Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Then and Now

The look back with a difference. Opinions, and how they change.

Smokers

15 years ago: Evil people.
10 years ago: Grown up people.
5 years ago: Et tu Brutus?
Now: Passive smoking kills too?

Drinkers

15 years ago: What?
10 years ago: Why?
5 years ago: Et tu Brutus?
Now: Can I have the chips, please?

Pr0n

15 years ago: What?
10 years ago: Baywatch. Run Pamela. Run Yasmine. Save some lives.
5 years ago: omg!
Now: Yawn...

Gaali

15 years ago: abe
10 years ago: kutte, kamine et al
5 years ago: c**, a** et al
Now: Ha Ha Ha

Pick up lines

15 years ago: I'll kill you.
10 years ago: Can I borrow your notebook?
5 years ago: Do you eat?
Now: Do you sleep?

Long Hair

15 years ago: Mommy
10 years ago: College does that you?
5 years ago: Dude look like a lady
Now: Wtf, 25 bucks for a haircut?

A Joke

15 years ago:

Teacher- Raju, A for?
Raju: Apple (inaudible)
Teacher: Jor se bolo
Raju: Jai Mata Di

10 years ago:

Q: What is red, round, has seeds in it and looks like one half of a tomato?
A: The other half

5 years ago:

A panda walks into a bar. Orders food and drink. Finishes eating, takes out a pistol and shoots a guy. Bartender objects.
Bartender: What did you do that for?
Panda: Look up 'Panda' in the dictionary. Read out loud.
Bartender: Panda- Eats shoots and leaves

Now:

Teacher- Raju, A for?
Raju: Apple (inaudible)
Teacher: Jor se bolo
Raju: Jai Mata Di


For lack of anything better to do, anything worse to write.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Two Lives

Behind every door on every ordinary street,in every hut in every ordinary village on this middling planet of a trivial star, such riches are to be found. The strange journeys that we undertake on our earthly pilgrimage, the joy and suffering we taste and confer, the chance events that cleave us together or apart, what a complex trace they leave: so personal as to be almost incommunicable, so fugitive as to be almost irrevocable.

These lines, taken from the last page of Seth's latest novel, are in essence all the novel is about. Had it not been written, and so wonderfully at that, the story of his uncle Shanti and his German born aunt Henny would have remain untold, like the billions of others which meet a similar fate. This book, through the journeys of two separate lives which later became one, affirms that the stories of people are not only glimpses into their private lives, but, on a much larger scale, the story of the times they lived in. It gives an insight into a somewhat strange marriage, of two people in a foreign land brought closer to each other, owing much more to circumstance than anything else. One an Indian studying to be a dentist in Germany and forced to go to England for a job owing to the conditions in pre war Germany. The other, a Jew, having to leave her homeland and relatives and friends behind in such heart rending circumstances. The story of the times they tell happens to be historically the most important time in the previous century, or for that matter any century.

The novel has a narrative tone throughout, something Seth is so good at. The book is divided into 5 very logically created chapters. One detailing the author's initial stay with his uncle and aunt at London as a school boy. Second focusing on Shanti uncle, his leaving India and going to Germany, living in a house owned by Henny's mother, studying to be a dentist in Germany, leaving Germany and going to England to look for a job, joining the Army and getting posted various places as an Army dentist, losing his arm in Italy, coming back to England and starting all over again with an artificial arm and setting up a very successful practice. In between the letters he wrote to Henny to woo her also form a very important of the story.

The third chapter and the best and most emotionally moving part of the book deals with the life of aunt Henny. As she was already dead when Seth had the idea to write the book, he had taken it for granted that the life story that he was going to portray would have to be a second hand description from his uncle and a few friends, thus failing to capture her inner emotional turmoil and feelings. Feelings that she never shared even with her husband Shanti. But a chance discovery of correspondence with her friends in form of letters stacked in a forgotten box ensured that this did not happen. The letters, spanning the course of war, describe in detail the barbaric rule that Hitler had imposed and also expose how erstwhile friends become indifferent and shun the oppressed to save their skins. The research work that accompanies this letter exchange makes the whole experience of Jewish people in pre and post war Germany come to life and is very sentimentally charged. Curiously enough Henny never discusses her great losses with her husband which make the premises of this strange marriage all the more mysterious.

The fourth chapter tracks the lives of Seth's uncle and aunt as a couple and the dynamics of their relations with friends and family. The fifth deals with the life of uncle Shanti alone after losing Henny and is based on the series of interviews that the author had with his uncle to get material to write the book. It also sheds a light on the weaknesses of old age, both physical and mental and incidences which lead to the final ambivalent approach of the author towards the very subject of his book.

In my personal opinion, though it is unfair to compare a biography with fiction, A Suitable Boy has been the best Seth creation. I have already discussed my disappointment with An Equal Music and Golden Gate though brilliant in its composition and concept is not something you would read again and again for pleasure. I still read parts of A Suitable Boy and laugh, smile, get angry or shrug in disbelief; whatever the situation demands.

