Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"The kids are alright" - A new dimension to Parenting

The word Parent is derived from its Latin verb "parere" - which means "Bringing forth". Interestingly. the origin of this word in the mid sixteenth century meant an opening up to reveal or bring forth a fully formed being. I was tempted to understand the root of this word because one of the important issues being debated today in western circles is about "single sex parenting". Two members of a the same gender approach a sperm donor or an uterus loaner, as the case may be, and decide to raise resulting children by being a parent to them. So there are two moms or two dads and the other half is missing from the equation.
From an evolutionary perspective, this is quite a remarkable turn of events. Except in early forms of multicellular organisms, which is quaintly called unisexed, we don't have this phenomenon ever recorded in paleontological history. Every known organism that qualifies to be included in reproductive tradition have always exhibited a tendency to involve both sexes in conception and upbringing ( to whatever duration necessary). Man, like many other things, is attempting to break way here from billions of years of natural biological impulse..
"The Kids are alright" is a 2010 movie featuring two brilliant actors - Annette Benning and Julianne Moore in lead roles (Nic and Jules) as single parents to two kids ( a teenage girl and an adolescent boy). The story begins with a search for their sperm donor ( a justifiable curiosity to identify the progenitor of the sperm!!! ); only to find that their biological father is a debonair, dashing and sexually active man, whose restaurant business thrives not only for its good cuisine but equally for the savvy owner's prowess on bed. The Children take a liking for his personality and congenial attitude towards life; and unfortunately so does "one of the Moms" - Jules . Nic, the other parent , an obstetrician by profession treats this intruder with skepticism; but finally begins to warm to Paul.. The film wonderfully explores the complex relationship between two lesbian parents; kids who adore them as role models, but still ache to feel the warmth and embrace of a father figure in their lives. They are well educated. mannered and given all the support conventional parenting would have given them, yet there is a primordial ache of not having a male within their reach. Lisa Cholodenko's direction and screen play brings that angst to screen quite brilliantly. There is a palpable sense of sadness beneath all the fun, frolic and positivity that abounds in their individual lives. The protagonists exhibit a void deep down in their hearts. The story ends on a very upbeat note. Human society has evolved to a point where we have began to rewrite genetical rules. I am not sure that this is an experiment that will succeed. We are just about hundred thousand years old as a species - a minuscule amount of time to gauge the outcome of these divagations in natural course of things..
Speaking of Individual performances : Julianne Moore is one of those actors who can bring on passion with a frenzied intensity on screen. Sultry, red haired , her body language has always bordered on the sensuous. She plays the physically vulnerable female parent to perfection; and so does Annette Benning, the intellectual - the lady in control of the family and steering it in right directions. Without the both of them, this film would have lacked the authenticity that it generated. Though a controversial theme, the film made it to the academy awards, but not surprisingly, did not win any. Americans still frown at such eccentric relationships.. Mark Ruffalo as the father throws in a convincing performance as well. From an anonymous sperm donor to bonding with his kids, his character shows layered transformations on his face, conversation and body language.
In all, again, a well orchestrated drama with all key elements in place. I highly recommend this to my friends. May be a bit scandalous, but reality always is , isn't it?
God bless..

A book lover's delight..

In the annals of American History, none holds a more affectionate and respectable position in public mind than the scholarly figure of Benjamin Franklin. In fact, one would run of words and epithets to describe his multi-dimensional personality. A statesman, scientist, philosopher, philanthropist, Ambassador and more importantly the founding father of thirteen colonies that originally constituted the United States of America. In fact, it seems unbelievable, at this distance to contemplate that a single individual could have affected the destiny of a nation so profoundly in its formative years and give it the necessary moral and intellectual momentum to propel the country towards its growth, stability and prosperity – traits that have sustained this country for last two hundred odd years.
This essay is however not about his political or scientific accomplishments, but a rather a facet of his life that is not widely known. He was the editor, publisher of a gazette, (a precursor to the modern form of magazine) that he established in the year 1729. The original name of the chronicle was "The Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences: and Pennsylvania Gazette", which Benjamin shortened to "Pennsylvania Gazette" .In the editorial of the first issue, he lays down the charter for newspapers and journals, which resonates so very truthfully even after centuries.. I cannot refrain myself from quoting it in full: He writes: (To my readers, pls take time read the next paragraph in full…)
"The author of a Gazette (modern "magazine") ought to be qualified with an extensive acquaintance with languages, a great easiness and command of writing and relating things cleanly and intelligibly, and in few words; he should be able to speak of War both land and sea; be well acquainted with geography, with the history of the time, with the several interests of the Prices and states, the secret of courts, and the manners and customs of all nations. Men thus accomplished are very rare; and it would be well if the writer of these papers would make up among his friends what is wanting in himself..."
This charter should be emblazoned in golden letters across all journalistic media houses in bold letters. There cannot be a more sensible or truer statement of work in the world of media. Benjamin incorporated all kinds of events in his gazette – literature, poetry, gossip, science. In fact, it carried an hour to hour account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln to eventual demise. The first known political cartoon also featured in one of its editions (incidentally drawn by Benjamin Franklin himself). The journal, however, had its last hurrah in 1800, ten years after Franklin's death. After a brief hiatus of twenty odd years, the journal was revived under a new name called “The Saturday evening post” in 1821. And since then, it has been in circulation till the present date. The Saturday post was a popular journal with its vivid front pages, essays shorts stories, war time reporting and cartoons till the 1950, when television took away a lot of readership. Circulation dwindled, and the post turned from a Weekly, to biweekly and then to a Bimonthly publication. Even today, if you look closely in News magazine stores, you will find a copy of the Saturday evening in a corner - a grim and nostalgic reminder of three centuries of tradition and intellectual outpouring.
The reason I spent the last few paragraphs tracing the course of this magazine is because, in a second hand book store today, I happened to pick up a hard bound collection printed in 1954, by Saturday Evening Post publishers to commemorate literary and visual brilliance the Post has carried in its pages since Franklin’s days. It was lying in a corner, dust ridden and soiled, but its Jacket intact. In it are extracts from Stories penned by Jack London to O Henry to Edith Wharton to Gk Chesterton among man other giants of literature; Poems that aroused national pride during the civil war; scientific and war time reporting, social commentaries by C S Forester and Jack Alexander; Color reproductions of all popular Front covers of the Magazine since 1728; political and social caricatures – Well, in all, it is a bibliophile’s dream come true.. The book was sold to me at a $1.75. The price of the book when it was published in 1954 was $7.50. Inflation hasn't really touched this rare commodity…
Nothing gives me more pleasure than dipping into the intellectual heritage of mankind. After all, as a species that is the only unique attribute that nature has accorded us - the transmission of knowledge beyond the realm of bodily instinct. The written word in my opinion, is perhaps the most notable, singular and unprecedented achievement of Mankind; allowing him to transform himself from an organism that merely lives by biological dictates to a point where he questions his role in the Cosmos; and the ability to transmit that curiosity, thirst and collective knowledge to his progeny.
Such treasures, like the book that I got today are ones that I cherish the most. It cannot weighed in monetary terms for it surpasses such frivolous evaluations anyway.
God bless…

