Thursday 28 April 2011

The last farewell - Meanderings on the Japanese film "Departures"

Staying at home, I am quite privileged to watch many wonderful movies of different cultures in World Movies channel. Two days ago, as I was accidentally changing channels, my hand paused when I saw a very solemn scene on World Movies. It was a scene from a Japanese film titled Departures. I must say that I enjoy watching movies from China, Japan and Korea. They are slow, calming and the music is something that long remains after the film is over. The films are always subtle and gentle. Well, that is for another post. Now coming back to Departures.

The protagonist is a cellist and after losing his job becomes a professional in assisting departures (death). The customs and rituals associated with death in the Japanese culture were so very solemn and graceful that death did not seem morbid at all. The protagonist's work was to clean, dress and make the body presentable. He does his work very well and as he goes about the process, he learns to love his job.

Death in various cultures has never ceased to interest me. This was the first time I was seeing the Japanese rituals of the dead. The respect given to the lifeless body is something quite touching. Perhaps the belief that death is not an end but only a passage to another life is demonstrated through the solemn rituals and ceremonies. 

I don't know whether there really exist professionals who assist death in Japan. But if there are, I would like to talk to them and ask many questions.

What are your thoughts on movies of different cultures and professionals in assisting departures?

Are there any special rituals for death in your part of the world?

Image: Internet

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Amazed by words over and over

Recently after a talk by an eminent personality, my Professor commented: A fine example of logorrhea. My ears stood up on hearing this absolutely new word which rhymed with diarrhoea. The word is quite novel to me, even my computer's word document fails to recognise it (It thinks I have confused the spelling of gonorrhea).

The meaning can be roughly translated as a diarrhoea of words. Well, the word means excessive use of words and diarrhoea is excessive (you know what).

Words marvel me and I can ceased to be amazed by them.

Logorrhea, anyone?

Image: Internet

Sunday 24 April 2011

Settling Down . . . whatever that means

In India, maybe elsewhere in the world as well, the two words settling down are quite frequently heard when one reaches the age of 20+. People often throw up the question When are you planning to settle down? The question actually means When are you getting married? But it is quite unsettling that the phrase settle down refers to getting married. An individual's whole life takes on a different turn when he/she gets married but that is referred to as settling down. And settling down is not the remotest phrase to refer to marriage. Well, . . .

But I found that the phrase settle down does not refer to getting married alone. It could refer to getting a job after studies or getting children after marriage. But whatever those two words signify, settling down does not happen unless one feels that life is enough.

Another issue that constantly niggles me is the question: Settling down after what? Does it signify settling down after boisterous youth which has been spent in wanton and frivolousness? If that is so, then it cannot be homogeneously used for every individual. But many people (even those in the "young" bracket) choose to ask the question almost as if it is something quite natural to ask.

But contrary to what I have mentioned in the first line, the phrase sometimes is used while speaking to people who have just gotten their children married: Now you can peacefully settle down, as your children are married. In this case, does it mean that the only impediment to settling down was the marriage of the children? Well, not necessarily. But I reckon that the words settle down refers to a state of zero-worry and tension. It points out to the fact that marriage, children, a home and other things make sure that the individual is in a position where he/she can rest and sit back.

Whatever said and done, I think that one cannot settle down in life as life requires us to be in action while also being restful and calm. So, marriage, secure job and other things are part of life and not something which causes an individual to settle down.

Well, what do you have to say on settling down in life?

Image courtesy: Internet

Thursday 21 April 2011

Life sans phone, baths, bed, and many other things

I missed being here and interacting with all of you. Chicken pox, a viral infection, cut me off from my usual activities and confined me. By force, I had to create a world wherein I dwelt with my thoughts and more thoughts. Since computer, and other gadgets could potentially cause a strain on me, I was kept away from all of them. For the first time in my adult life I experienced a different kind of living sans baths, mattress, spicy food and other things. But I must admit that being with my head for company was not always welcome.

But there were many interesting things that happened. Chicken pox, in these parts of southern India, is usually viewed as possession by a goddess known as Mariamman. People here believe that she has caused the pustules and therefore must be treated well. The person who helps us in our household chores was very reverent towards me. I found that a bit stifling. People are advised not even to look into the  face of the person who has contacted chicken pox. While there were many instructions for me, I would like to narrate some of the quirky ones: no brooms, footwear, mirrors and combs are to be allowed in the room where I was quarantined. I was warned not to see the mirror as it would induce fear within me about the way I look. This would eventually anger the goddess. The goddess detests any form of cleanliness and so cleaning agents like water and broom were not allowed anywhere near me. I was only allowed to keep a bottle of water for drinking.

