Friday, February 24, 2006
In the modern world, there are innumerable assumptions, hypotheses, predictions and premises that one does need to make in order to get by. These i.a., h., p. & p. fall true to character in a majority of the cases and hence the world moves on. In the rare case that they do not, play is halted for the nonce.
When one is lugging a heavy piece of assorted garbage clothed in a suitcase in one hand and a book wrapped in the mangled remains of newspapers in the other, Life had better be hands-free. On encountering the glass door at one of the terminals the other day that stood between me and safety, I reached the paneling like I do most times, without looking up. And long having convinced myself that the glass excrescence would see the folly of its ways and part to leave me the three feet of space that I needed to egress, I waited.
Concluding that this was a mere delayed response on the part of the frazzled nerves of the overworked glass door, I did what I do when I get a wee bit of time. Snug in the knowledge that nobody would notice or care, I shut my eyes..
Characteristically enjoying the repose of the moment, I did not hear the swarming multitudes behind me as they shuffled their feet, grumbled and growled in that order. Only when I got a polite but firm poke in my back did I relapse into consciousness and obeying the entreaty of the passenger to look ahead find that the door had remained obstinately shut. And then the bloke pushed past me, elbowed the door open and walked of my life.
On making sense of the increased intellectual demands of the situation and after having realized that this was not an automatically opening door but one that had to be clawed open with one’s bare hands, I left too !
THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
These are the times when I should have been in school gambolling among the daffodils & meadows, playing footer in pouring rain, playing truant or getting deliberately red-carded, and yes, putting scratchy pen to intransigent paper. Now after the decade or so that I have been away from school examinations, hall-tickets, supplementary sheets and other knotty affairs, the hoary Cheery Brigade of Scholastic Erudition has decreed that Students appearing for the Class X and XII examinations will now get a "cool-off" time of 15 minutes for running through the question paper. Students would be allowed entry into the examination centres 45 minutes before the specified time on the first day and 30 minutes on subsequent days., and have increased number of pages in the main answer books to avoid handling of supplementary sheets.
In middle school alone, one takes about three exams a year in six subjects and this tortuous exercise lasts for three years. So a lot of paper and many threads. Most students would vouch for the fact that the most difficult task in an exam is the capacious streams of knowledge, gushing currents of remembered information and swampy marshes of mostly useless material that the child is forced to craft in a measly two hours. My most trying hours were in the subjects of Hindi and Social Sciences where my right arm was in constant danger of falling off and I still hear collective sighs of relief from the willing pen, ruler, eraser, colouring pencil, shrapnel and pen-knife as they trooped wearily back to the safe confines of my trusted old pencil-box ( which I still have ) .
After these punishing two hour-ascents, the three hours that one got in high school was a Look Ma-No Hands downhill cruise. For Sanskrit, forty-five minutes were all that were needed and then the drudgery of hands hung in despair as the tiring invigilator refused to let the cats out of the bag till thirty minutes before the stipulated time. And I remember my Class Ten Science paper vividly as with twelve minutes to the bell, I realized that I needed to convince the old goons who corrected my scrawled labours of the profundity of my knowledge of the production of Iron, Joule’s experiment and Infant Nutrition ( which counted for fifteen precious marks ) All’s well that ends well !
Aye, these fifteen minutes of fame matter !
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
An epilator is a word in the dictionary of fools. Or so I thought till I saw an advertisement, thus adding another word to a vocabulary ravaged by Alzheimer’s, senile dementia, non-performing dendrites and work, not necessarily in that order. Now where was I ?
The most popular scion of the O’Brien clan, has shaved off the dark outgrowths that undermined his clear-as-crystal baritone in the name of indoor shooting and a smooth finish. He has also begun the forthcoming episodes of the I’m So Talented I Can Cram Pose Sing Dance Paint Bungee jump Pose Play Compose Pose Speak Ride Run Act Pose Confidence Champion Contest. The best place to spot sanctimonious prigs espousing ideals and inanities without a comprehension of either, as the genial DOB eggs ‘em on unabashedly.
Reminds of the Texan who was flummoxed on being pointed out a graveyard where a fellow walker spoke of the honest lawyer , devoted father and conscientious citizen buried there, and came up with an incredulous “ What, they’ve got three men buried in the same place “?
The other celeb who has faced the headlines is the New York based hotelier Vikram Chatwal, who enjoys a hours worked:wealth enjoyed ratio which most New Yorkers would kill for. Which brings us to the fact that although his father is as hirsute as a Sikh can be, the younger man is curiously glabrous, and the fur that remains is almost an afterthought. Perhaps yet another mistaken application by the man of the word we began with..
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
No award ceremony can go by without the worst TV anchors one can imagine crying foul about Indians missing out on the coveted awards doled out as they were sometime in the recent past.
The almost-but-not-quite-the Nightingale should considered a nomination itself –in the universally-pilloried Best Contemporary World Music category, distinctly fortuitous, such was the effort. I have an axe to grind with her genre being considered contemporary but we let that pass.
The Honourable Lama Tashi would have been as stupefied as would his brotherhood of monks for his nomination in the Best Traditional World Music Album (Vocal or Instrumental) category for his album, Tibetan Musical Chants.
