Archive for the ‘Batuku jeevuda!!’ Category

A few years ago, a conversation with the wrong person, about learning music, included the following exchange –

You’re learning the violin? Dude, why don’t you learn the guitar, it’s so cool and easy. It has a ‘youthful touch’ to it,” the guy ignorantly suggested while making a jeering mockery of the Indian solfège.

Do you even know how many strings a guitar has?” I asked him, conspicuously annoyed.

The conversation ended with no resolution of the question of the ‘youthful touch’ he so animatedly advertised. ‘Youthful touch’? What the hell did he even mean by that? I wonder, to this day! Back then, taking pictures with a guitar, holding it in ridiculous positions to look ‘cool’, was a fad. Also, it turned out, he didn’t know squat about music. If he really were learning the guitar and understood the nuances of learning the instrument, he wouldn’t have quacked the way he did. Anyway, shocked as I was, I began to wonder – Why is it so hard for people to understand that learning any musical instrument is an unforgiving challenge if you do not have the aptitude for music and the right attitude towards learning? Why do they think that one instrument is easier to learn than the other just because they think it has a more ‘modern design’?

Guitar & Violin

Guitar & Violin – Kins in Beauty

To those who think the guitar is more modern than the violin, hence scores higher on the ‘cool’ factor, I have news for them – The modern classical guitar also has a long history of more than a thousand years and what’s more, its earliest relatives travelled to Europe from Central Asia, Persia and India (Yes, you read that right!). The Sitar, which developed independently in India during the Mughal period, is also a distant cousin of the Guitar. Ever noticed the remarkable similarities in the names and the structure of a modern guitar and the Sitar? Saying all this, the point I intend to drive at is, no instrument is ‘cooler’ or ‘better’ than the other. Every instrument poses very different challenges to its players, who sculpt their styles to overcome them, thus establishing their own musical idioms. That’s what makes a great musician. I implore everyone not to reduce this delightful art form into a battle of the ‘cool’ and the ‘uncool’!

I have a bone to pick with those who claim that one style of music is ‘greater’ or ‘more beautiful’ than the other. There is a reason why scholars and artists call music a ‘universal language’, as clichéd as it might sound. Every human, every single one of us, responds to music in one form or the other. The extremely precise mathematical patterns and the harmonic symmetry in music make us that much more receptive to it. We are all naturally predisposed, thanks to evolution, to respond to beauty and symmetry in every form – visual, acoustic or even abstract. The physical and biological parameters under which humans perceive beauty and symmetry are the same for every individual. Everyone will undeniably perceive a tonic and a dominant fifth played together or in quick succession to be beautiful or at least in harmony, if not anything else. The tonic is what we Indians call ‘Sa’ (short for ‘Shadjamam’ or ‘Kharaj’) and the dominant fifth, ‘Pa’ (short for ‘Panchamam’ or ‘Pancham’). This ubiquity of harmony and symmetry in music has everything to do with biology and Nature’s mathematics and nothing whatsoever to do with social or cultural attributes. The only role of culture is to mold these sounds into a collage that exudes the uniqueness of the society in which they blossom. So, one style of music patronized by royalty in one part of the world, isn’t any better or worse than another style that developed thousands of miles away, in the remote sun scorched wastelands of a desert!

Sheet Music in Mozart's Handwriting

Sheet Music in Mozart’s Handwriting

There exist diversified opinions about the role of religion in the patronage and promotion of music throughout history. While it cannot be denied that religious institutions and ideologues have been some of the biggest patrons of music in the past, it would be wrong and squarely insulting to the composers to say that if it weren’t for religion there wouldn’t be any music at all. Indeed, composers of yore drew inspiration from religious ideas and concepts, but surely it was their skill and genius that produced the masterpieces. Mozart started playing the keyboard at the age of four and began composing by five and at nine, wrote his first symphony. Thyagaraja started composing at thirteen. At such an age, the spur of creativity certainly cannot be ascribed to religious inspiration. It would be an affront to human creativity and ingenuity to suggest that if it weren’t for religion there wouldn’t be patrons of art or inspiration for art.

Nature has always served as an alternative muse for artists and musicians. In fact, it gave them a wider canvas on which to create their masterpieces. Societies and their quirks can evoke music and art. Also, for a long time, particularly in dark-age Europe, secular art and music were widely discouraged, lest one should fall out of favor of the Holy Mother Church! Notwithstanding, folk traditions evolved across all cultures without large scale religious interference. They were largely non-religious in nature and retained the pristine rustic charm of the culture in which they flourished and therefore, struck a chord with the common man. This was in tandem with the structurally and pedagogically rigid, heavily patronized and monopolized systems we call Classical music. People often seem to forget that music has had very mundane, non-divine and secular beginnings.

Tanpura

Tanpura – The Drone of Bliss

Nature is an enormous musical library. In the animal kingdom, a staggering variety of sounds serve various purposes. Birds like larks, some birds of paradise, great tits* (Sleazy, I know. But that’s what they’re called. Now grow up!) sing in long intricate syllables to mark their territories and attract mates. Among mammals, the humpback whale and some other species of whales sing long elaborate song-like patterns to woo potential mates – the longer and more innovative their songs, the better their chances of landing a life-long mate. Other mammals like dolphins, bats and elephants produce an entire spectrum of sounds to communicate and navigate. Some higher order mammals, esp. primates like Siamang gibbons and chimpanzees, live in small family groups and draw their borders by calling out to neighbors and other groups in semi-rhythmic patterns.

