Friday, June 20, 2008

There are many perks to an adult working life. But more than anything else, I L.O.V.E it because it confers on me three fundamental freedoms --

- freedom to use the restroom whenever I want (oh yeah, this is Numero Uno on the list!)
- freedom to eat when I am hungry
- freedom to drink water without being at the mercy of some eccentric teacher

With respect to the above three things, I am not sure how your experiences have been in schools. Mine have been rather, erm, interesting.

Asan Memorial in Chennai was good. We used to eat under the desks in between classes or even during a class (of course, without the knowledge of the teacher!). I was a kid and had limited inhibitions. I've asked to use the restroom in the middle of a class and teachers were usually accomodating. Restrooms were in good condition and had plenty of water. Of course, there were those kids who'd do it for a chance to just get away from the boring classes and teachers would deal rather sternly in those cases.

When I entered my teens, it became a bit complicated. In TVS Lakshmi, Madurai, you had rules for girls to use the rest room. I don't know if its just conservative mofussil towns or what, but boys would stare if a girl asked to use the toilet. The entire class would come to a grinding halt and all heads would be turned in the boys section toward the Girl Who Asked To Go. It was ridiculous! Sometimes teachers would refuse. What person in their normal senses would refuse a request for a basic need?!!?

Coming from cosmopolitan Chennai, I was unaware of all the "toilet" rules but I was enlightened soon. I outraged the modesty of all girls in the class by asking to use the restroom in front of a male teacher.

1. Don't ask to go before a male teacher. Heights of immodesty! Even if you are desperate, you have to preserve your modesty and die in your seat.
2. You have to secretly whisper it in the teacher's ears. You can't just raise your hand and speak from your place. That's for boys!
3. Don't use the dreaded "Toilet" word. That's yucky! Say "Please excuse me for a few minutes". That's more ladylike!
4. Don't look at the boys section when you get back. Lower your eyes and sit down.

It seems kinda stupid now but back then, I followed it because that's what everyone did. A lot of girls wouldn't drink water during class hours because of this problem. Girls restrooms weren't always clean at TVS Lakshmi. During peak summer, there wouldn't be water in the restrooms.

Things were similar in Trichy where I did my college. Girls were not supposed to go in the middle of class hours. But I was older, wiser and bolder for my high school experience in Canada. Once, a stupid Civil Engineering professor refused permission. I walked out of the class. That raised a huge uproar and I was summoned to the Staff Room. It just goes to show how ridiculous people can sometimes be!

It was a similar story with drinking water. You have to ask "permission". If guys do it without permission, that's understandable because "boys will be boys". But girls?! Oh no, we're supposed to be prim and proper even at the cost of our health.

I understand the need for teachers to maintain order in the class and all that jazz. But I think teachers sometimes take it to inhuman extents. I know of hundreds of girls who were dehydrating themselves because of this stupid rule. Is that good for our women in the long run?

Hopefully things have improved now in the schools of TN!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Working in the Summer

Everyone in the US is talking about sky-high gas prices, cutting energy costs, going green etc..Awareness amongst people is definitely growing. Grocery chains like Whole Foods & Kroger have eschewed the use of plastic bags and are promoting re-usable cloth bags. Last week, I was pleasantly surprised to see Kroger & Walmart doing away with plastic bags!

We got these huge 'Naidu Hall', 'Pothys' cloth bags as remnants of my wedding saree shopping. I don't know why we decided to cart them to the US but they seem to be the wonder of the world here :) The Whole Foods cashier girl stops for a second to admire them every time we go. They also give me wooden nickels for every bag that I re-use. For every wooden nickel that customers donate, Whole Foods gives 10 cents to various charitable causes. S gets a kick out of deciding which cause he's going to donate to.

