Friday, September 4, 2009

Fat and Fit

My lifelong fight in the Battle of the Bulge suffered a terrible setback when I happened to read an article on Time about how exercise is simply not the way to go when you are trying to lose weight. I love to exercise and I hate dieting, which had the mixed result of my not losing weight but being secure in the mistaken belief that I was doing something to keep the fat demons at bay. The article was an eye - opener and stripped away the comfortable myths I had surrounded myself with.

Consequently, I had lost the motivation to haul myself out of bed and work up a good sweat. And to make things worse unlike my first pregnancy when I was into butter beans, greens, and drumsticks this time around I find myself fighting an insane craving for chocolates and ice cream on an almost daily basis. In fact, I have mutated into the chocolate monster. Today, I needed a sugar fix so bad, I actually considered stealing my daughter's Kinder Joy while she was sleeping. But I was stopped in my tracks when I saw the tempting goodie clasped tightly in her hands almost as if she sensed the threat to it even in deep repose. (Veda is wise beyond her years).

Things have never seemed darker and I am terrified that the day is not far when this junk food junkie, chocoholic, and fallen- from -the- fitness- bandwagon loser will be sold to the circus, having been mistaken for an elephant. While I was torturing myself with images of myself playing Jabba the Hut, I read the letters to the editor section in Time. Readers of the esteemed publication where almost unanimous in lambasting the exercise - is - useless - for - weight - loss article and dismissing it as irresponsible journalism. And I found myself agreeing with a reader from India who said it was better to exercise and eat than just eat and not exercise.

My new mantra for the duration of my pregnancy is to be fat but fit and I guess I'll focus on that elusive size - zero body a little later in the day. Have whipped out my forgotten prenatal exercise tapes and am going to start walking again. And now that I am back on the fitness wagon, hears to hoping that I don't fall off anytime soon.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Good Samaritans

If a Martian were to pick up a copy of one of our newspapers or magazines, it would be perfectly understandable for him to dismiss Earthlings as a bunch of maladaptive miscreants who have nothing better to do with their time other than rob, rape, murder, or wage war against their own kind. This in addition to being purveyors of homemade pornographic material and destroyers of the ecosystem. Atleast we won't have to worry about a large - scale alien attack! Anyways my point is news material these days is one of the leading causes of indigestion given the content that is covered. Which is why it was a refreshing change to read (in The Week) about some good samaritans who have been harbingers of positive change in a beleaguered society.

Two of the good samaritans - George Abraham and Dhruv Lakra, made a deep impression on me. George Abraham is credited with being the creator of blind cricket in India. Being visually impaired himself, he refused to allow his handicap to stop him from following his dreams. Today he works in the advertising industry and is always looking for ways to brighten up the dark world of the blind. Whether it is playing cricket or honing their innate abilities, George Abraham is there to help his brethren lead useful, fulfilling lives.

Dhruv Lakra is the founder of Mirakle Couriers where the mail is sorted and delivered by deaf adults. The 28 year old started small with only one employee but today the organization boasts of 15 corporate clients and 30 deaf employees! I loved the fact that Dhruv made it possible for the deaf in his charge to find a way to contribute to society while enhancing their own sense of self - worth and making good money while they are at it.

So Mr. Martian we are not all bad eggs. Sure, we behave like arses on occasion but you can't deny that sometimes we are adorable.We may wage wars but we also fight for peace and for every jackass there is a good samaritan. And yeah we made a hole in the ozone layer but I bet there is a genius somewhere who is on the cusp of a major breakthrough in the plugging up of atmospheric holes with discarded socks no less. So there, humankind rocks!!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What Lies Beyond?

What happens after we die? What can we expect in that great beyond? Most religions talk about heaven and hell, but I never really bought that concept. Heaven is supposedly the place where everything is beautiful and clean and everyone is deliriously happy cavorting with chubby cherubs. Yeah, sort of like at a dentist's place sans the aesthetics where there is enough happy gas to go around. Hell, on the other hand is where you burn for your sins and are treated to a firsthand experience of torture devices used over the ages. Sounds like Sivadump to me :)

Hindus believe in rebirth. I am not sure about it, but I must confess that whenever my latent penis envy condition starts acting up, I promise myself that in my next life, I'll be a man. (You'll have a similar condition too, if in your family the boys are allowed to study in co - ed institutions and sent off abroad to round out their education while the girls are sent to all - girls boarding schools and then married off without further ado). And people I have no reason to be fond of will be cockroaches. Its a pleasant enough daydream but I am not sure it will ever amount to anything more.

My favorite explanation can be found in Harry Potter. In the immortal words of the great Albus Dumbledore, "To the well -ordered mind, death is but the next great adventure" . Well I am always game for a new adventure and besides it sounds a lot more fun than the "perpetual happy - hour" place and "eternal exile to Sivadump" place.

And for those who are wondering about my sudden morbidity, there is a simple explanation - pickles and ice cream for lunch coupled with a terrible case of morning sickness. Pregnancy is such a magical time. Be warned.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

To Suffer or Die?

Sir Edward Downes, the former conductor of Britain's Royal Opera made a sucide pact with his wife, a former ballerina who had been diagnosed with terminal liver and pancreatic cancer. They decided that life without each other would be unbearable and decided to end it together in a manner of their choosing. Strict British laws on assisted suicide prompted them to fly to the more lenient climes of Switzerland. They went to clinic in Zurich by the name of Dignitas, where for a fee of $7000 the group arranges for death by barbiturate. The couple paid the fee and took their lives. Nice and easy and supposedly civilized. I am sure a lot of people would find this romantic but I thought it was creepy as hell.

Ordinarily I am pro - choice but there is something about the idea of assisted suicide or euthanasia or whatchamacallit that really freaks me out. Sure the idea is to put a dog or a horse out of its misery when it is past help but it will be a bleak day for human beings when it is declared that they deserve nothing more or less than animals (Some day the Blue Cross is gonna get me).

Yeah, yeah there are many arguments for euthanasia - sometimes people wanna die with dignity, the staggering medical costs will bankrupt their families etc. etc. But the moral boundaries become increasingly blurred when we walk down this road. When I was in college, I used to take the train to get home. And I have lost track about the number of oldies who cribbed to me about how callous and materialistic their children have become. One fella refused to come for his mother's funeral because he was too miserly to cough up the money for flight tickets from the U. S. of A. Imagine that! What about those who are in a hurry to come into their inheritance without blowing it up on medical fees? I shudder to think of what would would happen if such people were given the power to decide if their ageing folks were to live or die!

If we relax the laws on euthanasia, I am sure there will be a time when we decide to abandon old folks on the inhospitable slopes of the Himalayas or Mount Fuji or whichever geographical terrain than can serve as a dumping ground for the aged. It is too bad that are fear of growing old and dying should manifest itself in such inhuman ways. A slow and painful death brought on by old age is hardly the best way to go but I am not sure a cup of barbiturate is the answer. Dylan Thomas may not agree but perhaps it is best to go gently into that good night. Without any assistance, thank you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bang and Fizzle

If you are a resident of Sivakasi, fireworks are a part of your life whether you like it or not. We walk around oblivious to the crescendo of bangs and booms that would have ripped the eardrums of outsiders to shreds. The thick pall of smoke that mushrooms the entire town despite doing nothing to improve the decor is accepted rather like an annoying relative.

In other places accidents in the industrial areas probably cause a lot of noise particularly when lives have been lost. But not in Sivakasi. Oh no, we have become inured not only to noise pollution but to death as well especially if it happens in the fireworks industry. It happens too damn often you see. Besides fireworks are the financial mainstay of this dump. And safety regulations cut into profits. It simply does not make sense to bite the hand that feeds you does it?

On July 21st, there was an explosion at Sri Krishna Fireworks, a private fireworks manufacturing unit. 8 people were killed and 45 injured. I seriously doubt the veracity of those figures especially since it was a major accident and took the firefighters three hours to douse the flames. There should have been an uproar but there wasn't. The big bang that should have resonated across the place lamenting the tragedy of it all fizzled out. The entire episode was hushed up quickly with some token arrests made and all the other dirt brushed under the carpet. After all it has happened hundreds of times in the past and it will happen again and again and again in the future. Let us all get over it shall we?

