Saturday, December 19, 2009 2 reflections

A new 'Avatar' of CGI benchmarks

Alright – the suspense is over. After zooming past large billboards smeared with glowing yellow eyes set within a dark blue face spotted with tiny stars for a few weeks now, I finally caught the screening of James Cameroon's latest sci-fi flick 'Avatar'.

I already knew before settling down to watch the 3 hour tale, that it was going to be filled with all the ingredients necessary to make an epic movie of the kind 'Titanic' was made of. I also knew that the onus of most of these components would rely heavily on the CGI that I had seen in the teasers for a while now. 20 minutes into 'Avatar' and my thoughts were confirmed. One look at Pandora – the imaginary planet weaved out of Cameroon's multifaceted armor, and it was like getting a glimpse of an enchanted forest that seemed to have all the answers to questions a man could ever ask. One look at the Na'vi clan and I knew that Cameroon had created yet another hard-to-follow act by stitching together reality and fiction with such accuracy and detail.

The plot is pretty simple though. Pandora is a planet that is inhabited by the natives called the Na'vi – a humanoid race that has its own roots, belief system, Gods and language. They are skilled warriors who have advanced physical features like an exaggerated height, feline facial structure, dark blue skin that glows in the dark, deep-set golden yellow eyes, a furry tail and the extreme sense of where to find good and what it takes to preserve it. One short – true off springs of Mother Nature.

On the other side, as always, are the humans – us. Ignorant, arrogant and self-serving folks who have managed to destroy what was blessed on their own planet and are now onto Pandora to extract valuable minerals that will help them rebuild what they ended up destroying thanks to their own disturbing ways. One problem though – the natives wont let the humans destroy what they consider sacred...what they consider home. To enable this process to be as smooth as possible, humans have created scientific biological identities known as 'avatars' that allow humans to go into Pandora and interact with the locals. Our hero – paraplegic ex-Marine Jake Sully – whose twin brother was killed in battle, is chosen to replace his brother in this mission of 'go convince the natives to abandon their home and let us suck out their resources'. A bizarre battle of science and faith is poised to be let loose.

As ordered, Jake gets into his avatar and manages to befriend Neytiri – a Na'vi with whom he later falls in love with. Neytiri, much to the reluctance of her community, trains Jake in their ways and gives him everything she has – including complete trust. Little does she know that Jake is in fact a spy who has been sent into their world to collect intelligence for Colonel Quatrich. As Jake spends more time in Pandora, he finds himself transforming into a true Na'vi. He finds himself being able to identify with the Na'vis who are proud of who they are and revere their land more than anything else. This, needless to say, is counter productive as far as the suits in the flying spaceships are concerned since this means blood spill is going to be inevitable. This also means that Jake will have to choose what he will eventually be – a marine who has been promised his real legs back, or a Na'vi who is in love.

As I mentioned earlier, the plot thins out after the first 90 minutes since it gets quite predictable after that. But what really makes 'Avatar' a classic are the breathe taking visuals. Never before have I seen such a unique blend of CGI and reality. I mean, they actually have places like the floating mountains of Pandora, shockingly real looking Na'vi facial expressions and skin texture, amazingly well choreographed flight sequences with dragons and other extra-terrestrial creatures. Truly, it is something one can only experience to feel its authentic magic.

While I don't think Avatar has a storyline that is out of the ordinary, what I am convinced about is that the presentation of this tale will go down as a serious turning point for future CGI based projects. I would certainly like to think of Avatar as the beginning of something spectacular rather than the peak of what can be accomplished with today's technology.

It is curious that the movie has some interesting references to what I have heard about in Hinduism. For instance, as my wife Jaya rightly pointed out, the word 'Na'vi' (or Naa-bi) means the belly button – or the central spot where the umbilical cord bonds a child to its mother. This bonding and connectivity concept is well tapped in Avatar as almost every bond the Na'vis share happens with some sort of physical contact. There is also the reference to how important a role trees play in connecting souls in their world. All the literature in the Vedic culture have constant mentions of trees playing a vital role in matters of life and the concept of death. Jaya also mentioned that there exists references to tall, dark blue humans who roamed the Earth during Satya Yuga, where it is believed mankind was governed directly by the Gods. I also couldn't help noticing that the mark on Jake's forehead during his training resembles the naamam worn by Hindus. Of course, all of this could be mere coincidence but we certainly noticed it and hence I thought of mentioning it here for what its worth. I also must add that despite not having any hugely known names in the movie (except maybe Sigourney Weaver!) the performances are competent and everyone chips in well. You don't even feel that you are missing out huge names on the brand since the visuals keep you busy.

All said and done, Avatar is a visually stunning experience for those who'd want to take a ride around the celestial place called Pandora and live among the selfless creatures called Na'vis. I am sure that if you are bored of Earth and the pains it comes with, then Pandora might just be the spot to visit!

Thursday, December 17, 2009 1 reflections

An unabridged emotion

It finally happened. After what seemed like a nervous wait for the unknown eventuality, it finally did. Actually it began quite fervently yesterday but took on the gorgeous form of a relentless wave last night as it showered generous flakes of soft feather-weight white snow all over Copenhagen. What made it particularly special for me was that it was Jaya's first real chance at indulging in some serious snow fights. As she threatened to swing a big fist full at me last night, we stood in our cargo shorts clicking warm photographs under a cold blanket and became children for a few brief moments.

I couldn't help but relate to her unabridged enthusiasm at the whole affair. I remember being absolutely ecstatic back in 1992, when I had first encountered snow at the foothills of Kedarnath in North India. As a lad in the prime of his teenage years, I recall being absolutely fascinated with the cold and hard chunks of natural ice that seemed to give me so much joy just by being themselves. I then met snow again in the Xmas of 2000, during my first visit to the United States. I remember being equally fascinated by it even the second time but I also remember being subtle about the whole thing in the presence of my American-born cousins. Had it just been me I'd have probably danced in euphoria once again.

As I watched Jaya show me the photographs she had taken of the heavy snowfall around the city, I could feel that familiar pulsating emotion that only folks like us can experience. And by that I mean – people who never grew up around snow. Even though I traveled the country growing up, I never lived in a place where it snowed. Heck, I used to think it would snow everywhere except in India until I realized that snowfall had nothing to do with countries and had more to do with where they were located. That fact was rather unsettling since all geographical aspects aside, I felt suddenly alienated from this wonderful experience. As I'd watch New Year celebrations on the television from New York or Moscow or somewhere else in the foreign lands where snow was a regular feature during this time of the year, I'd always wonder what it was about snow that made us – well, so child-like. We would be tempted to go out there, even in sub zero temperatures, to make snowmen or have intense snowball fights. We'd want to jump, crash, hop and even slide down the terrain as long as we knew that the cool and comforting mattress of pure white snow was there to help us along the way. Maybe it was in that innocent sense of natural care, that my imagination, of snow always being associated with something so joyous and entertaining, found wings. I cant say for sure.

