Monday 30 August 2010

The tussle between Indians, instructions and instincts

Indians and Instructions don't get along quite well! I observed this while I was in Belfast for six weeks. Our fellow hostel-mates followed instructions of any kind quite judiciously: Microwave cooking instructions, gadget instructions, and all the others (not the late-night ones, of course but we followed that well).

On the other hand, we (three Indians) who were absolutely unaccustomed to reading and following instructions found this a bit amusing. They thought the same about us!!! Now, why we don't follow instructions are because it leaves us confused and stifled. For a change, we thought we will also follow the tiny-lettered lines and to our utter dismay, we would stop after the second one. First, it was mundane and boring. Two, simple things through formal writing make it convoluted.

We best trust our instincts. I just about know if the vegetables are cooked or the food is heated. I don't have to rely on the clock to wait for the two minutes to get over so that I can switch off the gravy. I cannot do that.

Another flip side to the timer usage is that I keep checking the clock every now and then and the process leaves me so bugged that I switch-off my mind. I focus on something else and in the whole thing, forget the dish that is cooking! Phew!!

Well, now this instinct works for cooking but not for fixing gadgets. People of other nationalities (I think) are adept in that. Indians (well, mostly) are slower in that area. The first-time reading is out of curiosity and as the second instruction comes by we say, "Oh! I know this" only to later realise that we got stuck. Then we again read the instructions. And we don't understand or simply lack the patience.

Well, Indians, Instructions and Instincts! Quite a package, isn't it. Okay, now your turn. Do you religiously follow instructions while doing something for the first time? Do you like following them?

When I started this blog, there were simple instructions . . . which I could understand and well, follow!

Image courtesy: Internet

Saturday 28 August 2010

Branded for life

Mithila. Madhubani painting on hand-made paper

It is about to rain and the signs loom large: dark clouds pregnant with water, dragon-flies flying closer to the ground and gentle breeze which carries a faint smell of the earth. But you know that there are clothes which are out in the terrace for drying and it so happens that only you remember that. Off you scoot to the terrace and collect the clothes and just as you are taking the clothes-peg off the last bit of semi-dried underwear, it starts raining. Sigh. You are happy that you were able to get the clothes intact otherwise hours of laborious washing will be rendered useless. Everyone is happy. And there is a smile like a jubilant war-hero on my face. 
That was a week ago.
It so happens that today is also another such day. Read the first three lines of the first paragraph. Almost by reflex, every pair of eyes starts to look at me. No!! Not again. Okay, it is just fine and off I scoot again. But no, it happens all the time. I am branded to be the runner to get the clothes every time clouds threaten. And I know this happens in many houses.
If a person does something one time, then it so happens that for that particular work, everyone expect the same person to do it all the time. Every time, I tell myself: You are the best for the job! Come on, be a sport but I do get stifled at times.
But I do have an inspiration: My mother. I often wonder how she manages to cook and cook and cook. She makes the breakfast, lunch and dinner and for how many years. Of course, now and then we do help her but that is nothing compared to the selfless service she does without any grudge. How many times I have taken that for granted. Well, she is branded as a life-long cook! Then I wonder, just imagine how many times she would have felt bored to go into that kitchen and start the process. She loves to cook and feed but still that is not an excuse for me.
Being branded is not bad after all. What say dear readers. I am glad it is sunny today!
Image courtesy: Internet


Thursday 26 August 2010

And my toothbrush gently thinks . . .

Whenever I take my toothbrush in the morning or night, a train of thoughts encompasses my mind. It almost seems as if my mind is waiting for the comfort of the bathroom and the instrument called toothbrush. The whole process of brushing lasts for about a minute or at the most a minute and a half, but even in that, the mind never stands still.

In the morning, it is planning for the day and at night, it is planning for the next day. Sometimes I consciously try to stop myself and concentrate only on the brushing, as the Zen masters advise. I succeed for two days and then actually forget that I had planned to concentrate. 

Every act has to have its own intrinsic worth but it never happens that way. Guilty as I feel, sometimes even while praying, I catch my thoughts trying to sneak into my thesis or such. I don't much like it that way. I would like to give each act the concentration and self-worth it requires. But alas, the human mind has other plans!!

Now as I write this post, I think that I have to brush and complete the editing for the day. You know it is marvellous to see how the mind can think on two tracks or even more but it steals the joy that belongs to each act.

