Saturday, September 16, 2006

Events of September 11

September 11, 2001: WTC Attack

The whole world knows about the events that happened on that day and the chain reaction of events that ensued following that.

September 11, 2006: Surya - Jyothika Wedding

The whole world knows about this much publicized and photographed event and the interviews that ensued following that.

September 11, 1906: Launch of Satyagraha

How many people know that?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

May 1: (Cinema) Workers Day!

may 1 is here, the salutary day for hard working employees who power industries, economies, families and societies. it is a salute for all workers out there in their own individual fields. however, i think for sun tv this translates to only those in the cine field. i don't know if other tv channels are following suit since i dont subscribe to them. right from morning to evening the line-up for may 1 are interviews with cine artists. why aren't industrialists being interviewed? why aren't entrepreneurs being interviewed? why aren't the people who have put india on the global map for outsourcing being interviewed? why aren't companies that have established themselves as pioneers in their respective fields by the sheer hardwork of their employees being showcased? maybe sun tv does take to heart the statements of dayanidhi maran: "in tamil nadu populism works!" and what could be more populistic than cinema? no matter how far employers and employees expand their horizons, it does not look like sun tv will expand its horizons beyond cinema!

wish you all a good may first!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

GOOGLE - I Will Know What You Did Yesterday!

Saturday, May 28, 2005


If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run--
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

-----------------------------------------If – Rudyard Kipling------------------

Daddy told me what it took to be a man,
Daddy told me to always do the best that I can.
Daddy told me about the hardships he faced, that made him what he is today,
Daddy told me many other things that I’ve always disregarded till yesterday.
Daddy always lent me his shoulder, which I kept pushing away.
No matter what I said, daddy, you never let me go astray.

Momma brought me in; she always had the final say,
Momma always readied me to face the world everyday.
No matter how many times I fell and bruised my pride,
Momma was always there to kiss the hurt goodbye.
Momma taught the importance of family ties,
Eager to severe the cord, its value I never realized.
No matter how much I fought or broke her rules,
When I was down, momma, you kept me close to your womb.

They watched me crawl, walk and then try to run away,
They watched me when I entered the world on my own one day.
They understood when I refused to live life the way they had planned,
They understood when I felt ashamed to hold their hand.
They realized I was grown up; to let go it was time,
They realized I had to take my own steps, but were never far behind.
Unsure, unguided when I walked the tightrope, swaying above,
They were always there, my safety net, waiting below.
Even if I’m down and no longer have the strength to walk,
They will be there with their comforting talk.
Now that I realize I will never feel unwanted and alone,
I’m coming home.


Medical paper leak slur on CBSE staff
New Delhi, April 23: Question papers of the CBSE’s pre-medical test were leaked by a computer operator in the office of the board’s controller of examinations, according to police.
Hemant Sharma of CBSE’s confidential section had taken printouts of the papers and sold them to a coaching centre, police said.]~-->

India Stinking: Two toilets, 10,000 people!
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai | April 24, 2004 18:14 IST

India is stinking and not shining, according to some residents of Dharavi in Central Mumbai.
When Lok Sabha Speaker and Shiv Sena candidate Manohar Joshi visited his Mumbai North Central constituency on Saturday, the last day of campaigning, he did not mention the National Democratic Alliance government's India Shinning campaign.
He told voters about how he could change their lives with the Rs 500 crore grant of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to one of the biggest and dirtiest slums in Asia.
At an open ground near the Dharavi's 90 Feet Road junction, residents eagerly listened to Joshi deliver his speech. The stink at the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority plot is unbearable as it is used as a toilet.

PM could have stopped Gujarat riots: Jethmalani

Legal eagle Ram Jethmalani, locking horns with Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Lucknow Lok Sabha seat, today hit out at the Prime Minister saying he could have stopped Gujarat riots if he had wanted. "Why did you not move a finger while the massacre was on," Jethmalani, Congress-backed Independent candidate, asked Vajpayee.
"Your assurance to Gujarat Muslims that riots will not take place again assumes you can stop them if you want," he told reporters here.

Three arrested for making fake license

Delhi Police today claimed to have busted a racket involved in the making of forged driving licence and apprehended three persons in this regard.
The trio Ratan Pal, Chander Bhan and Lakhpat involved in running the racket in East Delhi were arrested along with several equipment used by them for making the fake licence. The modus operandi of the accused was to make contacts with the drivers of long distance route commercial vehicles and take orders from them for forged licence, police said.

Well, you must be wondering what does the above news snippets have to do with the title of this piece, Inspire. A lot in my eyes and I will tell you why. The above snippets are to showcase some of the ills plaguing India in general. I was initially going to search for issues pertaining to rape, plight of sex workers, abuse etc., but I know those are well covered topics and therefore, I thought I would pick the least controversial issues that caught my eye. People may say the Gujarat riots associated issue is definitely controversial, but if you look back, that issue seems to have faded quietly into obscurity. I am yet to see any pseudo-intellectuals parade the victory of democracy when a re-trial was ordered on the carnage that was Gujarat! Or maybe they did and it just was not easily visible to my eyes. But I digress from the topic.

In the age of advanced telecommunications, print and visual media have been one of the areas greatly affected by it. Along with internet, news from far reaches of the world can be accessed by everyone else on the planet in minutes, if not seconds. The mushrooming of news channels is a testament to not only the capability of relaying news but also of a target audience that yearns to be educated about current affairs. Especially in a democracy, where freedom of speech is valued, we have access to issues that are beyond our immediate boundaries and open our eyes to issues that we were never aware of too. That is a good thing, undeniably so. However, that is not everything and that needs to be understood. In the world of social commentary run by passionate pseudo-intellectuals, information is almost everything. They want to showcase the issues that are running amok in the world today to any and every willing audience to spread awareness. Predominant amongst those issues are gender inequality and bias, abuse of women and children, prostitution as mentioned above, the most prominent issues. Do I have a problem with them spreading this awareness by their choice of means? No! Every living individual invariably finds a cause of their choice that provokes unbridled passion and championing of the same. That is our way of feeling good about our capability of looking beyond ourselves alone. Then what do I have a problem with?

Overzealousness is one for sure. Yes, I read all about women abused and raped and forced into prostitution. I have felt repulsed and disturbed after watching movies like Kutty and Mahanadhi at how even children are not spared. Yes, men are the perpetrators of the crime, it is men who rape these women, men who sell and traffic the women, it is men who twist the hands of law to go scot-free when caught, it is men who run the brothels, it is men who prompt college girls from reasonable income families to enter prostitution, it is men who have their fathers arrested on false rape charges and the list goes on. Men are beasts! Overzealous anyone? I know I will be drawing the fire of all women with this piece, but hey I am voicing my opinion and I am entitled to it. Sometimes I wonder about the phrase, “Behind the success and failure of a man, lays a woman.” I remember a debate on the television, where one man suggested a remedy for curbing corruption and he said, “I deplore the women to refuse to accept that ill-gotten gains. Turn away that and chastise him for erring and that will provoke him to think about walking on the right side of life.” Have we ever wondered about the mothers who indulge in bride burning or wives who are happy to accumulate the wealth of ill-gotten gains? Men are to be blamed for their crimes, but blame those men alone. I hate generalizations that accompany the social activist’s commentaries. To call men as beasts is to include YOUR fathers and brothers too and they may not have a problem, but I do for it serves no purpose. It is one thing to say, Pramodh of Kaverinagar in Rajagopalnagar, Bangalore who raped a seventh standard girl and deserted her when she was pregnant is a BEAST and another to say ALL men are beasts. It serves no purpose; even hate has to be channeled properly to achieve its means and when fighting a cause, learn to channel your passions effectively. I say this because you need all the help you can get to reverse the trends on these issues and that includes us beasts! Expose those fiends who perpetrate such crimes, but also shame those who stand in their support. Man is shaped by his surroundings and only when the same turns their back on him will he feel truly remorseful. We do a good job on focusing on the guilty, but never focus on their support system. Do you think that the behaviour of a man prone to beating his wife has not been condoned by his family members or even her family members on occasions? Chastise those people who did not have a spine to stand up and do the right thing. There is nothing more powerful than shame currently and by generalizing and distributing blame over a larger cross-section, you are only aiding in the weakening of your efforts.

Secondly, focus on other vital areas of improvements too. Like the above case of a lack of toilets. Talk about need for literacy, talk about the plight of senior citizens left behind by their children in foreign lands, talk about the mushrooming of clinics that aid in sex selection of unborn fetuses, talk about the need for OUR involvement in politics and so on. Do not just restrict yourself to ones that are already branded in our minds, but talk about issues that are creeping upon us silently. Many of these are overlooked by us and most importantly; these are areas that we can immediately impact to prevent it from becoming a festering wound. I do not mean to detract from your other issues, but only want to say that focus is fine, but obsessions is detrimental. It bothers me that all of us are focused on some key issues that until an article comes about how people lack toilets, we never even gave it a thought. A social revolution is possible only when we start to go beyond the boundaries of a focused area and look at the bigger picture. Do not talk about the issues that will prompt a passionate responses only, talk about ones that highlight where we need to improve for a better tomorrow.

