Sunday, March 19, 2017

An Ode to Raja's boats

Of all the contraptions invented by man for transport the boat should rank as the most fascinating.  A bus can take you from point A to point B.  Nothing great about it as it still has its wheels rooted to earth, familiar terrain to man. A plane can fly you from one continent to another. Can't really relate to the experience, can we? Environs at an altitude of 35000 feet in frigid conditions with no air to breathe is something we could not have experienced outside the aluminium cylinder called the plane. Can't relate. Period.

But a boat is different. The transportation function it performs is only incidental. The magic lies in the water it floats on, in the boat's gentle sway, in the cluckey splash the oars make, in the goose-bumpy spray of water that drenches you. Are not these the reasons the boat ride has given birth to a million melodies? On a full moon night, on the vast expanse of the quietly flowing river, with a stealthy lover on board, is not the boat ride something to die for?

It's no different in Raja's "boat" songs. Some of them transport you to another world. Some gently induce you to a half-asleep state. Some embrace you with soft hands, some envelop you with ecstasy but they all lead you through your sweetest of dreams........

1 Megam Karukkayile.....

The sun has set. An ominous darkness has begun to descend.  Black clouds hover over the horizon.  Heavy downpour is imminent. The boat sways wildly. The woof  of  the wind induces an eerie fear.  Strong winds blow on the face, almost making it impossible to see. The oarsman rows with metronomic precision.  He has, for company,  only his lady love.  Her face betrays a tinge of anxiety on the impending storm but only for a moment. She knows her lover is there to protect. Her lustful eyes smother the boatman. He belts out megam karukkayile....

....The body shivers even as the clouds darken
Cross the stream we can, but, love, what of the wild passion?....

2  Thalattudhe vaanam...

The mood of the river sports a different hue here.  Dawn has just broken out.  Golden rays of the sun pierce the trees on the banks and illuminate the boat.  A gentle breeze wafts. The lady sits on the boat, coy. Her gaze tries to meet her lover, the boatman, but just only for a second. It immediately bows down to fixate at his muscular arms and  legs. The veshti folded up above the ankle doesn't help either.  The boatman can see through her thoughts and agony. Ever so mischievous, chivalrous and gentle, here he goes. thalattudhe vaanam....

...the sky cradles, the clouds swagger and swarm
torturous though  this love is, come, collapse into my arms...

3  Chithira Chevvanam....

The setting is the same. Quiet flows the river. Gently swaying boat. The man. The girl. The golden morning sky. The breeze, not too gentle, not ferocious either. The morning, in all its glory. The birds have left their nests after some incessant chirping and tweeting. Yet,  no other soul on the river, but for the oarsman and his lover. The exhaustion of the night before tells on their faces.  But a new morning is a new beginning. To enact a new love story. To croon a fresh melody.  chithira chevvanam.....

...The eastern horizon, it shimmers with a bloody spread
    Do not envy, love, your cheeks offer lessons in red......

4  Nila adhu vaanathu mele....

Not here,  the forlorn lovers. The boat setting is the same. But it is a bit crowded, three, in place of the usual two.  No setting  sun to mellow your thoughts. No cool breeze. The water expanse is much bigger. It is the Arabian sea, nothing less. The theme here is lust, rather than love. The protagonist is busy with his mission, which is throwing the smuggled goods overboard. His sidekick takes the role of the crooner. To pep him up are the Old Monk and the Young Vamp.  The sway of the hips and the jut of the breasts make his day, rather night. nila adhu vaanathu mele...

..... the moon, glowing up above the world so high.
the matter, rocking right on this  boat, ohai!......

What is with Raja and the boat? For that matter, what is with Raja and the bus? or the rains? or the storm? or the mountains? or the ocean? or life itself? 

Mind veers towards these lines from a song in கல்யாண பரிசு

துன்பக்கடலை தாண்டும் போது தோணியாவது கீதம்
அன்புப் பொருளின் அமுதம் கலந்து அருந்தத் தருவது கீதம் 


கீதம். ராஜாவின் கீதம்.  On the தோணி  and off it. 

PS - to watch the magic, right click --> youtube--> open link in new tab. on the links. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

இன்று நீ நாளை நான்

நாஞ்சில் நாடன் கட்டுரைத்தொகுப்பு படித்துக்கொண்டிருந்தேன். ஒரு பக்கம் வந்தவுடன்  பொறி தட்டியது. படிப்பதை நிறுத்தி சிறிது கவலையில் ஆழத்தூண்டியது.  அந்தப் பக்கத்தில் குறிப்பிடப்பட்டுள்ள  ஒவ்வொரு இடமும் நிகழ்வும் எனக்கு நிகழ்ந்த/நிகழப்போகும் சம்பவம் என்றே தோணுவதை தவிர்க்க முடியவில்லை.  அந்தப் பக்கத்தை   அப்படியே கீழே தருகிறேன்:

.....சோர்ந்த நடையில் தெரிந்த முகம் ஒன்று, எழுபத்தைந்து  வயதிருக்கும்.   பதினைந்து  நாள் தாடி.  காவி வேட்டி - வெள்ளை அரைக்கை சட்டை.  எங்கே பார்த்தோம் என்று நினைவு நதியில் துழாவினேன்.  எனக்கும்தானே வயதாகிறது!

