....and all that jazZ

Monday, October 31, 2005

Of Happy Diwalis and other stories


I look back in time and i see so many lanterns. Some firecrackers. Lot of laughter. Flurry of activity. A full house. A week of shopping. I see myself sitting outside on the stairs covered in colour. Mom making gulab jamuns. Hear the puja bells ringing in every house as the night begins to set in. I hear the ladi that never stops. The phone bell that never stops ringing. I remember that the door is never shut during puja. Lakshmi should'nt have to knock your door. The lanterns are left on all night. Long after the sounds have died into the stillness of the night. They still burn in the distance. Happy hearts and laughters have transformed into sweet dreams of the tired night. I dont have to look far back at all. As I stare out into the night, past the fading tea lights on my patio, I see the faraway skies lit with the colour of the festivities at home.
I try hard. Its almost perfect. I have made my tile rangolis with little makeshift diyas on them. The patio looks achingly beautiful with those christmas lights. All the lights are on. candles are lit. Mithai is set out.When I look at it all after I am done decorating, calling everyone at home wishing them, and humouring myself that its a wonderful day full of celebrations, a strange sense of loneliness sets in. Another heartwrenching Diwali.

Other StoRieS

Paintings in Space was the name of the evenings dance program. Inspired by an exhibition of paintings of the same name. To say that Malavika Sarukkai was outstanding would be understating. She breathes grace. The recital was in four parts. Each highlighting the beauty and omnipresence of Krishna, using nature as a metephor. What made the performance thoroughly enjoyable was the explanation for the american audience before each piece. They guided the audience through the meaning of the 4th century sanskrit verses as Malavika walked through the depictions slowly. Every one of the four was flawless in its sentiment and arrangement . If i had to pick an absolute favourite it would have to be the second part that told the tale of Krishna vanquishing the hooded snake in the river that east up all the cattle depicting Krishna as Hope. Especially when Krishna comes out of the river dancing on the head of the demon. So beautiful. A close second was the closing act. The Raas-Leela. Krishna is playing Pied Piper here :) !! All the women are drawn to him and the call of his music. They abandon all their cares and duties and follow his call into the woods where they come upon a clearing. There he is, the charmer. They dance in circles around him. They dance with him in a state of trance. They have surrendered themselves unto him. He displays his "All and One at once" form by dancing with each of the gopis and all of the them at the sam e time, while they dance in circles around him. That is the beauty of Krishna. Like one of the songs decribes: radha sees his form in the dark rainclouds. And he comes to her wearing a necklace of raindrops worn like pearls. He is Nature and his beauty and forms are Infinte.
Bharatanatyam is not a very fluid dance form. It has strict grammar and in its discipline lies its beauty. Malavika Sarukkai took it to new levels for me. She gave this dance form more beauty and meaning. The perfect beginning to a near perfect Diwali.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Man and God

I saw a movie last weekend. The last temptation of Christ. It is undoubtedly a thought provoking movie that will make you question some things that you believe. If you believe that is.

The movie is based on a novel and seems to suggest that Jesus was a Man-God or God-Man however you want to call it. That is he was not just human, he was more. The Son of God ? Perhaps. Almost God, but not God. He starts out being confused like any other man until he discovers who he truly was. He performed miracles. He brought Lazarus back to life. And yet he prayed and begged God not to crucify him. And just as he is dying, he is offered the final temptation. The life of an ordinary mortal. With Mary Magdalene. A life of conjugal domestic bliss. The viewer realizes that he is probably hallucinating. And then he comes out of his subconscious filled with the realization that He is the salvation of the world. That he must die. And he smiles and says "Accomplished". The worlds sins are washed away by the blood of this man.

As I watched this movie, for most of the first part I didnt like what I was seeing. And I didnt know why. And then I realised what it was. I was willing to accept Jesus as divine. Tell me he was God and I'll buy it. I was willing to accept that his flesh was just as mortal as mine and he just brought a message of love and peace and the rest of the story is all made up. Tell me he is human with all the failings and I'll believe you. But the movie did neither. It said he was human, and more. That he stood there and proclaimed that "I am the son of God, I am your salvation. I will come back to judge you." for some reason hurt my sensibilities. And it hurt it on two accounts
1. I dont believe in demi-gods. I believe in the Supreme and in humans. One is beautiful in perfection and the others beauty lies in his imperfections. I realised that I wanted them to be separate and never merge.
2. Even if he was Godly, his proclamation bothered me. It came across as a rambling of an unstable mind. Not something that God would say. the God I know does not judge me. He loves me no matter what. And I respect and love him no matter what. I have no reason to be afraid of him and will not be bullied into it.

The first is a problem with my attitude. The second is a problem with every religion.

