Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Why did I have to learn tens of poems - each in Malayalm, English and Hindi - by heart, and remember and reproduce eight lines from these poems (they will tell where to start) in the examination? I never understood most of the poems, I just by hearted them. I still cannot read simple poetry.

Why, in the language examinations, they used to give an obscure sentence from the whole text book, and then tell us - explain the context and meaning of this sentence. You needed to know the whole book by heart to know where this sentence came from. In Basheer's Paathummayude Aadu - our "Malayalam second" textbook for tenth standard - some of the sentences asked in the exam appeared in more than one place, but with very minor difference. But your answer should be about the exact one.

Why, in all the biology drawings, the beauty of the drawing was so important, and not the scientific structure and functionality? Should'nt a student be allowed to approximate a printed drawing, if he/she maintains the structure and function correctly, because it is a scientific drawing, and not art? But if one did that, drawing a non-beautiful but correct drawing, the teacher would tell him: Repeat!

Many teachers told us that for the final, state level exam in class ten, the evaluators will be from other disciplines, that is, a Malayalam or History teacher might evaluate Physics or Math, and they might be even from "Malayalam medium" and may not know even English let alone the subject, hence they would just go by the solution provided to them (in which there will be two bulleted "points" for a two mark question etc.), and hence the key was to produce these "points" our answer papers, which could be done by memorizing the text book and regurgitating it exactly. So if you learnt the subject well, that is, understood it well, and wrote the answers in your own words, the teachers would just strike them out.

And why, many teachers used to tell us that masturbation is a sin and must never be done? That playing, sports and music is a waste of time, instead study and good marks in the Secondary School Leaving Examination?

That even though we used to have 1 hour of sport, painting and music per week, they were always free hours (the teacher would never come), and we used to just talk, or go home. And in the rare case of a "PT" teacher coming to the class, he used to call a random guy or a girl, and ask him/her to repeat the specific exercise he had taught, in the same exact order. If he/she didnt remember, or did a minor mistake: 5 beatings on the palm with his big cane. Those "PT" hours were hell, one was so afraid, and inevitably, several would be crying due to the beatings at the end of an hour of that class.

Why,in all the schools I studied, the "PT" teachers were the most dreaded men? And why was playing cricket in the school ground banned, and we were asked by the Head Master with a cane to run off to classes and study, even at the breaks between classes and even in the evening after school time?

And why, we used to write in all compositions, that Hindi hamaara rashtra bhaasha hein, that Hindi is our national language, when India doesnt have a National Language? That Onam is the national festival of Kerala, celebrated by all religions equally, when it was not really true? If we wrote the truth, what would have happened?

On and on....

(I am in the middle of probably the last exams in my life. Was talking to a friend about our old exams, etc. Nostalgia.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Immortality - Popular, Official and Real

“Devenir immortal, et puis, Mourir”

“Become immortal, and then, die.” - was the answer by the writer/philosopher character in Godard’s À bout de souffle, to the question of plus grande ambition dans la vie, or, the biggest ambition in life.

Everyone dies, but only a few die after becoming immortal. Governments have formalized this notion since long, for example, in the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, there is a guide map at the entrance with the list of graves of some 100 odd people, and the information to locate them amongst the few thousand unimportant ones. Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust and Jim Morrison make the official cut, Joseph Fourier, Gertrude Stein, JRD Tata and several former French presidents and several thousand commoners do not. However, in spite of the official accreditation, there were some who were more immortal than others - to which I will come in about three paragraphs.

Pere Lachaise is a world famous cemetery, supposedly most visited cemetery in the world. Several of the most famous statesmen, generals, musicians, painters, philosophers, scientists and writers that lived in the last 200 years are buried here. A cemetery that is in the must see lists, and I was there in the peak tourist season, in the summer.

For a map of the cemetery one needs to pay a euro or something, which appeared weired to me because wherever one goes in France, even if he doesn't get drinking water, he will get free brochures and leaflets, printed in the most beautiful colours. I suddenly felt like not buying the map, might have been the result of reading Kerouac’s On the Road on the way to the museum. So I went through the list and selected about 10 people whose graves I felt like visiting, and noted their location in my diary.

