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Friday, December 17, 2010

An affair to remember

Having a 13 year old son has its advantages. Apart from the fact that you get to learn a lot about yourself, you also get introduced to a whole new world. The world of video games. It is a completely different culture, a civilization on its own populated by young and the young at heart. They have their own lingo, customs and traditions.

My son has reached that age when let's say, mom, as I was, is no longer needed, badly.  But still he is growing up, which he should, by the way.I watch amusedly, sometimes in exasperation, the disbelieving look that he throws at me at times, -- which, I have to admit, is well-deserved by me --and the overall dissatisfaction at the state of affairs, where he has to follow certain rules around the house, not unlike any typical teenager. But there are times when I feel I am in the circle -- as when I ask him to talk to me about his video games. Then -- boy, can he talk! Out pour all the words. I wonder at the enthusaism, the excitement,  the depth of knowledge, and of feeling.

The other day  I brought to his attention that the VGA - Video Game Awards-was to be aired on TV . Oh, was I the loved mom that evening! We watched it together. I saw something that I would have never seen, if not for him. I enjoyed it, and marvelled at the advance of  technology. Of course it was a young world. But it was exciting, and alive!J knew all the games, the merits, the drawbacks, it was his world.

When I learn that one of his videos on these games that he posted on his channel on youtube, has been watched by over 10,800 viewers, I am spellbound. What is the fascination of these games? Being in control? Being able to interact with the characters? To be a character in the unreal world? He tells me the military finances many of these games.If that is true, this is not just a game anymore. It is going to be a way of life.

Again, my thoughts about that blurring of boundaries between the real and the unreal is being proved to be real. There are commercials being shown now where you can interact with the person. Soon there are going to be movies and TV shows where the viewers play the roles along with the "unreal" characters. 3D participation and time lapse speed would be nothing. Real people living unreal lives. Other lives. Other people's lives. Not just a "second life". The whole world becomes a fantasy world. Which actually it very well maybe. " Maya". We could  defeat death and destruction through a virtual life. Or have perpetual death and destruction, but then like a character in a video game jump right back up to life.

The viewer in the  theatre or before the TV set at home is kind of in love with what is going  on screen. At least as long as s/he watches it, there is a relationship. Once that barrier between the real and the imagined world dissolves through technology, the affair can continue, even stronger. The viewed and the viewer become one.

These days anyone can be an actor, a singer, or writer or anything they choose to be. There are people to see, means to put it all out there. We can make movies, be in them, show them to all. Creativity is flowing all over the net. What was once accessible to just a handful of people is available to all now. Be it knowledge, or creativity. Instead of one genius who seem to know stuff intuitively, there will be a million who can easily clone themselves to be that genius. They can be characters interacting with characters, and the characters themselves. Gradually, new creatures/beings and a new life will form.

As I watch the "unreal" characters speak to the audience, and the overwhelming response  of the admiring audience, these thoughts swirl in my head. I want to clear it, so inspired by a medieval themed game, I yell out, to my husband, waving my tankard, " Inn-keeper!more wine please!" He is not amused. So there is one who doesn't go for role-play! :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Artisten (The Artist) by Jonas Grimås

It was in 1987 when I was a Literature student at this girls' college back home, that a professor from another university visited us. He read a poem about a train (not his, I remember that) and held up this black and white picture of a train winding up a hill, with trees on either side of the tracks, as he read it. ( We did not have TV)The reading wasn't that rhythmic, but I fell in a trance imagining that train as it chugged its way round the bend, and up the hill, "smoking" all the way. I could see the green of the trees, the blue of the greyish blue of the skies, and above all, hear the rhythm of the train.

There is a romance about trains, and the people who travel on those, and no wonder they have been used in movies and songs and commercials and fashion shoots. Murders take on more mystery, forbidden love gets spicier -- all in that rarefied ambience of trains. Be it the Murder on the Orient Express, or that Vogue shoot with an exotic Diddy and his lady, or the latest Chanel ad with Audrey Tatou, trains and train stations thrill us. And it is the same for me.

Artisten
But add to that, my fatal fascination with the blurring of boundaries -- between realities, the real and the unreal, between genres, between art and life -- I will get hooked. That is what I felt when I saw this short movie named  Artisten, by Jonas Grimås made in 1987. What I saw in my classroom back then, and what I see now in this movie, I should say it has been a gradual journey that has reached a particular culmination. The journey won't end here, surely.  Obviously I am sure much has been written about this brilliant, award winning movie by many and much better qualified people than me. But these are my thoughts.

The Artist is about the blurring of boundaries. In a way, it is  a metamovie, a movie which explores the making of a movie.The synchronous art of the foley artist-hero, and the movie he was showing, is captivating.The final explosion in the movie within the movie, and in the theatre fittingly tops it. This movie is layered and the themes are so many that it makes you think on so many different levels -- an embarrassment of riches, as they say. It is a big, short movie. I cannot get that artist out of my mind, the passion, and the belief. Nothing is beyond bounds for him. Not at all worried about going overboard! He does it with panache. Nor can I forget the would-be artist. There is a sadness and a humor in both the persons that touch one. Do I imagine that sadness? Am I coloring it with my feelings?In moments of self-doubt, which are many, by the way, I think I am that person. Of course I want to be the hero, but will I ever?They are pathetic and heroic at the same time, like us. Maybe I am way off mark in my understanding of the film, but I guess the movie is in the mind of the viewer now.
see the film here : http://vimeo.com/17857824

may 17  2011 update : there seems to be something to the name? another "Artist" is making waves in Cannes! I think i should call myself "The Artist" -- maybe that would help! ;)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

career opportunities for medics in airports!!!!