For a town that has learned to embrace noise, it is remarkable how silence can be maintained on the gravest of issues. It is about time the inhabitants of Sivakasi made some noise and for a good cause.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Save the Kids

There was a special report on The Week entitled “Where Are Our Kids?”. It was one of the most disturbing articles I have read recently. According to the National Human Rights Commission, about 45, 000 kids go missing in India every year. Apparently India has become a Bermuda Triangle of sorts for kids. And what is worse these kids fall into the worst hands imaginable. They are forced to beg, are sexually exploited, or sold on the child labor market. While it appears that some of the children are abducted, others are willingly sold by poverty – stricken parents, who have been hoodwinked by unscrupulous carrion representing placement agencies that offer false promises of high – paying jobs and a better life.
Of course, there are strict laws regarding child labor of any sort. Pity they are not enforced. All this stuff got me thinking. Perhaps we are tackling this the wrong way. I have always looked askance at folks who hire little kids to work in their homes. But suddenly I am looking at them in a whole new light. Usually, the underage laborers are hired to look after their employer’s children or do relatively light household chores. At least these children get decent meals and a roof over their heads. I know a former child laborer who is now the proud owner of his own tailoring shop thanks to the munificence of his former employees. These children are definitely better off than the ones living on the streets.
Nowadays decent family folks avoid hiring children for fear of running afoul of the law. And yet laws don’t feed the bulldog. Consequently, people living in the lowest economic strata of society, have no choice but to sell their children to the predators on the prowl. So a bad situation has been worsened. Offering free education to these poor kids is hardly the solution. From their position, it is not a feasible choice as education is a luxury they simply cannot afford. After all they can’t be expected to squat under a tree and pay attention to poorly paid, ill – tempered teachers who usually don't bother to turn up for lessons. It would be nice if these institutions were run with a tighter grip and with some attention paid to the financial situation of the pupils.
A pal of mine and I were recently discussing what we’d do if we struck it super – rich in life. We decided we would start schools where kids will not only be offered free education under the tutelage of the best teachers money can buy but will also be taught useful trade skills which they will be able to employ for the benefit of the school and the neighborhood and for which they will get paid of course. That would be our Utopia. And since we are such lovely human beings we will also have enough left over to buy our diamonds, yachts, private jets, the Lakers, and Federer (I intend to retire him immediately). Sigh!!! Wouldn’t it be perfect? And while Jan and I are waiting to get rich, I hope other members of that elite made- of - money club have similar brainwaves.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mommyhood: The Agony and Ecstasy

Veda took a nasty spill the other day. It happened like this. I was trying to get her to eat her dinner and she took to her heels. Seeing that I was catching up, she tried to run faster, did not look where she was going and fell hard on her face. When I lifted her up, her face was covered with blood. And I am ashamed to say I totally fell apart. She is just one and a half for Chrissake! Babies should not be allowed to bleed. What do they have lousy guardian angels for if not to prevent this sort of thing?

Of course I went through the motions. Got some ice, rushed her to a hospital. But the thing is Veda handled it all with so much more aplomb. Apart from insisting that I give her some ice to suck on, poppet was a doll. She giggled all the way to the hospital, gamely helping my kid bro in his efforts to cheer her up, while all I could do was fight back tears and play the various futile 'what - if' scenarios over and over in my head. If only I had dived and whisked her away before she hit the floor... If only I had listened to my husband and stayed home that day... If only none of this had happened... If only... If only... If only...

Doc said she needed a single stitch and whisked her away to do the needful. Veda started screaming as soon as she laid eyes on the doctor (she hates them) and would not stop. I thought her Mommy would show some gumption, after all she never cries except in darkened theatres, in the solitude of the space under her pillow, or in the midst of a particularly heated argument with her husband if she feels she is losing leverage. But that day her mommy bawled worse than a baby. Sometimes you think you know a person, and then you find you don't actually.

Veda is sorta ok now. She has this giant bandage on the center of her forehead. When I showed it to her, she thought it was funny as heck and kept laughing at herself following regular trips to the mirror. The whole episode was thus dismissed out of hand and relegated to the darkest part of her memory where they are likely to be forever lost to her. I, on the other hand will never be able to forget those agonizing moments but I am happy she is happy. There we have mommyhood in a nutshell - agony and ecstasy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Great Abortion Debate

Dr. George Tiller was shot in the head on May 31st in his Church, while serving as an usher. Why was this model citizen targeted? Apparently, his killer objected to his profession. He was a performer of late - term abortions. His was among the hanful of clinics in the U.S that was willing to perform this service.
The man is being canonized and demonized in equal measure. He believed that contrary to the views held by many of his sex, women are rational beings who are perfectly capable of making a choice of this magnitude. And for this, Tiller was persecuted all his life and finally murdered. Stuff like this makes me almost as mad as gun - toting killers who run around killing people for daring to do what they believe in. Tiller performed abortions on consenting females, but judging by the furor he caused one would think he forcibly ripped out the foetuses from all and sundry.
Why is it that "... in matters of life and death, the argument itself can become a matter of life and death" ?(Nancy Gibbs, Time) I have been thinking about it all week and have formed some conclusions. I, myself am pro - abortion although conversely I'll never have the nerve to go through it myself. But I fully understand if someone wishes to abort. Has anyone read Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth" ? Set in the middle ages, the female protagonist is raped by two men.Later at the height of her despair, she wonders if she is pregnant. And she decides that if pregnant, she will deliver the child and then leave it in the woods for the wolves. At that point I could sympathize with her. Shocking huh?
Now in this day and age we don't have to feed wolves with unwanted babies. We can opt for an abortion or adoption. But there is an even better option. Get obssessive about contraception. The market is flooded with products that are designed to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Make full use of these devices and spare yourselves the agony. I know of married men in India who feel embarassed to run down to the nearest store and buy condoms. ANd then the inevitable happens and they rush their wives to an abortion clinic to terminate the pregnancy. Now these chaps deserve to be shot don't they?
But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men... People have the right to choose. Let them. Let the others do as Voltaire suggested,"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Velupillai Prabhakaran: The Life of a Rebel

Rebels fascinate me. I guess its because I am something of a conformist myself and also something of a closet rebel. Velupillai Prabhakaran was the quintessential rebel. To his followers, he was a hero and a great freedom fighter, to others he was a visionary, but there are many more who think of him as a raving megalomaniac and an evil villain. So I have been reading up on the man, and here is some of the stuff I have unearthed.

Velupillai Prabhakaran was the founder and leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The objective of this group is to create a separate homeland for the Tamils or a Tamil Eezham. And in order to attain their aims they have been waging war against the government for nearly three decades. The war is over now and all that remains of the LTTe is the ideas they stood for.

Even the LTTE's worst detractors would admit that their grievances were justified. The predominantly Sinhalese government did make life difficult for the Tamils. For instance, as early as 1956, the "Sinhala Only Act" was passed in parliament. This law ruled that Sinhala, the language of the majority which amounted to about 70% of the populace was to be the sole official language of Sri Lanka. Ostensibly, the law was formulated in the wake of Sri Lankan independence with the idea of removing all traces of their colonial masters but Tamils were indignant and saw it as a conduit for the majority to impose their will on them. And then in 1973, the government announced a new policy for university admissions called standardisation which required Tamil students to score higher than the Sinhalese to enter the university. This virtually destroyed the ambitions of Tamils who aspired to become doctors or engineers. In this manner, the differences between the two ethnic groups led to a schism that simply could not be bridged and not surprisingly, erupted in violence.

There is little doubt that Prabhakaran sought to redress the wrongs of the Tamils. He was a man who believed passionately in his cause and would stop at nothing to fulfill his dream of a liberated Tamil Eezham. However, the tactics he adopted were far less admirable. He was an inflexible man who did not take kindly to opposition in any form. Therefore, in addition to killing key Sinhalese government officials, and an Indian Prime minister, he is also responsible for claiming the lives of Sri Sabarathinam, leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation and Appapillai Amirthalingam, the Tamil United Liberation Liberation Front leader. The Tamil Tiger also liked to use suicide bombers and it has been said that he used civilians as human shields to keep the inexorable Lankan army at bay. This callous disregard for human life may not seem a big deal for an overzealous nationalist but it does make the gorge rise for the rest of us.

Prabhakaran did not have the patience or the wisdom for peaceful negotiations. He preferred to rely on his guns and this trigger - happy attitude led to the LTTE being declared a terrorist group in 37 nations. The violence he had so much faith in ultimately proved to be counter - productive and with global opinion shifting in favor of the Sri Lankan government, it was only a matter of time before the LTTE were wiped out.

Despite the destruction of the LTTE, and the death of their leader, the situation remains dicey on the war - torn island. None of the original problems have been solved. The Sri Lankan goverment has refused to allow the international media, NGOs and other witnesses inside the war zone. So one shudders to think of the fate of those trapped within. And given the fact that the government has been bombing its own citizens for over a year, one can expect a bloodbath. It was precisely this sort of heavy - handedness that spawned the Eezham war in the first place and created extremist leaders in the form of Prabhakaran. And unless the government makes a sincere attempt to do the right thing by the Tamils, (I don't mean just including Muttiah Muralidharan in the national team) the cycle of violence and bloodshed will continue unabated.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stop the Fed Express!

The unthinkable has happened! Raphael Nadal the undisputed king on clay has crashed out of the French open. Yeah, I know it is stale news but I was in mourning and could barely bring myself to think about it, let alone write about it. But following the classic stages of anger and denial, acceptance has finally set in. I am not a Nadal fan. For me, Pete Sampras will always be the greatest tennis player to lift a racket. And I hate the fact that his achievements and records are under siege thanks to the Swiss mauler. Rafa has been the lone warrior fighting on Pistol Pete's side (albeit inadvertently) and now he is gone.

