Saturday, November 24, 2007

Saturday Poem

Missing things by Vernon Scannell who passed away last week

I'm very old and breathless, tired and lame,
and soon I'll be no more to anyone
than the slowly fading trochee of my name
and shadow of my presence: I'll be gone.
Already I begin to miss the things
I'll leave behind, like this calm evening sun
which seems to smile at how the blackbird sings.

There's something valedictory in the way
my books gaze down on me from where they stand
in disciplined disorder and display
the same goodwill that well-wishers on land
convey to troops who sail away to where
great danger waits. These books will miss the hand
that turned the pages with devoted care.

And there are also places that I miss:
those Paris streets and bars I can't forget,
the scent of caporal and wine and piss;
the pubs in Soho where the poets met;
the Yorkshire moors and Dorset's pebbly coast,
black Leeds, where I was taught love's alphabet,
and this small house that I shall miss the most.

I've lived here for so long it seems to be
a part of what I am, yet I'm aware
that when I've gone it won't remember me
and I, of course, will neither know nor care
since, like the stone of which the house is made,
I'll feel no more than it does light and air.
Then why so sad? And just a bit afraid?


poem courtesy Review, Saturday Guardian

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bees to buzz no more

I could go on for a while. There's still PC bullies, hyper-sensitive Muslims quick to be offended by any reference to the one on whom peace may upon be, extra-hyper-sensitive secularists who rush to the rescue of quickly-offended Muslims in order to prove their secular credentials, language boors, facebook, myspace, shopping, cooking, Saravana Bhavan portion-size, arranged-vs-love marriage debate, any vacuum cleaner other than Dyson...see? I could have any entire apiary in my head. But I will desist. I risk becoming the driver who complained about other road-users while determinedly driving on the wrong side of the road. Perhaps I'm the one with the chip on my shoulder. Anyway, thank you all for having engaged with me. It was great fun. A new series will follow shortly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A bee in my bonnet 10

Accent Police

I speak with an accent, I admit. So do you. So does she. And him. And them. And everyone we know. Can we really speak without an accent? And sound neutral? The thing is, we never notice how we speak until it sounds different from others in a given context. I don't know how you would classify my accent. Indian, I guess. So when I'm in India, I sound like everybody else. But here, I often have trouble getting myself understood, especially over the phone. So I deliberately soften the consonants and skim over the words.

Wait, I'm coming to the point. It is this. Why do so many people - especially Indians - have a problem when other Indians sound different from how they think they should speak? Why do we come down so heavily on others whom we claim to speak with a 'false accent'? I know I have this habit of mimicking others without realising it. I used to use a lot of 'achhas' and 'haans' when I was living in a place where that was how people spoke. Now, I've gradually worn down that habit. So if we subconsciously or even deliberately pick up accents so as not sound too different from others, what's so wrong about that? Also, please tell me what's so virtuous about saying things like 'I still speak with an Indian accent despite having lived abroad for 10 years'?

A bee in my bonnet 9

Model behaviour

Is it just me that finds it funny when models refer to what they do as 'work'? Does posing and pouting really count as 'work'?

Monday, November 19, 2007

A bee in my bonnet 8

Lest we forget their meaningless titles...

A few days ago I came across article in a website about former Miss World Aishwarya Rai doing something utterly insignificant like taking a dump or something. A most crucial thing to be informed of I imagine, to the watchers of former Miss World Aishwarya Rai. I don't know much about the day-to-day happenings in the life of former Miss World Aishwarya Rai except that she is married to Bollywood superstar Abhishek Bachchan. I have seen wedding photographs of former Miss World Aishwarya Rai and Bollywood superstar Abhishek Bachchan. They make a lovely couple. This former Miss World Aishwarya Rai and Bollywood superstar Abhishek Bachchan, don't you think?

