Saturday, December 27, 2008

Angry


Today I had a bit of a run-in with a man I presume was an officer in the main branch of the State Bank of India. I pride myself in being able to tolerate a lot of things, but rudeness is something that just galls me, especially when it’s unprovoked. Here is what happened.

Having gone to the bank to get my University Teachers’ Association passbook updated, I noticed that two ladies were engaged with the person sitting in the tellers’ cubicle. I patiently waited for them to finish their business, kept a respectful distance, and when they were done I approached our man.

Me: “May I have my passbook updated?”
Rude Bank guy: “What the..!! Haven’t I just said that the updating machine (or whatever it’s called) is broken? Do I have to repeat myself over and over again? @%*$#!!”
Me (having slowly but surely lost my cool during this colorful tirade): “Excuse me, but I just arrived, did not hear any part of your conversation with any other customers. You people are so impolite!”
Rude bank guy: “@*#$$&%)$)#%!!”

Out I went, seething. In I came again, realizing that I would never get a moment’s peace unless I vented out my frustration at someone. The unfortunate (but most appropriate) recipient was the Manager. Fortunately for me, he was not a Mizo, and I had the opportunity to use what turned out to be a surprisingly extensive vocabulary denouncing the unprofessional conduct of the bank’s employees, how this particular man had no right to shout at me, and how, we, the public, were generally fed up of them acting like they were doing us a big favor for every transaction when in actuality they were just doing their duty, how none of their customers – especially those from rural areas – had the courage to seek guidance or clarification from his rude staff, et cetera. I also added that since his blessed machine was broken, and since it was obvious that people would keep coming to him to update their passbooks, he could jolly well put up a sign saying that the machine was broken since repeating that fact seemed to make him explode every time he had to do it. Miming it wouldn’t have worked. Neither would shouting it out at the top of his voice (which he did) make his life any easier.

The manager was apologetic, and admitted that they had been having these problems, that they had even had a meeting regarding this recently but not to much avail, and so on. I think he was also a little scared that I’d throw a full-blown tantrum right there in his office… which I was rather tempted to do. The upshot was that he asked me to submit a written complaint against the man so that action could be taken, which I couldn’t quite bring myself to do. Sigh.

Well, maybe this guy had had a bad day, I reasoned. But that was pretty early in the day, and it still did not excuse his behavior. What was really quite surprising also was that usually it’s the women workers who get all the flak. This rude person was not just a man, but he was well into his late forties judging by his looks. I wondered what could have happened to make his fuse so short.

The Bible says “a gentle answer turns away wrath”. How true it is. And how far we so-called professionals in Mizoram are still away from practicing that truism! I think it’s high time government employees step down from their ‘secure’ jobs and realize that just because people need our services, it doesn’t give us the right to abuse them. It’s so much easier to be kind; and true kindness is not motivated by the fear that we’ll have a bad record or lose our jobs. It just stems from the desire to be nice to others. It even has a side-benefit: it gives us that warm glow inside which nothing else can beat.

As Jewel says, In the end, only kindness matters.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Feliz Navidad



It's that time of year again. 'Tis the season to be jolly, tra-la-la-la-la and all that. This year, I'm not as apathetic as I was last year. With a miraculous lightening of my workload comes a corresponding lightening of the heart. Sure, there are things to worry about, mistakes I have made, wounds I have inflicted, loved ones I have lost. And this year has certainly been chaotic, with me trying to make sense of what seemed to be losing sense each passing day. And for some reason, I always seemed to be two paces behind whatever was happening; I felt I was constantly running a race where the moment I finally reached a pit stop, the next hurdle loomed large, a hurdle I should have jumped over days ago. There were days when I literally sat down and asked myself, "is it worth it?" and moments of despair, when I was so dog-tired and frustrated that I threw my hands up in the air and cried, "I can't do this anymore!" Yet, somehow, with the approach of year's end, things have fallen into place. There is a sense of harmony, a unity, an imperceptible click that miraculously restores everything to order. In other words, Peace.

Maybe that's what the season is all about. I've always marveled that Christmas should coincide with year's end.How very fitting. We rush through our jobs and our lives and all the inconsequential but necessary activities that make up our existence. And then, it's the end of the year, there is sense of closure, a promise of new beginnings. Christ's birth is a symbol of that promise. After all the chaos, the madness, the rushing around... Peace on Earth.

On to lighter things, Peace is not the word that comes to mind when one looks at the markets in the city of Aizawl at Christmastime. It's positively bustling with activity, and one begins to wonder where all these people came from! And where were they throughout the rest of the year?! You don't even have to make an effort to walk, you get pushed from behind anyway. You literally 'go with the flow'. And the wares are interesting. While more upmarket stores display overcoats 'imported' from 'foreign' at three thousand and four thousand rupees, the second-hand shops, not to be deterred, also display overcoats, also imported and equally fashionable, at less than half that price. And while some shoes set you back by four thousand and five hundred rupees, mom went to a sale today and came home extremely satisfied, having bought a decent pair of pumps for three hundred rupees. See? Nobody gets left out.


What is forever associated with Christmas in the Mizo sensibility is the good ol' Boney M Christmas Album. Scores of new artists, Mizo and otherwise, record Christmas songs every year; yet, the ultimate Christmas songs will always be those sung by Boney M. I ventured up to bara bazar today, and true to the spirit of the season, Boney M was blaring from shops everywhere I went. Personally I've overdosed on it because when we were growing up in Dawrpui, Aizawl, there was this store downstairs that sold music systems, and the day the sun rose on December 1, they would start playing that blessed record. Over and over and over again, the whole day, everyday, until Christmas Eve. Nothing else. I kid you not. So, I guess you understand the mixed feelings I have about that particular album. I wonder if Boney M will ever realize the impact they've made on Mizo culture. Probably not. Oh, well.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Drama in real life

Now that I finally have the luxury of taking it at a slightly easier pace, there's really nothing on my mind worthy of a blog post, except for the Nightmare that's happened in Mumbai. I've been glued to the telly for the last couple of days, trying to come to grips with the horror that's being enacted on screen. I thought this kind of thing only happened in the movies. Time was when we escaped to reel life to get away from the sheer monotony and predictability of real life. Now I watch the movies to relax; there's enough drama and tension in real life.I'm obsessed with the why of the entire senseless incident at the same time that I am overcome with sympathy for those directly affected. The irony is that it takes something of this magnitude for us to come together as a nation.

