Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A trip in Paris metro

This is from the notes I wrote during my travels around Europe this July (Pictures here). A previous note is here.


I am in Paris Metro. I am traveling. I have nothing else to do - nobody telling me where to go, nobody telling me what to do. I have a map, I have a list of places, I have several days, plenty of water, very little money and my friend’s metro pass. I am using it because he’s in office during the day and a day’s pass cost around 8 Euros, i.e 80 Euros for the 10 days I’ll be in Paris, which I want to save. With the pass, I can travel any number of times by Metro, Bus and Tram. Not really a great thing for someone who doesn’t know where he’s going.


I am not in a bad mood, I just ate a couple of croissants and had two cafes from real cafes, which, though expensive, had given me some energy and mood. In fact, I was in no worse mood than someone who doesnt know what to do in the next 10 minutes. I look at my map, and decide on some spot to visit. I have around thirty minutes more to stay here, before getting out. I decide to watch around, to pass time.


I am sitting in a 2x2, two seats facing the direction of the train – including the one on which I am sitting and two in the opposite direction. In front of me, it’s an old African lady sitting. By African, I mean – African ethnicity. To her right, it is a beautiful, made up girl who looks Arabic. She has strawberry patterns on her shoes, a pink bag and a huge make-up box she has just bought from some mall in La Défense. On my right, it is a blond reading a magazine on Astronomy. Her hair is undone and she has a great figure. I cannot see her face, for the Astronomy magazine that hides it.

The train stops somewhere. The blond sitting near me gets out. The African old one moves over - she probably wants to sit in the direction of the train.


I get bored and look further. I see an old fat French lady sitting with another, talking, while pointing to her big stomach. What about the big stomach? What will old fat ladies have to talk about big stomachs? That her stomach is upset? Or that it is obstructing sex? Or that her lover hates it?


A new mother – French, with a great figure surprising for a new mother – is standing with her short husband, who’s holding the baby. They seem happy. The husband points at the make-up box of the Arab girl, and says something to his wife, with a smile. The old fat lady looks at me, but rushes her eyes off when I look back. The African one gets out at the next stop. A white “gentleman” in a dark suit moves in, busy checking his blackberry. We reach next stop, he moves out, an African man who looks like Bob Marley, and another blond, with a huge sac like leather bag and a huge hand bag, gets in. She is carelessly dressed, part of her clothes lean over one of her breasts, uncovering the other in plenty. She opens the bag, I peek inside with her. I can see a cigarette packet. She reaches for her iPod and puts it on. I can hear an English song playing. She takes out some train tickets. One of them is to London St. Pancras. She must be getting down at Gare du Nord, the gare from which trains leave for London.


An Indian guy comes in, chewing something. I think it must be bubble gum, but soon sees his red teeth and tongue and realizes it is paan. He stares hard at the blond. So does the French guy sitting in the next seat. She doesnt seem to notice. She is busy with her cell phone.


I reach my station. I walk out. I cross the Chinese guy with the hair of a porcupine, and an Arab girl, and walk fast.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

In Custody

Read Anita Desai's In Custody. Its about the life of Deven - a Hindi lecturer in a small college in a small North Indian town. He is passionate about poetry, especially in appreciating Urdu poetry, but is a weak person, and considers himself a failure in almost everything else. The town is dusty, hot and ugly, he leads a loveless life with drooping, thin, disappointed wife. He hates his classes, he is paid badly. But one day, his school friend, publisher of a small Urdu literary magazine in Delhi, visits him, asking him to interview a great Urdu poet (Nur), who has fallen into tough times. Following this is the story of Deven trying to get this done, involving in an enterprise that looks like a romantic dream from outside- meeting and talking to the great poet himself, publishing an interview which takes notice of the Urdu literary academia - "even in places like Jamia Millia and Aligarh Muslim University" - brings him a break out of the monotonous, sad life, and some money and a confirmation at his lecture position. But for such an enterprise to work, it takes a lot more than mere love of poetry, and a weak person like Deven is utterly unfit to do such a task. I'll leave the story there.

The book brought into me the forgotten world of Urdu literature in India (which "died in 1947"), and of Old Delhi, with several Muslims drinking alcohol, eating biriyanis, enjoying dance, music and poetry, their contempt for Hindi poetry of Pant and Nirala... "Safe, simple Hindi language, safe comfortable ideas of cow worship and caste and romance of Krishna". Here's sample Hindi mock-poetry:
Sun, moon, stars, sky,
Planets, clouds, comets, I,
God made them all as he made me,
A star too I must be.

Butter, milk, curds, ghee,
Sweets, drinks, food for me -
God made them all and God made me,
Butterballs all, butterball me.
Lack of money. Lack of interest in teaching. Lack of interest in talking to one's own kid. Pointlessness of teaching and learning Indian languages. Loveless-ness. And even when there is some love, the ego and the power relation that comes in the way of expressing. Of weak persons, whose weakness brings them shame from everyone - their kids, their friends, even people who want to help them.

After finishing the book, I found out that a movie has been made of it by Ismael Merchant, and a good torrent is available online. I downloaded the movie, and glimpsed through it. But, what's with movies made out of the book? Why do they need to twist the characters so much, to break all the images you have deep in your mind? Is it because in the movie the characters are defined a lot faster and with a lot more precision, while the book gives you space to imagine, or is it because it is actually very different in the movie from the book? Anyway, you get a very different idea of characters from the movie. For example, in the book, the wife of Deven is drooping, thin and ugly dressed, with a sad face, always angry with him. But in the movie, you have a nice looking compassionate housewife. In the book, the events at Nur's house when his wife is in concert is totally different from the movie, which can be seen in this video. And, it is Shabana Asmi, how beautiful is she!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Awareness

If you are intensely aware of what is happening in your immediate environment, about who is looking at you and what is in their minds, about the thoughts people have in their mind when you talk to them, when you notice their reactions to each word you say and each gesture your face makes, AND you are a nice person, that is, one with a weak, sensitive heart, then: you are bound to suffer. You are bound to end up sad pretty much most of the time. Au contraire, you can look forward to getting a sense of true happiness, that is, most of the time you feel that the person to whom you are talking is smiling, he or she is indeed smiling in his or her heart and is not faking it, and you can take pride in the sincerity of this happiness. Similarly, when someone cries, you can cry with them.

If you are aware of what is happening in your immediate environment, about who is looking at you and what is in their minds, about the thoughts people have in their mind when you talk to them, when you notice their reactions to each word you say and each gesture your face makes, AND you are an asshole, consider joining marketing, or at least politics, or business. You are bound to thrive. You can also create some new “diseases” for the people of the type belonging to the previous paragraph (like manic-depressive personality syndrome, attention deficiency syndrome, lack of confidence syndrome etc), because you can rarely enjoy true happiness and sadness, because you are a manipulator and you are jealous of those who can enjoy true happiness and sadness. But you may be the person who will be labeled as a winner in life.

Now, if you belong to a third type, who is never aware of what is happening around yourself and what others are thinking about you when they talk to you, and even misjudge assholic criticisms and mockery and racism as genuine serious talk and compliments, and think of fake-alibis to avoid you as real alibis, then you will be considered a fool, and you will end up being a fool. But you are almost always going to lead a happy life.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Another ranking : Global thinkers

#1. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates
#2. Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Robert Zoellick (IMF MANAGING DIRECTOR | WASHINGTON & WORLD BANK PRESIDENT | WASHINGTON)
#3. Barack Obama, (PRESIDENT | WASHINGTON)
#5. Ben Bernanke, (CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE | WASHINGTON)
#8. David Petraeus, (COMMANDING U.S. GENERAL | AFGHANISTAN)
# 9. Robert Gates, (DEFENSE SECRETARY | WASHINGTON)
# 10. Angela Merkel, (CHANCELLOR | GERMANY)
# 11. Michael Bloomberg and Feisal Abdul Rauf, (MAYOR | NEW YORK & IMAM, CORDOBA INITIATIVE | NEW YORK)
# 13. Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, (FORMER PRESIDENT | NEW YORK & SECRETARY OF STATE | WASHINGTON)

This is not a joke.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rankings are a joke

In the freedom of press rankings published by Reporters Sans Frontiers, India comes at 122, just above Zimbabwe. Dictatorships like UAE and Congo, along with a host of other dictatorships, come ahead of us. Saudi Arabia is ahead of Sri Lanka, China and Syria. What a joke, these rankings!!

