Thursday, 28 January 2010

The energy that is Latin America

For a long time now, I don't remember how long, I have been fascinated with Latin America. It evokes many synonyms within my mindscape: images of Salsa, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Caribbean islands, Romance languages and most fondest of all - La Bamba. I don't know how many of you have listened to the La Bamba. Its just an excuse to groove and move. One cannot just sit there listening to La Bamba. There have been many versions of the song and all of them are equally well-rendered. Of course I cannot find much difference except the few improvisations by the singers. Latin Americans can spot the differences, I presume.

In spite of not having visited Latin America, I feel quite at home thinking about the place. The whole place with its diverse cultural potpourri seem a collage of beautiful images. Have you ever felt that way without having visited a place. I feel that kinship with United Kingdom as well. Probably studying about England and the other places in and around UK in my literature books has given me a voyeuristic vision of those places.

Marquez is another image of Latin America. I have immensely enjoyed his One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. Magic realism, dreams and a love that seems surreal is what Marquez offers to me and that can be associated with Latin America as well.

Many times there are certain images and flashes that colour the mind while thinking of a place. India for many is snakes and elephants while for me Latin America is Jennifer Lopez, Fidel Castro and Salsa. How are these images formed? Are they the projection of media, books or popular lore. For me it started out with individual aspects say, the flamboyant dances then people like Castro then La Bamba . . . Now linking all the different images, I call Latin America a collage of all the aforementioned things. But is that all that is Latin America?? I am afraid not. It is much more than that. For people living there, it might be something totally different as India is much more to me than snakes and elephants.

Whatever said and done, Latin America stands for energy, vitality, sexiness and a certain vibrancy to me. If you've been to Latin America, then tell me if my images describe the place succinctly or is it much more than that.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The case of the ubiquitous phone charger

Now here I go meandering about another pet peeve: The phone charger!!! The innocent looking phone charger is a fixation in almost all the plug-points in our houses. They are found in the living room, bed room and sometimes in the kitchen or the bathroom. It all boils down to the availability of plug points and the individual (the place (s)he was standing when the battery slowly died down) Talking about death and dying, it has become an indispensable part of our vocabulary after the seeping of mobile phones into our lives - "My battery is slowly dying, I shall hang up (another death image), "My phone was dead and so the phone got disconnected."

All of us have our specific places to charge the phone. Well and good. But leaving the charger where it was and in some cases, the switch is also left on. Many times I have argued the case of energy saving when one leaves the charger in the point even after its work of charging is long over. The charger has become a sort of urban wall design so much so that people have come to accept it as quite 'normal' to see a charger hanging amidst the choicest of paintings and furniture.

A few months ago I had this fetish of freeing the charger from its points in friend's places. I used to do it as a compulsive action but have given it up now as almost all the house possess this trait. I have restricted this to my own house despite the fact that I get on people's nerves at times (atleast once a day).

Now I know that many of you reading this post also have this habit of leaving your chargers in the points long after your phone is charged OR you may also be like me whose pet peeve is to see the charger hanging clumsily in different points of the house. The last post about graveyards saw me sharing a kindred spirit with many of my fellow blogger-friends but with the case of the ubiquitous phone charger . . .

Sunday, 24 January 2010

At home with those asleep

The day before yesterday saw me and Barbara (an exchange student from the Queens University, Belfast) going and visiting two graveyards and I must say that I immensely enjoyed the experience. I have visited graveyards before but on Friday I spent a lot of time examining tombstones, crosses, names, dates and other aspects. Since Barbara had studied protestant and catholic memorials in Ireland, she had a mine of information on tombs and inscriptions on the tombs.

The atmosphere there was cool and peaceful. We found many dogs lying down quietly on the tombstones. Who were the most serene - the person inside or the dog outside, I could not come to a conclusion. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, there was this graveyard which seemed to possess a distinct personality of its own. The first graveyard was the Garrison Church graveyard near St. Thomas Mount and it has existed right from the 18th century. I could locate the graveyards of many people whom I used to know. Years ago I visited the same graveyard with my then flame and thus Barbara had some interesting tales to listen from me. In a way, my personal history had a remote connection to that graveyard.

There were old tombstones which looked quite lovely and ancient. The more recent tombstones had pictures of the deceased on them. Some tombstones were very fancy and colourful while some were the usual black, gray and white. One could also differentiate the class of the dead people by looking at their tombstones. Some were quite simple while some were grandiose and shiny.

We took a couple of pictures. Barbara also told me that in Ireland one could not step on the graves as they were taboo. It was quite emotional for people and thus the graveyards were taken very good care of but in Chennai we stepped on the grave to take closer pictures and read the inscriptions. It was interesting to listen to Barbara as she identified Catholic and Protestant tombstones by seeing the way the cross was made. There were some graves which was joint together with a tree. These were the old ones.