Well, today as I brush, I would like to be loyal to the brush, toothpaste and teeth. I shall try not to betray the act of brushing my teeth, and cheat that time with my thesis.

Stay focused. Do you have a problem like me. Maybe . . .
Ah, nothing is impossible, you know.

Image courtesy: Internet

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Dropping names and playing wise

In the room the women come and go,
Talking of Michelangelo.

The lines above talk about something that is very prominent in today's people (as it was then as well). I am not making a sweeping generalisation here but still. It has become quite fashionable to drop names in the course of conversations. Somehow I am assuming that the fad of dropping names came about during Renaissance when there were new discoveries and inventions made. The age of enlightenment, as it was popularly known brought about many delightful new thoughts and ideas. Now as many artists and scientists grew in prominence, there also arose a new breed of people: Name-dropping philistines!

Now there are specific names that are ought to be dropped in relevant contexts. If Philosophy, it has to be Kant, Nietzsche, Sartre, etc; if Literature then Shakespeare, Tolstoy and the like; if Cinema, then Godard, Kurosawa, Fellini, Bergman, etc.

But the best part of name-dropping is that one need not know in detail about the people whose names are dropped. If one knows the very famous line, "God is dead," and adds Nietzsche to it, the role is well-played. Similarly if one knows a quote or two from Shakespeare, then it makes for a lively exchange. It is only the name-dropper who knows that the quoted line was the only one (s) he knows from that person.

I find many students who love to drop names be it in arts, literature, philosophy or music. I cannot blame them but it is the world around which respects people who show their knowledge of names. In today's scenario, knowledge and information is suckling heavily at the udders of Wikipedia and passing those as one's own. Shallow knowledge and surface information, though make a good first impression cannot hold for long. But instant recognition and admiration leads people to try dropping names to impress and provide a halo of pseudo intelligence.

Well, the message is loud and clear: BE DISCERNING and TEST the depth of knowledge.

What are your observations on dropping names in conversations.

Image courtesy: Internet

Sunday 22 August 2010

An argument that makes me cringe

Some arguments make you smile. Some make you see sense. Some arguments seem pointless. But some make you cringe, not in fear but in irritation and anger.

When you speak about your problem to an individual, pat comes the reply: Just think of people who undergo more sufferings than you. You are much better off.

The above given argument puts me off and saddens me further. First, instead of just listening to what I am presently undergoing, the person decides to provide a comparison. Second, I firmly believe that suffering cannot be measured. Each one has his/her own cup to bear and that cannot be seen with the backdrop of another's pain.

I have come across this kind of argument many times in the span of life I have lived. And the people who bring up this argument belong to various age-groups, social-standing and positions. Why should one's pain always be compared to someone else's?

Now complaining is not similar to pain but many times people confuse the two. There is even a famous proverb which says: "I complained I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet." Now this saying is not about pain, it is about a state which has no contentment but many use this wise saying when they see a person in pain.

I think all of us experience pain in varying measures and each one has his/her unique way of handling the same. But using X's pain and comforting oneself saying: "X is suffering more than me so my pain is nothing" is a foolish way of looking at pain.

I am sure this argument has been thrown at you while you crossed a difficult path. What do you think of this argument on pain and suffering. What arguments seem pointless to you?

Image courtesy: Internet

Friday 20 August 2010

Paralysis and thoughts of love!

Machiavelli will rejoice and be glad.

This morning when I opened my yahoo page, a news item caught me eye: Love attack causes temporary paralysis in Oregon man

I wasn't sure whether I had read right. I reread the title and the news. I was speechless. Whenever Matt Frerking has loving thoughts, a temporary paralysis affects him. This is a rare malady known as narcolepsy with cataplexy, a rare cousin of the better-known disease that causes sudden sleep attacks. Matt says that he has to watch his thoughts otherwise he will have to suffer. I couldn't fathom anything like that.

Just imagine, one cannot think any loving and tender things for fear of getting paralysed. I wonder whether these conditions existed ten years ago. It is quite strange. My thoughts immediately flew to Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and the like. How would they take this bit of news. They who propagate love, peace and compassion will be zapped if this news reaches them. Can they stop loving thoughts?

My heart reached out to Matt and wanted to ask a thousand questions. Love makes the world go around but no one thought that it could cause temporary paralysis.

