Friday, December 2, 2011

a nostalgic bit ( for Malayalis)

remembering the evergreen Prem Nazir, the totally nonchalant, unselfconscious movie-romancer-lip -syncher.. master of "romancin' 'round the trees" --as we named it "maram-chutti-premam", got to admit -- he nailed it. Add to it the heavenly voice of K.J.Yesudas who actually sings these sweet nothings -- together they take us on a fantastic ride on that flying carpet they mention. :)

And let's not forget Jayabharathi. I mean, at least Prem Nazir has the singing to do. Poor Jayabharathi has to be there, doing sweet nothings, without bursting out in laughter. :) But seriously, she does such a commendable job. I always admired her great talent as an actress.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ellie Smith and Lisbeth Salander -- "daddy's girls" revisited

A while ago I had read The Daughters of Cain by Colin Dexter. It was after seeing an Inspector Morse Mystery on television. I was in India at that time. There is a character in there named Kay Eleanor Brooks or Ellie Smith, as she calls herself later. A girl who fights back, in ways that maybe an outsider wouldn't understand, but which are perfectly plausible. A wild, seemingly antisocial, but intelligent and purposeful person is our Ellie. And there is that unrealized/unrealizable forever kind of sexual and emotional tension between the moody, irascible, almost antisocial Morse  an unlikely hero, and this at the same time awkward and confident girl with the double nose rings, and colorful hair. Something enduring, that we only see in books, for in real life, the tension becomes either a rope to strangle the relationship, or a nuisance that we are eager to be rid of. Anyway, needless to say I identified with both the characters. I am sure they are Aquarians, with a touch of Virgo.

Years later, another fascinating girl comes along, another fighter/survivor. And this time around, the whole world looks up. (The world had got smaller in the intervening years). Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo aka Lisbeth Salander. Again I am caught up by this character. The same awkward but sure character. Back then I had wished to know more of Ellie, wanted her to succeed, and that wish came true with Lisbeth. I have a vague memory of Ellie appearing in  another novel, and some tragedy, but I may be wrong.

By now I am way older. But that does not affect the identification process. I couldn't help thinking that had I grown up in a Western country, this could have been one of the persons I would have become. (could be wishful thinking) And Ellie came back to my mind. Both girls  are smartly self sufficient but pathetically vulnerable. Both are attracted to older men  in the stories. I liked both the unlikeable heroes, but I prefer Morse, maybe. Because he is that annoying sort of  romantic who is in love with the idea of being in love, which creates its own set of problems. He is the passive wait-specialist, eternal student type who pushes away any sort of culmination, consummation, ending. It is the waiting that thrills him, again, bringing to mind the Aquarian personality. This is the type that even picks a fight for no reason so that that eternal waiting is not changed, and just the yearning is left. yikes! On the other hand, Blomquist, the other type of romantic, is promiscuous. He seems to have no trouble with beginnings and endings.  When it comes to women, one -- Morse, as the true classicist -- seems to put them on a pedestal, and the other seems to just fall into their beds rather too easily. And going with that, whereas Ellie is voluptuous, Lisbeth is waif-like, almost androgynous, as Aquarians usually are said to be! It is the same classicism that juxtaposes the goddess and the fallen woman. But the Swedish heroine/anti-hero cannot be classified as "fallen", nor does she get punished for her amorality, which makes me as a reader and a woman, happy. And my preference for the hero could be defined by fact that  at this point, I  am older and Morse is the character that is older than me now!

Ellie and Lisbeth could be sisters separated by years. They have traumatic experiences with their real father or father figures. Whatever it was, there is a lack of a good father figure in their lives. I  do not want to feed that assumption of a sexual attachment between fathers and daughters, (or mothers and sons, for that matter) as that is a fantasy of perverted/sick minds, or people trying to look sophisticated and highbrow, or unique and different. ( I know I sound dogmatic or naive or stupid when I say that. I am talking about good fathers, not pedophiles.  Normal humans have evolved beyond incest, I believe and hope). Needless to say, it doesn't apply to regular, normal father-daughter relationship. But you could associate it with that longing for kindness,  security and protection. And usually people who are older and who have your welfare at heart tend to provide that more. That person could be an older brother or a father. Like I said before, both the girls look up to older men, the "heroes".

While both possess that raw, unpolished intellect, Lisbeth seems to be an advanced version of Ellie. An Ellie in a digitalized world. A player on a global level,  in the Aquarian Age. A self-taught computer whiz who knows how to use her exploiters to win the war between good and evil -- what she sees as good or evil. One who is more than biology, who uses more than biology to survive, and falls for another flawed hero. Lisbeth is allowed to think like a man, like a girl more influenced by her dad, if she had one around, and if he did not mind her being a tomboy inside and out -- another social expectation matter. (I was no tomboy, but we did not have much choice back then, back home. I wonder -- what if. But I know I wanted to be more like my dad, rather than mom. And on the other end of the spectrum, when we have had the perfect dad, we do look for him, if he is gone forever, just to have him as dad). The difference between the two may be the difference in the outlook of their makers and their heroes. While Dexter seems to be a classicist like Morse, in his handling of his characters, Larsson is more modern, not beyond transcending gender stereotypes, not altogether, but to a greater extent. 

