Monday, November 3, 2014

An Education in Humanity(ies)

Aristotle and Alexander

I just happened to listen to a talk by Professor Leslie Epstein on Youtube. He was talking about the ignorance of the current college students. About their lack of knowledge and of interest in their own culture, history, and art in general, especially the older more “sublime” culture.

I agree with all that Epstein said, however, I also think that some changes are inevitable, and some changes are even necessary evils, necessary to survive in the modern world. Democratization of every cultural factor could lead to a leveling of old hierarchies even in the world of "culture". That is one cause of the end of the interest in the old Humanities. I believe all that knowledge and sensibilities of the past have been absorbed into the very DNA of the current generation, in a collective sense. And some other forms of those have evolved out of those, for better or for worse. Naturally, mutation occurred! Obviously they would tell the older generation that we are ignorant of a thing or two. It is a new world, a young world, and while people like me would keep looking back at the greener times, these citizens will keep looking to the future, sadly, sometimes a bleak one. When you really think about it, that older sublime culture also caused certain evils that are still beyond our understanding. There were wars and destruction well before the ones in video games.( ref. think of  Aristotle and Alexander.) The one difference again may be that what was exclusive to a handful now has been again, democratized, including the retelling of histories.

In spite of all that, another factor that deters the current generation from taking a look at the older forms of culture could be more mundane - finding a job. I see teenagers who are going to college now wondering how to opt out of applying to certain universities that has a mandatory core curriculum in Philosophy, Art, History and Literature. They see those subjects as useless and as a total waste of time. As long as the so called feminine qualities of empathy, forgiveness and selflessness are seen as weaknesses, and "giving in", and when success is measured by how much you earn, and how many you destroy, then the younger generation of any time in history, is going to avoid those, and any things that are related to it, like the plague.

Come to think of it, it is true in my case. All my literary studies haven't equipped me to survive in the real world, the one outside my home. That's what my son has seen. His father who has a professional degree makes a tangible difference in his and others' lives, while his mom with a literature degree (who always tries to think from the other's point of view, who tries to learn lessons from all experiences, who analyzes the tensions and sensibilities of the marginal in every movie and/or news item, while admiring the beauty in the method), remains this ridiculous eternal student. Relegated to the background, trying to win the approval of everyone, while forever tormented by discontent.

 And I can see why these kids have turned to skills and training.  Knowledge for knowledge's sake is not for them -- it is a means to an end -- to make a living.  I cannot dismiss this situation as a simple dichotomy between passion and reason, or art and science. To them people like me are dissociated from real life, life that is measured by fame and success, to which I tend to agree at times. Because where I come from, back then, we, especially girls who studied literature, who read books, were not trained for a job, let alone a career.. We just floated in some rarefied atmosphere, totally out of touch with reality. (Reading this you would think I lived in Victorian England, or in Bronte country. You are not far off the mark -- only thing is, like in the case of love, or just plain friendship with the opposite sex, Victorian women were better off- they had the odd curate lurking about. With us, the nuns monopolized the odd priests.)

The only facts for me were abstract ideas of freedom, truth, love, duty, and loyalty. Abstract being the operative word, especially in the matter of love. It was a hypnotic period where we felt as if we were doing something worthwhile, while all the time we were just being prepared to be docile little housewives. We learned to read books, and some of us learned how to write books, but we were all ineffectual. What we learned, more importantly, is to appreciate knowledge, again, in a theoretical sense. Still, the practical side escaped people like me. Most of us were unaware of the uses of all that knowledge to ourselves, how we could work it to our own advantage. It was always for others, especially those ideas of duty and loyalty to family. Add to that a pair of parents who got their high from giving the shirts off their backs to all in need, and found it very difficult and downright shameful to accept or ask for anything from others, all you end up is as a "good girl". All this, needless to say, was as opposed to the other extreme that is prevalent now. Now if we could have struck a golden balance,that would have been ideal. Instead we got stuck in that ivory tower. Humanities, old and new, are important to us, and an education in the Humanities should enhance the whole life and knowledge experience of the individual.

But what Epstein so rightly pointed out about the loss of that power of empathy, that terrible exaltation of the self, that is truly frightening. Again, this is not new -- ref. Aristotle and Alexander. I wonder how empathetic Alexander was. I wonder how empathetic those great musicians and artists were to the women around them. Or Winston Churchill. I am sure he had a pretty good education in the Humanities. I doubt if that helped his empathetic abilities! Nevertheless, it was limited to a few -- the choice, the education, the power -- now it may not be. Not that everyone would be powerful, but more are, than in the olden days. The mutation of the collective DNA. A natural progression in civilization, probably an apparent regression in “humanity”, which may still evolve into something even better than the old.  

And when we want to build a truly better culture, what better way than any is there but to base it on all that has gone before? Alter it, dismantle it, deconstruct, reconstruct – you have to know the old too at some level - the present experience or product could be  richer for that. For instance, an education in history would make a modern teenager stop and think before they declare that they do not like feminists, or that many issues are just conspiracy theories that grown ups hold on to for no reason. They would realize that the freedoms that they take for granted were won by the struggles of many who went before them. (anxiety of influence on another level in action?), that there is more to be done to cause real progress.Any education should ideally nurture our humanity, and if it fails in that, we are in trouble. Who knows these modern day mavericks may then reinvent the wheel in their own way.

See the video of the TEDtalk here:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