Well, I can only think of the opening lines from Macbeth: "Fair is foul and foul is fair."

If you would like to read the article, you can do so here.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Marigolds and post-its

"Shall I string the marigolds and jasmines separately?"Having handled yellowing minds and probing the insides of the darkest folds of the dreams, this question startled her.

"No. String them together." She liked that yellow but it moved her into a state of lost loves and anticipated lusts which stringed together with affection and fondness. Why does religion and world cherry-pick lust and condemn it? It is a strong emotion nevertheless . . .

But why this sudden fondness for yellow, she asked herself.

"But why? The jasmines will not even be visible when you string it along with the marigolds."

"I like the marigolds to be seen and the jasmines to be smelt. Almost like pain and passion. Conceal the pain and show the passion." But isn't pain a passion too?

The yellow. Why did I choose the yellow of the marigold. Was it that song I heard last week. No. It is something else. Why can't I remember that yellow. Yellow . . . yellow . . .
Yes, now I remember. The yellow of the post-its. The post-its he was sticking all over the subway wall. In a frenzied madness he was writing something on them and stuck them all over that white wall. He decorated that blank wall and left. Waiting for him to go, I sauntered to the wall and read each one of them. I felt I knew what was in them. Why did I have to know that? Why so curious and restless. Why do we always connect like this to unknown emotions and unread post-its. Why didn't I let go of the desire to read them?

The first one: I don't deserve your love. I want freedom
The Second one: How can you love me though you know I don't love you as much as you do
The Third one: You are sick. Your love is sick. Leave me. Let me go
The fourth one: After all that I did to you, why are you still there. Go.
The fifth one:  BLANK

The yellow of those post-its on the subway wall. I wonder why he said all those personal things in those post-its in a public place. Why did he choose not to love her. Did he really want freedom or did he yearn for more than that. There was music that was playing aloud in his pocket. It was a haunting tune. Yes, yes, the same one which left me morose on a December night. The date. Yes. It was after Christmas. The 29th night where the night was just giving way to the 30th. Eric Satie's Gnossienne No. 5.

"The flowers are all done. Just as you said. The marigolds and the jasmines together."

Yellow. Yellow. Marigolds and post-its.

Gnossienne No. 5 plays on.

Friday 13 August 2010

Have you spoken to the moon?

Madness you might say but still many of us do speak to the moon.

Maybe because we want a passive listener to whatever we sometimes have to say. People sometimes always try giving solutions or a very understanding look which does not touch the insides but the moon! It is always there just for what it is. It might be a grand fictive exaggeration of the imaginative mind but still it is a comfort talking to the moon. There is an exclusiveness about talking to the moon. It is only the moon and you! Of course I make up the responses of the moon in answer to my questions and that is the special treat we give ourselves. Isn't it.

I see the moon and the moon sees me 
And the moon sees somebody I wanna see 
God bless the moon and god bless me 
And god bless the somebody I wanna see 
God looked down from up above 
And he picked you out for me to love 
He picked you out from all the rest 
Cause he knew that I loved you the very best 
I see the moon and the moon sees me 
And the moon sees somebody I wanna see 
God bless the moon and god bless me 

I find this old lullaby very soothing. If you have listened to Jim Brickman's version, it transports one to the world where the only members are the moon and yourself. 

Lovers like talking to the moon for they associate the moon to be a messenger of love as the same moon is seen by the man and the woman in different parts of the country. I don't know whether lovers still do all this. They might be . . .

The moon is sometimes represented as a woman and sometimes as a man in different cultures of the world. There are many legends, myths and wonderful tales about the powers of the moon. Scientists also believe that since the moon consists of a high percentage of water, it has the ability to affect humans who also constitute of 70% of water. When one is sad, we become sadder when we see the moon and the same applies for happiness as well.

Whenever I visit any new place which I am not quite familiar with, I wait for the night so that I can sight the moon and feel that I have someone whom I am acquainted with. It is strange how we can associate with inanimate entities like the moon, mountains, trees, stars and water. But somewhere down in my being, I know that they possess life -- not like the one we know but something of a higher order and that moves us.

Next time you see the moon, think of me as I would/will see the same moon from my part of the world!