சற்றுக்கூர்ந்து கவனித்ததில் - உண்மையில் நாங்கள் தீவிர இலக்கியவாதிகள் அவதானித்ததில் என்றே எழுத வேண்டும் - புலனாயிற்று.  எங்கள் நிறுவனம் கணக்கு வைத்திருந்த வங்கியில் மூத்த மேலாளராக இருந்தவர்.  மனிதனாகவும் இருந்தவர்.

" என்ன சார் இப்படி?" என்றேன் அதிர்ச்சியில்.  அவர் பக்கம் சென்று கைகளைப்பற்றினேன்.  மெலிதாகச் சிரித்தார்.  எப்போதும் வாய் விட்டுச் சிரிப்பவர்தான்.

"வாங்க டீ குடிப்போம்!" என்றார்.

"என்ன சார் ஆச்சு? இப்பிடிப்பரதேசிக்கோலம்?" என்றேன்.
கொஞ்சம் சாலையை வெறித்தார்.  கண்கள் கலங்கினாற்போலவும் முகம் சற்றுக்  கோணினாற் போலவும் இருந்தது.

" வீட்டுக்காரி போயிட்டா... ஆறு வருஷம் ஆச்சு! ரெண்டு பொண்ணுங்க... ஒருத்தி மிச்சிகன்லே...ஒருதி ஆர்ம்ஸ்டர்டாம்லே..."

அதற்கு மேல் ஒரு கதாசிரியனுக்கு சொல்லத் தேவை இல்லை.  வடவள்ளியில் அவர் வீடு.  மருதமலையில் இருந்து வடவள்ளி, தொண்டாமுத்தூர் பேரூர் வழியாகக் கோவைப்புதூர் வந்து ஈச்சனாரி போகும் பேருந்து ஒன்று உண்டு.  தம்பி முருகனில் தொடங்கி அப்பன் சிவனைக் கண்டு அண்ணன் வினாயகனைத் தரிசிக்கலாம்.  மூன்றுமே முக்கியமான இறைத் தலங்கள்.  சும்மா ஏறி உட்கர்ந்து பயணச்சீட்டு வாங்கி, போய்த் திரும்பினால்  நான் கு  மணி நேரம் செத்துவிடும்.

சாய் போடத் தெரிந்திருக்கலாம்.  சமைக்கவும் தெரிந்திருக்கலாம். வாசிப்புப் பழக்கம் உண்டென்றும் இசை கேட்பதில் நாட்டம் உண்டென்றும் அறிவேன்.  ஆனால், அவை எல்லாம் போதுமா... உறங்கும் ஐந்து மணி நேரம் தவிர்த்து மீதி நேரம் கொல்ல?  சேமிப்பு இருக்கும்.  ஓய்வூதியம் வரும்.  ஆயிரக்கணக்கான மைல்களுக்கு அப்பால் இருந்து வரும் அன்புப் பொழிவுக்குப் பங்கமில்லை.

" உடம்பைப் பாத்துக்கங்கப்பா...வேளைக்குச் சாப்பிடுங்கப்பா...மாத்திரை மறக்காம எடுத்துக்குங்கப்பா....வாக்கிங் போங்கப்பா....ரெகுலரா பிரஷர், சுகர் செக் பண்ணுங்கப்பா...எதானாலும் கூப்பிடுங்கப்பா....வச்சிரட்டாப்பா..."

மேலும் சில யாண்டுகள் சென்று, கால்கள் சற்றுத் தள்ளாடும் போது, நெரிசலான நகரத் தனியார் பேருந்தில் அவரைக் கற்பனை செய்து பார்த்தேன்.  முட்டிக்கொண்டு வந்தது அழுகை.  அந்த நாளுக்கு நானும் வெகு தூரத்தில் இல்லை.

இறைவனிடம் எதை யாசித்து நின்றிருப்பார் அவர்? மக்கள் நல் வாழ்வை? உடல் நலத்தை? வெள்ளைக் குதிரையில் மேக மூட்டங்களுக்கு நடுவே பூந்தென்றல் தழுவுவது போலொரு மரணத்தை?......

...........மரணத்துக்கான காத்திருப்பு அன்றி வேறேதும் செய்ய ஏலாத ஒற்றைத் தனியன்கள்  ஆணும் பெண்ணுமாய்ப் பல மொழி பேசும் எத்தனை கோடிப் பேர் இருப்பார்கள் இந்திய வள நாட்டில்? 'யாத்திரைப்பத்து' பகுதியில் மாணிக்கவாசகர் பாடுகிறார்.... 'தாமே தமக்குச் சுற்றமும் தாமே தமக்கு விதிவகையும். யாமார் எமதார் பாசமார் என்ன மாயம்?' என்று!  தாமே தமக்கு உறவினர்கள்.  தாமே தமக்கு ஆணையிடும் அதிகாரி.  நாம் யார்? எமதென்று எவருளர்? நம்மைப் பிணிக்கும் கட்டுக்கள் என்ன? என்ன மாயங்கள் இவை எல்லாம்?.........

