Saturday, March 29, 2008

The ends of love - Dance Drama

The Ends of love is a dance drama commissioned by the the Stuat Pimsler Dance & Theater group. Staged at The Ritz, across the Mississippi, on University & 13th Ave NE, what amused me to start with was the composition of the audience. With the exception of me, it was all white. And there were two distinct age groups in there. One, college students. And the other, elderly people. You could count the number the people between ages 25 to 45 on your fingers.

Having said that, the performers were actually a wonderful mix of people - mostly white, but it did have a couple black artists, & a Brazilian. The story, if you do not follow the theater scene to all its nuances, is broadly about the various aspects of being in & out of love - rejection, possession, tiffs, battle-of-the-sexes & all such ways that love manifests in. Nothing all that new there. What really made the show worth the time & money (22 USD, general seating), were the dances, & the trifle arrhythmic & somehow still temporal music.

If you're interested in the aesthetics of human movement, you'll not be disappointed. Some of the movements were absolutely feline, some a byword on levitation, a reversals of roles where women carried the men, a climbing upon some two silken apparels that hung from the ceiling, tangling & disentangling, & then a fall back to the stage - with the two strands of silken apparel twining around the falling man.

The separation of men & women & the futile attempts to become again a part of a cogent whole was probably the best piece of the show. It goes from a classic one man show to a frenzy of arms, legs & bodies- together but not united; they each had their own singular focus, they all moved together, they all moved the same way but they could not form a communion - & the consequent pain of not being part of a more meaningful whole came across wonderfully.

It is a very difficult medium to tell a story, & my own cultural distance made it even more difficult to grab the nuances; however, the wonderful thing about all of this is that across the world the broad commonalities of expression & feeling are about the same - & a dance, more than text, falls back on such shared & very basic commonalities.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Listening to NPR - Indra Nooyi

I heard the interview of Indra Nooyi on NPR yesterday. It was a replay of a BBC interview recorded earlier. Engaging as it was, there were many fascinating things Nooyi said that do not quite ring true to my ears. She was insistent on how everybody across the world, India included, has always loved America & continues to do so. She alluded briefly to how people are able to separate people from policies & while American policies were not something she was going to discuss as the CEO of Pepsi, she had no doubt that this was indeed the case.

The incredible interest in the American Presidential elections internationally does not take away from the fact that the Muslim world, by & large, is alienated by America. The erstwhile soviet block I do not think was ever a great fan. The economies of Latin America have been known to suffer from disastrous policy recommendations from the World Bank & the IMF - very much under American scrutiny. So who is this everybody Nooyi is talking about?

I'd have to agree that it is the right thing to do to separate people from policies. My own travels to the US have taught me a lot against blatant generalizations around this. However, I do not think that such a distinction is made by people whose experience of America is not first hand. I frequently argue against such generalizations & the frequency of such talk points to the fact that a country is pretty much perceived by the news it makes - not by how its people may be like.

Nooyi's first 23 years in India have shaped her accent, & this has not changed. In many ways, she came across as very corporate, very confident, & wonderfully articulate. The story she related about her daughter having to take an appointment to meet her is amusing & sad at the same time.

She declined the challenge to tell Pepsi from Coke - citing reasons around how European Pepsi is different from American Pepsi. She further eulogized about how Pepsi was the chosen cola drink of great wine connoisseurs, & talked about tones of this & that in Pepsi. She did not say which of the many geographically-specific Pepsis she was talking about, though.

Her business acumen, I'm sure, is a byword. Her enthusiasm, energy & passion are incredible. She spoke very keenly on obesity & corporate & personal responsibilities for fighting obesity. I can only say that she did a less-than-perfect job of delinking America from Pepsi, & perhaps, even, tried a little too hard.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Swining in Minneapolis - Gasthof

Gasthof zur gemutlichkeit, which roughly means the inn of coziness or comfort, is a Bavarian restaurant on the University Ave NE in Minneapolis. From our many visits to Bavarian restaurants in Munich last year, I noticed a few similarities & dissimilarities

Bavarian food is earthy, chunky, & goes down like knife through butter, in Munich & in Minneapolis. It makes you give up pretenses of any higher purpose in your life. If only Hitler had unleashed chefs on Europe instead of soldiers, he probably would have had more success.

The restaurants, in Munich as in Minneapolis, have chequered tableclothes.The waitresses typically wear the Bavarian peasant dress for women which more or less amounts to an apron over a white blouse; beer is always sold by half or one liter mugs of bonhomie. The Hefeweizen, in Gasthof was served with two cuts of lemon. I can't remember if this was the case in Bavaria or even at Gordon Biersch in Washington DC. Lemon or no lemon, a yellow cloudy wheat beer is always exactly the right thing to be seen with.

