Tuesday, November 27, 2012


It’s a constitutional malady of the west to classify and label anything and everything under the Sun even though they may know very little or close to nothing about it.

Instead of cultivating the humility and patience to grasp what is foreign to their culture, or simply admitting that they do not have the adequatio to understand certain things, particularly the sublime things of the East, they take the easy and presumptuous route of classifying the thing into one of their available gross categories.

And unfortunately, the thing, over a period of time, actually becomes transformed, at least in our perceptions, to a lower, inferior form of itself in order to fit into the flimsy shell that has been accorded to it.

The Sanaatana Dharma became Hinduism, one of their silly childish ‘isms’.
The Vedas cognized by the sages became ‘mere rituals and rites’ and ‘songs by bards’.
The sublime knowledge that form and formlessness are the necessary manifestations of the Supreme One became ‘stone and animal’ worship.
Eating with one’s fingers became ‘barbarism’.
And more...

Polytheism is one such thing.
It’s a ‘universally known’ fact that Hindus are polytheistic.
We have this wedged and entrenched so deeply within our minds that if I were to tell you that we, the Hindus are monotheistic, you would dismiss me.
But that’s what I am going to do.

We do worship many many Gods and Goddesses – but in doing so we only worship different forms of the same God.
We believe that God is one, but there are many manifestations, many forms, so each one of us may pick that which appeals most to our own nature, inclinations and most importantly, purpose.
The Supreme One with a thousand attributes is represented by thousand forms, one form for each attribute. Lakshmi for bounty, Saraswati for learning, Brahma for creating, Vishnu for sustaining, Shiva for destruction and so on... but we know that there is Only One God.

And how many proponents of this Unity, this Oneness there are! One does not have to dig deep into scriptures, they are right before us – and yet we do not see.

There was Adi Shankara who professed Advaitha – non duality or Oneness – not only of God but of all creation.

The Gita says – Sarva Dharmaan Parityajya maam EKAM sharanam vraja...
(if the numerous Gods, philosophies and traditions confound you), then, leave them all and resort to ME ALONE.

A simple subhaashita says
Aakaashaat patitam toyam yatha gacchati saagaram sarva devanamskaaram Eeshvaram prati gacchati
Like all water falling from the sky eventually flows into the Ocean, prayers to the many deities reach One God.

The shaasanas or stone edicts, that record the rule of kings and emperors, thousands of years old, profess the unity of God. Here is just one among them.
Yam shaivaaha samupaasyate shiva iti brahmeti vedaantinaha, bouddhaaha Buddha iti pramaana patavaha, karmeti meemamsakaaha arhan ityati jaina shaasanarathaaha, karteti naiyyayikaaha soyambho vidadhaatu vaanchhita phalam trilokyanaathassada
The One who is worshipped as Shiva by some, as Brahma by the Vedaantis, as Buddha by the Buddhists, as Arhan by the Jains...may HE grant all their wishes.

Whereas, polytheism of the Middle East is very different – there, people indeed worshipped different Gods and not merely different forms of the same God.

Moreover, the above is the only explanation that will save the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam.

A year ago I read the Old and the New Testament.
When I read about the Lord God of Israel, again and again asking his people to set fire to that town, or kill these people because they worshipped a different God, when he brought plague and starvation upon his own people for going to a different God, I wondered “what sort of a God is this and what sort of people are these who burn towns and kill people simply because they worship a different God?”

I asked how such intolerant religions came to be counted among world’s great religions.

I was hoping I had missed something.
I thought there was possibly some interpretation that helped to uncover some profound truth behind these seemingly defective aspects of these religions.

Now perhaps, I have stumbled upon an explanation.

The people upon whom Lord God of Israel frowned did not merely worship different forms of the One God but actually worshipped different Gods, perhaps lesser Gods, Gods that did not stand for truth and love, but lesser things. Hence God of Israel became angry. Which is understandable.