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Villupuram bound wanderlust

The bark of the conductor shouting at the top of his voice ‘Villupuram, Villupuram…’ leaning on  the mud covered green bus  sounds like Beethoven’s fifth. I climb in. Settle down on the  window seat to the left of the driver.. The smell of the earth  is still fresh from the light drizzle ten minutes back. It is eleven at night but the crowds still mill around in Koyambedu bus stand. My eyes wander. The baby in the red sari clad girl’s arms cries. The harried husband two steps ahead,  with two suitcases in hand,  is irritated. ‘Can’t you stop her crying?’ he mutters under his breath to his wife and continues with his frantic search for that Nagappatinam bus. The Inji Muraba vendor suddenly appears like a genie near my seat. ‘Only 5 rupees sir’ he pleads, but I am not interested. This is not Inji Muraba time for I am clean now. This is not the red- sari-girl- gazing time too. This is my own time. This is my own travel time. This is my own wanderlust time and I would not want to trade one second of it for petty diversions like Inji Murabas.

Half the bus gets filled up. The conductor reluctantly asks the driver to start. The driver gets in, blares the horn twice to assure himself all is well with the locomotive machinery, shifts the gears to reverse and eases the bus out of the bay. In about 15 minutes, off we are, cruising along the 100 feet road. The driver switches on the FM radio. ‘katru vangapponen, oru kavidhai vangi vandhen….’ fills the bus.  Cool breeze hits my face with a force. The drizzle restarts. As if waiting for that cue, all the other window seaters pull down the glass shutters. Not me. Never. For this is my seat. This is my face-to-face with the rain and the wind. This is my time. This is my travel time. This is my wanderlust time.

Have not we all experienced the sheer pleasure of commuting from point A to point B at some point of our lives? However miserable that life be, have not we all felt nostalgic about that commute we had 30 years back? Doesn’t that nostalgia feed your burning desire to do an encore now, tomorrow, the day after, the year later, again and again, till our time comes to bid farewell? Points A and B may shift but is not the transit between any two points a sheer pleasure, ecstatic parts of that whole called life?  What is life without travel? A sedentary, stable life is but a dead life. Don’t folks even chuck cushy corporate jobs to latch on to the travel bandwagon? Is not that the new fad now?

The bus is now speeding along the GST Road. TMS has retired for the night and Raja takes over. ‘ponnukkenna aachu nethu, nenjukkulla sarakkathu…’ I suddenly remember the red sari ponnu at the bus stand. What could she be doing now? Did they catch the Nagapattinam bus? The baby is still wailing? Has the husband thankfully dozed off?

The rain has stopped and the air has got cooler. Luckily there is no one on the seat beside me. The drone of the bus engine surprisingly does not distract me from the song. The lights are out and only the blue ‘night lamp’ glows somewhere behind. I drift into a half sleep.  TMS takes over again and as if from a distant world from the stars above wafts ‘oru naalile…..ennavam?’ I am in a dream world. ‘ennavam.....’ haunts. ‘ennavam....’ lures.. ‘ennavam…’ seduces. The red sari girl whispers…'ennavam..’ The baby is not to be seen now. Nor the husband. ….The girl  floats off the Nagappatinam bus and smoothly glides inside my bus and sits beside me. ’ennavam…. ‘ she whispers. ‘ennavam…’ she leans closer and whispers again. I drift deep into that bliss called sleep. Even she can’t distract me now. For this is my time. This is my wanderlust time……..

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Jigarthanda (Or how a movie can become an experience)

Ability to appreciate fine-arts is the preserve only of humans.  To discriminate between what is worthy of appreciation and what is not, even among fine-arts, is a matter of opinion and taste.  Again, taste is relative. Some may relish their lime juice with salt and others with a dash of sugar.  Which taste is superior? There is no end to this debate.  The only thing that is beyond debate is that the man with one particular taste will surely consider his as the superior and will look down upon others with different tastes with disdain.

Like the makers and rasikas of a particular genre of cinema will not even condescend to consider the mass-type films as good cinema.  Just as the masala potpourri manufacturers will laugh, snigger and sneer at the art-house type film makers and brand them as mettukudi or some such uncharitable monikers.  But one thing the present day world has now grudgingly come to accept.  That cinema is indeed art. A fine-art, in the same pedestal as music and painting and performing arts.  That in itself is quite an evolution.

