Tuesday, November 20, 2012

open air museums

kerala rice field against a backdrop of coconut palms

Weald and Downland Open air museum is one place I would like to visit in England. It is a total re-creation of old village living. and it made me think again about such museums in India. How wonderful would be a re-creation of the city of Ashoka? or Chandragupta Maurya? megasthenes wriitng.  The inns. The wayfarers. The markets. The horses. Men and women wearing long fine muslins, decked in gold jewelry, walking around talking and laughing -- well, not a Las Vegas style one, which, on second thoughts, isn't too bad. Or Emperor Akbar's city. They make movie sets easily, don' t they?

And the villages. in my state, Kerala. The dirt roads. The fences covered in blue and yellow flowers. the little shops. the smithies. the homes. the farmhouses. the pastures. the cows and goats. the little temple. the mango, jackfruit, and tamarind trees... .the lush green rice fields surrounded by the tall coconut groves. the brooks and ponds  filled with little fish. just to remember how it was. before all the developments.

or of Muziris. I hear that they are attempting to do something along those lines there. But it needs money and vision to make it to that extensive and expansive level. time will tell, I suppose. Apart from an educational perspective,  such living dynamic museums are job creators without the feudal system bearing on the employees, and it preserves the greenery along with the history.

more info about Muziris :

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

the falls of the season

sky is falling! hennypenny

This fall has been a season of falls from grace, for some great people. Lance Armstrong, Petraeus, now Gen John Allen... . As the astrologers would point out, Saturn's move into Scorpio was an indicator that such things would happen. And it has just started.

I am not saying that that means the sky is falling. far from it. All this have always been there, will always be. Talking of skies and falls, saw the newest James Bond movie. I know everyone is enamoured of it. skyhigh praises for the best Bond ever and all that. I admit it is an eminently watchable film. Like, as I have said before elsewhere, (I am sure you all are keeping track of what I say or not say, that you have nothing else to do ) a Jason Bourne movie -- almost. And more recently, a Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson -- Taken 2) movie.

deja vu -- to see the rooftops of Istanbul ( I believe) as the stomping grounds of both Bond and Mills.
to see the ruins of the island where the supervillain is -- didn't I see that in Stallone's Expendables? M and the Scottish gamekeeper -- was that Dame Judi Dench as Mrs Brown? Which is right for this season's theme of the falls-- the fall of a Queen. M, that is.

For me, and for many I know, Bond movies are great for their grand locations, outdoors, indoors, beautiful women, and of course the handsome and debonair Mr Bond. Nowadays other movies do that too -- so what is the difference? it's like been there, done that. There is not much of a difference, except that idea that this was once upon a time Bond. Like when I heard that familiar music -- when the old Bond car is revealed. The fascination for the Bond movies rose also from the quaint "Britishness" of the main characters. Their customs, their attitudes, their behavior, and the accent of course. There is a romance about all that, rightly or not, in spite of it all or not. Like a Poirot or Miss Marple movie. Or a Jeeves and Wooster gig. Like the English countryside. lLike high tea. All those are nice to look at, and eat in the last case. I read about the success of the British TV dramas like Upstairs, Downstairs, and recently, of Downton Abbey in the US. It is this same fascination. They are not that different from any other soap operas. It is the setting, the ambience, the whole baggage/package of Britishness. The old colonial power -- the greatness, the extent, the influence, the ubiquitous nature of the language. So in spite of our present day knowledge of the real effects of colonialism, we like to gaze upon its perpetrators' idealized vision of themselves,   idealize it ourselves to some extent, be nostalgic about it, aspire to it, maybe. Because of it, in spite of it. It is in the collective memory of a lot of people, for better or worse, so to speak. What I am trying to say is that James Bond is a British institution. a symbol. an ideal of Britishism, Britishness -- or the ideal idea of what it is in peoples' minds. As it is, Bryan Mills is a secret agent who has a personal agenda, and James Bond is a secret agent with a not-so-personal agenda, trying to defeat vengeful villains, like many other heroes.

One of the reasons for the coziness of the whole Bondwatching experience was the fact that Bond was killing off unmitigated villains. M is in his/her heaven and all's well with the world -- something like that. Now it seems the villain is M. And the other villain, Silva has a sad past -- he is an alter ego of Bond. Like many rogues, he is created by the supposedly good-intentioned.  Not difficult to understand in the postmodern, postcolonial world.

The new supposedly grittier, craggier ( ;) ) version of  Bond  is probably in sync with the new world, but I miss the old suave, stiff upper-lipped Bond with that cynical smile. The modern Bond for me would be that portrayed by Pierce Brosnan. He is the old Bond, in a new setting. He is aware of his dinosaur status, as M makes it  a point to tell him. Still, he acts the part. The show goes on -- a witty tongue-in-cheek interpretation. let me hasten to say that I love them all. all the Bonds, I mean.

Now for the Bond girls -- I keep hearing that the new Bond girls are women of substance -- well, more than the earlier ones. I beg to differ. Apart from Michelle Yeoh, ( memorably in a Pierce Brosnan movie)  I do not remember anyone as being that substantial. In fact, the earlier Bond women had a majesty, a presence that is lacking in the newer ones. Anyway who am I to say? What do I know?

