Wednesday, February 18, 2015

                               SATYAJIT RAY - THE ULTIMATE FEMINIST
Youtube is a veritable source for discovering all that you thought was gone a long time ago; I recently discovered a few songs that I had probably seen once on Chitralahari from what seems like eons ago, and there seemed no hope of retrieving those. Youtube also has almost every Satyajit Ray movie (from his body of roughly 30 films) in HD, some of them even in Blue Ray disc quality. Quite a few of them feature English subtitles, though I have been trying to watch them (started this ritual two weekends ago) without seeing the subtitles (basically trying to brush up my Bengali, you see!).
I think Satyajit Ray's 'urban' movies are vastly superior to his attempts at portraying rural milieu - something he personally thought Ritwik Ghatak did far better than him. Most of his movies involve male protagonists; in fact the only ones that involve a female protagonist (that I can recall) are Charulata and Mahanagar.  However, his male protagonists inevitably encounter a pivotal moment with a female character, and this encounter forms the crux, the punchline of the story. Ray's subtlety in handling this crucial juncture showcases his complete mastery of the craft of cinema. In fact, I think there is NO filmmaker in the world who has a parallel body of work, particularly in the portrayal and understanding of women.

Charulata is based on a Tagore short story of a lonely housewife of a rich man, who develops non-platonic feelings for her husband's cousin brother. For a movie that came out in the early 60s, it is to Ray's great credit that he makes the viewer empathetic to the woman's situation, and not dismiss her feelings as immoral.

Prathidwandi, Seema Baddha, and Jana Aranya (translated as The Adversary, Company Limited, and the Human Jungle - the last one is the more accurate translation though the last title is often translated as The Middleman) are considered his Calcutta trilogy. I haven't seen Prathidwandi; probably this weekend. A fourth addition is his Aranyer Din Ratri (Days and Nights in the Forest).

Seema Baddha
is about this smart, ambitious, well educated, and sophisticated executive at an international company who eyes a coveted directorship in the company. When he encounters a technical problem that could potentially jeopardize his career slant, he creates a fake story about union unrest, and even engineers a bomb going off in the factory to buy time to settle the technical problem. His bosses are pleased with his 'outside the box thinking' and he gets the coveted post. But it comes at a cost.

Jana Aranya is the story of a young graduate who decides to be a businessman instead of trying to find a job working for someone else. He learns that it is far easier to be a middleman rather than make something originally. Again, he comes across a situation where a large consignment, if approved would change his social and economic standing as a businessman. However, the procurement officer who needs to approve of the consignment has some requirements of his own. The protagonist is torn if he should indulge in this middleman business which he likens to the life of a pimp. Finally, after much thought he decides to go ahead, and agrees to do what he abhors, and lands the contract. Again, this comes at a cost.

Mahanagar starts off with a man losing his (bank) job, and so, to make ends meet,  his wife is forced to look for employment. She lands a job and very soon impresses her boss with her efficiency and sincerity. As her boss decides to promote her, and also employ her husband in the company at a commensurate position, an event (that quite does not relate to her personally) makes her question her boss' integrity, and she quits her job. Of course, the couple are now back on the streets searching for jobs now.

In each of these three stories, the fate of the protagonist's socio-economic (rise/fall) is contrasted with his(her) moral/ethical defeat-in-the-face-of-victory/victory-in-the-face-of-defeat. In Seema Baddha the protagonist through his questionable actions falls in the eyes of his sister-in-law (wife's younger sister) a person he likes and admires. In Jana Aranya, the middleman is faced with the distasteful task of literally being a pimp and providing the procurement officer with pleasurable female company. After much searching when he finally finds a woman, it turns out to be his best friend's sister. The protagonist offers to pay her but beseeches her not to continue with this degrading task. She turns that down saying this was her profession, and it was as much her choice as the pimping was his; the moment he had compromised on his ideals and decided to go ahead with what he regarded an unpleasant task, he had already sold out, so the act of 'saving' her smacked more of hypocrisy than moral uprightness. The only protagonist who comes off unvanquished by the corrupt forces of modern urban society is in fact the woman who refuses to work for a man who maligns the character of a coworker simply because she was 'of a particular type'.