Looks like the road has been completely cleared for Federer in his quest for greater Grand Slam glory. Rafa is the only player who has been successful in repeatedly derailing the Fed Express. Judging from their performance in past tournaments, it appears that all the other players are so in awe of Federer's legacy that their entire attention is concentrated on how best to avoid wetting their pants when the great man is across the net and they allow the Swiss champ to sleepwalk his way to the trophy. Its like watching a terrible movie over and over again. Can nobody stop him now?

Federer is going to play Gael Monfils for a place in the semifinals. I don't anything about the man on whom my hopes are centered save his nationality - French. And I hope the history books are wrong about the French and their failure to win any great battles. Or perhaps Soderling may pull off yet another improbable upset and send Fed packing. Who am I kidding? The organizers may as well hand over the trophy to the Swiss juggernaut. And I may as well prepare to mourn again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Of Racism and Racists

A series of ugly, racially motivated (the Australian government prefers to call it opportunistic) attacks directed against Indians in Australia has generated widespread anger and outrage all over the world. The stabbing of a student, Sravan Kumar Theerthala has focused attention on the racism rampant in Australia. Thousands of students have raised their voices in strident protest in the hope that the government will take a stand against the wave of hate crimes that are rocking the nation.
Humanity has been confronted with the spectre of racism yet again and as in the past there seems to be very little anyone can do. This monster like the mythical Hydra is impossible to destroy and every time a head is chopped off, it is replaced by an uglier one. And unfortunately, there is a serious dearth of Hercules – type heroes in the world we occupy.
I am outraged by what happened to Sravan but the media frenzy in India over this affair has provided some food for thought. Journos have been so busy crucifying the Aussies they have all but forgotten the high priests of hatred and intolerance who infest our country like a virus. Suddenly, Indians have adopted a sickening holier – than – thou attitude conveniently forgetting the fact that Indians are abused in India as well. Today’s paper reported how three Dalits were hacked to death in Tirunelveli District. There are thousand incidents like this which are reported on a daily basis in India. How can we whine about Racism when we are racists ourselves? For shame!
In all fairness Indians are not alone in their collective hypocrisy. Sure, the Blacks have been persecuted over the ages on account of their skin color, but I doubt they are nicer in their attitude and treatment of the the Jews or Chinese. Similarly, the descendants of the Holocaust victims do terrific Nazi impersonations when it comes to their own ‘interactions’ with Palestinians. Don’t even get me started on the racist activities of the Russians, Chinese, Americans, French, British, etc. etc. etc.
Isn’t it a dismal state of affairs? Like a particularly insidious canker, racism has spread all over the world. The rot has set in and there is not much we can do short of giving ourselves a complete mental transplant. Until then, all we can do is wait for Hercules. And if the hope of the world rests with that muscle – bound moron, then God save us all.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Impending Nuptials: Archie and Veronica???

I love Archie comics. They are silly, mushy, and lots of fun even if they make you cringe occasionally. The good ol gang are practically a part of my life. Which is why I nearly had a myocardial infarction (Ok, I'll admit it pollysyllabic pyrotechnics can be annoying as hell, so lets call it a heart attack) when I read that issue # 600 will feature Archie's big proposal to snobbish Veronica. Can you imagine the nerve of those editors! After stringing you along for seven decades and making you believe that this triangle is eternal, they bust it up.

What kind of storyline can we expect after this colossal catastrophe? Perhaps Betty will start chasing Moose and form an unlikely triangle with him and the flirty Midge. Jughead and Reggie may go after the jilted blonde and try to entice her with burger breath and hot air respectively. Or we can expect the comic to take a dark turn a la Harry Potter with Archie having an adulterous affair with Betty. Eternal youth and innocence be damned, didn't Peter Pan grow up? Heaven forbid! What if this is the end of the road for Archie and the gang particularly since the imbecile editors have decided to sacrifice the main hold - your - breath twist?

Perhaps like Betty, we can only hope that it is a publicity - stunt gone hopelessly awry. I remember that Scott Adams once attempted to increase readership by bumping off corporate bumpkin Dilbert. He claimed it was an ineffective ploy and like him one can only hope that the head honchos at Archie comics Inc. (or whatever) come to their senses quickly. But the most likely scenario may be that i am overeacting (It is known to happen, ask my husband). After all the title says "Archie marries Veronica, Part 1: The Proposal". In retrospect, I don't think that sounds very conclusive. In the meantime let us keep our fingers crossed for our fave love triangle and also - rans the world over.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Just Play the Game

I watched Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and Nuggets the other day. Actually I watched the last 4 minutes as it is common knowledge that the fourth quarter or to be more specific the last two minutes of the fourth quarter is the only part worth watching. It was a close game with Kobe Bryant getting really hot to help his team rally and take a 105 - 103 win. It should have been an adrenaline - packed viewing experience but as the last 4 minutes dragged on towards eternity (it felt like that to me, although it was closer to a half hour) I found myself headed for snooze city.

How is it that one of the most high - octane games on the planet has been reduced to this pitiable state? It is supposed to be the NBA where "the amazing happens", but the only amazing thing about it nowadays is the number of timeouts that can be squeezed into the final two - minutes. Sometimes they have as many as nine timeouts in less than six minutes which is more than the points that are likely to be scored in the same duration!

I hate timeouts for many reasons. The obvious reason is that it is such a buzz kill! There you are sitting at the edge of your seat wondering if LeBron is going to pick up where MJ left off and consolidate his position on the NBA equivalent of Mount Olympus when you find yourself watching some odious anti - dandruff shampoo commercial or worse , a close - up of some beady - eyed, puffed - up - with - self - importance coach.

Second it is such a cop - out. Players call timeouts when they are in a tight situation and rather than rise to the task (as MJ would certainly have done) they chicken out and go running to coachie (wonder what Freud would have said about the coach complex). Similarly coaches ask for time when the other team is in the process of soundly thrashing their boys' backsides. Personally I think it is a classic
example of how terrible sportsmanship and crass commercialism can ruin a fine sport beyond redemption.

Other sports suffer from similar deficits particularly cricket but Basketball is the worst. Thankfully the F1 drivers have not started abandoning their cars in the middle of the race to go huddle with their mechanics and Tennis stalwart, Roger Federer flies solo having passed up the chance to have someone hold his hand when Nadal is in the mood to savage him. Anyways to get back to the topic at hand, I have a suggestion for the NBA - Do the sport a favor, just play the game and ban the timeout. Coaches can plan strategy during practice sessions and as for the mandatory commercials which I understand are the lifeblood of every sport, air them at halftime and when the NBA bad boys get vicious, as is their wont drawing fouls by the dozen. This way the fans can have fun watching the final two minutes on TV instead of reading about it on MSN which as the situation now stands is the prefered choice for many. Are you reading this Mr. David Stern or is that a stupid question? :)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Formula 1 : Rise of the Machines

India is suffering from IPL fever. I am also running a slight temperature. Have been following the fortunes of the Chennai Super Kings despite the superhuman effort needed to wrest the remote from hubby who has nothing but disdain for India’s new religion. My warning that he will be burnt at the stake as a heretic have fallen on deaf ears. But even as I watch the men in yellow slug it out on foreign shores, I find my thoughts wandering to F1, that Mt. Everest of auto racing.

The sport is practically unrecognizable with the new rules that have been implemented. Unlike the autosexuals who constitute F1’s rabid fan following, for me auto racing is all about the drivers. Those fellas race at speeds of up to 360 km/h! I feel like the car is spinning wildly out of control when I am doing a feeble 20. Dad once said I have three speed levels – slow, slower, slowest (Sigh, the truth hurts). And as for the gears, and clutch, and the other complicated gizmos, they represent differential calculus, algebra, geometry, men, and the million other things I find incomprehensible. So for someone who has taken the the term “lousy driver”, to new depths these guys are Gods.

The current season however has witnessed the fall of the Gods as the drivers have diminished in stature even as the cars have grown omnipotent. Former champs like Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton remind me of myself behind the wheel. Of course the rubbish cars they are driving are to blame for their hopeless bumbling. And Jensen Button is the same driver he always has been and owes his newfound dominance to the sexy Brawn GP. Guess the drivers are just along for the ride and the cars are the real stars. May as well put those amazing hunks of metal on the podium. Hate to admit it, but the autosexuals may have had it right all along. And perhaps I could undergo a magical transformation and turn into a fantastic driver if only I could get my hands on a Brawn GP or a Red Bull!!!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Ice Man and His Ice Cream

It must be hard to be Kimi Raikkonen these days. It was bad enough that he did an abysmal job defending his world championship title last year, but his performance this year is simply too painful for words. He seems to be having this insanely dysfunctional relationship with his car and his team. Sometimes his lacklustre attitude reminds me of a snow man. Whatever happened to the cool dude with the nerves of steel who gave Schumi a run for his money?

