Archive for February 2009

Masha Allah

February 23, 2009

AR Rahman and Pookutti are our boys. Though I have heard and enjoyed better music from Rahman, I am happy that our boy has won. Just as how I would condemn watching (and ofcourse playing) cricket in srilanka when thousands are being killed everyday, and yet not feel unhappy when India wins the match, I have mixed feelings.

The movie got undue accolades, and ofcourse undue criticism. The beauty of ugliness portrayed did irk spotlight mongers but my grouse was not about the shit of india shown on screen. The very fact that this movie moved the viewers so much that all the liquid that filled their eyes with pain or pride, sympathy or sarcasm made their vision narrow, makes me rub my own eyes in disbelief.

The film many say is about a poor man winning against all odds in life. The subtext is that he wins not through hard work but by fluke- the only way a ‘slumdog’ can! I was unable to see a poor man struggling and winning in life, I just saw a simple story which talked about a male and female childhood friendship developing into a crush and cinematically climaxing into a song and dance! The simple story did not even become a cinematic experience that simple stories are capable of creating. Changeling was more intense in portraying the spirit of one who fights against odds. Benjamin B was a more tricky story to script. But we have to sing ‘jaiho’ just because the movie was shot in India!

There is nothing Indian about the film. If this is the way an Indian can win his dream girl and his fantasy bungalow at the beach, the only ones who are going to win finally are the organizers and sponsors of TV shows. I always hope that India wins in every encounter. I even sometimes pray for such things. But this is not India. And, this film is not about hope. It is just another empty rhetoric that asks the youth to dream. Air-conditioned dreams without the sweat of toil are bubbles that burst when dawn breaks. Best-selling writers and highly-paid speakers are the only ones who win by peddling such parables. Do I resent the Oscars that came to India? No! I simply wish that there was a truer representation of this great country that won. The composer and the sound engineer were Indian brains- let us be proud of them, but the film and the hype,was about the brainlessness of India.

Rahman deserves honors for his musical mastery. It just happened that Allah smiled at this pious soul this day and in the blessings showered on Rahman the rest of the crew got sprinkled with prizes. To what else can I attribute the eight Oscars of SDM?

This is just another proof that God exists and blesses. Just as how some innocents get caught in God’s fury at the evil, so do some undeserving get wet with the blessings that he showers on his favorite.

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Empty quiver

February 23, 2009

Emptiness of the quiver is known only to the hand that reaches into it.

I like to write on the best of topics- not because they would interest the one who reads them but primarily because they would interest me enough to write to finish  The best of such topics sadly reflect the worst in the society. I would have been happier writing about the two (rather three) Oscars that Indians have won. I would have been happy writing about some wonderful books that I have recently read. I would have been even happier writing about my idiosyncrasies. But I am forced by my own sick ‘fate'(?) to write on the recent tragicomic events of law and order and the leader!

The stunning but sick visuals of police chasing the lawyers and the stone throwing lawyers daunting the police were giving me an odd surreal feeling. I was one of the mostly-law-abiding citizens of the country who believed that law would defend me if I was legally mistreated! If lawyers have to pick stones and hurl in defense, I may have to build my biceps and triceps further in anticipation of an alarming eventuality. The police too were in my opinion vigilant and kind enough to see to it that the car I may park outside my house is not damaged by some goon. Now, I think I have to employ a security for my car in the event an angry policeman goes past it in a foul mood. Well, such things happen. Just as how I always believe an election would give me a better government, so do I continue to repose my faith on these two custodians of the social fabric. But my leader!

I had concluded long ago that whatever karunanidhi does will not surprise me. But this time he did it. He has surpassed himself. The ‘great’ leader of Tamils, now has gone gandhian (not SoniaG but MKG) in his declaration that if the lawyers and policemen do not come to a compromised peace accord, he would fast unto death! I am afraid that if the comedy is enacted I would be the only one to die, though in a fit of laughter.

I have been led to believe that the chief minister of the state has control over the police. If they had not cared to inform him of their anger and intended/unintended outburst in the high court, I am sure he has the experience, knowledge and power to discipline and or punish them. He may not have much to say to the lawyers for he too needs them when after his term is over he is sure to be slapped with a string of cases. There are some sycophants amidst the lawyers too whose help he can summon with a simple flick of a finger and infiltrate the ranks of the protestors and cause sufficient rift amongst them to make the strike a failure. He does not want to do anything like this. He wants to go on a fast.

