Sunday, April 12, 2009
Chai compounds our burgeoning population and stops Darwinian natural selection in its tracks. It also literally holds the global economy together. This was particularly well illustrated one rainy Monsoon day when Rajkumar, a semi-successful salesperson at a midsized paper company, missed his afternoon cup of chai. Ram the chai-walla, who conducted business at the margin, was forced to close shop and subsequently became a callcenter employee for Verizon Wireless named Mark. Rajkumar, short on insulin and caffeine, fell asleep at his desk and missed an important international shipment to Fanny May. The next day the bottom fell out of the stock market.
Being so important to civilization and such, it’s no small wonder that we choose to celebrate all that is good about culture, art, unity and peace in both the east and the west with spicy Indian snacks and a good hot cuppa. As you slowly sip this modest drink of epic significance, take a moment to reflect on the Iyers, the Kapoors, the Rajkumars, and the Rams of the world and you will realize how truly gifted we are to have chai.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
To American audiences the movie will represent the triumph of the human spirit. And perhaps to this end, Slumdogís many Oscar nominations will prove fruitful. For one far removed from the reality that the movie portrays - Salim's opportunism and his final act of sacrifice, Jamal's victory and his stolen romance with Latika - elicits a strong feeling of pride. Like the characters in a vividly real western, the audience roots for the spunky underdog. But for one such as myself, an Indian firmly ensconced in middle-class comfort and blinkered with the deliberate ignorance of la vie en rose, the ugly truth brings a sickening tug of guilt to the pit of the stomach. This is the India we read about, talk about, and yet, the India we have forsaken. These are the very evils we write off as irreparable as we slowly sip a glass of Kingfisher's best.
When I watched Slumdog Millionaire, I was horrified. Horrified at my own blindness. Horrified that up until this point, all I had seen was a hazy unpleasantness in the distance that I chose to ignore for material pleasures. But as I watched, I also felt my heart swell and soar with a feeling greater than happiness. And this is what places Slumdog above the myriad Indian art films about the very same thing. It is what will probably win Danny Boyle his Oscar and separate the west's view of India from their view of, say, Darfur. It teaches us that the world is not as our mothers told us as they put us to sleep, but that the moments of pure, untainted beauty that can be snatched from its forbidding depths are better than any fairytale sung to us in secure warmth of our beds.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
My dreams lie at the end of a tunnel and I know my journey will be long and arduous. Threats of disownment will hurl themselves at me from all directions. Even as the walls of academic pressure close in on me, I must fight off the demons of maternal Indian passive aggresiva. And I know that as I make my perilous way, I may slip on a few stray coconut oiled coaxes. I may trip over strategically planted copies of Gray’s Anatomy. But parental intervention notwithstanding (“What do you mean you are dropping out of MIT to study theater at NYU? How will you feed yourself? Do you want to live on the streets?”), with stoic determination I will soldier on.
I will not be held back by the cultural and academic constraints of my heritage. I choose to cast them aside and embrace all that is good about being Indian. I will always wear my ethnicity with pride but I will also live a lifestyle of my choosing and pursue dreams that the American society affords me. I am an actor. I am a designer. I am gay. I am bisexual. I am flamboyant, intelligent, artistic, different. I am Kris Patel and I am getting the hell out of here.
Once a year, all over the world, night ceases to exist. Pulses of colored light punctuated by bright flashes dispel the dark. Explosive pops disturb the silence and joy erupts in the streets. Schools and companies are given holidays, families congregate, gifts are exchanged and there is much merry making. No, this is not the fourth of July. This is a festival that originated in India and spread to all corners of the globe with the brain drain of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Think of it as Christmas, of a more brown persuasion.
In India, spending peaks during this festival of lights. There is a mad rush for clothes, sweets, jewelry and furniture. Stores are checkered with half-off and buy-one-get-one-free signs. Houses are adorned with rangoli (traditional designs drawn with colored rice powder) and diyas (traditional lamps). All of this is topped off with the latest Diwali-themed Bollywood blockbuster of the season. After all, who better than Shah Rukh Kahn to usher the Goddess of prosperity across our thresholds? As America tightens its belt and prepares for a recession, let it take comfort in the knowledge that many of its nearly 2 million Indian Americans will be loosening their purse strings this month.
