12. COVER THE INDIAN COASTLINE
The apocryphal story goes that the British were trying to discover Chittagong when a storm caused them to stumble on the upriver settlement which would go on to become Calcutta.
The Indian coastline: You just never know what it’s going to throw at you.
While we may think of it alternatively in terms of beach holidays and monumental storm-whipped battlements, the coasts, of course, are every bit as variable as mainland India. And as an ambitious but rewarding annual project, it seems like there’ll be no better story to tell your grandchildren than the year you travelled the length of the coastline; 2012.
Hiking down the Gujarat coast, scuba-diving off Mangalore, floating in and out of the Kerala backwaters—those are the most likely things you’ll do on the western seaboard. On the east, there are the Andamans, Tranquebar, the Olive Ridley turtles of Puri beach, the Sundarbans: Even the most predictable sights are breathtaking. For millennia, the coasts have been a way for curious outsiders to discover India, and that’s exactly why landlubbers should explore them too.
We are talking of a distance of more than 7,500km, so it’s unlikely you’ll have the time to do it all in one go. Break up the trips into convenient vacations, and choose your destinations based on the climate (it’s not all sun and sand, after all) and your mood. If the Romans brought their triremes all the way to Malabar, surely it can’t be that hard to hop on a chosen mode of transport and cruise down.
13. WRITE YOUR NOVEL
The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which falls in November, began in the US in 1999 but gains more international practitioners every year. The idea is to write a first draft, of a minimum of 50,000 words (around 1,600 words a day), in one month. The idea is to take the plunge. Mark it on a calendar, let loved ones and work colleagues know you’ll be putting all your spare time into it, and let it fly. Once the book is real, you can take all the time you want to worry about it. And while NaNoWriMo is great fun, there’s no reason you can’t pick your own month.
14. BUILD YOUR OWN BOARD GAME
You always enjoy the things you make. And if that thing happens to be a board game, then you can enjoy it with friends as well. The only drawback is that making a fresh and innovative board game from the ground up is hard (that’s why they have awards for best designers).
A good way to start, though, is to modify an existing game. Take something familiar, like chess, and change the way it works. Some simple ideas:
• Change the layout of the board. Set it up in a hexagon, and see how that works.
• Change the way some pieces move. Give every piece an alternative “action”—let the pawns defend, allow the knights to charge straight through enemies, give the rook an artillery attack.
• Change the objective of the game. Maybe the winner is the person who gets three pawns to the other end first. Or maybe the queen is the object, not the king. That’s going to force you to play differently.
At this point, you might have reached a very different sort of game, and might want to customize the look of the pieces. Again, borrowing from something that already exists is a good way to start, until you come up with something that really speaks to you. Maybe people the board with GI Joes and Cobras. And then take a printout and paste it over cardboard.
Once you’ve refined your ideas and play-tested them, you can get them fabricated via a number of awesome sites such as www.thegamecrafter.com and www.toybuilders.com—they even help you design a box for the game!
15. FOLLOW A CINEMATIC THREAD
Even if the hysteria surrounding the Mayan calendar sounds like balderdash to you, take time out to explore the apocalyptic visions as realized in cinema. Look beyond the frenetic spectacles usually served by Hollywood. A few picks for the apocalyptic films you shouldn’t miss: Time of the Wolf (directed by Michael Haneke, 2003), Dawn of the Dead (George Romero, 1978), La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962), Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006), Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984), Wall-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008), 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002), Delicatessen (Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, 1991) and The Road (John Hillcoat, 2009).
Cast aside the verbal entourage that contemporary cinema tends to drag along and revel in the splendorous march of images that these directors conjured. They come in beautiful compilations, collectibles all. Our picks:
• The Films of Sergei Paradjanov: A DVD set comprising four films by Sergei Paradjanov (Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, The Color of Pomegranates, Ashik Kerib and The Legend of Suram Fortress) from Kino Video, $43.49 (around Rs 2,300) on Amazon.com.
• The Béla Tarr Collection: Three films by Béla Tarr (Damnation, Werckmeister Harmonies and The Man from London) on DVD, from Artificial Eye, £24.99 (around Rs 2,100) on Amazon.com.
• By Brakhage: An Anthology, Volumes One and Two: A Blu-Ray DVD set comprising films by Stan Brakhage, from The Criterion Collection, $55.49 on Amazon.com.
• La Jetée/Sans Soleil: A DVD set comprising two films by Chris Marker (La Jetée and Sans Soleil), from The Criterion Collection, $24.24 on Amazon.com.
16. MEET THE STEVEN SPIELBERG OF ASIA
If you’re a fan of Hong Kong cinema, you’ve either seen producer-director Tsui Hark’s films, or you’re going to see them. Blazing trails through popular cinema, right beside John Woo’s gunshot ballets and the humane genius of Wong Kar-Wai, Tsui’s filmography is full of superstar-making, special-effects-revolutionizing action-comedy-dramas—it’s not for nothing that he’s called “the Steven Spielberg of Asia”.
