Wednesday, December 31, 2008

God, Please Save the Little Bunnies

I want to begin this New Year with a prayer for the all the animals that inhabit this planet. I also pray for a compassionate and Violence-Free world. I pray that may we as humans – the most advanced creations of Nature – acquire a collective sensitivity to understand the full implications of how our actions affect other living beings around us – both animals as well as other humans. The chaos all around us is certainly not a proof of our evolved status as human beings.

Coming back to animals, one piece of news brought me some cheer last week. Donna Karan, owner of the DKNY (Donna Karan New York) fashion brand finally promised publicly (on 22nd Dec, 2008) that she will not use fur for her 2009 creations or use fur anytime in the future. This comes after PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) directed campaign against Karan’s use of fur for her fashion label. Karan had been charged with systematic butchering of little rabbits like the one in the picture. Rabbits are routinely skinned alive by the “violent and bloody” fur industry.

This significant declaration from Karan comes after a sustained campaign led by people sensitive to the cause of animals. The people protested outside the designer’s boutique and crashed into her runaway shows to raise awareness against her cruel use of fur. A website – – (now offline) was launched to expose how little rabbits are tortured to death. The well known American fashion consultant, Tim Gunn also joined the campaign and sent videos to Karan depicting the cruel treatment of animals by the fashion industry. This video also for consumers, helps us make informed choices before buying clothing and accessories made from fur, wool, and leather. The video is available at the PETA site and is too horrific. I couldn’t watch it beyond a point and the little that I did caused me much depression and made me feel so very ashamed of my brethren.

It is heartening to know that Donna Karan has followed in the footsteps of designers such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and Calvin Klein who have already stopped using fur. Another battle is being waged. This time it is with Armani who has till date refused to stop his complicity in the killing of innocent animals for profit as he continues to fuel the insane passions of wo(men). Even Tim Gunn’s appeal to Armani has fallen on deaf ears. At times like this, I wish I was in primary or middle school blissfully tucked in a dream world with Enid Blytons and Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys and fairy tales. There are too many cruel and painful things I know about the world now.

God, please save the little bunnies.

Appeal to Armani

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Of the Tamil Tongue

Six months old in the city of Chennai and I can boast of some familiarity with the Tamil language. At least I no longer think of “po” as an abuse word! Early this year when I was not even a month old in the city, I was rudely shouted at by a stout auto rickshaw driver who suddenly appeared in front of me from the wrong side. “Po!”, he thundered. I stopped in my tracks and let him pass. I walked back where I lived feeling very low for being shouted at. Not being able to keep it to myself, I blurted out the incident to my local host. I was not prepared for her reaction – the lady laughed heartily for a full half minute. Then, amidst crackles, she finally said, ‘”Po” means “go” in Tamil, the auto rickshaw driver wanted you to go first!” She laughed even more at my saucer eyes at the revelation.

I resolved that I must learn Tamil, at least the basics. Next day, I related the incident to my colleagues at office and laughed with them. ‘”Wanga” is the opposite of “po”’, they helpfully supplemented. I will surely remember the Tamil word for “come”, I thought to myself. I made the “wang” from “Wang’s Beauty Parlor” opposite where I live as the anchor point. I had begun to delight in my method of learning Tamil.

At the residence of my local host, two serials are watched on daily basis – “Arasi” and “Kolam”, and one weekly dance program, “Maanada-Mayilda”. I also watch them over dinner with the rest of the family. My brain connects the oft-repeated words, and I must say that now I have an impressive collection of words in Tamil whose meanings I know! The three words that top the list are – “rombha” – meaning “very much”, “a lot”, “many”. In its many manifestations, the one that is clearest to me is in the expression, “Rombha thanks!”

The second word is “saapaad”. It is a ubiquitous word, as common as “po” and “wanga”. I hear it not only in the serials but also several times during the course of the day. This is a word not to be missed. “Saapaad” means food. The third word is “sollunga”, means “to say” or “to tell”. I coax an answer from my host’s two and a half year old who is learning to speak English, “Nikkie, what are you doing sollunga……” He doles me out his standard answer, “I am standing”, he prattles, as he removes his mouth from the feeding bottle to answer me.

This is one part of the story. It is another matter that when I open my mouth to flaunt some of my knowledge of Tamil words, I am either laughed at by the light-hearted or given a Pickering-like lecture for the abuse of the Tamil tongue, by natives in serious love with the language.

All said and done, I take the cake in the end. Even the Higgins and the Pickerings look at me with awe for knowing the meanings of “maanada” and “mayilda”. Why, that is easy, what else do you call a deer-and-a-peacock-like dance in Tamil :-)

Notes: The words "maan" and "mayil" in Tamil translates into "deer" and "peacock", respectively. "Ada" translates to "dance".