Monday, March 28, 2005

'Sins' and sentiments


Are the objections to 'Sins' based on the film being made by a Hindu?

The latest victim of our twisted version of secularism has been Vinod Pandey's film 'Sins'. Last week the Jammu & Kashmir government banned it for fear of hurting Christian sentiments. And, the Minorities Commission, ever ready to jump on a 'secular' bandwagon has leapt into the act by demanding an explanation from the Censor Board.
When 'secularists' are in high dudgeon they pay no attention to the vital detail that not only was the film cleared by the Censor Board but found unobjectionable by the Bombay High Court. So, the film will probably end up banned all over the country in the near future because a handful of Christians are in the streets protesting against it. I find this particularly interesting because I have seen no protests against foreign films or plays that have questioned the very divinity of Christ. Remember the line from 'Jesus Christ Superstar', "Prove to me that you're no fool walk across my swimming pool. Prove to me that you're divine, change my water into wine". So are the objections to 'Sins' based on the film being made by a Hindu?
Not a surprise
'Sins' is the story of one bad priest. Far from being insulting to Christianity it is almost a tribute to it with the film's heroine finding peace and true faith when she meditates in front of a forgotten Cross on an abandoned beach. That there are bad priests should not be a surprise to Indian Christians considering the scandals that have erupted in the Western world in recent years over young boys being sexually abused by men of the cloth. The Vatican had to intervene. That should have brought Indian Christians into the streets but it did not. On principle I am against the banning of books and films and on principle believe that religion must be in the realm of literary and cinematic discourse. When India became the first country to ban Salman Rushdie's 'Satanic Verses' in 1988 I remember asking one of the smug bureaucrats responsible for the ban if he had read the book and he admitted that he had not. 'Its too convoluted and boring' he said 'but we have seen from reviews in various magazines that it could be offensive to Muslims so we are banning it as a precaution'.This act of stupid censorship drew Ayotollah Khomeini's attention to a book that hardly anyone would have bothered to read otherwise and along came the fatwa ordering Rushdie's death and then along came the protests of Muslims who would never have known of the existence of the book had it not been banned by the Indian government. Vinod Pandey, like most other members of the Hindi film industry, is a card-carrying secularist. Years ago he denounced Hindu priests and 'mutts' in a television series called 'Reporter' so it has come as a huge surprise to him that he is now charged with being a proxy of the 'saffron brigade'. 'How is it when we did six episodes against Hindu mutts nobody said anything' he aks in puzzled tones. Well, because in our strange understanding of the word 'secular' it is alright to abuse Hindus, arrest Shankracharyas and insult Hindu religious teachers but say one word against Muslims or Christians and you are in trouble. 'Sins' is not the only recent victim of this kind of secularism. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also is. At the recent 'India Today' conclave famed lyricist, Javed Akhtar, sneered at Indian spirituality, particularly of Sri Sri's kind, for being little more than teaching rich people how to breathe.Everyone laughed heartily and nobody dared ask Akhtar his views on Islamic seminaries whose teaching of Islamic spirituality led to the creation of the Taliban. Nobody asked him if he did not think teaching the rich how to breathe was slightly less dangerous than teaching children how to kill innocent people by becoming suicide bombers. Sri Sri should have asked these questions but probably refrained because they are too politically incorrect. So, he came to Mumbai last week to inaugurate an exhibition on the plight of Kashmiri Pandits and found himself under attack again from another member of our 'secular' film industry. This time from my old friend Mahesh Bhatt. Mahesh sneered, a la Javed Akhtar, at Indian spirituality and said India was the most materialistic country in the world and that spiritual teachers like him were no better than entertainers. Rock Stars.
Respect religions
Would he like to tell us what he thinks of the mullahs that rule most of the Islamic world? Would he like to tell us the status of spirituality in Islamic countries? The spiritual aspect of Islam used to be reflected in Sufism and both Mahesh and Javed would be doing themselves a favour if they spent a few weeks finding out what happened to that kind of Islam. It has virtually disappeared, except at concerts at Humayun's Tomb, because it has failed to survive the onslaught of the new Islam that comes from Saudi Arabia and Iran and found its most significant political expression in the Taliban.Personally, I have no difficulty in saying loudly in print that we need to have more respect for India's religions and Indian spirituality if only because they have caused much less harm to the world than Western religions. And, there is no room for banning films and books in a country whose intellectual and religious traditions are based on the right to question.

