Wednesday, July 14, 2004

In Hind I sight....

Okay back from a very heavy and substantial lunch involving some very tasty papad, and coconut chutney.

Heard some great news. Sumit a mama. Can't believe it.

Anyway he won't be too happy to know that in Tamil mama, has some strange connotations albeit, a pimp, or a highly immoral person like..., say a policeman or a father-in-law. Yes! I know. Democracy does this to you. Very different from the Hindi mama.

But all the topics of babies, and languages have made me particularly nostalgic and made me think about my own childhood.

90% of which was spent trying to avoid learning Hindi. And the remaining 10% was spent learning it. I considered this a healthy balance ( Yes! I know. Democracy does this to you). But not my parents.

So there I was as a kid running around hectically avoiding learning Hindi. I hasten to act that this was not because I was a closet Dravidian, but because I was a closet cricket fanatic, and anytime not spent bowling fast ones at a bulying elder brother, I considered wasted. So of course, school was a huge waste of my time, so was politics (Yes! I know. Democracy does that to you) and even more wasteful was Hindi class, where I had to learn the gender of quite a few inanimate things, among which is classified valli, a girl from my school. Valli has now outgrown her braces, ponytails, and is now modelling for some hugely pompous brand of errr... clothes, but I remember being fascinated at the time with the question of whether valli was strilling, pulling, napumsakaling, or generally wodden. Napumsakaling was a favourite complex word for me. I remember asking an elder cousin to stop bugging me or face the angst of being called napumsakaling. We also used to shout na-pum-saka-ling on the basketball field. Not that it achieved anything. But fond memories nonetheless.

I am not a major language person. In fact Tamil is not supposed to be different from Hindi, but the nuances of it have completely escaped me, and even today popular entertainment in my homstead is to make me speak classical Tamil. Another entertaining thing. Getting me to speak Hindi.

But then where conventional education failed, the arts won(yes I know. Democracy does that to you). And in order to appreciate the arts more, I decided to learn Hindi. Primarily because I considered Hindi movies works of art, and there was nothing more entertaining than them. All over India. In fact, there was no other entertainment. On wednesdays there was Chitrahaar, and as my naani (note the appropriate Hindi word here) thrust pieces of what we South Indians fondly believed to be roti into my mouth, I would watch mouth agape as sigh! Parveen Bobby, Rekha or even Dimple shook a leg, all in tights and towering hairdos on the screen. And wonder what language they were speaking. Then there was Nukkad which I always pronounced nookath, and Hum Log, which in my childish fashion I used to pronounce as Hum vog. Yeah! I couldn't pronounce the lah. Yeah! reevvy funny.

And then there was news, which I never did understand, but always found pretty interesting as my uncle would jump about and swear quite volubly. It really looked like he had a personal interest in that thing (yes I know! Democracy does that to you), but I did get terribly confused with "Namaskaar. Aaj blah mukhya samachar". As a kid I never knew if it was ka/ki/ke. So I experimented at Will (who was my sikh neighbour), till Will decided that he better teach me certain facts in life. He failed. Miserably. To this day I have no clue if it's ka ki or ke.In fact, as a kid I took great pleasure in saying ka/ke/ki at random behind every word, and then laughing quite mischievously, at the confusion I thought I was putting people in. In all innocence I thought that if I pronounced it wrong, they would get confused about it, never struck me that they would think I was confused. But I did have a great smile! :-)

Saturday afternoons there was this movie, in which Prem Chopra would mandatorily attempt to molest some girl. Higly educational, and cultured and tasteful (yes I know! Democracy does that to you). Soon enough the line 'bach ke kahan jayegi rani' and 'kameene chod de mujhe' were imprinted in my memory. The last sentence got pretty confusing. I remember when we were playing lock and key, shouting 'kameene chod de mujhe' at Will, when I wanted to be given a key (complicated game lock and key huh!), and Will was so mightily confused, he sat down and started laughing. Not very popular. They all shouted at Will. And me. And 'kameene chod de mujhe' became the taunt of our gully.