Being social primates, we humans began to live in larger groups for safety. There is a general consensus within the scientific community that territorial demarcations by the first humans were also made by singing in large groups – the larger the group, the greater the need for harmony. Therefore, we began to develop simple but perfect rhythm patterns to harmonize. These led to certain synchronized body movements, thus laying the foundations for dance. In a social context, singing in groups helped a great deal in forging strong social bonds and establishing group solidarity. It triggered the limbic system of the brain, thus enabling us to ‘experience’ rather than to just listen and respond. Many scientists also believe that we began to sing even before we began to speak. There were stalactites found in some caves, showing signs of erosion caused by drumming, suggesting usage as percussion instruments or as an early form of the xylophone. The earliest and simplest melodic instruments, apart from the human voice, may have been reed-pipes and bone flutes (c. 40,000 BCE). Songs and dance were – and still are – used for sexual selection as well. Every culture, without exception, has developed some form of music. In the words of David Attenborough, the legendary naturalist, “It’s as if we weren’t human without music”. Music served a very pragmatic purpose in the course of our evolution and eventually threw open the flood-gates to our creativity.

Humpback Whale - The Singer of the Seas

Humpback Whale – The Minstrel of the Sea

As human societies diversified, so did their music. Like earthly life-forms, music took its own course of evolution in each society, changing and adapting to novel social and geographic stimuli, developing into new styles, genres etc. Thanks to technology and an unprecedented exchange between cultures, the twentieth century saw the greatest revolution in the stylization of music. More genres and styles of music were born in the twentieth century alone than in all of recorded human history. The old began to embrace the new and coexist or change or blend with it. With new paradigm changes came new music that constantly redefined beauty. This revolution in music also revolutionized human expression to an extraordinary degree and will continue to do so. These changes in music are as natural and progressive as any other, such as in language, in other forms of art or in society itself, as a whole. Every style of music must either adapt to its environment or die out, as did many in the past. Unfortunately, there are no fossils in music. The unpreserved music of the ancients can only sound as good as the speculation surrounding it. Recreating it is a hard game of intelligent guessing. But music today, in sharp contrast, has any number of means of preservation. It can be heard and appreciated in its original form, a hundred or even a thousand years from now – a privilege granted by technology.

Changes in music are inevitable, whether we like it or not. Most of us have gladly taken them in our stride, but then there are those that refuse to accept changes and stubbornly argue against them. Their myopic views of a perfect musical style are predicated upon a warped sense of grandeur, that hides behind the veil of a delusional and divisive old school of thought. The frustration resulting from the sheer magnitude of logical fallacies in their arguments is beyond description. Compounding the problem is their steely resolve and stern refusal to acknowledge those fallacies. My appeal to them (prostrating) – if you cannot appreciate the spate of changes and the bursts of creativity in musical expression, then please step aside and allow those who do appreciate them to step ahead. You are entitled to your opinion and are welcome to grope around in the darkness of your ignorance, but you have no right to restrain others within your dungeon of intolerance. We must all realize that a note with a frequency of 261.626 Hz will sound the same, whether you call it ‘Sa’ or ‘Safed Ek’ or ‘Kattai One’ or ‘Middle C’ or just simply ‘C’! Convenience dictates nomenclature and there’s nothing more to it. Rephrasing the BardWhat’s in a name? That which we call a ‘C’, By any other name would sound as sweet. Please, do not ruin the sweetness by dipping it into your bitter and desperate need for identity.

I wish to conclude this post with a quote and, of course, a couple of songs from various genres –

Where words fail, music speaks. 

–  Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75 )

(“Mokshamu Kalada” – Saramathi Raga – Adi Talam – One of my favorite Thyagaraja krithis, in which the saint asks if a person, without the knowledge of music, is capable of attaining ‘Moksham’. Rendered by BOMBAY JAYASHREE)

(“Khabaram Raseeda” – A qalaam (poem) by the medieval Sufi mystic Amir Khusro Dehlawi (1253-1325 CE). It switches between Farsi (Persian) and Hindavi (an early recognizable form of Hindustani [Hindi/Urdu]). It is about a devoted lover laying herself at the mercy of her master (lover) and begging to be noticed. This qalaam was tuned and sung in Raga Bageshri (the same in both Carnatic and Hindustani). Rendered by FAREED AYAZ and ABU MOHAMMED)

(“Scarborough Fair” is a traditional ballad of Great Britain. The song relates the tale of a young man who instructs the listener to tell his former lover to perform for him a series of impossible tasks, such as making him a shirt without a seam and then washing it in a dry well, adding that if she completes these tasks he will take her back. Often the song is sung as a duet, with the woman then giving her lover a series of equally impossible tasks, promising to give him his seamless shirt once he has finished. Rendered here by SIMON AND GARFUNKEL)

(“Kashmir” – One of my all-time favorites and one of the first classic rock songs I ever heard. My brother takes the credit for introducing me to ‘English Music’ – as I fondly called all songs foreign – that opened my window to music from outside of India. In this song, I absolutely love the strings section, apart from the guitars. Needless to say, this song entirely and solely belongs to the legendary LED ZEPPELIN)

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PS: All religious fanatics and ultra-traditionalists who think that music and dance are a distraction caused by the Devil/Evil One/whosoever the hell it is, that leads humans away from the ‘True Path’ and by virtue of which, they think that they are empowered to suppress others’ creativity, can kindly take their religious DUNG and SHOVE IT! Religions and belief systems that seek, by dogma, to stifle human expression, creativity and intellect are not worthy of reverence or respect in any measure.

