Monday, November 15, 2010

Can big ever be good?

A friend sent me a link
A fascinating interview, where the interviewer raises an interesting question. The discussion is in the context of markets being driven by large companies, brands and monopolistic organizations and how it has impacted the global economy.

The question: Can big ever be good?
Answer by Andrew Simms, one of the authors: “The problem with scale in the economy - be it at an enterprise or an institution - is that being big makes it harder and harder to be responsive to local circumstances. We have not yet found a way to make large institutions work well at a local level. When you have too many large organizations you get imbalance, frailty and vulnerability. Diversity of scale, size and range and type of organization - as in nature - is an insurance policy against disaster. Optimal diversity delivers greater resilience. That's not to say you can't have any large organizations, but the problem at the moment is whichever sector you look in there has been a relentless trend towards ever fewer, ever larger companies dominating larger shares of the market. The larger they are the harder they fall”.

Yes, when they fall, they fall harder and badly hurt everyone around them due to ripple effect. But even before they fall, it is anything but ideal. I liked the way the author drew parallels between single large organization s controlling the majority and the lack of diversity in nature. It is clearly bound to fail. Just like monoculture of crops/ species is bad for the ecosystem and risky for the natural world so is a monoculture of businesses and institutions risky for the social –economic world. Today the world appears to be run by a handful of organizations and institutions that control everything –food, water, natural resources and even how one should live. To gain more insights on this read Vandana Shiva’s Stolen Harvest.

When it comes to food, the agenda of a handful of corporations that control it all is to move away from a sustainable production system emphasizing crop diversity to a large scale, monoculture production system that is often unsustainable. A common argument raised by those who endorse this strategy is that it helps in combating food insecurity issues. Could this be true when reports indicate that the number of hungry people in the world is on the rise? Could this be true, when ironically enough you see that the food producers are primarily the ones that are starving? A good example is India, a traditionally agrarian society where malnutrition among children is twice that of Sub-Saharan Africa! If we are indeed producing in large quantities then how come there are so many hungry people around?

Well, to clear things a bit Frances Moore Lappe was in campus as part of the distinguished lecture series. She is the author of Diet for a Small Planet, and Hopes Edge and also one of the founders of Food First (a.k.a. Institute for Food & Development Policy). Her talk was interesting to say the least. It was sprinkled with all the relevant buzz words associated with food these days- “food insecurity”, “food sovereignty”, “food democracy” …

She believes that this idea that there is scarcity of food is a created one. The fact that there is not enough food being produced to feed the world is simply a myth. She gave some numbers to prove her point. The issue is not how much is produced but what is done with what is produced. According to her (or her sources), 1/2 of the grains produced in the world is used for feeding livestock and 1/3rd of fish caught from the oceans is converted to fish feed!..and so on and so forth. Vandana Shiva also discusses these points in length in her book- Stolen Harvest. She says..

"In a competitive model such as the livestock industry, grain is diverted from human consumption to intensive feed for livestock. It takes 2kgs of grain to produce one kg of poultry, 4kgs of grain to produce 1kg of pork , and 8kgs of grain to produce 1kg of beef." She also says : "The shift from a cooperative, integrated system of agriculture ( which is what traditional agriculture is about), to a competitive fragmented one creates additional pressures on scarce land and grain resources. This in turn leads to non-sustainability, violence to animals, and lower productivity when all systems are assessed".

Thus, what is being experienced now is the negative effects of industrial agriculture where focus is on production of monocultures such as rice and wheat and now corn and sugarcane with the increasing demand for bio-fuels. These are "food production" mainly aimed to meet the international market demand. Vandan Shiva calls it "the recipe for starving people, not feeding them". Lappe considers it the work of some very imaginative multinational corporations who literally decides who gets what, how much and when. Their control over the supply of world’s resources is the illegal power they hold and is what needs to be captured. There is a Monsanto that decides what we should grow and not grow which in turn impacts what we should eat and not eat, there is aWall-Mart that decides what people can buy and cannot buy, there is a Vedanta Res.Ltd who decides what natural resources belongs to whom and there is the “rich” North that decides what the “poor” South can do and cannot do.Clearly "big is not good".

There has been many and enough revolutions that bare evidence to all this. The green revolution, the white revolution, the blue revolution. I think it is time for a new revolution that restores sanity in the world, that restores sovereignty and democracy to the masses in the truest sense of the words. This is a sentiment echoed by many like -Dr Vandana Shiva and Frances Lappe when they talk on food security and by Arundhati Roy when she talks on human rights.

I realize that this post started at one point and ended at a different point but clearly they are not disconnected.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Is it a Mad Mad World!?!

It appears as if time is running ahead and we are struggling to catch up. In reality time has not increased its pace, but we live in a world where there is too much of everything and you don’t pay your full attention to anything. There is a superficiality or incompleteness in everything you do. You are in the middle of everything that is happening yet there is a detachment from it all. There is dissatisfaction and lack of accomplishment and to overcome that you take on more and next you know you are stuck in a vicious circle. And then you complain that there is not enough time to do anything..that time is speeding away. Utter madness!

If you need to shake yourself out of my poorly articulated high-funda banter check out this song (not the best version in terms of video quality). Plenty time or no time, I manage to get my weekly fix of tamil/telugu movie. During one such happy escapes came across this new telugu movie called Leader with a decent theme and a couple of good songs. Liked this song in particular and apparently there is some history attached to it as well.



Listen to the dramatic dialogue folowed by the song..Dont we all wish for a "kotha prapancham" (= a "new world" in telugu). Chaala bagundi man! Chaala bagundi :)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Following Raavnodbhavam.....