The first brings us to the following questions/observations
1. Why do we, who believe in something as irrational as God, find it so hard to believe in men with supernatural powers? We dont have to make themm God, we dont have to condemn them as frauds necessarily either.(the satya sai baba for example. I dont believe in him. But apparantly he has performed miracles.There was an article on a man who exposes fraud babas and that guy apparantly tried to expose this very influential baba and was asked to sit quiet :))
Paulo Coelho has an article on his website devoted to this very question.
2. What is a miracle? Isnt the human body a miracle? Miracles are everyday things. To me fourier transforms are a miracle. We believe in so many things beyond our level of comprehension, why not believe in human beings who do things taht we do not understand or that modern science has not been able to explain?
3. What is God? To me its Nature,and Life as I know it. God has no human traits or flaws.

Now coming to the latter, the problem with religion
1. It uses fear to enforce a code or system of ethic. But then again. What is right and what is wrong? Its too subjective to generalise.
Some say "Judgement day" and others call it "karma".
2. We as humans need some sort of belief system to keep us going, and thats where it steps in and is severely abused.

This discussion has no real end. Does it? Is there an absolute truth? In my language there is. It is faith. However and whatever it is. Man and God in such a world are inextricably tied to each other. Whether Man created God or God created Man in such a case is of no consequence. For they contain in themselves the other and yet stand apart as night and day.The day Man ceases to believe, God is dead.

As for the movie, any movie that makes you think and question is a movie worth watching. If not anything else, it just helps you understand yourself better.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Mumbai: An international city ?

Are you implying that its not? I stare back indignantly. Why, we also have malls !. Oh and not to forget multiplexes. There sure is a lot of money and enough people throwing it around. Did you say "what about the slum dwellers?". Yeah what about them ? "They are the first thing that you see from the plane as you land into very very poorly kept international (so called) airport." But we have MacDonalds, Subway, Baristas, Hookah bars, Bed Lounge, Fire and Ice, and Olive, and.....

The Economist has a feature on Mumbai. In lieu of BPOs and India's booming feel good economy. It has a section called business etiquette. I am listing a couple here:

"• Do not expect western levels of speed and efficiency. Getting a document delivered by courier, sending a fax, or simply gathering colleagues for a business meeting can all take far longer than seems reasonable. The same goes for punctuality: if someone promises to meet you in ten minutes, expect arrival in 20.

• Mumbai's traffic is notoriously bad: allow ample time if you need to cross the city to get to a meeting. When choosing your hotel, bear in mind where most of your meetings will take place.

• Very little business gets done in Mumbai when a big cricket match is on. Visitors would do well to catch up on cricket news, especially the latest exploits of Sachin Tendulkar, a local hero in Mumbai (he also owns Tendulkar's, a well-regarded restaurant)."

I mumble and I fumble. We do have malls, you know. And you can also buy original Armani there. "Should'nt this change? Should'nt we be sending out different vibes to the rest of the world if we are ever to rise above our third world status? Is anyone listening ? Does anyone care? Do you care? Or do you say "Chalta hai yaar". Nahin chalega !! Attitudes must change if we are to change the city for better.The city is spilling over and tearing at its seams. And we need better infrastructure better services and above all better attitudes. It still takes MTNL 3 months to get you a phone in parts of this "international" city and another 3 months to get cable-net which is as fast as dial up elswhere in the world. We need cleaner streets and people with a civic sense, a sense of responsibility and sense of pride stemming from belonging and hence owning up to these responsibilities. We need to stop for a moment and take a look around us and ask ouselves " what can I do today to help this mess?" Saying that BMC is corrupt inefficient ineffective is not enough. We are all cogs in the wheel. Why is it okay to be late. There is nothing fashionable about it. All it says to the other person is that I dont respect your time. There is no pride in taking 3.5 hours to go 10km. How long are we going to simply say oh the roadds are soo bad and shrug our shoulders and why is that acceptable to authorities who have vested interests anyways in the money that comes in from foreign investors? How long are we going to hold our breaths and life in anticipation for another miracle from Sachin?"

I shuffle my weight around. I see my bus in the distance crawling towards the stop making its way through the overcrowded streets. I spit out my chewing gum on the pavement. Its already dirty anyways. I push my way through the crowd as I get into the bus, the conductor yelling "Jaldi Jaldi". What can I do anyways. What can one person do ?, I think. So I say "Chalta hai Yaar. What to do, We are like this only !!!!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Garba and Dandiya for Dummies

What to wear Rules
1. Preferably traditional outfits.
2. Its a great place and occasion to flaunt your jewellery so wear tons of it. You will never look out of place.
3. Everything goes. The sexier you can look the better. Everybody is checking everybody else out.
4. Its a good idea to make sure your ghagra/chania is not sweeping the floor. Its not comfortable while dancing at all,it will keep getting in your way.
5. If you are wearing a sari, tie it so tight its hurts . It WILL LOOSEN up when you dance. Also make sure its above the ankle. Some fool with two left feet WILL WANT to step on it and trip over and fall and take you with him and your sari WILL be in great peril.

