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Donkeys carrying saffron

>> Friday, February 26, 2010

Light travels faster than sound. And that is why some faces appear bright, till they open their mouths. Our stars have proven it right. Beneath the glamorous masks they wear, arrogance and pride have become part of their attire. And evident from the moment they come anywhere near you...

The war of words in the Malayalam film industry, involving veteran actor Thilakan, Mammootty and Mohanlal and others, continues unabated. Malayalam movie industry, which has served more controversy than profits in recent times, has plunged to a new low with a squabble in which the choice of words are more appalling than some that are spoken on screen.

As time goes on, actors grow bigger and bigger. From star to super, to super duper to mega and then magna star and along with this come the innumerable accolades they receive from organizations, some of them from the so called fan clubs. Their qualifications are getting longer with titles of Bharath, Lt Colonel, Padmasree, Doctor and what not. I don’t think there is any other country in the world where film actors are bestowed with so many titles. I haven’t heard any of the Hollywood actors being named, Megastar Anthony Hopkins or Superstar Tom Hanks and the like.. They are simple actors and professionals...And also, the actresses who probably make more sacrifices in to their stardom are nowhere near. It is a male dominated world, where women are treated to whims and fancies of the heroes and directors.

Social critic Sukumar Azhikode has been hinting that it is high time that the leading stars of Malayalam stepped aside in deference to their age and girth, and the comment has brought the writer into an open confrontation with Mohanlal, with the Thilakan issue acting as the trigger-point. Piqued by Mohanlal’s tart comments, Azhikode reminded the actor that he was himself ageing and that if some of his nubile heroines saw him without makeup, “they will faint”, and that he should take a leaf of the books of Tamil stars like Rajnikant and Kamal Hassan and go around without makeup. Azhikode alleged that the superstar's frantic attempts to regain his fast disappearing youth fans by fixing wigs and makeup, will not work for a long time. The orator further added that an iota of goodness was needed in the heart as well, not just in the characters that he portrays. Stating that it is high time for the star to stop acting in young characters Azhikode said “Mohanlal's popularity will end when he stops acting. However my forty books, that are a reflection of my soul, will stand the tests of time".

Mohanlal had said that Azhikode has not written a book after 'Thathwamasi'. Azhikode retaliated by saying that this was because it was such an enormous philosophical document. It is impossible to write books continuously, since writing is different from acting. He also compared the actor to a donkey carrying saffron, without knowing what the real value of saffron was. Azhikode was referring to Mohanlal's comments on 'Thathwamasi' and he said that Mohanlal was talking about the book without even having a clue as to what the book was all about.

Though Azhikode has no right to comment to the personal appearances of these stars, it is also apparent that these actors are overdoing it. And there was no need to compare his own capabilities to those of these so called stars, thereby lowering himself. Our superstars forget that they are getting old, and refuse to give way to younger actors, and form mafias to rule the film world. Mohanlal obviously has lost the actor in him ( from the days of Kireedom and T P Balagopalan) to something like a giant robot, with mannerisms and gestures that are disgusting, language that makes you shudder and doesn’t hesitate to run around trees ,making comic dances with girls young enough to be his daughter. Mammooty has a tiny difference, and appears to improve his acting talents over time but forgotten to realize that his dances have become comedy shows.

Soon the other intelligent stars have joined the war, forgetting their long standing differences, like Ganesh Kumar, Innocent and the clan from Amma. Azhikode also made fun of Innocent for having suggested that his language was bad. He said Innocent was the second person who said so. The first person was Kuttikrishna Marar. On Marar's advice he had tried to improve his language that has become a good one. However during the last week, it has deteriorated again, because of his interactions with people like Innocent!!

Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools talk because they have to say something. The moment some people open their mouth, their ignorance is revealed.