Otherwise, if that different God was just a different form of the One God and The lord of Israel had people killed and burned for worshipping ‘that other God’ and if that implies that such a God would like to see us, the people of the East ‘who don’t worship him but other Gods’, burned and killed too, then, I am not willing to think much of such a God or of the religions who follow such a God.

In summary, polytheism of the Middle East, condemned in the Testaments, is not the same as ‘polytheism’ of the Far East.
We believe in One God and hence we are monotheistic, but THEN AGAIN, it is not the same as the monotheism of the Abrahamic religions.
There is the distinction – we don’t INSIST that there is one God, though we know it; we merely suggest. We not only allow complete freedom to all to choose their God from the many forms, but we accept into our midst even those who argue that there is no God!
Charavaka was an atheist and his works actually find a place in our religious libraries!
For, Sanaatana Dharma is not just a religion but also a social system, a way of living, a culture, God, spirituality, polity, economy, diet, science... it’s an integration of all the above, and an integration so complete so absolute that its components could never stand separately without losing some of their meaning and purpose.

The west may note therefore, that they do not really have a label at their disposal to confer upon a tradition such as ours.

But I am happy to see that things have changed in the recent past and are changing even now. Many people of the west, scholars as well as commoners have taken interest in the Eastern traditions, written sincerely about their greatness and accorded us the position, respect and recognition due to us.

What remains unfortunate however is that, our own people, especially the youth, having grown accustomed to the mean shanties that the west once assigned us to, have made it their home and now do not want to move to the palaces and mansions that was always theirs, for what else does it mean that Indians, especially the Hindus revel in self deprecatory talk?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Silly Post

Why did you do this to me, asked Everest, of the Almighty.
Pumori is made of almond coloured stone and finished with patches of snow. The one next to it has the markings of a giant greedy tongue that licked the dollop of creamy buttery snow on it.
My neighbors have blue green ice sculptures carved over their facades.
Some have slopes like exponential curves and summits so pointed.
Why, one of them has two summits!

And me?
Grey in colour. Almost bare with hardly any snow on me.
My summit too is so blunted, I don’t even qualify to be called a ‘peak’.
Why am I a plain Jane and all others enchantresses, wailed Everest.

Because, you get to be the tallest of them all, came the reply.
People the world over will know you.
People from near and far will trudge their way through land and water, stone and sand, thorn and ice to get a glimpse of you.
You will be the hardest to get and most coveted among all.
People will die on their way to your summit.
You will have a veil of clouds at your service to shroud you most of the time so people will wait indefinitely to sight you just once.
And when the veil parts, all eyes, having seen the enchantresses, their shapes, colour and all, will turn to you, the plain Jane, and finally rest on you.
You will even receive the rising sun before all others, everyday.

And that’s why you will be a plain Jane.
For, you can’t have everything. No one can.
It’s the law of my universe and you are part of it, said He.

And by the way, he added laughingly, your crown was blunted, not by my mighty hand but by tiny feet. Of little men. Who danced the victory dance after they made it to the top of the world.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Faith & Fact

One is not really guided by information and facts that one reads in books and other sources of knowledge. One is guided by his faith or by scepticism. One's understanding of what one reads is guided by his faith or scepticism.

A person who has faith uses information to reinforce his faith. And a sceptic uses the same information to verify and support his scepticism, scanning the information for ‘faults’, contradictions, loopholes and defects.

What else does it mean when someone tells you he has read the scriptures, the epics, the Gita, and a whole library of sacred texts, a feat you think remarkable, not achieved by most of the believers you know, even father, grandfather... you listen in awe, eyes wide open for he even knows Sanskrit and then...and then it turns out the guy believes Krishna was wrong, Arjuna was vindicated in the end, the Gita is imperfect and the Hindus merely put it on a pedestal to compete with the Bible of the Christians, that religion is mere clever arrangement to enforce conformance in societies?

One isn’t guided by what one reads. One reads to verify what one already ‘knows’.

That applies not just to religion but to everything. Almost. Our opinions and beliefs – on politics, sociology, economy, history, philosophy, ideology...