In fact, in all the three cases, the woman is Ray's moral center. The man is a weaker species in his universe. Who else would make Kapurush (The Coward) casting his favorite Soumitra Chatterjee as the eponymous protagonist? The protagonist, a now-successful writer has a chance encounter with a forest officer when his vehicle has a breakdown, and learns that the forest officer's wife was his ex-girl friend with whom he had to break off because he had yet established himself. When he tries to woo back his ex girlfriend, she dismisses his advance; after all he was a coward when she wanted him to be 'a man'. His Nayak is actually the nayika, the compassionate journalist who pities the man for all that he has reduced himself to, and passes on the juicy story that could have changed her career trajectory. The heroine (for she is truly one) in Aranyer Din Ratri deliberately loses in the 'memory game' to the protagonist when she senses that his self esteem is fully invested in his winning the game, a game she was a master at, a game where she could recall the memory sequence long after they have moved on.  Even in his movies where the female characters are not primary in any sense, they are the compassionate, humane, and morally upright characters, while his men have been beaten down by the tides of unrelenting moral corruption. Or at the very least, the only character to see the abject reality is a woman; in Shatranj Ke Khiladi, the Shabana Azmi character regrets that it was a better time when her husband sought the courtesan's place; after all, he then seemed to care about something rather than his current state of delusion and apathy.

In fact the only movie in which the woman is NOT his strongest character is Devi (The Goddess). But then it is more of a lament on how Indian society has imprisoned the woman with a false sense of elevation to the status of Goddess, a position from where she can only look helplessly and not actually do anything, despite her earnest desire to intervene.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Lesson

As Anu kept herself pretty much occupied with her dance practice for the (then) forthcoming program, I had to, on many occasions, wait a while at the dance studio for the dance group to call it a day as I went to pick her up. I usually left my office a good 15-20 minutes after she would call to tell me they were 'finishing up' because their definition of 'finishing' involved a unit of time quite different from the ones we are familiar with on earth. But there still were occasions when my delay made little difference.

On one such occasion, I arrived at the studio, with my calculated delay and all, and found to my dismay that they were still a couple of items from packing up. I tried keeping myself occupied but my patience soon bore out, and I decided to take a little walk by the hillside.

The hillside is indeed what the surroundings were, as the dance studio was located pretty much at the foothill of the San Gabriel mountains. A 20-minute walk was all it took to actually reach trail-heads up the mountains, and a 10-minute walk would get you to a place from whence taking one further step northward would mean scaling an inclination of at least 30 degrees.

I decided not to go towards the hills because the place is full of bears and I had no intention of running into one of them today; I chose instead to just amble about with a much simpler goal: avoid the main road which sees a little bit of traffic. My aimless perambulation presently brought me to a park where I saw lots of parents with their toddlers. I picked a quiet bench, seated myself, and began leafing through the paper I was reading. Not too far to my left, on another bench, was a young man - probably in his 40's - reading 'Boeing Magazine', and occasionally glancing sidewards at a group of kids who were playing nearby. Perhaps his kids were part of that group...

Soon enough, one of the toddlers - a kid who looked about 5 years of age - came towards his father with red blubbery eyes.

"What happened, sport?"
"S___ (I couldn't catch the name as it was overpowered by his weeping) won't show me her painting, daddy!"
"I wanted to see what she was painting but she closed the book as I tried to look." Some more sobbing. "She won't even show it a little bit!"
"Well, so, why don' t you go a make a painting yourself?"
"But I want to see her painting, daddy!"

The father had taken his son onto his lap now.

"Hmm...Is that the only thing that would make you happy now?"

The kid did not answer but nodded assent. He seemed pretty sure of what he wanted!