Monday, December 29, 2014

"Mardaani" - A Rani Mukherjee film

"Mardaani" - A Rani Mukherjee film...
Many years ago, I remember watching "Hey Ram" , a Kamal Hasan movie on the Hindu Nationalist movement during partition. It was, if I recall correctly, a three hour feature film. At this distance, what I can conjure about it vividly in my mind's eye is the little cameo role essayed by the young Rani Mukherjee , as a Bengali teacher, killed during the madness of Hindu-Muslim riots. It was not only the passionate kiss executed with intense abandon, but her lilting husky voice spoken in low tones; sultry complexion; those gorgeous hazel colored eyes that seem to float around its orbs with fluid artistry - keeps leaping out of my memory again and again. I did not get to see too many of her films until the mid or later part of the last decade, but within a span of two years I chanced to watch "Hum tum", "veer Zaara" and then the masterpiece "Black". Here was a young lady, who had come into her zone, and was performing her art with consummate ease of an artist who has shed any lingering doubts she may have had about her abilities.
Meryl Streep once described acting as ".... not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding oneself in there..." The individual in Rani had began manifesting itself in all her roles. And that is a sign of creative maturity in a talented artist . When I Watched "Talaash", a few years ago, Rani had transformed herself into a complete actor. In a film that was dominated by the character played by Aamir Khan and the misty presence of Kareena Kapoor, it was breathtaking to watch Rani' as the grieving mother willing to go any distance to reconnect with her lost son; a look of tragic melancholy in those beautiful eyes, measured dialogue and body language that accentuated the strained relationship between Husband and wife - In all, she was able bring a intense realism to her glamorous persona and meaningful thrust to the entire drama.
The reason I spent the last two paragraphs waxing eloquent about Rani is because I happened to watch her latest release "Mardaani" yesterday night. A beautiful and sensitive movie on Human and drug trafficking in India, Rani Mukherjee plays the hard cop intent on breaking the nexus of mafia syndicate that deals with young girls as commodities.. To me, this is quite a radical role for a lady who has always played emotionally vulnerable characters on screen. As a Police officer, wearing a look of nonchalant arrogance on her face, her eyes doing all the acting; her voice spoken with that trembling huskiness; a body that is not laser thin but nimble and healthy enough to lend authenticity to "Cop in the street" role (she underwent physical training in preparation for this role..) - Rani carries this two hour movie entirely on her shoulders.. What Nana Patekar achieved in "Ab tak chappan" is equaled , if not bettered by this stunning actor in "Mardaani". Though the movie has borrowed heavily from the plot of block buster Hollywood film "Wanted", it has been thoroughly indigenized for Indian audiences, and there is a not a moment of inaction in the script. Well written, with each screen seamlessly flowing it the other, the story and its message held together in a tight leash by director Pradeep Sarkar. Very rarely do I sit though a movie without taking a break. This is one of those exceptions.
The length of this movie is less than two hours. And that is an ideal length for a feature film, unless the story or subject warrants a longer treatment. Mardaani also raises a few pertinent social issues and the answers provided may sound a bit clichéd. But one does not hope to be transformed by Cinema. At the most it can entertain and educate. And Mardaani scores well on both these counts.
Highly recommended and available on Netflix..
God bless...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Barbara W Tuchman - A Historian par excellence..

She was a born an aristocrat; educated in the highest traditions of the country; exposed to all the luxuries that life could possibly provide; could have chosen a career of her choice in any direction that she may have wanted to - yet, she settled to writing history for the common public. Barbara Tuchman, the grand dame of American life was perhaps one of the finest historians of the last two hundred years alongside the Durant’s, Toynbee’s and Jacques Barzun’s, who retold great stories of contemporary history in a form and manner accessible to educated citizens.
Barbara Tuchman was born in 1912 into a Jewish family with a rich International banking experience, philanthropic institutions, and political new papers on her Father’s side; and a rich inheritance of political offices on her Mother’s. Growing up in the lap of luxury; educated in Walden and Radcliffe; worked as a journalist (in her father’s newspaper “Nation”), a writer reporting on the Spanish civil war; travelled the globe to feel the winds of freedom wafting through nations and absorbing its cultural fragrance – Barbara was quick to perceive that academic historians weren’t doing justice in presenting American or world history to its public ,or failing to recount history as a lively cultural, political and economic force that involved living, breathing individuals whose personal proclivities and intellectual choices decided the course of some of the seminal events in the last century. Coventional history books with its gross pedantry, unnecessary focus on arcane and often trivial facts, a mechanical narrative of chronological documentation against dynamic movement of life and culture – moved and inspired her to attempt historical writing from a different perspective altogether. Unarmed, without a formal academic qualification to do the job, she relived the experiment of America in her mind and self-study; revisited historical sites to imbibe its vitality and essence; captured in her mind's eye a panoramic view of powerful currents that swept through the early years of complacent Europe; then sat down to write a series of stunning volumes from 1962 till her death in 1989, that lifted our understanding and appreciation of those momentous years; sensitized us to the cataclysmic changes that triggered the great wars and its subsequent social and moral upheavals. Between 1940 to 1956, she married an intern, Dr Lester, who subsequently went on to become a professor emeritus at Sinai school of Medicine (where her Father was a founder trustee), raised three girl children, and spent her time systematically preparing for the work that lay ahead of her. Her Eldest daughter later recounted in one her interviews: “My mother worked to a strict time table. She had enough time for us, whenever we needed it; but once she goes into her study and closed the doors, we knew that she was lost in a world of her own; and I would gently creep into her room to feed her a cup of tea of lunch. But never once, did we miss her. She was in my opinion the perfect blend of a mother and a self-taught scholar….”
Her effort at writing history began with “The Zimmerman’s telegram”. A unique account of an intercepted communication from Germany, which provoked and triggered the entry of USA into the First World War. In it was visible all the elements of brilliant narration that was to characterize her work. Precision and flair in language, deft use of epigrams, art of cutting through multitude of research to strike at the core issue without comprising its truth, and more importantly, a singular sense of pride in American values, ethics and its unique historical destiny – These hallmarks would distinguish her in American world of letters.
Ms. Tuchman next book was perhaps her masterpiece. “The guns of August” published in 1962. It was a unique rendering of the origins of First World War. Those tumultuous and controversial two months of July and August 1914, when the forces of Western civilization were aligning themselves strategically, and tensions in Europe were simmering to a boiling point; key political personalities, military strategists and resolute statesmen were playing their game of cat and mouse – the geo politics of Europe was is in a state of flux. Those final days preceding the war was punctuated with key military decisions, blunders and lack of perspective. Convectional history would project those final days as an inevitable consequence of historical process that have been shaping European history since renaissance, but on a closer look, a different view point emerges. With total disregard for conventional historical writing, Ms. Tuchman rummages through tomes of research gathering into herself a single theme - the grand forces, follies and stupidity that precipitated the first gun shot that ushered in World war. Her attempt was not to re-theorize about abstract causes, but to present the tale as an intellectual, emotional and often instinctive choice made by a few key individuals upon whom the deliberations of the war fell. Professional historians smirked, scholars derided the depth in scholarship; but educated public loved the account for its balanced veracity and humane rendering of a poignant moment in World history. It won the Pulitzer Prize.
In 1972, she turned her attention to the east, and focused on the life and times of Joseph Sitwell, military attaché to China. The outcome was the book “Sitwell and the American Experience in China, 1911–45”. Through his eyes and journals, Ms. Tuchman recreated the political and cultural ethos of China in the early 20th century; the revolution in 1911 to beginning of Second World War. Again, an immaculately written and readable account of the times. Her strength lies in her ability to look at history through the eyes of its protagonists - feel, think and breathe with them. Like Gibbon, she could describe a slice of history with a few breathtaking strokes of her pen. America honored her with a second Pulitzer. Apart from these three books, there were a few others that flowed from the pen of this conscientious American. “The Proud Tower” - a collection of essays on life and times before the 1914, was again well received by reading public.
My desire to pen this essay was aroused, when I was talking to bunch of youngsters the other day. These were bright kids graduating out of high school this year, and they hadn’t heard of Barbara Tuchman at all. I don’t blame them; media scarcely mentions her name, teachers and parents do not mention her work, and her books are relegated to a corner in select book stores. It is not that her words have turned stale; but that we have lost our aesthetic and intellectual sensitivity. As parents, we don’t slip such books to them on their birthdays any more, gently reminding them on their cultural, moral and literary heritage. We prefer giving them digital toys and expensive vacations to fun towns. Nothing wrong, but somewhere we must steer them to experience the richness of our global heritage. Hence this short essay.
Also, during my study, I came across one of the last known interviews of Barbara Tuchman by Bill Moyers on PBS (one of the most intellectual TV anchors television has ever known…). She was seventy six then, and had just completed her last book. Watch it, and you will get a sense of what it is to be proud of being part of a free democratic nation. You will hear a true voice of a genuine citizen who believes deeply in what her country stands for, and one understands why her books resonate with such passion and integrity. Ms. Barbara Tuchman represents the highest kind of flowering a culture can give birth to, and her books have and will always give me solace and inspiration as a human being, citizen; and as a humble adventurer in my intellectual peregrinations.