If he believed that fasting – even if not unto death, would change whoever it is that does not listen to his wise counsel or heart-felt prayers, he should have done it earlier. If his affectionate congress president had seen him fasting she would have made her henchmen in the government take immediate steps to stop the merciless killing of innocent masses in Srilanka. But then if tamils were dying for or with or because of the LTTE, a fast unto whatever would have shaken his government. Now he can fast. He is being monitored by some of the best doctors in the country, so it will never be death due to fasting. The lawyers and or the police have to relent and come begging to make him change his heart and live for the upliftment of this country! We cannot, they are expected to say, allow the wise leader to suffer for our sake. None shall even in dreams say this is another script by the man who has earned his early riches by writing. We will soon see vinyl printed monstrosities of the grieving old man with a gandhian backdrop. We will all get ready to vote in the next election. The shame of it all is that we have to chose between him and jaya! Which one is a deadlier fire and who is the more evil of devils is a fifty-fifty choice! Only the coalition wary comrades would make the best choice and talk their way into it!

The grand old man of tamilnadu politics is perhaps running out of ammunition. Perhaps his quiver is so transparently empty that his mock gesture of picking up a sharp arrow to shoot does not evoke awe or admiration in us. Mimicries no more evoke any memories or emotions.But more than that, I think we have run out of all arrows to shoot at silly and scheming politics that attempt to mock at our meekness. The more we become aware of the emptiness of our quiver the more ready we shall become to sharpen new tools- in self defense.

A film?

February 16, 2009

Oh God!

I never imagined that I would be so awe-struck at a film that missed out on many things. ‘naan kadavul’ by bala is so strange to me that I wonder if I can ever say what happened during and after the hours I was watching the film. To begin with ARYA! I have never felt that I should take an actor’s hand in my palms and say, looking into his eyes, “you were wonderful”. I had felt that way with balasingh, but arya was different- I do not know him. Perhaps it was a casting coup, but the young man had worked. He had a sculpted, Romanesque body, cold eyes, and briskness that all made me think of just one word- divinity. He was divine in his movement and in his demeanor. He was shiva, he was rudhran. He was fabulous. I cannot say the same about the leading female artiste who was so artificial that all the sympathies drummed up in the script and the musical score still were inadequate to make my eyes wet.

Bala as a director? I still do not know. Fassbinder and Polanski, not to forget Kubrick, have all made me uncomfortable but astounded, but with bala, I do not know whether I can ever empathize with him. I do sympathize with him, knowing the hurdles of making a film, but he does not strike a chord in my soul. i however should thank him for sparing the gory details that he is capable of showing in the climax. Jayamohan? I have read people writing about him, and could never go through any of his five books that I possess. My personal feeling is that balakumaran would have written better dialogues, as he could have got into the character of the ‘hero’ more easily. Let me make it clear that in my personal literary ratings they do not vary with each other. If ever there was one person who understood to underscore the film it was ilayaraja. If vaali did indeed write that om sivoham song then I may perhaps never criticize any crap that he will definitely write in future.

Beyond the film, the concept- that God is there, and passive is wonderful. The god just lurks in the background and opens its eyes only when stirred- not by chants, not by poetry but by pain. The evil too undergo the pain of being evil just as how the maximum-good (the number into which I would most willingly subscribe), undergo the pain. One awaits punishment in pain and the other deliverance in the same. You need to cry from your soul and you will be delivered. Death as the deliberate delivery of a still-born suffering, is the message that got lost. Though some may scorn at the use of the mentally disabled, it was needed to show that impotent pain is more than an immature one.

Thanks bala, for chosing to make arya do this. I await a more diligent script.

Ram, ram- pinkish saffron

February 12, 2009

If I were to write about naan kadavul (pronounce it any way you want- that’s what happened in the trailer of the film) or if I were to write on the pink chaddi (written as jatti in tamil), I would have got more readers, hits and responses than if I were to write about eelam again. I shall be the most hypocritic hypocite if I were to declare that I do not care about hits and readers. I do. It gives me a sense of satisfaction- useless though it may be, it still is an ego massage that the mind does not decline. I am yet to see the film so I cannot write about it. Pink chaddi- I hope that even my corpse would not be adorned with such a sensually assaulting apparel. So what do I write about? I want to write about Ram! The one who engineered the non-existent bridge, the one whose heroism made him deified, and the one in whose name chauvinism is unleashed,is always a matter of interest.

