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. )