Sunday, April 21, 2013

An Afternoon One Monsoon


                                                                                                                                                      Monsoon! The nymph that envelopes the land and the heavens with her irresistible enchantment!                                                                                                                                                      
If an ordinary mortal such as I is bewitched by the beauty she brings forth and enhances on all that is in Nature- the air, water, sky, the mountains, the thick green flora and even the often uninviting water buffaloes that stand in the rain fed fields indifferent and caring the least, what wondrous creation can she tempt and provoke in a bard!

The monsoon in Kerala is singular. It is awe and inspiring splendour how she transforms the famished and unquenchable land with her spell. In one whiff of freshness she carries in her bosom she eclipses the dreariness and forlorn. Driving through the land after the spell of monsoon rains, with water dripping from trees that straddle the path, pools of water on the road and gushing by sides of the road in effusive state, eager to join the larger schemes elsewhere down, I and C were on a drive some hundred and thirty kilometers from the dry town in Tamilnad where we then lived.

We had befriended a family whom we have met often before at the school in Coonoor, but neither they nor we went farther than exchanging acknowledging nods. However a carnival at the school that lasted a couple of days brought us together and before we parted they invited us to their home in Kerala by the foothills of the Western Ghats.

The rains that visit Kerala, particularly the south west monsoon that tee off in June scatter much relief in the border towns of Tamilnad-Coimbatore, Pollachi and Tiruppur. The stifling dryness of the summer slowly recedes unable to confront the wet, bewitching spell of the monsoon rains and the cold air it throws across the mountains. By the time one crosses the bye- pass highway off Coimbatore into Kerala, the resplendent rain clouds that hover over the mountains are a soulful sight. And, as if Nature herself has taken the cue from the man-made divisions of the State borders, the rains that confined to drizzle until there begin to lash as soon as one crosses the State border from Tamilnad into Kerala. It poured and poured in thick drops of shimmering, shiny silver.

It is amazing as to how vegetation changes colour and radiates a splendiferous hue after a few days of amorous onslaught of the monsoon. The dark greyish blue clouds impregnated with rain hover low over the mountains.

On that late afternoon we drove in the sleek Hyundai Accent we bought a couple of months before. We drove through the rain and the car tested wonderful endurance on the slippery roads in the rain and the sharp bends on the road that can be a motorist’s misery. But I loved the drive water splashing in jet from beneath the car. The stretch towards their house off Palghat, by the foot hills brought forth the trancing beauty of nature. It was magnificent display of colours from the heavens - the clouds that engulfed the mountains and then to the expanse on the foothills. Parrot green, lemon green and dark and dark green hue of vegetation. Every leaf and bark of plants and trees were touched by the spell of monsoon and they stood bowed but afresh, washed anew by the rains. The rivers and rivulets were gushing and torrential.

The rains had ceased lashing, but the land and its creatures were in eagerness and bated breath waiting for the next spell. Dark grey blue rain clouds where swirling on the mountains conveying the torrent that would soon come down from the heavens. Street dogs wet to the bones were running about and seemed to enjoy the transformed air. A flock of ducks was frolicking in the muddy waters of the paddy fields and the brook near. Crows wet and drenched in the rain perched on trees and roof tops pecking their feathers clean.

We had slid down the window panes when the rains stopped and switched off the air-conditioner in the car. It imparted a continuous soothing  blast of monsoon air, neither cold nor warm.

The house was cocooned in the middle of a vast rubber plantation and the drive to the house was through the serpentine drive-way with strewn bed of fallen leaves and the rubber trees holding aloft dark canopy .The croaking of the toads lend the silence of the place an oxymoron effect.We seemed to be cut away and mercifully cast away from the civilisation , the monsoon magic was hypnotising then, there!



