Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Maha-men in our Epics. Part I

Watching TV was not something that was openly encouraged in my family. In moderation though, this activity was deemed mandatory. 'Moderation' being defined as watching the 7pm news & 'Mahabharat' on Sunday mornings. I am, ofcourse, talking about the pre-Cable , pre- Satellite TV era..when all homes had only 1 channel... our good old Doordharshan.. DD for short.

If I & my sister behaved like nice kids the entire week i.e. did home-work without being forced to, ran errands without sulking, had quieter/shorter arm wrestles & scratch-others-eyes-out-fights, did not put up a fight when woken up for school in morning etc..etc.. we could get to watch chitrahaar on friday night. For 7 whole days of imposed & monitored saintliness, our much awaited reward was seeing the skimpy (chiffon saree in rain!! skirts with flares which rise up to show a stockinged leg when they twirl... OMG!!) dressed hindi film heroines & chocolate heroes (baggy blue jeans, sportshoes, t-shirt with graphic print in front worn with unbuttoned xxxxxl shirt tied into a knot at waist) gyrating their pelvis and dancing amongst earthen pots/flowers/250 dancers.

Watching Mahabharat on a lazy Sunday morning (mostly while downing your breakfast) was something we were supposed to do..but dint mind doing. This programme was made compulsory because
1. We are Hindus by birth..and should know what/how Krishna was.
2. Mom thought that girls should know about culture/mythology so that we dont get 'too-westernized'
3. We would hear something other than 'Dhak..dhak karne lagaa..' & some of that non-dhak-dhak variety of knowledge would find its way into our cranium.
4. Parents did not want us to embarrass them if someone asks me/my sis 'who are the trimurti?' and we would answer confidently ''I think it is really shahrukh, amir & salman..though the movie starred shahrukh,anil kapoor & jackie.''

Now, Mahabharat can be interpreted many many ways...and each of it is right. Some pundits say that this epic holds the key to many of life's questions. And each person in the epic embodies a certain character-trait which should be emulated.. even the villians.. (for ex: Dhuryodhana's loyalty..Kaikeyi's servitude to husband etc. etc.).

For me, instead of solving my questions, this show & the story had infact raised many. Instead of getting awe-inspired by the unshakeable strength  of character that each of the protagonists had, i got more dejected & repulsed with certain events in the storyline. The most common explanations i hear for this 'perceived' flaw in any of the Gods is that 'Even Gods are not perfect..and they do not intend man to be'.. Or 'These incarnations were created in the form of Man & some flaws had to inculcated in them to be more mortal-like'.

I dont buy these arguments... I believe that Gods should be imitation-worthy. They should embody all that we want to achieve & to be. Some fatal lack of strength tarnishes His image in my mind forever.

For ex: Draupati's Saree(?) Act.

Now, to start with, i hated Kunthi for saying 'Share it..whatever it is' to her 5 sons (the Pandavas ) when they came home with the prize(the bride) after Arjun won Draupati's swayamvara competition. This was purportedly done to keep the 5 brothers united. A wife for each = 5 wives in the family.. surely which mother-in-law would like to be outnumbered? With not one but 5 husbands to handle, poor Draupati would have no time to pick up saas-bahu tiffs.. clever, no?

To get around the 'i was here first', 'i am the eldest'., 'but, i won her!' hassles & tug-o-war among the siblings, it was agreed that each one gets a year with his wife..and during that time, none of the other husbands may enjoy her company or even see her. This worked well enough & the five year cycle continued.

Though the Draupati babe had not much of a say on the count of her husbands, there are events which reveal that she had a sense of identity, had her own strong opinions & sense of humour.

Coming to the 'Act'..
The eldest big-bro of Pandavas, Yudhistr, was a gamble-freak. So his cousin-gang Kauravas comprising of Duryodhana & 100 more such (remember: it was time  before 'hum do, hamare ek/do!') hatch a plan to make Yudhi gamble & lose his inheritance ( kingdom, wealth,..blah..blah). Yudhi falls for the trap, gambles on & proceed to lose his wealth, his throne, himself & his brothers. When left with nothing to gamble more, Yudhi did what any self-respecting gambler would do.. gamble on his wife. No brownies for guessing what happened.. he lost..again..

