Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Was it the magi-noodles or the raw apricots that I had pigged on? I really couldn’t care less to investigate. I knew I had to answer my call. My churning bowels would not negotiate with me. My brains, being oxygen-depleted already, had no will to fight back. I had to answer!
I asked my friends to go ahead as privacy is ever at a high premium on these barren slopes. As they accommodatingly vanished from my sight, solitude set in for me to make my move. I had to improvise a balance for my lumbering body on a near vertical rock face. The winds were still determined to dislodge me. I could hug the mountain and let the wind face the problem. Or, I could face the wind and dig in my fingers like pitons into the rock-face. I chose the second. Till this point, it was all an idea and now I have to execute the plan. The wind was relentless. The rush of cold air was intimidating. With a deep breath and focused concentration, I slowly moved in to strike a pose, carefully placing my feet on the surest footing. I didn’t want to tempt a free fall or an embarrassing slide on my back. A contortionist would marvel at how my muscles locked in to keep a steady position. Just when you think you have everything in order, Murphy slams you with one of his laws. The purification rites that would inevitably follow struck me before I could answer my call. The mountains around here could not be more barren especially when you are desperate. Where was the shrub that comes as a last resort? Even a stinging nettle wouldnt hurt but then again, this was above the tree line. We had just a bottle of water and I reckoned we would need it at the summit before our descent. Leaves were out of the equation. So was water. I had already started eyeing the pebbles with their raspy edges that were strewn around when ‘aha.’ Never one to carry a handkerchief, I found one in my pocket. Minor problems though; this was a gift with my initials woven on to it. How could I desecrate someone’s remembrance? Improvisation being the need of the hour, I ripped the monogrammed half putting it back into pocket hoping my benefactor would not take it personally. I did not have time to gauge the odds.
Like the Matrix-ian Trinity poised in suspended animation, I was splayed across the mountain face. I had firmly moved into position. My purification rite was in place. I was ready to answer my call.
There I was, perched on an unknown mountain somewhere in interior Ladakh, wind beating up my you-know-what, my muscles locked in without which I’d be free-falling. Though not to belittle the sacrosanct inclinations generally associated with a ‘call’, I see a Moses ascending Mt. Sinai or an Abraham heading out to Moriah, out there on that precarious ledge I was whistling a tune, oblivious to the strained muscles but acutely cognizant of the fine line between relief and a free-fall. I had answered my call.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
As we were gorging on the entrée along the apple tree-strewn banks of the Suru river, we were suddenly aware of the twin peaks of the Nun and the Kun rising, phoenix-esque, before us. The fabled ‘lure of the mountains’ struck but there was no way we’d ever be able to summit it, we reckoned. What, with no gear, training, conditioning or the vital acclimatisation? Come to think of it, we had to humbly accede that we were just a bunch of fanciful and amateur tourists on a passive drive to Padum that would ask no more than patience as we jarred along the unpaved track. So much for the one shot at etching our names in the mountaineering hall of fame. “Wait, what about this hillock across the river...piece of cake, right?” The fabled ‘lure of the mountains’ refused to shoo off! Only later would we find out that the ‘lure’ came with strings attached. For starters, mountains look closer and easier to climb from a distance. Before we could untangle the ‘strings’, we were already at the base of the mountain unaware of the arduous trek that lay ahead. We were high in spirit but low on gear. One bottle of water for three people cannot but be a sign of ineptitude and foreboding disaster.
Our climb started off rather effortlessly. An occasional sheep would pass by staring at us as if to ask what we were up to without the conventional shepherd’s crook! A spring gurgled out a limpid flow of water with a mossy turf growing along the edges of its stream. Our pace soon became irregular with every step needing more effort. The mountain now, at over twelve thousand feet, was downright bare. The surface was pebbled and every step had to be carefully measured to secure a footing. Living organisms of any genus would have a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving on the rocky and windblown surface. The near vertical cliff-faces seemed to pull one in for a kiss as if to rub in the ‘strings’ we should have accounted for before we ever thought of climbing. Every step had to be preceded by huge gasps of breath in order to catch every wisp of oxygen in the rarefied air. To make matters worse, the post-noon anabatic winds were determined to dislodge our already precarious footing. This was no place for an acrophobic. “Hey mountain, give us a break,” I thought with fists gesticulating in the air when...I got my call!