Lastly and most importantly, the problem I have with the roof-top shouting commentaries is INACTION! Yes, you read it right, inaction. I do not want to read what I have read before or whose evil existence I have come to accept. Information is good, but action is priceless. We humans are excellent at mouthing issues, and that is why I refer to us as pseudo-intellectuals. Voicing opinions on such issues stokes the fires of our intelligence and thinking as developed by education, but does nothing more. We can wax eloquence on how the sight of a poor crippled beggar moved you to tears, but what do we do about it? Dropping change into his bowl or sharing your thoughts is great but not earth shattering. There are times when I skip news articles that highlight these predominant issues, because I know just what will be written in the same. I am sure there are many who do not give it a second thought as it has become a part of modern life. Where are the commentaries on people who really do something about this? How many of the people who voice their disgust have done something that would not paint them as mere mouthpieces echoing what has been said many times before? You talk about forced prostitution, how many of you are members of NGO that try to improve conditions in the red light districts of your town? How many of you volunteer at charitable organizations and take the time and effort to help them? How many of you have tried to teach your maid servant’s children how to read or helped them get educated? SHOW AND TELL, just do not TELL. Educate people not only on the issues, but also how you have and they also can make a difference to improve the same. INSPIRE others on how they can make a difference, just do not INFORM them on what needs to be changed. We have enough back-seat drivers and not enough drivers. We have enough followers, and not enough leaders. Inspire people to be leaders in improving our society. It is one thing to write a passionate piece on the ills of the society and another to write just what YOU did to help mitigate those ills. The former will predominantly be a passionate read, but never of consequence beyond a social discussion. The latter will show people on ways that someone like them has made a difference and prompt them to follow suit.

You could throw this piece back at me and ask me what I am, a follower or a leader? And I will tell you that I want to be a leader, but I know I will take my time in leading and till then, I will not voice my opinions on social issues, but listen and search for solutions and inspirations that affect issues that I hold dear to my heart and when I do that is when you will see me champion them and inform others of the same. Correction, INSPIRE others to do the same.


Paniyai porvaiyai pothi kondu,
Yaaraiyum kandukollamal nikkum imaya malai.
Suryanin paarvai adai theenda theenda,
Mellamai urughum agambhavathin porvai.

Oru melliya kodaai aarambhichu, kodugal valara valara,
Kalnenjamai thonugira mugamudiyil virisalgalai adhu thonrum .
Urugha urugha, maraindhirrukkum mugathil sirippu malara,
Paadangalil urchaagamai ilamai niranja aathrai odum.

Vellum kuvizha, vetkam nanaindha vivegam pinvaangi,
Asathu dhairiyathai kaikortha akroshamana vegatthin oli kekkum.
Nadiyin valaivugal, kadhal varigalakku eedu kodukka,
Padhai ellam than valararthai, ilakkiyathil aazhamaai sedukkum.

Yedhir paaradha thunbangal, kal suvaraai thadai vidhikka,
Ilamai vegathil modhi, sattre moochu thenari pinvaangiye thothram.
Siru tholvi endraalum, kanavugalil meimarandhu sellum,
Oru suganthira atmavai, kannkalanga seiyum.

Theeya sudum thanneerin kanner, nenjathai adaikka,
Veeramum, veriyum kalandha oru sandiyarai pongum.
Thannai soditha thadaigalai, thirumbi neraga sanditthu,
Thann unarvin aazhathaal, paraigalai kooda thannil karaikkum.

Neraindhu nenjam vettri pethradhum, santhoshamai pongum arivi,
Payanam mudivil, kangallukku santhamai kaanum vazhnaal.
Kallaai sedikkiya imaya malayaai irundha yennai,
Manushanaai maatriya andha suriyan dhaan yaar?


Preparations have already begun,
Raise the war ensemble.
The need or cause nobody knows,
Just paint the scene blood red.
And in the night when everything is quiet,
Laughs the spirit in black,
Young children all gone.
They are believed to be a part of the expendable youth.
All the pain and hurt is burning inside,
While the faces are covered by a dead skin mask.
All the so-called acquired knowledge
Seems a waste at this hallowed point.
And while the wounds are being nursed,
Around are the remains, the skeletons of society.
To put a stop to this pain and torture,
Inside rises high the temptation.
For if not now, life will become a continuous war
Where lives come and go, children are born of fire.
A monotonous cycle, just blood and gore,
And the changes will be like the seasons in an abyss.

Is It All About Being Forced?

"Rita is on the dot for the appointment, dressed in a white cotton top and black trousers. Heads turn because she is tall and has a figure which she does not hesitate to flaunt. Pleasantries over, she is a little bemused that I am meeting her only to pump her for information. But she gradually eases into talking about her profession. “Yes, it’s a life I have got used to. Good money and fun,” she shrugs.”

In one such swoop last month, three women and five pimps were arrested from a farmhouse in Vasant Kuni, in southwest Delhi. One of the women, an economics graduate from Bangalore, used to spend 15 days a month in the capital and earned up to Rs. 1.5 lakh in a time.

One woman picked up by the police in a recent raid is Nivedita, a 25-year-old junior executive of a Delhi-based firm. She was first noticed at a lounge bar in Gurgaon by a pimp. Impressed by her looks and personality, he broke her into the profession.But she is selective about her clients. "If I don't like the guy I call it off," she says. Weekend outings fetch Nivedita anywhere between Rs 50,000 and Rs 60,000. Besides, clients often shower her with expensive gifts.

The number of Niveditas in the capital is growing by the day. At the high end, the call-girl racket in Delhi involves teenagers, out-of-work models, glam girls and foreigners who hustle blatantly. "The large number of upmarket girls to choose from is incredible. For the right price and with the right references, you can get whatever you want," says Rohit Uberoi, one of the capital's well-known pimps.

The arrest of Rohini, 29, and an 18-year-old girl last month from a five-star hotel was revealing. The two ran a racket that serviced the rich and the powerful. Rohini drove a Skoda and had a snooty south Delhi address. Her 18-year-old partner was educated in one of the city's respectable schools. Says assistant commissioner of police, Dr Joy Tirkey, credited with busting their operation: "The two maintained an exclusive portfolio of customers, operated through mobile phones and came from good families"."


I know I will receive brickbats for pasting an article already published. But I wanted it in here for effect. This blog in many ways is my own method of answering questions that keep arising in my head and if you can answer the same, please do.

Prostitution, the world’s oldest profession, as it is called, is flourishing today too. There was a time; when prostitutes were romanticized by being called courtesans, the entertainers of kings! Umrao Jaan is one notable movie that used beautiful songs to make it a classic in some sense. But my blog is not about courtesans, it is about prostitutes and prostitution. Somehow, the word prostitute intrinsically seems to have a vulgar ring to it, but that is beside the point.

I see a lot of wanna-be social workers, who write in excess about the ills of prostitution and how the conditions in the red light areas are so bleak. Whether their cries of injustice are supported by a first hand observation or not, I really do not know. All I know is that prostitution is a favourite topic for these bloggers. They talk about the beasts (read: men) who force women into prostitution, the pimps who make their life hell etc. I agree with them that innocent people being forced into prostitution is an act committed by a depraved mind. Especially those who lure children! I have no words to term those people and when Kamal killed that depraved pedophile at the end of Mahanadhi, I felt justice is served. Again, I digress.

My problem is I do not see anyone talking about the case I pasted above. No wanna-be social worker ever addresses this burgeoning issue. When I was a kid, Pamela Bordes was the only famous woman to indulge in voluntary prostitution. Now there seems to be more, though not famous yet. What is more shocking is a majority of these people are educated college girls from good families, who see this as an easy way to make a quick buck. I am sorry, easy way to make a ton of bucks! I bounced this off my friend and the first thing he said was, “Those are prostitutes, but these are call girls right?” And I argued with him on what was the difference? In my opinion, there existed none. Both are prostitution, both are illegal and if one gets negative publicity, I really do not see why the other should not? What makes matters worse is one set comprises of people taken advantage of by their poverty, uneducation etc, while the other set comprises of people who are taking advantage of the same education as a bargaining tool! Unless of course, being a call girl somehow represented the liberated woman’s entrepreneurial skills! I know women are going to hound me for that, but hey, I am just wondering! And that also gave me the insight that this is a tradition within our society. We have since time immemorial had two different versions of what is basically the same thing. Bribe was the shameful word associated with corruption, but the term “gift” was used to somehow muddy the waters and make it more palatable to those who gave or received the same. Nepotism was a shameful word, but that was polished with “recommendation” to make it more universal. So in the same line of thinking, has the ugly word prostitute been made more acceptable by use of the term call girl?