PS : I wish they'd asked Lady Gaga to be the girl with the dragon tattoo. :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chaplin was right! :)

All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl -- Charlie Chaplin. I believe! I believe!  :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

making sense of fall

Vermont Autumn by Vicky Brago-Mitchell

I am talking seasons here. I don't much like the other kinds of falls -- falling down, falling in love and such. Neither do I like falling skies, but I do admire a waterfall. And I feel for the fallen angel, the fallen woman, and the fall guy.

The color of winter surely is white, and a bit of grey? It is hard. The color of spring, of course, is green. And it feels like rain. How about summer? yellow! red! blue! the brightest of those colors. It burns. And the color of fall is burnt orange, and caramel.. That golden, honey-hued, sunlight-trapped amber. It soothes.

One of the best things about living here, is that I can experience the wondrous phenomenon of changing seasons. The very conspicuous, blatant transformation. It is not the simultaneous life and death hullabaloo going on in the tropics. there, it is a drama all the time -- either the blazing sun or the lashing thunderstorms. I admit all that has its own beauty, and I did enjoy that. In fact I long for it at times. It is a Bollywood masala movie. But I am always amazed at the more elaborate, highly demarcated play of  birth, growth, old age, and death, enacted annually, in these parts. This here is a Kathakali performance.

Now to  the tastes -- the taste of spring is that of the dewdrop-like nectar from the velvety  flowers of the banana tree, back home. Like  green tea made of lime leaves,with  a kick of ginger, and a hint of lemongrass. The slow, languorous but refreshing  wake-up cup. Nature is itching to go! Like frisky little bunnies, and lambs. Summer is a tall, cool glass of freshly squeezed lemonade. It has the earthy taste of grilled food. It is fun, but it is also sweat and toil.  Fall tastes and smells like apples with caramel ,and cinnamon. Such an accomodating season! Its colors reverberate all over -- on the trees, in the very color of its light, its foods, in the soft glow of a bonfire, or of the little flame inside a lantern-- that warm caramel color. I think I eat winter when I eat ice cream. But winter tastes like hot chocolate. And roasts. And at times, it feels like shrouded death -- cold and bare.

Come to think of it, I like all seasons. That gradual thawing, unfolding of life. The struggle of the tiny green shoot rising from the ground. After all that waiting, spring moves in fits and starts. But winter's iron hand is slow to let go. It comes in the form of  frost, killing off new buds. And the rain -- those sudden dampenings, sometimes, almost as an afterthought. Like a wet blanket, it restrains the soul raring to fly. Nevertheless, it finally eases away, making room for summer's frolic and thirst. Summertime, it sometimes goes by in a flash. A jog, a bout of yardwork, a few grillings on the patio, if you are lucky, a stroll under the blue skies, outglaring the sun's glare on a beach. The hot, parched earth looks for a gentle coolness.  And then comes Fall.

The apple pie season. I had never tasted an apple pie before I came here. The minute I did, I fell for it. It was perfect. The right balance of sweet and tart and spice. My kind of delicious. It was the proverbial feast for the senses. Surprisingly, I felt  like I had tasted it before! Like I was revisiting a familiar flavor.

So, is fall my favorite season? Am I falling for Fall? (couldn't resist it haha) Maybe. In any case, Fall  is cool, and cozy. Nature has retired, content, after a lifetime of intensities -- the wet longing of spring and the fiery passion of summer are gone. Fall is memories, and the reaping of what one  planted. It is as though nature is pleasantly spent, ready to put her feet up. She exhales. Even the leaves fall with a sigh -- of relief? of resignation? because they know that it is the beginning of the end. Death is coming, but for now, we are sitting around the flickering fire, wrapped in warm coats, relaxed, remembering. At peace with the earth, the sky, the stars, and hopefully, one's companions.

Now, to the apple pie - it's baking in the oven. :)
The season and the food are so happily joined and let me share a slice of that pie with you! :

Have a great fall! ;)

PS: This piece is so full of cliches, makes me want to puke. but still I meant every word. :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

between Aquarians -- of the third decan

I might be guilty of exaggeration ( ps: I may not always be right, but I am never wrong ) when I say that  Aquarians are doomed or blessed to be eternal students. swimming leisurely in several subjects or a handful or even one at a time, we hide. when we come out of it do we expect the world around us unchanged?  or changed forever? or those around us to be waiting with bated breaths? maybe. and for most Aquarians, a few fans are always around -- constant admirers. the Aquarian is glad to have them around, even grateful. but how intimate do they let these become? not very, i should say. most of their time is spent on their strivings, and dreamings, and -- on a special unattainable someone/something or both. Not that they want that someone really. just that they want that someone somewhere unattainable.

