Monday, 28 June 2010

Pausing to hear your stories

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
Shakespeare's Juliet would not have cared for names as she was in love and given that context, names were their greatest shortcoming but not so for us. We love names especially when it comes to our blogs. Many times while browsing through blogs, the first aspect that we subject our eyes and minds to is the blog's name or title. So every blog has a story behind its name.

Mine is not different either. Sometimes it becomes worthwhile in the journey to pause and reminisce about the beginnings. I first wanted my blog to talk something about my writing and me.  I contemplated the names, 'Susan's corner,' 'Susan's place,' 'Thinking,' etc. But somehow they did not seem to fit the bill. A blog with my name seemed a bit narcissistic while 'Thinking' seemed incomplete and vague. Then one day while reading something, the word 'meandering' struck a chord. I held on to that word. 'Meandering' by itself was a bit incomplete and so after a great deal of thinking, the word 'reflection' added itself to the 'meandering.' Thus a name was born.

My story remains incomplete if my fellow travellers do not share their tales of naming their blogs. So, I ask you to rewind and tell me the story of how you arrived at a name for your blog. After all, when it comes to stories, all of us are children: wide-eyed and eager to listen. 

Tell me . . .

Saturday, 26 June 2010

The great colonisers: 'Cool' and 'Sexy'

Z: Hello there, your skirt is sexy!

S: Cool!!!

Another conversation:

G: Isn't this author cool?

J: Ah! His glasses look sexy too

Here are the two colonisers (among many) in words: 'Sexy' and 'Cool.' Almost many words in the dictionary are facing a sort of less-usage-syndrome as these two words have seeped into the vocabulary of many individuals.

The days of 'beautiful,' 'lovely,' and others seem a distant memory after the onset of these two words. Everything has to be either 'sexy' or 'cool.' I use them as well but consciously limit myself and try exploring the other possible words which seem oblivious these days.

But it is a wonder as to how these two words can be used in diverse contexts. They can be used in contexts of clothes, cooking, dancing, looks and styles among many other things. It's an automated response to something that looks good and appealing. An involuntary usage 'Cool man.' While search-engine Google sticks to the original usage by showing sleazy pictures while having typed 'sexy,' people choose to use it in every conversation. Probably using 'people' is a sweeping generalisation nevertheless . . .

Now it is all the more prevalent in this football season: 'Sexy goal,' 'cool shot,' etc.,

The two words ofcourse sum up many emotions and likings but then what about the other words and the 'real' meaning of these two words. What happens to the real definition of the word 'cool' and 'sexy?'

There are many words like this which colonise our conversation and make certain other words fade away except when it comes to writing. Some words are: 'stuff,' 'things,' (Can't think of too many now).

So now if you think that this post is 'cool,' why don't you write down a 'sexy' comment!!!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

"Anne went to Bath . . . "

Years ago when we were doing our masters in Literature, we had a professor who taught us fiction and drama. He was quite good in his knowledge of the subject but was a funny man with an equally funny diction. Once while doing the novel, "Persuasion" by Jane Austen there were these lines which was uttered by him in the most funniest way:

The lines are:

"Anne went to Bath
Wentworth followed her
They had their own ups and downs"

Now to a common English speaking person, the above lines will not seem funny but the boys in our class completely misread the lines. I hope you get what I mean. The place Bath was mistaken to be a place for bathing. And the way our professor rendered these lines made it equally unforgettable. He would start:

Ann went to Baaaaath (looks up and smiles for two seconds)
Weeentworth foollowed her (smiles again with all the teeth shown)
They haaaaad their oooown upssssss and downssssss (smiles for an extra few seconds) and our boys start giggling thinking that Ann and Wentworth had a 'bath' together.

Now this was a couple of years ago. In the beginning of this month after Belfast, I had a chance to go to London. In the three days I had in London, the second day was devoted to Bath and Bath Spa -- both lovely places with a quaint yet modern look. I loved walking the streets and thinking of Ann, Wentworth and Jane Austen. I was even saying aloud the above quoted lines much to the amusement of my two friends who accompanied me. It seems such a wonder to visit places you have read in novels and other works of art. It seems like living a page out of a dream. Some of the pictures you see in my side-bar are from Bath.