Speaking for India: India is a country where someone could not become a prime minister because of the huge media cry about "stock markets are plunging, earth is shaking, she cannot be the PM". It is a country where media alleges corruption in the government every single day (while involving in corruption themselves). While most media is heavily biased (to ideologies, at least), and, even while attacks on journalists and newspaper happen at some places, on the whole - criticism is indeed a way of life in Indian media, especially compared to several other countries above India in the list, who do not even know what criticism of the Government even means.

The rankings are indeed a joke.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Best newspaper

Which is the best newspaper in India?

I wish Tehelka was a daily newspaper. But it is not.

So there is only one choice for the answer: The Hindu.

But it is far from being the best. In fact, the newspaper is a follower of freedom of speech only when it suits themselves. That, if we can say newspaper stances are defined by their editors, which I believe is true in this case. N. Ram loves the binary. He loves to create stories of black-and-whiteness, about the great lives people in China, Tibet and Srilankan camps for the Tamils are having. That no one in the establishment of these places can do anything wrong, and if someone reports otherwise, it can only be propaganda.

But the free speech policy of Hindu is visible in its approach to comments in its Internet edition. No comment with any sort of criticism is accepted - I mean extremely civil comments of the type - "your editorial does not consider this aspect of the problem". However, if your comment is of the admiring type, "kudos to The Hindu...", it appears without much delay.

May be its not much of a newspaper policy. May be it is that the guy who moderates the comments is being lazy about it, and rather than cause problems by getting into the detail of what is a right criticism and what is not, he is merely shutting out all criticisms. And perhaps no one else in the newspaper cares about this. And hence may be I am finding a higher truth in something that can be attributed to stupidity.

But whatever be the reason, as an upholder of free speech The Hindu should be most open to criticism, especially civil criticisms, and it is currently not doing it at least in its Internet edition.

Also, observing responses of several newspapers around the world (for eg: towards the recent Wikileaks leak), I feel The Guardian is the best newspaper around.

Dreams

I know exactly where to go if I land up in Bangalore next time. Or Thrissur. Or Thiruvananthapuram. Or Chennai. Or Kolkata. And several other places in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamilnadu.

In Bangalore, it will be the Adayar Ananda Bhavan in BTM.

In Thrissur, it will be the the Pathan's in the "Round", or Swaraj Round, to be official.

In Thiruvananthapuram it is the Arya Nivas near the railway station.

In Chennai it will be Tiffany's in IIT. Or any Saravana Bhavan will do.

In Kolkata, I am talking about a small, nondescript room in some nondescript building in Ulta Danga, where a nice Tamil guy, settled around the place for decades, does the proceedings.

In Coimbatore, Thiruchi, Madurai, Mysore... I can go on.

I am looking for a Masala Dosa. No, not the anagram. The real hot one, with lots of ghee, and soft and fried to the point (and not sharp enough to hurt one's tongue) and with good Sambaar, Chutney and hot vadas for accompaniment.

Its my only dream right now. On a late Sunday morning, when I am hungry, and after having spent months of breakfast on bread, butter and cereals. And looking forward to eating more bread right now.

I wish.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Noam Chomsky - Why did you bother living?

"So if you decide not to make use of the opportunities that you have, not to try to live your life in a way which is constructive and helpful, you end up looking back and say why did I bother living?"

Change

I've quite long hair now. I plan to let it grow.

All my life, except the last few months, and except a few other months when I was around eleven, I've kept the same style for my hair. That is, keeping it oiled, and well combed, with a straight line in the left side... Extremely boring and I knew it. However, I was always afraid to experiment. If the line moved a bit to the centre, when I get out of my room I would be thinking - am I looking weird? Is everyone looking at me because my hair looks weird?

All that's gone now. I have a line in the centre of the head now, the hair is pretty much messy, and I dont really care most of the time. I am happy about it. Another inhibition out of the window.

There are parallel stories about several other things, but let them remain personal.

But another thing I feel like writing is: I have probably more friends here now than in India. This might sound stupid, I've been living here for only one year, yet it is true. In terms of female friends, the ratio compared to the ones in India is several times higher. In India, I've a handful of friends who have seen me grow for the last 7 years or more, but them is them, and no one more. Rest are mere acquaintances.

Here I cook together with some friend, sometimes eat with a few more, sometimes we eat out, we go to cafes and talk, we go to French bars (which is a coffee table bar with alcohol, not like the Indian bars) and drink and talk, we go to pubs and dance bars. I have friends of different types: those who can take the roles ranging from the extremely intelligent and intellectual to the ones who are incredibly funny. Who can bring a smile and calmness to my face by their mere looks.

I am also realizing that I love people and I love talking, about the intellectual to the insanely stupid, from cheesy flirting to the ridiculously obscene - depending on the mood and company (at least when I am not hungry :D). A stark contrast with my life in Bangalore and before, where I was afraid of meeting new people.

I've had several interesting experiences. Just take last week: I went out with my labmates - 4 girls - French, Romanian, Chinese and Argentinian - to the "Beaujolais" - some kind of wine binge drinking festival. We met their friends there: a Spanish girl - a medical student - who looks like Penelope Cruz (and I told this to her), her friends from Chile and Cuba - the former a surgery student and the other a musician. I consider it fascinating to hear the Chilean correcting me on Allende - saying it is pronounced "Ayyende" - and how he went on talking about medical cultures in Chile, Cuba, France and United States, and how he went with his friend to Cuba when he was 15. After a bit of drinking, we went out to a dance club... and later went back home with Argentinians, Italians and Czech.

The next day, I went out for dinner to a Lebanese restaurant: with 4 Syrians, an Indian (Bengali) and a Romanian and an absolutely charming Palestinian girl. It was a pleasant conversation and after eating chiche tauk, hummus, khubz, harissa (Tunisian) etc, we gorged on a bag of Syrian sweets.

Sitting in my room, I can hear the attractive guitar and beats of some song being played in some other room. Its a calm and sunny day, I can look out of the window, the sky is as blue as it can get, only to be made more beautiful by the intermittent soft clouds.

Life has been offering me a lot these days... I've shed plenty of my inhibitions. I enjoy the gym once in a while, I realized that I can run faster and longer than several others, I can cook better than a lot of them...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pakistan refuses to tone down Wagah border ceremony

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11727448

But why doesnt India stop doing this silly act unilaterally? It'll make the Pakistani one context-less and meaningless and eventually would lose all the steam.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

CasteNoBar in Indian Matrimonial sites

Result of an argument with a friend. I searched the matrimonial sites belonging to BharatMatrimoney.com (i.e BengalMatrimony.com, KeralaMatrimoney.com, etc), for Bride: 18-40 years, Hindu, based in India. Result of CasteNoBar as percentage of total results is given below.

bengal: 9766/26297 = 37%
gujarat: 3841/12009 = 32%
punjab: 3569/11728 = 30%
marathi: 6869/28970 = 24%
hindi: 14967/67033 = 22%
kannada: 2499/13811= 18%
oriya: 1593/9655 = 16.5%
marwari: 295/1998 =15%
tamil: 6737/48617 = 13.8%
telugu: 4797/36213= 13.24%
kerala: 4596/41284 = 11%

According to the results, Bengal clearly comes on top, and Kerala at the bottom. Majority of southern states are at the bottom.

But Kerala is also having among the highest number of results for the query, second only to Tamilnadu and North India (Hindi). And if you normalize it with respect to Hindu population in each state, it is clearly at the top.

Saying something interesting about the cultures of these states? I think so.

Obama in India

All the events and speeches were carefully choreographed. Journalists were distributed his schedules to the precision of minutes at times (i.e at 9.00 meeting with x, at 9.05: meeting with z, 9.10: speech about agricultural innovation in india). It seems that even the sequence of declarations - about Gandhi, Pakistan being important partner in "War on Terror" to "India has already risen", and finally UNSC and Pakistan again; so that the reactions were carefully manipulated.

(Above points, thanks to watching a pretty journalist Ms. Sara Jacob talking in NDTV).

Obviously Obama was advised to the extent of favorite Indian cliches - "India cannot be visited, it can only be experienced".

About the media love for whatever he and his wife was doing, can we call ourselves a democracy with a free media? For example, the fact that hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in Iraq for no reason, and all the horrible problems that it has done to the Muslim world, its own lack of principles in everything from a-z, that India really is not a world leader in cutting edge agricultural technology, that the American spending on Iraq war was around a trillion and is more than enough to offset any recession, that Obama once wanted to change the world and is now clearly the establishment... Everything was left alone, instead the Pronnoy Roys and the Shekhar Guptas went counting the camels that were there in the PM's dinner orchestra, and what Ms. Obama was wearing,... There's clearly no sense of justice or reality in Indian media.