Kimi's problems have been further compounded by the introduction of the Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems(KERS). The inclusion of this system adds about 30 kilograms to the car making it hard for the meachanics to distribute ballast around the car. Therefore many teams have asked their drivers to shape up (read eat with the appetite of a sparrow) if they want to perform like sleek cheetahs as opposed to rampaging hippos.
Kimi, unfortunately seems to have trouble sticking to his diet. It is being muttered that his generous proportions are seriously weighing down his chances of winning this year. His prediliction for chocolate ice cream is not helping either. This little tidbit has given commentators like Steve Slater the fodder needed to poke fun at the "chubby chappie". He is constantly being informed that "... a moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips!" Sheesh!
Recently, at the Malaysian grand prix he was caught on camera with his lips wrapped around an ice cream when the race was called off due to rain. The other drivers were twiddling their thumbs or cosying up to the pushy press types, but apparently Kimi was at fault for choosing to chill instead.A big hue and cry was raised regarding his motivation issues. But what was he supposed to do anyway? Beg the rain to go away?
As a soldier destined to fight the battle of the bulge for a lifetime, my sympathies are with the Ice man (as Kimi is fondly called) and his sweet tooth. Guys like Slater remind me of my mom and sis who are forever berating me for my midnight trips to the fridge and its Aladdin's cave of treasures for the true foodie. Seriously, Sheesh!
Enjoy your ice cream Kimi. Then go get em Tiger! Show em who is the true champ! Ice cream lovers and chocoholics all over the world are rooting for you.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Desperately Seeking Sushi

I dragged my husband to a Sushi restaurant recently in a desperate bid to wean him off the junk food they serve at those ubiquitous American fast - food chains. We stepped into the charming little place and tried not to look too startled when all the waiters and waitresses screamed Irashaimasee in unison. Pretty sure it means "Welcome" in Japanese. In fact I'll bet on it.

However, in today's world there is no escaping fast food it appears, as the two of us were confronted by a shiny, metallic conveyor belt hawking an endless procession of the different kinds of sushi. Here was Japan's answer to American fast food. I did not have too much time to ponder over it, as a waitress expertly manoeuvred us away from the conveyor belt and to a table tucked away in a cosy corner and handed us menu cards with colourful pictorial depictions of the fare. Perhaps we had 'sushi virgins' written all over our faces!

My husband ordered the chicken nuggets and ignored the condescending look the waitress shot him. She turned that severe gaze towards me, and I swallowed before dutifully ordering the Unagi (eel)and Prawn tempura. The harridan wanted me to try the octopus (malicious creature) but I declined as I kept getting reccurrent visions of long tentacles grappling with my tonsils in the inner recesses of my throat.

The food arrived and I grabbed the chopsticks ignoring the pungent odour of raw fish that assailed my nostrils. The prawn tempura looked appetising and I found it quite palatable after drowning it in soy sauce. Wish I could say the same for the eel! It was ghastly and no amount of Soy sauce or wasabi (green horseradish) could make a difference. The egg custard and watery noodles offered little comfort. But atleast, I had mastered the use of my chopsticks to an extent unlike my hubby, who did not even bother to try and demanded a fork instead. We washed our meal down with 'cultured milk'. My better half loved it till he discovered that it contained over a thousand different strains of carefully cutivated bacteria. Both of us left looking slightly green. And I could not even open my mouth to scream a retaliatory Arigato, lest something far less pleasant came out.
I may not have had the best first encounter with sushi, but I was looking forward to more. Besides, everyone says it gets better after the first time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Indians Abused Abroad

The great Indian dream is a beautiful one – ditch the country and take off abroad as quickly as possible. It is the hope of most Indians that they will find a suitable situation in Singapore, Malaysia, The United States of America, London, Paris, Milan… anywhere but India. This way they can rake in the dollars, pounds, or yen, enjoy exotic cuisine, travel, and truly partake of the good things in life. Like I said it is a beautiful dream and there are millions fortunate enough to be able to live it. And yet there is every indication that the picture is not as rosy as it appears. Scratch the surface and there are traces of a nightmarish existence filled with abuse, discrimination, and extreme hardship.
The Hindu reported a sordid tale about the plight of carpet weavers and their terrible suffering in Malaysis before they were rescued by social workers. The weavers had been suckered in with promises of a lucrative job offer and then overworked, deprived of pay, and subjected to verbal abuse and physical torture. But at least their story had a reasonably happy ending. One shudders to think of those who are trapped in similar situations without any means of escape. The complaints about the abuse of Indians in Malaysia keep trickling in. Children are abused in schools because of their Indian origin; adults are persecuted and even imprisoned. The happenings in Malaysia are not isolated incidents. Covert bullying resulted in the murder of a South Indian teenager Reena Virk in Canada. She was tricked into meeting her peers near a grocery store where she was beaten and drowned. She was accused of stealing a friend’s diary and calling all the boys listed on it. Last year a survey conducted by Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) found that a majority of Indian doctors are among the victims of verbal and physical abuse encountered in the course of their professional duties. There are also horror stories being told about skilled and semi – skilled labourers being mercilessly exploited. Sometimes trained professionals are forced to do menial labour. There are numerous problems being faced by Indian workers abroad and for some strange reason they are usually brushed under the carpet.
Spurred by the hope of making a fortune, many Indians are anxious to get their papers in order and begin their new life of prosperity. Individuals sell their ancestral lands, their jewels, and other assets in order to procure their visas and other necessary documents. The proceedings are laborious and painstakingly slow with the result that many illegal employment agencies offer their services to speed up the process in return for a fat fee. Consequently wannabe migrants are cheated and tricked into accepting menial jobs, positions that pay a lot less than was originally promised, inhumane living and working conditions as well as other forms of abuse. They are ruined both financially and mentally. The laws in the host countries offer little hope as they were framed for the welfare of their own citizens not immigrants. Thus, these poor victims are consigned to a life of abject misery and robbed of their hopes and dreams.
It is high time the government got into the act to protect the rights of its citizens employed abroad. Laws addressing the question of Indians working abroad must be framed and strictly enforced. The issue also needs to be addressed in the UN. Finally, it must be remembered by the dreamers that the grass may always be greener on the other side but one needs to be very careful when going off in search of greener pastures.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Personal Milestone

Veda ate her peas with a spoon today! How amazing is that? I did not even train her or anything. She just grabbed a spoon from one of the umpteen kitchen sets that were given to her (they are her favorites, she is awfully girly when she is not beating up Sanju or killing ants) and helped herself to the peas. Such manual dexterity and she did not cheat once! Except for the one time when she used her hand to coax a recalcitrant pea onto her spoon (Ok she did that a couple of times ). But nevertheless, her mom is pleased that her little baby has finally decided to eschew the caveman - style, ultimate gross - out form of eating. Actually that last statement was kinda unfair, (hubby insists) she is awfully clean for a baby.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spare the Rod and Save the Child!

Recently, a teacher was arrested in Trichy for killing a UKG student. Apparently, Srirohini (a 5 – year - old) had been mischievous and as punishment was hit on the forehead with a stick. The little one became unconscious and later, died. Her body had to be retrieved from a water tank. Isn’t it appalling to think of how abruptly and senselessly a life was terminated? There is every indication that this is not simply a random mishap and corporal punishment in schools is a burgeoning problem in this country.
In 1998, a 12 – year – old in New Delhi lost 20% percent vision in his right eye when a teacher flung a duster at another student. The errant duster shattered his spectacles and resulted in the tragedy. In 2003, a 10 – year – old girl died at her school in Karnataka. She had been ordered to run three times around the school, and twice up and down the stairs for reporting late for a class. Autopsy reports indicated that she had been put through this grueling ordeal immediately after lunch and death may have resulted from the pupil choking on food particles that were regurgitated following the extreme physical strain. A study conducted by the UNICEF in association with Delhi – based PRAYAS in 2007 reported that nearly 90% of students in Mizoram state are victims of corporal punishment, second only to Assam’s 99.56%.
The worst part is that corporal punishment is seldom used only when all other measures have been ineffective. Most teachers use it liberally, and for the smallest infarctions. Students at the receiving end of the stick experience humiliation, severe trauma, and may even suffer from persistent nightmares. Their self – esteem takes a beating and may affect their scholarly pursuits and future careers adversely. For these reasons, corporal punishment has been banned in states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Chandigarh, and Karnataka but it appears that the legal provisions in place have been insufficient to tackle this problem as some teachers feel free to get violent whenever the mood hits them.
A lot of people approve of this anachronistic disciplinary measure despite the fact that there is precious little scientific evidence to support its efficacy in the academic setting. Strangely enough, many parents also approve of corporal punishment. This erroneous mindset needs to be tackled on the grounds that a stick is a ridiculous teaching – aid. And moreover, surely children are entitled to the same protection that animals enjoy in this country!
This writer feels very strongly about this evil as she experienced it firsthand during her school days. I had a pencil shoved down my throat by my instructor, during singing class, because I did not open my mouth wide enough. It was the instructor’s firm belief that the mark of a good singer could be ascertained if one could ram four fingers into the mouth while the person was singing. How any deficits in such a department merits being force – fed pencils is beyond me. Can’t say the incident left me scarred for life, but it certainly put an end to a potentially successful career as a singer (or bathroom singer) as singing leaves a bad taste in my mouth ever since that incident. I am sure everybody has a similar story to relate about corporal punishment at varying levels of severity. Surely, we all want our children to be spared the rod and other insane methods of punishment! Serious action must be initiated against psychotic, cane – wielding teachers to get them to toe the line.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dark Secrets about Fairness Creams

