Saturday, February 23, 2008

Broken Dreams

I was on my way back from office when we passed a house under construction. Unexpectedly, the first thought that struck me was that 'here stands someone's dreams' in the making. The subtle delight and sense of satisfaction and pride that comes when a dream is on its way of coming true was palpable in that incomplete abode.

But the joy was shortlived as I remembered the tragedy of countless homes and buildings that were gutted during the Latur earthquake in 1993, the tsunami in 2004 that was caused by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean, and for that matter even the attack that demolished the World Trade Center in 2001. All that was material and physical including the property, human lives, money was accounted for, but all that was implicit was lost. All the dreams woven inside the bricks, the pillars, the steel bars, the walls, the rooms, the homes, and the offices, were broken and lost forever.

Here is my tribute to this huge disembodied loss.

A dusty curtain slowly lifts,
threatens to reveal the breathing mass,
Every single pebble of which,
is still alive with broken dreams.

Each red brick lies shattered,
aware that it has fallen short,
of the worthy task bestowed,
on it by a million human souls.

Every slab of cement regrets
all it couldn't hold together.
No matter how hard it tried,
the shuddering earth took apart.

The majestic tower stood proud
minutes before this cataclysm
brought it down on its knees
and into the ground, head first.

With it died a million songs,
a million smiles, a million tears,
Countless dreams, unfulfilled hopes
and wishes of a happy life.

One by one each little pebble,
breaths its last without a sigh
too sad to cry out loud in pain,
it closes its bruised eyes forever.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Maruti Suzuki Zen Estilo

I am back to crib about another advertisement. This time one on the radio. I wonder if you have heard that cheeky ad in which a family friend calls on the landline number of a friend couple. Their child who sounds anywhere from 8-11 picks up the phone. I don't remember the exact words but the conversation goes something like:

Adult: Hello
Child: Hello

Adult: Beta, papa ghar par hain?
Child(mimicking the adult): Beta, papa ghar par hain?

Adult: Kya?
Child: Kya?

Adult(getting a bit worked up): Beta, mummy ya papa ghar par hain?
Child (in exactly the same tone): Beta, mummy ya papa ghar par hain?

Adult(gathering patience): Beta?
Child(in the same tone): Beta?

Adult (Angry) : Beta?
Child (mock-anger): Beta?

Tag line: "Looks like some one is still not back from their Zen Estilo test drive"

Now the Adult and the Child on the phone were really good actors. They conveyed a lot through their expressions. But other than that rest all is awful.

Child is awfully rude. Moreover, what were his parents thinking leaving such a rude child behind alone? What if he burns the house down in their absence. How irresponsible?

I wonder what irresponsible parents, rude children, and hapless callers have to do with Maruti Suzuki Zen Estilo. Interesting...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jane Eyre - The Implausible Modern Victorian Woman

When I first started reading Jane Eyre, I had expected to find the protagonist to be a materialistic socialite like Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind or, at best, a prig like Fanny in Mansfield Park. The last thing I expected was a woman who could very well be my idol today in the way she follows her heart and mind and takes strong decisions. It is hard to believe that Charlotte Bronte wrote this novel in 1857.

Jane Eyre, the protagonist is an intelligent, passionate orphan who is being raised by her rich aunt who is not too kind to her. She gets her education in a charitable school, Lowood, and emerges as a much learned, passionate, but sensible woman. Her many talents include a flair for languages, painting and sketching. She is hired as a governess for a french girl, Adele and falls in love with Mr. Rochester, her employer. They are about to be married when something from Mr. Rochester's past intervenes and makes it impossible for both to be married. Jane refuses to be Mr. Rochester's mistress and runs away. She chances upon her cousins from her father's side and her cousin St. John asks her to marry him. Though she likes St. John as her brother, she is not able to consent to marrying him as her heart still belongs to Mr. Rochester. She goes back to find out whether Mr. Rochester was fine as previous enquiries had not yielded any results. She finds Mr. Rochester blinded and maimed by an accident and the previous impediment to their marriage removed. She ends up marrying Mr. Rochester.

One particular passage from this book that I would like to quote and which also tells us something about Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte is:

"Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex."

The philosophy is very modern for the Victorian Age and might as well be one of the first feminist writing in English Literature (as far as I know). Jane Eyre herself never compromises her self respect but is not overly egoistical. She is honest and refuses to bear unfair treatment. She stands up for herself and is strong enough to resist the temptations of love from Mr. Rochester in a way that does not go well with her self-respect. She is honest and straightforward and this is why Mr. Rochester has a strong liking for her.

Anyone who wants to read the story of a woman who goes through much suffering by following her heart and at the end righteously achieves her destiny, should read Jane Eyre. And as usual, the movie does not do justice to any of the characters. Jane's paintings, that are much a part of Jane's character are not mentioned anywhere. The grace and certainity with which she tackles Blanche Ingram's threat to her hopes of love is totally subdued. But more that Jane, the character that suffers most at the hands of the movie's script writer is Mr. Rochester. One basic flaw in Mr. Rochester's character, his lack of compassion for his mad wife is done away with and he is shown to be kindly comforting her. All that is not ideal in the novel is made ideal in the movie and this takes away the charm of the story considerably.

Counting Smiles

On my way to work today, I counted smiles. It is a 20 minute drive from my home to office and as my husband took care of the driving part, I spent my time chatting with him and also counting the number of people that were smiling while travelling.

In the entire journey, I counted (hold you breath) two people who seemed to be smiling heartily. One was this young lady (somewhere in her early thirties) who was all wrapped up in a shawl and was presumably walking towards a bus stop alone. She must have remembered some incident that tickled her and made her smile spontaneously. Her whole face was lit up and she was oblivious to all around her, too engrossed in her own pleasant thoughts.

The second was the driver of a mini-bus carrying students to some school. He was chatting with the bus conductor who stood right behind the driver and they seemed to be sharing a joke. His smile was good natured and I was able to judge the type of joke that they shared. It was surely not lewd or slapstick. It seemed more like some funny situation that the conductor had landed himself in.

Two people in 20 minutes seem too less though. I must have come across hundreds of people during the journey but only two were smiling. This is a bit disappointing.

Anyways, if someone travelling in the opposite direction was also counting smiles today, they would have surely counted one and that was me. Counting smiles made me smile too and I added to the total number of people smiling during that moment. Cheers!!

A very fruitful exercise, really!!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Religion - To Each Their Own

I am a Hindu. That goes to say that I follow Hinduism. I have friends who are Sikhs, Muslims or Christians. While there are some common beliefs in all religions, every one essentially follows a religion of their own. Religion cannot be imposed, it can only be felt and faith makes you a follower.

According to your up-bringing, your personality, your values, you choose to accept few things and discard few things that the religion teaches. In Hinduism, I admire the in-built spirituality, the flexibility, the openness and the practicality, especially as defined in Geeta. But I shun practices that pollute air, environment, water etc. Many rivers, such as Yamuna and Ganga, suffer because of these practices. On every bridge across Yamuna in Delhi, Government has built huge net boundaries to prevent people from throwing offerings into the river. But the energetic Hindus religiously hurl flowers, polybags into the Holy River. It is sad to say the least.

I consider myself a worshipper of the supreme power who resides in each and every aspect of nature. I revel in green post-monsoon Himalayas, I admire vast, uncommercialized beaches, and I long to see the desert. This is where I see my God. In everything that has a power to give without vanity. This is my religion. My personalized Hinduism.