Friday, 13 February 2015

Searching for home in a post-postmodern world

In today's world, the word 'home' is a charged and loaded one; While some debate the idea of rootedness and one true place, certain others dialogue homelessness as a feature of the postmodern home. These thoughts and more, accosted me while I happened to accidentally stumble upon Lisa Ray's article, where she claims that she is homeless and the reasons she attributes to her state is: ''one house under renovation, and the lease on another starting in mid-March . . .'' I cannot but be amused with her choice of words considering her background and social standing. Perhaps there might be some significance of her celebrating her 'homelessness' but given the social condition of today's world where the problem of refugees and illegal immigration is a cause for concern, Ms. Ray's living out of suitcases, hopping hotels and airport jumping definitely leaves one with a taste of ash in the mouth.

Well, she could be justified with her claims as many in the postmodern world cannot pin down 'one true place' as their home. We have several homes today - the home where we were born, the home where we were raised, the home where we grew up and after our marriage, the home where we live as an independent family which often comprises of the husband, wife and children. I have often been in a dilemma when after marriage, I was repeatedly told by many loving family members that my husband's home is NOW my home. Well, changes do not often happen overnight and the idea of thinking of my husband's parents' home as my home was a bit stifling; Home is often associated with memories and nostalgia (the word nostalgia itself in Greek means, ''homecoming'') and how can one think of a completely different home as one's home. Probably the idea was to getting used to 'owning' responsibility in a different sphere which from the time of marriage becomes the playing ground of action. It takes time, I understand. Home becomes home after many years of living and soaking in the place, people and peculiar culture of that specific home.

Coming back to Lisa Ray's homelessness, I could just manage a raised brow for I could not comprehend her state. Pity, sympathy and anger in equal measure coloured my thoughts. She mentions her father. Does he not have a home? Does his home not welcome the daughter? Perhaps the daughter has outlived her father's home and yearns for her own space and that is preventing her from living a life with a home. Or perhaps she finds a strange comfort in living out of suitcases and hopping flights and calling herself homeless. Is she a refugee running away from familiarity or is she afraid of living in one place for a long time. Sometimes homelessness is a state of mind rather than that of a 'real' place, I come to understand.

Reader, what does home mean to you and what do you think of Lisa Ray's predicament?

Saturday, 31 January 2015

The joy of escaping

I have always known that reading is cathartic but only recently woke up to the fact that reading makes me come alive and that it can save me from the drudgery of everyday routine. When I escape to my College Library and pick up some random book and lose myself, I realise that I am happy, safe and sane. Reality as this is sometimes mind-boggling as you never realise how much you need reading and how much the written word penetrates within your being. Losing oneself in words is an escape - an escape into the void of no return. When you then return to reality after that escape, you realise that things are no longer the same. You carry that bit of voyeurism that you chanced upon in that escape and you personalise it - almost like how people monogram their initials on that worthless piece of handkerchief. You know the lust and joys of that place where you escaped to and it is your secret - unless you choose to allow someone to partake of that guilty pleasure. Even then, you retain parts of it to yourself. You want certain bits to your self you see!

I recently read chanced upon a back issue of World Literature Today and relished the piece, Le Suicide Monsieur M. The piece moved me - I discovered the power and magic of the written  printed word. I was charmed. Smitten. Aroused and what not. The entire piece was written in the form of a letter by a city. I assumed all the while that the letter was written by an admirer who had lust confused for love. Well, it could have been written by anyone but this was by Iowa city. Pretty neat for a city!

I wonder if you have tried reading something when you have tons of backlog - It is like forbidden pleasure - you experience longing and guilt (guilt because you should be working on something else and longing for the words which you have been ignoring for long!) Reading is like the surrogate lover who has the power to seduce you anytime and any given day. No fixed bearings and no passage of time can wane the seduction. I succumb and forgo reality. I prostrate myself and forget etiquette or morality. I drink on that word and lose my morale. I am addicted.

Reading makes me sane.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

"Alone" Time

Slowly but surely the idea and luxury of ''alone'' time is beginning to dawn on India and many Indians. I think being alone and going further to enjoy time alone is or atleast was something that struck like a sore thumb given the context of India and its fetish for large joint families. Ironically, though the population is steadily rising, families are becoming nuclear and people after having short flings with diverse cultures have slowly started relishing and realising that being alone is not equivalent to being lonely.

But what strikes me is how this ''alone'' is defined and understood. The first meaning that popped out when I googled the keywords definition of alone is:

''having no one else present; on one's own''

As much as I like to think that we are closely attached to people, the thought that being away from people is equally preferred has become our definitions of enjoying ''alone'' time. But don't we have to live in a crowded set-up to realise that we like some time alone for ourselves? This contradicts the life lived by people outside India. For better understanding, let me refer to my American, British and Irish friends who have by and large lived all by themselves - earning, living, loving and doing things independently. But does being independent equivalent to being alone? Not necessarily, I reckon. On many occasions, being independent and being alone and enjoying the space is confused. One can live in a large family yet function independently. Or does alone signify getting away from people, familiar people 'only'? And like everything else being alone can be savoured, I reckon, only when one has enough and more company.

Sometimes, force of habit also becomes something to gloat about for lack of a better reason to justify one's actions.

So, what's your take, dear reader?

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Chennai - A concoction of the traditional and the modern

This post is part of the blog tag titled, The CBC Tablog - 3, where CBC stands for Chennai Bloggers Club, a group where bloggers (young, old, new, jaded, bored) from Chennai gather and discuss everything under the sky including blogging and blogs. About 20 bloggers from Chennai are participating in this blog tag where  we will write about our favourite city Chennai and how it stands as a testament to the blend of the traditional and the modern. So here's my post for the CBC tablog - 3 titled, Chennai - A concoction of the traditional and the modern.'