We were quite moved when we saw the graves of babies who were just a few months old when they passed away; families who died on the same day; young people in the age of 20-24.

The second graveyard was the British war memorial which was immaculately kept and maintained very well. The tombs were in rows and looked almost wrinkle-free unlike the previous grave. I liked the previous unruly one where the dead, nature and culture existed side-by-side in perfect harmony.

I did not once think about death when I was in the graveyards, which is quite surprising as I always start meandering when I come across such places. I felt calm, peace and a sense of joy being there in the graveyard. I felt at home among those asleep.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Nature and Culture

I found this under an old rickety bench in my college campus. An old discarded bottle which has become a part of the ant's dwelling place. Now is this symbolic of the coming together of nature and culture.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

So we are talking about a certain kind of fetish . . .

Now when I skimmed for Google's expertise on the word 'fetish' it gave me quite a range of meanings and examples. I was not very interested. The word 'fetish' always means to me anything that one gives excessive attention to. Hmmm. Talking about that, I would like to spill forth in words the fetish that has accosted me but registered its presence only now. A fetish for expression of language in the way it is meant to be. Let me be clear about this: An obsession to write words in its full form and an irritating tendency to dislike short forms. Well now this kind of a fetish is not uncommon but in my case I go a step forward and tend to associate this attribute of writing in short forms to the writer itself.

This fetish particularly drives my friends crazy as I insist that they avoid short-forms of any kind. 'U' instead of 'you,' 'k' instead of 'okay,' 'lve' instead of 'love,' etc. I am quite fine with using standard short forms like 'etc,' 'e.g,' but shorter forms of short words is a tad annoying. This holds true with words with an apostrophe. People write the complete word but leave out the apostrophe. Why? It reflects a laziness on their part to place the symbol before a particular letter.

Talking of connecting people's characteristics and their way of writing might be far-fetched but this is what I involuntarily do once I read what they have written. I was not trained to do something like that but then it is something inbuilt. If the person uses short forms, I think: "There is another lazy individual who thinks (s)he will lose time if the entire word is written." After the advent of mobiles, this is the norm. All the words are shortened and most of the times punctuations are given the slip. Let us see a sentence like that:

Shll met by 5 k dnt b lte. 

Were you able to decipher this message. It says: Shall meet by 5 okay. Don't be late. 

Some might argue that language is meant for communication and as long as you communicate, it is fine. But a sloppy communication style is no excuse for a well-written effective style of communication. Now I am beginning to think that it all boils down to style. I am adding style and elan to my fetish. The one who uses short-forms excessively is devoid of any style or elan. Period.

Photo credit: Internet

Thursday, 14 January 2010


Yesterday was the birth of a new month in the Tamil Calender. It marks the journey of the sun northwards. The birth of this month signifies the ending of winter and the onset of spring/summer. The first three days of this month is the time when farmers gather their first harvest and welcome prosperity into their homes. In rural Tamil Nadu, rice is boiled in earthen pots and allowed to boil over. This boiling over symbolises a fullness an overflow of prosperity. This festival is known as Pongal (which is a dish of rice).

This festival is mostly celebrated by Tamil Hindus but then this being a celebration of harvest and prosperity, I suppose everyone who is part of the Tamil culture should be observing this day as an important one. Of course this regional festival does not signify much to the followers of the Gregorian calender except for the fact that offices and educational institutions are closed; One can sleep late into the morning and have a relaxed day with family and friends.

The first day of the month of Thai (Tamil Calender) is called the day of Bhogi where people get up before the sun rises and collect all the old things of their house. They make a bon-fire and burn all the old things. This is again symbolic of ushering in the new and getting away with the old. Rural Tamil Nadu is a sight to behold during this festival. This is also a sort of thanksgiving where the farmer is grateful to the earth for her bountiful blessing of grain which is the main source of livelihood for the farmer.

The festival is also famous for sugar-cane which is an important aspect of the celebrations. The third day of the festival is exclusively devoted to bulls as they are an important part of agriculture. The bulls are decorated and fed with delicacies and taken to the temple and offered prayers. There are also bull taming sports in many parts of Tamil Nadu known as Jallikattu but this gory practice is banned by the Government but inspite that in many places these sports occur.

Many parts of India celebrate this festival along with Tamil Nadu. In Andhra Pradesh this festival is known as Makar Sankranthi. We don't celebrate this day as they do in the rural places but for thanksgiving one need not stay in rural India. Isn't it?

Picture courtesy: Internet

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Bonding with a twinkle

Hey! You have lovely dimples. I bet you are a Libran. Hmmmm. I can never be wrong with that one. I can identify a Libran hands down.

