Friday, October 29, 2004

Going away!

Me goes on holiday.

Will write posts again next thursday, 4th November, onwards.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The drift

And then the night, purple & jelly like, stirred. Do you remember the bats? Do the vultures return?

This world dissolving...limp happy bodies...the resonant strums...the droning calls of Satan...shadows that passed you by...silences that echoed...Pegasus...the stillness.

Do you remember marijuana?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The pill

SA, my roommate & close friend, has gone & twisted his neck. I asked him how did he manage it but he was not very sure. It could have been the game of badminton, but exactly what acrobatics on the court would potentially twist his neck like that, he did not know. It could have been the long hours he spends supine & otherwise on his kingsize bed, alone mind you, but then after twenty six years of proven expertise on the art of dormancy, that was unlikely too.

Whatever the reasons for this mysterious twist in the neck, he did not seem to like it a bit. He sat sadly watching the crocodiles on Animal Planet. He refused to play football. He started studying. All in all, he showed all signs of a man whom nature has dealt an unfair blow.

So he went and sought some professional advice. First, it was the barber. After giving him a really smart haircut, the barber, growing in confidence, held his head between his hands & said, "Nikaal doon kya?". Obviously, that would have been getting to the root of the problem; but for some reason, SA did not really seem very keen on the idea. I mean he is the kind of person who keeps his head under the most trying circumstance & this was but a trivial pain in the neck. So back he came with a just a massage, flashing his perfect set of thirty two, the massage having soothed him, for the time being.

However, the pain returned soon, the marsupials started jumping again on Animal planet, more refusal to kick the ball, & more serious contemplation on Business Communication. This time, he chose to see a doctor who, as most doctors do, gave him a pill.

This then, dear readers, was the moment of truth. With Neo-esque dilemma and a glassful of Bisleri, he looked all set to take the plunge; rather, plunge that pill down his throat. He proceeded to do so, shortly. With the pill just beyond his tonsils, just beyond recovery, it occurred to him that the pill, a muscle relaxing one, may not be able to figure out which muscle to relax!

A pain in the neck is bad enough. And roommates howling like a bunch of wild hyenas is not very comforting at eleven in the night. The last thing you want is a wrong muscle deciding to take it easy at the promising age of twenty six and a bit.

The wait was agonizing but SA was able to sleep through most of it. He woke up rather early, at nine in the morning. He bathed & pushed for office.

His limbs are fine, his eyeballs still doing the rounds, his jaws crunched away at the sandwich this morning.

I do not know if he will feel like playing football this evening, but I think I'll ask him.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

To die for...

The Encarta dictionary defines "Patriotism" as "Pride in or devotion to the country somebody was born in or is a citizen of".

Both pride and devotion are manifestations of our emotional selves and therefore, to be patriotic, we need to identify with the idea of a nation beyond the political boundaries that demarcate it. Myriad factors could contribute to this identification, but chief among these is, perhaps, a cultural commonality comprising language, religion and general ways of life which has stemmed from a shared historical memory. And very importantly, a measure of the strength of a culture is how absorptive it is of the inherent differences in it, in addition to being emphatic about its commonalities.

Two discerning aspects of this cultural commonality are that, for one, such a commonality is constantly in a state of flux, being redefined in a matter of decades; its underlying differences in continuous struggle with its commonality. Secondly, the strength of and belief in this commonality obscures a broad, rational, even humane, understanding of and respect for what lies outside. Both these factors are primarily responsible, at an emotional level beyond social, political and economic reasons, for the numerous wars that we have fought and for the fact that one country's terrorist is another's patriot and freedom fighter.

Historically, though not conceptually, patriotic fervour has claimed, and continues to claim, far too many lives.

I think that respect for and justice to human life should supersede patriotism.

It will also make history exams easier to pass.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The remembrance

You remember people many reasons; for leaving you isolated & drunk on lonely streets on a rainy day, for the absolutely inconsequential howdy mails they sent your way suddenly, for encroaching your hostel room for general orgies, for sharing their last cigarette with you in the middle of the night, for eyeing the same woman as you did, for letting you know what a incorrigible cocksucker you are, for their enthusiasm for a biriyani, for saying it with rotten eggs on your birthday.

