Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Name Shame

To start on an oft quoted quote- "What's in a name?"

I'm sure Sycho Baby would have a lot to rant about on that flippant statement. As would Shitty. And Mincy. And Diarrhea.

And these examples are all real people.

It is fascinating to wonder what exactly deranged parents were thinking while condemning their offspring to such labels. These name-traumas permanently scar the poor person.Put yourself in the shoes of young "Queen Elizabeth" - yes, she really was named that- and you'll see what I mean.Imagine the plight of the poor 80 year old, forever doomed to a name like "Baby". Isn't that taking "eternal youth" a step too far? A similar anomaly is the case of grotesquely ugly individuals named "Sundaran"/"Sundari". I suppose their parents were trying very hard to fool themselves. Poor Lajjith probably dies of shame everytime he has to introduce himself.

Mallus are atrocious namers.There are a huge number of kids condemned to being called Saddam Hussein,Lenin, Stalin etc. everyday.Mallu Christians are another category by themselves. A mad fettish for rhyme, leaves hapless siblings with names on the lines of Jincy,Dincy,Vincy,Lincy,Tincy(!),Mincy,Rincy... (let us pause for a moment and pray for these blighted children.)

To move on. Names can be damaging in their extreme imagination or complete lack of it. My grandfather used to tell us the story of his distant cousin's name. Born after several years and several daughters, the young son bore the full brunt of his sanskrit-scholar father's eruditon. He was named-


The semiotics of this name are irreproachable. It's almost poetic. Sadly it's epic proportions leave something lacking. And the anticlimax of the whole name,was that the cousin was finally and universally called 'Kandunni', a massive step down from the kavya traditions of his actual name. The other extreme is equally sad. The handyman at my father's place, besides being wiry, betel chewing and sloshed every evening, is as dark as a politician's doings. And he is named Karuppan which- wouldn't you guess- means "blackie". Let us side step the obvious political incorrectness of that and wonder--Couldn't his parents have thought of something a little innovative? What could be a better- or should I say worse- example of this disturbing lack of creativity in parents,than all those boring begetters who name their children after states!These individulas can be excused as being patriotic, but what about those parents who name their offspring after months and days? And who can forget Douglas Adams' creation,"Fenchurch" who was named after a railway station. I suppose they ran out of creativity post creation of the child in question.

And then there are the incomplete names. The kinds where a person introduces herself/himself and you're wondering "And..?". One such name I've come across is "Chinma". I mean, it sounds like her parent was cut off in the middle of saying the whole name and whatever was said got stuck. Names can also be a curse just by sounding the way they do. Let me remind of Yann Martel's creation, "Piscine"- forever doomed to jokes about "Pissin'". But a fictional case will not prove this contention. Imagine the plight of poor "Abish", his name booming like the soundtrack for a fight scene in some sad production. Or Uppili,who ought to become a clown or a stand-up comedian, because the moment he says his name people start laughing.Another similar situation is the case of double meaning. Remember "Gaylord Focker", of "Meet The Parents" fame? And my personal favorite-"Mahaboob".

My question is,what exactly are parents thinking while bestowing a terrible name on their child? Is it some kind of revenge for inflicting labour pains? Or is a crime of passion- they were carried away by an artistic,patriotic or ideological madness? Or is it some wayward misconception of teaching them humility through shame? Perhaps... After all, the parents' minds work in mysterious ways. To quote the Bard yet again- "There are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in our philosophy."

P.S: As for my name, my parents were over-reachers and hoped for great things from me. Hence I'm left to create my own names.


Monday, April 28, 2008

I'm a good sport

"When did you ever play badminton? Do you know which end of the racket to hold?"

Yours truly is a self professed spectator. But I must have professed a lot if my mother couldn't remember my badminton phase.Sure,I'm at my element in a cheering squad and far away from the field. But that doesn't mean that I never ventured into it. I distinctly remember entering a hopping race and walking half way through during my second standard. And I also remember falling on my behind while trying to throw a javelin (don't even think of asking how),thankfully my behind is very well padded. But seriously, I did take part in sports- I had no choice. We had a games period and a teacher who used to hound us into playing.

I'm a peaceful soul and therefore took up the path of least resistance. I tried my hand at basketball. But the small problem of negligible height and no aim was a slight impediment. So I resorted to running all around the court yelling like banshee- that way everyone thought you were playing. However, this gambit turned out to be a little tiring- not to mention annoying to the fellow players who were actually playing (losers).

Hence, I had to shift base. Me, being the smart genius that I am (yes,you should get your autographs before-hand), took up a sport that seemed to be the one with least exertion necessary-badminton. A simple game it seemed to me. All you needed to do was thwack the cock (hmm...may be it was the first signs of the radical feminist I'd become.)It was so much fun I actually got interested in the thing. (No, no, not enough to go look at rules or anything[what do you think I am? Hard working?]) It got so much so that we of the Badminton Enthusiasts Association used to have earth shaking fights with the boys over the rackets.(It was not for nothing I was called "bulldozer" in my younger days.) For you see, our school was rather Gandhian in it's approach. It believed in training students in making do with whatever was available. Sometimes even less. Hence it was not an unusual sight to see shuttle enthusiasts playing with frayed rackets and, as time progressed and rackets grew stringless, tennis rackets.I didn't know this actually made a difference, until I went to Kodaikanal with the redoubtable Charlie.