Deccan Chronicle in Chennai

Was it intended to be a soft launch? There was no advance intimation that the Chennai editon of Deccan Chronicle would be launched today (March 28). I came to know of the launch only today from an advt today in a vernacular newpaper. I rushed out to get a copy. The 'invitation' price was Re 1. But today's issue came free. At last, Chennai has one more English newpaper.

But the issue is a disappointment. The layout is cluttered and the printing horrible. Even Indian Express is better. Why this soft launch? I have come across only a few hoardings or advertisements. And why does the paper look like this? If DC has to compete with The Hindu, which is known for its quality, it must do better.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

40 years young!

I know many people who think it's all over when they cross 35. It doesn't matter if you don't 'look' young, as this article from Indiatimes shows. Why do people get depressed when they reach this age? The answer is in the last sentence of this article.

Some men get naughty at 40!
by JHUMARI NIGAM (indiatimes)
Forty is no longer a dreaded word. Many people in their 40s are now rediscovering their strengths and enjoying life to the fullest.
And you thought, life ceases to excite at 40? Tch, tch! You surely seem to be out of touch with the latest headlines.
According to a recent study, 40's the age for some serious fun and 40-somethings prefer to wave good-bye to mid-life blues.
So what if this decade is often associated with failed ambition and sagging midriff? The worldly worries have done little damage to the spirit of living life. And it's pretty evident too.
Look at Sanjay Dutt, Aamir Khan, Anil Kapoor and the co. all in their 40s and still going strong!
Or for that matter Hollywood hunk Bruce Willis, who was recently quoted saying — "I am having the best sex of my life" — now when he's almost half a century old. Even Anil Kapoor feels that he's "got a long way to go".
The zeal to live — and live life to the fullest, is obviously as contagious as it can get.

So we have a few like Gita Patel who runs a kickboxing centre for fitness in Ahmedabad saying, "From sex to hair to body to life — everything gets exciting at this age." Patel who stopped counting her age after she hit 40, enjoys herself most when she gets the adrenaline running in her body. "I can't think of discontinuing exercises. Age is definitely no bar when it comes to making the most of life," she says.
Perhaps, this carefree attitude can be attributed to the emotional "growth spurt" that makes people more relaxed and easier for others to spend time with, as identified by scientists.
Agrees acclaimed dancer Maulik Shah, who feels, with age comes a sense of confidence that helps people take themselves a bit easy.
"Having achieved certain recognition as an artiste, I feel more comfortable since I don't have to prove myself," he says.
So does that mean one's ready to experiment at 40? "I am ready for calculated and not random risks since I've clearly understood my strengths and weaknesses by now," he adds.
Psychologist Suresh Majumdar calls this 'a phase of generativity' when a person begins to feel satisfied and relaxed. "At 40, a person is settled in his career and content on personal front also. That brings in a sense of security," he says.
However, there can be a different set of 40s too. "For some people who fail to give or contribute through their lives and only complain of dissatisfaction, 40 can be a depressing phase," Majumdar concludes.

Friday, March 25, 2005


Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character-making, assimilation of ideas. If you have assimilated five ideas and made them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library.
Swami Vivekananda

There was an article in today's The Hindu 'Teachers walking a tightrope today'. It says teachers are feeling the heat because of a few students who committed suicide after being scolded by teachers. Teachers, who took the trouble of holding special classes on weekends, are too scared to bother.