Sunday mornings were Ramayana or Mahabaratha. As a little kid I watched the Ramayana and cried. Yeah! Pretty soft hearted. And also slept off when during an important battle scene I simply slept of due to boredom, watching all the arrows flying towards each other but never actually meeting. I was watching it leaning on nani one minute, and peacefully asleep the next minute. They woke me up for lunch. Mahabaratha I really waited for Draupadi's big scene. I wasn't the only one. Everyone in the family was waiting for that episode, and I felt that Lord Krishna was really a cad. I mean Prem Chopra wouldn't have done that. (distasteful! yes I know! Democracy does that to you). By this time I could make out most of the words. I emphasise the 'make out'. Mostly it was guess work. So I had quite a different Mahabarata running around in my head. If my nani hadn't checked up....I also got to sing 'ath shri mahabaratha katha' and say 'mein kaal hoon'. good entertainment was getting me to say it. I used to say with a twinkle in my eye 'mein kaala hoon'. this struck us as as being hugely funny, because each episode started with the dark screen, a spinning wheel, and this statement. Tautology was entertaining then.

Another big entertainer was Aaj Parliament Mein. Forget the news, which itself was quite entertaining involving members of parliament tonking each other and speaking in different languages. Later on I came to realize that the different languages were only different dialects of Hindi. Boy! Was it entertaining. 'Adyaksha mohaday' became quite a watchword, until I used it to greet a teacher at school one day. Caused quite some merriment. Ended up dispirited and disgusted with education in general and schooling in specific(yes I know! Democracy does that to you).

Remember other times, like when Mom was teaching me Hindi, and asked me to explain the sentence 'Indira Gandhi Nehru ki santaan te.' Absolutely no clue. Some rather quick thinking later came up with Nehru had a little son called Santanam who expired when he was an infant. This touched a soft spot in Mom, but after a momentary shock, she asked me to repeat it again, and then chased me around the house for an hour, threatening me that if I didn't study and continued to lie like this, I would be fit only for goat herding. Not that I would object, if it only meant no Hindi. Thank God for nani ( the person, not the word). It all ended with six quick ones on my hind, and an eternal nasty feeling in my mouth whenever somebody mentions the Gandhi family ( yes I know! Democracy can do that to you).

And then the crowning glory of Hindi culture stoneboy, jantarmantar, indra danush and of course the wonderful cartoon message 'ek ek saare anek'. Took to singing it. Modified it a little 'ek ek saale anek'. This struck a group of us ten year olds, as being so suficiently rebellious that we converted it into a secret war cry. Till we were crying out to each other, and an auntie from Delhi, heard it and complained to our parents that we were saying gandi words. Boy! did we cry that day. After that I felt supressed, hunted, and quite indignant at the kind of power wielded by Delhi, in fact I lusted for it. (yes I know! Democracy does that to you).

How can I forget the other masterpiece of Hindi culture. National unity songs. A welter of colour, different people singing. Mile sur mera tumhara, maata tumjha bhur ka tara, madhurtaraja baras ke tara, komar shu more shu, shrishti koi, hoi gatu, chaalu chapanu. A welter of colour, slick photography and children and producers confident in the belief that national unity was not so far away that they couldn't achieve it by running in together and shouting 'mile sur mera tumhara'. Ah! Idealism. (yes I know! Democracy does that to you). That and my mom's voice asking me to close my mouth and chew breakfast are all that I remember of the spirit of Indian Nationalism.

But things have changed. Grown to man's estate. Friends from Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bengal, Orrisa, Madhya Pradesh. And a length of a country away, A home. Peace. A desire. A dream. All come true. Yes I know! Democracy does that to you.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Shave the males

Saturday morning!

Another glorious morning in Chennai, as hot as any afternoon, and made even more glorious by the knowledge that today I will not have to shave.

Ah! Shaving. The prerogative of the male, and if I appear sexist here, sorry but a lot of females also practice now, and no I don't mean to insult anyone. Whew! All standard disclaimers aside. So to continue....

Ah! Shaving. The prerogative of the male.

In ages past males would return from battle, bearing scars, welts, and in some cases, half a blade that a thoughtful opponent had left embedded between his shoulder blades. Then our ancient hero would melt into the hands of the heroine and they would fade away gloriously into another glorious susnset, and this was the reason why many of us were born.

