Thursday, 31 December 2015

Why do I hate going to pubs? : Blog # 255

Why do I hate going to pubs?

        This being the Newyears’ eve my friends were asking me if we should go to a pub. I reacted like a waiter at a vegetarian restaurant who was asked to serve beef fry. Then I wondered as to why I had such a violent reaction. It dawned on me that going to a pub is one of the traumatic memories that I carry with me.

            It happened thus. During my MBA days, one of my dear friends took me to a pub. We were a group of three if I remember right. The beginning was like any other restaurant. You go and sit there and the waiter comes and asks you as to what do you need. I looked at the menu. My friend said that lets order some drinks first. Here starts the issue. I am a teetotaler. In less pretentious English, I do not drink. There were very few items on the menu which I was familiar with. So I sought my friends’ help and we ordered some mocktail. Eager to jump in to starters, I finished my mocktail only to notice that my friends were just about quarter way through their large beer mug.

            This is when I thought I will start some conversation. Exactly at that moment, blaring music started to play. It was so loud that I couldn’t hear myself thinking! Oh did I tell you that I do not have an ear for English music? Especially the loud ones! I looked at my friends. They were singing along and blissfully enjoying their drink.  By now, they were half way through their drink. I asked my friends, “Shall we order food?” They said that we will take it slow and ordered some starters. I was told later that if you have too much food, it affects your capacity to drink. I was slow with the starters for I knew that if I finish the starters, I won’t have anything else to do. I waited painfully for my friends to finish their drink.

            My friends finished their drink. I thought at least now, they will order the main course. It is then that the waiter came and asked if he could bring a pitcher. I had no clue what that meant. My friend asked if he should go ahead and order a pitcher. Clueless as ever, I said yes, why not! And then the waiter brings a mini drum kind of a thing filled with beer to the brim. That mammoth of a container is called a pitcher! Again, the whole exercise started. My friends slowly started drinking it and I painfully stared at the ceiling of the pub and the carpet at regular intervals.

            In between, we ordered some food. I was the only one who was eating away since my friends were on a mostly liquid diet that day. Almost when I thought the torture was coming to an end, someone came and told the three dreaded words “Come, let’s dance!” If you think Sunny Deol cannot dance, I am his choreographer. That is how bad I am. By the end of that evening, I understood what feeling out of place truly meant!

            So this Newyear, if you don’t want to go to a pub, don’t go. Live your life with your choices. Do not fret about if it is cool or not. Your definition of cool need not be what the world of pop culture says. Your definition of cool should be what makes you happy.

            Here is to a New year which makes you genuinely happy and not just a check in on your social media. Here is to a New year where the people around laughs with you and not at you. Here is to a New year where all of us live by our choices and not of the world’s.  

Thursday, 24 December 2015

We are Sorry, Chennai-ites : Blog # 254

We are Sorry, Chennai-ites      

About 5 years back, due to kind of a cloudburst phenomenon, my city in Kerala received torrential rainfall. It was so heavy that water started rising in all the water bodies. I was sleeping upstairs in my house. At about midnight, my parents woke me up saying there was water inside the house! I went down to see ankle deep water in my house which kept on rising. Adding to the chaos, power was gone. My father walked through the water to reach the inverter. He got a severe electric shock. Thankfully, it did not turn fatal. But the whole experience was traumatic for all of us. After a while, rains stopped. The drainage in my small city is very effective. By about 10 in the morning, water had receded from almost everywhere except a couple of residential colonies like ours. For the rest of the city, life was back to normal.

Water inside the house for me was like wearing wet socks. It was discomfort at its glorious manifestation. Add to this, the trauma of my father having got an electric shock the day before. But there was nothing to do to improve our situation. The water had to recede by itself. I was a student at that time and went for my afternoon class. I distinctly remember my jeans being wet till knees, having walked through water clogged around my house. My friends were being their usual self – laughing, talking and making merry. The first thought that hit me was how these guys can be so happy! Don’t they know what I am going through? To be fair to them, they did not know. All they know was that there was a heavy rainfall the night before which is not an unusual thing to happen in Kerala. Water logging did not happen in or around their houses.

I told my friends what happened the previous night. They listened to me patiently and empathized with me. They were concerned for my father. But then, someone cracked a harmless joke about water entering my house. In other times, I would have laughed along heartily enjoying the humor, but that day, I wanted to feed him a croissant filled with cyanide! I remember being angry, frustrated and feeling helpless. I failed to understand why others were being so normal going about with their lives.