I hate lousy fairness creams and I think they should be banned from the marketplace. My deep – seated resentment against this $300 million dollar industry with its aggressive advertising campaigns does not stem solely from the fact that I am dark and have to put up with people who are forever extolling the merits of “Fair and Lovely” and the use of home – remedies like turmeric. Remedies? No thank you, I don’t have an incurable disease. But the sad truth is that in India, dark skin is akin to a particularly repellent disease.
It seems to me that India’s obsession with colour is a relatively recent phenomenon, as in the good old days Draupadi was the loveliest of them all, and her dusky complexion was compared to a blue lotus. And unlike what happens on commercials where only fair girls bag the groom, this black beauty had five accomplished husbands! What brought about such an unhealthy change in the collective Indian mindset? Perhaps history will provide us with some answers.
It is interesting to note that throughout the chequered history of this country where power switched hands with appalling regularity, the victors were always fairer. The Brahmins were considered the superior caste and not surprisingly they were the fairer ones on account of their Indo – European or Aryan origin. In fact, varna, the term used to describe the four castes means colour in Sanskrit. And then a veritable horde of foreign invaders usurped power from the indigenous peoples and each conqueror was paler than the last one. The British were the last in this colourful line and were literally the fairest of them all. Therefore, it is not surprising that fair skin has connotations of power as well as beauty in India. And it is precisely this mentality that has been so successfully exploited by the cosmetic giants and advertising companies.
Nowadays, fair skin is believed to be a prerequisite for success in every possible department – love, career, and life itself. This is a classic example of logic at its most warped. How on earth is skin – colour related to performance on the job? The situation is so bad that parents grieve if their kids are not white – skinned and slather the wretched sense organ with industrial – strength fairness creams, drag them to seedy salons or quacks in the hope of bringing about a modern day miracle. But therein lies the darkest secret about fairness creams and it is a real zinger – THEY DO NOT WORK!
And that is the bitter truth. Genetics is not just a powerful force of nature it is a proven law unlike the efficacy of fairness creams. At best they serve as a sun block and prevent you from becoming darker as opposed to turning fairer. Let us all spread the news and stop buying those overrated, overpriced, worthless things. So the next time somebody comes up to you and recommends some fairness cream or home remedy, don’t make the mistake I did by showing restraint – just hold up your middle finger and walk away in the opposite direction. And if you espy the dreaded tube in your better half’s cabinet, flush it down the toilet. That is where those products belong, with the crap.

Monday, March 23, 2009

When Journalism became Voyeurism

Jade Goody, the British reality TV star succumbed to cevical cancer. From the time of her diagnosis to her last breath every step of her agonizing journey towards death has been carefully chronicled by the media. Her publicist made sure that the dying woman was followed everywhere by TV cameras. Fortunately while her wedding was televised, the news hounds refrained from capturing her wedding night on film (or their digital cameras ) for posterity. Perhaps that will be the next step in cutting - edge journalism. I don't wish to discuss the motives of a dead woman for obvious reasons but what on earth where the journos thinking? And why oh why do people clamour for this sort of crap?
I wish there was some way to filter the information that bombards me from all sides. Seriously I don't want to watch anybody die (unless its on Quentin Tarantino's latest flick where I know it is all make believe). And while on the subject I don't give a damn about Britney's shaved pate, her pregnant sixteen year old sis, Paris Hilton's new boy toy or Lindsay Lohan's sexual preferences. And yet these are the only things that are given print space.
Most editors and media moguls blame their audience claiming that they cater to public demand. I myself feel that despite my stubborn refusal to read or watch anything pertaining to Jade Goody's fight with cancer there was no way to avoid the finer details from being impressed upon me. Surely most of the viewing public feels the same way? And to think we laughed at the Romans for watching gladiators fight to the death or cheering on the lions as they snacked on Christians while they themselves enjoyed the food and drink that was handed around thanks to the largesse of the reigning emperor! Precious little has changed since those times. It appears that we can still take voyeuristic pleasure in watching people perform intimate functions preferably in the bedroom or bathroom (Remember that notorious video that caught Trisha while she was bathing?) Even death has entertainment value it seems. Nowadays barbarism has been replaced with hypocrisy and perversion in disguise. If this is evolution or civilization or whatever we may choose to call it I wish it would stop already.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Aghoris: Bad - boy Ascetics

Shiva, one of the three Gods in the Hindu holy trinity is the destroyer. Therefore, it is not surprising that he is considered the most intimidating of the Gods. He is an ascetic and something of a recluse, unlike Vishnu who comes across as more friendly and warm, particularly in his avatar as Krishna. Shiva worship with its connotations of death and decay has always had elements of the bizarre but the Aghori sect really take the cake.
Aghoris make their home in cremation grounds. They clothe themselves in the dust and filth of the graves and walk around carrying skulls. They follow a form of tantrism, one of the more abstruse branches of hinduism. Tantric rituals attempt to reverse prescribed Hindu practices. Aghoris dismiss traditional concepts of purity as stuff and nonsense since everything in nature is a manifestation of the universal being. By staying close to the dead and literally imbibing their essence, they hope to draw closer to whatever lies beyond the grave. The name 'Aghori' means not terrified (of death) .
In keeping with their beliefs, Aghoris don't believe in personal hygiene or bathing for that matter. They consume intoxicants out of skulls (they were doing it long before Lord Byron did it for a lark), do drugs, have kinky tantric sex, meditate on corpses, and eat the decayed flesh of the dead. By deliberately devoting their lives to what the rest of the world perceives as vices, it is believed that these ascetics accumulate great spiritual powers that allow them to release people from the vicious cycle of life, death, and rebirth or curse them into oblivion. Fascinating stuff huh?
I had no idea Aghoris existed until Bala's "Naan Kadavul" was released. Isn't India incredible? You can live here forever and still unearth little about its cultural grandeur and variety. Looking forward to learning everything I can about the country that wrote the book on everything from sex (Kamasutra) to politics (Artha Sastra) .

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Carnivore Speaks Up

I am a hardened carnivore and proud of it. My system goes into deep shock if it does not get its daily quota of meat. This is why I take umbrage when vegetarians run around trying to get the rest of us to stop using animals for dietary purposes. I am sick and fed up of people trying to persuade me to stop being cruel to animals and start eating rabbit food. It is about time we carnivores defended our rights!
Apparently animals suffer when we insist on their presence at our dinner table. I suppose that is true as far as it goes. But don’t plants, as living things suffer as well? The argument is that plants don’t have a central nervous system and therefore it is not the same for them. Please! That argument is so full of holes it is liable to sink faster than the Titanic. I doubt it is a pleasurable experience to be cooked or eaten raw. If plants had mouths, I am sure they would have screamed bloody murder! Soon, there will be a bunch of fanatics lecturing us on the evils of eating plants or animals and prescribing a diet of love and fresh air. Perhaps that will not be a bad thing… we will all get that supermodel body which is the rage nowadays before succumbing to death by starvation.
Before PETA activists have me shot, allow me to clarify that I don’t endorse cruelty to animals. I don’t see why haute couture demands the skinning of animals for superficial accoutrements. And guys who beat animals should be locked up. But it is the natural order of things to consume animals and it is inhuman to say otherwise. So let all carnivores join hands and say it aloud “Enforced vegetarianism is a gross violation of human rights! Let us eat what we want in peace”.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Stop the Madness in Erwadi!