All these thoughts returned to me as I watched Jaya call her family up and share her wonderful first experience with the big bold white. I am sure she will see many such snowfalls in the months, and even years, to come. But I am also certain that no matter how many winters and snowflakes embrace her from this point forward, she will never forget this day when she got up and the entire city's stony silence had been transformed into a giant canvas of pure excitement. wondrous would it be if it would snow everywhere in the world at the same time so that all of us – earth citizens – could, for one brief fleeing moment, forget about hating or loving each other and just … just enjoy this unabridged emotion.

Oh well. If what I hear about global warming is true, then this hope of mine could definitely be a reality. Perhaps with tragic consequences...but definitely an undeniable reality. Until then, I am happy that Jaya now has something that is certainly so unique.

Friday, November 27, 2009 0 reflections

The bastardization of Indian television

It is with great regret, and a pinch of gut-wrenching shame, that I now announce the sad and official demise of Indian television. I am sure people have known of its death for a while now, but being one of the many blessed ones who don’t get to see it every day, I came to realise this tragic fact only recently. But before I go into the gory specifics, it is important to retrace my steps back a couple of decades. Maybe then, only then, can I make some sense of just how what used to be a major source of genuine entertainment came to such a sorry pass.

Growing up in a moderately self-assured India, the only television I knew was Doordarshan. I also know that the moment this name is mentioned many an eyes roll and tongues click with the clichéd tone that ‘Doordarshan’ is the name of a ghost that is now long gone. History. A pale memory from an era no one wants to be associated with anymore. I ordinarily would not have an issue with this attitude had there been something better to back it up with. But therein exists the success of my stereotypical tribute.

If Doordarshan is something we no longer care for, then why is it that the only serials and shows we can recall with joy even today are from that good old ghost’s lair? Be it anything from ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’ to ‘Malgudi Days’. Or from ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’ to ‘Karamchand’. Or from ‘Mungerilal ke haseen sapne’ to ‘Wagle ki duniya’. What was it about these images that still make us smile in peace? Why did it not matter that there was no hype, no hoopla and nothing dramatic to tease our excitement craving bones? Was it because the quality of writing was so wonderfully textured into the lives we used to lead back then?

Or was it that we, as people, were genuinely so intellectually gifted that we did not need additional coaxing to send home a point? Was it that we were a generation of naturally creative minded and spiritually advanced people? Or was it that we knew what it meant for literature and art to work in unison as the stories from our textbooks leapt out into the modesty of Doordarshan’s program? What was it?

I have spent almost a decade fighting with these questions that continue to bother me with their simplistic gorgeousness. When did we stop being humans and become … well, drones? When did sending a child to be on TV go from being a friendly family atmosphere with ‘Meri awaaz suno’ or ‘Bournvita Quiz Contest’ to shows where the kids are humiliated to tears for not being ‘good enough’ by an adult who is paid to be rude to a child on national TV? When did clever game shows like ‘Crystal Maze’ be replaced by the nauseating reek of immaturity mixed with pretentious pile of horse dung called ‘Dadagiri’? What is going on dear India? When did you become a place where people are so down trodden that they no longer care for something as subtle yet divine as ‘Surabhi’ but will spend years at end feeling sorry for a true ‘bharatiya naari’ who has had five husbands and several unknown off springs?

When did you get lost in a bizarre definition of your own making where you become the much revered and referenced washerman’s dog? You neither belong to the house nor to the stone on which he smashes strangers’ unmentionables each day. At least he has a conscience that is clearer than the water he uses to do his job but what about yours? Why do your citizens find perverse gratification in watching people weep and grieve on national TV? Why does someone else’s sorrow bring us so much happiness? Is this the beginning of the end of genuine intellect on the much adored idiot box?

Have we, as humans, taken a few steps back? Why are we silently consuming this foul offering with hedonistic silence? Do we need to be told everything by shouting it into our ears? Or is it that we want to shut out the saddening silences of our lives under their thunder? These are some of the other questions that bother me as I sit in absolute silence and watch the horror show that has become Indian television.

The serials, nay, mega-serials that take a decade to finish. The ‘reality’ shows that zero in on false emotions and shallow tears to cash in people’s eternal viewership. The mind numbingly insipid hosts who prance around behaving like glorified buffoons with fake accents. Oh! The sight is too painful to even think of.

It is in times like this that I actually feel glad I am not in India anymore. I don’t know what sort of human being I would have become had I been subjected to this meaningless and degrading form of ‘entertainment’ that the masses lap up like the faithful washerman’s unattached canine. Maybe I too would have let the slow moving venom of this insanity become the oxygen I would breathe in after a hard day at the washerman’s stone. I don’t know. Actually come to think of it I don’t even want to know.

My dad used to often tell me – ‘Stop watching so much TV! It will spoil you!’ I now smile at the irony of at that expression since compared to what I see now, what I was catered with by my good old pal Doordarshan should be considered a blessing from the Almighty. If I am what I am today with some sense of coherence to the written word, then it is because of shows that encouraged me to read.

Had it not been for their well timed inclusion into my life, chances are I would not have experienced the joy of knowing some of the greatest human beings who walked our planet. So, for that, I thank my friend Doordarshan. Your name was so apt, friend. Your vision was quite far fetched indeed.

Now I just hope that there will come a day when Indian television will be cleansed of the copied and modified versions of someone else’s show and something sincerely genuine makes it blessed appearance once again. Until then, let the public display of unabridged bastardisation and unashamed slavery continue.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 2 reflections

The boomerang of existence

This is the first time something like this has happened to me. Actually the thought, as weird as it was, came to me when I was doing the dishes looking out at the maniacal breeze gushing past the rain stained city this evening. In the hubbub and the din that our kitchen can be sometimes, I managed to soak in a bizarre, albeit philosophical, thought. And hence this attempt to blog it out for what its worth.

Earlier in the day a dear colleague and friend of mine – a woman who I have never seen without a smile – broke down inconsolably as she shared the death of her beloved grandmother. I immediately consoled her, as a good friend should, and thought about the untimely demise of my own grandmother (mother’s side) back in the winter of 2000. While I still do not hold any malice towards the Almighty for taking her away before I could show her the achievements I had made at the time, (I was 22 and was working overseas on my first job assignment) today’s incident with my colleague still brought back memories. I was never really close to my grandmother, but I still felt shortchanged at the time when she left us in such an abrupt manner. But then I guess that is the nature of death – sometimes abrupt, mostly sudden and always rude.

The day moved on. I returned home after several mercilessly scathing sheets of downpour had successfully drenched me with their fury. As I sat down with my evening dose of tea, I suddenly realized that another very dear friend of mine, from back home, had gone in for a C-Section delivery today. I immediately grabbed the phone and called up her mobile hoping that her husband would pick it up and give me the updates. And would you know it? He did. I almost cracked into a guffaw of joy when I heard his calm voice say ‘Hello’. I was already convinced it was a good sign. He shared with me that she had undergone a successful procedure in the morning and a healthy baby boy had entered their lives. I, all the while trying to hide my overflowing joy for my friend and unbridled wishes of health and happiness to the newborn angel, was certainly elated. Considering how much she had wanted a piece of their love to be in her arms for so long, it was only just that her husband’s voice was radiating with so much joy, so much relief and more than anything else – so much peace. An attribute so rare in the troubled days that we live in.