We ‘know’ and then we set about to verify.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Imperfect India

A friend of mine while talking to me after a very long while said, “I don’t like Gandhi, but the one thing I take from him is the ‘Quit India’ movement...I want to leave this wretched country... Those days of patriotism, hot blood are gone...Realism has dawned upon me”

This guy ranks among the top five intelligent/sharp/smart people I have known in my life – a guy with arguments, opinions, ideals, philosophy, principles – the kind you would expect to argue vehemently against migration and to stay here and make a difference, a guy who would not miss the short sightedness of the west, for all their tall claims to all sorts of things.

Further, he said, “This country has gone to dogs. Especially in the last 5-10 years. I have been paying taxes for the last 7 years and what do I get? No infrastructure, no healthcare, no regards for merit, no... I am definitely leaving India for 10-12 years....who the hell wants to live in a place where you have to wake up every morning and check whether there is power, water in the tap before you take a shower?”

Another friend of mine, again, an intellectual, also echoes the same frustration, “We are a very un-evolved people...the amount of noise there is, vehicles honking... I am afraid to eat in Indian restaurants...do they wash vegetables properly?...I don’t like being in Bangalore...we have always been a backward society...I don’t like being in India...

I, for one, being head over heels in love with this country, grateful to it for all that it has given me, asserting now and then that this country has given me more than I asked for and more than I probably deserve, feel sad, almost hurt when I listen to people who complain about it and wish they were born elsewhere.

But it’s not really the validity of their views, or of the glorious past of India – oldest civilization, yoga, heritage, etc., that I think about after I have heard them.
It’s, ‘what is it that makes me have no complaints...that makes me love this place to the point of having tears in my eyes at times, as if it were a living person...what is it that makes my experience of the same reality so radically different from theirs and more importantly, why do these people miss what I am seeing?’

One difference in our situations of course, is that they are ambitious and I am not. When you have high ambitions, things like infrastructure, taxation, ease of doing business etc. matter unlike when all you want to do with your life is read, read, read, think, write a book, and then get some work done in office as well without worrying about hikes.

But then, the people complaining about this country are doing very well in their career, and have been able to fulfil their ambitions, unaffected by infrastructure or policies of the state.
Reservation and State policies don’t affect the IT sector, do they?

So there is much more than career orientation that distinguishes our situations.

Actually, it’s not that I don’t have complaints about India. I am sensitive to noise, I grind my teeth every time my neighbours bang the metal doors against the hinges; there is an empty site a few blocks from my home that is piled with garbage; I hate the hundred dogs on every street of Bangalore; I can’t stand people talking loudly into mobile phones, auto drivers giving attitude,...
why, I don’t even own a vehicle, I commute by bus or walk and hence expose myself to more failings of the system perhaps than do others who drive air-conditioned cars door-to-door...

I get very angry at these things I can’t stand, but my anger lasts only as long as the cause of anger is active, and then it leaves me so I can be my happy self again. My anger I see, comes in short bursts, like spikes, frequent and very sharp but short-lived on an otherwise steady smooth graph.

For once the cause of irritation has passed me by, I am claimed...
... by the delight of that dance drama I watched yesterday, or the melody of her voice in that music concert I attended last week, or the brilliance of the play I went to a few days ago, or the hilariousness of the joke of that Stand Up Comedy Show last month that has not stifled my laughter yet, or the beauty of that flower show in Lalbagh I just saw, my excitement about the poem I will be reading at the weekly poetry reading by the Ulsoor lake, or my new found inspiration to continue my Sanskrit studies after the Sanskrit Conversation camp I attended, or my sense of accomplishment at the progress I am making in my music classes, or the stimulation of my intellect caused by this new perspective I saw expressed in a gathering of friends or the anticipation of the Old Hindi Film Songs Nite coming up next week, that I look forward to or...

And there I think, lies the answer.
With so many delights vying for my thoughts all of my waking time, I am left with the attention span of a child towards all the faults around me.