"Well, champ, since the painting is hers, she gets to decide who she wants to share it with. If she wants to share it with you, she will, and if not, you don't get a say there".
"This is a very important thing to learn, champ. There will be plenty of occasions when you do not have a say in what is going to happen to you - that decision might be in the hands of someone else. But if you decide that your happiness (as is the current situation) is dependent on that someone else being favorable to you, then there will be several occasions when you will have to be unhappy."

"And that is not a smart thing to do at all - letting your state of happiness be decided by someone else! "

The kid had stopped sobbing now, though his eyes were still red and moist.

" There are several other beautiful things all around you. Look at all of that, learn to appreciate all that is around you. Then even if you don't get one of the things you want, you could be happily doing something else. Later, perhaps, your friend would come around and show you her painting herself. "

The sun was sinking steadily. The young father picked up his son and began walking out of the park, and their words grew fainter as they moved farther away.

" By the way, do you see that little bird by the roses? "
" Yes. "
" Can you see it hovering? "
" What is 'hovering'? "

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The 'Touch of God'

I deem it necessary to start off with a disclaimer that this post of mine is not based on any religious experience. Nor have I suddenly `realized' anything after turning one year older; on the contrary, I have not had any experience that might have prompted a write up of this sort; it's just that this material has been simmering in my head for a while and here it is. As always, mere musings but on a topic that many might consider me profoundly unqualified to write about.

Having said all that, here goes.

I have often been asked about my theist leanings. Primarily so from the more openly religious members of my (extended) family, quite often with an assessment that I must be atheist or agnostic because I show no signs of inclination towards any form of religion.

One of the principal reasons for the aforementioned is the fact that I make no secret my belief that religion does not explain nature. There are several people who believe in the religious lessons, parables, other mythical tales, only too literally and deeply believe in things like Moses parting the Red Sea, Jesus rising up from the dead, God creating Adam and Eve, and so on. Closer home, the Ram janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue comes strongly to one's mind; many people strongly held onto the belief that the disputed piece of land was the actual birthplace of Rama.

The perspective that most atheists hold argues against the `need for God' to explain these phenomena. The argument goes thus: Primitive cultures invented God to explain everything they couldn't do otherwise. With time, God became another (probably the most powerful) tool to control large groups of people and in fact continues to do so today. As scientific explanations of the many natural phenomena became increasingly well understood, the `need for God' started to diminish and slowly vanish.

Since Christianity (in particular) has been (and unfortunately in many pockets, continues to be) so openly antithetic of most things scientific (there is quite a bit of documentation of many things the Vatican did to suppress scientific thought), the argument offered by the rationalists is quite strong and well substantiated.

In this regard, Hinduism (and more so, the eastern religions) seems rather different since it really doesn't seek to explain nature through the entity called God. There is of course a category of people who believe that Hinduism explains evolution too but that group of pseudo-scientists is a small proportion. To the majority, God and Faith are more or less synonymous terms. Indeed, the notion of faith is paramount when one wishes to understand the underpinnings of any religion. But Hinduism propounds that the notion of faith is something more abstract than it seems, i.e., you could very well believe in the theory of evolution and there is no contradiction with your religious beliefs.

The level of abstraction in the notion of complete faith (as espoused in Hindu philosophies) is something that comes across as a mix between something ideal and impractical. The kind of unflinching faith I'm talking about here is the kind that is often glorified in many a parable - the story of Prahalad's devotion towards Narayan, the story of Kannappan, and also more modern ones like the life of saint Thyagaraja, Meera,... - the list is really endless here.

But there seems to be a form of faith that people readily believe; few people would dismiss as ludicrous the notion of love, despite the fact that this has as little rational basis. What exactly is love? Most people of course do experience liking, fondness, infatuation, obsession, lust and extreme desire, respect etc. Are these emotions what we might call love? Most people here would seem to agree that love is `beyond all this' (though I am not sure they understand what they might mean by it). But very few people are skeptical to the notion of love.