God bless….

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A conversation on a Christmas eve...

“The entire idea of Christmas, sharing gifts and camaraderie is a big money making spin. I have grown past it, man... I don't give gifts to anybody, and I accept gifts from none. How can we be so credulous to believe that charity, love and sharing practiced one day in year makes us any more ethical or moral ..."
He was a middle aged, black American, who joined us for dinner yesterday at a well-known Mexican place that we regularly patronize. The above remark was made in response to a greeting made by one of my friends (in all good faith, of course…). We looked at each other - puzzled. I said:
"John (name changed). Whats wrong in celebration? Even if it be for a day in a year. Though I agree in principle what you say, I certainly would not be so vehemently opposed to giving into the spirit of the moment and enjoy the atmosphere. After all, Human beings need an occasion to let-go; and this may be one such day. Anyways John, I think you are trying to be an Intellectual snob... You want to prove a deeper point than what is being said. Let’s hear it..."
He laughed aloud and so did the four of us on that table. There were families all around us talking, gesticulating, drinking, and eating with gay abandon. In the midst of this fun, he began (and I paraphrase).. "You know, you are right in way. I have a deeper agenda.. I find it hard to believe in the historicity of Jesus. Though I was raised as a catholic with all the paraphernalia that goes with it, I started getting more and more disillusioned with it as time went by. By Jove Man, there are four different accounts of the Bible, two different accounts of his birth; and add to all that the confusion in terminology: The virgin birth, Holy Ghost, the comingling of Trinity, the hundred splintered churches. There is too much of conflicting evidence for me to stand rooted in this faith anymore. My problem is not the celebration but the reason for it. Also, the Gnostic gospels unearthed in 1945 at Nag Hammadi and their interpretation seems to give a totally different bent to Christianity as practiced over the last 2000 years. I think I have been fooled into a system that was built on shaky grounds...."
Well, there was studied pause after this seemingly long monologue. The hot plate of Enchilada was beginning to get cold, and all of us ate in silence for a few minutes. I pursued the thread of conversation further:
“John, I wonder, why do we become so unbelieving as we get more educated? As a student of civilization, one of the striking characteristics that strikes my eye is the loss of simple wonder and awe that we possessed in earlier times. The fierce backlash of misinterpreting evolution and explosion of material science is this rather exaggerated importance of “being in control” and not giving into the mystery of life and world around us - Which incidentally was the case for hundreds of years: Birth, death, seasons, earth, and heavens - almost every aspect of life was venerated with a humble acceptance, until science and skepticism crept surreptiously to spoil the fun. We want “objective” truths now. Though almost every moment of our lives is dependent on blind belief, there is a small part of us called conscious thinking that craves for proofs and evidence? We believe that our heart is pumping blood, we believe that we will see the daylight tomorrow, we believe in the fidelity of our partners, we believe that this earth will sustain us eternally, we believe in an abstract thing called “society”, we believe in love, friendship, hate, jealousy and so many other things - but, yet, we find it inconvenient to disbelieve some things when we choose to. I agree that most of our religious traditions have down to us are myths; but myths have a very useful function in society, if understood correctly. They are pointers to a deeper aspect within ourselves. The Birth of Christ may not be a physical event at all, I don’t care, but the beautiful mystery of his virgin birth, the stars heralding his descent; the little baby in the manger; his subsequent tragic crucifixion on the cross - evoke and resonate with something primordial within me. And this is true off all religious symbols. You know John, the reason for us to dedicate a day in a year to commemorate this legend, this myth - if it pleases you- is to hope that altleast some of us will realize the depth of these symbols and awaken to a newer dimension. For most of us, it may be a day of mechanical gift-sharing, fun and bonhomie; but if even a single individual is touched by the symbolism of these stories, the world is blessed. The Gnostic gospels only confirm this truth that Jesus had a far deeper message then what has been enshrined in official bible. So,all the more reason for educated men like you to participate in these communal celebrations; or at least, not show discontent, because hidden in these mythical shells are pearls that need to be unearthed and shared. It is not that we practice charity or love only this day, but this rather a gentle reminder of a forgotten or hidden bliss that needs to be tapped and made an integral part of our daily lives…” This is the meaning behind these festivities…Let’s keep it coming!!!!!!!!
Let me then, wish all my readers a great day of joy and awakening to the Christ in Jesus - the symbol of second birth, a non-physical transformation into deeper sense of “beingness”. Let’s cuddle this little baby of pure life in our hearts, and let his untrammeled bliss flow through all our relationships around us. To the millions who look upon this day with promise, hope and salvation, I join you in your prayers , gratitude and festivities…
God bless….