To think that one of these days when i am  trying to catch a plane, my suspicious looking ovary can be looked upon just like that -- suspiciously!
The arrival of full body scanners in airports seem to cause no worry among the general public. at least most of the people i talked to seemed to think it was something inevitable, say, like death. or as if i was making too much of a fuss about silly stuff as usual. fear of privacy invasion has been overridden by that other great fear -- that of terrorrism. obviously pre-emptive attack efforts didn't work well enough. Now the big bro wants to see the average person naked. i did wonder why no one seems to be bothered that much that their B&Bs will be out there for all to see. apparently, i wasn't thinking!

Imagine the pros of such a situation! actually it could prove to be a wonderful opportunity to improve the quality of the nation's health care. For instance, while they are looking at your body, they could let you know your BMI, which would help a lot of people. They could hand out flyers explaining the significance of that number along with their bags. Now, what if a lady tried to hide a weapon of mass destruction in her tampon deployed inside her? What if someone swallowed the same and the wmd is lying peacefully in his stomach?
or lower? well, soon there will be more than x-rays at the security check. CT scanners and MRIs too will
arrive.

Now think of the possibilities! If they had radiologists and pathologists at hand, -- they should, because otherwise someone might think my suspicious looking ovary, with its cysts and scars, is a WMD, and what about someone else's fibroids -- these specialists can read the scans and let the people concerned know. In no time, there will be surgeons too at the airport, and, won't that be convenient? Sometimes we do not know what all disease- ridden things are hidden in our bodies, and the new airport checks would be a godsend then. Mammograms and colonoscopies can be easily done here, not to speak of cosmetic/plastic surgery. If found lacking in any area, implants may be provided.  and if there is an excess, of course, the necessary adjustments can be done.  Ah, dentists too will be in great demand, for things could be concealed under crowns and bridges.

And then, let's imagine the states of mind of the persons who see our naked bodies. I don't know about anyone, but I know Mallus and other Indians. If such a thing as a full body scanner landed in our airport, the guys there will have the time of their lives. Boy! would they now!!! A perpetual hum and frisson of excitement will pervade the whole city. A surge in the number of job applications from guys to man the scanners. Soon the web will be flooded with our pics. One would be posted right in the middle of the town square! Everyone gets to be famous! As an added bonus, disgruntled/rejected boyfriends/girlfriends can have their revenge easily. just get a copy of the pic and send it to the would-be bridegroom's address. or make  a poster and stick it in the middle of the town. Students can wage wars against teachers, friends turned enemies can find comfortable weapons of destruction in these highly colorful images. Of course, the women would be found at fault! duh! how dare they are naked under their underclothes!!! serves them right for being so daring!!

oh, and  I hear that the Police will have the full body scanner in their cars! that is going to be more fun! we, the public are going to be taken care of so well! nothing like the up close and  personal touch.

PS : update --  a protest is being planned around Thanksgiving day, I hear. Thank Goodness! :)

latest update May 31, 2013 - They're gone! TSA has removed the offensive , intrusive machines - http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/29/travel/tsa-backscatter

update: Feb 10  2014 Wrong! they are still here.
http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/bestoftv/2014/02/01/tsr-pkg-marsh-body-scans.cnn.html

I have seen agents sitting behind computer screens looking at the bodies, get up and look at the person's face -- to connect the body with the face -- more fun! so much for respect, privacy, dignity,  promised anonymity etc. for the passengers, and  maturity and integrity on the part of the agents.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

new adventures of old asha or Omphaloskepsis

there is nothing much to do. maybe because it's all been done. either by myself, or by others. actually, much more .... and more... by others. but then that is all right, since we are one.
believe it or not, i haven't really tried to pick lint off my navel. i hear it is an art worth cultivating.
sadly, even if i wanted to try it now, it won't be feasible. there is this gooseberry- sized gauze ball stuffed tight in my navel. yep. and there is a band -aid over it. i look at it longingly. curious to see what's happening underneath . but i am not supposed to pry. obviously, privacy concerns. so, the contemplation of my navel has to be put off for now.

in any case, i have other things to do. or not do. when i get off bed, i am not allowed to sit right up. no sudden jumps and all that. but i notice that i am prone to do that -- just like my dad. but then, since i do not want a lotus, or something akin to it,  to rise out of my navel, i try to remember to roll over to my side, slowly bring my feet down, and sit up. i tell all this to my relatives who havent been very impressed with me lately, and have written me off the "going places" list. Here is my chance to grab that elusive 15 seconds of fame, among them. Of course once they hear it is laparoscopic, every one of them is pretty dismissive like seasoned surgeons. But ... but there are incisions! 4 of them! on me!! come on! thats not simple! and other stuff that was done inside me!
well, anyways,

i am asked to support my tummy when i lie down. i support it so much it hurts. someone in charge here asks me, " you always have to take that one extra step, dont you?" "Do I?" , I wonder. hmm. something else to think about. maybe i do! i think of all the friendships, and would-be friendships that I had lost on the way, probably because of this overdoing business? or, that may have happened because of other stuff, like them being mountains and i being a teeny tiny ant.ants are mighty envious of mountains, btw.

