Are Donkeys The Most Misunderstood Animals? My Love for Jenny from Banshees of Inisherin

I know quite a few people named Jenny. Lately, however, anytime anyone mentions this name to me, all I can think of is a donkey. 

Yes! You read it right, a donkey! 

The days when the name would port me to the numerous ‘Jenny’ songs are over. Thanks to a spectacular movie I recently watched, called The Banshees of Inisherin.

I will not spoil the movie for you; I love it too much to do that. This movie offers something quite unique and timeless. 

Here’s a quick peek: 

Granted, Farell’s Padraic and Gleeson’s Colm were a major draw, but in my mind, Jenny was more of a star than anyone else.

After watching the movie, I was so obsessed with her that I broke my cardinal rule about not bingeing on chat shows. I searched the internet for every little clip I could find on the cast being interviewed about the movie during the promotional tour. 

Although Farell and Gleeson, in all their majestic Irish humor, were flooring the audience in every single one of those, I secretly hoped they would mention her somewhere in the conversation, and oh, how my heart would skip a beat when they did.

Why all this fuss?

Well, for one, you never see donkeys occupying much screen space in any movie these days. You would have a fair share of the furry creatures- the cute dogs and cats of the world that warm the hearts of humans all over the planet. They find their way in many movies and TV shows; they are suited to almost every setting too.

Getting married? Your best man could be a dog!

Feeling the life blues? Your favorite pet is right by your side, comforting you.

Is your girlfriend grief-stricken by the passing of her pet? See her eyes light up as you get her a little pup or a kitten.

Some pets are so devoted to their caretakers that they would wait and receive them back from work every day, and in some tragic cases, they continue to do so years after their caretakers pass (Hachiko, anyone?).

As worldly as these might sound, these are all real stories, and if you are a movie fanatic, you have seen most of their screen adaptations.

Now cats and dogs you see every day. Even horses if you own a ranch or relish these ubiquitous cowboy TV shows. 

Donkeys, however, are not as easy to come by on screen. 

They are not as cute as your furry little pets, nor are they slender and handsome like horses. They are neither as maternal as cows nor nervous as chickens. 

I understand donkeys only from childhood story-reading – Aesop Fables and Panchatantra. Donkeys in those works were predominantly reflected as stupid but very hard-working creatures. Bonnie Jo Campbell, a famed American attorney, and politician, once said, “Donkeys are the most misunderstood and abused animals around the world.” 

My little understanding of donkeys acquired from these stories makes me agree with her.

Seeing Jenny in Banshees of Inisherin brought a new and overpowering feeling of love towards this animal. I chuckled when the movie cast called her ‘the diva of the set, kicking Farrell and a couple others during the shoot. 

a still from the movie "banshees of inisherin" which shows the donkey Jenny following a man
Jenny, in all her glory

However, in the film itself, she is an absolute sweetheart. Ignorant as I am, I had absolutely no idea that an animal like that could be tamed like that. Tamed to behave, even like a human at times! It was heartwarming, to say the least.

I was raving about her so much to family and friends that they gave me merchandise with her picture. I secretly think that is so they can make me shut up about her. 

I daydream of the day when I win the lottery and buy a farm full of donkeys in it. While that’s in the works, I have become a freakishly proud owner of a T-shirt with a VERY BIG picture of a donkey on it. I have worn it so many times that it is starting to look old.

Maybe it’s not the shirt; it’s me. 

Jenny tells me now is the time to bray away from that train of thought.

Can You Handle Living Alone For a Long Time?

A brilliant man seems to be drawing an intricate map of something on a paper that he dutifully conceals in a bible; another one has it drawn all over his body, cleverly disguised. Another one, well, he just seems to be pounding on a decrepit-looking wall with a sledgehammer, and the uniformed people around him are all asleep or maybe heavily sedated. 

I just gave the last one away, didn’t I? 

These individuals are all hell-bent on achieving the same goal – breaking out of prison!

One of my all-time favorite prison break movies is Shawshank Redemption, and I just love the meticulous Andy Dufresne, the prison break they showed in the movie is one of the best I have ever seen. And it very well might be the best. 