Jigarthanda is a fine example of cinema as a fine-art.  It shocks, awes and pokes.  It soothes, touches that raw chord somewhere inside you.  The puzzle it manages to successfully put forth is that both the ‘class’ as well as the ‘mass’ consider it as ‘their’ type of film.  It manages to weave a web of intrigue appealing to both the sects.  Now if both the sects like the film, especially those on the mass side of the fence, it surely can’t be good cinema! I don’t know. Something is wrong somewhere. For Jigarthanda is, without doubt, good cinema, at least an attempt at one.

Jigarthanda is like no film I have seen for a long time.  It is difficult to precisely pinpoint what exactly is awesome in the flick, even for the seasoned reviewers, I dare say.  After all, a film is not the sum total of 200 grams editing, 250 grams music, 300 grams direction, so that it should all add up to 1 kg. and that any measure short in any parameter would be readily thrown up by the weighing machine.  The film manages to kindle feelings somewhat akin to how one would feel after a few puffs of ganja or three pegs of whiskey. Or that strange, pleasurable yet uncomfortable itch you get some where on your leg but unable to exactly locate the itching spot. That is, the emotion and the feeling the film generates is neither pleasurable, nor painful. It is just an unidentifiable itch.  It is there for sure but no clue as to where.

The title itself is an attempt to present Madurai as the motif of the film.  And this is one face of Madurai we are not accustomed or schooled to expect. Not the malligaippoo, mattuthavani, meenakshi amman facet of Madurai, but its dark, bitter-sweet  underbelly of gangsters.  To be sure, the Meenakshi Amman gopurams and Teppakulams are there to be seen in a few shots but they successfully manage not to hog the limelight. The screenplay and some excellent acting manage to keep the Gopuram background shots to where they belong in the larger picture. Which is,the background.

To even think that Madurai could be a possible habitat for gangsters! Aren’t we all programmed to believe  that when it comes to gangsters Madras rules the roost? How can Madurai even pretend to throw up any meaningful competition to Madras here? Well, we are wrong.  Jigarthanda successfully presents the possibility and probability of the premise of a Madurai underworld.  That is one of the shocks the film dishes out.  Again, even granting the hallowed status of a gangster-inhabited city, it is not the stereotyped aruval vettus the rowdies exchange.  Most of the murders are executed  by the gangs with the latest revolvers. A nice, grown-up, evolved Madurai we get to see here, through the eyes of Kartik Subbaraj.

The film is a nicely packaged wonder of gloss, glitz, style and intelligent craft.  Without being garish. Without being staid and bland.  Without the pretensions or need to be the art-house type.  Without the compulsion or (again) need to be the ‘mass’ type. There is elegance, there is aplomb and there is poise in the way Kartik Subbaraj has crafted this masterpiece.  Certain scenes really stand out. Like the death scene where Sethu turns up and the mourners take a break from oppari to animatedly discuss the film-hero visitor (with the wife of the dead even getting up to congratulate Sethu on his fine performance and then leisurely going back to the mourning ritual). Like the scene where Sethu wickedly laughs and has the traitor Sundarraj, called upon to execute a ‘sambhavam’, pushed to a seat in front of him and then coolly makes a ‘sambhavam’ of the mole himself. Like the scene where the 64 year old shopkeeper beautifully manages to bring out the pain of a village bumpkin trying to get a foothold in the big bad world of Kollywood. “Opportunity does knock the door. It’s up to you to grab it.  If you hesitate to compromise and wait for the next knock, it may never come at all…”

Despite abundant opportunities to dish out a lavish spread of pathos, melodrama, glamour and romance, Subbaraj expertly manages to avoid all the traps and still lay out a delectable fare.  It is some thing like as if he says “well this is what you expect from the scene but this is what I will give. Take it or leave it but dare to dislike it”. Yes, he dares us to dislike his fare. He knows what is offbeat, he knows what may not sell, yet doesn’t shy of attempting to sell it all the same. Not with the high-pedestal snobbish anger of a “I know it all” art-house film maker, nor the lower-rung perched aspiring-to-be-different masala-house product peddler.  To repeat, this Subbaraj knows his craft.  He makes us believe that it is possible to produce a low-budget good film that can be liked by an audience across the spectrum, violet to red.  

There are other props to make the film what it has turned out to be.  Good cinematography for one.  The whole film smells and feels like the dusty, rustic, soft gangster land of Madurai.  The lightings perfectly capture the ambience the director would have wanted.  Absolutely  riveting screenplay. Crisp editing. Some (un-intended?) parody of Nayakan-brand  dialogues like “edhuvme thappille, if it is to save your ass”. Nothing is wrong even if it is murder. Nayakan justified the murders if it would do good to some people.  Jigarthanda has no such pretentious preachings. The protagonist justifies murders merely to save his own life!  Some nonchalant,  effortless acting, especially by the king and his gang, led by Simhaa.  Some good background score and a catchy song.

