Monday, September 28, 2009

The Reunion

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pleasant Surprise

I could tell you the exact minute it comes. But I'll let you watch it. It comes for 2 secs max. So don't turn away.



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Friday, September 25, 2009

Thenkachi Ko Swaminathan

I listened to his "Indru Oru Thagaval" (Message for Today) every day in AIR at about 7 AM'ish every morning. His name and his voice reminded me of van rides to school, and for strange reasons Kerala Saloon and other barber shops where I listened to him. His voice had a deep bassy tone to it. Sometimes a person's voice inherently has a tinge of sarcasm. Even if it is unintended, the sarcasm sort of adds a nice touch to what is being said. Thanjavur folks would have liked him. They would have said "pisuru padaama pesuvaar avar" (he does not stutter or use fillers when he talks).

A year ago I thought of writing a post about him wishing that AIR compile all his short stories and releases it as a CD collection. It would be a priceless collection that we could play for future generations. Unfortunately, I have postponed that post to the point where it became an obit. Thenkachi, for the uninitiated, told short stories in All India Radio and capped it off with a 'moral of the story'. He had a nice way of taking very little of our time and at the same time make us feel that he was telling the story with a relaxed pace. I liked him for doing the R.K. Narayan like thing of taking us back to simple times.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dreams

Some dreams can be frustrating because it can easily cause you 3-4 hours of needless tension. While this tension is as futile as anything else you get tensed for in the real world the futility of dream triggered anxiety seems more obvious and irritating. And you can do nothing to change the dreams. For the past several years I have a recurring dream that I have to take my 12th standard board exam again. The context is generally - the board has introduced a new subject in the recent years and everybody who has completed 12th must go back and write an exam on this subject. The other contexts are (a) they have changed the XIIstd Chemistry syllabus and so everybody has to take Chemistry board exam again or (b) I have travelled back in time and find myself a few days away from exams. There are some rare occasions where the dream has no courtesy and does not tell me why I am taking the exam and directly throws me into a situation where I know there is an exam and I have to write it. Of course occasions where I am the only one naked is not rare and - sigh - quite frustrating

The dreams have a variety of settings too. Sometimes I write the exam with my college classmates as opposed to my XII std classmates. Sometimes they are office colleagues or grad school buddies. Sometimes the class is in America but the teacher is my XII std teacher. Suddenly, I find myself sitting next to my milkman who is also preparing very hard for the exam (The aluminium milk can is on top of the desk during class hours). Tension begins when I know that there is a lot of syllabus to cover and I can't get myself to read anything. I never get to the point where I open the book and read. My dreams begin and end before the exams. So I never get to know if I did well or not. I never get to prepare at all. The entire 4 hours (or what seems like it) is filled with tension that exams are coming and I am not preparing or doing anything about it. Occasionally there are 3 or 4 chemistry related words dropped in and I become aware that I don't understand any of them. So I get more tensed

Today morning, I had set my alarm for 5AM. It rang, I switched it off planning to get up immediately. But unknowingly I went back to sleep and got transported into yet another exam situation. Woke up sweating and really really afraid. There may be a thousand Freud'ish explanations for these dreams but what use are they? I can't do anything to avoid the tension.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cricket

In order to align everything with my larger theory that this the stupidest generation to walk on the face of the planet, I made an observation on this blog several years ago that twenty20 cricket - tailor made for the idiot generation - will kill cricket in general and test cricket in specific. Twenty20 is like the twitter of cricket (Interestingly, I also compare Tests to book publishing business). Much like the way twitter allows any twit who can type random 140 characters to be popular, twenty20 will allow 'gaada' suthifying batters to be stars. Recently, I watched Twenty20 after a long time and it was really painful. The world is gravitating towards brainless fast food type sports and reading habits.