Thursday, April 11, 2013

Elasticity of Demand



The stereotyping of people and profession has been an exasperating malady and a clichéd one, more often noticed in societies in India. I wonder if the same is endemic in societies elsewhere, for instance in the West.
The psychiatrist in a film or play must sport a beard, perhaps taking the cue from Sigmund Freud; a school teacher must necessarily have an over sized pair of glasses; a lawyer must invariably don the ubiquitous black robe or his court uniform even while at private functions; a doctor must have the stethoscope on him 24x7 and so on! The contention may be that the profession or the nature of the person can be conveyed only if they have these special adornments. Hindi flicks in the seventies were dominated by villains who always sported a cloak and had a smoking pipe perched to their lips.

We refuse to unlearn these misrepresentations. What I notice these days often discussed and alleged by mothers of prospective brides and grooms is another facet of stereotyping-stereotyping taken to ridiculous extents! They assume and are convinced that what they presume is what the fact is.
I wonder if during my youth the clichéd statements and inhibitions, that I would call sociological superstitions existed in the same intensity as they do now to derail betrothals and match making. It crosses even bizarre limits when educated parents of prospective brides air such views that are stupid, silly, and illogical and defying sound judgment.

When men of a particular profession is allegedly goddamned to be having affinity and indulgence in lecherous behavior, it defies sound judgment. It is absolutely irresponsible and blasphemous. In Kerala there is an element of antipathy towards women in the medical profession of nursing. Women in the profession are seen as grossly flirtatious and promiscuous. Ironically Kerala has the maximum number of women in nursing. It is alleged that a sailor has a woman in every port of call. And the tag stays, only because of the biased proclivity of some. I have noticed doctors with libertine ways. What about that?

But what is bright as summer’s day is that one need not be a sailor, a nurse or a doctor let alone a techie to be dissolute and promiscuous. Fornication and loose morals are not the prerogative of these selected professions. It can be indulged in by any. And one can still display the countenance of an apostle. And that goes with any one you pick irrespective of what he is, a doc, a janitor, a banker or a bureaucrat.
As some parents describe the scenario as “market value”! It reminds me of the classes in Economics that I sat through drearily years ago; then the in-elasticity of demand (apologies to Alfred Marshall). It is flippant and rather crude way of analyzing and judging in a match making situation, to relate the prospective bride (more often), or the groom as we do commodities and their demand, supply and price line in economics. Then the parents fret when the demand is elastic and the ideal profession from which they look to acquire a groom is in short supply.

But then why do parents stick to their guns and damn some profession?

Doesn't these idiosyncrasies of the society boil down as the over emphasis on conventions and skewed mindset? I wonder if economic independence or empowerment is of lesser significance and wisdom than wedlock. If one sees it so then it is a betise inviting trouble in later life. Even if the groom is acquired or fished out from a profession the parents claim or see to be noble and sequestered away from riotous moorings and forays, does that give a carte blanche guarantee that he may not stumble or go astray. Is there a threshold? In such a god- forbidden possibility is it not wise to be economically independent than be pushed into a matchmaking and relationship where woman is overly dependent on the man for sustenance?

I’m concerned about the education and the right academic qualification for my child and am not harried by the thought of her betrothal. Whether the fellow is a sailor, a doctor, an environmentalist or a bureaucrat, it may not drive me into insomnia. Well certainly not a professional politician, but yes a person who engages in political activities outside his profession and not for livelihood is not an anathema. But eventually it is her choice and I guess education will impart her sound judgment needed to choose a partner.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Gods Own Country



Sitting far away from the State I was born, Kerala, I feel nausea watching the Malayalam Television Channels and glancing through the vernacular newspapers on line. The land of what is officially mooted as “Gods own country”, is, as Vivekananda said more than a century ago is indeed a mad house. A mad house, a mental asylum and incorrigible inmates! The genetic spawning and evolution over the past one hundred years since Vivekananda glossed has not affected any discernible change in the Malayalee mindset- “irredeemable”!