Jigarthanda destroys the oft-repeated refrain that it is not possible to make good cinema and still earn money out of it.  Especially in the context of Tamil cinema.  Jigarthanda deserves to be spent Rs.120/- on. Not just for the return it delivers, but also with a view to doing our bit to encourage such ventures.  So before it takes its inescapable avatar of “India tholaikkatchiyil mudhal muraiyaga” on TV this Diwali, go out guys, to the nearest multiplex and savour the Jigarthanda experience. Or the nearest talkies of a Dharmapuri or a  Tirupattur. This is one movie that is sure to be lapped up  by Dolby-Atmos equipped halls as well as the keethu kottais.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Of Platonic Love, from a Socrates!

Was I 18? Or 19 perhaps? Yes, I remember, I was 18.5 years of age when the white envelope arrived at my home.  The summer holidays after the first year in college.  I was then too young to have mature vices but too old to have none at all.   By that time, I had picked two from among a basket of vices – cigarettes and occasional beer.  It is another matter that the vices of yore now have a vice-like grip on me but let me not deviate any further and return to the white envelope.

At about two, the usual postman arrived and threw a bunch of letters and envelopes from outside the green gate.  The building where I lived also housed 14 other families. Yes, 15 families in all but don’t hasten to conjure up images of some Raheja Residency type dwelling complex.  In one of the narrowest streets of Triplicane, the first house on the left as you enter from Pycrofts Road was my abode then. Aromas of Rava & Masala  wafting from the hotel kitchen that shared a common wall with our building.  Three floors of godown like abominations masquerading as human dwellings, with at least a 100 finding a roof over their heads in that building.  I believe it still stands….…Oh, no, again I am going astray, let me return to the white envelope.

Just inside of  the green gate is a narrow verandah or passage or whatever, running along the entire width of the building. One end adorned with 15 EB meters but enough space for four or five to sit and play rummy. (without money inside the house but with money outside, don’t tell anyone..) And that was what I was doing religiously that hot afternoon at two, when the white envelope fell on my lap.  Momentarily it shook me and made me forget about the worry of not having a true sequence at hand and running the risk of 80 and rejoining.

The beautiful handwriting on it was a give-away.  Could have been written  only by a woman.  A girl.  A beautiful girl. An unmarried, beautiful girl. But my name printed on the envelope with such handwriting was perplexing and not amenable to logic or reason as I could have been as far away from a beautiful unmarried girl as North Pole is from South Pole.    At 18.50 years of age, I never used to get a good supply  of letters, save for the occasional TNPSC or BSRB exam call letter, let alone hand-written messages from a girl, a fair girl at that (unless she worked with BSRB).  You know, the typical stuff typical lower middle class folks get…..

The ‘From’ address rang a faint bell.  Girija Menon? Wait, where did I come across that? Wait. Ah, suddenly I remembered.  Everything fell in place.  That bloody letter I shot off to Indian Express a week back and which bloody got published. Age makes you do funny things which a normal sane person would think thrice before doing. Age, before 20 and age, after 60.   I, falling under the first bracket then, did several funny things which are too embarrassing to be revealed. They will go along with me to the grave, along with several other funny things which I hope to do after 60.  Again, I am digressing. Let us go back to that white envelope.

There was this newspaper ‘Indian Express’ those days, in Chennai.  One of the leading dailies,  when there were only two in the market. I took a liking to that paper. It was pretty anti-establishment and it felt great to be a squeaking rebel. At 18.5, you did all things you thought a rebel did. Such as  liking one upcoming black, rustic composer called Ilayaraja over an established veteran MSV. Or liking to have a daily morning dose of tea and dhum at Ashique Tea shop just across the road clandestinely, sponsored by relatively more moneyed friends.   Or venturing to Casino theatre looking for palana scenes from the recent English movie all wrongly advertised and misleadingly reviewed and coming back disappointed and Rs.5 poorer in the bargain. (The review said movie full of toplesses and bare-bottoms, it forgot to tell there was a thing called Censor Board). Yes, rebellious things, I did. As much rebellious as a hopeless Triplicanite could get…. Well, now let me come back to that white envelope.

There was a weekly column, on Wednesdays, called ‘YouThink’ in that paper.  I being an  Agmark Youth at 18.5, used to try my hand at some articles, letters and stuff like that and post them to that column.  All neatly handwritten, double space,  on foolscap paper. One fine Wednesday, I spotted a column by Girija Menon about some eminently forgettable stuff.  Next fine Wednesday, I spotted a letter by one Tanuja Baskaran deriding that stuff.  I being youth, and a rebellious youth at that, somehow contrived to like the original Girija piece. Tanuja’s rather nasty rejoinder led my 'O positive' fluid  to boil for some foolish reason.  I shot off a letter to YouThink, praising Girija’s original article, [managing to find several positives in that piece which,   even she would not have thought existed] and blasting Tanuja’s rejoinder.  And then forgot about the entire thing. 

This 2 p.m. of a hot subsequent Wednesday was the culmination of all that posting, praising and blasting.  Gingerly I ripped open the envelope (my deck was handed over to a proxy who still managed to lose) and unfolded the letter.  Still more beautiful handwriting in blank ink inside. It started, ‘Dear Mohan…..’ and immediately I felt a hottish sweaty warmth at my nape. I went to the bottom of the letter to find the same signed off by  ‘Girija Menon’. 