Like most cemeteries, this one was also extremely calm, the most visited cemetery status might not have made it the noisiest cemetery. It was full of beautiful structures and paved ways lined with old trees and lush green foliage. I spent the next few hours walking around and looking at tombs, and thinking.

Among the graves, Jim Morrison’s - the alcoholic lead singer of “The Doors”, who died in a car crash - had the most visitors. I was looking for it myself when a French lady came and asked me the way to it. We asked the lady who was coming behind us, who turned out to be lost too(both said “Morrison” and not “Jim Morrison”). After walking here and there, traversing more generals, musicians and Presidents de la Republic, we reached Morrison’s. There were more than ten people surrounding the grave, which was separated from the crowd with metallic frames. Among them, a Morrison lookalike kid, with a grave, sad expression, stringing his guitar aimlessly. Another - an American - asked me to take pictures of him smoking weed passionately while standing in front of the grave. I overheard another American - an elderly one - saying “So I finally drank with Morrison”.

Another popular one was Chopin’s. But Chopin is not Morrison. I heard there a young wife asking her husband who Chopin was, he replied - some composer.

Marcel Proust’s was surrounded by no one. Philosophers and intellectuals are not normally celebrities, but Proust is supposedly very popular among intellectuals and very relevant now and all that, yet, no one. Another granite grave glistening in the summer sun like several hundred others.

So were the graves of n number of Generals, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Resistance leaders - people like Felix Faure whose names are immortalized by being the names of bus stops in most cities of France - were surrounded by no one. Same about the memorials for those killed by Nazis, and the French soldiers that died for Imperialism in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

But I felt that the soldiers’ who died fighting in the colonies were in an even worse state - they came from a past which any liberal country would have to accept as brutal and unjust, and hence cannot be considered heroic, and eventually have to be forgotten. No one would care about them except may be their families. Military men - however bravely and skillfully they fight and however lucky they are - run the risk of shifting from being heroic martyrs to those who must be forgotten.

As an Engineer, I have been hearing about Joseph Fourier for a long time. He was there in Physics in school, in Heat when I studied Mechanical Engineering, and everywhere in Image and Signal processing now when I am studying Computer Science. Heck, my University’s name is Universite Joseph Fourier. But since he was not there in the original official map, I had to find his grave by mere luck when I was sipping my bottle of water out of sheer exhaustion from the summer heat. It was just another petty grave, with no beauty, nothing written, nothing special, no one watching it, except random people drinking water from their bottles.

Oscar Wilde’s was most surprising. It was full of lipstick marks of kisses, heart signs in red and rave comments. Sample: “Dorian Gray made me love literature, thanks for that”. Another: “real beauty, ends where intellectual expression begins” - a quote from Dorian Gray. Like Morrison’s, there were about ten people around the grave.

The Americans left their mark here too, there’s a note from a someone saying she would be writing about visiting Wilde’s in her diary on her way back home.

What makes a tourist visit Morrison’s, Wilde’s and Chopin’s while not Proust’s and Fourier’s, and all those Presidents and Generals and Resistance heros? Morrison is a pop hero, but what about Wilde and Chopin? Chopin might have been a fluke, may be its position was conveniently near to some other famous ones or some silly reason like that, but clearly Wilde’s was being visited by people who kind of knew who he was. I left the cemetery for the nearest kebab shop, musing about what makes a person really immortal.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones

This TV film (1989) that appeared in DD gave Arundhati Roy the national award for best screenplay. I loved the film. Its funny and nice. It can be watched in youtube.

National Motto

National Motto of some countries:

USA: In God We Trust.
England: God and my right.
Pakistan: Faith, Unity, Discipline

France: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (Was changed to Work, Family, Fatherland during the brief Vichy Regime - the Nazi stooge)

India: Truth alone triumphs

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Grandiose, not really.