...to be continued.
Monday, October 29, 2007
While on the topic of scriptures, I came across a post that reported on a certain Mizo clergyman's writings going to be the focus of the adult sunday school for the coming year. For those not in the know, he died recently under rather dubious circumstances and thereby upping the ante on how Mizos in particular come to terms with it. (http://misual.com/2007/10/27/nakumah-revchanchinmawia-ziak-zir-dawn/#more-3554) With the posthumous valorization of his writings, one may speculate his person itself being scripturalized as an exemplar for how things should and could be. And yet beneath the smoothened projections of the church, the scripturalizing process flattens a whole lot of issues and questions that unsettle many but are left unsaid because they, the issues and questions, will have been 'canonized' in our collective memory, or literally 'cannonized.'
Friday, October 12, 2007
Here's the plot: X misses a crucial penalty stroke-labelled a traitor-'exiled'-comes back to coach the women's team-teaches them a few lessons in life along the way-win the championship-restored. This was how I replied to my friend:
"First, it was a pirated screen print so the viewing wasnt a great experience. Then again, the movie just failed to capture my imagination, too many holes in the plot and as many have already noticed, too many simplistic reductions riddling the screenplay. I had read some previews and so was relishing the possibility of something commendably different. A bollywood production without song and dance sequences, a non-glamorous topos, no item-number (what!!), a cast with the majority being first-timers; elements that seemed to infuse freshness. And yet all these novel potentials got subscripted under a glamorized male narrative. The uneasy dynamics of a multi-regional team getting to live and play together is always underscored by the 'disgraced' coach's attempt to see his present in light of his past failure. That his penalty was for missing a crucial penalty stroke etches the performative angst only to be rectified decades later and vicariously by his team. Hence, even the fantastic euphoria of a championship victory is eventually a subscript of the male coach's road to redemption while his team members are back to the harsh mundanity of haggling with an autorickshaw driver. This grand narrative seems to be unable to function without the metonymic assistance of trite reductions: the Pakistani other (how else does one rouse patriotism in the subcontinent?), the easy 'chinky', the silently compliant to-be-bahu, the incomprehensibility/barbaricity of the 'tribal',--all which serve to etch out the indispensable brilliance of the coach.
I thought the text could be done without Mary, Molly and the 'others' serving as mere props...who though not running around trees were just running around on astro-turf at the command of the coach's whistle. The most problematic scene however would be when they go for lunch to McDonalds (really, which sports team goes to gorge on junk...or was it a MacDonalds, im a little confused) and again, my NE sisters are singled out for harrasment. The team gets together to thrash the eve-teasers while the coach smiles with an epiphanic nod. The women have spoken through their collaborative thrashing and yet as the scene fades, one wonders if they were heard? Like all the subscripts in the movie, one really wonders how subjectivities are contructed to perpetuate a marginalisation that eerily over time becomes 'acceptable'...Bollywood being one such pervasive media. Mary gets no lines, Molly has three forgetable ones but both immediately, and for no fault of theirs, feed the repressed fetish for gori/fair-chinky flesh!! Het Saaalaa! Sorry.
