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!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Q: How abt dat? A: No ways!

"hi sharanya! how u? hows evrythng..v shd meet smetime!" read a post on my Facebook wall. I winced when I read this post, cursing my luck for knowing a person that wrote so "badly" and then cursing Facebook for broadcasting this enquiry on all my 200 friends' homepages. How they would poke fun at this post, and how they would think low of me, for having a friend that couldn't even frame a sentence without a spell check error. I do agree that Facebook is an informal platform and nobody expects you to follow all rules of spelling and grammar. But, I thoroughly detest this distortion of the English language. It is painful enough to read people's SMSes rife with grotesque short forms of already short words and now the laziness has infected qwerty users! It's hard to term it laziness even. How can one possibly feel lazy to type a "we" as against a "v"? It's not laziness. It's sheer disregard for the language and its norms.

I have a psychological block against users of this notorious tongue. I get the feeling that these are people who are not confident in their language and use this as a mechanism to conceal their linguistic limitations. Honestly, I find it much harder to read a message that doesn't spell the words the way they are supposed to be! I find it confusing to miss letters in the words that I read. Ironically, the universal essence of communication (in any form) is to ensure that the recipient understands the message. Sigh. I hope I've convinced you to abstain from employing spelling cryptography. Each time you're tempted to use it in the future, think of this post. Think of people like me who would cringe at the usage and deem it to be a sign of lack of sophistication, or worse still, lack of knowledge! If you must know, there are tons of us puritans out there. Now, who wouldn't like to put in a trifle of extra effort, if it means creating a good impression, right?

Finally, a sincere request. Next time you want to say "anyway", say anyway. Please don't say anyways. Its even one less letter to type!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oops.. I did it again!

Have you ever been in a situation where you were terribly embarrassed with yourself? Embarrassed that you could be as foolish as you seem to have demonstrated. The only saving grace being nobody noticed it and hence, nobody knew/ knows about it. Just this morning, I started reading a book - I will not state the name of the book, simply to spare myself of your mockery. The story has been narrated in first person and I had somehow taken it for granted that the author was male. Well ,these Americans can get funny with their names I tell you! I once met this guy at a house party who introduced himself as Axel. Call me stuck up or anything you want, but I don't think too much of the name!

Coming back to this book, I sailed through the first two chapters of the book, building an opinion about the protagonist - a 5 year old kid, describing his relationship with his older brother and other playmates. All very cute. Somewhere in the middle of the third chapter, this older brother gets all sentimental and talks about always being there to protect his "little sister". I paused for a moment, trying to recollect any reference to a third sibling. When I could not, I was faced with the sudden realization that it had been a girl narrating this story all along. I could not believe myself. What a fundamental miscalculation this was. I felt silly, stupid and almost cheated!

In my defence, the "girl's" name was hardly feminine. Neither was the author's! (Again, I don't wish to provide specific details) But that one moment, I blushed in the face and I remember slapping my forehead chidingly. Of course, I immediately looked around me to see if anyone had spotted my gesture. Thankfully, I was safe! :) It is only now that I find out that the author is indeed female and that, in her pen name, she has deceivingly left out her first name (which, incidentally, is glaringly feminine) and writes with her middle and surnames.

Frankly, I often have such moments and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this matter. Why in fact, I have many more in the midst of company and everyone has a hearty laugh about my lapse! I am a good entertainer after all. Above all, a lesson well learnt. Before I start my next book, I'm going to pay some attention to the blurb along with doing some serious background check on the author!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Everyday Morning Blues

It feels good to be back. Back to watching endless TV. Back to waking up to the smell of coffee decoction. Back to being chided for the most unexpected of things. Back to the cliched "hustle and bustle". Back to a more familiar existence. Back to Bangalore. Back Home.

I was reading the newspaper the other day, (Yes! One exercise I'm so glad to be back to doing!) as usual peeved by the almost pornographic front page of Bangalore Times. With their surveys that tell you how couples in Bangalore are "spicing their bedroom up" and pictures that irk your sense of decency, this is one newspaper a parent would shudder to find his kid reading! But the truth is, we still buy it, we still read it. At home, we ourselves have tried to switch to a different paper time and again. It simply doesn't work! Sadly, Indian Express, Deccan Herald or Hindu can't seem to cope with the variety and resourcefulness of the TOI and its supplement editions.

