Monday, January 31, 2005

Gibberish so Desultory

What girls want?

I'm a diehard party animal who attends atleast one party in two years. Almost a year ago when I attended the last party, a good-looking girl accompanied me. While we were enjoying the party together, I noticed she caused quite a few heads to turn. I managed to read the thoughts behind those 'turned' foreheads. They were all  wondering how lucky the girl was. Later, quite a few of my friends enquired about that girl. Needless to say they were all impressed. However, that silly girl was more bothered about the 'more beautiful' hair of another girl at the party. Whatever party it is, boys look at girls with 'varying' degrees of appreciation while girls look at other girls with 'superlative' degree of jealousy. In either case, no one looks at boys unless there is a queer in the crowd. English, in all its grandeur, has also not been very kind to men. Of all the adjectives that exist in English, ninety percent can be used to describe feminine beauty and ninety percent of the rest are derogatory. No wonder  men are hardly the subjects of poetry. Harking back to the party, I wonder what is it about girls that prevents them from seeing the good in themselves that boys so effortlessly see? They always seem to be on a lookout for things they lack rather than discover the things they have. If only they could look at themselves from the eyes of boys, they'd fall in love with themselves.

Fun with Failures

I am known to be an all-rounder. My school teachers acknowledged me as the most complete student who participated in everything under the sun, sans studies. I learnt invaluable lessons in teamwork at school when my team won the first prize in a group drawing competition. I had passed chalks and colours then. I also learnt early lessons in leadership when I became the President of the 'Rotary Club' in the school. Under my able leadership we had so many social service events that we missed the century by a mere hundred. I also participated in a city level athletics competition. In an 800m race, I crossed the finish line seconds before the other participants did. Yet, I wasn’t awarded the first prize. The rest of the participants were crossing the line for the second time. I have been a pretty good swimmer as well. I once came fourth in a swimming competition that had four participants. My penchant for learning new things has kept me in good stead. A friend once suggested that if I wanted to hold any beautiful girl's hands, I should either learn palmistry or learn to lie about it. I didn't know either of the two then. A couple of months later I held the first of the several soft, silky hands I've held so far. I am yet to learn palmistry. I always thought I was a pretty good student as well. I wrote all my exams pretty well; unfortunately, my marks would almost always beg to differ from my opinion. Needless to say, I'm a strong supporter of the spirit of participation over the philosophy of winning the event you participate in.

The Business of Marriage

I'm the most eligible bachelor in my family of five, consisting of, besides me, my parents, my younger sister and a younger brother, who is too young to marry. I'm an unhappy single and hence ready to mingle. I'm looking for a girl for company so we can both be unhappy together. Almost all my friends are of marriageable age now. If looks could kill, a friend of mine would end up at the gallows. I almost died of a heart attack the first time I saw him. He'd easily get the role of a starring ghost in a spooky movie without wearing any make-up. He may have had a bout of somnambulism when God was distributing looks but he has a heart of pure gold. He is by far the most perfect person I've ever come across. And yet, he can't find the girl of his life only because his face doesn't comply with the conventions of physical beauty our society has built for us. Wonder whether it is he who is abnormal or the world he lives in. Whether you like it or not, the truth is physical beauty matters. My circle of friends consists of doctors, engineers, chartered accountants and MBAs amongst many others. My doctor friends wouldn't want to marry anyone other than doctors. When it comes to spouses they think anyone other than doctors is not human. Some of my engineer friends also think on the same lines. They claim that their thought levels wouldn't match with those of an arts graduate. A slightly deeper investigation would reveal as to what primarily separates doctors and engineers from the rest. It's probably their analytical ability and I.Q. Beyond a certain limit, you don't need either for marriages to succeed. Academic qualification of a person is mistaken here for the proof of his character. How many of us have become the good persons that we are because of the education we've received? In our being good, it's not our education but our family values that play a much bigger role. Our family is where our roots lie. Marriage happens between two individuals but it bonds two families. That is why our Indian forefathers laid so much stress on finding better families. Somewhere in the deep recesses of our hearts there is a hidden desire to see the reactions of envy, pride and happiness on the faces of others when we introduce our spouses to them. Unfortunately, it is this overriding desire that guides our choices more than anything else. It is almost as if we're marrying that someone special for others.

