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.