I think the responsibility of the artist is to distill their experiences of the world through the filter of the self. To use the self as a prism with which to break up the white light of experience into every color they can muster, and to give it back to the audience or onlooker in such a way that's experiential. And hopefully shed some new light on those experiences in the process

But what about the artist's responsibilities as a human being? Picasso was a woman-beater. Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite. Oscar Wilde was a homosexual. . Roman Polanski drugged and raped a 13 year old girl. All of them have intrinsic things about them that are wrong/evil. Should we then not to see their movies or read their books? Appreciation of the work of an artist should not be decided on the parameter of his moral character or social credential. To simplify one should separate the art from the artist. At the same time,not forgetting thay are part of the society they live in, and have social obligations too.

Our artists do not seem to have any moral responsibilities. They creep in to each and everything we do. They sell us anything from Puttupodi and liquor to drugs for asthma and impotence. In the greed for money, they forget they are misusing the love and trust the ordinary man has given them. Keep them at places they deserve, and don’t let them teach your children obscene language, which they learn faster. These are not people to be kept on pedestals, but on the level ground they belong to, and you stand on. If you appear to enjoy obscenity and vulgar language, you get more of them. In essence, the society gets what it deserves.


Do we need these awards?

>> Sunday, February 21, 2010

Every time the season arrives with awards, media get filled with controversies. Every political party come up with some of their elderly and retired politicians. Whether they have actually contributed or just drained the nation is not of any concern. It is only how equally the awards are distributed among various political parties.

It is time to ask if the debate is worth it. The issue is not the choice for the award, but the award itself: Should we continue with state honours like Bharat Ratna and the Padma awards? Excellence in public life and other areas of activity should be recognised, of course. But is it the business of the government to hand out awards and honours. After all, what does the government know of cinema to award film stars and directors? Or, for that matter, does it have the credentials to reward a writer or a musician? Film societies and fans can do the job of recognising talent in cinema much better than the state, and perhaps, with far less controversy. The highest honour in the field of literature is the Jnanpith award that is given by a private trust. Government nominees decide Bharat Ratna and Padma awards and their choices are always disputed. Awards become a tool for patronage in the hands of the government.

Political lobbying and controversies only overrule the award by forgetting that awards conferred the merits and are never sought after.. Though one can consider some of the names of these politicians but the general question that comes to everyone's mind is – what are the criteria behind bestowing such a prestigious award? Do these politicians stand up to highest level of national service with a selfless attitude? If politicians in a democratic country like India are considered as corrupt, and self-interested then why cannot they be excluded from the list?

A TV channel had started a preposterous debate whether Bharat Ratna award should be conferred on youngsters like Sachin Tendulkar, a thought came whether these civilian awards can be dispensed with once and for all.. Janata government under Morarji Desai had very wisely suspended this during late Seventies for three years. The grant of awards to loyal people was a colonial custom and a relic of the past that we also decided to follow suit. Sachin Tendulkar may be a great cricketer and a highly visible personality made so by media and sponsors for their own commercial purposes. It is a moot point whether playing cricket for money is a public service. It will be a lamentable disservice to scores of doctors, human rights activists, officials, social service organizations, NGOs and many more such who silently toil giving their invaluable time and money to give better lives to the teeming millions with no expectation of reward or recognition.

One of the awardees of 2004 was Shahrukh Khan, Hindi movie actor. Distinguished service in his field - cinema? It is difficult to digest the fact that Shahrukh has been conferred with Padma Shri. Is success of commercial cinema been confused with distinguished service to the nation? It is a disgrace to all the revered people who have been honored with this award in the earlier years. And to make a joke of the whole procedure, it is given to Saif Ali Khan and Amir Khan as well .I don’t have a trace of idea of their contribution to the arts in India. Now that few Khans have been blessed, few Hindu stars would be on line next. If Mohanlal is given Padma ,how can they leave Mammooty ? It seems anyone with money and influence can purchase these awards.And dont you think in the case of Pookkutty,  it was overdone? It was a joke that someone made his wax statue,and now a Padma award, for what? May be,the next election has something to do with it. Leaving Prof K N Pai, who was one of the most respected doctor and philanthropist, I don’t have any idea how these awards can be given away to some of the leading private practitioners, who have made it rich. I would have gladly welcomed if the late Dr C R Soman or the like were given these awards.

