Macchars don’t wear sweaters

Archive for February 2007

Indian cinema has produced some quintessential songs which bring together all the elements of a timeless song – music, lyrics, voice and mood. Rarely have I seen the supreme heights of meaning and poetic expression in some of these songs achieved, either in the western or eastern tradition. One of these songs is “Kucch to Log Kahenge” (People will talk). The setting is a lover consoling and cheering his embittered and dejected beloved with the following words:-

kuchh to log kahenge, logaane kaa kaam hain kahanaa

(People will talk, because that’s what they do best)

chhodo, bekaar kee baato mein , kahee beet naa jaaye rainaa

(Pay no heed, lest the night pass in these wasteful thoughts)

kuchh reet jagat kee ayesee hai, har yek subah kee shaam huyee

(Such are the ways of the world. every dawn melts into dusk)

too kaun hai, teraa naam hain kyaa, seetaa bhee yahaa badanaam huyee

(Even the goddess of virtue has been tainted here)

fir kyon sansaar kee baaton se, bheeg gaye tere nainaa

(Then why because of the world’s words, have your eyelashes been dampened)

hum ko jo taane dete hai, hum khoye hain in rang raliyon me

(they taunt us, that we’re consumed by immoral passions)

hum ne un ko bhee chhup chhup ke, aate dekhaa in galiyon me

(whilst we have also seen them silently creep into these alleyways)

ye sach hain jhoothe baat nahee, tum bolo ye sach hain naa

(This is true is it not?)

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THE ultimate God is Dharma. And all the achievements of the modern world – electricity, aeroplanes, computers. mobiles, have been developed through research on the Vedas – said the office guard.

“All these are just claims in the air” – I said. “there is no……………**what was the word**…………

“Even scientists admit to it” – he said, with a reprimanding “you don’t know??” expression.

……proof to these claims”

“All these are scientific acheivements of……….**what was the Hindi for West….uttar?…..dakshin? purab?**……….Europe” – I said.

“It’s not as if science and the Vedas are contradictory to each other” – he said, amused at my ignorance. “its all there in the Vedas” “the Gurus had developed it all long ago” “thats how the Europeans got their ideas, from the Vedas” “if fact even westerners are adopting the eastern way nowadays” he concluded with authority.

“then where did this knowledge get lost” i ventured. “why has India had so many problems over the past centuries”

“oh this is kalyug (the dark ages)” he said, all misty eyed and nostalgic for satyug (the bright ages).

“whats different now from those days” i said, wondering if i should use my “did apples fall upwards in those days?” analogy. He wouldn’t get it i decided. “These were just things written long ago with no relevance to the current age” i said. “things written in the Vedas and old scriptures strictly followed can often be suppressive” – i said, determined to enlighten him.

“why is it suppressive to respect your elders?” he admonished me.

“respect should be….**i wondered if i could site the sati example without offending him** i mean….**how do i put this**….teachers who beat up students deserve no respect even if they’re older” i finished.

His expression darkened a little as he was lost in thought for a few seconds. Then he brightened and chuckled “I guess these are not things to be talking about on a Friday evening”. “Have a good weekend Pankaj Babu” he bade good naturedly.

I got on my motorcycle and drove off.

Jobs are an ingenious invention. Not only do they ensure that we have a source of livelihood, they also fill our lives.

This essay is not about how to listen, if at all, it is an essay about putting a lid on it. But even about that I am not sure. It may just be a lament like all my other essays. Somehow, as friends, I have always attracted people who are great talkers, perhaps willfully chosen because a train-talker makes up for my lack of having much to say, and fills in the gaps better.

It’s not like I am uncommunicative, just that whenever I get an urge to speak, I scour my brain to pick out a thought I could speak on, only to find it blank as a slate. My mind is usually like a clear blue sky without a cloud or bird in sight. Or perhaps its the other way around, and my faculty of speech was never able to develop properly, because whenever I had a penny-worth thought to share, I was promptly shut up by my talkitive friends the moment the first syllable escaped my mouth.