RAM! Is supposedly the last sound that emanated from Gandhi (conventionally the mahatma and as I saw in a video in which Jk corrected himself on the usage and called him mr.Gandhi) and  there is nothing wrong in calling him Mr.Gandhi. He was not given honorary doctorates like the many stars that abound Indian filmdom. On Gandhi perhaps someother time, now it is about RAM– (incidentally according to the manufactured horoscopes, he is not an aries ram), and his `culture’.

There is a view that the story of ram, has been a well compiled gist of the existing folklore of the times, still it IS an epic. So, ram is a hero. He is so much a hero that he is a god. The Indian public is so much into the story that they believe the narration is a report. Even after seeing all the news channels of today, there are people who believe that reporters always present facts and only facts as facts! Ok, so what about ram? By now it will be obvious that I do not subscribe to his divinity- but this is not to debate on the godliness of a hero. This is about the culture that was prevalent at the time of ram.

Culture is tradition and heritage. In heritage we carry old blocks chiseled in those time which we parade with pride as treasures that can never equal modernity’s machinations. In tradition, we trade old ideas to get new ones. We use bulbs in place of lamps. Ram-culture is ?

Ravivarma painted viridian ram is the predominant image of the hero. In later years militant ideas sculpted the image into a more muscular masculine form. Again I am digressing like the bizarre RAMSENA thugs. The moment the word ram sounds, all human considerations and all rational thinking ought to be suspended according to these goons. Ram’s culture does not allow women to indulge in pleasure! That’s what these scheming or stupid goons say. They conveniently forget that this was the same ram who made his wife walk into fire to prove to whoever that she was chaste. This was the same ram who made his wife walk out of his palace to prove to whoever doubted her chastity and his valor! In his name has happened ( perhaps naturally) the atrocity of attacking women who felt like drinking in the evening with male companions.

In KAMBARAMAYANAM, the tamil version of valmiki ramayan, in the balakaantam, there is a vivid, beautiful and peotic description of women drinking in moonlight by the riverside. The riverside is a public place, and those women were drinking when perhaps their male counterparts were frolicking. Perhaps it is the time for fanatics to start burning copies of the tamil epic. Kannada fanatics have all along been vociferous about their hatred for tamils. Now, i may be giving kannada safronites another chance to mock the unholy attitude of tamils. Kamban is a great poet in tamil and even in crude translations he stands out. My worry is whether tamils will become vociferous if he is attacked? What will they do? eelam is more a pseudo-political slogan than an emotional outburst. ram, his bridge which can take idiots to eelam, and everything else that stifles our present will fade soon. we have many things to worry and do. For tamils? there was no ram in the early days, but ram is now here because the upholders (!) of dravidian politics needed some more votes. Bridge, brahminism,belligerence are all the normal ingredients of the arrogant rhetoric of tamil leaders(?). now ramsena’s antics are taken up by tamilnadu’s nameless parties and politicians. there are going to be newsworthy but useless nuisance for the youth. what will the tamil youth do?

as usual, they will move on- come on, they are progressive, they were the early birds in Y2k…but still they will, because they have to, do something.

They will form a human chain and worry more about pink slips than pink chaddis.

Reflections on immolations and aftermaths

February 5, 2009

January 25th was the day the young man burnt himself to death. He was just 27 years old. He believed that `sacrificing` his life would make the central government sit up and take notice. He also believed that the state government would gain momentum to protect the rights of `its` people. “One day, my goal will be met,” he said in a note before committing self immolation. His death caught the media attention. Public became agitated. Youth- especially the student community became angry. The entire state was ready to revolt. The central government had to budge. The state government had to face defeat in the next election. This was in 1965. His name was Chinnasamy. I felt, that time, that he was a martyr. I felt he had to be honored. I felt that his death should not go waste- and I fanatically ignored Hindi. Even now I do not know Hindi, but I had forgotten his name. I had to google to find out who he was.

January 29th, thirty four years later, another young man burnt himself to death. He was 26 years old. He too believed that `sacrificing` his life would make the central government sit up and take notice. He also believed that the state government would gain momentum to protect the rights of `its` people. The day before immolating himself, he had written, “The DMK that came to power riding high on the efforts of your struggle, first made a law that students should not take part in politics. After capturing power, it blunted Tamil feelings, and turned the entire Tamil population into a petitioning tribe. Smash that tradition. Don’t believe anybody who asks you to submit a petition.” He wanted the student community to become angry, he wanted the state to revolt. He wanted the central government to budge and wanted the state government to learn a lesson. Many feel that he is a martyr. Many feel he has to be honored. Many feel that his death should not go waste. Not just his name, his photograph too is fresh in the minds of Tamil people, but, a generation later someone would use a search engine to find out his name.