The festival of lights has begun in the US as well. This October will mark the sixth year Diwali has been celebrated in the White House. And who knows, perhaps this year the White House staff are setting aside a couple of extra lamps to celebrate the US’s nuclear deal with India. The warm glow of energy-efficient Diwali lights cannot be contained in the political scene. It seems to have caught the media’s attention as well. Last year, NBC aired its now famous Office Diwali episode.
Colleges all over the country, Emory included, are gearing up for the impending festivities. A night will be dedicated to it. Guests will partake of delicious, traditional Indian food from a mid-priced desi restaurant while being entertained by Indian dance and song. For some it will mean naught but a night of wild dancing to funky bhangra beats for the price of twenty dollars. But for most, the celebration of Diwali means much more. It is a chance to share a part of their heritage with the rest of the world and with each other.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Monday, January 07, 2008
Beatlemania has taken me. It's not the music. It's not the lyrics that consume me, but the lives of the four young men who emerged from the dirt and smoke of working class Liverpool and took the world by the storm. What was it about them that was so consuming that they powered a pop revolution. EVERYONE wanted to be the beatles.
I wish I could go back in time and watch them as their story unfolded. Rags to riches. Scousers to stars. Musicians to Legends. I want to own a little piece of their history.
I am currently reading their biography by Bob Spitz.
....that is all.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Finnerty: If sunlight caused mutagenic effects in the ovary, people really shouldn't be wearing those teeny, tiny bikinis, should they?
Finnerty: I'm kidding! I'm kidding!......Most people's bikinis cover their ovaries anyway.
"I was looking for photographs of the XXX karyotype on the internet to show you guys. So I typed in super-female, because fruit flies is all I know. You would not believe what comes up when you type super-female on images. The boots......the whips....its disgusting!"
Thursday, November 01, 2007
(On Tay-Sachs disease) "So all you embryoninc physicians out there, just discover a disease that noone else has heard of and it'll be named after you and you'll be famous too."
(On some website she wanted us to read for the next class) "Go to this website if you're interested in cell biology....actually don't. It's full of dirty pictures. And if you do, do it from someone else's computer so no one will know it's you."
(On some random scientist who discovered something really important in 1890...forgot the details) "...and contrary to what alot of you might believe, I was not around at that time...but this dude was."
(On fermentation and the production of carbon dioxide from sugar...and this is my favorite.) "My advice to you is, if you ever make beer, and I think you should, it's fun, store your bottles in the garage or on the deck...not in your kitchen in case you overdo it with the sugar."
Sigh....I love Finnerty.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
A textbook description of a student would typically sound something like this,
‘ A true student comes to school in the morning with a fresh face and shining eyes. As he enters his classroom, shivers of anticipation run down his spine. He awaits his teacher, eager to receive the knowledge she has to impart…’
Which just goes to show how pointless it is to read a textbook and how full of crap the writers are.
This is what it should say.
‘ The typical student comes to school in the morning bleary-eyed and yawning. As he drags his sorry butt up the seemingly endless flights of stairs to his classroom, he tends to curse the unknown force that makes him rise five days a week at an ungodly hour just to face eight hours of endless tedium.’
Ok. Maybe that’s exaggerating it a little bit, but you get the general idea.
It was in a mood like this that I entered the 11th standard class room one bleak Wednesday morning. The sight of my friends standing at the doorway lit a weak fire in the ice box that was my soul.
“ What do we have first period?”
The warm glow that had started to fill me was extinguished abruptly. Gloomily, we made our way to our seats.
- A standard issue sari. So far so good.
- A matching blouse that is always 100% cotton and 100% see-through. Now normally you would assume that the sight of women’s underwear would excite the teenage boys in the class. Clearly, if that is what you think, you have never seen
Chari. All the males in her class keep their eyes carefully averted from this ghastly sight. Not out of modesty, but out of a strong sense of self-preservation.