Erwadi, near Ramanathapuram is considered a holy place by many people irrespective of their religious denominations. People from all over the country bring the mentally ill to this place seeking a miracle cure from the holy water or oil from a lamp in the Dargah of Quthbus Sultan Syed Ibrahim Shaheed Valliyullah. The Dargah has been in existence for nearly 400 years and has an enviable reputation among the religious although it must be mentioned that it is ill – deserved. A number of imitation dargahs have sprung up all over the place and they are all alike with regard to the primitive measures they endorse in the name of treatment. Tragedy has become the defining attribute of Erwadi as a result of quackery and criminal negligence. The festering cesspool that is Erwadi merely reflects the abominable conditions prevalent in India as regards the care of the mentally ill.
It has been reported that the treatment facilities or safe houses if they may be called that generally use inhumane and severely outdated methods. The practitioners in these establishment recommend prayers and chanting for their charges and though scientifically unsound, it is at least harmless compared to the other techniques that come into play. The etiology of the mental condition is attributed to evil spirits and the inmates are whipped or beaten to drive away such malign influences. Violent patients are tied up or chained, often together. The premises are unhygienic and unsuitable for purposes of treating the mentally ill. Despite repeated complaints about these unsound and unsafe practices the local as well as state administrative officials chose to turn a blind eye till tragedy struck and galvanized them into action, although it would later prove to be largely ineffectual.
On August 6, 2001, fire claimed the lives of 28 mentally affected persons who were inmates of the Moideen Badusha Mental Home. The victims had all been chained and no doubt struggled in vain even as fate dealt its final terrible blow that was the culmination of a life spent in ignominy. The outrage generated by this horrific affair prompted government officials to clamp down on the safe houses. The activities of the safe houses were monitored and the ones without licenses were shut down. Attempts were made to implement guidelines for maintaining safety and basic healthcare standards in homes for the mentally ill. Severe psychiatric cases were transferred to Government hospitals. It was believed that the crisis was past and the response adequate. But it was not to be.
Fire claimed six more lives in Erwadi when a mentally affected woman set a line house ablaze on January 25th, 2009. This incident focused attention on the coastal town again and revealed that unauthorized safe houses continued to flourish and the problem was far from resolved. A host of other issues were also revealed. Pilgrims continue to flock to the place seeking a divine cure for their ailments. Many are left behind to roam the streets in their precarious condition and they are like time bombs just waiting to go off. The police arrested 28 mentally ill patients on the 29th of January, 2009 and they were admitted to the Government hospital later. This situation is not exclusive to Erwadi as it in India it is not an uncommon sight to see the mentally affected wandering on the streets alone and uncared for, making them easy prey for the human predators on the prowl. Something needs to be done and soon. Meanwhile, in Erwadi the death toll mounts.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Other Side of the Dump

For some strange, unfathomable reason I have pissed off the natives of Sivadump. I have been advised not to step out of the house if I don't want to be torn to bits by a lynch mob or find myself at the receiving end of a hired assasin's blade. Some of my loving relatives who happen to be in the fireworks industry have demanded that I remove the "Beauty and the Dump" post. I will not do that as I stand by every word I typed, but I do believe that discretion is the better part of valor so I guess now is as good a time as any to mention some of the redeeming features of Sivadump. (No amount of force can induce me to refer to it by its given name, for me it will always be da dump).

Lets see... The local cuisine is yummy, particularly the parathas and chicken majira (masters) which is infinitely superior to the over - rated fare at Virudhunagar. We have our own version of fine dining at Bell's with their delectable Chocolate Exotica (Sivadump's only bona fide claim to fame) . There are some beautiful temples and truly wonderful folks who live alongside the peacocks. The women deserve a special mention as they hold their own in a typically male - dominated, chauvinistic society. Also, it is not too far far from civilization as my native place, Virudhunagar is just a stone's throw away. The powerful printing industry is also brag worthy. (For those who feel that I typed that only because my husband is a printer, excuse me for sticking my tongue out at you. Nyah!) Finally, when my husband and I have retired from the rat race (or sooner if I am lucky) and are huddled up next to a warm fire, enjoying a delicate repast of fondue in an adorable Swiss chalet I may miss Sivadump, realise that I have actually loved it all along and wish I am back. (Hah! Not bloody likely) .

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pint - Sized Offenders

Recently, in Mumbai, a 17 year old was murdered and his body dumped in a gutter. He had been kidnapped and a ransom of 2 lakh demanded. Thinking it was a joke his parents had not paid up and this led to his demise. One of the victim's classmates were arrested for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping and murder. Juvenile crime is so unbearably grim. The fact that a XII standard student who should have been cramming for his board exams, or making up crib notes, could have been actively involved in the lowest form of crime scares the hell out of me. I was reminded of an even more horrifying case - the James Bulger murder.
On February 12, 1993, 2 year old James Bulger was abducted and murdered by two 10 - year - old boys, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. The toddler's mutilated body was found on a railway line, where the killers had left it hoping to make it look like an accident. The boys were tried publicly and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The are 20 somethings now and out on parole with new identities which have not been disclosed for fear of reprisal.
The James Bulger murder case is one of the most sensational and controversial cases of all time. Even now it is the subject of heated debate. On the one hand, the Brits have been criticized for their barbarism in trying children like adults in a public courtroom and on the other they have been slammed for their leniency in dealing with cold - blooded killers. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.
It is a terrible thing to put two kids (they are kids) away for the better part of their childhood. And yet they did bloody their hands at the age of ten. One shudders at the prospect of those two roaming the streets with completely new identities. If they could kill at the age of 10 what are they capable of doing at 20? Are their parents answerable for what happened? What about the 38 witnesses who claimed to have witnessed the two boys beating up a toddler but failed to intervene? Are kids, the new face of evil or are the adults doing a lousy job as parents, teachers, and disciplinarians? Why did this happen? What are we to do? There are no answers.
Even Sherlock Holmes was baffled: "What is the meaning of it Watson? What object is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear? It must tend to some end, or else our universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable. But what end? There is the great standing perennial problem to which human reason is as far from an answer as ever."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Near Bloodless Conquest

Apparently the conflict between the Tamils and Lankans can be traced back a long way in history. An anecdote in Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan bears testament to the above fact. Eezham as Lanka was known then, nearly two thousand years ago had been captured by the Tamil forces led by Elela Singan. The defeated king of Lanka fled to the surrounding hills and lived in hiding. His young son, Dushtagamanu grew up smarting from the defeat inflicted on his father and thirsting for revenge. When this iron – willed youngster reached manhood, he gathered a small but determined band and took on the mighty armies of the Tamils. Heavily outnumbered, the rebel forces were routed and scattered. But Dushtagamanu would not give up his birthright so easily. He sought an audience with Elela Singan and admitting he had lost his army he requested the king to take him on in a wrestling bout as they were both true warriors. The winner would get Lanka and the loser would attain a warrior’s heaven. Singan consented and the match began. Dushtagamanu fought ferociously and Elela Singan moved by sympathy for the youth did not exert his full strength and was killed. The former then constructed a cenotaph to honor Elela Singan at the spot where he died, for his valor and compassion.
Nice story, but I thought Elela Singan went overboard with the compassion bit. Having given the young upstart a decent shot at the throne he should have thrashed him soundly and sent him packing. Therefore, in my book he is more of a wuss than a hero. But wasn’t that a nice way to settle a dispute? The protagonists spared themselves and their followers years of bloody warfare. Wouldn’t it be nice if our heads – of – state and politicians got off their fat backsides and did the same? May be putting their cowardly necks on the line will make them think twice before sending off our troops to war and certain death with so much alacrity.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Beauty and the Dump

Sivadump, sorry Sivakasi is a dump. The town (euphemistically speaking) is the single largest producer of fireworks in India. And therefore it follows that the horrendous air pollution is a condition that the inhabitants are forced to live with. In fact, it is not advisable to step out of the confines of your home without an oxygen mask, particularly since the place is just a hop, skip and jump away from being condemned as a toxic wasteland.
I think my intense dislike for Sivadump is obvious but what is not quite so evident is the strange reason why peacocks, the super hot babes of the bird world choose to make it their home. It is like Paris Hilton choosing to ditch her luxurious surroundings for a sewer. There is something perverse about those birds. They are so beautiful it is almost unreal, until they open those beaks that is! Imagine Rihanna with Britney's voice and you will get the picture. Peacocks behave like supermodels. They love to strut their stuff for the cameras. But they are not particularly alluring when they insist on using your car as their loo. I hate them when they keep me up at night with their impromptu karaoke sessions and I love them when they entertain Veda with their antics while I spoon spinach and beetroot into her unwilling mouth. Anyways love em or hate em they provide the only aesthetic quality in an otherwise miserable dump. And for that alone they have my eternal gratitude.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Jallikattu is a remarkable Tamil tradition and a cultural phenomenon that has prevailed for many centuries. It is usually held on the eve of Mattu Pongal. In rural Tamil Nadu it is considered an art which is closely entwined with the history, culture, and religious beliefs of most Tamils. The Supreme Court has banned the bull – taming sport until further notice and in doing so has upset the sentiments of fans. It is this blogger’s firm belief that this beloved sport far from being banned must be actively encouraged.
The reasons for this stand are manifold. First there are some serious misconceptions about Jallikattu which need to be cleared up. It is considered a barbaric practice that infringes on the rights of animals. However, those who subscribe to this point of view are usually unaware that the “Murattu Kaalai” or rough bulls are large, powerful creatures that have their magnificent horns sharpened for the occasion. The fighters meanwhile are completely unarmed. These bulls are treated with the respect, affection, and love usually accorded to conquering heroes. The object of the Jallikattu is to tame the bull and establish the supremacy of man not hurt or maim the bull in any way.
Compare this with the Spanish tradition of bullfighting where the matadores kill the bull for the grand finale with swords no less. And yet the Spanish government is proud of their tradition and the King has gone so far as to say that Spain will leave the EU the day bullfighting is banned. The matadores are revered and command princely salaries. In India meanwhile the fighters are vilified as rustic ruffians even as they put their lives on the line for paltry cash prizes or cheap cookers, cycles, or plastic buckets. This is truly a sad state of affairs.
Opponents of Jallikattu may point out the injuries and casualties that have occurred over the years as adequate cause to ban Jallikattu. The Blue Cross has also raised some valid points regarding the treatment of animals. But all these issues can be countered by proper regulation. F1, boxing, and the like are not banned on account of the risk to life. Rather they were revamped in a safer format and are still going strong. It would be just the ticket to establish a Board of Control under the Sports Ministry. After all it is the least the government can do for an ancient valour sport. A Coliseum style bullring would ensure the safety of the masses and is likely to have tourists flocking to Tamil Nadu in January to witness this awesome spectacle. Just think of the tremendous economic potential Jallikattu offers! We should be milking this cash cow for all its worth and not talking about killing the goose which can lay golden eggs.
Isn’t it typical of this country that we embrace a ‘gentlemanly’ British sport so fervently even as we give the cold shoulder to our own national pastimes? Hockey is already a victim of this callous attitude and it looks like Jallikattu is about to share a similar or worse fate. Let us all rally around this much – maligned sport and give it the respect it so richly deserves. Save the legend of the Murattu Kaalai from an ignominious death, the Jallikattu must go on and on.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