Writing about a place that nestled me for many years of my life from a distance seems a bit excruciating. A post on the blend of the traditional and modern nonetheless. It seems almost an impossible task for me to gather the different parts  picked from memory and desire and knead them into a post. Well, I do hope that as I chug along, I am able to relive myself in the memories that I nit pick and weave them into a worthy concoction.

First, Chennai - though the name is fairly recent but ancient does not capture the essence of the place that is so dear to me. And like the name Chennai, which is at once ancient and recent, the place also displays similar hues - housing traditional tastes, smells, customs albeit packaged in brightly coloured modern wrappers which shock you at first but later settles in familiar smiles. I think every city undergoes a change, rather it evolves with every passing year - changing governments, citizens from neighbouring states, business houses that set up shop - everything contributes to the process in different degrees.

If French style Bistros, 10 Downing Street, Thai eateries and Tibetan momos do not come as a shock, then it is because the same crowd finds solace in familiar idli-sambar-chutney-podi at Saravana Bhavan or in the comfort of their homes. The easy and effortless slipping of beer to filter coffee to Coke, stands example to the shifts in the mind sets of the people as well as the city which houses these people.

Now this traditional and modern is quite natural in some quarters whereas a bit gaudy and uncomfortable in some but both these quarters seem to contribute the wholeness of Chennai. For me getting used to the vernacular name Chennai rather than the anglicised Madras itself was a psychological effort that needed coercing and acceptance and sitting in Goa, I see the city also in a similar way - A city that is named Chennai but has embraced modernity that is more often synonymous with aspects of the Western world without much ado. Of course, the change has not come overnight and without any bumps - We have had our fair of teething problems but we have learnt to accommodate and assimilate.

I pass the baton to Deepak Raghuraman, a vibrant and enthusiastic blogger who adores his Chennai and supplies readers with a mine of information on Chennai in his blog titled Namma Area. If you require any specific information about the city, then you know where to head to - Namma Area (translated as Our Area). Please do visit his blog and show some love, dear reader.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Revival of newness - Cheers to 2015

2014 was productive and resourceful in more ways than one. It spotlighted my weakness and showed me that however I resist something, I yield at the end. The year also enabled me to discover some new people, places and traits within me. Like the beginning of every new year, I look forward to 2015 with hope, longing and joy. To be alive and kicking is something that is not the stronghold of many. Many people who started 2014, did not see its end and I am grateful for being able to do so. I believe that another year is given to me to continue the purpose of my living.

I wish joy always to you and yours and may this year enable you to evolve as an individual within and outside.

Cheers to new beginnings and strength to not-so-new beginnings.

Happy New Year 2015

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Vignettes of Ahmednagar

When I was first told that I had to attend a NSS Orientation Programme in a place called Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, I was completely at a loss. I. did. not. want. to. go. But I had little or no choice. This was sometime in August.

Come November end and I realised with a bang that December was fast approaching and along with December, my time for Ahmednagar was at hand.

The journey began at 07: 45 pm on 30 November. Alone, I trudged with my baggage and thoughts for company. I wasn't thrilled or expectant.

But as always whenever we grumble about something unknown and yet to be experienced, chances are that the experience itself will remain forever memorable and that is precisely what happened.

The moment I beheld the campus of Ahmednagar College, Ahmednagar, I was smitten. The sprawling 80-acre campus was a delight as it brought memories of my 375-acre Madras Christian College. I like big campuses, I must admit. The weather was another factor that added to the charm of the place. It was cold and almost always we had to wear socks, shawls and cover our heads but still it was lovely to not sweat and feel the heat. And, going from the warm of Goa to the chill of Ahmednagar was definitely welcome. And right next to where we were housed, was a hostel of students from the North Eastern part of India. Every night the students would sing to the accompaniment of a guitar and me being the romantic would fall asleep listening to the guitar strains and songs. And, I think on the third day of our stay, there were carol rounds and I could hear Christmas songs throughout the evening and night till about 3 or 4 am. What bliss!

The training per say was predominantly in the local language, Marati but some resource persons were kind enough to present talks with English and Hindi thrown in liberally. If I was keen, I was also able to catch some meaning in the Marati lectures.

Kappad Market (Clothes Market): My usual hangout while in Nagar. I walked through the markets, looking, buying, smelling, laughing and sometimes staring. I had company most of the time (fellow NSS Programme Officers who had come for the training) but still I walked alone with myself and my senses.

Ahmednagar Jail/Fort: Before going to AN, I read up on the place and found that Jawaharlal Nehru, former Prime Minister of India was jailed in Ahmednagar and while in the prison, wrote Discovery of India. I did not want to miss seeing that jail and so when the entire group decided to visit, I was thrilled to bits.
The place has some beautiful sights and the jail itself had been converted to a museum. I also had some good conversations with some of the fellow participants. A broken frame of Gandhi was lying in an obscure part of the jail-turned-museum and I was but taken aback by the state of that picture frame. The play of the sun and the backdrop of the fort was a lovely picture to take back home as a memory and that was what I did.
The broken frame of Gandhi in the Ahmednagar jail

If not for the trip, I wouldn't have known the existence of the quaint town of Ahmednagar and the splendid campus of Ahmednagar College.

I do hope to go back to the College. Fingers crossed.

The silhouette of some participants against the flag in the fort


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