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Saturday, December 31, 2005

This and That Bloggettes:

These are little stuff that, were they to be published in an opinion journal or magazine, would have been called tidbits or snippets or finger-eat-readings. Of course, some of them are long enough to be merited an Order of Individual Blog Post honour! Since I have either dealt with them in individual blog posts in detail (as in the case of Saurav) or are not timely or critical enough to merit a full blog (yes, really, Orhan Pamuk case is getting a bit tiresome, dearie!. Or some are in the developmental phase that I would like to underline what's worth following on the international news radar. The earlier one, Oh Captain, My Captain! was the first of these bloggettes, as I would like to term them. Read on...

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Saurav Ganguly affair like Mohd. Azharuddin's, Ajay Jadeja's, Manoj Prabhakar's and much before that Mohinder Amarnath's and not too late in the past, Nayan Mongia's never seems to end. Of course, they can't end it. At least, the press wouldn't let it end. Else how do they fill up the space? Antickpix had remarked in the comments section to my previous blog on this topic that perhaps my article musta been reserved for after-Pakistan than now. After all, he feels that the purpose of my blog is defeated. Saurav is back! I don't think so. I still hold to my statement: Saurav must have opted out of the "Stake Your Claim" racket rather than making a huge hullabaloo about the whole thingie and meet Pawar and strengthen his case. My shout in the post was not about Ganguly's inclusion or exclusion from the team, but how a Loch-Ness is hiding inside More-ji! How past never seems to leave us Indian! Calcuttans may have gone on cracker-ing the celeb. My lowdown on the upshot of "Mission Saurav Inclusion" is this: Saurav must be pretty careful. By giving him a ticket to Pakistan, they have played an Azadi game. The Train to Pakistan is a veritable booby. How? Remember that 90s series where Kris Srikant was the Captain and he achieved what till then no one had achieved in recent memory! Square a series in Pakistan. And yet, when the Indians came back, he was not only stripped of captaincy, but axed from the team. Since then, the only couple of times Kris wielded the willow were 1) the Bi- and Multi-lateral over-35 ODIs and the recent Essilor Lens ad! And yet, another man who was equally dubious in the series, an erstwhile captain, opening partner in crime, the man who actually stole the Audi Car from Srikkanth in the 85 B&H WSC - inspite of not producing anything spectacular in individual matches to outshine Srikkanth or to actually do a Lara or Symonds or Pietersen or Lee or Warne to win any crucial match single-handedly - Ravi Shastri went on to be retained in the team. Because he was smart enough to play a dogged innings to wrap up a timely century to save his gluteus maximus. The same is going to happen to Saurav if he is not careful. How do you think Sachin survives these days? We have spoken about this in the L'Affaire Saurav article. My Ramp-up to this dope: Take Saurav's record against Pakistan. 7 Matches with 200+ runs at an average that is in the none too impressive 20s to warm the idiomatic cockle of the hearts! Actually it is a jathetic poke... er pathetic joke! And he has come at the expense of someone who survived the late 90-s and the beginning of this decade due to the clemency of his Dada! Saurav Dada has come in at the expense of Mohd. Kaif. And the other beneficiary of Saurav's munificence, Yuvraj, is preferred ahead of him! Dramatic Irony? Poetic Justice? Reasons enough Saurav must produce out of the world stuff. Stuff to claim back his opener slot in ODI; stuff enough to get back his patta for the 3-down slot; stuff big enough to whack the s**t out of the Frog Dance Moron of Indian Cricketing Chairmanship who goes on to say something very different each day about Saurav: alternately pandering and breathing pan masala spit. So, Saurav watch out. They are digging a bigger grave for you. As the Bard would say "Honor you at the trifles to Deceive you at the highest!" Time will tell whether Saurav is the Gladiator in the Arena or Kheema matter for Pindi Express - the man who Bends it Like No-one Else Can - Akthar! Or even Umar Gul, the latest Aquib Javed. It is the stuff of legend that Aquib Javed took about 70 odd wickets in ODI and 80% came against India, in Sharjah!

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Fernando Alonso: I remember this bloke about 4 years ago. His debut was with Minardi. There was this race where it was a do or die for David "the undying" Coulthard. What the heck! He was in the Championship race. And the Scot was getting frustrated. Try as he might, he could not overtake the minnow in front of him. And he was furious, shaking his helmet-ed head and his bunched up fist... getting furious at the marshals for not blue-flagging the car in front of him... radioing expletives to his team at the pits... Imagine what you would do if this happens for like 18 laps... and the guy in front of you wasn't even a top-10 runner... the guy was a debutant in a Minardi! Well, the young turk in front of him had other ideas. He was in the clear. Coulthard may be fighting for the championship, but as long as the former was not a backmarker to Coulthard, he had a right to defend his position. Well drubbed the gravel on the grass, upstart! That was Fernando Alonso. The year, I guess, was 2001. And 2 years later, he won his first Grand Prix at Hungaroring! and almost earned a hard-fought duel with Schumi at the Spanish Barcelona Grand Prix. The home-fans squealed in manic delight that day. And 2 more years later, this guy has shaken up the entire paddock area 2 further years in advance. Well, the news - for those not following F-1 world when there is no race - is Alonso has already signed up to move over to McLaren for 2007. And the 2006 season has not started. Would not start until another month or two! A lot of questions are being raised over this Paddock Poaching for Driver Line-up 2007 by Ron Dennis when there is no apparent need to. At least, Alonso-Dennis combo need not have announced it now. So if Fernando doesn't due to some reason win as many races in 2006 as he did in 2005 or cannot retain his Championship (there's already breaking news that Schumi has set early season testing times ablaze at Fiorano circuit), question marks are going to be raised. And what of Montoya or Raikkonen at McLaren. Is this Ron's way of shaking Kimi for not winning the Driver's Championship? Or is this a way of rattling Montoya who until the other day, before the emergence of Alonso out of Renault testing service, was the fieriest and angry young driver of F-1? So who goes out? Who stays in? A lot of commitments are going to be put to test in what seems a difficult year for F-1 : 2006!

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Breaking News on the F-1 front: Hockenheim in recent financial trouble is already the only true-blood German Grand Prix. Nurburgring, although technically is in Germany and even closer to Schumis' home-town of Kerpen than Hockenheim, is considered a European Grand Prix hosted by Luxemborg Racing Authorities and the State of Luxemborg. And those folks are adding salt to the already wounded pride of Hockenheimers by offering to sharing the financial burden. Internal German take-over? What with BMW stepping in directly into the ring! On that count, we have a new team for 2006. A Japanese team that is not Honda, not Toyota... Of course, Taku Sato is in the driver line-up with another newbie. All Jap line-up. Sony took over Hollywood. Will Japan take over F-1 too? Max! Bernie!! d'ye both hear? Or will, when he retires, Schumi be the hier-apparent to Max and Bernie's stranglehold on the business part of F-1? Already we hear this week that Luca di Montezemolo - the honcho at Fiorano (Ferrari Headquarters) - announcing that Schumi is Ferrari's eternal future, hinting that even after quitting competitive racing, Michael would be active either as Manager or as Technical Chief or whatever Michael desires. Good thing that Rubens has decided to move over at the long last! But sad thing, everyone who moves into Ferrari talks rose before taking the tack Eddie Irvine took 5 years back. Losers grumblers, eh? That's it from F-1 paddock this week. You can check my dedicated brand new blog Little Shop of Formoola One Musings for regular updates and more detailed and specialized posts!

