Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Concepts of Beauty

It was the usual Irving mid-summer - a soaring 96 degrees at 4 in the evening. We had almost gone on an undeclared entertainment spree since we had moved into our new apartment - a sprawling one for the two of us by all means.

Payel and I decided to go for our last minute groceries for the icings on the cakes, before the Saturday night dinner finale, armed with nothing but our umbrellas. Now, if you want to be Carie Bradshaw, who sucks at driving, walks around in her Manolos ... do it while you are in New York city, not for God's sake in the Dallas Fortworth metroplex, where the concept of "public transport" is still hovering somewhere between the Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras.

So here we were crossing the creek, on the narrowest side walk ever possible, on North MacArthur, where the 35mph speed limit has been a myth since the concept of "speed limit" has come into existence. The Texas sun, glaring to a "feels like 110 degrees", umbrellas on our heads, we walked in a queue, heavy bags in our hands. As the cars raced by one after the other, the Texans, completely unused to yet another concept called "walking", gazed at us in absolute dismay, paranoid drivers, honking once in a while, lest we, the mad-walkers, decide to get off the sidewalk on to the pavement.

No sooner had we got off the bridge than the sprinklers off the side walk decided to go off all at once, perhaps wondering if the sorry picture of the two girls needed some relief from the Texas summer and the long walk. Little did these annoying inanimate objects realize we would have preferred to wait for the showers in our tubs.

Soaked and drenched after long walks in scorching heat, isn't new to either Payel or me. The other life - the ever hot Calcutta summers, the unpredictable Nor' Westers to follow in the evenings ... the difference, hundreds of thousands homeward bound on Sector V streets, the incessant honking of the buses and cars and autos and rickshaws, the mad rush for a shuttle here or a bus there or the never ending queue for the auto, the wheels of almost every office bus of every IT company starting to roll all at once at 6:30pm, the chaotic madness yet a sweet reminiscence of something more grotesquely beautiful ... an enormity that is called LIFE ... even after two years in Dallas, I am yet to taste the enormity of life in the enormity of Texas.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy

The billionaire oil baron John Paul Getty was famously frugal. When his 16-year-old grandson was kidnapped by Italian gangsters, he initially refused to pay the one million dollar ransom. He believed that Paul III had staged the abduction himself. He eventually relented after six months of hostage negotiations that prompted the kidnappers to lop off one of the boy's ears, put in an envelope and send it to a newspaper.
Even so, the incident cost Getty very little. The one million dollar was only a loan to the boy's father at four per cent interest.

I read this aloud to my Dad, then set the book down and looked at him – long and close, waiting to see if he had got the point that I was trying to make.

After, a long sigh, he turned and said, “No, I am not an oil baron. I am only a banker. If Deb III were abducted, I would not wait for his ear for six months, and I have loaned money to Deb II many a times on zero percent interest and I am yet to be repaid.”

Assured about the fate of the nonexistent Deb III’s ear and reminded of the debts of the one and only Deb II to her father, I swallowed my pride and waited for the rest to come, and sure enough, there it was.
My Dad for the six hundred and sixty sixth time in my life said, “I was four years old when my mother passed away. I was brought up by my uncle in a household with twelve kids around me and money was tight. I had only rice and cereal for my meals, lived off two shirts for twenty years of my life, and had it not been for my scholarship, I would not have been able to graduate at all. And you my dear are the rich daughter of a poor father.”

Now that’s true, I was brought up fine by my parents, never been denied too many things in life. I was given a good education; my college was paid for, I had good food to eat and the latest trend to wear.

Never mind, the refrigerator and the television that have been around at home since my parents got married thirty years ago.

My dad’s argument:
Why do we need a new refrigerator if this one still cools and freezes things?
Why do we need a new TV, if we can still hear the 8 o clock news on this one?
You should not be surprised to see us giving the TV a few lashings every fifteen minutes to make it work. It was a good work out session watching the three hour long Ben hur as the whole family took turns at the lashing.
You might walk into my parent’s house and see it transformed into an electronics workshop almost every Sunday. You’ll see my dad sitting with his box of tools and the TV or refrigerator parts strewn all over the place and my mom practising her projects on vocal variety and body language. Her organization has improved substantially over the years. But she is yet to graduate to persuading and inspiring her one man audience.