And then came this thought. A soul from one end of the world had departed to the Heavens and another had entered, quite possibly at the same time, back into Earth. Was it the same soul? I don’t know. In fact I don’t even care. What I do wonder about though is this – who was the luckier one? Was it the one who left Earthly possessions and headed on into the oblivious wonder that a place beyond death might be? Or was it the innocent bundle of life that had not yet opened its eyes to see the kind of world we put up with day in and day out. Who is the happier one? Who should I really feel sorry for?

As much as the cliché goes that grieve a death and celebrate a birth – I wonder what sort of world we will leave behind for the millions of unopened eyes that are yet to come. I just hope the circle of life continues without anyone having to wonder which is better – release from the comfortable known to the scary unknown…or vice versa.

Friday, November 06, 2009 0 reflections

Seasonal Musings

As a nonchalant bachelor I would always wonder why it was that unassuming men – orderly, regular, prompt to be online and most importantly, always in disposal of infinite time given their constant status as ‘Available’ or ‘Busy’ on a dozen messenger windows – would mysteriously recede into abstract oblivion once they got married. For a long time I had blamed it on the much hyped nuance of the seemingly complex formula called ‘married life’ that somehow would make it quite impossible for a man (and a woman!) to be who they were during their pre-marital births. This included being able to spend hours together from work (or home) staying online, spending 2-3 hours at one stretch gossiping about absolutely meaningless stuff or just plain sitting idle as they’d absorb every final atom of whatever it was the Internet and the rest of the world was offering as a bribe.

And then I got married one day.

Now, without being the kind who’d immediately set himself to the defensive mode and start ranting publicly about how it all finally made sense and how it was indeed Herculean for a newly wed husband to stay away for long durations from his equally newly wed missus, let me elaborate my musing. I doubt if it has less to do with the fact that my blogs aren’t as frequent as they used to be and more with the fact that I actually don’t miss blogging so much? Maybe that’s the wrong way to put it. I don’t know. But my days right now are actually filled with things I never thought I’d find myself being a part of. For instance, taking turns in doing the dishes. Being the wayward ‘maverick’ that I was for almost a decade, it was a given that I always was the one to tend to the oily and curry stained china every time I was done heartily gorging in their contents. But now – well, now it is different. We have a routine that we follow to ensure neither of us gets too tired or bored from this rather mundane chore. And then there is the travel. Why on Earth would I ever spend a good couple of hours looking for accommodation and sight seeing tips for Greece! Heck, I was in South America for 7 years and I didn’t even visit Brasil! Given my seriously painful allergy towards traveling alone, I just didn’t feel like going through it at the time. But now, with my girl in my life I find myself transforming into someone who actually wants to travel and not has to. Bizarre. And then there is the shopping. Jolly good shopping! I find myself walking into random stores to see if I can spot something that she will like for the house. Something that would make her smile. Something that would fire a spark in her eye as she’d examine it with a pause and shake her head slowly validating my unplanned expenditure. And all this over a small candle stand? To re-word myself – bizarre.

People might be quick to label this ‘love’ and be done with it. But I wonder if it is more than just that. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that humans, by nature, need associative validation. It’s like a scientist who can spend a decade inventing a miracle drug but would never feel truly complete until someone actually pat him on the back and appreciated his invention. It is in this association that we define our seasons…our moods. It is perhaps in this stereotypical cliché that a newly wed couple, who is always in the ‘honeymoon phase’, actually ends up redefining their entire personality. They end up becoming each other.

The hilarity continues. I find myself calling a raw mango ‘kairi’ instead of ‘maavin kai’ and an onion ‘kaanda’ instead of ‘pyaaz’. I refer to a commotion on the street as ‘locha’ instead of jhagda’ and say ‘kaai zaa-la?’ instead of ‘kya hu-aa?’ What is even more interesting is I don’t even notice these things anymore. The same is happening with her too. I have spotted her many a time using my body language to explain something or repeating a song that I might have mindlessly started to hum. I find her calling me ‘ShaKri’ when she is excited and ‘Shashi’ when something serious needs to be addressed. A very interesting pattern starts to emerge with this sort of associative validation, isn’t it? Neither of us knows we are doing it after a while but we know we don’t mind it.

To return to my initial rant about why it is that I feel men and women become less frequent from the cyber space or anywhere else after marriage, it is possibly because they are busy transforming into their spouse. A healthy, much needed and definitely monumental phase of the relationship. And for that, I wouldn’t mind looking over a lot of things – even blogging.

Well, I have to run now. She is making something new out of paalak leaves and I actually am convinced it will be awesome as always considering the aroma that is traveling up to me. Even if I can’t truly share the emotion she has right now to surprise me when I eat it, I can at least join her in the season she is currently in…isn’t it?

Thursday, September 24, 2009 1 reflections

Collecting of diamonds begins!

In the midst of a childhood marred with the notoriously popular prospect of an unclear identity, I was no stranger to being the odd man out. It was in those trying times of absolute boredom that I found a friend in Amar Chitra Katha(ACK),among a dozen others, mind you. There was something in the language and presentation that ACK had that just seemed like magic. It was as if they could make the most boring story in history the most exciting one with their use of images and dialogs! The language, the texture, the narration, the color scheme – everything became a part of my being. A part of what would eventually trigger the writing bug in me and push me into the wonderful universe of reading. In that critical juncture of my adolescence, ACK’s presence played a Herculean role. While the parents in India are quite known for their ‘stop reading comics and pick up Advanced Calculus!’ taunts, I must thank my parents for giving up on me as I lay in bed during several lazy afternoons surrounded with piles of half open Tinkle, Diamond and ACK comics. I am convinced they were sure I would end up being a home body who would be at their economic mercy for good! I do not exaggerate. I was a serious ACK addict back then.

But then who has ever been in a middle class household in India and escaped the cruel hands of reality? As I somehow managed to forget all about these wonderful gems from my past and move on, the need to bring them back into my life only grew stronger. It was as if every line, every shade, every tree that had ever been drawn on those pages had managed to shape me into the person I am today. Hence – it had to return!

And it did! I am now the proud owner of ACK’s first ever animated DVD collection of their original comics! What is so amazing about it is that videos have not altered the look and feel of the books in any way! The artists behind ACK’s productions have my serious respects as these are the men and women who have changed so many lives without even knowing it! And for that, I thank them wholeheartedly.

Given below is a snap of my first ounces in what will definitely be a prized collection from this point forward. I intend to buy every DVD ACK releases in the future! Here is wishing ACK all the best for the future and hoping that they will continue adding to my rare diamond collection that has now begun!


Also find here some amazing previews of these DVDs. Go ahead! If you are a fan too then order them TODAY!

Sunday, September 20, 2009 0 reflections

Dasara/Navaratri Kannada E-Cards!

