Monday, June 22, 2009

When Chennaiah Came Home

ಬಳೆಗಾರ ಚೆನ್ನಯ್ಯ ಬಾಗಿಲಿಗೆ ಬಂದಿಹನು
ಒಳಗೆ ಬರಲಪ್ಪಣೆಯೆ ದೊರೆಯೇ?

Chennaiah, the bangle seller, comes home and seeks permission to enter. He is from the town of Navilooru, where the women are known for their beauty and the jasmine for its fragrance. The lovely town is where the master's wife is from, where the smell and soul of the earth emanates. An old man, with a cloth bag full of the most colourful glass bangles, hunched from age, walks down the flight of steps to the background of those famous words and sits besides the house of the master. And thus begins one of the most beautiful plays I have seen in recent times, Mysooru Mallige (ಮೈಸೂರು ಮಲ್ಲಿಗೆ) based on the poetry of Dr K S Narasimha Swamy.

The parents and I were at Ranga Shankara yesterday, a delightful place, a brilliant concept. The play, directed by B V Rajaram, is a musical by the playwright Rajendra Karanth who plays Chennaiah. The story, interspersed delightfully with poems of Narasimha Swamy, was humourous and touching towards the end, though it dragged for a wee bit in the middle when my mind went wandering. The play follows the life of the poet from the time he gets married till he grows old, when the children are away and his life's work sold off to buy medicines for his wife.

Most of the actors were good, especially Chennaiah himself. The bangle sellers have always fascinated me. I last wrote about them here. The play brought it all back, the large doses of nostalgia and memories of all those lazy afternoons spent listening to Ajji's stories, humming these songs that my mother taught me or letting my imagination run amok.

Narasimha Swamy's poems are mainly on love, at least that is what he was most famous for. From ನಮ್ಮೂರು ಚಂದವೋ, ನಿಮ್ಮೂರು ಚಂದವೋ where there is a tussle between the girl and the boy, during their courtship, as to whose town is better, to ರಾಯರು ಬಂದರು ಮಾವನ ಮನೆಗೆ ರಾತ್ರಿಯಾಗಿತ್ತು where the son-in-law rushes to his in-laws house where his wife is visiting and is not allowed to meet her for a long time.

Well, you know what, I simply cannot translate those words. His poetry was known for its simplicity and I shall not do any further injustice by attempting a translation. I just wonder how long these poems will survive. Chennaiah is slowly walking away with his bangles, the earth does not emanate the smell of its soul anymore, no one wears jasmine flowers in their hair or wears bangles. Love is no longer waiting for long letters and being happy with a glance from beneath the eyelashes.

Nostalgia? You bet. I am as much a part of this guilt as the next person. These are all songs I knew the whole lyrics of once. I rarely sing them, most people have probably never heard of the poet. What do I do about it? What does anyone do about it? Zilch. We are all so involved in trying to earn a salary that there is scant attention that the practice of living gets. Of course there is that easy way out, that dubious front of 'excuses' we all hid behind and pass off the "burden" of carrying forward culture and tradition. Tradition is nice, to explain away that saree you wear and the rare bindi you sport. Culture is nice too, on a Sunday evening when there is a music concert (most likely a fusion or some esoteric music form) you can attend in a little room with wine and loud speakers. But no, it is not your responsibility to ensure you teach others the songs your mother taught you.

You and I continue to chase the Chennaiah with his bangles away. How pathetic can culture get?

Friday, June 19, 2009

When is a Smile, Just a Smile?

A Bengali colleague of mine smiles a lot at people in the office. Apparently, (and I might be totally wrong to generalise here) Bengalis are taught to smile at people and be friendly and all that. Maybe they didn't quite think of the consequences. Or, more likely, the ones who taught these little nuggets that made for good upbringing were themselves born in another era when smile was, innocently, just a smile.