"We don't tell the girls to work hard and study any more," says one teacher. "It is difficult to feel a sense of involvement in our work, when we are being blamed for everything — neither the students nor the government took our side."

The authority of the teacher has been thoroughly undermined, says the headmistress in a feeble voice. Several teachers in private and Government schools across the city feel the same. With increasing incidence of student suicides, the teacher is often the first scapegoat.

Educationist S. Swaminatha Pillai says every teacher is walking a tightrope. "With single or double children families, parents are pampering their children. Every want of the child is catered to. But at school, the child is one of 40 boys and girls. The teacher cannot be as sensitive as a parent. Moreover, the teacher is constantly under pressure — to finish the portions, to bow to the wants of the management, to deliver cent per cent results... "

This is expected. The worse is yet to come. In the US kids go on a shooting spree. "We don't know why he did it," say the parents and teachers. The reason is obvious - stress.

Education has become commercial. More students mean more money. So schools try to accommodate as many students as possible. It is common to see more than 40 students in a class. How an we expect a teacher to control 40 brats? Ask any mother - controlling a single kid itself exhausts her. Forty kids? It's insane.

The way students are taught has also become mechanical. The relationship between the teacher and the student has to be almost personal. The student must be made to think of the teacher as a friend. In the ancient gurukula system, students stayed with the teachers. It was one big family. It is not the case now. The child goes to the school in the morning. So do teachers. The students become a scapegoat for their tensions.

The way students are taught also leaves a lot to be desired. The teacher stands on a pedestal and shoves the material into the students' throats.

Swami Vivekananda says: No one was ever really taught by another. Each of us has to teach himself. The external teacher offers only the suggestion which arouses the internal teacher to work to understand things. Then things will be made clearer to us by our own power of perception and thought, and we shall realize them in our own souls.

You cannot teach a child any more than you can grow a plant. The plant develops its own nature. The child also teaches itself. But you can help it to go forward in its own way. What you can do is not of a positive nature but negative. You can take away the obstacles, and knowledge comes out of its own nature. Loosen the soil a little, so that it may come out easily. Put a hedge round it; see that it is not killed by anything. You can supply the growing seed with the materials for the making up of its body, bringing to it the earth, the water, the air that it wants. And there your work stops. So with the education of a child. A child educates itself. The teacher spoils everything by thinking that he is teaching. With man is all knowledge, and it requires only an awakening, and that much is the work of a teacher. We have only to do so much for the boys that they may learn to apply their own intellect to the proper use of their hands, legs, ears and eyes.

My idea of education is personal contact with the teacher — gurugriha-vasa. Without the personal life of a teacher, there would be no education. Take your universities. What have they done during the fifty years (this was told at Madras in 1897) of their existence? They have not produced one original man. They are merely an examining body. The idea of the sacrifice for the common weal is not yet developed in our nation.
One should live from his very boyhood with one whose character is a blazing fire and should have before him a living example of the highest teaching.

What is education? Is it book-leaning? No. Is it diverse knowledge? Not even that. The end of all education, all training, should be man-making. The end and aim of all training is to make the man grow. The training by which the current and expression of will are brought under control and become fruitful, is called education.

To me the very essence of education is concentration of mind, not the collecting facts. If I had to do my education over again, and had any voice in the matter, I would not study facts at all. I would develop the power of concentration and detachment, and then with a perfect instrument I could collect facts at will.

We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded and by which one can stand on one’s own feet. What we need is to study, independent of foreign control, different branches of the knowledge that is our own, and with it the English language and western science; we need technical education and all else that will develop industries; so that men, instead of seeking for service, may earn enough to provide for themselves and save against a rainy day.