That brought me to question if all the hype, hoopla and ire vented by mahila jagran manch and their ilk is primarily only because the former is forced but the latter is not? I ask because both are prostitution in essence, but the former does not seek permission of the body it seeks, while the latter is voluntary, thereby mitigating the need for permission? The shame that seems to be associated with the former is sorely lacking in the latter. They say most of the sex-workers continue in that trade and at times their children follow suit, primarily because of the stigma associated with their trade that prevents them from earning a different livelihood. But, if you look at the above cases, no one seems repentant of their choice of profession and in many ways seem to shrug off all perceived disgust at their chosen path in their quest for cold cash! Why do these pseudo-intellectuals not hound these people and shame them? When they attach the stigma of the sin of forcing women into prostitution on beasts and do their best to make all beasts repent, why do they not do the same for these women? Is gender the problem? Are women reluctant to attack other women? Are women willing to condone and sweep under the carpet the sins committed by birds of their own flock? Or is this just another face of hypocrisy that exists in today’s world? Or is the fact that most call girls are educated, thereby being capable of defending themselves against the sushma swarajs of the world? Or is this just the indication that we are definitely heading towards the world of excess that is the US? I would really appreciate a lucid feminine perspective on this seemingly double standards of the feminists. Whether you agree or disagree, make sure you state your case clearly. Don’t throw words in the heat of the moment!

Finally, I wonder if legalization of prostitution will make a difference to the feminist’s cause? Australia for one has legalized prostitution and in fact, one brothel released their own IPO and shares can be traded freely on the market. By doing so, two things can be affected, prostitution will become a legitimate business and therefore, even the bottom rung brothels will start to clean up its act, thus forcing better conditions in the workplace. Also, by providing legitimacy, no stigma will be attached to this profession and more college students can willing partake in the same (I just could not skip that sarcastic comment). That way, feminists will get the best of two worlds, the intolerable conditions they want to rectify will get rectified and the hypocritical silence they maintain on the call girls will become an issue of no cause.

What do you think?

Charity & Publicity

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to this unique Swayamvaram. We have two lovely ladies and one suitor. It is my pleasure to introduce you to these two lovely ladies of retrospection and the man who will make one of them his partner in time. Let me begin with the ladies and with the virtuous of the two.

Charity! What can I say about her? She is a lady of selfless love. She is one who recognizes that pandering to the whims and fancies of a materialistic world is insufficient in adding value to one’s limited life in the stage called world. She is passionate about uplifting the conditions of those who lack the necessities that she takes for granted and spends her time and effort in touching millions of unfortunate hearts and bringing smiles to their faces. She strives to educate people on how she can be emulated in promoting her work throughout the world. However, being democratic in nature, she realizes that she cannot demean people who do not like her nor can she compel others to like her against their wishes. All she hopes is that by setting an example, others will follow suit, for even a pebble dropped can still cause a ripple. She appreciates all those who aid her in her pursuit and though at times it is a thankless job, she knows that people do it not because they need to but because they want to. She is the beacon of kind-heartedness that every one of us has admired in our own capacities and wanted to emulate. She is selfless and does what she thinks is her duty not expecting anything for her in return. She leads from the front for she knows that only by setting an example or trailblazing a path, can one provoke others into action. She is truly the quintessential woman and it is because of her that we still have hope for a better tomorrow.

Now we move on to Publicity. She is the most fawned upon lady in the whole world. She is every photographer’s delight. Her immaculate presence promotes her aura and charm and her 1000 watt smile is reflected by the million flash bulbs that capture every single move incessantly. Being human, she has her good days and bad days, but let us be honest, who does not? She commands the attention of the world and it is not surprising that she does tend to feel superior. She is a shimmering Goddess who at times has overshadowed even the hosts of events she has graced. It was but evident that she would become a commodity, packaged, branded, marketed and sold to a starving audience. She used to and will in the future too loan her brand equity to Charity to promote awareness amongst a wider demographic. After all, what could be more divine than a night of champagne, caviar and diamonds to collect money that can be used by Charity? But just as she is selfless to lend her services to Charity, she should also be able to avail the services of Charity. I mean in this shallow world, how else can you easily further your image than by showing up in a Mink coat for a Charity driven gala or by donating cold cash that Charity could use? And since we live in a symbiotic world, if Charity can use Publicity, why cannot Publicity use Charity? In fact, Publicity has to be credited for inventing those oversized, giant cardboard checks that highlight her contribution just in case you did not read the fine print. After all, Publicity is her name! She is creative for sure. She is the one who paints an abysmal picture of the poor and how her heart aches at that very sight, but not without mentioning how she gave that person some change she did not need! Sometimes Publicity would actually promote Charity unasked, a gesture from a decent heart primarily and occasionally before the onset of elections or movie premiere. Occasionally a deglamourized Publicity may venture into mingling with the actual lives Charity works with, to show there is substance behind her words, but not without her entourage. I mean, it is such a rare sight to see a real celebrity mingling with the unfortunate! Her supporters may argue that it is Charity who gains, but to her detractors it may be hard to swallow especially when only Publicity is predominantly featured smiling when it should actually be Charity smiling. Furthermore, when someone makes $10,000,000 with every new venture and donates $25,000 on an occasional basis and make that seem to be $25,000,000, it is hard to swallow the morsel of cynicism. But I digress. Let me end this portrait of Publicity with this tagline, she is a pretty picture, but how much can you do with just a picture?

Before we end this felicitation purpose, there is one more person seated on the dais. He is the suitor to these two lovely ladies. An unknown, unrecognized individual, he wants to be known as just a man. But in the eyes of Charity, he is the better man. In the eyes of Publicity, he is a simpleton. He lacks the charms and financial power of Publicity and has only his convictions of the heart like Charity, for he is a working man like you and me. Why is he the better man then? Because even when working hard to support his family, he supports an extended family headed by none other than Charity. He seeks no publicity, he seeks no recognition, he seeks no rewards, and all he seeks is the satisfaction of adding value to his mortal life. He is the person who makes $1000 and gives $200 to Charity. He is the person who gives money every month to raise and educate a child of Charity. He is the person who starts an organization that go planting saplings and tending to them all over the city amidst the concrete jungle. He is the one who sets up an institution for mentally challenged individuals when everyone else is dreaming of striking gold in the foreign lands. Does like Charity? YES! Does he need Publicity? YES! But he uses Publicity to promote Charity alone and not himself. He could be your father, he could be your next door neighbour, and he could be your friend who dreams of setting up a school to educate children who cannot afford education, just about anybody. Will he be recognized by the fickle public for his contributions? I do not know, but I know that is something he does not care about. When his efforts are harvested and the sweet fruits of success bring a smile to those who eat it, will that be recognized by the public? I would hope so and so would he, for his focus was as always, the betterment of life, always Charity and never Publicity.

Who will embrace who is left to their own discretion, but from history’s perspective, it is always Charity who gets the better man!

Staying in LOVE

“I can’t help falling in love with you…..”

That is how the famous Elvis Presley song goes and most of us are aware of it in one version or the other. We all have at some point sympathized or empathized with the notion of falling in love. But what is the whole idea behind staying in love? Is there a difference between the two? Yes! What is the difference? The difference is that of night and day; of heat and warmth; of a waterfall and a lake; and many other similar analogies. Falling in love in many ways is the introduction or the appetizer for a lack of a better word. It whets our appetite and prepares us for the moments to come. It tantalizes our senses, awakens many of our hidden desires and evokes emotions and reactions we believed we were incapable of displaying. Staying in love is like the main course, it is what leaves us satiated at the end of the whole thing. And if you notice, at the end of the course, we may touch upon the appetizer, but it always the meal that we compliment. I know I could have used a better analogy, but my point is simple, most often the meals are not as fancy as the appetizers and are also to a large extent, tried and tested and yet, they still have the same impact every time. Before I evoke passions of hunger and you embark on your own culinary adventure, let me take you back to the main topic.

One of the biggest motivations I had for settling upon this topic was because most people tend to suggest that while there are many successful arranged marriage, if success was measured in the number of years of marriage, the actual marriage lacked passion. And there are many couples, where despite having children together, one does not see a visible connection of love between those two life partners. That is when I understood that we as romantics at heart understand the concept of falling in love but did not know that there is another underlying concept called staying in love. If you look at some of the analogies I have mentioned above, the difference is akin to the difference between radiance and calmness. Maybe the lines below would help illustrate my point.