Hinduism does at several points emphasize that God is Love. Thus if you believe in the notion of love, you are already a theist. And love possesses a fundamental element of irrationality to it, almost by definition. Love, as defined in the `ideal sense' is described as something that only `increases' towards the object of love. It logically follows that love has no material basis (or in fact, any rational basis) since the decrement of the material variable (if there were one) would contradict the assumption that the love cannot decrease. This also explains (in a rational manner), the quotation, ` Love is Blind'.

Thus the Hindu perception of God becomes a purely emotional expression. But what does it mean to say you believe in God? It sounds tautological to say you have `belief in belief'. In real terms, it means that one believes that absolute faith in this notion of absolute faith/trust/love can offer a glimpse of an emotional response that cannot be simulated by earthly means. In other words, if you do believe in God then you believe that the 'God experience' is real, i.e., not something artificially simulated.

The definition of the 'God experience' is again a very vague one - in fact, it seems to have no definition at all. This is a heuristic explanation of the saying `God is omnipresent' - you can experience the God feeling in the most mundane of places.

I'll quote a few instances of what I think could count as the 'God experience' or the 'Touch of God' (ToG) ranging from popular fiction to some real accounts. I am also not going to get into the accounts/narratives from well known sources in Hindu philosophy/mythology/biographies of saints and so forth. These narratives are in fact far from dramatic, and to me, the lack of drama here actually emphasizes my point.

My mom once narrated to me one very interesting incident. She often visits a temple close to our house in Hyderabad. She has also often indulged in vows of various sorts like fasting over certain periods of time, abstaining from one of her favorite foods, and so on - as a sign of resoluteness - when she feels troubled by something, and when she has a strong conviction that her steadfastness in maintaining her vow would solve the problem she was confronting. On this occasion, she debated mentally if she should give up eating the banana fruit, a fruit she has always liked. But her personal liking for the fruit made it that much harder to make that vow, so she decided to `leave that decision to God'.
What this meant was the following: The temple usually offers a small offering or prasadam - usually some kind of food, pieces of fruit, nuts and so on, usually a fistful - every day after the evening prayers. My mom decided that if the prasadam included a piece of banana, she would take this as a sign from God that she would not have to give up on her favorite fruit, and conversely no banana meant she ought to go ahead with this vow.
It seemed like she approached the prasadam counter with extreme trepidation and it turned out, the prasadam that day did not have any bananas in it. As she prepared to leave the temple some stranger came up to her and placed a banana in her hand and left.

The second instance I quote refers to one of the interviewees in the documentary 'Religulous' by Bill Maher. This man walked into a bar keen on spreading the word or God and whatnot, and soon seemed to have gotten on the barman's nerves who asked him to leave. When he finally said he only wanted a drink, he was apparently asked to go out and `ask God' for it. And just as the man walked out, it apparently started raining.

The third reference is an incident from a piece of fiction and I am sure quite a few would be surprised that I have decided to narrate a piece off this popular film. The situation involves two hit men, Jules and Vincent, who while on one of their 'missions' come face to face with another man with a gun who empties it at them at point blank range. Somehow not one bullet hits either hit man.

Do any of these qualify as events that exhibit the ToG? The point here - and this is the crux of my argument - is that it does not matter what you or I think about it. What matters is only what the person who experienced it, felt.

As far as I know, my mother was in a state of tizzy for a while and it took her quite a while to get back to 'feeling normal'. She had experienced happiness, joy, thrill, excitement and a whole gamut of other emotions in her life but this seemed like something that seemed to defy categorization. To me, that sounds as much a ToG as any other.

As for the other two sources I quote, the man in the bar seemed to be positively thrilled that God had come to his rescue and had upheld his faith. He went a little speechless while recounting this incident.

The narrative from the movie of course makes it easier for us to classify since one of the hit men claims he was touched by God and decides to give up on his profession of being a hit man starting that very moment. It is irrelevant whether he stood by it or not but that moment made him reconsider everything.