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"One way" - a movie review

"One way" - a review..
A young bespectacled girl with large black eyes meets a young debonair Upper middle class boy at graduation day in 1988 ; goes to his apartment hoping to spend a night together; end up committing to be friends and not to be entangled in a physical relationship. They meet each other on July the 15th each year to exchange notes on their happiness, travails, challenges and dreams that the previous year had bequeathed to them; bond deeper, and part ways again to pursue their individual paths. Emma wishes to be writer, Dexter moves direction-less between one promiscuous relationship to another; drugging himself to numbness; hosting a flashy depthless TV show, but all along pining for that elusive unconditional, unselfish love that poets and artists have veiled our eyes with for ages now..
Literature has a term for such stoic relationships. They call it "Platonic" - indicating the possibility of fulfillment only within the interiors of ones burdened self, and never to attain fruition in reality. But , such an interpretation is not being fair to the Master. In all of Plato's writings, he wanted humanity to turn away from the world of shadows, and be bathed in the balmy heat of practical living. But yet, for ages now, our ideal of love, romance and "eternal" bonding has always been an intellectual masturbation divorced from the co-mingling of flesh. Can a Young vibrant male, and a Smart , good looking young female remain connected only in their brains and never in the body? Does the touch of physical passion corrupt the pure ties of idealistic love and relationships. Do we not in the inner depths of being silently ache for physical union, but hold ourselves back because of relentless ethical conditioning, social conventions and a paranoid indoctrination against the temptations of flesh? Our conventional world of morality, ethics and religion revolve around this dubious question..
Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess bring out the sensitivity, pain and joy of living such a relationship. For twenty three years, they hold their act together; and their performance on screen shows the signs and scars of living in denial. But unfortunately, for me, the movie leaves a unsatisfactory taste at the end of it. Based on David Nicholls novel by the same name, it fails to capture the subtle nuances of a flowing relationship. Following the book, the movie (for some strange reason) is also broken into chapters; and the gaps are yawning and too deep to give us any sense of evolving maturity and dilemma of its protagonists. One had to be Kurosawa, Polanski, Tarantino or Coppola to pull that off . Lone Scherfig, the director is still learning the art of her creative trade, definitely displays a lot of talent and attention to detail..
What would generally go unnoticed, unappreciated in a film like this is the impeccable, well crafted musical score of Rachel Portman. She is one the finest composers for the screen in this generation. An Academy award winner , Ms. Portman's assemblage of instruments to underline the ebb and flow of emotions that spark between Emma and Dexter elevated to a great degree what otherwise would have sunk low as a mundane piece of cinematography. I must be frank to admit, that during some parts of this film, I was listening more to Music than watching the frames go by...
In all, this is a satisfactory movie. I would not want to rate this very highly. But certainly, the story raises a few important questions, in a rather blunt manner; and like a good appetizer leaves an intellectual viewer something to mull over...
God bless...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Two more Books and a perfect time to read them...

In a few days, I reach a chronological age when , by definition or statistical probability, at least half of my average life span has been expended. In other words, on a normal bell curve, I am at the median, and on the other side of it lies a series of data points that spread up to 70, with a large distribution of outliers as well. So on a life-span graph, assiduously constructed from sophisticated statistical tools, I am at point when One is supposed to make that transition to impending old age with dignity and grace. Though, physically the body has some distance to go before it can start showing signs of decrepitude, this short essay is more of an inner barometer of progress, or balance that ought to have achieved after having spent donkey number of years floating with and against the flotsam and jetsam of existence..
During my travel this week, I carried along two significant books that I managed , despite a vey busy schedule - to read and finish. One is Anthony storr's "Solitude- A return to the self" and the other is Thomas Wolfe's mercurial and ornate debut work of fiction " Look Homeward, angel.." In a way, both these books reflected my current state of being. Over the last few years, I have been driven by this tremendous urge to discover the solace of being utterly alone. Not in the sense of being lonely, but rather basking in a state of "not craving" for company to affirm my existence. Dr Storr was a psychiatrist who belonged to the Jungian school of thought, and It was though him that I formally learnt the primary motifs of Jung's work. It had opened up a world of possibilities, when I had read his commentaries on Jung's voluminous writings; and had also touched a deep chord of recognition of certain principles of "self-hood" that I had been harboring for quite a while in my life. This short book, however, is one of Dr storr's less technical presentation of the need for solitude in an individual's life. Contrary to modern psychoanalysis, where integration of one's personality to the world outside seems to be the main focus, Dr Storr, wonderfully presents the absolute need for being alone with oneself and face the mad onrush of the desires, cravings, fantasy and aberrations - not to overcome them, but rather to sublimate their torrential force in the fire of creativity; and to observe these "irrational" promptings from existence as a gentle whisper from the infinite in supplication uging us to strike a balance between the heart and intellect. To me, this book stuck a strange resonance to a way of life that has pulsating in me for the last few years.. It bought together several disparate strands of thoughts into a tighter knit web of understanding. It is almost like a alchemical reaction where we drop a little phosphate into a chemical concoction, and all of a sudden the liquid coagulates and turns blue in color. It tipped over its mutating point.. This short book did something similar to me. In fact, at certain points in my reading, I stood arrested by a blind light of comprehension that had been eluding me for some time. Anyways, this was a significant mid-life book to read on the eve of a birthday..
Thomas Wolfe on the other hand was one of brightest stars of English literature blotted out quickly in his prime. He lived for a brief 38 years in the early part of twentieth century, and produced four full length novels during that period. "Look homeward angels" was his first and possibly the most widely acknowledged masterpieces of his work. His writing has that rhapsodic quality to it, which I find only reflected in a Oscar wilde, a Henry James. or a Daphne de maurier. This story is partly biographical, and it traces the growth of a young introverted boy alienated , caught in the world of books and imagination and carving for himself a stability in life by reconciling his brooding introversion and creative outbursts. Every page of this book is poetry in prose. Wolfe supposedly wrote this novel over twenty months in a state of delirium; and every sentence oozes with a vibrancy and pulse that can only come from the depths of creative birth pangs. Some of his character descriptions run into multiple pages; separated by semicolons and comma and colons - almost as if, his hand moved at a pace over which he had no control and words poured out of his colorful unconsciousness with precision, artistry, unparalleled flair and style.. It is a heavy big book, and I had started reading it a couple of weeks ago. As my flight touched down today, I finished reading last few pages of the book. I have the same feeling of fulfillment as I had when I put down Dostoevsky's "Three idiots" or James Joyce's "Ulysses". A echo of a distant past ripped through my consciousness, as if in recognition of a long lost and found piece of precious experience..
There is festivity in the air. Christmas is around the corner and the airports are buzzing with life and energy. There is talk of vacations and family gatherings and a general sense of excitement.. To me, however, this is going to be a quiet month, probably get to feel my way a little deeper into myself. This is after all the right season and age for it....
God bless..