Yesterday while reading a book (I forget the name now), the writer was talking about spaces and mentions his visit to an old castle which is supposed to have been the place of Hamlet. He wonders about the castle and thinks whether the castle would have been the same if one did not have the knowledge that Hamlet had lived there. True. Just the knowledge that the place belonged to someone whom we have read and taught, makes a great difference. I know I would have enjoyed Bath nevertheless but the memory of my post-graduate days coupled with the information of Jane Austen made the place extra wonderful.

Image courtesy: Internet

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The first thought . . .

I was first going to title this post "As the morning breaks" but refrained from doing so as I figured out that not many of us wake up when the day breaks. These days when I wake up, the first thing in the morning is to think well and charge up. But believe me, its easier said than done.

Mornings are lovely times and sometimes the hangover of the previous day tries to seep into the new-born day. It is rather easy to wake up thinking of deadlines, irate people, traffic, etc. But inspite of all the clouds of negativity, its wonderful to welcome the new day with a smile and wonderful thoughts.

The first thought of the day somehow sets the pace for the day itself. If I wake up with troubled thoughts and a gloomy visage, I pass on this to innocent members of my family who already have their own cup to drink.

Talking about the first thought of the day also makes me think about the last thought at night. These two are inextricably connected. Sleeping with thoughts of getting charged for the next day and wondering about what to dream definitely make a difference while waking up. Waking up the next day after making love the previous night is delightful, so said many.

Waking up with a song is a splendid way to start one's day. I know all this sounds hunky-dory and distant when down in the dumps but nothing is hard to practice. Having said all this sometimes waking up itself seems a task; A sudden jolt into reality from the peaceful and tranquil world of dreams and more dreams. But then one HAS to wake up anyhow so why not make it pleasant and lovely!

Waking up Blues anyone . . .

Image: Internet

Monday, 21 June 2010

Eccentricities and Oddities

The world revels while labeling an individual as 'eccentric,' inasmuch it even raises their value to great heights. A man or woman of extraordinary talent and genius is applauded and a great deal is given to their oddities. The common things done by all and sundry is not worthy at all but the uncommon and stupid things done by great people gets tagged as 'eccentric.'

I have been contemplating on various people who were labeled so and thus their shortcomings and frivolousness is passed. Minds which have given wonderful additions to make our life beautiful were quite often miserable people. Just because they have contributed many useful things, can their folly in some areas be dismissed as 'eccentricity?'

I admire Van Gogh. He shot himself at 37. He was also mad for sometime rather say eccentric. His works are remembered even today but I feel very sad for him. Why did he shoot himself? Was life so much a burden that he did not have the courage to live through it. I'd rather say he was a loser in life. Now this is a different stand for me as I have always defended Van Gogh's action. Not today.

Plath, Sexton -- both noted poets committed suicide. Their poems stay on but why did they die such gruesome deaths? Can one pass them off as 'eccentric' and stop the discussion. No. The man on the street who is homeless and still carries on should be lauded. Having no home is the highest form of violence but still he manages with life. Why not?

Plath had a good family in Ted Hughes and the children. Now don't think that family is everything. However the contribution of family and home in life is tremendous but being alone with pets also is grounding.

Again when it comes to love and other details, some 'great' men/women were pathetic. Jean Paul Sartre, Einstein -- I shall not go into the nitty-grities here. But we just dismiss their failures as 'eccentric' but hound certain others for the same mistakes. How unfair is this? Maybe there are scientific theories to prove that a genius mind is eccentric.

Maybe I did not make much sense in this post. This is a thinking-out-aloud process that accidentally became a post. Inspite of all this, if you have come this far as to read this, don't leave without saying something. Looking forward to reading what you feel about this issue of 'eccentricities and oddities.'

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Small, stolen pleasures

While in Belfast, a friend presented my two friends and me with lovely coffee mugs. We were delighted not with the mugs but with the wrapper that covered the mug. BUBBLE-WRAP. We all simultaneously started popping the bubble wraps. I reckon it is a universal factor that most people love doing. My mum loves it. My four-year-old neighbour loves it and ofcourse I love it.