Some clear plans for the summer is getting developed in my mind. I will be traveling length and breadth of France for two weeks, another two weeks in may be Spain, especially - Barcelona, Cordoba and Granada, and then onwards to Morocco (but might go to Portugal too). I of course have no money, the bank balances are way into the negative, but hope things will work out and I will earn some minimum travel money, and hope I will use carpooling and hitchhiking and couch-surfing a lot more this time. And then fly back to India, and then travel in Kerala at least. The ´at least´ is because I do not yet know how to ride a bullet, so I am not sure if I will go to the Himalayas this time. May be I will learn to ride it at least. In Kerala, go to Aymanam, to Thodupuzha and Pala, to Manjeri, Perinthalmanna and Kasargod. To Munnar with my family, to Kottayam, Irinjalakkuda and Mavelikkara and Kozhikkode and all the other places where I grew up, to all the schools I studied, and then to Parassinikkadavu Muthappan temple to reminisce an old romantic trip - I can clearly foresee that I will be at the heights of loneliness on that day.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Feeling Berlin

To Berlin, once again.

I’ve been feeling Berlin for sometime.

Like, last week, when I was showing my best friend here the pictures from my 10 day stay in Berlin in the summer. And explaining what it is like it in Berlin, or what Berlin is, for me. That day we discussed a lot of politics, like the photo from the GDR (East Germany) museum of a 1:1 banner in a crowd, which is about the currency conversion issue after the German reunification, which, according to the museum, “West Germany made a concession to East Germany by giving a 1:1 instead of 1:2”. Concession. There’s a Kennedy museum behind the most important place in Berlin, just near the American Embassy, and McDonalds and “Charlie’s beach” near Checkpoint Charlie. Everyone knows who won the cold war, and what is the meaning of a concession to a loser.

Back to feeling Berlin.

How the Russian researcher girl from St. Petersberg, with whom I am very much in love with and who detests Putin and loves Vienna and 10-euro piano concerts, was so excited about visiting Berlin during the new year’s eve. And the film Good Bye Lenin, which I saw three weeks back, and about which I was talking to her, or rather, trying to give my sagely wisdom, when she said she already had seen it two years back.

And the French girl in my lab, a staunch trade unionist who attends the strikes about pension age, whom also I love, who is so freaking excited about Berlin, and told me last week that she wanted to do her PhD there (she is finishing her PhD in France, now), and that she thinks Berlin is so great, and said there’s history alive on the streets, and that you can go to some place (which I forgot) and dance, and says, may be if she stays in Berlin for two more days she would probably hate it and she is probably stupid to love Berlin so much.

And the something that I read in some blog, under “My travel plan for 2011”, that the author had clear plans like 1) 1 Festival 2) 1 Historic place 3) 1 Natural park 4) One ocean etc, reading which I too decided to go to some Festival this year, and freaking me decided that Festival will be a Film festival, and decided it will be Cannes, and checked, and found that Cannes screenings are mostly for the invited elites, but I can join the thousands that will see some movie in the beach in the evening if I wanted, which I am sure gonna do, but it still doesnt pass as a Festival because I wont be seeing the main part of the Festival,

and then I saw the German-Turkish film Gegen die Wand yesterday and I absolutely liked and loved. There’s something about Germany that I find very interesting. Something stupid of course, some feeling that the houses and windows and all that there are more straight and squarish rather than round, it has strong edges or something unlike the French one, some stupidity like that, and something about the “depth” of Germany and German movies compared to the simplicity of France and French movies, for example the Berlin punk culture, and counter-culture, where they wear so many tattoos and have weird hair and listen to punk and rock, while the French eat their cheese and drink their wine, and Paris is so dead anyway, and the strength of listening to German and the fun of listening to French, ah, there is a tram stop Denis Papin, and what do they call it - “Denni Paappa” !! , and look at this, they call their firemen “Pompiers”, and the funny nosed French actors and the fun I had while involving in hurtful jokes with a French friend in my lab, who calls me brown and gives me 5 cents ( 3 Rupees) to send to my family in India so that they can eat for 1 year, to whom I respond with who ruled France in the 1940s, and such and such jokes.

