Thursday, 17 December 2009

Masks and faces


“In the room, the women come and go
Talking of Michaelangelo.”

The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’ never was one of my favourite poems until I realised how much I could associate with it, and how much more it is true of our lives today. I came across this poem in my 11th standard poetry text and was not too fascinated by it. But somehow it has managed to stay in my life, and sauntered across my path a million times over after that. So it credits some mention today.
I was thinking about the above quoted lines yesterday, at a poetry meet at the Taj Mount Road Hotel. It is a posh and beautiful place, but somehow, I knew that I was out of place. I couldn’t place myself amongst the talking multitude of people muttering seemingly-sweet nothings into each others’ ears. It forcibly reminded me of this poem. It was the same circumstance, and I, here, was Prufrock. Over and over again, through the night, these two lines would resonate inside my head, and I mentally thought of penning it down in my blog. So here it is.
Maybe last night, we all were preparing “a face to meet the faces that (we) meet,” like the masque, where we do not need to show our true face, but rather a facade. [I wonder which word came first- face or facade, and whether the root of the two words are the same]. These faces are easily stripped off when you look at yourself in the mirror, and force yourself not to lie. It is tough, is it not, to face the truth? Hmm... another meaning to the word face- to confront. Interesting that the word ‘face’ seems to mean both confronting as well as masking. And thus Janus is justified. Though she looks at both the present and the past, she is also a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
And that is all that we are. We are mere imitiations of dark and light merged into one being. We are masques and images that refract light, like million pieces of glass, except it doesn’t have an original sun. We are shadows of a non-existant sun. We are thus, nowhere and everywhere, and thus mirages of reality. The real does not exist, but only the simulation. We are, then, the simulation. And it all boils down to the fact that,
“In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michaelangelo.”

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The ideal home

When I was young, and visited my grandparent’s place, I was always caught by the house they lived in. It was a small, individual house, not too comfortable, but perfect. It had two gates leading into it, and it was surrounded by trees and plants of all different kinds. My mother fondly recalls that they never had to go to the market much for vegetables, because they had almost all of it right at home. Each entrance had a tinnai (a bench- sort of) where you could sit all day and chat (arrattai, we call it), and we would feel the wind on our face in the evenings. But my favourite pass-time used to be the moments when my cousin and I would cook up stories in our imaginative heads, and enact them in our little front yard. I would be the goddess durga, and he would be her ‘vahanam’, or we would be two awestruck children at a park or fair.
There was a small roofed area just before the door to the house, where we would park the cycles and keep the iron boxes of old- the one where we had to fill coal inside. I remember the days when I would look at it with trepidation, wondering whether I would burn my fingers on it.
The house itself, I vaguely recall. It was a two bedroom house with a small hall and dining room, and the pooja attached (I think) to the kitchen. It was concise, and small and pleasurable to visit. The backyard had a well, and a stone slab for the washing of clothes, something I used to love sitting on when it wasn’t being used. And then if you walked half circle around the house, you would chance upon the stairs that led you up to the terrace.
The neighbourhood itself was comparatively silent. There was a ground opposite, where in later years, my cousin would play cricket. There was a small ‘Arun Ice Cream’ shop where my grandmother would always take me to buy ice cream. The roads were mud roads, but neat (as I remember it at least). And every week-end, my grandmother and I would go to the nearby Hanuman temple and would devoutly bring home the prasadam for everybody.
At some point in time though, that house ceased to exist, and we created a new one. And I know this sounds a little ‘R. K. Narayan-ish’ but the home lost a flavour that it once cherished. It wasn’t the same any more. The trees had gone, though the building itself, was bigger. And there were no steps outside that you had to secretly hunt for to find the terrace and look up into the stars. My grandmother didn’t live to see that house.
It is one house that I would choose to imitate, if ever I were to look for a dream house in my life. It inspired in me lot of childish thoughts that probably still remain and alter me. I know that there must have been many flaws in that house, but it was the ideal home to me.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Ultimate Dance Battle (against Cancer)

A spark of an idea can prompt a revolution. And what better than the language of dance to convey a message? M D Rashmi and Deepti Nirmal ask this of the youth of today. Though only women of twenty one, they aspire to bring about an awareness amongst the present generation about the risks and hazards of unhealthy lifestyles through the means of a dance battle.

Even if young in age and experience, these two women have managed to stir the interest of society by posing sharp questions about present lifestyles that can affect us drastically without our realising it. The idea of a dance battle crept up after discussions with doctors and researchers from the Cancer Institute, where they realised that today’s way of living can even lead to major health issues like cancer. They wanted to vociferously speak out against drinking, smoking and constant splurging on junk food, which is also a primary reason for cancer in youth.

How it evolved

Words,in this instance, does not come through advice, but rather through action. Rashmi and Deepti use the unique method of dance for awareness and inspiration, and hope to infuse a change. Vision Vogue Enterprise, their event management company, which began three months ago, decided to produce “The Ultimate Dance Battle Against Cancer”. They believe that “the cause is the drive”. They enjoy their job, and believe in their cause. It is their sole motivation. Putting their heart and soul in their work, they aim to inspire people, especially the youth, to repair their way of living.