Basic etiquette
1. Always smile at the person in front of you. You are there to enjoy. Your next paycheque does not depend on how well you dance.
2. Its a social event. If someone smiles and says Hi please reciprocate.Even if you dont know the person.
3. If someone does not know how to dance, dont give them snooty "get out of the way" looks.
4. If someone wants to join the group, make room for them. Dont close yourself in tight little goups. You can do that at home.
5. When you are joining in a dandiya group, ALWAYS join with a partner. Else the circle breaks and its very frustrating for the people who are dancing.

Dandiya Tips
1. Its DANCE not WAR.
2. Jumping out of beat puts you and your partner/neighbour at the risk of getting hurt.
3. You don't NEED to jump high to look good. Graceful moves work just as well.
4. You don't HAVE to HIT the dandiya stick. Its okay to miss. But watch where you are going with the stick please. There are unwitting innocent souls around you. When you do hit the stick, you DONT HAVE to hit HARD. Touching it and making the clicking sound is good enough.
5. Always play with the person in front of you. Finish, move to your left two places. Which means you play with every ALTERNATE person.

Tips for Garba
1. If you are new, its a good idea to join the slower inner circle first and get a hang of the beat.
2. Hand movements look lovely. WATCH where you swing your arms.
3. Again, jumping and dancing are not the same thing. Either ways, watch your step. You may trip over someone or worse still trip someone over if you are not watching where you are going.
4. ABCDs (no offence meant) often come prepared to show off. Dont be intimidated. Decide what you want to do and stick to it. Its all about adding your personal flavour to the staid beats.
5. Garba is a desi version of Mambo-cha-cha-cha. Try it.

Garba is without sticks and dandiya is with sticks :-) !
And oh, no shoes/high heels inside the dancing area please. Apart from the religious aspect that you are dancing around the deity (which is not as much my concern, your piety or lack of it is your problem), your high heels/ bulky sneakers are not fun when someone accidentally gets kicked or stepped on.(now this is every bit my concern)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Other good things

while I am at it I should point out a couple of other things that made the weekend soo wonderful

1. Sitting in wired on sunday afternoon and reading my book and listening to their wonderful putumaya sampler CD.

2. The wonderful cloudy-rainy day that Suday was. A wee bit chilly and an overcast sky. My kind of day.

3. Browsing in Michaels.

4. Doing pretty much nothing else.

Comfortably Numb

When I was done with all the dancing, I didn't even realise how tired I was. The blisters on my soles didnt hurt. My legs were not sore inspite of hours of dancing. Every thing around me moved in slow motion. All the words and laughter floated around in the air and I just kept smiling as I said my goodbyes in a state of utter and complete intoxication. A high from the music and the dancing. Even as we drove home, I had no sense of where we were headed. I knew I was going home. Driving at 70mph it felt like I was moving in space. Its great to feel completely content. To be aware and oblivious at once. To be alive and comfortably numb.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Winds of Change

Mahesh is showing off google again :). He is trying to get me to move to blogger. No, wont stop blogging. Its an important part of my stress relieving strategy, might just end up moving bag and baggage to blogger. So the condition was that I dont want to lose anything i have written. So he is going to try and port the whole damn thing, comments et al. So he ziped up the contents of my blog and sent it to me so I could store it archive it etc etc. It kinda made me nostalgic. So I went back forth browsing through two years of bloggings worth. And then i realised that my posts used to be far more colourful. I have become so melancholic over the last 10 months or so. Its time to change. To write about happier things. The stuff that makes me smile and laugh and all those good things.
So here we go. A new me with lots and lots of razzmatazz and all that jazz :)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

What is it that makes us want to change people? We are always doing it. We find it so hard to accept people who are unlike ourselves for who they are. If each person just changed himself to be more tolerant and accepting of others wouldnt the world already be a much better place? For afterall its the imperfections that give a person his/her identity.
The strangest thing of all is this compulsive need to change the people we love. Subconsciously we are all doing it. trying to tell them how to live. Tell them how we want them to be. Make them perfect in our eyes.
but the greatest love is not in loving someone for who they are, its loving someone inspite of who they are. Thats love.

Now tell me, who do you love ?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Prisoner to a dream

Of colours that I have never seen
You brought me dreams of places
I have never been
Singing songs of times to come
threaded with memories
of promises yet to be fulfilled

I wish you had'nt
Now I am waiting for the impossible
dream to come true
Hanging on to a promise that was never made.