PPS: * Whoever thought of naming an entire family of birds after breasts, or was it the other way round? I Wonder!

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Images Courtesy:

The Violin and GuitarMozart’s Sheet MusicTanpura Humpback Whale 

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एकं सद्विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति |(Ekam sadvipraa bahudhaa vadanti)” – Rg Veda, Mandala 1, Sukta 164, Rk 46

The Existent is One, but the sages express it variously”

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” – The Holy Bible, Book of Deuteronomy 5:6

Lâ Ilâha Illallâh, Muḥammadur Rasûlullâh” – ‘The Shahada’ – Muslim Declaration of Belief

There is no god but God (Allah) and Mohammed is His Messenger”

These are the interpretations of the world’s three largest schools of thought, of the existence of the ‘One‘, whom each of them calls by a different name(s). Through canons of doctrines called ‘scriptures’, they talk of His omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience and tirelessly sing praises in His glory. Nine in ten people around the world happen to believe in Him and adhere to one of hundreds of precepts like the ones above. They all think of Him as the ultimate and the only truth and call Him GOD. These schools of thought are what the world calls Religions. And these Religions, apart from describing and vaguely defining an abstract idea of a supreme power/being that is beyond the comprehension of the extremely limited human faculties of perception, also speak volumes, quite literally, on norms and rules of human conduct. These norms and rules, they claim, discipline human life and give purpose and meaning to it. Thus, Religions have transformed from being schools of thought into systems of belief, each claiming to be brightening the right path to the ultimate truth.

OM

After writing that heady, philosophical kickoff, a question lingered at the back of my mind – Do we really need to instill a fear of some supremely incomprehensible super-human power/being in order to establish discipline and make our lives more meaningful? Far from finding an answer, I stumbled upon a slew of more unanswerable questions. In medieval Europe, so much as a thought leading to such questions would have committed me to the stake and placed me on Hell’s menu as an exotic ‘Heretic’ or an ‘Apostate’ or an ‘Infidel’ from the East! But, thankfully, in a more tolerant world of today, I’d only be judged as an ‘Atheist’ or a ‘Non-believer’ or perhaps an ‘Agnostic’ for being confused. But, I hate being typecast and thrown into such categories which by themselves have sectarian undertones. Let me assure you that I am none of the above, nor am I a blind believer leaving no scope for an argumentative, skeptical view-point. Expressing skepticism and argumentativeness over established religious dogmas has claimed the lives of many a great thinker in the past. Even today, although such extreme punitive measures are rare or non-existent, such thoughts and acts are still not encouraged. But at least, we are at liberty to explore these aspects of questioning and learning and thus nurturing that fundamental human urge to know. I think inquiry and skepticism are the two keys to all knowledge.

Since the dawn of civilization, Religion, despite all the rationales behind its establishment, has divided the human society and stratified it more than unite. Ironically, it served as the reason for humans losing touch with humanity and humaneness. The thought of one’s beliefs being superior to another’s has spawned conflicts and history bears witness to their terrible outcomes. Kingdoms, empires and nations have risen and fallen to the whims of faith and altered the course of human history several times. Religion has wrought havoc on earth by breeding radical, intolerant, fundamentalist ideologies. People have slaughtered one another in the name of the one supreme being who, ironically, dictates that killing another human being is tantamount to sacrilege and is punishable with eternal damnation in the fires of Hell or being born as a parasite in the next life or some other penalty, as the ‘faith’ may be! Do we have to brainwash a person with these ‘consequences’ in order to enlighten him to the fact that killing is wrong and unnatural? Do we really need that fear of the divine to scare us from wrongdoing? Don’t we, as humans, possess that faculty to judge right from wrong without the intervention of divinity? Can we not be humane without factoring in something or someone from outside the known universe into the equation of human existence? Have we not evolved or learnt enough to understand that an omnipotent, supernatural being is a superfluous concept in the context of a modern human life?

Crucifix

Another aspect where religion amazes me to no end, is in its claims on creation and sustenance and their absolute disconnect from reality. Religion fails to provide any amount of credible evidence to substantiate its claims and any attempt to question this failure is regarded as arrogance and in many cases, a sin punishable by death. We are expected to believe everything without dispute or reason. Therefore, Religion meets its nemesis in Science, which is skeptical of anything that cannot be proved by logical reasoning and rigorous empirical processes. Science today, is taking quantum leaps into the future, what with the radical change in the way people think and perceive. This is the age of reason. In this age, should we still believe that the Universe was made in six days by a long bearded man seated on a colossal throne surrounded by extremely good-looking men and women with wings, and that they all rested on the seventh day OR that a four-headed, four-armed man born on a flower sprouting from the navel of another four-armed, dark-skinned man reclining on an enormous thousand-hooded snake, created the Universe? My answer would be an emphatic and resounding NO! These are wonderfully imaginative narratives, rife with people, magic, strange beings and creatures, but not textbooks on Astronomy! They are a testament to the prowess of human imagination, but not evidence of reality. These tales certainly cannot replace ‘The Big Bang Theory’ or ‘Theory of Evolution’ in schools. Sure, the belligerent might bawl saying ‘O they’re just theories and nothing more!’ Well, yes they’re theories, and as required of a theory, they’ve been tested and re-tested over and over again and have been proved, time and again, to be most accurate and progressively reinforced. I think we must begin to refrain from according religion the excessive deference and adoration it is so used to receiving. History has paid enough tributes to religion. Finally, I think it’s high time some faith-based groups stopped propagating that humans and dinosaurs had a live-in relationship just 6000 years ago! For the last time, ‘Flintstones’ is not a documentary and ‘Jurassic Park’ never happened! The earth is more than four billion years old, is almost spherical, spins on its own axis and revolves around the Sun and finally, all life forms ‘EVOLVED‘ from unicellular aquatic organisms which appeared more than three billion years ago, now get over it! And NO, THERE IS NO INTELLIGENT DESIGNER, who sat down to painstakingly ‘design’ all life forms as they appear today!