Yesterday, I visited my office in Chennai. I talked to a couple of friends. Only then, I realized the ordeal that they had to go through. Being displaced from one’s own home for whatever short duration is very unsettling. Being served food of the same kind and portions for days together can be very saddening. I am not talking about choice or quality of food here. I want to draw your attention to the situation that one finds oneself in. Having to face losses, person and material is difficult. We overcome material losses over time even though it is not easy or simpler in any way. Personal losses makes us deal with the heartache which comes with the reality too.

One of the reasons why many of us couldn’t relate to your hardships was because we were not physically present in that situation. Thanks to social media, we did read about many heartbreaking stories. But there is power in visuals. This was the reason why when Kargil war was taking place, the then army chief wanted the nation to see visuals of the war and the people to understand the hardships and sacrifices that our soldiers do for us. This is also the reason why US defense forces rarely allow coffins to be shown on television in an attempt to show that whatever wars they are engaged in are 'strategic' ones with no human loss at all.

So to all my friends in Chennai, if I haven’t called to check on you, if I joked unknowingly about any situation which you had to go through, if I was not sensitive enough, with folded hands, I extend my apologies. I want you to understand that you were always in my thoughts and continue to be.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Jisha’s Parents : Blog # 253

Jisha’s Parents

I still remember the first day when I sent my daughter to school. She was very anxious and was not letting me go. To pacify her, I told that I will wait till her class was over. After a while, the teacher came and said that the class was over. She brought Jisha to where we were sitting and called out “Jisha’s Parents?”. That was the first time someone addressed us thus and since then we remained that – Jisha’s parents. At our colony, to her friends, to her professors, and even in our own extended family, we were Jisha’s parents. Her father used to beam with pride when someone addressed him as Jisha’s dad.

Over the years, whenever she went out, her father used to drop her off till our gate. And he tells her something. I used to stand by the window. She tells him something, then looks at me and laughs. I always asked him as to what does he tell her. He never told me. Neither did she. She was always her daddy’s child. Was I upset about it? Not at all. I used to hide my anxiety when she was late to come home. For I knew, if I started worrying, her father will lose his peace of mind. Till the moment when I am not worried, he looks alright or was he putting up a pretence of being calm and composed? Looking back, I feel so.

Being the only girl among our children, we never could say no to her. She also knew this. But unlike her siblings, she never took advantage of this. Whenever asked if she wanted something, my little girl always said No. She even says no to the evening tea thinking it is an effort for me. She used to read out news to her father. It was something my husband asked only of Jisha. He never asked his other children to do this. Once when our son asked about this, he said “your sister’s way of reading gives life to the words. That is why I ask her to read”.

And one day, our daughter became Nirbhaya. I do not know who gave her that name. But I can tell one thing for sure. From that moment, I know not what fear means anymore. My little girl always used to tell me “Ma, don’t be so timid. People will take advantage of you”. I want to tell my child today that your mother and fear have become forlorn strangers. All I feel now is a sort of numbness.

 But what do we do with this sea of grief that refuses to calm down? How do we live with the angst that is burning inside us? When will our eyes stop welling up when we look at ourselves in the mirror? Why do we feel guilty of having not been able to protect you? For how long will my husband and I keep on telling each other that we did not cry today?

The other day, I asked my husband as to what he used to tell our daughter at the gate. He said “I used to ask Jisha as to whom she loved more. She said “Ma”, every single time!”

- Jisha’s Parents.

*Jyoti was brutally raped and killed at Delhi in 2012. The one who committed the most cruel, unthinkable, inhuman deeds to her was a “juvenile” as per law. 

*Jisha was brutally raped and killed at Kerala on April 28th, 2016.  A lukewarm approach from the authorities and passive media attention isn't helping. 

How many Jishas will need to lose their lives before the society wakes up from its slumber? When will we realize that mankind's destiny is poised for darkness if we go down this path?

This fictional letter is an attempt to try and understand what the parents of that girl would be going through. The least that we can do is to try and empathize. May her soul rest in peace. May her family find strength in her memories.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

We are Hindus : Blog # 252

We are Hindus

          In the Indian movie Raavan, Mani Ratnam brilliantly looks at the other side of the argument. He looks at the alternate possibility. He asks ‘What if’. We accepted it. We thought about that view point. We moved on with our lives.

          In the movie PK, multiple Gods of our religion are made fun of. We looked at the message that was being  conveyed. We did not take offense. We focused on the message more than the mode of message. We did not even pay attention to the messenger.