Picture courtesy: Internet

Thursday 12 August 2010

The enigma that is the song-writer's mind

The last five years or so, or is it six. Ah! no worries about that. For quite some time now, I have been very interested in the lyrics of some of the songs I would like to listen to. Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and the like have wonderful lyrics and I always want to know more about the process of the creation of some of their lyrics.

Now if I call them poets, I can't be more right. Sample this:

It's a still life water color, 
Of a now late afternoon, 
As the sun shines through the curtained lace 
And shadows wash the room. 
And we sit and drink our coffee 
Couched in our indifference, 
Like shells upon the shore 
You can hear the ocean roar 
In the dangling conversation 
And the superficial sighs, 
The borders of our lives.

~ From  "The Dangling Conversation" by Simon and Garfunkel written in 1966

Isn't this sheer poetry? A magical weaving of words. This might not be a great example but the lyrics definitely has soulfulness in it. This quality always makes me to probe why the song was written and what were the social or emotional conditions behind it. I don't much find lyrics as this in many of today's songs. Maybe I don't listen to  much contemporary music. 

Now this leads me to ask questions like what is the difference between a poet and a song-writer? Apart from the very obvious 'song has a tune,' what are the other differences. The lyrics I have quoted above even have a rhyme pattern in some of the lines. 

The internal landscape of a poet and a song-writer are interesting to study and I am truly thankful to the internet which has enabled me to peek inside a song and travel the lanes of the song-writer to find out about the birth of a song. And I am not surprised when a University has included the songs of Bob Dylan in the literature syllabus. 

If you read how Freddie Mercury wrote Bohemian Rhapsody, it will amaze you. It was a difficult piece musically as well. It was their magnum opus. It reminds me of opium-intoxicated poets writing about ancient cities with their splendour and charm.

But after all this the question remains: What is the difference between a song and a poem? Tell me what you think.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Kindness for kindness' sake

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
~ Leo Buscaglia

Today one of my blogger friend Asif who blogs at brought to my notice a blogger who is suffering from a rare disorder. He suggested that we do something to bring a smile to her face. I thought why not direct bloggers who read this post to her blog and request kind words just to cheer her up. It isn't that difficult, right. Maybe this is a slight detour from the usual meanderings and reflections, but nevertheless.

And another request: Please don't mention that you came over from my place. I shall be grateful.

We always underestimate the power of kind words. Why don't we just take a few minutes to visit her page and write something nice.
Joy always :)

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Conversations with myself

On nights when sleep eludes and the mind is game, a zillion thoughts criss-cross creating no possible method of madness. Last night Lady Gaga's Bad Romance played. I especially like the "Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah" part and only this keeps resonating. I think of Remedios the beauty, I wrote about yesterday and wonder about reading. I read GGM's One Hundred Years of Solitude sometime in  2003 and think about how I used to read books. I always tell myself that after my thesis I shall read many books. It might happen or not. So many things we think of doing when x or y gets over, but do we really get back to it? Maybe we might. I think of fellow bloggers and I stay on one of my fellow-blogger's page which talks of the death of a theatre personality. I have seen one of his plays but I feel very sad and distraught on reading the news. Then thoughts fly to my death. How will people receive the news? I wonder about how I will look when I am laid in the casket and what will be my eulogy . . . I stop. Another thought cuts the other one abruptly: How will my fellow-bloggers know that I am no more. I wonder about a certain someone who is crawling the pages of a blog and regretting something. I implore to sleep and ask her where she is. She is quiet. I start singing. I don't remember what. The tune is gentle . . .

Nothing really matters to me . . . Mamma-mia, mamma-mia. What did the Queens think of Bohemian Rhapsody when Freddie Mercury first wrote the song in 1975. I like that song anyway.

Does the short interval between sleeplessness and sleep take you to several places and times . . . Do you enjoy those stream-of-conscious exercises.

Sunday 8 August 2010

Clothes, shame and civilisation

While reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, the character of Remedios the Beauty, had always intrigued and fascinated me. Despite the fact that in the novel, she is considered as someone who is not mentally stable, her rejection of clothes and beauty had always remained in my mind. She is a very beautiful girl and many men in the novel are absolutely smitten by her. But she has no sense of all that. She is always in her own make-belief world.

Clothes and beauty, many times go hand-in-hand. This had been the truth for women alone but now even men are catching up with it. I vividly remember one scene where Remedios was bathing and a man breaks the tiles and jumps into the bathroom. Remedios is quite unshaken by him and softly inquires whether he had hurt himself. She is unaware of her nakedness and shame. I thought that was wonderful. To be in a state where nothing matters.

