Monday, June 14, 2010

The Invisible Bond

"Close your eyes. Fold your arms and bow down. Now say 'Oh Lord. Protect me'. And He will protect you Forever." This was my first ever experience in Prayer. A simple act of obedience towards my Mother. An act of blind faith, without even knowing what Faith meant. They say it takes a miracle for one to start believing in Him. It took several miracles for me to affirm allegiance to Him. These weren't life changing incidents, but were miracles nonetheless. The fact is, what might be a miracle to me, might sound like an ordinary chain of events to someone else.

When a non-believer, I mistook the purpose of Prayer. Whenever I prayed, I felt God was being thrust upon me. I resented prayer to resist His thrust. Prayer didn't calm me. It agitated me, instead. I claimed that I had a lot of Faith in my own abilities and that I found it cowardly to reach out to external forces. The virility of youth, it had to be. I would cringe each time I heard someone chant a shloka, a pang of guilt running through me. The guilt of non-conformance.

Adversity can be quite the eye opener. You will be surprised to discover how much battering your mind/ heart can put up with. Dealing with a crisis and coming out of it unscathed is very rare. The scars of experience cannot but leave their mark on you. At the end of it, you could be strengthened/ hardened to such an extent that you cease to trust anyone, but yourself. Otherwise, you may be humbled to the point where you trust noone, but Him. Which one of these transformations you undergo, is not just a coincidental eventuality. It is the consequence of a conscious choice between two paths - One that gives you total control over the situation versus another, that requires you let go of the need to be in control.

I chose the latter. That will probably remain to be the best decision of my life.

Though this sounds like the easy way out, it isn't. Its hard to go beyond reason and leave everything to that imperceptible force that is called God. Even harder is, to do this without doubting the outcome. It happens often that we don't know what is best for ourselves. We tread a chosen path, assuming it is the right one. When once something goes slightly wrong, we look all around for the one who gave us wrong directions. Thus begins a malicious blame game and we forget about our journey itself. On the other hand, say we choose Him as our compass. We cannot possibly be misguided by our compass at any point. So, even if the road is rough for a while, the destination is in sight and we know we're on track. But the important thing is to know that your compass will always be right. No matter what.

The rewards of unflinching Faith are known to be abundant. Who am I to validate this? Nobody. Just another believer, like you. They say:

Jo bhi tere darr aaya, jhukne jo sar aaya  
Mastiyan piye sabko jhoomta nazar aaya
Pyaas leke aaya tha, dariya woh ghar laya
Noor ki baarish mein bheegta sa tarr aaya

Monday, March 1, 2010

Just Like That

This one's dedicated to my blog idea giving, gypsy friend Nishant Biswal. Popularly known as 'Bisi'. :) More than a year ago, he suggested to me that I should write about some of my favourite songs and the memory I associate with each of them. I really liked the idea. But somehow, I couldn't get myself to make this list, until today. Why today, you ask? Probably because, I've spent about 6 hours of the past 24, on YouTube. :) I've tried to list out some not too common songs and their videos here. Hopefully, you're seeing this video here after a long time. Gear up for some strong doses of nostalgia.
  • The perfect start to my list. I "Remember the Time" when my Dad used to play this cassette on our car audio system. He used to be crazy about MJ. We (Ajay and I) didn't pay it too much attention at the time. But, we too got hooked when we watched the video on Channel V a few months later. It was akin to watching a mini-movie. The Pharoah and his Queen, MJ in his golden suit, his apparating and disapparating acts, the Egyptian break dance. These were scenes that were going to stay in memory forever. A classic video, this. RIP, Michael Jackson.

    • Khalnayak was a cult movie of the 90s. Everyone's heard Chholi ke Peecche & Khalnayak hun Main a million times. Undoubtedly. But Palki mein hoke is my pick. Madhuri looking gorgeous as ever and Sanjay Dutt looking inebriated as usual. Need I mention Alka Yagnik's voice during these years when she peaked. Overall, nice song. The scene etched in memory about this song (and film) is the grand outing my family undertook to go watch this movie at Lido Cinemas (the old one). It was certainly easy for our parents to please us in those days. It didn't matter where we were going and what we were doing. All that mattered was we were going out. What would I not give to rewind to '93! Right now, I'm watching this video and having a hearty laugh at the tribals dancing! Ridiculous.