And about Obama, the guy uses teleprompters (they installed in the parliament for his speech). So he's merely reading a written speech by looking at the teleprompter on both sides. And if you remove his speeches from what he has done in public sphere, its almost zero. So since he's not a great orator but merely a good speech reader from a teleprompter (like a news guy), what can we conclude...

Random thought 1235

The purpose of uploading pictures into Facebook is to impress others. That one's living a life that's not too bad. In fact it's much better than yours.

We need to prove to others constantly that our lives are going good. That the choices we made in life - the courses and jobs we selected, the time we wasted, the partners we ended up having - were not wrong. That we are having fun, we are being loved, we are traveling to beautiful places, my girlfriend can be good looking at times, or in fact I succeeded in my life because see, I got the prettiest wife among all my old classmates...Now be jealous!

Facebook helps one to prove to himself that he's doing well in life.

Why do we need Facebook? Why dont we stop faking, etc, etc? Of course such is life.

I feel that if you dont talk in Facebook about the best moments that you feel you are having in your life, or upload the pictures of them, then you have risen above the average mass of humanity, and is living more close to your soul. Or it is because you have nothing worth talking about in your life. In fact you are not living.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I live outside. I meet foreigners everyday. I write something. Can it be "good" by default?

One thing "cool" about staying in a foreign country is that every day is full of new experiences.

Just like almost anyone in India.

But with the privilege to put fancy country names in front of each character: My Vietnamese friend, the Czech girl, and such.

Does that alone make anything special?

Some people write poetry and books about it, some people just live along it without even thinking of it, some people write random blogs about it.

Well, enough of meandering.

I have this Vietnamese girl as a friend.

Our friendship started when she smelled the KPL Shuddhi Coconut Oil with which I was cooking. I think it is "arguably" the best cooking oil smell one can get. She apparently thought the same, and asked me the details, and we were soon friends. She gave me a flower pot for my birthday, called me when she did a Hot Pot, we went to watch the latest Shrek and ended up watching an Argentinian film with French subtitles. We hiked and hitchhiked. We shared our travel stories, and our lab stories. She also told me that she prefers to be mistaken as Japanese than Chinese. She told me that they had to study heroic poems about Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap, which I promptly passed on to my father- subscriber of Deshabhimani for three decades.

So, after an year, last week, she was leaving France for Germany, for continuing her studies. She invited me for the farewell party, but with the most dreaded condition : "bring along some Indian food if you can".

I tried my best and cooked some Chicken Munchurian, but ended up eating what I cooked.

I felt enormously guilty.

I could have escaped unhurt by taking a bottle of wine instead, but I was too lazy to go and buy one. I decided to let go the first of the Indian Souvenir Stock I had - a neatly carved wooden elephant that me and my mother bought from City Center, Thrissur. With this elephant in my pocket, I marched to the farewell party place, only to be met with the sight of some 10 Vietnamese people cooking the weirdest of meat and sea food. There were things that looked like snakes, that looked like all those fancy species from sea, lot of green leaves, etc, in the middle of ten people who are enjoying their Vietnamese friendship. But I could not find my friend there. May be she would have come later. May be she was taking a restroom break. But I felt extremely awkward and foreign standing there, in the middle of the weirdest meat and 10 people I had no idea of and who were royally ignoring me.

I meekly walked back.

My friend tried phoning me later, to ask why I was not coming, but I was too afraid to go to the party, and let the call miss.

Once again, I felt extremely guilty.

But then I met her a few days later, and handed her the elephant. She was mad with happiness, and carried the elephant in her bag for the rest of the days here. Last time I met her, she told that she had found something to give me, and would come to my room to give it. But sadly, she left before she could do it.

Now this is not the story I wanted to write about when I started to write today.

It was about serving Aloo-Gobi-Carrot curry to a member of Indian Academy of Sciences - an author of 150 journal papers and the emeritus professor and former dean from one of the premier research labs in India. And eating lunch with him and a chain smoking Bengali professor in our small kitchen, and discussing and arguing about Narendra Modi, Pinarai Vijayan, Coq au Vin, and Judgement of Paris. And explaining Data Mining and Gene Regulation Networks to him (with plenty of modesty and shame).

Or about the Sikh guy from Mumbai I met in bus today, who is "onsite" from an IT company. And listening to him talking about his Guru's teachings, his Kirpan, and life in an IT company. And the fact that there are about ten times Pakistani Punjabis here than Indian Punjabis. And his curiosity about them being Sikhs or Muslims.

Or the little spat between Romanian and French colleagues in the lab today, when the former mentioned that she liked the Museum of Resistance, and the later mentioned Gypsies.

And perhaps, about Mumbai itself, my thoughts and feelings about the place.

But, coming back to the initial thought: even if the country and place names by themselves dont make these experiences interesting, I feel that I am more observant and thoughtful here than in India.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why one can buy a camera only today or next Monday?

Because on Thursday I have to prepare for my presentation on Friday, on Friday we cannot buy because its not our day and is Muslims' day, and we never buy anything good on Saturday because it is a bad day to buy new things. And on Sunday every place is closed, unlike India.

- A post doctoral fellow working in Physics :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hard Sun



http://www.metrolyrics.com/hard-sun-lyrics-eddie-vedder.html

Into the Wild never ceases to move me.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Weakness of the molten hearted

We, a group of Indians, were coming back from patinoire (ice skating place), around 11 o clock. Not too late. We could take a short cut and walk home in 25 minutes. We turned our asses and started to start to walk.

Suddenly everything changed. A Colombian girl appeared in the picture. We didnt know her, but she was asking us how to go to a very famous hostel, situated in the most happening place - campus. Very pretty girl, but sadly, the way to her place was way out of our way. But. Instead of helping her with the way and tram number, fellow Indian (and Bengali) R - who never fell in love with a girl in his life - told her that we would accompany her to her place.

What! We would have to take a detour for an hour and then walk another 25 minutes!

Now, none in our group knew the way except me and him (others are all new), and they would have done whatever we told them. But what!

I told this to R and tried to make him understand his folly. But poor R has a molten heart and visions of poor hot Colombian girl walking alone or waiting for the tram, and we finally took his advice and followed his plan. Ten Indians taking a detour of 1 hour for 1 Colombian girl they didnt know and probably would never meet again.

Anyway, I made the best out of the situation, and tried my French on her, and even found out that she adored Gabriel Garcia Marquez. She told me about Love in times of Cholera - which I'd not read, but had heard about in plenty , and hence I lied to her that I'd read it (bad French giving good cover from any possible questions). And she loved One hundred years of solitude, which I'd read. Then she talked about a book that I had no clue of - a man who was forced to live alone in the sea for several days - which again she loved (I doubt if it was The story of shipwrecked sailor). Anyway, after walking for the above mentioned time to her place, I had to agree that I had a good time with her. And I added a +1 to the time tested belief that Latinos and Colombians are hot, cool, etc.

Another Bengali friend from our group told me later - Now, did you understand why he wanted us to go with her?

Men are weak. Flesh is weak and mind is weaker. They go weak kneed in front of Colombian girls walking alone at mid night.

But is it only Latinos and Colombians?

So my Marathi friend decided to flaunt her culture by making me watch Apsara Aali song from Natrang (Marathi super hit film and song). I watched it (and even liked it), but now I had to flaunt back - but instead of inviting ridicule by showing The Pot Belly of Mohanlal Swaying with Music ( it's difficult to argue with people who dont watch Adoor saying that he is the best actor in India etc, after they saw his current figure and dance), I decided to try some AR Rahman numbers from Tamil (safe bet, any day).

But suddenly the molten hearted Bengali R came to our room, and after seeing some "South Indian" song playing, started making comments - "what's so special with this? I dont see anything special". I got angry but kept my mouth shut.

After that song, the Marathi girl got the chance for attempting show off , but this time she put on a lot more traditional and culture dependent song (i.e, easily inviting ridicule). I merely decided to try my "What's so special" line. Pat came the reply from R: "Different people might find different things likeable, may be she likes it and may be you dont, but you cannot say its bad because you dont like it, blah blah blah".

R the molten hearted, savior of pride for many Marathi and Columbian girls. Who never fell in love.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A day and three guys in Paris

Half of my trip around a few European countries was spent with two of my friends. I didnt travel with them, except for a trip to Prague with one of them, and some sightseeing in their respective cities. They hosted me. Both of them are doing their studies, one in Paris and one in Berlin. They are the kind of people to whom you can talk about anything, with liberal no-hiding of-emotions, no-intention-of not-hurting-sentiments levels, thus having all the fun. Their rooms are not no-fart-zones, and its OK to wear only undies, and sleep on the floor. The Berlin one briefly visited us when I was in Paris, staying with the Paris guy. This is about our first day together.