There are clouds and shadows everywhere related to these awards.

Sitar Maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan rejected the Padma Shri in 1964 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1968, saying the awards committee wasn't competent enough to judge his music. Historian Romila Thapar turned down the Padma Bhushan in 1992 and 2005 because she wanted to accept awards only from academic institutions. Even renowned vocalist Pandit Jasraj alleged that the sitar maestro Ravi Shankar had approached influential MPs to secure the coveted award in 1999. Kathak queen Sitara Devi refused the Padma Bhushan in 2002, saying it is an "insult" as younger and lesser known people had got Padma Vibhushan.

Bharat Ratnas too have had their share of controversies. The awards to V V Giri, K Kamaraj, MG Ramachandran and Rajiv Gandhi raised eyebrows.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan fumbled for words when asked about the list Kerala had forwarded to the central government recommending names for the Padma awards.The name of Pillai has come under a cloud because the younger son of Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is the vice-president of his company in the Middle East. It is being said that is the reason why Pillai's name was included in the list put up by the state government for the Padma awards. The inclusion of US-based Indian hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal in the list of Padma awardees is generating a lot of heat and controversy.The outrage is over the fact that Chatwal recently faced trial in an alleged $9 million bank fraud. He was briefly arrested in the case as well.

Only those who have worked for the welfare of the country in a spirit of sacrifice and service and make the lives of its people better and rich can be considered worthy of any recognition. A MotherTeresa or a Vinobha Bhave gave so much but took very little. There are many like them doing their work silently and effectively unsung and unhonoured. They will never be visible in the radars of the powers that be. They also attach scant regard for name and fame. Even politicians, except those who participated in the freedom struggle sacrificing their careers and families, do not qualify for recognition. Politics these days is a lucrative profession. It may surprise that more than fifty percent of Bharat Ratna awardees are drawn from the political class

“As genuine heroes and authentic role models have faded out of public space, the politician and the fixer have stepped in. The Padma awards too have got mired in controversy”, writes Harish Khare.(The Hindu)

Of late, there seems to be a mad rush to be branded, though the pretence is of disinterest. The assertion is invariably without credibility. The giver and the receiver both stand diminished. After all, a society is known by the awards it gives.


The Mask of Sorrow.

>> Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Malice is like a game of poker or tennis; you don't play it with anyone who is manifestly inferior to you". (Hilde Spiel)

It is not enough to succeed; others must fail !!
It is hard to beleive it to be true.But have you ever felt  your friends ever  envied you the same way?

When good things have happened in life,very few showed an appreciation.  They stayed away.When I got a promotion at work ( Though it was overdue and not much to brag about  ) I found my colleagues and many of my  friends responded in irrational ways.I had never seen relationships this way. Some people stopped talking to me. Others started troubling me at work.Many faces appeared stung by wasps. I often wondered who was pouring all this venom on myself. And over time,  painfully realised they were all my own friends.Some acted as if I had stolen something from them. I could understand it as simple jealousy.

All of us, at some time other would have felt that emotion.Jealousy is one of those unnecessary evils we burden ourselves with. None of us could honestly say that we have not ever been jealous of more fortunate ones.Well, jealousy is part of life and what matters most is that you will use this jealousy to be more inspired on achieving your goals. As much as we hate to admit it, we've all been jealous of someone else at one time or another. We hate to admit it because the emotion we feel is a deep, dark, nasty feeling. Jealousy is the surface lesion that hints at the real wound: a sense of personal loss, a lowering of self-esteem and, at times, a feeling of self-criticism. These deeper emotions seep out in the form of anger and they can be tough to deal with in the workplace, where there is competition for rewards and opportunities.

Why do we feel envy to a friend? Isnt it a time we should be happy?
The malice of comparing with others.