Thursday, November 27, 2014

"Certified copy" - A meditative dialogue on Art, life and relationship

"Certified copy" - a movie about art and life..
The question of "What is art?" is very difficult to answer. And even more difficult is to explain art to others. When we look at a painting, what is it in the painting that draws our heart out to feel a strange empathy to subject painted. Is the clinical beauty of the painting, its colorful exuberance, realistic human forms, captivating landscapes - or is it just the confluence of a certain temperament in the beholder with what he beholds that generates a feeling of inner beatitude - Like a rainbow that adorns the sky when there is a symmetry between light and moisture. Also, is there anything called "original" art, or is every creative endeavor merely a pale reflection of the immense beauty and intricacy embodied in nature. Is art a reflection of nature or is nature a refraction of the observed in artistic terms. Difficult questions?
On my way to the health club, I pass through my office building which is beautifully laid out among green lawns, gentle water falls and multi layered walk ways. Towards the end there is stunning sculpture in stone of a young man and lady sitting together closely on a bench, with the girl's face laid upon the Man's shoulder in gentle repose and his arms wrapped around the girl in protective compassion and love. She is seen sitting with her legs curled under her dress and her eyes half closed in harmony; the young man's countenance exudes a benign confidence in his destiny to be present for his beloved always. I normally pass through this piece of art during the evening, and in that twilight zone, almost every day, I pause to admire the sheer felicity and vision of the artist who conceived this piece. A thousands stories rise in my mind , weaving itself around the spirit of this carving. Sometimes, I have involuntarily gasped in surprise when my eyes visualize actual flesh and blood instead on stone there.. So the question that I ask myself is : where is art here ? Is it in me that I see things in bland stone, or is it in the way the entire setting is placed before my eyes, or is my sensitivity to the artists vision of love that manufactures a deep empathy to his creation. I don't Know ;But I enjoy those timeless moments when I am lifted beyond myself to be arrested in an emotion that would never have risen in me otherwise.
These are questions that this brilliant film "Certified copy" addresses. It a French movie with English subtitles featuring the beautiful, mercurial and sensitive Juliette Binoche and William shimell.. Shimell visits the exotic town of Tuscany to promote a French translation of his book on art and there meets with an owner of an art Boutique (Played by Juliette). The entire two hours of this movie is just a dialogue, a meditation, a rumination on art and human relationships. It is the sheer brilliance of Binoche that she brings to this conversation a passion, an intellectual understanding, an emotional vulnerability that transforms mundane dialogues into profound pieces of insight into artistic appreciation and its reflection on life.. Shimmel holds the fort, that's all. Every frame in the movie is shot with a firm grip on its narration by the talented and highly decorated directed Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, and the camera lingers at a close distance to Juliette Binoche face , capturing every single nuance, wrinkle and gesture of this wonderful actress. She just could not afford to make a single mistake. It is virtually a flawless piece of acting that I have seen in a long time. She won the Cannes award for this role in 2010.
Needless to say, this movie is not for all. To call it entertainment in the common sense of term may be misplaced here. This is an intellectual journey and it will need our complete involvement to be appreciate the beauty of this marvelous biopic. But , if you can stay with it , I am sure you will be a richer person in artistic currency.
God bless...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Compulsive one-upmanship - A conversation...

There is nothing much one can do with people who are compulsively argumentative. These are those half baked intellectuals, who have dipped their finger superficially into different caskets of knowledge, with a few catch phrases culled from their readings; holding on to their train of thought and deliberation with a tenacity worthy of a Cicero (Except that in sounds awfully hollow); feigning wisdom on supposedly every conceivable topic that could come up for discussion; consider it beneath their dignity to acknowledge ignorance; unwilling to hold a reasonable dialogue on a topic but insist on throwing names and praises in favor of themselves - that it becomes so very difficult for others to stay beyond a few minutes in the same room with them. Either, one need to raise ourselves to that level of superficiality or utterly keep quiet and let the other spend their energy, and pray that a more reasonable balance be achieved quickly enough.
We are four regular members at the local sauna; in the sense, that almost every weekend, if we happen to be in town, we assemble there almost at the same time. And there is a unwritten code that we follow among us - and that is - beyond a few cursory exchanges and observations of topical interest , which at the most lasts for not more than five minutes; we stay quiet, immersed in our own contemplation, enjoying the sweltering heat that slowly creeps over us. And after twenty minutes, we politely bid ourselves good bye. However, We have met outside the health club several times, for lunch or dinner; and that is when we launch into discussions and ratiocinations. One of them is a Professor of philosophy; the other is a developer with a local software company; and one more - a young lad who is pursuing his engineering in Georgia Tech. Fortunately, all four of us have deep interests outside the line of our work, and I can recall some wonderful moments of delightful conversation that we have had over the last year or so. Never intrusive, always willing to listen to each other; thinking an idea through to its logical conclusion no matter where it would lead us. More importantly, not afraid to be ignorant and willing to learn..
The Gym is the place people unwind themselves; and this process of unwinding takes several forms. The person in question, keeping whom in mind, I began this narrative is a great guy. At nearly sixty years, he is in pink of health and shape. But he suffers from this incorrigible need to be right all the time. There are several like him that I know . As he walked into the sauna today, he started talking about the movie "A theory of everything", a film based on Stephen Hawking. I politely told him that I saw the film recently as well and I found the ideas of Hawking captured quite authentically. That trigger was enough. He started on a tirade of Hawking's supposed atheism, his opposition to the theory of Richard Dawkin's "blind watchmaker", his reluctance to acknowledge God and how religion is much more than science can conceive of; and how Hawkins is merely riding a sympathy wave and really has no foundations for his theory and so on. For twenty minutes, the four of us merely listened as mute spectators, looking at each other through the corner of our eyes, resolved to keep quiet and allow the storm to pass away. But today, there seemed no signs of abatement. I had reacted the end of my tether (probably the Sauna was wee bit hotter today than normal) and hastily intervened :
"John (name changed) : Have you actually read "The brief History of time" . Because, if you did, you will realize that Hawking is as "God intoxicated" as Einstein or Spinoza. Although He what is calls God is nature or Universe. Keep this as your reference point and your understanding of Hawking will undergo a radical revision...."
His face abruptly changed, and he grew more serious. and this is what he had to say " No, I read reviews and summaries of this book, and all of them call him an atheist.."
"that's the problem with most of them John. I think one should not be discussing somebody else idea if it is not read in its original form. It is very easy to slip into intellectual snobbism with that kind of half baked knowledge.. Read the book and then let us discuss Hawking's position on God, or if you cant do that then lets that talk about your original thoughts on it. That would be a fair and reasonable dialogue...
I could see my friends gently shaking their heads with a subtle smile on their faces..
I dint want to hurt John , so I jumped in" Hey John, did you see formula one today....?"
And in that instant, he was on again and was warming for a long diatribe on the rules of racing.. I was happy though, that I left him in good cheer, basking in his own glory and intellectual one-upmanship.
God bless...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Family - a nebulous balance of priorities.. A late evening conversation...