The only far reaching thought that entrenched in Kerala and that aided immeasurably in transformation of social and economic livelihood of the dwellers of the State was the philosophy of Communism and socialist ideology. These revolutionary ideals did trigger social emancipation in the mid and later part of the twentieth century. But now the same philosophies and their excess are a challenge and a liability. The communist ideology is now defunct and irrelevant socially, economically and environmentally, but spoils the Mallu mind as much as the far right views.  The Malyalee acts aggressively and negatively to any situation and he has no sense of priorities that assists in betterment and quality of life.

No election in Kerala , though a cent percent literate (sic) State has  had social , economic and environmental issues as vital subjects in the agenda and upon which a political party or a candidate was judged or chosen into the legislature. The pathetic state of affairs in a State that boasts of all-round health care and forward thinking populace is blatantly obvious if one cares to gently remove the exotic muslin veil of the cliché ,”Gods own Country”.

Mallus love sleaze, vitiated pleasure as much as they love alcohol. A State minister and a talented one at that as well as an achiever in the portfolios he handled so far, is proclaimed first by a debased political henchman of having been at the receiving end of physical assault by the husband of his alleged paramour. The eternally misdirected press and the predatory visual media laps it up in glee and sautéed with further innovations and ingenious masala takes it to the salivating masses. After much hullabaloo and opportunist acrimony orchestrated by the infertile and impotent opposition, the story takes a twist with a new plot and it turns out that the minister was indeed assaulted but by his own wife, an accredited doctor of medicine and not by any stranger. The minister is accused by his wife of incessant physical and mental torture (she nevertheless bore him two boys during their seventeen years of marital cohabitation). The bottom line is that the whole episode that was scripted and dramatised, had the tacit approval of the minister’s maverick father who wanted his son out of the government so that the foot soldiers that stood by him all many years can access trappings of power that was denied to them by the young minister, his son.


The bottom line is the print press and the visual media in the State are gaga over the la affaire and anchors are vying to show off their skills at insinuation and innuendo. The State Assembly had to be dispersed for as many days now as the opposition created melee demanding the resignation of the minister and the Chief Minister who they accuse of tacit complicity in the minister’s conduct.

The pressing problems of the State – the utter chaotic state of sanitation and garbage disposal, the abysmal state of motor ways, perennial transport bottle necks, the apathetic government health care and dispensation, the lost case of water resources and potable water, the rising cost of living, the degradation & rape of environment, the lawlessness, free for all acts of muscle men with political clout, corruption, so on and so forth, are as always in the back burner, usurped now by the marital discord in the life of a State minister.

It was buffoonery and pathetic to see on televisions Sate opposition leaders boycotting Assembly proceedings and congregating on at the Assembly gates braying for the resignation of the minister and the Chief Minister over the issue. They hardly ever thought of demanding that the total breakdown of garbage disposal in the State be attended to, or ask why the tiny State with three International Airports will want another one in Aranmulla on pristine farm lands, while motorable roads are in dire straits of disrepair. Or the precarious perch of a ubiquitous white elephant draining tax money- the KSRTC .

The state of affairs in Kerala may not be an exception, but a random sample of the country at large.
Long, long ago Winston Churchill the arrogant English man remarked why he saw Indians unfit for Independence. “Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues and freebooters; all Indian leaders will be low caliber and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air & water would be taxed in India”

The man may have harboured racist mindset, but jingoism apart we must admit he prophesied and did that fairly well. Perhaps Indians are vying to prove him right and Kerala is leading the charge of the light brigade.

The visionary English commoner!














Tuesday, March 19, 2013

(a+b)2 =?


Good times are short-lived; good times fly by ;( reminds me of the Kingfisher Airlines advert here, ha!!).Talking about times that are good and cherished, the week’s journey to back home and amongst familiar faces, while refraining from the less desirable only enhanced the time spent with the rest( a few, importantly C & A may comment on my being brusque and candid for comfort).

Well there was plenty of spirit, the cherished and the enchanting Glen Livet Single Malt and the lesser cousins of the desi variety; plenty of food especially the daily lunch- the bewitching  dishes of the Mallu kind that was cooked by one of the most favorite- mom!(  chembavari choru,ayala curry, erusheri, avail, chura vattichathu, netholi curry, pullinkari……”).

