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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

A-Z Survivor!

I did it! Somehow I managed, through a holiday in a resort with iffy wifi, through hectic preparations for my volunteer work, and towards the end of April,  the ill health of a parent. 

I learnt to prioritise a little, to let go a little, and if I seemed a little preoccupied to others, what of it?
It was a challenge and a stimulating experience. Ideas sometimes are reluctant to manifest themselves under pressure, but I clutched at them before they could get away. Some posts are dearer to me than others and I know I would like to expand some of them into more detailed, deeper articles.

I'm glad I took the challenge!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge 4-30-2017 - Letter Z

Z for Zodiac

Firebrand, the Ram; Honest and frank
Stubborn, the Bull: Stoic and practical
The Twins mercurial; Chatty and versatile
Sensitive crab laughing well; crazy, nutty in its shell
Commanding, the Lion so stately; leading others proudly
Graceful, the Virgin restless and vain; All charm and perfection
The Scales going up and down; creative, pleasant, honest, wholesome
Composed, the Scorpion, totally fearless; The sting so brutally honest
Goofy, the Archer with bright eyes; warm and generous
Serious, the Goat but surefooted; Intelligent yet camouflaged
Tranquil, the Water bearer so kind; unexpected and non-conformist
Artistic, the Fish and so timid; Satirical and intuitive.

Light years away, hot balls of gas; Nuclear powerhouses
Can they dictate, are they sure; Of Man’s destiny and nature?

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Yodelling is an intriguing element of music, where the singer changes his pitch, going from low to high and back very fast. My first exposure to this fun sound was in the song, “The lonely Goatherd” from The Sound of Music. The yodel did originate in the Alps, as a means for shepherds and farmers calling to identify themselves and each other.

Closer home, the consummate singer Kishore Kumar was well known for his musical antics, and the skilful way he melded the yodel into many songs. These songs went on to become iconic numbers not only in their own time but also today, well into the twenty-first century.

Songs like “Main hoon Jhumroo” (Jhumroo), “Panch rupaiya barah anna” (Chalti ka naam gaadi), “Zindagi ek safar hai suhana” (Andaz), “Good Morning good morning”(Bawarchi) and “Tum bin Jaaoon kahaan” (Pyar ka mausam) spring to mind immediately. The talent of Kishore Kumar’s yodelling lies in the way it blended in so seamlessly with characteristically Indian sounds. The eccentric genius made this intrinsically foreign sound his own.


#AtoZChallenge - 4-28-2017 - Letter X

X for Xanadu

Xanadu:  a magical mystical land. The name conjures up visions of never-seen -before colours, dreaming spires, misty mountains and sparkling streams. A land where everything is possible. There is no chaos.
I first came to know the word from the comic Mandrake the Magician by Lee Falk ( who is also the author of Phantom comics). This was in the early 1970's. Xanadu is the home of the powerful magician, Mandrake. It is built like a fortress, impregnable to all but a chosen few.
Those who are allowed access enter through magically opening doors and perilous cliff roads. It is home to magic as well as technology. The comics are well worth a revisit, if only to check if the gadgetry imagined all those years ago, has actually come into being!
I seem to remember a song too, called Xanadu. This too has a wistful feel to it, a sense of longing conveyed in the singer's throaty voice.
The letter X has always stood for mystery, and Xanadu seems to be an apt manifestation of it.
Xanadu! Xanadu!

Friday, 28 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge - 4-27-2016 - Letter W

W for Wodehouse

Warning: This is going to be a gushy article!

As a child, growing up on a generous dose of Enid Blyton, I used to wish I lived in that world. A world filled with children who had the most wonderful adventures, went to the most exciting schools and had the most “scrumplicious” food (I have since learnt that steak and kidney pie tastes horrible!)

Then I discovered P.G. Wodehouse and I was smitten, and I am to this day. Who wouldn’t want to live in a world populated by the affable but bumbling Bertie Wooster and the omnipotent and omnipresent Jeeves? Or the complete madhouse that is Blandings Castle (which has “Imposters like other houses have mice”!) Don’t even get me started on the eccentric characters. There is no single definition of eccentricity, if the characters who people Wodehouse’s world are anything to go by. Those who come to mind, off the top of the head are:

Gussie Finknottle: Keeps newts, is a teetotaller and is very shy around girls.  So if his orange juice is laced with alcohol, the results are bound to be mindboggling.

Lord Emsworth: Wants to be left alone, draped over the rails of his pigsty, which houses the three- time winner of the Fat Pigs contest, Empress of Blandings. The absentminded peer is known to swallow his collar stud and replace it with a paper clip.

Anatole: Temperamental French chef who speaks in American slang with a French accent.