Neither Rashmi nor Deepti have had prior professional experience. Hailing from Madras Christian College, from a Visual Communication background, both women have started their own company out of sheer will power and have prospered solely based on what they have been able to observe and implement in their bussiness stratergies. They have managed to assemble enough contacts in the bussiness world, and they convince us that they will survive. Nothing is impossible, is one of their common ideologies. Hardships have been a part of the game, but they have learnt only through experience. Neither believe that this would have been possible if it had not been for the family support that they acquired. It is this as well as their sweat and blood that has got this youth revolution going.

The message

The word they want to spread revolves around the hazards that can lead to cancer. The cure for such a disease is hazy and research has not yet found a solution to this problem. Doctors and researchers thus emphasise on prevention. And this prevention is possible only by spreading the word- unhealthly living (smoking, drinking and junk food-eating) is a primary source for cancer in humans. Today’s generation has to believe and aspire toward a good and healthy lifestyle.

About 8,50,000 cancer cases are diagnosed every year and there are about 5,80,000 cancer related deaths every year. Of this, 50-60% of all cancers are environmental and 20-30% of the cancers are caused due to dietary habits as well as reproductive and sexual practices. Tobacco causes 50% of cancers in men. To prevent all of this, we ought to be in control of body and mind, and we need to begin to take care of what we eat and drink.

It is this that the dance battle is out to convey. It is a means to raise money for the Cancer Institute, but it is also a message. With the support of around fifteen people, these young women intend to hold a dance battle, which is the first of its kind in India, promoting western styles of dance which have not been able to gain prominance here. The battle allows different dance groups to dance simultaneously and the judge selects the best team from the lot. Since it is a new field that is yet to be explored in India, it allows for fair competition as well as judgement. Held at the Jawaharlal Nehru indoor stadium, on the 13th of February, in connection with the World Cancer Day, this dance battle promotes a new concept in the field of event management in India. Dance groups from around Tamil Nadu will be sparring with each other to promulgate an event of great magnitude and hopefully of a revolution.

Due to its very nature, this battle has attracted big media and will definitely attract big audiences. Around 6000 people are expected at the JN indoor stadium on the 13th of February to witness this event.

Vision Vogue believes that the youth can be stirred only by the youth, and this event is most definitely of the youth, by the youth and for the youth. We can bring about a change. We will bring about a revolution.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Roots

I have never been rooted to the ground. I feel that I have always been airy, flitting through the clouds, not too concerned about earthy matters. Never weighted down by these, I never did search for my roots- still haven’t, though maybe it is time to begin. I know I am of a certain caste, class and creed. And it never stuck me to observe those around me, and look at how they differed from me. Not in a negative way- positive tones only.

So, when a friend asked me about my culture, I was a little clueless (still am), and I started thinking about it. Why is it that I have never bothered to try to find it? - To look for my past, present and future in relation to contexts around me? I follow customs and traditions that are practiced in my house. But that isn’t all there is to culture.

Why do I not know my language? I only started asking this question to myself recently… in the past few months, that is. Why is it that I am more comfortable expressing myself in English than in my mother tongue? Is my language dying out in me? It is only in the near past that I have begun to feel that my language is unique, and special. There are some words that I would never want to replace, nor ever could, because only my language offers me those words and the impulse that throbs behind those words.

In fact, a simple word, like ‘rattam’ (“blood”), can mean so much more. It is not only blood, but passions and angers. It goes way beyond what ‘blood’ means. I do know that English offers this too. Obviously. However, it is only around now that I realise that I took my language, and my roots for granted.

It is time I get grounded. It is time I waft back down to reality, and to what I have to claim as inherently mine.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Conversations at 3 in the night

Silent feet tip-toe in, just as you are about to walk out
And the words flow and spring and sing and chant.
Never knew the meaning of a conversation,
Thinking of past, present and continuous harmonies-
A million considerations and recognitions
That you did not know existed
Float up to the surface.

Nothing of importance, of consequence,
No notes of high-tea and elegance.
Simple jingles of everyday life
Rekindle a spirit, a fire
To know, to read, to see and inquire
And change the route of a car
On a collision course
With Destiny.

Laughter chimes a mellifluous tune
And binds a bond stronger than love or friendship,
because it remains unnamed and unique.

Conversations at three in the night.

- I do know that there are people who will argue that three o' clock actually is morning time, but it sure does feel like the night when you end up talking till three. Try it, and you'll understand what I mean. It isn't precisely the same when you end up watching movies till three.

Sojourns of a lost Kitten

I was left alone on a tree;
there was no one to take care of me.
I squirmed, not knowing what to do.
I shrunk back,
Tail between my feet.
A quick hand snatched at me.
I dodged.
I landed on a shed
And my balance was lost.

I flew- for the first time-
like I never knew was possible.

And then, there was cold:
Sheer, blistering cold.
My heart sped and dropped.
And then there was another grasp
And life breath shuddered around me-
A sharp, freezing wind,
Sharper than the water's cold.
And then warmth,
And loving hands.

Where am I?
Where will I go?

- This was written when Simba entered our lives, and changed it for the few days before our holidays, leaving a little hole in our hearts when we had to leave. He is about the most lively kitten I have ever come across, and I want to cuddle him in the palm of my hand again, and watch him clamber up your dress to curl onto your shoulder. Waiting to show him The Lion King. I'm sure he'll be impressed!!!