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Johnny Depp: Since the day - about 8 to 9 years or even more - I first saw the movie Edward Scissorhands, I have never lost an opportunity to admire Depp's acting. Of late I have been analyzing his work style and subtle approach to handling roles, he never fails to amaze me. In my 30 years of movie watching, I guess, this is one fellow who has really made me spout sweeping statements. Just this day, after belatedly watching Finding Neverland, I realize Depp is the finest actor of this generation. I have been taken in goosebump zone by Val Kilmer's facility with varying choice of roles and the handling of them (Independence, Top Secret, The Doors, Batman...the list is long!). I have occasionally wondered at the a-la Zen calmness that Keanu Reeves brings to his approach to his roles; I have been occasionally (initially) misled to consider Di Caprio as a potential (nah! Not Titanic, but The Man in the Iron Mask), but I was pretty disappointed by his portrayal of the hyped Aviator movie. And so with Hollywood's true successor to the blue-eyed boy seat left vacant by Paul Newman - Tom Cruise. In spite of repeatedly forced into watching The Last Samurai, I conclude that his range is limited. Of course, now they are all talking Orlando Bloom and Jude Law and others of the ilk. And my friend Radio Krishna says Javier Bardoe and Ed Norton are gunning at Johnny's heels now, but Depp still beats them all by streets and autobahns. I have seen him now in Edward Scissorhands, Deadman (directed by Jim Jarmusch of the Coffee and Cigarrettes and more recently the Cannes 2005 winning Broken Flowers fame and on whom alongside Terry Gilliam I plan to post a blog shortly), Finding Neverland and a couple of other movies; and there is a certain silkiness of approach and subtlety of undertanding he brings to the characters he plays. Even a movie like Pirates of the Carribean (which incidentally stars Orlando Bloom alongside) an apparently comic role in a bravado cult movie-line, he brings so much to the role. He makes is all his movie. When it's a Johnny movie you are never out of Deppth!

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Kerry Packer: The last week has seen the biggest event of perhaps the most catastrophic year of this millennium heretofore! The cricketing moghul who turned the world upside down in the Rand-era by introducing the ODI World Series - otherwise eponymously known as the Packer Series until it was officially accepted as a game worth considering blood brother to Test Cricket - died at the age of 68. It was a watermark but very sweeping sad moment. How else would the world of Lance Kluseners and Jayasuriyas and Yuvrajs and Kris Srikkanths have survived, if not for this invention! The Kiwis have tried their own share of Max and 20-20 series... and they have failed to uproot the fascination a ODI has till now. Salute the Great Gatsby of Modern Cricket, Late Kerry Packer, ladies and gentlemen! I shall try and post a dedicated blog later to this genius. I guess, juxtaposed next to his contribution, Sir WG can take a flight to moon and get back leisurely (if he wants he can stay there. It ain"t windy up there!)

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Orhan Pamuk: It is getting a bit of tedium, this Case of Orhan "the Turk" Pamuk. The Turkish author - famed for his works My Name is Red, Snow, The Black Book et al. - perhaps the only of his ilk to have come from a bigoted and beleagured Turkey that is fashionably teetering on the edge of ambiguity vis-à-vis its entry into European Union membership, has been basking under the wrath of millions of fanatical Turks, who have been castigating him in all possible ways regarding his comments on the Turkishness of the National Turk Army (in a recent October interview to a German Press); who have been baying for his blood a-la Ayotollah for Rushdie's blood back in the 90s, for his apparent opinions upon the 1915-22 killings of 1.5 million Armenians and heck of a lot of Kurds at the hands of the Ottoman regime. First they went abuzz and paranoid and psychotic and mob-hysterical about his February comments to a Swiss paper about the Armenian alleged-Genocide. And then they issued some sort of a fatwa on him. Then they made a date for his trial in October. It was postponed.

They pushed it to December 16th. Now they have pushed it further to February. Grounds of adjournment and stay and postponement range from "non-availment of proper orders from the Justice Dept." to Outcry of the Western media. Ha! My Conspiracy Theory is this... I think, on a purely personal side it is turning out to resemble a purely sales-pitch by pro-Pamuk press and his retinue of small-scale industry (read publishers, agents and of the plumage) to keep him eligible for Booker, Nobel and whatnots. On the other hand, at a larger public scale it seems like an advertisement riot by the Turkish government to keep itself in the news constantly as the gather support for their membership. To project a "cry for freedom of expression" from media and artist community and then provide it (hopefully shortly) to a cued-timing, whereby the Western countries and the E.U member countries heave a sigh of relief; and Turkey can score a few brownies in its bid for EU membership. Of course, Greece is watching! They are not going to sit tight. As I write this, I truly adore My Name is Red and recommend it as a good laugh read. Have just started reading Snow. I would put Pamuk in the same scale of Italo Calvino in his ingenuity and on par with Eco in his plotting. Well, Dan Brown is a fake although he has better claims to pace and tempo in comparison with Pamuk.

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The Ambler Warning is one kitsch I managed to read (though not in one sitting) in one bated-breath in a long while. I had to labour through Archer's latest False Impressions (am tagging to Samanth's review of the book) and did not think unputdownable about Crichton's State of Fear (although is it highly recommendable as a read); thought of the allegedly legendary Da Vinci Code as inferior even to Brown's own Digital Fortress and repudiate anything by Brown as nothing more than a distant pollutant particule cousin of any of Umberto Ecos; and refused summarily to even read beyond the blurbs of the last two Cusslers and Forbes lest I get into a comatose for recognizing good reads. Ambler is apparently Ludlum's last individual novel. So they keep purporting. How many more? I mean, with a mother of mother-lode of talent such as Robert Ludlum's you need not have to pull all those sackfuls of wool to ensure sales of his works, however posthumous the publications may be. If co-authored books such as The Moscow Vector could sell, Ambler definitely will take care of its 1 millionth copy. My personal paean for The Ambler Warning is due to various factors. It is a better book than what is considered to be his best yet - The Bourne series. Subject matter is similar. An individual's quest for himself and his identity, caught in a political stabilization web. Well, finally Ludlum has conclusively taken the step other authors have made in a financial hurry: towards the Bamboo Curtain that is slowly getting the world under its slow but sure and large dragnet - China. Nice thing, Ludlum was not alive to see the Iraq operation of the US and Saddam fiasco, else he would have joined the band in wasting his time in writing umpteen journeyman fiction versions of Three Kings (in support of the movie, I must say, it is a fun watch!). But back to Ambler. For stats, it is 480+ pages. Four Parts. Sweeps the world from Langley Base in US to Hongkong to Parrish Island off US to Taiwan off China to Paris and Davos in Mitteleurope! It moves from a search for an individual's identity - not to mention his totally changed face (remember the ol' time Desmond Bagley novel in which this guy goes to sleep in England and wakes up in Oslo to discover to his horror that he's had a face-off and has to remember to drive on the wrong side, er... right side in Norway of the road?) - to a huge plot by the US to keep healthy-minded South East Asian political leaders from living and hence transforming the world to a peaceful place. Behind all these is a bunch of followers of Mr. Ashton Palmer - a once highly-tipped hier to the US Gubernatorial position and now a Professor of Politics, incognito of course! - a sort of quiet maniac who wants to do a Ramana (a-la Captain Vijayakanth in the eponymous movie) to ensure the Machtpolitik, Realpolitik and Geopolitik supremacy of the foremost upholder of democracy in the Universe - United States of America. A brilliant, at one-go, unput-downable crescendo of a finish in Part Four, spanning about 100 pages. Just Buy It. Worth its Rs. 250/- (an edition by Orion Books for Sale in Indian Sub-continent only).

Friday, December 16, 2005

L'Affair Sourav and the Frog Dance Man

After watching the natak and the tamasha of the last month over first the ouster of Jaggi Dalmiya, second the ascendency of Sharad Pawar, third almost Kreon-like usurption of chairmanship by Kiran More, fourth the carefully orchestrated press conferences opened with unseeming regularity, akin to the Minardis coming out for early qualifying in Formula-1, by Niranjan Shah followed by the Medea-like pronouncements of Kiran More, fifth the ease with which Greg Chappell slipping into the Chanakya-seat of politics left vacant by John Wright, am not amused, bemused, surprised and shocked (not necessarily in that order) at the treatment meted out to Sourav 'Dada' Ganguly.

