Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rakhi Ka Swayamwar

If the committee that wrote the Indian scriptures had a better foresight, they would have included "Rakhi ka Swayamwar" as a confirmatory test for Kali Yuga. In Satya Yuga, we had the beautiful, innocent and extremely cultured daughter of Janaka being married off to the brave Lord Rama. In the age of the male demon (as Wiki puts it) we see an item girl organizing her own Swayamwar with a popularity seeking T.V channel. What more, we see all of us following it with gusto.
Let me confess with a little bit of shame and a little bit of pride that I actually enjoy watching Rakhi ka Swayamwar. I say shame, because if I wasn't watching it and somebody described it to me, I would be revolted to the core of my conscience. I say pride because I have been able to analyze well why I like watching it and put it behind me.
I envy people who lap up popularity. I use that word because that is exactly how I feel. Not that I cannot do it but I am too scared of the consequences. I heard people saying, "WHO will pass through trials and tribulations to marry someone like RAKHI SAWANT?" There were a lot of eager candidates though!
Most of us started watching it as a freak show. Something below average morals (if there is such an average) and dignity. Each episode presents yesterday's skimpily clad item girl in exceedingly beautiful clothes. With all my honesty, for the first time in all these days I gave Rakhi's looks a serious thought. Apart from certain inherent features that she probably cannot help (or does not want to redesign) she is a very beautiful woman.
The way she puts her point across comes as heartfelt and honest expression. Although hilarious sometimes it does have a shred of soul-searching hidden in it.
I think we like watching it because we like watching loudmouths. We are unconsciously living their lives because we cannot live them ourselves. However, in doing that we also expect them to fail just the way they rose up publicly, so that we can make peace with the inner voices that seem to remind us of our morals.
This is just a stream of thought that I caught in my head. Does not mean that if there are no consequences, I would go ahead and do it!
I would not say that this is Kali Yuga though. I think this is the age of absolute personal freedom. In a land like India that was eclipsed with the caste system for hundreds of years we suddenly have some serious turmoil. The recent ruling about homosexuality is one of the positive outcomes of this expression of freedom. It has also lifted off the stigma associated with the fear to act against immoral behaviour. It is a little bit ironic that to be comfortable as a victim in a society, sometimes you need to wait for the morality of the society itself to weaken! The age of absolute personal freedom has somehow also given us the ability to overrule the morals that have been laid down upon us. However, for some the journey ends at that point itself. Ideally it should go on. When we reject something that has been mass-dictated to us, we should also evolve to make our own personal morals. That would really make this age come of age.
For me, Rakhi ka Swayamwar is the negative extreme of this expression of personal freedom. The funny side of it is though that if you have not made enough time to tell your kids stories from the Ramayana, they are going to associate the word "Swayamwar" with Ms.Sawant before they do it with good old Seeta. :)
So I guess it is time for toddler parents to bring out those epics and turn them into bed-time stories again. :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

White Tiger

I bought this book on Saturday morning and I finished it Monday afternoon. Last year's Booker winner "White Tiger" by Arvinda Adiga is just as riveting as Shantaram or  A Fine Balance. It is the story of a driver who works for the son of a rich landlord in the corrupt regions of India around the river Ganga. What struck me is the beautiful narrative of the usually overlooked species on the streets of India- the Driver. It is an enriching account of all the little things these people are in the habit of doing. The way they observe and sometimes even emulate their masters. The way they use all the time they have to spend waiting for their masters to come back from their meetings, shopping sprees or romantic interludes. These little character details make the depressing story a lot more real and even funny. There is also an "Rushdiesh" influence which only ends up complimenting the style.

The story is not anything new. It is the story of a country bumpkin who does everything it takes morally, immorally to make his own space in a country full of people. It is the way it is written that deserves all the praise. Really depressing truths about India and Indian politics have been presented from the eyes of a pragmatic little driver who just wants to make his own life. He never gets shaken from the corruption and the recklessness. He gets used to it and moves ahead. In the end, however turns around and surprises everyone by expressing his own sensitive side that seems never to reflect in his early life.
Adiga's  use of metaphors as well as his plots sometimes melting into poetry reminds you of Rushdie. 

