Wednesday, November 20, 2013

the Kochi effect

on my way to Kochi

Even though it had been 3 years since I'd been to India, sadly, I was not pining for it. This is coming from a typical Malayali whose eyes used to well up,  - whose heart played the drums with all its might, the moment she glimpsed  the green valleys of Kerala. After my dad was gone, I lost that longing for my homeland. I did not care what went on there, I did not care if I went there.

But this past month I had to. I was determined that the visit would be as short as possible, jet lag or not. So I went home for a week, and that included travel time. And I have to say I fell in love all over again. The day I landed I went to see one of my old professors. She is retired now and runs an old age home. She has a few smiling little nuns to help her. It is a home set on a hill in a rural area. A place which makes one stop and think. Along the way I saw the changes that have come to my state. The wider roads, the vanishing chimneys of the old brick factories, the churches, the temples... .

The next day I took the trip that really floored me, that changed the state of my mind. I went to Kochi to visit a few family members. Kochi, the Queen of the Arabian sea, known as Cochin, just a short while ago. I stopped to buy some fruits in a street. Just another old street in that old town. Narrow, crowded, bright and sunny. It was, and is still, a feeling that I can only describe as wonderful. Even magical. That a place can actually make me feel so vibrant. I have heard celebrities on the red carpet talk about the energy they could feel around them. At that moment I felt it. The energy. The life - in capital letters. It made me want to cry. As I stood there, unbelievably, I know, I could see the passing of time. I imagined the countless number of people who walked those streets, who lived like me, and died. People who were children there, and later, young men and women, going places. I belonged there. The place, the ambience, the people, the movement, the startling but sure ascent of a society, the burgeoning, electrifying breath of that land enveloped me  -- it could almost be called a mystical experience, and it was very real. This was home. This is home. A part of me that no one can take away.

Then I had the chance to talk with, and listen to someone who can only be described as the essence of Kochi, since he lives for that city, and my mind was full to the brim. With more and more room appearing, asking for more. Outwardly, I may have been the same old laidback Asha. But inside, I was like a child in wonderland, frantically, greedily, taking it all in. I heard about the gigantic strides the city was making in every field -- art, cinema, archaeology, science, technology. Kochi seemed to be the happening place. Its young and old, man and woman, are heading forward to a future of fulfilled promises, realized dreams.  Like its waterways, its skyscrapers, Kochiites are forging new ways of living, firmly based on the old. The quick, incessant exchange of ideas, of commodities, the constant movement of people to and from countries all over the world, the connections that had always gone on there -- Kochi was always globalized -- has gained new momentum now. It is a rebirth,  it is a metamorphosis. The butterfly is about to burst out.   Here is the infinite ocean of stories, the never ending, mesmerizing sagas of life and death, past and present. Here is where one could swim around, dive into, and drown in.  Like the old, empty, history-laden warehouses in that port town still said to be wafting the aromas of long gone spices,  that await for new life, and new ways of thinking, my mind seemed to be waiting. I miss it all. Terribly.And what am I doing here? I feel that  it is time to go back. There is nothing here for me that can compare to that. There is nothing here that made me feel what I felt on that morning on that street. What am I waiting for?

 a beat to dance to! :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

down memory lane

curiously, this song seems to be stuck in my head -- after I got back from a short visit home.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Malayali's Daasan and Vijayan and American's Shawn and Gus

one reminds me of the other of these friendly terror duos, who somehow, in spite of themselves, solve crimes too. :)

Mohanlal and Sreenivasan as the bumbling and annoying but good-hearted friends Daasan and Vijayan in their first movie together.

James Roday and Dule Hill as Shawn and Gus in the  funny detective TV series, Psych.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

way better than Bond!

 Fast and Furious 6 is one movie of a movie.

Vin Diesel, Dwayne the Rock, and the gang. And then the ending after the end.

international thriller.

democratized, globalized heist-race-travel-romance-family-clan-spy- adventure! totally satisfied. :)

why not add an Indian too next time?