Living in this city that has abundant cultural delights to offer, I haven’t wasted the opportunity and filled my life with beautiful events; I am preoccupied with their delights all the time – either the hangover of an experience bygone or the anticipation of a coming one...so much that I go through life oblivious to all the defects around me.

When you are close to culture, you cannot have many complaints in life. It is when you are engaged in utilitarian pursuits all the time that you have discontentment in life.
For, if you think about all the grievances people usually have – infrastructure, potholes, taxation, corruption, etc., what sphere of life do they affect most? The utilitarian sphere, isn’t it?
If you are caught up in the utilitarian quarter only, you will be left with nothing but problems to deal with and failings to vex yourself with all the time.

In general, a broad classification of our living – our thoughts, words and actions, into two spheres, the utilitarian sphere and the sphere of beauty & culture and the subsequent thoughtful apportioning of all our resources to these two spheres is a prerequisite for direction and perspective in life.

To all those who are frustrated with this system, I would say, spare a few hours every week, may be during the weekend, to attend some cultural event happening in your city – be it music, dance, drama, art exhibition, whatever you have access to...
Your problems will not disappear – there will still be potholes on the road, corruption will still be there, but you will be able to live with them without being too bothered, without becoming vexed, because you will also have beautiful experiences, memories, hangovers competing for some space of your mind.

To use the analogy of the sea, when you have only litter on the beach, you will be disgusted but if you also have pearls, corals and other treasures washing up on your shores, you will busy yourself gathering them and ignore the litter.
Those waves that wash up treasures on the shores of your life are the waves of culture. Proximity to culture is what changes our experience of the reality around us from an impoverished one to an enriched one.

And as you soak yourself more and more in culture, you may even begin to see that the fulfilment it brings in life is worth all the superficial imperfections of this country.

Elsewhere, you may find perfection at the superficial level – clean, nice, polished and ordered surfaces – but if you dig beneath, would you find the riches that you do here?

India may be imperfect; but more than ‘imperfect’, India is ‘incredible’.

But then, I am not asking you to give India a chance. I am only asking you to give yourself a chance.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Stand up Comedy @ Ista

21st September 2012
Venue: Ista, MG Road
Sponsored by Black Dog
Associate Sponsors: Ista hotels

First of all, thank you Ginger Claps Team for inviting me to the event. I want to thank them for two things specifically. One, they gave me an evening filled with laughter, that too in a star hotel with a great ambience.

Two, when I asked them why they had given me a free pass, they told me I was an influential blogger! Really? Why so? I had more than 15000 visitors to my blog in one year, it seems, and that made me influential! I was flattered.

Secondly, I am sorry for the delay in posting this article about the event. It should have come much earlier... and I don’t seem to have valid excuses.

Having attended one such show at Costa Coffee, I had known that it would be mostly adult humour. But when the first comedian, Praveen Kumar opened the show with the line ‘the cleanest word you are going to hear today is f***’, I thought, ‘Really? Dirtier than that? Haven’t we, by now, had all the adult humour there is to have, spared nothing to imagination, thanks to the new emboldened generation and it’s undaunted dabbling-splashing-soaking in adult stuff everywhere –movies-books-music-SMS-facebook-public forums? Haven’t we gone overboard already? Is this evening going to be further going-overboard?’
It was as difficult to imagine as the idea of ‘more dead’.
But when Ashwin Mathew finished speaking, I thought, Praveen was right!

It was on the face and uninhibited.
But it was laughter all the way... before I embark on my views, my opinions, and so on, let me tell you that I did enjoy the evening thoroughly and laughed like I hadn’t for the longest while.

The show started an hour late, I don’t know why. Guys, you ought to do much better in time-keeping. We waited and waited...

We had three comedians – Praveen Kumar, Dr. Anil Abraham and Ashwin Mathew.