I was dazed. Here I am, a Hindu High School studying, monthly bus-pass buying, Tamil films going, empty pocketed wimp receiving a letter from a rich, WCC going, high-society type beautiful girl! Oh my God. Oh my luck! Oh my fate!  I just could not believe it.  Suddenly the Bharathiraja lasses clad in white, in slow motion, started  singing la,la la….inside my head.  I had not even finished reading the letter in full than I started imagining weird, strange, out-of-the-world possibilities and the various probable impediments lurking in our love-path!!! This human brain, the two pound mass inside our head, is capable of making possible, perfect impossibilities.  I was in that state of mind.  The letter was hardly finished but I was already in love. Already  smitten. Already thinking about how to convince our parents about our divine love!

Yes, ‘divine love’.  Here I should reveal something.  The first letter from her led to a series of exchange of letters between us.  What was written in those letters, I just could not remember. Thinking back, after 30 years, I would say my letters were desperate attempts to impress her with my 'profound wisdom', 'worldly-wise' manners, excellent ‘vocabulary’ and all that, almost to the point of convincing her that I am the one tailor-made for her in her life.  And her letters were initially thankful for blasting Tanuja and saving her pride in print, understanding her point of view, we being of the same wave length and sundry other stupid things. In one of such letters, she used the word ‘platonic’.  That word was immediately succeeded by the word ‘love’. At age 18.5, I could understand only the latter word. Even though English medium-going boy then, since my English medium was Big Street Hindu High School acquired English, hand-delivered by great masters like Gandhi Book Centre Arunachalam and Tincture Subbarayan, (forgive me, great souls), the word ‘platonic’ was beyond me.  Thankfully, I had that compact Webster dictionary with me then and it defined the word as divine or something high-sounding.  Even though slightly disappointed at her love for me being diluted with ‘platonic’, since it was love all the same, I could take it. Yes, Divine Love would suit me fine, thank you, as long as it is also a variety of love.

And that ‘proficiency in vocabulary’ certificate also was given to me by her in one of those inane letters.  The poor girl did not then know how I labored and struggled to present a passable vocabulary those days ( and these days too).   Simple straightforward English was okay with me (sentences like I like coffee, I want to become an engineer, India is a great country, the sky is blue etc) but flowery, elegant usage of the language was something I aspired for but just couldn’t get.   The Indian Express fad completely took over me those days.  I first had the (mis) fortune of having a letter or two of mine  published and seeing my name in print, I struggled like mad to write well and try and get my name printed more.  Incidentally, there was also a tall, fair guy in our school called GSV Ramu (wherever you are Ramu, Salam) who used to be the most English- literate boy in our entire school and I admit to having entertained a tinge of envy against him.  I used to rummage the much-used and much-torn Webster for strange, not-so-often used words and tried to insert those words into my simple sentences to sound more knowledgeable and erudite!  Same was the case with my epistles to Girija.  Tons of effort went into the composing of each and every sentence in my letters to her and she grandly assumed that I was born with a Churchill-like vocabulary!!!

The fun, frolic  and platonic love continued for months together.  She even gave me a taste of bad words like ‘balls’ and all.  In her letters,  of course.  Chee, chee, those words are not used even now by middle-class Brahmin family boys of Triplicane.  (They use more sophisticated versions of the same word in their own lingua-franca).  But then she was from the high-end WCC type and I even enjoyed moments of vicarious pleasure in having got the acquaintance (and love which might end in marriage???) of such ‘high-society’ girls who used words like ‘balls’.  How cool!

Well, all good things must come to an end.  And all absurd things too.  At least one of us, or perhaps both, one day realized that this charade of letter-following a letter-following a letter should come to an end and it did.  Perhaps it was me who first stopped responding and she gladly reciprocated by not trying again.  Recounting the sequence of events, it was perhaps that letter of hers which mildly suggested that we should meet up, that triggered the end of it all.  When she faintly indicated that, I panicked. Being used all along to shoot off from the comfort of the dark, it takes courage to come forward into limelight.  I never had that courage and never would ever have.  The courage to get naked and present yourself in all your naked glory! The courage to venture out of that 4 foot gully of Triplicane and explore Harrington Roads and Poes Gardens.  The justification for refusing to venture out beautifully expressed by Kannadasan – yarum irukkum idathil irundhu kondal ellam sowkyame…’  The justification is soothing and calms you down but deep down you see through the veneer of cowardice to explore. But what the heck, even at that point of time, after the number of exchanged letters reached 15, I could realize the futility of it all, the absurdity of it all. The Bharathiraja slow motion dream song was ending and the next scene was more proximate to reality -  the scene of the elder brother of the female lovebird threatening murder, the scene of a Triplicane upbringing of the male lovebird cringing and covering and running out of sight.