- Having little or no hair in the vicinity of her eyebrows, she draws her own.
In addition to this,
It was at this point that Henc decided to talk to Mamu. Mamu, whose regard for Henc at this point was comparable to his regard for
Henc decided to reply in a most mature and eloquent fashion by hurling her pen at Mamu’s head. And in an interesting twist of fate, it completely missed Mamu and hit Poop in the eye. Half – blinded with pain and howling in rage, Poop threw a half-eaten cabbage sandwich in the general direction from which the pen came. It landed square on Tara’s head.
In the ensuing chaos, during which the class started hurling things at one another, including paper, two benches, a number of grapes, and infact, Shanty, Chari tried once to restore order, slipped on a few stray grapes, was knocked over by the flying Shanty, and slunk out of the room unnoticed as the bell rang marking the end of the physics period.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I'm all set. My bags are packed, my farewells said and my schedule tentative. So, goodbye Bangalore. I will miss your crowded streets, your sweltering heat, your pouring rain, your punctuality or lack thereof, your masala dosas, your ready smiles and your colourful insults.
I will miss you in all your uncouth warmth, you, the city I love.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Help! I need somebody!
Help! Not just anybody!
Help! You know I need someone!
For those poor souls who don't already know, that was from the Beatles' hit, Help! Fitting, eh?
Also, lately, I've been listening to a lot of songs by George Harrison. But that's neither here nor there.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
The small boy comes to my door, screaming at his mother and telling me point blank that he wants to come in.
Maybe later? We're eating lunch.
But I want to.
Come baby, I will get you some icecream. says the mother.
No. I want to!
OK how about you come in another 15 minutes.
Yes baby, they are eating. Come I'll get you a gameboy.
NO! I WANT TO!
I WANT TO! I WANT TO! I WANT TO!
OK OK. Come, come.
Sorry. He's just cranky. He didn't sleep last night.
No problem, aunty.
I grimace as I here a crash and a wicked shriek from within. Hastily I say goodbye and rush off to see what priceless heirloom the little monster has broken. I look at the alabaster shards that litter the floor and up in dismay at the inert little face.
Please don't play in the living room, you will break things.
And off he runs. I tell him not to shout, he hurls startlingly original obscenities at me. I tell him not to jump around, he jumps on my toes. I tell him to put my book down, he hurls it at my face.
I reach a breaking point. The only thing holding me back from picking him up by his nostrils and hurling him out the 1st floor window is the prospect of facing his mother's considerable bulk and a the jail sentence for murder. I fall to my knees and pray for deliverance. I promise 11 coconuts in the Ganapathi Kovel the next day. And just to make sure my prayer is heard I pray to Jesus...Our Father who art in heaven (crash)....and Allah...I will do namaz. I will do zakhat(smash, dash).
Mercifully, the door bell rings.
How has he behaved.
I have difficulty expressing my enhanced feelings of anger, hate, resentment and horror. She interprets my silence and twitching face as love for her horrible child.
What a good boy he is. Where is he? Bring him here.
I go in and ask him to leave. When answered only with a shrill No! I bodily carry him to the door bravely risking permanent disembowlement and facial disfiguration.
You had fun beta?
I want to stay!
I WANT TO!
Aunty, we have to go out now.
I WANT TO! I WANT TO!
I slam the door shut and lock and bolt it for good measure. Slowly, I crawl into the drawing room which looks as if a small tornado or large rat has swept through it. Slumped on the couch, I thank all Gods for keeping me alive and pray that the little boy moves far away to Nicaragua...or Kashmir.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
I sat on the edge of Worli Seaface, admiring the power of the cruel sea and the beauty of the sky, trying to ignore the sounds and scents of Mumbai's teeming millions on the pavement. A warm wind blew about me, gently ruffling my hair. I watched as a man and his child made their way across the rocks to the very edge, where water met land. It put me in mind of the time we went to Goa.