“Bright as fire burns the flame of love,
Ever consuming, at times can scorch a careless heart.
Come twilight, as embers they lie, exuding warmth,
To help tide over the desolate winters, till life does depart.”

Still confused? Falling in love requires a certain level of flamboyance. You need to radiate the passion, the fire that envelopes you, pervades your whole being to the person whose hand you seek. In fact, when you are falling in love, your feeling of elation cannot be kept under wraps and intrinsically you also want to flaunt the depths of your love not only to your lover but also to the world in general. You are competing with yourself to constantly better your previous attempts to woo your lady. But let us be honest, how far do you think we can continue to maintain the same levels of energy? Is it not a common complaint that after marriage, the levels of romantic ardour but does decline? There is also another section of humans who when forced to choose between the blinding intensity of passion and the relatively sedate comfort commonly called security, choose the latter. Too much of anything can prove to be harmful and in many times, a love with unmatchable intensity ends up scorching the world of two. And also, in today’s ever-fickle world, sometimes falling out of love seems just as easy as falling in love.

Staying in love on the other hand is the embers of love that keep us warm throughout our life. It also is testament to the theory that it can take just one heart to fall in love, but you need two hearts for a life of love. When we graduate from the teenage impulses into a more mature sense of love, the flamboyance that was the mark of our love fades gracefully into subtle gestures that remain unseen to the naked eye. By naked eye, I refer to the world in general. Compare a teenage couple and a long time married couple and you can see a marked difference. The verbal or physical reaffirmation of love that exists in the former may not be seen in the latter. But can you say that love does not exist amongst the married couple? It does, but we cannot see it. Why cannot we see it? Because we lack the experiences of life that sharpen the sixth sense that can identify these subtle touches. At their level, there is no desire to impress upon anybody of their love for each other. You might have heard of something called comfortable silence. That is the point in a relationship where you no longer fear the bout of silence between you and your partner. The only reasonable explanation for it is that you are finally secure. You do not need flamboyance, you do not need passion, and you do not need constant reassurances of love, because you know you are truly loved, and only you can see it. If only they can see it, how do I know about it? Because, I pay closer attention to the finer details of life and because I have seen it in my parents. Even today, it is only my mother who sits in front with my father, for as my father has always made it clear to us that the front seat was her rightful place, right besides him. Every time my father mimics my mother, I can hear the affection in his voice. Every time my father visits a mall while on tour abroad, his foremost requirement is to buy whatever my mother has asked for, small or big and never has he gone back without buying something special, something she never asked for, something he wanted to buy, not needed to buy and that big distinction reflects his love for her. The piece de resistance, a New Year’s Eve party where every table was decorated with candles and paper whistles or noisemakers. And on a whim, my father decided to tease my mother by blowing the whistle. There was my father teasing my mother and my mother coquettishly smiling, yet thrilled by this small display of attention by my father. There are certain times in life when you wish you had a camera to record an event for posterity, and luckily I did and that one display made it an extraordinary picture. And every time I think of that instance, I know that my parents are staying in love and will always stay in love. Watch your parents and you will find that they have their own system that is just as subtle and cute.

Is it a mellowed version of what I used to perceive love as? Yes! Is it a lot more subtle than the flamboyance I pursue? Yes! But it seems more gratifying for in the twilight of their lives, they have withstood many winters of discontent and there is no doubt that if they did not stay in love, it would not have been possible. And that is what I hope to emulate. It could be a love marriage or an arranged marriage; it does not make a difference. The only difference is the difference we can make: whether we strive towards staying in love as compared to just falling in love.

“As I stand amidst the fading twilight,
And with nostalgia, look back at what was my life.
A myriad collage of emotions, that was our journey,
Seemingly impossible, but for your continued support, my wife.”

Unfairness of Life

“That is not fair!”

“Well, tough luck! Life is unfair!”

I am sure that each of us have at some point have witnessed those two lines in some form or the other, in one or the other role. I doubt if anyone even gives it a second thought and to be truthful, neither did I. Not when I was the one who was spouting the second line. When did I start to think about it? When I was forced to be on the receiving end of those lines! What was my gut reaction? Well, politely put, I thought that was the lamest thing I had ever heard in my life. Why? Face it, I knew better! Actually, because over the years I have realized that life is never unfair.

The delicate balance that is life always seems work in pairs. Good, bad; right, wrong; joy, sorrow; man, woman; the list goes on. So to me, it seems that the reason that those pairs exist is to balance the plane, in many ways exactly like the blind lady with the scales. Now what is she called? Justice, if I last remember. So what is justice associated with again? Equality I would presume for a lack of a better word and what would equality be called in layman terms? Being fair! Well, I’ll be damned; it almost looks like in fact life could actually end up being equitable to fairness. That would explain all those inane sayings: “What goes around comes around” “As you sow, so shall you reap” and last but not the least, one of the spiritual foundations of life in Hinduism, Karma. Simple stuff and yet also just so complex in nature.

Let me go back to my initial discovery i.e. the time I realized life is not unfair. There was no halo or light bulb above my head when I struck gold. Actually, there was just rising body temperature, anger when I realized that I was being denied what I perceived was rightfully mine. Was I angered for being denied whatever I was seeking? No! What angered me more was to hear those words. Why did it anger me so much? Because, the person who could have been fair, or more exactly should have been fair, did not and gave me a lame excuse at the end of it. In my eyes I knew who the guilty was and that definitely was not life. But since I believe strongly in what goes around comes around, maybe that person will realize their mistake at some point in their life.

So why do we say that then? My thought, just based on my own experiences, primarily from when I proudly spouted ‘life is unfair’ is that I knew what I did was wrong, but did not want to accept it. I had two choices and I chose the easy way out. Was my decision influenced? Absolutely! All those decisions have been extremely subjective and the end decision affected people I really did not care to have in my life. Was I wrong? You bet. It came back to knock me down ten times harder, but that is a different issue. But why did I not stand up for my choices? Because I knew I was wrong and I always wanted to come out smelling like roses. So what is better than having someone accuse you of being unfair? Hiding behind an oft-repeated cheesy statement seemed like the best way out. And that is the psyche of every human, escapism! It is not our fault at all! Blame the world, blame life, blame the circumstances; just do not blame ourselves. I realized my mistake a little too late, and if I have to choose between the easy way out or being fair, I will definitely choose the latter, for when you try to be fair you can be assured that you are undoubtedly doing the right thing. That is the biggest challenge to man, especially as we keep expanding our boundaries, to do the right thing. It almost sounds like I am preaching and the last thing I want to do is that. Do as you please, but at the end of the day look back to see whether you did do the right thing. And also, next time you are accused of being unfair, if you cannot dignify your choice with a legitimate reason, do what my best friend does, look squarely in that person’s eye and tell them, “Yes, I am being unfair! Like it or leave it” or do not say anything at all, just do not say, “Life is unfair” for that is a lie and you know it.

Nee Dhaan!

Kalangalaai varandhu pone bhoomiyai pol,
Rathamum sadhaiyumaai nindren naan.
Kodikannaku mugangal naduvil,
Unnoru mugamaai thirindhen naan.

Yaarukkum puriyadha mirugam pol,
Yennakkul tholaindhu-nindren naan.
Mattavangalai paarthu seerum andha mirugam,
Unnai paartha mudhal tholaindhu-ponadhu dhaan.

Mazhaiyin mudhal thuligal man vaasanathai thoondum pol,
Un paarvaiyil silirthu ponadhu yen deham dhaan.
Janmangalil koodu kaana mudiyada santhoshathai,
Ore nimidathil, un anaipil kandavan naan.

Kuralin varathai vendra saraswathiyin selvan pol,
Un perumaiyai paadi kondu-irrukkum bhakthan naan.
Vazhnaal muzhukkum senja thavathai,
Unnul kalandhu, andha mokshathai kandaen naan.

Udalukul vasikkum atmavai varanikkum thamarai pol,
Unnadathil jananam, maranam kandaen naan..
Nee yen uzhiril kalandhaval mattum alla,
Yen uzhiraiye unnil kandaen naan.

The Art of Having An Opinion

“If thoughts could be put to speech,
Would not words be an extension of your mind?
If what you think is what you say,
Would not opinion or judgment be separated by a very thin line?”