Its a pity that we have to stare at half clad women every morning before we can get to the Speaking Tree. (A column that appears everyday on the Editorial page; its your dose of philosophy for the day) Its high time we got a newspaper that's a fun, clean read. Where I can solve a nice, stimulating word puzzle in the morning, read about the elections, read my horoscope prediction and also know what sale is on at Safina Plaza. If I want to know the latest in fashion trends, I should have to buy a fashion magazine. If I want to know who partied for whose birthday at the Windsor, then God save me!

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Sound of Music

Since I've talked about my love for music in one of my previous posts, it wasn't going to be long before I wrote a post on the subject. So here goes. Of late, I am constantly reminded of my music student days. This thanks to my roommates who are equally interested in the same kind of music as me. We can spend hours on end singing, listening and exchanging "notes". :)

As a seven year old, I was enrolled into a music class that my Mum had found out about after extensive consultation with the Maamis of our neighbourhood. Of course you know that a Maami refers to the quintessential Tam-Bram Aunty who is well informed about schools, music teachers, dance teachers, summer camps and what not! My teacher was a locally well known AIR artist who performed at kachcheris (concerts) conducted around the city. But what nailed the choice for my Mum was that my teacher was the sister of a world famous violinist. Why look further! Like in any other art form, in music, lineage is of prime importance. Since my teacher was related to this hot shot violinist, it was guaranteed that the school of music that I would be trained under would be widely accepted and hence, I would turn out to be a good singer. Quite straightforward actually. They refer to this lineage as paaNi in the Carnatic world.

And so I obediently began attending music classes twice a week. The start was pretty good because my teacher certified that my voice was decent enough to be trained in the first place. Moreover, I was grasping stuff rather quickly. So all was well. The first few months were spent in familiarizing with the notes - swaras as they are more technically called. Many a time I've been spanked for not singing in tune to the shruthi (the pitch) or messing up the taaLa (the tempo). I don't blame myself. Seven is not really an age to start mastering multitasking! Nevertheless, only after perfecting these fundamentals, did I progress to the next level where I was taught to sing "songs" - ones which had sahityam (lyrics).

It was probably around this time that I began to subconsciously hum to myself. I would walk back from music class, humming the tune that my teacher had just taught me. Gradually this escalated to a level where I began to hum any song that I might have heard on the TV or in a movie. The humming continues to this date. Only, it has gotten louder, much to the annoyance of the people within earshot!

Five years into Carnatic music and I fell in love with it. And it was as though my voice approved of this love, for, it just transformed from its nasal, timid self to what it is in its present form - loud and mature. Naturally, my guru was the first one to sense this change. She capitalized on the metamorphosis and immediately got me to sign up for the state level junior music exam. After five months of rigorous practice and no ice cream, I gave the exam. Whats more, I did really well on it further cementing my bond with music. By now, I was the star singer of the family. Something I didn't really enjoy! Any function in the family, I would be asked to sing- my Mum egging me on to sing each time, and me glaring at her, vowing that I would not take this kind of embarrassment ever in the future. All in vain of course!

Sadly enough, my dream run wasn't going to continue forever. Once in high school, I simply couldn't give music as much time as it deserved. It would sometimes be weeks between two consecutive practice sessions. It was terrible. Thankfully, my humming habit helped me stay in touch. While in the shower, I would practise one of the many kirtanams (devotional compositions) that I had learned and try and improvise. :) It wasn't much. But it was just about enough to keep me going.

It has been about 5 years since I discontinued music classes. But, I still believe that I am a student of music. Learning something from each song I hear. Even today, if I feel down and out, I sit in a corner of my room and practise. To me, this exercise is more liberating than any other. It elevates me to a state of complete satisfaction. There lies the true beauty of this art. Its an asset nobody can steal away from you. It is yours for posterity. Whether you decide to flaunt it to the world or you use it to better yourself, its yours!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Caught in the Web

Until a few years ago, the first things I set my eyes on when I awoke in the morning were one of these - the poster on my wall that cried "NEVER GIVE UP", the tumbler of coffee that my Mom threateningly left on my study table saying "This is the last time I'm heating this coffee for you! You better get out of bed!", the clear blue sky outside my window (In India I lived on the 6th floor of our building, so there wasn't much to obstruct the view of the lovely sky) and sometimes if I woke up really really late (read 10 AM or later) then I was most definitely woken up by our maid servant sweeping the floor of my room. Ah, those were the days!

Nowadays, I invariably wake up to one sight - the desktop background on my laptop! In fact, my laptop is closer to my bed than my cellphone, or even my spectacles! Subconsciously, the first thing I do when my eyes open up in the morning is to boot my laptop up, login to Gmail hoping to see some unread messages in my inbox. :) This is followed by some other inboxes, facebook, the news, some music and back to more facebook snooping before I can actually drag myself away from my computer!