Dear reader, has updated its 'Dasara Kannada E-Cards' section with 4 new animated cards this year! Send across that special wish to that special someone this navaratri season with cards from

Click on the previews below to check out the collection!

Saturday, September 12, 2009 0 reflections

Welcome to Paley Ramayanam!

What does the late American jazz great Annette Hanshaw have to do with one of India’s premiere mythological pillar – Ramayana? The answer to this question is the animated feature I came across called ‘Sita sings the Blues’ by American artist/cartoonist/animator Nina Paley. Had it not been for my curiosity to read a little more about King Ravana just to ensure I knew more than my wife about him, I would have never come across this masterpiece of a creation. So in a way I’d like to thank my love for being that subtle cause. Smiles.

‘Sita sings the Blues’ is an independent animated movie that re-tells the Ramayana using mainly 2D animation and some immensely refreshing screenplay. The premise unfolds in three parallel tracks – one, with an American couple living in San Francisco with the husband getting a project in Trivandrum in India; two, three Indians (yes yes, actual Indians!) voicing three shadow like caricatures bickering and debating about the events that Ramayana is popular for and a third, sort of, platonic/musical track is the animation piece where Sita breaks into one of Hanshaw’s classics every time a relevant situation presents itself. Like ‘Daddy wont you please come home’ when she is abducted by Ravana or ‘Who’s that knockin’ when Rama arrives at Ravana’s door with his 'vaanar-sena' to rescue her. The moments and the way these songs lend themselves to the scenes are absolutely brilliant.

What also becomes obvious is how unassuming and non-philosophical the whole thing is. Even the dialog between the caricatures in Ramayana is so simple and regular, that one can’t help but giggle when the evil Kaikeyi says to Rama on his banishment – ‘Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out!’ Is that not what she really would have felt like saying anyway? This is seriously funny stuff.

What also gets your attention quickly is the absolutely gorgeous artwork. Be it the drawings that are set to a very ‘Rajasthan painting’ like motif or the 2D animated waist wiggle that Sita gets into whenever she thinks of her beloved Rama and voices out classics from Hanshaw’s collection. There is also one brilliant piece just after intermission (and may I add, that was the best intermission I have ever seen in an animated piece!) by Todd Michaelsen called ‘Sita’s Fire’ are plain awesome. The way these various types of art pieces blend into one another with such finesse without taking away from the main plot is an effort that can only be described as – genius.

But then ‘Sita sings the Blues’ is more than just eye catchy drawings, a narrative that holds you in place and a much contemporary way to retell the epic with the most unlikely Jazz legend for the songs! It is about demystifying the way Ramayana has been told for so many centuries in our country. We have Rama as a brave warrior who, despite being a just King and a righteous man, falls short of being the perfect husband and father. In ‘Sita sings…’ not only is he portrayed as extremely human and intensely flawed, but even the ‘God’ factor is finally skinned out which, I thought, was such a refreshing thing to do. For so many decades there have been murders, riots, rapes and looting in India using Rama’s name as the only rationale. It was definitely about time someone gave that a bottom line and presented a much more mature, albeit said in a kindergarten level intellectual sequence, and realistic way to see and use the teachings from this epic. Something that actually helps the American woman in the parallel story track to do once she gets her hands on the Ramayana. What also makes you reflect on your own knowledge of the story is how Ravana, the villain of the piece, is hinted at being the actual good guy in the story! A thought that had never occurred to me. Sure, he abducted Sita against her will but hey, was that not all he had done to wrong Rama? He didn’t touch her person. He didn’t force himself on her in Lanka. Heck, he didn’t even make Herculean attempts to find Rama and finish him off. A thought that throws more light on Ravana’s much ignored and definitely much clichéd personality in our modern history.

I strongly urge everyone to see this beautiful masterpiece of a movie not just to appreciate the artistic value it so boldly embodies but to also understand the subtleties with which it tells us how to get our priorities straight without being preachy.

The only 'drawback', if I really had to pick, would be the slightly feminist seeming climax. Maybe it is just me but again, maybe it was a tongue in cheek ploy at looking at how Hindu mythologies have always worked. I am unsure. But somehow I felt it could have been choreographed in a less assertive manner.

Nevertheless, this now is officially in my ‘all time favorites’ list!


Download the DVD for free here! Or watch it on YouTube!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009 2 reflections


The folks from the Kommune (regional state/county) replaced the name plate outside the apartment today. Given as to how there is so much significance being attached to today's date - 09/09/09 - I thought it was only fair to document this event with a little photographic spice and poetic salt.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009 2 reflections

Why did Rai become Raaj?

The first random emotion that blurted out of me when I read the news piece was an intense wave of uncontrollable guffaw. After I had recovered from this bizarre bout of seemingly unprecedented laughter riot, I began seeing the reasons behind it. The premise was simple – one more round of National awards had been handed out for cinema. Good. Being the kind of person who doesn’t think much of the Filmfare or other sorts of cliché coveted regalia, I do attach a great deal of respect to the National awards since I want to believe there still exists some ounce of genuine acknowledgement of equally honest performances in this channel. Nevertheless, what had me roaring in laughter this time around was the fact that Prakash Raaj (previously known as Prakash Rai in the Kannada tele-circuits back when entertainment was still decent) had bagged the prestigious best actor award for ‘Kanchivaram’ – a Priyadarshan feature. Notwithstanding the obvious interest this movie will now receive from commoners like me who won’t even sniff a rose unless told it contains mystical powers, something obvious made me hysterical. Prakash and many more like him are basically from Karnataka. But the hilarious irony is that they are being honored today for their contributions and finesse in non Kannada movies! Could there be a better slap on the mediocre covered chutzpah that pledges its allegiance to painfully stereotypical and over hyped ‘superstars’ of Kannada movie industry? I guess not! Not only did our esteemed state not utilize this wonderful performer’s extremely talented self, but they have the gall to sit around and ban other language cinemas from being released in their neighborhood! Gosh!

The ridiculousness of this affair doesn’t end there. Day in day out Kannada cinema keeps churning out only 3 major kinds of movies – boy meets girl love stories with rains and umbrellas thrown in for good measure, ‘macchu’ (a long sickle like weapon) based senseless action sagas where blood is spilled around like water and village based melodrama where it is almost mandatory that the hero be an underdog and the villain have an evil glare. Oh wait! There is that oh so ignored type too – remakes! Heck, we are terrible at even that since most remakes these days are falling flat on their face.

What aches me about all this is the historical vein that Kannada cinema had once upon a time. Having grown up on a strong diet of Kanagal, Nag, Phani Ramachandra and Nagabharana, the state of today’s Kannada movies is purely pathetic. I was recently reading an admittedly shoddy review of ‘Raj – the Showman’ where the author goes on to say this is a blockbuster! The premise then unfolds that the leading girl, an actress in the movie mind you, has an issue saying ‘I Love You’ on camera! I couldn’t help giggling in pain since a girl who has no issues dropping her clothes for a song overseas seemingly has a problem mouthing words that teens today throw around like cigarette smoke! Where has the brain for such a ‘wonderful plotline’ come from? That person has my respect!