..... and all the associated fun and the artistic and cultural experience it offered, a bunch of us decided to meet up the following weekend for some more fun and artistic and cultural experience from Kerala, but of a different kind. I suppose, all of us had not had our fill of what Kerala had to offer. So, spearheaded by our Punjabi-Canadian friend, we decided to get together at my place for an evening of Malayalam cinema, and gup-shup flavored with primarily South Indian delicacies.

Movie watching itself can be entertaining but when it is watched with friends and you have a comment and opinion on every scene, it adds to the entertainment factor. It is also interesting how when we watch a movie from your part of the world in the company of others, especially if they are not from the same place as you, you start observing things you never saw before. For example, in this particular movie, we counted the number of times the lead female character gets slapped by the different men in her life- by her fiancé, by her dad… Funnily enough, as pointed out by a friend, with each slap her love and respect for that man grows. And this is a contemporary movie with a contemporary theme even though set in a semi-rural area, where the main characters are supposedly educated folks. It is said that cinema is generally a reflection of the society and Malayalam movies are generally known to be realistic. If that is the case what is this movie conveying here? Weirdly enough,I have watched the movie before but I never paid attention to this little detail. I am shocked!

Anyways, the evening was fun and the food was great. Food fest would be stretching it a bit but we made idli-sambar and chicken tikkas with green and red bell-pepper, with red wine and Guava juice to wash it down. I made some payasma and a friend made chocolates for dessert. We talked late into the evening, bitching about professors, sharing our respective field trip experiences to remote regions of India, the best tea and local snacks we enjoyed from the local chai-kadas and many other stories. Before the evening ended we promised to meet up at least once a month with a similar agenda. I guess we all had good fun :)

Monday, November 01, 2010

Raavondbhavam!

It's been a crazy couple of weeks with too many things going on. Luckily, most of it are of the interesting and satisfying kind.

Began with the visit by the amazing team from Kalamandalam. It was the culmination of months of effort by a friend who is a theatre & dance student at the Uni. and is passionate about anything that has to do with Kerala (except Keralan men...I think :D).

Since I was in the loop every step of the way, I could not contain my excitement when the team finally arrived in town. The program was planned as a three full day workshop with a final performance by Kalamandalam Shanmughan. Day one started with a lecture demo by Kathakali artist Kalamandalam Shanmugham and Shri Kaladharan,- Kathakali connoisseur, scholar and translator. Following it was the makeup workshop, which is quite an elaborate procedure for Kathakali and every color, design and look has a significance.The make up artist of the group was Kalamandalam Sukumaran, a talented (obviously), patient and sweet man. Since the team had only arrived the previous night, Shir Kaladharan, who is the official translator was too tired. So other than explaining the historical or mythological significance of the the makeup and its elaborate steps, I was conferred the role of the "un-official translator" translating all the questions from the audience and the responses and explanation from Sukumaran from english to malayalam and malayalam to english, respectively. What an experience it was!

Day two was the mudras and movements workshop, exclusively for the students of Dance & Theatre and day three was the grand finale. It was indeed the grand finale, with Kalamandalam Shanmugham performing Raavondbhavam- roughly translated-Raavana's coming into being. I have no words to describe the experience. At one point I almost wanted to run to the stage and fall at his feet and at another time I wanted to break into tears. Weird! :D

I am no connoisseur or an expert but even for a novice like me Kala.Shanmugham's performance was so enthralling, his expressions so exquisite that I wanted the night to never end and the performance to go on.

A few glimpses from that magical night...

Preparations for the performance starts about 4-5 hours before the show, beginning with the make up, followed by donning the elaborate costume, the head gear and the rest. It starts with the main artist doing his own initial make up and the rest is done with the help of the make up artist.

The main make up ( putting on the chutti..etc.) done by make up expert Kalamandalam Sukumaran.


Kalamandalam Shanmughan giving final touches to the make up.


Ravanan is all his glory!

The performance lasted about 1:30 hrs. The most amazing 1:30 hrs. I am not familiar with all the mudras and expressions, so it really helped that the performance had sub titles. Yes you read it right-subtitles! If I was watching the same performance at some temple in Kerala, under the glow of oil lamps ( the way it is traditionally done), it would have been a different and amazing experience. But, a lot of what was presented would have been lost in translation. Lucky being amidst a western audience, the wonder of modern technology and sub titles, the experience was spectacular and satisfying.

To be continued.. :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Short Journey



Finally spent some time playing with Windows movie maker on my laptop. Always wanted to try out putting together some pictures and music and see how it goes. The images are from my trip to South Orissa early this year. Frankly I couldn't find any other appropriate music. Everyone I showed the file, hated the music. "Too depressing" was the general comment.
So? It is depressing and what is the occasion to celebrate here? The landscape is stark ,beautiful and tough; the houses are small, unpretentious and exquisite; the people are simple, kind and hardworking; the children are achingly sweet, innocent and lovely; but there is nothing romantic or thrilling about their life. These are people of the forests and they may be happy- I dont know. Happiness is relative. But life is hard, survival is a struggle and hope is almost non-existent. There is no bubble protecting them from evil and ugliness either. I think depressing music serves well as background score.
Anyways, ignore my "speech" and let me know what you think...if you have an opinion i.e. This was only meant to be a play time project.

( Music: Buddha Bar: Secret Love)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Serengeti of India- Kaziranga


Join Sandesh Kadur (one of my favorite wildlife photographer/documentary film maker) as he travels across the North-east Himalayan landscape and documents the wildlife of the Eastern Himalaya. This is the first in a series of video chapters produced whilst still in the field photographing.

It has recently been nominated for a Green Oscar at the Wildscreen Wildlife Festival 2010, @ Bristol, UK. Congratulations!!!

And, someday....

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sick

Feeling really tired and really hopeless.
Wish to be utterly selfish and leave everything and everyone and escape.
What a struggle!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Enjoy!

