Thursday, September 30, 2004


There are a few things I love more than listening to the lilting swaras of the raaga Mohanam. One of the first songs I learnt was in this raaga and it remains my favorite raaga to sing! In the twilight hours of the evening, the melodious raaga evokes memories of the banks of Cauvery and the culture of Tamilnadu. I really love the rendition of this raaga by Maharajapuram Santhanam. He brings a kind of sublime, melting quality to Mohanam that few other singers can bring. His rendition of "Mohana Rama..." and "Nannu Palimpa..." rank as my all time favorites. In Carnatic lore, this raaga has the tradition of being tough to render because of the sheer range of notes that a singer is required to be master of. The very same hills and vales of this mellifluous raaga makes one's mood truly mohanam!!

Kannadasan and Kamba Ramayanam

For Tamil cine lovers, Kannadasan is a household name. His songs are famed for conveying their meaning in succinct verses. I am his great fan! Perhaps, only Vairamuthu comes close these days as far as meaningful songs go. Interestingly enough, I found that many of his plays in words are inspired by Kamba Ramayanam. In Kamba Ramayanam, there is a beautiful verse describing Lord Rama's prowess in war. Unfortunately, since I don't know how to use Tamil font on this page, I can't reproduce it but if you Google it, I am sure you can find it. The verse plays on the word "vannam" (or color). It ends as
Kaar Vannathu Iraiva
Un Kaal vannam angu kanden
Kai vannam ingu kanden..."
In "Bale Pandiya" (Cast: Shivaji, Devika, Savithri), there's a song "Athikkai kai kai" that uses the same sort of play in words as the above verse. Also, in "Veera Abhimanyu" there's a song "Parthen Sirithen" that is famed for its ending in "..then". There's another song "Paal Vannam Paruvam Kandu..." that uses the same kinds of play.
Just an interesting case of geniuses thinking alike or that life is a giant recycle bin: Only it takes not just years but centuries to recycle!

Vini Vidi Vici

"All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure."
[Mark Twain (1835 - 1910), Letter to Mrs Foote, Dec. 2, 1887 ]

I think this is one quote that has it bang on! You know how you've exclaimed many times, "But that person is soooooo dumb!! I don't know how he made it so big!"??! Well, I think people succeed just because they're dumb. When you're dumb, you don't think too much. You just do pretty much as you feel and go with your instincts. With knowledge comes all the additional baggage of caution, responsible behavior and other appendages. You have to think before you act; you analyze a thousand possible end games; how many things can go wrong and the cost it is going to take and how it is going to affect others. The result: a big zilch. You don't feel like doing anything at all! In contrast, the dumb person thinks of something, likes it, does it. Vini, Vidi, Vici.He/she doesn't care if it is going to work out or not simply because they've not thought about it! It is a risk but they don't know that it is a risk and there, my friend, lies the difference! And all the world loves a risk-taker. And they succeed! Never, dear nerds, look down upon anyone as dumb; they might be the next happening success-story! I personally think that the derogatory meaning attached to the word "dumb" should be removed from our societal interchanges.....

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Mona Lisa Smile

The Lady's back. With a bang. And she's real. A historian has apparently found out the muse behind the famous painting. She was Leonardo's father's client's wife (whew!). Call me Art Blind but I never could see what was so impressive about the lady. And I don't find anything enchanting or alluring about that smile(?!) or whatever expression it is that she's wearing. Over the years, people seem to have been tearing out their hair about her expression. There was a theory that she is really not smiling but gives that appearance because she is toothless!! And some art afficionados found small sutures around her mouth that were indicative of some teeth problem. God knows why that painting acquired the kind of fame it has. Just goes to show that the most famous things in the world are not necessarily the best.
Perhaps, the only thing I like about the painting is a certain gentleness of expression. Not her smile. Not her "beauty". But a calm, gentle amusement that seeps through her eyes and tells the viewer, "Oh! Never mind all this fuss about me. Just move on."

Monday, September 27, 2004

Spin Wins!

The simple truth is that it doesn't matter what you do but what you SAY you do. Welcome to the world of spin. Though spin must have existed from the times language was born, I think the past decade has really perfected it. Bill Clinton is, of course, the epitome of spin! Globalization and cut-throat competition seem to have further enhanced this phenomena. And I see it in everyday life too.
The power of suggestion and imagery is so compelling to the human mind. Keep repeating the same thing over and over again and the brain starts believing it. It is like this annoying jingle that you don't like the first time you hear it but then it starts getting onto you. You start humming it and eventually you end up liking it just because you are humming it often!!! That's why the worst blackguards in history seem like heroes at first and the best people on the earth seem so insignificant and unassuming. Villainy, Deceipt, Corruption always make Grand Appearances with booming voices and charming countenances. On the other hand, purity, innocence and truth are always in the background; perhaps unheard in the din caused by the others but nonetheless, present as an eternal, endless, soothing background score. One really has to listen to hear the voices of truth. How many of us have that ability or time? We don't. We go for the best seen and best heard things in life.
Why does life have to be so unfair to the best things it has to offer????

