Ender’s Game – Book versus Movie

I finally watched “Ender’s Game” a few days after completing the book. I appreciated that much of the dialogue and the story remained the same but I found the movie to be rather boring and lacked any sense of threat which was prominent in the book. The fact that these children were bred as soldiers and had no real sense of childhood is not expressed in the film. Characters which were rather pivotal in the book were peripheral in the film. I totally understand that a film can never incorporate everything that is contained in a novel but I feel there was a lot more that could have been done in the film to real get the story to work. Sir Ben Kingsley is prominent on all promotions of the film yet his character in the film is a cameo. Harrison Ford who has a far greater appearance in the film is rather wooden. That said my girlfriend watched the film with me, having never read the book and she enjoyed the film.

Books still rule.

Advertisements

SLEEP

She bent down and gently kissed his forehead, then stepped across the plush carpeted floor and slipped on her Hushpuppies. I have to do this, she told herself. She picked up her hand luggage and stepped out the room. She paused at the doorway and looked back in. There she saw her life, evident in her bedroom, the comfort, the happiness, the wealth and all there. Her eyes shifted and found her husband. A wave of emotions rushed through her; gushing from her heart. He was everything to her: he gave her his love, filling her world with happiness.

Pictures of their lives together cascaded through her mind. The good, the bad, the love, the passion, the dreams…. Tears dripped down her pale, cold cheeks, unnoticed. Her body wept; her mind and soul cried.

Her husband stirred in their bed wrenching her back from her thoughts.

I have to go, now! It is better this way, better that he does not know, safer that he does not know, easier that he does not know.

Tears still falling she turned around and walked hastily down the flight of stairs; each step causing more heartache, taking her further away from her life.

The urge to turn and run straight back to her bedroom and her life; so strong; but she knew that they were close. She felt it.

They knew where she was. They would get her soon. She had to go, save herself, save her husband. They were after her, no one else needed to get hurt.

She turned the handle of the front door carefully and stepped out onto what was a familiar street. Today however it was strange and distant.

“Jack!” screamed Amy running down the hall of the art museum. Jack turned; horror gripped him as he saw Amy, his sister – in – law. She ran down the hall towards him, her red hair dancing wildly about her. Her face eclipsed by anxiety, looked scared, quite unlike its usual happy countenance.

“We tried calling,” she stammered as she reached him, “but your cell is off.”

“Amy, what’s wrong?”

“It’s Sarah, she’s at the hospital, it’s critical.”

“What… what’s wrong, what happened?” Somewhere inside he felt his heart plummet; fear and panic penetrated his peaceful world.

“I’ll explain on the way. Let’s go.” She grabbed his arm and hurried him out onto the street. They hopped into her Tazz, the engine hummed, tyres screeched as they raced to the hospital.

Jack sat uncomfortably in the passenger seat gripping the seat belt. Were it a normal day he would have chastised her for her characteristic horrific driving

“Amy, what exactly happened to Sarah?” Jack stuttered

“There was a robbery at the bank today,” rambled Amy fighting back her tears.

“Yes, but what does that have to do with Sarah?”

“She was at the bank today, Jack. The robbers panicked and opened fire, shooting at random. Sarah was hit, and the only other thing I know is that her condition is quite dicey.”

Jack numbed as the news pierced his ears forcing him to take cognizance of it.

How could this happen? This morning was so perfect. A bright morning, a wonderful breakfast in bed, everything seemed so right. Sarah shot. How could this happen? She’s such a wonderful, caring person. She’s always safe and careful; she never gets involved in trouble. She has such a huge heart. She was loved by so many. She has so much still to do and see in life. She’s so young. How could this be happening? How bad is it? Will she live?

Of course she’ll live, it is not her time. She’ll be fine, She will pull through in no time, I’m positive about it.

I hope it will all be okay. God, I hope she will be fine.