    • Fast forward to high school. Probably 9th standard. My friend, Rachana, was the one who introduced me to this song. I wonder if she even remembers. It was a time when we were all trying real hard to improve our knowledge about American Pop and Rock music. The era in which Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys were chart toppers. It was uber-cool to talk about such things, those days. For me, it was critical to sound cool because I was trying to catch the attention of a classmate on whom I had an enormous crush. No names. I'm still in touch with him and now my feelings towards him are neutral, tending towards cold. Its only today that I learnt that this song is actually a cover. You see, we didn't have YouTube or Wikipedia those days. There was only good old World Book Encyclopedia. :)

    •  Enter ARR. I love this song. My Mom hates it. Thanks to me. Thanks to my singing it a million times as though I was Windows Media Player on Repeat. I think what annoyed her the most was when I used to try and mimic the interludes with my voice. :) I love the strings and the violin peices in it. Of course the lyrics too! Sadly, all those songs which I think I sing well are male solos. :(

    •  I won't rant again about how much I like this actor. You're spared. Count your blessings. This one's a soulful song sung by the maverick actor himself from the movie Anbe Sivam. If you haven't watched the movie, I'm not sure the video will move you. But, if you undestand the tongue you're likely to appreciate the import of the lyrics. I remember being affected for a week or so after watching this movie for the first time. Some scenes in this movie are unforgettable. Probably the first movie that got me thinking.

    • The City of Blinding Lights. U2, of course. This surely doesn't count as an uncommon song. Sorry, if I disappointed you. I like most of U2's songs but this one somehow reminds me of college. This was one of the first few songs that I heard on my first ever MP3 player. I remember listening to it during my sporadic attempts at the early morning workout. If I knew Rock parlance well enough, I'd have been able to describe to you what exactly I like about this song. I like the guitar pieces in the interludes, basically. Now, if there's a term for that, I'd be more than glad to know what its called. :)

    •  Have you watched this movie? A gem of a movie. A tiny, sparkling gem. It's for the movie itself that I put this song in here; no specific memory that I can recollect. This song effortlessly captures the essence of Dor. It shows you don't need to force the name of the movie into the lyrics to create the title song. I've always adored Gul Panag. She's as charming as can be in Dor. On the contrary, I hate Ayesha Takia in all her movies, except this one. In Dor, I think she outshines the rest of the cast. I can't imagine anybody else in her character as an innocent, raw widow. Thanks, Nagesh Kukunoor. And thanks Salim-Suleiman (I know, quite unbelievable!).

    •  Haha this song reminds me of one evening in particular during grad school days. A stressful evening that continued into a feverish night! Also associated with the evening is my friend, Sethu. He played this song atleast 50 times that evening when we were racing against time to plot a million graphs to substantiate the working of our cache simulator project. It was madness. We were so engrossed in the graph plotting exercise that we didn't give a damn about switching to a different song. It must've played for four hours. Only when we submitted our projects at midnight, did we realize that we had listened to one, single song all the while. I'm sure Sethu remembers this evening as vividly as I do! :) I still don't know what they're trying to say/ do in this song though. Craziness.

    •  If this list has Kamal Hassan and A R Rahman, then it had bloody well have Aamir Khan and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Even if its one song to cover them both. What a song! Sets you free. Literally. Though this is the most recent song on the list, I don't remember when I first heard it. Must've been courtesy Akshay. I'm reminded of Akshay's resourceful external hard disk. :) If I ever get to learn to play a guitar, I would like to sing/ play this song, first thing. Someday. But you see my point? Again, male solo! :| 

    I hope y'all liked this compilation. I thoroughly enjoyed creating it. If I had it my way, I would've posted the MP3s with an embedded player or something. I'm not liking this dependence on YouTube that much. I wish I were savvy enough to spin some HTML magic. Let's see. That'll be my target for the next list. :)

      Saturday, February 27, 2010

      Writing on the Wall

      I officially hate Facebook. If I have become unfocussed, unproductive and useless over the last few months, Facebook is squarely to blame. Naturally, one cannot achieve anything remotely constructive if one is forever preoccupied with contemplating the implications of one's latest status message on FB. Who'll be the first one to comment on it? Who'll like it? Will anyone like it at all? What if nobody comments on it? Such are the thoughts that fog my mind for most part of the day, when I respond to the tempting question: What's on your mind?. And when I haven't put up anything of interest to others, there're a hundred posts by others I can choose from, to think about. How can I sound witty? Should I even comment on his picture? Man, I can't believe 20 people like her photo! It's not even that great! The list is long.

      The architects of this social network are clearly very manipulative and innovative. While initially I thought that it was obtrusive to broadcast my exchanges with a long lost school friend to everybody in my network, now I know its a mind game. If you too went to school with me, then you probably know this friend of mine. And there you have it - an addition to your friends list, simply because you happened to spot our little dialogue. Sweet, isn't it!? And it doesn't end there. She'll now write on your wall, since you were nice enough to add her. And then, you'll reply. Some five posts later, I'll feel so left out that I'll butt in, hankering for some attention. And we'll keep up the spirit of sorority for as long as it lasts! And you'll hear the cheeky architects cheering "Mission Create 3 Addicts Accomplished".

