Sunday, August 15, 2010

Skimming through life past

It is a strange feeling when you read your own diary. Revisiting the nooks and corners that defined the way your life has taken, smiling at all the fears that shuddered you then, smiling even more at the happy moments that braced you.

You know that you have grown and improved, that you have learnt and are wiser now, that your are stronger and have more patience, that you have faith in yourself, that you still treasure those friends and the time you spent with them, that some people have left an indelible mark on your life, and that nothing can ever go wrong in life again. The most important thing that you realize is the number of people you have forgiven - the friend at school who taunted you over grades, the snooty professor who troubled you with an assignment, and all those people who had made life difficult for you. It is sheer nirvana when you traverse all those episodes again and realize the wounds no longer bleed.

And then there are times when you mentally start filling in the missing details; the ones you deliberately left out because they belonged to you and nobody else. Guilty secrets, if I may call them. Some make you smile, some make you sigh, but most of them remind you that those were in fact the best moments of life.

As you complete the journey down memory lane, you are reminded that not all memories can be frozen in a frame or captured in words. Some are best left wafting around the mind and lingering in the heart.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A time to stand and stare

I remember my first day at the Sathaye college library. I was a new entrant into FYJC and college life on the whole. In fact, I think I was in the library to avoid being ragged by the SYJC seniors (It was later that I realized that students in SYJC do not attend college :D).

I cant recollect what I was reading. I'm sure it wasnt anything to my liking, because most of the time, I was listening to the discussion two FYBSc girls at my table were having. They were trying to solve some maths problem. I remember one of them. She was dark and had long hair tied in a neat plait. Her spectacles gaver her a nerdy look and she kept saying 'If G is abelian, then...'. It sounded all wise and fancy to me. 'Abelian' is a nice-sounding word. Then she said something that made me take notice. "What do we do now?", the friend asked when they got stuck with the solution. "Now we stare at it.", the girl said. And they both just sat and stared at the half-solved problem, till something struck them.

'Stand and stare'. It is such a powerful way of solving things. It forces us to slow down and watch the problem from a distance. And it is amazing how much better it is to be an outsider to all the chaos. The mind is clear of clutter and we can think more clearly. And that is when the solution strikes.

Stare-at-the-problem-till-something-strikes has been one thing I have oft done since then, albeit subconsciously. And whenever I do that, I am drawn back to that rainy afternoon in the library.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hey, don I speak English?

I had read about England and Englishmen in the works of Wodehouse, Forster and the likes. I knew all about their stiff-upper-lip, their love for the evening tea, their lack of panic (or emotions) in situations of crisis.

But yesterday, when I met a real Englishman and started conversing with him in his mother-tongue, it suddenly struck me how different our styles are. To start with, I greeted him as 'Hi FirstName' instead of the customary, 'Good Morning Mr. Lastname'. I am not sure how it struck him. All through the day, I found myself using short sentences, incomplete ones too (which is grammatically incorrect), dropping syllables like silencing the 't' in 'dont' and the 'f' in 'of course'. I felt I was using a drawl, which stood out against his crystal-cut accent.

And that is when I realized how all those years of interacting with Americans in the IT industry, all those movies, and the attempts to sound cool and trendy have profoundly distorted the so-called Queen's English that we leant in school. It is now flavoured with the American accent, tempered with its grammar, particulary the verbs (Brazil are a great team/Brazil is a great team), and seasoned with a dash of American slangs.

Do I regret it? Not one bit! Because language should always evolve to survive. It is only when new words are added to it and new intonations get associated with its words, that a language stays relevant. And that, I think, is the very reason why English has such a wide acceptance.

N that reminds me, the next book on my wishlist - 'We are like that only'!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

An 'Unconquered' Dilemma

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was busy doing what I love the most - reading. And this time, it was Somerset Maugham. The short story was titled 'The Unconquered'.

Maugham narrates the tale of a German soldier, Hans, who is posted to a French village near Soissons, after a hostile takeover by Germany. In a state of drunkenness, he rapes a farmer's daughter. He keeps running into her quite often since then, and tries to strike a rapport, just for fun. The farmer's daughter, Annette, is a school teacher and a true French patriot. She loathes the Germans, and particularly her perpetrator, with a fierce passion. Her hatred causes Hans to become more obsessed with her. Eventually, he realizes that she is carrying his child, and that she could not rid herself of it.