So on that day, I crossed Paris to receive the Berlin guy at the bus stand. The Paris guy couldn’t come with me because it was Friday and he had office. The bus from Berlin was awfully late, and the Berlin guy, after cleaning his intestines and changing his clothes at the local loo, started theorizing immediately, about how stereotypes about Germany (or any other stereotypes) are not so true because the bus was so awfully late, thus breaking the German Punctuality Stereotype. We had couple of croissants, and I told him about my newly acquired French words, about cafe noir and cafe long, France is great and such stuff and random theories. We talked about his life in Berlin. Its amazing to see how lonely the life of guys who grew their mind through books, movies, newspapers and discussions, only to find that things are not so action-filled in real life, in fact it can be quite mundane, full of complexes and loneliness. Especially the guys who have been taught to not look at or talk to girls, during a major part of their teen and other lives. They go to no end meandering about self pity. There's so much common between us.

We walked out of the bus stand, and decided to go to Louvre. Berlin guy is a wannabe intellectual and wants to visit museums, but Paris guy is a fartaholic and anti-intellectual, and denied him any chance of museums when he’s under his hostdom. So Berlin guy found company in a confused personality that is me - who at once mocks museums and all things arty-farty, “I am so cool”, and next moment gets angry at a friend for explaining the expression of that Manet with "that guy farted, and this guy farted back, and they looked at each other's face, and then this expression was born, and Manet expressed it impressively" - and lo we went to Louvre, after shaking away from a Bangladeshi captain posted in Ivory Cost, who sounded so patriotic about Bangladesh-India-Pakistan and was introducing us to all the Indians who were selling water, that we found it weird.

We found that it’s so crowded out there in the entrance to the Louvre, with all the tourists, all the family, and all Americans in sunglasses, shorts and guide books and Da vinci code, and at once walked away from there, to find out Musee d'Orsay, me thinking of the “small is beautiful” book I’ve found in my college library in Calicut, but hadn’t read fully. We lost way and reached the Seine River, where we walked, and found Pont Neuf. We took pictures. I tried to picture a guy sitting on the bridge drinking, nothing and nobody nearby, just a pattern made by the long stairs of the bridge and the empty road in front of him, by adjusting the Depth of Field and Exposure, trying to highlight the pattern and the loneliness, and later trying to give Berlin guy some souveniers to boast about the-wannabe-intellectual-visiting-the-city-of- intellectuals, art and fine wine and blacks and arabs and streets with beautiful, old buildings, a dark, crowded, efficient, race-averaged-out metro, and kebab shops and Eiffel Tower, and lot of hot air and beauty, which makes you confused which is which, and what’s personal and what’s acquired. I tried to convey my favorite stereotypes of Paris to Berlin guy - who was not so much impressed about Paris yet - so that he’ll see the city in the light of stereotypes, and then see that he can appreciate it better. Leonardo de Caprio and Kate Winslet helped me with this about Paris, with “that’s the only city in the world where I want to go back” dialog (Revolutionary Road - great film). I don’t know why he thought so. The film is sad. Yet. It’s much easier to enjoy if you know some stereotype about enjoyment. Like girls eating chocolates to wear away sadness, and how shopping helps them if chocolates fail. I had half a mind to extend it to Homeopathy and associated phenomenon, but realizes that stereotypes help you to associate things rather than give you placebo. Or is it not? Like all the silly thoughts, this one dies a mundane death.

I surely failed in all that photography. Berlin guy told me that even with a simple camera pictures can come out much better, and I am having a DSLR. I tried to explain why, in terms of heavy sun and lack of experience. Then we went back to being single Malayali males, who knows about Simon de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan, and talked about Polanski, Kusturica's film on Gypsies (oh wait, Roma/Romani!) and Dostoevsky, and communism and Pinarai Vijayan, what's going on in his village and Kannur in general, what’s wrong with Kerala and its culture and politics and men and women, sexual starvation, why we were like we were, more self pity. We talk about sex, no one believing the other's words fully, yet extremely interested in the topic.

Berlin guy is obsessed about Hayek these days. He argued about why government is wrong, and why we need free market, game theory and mechanism design. I tried to explain about poor farmers in India, all the caste stuff and gory stories, and who will stand for them in a free-for-all world. He explained in Developed Countries they don’t have this problem and Hayek lived mostly in Developed Countries, may be India is not ready for free market yet. I told him that even though I support governmental actions and interventions and social security, I was wondering if I was actually going to do anything that helps the processes, let alone any direct action. I told him I am not feeling like. Then he told me, even though he’s moving towards Hayek and all that, in the end he wants to go back and do something to help others. We were clearly confused. It was getting hot, we were sweating and our water was running out (we argued if Berlin water is better than Paris one).

We go to Gare du Nord, to find out the Srilankan-Tamil area, to have some Indian lunch. Gare du Nord is so big, so we don’t know which exit to take, so we call our local expert, Paris guy. Paris guy doesn’t remember the exit street name, he tells us it starts with Ausgang or something. We look and find Ausgang everywhere, and Berlin guy explains it’s German for Exit/Sortie. We laugh at stupid Paris guy. Finally Paris guy tells something helpful, in terms of construction-going-on, the doors are wooden, etc, and we finally get out. Berlin guy is excited to see dirty roads and gaudy shops and Chennai in Paris. We go and eat. We go back to Paris guy’s place – who had been working on his PhD all day long. He’s kept some Johnnie Walker and beer bottles ready for us. There’s a world cup match going on in the TV in the common room. We start drinking. We drink, fart and talks about farts, and Berlin guy tells us the Kundera quote: “Men started acting when they started loathing their own shit”. He says what brings men close are alcohol, talks about girls, and talks about shit and fart. Because these are the real stuff, really close to our animal self. He quotes MP Paul to tell us why humans are different from animals because they don’t shit while eating. Thus we intellectualize shit. We fart together and laugh.

Then we go on about the Paris guy, who hasn’t yet touched his girlfriend of several years, telling him about what is true love and true romance, and made him promise several things about how to be a good lover, etc. Paris guy’s already a towering figure to us in terms of helping others, sending almost all his stipend money to needy things at home, and having already taken couple of loans to help other friends. We talk about all that. “Let money go and let power come” is heard many times. We talk about our friends in India, all college life. We decide to call our friends in India. We call them and call all sorts of ugly terms. They laugh. We have fun. Paris guy is sleepy. Suddenly he runs to the toilet and pukes. We go to see him after a few minutes and see him sitting on the closet, almost naked, sleeping. We help him to the floor, and let him sleep there. We drink a bit more, and go to see the football match in the common room.

We talk, he explains to me what Tarkovsky wrote in his “Sculpting in Time”, and about Malayalam films, what he finds wrong with Hollywood and what I find wrong with Hollywood, etc. I find the American Dream, Pursuit of Happiness and long shots of guys drinking beer happily or guy driving happily themes so oft-repeated in Hollywood. An awkward moment is created when I tell I found Adoor’s Elipathaayam boring, but found that Berlin guy loves it. We talk about his money that was stolen from his bank account in Berlin, and what happened at Police station, and how he got the money back. “Three hundred euros, that’s a lot of money”, says the African guy in front of us, even though we were talking in Malayalam. We watch Africans supporting Ghana fighting whites supporting Uruguay, the war of words, shouts, and sadness and happiness when Ghana was about to win, and when an Uruguay defender decided to protect the nets with his hands, and when the Ghana guy lost the penalty, the gloom when Ghana lost, unfold in front of us. He theorizes that small and new teams like Ghana, however beautifully they pay, are not perfect, and the old, experienced, money-rich opponent can exploit these imperfections, like missing penalty kicks. We too root for Ghana, thinking of our imperial victimhood and skin colour, and share the gloom.