One of my favorite malayalam song exquisitely rendered by Job Kurian. Ashamed to admit that I don't understand the whole song. The complexity of the lyrics makes it really tough. It is by Sri Kaithapram afterall!





The song is OST of Kireedam, a fantastic movie of Mohanlal. Be warned-you will cry buckets and buckets and if you have super active tear buds like me get flood insurance :P (PJ!)

PS: Happy Birthday John Lenon

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Amused or Shocked?

..cannot decide

Actor Rajnikanth's declaration: "Bal Thackeray is like god to me"!


(Src: http://entertainment.in.msn.com/southcinema/article.aspx?cp-documentid=4442075)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jai Ram aur Allah Ji Ki?

So the Ayodhya verdict is out..

There was a news report in The Washington Post and I couldn't believe my eyes when I read these lines:

Among the 28 issues that the four lawsuits examined were the ownership of the site, whether the Hindu god Ram was really born there, and whether there was a temple at the site before the year 1528, when the mosque was built. In one of the lawsuits, the god Ram is named as a petitioner. ..

Is this for real or material for stand up comedy? Might draw some good laughs. One of my friends told me that apparently there is a provision in the Constitution that says gods can be included as petitioners. Oh boy! this world is so confusing and the Gods in their heavenly abodes must be ROFLaughing!

Anyways, waiting for more drama to unfold. Lets just hope its sane and non-violent.


The link to the news report: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/30/AR2010093002570.html?hpid=moreheadlines

Friday, September 17, 2010

Anupam Mishra

The ancient ingenuity of water harvesting




A friend of mine sent me this link. Interesting speaker (with a good sense of humor) explaining ancient methods of water harvesting in the desert regions of Rajasthan. Truly inspiring!
Rajasthan is so beautiful as well.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Interesting Passage

..from "Stolen Harvest" by Dr Vandana Shiva, Chapter 4- Mad Cows and Sacred Cows

"What is our responsibility to other species? Do the boundaries between species have integrity? Or are these boundaries mere constructs that should be broken for human convenience? The call to "transgress boundaries" advocated by both patriarchal capitalists and post modern feminists cannot be so simple. It needs to be based on a sophisticated and complex discrimination between different kinds of boundaries, an understanding of whom is protected by what boundaries and whose freedom is achieved by what transgressions".

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Advice

A friend of mine from the Uni. works part time at a local restaurant. She got this advice from a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary:
"Love is not a feeling... It's a commitment. The feeling is your reward that comes with time."

I guess when you are married to someone that long your thinking becomes more abstract and philosophical ! :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thiruvonam

Ella Malayali Koottukarkku Tiruvonashamsakal!
For me, since cooking special dishes is mostly mood inspired and not occasion or need inspired I am settling for making just some simple semiya payasam (vermicelli pudding) this onam.
Fall semester starts tomorrow and so does my anxiety. A decicive semester for me. By the end I'll know if I am continuing or quitting.
Here we go again!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To No One in Particular

Come away with me in the night
Come away with me
And I will write you a song

Come away with me on a bus
Come away where they can't tempt us
With their lies

And I want to walk with you
On a cloudy day
In fields where the yellow grass grows knee-high
So won't you try to come?

Come away with me and we'll kiss
On a mountaintop
Come away with me
And I'll never stop loving you

And I want to wake up with the rain
Falling on a tin roof
While I'm safe there in your arms
So all I ask is for you
To come away with me in the night
Come away with me
Borrowed words but personal thoughts..

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Next Food Network Star!

Great news everyone! Aarti Sequeria is the new Food Network Star! I am soooo excited and thrilled that she won. Ever since I caught a couple of episodes of the next food network star show and saw Aarti I wanted her to win. She appears to have a fabulous and bright personality and she also brings in a lot of Indian recipes to the table. I LOVE that!.




I am a big fan of the food network..I am a big fan of food..period. But I was getting a bit tired of all the American, Italian, French, Latino and Asian (as in Chinese) cooking and was praying for a change. I guess the change has come in the form of Aarti. Looking forward to enjoying some delicious Indian recipes on the show and hopefully be inspired to try some out at home.


I was checking Orkut and found this quote next to "Today's Fortune": "Fools and fanatics are always certain of themselves, but wiser people are full of doubts".

Hmmmm..so am I wise or am I foolish? ;)
(PS: I dont know why they have titled it "Today's Fortune".)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Listen & Feel

Watched Eat Pray Love yesterday. I was not that impressed with the movie, just as I was not that impressed with the book. Basically, I could not relate to the central character much so I guess that explains it...
Loved the scenes shot in Italy and Bali though. I want to visit Bali now..what a gorgeous place! I have also heard from friends at the Uni, who have been to Bali, raving about the place. So, perhaps someday I'll visit too. The one scene shot in India that I liked was the "thumbs up" one. My friend and I found it quite amusing. The catch phrase for the "thums up" ad back home is .."Thumbs up ..taste of thunder!!". Those who watched the movie might get it.
I think the BEST part of the movie was when this song was played in the background. It was just perfect!Took me back to my childhood..the song I mean. My dad had a good music collection (these were audio cassettes..almost non existant these days :))and I remember listening to this one. One among my many favorites.Just listen and feel it people.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

I Think I Know....

...what I want to be when I grow up. I am not at the age where I can technically claim that I am growing up but I suppose I meant it from an emotional and/or intellectual point of view, and I must say I firmly believe in the statement that age is a state of mind. Being from India, where generally these ideas don’t sell, and where achievements are measured by how “well settled” you are by a certain age, I know I don’t stand a chance and probably figure somewhere in the bottom rung of the achievement ladder. Having said that, I don’t assess myself from an Indian perspective nor do I say what I say from an Indian perspective, rather I say from a perspective that has been influenced by outside forces. By "outside forces” I mean moving to a different country, continuing with my education, meeting people with alternative thinking ( both at home and abroad), reading, reflecting and just doing what I want to do. Before I go any further, revealing my life’s ambitions, I must clarify that although I have made a massive generalization of what an “Indian perspective” is, there are definitely exceptions to this perspective.