Rendered to the status of a slave due to her husband's deeds, Draupati is hastily summoned to the court..where she is verbally abused (She is called a whore for having 5 husbands).. made passes at (Karna asks her to sit on his lap)..& Dusshasana (another Kaurav sibling) think it would be jolly good fun to strip her naked in the court and proceeds to do so.

Like any 8 yr old fed on a steady diet of Hindi films would ask.. what were her 5 husbands doing all this while.. Isnt the 'man' of the family the protector/provider/avenger ?.. Oh well, in this one..they just sit back & watch.. At times, they hang their heads in shame. At one point of time when Arjun gets up in rage, Yudhi blocks him saying 'Whoaa..nelly.. hang on.. remember ..we too are slaves!!. So jus sit your ass back'.

Draupati realized that her husbands do not have the collective vertebrae to help her & turns to her friend Krishna for help...who does help her & keeps her modesty intact. This dis-robing ordeal over, Pandavas are asked to leave the kingdom & they promptly do so..with Draupati in tow..
("WTF!! why did she go with them?? Does she have short term memory loss....why cant she just file for a divorce & do Ctrl+C 4 times. Or better, why cant she marry Krishna..he got enough wives already, surely one more wont hurt.")

Or perhaps this is a interesting experiment in the group psychology. If an event is witnessed by many people, the probability of reaction decreases with the number of witness. Which is to say, if Draupati had one husband instead of 5..he would have, maybe..just maybe, stood up for her dignity. Here, each thought that anyone of the other four would have the pluck to react.

Anywhich way, embodiment of righteousness or not, what Big B Yudhi did..was just not right.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Menopause in your 20's

I, probably, would be the last person on earth to write on any biological phenomenon or bodily functions. My tryst with biology was severly severed (giggle..severly severed.. Frightfully frightened.. Readily ready giggle..giggle) after my Class X board exams. I used to mug up the terms & the various functions of different ventricle, enzymes & such ..and just write it out with the sole purpose of passing the exam. It is true that i have good marks in Botany & Zoology.. But thats because of my ability to do a faithful reproduction of the content in my textbook.

The only remote link i then had with the subject was the pictures in lab-record books i used to draw for my 'science-group but artistically non-inclined' friends. Even then these pictures fell short of academic expectations.. My lizards smiled, or the female Schistosomes haematobium coyly batted eyelids (?) at its male counterpart (or were they unisex?), human heart had a small compartment called 'Antonia Banderas'… Needless to say, my friends got in varying degrees of trouble.

But i digress.. This menopause, as i promised earlier, is nothing to do with blood & hormonal changes.. & even men can have it. Do you? Let's take the quiz.

1. You get out of bed in morning & the thought of going to office makes you want to curl back into the inviting warmth/coziness of your plush mattress.
2. You catch yourself wishing for a national holiday / strike / hartal / president's death so that you dont have to spend another day in that dreadful place.
3. You feel that the weekends are too far & too short in between & goes off even before it starts.

.. Did you say 'No' to all.. Hmmph.. Let us try again..

4. You have your CV/Resume updated…'just-in-case'.. Or worse, it is already uploaded in some job-hunting site or been sent to a friend to be 'referred' into his/her company.
5. You keep doing the 'what -if' situation in your head ( What if i had not been an engineer/manager/… What if i had chosen another college/job/company.. What if i take a loooong break..What if i sit in the toilet & dont come out till everybody is gone.. What if i break the keyboard on my boss's head…)
6. When you open your inbox, you wish that none of your friends/foes/classmates send you a 'Guess what.. I got a Promotion /New Job/ Onsite-Chance / VC Funding' mail.

Still 'No'?.. Man.. You are a tough cookie.. Or entreprenuer / artist / free-lancer / unemployed…aint ya?.. Ok.. Still one more qn: to go..

7. You wish you could do something 'more meaningful' with life.

Ha.. Gotcha.. Now grab a coffee, sit-down & let it out. It's ok. You are not alone. It is just the Career menopause. You feel you are completely clueless. In college one thinks that once one passes out, gets a job, gets some rave performance feedbacks.. It would all magically fall into place & your raison d'etre would somehow appear infront of you. It didn't happen. You took a post-grad / changed company and then thought 'aha..'.. But then, it is not quite completely there. Is it?