Eventhough these practices seem obscure in today's world, I could see some sense in them. It is also strange given the different religious sects we belong to, one has a combination of beliefs that one chooses to take and discard. Another person who frequents our house, though is a Roman Catholic, believes in the rituals and respect that shrouds the viral infection, chicken pox. Inspite of her being a strong practitioner of Catholicism, she had a list of do's and don't's for my mother, when she knew that I was infected with chicken pox.

Well, I also managed to pick up a book which had been lying for a long time in my book-shelf, Mark Tully's India in Slow Motion, which talks of the corruption that exists everywhere in India, thus causing the country to move in slow motion, inspite of its many progresses. What a fitting book to read in times of chicken pox!

Life goes on.

What has been happening with you? It might take some time for me to visit your blogs and interact but I will be back to scan your words and thoughts.


Thursday 7 April 2011

The 'hum' as a potential weapon . . .

I don't know whether you have had to face this situation but in our home, it happens. I can't say whether it is a reflexive action but it sure does get on your nerves. Usually when an argument is going on, my sister starts humming a tune. Now, please don't think that it is a voluntary act. Well, it can be but I'm assuming that it isn't. She starts humming and sometimes even starts singing something. I somehow think that she does this to prove that her point is right by choosing to irritate the other party (read, me). When she starts this humming, a thousand reactions brew within me starting from the violent to x-rated violence. Well, I don't do anything but fume within me.

My sister doesn't stop with a single hum. She hums endlessly. Somehow, I see this humming as different from the pleasant humming. I wonder at how simple acts like humming and singing can be used as a potential weapon for irritating someone. Well, it is not only my sister, there are many others in whom I have observed this action. When there is some argument going on, they either start singing or playing some songs in their mobile, which is extremely annoying.

How many expressions to irritate people in an argument. Now, getting reflective, I might think that the problem lies within me as my mother or any other individual has not chosen to complain about this act of humming and singing. It is only me. Perhaps, there is a live wire in me which reacts when people choose to hum when the situation is not quite fit for humming.

People sometimes sing to mask their fear. While walking in a path that is dark and fraught with strange sounds, people choose to sing so that they don't have to hear the scary thoughts within their heads.

Afterall, Nero was fiddling when Rome was buring (Aside: Is that why the software used for burning CDs is called Nero?!?!?!?).

Now, dear reader tell me, have you imagined the power of the 'hum' and 'song' as I have shown you.

Image: Internet

Sunday 3 April 2011

Are some bloggers essayists?!?

Reading through the definitions of an essay form, in preparation for my postgraduate class, I was consumed by the thought that many of us bloggers could actually be essayists. Just take this definition from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: An essay is a short piece of writing which is often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist a number of elements including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. While famous essayists like Hazlitt, Lamb and others chose the medium (newspapers) that was available to them in their hey days, many writers today use the medium of blogging. But what differentiates bloggers from essayists is the fact that not many people in those days chose to dabble in prose; It was seen as the purview of a gifted few unlike blogging which is taken up by many people in today's world.

Reading Lamb's essays, I wonder whether many bloggers unconsciously follow his style and way of expressing themselves. Lamb is one of my favourite essayist and today, as I read his essays, it does not seem very different from the posts I have been reading in some of the blogs. Nostalgia, humour and intimacy made Lamb's essays memorable and lucid. His writings were devoid of flowery language and high-end vocabulary. His style was quite simple and therefore struck a chord with many literature students and others. Even our blog posts do much the same.

One thought which kept recurring within me as I scanned line after line from Lamb's essay was that if Lamb was alive today, he would have been a well-read blogger.

A few lines from Charles Lamb's essay: The South-Sea House

"Of quite another stamp was the then accountant, John Tipp. He neither pretended to high blood, nor in good truth cared one fig about the matter. He "thought an accountant the greatest character in the world, and himself the greatest accountant in it." Yet John was not without his hobby. The fiddle relieved his vacant hours. He sang, certainly, with other notes than to the Orphean lyre. He did, indeed, scream and scrape most abominably."

This post was an extension of my reading of Lamb's essays. I wonder whether my dear readers have thought of their writings in a similar fashion. Tell me. 

Image: 1. Internet
           2. Internet


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