Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Escape to Victory

Seen the classic kickass movie? Well, then must see it and see it again if you already have.
Watched the movie long time ago with my dad and watched it again yesterday and there was the same excitement and fun of watching it the first time. In fact got soo excited that as the Allied POWs kicked-some-serious-ass (I mean goals) and beat the Germans, I blurted out, to everyone's amusement -"isn't tomorrow the India-Pak war"!. YIKES! Yes! I said war. I felt terrible even though it was a slip of the tongue.

Anyways, it was definitely unintentional and may the best team (India) win. Oh! wait a minute...we won! But, a round of applause to the Pak team for a good game.

My Escapes

I wish I could write well. I admire those who write well and there are obviously many out there who do. But, there are authors and there are authors par excellence. Remember in one of the previous posts I mentioned feeling nostalgic and hence re-reading books I read earlier (or please scroll down and check if this is your first time here or need help remembering). These are books you read again to relive certain moments, moments that left an impression on you, or moments that bring back old memories. And you are able to do this because someone brilliant knew how to imagine and knew how to write!
The book I am re-reading currently is God of Small Things. As much as I enjoy reading A.Roy's non-fiction works ( I mean, learn from her the power of rhetoric!) I wish she wrote more fiction. To make my point, how can you not feel nostalgic reading this....

" by early June the southwest monsoon breaks and there are three months of wind and water and short spells of sharp, glittering sunshine that thrilled children snatch to play with.The countryside turns an immodest green.Boundries blur as tapioca fences take root and bloom, Brick walls turn mossgreeen. Pepper vines snake up electric poles.Wild creepers burst through laterite banks and spill across flooded roads..."
"Happy earthwors frolicked purple in the slush, Green nettles nodded. Trees bent. Further away, in the wind and rain, on the banks of the river, in the sudden thunderdarkness of the day, Estha was walking...."
( GOST- Chapter 1-Paradise Pickles & Preserves, page 3 &11)

You read and be amazed at how beautifully an emotion or thought or an experience was articulated and how it instigates perhaps similar emotions or remind you of an old secret thought or relive a similar experience you may have had. They write without fuss, without complications, without any over-analysis. They may write about themselves or sometimes every character is fictitious and yet you relate to them mainly because they seem normal, regular and simple in some ways.
From the same book, a moment between Estha, Rahel and their mother Ammu...

" ..their small hands laid flat against the bare skin of her midriff. Between her petticoat and her blouse. They loved the fact that the brown of the backs of their hands was the exact brown of their mother's stomach skin...." " Between them they apportioned their mother's seven silver stretch marks. Then Rahel put her mouth on Ammu's stomach and sucked at it, pulling the soft flesh into her mouth and drawing her head back to admire the shining oval of spit and the faint red imprint of her teeth on her mother's skin." (Chapter 11- The God of Small things, page 210-211)

I relived a moment here and the emotions you feel....hmmm. Wish childhood never ended.

Thank God for these brilliant writers or how else could I fly back in time or escape momentarily from my now & present?! Now I must get back to Ayemenem where Estha, Rahel, Ammu, Chako and Baby Kochamma are on their way to Cochin, to the airport, to pick up Margaret Kochamma and Sophi Mol.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Weekend Photo Diary

I thought I'll try and stick to the weekend photo updates for a while. "For a while" meaning I am doing it again this weekend and/or there is no guarantee that I'll do it again next weekend or the following weekends.

The highlight this weekend was a trip to the theater to watch Rango- an animation movie, referencing the wild west and has Johnny Depp in the lead (voice) playing a lizard named Rango. And, while everyone watched I slept. Perhaps Johnny Depp, on screen, in his true, God-made avatar and not simply his voice playing a lizard, would have kept me awake ( please watch Chocolat for better reference) or perhaps I had a long and tiring week and a nice nap inside the cool interiors of a cozy theater is just what I needed. Anyways, I was told it is a good movie so please go watch people.

These days, on weekends, I spend a little more time than normal in the kitchen, developing my amateur chef skills and so the specials for this weekend was an all grill menu. Grilled asparagus simply marinated with olive oil, salt and pepper; grilled Italian sandwich made with the juiciest vine red tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, pesto sauce , olive oil and jalapeno & cheese focaccia bread. There was also some "tandoori" chicken for the omnivores in attendance and of course some delicious red wine. The fun aspect about grilling is you can do it outdoors if you have a fairly decent grill set and since the weather cooperated, infact it was a rather pleasant and cool night, dinner was cooked and served outdoors.

Well, the weather did not remain cool and pleasant all through the weekend. We have been having quite a rainy-windy weather over the week and the weekend was not fully spared either. But with a good board game or a good book or movie or music or food & wine or good company, or all of the above, staying indoors while everything outside gets drenched and soaked by the rains, is not a bad prospect at all. I also thought my little backyard looked rather charming, with the orange and pink blooms, all wet, heavy and droopy from the rains.