No, I don't volunteer a smile to a stranger; not even to those I see everyday in office, the ones I don't talk to. That's not too nice a thing, and I am not doing this for that necessary surge of my otherwise little known cynicism about life in general and nicety and smiles in particular. I just probably learnt lessons, got drummed down that a smile---how dare you think otherwise---is rarely just that.

I have got myself stuck with dumb ones, irritating ones, lecherous ones, the whole gamut of varieties humans take shape in because of little smiles and a hi, hello now and then. And yes, I mainly mean men here. (And no, I am NOT a feminist, no matter how many times or ways you accuse me of being one. I truly believe men and women are different, not better, not worse, just plain different with different strengths and weaknesses.)

So back to that elusive smile. Have you been in a situation where you, most likely totally by accident, caught a colleague or someone you see often's eyes and couldn't turn away without that bit of awkwardness creeping in? You try and salvage a bit of what is soon turning even more strange by smiling, not a 'happy to see you' one, but more like a 'ok, I see you often and this was a little strange, so I might as well smile' kind of smile. And then, that colleague will see you again another day and smile and then some days later a hi creeps in and suddenly, it is all spiralling out of control and that person thinks of you as a new best friend! Eesh! (Another Bengali expression another colleague amuses me with.)

I would like to be cynical. But these things do lead to good friendships also, no denying that. But the scales tip towards the other lot who see this as a license to flirt and pass snide remarks and then the offer for coffee. Eesh again!

For heavens sake, a smile is a smile. Full stop. Period. Doesn't mean you are my new best friend. Doesn't mean we will be having dinner together two days from now. Doesn't even mean you can text me asking if I had my breakfast/lunch/dinner/tea/whatever, as if all these days I was starving, given that you were not asking before. It means nothing, no invitation, no nothing.

And then, suddenly, with more embarrassing moments, you have to begin to ignore that person like there is a direct chance of contracting swine flu (H1N1, politically correctly!) and find excuses to look away and the rest of the story....

But then, when people choose not to understand, you can scream down their throats and they will still not get it. It is just safer to look away and not relax your muscles upwards. Whoever said smile to brighten up someone's day, smile--someone might be falling in love with you and all that super sugary quotes lived probably in a children's/teen's novel.

And this was another surge of the little known streak of cynicism that I previously mentioned.
This one was entirely for you Sa.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You know what, they (don't ask me who "they" are) say that a picture can speak a thousand words. Now, the other best friend is a brilliant photographer and I have been across some brilliant pictures of his, and others. I like to believe that I take ok-ok pictures too. So ask me about the power of pictures and I could tell you my two-bit opinion. Now, I know all that, but somehow, it is nothing compared to the memories you get.

I went to the best friend Raksha's house today, newly married girl and all that. As is our practice, we talked too much and I forgot to check the time and ended up horribly late in the office. Also, as usually, I was out taking pictures of both of us, precariously holding my mobile (I DON'T like the camera in E71) at a distance, trying several angles, exasperating her, again as always.

And so one of the good ones has landed up on my mobile wallpaper. It has us showing all our teeth and giggling. I love the picture but it comes no where close to that moment, and many such, where there we are, laughing over something downright silly, cribbing about everything but ourselves ;-) and being girls. No matter how good the picture, it can never capture moments, the sounds and the smells and the whole moment that buries itself soon in the banter of everyday life, in the folds of pages that you live through.

You visit a place, a lovely range of mountains, a brook, a whatever that catches your fancy. For me, no picture can be equal to the memory of me being there, the people I was with, the moments.

It was good, being with the girl friend. Sometimes there is no better mood-lifter than talking to the girl friends.

That apart, Rishi sir told me how to use the Google transliteration tool. It is so super cool for the me who can't type otherwise in my own mother tongue. I was also humming the lines below, apart from several others. Here's a little secret: I hum or sing a lot all day long, I need music when I am working at home and I do love music of strange kinds. (Not that this 'secret' should make any dents to your lives!)