Now, as to how I intend to lead my “grown up” life, I think I want to be a teacher. I want to go back home and teach. I think I will enjoy being a teacher because being a teacher is an integral part of education. By definition, education is “an act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life”.

What I like about this definition is that it involves the “power of reasoning and judgement and preparing oneself for life”. This process, interestingly enough does not really terminate once you are awarded a degree or a certificate. It is a continuous process and as an educator you play a key role in it. Living in an academic world all these years has truly influenced my thinking and way of life. I feel so empowered by it that I wish to extend that experience to others. What better way to pursue that than being a teacher. I think the beauty of being in academics is that there is rarely a dull moment. I am not going to glorify it so much and lead everyone to believe that there are no moments of stress, frustration or impatience not to forget the perpetual state of poverty you find yoursefl in. But setting that aside, I enjoy being part of the learning process and I realize its power.

From an academic perspective I am reading and learning on human-environment dynamics and interactions. This is something that excites me because it involves two aspects that I am perpetually fascinated by –humans and the natural environment. If you closely analyze the problems plaguing this “relationship” you will see that in many instances it has to do with weak power of reasoning and judgement. Problems arise and cannot be fixed and are labeled as “more complex than you imagine”. In reality the solutions prescribed would work, if your thinking and reasoning also changes with it. In the world of environmental studies a common (often abused) term is “sustainable use”. Every problem can be solved if we all used resources sustainably or we designed programs that are sustainable. The truth is, being sustainable is a state of mind. It is influenced by your power of reasoning and judgement. That’s were education plays a big role.

By education I don’t necessarily mean in a very strict and formal sense (For example, I could educate and be educated just living with forest resource dependent communities). Bottomline, I feel education has a multiplier effect. It has the power to spread and reach out to people. It has the power to change.

From my own experience I am so inspired by reading the works of wonderful teachers and researchers in my field such as Drs. Agrawal, Ostrum, Peluso, Gadgil, Shiva and many others that I wish to follow their foot steps. I wish to interact with young people and be in a position to provoke alternative thinking, reasoning, judging, reacting and solving. Maybe that’s my business in this world, during my life span .. to learn-to teach-to learn.

PS: I was imagining having this conversation with my mom and other members of my extended family and I saw them cringe. I heard very practical questions like ‘have you applied to any university vacancies in India?’ or ‘when will you be done with your studies?’ , or even totally irrelevant comments like—‘you should have just gone for computer engineering after your 12th ..now where would you have been. Look how well so and so is doing’ :D. Frankly these questions and comments only amuse me these days. I think everyone has a purpose in life and everyone will figure it out eventually—some day. It is never too late.

I still dont think its too late for me and I might even change my mind. As the Nike slogan goes "Just Do It"..whatever you are doing or want to do (as long as its legal ;).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Affair Continues...

Looks like it will be a while before I am satiated of my indulgence /my affair/ my obsession with tamil. Watched Mani Ratnam's Raavanan yesterday and with no sub titles it was hard to understand most of the dialogues- an incomplete cinematic experience as far as I am concerned. I am not sure why the movie did not get great reviews. Is it because “Raavanan” and Ragini did not ride away into the sunset in the end? I loved the movie (inspite of the incomplete experience), loved the actors, the location!! ( thanks to someone's suggestion, I actually took a bus ride down that area once. I am referring to the parts shot in Kerala), the theme, the cinematography (Santosh Sivan is da man!) and of course the music. I mean - Naan Varuven?!? Usure Poguthe?!? Kaattu Sirukki?!? Come on!! Give me a break! Talk about getting emotionally drained out! (I know I am being dramatic here but bottom line, the music is fabulous).
Of course I have also shifted my subject of hero worship to Vikram. I am a little surprised for not finding him before. I have seen Pithamagan but it’s only after Raavanan promos started appearing that I really noticed Vikram. That man is good.

On a personal front-I am tired of my current department, my Prof does not motivate me anymore and I want to move away. I also don’t have any funds to do that. Basically, I am stuck and it ain’t a great feeling. Somebody wise said (don’t know who) that for every up there is a down, in which case for every down there should be an up. That helps a bit, except that I want my roller coaster ride to be a little faster. 
Bloody dissatisfied /impatient me!

(Embedded the song Kaattu Sirukki--the shorter and slower version..the version I like)


Saturday, July 24, 2010

"Udal Mannukku Uyir Thamizhuku"

Title roughly translated "body for the land , life for tamil". As dramatic as it sounds I almost feel that way..at least for tamil. Watched Mani Ratnam's Iruvar (for the nth time-lord knows) for the sheer joy of listening to shudha thamizh (pure tamil). No, there is no excuse for such craziness except that I have some time in hand and one is allowed to do crazy things for love, especially when you have some time in hand. In this case its the love for the language.
Now, these lines might sound a bit over the top in english but in tamil they sound exquisite..
"unnoadu naan irundha ovvoru mani thuliyum
marana padukkaiyilum marakkaadhu kanmaniyae
thonnooru nimithangal thottanaitha kaalam dhaan
ennooru aandugalaai idhayathil kalangudhadi
paarvaiyilae sila nimidam
bayathoadu sila nimidam...."