You know what you gotta do to get that promotion.. Or to get that onsite opportunity.. To get that increment.. But is it really what you want. How do you explain that little nagging feeling of confusion.. Of anxiety & maybe a bit of trepidition that you face? You keep thinking that your next milestone would hold the answer to all these questions. The next milestone could be a new job, a promotion, a role change, new location, or better financial security to just follow your heart's silly song.

So how do you get outta this rut? How do you ascertain if the grass is indeed greener on the otherside..or not? Well, like the typical consultant that i am, i would only hear your problems, look at your watch & tell you the time it shows…& maybe throw in some matrices as well. So here goes my matrix..

Well.. i am truly sorry that apart from putting in a stupid matrix, i cant really do more about this menopausal hitting of wall syndrome & symptoms some ,or rather, most of us show... Perhaps we could take comfort in the fact that it affects the best, mediocre & the worst amongst us.. misery does love company, doesnt it?

So the next time when you hear a friend or a colleague talking about his/her promotion or job-enlargement.. or wistfully about their childhood dream job.. you know what it is plagueing them..Just whisper to yourself CMP CMP CMP..and all would be fine for the day. And no, hitting your boss with the keyboard or hiding in the bathroom is not the answer...(although the hitting could help in releasing pent-up emotions!)...

Thursday, February 04, 2010

BBC list of books

Gomu (of noughtscapes) had put this up in her facebook notes... I used to be an avid reader who somehow lost steam when something called life happened.. Thought would see how i'd fare..

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (x)
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien (x)
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (x)
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (x)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible (x)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (x)
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell 
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (x)


11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott (x)
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (x)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier (x)
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger 
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot


21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (x)
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald 
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (x)
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (x)
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck 
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (x)
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame 


31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy (x)
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens (x)
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma-Jane Austen (x)
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen (x)
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hossein (x)
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden (x)
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne 


41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (x)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (x)
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins (x)
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery 
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy (x)
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood 
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan (x)


51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel 
52 Dune - Frank Herbert (x)
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (x)
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth (x)
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (x)
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon (x)
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (x)


61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (x)
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (x)
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding (x)
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie (x)
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville (x)


71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens (x)
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker (x)
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (x)
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce (x)
76 The Inferno – Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackery 


80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (x)
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker 
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro 
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry 
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (x)
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton (x)


91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery 
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute 
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (x)
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (x)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (x)
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (x)


a total of 48/100...hmm..just-pass i guess.

Feel free to consider urself tagged!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Meat of the matter

i discriminate & am prejudiced. No.. these are not character traits that i would like to flaunt, but I do it nonetheless..especially if the case on the table is meat. Yes, the type you eat...or in my case, the type i dont.

For the first 22 years of my life, i've been a very modest meat eater. Unlike many non-vegetarians, i liked veggies better.. no kidding. Back home in Kerala, growing up we used to have fish everyday - curried mostly and at times fried. (All that omega 3 explains how mallu girls have better hair!!) Fresh sea-water fish brought to the door steps on a cycle. The fish-monger would have a typical 'pooooi' sound he makes...and my mom could, by the energy & enthu in his 'poooi' make out if he had a good catch for the day. His salesmanship depended on the credibility of the prices he quoted..not for the current offering, but about the price our next-door neighbour paid for the same fish.

On top of it there were the weekly grocery shopping trips to the bigger local markets. Here one could get the big ones & the special ones. As any true blue mallu or bong man would tell you.. spotting & bargaining for the catch of the day is an art and science in itself. A mallu guy comes of age when he can go in and come out with a reasonably good catch without being fleeced..or worse, manhandled. I stopped accompanying my dad after a few such trips.. i couldnt stand the smell and the incessant haggling. A pity, i now realize.. i could have got a tip or two on the art of persuasion from the fish-monger/ress.