The reason I have picked these narratives among the countless many here is that there are bound to be others who don't think these are miracles by any stretch of imagination. The fictitious Vincent is convinced that all that happened was a freak accident and that his partner had suddenly decided to `be a bum'. Bill Maher could not resist commenting that this chap's threshold for miracles was pretty low and that he might have been more impressed had it rained beer. Regarding my mother's experience, there may be some here who might consider that a very interesting incident but no `miracle'.

As to the question of believing the ones who felt they had the ToG, I personally think I believe that these incidents did provide the recipients an experience of a wholly different nature because the reactions from them are not characteristic of them. The man in the church couldn't stop talking throughout the interview but at the point he described the rain....he just went speechless for a few minutes. As my mom narrated this incident to me over the phone she seemed calm and ready to hear me dismiss it as just an interesting incident. Normally she gets very defensive of her beliefs when I try to play it down and tries to present an argument that would put her experience in new perspective but this time, she just didn't; she didn't want to , she didn't need to. Anything I said would not have mattered because she had that experience and that was enough.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Last evening (7 Feb., 2008), I was intimated of the demise of a gentleman, a Mr. Koteshwara Rao in Hyderabad. He is survived by his wife, and had no issues.

However, no words can express the loss experienced by 'his children', myself being one among those. And most certainly, the article to describe the man ought to be 'The'.

I was one among the many fortunate ones to have had him as a teacher. In our student lives during classes 11 and 12, anyone and everyone considering the prospects of an IIT education was invariably attracted to the buzzword -"Ramaih". When I first joined 'the institute', the buzz word amongst the students before the first day of classes was Koteshwara Rao - Koti for short.

The word 'Koti' refers to 'one crore' - 10 million. But men like Koti are fewer than that; he is one in hundreds of millions.
To us, Koti was not just a man; nay, he represented to us a certain way of thinking, expressing, and feeling. Above all, he breathed math like we wanted to. The passion for math that he exuded was what drove us to the institute at odd hours, or made even 2 hour lectures seem a short time while he was in flow. His meticulous approach to drilling certain notions into our heads (which might also involve a little thrashing if need be!) has had an everlasting effect. My parents and sisters were in awe of the man simply because I couldn't stop talking about him once I got back home from the institute. How wonderfully, one man could influence a young kid! I was forever waiting for his next class, the next lesson, his sermon...

And the man did teaching like no one else I have seen in all these years. To date, he has been the best teacher I have ever had, and I doubt if that is ever going to change. His teaching was sublime, the material profound, and yet, he was talking to mere teenagers and holding their rapt attention for hours on end!

Koti had a wonderful sense of humor, and was wonderfully well versed in English and Telugu. His sarcasm laden taunts kept us in splits during class, and yet, the moment he got serious, we would be terrified. Not because his words stung; it was because a scolding from him isolated us from him, mentally. And no student of Koti, who wore that badge proudly ever wanted that. The thought of alienating him was petrifying.

While the man was extremely simple, and humble, his act in class made it super cool to be a math person. Quoting something he said on many an occasion, " A mathematician has the right to be arrogant!" And there was that definite swagger in his attitude to problem solving, something only he could pull off so beautifully. To us, there was no problem beyond the man. There had been several occasions when he would stop a very involved discussion mid-sentence saying, "But this is for mathematicians, not mere IIT scholars!!", and that had led me to the strong belief that a math degree is what I had to do; I wanted to pursue math even while I was in high school, but Koti's influence on me clinched the deal.

While my own fortunes with the IIT were not satisfactory, I did join the ISI, and that has led me to where I am today, culminating in what I always wanted to do. Koti's influence on me has had no mean share in all of this.

I personally believe my teaching is modeled heavily on his own style. Why, I guess even the twirls in my cursive handwriting are most likely influenced by his beautiful, artistic strokes on the board. And I am not the only such; there are hundred of us.

Alas, there are only hundreds of us, and only hundreds will it remain. One of my deepest regrets is that I couldn't make a visit to see him one last time. He might have been very happy to meet me. As he would have been on meeting with any of his students.