Well, what am I laboring about? The idea, when I started writing this, was to let the world know of my ‘first crush’. If it can be called that.  At some point of one’s life, everyone has to cast off the clothes and present yourself as you are.  Else, regrets would remain.   After 30 further years on this planet of that episode, I laugh at how foolish and childish one could be in youth. And I would now reveal another dirty habit of mine – stalking.  What with today’s open cyberspace, no one on earth is untraceable.  To think that the girl I trolled in the first place, Tanuja Baskaran is a writer of good repute now. The Man Booker type,  imagine!!!  And my ‘crush’ was happily coddling a baby when I last spotted her in FB.  I don’t know if she is the same one that delivered bombshells in white envelopes thirty years back but my hunch tells me that she is the one.  God bless her and God bless her baby.  I am not sure if she would remember any of this but I would give my right arm to meet up with her some day and dare to ask about it.  I am sure she would laugh it off too.  As I did!  
But I would definitely remember to ask her what ‘platonic’ meant. It did not make any sense to me then, it doesn’t now. Like a stately Rose of Titanic, she might just explain the term to me….

PS :  Don’t imagine the names are for real.  Except for the first alphabets of each name.  Except GSV Ramu.  I can always hold my glass!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ladies Special

Well, typecasting was something in her genesis, so why blame us?  Adam was created, Adam’s harmones revolted,  and God created Eve for his company. So God it was, who has to be blamed for typecasting, stereotyping women.  Created just as a company, as a keepsake,  with no real identity or purpose of her own.  It is impossible to write about women without stereotyping, in the Indian context at least.    Why, a ‘feminist’ (again typecasting) just spent a considerable amount of her energy today in BLink in directing her ire against “Kim Kardhashianing” women.  Clever play of words, but again herself stereotyping women by even suggesting Kardashian as a verb.  Now is there  no  Kardashian beyond a lustful 50 kg mass? Think again, women libbers.   

The woman did in fact begin her journey being typecast but somewhere down the road, she began to crave for a sense of purpose, an identity of her own, evolving beyond the roles of a girl-friend, a wife, a concubine, a mother.  The craving continues and till the day it is satiated, March 8 will continue to be celebrated.
What makes a woman special? Or why is there a women’s day at all?  After all, we don’t have a men’s day!  Because,  men is the norm and women the exception? Special days are only for those who are not of a majority; Valentine’s day, because not all have the time or luxury to catch hold of a valentine or become a valentine, Children’s day cos’ only a small percentage of the world’s population is children, and labour’s day because, well, oh, forget it…  The exception may be ‘All fools’ day. No idea why a special day to commemorate 100% of the world’s population.

Woman is not the spice of your life.  Neither is she, life itself.  But life without a woman is as good as a dead life.   What do we do without them, how can we make do without them, despite them being what they are, with all their foibles and follies?   Now, no sentimental stuff here on how we are born from a mother’s womb, mother gives us life  and all that blah.  It was a divine pre-ordainment that people are born from women. A slightly different coding by God could as well have seen men giving birth, getting raped and frantically stocking pepper sprays.  No, it’s not because of the supposed divinity of a mother that women are special.  Neither is she special because she is the only one capable of catering to a man’s carnal wants.

 She is special because your daughter can be nothing but special for you.  She is special because your wife can be nothing but special for you. She is special because your father’s wife can be nothing but special for you. (And your father, as well).  Each woman in your life is special to you.  Each in mine is special to me.  And you, I and the millions of men on this planet, taken together, make all women in the world special.
And special people need special days.  Like women’s days. 

I started out by deciding  to cut out this   ‘celebrity of womanhood’ & ‘Nirbhaya’ kind of  stuff but am ending up exactly tomtomming these virtues, although not directly.  On 2nd thoughts, why not? Who wants an objective, unbiased scholarly analysis of women? All we know is women are extra-ordinary, beautiful, delightful and prolific. Women are great.  Women are cool and women out-cool men, most of the time.   
 Let us today celebrate women, at least Indian women for what they are, rather than what they ought to be.  For their being Sati Savithris, the 94%- household-chore-doing, tiffin box packing, night-time cozying upping, karva-chauthing, sumangali prarthanaifying  women.  Let’s not fret over high-street inanities like equality, emancipation, education & yes, empowerment.   Let’s uncomplicate her.  I don’t know about Kim Kardashianing women but I would certainly fancy ‘Revathying’ and ‘Savithriying” Indian women. Any day would prefer that to ‘Sushma Swarajing’ or ‘Mamtaing’ Indian women.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Twitter - The ugly other side!

Well that’s one place where everybody has an opinion.  Each different from the other. Each trying to sound more intelligent than the other.    Every one falling head over heels to spit out the first opinion, the first counter-opinion on the first opinion and the madness multiplies in no time. 100 RTs in ten minutes, 200 favs in 20 minutes and the first opinionator gets a  high on opium.  Tweets gleefully the statistics and this again gets some 300 RTs and 400 favs.  The circus multiplies in geometric proportions.    Each spitting venom on the other, each trying to devour the other , each trying to eat the other alive.  And most of them displaying this gore and bravery behind a thick impenetrable mask of fake identities, fake photos, fake names and an either grossly over-made up bio or no bio at all.  Pussy-footed, pussillanimous creatures masquerading as Alexander the Great.  Dimwits passing  off as Doctors in Philosophy.  Jupiter sized egos trampling upon the helpless and the meek.