This train-talking quality doesn’t seem to be rare for sure. For example this friend of mine whom I considered the “silent” type. I gradually learnt that in spite of his seemingly laid back and quiet dignified demeanor, the gift of the gab was certainly not one thing he lacked. His train of conversation might not spew much steam, but it motors down the rails nonetheless. I gradually realized that my contribution to the matter and quantum of our conversations gradually reduced till it was an insignificant percentage. Not to say that he’s a bore, he has a sense of humor, and has interesting episodes to recount. But the moment its my turn, he cant help making clever observations about what I “could” have done/said in the situation or how the situation “could” have turned out. Let me finish first please!!!!! Ah..I wish I could say that. Thus being interrupted at every possible juncture with gems of wit I cant help but give up in exasperation. Nor can I be blamed for sulking for the remainder of our meeting.

Train-talkers can be likened to good boxers. You patiently wait to spot a chink in their defenses, i.e, for a moment when they pause and you can dive in, but that chink/pause never presents itself, and you are kept eternally waiting. You can try and be aggressive and force your way in the moment you spot the slightest chink/pause. But hah, they’re not ones to be done in easily, and they beat you right back with a barrage of words, as for a moment (not more) only you are speaking, then both of you are speaking simultaneously for the longest time, and finally not having their stamina and realizing they’re not going to give in, you retreat, and its only them speaking.

There’s another friend, one of my oldest and best and well, a bore. After I’ve finished listening to him for two hours about what he and his girlfriend did over thier half hour lunch date, or how he and his girlfriend are AGAIN going to elope to Australia and marry next month (his themes have started revolving around his gf lately), or the intricacies of the software he’s working on at office, or how Rahul was rude to him at office (I don’t even know who Rahul is) and how he shut Rahul up (of course), or the little niggle in his right shoulder, and when I try to get in a word, invariably i see his eyes wandering all over the landscape except my eyes, and especially focusing on something over my shoulder. And just as I arrive at the climax of my story, he invariably butts in with “hey look at that little puppy playing with the sparrow” or “do you think that red car behind u will be able to back up without hitting the black one”. Well, after that, I don’t have the heart to finish.

Then there’s this friend who is an extreme case. It is not just me who has been subject of his constant yakking and he is known far and wide for it. Nobody is known to have completed a full sentence with him around. He is known to extravagantly use expressions like “F***K that and listen to this” or “what’s the big deal, hear this” or “nothing compared to what happened with me”.

Talkers seem to have archival memories. If I exactly remembered what happened during so-and-so scene in so-and-so movie/soap perhaps I might want to share it too. If I could render ten jokes on the trot, i just might. But even I wouldn’t proceed to share the entire plot of a movie, if someone asked me how it was.

I’ve realized that whenever you want to be heard, you have to MAKE yourself heard. I always notice people trying to butt in in the middle of someone else’s statement ALL the time and they have to be beaten back by constant rebuttals like “let me finish” or “hey listen”. And all this happens in the flow of the conversation, as no one takes it personally and no egos are hurt.

Well, at least the blog listens.

I want to lose myself to a deep sleep. Hold my warm furry blanket close to me, rest my head on my soft pillow. Draw the curtains so that the bright sunlight may not blind my eyes, close the door so that the voices and claims of the waking world be kept outside. Come tomorrow Mr Milkman, sorry boss but i wont be coming today, not now mother, shut up granny and bonny, the brooming can wait Sudesh. Sleep so that my unchained thoughts may explore worlds known and unknown. Sleep so that my weightless thoughts float free. I want to sleep because I want to escape from the burden of being me. I want to sleep well into the day, all day. 