Its funny how much all of us are dependent on the internet. This other day, one of my friends missed a call on his cellphone from a number he didn't recognize. This friend I talk about is quite a slave of the internet. So, instead of calling the number back, he "Googled" out the number! Turned out that the number was one of those promo offer numbers from the service provider and in fact, there was a forum online that had discussed how annoying the calls from that number were! Man! Gone are the days when you used a 1000 something page telephone directory to painstakingly find the number of the local restaurant so you could reserve a dinner table for your big, fat family on a Saturday night. Now you just google out the restaurant and what's more, some of them allow you to check the menu online, so you can order over the phone itself!

Two years ago, when I first came to the US, I never took the internet seriously. I would check my email once in a day. My instant messaging stints were limited to 5-6 line conversations. I didn't know the first thing about ordering stuff online. A big jerk came when I learned that most of my courses' study material was online. That was then. Now, I check my email every five minutes. I chat with my friends incessantly about the most trivial subjects. I've ordered everything from airline tickets to backpacks online. And for the most embarrassing part - I borrowed five books from the library last month in an effort to do some self studying. Ironically, I've been doing all my self study from online resources while those books gather dust in my living room! And if you think this is a lot, I know of people who take music classes over Skype. Beat that! :)

But I wonder where all this is taking us. How much more virtual can we get? I do have an idea in that direction actually! It occurred to me the other day when I was video chatting with my Mum while cooking. I wished I could communicate to her the aroma that was emanating from the food that I was cooking! That was the only thing that was lacking in that whole conversation. My Mom could see what I was cooking, she could hear the crackling and spluttering of oil. Hopefully, there will soon be a day when she can smell it too! Atleast then she'll believe that I'm a decent cook. :)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

25 Random Things

Turns out I'm not that good a writer after all. I ran out of ideas to write and then when I did get some, I just got plain lazy. This post is actually thanks to Gowri. She tagged me in one of her notes in Facebook where she wrote 25 random things about herself. This inspired me to do the same! Except its not on Facebook and I haven't tagged anyone on it. I hope I haven't drawn too much from her note :)

Here goes:
  1. I've never felt bad about being short. This despite being mocked at almost all the time by my "tall" friends.
  2. I love the smell of wet earth - you know, when it just begins to rain. Whats more - I love to be out when its raining!
  3. I'm extremely spiritual. Quite religious too. And these I inherit directly from my Mother.
  4. Music feeds my soul. Trite as this sounds, its true. 100%. I find myself singing under my breath..ALL the time. In the shower, while checking my email, while cooking. Why, even as I write this gibberish.
  5. I can listen to music all day. A good pair of plug-in earphones is vital for an enjoyable experience though.
  6. I cannot dance. As much as I try to - I just cant get myself to jive to the beat!
  7. I'm a good public speaker. But for the initial jitters, I carry myself well on stage.
  8. I'm terrible at handling money. I often lose track of my debts and loans. Thank god for Excel!
  9. I can spend hours playing word games online. I'm addicted to them!
  10. There are 3 things that I love to eat - chocolate, pulikaachal and snow :P
  11. Talking about food, I hate to eat a meal all by myself. It throws me into depression!
  12. There's one thing I look forward to every year - my birthday. I usually have a personal 30 day countdown towards it :)
  13. I've never had long hair. Each time I decide to grow it long, I get tired of it and get it chopped!
  14. I'm a tentative learner - be it a sport or a technical concept, I'd like to take my own time.
  15. It takes me some time to make friends. A really really long time to break off from them.
  16. I cry very easily. Sensitive me!
  17. I'm good at giving advice. Sometimes this makes me think I should have become a psychiatrist!
  18. I speak my mind all the time. There have been so many times that I've asked myself to shut up. For my own good.
  19. On the contrary, I'm a soft hearted romantic on the inside. Few people know this side of mine.
  20. I enjoy working out in the gym. Its another issue that I don't do it often! But when I do do it, it liberates me. :)
  21. I cannot stand incompetence, hypocrisy and betrayal.
  22. I often skim through old pictures of family and friends. Verrry often actually. :P
  23. I have a firm belief in Karma. What goes around, comes around.
  24. I work better on my own than in a team. But this is changing - slowly and steadily. :)
  25. Having written this, I'm beginning to like myself more! :D