Monday, March 29, 2010
I, for one, do not have patience nor regards for any work of art that’s not ‘created’ but ‘constructed’ – that too for a market and with the primary objective of selling.
exploiting the easy availability of ‘simplicity‘ to cover up lack of talent, using ‘simplicity’ as a substitute for hard work and research needed to produce rich and profound work and giving into the temptation of easy money and quick success instead of waiting in patience for long years in search of depth are all things that have plagued the creative world of today.
But this is a book that’s written with sincerity and sincerity is touching. Sincerity is never clichéd. Sincerity is always original no matter how old the subject. Sincerity is always profound, not matter how simple the message.
Perhaps this is a book on psychology for it provides insights into the workings of the human mind.
Perhaps it’s a book on spiritualism, for almost all throughout, it talks about being in touch with oneself, knowing oneself.
Perhaps it’s a book on self-help for it tells you how to deal with yourself, your emotions and feelings.
153 pages but without the printed numbers. It was I who gave every page a number as I turned each leaf. The numbers haven’t been given because there is no story and hence no sequence. Each page contains a personal note and is complete in itself. This is what it is and it does not pretend to be anything else.
The cover is unique. Simple. Neat. And the byline beneath the title, ‘My struggle to become a person’ is very apt.
Two leaves, in two shades of green, heart shaped, not maple, whether or not symbolic of something, look very pretty.
The author’s choice of words reflects his amazing clarity in thinking; necessary and sufficient, to convey what he wishes to convey.
The choice of topics too, is a very interesting; it’s not the general, high-level evangelism of motivational literature. Very specific aspects and nuances of human thinking and behaviour are explained and dissected.
That’s how you avoid cliché. This world is such an old place there can be nothing original in what you do or say. The ‘bottom lines’ or generalizations are already known to all.
Getting specific is what you need to do. Illustrations from the everyday lives of common men are what we need more of. Because they are always original. Times change, people change, cultures change and lifestyles change. There are new occupations, new preoccupations, new socio-psychological arrangements, new challenges to deal with and new problems. A specific illustration therefore, is a new picture that’s never been painted before although the canvas remains the same old.
The author in this book discusses very specific thinking and behavioural patterns that he has discovered in himself. There are a very few people in this world who understand themselves – how they feel and why they feel what they feel.
The writing is extremely candid.
Some of the notes question the major premises of interpersonal communication, as in the quote below.
The comment ‘you’re lucky; it could have been worse’, is the kind of helpfulness I can do without. It also could have been better, or actually, it couldn’t have been any other way than the way it was.
Another note, explains a known phenomena in a new language, from a new angle. For example,
'Most decisions, possibly all, have already been made on some deeper level and my going through a reasoning process to arrive at them seems at least redundant.'
The above note is really talking about ‘verification of preconception’.
He has an eye for detail.
Just one of those lines could open your eyes to some aspect of your own behaviour, you had never paid attention to all your life.
The entire content is narrated in first person. Knowingly or unknowingly, the author has been safe. And wise. If it were otherwise, I mean, if it were not in first person, it might have sounded dictatorial, as if the author were laying down theories, ideas and implying their universal applicability.
Since this work is in 1st person, you neither have the choice to agree-disagree, nor the choice to judge, for the author is talking about HIS experience, ideas and learning.
As the author says himself,
If you tell me the way you see it rather than the way it is, then this helps me to more fully discover the way I see it.
The only choice you are left with is to ask a question - whether you feel the same, whether your experience is similar to the writer’s; and most importantly, have you evolved as a person to be able to understand and see clearly the truth of what he is being said?
Where have you reached in your struggle to become a person?
If only I had Microsoft Dictation software, I would have quoted many more lines. But anyway, here are a few.
What did I do to deserve birth? It was gift.
Today, I don’t want to live for. I want to live.
The most realistic attitude for me to have toward future consequences is ‘it will be interesting to see what happens’. Excitement, dejection and boredom assume a knowledge of results that I cannot have.
My trouble is, I analyse life instead of live it.
Happiness is a present attitude and not a future condition.
The bully in me always bullies in the name of principle or in the name of rules. The bully in me always has a reason for its actions and that reason is always idealistic. This part of me is a sissy-it hides behind ‘what is right’, so I won’t have to admit my desire to hurt.