Speaking of bonds that are formed and broken in the course of our lives, I've been thinking of the friends I've made online, here in the blog world, as well as in sites like Orkut and mIRC.It took me a month-long non-functional Internet connection to realize how much they have become part of my life. I guess what makes these relationships special is that, in most cases, people don't even know what you look like, sound like, or what your bank balance looks like. Therefore, you are not judged by mere appearances, something that sadly is becoming more and more common in "real" life. Which got me to mulling over the question of what is "real" and what is "unreal". If I feel more accepted, more comfortable with people I've never seen (and probably never will) does that make my relationships with them any less real? How is it that "virtual" reality makes more genuine people of us than the "real" world, where we feel compelled to be polite, restrained, scared to err, eager to impress, and quick to judge?

Reality. Surely those terrorists had what in their warped logic was probably an excellent reason to kill and maim innocent people. What is reality for some is fantasy - and nightmare - for others. So whose reality do we accept as the ultimate "real" thing?

Of course, the lines blur now and again. Coming back to these relationships, I realized that the ones online and those 'offline' need not be mutually exclusive.There are "crossovers". It was an unexpected, but rather pleasant surprise to have some "online" friends actually ringing me up just to see whether I was okay or not since I had been out of circulation for some time. Hmmm... maybe I shouldn't worry too much about where my friends are from, as long as I 'keep it real'.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Busy Bee

I know, I know. I'm probably starting to sound like a broken record. But there it is: I am so busy, updating my blog just hasn't been possible.I swear, this year has been frustratingly busy in what seems to be a very unproductive way for me. Sometimes I think that maybe I am bad at managing my time and priorities, but honestly, there doesn't seem to be too much I can actually change in terms of what I do, how I do it, and when. Sigh.

Anyway, I've had lots of inspiration for my next blog post (which doesn't seem to be making an appearance anytime soon!), so watch this space. I will update. Soon. Really. I will. :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Well I thought I'd better update before I get chastised again. Since I've been too busy to be creative, I'm taking the easy way out and putting a paper that I gave at a seminar recently. It might be fairly yawn-inducing, so feel free to skip it...just leave your paw-prints to let me know you've been here :)

PS:I can't figure out how to edit and re-arrange the photos anymore, because there are all these weird characters and little signs and squiggles in the edit page, where the photos should be.

PPS: The first photo is published just to let you know I have friends in high places!







GLOBALIZATION AND MIZO FOOD CULTURE.

The choice of food is a process in which nutrition produced by nature is transformed into food, a product of culture. People do not accept all possible substances as edible, but make choices. Culture defines how possible nutrition is coded into acceptable food (Levi Strauss, 1966). Ecological, biological, and economic conditions affect our choice of food, but it is the cultural understanding and categorization that structures food as edible or inedible. According to Levis Strauss, no culture is without language and cooking skills. Nourishment that is not categorized by language and culture as edible (i.e. food) is not acceptable.

Food items themselves can be used to mark an individual’s status as well as the boundaries of an ethnic or class group. Mizo society being casteless, the question of discriminating food practices on grounds of caste does not arise; however, economic status determines the diet of a family or an individual even within the same cultural context, as in any other society.

In his 1964 work, The Raw and the Cooked Lévi-Strauss explored nature/culture relations on the culinary level – namely, the way in which myth describes and explains the evolution of cooking techniques and rules, and the transformation of cooking into a cultural process – through the study of myth. The act of cooking is perceived by Lévi-Strauss as a type of anomalous category since food constantly crosses the boundaries of the categories nature and culture. Thus the cook is a type of cultural agent who links the raw product with the human consumer. His role is to ensure that the natural becomes cooked and undergoes a process of socialization.



In the classification of foods by Levi Strauss, he stresses that humans universally distinguish food in terms of “the raw and the cooked.” Cooking represents the human ability to transform nature. In his “culinary triangle” one point in the triangle – the raw – is contrasted with two other points – the cooked and the rotted. Cooking signifies a transformation through culture, but rotting is transformation by nature.

Forces of globalization have introduced variants to local cuisine, as well as hitherto-unknown menus to the Mizo table. Mainstream Indian cooking, replete with a variety of masalas or spices, is increasingly gaining popularity in the kitchen. Dishes of foreign origin, like hamburgers, sandwiches, noodles and momos (dumplings) are part of the everyday fare of the Mizo.

To understand the full impact of the differences brought about in cooking systems of the Mizos, one has to look into the food practices of the people before their exposure to different social and cultural elements. Traditional Mizo fare is cooked in a simple manner, typically boiled, stewed, smoked, steamed, or fermented. The only cooking oil available was when a pig was slaughtered and its fat preserved in the form of lard, which was then re-heated for frying purposes. Most families could not afford to kill more than one pig in a year, and with neither the means of preserving the meat nor the lard in modern freezers, families had very few occasions in which to eat fried or fatty foods. Preservation of meat as well as certain vegetables was done through the method of smoking. Although most households kept a few chickens and a few kept a cow or two, yet, meat was a rare treat reserved for special occasions such as festivals and weddings. Thus, most families made do for the most part with simple fare that largely consisted of a variety of green, leafy vegetables, prepared in the traditional method of bai or simply boiling it (tlak) without even the addition of salt. Even meat, including fish, for that matter, was usually served boiled. One simply heated water in a pan and added the food items, and left it to cook over the open hearth in the kitchen. Feasts and rituals necessarily played an important part in the cultural set-up, because of the role they played in establishing relationships between members of the community, manifested in events of food sharing and exchange.