With things looking this medieval and almost every movie assuming the status of a bad Mithun da starrer, people like Prakash have rightfully held up their palms and submitted their final respects to this industry that has nothing more to offer except borrowed tales and copied plots. I patiently wait for the day all this mediocrity is burnt out alive and some fresh stories with a mature and creative mind behind finally makes it way to the national arena.

Until then, well done Prakash! Stay cool, mate.

Friday, September 04, 2009 0 reflections

Something else...something more...

Monday, August 31, 2009 0 reflections

About big J and bigger G

Amid the furor that the lotus stamped political goliath called Ba.Ja.Pa is now creating, something about the root based connection of the big J and bigger G – the founding fathers of the unplanned non-anesthetic abortion called ‘partition’ – made me giggle in hilarity. The article, which now fails to remind me its source, mentioned in passing that both J and G belonged to the same western chunk of blood and tear soaked earth that ironically has a hard time seeing a single day of whatever it is either of these two men remain popular for. Be that as it may, the fact that certain big lads up in Ba.Ja are screaming foul about the neighboring J and quoting local G’s views about him furiously is rather amusing. The fact that certain maniacal shadows of our nation’s infamous, and certainly ill timed, birth still continue to loom large is a rather daunting realization. We survived their rath yatras, the mosque demolitions, the riots, the bombs, the rapes and definitely the speeches. O! For the sake of all that is divine – the speeches! Back in the day when the Ba.Ja’s icon Va-Ja was the PM, it would take him a good hour to get through the first paragraph of his multi-hued discourses before lacing it delicately with some poetic essence only he could appreciate. Once the slow moving leader passed on to the back seat at five meters an hour speed, the more irate ones with the busy balding foreheads took charge and now sit on the top issuing dismissal letters to those who even smile at someone from across the barbed wire fence, let alone someone who decides to pen something appreciative about big J! Blasphemy!

Maybe it was the invariable concatenation of these two immensely popular folklore heroes in their own right that had me amused, but I suddenly was reminded of the time there was a giant uproar of a similar nature when a foreigner wanted to auction off some of old big G’s older, albeit worthless, belongings. What a race had ensued by our powers that be to ensure we safely secured what was rightfully ours! My O my! I had in fact read a dozen blogs that discussed and debated the whole issue of why they – as if it was divine intervention – would never allow a single atom of his blessed being outside the land he helped become free! Sigh. Sad but true. We Indians will never understand irony, I remember feeling back then. We put the G on every possible place in the country except in our lives. We put him in songs, in stories, in movies, in ads, in posters, in statues, on stamps and heck, even outside liquor shops. Everywhere but in our own routine. Tch tch. Too much G to sustain, eh? Sorry. Can’t be. We ensured that whatever the heck the man had once mouthed through his toothless voice into the ears of millions of people worldwide was regularly ignored and crucified with aplomb. We’ve now in fact also ascertained that he is religiously garlanded on the only two days that matter to us in his context – birth and death - while going on with our humble non-G lives in between. Will this circus ever end? I have no idea. Maybe it is not supposed to!

I don’t understand politics. Never have and neither am I keen to. But the fact that something as basic as ‘freedom of expression’ is controlled by leading so-called ‘political parties’ in the nation without any regret is just plain silly. And the gall we have to say that we are democratic enough to allow each person to opine. Bah! Keeping G’s context, anyone seems to get the license to fire, threaten, harm or even lynch anyone else. This is what I found rather bizarre considering the people we fight about today are long gone and have left behind so much mess that no amount of in-fighting can help clear. Somehow these visits to the ghost’s lair seem to be rather counter productive.

But well, I am no one. Maybe big J’s mention in the nation is indeed a bigger threat to us than acknowledging bigger G’s long forgotten legacy that continues to plead for our attention. Who knows? Maybe someone who will read this piece will go ahead and label me too as a J supporter just because I didn’t praise G enough? I am not sure anymore. I am really not.


Saturday, August 29, 2009 2 reflections

1st Wedding Monthaversary!

It isn't the most pleasant experience to have to spend the very 1st month of wedding away from the beloved. But then despite the bizarre separation me and Jaya are experiencing (thank you visa officials! You guys have no clue how powerfully 'God like' you guys can be! Heck, maybe you do!) I knew there was no need to be blue about it. Hence, in the sunshine of that new hope and renewed faith that we two will be together soon, here is my gift to her this time around. And with it is the prayer, that next month I will be able to spend it with her without the needless distraction of the Internet.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 2 reflections

Holy Smoke!

My gut notion that the most ridiculous item in the world always makes it to the front pages of Indian newspapers is an aptly placed one. For those who insist on viewing these columns with mislaid jingoism and meaningless rhetoric are welcome to do so. Heck, they do it regardless of the well aimed interventions. But even after thumping each other on the back and giggling feverishly from behind weird clinical masks (thank you Swine Flu!) on the 63rd Independence Day of our blessed nation, we Indians continue to fuel the absurd day in day out with shameless aplomb. 63 years, just imagine, and we are still covering preposterous news pieces on our front pages!

Now, I think of myself as some sort of a Bollywood fan. I say ‘some sort’ since that definition is fast losing meaning. From keeping a regular tab on every release every Friday I think I am becoming somewhat allergic to Hindi movies. Actually it has been over a year since I bought a ticket and walked into the desi cinema here in Copenhagen. Jaya insists that she wants to see a Hindi flick soon so maybe we will go there after all. But until that gun is put to my head I’d like to avoid it with my own mask! Either way, when it comes to Bollywood I don’t really have any demi-Gods to worship since after moving out of the nation and removing my tear soaked ‘love goggles’ for these over hyped brats and ‘cosmetically re-engineered self proclaimed’ queens, I have learnt to call a spade a spade. And so with these buzzers around me, I opened the daily a few days ago. Shock of shocks! The mighty multi-million dollar worth SRK was frisked by American police at some airport in the states and the fellow is going around calling it ‘irrelevant’ and is giving press reports ‘sharing his ordeal’ and giggling like a school girl about the slightest implication that it might be a ploy to get some well timed publicity for his sagging cheeks, I mean career. And to add some ‘context’ to this ‘horrifying tale’, he says he was detained since ‘My Name is Khan’. Hmm…does anyone else smell some good old spicy BS here? Isn’t that the name of the next over rated LEGO play-set that kid Johar is planning to unleash on our sinful souls? Tch tch. Bollywood never had any class after the good old 80s but heck, they are not even creative at making up BS! Jeez. That’s just pathetic.