I didn’t really know that Anoushka Shankar was referred to as an Indian, having spent most of her living years in the UK and California. But I guess anything that has even a remote Indian connection goes, such is the media frenzy in trying to get the gullible world to buy the “India is going places” story and milk to whatever extent they can ! India is Rising but hasn’t Risen !! ( And if I had a father who was six decades older than I was –okay, I give up—I can’t even imagine that )
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
An octogenarian, name of Betty Friedan passed on last week. Apparently she did a lot of pioneering work at the vanguard of the women’s movement, writing a deeply influential book called the Feminine Mystique, co-founded the US National Organization for Women and inspired women from all walks of life.
Her argument, radical at times, was that women did not have to be defined by or in reference to men. She spoke of women ending up victims of a pervasive system of delusions and false values that urged them to find their fulfillment and identity vicariously, through their husbands and children. She decried contented domesticity as the sole aim of women and exhorted them to find solace in their individualistic ends-artistic, commercial or otherwise.
I think that most of those arguments would still be of equal relevance today in all parts of the world. The West, especially the States, is smug with the archetypal definitions of the gender, and whole generations have grown up hallucinating that that is the Voice of Progress, and the vast majorities elsewhere actually believe this tripe. There is an old-sofa warmth to the veracity of this tenuous premise, so perhaps it makes sense to subscribe to this erroneous view. And as we have already had four American Presidents who have been women, what earthly reason have we to quibble against this established conviction ?
And finally, as Betty first enunciated—after trawling through and interviewing scores of middle-class white women in the States, “The problem that has no name — which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities — is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease”.
How wonderfully analytical—how profoundly erudite !
The problem is that an order is being challenged, deservedly so, but under the convenient garb of restrictions, a compellingly invidious abdication without any forseeable solution, a thrust without a risk of a riposte.
Monday, February 06, 2006
I am reasonably sure that in ancient Greece, there must have existed an anti-Sisyphus, someone who manages to drag his boulder a few inches up the hill against formidable forces, someone who made progress against odds and whose ascent was unwavering and unidirectional. And for the sports freak, it is a little disconcerting to have a player win when he is visibly way off his best.
The Fed won handily in the end after being stretched, and dare I say it, outplayed in the first two sets by a Cypriot. The latter has a bucolic charm about him ( despite spending most of his life in Paris) which I now realize to be the touchstone of modern sporting celeb-hood. The boisterous familial fans made a din disproportionate to their meagre numbers, and the adoring neutrals adopted him for one of their own. He played with skill and stamina beyond expectations throughout the tournamant, beat Stepanek, Roddick, Ljubicic & Nalbandian, all competent seeded performers in their own right. Not since a tawny teenager with unkempt curls who was roared on to the cries of Guga in the 1997 French have I seen a more popular crowdpuller. The Fed was precariously close to defeat against Haas, and Davydenko was desperately unlucky not to see off the top seed, who hung on and earned his seventh Grand Slam in double quick time. And yet one felt that this bloke was capable of much much more and I was boiling over with exasperation as he repeatedly erred on his first serve, missed shots and played distractedly and unimaginatively in the final. Giddap, Roger, fourteen is just a number !
Tears in heaven- the Fed was uncharacteristically tongue-tied and teary-eyed during the presentation ceremony—Rod Laver’s presence is enough to choke anybody up, and my surmise is that the vast majority were only too glad to see emotions from the great man. In an interview, he spoke of his intent to come to the net more when his mobility would reduce. I cannot imagine a sporting parallel- Warne saving up another tweeter, Woods a long drive, Bryant another baffling move—the mind boggles !
Finally, Amelie won and coming soon after Cjlisters has laid to rest all demons about nice girls not winning. One of the very few to boast of an allround game on the distaff side, Mauresmo profited from both Belgians crying off on physical grounds and while Cjlisters was barely mobile, those old phantasms of the fragile mind of Henin-Hardenne returned as she gave up in the final. Martina Hingis, about three kilos still overweight showed enough spunk to be considered a real threat on the WTA and I was glad to see her astounding court sense and peerless shot selection still intact.
China extended its sporting hegemony to another alien game when Zi Yan & Zheng Jie pulled off an epochal victory in the women’s doubles ousting the best that the world had to offer and after the triumph of Ting Li and Sun Tian-Tian at the 2004 Olympics, Asia could be the next big market for tennis. The duo deservedly won, besting the top seeds Stosur & Raymond as well as derailing my favourite pair in the quarters. In the past decade, Yayuk Basuki, Tamasugarn and the Japanese with Kimiko Date once ranked No.6 are the only Asians to have made a mark and we could do with many more, sans the Uzbeks and the Indian(s) !
The Bryans were insuperable but I thought I detected a loss of both spectator and player interest in the game, which doesn’t augur well at all and unlike the ladies, hardly any top male player participates in the event. Trying times ahead !
Peter Fleming was once asked who he considered to constitute the best doubles team and his only barely-saucy reply was John McEnroe and anybody. Certainly Mahesh Bhupathi appears to be well on his way to being a great in the mixed doubles circuit, and although he plans to continue his partnering the Swiss Miss- herself a dream doubles player, his wins with the delicate Hantuchova and the not-so-delicate Pierce are worth savouring.
The heat was killing and the entire annual calendar could fall apart if not remedied soon. When Nadal, Safin and Agassi return for the French, we may expect a more open draw –don’t quite think the Fed can win at Roland Garros just yet.