We go back to the room to find the guy still sleeping in the toilet floor. Berlin guy wants to try to puke now, and he goes to the washbasin to puke. I take a picture of them in their current conditions, and later mailed it to all our friends, who all responded enviously to the obvious camaraderie we’ve had. We talk further; we theorize further, we move the Paris guy from floor to bed. Berlin guy says he wants to bury the obsession with intellectuality and politics and Kerala and wants to learn about new things to talk about. He talks about ordinary guys who talks about what they are going to do in the evening, and what they are going to do the next day, and how he wants to be like that. I feel that there’s no going back. We get hungry. Stomachs make grumbling noises, we both fart. We put some rice in the microwave, and make an omlette with eight eggs. Berlin guy wont put the yellow, except for one, “for taste”. We debate about health and fitness. I talk about my eighty five year old grandfather, who’s still alive and working in his shop, who plays cards with friends, but who has drunk 20 tea per day for most part of his life in the same, unwashed flask and glass, who cannot eat without rice and heavily salted daal, who never did any exercise and farts like crazy, but in the end decides that one-off-incidents like that are not enough to lift the average life expectancy.

We eat a heavy dinner, with lots of rice and well chillied omlette, and curd (time is 2 or 3 AM now). We are extremely sleepy, but still watch Namukku Paarkaan Munthiri Thoppukal while eating. I talk about why I find Mohanlal in this film such a hero. His dialogs, his way of drinking and living, caring about family and interacting with girls with heroic charm, his confidence and the Malayali hero style wearing shirts and pants and keeping the shirts not tucked in, the manly moustache, how I adore all that. I wonder why he tells “hot chappathi, and chilled chicken, the best combination” in the film, thinking that he might have intended “chilly chicken” and not “chilled chicken”. Who wants chilled chicken at 3 AM in the night (its 3 AM in the film as well).

We are sleepy. I take the floor. We have an air filled bed, and he takes it. The balloon bed is awful, and he’s going to get a back pain the next day, though we didnt know it yet. We sleep.




Please go to 08:08 for the chilled chicken line.

Monday, August 16, 2010

എന്താണു സുഖജീവിതം?

അങ്ങനെ അവസാനം ആ അടിപൊളി ജീവിതം എന്നെ തേടിയെത്തി.

പണ്ട് അയ്യപ്പഗുരു വെള്ളമടിക്കുമ്പോള്‍ പറഞ്ഞുതന്ന ചൈനീസ്‌ നാടോടിക്കഥയില്‍ ഒരാള്‍ ഉറങ്ങിയും പുഴയില്‍ നിന്ന് മീന്പിടിച്ചു തിന്നും ചുമ്മാ ജീവിക്കുന്നു. കഷ്ടപ്പെട്ട് ജീവിച്ചു ഒരു കല്യാണമൊക്കെ കഴിച്ചു നന്നായിക്കുടെ എന്ന ഒരു മണ്ടന്റെ ചോദ്യത്തിനു നമ്മുടെ യോഗയന്‍ പറയുന്നത്, ഞാന്‍ ഇപ്പോള്‍ തന്നെ നയിക്കുന്നത് സവര്‍ഗതുല്യമായ ജീവിതം ആണു, ഇനി ഇതിനേക്കാള്‍ നല്ലതോന്നില്ല എന്ന്. അപ്പോള്‍ മനസ്സില്‍ പൂവിട്ട ഒരാഗ്രഹമാണ്, ചുമ്മാ ഒന്നും ചെയ്യാതെ തോന്നുമ്പോള്‍ തോന്നുന്നപോലെ ചെയ്യാന്‍ കഴിയുന്ന ജീവിതം കുറച്ചു ദിവസതിലെക്കെങ്ങിലും ഒന്ന് ശ്രമിക്കണമെന്ന്.

 പണ്ട് സ്കൂളിലും കോളേജിലും ആയിരുന്നപ്പോള്‍ കിട്ടിയിരുന്ന വേനലവധി വീട്ടിലോ ബന്ധുവീട്ടിലോ ചെലവോഴിചിരുന്നത് കാരണം ഇമ്മാതിരി ഒരു മടിപിടിച്ച ജീവിതം നടപ്പിലായിരുന്നില്ല. ഇപ്പോള്‍ ഞാന്‍ ഒറ്റക്കാണു, വീടും നാടും ആയിരക്കണക്കിന് കിലോമീറ്റര്‍ അകലെ, പല കടലുകല്‍ക്കപ്പുറത്ത്. ക്ലാസ് തുടങ്ങുന്നത് ഒന്ന് രണ്ടു മാസം കഴിഞ്ഞ്. യൂറോപ്പ് കറങ്ങി കാശൊക്കെ തീര്‍ന്നതിനാല്‍ വേറൊന്നും ചെയ്യാനില്ല. എന്റെ സ്വപ്ന ജീവിതം നയിക്കയല്ലാതെ വേറെ വഴി ഇല്ല.

 പണ്ട് തൊട്ടേ ഉള്ള ശീലം രാവിലെ നേരത്തെ എഴുന്നെക്കും എന്നതാണു, അത് കഷ്ടപ്പെട്ട് ഒരു ഒമ്പത് പത്തു മണി ആക്കി. എഴുന്നേറ്റു ഒരു അര ഒരു മണിക്കൂര്‍ ചുമ്മാ ദിവാസ്വപ്നം കണ്ടു കിടക്കും. അതുകഴിഞ്ഞ് മടിപിടിച്ച് പ്രഭാതകൃത്യങ്ങള്‍ കഴിച്ചു  ഫ്രഞ്ച് സ്റ്റൈലില്‍  ഒരു കട്ടനോക്കെ അടിച്ചു ചുമ്മാ തോന്നുന്നതെങ്ങിലും ചെയ്യും. ചെലപ്പോ വല്ല പുസ്തകവും അലസമായി മറച്ചു നോക്കും, ചെലപ്പോ അടുത്തുള്ള കെട്ടിടത്തിലേക്ക് കഷ്ടപ്പെട്ട് നടന്നു ഇന്റെര്നെട്ടിലേക്ക് ഊളിയിടും, ചെലപ്പോ പിന്നെയും കിടന്നുറങ്ങും, അല്ലെങ്ങില്‍ ചുമ്മാ ദിവാസ്വപ്നം കാണും, അല്ലെങ്ങില്‍ ബ്രെഡും നുട്ടെലയും മുട്ടയും ഒക്കെ കൂടി ഒരു സാദാ പ്രാതല്‍, അല്ലെങ്ങില്‍ പൂരി മുട്ടക്കറി ഉരുളക്കിഴങ്ങുകാരി എന്നിങ്ങനെ വന്‍ സംഭവങ്ങള്‍ സമയമെടുത്ത്‌ ഉണ്ടാക്കി കഴിക്കും. പിന്നെ പതുക്കെ കുളിച്ചു കമ്പ്യൂടരിനു മുന്നില്‍. വല്ല സിനിമയോ, ഹൌ ഐ മെറ്റ് യുവര്‍ മതര്‍ എന്ന സീരിയലോ കാണും. എന്താ ഈ സീരീസ്. എന്ത് രസം. എത്ര നല്ല ജീവിതം. ഇതല്ലെങ്ങില്‍ പിന്നെയും വല്ല പുസ്തകവും, അല്ലെങ്ങില്‍ പിന്നെയും ഉറക്കം... ബോറടിച്ചാല്‍ പെറുവില്‍ നിന്നുള്ള എന്റെ കൂട്ടുകാരിയുമായി വല്ല പാര്‍ക്കിലും പോയിരുന്നു സിനിമ കാണല്‍. അല്ലേല്‍ അവളുടെ മറ്റു കൂട്ടുകാരുടെ കൂടെ മലകയറ്റം (പണ്ടാരം!). എന്തായാലും ഉച്ചക്ക് സംഭവങ്ങള്‍ വന്‍ തോതില്‍ ഉണ്ടാക്കും. ചിക്കണോ കോളി ഫ്ലാവരോ നൂടില്സോ ഒക്കെയാണ് സ്ടാപ്പില്‍. അല്ലെങ്ങില്‍ ചോറും തയിരും അച്ചാറും. പിന്നെ ഒരു യൂറോക്ക് ആറെണ്ണം എന്ന കണക്കിനു കാരഫൂരീന്നു വാങ്ങിയ കാരമേല്‍ ഡിസ്സേര്‍ട്ട് ഒന്ന് രണ്ടണ്ണം അടിച്ചിട്ട് (ഇതൊക്കെ ചെയ്യുമ്പോള്‍ കമ്പ്യൂട്ടറില്‍ എന്തെങ്ങിലും ഒക്കെ കളിക്കുന്നുണ്ടാവും...) സിയെസ്തയിലേക്ക് കടക്കും. ഒരു മൂന്നു മണിക്കൂര്‍ നിദ്രക്കു ശേഷം കാപ്പി. അല്ലെങ്ങില്‍ ബിയര്‍. പുസ്തകം അല്ലെങ്ങില്‍ സീരീസ്‌ അല്ലെങ്ങില്‍ ഇന്റര്‍നെറ്റ്‌. ബോര്‍ അടിച്ചാല്‍ പുതുതായി കിട്ടിയ കൂട്ടാളികളുടെ റൂമില്‍ പോയി ചുമ്മാ കത്തി. അല്ലെങ്ങില്‍ ബീറടി. ഇല്ലെങ്ങില്‍ ബ്രെടടും മുട്ടയും, അല്ലെങ്ങില്‍ ആലു പോരാട്ട. ഒരുമിച്ചുള്ള പാചകം, തോന്നുവാനെങ്ങില്‍. ബോര്‍ അടിച്ചാല്‍ പിന്നെയും സീരീസുകള്‍, സിനിമകള്‍. രാത്രി രണ്ടു മൂന്നു മണി വരെ ഇത് പരുപാടി. തുണി  അലക്കിയിട്ട് മാസം ഒന്ന് കഴിഞ്ഞു.