He has some really good jokes – I will not give away all his jokes but will mention some of them.
I liked the ones on Rakhi Sawant(you can die quickly by jumping off a cliff in Khatron ke Khiladi or go for slow death by ,marrying Rakhi Sawant), BITS (Birla Institute of Tech. and Sciences), thank God, Tata did not open the Institute!, a desperate gay without a partner could become a suicide bomber – for he then could blow himself!, a TV show with 2 and a half men – Akshay, Shah Rukh and Karan Johar :-), Dhoni could campaign for Whisper for he is going through the worst period of his life, Chaminda vaas’s son has such a long name that his ID card is the only one that says PTO! Kurkure Ad on abdomen belts of cricketers – Teda hai par mera hai...

Quite original all of them and good ones too. They are the kind that are safe in any forum – no one would be offended for they are not racist, not sexist, don’t make fun of cities, ethnicities, etc.

But there were other jokes that were sexist- jokes about women drivers, husband-wife jokes, jokes about cities – Bombay and Bangalore, and jokes about ethnicities/races – Tamil vs the rest of India.
I am not saying such jokes must be avoided, they bring out the laughs too, but one has to be careful not to go too far, for some of them can be irritating and also seen as self defence/promotion of personal views in the guise of humour.

But then it also depends on the geographical location of the speaker.

For instance, I liked the jokes about Bombay – ‘while you live in what is called a ‘house’ in Bangalore, the one you get to live in, in Bombay is called a ‘shoerack’, Bombay hotel rooms are so small, you cannot even think of porn!’
But if you are speaking in Bombay, you may not want to go on and on with these jokes.

The self deprecatory jokes about ‘Madrasi’s were funny too. And given how sensitive the Tamil people are about the perceptions others have about them and how offended they usually are at Madrasi jokes, this kind of joking by a Tamilian is a good sign – it’s a healthy change. It’s high time the community learnt to laugh at itself.
The Gujjus, Marwadis, Sindhi’s, Bihari’s, Mallus, all of them endure jokes about themselves, don’t they?

Since we had a Tamilian speaker on stage, the mention of rajnikanth was inevitable. Again, this is the kind of stuff you want to be careful about. Don’t take it too far. As it is, we get to see enough of this everywhere – offices, social circles, public forums, other stand up comedy shows – all around, we see Tamilians carrying their rajni with them on their backs everywhere they go and thrust him upon people around them – comparing him with everyone – Shah Rukh, Salman...
But they are careful not to compare him with Aamir Khan or Amitabh. Clever fellows. They know they don’t really have a chance if they go that far.

These are the kind of things that reinforce perceptions that others have about the Tamil community – insular, fanatic, unable to identify with the rest of India and Indians...and so on.
For a change you should try cracking jokes ABOUT Rajni. Bring him down from his pedestal, make him look like a Buffoon, laugh at him...for a change. It’s not very difficult after all. If nothing else, you could crack jokes, in fact plenty of them, definitely on the theme of ‘beauty and the beast’!

There was however one joke about Rajni that was superb – A girl lost her virginity and Rajnikanth gave it back to her!

The self deprecatory jokes about his(Praveen’s) person were not funny – ‘whatever is below my belt is a joke’ and such others..., for no one in the audience has any knowledge of it! People laugh only when they are able to imagine, when already know what you are talking about; if you talk about things they don’t know, they are unable to imagine.

While he has content, Praveen could work on delivery. The way he delivers his jokes – pronunciation and accent – you could adopt a complete Tamil accent, just like Dr. Anil, who spoke in a pukka South Indian accent which actually gave more effect to his humour or you could be free of accent, but you need to be on one side – don’t be on the fence.
Another thing is voice intonation and modulation. These need much improvement and they could, if corrected, bring out double the laughs.


This guy was cute, funny.
He had donned the attire of a grandpa, a wig to go with it and a pukka South Indian accent. In pretending to be trying his best to keep clean in his joking, he brought out much laughter.
His ‘innocent’ accidents such as ‘pleasant mammary’, ‘booby trap’, ‘tit for tat’, ‘social cervix’ were very clever. And funny.

It was very thoughtful of him to make use of ‘accent’ to create humour. The pronounced South Indian accent at once won the people over even before the jokes began.