(click here to watch the video although I dont think the sub titles are correct. also happened to be two of my fav. actors)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

News From/About "Home"

I think there is nothing more uplifting than getting a mail filled with news (well, good news i.e.)from "home" or rather news about "home". A friend of mine is in India and she has been sending emails with detailed accounts of her time there. She is getting a PhD in Kutiyattam and is in my home state Kerala, receiving advanced training in dance and also learning to speak the local language, Malayalam. She is originally from Canada and like anyone visiting a new place, is fascinated by every little thing the place has to offer. Eventhough it's a personal email, parts of it are pretty interesting, shedding light on the local way of life and her experiences, some of which are quite amusing. I must say she is very perceptive too. She also uses her emails as an excuse to show off all the Malayalam she has managed to learn. I am posting some excerpts from her mail and a couple of pictures as well. Hope this will make an interesting read.
So the letter begins.....
"Namaskaaram ende kutukarenmar (= greetings my dear friends),Sukhamanoo?(=Are you fne?) Enikku sukhamannu (=I am fine) . . .There is a cockroach in my room – staring at me. I can deal with geckos and ants and even little crawly things, but cockroach . . . why?
So, I am not sure where to begin because there is so much to tell! I think my favourite new word in Malayalam is abhipryamila (no opinion). So when I am asked what I think of a kutiyattam performance or other, I can remain neutral for the time being. Although this is now becoming rather difficult. Not for me to remain neutral, but for me to get away with having no opinion. Also, I have clearly forgotten how to use utensils, or even remember their correct names, as the other day I actually said “spork and foon” – no joke. I also once said “When we get to our place of resting” instead of when we get to the rest house (hotel). Ahhh, the many languages that are swimming in my head... Mahinglish is going to become a language soon enough.
And according to our school cook , my skin is a good colour and my friend who is an American-Andra Pradesh, is too dark and she needs to have kids with skin light like mine ---that will be good. She cracks us up. I was told I needed to walk with an umbrella so I would not get darker."


"Performance Front: This is simply AWESOME. Randomly I saw a kavadi ritual procession on the road. I am not sure which festival it was, but kavadi is usually carried by Lord Murugan worshippers for good health, prosperity, luck etc. Basically, the devotee goes into trance and is pierced in different places or carries the kavadi (heavy, wooden-like structure sometimes attached to the body through piercings or pulled behind through piercing in the back). Look up Thaipusam in Kuala Lumpur to see some images. It was a small procession, but I did see many boys, no more than 15, pierced in the back, and back of the legs and hanging vertically from a crane-like structure. It was rather cool --- especially after you have studied it in class, and know the neurophysiology behind the ritual trance and piercing.
I am seeing kutiyattam regularly and new and different stories which are great! I am seeing seasoned performers as well as some of the younger generation which is also great. I saw kathakali (traditional dance-drama from Kerala, which is younger than kutiyattam, but shares some of the same elements) last week. It was beautiful and gorgeous and I could understand a lot of the mudras (hand gestures) based on kutiyattam. The gestures were bigger, more dance-like and not-as-pretty sometimes, but still the same structure. The singing was just wonderful. Kathakali is grander and more dance-like. The women are played by men --- and are NOT very attractive to say the least. There are of course many other differences, but I cannot go into all the details right now.
Pic Src: Kathakali performance: Arjuna getting ready for battle, D.Wason
I went up to Kalamandalam, the famous college of arts for the study of kathakali, kutiyattam, mohiniyattam and now other dance forms as well. I had a meeting with a friend and got to walk around and watch classes. I saw: advanced kathakali, advanced mohiniyattam, kuchipudi, bharatanatyam, kutiyattam, beginner mohiniyattam and heard many of the different drums. I almost wanted to join in the bharatanatyam class because they were doing jathiswaram. While watching the advanced mohiniyattam, I realized they were performing a thillana with the same ragam and talam as I have done before in bharatanatyam. It was really interesting to see the differences in form and movement, but with the same “music” so to speak. My dance teacher told me all the talams are the same in mohiniyattam and even the major dances are pretty much the same---just of course a very different style of dance itself.
The next day was the best of all though! AMAZING! My friend and I got a private shadow puppet performance and got to see the workshop, behind-the-scenes and 1000 year old puppets! Tolpavakoothu (leather-puppet-dance-drama) is not “dying” but being re-birthed (hopefully) as I was told by Ramachandran, the guru and puppeteer. It is the Keralan traditional shadow puppet theatre and today there are only TWO families that still know the art. The traditional story is of the Ramayana, performed over 21 days at 10 hours a day (overnight) in the temple. Now they are experimenting with tourism stories and new creation stories like Mahatma Gandhi to try to revitalize the form. We got a private viewing of one of the most famous scenes in the Ramayana and even got a blessing at the end for good prosperity, health etc. After studying and seeing Balinese and Javanese wayang kulit, this was pretty amazing to see."


Pic Src: Shadow- leather -puppet-dance-theatre, D.Wason

"A Keralan bus ride: My friend and I took busses a couple of times from Cheruthuruthy to Thrissur. So, I shall tell you my experience. In Kerala, women sit in the front and then men in the back. So immediately we were separated. Getting on at a middle stop is not good as the bus is already full and you must stand. I am too short to hold on at the top. So I hold on to bars until it is too crowded for that. Then, the other ladies are my only barrier from getting thrown around or falling. Any time the speeding bus would lurch around a corner, as it often did --- no matter how slick the roads from pouring rain--- we would all lean. I usually found myself either in someone’s front or nestled in the long, coconut-oiled tresses of another. Finally, several get out and I am now able to hold on. But no, I am too small to hold on in front of the bus, as one hard break would have me flying out the windshield. So, I was made to sit in a small 2 inch space, almost falling over. In a way it is almost better not to see during the bus ride, because you see why they stop so suddenly (for people falling off of motorcycles, autos in the way, cows, people etc). Bus ride #2 and 3 were pretty much the same. Although I have to say, Malayali women protect each other. If one is sitting, they will make sure to hold on to the small small children that get on the bus in the crowd --- even if they have no relation. They always made sure I had a place to sit, or would catch me if I lost balance. So not ideal, but not exactly horrendous either.