ok- back to contemplation of my navel -- i touch it, does it hurt? not really. but after a while, i feel a twinge. does it feel colder than the other areas? oh NO! it feels wet! it is infected! no, no. it is fine, really. i imagined it.

all the do's and don'ts! i am fed up. i can't run, i can't do situps or crunches, i can't climb stairs, omg! how am i going to take it!! actually it is only for a couple of days. but you don't know that! my six-pack (fl)abs is going to be a thing of the past. and my dream of world domination  in the next Olympics, or at least CWG, is out the window. and, SACRILEGE! i cant have sex for 2 weeks! for 2 whole weeks! now that is a hit on my
(r)aging libido. at the end of the said 2 weeks, watch out, you studs between 23- 29! ;) to add insult to injury,  i shouldn't get pregnant for the next 5 years! that is unthinkable! how can i bear that!!!not that i have been making babies nonstop all these years. it is the principle of the thing. (after the 5th year, it's all right, since the question doesn't arise, and the Holy Ghost has gone on to newer pastures).

as i lie there, i remember that heavenly feeling or not-feeling while i was under general anaesthesia. whoever invented that has to be hugged and kissed forever. I did not feel a thing! I do not remember a thing! for 3 hours I was totally unaware! dead to the world! to me that is unbelievable. to not worry if i talked too much, or too little, to not think , or remember, to not know that i am breathing!! 3 hours of my life -- a big mystery.
back to navel-gazing. i am not supposed to look at  my navel. that would count as an almost-crunch. i give up, i have to take a peek. just let me get this band aid off first.
:)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On Mr Bourdain's visit to Kerala, -- and my wayward mind's workings

started off as a response to some comments on Kerala by a few facebookers, after Anthony Bourdain's visit to that state. this blog could be said to be  indirectly set off by all that.  Bourdain's sweeping statement about Indian food being not aesthetically pleasing, even though delicious, put my back up. Any food can be presented in a "cultured' way. I have tried to do it in my humble way, like my mom ( and many other moms do)  does it everyday without going overboard -- I am no professional. This ancient culture of mine has seen and done it all, and so called modern cultures are re-discovering it everyday --say,  in their adoption of vegetarianism, which has been a way of life for us for centuries.( well, my ancient culture is backward in one factor -- its treatment of its girls, but that's another story , or maybe not, come to think of it)
 ..


all right. It was interesting to find out what the thoroughly rebellious, but democratized Mr Bourdain would do to Kerala. Along with many other proud Mallus, I waited for the show to air.
After all, Kerala is the state with the highest rate of literacyin India. Because of the Marxist revolution, its people are relatively freer than their counterparts in some other states. No bonded labor here, a strong labor union etc. etc. There aren't many communal riots here, and our health care is on par with a wealthy European country. We have enjoyed trade relations with the known world from ancient times. This is  the fabled Malabar -the  spice land. This is the land about which Roman historian Pliny wrote, when Roman Senators complained about the flow of gold to India in return for  black pepper. You do not have to go far to look for the politics of food, if you look for the history of the need for black pepper and other spices. This is where the legendary port of Muziris was, from where gifts were sent to King Solomon! Where St Thomas the Apostle landed. We have defeated the Dutch in battle. Our Kings were more forward thinking and less flamboyant.  And it is not all Portuguese influence, as one person on Bourdain's show seemed to imply! Jews were there before Christ. I belong to that group - Nazrani. descendants of the ancient Jewish population in Kerala. Phoenicians, Arabs and Persians came there too. So did the Chinese. Kerala was from where they got their martial arts. Compared to all that the  Portuguese was a recent intrusion. And there was Christianity in Kerala before their arrival. They forcibly made us Roman Catholic, that is all. The Portuguese may have brought tomato to Kerala. But we already had various types of tamarinds, garcinia, and mangoes, so the cuisine did not suffer that much, I should say. Also, the Portuguese did not go empty-handed either. They took away more than they gave. Like all the rest of the  East India Company traders.
Kerala - Roman - Middle East connection http://www.keralatourism.org/muziris/

To see Kerala through Mr B's eyes, and stomach ( :) ) , was pleasantly engaging. of course, what he showed was just a little bit of street level Kerala. Very much a part of it, but just one part. But then we all know that is what Mr Bourdain does.And  I was happy, on the whole, as just seeing a bit of that greenery makes my day. He missed out on both Nazrani and Malabari/Muslim cuisines, along with all other traditional and also regional basics. So what if Mr B did not taste even the standard, run of the mill 'fish curry meal" , or notice the fact that we keralites eat a variety of rice that is different from most other states'? As it is, it is a special, nutritious and delicious rice which is not bleached but double-boiled with hints of  brown on it. Rich in thiamine. Or the "kanji" from that rice, with the Nazrani staple "beef and  green banana varattiyathu". Mr B did not savor the aroma or the taste of pearl onions sauteed in ghee, poured over the above mentioned rice. !! Or the numerous jackfruit dishes, with or without coconut. Nor did he see or taste our "upperis" or "thorans" and "mezhukkupurattis" -- our versions of salads, where we make use of all kinds of veggies and greens, from the crunchy, white inside of the plantain trunk, to the tender, green shoots of the bean plant -- another standard, basic food of Keralites. And all the "appams"!! Come to think of it, I wonder at whoever acted as guides for this show?!!! oh well!