The red Tazz screeched to a halt with burning rubber at the entrance of the hospital. Jack jumped out. His neat, salt and pepper hair blew into his glasses, his Mont Blanc fell from the pocket of his tweed blazer as he bolted into the hospital foyer.

The street was quiet, peaceful, and clean; too clean, especially for that early in the morning. Where were all the neighbourswho were usually up and about at this part of the day? It was a lovely, sunny morning. She stopped for a while to bask in the warmth of the sunlight that glazed the world in gold.

Hold it, her mind enquired, wasn’t it just night? I am sure that when I left home it was night, and that was not such a long time ago.

The thought of home and everything that she had left behind her brought about fresh pain and sorrow.

Time changed unnoticed and although it looked like the street where she lived, Sarah knew that it was not. These thoughts played in her head for a while and then she thought, Obviously, everything seems different, that’s because I am different. My life is changing. I am walking away from what I know. I have to leave; I have to forget in an attempt to protect the ones I love.

That thought did not explain much, but it was the best that she could come up with and that was good enough for her, for now.

It was then that she noticed a little girl waving at her from across the street and almost telepathically, calling to her. She sauntered towards the girl who looked like a Botticelli cherub.

“Will you have some tea with us please?” asked the little girl.

Sarah smiled and followed her new friend to the backyard where a tea party awaited them.

“Sit please.” the girl gestured to an empty plastic stool as she removed a cup and saucer from the tea tray. She tipped over the teapot and filling their cups with the imaginary brew.

“My name is Angela. What’s your name?”

Jack sat at the side of his wife’s hospital bed clasping her hand. They always felt so soft and tiny in his. Her hands were cold. He wept, rubbing her hands to warm them in an attempt to keep her well.

“Wake up Sarah. Please baby wake up.”

He cried by her side for hours, family and friends came and left almost unnoticed. He sat vigil at her side, from the moment he got there. Eventually he fell asleep, his head on the edge of his wife’s bed. Sarah was a respected and loved pediatrician at the hospital and so Jack stayed with her all night, undisturbed by the visiting hours.

“What’s my name?” Again she was baffled. Surely she had a name. She knew she did yet what it was she did not remember. She felt lost, alone and estranged from this world and herself. It was right for her to be there, of that she was certain.

“Sarah”, the name whispered woefully from some distance. She shut her eyes for a while as she lifted her cup to her lips. Sarah, the name sounded right.

“My name is Sarah,” she said as she opened her eyes but the girl, her tea set, the backyard all vanished. Sarah stood alone on the quiet street once again.

She walked down the street of the alien world yet she was familiar with every rosebush, hedge, barking dog, traffic light, pothole and drunken vagabond. Despite the familiarity, something was definitely out off joint.

Coffee, that’s what I need. Sarah scanned the strange, familiar world and headed for ‘Pete’s Pot’, the local coffee shop.

The shop, usually a warm place, was a cold, sombre hole. Sarah sat at the counter and ordered a black filter coffee. Shortly someone sat next to her. Sarah faced the other person and discovered the little the girl from the garden, who smiled at her. Her doe eyes seemed no one colour in particular. They were not scary but brilliant with beauty and compassion. The girl looked right into Sarah’s eyes as if searching the depths of her soul.

“Who are you?” The little girl’s voice broke the silence, which lingered for eons as they stared into each other’s eyes.

“My name is Sa…,” she was about to give her name when she fell silent.

She knew this girl, not just from earlier that day, from somewhere in her past. Sarah sat dumbfounded as recognition dawned. The girl was her, or rather the spitting image of Sarah as a child. Her eyes were the only difference.

“But how…, who are you?’

The girl smiled, got up and left the shop as quietly as she had arrived

Jack stepped out of the hospital into the park adjacent to the parking lot. He sat on a bench and gazed at the water feature that stood at the centre. He was furious. He wanted to fight, to hammer someone or something. He settled for punching the bench, his tender, hand bruising easily.