      If you were to ask me to pick a subject for research, don't be surprised if I say "A qualitative analysis of highly popular and influential Facebook users". I'm more than just intrigued by this particular subset of the community. My research would aim at highlighting the mechanisms and phenomena that lead to a high popularity quotient on Facebook. With the substantial amount of groundwork that I have already performed, I can tell you that parameters like the frequency of your profile picture changes, novelty of your status message, your ability to elicit responses to any comment that you make, not to forget the sheer number of hours you spend on the portal itself, are critical to your blossoming into Ms/ Mr. Popular. And no, it's not as hard as it sounds. I'd be glad to help you out. I'm quite good at this stuff.

      Precisely the reason I hate Facebook. Because, I love it. I can't do without it. It adds purpose to my life. It's the reason I wake up every morning. (Wow, I can be pretty dramatic!) But seriously, my virtual persona is swiftly stealing attention from the real one. I don't care for returning people's calls as much as I care about responding to a friend request. And that's quite freaky if you ask me. Nothing you or I can do about it. It's not even like Global Warming, for which you can hold international debates to discuss cause and effect. The Facebook Juggernaut continues to wreak havoc. If Shakespeare were a contemporary, he would have gotten Hamlet to lament with the words, "Frivolity, thy name is Facebook."

      Friday, November 6, 2009

      Judgement Day

      "Judgmental" has become quite a fashionable word of late. Tune in to a talk show on TV and the most common statement of defence is on the lines of "Well, you can choose to be judgmental about the whole issue, but the fact of the matter is... blah blah blah". Eavesdropping into a conversation about Obama winning the Nobel for peace, yields the same result. I admit, I've used it on several occasions myself. So many times, that I have come to question the negative connotation of the word itself. What is so bad in being judgmental after all? Nothing, really. As long as you're not biased, its ok to be judgmental. Just as I get into the mood and switch to my psychoanalyst avtaar, better sense prevails and calls for an abrupt change of topic.

      On an average, I spend nine hours at my workplace everyday. Of this, I put in about six hours of productive work that counts towards progress. About an hour towards lunch and coffee breaks. And the rest of the time is dedicated to my "Watch, Listen and Enjoy" sessions. The first two factions of my day are quite mundane and any elaboration on them will put you to sleep. Let's not go there. However, what I must share with you is the experience of WLE. Here is what I do. I have a program or document opened up on my computer screen and I stare at it, seeming visibly attentive. Now that the stage is set, I let my mind wander. Not too far. Just far enough to observe and absorb the happenings and conversations among my neighbour colleagues. I'm careful enough to make sure that I click randomly on the screen, switching between tabs, scrolling up and down, lest someone suspects me for my unusual stillness. Honestly, this turns out to be the liveliest portion of my work day. Although my observations are based on what I notice around me, the fear of losing my job prevents me from giving you specific details. :) So what I'll let you peek into is a generalized taxonomy of the contemporary workplace.

      First there's the quiet, shy guy. Asocial. Remains rooted to the seat from 9 to 6, oblivious to his surroundings. The only talking he does is during meetings, which is when you realize he's been working enough to put an industrious worker bee to shame. Quite the dedicated chap. Then there is the kind who can't work in silence. They love to let the whole world know what they're up to. One thank you mail from a higher up for having delivered a task promptly and they'll rave about it the entire week. Of course, they're cunning enough to avoid even the slightest of embarrassing incidents. Who isn't!?

      But right across from there is probably the loudest, most obnoxious person in the office. He does everything, but work. Sitting at his seat, he pays his bills, discusses grades with his kid's teacher, chats up his ex-colleagues, trades on the stock market and despite that, cribs constantly about how much work there is to do. His cellphone ringtone is forever set to the highest volume possible. The worst part is that he does all this so unabashedly, completely disregarding basic work etiquette. It's hard to understand why companies tolerate such incompetence. But you know, this doesn't annoy me half as much as the next type. The ladies. The evil, conniving ladies. It seems like I possess a certain magnetism that strongly repels my female colleagues away from me. I would not be exaggerating if I said that they despise me. They make it a point to leave me out of their coterie. Not that I'm dying to be part of it. But, such things make a difference to me. I would rather choose not to be part of it than be left out! I'm amazed at how they have the cheek to look through me even when we come face to face. Of course, these women are not part of my generic classification. They thrive only in my current habitat. Hopefully.

      Apart from these most prominent ones, there's the kind who itch to get up from their seat every five minutes, the cellphone whisperers, the Christmas trees who come decked up everyday and not to forget, the late-latifs who come in to work coolly at 12 noon blaming the early morning mist and mid morning traffic! A few months more, and the Carl Linnaeus in me is sure to discover many more of these classes.

