Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jai ho

After the triumph of Slumdog Millionaire at the Oscars, lots have been said and written about the film and lots is still being said and written. I wish to add a penny worth of my reflections too. I have already said in this space that I loved the film. I watched it at a time when it was lesser known, not received any award, and was not released in India. Now when I see it with the hype I still love it, maybe more. I am excited. So, what is it that I want to say?

In the last two days I have been reflecting on people’s reactions to the film after it won eight Oscars. Sadly, apart from the excited TV channels and those they interview, I haven’t had the opportunity to speak to anyone from my day-to-day life echoing the excitement I feel. Some are ambivalent, many critical. This has made me reflect on the act of expressing joy. And I am wondering why the expression of unadulterated joy difficult to come by? Must heady thought play spoilsport?

I dialed a friend immediately after the eighth and last award for the film had been announced. I just wanted to share my elation. “You know there is politics behind this”, was the response from the other end. I said I will call her again later. I was in no mood for politics. Later on I thought. A lot of institutions in this world have politics operating in the background. Politics of war. Politics of hate. Politics of power. Even politics of love. There is politics in our little households and workplaces, everyday. So what’s new if there is politics behind Oscar selections? If whatever politics put a beaming Rubina and Azharuddin – kids who have lived 9-11 years of their life next to open drains – on the Oscar stage, should we condemn that politics?

“Rubina and Azhar being on stage does not change anything. What about the thousands of other people living in slums?” was another opinion that another person expressed. But this is weird. The film is a work of art; it did not start out with the promise of changing anything. It is not a social/political movement. But does it not bring pride to the heart to think that the two kids who acted in the film and live in slums, never attended school in their little life, vulnerable at every point – will now receive formal education and upon reaching the age of 18, will be entitled to a sum of 25 lakh each to pursue higher education. I support the fact that they were not paid huge sums of money to act in the film – the money which under all probability would have been passed on to their caretakers. Now at least things are set and set in their best interests – the right to receive education.

Also, doesn’t the achievement of kids living in slums do something to our class mentality? For example, does it not bring to light the ingenuity and brilliance of people living in the “slums”. Doesn’t the fact that the conditions of birth can be changed, triumph?

Some of the people I spoke to said they are “ashamed” of Indian poverty having been shown in the film and have “it” (poverty) receive international awards. In other words they are ashamed of the “slums”. Ashamed of the people who live in the slums. But what right have we to be ashamed of anyone? This is showing sheer disrespect and sheer arrogance. We are not ashamed to hire domestic help from these very slums. Slums are a part of India and will remain so till skewed economic/social/development policies rule the land. Why does a single cricketer earn crores for his presence on the field for a few hours and the thousands of Rubinas and Azharuddins struggle for the basic amenities of life?

I was surprised that even A R Rehman’s recognitions were not wholeheartedly accepted. “He has composed much better music”, came as a whiff of opinion. But then no Tamil or Hindi film he composed for has been nominated for the Oscars. So where does the question of him receiving an Oscar before this arise? One person even said that Ilaiyaraja, Guru to Rehman should have been awarded instead!

Now, before this gets hilarious, I must stop. There were many other observations on similar lines and when I think about them, I want to ask the same question I started off with. Why is the expression of unadulterated joy difficult to come by? Must heady thought play spoilsport? I hope we are not denying ourselves the right to feel pure joy and revel in the success of people without asking too many politically correct questions.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Post at the time of pandemonium

I am writing this post as an outcome of Munchmany’s comment on my last post. “Please do write more...” she implored! Munchmany – a good colleague and regular visitor to my blog.

Since the end of last week, I have not been able to visit blogs – neither mine nor anyone else’s. It is the usual – I have been totally consumed with office work! I do not fancy such times but they come when their time is due (sadly). The surge of work creates nothing less than pandemonium in my peaceful existence. I start to perceive everything as really BIG and really STRANGE than how I would see them under normal circumstances. The pandemonium starts at the workplace and consumes all my waking hours, not to mention my sleeping hours too.

Last night I had a nightmare of having lost our family dog, Budi Boo to a strange curse that seemed straight out of a science fiction! I woke up only to realize that I was having a nightmare! Strange, but Thank God!

I am a one-member team in a project with two parallel running courses. No one thinks that there should be another team member because I am performing the task of three people. Because I don’t ask, I don’t get. Deliveries are talking place smoothly but I am being asked to “contribute” more. Because I contribute more than asked, I am asked to “contribute” even more! Strange! Strange! Strange!

Over the weekend when I opened my bag to pull out my ATM card, I got one big shock of my life! There it was within its cover but vertically split into two pieces. I ran over the events in my mind to locate what could have brought about the extraordinary state my card is in. The only event I remembered was my falling over a few glass steps at a showroom and falling on my bag. Why do I have this puzzling connection with glass!? Strange!

I was meeting up with a friend on Valentines Day who announced that she is getting married very soon. I thought she is tying the knot with her last boyfriend who I had come to know of through her unending stories. She laughed me away and announced that this is an arranged match she is getting into because “he” cooks well and has promised to cook all throughout their married life. Times have changed! Strange!

Speaking of Valentine’s Day, the hullabaloo created over it by the goondas (aka the moral policing brigade) in the society seemed to fall flat. I went out into the city that day and it looked like any other normal day. At least on Diwali day the entire city is decked up. I am sure it is a very small percentage of people in this country who have any notion about Valentine’s Day! What is this talk of Valentine’s Day invading our culture, if at all it does! Awfully strange!

During this period I watched a documentary titled, “White Light, Black Rain,” a poignant compilation of the voices of the Japanese people affected by the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the fag end of World War-II. Most of these people are old now but they carry scars of the devastation on their bodies and minds. The documentary is a powerful caution about what can happen as a consequence of a nuclear war. In the documentary, young men and women from Hiroshima are interviewed and asked what they think about dropping the bombs on their land. All of them looked at each other and drew a blank; they said they cannot recall having heard about the bombs being dropped in their country. That was simply strange!

One of these days, I heard that the domestic help at my parent’s has been caught red handed slipping out money from my father’s purse. The reason for worry was that they did not dismiss her! Amid media reports about the various risks senior citizens living alone face, a domestic help indulging in theft was indeed a cause for worry. Soon, more information about the help started pouring in from the neighborhood – she is known to have hidden valuables inside dustbins conveniently seizing them when she went out of the house to empty the bin. Considering that she is quite a well-to-do person with no apparent un-met economic needs, I wonder if she is a kleptomaniac. I wonder whether there is a cure. Strange obsession.

Last but not the least, that I could write a post at the time of pandemonium is plainly strange. Thank you Munchmany.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Tomato Smiled

This morning as I was slicing up a tomato to place inside my sandwich, it smiled. “It” means the Tomato. You don’t believe? I too did not, but see below, it did smile. Please focus on the center.

At first, I did not believe the Tomato smiled at me. I checked the slice I had cut out before, I cut another to check – but neither had the same smile! This miracle has left me feeling good. Last night I remember feeling very agitated about the issue of “moral policing” threatening the freedom of the Indian women. This is no ordinary smile: I feel Tomato wants to tell me to take it easy, breathe deeply, and focus on the positive – focus on what we have, focus on our collective strengths, and never say die. I get the message dear little red wonder!