Wednesday, August 31, 2005

You think you know a person

I was sprawled on the bed, my head dangling off the side of the mattress. Shweta was lying next to me, almost asleep. ‘You’re just like my little brother,’ she muttered. Now I’m used to her, and therefore not very easy to shock, but seeing we don’t have a brother, I said, ‘eh?’

‘You’re just like him.’

There had to be a story there. I prodded her.

‘I had him when I was young,’ she explained. An encouraging noise or two and the story emerged patchily. Apparently, he was sometimes a baby, sometimes about two or three; a rather brainless child with a penchant for getting into dangerous situations. Naturally, it fell to Shweta to rescue him from raging fires, heavy firing military zones and many, many perils – which she did, sometimes with sheer heroism and often with great cleverness. I don’t know too much about it but she even pretended to be a beggar woman once and got them both away to safety.

‘I see,’ I said. After a moment, ‘How am I like him?’

‘He was always sliding off the bed and falling off the cliff. I had so much trouble dragging him back.’

Ah! that ragged pillow. My sister’s Hobbes.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Stranger than we can imagine

There’s a raging debate on at the Huffington Post (also posted on the Intent blog). Deepak Chopra has been writing a few pieces there about consciousness and Intelligent Design. Should have been fascinating, but the thing has descended from being well thought out and well articulated points of view into a shrill cacophony of voices. I actually trawled through the comments and ended up quite dizzy.

The subject of God isn’t something that people can discuss with any degree of detachment, apparently. I’d always thought that religious zealots and evangelists tended to be vehement, but evidently they haven’t cornered that part of the market. Such intemperate language from the Skeptics/Athiests! Such... why yes, intolerance!

Why though? The concept of God is perhaps the most complex one we have (that is so simplistic it makes me smile, but I’m trying to put a few thoughts down as simply as possible, ok?) For instance, no one knows what that word means to another person. You could say, “I believe in God” but it doesn’t tell you exactly what that form that belief takes. There are as many gods as there are people.

Bandhe na honge jitne khuda hai khudai mein
Kis kis khuda ke samne sajda kare koi

We have gods for everything in India. Beginnings, wealth, learning, music, strength, revenge. Diseases are deified in this country, as is every element. Some people believe in entire pantheons, some literally believe their canons and mythologies. Some take those stories to be parables, enjoy them and construct more sophisticated notions of god for themselves. Some abandon the debate, believing it more important to be good. Others believe in a force, an entity. Some believe god exists in every single thing they see, touch, smell and feel as well as in everything they cannot see, touch, smell or feel. Some don’t believe at all, and will wait for proof. Empirical proof. Solid, verifiable fact.

Each person’s concept is the sum of many things – their upbringing, the god(s) they inherited, their intelligence, the books they read at sixteen, the voices that influenced them, their spiritual quotient and most important, what works for them. Each god (or non-god) then is a reflection of us – current version, up and running.

Very often, other peoples’ concept of God will seem ludicrous. It probably is. They could be very wrong. We could all be wrong. Heck, we could all be right! There are more things in heaven and earth… remember? We can’t know the truth, can we? Not from this vantage point, not with these faculties, trapped as we are in these islands of ‘negative entropy’. I came across this in a play* once in which Pandora, the myth, tells us she doesn’t know what story she sprung from: “I cannot know yet, or perhaps I knew once and have forgotten. Or Fate has written it across my soul in letters too large for me to read.” Like that.

Given this, why must we find other people’s opinions so worthy of contempt and ridicule? It may not be true, their belief system, but they have a workable model and might have need of it. Believe anything you like, but why must you insist others do too? Does being non-religious preclude you from the courtesies of religious tolerance?

* Daniel Currie Hall, 1996. Schrödinger and Pandora.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Sick again. What is wrong with me? Stress, or I'm unhappy and don't know it. both. damn.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Much prettyness

My cousin Hemanth gifted us a CD when he was here last week. Thiruvasagam is a fusiony sort of album where composer Ilaiyaraaja sets verses of 12th century Shaivite poet Manikavachagar to symphonic music (played by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra). It sounds heavenly but complete appreciation is impeded by my very rudimentary Tamil. The interesting-looking booklet also is in Tamil. I will have to rope in the father, I think, and get him to go over it verse by verse.


Ilaiyaraaja induced a nostalgia trip and I visited once again those lovely, lovely songs from Geetanjali. I liked almost everything about Geetanjali, barring of course the execrable ‘comedy track’. The story, the music, the frames, the spirit.