His use of a character of ‘Pakkada mane Sarasamma’ – bringing her in now and then, also was a great idea.

Bringing in such elements – funny costumes, accents, characters – has many advantages. It wins over the audience immediately. It eases the burden on the speaker for he does not have to rely on content alone, it gives added effect to humour, it makes it possible to make people laugh using simpler content (closer to reality), for instance, the ways of ordinary people – you could also make use of a particular geography, a particular time etc., and not rely heavily on sex, film stars etc.

But it also raises people’s expectations, and a speaker, if not prepared with good content could become slack, lose the audience’s interest, kind of disillusion them about his costume-accent and all.
There were such moments, a few of them, where I thought Anil’s content could have been better, keener, sharper... some trimming would be good and of course, more jokes in place of the ones that meander.

My favourite is this.
‘....pretty girl in a medical college...’
‘Pretty girl!? In a medical college!? What is she doing there? For, all the Cinderella’s usually take arts, Aishwarya’s and Rani’s and their like take journalism....but Cinderella’s two ugly sisters will defffnettly go to medical college!
A completely clean joke that drew laughter from all.

And I loved ‘Pakkada Mane Sarasamma’.


Of all of them, he had the lion’s share. And he needed it for the number of jokes he had.

There were all kinds of jokes. Jokes about people, the idiotic questions they ask, the things they do, the way Indians scratch their crotch, Mallus, their accent, their idiosyncrasies, about growing up, religion, Obama, Clinton, facebook – what is this poke, and poke back? And what’s with this ‘like’ feature? Someone says ‘my dog died’ and six people have ‘liked it’ : )... buying condoms, lots of jokes about Kerala...horny mallus... there was some slapstick too.
He was the dirtiest of them all. His dirty jokes were so dirty, on the face and bold that he made the other two look clean.
But they were also so power packed, so funny, so irresistible that you burst out laughing and after you laughed for a full minute you thought you should have grimaced perhaps.

He had the right expressions, vigorous body language as well as voice intonation. Are you a voice over artist?

He was highly animated, appropriately most of the time - but there were times when I thought he shouted too loud into the mike, at times too fast, that I missed a word or two.

I thought he could organize his speech better, reorder the jokes such that he kept the tempo gradually rising. There were, oftentimes, hilarious jokes that were followed by a slack one. The ones about boys taking beatings from their mother, for instance – I thought was overdone and mixed in between some other jokes that were more hilarious.

I loved the ones below... loved many others too, but can’t recollect them or cant mention them here!

‘How much did you get in maths?
Out of?
22 out of pity’

And this one...from the Bible!

When the people gathered were about to pelt stones at the guilty woman, Jesus said ‘let the first stone come from the one who has never sinned in all his life’. There came a stone flying right through the crowd and hit the woman on her face. Jesus looked the thrower and said ,’Mother, sometimes you piss me off’. (Mary had never sinned, you see, not even in her conception)

His last act was truly Grand Finale.
A scene – A veteran Tamil actor is approached by his son who confesses he is gay. The actor clutches his chest, his face muscles twitching and all – and Ashwin did a great job of showing this, and says in tamil (as dramatically as you can imagine) “In that film, in the song where Kamala Hassan and Silk Smitha are dancing, when I am looking at Silk Smitha’s thighs, you, my son, you are looking at Kamala Hassan’s ass****?!!!

A few days earlier I saw Ashwin in English Vinglish. Though it was a small role, it was a job done well. I hope you get a lion’s share in movies too.

To all the comedians, I must say, while I did laugh a lot, leaning on sex is the easy way out. It is far more challenging to make people laugh without the use of sex. It would require true talent.
In fact, the ability to make people laugh with clean humour is what separates the wheat from the chaff.
I must mention Rajneesh Kapoor, whom I saw performing in Costa Coffee, a few months ago. He was the best of the performers that evening and he steered clear of sex, his jokes were clean.

You may use sex but could you keep it subtle?