Have you ever had an opinion? I have! In fact, I have had lots of opinions. Opinions about friends, family members, politicians, society, religion; you name it; I would have had some opinion at some point in time. Did I think I was opinionated? No! In my mind, I witnessed an event or a spectacle or incident and I was forming my conclusions based off it. Was I wrong in forming a conclusion based on that instantaneous body of evidence? Sometimes yes! But I have had the courage to alter my opinions to reflect my new found knowledge. Have I been correct in my conclusions? Many a time, yes! So if I have no problems with that process, why am I writing this piece? Because I just discovered that there are many literate people out there who attack others for doing just what I described above. Let me elaborate…

I have seen people ranting about how they do not mind receiving rave reviews or harsh critiques but it is not acceptable that they be judged based on a small subset of evidence! However, what puzzles me is that to critique something is to pass judgment on a body of work, but I guess like the famous Clinton defense, it depends on what is the meaning of the word is! Unless of course the argument is that judge my work but not me. That does not make sense as your work is always an extension of your beliefs, principles, and ethics et al. So just what is the problem then? Let us start with the basics as we try to dissect this problem. Based on definitions, an opinion is a loose form of judgment and a judgment is some version of an opinion. However, there does exist between them a line of separation, but not one that cannot be argued as gray. You can say that that judgment refers to deriving a conclusion. But then, is not forming an opinion akin to that too? The starting point for both is the same: your thoughts. Let us face it, your brain processes data in your own individually developed fashion and how you perceive information will never change unless you consciously do. If that was not true, we would never have the catch-phrase “think outside the box” in the first place. So on a basic level, an opinion and a judgment are the same. Humans are big on first impressions, for no matter how perceptions vary over time, that first impression still lasts. And therefore, whether you form an opinion or a judgment, your basic thought process still remains the same. How you build on it changes i.e. whether it remains and educated guess or an informed decision. You can say that I have contradicted myself on that last line, but if your foundation remains the same, that underlying thread of thought will still tend to influence your final decision. So if it seems but natural to me that opinions and judgments are distant cousins, why do people still rant and rave?

Because the definition in people’s minds is much different that what the book suggests. An opinion is one when YOU pass a remark on someone/something else based on your individually collected body of evidence. A judgment on the other hand, is when OTHERS return the favour to you. Interesting phenomenon eh? All humans since time immemorial have always felt that their personal life experiences, good or bad, happy or sad have given them the power of meaningful insight into life in general and their fellow human beings. The same argument lends to their convictions that no else possesses the same, thereby bristling with anger when someone passes a remark on them. Have you ever heard these defensive lines, “Who are you to pass a judgment on me? You do not know me at all. If you knew me like my friends or parents do, then I can accept your reasoning.” I have a million times, and on many instances I have said the same. But let’s be honest, do our parents and friends really know us inside out as we claim. I would hope not! How many of us have faced judgments by our parents based on exhibited behaviour during our teenage years? How many arguments have we gotten into with friends over misconceptions? Were all of those the result of a detailed analytical evaluation or a rapid fire summary based on information processed by our brains?

Look at the judicial system itself. The verdict hangs on seven people who have never crossed paths with you at all and who make an informed guess at the most based on evidence that spans at most a few years into the past and focuses a lot more on that one incident of shame. If you do not agree, ask Martha Stewart! Do you think it would be good defense, if the defendant stood up and said, “You do not know me to judge me! Ask my parents and friends, and they will tell you who really I am?” I do not think so. Or maybe we should follow the classic Seinfeld episode, where Jerry and George are mistaken as homosexuals and they want to deny it as that is not their choice of lifestyle but at the same time do not want to end up looking like they are judging those who follow it. The result was this classic line, “We are NOT gay! Not that there is anything wrong with that.” Maybe if we all did that, then we could say what we think but at the same time make it seem that is not what we think, so that nobody gets offended. In the world of opinions and judgments, there is always going to be someone who is offended! For every person who disagrees, there is someone who agrees and you cannot have one without the other. All the rave reviews and harsh critiques are predominantly provided by the same level of insight into your anonymous personal life. So if you rail against your critiques, be equally wary of your admirers too!

This problem is also more prominent online. With the advent of internet, the world has shrunk in terms of effective communication and more online acquaintances are being counted upon as friends. So for an online friend, opinions are formed by your chat sessions or your articles published online. Look at the blog world: I could write a piece on religion, which with carefully orchestrated sentences could paint me as a communalist when in reality I could be a secularist or vice versa. People who read my article will judge me based on that piece alone whether they know me or not and it would be foolishness on my part to rail against them for doing so. If I feel that they cannot judge me or my character traits based off what I write, then I better not publish anything for public review. You cannot write three articles that lean towards a negative outlook towards the world and one article on a positive outlook and then cry foul if I perceive you as a pessimist. If you want to be perceived as an optimist, then write only positive stuff or prop your negative commentary on how things could be made better. How you are perceived is primarily in what impression you create in other’s eyes and if the perception differs from what you think it should be, there is only one person to blame, YOU. If you expect only people who truly know you having invested their years and efforts to provide an opnion, then one cannot seek public fame and want to bask in the limelight. For the moment you do, you have given the rights to being judged by the same people whose attention you hope to capture.

So the next time you rail against public apathy, selfishness and other socio-economic issues that pseudo-intellectuals love to write about, make sure you are passing judgment with more than your raw emotions to back it up. Oops, I am sorry! What I meant to say is next time you provide your OPINION on issues, have an elaborate evaluation that spans the breadth, depth and height of the issue under contention. Till that day dawns, whenever you have an opinion, make sure you keep it to yourself, or learn to shrug off how people perceive you, for what goes around only comes around!

Rock of Gibraltar

There she stood, looming ahead even from a distance,
Her proud visage, reflecting a steadfast resolve.
Firm and unyielding, never one to crumble,
Battered by all elements, yet her spirit will never dissolve.
Trials and tribulations of fire,
She bears it with a patience of a saint.
Weathered by time, eroded by surroundings,
She still smiles, nary a complaint.
Only at her feet, beneath, swirls the angry water,
Foaming at the mouth, a spectacle of unseen might.
Crushing her under blankets of waves, ceaselessly,
Crashing onto her with blind ferocity, elsewhere calm as night.
But look deeper beneath the surface, and lo behold,
Her foundations run deep into the heart of the ocean.
Piercing through vast layers of life, she looks at the sun,
Leaving behind an ocean caught in the throes of searing emotion.
Forever lodged in its heart, the ocean roars in vain,
Pull her out – a gaping hole behind, leave her in – forever a painful memory.
A conundrum, cannot live with her, and cannot live without her,
Forever will be just another lost tale in the annals of history.
The rock still stands tall, seeking to be an entity of its own,
Away from the ocean, a different life, a different ending as dreamed.
Etching the remnants of its existence on the face of the ocean,
An ocean, not hostile, merely beseeched.

Dosa Kall Othadham & Milagu Sathumidu

A friend of mine remarked on how my blogs were never trivial in nature and were always directed towards some specific issue, painting it more of an editorial than a blog. While I do not agree with her (what else is new!) I thought I would write on a more frivolous topic and what better one than this?

I am sure many would recognize just what I am going to talk about and I am sure there will be people scratching their heads too. One of my most endearing memories of my childhood in India is the native treatment utilized by my mother as needed to treat us when we were sick. From cold to acne to fever, you name it, she had them all! “Aavi pidikkiradhu” was not to catch a ghost, but to catch steam and that was the most painful and yet the most relieving remedy I have faced. The smell of herbal medicated steam that you took in with deep breaths while cowering under a towel/bed sheet was unbeatable. Your eyes would water, so would your nose and at the end of it, you could breathe clearly through the very stuffed nose you had trouble breathing with.

But my most memorable native cure was the dosa kall othadham! A friend of mine remarked in her first blog about rainy days and how she used to revel in playing in the rains when she was a kid, but now worried about getting muddy water on her new shoes. Did she lose her childish pleasures, she wondered? Valid point, and my only answer to that is, dry cleaning costs are way too high in the USA to even think about stepping in rainy water. Trust me, I KNOW! It took me a month’s bill of $50 to convince me to launder my shirts and dry clean my suits at home with a $10 Walmart dry cleaning kit! More importantly than that surcharge is the fact that when we were kids, we were absolved of all responsibilities including those that primarily affected ourselves. We could play all day in the rain and come back soaking wet, we always had our mothers to dry us off and ply us with warm hot chocolate. In the event, we did fall sick; we would be tended to lovingly by our mothers. However, living in the far corners of the world, alone, we cannot afford the same luxuries and therefore even a small shower scares us off from the gloomy prospect of having to tend to ourselves. Ask me, I KNOW, I am in the middle of it!