With the forces of globalization becoming ever potent and more difficult to ignore, Mizos have adapted to and adopted practices in food preparation that were hitherto alien to them. Food is now spicier and richer; the increased intermingling with people from mainland India has resulted in openness to experimentation with other forms of food preparation. Furthermore, with the introduction of cuisine from the West as well as other Asian countries, food practices have been rapidly diversifying over the last few decades.

Another important impact of globalization is the mushrooming of eateries such as fast-food restaurants and hotels, which cater to an even more diverse palate, although international fast-food chains such as McDonald’s and KFC are yet to establish themselves in Mizoram. An offshoot of this relatively new phenomenon is the increase in the number of health problems related to bad eating habits, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, obesity, and so on.

Food and ethnic identity: According to social theorists, identity is crucial to every human being as it gives sense to existence, formulates the relationship between oneself and the Other, and creates values and norms. Identity affects the way people perceive and construct their society, and it determines how they act, think, socialize, eat and work—in other words, it influences each aspect of their everyday lives. People do all this with reference to economic, social, cultural and political conditions, events and expectations, and by doing so, they influence the economic, the social, the cultural and the political (Scholliers, 5). Nowadays, the idea of homogenous identity is untenable—identities are multiple and they are a combination of various facets. The question is how food is related to identities and processes of identification.

Food and its link to identity has been one of the most fruitful topics of food studies to date. The significance of food for human life rests in its simultaneous contribution to the biological and the social, and it is also the act of incorporation that gives food its unique status. In view of semiotics, food functions as communication. It transmits messages about identities and social relationships, and it develops and transforms over time due to social shifts. It can also facilitate transcultural communication through food sharing across cultural boundaries, and through altering and re-creating food habits according to contexts. (Hinnerova, 36)

Food is a cultural practice through which people participate in attitudes and rituals of a group and these participations can be socially controlled as well as more automatic (Scholliers, 7). The link between food and identity is supported by the assertion that “the sentiments of belonging via food do not include only the act of classification and consumption, but also the preparation, the organization, the taboos, location, symbols, form” Identity is constructed and affected by a multitude of significations surrounding food practices.

According to Katarina Hinnerova, “Food is a way of communication—it conveys messages about social relations and social identities through which people construct and maintain social reality.” (Hinnerova, 35 – 36)

An entire food group referred to as Mizo Chawhmeh (Mizo food) exists. As stated earlier, cultural understanding and categorization classifies edible food into acceptable and unacceptable. Although Mizos eat a wide variety of food which is also consumed by people of all nations and cultures, they like to identify themselves through particular items that are most commonly used in the preparation of typical Mizo dishes. The constituents of what is largely grouped under Mizo Chawhmeh comprises of certain leafy vegetables, fresh, as well as preserved through smoking, such as mustard leaves (antam), pumpkin leaves (maian), the leaves of beans (behlawi), varieties of bamboo shoot (mautuai, rawtuai), fermented soya beans (bekang), fermented lard (sa-um), smoked beef and pork, fermented or smoked fish, and so on. Apart from the obvious pleasure derived by the taste buds from eating these items, they serve to bind people together by shared culinary preferences. To Mizos living outside Mizoram, Mizo Chawhmeh has a definite symbolic meaning whereby they can identify themselves as Mizos.





Continuity in the Midst of Change:
Not every aspect of Mizo food culture has changed; some changes are often very subtle and involve a change in the method rather than in the entire system. Mizo Chawhmeh, for instance, remains the preferred food, although methods of cooking may have varied over time. Feasts are still held on special occasions that involve the community, such as weddings, religious festivals such as Christmas and other important Church functions. People no longer squat on the floor and share food served on plantain leaves, but the spirit of communal merry-making is retained on such occasions. In earlier times, community feasts denoted special treats because of the fare which included meat and other delicacies, a menu the ordinary family could ill afford on a regular basis. In contemporary times, that, of course, is no longer the case. Most families can eat better food in the comfort of their own homes as opposed to the meals served in the feasts, and yet, people still make it a point to attend the communal feast if only to fulfill social obligations.

Another important aspect of the feasts is that while gender roles are clearly demarcated in the patriarchal Mizo society, with the woman in charge of the family kitchen, what is remarkable is that it is the men who have always been assigned the role of cooking for a community feast, a practice that is used to this day. This seems to imply an equality in status in an otherwise largely stereotyped and patriarchal society.

Other practices and beliefs related to food also persist. The egg, once a treasured food item reserved for the young, the elderly and the sick, retains its special status despite its easy availability. The Mizo custom of not partaking of the food until your elders have taken their first bites while dining together, is still considered an act of courtesy; so also the habit of politely refusing second helpings, and equally polite but firm insistence on the part of the host to the guest to take another helping.

Changes under Globalization: A pertinent question that may arise is whether globalization has hit Mizoram yet with full force, or whether the state is still relatively sheltered from such forces. Notwithstanding exposure to and adaptation of world trends especially via the media, Mizoram is yet to be deluged by “the process of developing, manufacturing, and marketing software products that are intended for worldwide distribution. ..” by which globalization is often defined. Be that as it may, there is no denying that change has occurred in the culinary practices of Mizos, with a whole generation of people who have grown up drinking coca colas and eating hamburgers, who can no longer envision a wedding celebration without a wedding cake, and who serve baked, roasted, sautéed, and grilled dishes along with dishes prepared in the traditional manner. On the other hand, Mizo food is also gaining recognition in small ways through this interaction. Dilli Haat in New Delhi, for instance, has a Mizo food stall where people have the opportunity to taste Mizo food. Similarly food festivals organized in different parts of the world have showcased Mizo cuisine. Hoinu Hauzel, a noted journalist, has published The Essential North-East Cookbook (2003) under Penguin Books.