Tim Robbins (left) plays the character of Andy Dufresnse in the movie.

Although the prison break scene is important, a few other scenes in the movie have piqued my curiosity more.

In one scene, he hijacks the radio room and plays classical music, smiling contentedly while ignoring the guards pounding on the glass door and attempting to break in. Also, the one where the warden puts him in solitary confinement more than once.

Latter is the one that I am going to focus on.

After his first solitary confinement, he leaves his friends somewhat puzzled when he looks upbeat. He wasn’t supposed to. Who would, in their minds, come back refreshed from a seemingly maddening absolute solitude? 

It was not normal, was it?

As far as I can remember, I must have heard the phrase ‘Man is a social animal’ at least a hundred times. It’s only very recently that I learned that it was Aristotle that once said, “Man is by nature a social animal, an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes an individual”.

After all, a lot of human happiness and sorrow are derived from associating with others.

In this day and age of overstimulation, and over-engagement, solitude gets a lot of bad rap. People dread going to restaurants alone for fear of being judged.

What would the hotel staff think?

What would the people sitting next to me think?

Why is everyone looking at me in pity?

Doesn’t matter one bit if all those people I worry about are strangers. The thought of being by ourselves is just too scary. There is even a phobia: autophobia (I’m not kidding!). Like every other phobia, it is irrational.

Solitude, I have figured over time, isn’t that bad. I have found it quite liberating. 

Although unplanned, my journey was a super basic two-step exercise, in hindsight.

Step 1: Going to a restaurant alone.

The initial few solo trips to my favorite Chinese restaurant were quite awkward for me, ‘A table for one doesn’t have a nice ring to it,’ which was an excuse I gave to myself for not going. I decided to ‘be a woman’ and do something about it. I initially carried a fascinating fiction book as a crutch, so when I was immersed in reading it, I wouldn’t care what people around me thought. 

But I realized that with each subsequent trip, I didn’t have to depend on the book anymore. I was becoming increasingly confident with my request for a ‘table for one,’ asking for things I wanted to eat and eating like it was no one’s business.

Step 2: Designate a day of the week as a No-cellphone day.

I would designate either Saturday or Sunday as a no-cellphone day; I would behave as if my cell didn’t exist. 

It was a bit difficult initially. For the first few weekends, I locked my cell in a suitcase and gave my amiable neighbor the key. This would make accessing it difficult even if I had the urge to have a peek. 

Slowly, I started to enjoy these no-disturbance weekends and eventually relieved my neighbor of the key-safekeeping duties.

Step 3: Meditation retreats

I rolled my eyes when a friend suggested this to me once, this was not for me, I said. Eventually, I changed my stance and decided to give it a chance. Zeroed in on a weekend retreat. 

The first thing they did upon admission was to have me deposit my cell. ‘Sucka!!! I had two years of practice. It was a hit from the get-go; the retreat was in nature, the instructor was super calm, and she didn’t have us wake up at 4 am to enjoy the true meditation experience. 

The initial few hours were tough; in silent meditation, my mind drifted to every possible realm.

Did I bring my house keys?

Did I forget to turn the tap and stove off at home?

Did I turn off the humidifier?

Did I take the garbage out?

Did I make the credit card payment? Am I overdue?

Did I let Dad know I was going? I hope Mom has informed him.

This place is so beautiful, I love nature; one day, I will be able to afford a house here, maybe? I wonder what the downpayment would be?

This top itches at the shoulder.

Call it my basic brain, or my mundane life, the random thoughts first slowed down and then almost stopped. That state of being and not being, at the same time was immensely calming. A few minutes of that floating feeling was a high like nothing I had experienced before. Like all good things, this feeling was interrupted too.

By an image of Shawshank Redemption’s Andy Dufresne stepping out of this solitary cell, smiling.

andy dufresne from the movie shawshank redemption in the climax of the movie, escaping the
That scene from Shawshank Redemption

Is a Picture ALWAYS Worth a Thousand Words?

Pictures are remarkably sticky in our brains, aren’t they? It could be the image of “Lunch atop a Skyscraper,” “the Battle of Iwo Jima,” “Gandhi and the spinning wheel,” or even a super old class picture that you went to looking your best, only to close your eyes and bare your teeth at the unfortunately timed ‘Click.’