as-Shahada

As a child, I grew up amidst orthodoxy and a staunch belief in the supremacy of gods and rituals. A consequence of this is the ritually invested three-pronged white thread, the yagnyopavitam, that hangs from my left shoulder and runs across my chest to come a full circle. For long, I blindly believed in everything I was taught and accepted it without question. Mind you, I was always ‘taught’, never ‘brainwashed’. My family gave me the liberty to frame my own opinion and accept belief the way I saw fit. But it took me an awfully long time to become aware of the latitude I had. So, religion, ritual and God played a very important role and had a very special place in my life. They governed the way I thought, the way I perceived the world around me. I measured everything in life with a theological yardstick. I led a life of absolute subservience to the ‘divine’ power. Today, for reasons unknown, I think I am undergoing a phase of transformation by questioning the very fundamentals of faith and the rigidity of enforcement of its doctrines. I don’t know if this means that I’m rejecting them altogether, but I’m certainly exploring a new perspective on faith. I once ‘believed’, and now, I want to know what exactly it is that I believed in and whether it was worth believing. Words like renunciation or apostasy may be too harsh to describe the state of my belief right now. Whether or not I will ever be able to get to the bottom of this quest and face the ‘truth’, is something I really don’t know. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to know if I’ll ever get to the bottom of it. I’m content with the way I think and investigate into the truth, or the lack of it. As I think and ponder, the off-white three-pronged thread serves one of its many noble purposes – as a great back-scratching tool! While I think….and think….and think!

Images Courtesy: Om, Crucifix, Shahada

We men grow up to be ‘men’ from being ‘boys’ first. And as boys, we sometimes do things that are considered unacceptable and, in some cases, blasphemous under typical societal norms. And this rule holds good across cultures with no known exceptions. In some cultures such behavior is considered a one way street to capital punishment or worse, having your you-know-what nipped! Now, I’m sure most of you would’ve guessed what I’ve tacitly been referring to. For the rest, I’m talking of the ‘curiosity to explore and enlighten oneself of the nuances and intricacies of the anatomy and physiology of the opposite/same sex (subject to individual preference), which in effect, results in referring to the widely available material in the mainstream media, particularly the internet, that serve as visual aids on the visible effects of manual stimulation of the reproductive organs and the subsequent act of copulation’. In crude terms – ‘watching porn’! Yes. Pornography is one area that all boys would, at some point, want to and have explored. But being discreet about it is also part of the process of exploration. Now, why all this nonsense, you ask? I’ll tell you why.

Boys will be boys!

Everyone would, no doubt, agree that being caught watching porn is bad. But one can easily get away with it with minimal tact. But being caught with visibly objectionable material stashed up among your books at home is probably the worst, like being caught with one’s hand in the…..err….chakkli-dabba? What excuse can one possibly give?

One night when my parents were out, my brother was busy cleaning his cupboard.  After a while, I noticed he was fixedly reading something. My brother wasn’t the bookish kind to be found reading so attentively (only recently he said he’d discovered the joy of reading, but I digress). I’d never seen him pay so much attention to a book. All I did was ask him what he was reading, hardly expecting to scare the living daylights out of him! He reacted as if I was coming at him with a boulder to smash his face! He looked up with a start, screaming ‘FFUUCCKK’ like a really bad actor from a B-grade horror film. His face flushed like a ripe tomato! Amidst the ruckus, a bunch of pages poured out of his lap. As they settled on the floor, several women in the raw, posing in innumerable lewd positions, lecherously called out of the pages. As I struggled to evoke a coherent response, my brother hastily attended to the screaming pictures as he cursed me for startling him so. I admit, my brother and I aren’t the most saintly of creatures, but I, for one, had never contemplated on bringing such controversial material home. Not because I was concerned about desecrating our blessed home that was synonymous with sanctity, but purely out of fear of being caught, given my mother’s occasional urges to purge our house of the filth it gathers. Therefore, I warned my brother about it and asked him to be wary and all was forgotten for a while.