Discipline. This is one of the most misunderstood concepts. When teachers try to 'enforce' discipline, what results is only the outward resemblance of discipline. Discipline cannot be forced. If forced, it will explode. Discipline must come from within. J. Krishnamurty says: Discipline in schools becomes necessary when there is one teacher to a hundred boys and girls – then you jolly well have to be very strict; but such discipline will not produce an intelligent human being. And most of us are interested in mass movements, large schools with a great many boys and girls; we are not interested in creative intelligence, therefore we put up huge schools with enormous attendances. At one of the universities I believe there are 45000 students.
You know, soldiers all over the world are drilled every day, they are told what to do, to walk in line. They obey orders implicitly without thinking. Do you know what that does to man? When you are told what to do, what to think, to obey, to follow, do you know what it does to you? Your mind becomes dull, it loses its initiative, its quickness. This external, outward imposition of discipline makes the mind stupid, it makes you conform, it makes you imitate. But if you discipline yourself by watching, listening, being considerate, being very thoughtful - out of that watchfulness, that listening, that consideration for others, comes order. Where there is order, there is always freedom. If you are shouting, talking, you cannot hear what others have to say. You can only hear clearly when you sit quietly, when you give your attention.

Till we change the education system, teachers and parents will continue to walk the tightrope.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

J Krishnamurti on marriage

This is from a question and answer session from J. Krishnamurti. This is quite long.

Question: Marriage is a necessary part of any organized society, but you seem to be against the institution of marriage. What do you say? Please also explain the problem of sex. Why has it become, next to war, the most urgent problem of our day?