Picture superiority effect is a term that I heard only very recently. Simply put, it is a phenomenon in which pictures and images are more likely to be remembered than words. 

We are no strangers to that little nugget of information, though, are we? 

I distinctly remember and am immensely thankful for those one-page ‘infographics’ I learned a day before the exams only to purge myself of that information the following day on reams of paper.

I can likely provide a line-by-line account of scenes from a movie that I like. Written words, however, don’t come to my mind with such clarity and precision. 

I blame it on my tiny brain; there is only so much information it can store and effectively retrieve. If I give preferential treatment to reams and reams of high-rated IMDB movie content, it’s only fair that that’s the first reference it returns when I search for information.

Why this rant, however?

Well, a TV series, of course! 

I recently got hooked to Endeavour, a British TV series based on the famed Oxford detective, Endeavour Morse. Especially the latest rendition starring Shaun Evans as Morse and Roger Allam as Thursday

poster of the british tv show endeavour
Poster of the TV show in question

There is a lot to love about this Oxford dropout detective – his sharp brain, refined taste in classical music, meticulous work, and the heap of extremely complicated cases with which he flexes his IQ. 

I have been chided by my friends for obsessing over him. And you can see why.

I won’t ruin the show for you to do justice to it (if you ever decide to give it a go). There are so many of his one-liners and smiles that will floor you. 

The most recent one that did me for a momentary distraction ogling at ‘lunch atop a skyscraper’.

The scene is of a police station:

Colleague: A picture speaks a thousand words.

Morse (casually, walking away with his back to his colleague): Depends on the words.

Classic Morse!

Do You Peep Through the Peep Hole When Someone Passes Outside?

Peepholes, in my mind, are one of the most underrated conveniences of the modern world. How it came about to be invented is another and no less fascinating story. 

From the quite rudimentary fisheye lens that allowed you to quickly peek at your visitor from your apartment’s main door to today’s sophisticated home security systems, which let you monitor the space from pretty much everywhere in the house, this technology has had quite the evolution.

It has quite a few names, from the unoriginal doorhole and doorviewer to the more exciting magic eye and spy hole

a peep hole or magic eye on the door
A classic peep hole or magic eye on the door

Although the origins of the installation of such a device are primarily rooted in security, it is fascinating to see now that it has begun to serve a purpose much more varied – including satiating socially awkward cheap thrill seekers.

I was totally uninitiated in this realm until one of my very close friends from school decades ago decided to give me a surprise visit. 

After the first few days spent catching up and fangirling, things quieted, and I noticed a unique pattern. 

The minute there was the slightest noise or commotion in the hall, my friend would run to the apartment door, ensuring she wasn’t making any noise, and then patiently wait for the noise maker to appear within the peephole range.

Once she identified the source, she would describe the person to me and ask me who they were. It was fun in the beginning, seeing her unbridled childish joy. “She has not changed much since then,” I thought to myself and kept entertaining her curious requests. 

Though, things started to change when she began describing people I could not identify.

After living there for so long, how is it that I barely even knew all my neighbors on the floor? 

Seven families were on the floor; I should have known them all. This friend of mine had only stayed there with me for a few days and already knew as much as I did. That says something, doesn’t it?

My friend and I were socially awkward at school, which might have been why we gravitated to each other’s company in the first place. 

While she had continued to burnish her curiosity and the childish zeal to live her life, I lost that curiosity somewhere along the way. 

The realization was unsettling. I introspected and realized it was not me and that Google and IMDb search engines were to blame!

After the clouds of introspection and my friend departed, I came to a very logical conclusion in the interest of self-preservation.

Peepholes suck!

Also, to love thy neighbor, I need to know them first.

Can You Smile Well When the Photographer says “Cheese”?

The world is full of appreciation for smiles. Talk about literati, pop culture icons, your friendly neighborhood social media influencer, or even a noted political figure; people have much to say about smiles. 

But what you don’t see as ubiquitously are the challenges of mustering a natural smile. 

This is an ode to the folks that know what I mean.

