Saturday, May 28, 2011

Of Cousin's Shaadi :-)

So it's been more than two weeks since I wrote something (except the birthday post)..sigh! Was very busy.. Last to last weekend I had to a cousin's marriage in Dehradun, and last week the weather in Delhi was no nice that I was just enjoying it so did not do anything.

When I had come from Dehradun, I had thought of so many topics to write but the moroseness of modern life has almost made me forgotten what all I had hoped to write. 

So let me write about the wedding. Considering my deep abhorrence for family functions and irritating family relatives, I knew what I was going to expect there in Dehradun, and as always these irritating people never seem to disappoint me. Look at the audacity that some of them were bitching about my mom even all the while knowing that I could hear each and every word of theirs. I wish I had relatives like Hansa of Khichdi. Hello-how-are-khana-kha-ke-jana-haan. And after doing aur-beta-kaise-ho-kya-kar-rahe-ho-kitna-package-hai routine with uncountable relatives, I just quietly moved in the corner away from all the hullabaloo in the guava orchard (ok..there was no guava orchard but I love this title of the book by Kiran Desai whose other book's name was my blog's first name inheritance-of-loss). Since I hate relatives of my age group as I don't like to talk to them, I was busy with my small seven year old cousin. The thing about kids is that they are very natural, they say everything on the face, and as we grow up we tend to become artificial, we like to keep things to ourselves. However, as usual I felt so lost in parties and as usual I was just looking for things to eat to keep me busy. So I gulped down plates and plates of spring rolls and dahi bhalle..I can have these two things anytime anywhere..

Anyways, my primary motivation to go to the trip was wedding photography! and no not those video-vale bhaiya with lights in hand who always comes to capture you when you have a plate full of the all the available food there that makes you wonder what people will say about when they watch the video! And no my aim was also not not those going-on-the-stage-with-the-family-to-get-clicked-photographs, instead I wanted to click natural pictures of people. As my cousin (the elder brother of the cousin getting married) has an awesome SLR Nikon D60, I was game for the trip that I will click some amazing shots.

So one of the functions is in which the ghadoli is filled. This is the ceremony in which a sarvala (usually the groom's jija) and a sarvali (usually the groom's bhabhi) go to the temple to fill a ghada (an earthen pot). Before this, some ladies sing and dance and make fun on the groom by singing some folk songs :P Think of something on the lines of baari barsi khatan gaya si or check this two year old post where I tried to decipher the meaning of the song madhorama pencha from the movie Monsoon Wedding. This is the link. My massi (my cousin's mom) did not call a photographer for this event. Voila! So I was given the task of photography using the SLR :-) Aah you won't believe I clicked about 600 photographs in two hours!! of course not all were good, but some had some super shots..all natural poses (which I think is an oxymoron how can something natural be posed?) my best were pics of the arti ki thali and the groom's smiling side pose :-) I don't have those pics but will put them here as soon as I get them..but here's the bad luck! my cousin (the one who owns the camera) forgot the battery charger in Delhi only...grrrrrr.. my only reason of going there! I had thought of some shots that I would click in the wedding but alas, that was not meant to camera..WTF..bleh! :-( 

So wedding day finally came and I had decided I will sit the entire night and attend the pheres as I believe that a true wedding is the phera ceremony..else if you take that out it is just a dinner! I like to sit the entire night in weddings and watch you can do that only in a close relative's wedding no? And I love tradition, especially Indian customs (though these at times enter into the territory of blind faith and superstitions which I don't like, such as Kundalis)..As I was sitting during the beautiful phera ceremony, the panditji came to the topic of vachans..there are seven vachans, popularly called shartein (yes, these are different from the saat pheres) which the groom promises to the bride while the bride vows only one vachan.. how sexist is that ;-) I immediately thought of writing them, I can guarantee that groom won't even remember any of them if you ask him today ;P I missed out writing on the first but here are the rest 6 in brief (I can't write the entire gyaan which panditiji was saying in shhudh hindi)

Vachan 1: (I forgot to write)
Vachan 2: I promise to give food to you
Vachan 3: I promise to give you money (hehe)
Vachan 4: I promise to fulfill all your wishes
Vachan 5: I promise to inform you before any impending foreign visit (this used to happen in earlier times when the groom had to travel abroad and the wife stayed in the home)
Vachan 6: I promse to inform you of any charity I wish to undertake
Vachan 7: I promise that I will have no addiction-inducing substances in life (this led to roars of laughter from the audience..ya the groom and bride were drunk a day before :D)

Where as the bride promises that I will fulfill all your wishes with my heart so that we can have  a happy married life...

