Saturday 12 May 2012

[Blog] Up Up Awry!

Am I a patriot? Well probably. if you were to go by my conversations with friends I would be the first to jump up and defend India and rave and rant about the Indian value system and Indian sensibility.

But as we all know India as a nation is a conundrum of contradictions- contradictions that might baffle any social scientist. But we Indians can easily do away with all the accusations about contradictions in one stroke with the the much overrated 'Unity in Diversity' card.

But one area in particular that I can't reconcile to - is the major disconnect between the Indian I encounter on the street - the friendly and usually more than helpful kind and the one that I see inside airports. I can never understand what comes over the Indian the minute s/he enters the portals of an airport.

You get a taste of things to come at the baggage scan counter itself- if you have an extra bag or two and if you are travelling alone you will be passed up at the baggage scan by quite a few passengers who arrive much after you.

As you wait to collect the boarding pass you might be passed up again and again at the security check- and that computer and I-pad which was so useful for your travel is now a curse as you fumble with the bag and deposit it in the tray and look on helplessly as others gleefully inch past you.

You see we Indians don't believe in queues- what is a queue anyway - a foreign word that is as difficult to spell as maintain- so why observe it at all?

But this is just the beginning. There is more trouble awaiting the hapless traveller as most airports in India are undergoing transformation.  One can pray all one want for an aerobridge but all that one is going to get is that impossibly high bus and that difficult stairway.

By the time you take the bus ride and lug your hand baggage up the stairway you are half dead and you tell yourself "A few more minutes now and then I can rest!" pipe dream actually, because invariably the space allocated for your baggage storage is grabbed by the early birds who beat you to it. So you sheepishly put away your own in someone else's spot. What the heck! "If you can do it so can I!"

I don't know why, but most airlines always seem to have this bizarre sense of time- I can almost imagine some authoritarian figure sitting in a well lit, well air conditioned office working on a 9am-5pm schedule sadistically plotting the timings - flights are most active just around midnight. So if you thought you could sleep through the flight and arrive fresh at your destination, think again. Firstly they never serve dinner until much after takeoff (well not that I look forward to it in any sense of the term - who can stomach stale highly microwaved dinner at 2 a.m. in the morning anyway) but cabin lights are not dimmed till dinner is cleared. When they finally put off the lights and you struggle to decide on the best position to fall asleep in the extremely uncomfortable seat, other factors take over and ensure you stay bleary eyed throughout. I can never understand why kids begin to cry the very moment you begin to fall asleep or why most co passengers decide to catch up on the exercise they so easily abstained from on land or even why some folks are so chirpy at 3.00 a.m.  I remember one particular journey where a woman and her husband kept me awake the whole night detailing her medical history (it made me wonder what kept her alive and so voluble at that, given her condition) to a co passenger who couldn't care less-but I have since found an easy saviour from all this noise in noise cancelling headphones.

When the plane gets ready to land- the flight attendants can go on and on with their warnings about switching off mobiles and keeping the seat belts till 'the plane comes to a complete halt,' we Indians don't really care do we? because mobiles ring and seat belts click left right and centre much before actual touch down. And its a real wonder how people manage to extricate themselves, dislodge the luggage and position themselves in the aisle all in a trice, and dare I say that the queue is conspicuous by its absence.

As you can imagine, I resign myself to be passed up once again- I really don't mind getting down last -it gives me the opportunity to collect my things in peace but I do mind being hit on the head and shoulders repeatedly by missiles- sorry bags of the overenthusiastic pushing jostling crowd these bangs are serious enough to cause temporary insanity- but I don't have the luxury of wallowing in this state as I have to negotiate the entire process of disembarkation and exiting the airport which calls for full possession of one's wits.

As I live in the Middle East- I experience problems unique to this sector but that warrants a lengthy discussion rather than a passing mention. It is what Shakespeare might have called - 'And thereby hangs a tale.'
 So do I love India and Indians? I most certainly do, only not the air travelling mutations!

I came across this video which sums it all up pretty nicely:

Wednesday 18 April 2012

[Translation] Bharathiyaar: Aasai Mugam Marandu

Aasai Mugam Marandu

Aasaimugam marantho pochey,
Idhai Yaaridam solven adi thozhi;
Nesam marakavillai nenjam,
Enil Ninaivu mugam marakalaamo;

Kannil theriyuthoru thotram,
Athil Kannan azhagu muzhuthillai
Nannu mugavadivu kaanil, andha
Nallavalla sirippai kaanom;

Oivu mozhithalum illamal
Avan uravai ninaithirukkum ullam
Vayum uraipathundu kandai
Andha maayan pughazhinai eppodum

Kangal purinthuvitta paavam
Uyir Kannan urumarakkalachu
Pengalinidathil idu pole
Oru pedamai munbu kandathundo?

Thenai maranthirukkum vandum
Oli sirappai maranthuvitta poovum
Vaanai maranthirukkum payirum
Indha vaiyam muzhuthumillai thozhi

Kannan mugam maranthuponal,
Intha Kangal irunthu payan undo;
Vanna padamumillai kandai,
Inni Vaazhum vazhi ennadi thozhi;


Oh! I have forgotten my dear love's face my friend,
Tell me, with whom should I share this lament-
The heart though has not forgotten its fondness
Then why did my memories let me down?

The form that I perceive before me,
Has not in sum all his beauty;
In those eyes set in that beauteous visage
I find not his sweet winsome smile!

My heart ceaselessly dwells on our relationship-
Haven't you noticed my constant talk
about that illusionist?

But a sin committed by my eyes
Has caused his disappearance from memory
Have you detected such folly
In other women my friend?

Was there ever a bee that spurns honey?
A flower that disdains sunlight?
Or a crop that ignores rain?
Any place else in this world?