A popular blogger wrote a post that Twenty20 will benefit Test cricket rather than kill it. He was right. We have stopped playing test cricket now. Thanks to the country which has the least vision and most idiocy. India. Goes on to show that the "west", especially Britain and Australia were probably better in safeguarding the beauty and charm of cricket than the 'mutta kammanatis' at BCCI. In about 10 years when someone does a CPR to revive cricket, one of the key lessons they will take forward is that India cannot be given any authority/responsibility to determine the future of cricket.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Unnaipol Oruvan

This was an engaging movie with a very simple and straight forward script. Liked it. Kamal Hasan plays an anonymous person (subnote: curiously many reviewers have caught on to the term "common man" that he refers to in a dialog and repeat it like a parrot. They say "Kamal Hasan plays "common man:" like the way they'd say Christian bale played Batman or Christopher Reeve plays Super Man etc - wonder why?) who threatens to bomb selected spots in Chennai if they don't negotiate with him. He tries to make us forget that he is 'kamal hasan' by making his appearance rather modest or ugly to say the least. This is important given the context of the story. Because if we see too much Kamal Hasan it may work against the movie. This effort works to a great extent but there is a little bit of Kamal hasan still sticking on to the character he plays. This sort gives - deliberately or not - many clues as to what the end of the movie would look like. I was not surprised at the ending. At all. I guess many wouldn't be.

Overall - I liked the movie and I am glad I saw it.


After Thought: I did not think that this movie had a lot of scope for major level emoting or in general displaying excellent acting talents. This is in a way very cut and dry movie wit limited focus on character development. So the benefit this movie gets by the presence of Mohan Lal is simply just that. There is not a lot of scope to make Maraar, a better done character. Mohan Lal makes it look smooth. But there is nothing extra-ordinary in either Kamal's role or Mohan Lal's role that makes anyone go "wow! superb acting" unless one is compelled to say so because it is Kamal and Mohan lal. Something needs tobe said of Lakshmi's role though. Pretty Yucky. Needless role. Her dialogs were inane and sometimes senseless. Very poor (over) acting to boot.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kanye Vs Taylor

I know it has become obligatory for people to diss Kanye for what he did because it is the politically correct thing to do. Since I don't really care about any of the parties involved (except that I believe Beyonce is way more hot than Taylor), I don't feel the need to get angry or offended at what Kanye did. Don't feel the urge to call him names or criticise him. This post discusses a different aspect surrounding such incidents. I believe that if someone is embarrassed very publicly then the crowd is embarrassed as well and actually feels for the person. This is true. The crowd cringes along with the person being insulted. I have often wondered about this particular kind of embarrassment while watching the Oscars. How it would feel if someone jumped on stage and insulted the award winner, grabbed the mike and told the Academy that the award belongs to someone else. What a thrilling moment that would be purely because of the rarity of its occurrence?

The 'cringe moment' in this case was thrilling and hilarious to watch. You have been seeing award functions for such a long time that purely because of the way probabilities and law of averages work, it is about time such a thing happened. And the amazing thing about the human mind is that it processes embarrassment in a disproportionate fashion. Taylor couldn't bring herself to speak at all after Kanye handed her back the mike. Not everyone thinks she is undeserving. Probably Kanye is the only one who thinks so. But her mind wouldn't absorb it that way.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Putting the 'Pool' in Car Pool

So - many years ago I had a roommate in grad school who like many desis before and after him multi tasked as a NFL coach, College football coach, President of USA, Supreme Court Chief Justice, Prime Minister of India, Sankaracharya, Expert in comparative religion and of course also spent few hours teaching undergrad kids MS Word for $1,100 per month. Typical of many desis of that time who hadn't touched a drop of alcohol or hadn't tasted egg until they landed in US, he'd fill his weekend nights with several rounds of 'chivas regal' and several plates of chicken. At the end of it, he'd develop sudden expertize to comment with absolute certainty on vegetarianism, the source/reason/state of religion, how stupid his parents-living-in India were and why he became N times more "fundoo" than them by simply stepping into the US soil etc ..etc.

So this boy within 1-month after landing did all the customary things: started referring to the state as "my state" the football team as "our team" and of course the country as "inga namma oor'la". He had to travel 30 miles once-every-week to do some team-based research for his professor. He did not own a car. The rest of his lab mates had a car and they took turns to car pool. The person who was chosen to drive that day picked my roomie up and dropped him back home. However, when he referred to these trips during the weekend, he'd say "I car pooled with my friends to go and do research for NASA". He didn't really own a car and was simply bumming a free ride. So for a while we were confused, thought he'd picked up the word "car pool" from somebody and really liked to use it. So we let him go. But he kept saying that again and again like "I didn't want David to car pool with us because David is so out of the way. But I am okay with it because it helps to discuss the project on the way". One day while he went on for the Nth time about car pooling, a drunk guy stopped him mid-sentence and asked him "dei nayee... ungitta car irukka da". Confused, our man says "No I don't have a car". Pat came the reply:

"appo mathavangellam car kondu varanga nee {refer_to_title_of_post} kondu poriya ?"