While all this is good, I wish they would do something about buildings in the US. These buildings have been designed to work only with artificial lighting. Even in the blazing summer when the Sun God decides to shine till 9.30 PM, we have lights on in the office buildings and shopping malls! For instance, Lowe's near my house is huge, big warehouse with zero windows. If they had skylights or huge windows every 10 feet, there wouldn't be a need for electrical lighting.

Besides, sitting in dark cubicles with harsh white lights on makes everyone sick. I get headaches in the office which vanish when I take a walk in the sun for 15 minutes! My tropical body is not designed for 60 F A/c either! Sigh. So I walk around with a sweater in the office all day. What's the point of wearing nice clothes to work if you have to drape a sweater over them anyway? I go to work looking like a hobo with faded jeans, wrinkled T-shirts etc..You get the picture.

Well-dressed people are important for eye-candy and give you something interesting to chew about (at least women) --

'That red top looks good. I need to get it!'
'Maybe I should get the capris that go with it too...she looks good in it!'

Therefore, the overall productivity of the US workforce will increase if more natural light is allowed in offices. You can tell I am desperate.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dasavataram Experience...

400-500 of us were packed into Danbarry theaters in Cincinnati on Sunday evening. The A/c was not turned on. It was sweltering hot inside. Tickets were oversold for 'Dasavataram'. People who had arrived 20 minutes earlier before showtime couldn't find seats. The person next to me had "reserved" seats for his friends/family with empty coke bottles, kerchiefs, napkins, popcorn boxes etc..There were many like him in the audience. There were shouts of "Alwarpettai Andavaaa..thalaivaa!" in the enthusiastic audience. A lot of people were standing in the back row because of the tickets confusion. Some people had to refund their tickets and return disappointed.

It was a typical Indian cinema experience! :) For a minute, I wondered if I was back in Chennai.

I wouldn't call this movie a total disappointment. The racy screenplay was engaging and the fast pace of the movie left little time to ruminate. However, Kamalhassan could definitely have avoided these overt make-up gimmicks. Some of the roles would've been better if played by others.

What I liked:

1. Screenplay

2. Intelligent weaving of chaos theory concepts

3. Boovarahan, Balram Naidu, Paatti. The portrayal of Boovarahan was particulary touching and authentic. I was moved by this character. The Paatti was funny because she used language that reminded me of my own grandmother..:)

4. No stupid duets in unnecessary places. Even the songs were effectively used to move the screenplay on. Good job!

5. The first out-and-out thriller/chase Tamil movie I've seen with biotech terrorists and what-not.

6. Questions about the existence/non-existence of God. Beautifully portrayed! Makes the audience question co-incidences.

7. The Tsunami scene. What I didn't realize through 4 years of articles and media coverage, I realized in those 5 minutes of the movie -- the scale of disaster, the impact on the average person etc...Very poignant, touching scene!

8. Napoleon looked the part as the Chola king. Was pleasantly surprised! His Tamil sucked though. I was thinking that he'd make a good Periya Pazhuvettarayar if 'Ponniyin Selvan' is ever made.

What I didn't like:

1. The deliberately inflammatory Rangarajan Nambi episode. I am not an exclusive Saivite nor am I an anti-Vaishnavite. But I was offended by this portrayal of Saivism. The lines from the song "Kallai Mattum Kandaal.." --

"Ettukkul Aindhu adangividum Aanal
Aindhukkul ettu adangaadhu.."

(Meaning: The eight-lettered Namo Narayanaya can encompass the five-lettered Nama Shivaya. But five letters cannot contain 8)

particularly inflamed me. If we're talking about Vaishnavites being victimized in the 12th century, let's talk about what's happening today in Srirangam and other Vaishnavite-dominated places. I've personally been discriminated against in Srirangam many, many times (within and without the temple).

2. Music. Himesh Reshamaiyya has single-handedly delivered a mortal blow to this movie.

3. The feet-licking sycophancy in the last scene -- what relation has Karunanidhi to this movie?!

4. Make-up overkill. Could've easily avoided 5-6 roles. Many of the characters didn't have depth and weren't developed well.