When I finished reading it, I felt the vast difference between the way two people might think of India. How the rich landlord's son, being driven in a Honda City looks at his own life and his country and how the driver who takes him around looks at his own is poles apart! Although they spend all their waking moments being together in the same car. It gradually dawns on you that "class" is the new "caste" in India. The rift between the corrupt rich, the rich and the vast poor is getting bigger everyday. However even in this depressing jungle insignificant drivers are being turned into entrepreneurs every day. At what costs is known best only to those who do it!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Conversations with the Cat

My neighbour's cat is now "our" cat. My flatmate and I have a joint account in loving the fluffy, grey cat that lives with us now. I am a complete cat person.
A man-dog relationship has moments where the dog could say, " What! You come home, I wag my tail and you don't even care! You are always worried about your boss or your wife. When are you going to stop treating me like a doormat!!"
In a man-cat relationship however the basis of any interaction is where the cat says, "Listen up smart guy. If you don't care I don't care either. In fact you should not expect me to care even when you care, okay? I care when I want to care."
This cat is extremely selfish. She has an open order of preference for the two of us. So when Danielle is at home, Ms.Cat would walk all over me and not notice me. When Danielle is at work and I am home she has to get along. So sometimes we have the following conversation.
Cat: Meow!
I open the fridge and pour out a whole mug of milk just for myself.
Cat: (Rubbing herself all over the couch and my legs) Meeeeow! *batting eyelashes*
Me: I get it! What do you want? Food?
As I walk towards her bowl she gurgles a meow in her throat that sounds like a cat relief from a sore throat. She puts her entire head into the bowl before I can put any food in it. So I have to wait for common sense to dawn on her before I let her eat anything.
After eating she comes back to the couch and stares at me with a face that seems to say,
Cat: Can I cuddle with you now for a bit?
Me: Now that you don't have Danielle you are just using me aren't you?
Cat: Yes. Is that wrong? Never mind. Can I jump on now and sit in your lap?
Me: Ah well. I don't have much of a choice do I?
Cat: (Jumps on) No.
Then she starts purring and it seems to resonate with my heartbeats. When she is sitting on your lap you cannot even go to the bathroom without upsetting her and getting an ungrateful hiss when you try to pick her up.
Some nights she sneaks into my room if I have left the door ajar and sits on my stomach as I sleep, directly looking at my face. It takes me a while to realize that there is about four or five kilos extra weight on the quilt. Then I pull my conscience out of the dream (in which I am usually extinguishing fires I made in the lab or dying) and when I open my eyes, I look straight into the two green gooseberries that seem to shine in the dark. This is what is really unfortunate about being me. You wake up from a nightmare to get the scare of your life with a fat cat sitting on your stomach staring at you!
She can take all the liberties she wants but if you turn excessively cuddly and try to give her a tummy rub, she would not hesitate to bite you. Even if you were the one who fed her about twenty seconds ago. Most of the times, they do not love you. They are just using you. However on those rare occasions when they elevate you to the next level and express their love by licking you with their sandpapery tongue, the feeling is priceless. It is like finding true love in a real world.
Some days she brings a dead rat and leaves it right outside the door as a "present" for us. Some days she just lies with her belly up surrendering herself to me. Some days she sits in the sun curled up into a grey ball while I am rushing out of the house, making me realize the futility of all my efforts.
There is no loyalty. There is no guarantee that you will be together for as long as the creature lives. There is also a fear that just the way she migrated from next door and moved in with you, she would find someone better again. However, every day as I get down from the bus thinking about a whole heap of other thoughts and find her waiting outside to be let in, I secretly thank God that we are still together!
I guess that is why I am a cat person. :)