To Die with Dignity

The Rest

The fact is that we all die. Sooner or later, for one reason or another, we die. Also, there are two kinds of death, mainly - the sudden and the long-drawn out, dragging on kind.The other fact is no doctor, whatever his credentials are, can grant us immortality. Now most everyone hopes for a sudden, painless death, but not many meet their ends that way.
Those facts are inevitable, and out of our hands, but there is one fact that we can control – to a certain extent. Here is where scientific advances should help us deal with it in a better manner, when the time comes. Doctors could help improve the quality of our lives, hopefully.The pain, if there is any, for instance, while nearing the end, and the way it all ends, can be controlled to a great extent. And then there is the other emotionally charged issue of taking care of the older generation, once they are totally bedridden, in the right manner.  For me, how these matters are dealt with, is a sign of the amount of  progress in healthcare in a given society. While most western societies have made great strides in some of these areas, societies like India are still enmeshed in the old taboos and fears and guilt, and shame. We Indians pride ourselves in that we take care of our old. Maybe it is true in some ways. However let us take a close look at the reality here.
 The grandparents are still important parts of the family. Many sons and daughters take care of their parents in their old age. But old age does not preclude just a sage wise person sitting in his or her arm chair handing out wisdom and memories, and smiling at the antics of the grandchildren, telling stories of old times.  Things could change in the blink of an eye, for as time goes by, that machine that is our body will go haywire. And the older person is struck down all on a sudden. What now? Many children and/or the spouse of the invalid still try to do their duty to the best of their abilities. After the initial burst of overwhelming help and support by everyone around, if he or she bounces back, things go back to normal. But if the condition deteriorates and the elderly individual succumbs to “real” old age, there will not be that many around – just the immediate family.  Most often, especially in my part of the old country, it is the sons’ wives who get that responsibility. Daughters, if there are any, visit once in a while, and depending on the situation, and their personal nature, find fault with the way things are done, or not. And they are supposed to take care of their own in laws. Needless to say the now grumbling daughter in law carries on the thankless job. Anyway nobody is happy. By the time the older person is totally immobile, completely bedridden, with or without his mental faculties, his condition has drastically changed from what was before. Soon he or she is relegated to a room away from the main activities. The toll of taking care of a completely immobile person with no end in sight hits everyone –  economically, time-wise, emotionally. In many households hygiene of the older person becomes practically impossible to keep up. Infected bed sores, the stench of bodily excretions, and above all, the agony, frustration, loneliness, and helplessness of the once able human being, and that of the care giver. I have seen many an old person who is emaciated, curled up in a fetal position, with eyes staring vacantly, sometimes howling in pain, and visitors looking at him or her with pity and wonder. That person has become an exhibit to look at, and to the pious, an example for what human vanity and pride comes down to in the end. The person is bereft of whatever dignity he had, reduced to a shadow of what he had been. No one thinks of the care giver, who most of the time, would be a woman, by the way. Sending them off to hospices, or homes, however comfortable and well equipped these are, is still considered cruel and selfish. It is as if we are throwing away our older people once we have no use of them. But we need to rethink these ideas. At least with our generation, when we have come so far, we need a better plan.
Let us take, again, some characters from my part of the world. Now I can understand that the doctors and the hospitals need to make money. But when we know that many of the doctors there became doctors because their parents paid the colleges hundreds of thousands, even when  the son or the daughter has no aptitude, and when some are really dumb, money becomes really significant. The parent has the money, so the children shall be doctors. And have to try to get back that investment and more, by going into arranged marriages. Again. money from the girls’ parents. But most of the time, this money from the girls’ family ends up going back to the girls’ family within a year. The daughter sees to that if she is smart. So what now? Squeeze the patients. What else? Ply them with tests, treatments, drugs – sometimes useful, at other times, not. Since there is no accountability in these areas, doctors and hospitals get away with mistakes of many kinds. But that is for the living. What about the dying?
Suppose I have been diagnosed with a terminal illness like cancer. The doctors themselves say it is incurable, as it is stage 4, spread to all areas. But then comes the double talk. In one breath they talk to you about “palliative” care and “aggressive” treatment, say, chemotherapy and radiation! Totally misleading, and contradictory. The patient’s loved ones are at that point grasping at straws. Hoping against hope, and unable to think clearly, they go along with whatever the doctor says. Like car salesmen trying to sell varieties of useful and useless warranties to the unsuspecting, vulnerable customer, doctors shove down futile treatments onto terminally ill patients. This is not limited to India – happens in the West too. Money may not be the only reason behind it. Adherence to traditional, supposedly more ethical thinking and a whole lot of complex layers of reasons could be acting here. But money is one big factor, like death. The only useful and possible warranties that the patient could get are to be free of pain, and to die relatively comfortably.
The only advantage here is for the doctors and the hospital in which they have shares. Here enter the tubes down all your orifices, the other main character, the ventilator. Recently I heard of an elderly woman whose husband was diagnosed of some illness and was under treatment at a reputable hospital in India. She had no idea what the illness was. One of those medical mysteries. Anyway the man slipped into a coma. The doctors had given up hope. They said there was no cure. Still, tubes were down his throat, soon he was on a ventilator. After two months of this, the man died. Meanwhile the woman had sold everything of value including her house to treat her husband. Now she goes to work in of our neighbor’s homes as a cleaning maid and lives in a room paying rent. So many questions arise, so much pain could have been avoided.
 Another case – A 75 year old nun fell. She couldn’t walk after that. Nothing wrong, the experts said. Soon she is bedridden. After a couple of weeks, she refused to eat. Clearly she was fed up of everything – the prayers, the mockery, the indignity, the great fall from who she was once, and most of all, the pain.  Reduced to skin and bones, and clearly depressed, she stopped talking or responding. Still they plied her with stuff for that complex, unknown reason. She was still in pain. Totally silent, except when she was screaming in pain, soon she lost what was left of her mind. She lay there curled up. Her refusal to get up and walk was seen as stubbornness, and an act of defiance against god. Her refusal to pray is seen as a sign of her inherently evil nature. In fact they shove prayers down her throat persistently, when obviously, all she wants is peace and quiet, and something to make the pain go away, and possibly, just to die. Pious songs broadcast all the time, Holy Mass droning on, on the TV set –what more could she want, her visitors marveled! Any sane person would go crazy in that atmosphere. Her pain is looked on as punishment for her sins, for her pride when she was young.  Her suffering is at once an exaltation, and an example of, the end of, the futility of  all vanities. And all this in a place where all the inhabitants are educated, where in fact they run a well equipped hospital with highly trained specialists. But since they believe in the sanctity of human life, she is still kept alive. Tube down the throat.  Must make them feel virtuous. It is also to show the nun’s relatives that they are doing everything to keep her alive , that they are not killing her off. Litigation is what they are afraid of.   This happens in many a layman’s home too. This is one way that religion  aids and abets that hope mongering business of the doctors. After all, we Christians exalt suffering, as if God is a sadist whose main entertainment is watching humans beg and crawl, and howl in pain.
 I know many including the above-mentioned doctors  wave the “positive thinking”, hope and will power flags. That is just it- waving. Not very different from the snake oil -charlatans who pretend to work miracles, exploiting the weakness of the common man. Once the body is ravaged by a terminal disease and when there are no cures in the offing, no amount of positive thinking is going to stave off death or pain. Feeding on the patient’s and his loved one’s misfortune and vulnerability  is not ethical. I know these “godly” doctors will tell you oh so humbly that they are not gods, that it’s all in god’s hands, (what's he doing here then?).And there will be his colleagues who promote the hype of a particular “godly” healer - so he could be god! or so we are made to think. So the godly person lets us go on suffering.  As if he can grant us immortality. They all share in the profits. All the while they do know when a person’s body is run down, when all his vital organs are shutting down, and that he is in intolerable pain, and that he is not  ever going to get up and walk around, fit and strong. If there is a little bit of humanity left in these healthcare professionals, they will treat that pain, and tell the truth as they know it. It’s up to the patient, the individual to decide when to go based on that knowledge. That is the scientific advance that I want. That is why we read of doctors who decide to put an end to their own lives when they know they cannot stand their own suffering, when they do not want to be a burden on their loved ones.
Money is in the prolonging of a life that struggles to escape. And now a days there is the waiting for the arrival of any children who live abroad. The patient is kept “alive” till these relatives can see him. It is as if no one cares about the suffering of the individual. For the past few months, I have been watching episodes from Herriot’s animal stories. That was the first time I had known about the TV series, even though I had known of the book.  I was touched by the kindness and love that those owners and vets shower on their patients. And when they know that an animal cannot live a useful life any longer, that it has to suffer pain unnecessarily that nothing can save it, they have it put to sleep, gently, as much as they can. Now I am not touting euthanasia here for all the sick people. Being human, I am talking about the individual’s right to choose his or her own end, and to be free of pain, when the time comes. By a sad coincidence I just read about the actress who played Herriot’s wife, Lynda Bellingham who stopped her aggressive treatments for the cancer that had spread to her liver. Just before her death she talked about the effects of chemotherapy that people are not aware of.
When we know that the end is here, we should be allowed to go a little gracefully, with a little bit of dignity. It is time to ask certain questions to ourselves, to the society as a whole.  And to answer and act accordingly without fearing what others would think :  Why aren’t we thinking of that time of our end here a little more?  We seem to be inordinately interested in life after death. Religions especially. But isn’t it time we thought about death? Its practical side?  Why do we exalt needless suffering? Why do we feel the need to prolong life that is insufferable? Can’t we show a little bit of kindness to ourselves? As it is now in India, one thing I am sure of is that I would not want to die there. Her fatalistic, cavalier attitude to pain is frightening. I will have to go live in a country where they provide assisted suicide to those who want it.
This is where “living wills” come in. The public has to be educated about the importance of having a plan for medical care when the end of life is near. A plan for dealing with death. while we are able to think for ourselves, we make that living will. Death could come at any time, to the young and to the old. Accidents happen. Illness, surgeries happen. We should be able to decide what should be done if things go wrong, when we still have our mental acuity. So prepare that living will today. Let us try to die in peace. To the religious, God would not want us to suffer. He or she would want you to take advantage of the scientific progress that human beings have achieved under said God’s guidance.
According to the Mayo clinic site,  Living wills and other advance directives are written, legal instructions regarding your preferences for medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Advance directives guide choices for doctors and caregivers if you're terminally ill, seriously injured, in a coma, in the late stages of dementia or near the end of life.
By planning ahead, you can get the medical care you want, avoid unnecessary suffering and relieve caregivers of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis or grief. You also help reduce confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf.
Advance directives aren't just for older adults. Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age, so it's important for all adults to prepare these documents.”
Besides that, our healthcare providers  should admit that we are nearing the end, when that is the case. The whole process, all the information has to be made available to the patient. Such transparency will make it easier for the individual to make an informed decision. Of course we should be free to seek second or third opinions, if we want to. But they have to give us the truth as it is, and we have to accept it. We all say that death is inevitable, but it is hard to look it in the eye when we are made aware of it. 
Related to the end is the treatment of pain. Everyone including the doctors must know the meaning of “palliative” care. At that time when we need relief from pain, we deserve total relief.  And that may lead to a quicker death. Let it be. The transition from life to death should be gentle, soothing like one is going to sleep. That would mean a lot more hospices, and care homes for the terminally ill, for the older members of our society. Humane, ethical institutions which are accountable to the society. And that would mean all the more responsibilities on the part of the society to make sure that they are run with the one intention of the well being of the patients. For making sure that they will be comfortable till the end. And we must realize that it is all right if we decide that we are not able to look after our loved ones satisfactorily. In fact we should be true to ourselves, ask ourselves if we are helping our loved one in the best possible manner. If we think that we are not, then we should seek help, without guilt or stigma. The State’s responsibility should not end with the death of a person, but it should include the process of dying. Each one of us should take responsibility for our ends when we can, and ease a little of the burden off our children., and try to help educate our still unaware countrymen.
 Please read the whole article about “living will” here:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Course of Married Life