Some of her descrptions are pretty accurate..the obsession with fair skin, the bus rides etc..I definitely look forward to more emails from her.

(In dedication to "mallu land", embedded a cool malayalam song, Pink Floyd inspired?, OST of a tamil movie, Vinnaythaandi Varuvaayaa (yes! it is obviously possible) composed by A.R Rahman, sung by Alphons Joseph :)).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Melancholic

Where art thou sweet lord?
Give me a hint......please?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

An Excitng New Find

My exciting new find. Back home, close to where I live is a lovely park established in memory of the well known Malayalam poet Changampuzha Krishnapillai.The great thing about this park is that it also serves as a venue for numerous art and cultural performances- mostly performances by local theatre groups, classical dance & music performances and sometimes talks and discussions on socio-political issues. It used to be one of my favorite places to hang out after college. This s also the place where I frst came to know of Lokadharmi, a local theatre group. I had watched one of their productions in malayalam-an adaptation of Macbeth and remember enjoyng every 90mns of it. I was so much in awe of this group, its artists and its director Chandrahassan sir. As luck or fate would have it , I got a fantastic opportunity to get to know some of its lead artists (Selvaraj, Asanthan..a few I can remb) through a street theatre workshop I attended while in college. It was an extraordinary experience for me. Lokadharani also has a childrens' wing (Mazhavillu)and I remember spending a fabulous evening at the park listenng to "nadanpattugal" (folksongs) performed by the group. Stumbling across Chandrahassan sir's blog and Lokadharmi's website brought back many lovely memories. I feel nostalgic....I feel a bit homesick.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Unlucky

I feel very unlucky
The Dutch lost!

Friday, July 09, 2010

This & That

Germany vs. Spain
Germany! :(
I know its old news but the pain persists.

Another incredible discovery! Photographer Art Wolfe's web site. I am so inspired!
Also check out this beeeaauuuutiful song ("Ek hi sang hote"-roughly translated -If only we were together) from the movie Drishti. Listening to it over and over and over again in my usual obsessive way.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Workaholic?!

Your boss/Prof says you are a workaholic. Is that a compliment? Is somebody being foolish here? *scratching head*

Cant wait for the new documentary Babies.

Monday, July 05, 2010

I'm

Frustrated annoyed discouraged irritated crazy desperate overwhelmed
Love can be such a tough emotion

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dream Route


I have read about this particular road trip and also heard from people who have flown to Leh. Both options seem amazing in their respeective ways.
I dont know if, when and how it will happen for me. Until then it remains a trip to dream about. I have seen enough images of Leh's mindblowing landscape and now I just want to see it with my bare eyes. A good refernce to get a glimpse of the landscape is actress Deepti Naval's (one of my favorite actresses) personal website.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Back From Boston

I may be back but I am still dreaming Boston. Got a fantastic opportunity to go to Boston and I only wanted to get back because I was missing family. Everything about Boston is great- the streets, the sights, the history, the architecture, the food ,and the people ( the few I got to know at least :)). I would say, so far, Boston is one of my favorite cities in the world (India is homeland so not including its cities in the list) after London.
I would say the highlight was visiting some of the fabulous centers of learning that Boston is famous for. But hey I am no nerd. Squeezed in some shopping at the H&M store where an amazing sale was on ($40 goods at $10!!!). I looked like the homeless bag lady once I was done and out of the store :D. Met some interesting folks from my discipline and made some friends which was an added bonus.
Sharing my Boston experience with anyone who is interested to share..

Amazing architecture both the modern and the old...

This is MIT's well known School of Architecture and Planning
Took the subway from MIT to go to Harvard

As you enter one of the gates of Harvard's main campus
And as you exit the gate
Harvard campus- Took some deep breaths and inhaled the Harvard air--don't know if it would make any difference :D
Checked out the old and famous Harvard book store.. charming is the word.Lunch at Finale- I never thought I would use words like fabulous and divine while describing food as they sound very snobbish; but what can I say --the food here is fabulous and divine!
The dessert is what I ordered and I spent sometime staring at it (and obviously took a picture) before I dug in. By the way this is the famous Boston creme pie


There are so many more lovely images and exciting experiences of Boston and I wish to revisit again one day. Until then I'll just rely on my power to day dream.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nothing Ever Happens

Del Amitri - Nothing Ever Happens

Found at abmp3 search engine

" And ignorant people sleep in their beds

Like the doped white mice in the college lab

Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all

The needle returns to the start of the song

And we all sing along like before"

Human existence and how useless and mundane it can get! But then finding your purpose in life is no easy task either. Screwed either way! *sigh*

Friday, June 11, 2010

Excited

K got his doctorate today. All are excited and happy!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Rescued

I feel restless
I need to travel
I feel trapped
I need to escape
..and when you don't know what to do you listen to music?- I guess.

I have been listening to this one over and over and over again. It has a very haunting tune and lyrics.

"Palerum nadaya Paleriylu
padipathinjoru pattundallo
Palerimanikyam pennuruthi
paathira neendi kadanna pattu...
...........................................
maanjottil makarathil kattupole
ilanulli, poonulli nadanna pennu"

Src: http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=VBEF0C5wucM&feature=related

(Movie: Palerimanikyam-Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Katha, starring soooperstar-Mammootty!!! & other talented people and great music from Sharat & Bijibal. Interesting movie for sure..the storyline , the art...).

I feel lost
Do I need to be rescued?
...
.....
(No, just need to change my thinking- I guess)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Right or Wrong?