However, the most beautiful thing that I learnt was during the kanyadaan..the bride's father usually takes the thumb of the bride and hands it over to the groom signifying that he has given is daughter to him..yes, we all know that but what we may not know is that why does the father offer the thumb? The panditji explained that thumb prints of a person are perhaps the only thing that never changes even as one grows up. It is a mark of permanence, similarly by offering the girl's thumb, the bride's father has permanently offered his daughter to the groom. This was pretty interesting.

I have so much to write more of the wedding, but I guess will write more if I feel like in other posts.

P.S. - There was this foreign kudi who was my uncle's friend and was the cynosure of all eyes in the ceremony. She was forced to do some Indian jhatkas and was funny when she was dancing on the dhol..hehe but she was pretty hot ;-P

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Of 24th Birthday!

I am 24 :( It sucks to be 24! and while discussing this with Jenny in cab, I told her that I do not like to celebrate birthdays. Firstly, because I don't like to be center of attention for anything. And secondly, I do not like myself as a person. And I had thought life would be some what different (perhaps better than what I have now) at 24, but the flaws in my personality are stopping me to reach that place both personally and professionally. And birthdays are a reminder that life is not turning out to be as I had planned. I am not proud of myself, what is there to celebrate.. and talking about birthdays, every second is a is a gift that we are alive.. we could be dead in a we should celebrate birthdays every day no?

But I was so touched by the gifts I got. I have never received so many gifts on my birthday. Thanks all..especially Jaspreet (who made this beautiful collage for me) and Aastha for organizing everything..and special thanks to Jenny, Arpita and Shivangi :) And when Jaspreet made this collage, I somewhat felt bad because I have never taken so much pain and effort for doing something like this for him and others :( I felt I didn't deserve this..

And this is the farewell note he had written for me and I haven't thanked him yet for this :(
Thanks for everything ya :)

This is the note...

Removed out of privacy concerns :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Of Forgotten Heroes - Sandra Samuel

I was thinking to write about how depressed I have been for the last week or so. And then I come across this article in the Open Magazine and I wonder how shallow my world is. I have nothing but sheer respect for Sandra Samuel -  the heroic nanny who saved Baby Moshe during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. What she has done requires a great deal of mental strength without thinking anything about your own self. It is deeply moving and so disturbing that brings a lump to your throat. And she is so humble and modest about the whole thing. She says

"I have done exactly what anyone would have done,” she insists. “I am a very religious person, but when the time comes, faith has nothing to do with it. You just do what you have to do.” I tell her I think the terror would paralyse most. “The terror only grabs hold and keeps you from moving when you are thinking of yourself,” she says, “But I was terrified for Baby, not for myself, so when I heard him calling, my only thought was to get to him as fast as I could. Anyone would have done that. Most of us are braver than we think,” she adds, “We can all be heroes. It is important to know that. And, also, that miracles are happening all around us every day."

"I should have gone in again,” she insists, ignoring our insistence that she had done the exact right thing, a miraculous thing. “I should have tried to help Rabbi and Rivki. I should have checked to see how they are. What kind of person am I to have just run out?” We try to comfort Sandra with tea, with small hugs and shoulder caresses, but she will not have any of it. She does not want our comfort. She feels she does not deserve it.

I have been thinking a lot lately about this..what would I have done if I was in her place.. Would I have been brave enough to stop thinking of myself and ran to get Moshe? Would I have overcome the fear of the hidden terrorist? Would I have the guts to go back? I think not probably because am selfish, scared and a  coward..Would you have run inside? As someone truly said, the real test of ethics is when it's your ass on the line..