Marriage of the Virgin

Those who have heard me say this before please bear with me. That is, if marriage, whether it is- arranged/not-love, or love marriage, as we call it in India, is an institution, then there should be a limit to the number of years we spend in it. For someone steeped in western and modern thinking and culture, this would seem obvious. But for someone like me who grew up,  let's just say, in a "quaint" culture, it would be a godsend. Again, to describe that someone like me, for instance, for those brought up with that inordinate yearning to be liked and approved by everyone. So a society- approved cessation of our stint in that institution would be to my liking. Once you complete certain lessons, and take a few tests, you pass. Just pass or pass in flying colors. Once you put in the number of years in the contract, you are free to go. Degree in Married Life. At some point, after the initial beginners's classes, of course you are on the job. Trainee at first, but soon, full fledged worker. Some become the boss and teacher, while others remain the student and the employee. Whatever your designation, what if at the end of the stipulated time, you receive your Award and/or Degree or your duly stamped Passport to freedom?

In any case, I think that at certain points while you are in that great Course, Degrees could be awarded. In recognition of the learning and the experience.  This is assuming you are with the same person throughout the course. If it is with somebody else, you still get awards, different ones – for your extraordinary attitude of hope, and unfailing faith in, and admiration of , the  value of the education that you receive from that great institution.

At the end of the first year - A Certificate - Married Life 101

At the end of 5 years - Diploma in Married Life 110

10 years - Degree awarded - Bachelor's in Married Life

20 years - Master's

25 years - Ph.D in Married Life

Over 25 years - Nobel Peace Prize

Over 50 years - no Degree, no award, Virtue being its own reward. Except maybe dementia, depression, death, at least for one, in the pair.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Poetry Points - How (not) to write Poems

the poet 

I have noticed that I am always ready to preach, but not to practise. Especially when it comes to writing. It could be that I am pretending to myself that  that is the reason I am not a great writer, or a famous writer. I prefer to overlook the highly possible fact that I just do not have what it takes to be one.
Anyway here goes, - now that I know for sure that I am never going to amount to much, and that I never did, I can dole out advice freely. Time to grow up.

To  budding poets/writers, especially those whose mother tongue is not English :

We all know good poetry is sincere. That it is authentic, and arises out of the heart and mind of the poet, his/her experience/knowledge - from a variety of sources.

Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions, Wordsworth did write that. Coleridge took it a bit further. And we in India read the 19th century English Romantic poets more than anybody else, at least that was how it was in my time. Of course we did read others. But somehow for us back then the Romantics embodied greatness. They were the role models. That perspective could backfire sometimes. Great, original poetry was written by them, or so we think, rightly or not.. Colonialism did affect our thinking.  Still, what they wrote then still manage to amaze us. Times have changed. For us now, we can be inspired by them, however, unless we have some new way of talking of those same themes, we have to find different subjects.That of our time. There are some ideals  that will always be the same, such as love. But even that has changed. New versions or rather supposedly new versions have appeared  However old or new these versions are, we will have to find new ways to describe it. To write poems about it. So let the emotions and ideas fester in the mind. Take the time to make it your own. Turn it over and around, think how to enrich it using the knowledge you have gained. Which process you already do, I know. Do more of that. Read more, live more. Books from all lands, from our own land, from the present, the past, movies, music, science, philosophy, the internet, and art, and travel are some ways to gain more knowledge, expand our perceptions.