Then I happened to read the comments, and  I started to remember certain "facts" Mr Bourdain made in passing. For instance, the assumption that all elections in Kerala are rigged,. 1957 's was not a rigged election. Mr B! In fact, it was some of the enlightened "upper" caste leaders who lead that revolution.


Along with that it dawned on me that some people only see what is shown here. They will never see the rest of Kerala or India, or wouldn't want to, if they had the chance. So this is the only lesson they get! And that set me thinking again. Again conveniently reinforcing their exalted ideas about themselves and the opposite about others.

Someone said India should be a parking lot for Asia and other derogatory stuff, I have to remind them that not all nations get to throw up their superfluous onto other nations, and not all superfluous get to kill off the natives and grab all their land, and start a new nation from scratch. Nor do they get to start up wars anywhere they like so that they can fill up their dwindling coffers, at the same  time make their citizens' jingoist hearts swell with pride and patriotism.

And the caste system -- as if they are new to that! the slavery and the aftermath has been swept under the rug? of course, most people are drugged senseless here, by TV and shopping.
India is an ancient country, and it has an ancient culture, (not to speak of a different climate!) its landmass has been reduced by hook or by crook, and its people are just waking up from centuries of colonial abuse.


As for the concern about  cleanliness, of course we are too, actually I haven't seen or tasted much of what Mr Bourdain ate!! (And we do have breaded beef and starch dishes,  if that is the epitome of "civilization" and prettiness!!.) There is a huge majority who eat only clean, healthy (and also unhealthy, fatty , since that is a criterion for an advanced civilization!!!)  homemade food.


Anyway  I guess it is much better than eating almost-touched -by fire raw meat, and fish. Or drinking milk from cows that aren't cows anymore. I mean a herbivorous animal fed on meat! or the sausages, and the chickens and the eggs and so on and so on.
Or the mush that they serve here in the name of "curry" or the "curry powder" that they sell as spice!!!
and they add that thing to everything, and call it Indian!!

I know it is a natural tendency of many of  the so called First World to assume that they are the superior ones in everything, and  smugly watch the misery of others, pretending all is cool with them and their lot. I would be ideal if people knew that every culture is different, and that India has a huge population, in which each state, each district, each community, and each family is different. There is no standardized, assembly line home style food making here, for good or bad. For a westerner, it is an almost incomprehensible unique individualistic but collective identity that is India. Also, talking about differences in culture, and a foreigner's perception and expectations when they visit India, in this case, Kerala, let me give an example, esp. since Bourdain is taking us not to high end restaurants but to the low end eateries. Well, there lies the rub. For instance take the beach culture that you can experience almost anywhere in the world. But come to Kerala with its beautiful beaches -- there is no such culture here. Not many outdoor eateries where the whole family or women can go. Yes, the class structure even thoug hit is slowly dissolving is still very much there. Does that mean people do not eat good food? They do, but mostly at home. If Bourdain wanted to see low-end eateries serving tasty Kerala food, he should have gone to college or university students, youngsters at workplaces. But even then, he may not srike luck, because again, these will be mostly the male sex, thereby missing a whole chunk of ideas from the majority of the population.( The reason for a  lack of a beach and outdoor and a commercialized foodie culture in Kerala can be traced to the traditional ways of controlling women. Sadly. That needless to say has many other consequences, least of all being that the people there seem to be idiots, again, sadly. Add to that the idea that has been ingrained in the patriarchal minds about cooking as a whole -- it is a woman's job. And a woman's place is in the kitchen of her own home. And the work she does there is not appreciated or valued or considered important. So there is no real incentive to take that cooking out to the public. Granted, there is an instance of untapped potential resourcewise and marketwise, with regards to local food taken to the public stage. As it is, it is mostly a man's world. Things are changing, of course, but slowly. But I still have hopes for my state -- not to blindly ape western habits, for example, please stick to drinking water! not Coke and Pepsi, and keep using those spices, and not cheese and salt and sugar -- but treat the women as human beings.)


 But I don't think Mr Bourdain meant that to happen. I hope not! Because I always admired his lack of condescension and ability to get along with everyone.  Accepting them for what they are, even respecting them, without that sense of superiority that plagues others. Which makes one distrustful... .He never seemed to  be one of those show persons who show only the Magnificent Miles of their own country, and went a-scavenging in others.(anyway, it is taken for granted that the white world is rich and happy, they needn't be afraid that people will misunderstand!) Showing just this bit of Kerala cuisine makes it rather representative of the whole state's cuisine, which is far from reality. Almost like me assuming that eating opossums and innards is representative of white American cuisine, thinking those are the the only things that the whites eat. Or that everything is porridgy or "custardly" and are in a rather dastardly manner pushed through various implements to form curls or swirls and slivers. Bourdain's disdain for simple food is unhealthy -- the less processed and breaded, the more nutritious. Anyway, reduction should stay as a culinary technique, not as a method to reduce the cuisine of a whole civilization. Like they did with the branding, 'curry".For the colonial powers it was a systematic reduction of everything that was Indian, of course, their history, philosophy, religion etc -- part of their exploitation agenda, and placing imperialist machinery of law, politics, and education in their place. for instance, see Macaulay's educational ''reforms' tailored for Indians, which we sadly follow even now.