“Jack, I just spoke to mum and we think you should go home and rest a while.” Amy seated herself on the bench trying very hard to project strength and optimism.

“How could He, it, do this? Sarah was a wonderful person.”

Jack looked to the sky crying out for some explanation and begging for his wife’s life. His pain and anger was as much a part of him as his hair, nose or teeth.

“Don’t take her away from me.”

Amy reached across and embraced her friend who buried his face in her shoulder. They sat there for a while holding each other offering the comfort, support and understanding that lives in the heart of friends.

Sarah ran down the road. She came to an abrupt halt. She was nowhere. There was absolutely nothing around her but a four-way crossing amongst vast emptiness. Sarah acknowledged that although she was running from ‘them’ she did not know whom ‘they’ were.

“Hello Sarah.”

Jolted by the sudden voice, Sarah almost screamed. The child from the coffee shop manifested before her.

“Who are you?”

“The question, Sarah, is who are you? And what or who are you running from?”

Sarah fumbled, how does one answer that question?

Who am I? Who is anybody? What kind of questions were these?

Am I my name, sex, race, religion, occupation? These are all irrelevant.

“I don’t know.” was the only reply she had.

“Who are you, and where are we?”

“I,” the girl replied, “I am you. You are me. We are nowhere yet we are everywhere.

We are, to some extent, the same being. In your mind, you ran away from home, hoping that “they” would not harm your husband but “they” would not harm either of you, besides they will get him eventually when the time is right.

There was no need to run. You were running from me and here we are. We would have found each other, it was, and always will be inevitable. Death is always the destination on the long journey of life.”

“Death!” gasped Sarah, “What’s going on. Please, none of this makes any sense.”

The girl’s expression grew intense. In her eyes was an ancient light.

“You are here and so you are dying. Your soul is no longer a part of the physical.

Death is not what you think it to be. What you see death as an end a perpetual deep sleep. Death is an awakening.”

“I’m sorry but I do not understand.”

“You have come to me like everything does. You are dying in the physical world for ‘dying’ is the name you have given to the process of the release. You believe death to be the end yet we exist indefinitely.”

“Are you death?” Sarah cried out frustrated.

The girl nodded, “I serve that purpose, but I am also life. I exist beyond life and death, beyond light and darkness.”

“What are you, God?”

“Yes, I am God. I am Krishna, Jehovah, Christ, Allah, Buddha or any of the other millions of names that have existed through time. I am also none of your Gods. What you associate with God is your understanding of the eternal energy. None of the forms associated with me is me. I am beyond name and identities, but all your prayers in all your tongues fall upon my ears.”

Sarah froze, absorbing the encounter and the revelation. Deep within she knew all this to be the truth.

“Sarah it is time for you to come home. Return to the eternal energy.

I give you this chance now, to go and say your last goodbye to the physical world.”

“How will I find you again?”

“You are apart of me. It is not a matter of finding. It’s about realizing and accepting.”

The girl rose like an angel to whisper into Sarah’s ear and dissolved into the emptiness.

Jack and Amy burst into the hospital room. Sarah looked around at her family and friends that had assembled into her room feigning smiles.

Jack sat at her side.

Sarah’s hoarse voice broke through her parched throat and chapped lips.

“Jack, I want to tell you something before it is too late.”

Jack leaned closer to spare her from straining her voice.

Sarah whispered her message, kissed his cheek and closed her eyes.

“I love you too, endlessly.”

Jack kissed his beloved wife one last time and caressed her cheek as his tears fell onto the sheets.

Days after Sarah’s funeral, Jack was back at the art museum. He dealt with Sarah’s death far better than expected. He stood in the centre of the museum, staring overhead at a replica of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. He grew tired off standing and decided to lie on the floor. He continued to stare at the painting; grinning insanely.

Amy discovered him half an hour later, laying there. She went everyday since Sarah’s death. She was surprised and concerned to see Jack uncharacteristically lying on the floor.