      And you tell me not to be judgmental! Come now. This is fun! :)

      Friday, September 18, 2009

      For the love of my favourite Nayagan

      He's the typical Tam Brahm. Not too fair, not too dark. Not too tall, not too short. Impressively bright. Enviably talented. Extremely charming. Not to forget, reasonably sexy. Wow, that almost sounds like my dream guy! I'm now having a compelling temptation to alter the course of this article and call it "My Kinda Guy". Thankfully, will power prevails. Getting back to this guy. Actually, its hard to nonchalantly call him a "guy", considering he's as old as my Dad! :D As the whole of Tamil Nadu celebrates the 50th anniversary of Padmashri Kamal Hassan's foray into cinema, here's my miniscule contribution.

      Paramakudi, in the district of Ramanathapuram (southern TN), takes pride in being the birthplace of KH (I respect the guy, but I can't repeatedly type his full name out). Its a different issue that KH left Paramakudi at the age of three, but he still talks in his interviews about this insignificant town from where he hails. At the age of five, he sparkled as an orphaned boy who ultimately unites with his parents, played by superstars of that age - Gemini Ganesan and Savitri - in KaLatthur KaNNamma, his debut. And sparkle, he did! Imagine if you watched and re-watched Kuch Kuch Hota Hai for the sake of Sana Saeed (who plays Shahrukh's daughter), rather than for the chemistry between Shahrukh and Kajol. That's what you end up doing in this movie. KH is so endearing in his role, its hard to believe he's acting.

      Cut to 12 years later and KH turned up as this wiry youth in many a random movie. I haven't watched any of these, so, no comments. But thank God, K Balachander didn't make the same mistake. He more than just noticed KH and hoisted him by giving him secondary and sometimes even tertiary roles. A loser in love, a struggling actor, a cynical ventriloquist and many other such. Its beautiful to see how he stands out in all of these roles, regardless of the overbearing cast surrounding him in most of these attempts. My personal recommendation among these - AvaL Oru Thodarkadhai. Don't miss this one!

      The 70's saw the rise of this promising star. As Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan's movies declined in their appeal, KH delivered hits, one bigger than the previous. And for competition, he had none other than Rajni. Especially interesting are the movies in which Kamal and Rajni are pitted against each other. 16 Vayathinile and ILamai Oonjal Aadukirathu being the best examples of this. At this juncture, I cannot possibly omit mentioning the well known, widely discussed camaraderie that Rajni and KH share, to this day. Touch wood! Its so heartening to see the mutual admiration these two stars exhibit, notwithstanding the disparity in their genres.

      Talking about camaraderie, I am reminded of another C word - Chemistry. Most people like romantic movies. They'll deny it, but its human nature to like romance. Sridevi and Kamal Hassan had something going in every scene that they enacted. Sparks fly and hearts flutter when you watch these two on screen. Sridevi's innocence silently luring the shrewd Kamal. A vicarious falling-in-love experience! And SPB and S Janaki's voices elevate this experience several levels higher! I particularly like the song "Sippi irukkudu" in Varumaiyin Niram Sivappu. Watch it here!

      A necessary requisite for a Tamil Hero to become a superstar is that he address socially relevant issues. MGR did it, Sivaji continued it and Rajni upheld it. KH did it too, but, at his own terms. In fact, he still does it and his most well remembered movies belong to this genre. From Unnal Mudiyum Thambi (addressing alcohol addiction) to Nayagan (heavy duty stuff!) to Hey Ram (on Partition) followed by Anbe Sivam (Be good, Do good) and then to Virumaandi (on Capital Punishment, I think). Strong ideals, strong messages.

      I would have to be beside myself to wrap up without talking about my most favourite thing about KH. According to me, KH is one of the finest comedians in the country. Make that world. Exquisite timing, impeccable dialogue delivery (in any dialect of Tamil there is) and brilliant body language. Add to this an undercurrent of intelligent humour disguised under an icing of senseless, chaotic comedy. If laughter is the best medicine, then KH's comedy is panacea. Simla Special (where he plays a theatre artist), Michael Madana Kama Rajan (quadruplets, separated at birth - and that's just the beginning of the confusion!), Panchatantram (four becomes five) are a (very) few of my all time favourites. I just realized I should be owning all these on DVD!

      And this, as the saying goes, is only the tip of the iceberg. I can go on and on about KH and what I know of his achievements. If you're looking for as much mental stimulation that reading a book gives you, pick one of his movies and watch them. I guarantee that you'll like him, love the movie and itch until you watch the next one. Oh except of course, Dasavatharam. Why not? That would require a whole new article!