Monday 29 October 2012

The sparks between an argument and an ego

This post is dedicated to all the academicians who appear scholarly and wise but let the wisdom fly out of the window (or door) when scholarly arguments arrive.

The past Friday and Saturday saw another successful conference organised by our University. But many a times, it is in these conferences that one can witness the sparks that fly between questions and egos which lead into many years of amusing relationship. So here's the saga of the famous courtship.

The academia has always been viewed as a place of knowledge and wise souls. I don't doubt the existence of knowledge in the academia but I certainly doubt the usage of the accumulated knowledge in the academia.  Shakespeare, in his brilliant plays reveals the many hues and shades of the human temperament in great detail. One might think that teaching Shakespeare will expose one to the follies and foibles of the human temperament and produce individuals who are purged of their petty whims and fancies. Alas! it is not so. There seems to be a strict demarcation between the taught and the lived (the living, in fact) experience.

Raising questions that argue the very nature of the argument is something that I dread. When something is pointed out to a paper-presenter, it is taken as a personal attack. Now, how do I differentiate to them that the criticism is nothing personal but only academic. Well, many have a problem with the word 'criticism' itself.   In spite of everything, I cannot stop asking questions :)

I believed that the church would always be an egalitarian place where fragile egos don't make an appearance but I was proven wrong. Now, even the word criticism is a word that spells potential danger. After getting disillusioned with the people in church, I thought the academia would be a better place than most other institutions. And, I am bitterly disappointed when I see the clamouring for important positions, the inability to handle questions that are directed at papers and the general temperance of threatening glances and words. After all, people are people - academicians or clergy.

So, the courtship between an argument and an ego begins at conferences and goes on until wisdom or time intervenes. Well, the sparks and the meeting can happen anywhere but this particular conference and also the last one I attended in Assam make me think that academia is a fertile place to court many fragile egos.

What do I ask of you, my reader. This time I refrain from prompting a question to direct your thoughts. I leave it to you to comment on any aspect of this post. 

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Love -- The Great Leveller

This post is a sort of reply to the crass comments, pictures and posts that flooded the social networking sites before and after the wedding of the famous Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor. Well, I don't care much about celebrities marrying or giving birth to children but the various posts, comments and pictures before and after their wedding prompted me to write this post.

For the ones who are in the dark, this is Mr. Khan's second wedding and there is an age-gap of about ten years between the couple. Many enlightened souls post pictures where Kareena is congratulating Saif on his  first wedding and he responding with a "Thank-you Beta" (beta is child in Hindi). This was quite insensitive as  it pokes fun on the wide age gap between the two. I ask, "So what?" When people can accept that Harrison Ford has married someone who is at least twenty-seven years younger than him, it is difficult to accept that Saif has married someone who is just ten years younger than him. Perhaps, Ford being a Western actor escapes the crude comments and remarks unlike Saif and Kareena who dwell on home turf! Well, don't people know that love is completely oblivious of age and other such meaningless things?

I happened to read a post two days ago, which is supposed to be a humourous take on the couple's wedding but to me it came across as very insensitive and unrefined. I am refraining to provide a link to the post as I don't think it's worthwhile to do so. The writer will not mind me providing a link to that post, but I do mind.

I can quote a dozen celebrities who have wide age gaps between them. I also came across comments on Facebook which admonished Saif for leaving his first wife. But what is your problem, I ask? I know that divorce is still a taboo in India but that does not make all divorcees 'bad.' The personal lives of celebrities have become knitted along with the non-celebrities' lives and hence as a community we become the moral police of their lives. Who are we to comment on them? Okay, I agree that gossip is a juicy fruit and not many can avoid it but to the extent of posting distasteful pictures and comments. No.

In fact, Saif has done something what our parents' generation has done -- marrying someone who is much younger. My mom and dad have a thirteen year age gap! I find that strange to think as I wonder how they related to one another. My friend says that her parents have an age gap of fifteen years. They got along well and my friend's father did not call his young wife 'child' or anything like that. If men were much older than the women they married, then it belongs to a custom which is commonplace in India (and also outside India), then why such hue and cry about Saif and Kareena!

All said and done, I wish them all the best with years of joy, togetherness and contentment.