"Bala, I am at a loss on what to do. I have tried every trick in the book. I have openly criticized him, spoken embarrassingly in front of his peers, Made it known that he is becoming a burden on me; reduced internet options to send out feelers to him - nothing seems to work. My son is 21, and he continues to remain with my Wife and me under the same roof...."
Jake (name changed) is a top IT decision maker in one of the largest airlines in the world. He had invited me out for dinner ; and we sitting in this posh Mediterranean restaurant with liveried bearers floating around, cutleries gleaming with silver and polish, and soft lilting tunes from Arabic percussion instruments were wafting through the air. A gorgeous looking middle eastern waitress had just placed a platter of Kebab's on our table and bowed away noiselessly for us to continue this conversation. Jake was talking about quality of professional and personal life in IT industry; and that is when he drifted to talking about family.. He continued...
" At eighteen, he moved out to live with a few friends. I was the happiest man in the world, but then I had this sneaking premonition that he would come back to us. Every other day, I would see him at our kitchen table, with my wife cooking his favorite dishes. And then , six months ago - he actually moved back. I was terribly annoyed, but had to honor my wife's decision. Bala. Don't mistake me here. I love my boy. I have put him in private schools throughout his life, willing to pay for Grad as well; And I did. But he has never shown any responsibility whatsoever. He chickened out of college in a couple of years, and started working in way side restaurants to make money. In a span of two years, he has hopped six girl friends, and while at home he is so disorganized, plays music at full blast and generally gets on my nerve. I got to have a serious chat with him very soon. Otherwise , I have this quaint feeling that My wife and me are going to be stuck with him for life - managing him. I have spent Three and half decades getting to where I am today, and I am looking forward to a retirement in the next few years to reap the efforts of my labor with my wife. We have plans, but right now, this chap is a thorn in the bush.
My girl on the other hand is the very opposite of him. She was always a brilliant honors student, graduated from MIT, moved out to San Jose with her boy friend. making a lot of money; and does not want to visit us at all. I wonder what have we done wrong with her. Its been three years, and all that we occasionally get is a phone call for thanksgiving, Christmas or Mother's day. She was the apple of my eye. But somehow I feel, that she wants to keep her distance from us. Not that she has any grievances against us, but when she moved out, I got this feeling that she had been waiting for this day all her life. You know, what, I am at least glad that she is doing well and support herself well without us.. That is a great consolation...."
He stopped talking. By this time, we were well into our main course; dipping into juicy Chicken breast and a side of roasted zucchini. I pitched in " Jake, One of the things that I admire and respect in western society is the clear lines that are drawn within a family over a period of years. It is boon and a curse. A boon, in the sense that an individual is never bogged down with the act of rearing and sustenance for a life time; and a curse, because it is a difficult line to draw in human interactions and often leads to psychological difficulties.. In India, at least in the past, Instructions were clear. The bond between Parents and children are for a life time, not in a general way, but each one being there for the other every step of the way. It was reinforced repeatedly through religious injunctions, mythology and cultural doctrination. In a way it was good, because there was no choice. But the moment, we start valuing our independence as something vitally important, then it is becomes an enormously difficult decision; and it must be taken without any emotional underpinnings to it. This is the struggle between Western and eastern societies. The tremendous progress of the West is because of this process of individuation that was achieved within a family; but what was sacrificed in the process is inner psychological stability and peace. The East always held on to the ideal of living in groups, and hence they are more centered and peaceful and to that extent lackadaisical in their individual drive and progress. The biggest problem we face today in our shrinking global village is the cross fertilization of both these ideas; and right now, there is great flux happening in India as well. Joint families are breaking up, nuclear families are beset with adjustment issues.
You know Jake, one would never have any parent In India express their feeling about their children as bluntly as you did. It would be considered blasphemous and immoral (I chuckled, and so did he!!), but it is the true maturity of Western democracy that you can take a impartial view of your closest ties and talk about with such frankness. This is the triumph of Jungian Philosophy - allowing the present to take off from the past , not cling to it... I think your son will move on, and your daughter will keep doing well. Meanwhile Jake, you will have a ball of a future.
He laughed : " Yaps, I am sure of that, I will not allow anything to come in between Me and my plans. Cheers Bala!!
God bless...

