[ To Express, To Reflect, To Give Back ]

Falling in love with Animated Films

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Growing up in the south of India in 80s and 90s, for many many years, all we had was a couple of cartoon/animated series on over the air Public Television (DD) over the weekend. I will never forget the mornings crashing in front of the TV right before the start of “He Man and the Masters of the Universe”. The next half hour would go by just mesmerized by fantastic rendition of intergalactic battles. Long Live YouTube, you can now go back and replay these episodes at your leisure on Youtube page for He Man and the Masters of the Universe

He Man and Masters of Universe

And then, there was Spider Man! Spider Man! in the afternoon. Occasionally, we will also see Mickey and Donald, and of course, the ever adorable, Tom and Jerry will kindle our appetite just enough to run into the TV room the following Sunday.

All that was growing up as a Kid.

Now, as a grown up adult (or you could argue, still growing up kid, if you were my wife!), I am still a fan of animated movies. May be it is the still-a-kid in me or may be the animated movies are intentionally made for the grown ups (exactly as Pixar would want us to think). Either way, if I pay with my whole heart for new, full-priced home DVDs, you can bet its likely an animated movie.

The grown up inspiration in fact started only midway. Between the age of about 15 and 22 or so I vaguely remember watching anything animation. And then one day, I saw Spirited Away.

Most don’t know this movie and among those who saw, some didn’t like it, but it was a blessing and god send to rejuvenate the animation fan inside me. I think even the best directors at Pixar were largely inspired by Hayao Miyazaki – the masterful animation director from Japan who created Spirited Away. I haven’t watched any of his other films, but this one was a compelling testament to his vision and abilities. The rest of my journey is anyone’s guess. From Toy Story to Finding Nemo, I have religiously followed many of Pixar’s and other popular animation productions.

And then, there are the independents such as the Sita Sings the Blues by Nina Paley. Barring some extreme rendition of Indian mythology, this animation short was a gem for not only its creative vision, but also for music and narration. Another one that comes to mind in Caroline which is a stop-motion, nevertheless, fantastic creativity and execution. I stumbled upon an article about Caroline in, of all the places, a design and architecture magazine. Should I say I rented it right after that?

To wrap up, If you are a animation fan like me, this article “Animated Films for Grown-Ups” by Matt Baldwin at The Morning News has a good collection that would keep you going for a while. Go Click away!

Knowledge Park – Humble Beginnings @ Coimbatore

Monday, November 15th, 2010

It has been my wish for a few years now to open up a children’s library in Coimbatore around where I grew up. Having been exposed to how young children in the US grow up reading from a young age, I recognized the need to close that gap with children in India. While there are public libraries and even libraries at many schools, most children in India are not into reading, leave alone, using a library regularly. I had been wanting to do my part to close that gap in whatever ways I could.

Children at Inaguration of Library

When my parents visited US this past summer, I had proposed the idea of doing something about this and they immediately agreed to shepherd the project, host it in our house in Kavundampalayam in Coimbatore. I promised to help with getting the necessary stuff to them. I had introduced my parents to the local library here in bridgewater and their mindset expanded significantly after seeing what’s available for public here. After a couple of months of planning – the most critical of which is to find the right set of books at a price that we can afford (of course, personal money so far). I shopped around New Jersey for 100+ children’s books (used books is a great start!) and my father-in-law donated a box full of books from his well-kept library. Harini’s recent trip to India was timely to carry 30 lbs of books from US to India. With pains from family members in shipping and transporting books from US to Chennai to Coimbatore, and some planning and marketing by my mother to children around the area, we were finally set to make our wish a reality.

Makeshift Nameboard

On November 14th, on the eve of Children’s day, the library was inaugurated – under the name of “Knowledge Park”. My brother and his wife had incidentally made it from Dubai to be part of this humble beginnings. About 30 or so children from the neighborhood, along with their parents, showed up to start using the free service. I am told that children, in the age group 4 to 15, were excited to instantly read some of the comic books and young adult story books that caught their imagination – likely attracted by the title and cover graphic!. The kids assured my mom to continue to read from the library every day. Most of the children are from middle or lower-middle class with little or no access to books outside of school curriculum and hence their parents were thankful and appreciative of our efforts.

Thanks to family members and some friends, what was a simply a wish for a while is now beginning to take shape. Though it is tiny in scale (and that’s all two lonely elders in their 60s can manage and service)- my extended wishes for it to sustain its mission, grow in value, expand into more books in English and Tamil, and into other value-added stuff such videos, games etc, as we take baby steps in making this a meaningful venture.

My hope is that we have introduced at least a few kids to the habit of reading at a young age (who otherwise would grow up largely ignorant, naive and unaware) that will make them grow up to be better citizens of India.