5. The Rangarajan Nambi episode didn't tie in with the rest of the story. If any of you knows how it relates, please do comment.

6. The title 'Dasavataram' has very minimal relation to the storyline. And that leads me to..

7. The movie is about Kamalhassan, the man and not about the story/characters/roles. This, according to me, is THE biggest drawback. Even the title is about the man doing 10 roles.

Definitely watchable once or twice!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Young Men in Spats - Page 123

In response to IBH's book tag: "The tag is about the book that you are currently reading, turn to page 123, count till line 5 and write down the lines after that!"

"But listen..."
"Good night, Mr. Widgeon."

The aunts said good night, too, and so did the butler. The girl Dahlia preserved a revolted silence.

From " Young Men in Spats" -- P.G. Wodehouse

I was looking for Jeeves-Wooster stories at the public library. Couldn't find a single one, darn it! So I settled for "Young Men in Spats".

Friday, June 13, 2008

'Dasavatharam', Cholas and Racism...

S is dead-stubborn that we should watch 'Dasavatharam' playing in Cincinnati this Sunday. We got the tickets yesterday. I wasn't (am) not very excited about it because I have my own personal grudge against this movie.

In one of the roles, Kamal plays Rangarajan Nambi of Srirangam. Rangarajan Nambi gets persecuted (in the movie) by Kulothunga Chozha I for his Vaishnavite faith. Kanniks told me that this role was based on Sri Ramanujar's life. Now, I have my own soft corner for the Cholas and I refuse to vilify these kings who nurtured Saivism/Vaishanvism alike and endowed millions to Vaishnavite temples (including Srirangam. There's an inscription in the temple to support this).

Personally, I've always felt that the Tamilnadu government glorified the Pandyas and the Pallavas while ignoring the Chozha heritage of TN. We hear of Narasimha Pallava of Mahabalipuram fame and the Tamil Sangam nurturing Pandyas of Madurai often in the history books. Why are Chozhas not given as much prominence? What about Raja Raja Chozha who retrieved the Tamizh devarams from ruin? I've never read more than 2 lines dedicated to Raja Raja Chozha or Rajendra Chozha.

Coming from the heart of Chozha countries, some of these things strike close to heart. Assuming that Kulothunga Chozha indeed was a religious fanatic, why single out Chozhas for religious persecution?! What about the Pandyan who massacred the Jains near Madurai? What about Narasimha Pallava/Mahendra Pallava who did the same?

I'll reserve final judgement after I see the movie. Watch out for more rants on this space..:)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Telephone guilt

The Mr. is gone to a traffic class all evening today, the result of getting a speeding ticket about 3 months back. You get to escape the hefty dollar fine by signing up for a 3.5 hour class. PB told me once that this lecture was actually quite engrossing. I'll find out from S tonight..:)

I hate cooking alone without conversational company. So I dialed a few friends I haven't called in ages. I always dread calling people after a looooong time. I can never tell what the opening gambit will be:

a) a gushing "Wow! How are you? I have so much to tell you...!" OR
b) a sarcastic "Oooh, you actually remember me?!! Glad you could spare a few minutes from your schedule!"

With a), the conversation just flows and you never feel the long gap in communication. With b), everything goes downhill from the first moment. This happened today. My friend tried to make me feel very guilty for not calling. I spent time justifying myself and explaining in detail my busy, daily schedule. In the end, I was exhausted and he was frustrated and neither of us got to really catch-up on our respective lives.

I've played this game myself sometimes. But that lasts for 30 seconds. This lasted 30 minutes. I think that sometimes it pays to take some things for granted -- like friendship. If a person's commitment/trust is continually called into question and one has to prove oneself almost daily, it becomes annoying. This is precisely the reason I don't call relatives as well!

Sometimes, when you have face-time with a person, all these guilt-games fade into inconsequence. Do telephonic conversations play-up insecurities and maybe, hasten the end of some relationships?