Sunday, September 26, 2004

International Night at UKy

Saturday night, we had this gala International Night. It was a rocking show! Different countries had set up their stalls and displayed their wares. We had several dance and song performances from all over the globe. I liked the African dances. They were really earthy and make you want to dance. There was an Indonesian performance with 4 or 5 instruments, three dancers and 4 singers or so. The instruments they were using were really novel to me. One of them sounded rather like the Jaldharang but this one was much more intricate and pretty to look at. Another instrument kind of looked like the harp and one looked like a gong. The dancers were wearing masks and their dance seemed rather similar to our own Kathakali sort. My next favorite was the rice field dance from Philippines. Two long bamboo sticks were placed on the floor. Two dancers danced around the sticks in a rhythmic motion as the bamboos were clapped together. Seema tells me that this dance is done in Eastern India also and in a much more intricate fashion. A Chinese man gave a rousing performance on a violin. I think he won the most applause in the evening. Then of course, there was our own desi performance. It would have been more appropriate to term it as Indian Night as the comperes were Indian, the ISA had a really good stall, the best food was Indian and the audience loved Indian music better than any others played. And of course, the most visible,attractive and distinct clothes were Indian!
The organizers did a good job of introducing themselves with placards to the sound of music. I rather suspect they lifted the idea from Main Hoon Na's credits style but oh well, only Indians would know that and it was a cool way of introduction. Finally, the dance floor was opened and all of us just danced to 'Pretty Woman' from Main Hoon Na. Not that I know to dance but still, in spirit if not in form! Would've gotten into the swing of things but the party had to end. Kudos to the organizers for doing a great job!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

ID Pops and Moms

I heard something interesting about life in BITS, Pilani from my brother. At BITS, there is this concept of BITS-ian family. Each student is given a unique ID. It consists of the year of enrollment, major and a ranking amongst the freshmen that year. So the immediate senior with the same major and the same ranking becomes the ID Pop/ID Mom. The super senior with the same ranking becomes the ID Grandpop/GrandMom and same goes for the final years. The guy/girl who loans you books becomes the book pop/mom. The people who occupied your room previously becomes the room pop and so on. Rather neat, wouldn't you say?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

What, ho!

Life is a rum little thing. Sometimes, it happens with me, that when a bolt of the blues strikes, it is like Hurricane Ivan: it is unwelcome, annoying and takes a painfully long time to blow over. And here I sit, thinking of all the misfortunes that life has visited upon me (some real and some, I confess, imagined. But it so happens that while in the Blues, you have the poetic license to imagine whatever you want!), all the people who have hurt me, everyone that I would like to bang on the head with a bat etc, etc, etc... And suddenly you start reading Wodehouse and start laughing like a lunatic out of an asylum. It certainly makes you think of life in a less serious vein. And after reading Bertie Wooster's misadventures in Chuffnell Regis, my life started seeming rather tranquil and good. What with valets getting paid to run around their employers with carving knives, millionaires who love to shut their guests up in their yachts, a hero with a penchant for sleeping in potting sheds, garages and roaming around with his face painted with shoe polish and his ever faithful man, Jeeves, cooking up schemes and holding forth on all dead god, if ever there was something to make people laugh!! Thank You, Jeeves.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Weirdest things...

I don't know what gets into people when they get on stage. They say the weirdest things.
"If given the chance to be someone else, who would you like to be?"
"Mother Teresa"
Well, that's the answer our beauty queens love. Now for a moment, strip away all the hoopla and hype about beauty contests, forget that the women on stage are celebrities and are expected to be noble and beautiful and just focus on the bare, context-less situation. A gorgeous 20 something girl is on stage. You ask the question again and you get the same answer. The only surge of emotion that I will feel for the girl is overwhelming pity. After all, why would a beautiful, youngish, successful girl ambitious enough to aspire to a beauty crown and pursue a career in glamour, riches and style want to throw away everything and become an ascetic??!!! Sound reasonable???!!! (Yeah right. Only if I am a moron of the biggest sort, I will believe that! Which most of the judges are judging by the looks of it.)