Tucked in at the corner of the sprawling lawn of the TVM club and in the much cooler air of the night fiercely protected even from rains by the thick overhead canopy of the huge mahogany trees twice my age if not more, I sat and reflected back at the years and stared helplessly at the fact that, a decade and few years more from now, I will be a septuagenarian. Insipid or is it helplessly hastening fact? The less comforting matter of commencing a life midstream or when towards into the rapids- changing course midstream and more perilously because it is closer to the falls!

“(a + b)2 = a2 + 2ab + b2.” He said aloud and I was startled from the stark dream- thought I briefly had slid into. He did refer to his late mother even the previous day when he dropped by at home after knowing of my being in town. I could sense some controlled emotion in him when the topic of discussion was about her and the mess the super-specialty hospital in Thpuram ravaged upon her and in the bargain certainly hastening her passing.

“The difficulty is that I miss her much more amongst the seven of us, perhaps more because of the fact that since I was little I was living with her. The void is quite sore even though she died at a good ripe age.” he said. “The amazing fact was her knowledge of math and her adroitness in algebra even while she was bedridden. You see she was from the old school education and thorough in what she learned that she often used to correct my son in his homework. She used to answer in a trice to our question in jest, what is (a+b) 2.She would say with a wry smile a2 + 2ab + b2.”

“Well she was quite fortunate, she lived a good life, she bore seven children, reared them well and also traveled a fair bit outside India – to Rome in particular where my sister took her once.” He was pensive.
“I guess she lived fairly long after you father’s demise?” I asked.

“Yes, yes she did thirty five years!” he replied.

And he continued, “She sometimes reminisced with satisfaction what father told her when she expressed to him once her fear of her old age, that since the Christian succession laws disqualified married Christian women from inheritance- assets of their paternal or maternal family, she may find it tough in old age from the lack or deficit of financial independence. It was a tough task for them as you can imagine, bringing up seven children and of which there were three girls who had to be married away.He told her this that proved reassuring and a fact, 'I have given you seven children and if not all seven at least one of them will take care of you till your last day', She was indeed  taken care by all!”

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Inglorious Basterd



I was mulling over the poem on Balan’s blog, ”The Funerals”. Leaving aside the stark facts the poem dwelled upon, what came into my mind was the opening scene in Terantino’s film, “Inglorious Basterds”. Those of you who have seen that movie would, I’m certain recall the cold scenes with which the film opened.
The stony soliloquies of the SS officer Colonel. Landa laced with feral innuendos, metaphors and sautéed with sadistic overtones still haunts. The lives of a rodent- a rat and his evolutionary cousin the squirrel! It is dramatically incomparable like the lives of twins or siblings from the same womb that diverges far apart in the real world. I downloaded the words of COL Landa from the script of the film.
The allegory can be noticed in many walks in this world. The strangeness of repulsion and fondness that are inexplicable -be it rats and squirrels, dogs and cats or human beings from the same stock or diverse. The injustice of perception! Food for thought nevertheless!
COL LANDA
          Monsieur La’Padite, are you aware of the nickname the people of France have given
          me?
PERRIER
          I have no interest in such things.

 COL LANDA
          But you are aware of what they call me?

 PERRIER
          I'm aware.

 COL LANDA
          What are you aware of?

PERRIER
          That they call you, "The Jew Hunter".

COL LANDA
          Precisely! Now I understand your trepidation in repeating it.  Before he was assassinated,     Heydric apparently hated the moniker the good people of Prague bestowed on him. Actually why he   would hate the name, "The Hangman", is baffling to me. It would appear he did everything in his power to earn it. But I, on the other hand, love my unofficial title, precisely because I've earned it. As "The Jew Hunter”.         

COL LANDA
          The feature that makes me such an effective hunter of the Jews, is, as opposed to most
  German soldiers, I can think like a Jew. Where they can only think like a German, or more precisely, a German soldier. Now if one were to determine what attribute the German people share with a beast,   would be the cunning and predatory instinct of a hawk.