Talking of the Romantics, be very careful when writing nature poems generally. That's because many of  those descriptions and imagery  have been overused down the line, and nowadays they are everywhere, from old romantic poems, from  new and old love songs to Hallmark cards.  Thus, sadly, the golden orbs of the sky, the transient dewdrops, "beaded bubbles winking at the brim", darkling anything and unquenched desires have all become trite. Let's say that those Romantics have among themselves pretty much exhausted all the yearning sighs of lovers, the arching azureness of the heavens, and the writhing demons of desire for the forbidden. You can still write about Nature, and desire, and love, and death - in refreshing new ways. Using unexpected but unpretentious words and images that make sense and that make the reader stop and think. They could be ones of fantasy, of the modern times, of the past, of the great treasure chest of mythology, gritty and/ or charming, and/or rural or urban, suburban, and much much more.

Apart from the usual culprit named grammar, there is one common element that most new writers of poetry misuse. Ellipsis - those 3 dots -  is not a  device to be used indiscriminately. It is not there to prove that a piece of writing is indeed a poem. We all know we are reading a poem when we read one. No need of ellipsis just for that. Use it sparingly, for the most effect. Same with the overuse of "like" for introducing similes.  When you delete just those two factors itself, things change. Getting your meaning across would be a little less easy. That might entail a lot of reworking of the whole piece. But it will make one think beyond the usual clich├ęs, and make the poem fresh. Most poems could benefit from an overhaul. Make it shorter, denser with apt but unpretentious devices, make it more succinct . Better to have drama rather than melodrama, I think. 

Be careful when you are determined to  write rhymed verse, sometimes they look too forced. Especially when you pick up weird but rhyming words from the thesaurus. Poetry should flow naturally. So is with the use of uncommon words. That just looks pretentious, and many readers will not bother to find out the real meaning. Loss of communication. Some use "nay" and prithee and thee for their poems which, let us say, is amusing. And a lot of question marks, and words in all capital letters to make a point, or to show someone is shouting. ( I have done that!)  I am enjoying writing this! It sure feels good to pontificate!

Also, I do not think readers enjoy too much preaching/pontificating in poems. High morals and ideals, and observations of that nature are good, actually it shows an observant mind. But a poet has to go beyond just stating the facts. Show the pitfalls of evil or sin in simple but symbolic ways. For poems in general, I prefer “showing” rather than “telling”. Or a good balance of show and tell. Again, read more, observe more, think more, live more, I guess. Poetry is an attempt to transcend the concrete, using various poetic devices and at the same time, capture it. It should make the reader feel and think beyond what is written in the poem. I am not asking  that a poet should be obscure, but the poem should spark, trigger ideas in the reader's mind. Provoke. Inspire.  Just my opinion. 

Early poems, say of a very young person, are useful in the sense that the reader can see how an imaginative, intelligent young person  with a good grasp of the English language saw the world around him or her at a certain point in time. But many creative young persons have done the same, which is fine too. But when they all do it in rather similar ways,  it stops being that special. But it still could be special for some readers. Here's where knowing your audience works. Who are you writing for? For yourself? Then it's all fine. For young people of your age? They may like them. For a few youth of your age? Sure, some will like them. Now, how about older readers? And we are talking of the ones who like to read poetry. How about an international reader?  I am not sure how they will read them. What I am sure of is that if the poems are good, they will see that there is potential, and there is time before you, to get the experience, through just living, through books, movies, music, works of art, through travelling. A talented, aspiring poet should realize that not all are literary minded. Not even students of literature. They are not able to write or think like you. You are different. You can write. You are  budding writers. And it takes time and work to be  great writers.

  I do not consider myself to be a poet, let alone a good one. I am guilty of many of the issues I have mentioned. And I am too lazy to change, and that may be one, just one, of the reasons that I am still unpublished by an established publishing house. Remember what I said in the beginning? Fooling myself. But  I can recognize good poetry when I see it, most of the time! I may be totally wrong too in my opinions. Appreciation of poetry is totally personal. Ask others to read the poems, (criticism hurts, but it helps too, they say) maybe an English teacher of yours, or a published writer - not a self-published one, preferably.  In this age of self-publishing, and success through effective marketing, or by "going viral" (yikes!), or by just having a group of enthusiastic, supportive friends and  as all of you happen to live in a big city, where they can even start a publishing house for you, and/or if you are web-savvy, anyone can be a writer. Well, these days they have courses in creative writing. But to be  writers whose writings stand the test of time, to rise above mediocrity - that is the ideal. And I believe a moderately talented, determined person can do it, with a little bit of luck . 

However, it is your choice that matters the most, when it comes to publishing right away. Choose your favorite ones, work on them if you feel like they need work, after hearing competent readers' take on them. Those should not be confined to your usual set of admirers, made up of people who dislike any kind of creative writing, or who just read comic books and romances,  your love struck boyfriend or girlfriend, or an apparent hotshot connoisseur whom you met online who is really just angling for a bit of romance on the side, via the net or via Main Street/M.G. Road, your younger siblings , (guilty here )or just one of your indulgent teachers who thinks the world of you because you have a good vocabulary, and you are one of the few who could write a complete sentence without making any spelling or grammar mistakes, and because, maybe unconsciously, you walk around thinking you are Keats or Emily Dickinson, and managed to fool them too!

Don't be afraid that a good critic or fellow poet will steal your thoughts, or that they will be envious and put you down on purpose.  Not that that does not happen, it does. But most often, your current attempts are not that original or perfect for them to copy. I may be wrong about that too now. Some would-be poets and novelists avoid reading others' poems and works of fiction fearing that they would be influenced. As if their very unique genius, and sublime innocence and purity of thought will be tainted by the others' views. The noble savage has to remain so! The other fear is different - what if the other person is better than you? And you think that might make you feel anxious and jealous and leave you unable to focus. Another fear is that of failure. What if no one likes your work? And at the other end are those who fear success even before they taste it! So they sabotage themselves in many ways. Fear and laziness - two evils that pull us down. Look who's talking! 

In spite of all that, if you think your poems are good as they are, I respect that too. After all, you are the author. And you only live once, and this is the age of self-conscious living! (I did it! - I went and self-published my 2 books. For my first novel, I did the "query" thing -- did not work. So went the digital publishing way. The second one, the poem thing, I just didn't bother doing the query procedure - I knew my poems were nothing to write home about. Anyway I avoided the pain of rejection and by that also the joy of recognition. Lesson learned - no pain, no gain. The only difference between you and me - I am older, and do not have time and youth on my side now). Besides, you won't be around to see if your work stood the test of time!