Let me throw in my bit of contribution to the nostalgic singing of the halcyon days of The Prince of Bengal and the apocalypse that he did not forsee, coming from the Frog Prince of 1992 World Cup Kiran More. In fact, I am a bit let down, if at all, by Sourav for not forseeing things of the future. The pedigreed man that he is, Ganguly must have actually dealt the Coup de Grace by refuting the offer in the team in the first place, after having just the other day proved he is a match-winning bowler, then going on to score the hundred and then showing he still is the unofficial King Arthur of Indian Captaincy. Let tongues wag that Sourav's record as the most successful Indian Captain hides behind the fact that he won against meeker teams; let tails sprite themselves up in air that his centuries and big scores have come against weaker teams. Still, why didn't the others score. Why did no other captain succeed where he did? The same was said of Azhar. Sometimes I think Sachin is a better politician or at least a diplomat. He is adept at the art of projecting himself as a sentimental victim worthy to empthaise with. Poor Sourav was the faithful Kumbhakarna to Ravan Dalmiya while Sachin is the eternally smart low-key Vibhishina who takes refuge with the alternate power-brokers. Of course, he has resurrected himself as the virtuous Ram who tugs at the heart-strings of every mother and mother's son of Bharath. Let's not get sidetracked in sentiments or extended metaphors. The fact of the matter is, from the 1992 Frog Dance days to the 2005 Chairmanship time, More has carefully moved from chiaroscuros and bas reliefs to digitised anime. He has rightfully served reminder of his street-fighting doughtiness that was evidenced first against Javed Miandad on 4th March 1992 when India met Pakistan for the first time in a World Cup match in Australia. Of course, Javed and Imran's tigers had the last laugh by lifting the coveted trophy.

Again, to get some facts right. 1989... India-Pakistan series in Pakistan. First ODI, Pak beats India in a curtailed match. ODI 2 washed out. ODI 3 washed out, ODI 4 Pak wins the series 2-0. And three people made their debuts then. Very forgettable. A young Tendulkar and not too old Salil Ankola and Vivek Razdan. Of course, after a banging 5-wkt haul test debut, Razdan faded and Ankola hung around for a while in and out thanks to his Sonu Nigam looks. I don't find much difference between a singer who looks good and wants to act and a cricketer who looks good and wants to bowl. And what of the eternal pet Ajit Agarkar. Where does he hail from, dearie? But what we are missing here is... the Mumbai factor never ceased its continuum in Indian cricket. Only by a steady progression it has become a Maharashtrian factor, thanks to the Rashtriya passion - the Sena - Rashtriya - Bhartiya combine that brought back Maharashtra and Mumbai back in contention in the national scheme of things when their cricketing roots slept for a while. It has been a while any serious cricketer of repute has come from that part of the world. And to think that not only have Tamilnadu been meted out bad treatment at the national level of selection, but also Delhi has carefully been kept at bay. Of course, Tamilnadu is anyway on the Bay... and they have to carefully deal with Delhi, being the centre that can hold. One look at the Delhi-Mumbai encounters can tell you the story as much as Mumbai-TN duels, which comparatively are far and few. We have anyway our own TN-Karnataka skirmishes to deal with. So Razdan went out. Coincidentally, Vivek grew up with the MRF Pace Foundation in TN and studied at Guru Nanak College before graduating to play for India Pistons in the TNCA First Division League. So... too many connections that only make logical his dumping. Of course, all these had nothing to play in his non-playing. But back to More and more Maharashtra...

This man More says Sourav was chosen for his all-round ability. Then why forego a bowler. And a lot of people know that Kaif is more a test-temperament cricketer than Yuvraj (which incidentally is Prince in the Indian language, though not of Kolkatta). And if the logic is Sourav played well, but we are looking to fill the opener slot and we don't want Sourav at No 6 because we have another Prince now, why not put him up the order? Oh! What will the world think if we put him as opener and drop Gambhir out of the 15 and Sourav out of the 11? After all, Sourav was India's captain, he is a seasoned-campaigner who cannot be put on reserve, but Gautam is just new to the game of dumping, he won't mind being thrown about! And what of Wasim Jaffer? Oh, he has scored tons of runs in the Ranji with an average of 89. So? You remember Raman Lamba, Bhaskar Pillai, Robin Singh... the list of people scoring tens of hundres of runs in a Ranji season is endless given the fact that the Mumbais and the Delhiites play in a weak section of the draw filled in numbers with Vidharba and Sourashtra or Himachal Pradesh and J&K. And after all, to refresh the memories of that eventful 1989 Indo-Pak series where Tendla made his debut, one Mr. Ajay Jadeja opened the innings and with unfailing consistency scored at 45% strike rate in the ODIs. If Gambhir gets out playing across the line early and Wasim Jafer than was dumped out because of his half-cocked batting style, how bad can Sourav the man who has scored the 4th highest aggregate in both forms of cricket be? And today because Jafer has lot of runs behind him the last two seasons, he is good eh? Then put Yere Goud in the middle order. He has been the hub of Railways' Ranji campaign the last 3 seasons successfully. Nope. Wasim Jafer, Sachin Tendulkar and Ajit Agarkar are from Mumbai, Sharad Pawar is Mumbai and More is Maharashtra...

Wow! Wah Huzoor More-ji... Then why bring Sourav back at all? There is a lot of lip-service in this deal. And let us not forget where Gautham Gambhir hails from nor which zone and state he plays for. But then, it is only logical. Virendar comes from thereabouts too! So how can there by more representations when these days, in the name of rota and allocation and quota and reservation and roulette, even huge international teams like Australia and S.Africa and England end up playing in Bikaner and Agartala and Kohima! Oh that? It is the Calibans getting back at Prosperos of the world. Post-colonialism Cricket. Lagaan-ing. Englishmen? How else can we beat them if we don't play their warm-up matches in areas that could warm the cockles of their intestines with bad food and cockroach rooms and bumpy roads? You see, Indians, am proud to say (because am bored with the cliche "I am ashamed to say"!), have low self-esteem, lower diplomacy, high sycophancy, higher lack of self-belief to go out and shoot straight.

A Little Digression. Have you noticed the planning Aussies do with their schedule? Very smart. Every series starts with a couple of diplomacy matches where they let couple of their sharp-shooters (on-field of course!) humiliate the visiting team before the latter gets acclimatised, then demoralise them with Pigeon-ing and Punt-ing (aka sledging with the help of Fourth Estate) and then play a couple of tests (where they really fight aggressively) and put some key players on either psychological or physical injury list. And then disrupt the Test match frame of mind and rhythm with an intrusive and tough-ball B&H Series... then get back to continue the Test Matches. They of course have such a depth of bench that they have different players for two different types of games, if required. Why won't they win with such careful orchestration and planning. Battles are won in the mind. And that is what brings us back to L'Affaire Sourav.

Sourav Ganguly brought back a team in disarray, a board in Macbethian shame of match-fixing thanks to the Three Witches (aka Cronje, Azhar and that bookie whose name I forget), a country desolate in the habit of sinking to the level of the lowest opposition. Let it be said that he established for India an unenviable record of losing the Finals of ODI serii! Don't matter. He created what you proudly today claim Team India, Sahara Parivar, the Pepsi Men in Blue, the Huddle-Bubble Hindustani spirit that Rahul "Agent Smith-look" Dravid has taken over. Of course, I have nothing against poor Rahul. But it is all Olympian... the plans. There is always a pattern to the destinies and cross-destinies in the Greek Mythology. From Zeus to Seuss, they are all macabre people. It used to be Dalmiya and Ganguly, it is now More and someone else... It used to be Wright and now it is Greg. Under Ganguly it used to be the Shiv Sundar Dases, Deep Das Guptas, Saba Karims... it is now the Gambhirs and Yuvrajs and JP Yadavs... All this points to one thing. We love to play our cricket off the field. After all, cricket these days is a mind-game. Ask John Buchanan, Bob Woolmer, Tom Moody... and then again ask also the Laxmans and Dinesh Kaarthicks and Venugopala Raos and the Badanis... Isn't this the land that made Shatranj ki Khiladi! And chess is politics (you ask the Russians about it!), politics is Congress, Sharad Pawar is (or was?) Congress... the next of kin to the Raj... but there is 'more' to this than meets the eye. Don't be surprised there is a little more at the ICC Meetings at Lords sooner than later. The true Macbeth is out there. A little medium at large. Beware the ides of March, for it all became apparent on that eventful day - 4th March and the juggernaut rolls, nought-ing even the jaggis of Indian cricket.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Quid Pro Quo... that is Life with a Big L

Ulysses
by Alfred Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vest the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers;
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breath were life. Life piled on life
Were all to little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle-
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me-
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads- you and I are old;
Old age had yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Just feel wistful and done with the past. And to think that the past year has seen vicissitudes of time, as they say, and vexations of heart as well as stimulations of mind and to feel that it has been a full year (or a year-ful?) of newer people, newer experiences, newer sorrows... not bad. I have a rich vein of newer emotional curves to draw upon as I embark on a newer road - the road (I Have) not taken, as Frost may say! But what is happiness compared to sorrow. In Happiness We Forget Ourselves, we delight and the world delights with us. In Sorrow We learn. I would rather have sorrow than be happy. An Artist Needs Sorrow As An Alcoholic Needs Liquor. Without the pain and the sorrow and the anger and the fury and the jealousy and the burning envy, art cannot have power. There may be beauty in "emotions recollected in tranquility", as Wordsworth said; but it would end up like the Pre-Raphealite poetry. Read only as academic stuff. Put Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil, Buchner's Danton's Death, Suskind's Perfume, Lord Byron's flamboyant and Shelley's burning poetry and Sarah Kane's plays alongside your Pre-Raphealites and the Wordsworths and Keats and all those soft-puppies of art... you will see there is a greater passion in the former's aching urgency to capture the moment than the latter's measured pickings of painted metaphors and images.