It is not just beauty queens. I think some weird mechanism kicks into place in humans when they get on stage. The need to be seen as noble, caring when they really are not. What in the world is wrong with being ordinary? Why not say "I would like to be like my neighbor's 3 year old" or Jennifer Aniston or Mel Gibson? Last week, we had a Fresher's party here and one guy got on stage and said that he admired Aishwarya Rai not for her beauty but because she had donated her eyes. Sure, we believe you, man.

As for myself, if you ask me the same question I would say that I'd rather be my cat. My cat has no probs in life. She walks in like a queen whenever she feels like it. Drinks her bowl of milk with Horlicks in it (that's right, people, Her highness deigns not to drink plain milk) and eats ice cream if she chooses to or just sits there and "meows" to hell until we give her whatever she wants. Then, with a triumphant look, she walks away majestically to the bed or sofa or whatever plushy thing she can find to take a nap. And come evening, she goes out and socializes till whatever time she deems fit. No need to brush, take bath or go to school. No need to submit assignments or worry about money. No need to even worry about boyfriends cuz she just finds another if one of them leave her. Not a damned thing to worry about.

Some psychologist wrote that cats never have nervous breakdowns or disorders. His conclusion: We ought to live like cats. He is damn right.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Miracle of Life

I am not much of a biology person. But I was absolutely thrilled when I received a superb lecture on the functioning of cells, proteins and the roots of cancer. It amazed me to learn of the intricate processes that govern cell division and how the DNA is wired to auto-correct faults/defects while splitting. There seem to be so many layers of protection and correction built into the human system that if some disease/anomaly does show up, then it means you really have a problem!! Funny how I never thought of it that way before. Anyways, I got a new respect for this body that we abuse so much. But I know all this awe and wonder is gonna be short lived and it won't be long before I start taking everything for granted again. So for what it is worth, I have immortalized that fleeting moment in this blog!

Friday, September 10, 2004

Indian men and color sense....

Whoever said that men don't have any color sense???!!! Well maybe they don't but I know that our desi men have a great sense of color contrast (they are one of a kind, you know...)
I don't know what it is with the men from the southern part of the sub-continent but they are just totally befuddled with "fair" skin. God knows, there are a lot of females who are obsessed too but still I haven't come across matrimonial ads from girls that say they want a "fair, slim" spouse. This wouldn't be so bad if the guy in question is himself rather wheatish and has a buff body. But it would turn out (as it always does) that the guy would probably be like the moon on amavasya day with a nice rotund body. Arre, what a sense of contrast, yaar! And guys, please don't tell me that you don't post those matrimonial ads, your moms and dads do. Nothing is a greater turn off for a girl than to know that the guy doesn't even know what kind of a spouse he wants! Sometime back I got a funny e-mail about why south Indian males are not desired by girls. The author had bemoaned that it had to do with the staid and boring names South Indians had. Puhhleeeze, guys. Perhaps more than that, it is the hiding behind mom's pallav and acting like your eyes' color contrast mechanisms have gone nuts is more like it.

Root of Assassin!

I discovered yesterday that the word 'Assassin' comes from the word 'Hashisha'. The term is Arabic in origins where crimes were committed mostly after taking Hashish (yeah, the same old guy who is still around and kicking...looks like we didn't change much since medieval times!)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Musings on War...

I don’t consider myself a very emotional person. Sometimes, as life has taught me to, I take even bad things objectively. But I didn’t realize that the war in Iraq could touch a raw nerve with me. Terrorism, violence have all become a part of our lives and I guess I have become desensitized to it to an extent. But today, I was talking with a newly-wed friend of mine and it was just casual conversation. In fact, we were conversing light heartedly about happy, simple things in life. My friend made a passing comment that her husband was due to go on National Guard duty to Iraq and she was just telling me how much she was going to miss not seeing him for a year or more. Somehow, more than all the stories and images on TV and news, her simple statement jarred me out of my insularity. I still don’t know why it disturbed me a lot but suddenly the war seemed much closer to heart. I could imagine dreams, homes and lives being thrown askew because of a war fought so much farther from home. So have I relinquished arms like Ashoka did more than 2000 years earlier and renounced war? No. I still believe that some wars are necessary and no amount of personal or emotional trauma should prevent those wars. After all, only 137 years in recorded history have been without any war and to wish for everlasting peace is utopian. But I guess this incident has mellowed my brazen objectivity and I am grateful for it. And it seems also stupid to say this but I am going to: I think now I KNOW what made Ashoka throw his weapons away and renounce life.