The suggestion is to wait. And then write, and rewrite incorporating new insights.I know many writers or aspiring writers cannot bear to rewrite and revise. I am one of those. But I also know that revising and reworking our writings will make them all the more substantial, rich and polished.  If there is talent, that  needs to be nourished, sustained, and grown. I have heard drugs and alcohol fuels the imagination and many a great writer and artist have used that throughout history. In fact there seems to be a huge market for redeemed addicts' - that is with addiction of any kind, love, religion,sex, drug, alcohol, food,politics--  writings. Well, that can mean that they are passionate about something, or that they are intrepid warriors of experimentations, those who are not controlled by boundaries. But let me make it clear to you young writers - I do not recommend that. Why? For one, most of the time those artistes/artists are too much into their experimental living that they are unable to enjoy their talent(s). For two, they just get stuck in the experiment and not in their art. The greatest among them do not see their own fame or popularity in their own lifetimes. Be sensible, or not. But take care of your body and mind. Make reading  your addiction, if you will.

Now, there are those who are physically enabled to be highly creative artists, they say. Synesthetes like Vladimir Nabokov, tetrachromats like Concheta Antico may have used their special gifts in their creative endeavor. Some say people can be trained to see and feel the world like them. Till then, for the rest of us, good old reading and living and talking and thinking will have to do.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

there's work and then there is wo....rk ...

Caution! Men at work!


Just thinking of this scene makes me laugh out loud. Well, I guess it is the intention that counts. They should be paid for that.

Asterix aficionados will know this from "Asterix and Cleopatra". Where the heroes are in Egypt taking in the sights, and are introduced to the people and their customs. What makes me laugh even more is when I think of some of my volunteer jobs. Let's just say that I wasn't needed that much at those places, that I did not make that much of a difference. Or, the brick did not budge an inch, or less. Of course not all volunteers or volunteer posts are like that. No offence intended. Once I was reminded of this scene when I saw a lone construction worker in the driver's  seat of some equipment on a Sunday, in one of the construction zones on the expressway. He may have been doing something useful surely, but I couldn't help wondering what the heck he was doing there? :)

This is what the work really looks like, by the way.
Add caption

Sunday, September 28, 2014

a woman's sphere

spheres in the setting sun

There was a time when my main job was to oppose vehemently the strict, confining definitions of a woman's sphere. "Marginalization", "life on the periphery",  "legitimization of femininity", "debunking of the feminine mystique" -- all these were the usual concepts that were bandied about by me. Little did I know that there would come a time when I made spheres.

This summer I was engrossed in a project that made me work on my patience and fortitude( yes, I exaggerate ). Inspired by the myriad diy sites on the web, where they give detailed instructions on how to make concrete spheres, I ventured into it. It was a  totally satisfying, tactile, energizing and therapeutic process.  The one part that tried my patience was the making of the molds. On the net, everyone seemed to be using discarded dome light shades, which many got from thrift shops. I went to one thrift store near where I live and there was nothing like that available. So I got some kids' rubber balls, which I  reinforced with several layers of  papermache( which took me weeks, kind of tedious - some vouch for using the balls as they are, but placing them in wet sand so that they retain their shapes - but I did not feel I had the patience to deal with deflated rubber ball and wet concrete)  and then used a waterproofing spray. The concrete was mixed, poured into prepared molds. That part is easy - like mixing cookie dough. I waited from a week to two weeks before un-molding. Then I soaked them in tubs of water for another week. Curing, they call it. At last they were ready to be finished. Another step where I used resealing cement to smooth the imperfections, and kind of re-shaped the spheres to my liking. Again, drying time. Finally, I could paint them. At first I had thought to leave it unpainted. But I changed my mind. Of course I had to make a couple of stepping stones too. That was like making mud pies - fun and fast.

My front yard has a lot of flowers. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds and finches have a party in those beds. After the riotous living there, I wanted a place of peace and quiet. One for meditation, kind of. And so this one flowerbed at the back came in handy. Once all the overgrown plants and weeds were cleared off, I planted a Japanese maple . And then placed my spheres. My eyes are drawn to them whenever the sunlight hits them from different angles, at different times of the day. They catch my attention  even when they lie there just like the inanimate lumps of concrete that they are. :) Something grounding, calm, and clean about them, don't you think? But then the play of light and shadow begins and they assume altogether different personalities. Endless variety! fascinating!

rising sun on my little earth!

I got a little universe in my backyard.
or a half-moon

PS: I guess the easier way to make the spheres would be to make 2 hemispheres and then seal them together. But somehow I rejected that idea. This unveiling of a whole sphere seemed to be stuck in my head. But for my next set, I might do the 2 halves thing.

on a rainy evening

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

whatever happened to Asha Joseph. M?

Asha Joseph M circa 1991

Have you seen her? Missing for about 20 years. This is to those who knew her a long time ago. Some were at that time, thought to be very close friends. Never to be parted from completely. What do we know when we are at that age! For that matter, at any age! The only difference between now and then would be  that back then we thought we knew everything, as we all know. Coming back to the old friends and acquaintances,  they themselves are probably busy looking for their old selves now. And that leaves no one else -- since Asha was never famous. Still, admit it. some of us did fear, albeit slightly, that Asha Joseph M may get famous some day!

So let this Asha speculate. And wonder. May be Asha Joseph. M died. Or she lives on in some faraway land, an island perhaps. Perhaps, mishaps. Or, she may be living in a convent! Or better, walking on the moors with the Bronte sisters on cold winter days, and later huddling close to the fire, busy pretending to write the next novel about doomed lovers. 

By all this I hope she doesn't think I am making fun of her. I just write this in fun. Her sense of self-importance may take it as a blow to her great dignity and noble pride!Please do not take umbrage, Asha! Your oversensitivity is notorious! After all, Asha may very well be leading a happy, contented life somewhere. If so, that is if she is completely content, then that either makes her a simple saint or a fool. To quote Edison, ( I am afraid, like those annoying quote posts on social media), "Restlessness is discontent — and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man — and I will show you a failure.”  Well, that is neither here nor there. Quoting some famous person   is not that different from a hypocritical overzealous sanctimonious bible-thumper quoting the scriptures. Still doesn't tell me where the heck Asha Joseph. M has got to!

 This came to me suddenly - could she be languishing in some prison cell of a dictator? No, Asha's activism was never of the suffering kind. Her ideas never left her armchair set in that rarefied atmosphere of like-minded revolutionaries. Quite safe. But then she could be in that little cottage at the edge of the woods, near a stream, with a vegetable patch in the back yard,  and with a few hens, and a dog, for company. While we are at it - she could very well be in a big city in a little room overlooking a busy street, where after work, she writes stuff that no one wants to read. Why do I always picture her alone? For all I know she could be surrounded by a half a dozen children or even grandchildren! Wherever she is living, she will go on living, and then she will have to die one day.