If I could forget Kannan's face
Of what further use are these eyes?
Alas! I don't even possess a picture
How do I live out the rest of my life, in this state, my friend?

Monday 16 April 2012

[Blog] What would you do if…

I recall being asked this question a long time ago - "What are the three things that you would like to take if you were ever stranded on a deserted island?" 

By virtue of being hypothetical this question affords a wide range of responses- I don’t remember my own at that time but what I do remember is that I made a mental note to read Robinson Crusoe once again to be better prepared the next time around. This question I was told was doing the rounds at interviews back then.
Coming to think of it - there can only be three broad categories of responses.
  1. Be the hopeless romantic and quote Omar Khayyam –"A book of verses underneath the bough
    A flask of wine, a loaf of bread and thou

    Beside me singing in the wilderness

    And wilderness is paradise now.”

    (Obviously Khayyam has more than three choices but well…)
  2. Be very practical and say that take a box of matches, a pocket knife and a music player and other variants that ensure a comfortable stay and an early rescue.
  3. not take anything at all and rough it out much like Tom Hanks in Cast away.

This question might perhaps not caught me off guard had I been exposed then to explorations of the subject in Hollywood films such as The Edge or the television series Lost. The early episodes of Lost presented a thrilling and dare I say credible lesson on survival. (I am pretty sure that there are several other films on the subject that I can’t recall at the moment!)

But over the last few years and as recently as last week we have had a spate of unfortunate earthquakes all around us. And earthquakes and tsunami’s have this uncanny habit of arriving at very short notice- So instead of travelling to that hypothetical island all we have to do is to be mentally prepared for an event closer to home!

So I would rather rephrase the question as– “If there was an earthquake warning in your area what are the three things that you would take with you?  I wonder what the responses would be – would someone still be romantic or would everyone be plain practical?
What is your take?

Saturday 7 April 2012

[Translation] Bharathiyaar: Chinnan Chiru Kiliye

Chinnan Chiru Kiliye

 This poem is one of the greatest tributes to being a parent.It explores the various emotions that parents feel for their offspring. The child addressed here may be the god Krishna for whom the poet had special affinity, but the child here could very easily be any child. 

Chinnan chirukkiLiyE kaNNammA selvak-kaLanjiyamE
Ennaik-kali theerthey ulagil Etram puriya vandAi
PiLLaik-kaniyamudE kaNNammA pEsum por-chittiramE
ALLi aNaittiDavE en munnE Adi varum tEnE

Odi varugaiyilE kaNNammA uLLam kuLirudaDi       
Adi-tiridal kaNDAl unnaip-pOi Avi tazhuvudaDI
Ucchi tanai mughandAl garuvam Ongi vaLarudaDi
Mecchi unnai oorar pugazhndAl mEni shilirkkudaDI

Kannattil muttamittal uLLam thAn kaL veri koLLudaDi
Unnait-tazhuvidilO kaNnammA unnatham,AgudaDI
Un kaNNil neer vazhindAl ennenjil udiram koTTudaDi
En kaNNin pAvaiyanrO kaNNammA ennuyir ninradanrO?

O tiniest of tiny parrot Kannamma, o treasure trove of all wealth!
You have come into this world to rid me of all my sins and elevate me;
You are as sweet as the nectar of a tender fruit Kannama,
-You are a golden painting that has come alive.
When you come dancing before me, my sweet,
You urge me to pick and cuddle you in delight.

There is such peace in my heart Kannamma when you come running towards me-
My souls engulfs you every time you dance and scamper around me.
Oh! I swell with pride when I plant a kiss on your forehead-
My being shudders when people appreciate and praise you.

Kissing your cheeks accomplishes such great intoxication,
and each embrace grants such ecstasy.
But when a tear drops from your eye, my heart begins to bleed;
Are you not the pupil of my eye Kanamma?
And is my life not entirely yours?

Tuesday 3 April 2012

[Blog] Waiting...

If we look at our life it seems that life is one long journey that involves a lot of waiting. When we are young – we are often told – ‘You are too young for this ' or ‘Wait till you grow up!’ There is so much curiosity in childhood about what people(especially my dad) do in offices and why falling in love is a taboo. I am reminded of my frustration when my limited rights have been taken away from me as punishment and of that ubiquitous neighbourhood bully who ensured my forced 'grounding' and how much these instances triggered my desperation to grow up.

When one is five years old, adulthood seems like its only five years away. But once there, there are still things that are out of reach. Like the fact that you cant play for too long outside, there are issues with pocket money and that bully continues to be a threat. So then you tell yourself 'wait a few more years'- and you meander through life and before you know it you are twenty.

For a five year old by 20 one should realistically be over the moon- but alas as we age our needs change too. So the obsession with where dad goes in the morning is not there anymore- in fact you don’t care where he goes as long as he finances your needs- now the wait is for that particular college in the city and that particular course.

And I almost forgot that particular member of the opposite sex whom you have decided that you can't live without for the rest of your life.
Then there is that wait for the job, the promotion, the desired salary –the house in the upmarket locality, the car that is the envy of all your friends, the children that excel in academics-The list of all the things we wait for seems endless...

Recently a thought crossed my mind. Amid this endless waiting people have stopped to ask these questions as well.
 Is there a meaning to life?
Is there life after death?
Is there a god up there somewhere and do people keep their tryst with their maker?

So this endless rehearsals that is played out through out our life with waiting and outcome- is for that one major wait for that all important answer-
Unfortunately the dead don’t return to enlighten us and when death does take one away we may be past caring for the outcome.

[Translation] ஆண்டாளின் நாச்சியார் திருமொழி - கற்பூரம் நாறுமோ

    What form does bhakti take? In deep veneration it evokes intense spirituality. Can one express romantic love towards the divine? Great s...