 Many of us come off as arrogant, and aloof. Most of them have reason to be so too. experts in their chosen field, they have a knack of absorbing info from thin air. some climb literal mountains, some climb mountains, literally. Our curiosity lands us in varieties of trouble. That it is a  genuine curiosity is not understood by many. Sometimes a whole other world -- or a person from a totally different world arouses that curiosity. they belong together in our innocent minds, don't they? yes, we are innocent, aren't we? :))
do people think me as arrogant? maybe when I was young -- not anymore, I think. i have adapted/conformed, as women usually do. we rise to  societal expectation better, we have to, in order to survive ( here too culture plays a great part -- an Aquarian female who grew up in a modern western society will be far more Aquarian outwardly than her say, eastern counterpart). Again, the world on the whole, is more accepting of the eccentricities and self-centeredness of a man, more than a woman's. excuses, excuses, i know. Well, some may actually be put off because they think I am pretending to be humble. But then my accomplishments aren't that great so far, and I am not doing much these days that would make me proud of myself. So I am not pretending. And there is a difference in the character of followers the female gets too -- she is mostly admired in secret. they dont want anyone else to know about her, or their knowing her. (they probably think it will go to her head) :)

I am constantly amazed at the parallels between their seemingly disparate lives. for instance, when one travels far and wide and samples different cuisines, takes pics, another one sits at home and creates these foods, after knowing of them from books or shows.when one meets people of all ages and writes of them, of their smiles, of their footwear, the same is written by another in a small scale . it is uncanny because neither knew what the other was doing until after they both did it.

it is a constant striving . for knowledge, and to share that knowledge with others, to see what they would make of it, curious to know what they think, how they would process it. But the Aquarian also seem to not wanting to ever reach the goal. these people live in  a world of of their own. a dream world. oh there are intermittent awakenings and epiphanies -- they are the proverbial tubelights. that childlike wonder of seeeing the world for the first time -- that never leaves them altogether   -- it erupts every now and then. this works in their attitude to relationships too. esp to a fellow Aquarian. at one time, they are one -- pals, soulmates even. then comes the self-doubts and the doubting of the other. and the idea that one shouldn't be that close or attached. or that the other is not as attached as one is. and so the impulse to prove that one does not need the other as much as s/he thinks. the timing is almost always off. push and pull. and vice versa. so off goes the friendship. it is as if we are at once burdened by the awareness of  the futility of it all, and also the knowledge that this is what life is all about. we are too tired to seek at times, and at others, we are afraid.
until next time something reminds you of that friend. Meanwhile the true Aquarians have forgotten what the rift was about. so another attempt -- but the cycle again. This sad /boring /exciting pattern has replayed itself so many times in my life -- in my friendships with other Aquarians. And I marvel at the similarities among these highly individualistic, different-lives-leading, dramatic, crazily intelligent, stupidly stubborn, arm- chair humanitarians.

I do presume that distance plays a part in the dismantling of these friendships. In another scenario, they may at some point, either forget the other altogether, or find a way to collaborate with or encourage each other in their endeavours. Great, rebellious or simply  nonsensical rebellious works could be created out of such friendships. They will be like nothing you have ever seen or heard.

what will it take for these to work together? because once they do miracles will happen, and the world will be a better place. These people can change the world. They can influence millions. Or, once they got together, it would be total Pandemonium. They are friendly souls basically, but at some point they do not welcome friendships either. They trust people, but they do not really. Highly contradictory individuals. Just like their sign -- an air sign with a glyph that looks like it's a water sign.
Also, in this new age of interwebs, and social and democratized media, it looks like more and more people and customs seem to take on Aquarian characteristics. Could be true that we are in the Aquarian Age, at least at its beginning.

Do we all share a certain attitude to other signs, generally? say, a wariness towards Geminis and Sagittarians? a fascination with Scorpios? an attraction to Leos, our opposite signs, to be let down in some way? a fated relationship with the totally different Virgo?do we face rivalry in Capricorns? an affinity, an empathy for Pisces? an indulgent understanding for Taurus?  a leave alone respect for Cancer? and a fun but competitive, at times bickering friendship with Aries? and feel an amused lightheartedness with Librans?
Whatever our nature, whoever we are, wherever we are, the past 14 years haven't been easy -- with hazy Neptune's magic. of course it had its plus side too, but mostly it has made us forget who we really are. exiled from our own little Paradises, whatever kind they were. and our very nature, that special friendly, curious, cautiously trusting, romantic without being romantic, loyal and proud  natures have all but disappeared. But I am glad that that time is nearing an end. So I wish us all the very best!( i  know this sounds kinda crazy and new age-like, but there it is!  )

Disclaimer: this piece is not about fictitious Aquarians, but real flesh and blood ones, ( I think! as I haven't really met some of them) like myself. This is not meant to offend anyone, (in fact, just the opposite), and if anyone takes  umbrage, I shall take an umbrella. I count these Aquarians as my friends, almost like parts of each other , not indispensable, maybe, but who would be exceptional,  if together. :)

Update: This is surely a ninny piece. A load of nonsense. Stupid. I plead temporary insanity. ;)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

musings for no reason (mainly for malayalis)