So back to the story, there was this time when I must have been in 5th grade and we had this cyclone running through Madras (it will always be Madras to me!) and the heavens opened and the angels cried and I had the best time running around the house in the rain and jumping on those tiny puddles. And not to forget, my brilliant paper ships that were magnificent in their simple construction. The ones that withstood the raindrops and did not keel over were majestic when they sailed. I swear I did not even notice the tadpoles and other minute microorganisms that swam around my Hawaii chappal clad feet! And just as I went overboard with childish delight, my body decided to exercise restraint and I ended up with an intense fever. Not before facing the wrath of my mother for being so stupid to get wet! But, hey, I was sick and treating me became priority number 1. There I lay, on the bed, covered with a thick blanket while a gloomy day reigned outside. The blanket was thick that it made my hot body feel more hot and the moment I removed it, my body shivered from the cold. My body ached, my nose was stuffy, my head ached, there was no doubt I was in hell. Then my mother bought me lunch, boiled rice mixed in a bowl of milagu rasam with ghee. For those who have not had the opportunity to taste this heavenly concoction, I have to say it is purely your loss. Milagu rasam is a tamarind water based south Indian dish that blends the spiciness of black peppers and distinct taste of cumin seeds and mustard, hing (asafoetida), dry red chillies and curry leaves into a smooth and tangy tasting drink that when served hot, does wonders to your dry and achy throat and the wafting smell clears your nose. I would drink that in a cup anytime, as it is definitely a delight. And for someone suffering from fever, that lunch is easy to swallow and tastes much better than anything else (for when you are sick, nothing tastes good). By the time I was done with that, I was feeling much better and was feeling optimistic, when my body was racked with spasms of dry deep coughs. My moment had passed.

Not quite! My mother applied vicks vaporub ( till this day, I cannot stand to apply it on my own) and said, she would give me dosal kall othadham. I did not know what it was, and as I lay still with fever, I was suddenly woken up by a very familiar smell. Yes, a faint dosa smell and I turned to see my mother bring in the dosa kall and a thick terry cloth. For all those from the south, the traditional dosa kall is a black circular piece of metal, whose origins have been wiped out by numerous years of service and would continue to do (this was before the advent of Teflon) and one could never gauge the temperature of the stone as it was just as unreadable as a granite stone. Sprinkling water was the most common method to gauge the body temperature of the stone. Anyways, I raised an eyebrow in apprehension and my mom asked me to remove my shirt and lay on my stomach. After a minute, that seemed like eternity, a slightly hot cloth was pressed firmly to my body. The initial touch of heat not withstanding, the cloth depressed filled my back with warmth of a million suns. My mother would place the cloth on the stone and then transfer that heat onto my back, gently massaging and warming my body. I was in heaven! More than the warmth, I was filled with a smell, which I can only best describe as the smell of home as I will always know it. And I lay there lulled to sleep by the ensuing warmth and that comforting smell that eased my fever ridden aches away. Till this day, when my body aches or I sense an impending fever, I always long for that day, when my mother gave me this most wonderful and simple massage of all. Maybe it was the love, maybe it was the warmth, maybe it was the smell, and maybe it was all of it. Today, when I am struggling to overcome the rainy day blues, I made some milagu rasam and duplicated that meager but most refreshing lunch and I realize that the price I pay for my independence is those tender moments of love. Solitude has always is a punishment, nothing more! In fact, since I am on this nostalgic trip, this is on my agenda of things to do when I go back for my vacation.

Footnote: for the complete remedial treatment for a fever, along with the above mentioned things, add salt water gargling and manja podi paal (turmeric milk) and you are set!

Side note: Manja podi paal is to be made to perfection by boiling milk and adding slightly excess sugar (it has to be sweet) and turmeric powder after the milk starts to boil and mix. After a minute has passed, add crushed pepper or pepper powder in a generous amount and after you shut off the flame, add a dollop of ghee…nothing better for a good night’s sleep.

Where is Home?

Home is where the heart is. So where is the heart? Heart is where home is. Confusing? It better be, for if it were not, then this question would be non-existent. This topic is a conundrum for you cannot have either one without the other. Take the heart out and all you have is a shell of a home. Take the home out and you have a heart with a hole.

Let us start with the heart, for in every single individual’s life, the heart always seems to eclipse everything else. The heart is the most complex issue mankind has ever faced. Unpredictable, impulsive, impractical, the list goes on. The heart is the driving force that refuses to fade into the twilight. The heart can ignore you, but you cannot ever ignore the heart. Ask anyone who has ever been in love. You can try to dampen the beats of your heart, but it always seeps out one way or the other. Look around you; look at you and you know that no matter how steadfast you were in your principles and ideals, when the strings of your heart were pulled, you have succumbed to the same. That is the whole foundation of parental love. You could walk away to the far corners of the world, creating all the distance you want between your parents and you, but when you are down and in the need for help, your parents will always come through, in whatever capacity they can. At least in theory they should. Someone else can sling mud at their parents to disprove me, but I just cannot imagine how much the parents must have been hurt to ignore their children? That however is another story with merit of its own. I can say from my personal experience that the theory I put forward above is valid in my home. My home!

The end of the last paragraph provides impetus to begin this paragraph. Where is home? Home is where your family is. Simple, that is what I would lead you to believe. But not quite, that raises two more questions of its own. Where is home actually and just who is your family. Let me start off with the easier of the two, who is your family? The above paragraph would make it natural for me to say family is your parents and siblings. That is pre-marriage, so what happens post-marriage. You have your own family that is what we all assume. It sounds so natural that when this question is posed to us pre-marriage; we say my parents and my siblings. Post-marriage, we say my wife and kids. So do we have two families? No. Both are your family and we have to realize that. If I were to ask, does the past reflect you or does the present reflect you better, what would the reply be? The past is as much a part of you as the present is and only when you are in peace with both of them can you move onto the future. You can be happy with your own nuclear family but you can be content only when your nuclear family is well integrated into the family you were born into. Sounds a lot like a pitch for joint family does it not? Let us move onto the home issue. Since the physical distance has stopped being a hindrance to our career development, many of us have made a new home on the other side of the Atlantic. But is that really what we consider our home? Personally, I really do not think so. I have had a great time, I have been happy, but have I been joyous? No! Why not? I could share my happiness, but not my sorrows. Sounds like a cliché, right? But that is truth; I truly have not been able to, primarily because I have not felt at home to do so. Ask a person who is in love, they could be in the worst place on earth, but that feeling of elation will make it seem like home. Ask a person, nursing a broken heart, even the best place on earth will never feel like home. Similarly, all the bonds of friendship and brotherhood fade away as mere words when the choice is between you and their family. I do exaggerate, but you get the point. There is a limit to all friendships, but there is no limit to family. It goes beyond the grave. Literally! Don’t believe me? Watch the Godfather. And we spend a large part of our life running away from this simple concept thinking we can make it all on our own, forgetting that we are who we are because of our family influences and we will never be able to shake the roots of that influence until we die.

Home is where people do not merely put-up with you due to their own vested interests. Home is where there is no need to put-up with you. Home is where they want to put-up with you for you are just so wanted. Home is where you can be truly content being yourself. That is truly your only life support system, for undoubtedly, blood is thicker than water. Home is your past, your present and your future. Home is where your family is and the heart is where that home is.

Bottom-line: I know where my heart is, do you?

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Unsung Heroes

Before anyone read this piece thinking that it is about some unknown movie star, let me put out this disclaimer. This is not about any movie stars or tennis stars or cricket stars etc. This is about ordinary human beings. Actually, it is not even about ordinary human beings, but about special human beings who are making a real difference with how they are and want to lead their lives.

What spurred on this topic? Why have I decided to write this when there has been quite a time lag between my last column and this one? While the backbone of this piece has been in my mind for quite some time, it was not until today that I felt a strong urge to put into words what I felt inside. The main catalyst for this piece was Visu's Arratai Arangam on Sun TV. This is a familiar program for Tamilians, but for others may be something they have never heard of. This is a weekly program that appears on every Sunday and tackles many a social problem that exists in today's society in India. This has been on television for quite a number of years and is quite popular amongst a wide variety of people. When I was in India I used to watch this on and off and then there was a break of four years when I was in the United States. Once I started to work I did subscribe to this TV channel and re-acquainted myself with some of my favorite programs, including this. So what is in this program that affects me?