Sunday was also the day we bought chicken. Almost always chicken and once in 2-3 months,beef as well. This again used to be a chore in itself. There were no supermarkets where u go in and just dump the breast-slices only/curry pieces only/drumsticks only into ur shopping cart. A tried-and-tested poultry shop it had to be. You go in, take a coupon or stand in the queue.. state your requirement - how many kg / dressed-or-not / curry-cut-or-whole.

The guy at the counter would take a hen or cock which comes near to your required weight (adjusting for the feathers and other non-requisites), hold it by the neck and take it to the room out on the back side of the counter to give it the inevitable. It always did make me wonder that 'dressing' a chicken is infact..undressing it.. Back home, the pieces are kept in a special dish (used only for this purpose) and the usual complaints from mom about how the pieces have been cut too small, or too big, or the hen being too old etc. are heard and dismissed. She would then proceed to make a chicken dish from that bookmarked recipe in the latest 'Vanitha' women's magazine.

One anamoly of kerala is that even with a majority of hindu population, there was no stigma attached with the consumption of beef. Sure..sure..cows are godly creatures and all that..but beef roast syrian christian style is just divine. Most hindus here eat non-veg, of which, a good chunk eat beef as well. so there!!

it would be pretty accurate to say that my gastronamic adventures stopped there. Chicken, fish and beef..that's all the non-veg that've had for the major part of my life. And later, i was to find it better stay so.

First time i had turkey, i ended up in the hospital for 2 days with an IV up my vein. This was in Pune and for Easter. Second time - 2 years later, i had turkey, i ended up in a clinic this time tearing a magazine into shreds and pinching my friend's arm in pain. This was Chennai and on new year's eve. I got the message : never did try anything other than what i've always had till about 3 months back.

And then i came to Germany, land of pork & pork eaters!!!...where it starts with a weiƟwurst (white sausage) for breakfast, speck(bacon) for lunch, schinken (ham) for tid-bit snacks & schweinesteak (pork steak) for dinner. Then there are turkey, rabbit, deer, beef..and the rare chicken. It also did not help that germans liked their meat tender and juicy and wanted to taste the meat what they were eating. A far cry from our indian cooking stlye where we camouflage the taste of meat with triple the quantity of spices.

When in rome, do as romans do?? not really..if i could translate the menu, chances are high that i wont be eating it. Ignorance is indeed a bliss for me. I now discriminate against meat based on the appearance rather than the origin. So much for my decades of steadfastedness ... maybe my limited forays were rather due to lack of opportunity rather than any real show of character.

I believe this was the point when hubbs used the word 'hypocrite' when i wriggled my nose at his pork-vindaloo, but gorged on Maultaschen. You see, my palate doesn't recognise my prejudices.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Finally the apple hits the head

Two of the basic things which the creator of a business report..or any report for the it sales, turnover, new product feasibility blah..blah.. needs to understand are

1. who reads it?

2. what is it used for?

These 2 questions, i have always used ..repeatedly , when i am given a certain task. Or when i am asked to make a presentation. Or when asked to make a report on something which is already done & dead..or something i want to do. And it is but a pity that i never did ask that question to self when i have been picking at my blog on and off for more than 4 yrs or so..

Countless times i have promised self and the readers (2 is good enuf to use plural form of noun) that i would post more frequently..more wittily..and all that. And i knew that this is a promise that i would be soon breaking. I knew that i would get a constipated keyboard soon enough.. or my the seed of thought in my head would remain forever embryonic - never developing a head and proportionate limbs to tell its story in a logical sense.

So ..back to the question.. who reads this blog? some friends who know about it..and some others who stumble across it..and maybe come back later..And myself.. i read the archived items to see what was in my head then.. how i felt & thought & fumed & laughed.

And what do they read this for?? Obviously not for intellectual enlightment.. nor are the pulitzer / booker prize committee scouting for budding but obscure talent who are tapping away their keyboards at Penguin editors who might be reading this would have stopped at the second word... so what is it finally that my senseless blabbering provide for those who read them. It's pure unadulterated time-pass. Mind you, not entertainment... for that you need to engage the viewer. Time-pass is mindless & non-value adding. Time-pass needn't have a story line, a start, a body or an ending..let alone the anti-climax! I dont have to fret myself to death thinking of a witty line or the perfect ending..or even an appealing caption. All these are as consequential to the reader as the sport page news is to me..

