Saturday, November 15, 2014

Canine Transformations

The dogs in my neighbourhood become Nagavallis at night.

I know that statement requires some explanation, but if you are wondering who Nagavalli is, I suggest you quit reading and leave.

Yes, the dogs in question are strays - but on second thought, I am sure that part requires no explanation whatsoever. Every city and town, every village and mall, every residence and school has its own share of homeless canines yawning and curling up as they are wont to do. It's a very Indian love-for-animals-and-let-them-live thing. The yawning and curling up must have something to do with their upbringing.

Without venturing into the reason behind these domestic wild animals running amok in our streets, I would just say that the dogs in the street before my house are purring kittens during the day time. Or eager ponies, if you like - given the way they trot around the area, looking important and dutiful.

I wonder what those expatriates living in those posh apartments yonder find in them - I see them stop their cars and beckon the doggies to them, some even call them by name, and I've seen one lady going to the nearest shop to buy biscuits so that she can place one by one in their hungry mouths. You should see how the tails wag all over the place, colliding against each other and against other cars that pass by. Some drivers stop at a safe distance to watch the show.

But come nightfall, a fearsome change comes over them. (Not the drivers, the dogs.) And what do you call a person who becomes another terrifying creature at night? Yeah. You know who. (Forgive me, Lord Voldemort, Nagavalli still lives.)

One night when we were returning home, we saw our friendly neighbourhood canine wag-the-tails lounging in the middle of the road, absolutely not wagging their tails. Granted, traffic was sparse at the time, but the middle of the well-lit street wasn't exactly their living room, was it? There was no sign of yawning or curling either.

Our car approached them cautiously, but they didn't budge. We took a slight detour around them. Two of them took offence at our action. They grunted their disapproval, as though they were issuing a warning. As we passed, they lunged at the car, almost scratching it. We raced out of the scene for dear life.

The next morning, I saw them again, trotting by our gate, calm and kind and loving, waiting for their biscuit delivery persons.

I am sure there is a very, very interesting story behind their curious transformation. Another Manichitrathaazh in the making...?

Monday, November 10, 2014

PMS is very real, my dear countrymen

... though some people think the whole thing is as imaginary as an eight-hour labour pain.

Falling "sick" two days a month? Yeah, sure. Clearly an excuse to not do any work.

You go donate a bottle of blood and come home and take rest and eat iron-rich food etc. to make up for the loss. Women lose their blood every month (ever wonder about about the number of bottles thus lost?) and walk about and do their chores and continue as though nothing has happened. (They are expected to pretend that nothing has happened.)

Not to speak of the hormones flying all over the place when this thing starts. If you haven't experienced it, you have no idea what you're missing. A monthly journey to the edge of madness and back.

And if you haven't experienced it, better not make any comment on how PMS and the associated fuss are all in someone's head!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Low-lying clouds, threatening to close in;
Ominous, and smothering life out of life;
No one should be condemned, ever,
Even one's enemies, to this destiny.
Life confined to the tiniest space,
Imprisoned in the deepest dungeons of the mind.
Never to find an opening, nor a sliver of light;
Escape is a dream that has ceased to occur
Shuffling precariously on the edge of self-destruction...
Survival is not even an option.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Your person(s)

I don't know if this is important, or what the answers would mean. But I have often wondered.

If you are watching a great movie, who do you call/text to say 'you need to turn the channel on right NOW' - because you know they will enjoy it as much as you do?

If you are reading a great book, who do you recommend it to as soon as you finish reading or even while you are reading?

If you heard some astonishing news, who do you rush to inform?

If you heard that someone famous died, who do you call up to ask, 'Did you hear??'?

If you heard that someone close to you died or is ill, who do you call up to share the shock and grief?

If you have just been delivered some devastating news, who do you talk to, just to talk?

If you are ordering pizza for the night, who do you text 'Pizza for dinner!' for no reason at all?

Who gets to hear your good news first?

I know my answers. Do you?

Wait. Did you just say 'Facebook' or 'Twitter' to most of the above?

Worse, did you say 'No one'?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

With Much Gratitude to Spammers

Dear Spam Commenters,
You have no idea how grateful I am to you.
Forget the fact that your comments have no relation whatsoever to the post that you are commenting on, or that your words make no real sense at all (very clearly the generic stuff that you copy-paste everywhere), or that the fake excitement in your tone makes me want to cry; what is important is that you find my blog worthy enough to warrant a visit. You see, it is a very obvious and accepted fact that the more spam a blog gets, the higher it is in popularity.