There are some sayings  where i come from -- for instance, "two things that cause grief - gold and woman". something like that. possibly true. especially since this profound piece comes from a place where acne on a girl's face and fungus on a man's torso are seen as signs of beauty and virility respectively. :) If you don't believe me, just listen to the songs in this post - In the first one, actress Geetha sings her heart out about the handsomeness and masculinity of the aloof warrior (who by the way, has eyes only for another) she admires. In the second one, our evergreen "around -the-tree - romance" aficionado Prem Nazir lip-synchs his way through yet another extravagantly poetic and sometimes gagworthily descriptive love song( don't mistake me, Prem Nazir is one of my favorites no matter what ).  anyway, what I think is that it is the tummy that causes grief, seems to take a life of its own. and it is an equal opportunity matter. they say that the cessation of growth is one indicator of old age. but I say that growth may stop in certain areas, but certain other areas tend to flourish, a fact that I am made increasingly aware of, painfully.  This is also the time when everyone around you seem to be way younger than you are.

The other day I was thinking about death and such, and sighed and stated that we cannot bring back the dead. Promptly my son quipped, "of course, you can! you are just too lazy!". :) When he looked at me with a sly smile after that, I had to laugh. He was just giving back my own medicine. Isn't that  the basic understanding behind our traditional Indian parenting? Nothing is impossible, it is just for want of your trying that you don't get something. But then, that "unimpossible' thing has to meet with total parental approval, of course! to be contd. -- maybe.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

clogged in London

Can't believe that just two days back, I was in London! A short, sweet stay. Even though one day was spent in drenchings and splatters, and the Thames cruise became a foggy blur, I savoured it. While waiting at the airport to catch the return flight to Chicago, it felt like I had been away for a long long time. But once I landed in O'hare, the London sojourn seemed a distant, misty memory. I wondered why we even bother to make trips, if we are going to feel it never happened! But I also know that things will come back once I unwind. Jetlag had caught up, I guess.

The mind and its ways! In London, I thought I saw my dad in a restaurant! In a mirror facing me, I saw this  grey haired man sitting on a sofa, looking outside, with his head to one side. Just the way my dad used to. Even the frame of his glasses  below the high forehead, looked like my dad's. For a minute, this stupid mind of mine told me, " hey , he was here all along! what were you being sad for??" You won't believe the sudden wave of sheer joy and relief that overwhelmed me to see that he was all right! Then the moment passed, as the man stood up and walked out in front of me, and I felt duped. Not that I was completely unaware of the fact all along -- that my dad was gone forever. It was almost as if I was observing myself, my reactions. But still I can't get over the vulnerability of one's mind. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I really thought it was my dad. That all the sad things that happened were just a nightmare. How easy  it is  for the mind to believe in something that is not there!

Anyway, in case you are wondering about the title of this piece, it is all about clogs. Of the shoe variety. I like to wear them all the time, because as I tell anyone who would listen, they are comfy. You can walk in them as much as you want, and your legs don't tire or hurt. I know some swear by flats, others by sneakers. But I like a little bit of heel in the shoe. And because the front is covered, the toes don't get cold or wet. A small puddle is not a problem if you have clogs on. It is leather. But no matter how much I tout it, my sisters won't buy into it. They say clogs are okay with jeans, but not with skirts, dresses or saris. I know your legs look funny in clogs with skirts and such, but I did not care. Comfort being more important for me. And also, I have this habit of closing my eyes to things I don't want to see or just wishing things away, like if I pretend not to see it, it won't be there!

Well, walking around in London was no different. I wore my trusted pair of chunky clogs all over, with everything. When someone asked me if I was from Paris, I was pleased as punch. Like the clogs, I have a preference in jackets too. I have a favorite leather jacket for not so warm days, and a quilted down one for a little cold days. I wear those with everything no matter what. I walked for hours looking at flowers and gardens at the Chelsea flower show. I had teas and pasties and pub food. My clogs and my quilted jacket made them all even more enjoyable. I was glad I had them, as each gust of cold wind blew around me. I was even gladder for the garment, when I saw a few around me shivering in their trendy, light jackets. :D I could empathize with them poor souls, especially since I had been in their shoes a few times before.

I got back home. Then the photos. And I squirmed painfully in shame as I looked at them. :)I looked like an old bag lady! Especially from the front, the clogs looked ugly with my rather nice dress. And what with the bulky jacket and idiotic scarf, I was a sight! My  young sisters asked me who it was that asked me if I was from Paris! They wondered aloud if he was really in his right senses, if he was a drunkard doing savaasana.  I told them, it looked bad because I was posing for the photos. I should 've been photographed while moving. Then they asked if I meant as if by paparazzi? I said, of course! And I tried to make them laugh saying that the way I was packing for the trip was as if I expected the paparazzi to be clicking away left and right, in a frenzy, the moment I stepped into the airport. haha. But no quips or self-deprecating jokes could alter the fact that I looked style-challenged/positively dowdy, and that it was against their  knowledgeable counsel, over the years. "The dress is good, but the shoes are wrong", I have heard that from them a hundred times. The penalty for sacrificing style for comfort!