No amount of my writing here can describe his achievements, even describe his influence on me fully. When I got the news of his demise yesterday, I secretly hoped this was a rumor (there had been one a little while ago just before he underwent a major bypass surgery). I was even hoping all this would be debunked and that we could all get back to our mundane lives. But that was not to be; the news report in Eenadu with a few pictures confirmed the worst.

The lump in my throat is probably accentuated by the fact that I can never see him again and thank him for all that he has done in shaping my personality. My salutations to the great man. You Sir, are the only one of your kind.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Question: ?
At a bus stop:
A: "Excuse me , but don't you recognize me?"
B: "Do I know you?"
A: "Don't you remember me at all?"
B: "Can you refresh my memory in some way?"
A: "Don't you remember last year around this time?"
B: "Can you add something more?"
A: "Were you not at Navy Pier at the fair?"
B: "Which fair are we talking about?"
A(sarcastically): "How many fairs are there at navy Pier?!"
B: "Do you mean the book-signing one?"
A: "What else do you think I was referring to?!!"
B: " ...and you were...there..?"
A: "Do you remember a fat guy in the line ahead of you?"
B: " The one all were making fun of?"
A(beaming): "And do you remember what you said to him?!"
B: " guy..?"
A(exasperated): "Do you remember what you called him?"
B: "Is that going to help me here?"
A(animatedly): "Don't you remember someone seconding you?!!"
B: "You mean, the one who also called him a....?!!"
A(beaming strongly): "How's it going?!!"
B: "Are you okay now?"
A: "What do you mean?"
B: "Didn't that fat guy pummel you that day?"
A(a little scowl on his face): "WHAT?!!"
B: "Didn't that guy assume you were the one who said everything to him that evening?"
A: "Why would you say that?"
B: "Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that what cut short the book signing that evening?"
A: "Are you sure you remember me correctly?"
B: "Didn't I see you limping a little later?"
A: "WHAT?!!"
B: "Was that not politically correct?"
A: "What's wrong with you?!!"
B: "Did I exaggerate?"
A: "Are you trying the same trick you tried that evening again now?"
B: "Are your testicles all intact now?"
A(Red in the face): "GOD, why did I have to find this nut of all people from that night?!!"
B: "Are you praying now?"
A(getting irritated): "Now you're all innocent, is it?!"
B: "Why are you getting angry?"
A(enraged): "Are you now suggesting to me how I should react when a moron such as you is spewing the kind of nonsense you are now?"
B: "Can you repeat the question?"
A(fuming wild): "Are you trying to make a joke here?!"
B: "Why would I do that with a perfect stranger?!"
B(ignoring A): "Hey, isn't that my bus?"
B(preparing to leave): "So, when are we meeting again?"

Wasn't that odd?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Of Cats and Dogs

It is often the case that two people in a chummy relationship come across the first occasion when their points of view diverge. Sometimes this separation is apparent and both can see it coming. But sometimes it can spring upon them like a cat on hot bricks.

Now in this latter situation, what with the divergence being so sudden, a debate of sorts can emanate. And as any good debater will tell you, it is not what you are debating about but how you do so that matters. So oftentimes, we come across really heated debates between two really good friends on topics that range from the idealogical (" 'I think men are smarter than women', 'Certainly not!' "), political (" 'The Democrats are the best hope for our country', 'Of course not!' ") personal (" 'I don't think you should meet that %^*$% anymore', 'What do you mean?! I will!' ") and sometimes even going into bizarre territory (" ' Mammooty (The Malayalam star actor) is a big pidingi ', 'You don't know what you are talking about!', 'Oh, so you think he isn't?!!', 'Of course not! I know he is!! But you are prejudiced in saying so!!!'").