അലസമായ സുഖ ജീവിതം.

ആകെ ഉള്ള പ്രശ്നം ആഴ്ചയില്‍ ഒരു ദിവസം റൂം വൃത്തിയാക്കാന്‍ വരുന്ന സ്ത്രീ ആണ്. അവര്‍ വരുമ്പോള്‍ റൂം തറ ആണേല്‍ അവര്‍ വ്ര്ത്തിയാക്കില്ലെന്നു പറയും. അത് സാരമില്ല എന്നെ ഒന്ന് ശല്യപ്പെടുത്താതെ ഇരുന്നൂടെ എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞാല്‍ ഇത് ഹോസ്റല്‍ റൂള്‍ ആണെന്നൊക്കെയോ മറ്റോ - ആര്‍ക്കറിയാം അവര്‍ ഫ്രഞ്ചില്‍ എന്താണു പറയുന്നതെന്ന്. അവര്‍ വരുന്ന സമയം നോക്കി ഞാന്‍ റൂമീന്നു മാറി നിന്നാല്‍ അവര്‍ കുറിപ്പെഴുതി വെക്കും, മുട്ടന്‍ ഫ്രെഞ്ചില്‍. പണിയായെന്നു പറഞ്ഞാല്‍ മതിയല്ലോ.

എന്റെ ഒറ്റക്കുള്ള  സുഖജീവിതത്തിലെ ഏക കടന്നല്‍.

ഇടക്കൊക്കെ സ്വത്വബോധവും അസ്ഥിത്വപണ്ടാരവും തോന്നാതെയില്ല. പക്ഷെ ഇങ്ങനൊക്കെ അങ്ങ് മടിപിടിച്ച് ജീവിച്ചു പോക്കുന്നു.

എന്താ അല്ലെ?

Romanticizing the Bengalis

We Malayalis love to idolize Bengalis. They are intellectual, make great cinema, write great literature, have contributed to Independence movement like no one else,  same to the leftist movement in India. They eat rice like us, and they cannot eat without fish! And see, how many Nobel laureates they have? If you die out of romanticisms, check out the deshabhimani (Perhaps they have a necessity to keep us romantic about Bengal?).

I never hear a North Indian say such good words about Bengalis, in fact all they talk about is the dirt and poverty in Bengal. And let's forget all about the imperial institutions (Kolkata used to be the capital) that might have been influential in all those "intellect" that came from Bengal.

But for Bengalis, we Malayalis can easily be approximated by an abstract "Dosa-Idli-Sambar-only-eating-South-Indian" (except for being the "god's own country"). Our food is South Indian food, our movies are South Indian movies. And yes, we eat rice, but its not the same rice that you guys eat. And dont talk about you eating fish; all Indians know we Bengalis hold the patent for "cannot eat without fish".  And you eat beef!

Oh come on, I am being easily stupid here. The Malayalis I am talking about are my friends, who have a lot in common with me. Perhaps the average Malayali knows nothing about Bengal. Perhaps I met average Bengalis only.

Really?

For all their intellectualness, I guess I've not met a single Bengali who appreciate what we like about Kerala. In fact the normal Bengalis I've met are quite right wing, believers in Kali and astrology, anti-reservationists, etc.  So I think there's a case for not being so romantic about Bengal (about things which are not true).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Vicky Christina Barcelona

Why did I love this movie? Is it because I expected a normal Woody Allen movie with himself as the central character, but instead found an extremely eye-candy film, with beautiful Barcelona, architecture, houses, sights and above all the main characters - all four of them really, really pleasing to the eye? Or because I was interested in the contrast between the factory-made-zombie-life and the free-love-creative-life, both with its own happiness, problems and boredom? To imagine the beautiful life the three characters live together, in a beautiful Spanish house, eating lunch in the garden bench everyday, with wine, making love to each other, LOVING each other, involving in creative pursuits, making excellent paintings and photographs; yet one of them getting bored with this life and wanting something different, leaving the other two messed up to the extend of being angry and splitting up? To watch the conformist turning into passionate lover who cheats upon her fiancee, yet going back to the conformist ways with plenty of guilt and want, just to be provoked back again, yet again going back, with a bored look on her face, yet too insistent about living the conformist life... While the other one who had not one but two great, passionate lovers; who helped her move from a diffident good-for-nothing-rebel to a confident-photographer, but wanted to leave them to look for more or different, with a confused, curious look on her face, and as the film says, sure only of what she does not like... Or because I found the male character idolizable, getting through all those beautiful ladies with perfect charm and never forcing anything? I do not know. But I LOVED this movie.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

On the road

I am back from a 1 month long trip around Europe: it was a city-to-city travel mainly, mostly by train. I have some notes that I wrote while on the trip, do now know if they'll see this blog.

Meanwhile, and perhaps more interestingly, I finished reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac. It is one of the important books of the beat generation, and perhaps might have inspired plenty of people to do the beat/hippie life.

I was introduced to the author by the Murakami novel I wrote about in my previous post here. I found the book in the library (and could not find the book Murakami refers: Lonesome Traveler, except in French).

Anyway, the book was simply great. Initially I could find only random travels with nothing interesting, but then the characters reduced and the book started growing on me. While reading the book in a train in Switzerland, surrounded by tourist families who are there just for a couple of weeks, yet showing lonely faces, husbands avoiding wives, wives bored with kids, kids all excited, husbands and wives getting angry at each other, wives who are fat and unattractive because they ate what they liked food and lived lazily, and then about to go back to their anonymous, boring offices and associated lives, where there's so much to hide, so much sadness and loneliness and boredom to hide, I mightily pondered about what kind of life to lead. A keyword I found in the book is: "He gave it absolutely no attention" ("it" means different things at different time.

The language is endearing, the loneliness, the sadness and the happiness, friendship, all so beautiful.

I would like to find a copy of Lonesome Traveler and read that too. But before that, I am reading about the Beat Generation, what happened, etc.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Reading... and Traveling

OK, finally I am figuring out that I really like reading :)

Read Sputnik Sweetheart by Murakami. I was glued to it till the scenes changed to Greece, but then I lost track of it, and somehow finished it. Not as evoking as Norwegian Wood, the other Murakami novel I've read, parts of which are still very much in my mind. But both are different types of novels. Me.

But even more than that, I've been reading the autobiography of Neruda, Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín by Marquez (not fiction), and the second book of travels by Che Guevara. I also saw the City of God last week, and will never forget Motorcycle Diaries, and I am still hooked on to the images from these films. Latin America appears so dreamy, so romantic, so otherworldly...

But I am firmly on my foot back again, thanks to Away - a set of writings by famous Indians (politicians, writers, etc) about their experience as expatriates,edited by Amitava Kumar. The book is full of simple pleasures - the kind of stuff that you feel like reading on a calm, sunny, pleasant Sunday morning, with coffee. Unlike other books mentioned here, this one is familiar territory - I can relate to a lot of things people have written - and many a times with a smile. I would say I enjoyed Cowpath to America by Abraham Verghese, and the experience of Mulk Raj Anand among the most famous English writers (and full of ignorance about India) the most; but several others were equally interesting. The book is a simple read.

I am not staying in Grenoble for the next month. I know where I'll be spending the first half of the next month, but not the second. From Berlin onwards, I do not know. I want to visit Auschwitz. But then the next stopover would be Prague, Vienna etc, and I dont feel very keen on these. I am especially prejudiced against Prague, due to my experience with some Czech people here :) I also found that the travel writings of SK Pottekat (in Paris), and Santosh George Kulangara (of Sancharam fame) are mere details and full of boring prejudices, and have nothing "evoking" in them. Katha Urangunna Vazhiyiloode (K. Thayat) is still vivid in my memory, and even though its so simple, its very very beautiful in my mind.