And when I see these pictures (and there are a lot others), I wipe many a tear from my eyes. Why do events like this happen? Why can't people live in peace..What was the fault of Moshe's parents? Doesn't it make your blood boil that some bastards in Pakistan meticulously planned this horrific act for months just to get some political leverage? What if someone killed their family like this? And add to the fact that we are probably never going to get those men because they are enjoying their life in safe havens and planning more conspiracies like's sad, pathetic, depressing, hopeless...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Of Royal Wedding and Escapsism..

So did you the see Royal Wedding? I did not understand the pre-wedding hype about it but when I saw the clippings of the wedding on TV, I have to admit I was fascinated. I may be against monarchy but I am a huge fan of Classic English culture ever since I have read Jane Austen (one of my beloved authors - Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey) and the Bronte sisters (Charlotte for Jane Eyre and Emily for Wuthering Heights). English classic culture is extremely beautiful - I love it when they use the word 'countenance'! Anyways, an estimated 2 billion people watched the watching. It was as if it was some sort of fairy tale. A woman finally gets her Prince Charming after waiting for over eight years. How can anybody not be charmed by the stunning ceremony? And you know why people cried because it is something they never will be able to see in their own life. It is perhaps the stuff of dreams. We, especially Indians, are extremely escapist people. We all look forward to something larger than life that can help us escape the monotony and utter pathos of our lives. Can you explain the success of ridiculous films like Dabangg? Salman is perhaps the worst of Khan actors who can just sleepwalk through any role just because he plays himself in all his movies. But everyone wants to be a hero like Salman? Hindi cinema is largely escapist - look at the how much we love Karan Johar styled family dramas, those tear jerker love stories (KKHH) , those funny action movies (Race, Dhoom 3).. We like to believe in something larger than life. Perhaps that explains why Google made a royal wedding for and not for or! It reminds me of Dil to Pagal Hai? When Rahul is talking about his vision of Maya, he says that she has been waiting for her सपनो का राजकुमार!! 
It is the stuff of dreams! Gives us something to cheer about. And I love tradition. So extra points for that. 
And did you just see the hats? What hats?? I just wanted to go there and click picture of only hats. Each hat a different character. Stunning!!
And here's the quote of the day -
A possible explanation for all of us (Hindi film lovers) - "Why do I love Bollywood movies? To an Indian, that’s like asking why we love our mothers, we don’t have a choice. We were born of them." - Suketu Mehta

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Other Side of The Hedge

I had written in my previous post about the beautiful essay Machines and the Emotions, which we had read in Class 12. That made me revisit my Class 12th English book English With A Purpose. I remember when I asked my ma'am, Mrs. B. Puri asked what her favorite chapter in the book was, she replied that it was The Other Side of the Hedge by E.M. Forster. However, that chapter was not in our course as CBSE had removed it. But I had read it that time and was taken aback as to what is so good about it? Now I feel how naive I was at that time (it makes me feel old..6 years ago). And now I also realize why the CBSE removed it from the course!! It is too open-ended and deep that it may be too difficult for an average Class 12 student to comprehend its intricacies. 

I have read that essay during the past week at least thrice (and will have to read again and again) and finally have come to some understanding about the incredibly layered text. I can guarantee that if you read the essay for the first time, you will not fully understand what the author says. You have to reread it to decipher the hidden references to understand what he is trying to convey. I found the essay like the brilliant film No Smoking by Anurag Kashyap. I can vouch that you will not understand that film if you watch it once, you have to watch it again and again, even then you will not be able to make out precisely what is going on the will entirely be your interpretation which might be totally different from someone else's. That is the power of a good movie which makes you want to watch it again and again, just like a good book that makes you revisit it again and again. The Other Side of the Hedge is exactly like No Smoking. There are so many interpretations that your understanding of the events could be entirely different from mine which could again be different from what the author wants to convey. However, this might lead to some criticism that might make it too difficult for readers to understand, just like it happened in the case of No Smoking. Even the critics panned that movie! There is only a niche audience for such texts, considering how big Chetan Bhagat star is in our country! So, getting back to the essay, I think everyone should read this essay at this hyperlink.