Comparisons are always harmful. If they are in your favor, they bring false pride in you; if against you, they depress you. Pride can make you overconfident and eventually can be the cause of your downfall. Conversely, with jealousy you lose self-reliance, seek unjust methods of putting down your friend, colleague or relative, and ultimately end up in frustration. So to bring jealousy under your control, avoid comparing yourself with others as much as possible. Think that you are unique because that is how God wanted you to be. Pursue in all seriousness your own ideal, whatever it is. Do not waste your precious time in idle and miserable envy.

Now,to the oddest part of the story.

When bad things happen to you, many appear pleased,and their faces brighten up . They wear the mask of sorrow and come to you to express condolence, and even invite you to enjoy the gestures of their kindness.. It is always acceptable that something good comes out of anything.At least ,looking at it that way, it is good to see your misfortunes are the source of others' happiness.

The emotion of pleasure-in-others'-misfortune is morally evil. It is defenitely  less acceptable than envy, which itself is regarded as a deadly sin. It would appear to be morally more perverse to be pleased with another person's misfortune than to be displeased with another person's good fortune. Indeed, to feel envy is human, but to enjoy other people's misfortune is diabolical.  Pleasure-in-others'-misfortune is the worst trait in human nature, since it is closely related to cruelty.

"On and on we went, an abbreviation
of small black-winged envies
drunkenly sucking each other’s blood"

Eileen Malone’s poem  "Beloved Rival"


The wounds do not really heal

>> Friday, February 5, 2010

Have you ever seen a flower down
Sometimes angels skip around
And in their blissful state of glee
Bump into a daisy or sweet pea.

Jessi Lane Adams

My mother in law is about 75 years old. Her only son died when he was just five .

I haven’t seen a day passing in her life ,when she doesn’t bring his memories, to anything and everything we do. About 10 years back, she moved his remains from the old cemetery to a new tomb she built for him where his Papa is laid to rest, bringing them together finally. When her time comes, she wishes to stay with them as well. After fifty years, she still grieves.

“Time heals all wounds”

Isn’t it just a nice thing you tell people who are going through tough times?

Do you find that after time the pain does subside, but yet never go away? It is truly amazing how embedded our pain can become. It’s as if it becomes our identifying badge and we wear it everywhere.

You don't forget what you went through, how could you possibly?

When one experiences heartbreak, we are often told by well-meaning family and friends, that time heals all wounds. And, that with enough time, we will be able to pick ourselves up and move forward. How can it be then, that after many years have passed, we may still find ourselves wondering why we feel empty, uninspired or depressed, and unable to move forward?.

Listening to this just makes the question how long is this time they are talking about that will heal the wound of the bereaved prop into one’s mind. Are we talking about two weeks, three months or even a decade for the wound to eventually heal? On second thoughts, is it actually possible and enough for grief to simply go away over a period of time without memories of the event creeping into our lives at one point in time or another?

Grief or loss is an individual thing and we all deal with it differently. Time passes after such incidences but somehow does not heal all the wounds, though its passage makes us stronger and with better understanding to face life. We might feel better with time and the wounds might appear gradually healing, but there will definitely be a scar in our lives. The intensity of grief we attach to the incidence depends on how bad the wound is and its place in our lives.

So I think it is a harsh lie. Time doesn’t heal anything, time simply passes.

The wounds do not really heal.

It is what we do with our lives while time is passing that either helps, heals or keeps us stuck in one position in life even after years .

When we suffer an injury, we know that as humans, we will repair to a certain extent over a period of time. A bone that is broken will set, and a cut will heal over and scar. Yet time alone does not do everything. Isn't it true that a bone needs to be reset properly? Isn't it true that a cut needs to be disinfected? The wounds will stay, until you decide to do something about them.

I've tried really hard to let what I went through not hinder my life, but I'm afraid that I've failed that in some ways. When a big part of your life and who you are goes missing, it's hard not to let it affect you. I think it's important to remember and keep good memories and feelings. But it is also essential to move on.

I thought the colors would come back,
The days would return,
To something I can understand,
But they don’t.