We had gone to one of the dirtier beaches for a swim. A few other families were there as well. The water was very sandy and no one couldn't venture near the swirling water without sand collecting in pockets beneath their clothes. Everyone was eyeing the dirty waters apprehensively, unwilling to risk getting gritty. My brother ran full speed and jumped right in. He didn't even wait for his clothes to get dirty. He took handfuls of dirt and rubbed it into his hair.
A small smile played across my lips. What a day it had been.
Suddenly, a small, white object went sailing over the ledge into the sea. It was a plastic bag filled with all sorts of garbage. The old woman who had thrown it, turned and walked away without a word. I gazed at her receding figure in disbelief. I could have gone a little further to a spot where I wouldn't have had to watch that ugly white bag of death floating away in the beautiful water, but I knew it wouldn't have been the same. My evening was ruined. Quietly, with bitter thoughts, I rose.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Saturday, April 28, 2007
roll the dice
because I feel wild
But I can't.
I want to jump higher and higher
run faster and faster
because I am happy.
But I won't.
I want to scream at the top of my lungs.
Let it resound through the night
because I feel free.
But I'm not.
Monday, April 16, 2007
I visited the animal shelter at CUPA in hopes of taking a small step towards the hypothetical. I managed to achieve absolutely nothing of the sort. I did however have the best afternoon I've had in a long time. This is, in essence, what I did:
1. I walked 5 dogs; Jimmy, Puppy, Blackie, Moti and Unamed in that order.
I really don't know how the CUPA guys manage to recognize all of their 50 odd similarly named dogs. Let me tell you a little about each of my acquaintances though. Jimmy is a three legged veteran who valiantly walked for 15 mins with me. Puppy is the most energetic canine I have ever met. She dragged me along a wheezing adventure as she chased a squirel, ate grass, barked most viciously at an insane white pomeranian as I breathlessly cheered her on and just generally made me feel like I was 50 years old. Earlier this year, she broke her back and was left with a permanent limp. Even after surgery, her back hurts when she runs. Blackie is a beautiful black dog with a white neck. Moti was the most well behaved of the lot. Unamed is a new old dog fresh off the streets. I tried to name him Dan but I don't think he liked it very much.
2. I played with, fed and watered all the puppies in the centre (four of which were less than 3 weeks old). My already liquid heart started to bubble and boil and I'd like to say it evaporated, but that would just be Michaelish. Then I cleaned their cages.
3. I found out that in order to come back again, I would have to take, approximately, six very painful injections. My heart slowly solidified.
Tomorrow, I search for vaccines.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
The movie begins with the stupidest fight scene anyone has ever choreographed. The queen of England is travelling with her grandchildren and the crown jewels in a single train car through the Sahara Desert. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a guy dressed completely in black drops out of the sky and attempts to steal them by impersonating the queen. How brainless must he be to attempt daylight robbery dressed all in black against a light blue sky. Even more preposterous, he succeeds. Blessed by some divine force unknown to us, he evades the bullets of trained royal guards by simply flipping back and forth on the roof of the moving train. He then does a mind-blowingly boring sand-boarding sequence holding onto a rope attached to the train. During this time, he doesn't really move, but eludes the guards' shots for a good 5 minutes.
Somewhere between finding out that the robber(Z I think his name was....let's just call him Z) is the most evasive international criminal in the world, and the ensuing song and dance sequences, we are introduced to the heroine.
Enter Aishwarya Rai.
She should have been blond. (For those of you who do not know the meaning of ditsy, I strongly recommend that you watch her first scene.)
It was at this point that the possibility of suicide first crossed my mind.
I could go on and on, but I'll spare you the unnecessary reading. Basically, it's a horrible movie. If you value your intelligence and your self-respect as a human being, don't watch it. Don't go within ten feet of any movie theatre playing it.