Because at this rate, very soon, you will all run out of matter and find yourself scrambling for topics and ways to make people laugh, just like Mallika Sherawat, having revealed all, has nothing more to reveal and cannot get anyone to take interest in her anymore.
It’s always advisable not to run headlong into the subject but move around it and leave something to imagination.

And of course, my thanks to the sponsors notwithstanding... ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION IS DETRIMENTAL TO PHYSICAL, MENTAL AND SPIRITUAL HEALTH!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

High Culture. Low Class Emceeing by a Monita Bala @ Bangalore Sangeeth Utsav 2012

High culture. Classical music and dance. Performances by Padmashree/Padmavibhushan artists, dedicated to their chosen art for decades.

And what did the event management team have in mind when they chose this apology of an emcee, Monita Bala, for the event, that too for the first performance of the first day?

Really poor-quality, inappropriate emceeing by Monita Bala.
Perhaps she is fit for a profane thing like a fashion show or a beauty contest but certainly not for high culture.

It became obvious within minutes of her opening her mouth that her emceeing had no class, that she had very little talent and really no exposure to classical music or dance. For all her excitement about ‘Indian culture’, ‘Indian Culture’ at the mike, it was evident she knew and cared very little about our culture.

Worse, she had no sense of the etiquette, protocol and decorum expected and followed in the world of high culture. And this, to the extent that many of us in the audience were offended. God knows how the artists felt.

Someone said, she does corporate events mainly.
I would say, she would be unfit for corporate events as well.
For her English is quite poor.
Firstly her grammar is bad.“...the only woman ‘in’ the stage...”, “...giving an opportunity ‘for’ all of us...”
There were many other pathetic ones. How did she become a professional emcee with such poor English?
Her vocabulary consisted of half a dozen words. If I had to give some concession, I would say, half a dozen sentences; that too, sentences which were rehearsed before, cliche and not spontaneously issuing to suit the performance that had just been given. Like I said, very little talent.

And no homework.

The way she addressed the artists, for instance.
“...These guys...”, “...these guys are wonderful...” How appropriate to refer to Padmashree artists as ‘guys’?
I was told she addressed Kadri Gopalnath as “Mr. Kadri”, and he was offended. Breach of protocol, throughout.
I am simply grateful to him for not walking away, refusing to perform for ‘this crowd’.
But then, the crowd belonged to a different league, not the culturally impoverished one represented by the emcee; the crowd was sick of her.

After the dancers had finished, she made ridiculous and immature remarks, one after another.
“They have demonstrated what we all call Indian culture!” Cliche...a pathetic one. A westerner would have come up with better lines.
“...they danced for 1 hour non stop!...”
If she had any exposure to/knowledge of classical dance she would have known that classical dancers usually perform for 2 to 3 hours continuously. By expressing her surprise at their ability to dance for one hour, she not only revealed her ignorance but also embarrassed the artists, who would have preferred other finer points to be noted about their performance.

“You have my respect!”
The artist is already highly respected by all and does not need any of your patronizing.
Who do you think you are encouraging? Some amateur struggling youngster who looks up to you for your little encouragement and will be grateful to you for your respect?
These are accomplished celebrated artists who are revered everywhere they go by all and there is no question of someone not respecting them.
Like I said, she does not know the etiquette.
If you don’t know the right thing to say, you could just keep your mouth shut.

And once again, “You have my respect. And I am sure you have the respect of every one in the audience too”
“Thank you, like I said, for demonstrating Indian culture” Cliche again...

“...Can we have a huge round of applause for...?”
Again and again, she appealed to the audience to applaud.
This again must have been insulting to the world acclaimed artists: to have applause from the audience after repeating goading by an emcee.

The right thing for an emcee to offer artists of such high culture and calibre on the occasion of their performance, in a gathering such as this, is humility and gratitude. The tone of speaking too has to be humble and grateful and not animated and over excited as in a college festival.
Even appreciation, if it is not coming from someone who really understands the art and the artist can be immature, embarrassing, even offensive to the artist. Imagine saying something like “....they danced for 1 hour!...they demonstrated Indian culture!’
If you wish to offer appreciation you better be sure you understand what you are endeavouring to appreciate.