Judging by the volume of books he writes, it will be a long time since another Seth novel will be available, but I'll be waiting eagerly for the moment. And, for a change, will buy the book to read it :)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Main Madhuri Dixit banna chahta hoon

A carry over post from May 15

Yet another birthday post right? About how I am a year older, and the thing about standing at the crossroads and putting life into perspective. Pondering about the things that have been and the could have beens. No way! If I intended you to sleep I would have sent a sleeping pill, would have been much easier (for once I thank God that some 100 people aren’t reading this). As I already mentioned last year, superheroes and cartoon characters don’t grow old (what category I fall into is open for interpretation). They are created and after a while the creator dies. Or just gets bored.

This concerns a fortunate co-incidence by which my birth day exactly matches that of a certain Madhuri Dixit and that I happened to spend all these in years in Jamshedpur to cash in on this fact. Any place else and this fact would just have remained on “You share your birthday with” columns and in all probability I wouldn’t have given a damn. A sardar who runs an average chat stall is what makes all the difference.

This sardar mentioned is Pappu sardar.
Not happy with the usual chat shop routine of having to make a spicy mish mash to please the palates of customers, he decided to do something different. In a modern case of idol worship, he transformed his shop, Manohar Chat, to a temple of worship, dedicated whole heartedly to his obsession or more appropriately his devotion: Madhuri Dixit.

Even on a normal day if you happen to walk into the shop, you’ll notice the degree of devotion. Every imaginable corner of the rather modest, even by small town standards, shop you’ll find posters of Madhuri staring at you in all poses, from movies spanning her career. If that’s not enough, the usual chatter of any eatery is subdued by speakers playing songs of movies she was part of, those which she ‘sings’ on screen.

On 15th May, things are taken a few notches higher. The road in front of shop is decorated lavishly, like in marriage ceremonies.
A huge banner is put up, saying “Happy Birthday Madhuri”. An image attached, taken with my hugely inadequate ‘camera’ would present some hint.

Ads are put up in local papers wishing her on the day, and inviting people to come over and celebrate and eat for free. This is where things get easy for me. I make it a permanent venue for my treats.

Lately, Pappu sardar has decided to achieve something good and productive out of this celebration. For the last few years he has been spending most of the money to buy gifts and support the Cheshire Home, more can be read here. Also he has been made a somewhat national figure, owing to the plethora of news channels, some of which cover his festivities live. Needless to say, it helps bring on the customers, who want to be a part of a live news happening.

But these things hardly matter for Pappu sardar. He is just over the moon, even now, over the fact that he got a letter acknowledging his devotion from Madhuri herself. If he carries on, probably a meeting won’t be to far off.

All said and done, I spared my friends a trip to this place for my treat. Also I feel better to say that I share my birthday with Andy Murray, the next British hope or Ted Dexter, the former English captain. But, these people are unlikely to make the “You share your birthday with” column in local papers sometime soon. Or more importantly guarantee me and a few friends free food on my birthday.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Good Times, Bad Times

So Led Zep beats Charles Dickens for the that-usual-looking-back-cliched title for this post. For a guy who thinks he's both into Rock 'n Roll and literature, that was a tough choice. Anyway, I'm no longer a student of IIT officially, and that does deserve a look back.

The cliches end with the title. I wish I had added thankfully to that, but I can't. Time did not fly, four years did not roll over just like that and I do not feel that everything happened in a blur. Sure there were short moments that did feel like zipping by, but then there were those long, uncertain, lonely moments which made me hate what I had turned into. Not that I was a masterpiece to begin with.

Like most bad things, it all begun badly. The whole concept of relative grading made me think I just had to keep my head above water level, and I never was under the illusion that I could be a trailblazer. Never meant to be. Mediocre targets often lead to disastrous goals. Second sem hit me hard. Third wasn't better, but the fourth was the knockout punch. Two years down, I wished I could go back all over again. I was indifferent to begin with, not even doing things that I loved. Quizzing, football, cricket: everything was lost when I could have done so much more. In my entire second year I hardly played football a single time. You'll have to lock me up all tied up in a chamber to have that happen now.

There is no tale of magic transformation after the interval, but at least I decided not to let the good things suffer because of the unfortunately bad ones. That did not save me from having another torrid year. But at least I had the satisfaction of doing things I wanted to. Fourth year is too recent to revisit, the pre-placement mood is all over the blog some 10 posts back.

I wished it would all end relatively happily. But then I am not the one who gets to write the script. Like an actor written out of a play, they had to figuratively kill me off just when I wanted to leave the stage with a smile on my face. Incredible and sad.

For consolation, which I get in excess these days, my future isn't getting affected much. At least not the immediate one. Just 2 days of headache, marathon sessions of M*A*S*H seasons and having Tottenham Hotspur powered by Berbatov/Keane goals beat the hell out of every other club on my computer screen are what it took to soak it all in.

Goodbye, Farewell and Amen. Or Abyssinia, Henry. Whatever you prefer (non M*A*S*H watchers may forget this one.)

And to think of all those beautiful things I would have written had the mood been otherwise.

Dear friends, thanks for the memories. I hope I be a part of the happier ones of yours.

May the future be slightly brighter, I'm not asking for much. Amen.