The thousands who use the subway in west mambalam know that it is called aranganathan subway, but hardly anyone remembers that this aranganathan was another young man who burnt himself to death in 1965. His life gave life to DMK. The party came to power on the sentiments of anti-hindi agitation. It is the same party that is tasting public irritation after the death of Muthukumar. “Dear Tamil people, in the struggle against injustice our brothers and children have taken up the weapon of the intellect. I have used the weapon of life. You use the weapon of photocopying. Yes, make copies of this pamphlet and distribute it to your friends, relatives, and students and ensure that this support for this struggle becomes greater.”-were the last words in the four page final letter that muthukumar left for the people of tamilnadu. Sure enough, it happened. Those pages were not just photocopied, but also translated and distributed. Is muthukumar going to become another name-of-a-flyover?

In 1965, youth believed that DMK was the solution to the State. We believed what the “great” leaders said. Annadurai made the following statements opposing Hindi imposition: “It is claimed that Hindi should be common language because it is spoken by the majority. Why should we then claim the tiger as our national animal instead of the rat which is so much more numerous? Or the peacock as our national bird when the crow is ubiquitous?” He also said,“Since every school in India teaches English, why can’t it be our link language? Why do Tamils have to study English for communication with the world and Hindi for communications within India? Do we need a big door for the big dog and a small door for the small dog? I say, let the small dog use the big door too!” We were all swayed by the rhetoric. We were fascinated. Our dreams lost all their boundaries. Anna’s lieutenants were equally fiery in their speeches. Though the anti-hindi agitation in tamilnadu began in 1938, it was the death of aranganathan, chinnasamy,veerappan, muthu, sarangapani and some more whose names have not been recorded that whipped up Tamil-spirit. We all believed that Anna and his team were our role models and they would usher in a new era of growth and prosperity in Tamilnadu. Anna died almost immediately after assuming power and then came the master craftsman of manipulative politics- MK. We believed equally in him. He was even celebrating January 25th as martyr’s day! Now? I and most of my generation cannot go out of this state and have simple conversations with other Indians because we do not know hindi. we are now small dogs with not even a small window to even peep leave alone enter other languages,whereas MK’s family has learnt enough hindi to have political discussions in that language.

Thirty four years later, I see a similar picture. Muthukumar is dead. His body was taken in a procession for the final parting. Youth have flocked the funeral procession. Young men and women are furious. They are angry at the state and central governments. They believe that Eelam has to be liberated.

We were right in believing then that Hindi should not be imposed at the cost of Tamil- though the frenzy created by the ‘leaders’ of that time made us hate Hindi. Now, the youth are convinced that Tamils should not be slaughtered in srilanka, which is the right thought to nurture into a constructive plan of action.but here again I see political craftsmen masquerading as mass leaders and deviating the youth. An intolerant and brash person with no foresight for his people is projected as the savior of the ethnic group. Just as how we were made to hate hindi those days instead of loving tamil more, so too are the youth made to eulogize prabakaran instead of wanting peace and life for tamils in srilanka.

The youth were brainwashed then to remove the congress and install DMK. Now they are going to be used to remove both dmk and congress- but to install who? We have only crooks and clowns posing as leaders now. Someone from the youth must come forward, learn the history of tamilnadu’s political games and lead the next generation towards a brighter future.

Otherwise, muthukumar’s death would become meaningless. If we cannot learn from death how are we going to live?

On muthukumar..

February 5, 2009

Immolation ignites, not just the self but the social order in which it occurs. Whatever be the tributes (heaped in hindsight), it is a suicide, albeit an altruistic suicide!

When muthukumar died in the flames that he ignited on himself, in support of Tamil Eelam, it was painful to know  and even more painful to reflect. He died for a cause. He is not going to get any part of the promised money that politicians would like to present, he is not going to see Tamil Eelam, he is not going to win an election, he is not going to see his statue which is the first stupid thing that a crafty politician is going to commission, he is not going to even see that the youth are agitated and angry and demanding. He is not going to be; he is gone. All those instantly printed images of his face are going to fade just a little while before his name becomes another affordably-forgettable trivia. (How many remember the names of those who died in 1965, in the same manner, for a similar (?) cause?)