Krishnamurti: To ask a question is easy, but the difficulty is to look very carefully into the problem itself, which contains the answer. To understand this problem, we must see its enormous implications. That is difficult, because our time is very limited and I shall have to be brief; and if you don't follow very closely, you may not be able to understand. Let us investigate the problem, not the answer, because the answer is in the problem, not away from it. The more I understand the problem, the clearer I see the answer. If you merely look for an answer, you will not find one, because you will be seeking an answer away from the problem. Let us look at marriage, but not theoretically or as an ideal, which is rather absurd; don't let us idealize marriage, let us look at it as it is, for then we can do something about it. If you make it rosy, then you can't act; but if you look at it and see it exactly as it is, then perhaps you will be able to act.
Now, what actually takes place? When one is young, the biological, sexual urge is very strong, and in order to set a limit to it you have the institution called marriage. There is the biological urge on both sides, so you marry and have children. You tie yourself to a man or to a woman for the rest of your life, and in doing so you have a permanent source of pleasure, a guaranteed security, with the result that you begin to disintegrate; you live in a cycle of habit, and habit is disintegration. To understand this biological, this sexual urge, requires a great deal of intelligence, but we are not educated to be intelligent. We merely get on with a man or a woman with whom we have to live. I marry at 20 or 25, and I have to live for the rest of my life with a woman whom I have not known. I have-not known a thing about her, and yet you ask me to live with her for the rest of my life. Do you call that marriage?
As I grow and observe, I find her to be completely different from me, her interests are different from mine; she is interested in clubs, I am interested in being very serious, or vice versa. And yet we have children - that is the most extraordinary thing. Sirs, don't look at the ladies and smile; it is your problem. So, I have established a relationship the significance of which I do not know, I have neither discovered it nor understood it.
It is only for the very, very few who love that the married relationship has significance, and then it is unbreakable, then it is not mere habit or convenience, nor is it based on biological, sexual need. In that love which is unconditional the identities are fused, and in such a relationship there is a remedy, there is hope. But for most of you, the married relationship is not fused. To fuse the separate identities, you have to know yourself, and she has to know herself. That means to love. But there is no love - which is am obvious fact. Love is fresh, new, not mere gratification, not mere habit. It is unconditional. You don't treat your husband or wife that way, do you? You live in your isolation, and she lives in her isolation, and you have established your habits of assured sexual pleasure. What happens to a man who has an assured income? Surely, he deteriorates. Have you not noticed it? Watch a man who has an assured income and you will soon see how rapidly his mind is withering away. He may have a big position, a reputation for cunning, but the full joy of life is gone out of him.
Similarly, you have a marriage in which you have a permanent source of pleasure, a habit without understanding, without love, and you are forced to live in that state. I am not saying what you should do; but look at the problem first. Do you think that is right? It does not mean that you must throw off your wife and pursue somebody else. What does this relationship mean? Surely, to love is to be in communion with somebody; but are you in communion with your wife, except physically? Do you know her, except physically? Does she know you? Are you not both isolated, each pursuing his or her own interests, ambitions and needs, each seeking from the other gratification, economic or psychological security? Such a relationship is not a relationship at all: it is a mutually self-enclosing process of psychological, biological and economic necessity, and the obvious result is conflict, misery, nagging, possessive fear, jealousy, and so on. Do you think such a relationship is productive of anything except ugly babies and an ugly civilization? Therefore, the important thing is to see the whole process, not as something ugly, but as an actual fact which is taking place under your very nose; and realizing that, what are you going to do? You cannot just leave it at that; but because you do not want to look into it, you take to drink, to politics, to a lady around the corner, to anything that takes you away from the house and from that nagging wife or husband - and you think you have solved the problem.
That is your life, is it not? Therefore, you have to do something about it, which means you have to face it, and that means, if necessary, breaking up; because, when a father and mother are constantly nagging and quarrelling with each other, do you think that has not an effect on the children? And we have already considered, in the previous question, the education of children.
So, marriage as a habit, as a cultivation of habitual pleasure, is a deteriorating factor, because there is no love in habit. Love is not habitual; love is something joyous, creative, new. Therefore, habit is the contrary of love; but you are caught in habit, and naturally your habitual relationship with another is dead. So, we come back again to the fundamental issue, which is that the reformation of society depends on you, not on legislation. Legislation can only make for further habit or conformity. Therefore, you as a responsible individual in relationship have to do something, you have to act, and you can act only when there is an awakening of your mind and heart. I see some of you nodding your heads in agreement with me, but the obvious fact is that you don't want to take the responsibility for transformation, for change; you don't want to face the upheaval of finding out how to live rightly. And so the problem continues, you quarrel and carry on, and finally you die; and when you die somebody weeps, not for the other fellow, but for his or her own loneliness. You carry on unchanged and you think you are human beings capable of legislation, of occupying high positions, talking about God, finding a way to stop wars, and so on. None of these things mean anything, because you have not solved any of the fundamental issues.
Then, the other part of the problem is sex, and why sex has become so important. Why has this urge taken such a hold on you? Have you ever thought it out? You have not thought it out, because you have just indulged; you have not searched out why there is this problem. Sirs, why is there this problem? And what happens when you deal with it by suppressing it completely - you know, the ideal of Brahmacharya, and so on? What happens? It is still there. You resent anybody who talks about a woman, and you think that you can succeed in completely suppressing the sexual urge in yourself and solve your problem that way; but you are haunted by it. It is like living in a house and putting all your ugly things in one room; but they are still there. So, discipline is not going to solve this problem - discipline being sublimation, suppression, substitution - , because you have tried it, and that is not the way out. So, what is the way out? The way out is to understand the problem, and to understand is not to condemn or justify. Let us look at it, then, in that way.
Why has sex become so important a problem in your life? Is not the sexual act, the feeling, a way of self-forgetfulness? Do you understand what I mean? In that act there is complete fusion; at that moment there is complete cessation of all conflict, you feel supremely happy because you no longer feel the need as a separate entity and you are not consumed with fear. That is, for a moment there is an ending of self-consciousness, and you feel the clarity of self-forgetfulness, the joy of self abnegation. So, sex has become important because in every other direction you are living a life of conflict, of self-aggrandizement and frustration. Sirs, look at your lives, political, social, religious: you are striving to become something. Politically, you want to be somebody, powerful, to have position, prestige. Don't look at somebody else, don't look at the ministers. If you were given all that, you would do the same thing. So, politically, you are striving to become somebody, you are expanding yourself, are you not? Therefore, you are creating conflict, there is no denial, there is no abnegation of the `me'. On the contrary, there is accentuation of the `me'. The same process goes on in your relationship with things, which is ownership of property, and again in the religion that you follow. There is no meaning in what you are doing, in your religious practices. You just believe, you cling to labels, words. If you observe, you will see that there too there is no freedom from the consciousness of the `me' as the centre. Though your religion says, `Forget yourself', your very process is the assertion of yourself, you are still the important entity. You may read the Gita or the Bible, but you are still the minister, you are still the exploiter, sucking the people and building temples.
So, in every field, in every activity, you are indulging and emphasizing yourself, your importance, your prestige, your security. Therefore, there is only one source of self-forgetfulness, which is sex, and that is why the woman or the man becomes all-important to you, and why you must possess. So, you build a society which enforces that possession, guarantees you that possession; and naturally sex becomes the all-important problem when everywhere else the self is the important thing. And do you think, Sirs, that one can live in that state without contradiction, without misery, without frustration? But when there is honestly and sincerely no self-emphasis, whether in religion or in social activity, then sex has very little meaning. It is because you are afraid to be as nothing, politically, socially, religiously, that sex becomes a problem; but if in all these things you allowed yourself to diminish, to be the less, you would see that sex becomes no problem at all.
There is chastity only when there is love. When there is love, the problem of sex ceases; and without love, to pursue the ideal of Brahmacharya is an absurdity, because the ideal is unreal. The real is that which you are; and if you don't understand your own mind, the workings of your own mind, you will not understand sex, because sex is a thing of the mind. The problem is not simple. It needs, not mere habit-forming practices, but tremendous thought and enquiry into your relationship with people, with property and with ideas. Sir, it means you have to undergo strenuous searching of your heart and mind, thereby bringing a transformation within yourself. Love is chaste; and when there is love, and not the mere idea of chastity created by the mind, then sex has lost its problem and has quite a different meaning.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