  1. Not everyone has a natural smile-friendly face. We must accept that only some are attuned to delivering on the requirement of a genuine smile. The right length, width, and circumference are not up everyone’s alley.
  2. Not everyone has perfect teeth or the confidence to rock the haphazard teeth ‘devil may care’ smile. There is a unique emotion that courses through you when you are asked to smile for a picture, knowing full well that your front teeth are a picture from the aftermath of a scene of a road roller gone awry.
  3. Not everyone was a good kid growing up. Aka, not everyone listened to their parents when they were told to not disturb their mouth’s ecosystem after they broke their milk teeth. For those few days, the intimate relationship between the tongue and the teeth has to be on hold. These kids decided to play the rebel and make sure vertical teeth growth was impossible (that’ll show my nagging mom, they thought!)
  4. Not everyone brushed their teeth before going to sleep. It is no fun. You know it’s a must as an adult, but we all know that as kids, we live like there is no tomorrow.

For the longest time, I would just shy away from getting my pictures clicked, dreading the 1,2, 3, say cheese part. Some photographs were an absolute must, so I had no option but to conquer my fear, be the bigger person, and SMILE. 

Of course, that smile was toothless, tight-lipped, as distinctively ‘creepy’ and ‘cringeworthy’ as you can imagine. My eyes and lips would never be in synch, and I sometimes picture a psychiatrist analyzing me in one of my class photographs, going, ‘this kid might have grown up to be a psycho.’ 

I can’t say I find that image comforting.

And then there is Yoko Ono,

“Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning, and you’ll see a big difference in your life”.

Yoko Ono has yet to meet me, doesn’t she?

My Two Cents on How NOT to Lose Weight

It was an uneventful weekend, and I was trying to shed calories by walking down the city streets after a tummy full of fried dumplings and sipping on the famed pearl milk tea (100% sugar, of course). 

Despite walking two miles to shake off the heaviness of the meal, I still felt packed – full in the tummy and full of guilt. Especially since this was supposed to be the 30th day of my 60-day weight loss challenge.

Why was it that I could never maintain consistency in my resolve to lose weight? It was not as if I was not exercising due diligence in finding suitable fitness training videos. 

Trust me, I spent hours curating the ‘right’ content.

Easily doable? Check.

Won’t interfere with my regular routine? Check.

No requirement to go to the gym? Check.

Spoon-feeding on the recommended clothes to buy for the routine? Check.

Everything is always lined up, ready to go, a day before the routine begins. It’s only on the day of or the day after that the routine starts to break. 

It could be oversleeping the day before, a stomach upset, an early morning meeting, loss of internet at the time of the workout (yes, that’s a thing!), or an impromptu meeting with a college friend who is only in town for the day. 

As you can see, given my long list of excuses, I am as far as one can be in creating and sticking to a fitness regimen. My multiple failures in maintaining a fitness routine, might I humbly say, do make me an authority on how not to lose weight.

Here are some of my personal favorites of what NOT to do to lose weight:

  • Sleeping late the day before, especially if you plan to exercise in the morning.
  • Strictly time-boxing your exercise regimen when you know you don’t have the discipline to go through with it.
  • Overeating on the ‘exercise’ days, assuming the workout more than compensates for the gluttony.
  • Pearl milk bubble tea four times a week is not a good idea.
  • Watching exercise videos does not count as exercise.
  • Not starting small when you don’t have a reliable history of a consistent exercise and nutrition regimen.
  • Not complementing your routine with mindful nutrition.
  • Taking this new addition to your ‘routine matinale’ lightly.

I consider this a journal entry, sans the ‘dear diary’ part, more than anything else. I would more likely smile in amusement looking at this decades later if not getting ready to write a 50-page document around my failures with a fitness regimen. All the while thinking about the famed diary entry by Flannery O’Connor:

“Today I have proved myself a glutton—for Scotch oatmeal cookies and erotic thought. There is nothing left to say of me.”

The Queue Question: Why My Queue in the Grocery Store Moves the Slowest

Let me paint a picture:

You are at a grocery store. It is well-stocked, and the groceries appear fresh. The store has enough people to make you feel confident about its appeal but not so many that you need Luke Skywalker-level navigation skills to avoid colliding with other shoppers. 