A week later, upon returning home, I noticed that my mom wasn’t quite acting herself. My usually gentle and welcoming mother seemed to be on the brink of exploding like an overloaded power transformer. I could practically see her fume like one. This was absolutely unlike her. My father screamed from the bedroom inquiring, in objectionable language, if it was me or my brother. I hesitantly answered. He ordered me to call my brother on his cell-phone and ask him to come home immediately. My brother apparently had not answered his phone when called twice earlier. I sensed something had gone awfully wrong and that it involved my brother, but wasn’t quite sure what it was that had set our house ablaze. I picked up the phone and dialed my brother’s number. Two rings later –
“Hello?”, my unsuspecting brother answered.
“Hello, abey!! It’s me, K. Where are you? Mom and dad are about to explode. They want you home right away.”
“Why? What the fuck happened? What’d I do now?”
“You’re asking me? Dude! I have no clue. I just got home 10 min ago and they’ve been acting weird ever since. Things don’t look…..”
I was rudely interrupted by my dad, screaming from the bedroom again, “Ask that *a shower of bram-Telugu expletives* to get home right away!”
“You heard him? Now, you get your ass home right now or I’m not sure if we’re going to survive this night. Dude, please, wherever you are, just make your way home. Ok?”
“Ok! Ok! Fine. I’ll be there in 30 min. Chalo bye!”
“Bye”

I hung up and waited impatiently for someone to speak up. My dad had locked the bedroom and I could hear him in the shower. I tried asking my mom, but she wouldn’t say a thing. All she’d mumble was “Let him come!”, the menacing tone in her answer was just too obvious to ignore. “This is it!” I thought, “The end of my brother’s days!” But I was still unmindful of the gravity of the sin he had committed to merit such potentially lethal threats, nor could I even hazard a guess. As always, I was scheming to shield him from my dad’s wrath, lest things should get violent.

30 min later, my dad inquired in another brief fit of foul bram-Telugu. I placed another call to my brother’s cell and he answered saying he was in the building and that he’d be home in a minute.

A couple of minutes later the door-bell rang. My brother walked into the seething oven, that was our home, turned to me and whispered ‘Dude, seriously. WTF happened? Did someone die?’ As badly as I wanted to say ‘Yes. You!’ I was too concerned for him to quip like that. So I refrained and gestured an ‘I don’t know. Just go to dad’s room’ instead. I saw him walk into the lion’s den.

Silence!

A moment later, my dad screamed out again and asked me to come in too.

*Gulp* Now, WTF did I do? And what the hell is happening around here? What’s with all the lethal suspense?

My dad’s room – I took a deep breath and went in. Next thing I knew, my head was spinning like a top and I almost fainted. On the bed, was an aesthetically starved collage on display. The shock, I tell you! The offensively honest pictures were all generously spread out like we were going to be asked to pick one each so our parents could go ahead and match horoscopes! My father was facing the wall with one palm pressed against it. The situation reminded me of a K-serial-home-emergency, where four generations gather to discuss why the badi bahu cooked bhindi in spite of being asked to cook gobi, and chide her for her insolence. Only difference here was, two generations gathered and no cooking was involved. My father turned to my brother and not-so-innocently asked in whose company he had learned to do all this. My brother thought it best to prolong his bout of silence, than answer a question like that. Meanwhile, my mother, in a momentary lapse of her legendary self-control, grabbed my brother’s hair and slapped him twice. I had to gather myself from the shock to stop her. She turned away and flopped onto the bed and slapped her forehead in utter disappointment.

In the background, my father continued his opera of curses and expletives that ranged from addressing our ancestors, accusing my brother of drug abuse, of visiting a brothel, of resorting to wanton practices and cursing him of contracting various unspeakable diseases!

Where is the beeper when you need one, goddamn it!!

Anyway, my brother’s deathly silence had annoyed my dad, to the point that he grabbed a belt to whip him blue. I had to intervene. My father cursed as he withdrew. My mother in all her innocence, even in a fit of anger, posed some fundamental questions – ‘Why did you get these pictures? What do you do with them?’ Lost for words, I could only manage ‘Amma! Calm down! Calm down!’ while I wanted to say ‘Oh Dear God! You don’t wanna know!’

An hour of my dad’s unimaginable linguistic decadence and my mother’s inquisitive innocence resulting from my brother’s indiscretion in not ensuring the safety of his stash culminated in its summary destruction by subjecting it to flames. This, apart from facing utterly embarrassing questions and a certain degree of violence.

All my brother had to do, to avoid the domestic war scene, was exercise a little more caution. Just a tad bit more! This could have saved everyone the trouble and him, the embarrassment. He could have hidden the ‘seducational’ material in more parentally-inaccessible places such as with a trustworthy older sibling like yours truly. What are older siblings for after all? Amidst such resentment for pornography who else would younger siblings turn to for acceptance? My brother never brought home anything even remotely associated with pornography after that night. Well, if he has, then kudos to him for his vigilance! Should I say, ‘Once bitten, twice shy’ or ‘Better safe than sorry’?

P S: I actually dedicate this post to my brother, whom I miss and love very much!! He and I share many such secrets! Here’s to you kaakaaaaa!!

Images courtesy: My brother’s naughtiness and my shock.

Suggestive title eh? I know! But, if you’re expecting any amount of sensually gratifying content in the ramble ahead, then please be prepared to be brutally thwarted in hope! It contains inordinate amounts of rant and rave more than anything else. The title is just a bait! So, now that you’ve taken the bait, swallow it! Well, in this case ‘Read it’!

With that cautionary beginning, I shall get right down to the nitty-gritty of the two ‘R’s I’ve promised.