Friday, November 16, 2007

A bee in my bonnet 7


The other day I walked into the ladies shower room at our local swimming pool and found two middle aged women having a shower. It's an open shower room with no cubicles. The two women who were both naked (as one should be under a shower) seemed to be deep in discussion. I kept my one-piece costume on (as I usually do) and went to the far shower in the room. I winced involuntarily as a hot jet stream hit prickled my back. The women turned to me and said something about the water temperature. I looked down at the floor, mumbled a response and quickly shuffled outside to the changing rooms.

The incident really got me thinking. Why was I so embarrassed when they were the ones who didn't have any clothes on? Was it due to years and years of 'shame, shame, puppy shame'? If so, surely I should realise by now that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about one's body. I know a lot of other women who would have reacted the same way as me in a similar situation. Why are we so bothered by the sight of our naked selves? My little boy has no problem walking around the house in the buff. We too must've been like that as kids. When did it change? And why do we think it's so wrong? Is this an Indian women thing? Why do we go all 'chee-chee' at the first sign of nudity? Is it because we believe in the superiority of keeping one's modesty? Or is it simply because we dare not take our clothes off? And really, are we just jealous of those that do, even if it is only in a public shower room?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A bee in my bonnet 6


Particularly, modern free verse. You know, kind where they don't rhyme. The kind where I run out of time (rhyme-time, get it?). The ones that look like someone can't. punctuate and .
just broke up sentence. Because.
I don't get it. To be fair, I tried. I subscribed to an e-newsletter (minstrels, since you ask) and I often read the footnotes before reading the poem. And again, to be fair, there were some real gems in it. I also come across some good free verse scattered among blogs and I love the insight they offer with such an economy of words. However, they are few and far between. Consider this one, for instance.

Caramel America
Partisan interloper rebuts
Pause, briefly
A fond farewell.

What do you think of it? Do you like the eerie mysticism? Or the powerful imagery it evokes? Or the subtle commentary on modern life that it makes? Well, if you get something - anything out of it, good for you. Because, I just picked out those lines from a random scan of today's Guardian and strung them together. And sometimes, when I read such random acts of 'poetry', it gets me angry. I feel I'm being mocked. Perhaps, that's the intention. In which case, why doesn't someone come out and say 'gotcha! you pretentious piece of poetry-lover!'?

Yeah, yeah, I know what you are saying. That it's poetry and there are no rules in poetry etc. But hand-on-heart, tell me, who are you kidding? Isn't most of this modern verse thing just rubbish really?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A bee in my bonnet 5

Mani Rathnam

What's all this talk about Mani Rathnam being India's best director and so on? Honestly, when was the man's last good movie? Nayagan? Mouna Ragam? I admit, I liked Alaipayuthe in parts but then you don't look at a child and say how gorgeous are the toes while determinedly ignoring the warts on the face. I could barely sit through Dil Se. And as for Guru, let's not go there, shall we? Like the kind and like-minded husband pointed out, two hits and fifteen flops don't make a master. They only serve to make the good ones seem like anomalies in an otherwise extraordinarily dull career. And yet the man enjoys much popularity and a haloed status among movie goers. He is beyond criticism and his movies are analysed within a breadth of their rather flimsy life. How did he get there? How did he come to enjoy a status that sees stars queueing outside his door for a reportedly pittance of a fee despite his string of flops? How come he commands such a long leash from his audience who don't accord other film-makers the same privilege?

Mani has been clever in shrouding his projects in secrecy and staying away from the media glare. These have always added to a sense of intrigue that precedes the release of his movies. But none of that hype can take away from an otherwise mediocre product. I feel somewhere along the way Mani started believing in all the hoopla surrounding him and succumbed to it. He started taking himself too seriously and began sketching a canvas that was way beyond what his limited talents could handle. He offers such simplistic solutions to end communal riots and ethnic conflicts that beggar belief. And as for his attempts at biopics, he doesn't have the balls to go all the way and seems to find curious comfort in elaborate disclaimers at the start of the movie. This is the point in my rant when I say that I'm not a movie critic or an expert and just a regular enthusiast. But why bother? You probably know that already.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A bee in my bonnet 4