Here is my interpretation of the hedge:- 

I think the story is about modern-day life, that in this quest for advancement, we have forgotten to stop and appreciate the beauty around us. We are constantly running on a road that we think will take us to progress, but we are just going round and round, ultimately leading to nowhere. We are more concerned about materialistic pleasures that we have lost our inherent humanism in our lives. Like he says 

"At first, I thought I was going to be like my brother, whom I had had to leave by the roadside a year or two around the corner. He had wasted his breath on singing and his strength on helping others. And I had already dropped several things - indeed, the road behind was strewn with the things we all had dropped, and the white dust was settling down on them so that already they looked no better than stones." 

We have become so rigid in our thoughts that we do not like to accept an alternative viewpoint and believe that our view is the correct one, and we are always trying to show others down. 

"For us of the road do not admit in conversation that there is another side at all."

"We moved away from the boundary and then followed a path almost parallel to it, across the meadows. I found it difficult walking, for I was always trying to out-distance my companion, and there was no advantage in doing this if the place led nowhere. I had never kept step with anyone since I left my brother." 

And we do not realize that there is a more beautiful world around us, if only we could just look on the other side. 

"Even when the water was out of my eyes, I was still dazed, for I had never been in so large a space, nor seen such grass and sunshine. The blue sky was no longer a strip, and beneath it, the earth had risen grandly into hills - clean, bare buttresses, with beech trees in their folds and meadows and clear pools at their feet. But the hills were not high, and there was in the landscape a sense of human occupation - so that one might have called it a park, or garden if the words did not imply a certain triviality and constraint."

We could be happy doing something we really want to do in life if we stopped thinking about our competitors and chose not to participate in the rat race. Our biggest competition should be with us, not with others. Like he says 

"Some of them were singing, some talking, some engaged in gardening, hay-making, or other rudimentary industries. They all seemed happy; and I might have been happy too, if I could have forgotten that the place led nowhere." 

"I was startled by a young man who came sprinting across our path, took a little fence in fine style, and went tearing over a ploughed field till he plunged into a lake, across which he began to swim. Here was true energy, and I exclaimed: 'A cross-country race! Where are the others?' 

'There are no others,' my companion replied; and, later on, when we passed some long grass from which came the voice of a girl singing exquisitely to herself, he said again: 'There are no others.' I was bewildered at the waste in production, and murmured to myself, what does it all mean?" 

The narrator is not convinced of his guide's views that competition should be with oneself instead of others. He says this to prove his point, "It is the thought of that that makes us strive to excel, each in his own way, and gives us an impetus which is lacking with you. Now that man who passed us - it's true that he ran well, and jumped well, and swam well, but we have men who can run better, and men who can jump better, and who can swim better." 

Forster uses another reference to the Greek mythology of ivory and horns. From what I found on the Internet, the two gates are an allusion to the Odyssey, an epic that speaks of dreams that pass through gates of ivory and horn. In Greek, the terms' ivory' and 'horn' are a play on words: the horn is a metaphor for fulfilling; the same is true of ivory and deception. These come into play when the guide is explaining the two gates. 

"Over the bridge was a big gate, as white as ivory, which was fitted into a gap in the boundary hedge. The gate opened outwards, and I exclaimed in amazement, for from it ran a road, just such a road as I had left, dusty under foot, with brown crackling hedges on either side as far as the eye could reach. 

'That's my road!' I cried. He shut the gate and said: 'But not your part of the road. It is through this gate that humanity went out countless ages ago, when it was first seized with the desire to walk." 

And about the second gate, he says, "At last we came to a place where the encircling moat was spanned by another bridge, and where another gate interrupted the line of the boundary hedge. It was different from the first gate; for it was half transparent like horn, and opened inwards. But through it, in the waning light, I saw again just such a road as I had left - monotonous, dusty, with brown crackling hedges on either side, as far as the eye could reach. This is where your road ends, and through this gate humanity, all that is left of it, will come into us." 

I think probably Forster is referring to that the ivory gate as it opens outwards symbolizes that we humans are looking at outwardly materialistic pleasures. We are, in a way living in a bubble of deception that we could be happy through these. Humanity has lost its way. Only we come inside through the second gate and look for inner happiness (as the horn gate opens inwards) then only we can be happy. 

It is such a beautiful chapter that I am still trying to figure out the significance of the stopped pedometer, the drink at the end, the lost brother, and the scythe (communism perhaps?!). 