For a full week ending last Friday, our little god-forsaken town in the purportedly ‘perpetually bright and sunny’ State of Florida, was physically abused (yes, you read that right!) by the whimsical weather. I stand testimony to the fact that this region of the US is not unfamiliar with Nature’s concepts of ‘rain’ and ‘storm’. It all began Thursday, March 26th. It rained and rained into late Sunday night. Then on Monday morning, the sun showed his face fleetingly. Just as we prepared to do the Mayan sun-dance in his praise, he got mobbed by the dark menacing clouds again. The clouds opened up, and it rained. It rained on and off without a moment of sunshine until the evening of Thursday, April 2nd, when the gods seemed to have lost it completely! The weather went insane! The met. dept. issued warnings through emails and other media, of a tornado and a severe thunderstorm. On the pretext of bad weather, I skipped work and stayed home.

At around 5.30-6 pm, I was rambling away on the phone with my clique. The sky roared and growled warning us mortals of the acute indigestion the clouds were having and then before we knew it, they threw up! The winds lived up to their unpredictability – whirlwinds were everywhere! The usual havoc ensued; fallen trees and power lines, blocked roads, and worst of all – power cuts! I was updating my friends on the goings on when the entire neighborhood blacked out (My first brush with ‘power cuts’ in the US, a long one at that!)! The cops and other service personnel drove around warning us to stay inside, seek refuge in an elevated location.  Our apartment is located in a trough and is vulnerable to flooding. So, my roommates and I decided to head to campus. We made a couple of calls to friends to arrange for a ride. We noticed we weren’t the only ones who had the brightest of ideas! (:|) A few calls later we found ourselves riding to campus amidst howling winds and piercing rains. We went straight to our roomie’s lab which was on the second floor of the CS dept. building.

About an hour later, the showers eased off a bit. The downpour wasn’t as heavy as they had begun, but the winds still blew strong. We were both starving and had to feed ourselves to survive the night. “Subway Zindabad!!’ we decided and stepped out with the one umbrella we had with us. As we walked, the wind came at us with all its love and literally blew us away and ripped our umbrella apart. The only vestiges of the umbrella we held were the staff and the ribs. Great!! Soaking wet, we got to Subway and guess what! They were only accepting cash (Great call Murphy!!)! The dash to the nearest ATM wasn’t as helpful in keeping us any drier, if anything, it even soaked the cash we were carrying. We dumped the battered umbrella as we walked out with our dinner. We entered the lab like two soggy, dripping noodles. We logged on from the computers in the lab and updated all friends on the status quo, all of whom had a hearty laugh at the ironies that played out.

The rest of the night was spent in clinging wet clothes on the decadently comfortable study tables with our bags for pillows! Aaah the bliss of sleeping in wet clothes!

8 am. The sun was out shining ever so brightly. It didn’t even seem that a storm had passed the previous night. My roomie and I got up to head home and as we left the lab we saw something which hit us like a lightning bolt – AN UMBRELLA! A black one, against the wall, in a corner, begging to be used! It had been lying there all night, and we went out with that decrepit two-dollar umbrella which died a horrible death leaving us dripping wet! Talk about stormy ironies! Cussing ensued.

At least we were lucky enough to find our apartment and belongings intact after a night of living like refugees. We didn’t have power until late afternoon though. Aah well, at least a peaceful end to a tempestuous night!

Forgetting – The three syllables can either get you into deep, deep, abysmal trouble or can bail you out of an icky situation like a savior, as the case may be, and alter the course of history (your own and/or of all humanity). Yes, my love and respect for the word and the act itself is immeasurable. Hence, ‘I forget, therefore I am’!

Alright! This was perhaps the lamest of attempts to rationalize my most conspicuous trait – yes, you guessed that right – forgetting. It is so natural for me to forget as it is for a memory chip to store data. If it does not save it’s not a memory chip and if I don’t forget, it’s not me! Sometimes I feel a fish or even an ant has better retention than I do. My lack of memory is very subjective though. There are only certain things or incidents that slip out of my mind, not everything. So, it’s not like I have alzheimer’s or anything. Some people call this trait ‘absent mindedness’ while I just call it ‘forgetfulness’. These little anecdotes will demonstrate what a splendid memory I have and what games my brain sometimes plays with me. In effect, they will show how this trait got me into deep, deep, deep trouble!

Let’s begin with a more recent occurrence. This happened only a few months ago. A relative had temporarily moved to another city and left his almost dump-worthy car with me. My roomie and I began using that car for everything including missed-bus-to-campus-so-take-the-car kind of emergencies. It was mid-term time. One of my exams was at 5.15 pm and I had to catch the 4.30 bus, which, goes without saying, I missed. So, I had no choice but to take the car. Now, the catch is, I didn’t have the permit to park that car on campus (getting a permit for cars owned by someone else was an unnecessary rigmarole, so I gave that a miss!) and had to park somewhere ‘near’ but not ‘on’ campus. So, I parked it at the McDonalds, just outside campus, and walked to class. The exam went well, I then finished post-exam discussions, walked to the bus-stop with a friend, caught the bus and came home (I actually took the bus back home, yes!). Not once did it cross my mind that I had driven to class that evening. The night went by.

Next morning – class at 10.10 am, had to catch the 9.30 bus. Now, it is  imperative that I state the not-so-petty fact that I missed the darned 9.30 bus again and decided to take the blessed car! I went to the apartment parking lot and walked straight to the spot where I usually park the car and………voilà……..NO CAR!! It wasn’t there (How would it? It was twiddling tires in the McD’s parking lot, Helloo!!)!! Scouring the entire parking lot only burnt the last few ounces of flesh left on my bones and fetched nothing. My heart leapt to my throat (I thought I was going to choke to death!). I panicked like a fainting goat!