"Hiroshima" by John Hershey -

My best read of the week - "Hiroshima" by John Hershey.
On August 6th 1945, Hiroshima felt the impact of what is largely considered as the most brutal, inhuman and completely unnecessary act of innocent annihilation ever undertaken in the annals of Human history. Let us for a moment relive the lives of those ordinary men and women, who woke up that fateful day, going about the daily chores, lost in their world of mundane Human predicament, caring for their young and loved ones, living the monotony of life, unmindful of the aerial bombings by allied forces that had become a mechanical part of their lives – and more importantly - blissfully unaware of the tremendous catastrophe that was about to be unleashed on them on that bright morning. It was just an ordinary day for the citizens of Hiroshima, caught in the polarities of a world war that they could little understand, and much less appreciate. They believed that Americans were predatory and it was a matter of time before their supreme discipline would overcome the economic might of superpowers. The Japanese are also a stoic race, built on generations of courtesy and values that is distinctly theirs. Even in the direst of circumstances, they would rarely display emotions that betray their inner feelings. But on that fateful day, little did they realize that their well-honed character, conviction and courage would be tested to the hilt; their sense of values and capacity for forbearance will be pushed to a superhuman limit – for, a calamity so devastating was to fall upon their lot - leaving them morally, spiritually and intellectually devastated forever as a nation. The scars of those few hours still singe with pain in the psyche of its people.
Nearly Seventy five thousand of them died, many more seriously injured within a span of twenty four hours from the time atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. For Nearly a year after the attack, the wave of heat, dust and radiation spread its demonic wings slowly, stealthily across the circumference of the city; and its unfortunate citizens could neither flee from its clutches nor fathom what had hit them so forcefully. All kinds of childish explanations, rumors and platitudes were floating around the city. Some felt that Magnesium vapors were being spread, other surmised that gasoline was strewn and lighted from fighter planes - but none could however, even in the wildest of imagination conceive that they were the victims of the first ever nuclear bombing in recorded human history. That they were standing at the brink of a new political equilibrium that was to unequivocally tilt towards a new world order based on pure, unprecedented and immense power. With bodies dropping to the ground like dead ducks, lacerated skins oozing pus and gangrene, children dying of poisoned water, men and women trapped under intolerable debris; debilitating heat and an enormous sense of destruction so singular - people were walking around like zombies – lost and bereft of any anchor, trying to help and find meaning in this desolation. Documentaries and books over the years have consecrated a typical image of the holocaust in our memory. The picture of a balloon of smoke and dust cloud erupting from the fission, slowly spreading and enveloping many square miles of city. These pictures have remained etched in our historical chronology and books, and that is the only image that we carry with us. But the ground reality on that day, in that hour- for those who happened to escape the death doom of the blast, and survived the initial impact by some miraculous stroke of fate or by sheer coincidence, it was a nightmarish reality, where their known world : its significance, meaning and boundaries stood altered.
Early, this month, I found a copy of John Hershey’s moving journalistic account of the first year after the bombing. The book is called “Hiroshima”. It was originally published in the Newyorker Magazine in 1946, based on six eye witness accounts who survived those first horrific moments of bombing. Hershey tells the story of Hiroshima through the eyes of these characters. Among them is doctor, a priest, a housewife, a philanthropist - all of them numbed by the immensity of what had befallen them? In a matter of fact style, devoid of any emotions, Hershey recreates the poignant moment’s pain, anguish, sympathy, compassion, willpower and the resolute resilience of the survivors. From complete disbelief to the slow awakening of realization that they have been subjected to the banal act of nuclear war is sensitively, with great precision recounted in the short book of one hundred and fifty pages. I rarely get emotional when I read, but when I closed this slim volume, there was a small, dense tear dangling from the corner of my eyes. It is not so much the brutality and vehemence of the act that bothered me, it is the sheer dread of the kind of civilization that we have spawned in this scientific age. How could we embark upon something so horrendous, so utterly disdainful of life? There may be a thousand reasons that Military historians and social scientists may provide for such an act; but reading Hershey’s account, one sinks deep into those individual lives that were profoundly affected and changed by this carnage. The tear was more for those six men and women and thousands of others, who rose above circumstances, unmindful of the devastation around them; reaching into their inner well springs of energy, sympathy and action that saved thousands of lives, assuaged the pain of many more - without an iota of thought about themselves or their well-being.
Hershey’s sketch of those heroic souls is as down to earth as it can get. As one reads his narrative, one cannot but feel a deep sense of pride and dignity in being Human; and that no matter how hard we try as a race to annihilate ourselves, there will always be beacons of light in the wilderness, who reinstate nature’s faith in its own proud species. Not once in this entire account, does Hershey discuss the motives for such a dastardly act. To him, it was all about the individual and his reaction to this attack.
Hershey has written many books. My favorites include “A bell for Adano” (it was awarded the Pulitzer) - a story of an Italian officer who honors the town of Adano by rebuilding a bell that was melted during the fascist regime to make guns; “The wall” - a story placed in Nazi death camps, and “Antoneitta” - the fictional account of the famous Stradivarius violin: its romantic, adventurous and passionate history…
But this week was spent with “Hiroshima”. According to me, it is a book to be read by every educated man. Not so much for its style, but for its message and meaning. In an age, when we diligently prepare ourselves for nuclear warfare that is manifold times more potent than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this book will act as a barometer of moral conscience, before we embark upon its usage. The sheer stupidity of annihilating ourselves and putting this beautiful balance of this planet to risk will strike with direct force in the pages of Hershey’s account.
This is a book you may want to buy, read and pass it on to your children as a legacy… It is worth your time…
God bless…

Saturday, November 8, 2014

An encounter to remember...

t was a brand new Boeing 737-900 flight. It smacked and smelled of newness. The flight attendant told me as I seated myself in the first-class cabin, that this is the second time this beauty is going to be airborne. Large TV screen, clean pale blue seats with spotless covers, enough leg room and sufficient space between adjacent seats for privacy. I was bone tired after a grueling week at work with hardly enough sleep,; so the moment I settled down in my seat, plugged my earphones, opened the biography of Nietzsche ; and after having read a few pages drifted into a blissful sleep. It was 8 A.M in the morning.
It was an hour later that I woke up. The plane was by then, I guess, flying at an altitude of well over 31,000 feet; an utterly still cruise through the air, hardly any turbulence. All my co-passengers had finished their breakfast, and flight attendants were clearing the plates. Coming out a deep sleep, it took me a while to get a look at my neighbor. At first glance, I could see that she was a white blonde lady, wearing a loose blue T-shirt and a hugging jeans. she had well chiseled face and large blue eyes. Her curly hair dappled her shoulders with a bouncy crispness, and she was holding off a few strands from her face to concentrate on her reading. She looked in good shape even in those casual clothes. A reading glass was perched rather studiously on her nose; she was holding Kafka's "Metamorphosis" in her left hand in a leisurely poise of a seasoned reader. It was a thin book, looked like a second hand edition. The pages had yellowed with age, but people who read Kafka wouldn’t really mind that. It was at that moment that there was a faint stirring of my memory cells; a kind of vague recognition of this woman's face flitted across my minds eyes. I couldn't place her. The facial profile looked very familiar, yet, where it was and under what circumstances seemed to be eluding me. She turned around and said "Good morning" and after reciprocating the greeting, I let the matter drop and focused my attention on Nietzsche vision of Zarathustra. It was Walter Kaufman's masterly biography of the maniacal philosopher.
And half hour when my attention was broken by my neighbors voice. She said”
"It is interesting that you are reading about a Mad German philosopher and I am dipping into a Mad German author… "
"I smiled and replied "yes"... She continued
"But you know, these visionary Germans of the 18th century really had a grip on problems of existence. That Breed of artists: Beethoven Wagner, Goethe, Kafka. Nietzsche - what an explosion of intellect and talent. Perhaps unsurpassed in the last two centuries…"
I closed my book ,and thus started a conversation that lasted for nearly forty five minutes. We discussed existentialism - the works of Sartre and Kafka in particular, then drifted on to Richard Wagner - his grand opera Tristan and Isolde; then the novels of Henry James - we were immersed in an intellectual web of thoughts and opinions. Both of us shared our interest in Robert Harrison's popular podcast titled "Entitled opinions", which he broadcasts from Stanford University campus every spring. Time flew by…
Before long, the captain announced the descent into the city. It was then that we broke our thread of intense conversation; and it dawned upon me that I had not still been able to place her in my memory. Now that we had become acquainted, I boldly asked her:
"Your face looks very familiar to me; I don't know, but I am not able to exactly place it...
She slowly took off her reading glasses and laughed silently, and with a hint of mischief asked me..."
"Do you watch movies?”
"Yes, of course. I am a movie buff" - I answered…
She laughed again, and said “Do you get to watch a Genre called "Adult entertainment"...
Now, my attention was gripping itself around something concrete. The vague floating memories began to coalesce together… I heard her voice drifting through:
"My name is ............." (Not appropriate to give out the name).
A wave of recognition now flooded through me. The name, the shape, the act - all came together in one single instant. She was one of the leading stars in the Adult business for the best part of eighties and nineties. I will not be a hypocrite and declare that I have not seen her movies, or ogled over her pics on leading Adult magazines during my school and college days. It was an age when it had its own fascination on a growing adolescent.
But now, decades later, when all that excitement is merely a collage of vague memories; and the fact that , decades after, both of us sitting in an airplane can have a discussion on intellectual abstractions is a sign that we have grown beyond those needs. She had stopped acting sometime in mid nineties, and in that murky world of shadows where physicality matters, one is forgotten all too easily. It is obvious that she has reinvented herself, found newer centers of delight; and she wouldn’t want to tarry too long in her past… she now works for an NGO.
All that I could do was say to her “Oh my God, It was a great pleasure watching your movies as a college kid, and now it was even more pleasurable talking to you as a mature adult. Believe me, in many ways, you were part of my early education….”
The flight had touched down. It was time to leave. She put her reading glasses back inside her purse and took out her sunglasses. She turned around and looked at me and said: “Thanks for your lovely insights into Kafka. I will remember you….”….. I replied:” The pleasure was mine, I can never forget you anyways…”..
God bless…