On photography

I have a problem with photography. With photography as an art, to be precise. I just can't seem to be able to take it seriously (even if it's not exactly gagging for my approval). You see, to me it just shall I put it? Too easy. I mean, where's the effort involved in putting together a piece of art? I was watching a documentary on photography a few days ago and it showed the brilliant photographer Henri Cartier Bresson at work. He walks around with his little Leica hidden behind him and when he sees his perfect composition coming together, he whips out his camera and goes 'click!, click!'. C'est tout! (as he may have exclaimed). That's it? No agonizing over the canvas? No tossing and turning over the inability to find the perfect 'blue'? No spending months and years observing a landscape in changing light? None of that suffering and just a few clicks? Which leads me to wonder if the superiority of an art is directly proportional to the sufferance of the artist? I don't know. It just seems as if photography, at least to me, is not as substantial an art as say painting is. There's no bulk to it, if you know what I mean. Convince me otherwise, won't you?

p.s. also, will someone please tell me who clicked the Tantex hoarding in Vyasarpadi?

Friday, November 09, 2007

A bee in my bonnet 3

The C word

Indian culture. What is it to you? To me, it seems like a convenient and rather hazy area that covers everything from dress code to Bollywood to wedding ceremonies to prime time tv soaps. When I posed this question to an ancient uncle of mine once, he told me that it's the practices that have been followed for centuries by our ancestors. So I asked him if practised long enough, would watching Pepsi Uma on Sun TV become a pillar of Indian culture some day? He didn't answer me but looked at my mother to suggest that she had better get me married soon. So this is what I'd like you to tell me. I don't care for academic definitions. But what's your understanding of culture? Specifically, Indian culture?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A bee in my bonnet 2

On Travelling

The other day I heard someone say '...because travel expands horizons'. And I desperately wanted to ask 'really?'. I would've liked to know how travelling economy class, staying in budget hotels, complaining about local food/mosquitoes/toilets and having your photo clicked in front of the Eiffel Tower contributes to widening of perspective. The previous sentence is not to suggest that if you travelled business and stayed at star hotels you'd be any wiser. But I just don't get the wisdom that one is supposed to draw from having a few more stamps on your passport.

And as Indians we seem particularly fond of showing off how many places we've been to around the world. You need to look no further than any of the social networking sites to see desis posing in front of Statue of Liberty/Sydney Opera House/second-hand Toyota car in their profile photo. The inference that one intends for others to draw is clear. Look at me, I'm widely travelled and therefore I must be better than you. Sure, it is fun going to a new place and seeing new people. But is travelling anything more than that? Especially in this day and age when we seek to replicate the same atmosphere as home wherever we go. With holiday companies offering customers masal vadai and tea in Swiss Alps and some airlines offering Jain cuisine. Why is it any better than staying at home and watching the same on telly? Some of the most interesting people I know have never left their hometowns. In fact, they don't even have a passport. And some of the most peripatetic people I know are none the wiser for it. So why are so many benefits attributed to travelling the world? What's your take on it?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A bee in my bonnet

On Reading

Yesterday I finished reading a most riveting book (more of that another time). And it got me thinking. Not the content of the book itself. But the whole thing about reading. And why it's considered such a superior thing to do. We talk of bookworms in such warm and affectionate terms. Like somehow reading a Danielle Steele is a noble thing to do. Whereas those addicted to telly are reviled in the most derogatory terms. Why is one a better hobby than the other?

So often I come across people who love to show off how much they've read. A person's worth is judged by the books that line his bookshelf - even if half of them have never been thumbed past the first few pages. Then there's the more dangerous association we regularly make. Between reading and intelligence. Is one because of the other? Is one due to the other? If so, how? Is there any tangible evidence to show that reading makes a better person? That devouring fiction will somehow endow the reader with wisdom (I use the term very loosely here, but you get the drift)? So why this snobbery when it comes to books? Your thoughts in the comment box please!

The Marathon Mummy

" birth was tougher than a marathon", says this year's New York marathon winner Paula Radcliffe. We agree!