This afternoon I had a debate with a very good friend of mine of the contrary gender as my own. This friend and I normally see eye to eye on many issues and so it was a bit of a surprise to me that she and I seemed like antipodes on this particular topic. So different were our points of view that the debate ended nowhere.
But let me add that this debate did not lead to a dog- cat fight of any sort.
Into what category would this classify? Well, it touched upon an ideology, is in some sense personal, and could well be rated bizarre by most. So let me not put a tag to it; I'd rather let you decide.

Now I am quite the pet lover. Actually to be accurate, I am not your rabid, raving pet lover. I am simply not averse to the idea of having a reasonable (and by reasonable, I mean a properly sized, domesticable, and cute mammal) pet at home. Of course this description could have been more tersely reduced to saying 'a dog or a cat'.

Between these two, somehow my preference lies with the cat. To me, there is something more likeable about the cat. Before the dog lovers come after me with a hunting crop, let me explain: while i certainly do like dogs, i just think i would prefer having a cat. A cat somehow embodies a strong sense of independence. Cats don't like being petted against their will, are not needy animals in the sense that they don't crave human attention, are less messy, easier to maintain, eat and poop less, and are in short, low-maintenance.
I told my friend that at one point of time, i had a plan to have 3 cats for company. She visibly winced.
She seemed to be more of a dog-lover. That is alright; after all, we all have our preferences. But a few seconds later came a more candid statement from her:
"It's not that i really like dogs either; its just that i dislike cats!"
From a person who possesses several cat-like features, this admission seemed a little too ironic. Was it dislike or general disinterest? My curiosity was aroused like that of the proverbial cat.
" Well, to be frank, I hate cats! The darned animals!!"
Now this was taking it a step too far. Not only did she clarify that her position was not misunderstood, she now opted to take the extreme end opinion leaving no room for any doubt whatsoever.
usually such an extreme reaction is correlated with a strongly experienced bad experience, especially as a kid. Was there any such....?
"Well, not really...Somehow i have never liked these things at all!"
Now her language cast the cat from the status of 'darned animals' to 'these things'! i had to intervene. If anything, i had to bring it back to the status of 'darned animal'.
Now one method in advertising that works most of the time, is to emphasize upon the positive aspects of the product that is being endorsed. Now i really don't think of cats as particularly useful animals though there was this one time when a pesky, over-animated kid was terrorized by my sister's cat, Mo. Nothing else seemed to control the kid other than the thought of otherwise spending some time with Mo as his sole companion.
The mention of this somehow did the argument no good. If anything it made matters worse! For now my friend seemed to sympathize particularly with the kid. Mo now really appeared to have become Mogambo.
Realizing that i was barking up the wrong tree, i decided to change tactics and now move from the specific to the generic. After all, who can resist a cat that comes looking to be stroked?! a cat brushing against us with its tail upwards and its raised head, waiting, nay, asking to be petted?! or its cute purring? and.....
" Oh that is another thing i hate about the darned animal! It comes suddenly acting so cute and all that!"
another jolt from out of the blue. But at least we were back to the 'darned animal'. But it now seemed like the idea of neutering all the cats of the world (no more cats!) would have appealed to her immensely. This had to be neutralized.
In a manner that might have done the ancient Egyptians proud (well, not really), i rallied in favor of the feline but the female seemed equally strong in her opinion. Soon one thing seemed pretty clear:
My friend + a cat = Catastrophe !

One thing however transpired. It appeared she was spooked by cats for some reason and i think Hollywood and Bollywood have their share of blame in all this. What's up with equating cats with devils and witches and all that?!! The cat has suffered at the hands of these people for way too long! It also has to fight the tag of being a selfish being, as opposed to a dog which is all faithful and man-friendly! Ahaa! its all to do with man and being man-friendly! A cat wishes to live life by its terms and suddenly it is an embodiment of evil!

The day did end with both sides (mine and hers) not relinquishing their stands.

But there is still hope for the cat. I do believe that one day the cat will capture a place in her heart when she sees the cat in the manner i do. and why do i have this hope? because i believe that one good example can change one's mind. She isn't an unreasonable person. I said this aloud.
She believes such a thing (namely, a cat wooing her) is not possible but i reminded her that stranger things have happened. After all, a couple of months ago, the two of us were perfect strangers living half the world away from each other and in a couple more months or so, we would be husband and wife! if that is possible, so is anything!!