Let's retrace her steps from the last I had seen of her. That is how a detective usually starts, I have heard.. Where did I see her last? At her wedding? Or before that in that magazine office? What did we talk about then? Did she seem like she had any solid plans as to her future? Not really, I should say. Mind you, she looked like she knew what she wanted. Not at all the clueless person that I now know her  to be . She was a dreamer all right. Lived in the world of dreams. Some vague idea about the immediate future, probably. Ah! I know! She must have got lost in her own thoughts! And is still wandering in those lanes, alternately elated and despondent, relieved and frustrated, all the while growing older and weaker. Soon she may lose her memory, thus all her thoughts, her consciousness, and fall down, never to wake up. Natural selection at work.

Another set of questions arise now. We all know Asha Joseph. M. has disappeared. Now is there foul play here? After all, I knew that she had secret plans for world domination, no one else knew, by the way. Yep, that disinterestedness, that air of nonchalance, that was all a facade. Inside she was a scheming Dr No. Total fraud (fraaad) case. as our Jagathy would say. (If there is foul play, there is every chance that she did it. no, the B did it!) Why? How? Who? Well, the good old motive and opportunity. Who stands to gain from her disappearance? Who couldn't stand her so much that they had to delete her (so to speak)? We have to be honest here - she really was the limit, sometimes. Someone had to try to stop her. Or was it a crime of passion? Jealousy? Love? Lust? Or sheer pigheadedness? Someone just did not like the way she looked? Or was she the woman who knew too much about someone or something, and had to be silenced? For instance she may have seen some crime being committed. Or, was she a victim of diabolic revenge ? For some imagined or real slight that someone endured from her? Will we ever find out?. (Did I cover all points? Now that's me being her - with her irritating habit of , that compelling need to cover all points, every eventuality.)

Anyway what do I care where Asha is! For that matter, where I am! There is no point in knowing either, seriously. Her own child would not recognize that Asha from the past. Even her mother wouldn't be able to recall that Asha. As far as I am concerned, Asha Joseph.M could live or die or vanish into thin air. Or take a running jump at herself or off a cliff, off even one of Brontes' cliffs. She is history. Or, herstory. Just covering all points again. :)

one of her permed hair phases
asha's "twin" 
asha in the "dog days"

PS: Do let me know if you happen to find her!

Monday, August 18, 2014

a chicken flight

Back to school night again. That day when you get to meet your child's new teachers for the first time.  Sounds simple, doesn't it?  It was simple - till high school. Once you are in high school, things get complicated. First,  you cannot get away with sitting in just one classroom. Classes take place in different rooms.  Oh, it's an efficient system, all right. The bell rings at the start of every class. The parents go to the classroom and meet the teacher till another bell after 10 minutes or so. Then they go to the next class. and so on. But the classrooms are scattered all over the building. So we get a taste of what our children have to go through everyday. With a five minute break they have to get to their locker, get their stuff, and reach their classes on time through crowded corridors.

Second, most parents have no idea where the classrooms are, and there is so little time between bells. Sure, we are given maps and schedules. At the beginning of  the freshman year, everything is new to the parent. Armed with that map, and holding onto that schedule for dear life, I rushed through the hallways looking for the rooms. Some rooms seemed to be deliberately hiding from me, in never to be found corners. One classroom would be at  one end of the school, and the next one, at the other. I walked fast, ran, dodged other  rushing parents, stopped, came back, made detours, asked for directions to the students assigned to guide us hapless adults, and on the whole, got some exercise. In the end, after that mad dash, I would reach the intended classroom hot and sweaty and already worried about finding the next room.

When I came home and told my son of this, and asked him for clear directions for the next year's back-to-school night, he laughed, and politely refused. And informed me  that they all made fun of the parents' helplessness and ignorance. They enjoyed our confusion, and had this pact that they will provide no help in this matter - he gave me another laugh. So that was that. And I went through the same agony and ecstasy the next year too.

By the third year, I was prepared. I went 15 minutes early.  I was reluctant , naturally chicken, to do this before -- did not know if parents were allowed to roam around the halls ahead of time. But by then I was desperate (well, sort of - I have a tendency to exaggerate, if you haven't noticed it ) and was determined to do this right. So I ran around and found the whereabouts of all the classrooms. When the first bell rang I was pretty excited . Yep I am that eternal student who likes to be the (invisible) teacher's pet! Not that anyone is going to applaud me here for finding the classroom and turning up on time. hmpf! In other words, I was more interested in congratulating myself on my accomplishment rather than paying attention to what the real teacher was saying. Well, mostly. All in all it went well, but for one little part where I went and sat in one extra class, (which was not for that semester). hehe.

But this year, I was perfect! Again I went early, especially since I knew that construction had been going on during summer, and there were even more corridors, and even whole new floors to get lost in. And this time around, it was a breeze. I flew around as sure as a breeze too. No more the headless chicken! A young lady did help me when I asked her at one point. All this was done way before the bell, and I was ready. I found all the rooms, got inside each on time and did not go in to any unnecessary rooms. But I did laugh at myself when I caught myself always finding a seat near the door, as if ready to flee, the moment the bell rang. And I laughed at my glee when I got to the next one with time to spare. It seemed like a race that I had set against myself, and which I won. I patted myself on the back - not literally. I think there were points in time when listening to the teacher, I almost asked him or her  if I could leave early! So that I could run to the next one. kidding!

Anyway, it is over and done with. By this fourth year, I am an expert at navigating the labyrinthine routes of my son's high school. As I walked out of the building, it struck me that this is the last time I'll do this. This is my son's final year at high school. End of the road here. This has been a sort of learning for me as well. While in the before-high school period, I was a mess of nervous tension regarding the kind of teacher my baby was going to get, I find that now I am not as worried about that. I have learned that there is no point in worrying about something on which I have not much control. And by now my son has grown, and I trust him as an intelligent, well-adjusted human being. Well, he is still a teenager, so fingers crossed! While I won't miss the panic, I realize I will miss the back to school nights. By the time I learned to do it properly, it was time to leave for good. Unbeknownst ( ya, right!) to me, time was passing by, and I will have to do it no more.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

on a lighter note

The local homeowners association annual  meeting announcement -- a couple of days later. thought-provoking.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

gift horses and astrology

Susan Miller

Susan Miller is a star in the zone of astrology. A darling of cyberspace. Much admired by her twittering followers. But recently I distinctly hear a sour note. Or like we say back in the old country, we note "a sting-y ant in Heaven".  Some of the loving followers are disgruntled. They do not care how or why, they just want it now.