But cometh civalization, and the evolution of warfare, and it was no more possible to return back home scratched and bloddied, but more likely without many of the major limbs, and certain vestigal organs like the brain (atleast in the case of those who fight a lot. Scientific models of married couples confirms this fact). So it was necessary to invent a new way of getting scratched, and badly so, and so we invented shaving.

Yes! Shaving was the first of the ritualistic art forms. Long ago, somewhere along the outskirts of Mesapotamia, a village headman wanted to appear hunky and nice to his wife, since tonight he wished for that extra special salsa, and this seemed impossible because she had been complaining for the last three months that his beard stank of well..., all the food of the last months. And it wasn't possible this week to go of and raid the village on the south since that had been scheduled for next week, and this being a second saturday and what with everything else, and everybody out for a picnic he couldn't even go fight with anybody else and get beaten up, and considering the time he better do something snappish if he wanted that salsa.


Well said our ancient village headman. I can't fight with anybody else, since I am the only person in the village.

I can't fight with my wife, since that makes the salsa almost impossible.

And well, scratch! scratch! and as he scratched his face with his long nails, he opened up a scratch on his face that bled a little.

And then he had this brainwave. O.K. I will fight with myself, and well just beat myself up a little and well this should just about clinch the salsa...

So saying he pulled out his blade and started slashing it to and fro right before his face, and appeared half an hour later, bloddy and beaten, but looking extremely hunky, very nice, and quite strange and red to his wife, since he did not seem to have the beard of months on his face instead what looked like a lot of blood.

Well, thought the wife. He actually smells bad, but looks quite o.k. and what the heck he doesn't stink and he looks like he was in quite a close fight, and carefully weighing these two pieces of completely unrelated information she decided to make the salsa that night extremely spicy.

And so was born the tradition of shaving, twin blade systems (motto: one for the beard, and the other for the blood) and the fact that shaved men have looked sexier to ladies ever since (Ladies! IF this is not true, please do inform me. Comments on the blog site appreciated).

Civalizations all over the world have adopted this tradition with quite some success. Check out the mongols, the english, the slovaks, the arabs, the indians, and almost all the world. Some civalizations have also slightly modified this tradition in ways which seem to elucidate the meaning of the term, "a rather close shave".

Check out the aborgines, who have a tradition of getting solidly tight on the local hooch before they give their young boys their first shave. Unfortunately such is the potency of the aborginal hooch, that they end up missing the boys face altogether and shave away a quite considerable portion of his chest, and we do not mean hair here. And so came the initation rites of the aborgines.

Speaking of coming, a tighter tribe in Africa, miss the upper part of the body altogether and resort to blade below, which brings a totally new meaning to the phrase "hitting below the belt". At the end of it, you have a few African's who are significantly shorter (and no! we are not speaking of height here), and a group of anthropologists clucking over a new species of humanity, till they meet much the same fate at the hands of irate Africans who can't tolerate the weaker European drinks, especially the mild and generally the bitter.

Or the natives near Cuba, whose initiation rites are best exemplified by one of their most famous subjects Fidel "Castro".

All successful men, other than the Africans, who have been increasingly confusing anthropologists around the world by becoming a dying race, though the facts are there for all to see. Or perhaps, rather not.

And so there they are, successful men, all adored by sexy young things, their girlfriends, etc. etc. and etc.

Just add a quick piece about a friend of mine, who woke up one day with a terrible hangover, and had to get to work rather quickly. He decided to play some rather hard rock, to chase away some of the demons in his head, and while he was shaving, he rather injudiciously decided to dance to one of the songs in that record, and neatly sliced of one of his earlobes. Ouch!

Bleeding he ran outdoors, to his neighbours appartments, partly because he was bleeding, but more to request them to phone up the office, and well... the neighbour ( a girl) fell in love with him, and now they are happily settled in Seattle with six kids, and the earlobe and the gillette razor stand in a solid golden frame in their showcase, and well..., that settles most parts of it.

Other than the record, which of all things happened to be a rather rave one by Pink Floyd called "The Final Cut".