Done with the past... though not content. A Ship Does Not Sail On Yesterday's Winds! I leave those paths I have tread and look forward to explore unchartered territories. I leave behind a Penelope who no more has use for me, who is through with me and has sought to leave in letter and spirit leaving behind mine own Telemachus! Yes, that is official and final too, the last couple of days have been horrid and it has come to a real head. I leave behind ... no am not too sure of that! And today someone asked me "if there was anyway he could have a Masquerade t-shirt". I said the only one I have is mine and he can have it. I would like to leave it with some good soul, for "Alas! what boots it with incessant care/To tend the homely slighted Shepherds trade,/And strictly meditate the thankles Muse,/Were it not better don as others use,/To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,/Or with the tangles of Neæra's hair?" as Milton states in his Lycidas! This is no maudlin post. It surviveth... even as the strong, in the words of Louis L'Amour, shall survive! It being the Spirit. But somethings do need to be spelt. And that is the true trade of Honesty with a capital H. Started with a quote, shall end with a quote... about Honesty by the big B, Billy Joel!

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Failed...

.........................Vacant shuttles
Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,
An old man in a draughty house
Under a windy knob.

After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities. Think now
She gives when our attention is distracted
And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions
That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late
What’s not believed in, or if still believed,
In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon
Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with
Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think
Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices
Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues
Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.
These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.


The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last
We have not reached conclusion, when I
Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last
I have not made this show purposelessly
And it is not by any concitation
Of the backward devils
I would meet you upon this honestly.
I that was near your heart was removed therefrom
To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.
I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it
Since what is kept must be adulterated?
I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:
How should I use them for your closer contact?
These with a thousand small deliberations
Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,
Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,
With pungent sauces, multiply variety
In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do,
Suspend its operations, will the weevil
Delay?.............


--- Gerontion, T.S.Eliot

Today I really feel futile. I think my theatre has failed. I accept my failure. I have failed to create human beings and better people with my theatre. No matter how many actors or techies or artists have been created by me... I have failed to create a human being. I shall not do anymore work. One last solo piece in May. After that, I shall quit theatre. No more commitments. I am spiritually and technically out of Gowri's play. Probably I shall honor my commitment to those two roles. I am trying to get alternatives for myself. Have messaged concerned people to the effect. I disown myself from all those institutions. I go to sleep with a really heavy heart, succumbing to sleep because my eyelids droop and refuse to cooperate to keep open. Finis. :-((

Monday, November 07, 2005

Oh Captain, My Captain!

Awright, some easy, not so mind-blogging loud-thinking of things that amuse/bemuse/surmise/surprise me at the moment.
 
Oh Captain! My Captain - What do you expect? Walt Whitman? Nope. Dead Poets' Society Robin Williams? Search Me. Rahul Dravid, the man of the Indian Cricket at the moment? All out!
 
Nothing to do with Dravid nor Ponting! It just happened in the middle of my watching Ramana just yesterday. There's no stopping Captain Vijayakanth! He's determined to make himself seem theoretically eternal. Since one Late MGR started and succeeded, there has been no dearth of aspirants to Politics. One man who in Tamil tinseldom perhaps has kept away from the gutter and sewage of India, nevertheless uses nationalism and patriotism to commercial (seeming) success is 'Action King' Arjun. Now back to Vijayakanth. The heroine asks him a question about the Chief Secretary of Tamilnadu. The guy just has to name it. Instead, he goes on a statistical binge, putting on screen every bit of details from how many times a man copulates in Tamilnadu to how many women have reached menopause. May be exaggeration. But the statistics list runs something akin to that. And this is becoming a pattern so much that I guess Captain, as he is fondly self-styled and habitually alluded to by his fans, is using it as a campaign to show to the movie-manic vote-casters of TN politics that he has all the figures (does that include the 16 and 17 yr old 'of fair complexioned' clevage showing bimbos he casts against him?) in his finger tips, worthy enough to rule the Dravidian and other migrant population? (Off the topic, for statistical minded people, recent figures prove that 30% of the country is made up of migrant population). He did the same thing, if my memory serves right, in either Aezhai Jaadhi or Sethupathi IPS, where that infamous scene of spelling out the profits one can make from the noon-meal scheme's AN EGG PER CHILD for nutrition comes to mind. And you may have more to say than I do.
 
One thing is certain, if we draft him into cricketing world (which is no different from politics anyway), he can at least make-up for the non-appearance or non-discussion of statistics on Doordarshan Live Coverages of Cricket India matches, if not replace Jaggi Dalmiya. Am sure I.M.Bindra would approve. At least our MAC Scorer and statistician who has been hailed as the best scorer and statistician would like to take Captain's help, when the PC conks out or Network fails! And now... when Captain comes can Youth be far behind? After all, there is none better than Captain (he has outdone Shivaji, MGR, NTR and Rajkumar) in terms of projecting his youthfulness, which requires a lot more megabytes with the inside info I have from the celluloid world, that I shall dedicate a whole blog to youthfulness and Tamil films! But, just remember Captain may soon lose that status to Aamir Khan (won't that guy ever age, asks my mother!). And who else... inspite of age, one guy always looks young and his voice sounds the same 16 yr old who burst upon Kiwis back in the 80s!
 
From Captain to so-called Higher Mortal - Sachin, who else!. Note, not Sachein... no Vijay! Even if Vijay is a component of Vijaykanth... and Vijay's movie of the Little Master's name has done 200 Days recently. Now, we all know how they make these movies run more than 100 Days, don't we? Anyway, I have a huge growse and you all Tendulkar fans out there are gonna hate me. I don't care, really. I mean... if the Team India is being built with 2007 World Cup in mind and Chappell  Dravid Bindra co. believe that non-performers must go out or unfit players must prove fitness... what makes Sachin special. He was special, no doubt. Like Sehwag was, Dhoni currently is... Lara was, Mark Waugh was, Kevin Pietersen and Flintoff are... and the list goes on! I adore Sachin when he is on song. But, have you ever noticed... Sachin is like Sunil Gavaskar, not in stature I mean. His centuries have never really positively contributed to India's WIN. On the other hand take Dravid or Ganguly. Dravid stays through, century or not, ensures things are settled. Ganguly's centuries have always been big ones (even if people say they come against smaller teams. I can refute that statistically). Sachin, to me, frankly speaking is over-adulated. He is just not a thorough-bred stayer. He cannot win matches single-handedly or take away a match off the opposition for a longer period like Lara does or Jayasuriya did. He probably did - but the occasions are far and few. And what has he done to stay in the team for the last two ODIs against Sri Lanka in the on-going series when after first two ODIs (a century and a above 50 something), he has drawn blanks? At home, we have this favourite analogy. When you play carrom after a very long time, the first couple strikes find incredible angles and pockets on the tee... but once you're warmed up, your mediocrity shows. Sachin is not SACHIN anymore. He may look young and sound young, but high time he quits decently and starts contributing in a different capacity. It is one thing to believe we have a few good years left, but to prove it with the same consistency as halcyon days is another thing. If you analyse Sachin's last 4 years you will see that in one part of the year he does 3 or 4 big scores, then through the rest of the year he totters around the whole series with just one big score and sub-average performances where the way he gets out are worse than Agarkar's... and due to those 4 big scores in a year, he does 1000 runs. And because he averages 1000 runs, the sub-average performance is clouded from our eyes. If he is special because he scores, then his failures must be graded by the same specialness too. We can't raise and lower the bar according to convenience. For some people standards of success or failure must be kept high because the nation has spent so much time, money, energy, drama, emotions on them. So, I feel Venu Rao and JP Yadav didn't even get enough chances to prove themselves. In the 3 innings he got to play, Venu did decent for someone new. How much did Sachin do when on debut? It took about 5 months for him to settle too. Because he was 16 and precocious, he was excused. By the same yardstick a lot of 16 and 17 year olds must be treated. And why not dump Yuvraj? Is he the Yuvraj of Indian Cricket? He hasn't done anything except crop his hair! He has not contributed with bat nor ball or field. So why haven't they dumped Yuvraj or Sachin? And Ajit Agarkar will stay in the team the next year because of 2 performances in this series. The big travesty! If blooding youth is the idea, why Agarkar? Zaheer has got laziness and attitude problems! Balaji is unfit, Nehra (as usual) is not well... so get them younger. If Sreesanth, why not others? Am sure there are 20 other pacers better than Agarkar at the moment. And who do they bring back at the expense of Venu Rao? Md. Kaif. Who hasn't done anything critical to Indian batting or bowling since those 2 or 3 centures. Seriously, I don't know much about JP Yadav. But Venu (with his bigger and heavier build) is as flash and livewire as Kaif or Yuvraj! Cricket and Films, I tell you, have truly replaced the two big national legacy - Religion and Politics... What else, when Cricket becomes religion and Films are breeding grounds for Politicians!
 