This Ghantaknaath must be very similar to my roommate. Look at him say this:

"Because I don't want a public option or any surrogate for it, which just puts the system in an even worse position than it is now.

But, if a public option is indeed passed, then I will be really pissed if it excludes end of life counseling or does not cover abortion expenses."

If I remember correctly, saar is on a F-1 visa. As part of the stipend rules and immigration rules, the university compulsorily withholds some money from his stipend to pay for his insurance. The university chooses his insurance provider. Even if he wanted to change his insurance provider, he has to work extra hard and convince quite a few people. Ivanukku indha altaapu thevaiyaa? 3 more years in F-1 + 9 years to a green card + 6 years to a citizenship. He is almost 2 decades away from having a say on such topics. Pammittu irukka vendiyadhu dhaane.

Someone Like You

Friday, September 11, 2009

Larry Gelbart

He was the writer for M*A*S*H. The series was great only partially because Alan Alda was glib or the slapstick pranks he pulled along with B.J were very funny. It was great mainly because of the usage of words. M*A*S*H was simply magic with the English language. You were often left thinking - I didn't know I could construct a sentence like that. Larry made humor a weapon.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Deivamee

Jeppiar's opening day speech to students of Sathyabama Engineering college is so legendary that one need not introduce it to people at all. It is part of the folklore. When boys discuss college stuff after several rounds of (OH)4 this speech certainly figures in that. I have been fortunate to witness it once. I promise you, I can never forget it. Here is a sample of the eloquence, precision in language, and sophistication he brings to the table.

Friday, September 04, 2009

FUW - I

There are some words and phrases that you get tired of reading (or writing). Maybe because you have used them frequently or you see everybody use it frequently (because it is considered fashionable). I'll kick start this series with 3 words/phrases that have annoyed me in the recent past like no other word.

Sanctum Sanctorum WTF?! Seriously. What doe this even mean? Romba bandha thaanga mudiyalai. I would prefer a long 'that room inside the temple where they keep the idol of god' as a better alternative to this rubbish phrase. I don't know what religious writers in the 1940s wee thinking when they began to copy this word just to impress the British. I certainly don't know what writers today are thinking when they use it incessantly. If people who use too much English are 'peter' then people who use too much Latin should be called 'litter' or 'thaadikaran' etc. What do they email their relatives "I went to the sanctum sanctorum of thirupathi and they said ''reight reight.. jaragandi... jaragandi"

Hype and the Hoopla: Stop. What is this 'hoopla' 'goobla' crap. Appadinna enna da? It is almost as if the keyboard instinctively types 'and the hoopla' after it types 'hype'. If you go to a mental aaspathri and they ask you to do word association, I am sure most of the mental cases would correctly answer 'and the hoopla' the moment doctor says 'hype'.

Protagonist: Now people who use this are downright pretentious. It seemed fashionable at some point and so I used it but then later I couldn't help thinking 'what the hell does this even mean?'. To put it simply, I don't like the way this word sounds inside the head. It is like referring to people from Kumbakonam as 'kumbakonist'. What about 'simble' words like actor, hero, person with yellow shirt etc. 'protagonist' 'pootagonist' sollitta nee enna periya Newyork Broadway theater performance reviewer'a?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

She has not sunk/drowned and She will be a green bodied woman

The amount of personal information strangers begin to share with you - when you announce that your wife is pregnant - is simply incredible. The moment you announce, It feels like a secret door opened. Strangers, even desi strangers, suddenly assume that it is appropriate to discuss stuff about the reproductive system that is normally considered private. Most good Thamizh boys know nothing about the intricacies of female reproductive systems. While they skipped chapters to peep into "The Female Reproductive System" chapter in the 8th standard biology textbook, all that precious knowledge was soon discarded to pursue much higher intellectual stuff - porn. So naturally going back to 8th standard biology is a retrogression of sorts.