I am sure, a few more years, and my dad would be selling these precious possessions at a greater value to some antique dealer, had it not been for me.
When I got my job, four years ago, it was time to make changes.
I gave the whole house a thorough makeover. My Dad said, “Don’t treat your salary young lady as if you have won a lottery.” But who cares, I had what anybody needs – my new and shinny credit cards. The world was at my feet. After I gave the whole house a makeover, I looked at myself in the newly installed mirror. I realized I too needed a makeover. It was time to get rid of my old high school sweater and the old pair of jeans. I got myself a whole new wardrobe.

When all was brand new and shinny, and my credit cards old and worn off, they started coming - my credit card bills, and then more bills and then more. They seemed never ending. My life went from pay check to pay check, sometimes with loans from my father and then loans from the bank.

The sleepless nights, the worries, the sighs - I looked back at my life in the old sweater and the old pair of jeans, hitting the old TV, yet watching it, and drinking the cold coke from my old refrigerator.

I asked myself what was all the spending for? My parents were content with what they had, I would still be the same person with an old wardrobe. But it would matter a lot, if I were just a bit more responsible with my money. A close watch on my expenses, an extensive plan on how to repay my loans and strict adherence to my monthly budget - I finally managed to declare myself debt free after eighteen months. I realized there was nothing more important than the contentment and peace of mind and a little money stored away for troubled times. I even managed to repay my dad the expenses he had incurred for my college much to his protests.

And as I did so, I thought of my dad, not as Shakespeare’s villain anymore, as he said, “Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy.”

Friday, December 4, 2009


I watched this interview by Konkona the other day (http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzKCwpc-vJU) , labeled in the typically filmy Bollywood style as "Secrets Out!! What is Konkona Sen Sharmas ideal date?". I thought it was worth mentioning, not b/c I wanted to know what her idea of an ideal date is, don't think I am interested to know that as far as actors are concerned. There are better things to know about them.
What I particularly loved about this interview was that when she was asked which one was her favorite Aparna Sen directed film - she answered Parama, it is the same for me, just brought back a lot of memories - I remember staying up night after night as a school girl trying to understand Parama whenever they aired the film on tv - as Ms. Biswas, my Bengali teacher had once said, watching the film was a distinct step in my life towards making me the WOMAN that I am. The film gave me a better understanding of the woes of a WOMAN, lost in the roles that she plays in life - as a wife to her husband, as a mother to her sons, as a friend to her teen age daughter, as the person who holds the family together as a daughter-in-law and as a daughter to her parents - but when, when exactly does she get to be HERSELF ? I heard the silent screams of such a woman who exists in every society around the world !!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gandhi by People

Thoughts on Gandhi by People:

Thought 1:

There are really two Gandhi's.

Gandhi A. one of the greatest men of all time--like Siddhartha or Jesus. he mastered ahimsa. he used great symbolic gestures like the salt march. he took Hindu/Muslim cooperation to a the highest level anyone has. he led a country to believe in itself without any political title. he mastered fasting in a totally selfless way to affect peace among 1 billion. he lifted the untouchables. for doing these things, he is one of the greatest men of all time.

Gandhi B. quirky. idiosyncratic. self-absorbed. overly-concerned with diet to the point of making food his number 1 moral issue. backwards toward women. against societal progress to the point that he would have condemned modernity like the Internet, or even a bread factory.

the issue is Gandhi lived so recently--and he kept an autobiography. this means his narrow, quirky side is preserved alongside his divine side. Siddhartha and Jesus probably had quirky, shallow sides too but those sides were never documented and therefore
as a result. Siddhartha and Jesus exist as pure ideas. Gandhi is a mix of ideas and documented (even self-documented) human prejudice. in modern times because of media, there never really could be another Jesus or such.

i always try to think of Gandhi A.