Its Friday the 13th! As a true lover of the horror genre I thought it only fitting that I share one of my fave horror stories of all time. Has anyone read "The Ring" by Margaret Bingley? I doubt it as its one of those obscure but truly brilliant short stories. Warning: Don't expect ghosts, goblins, vampires, flesh - eating mutants or the other delightful denizens of planet Horror but prepare to be deeply disturbed and you may want to keep some tissues handy. Shall we begin?
A Retelling of The Ring by Margaret Bingley
Kate's sixteenth birthday was caming up. She was an easy - going girl but was somewhat on the plain side, short, and slightly chubby. In other words, she was the quitessential wallflower, always on the fringes and not hated but not much liked either. Kate lived with her mother, stepfather and his two daughters. Her father lived close by with his new wife and their twins.

Kate was searching for the ideal birthday present. A rather difficult task as she was getting only 20 pounds for her birthday. And then she saw a beautiful antique ring with a ruby - red stone set in the centre and surrounded by diamond chips. It was in the new jeweller's store that had opened recently. Kate felt strangely drawn to the ring. It was hard to explain but it was as if they belonged together. Feeling sure that it would turn out to be too expensive, the birthday girl was delighted to learn that it was only 20 pounds and the fit was perfect. It glided onto her finger almost seeming to change its size ans shape to match her finger. Deliriously happy, Kate booked the ring and walked out reluctant to leave it behind.
As she turned back for a final look, a sudden presentiment that things were not as they should be seized her heart. Still uneasy, she walked home. But by the time she got there, heady anticipation had pushed all other thoughts to the background.
D - day arrived and the entire family trooped in carrying presents and cards. Kate tore open the shiny wrapping and put on her ring with a slightly frenzied air. The family stepped closer to study the ring. Coos of appreciation were heard. But Kate could hear other things now.
She lifted her face for her mother's kiss and heard her say quite clearly, though her lips never moved: What a pity her fingers are so fat. Kate gasped and sudden tears filled her eyes. Suddenly her head was crowded with a cacophony of voices. Her mother was thinking: What on earth's the matter with her? Can't she be happy for once? The stepfather 's tone was lighter but dreadfully hurtful: Thank God she is not my daughter. Her stepsisters handed her a tube of foundation cream and Kate heard the sniggering: We thought it might help cover up the zits! In a sudden moment of insight she realized the ring was responsible for her newfound powers and she tried desperately to remove it even as her family looked on in deep consternation. But it would not come off!
Kate decided that what had happened was a freak occurrence. But she knew she was kidding herself. Resentful thoughts were flying all about her. Her mother was disappointed in her, her new husband did not like having her under his roof, and her stepsisters hated her. Kate tried not to scream.
Later on her way to her father's house she continued to tug desperately at the ring. She could not understand how she had managed to get the ring on in the first place. Giving the struggle up as hopeless she turned her thoughts to her daddy. They had remained close after the divorce and Kate felt secure in his love. When she arrived her stepmom greeted her with a cheery wish while thinking: God knows how they could afford that ring! Loise is always bleating on that Brian doesn't pay enough maintenance for Kate, but that must have set them back a couple of hundred. No surprise there, Kate thought to herself, her stepmother had always resented her.

At that point her father's car drew up. Kate rushed out for a hug and a kiss. And then she tuned into his thoughts: Next time Louise comes on the phone nagging for more money I'll tell her to pawn the damn ring. What a stupid extravagance for a sixteeth birthday! Perhaps I should have got her more that thirty pounds from the bank just now. Kate shrank back from the genuine resentment she heard in his voice. There was worse to come, her Dad thought she was boring, stupid, and fat. Unable to hold back the tears she fled.
Almost blinded by her tears she headed for Clare's home. Clare and Samantha were her best friends. She collapsed into Clare's arms crying as if her heart would break. She wished she had never seen that hateful ring. But her ordeal was far from over. The ring would not come off. And she found out that Clare was seeing her secret crush behind her back and her two best friends thought there was not much wrong with her but there was nothing right about her either. Stony faced she told Clare that she could not make it to the disco as they had planned. "Too bad" Clare said while thinking: Samantha will be relieved. Now we won't have to sit around keeping her company just because its her birthday. Kate turned around and made her way home. Telling her mother she was coming down with the flu, she locked herself up in her bedoom.
For hours she pondered her situation. The ring had to go, otherwise she knew she would lose her mind. Kate headed for the kitchen towards the drawer where her mother kept the sharp knives.
Her mother found her dead and cold on the kitchen floor the next morning. Her ring finger had almost been severed in half. Her mother told everyone at the funeral that the ring which had given her so much happiness on her last day on earth was missing. Attempts to find a substitute were in vain as the jeweller had left town
On the very morning of Kate's funeral, Grace wandered along the streets of a small town, many hundreds of kilometres away, arm in arm with her new husband. She was happy, she had found a handsome, rich, husband who loved her. Her husband's thoughts were less bright. He was not as rich as he had led her to believe but he had insured his young wife for a good deal of money and was trying to figure out how to dispose her without any suspicion falling on himself. They passed a jeweller's store and Grace's eyes alighted on a beautiful antique ring. It seemed to be calling out to her.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Crime and Punishment

Chinnathangam was married and had two sons, Hariprasad(4) and Karthick (1). Continually harassed and tortured by her husband and mother – in – law with their dowry demands she finally chose to end her life but not before poisoning her little ones. The monster – in - law and no – balls husband were duly arrested and tried. They were sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and slapped with a fine of Rs. 1000. The court in all its wisdom had decreed that the price for three prematurely snuffed out lives was a measly thousand bucks! Now doesn’t it warm the cockles of the heart when justice is served in such a manner? Soon, as per the dictates of this time honored system we will be letting off murderers with a gentle smack on the nose and rapists will get a richly deserved spanking. As for hardened gangsters they will be packed off to bed without dessert. After all it is only fair to ensure that criminals get punished in a manner befitting their crimes.
Finally, a word of advice to the moronic minions of the law – Take off the bloody kid gloves and use an iron fist while dealing with frickin sickos who hound people to death. Perhaps that will be a more effective method to stop dowry harassment as opposed to a lousy slap on the wrist and a miserable fine.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Ant Killer

Veda (My 1 year old) killed an entire family of ants who were hurrying home after a hard day's work. For a few seconds there was complete mayhem as the would be victims fled in all directions. But their killer was merciless, she hunted them all down and vanquished them with her heel despite losing her balance a couple of times (her bottom was an effective weapon though! ). All attempts to stop the carnage by her mother were in vain. The little one evinced total satisfaction on a job well done and received the applause of an indulgent father with total delight and pride.
Her mother worried about the violent streak exhibited by her daughter but finally decided that Freud was right and aggression is a basic human drive that needs to be channeled in the right direction . Perhaps in the near future she will bring home so many Olympic golds she'll make Phelps look like a total chump (although he is doing an excellent job himself with his marijuana boo boo), or unlike her mum who was always one of those students who had the potential to do better but never did, she will become the biggest brain of her generation and will figure out a way to change soil to gold, or generate power from toe nails... the possibilities are endless. I think it is amazing how some parents can be so objective when it comes to their children :) In the meantime God save the ants!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Intolerable Intolerance