And i forgot the most important thing.. this is and should be my space. I should be writing down anything that i feel like..without worrying abt how the comment pop-up would look like some weeks down.

Empowered by such thoughts and my typical reckless abandon... this blog is taking its first step in a new direction. .. the course, even i am not sure of.. Perhaps, dear reader, you would come back to see for yourself.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Letter to my teenage self

I heard/read this title somewhere..and it stuck. It was blog-worthy. after throwing away whatever thread of central idea which came my way for months, it was time i did listen to this before i forget how to write at all..
so here goes..

Dear Mottu,
You are 18, and just joined engineering college. You care 2 hoots about electrical engineering.. infact, you just wanted to be in that college. And now that you are in, you are wondering what the big deal was all about. How wrong are you gonna be...oh..i am not supposed to say that..yet.

I know how you claim to not like surprises..but wish how the pleasant ones were infact kept hidden till the last moment. I will not tell you how things will turn out.. there are some things you must experience and learn. I will not take it away from you.

But what i will do is.. i will probably give you some pointers.. you may take them with your typical dismissive roll-of-eyes or not.

Firstly, stop obsessing about your weight..and weighing yourself every 3 hours. You are never going to be as thin as you are now. I know this information is depressing. But atleast, for the next 4 years, you could try and feel more confident about how you look.
And yes, by some grace of god you missed the pimple/zits/problem-skin phase in your teenage years. Many of your friends wondered how your hair was always soft, voluminous & non-fuzzy. All this will change. Enjoy it while it last.

I wish you had not thrown away your pencil sketches..or your attempts at writing short stories & poems. It may have sounded silly to you then.. but now, you cant draw/write half as well. Another depressing thought..

Ok...let me give you some good news.. Those nights when you couldnt sleep coz you were worried sick about your mom's health.. well, it's gonna be alright. She will not be perfectly healthy again. But she will be around. Infact, it gets even will take a job closer home and will be around full time...which means that you dont have to feel like the man of the house coz he is not around everyday.

Your younger sister has gone some 300 km away to study. And you see her every fortnight or so. Which you think now is good, coz the frequency of fights have come down dramatically and you don't have to share the 1 hr per day internet time. Here i would like to stress on something.. Not everybody is you.. Just becoz you wanted to be left alone during your teenage years, doesn't mean that she wants it too. Talk to her.. be there.. she misses it. You will not know this now. And by the time you realise that all that she wanted was you to reach out to her, and tell her that she is being missed, you'd kick yourself for being such an ass all these years.

Do not fight with your mom so much. You do have a thing for sounding out statements for effect without realising it's impact. She is not trying to live your life for you...she is just concerned. Listen to your dad when he asks you to read newspapers & listen to evening-news. Your aversion to politics & sports is never gonna change.. but be aware of what is happening around you. Tell your parents that you love them..once in a while.

I know mom says you spend too much time on phone with friends. its ok. some of them are the ones you'd cherish for life. Even now, you'd have them as your sounding board and sympathetic ear, no matter wherever they are across the world. You think that 'falling-in-love' is for losers and all that. It will change. But please..please..listen to yourself when you do start feeling 'something's not right here'... realize that the reason you are feeling something is coz something is amiss..

Do not get too stressed because your goal isnt that clear yet. You sound very confident, but i know you are completely clueless. It's no use wouldn't know it..hell, i am not sure even now. But it will work out fine.

Rethink on your i-will-be-wedded-to-my-career tagline. But anyways, no hurry. you have enough time for that. For now, you can focus on getting a job/passing out. That said, have fun while you can. Dance as much as you want... you'd never get this opportunity again.

10 years is not much time for me to know what you did wrong then and what i am doing right now. maybe a 10 more years later, some of these tips would take a paradigm shift... who knows!

all i want you to know before signing out is.. it's ok.. it'll all work out fine. you'll (with some help from friends/family) sail through it all. for now, it's your time in the sun. make most of it. maybe i'll write later...

with love,