small eggs of a bird. I was so excited and happy that time but I did not touch the eggs because they said mother birds can actually sense if human has touched their eggs or even the nest. And if they found out that somebody touches it, they will abandon the nest and the poor eggs. So I was careful not to touch it. I checked the nest every other day and my life rotates around that nest for quite several days. One day, this kid from the neighbourhood excitedly approached me in one of the regular playing sessions. He said he want to show me something he found. When he showed to me his precious discovery, I saw three little cute birdies perking out of the nest and I know that it belongs to me. It was my nest. I know how it looks like because I visited and checked it every day. I memorized every strip of haystack and how it was knitted by the bird. Before he bragged about it, I told him that it was my nest and that he got that nest from the guyabano tree. He did not deny that he got it from the guyabano tree, but he could not accept the fact that I own the nest. I can’t defend myself because I have no signed document that I organized the nest for these three little birdies. He turned his back and run off with my precious nest and the three small birds. I cried so hard. I think that’s the loudest cry I ever made so far. I can still feel it now, the pain, the betrayal, the guilt and the remorse. I have really no intention to get that nest out of the tree because in the first place, I don’t own it. I am just an instrument to organize a nest for a mother bird and her three birdies. I know I can’t hold them forever, but looking at the nest on the hand of the other kid is another story. I swear I could kill a kid that time for taking something they don’t own. I don’t know what happened to the nest, I don’t know what happened to the birdies and I don’t know what happened to the mother bird. But I realized one thing, if you take ownership over somebody’s property, it will trigger a long term war.

I don’t know what will happen now between China and Philippines. Hopefully, the issue will be settled through a peaceful talk because if not, I smell war, a long term war.

God Bless the Scarborough Shoal.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

My Cast of Characters for 50 Shades of Grey Movie

Fifty shades of Grey is the first book of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by British Author E.L. James. The first Fifty shades novel has been published in a Twilight fan fiction under the title Master of the Universe. It was then developed into a novel and sold around 10 Million copies worldwide. The novel contains explicit erotic scenes, that is why it has been considered as an erotic fiction novel. Fifty Shades series includes Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.

Without the sex scenes and the unique character of Anastasia Steele, I would say that the plot of the story is the usual romantic stories we heard somewhere. It’s the usual girl meets boy, love at first sight, in denial state, getting to know each others state, and you know what will happen next. But the element of the characters of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey made the story more appealing. You will really learn to love them in this novel as they journey together and confuse their relationship with lust and love. And the sex scene, yeah, you could not resist it. I could not tell more though.

I heard that they will produce a movie adaptation of the novel. While reading it, I assigned actors and actresses to the characters in my imagination. So if ever the novel 50 shades of Grey becomes a movie, this will probably my bet for the cast of characters:

Anastasia Steele

Based on the story, Ana’s character is smart, vulnerable and brave. She’s not good at pretending, so poker face is not her cup of tea. I mean, if she’s hiding something, you can easily discover it because her expressions are obvious. She is innocently sexy, you know, a girl who’s sexiness is being levelled by her innocence. Of course, she’s stunningly gorgeous but she’s just so modest that she’s not aware about it. She maybe vulnerable in different aspects, but she knows how to play her game.

I think Anne Hathaway can fit in the role.

Anne Hathaway as Anastasia Steele

Katherine Kavanagh

She’s articulate, strong, persuasive, argumentative, beautiful.

She’s the best friend to Ana. She is tenacious especially with her journalistic character. When she asks you, she won’t let you go unless you’ll give accurate and honest answer. Although she’s stubborn and inquisitive, she’s a good and caring friend that she would always think of your welfare.

There's only one girl I know would perfectly fit the role of Kate, no other than the Transformers babe, Megan Fox.

Megan Fox as Katherine Kavanagh

Christian Grey

A young business magnate.  Well, let Anastasia Steele describe Mr. Christian Grey:

Holy cow – he’s so young. So young – and attractive, very attractive. He’s tall, dressed in a fine gray suit, white shirt, and black tie with unruly dark copper colored hair and intense, bright gray eyes that regard me shrewdly. It takes a moment for me to find my voice.

