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.


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.