So, do you think that age and love are connected?

Image: Internet

Monday 22 October 2012

When the blog anniversary slipped by . . .

The twelfth of October was my fourth blogoversary but as I was in Assam, it slipped away surreptitiously. I remembered the same but just had to suffice with a smile and a thought from the pages of memory. What if I hadn't written a post marking my milestone? What if I didn't celebrate the lovely passage of years with my fellow blogger friends? What if . . . Well, does anything change if I didn't write a post. No, it doesn't. That I had an anniversary is a fact. Isn't it?

Well, many so called important dates slip by without any big celebration or announcement but the importance associated with those days don't change. Now, what happens if we forget those days? Does anything change? If I miss my sister's anniversary, does anything change. My sister might think that I have forgotten in the humdrum of life but does that change anything for her. Minus the emotional feelings, nothing.

Are remembering dates all that important? A tricky question when it comes to women who like when dates are remembered. Remembering takes effort and that effort is caring, I presume. But inspite of all this, I think that remembering varies from person to person.

Now, you might wonder why is she writing so much about dates and memory when the fact is that she has missed her blogoversary :)

Okay, let me stop about dates and memory.

I must thank all of you for the wonderful journey and the experience you have given me during the years. Let's rise a toast for the fourth year! I would also like to leave the link of a few blogs that I have discovered this past year. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have:

Peter who blogs at Windgrove - Life on the Edge

Bhumika who blogs at Bhumika's Boudoir

Sandhya who blogs at Maradhi Manni

Dawn Sievers who blogs at Healing Morning

Astha who blogs at Butterflies and Hurricanes

Sumana who blogs at This & That

All said and done, I am happy about the progress of this blog and my readers who make me smile with gratitude.

Image 1: Internet
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Thursday 18 October 2012

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale its infinite variety

The title, of course is Shakespeare's but I have appropriated it to pay tribute to the evergreen and never failing to entertain, Tinkle. For those who did not grow up in India, Tinkle is our version of comic series that kept us engaged and amused through our summer holidays and other mundane days as well. And one can never be too old for picking a copy of Tinkle and smiling from ear to ear at the antics of Suppandi, Tantri the Mantri, Kalia the Crow, Kapish the Monkey, Shikari Shambu and reading many other tales, jokes and science facts. When I googled Tinkle, I was surprised and happy to find that they also have a website now. But with Tinkle, it was always the stories and not the author. Only later did I know that Anant Pai was the creative editor behind the book.

What is the USP of Tinkle and how did it manage to stay put inspite of the revolution created by the internet, cable TV and many other media? Well, I guess it's a mixture of simplicity and quick-read that manages to hold the reader's attention. Suppandi is a gullible half-wit who never fails to make one smile and sometimes even laugh. Through the entire span of me being a kid and growing into a woman of 33, Suppandi has never disappointed me. The Suppandi tales are not conceived by 'creative' professionals who sit in air-con rooms but children who send their contribution to the book. Sometimes even the name Suppandi makes me laugh out loud. Such is the charm of Suppandi.

I also immensely enjoy reading the folk-tales which are again sent by children across the country. The stories are delightful and always carry a lesson in the end. Most of them are happily ever after stories but still retain a  rustic charm and simplicity. The characters are quintessentially Indian and consist of Indian sensibilities and customs -- mostly characters from rural India which also include kings, queens, princes and lovely princesses.

Anant Pai (1929-2011), the father of Indian comics who started Tinkle
The witty tales of Birbal and Nasserudin Hodja make you nod in admiration for the proper use of common sense. Their prudence stands directly in contrast with Suppandi's folly and dumb mind. Those days, friends who sometimes did not understand what we conveyed were nick-named Suppandi!

Wisdom, ethics for living and answers about the unknown working of the Universe and its mysteries were the staple diet doled out by Tinkle in every one of its issues. Moreover, our parents never objected us reading the comic book and sometimes they themselves enjoyed reading an issue now and then, when time permitted. Parental guidance and regulations were not needed while one indulged in the stories and articles in Tinkle.