Another phenomenon that is gaining increasing popularity is the packaged food. With changes in lifestyle, people have less time to spend in the kitchen; this, along with a more stable economy, have ushered in an era where pre-cooked meals and fast food offerings, mostly imported, but also produced by the domestic food industry, are becoming more and more the norm. A pre-cooked noodle snack called waiwai, for instance, is a favorite meal despite its high content of MSG and its doubtful nutritional value. Maggie Noodles are a variant of this. Other types of packaged food are processed meats like salami, ham, sausages, kebabs and the like. In the US, studies of food consumption in societies moving from agricultural subsistence economies to those dependent on markets and industrially processed food frequently find an association between prestige and the consumption of newly available, highly processed foods. This phenomenon is common in the transformation of Third World societies.

The very custom of eating out in restaurants, although not an entirely new concept, is becoming more and more a viable alternative to hours of slaving in the kitchen, at the same time that it fulfills a social role by offering opportunities to establish and re-establish social relationships. This is evidenced by the rapid mushrooming of eateries in the capital city alone.

Ironically major world cities have restored the highest prestige rank to home-made items. As a developing state in a developing country, such novel offerings to the palate are still welcomed and often act as a gauge to measure one’s social and economic status. Evidence of this is seen by the fact that most of the customers who frequent shops selling such packaged food items come from the upwardly mobile and economically stable social classes. Black tea, once drunk by the poor because of the high price of milk, is now ironically referred to as “the rich man’s drink”, because most food-related health problems which require a strict diet are suffered by the rich.

Remarks: Levi Strauss’ classification of food whereby he denotes the raw as less cultured and the cooked as more culturally advanced is relevant to a certain degree as far as Mizo food culture is concerned. From simple tastes, the Mizo palate has become increasingly sophisticated due to the easy availability of recipes and ingredients from Indian, Chinese, Thai, Burmese and even Continental kitchens. Certain traditional foods which may be classified as ‘rotted’, such as bekang (fermented soya beans), although still an integral part of local cuisine, are slowly losing popularity especially among the younger generation. However, if being cultured also implies a more advanced knowledge of nutrition, then this entire concept of sophisticated cooking methods and their equation to a more developed state needs to be questioned. My submission is that traditional ways of cooking, such as boiling, steaming, and eating raw vegetables are better for health, and that, ultimately translates into a more developed culture.

Finally if, besides other factors, identity is constructed and affected by a multitude of significations surrounding food practices, then the identity of the Mizo that emerges is an amalgamation of traditional as well as newly-acquired influences garnered from all corners of the world. Since identity itself is not static, it emerges as ever-changing and evolving under the impact of globalization.

Select Bibliography:
1. Claude Lévi-Strauss, Mythologiques, vol 1. The Raw and the Cooked, tr. John
and Doreen Weightman (London: J. Cape, 1969)

2. Katarina Hinnerova. Food as a Transcultural Metaphor Food Imagery and Ethnocultural Identities in Contemporary Multicultural Women Writing in Canada. (Unpublished dissertation) Masaryk University of BRNO, 2007.

3. Peter Scholliers. “Meals, Food Narratives, and Sentiments of Belonging in Past and Present.” Food,Drink and Identity: Cooking, Eating and Drinking in Europe Since the Middle Ages. Ed. Scholliers, Peter. Oxford: Berg, 2001, 3-23.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

In the Hospital

As I write this, my aunt, my dad's younger sister, a widow with no children, lies in the hospital, in a coma, after a stroke that she suffered a few days back. It is terrible, this waiting, watching, this horrible awareness of our powerlessness. Her vulnerable self lies exposed for all to see. Shorne of her dignity, she lies with the essential, but ugly tube that gives her oxygen. She breathes in. She breathes out. And we watch through the long hours, with bated breath ourselves. Sometimes she half-opens her eyes, and I could swear she recognizes the worried faces of family members keeping vigil by her bedside. And then again, you can never tell.

I remember lines from a poem I wrote a few years ago:

In the Casualty ward,

Only the workers are casual.

Patients of every age and background lie in varying degrees of pain. They groan, cough, moan, snore, sleep. The younger ones cry sometimes. We almost envy them these involuntary sounds they make. At the bedside by which we sit, there is only silence.

I leave you with a poem that has been haunting me ever since this nightmare started.


Because I could not stop for Death - Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed us –
The Dews drew quivering and chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity –






Saturday, October 4, 2008

One Morning on My Way to Work...












Now you know why I'm so bushed at the end of the day!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Updates



I was shaken out of my self-induced lethargy recently when the one and only Calliopia ordered me to update my blog since it was getting mouldy... and believe me, when Calliopia tells you to do something, you'd better do it.

Since I am about as uninspired and uninspiring as only a PMS-ravaged woman in a bad mood (throw in a persistent backache from washing the bathroom tiles a little too enthusiastically) can be, I thought I would do my bounden duty and get it over with by giving some updates of how I've been spending my days, and a few random thoughts - and I do mean random - to fill up the space.