All in all, it’s a lucky day.

You pick out your groceries, including limes and lettuce, and you’re on your way, smiling to yourself, on the verge of setting your new personal record for the shortest shopping time ever.

Until you reach the billing counter.

There are six billing counters, each with a cashier manning them. They all seem to have an equal number of people in the queue. You pick your lucky number 4 and stand in the line to be served. 

So far, so good. 

A few minutes pass, and you start to get just a bit curious. You start counting your place in the queue, and it’s still six, the same as when you started. You mentally chide yourself for your impatience, take your cell phone out of your pocket, and bury yourself in your news feed.

You know you will have moved in the queue the next time you look up from your phone.

A few more minutes pass, but the news on your cellphone is boring. You have an impulse to count your position in the queue again, and it’s still six. Something’s going on.

You peek at the counter, and the lady out front seems to be bagging her groceries. There are a lot of them. You can’t help but peek into the carts of others ahead of you, and it doesn’t look good.

There is no one behind you in the queue. Now is an excellent time to switch to the other queue!

The one across from you looks like it’s moving fast, the carts are all lighter, and the cashier seems super-efficient.

This one’s going to be better for you.

Five minutes later, you’re still spot number six in the queue. The cashier at the other queue temporarily deserted his station to answer a call. The queue you were initially in is moving fast now, and the cashier seems to have had a fresh shot of Compound V. Dang! You’re tempted to switch back, but you listen to your good inner cop.

“Where’s your loyalty, buddy?”

Yes, you have a spine and will stick with your decision. You’ve spent too much time to desert your queue now. The sunk cost is too much to bear. Unsurprisingly, your original queue continues to serve the customers incredibly fast. You physically can’t bring yourself to move; you’re rooted to the spot. You never thought loss aversion bias was a real thing, did you?

Having buried your head in your device again, you notice an ad for an electronic appliance, a Morphy Richards electronic kettle. You don’t stay with it long because it triggers painful memories of a law.

Murphy’s at that.

Do You Ever Plug-in a USB Stick Right in the First Try? I Don’t

When the Benedict Cumberbatch-starrer Sherlock came out what seems like ages ago, I might have gone batshit crazy. I always loved Sherlock, but this modern spin on Doyle’s delectably sharp detective was a class apart. His deduction methods applied to everyday modern objects, making the show relatable.

poster of the

I remember seeing a clip where Sherlock explained to Watson the intricate differences between the phones of a drunk man vs a sober one. He pointed, very astutely, deriving from scuff marks around the power connection of Watson’s expensive phone, that the previous owner of his used phone had a drinking problem. All that just from an apparent quick glimpse of the phone! After an obvious ‘Whoa, that’s insane!’ and a few other expletives, an image flashed in my mind.

The image of a USB stick (aka USB flash drive).

Now, the logical question would be, what has a USB stick got to do with all this? 

Attention deficit disorder aside, ‘pretty much everything’. 

If Sherlock were to look at the USB port of any of my laptops – previously owned or current, he would find those scratch marks in all of them. I am not kidding!

And this is not because I have a drinking problem (which alcoholic ever says they have one, though? Hmmm….) 

This is simply because either the USB port on my laptop or my USB stick or both are objects of way higher intelligence than me. They are dynamic in their thinking. Way more dynamic than me.

They know to make sure that my first attempt at plugging in the USB stick is always a failure. 

How difficult is it, plugging a USB stick, really? 

different modes of plugging in a USB stick
Ever plugged a USB stick right the first time?

I underestimated the complexity of the task, my stupidity, or both. I kid you not, I haven’t yet, in decades of using a computer, ever plugged in a USB stick right the first time. I secretly think the sides flip inside, anticipating my moves. Just to mess with me.

Computer: Here comes the USB stick

After a thorough analysis peeking into the port for 4 full seconds and then another 4 seconds of broody scientific analysis at the USB stick’s USB connector

Me: Yup, I am sure this side up is right.

Computer: Incoming! Activate the connect flip.

Me: Dayum

Call it One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Call it the Rise of Machines.