As you see, i doubt whether my views are going to be helpful for a write up cause they are so partisan. Cinematically, it just pushed my patience and then the subscripts were rather apalling. "
Postscript: Nehru's vision of 'unity in diversity,' that has become a free-for-all site, will be flattened by such reductionist projects like ChakDe India. U-i-D as a process serves us better than U-i-D as an event because differences will perpetuate and should. As a process, U-i-D would serve better in setting up negotiations across the diversity while being open to shifts as differences are nuanced and mulitplied. Sadly, Shah Rukh's moment of victory and redemption set us back a few steps; and maybe one needs to emphasize that at the completion of a game or in packaging a bollywood productions, "winning isn't everything" because the winners seemingly always need the losers. http://www.yashrajfilms.com/microsites/cdi/cdi.html
Friday, September 21, 2007
At the risk of over-simplifying a list of ideas that need more definition, modernity engages all of us irrespectively whenever we consider where we are at present in light of where we were and where we want to be. This is because modernity implies a break from something earlier and that this break could be in terms of structure, institution, and culture. Structurally a once communitarian people defined by tlawmngaihna and the zawlbuk (I reify the most obvious for convenience) have urbanized and been differentiated in the process. Institutionally, our sense of being an indefinite ‘people of the hills’ has now been closed in with imagined but very real boundaries that are controlled by elected representatives and the bureaucracy which are still limited within a larger nation—India. With these breaks come very real cultural shifts so that individuality seemingly trumps over communality and relations are gradually determined by their economic value. The church, in spite of its spiritualized vision, often functions to maintain what was lost in the modernizing. That thorny MLTP act with its polyvalent political and social angles is a constant reminder of the mobilization of religion to achieve ends that are more secular than ‘spiritual.’ Let me not smudge the point that all these breaks from a traditional way of being and knowing came with the promise and potential for development and efficiency albeit with evident contradictions.
These observations, one must be cautioned, are generalizations. Yet, when further broadened to frame my friend’s rant, some questions (the list could go on) need to be answered: Will a change in government, hence political moves, be enough? Is World Bank a viable answer with its baggage of compliance expected? Can an overblown and pampered bureaucracy deliver the goods when it fails its subject people, even those concentrated around one city-Aizawl? Why is perceived development so concentrated around Aizawl alone and what does it say about us becoming modern? An interlocutor on my previous post points a perceptive finger at human want for ‘more’—is this what modernity feeds on? How does the role of religion change with changing times and hopefully for the better?
Although instant prescriptive answers are what buy you space in a microwave world, there just seems to be more questions than answers. And yet, the process of asking itself engages one beyond just attractive but empty rhetoric and to think of modernity beyond just its façade of technological and commercial promises. Hopefully, such an engaged reflection can also widen our resources for answers—in the traditional that we are losing and the modern that we are taking on—and also constructively channel my friend’s rant.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Its been decades now. Hairy-metal is now a part of nostalgia and i couldn't care less whether I use a Phrygian scale or a simple C-chord-the chicks seem to have caught on quick and haven't been forthcoming! (Aw!) I've moved on from rockstar-wannabe to fawning spectator. Music has changed and so have my tastes. Which brings me to my intended spot.
There's a really neat jazz club called the Baked Potato where the music is great; primarily jazz but more Jazz-fusion. One wouldnt have suspected a more hole-in-the-wallish club to be the site for running into relics of a metal-past and yet the eventuality couldn't have been more exciting. From among the heap of hairy-metal talent, one re-definition was Chris Poland from Megadeth. His band name no longer implied massive doom but rather a profound "OHM". No more shampoo-ed locks and the music spoke for itself. On drums was Kofi Baker, the son of Cream's Ginger Baker and Rob Pagilari on the bass.
On another evening, Frank Gambale came on with his band. Like Chris Poland, Frank no longer wore his hair long, in fact he was bald. On bass was Ric Fierabracci whose lines couldnt have been smoother. If you've watched Kasauti on the LPS network, you'd be familiar with the Yanni piece that plays on and on. That's from the Live at the Acropolis concert where the bassist goes off on a blistering solo. That bassist was Ric. As a band, their vituosity was palpable...check out the video clip.
I definitely remember a Frank Gambale with long mulletish locks sweeping through arpeggios on his instructional tape that i bought from Pyramid; also Chris Poland shredding with Megadeth alongside Mustaine or even Ric's hair swaying in-sync with Yanni's at the acropolis. The guitar-centric music sensibility has given way to a more rounded appreciation for the parts as they contribute to the whole while the Baked Potato has replaced the dusty parking lots at Delhi University.