So to politics, truly! What's politics without a bit of cricketing, if cricket can smack of politics? From Sachin and Solkar to Volcker... and Agarkar to Natwar and Iraq! And what does Andy say? "Oh you know, I just paid Surcharge. The main payment was Natwar's!" And is Natwar so dumb or the Press is screwing it up to highlight only those statements that could sell? The Press quotes Natwar saying "If Volcker doesn't know who I am, how can he accuse me?" Well Mr. Singh, Volcker only said he didn't know Natwar Singh was one of India's Ministers. True enough. I don't know which portfolio is going to change hands when. And I am an Indian who has seen 4 and half elections now. How daft can Natwar Singh become! Or is this the latest Sardarji joke? Oh let's see what Sonia-ji does. Food for Oil, India for Iraq... US for Everything. Perhaps one area where India and US are on even keel. Both in the same shit, shame scam!!
 
And finally... by the Sea... no, not to do with our abjection on the knees to the rains in Chennai. Did you know? The sea at Bessie Elliots Beach has receded by 50 mts. Now is that good or bad? I mean, has it gone back to where it was before tsunami or has it gone further? I am going to ask my friend Mr. Vincent D'Souza of the Adyar Times to do some fact-finding on this.
 
Nevertheless... the sea am talking is The Sea. By John Banville. The man who loves his words as much as he hates his critics. The man who famously said "Frankly, I am gratified to see myself vilified, and the jury being vilified," he said happily over lunch recently. "It cheers me up. I must have done something right to annoy so many people." It is being honest. But then again, this is becoming a habit. Remember Vernon God Little and its author who said "Now I can pay back my debts", when asked what he was going to do with the x-thousand pounds? I am still smarting from How The Hell Can They Give the Prize to Oscar and Belinda... and that was the previous millennium.
 
Gosh! This is getting disgustingly annoying too. The publishing committee, apparently, was disappointed with Banville's success because it was least popular and had only sold 3000+ copies prior to Booker announcement. And statistics show that the book now stands at 9000+ copies. I ask: if the idea behind choosing a Miss World/Atlas/Universe from one of the small-time countries in those respective paegents is (everyone knows it is true now!) to capture newer markets for the Loreals and Oriflames, then why not a non-descript book or unknown author or not so much a selling book. It helps the publishers. Fair is fair. It is commerce. And there are people cross at The Sea winning it because Saturday, a book by Ian McEwan, didn't even make it to the last 6 super-nominees and yet it is a hugely popular and highly selling box-office book! What logic is this? Is the box-office collection for a book or movie any indication for its quality? Again I come back to Kollywood. Where are you going to put the Rays, Rituparnos, Fellinis, Truffauxs, Eisensteins and others in comparison to Ghilli and Dhool and Sami? Poor Banville! Am on his side. And am yet to read the book. Doesn't matter, the world loves underdogs and so do I. But I can't yet get over the fact that the Indian press sucks. No originality, no pride, no backbone. These days they are incapable of getting origial ideas, original articles. Look at The Hindu. The Last Page is full of reprints from western media. If you read your NYT and Herald Tribune and Guardian Unlimited each evening, you know what will fill the back pages of The Hindu tomorrow. And Express and DC on Sundays. And they are still vilifying poor Pinter for being awarded the Nobel. Hey, he doesn't deserve Nobel, ok. In a positive sense. Left alone, he is better off. Don't make the man uncomfortable by recognising him suddenly after all these years for his Jew-ishness, for his love of cricket, for things in his life that have nothing to do with his writing. Schmucks, leave him alone.
 

Saturday, November 05, 2005

PoMo, PoCo, PoStu...

These are the three ruling tenets of contemporary literature. I have been threatening myself to get to write something that would help clarify doubts and aspersions about Post Modernism, in which process I wanted to induct my flock to Post-Colonialism and Post-Structuralism without neither will this study be complete.

Post-Modernism, for starters, is not against Modernism as many people mis-conceive. Neither is PoMo a heir-apparent to Modernism. It does not continue what Modernism started. Now what did Modernism start? It started a proper protest against the Victorian values of art and the way things were strait-jacketed. When I say Victorian, I do not restrict it to 19th and turn of 20th century England, but the general conservative smugness that accompany a "within the parameter" created art.

In 1896, a French play went on stage and on its opening night was riot and strong incriminations from the "well-behaved" society of Parisian theatre watchers. The play? Ubu Roi. The playwright? Alfred Jarry. Now, what made it sacrilegious? The very opening words uttered on stage were "Merde! Merde!". And it is such an innocuous word these days - Merde: Shit!!! But you can relate to the amount of smugness that prevailed. And thus started the first attempt at Modernism truly. So Modernism is a proactive response to changing non-productive, complacent, conservative, orthodox values of how art must be. Modernism was not merely a form-based protest as many believe. Neither is its successor PoMo. If one thought the experiments with form and structure is what PoMo is all about, it is wrong. Simple example: how often we take a path of overt external manifestation to show our inner dissent, be it in food habits or resorting to vices or anything else you can conjure up, refusing to confirm ultimately? PoMo and its predecessor Modernism are precisely that.

While dealing with any -ism, one has to always remind oneself that they evolve contiguous with an era or a period in history, and is exemplified through arts, literature, music and other genres and projections of media. Nevertheless... this is the key to understanding... with moderation and without getting carried away by our aversion (which is largely a result of the non-comprehension or the lack of opportunity to comprehend the root of its evolution)... that -isms are schools of beliefs and as a natural extension have an ideology and a philosophical standpoint. So what could be the philosophy or idea behind PoMo, you ask? 

We need to trace its evolutionary history, which inevitably takes us to Modernism.

Modernism, I had already told you, is a protest form against Victorian values to art, literature etc. And when Modernism evolved, in its nascent stages during the 1910 to 1930, it largely was "high modernism" - perhaps as ivory tower-ish as the predecessor it was protesting against. There were no earth-shaking deviations or experiments in form. Even the Eliotean writings or those of Virginia Woolf, were still within a comprehensible structure. It protested subliminally and subversively by being "an insider". On the French side, it was more in the area of shock usages of vocabulary and metaphors and images. The French have always relied strongly on images and visuals than words, which may explain the trait. Getting back. Only with the advent of the early 30s, Modernism started breaking fresh grounds. By then, the tantrum throwing tween of Modernism had moved on to becoming a protesting adolescent who in time and given the laws of nature would evolve into a mature and discretionary and responsible literary -ismer of the 50s-60s. Thereby, we see the Hughes and Larkins and the late-TSEliots and Samuel Becketts, Ezra Pounds, e.e. cummings, James Joyces - not to mention the French Existential playwrights like Giradoux, Genet, et al - of the literary world producing mature works that have a settled structural deviation from the 19th century form, yet ideologically and philosophically a more searching frankness. All would have been well if these folks were able to keep it going.