A feeling of envy, shame, pride and brotherhood are the emotions that tug my heart every Sunday for those thirty minutes. To elaborate on the emotions further:

a) Envy: Yes, Envy! Consistently every time I see this program, I watch agape, because living in a world where language be it spoken, screened or read is being dumbed down to the point of illiteracy, the participants speak in their mother tongue so clearly and comfortably that I feel ashamed that I do not have a deep rooted grasp of the same. The envy does not end only with their being able to communicate their thoughts, angst, awe or basic emotions clearly and succinctly. It extends beyond it to those individual’s knowledge of works be it scriptures such as the Bhagavad Geetha to Thiruvalluvar’s Kural to Bharatiyaar’s poems and other literary pieces to even folk songs. Participants quote such pieces verbatim and most appropriately to further their arguments. Age is no barrier when it comes to this, for I have seen a 6th grade student quote a verse from the Kural and also a 80 year old man quote Bharatiyar. Where did these individuals get the initiative to be inspired by these literary marvels? It had to come from somewhere, be it from within or be it from around them. In a world where hypocrites keep decrying the death of culture, language and tradition at the drop of a hat or their trousers claiming to be vanguards of the same citing asinine reasons such as the English titling of a movie as excuses, these participants are truly the real vanguards of language, culture and tradition. They live the language they speak and undoubtedly will pass it on to their children and others who come in close contact to them. To hear them debate fluently irrespective of age, background or sex while entertaining the crowds to raucous laughter or overwhelming the audience with tales of their sorrowful life, is to realize that there is a difference between shouting your mind and speaking your mind. We have now entered an era where anyone with a forum of any size tends to shout his or her mind to those willing to lend them an ear. These people try to ram their opinions down your throat. However, the people on this show speak their mind lucidly most always, in order to touch you, to get you to think, to ruminate and even act. That is not an easy fact and they deserve more than a round of applause for their gift of talk.

b) Shame: Most always, the participants have experienced severe tragedies in their lives. It takes a lot of courage to come and stand in front of millions and talk openly about those painful periods in life. Ensconced in my apartment enjoying the fruits of a good life, I have never given a second of my thoughts to the hard knocks that life does offer to others. Neither have I ever thought twice about the good life that I have led, nor have I been particularly thankful to anyone for the same, taking it as my birthright! But when you hear some of the sordid tales repeated personally by people who have lived them, not only are your eyes moved but your heart is too. Too often in our lives, we go through it taking for granted what could be considered the monotony of life, not thinking twice about how grateful we should be for the same. To have the basic amenities, such as food, clothing, shelter, education, opportunities that so many others lack is not a small thing. Couple that with good health and lack of any physical handicap and you realize that your life is truly better off than you imagine it to be. And yet, we still complain and whine about how much better it could be. We are never satisfied with what we have, and constantly compare it with that of people around us to further feel sorry for ourselves. Contrast that with these people, they not only have lacked some of the same amenities but instead of wasting their lives in reflection or complaints, they have actually fought hard to overcome these mountains in order to make something out of nothing. We are yet to see the googlies life can throw at us, but having beaten those same googlies for a sixer, these people once again show why a large majority of the people in today’s society are self absorbed with themselves alone.

c) Pride and brotherhood: This is singularly the predominant emotion that washes over me. Pride in my fellow Indians, pride in the tenacity of mankind to survive against all odds. These are truly the survivor movies that movies try to recreate to tug at our emotional reservoirs. When I look around at societies that have become self-absorbed and lazy from a life of excess, who crumble into a pile of mud at the first roadblock that is thrown at them, I realize that individuals who end up being unparalleled winners in their lives are most often the ones who have nothing to lose. Only when you are in the depths of hell, do you realize how much sweet heaven must taste and only then are you willing to walk through the trials and tribulations of fire to taste that sweet success. Almost all of the people who take center stage have at some point in their lives been left groping in the dark without even a candle to illuminate their path. But most always, be it by the dint of their own efforts or that of their parents or other benefactors, be it a teacher or someone else, have worked hard to light up their lives rather than be forgotten as mere shadows in the dark. More importantly, a lot of them have invariably not rested with lighting up their house alone but have gone further to light the whole street, the whole society to help others from remaining in the dark. When all the pseudo-intellectuals debate themselves silly over how living conditions in India are stark, how the political machinations are ruining the very fabric of life, how individual freedom is restricted, how traffic has increased considerably associated with heat, pollution etc while sitting 18,000 miles away worrying about their work visas and green cards and complying to the whim and fancies of the patriot law; these are the people who are actually living amidst all the harsh conditions and doing their best to improve the conditions of the society they live in. Every time I see them talk about their dreams, their actions, their ideas to improve the country, I feel a common bond of brotherhood, a feeling that I am not alone and there are so many brothers and sisters out there who dream of improving the country to the same glorious state that I dream of. I stand today knowing that I will always have company to help carry out the common dreams of changing the system for a better life for generations to come. For these are the unsung heroes, ignored by the media in their quest for sensationalism and unappreciated by the majority self-absorbed in their own lives and comfort. Whether it is creating the spark that will light the fire of revolution or help carry the torch to raze the shackles of bureaucracy, these are the giants on whose shoulders a better India will be created.

To be continued


In your eyes, I find an image of myself,
Captured in resplendent glory, for eternity to come.
Like virgin land preserved in its pristine glory,
I stand tall, a man whose fabric of spirit can never come undone.
The image basks in the warmth of the radiant sun,
Mocking me, for living in the shadows of gray.
Unwavering the gaze, my shooting star,
As I stumble through darkness, paving my way.
At times, the image flickers with uncertainty,
As I fall from grace, an ordinary mortal once again.
Through the flood of tears that scorches my heart,
I see the re-affirmation of the love that bears my name.
As I look into that reflection of mine,
A deluge of hope and despair overwhelms me.
I see the man who would be King, and yet.
I may never end up being the better man you see me to be.
No matter how hard I try, I always fail,
To put into words the essence of your love and you, my beloved.
The answer but lies in that reflection in your eyes,
Secure in the knowledge on how it feels to simply be loved.


22 – v - 05

Friday, April 15, 2005


Here I was sitting in an Indian restaurant during lunch conversing with a colleague when not surprisingly, an Indian girl along with three other companions walked by. She was sans makeup and not beautiful in the traditional sense of the word, but she was attractive. She was dressed casually in jeans and a dress shirt that was peeking through her black sweater. The sweater seemed out of place for such a balmy weather. As is the norm during a lunch buffet in Indian restaurants, they went to get their plate of food and throughout the process; my eyes kept going back to her. Then I saw one of the guys place his hand on her shoulder to guide her and I did not think twice about it. They sat to eat and there was a light banter that she exchanged with that guy and then she took an extra naan from her plate and put it on that of her companion. It was then I realized that he was more than just a mere companion. They had to be in a relationship. And it was not anything they did overtly, but it was more of a subtle gesture, a nuanced emotion that one would miss if they blinked. In fact, I am positive the girl herself would not have been aware of that moment. And for no reason that single moment stayed in my mind throughout the rest of the day. What was that moment you ask? She did not dump that piece of naan, she did not drop but she placed it but not quite. She pursed her lips in a coquettish fashion, and her face wore an expression of pout that seemed to indicate that she was doing him a favour by giving him that piece of naan and he better appreciate the fact that she did so. It is the look that lovers especially women give to the man they really love. A look that is so hard to duplicate intentionally for it is truly unintentional.

That got me thinking. I have always come across people who claim that they could get the better of emotions. They believed that they have the capability to contain within themselves all emotions trapping them behind a face of impassivity. I believed I was one of them but now I know better. Human beings are societal beings and a large part of their psyche is the need to be within a collective framework of support. And by that I mean, they are primarily creatures that cannot survive in isolation. There are exceptions no doubt, but predominantly, we can only hold so much for so long within ourselves. The need to spill the beans; to share is what keeps us connected together emotionally, physically and spiritually. There is absolutely no one who can claim to be bereft of basic emotions and sub-consciously we have a desire to show the rest of the world the emotional state we find ourselves in. How many times have you been in a situation where you know something is amiss or wrong with the person sitting across you, be it a friend, a colleague or a partner, but never ventured to ask them what the problem was only to have them draw your attention with a sigh or a sniffle to the emotional state they are in? Why? Because apart from the above mentioned reason, we are also in many ways so full of ourselves, that we want others to take interest in what we feel, we want to give them the opportunity to glimpse into our world, to understand what it feels to be us. As quick gun Murugan said, “We are like this only.”

The best part of this is despite our want to share our feelings; we are also in many ways oblivious to that want. And that is why sometimes the sigh or sniffle exhibited above is also unintentional. Similar to how people at times think aloud. And we are built such that, invariably we can pick up on when someone is happy or sad or angry just by realizing that something out of the norm is happening. For we are also creatures of habit. How many times have we caught a rosy glow or a blush on our friend’s face that we could have never imagined possible when they are in love or how many times have we noted the diminishing appetite of a family member and asked what the problem was? Especially when someone is in love or truly happy and have been hiding the fact from others. You have to practically tease the news out of them and when you finally get them to reluctantly admit, you can see an emotion of pure bliss, for now they have shared it with the world, something they wanted to do so in the first place but could not due to other circumstances. Or when someone shares their pain with you, the tears that they shed also helps absolve them in parts of the burden they carry and almost always, you see a calmer and more secure visage once they clear those tears, even if for a fleeting second telling you that they feel much better than before. Look out for those subtle gestures that remind you time and again that in the larger scheme of things, you share more than physical space with others. You share a piece of their life as they do with yours, whether you are a lover, a family member, a friend or even a complete stranger. Just like that girl in the restaurant.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Polar Opposites?