I searched the parking lot again as I tried to think back to the previous evening. This was the chain of events that I recalled at that time – “I missed the bus as usual, took the car, parked at McD’s, walked to class, gave the exam, walked with the friend and then how did I come back home? O yes! The wretched bus! Then, where’s the……………………………O F***!! O F***!!O F***!!” I almost fainted out of shock! I had never prayed as fervently as I did that day, for the car not to be towed away or even worse, stolen. I was thinking of all sorts of rational and irrational explanations to give my relative, in the event of something unfortunate. I began to think of my bank balance, loans and other finances and about how long I might take to repay him. Going by the crunch I faced, the prospect of paying back seemed pretty far. “Screw the class, I’ve got to get the car back or I’m screwed! Big Time!!” I thought. “The car is your Holy Grail!” – the only thought that echoed in my head like a thousand singing choirs nymphs!

I waited for the next bus and prayed. I prayed through the journey to the Holy McD’s! I got off the bus with trembling feet, and a lump in my throat. I walked into the parking lot and there it was!! My Holy Grail!! My El Dorado!! My Shangrila!! It was right where I had parked it! To me that derelict contraption they called, the car, looked like a mountain of gold and it glowed and shimmered! It seemed as if I had fulfilled my life’s purpose and had nothing more to achieve – Nirvana!! It was then that I swallowed that lump in the throat and ran to the car in slow-motion, hugged it and kissed it! I thanked all the gods a million times, sat in the car and drove back home! I missed the next class in all the excitement and joy of finding the car safe and not-so-sound!

This incident may seem shocking and is likely to create all sorts of impressions of me. But I’ll still tell you the story. I was 10 and was enjoying a perfect summer vacation at my maternal uncle’s place in Vizag’s Naval Park*. Their kid (my cousin) was a one-and-a-half year-old baby then. I was very fond of him and I’d play with him all day. Their flat was on the 7th floor and there was a little playground just outside the building. One evening, as my grandma watched me, I took him down to the playground. My uncle and aunt hadn’t returned home from work. I left my cousin with a few other kids of his age. I had already befriended a few kids my age and was playing GI-JOE with them. My team won a battle and, all excited, I ran home to tell everyone.

The moment she saw me, my grandmother, clearly aghast, “WHERE’S THE BABY?”

SKIP HEART BEAT! SHOCK! STARE! GAPE! STARE LONGER!

She gave me one tight slap, grabbed me by my ear and dragged me out of the house to look for my cousin. Some crying ensued. As we waited for the lift and as her cussing and my sobbing continued uninterrupted, the lift opened and my uncle’s neighbor walked out of it with my cousin in her arms. Man, the relief!! Some killer gazes, threats and lectures later, my grandmom took the baby from her and thanked her. I felt like a prisoner walking to the gallows, as I walked into the house and as the door closed behind me. Let’s suffice it to say that I thought I might be murdered that night and wouldn’t see daylight ever again! I didn’t sleep a wink!

These anecdotes pretty much drive the point home and are self-explanatory of the trait I began talking about, which was……..err……which was……what was that again? Damn it!! Someone remind me! What the hell was it that I began talking about?

PS: With this post I’d actually like to apologize to my cousin, who is now 15 and is giving his 10th boards, for almost putting him on the ‘Missing’ children’s list!!

PPS: * Naval Park is a residential township for Naval officers stationed in the Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam, AP.

And Here It Is – The Quirk

Posted: October 27, 2008 in Pointless ramble
Tags: , ,

Dear loyal readers! I now present to you, my quirky self in six ways. Rads, the empress blogger, has tagged me to write six quirky things about myself. This is no herculean task. I have enough quirks to fill a book. I shall brighten up this festive season with six of those multitude of quirks *rubbing hands in excitement.

(Ekam) When I see a square tiled floor, especially a floor tiled like a chessboard, I always walk in a knight’s pattern on the chessboard – in an ‘L’. If I set one foot on a square then my other foot would itch to step two squares forward and one square to the right or left, or two squares to the right or left and one square forward, both moves depend on the first step. This is a quirk nurtured on purpose. Don’t ask why. It’s a quirk, remember?

(Rendu) I am an avid dreamer. I don’t need to sleep to dream. I dream as I walk and tend to bump into things or people, trip over, laugh out loud, talk to self, sing like I’m all alone in the world. I have a fancy world of my own. I lead a more idealistic life in that world, where I am the most coveted Carnatic musician ever. I play 75 (I’m just being modest with this number here) instruments and I boast proficiency in every style of music one could conceive of. I speak, read and write 35 (or was it more? aah, this modesty is killing me!) languages with the fluency of a learned native. I am the most unassuming person in spite of all the superhuman qualities I possess. All the women want me. Aahh! The dream! I live there. I also have a middle-earthish sort of world of which I am the undisputed emperor!