If you think anyone trying to understand Bollywood should see all of Manmohan Desai’s films, then you’ll know the wonder of Tsui instantly. His output is vast, and should keep you going through 2012. Our picks, available to borrow from DVD libraries and buy at select bookstores and music stores in Delhi and Mumbai:
• Once Upon a Time in China (with four bonus sequels) (1991)
• l The Master (1989)
• Peking Opera Blues (1986)
• Ching Se (also called Green Snake) (1993)
• Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010)
17. GET PUZZLED
Start a 3,000-piece jigsaw with your partner or child, of something you both love (it could be a Twilight poster, we’re not judging). When you’re done—after poring over it for months—it’s something you’ll remember having done in 2012 together. Have it framed!
German puzzle maker Ravensburger (www.ravensburger.com) is the gold standard for intricate puzzles that go from African jungle scenes to mind-boggling world maps.
If you’re feeling fancy, have someone bring down a Stave puzzle from the US (www.stavepuzzles.com)—this puzzle-maker has garnered a lofty reputation for their intricate, handcrafted and sometimes maddening hand-cut wooden puzzles. The Smithsonian magazine has called them the “Rolls-Royce of Puzzles”, and they don’t come cheap, starting at $275 (around Rs 14,500) and going up to $3,000. Their 8ft-long masterpiece for $15,000 made the Guinness World Records as the world’s priciest puzzle in 1990. They even custom-make puzzles from photographs.
18. KNOT UP
Get hold of a beginner’s knitting guide and start on a scarf this January. Your loops might be awry, but work through it over the year—while you travel or lounge— and you’ll have a semblance of a scarf (notice we aren’t saying sweater) by next winter.
Your local bookshop or Amazon.com will have a host of such guides. The Knitter’s Bible: The Complete Handbook for Creative Knitters (Claire Crompton) and Knitty Gritty: Knitting for the Absolute Beginner (Aneeta Patel) are good starting points.
19. EXPLORE ‘SKYRIM’
Video games offer the freedom to do things you normally can’t do, such as fly a spaceship or command armies, but the biggest release of 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (which we reviewed earlier this month), goes a step further and allows you to do absolutely anything. The game has a story that lasts over 100 hours, but the best part is that it presents a thoroughly detailed world where you can take a break from fighting hordes of dragons to go on treks and see virtual sunsets over dazzlingly beautiful waterfalls. Or perhaps you’d prefer to be an alchemist—seeking hard-to-find reagents and then distilling them into powerful potions.
The simple act of exploring the game world—its developers have described it as being roughly the same size as the UK—is rewarding in itself, but the rich lore that the creators have built in adds even more value when you start delving into the history of the virtual world.
Players who get immersed in the game could take time to build virtual libraries, buying and trading rare books, or perhaps become master blacksmiths or, of course, since it’s a fantasy game, dragon hunters.
Skyrimis available on the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms, and you can buy it from shops that sell video games, or get it online via Flipkart or eBay.
20. UNDERSTAND PROUST
Start the New Year with Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. The seven volumes, which span more than 3,000 pages, are sure to influence you deeply.
Tramp through the first few sleep-inducing pages (about an insomniac trying to sleep), acclimatize yourself to the long-winded lines, and you will become a permanent resident of Proust country, seeking lost paradises in Tarla Dalal’s recipes, Chetan Bhagat’s novels, Salman Khan’s films, Barkha Dutt’s television debates and Anna Hazare’s speeches. You will also discover the ultimate truth: No matter how many people you loved, Mummy loved you the best.
The six-pack, boxed set of the Modern Library edition, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrief and Terence Kilmarti, and revised by D.J. Enright, is available at Amazon.com for $60.42 (around Rs 3,200). A new edition by Penguin has Proust’s novel translated by seven different people. The first, Swann’s Way, translated by short story writer Lydia Davis, is recommended.
21. THE MOVIE ENTERPRISE
If 2012 is a milestone year for someone you love—your parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, your daughter turning 16, your brother getting married—make a movie about them, with all the special people in their lives featuring in it. All you really need is a high-definition camera, a microphone and a tripod. List the people you want to interview and create a storyline before you start recording the interviews. This will help you plan your questions so you can have everyone’s responses for something like, say, “the most embarrassing moment”.
Keep a few still photographs, some clips from other films, maybe a shortlist of animation sequences and music clips ready for use in your final edit. It might be a good idea to hire an editing suite and a professional editor (in Mumbai, you can hire a studio and an editor at Rs 500 per hour) to help you piece the film together.