Well, I can go on and on about Tinkle and its charm on me but how did I arrive at this topic. I picked up few copies of the book while on the train from a man who was selling them when the train was slowly trudging through West Bengal. Tinkle has always been my faithful travel companion for a very long time now and my sister and I are aficionados of this wholesome treat. Whether I will outgrow Tinkle is a question I have asked myself many times but every time I postpone the answer, perhaps, knowing the answer only too well.

Have you read Tinkle? Is there something  local like Tinkle that you used to read or even read now?

Image 1: Internet
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Image 3: Internet

Monday 8 October 2012

adding pages to my book of life

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page,” remarked St. Augustine and  he cannot be truer. On Saturday and Sunday, I had the good fortune of travelling through some places where the river Kaveri flows - the Delta regions. These places are in the news off late and among these disturbances, we travelled to some of these beautiful places where the water runs its course. This post will not not talk about the itinerary of the trip but will rather reflect on what travel actually does to the body and mind. It is common knowledge that going to a new place gives new perspectives and rejenuvates the senses. Is it the new place/people/air and the effect of a non-routine that gives the romance to travelling? The last two days I witnessed water and so much water along with the special flora and fauna that is peculiar to those places. I accompanied a group of students on their study-trip. These were the same students that I had taught last year and whose ways I was practically familiar with. But what happens in a trip is that one spends so much time with the same students in a different environment that they seem to be different individuals with diverse hues of personality shades. I could relate to every one of them in ways I hadn't done so before and there was a reckless spirit of abandon that one could not see in enclosed classroom walls. I wonder how new places bring newer aspects of old things and individuals. 

When we returned from the trip, a former colleague commented, "You are visiting the Delta when there are so many problems. Water is a problem and there is no water. And if there is no water, the Delta regions disappear." His thoughts were genuine but just because there are problems in the region, shouldn't there be a study tour? For this precise reason, I cannot be an activist. I am aware of the problems faced by people but somehow carrying placards and marching the streets is not my metier. 

The visit to the head of the rivers, Vettar and Vennar in Thenperambur was quite an experience. The water regulators were in action and it was just amazing to be there, hear the sound of the force of water, watch the multitude of fishes frolicking in the water and observe the birds esp cormorant, lesser pied kingfisher and heron swooping down to catch the fish. I could watch on forever. The students went mad when they beheld such beauty and were feverishly clicking away hoping to freeze memories which could be relished in the years to come. Normally, I would have detested the sounds of cameras (mobiles/SLRs/digital ones) for I would see them as interfering with my moments of bliss but as years are added to my existence, I realise that gathering memories is as vital as preserving them. These captured memories will later translate into stories and lived experience and no matter what they will remain etched. I also did my share of capturing memories through my modest phone. 

Walking by the Bay of Bengal after visiting Poompuhar and imagining how the river Kaveri would have flowed then and how trade would have flourished along the coastal areas transported me to a place centuries ago. I imagined me then as a resident of Puhar and belonging to the fishing community whose breath was salty and talk fishy (!!!). Some students were in deep contemplation. Perhaps they were also in the city of ancient Puhar bargaining the prices of fish and haranguing about the thrifty buyers!

Gradually, in the course of the journey, I began adding pages to my book of life as I learnt about the flora, fauna, trade, water regulating systems, rituals and other details of the places we visited. The sound of the gushing waters still echo in my ears and have added to my years. It was a lovely weekend, indeed.

While still recovering from the trip of the weekend, we have another trip planned for the next week to the north-eastern India for a conference. I will be away for two weeks, or so. Keep me in your thoughts as I present my paper. I will carry you with me as I sojourn the lovely terrains of the north-east. Be well. Be happy.

What does travel do to your spirits and body? I will be glad to read about your thoughts.

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet
Image 3: Internet

Friday 5 October 2012

Are you on Facebook yet?

This morning while reading The Hindu, the headline "Facebook . . . one billion and counting" made me stop reading the paper. Why? I could not help but gush at the impact of Facebook on our lives. Well, for once I am going to ignore the ones who shout, "We are more often online and have forgotten real relationships." Even when I wrote a post on "How personal the virtual can become?" I did not fully wonder at the idea of Facebook. Now, how this sudden change, you might be coerced to wonder. Well, I have ample reasons to be. Read on and nod ;)

One, I spend most of my time on Facebook, interacting with several like-minded individuals who offer support, courage and excellent advice on anything under the sun. There are many groups in which I can discuss any random topic and not be judged. If someone likes it, they will respond otherwise they will just be silent observers. Well, in real life I cannot even think discussing some of the wild topics that I have discussed in these groups. It is just the freedom of speech that these groups provide that enable me to passionately discuss diverse taboo topics.