Roberta Wickham: Her idea of fun is to egg her suitors on to take up perilous and downright idiotic missions.

Constance: Emsworth’s sister, who rules the house with an iron hand and can freeze anybody with a glance.

Aunt Agatha: Wooster’s Aunt, whom Bertie Wooster freely suspects of chewing on glass bottles and turning into a Vampire at any given time.

Aunt Dahlia: She is a good sort; employer of Anatole, who doesn’t mind any sort of goings on as long as she gets a good laugh. Always setting Bertie hair-raising tasks to do.

A plethora of eccentrics!

Then there are characters like Mr. Mulliner who tells stories about his numerous nephews and nieces at the local pub. All the other patrons of the pub are only known by the drinks they order. There is Ukridge who never tires of coming up with money making schemes but is always getting into scrapes.
There are so many stand-alone novels, the heroines of which are pretty and plucky. The heroes are strong yet vulnerable. The villains appear to win for a while, but there is nothing that a good biff with a painting (so that the canvas tears over the head) can’t cure. Another effective method to render anyone helpless is to simply steal all his clothes!
Wodehouse runs through the entire gamut of situational comedy with practiced ease.
The Americans and the British manage to tolerate each other with a mixture of amusement and disdain. All is always well in this best of all possible worlds.
If I ever do a PH.D, it will be on Wodehouse.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge - 4-26-2017 - Letter V

V for Vaporub
The change of season and the hasty switching on of air-conditioners has had its effect. Noses are either running or blocked, sneezes are heard everywhere and the head feels heavy, but it is not an ache, so no painkillers are called for.

This is when I whip out my trusty Vicks Vaporub bottle, and apply liberal amounts to the temples, around the nose and a little bit on the throat. Just the sharp smell, familiar since childhood, is so comforting. It may do me good, or it may not, but it is still the first line of defence against the oncoming sniffles.

However, this is not a promotional post on the benefits of this ointment. Rather, it set me thinking about how things become so much a part of our lives; more so if they have been part of our childhood. This particular bottle serves another purpose. I remember an aunt of mine was once talking about a saree and she was struggling to describe its colour. 

Then her face cleared, and she said, “It is the colour of Vicks!”
Literal-minded me: You mean a translucent white?
Aunt: No no, you know, that particular blue-green shade----
Me: Oh ,you mean the colour of the cap of a bottle of Vicks!
(That does sound like a French exercise, doesn’t it!)

In those days, we did not know teal from aqua or cyan from turquoise, so the next best thing was to compare the colour to a familiar one! One can extend the pondering over colour to that of the bottle itself----navy, indigo, cerulean, ultramarine?

 What rich words to describe this humble bottle of comfort and soothing!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge - 4-25-2017 - Letter U

                                                          U for Ugly

Just as beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, so too does ugliness. However, the larger issue is: our tendency in general, to associate one kind of beauty with another. Or refusing to believe that Ugly is one facet of Beauty too. That tendency is only human-----and it is a direct result of the imaginative chip in our brain circuits.  

Literature and cinema are full of this kind of lively imagination. There was a V.Shantaram movie in which Sandhya is secretly a radio singer going by the name of Kokila (nightingale/ koel). Her everyday avatar is that of an ugly servant in a big household. (The ugliness is symbolized by a liberal coating of boot polish on her face! That topic is another subject by itself—why is melanin equated with ugliness?) The younger son of the house listens to her songs on the radio, and paints a wonderful picture of her and falls in love with her. She sees the painting and is loath to reveal herself, because she doesn’t want to rudely awaken him from his dreams. Another Shantaram movie, “Navrang” had a similar theme----the poet’s muse is a beautiful woman---it is actually his wife but neither of them realizes it and the wife is tormented by the thought of the poet being totally enslaved by the muse.  The husband is disgusted by the ordinary, normal persona of the wife and has no time for her. And of course the much-celebrated-and-ridiculed Satyam Shivam Sundaram, where the hero assumes the heroine is beautiful because her voice is.

In the legend of Udayana and Vasavadatta (read your Amar Chitra Kathas!), Princess Vasavadatta’s father arranges for her to learn a special musical mantra from King Udayana, to charm elephants. Since Udayana is his enemy and he doesn’t want his daughter falling for the enemy, he arranges for a curtain between them, telling Udayana that his student is an old hunchback woman, and telling Vasavadatta that her teacher is a leper. However during the course of a lesson, the princess keeps making mistakes, which provokes the wrath of the royal guru. He reprimands her, and calls her a hunchback. She retaliates by calling him a leper, they part the curtains in anger, and of course the expected happens.

While such a premise is interesting material for literary purposes, all of us would do well to steer clear of such filmi speculations in real life!