My feelings do change and that I can have a hand in changing them. They change simply by my becoming aware of them. When I acknowledge my feelings, they become more positive. And they change when I express them. For example, if I tell a man I don’t like him, I usually like him better.
The configuration of most situations implies through tradition, a corresponding emotion. E.g., your wife goes out on you therefore you are enraged (when actually you might be aroused). I often respond the way I should feel rather than the way I do feel. Confusion or indecision is a good thing this is happening.
If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual writing then the desire is not to write.
Whenever I find myself arguing for something with great passion, I can be certain I’m not convinced.
When someone disagrees with me, I do not have to immediately start revising what I just said.
I choose to use my own mind. I do not need your mind. I want to experience you, listen to you - not to myself. I have already heard everything I have to say. You are what is novel about this conversation.
If a man takes off his sunglasses I can hear him better.
~Hugh Prather, July, 1970, Chama, New Mexico
Friday, March 26, 2010
21st March 2010
A Funny Thing called Life by Tahatto – 70 minutes
Short plays put together in a sequence, then interspersed with witty, humorous, interesting and informative bits of conversations by actors placed off stage went into making a single play.
70 minutes of humour and laughter was certainly worth a Sunday evening and the 15 kilometer drive.
For the record, the series of short plays as I can remember, started with the limitations and ludicrousness of the ‘automated telephone operator’, an exchange between a Gujarati boy ‘in love’ and a Malayali girl and her father (the highlight being the idiosyncrasies of two communities, often the instrument of humour and comic relief in most performing arts), Fatal beatings, the interview of the bee-keeper and a psychiatrist counseling a patient who thinks he is God.
The gap between two plays was filled with witty exchanges between two actors who played the audience. Some lines were so witty, I wished I had a notepad and could note down the lines.
Unlike in other plays that I have seen where amateur actors stammer and fumble and even deviate from correct grammar, the actors in this troupe have done their part well; all of them speak commendable English, and deliver their lines effortlessly even when they have really long and tongue twisting lines on their plate.
I like the fact that they take their work seriously and practice until perfection. This trait is valuable especially in today’s world, where people have this ‘Chalta Hai’ and ‘Adjust Maadi’ attitude, where it is easy to get away with shoddy work (thanks to the fact that all people have access to art and not just the elite); the motivation to do a perfect job must come from within and not without.
Only two of the short plays were reproductions of Mr. Bean and all others were original, I was told by one of the actors.
The good thing about reproducing the work of another, like the Mr. Bean short plays, is that you are presenting to the audience what they most probably have not taken the trouble to dig from the archives. I have watched ‘Fatal beatings’ and ‘The Interviewer’ some 25 times on Youtube but I am not sure how many among the theatre going people have.
On the other hand, a troupe has to be very careful about their choice of a play, when they are looking for something to reproduce.
Now, Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) is a very very funny looking guy. All he has to do to make people laugh is simply appear on stage. He looks like a caricature, and can make very funny faces. His plays are hilarious of course but most of the laughter he evokes from his audience can be attributed to his appearance, his expressions and his body language. Unusually lean, clumsy, awkward, funny, dumb, joker-like, having a baby face and the like.
A reproduction of such a play may not evoke as much laughter unless the troupe is blessed to have a guy who looks as funny as Mr. Bean.
But yes, the troupe is certainly blessed with good looking people. All of them! Something I noticed when I watched ‘A Funny Thing Called War’ and wondered at the ‘co-incidence’!
Tahatto actors certainly need to slow down their speech rate. They are really fast.
Given that their audience is mostly Indian, no special effort need be made to anglicize pronunciation and accent. Plain Indian English (slightly improvised – please :-)) would do.
The last line of ‘Fatal Beatings’, ‘I would not cancel afternoon class to bury that little rascal’ was so fast, that a punch line that deserved roaring laughter, merely received a few chuckles.
The venue had a good ambience, soft lights, sophisticated crowd and all, but not really suited to the occasion.
Serving food or eating while the show is going on is not fair to the actors or to art. The atmosphere gets too casual.