(apologies for the blurred image)

PS: As a "serious", "responsible" grad student I also dedicated some time studying this weekend and the weight of guilt feels comparatively less heavy.

Friday, March 25, 2011


I suppose nostalgia is my current disposition and so...

Re-reading a book I read long time ago
Re-watching a movie I watched long time ago
Re-listening songs I listened long time ago
Re-thinking thoughts I had long time ago
Re-experiencing emotions I felt long time ago
Re-wishing what I wished long time ago
Re-wanting what I wanted long time ago

Fulfilling in some instances and frustrating in some. But, this phase shall pass too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Mood Change

Not as bad as a mood swing but still a fairly quick change. Until a few days ago I was in the mood to listen to a folk song in Hindi from an old 80s movie, by a singer named Reshma?. Since yesterday, I am in the mood to listen to Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) and I have been listening to Black over and over again. So much passion in his singing, that it ignites the passion in you and as he sings the last lines from Black which goes...

"I know someday you'll have a beautiful life,
I know you'll be a sun in somebody else's sky, but why
Why, why can't it be, can't it be mine" too want to fall on your knees, throw up your hands, make a fist and scream from your heart-Yes! why, why, why!?!..

Phew! that was emotionally exhausting. Yes, you said it -drama queen indeed!

Its been rainy and windy since yesterday. Perhaps that explains the mood change.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Weekend Photo Diary

Decided to try something new. Well, the idea is hardly original but really liked it when I saw something similar in another blog. So, instead of my usual ramblings, a short photo diary of my weekend that was...

Got up later than usual, at 6:30. My usual time is 5:15am.Made my first cuppa tea. Without it I am useless.Made some breakfast- deliciously greasy with some green tea. I rather have idli sambar but this was a quick fix and yet elaborate compared to what is generally consumed on weekdays.

Went out and spent some money. Bought some groceries for the house and these for myself. I bought the book, because I thought it looked rather grand with its leather binding & gold edged pages. It was also on sale (50% off!) and I wanted to read great expectations. This one however is not the abridged version so I am not sure if and when I'll accomplish my reading mission. The ELLE design mag, UK edition is a splurge as I love to stare at interestingly done houses.Made some fish curry, mallu style, with coconut milk. Everyone who ate said 'spicy but yummy' :)
It was also Holi and my friend from Chhattisgarh, who also is my neighbor came over with mittai (cookies!) and gulal (turmeric powder!). It was sweet and fun and she stayed home for a while, demanded tea and I offered breakfast as well.Went for a much needed walk in the evening.
And watched two movies, back to back, late into the night. It was Speed I and Demolition Man. Made some pop corns to munch on.
Not a bad weekend but Sunday night guilt set in and the little voice in your head became louder and it said- 'did not do any studying'. Luckily sleep took over

PS: Officially its Spring break and the Uni is closed for a week!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bichhde Abhi To Hum Bus Kal Parson...

And if you were to ask what I did today, I would say-

Finished up some work, did some reading and went to the library to pick up some books. Then, went to a friend’s place for some delicious lunch, and a long chat, returned home and promptly fell asleep (yep on a full stomach..I know- ugh!). Later in the evening, did some chores around the house, and after dinner, settled in with my laptop to watch a movie- a Hindi movie, from the 80s. I suppose I was still a bit disoriented from all the food I had consumed and the afternoon siesta.

The movie had all the usual formulaic elements of an 80s movie- the crazy histrionics, dream sequences, singing & dancing and the girl and the guy hopelessly in love, despite the impossible circumstances. Here goes a short synopsis-

SO, the girl, who is the IG’s daughter gets kidnapped by the goon’s main sidekick and his buddies. The girl is lead to believe that these men are policemen assigned by her IG dad to protect her from the goon who has threatened to kidnap her. Stupid girl thinks they are all having a picnic in the jungle and sings and dances around and then one day…boom! she falls in love with the main sidekick and he is flattered and professes his love too. One night, after a song and dance dream sequence, out of guilt, sidekick rushes to the nearby temple and confesses his not so admirable circumstances to God, all fuming and angry. The girl hears all this and surprise, surprise! she does not dump him but is even more hopelessly in love. You don’t believe me the check this out. From here on, it is a long struggle of winning the girls family over by the sidekick (now hero). If you have read so far and is willing to tolerate more then please watch “Hero” (starring Jackie Shroff and Meenakshi Seshadri). (Available on youtube)

I know the synopsis is written with a touch of sarcasm but frankly, Hero is one of the Hindi movies of the 80s I can tolerate. I like it for a couple of reasons. First of all it does not have Jeetendra doing Bharatnatyam dressed in white trousers, shirt and shoes on giant cardboard “tablas” with Sridevi, also in some traditional white outfit. Second, Jackie Shroff looked THE DUDE in this movie, and third, I like one of the songs in the movie. It makes you pine for a long lost love even if you dont have a long lost love.