When I see the miffed tweets and snide comments of some of Susan Miller's readers now, I am reminded of the above episode from "Friends". The demanding public. Like spoiled, entitled children they wear down the patience and good will  of even the most saintly and attention/admiration starved person. Mind you, I am in no way saying that Susan Miller is admiration-starved. Actually, I think she is a loving person who sincerely believes in the service she provides, and really want to help people. Obviously she has to be business-savvy - she is no idiot!- but she tries to infuse kindness and accessibility into her profession. Like many astrologers, she provides a free monthly general horoscope for all signs. On her Twitter page, she gives a day-to-day report of her activities, an edge-of the seat anticipatory minute by minute commentary of her frantic writing process, a thorough build up to a  final countdown to her popular monthly horoscopes, and tries to answer many questions from her followers. But unlike many other astrologers, she exudes genuine warmth and concern for her fellow human beings. I can see that she tries very hard to juggle many things at the same time. And remember, it is free. But then there is no satisfying the mob, is there?  The minute she is late, people clamor at the door  impatiently. Very flattering. But sadly, when she says she has been severely ill, and so could not post the free material on time, some of these readers are disbelieving, and get madder. Some jump ship, which is fine, but it would be  nice and mature not to say mean things  about a person whose work has given you moments of good feelings.  Now, I am not a follower of Susan Miller on twitter, even though I read her free horoscopes, and enjoy them. And that is because I have my own ego problems. :)  But I am grateful for the wonderful , uplifting writing that she does. It would be great not to punish someone who reaches out to you, someone who tries to bridge the distance. Having said all this, I have a feeling that Susan Miller won't be taking umbrage at all in this, she is sure to take the high road. But then I always have to find an excuse -- to protest.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

my friend, the robin - Spring's short tale

are robins more intelligent than we think? or more stupid? I like to think that they are rather smart, not the bird-brains that many assume them to be. I base my belief on my experience with my friend, the robin in my yard.  Whenever I came out to work in my flower beds, he would be there on a branch close by at first,  then on the ground close to me. In the beginning, I did not  see him, and once I saw him, I thought he would fly away scared. But he did not! Soon I learned why - he started looking for worms in the newly dug area of the flower bed. So then I decided to help him. I threw a worm into the grass,  and he was on it right away. He flew away to the tree to his babies or his mate, with the worm in his beak. In an instant  he was back! for more.This time he comes closer. I picked up another worm, (poor "early" worm!) and now he almost takes it from my hand!( Got to get a picture of that some time) I am so happy with him, and with myself.

They say one way that  intelligence in the animal kingdom is measured is by looking at how social the animals are -- not with us, but with other animals. And of course, the size of the brain. Robin's brains may be smaller than that of the crows, and his social skills may be non-existent during the mating season, in that he focuses all of it on his mate, and his territory, but he sure is social with me. I guess he thinks of me as his forager-helper.I consider him as my friend, who keeps me company while I work. Now a days whenever I step out of the house, he is hovering close by, my friend, the robin, even following me around! I talk to him to see if he will rush off in panic when he hears me. Like sparrows. No, he is still there, watching, and listening.

PS: should have lived in the 19th century with those Romantic poets,. . . but then I am not a  romantic, really.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I confess. "ente pizha, ente pizha, ente valiya pizha".

semiya paayasam

As you sow, so shall you reap.

I sowed. wickedly delicious seeds. 
For instance, pies, pastries,  creams, custards, cheese, salty snacks, fried, baked,grilled,  Indian, non-Indian. Bacon, sausages, the lot. Anything potatoes. Kappa ( Tapioca). Bread.  Sugar. Starch. Fat. Salt. All was grist to the mill. All were seeds to be sown. Not in moderation anymore. And a little goes a long way at my age, in any case.  Equal opportunity strikes everywhere. I fell into temptation. no, wallowed in it.

I sinned. Repeatedly. mortal, venial - you name it -- I ate it all. and drank it all. wines and cocktails. I became a foodie. And a glutton. A glass of wine a day after a certain age is healthy, they said. And I obeyed wholeheartedly. But then I enhanced the experience by adding accompaniments to that drink - appetizers.  a piece of chocolate . And another. Portion control had long become a forgotten concept. I indulged my taste buds wantonly. Indiscriminately. Thank goodness, for small blessings -- I never liked popcorn or soda. But that is it -- all the rest, to most of which I never gave a second look, I love  all those now. I pretended to forget that I was older. I forgot that I was less active physically. I pretended not to notice the tighter outfits. Anyway, it was a long winter, I could cover myself up with thick coats.

I was young once, and could have done all this and more - but no --back then I abstained, without meaning to. I wasn't interested in eating at all! Mine was a low fat, mostly vegetarian, small portion diet. Picky -- that's what they called me. In those days, I could easily subsist on water for 2 or 3 days, when I was rebelling against injustice, imagined or otherwise. Starving myself as a protest against cruel authority figures, otherwise known as parents and teachers,[ ;) ]was not a big deal at all.  Chronically underweight, never in my wildest nightmares did I see that one day I will struggle with this issue. The love of food. The lack of exercise. The issue of weight loss. Anger or sadness do not affect me like they did before. You might say it is vanity to expect to be as you were -- after all I am not obese --  yet. You may be right - with age, and  other biological factors that  some of us have to face, things do tend to change. But when the family history of high cholesterol has crept up on me I have to stop and re evaluate. ( I do not like to have pills control me. Sadly, that could be unavoidable.)

All along, there were short-lived attempts to reduce weight. Like the beautified  oatmeal for breakfast. But the sugar and salt in it defeated the purpose. And without sugar or salt, oatmeal became scary, no, traumatic. Instead I conjured tantalizing images of payasams and puddings in my head. Any new city I stepped into, my eyes naturally sought restaurant names, preferably exotic ones. I see a movie, I saw the food in there. I wanted to try every cuisine in the world. Now I know what my grandmother meant when she said sagely to one of her glutton sons or minions ; "Son, your stomach is an ocean! You can throw anything ,in any amount, into it. But should you?"

And then the conscious control, the implementation of austerity measures  during week days, and the utter relaxation of those rules in the weekend. Complete undoing of anything that I had built up, or rather any weight I had managed to dislodge. And the guilt. I have sinned, I have sinned, I have sinned terribly! Ice cream, nothing exotic, just vanilla, beckons me. It sits atop a warm slice of apple pie. sigh! I try to calm the cravings of my sweet tooth with a slice or two of an apple, and I fail. Where did my will power run off to? Should I have any? :) mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!  And I reaped what I sowed. am reaping that painful harvest now.
The wages of my sins are in my waistline. "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault". I have eaten. I have eaten many many forbidden little dolcini.