But getting back to the Bourdain matter,  the boorish comments from the viewers color the whole thing for me -- negatively. makes me wonder if here is just another white guy pretending.....another phony.... or just human? after all, not everyone can be a Henning Mankell. could it be another instance of "all are equal, some are more..."? I want to be proved wrong.


Still, all this, including my reaction, ( because I know that I can't blame Mr B for the comments from a few of his fans, but that is what triggered these thoughts)  leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and I will stay clear off Bourdain's show  at least for a while.
Aah! that feels better -- end of rant.

And something else -- Mallu TV channels broadcast the "fact" that Mr B came all the way from America   in order to discover the favorite foods of Mammootty, Kerala's beloved actor. :D


Mammootty




PS: I just read this again. and my goodness! I wince! what an embarrassing rant! but there it is. :) I have to agree that things can be better.
I realize I have to work on this piece some more. later, when I have the time and patience. for instance why do I have pictures of our food here? Do I need to prove that our food is better and tastier than any other? but it is inevitable that the second rate world citizen gets angry, because in his mind, he is not second rate, but he knows that in their eyes he is, or they prefer to think he is so.
someone once told me that the proletarian and the feminist have one thing in common -- they whine.
I should also add, they become defensive too. and not just them -- well -- I guess it is a part of the  subaltern effect.




(UPDATE: $20 billion - Temple's secret vaults yield treasure - World news - South and Central Asia - msnbc.com
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43629294/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia/
wonder how the Brits overlooked this bit of treasure. one reason could be the lack of flamboyance on the part of Kerala kings. the British, and the others, did take a lot (an understatement, if I didn't make it clear) - one gets an inkling of the enormity of their loot from the kingdoms of India. .)


fish in coconut milk - nazrani mode

erissery

basic upperi/mezhukkupuratti

malabar pathiri

noolappam and malabar egg masala
Anyway  I guess it is much better than eating almost-touched -by fire rare meat. Or drinking milk from cows that aren't cows anymore. I mean a herbivorous animal fed on meat! or the sausages, and the chickens and the eggs and so on and so on.
Or the mush that they serve here in the name of "curry" or the "curry powder" that they sell as spice!!! haha
and they add that thing to everything, and call it Indian!!

I know it is a natural tendency of many of  the so called First World to assume that they are the superior ones in everything, and  smugly watch the misery of others, pretending all is cool with them and their lot.


beef cutlets and yogurt sallaas - nazrani's

kappayum meen vattichathum/ tapioca and fish in hot sauce


paalappam and mutton stew -- nazrani's

kerala egg puffs





But I don't think Mr Bourdain meant that to happen. I hope not! Because I always admired his lack of condescension and ability to get along with everyone.  Accepting them for what they are, even respecting them, without that sense of superiority that plagues others. Which makes one distrustful... .He never seemed to  be one of those show persons who show only the Magnificent Miles of their own country, and went a-scavenging in others.(anyway, it is taken for granted that the white world is rich and happy, they needn't be afraid that people will misunderstand!) Showing just this bit of Kerala cuisine makes it rather representative of the whole state's cuisine, which is far from reality. Almost like me assuming that eating opossums and innards is representative of white American cuisine, thinking those are the the only things that the whites eat.

But wrongly, maybe, such boorish comments from the viewers color the whole thing for me -- negatively. makes me wonder if here is just another white guy pretending.....another phony.... or just human? after all, not everyone can be a Henning Mankell. could it be another instance of "all are equal, some are more..."? I want to be proved wrong.
 As it is, the majority of commenters are gracious.

Still, all this, including my reaction, ( because I know that I can't blame Mr B for the comments from a few of his fans, but that is what triggered these thoughts)  leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and I will stay clear off Bourdain's show  at least for a while.
Aah! that feels better -- end of rant. ;)
 I just hope you don't come before my mom, Mr B! :))
And something else -- Mallu TV channels broadcast the "fact" that Mr B came all the way from America   in order to discover the favorite foods of Mammootty, Kerala's beloved actor. :D



Malayali's puttu and kadala


upma and payaru

a few nazrani x'mas dishes

malayali's sadya

malabar chicken biryani

kerala/malabar porotta

malabar mutton korma
Kerala- Roman - Middle East connection http://www.keralatourism.org/muziris/






Thursday, March 18, 2010

Age of self-conscious living - part 3

Modern human is a showman, or woman. The adoring public gives meaning to his/her existence. It is for them that we perform. The validation of our existence, as I said before. Many of us try to give the performance of our lives, be it to our immediate family and friends, or to the world in general, with some faces thrown in for that personal touch and inspiration. Some take it to the extreme of course, and some to the extent that it becomes a freak show. The age of self-conscious living. We of course announce that we do it for ourselves. But imagine if there wasn't an audience! People to applaud and envy you? I dare say it wouldn't be half as much fun. So the bigger the performance, the bigger the applause, and the bigger the satisfaction, especially when  you assume that you are the best, and that you have the most enchanted life. What a wonderful feeling it must be to think that all the rest are plodding idiots waiting to hear about your next exploit?

There is a romance and drama in being single too,. So when one is seemingly unattached one looks freer and then the more the envy and admiration. This applies more to the single man than to the woman. Because the usual thinking is that the man chooses to stay single, and the woman, because she couldn't get a man. But the majority of the spectators prefer to watch and enjoy, while trying to create a smaller scale version of the drama in their own lives. While the "free" one continues giving the show of his or her life.