Despite the afternoon siesta I am feeling sleepy already. G’night!

The title roughly translated from Hindi to English - We just separated yesterday only

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Folly vs. Prudence

I wish some discoveries were left undiscovered. Like the nuclear energy for example. Doesn't it feel like one of our biggest follies? More like a pain in the butt than anything else?

I understand the need for renewable energy but aren't there less dangerous sources like the-
bio-fuel (well this one has its controversies too)

I am not an energy specialist so maybe my thoughts are stupid and naive but as a fellow member of the human race heart goes out to the Japanese for what they are struggling with and terrified of what maybe in store for rest of humanity.

PS: Bless all the super intelligent folks in this world with some prudence as well.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Something Personal

Do you read old e-mails? I do and yes I save least the ones that brings back happy memories :). I used to love writing letters to friends. The ones you actually write on real paper, put in an envelope with licked stamps stuck on it and takes 2-10 days to reach its destination, depending on the location. One of my dearest friends went away to Russia for studies after high school and I used to write long letters with all the news from home. She used to love getting them and would demand that I write at least once a week. Her replies were mostly describing her life in Russia, which I thoroughly enjoyed although she would insist that my letters were better. At the time it was still USSR and she once wrote me about her 15 days road & rail trip across the country with her school friends. I still remember how excited I was reading it. I am pretty sure I still have her letters back home, somewhere with my old books and papers. Now she works for the UN and is based in Rome and we are connected through facebook and we write on each others "walls" which has a word limit! :D. Technology makes things easy but the charm and excitement of a letter delivered by post somehow is not there.

Anyways, I was going though some old mails this weekend and came across one which I thought might be fun to share. It was in reply to one of my friends who apparently had written to me two months ago and I failed to reply immediately. I got another email reminding me of my impropriety and I responded immediately.

Dear J,

I had written to you some two months back. No response?


Dear JP,

I am so embarrassed for not replying immediately to your email.

Things got extremely hectic and stressful the last couple of months with school, work and home. In between all the assignments and "homework" we had to deal with mundane paper works for passport renewals to house lease and what not. All this took up a lot of time, money and thought. Perhaps not a very good excuse as I could have typed a line or two just to let you know I received your mail. Well, I am very sorry.

Good to read all the news from back home. I am glad all of you enjoyed the chocolates and you liked the book I sent. I am reading Part II of the book (Ghost Train to the Eastern star) I sent you and still at it. I try and catch a couple of pages in bed at night but some days I am off before I finish a paragraph. Too tired. About donating the book to the Dept. library..sure. We don't mind at all. I'll also bring the "Ghost Train...." when I come home. You can read and use it for the library as well.

It was fascinating to read about your travels to Sevagram and Bhimavara. I agree with you and the Zen saying- "it is the journey that matters and not the destination". And, your idea of a "second revolution for a corruption free, violence free society sounds fantastic". I want it to happen. However, so glad you did not make any obvious commitment for an alcohol free society. In moderation I guess it isn't so fact K & I have developed a taste for good wines ( well not the vintage kind obviously. cannot afford it yet).

Learning wise it has been a good semester so far. I am working on my proposal and it has been challenging. Just out of interest I am also taking a film class from Dept of South Asian Studies with a wonderful Prof.We have been watching old to contemporary Indian movies, dissecting them and analyzing them in an effort to understand Indian culture & society. Since I am the only Indian I always get a lot of questions but it is fun. We also read a lot of film theories and analysis by scholars on the movies we watch. So far we have watched and discussed movies by Satyajith Ray to Maniratnam. The way I watch and enjoy an Indian movie will never be the same again! I am scared for life! haha....

Yesterday we watched and discussed Anand Patwardhan (- Ram Ke Nam) and some papers on Indian cinema after Ayodhya ( includes the Ramayana narrative and post Babri Masjid). Interesting and disturbing. I really want a "second revolution" to happen. Next week we are watching Shaji Karun's Vanaprastham.

Recently the department organized a symposium titled Anticipation/Memory/Place: Environmentalism, Sustainability, and Eco-Citicism in South Asian Contexts. The topics and discourses were fascinating and new. The highlight for me was the screening of "Stolen Waters" - by Prasant and Daya (2003) which is about the Coca-Cola controversy at Plachimada. It brought back memories of our involvement on the issue with N. Namboodiri and his group. There is a movement in America, in fact Internationally, against Corporations and their profit driven unsustainable ways. Activists and academicians are raising their voices against corporate abuses on man and nature. Heard about a new book coming out on this called "Cultural Critique and Global Corporation".