I feel the same about the pianist in Leela Palace who is playing for anyone in general and no one in particular, also about the violinist in Lalita Mahal Palace in Mysore who plays the violin for himself as people, eat, talk and walk about.
An artist should never be reduced to a mere ornament. Most unfair.
Someone dropped a glass and covered the floor with sharp pieces. The clinking of cutlery could be heard now and then and burping sounds too. I would have been offended and distracted if I were on stage.
The occasional cries of a baby on the first floor surprised me. How could they allow children when a show was going on?
Also, more planning was in wanting as regards the seating arrangement. I and my friend had to ask for chairs and were given them after some waiting. Not wanting to be obstructed by two pillars in the centre of the hall (what are they doing there?!), we occupied a small space in between two tables, close to the wall. This of course, is feedback for Kyra, not the troupe.
A friend, who debuted in this play as a voice-over artist, has now officially entered the world of theatre. Best wishes to you.
They say doing the right things or doing things right does not necessarily take you far; but knowing people takes you places.
One thing that the team is doing right, whether knowingly or unknowingly is endearing itself to people. The screen that separates the actors on stage from the spectators off stage, is very light (the heavy curtains are not there). Let this not mislead you to doubt their professionalism.
The first time I saw this in theatre was when watching Doubles, Triples & Quadruples by Evam in RS. Snatching the few minutes after each short play, while the stage was being prepared for the next one, each actor came to the forefront of the stage, removed their footwear (this gesture made a big difference - when you take off your shoes, you become more ‘down to earth‘ :-), literally & figuratively) and narrated an interesting episode from their personal life with sincerity. Karthik talked about his cup of wine, Shakila about her multiple marriage ceremonies with the same man, Sunil about his search for a partner and others…
That was surely the moment that decided that the audience would applaud in the end, no matter how the play turned out. Personal touch and sincerity never fail to win the hearts of people.
After the play was over, members of the Tahatto troupe mixed with the audience, thanked them personally for coming to watch the show and asked them for their feedback with humility.
That was enough. It takes care of the rest.
Do watch this play.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
It ought to have protested,
Strived for self preservation,
Made an effort,
Prolonged it’s own life,
Refused to budge,
Held on with tenacity,
Swung back to its place,
With a natural resilience.
It ought to have struggled before dying,
At least, mourned it’s own death.
There wasn’t a storm after all,
Just a gentle breeze.
Not a fire test,
Just a routine spark.
Not an eroding flood,
Just a trickle.
But it flew
With all the willingness of a bird
Without a trace of attachment
From the nest it perceived to be a cage.
For it was just husk,
An empty shell,
Like a stuffed bird.
The wheat had been beaten
And removed from it.
It flew with a vengeance
At the first chance
Leaving me wondering
When the moth had crept in
And eaten it all.
I am trying to make peace
With the gentle breeze
That laid bare a friendship and it's hollow
That I'd hoped would become full in the years to follow.
Friday, March 19, 2010
I always looked older than my age.
My height contributed to this to some extent, for sure. (I was 5, 4” in class 8 and have grown an inch since then)
But I owe my ‘older look’ to a factor other than my height. Maturity.
I always felt more mature than other girls my age. (I am not counting boys at all! Maturity is something they are constitutionally incapable of until they reach 30. God made them that way and it’s OK)
Please note, maturity does not imply wisdom. At least not in my case. I was certainly less wise than most girls my age. Impulsive, naive and without diplomacy, I was always running into trouble.
But of maturity, I had enough.
I always found myself drawn to serious discussions and arguments.
I found myself contemplative, reflective and philosophical most of the time. At sixteen.
Not all thinking was fruitful. When all the unnecessary brooding, imaginary fears, guilt and wishful thinking were filtered out, there was some thinking left that was worth the hours that it consumed.
I missed all the girl talk – gossip, clothes, accessories, beauty parlour, latest fashion, cinema stars and all…
I was busy pondering the many causes of the world screaming for attention. Pollution, poverty, westernization, parenting mistakes (this was my favourite), generation gap, relationships and love.
There followed participation in several debate and essay writing competitions in college, conversations with friends, uncles and all.
As I grew up to become an adult, there was the toastmasters club and the speeches. More conversation with peers and more opinions.