When my daughter in law left us for ever , many of my friends called me. They were all kindhearted. I remember the one who said” Think of it as if God has blessed you with another child, like He did to Abraham at his old age. It’s your responsibility to take care of the child, now.” I thought it was sensible, and enough reason to get up and start walking  and teach our child to take his tiny steps forwards.

What many forget, or fail to fathom after the gathering is gone ,is that the grieving are left with a puzzle of their lives scattered across the ground in a million bits with no idea how, or where, to find the corner pieces to start rebuilding. The lucky ones have a strong family and friend support ,and survive the ordeal.

Memories fade and warp, but they never die. Make a place for them in your life and then put them in their places . It's important to remember that it did happen and it did affect you. At the same time, its place is in the past, much like a chapter in a book you have read and choose not to read again. And never pretend your life is ok when you know- it isn’t.

They say time heals all wounds
Which is true for a broken bone
But can time heal a broken heart
A heart that’s all alone?

Time doesn't heal anything, time simply passes.
It is what we do with our lives while time is passing that either helps us,
heals us, or keeps us stuck.


Please remain seated !!

>> Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The plane was  taking off and was climbing steep at an angle of may be 45 degrees. Even the crew were all seated with their seat belts fastened. Then started the click, clack ,click..clack... Within few seconds some of the passengers were up, like in our transport buses. Without listening to the calls from the crew, they start the balancing act and  journey towards the toilet. With a smile on the lips, and a mocking look at those fools still seated, as if” I do this every day, I am used to this”. The first one itself manages to make a mess of the toilet. He successfully litters the toilet, urinates everywhere , except in to the toilet, and packs the tissues in to all holes and crevices , except where they were supposed to be and defenitely in to the wash basins. Once that  is over, then it was the waiting for the food and drinks trolley. When the stewardess offer one drink, they ask for three. One could hear ,the please, please, beggings  for more,  visibly irritating the crew. After that, it is snoring time encroaching the neighbor’s seats, till reaching the destination. Before landing, there is the usual announcement  "In a few minutes from now, we will be landing..passengers are requested to remain seated until the plane comes to a complete stop and the seat belt sign is off”.   But when the wheels at the nose end have just touched the tarmac, it is again the click clack click clack., standing up in between the seats with great difficulty, causing all inconveniences to everyone, except themselves.

In-flight passenger misconduct, besides causing hardships and inconvenience to the passengers and the cabin crew, has been one of the main reasons for unscheduled and emergency landings. For example, the diversion of Air India’s Dubai-Calicut flight to Mumbai, after a passenger allegedly misbehaved with a fellow woman passenger, is estimated to have cost the airline about Rs 2 million.

The unprecedented case of unruly passenger behavior in the country came about when around 20 Air India passengers—who like hundreds of others found their flight diverted to Mumbai because of fog and technical glitches at Delhi airport—stopped their co-passengers and 12 flight attendants from leaving the aircraft that was parked on the Mumbai tarmac from a Saturday evening to Sunday morning.

Often some passengers get drunk. It is as if they are seeing liquor for first time in life, and the whole purpose of the journey is to drink. I remember the pathetic situation of a lady whose husband got drunk and started insulting fellow passengers. And the saddest part is that some others enjoy the whole show, and never bother to interfere.

Till few years before, most of the flights used to keep some creams and colognes  inside the toilet. They disappear within few minutes. Now, I don’t see any such foolishness  from the part of the airlines.

It is as if we have no patience for anything. If they announce “ the use of mobile phone is not permitted inside the plain”, then immediately someone will start talking on the mobile. It would not look so funny if these events do not happen after every announcement. It is as if we are waiting for an announcement, to break it. With the result of all these, the service offered in the gulf sector is far inferior to that offered in other destinations, especially to the Europe or US.

I have not seen this kind of in flight behavior in any other sector. The few people who are seated in the plane will definitely not be us.

I don’t know why some passengers keep on repeating this show after so many years of travelling up and down. It is more to do with our etiquettes and civic sense. I wonder how and when we could improve on this.


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