On Strike (always)

The favourite passtime of our PSU (non)workers is going on strikes. They always have a 'list' of demands. They ensure the list is long so that even if some demands are met now, there is always something left for the next round.

When employees in the service sector PSUs go on strike, it is the people who are hit the most. On March 22, banking and insurance sector employees went on strike. The non-life sector staff thought this was not enough to squeeze the life out of people. So they went on strike for two more days.

The reason? Prominent among their 'list' of demands is wage revision. When where their wages revised? Just two years back. They are shameless to say it themselves. What do they want? Wage revisions every year?

They seem to have no thought for the hapless citizen. As it is, they work 'very hardly'. Now three days of paid 'non-work' will end up in piling up of files - premiums, medical reimbursements etc. What will the vehicle owners whose vehicle policies expire on one of these days do now? I don't think there is any provision to extend the validity of the policies because of the strike.

BSNL employees too are on the 'warpath'. The entry of private operators and the mass surrenders of landlines do not seem to have driven any sense. Just a few months back, BSNL linesmen in Bangalore asked one of my relatives around Rs 1.000 to install a telephone.

Because of the strike, phones, including mobiles have gone dead. So have the recently-launched broadband Internet services. Private operators too have been hit by the BSNL strike. They are unable to terminate the calls on BSNL landlines, and have to explain to angry subscribers that it is not their fault.

It's time we dump the PSUs and their heartless workers where they belong - in the gutter. At least what the Government can do is to privatise them (the PSUs, not the gutter, though both stink).

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Does this swanky office look like a MNC bank? No. Its our own desi PSU State Bank of India's Parliament Street Branch on the day of the bank strike on Tuesday, March 22, 2005. There is no point in having such swanky offices if the bank officials go on frequent strikes.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Festival Tamasha

A few days ago, there was some festival at a temple. A kid, not more than five years old, spilt some oil she had brought for lighting the lamps in the temple. She got a sound trashing from her mother for this.