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I hardly ever get to watch TV, especially movies, anymore, so I decided to indulge myself this weekend. Among other things, I finally got to watch the much-hyped Jackie Chan/Jet Li starrer, The Forbidden Kingdom after practically everyone has watched it. I've always loved kung-fu films, and this one was a special treat because unlike the westernized, Americanized, technicalized kung-fu films that are churned out by the dozen, this one really brought me back to my childhood days when my sisters and I would huddle up and watch those "authentic" Chinese films, complete with terrible dubbing. For a long time, I thought that was how the Chinese spoke... words still coming out of their mouths long after their lips had been clamped shut. C'mon, I was just a kid. Anyway, The Forbidden Kingdom has those typical elements of beloved Chinese movies of yore, like the drunken master, the hero-in-training, the ill-destined heroine, the silly antics and even slightly yucky eating habits. Definitely unbelievable, definetely enjoyable.
~~~~~~~~~

I watched a sex-tape that had "leaked out", something that I don't normally do. I mean, I'm not that frustrated... yet. But this time, the girl was particularly young, and sadness overwhelmed me after I saw it. It just hit me so hard that our society has become so sick that young people feel the need to resort to gimmicks such as these to feel important and loved. And here we were, passing on the tape, no less implicated; let's not dwell on this too long.

I also watched a movie on cable TV which had Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (have I got it right?) the guy from August Rush. The movie was called Match Point. It's about this married guy who falls helplessly in lust with a woman, persuades her to have an affair with him, and then kills her because she gets pregnant and wants him to leave the guileless wifey. Quite a study in human psychology. I enjoyed it in a warped kind of way.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Last Saturday, a group of youngsters - school kids - came together for a Clean Mizoram campaign. They cleaned up the commercial areas of Aizawl as best as they could, and they were cheerful and earnest in what they did. I just knew there are good kids still around, despite all the flack they get because of a few rotten apples in the cart.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Internet connection has been temperamental, to put it mildly, and hence the sluggishness about updating my blog. My bills came, and there was nothing sluggish about the way I've been billed. I don't even want to talk about it. Let's just say I may work off my debts in a few years' time if I work at my regular job and take all the part-time jobs available, and butter up my dad into making a few concessions, and wash dishes in restaurants, and babysit neighbors' kids... well, you get the idea. This lady not only has PMS and back pain, she's in a very bad mood.

So I went and bought a new car (on loan).

Oh yeah, I also straightened my hair. I know, my poor hair suffers everytime I go through an emotional crises. It was straight to begin with, until I decided to perm it, streak it, and so on and so forth. Now I'm back to being me, with my regular hair. However, I have now a new-found respect for people who straighten their hair on a regular basis. The amount of time and patience it takes to go through one sitting is incredible. And, people, I was not allowed to wash it for three days. Believe you me, I did not smell good. Ah, the things we do for the sake of beauty! But what fun! I bet guys don't have stories like these to tell.


Rambling may be fun for me, but not for you, methinks. So ciao until next time.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Forget it!

I swear I'm losing my mind. The reason? I just keep losing things. Have you ever felt that suffocating panic rising from your chest and lodging itself firmly in your throat when you just could not remember where you put that vital piece of paper, that article of clothing, or that library book? It's similar to that feeling of utter panic when you see a familiar face, but just can't put a name to the face, and the owner of that face is pumping your hand with vigorous enthusiasm and glee at having found you, long-lost friend/ colleague/ neighbour/ lover (?!), etc. Anyway, you get my drift. That has been happening to me with alarming frequency lately. Well, not that last bit.

Last week I ransacked my room trying to locate my educational certificates (yep, the originals), upending every drawer, cupboard, painstakingly going through every file. I still haven't found them. I even roped in my mom and together we excavated through the accumulated mess. Nothing. However, I did find a few interesting articles: old cards from friends I hadn't heard from in years, a few clothes I'd totally forgotten I had, my missing silver earrings, and tons of loose sheets and official correspondence which had cluttered my desk and shelves. My room looked so much better. But still no certificates. Therefore, I looked much worse off than when I started.

I had a mini-scare when I lost a VERY IMPORTANT key my dad had entrusted to me a couple of days later. When I panic, everything tends to be a blur (and that's not just because of my myopia), and for an entire day - what was supposed to be a relaxing Sunday- I went through the whole drill again. Thankfully, after many entreaties sent heavenwards, I found it exactly where I'd left it - on the shelf above my computer.

Today I misplaced my handset, and had a mild panic attack, until I gathered my wits and looked inside the car, where it was resting innocently between the handbrake and the gearstick. Whew. I have also lost innumerable books, pieces of jewelry, a brand-new nokia handset, not to mention money. I also forgot to turn up for a class I was supposed to teach at IGNOU as a favor to my friend. I swear I'm responsible about my duties, but there are days when you just can't beat the evil beings conspiring against you. And maybe it's in my genes. I once waved to my dad who was giving a lift to some guests from another state, and they all blankly stared back. Upon enquiry, I was told later that he had actually asked those strangers if they knew "that kid who was waving at them so cheerily". Since they obviously didn't, they wrote me off as someone who was either slightly bonkers or had mistaken them for somebody else. *Sigh

Well, at least I also forget to remember the many offences and injuries commited against me :) So I guess that's one good thing about it. And short of taking those wonder drugs for memory improvement so frequently advertised by shady characters, I don't think there's a cure for my malady. I'm losing all my things, including my marbles.

Friday, July 18, 2008

To Be a Woman

To be a woman, to have a heart, and to hurt. Here's something I came across when I was flipping through an old notebook of mine. It was taken from a Nike Ad in a magazine:

Oh, you’re so emotional.

There you are all caught up in your emotions, wearing your heart on your sleeve, wearing your heart on every piece of clothing you own. You cry at the drop of a hat. You cry absolute buckets. You cry me a river.

You’re a woman (you can’t help it); you’re a girl (now, don’t get me wrong); you’re a woman and you’re so emotional about everything and

even at those times when you’re perfectly rational and perfectly capable, somebody somewhere will look at you and say (like it’s the worst thing in the world)

Oh you’re so emotional