In Gasthof, as in Munich, the menu did not have chicken. Perhaps eating fowl is considered bad form. Of course, there is ample beef, pork, fish (the local Minnesota walleye), bratwurst, & even venison available at the Gasthof. The schintzel is the speciality. Of course! And Gasthof also prides itself on a meter-long bratwurst - & if you eat it, you get a certificate!

Strangely, or may be its my abysmal memory, I was give a delectable salad in Gasthof as part of my order. And a chunk of bread & ample butter. The bread resembled a shot-put - only it was fluffy & bready in colour. This humongous bread was served with about 8 sachets of butter of which I ate two - half the shot-put. The bread took a while coming as it was being baked as I ordered, & I think that while I'm drooling & writing odes on German food, I just cannot emphasize how good this bread generally was & the breads generally were in Munich. Hitler could have gotten the Poland etc on bread alone!

The quantity, I'm sorry to say, was enormous. I was typically able to finish my plate in Munich. With half that shot-put & the all the salad inside of me, I could not eat even a quarter of what looked like a portion of the happiest, fattest swine to have ever said whatever pigs say to each other on bright Sunday Minneapolis mornings. That roasted porcine thing was the anti-thesis of any semblance of civilization & moderation, a throw-back to our lives in the woods & farms when the sight of a pig waddling through the marshes would light up our eyes & set our saliva production to overdrive.

In Gasthof, there were a couple of accordion players who sang ballad like songs in English for anybody who'd care to listen. I recognized "Happy Birthday" & the perennial favorite from "The Sound of Music" - Doe, a deer....

And here is the parody of of Doe a deer that they sang as well... (I've put in my own words for the bits I've forgotten)

Doe - a beer, a mexican beer
Ray - the guy standing by the bar
Me - I drink in the name of God
Far - a good long way to the bar

so - so I think I'll have some more beer
la - la, la, la, la, la
tea - no thanks, I'll have some beer


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Being Purushottam

As far as I know, Lord Ram had a rather trying training as a child - living in jungles & reading deep, fat books when other children his age were playing cricket. He had the abysmal bad luck of running into Parashuram once as well. And then he gets himself exiled, has to start living in the woods, gets his wife kidnapped by some weirdo, uncool king & manages to befriend a few apes for conversation & tea in the evening.

I mean, that's not so great.

And yet, as far as I know, notwithstanding his treatment of his wife later in the epic, he was a rather nice chap. In his time, there were actually just wars - which he fought & won, & reinstated the right rulers for the kingdom. He ruled his kingdom well & apparently people could go to the nightclubs without locking their houses. He was the original proponent of the 'no-first-strike' policy & there was no collateral damage in the wars he fought. Rather a sophisticated bloke, I am not sure that he ever said even so much as "oh shit!" once.

And we forget all this & forget that the Ram Setu was built on perseverance & strife, that Lord Ram was more about building bridges, forging friendships & getting things done right.

What are you doing about Purushottam's legacy?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Indian food in Minneapolis

Well, this post could also be called "how not to have a life". Yes, it is incredibly cold in Minneapolis & I do not want to know exactly how cold it is for the fear of slipping into depression, & I do not have a whole lot to do - except work - & assorted & repetitive disillusionments on the treadmill.

Minneapolis has a thriving cultural scene including great music, theater & opera. I'll probably go to all of them in time. Right now, the only non-professional reason to get out of my hotel room is the animal desire to eat. Ghastly, right?

And though I like to believe that I belch with equal appreciation be it a Biriyani or a burger with fries, lately I've been stuck to the Taste of India. I've heard from many people here that it is the best Indian restaurant in these parts. That may indeed be so; in fact, the daal is not bad at all, though the mutton & chicken curries are bathed in fats a lot more than I'd like.

You can imagine my lifelessness when I say that I usually pack myself a carry out; however, I like to wait at the restaurant while they prepare my food & never call in advance. What do I have to do with my time anyway (except writing nonsensical posts like this)? In the process, I look at the waiters & the flood of Caucasian & homesick brownies like me at the restaurant. And I read & re-read the menu.

It turns that the menu boasts of 'Kashmiri scallops'. Hullo! Scallops in Kashmir? And Banarasi Biriyani - yes, that may be close to Lukhnow (erstwhile oudh ) but isn't Varanasi more about the Kachauri gali as you listen to the bells in the Vishwanaath temple & the cows burping? What in the world is a Chicken Josh - Rogan Josh made with chicken - as you might have guessed. And Madrasi mutton - if ever there was an oxymoron...While Chennai provides ample delectable & mouth-watering recipes, I have never quite thought that mutton was one of them.

While these sharp & rather parochial differences melt away in spite of the snow in chilly Minneapolis, food-in-general is complete banana oil. No two chutneys are alike, & nobody quite makes khichdi like you do.