Every generation needs its change. To establish what happened to Modernism and why PoMo was needed, I digress heavily. 

I cite as example the Tamil film music industry. The 50s music had a different feel to it. People wanted musicals. The moment you ask someone their name, they would go on a High Octave singing. High art and artisans and practitioners dominated the industry. You had to be trained in music and dance to get to the industry. Then came the age of 60s where acting was evolving as a melodramatic art and people wanted what was to become the forerunner to the capering around duet routines. The actors were not necessarily singers. Synching started. It was also the period of social dramas. You could slowly see the drop in the statistics of historical films. They were semi-social semi-historical (more due to their period-ification through costumes) productions that almost became civil-war type films and social movies in the late 60s. And the music also changed. From the MKTs and PUChinnappas we moved to K.V.Mahadevans and R. Sudarsanams... we moved from Pattukottai Kalayanasundarams and Bharathiyars to Kannadasans and Vaalis... 

Later in the 70s - that unforgettable period of tacky and heavy color usage in costume, makeup and sets from '70 - '74 (the period when MGR and Sivaji Ganesan starred in all those bell-bottomed pants, 2 inch heeled shoes, orange and rose and pink and garish colored bobby-collared overcoats and safaris, and during which period the heroines looked like Cinderellas and Snow Whites being pimped with made-over Wigs) - the music became confusedly racy. This was truly the period - my icon music director - when M.S.Vishwanathan truly dominated. We will not discuss the legitimacy and the need for some of the tunes he composed. But the 60s MSV and the 70s MSV were definitely different until he lost out to the emerging thin Pannaipuram native with a guitar and bell-bottoms and 50-watt bulb curl of well-oiled hair on his forehead - the one who would go on to become the legend Ilayaraaja. 

Come mid-70s. A horde of people with artistic aspirations from the interior of Tamilnadu rushed to Chennai to make it their home. Bharatiraajas and Ilaayaraajas... - the music changed again... the Ilayaraja of 16 Vayadhinile (folk) and Priya (first digital recorded western tunes) gave way to the Ilayaraja of Dhalapathi, melody scoring over technology... and then came ROJA. And the music changed again... and so on and until now. 

Similarly with Modernism. Things had to change. An -ism had lived for 60 years as a form of protest. It doesn't deserve that long a period. No movement needs or can sustain anger and protest that long! So it was inevitable something had to happened. And Post-Modernism happened.

How? Meanwhile colonialism was getting a beating politically. The Raj world-over had to give way both politically as well as culturally, leading to a change in the weather conditions of creativity. Actually PoMo and PoCo happened simultaneously. Subtly they have been lapping the shorefront of the Modernist and Colonialist beaches of arts and politics since the mid-40s. Thankfully the fall of Nazis did not have major impact on this. Expressionism had taken care of it in Germany and Symbolism as well as Impressionism in France. Actually the German Expressionism in literature started in the 1820-30s through a revolutionary called Georg Büchner - that Büchner of Woyzeck and Danton's Death! 

Back to the beaches of arts and politics: that was perhaps one credit no one can take away from the Brits. But the structural changes have been emerging on the Continent and in Russia meanwhile. Hence PoStu (Post-Structuralism) had joined the race making it a tri-partite coalition to overshadow Modernism and its counterparts in economics, philosphy and politics.

By the 60s, as Elvis came, Beatles came, Reggae came, Marley came... PoMo, PoCo and PoStu had also arrived. And the rest is KAOS. Yes, if historification is not organised there would be chaos. And if a movement sets in without revolution, then the sudden realization that the backyard had somehow changed to present a picture that was not there when we went to sleep overwhelms us that there has to be chaos of the mental geography! And that is the state people still find themselves. And you are no different from them. The reason is: PoMo had advanced too much that it was difficult to find a starting point to catalogue it and put an inventory of things that constitute the cupboard called PoMo. As a result we find ourselves like Dorothy in Munchkinland. Too much sudden colour and too many details. The richness is overwhelming and the depth is staggering, of what is a PoMo work of art and what is not, that one suffers from a syndrome akin to being caught like a beggar in a Five-Star Champagne party of Mega-corporate figureheads!

Now, what are the probable constituents? Having provided what I intended to do, viz. open the doors to a lay reader of literature, I leave you with a wonderful link to Post-Modernism. Hope this helps dispel some doubts and stigma towards PoMo!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Sicilian Option?

November 1995. Saturday. 8.00 A.M.

A surprisingly sunny (albeit chilly) day as I gazed through the curtainless window of my 2nd floor room in Wohnheim 13 at the Walter-Rathenau Strasse, belonging to the Otto-von-Guericke Universität, Magdeburg, Germany.

I stared at the handful of blue-overall-ed, yellow miner-helmet-ted, grimy mustachioed Germans (4 in number) working at the overlooking greyed old cadaver of Wohnheim (whose number I forget now). They had kept that Student's Hostel beyond occupancy as erstwhile East German universities were trying to breathe fresh life into their attractiveness thanks to the West German Marks being siphoned to make-believe the completion of a cordial (political jingoism of Western Bloc?) integration of both Germanies. The point is this: the authorities were trying to make 'the twain meet' in an attempt to create a unified Germany where a student from Aachen would travel to Magdeburg and another would travel from Hamburg to Dresden to enrol and study. I actually had a guy at our regular Thursday-night Stammtisch parties in the Irish pub we used to meet, who came from Aachen and used to glorify Alfred Andersch as a great writer ('we' being the Magdeburg-resident native-English speakers and anyone who wanted to try and get their English going. Due to my better English ability, I was considered alongside the native speakers of English - all those Amis, Kiwis, Aussies, Canadians, Brits... - as party-able in English at this pub where we guzzled lot of Guinnesses and Kilkennys buffetting with a wide mixture of English accents and staged Monty Pythons in English to the bemused drunkenness of the local Teutons who came to have a jolly good noisy Thursday night. My friends back here swore at me for an indistinguishable accent in my English that anyway had lost all its traces of Indianness when I came back six months later.)

Ouch... a long digression. Coming back to subject! As I kept staring at these structures going up and those other structures coming down and the noise of machinery boring and drilling and baring their teeth and lifting and consuming humungous loads of mortars and bricks of erstwhile DDR, I was starting to think Wow! Germany is really happening!! Here is the hub of Europe's economy. This, my adopted country of research for another 8 months!!! I was to be laid low in less than a year. They say that Go East and you see ignominy and poverty and suffering. Go West and you see Germany. And here it was, totally topsy-turvy. But...

It was much later in 1996 November, when I shifted to Oldenburg to do my Internship at the Oldenburg State Theatre Lighting Department where I got to be involved in a production called "Herr Paul" by Tankred Dorst that I would realise what this merger has come to mean to the Ozzies as the erst-while West Germans called the erst-While East Germans and vice-versa. (Digression! Oldenburg has to be clarified for those not familiar with German geography. Like our Gandhi and Nehru and other Nagars and parts of cities across India, there are lot of places in Germany bearing the same name. So, I was at Oldenburg-Oldenburg as I would explain to the Railway Station ticket assistant each time I went by the Deutsche Bahn to someplace. There were 2 other Oldenburgs. And this Oldenburg is 30 mins. from Bremen which is one hour from Hamburg up on the North West part of Germany and just an hour or more drive from Groeningen, Netherlands) Coming back to the spin-offs and fall-outs of East-West merger: my conjecture is, plenty of West German academics would have had to camp down from Universities or would have had to be forced to accept low pay if the merger had not happened. Lot of artists would not have found new markets... so would the Karstadts, Kaufhofs and other innumerable West German commercial houses! A lot of unsuspecting Easterners who lead an ignorant life - even if it was filled with routine that Ernst Toller calls "born to live to eat to work to earn to eat to sleep to live to work to..." (it goes on, the cycle!) - happy enough to get their dose of all those standard East German branded pickles, cheese, pickled cucumber (those famous Spreewald Gurken), beer, whatnots that were glorified in that cult classic Goodbye Lenin. Plenty of politically charged interpretation would not have been possible in arts, further driving the bored German theatre going audience as well as Feuilleton reading intellectuals, not to mention the Sekt-sipping glitterati who throng the openings of an art exhibition in the Kunsthaus-es of the North Rhine Westphalia or the black-pashmina-ed Opera-house visitors! God, Germany, but for the East-West merger would have had an Art-attack leading to clogged veins and cardiac arrests in the pseudo-cerebrums! Anyway, I was disturbed from my reverie by my friend who was driving me to Quedlinburg to see the Dom on top of the picturesque mountain and on our way back, to the famous Jericho Cloister, a little detour off the Strasse der Romanik (The churches and Klosters and Doms that were built in the Romanic style along the Sachsen-Anhalt state route... something like our own Chennai's ECR Art corridor or IT Highway on the Old Mahabalipuram Road). And as we wound our way out of Magdeburg along the Elbe, we passed a small burg with shutters down on most industrial belts. He pointed me to a particular downed shutter. "That looked downed for 4 or 5 years", I remarked. He patted me saying I was right "Back in 1990 after Die Wende", he qualified referring to the change, the wall-downing. Also adding, "you know, it used to be the arms factory where 1000+ men used to work!" Did I sense a bit of pride from the past or lump in the throat of lost culture? I know not now. It is too long past. But there used to be work, and basics assured even if life was grimy and Dickensian in them old days of Communism.