At last I conceded that clogs do look bad with certain items of clothing, from certain angles.
But that doesn't mean I will follow their advice! That will be sacrilege, for an Aquarian. :) I cannot dismiss the fact that I am getting older, as well. So clogs aren't remiss, totally. While waiting in line at Manchester airport, we encounter confessors at various points, more than any airports here. I really felt like I was doing confession as I answered the set of questions asked by persons of venerable age. It was the regular "did you pack your bags by yourself" questions. But I couldn't hear a single thing. I did not want to ask them to repeat either. Also my mind kept wandering. So I fired away "yes", "no". "no", "yes", with no rhyme or reason. At the first check point, I did fine. At the second point, the respectable gentleman stopped and looked at me and repeated the question. Then I knew I had said the wrong thing. And corrected myself. No, I don't think my ears were clogged. Of course, air travel wreaks havoc in my ears. But this time it was just because I couldn't hear. I remembered my dad who used to do this, towards the later years of his life -- random yes and no to questions or statements. :)) And I used to get mad, and used to ask him, why can't you listen, dad? Why can't you ask them to repeat?! Now I am in the same state, or country (of old folks).

Clogs and I belong together! :D

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

of quite "unpromising" matters, and of Thor, and gods in general

"What(ever) happened to your promise?" the singer belts out intensely in the song. As I trundle along, listening to it, like I have a thousand times before, it strikes me all on a sudden. That's it! No one has promised me anything! Ever! Then why would I expect anything from anyone? Well, another light bulb moment for this tubelight. I have heard someone tell me this, of course. But back then I disregarded it. If no one promised me anything ever, how can I blame anyone for not keeping promises? I cannot blame even death. But that is a whole different enchilada. (Not that I would believe it if anyone made any promises to me. oh well! )

Related to this could be the reason I prefer knocking on the wrong door. Any sensible person knows such an activity is inadvisable. For one, there may a ferocious bulldog behind that door! Then why do I do it? You may think it is that quality of persistence in me. Or that I am one of those "fatal attraction" fans. Or it could have been the foggy Neptunian influence on me -- that's astrology. Or, it could be that Aquarian urge to bring about change, without being changed themselves, to teach, to impart/share knowledge/info to/with all, whether they would listen or not. But I do it, if I do,  maybe, because I know that there is no one behind that door. That is, no one who has promised me to open the door for me. Now isn't that safe, and pragmatic? You have something to do, or you feel like you have something to do or wait for, and all that. And I get to not change at all! Much like life, I think.-- imagine the picture! everyone in the world knocking away on the wrong doors, or the right ones, for that matter, doesn't make much difference, right? And much like writing, say, this blog.  No one reads it, but I write anyway. And like the concept of "God". ref: in the absurdist tradition, waiting for godot, here, knocking on "godoor" ;)

Talking of gods, saw Thor. Enjoyed it hugely.  Now that is a lover/God worth waiting for! Another wrong door to knock! (I remember the songs that the nuns sing back home, at Mass - "My soul thirsts for you" and things like that) A golden god. Not a silent suffering one. But one who can easily wreak havoc.  Someone who does not pretend to be all-loving and forgiving, and still make us humans suffer anyway, and then wash his or her hands off calling it free will! No false show of humility, and then expect  to be revered/glorified, and kneeled down to, or beware! No, I think that any god who is worth his salt should be this Thor! God! Larger than life.Greater than human.Someone who looks like he can make things happen for you in this world! and not sell you or promise to sell you timeshares in heaven, if you please everyone else but yourself in this life.

Each time you whirled that mjolnir of yours, Thor, my heart, not unlike many other womens' and mens' too, I am sure, went hurtling along. The sheer power! that tremendous, immense, victorious, proud display of physical strength -- brought tears to my weakling eyes. As for Kenneth Branagh, I admired him as Wallander, and now, this, as master sculptor/craftsman of Thor! Thorough, large scale, rollicking, heart-pounding fun!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On "Murder at the Gallop" (1963)

Margaret Rutherford
Joan Hickson
David Suchet
All those involved in the making of this movie have to be congratulated -- they did a fine job of murdering Miss Marple, Agatha Christie, and Poirot, all at once! Done them all in properly! Not at all satisfied with changing a Poirot story into a Marple one, the makers had to make a mockery of Marple. I had to watch a Joan Hickson - Marple  movie to get  rid of the frustratingly disgusted, disappointed feelings that this farcical circus of a movie left in my mind. The character of Miss Marple has been completely turned upside down and trampled on by the character that the venerable Rutherford plays. Marple was not a strutting, bragging, condescending female Sherlock (though I like the eccentric  Holmes). She was a dignified spinster who kept a low profile while calmly and surely solving cases through shrewd observation and knowledge of human nature. She never bragged or climbed over stuff to peep in through windows. They could have made a mystery with Rutherford, or say, Ustinov -- it would not make a difference for those who never read an Agatha Christie mystery. But please do not call them Marple or Poirot. Hickson and Suchet are the only actors who knew the soul and the spirit of those characters. But then, it is sad to note that  in the recent Poirot movies, Poirot has suddenly become fanatically Catholic! Unforgiving and railing against immorality! The humaneness of Christie's Poirot is one of his admirable and endearing qualities! Just as calmness and dignity are some of the qualities of Miss Marple.  A dear sweet old lady who appears quite laid back and almost apologetic for intruding. Modest, utterly feminine, and not hurtfully judgemental. Not at all loud or manly or acrobatic!!! Or sexily clad in strappy dresses and doing the twist!! Notthat there is anything wrong with all that. But that it just isn't Marple.