The thought of the child evokes a strange tenderness within Hans, and he offers to marry Annette. By this time, the farmer and his wife are won over, but Annette refuses and remains stubbornly firm. As she gives birth to the child, her mother sends the message to Hans. Hans rushes over to visit his child. When the farmer's wife goes to fetch her grandson, she realizes that mother and child are both missing. As panic strikes the room, Annette walks in through the door and tells Hans that she drowned the child in the river. Hans screams like a wounded animal and rushes out through the door. And Annette feels proud that she has remained the unconquered.

As the narrative closed, I kept asking myself whether it was right for Annette to kill the child. Does a mother have the right to decide whether the child should live or not? What motivated her to take such a drastic step? Was it revenge against her rapist, patriotic feelings, societal norms against a child born out of a wedlock, or pure egoism?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On P.G. Wodehouse

There is a charm to the way PGW writes. He has the most eccentric characters I have ever known. His protagonists range from disillusioned lovers to dog-biscuit salesmen to obsessed earls. His characters have an earthly flavour that makes them all-humourous, all-endearing and all-so-timeless.

What amazes me is the humour that he manages to concoct out of everyday occurences. It is marvellous what a random thought can transform into. Use of irony, toungue-in-cheek humour & good grammar can translate a drab idea into an interesting read. A mundane incident becomes the most loved story and 'Plum' becomes one of the most popular humourists of all times. That is the magic of Pelham Grenville Wodehouse!

On draping a saree

I recently had a conversation with a friend over draping a saree. And as I pondered over the origin of my proficiency in draping a saree, my mind drifted off to those oft-quoted-oft-missed childhood days.

I always used to watch my mother get ready in the mornings. Mom would thrust a glass of milk in my hands as I would dreamily stare into nought, battling the overweight sleep that would swing on my eyelids. What else can you expect a child of four to do when she has been woken up at 6 in the morning to go to school? After raising her voice to get me to drink the milk, Mom would start her daily routine of getting ready for work. She would comb her hair into a neat plait, tuck a flower into it occasionally.

And then she would pick up the saree that she had chosen for the day. This was be the moment that always toppled sleep off my eyes.

I would watch with rapt attention as she unfolded the saree. It was an act of magic. Six yards of fabric - silk, chiffon, cotton, just about anything - draped with such elegance! I would watch her turn the saree around, fold it into neat pleats, tuck them without creating a single extra crease. A gentle tug to align it, a pin there to hold it in place, a glance in the mirror to make sure it was perfect, and she would be ready, neat and pretty. A mere five minutes of activity would leave me awe-struck every morning. And I would yearn to hold the surreal six yards in my tiny hands and create my own magic.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

On tweeting

It is amazing how social networking is blurring the boundaries between the common man and the ones in power. If my local MLA is on Twitter, I can reply directly and instantly to his tweets, and he cannot ignore them. Twitter started off as a tool to keep in touch with long lost friends and acquaintances in an easy, hassle-free way. It helped do away with all the book-keeping associated with an email. It was quick and the restriction on the number of characters ensured it was crisp. But the benefits soon started growing as people discovered better uses to this tool.

Today it transcends networking. It helps build brands, voice opinions, start a movement and much more. I was recently tracking the initiatives by Vir Sanghvi and Pritish Nandy around the Padma Awards controversy. It surprised me how convenient it is to garner support through the social networks. And there is a sense of rawness associated with tweets. The recent tweet by Gul Panag about the COAS is an example in point. You end up saying the things you really mean without much fanfare and fancy around it. The shroud of diplomacy is out.

Every person on Twitter is his own brand ambassador. There are articles which tell you how to increase the number of your followers, what kind of users to follow, how to use the bio space to the best and how to choose a theme picture for your profile. Twitter has become one of the best ways of disseminating information quickly. I find following the ET tweets better than reading the newspaper itself.

As one of my friends joined Twitter after a lot of reluctance, I could not help but realize that love it or hate it, no one can afford not to be tweeting. Even as I write this, I see three new tweets on my twitter tab :)