        Now, are we completely free of erring? Of course not! Our reaction towards a certain painter who chose to indulge his brush and extend the boundaries of his canvas a bit too much could have been better. Most of us contemplate if there was actually a need to react on such a scale that he had to leave the country. But hey, think about it. If he were working in Charlie Hebdo, that brush wouldn’t have moved hence.

          A liberal, celebrated, pluralist journalist can call one of our customs regressive and can walk around not fearing for her life. Of course, there will be heated exchange of words. That is just a passionate debate. It ends there. We don’t take offense to that statement on a personal level. We don’t hold her and her life accountable for that statement. She is entitled to an opinion just as you and I are.

          We are Hindus. When I say Hindu, I mean it in the most earnest way possible. I do not mean it in the religious way at all. I am someone who gets more thrilled at the prospect of exploring the literature involved in a religious text than the holiness about it while reading it. My God resides in myself. I don’t give anyone the power to speak on behalf of my religion for it speaks for itself. By saying ‘I’, the reference here is not to myself. The reference is to a large number of people who are humans first and then the follower of their religion.

          With all the love I can summon, my humble request to all around is next time, when you think your religious sentiments are hurt, please think before you act. Understand that religion is just one of your identities. It is a part and not the whole of yourself. Also, when something terrible is done by people of your kind, criticize it with all the might you have. Don’t hold punches thinking if your religion or ancestors might get offended. More important is to show the love you have for people around you at present than it is to show that you have immense love and regard for those who lived eons ago. Humanity comes first and then comes religion.

p.s. Before you draw up a portrait of mine clad in saffron, please know that in my mind, Hindu is a part identity. Muslim is a part identity. Christian is a part identity. A part identity which was thrust up on me at birth which at different points in my life, I embraced just in the hope of making the process of living on this earth, a tad bit easier. A part identity; Not the whole of my life; Not the core of my existence!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Tamasha that is Life : Blog # 251

Tamasha that is Life

If you are someone who walks on a running escalator, Tamasha is not a movie for you. If you are someone who paces in a train impatiently waiting for your station, please do not go to watch Tamasha. If you are someone who enjoys the gliding of an escalator while watching people moving around and who smiles at a small kid’s enthusiasm just before stepping on to it; If you are someone who sits beside a train’s window looking out in to eternity enjoying nature moving by, then you will enjoy this movie.

It is not one of those movies that gets you gripped right from frame 1.In the beginning, it is disarrayed. One should wait patiently long enough to understand that those disarrayed scenes that pop out of nowhere will eventually make sense. Isn’t that the same mistake which we do in our lives too? We either get too happy to be thankful for the bright moments or we get too sad to understand that the dullness will pass by. We don’t take the effort to pause and look at random events that occur in Life with the time and attention that they deserve. We miss them just like we miss a beautiful patch of green and a stream in a fast, long journey.

Isn’t it strange that we all need that one person in Life who asks us one right question at a particular moment in time which changes us to an extent that we feel as to how could we live with our earlier self? That is exactly what Deepika’s character Tara does to Ved played by Ranbir Kapoor. Many a time, we dare not ask ourselves certain questions. It is not that those questions don’t occur to us. Oh it does, time and again. Yet, we are too afraid to listen to the answers which those questions might give way to.

Once we gather enough courage to face ourselves, then the world will welcome you with open arms waiting for you to embrace it. There is a scene where Ved talks to his parents about who he really is. I am yet to see a more earnest portrayal of courage on Indian silver screen. That was Imtiaz Ali at his brilliant best.

Many a time, we tend to forget to thank those people enough who are responsible for making us who we are. We do thank. But is the gratitude conveyed appropriately? I doubt. That is the beauty of the closing scene. All those moments where Ved thanks Tara without any words, sheer magnificence it is! It will be a crime if I don't call out the brilliant performances by the lead actors. Not to belittle Ranbir's chameleon like effortless drifting between different emotional states of his character, Deepika did outstandingly well for a character that had so less to do in this movie.

Is Tamasha a flawless movie? Of course not. At times, it is overtly indulgent. It expects the audience to be patient and to watch the magic unfold in slow-mo. There are way too many references to old Hindi films (Don-Don-Don). But yes, Imtiaz Ali’s labor of love does inspire one to courageously break away from the monotony of walking towards mediocrity and to start sprinting towards the destiny that awaits each and every one of us.

Arun Babu

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Was it your choice, lady? : Blog # 250

Was it your choice, lady?

              Parineeti Chopra is an immensely talented actress who has given beautiful performances in all her films so much so that not even a single critic could come down on her in any film. The films might have been bad, but not her acting. I remember watching some of her earlier interviews. She is well read, comes with a formal education (master’s degree), well-traveled and wonderfully well informed of her trade. She understands how business of movies works.