Stupid reasons and thoughts of course but that is mind.

Anyway, Cannes is out as a Film Festival even though I’ll be visiting it, and then I thought of Berlin and decided to check out Berlin Film Festival, which I knew is very famous from my friend there who’s a wanna-be film maker and a film lover, and yes it is in the next month, and I check the air ticket prices and sure it is great prices, just below 50 Euros two way, while even 1 way train costs 100 Euros. I checked with my friend in Berlin, who generously offered this poor student tickets to the festival, and I booked the flight tickets, and then came the cream:

Another girl with whom I am in absolute love, a Turkish one who I met in a party and told me about Wilde’s Dorian Gray and which I later read and loved so much, but never met her again because she said she’s mostly with her boyfriend, but this time she tells me she is jealous of me going to Berlin, and I ask if she wants to join, she says she cant but may be Cannes, and then we talk about Gegen die Wand which I saw and is somewhat about Turkish people in Germany and the director is Turkish, and she says she loves the film and the director, and recommends another one from the director “Soul Kitchen”. She tells it might be possible to get ticket to Cannes by luck, she somehow saw Revolutionary Road by some luck at some festival, etc. Of course I love this film too. And guess what, she says her favorite music is jazz, all of which means she’s freaking cultivated, and I rarely saw anyone of that specie before, and I say we have met only once, and she says what a pity.

Back to feeling Berlin, and yes, Berlin here I come. But this time I want to do what I missed last time, like the ever present Currywurst, which is pork sausage with curry sauce and I avoided last time because I hate pork, and visit at least some parts of the punk Berlin, and the pubs and such, unlike last time when I totally avoided the nightlife, instead eating rice and omelette with my friend while discussing Kerala politics, and then also take some photographs, visit some specific places, like the Soviet war memorial museum which was closed last time, take pictures of the ghost metro stations, etc, basically use the 3.5 days I'll be in Berlin maximum squared, super busy, etc. I am super thrilled.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

എപ്പിജെനിടിക് സ്വിറ്റ്ച്ചും വേനല്‍ ദിവസത്തിലെ സിപ്പപ്പും

പാപ് പിലി എപ്പിജെനിടിക് സ്വിറ്റ്ച്ചില്‍ ഫൈനൈറ്റ്‌ സ്റ്റേറ്റ് പ്രോജെക്ഷന്‍ അപ്പ്ളൈ ചെയ്യുന്ന പേപ്പര്‍ വായിക്കാന്‍ മണിക്കൂറുകളായി ശ്രമിക്കുന്നു. ശ്രദ്ധ നില്കുന്നില്ല. മനസ്സ് മുഴുവന്‍ ഒരു പതിനഞ്ചു കൊല്ലം പിന്നിലുള്ള ഒരു വേനല്‍ ദിവസത്തിലെ ഉച്ച സമയത്താണ്. പരീക്ഷ കഴിഞ്ഞു അലസമായി സ്കൂള്‍ പരിസരത്ത് അലയുന്ന സമയം. അല്ല, അമ്പതു പൈസയുടെ സിപ്പപ്പ് വാങ്ങാന്‍ കാശ് തികയാതെ ഗള്‍ഫുകാരന്‍ സുഹൃത്തിനെ അന്വേഷിച്ചു നടക്കുന്ന സമയം. പരീക്ഷയെല്ലാം കഴിഞ്ഞതിന്റെ, ഒന്നും ചെയ്യാനില്ലാത്തത്തിന്റെ, ഉച്ച വെയിലിന്റെ സന്തോഷത്തില്‍. ആ സിപ്പപ്പിന്റെ ആശയില്‍. എന്ത് കൊണ്ടോ, ചുട്ട വെയിലില്‍ വിയര്‍പ്പില്‍ കുതിര്‍ന്ന ഷര്‍ട്ടിനെപ്പറ്റിയുള്ള യാതോരാവലാതിയും ഓര്‍മയിലില്ല.