Second, on a grim day when one is seriously working and opens Facebook for some time, there are the funny messages that colour the home page. These messages instantly bring a smile and sometimes even laughter! I just love that burst of energy during odd times of the day. here I must mention my blogger friend Janaki who posts the most hilarious messages and forces me to break into laughter. On duller days, her inspirational messages have uplifted me up many a time. Tell me where else can one find all these things together in one package. Can a real friend, no matter how close make you laugh/smile/uplift you at the odd hours of your 'under the weather' times? Maybe yes but not always (Please don't think that I am substituting FB for people. It the people in FB who make the journey worthwhile).

A screen shot of Janaki's Facebook humour :)

Three, the amount of knowledge one gains by reading the various quotes, random videos and new items posted on a friend's wall is quite huge. And we can get all this for free even when we don't expect them. A quote about giving, a video about Noam Chomsky, a blog which discusses Fibromyalgia (I didn't even know what it was before this post by Corinne).

Four, my love of cooking is given colour and expertise by the many recipes that are posted by fellow bloggers and friends. Thanks to them, now I never have a grey moment in my kitchen.

Five, old songs are resurrected when I snatch a quick moment. Karen see to it that she picks some good old country music and posts it for us to jive and jazz (in our minds, of course).

I can go on and on about the various brownie points of Facebook and how glad that I am to be a part of it. Of course, there are many privacy issues, time-consuming tales, and other such but today I am happy happy to be part of this network. Ah, I forgot that I have also met wonderful new people through this space. I get the power to know people through their interests and posts and then connect with them (this happens in the old style ofcourse, right?).

Well, so what keeps you going with Facebook inspite of the many issues? Are you on Facebook?

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

You might want to check this post by Shilpa Garg for an exactly opposite take on this post.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Sometimes I wish . . .

For the first time, in my four years of blogging, I am participating in a blog event - Blog Tag . . . You're it - a blogging chain event where lovely bloggers from 28 countries around the world are writing on one topic, Sometimes I wish . . .

This post was preceded by Ron Reed, who actually blogs but has titled his blog, IF I HAD A BLOG! He is a very soulful and deep writer who leaves insightful comments whenever he visits your blog. I am glad to be succeeding him in this event.

Sometimes I wish . . .

Having been given to extreme flights of fantasy and day-dreaming, I should mention that I have sometimes wished that I could be given the power of becoming invisible when I choose to be. I could listen in during conversations and hear what moves people, what turns them on, what irritates them and what makes them live the lives they are living.

Being invisible, I would be able to traverse boundaries and mountains without the hassles of visa and money, like Dave so eloquently mentioned in his post. I would sneak into kitchens and discover the secrets behind seductive-looking recipes and steal the cellars for the oldest red wine.

I wouldn't need the trappings of clothes, make-up, bags and shoes to live a life and I would be glad to leave them unattended. 

Being invisible, I can escape without being captured by any camera which I detest and I could enter closed security doors without being detected and change the papers of policy-makers wherever necessary.

I could use the power of being invisible to bring smiles and joy to anyone who is in need of them by giving them surprises when they least expect it.

And, finally, I could sleep perched across a treetop blessed by the touch of dew or in Johnny Depp's home without being traced! What a life that would be! 

This is a wish that has sustained me during many of my vacant hours right from my childhood till date and this wish will always remain a wish. Though the acts that I could have done have changed from time to time, the desire to become invisible has always remained :)

This post will be succeeded by Suzy who blogs at Someday Somewhere. Whenever I land at her place, I start humming the song "Someday . . .," by the cheesy MLTR. Suzy who loves travelling and photographing was born in India and has spent some time in India and during that time fell in love with Bollywood and the many colours of India, some of which are showcased in her blog time to time. Stop by her place for some colour, fun and some interesting stuff from her collection of memories.

Image: Internet 


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