I have been reading blogs written about this in the past week, and even serious and sensitive writers- vinavu in tamil and meena kandasamy in English- have been swayed by the emotional impact of the immolation.

Yes, he had dared to do what most of us fear- embrace death for a cause espoused. Yes indeed, he has achieved what he perhaps wanted- the youth to awaken. At this moment, just a few days after the death, it may even appear vulgar to discuss him. It would be unfair to ascribe motivations of self-interest to him. It will certainly be cheap and false to reduce his act to the psychological phenomenon of attention-seeking. I understand the pain. I feel sorry for him, but I feel more sorry for his death which I am afraid is not going to do much for much longer. I am afraid about idiots and immature people trying to imitate him. I feel even more sorry for him as I know how short-lived are the emotions that flare without deeper understanding of reality.

There are going to be politicians who would like to use his death to further their interests. There would be cheap writers who earn by writing about him. There would be half-baked intellectuals who would try to discuss dispassionately over dinner on the death of an individual. There would be interviews, columns, serials and even films on this event. Is that what he wanted? Is that what he died for?

How many of those young men and women who went to pay tributes to him know about the reality of Eelam? There is a genocide. It has been happening for nearly a generation. All those young and angry minds were infants or un-born when this started. That is the reason why political traders are selling them lies. The most unworthy of all lies being the projection of prabakaran. It pains me to see youth thinking that prabakaran is a leader in the `Che’ mould. This is the right time for a shrewd, conscienceless businessman to make Tshirts with prabakaran’s image. It hurts when he is being eulogized to this level- just because one muthukumar burnt himself to death and declared that LTTE have a great leader unlike the people of tamilnadu. It is true that there are NO leaders in this state which has politicians aplenty.

Just because we do not have a good leader should we accept a bad one? Let us not be led astray. Even friends and comrades when they were talking to me over the last one week lamented that since no one is there to fight for tamil-eelam, we have to put up with prabakaran. Are the angry youth aware that they have to ‘put up’ with him because no one else is fighting? And are they aware why there is no one else in the fray? Have they been informed if not educated about how those who fought for the same cause were killed because this one man wanted to reign supreme? Do they know of EPRLF and EROS?Were these young minds not idiotic enough just a few weeks back to stand in the rain and form a human chain because karunanidhi wanted to play his political game? One man wants you to stand in rain and get wet as he waves a promise from his motorcade- he was always that way, it is just now that he gets more and more exposed since his reflexes have become slower with super-confidence. As his alternative is the projection of a self-centered person who even now would not dare to face a match stick that might burn him- he needs innocent and unwilling people around him as a shield! Is this what muthukumar wanted?

Just because muthukumar died and declared so, it does not mean that prabakaran and LTTE are the only hope and promise for Tamils in Srilanka. Just because one man burnt himself to an agonizing death does not mean that we have to stop thinking. So what can we do?

Think and make others think. As Indians, we have very little option. We can shout and scream, so can Obama and Hillary; we can cry so can the politicians of the state, we can write—and?

I do not know what we can do as a country. maybe as some learned men say India should not offer assistance to srilankan army. but the stealth of international politics is more complex for such a simple solution. there are many who want an end to this problem, but what is going to be the end? Death of millions? it is happening and after all the deaths, laments and political theatrics, there is going to business potential in the destroyed area. I am aware that there are monsters waiting to rebuild the non-existent bridge and do business with the singhaleese. it hurts.Yet I as an individual cannot do much. I can only offer food and shelter realistically and thoughts and words idealistically to those who get displaced from the terror region.

I can even write poems on the miserable state of affairs- but would this be better than what muthukumar did? There is one difference- I can live to take care of atleast one suffering refugee which would matter more to those who flee from terror than my death.

as some friends have asked me after reading this, i have to say what i feel could be a solution-1.srilankan government must be made to see reason2. innocent lives have to be protected. THIS CANNOT BE DONE WITHOUT INTENSE POLTICAL AND ECONOMIC PRESSURE ON THE GOVERNMENT, but we cannot allow another IPKF, any american intervention will only mess the situation further,britain would just clone america. french will not. china/japan?  i honestly do not feel any military intervention is going to do good. if India can squeeze srilankan government by not offering even silent/sly support a solution is possible…hopefully

On immolations and the psycho-social history of Tamils in this regard later.