As John Cleese once said ('Fawlty Towers'), Long live the cat! Hurrah for the cat!!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

An interesting blog I 'saw'......

" ' Well, this nice gentleman handed me this pad and requested that I write him something, anything. Why me?! and anything?! wow!
'What could i write about?! really?! '
'for starts, i feel good today, pretty good! .......'
'hmmm.....write something, write something nice....'

' Well, one of my friends, this Indian guy (i'll spell his last name for you - really long one: Balacahanadaran!) who i knew from my college days just dropped by to say hello and just gave me this book to read; It is a collection of Indian mythology tales...well, they have so many gods there, i guess you couldn't simply say "O Lord!", without creating a traffic jam of sorts in the heavens above!'
'anyway, the first story goes that there was once a king called Hiranya who wished to be absolutely invincible. So through severe penance and meditation, he acquired a boon that he could not be killed during day or night, by a human being or animal, and neither inside a house or outside it.'
'that sounds pretty airtight, right? And yet as the story moves on, you get to see how there is manner of death that beats all these clauses, totally counter-intuitive!'
'boy, this is wonder Indians are taking away all our jobs, they have been exposed to this kind of complicated stuff right from childhood....weird stuff......'
' i should write something about myself? hmmm....write something about myself?'

'I was born in Dayton, Ohio. I went to the Ohio State University during my under-graduation, landed myself a job, a couple of years ago. life is good, pretty, pretty good!'
'I was going to be an engineering major, majoring in mechanical engineering at one point but later i changed my major to Math. many tried to change my mind saying i was nuts to do that, but today i have the last laugh.'
'I remember having had an Indian TA in one of the quarters there for, let me see, Math 152, it was. I guess. Funny sort of chap, has always been a very big help to me. His last name? It went like Balahacadaran - i am not sure though if i've spelled it right though i could pronounce it correctly. its been a while since i met him now... he used to joke about his last name saying it was more or less, a maze to many people! but he then said that one way out of it was this: if in doubt about the next letter, throw in an 'a'!!'
' I later landed myself an actuarial job. Its pretty interesting...'
'What more should i say about myself? say about myself.....'

'say about myself? well, i'd rather write since you have the benefit of being able to assort your thoughts and not keep writing vacuous drivel. While in college, i knew an Indian guy - he was my TA, Mr. Balacadaharan. He used to chide some of us for writing long sentences without purpose... I've learned from him that it is important you write in precise terms because if you don't keep things terse and to the point, then most of the time people reading what you write won't know where you are heading after where you've started. that is silly.'
'well, i'm feeling good, pretty, pretty, pretty good.'
'huh, that isn't much; i'll collect my thoughts and write something concrete about myself, now...'

'Something concrete about myself?well, for starts, I'm feeling good, pretty pretty good!'
'well, i work for an insurance firm. the pay is good and just last year, i married this amazing woman, Cynthia. Life has been great all the while and i couldn't have a better life as such...well, there are some ups and downs....sometime back (can't recollect when exactly), i had this car accident. well, i'm covered in all sorts of ways, so no problem with the medical bills! the car was totaled though. Cynthia? well, god knows where she is right now, i wonder whats keeping her...'
'maybe i could write some more a while later, maybe after she gets here...'

'Cynthia? why would she come here to my office? doesn't she have work to do?'
'this is a hospital? why?! i feel pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good! i can't recall ever having been sick or anything, except this one time i had a car accident. did i ever mention that? i had this huge accident, hurt my head apparently. Cynthia, my wife was with me at the time. I can't recall as such, what happened after that...'
'anyways, whats this whole thing here? have I written all this?! i hardly think so!! this must be one of those April Fool jokes...that's it, shall do this writing, no more...'
'writing no more, just signing off here...'

Sammy Jankis "