Well, well, well, there seems to be a connection of a deeper kind in today's world of making friendships. We as students had specific points of connections as the same place of birth, growing up in similar localities, parents working in the same offices, or mothers who were in same hospitals while giving birth. Today the sphere of making friends has acquired another new addition - Star signs. And if star signs were not enough, there are moon signs, Chinese horoscopes - which have years like Tiger, Boar, Monkey, etc., and other similar modes of connection. After meeting a new person, the eternal star finder gives some time to the conversation and slowly drops the all-knowing power of her Linda Goodman almanac. Hmmmm. So are you a Capricorn? You appear to be very stern and a person of few words? Or else its a "Your element must be earth." If the person at the receiving end is as inquisitive as the speaker then the atmosphere is something that resembles "the charge of a light brigade" but if its the other way round then "Earth what?" "Aquarius - is it something to do with water?"

Almost all the dailies irrespective of their quality of giving news provide daily predictions which are lapped by again almost every section of readers (especially adolescents and 20's). Linda Goodman's books are a hot favourite when the college-goer starts her romance. Women especially relate to the compatibility guides offered by voluminous books that can very well be substituted for a pillow if you don't mind the hardness (!!!). Capricorns are compatible with . . ., Scorpios with . . . In fact I have had several encounters with my fellow passengers while traveling who strike up a conversation and when we find that we are getting on well like a house on fire, the question is dropped: "Are you a Libran? I ask because you talk a bit too much like me." Well I do talk much and am a Libran as well but my friend who is a Gemini also talks a bit too much.

Points of connections are interesting as they are diverse and multi-ranged but then there is also a danger of compartmentalising these points. I  can be a Libran but that should not stop me from judging another person whose sun sign is not quite compatible with mine.

So are you a zodiac buff as well. Share your star-struck experiences and lets laugh together.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The lure of the vestigial

A dash of the science into the post today. Vestigial organs are those whose presence in the body are merely the leftovers of the evolution process. They were used earlier when our body required them but in today's condition, these parts are no longer useful for any function. They are just there. And they make no difference if absent.

Well, the post is not about the vestigial organs in the body but something similar in our lives. Old memories, grandmother's dried flowers, ex's handkerchief, etc. Listing out things is not the predominant occupation but the affiliation with the so-called aspects that make no difference even if absent. Just as vestigial organs were vital once upon a time, it does not make any sense to hold these objects which are meant to be thrown away.

I can understand that memories are precious and certain objects are the imprints of someone who was/is a part of our life but to what extent? There are so many objects, emotions, people who clutter our lives and in the process drain the freshness from entering. Now I know that I am in the danger of sounding like a new-age guru who always talks about the 'freeing of clutter.' But then these vestigials need to be cleared. Of course they cannot be taken away from the body but one can atleast eliminate the vestigials around us.

I think our instincts and sixth-sense always identifies the vestigials. But the heart never allows these to be thrown out. An adamant heart overrules the head and accumulates clutter.

"Never again clutter your days or nights with so many menial and unimportant things that you have no time to accept a real challenge when it comes along. This applies to play as well as work. A day merely survived is no cause for celebration. You are not here to fritter away your precious hours when you have the ability to accomplish so much by making a slight change in your routine. No more busy work. No more hiding from success. Leave time, leave space, to grow. Now. Now! Not tomorrow!”
~ Og Mandino

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Open doors

Taking a break from Chennai and the many related aspects of Chennai, I went with my family to our home town Trichy after a hiatus. My aunt lives there with her family in the Railway colony. One feature that got me on my nerves was that her doors and windows were always open and the curtains always drawn apart. I found this aspect rather irritating as we had to be conscious pretty much all the time but then this also got me thinking.

Long ago, not very long, our grandmothers' houses weren't closed. They were always open and filled with activity. People used to breeze in and out doing different chores, children played running in and out of the houses, vendors brought their wares and sat in the verandah and were also treated to a drink of water, tea or buttermilk. But something changed after that. People began to get quite individualistic and then entered DOORS and FENCES. Doors always create a barrier which says without saying: "Please stop here. After this my private area starts. Please do not violate my space." We all have boundaries in different areas of the house that is out of bound for different people - relatives can enter beyond the door without any inhibition, servants also can enter beyond the door but have to head straight to the washing area, friends are welcome in the living room but not the bedroom, etc, etc.

Doors ofcourse offer security but in another sense they shut out an entire range of experiences and people. Despite the fact that my aunt was not very old nor her locality very ancient, her doors and windows always remained open. But what is interesting is the fact that inspite of the doors being open, there were invisible boundaries that were well-marked and no one violated them.

So reader what do you reckon of doors and windows.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Ringing in 2010

"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives . . . not looking for flaws, but for potential."

~ Ellen Goodman


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