"The world constantly renews itself, and when you look at it that way, regret and nostalgia seem equally futile". (From- The Romantics by Pankaj Mishra)

Maybe right but my un-wise mind does not think so..

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Happy Anniversary PAC-MAN!


Is this brilliant or what!?! Hats off to Google and its brilliant team to come up with this. Took me back to my school days and all the fun memories associated with it...
You rock Mr Pacman! Happy Anniversary!
Should be fixing dinner but I cant stop palying! :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Agains.

As always, stressed over my finals. Its done now and technically summer break has started. I have plenty of work to get done though. Again, what's new?
Reading again -Inspite of the Gods:The strange rise of modern India. I think anyone who wants to try and understand India must read it. I am trying to undertstand it again I guess.
Obsessing over this telugu song I discovered again in my ipod. Its called "kannullo nee roopame". The music by Sandeep Chowtha is incredibly beautiful and at the risk of sounding like a teenager with a massive crush on someone..all I can say is OMG!or better still, make that OMN! (Oh My Nagarjuna!). ! :)
I guess this is me for today- a sum total of small, insignificant agains

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mountains of the Monsoon in Animal Planet

Watched the episode on the Western Ghats ("Mountains of the Monsoon") , featuring wildlife photographer Sandesh Kadur in Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. It is a television series for the Animal Planet. Watch it people!!.it is terrifc, it is inspiring and I am totally in love with Eravikulam National Park. *sigh* :)

(PS : I think the Animal Planet logo is interesting with "Surprisingly Human" written next to it.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Love the Whole World

Its such a BRILLIANT place..Boom-de-ada-Boom-de-ada.:)

Belated Earth Day Wishes to All!

(Src:Youtube-Discovery Channel Ad)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Not the Story of the Poor But..

Lines from one of my readings for a class:
"The problem is not that the forest people are poor, but that they are politicaly weak ( and the problem is not that the forest is environmentally fragile but it is politicaly marginal). The problem for the forest people is that they inhabit a resource which is coveted by groups that are more powerful than they are (while the problem for the forest is that it is inhabited by people who are too weak to insist on its sustainable use)".
( Src: Dove.R.M, 1993, "A Revisionist view of Tropical Deforestation and Development". Environment and Conservation, Vol 20, Nr:1)
These lines maybe old but still holds true.
Attempting to illustrate the point..
The Challenger-

On the way to Koraput. Utkal Alumina Industry Ltd. Rayagada, South Orissa.

The Challenged-

Tribal folks -Rayagada and Koraput, South Orissa


Saturday, April 17, 2010

One Man, One Cow, One Planet

Found an nteresting documentary at the Uni library-"One man, One cow,One planet..".The documentary is on "bio-dynamic agriculture".I found it rather exotic and mystical on the whole. I was almost convinced until the cow horn manure part came up. But people who have been practicing it are obviously experiencing succees and so it may not be all "hocus-pocus" as someone I know commented. I suppose it is something we must keep an open mind about . Anyways, talk about timing but I just started work on a project where we are looking at the potential of "conservation agriculture" in improving soil quality, increasing crop yields, improving livelihoods and promoting indigenous seed biodiversity. It is different from bio-dynamic farming but more close to natural farming (as in Masanobu Fukuoka's method of farming). The difference, as I understand is-Fukuoka's method is pure 100% organic farming whereas CA is flexible and external inputs to improve soil conditions and crop yields need not be organic/natural. However, there is one thing common among all of us working and promotnng these different sustainable ag approaches- we all seem to hate Monsanto! :).

Anyways, enough with my lecturing. I just hope that whatever may be the method adopted, ultimately it yields good long lasting results and help the communities involved.

Two people told me I must read 'The One Straw Revolution"...so I must read it.

And you folks out there-eat healthy and live healthy,wise and wealthy(optional)

(Video Clip Src: Youtube)

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Angadi Theru"

Saw it yesterday..
Heartwrenching!

Monday, April 05, 2010

A New Acquisition


Actually to me this machine represents the uncool part of what I do for a living. Nevertheless, giving credit to its creators, it is a nice little piece of machine.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Travels

Just got back from an exciting, engaging, and exhausting trip...

All in 10 nights and 9 days...

University-San Francisco-Frankfurt-Mumbai-Bhubaneswar- Raygada- Kasipur-Brahmarjudi-Rasijhiri-Koraput-Gunnar-Marchiguda-Raygada-Bhubaneswar-Mumbai-Frankurt-San Francisco-University.

Successfully dodged the Maoists. Not yet sure if I successfully dodged Malaria!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What Can I Say..?

In love?...
Still?....
Yes..it is possible I say :)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Blogs as References

A few days ago read someone expressing their horror on how people writing scientific papers or journal articles are citing blogs as "published" source of information. It is indeed unscientific to say the least. Soon after, a couple of days ago, I find a comment to one of my very old posts. It was an anonymous reader thanking me for the post as it apparently helped in writing her/his class assignment.

Now I am curious to see if the blog was cited and how it was cited. Chicago style maybe? :D.

E2D, 2009,"Post Title", www.serendipity05.blogspot.com, Accessed --/--/10.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Regarding the Fuss..

It is not even Valentines Day but...

"rozaana jiye rozaana mare
teri yaadon mein hum - rozaana...
rozaana chale yaadon mein teri, zindagi ka safar
tujhse hai roshan, tujse hai zinda, yeh dil ka sheher - rozaana.."


Src: Nishabd, Lyrics by Munna Dhiman

And its not even Valentines Day yet :)

Wonder what/why all the fuss is about?
Historical Context :
The holiday is named after one or more early Christian martyrs Valentine and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD. It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and hand written declarations of love (known as "valentines").