If you think you are just getting paid for posting random nonsense at some rubbish website, you can't be more mistaken. We bloggers eagerly await your arrival (and smile in secret pride when we spot you at the corner of our street). Our "rejecting" or "deleting" your comments, and our public display of disdain are mere show, I assure you. Secretly, our hearts bounce when we notice that a new spam commenter has found us and wasted his/her time to post valuable junk on our precious websites.
My heart fills with the thrill and unbounded joy and pride (even though I scowl for the benefit of viewers and readers) when I hit that reject button and mutter some meaningless oath just for the sake of appearances. Oh, I cannot explain how important that makes me feel, when I realise that I have been promoted to the elite club of popular blogs.
I hope you keep visiting my blog, Anonymous commenter (I die to know your many names), and posting all the rubbish that you can dream of. I eager await the lots and lots of "rejects" I can hit.
A grateful blogger.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Being Politically Correct on Diwali

I wonder how many mothers yelled themselves hoarse this Diwali regarding crackers and related environmental hazards. Especially mothers of little boys like mine.

Legend has it that years ago, at the onset of Diwali, when crackers were sighted within range, I would scramble up the stairs and vanish, my hands covering my ears. (I am sure the legend is a lie, cooked up by my family to disgrace me). Anyway, soon after, I learned to not startle too much at every burst of crackers (and to hide my cowardice behind a silly grin). I also learned, in growing up years, to keep up appearances and say politically correct things like 'I love Diwali' and 'I so want to burst crackers'. But those days, pollution was the least of our concerns.

In my late teens, I noticed how my old grandparents were disconcerted at the incessant noise that kept them awake on Diwali night. It was probably the first time the idea of noise pollution crossed my mind. When my grandfather walked to and fro across his room, unable to sleep, I cursed the silly people who burst crackers throughout the night, unmindful of others.

Then there was a phase of indifference: our generation became too old to get excited over crackers or flower pots or sparklers, and more busy with college and work. Noise didn't matter, silence didn't either.

When my son was five or six months old (and it was not Diwali season), around half past ten one night, suddenly crackers began to go off in front of our apartment. The sleeping child began to startle and scowl in sleep. I waited for a while, and when it didn't stop, I went outside and asked the family (Dad, Mom and two children) if they could stop and continue a little earlier in the evening tomorrow. I think I put it politely.

Their response was not what I would call friendly. They were celebrating because they were back in India for a vacation, they said. My infant is sleeping, I said, and he is getting disturbed. These are only crackers, the teenager said, not bombs. The Dad took it up. These are only crackers, not bombs. I looked at the Mom. Her expression conveyed nothing. Maybe she thought I was being a spoilsport. I went back inside. After a while, the case was taken up by others from floors above who could not sleep, and a verbal battle ensued.

You got an idea about where this story is headed. Except that, it isn't exactly headed where it should be headed.

Last year, my son learned how to light sparklers and flower pots and even rockets. We stood a few feet away, watching, as he lit each of them and ran away to safety. It is not easy to dissuade him once he sets his mind on something. He is excited that he has mastered the art of lighting rockets and crackers and all those things that go bump in the night.

This year, he looked at the horizon when the rumble began at dusk, between rains, and said, 'Amme, there is a lot of smoke and sound pollution out there.' A beat later, he asked, 'When are we buying crackers?'

Anyone who has raised a child would know that to look at him and deny him that happiness (while the rest of his friends have fun outside) is not possible. Parents are torn between their love for nature and their love for their child; and you know which way the scales would tip. Anyone who hasn't raised a child would say that this is how parents spoil children. So I don't expect many mothers to raise hue and cry over pollution, even when we know what is right. (There is hope, however. My thirteen-year-old nephew has declared war against all Diwali stuff that pollute the air.)

Of the many hats that a mother has to wear, that of a confused hypocrite comes somewhere at the top.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Kutners and others who are forced into suicide

Lawrence Kutner is dead. Long live Lawrence Kutner.

Though it happened over five years ago in the U.S, the news reached India only last week.

Kutner alias Kal Penn, despite being very popular, had to leave the show House M.D. and the character had to be terminated. This resulted in his inexplicable suicide.