While before it was just a handful who did this on a world stage, now, in this age of globalized demoracy, and explosion of media, all of us train and aspire to be heroes and heroines, in whatever way we can.  Some sign up for reality TV, others write blogs, books, everyone twitters their daily activities, as if  we make the news, or that we are news.  The age of the internet calls for new  kinds of relationships, terminologies and ideals. So, naturally, crash courses in spoken netword becomes necessary. Idioms and usages specifically aimed at different types. "Follow your heart" and "chill" are used indiscriminately. Along with pep talk phrases. In the end, when we all want to be unique and different,  what we have is a group of ageing people trying to hold on to their youth. Clones and machines. Which is fine. But for this platitude-culture to work,  we expect  a willing suspension of disbelief from everyone we meet. It is hard for us to tolerate a different point of view. We say we do as long as that willing suspension of disbelief is at work. If we don't get that, we turn mean. The philosophical and/or moralistic or amoralistic guru in us, the one with the all encompassing love and compassion for all, who loves to dish out unnecessary, unhelpful advice , which by the way, we can get anywhere else, and extend promises of "being there for you" (LOL), disappears. Spitefully we hurt the stupid who dared to think out aloud, a little differently, say, he or she did not think your last speech was that great, or found it absolutely boring,!( Or, in case of promises  -- the one who promises does not expect you take up on his or her promise literally, and expect him or her to be there. That is where the "willing suspension of disbelief" comes in handy. Imagine you assuming that the grocery clerk who asks you how are you, really cares how you are! Or that if you really tells her or him about your plight, s/he will come to help! )
So this community becomes just another insular village-community of the Middle Ages. The modern element with its really Aquarian positive, friendly, tolerant energy  remains in our imaginations. In a way, again, people use each other. Some more than others. Some in the guise of a  benign welcoming, forgiving machine-like personality, actually swallows up an unsuspecting person, wringing out all the excitement and wonder of a romance, and then spitting out  what is left over.

If this is Aquarian Age, I feel disappointed. But I am hopeful that this is just the beginning. That we human beings will evolve more and more-- to be real Aquarians.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Third world" woes

This is the post-postmodern age. we all know that. in this age, we abhor racism, sexism etc. We are enlightened beings, or on the way to being so. esp. celebs. Almost all of them have causes to work for. and we are grateful that their famous faces bring the attention of people with money to the fate of the underprivileged.
And we hope that that would bring some long awaited changes in the lives of the disadvantaged and the dispossessed.

These celebs of course are compassionate, they want to help these unfortunate people. But at some point, the problem peeps out. the fact that in their heart of hearts, they don't see these human beings as their equal. "all are equal, some are more equal" comes true here. oh, i hear protests.

We hear casual references like  "something that may happen in a Third World country", to denote the speaker's disbelief at a pathetic occurence in a rich country. ( that was the great humane do-gooder George Clooney). Or "showing that even the tall, blonde foreign lady wanted to use it" when a celeb is describing her philanthropic work in a certain Third World country ( this is from an article in Vogue). The funny thing is the lady here doesn't have a clue as to what an average Third Worlder thinks. The Third World woman, for instance, has so many other important immediate matters to think about and deal with -- like her daily bread, her children, and her family to mention a few, that the 'blonde lady" shouldn't have to worry about what we think. We do not have any concept of your blinding beauty just because you are tall and blonde. Well, if you were really beautiful with a loving smile, then, yes. But not if you were arrogant, and condescending. Anyway, most probably, if they are anything like us Malayalis, they will look on you as just an alien, as a totally different kind of being -- not necessarily angelic or intelligent. Some of them may be even laughing behind your back. Of course there will be those who fear you  like they fear ghosts.

So -- What do these unthinking, (maybe)  by the garden-variety philanthropic celebs tell a person like me? that is, someone of average intelligence? I get the idea that the celeb concerned has inadvertently revealed his or her sense of racial superiority. in the second quote, she might as well have added "Aryan"! I do not know why these people think that we like the name-calling? or that we must like it? It is like using the N- word, dear people! That you have deigned  to stop using. Why keep using this? Of course, once you stop using this particular word, another word or phrase will take its place, which for  a while will be fine with us third worlders -- for a time. after a while we may or may not protest against that too. that is our privilege. and dancing to our tunes is your burden. :) after all, third worlds did not appear overnight on their own. we know our faults, our lacks, our situation better than you. we will call ourselves names, you do not have that right.


It is this  uncomfortable, distasteful mixture of compassion and contempt of the white race toward the so-called Third World, that makes some of  us and many of the underprivileged, distrustful of these white good samaritans. this is why the whites see hatred in the eyes of many of the poor,  even as they accept the numerous kindnesses. somehow they know, because they are not stupid. and particularly because the precedents are not that good. Historically, the advent of the  white man into the  Third World countries has not been advantageous to the Third Worlder. In fact, they know that it is this "discovery" by the white man that played a huge role in making them Third in the first place. These modern day human rights activists are the descendants  of people who made grabbing what belonged to others, an art. And no matter how much the outward trappings may change, inside, most of them are the same as their ancestors. Unless they acknowledge this contradiction/self-delusion, and change -- from the inside.