Stolen joys as these are sometimes the only remnants of childhood within us. There are many such small and insignificant things that hold our full conscious, interest and undivided attention. Cracking knuckles is another such thing. After a demanding day, sitting down with our favourite drink and cracking knuckles. Ah! This is heaven, it seems until someone rudely jolts the minutes with a query or the mobile phone starts ringing. The joy is left incomplete and the bygone pleasure moment seems insignificant.

Another stolen pleasure for me is feeling pulses, lentils and water. I remember the film 'Amelie' where she feels some grains in a grocery shop and experiences joy. The whole exercise of feeling something for a few seconds is wonderful.

I don't know whether I can categorise this as pleasure but for me it nevertheless is: Trying to guess songs, names and places which the other person is not able to recollect. I can do nothing except for thinking about the song or whatever just to prove that my memory is better. And believe me, I always end up getting the song, name or place right.

All of us have our pet pleasures as these. And if you ask me my favourite, it has to be popping bubble-wraps. Do you get lost in popping bubble-wraps as well. Would love to hear your pet stolen-pleasure-moments.

Image courtesy: Internet

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Mumbo jumbo of changing names

After the hurricane of changing names devastated memories in Bombay, its the turn of Tamil Nadu to follow suit. For those who don't quite know what the scenario is, let me explain. From time to time, our leaders turn quite chauvinistic about their native-tongue, that they carry on a spate of name changes. All the roads, streets and landmarks which has the name of English people are ruthlessly changed to the vernacular.

Love for one's language is but a natural trait that many homo sapiens possess but this is carried a bit too far by our political bigwigs. Presently the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu has proposed changing all English names to Tamil. Well done but can the government change the memory of people. Tomorrow if I get into a taxi and ask for Bharathi road instead of Harrington road, will he know? NO. He will ask me to give the older name. Landmarks with which one grew up with cannot be changed overnight just by a different name.

If someone who has left Chennai before twenty years returns and gives the old address only to be told that names have been changed, how will s/he respond?

Well, many debates have been taking place on television about this issue but nevertheless nothing can stop our leaders from carrying on with this mumbo jumbo of names.

Monday, 14 June 2010

In retrospect: It All started with Europa

In spite of scoring good marks in History while at school, I was not a great fan of the subject. Why? My History teacher! All that I remember of him is the way he used to quiz us on dates (years, of course) which would eventually be followed by caning if we gave the wrong answer. Now I got the most canings. I could not remember the dates with exception to the ones experienced by me!

Now why this sudden talk of history, you would wonder. It all started when a blogger friend requested me to get two books from Belfast, out of which one was It all started with Europa by Richard Armour. Just flipping pages to browse through, I found myself reading from cover to cover. What a way to record history! If only I had been taught history this way, I would have never got caning and would have remembered every single detail.

It all started with Europa by Richard Armour

Armour employs liberal dosages of pun, satire, humour, wit and irony to describe people and events; This makes the otherwise dry and mundane details worth remembering. Back in my school days, studying the causes and impact of World Wars I and II were excruciating as there were so many details involved. I tried quickly reading on World Wars I and II in Armour's book and as you guessed, I was thrilled to bits by the manner in which he describes the two wars.

I was left wondering as to how good a history teacher Armour would make. And I can bet that everyone who read the book would have thought along the same lines. 

I am delighted to quote some lines from the book so that you could get a feel of what the book is like.

Other Great Greeks (Pg 17)

Not all the Greeks were sculptors and philosophers. . . . Yet another was Damocles, who walked around with a sword suspended over his head. (The suspense was terrible.)

The Legacy of Greek (Pg 18)

We are indebted to the Greeks for Greek theaters, Greek fraternities, Greek restaurants, and such Memorable Expressions as "It's all Greek to me."

Italian Patriots (Pg 94)

The most colourful character in the struggle for unification was Gary Baldy, an Italian general who suffered from a receding hairline.

I would gladly give many quotes but I stop here as I would like you to read the book sometime when you have access to it.

Finally some excerpts from the last page 'About the Author':

Richard Armour is one man, although he seems to be atleast three. . . . A Californian, Dr. Armour is now Professor of English at Scripps College and the Claremont Graduate School. He has, as he says, two costumes, "cap and gown and cap and bells."

Book picture courtesy:

Friday, 11 June 2010

Gossip . . .