You remember people for the way they made you feel.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The citizen

The four railway reservation counters at the Koramangala BDA complex were working to capacity. Mahalaya, demarcates the beginning of the festive season, & therefore the holiday season, here in India. There was a long queue of people waiting to get their tickets, some going home; others just going away. The serpentine waiting line terminated in four rows of chairs for the people to rest their tired legs & from there it was just going to the next chair & so on, until one reached one of the counters.

The final row almost always, without an exception, had its last chair, sometimes the last two, empty. The people who had already made it that far could not probably wait any longer & just ceased to keep on moving. They just wanted their chance at the counter. A lot of these people were formally attired, a few of them wore their jackets with the logo of the multinational company they worked for, & all of them seemed educated well enough to fill up reservations forms at the very least.

And yet, the fact that two empty chairs at the end of the last row of chairs simply meant two more pairs of tired legs awaiting a seat did not seem to strike a lot of us in that room.

Everyday, smart & intelligent executives do not take a few extra steps towards the ashtray to stub out their cigarettes in the smoking area of their swanky office buildings. Daily, at some shop, somebody barges past you to get his shopping done first.

Sometimes, I struggle to ask: "So, what is the country doing for us?"

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The friend

As everybody knows, I am going to Bilaspur this 30th to attend Atanu's wedding. I mean, it's only decent to show up, since we were in school together & while we may not have shared the same handkerchief to wipe our perennially running noses, he used to cycle more than five kilometers to play cricket with us on sunny afternoons. And those of you who have not experienced the world beyond the outer reaches of Bangalore have no idea what a Bilaspur summer is like. So if somebody cycled for five kilometers to play cricket with you on sunny afternoons, you draw your breath in sharply in raw admiration & show up for his marriage; even if it means that you have to go via Vishakhapatnam and that you do not have your favourite berth throughout the journey.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The secretary

Sir Humphrey: "Minister, I think there is something you perhaps ought to know."

Jim Hacker: "Yes Humphrey?"

Sir Humphrey: "The identity of the Official whose alleged responsibility for this hypothetical oversight has been the subject of recent discussion, is NOT shrouded in quite such impenetrable obscurity as certain previous disclosures may have led you to assume, but not to put too fine a point on it, the individual in question is, it may surprise you to learn, one whom you present interlocutor is in the habit of defining by means of the perpendicular pronoun."

Jim Hacker: "I beg your pardon?"

Sir Humphrey: "It was...I."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The prostitute

Recently, a news channel did a report on AIDS activists working towards spreading awareness among the sex workers in Sonagachhi, Calcutta. The coverage showed an activist talking to these ladies about HIV and the various aspects of preventing or minimizing the chances of the virus spreading. She also spoke of a quiz that will be held to gauge how much these ladies have understood the threats that AIDS poses. Funnily enough, she also went on to explain what 'quiz' meant describing the process in Baangla.

Following this, there were short interviews of a few of these ladies.

In general, the ladies spoke of various instances of their lives when they have had to dodge the onlooker a bit, so as not to arouse any suspicion.

However, what was striking about the narratives was the in-your-face honesty of the manner in which these stories they told. There was no pretence, no guilt whatsoever. Infact, most of them were told with a nice dash of humour & most of the women present laughed easily.

And I sit here in the air conditioned comforts of my office each day; struggling to strike a balance, rushing for covers.

Monday, October 11, 2004

The stills

Among the many insights, particularly into cinema, my close friend Vasant has given me, one has been about the separation of 'art' cinema from socio-political movie making, both of which, in common parlance, are categorized under parallel or art cinema. Without delving deep into the details of what are the traits that make up this separation, I should say that 'art' movies are just about aesthetic aspects of the world around us whereas socio-political movies are a commentary on various other panoramas of human behaviour and/or societal & political occurrences of our times. Socio-political movies, at certain level, have a message or an opinion, whereas 'art' cinema is an evocation of just our finer aesthetic side, more to do with the aspects of beauty and emotion than the faculties of values and reason.

About a week back, I started reading a book by Sergi Eisenstein by the name 'The film sense'. The first chapter is titled 'Word & Image' and essentially, to my mind, talks about this evocation, the trait that demarcates art cinema. This evocation is not limited just to cinema, per se, as Eisenstein himself points out. However, it is in the context of cinema that Eisenstein elaborates on this aspect of evocation.