Fine. For the sake of pure jingoism, let us assume our pal SRK is burping out the truth from behind designer goggles and effeminate seeming scarves. Even so, given the celeb-derriere kissing that 'fans' that our countrymen are everyone is showcasing this ‘story’ and saying US needs to go easy in their checking policies. I felt like roaring in laughter when I read this piece. Are these guys for real? Who on Earth is this SRK and why the hell should that policeman at the US airport care who he is? There was also another report right about the same time that the legendary Bob Dylan was whisked away by two cops for not having an ID card on him. Did you read that news anywhere? I guess not since in the American viewpoint, everyone is the same in the eyes of the law and no one gets extra press. Not even Dylan! What I don't get is why these irrelevant (Ah! Irrelevant – the only word SRK used that had any worth in his mirage of page 3 vocabulary) desi celebs be seen as absolutely harmless creatures overseas? Heck, according to me they are the most harmful ones given the amount of broad day looting they do of our precious money with their gibberish performances and clichéd cesspools of song and dance routines in the name of ‘entertainment’ each week! If anything they need to pay us, the customers, tax for putting us through the torture they call 'blockbusters'.

Ah well. Call it the perfect coincidence which was so well laced with the Holy Smoke of this fellow being a Muslim or the fact that he plays one in his next movie (for a change!) and just ‘happens to have a last name’ that matches his real one. Whatever the case, the desi notion that anything Bollywood is beyond horse dung is absolutely ludicrous. I always read news items about major Hollywood glitterati being fined or getting imprisoned or some such for straight forward things like traffic violations and drunk driving! And then we have clowns like SRK who prance around like sissies calling US ‘unrealistic’! What a joke! One can't blame him either since Sanjay Dutt for all the hooplah that was made about his involvement in the Bombay blasts still roams free with his new 'khaadi' linen. So little surprise then that these people feel they are beyond the law in and out their sad little nation.

When I began following SRK’s career I had a lot of respect for this guy for being the only authentic self made superstar after Big B and maybe Rajesh Khanna. But in the past decade (and after having joined his ‘Holy Hands’ with Farah Khan and that Johar fellow and others in that circus tent) he has seriously lost all major regard I once had for that young, charming, hard working and passionate performer who grew out of the middle class and made a name for himself. Nowadays he comes off as just another overfed celeb who is cashing in on our nation’s hopelessly star struck public who are nothing more than drones when it comes to these jokers.

Alright, I am done with this absurd item. Let me stop now before I start throwing up like one of this fellow’s millions of misguided fans. And as far as those fellows who stopped SRK and questioned him are concerned – Well done guys! I honestly hope you nail every Indian celeb who crosses your borders without regret since we will never dare to do so ourselves. We are too busy constructing temples and crashing coconuts for these chaps here! What to do? We have two centuries of white stained guilt to wash away no?


Friday, August 14, 2009 0 reflections

Love in the time of Swine Flu

Yes – this is a married man talking here. After three decades and a year, I am finally the proud owner of a glittering golden circle on my right hand’s ring finger. A shine that, despite the lack of the one who lovingly slipped it in place on the 28th of last month, continues to fill me with the same affection I have always seen in the honest depths of her soulful eyes. As I now await the blessed return of the proverbial bride into my nomadic existence overseas, these are the thoughts that buzz around me. And so, as I sit punching in the electronic squares all the while admiring the circle of trust smiling back at me, I find these word patterns taking shape.

The summer of my life’s highlight was peppered with what can only be called a maniacal concoction of the extreme nature. Right from the moment I sat with my father as he drove me home from the airport on the cold 13th morning of last month, it was destined to be unadulterated chaos. Having returned from a fortnight of theories and facts in London, I was eagerly awaiting a much needed break. And yes, there was definitely the promise of one too. But then there is hope, and there is hope’s shadow. As I eagerly look back today after having settled into my residence away from my roots, I find myself wondering where that word – vacation – vanished into! Did it make a brief appearance between the days and fly by unnoticed? Or was my preoccupation with my thoughts so intense that I didn’t even acknowledge its humble presence? I am not sure anymore. But then I cannot rant about the issues I had to face to get things organized for the wedding since these were things that had to be done. And no, I can’t even whine about a very hectic post wedding schedule that involved the welcoming of a new bride into the old household and daily trips to relatives’ places followed by a strong bout of viral fever. No. These were things, I’d like to imagine, that were just meant to be. I was in dire need of some down time after the insanity that had ensued thus far and if letting my body peak at 102 degrees with an inexplicably random bout of fever was the way to go, then so be it. And no – I definitely cannot discount my beloved half for anything. It might as well have been her never dying spirit that runs through me that brought me back to my feet sooner than I’d have normally taken in such instances.

Nevertheless, surrounded by daily tabloid spills of the dreaded Swine Flu and haunted by post viral fever rash, I did manage to limp back to where I belong – my home away from home – today afternoon, albeit solo. Sure, things still aren’t perfect as I now find myself changing skin into the quintessential married bachelor while Jaya awaits her visa papers to be processed next week. But even in this madness there is some relief. Even in this roller coaster ride of a dozen emotions, there is a silent wave of inexorable joy. Despite the month and a fortnight I’ve had, despite the illness, despite the fatigue and definitely despite the joints that still throb from inevitable jetlag, I am smiling as I punch in these words all the time glancing at the golden circle embedded on my hand. It is there, right there, that I find a way to breathe. It is in the pangs of that beautiful feeling that I know, deep inside me, that this day will pass too. It is thus that I convince myself that being high on my beloved’s thoughts can survive anything – even H1N1. And for that, I thank the Almighty on bended knees.

Thank you, Lord.

Friday, July 24, 2009 1 reflections

A much needed perspective!

There is possibly nothing more realistic than an Indian wedding. Even so because of the vast abundance of perspectives it helps us get. Given the numerous self styled nuances our nation’s male dominant chutzpah has successfully help create over the centuries, it is little wonder then that what I now know is a serious reality check. Every time I would pass by elaborate labyrinths of colorful flower banners outside glittering kalyana mantap’s in Bangalore, I would wonder what the to-be weds might be going through. Considering the amount of rituals involved even in the most minimalistic Hindu fare, there is definitely little room for the ‘fun factor’ as the priest takes the couple through a journey of verses and exercises. As much as I am fascinated by the variety in these activities, I cannot help but reflect on what the travel has been thus far. In a rather interesting turn of events, me and my family found ourselves (despite the much hyped ‘we are from the groom side’ rhetoric) having to take care of everything a bride’s family ideally would. This, of course, was because my fiancée’s family had kindly agreed to have the wedding in Bangalore instead of Mumbai, where she is from. If I knew then what I know now, I want to think that I would have flown into India better prepared. For starters, catering is a million dollar jackpot. Getting the right caterer who understands and acknowledges your traditions is a serious challenge. After our family caterer had quoted an impossible seeming number for our moderate sized marriage’s food requirements, we had to scramble for alternatives. In that phase, I got an up close introduction to the challenges the girl’s family has to face with making such decisions. Everything from ensuring the work is done well and pleases each grinning face who shows up for the event becomes an automatic priority. Everyone from the DVD wallah who is charming you with his ‘high tech’ versions of yourself set amid graphic valleys to the flower decoration wallah who assures you he will recreate paradise at your doorstep, needs your kind ear. Phew! And all this with a budget line in mind! One thing is certain – after this 10 day long experience, I definitely have new found respect for every Indian girl and her family members. The amount of work that goes into making an Indian wedding tick is definitely no joke. And to think that the boy’s side actually has the cheek to demand dowry on top of this! No wonder such fellows need a strong kick in their derrieres. And for this much needed perspective, I cannot thank my in laws enough!