Only after meeting Dr. Graham McFarlane in Queen's University, Belfast, I realised that no matter how much we raise our brows when we hear the word 'gossip,' we all do it eventually. Dr. McFarlane's doctoral research was on gossip. What a nice topic to research upon!!

Everyone irrespective of age and class, gossip. Perhaps the only exceptions are children who are quite innocent to do so. Gossip is not harmful or negative; talking about a person in their absence is gossip. We do it all the time. Earlier I always associated gossip-mongers with people who have lots of time on themselves and so idle talk their time away but NO. A stray remark about someone's hairdo or harmless talk about the food-habits of X is also gossip. 

I remember as kids, we would be fascinated when my aunts and uncles would gather together after dinner and start talking about our relatives and friends. For them it was just an exchange of information (of course with their two bits to it) but technically they were gossiping.

I think the majority of the human race would be quite incomplete without their daily dosage of gossip. One must remember that gossip requires a dash of creativity and thus is prone to a bit of exaggeration. Gossip also should be distinguished from rumours and  back-biting, both which have negative connotations. 

Research reveals that gossip is healthy as it fulfills the need for talking out what is within us; Many conversations comprise of 15% gossip. But what makes talking about others interesting? I have not conducted any research but from my own experience, I can say that there is a certain amount of thrill involved while doing so. If one is talking about someone in the next room, then the whole talk is peppered with side glances to be alert if the person is approaching. And believe me, this involves a lot of multi-tasking: Soft tones, not referring to the person by name, being alert and so on.

Many social anthropologists have conducted many researches on this topic and they are quite interesting to read. One worthwhile observation is many people when charged with gossip bluntly deny the fact claiming that they are quite busy to be gossiping but incidentally the truth is something else. Every individual gossips. 

So did you hear . . .

Photo courtesy: Internet

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Perceived preceptions

I must say that the title is a bit exaggerated. This post is about the many perceptions people have about India. Traveling first time to a place outside of India, I managed to become target of some perceived perceptions about India.

One: Do you guys have Facebook? Do you know what I mean by Facebook, the social . . . 
Well, Facebook is not something great and it is certainly not every one should be part of but imagining that India would not have heard of Facebook is preposterous.

Two: Do you know Beatles, and the others?
Well, George Harrison was so bugged with life there that he chose to visit India and took refuge in an ashram while also learning to jam with Pandit Ravishankar. Now, will not India have heard about the Beatles. But there are people who do not know about the Beatles but then that's okay. We need not know about things outside of India without knowing the things surrounding us locally!

Three: Have you heard of Starbucks, McDonald's and Subway joints?
As if globalisation spared us! India welcomes all these joints with open arms and after a while has even developed its own version of the big Mac! So much so . . .

Now this has to be the most famous one:
Four: Do snakes always slither in the streets?
Yes and they are so many that they could actually be sleeping next to you while you are out on a holiday in one of the many National reserve forests.

I very well understand that every country has an image of itself. But sometimes these images are quite jaded and lost in time. The India of yore is not the present one. The last thirty years have been quite influenced by change. Many companies setting up shop in India and the spreading tentacles of education has tremendously changed her left, right and centre. In fact, India is often seen as a potential market for many industries and is no longer referred to as 'third-world' as it used to be known as before.

Its time people read a bit about India before making naive comments and silly remarks.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Back to "The Hindu" and Indian coffee

If there was something else other than the usual stuff I missed from India, it was reading the newspaper "The Hindu" -- mornings were very different without the usual reading but let me make something clear first. I hardly woke up in the mornings when in Belfast as my sleeping hours started at about 3 in the morning and extended until 11: 30 am or 12: 00 pm. So far so good.

Coming back, I realise how much Hindu made my mornings complete. And the coffee of course. Not the coffee without sugar which was there in Belfast!!!!

If I could create a word collage of my time spent there, I wouldn't like to miss any part of it. Coming back home makes me realise how fortunate I have been to visit Belfast and London. Meeting new people, using local slang and mannerisms, looking at people kissing any where and every where, abundance of greenery, clean roads and places, lovely weather, smiles and nods -- This will stay always on my mind.

Familiarity and reality are comforting but stifling at times.


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