And of course, that really makes you want to scream.

And then just as soon as you don’t weep, which is most of the time anyway, and you’re cool and calm and absolutely brilliant under pressure somebody somewhere will say you’re too cool and too calm and then, of course, you’re suddenly and forever called insensitive.

Ah, to be a woman.

Somewhere in the middle of all these assumptions and all these labels is the way you really are. You are kind (that’s why we have hearts). You are strong (or you wouldn’t have made it this far). You are fearless (or you would’ve hidden your heart long ago). And because you wear your heart so easily sometimes

you know how easily it is broken.

So through time, you have learned to protect it. You learn to take it for long walks. You learn to let it breathe deeply. You learn to treat it with respect.

And, through time, you have learned to move it and bend it and make it accountable, because the best way to keep a heart alive is to be unafraid to use it. And you are so very good at using it.

Listen.

Your heart is beating. This means you are alive. Your body is moving. This means you cannot be stopped. The world and all its labels are calling you. You’d love to answer. But you’re moving so fast you can’t hear a thing.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Dedicated to the memory of fellow blogger Azaia, whose untimely demise has left us reeling with shock and groping for words and meaning.

On Death

Than Almitra spoke, saying, "We would ask now of Death."

And he said:

You would know the secret of death.

But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;

And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.

Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.

Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?

Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink form the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

(From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese poet)


for more on this amazing writer, click here : http://www.habeeb.com/khalil.gibran.the.prophet.html


Monday, July 7, 2008

Doctored!


Hey guys, I did it! Thank you for all the prayers and good wishes. Just got the news today, and I felt a little silly posting this, but since I had told everyone of my upcoming viva voce, I thought I might as well pass on the good news. More than anything, it is such a relief... I mean, one had just had enough of all that reading and composing and those late, late nights, staring blearily at the computer. Of course, now that the powers-that-be have seen it fit to bestow the degree on me, I feel a little guilty (is that the right word?), like a little kid caught trying on her mommy's too-big shoes and clothes. I mean I've always had this mental image of academicians as rather ancient and wise, a bit detached from this temporal world, bespectacled and too dignified to even stoop to talk to us mere mortals. Oh well, I guess I should stop kidding myself... after all, I do wear glasses (at home) and i suppose "ancient" would be one way of describing myself.

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Speaking of the powers-that-be, this whole thing was a bit of an anti-climax, really. There was so much unnecessary red-tape, blue-tape or black-tape, or whatever the heck the correct term is. Usually, results are declared within a day or two of the viva voce. I actually saw the report being typed out. All it needed were a few signatures and the inevitable file work, which could have been completed in a short while. However, in the way the luck of yours truly usually runs, the people who were to pass the report went 'out of station' one by one, and I had to wait twenty days before the report finally passed through all the hands it was supposed to. The first few days, my family and I (not to mention friends in the Univ) waited excitedly, and then it became a little embarrassing for them to ask me about my result, and for me to respond in the negative. Anyway, it finally came today, after I had resigned myself to waiting for however long it took.

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I don't blame those people with lengthy award acceptance speeches anymore. It's amazing how many people it takes to make even a thesis complete; so here's to everyone who's loved me and stood by me and borne with me.

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Here are some pictures of NEHU Campus, Shillong. It's a beautiful place. Beautiful places make you do crazy things, they say. So be warned, if you ever get to stay there!

The Library.


My thesis supervisor, Prof. Esther Syiem, and external examiner, Prof. E. N Lall.


The Auditorium



The Administrative Building (popularly known as the A.B) where the VC, Registrar, etc, sit.

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Lastly, my PC crashed, and at the same time, so did my broadband connection (whose performance is directly relative to and dependent upon the weather); hence, my longish absence from the blog world. Please to excuse, a thousand and one apologies, all.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Away For a While

Hi! This is to let all friends know that I'll be away for a while. I'll try to update my blog if/when I can; I am supposed to attend a meeting on behalf of my Univ, and also present myself for a viva voce for my doctoral degree. Wish me all the best... If I don't get through, please be gracious enough to conveniently forget all about this post, and we can then pretend it never happened!

Ciao!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Jovi Mania


Did you ever have a crush on a celebrity? Of course you did! Doesn't everyone at one time or another? This week I had a new haircut and an offhand remark that it resembled a Jon Bon Jovi cut triggered off memories of my long-forgotten obsession with the Man when I was growing up. I positively drooled over him, his voice, his songs, his eyes, his cute butt... oops! am I drooling again? slurp!

Anyway, it started early; I think I was about ten when I fell head over heels in love with him. I have this old photograph of me clutching a poster of him when he still had that long, wild rocker hair; the poster belonged to U Hmingpuia (of Albatross fame), and the picture was taken in his room. I wonder if he'd ever admit to having a giant-sized poster of JBJ now, hehe.


This one-sided relationship continued to grow and flourish under my tender ministrations, and showed no sings of waning through
Slippery when Wet, New Jersey, Blaze of Glory, Keep the Faith and Crossroads, after which I kinda grew up and decided I was much too "mature" for such obsessions... or maybe I became too occupied with other things. But it was beautiful while it lasted. As a kid, I even prayed for him so he'd get to heaven when he died. My logic was that, since my chances of meeting up with him here on earth were practically nil, I figured heaven would be a good place to get to know him better; but knowing how these rockers lived, I feared he had a good chance of going to hell. Hence, those fervent prayers. I'm dead serious.

Once, there was a rumor that he'd died. There were always these rumors floating about in Aizawl in those times, and what with no cable TV or internet, there was no way of proving whether they were true or false. I actually had tears coursing down my cheeks when I heard that piece of (false) information. What a relief to finally realize it was just a bunch of lies fabricated by sadistic humans who had no better use for their time!