I could sit on a sofa for four hours straight gazing at the wall in front of me, while arguments and counter-arguments fought their battle in my mind, one of them relenting at last, but only when my mother implored me to stop procrastinating and be more active!!!
I had to fight back my thoughts that hijacked me from family gatherings, weddings, office work, trainings and client meetings, without a care.
Eventually, all the thinking had to turn into action, sooner or later, genuine as the thoughts were and not mere rhetoric of a youth groping for identity.
Action was sometimes mocked at. ‘Chill! In this chaotic world of millions, what can one person do?’
And then, gently tugging me towards the reclining armchair of comfortable inaction was the argument ‘The universe is unfolding itself the way it should whether or not you like it’.
So what should I do? Take a chill pill and let the universe unfold itself?
‘Every single drop contributes to the ocean’ was my counterargument. Hackneyed. Nevertheless Helpful.
And what more? TRUE.
So I decided to change the world. To be the change I wanted to see. To do my bit. If nothing else, I could continue talking and thinking without feeling guilty about not acting.
Thus, in the last six years that I have been on my own, I have been trying to make a difference, living in the city of Bangalore, doing this and refraining from doing that.
Propelling Change. And preventing change, where continuity seemed a better option, where the predecessor seemed strong and the successor, weak.
I cannot boast of a tangible contribution to society, like donating money to an orphanage or an old age home, but social responsibility has become a way of life, a part of everyday living.
In the same breath, I want to say that I do not make tall claims.
I have ideals. But I do not call myself idealistic.
I follow my ideals as far as convenience permits. And a little more. I mean, I could stretch a bit perhaps. But if it becomes very inconvenient, I choose to be ‘pragmatic’ instead :-)
With this post I intend to start a series, where I shall write about my attempts to be the change I want to see in this world.
And this series, I expect, will cause me to do more in this direction. You see, every month, I'll need matter to write about in this space :-)
Sunday, March 14, 2010
The taxi association in Diskit asked for too much – in return for a trip to Sumur and Diskit Gompa. I l refused and lingered for a while trying to convince myself to visit the Diskit Gompa during sundown and return to my Hundar guest house and do away with Sumur.
While I was thinking thus, some driver came to me and offered to take me to Sumur at a cheaper rate for a one way trip. I would have to come back on my own. I jumped into the SUV and we were flying again.
After a really scenic drive, we reached Sumur. The name ‘Sumur’ means ‘3 rivers’ and probably refers to the confluence of Nubra and Shyok rivers close by. Sumur is a pleasant village with leafy valleys. There is a crowded cross road in the middle of the village with shops and eateries. The first thing we did was have lunch.
And then we drove to the Gompa that was situated at a higher altitude. The drive was most scenic. And then we reached the entrance of the gompa.
The village is famous for Samstangling Gompa, Nubra’s largest monastery. A 45 minute walk from Sumur, it is home to over 100 lamas. It was established in 1841. The gompa has been extensively renovated and doesn’t now have that ruinous ancient look that so charm visitors. The monastery compound is spruce and tidy and the main building, though built in traditional architectural style with intricately carved lattice rabsaal windows, seems rather too gleaming.
The same picture from a different angle. The colours used for the exteriors are bright and rich unlike most of the other Gompas. This must be due to the extensive renovation. This gompa look more grand than any I have seen.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
7th March 2010
I wish the date was 28th Feb 2010 instead. For that’s when the others took the exam. I wanted to take it with all of them. I wanted to feel like a student. I wanted to experience the joy of being a student once again. Get into the confines of a 3 hour time limit, the enclosure of a classroom, wooden benches with the markings of register numbers in white chalk dipped in water so the marking would withstand the friction and frenzy of the student occupying the bench, white answer sheets, a question paper and 100 marks.
I wanted to experience the delight of seeing many people – young and old, men and women, living in a ‘cosmopolitan’ city – writing a Sanskrit exam on a Sunday morning.
Love South Bangalore for its people. A small bunch of natives carrying on the beautiful Indian tradition.
I wanted to be among them all.
But as always my last minute preparations were not adequate. When I realized this on the 22nd Feb, I called up the institute and had my exams postponed to 7th March.