There have been several instances of character terminations across history. Two decades ago, there was a show that caught the fancy of the TV viewing Malayali population. When it was time to end the show, if I remember right, the lead character was thrown off to the river and was presumed (or declared?) dead. No one actually predicted the kind of misery it plunged people into - one was reminded of Sherlock Holmes' assumed death a century ago and his eventual resurrection. When the second season of that series had to begin thanks to popular demand (though they were not called 'seasons' at the time), the original actor could not rejoin and was replaced, with some explanation given to the 'altered' looks. (If I remember right, the explanation was plastic surgery. The new face was due to the surgery that was needed following the near-drowning-and-escaping incident, get it?) If the title character has to leave the show, what else can the creators do?

Kutner was a delightful doctor. His exit had to be phenomenal and shocking. He was jovial and optimistic and friendly and intelligent and pleasant that when he committed suicide, no one could explain why, even Dr.House, who was led to suspect foul play. The mysterious and sudden exit leaves an ache. No one would have minded (or believed) if he had just 'quit and moved to another city.' This way, Kutner became more special in death than when he was alive.

In another recent show, a popular character died in a plane crash. An entire episode was dedicated to commemorate his life and death that by the end of it, drowned in hot tears, we had forgotten that the man wasn't real.

Unimportant characters sometimes have to endure uncharacteristic exits, as do people who are fired from the show. The more loved they are, the more sensational their exits must be. One man died trying to save a woman. Break-up-and-walk-away is a common exit reason. A woman was made to walk out on her on-screen perfect marriage citing flimsy reasons and was never seen again. Another man, at the altar for his wedding, walked out for no reason - all the while, we were expecting the bride to get cold feet and run away. Some characters get fired from work, which usually happens at the end of a season. (Sometimes, who got fired is not revealed until the next season begins.) Another person was shot dead in a major shooting incident at the climax of one season. Other minors have bid farewell to their shows thanks to road accidents or with the help of electrocution. There have been several unceremonious exits too, with the viewers as well as the actors themselves wondering why they were never seen again.

In another show this week, one of the lead characters was "offered a dream job overseas, which she accepted". Yes, it was time for her to leave the show. She got three or four episodes of build up to the final exit.

Think of the creators' predicament: the longer the show runs, the more variety of reasons they have to come up with for each inevitable exit.

Here's to Kutner and all others who, through preferences of their own or otherwise, are forced to die in crashes or driven to suicide or fired or compelled to accept jobs overseas. Here's to all of us who watch and endure the trauma as though it were happening to us.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Life is one big... Rubik's Cube

Not exactly, of course. Life isn't cubical in shape or anything. Some would even compare it to a circle or a sphere.

Photo: R. Ramachandran

It's just that when Life, like the Cube, looks jumbled, it seems impossible to figure out, let alone solve. Once you learn how to solve, it seems to become easier. The learning is by no means easy, though. After a while, some of us forget how to solve it and struggle again to find our moves. Some of us get one colour right and find happiness and contentment from it; without any interest in getting all the six sides done. Some others would do anything it takes to learn the complete solution.

Some of us never even try to solve it - don't even pick it up from the table - perhaps out of lack of interest or out of fear of facing the unknown or because it seems too difficult and not worth the trouble. Some of us do not want to solve the six sides, but we like making colour designs on the sides, like a T or a square or an I or a plus. There are no rules, of course. Our Life and our Cube are our own.

Most of us say that it was perfect when we brought it from the shop, and then we ourselves had messed it up.

Some of us pull the Cube to pieces, then shove the blocks back to their right positions and tell others that we have won. Our friends are envious of our skill and talent, and they think we have everything we need in Life. In due course, their envy makes us imagine that we have actually attained the impossible. We choose to forget the cheating, or we tell ourselves that a little short-cut never hurts.

Sometimes, with a lot of difficulty, we solve a side or the complete Cube and then a friend comes along, jumbles it up merrily and leaves. We sit there fuming. At other occasions, when we are half way towards our goal, strangers, colleagues, the management or the government can mess up our delicate Cube. The new situation could help us or ruin us; it takes us a while to figure out which and get back on track.

Sometimes we get lost in the middle of the sequence and to find our way back, we have to start all over.

But the most interesting thing is that to solve each section and to reach the complete solution, we have to move the already solved pieces apart and then bring them together again. Then move some others apart and bring them together again. If we think 'I cannot break the blue side because half of the pieces are in their right position', we may never be able to bring the rest of the blues to it at all.

We have to break some of our already solved combinations to make everything right at the end.

Hence proven.