White mist on green grass. Nag, with that overgrown moustache, prowling the hills, swathed in shawls and contemplating fast-approaching death.

taraala naa kadha kshanaalade kadaa

gatinchi povu gaadha nenani…

aamani paadave haayigaa

moogavai poku ee vela
raaleti poolaa raagaalato

pooseti poolaa gandhaalato
manchu taaki koyila

mounamaina velala


-Veturi Sundararamamurthy

Later, O Paapa laali as Nag’s character rocks Geeta to sleep on that bench in the middle of nowhere against Thota Tharani’s inspired white picket fences. Hmm.

Friday, August 19, 2005

It was curious

I came across this in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, the charming novel by Alexander McCall Smith. His heroine, Mma Precious Ramotswe muses:
"It was curious how some people had a highly developed sense of guilt... while others had none. Some people would agonise over minor slips or mistakes on their part, while others would feel quite unmoved by their own gross acts of betrayal or dishonesty."
It's a naive comment. Of course, some people have no sense of guilt. You couldn't have war, atrocities, rapes, murders and torture without people who don't feel guilt. That shouldn’t need saying… but it does.

I’m thinking now not of those horrific things, or the people who do them, but of ordinary people. Just plodding citizens, like you and me, trying to have a decent go at it. Isn’t it odd how so many people aren’t concerned about being fair? How they will take and take till someone stands up and makes a point of it? Behaviour essentially guided by how much they can get away with. No internal checks at all! No innate sense of justice, or even concern for other people.

Takers are even more common than murderers. And to exclaim about them is naiver still.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Search me

Every now and then, some weirdfunny searches lead to this blog.
Months ago, I came across one that sought 'waxing Aishwarya'. I thought about this - did this person want to know more about the wax models at Madame Tussaud's or did he have something kinkier in mind?
More recently there was 'Indian idles', 'sealing wax for eyebrows' and 'abida shoes'. Today? 'Albus Dumbledore and wife ships'. Where did that come from?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Do you want to retrieve this post?

I've been internet- and computer-deprived for a few days. Still, I hopefully wrote a post (in Safe mode - I was that desperate) and saved it. I logged on to put it up today but there's this thing about not being able to step twice into the same river. Three days later, it sounds ranty and strident, which I absolutely hate except of course when I'm feeling like that.

Anyway, it was about singer Jagjit Singh and how he's disappointingly plateaued out. I've hacked out the bits that offend me today and here are the parts that stayed:

Singh has a great voice, is a good singer (capable of great ‘rooh’ on occasion) but is a very ordinary composer. It is this insistence that he sing his own tunes that has brought down the quality of his output. He has been doing this for a while now – through Ghalib, Sajda and Marasim. And yet some of his most memorable earlier work was for other composers. Under their batons, he was versatile: poignant, funny even vivacious. His own music limits him severely.

I also put up a ghazal and I still want to do that:

Now it's such a rotten thing to gripe against someone who's given you pleasure, I'll make amends by mentioning this ghazal. It's from Saher, by a poet called Nawaz Deobandi.
Ghazals are mostly love songs and as we know so well, love descends rather easily to the mawkish in mediocre hands. I can't tell you what it is about this one that redeems it, but it's special. Singh interprets this one gloriously, so perhaps you need to listen to it for full impact but the words do okay by themselves.

To me, it calls up a person who glows. You know what I mean… one of those radiant people who light up rooms when they walk in, one of those people everyone wants to talk to, people who leave you thinking about them for days together… the beautiful, fragrant people.

Tere aane ki jab khabar mehke
Tere kushboo se saara ghar mehke

Shaam mehke tere tassavur se
Shaam ke baad phir saher mehke

Raat bhar sochta raha tujhko
Zehn-o-dil mere raat bhar mehke

Yaad aaye to dil munnavar ho
Deed ho jaaye to nazar mehke

Woh ghadi do ghadi jahaan baithe
Woh zameen mehke woh shajar mehke

Monday, August 01, 2005

The sibling

Lists again. Next on Gayathri's master list: Five best memories of my sister. Gay copped out on this one and I think I will too. I simply can't distil memories of my sister into five disparate bits.

I could tell you a few things about her: that she best loves to laugh rolling on the floor, clutching her stomach - a fit that often goes on almost five minutes longer after everyone else has stopped laughing; that she hasn't met a child she hasn't driven into hyperactive hysteria with her rowdy games; that she's one of the most intelligent persons I know and the most capable of great things; that she's spiritual, deeply loving and coldly detached… I could tell you many things.

The short story: We're friends, Shweta and I. Soul sisters, even. She's an older soul, I suspect. Just as well I have a few years on her - these Leos need sitting on, or they get out of hand. We talk incessantly and very often don't need to, because our thoughts are so alike. It's a recurring joke that we should just sit across from each other and nod vigorously in agreement without saying a word.

Some things need saying nevertheless. Happy Birthday, Tot.