I have started a strict regimen for the week days now -  slowly picking up the reigns of my mind and body. I will post my diet when I get halfway through my goal. haha. fooled ya! 
I am like Cain in that movie, Year One. "What have I done! what have I done again! ..(.and after a couple more dumplings, in my case), What have I continued to do!!"

Saturday, March 29, 2014

about " The Story of India" by Michael Wood.

I did not want to write this for a long time because you might think oh here comes another of her whiny rants -- and because I thought it was a waste of time ,a  losing battle. But today I feel like I should. It's an all over the place rambling sort of piece, bear with me. 

"In this landmark six-part series for PBS and the BBC, Michael Wood embarked on a dazzling and exciting journey through today's India, "seeking in the present for clues to her past, and in the past for clues to her future".

That is the description of the 2 part movie about the story of India that was shown on PBS.  Many watched it and marveled at this "definitive"  telling of India's history. Most were ready to believe it as such -- as one would believe the Holy Scriptures, esp Northern Indians. Why? Because it perpetuates that myth about the Aryan-Dravidian/ High Caste- Low caste demarcation, that great North-South Divide of the British propaganda machine. The West in their highhandedness gave the natives of the "Americas" our name. But that is nothing when we see the divide among our own countrymen.

On the whole the movie is  spectacular, but there are some spectacular blunders too, especially when it comes to the beginning of the story. It shows people from Africa plodding along the western coast of India, and landing in Kerala, not stopping anywhere up there, or never going to the north. Forget that there is an eminently navigable sea -- which people have used since -- but these people chose land, I can understand. But it is hard to believe that it is a single event. Still, these are pre historic events. And there are the remnants of the hill tribes still in the hills and forests of Kerala, Tamilnadu etc. And remember,  there are hill tribes in the north too. And over the thousands of years they have been exploited, and pushed farther and farther into the woods, and at other times, pulled out into the so-called civilized world, when it fell convenient to the dominant group.  They were and are the so-called low caste, backward caste, scheduled castes of India. All the while, the newcomers mingled with them genetically, too. Again, not a single event. waves of migration, waves of mingling, breeding, pushing back and forth, up and down, east and west, in the course of ten thousand years. So it is commonsense to realize that there  is not a single" pure" high or low caste race in India now. Michael Wood never mentions any of this. 

 I get all that. People who want to, can read through the lines, see beyond the movie. But those who want to hold onto their "superiority" for dear life, they will not . Anyway, the biggest blunder to me was Mr  Wood's portrayal of the Brahmins in Kerala,  the southernmost state of India. He shows this ancient religious sect chanting the sacred mantras and compares it to cries in the wilderness. Tribal sounds, makes them out to be some primitive beings!  Maybe. But ironically, these" tribes" are "Aryan"! Sneakily showing an apparently intellectually or physically challenged man or boy, is just one way in which he manages to infantilize and lessen and divide  a culture and a civilization. Those mantras are in Sanskrit, that is what I have heard. Now Sanskrit may have originated from bird and animal sounds, but so did human speech. But it is this language that is supposed to be Aryan, which is shown to be used by a group of people in Kerala, a southern state. And how does that go with the superior Northern Aryanness? Those people who chant those mantras are Aryans -- only Brahmins were allowed to do that, I do not know if Michael Wood knows that.  He cannot have it both ways. oh, and then he jumps to some tribe in Andhra Pradesh and finds the African gene -- mind, he doesn't mention that it is in Andhra, he lets many a viewer think that he is still in Kerala. well, it is all South -- so it doesn't matter  to Wood. He just is too taken up with his own benevolence at giving us a magnanimous perspective of India.   so what if he got certain basic facts wrong, what if he mixed this and that,confusing one thing with yet another thing,  what if he sees  anjanam, and states categorically that it is as white as  turmeric? So what anjanam is black? Everyone believes his words - he is white! ( color play! :) It is like those blind men "seeing" an elephant. But my question is, if he can easily and with certainty blur the distinction between tribal people and other settlers of Kerala, and between Kerala and other southern states, and forget all the rest of the Meditrerranean, Arabic, Phoenician, Persian, Central Asian, and Chinese heritage of Kerala,  why can't he blur the same between north and south? why harp on a baseless, spurious distinction? Which is not that different from fanatically "upper caste" white commenter on the 23& me site. From what he wrote there I am pretty sure his father is an Indian from the North, but he does not like to acknowledge that. But he is ready to take the lesser of the evil as it is, by trying to insist that all the north is upper caste and all the south is lower caste!  Does he not know about the evil heights of caste system in the south? Upper caste elements came up with crooked, inhuman ways to keep the earlier inhabitants low ,and based it on their divine right to lord it over. Caste system has its origins in racism and feudalism. But there is one difference between the north and the south. The south is more enlightened and once it realized the evil of its ways changed its thinking. In these days, the "lower" caste of the south are not as low as those in the north. They are no longer in the background or underground. There are no bonded laborers here like in the North. The lower castes in Kerala for instance got land from their old landlords. The present generation occupy high posts in all walks of life. They are a strong group with powerful unions to back them. And of course they are not "they' - they are us. As the present day population is a mix of all people. Even the earliest of us all - the people who belong to the ancient hill tribes. So then all of India is low caste or high caste. And all of the Americas is native American or African, or low caste or high caste. Or all of the world is low caste. Since there is no pure race anywhere.

After seeing this movie, a curly-haired  Northern Indian , a very nice person otherwise, was raving about this. He is a firm believer in the Aryan invasion myth.(Read Michael Danini and Sujatha Nahar's The Invasion that Never Was ) His proof is the difference in appearance between northerners and southerners. I wanted to laugh. I did not argue  but in my mind,  I do not see any difference  -- that is, if there is any difference,  it is the same difference between 2 southerners, or any two Indians. Even that tribal man Wood showed as the first African had straight hair. Well, curly hair is said to be  one of the earlier/ ancient/primordial dominant traits that will never disappear. Is it the skin color? That is the sun, my dear friend (me to that person, in my mind).  The North enjoys cooler weather in the winter months at least, and more people from the North may have had relationships with the colonial Brits.,--sexual, that is, they  used you or you used them, --  which, by the way, is recent history.  and of course, bleach and fair & lovely. north had a headstart on that. even after all that -- the features of the Northerner and the Southerner are of the same mix. rich and varied. layered and complex mix.

Around 60,000 years ago, a second melting pot of humans happened in the Central Asian area of which India was an important part. I share DNA with the people of that area. Now what are we? People of the North and the South, the East and the  West, and  in between India? We are not just  black, we are not just white, we are not just one color. We are not just a rainbow. We are all colors and no color. We are all races, and no race. We are the race called or that should be called Indian. And next time, when you tell a South Indian that she doesn't look like a South Indian, or that she doesn't look like an Indian, please remember that you are insulting her, insulting yourself, insulting all Indians and all humanity.