I have seen this in a university setting, where the ideas of equality and justice are accepted as everyone's birthrights. Professors who strive to be fair, non-racist, evolved beings, gay men who try the same thing, but at some point,one can see through the pretense -- conscious or otherwise. They delude themselves into thinking that they are  highly enlightened regarding the race issue, just because they are afraid to be mean to the black students,  or because they are in the field of arts and humanities, or because they are outside the mainstream as they are not heterosexual. But that doesn't naturally make them non-racists.

Now, there is a white man who acknowledges this uncomfortable truth in his writings. Henning Mankell. That is just one thing, and one very important thing -- that makes him better and different from all other great white writers or scholars, in my eyes. and he is an Aquarian too! :)



PS : A variation of this covert racism is parallelled in the area of sexism. Thus we see even educated men stoop to harping on annoyingly inane jokes that make use of outdated notions about women's nature. That there are men who find such types of jokes even remotely intelligent or  funny, in this age, is unbelievable. The basic reason here too is the contempt that they hold in their heart of hearts for women, underneath all that pretense of respect and honor.And also the fear that women are getting ahead, that tradition and mores made by men may not be able to keep women suppressed for much longer.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

an old-fashioned walk of the romantic variety

An Old-fashioned Walk  of the Romantic Variety
written on March 6, 2009


The day dared me to be blue and I am ready to oblige her. As I walked, I tried humming a nostalgic song from home. I thought of a certain person and sang, "ekantha sandhyakalil ninne orthu njan karanju! kaanaan kothicha neram kavitha poalen munnil vannu..." i tried dragging my feet and hunching my shoulders. i let my mouth droop at the corners. i looked around and up at the skies and imagined my loneliness and anonymity.

The wind didn't mind me at all. It went about doing its job, sweeping away the last of winter's debris. I saw the brown leaves, who had lagged behind in the Fall, being gathered together and herded away.. . They didn't seem to want to go. Like naughty school children, they stopped for one last hurried whisper.

I walked along pretending not to have seen the wind's antics. I should have known. when I show any interest, he gets scared and runs away, or turns colder, but when I ignore him, he comes running to me. I pulled my snug fitting cap down and over my ears, and hid my hair. And looked down, and again started singing my beautiful sad song.

Now it is not a cold wind. He is soothing and caressing. and the sun! at last the change that I have been waiting for. I am tempted to let the wind play with my hair. But I don't give in. I walk on. I had got out of the house all bundled up, and in my brown down coat I look like a bear. I can't remember the lines to my sad song anymore. I cannot think of broken dreams. or of unrequited love. The cruel lover becomes my Muse. I realize that without him, I can't write.

In the warm sun and cozy wind, I cannot even walk anymore. I want to run. I take off my cap. aah! the wind in my hair! I want to run my hands through it. my head is up soaking the sun's warmth. i cannot stoop anymore. I take off my gloves. I notice the coat has become heavy . Off it comes. I am strutting now, like Travolta, to a beat that only I can hear. I roll up the sleeves of my sweater, and I run. the wind against my face. the sun hugging me. It's a bright blue day, but I am not blue. I am staying alive. :))

Monday, March 1, 2010

history: a short history

I believe that the history of world civilizations may be summarized in a few sentences. Of course the summary may change depending on any number of factors. as there is nothing objective here.


In any event, the world at any point can be divided into two main groups: the dominator and the dominated.
The dominant group, being simultaneously fearless/reckless, and uncaring as to the rights and feelings of the dominated , obviously,  dominates. Gratification of their own desires is the main object of the dominant group. no matter what.At some point, the dominator group lose interest in dominating, -- because their greed is somewhat assuaged, and/or the satisfaction of greed is being met in less adventurous, not necessarily less cruel ways.That is when they are at leisure to be morally superior, pointing out the mistakes they made, chastising other upstarts who may seem to entertain ideas of domination, preventing any such thoughts by pre-emptive action and so on. Meanwhile the domination continues.

Fear and greed are the main characters in history, on both sides. But the difference is in the execution. The successful dominators utilize both efficiently and systematically in order to keep the dominated in that level for as long as possible. Race and religion are the main weapons that are brandished about to subdue and overpower the dominated.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

age of self-conscious living

Watching some of the talk shows here, there was a time when I was sure I wouldn't be caught dead in those. No matter what, I wouldn't be able to appear before millions -- which included strangers, and worse, family and friends -- and air my dirty linen, so to speak. But now, I am not that sure.

Look at me airing my private thoughts and conversations online! In scraps, on say, an Orkut, myspace, or on the Wall of a facebook, in applications, in inbox messages to strangers who at the same time aren't strangers any more, in a way! I draw graffiti on walls. I do things which I haven't done in my other life. What is happening? We type up updates of our activities, our thoughts, our relationships, as if in a private journal. The one difference being that it is being read (and forgotten) by many -- strangers, friends, stranger-friends. The age of self-conscious living. We are all actors in a movie or many movies. We all want drama in our live and want to be seen and heard by many, appreciated and loved by many. Wannabe celebrities. No more happy being the voyeurs. Not at all satisfied with vicarious living. We are the center. The heroes. But we need others to validate it. Legitimiztion of our existence on this planet. If people in books and movies, be it on the big screen or on TV or on youtube, are another facet of reality, if that means they are real in the same way, then we are just another aspect of that reality or unreality. My magpie and another's Greenov are all real. Or unreal. Globalized democratization of the media surely leads to not just reality TV, but to self-conscious living, and more.