I agrree with this writer, who has said it so well. -- popwatch

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

new Pope and thoughts of my Nazrani heritage

New Pope in the offing for the Catholics. Again, the Nazranis are forgotten. No candidate from the Syro-Malabar Church. It is fascinating to see the invisibility of these people. In spite of the fact their faith is over 2000 years old. In spite of all the earnest traditions and strict followings of the Church doctrines, more than any other Catholic group in the world. Why, the priest and nuns in my community back home wield more power -- for good or bad -- than any monarch, over their flock. All that exaltation of virginity in our women, demands of covering our heads (in shame for being born as women?) in Church, of compulsory removals of our slippers in the not very clean Church floors, of strict fastings and confessions, public humiliations and ostracizations of sinners, and manic Charismatic retreats,, making girls wear plain sarees, to college -- none of that helped, sadly.

I had written previously, that my ancestors' belief that we were high caste Brahmins converted into Christianity by St Thomas the Apostle, was erroneous. I based it solely on hearsay , and on Nehru's statement that there were no Brahmins in Kerala in 52 A.D. Now, I had thought Nehru's ulterior motive may have been a unified India, without the North-South divide. But I had also read about the Apostles' first mission of getting the news of the Messiah to those places where there were Jews already. According to historians, Jews from Kerala sent gifts to King Solomon, who, we know, ruled before the times of Jesus. Musiris, the present day Kodungallur, was a famous port from ancient times.Combined with the fact that people from the Middle East were called Mappilas in Kerala, I deduced that my ancestors were Jews, not Hindu Brahmins. Of course they must have intermingled with the other local people too. As for Nehru's motive, now I think it may not have been that benevolent. It must have been an urge to perpetuate that British-influenced myth of the superiority of the North Indian "Aryan" race.

But now, after  DNA analysis for my ancestry,  I realize that there may have been something to my ancestor's belief about their Brahmin ancestry. I should not have dismissed it so callously as due to simple vanity. I learn that there was a strong  reformist movement in Kerala --by  Buddhists and Jains. One of the factors that the newer movements opposed was the Hindu caste system. So it stands to reason that there were Brahmins in Kerala then. There are other clues too in history -- one of which is the fact that Chanakya/Kautilya, the brainy Minister of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya( Ashoka's predecessor), who ruled a large empire extending to parts of Central Asia, long before the times of Jesus, was a Brahmin  from Kollam, Kerala. It is all more complex than I thought, obviously. Thus, according to 23 and me, apparently my ancestors spread out from the Central Asian area towards eastern Europe, up to Finland. Then, surely, at some point,  some groups returned to India. Or, a group stayed put, while a part of that group migrated northward. And we are the descendants of that group, Brahmin or not, Jewish or not. More has to be known to find out exactly how and when my ancestors got to be in Kerala, (Silk Route?)incorporating all the above details, and more, I am sure, about Jewish and Hindu history.

And according to the 23andme results, I have Hindu relatives, and I share my paternal ancestry with my husband, whose gene pool, I had thought,  was very different from mine, (even though he is a Nazrani from Kerala too, he belongs to the Latin Catholic community, and we Trichur Syrian Christians think of them as different. yep! that's how focused we are on "difference"!). And now I see that he has .2% native American ancestry, and a bit of Neanderthal too! How amazing can this get!!! We are all related really. :) Along with Hindu relatives, I seem to have connections with Indians from the North and South. and I share my paternal  haplogroup with Ukkrainian, Polish, and Finnish persons! The people of the world are not as different from each other as some would want to make it.

Anyway, we Nasranis were under the Eastern Orthodox Church for a while. Then with the advent of the Portuguese to Kerala in 1498 A.D. after many splinterings, one big chunk came under the largely  white Roman Catholic Church. Now, if we have any pride left, in our heritage, our story, or just plain pride like any of those practicing Princes of the Roman Church in the West , we would start our own Church, and select our own Pope, and canonize our own saints galore. just sayin'!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

for Jyoti.

a girl tortured and murdered. just like that. for no reason except that because they could. I know no one's "sorry" means anything now.  your life was stopped-- cruelly, inhumanly, wantonly. sorry that you were unfortunate enough to be born in this country called India or Bharat or Hindustan. sorry that there weren't enough human beings in that land who could prevent this horror that was dealt to you. hope you get some kind of justice at least after your death.