Friday, June 26, 2009 0 reflections

Michael Jackson's death: The end of an era

So I am at the metro station today and a gleaming LCD display shows something in Danish. It has Michael Jackson’s photograph on it and I immediately assume ‘Whacko Jacko’ is making a trip to Copenhagen thanks to my serious limitations with the Danish language. I then come into work, as always, and go to Times of India to see what chaos is breaking loose in my blessed nation when, it hits me like a ton of bricks – Michael Jackson is dead. I immediately find myself saying, despite never having been a hardcore fan of the big MJ – ‘O shoot! Damn….!’ I then spend the next few minutes reading the article and letting this absolute surprise sink into me. There is something about this news that just doesn't fit. Michael Jackson is not supposed to die. I am not sure why, but it just doesn't fit.

I guess it is with this unnerving stab of unprecedented wonder that the entire world (or at least most part of it) will react to the sudden exit of Michael. As a teen I still remember going crazy about the bass heavy beats of his ‘Thriller’, ‘Bad’, ‘Dangerous’ albums that somehow seemed to ooze with the ache of a human being who genuinely cared for others. Like him or hate him you could never ignore him – a cliché that has been oft used with over hyped and ridiculously revered B-City demi-Gods. But sadly, not one of them had either the magnetic appeal or the worldwide recognition like Michael did. If not for anything else, he will definitely be missed for being that one singular idol who, despite the variations of his life in the last decade, was always making news for all sorts of reasons. I am sure there are millions still out there who admired him and stood by him in times when he was accused of a dozen heinous crimes. Good, bad and ugly – Michael had seen them all.

There was a certain sense of being surreal that he always pulled off with aplomb. A factor that inspired various dancing styles (like the moonwalk), a dozen flashy attires and even the crotch grabbing frenzy that became synonymous with being able to dance like him. Our own local celebs like Prabhudeva and even Govinda for that matter were often compared, albeit quite unfairly, with Michael since that was the sort of benchmark he had created for himself. I say unfairly since I have always believed that any form of art is truly subjective. Each one has its own flair, its own charisma and its own worth. A fact that we Indians rarely acknowledge.

But then that is that. After half a century of what is easily one of the most eventful lives of our times, the King is dead. An era of what was possibly a historic time for music in humankind's existence, is now over. The man who was possibly the most favored piñata of the media who never missed a chance to bash him up till he was shivering with pain, is now going to be once again their feed for one last time. But all I hope now is that even in this untimely departure the King has taken, there is still some sense of respect that is given to his life and his achievements. One cannot weigh Michael against the scandals because rarely has there been a celeb who hasn’t been involved in anything outrageous. Heck, isn’t that why they are called that? But even so, I think its time to turn our backs to the stage, grab our groins and sweep back in the moon walk one last time saying ‘Michael, you will be missed you crazy freak.’

I am reminded of a popular joke we used to have in school that even after a nuclear holocaust the only two things that would survive would be a cockroach and Michael. I guess the roach won.

Rest in peace Mike.

One of my all time MJ favorites - JAM!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 0 reflections

How did BNP sir become a partisan to a global scare?

For long I had resisted the temptation to pen this but given the exuberant spate of tabloid spills about the topic, I just had to get it in black & white. But before I spell forth my rather irrelevant musing, I am reminded of that beloved old chap who taught us English back in my days of ironed uniforms, nervous dictations and Parachute oiled hairdos. (On an equally amusing side note: I still don’t get why a coconut hair oil brand would be labeled ‘Parachute’ when it has nothing to do with either the tree or the hair! Is the company telling us that this oil is the ‘life saver’ for hair like a parachute is for life? Or is it that the gaudy brilliance of the oil will ensure our hairdo remains intact even if we jump off a plane with a parachute on? I can’t help but think that if that indeed be the case, our hairstyle will be the last thing we would care about. Ah well, moving on.) We used to call him ‘BNP sir’ for as long as I can remember without realizing the man actually had a nice elongated name which I now forget. I am tempted to say probably BN Padmanabhan but well, I am sure I am miserably uncertain there as well.

Anyway, the only reason even today, after close to two decades, I still remember BNP is because of his colorfully verbose feedbacks to the versions of Caesar or Macbeth we used to religiously hand in on a regular basis. His devoted South Indian upbringing, while palpable with the prominent red exclamation mark on his forehead, had somehow made it impossible for him not to call a student everything he wouldn’t eat – monkey, dog, donkey, swine (this being his favorite!) etc. It was common knowledge that if someone got stuck with one of these titles, then it was obvious that BNP was close to ripping off the author’s head that had inadvertently unleashed such monstrosity upon the world of words. My years of elementary education of Shakespeare were thus spent understanding that the word ‘swine’ was possibly the worse thing one human being could call the other. Needless to say, life later on taught me otherwise. So, reader, this was about BNP for now. I will catch up with our old mate a little while later.

Now let us return from this minor detour on to how BNP became an unsuspecting partisan to a theory I have. For years now there has been a curious pattern I have noticed emerge every time we have disrespected prominent members of the animal, bird and insect world. Among them, primarily, is the mosquito. We not only are hell bent on wiping off its blood sucking race but also use the revered insect in songs that demean other members of our diversely personified species. Much like that B-City song which claimed that one such pest could make you a eunuch. Not the best metaphor in my books but nevertheless a rendition that caught our fancy temporarily. So, to make things equal, these little pests that had been murdered generously since the beginning of time got their vengeance in a dozen different ways. Malaria, dengue, yellow fever et al. Then we moved on and began smashing off Lord Ganesha’s much adored disciple – the mouse (do read up about Lord Kroncha to know why exactly the elephant headed one ended up with such an unlikely escort). Just the mere hint of one of these in our homes and we are standing on table tops poised to remove this troublemaker while acknowledging that the God he serves so humbly, according to our own admittance, is a trouble healer. This probably could classify as the height of divine irony. So, after a million unplanned deaths, the little fellows brought with them plague, rat bite fever, meningitis et al. Again, ailments that wiped off almost half of Europe! Our next target to ensure our superiority over the races continued was the meekly moving cow. We prayed to it, slaughtered it, decorated it, milked it till it fell off its feet, used it in verbal abuse for the feminine kind and even drank its liquid refuse in hopes to cleanse our sins. It returned with a vengeance to kill off its own kind as the mad cow disease and sent shivers down every cow eater’s arrogant spine. We were not done yet: we then targeted the next best thing to roasted beef – spicy chicken. Everything from labeling cowardice with its name to brazenly chomping on its delicious legs and devouring its unborn on our steaming omelettes took place (and continues to!) with unrelenting aplomb. But then how long could the scary-easy flightless creature take it? An equally delicious stab of avian flu peppered itself across the planet leaving millions of defenseless birds out of our kitchens for good. Again, disrespect reigned supreme as the arrogance of humans continued to loom large.