(Theen) Consequently, my incessant dreaming has made me superlatively forgetful too! I must be conferred the honorary title of ‘Bhulakkad Shiromani’ or ‘Matimarupu Chakravarthy’. There could be no one more deserving! There are tons of instances I could testify with. Once, my roommate and I were busy cleaning our apartment and were moving things around so we could get to every nook and corner and clean them spotless. We were gently moving the TV, along with its rickety roller-stand when I heard a knock on the door. My roomie, poor chap, was still pulling at it from the other side when I, in a momentary lapse of conscious reasoning, let go of it to get the door and……CCCRRRRAAAASSSHHHHH!! The TV jumped off the stand and fell to the ground, screen-first. So much for our cleaning session! I didn’t realize it was falling until it struck the ground. My roommate just stood there and glowered at me in contemptuous amazement, hands akimbo. From the look on his face, I feared he might lift the shattered TV and crash it on my head again, as I sheepishly smiled and bit my fist. There! Do you need a more classic example?

(Quatre) I am now coming to terms with it, but for a really long time, I loathed the colour ‘Red’. Anything close to being the shade of a tomato or blood would be shun-worthy to me. I hated it so much, that I wouldn’t be able to sleep if there were a red nightlight. I hated red coloured cars. I never owned a single piece of red coloured clothing, not even undergarments! I would hesitate to eat ketchup. I avoided looking at the traffic signals for too long. I wouldn’t go more than three-four feet closer to a person wearing red coloured clothes. I was crazy about this girl in my class in engg. who was supposed to be MCing along with me for a freshers’ party. Blissfully unaware of my hatred for red, she said she was going to surprise me that day in a ‘new sari’. I couldn’t wait to see her in her ‘new sari’! I was so looking forward to sharing the stage with her when, to my utter horror, that morning she showed up in a red sari. I was heart-broken. I couldn’t even get myself to look at her and savor the eye-candy that she was. Although I did share the stage with her as I had fancied, I actually avoided looking at her because every time I tried to ignore the ruthlessly impedimental ‘red sari’ and look at her, it would show itself in all its glory. I kicked myself later when all my friends said she looked mesmerizing. That should pretty much sum up my hatred for the colour. Although now I’ve begun to smother my abhorrence and accept the natural optical aberration called ‘red’, I still freak out when I see red lights!

(Hamza) I have an obsession for multiples of 3 and 9. Every number I see, be it a license plate, a bus number, telephone number, price tag, anything, I tend to add up all the digits to check for its divisibility by 3 or 9. If it’s not, I feel this urge to change that number into the nearest multiple of either 3 or 9. Even when I drive, I consciously make an effort to drive at a speed that is divisible by 3 or 9. Also, I hate prime numbers (except 3, of course!). Is this a pathological condition?

(Six) I hate Cricket!

I’m more than sure, the sixth quirk will invite a storm of virtual tomatoes and eggs along with questions being raised as to my allegiance to India! Some might even go to the extent of calling me a traitor! But let it be known to all those mere mortals who choose to rebuke my hatred for cricket, that my love for India is stronger than your love that you flaunt under the pretext of patriotism, for the utterly uninteresting game. I’m willing to give a fitting reply to anyone who dares question my Indianness.

There! My six quirks.

With this, I would like to tag some of my fellow bloggers – buddy, BR, Chutney, Nandini, Srividya Angara, Confounded lady. Two others have already been tagged. So guys! Go all quirky!

PS: ‘Ekam’ is Sanskrit for 1, ‘Rendu’ is Telugu for 2, ‘Theen’ is Hindi/Urdu for 3, ‘Quatre’ is French for 4, ‘Hamza’ is Arabic for 5.

HAPPY QUIRKY DEEPAVALI TO EVERYONE!!

SHUBHA DEEPAVALI!

SHUBHA DEEPAVALI!

Sarvejanaa Sukhinobhavantu! Sarvejanaa ‘Quirk’iyobhavantu!

Image Courtesy: www.4to40.com/egreetings/cards.asp?festivals=…

The new day that has dawned,

Brings no cheer to my life,

No new hopes, No new wishes,

I have no desires, but to survive,

Who will heed my cries?

Who will quell my hunger?

For, a morsel is all I crave,

I have no longing, but to survive,

I walk the desolate road,

Of hopelessness and despair,

If there is an end to it,

Who will take me there?

Who am I, you ask?

You know me and know me well,

I am the dying farmer,

Who ploughs his own grave,

I am the distressed weaver,

Who weaves linen for his death,

I am the orphaned child,

Who sobs for a touch of warmth,

I am the destitute widow,

Who begs for her deprived dignity,

I am the disoriented refugee,

Who seeks deliverance in an alien land,

I am the burgeoning pain,

That the world chooses to ignore,

I am who you call, the ‘Poor man’,

And this is my plea to you.

I know I am a bad poet, but this is the best I could do. This poem was inspired by a better one and my friend put me up to it. He said it was Blog Action Day and the theme was poverty. Hence, the poem.

The tears of the poor man have gone unnoticed, in this ever-changing rich-man’s world. Everyone cries havoc when the stock markets fall and some ultra-rich person loses a chip of his treasure, but does anyone even pretend to hear the wails of a poor man, for whom everyday is a battle?

The world now has close to a billion people who sleep hungry everynight and India is home to a quarter of them. In 2007 alone, 75 million more people were afflicted by poverty across the world. Most of them live under a dollar a day. Even in the most world’s powerful nation, 37 million people live in the most adverse of conditions, without food, water, shelter, health care or any other basic necessities.

They’re calling out for help! Listen and lend a hand!

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Image courtesy: : www.solarnavigator.net/poverty.htm

The title is actually a song from ‘Mughal-e-Azam’.

This post is a part of the Blog Action Day ’08.