So I wrote the last exam, ‘Kovida’, all alone in the large hall on the first floor of the institute at 6 in the evening, unable to postpone it any further, like I had done during the previous 2 exams.
But what the heck! I wrote the exam and with that I COMPLETED ALL THE FOUR EXAMS of this course. Yeeeeaaaahhhh!!! Ah! The joy and the relief!
I started this course 2 years ago. I had written about it in my blog. I had called that post ‘First Step of the 1000 miles. I have completed four exams since. Hence, this post is called 4 miles.
I eagerly look forward to the next course which is the Gita Pravesha. For the first time, I will be studying the Bhagavadgita. Ashamed that being a Hindu, I haven’t read it in all these years.
But what the heck! I will be studying it now (not just reading it) and that too in Sanskrit, with every word of it dissected and explained : )
Thanks to RSS for founding Samskritabharati with the objective of promoting Sanskrit. The institute Aksharam in Girinagar, Bangalore is affiliated to Samskritabharati.
My preparation for this exam was an experience that combined anxiety and delight.
I had secured all the question papers of the previous years so that I knew which portions fetched easy marks and which ones I should omit in case I could not complete all portions. And surely, there was so much that I had to omit! Did someone say ‘old habits die hard’? Wrong. Old habits never die.
Every time I stumbled upon a word that I did not understand, a verse I could not decipher, I called up my Dad or my uncle, both of whom live in Mysore and had my doubts clarified. Distance learning program indeed!
This semester had less grammar and more prose and I loved reading all that I did.
Every sentence, no matter how short exuded the beauty of the language and proclaimed the scientific grammar of the language. Sanskrit grammar is as scientific as mathematics. It blows my mind.
Take ‘Chandas’ for example. Prosody in English or metrical arrangement of syllables in poetry.
The meters have been classified based on the time required for uttering each syllable. Just to give you perspective, one particular meter ‘Anushtup’ chanda is characterized by the following.
A verse of two lines has four padas (quarters) having 8 syllables each. The fifth syllable of each quarter is a short syllable and the 6th is a long one. The 7th syllable of the 2nd and 4th quarter is a short syllable. The 7th syllable of the 1st and 3rd quarter is a long syllable.
The whole of Ramayana and Mahabharata are composed in this meter only! There are one hundred thousand shlokas in Mahabharata and all of them are composed in adherence to the above rule!
Imagine the English alphabet being divided into 2 groups containing 13 letters each and the rules of poetry specifying which group, the letters occupying certain positions in a line should come from!
Composing a poem that has rhyming words itself is difficult. Imagine having to compose thousands of verses adhering strictly to rules that get specific to the alphabet level!
Add to this the other requirements - the verse has to have a meaning, it has to be beautiful, it has to tell a story and so on…
I can’t stop being amazed at the genius of those poets who delivered such brilliance.
Reading all the prose and poetry was enchanting.
The short stories provide glimpses of the high ideals of people. When observed from the point of view of wisdom and practicality though, they may seem bookish - Chanakya sleeping on a thin mat during winter though there was a heap of blankets lying next to him, for those blankets were given him by the king & were meant to be distributed among the poor and hence he had no right to use them. A man repeatedly tried to salvage a scorpion fallen into a flooded river though it stung him, since he believed that it was the dharma of the scorpion to bite but it was the dharma of a human to be compassionate about all living creatures. And then there’s the King Dilipa of Raghuvamsha offering his own life to satisfy the hunger of the lion that dragged away the divine cow Nandini belonging to sage Vasishta, since the sage had entrusted the king with the cow.
Subhashitas on the other hand are 2 or 4 line verses that offer short moral lessons (mostly) but at times teach wisdom, survival and pragmatism. I love Subhashitas, for the analogies used, for their nice ring when you recite them aloud, for their conciseness and yet their richness.
As I read more about important works under the different categories of Sanskrit literature, there comes the sense of loss at the realization that what we have now with us is but a tiny drop of the ocean that eventually dried up – due to plundering by intolerant savages, changing times and neglect shown by our own people. Poets and writers of a bygone era most of whose works are not available now…how I wish someone would find them all while digging earth.
But the drop that we do have now is an ocean by itself, beyond the scope of one man’s life.