ಅತ್ತಾರೆ ಅತ್ತು ಬಿಡು ಹೊನಲು ಬರಲಿ

ನಕ್ಯಾಕ ಮರಸತಿ ದುಃಖಾ

ಎದೆ ಬಿಡಿಸಿ ಕೆಡವು, ಬಿರಿಗಣ್ಣು ಬ್ಯಾಡ

ತುಟಿ ಕಚ್ಚಿ ಹಿಡಿಯದಿರು ಬಿಕ್ಕ

Roughly translated it means:

Cry, if you have to, why do you try to forget pain by laughing, open your heart, don't keep your eyes wide open, don't suppress the cries with a bite on your lips.

Immortal lines, written by the Kannada poet Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre. And but of course, the translation does no justice to the original.

Sometimes, it would be nice to just let yourself go. Cry. Smiling would be easier then, I suppose.

Monday, June 15, 2009

In Bullets

* I have learnt that sometimes, the most hardest thing that you could possibly have to do is smile and be cheerful.

* I have also learnt that being strong is not often a choice you get to make.

* There are some very beautiful people in the world, some from most unexpected quarters, and I know I shall never stop believing that.

* We meet people along, of all kinds. Ma taught me that there are good qualities in everyone. I learnt that too. And I wish every happiness to them all. Every one a good person, beneath the onion layers.

* Lessons of life apart, I am loving Kabir's songs off late. Sufi kind. The Dervish kind.

* Another fiction is brewing in the background. And no, you won't see it here.

* I realise that when I have nothing much to write, or too much to write, I randomise (is that a word?) here. And put them in bullets.

* I wish I was travelling right now. (When have I not?) :-)

* My laptop has conked off. Please let it not be a hard disk crash, I have too many memories on it. I am hoping to get a new one soon.

* I am reading varied things. And having some great conversations with some great people. And also loving life, bit by bit.

* I ended up at a temple last evening, a long time later. It felt good, a long time later.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Go Earth!

I am getting a great kick out of this live feed thing on the sidebar. Feedjit lets you watch your blog traffic live and just now, I had it on.

I love that a lot of people from several countries are reading what I write. Two places caught my eye just now on the live feed. Someone from Ljubljana, Bohinj and Pueblo Nuevo, Chiriqui (I cannot even pronounce the names!) have been visiting. I Googled, the first is in Slovenia and the latter in Panama. I am all wide grins right now; always been interested in exotica!

I must have mentioned this somewhere in these pages that a long time ago, I had drawn up a itinerary to travel across the world. It was, but obviously, alone and I had decided that I would need Rs 3 crore for it. I don't think I cared where I got that much money from, dad was there! :-) Well, I don't quite remember what countries and cities I had decided to see but I remember staring at hours at the atlas and picking and dropping countries every once in a while.

I still wish to do all that. That much money would be more than enough, I am sure. And I still look at maps and travel sites. And I make friends, at least to learn what they and their country is like. Life is too short to be everywhere and see everything. And it would be a pity to finish with it without broadening your mind and accepting, like a humble piece of sponge, other cultures and new places and people and ideas and thoughts.

As I ramble on, I mean to do more than merely survive. Do drop me a mail, more so you readers from Ljubljana and Chiriquia and and others from wherever and tell me who you are. You would have noticed, I love writing! ;-) I would love to hear what you want me to say here.

Meanwhile, keep coming back though :-)

Oh also, do observe world environment day in any little way you can. This is the only home we have, so far. Plus, green is cool.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

It's Been Four Years Now....

All evening, I had several one liners that I wanted to choose from to begin writing this post. And suddenly, I don’t remember what they were. Ah, well.

Some weeks ago, I realized that today, June 3, I would complete four years as a blogger. My fingers have been itching since then; I was reminded of how I would eagerly wait for my birthday to come, counting the days and getting all excited. Well, that was several years ago, a time when greeting cards were still the paper kind, when nothing was prefixed with an e- to it and when I knew I would get several of those little gifts and I could wear a “colour dress” to school and give chocolates and have cake and all that. Well, years go by and let me suffice to say that I don’t much welcome November anymore. Except for the cold.