Ps: The video clips were taken on a digicam and hence arent as clear as one would want them to be.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Power is abstracted so that if one were to discuss value, ‘power’ itself would never surface in the course of the negotiation. When protesting student-groups are lathi-charged by policeman who for all their brutality could by all means deeply empathize with the students, it is a clash of values—a value for which the students protest and a value which the policemen want to protect. Snuggled somewhere subliminally is power that rarely surfaces or is ever culled out. If one were to move beyond the lathi-charge, the list is endless: who’s the insider and the outsider, whose knowledge is more efficient and relevant, etc.
With power being so pervasive, one might also see that in the jostling for ‘value’-able space, one would be just replacing x for y while innocently oblivious of one's impulse to influence or control (as altruistic and well-intentioned as they may be).
Also, a dilettante embracing of the ‘obvious’ without a careful handle on its ‘intrinsic’ could inadvertently lead to robbing Peter to pay Paul. Point in case is that our projections of options almost never are flat. With all these red flags up, values do help orient our sense of worth and direction and I would still hold on to the things I hold valuable. And yet, the problematic of the innocent and universal ‘value’ does continue to prompt me to caution-that values, if they are to be definitive beyond my own self, are negotiated rather than confrontational.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made
I see the stars…
Did you catch that! This friend thought that on considering creation and just the wonder of it, he saw stars…in both their literal and metaphorical sense. O that un-problematized sense of awe and wonder at creation!
On a totally different though connected tangent, meet Le Petomane-the Flatulist, an actual performer during the Moulin Rouge’s heydays I’m told. Sitting more like a fish-out-of-water among theatre buffs watching the production of “Can-Can” I was rather tickled on observing that among the moments that got the more uproarious response was Le Petomane’s solo. As a ‘Fartist’ (which was how he was introduced), he had a cup to his bum-hole that amplified his syncopated farts to the tune being played by the orchestra. Even as I write, I smile and I wonder why? Freud’s patent suggestion was a repression of the olfactory senses by the domination of the visual as homo-sapiens started walking erect. But notice that a private fart is never funny. It becomes funny only when it’s let out in public space. Flatullent humor must be social but before I dissect the dynamics any further, I want to preserve my instinct to laugh when one is let off.
Friday, July 20, 2007
In case you havent watched Mary Poppins, here's a forwarded piece i received on the trivial pursuits in the politics of language.
The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.
As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improve ment and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English". In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.
There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.
In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where! more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.
By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".
During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensi bl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru. Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Crossing the Tlawng bridge, I noticed the first signboard said 'Isua ni se' (dont know if it's still there) and wondered what purpose it was envisioned to serve and does serve. Does it tell the visitor landing in from Calcutta what to expect or does it remind the returning Mizo of what may have been 'left behind' in the recent transitions made through the airport? Come to think of it, does the fact that the sign is in Mizo say anything of who the message is intended for and more importantly, how does one unpack that message in light of the situation we return to from the brief flight?
This particular 'stele' in the pic hit my humerus and i couldnt resist the opportunity to strike my humble and gratuitous pose with it. I wonder if it is still there but frankly, it seemed more like a hideous expendable.
Ps: personally, BRO needs a more efficient translator.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
My birth was unheralded. The stars shone diffusedly without ever auspiciously settling directly over the stable which was to become my home. The guest list wasn’t all that impressive. In fact, there existed none which in turn implied that you could count out the gifts for me. Without the angelic hosts and the adoring herdsmen, without the lone hovering star and the sages congregating for no apparent reason, how less routine could the throes in that nondescript stable be? No, stars don’t speculate the mundane. We, born of a ‘lower’ kind, have to live with our lot accepting the ways of those who deem it be so. The best part is that even as we live out our lot, we don’t complain and yet find life meaningful...well, until someone else’s whims and fancies step on our toes. See how I have digressed? Let me get back to my story.
The description of the night of my birth may sound bleak but my mother was constantly beside me cleaning me up with a dab here and a sweep there ever so lovingly. She was visibly weak from the stress I had put her through and yet she did not flag in her care for me. My legs, being weak, were of no practical use but I reveled in cuddling up to my mother. She was all that mattered and, in turn, defined all that mattered for my still secure world.
