Diversity

Of Churches and Burritos

Haven’t blogged in like, ages.

Somehow, I don’t think I have a taste for burritos. Calamari though, is an entirely different matter.

Had gone down to Greenwich yesterday. Which, in my considered opinion, is one of the loveliest areas in/around London. I also kinda figured out why the Lightning-Man is so reluctant to leave that place 🙂

Got my tennis racket re-stringed. Had busted it while playing against the Architect. There happens to be this shop in the upper reaches of London called Gefen Sports. Just off Queen’s Park. Which deals almost exclusively in racket sports. And the chaps who man the store are exceedingly nice and watch IPL on TV. All of which is much good 🙂 Not too mention the fact that I think I got a pretty good deal with my strings as well.

Had recently gone for the evening service at All Souls, Langham Place with the Jacobean. ‘Twas beautiful. For a moment, I thought I was back in school (doosrawala).

Had out first NUJS London Reunion thingie about a week back. Some enterprising sorts even made it out down from Oxford to attend this gig. Some non-enterprising sorts didn’t even make it down from London 🙂 Which was kinda sad. For Maida has this amazing dish called Chicken Tai Pai. And, that, is just friggin’ awesome.

Had gone gallivanting in Camden when Yellow Bags had come down to London. Its essentially like a bigger, more psychedelic version of Portobello market. With lots of tattoo artists. And some dirt-cheap basement-rate bargains. Not bad at all.  

Go. See. I Am Love. Or lo sono l’amore. This is probably as European a movie as they come. Lush colours, ridiculously awesome cinematography, cult camera angles, the works essentially. But then, that is precisely what has been the bane of European Cinema for so long. These auteurs tend to get so carried away by the brilliance of their art and technique that they forget that there is somebody else who would be watching their product. Pithily put, form often trumps substance 🙂 And even here, while walking out of Cineworld, I heard at least a few people go on about how they couldn’t make head or tail of this flick. In this case however, I’d beg to differ. And Tilda Swinton is amazing.

I have a new favourite piece in classical music now. Concerto for Two Violins in A Minor by Vivaldi. Watched it being performed by the Belmont Ensemble at St Martin-in-the-Fields last night. Much, much good. Dunno if you will find this on Youtube, but probably worth a shot.

What I know, you should find on Youtube, is another track this piece reminded me of; Building a Family by Mark Isham. Come to think of it, I don’t think its that similar. Or perhaps, at all similar. But then, you really don’t have any control over the stuff yer reminded of, do you. And especially, when the ‘stuff’ in question is as unquestionably sublime as this!    

Go on, don’t be shy, google it. You can thank me afterwards 🙂

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Movies, Cinema, Muck (And a Couple of Non Sequiturs)

Exhibit A: Chintuji. Had heard so many poltroons going gaga about how nice, how sweet, how cutesy it was. Well, the darned thing IS sweet. The only problem is that it is so bloody sweet it almost reaches saccharin overdose levels. Methinks the director was probably aiming for a good old fashioned Hrishikesh Mukherjee-Basu Chatterjee feel. And given the times we live in, he was probably obligated to throw in a song-and-dance routine as well. But the poor chap overshot it. By a helluva long way. Muck

Exhibit B: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. How does someone, who made such a bloody decent movie the first time round, so totally screw up the sequel?? Transformers has got to be the worst sequel I have seen. Ever. I know Bay ain’t exactly the cat’s pajamas when it comes to cinematic derring-do, but this has to be pretty special, even by his not-so-exacting standards. Or maybe, it was just Megan Fox which distracted the poor man. Utter muck.

Non Sequitur 1: Caught snatches from a trailer of a Chetan Bhagat interview on CNBC a few days back. The man was mouthing lines like “Chetan Bhagat knows what he wants”, “Bollywood shall work for Chetan Bhagat, not the other way around”. Not only does he churn out you-know-what, but he also speaks in third-person. Cult

Non Sequitur 2: MNS activists have declared war on Wake up Sid. Apparently, the movie refers to Mumbai as Bombay. Cult-er.

Non Sequitur 3: Roman Polanski raped a 13 year old. But that’s alright. ‘Coz he directed The Pianist and Chinatown, you know. (%$@#@, some more dosh here)

Non Sequitur 4: Phul Singh v. State of Haryana, AIR 1980 SC 248. Per, Krishna Iyer, J.

“A philanderer of 22, appellant Phul Singh, overpowered by sex stress in excess, hoisted himself into his cousin’s house next door, and in broad day-light, overpowered the temptingly lonely prosecutrix of twenty four, Pushpa, raped her in hurried heat and made an urgent exit having fulfilled his erotic sortie.”

(Some more extracts from the same order here.) Cult-est.

Ab Samachar Mein Hindi Suniye

Languages are a tricky breed. You are born into one, you speak a few, know a few more, and if you are really pissed, you invent Esperanto. OK, apologies, that was a cheap one. Now, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to learn two tongues; Urdu and Sanskrit. Urdu, because I wanted to read Manto and Chugtai in original, and Sanskrit because, well, it was Sanskrit.