I think civilisation's greatest invention was clothes and now this is infused with brands and other things. The western civilisation has contributed so much to this facade of hiding beauty and showing bits and pieces of it to titillate the human senses. If all of us were like Remedios it would have made things simple, I reckon.

Clevage, legs -- all flesh and parts of the body are elevated to soaring levels by media and fashion moguls. Women in India, for a long time never wore any upper garment. It was not shameful. It was the culture. This changed after missionaries started coming and talking of sin. For many the ONLY sin is that which concerns the body. True. But I feel so much space is devoted to the body, again just flesh.

The concept of shame which started in Eden has developed zillion-fold today. I am no spokesperson for the nudists but I see that as a movement like many others. And I know that it will never succeed as long as the media and fashion houses are thriving. Isn't there something higher which could occupy our present-world other than clothes and shame.

I guess I am thinking too much and rambling. If you can build coherence, blessed are you :)

Image courtesy: Internet

Thursday 5 August 2010

What do you think of this

When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable.  
--Madeleine L'Engle

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Black hearts and Red Spades

Funny, isn’t it? One can never imagine hearts being black and spades red! Well, this was something I found interesting when I saw the film Interstate 60 while browsing through different channels idly while sitting down to fold some clothes. I just about caught the scene where a man named Ray plays a small game with the protagonist using a pack of cards. He shows him different cards and asks him to name them while he slowly increases the speed of the game. The protagonist identifies the cards but as he is conditioned to think that hearts are always red, he mistakes the red spades for hearts.
Quite true! We are conditioned for almost everything and seldom realise that we are slowly being sucked into the vortex of familiarity and boredom. Sometimes I allow myself willingly into assuming what certain words are by just looking at the first letter. I think that a certain word which starts with ‘e’ is examination when actually it is evaporation. A mental conditioning which sees the ‘e’ in the beginning and ‘tion’ in the end.
Leave alone words, almost everything within us is so conditioned that we seldom venture into the unknown and the unseen. I find that this conditioning can be extended to food as well. One is wired to look for Starbucks, MacDonald’s and many such brands while looking for an eatery that the local and indigenous food is completely wiped out. Sometimes people find familiarity a comfort. It is a saving grace which enables them to stay protected. Why waste time looking for the unknown local joints, let us instead stick to what we know – Subway and Pizza Hut!
Conditioned about colours, brands, words . . . I can go on with this but still some corner of me refuses to let go of the conditioning. I am a 20th century fox, you see!
Picture courtesy: Internet

Sunday 1 August 2010

Every family has its own language . . .

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
                          ~ In Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The above line has always fascinated me and I wonder about Tolstoy's acumen and penchant for detail. The opening lines of Anna Karenina are quite true and today I chose to extend this small piece of wisdom into language. And believe me every family has its own wee language system it follows. I am not talking about the predominant language here but small words here and there which only its members can understand.

No matter what class or social standing a particular family has, it has a unique system or certain 'peculiar' words and sometimes even phrases which enable the members to communicate with each other. And it is like a precious heirloom which is inherited down the ages.

In our family sometimes the actual word for something is substituted by another word which has no semblance to the actual word or its meaning but nevertheless we use it. The over hearer often often finds it very funny or even amused as the words are quite stupid to hear. This sprinkling of 'stupid' words belong exclusively to the domain of a particular family. Sometimes even cousins and extended family don't have access to the meanings.

I was under the impression that only our family has words as these but I observed that almost all families have words as that. And many times, it is predominantly children who use and coin those words. Children who are very small cannot refer to anything by a long and convoluted name and so shorten it or substitute it with an easy word. This word sometimes remain for long in the family. Fathers usually don't use those words but can understand them anyway.

Special coinages for food-items, nosy relatives, expensive items, the list can go on and on. Sometimes even basic words like water or spoon can actually be code words for something else. The ability of people to coin new words which are of course within the family, is a trait which is interesting and novel. The language for these words don't matter. It can either be in the native tongue or in a mixture of three languages. This characteristic is also like pet-names which are unique to each family.

Though I cannot ask you to divulge the special words, I would like to know whether you have such 'stupid-sounding words' whose meaning only you and your family members share.

Image courtesy: Internet


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