The recent attack on young women at a pub in Mangalore has sent shockwaves rippling across the nation. The religious fanatism exhibited by the Sri Rama Sena has become the topic du jour. Most people are shocked and the question on everybody's lips is "Are we becoming intolerant as a nation?". The answer is a resounding NO! We are not becoming intolerant as a nation we have always been intolerant. The rich and varied heritage we are so proud of is littered with examples of gross intolerance. Almost every drop of blood shed on this soil can be traced back to intolerance.
Religious intolerance is practically a defining attribute of our so - called secular country. Originally, the Vaishnavites and Saivites attempted to decimate each other while in the throes of fervent theological passions. Later they joined hands against the Buddhists and Jains and successfully drove the former out of the nation of its birth! Now the struggle continues with Christian missionaries being immolated and mosques being torn down. Oh and self - appointed moral police run around brutalizing or killing women outright in order to protect our "values and culture" and all that jazz.
Again the treatment meted out to women is not surprising as Mother India is famed for the horrendous crimes committed against women . In the good old days of yore, women were locked up in their harems or its equivalent and their plight was not dissimilar to that of caged beasts. If their insensitive almost always gay husbands were not the death of them, boredom and a complete lack of freedom certainly was. We sighed with relief when evils like Sati and the Devadasi system were rooted out. But alas these abominations have been replaced with female infanticide, honor - killings, rape, prostitution, and other unspeakable horrors.
The abuses heaped on individuals both male and female in the name of moral - policing is merely a reflection of the ugly narrow - minded attitude that is so characteristic of India and Indians. A change in the collective mindset of this proud and rigid nation's citizens is called for to stem the rising tide of hatred that stems from intolerance. Those annoying holier - than - thou types must be made to realise that conventionality is not morality. At least they must be prevented from shoving their unpalatable views down unwilling throats. Otherwise we as a nation stand to be convicted of racism, sexism, and just about every icky 'ism' you can think of.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Greedy Pigs

The rash of natural disasters that have devastated many parts of the world (Hurricane Katrina, Tsunamis, to name a few) makes me break out in a rash. Despite the tremendous achievements of Man these catastrophes drive home the fact that he is ill - equipped to deal with Mother nature at her fiercest. Of course given the terrible abuse and wastage of our planet's resources it is not surprising that the backlash should be so severe but that is not the point of this blog. I have read many stories about individuals who rallied to the aid of victims and were unstinting in the services rendered. Truly a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit. But it is unfortunate that such disasters do not bring out only the finest in human nature. All virtues evinced in those trying times come a distant second to greed.

Recently five disricts in Bihar were practically annihilated when the Kosi embankment was breached leading to flooding. The damage to human life and property was extensive. Restorative and rehabilitative work began in earnest and the victims numbering about 33 lakhs tried to restore some semblance of normalcy to their lives in the wake of the crisis. The state government had allocated 1.15 lakh tonnes of grains and Rs. 1010 crore to the affected populace. But only 8 lakh quintals of food grains and Rs. 192 crore managed to reach its intended destination. Imagine! Where the rest of the grain and money went is anybody's guess.

Perhaps my imagination is running wild but the grain probably made its way to the blackmarket making some unscrupulous racketeer rich beyond his wildest dreams. As for the money, it would have filled some corrupt officials' coffers to overflowing. I am sure the ill - gotten gains of these honest gentlemen will save them from the burning fires of hell. Greedy Pigs! And as for the rest of us may be we should stop throwing a sop to our conscience by simply donating money. We should take that extra step and make sure the money or other donations reach the victims. (The last is actually a note to self. )

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Fat Girfriend

Roger Federer is probably the greatest player that ever picked up a tennis racket. Little argument there. That being said, I hate him. He is like some sort of creepy Swiss version of the Terminator. C'mon! it is unfair to pit machines against mere mortals! On court his choices with regard to shot selection are near perfect but his choices off the court have been heavily criticized, particularly in girlfriends.
Fed's been with Miroslava "Mirka" Vavrinec since the Sydney Olympics, 2000. The good folks on this planet cannot believe someone of his stature can have a FAT girlfriend. Usually athletes are overpaid, given demigod status, and are expected to hang out with anorexic supermodels or bulimic pop - tartlets. Lewis Hamilton's pussycat doll and Pete Sampras's B - grade hollywood actress wife were accepted without a whimper. But poor Mirka and Fed have come in for a lot of heat. All kinds of aspersions have been cast on the poor guys sexuality and masculinity. Some believe he is actually gay and Mirka is a huge cover - up. OH MY GOD! I am so disgusted. Seriously people can be so ridiculous at times.
Personally the only thing I like about Fed is his plump and pretty gal. I think she offers hope to plus - sized women all over the world who would have hitherto thought that uber - successful, alpha males are the exclusive property of skinny babe types who probably eat less than Somalian starvation victims. Good luck to the two of them. And Fed, get off the court, give the mortals a chance dude!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Monstrous Drivers of Monster Vehicles

I hate truck drivers, bus drivers, and other monstrous drivers of monster vehicles. I am sure anyone who has ever had the chance to hit the highway will have similar views. They drive like they own the road, rashly, imperiously, and are usually chewing betel leaves which they feel free to spit on your beloved and well - cared for car. I repeat, I hate em. They should all be castrated and quartered and hung out to dry. I may have lost some of you at this point but allow me to elaborate.
This morning's paper recorded another of their heinous, careless, callous acts and left me baying for blood. A Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation bus driver moved his vehicle before a 11 - year old could alight from the front exit. And the result? She fell on the road and the hind wheels ran over her hip, crushing her genitals and uterus. Her ilium (the largest bone in the pelvis) was fractured and the urinary tract, mangled. The doctors sewed her large intestine outside her stomach, with the result that her faecal matter will have to be collected in a bag. She also has to urinate through a tube. Suvanthiri (the girl's name) has been living this way for 10 years and the doctors have opined that her condition may be permanent. And the bloody bus driver? He is probably out somewhere drinking and whoring and driving like a madman endangering all who are unfortunate enough to cross his path.
I said it before and I'll say it again. Death to the Monsters and their lousy vehicles1

All Girls’ Boarding Schools: The Unadulterated Truth about Life in No Man’s Land

I was educated in a boarding school for girls and therefore, consider myself quite an authority on the subject. Having established my credentials, the next step would be to dispel the average reader’s somewhat erroneous notions about the said establishment. It is commonly believed that life in a no man’s land is singularly boring, unnaturally ordered, and the residents are not unlike Carmelite nuns. Most men reminiscent of their Neanderthal ancestors assert that it is the stuff their wildest fantasies are made of. Others of a less perverted and more pseudo – intellectual bent of mind claim that girls belonging to such schools are deprived of love, affection and other trappings of non – residential institutes and are therefore traumatized individuals who develop into raving nymphomaniacs or frigid, neurotic women. I beg to differ on all counts.
There have been times when I felt that my life was too sheltered and lacking in exposure to the outer world thanks to the nuns who ran the school with clock – like precision. There were strict rules and stricter restrictions about fraternization with members of the opposite sex. But this did not make for a boring existence. After all, a little enforced spirituality and abstinence never hurt anyone. Moreover, we got to enjoy a delightful interlude before being thrust headlong into a world where women are forced to share living space with their beer – swilling, sports channel – watching, lingerie model – ogling, gross – smelling male counterparts. And we certainly did not live like nuns. The days were chock – full of activities that were designed to help us grow as individuals. From trekking into the neighboring hills, singing songs around the campfire, organizing midnight parties (that usually consisted of a few loaves of bread stolen from the kitchen), putting up shows to raise money for charity… we did it all. So much adventure, so much fun! Thus cloistered or otherwise boarding school was the cocoon that nourished us and prepared us for our eventual foray into the big bad world that waited outside with its jaws wide open.
This blogger has nothing to say to the testosterone fuelled individuals whose puerile views pertaining to girls’ hostels truly boggle the mind, for fear of offending the delicate sensibilities of some of my more sensitive readers. Save one thing: Throw away your “Girls Gone Wild” DVDs now! And an IQ test would not go amiss either.
Finally, for those who state that boarding schools weaken familial ties leading to disastrous consequences like priming the girls for future appearances on “Notorious Women” lists, let me say that parents shape and mould their children, long distances notwithstanding. I am very close to my parents and they have been the foundation on which my life is built. The same cannot be said however for all my day – student buddies. Dysfunctional families exist and parents from such families do not necessarily send their children to boarding schools. So it is unfair to blame boarding schools for all the ills of a deeply troubled world.
The defense rests.

The Grand Entrance!

Hello visitor,
Thank you so much for stopping by!
This blog is a record of the crazy workings of my crazier mind. Thus I am calling it "The Meandering Mind". I figured the only way to give vent to my out of control mind without getting into trouble with the law was to start blogging :)
The topics I am likely to post my thoughts on are likely to be varied in the extreme, ranging from euthanesia and abortion to the latest antics of the tween queens (for the uninitiated, i was referring to Lindsay Lohan and others of her ilk).
And without further ado, I give you... THE MEANDERING MIND!
P.S: You are welcome to feed on my thoughts, they are fat - free!