The only people that deserve a little credit are the make-up artists. The movie's one saving grace is its sex appeal. The movie is Aishwarya Rai, Hrithik Roshan, and the sweat dripping off their bodies. Of course this is supplemented by random dance sequences where scantily clad women perspire while performing obscene dance moves.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
Frank, as it turns out, was not, as Longineau had thought, across the hall , but was engaged in blatant fornication atop a bowl of bananas in the kitchen with a girl of obscure origins. Frank! You dirty, dirty old man! said I, for Frank had a wife and many children. I discovered Mrs Frank and the Franks as I rummaged through the shoe closet for a pair of sandals. Stop screaming! You'll wake little Ned, yelled Mrs Frank with silent consternation.
Mrs Frank had a cousin, Francois, who had recently taken residence in a small crack in the bathroom wall. Francois was quite clearly a man of breeding. When he saw, that morning, that I intended to bathe myself, he politely retreated into the dark recesses of his crack.
So you see, when Longineau died on that fateful March morning, he left behind thousands of friends and relatives who will remember him till the day they die.
Of course, I sprayed to house from top to bottom with Baygon the next day.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
For more pics of Mer, Der and the rest of the Grey's Anatomy Cast, click on my Grey's Media link on the sidebar.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Which is not to say that I don't like watching drama. I most certainly do. Whether virtual or real, drama interests me. But I enjoy it only in the capacity of a passive observer, not an active participant.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Kumarans is like an intricate mosaic, and it is not the final picture, but the individual peices that I will miss the most. I will miss the familiar feeling of disembowelement as I ride down the road to school. I will miss the stampede that follows the 9th period bell. I will miss the delightful smells from the chemistry lab that waft their way through the ground floor. Most of all, I will miss the very heart of my experience as a student; my friends and my teachers. Thank you teachers, for all that you have taught me - lessons that extended well beyond the four walls of a classroom. Thank you, all my classmates, for two wonderful years - for all the fun, the hysterical laughter and the valuable lessons in Tamil popular culture. Thank you Deepa Ma'am, for providing me with myriad opportunities for growth during my time here as a student.
When we leave here today, we will take with us the memories of these seemingly trivial things. Memories that we will, nonetheless, cherish for the rest of our lives. And I hope that just as we take with us these memories of our school, we will leave behind our own imprint; an echo of the laughter we once shared, a shadow of the students we once were.
Monday, January 29, 2007
She was very disturbed by certain statistics she had learnt in school regarding the disposal of plastic materials (the exact values of which prove elusive at the moment). A very large percentage of plastic wastes in India are simply discarded on its roads by the careless and are left to accumulate in a wayside gutter until they clog our drainage systems and result in the overflowing of sewage water. (At this point, I would like to point out that the mushy garbage mulch that is the drainage river outside Ranka Colony on Bannerghatta Road originated in the very same way.) Moreover, that very afternoon, she had seen the campus sweepers cutting down a couple of the campus trees, which are supposedly government protected, for firewood.
I believe her exact words were,
"Mommy, I mean, like, how could anyone even do that! That sucks!"
That does suck.
In any case, she wanted to make a difference and galvanize people to a new environmental consciousness. She wanted our mother to help her get people to start recycling and stop cutting down trees.
I had never been prouder of her.
Inspite of my pride and my agreement with her sentiments, I found myself telling her that her plan would never work. The sweepers have to survive somehow. They haven't the money for a gas stove nor can they afford to buy firewood. IIM is the only place where they can cut down trees for free and get away with it. Secondly, India is too set in its ways to ever change. The very school children who hold fairs on recycling awareness, casually discard chocolate wrappers from the windows of their school bus. The whole cause, is useless, said I.
I was shocked at myself. When did I, who always believed in the environmentalist cause, who believed in teaching by example, become so cynical? Was it when I tried and failed to get IIM to circumvent their construction plans around invaluable, forty-odd-year old trees? Was it when I tried and failed in the ninth standard to get the primary school to plant trees on the school campus in honour of World Environment Day? Was it the during the last four years, when I had repeatedly tried and failed to convince my siblings not to burst firecrackers on Diwali and not to use synthetic colours a.k.a. poisonous chemicals on Holi?
Where did my belief that the world could change leave me? When did the hope that a greener India was possible desert me?