I don't know if that was good or bad. One thing is sure, this acculturisation of the Eastern past and breaking up of lands or merger of lands (Slavic and Cyrillic especially in Europe and anyhow elsewhere in the world) is starting to show its impact. I believe it has added numbers to a lot of existent political agnostics who have lost trust and belief in the efficacy of any system to ameliorate or alleviate their predicament. And this division of lands has singularly identified, and made naked exposition of the Islamic population of some of these erstwhile Eastern bloc climes and specifically the Soviet people of the segmented Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan (all the 'stans'): a lot more addition to the existing separatist fundamentalists. Add to it, in the name of accommodating refugees, asylum-seekers of the African lands and Palestinians, and the Turks and the Greeks and the Croats who come seeking to earn living (of course, striving within the edicts of the Germanic constitution) in Germany, the country has put itself to seeds slowly but steadily whereby we have 5.5 Million unemployed in Germany alone.

I am focussing on Germany, because of my first-hand knowledge of its state of existence. And if this is the case of Europe's biggest economy today, think of other European nations... developed European nations... move on to Asia's weaker economic countries such as Burma, Pakistan, Indonesia, Phillipines... China-suppressed states such as Tibet and Nepal and neighboring North Korea, Mongolia... move as well to Central American neighbours of the Big Bully Brother United States... and we have a global network of crumbling economy, rising unemployment rates, plummeting currencies, deteriorating state of anti-state and -social activities, climbing belief in terrorism and separatism as the only elixir for a deprived horde of peoples!

It seems inevitable, given the global context of rising unemployment rates. Am shuddering to my bones... am scared... I had visited the StaSi headquarters in Leipzig on an Open Day in 1996. I have seen video clips, photos, hardcore real-time hard copy evidences and seen and heard and spoken to the victims of the East German StaSi regime. As the wall fell, the world as well as a huge part of Germany felt relieved. Or so it seemed. But the unrest brought by the jubilation and euphoria that there would no more be cruelty, no more slavery to work without enough compensation, pay and perks according to one's capability (wherein those who till now had to work for 48 or more hours and still get paid the same Laissez-faire would be able to see their real worth)... all vanished; the promise of a Western Capitalist Utopia left soon a disquieting feel and discomfited visages what this would mean in the long run.

The worse that can happen to man is NO WORK. This was one thing the Leftist philosophy and the socialist-communist school of politics never denied. As a result, they ensured workforce, work done to keep productivity (even if that was the euphemism for drudgery and driven work), paid all equally. Believe me, you even got your how-much-to-drink-and-smoke-and-what-brand quota of vodka and cigar based on what the state decided. And all domestic requirements rationed and served. Except, ultimately when you received your pay, wage, salary whatever, it was more like a basic pocket money in case you have to pay entertainment (which was not much except what the state decided to show. But why not, that's what happens in Hong Kong as well as Singapore in an oblique way) tax other than for sex entertainment with your spouse. Yeah, the logic is, if everything is provided for, what do you need money? And that was socialism, communist weather-vane! Nothing wrong in that, looks like a common-sense enough deal. But given man's nature and the Biblical quotation that Money is not Bad, But Lust for Money is what is Bad, the Reds had it figured right. But then, again, the call of flesh, heart and emotions are more urgent and urging than constrictive Communist ideals... and hence the wall had to give way sometime. And then there was none... like Dame Christie would write! That also meant, idiomatically, the Writing was on the Wall! Every change begets a chain reaction. The Proof of the Pudding is in the Pravda! Remember Glasnost and Perestroika? Well, I guess it is one thing to try and bury Lenin's statue and another to rebuild crashed economies. I don't envy Vlad Putin! Especially when Gorby himself advocates against the said action. And what of Mother Nature? She's having her say on the economies as well. As Keshav rightly drew it up in The Hindu Editorial page yesterday or so, Mother Nature truly is the resident-deity of the TIME Magazine cover. Why, she must be the Pin-up Girl in Playboy for all her Naked Fury!

Now what after all these years? You asking me? Have you been reading the papers the last one month? Seen the news channels in Telly the last 2 months? Surfing the NY Times, Guardian Unlimited, Herald Tribune and Die Zeit and FAZ, Le Monde and other requisite newspapers on the web? The global economy abetted in cahoots by the Grand Dame of all - Mother Nature - is waking up to ruins and battered visions buffetted by Ritas and Wilmas and Katarinas and tsunamis and others of the ilk, pointing to FRUSTRATION, UNREST, STRIKES triggered by LAY-OFFs because the Western world suddenly is not able to adapt to striking a balance between the need to lowering cost by the Governments; the Western world of employees is not able to adapt to the realization that their seeking high pay per hour work done (because they are DEVELOPED NATIONS!) is not anymore compatible with the rise in amount of global population that believes in getting paid for work rather than how much.

The entry of China and India into European Economy as well as the economy of the Americas (esp. the North America) has been happening for years, though suggestively, marginally, at the peripheries and negligibly. Suddenly, they are noticeable. Of course, the one consolation is the spiraling competition between Japan and China to grab more than a pie of the global economic pizza that the West, especially the Americans can hope to bank on to play the proverbial Cat between the monkeys fighting for the bread. Nevertheless, it is very clear that the Americans and West Europeans are having Economic Diaspora without having to migrate and in their very own couches that are becoming their little KZs. The Xetras and DowJones have not exactly been looking up although internally they claim (at least the Big Brother on the other side of the Atlantic Pond claims so) that the GDP has grown (well, so is the inflation!). They are getting laid off (pun intended) right left centre diagnoal horizontal vertical that their lives are looking like a veritable NYT Crossword.

Wow, the English would be proud their National Pastime is getting to be a metaphor for the Economy of the two biggies of the Western World. Colonialism at its best. These are two countries they never could colonialise in the past. Only, they, the Brits, are also getting shoved with crowbar up their rear-sides without buttering! Painful beyond pain. Ask the Labour MPs. So, it is gallows humour. But what the West gets, it passes down to the East as well. True Legacy! Yes, and this threat is looming large on the whole world now. UNEMPLOYMENT. Is this a capitalistic bane or necessary evil of materialism? Can this be Downsized! Lo! In this corporatised world of management jargons and jingoisms, even UNEMPLOYMENT can only be Downsized. We haven't reached Rightsized yet! Thank God for small mercies! But what say the Lefties?

I am not personally a Red or have or had Leftist leanings... but for me whatever works works. If Democracy works in the US and Germany and Socialism works in Russia and elsewhere and Social Democracy works in India, am all for the amalgamation. But the Commies may have the truth somewhere. In spite of it, the Capitalists can take comfort from the fact that while Communism has always been nailing the 99 Questions constantly on the foreheads of flailing Capitalist economies, they have not managed to come up with an alternative that works!