Now, these strangers are people who were mild-mannered and silent until they heard your announcement. But after the secret door opens they tell you the scariest of details. They discuss all that they ever knew about pregnancy. Like "my wife's sister had a discombobulated cervix" "Susan's egg formed in the fallopian tube" "you know how it works right..the egg flows down from the ovary to the uterus" " it attached to the uterus wall near the cervix" " one of my friends had a partial placenta previa". The desi male's brain cannot comprehend so many tubes, pipes and complicated mechanics going on there. The thamizh boy has one word for all these scientific jargon.

'keezha'

Down under. Somewhere down. Down there. It not much of a word. But it is simple, humble and has a lot of love. If you feel a question is too personal (or too 'teginigal') you can simply say 'ya ya vayathula keezha baby form aagum' and leave it at that. It can explain many things, which half-baked science experts, who can google very fast, cannot. Simply saying 'kizha anga engayo' can answer all questions. Take this very real conversation for instance with a google-searching desi engineer.

Stranger: Do you know where the placenta has attached itself.
Me: Keezha
Stranger: You know my friend had a ectopic pregnancy and ruptured one of her fallopian tubes. How is the pregnancy facilitated ? Is one fallopian tube enough?
Me: It is facilitated 'Keezha anga engayo'.
Stranger: Does the cervix have to dialate 10 cm before the baby comes out?
Me: Baby comes out from keezha.
Stranger: Dei keezha seri da. Keezha enge?
Me: Adhaan da. Keezha anga engayo.

'keezha anga engayo' is a fantastic PG-13 phrase to respond to several over-enthusiastic questions that seem intrusive. In fact it is very dignified and impersonal. It gives out enough detail to let others know that you won't fail in Geography but hides a lot of Carpentry, Engineering Drawing, Physics and other difficult 12 mark questions out of it.

We always knew that women are comfortable discussing this with other women. Here is another surprise - once the wife is pregnant, other women feel the need to dole out advise to the wife in front of the husband. Now men get to hear the gory details of the whole pregnancy process. What horror!?? They discuss it as if they were discussing computer hard drives. Little do they know that they are committing the sin of taking a 40-year patron of Woodlands drive-in restaurant to its kitchen and let him see the gory details of how his favorite food is cooked. We don't want to know how it all works and how things are made. For men it is sex. It is sacred. From Emmanualle to Erika Eleniak - the various goddesses have symbolized this sacredness. Don't spoil it for us. Mr. Johnson has spit so many times into the sunlight and into plastic covers. He had no idea that if he spit 'keezha' he'd potentially be slaying a holy cow. If he had he would have thought twice about it.

I fell victim to this 'get biology knowledge' mania. I got caught up in accumulating useless knowledge under the assumption that" a modern husband who is progressive mannangatti etc has to know all these details to be perceived as supportive". I mean what is the point of doing "viradha homaam" on the morning of the marriage if you cannot have a intelligent conversation with the Radiologist? So I tried my best to learn the pipes, the different containers and the whole flowchart diagrams. Every 'aaspathri' has wall-size pictures and diagrams. You can't miss them. It is sort of like trying to look at the source code of a video game you are playing.

But I kept saying the wrong things. Kept confusing one pipe and the other. Mixing up containers. Kept saying there were two uteruses and one ovary. Just the way all Chinese people look the same to people from Mannargudi, to men all female body parts pretty much looked like "keezha". The 'illustrative' videos to get the man up to speed were all hazy. Apparently the doctors are used to over enthusiastic men who pretend to be mild-mannered software engineer during the day and super powered gynaecologists during the night - capable of jumping tall ovaries in a single bound and stop speeding sperms. So they never cared to describe what the hell anything meant.

Meanwhile at work and at many social gatherings people are bombarding you with unheard of words. I am not a prude and don't get offended that easily but my god! are the details awful. It is almost as if there are two worlds out there. One is a world where people don't talk about reproductive organs in gory detail. The other is where they see you enter into the "parents world", see you get access to some sort of privileged member club benefits. In this world complete and total strangers discuss the most intimate private body parts in a matter-of-fact way. The transition is sudden and if a person is caught unawares he is in for it.

The modern desi living in amrikka needs to know pages and pages and volumes of stuff that the SBI officer 20-30 years ago simply referred to as - "keezha anga engayo" or "edho ladies matter saar yaarukku theriyum"