Festivals are meant to be celebrated. They are not just rituals. If we convert the festivals into just rituals, we will be just left with a tired body and mind. We may also end up screwing up the ritual itself. I have seen the tension building up in several households during festivals. On the festival day, chaos breaks out due to the tension.
People 'celebrate' festivals mechanically. There is no shraddha. When we celebrate a festival, our mind must totally be with God.
There is another extreme. For some 'celebrating' festivals means having fun. What type of fun? During Shivratri or Vaikunta Ekadesi, theatres in Tamil Nadu screen movies in the night. You can buy a ticket and watch two, or sometimes even three movies. And the movies have nothing to do with religion. They are commercial potboilers. What is the point in waking up in the night during Shivratri to watch scantily-clad heroines? Do you expect anyone in the audience to think of Shiva or Vishnu?
In my flat, when I went back home at midnight, (no, I wasnt waking up for shivratri. I reach home only at around midnight)the women - young and old - were playing dice!
The problem here is both the festivals have become just rituals. All the people do is to wake up the whole night. In Gujarat, there is a sharp spurt in abortions a few months after Navrathri. Everyone freaks out. The only time they think about God is during aarthi. Later, its free-for-all.
It's time we bring spirituality back to festivals.

My friends

I have very few friends. For me, friendship just develops naturally. I dont go out to 'find' new friends.
Of them, I still have contacts only with Pradeep Nair and 'Shencottah' (as he calls himself in his blog). Both are in Bangalore. Shencottah will be moving soon to Hyderabad.
Pradeep is a down-2-earth chap - he didnt have a mobile till recently. I have met Pradeep's father. A simple man, he will always have some book in his hand. So is Pradeep. He is a book-worm and keeps himself well-informed about the latest developments.
Shencottah is doing some research. He can discuss any subject under the sun. I met him after almost 15 years. He learns violin. I have been to Shencottah's house only once. I do not know much about his parents. But what I know about Shencottah is that he was lucky enough to study in what i regard, as one of the best schools _ the one run by Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam of Swami Chidbhavananda.
In Chennai I have 'Valkannadi'. One common thread with all of them is that they are all bloggers.
The third - valkannadi ( - is my newest friend. Valkannadi is her blog name. She is a Keralite. When we were talking about the Vishu festival, I told her that I had read the meaning of the ritual - why we open our eyes before a mirror and worship our reflection. It is done almost just as a ritual everywhere. Only a few people know the real meaning - she is one of them. I know people who keep jewels before the mirror so that it 'doubles' before the next Vishu. I was glad that Valkannadi is one of the few who perform the ritual with fully understanding the meaning, which is important.
The next time she surprised me was when she explained the meaning of a sloka and the ritual associated with the sloka. I knew the sloka, and the ritual, but I did not know that the 'why' part of the ritual was associated with the sloka.
The third time was when I told her I would be writing a samskrit exam. Her eyes immediately lit up and wrote a complex (at least for me) grammar table she had studied in school. In school! That was some 20 years ago! I asked her how she remembered it. She said it was because of her teacher who drilled it into her. Why I say Valkannadi surprised me is because I never thought she would be interested in such things. She would always be seen with some novels. (This proved I am a poor reader of people) I neve knew she would be interested in any other book till she borrowed a book of spiritual wisdom in tamil and finished it in one go.
All the three friends, I believe, have had good guidance - from parents,teachers etc.. I do not know much about Valkannadi, except about her great teacher. What I want to emphasise here is that parents must take efforts to guide their children. It is of no use banging your head later.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Big B on B