And this is Mr Grey’s description of himself:

I’m very good at judging people. I know how they tick, what makes them flourish, what doesn’t, what inspires them, and how to incentivize them. I employ an exceptional team, and I reward them well. My belief is to achieve success in any scheme one has to make oneself master of that scheme, know it inside and out, know every detail. I work hard, very hard to do that. I make decisions based on logic and facts. I have a natural gut instinct that can spot and nurture a good solid idea and good people. The bottom line is, it’s always down to good people.

I want Justine Hartley to play his role. Yes, Oliver Queen of Smallville.

Justine Hartley as Christian Grey

Jose Rodriguez

He’s tall, and in his jeans and t-shirts he’s all shoulders and muscles, tanned skin, dark hair and burning dark eyes. Yes, Jose’s pretty hot.

I go for Ian Somerhalder for this role. According to rumor, producers are eyeing him to play the role of Christian Grey, but I think he is more on Jose Rodriguez than Christian Grey.

Ian Somerhalder as Jose Rodriguez

Paul Clayton

Paul is one of Ana’s love interest in the story. This is how she described Paul.

Paul is cute in a whole­some all-American boy-next-door kind of way, but he’s no literary hero, not by any stretch of the imagination.

I will pick Gale of Hunger Games- Liam Hemsworth to play the role of Paul Clayton. I'm sure Miley Cyrus will be happy for this. :)

Elliot Grey

Elliott is Christian’s brother.

Elliot is tall with wide shoulders, curly blonde hair, and light, wickedly gleaming eyes.

I don't have really a good idea who will fit this role, but I guess it's safe to pick up from the youngsters. How about Sean Cassidy?

Sean Cassidy as Elliot Grey


He is the right hand man of Christian. He is the driver, the security guard, the escort and everything that Christian can entrust.

Taylor is ex-army and capable of driving anything from a motorcycle to a Sherman Tank.

So maybe he is somebody in his mid 40s or 50s but with strong physical attributes and a nice smile.

Ok, I'll go for Mr. Tommy Lee Jones:

So how about you, who would you like to play as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey movie version?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Refreshing Afternoon with Honeydew Frost with Figaro Tea

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.

It’s a Monday afternoon and while most of the people are busy doing their first day of the week tasks, I am enjoying it like it’s a weekend. It’s so hot that I almost melted, so I have this sudden obsession with Milk Tea. I am not really a milk tea drinker and I don't know much about that, so I guess it won't harm if I'm going to try it.

In a tropical country like Philippines where sun is omnipresent all year round, sometimes you need to sit back, relax and refresh.

When you are looking for a place where you can sip awesome milk tea and eat good food while surfing the internet, I recommend Figaro. This is located at The Peak of the Gaisano Mall Davao City.

The place is so awesome because you don’t need to stay inside the air conditioned coffee shop to feel cool. When you stay outside, you can breathe fresh air which is a better alternative.

But you can also stay inside the shop if you want.

When you are at Figaro, try their newest milk tea craze, the Honeydew Frost with Figaro Tea.

You can get this for only P100. You know what is good with Honeydew Frost? You can really feel the presence of the tea. A few sip of Honeydew frost will make bad vibes go away. I really like it that it has become my instant favourite. I was so thrilled with the cooling sensation effect. For me. it's too perfect to be true, or maybe I am just thirsty. Aside from the Honeydew Frost, they also have Wintermelon Frost, I haven't got a chance to try that one because I know I am already overspending for a milk tea. But it's worth every single buck.

I also like Honeydew Frost because you can just partner it with any food in the counter. It’s perfect with a slice of cake, or with a piece of bread, and even with Tuna Pie.

If you shop at Gaisano Mall and you feel like chilling out, visit Figaro coffee shop with your family at The Peak of the mall.

It’s a perfect place to chill out. Sip. Dine. And Surf.