As days turned to weeks, I became aware of my mother pushing me away and over time, I realized she didn’t mean to reject me but meant to wean me away. Just the contrast in her attitude made me realize that the world out there would not be as safe and caring as the world she had made for me. I was scared because of the untold perils in wait for me while ironically excited at being able to step out on my own feet. The world was there for me to latch on to. Even though the reception at my birth a few months earlier had been merely incidental, the world outside would now have to acknowledge that I was around. Deep down, my mother’s weaning nudges could not have teased out a more timid set of limbs to the world I was claiming as my own.
My world was within the confines of a large estate. My master, I reckoned, was a wealthy man. I really never figured out what was it that he did but his opulent lifestyle made his wealth palpable. It even overflowed onto his sons. The gold rings on their well-manicured hands were a dead giveaway. The absence of calluses on their hands told me that the only hard work they had done was anything but manual labour. The older of the sons was good to me. He often came and spoke to me and would proffer a treat if I reciprocated. His ubiquitous benevolence was what enriched my world. In an unpleasant contrast, the younger of the sons was not someone you could easily get close to or even begin to like. He was downright rude. He was someone you’d never look forward to see and he, seemingly intuitive of me, complied by making himself rare. His occasional appearances, though brief, seemed painfully long. In retrospect, I wonder where the younger brother would bide his time while the older brother was always around the estate and it really did not hit me when I didn’t see the younger brother for a long time.
The younger brother’s absence seemed to have cast a pall on the entire estate. Activity had settled to a painful crawl. The only occasional noise was my own and my mother immediately reprimanded me. Being the wiser one amongst us, she chose to be lost in contemplation and pace up and down the open grounds without uttering even a whisper. I’d run up to her just to get shoved aside. This ritual became the only activity for me. As no one else would acknowledge my presence and my mother did, even the chiding nudges became a game for me. The deathly silence that had settled in got me worried and my mother’s uneasy poise just made matters worse. The only silence I had gotten to know was the minutes after my birth when it was just my mother and me with no one around to celebrate my entry into the world. Was there to be another birth?
The change in seasons was as abrupt as the pall that had set in. On that fateful day, there was a jarring commotion within the compound. Life had returned to the estate. I coaxed my mother to run along with me to the front so that we could see what was behind this revival. The younger son had renounced his prodigal ways and decided to come back. I nudged my way through the crowd that had gathered at the front-yard and arched my neck to get a glimpse of the celebrations. Come to think of it, even though his disappearance did not mean much to me, I was glad he was back. His father was visibly relieved and could not stop hugging the once lost but now found. Caught up in the euphoria of the moment, I was tempted to go and greet the son myself when, it happened. The noise fell silent as suddenly as it had erupted. The crowd parted as if the sea at Moses’s command. All eyes fell on me as if to plunk me into the spotlight. The father’s hand moved away from his son’s shoulders and shifted in my direction. Beneath the sleeves of his cloak, an intimidating finger materialized out of nowhere and pointed right between my eyes.
The next few minutes were so rapid that I barely had time to make sense of what was happening. It was only when I realized a whole lot hands on me that I had this desperate need to breathe. I was being forcefully taken where I had no intention to go. I called out to my mother to help me. All she did was to gently push me aside like the first time she did to wean me away. Was this what she had been preparing me for? I protested. It is fine that the lost son is back. Though I never did like him much, I was happy that he was back. “I endorse your celebration but why pick on me to add to it? Honest, I liked your son and mother can tell you how excited I was to see him back. Mother, please say something! Please my master, why do you have to pick on me? I have never chewed on the flowers you so carefully tend. Neither have I been obtrusive. Your elder son is my friend...sir, I just want some more air.” I looked back to my mother. I noticed a tear roll down her cheek. She remorsefully chided me to stop ranting in Bovinese. It is ironic. The moment I finally made sense of the world, I gave in. After all, what more can you do if you are just another fatted calf?