Thought 2:

People have positioned Gandhi in a very exalted platform in their minds. But the truth is extremely hard and goes too deep.

Since i have always liked revolutionary terrorism as the earnest path to drive away "Ingrej Raaj" Gadhian path has never really been in my good books. Post Gandhi people's allegiance to revolutionary terrorists were completely brainwashed.

INC and Trusteeship were seriously jeered and mocked by Indian Intellectuals and are still done by several others. (we are surely included in that race).
Gandhi was such a power loving maniac that he favoured Nehru instead of the great leader Subhash Bose! It was a step much thought and planned by Gandhi. Nehru was supposedly in the dark about Gandhi's high class "power motifs".

Thought 3:

It is true that Gandhi adopted ahimsa, he made an effort to lift the untouchables, he was instrumental in transforming the Indian independence movement into a mass movement. The thought of independence was more or less an elite idea before Gandhi appeared in the scene.

But, it is this same Gandhi who was power thirsty, who promoted only those politicians(in those days, leaders) who accepted his word unquestionably. He did his best to eliminate from the political scene those men whose ideas were different than his or men whose popularity threatened that of his. This Gandhi to me is the one who fought first for the cause called GANDHI and then for the cause called India.

The two major parties in British India - the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League - could have had matters resolved amicably to avoid splitting the country in two, but they did not do so. History proves the Indian National Congress was more to blame for this difference than the Muslim League. The policies adopted by the Indian National Congress was mostly decided by Gandhi. He was the unquestionable leader in that. Consequently, India went to the INC and Pakistan went to the Muslim League.

When India gained Independence and the country split in two, Muslims, both elite as well as the common masses, left India and went to Pakistan(both east and west). Similarly, a lot of Hindus came to India from Pakistan. Men of this generation saw the atrocities and the gruesome Hindu-Muslim riots with their own eyes, they saw innocent men killed, women raped and children orphaned. These were the same Hindus and Muslims who had lived as neighbours, for centuries in their cities and villages, attending schools together, playing together, helping each other through each day. The common folk had never thought of two countries, had never thought of leaving the land of their forefathers and had never thought of having to start life all over again.

What's more meaningless, even after the creation of Pakistan and India, even today, India has a bigger Muslim population than Pakistan and Bangladesh have.

Masses uprooted, thousands killed, millions turned homeless - to appease the political whims of only one man. Such a waste !!!

This is the Gandhi I know, somehow, the rest has never mattered at all.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Its difficult

Its difficult. Its difficult to understand how the most tough things in life can seem so simple to a few people and yet, almost unachievable to me. Take for example - blogging, this is not the first time that I have created an id and made an attempt to vomit my thoughts into cyberspace. I have created ids after ids and left them unopened, I am never sure what is it that holds me back exactly. I once read in Linda Goodman that Geminis do not like to get committed by writing, I guess there's a part of it that's true. There is this inexplicable fear within me that works constantly telling me what I think today, I might not think so tomorrow. So if I commit them in writing, I might seem like a fool to myself. But don't we all make fools of ourselves at some point or the other ?
Well, let me not dwell like a coward into this "we" thing. Returning to "me", something delightful happened this last Saturday. Despite the incessant rains and yet more incessant procrastinations, I went to watch the movie Julie and Julia ... alone. Don't mind my lonesome excursions, I am perfectly happy keeping myself company where ever I go. Anyway, I found something quite predicamentally similar in Julie and my situation, both worn out by the jobs that we are doing, taking up projects one after the other and failing to keep at them time and again. So, the solace that she found in blogging did appeal to me.
So here I am, starting my umpteenth blogging id, no cookbooks at my disposal, no wish whatsoever to be contacted by Random House, no dreams of a film producer being carried away by my blogs, and still wondering if I am making a fool of myself, yet on a project to vomit my thoughts into cyber space.