We associate a theme with images. A clock is representative, for example, of time. So when we look at a clock, we do not see three arms circling about an axis; rather, we perceive time. Likewise, all that comprises memory are images; and the thought of a subject paints in our minds all of the images that we associate with that subject. And as human beings, a lot of these images, representative of a theme, are common to the memories of each one of us.

So as an art film maker, one's goal is to reproduce in the audience's mind, by juxtaposing images, the whole theme itself. Eisenstein goes a step further & says that not only the theme should be reached in the audience's mind but the path to this holistic realization of the theme should be relived by the audience, the way the artiste envisioned the theme by the means of her images. Therefore, its really an evocation, more of a journey than a mere destination.

A silent night. A sea drowned in its own vastness. Battleships silhouetted against starlight - These were images from Eisenstein's film "The battleship Potemkin". A perfect build up of anxiety; an illustration of a time fraught with fear and uncertainty, almost crawling; a shape of things to come.

The montage, whatever little I saw of it in "The battleship Potemkin", is potentially capable of rendering words useless. Its minimalist, breathtaking and true "art"!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The spark

I know nothing save things the birds have lost,
the sea I left behind, or my sister crying.
Why is the abundance of places?
Why does day lock with day?
Why the dark night swilling round in our mouths?
And why the dead?

: Excerpt from 'There is no forgetting' by Pablo Neruda

"Cogito, ergo sum" - I think, therefore, I am.

: Rene Descartes.

Creativity, for the sake of simplicity, could be defined as a coming together of hitherto unrelated truths to arrive at a new one.

To pick the simplest of examples, then, depicting bereavement (#1 truth) as falling leaves during autumn (#2 truth) is a poetic instance of creativity.

This new created form also need not be just be a manifestation of one aspect of the many traits of human behaviour. So a poem which stirs our emotions is just as creative an endeavour as Einstein's theory about frames of reference. Allowing for certain exceptions, a creative idea is not something you & I did not know or could not have arrived at ourselves; rather, it is something we did not think about in a certain way.

To my mind, there are at least two discernible factors that contribute, at the level of the individual, to creativity:

To connect hitherto unconnected truths, first of all, one needs to know the truths. An obvious extrapolation of this is a will to assimilate these truths. The more the channels of information, the more the propensity of utilizing this will to its potential. And in the world that we live in today, there is no dearth of these channels. So the limiting factor, in a lot of cases, is the will. We must realize that knowledge is an investment worth making and that it need not necessarily be connected to tangible, commercial gains in the short run. To nurture our creative selves, we must feed it knowledge, as extensive and as diverse as possible.

The second aspect of this matter is to arrive at the new truth using the gamut of truths one has assembled. Obviously, one does not know of a selection criteria which will guide us in choosing certain truths over others which, by our definition at the beginning of this post, will combine into a new creative truth. For the simplification of matters therefore,

Creativity = a particular permutation of the set of all truths known to an individual

How does one, then, arrive at this particular permutation?

To my mind, there are no definite answers to that question. Deviating from the topic for a moment, if we choose to look at the more limited domain of problem solving, we will realize that, in this case, we have an idea of what the left hand of the creativity equation looks like i.e. what is the solution or the 'creative truth' we wish to arrive at. Obviously, creativity, per se, is much broader an idea than problem solving. But if it is possible to channelize ones creative ideas toward a goal, however broad, it at least gives us a some kind of a workable space.

Secondly, the brain is at its thinking best at certain times. And these times are not one of anger, anxiety or tension, in general. Observing closer still, we can deduce what are really the 'creative times' for each one of us? Is it music, or relaxing walks, or wide open spaces that brings our brains to that optimal state for connecting diverse truths giving rise to a new one?

And ultimately, we need the creative attitude of curiosity, of seeking.

"Look upon the evening as the death of the day; and upon the morning as the birth of all things. Let every moment renew your vision. The wise man is he who constantly wonders afresh."

-Andre Gide

Also, creativity is an aspect of our lives each day. We assimilate and connect truths all the time, a lot of times without really knowing it. Pablo Neruda got a Nobel prize for being creative, but if you can make that child smile..... thats not bad at all!