Friday, March 4, 2011

on death

Thursday, August 2, 2007

One of those days, weeks . . .

So it is going to be one of those days when old age and death make themselves pronounce certain inevitabilities. Today they call me, shake me by my shoulders and say, "hey, wake up! that's enough sleep. Blissfully ignorant sleep! we are waiting here for you. Can't you see? We are right here and we always win."

My first pair of reading glasses had almost done me in. Till then, my eyes had given me no trouble at all. But when they started to deceive me, and when I got this equipment to help me, I panicked. Parts of the machine that is my body, are wearing out. Repairs can help, only temporarily. Soon other aches and pains will enter. Weakness will set in. Diseases of the body, of the mind. No matter what I do, what they do, Time will run forward relentlessly. I will run with it, but ironically, I am being left behind. Lagging. Slowing down. Falling down. Dying.

The glasses were forgotten in a month, as I could read even without it. And the fear of the end was forgotten along with it. New friends, old ones, new smiles, new hellos. Life seemed to be alive once more. But again, along comes the next medical checkup. Sleepless nights -- nights filled with fear. Of pain, of death. Filled with regrets. For things left half done, never done, for dreams that will never be true ever again. For things that will never be the same again. Time. Something that I seem to have a lot of, but in fact, I have so little of.

Who do I say goodbye to? Should I say it? Why? Wish I could say goodbye to time. Meet death half way? Would that defeat Time? Is there someone around to remind me how great life is? Well, if life has been a long slumber, then death ought to be a dream too.

Diary of a bridger of gaps


Most of us are born with an ability to be bridgers of gaps. For instance when I was a toddler, I had some tricks up my sleeve to make my arguing mom and dad smile at each other again, so I am told. And those smiles made them smile at me in turn which must have been the reason I did use those tricks. Call it self preservation , or preserving the harmony of my environment to my liking.

As I grew up, my studies lead me quite naturally to this theme over and over. I quite easily connected the African American Ralph Ellison and the Indian Salman Rushdie through their books. At the end of my researches, I declared that Midnight’s Children grew up to be Invisible Men – and women.

Next, I had the chance to delve into feminist criticism and theories of narrative techniques while applying it to Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. There was a gap I was eager to bridge – the gap between the aesthetics and politics of feminism. And I did it, by adapting the theory of deconstruction to my advantage. Twisting and changing and transforming it to an extent that Derrida would squirm in his grave.

Then came the real identity crisis, as I came to live in the United States of America. All on a sudden, I was a nobody, who belonged nowhere. After a couple of courses in globalization, I found my new job in bridging. The bridging of the Hindu, the Muslim, the Parsi, the Nazrani, – into one group of Vedic people. I utilized many ideas here for my own end in the belief that end justifies the means. For instance, I took into consideration the common elements between Hinduism and Zoarashtrianism. The way the Vedic "deva" became the Zoarashtrian demon and the asura became their god. Compare Maha Asura and Ahura Mazda. And soon that lead me to a bridging of the gap between the Aryans and the Semitics.

The bridges are growing now – between the Mediterranean people and ancient Indians, between the Chinese and Indians, Africans and Indians, and Central Asians and Indians and so on.Meanwhile I did undergo a genetic test to satisfy my curiosity as to my corporeal identity. After all, we Nazranis do believe that we are descendants of Brahmins converted into Christianity by St. Thomas in 52 A.D. A beautiful myth as has been proved by many. I found that we are descendants of Jews who had settled in Kerala long before Brahmins. About the genetic test, nothing much to say except that I wasted some money in order to let someone inform me quite officially that I belong to the human race!

This need to bridge the gaps between people is of course for my own selfish reasons, as I said before. Self preservation, and a longing to preserve the harmony of my environment for myself and for future generations. So there would be no more Darfurs or Somalias or Iraqs and Kashmirs. And boys and girls will not be send away to fight windmills and allowed to die needlessly. And real bridgers of gaps like Sergio Vieira de Mello will not be sacrificed at the altar of greed and indifference.

update on the DNA test -- I got it done again recently and found that my maternal ancestor roamed around the plains of Central Asia around 60,000 years ago, and my paternal one in that area and Eastern Europe around 12,000 years ago. pretty amazing India, don't you think?

another update: the presence of Brahmins in Kerala  when St Thomas came cannot be easily dismissed as I did till now. It is possible, I realize now.