Well I can go on and on about things happening here. I am planning to come home in summer. Will you be in campus or will you be off on one of your destination unknown road trips? Perhaps I can make a surprise visit like last time. I'll come with books and chocolates. Let me know.


PS: In a world were everything is communicated in text message format and where no one has time to spare I am perhaps pushing my limits by indulging in long, descriptive emails. But you know how good friends are -they generally put up with your eccentricities--at least mine does.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Women's Day

I know it was yesterday bu no harm in celebrating a day there? Besides I don't understand the point of having a specific day to celebrate women. Same goes with father's day, mother's day, teacher's day....
Some wise folks must have seen some purpose and significance to it..I don't know. And so let me move with the crowd in celebrating women's day.

Pic: A Tribal Lady-Orissa

To my mother and all the women out there..much,much stronger than they appear to be.

Monday, March 07, 2011

We Are The World?

Keywords: Country,Citizens,Dictator,Torture,FEAR,Oppression,Public prosecution,Murder,Oil,War

All the above coexisting with the rest of the world, all this time. Incredible!
When is peace going to make an appearance?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Travel Tips: India III

Continued from the previous post and the previous question...

Basically be prepared as boundaries of normal social conduct you are accustomed to in your native Texas will be crossed. You will have little kids following you, addressing you ‘uncle’, grandmas fussing over you, urging you to eat more even though they know you are as full as a stuffed turkey, the patriarchs of the family wanting to know your occupation and how much you make. You may also get a random request for sponsorship to US.

Question: Any additional advice since you have come this far?

Gosh! I am sure there is plenty more advice I can give…but this should be enough for you to survive. Oh and one last thing—you are more likely to be stared at but that is most likely if you are white and it is only in utter fascination/admiration. You see, as a nation of largely brown skinned people we are slightly obsessed with white/fair skin.

Namaste and Welcome to India!

PS 1: DO not attempt to check India on youtube. You will find many “India Shining” videos and patriotic clips. These are just hobby videos by a handful of rich Indians. They are usually established actors, musicians, politicians, entrepreneurs who both fund and feature in the videos. You will rarely see a common man in the street singing with pride and in general it is a pretty dirty and dusty place with splashes of brilliant colors.

PS 2: And before I forget we also boast having the biggest slum in Asia. I believe the place is called Dharavi, in Mumbai. So yes, please kindly visit for a real life slumdog millionaire experience.

Disclaimer: All material in this post is written in good humor, with some realities, and some clichés thrown in and not to hurt anybody’s sensibilities. If it it does then let me prescribe you a chill pill.

In retrospect, India is an exciting place to vist. There is adventure around ever corner, ever bend. Just pack in some adventure spirit and an open attitude and you will have fun. As Rauf said in the previous comment you can stick to the five star circuit and be away from all the dust, dirt and filth. Or you can hit the road and experience everything-the diverse and rich culture, the contemporary and the historical, the modern and the traditional,the liberal and the conservative. Yes, it is a fascinating eclectic mix!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Travel Tips: India II

Continued from previous post...

Question: I heard India is a great place to shop. Could you give me some suggestions?

If shopping is your main agenda, then metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai are good choices. Make sure you befriend someone local. Any contact would work—as in somebody’s, somebody’s, somebody’s cousin’s friend and you will be practically treated as family. While shopping at the street markets, offer ¼ of the price that was demanded and then bring it up slowly to 1/2 and then start walking away. You will most likely be called back, forced to add in an extra 10 cents and the item is yours along with a couple of curses in the local dialect which shouldn’t bother you since it is in the local dialect. (PS: Do not attempt to curse back in English thinking nobody would understand. Remember we were ruled by the British at one point. When they finally got tired of fighting non-violence, they left and we inherited the English language along with a Railway system that used to be the lifeline of the country. Now if you choose to travel by train your lifeline may be at risk).

Question: Any local customs or cultural aspects I need to be aware of?

If it is friends you are visiting then make sure you carry some gifts. Don’t get me wrong. We are very hospitable people but we do love fooreign goods. Usually candy does the job. If you are visiting Kerala, then umbrellas and torches are preferred. Made in China tag may win you a half hearted smile and thank you (you won’t hear this but they are probably saying, ‘what a cheapo!..Chinese umbrella!’). A made in Amayricca tag may get you an invitation to ‘please visit our faamili again and next time you must stay longer and bring your faamili too’. Yes I understand your dilemma-most things in US are Made in China. No worries- Made in Taiwan, Made in Singapore or Made in Japan are also acceptable choices to win their hearts.

More in the next post...

Disclaimer: All material in this post is written in good humor, with some realities, and some clichés thrown in and not to hurt anybody’s sensibilities. If it it does then let me prescribe you a chill pill.