Current Context:
The U.S. Greeting Cards Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines ( known as "mass produced greeting cards") are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, behind Christmas. The association estimates that, in the US, men spend on average twice as much money as women.
src : Prof. Wikipedia

It appears to be all for the love of economics not the economics of love :D (and I feel a bit sorry for the men)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"I'm Gonna Kick His Ask"

Can anyone be possibly cuter than her? Wish I could adopt her.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Romantic vs. An Un-Romantic

Words of a Romantic..

“Inanimate objects must have as much importance in our lives as animate objects. We must be able to relate to them, respect them, and thank them for their services. Why is that just because we own them we can be inconsiderate, mistreat them and even discard them without much thought? Our lives are simple and comfortable, thanks to the n number of tools and equipments and “stuff” the post-industrial society has made available. However there is coldness to the way we possess these things. There are no kissing goodbyes to our refrigerators before an outing nor is there an expression of gratitude for the car that took us so far or the computer that made things easy. There is the Hindu festival of Dashera and the ritual of Ayudha pooja which signifies the importance our ancestors gave to the various tools and objects in their life has reduced to mere “rituals” and a national holiday. Traditionally and even among the indigenous communities these objects had a place almost on par with the deities and were worshiped with due reverence. Sadly, in contrast, we now live in a materialistic world where possessing and disposing these things are a way of life. The question then is that shouldn’t we discover their rightful place in our lives? We must pledge a deeper obligation to these inanimate objects and respect them and use them better. We must develop a deeper commitment to them. By not acknowledging that these inanimate objects play a part in providing us comfort and happiness too (to some extent), aren’t we simply reducing ourselves to become part of a purely transactional mode of life where everything is detached and without caring.....”


Following this somehow Gandhiji’s name came up and his life and work…


Words of an Un-Romantic..


‘Don’t we have a phrase for the world we live in now?—“ consumeristic society”?, where everything is buy-use-throw- and buy. Don’t you realize we are not supposed to try and relate or “develop deeper commitments” to inanimate objects. If we start doing that we are shaking up a foundation that is built on billions of dollars and the entire global economy can fall flat on its face along with all the billions of livelihoods dependent on it. The cycle of demand and supply is set at a faster pace and the sad thing is we don’t have much of a choice. Having a choice seems more a luxury today; something perhaps a few urban, educated, rich intellectuals can afford. Or I should rather say there are too many cheap choices and opting out of them is the most expensive choice of all. I admit there are some anti-globalization movements being initiated across the world and in fact Gandhiji’s teachings and philosophies are being resurrected. “Village democracy”, “green economies”, “food sovereignty” and “local self-sufficiency” are the new buzz-words. But again what worries me is who are these people initiating these movements? How genuine are they? Who is it really supposed to benefit? Nobody functions as a single society anymore for the greater common good. We act and react in groups and as groups for the greater common good of the group (although this is not said loud). There are the Nationalistic groups, there are the religious groups, there is the scientific group which is again divided in terms of discipline and there are the so called civil-society groups ( this is the most confusing group to me) and each one of them have their own personal group agendas. I don’t mean to condemn all well intended initiatives but simply being cautious I guess. As somebody mentioned I am amazed too at the courage and charisma of this small, frail man to force nations to change although not surprisingly it did not keep him alive too long. And now you talk about “developing a deeper commitment to inanimate objects”! I apologize for the pessimism in my thoughts but I guess the romantic in me has got lost somewhere in the hustle and bustle of life’.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Nostalgic/Homesick

I feel nostalgic for whatever reason.

I feel homesick too.

My mom's here with me so I dont know why I am feeling homesick. But then I wonder where is "home". Is it the place where you were born or where you spent the longest time of your life? in my case they are two different places. So then?

They say home is where the heart is. In that case where is my heart? My heart is beating (remember that song--from one of the old movies- Julie I think ) I can feel it. But what if I am heartless? ( ouch! that hurt). I would never have a home then? (hmm..that does not sound good). No I aint heartless..so where is home then? I hear a tune in my head and its that song "Life for Rent".

I think I am nostalgic than homesick. School days, cycling with friends, discussing crushes..

Oh well, this post is all about silly ramblings. I am bored I think. K thinks I need to exercise and I want to travel, across India. Someday soon.

Laters then..

Monday, January 04, 2010

I've Got a Crush on You

These pics of Mr Dalton are unflattering and he is 63 years old but I was trying to make a point here by saying its never about the looks and age does not really matter (unless he is too young) :)

Watched a string of films over the weekend starting with Jane Eyre (1983 TV mini series) all 11 Episodes and approximately 3.50 hrs. Close to the end all I could see and hear was Mr Rochester (Timothy Dalton). It also felt as if 3:50hrs of watching Mr Dalton was too short and so followed it with Scarlet (Gone with the Wind -Part II), another TV mini series which was approximately 6 hrs long! By then it was around 2 am and my head was reeling from too much movies but still not enough of Mr. Dalton. :D :D. So the following day watched Living Daylights which ended abruptly as whoever had uploaded the movie failed to complete the job. I am still in the dark on how the movie ended but one thing was pretty clear by then-I had a serious crush on the man.
Today being monday my original plan was to spend all day at the Uni but instead showed up at the dept, said hello to the office Secs and my Prof., got my ID validated and went straight to the movies. Watched - Its Complicated and Sherlock Holmes (woohoo!) back to back and I have officially declared my brain as useless. (Now you know why this one reads like a dumb post in case you are wondering).
Sleep beckons and hopefully Mr Dalton will make an appearance or I may take off with Mr Holmes solving an intriguing mystery and who knows but Mr Bond might just show up and decide to help! Good night and cool adventures!

(PS: The title was indeed inspired by Frank Sinatra's song but the lyrics are not applicable in anyway)