Friday, February 06, 2009

benitez and the art of ululation

Rafael Benitez told the press today that the reason Liverpool lost the FA cup game to Everton was "bad luck". It completely pissed me off.. He ll be saying it was the gnomes burrowing in the field next. Why cant he just accept that Liverpool played badly and proceed to duly fix the damn team, instead of blaming luck and assorted fairytale creatures! He's like the headstrong kid in galli cricket who will simply not give up batting when he is bowled out clean, just because the bat belongs to him. Dumass..

There.. some of the steam is let off.

I believe that over the last few days I have witnessed something that everyone must at least once in their lifetime. A Bengali wedding.

The wedding was at my ancestral village. The place isnt a real village. At one point of time it was a thriving industrial town, where the officers club served amazing chicken rolls and fish fries. However, it was "Singured" long before Ratan Tata hatched his evil Tata Nano plan. The town has, since then, settled into peaceful and sure decay.

I had been to bong wedding before, but being a secondary (or worse, tertiary) relative of the families and the people involved, I had satisfied myself with munching down tray-loads of fish fries and bucketfuls of mutton Kosha. This time though, the relation was more immediate and I had some actual responsibilities apart from being the guy who ll take care of the leftovers. I was, thus, a close, and many a time shocked, observer to the myriad rituals of a bong wedding.

Firstly, I met many of my relatives who I didn't even know existed. They all knew who I was, my mum had told them I presumed, and I was thus embarrassed as a regular feature when an uncle or aunt hauled me up and demanded I identify them. Roaming around aimlessely in the biyebari (wedding house??.. I dont think theres an english parallel) I was time and again accosted by relatives who were apparently very pissed me asking, "Keyechhish!!!???" (Have you eaten!!!!????). The first time I said no I was near bodily dragged and put down near the eating area. Thereafter, I usually said yes, and if circumstances (like the presence of a nearby relative who knew I had been lolling around all morning) I followed the no with several reasons as to why that was. It was all very cool, meeting cousins and others I had never known. I found out I even have nieces and nephews who go to school!! Sigh! We all played friendly games of Family Cricket: a sport bearing a vague resemblance to the sport from which it was derived (dont even think of the Hum Apke Hain Kaun version - this was much much cooler - played on the ghats of the Ganga as it was, and no doggy umpires either, no umpires at all actually. Why have an umpire when an elder will do?). Teams were made of people ranging in age from 5 to 75, and it was such good fun that the resident elder was caught fielding at silly point when he had wedding businesses to perform.

The wedding itself was a spectacle to me. That it involved a fish (dead or.... dying I think) dressed up in a red ghaghra, nose rings and assorted finery is all one really needs to know. I have a sneaky suspicion that the purohit was inventing up rituals spontaneously for the bride and the groom to perform. There was also intense ululating for every time anything of significance happened, like the groom closing the door of his car on the way to the brides place, or when the bride and groom completed successfully the ritual involving the grindstone. I was tempted to ululate mightily, but chickened out due to stage fear. (also, ululating is the preserve of the bengali woman, men have no business ululating. Unfair, I think.)

I think I ll practice in private.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Field Boy

I have had my resume on the internet since the beginning of last year. I therefore get emails from all sorts of job search engines, many of whom I have never visited or even heard of. I routinely get offered jobs with titles such as Front Desk receptionist, Accounts manager, HR Reviewer... you get the idea. I usually get a slew of emails on monday - sort of jobs for the week. I open them, or sometimes not, and press the spam button.

Today morning I see an email from the new kid in town (apparently) BRV Jobs. Respectable name. Not trying to sell me junk. I therefore open the message and see what its about. As I press the spam button, I see something unbelievable towards the end of the mail.

The mail has since gone into spam. I go into my spam folder, open the email and look the job offering in all its glory. I wonder at the potent algorithm for matching jobs to resumes that BRV Jobs must possess.

I realize that I have scaled a new height today.

I am not sure I am qualified... actually. This is definitely not good for my Monday morning blues.

Maybe its a sign.

I reproduce the page here.

The recession has truly hit India.

It you are in office and cannot see the image above click here to view the posting.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Joy and Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie

The last few weeks have been especially tumultuous . My parents have decided to move on (for the time being) from Hyderabad, and a few weeks ago I dropped off the last of my family in Hyderabad at the airport. Sort of overseeing the transition. All grown up. Hmm.. well... during this trip I visited Gitanjali, my school in Begampet. Since I have been away on college and work for a long time, I find that my memories of Hyderabad have increasing become also the memories of my school days. I hadnt been there in a long long while, and decided to poke in.

The school looked exactly the same. Nothing in the building had changed too much. Same old three storey pile of bricks and window grills that it used to be then. But, for the entire time that I was there, I was extremely aware of the vast extent to which I have changed. I guess it helps when you are at a point of reference.

The school building that inspired such awe in me back then, was just a plain old building now. The vast playing field of my memory now seemed like a much smaller, rather cramped yard. I remember flying out of class with my cronies back then, during lunch break or PT.. or on toilet breaks between classes, running down the stairs, across the stage where assembly happened. I remember the feeling of absolute joy when we cleared the stage with a leap - jumping into the field and running across to play our game of raggedy football. I felt a bit deflated that this was all it really was.

But maybe it wasn't. As a few days have gone by the memory of my recent visit has faded away, but I still remember the vast sunlit field that I ran across a several hundred times - where serious friendships and rivalries were played out everyday - away from the censure of adults. The vast brown field will always be more real the rather cramped yard that deflated me.

This post is however, not about the lost joys of childhood. Its not, really. I have recently come to realize what I think I have known for some time now. The opposite is also true. This post is, therefore, about discovering the joys of adulthood.

I had tried reading Rushdie a few years ago when I was in college, urged on by a few of my friends who were Rushdie fans back then. Midnight's Children annoyed me, I remember. I found his process of story telling too tedious, too roundabout. I wonder if there is a saying somewhere that some things in this world one enjoys better with age.

I had managed to go through my relatively sparse but rapidly expanding bookshelf of my home in Bangalore. During a visit back to Hyderabad, my grandmother, a reader with a voracious appetite, handed me Shalimar the Clown. Fueled by my memories of Midnight's Children the book spent a fair amount of time being neglected before I decided to give it a go.

In Shalimar.. Rushdie goes on talking endlessly about his characters, their thoughts, there routines, the story is made to seem almost incidental. An aberration to their daily lives. Is that not how any story really is?

I have never been to Kashmir. I have heard it being called "Paradise on Earth" before, but I have never been imaginative enough to really understand what that meant. Rushdie told me in Shalimar... He also told me, with immense sorrow, how Kashmir has been smashed between the two heavy grease coated metal plates of the Indian Army and the Pakistani terrorists. I feel a sense of loss now. Kashmir had ceased to be a paradise long before I was born and I, thus, could never experience what I envied the characters in the book for having experienced.

The book made me at once curious to visit Kashmir and see it for what it is today, and apprehensive of visiting it in a way. I was afraid, sorrowful at having lost what I never had.

The book starts off magically. And holds on to the magic until about three fourths through. It degenerates into a mere story once Kashmir has efficiently smashed. Once the iron mullahs have forced the women into wearing veils, the army has started using rape as a tactic to demoralize the population, a pogrom against the Pandits of Kashmir goes virtually unnoticed...... the magic is lost. Its impossible to hold on to it... no?

Maybe I will visit Kashmir one day, and compare what my eyes see with what I saw in Shalimar the Clown. In the meantime, I am overjoyed at the hope that there is an antidote to discovering that your childhood palaces are merely modest houses built into life.