Apart from all the above deficiencies in the emceeing, a glaring lapse (the very first thing) that I and everyone else actually noticed was the conspicuous absence of the Bindi on her forehead!
She could be without her make up, hairdo, high heels...nobody would care.
But the Bindi? It was the first thing expected.
For what is the first thing about Indian culture, as far as the appearance of a woman goes? Is it not the Bindi on the forehead? The one ornament that is indispensable to the rich and poor woman alike, the others being optional?
I don’t wear a Bindi every day, but on the occasion of a cultural event, it’s the first thing I put on. And why shouldn’t we?
Even after several senior persons in the audience as well as the organisers personally requested her, she refused to wear a Bindi!
How could she go on stage without it, on an occasion like this?

And those annoying heels.
While all the artists on the stage were barefeet, in humility and reverence for Saraswati, the Goddess of art, music and learning, this woman was strutting about the stage in her high tick-tocking heels.
Where is your sense of propriety?

You may feel like telling me ‘there is no one standard, one code, etc.’
There may be many standards but you have to choose the one that is required of the occasion, that is appropriate for the occasion.
What would you think of someone licking their fingers at dinner in a party in a 5 star hotel? No etiquette? No manners?
Or someone in an IT office who when offered a handshake, will shirk from it and do a Namaste instead? Impolite? Not aware of protocol?

While we take care to follow the protocol of the westerners, feel ashamed when we fault at it, or follow it even when not required, like eating with fork and spoon in the privacy of our homes, why don’t we feel ashamed of our ignorance of the social protocol of our own culture?
Not following the expected protocol in a traditional environment is as much a matter of poor etiquette, manners, as shameful as not following the prescribed protocol in an English environment.

I feel sorry for the artists who had to perform in the presence of such an inadequate emcee.
I know how sensitive, self respecting these artists are: they could have easily said “we will not perform for such a crowd” and walked away.

You may wonder why I am so angry. I generally can’t stand it when I see half cultured fellows, with poor breeding, especially in cities, having acquired some style, strutting about, thinking themselves very smart and cool. This post is not about one emcee, but a class of people she represents, who though culturally impoverished, have delusions about themselves, having acquired money and ‘modernity’ of style. She only happened to be the last straw.
I am angry because the woman did not have the humility to accept feedback and respect requests made by elderly people in the audience – request to be more respectful towards the artists, to wear a Bindi, to change her emceeing style to suit the occasion.
Not knowing something is pardonable, but not having the willingness to learn, or even worse, to think of your yourself as great while you are actually pathetic – that pisses off people and you feel like showing them a mirror and putting them in their proper places.
And from her attitude, it became apparent she thought herself great while all she had was some style (which is useless without substance), substandard English, very little talent and no exposure to culture.

When we asked the event management folks why they picked her of all the people, they said she has ‘many profiles’.
That’s the unfortunate thing about the half cultured, half educated crowd in these so called cosmopolitan cities that will applaud and approve of any Tom Dick & Harry.
I see it so often, especially in the theatre.
Sometimes, it’s an obviously disappointing play but most of them in the audience are laughing, clapping and enjoying themselves, and saying ‘awesome’, ‘awesome’ as they come out of the theatre.
The standards are low and tastes, poor. Anything with style, some cheap masala, with or without substance, can be a winner.

I really wish event management teams, would choose, for such cultural events, a person who has exposure to culture, who has learnt music or dance, or even a person who simply loves the arts, most importantly someone who has an attitude of reverence towards high culture and not someone to whom this is just another emceeing assignment, an opportunity to earn some money, not some jerk who treats models/film stars and classical artists alike.

Fortunately, for the afternoon session which started with the golden voice of Shri Vidyabhushan(of Udupi), we had a different emcee, a woman who knew where she was and what she was doing. She conducted herself in a manner that became the occasion; her tone showed that she possessed a sense of occasion and her remarks, eloquent and thoughtful, showed much talent.