“Jack, you okay?”

“Amy! Hey! I’m great, just admiring the artwork. Amazing isn’t it? Man’s fear of death. Sarah was not afraid. Thanks to her, neither am I.”

Jack rose and linked his arm through Amy’s.

“Let’s go and get some tea, maybe even something to eat before we go through the ritual. You ask if I am okay. You offer your help and shoulder. Convey your mother’s love and receive my standard, ‘I’m fine, thank you’. We’ll hug and go our separate ways until tomorrow.”

Amy froze.

“I’m sorry Jack. I didn’t realise how pathetic and depressing I had become. It’s just; you seem so at ease with everything, which is quite unusual considering recent events. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Everything is fine, don’t worry.” Jack hugged Amy and they continued their walk to the coffee-shop.

“Jack,” Amy starred uncomfortably in front of her as she spoke. “If you don’t mind me asking, what exactly did Sarah whisper into your ear before she died?”

Jack laughed, “Is nothing sacred? Well, if you must know, she told me she loved me. She told me never to doubt prayer. She left me with one final question to ponder on: do we live, and sleep occasionally or are we constantly asleep and just live briefly?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He took her hands in his, as if she were a child, and looking into her eyes he said,

“Life is a dream and in living it we fulfill it.”

 

Effective Communication – A Hindu Perspective

Om Namo Narayanaya, this seems like a mere greeting but it is not. How often do we see friends or family members and go “hello, how are you”, or “howsit”, “whatsup”, “good morning/afternoon/evening. While we may verbally inquire as to their well-being how often do we really want to pay attention to the response? In the same token how often does the respondent actually answer consciously as opposed to the knee-jerk reaction that these greetings develop into? In putting our palms together and pronouncing the greeting “Om Namo Narayanaya” we do far more than offer a mere greeting via lip service. It is the acknowledgment of the divinity that resides in all of us, that untainted atman. With this in mind once the initial greeting is done the atman does not suddenly disappear or become defunct, it is present always and thus communication needs to be respectful at all times. Our ability to communicate in varied and colourful ways is a gift from the divine that sets us apart from mere animals.

There is a game that many children have played at some point or another. It is a simple game that requires very little to play. Basically one child whispers a message into the ear of the next and the message is carried from one child to the next in a circle until it once again reaches the point of origin. The last child must announce the message received. The game is called broken telephone and the fun of the game lies in the various contortions that the message goes through along the way. This is a simple game but much truth is expressed in it. Communication is something that most of us take for granted. We learn to speak, read and write and thus are able to communicate. Like the game, communication is not a simple matter of spreading words and thoughts. Take the following story. It was Friday night and Raj and his wife, Nalini, had just had their third argument of the day. This resulted in neither of them speaking to the other. When it was time for bed however, Raj realized that he would need his wife’s help. The next day he was to meet his friends early in the morning for a game of golf. Nalini was in the habit of waking up at 4:30 am so he would ask her to wake him at 5:00am.    Not wanting to be the first to break the silence, Raj wrote on a piece of paper, “Nalini, please wake me at 5:00am.”
The next morning, Raj woke and discovered to his horror that it was after 9:00am, and he had missed the game with his friends. Furious, he was about to get out of bed and confront his wife when he noticed a piece of paper on his bedside table that read: “Raj, it’s 5:00am. Wake up.”

Effective communication requires that the message be delivered clearly and understood. This is a truth that was recognised millenia ago by the great Hindu sages. The Ramayana by sage Valmki clearly expresses the aspects of effective communication in the Kishkinda Kaand.

After Ravan abducted Mother Sita, Sri Rama and Lakshmana went in search of her and or any news of her. While searching they entered the territory of the Vanaras. Sri Hanumanji, being a trusted advisor of the Vanara King Sugriva, was sent to investigate the identity of the strangers, to ascertain whether they were friend or foe sent by the Sugriva’s brother, Vali, to spy on them.