"Jyothi" means light. All children are lights of the world, of the future. boy and girl. man and woman. When that young girl with all her little big dreams of a better, happier life was murdered so horribly, she is not the only one who died. We all died -- at least a part of each one of us. She died a thousand deaths -- a placard read. And it hit me again and again. Even I at this jaded stage of my life, when I thought nothing could touch me anymore, cannot stop the tears. But they are no good, I know. What kind of sick people will do this? What kind of normal people will let this happen? Why? How many more before we act? I am ashamed to think that I am glad I am far away from that place where human life has zero value, and girls' lives, less than that.

these inhuman acts are not just for or because of  sexual power. Nor is it as some point out,  because of poverty. Being poor does not mean you have to rape and kill women.  It is hatred born out of sheer envy and basic meanness. envy at the little happiness or success and independence that these girls and women created for themselves. fear that these girls will fly. away from their grasping hands. these men just follow a way of life akin to the old racial pogroms. the anger and the envy towards the "uppity" woman. new ways of intimidation, containment, punishment. women stay in the margins! do not step out of your male-approved roles.

The light was extinguished by a few idiotic demons. And still, there are those who blame the light. Why did it burn? why did it light up? Look to any culture that mistreats its women, denies them the rights of a human being -- they all reek of poverty and failure. A tradition that murders unborn females, a land filled with mass graves of female bodies -- India's holocaust. Whole villages devoid of women because of this selective breeding. Then they buy kidnapped little girls to use as slaves in their households. There are those so-called educated men who point out here that men get hurt too . they do not have any freedom either! First of all I do not know how they can compare their "hurts" or inability to have indiscriminate sex, to the atrocities committed on women on a daily basis, just because men can. Be it a war, or a day at the store -- men vent their frustrations and compensate for their failures by hurting and killing women. It is your outfit, it is your hair, it is your expression that is to blame, they tell us. No, it is none of these. Because you do this to any female -- right from when they are in their mother's womb till they are dead.

There are those all over the world ( this includes obviously, religious and political leaders, educational institutions run by nuns, priests, and other religious gurus, and law enforcement officials) who believe that the right to "the pursuit of happiness" is only for men. Much like the divine right of kings, like nations, that out of greed, conquer and plunder, like races who think they are superior and are entitled. And for these men who look down on women,  the one thing that pops when she says, 'happiness", is sex. Years ago when I wrote about my dream of a land where a lone  woman can walk safely even at midnight, all these twisted minds could get out out of it was, again, sex. Why do you want to walk at night? isn't it for sex? Or , later, it could be "why do you want to walk at all?"  "Why do you need to breathe?" Does this mean they don't get it -- that it is not their unwanted advances that we crave for, but the freedom to choose for ourselves, as much as any human being can? Not really -- they pretend not to get it. And what if men are hurt? We don't find pleasure or satisfaction in that! The fact that for every 100 girls that are preyed upon, 50 boys are too these days, doesn't make any of it right. Nor does that make any of us happy.

a suggestion -- round these evil elements up, including the ones in power who condone and support these crimes for some money, the politicians, the police who are the products of a colonial and patriarchal culture, and send them over to the war zones. Move all the human beings out of those areas and let these idiots fight among themselves and rot. Or to the desert.  Meanwhile, educate the rest. as to the real meaning of "culture" and "civilization" . Those words do not mean that men can do whatever they want, and get away with it. learn to enlighten. and  to be enlightened. no amount of plunging in the Ganges will help us with that. Open the mind.

for more info:

how India treats its women

child abuse in India

cruelty towards women in other places too, escalating to unbelievable  levels during wartimes --   cost of being women

modern day racism is rampant all over especially in some of those Middle Eastern countries that employ a lot of men and women from developing countries. no basic human rights there, except for the natives and the whites. and we do not see any human rights activists complaining much.