I have always found Urdu to be a singularly lyrical language. The cadences, the pauses, the nazaakat, the chhoti-chhoti harkatein; it’s a tongue for poets, for bards, for troubadours. Sanskrit, on the other hand, was probably fated for didacticism, for hour-long oratorical excesses, the moment it was conceived. Try as hard as I may, I just cannot visualise anyone making small-talk in Sanskrit. It is the resounding baritone to Urdu’s mellifluence. A fortissimo to the other’s sotto voce.

However, I never had much dealing with any of them. Unlike my Mum and Dad, I never really had a classical education in Sanskrit. I did start off with Sanskrit in Dehradun, but when I came to Cal, those bozos at school made me shift to Bong instead. Poltroons. In re Urdu again, Nastaleeq is as comprehensible to me, as are Egyptian hieroglyphs. And whatever little I know comes from those 50s and 60s numbers courtesy the likes of Ludhianvi and Sultanpuri. That is the extent of my knowledge.

This, however, never frazzled me too much. I always knew how incompetent I could be. And, in any case, there was always Hindi to fall back upon. Hindi was neither Sanskrit, nor was it Urdu. It was both. It was Hindustani. ‘Twas, as Jha ji used to say, Yeh toh Khari Boli hai.

Today though, I really don’t hear that much Hindi around me anymore. Far from it. It’s usually an over-Sanskritised version of the Ghost of Hindi Past. Just try watching your average Bollywood production or any one of those numerous sob sagas which ply their trade on prime-time tele. Most of them speak like characters right out of B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharata. Or, Hindi’s turned into some avant-garde hotchpotch which passes for high lit and the pinnacle of creative expression (Mr. Prasoon Joshi, I’m in awe of your work. Just that, it’s not quite Hindi you write in :))

So, you either hear the hep crowd swing it the Hinglish way. Or you hear words which were probably last used a couple of millennia back. Johnny Walker probably said it best. (See below) Today though, the newscasters might just wing it, the Yo dude, Ab Samachar mein Hindi suniye, way.

Balraj Sahni’s Convocation address, Jawaharlal Nehru University, 1972

(Original Post here. Cross-linked from here)

[…] it is logical to conclude that Hindi and Urdu are one and, the same language. But no, our British masters declared them two separate languages in their time. Therefore, even twenty-five years after independence, our government,: our universities, and our intellectuals insist on treating them as two separate and independent languages. Pakistan radio goes on ruining the beauty of this language by thrusting into it as many Persian and Arabic words as possible; and All India Radio knocks it out of all shape by pouring the entire Sanskrit dictionary into it. In this way they carry out the wish of the Master, to separate the inseparable. Can anything be more absurd than that? If the British told us that white was black, would we go on calling white black for ever and ever? My film colleague Johnny Walker remarked the other day, “They should not announce ‘Ab Hindi mein samachar suniye’ they should say, ‘Ab Samachar mein Hindi suniye.’

Crash

Crash, undoubtedly is by far, one of the best movies I’ve caught in quite some time now (seems like I am enjoying something of a streak in good movies now, first RDB and now this). And this fulfilled the most necessary prerequisite for any magnificent flick; It makes you think. Racism, racial discrimination are the primary context in which the entire movie has been filmed with a series of interconnected episodes seamlessly woven into the storyline.

And it actually made me think that it all boils down to the kind of diversity America enjoys in the first place; it is by no means inherent, at best acquired. Reminds me of something I had read in the Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse by Nirad Chaudhari abt USA’s guiding motto being Ex Plunibus Unum (From Many to One) as compared to India’s Eko’ham Vahu’Sayam (Out of One Many) or as in its Latin form, E Uno Plures. As such, any effort to uphold and facilitate heterogeneity in a system which actively strives to homogenise its individuals can only be an utopian dream.

I mean to say, taking an analogy which might be completely out of line. India is primarily a Hindu nation right. Of course, we are a pluralist, multicultural society with a strong tradition of democracy but at the end of the day, the majority of India’s inhabitants are Hindus. Just look at the sheer number of deities in the Hindu pantheon. Guess it numbers somewhere around 108,000 or so. On the other hand, America; predominantly Christian, what do the one of the Ten Commandments say; Thou Shalt have no God other than me. Admittedly, a wretched analogy, but still, this is diversity, ain’t it.

Diversity cannot be fostered merely by a consciousness to be diverse. In India, the process of diversity, multiple ethnicities and their ilk commenced aeons ago. With a few exceptions, there are hardly any people in this country who can be identified as coming from a specific region or belonging to a specific religion. There has been so much of intermingling that most efforts at profiling ethnicity have come to naught in this country. Therein lies the beauty of India. America on the other hand was discovered in somewhere around late 15th Century. We had people like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King going around till around the first half of the previous century. Need I say more? There are no quick-fix solutions with regard to societal consciousness or individual bias. They can only be eroded with the passage of time and sometimes, sometimes efforts, however well-intentioned to rush up the process, as it were, actually amounts to a retrogade step. That is the fine line which all advocates of affirmative action or positive discrimination have to follow.

P.S. Whoa, I started with Crash and looked where I have ended. Actually, Crash reminded me of another entity as well…….Orkut……noticed how all the characters in the movie were connected to each other 🙂