However, another interpretation of the chapter that I found on the net shows the story as the transition from life to death where the hedge represents a purgatory. Although some believe that this is in contrast to Forster's religious writing, I think it might be true as well. 

This is what they say in this regard. 

"The Other Side of the Hedge serves as a metaphor for life, death, and afterlife. Within the story, Forester has hidden many references – both religious and philosophical – to the world as an average reader would perceive it. The road becomes life itself; milestones mark passage of time and achievement while pedometers serve to measure experience. However, the road is also a folly of construction. It was created by humankind to give meaning to their existence and direction to their false lives. The walkers pretend the other side of the hedge does not exist, for its presence will cast doubt on the truth of their existence. 

During the narrator's stay on the road (which serves as a reference to life on earth) he leaves behind his brother. The possibilities for this figure are many; "Brother" could be an all-encompassing term for mankind, or it could reflect a reader's own paradigms, referencing a male figure with sibling relationship to the narrator. This second has more likely feel to it; the entirety of humanity could not be accurately represented by a single individual. 

The narrator, when the audience first encounters him, is seated on a milestone; he is stopped, watching others pass by as they jeer at him for having fallen short on the road. When there are no longer people around, he takes himself through the hedge, finding it to be "not as thick as usual." This is where there are several diverging opinions. Several critics hold that the narrator simply dies. Others claim that because he crawls through the hedge on his own, he is committing suicide. Following the second theory fits in with the description the narrator offers of how he is feeling: "In my weak, morbid state…I yielded to the temptation." Before he even considers entering, he first checks to make sure no one is around to see; there is a shame to his actions. He enters the hedge, going through the thinner portion only to fall out the other side into cold water. 

Through life, both in the "real" world and in mythology, water is a symbol of birth and rebirth: when creatures are born into the world, they come through embryonic fluid; when Hindus and Buddhists hold funerals, they utilize water as a symbol of passing on; Christianity links water to baptism, as a public declaration of faith; in Islam water is a symbol of total purification, as it is in Judaism as well; and in Greek mythology, the dead cross a river to reach the afterlife. 

The narrator is fished out of the water – presumably purified – by someone from the opposite bank. Before he comes out, he is said to have heard someone exclaim "Another!" which presents the idea that he is not the only walker of the road to enter this paradise by way of the hedge. The narrator, once helped from the water, immediately questions his rescuer: "'Where does this place lead to?'" to which the other replies," 'Nowhere, thank the Lord." 

Overwhelmed by the vast scale of this space on the other side of the hedge, the narrator gives in to his rescuer, and allows the tour guide to lead him away from the water, arguing the merits of the road. The tour guide seems to have heard all the protests before; it is quite obvious that this man is no stranger to denial. Forcibly, the tour guide leads the narrator through this trapped paradise. 

The aimless participation of others within the sphere of the park irks the narrator as he is led by a cross-country race staring a single participant and a girl singing for no audience. He is bewildered by the lack of motivation for a goal; as he follows the tour guide, he argues continually about the superiority of the men of the road. The tour guide, however, has his own views on what to show. He takes the narrator to a set of gates, promising that he will let the narrator go after they have been to the gates. The first set of gates are made of ivory, and lead out towards the road; this the tour guide names as the portion of the road through which "'humanity went out countless ages ago, when it was first seized with the desire to walk.'" The second gate which the narrator and tour guide visit is built of horn. The two gates are an allusion to the Odyssey, an epic which speaks of dreams that pass through gates of ivory and horn. In Greek, the terms' ivory' and 'horn' are a play on words: horn and fulfill in English are the same word in Greek. The same is true of ivory and deception. 

If the gate of ivory led out to the road, then the road is symbolic of self-delusion. Leaving paradise for the road is reminiscent of Adam and Eve's banishment from Eden after eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Following the Christian trend, humanity's return through the gates of ivory should be symbolic of Judgment Day and the return of truth to the human race. 

The hedge itself is also related to the gates. When the narrator comes through, he notes that there are dog-roses and Traveler's Joy on the park side of the hedge. Traveler's Joy is also known as Old-Man's-Beard, and in the language of flowers is a symbol of artifice. Following with the gates, coming in through the hedge would be passing through the self-delusion, and then the water in its purification would create the perfect environment within the enclosed paradise."