And then we come back to feedback friendly BNP. After this havoc of a decade, I am reminded of his one choice word that is now making front page news – ‘Swine’. His five years of (at least containing my blessed attendance) inexorable fuming with every kid who ever denied him the pleasure of appreciating the bard’s genius, seems to be hole punching the globe bit by bit each passing sun. ‘This is ridiculous work I say! Lazy old swine! How about paying more attention in the classroom!’ he would scream into our dumbfounded faces that shivered from under an intact mop of oily organization. And so, millions more like him I am sure, have forever disregarded and given this animal the least possible benefit in the history of mankind. For that, here it is now. Back with the complete weapon to demand retribution. With each newspaper reading I see the number of Swine Flu patients rising steadily in every part of the world. While the other members of the non human clan either attacked us directly or one another, the swine family has decided to let us get infected without their presence at all. Sort of like the ape origin based HIV that still continues to loom large on the planet.

Another carefully plotted revenge drama. Another redemption sought by means best left to rather drastic seeming theories like this one! Hence, the next time you call someone an ass, watch it. Who knows what sort of reprisal our silent slaves are planning! And also, don’t forget to blame folks like BNP for the subtle little role they played in disrespecting another life form without any provocation from it. Considering how we are always reminded to give guru dakshina, I am sure he can use a little consignment of our “thank you” notes in return to his contribution to this epidemic. Of course, if he is still alive, that is. Thanks a lot, BNP sir!

Phew. Alright, I am done.

Saturday, June 20, 2009 3 reflections

[Father's Day] - About a not so 'Mahatma' Gandhi

Father's Day - yet another day we have come to appreciate thanks to the West. Now, sure, it is only natural that we celebrate this day honoring the many achievements and feats of our adoring fathers. The ones who cleaned our behinds as an infant and our mess as teens. The ones who treated us with a strict hand while becoming our friends once our footwear sizes became the same. Our good old daddies.

But then, much like I had done on Mother's Day (where I had penned a piece on the eldest Kaunteya) I couldn't help think of those who didn't exactly get it the way they'd have expected on Father's Day too. While most of them had issues that went beyond anything that could be controlled, there were those who never could step out of their father's large looming shadows. One such character of tragic irony, is Harilal Gandhi - the first son of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. After doing some research on both Harilal and our esteemed Mahatma I decided to pen something that would bring these two controversial figures together. The scene depicted here is in the final moments of Harilal as he lies dying from a liver disease. Harilal died just a few months after Gandhi's assasination and this piece - 'O father where art thou?' - is an attempt to look at what might have possibly been his final moments like.

I hope you enjoy reading it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2 reflections

The asexual tongue fight

As melancholic as this seems, I can’t help revisiting it ever so often. Maybe it is because I keep encountering that O so blessed crowd who keep lashing out their strained idioms peppered with the twists and twangs of words they learnt either sitting behind a desk somewhere or from another tongue that ethnically owns it. I am not quite certain. But nevertheless, its consistent recurrence in my multi layered life, which in the past has had me wondering in awe, now makes me guffaw in disbelief. Tch tch!

So here it is then without further ado: All those who think they can use a forged intonation and get away with it – you are miserably misguided. And the worst of them are that pristine clan I belong to – desis. But before I begin pointing out why this ill mannered barrage of attempts vexes my thinking muscles, let me identify the symptoms. So you have this O so à la mode desi gent or lady: Hip in the purest form of its usage implying a well honed sense of dressing and a very well trained eye to catch the faintest glimpse of anything alien. The moment you attempt to strike a conversation with them (and trust me, dear muse, it isn’t easy to get them started but O then it is impossible to get them to stop...) you usually get the cold shoulder. Reason? Your angrezi is still laced with the strong curry-like essence of your desi roots. Instance: Punjabis speak English like Punjabi. Bengalis speak English like Bengali…you get the drift. Given the brazen abundance of dialects our country has, it is little wonder then that mastering the language of our previous masters (yeah yeah, I had planned that one) comes with its authentic shade of home-grown exuberance too. These are the folks I admire the most. The yeest aar wayst butt maai Emgleesh eez daa besst! kind. People who are unafraid to belt out their well timed wunderrfull or staap or draamaa or whaat yaar and of course, the more popular camaan mann. No Sir. We are the kind who doesn’t care where your tongue is from but your ear has to record and decipher whatever sounds our tongues are spewing forth. Get busy! These are the people who have my eternal respect for their timeless adherence to their ancestry regardless of how many eons they might have spent away from it. Salaam!

But then there are the rebels. The laat sahibs without the necessary training. Their aggresive need to blend into the new culture is so fierce that they stick out like a sore thumb the moment they open their mouths. The ones I could call the so-glad-to-be-the-NRI-that-I-still-think-having-an-accent-makes-sense kind. The ones who will ensure that irrespective of their current destination, their English is always either A for American or B for British. Either they are mauling their tongues with their O my! That’s not so great now is it! Or ensuring that their r’s always have the prototypical rrrr drag that American English is unique for. This is not a problem. So far nothing here coaxes me to roll my eyes and say 'Give it up guys. I know you were not born here. Quit the act. It is just pathetic.'

What does get to me though is how they, accidentally or instinctively of course, stuff in classic desi sounding words into their sentences while speaking fast enough to avoid their audience from picking it up! Clever, eh! Like for instance: You know! It was the best cay-bin we could have wanted inside that cruise boat! Aha! Cay-bin? Not only is the sentence arguably askew in its grammar but what is with the random annunciation of the word cabin! Initially I used to always wonder about these bizarre seeming instances during my spring days overseas and during my colorful conversations with these since-I-have-been-overseas-for-two-years-hence-my-accent types. But with time I realized just how hopelessly clueless and eternally shallow these people really were. The façade of trying to tell me with their tongue that they ‘no longer could speak Indian English’ was over. Too old.

It was after such horrifying revelations, that I slowly walked away from such phony stereotypes who not only would make a mockery of their own good self but also of the clan they represented. I could almost hear the Caucasian natives giggling in solitude about the miscued attempt at the ‘accent exchange program’ these guys had going on. Recently I have, unfortunately, resumed my run-ins with this blessed crowd and so I had to find a way to tell them ‘Fine! I get it. You are still one of those moronic NRIs who will never master the local tongue that feeds you but will always Americanize your English punctuating it with cay-bins and marrrketts and that one word I loathe the most – my darling hubbeee. Yuck. Stop it please. I beg of you.

The only moment in memory I have of this rant of mine backfiring was when a Middle Eastern-American woman (meaning an immigrant who, wanting to get the hell out of her awful nation, somehow got hitched with a Yank and fled it years ago only to go back there from time to time to show off her borrowed accents and furrowed accessories) complimented me on my English with her own eerie version of the language. She thought I was educated in Britain thanks to my pronunciation while I, admittedly a tad flattered, confessed that India had indeed been the source of my wunderfull English.

Sigh. So much for the asexuality factor of this tongue fight. What say man? Sad no yaa?