A Jeep screeches to a halt in a crowded marketplace, its occupants, grimy fat goons with gruff voices and bloody toad eyes which threaten to pop out any second, jump out and rush inside a shop. A scared murmuring crowd gathers around the entrance, as the goons drag out the struggling, writhing, pleading shopkeeper. The lead goon walks to the jeep and hauls out a, believe it, sledge hammer and a, horror horror, chest nail. He ominously walks to the still groveling victim-to-be, his kajal lined eyes all ablaze, his pan reddened mouth shaped in a menacing expression. The pleadings rise to a desperate pitch, and the crowds murmur drops to a terrified silence, as he places the nail on the victim’s skull, and with a swing of his arm brings down the sledge hammer, WHAM!

SPLATT! The perpetrators face is splattered in bright red.

That is the opening scene of the popular blockbuster “Shiva” for you, directed by the critically acclaimed (so they say) Ram Gopal Verma. That is Bollywood for you. That is subtle Indian moviemaking for you. And that is what seemingly appeals to the Indian audiences.

Although I laughed away as I watched the movie, even I realized It was not funny.
The theme of Indian movies is again and again, “Violent Revolution”. Violence to overthrow the perpetrators, violence for right. But you start to get the feeling that it is more to it than just violence for right, and there is almost a pleasure in this violence, as the protagonist hits the perpetrator again and again, over and over. As the perpetrator falls through the wall, through the glass door, over the wooden table, down the balcony, the protagonist seems to derive a deep instinctive pleasure out of every blow, ever thud of fist (or leg or elbow) meeting jaw/groin/flesh, a primal delight as the villain’s face gets bloodier and bloodier, his clothes more tattered, and his groans heavier. This foreplay of violence rises to a pitch and in a moment of orgasmic fury – BANG (or KHUCHHH) the perpetrator is relieved on his misery.

You get a sense that the message is not, in itself dubious “Violence for Right”, but is reduced to merely “Violence”. Will a populace which is fed on such a constant dose of violence, become somewhere fixated to it, and start glorifying it and at some point, emulate it?

 The sun gradually dips under the Bengali horizon splashing the river waters and twilight sky in deep crimson. The light of day gradually gives way to deep and lengthning shadows as a boat silently glides across the river waters. The occupants of the boat are the boatman, indulged in his daily activity of ferrying travellers across the river, and a family huddled togather at the far end, unspeaking and sullen faced. The family has fallen into bad ways since the death of the head of the family, the father and husband, and they are making thier way to humble lodgings across the river, having just sold thier family house. A song gently plays in the backdrop. A song of hope.

Maanjhi Chal O Maanjhi Chal
O Boatman Keep Going

Tu Chale To Chham-chham Baaje Maujon Ki Paayal
With you moving, the ankle jewels of lapping waves shall ring rich.

Maanjhi Chal, Maanjhi Chal, Maanjhi Chal, O O Maanjhi Chal
O Boatman keep going

Teraa Jeevan Nadeeyaa Kee Dhaar Hai
Your Life Is Like The Flow Of The River

Tan Hai Naiyyaa, Man Patavaar Hai
Your body is a boat, your soul oars.

Sun O Maanjhi, Maujon Kee Pukaar Hai
O boatman, listen to the call of the waves

Thaam Le Tu
Thaam Le Tu Masta Pavan Ka, Laharaata Aanchal

Hold on to the fluttering apron of the carefree breeze

O Maanjhi Chal, Maanjhi Chal, Maanjhi Chal, O Maanjhi Chal

O boatman you must keep moving

Aashaaon Se Naataa Jod Le
Create ties with hope

Ye Niraashaa Ke Bandhan Tod De
Sever all bonds of despair

Sun O Maanjhi, Aaj Ka Gham Tu Chhod De
O Boatman, leave behind today’s sorrows

Aaj To Pichhe
Aaj To Pichhe Rah Gaya Hai, Saamane Hai Kal

Because today is bygone, and the future beckons.

O Maanjhi Chal, Maanjhi Chal, Maanjhi Chal, O Maanjhi