About the Revolutionary Road


the special folks on Revolutionary Road

"The Feminine Mystique" and "The Female Eunuch" and my thoughts and feelings when I first read those books a long time ago, rushed back to my mind with a vengeance, when I watched Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio in Revolutionary Road. Disturbing. disturbingly real. too close for comfort. "the emptiness and the hopelessness" of it all. a land where the only sane voice is that of a certifedly insane man. I couldn't even cry while watching the movie. does that mean i have developed a thicker shell? or that i am too numb to want to react? i resisted, to be frank. didn't want to be reminded of that old "revolutionary" young asha.

Kate and Leo are trueto life, as the special couple Wheelers. hypnotically real. we all think we are special, don't we? esp. those of us who have been told so when we were kids. the thing is we are not allowed to be special like we want to. there are these expectations -- the question is, whose have the way of right? anyway, we learn later that we are not that special after all. life gets to us. be it in the form of an imaginary sense of obligation to one's dead ancestors, like where Mr. Wheeler warms up to the idea that his dead father must be proud of him when he, the son got a promotion in the same company that his dad worked. and then of course, we become realistic about things. and the children. the born and the unborn. motherhood.the blamings. the brandings. the burnings on the stake. certain ideals ought not to be ever questioned! the guilt, the burden, the justifications, the defiance.

poor Mrs.Wheeler, and her husband, and her kids, and her neighbors. the unrealized dream. Mrs. Wheeler's Paris. Madame Bovary's Paris. some other housewife's New York . the more practical among us opt out of dreaming and out of thinking too! because don't we all know that it is thinking that gets us into trouble? so, even though, for a while some of us hope that there's something good, meaning something that will make us happy, just around the corner. soon, we kill that thought too. there's nothing around that corner. except old age and death. and one feels old suddenly.

Looking back, age was one of the reason I rooted for Hillary Clinton, even though she isn't old to me. apart from the fact that she is a woman. i identified myself with her. easily. ageism and sexism was rampant in the election process, i felt. the media circus.and i am against racism as much as against the other two isms . now i wonder what made it so easy for me. that is, to identify with another generation. after all, i am not in that generation. i belong to the new President's generation. but then i realize, it is the death of dreams that makes one age faster. but then, this too shall pass.

About "The Reader"


The Reader

Michael Berg (David Kross and Ralph Fiennes) is a Scheherazade of modern times. and he reads to his girl. till her death. what if the "girl" is old enough to be his mother? what if she is a secretive, cold, distant woman? and incredibly simple too. except when they are in bed together. he reads to her. she listens. she wants more. she is a reader who reads without reading. and he sends audio cassettes to her when she is in jail. when the reading stops, she stops too. by then she has started to read. not a "Notebook" kind of reading . or aN "Out of Africa" kind of story-telling. still, it a story telling. and it is a love story.

the gray areas of morality and justice. what does a soldier feel after he has killed a lot of innocent people? including children? in a war that has nothing to do with him or the dead child? the need for a war that the soldier's own country concocted out of and for nothing? will he be ever brought to trial for his cruelty and inhumanity, by his victim? or his victim's family? what do the people inhabiting a country which sent him to a war that caused the deaths and/or enslavement of millions feel? can anyone teach them the right way to feel about these things? will they be brought to trial? will the dead victims ever get justice? if and when these people are brought to a trial in court, how many would lie to escape justice? how many would feign ignorance of what was going on right before their eyes? and how many would really have been ignorant? ignorance is evil, but knowledge could be evil too, if the subjects being taught are hatred and vengeance. or the superiority of a certain race or culture.the woman was just surviving in a moment in history. without thinking, maybe. and she pays the price. but her victims, as she says, are still dead. so is her young lover, in a way. maybe she could have refused to go with the flow. (but how many would, really?)she could have chosen not to let people be killed. she did not. as she says, she had her responsibility. she was a guard. are we allright with it if a soldier said that? that he killed because he had been ordered to. are we, who keep quiet, when we send these soldiers to kill, innocent? will that include all those people who follow a religion or religions, whose leaders sanction killings of others, in the name of religion and/or for ease of colonizations?

as for the actors -- ah! Kate! mesmerizing kate. the vulnerability, the silly vanity, the ordinariness of hannah have all been captured by her. and David Kross and of course, Ralph Fiennes! the Constant Gardener! they have lived the story. left me crying.they can rest assured that they do not belong to the common herd. no wonder some are stars!nor do they have to wonder if they really are special, or worry if they are cursed (or blessed) with that thing called "mediocrity". They are special people. people whose dreams have value. forever young.

Monday, February 7, 2011

what is wrong with (some, well, actually, a lot of) Indian men?

So another girl has been attacked in Kerala, that bastion of tradition and high morality. She was just travelling by train, and this man rapes her. She jumps out of the train to escape him, and she dies. There were other passengers aware of the evil, they kept quiet. A few years ago, another girl was attacked, a nun came to her rescue, and both the girl and the nun were pushed off the train. The nun lost an arm and a leg. In both cases, the men were from other states. Not that Mallu men are saints.
What is wrong with these men? Women and girls of any age cannot walk along Kerala's streets in daytime without being groped and pawed. Even if a male realtive is with a girl, these men feel free to molest the girl. Does this mean we have to cover ourselves up and sit at home behind locked doors? That is not going to happen.