I , obviously, have very little money for the travels, but hope I somehow manage.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Toddywalla instead of Gandhi, Indian democracy and secularism

This is about an old thought of mine, but anyway I am writing it down.

of a leader of Roman Catholic background (Sonia Gandhi) making way for a Sikh (Manmohan Singh) to be sworn in as Prime Minister by a Muslim (President Abdul Kalam), in a country 81% Hindu

This is an idea one often hears about (I am quoting Shashi Tharoor here). I am quite proud about this fact, of people of all religions having access to the seats of power in the country. What a charming way to present the idea of a country, and its success?

But a bit of closer look will point to a very different, rather sorry, state of affairs.

Like: How many Roman Catholic Prime Ministers we've had? None. Did anyone come near being one? No. But Sonia is a Roman Catholic, even though she was seen taking a dip during Kumbh Mela...

But of course she is there, in power, only because she belongs to the Gandhi family. She won elections because of her husband´s family name. Like Tharoor once said, what if Indira Gandhi had married a Toddywalla instead of a Gandhi?

Just like Rajeev Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi had easy access to power even though they were not real politicians and didnt earn it themselves, Sonia is also enjoying power without earning it. So, we cannot conclude that its possible for a Roman Catholic to be a Prime Minister of India from the data we have. But we can conclude - if you are from the Gandhi family - it does not matter what religion, sex or nationality you have, you can still be the head of Congress party, and control the power of ruling the whole country.

Now, about Manmohan Singh being Sikh and being a Prime Minister in a country with 81% Hindu population, the irony is that Singh does not contest elections (he failed the one he contested, when he was at the peak of his popularity - at least for a section of media and middle class intellectuals) and is afraid to do so. So he was just a nominee of the Gandhi family, someone who was injected by the powers above, who earned the power not because of their ability but because they belonged to the Family. So instead of Singh, it could have been Salman Khursheed or Ahamad Patel or AK Antony - had they enjoyed a bit more popularity with 1) Sonia 2) the Urban, English media.

About Abdul Kalam - he didnt hold any power, nor contested any elections. We have had Zakir Hussain and KR Narayanan (Dalit) before, and Prathibha Patel (woman), now. But the fact that a Non-Hindu has never held power in India on his/her own(i.e, non-symbolic, real power), but can hold only Symbolic power (President), doesnt it say something about the state of our democracy?

Is there much to be proud of all these symbolic things which go back to Nehru and his daughter´s husband´s surname? That even democracy shivers in front of that surname?

Random update...

I removed the McCandless picture from the right side, because I felt I´ve moved on from whether he was right or wrong. Not that I have a satisfactory answer. Just that: that question does not bother me now.

Spending time in the lab (i.e a computer lab, not a real laboratory) makes me happy. I have some great, very nice people as researchers (that is - bosses) here. Especially when compared to the complaints other people say about their teams and advisers. I´ve decided to continue here for next whole year, for the Master thesis. Somehow I feel comfortable. But this also means I´ve gone back to my ways in India, i.e, not meeting new people, not going for parties, etc. But good. Life seems bright. But for two months I take a break from my lab, and plan to go to Paris, Berlin, etc. Even though I have no plans for August.

I am not reading these days. Which means, mind is rather static, without new radically different ideas and passions coming to the mind. I took a book from the library today (Away - stories from Indian expatriate life - edited by Amitava Kumar), and read it on the way to the lab. I was quite disappointed by reading the letter written by Nehru to Vijayalakshmi Pandit - nothing much great and very mundane, but with plenty of complexes. May be I will write more about it later. I also read the love letters written by Sarojini Naidu to her lover and future husband, when she was in London and was merely 15 years old! The love letters are very warm and not much poetic, what much to expect from a 15 year old. Not that they are bad. But the letters by Tagore seem to be interesting.

Talking about Nehru, I also read about an encounter Neruda had with him - in his autobiography - when he visited India after her Independence, when Nehru was the Prime Minister. Nehru does not come up as much great in this narrative too. Not that he cease to be a hero for me, but just that I wished I had a more godly figure to admire.

I did some traveling, but they cannot be called travel. I saw some places, did some you-shouldnt-do things, and was mostly happy. But its not a travel I want to write about. Or where I have a story to narrate about, or think about with a smile. Not like that Tamilnadu trip I took few years back. I feel I am more suited to traveling alone - trips with friends are very nice and enjoyable - but they count more as vacation trips. But a good mixture of all these is the best, and I am glad I made the trip.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

പ്രേമം

പ്രേമിക്കാന്‍ തോന്നുന്നു. ഒന്ന് കൂടെ.



Anti-Americanism

This is about an article by Pervez Hoodbhoy in Dawn titled "Faisal Shahzad, anti-Americanism, and terror", reproduced in The Hindu here.


"Instead of pronouncing moral judgments on everything and anything, we Pakistanis need to reaffirm what is truly important for our people: peace, economic justice, good governance, rule of law, accountability of rulers, women's rights, and rationality in human affairs. Washington must be firmly resisted, but only when it seeks to drag Pakistan away from these goals. More frenzied anti-Americanism will only produce more Faisal Shahzads."

Is it not about letting the United States get away with whatever they want? Like more of Chile, Iran, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba (long list).

Yet, it would be wrong to scorn the humanitarian impulse behind U.S. assistance in times of desperation. Shall we simply write off massive U.S. assistance to Pakistan at the time of the dreadful earthquake of 2005? Or to tsunami affected countries in 2004 and to Haiti in 2010? In truth, the U.S. is no more selfish or altruistic than any other country of the world. And it treats its Muslim citizens infinitely better than we treat non-Muslims in Pakistan.

I wonder how much percentage of the US military budget for Iraq/Afghanistan would be the total "massive" aid they gave to Pakistan, Haiti etc. It may be true that other countries are no less selfish, but US's position as the most powerful country in the world puts it at a different position. George W. Bush should be tried for killing millions in unnecessary war, which Obama doesn't agree even though he has been saying that Bush has been wrong from the beginning. Yet, reg: Haiti, there was an "AID coalition" between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and , and thus GWB was brought back to public sphere, his untouchability forgotten, thus giving him some kind of legitimacy.

So what should we do? Mind our own business till the US meddles in ours? I do not think so. Should I link to "First they came.." by Martin Niemöller? Now "self interest" is not the only reason I want to protest against the US... Just leaving a sample video.



Some clarification:

I am talking about secular, political resistance, not about killing innocent people on the basis of silly religions and holy wars.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pleasure

There is pleasure in Nature. There is pleasure in walking. Especially in the mornings. Especially its cold outside and you want to sweat yourself against it by walking fast. As fast as possible. Especially when its springtime, when the walkaways are either bordered by flowers of yellow, white, red and violet, in full bloom. When all the green things are having a beautiful green color, helped by the rain that has been falling for the last two days. When the grass is wet. And, if the walkways are not the tarred, long, nice ones, you are provided by a light green yet sunlight proof canopy by the trees, and paved walkways. There is pleasure, and life is good. And you reach class earlier than you would have had you taken the bus or tram, walking 3 KM.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tharoor Filth

What can I add to the most recent Shashi Tharoor controversy, or the Shashi Tharoor phenomenon? Most probably nothing new, but let me say what I think of it and why.

When he contested in Thiruvananthapuram, I supported his candidature (in debates with friends).

I used to be a fan of his columns and I had liked a book written by him (India: From midnight to millenium). That was when I was an engineering student, but afterwords started thinking differently, realising that he is just feeding on cliches and platitudes (pet topics that later bored me to death: his love for kerala and globalization chains). I also started realizing that he might be a fool under an intellectual garb, eversince he started saying that Indian women should go back to wearing Sari(and not Salwars), Indians should sing national anthem the American way and Americans dont understand cricket because it is too complicated for them. Yet I argued for him during the election because I wanted to see what change such a person, who appears to have a good personality, good literary sense, liberal values, decades of UN experience, etc, can bring to the Lok Sabha. Especially because normally such people enter the Parliament through the back door (Rajya Sabha). Tharoor must at least be lauded for his choise of the democratic way instead (even though he was afraid to contest from Palakkad,his hometown - a CPM bastion).