Sri Hanumanji disguised himself as a mendicant and approached the exiled brothers. He questioned their identity and their motives before revealing his own.

In the Ramayana Sage Valmiki describes this episode in beautiful pros. It reads:

The son of Raghu joyed to hear

The envoy’s speech, and bright of cheer

He turned to Lakshmaṇ by his side,

And thus in words of transport cried:

“The counselor we now behold

Of King Sugríva righteous-souled.

His face I long have yearned to see,

And now his envoy comes to me

With sweetest words in courteous phrase

Answer this mighty lord who slays

His foemen, by Sugríva sent,

This Vánar chief most eloquent.

For one whose words so sweetly flow

The whole Rig-veda(547) needs must know,

And in his well-trained memory store

The Yajush and the Sáman’s lore.

He must have bent his faithful ear

All grammar’s varied rules to hear.

For his long speech how well he spoke!

In all its length no rule he broke.

In eye, on brow, in all his face

The keenest look no guile could trace.

No change of hue, no pose of limb

Gave sign that aught was false in him.

Concise, unfaltering, sweet and clear,

Without a word to pain the ear.

From chest to throat, nor high nor low,

His accents came in measured flow.

How well he spoke with perfect art

That wondrous speech that charmed the heart,

With finest skill and order graced

In words that knew nor pause nor haste!

That speech, with consonants that spring

From the three seats of uttering,(548)

Would charm the spirit of a foe

Whose sword is raised for mortal blow.

How may a ruler’s plan succeed

Who lacks such envoy good at need?

How fail, if one whose mind is stored

With gifts so rare assist his lord?

What plans can fail, with wisest speech

Of envoy’s lips to further each?”

When addressing the students of a Business Communication course in Chennai, Mr B S Raghavan, a bureaucrat who served under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, elaborated on the above mentioned episode. He spoke of seven aspects of skilled communication displayed by Hanumanji.  In the Ramayan Lord Rama turns to Lakshman, following Hanumaji’s speech and explains the important aspects of communication skills as displayed by Hanumanji:

1.      Hanumanji spoke very briefly.  Not too long or too short.

He spoke only for the required level;

2.      He also spoke with clarity and without ambiguity;

3.      He spoke without any grammatical errors;

4.      He used only appropriate words, that cannot be replaced with any other word;

5.      He spoke in a medium voice that is audible to the other person.
Not too loud or too feeble;

6.      His pronunciation of words was correct.  The way he was pronouncing the words was like a music and it was pleasant

7.      All the words spoken by him, went straight to the heart.

After this initial meeting Hanumanji takes Sri Rama and Lakshmana to meet his King Sugriva and an alliance is struck. Sugriva offered the services of himself and his court in searching for Mother Sita. Touched Sri Rama then asked Sugriva why he resided in the forest.

The recounting of Sugriva’s tale is an indication of how the lack of proper communication could lead to difficulties and suffering.

Once a demon threatened their kingdom so Sugriva’s brother, Vali, went off to fight it. Sugriva was instructed to wait a fortnight and if there was no sign of Vali… to consider him dead. A month after leaving to fight the demon Vali had not returned but a stream of blood was noticed escaping the cave in which the battle took place. To protect himself and the people Sugriva closed the cave and returned home, where at the bequest of the ministers he assumed the throne. Vali however defeated the demon and returned to discover Sugriva ruling the land. Seeing it as a betrayal and without adequate communication, Vali violently beat Sugriva and claimed everything, including Sugriva’s wife, for himself. Afraid, for his life, Sugriva was forced to leave home and wander the forrest in constant fear of his brother’s wrath.