The sages Valmiki & Vyasa, the grammarian Panini, the astronomer Varahamihira, one among the nine jewels in King Vikramaditya’s court, Kalidasa of Ujjaini, the ever charming dramas with their never forgettable characters - Charuddatta, Vasantasena, Vasavadatta and her Veena ‘Ghoshavati’, the villain shakara, and many others I get to know. I look back at the past glory as if with nostalgia.
I am transported to a glorious time and world - of India’s past (as always happens when you study Sanskrit). The refined polished ways of the people. The high culture that prevailed during those times that can be inferred from the exchanges that took place between people. Their insistence on treading the path of dharma. The innocence of an age. Individual sacrifices for the long term welfare of the community.
I am not opposed to growth or change, but I am thankful that Sanskrit language has not grown.
Art and Literature rose to their zenith and froze there. Like a maiden attaining the peak of her youth and beauty and turning into a statue. Never to see decay, never to see degeneration.
Ancient Indian culture. It stands like a beacon. It stands for everything that is pure and rich. Pure gold. Pure air. Pure Ganges. Pure thought. Pure conduct. Perfect ideal.
Living in a time when purity is no longer a virtue, not expected anymore, not really appreciated and not available in the first place, in a time when ‘puritanical’ is a word used to ‘criticize’, it’s nice to visit the relics of purity between the leaves of a Sanskrit book.
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
I don’t intend to do movie reviews in my blog. Not at all.
But this movie I am committing to paper because it was an experience. Like a few other movies. Salaam Namaste, Om Shanti Om, Kal Ho Na Ho, Taxi No 9211,…
Raised my existence from banality to scintillation.
Aamir. No one like him in the entire industry.
Every minute was entertaining. Filled with worth. I laughed till I fell off my chair.
I tried hard to control my tears too in some scenes.
Every character had a definite role to play. There were no extras.
The idiosyncrasies of characters are all very well brought forth. Most noteworthy being those of the professor. The way he rides his bicycle, his 7 minute power nap - during which he gets a shave and listens to opera and sleeps, his unrelenting discipline, the student who mugs up everything, speaks Hindi in a queer accent, swallows some medicine given by a quack and breaks the wind, Kareena’s fiancee who attaches a price tag to everything including people, the paralysed father of one of our heroes pillion riding a scooty. Too much amusement and humour packed into one movie.
And that speech that was read out all wrong by this geek with a queer Hindi accent. Ah! I will burst whenever I think of that speech.
I liked the All is Swell song. The other songs were quite plain - don’t even remember them.
I am so glad they did not bring the book to life. I mean, most people have read the book by Chetan Bhagat. What fun would it be to watch a movie that was predictable?
What was all that skirmish between Aaamir and Chetan Bhagat? The movie is far far better and very different from the book.
Boman Irani, who played professor Veeru Sahasrabuddhi deserves a standing ovation. What an actor! How completely he gets into the character with no trace of his own identity. For all the comic relief that he provides, you take him seriously! Conception of such a character is commendable. Bringing the character to life deserves eulogy!
I wish Madhavan, whom I really like, had more of his share in the movie.
Kareena looked good for a change. (I never ever considered her good looking. The only thing she’s got is complexion). I wish someone else had played her role – Genelia may be.
For me it was all the more special because it was shot in Ladhak. I had just returned from the peacock blue waters of Pangong Lake when I read in the papers that the three idiots teams was shooting there. I was delighted to see Ladakh in the movie again - the bridge over Sindhu river, from which they make a return to Manali, to stop Kareena’s wedding, the familiar spot at Pangong Lake where we had taken a stroll… it was sooooo cold that we were wearing layers of clothes and covered our ears from the cold winds that were piercing like a hundred needles. It was difficult to breathe after all that. It hurt. I could not believe my eyes when I saw these actors so comfortable. And performing! They must have spent some time there unless it was all taken in the first shot.
These actors deserve a lot of praise for braving the hardships of such cold weather.
The last scene – the baby’s delivery – would have been gross had it been the first time in Hindi cinema – what with Aamir Khan peering into the bedsheet between the lady’s legs now and then. But it’s been shown in many movies before and viewers have got used to it.
I still think they should stop using childbirth as a means of comic relief.