And  in this case, we have to bear in mind that these  unfortunate girls were in the "ladies' compartment". The fact that the ladies need to be seated in a different area itself is suspicious. These same men with their uncontrollable urges behave wonderfully well when they are in other countries. So what is it that gives them the liberty to do whatever they want to, to whomever they want to, whenever they want to, in "God's own country"? Maybe these "literate" males think that www stands for that -- wherever, whenever, whoever -- not unlike many others. Kerala has become the place which looks upon its girls as just objects to toy with. A place where girls have no worth. Of what use is literacy if people cannot acknowledge the basic rights of their fellow beings? Now men from other states come to Kerala to display their perversions. Live and let live, please. It is a proven fact that If a nation's women are not recognized as human, and are not treated equally/ or better, that nation is always going to lag behind in every way. No amount of technological or scientific advances, no social networks, no internet,  nothing is going to bring these nations into the 21st century. Nor will they make these rabid persons human, unless they become human. And for that, education helps, not the textbook kind. But about man and woman. Their rights. The meaning of fairness.

Well, even in so-called civilized countries, it is hard for people to realize that a woman's body is her own. They talk and act as if her biology and her biological clock is everyone else's except her's. It is as if everyone else decides what she should do with her body, when she should have a baby, actually, they are determined that she have a baby. But these are matters which we still have  a choice in, I hope. But in India, everything goes a step further. Girl child is unwanted. She is killed off before she is even born. And what happens to her if and once she is born? Look at this young girl. She is  gone, she  lost her life, after an inhuman horrific ordeal. The distinction between revenge and justice gets blurred in my mind, even when I know that the rot in our culture goes deeper than we allow ourselves to see.
That a woman cannot go about her life without attracting unwanted attention is a violation of her space. I remember once a fellow student at the university countering my argument with "we men get mugged too!"
There was no point in convincing someone who pretended not to understand the basic tenets of civilization and refinement.

And a word to the wise -- that is, those in authority, who are at once proud of our state's culture and tradition, and privately condone the imbecilic treatment of women,-- you better clean up your act. No use parading elephants and pushing houseboats around backwaters -- there won't be any tourists to see it all, if they can't feel safe there. And the modern technology will do something -- it will put an end to secrecy, and coverup, whch is what  till now protected the offenders. We showered the victim with shame and guilt that no one dared to speak out, even when they were hurt badly. But now, it would be like shouting from the rooftops. And these are the kind of things that will blacken our faces, and make us bow our pathetic little heads in shame. We are responsible, our collective inertia, our fear, our selfishness and shame ,and our resistance to change.

I will add more to this piece, once I can breathe properly. It is with a heavy heart that I think of my homeland now. I never thought I will be this glad to be out of that place.

Friday, January 7, 2011

age of self-conscious living-- part 3 or 4?

My fascination with the blurring of boundaries between the real and  the unreal goes hand in hand with my fascination for the age of self-conscious living. This is the third or fourth time I am writing about it. trying to articulate the ideas in my head. Recently I read an article in Time, about Oprah. Now, I admire Oprah, and the writer of this article does too, as he writes about not Oprah in particular, but her new cable channel, OWN -- Oprah Winfrey Network. I do not know where to start! The ideas that ran in my mind as I was reading this article! virtual wild horses waiting to be caught! and tamed! familiar ideas that sounded almost crazy suddenly turned probable and real!
Oprah embodies the spirit and substance of "celebrity". As I said before, we all want to be 'celebrities" in our own ways. The writer of the above article concludes his article thus, "your best self, it turns out, is a self with a show on Oprah's network." What is your "best self'?" We have read and heard a million answers for that. A host of religions attempt to teach you that. But in the present world of democratized media, what constitutes "best self"? To me, that would be a self whose existence has been validated, is being validated. Who validates it? Myself, I could say, like a million self-help books tell me, but i would say it is others. My existence is validated by other selves, the world. And what better way than being in the media? No wonder these reality-tv shows are not going away anytime soon.
And you cannot say that celebrities are just twinkling stars that do just that -- twinkle. it takes a George Clooney to bring Sudan to your attention. It is his idea about the satellite in the sky over that troubled spot that is being put to work right now. His voice is heard, his movements are followed, and there is his power to make things happen. Like Oprah. So the age of self-conscious living , the age of TV living is here as a natural evolutionary force in our existence. I do not know the "real" Oprah. I just know the "virtual" Oprah. And this virtual Oprah changes lives. Inspires others to be life-changing celebrities.yes, your best self is your virtual self!
Now, in this age of self-conscious living, we are all characters in a virtual world. We are heroes -- tragic at times, with one great flaw, comic at other times laughing at ourselves. Movies are made of our thoughts, ideas and what we see. Great or funny music accompanies us, those same thoughts and ideas. We are significant beings whose existences are valid. Valid enough to be seen and heard on a global platform by other valid beings.We are all walking movies, at the same time, we are all moviemakers. We are the "best selves" living in a "self-conscious" world of which we are very aware, a world which has to notice us in turn.