From Bollywood to Cleaners

I've never traveled out of India. However, thanks to our Bollywood movies, I've had many vicarious experiences in cosmopoliteness. Come to think of it, so many of the Bollywood movies are conceptualized, planned, and shot outside India that the name Bollywood is as apt as the the label of 'Eternity' for celebrity marriages. They then make a big bang release in India only because the foreigners would've seen the whole melodrama unleashed on their streets and so wouldn't care a hoot to watch it again; more importantly pay for it. Their gain now becomes our loss. Probably the only gain of those movies is the eye candy of salubrious and clean locales. Talking about cleanliness, Bangalore was once known to be the cleanest city of India. My recent visit to Bangalore was an eye-opener of sorts. If what I saw were the cleanest then it would be a euphemism to say that Indian standards of cleanliness are abysmally low. Personally, I'm extremely finicky about cleanliness. For instance, I change my bed sheet after every epoch. The epoch may be anything from the bed sheet getting torn due to shameless overuse to someone fainting on smelling it or from someone complimenting me on my olfactory immunity against foul smell to the bed sheet changing colour; in case of the last eventuality my ingenuity inspires me to use it as a darker new bed sheet until one of the first three epochs materialize. The maid who finally washes the bedsheet is then forced to take a two-day sabbatical due to backache. Cleanliness is divine as long as it is the responsibility of others.

From POMS to US pranks

The Americans have been so prejudiced against the British that they tried their best to turn upside down every ritual originated or followed by the British. They thought that cricket was too boring and lengthy so they developed baseball. They thought soccer lacked the cruelty they wanted so went on to conceive "American Football". The right hand drive, so widely accepted in commonwealth countries, was changed to left hand drives for the same God forsaken reason. They even went on to the extent of reversing the process of "switching on" of the lights. I'm glad some processes have been irreversibly designed by nature.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Critique-ing Swades

Success is a sweet poison. It smoothens the rough road ahead and then as the person prepares for a smooth ride, it dumps him by disguising itself as the unexpected pothole of others’ higher expectations. Even more so, if success is as humungous as that of Lagaan. Lagaan, Ashutosh Gowarikar’s oscar-nominated mega success, not only ensured that Swades began with a full house but also that eight out of ten people came back dissatisfied, thus ensuring a lower turnout in the days that followed. The damp squib that Swades turned out to be at the box office would’ve left Ashutosh Gowarikar feeling like a snake that has bitten its own tail.

Swades, unlike most of the contemporary movies pitted against it, is smeared in honesty. Lets start with the names. The ‘h’ in Swades(h) is conspicuous by its absence, and yet that is precisely how the rural Hindi populace pronounce it. After an eternity, we came across a mainstream movie that didn’t have seductively named lead characters such as “the Raj Malhotras and the Rahul Srivastavs” but chose instead to give them largely unglamorous and yet much more quotidian names.

Kudos to Ashutosh Gowarikar for restraining the unruly horse called Shahrukh. Shahrukh, who needs dramatics to survive and emotional catharsis to thrive, was completely subdued and yet gave arguably his best performance ever. The actor has done an amazing job even without his characteristic K-K-K-K-Kacophonic lilt of overacting. Be it the presentation scene at NASA or his argument with ‘Geeta’ (Gayatri), he has hardly shown the kind of restraint and right emotional expressions to boot in any other movie as he does in Swades. Arguably the best dressed Bollywood actor ever, Shahrukh restrains himself here as well; he dresses like a mortal in Swades and rightly so.

Gayatri Joshi ‘Geeta’ has a refreshing screen presence. Her confidence gives an impression that the role was tailor-made for her. The debutante manages to hold her own against Shahrukh, which is a good start to have. But a tad less make-up on her would’ve done well to augment the authentic theme of the movie.

Rahman’s music makes subtle transitions from the foot tapping and the hummable to the mellifluous. One wonders how easily he flows from folk to pop and back. He just can’t stop inspiring awe.

The songs, although good, are a tad too long. This affects the overall length of the movie; an aspect the director needs to improve upon. Unlike other movie songs though, songs in Swades don’t hold the movie to ransom. They are situational and the story continues to flow through them, which is a welcome relief.

Ashutosh needs accolades for not succumbing to commercial pressure. The movie breathes nobility and sincerity of purpose from start to end. Any individual who is not able to serve the cause he so dearly espouses will share Mohan’s sense of ennui. The dialogs are simple and yet effective. He rightly shelved the unwarranted ‘filmy’ rhetoric, especially the ones on patriotism, which in some movies border on jingoism. Lagaan was about winning over your adversary. Swades is about winning over yourself. The analogy is akin to what Buddha, Christ and more recently Mahatma Gandhi had preached. “If someone slaps you on one cheek, show him your other cheek”. Doing that is a distant dream; we’d rather punch him on both his cheek and bludgeon him to his handicap. Showing your other cheek requires winning over yourself and is not a cowardly act as is so often made out to be. This is precisely where Swades failed. In our failure to win over ourselves, to see beyond our immediate benefit for the holistic good and to dare go beyond the expected and ‘pragmatic’ reactions to events, Swades was doomed.