When I was watching Bond and the bad guy on the roof tops, I couldn't help wishing that they would stop and decide to just run and jump around for fun. both say " oh forget it! and hold hands and dance. but that would be a spoof. which is not new either.

and -- whatever happened to Ralph Fiennes?  a great (and handsome) actor, and he gets these just-hangin'-around kind of roles. oh, they gave him a gun to wave about towards the end, but his talent is wasted  here. He is hero material. remember the Constant Gardener?  again, the actors I like seem to languish. maybe I am wrong. I like Heather Graham, Winona Ryder, I liked Lindsay Lohan. Leonardo di Caprio is another talented actor. He gets the roles and he does them exceptionally well, but the awards committee seem not to notice. anyway.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

how green was my valley

so -- election 2012 is over. them that dance the best win, the rest lose. or dance again.
as for me, I am still the same old flounder. like they say back home, shankaran pinnem thengil thanne.
earth-shaking events take place in the lives of some, in others' earth-shattering. and then we move on.let me leave all that to the champion dancers. people who are really good at doing things. I am just wondering at the going green phenomenon.

I was thinking of the plight of New Yorkers after the hurricane.  It was sad. Sometimes it looked like a so-called Third World scene. But then there are some countries that always look like they have been perpetually hit by natural disasters. But they are the ones who really live green. They don't even eat half the amount of food the so aware forward-thinking countries throw away in a day. They do not drive cars, nor do they have washers and dryers. Many use biofuels aka cow pie  to cook their scanty food. In fact, cooking gas is rationed. Petrol is costlier than here. God forbid, they don't use tissues. why, many, unfortunately,  use the great outdoors as their toilets. My only hope is that we will not all be asked to do that in the name of going green.

 Growing up, I remember people going to the grocer with cloth bags  folded neatly in their hands, and returning with the same bags filled with well, groceries. Sometimes I saw wet bags, leaking bags -the butcher wrapped the meat in teak leaves, not plastic or styrofoam trays, same with the fishmonger.  - I saw dirty bags, clean bags, but they were washed and used, and reused. Then came plastic bags -- all on a sudden I saw how useful they were. particularly in a place like Kerala, with its monsoons, and dust and such, these bags were a godsend. Not that they were plentily available like here -- people used and reused them again. As for paper plates - there was a time when we  ate our sadya on banana leaves. use and throw bio-degradable. well, there was discrimination there too, I got to admit. The so-called lower castes had to be greener than the rest. In the feudal system that we had, the poor workers on the farm were given their meals at the landlord's. Come lunchtime, these men and women dug a small hole in the ground, put a banana leaf in it, because that is what they used as a plate. The so-called high caste people of my country had many ingenious ways that helped their world stay green. but that is another story.

In the same vein, we can talk about claypot/earthenware cooking. I am attracted to that too like any other foodie. Rustic = romantic. Environmentally safe, healthy as opposed to the teflon coated pots and pans (and cosmetics and sofa covers and all that  and more -- teflon is God -- omnipresent). But then i remember the women back then. How much time they had to spend before the stove fanning those flames and keeping the pots and pans at a certain temperature -- manually. And the cleaning. It is good that the peasants did not have that many varieties of dishes to cook for a single meal. But again, the landlord could -- his servants or women at home had all that fun.  Women could come out of the kitchen and laundry room because of these new technologies. However it will be good if they could invent technology that addresses all these factors including protection of the environment.

Years later, I see the West touting green living, and I am reminded of those godsend plastic bags. I read  that they blame the overpopulation of countries like India for the depletion of nature's resources, and the pollution of our atmosphere. Then I come to live in the West, and I see the amount of paper and plastic and electricity we use, from the milk cartons to the mountain of tissue, from take out trays to holiday/party stuff and so on. I don't mind. In fact I am glad that there are no power cuts, that the gas for cooking appears as if from nowhere, that the lights are brighter, the machines - -esp. the washer and dryer, and the dishwasher --work faster, there is hot water all the time. I am grateful for the faster cars, the cleaner surroundings. All that paper and all that bleach and Lysol  helps. In fact i wish there was enough bleach in India to clean all the public restrooms there --and that's not too many.. But just when the third worlders are starting to hope to enjoy a little bit of comfort and light, the ones who really stripped the earth of its resources for their factories and railroads, are grandstanding. Please let those poor third worlders  enjoy their earth for a bit, then they themselves will make their world greener than the greenest. till then, let'em breathe.

Why did we make  those chemicals and plastics and cars in the first place? because of their utility. there was a need for those, as human beings went forward -- to kill germs, to transport material in an efficient and clean manner, to travel faster and farther easily etc.  They genetically modified the agricultural crops to feed many with a lot of well-preserved food. Again, in the warmer climes, were pests and water abound, countermeasures had to be found too. Little land, too many people - necessity for faster, more abundant crops. It would be good if we invented nutritious tasty items which could assuage the hunger of many with the least quantity of it. Quality vs quantity.

There are times when I long for that old village where my grandmother lived. It had quaint little streets with each little thatched or tile-roofed houses surrounded by bamboo fences covered in flowering creepers. These days they have modern concrete homes with concrete compound walls. The thatched and tiled roofs leaked and needed to be replaced time and again. The concrete ones seem to be stronger , and of course, people want to be modern -- wrongly or not. The green rice fields and coconut palm groves are disappearing. I seethe at the indiscriminate developments that crop up all over my homeland. But then I think of the people who work abroad just to make enough money to build a home of their own in their homeland. These are not rich men flaunting their riches -- well, at least the majority aren't. These are poor men and women who break their backs working in foreign, unfriendly lands, bowing to inhuman treatment, just because of a little dream in their hearts -- of building a home. I can't grudge them their small joys and wishes just so that I have this nostalgic feeling for the old ways. And when I am enjoying the comforts of the western world.

The earth needs greening. sensibly. not by depriving the great suffering millions, but slowly finding new ways for new times. ways that work. I still want clean surroundings, clean food, enough food, and faster modes of travel. What I do not want is war and disease. Now, if people and nations can focus on preventing and eradicating those, then the earth would be greener. Also, later, I hope someone does not say we have depleted the sun off all his energy, that it is raining tears of ashes on us. just saying. green is my favorite color.

Go green!