On hearing this Sri Rama proclaims that he shall aid Sugriva and will himself kill Vali for his misdeeds. He declares that one should always regard the need of a friend to be greater than one’s own worries and concerns. He also states that those who cannot do this should not attempt friendship. A friend must serve as one’s conscience, advising friends on the right path and dissuading them from that which is wrong. The Vedas declare these to be the qualities of a noble friend. The Lord says, “He, however, who contrives to speak bland words to your face and harms you behind your back and harbours some evil design in his heart, and whose mind is as tortuous as the movements of a snake is an unworthy friend and one had better bid good-bye to such a friend. A stupid servant, a stingy monarch, a bad wife and a false friend these four are tormenting like a pike. Relying on my strength, dear friend, grieve no more.”

When later Vali and Sugriva confronted each other in battle, Sri Rama was true to his word and killed Vali. As he lay dying in the Lord’s arms Vali asked Sri Rama for a reason for shooting at him.

Once again the importance of communication is highlighted in the Ramayan. Very easily Sri Rama could have ignored Vali and left him to die. Instead he explains how Vali sinned and brought destruction on himself putting Vali’s mind at ease.

“Listen, O wretch: a younger brother’s wife, a sister, a daughter-in-law and one’s own daughter. These four are alike. One would incur no sin by killing him who looks upon these with an evil eye. Fool, in your extravagant pride you paid no heed to your wife’s warning. You knew that your brother had taken refuge under the might of my arm; and yet in your vile arrogance you sought to kill him!”

In the end Vali was most blessed to have died at the hands of Sri Rama.

As Sri Rama mentioned Vali ignored the council of his wife and thus entered a battle he was bound to lose. Mandodari too counseled Ravan against imprisoning Mother Sita and challenging Sri Rama but he too ignored her. I guess there is some truth to, and a possible lesson in a   t-shirt I saw that read: I do not need google search… my wife knows everything.

In the pages of the Ramayan there are many episodes that express the importance of good communication, even Vibhishana offered sage advice which fell on pride deafened ears.

Today we have a plethora of communication means but are we communicating successfully? Ask this of the children who struggle to string words together to form a sentence but who can spend hours messaging each other on mobile phones. Ask this of the families who only speak to each other via electronic devices. Ask this of the friends at a restaurant all texting on their phones. With so much on offer the need to communicate effectively is all that more important lest the broken telephone becomes reality and the message is incorrectly received.

In the Bhagavad Gita Sri Krishna declared “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendent of Bharta, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend myself To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to re establish the principles of religion, I myself appear millennium after millennium “.

In this age God manifested as Master, Holy Mother and Swamiji. And among their many lessons they taught us how to communicate, each displaying a different manner to do so depending on one’s temperament.

The Master communicated with each person he came across differently based on the individual’s character and understanding. This is an important aspect of effective communication as communication is a two way process between speaker and listener and vice versa. Master also regarded others with due respect. For example Master never referred to Holy Mother as “tui” which is a term usually used in reference to a junior. Master revered the Holy Mother as the embodiment of Shakti. Mother in return always referred to the Master as “Thakur”, like all his devotees did. Holy Mother, although Masters wife, never allowed that fact to negate her attitude of being Master’s disciple. They were filled with mutual respect.

Communication is not all about the transfer of words as Sri Ram noted in Hanumanji’s speech, for a lot is inferred by one’s expression, posture and actions. The Holy Mother by all accounts was generally quiet and unseen yet her quiet, veiled figure commanded the respect of a force that revolutionised the world. That very force, Swami Vivekananda, who mesmerised and captured the West with the simple, humble yet powerful greeting, “Sisters and Brothers of America. Like Hanumanji, every word spoken by Swami Vivekananda went straight to the heart.

In all three aspects of divinity, effective communication is evident and one factor resonates in all their lives, respect. Respect for the divinity in each creature and truth. Their ability to win the hearts and respect of all they interacted with was based on the sincerity with which they communicated remembering always the divinity that exists in all beings. Nothing was advised to others if they themselves had not practiced or experienced it first-hand.

When we imbibe the meaning of Om Namo Narayanaya and communicate with respect for all we ultimately allow for the divinity within to manifest. Om Namo Narayanaya