BACHCHAN Black was unique experience: Bachchan
Mumbai, Mar 10 (PTI) Actor Amitabh Bachchan today said the film ‘Black’, in which he portrayed the role of a teacher of a blind girl, sends a strong message that pinnacles can be attained despite heavy odds.
‘‘Black is far from black. It is very colourful, uplifting and full of determination. It sends a message to everyone who wants to reach the pinnacle in life,’’ Bachchan said here.
Stating that the film has been a unique experience for him, the superstar said director Sanjay Leela Bhansali was able to portray in the film exactly what his (Bhansali’s) vison was.
‘‘A lot of recognition needs to be given to Michelle, the character (played by Rani Mukherjee) of a blind and deaf and dumb girl in the film, who despite all odds, challenges and stumbling blocks, succeeded because she had a will to succeed,’’ Bachchan said.
Asked whether the film would be nominated for Oscar, Bachchan said ‘‘I don’t know’’.
He was speaking at the launch of power bills in Braille by the city power utility Reliance Energy.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Insensitive audience

Sometimes, I feel we are losing sensitivity to whats happening around us. I came across a similar display of insensitivity while watching Black. In the movie, Michelle is deaf, blind and dumb (see previous posting). And her teacher, Debraj Sahai, is everything for her. In fact, she is the only man she knows, apart from her father.
When her younger sister gets married, Sahai gives a running commentary of the ritual to Michelle. When the couple kiss, he describes it also.
Here, the only kiss Michelle knows is on the cheek. She feels her cheek. Sahai corrects her, "Not in the cheek... in the lips". Michelle is surprised. She has never heard such a thing!
Later at home, Michelle expresses her fears to Sahai. She says she is afraid she will never get married and she will never be able to receive such a kiss because she knows no other male than Debraj Sahai. She gathers courage and asks him to kiss her in her lips. Sahai is stunned. He refuses. But later, he gives in and kisses her. He then leaves Michelle for good.
When Sahai kissed her, a guy in the audience yelled, "Lucky old man!". May be he wanted to have some fun. But understandably, he knew little about human emotions. No one in the audience was amused. But they (including me) kept quiet.

But an old woman in the audience got wild. "If you cant understand get out," she yelled back.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Amitabh and Ayesha in Black
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“Life is like an ice cream…,” Debraj Sahai (Amitabh Bachchan) says. You almost miss the second part -- “…enjoy it while it lasts.” This is just one of the areas where Black is different. No character stands up and speaks to the camera like we see in other movies.
I went to the movie with apprehension — whether my kid will be able to sit through what I thought would be a ‘black’ movie. But surprisingly, she liked it, and enjoyed it too.
This is the difference with Black. The subject of the movie is dark. Michelle Mc Nally is deaf, blind and dumb. Her parents don’t know what to do with her. She grows up as a brat.
Then comes into her life an eccentric teacher (Amitabh). He takes up the ‘challenge’ and transforms her. Later, when the teacher suffers from Alzheimer's disease, (Alzheimer's or Alzheimers -- a progressive form of presenile dementia that is similar to senile dementia except that it usually starts in the 40s or 50s; first symptoms are impaired memory which is followed by impaired thought and speech and finally complete helplessness) Michelle uses the same methods to bring him back to normalcy.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali has managed to bring out the best from everyone, including Amitabh. But the surprise element is Ayesha, who comes as the young Michelle.
Bhansali has to be commended for his courage. The subject of the movie is dark. And the movie itself has no songs.
The movie has to be watched in a theatre. The visuals are breathtaking. You will certainly miss a lot if you watch the movie in your puny little TV.
Rush to the nearest theatre. The movie is already four weeks old. It is unlikely to withstand anymore. By watching the movie in a theater, you will encourage young filmmakers like Bhansali to make more films like Black.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Dalai Lama and Shiv Sena

The Pak tour was finalised.
The Dalai Lama was invited to inaugurate the match at Dharmashala.
The Pakistanis protested.
They said they had 'good' relations with China.
An didnt want the Dalai Lama to spoil it.
So, India agreed.
The Dalai Lama wont inaugurate the match.
No newpaper/channel highlighted this.
If the Sena guys dig the pitches, we say dont mix politics with sports.
Now what do we say?