Swades they say is too preachy. But the movie is far better than the much-abused good-wins-over-evil gibberish, senseless romantic melodrama and the forced-to-laugh comedies that Bollywood dishes out ad nauseum. It shows us a way out of our rut. The least we could do is watch and appreciate the effort. Our failure to do so makes me think we’ve reached the wrong end of societal cul-de-sac and yet seem to enjoy it so much that we even fail to appreciate a sincere effort to take us out of our self-imposed predicament.

Swades is a flop. Not because it was deemed to be so by the box office. Box office is too insignificant a measure to measure the depth of this movie. Swades will remain a flop until it brings out a “Mohan Bhargav” from atleast one of the Indians who earlier chose to blame ‘others’ for or to gloss over the rampant malaise that plagues our society. One “Mohan Bhargav” for any village in India is worth much more than the millions a hit Swades would’ve generated. The day that happens, Swades will meet its success. Box office is a nonentity. It always was.

Is it Swades that has failed us or is it ‘We, the people’, who’ve failed ‘our’ Swades?

Saturday, January 01, 2005

I, Me and Myself

I don’t have any memories of my infant days. I also can’t recollect my toddler days. My earliest recollections of myself are my kindergarten days when I used to cry my heart out, a reaction not vastly different from other kids, when my mother used to drop me at the school. My recollection gets progressively better as I move my thoughts from kindergarten to primary and so on.

Today, as I sit introspecting my life in this moment of solitude, I ask myself a question, the answer to which is very subtle; subtle enough to give me a new realization, a new perspective to look at things around. The question is, “What is it that is essentially different about my infant and toddler days that causes my memory to fail from any other stage in my life, the events of which I can recollect fairly easily?”

The answer to this question cannot be given in a statement or two. The answer is a realization that your consciousness should slowly absorb as you read on.

You’re more likely to remember the things and experiences you think are ‘important’ to you. The word ‘Important’, in itself, is deep enough for philosophers to write books on. But for the scope of this write-up suffice it to say that you deem ‘Important’ a thing or an experience that gives you happiness or robs your happiness. Bottomline: Anything that meddles with YOUR happiness is IMPORTANT to YOU.

This realization alters the above question to, “Why are infants and toddlers not able to differentiate between things that are important and those not so important to them?”

To understand this, we need to change our perspective a bit. ‘Important’ is a relative term. What is important to one may be entirely useless to another. So what is the reference point that gives the word ‘Important’ the relativity it enjoys? That reference point is none but your royal highness – “The I-ness”. This 'I-ness' is nothing but your 'ego'. Ego is nothing but your soul identifying itself with your body. What is it that you refer to when you use the words such as ‘I, me, myself and mine”? If it’s not the body that you refer to with these words, then you’re an enlightened soul and may choose to discontinue reading further.

If you’re reading this line, then we both are in the same boat. Welcome aboard.

An infant’s soul doesn’t yet identify itself with the body. So, the infant doesn’t have what we call an ego. All it has is the bliss of a soul that has not yet forgotten its true identity even when it is bound by a physical cage. Hence the body is not yet the center of its consciousness. Put differently, the soul is an infant’s reference point. For us, the so-called grown-ups, the ego is the reference point. This shift in reference points is another reason why we struggle to reach the bliss that an infant so naturally seems to possess.

Take a small experiment to understand this well. You’ll hate me for the crudity of this experiment but also love me for the insight it will bring forth. Slap a kid or a grown up and see what happens. The former cries and the latter hits back. There will be so much negativity around. In either case, if you want normalcy to be restored between them and yourself, you’ll have to apologize or explain the reasons behind your action. In short, you’ll have to heal their hurt ego. Now slap an infant. It’ll cry, as the action will cause pain. But does it harbor any negative thoughts against you? Not quite. Its reference point is the soul. And you can’t hurt a soul. The moment the physical pain subsides, it returns to its bliss and you’re welcome to play with it. No apologies or explanations needed. This aspect of an infant brings it on par with God realized saints and prophets who could think of giving back forgiveness and love even in the midst of hatred, jealousy and treachery towards them.

An infant, with the soul as its reference point, doesn’t take the bodily experiences as ‘IMPORTANT’ and hence doesn’t register them in its consciousness. As the infant grows, the soul faces cosmic amnesia and starts identifying itself with the body. Slowly, the ego becomes its reference point and it starts registering the bodily experiences as they slowly become more and more ‘IMPORTANT’ helping him remember them better.

Another reason to call a child the father of man?

So think for a second what you’re doing when you ask an infant or a toddler what his or her name is. You’re giving the body a name. You’re making a soul identify itself with the body. But you’re not doing anything wrong here. The very fact that the soul needed to take birth proves that there is an earthly purpose it has to fulfill. For this, the soul has to identify itself with the body. You’re merely a channel in helping the soul shift its reference point. We all are channels for a purpose much bigger than our brains, in the current state of evolution, could comprehend.

Enjoy your life. It has a purpose to achieve; no matter how useless it seems.