Feed in folks!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Orhan Pamuk Trial

I wonder what is going to happen to Pamuk in December. I mean, we are back to the basics ... state intervention on a writer's freedom of speech. This is a blue-ribbon requisite article. Check it out.

While at it, check these links on Pamuk:

In the TIME MAGAZINE

Orhan Pamuk Home Page - Unofficial Website.

The RANDOM HOUSE Author's Page for ORHAN PAMUK

Umberto Eco in India

Also, while you are at it with the interview of this maverick man behind The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum and the god of interstices... check out the front page article about him in the same edition.

Will try and see if I could ever manage to write on this man. Just to think of it, it is a daunting task!

Fundamental States of Mind

I am referring to two articles here. Both on 19th Oct. Both in The Hindu (who with their dated leftist leanings and ornamental million dollar re-laid looks should actually change their name to something more appropriate to disown themselves as Hindu)! One is on Page 8 - Tamilnadu page I think - a newsitem shouting the tribute paid by irrelevant Tamil Groups, family pay homage to the Late Brigand Veerappan on his first death anniversary day. Another is on international page - about the Trial of Saddam Hussain.

I am amused, how in a country of democracy and freedom of speech how even self-styled fake Robin Hoods get iconised; how with just a swing of lingual and ethnic flavour things can take a heroic and iconic turn! And how in a so-called fundamental Islamic state State Heads (even if they be ex-) can turn villains. How Iraqis are indifferent to Saddam's fate. When I get free time am gonna analyse this phenomenon and post a proper blog.

Meanwhile, there is another issue I want to explore: the front page article on CBSE's latest attempt at Education for Dummies by waiving (over-looking is more politically correct, I s'pose) spelling errors in the 10th and 12th Board Exams (including subjects such as English Literature! Wah Huzoor...). Check The Hindu Metro Plus archives link for Oct. 19. Hilarious. CBSE is the ultiamte comedian!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Brace yourself!

What kind of a world do we live in? Oh, am not getting philosophical or frustrated ok! Am just asking.

This Sunday I had my usual workshop at Psbb KKNgr. And we have this empowerment circle talk to begin with. This is the 5th year. I believe the only way to get people and kids inhibited or introverted out of their shells and make them natural is to get them to talk. So we do this what happened during the last week in our lives or anything one came across that was interesting or different. And we ended up discussing the braces-culture. Three of the girls were on braces. It was pretty interesting to relate to their experience. So very different, yet braces on the upper teeth row. Also, very empathetically I can say, macabre for me to hear.

How stupid of parents to want to put their kids into braces in order to prevent kids from having bad teeth row, bad lip pout, etc etc... all the while the best preventive care we can take goes back to ages and stops with my generation of growing children. Just avoid things traumatic for teeth. This shows how uncaring parents are about kids these days. You can't spare time for them... but you fucked around to get them out to grow into kids... and you still fuck around uncaring of what they eat, what they do, where they hang around, who they hang out with, how they live or learn or study or grow. And suddenly some other parents had their kids into braces and that sounded the right thing, so these parents put them in too! Humbug.

I am going to do a whole lot of writing on this braces thing. And how the doctors make a killing out of this. And how the packaging market make a killing out of this commercial golden goose. Flourescent gums, Neon braces, swindling the people in the sacred name of preserving dentals! Shoot, fish, blimey!

Comment please, on what you feel about the braces culture.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Art, Abstract Art, Avant-garde!

Art to me is a survival skill. It is an extremist subterfuge of individual mind that revolts against the lack of aesthetic ways to project the internal rumbles of human existence in response to external happenings. Art tries to portray reality invariably. Even when it is the surrealist art of a painter such as Salvador Dali or the French cubists, symbolists, impressionists and pointilists, it has reality as its base.

Pointillism (note the DOUBLE LL), for the uninitiated, was a very brief movement that attempted to portray, paint or project everything on canvas through points... of various sizes and layers of clarity.
Getting back to reality! Art can reflect life... else where shall the mind take points of reference from? As much as man created god, man created and creates art. From what he knows best. Life. Hence any art is real. Like B.B.King said once about music. "There is no good music or bad music, there are only good performances or bad performances". How true!

A work at its root - whether existing and re-produced in the case of a theatrical presentation, or executed to its concreted reality on canvas or any projectable material that can hold the conception and ideas in a defined form in the case of a painting, sculpture, installation etc... is basically existent in the human mind before it can be translated for the view of others. So, it is abstract as long as it exists in the domain of the unseen, in the vast space of the conceiver's mind. Only its realisation is precise or unclear. Hence concrete or abstract. Hence, as a natural existence, good art or bad art. And thence, good artist or bad artist. When I say concrete I mean clarity. Even the so called abstrct art can be clear. The colours, the daubing, the sketching, the shades, the deliberate chaos of pastelling may look hazy that for people who are not focussed it may seem like un-sense. I use the word consciously as an apposite opposite to sense. If one delves into the history of abstractionism, it would become clear. I have been delving into this territory for more than 2 decades now and it neve ceases to amaze me as much as post-modern art.

Artists don't vegetate. They can't. They try to overcome the banality of our mundane existence and aspire to transcend to a higher level. Art can also be escapist when it becomes a vehicle for expression of their suppression or repression or smothered lives under political anarchy and fascism. A classic example is the way Abstract Art came into existence.

Abstraction in art is often misunderstood for modern art... or art that cannot be comprehended. The word "abstract" is the most profoundly misunderstood, misquoted, misused and misinterpreted word in human language. When one cannot understand, people conveniently term it abstract. Not fair, especially when given the rise, development and history of Abstract Art, which is sometimes made synonymous with the term "non-figurative" because there are no clear portraits or natural depiction or concrete form discernible.

Abstract one should understand is a deliberate act of disfiguring the concrete or the real or the formative. Why? Why would one deliberately disfigure? Because they cannot or are not permitted to express clearly what they want to. We shall not talk about representations that are inchoate (verbally) or illegible (in calligraphy) or improperly expressed (some conceptions are not yet ready to be expressed and people are in a hurry to say, or they don't have enough vocabulary to express thoughts too big for words yet) or badly painted. We are talking of any sort of subversion. To explain: a person who is infracting or infringing but smart enough to say only part of the actual, yet the information is basically correct and true and complete and satisfactory enough to the receiver. To elucidate and exemplify: The Pandavas act of saying "Ashwathama atho..." Before the actual true sentence could be completed, Krishna chooses to blow the conch so that the full sentence "Ashwathama the elephant is dead" falls in Drona's ear at "Aswathama... is dead". That is a finer level of subversion. In art, subversion is committed to express that point of view they want to, but will not be entertained or encouraged or would even lead to subjection. We know very well what happened to Antigone in the Greek Myth, don't we? We know what happened to Prometheus who dared to bring light unto mankind, don't we? And there are examples... So, art has to use subversions, subterfuges, artifices, conceit as a form of expressing itself. The people who are the intended targets always get to comprehend abstract art.

So where then could it have been born? It was born when suppression was born. At which point of human history did it achieve its height? During the turn of 19-20th century in France... at the birth of 20th century... during the Nazi regime. The Jews, the Poles and the Islamic community are pastmasters of Abstract Art. Because they are the most subjected race. Of course, the Jewish subjection goes back to Shakespeare and Elizabeth. I like Shakespeare's works as brilliant watershed for performance, but I disaver from his projection of his villains. Shylock: who portrayed him? Shakespeare the Christian. Caliban (I provide this specific link because it is an article closer home to my own politics of The Tempest by William Shakespeare): who created him? Shakespeare the Christian. But what Shakespeare himself moral? Was he not a fag? Did he not stoop to please Elizabeth and the authority? True portrayal of the negative would come from those who are of the same stock and have suffered and portray to show the angst and the pain and the effects thereof on them and on the related community or society or civilisation. So, Shakespeare is a villain who deliberately disfigured truth to his own ends. Shakespeare was a subvert. But we are digressing.

The Poles, the Jews, the Islamic. I would suggest you all to take a look at the Works of Joan Miro, Wassily Kandinsky, Kasimir Malevich, Jackson Pollock to get an idea of how varied Abstract in Art can be depicted, and yet with clarity. The moral of the story, as I conclude: to make clear to people who are confused about Abstract. I shall now proceed to do the same about Post-modernism, which is often confused as well.