Monday, 15 July 2019

Melancholia

The word melancholy is a better word than sad, don't you think so? Sad seems to convey the state of mind but melancholia conveys the state of the being when sadness accosts the soul. The word could be used in different contexts - when one sees an airplane flying reminding of departures and people who have left, the association of deeper sadness which chokes the inner self but does not affect the visage. Today, when I behold certain photographs tagged with captions that threaten to stir your core, you experience melancholia.

Melancholy.

Melancholia.

Melancholic.

Smouldering cold of the monsoon.

The bitterness of lost moments.

The tugging of heart strings.

You hear melancholy beckoning with open arms except that you want to embrace her without crushing your heart - Alas! impossible.

Are you melancholic tonight? Who or what is your companion or are you lost within yourself?


Sunday, 14 July 2019

RASPUTIN and his shenanigans

Ra Ra Rasputin
Lover of the Russian queen
There was a cat that really was gone
Ra ra Rasputin
Russia's greatest love machine
It was a shame how he carried on


Boney M



My introduction to Rasputin was through the popular pop group Boney M. I liked the ring of the tune especially, "Ra Ra Rasputin . . ." The lyrics were equally tantalising, "Lover of the Russian Queen." But then when one is in her rambunctious teens, the truth behind the lyrics is not given much thought. But the song stayed on in the mind and the Bible I used to read those days had an introduction to the books of the Bible; I think it was in a short introduction to the book of Proverbs, that I again came across the name Rasputin as an example of a misleading counselor of the Romanav dynasty. 

Those days there was no Wikipedia or Google to fall back upon and hence the curiosity remained unquenchable. Forgotten. 



Then Netflix happened and it was screening, The Last Czars and in passing I heard the name Rasputin in the trailer! Boy, was I excited! I was quite elated. And then I began watching the bloody history of Nicholas, the last monarch of Russia before Communism took over. But Rasputin, the notorious monk was the one who stole the series and of course, the history of Russia as well. He was a sensual monk given to hedonistic pleasures and loved sex, orgies and women. According to him, sex was purging oneself out of the sins and hence advocated free sex and pleasures of the body - a Russian version of Osho, if I may say! 

His spell over the royal family - the King and the Queen is notable because he comes to their palace as a healer of the only son - the heir to the dynasty who was suffering from Hemophilia, which was kept a secret from the extended family and the country since the heir could not be a sick person. 

Rasputin had charisma, style and a mesmerising quality that made women swoon over him and like it always happens, the women were the ones who made him popular. He was a monk unlike any stereotypical monk and knew how to force his way anywhere he wanted.

Alas! Along with followers, he also had several enemies and was assassinated by one of the members of the royal household, which did not come as a surprise. But he did live the grand sensual life which was the envy of many.

So, the interest kindled by Boney M came a full circle via Netflix and that was a satisfying feeling.

History, is interesting, I learned quite late in life.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Of pre-adolescent gods and demi-gods!

Growing up, I used to collect posters/pictures of actors, Aamir Khan and Madhuri Dixit obsessively. I had claimed that I liked them and had a diverse assortment of pictures (sourced and cut from popular magazines, Filmfare and Women's Era, among some) of the two which had multiple poses/expressions and clothing. Thinking of those times in the present make me seem a tad foolish because a) I had never watched any film of the two, b) I could not claim why I had liked them enough to collect many pictures and c) I was/am not a fan material. No one had the courtesy to even ask me why I had gone on a steadfast mission of collecting the pictures except my mom who believed that idolising anyone except Jesus was a crime!

Well, I collected and proclaimed my love for them. Their films were released and I did not know much about them because we did not have a TV. My only knowledge of these actors were their songs which I heard while passing by the tea-shops which blared their latest top hits and my friends who had the fortune of watching TV and creating envy in the mind of the naive little girl who believed that TV was the gift reserved for only some lucky households.

My love for stars and celebrities extended to cricketers as well - Kapil Dev! I vaguely remember the wild winning of the World Cup in 1983 - I was 3 and we had no TV but I remember maybe because of the adults (my father, uncle, neighbour) discussing the matches or my father reading aloud from the newspaper - The Times of India (when it was still worth its salt and not reduced to TOIlet!). I had also developed a fondness for Vivian Richards, the charming West Indies erstwhile captain! I had followed the lives of these celebrities who I had liked and got to know of the various dalliances - all through people who discussed them!

Today when I think back, I wonder how this all could come about - Kapil Dev had huge bunny teeth and had a horrible voice - the Palmolive ka jawab nahi! effect. Then the Television entered our lives. The enchantment with these celebrities started to wane. I started discarding the picture-cuttings of Aamir Khan and Madhuri Dixit. I had grown past the pictures and started watching their films. I liked some and disliked many but never let go of the fact that I liked Aamir Khan; Madhuri had completely worn off my mind and whenever I see Kapil Dev and Vivian Richards, I cannot stop myself from exclaiming, "I used to like them. They were my favourites."

Today, while reading The Hindu's sports column, the toothy smile of Kapil Dev and him jubliantly holding the 1983 World Cup made me travel to the time when I was a three-year old who liked Kapil Dev and wanted to meet him some day!

