Friday, December 3, 2010

Old, Older, Oldest!

Weird fact: a total stranger asked me my age in total seriousness today. I was buying something from her shop, and she popped the question.
Weirder fact: I told her my real age. Just like that.
Weirdest fact: She pondered over my reply, and said "Hmmm... well, you're older than I thought." It's weird because I don't know whether she meant to insult me, or to give me a back-handed compliment by meaning that I looked younger than my age. In which case, regardless of how old I looked, I take it to mean that she felt my years were not few by any standards. As compliments go, that would have been one of the most back-handed ones I've ever received. I had to look really far behind to be able to see it.

I went to get a dress tailored today, since some of us thought it might be fun to get together for dinner, where all the ladies wore LBDs (little black dresses). The dressmaker, without any instructions on my part, immediately began looking for dress patterns that were short,yet mature. Ouch.

Is it my imagination, or am I getting older faster than I am inside my head? And why is everyone reminding me of my age? They almost always get it wrong anyway. The "underestimaters" think I'm a college kid (haha) and the "overestimaters" (whom I hate) look at my profession and label me as nearing forty. Not cool. What is more important anyway - your mental age or your chronological age? Inside, I'm just the age I want to be. Outside, I'm getting a little too old to mix with certain groups, dress in certain ways or do certain things.

Which got me thinking. Why this obsession with youth anyway? Granted, no one wants to get old and wrinkled, dependent upon younger members of the family. But when did this kind of attitude towards old age start? If we look at old texts, the Bible or folklore for instance, the old were venerated, respected, obeyed, almost worshiped. Now of course, the times are a-changing as Dylan would say. But what exactly are we achieving in our perennial attempts at everlasting youth? What kind of values are we inculcating in the younger generation?

Youth is fine, if it characterized by innocence, energy, curiosity, beauty - in short, all the finest qualities that one has in one's youth. In our society today however, being young seems to be equated with having a total lack of responsibility, accountability and remaining a baby. Being a baby doesn't always mean that you are youthful. If one isn't careful, one could end up being a 75-year old baby.

I see a lot of post graduate students still addressing their parents as "aanu" "aapa". C'mon, I think they can safely go past the baby-talk at this stage. Just call them "Kanu" and "Kapa" for goodness'sake! I may sound overly grouchy, but behind this babytalk is an accompanying lack of maturity in the way they relate to adults around them. If you're over 18, you're considered an adult. Period. So act and talk like one. Which is why I abhor the way the term of address, "U" is being used nowadays. Prefixing "U" was a way of showing respect to a person older than you, and it indicated good breeding, humility and propriety to know who to address as such. What is rather amusing and irritating now is that people prefix the "U" not so much as a sign of respect, but as a way of letting you know that they are younger than you. I swear people that I grew up with, who called me by my name just like everyone else, have suddenly started adding the "U". And it sure as hell isn't because they have suddenly developed a new-found respect for me! Which is why, I'm guessing, fellow blogger and friend Calliopia resents people adding the "U" in front of online nicks :) C'mon, it's a nick!

Anyway, I'm rambling on, which just goes to show that I may be a little more "senior" than I would like to believe. Oh well.

To end on a more upbeat note, something of mine is getting published by OUP, slated for release on December 9th. Here is the link, and I say something because it's an anthology, and I was asked to submit poems, articles and translations. I have no idea what they picked out. But I got my name on print, so yay!

Am off for a short holiday next week, and will be back and posting on the work I've done on the Aizawl Thunders soon. Ciao!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

If you search for tenderness
it isn't hard to find.
You can have the love you need to live.
But if you look for truthfulness
You might just as well be blind.
It always seems to be so hard to give.

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.
('Honesty' - Billy Joel)

When is it ok to lie? Are there special circumstances in which lying is acceptable? These were some questions that came to mind after I discovered someone close to me had told me a bare-faced lie.

Of course, there is a thin line between LYING and being diplomatic, polite, kind, or whatever we choose to call it when we say things like "You look great!" when we know someone looks terrible, or "It will be ok" when we know it won't, or "No, that outfit doesn't make you look fat" when in fact, a tight top creates sausages on a friend's tummy, or when we smile and say, "I'm alright" when we want to scream out of sheer frustration.

What happens, for instance, when you tell a lie to "save" a situation or a relationship? Should we confess to our sins and hurt people, or lie and give them peace, quoting the adage, "ignorance is bliss"? What about our past? Do we 'fess all or edit and censor shamelessly? When is "honesty is the best policy"?