Monday, November 3, 2014

"Liberal arts" - a film review..

Yesterday afternoon, I happened to see a beautiful film on Netflix. It is one those unsung, low profile movies that didn't quite make it to the galleries, but for those who believe that art is all about sensitivity, intellectual stimulation and an exploration of human relationships and meaning of life - then "Liberal arts" is most definitely a film to be watched.
A quiet Newyorker, educated in English literature, tries to find his idealism in the world outside. An avid reader and thinker, he experiences deep boredom in living a monotonous and purposeless life. Out of the blue, he is invited by his favorite professor to his retirement night dinner in campus. So Jesse goes to the party where he meets a young sophomore girl, who kindles his interest in life again. Some of the best parts of the film is when Jesse and Zebbie (sophomore, played by Elizabeth Olson) discover the therapeutic value of Music and its depth. The movie then goes on to explore the gap between dreams that begins in college and the stark, meaningless reality of adulthood. While Jessie struggles to outgrow his adolescent idealism, Zebbie wishes to make a premature quantum leap to maturity. The subtle emotional and intellectual undertones of their conversation is a connoisseur’s delight and the real cornerstone of this lovely story.
Allison Jenny plays a short cameo role of a Professor in Romantic English literature. People who teach Romanticism need not necessarily believe in or be romantics themselves is bought out quite brilliantly in her customary acerbic wit. I love her performances.
All in all, this is a very decent film that talks about ordinary aspirations in life. It has a genuine warmth to it which touches a chord within. Josh Radnor, who has directed and starred in this film knows his ground well. He manages to resurrect the pleasure of being a normal, average person in an abnormal world..
God bless..

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Time as a psychological measurement. - A musing

In the year 1751, The English parliament passed a bill to bring its Calendar in tune with the Gregorian cycle that was used all over Europe. It was called the Calendar (New Style) act 1750 or Chesterfields act, named after the Earl who introduced the bill. The effect of this change was to begin the New Year on first of January rather than the traditional twenty fifth day of March ( Lady Day - the feast of annunciation ).
The first consequence of this bill was to make the year 1751, the shortest in the Christian era - only 282 days; and the second, more profound impact was to be felt when the subsequent year 1752 was to advanced by 11 days (11th September was followed by 14th) to adjust for equinoctial fluctuations. . This had deep psychological repercussions in society. It meant that people lost eleven days in their lives.!!!!!!!!!! There were huge protests in England against this move. The measurement of time - so ingrained in the human psyche led to the belief that by advancing dates, the government had taken away a slice of their lives. The fact that division of time into days, months and years or even Hours, minutes and seconds is only an act of pure convention, and has no basis in reality - is something that eluded the populace and educated public. It is like mistaking the measurements of latitude and longitude as actual lines zig-zagging the globe., and any attempt to tie the earth with them is as foolish as believing that one has lost 11 days due to change in numbering. Ironically, It needed the Church's intervention to convince its fold that they would be compensated in an after life (heaven or hell, as the case may be) for these days; and that they should now get back to work..
The reason for penning this post is that I have been bombarded with new flashes, mails and radio reminders that Day light savings end tonight at 2.A.M, and , how I could snatch one more hour of "extra" sleep on a beautiful, cold, cozy Sunday in Atlanta. What Earthly difference does it make to me by an increase or decrease of a few hours in a day. As long as my time zone does not change to the extent that my biological days and nights getting reversed, I really would not be bothered. Yes, My work schedule would get affected a bit, but that is not a deep psychological issue that I need to deal with. And for God's sake !! how do I teach my body to sleep for an hour more because some bloke has decided to turn a human made clock by one hour. Over the last two days, At least, twenty people has voiced their concern to me about this "radical" change, with a look of unhappiness or perplexity on their faces. I refuse to even acknowledge the remark..
To me, all this points to a deep existential problem. We are so caught in measurements of all kinds and shapes, that we forget to realize that life cannot be captured in a net. It is wriggly by nature. obviously, We have imposed some conventions upon it to regulate our interactions in society; beyond that - it has no use whatsoever. To be existentially troubled by it is the least dignified stand we could allow ourselves to take.
A curious thought strikes me at this point. If I were meet Einstein sometime. somewhere, here is a question I would want to ask him..
"Sir, how did you react to Day light savings and Time zone differences.."
I am sure his grave , studious and mellow grey eyes may break into a twinkle and might reply
" Are you talking of planetary time zones or Universal time zones or cosmic times zones, Pls clarify?
Well, I cannot even guess at what he is talking about. It is so relative. Why bother at all???
God bless..