But after his victory, and subsequent entry to the ministry, what he exhibitted was an anti-thesis of all his writings, and what his resume appeared to display. His tweets were filled with "meeting with the lovely foreign minster of X country, the amazing foreign minister of Y country" etc, and also sucking up to others ("K Karunakaran is so great even at his age" - that from someone who wrote vehemently against Indira Gandhi and Emergency in his book, even
though he did not oppose it when he was an office bearer at St. Stephen's student council). He wrote about his "great meals", played up to populism "3 Idiots is great, Aamir khan rocks", made comments on IPL matches, lived in star hotels and travelled only in business class (calling economy class "cattle class). He also did not seem to mind human rights violations and such (unlike his columns), for example he loved everybody from Saudi Shaikhs to dictators.

Selt-important to the core.

Analysing his personal life is probably a mean thing to do, but I am going to stoop to such levels, because a man's personal life can help tell what he really is. Tharoor was initially married to his college sweetheart and someone who later became an academic and intellectual. He divorced her to marry someone who is much younger (some UN gossip), but someone who possibly maintains high intellect (being a UN official and all). Then he dumps her for a relation with someone who shows no intellect, someone who runs a spa and a few marketing/PR businesses, who did a plastic surgery on her face, (I can go on). OK, love is blind (to the brains).

But she also gets a free 18% stake or something in a multi-crore cricket club, which he managed to "help put together". The club appears as shady as it can get, whose owners are an unlikely motely crowd - only 1% of equity belonging to a man from the home state, rest being held by Gujarati businessman and some such, along with Tharoor's love iterest. Why those Gujarati businessman favoured Kochi, a much less commericially viable city compared to Ahamadabad, who Kochi defeated to become the IPL club? Any number of questions can be asked. Of course Lalit Modi has hidden interests, but Tharoor is no innocent man.

In my opinion, this is not how a progressive politician in India should live.

After his resignation, Mr. Tharoor appears to be nothing but filth to me. A man who talked a lot but did the opposite of what he talked. One among the elitist "accented" waste St. Stephens spews. A man who is no better than a Marwari businessman in morality, but who is too foolish to cover up his foolishness. Those who say Tharoor is being wrongly indicted because of his naivity (or foolishness) compared to other corrupt politicians, I say: foolishness is not yet a virtue.

I am glad that content won over looks. India needs intelligence, intellect, commitment and action, not jet setting people in designer kurtas, and their boring tweets.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Abu Dhabhi

Abu Dhabhi airport.

Specifically, where the Kochi/Lahore/Manila flights come. Those gates. Cattle class? Why other parts of airport are so nice, while this is many-folds worse than what I've seen at any Indian airport?

I am proud to be in France than in UAE :)

Flight back home

I take the flight from Paris to Abu Dhabhi. Everything normal. People all nice.

I take the flight from Abhi Dhabhi to Kochi. I see at least 5 men around the air hostesses' cabin at any point of time (asking for tissues, a glass of water, beer, etc etc). She has to shoo them away, instead of the normal, "service oriented" behavior. Men just wait near toilet, for nothing, even after coming back from the loo(air hostesses are walking past them, a "brush" is probable, a "rub" is possible) . I join the queue for the toilet. A guy asks me to move, as if he has to go to the other side of the queue. Instead he just walks past me to the toilet (mine was next). After some time, another does the same, but this time I firmly tell him to bug off and stand behind me. After I go back to my seat, I see a man standing up and fainting. Air hostesses try to help him, giving water and telling him to do some things (breathing etc). The guy says he fainted after eating the mouth freshener they gave (a pack of sweet jeera, not a probable cause). Other people sitting near him start to blame him (he is still recovering), "dont put what you get free to your mouth just like that, otherwise this is what will happen", and enlightens their friends 3 seats down the aisle ("pulli kannikkandathellaam vizhungi, pinne ingane undaavaathirikkumo").

A major difference between first and second flight: second flight full of Malayali males.

I come back home, to hear wonderful stories about an arranged marriage that is happening at my house. Quite personal now, so cannot share them. But, wonderful in the sense...

A few years back, when I read similar posts about Mallu men, I got all angry, and called the blog writers "elitist" "western" etc. Now my actions are having to swallow those words.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Better

Things are better now, far better than last post, I guess. I just got out of the "emptiness", by starting to work, etc. Many of the subjects I've this semester are a lot fun, and the work I do at INRIA is interesting too. But just that I've not been putting much effort, to learn anything deep enough. But this week things are better, cuz I've tons of assignments to finish before going to India, and I've been working on them. I like busy days.

Satisfactory life comes from working hard on things that you find interesting, having a good and dependable friends/family circle and personal life, having occasional moments of celebrations, some good music, a good book, etc. A healthy mix of many things.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Some people

Some people do not know what to do about the life they've got.

They know about a lot of things, are quite brilliant when they try, etc. But they just dont try, most of the time. Either due to laziness, or because they are unable to focus, or , they dont want to focus, or, they dont know why they like they are. I hate such people. Such self-loathing, immature, lazy fools.

For them, such feelings of sadness get worst when its in the evening. When the sunny day becomes bleak and dark. When they get hungrier. When they feel so lonely and all feel they can no more talk to anyone. When they are just 2 days away from living 25 years in this world. A major landmark, when they will no longer be considered young persons who are allowed experiment with their lives. But they are still experimenting with what they must do in their life. With no clue. Lazily. Carelessly.

Do they just end up writing odes to depression, in the dark corners of their labs? Wishing if they did not think so much about everything... Wishing to see an angel when they wake up in the morning, who tells them the secret of success, of happiness? Of contented lives? And others look at these people and say, stop moaning you self-loathing, immature fool, and say, stop thinking and do some work?

What must be wrong with these people? The way neurons are wired up in their brains are more complicated? Are some electric pulses getting leaked, going to the centers that produce sadness? Is their a magnifying filter to the sadness areas, or is the thinking affecting the pulses going elsewhere and are drawing them to wrong places...

They sometimes feel like copying a sentence from friends who are now happy but were once moaning, and write it: "I feel like flying away from this earth and turn back and show a middle finger at the whole fucking world"...

How to monetize your blog. Huh. How to manage your time. And money. And calories.

To top it all: they are working on building a fridge management software for human computer interaction project. fridge management software. love.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In search of some motivation.

Let me just link to a beautiful and inspiring article here: Dream your own dream - Rama Govindarajan. A few days into hitting a quarter century in life, I am finding myself suddenly tired, hopeless and pointless, unable to decide on which path to take, unable to find inspiration to proceed. Suddenly I am having doubts about the purpose of everything. This article was helpful. Let me quote:

Just don’t be scared to experiment, to spend a few years as a no-
mad.
If you are the type who likes every day to be different,
scientific research is the career for you. If you like working with
young people with bright ideas, who keep you on your toes, and if
you like teaching yourself new concepts, this is the career for you.
If you are prepared to toil long and desperately for the dazzling
discovery you are not sure you’ll make, this is the life to choose!

An important ingredient for success is the willingness to push yourself to work really, really hard (no surprises there, yet I found it relevant :))
A beautiful, relevant video I saw recently:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

3 Idiots

At last I gave in to curiosity and saw 3 Idiots. (How? Its not released in France, so... ;-))

I loved the begining of the movie. The way Madhavan stopped and got out of a flight, and how got up from the wheel chair- stretching and all - then the other Idiot forgetting his pants, the many smart things Aamir does, the comedy with the rot learning nerd, the way students offered milk to a snake and grass to a cow at the time of exams, having a rather strong Muslim character, the huge puja that goes on in their room - I enjoyed them all. But then the rest of it was an obvious Bollywood movie, a let down. I cringed when Aamir used his inventions (create an inverter from car batteries and then used the vacuum cleaner to create a device that sucks the baby out) to deliver the baby, in situ. Well, plenty of things like that, but in the end they displayed some beautiful scenery from Ladakh, so there was some point in watching the second half. But, too much unbelievable masala to me.

But 45 years old Aamir acting as a college lad...?? Apart from the wrinkles on his face, it was all right to me. Aamir deserves a lot of praise. And I thought of the actors we Malayalees never cease to be proud of, especially Mohanlal. In Unnaipol Oruvan, the remake of A Wednesday, I felt Mohanlal was so horrible, with his acting, his accent and his huge pot-belly. Aamir is willing to create eight pack for one movie, and then burn them down for the next. Where as our Lalettan cannot even make proper facial expression thanks to the fat. But yet, Malayalees go gaga, Mohanlal is the best, even better than Tom Hanks, hehe.

I liked the movie much more than 5 point someone, the book which was a starting point for the movie. But to me the film fails short of being in the level of Taare Zameen Par, Rang De Basanti (flawed as it is) and Lagaan.