        
 COL LANDA
   Negro's - gorilla's - brain - lips smell - physical strength - penis size.
   But, if one were to determine what attributes the Jews share with a beast, it would be
   that of the rat. Now the Fuhrer and Gobbles propaganda have said pretty much the same thing.
   Where our conclusions differ is, I don't consider the comparison an insult. Consider for a moment, the
   world a rat lives in. It's a hostile world indeed.  If a rat were to   scamper    through your front door
   right now, would you greet it with hostility?

   PERRIER
          I suppose I would.

   COL LANDA
          Has a rat ever done anything to you to create this animosity you feel toward them?

   PERRIER
          Rat's spread disease, they bite people -

    COL LANDA
          - Unless some fool is stupid enough to try and handle a live one, rats don't make it a practice of
       biting human beings. Rats were the cause of the bubonic plague, but that was some time ago. In all your born days, has a rat ever caused you to be sick a day in your life? I purpose to you, any disease a rat could spread, a squirrel could equally carry. Yet I assume you don't share the same animosity with squirrels that you do with rats, do you?

    PERRIER
          No.

    COL LANDA
          Yet, they are both rodents, are they not? And except for the fact that one has a big bushy tail, while the other has a long repugnant tail of rodent skin, they even rather look alike, don't they?

         
    PERRIER
          It is an interesting thought, Colonel.

    COL LANDA
          However, interesting as the thought may be, it makes not one bit of difference to how you feel. If a rat     were to scamper through your door, this very minute, would you offer it a saucer of your delicious milk?

     PERRIER
            Probably not.

       COL LANDA
          I didn't think so. You don't like them. You don't really know why you don't like them. All you know    
          is, you find them “repulsive”.What a tremendously hostile world a rat must endure. Yet, not only does 
          he survive, he thrives. And the reason for this, is because our little foe has a instinct for survival and 
          preservation second to none. And that Monsieur, is what a Jew shares with a rat.  Consequently, a 
          German soldier conducts a search of a house suspected of hiding Jews. Where does the hawk look? 
          He looks  in the barn, he looks in the attic, he looks in the cellar - he looks everywhere, he would 
          hide. But there are many places it would never occur to a  hawk to hide. However the reason the
          Fuhrer brought me off my Alps in Austria, and placed me in French cow country today,is because it 
          it does occur to me. Because I'm aware what tremendous feats human  beings are capable of once 
          they abandon dignity…….!

         
.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

LIEBSTER Award



I was nominated for the Liebster award by Mrs. Usha Menon (http://eccentricgrandmum.blogspot.com/), who is a retired educationist. Thank you, Mrs. Menon for the encouragement.

The Award, I understand is to promote amateur writers in the Blogdom. And is a kind of chain that links bloggers with modest following.

I found the process a bit confusing and tiresome that I delayed accepting and following the process prescribed in the nomination-
1- Answer your nominator’s eleven questions
2-. List 11 things about yourself
3-Choose up to eleven bloggers with less than 200 followers and ask them your questions
And sign off by mailing them on the nomination.

Now, on Mrs. Menon’s prodding here I go.

1-      ANSWER TO THE NOMINATORS QUESTIONS
a)      If you become Prime Minister of India what will be your priority?
      Ensure the Police Force need not be pliable to the executive
b)       Which Book are you reading these days?
None
c)       Why did you start writing a blog?
      Just chanced upon the idea
d)      Do you like to see the Sun rise or the Sunset?
      Both
e)      Do you think cooking is a female’s prerogative?
      No
h)   What do you like to see on TV?
      BBC, Sports & Wild life documentaries
i)        Which games do you like to play?
Cricket & Badminton
j)        Do you believe in Destiny?
No
     What do you prefer arranged marriage or love marriage?
   Neither
kl      Do you believe in God?
No
l))       What is your favourite pastime
Movies/Reading/Blogging