April 14th, the Tamil New Year approaches and tamilians all over the globe are all a twitter. No, it is not in anticipation of the traditional avial and vada, but because two eagerly anticipated movies will be released. In their own manner, people all over the internet have engaged in pre-release hysteria, from nostalgic remembrances to mindless slandering. Music reviews, movie previews, personality traits, box office collections, the colour of the undergarments worn, all are the exhibits declared to the junta. Okay, the last one was made up but I am sure if it was the topic people would debate the functionality and effectiveness of the striped boxer underwear to the vip frenchie and somehow connect it to why one person is better than the other. What is this mass hysteria all about? It is about two individuals. Who are these two individuals? Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. So what is special about these two that warrants such human behaviour? Here goes.

Both of these above mentioned individuals are famous actors in Tamil Cinema. They have been in the industry for almost 3 decades and have been ruling the roost for two of those. On one corner we have Kamal Haasan, the Super Actor, who has been undeniably acclaimed an actor par excellence. He has lived most of his life within this industry and from the looks of it, cinema is his life. He also is an astute person, well read and knowledgeable about a myriad of topics, an achievement for a high school dropout when compared to the ignorance of many well educated human beings. I could go on about him, but a lot of it has been well documented before and therefore, to avoid redundancy, I will refrain myself from going forward. On the other corner is Rajinikanth, the Super Star, who has been undeniably, acclaimed a mass entertainer beyond doubt. He came into this industry from nowhere and rose through the ranks to be where he is now. While cinema has been his daily bread and butter, spirituality holds more interest to him and has long been known to want to further his spiritual self. Again, a lot has been documented about him and so I will not repeat likewise. With this brief introduction, let us move onto the crux of the matter.

Despite the route they traversed within the Tamil cinema field, both have landed at the top of the rung, with each pitted against each other. One was touted to be the class actor and the other was a mass actor. One was acclaimed for his creative attempts to push the envelope of Indian cinema while the other was praised for his simple attempts at keeping the Indian cinema aficionados entertained. As their tenure increased, so did the intense rivalry between their fans. There was a time when the lines of division were set in stone and each side was clearly demarcated both in their offense and defense. As the years went by, with each of the main players choosing different paths, the rivalry still seems to be just as strong. And that is an inexplicable part of the Indian psyche, especially that of a Tamilian. There was, is and never will be any common ground when it comes to this issue. But how did an ordinary competition end up so intense and why has that not transcended to the current crop of actors?

The answer is simple. Both these individuals were painted as polar opposites of each other. And it did help that the individuals themselves seemed a perfect fit to the image generated by the common man. Leaving aside the craft and their intrinsic talent, their movies were first divided on basis of the end user that their product was aimed at. Despite, Kamal Haasan having a numerous string of movies that catered to the mass population, predominantly his movies has always attracted the hoi polloi or city slickers. Rajinikanth on the other hand seemed to attract more of the masses and that has been his strength till date. And from that basic separation is derived the Super Actor and Super Star tag, for it clearly identified one with the craft and the other with the mass adulation. Then the separation was made on the actual personality differences and character traits. The former was outspoken and unapologetic despite it being portrayed as an aura of elitism that has been construed as snobbery and arrogance. He lived his life to the fullest and was known to be a ladies man and has consistently seen his share of trials and tribulations in his personal life. The latter was more guarded in his speech and thought process and his projected personality was more of a humble, modest person who went the family way for most of his life. This difference again drove the wedge further between the fans, many of whom would never hesitate to play this card when an argument between the two flares up. Finally, the chasm widened when the movies that they made was so far apart from each other, that it cemented the cherry on top of all arguments. That cherry being, the former is trying to elevate Indian cinema to higher levels while the former is grinding the same flour again, if you ask the fans of the former. While the fans of the latter, would belittle any failed experiments while touting the same ground masala as time pass entertainment. This argument can never be settled for each side will play their cards over and over again like a stuck record. Additional argument cards have been more of selective amnesia and hypocritical attitudes of the people who revel in the same genre, the same opening song and mannerisms and punch dialogues of the latter while relishing any experimental failures of the latter denouncing it as an intellectual crime while belittling the same masala of the former as unacceptable fare. The former can never win in anyway in these people’s eyes while the latter can only win in one way in their eyes too.

But if you look at it from a purely objective perspective, there is no denying that when it comes to the actual craft, leaving aside all external factors, the former definitely possesses a far superior repertoire as compared to the latter. When it comes to their personality, the former is akin to the liberal left while the latter straddles the middle line between the left and the right. This is evident in their movies too, where the movies of the former refuse to be constrained within ethical and moral boundaries, while the latter does sermon the importance of values in most of his movies. But then again, are they really the polar opposites? I do not believe so. Most of these are media portrayed. But individually, both of them do same similar traits.

In terms of their business acumen, both are astute businessmen, who have sought out new avenues to further their personal revenues. Both of them take distribution rights in addition to their salary and are consistently the highest paid actors in the field. Both are comfortable with a select set of directors, who can work with them without meddling too much in how they believe the movie should shape out to be. If the former has had a lot of publicized fallouts with people within the industry, the latter has his own share of problems with others, but on a less publicized scale. Both have considerable muscle in the industry, which they flex on a regular basis to keep others in check. Both also recognize the strength of their fan base and ensure that they cater to their needs to keep them as energized as possible. However, they do differ in what they believe is good cinema and their individual approach to the same. The former has been consistent in his efforts to push the boundaries of acceptable cinema and bridge the enormous gap between commercial and art cinema. Even if it is the same flour, he keeps experimenting with new spices to hopefully achieve a new taste. The latter still believes in the same taste and commercial cinema is his only aim. If he can deliver that, he is content.

In terms of their personality there are still similarities. Both have been ladies men and while the former keeps getting attention drawn to the same, the latter has his own closet of skeletons, which no one dare mention for his image is that of a family man. The former is strong in his beliefs and convictions and believes no one can judge him behind the screen. The latter shares a similar approach and his personal life is off boundaries to anyone until he decides to share it. The value system of the former has always been questioned, and critics always bandy it around like it is the last nail in his coffin but that coffin lid can never be shut for the a lot of Indians seem to be sharing the same value system nowadays as he does. The latter escaped the spotlight on his values system, but to me it is still suspect because his speech and actions have not matched many a time. The former is accused of arrogance time and time again as opposed to the humble latter, but in my eyes, any person who could go on television and exclaim that if the people of a state don’t vote the way he thinks he should that even God won’t be able to save them is in no way modest. On the contrary, one must possess a higher level of perceived self esteem to be able to even contemplate the same. On the flip side, self confidence is always threatening to other insecure human beings, and many a time it is this self-confidence that borders on the line of arrogance that gets misplaced as absolute arrogance. Both have leveraged their position for charity and the former does it on a continuous basis. How they shape their fan clubs is a different matter, for the former wants to shape his fan club as a social organization while the fan club of the latter is just that. Also, the former has the temerity of a survivor with each failure not deterring his passion for experimenting with good cinema, while the latter prefers to get back to basics with each failure to comply with the wishes of his fan base.

The current crop of actors will never see such an intense rivalry for there are no perceived polar opposites. Each works the same formulas, the same style of songs, attacking opponents via dialogues. There is no discerning difference in the end products as opposed to these two, for the movies of both the former and latter were different in all aspects, from dialogues, to songs, to lyrics to costumes, production etc. They carried their movies and to a large extent that is why they decimated the competition and were the two leading men of the industry for so long. Successors came and went, but they stood firm. The current crop of actors does not have that base of stability for the field seems to be over crowded and leveled, which was unthinkable of earlier.

In terms of each other, no matter what differences they may have had in the past, behind the screen stories indicate that they remain good friends with the latter even offering to mediate in the failed marriage of the former recently. Each of them is supposed to consult with each other on issues that are common to both of them especially pertaining to the industry. Any event, any stage, if you see their appearance, it is the same for they have long exceeded their game of one-upmanship. They have long stopped targeting each other and moved forward at focusing on their careers alone. Now that their paths are so divergent, they have stopped being competitors for truly in the real sense of the word, they are not competitors. Each is making products for different users and while the fans make it seem otherwise, that is the truth. Everything is but a matter of perception, and that false perception is why people who really have no authority in the movie making field are the ones debating fiercely on who is better than whom. To each his or her own tablet of pleasure and my own is that there is a reason one is called the super actor and that is all that matters.