What I would also like to see is where this will lead to? Will the distinction between reality and virtual reality be blurred? What will these cyber relationships be called? I am not talking of old friends meeting online and continuing their friendships. It is important, of course, this newer convenience of keeping in touch, taking up from where they had stopped, getting a chance for some, to go back to the past and relive, rebuild or demolish old relationship structures, .... But I am interested in stangers who meet online. Some people who stick in your head or mind, somehow more than others. People who have never met each other, who will never meet. Like penpals. But different. This is more immediate, more in touch. Some do drop off on the wayside. But, say, 10 years from now -- I wonder how many of my stranger-friends will still be in my list? What will I call those friends? Of course, there is "facebook friend' or "orkut friend" or some other friend. But there are varying degrees in that too. Of the depth of my feelings for a particular person(s). Or the kind of feelings for another. How will I define that relationship? How will it evolve? Obviously, a new terminology,a new set of theories are needed.



age of self-conscious living 2



One of my all-time favorite movies is Before Sunrise. Those who have seen it will know what I mean when I say it embodies almost all those concepts of building, prolonging, maintaining the initial excitement of a relationship.

In my last note, I made some observations which I gather was not agreeable to some 'stranger-friends' whom I respect very much. Is there a certain way one is supposed to think? Is theorizing about certain subjects, taboo? The spirit of what I said was lost, I fear. Probably, my fault. But the ideas are still amorphous in my own mind. I am thinking aloud. Having fun in my own humble, idle, laid back way, respected friends. But I think I understand the reason you took umbrage or whatever it is that one takes in these occasions [that umbrage partfrom P.G.Wodehouse, btw ;)] . Recently I had an argument with a guy who is quite nice, and free in many ways, very smart and well read but has all the arrogance and rigidity of youth. He looked down upon my supepokes :( . I wanted to ask him to lighten up. That was what years ago, one of my teachers told me. And I was the clown of the classroom too! I am not as learned as my young friend. But I guess my friends here are asking me to do the same . :) But I do see a contradiction here -- I am being blamed for not enjoying life as it is, and also for wasting time in "idle wondering"!



The second part of my note was a natural extention of my appreciation for the movie, "Before Sunrise". Not necessarily, just the movie, of course. Strangers who meet online. If they meet, and enjoy life, it will be just another relationship. What we see around us everyday. It will not have the "fictional reality" that a FB stranger-friend relationship has. That is what gives it the edge. I am not saying that this is the ideal, or even that this is the best. But this could be a new form of reality, of relationship. It could be one way of making the "golden Ideal' tangible, in an intangible way.

linkings -- overlapping realities

reading, watching movies, tv, -- the media world -- has changed us. duh! but the extent to which it has -- once we stop to think, it is quite interesting, to say the least. we find how it has colored our perspectives. helped our minds evolve-- as human beings, for better or worse. for instance, we see a place, and we are reminded of a movie we have seen or a book we have read. sometimes it hits us like a ton of bricks. at other times like the touch of a feather, a half-remembered song.(Books had a great role in romanticizing the English countryside for me, and for many others. Same goes with movies in the case of  England, and Britishness,  Paris, Tuscany. Cuisine  attains a compeletely different aura.) our conversations are colored by the characters we hear and see -- in real life, or in the world of books or movies. we see a person, and all these ideas or notions swirl in our brains, most of the time, in the subconscious -- about the character of the person. we may be wrong completely, but we already have a notion -- prejudiced or not-- about him or her. types. genres. from books, movies, tv. since i watch mysteries and crime dramas mostly, my notions are colored by those. at the airport, i see this man wearing a University logoed sweatshirt -- middle- aged, good looking ,athletic single guy, and in my mind he is this lothario type professor in mysteries. selfish, brilliant (maybe) using others esp women, not above murdering his wife... . Watching Criminal Minds made me afraid of the average man. In the realm of romance and courting, after all these revelations in the media, fictional or real,   feminine wiles and masculine whatnots have lost their punch -- unless they live in the twelfth century like my nazranis.



Harold Bloom's theory of anxiety of influence in the case of writers becomes relevant in the case of ordinary men and women. similes and metaphors and usages which were once looked upon with awe are now cliches. we want edgier, racier words and phrases and ideas. again overlapping genres of life. watch CSI, or the Bourne movies,even the new Bond movies -- mainstream cinema has adopted the edgy, racy mind-boggling collage-like capturing of images of an art film. like an abstract painting which talks. and makes sense. poets try to capture that broken, fast, urban graffiti that is life now.the rule breaking mural by outlaws. the soul searing fragmented cries of the underground musicians. the scars, the scorings ,the deep lines of colors that run like veins. that connect roots to branches, and to clouds and to the ocean.



people wanting to transcend time and place and minds. virtual reality, parallel reality, time travel, thought travel.... pushing the boundaries, blurring, images travelling with the speed of thought, again, overlapping realities. one of my favorite movies that has captured this age's need and craving for virtual reality, where the mind hurries forward before the body, is a short film I saw on a Facebook page.  fascinating. it is like a postmodern poem in motion. locomotion. visions of a future where thoughts and airplanes will display tracks in the skies, came to my mind when i saw it. i will be able to capture it in words in a poem, i hope. genres overlap --the music that fuels the images is apt -- "staying alive". that is the main thing -- staying alive -- men and women wanting to feel alive. become a part of the more obvious, conspicuous realities.