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Manto is not for everyone


In one of the dialogues in Manto (2018), Saadat Hasan Manto, the writer reads aloud few lines after witnessing a horrific account of the Muslim-Hindu riots after Partition, to his friend whose family has been affected. The friend, morose and gloomy tells Manto, “For God’s sake, stop giving everything a literary spin. They are not characters from your story. They are my people. Living, breathing, real people.” 



Manto was an unknown writer to me until I picked up a copy of his short stories in Bangalore airport some years ago. I suspect that bookstores started stocking his works after Nandita Das announced her plans to make a film out of his life and stories some time in 2015-16. Being a fan of Nandita Das and anything she writes, speaks or ventures into, I was quite fascinated by the film without having read Manto.

Googling his name, I found that he belonged to the era of writers who wrote on Partition - a topic that has not much interested me. I think this is the problem of people like me who have not experienced any sort of war or the after-effects of war. I had always associated tales of partition to a topic that belonged to a time that was often dealt and finished with and something that piqued the research sensibilities of scholars who dissected and (over)analysed a time in history that was sure bloody but outdated.

How wrong I was! When I thought that nothing about partition that could shock me, Manto came breezing by rather shockingly.

His stories are not something that one could sip tea, sit by the window and turn page after page with a pleasant smile on the face. Manto is acquired taste. At first instance, I wondered, what is so great about Toba Tek Singh that everyone sings paens about! After all it's about some lunatics belonging to Pakistan and India. I regret that quick judgement, rather immature and premature one clouded by reading many stories of partition enough to be unmoved. Nevertheless, I completed reading all the sort stories in that book. Manto, like any intoxicant grows on you slowly until you can never rid your mind of his characters.


Then, I saw the film, thanks to Netflix after years of reading his short stories. I was moved beyond words - the stories seamlessly woven into the script pierces the heart and the sensibilities of the viewer. Toba Tek Singh was no longer just a story - it was the truth of India's most gruesome migration where homes, memories and kin were either lost or dead. Partition was no longer a mere event which happened ages before I was born. Toba Tek Singh was but one of the stories that belonged to a million. Manto was not a writer, he became a chronicler of lost lives and unwritten tales. If not for him, I would've lost the truth of Partition.

Sometimes films add body to the literary work and Das's Manto did exactly that to me. 

Friday, 15 March 2019

The driver gaze!

You've heard of the male gaze and perhaps even the female gaze, but have you experienced the driver's gaze. You would've at some point in your life. The gaze could be either out of admiration or out of anger+frustration but the latter seems to be the most common. I don't drive but I do observe drivers, especially my spouse and his various 'looks' if it could be called that way. His admiration gaze is reserved only when a Ferrari or a Jaguar zips past him but rest of the time, I leave it to you to guess/imagine.



But yes, the driver's gaze is something that all drivers do irrespective of their vehicle's status. I have tried interpreting a few:

The livid gaze: When one is right but the other is wrong, the right one does not indicate it except while gazing at the other driver with a look which if possible, would smoulder the other.

The frustration+livid gaze: When one is running late but the other driver is taking time to either restart after a green signal or does not move fast when the traffic jam is clearing.



The irritated but quickly turning civil gaze: Reserved for women-drivers. When a male is driving and the opposite vehicle is slow or turning on the wrong indicator, the male driver gets quite irritated but fearing backlash pretends to be civil.

The checking-out (could be male or female gaze) gaze: When drivers of any gender check out people on the road and make it seem quite obvious.

The triumphant gaze: When the driver succeeds in overtaking or securing a parking space when someone else is also eyeing the same.



There could be many more but I'm stopping here hoping that most drivers would nod in agreement to the driver's gaze!

Are you guilty?

Image courtesy: Internet

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The prasad and the Christian

Prasad is any offering made to the deity in the Hindu religion. Any festival or visit to the temple is incomplete without offering the god/goddess in question the choicest food, which of course would be later consumed by the people who offered the goodies to the god/goddess. Sometimes, the offerings are made in the temple and the prasad is distributed to the devotees present. Well, I wish it was as simple as that!



Now, Christianity has the concept of clean and unclean food - unclean foods include any food which has been offered to any idol or deity. This idea of unclean-ness forbids majority of Christians from partaking of the prasad which is kindly offered to them.

When I was growing up in Bombay (now Mumbai), we lived in a colony allotted to staff who worked for the Airports Authority. There were people belonging to different communities and food was also freely distributed. But there was a problem. My parents forbid us to touch any food item that was offered to gods and goddesses from other religions. Obviously we were protestant Christians. My parents were (and still are) quite rigid about anything to do with other gods/goddesses. We being children, we tagged along with our friends to every festivity which was organised by the colony. Ganesh Chaturti was always celebrated with great pomp and splendour. While the celebrations were fun, I used to hate the time when prasad was being distributed - I could neither run away nor eat the offering. I was always in a confused state and did not know how to tackle the issue at hand. I devised a way - I neither wanted to hurt the Hindu by refusing the prasad nor anger my parents by eating the prasad. So, I would receive the prasad and then throw it away into the nearest dust-bin. Such was my fear of god.

We grew up and then food was just food - be it prasad which was offered or biriyani which was shared. It took me a great deal to stop seeing the religious attachments with food. But today around me I see many Christian staff who point blank refuse the prasad. I start to scoff at them, but stop, thinking of my parents.

I still don't accept the prasad when my mother is with me. Luckily, I don't have to do anything because my mother refuses on 'our' behalf. 

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