On the flip side, what if we decide upon the amount of information we give to near and dear ones, but unfortunately cannot prevent them from discovering the truth from some other source one day? Then, of course, we risk losing their trust forever. So, should we plunge in and bare all, knowing full well the consequences - which could be, and often are ugly - or, do we keep our lips zipped and cross our fingers, hoping they will never find out the truth? How honest should we be? Is there such a thing as being half-honest, partly honest, and how different is a white lie from a black lie? How honest should we be to the ones we love? Honestly, I don't know.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentine's Blues

Tell me, tell me,
What makes love such an ache and pain?
Tell me what makes
Love such an ache and pain?
It takes you and it breaks you -
But you got to love again

- Langston Hughes, "Love Again Blues"

It's that time of year again, when the whole world suddenly seems to be infected with a disease of the heart - and I'm not talking about angina. Yes, February 14 is just a few days away, and suddenly folks are in a frenzy wondering what would be the ultimate romantic gesture to assure their loved ones of the depths of their feelings. For teens, it becomes imperative that they buy that box of chocolates, that red rose, that bottle of perfume, for their beaus. You are made to feel like a pariah if you don't have anybody to exchange valentines with. Of course, it's beside the point that the entire tradition of Valentine's Day is an imported concept, part of the hegemony of the West. The merchants make sure that you don't forget this all-important day by displaying enough red balloons, hearts, and roses to make you sick.

That sounds like a decidedly grouchy attitude. Don't get me wrong - I have enjoyed and celebrated Valentine's over the years with full gusto. However, this year, I thought I would give it a rest and let other people make all the fuss. Love, after all, can be celebrated throughout the year, right? And anyway, with all the little disagreements and nitpicking moments that a relationship inevitably goes through, I felt love itself was perhaps a wee bit overrated. Or so I thought.

Then something happened a few days ago.On one of those aforementioned, unaccountable, inexplicable, nitpicking moments, I lost my temper over something so insignificant that I can't even remember what it was all about now. As an experienced player in the sparring department (with expertise in such methods as hitting-below-the-belt-when-feeling-particularly-vindictive)I was bringing it on in full force. And my sparring partner just dodged the blows, with no idea why we were suddenly in the midst of a full-blown fight. Before we knew it, we weren't even on speaking terms.

The next day, wallowing in my self-induced misery but too proud to do anything about it, I was fretting and fuming when I received a text message. It asked me to forgive him. He had done nothing, didn't even know why I was being such a pain, but he begged to be forgiven so that peace could be restored. And he's not without his fair share of pride. That's perhaps the nicest thing anybody has ever done for me. Maybe love does exist.

Just because I loves you -
That's de reason why
My soul is full of color
Like de wings of a butterfly

(-Langston Hughes, "Reasons Why")

Happy Valentine's Day, all the Romeos out there... especially mine :)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Train Journeys, Unexpected Delays and Transcendence.

Was on a Study Tour recently with my students. Travelling on an unbelievably tight budget, we had to travel by train, second class sleeper, non- AC. I realised I hadn't had too much experience travelling by train, and I can't say I regret that lack. I warned my students not to be "princesses" and to be tough and stoic come what may. I must say I myself was a bit unprepared for the filth, the cacophony of vendors and beggars and hijras that burst into the compartment whenever the train stopped, the condition of the washrooms (!!!) and the total chaos regarding tickets and seats. Unless one sat steadfastly in one's seat all the time, any number of ticketless travellers assumed that they had the right to plonk down on the seats, without so much as a by-your-leave.

The food was relatively decent, except, of course, if you get stuck in some bizarre railway traffic situation in the middle of goodness-knows-where, and are forced to spend an extra day and night on the train, then nothing tastes too good anymore. By the third day, all of us were eagerly awaiting the arrival of peddlers who came to sell their wares- bracelets, keychains, torches, sauna belts, chains and locks, knives... in short, most everything. One man even came with a number of mobile handsets, shouting "PCO", so I assume it was possible to make calls from his numerous phones. Bargaining became an art, with all of us trying to outdo the other in the loud and lengthy negotiations that took place. Our broken Hindi didn't help. I got conned into buying a solar mobile phone charger, which charged the phone for precisely 5 minutes, after which there was no more life evident from my phone. A hundred rupees. I was also robbed of the Woodland sandals I was wearing. When I got down from the top berth, it simply wasn't there anymore.

Anyway, notwithstanding my initial revulsion and boredom, by the end of the third day of the third journey by train, I was able to cope with most things, and when I finally stepped down on the platform at the last station, I had finished three novels, numerous magazines, and was loaded down with a motley collection of trinkets and gadgets bought on the train. A little worse for wear, but that much richer in experience. That's life.

Oh, and I'll save the story about the bedbugs for next time :)