Welcome to Twitter!

People used to say, with some justification, that the proliferation of Tasmac liquor shops in Tamilnadu, open almost round the clock, is sure to spawn mass liver-cyrrhosis in the society.  That may or may not be debatable but Twitter is sure to leave behind us  a whole nation of mental wrecks, sycophants, megalomaniacs and incurable hysterics.  At least in India.  It is surprising that any serious study on the behavioural patterns of its users has so far glossed over the surface only.  The core is boiling and smouldering and is largely ignored in any study.  This core will implode with furious force one day upon our faces.  A mass hysteria like situation is in the offing, which will happen sooner than later. 

One reason may be the proclivity of the press and other media to make celebrities out of ordinary tweeple by broadcasting their tweets for the consumption of the whole world.  The media is convinced that the guy with more followers in twitter than the Mahatma Gandhi in real life will be able to make or break world opinion.  Poor judgement that.  Governments are not and ought not to be elected by pseudo-opinion makers but by the multitudes that do not have access to the net. The tweeps may continue to delude themselves that they make or mar the world but reality has it otherwise.  A Lalu may start tweeting out of an imaginary necessity.  A Modi may post gems to impress NextGen, whatever it means. But among a 100 billion, the Indian tweeple are only a proverbial drop in the ocean and Lalu & Modi need not have bothered at all. Considering, on election day, the super-intelligentsia of twitter may not even bother to line up  in the polling station queue at all.    This mindless pumping up by the media  of already heavily bloated egos make the celebrity tweeps think they rule the world and their opinions shape the fortunes of an entire nation.  It is another story that these very celebrities, when they go overboard and find themselves caught on the wrong side of the law, whine, cringe, weep and  prostrate, crying hoarse that personal freedom is at peril.

Personal freedom?  My foot.  No body grudges one’s personal freedom as long as it does not cross the Laxman Rekha. Now that's a very thin line, getting thinner by the day.   One need only look at the thousands of very recent tweets that have already crucified the politician husband as the murderer of his wife, that have ceaselessly made fun of scores of politicians, actors, scientists, diplomats, and every one, without caring to contemplate for a second about its effects it might have on the personality concerned, at least at a mental level.  This warfare that is being unleashed is mostly one-sided with the attacked not even getting  an opportunity to counter attack.  They know not where the adversary is, just the arrows keep coming at you with shop-floor like precision.  More of a kind of Rama vs Vali warfare, arrows shot from an invisible foe. 

Personal freedom?  Incredible.   You can’t have freedom without responsibility.  You can’t call yourself a twitter celebrity if the only vocation you excel at is throwing shit on others. You can’t clamour for personal freedom if that freedom licences you to throw garbage at others.   Agreed, some fun, some harmless banter, some humour is called for in the daily dreary routine called life but, the ability to segregate banter from banality and humour from hostility is what really makes a twitter celebrity.

Not that everything is rotten in that twitter space.  It does provide an outlet for, as I said, humour, creativity, opinions, well-edited and constructed in 140 characters.  As long as the users do not overdo anything, twitter could well be the invention of the century.  But that's asking too much, not to overdo. Humour is not much appreciated and followed by the herd used to trail celebrity shepherds but gossip, slander and outright arrogance find many takers.  More the celebrity shepherd shoots off his mouth on practically everything under the sun, more the number in his dumb herd.  As far as the real-life celebrities go, most of the twitter traffic is only one way, which is,  celebrity to his herd and not the reverse.  Any reply-bleat from the herd would be met with stony silence, a condescending, deafening and insulting silence.  Following a real celebrity, thus, makes no sense.  Making celebrities of the nuts with large followers (many of them created with fake IDs)  makes utter nonsense.  The only sensible thing to do in twitter is to favourite the tweets on their merits and not go overboard.  Again, this is easier said, than done.

During Emergency, one slogan of the State we heard everywhere was "rumour mongers are nation's enemies".  At what stage the "R" in rumour got replaced by "H" is still a mystery.  Twitter could be one beautiful forum for humour but we have been, in general, largely hostile towards humour.  Right from the 'cattle class' to 'mango man' to 'chaiwalla', the humour mongers didn't know what hit them when met with so much anger and hostility.  Meaningless, idiotic hostility.  So all that remains in twitter now is filth, muck, hatred and goonery.  Buffoonery as well.

Yes, Twitter regales. Twitter bridges chasms.  Twitter adds spice to  life.  Twitter has the potential to dramatically alter the way we live.  But we forget that to realise its full potential, it is not just enough to live. We have to let others live too.  Thus, beyond a limit, Twitter kills too.   Period.