2-      List THINGS ABOUT MYSELF
a)      “Retired” from business
b)      Sometimes temperamental
c)       Not religious or believer and must confessto being not quite holy.
d)      Not fascinated by any political ideology
e)      Tries to be dispassionate but cannot help becoming emotional at times.
f)       Choosey about befriending people.
g)      Content with a few good friends.
h)      Do not feel happy if I impose my opinion on others and the family, though I get annoyed when they disagree.
i)        Anxious about what is in store for posterity, the way the World is moving.
j)        Despises fanatics and charlatans

3-Choose up to 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers to answer my questions
http://rama-ananth.blogspot.com/
http://blog.chowla.in/


4- My Questions
      a)      Are you proud of your country, if so why and if not why?
      b)      What have you given back to the world you live and or what do you intend to give in your life time?
      c)       Are you afraid of death?
      d)      If you were to meet God in real life what would you do?
      e)      Would you want to make the future not mysterious?
      f)       Will you stand up for banning capital punishment, if not why?
      g)      What would you like to be if given a choice- King, an elected ruler or a fascist?
      h)      Would you like to be like somebody? If so why and if not why?
      i)        Do you think emotions are for weaklings? If not why?
      j)        What is in your opinion the reason for the misery in the world?
      k)      If there is another life what would you want to be a, Male or a Female?

So folks come forward and accept the nomination please.





Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pazhan Kanj,Uppu Manga & Kandhari



I remember from long time ago, having read a short story that narrated the tale of a young man who shelved his plan to end his life at the very last moment. He was tempted by the aroma of his favourite cuisine (puttu) his mother used to serve him. The smell of the fresh steamed meal whiffed through the air from a nearby restaurant adjacent to the railway track where he was contemplating to end his life. There was little time left for the early morning train to steam by and the sun was just about peeping over the distant hills. Suddenly he was pulled by utter craving - lust to live. The urge to live pounded him incessantly with the aroma that the gust of air brought- the smell of the food that  reminded him of his mother,whiffed away  the despondency that ploughed him under till a moment ago. He ran back home along the track and along the river’s edge that wound by, to his home-where he saw his  mother  was indeed cooking his favourite meal that morning. He inhaled the flavoured steamy air in the kitchen and felt a voice tell him that what a fool he would be if he had done the mad act when he nearly deserted the things that were dear in life. That morning he devoured the food his mother made and like never before. He relished it much, which words would toil to account.

The aroma of favourite viands that linger and whiff by unexpectedly and the titillation it provide for taste buds are sure to make all those who have known of it desire the pleasure more and forever. We all have, often in our life. So it was with amusement that I recollected the scene at the dining table quite a few mornings at a friend’s house. He has of late joined the club of hyper tensed people and is on medication for elevated blood pressure. I was speaking on the phone to him and his wife and could not resist the tongue in cheek comment to her that all those morning breakfast he indulged and went overboard because of those wonderful pickled dishes his mother was wondrously adept at making. Those mornings breakfast which he persistently used to relish- the previous days cooked rice soaked in water and then his pompous and arrogant discretion of mixing it with pickled brined mango and those special tiny heavenly chilies’ fresh from the garden (pazhan kanji and uppu mango with kandhari mullaku)! This he devoured before speeding off to college for work, while we lazed by eating like respectable people iddlis or dosa and even bread toast with omelet. At the end of it all I would prefer an existence laced with hypertension. The contentment is after all one had had the fortune to eat every day to the heart’s content what one loves most in life- a special preparation of excellent cuisine by ones mother. A high blood pressure is only incidental to the happiness of the soul day after day for a long time in life.

Thinking of it, I must confess that I drooled and drooled figuratively speaking I would have drowned. For, I have been often privileged to have food at his home and the simple mundane native delights his mother used to cook, though she was handicapped by paralysis from a severe stroke.

It is not an exaggeration and wee bit dishonest if I say that the aroma of those fabulous dishes do linger in that house even now though it is a few years since she passed.  Perhaps something exist or stay behind even after we are gone?