And so, for several weeks, I was itching to write this post. Four years to the date. I don’t quite remember why I began to write a blog. Those days, I didn’t have a laptop or a digital camera and would go to a cyber centre to write posts, get the photos scanned and upload them. I could not write when I had the terrible urge to; the diaries were the resort then. I suppose I began to blog then because that was the latest thing; I suppose I merely thought it cool.

I remember the first comment I got. There were times when I wished a lot of people would comment on my writing. I wanted a lot of people to read me rambling on. I wanted to know who read my stories and from where.

Today, there is a little live feed thingy on my blog that lets me know where I get the hits from. I suppose all the foreign ones happen when I am fast asleep. There are many from the US, New York, California, Wisconsin, Texas, some from Karachi, Copenhagen, Spain, New Delhi, a whole lot from Bangalore, Hyderabad and several other towns in the state, the country, the world. Some places, I know who could be reading, others, I can only imagine. I wish there were faces I could put on to the people. Not many leave comments, but I know that it’s ok. I am not much of a commenter myself, on the many blogs that I read. I know that a lot of people read what I write though. Family does; it comes up in conversations. I know that several of my colleague and a lot of my friends read. I know that there are several people out there who take time off to read it. On last count, a few hours ago, I had four followers; I very much appreciate you all adding me on your reading lists and some others for putting a link to mine on their sites. Thank you all, wherever in the world you are. I appreciate that, when there are so many other things that you could have seen and done.

When I started, I had not imagined how much of a release, an addiction this would be. The blog has seen me through some of my most defined phases in my life. When I was at uni, I would blog almost every other day, waiting for hours at the tiny cyber centre next to my hostel. My days in Express were great too, that was when I still had some ideals left.

I think this is the 281 post, not many, for a four-year period, I must say. Book and movie reviews, travelogues---a lot enjoyed by many, I am told---and poetry, photographs, several stories, random, vague posts, philosophical ones, there have been many. I have never revealed my personal life much or shared personal pictures but there have been people who could guess what I was going through. I have always been moody, and no where does it reflect more than in my writings in this space.

Writing to me is the way I breathe. I need it almost like it was a life force. And this blog has been my release, my escape, my own space all the while. There have been moments when I have managed to keep my sanity around me because I was writing here. Words, of the written kind, always have done that for me.

My life, my rules. Four years ago, when I was sitting in an internet centre picking out a random template and choosing a random name, I never thought I would take it this far. Sometimes I wish I had chosen a different name, something more sophisticated; I know I could have thought of something better. The title, my blog itself, has been used and thrown on my face during arguments, what I write, who I write about has led to several allegations, ugly scenes. The blog has given me friends and good acquaintances, it has, even more, led to a lot of fights and heartache for me and other people. I regret that the most. But if I were given a choice to change the name, I wouldn’t. It is not too great a name, but it is still, my life and I live it by rules I impose on myself.

All the posts that I write meaning to lash out, in a moment of my infamous temper, are never put up on the site. They remain for a while as drafts and are soon deleted. I have a lot of things that I would write about, but I don’t, knowing well that I shall regret it after a few days. And I thank my “critics” (you know who you are) for keeping me in check J

And there it is. Four full years of venting and ranting and just taking up my bit of cyber space. I know I shall never stop writing; if not here, someplace else. There will be many more friends I shall make, some non-friends too. But what I write, I write from the heart, things I feel and think at the moment I am writing them.

Thank you all, for being there, even if most of you are silent on the reactions side. Do keep coming back. Let me, at times, tell you a story, or show you a place, or give an opinion or share my thoughts. Welcome to my life.

Today is also Ajji, my grandmother’s 79th birthday. Until recently I didn’t know I was her favourite. That brings to my mind, a smile and several memories of growing up. Happy birthday Ajji, may you all have many more healthy years.