            Parineeti was not your quintessential Hindi film heroin. She was not slender thin, does not have a vampire-level-fairness and is not unusually tall. She was a normal good looking girl. The reason why I have used past tense in the sentences above is because now, she has changed. I thought given the abundance of talent, she would not have to fit in. She might not need to go through the physical metamorphosis in order to subscribe to Bollywood’s idea of looking good. But alas, she too has done just that.

      In Parineeti’s case, it might have been a demand of the profession.  We can debate about whether or not to focus on physical appearance in cinema. We can also come to an elitist conclusion of appearances not being important by pointing out some classics and art house films. The fact remains that it is a visual medium. It is the largest format of entertainment that is in our country. The revenue of films doesn’t come from the multiplexes alone. The thousands of class B and C theaters across the country is filled with an audience who demand their actors and actresses to be as good looking as possible. Let us not discuss as to whether the multiplex audience want their actors to look good or not. That will become an entirely different blog on people being consciously hypocritical. And an average Indian’s idea of looking good is to be fair, slim and tall. That might explain as to why Parineeti had to lose weight.

Now this article is not intended to debate whether she should lose weight or not. It is Parineeti’s prerogative as to what she wants to do with her body. Just like it is with each of us. What I would want to bring your attention here is to the fact that it just is not one’s choice anymore when it comes to one’s own physical appearance. The society decides it for you. Sadly, this is truer when it comes to women. Almost all women around us are forced to fit in or subscribe to what the society thinks is good looking. Parineeti’s situation goes on to prove that it doesn’t matter what strata of society one is in, how educated one is or how economically liberated one is, society is equally harsh and demanding at all levels.

Are the cosmetic ads encouraging these mindsets? Yes, they are. But they are not the cause. They are just the effect. The cause is the society’s mindset – our mindset. As long as that doesn’t change, the likes of Ms. Chopra and other beautiful women will need to try and fit in.

p.s.If it were indeed your personal decision to lose weight, I am happy for you and hats off to your disciplined, focused effort :)

Thursday, 10 December 2015

FRIENDS Afterlife # 5 : Blog # 249

                            F.R.I.E.N.D.S After Life # 5

*We, all diehard F.R.I.E.N.D.S fanatics have been waiting forever for the best sitcom ever made on Television, to resume. Here is an attempt to look at what our favorite characters are up to these days.

Mrs. Geller woke up startled. She asked Mr.Geller to wake up.”Jack, I dreamt of Ross. We must go and meet him. Something’s wrong”. She rang up Monica. “Monica, I dreamt of my child today! We are coming over”. “Oh! That’s so sweet of you mother. You saw me in your dream?”. “Yea! I meant my other child. Ask Ross to come over to your place”. 

“Mike, why did you learn Music?” Quizzed Phoebe. I like learning Music. It makes me happy. Why Phoebs? “No I meant why did you have to learn Music?” Oh that! Not everyone is born a musical genius like you, my love. “ Hmm..At times, I feel God is too partial. I mean, look at me! Beautiful, smart, talented.” Might I add, wonderfully weird too J.  “Let me call up Rachel. It has been a while. Hey Rach! How are your doing?” I am good phoebs! Just had my lunch, How are you? “I am terrific. So you are coming by next week is it?” How do you know Phoebs!!! I have not told anyone. Even Ross doesn’t know. “Ever heard of Frederic Myers? In one of my earlier births, he and I coined Telepathy. Come home soon. We are all waiting for you”.

Feeding the kids, Monica told Chandler “Mom and dad are coming over. Can you come a bit early from office today?” What happened all of a sudden, all well Mon? “ Yea , yea mom dreamt about her child and is worried” Oh, let me call up Ross. He will be happy to hear this. “I AM ALSO her child!! What is wrong with you people?? On the way home, pick up Joey too. He hasn’t visited in a while.”

Joe! Chandler here. Come home today. I will pick you up on the way. “Ok. I have a shot today. No worries, I will push it” Is it ok for you? Should I come over a bit later? “No Chandler. It is ok. Your Joey is a star you know. And the director’s secretary has a crush on me. So it’s fine.”

Ross was commuting to work. He was reading “Paleontology – A study of the days before dates”. A very attractive lady sitting next to Ross asked him “ Hey, can I see your book once?”. Oh! Are you also interested in Paleontology? I am a Doctor you see. “ Oh No! Just that my nephew likes to read dragon stories. Been looking for a book!”. Driver, stop the bus will you? screamed Ross.

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