I also got into a near-serious fight with one of my sisters when, after watching me drool over him (this was post-cable TV) in a video, and she commented that he was knock-kneed. Such blasphemy! She must have been cross-eyed or something. I also valiantly stayed loyal through his not-so-stellar performances (now I can admit that) in the few movies he appeared in.

Anyway, the strange thing is, apart from him, I hardly ever went through the usual celebrity-crush thingy, except for a brief flirtation with tennis players Stefan Edburg and Andre Agassi. And I do realize now, that I couldn't have chosen a better rocker to idolize, because as far as rockers go, he seems to be a pretty decent chap. Look how long his marriage has survived, and how focussed he still is on his music. Last night I was on utube going through Bon Jovi videos... guys, the magic is still there! sigh!


Now, if only Jerusha and Father would teach me how to paste links on my blog, I would have ended this with a video "Bed of Roses" where he looks and sounds absolutely DELICIOUS! And then I would dedicate "Thank you for loving me" to V and all of you! Let's just say it's the thought that counts.


PS: Here's Thank you for loving me. And thank you, Jerusha!








































Tuesday, May 20, 2008

slush and mush


This may be a little mushy for some, but I enjoyed myself when I wrote it a couple of years ago. The rains seem to have arrived at last, and I need to update my blog, so here it is...

RAIN.

Rain washes my window pane

Like the tears that bathe my face;

The muted rhythm of raindrops falling

Only echoes the half-forgotten music

Playing in my mind,

Music I never heard

Except deep within my heart,

Yet my every waking moment

Is haunted by those notes.

I see you, an ephemeral shadow,

Sitting by the piano,

Lost in the symphony of timeless Time.

The soft breeze caresses your hair

While you play for no audience

But the velvet blackness of night.

Clear, pure, like the tinkle of glass

Your notes fill my silence,

And the rain merges with your music

To heal my soul once more.

I become the keys your fingers awaken,

I am the rain that dances with life.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A typical working day in pictures

Get up in the morning, rush through my bath and breakfast, etc....it's totally synchronized down to the last second, so any unforeseen interruptions like lengthy, chatty phone calls, people who suddenly decide to drop in after their morning walks, and other assorted visitors throw me off my schedule. Days when there's no time to eat, I buy a frooti and that's my breakfast juice. I run out of the house, willing the hands of the clock to stop moving so fast, and (on good days) drive down to work. I like this drive because I leave the hustle and bustle of the city, and have nearly an hour's worth of peace and quiet before my workday really starts. Sometimes I sing at the top of my lungs once I'm out of the city, and I've also been known to carry out a conversation with myself:


My little cubbyhole of an office awaits me. I arrive, draw the curtains, open the window, get settled in, and either read up on my notes or work at my PC:

Then it's lunch, which I forgo some days; after my work is done, I wearily drive back the bumpy, torturous and winding 18 kms back. On certain days, I go straight to my part time job as an anchor for a TV station, which has to be located on the opposite end of the city. Believe me, it's tough to try to look good after a hectic day's work, but that's when the dressing room and the make-up experts weave their magic and I somehow end up looking at least passable:The show is Live, and unpredictable and therefore it is impossible to let down your guard. Depending on the guests for the night, it's either an enjoyable one hour that whizzes by, or a slow, excruciating sixty minutes that simply crawl by. I have been known to look a bit too animated on good days, and bored out of my mind on bad days, so I guess you can't win 'em all.
When I'm very, very fortunate, there are days when I even manage to squeeze in time with my family, and those are the ones that I really cherish, although, to be frank, some days I just want to crawl into bed and sleep when I have some free time, but pulling on those jeans and some enthusiasm is always worth it at the end of the day.


"Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans" - John Lennon.

Friday, April 18, 2008

PINE TREES AND YOU


Pine trees and you

Make me long to fly

Across the silver twilight

Into the abyss of the sky.


Pine trees, solitude

And you, are entwined

In the cool stillness of night,

Embalming my mind.


Moonbeams caress my face

Now aglint with silver streams

And trees silently scream,

Cut down, along with fatal dreams.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Recuperating

I suppose I can no longer put off writing about it. My health, that is. Not to alarm anyone, of course (or maybe alarm is a good thing, if that will ensure that you don't drive yourself too hard and end up in a sickbed like yours truly!) The doctors assure me there's nothing life-threatening (thank God!) but I guess my body has had enough of all the pushing-it-to-the-limits stunts I've pulled on it. Being sick is tiresome. It really is. Your mind outlines a zillion things you want/need to do, but your body just won't cooperate. And then you're faced with the humbling realization that contrary to your arrogant assumptions, you are not master (or mistress, in my case) of your own body, and no amount of will-power or positive thinking will allow you to perform tasks you once undertook without even giving it a second thought.

Actually, my body has been a pretty good sport. Right from last year, it meekly kept saying it needed a break, but kept quiet and submitted to my relentless pushing. This year, it simply has declared exhaustion, and here I am. Hmmm. Quite a lesson. Every doctor I went to over the last few months had advised me to "take it easy", a worthy piece of sensible advice I sadly found difficult to follow, so this is what I finally had to take instead:

(That's just my arm partially covered by a pink cloth from the elbows down, in case you are in danger of freaking out)
What I miss a lot is being able to drive my car, a beat up old Maruti 800 whose exterior belies the power of the engine underneath.
It's a drag having to depend on other people for transportation. I miss my independence. Boo hoo! In a gesture of defiance one day last week, I drove myself to work. Even if three of my physiotherapists hadn't berated me for doing it, I had already silently conceded defeat. I was in pain.

Well, on to more cheerful things. A few weeks ago, met fellow bloggers Illusionaire, DaGGylo, J, Vana and mIRC king Simjazz for lunch, which was really nice. I won't tell you who is who... but you're welcome to guess!

This is what I ate:
So, that's about it for now. In keeping with my resolution to take better care of myself, I will try to sleep early tonight.

Take care, everyone. Seriously. Take care.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Sunday


They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."


Easter does funny things to me. Perhaps because it is less commercialized than Christmas, it brings a lump to my throat. I am totally overcome by its message of victory and the hope it epitomizes. Imagine how Mary and the disciples, overcome with grief and their hopes waning, must have felt when they saw the empty tomb! Perhaps indignation and disbelief at first, but then what joy, what immense comfort, what hope for the future, what blessed assurance that their faith had not been in vain!


For many years, I maintained a personal tradition of inviting my best friend (now married and a proud papa) for breakfast on Easter Sunday after sunrise services. Yep! Yours truly, despite her well-known love for sleeping in late, always made it a point to attend the simple but moving sunrise services at the crack of dawn. Well, maybe not exactly the crack, but early enough. I made allowances for the gimmicks associated with religious festivals, and painted Easter Eggs with glee. I even helped with children's choir practices in church.

Sadly, because of many things, circumstances as well as laziness, I no longer do these things, but Easter still retains that special place in my heart. After all, it's the basis of all that we believe in as Christians.

Here's wishing a very blessed and meaningful Easter Sunday to all my friends on the Net. Don't let it be just another day!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Well, I have been inexcusably lazy about updating my blog, so here I am, doing the needful although there doesn't seem to be too much happening in my life worthy of note right now. One reason is that my health has not been too great lately, and I wouldn't want to subject my Net friends to a litany of complaints, and more complaints.

Hmm..well, maybe I can talk about my hair. Notwithstanding the fact that I am still Sweet Sixteen at heart, the sad facts of life contradict the way I see myself mentally. I once read somewhere that a woman's hair is the only thing that God created as a mere plaything subject to the whims and caprices of its owner. I quite agreed with that, and began to ponder on the various reasons why some people are bald, while others prefer dreadlocks, mohicans, spaghetti curls, ramrod straight hair, not to mention all the colours of the rainbow. There might be some sort of logic to their choice of hairstyle. Then again, the very fact that it need not be necessarily logical is the beauty of it.

To cut a long story short, in a characteristically belated gesture of rebellion, I decided to streak my hair during the winter vacations. I thought streaks of blond would do very nicely; something went wrong somewhere, and along with the desired blond streaks, I also had streaks of an indefinite colour, some pink and even a stray lock of navy blue hair here and there. The hairdresser was mortified. I liked it. I loved it. It had pizazz, I felt. It wasn't just about the hair, but about the way it made me feel - daring, bold, glamorous, free, and reckless. Of course, there are certain codes of conduct expected of people My Age, in My Profession, and therefore, one fine day recently, I had to bid a sad farewell to my streaks, and don my more "respectable" hairdo once again.

Of course, I will not mention the fact that some people (including my mom) felt my hair looked like it was sadly parched and had literally been dry-fried. The last straw, of course, was when a woman I didn't know at all, sitting next to me in church, sympathetically whispered, "You have grey hair too?" Needless to say, my "No" was rather curt.
Anyhow, this is how it looked:
Hopefully, I'll hang on to what my hair gave me, even if I cannot hang on to the marvelous hues.
Ciao!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Of Quotes, Misquotes and Lessons in Humility

Our very erratic and temperamental internet connection in the office was miraculously working at top speed today, so a few minutes before I left, I started browsing around. I wanted pictures of certain authors and poets whose works I will be teaching this semester. After I got what I wanted, for want of anything better to do, I typed my name just for a lark, wondering if any of my pictures were there on google image search. They were not. But Google, helpful as ever, gave me some links which contained my name, and I clicked on these. Imagine my surprise when I was given quite a few entries beside the usual blog addresses and NET list, and I hadn't even known about these. My curiosity aroused, my ego sufficiently stroked, I happily followed these links. First, an article by a lady journalist whom I had met recently. Quickly skimming down, I came to the part which had my name:

There are also 100 other “mother tongues” spoken by 10,000 or more people, according to census data, and tens of thousands of dialects. “Because people don’t think their works are going to be read, they’re skipping writing in their own language and writing in English,” said Cherrie Channgte, literature lecturer at Mizoram University in India’s northeast. “Unless their work has a chance of translation into English, writing in local languages will start withering,” Channgte said.

“It’s already happening,” added Channgte, whose mother tongue is Mizo but who is equally fluent in English. “Mizo literature will vanish one day.” There is also a big need for Indian works to be translated into regional languages to promote interaction and understanding in the hugely culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse country, experts said.

Z
oinks! I didn't recall ever predicting that Mizo literature would vanish, although we had some very lively discussions about the need for translation, and how linguistic minorities are getting more and more sidelined, how there was a danger that literary production would simply peter out one day if something was not urgently done to stop this trend. And it was not an interview. And my last name is spelled wrong. Of course, the writer is a sweet lady called Penny MacRae, and this came out in The Pakistan Daily, of all things.

I opened with trepidation the next two links. They were both already two days old, and both screamed:

Mizo literature will vanish one day, predicts Mizoram University Lecturer

Yeow! I hastily wrote to both sites, and clarified my stand. The editor of Samaw.com, one of the sites, was really sweet about it, and we resolved whatever needed to be resolved very amicably (I think). the other was on Lawrkhawm.com, and thankfully it had gone pretty much ignored since nobody deigned to comment upon it. I refrain from giving you links to these sites because I'm too mortified right now, and don't want you to go hunting them up.

Whew! This was a bit too much attention for mousy old me, a person who'd rather hide and write than bask in the spotlight. And the embarrassing part was that the attention wasn't all that positive! Ouch!

Wait, I'm not done. By now, heart-heavy with a feeling of dread but unable to help myself, I opened the link to a blog (http://letmetellyouamizostory.blogspot.com/) where one of my translations, a story by a well-known writer had been posted by a friend. I hadn't really dared to do that, fearing the feedback of its esteemed readers. I looked. There were only two comments.
One of them said "it felt to me as if something has been lost in translation". Ouch! Ouch!


S
o, to cut a long, depressing story short, I learnt that:
(a) I need to be careful about what I say, because I could be quoted.
(b) I also need to be careful because the same thing could be taken out of context, making me look really silly and giving the impression that I'm shooting off my mouth without really thinking things through.
(c) not everybody likes what I write, and I should just accept that.

And, because mom always ended her stories with a moral when we were younger,
(d) I should learn to accept criticism and being dismissed (worse!) as being too insignificant for any reaction, and that I should simply learn to be grateful for who I am, regardless of what others think.

Ciao!