And we come to the incident that actually triggerred this pile of dingo's kidney(Term,courtesy Gunther). In the picturesque locale of Kodaikanal,'mountain princess', I was obliged once again to pick up a badminton racket.It was like going back home! The same frustrated looks when I missed, the same jokes when I'd flail the racket like a maniac and hit thin air, the same guffaws at my service... sigh... I wonder why I stopped playing. :D

Two, three rounds of the game and I was actually getting a hang of it. Which is when Charlie's sibling asked me whether I'd ever played tennis looking at the way I swung the poor instrument in my hands. And at the end of the 6th match, I actually won! Needing someone to boast about this feat to I called my mother. And then we know what she said.

Ah well,I may not be good at sports; but I'm definitely a good sport, eh what?

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Sound and the Fury

Let me take you back in time...

Four stalwarts from the realm of literature strode strong and steady- albeit a little dusty- into the hallowed premises of the Newspaper. They had traversed tracts of dry, dusty,fissured lands, into the heart of Ambattur. Here they met the heartless Seven-Hills:who ruthlessly dispatched the great hero Gunther to the Features department and the others to the Editorial. So Pyne, Bentley and Ames bid a tearless but moving adieu to their comrade and trudged to their separate fates.

So much for the exposititon.

Pyne,Bentley and Ames were assigned to work with the verbose King-go-Milk. 'Verbose' being a tactful understatement. Somewhere in the middle of the 50th example of his youthful exploits, King-go-Milk remembered that the interns were to be assigned work. Snapping awake from their glazed stupor, the three drew their pens and attacked the 5 copies assigned to each of them. Just as the first marks were about to be made, there came a terrible sound...


"What was that?!" gasped Pyne.
"Sounded like a wart hog!" exclaimed Benltey.
"You've heard wart hogs?" mused Ames.
Their discussion was interrupted by another earth shattering 'UUUUUURRRRPPPP!!!'

"There it is again!" hissed Bentley.
"Let's investigate!" said Ames.
"Wait, let's scout the area first." cautioned the ever cautious Pyne.

Three pairs of eyes scanned the forest of cubicles.


Three heads swivelled- And there, sitting inconspicously in a cluster of computers, sat the Burper.

"Oh it's just some guy with a ventilation problem." smiled Pyne.
"Probably had too much potato poriyal for lunch." snickered Ames.
"Well, he'd better put a stopper on it. Now let's get back to work before King-go-Milk decides to 'inspire' us with more of his young-tales." muttered Bentley.

But,you see gentle readers, regardless of it's monotonous nature, editing does require concentration. Having a nonstop burp-monster in your vicinity does not help. And the Burper's range was astounding. He could go from Foghorn to bullfrog in the space of a breath. To this day Ames swears that the Burper hit all seven notes in the scale.While the earlier expulsions were sporadic and far apart, pretty soon it was one per minute. It was like a form of chinese torture! Grating and grating until Ames had to be physically restrained from committing murder.

"Don't do it! He is just a guy with gas trouble!" panted Pyne hanging on grimly to a flailing arm.

"Yes! Be happy it's not coming out through the other end." wheezed Bentley tenaciously restraining the other.

With a great exertion of will Ames calmed down, and even completed the copies. In defence of Ames, this burporama coming shortly after an extreme exposure to King-go-Milk's narratives would bring down even the greatest. With each day of exposure to the Burper's gastric exhibitions, the three grew stronger and stronger. By the end of the internship they were totally immune to the airy onslaught. No longer did the sound produce such fury. The Buddha probably employed similar methods to teach his disciples forbearance.

You see gentle readers, like all great heros the three too had their fair share of tests before they reached the object of their quest. The Burper was only one of the obstacles in the dusty paths of their internship. Though we have already passed through the gates, the author is sure that somewhere in the bowels of the Newspaper, nestled comfortably among cables, coiled like intestines, the Burper still burps in abandon.

Thankfully, we are nowhere nearby to hear him.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mowing Grass

A after a long spell of interminable prose now we have worse- verse.(Heh heh, I couldn't resist).

Iron Blades flatten
Into rows of unrelieved
The Fruits of a struggle:
Of weeks, of months,
Of Eternities-
Cut down in an act
Of Brutal Order.

The scent of fresh, green
Wafted in the golden morning breeze.
Over the roar of the barbaric beast,
Came the cry of dying dreams;
Answered by hollow echoes
As life was sliced,
Ground into a dull,briny mash.

The Others watch unmoved.
Doing nothing to stop the ruin.
"This must done."
"Order must be maintained"
What does it matter,
If all is Crushed and Killed.

The heartless blades continue
To rip and chew and spit out
Verdant carcasses
With burping satisfaction.
The soft tender stalks
Buckle and snap
Under the weight
Of cold oppression-
The beacon of Order.

Now all that remains
Is a field of flat sameness
Of broken spirits,
Lost ideals,squashed creativity...
Order has been achieved!
The cost?
Only a few lives,
A few hopes
A few dreams...
The Greater Good has been achieved!
And after all,
Don't we all serve order?


Back in the days when my mother had hopes for turning me into a beauty, we used to have lovely back-and-forths on the virtues of slathering the face with a variety of unidentified gooey objects. The major contention was gettin it applied. Seriously, how can you expect a twelve year old to sit still for something as silly as a face pack? Of course once it was done, my brother and I had great times enacting monster attacks( no points for guessing who the monster was.)
Perhaps it's because of this traiing that face paint never bothered me. Niether did having to go on stage as a monster. Hmm...

Ah well, moving on- my mother's efforts slackened in between the school years, probably because she couldn't get her hands on me long enough. I thought I'd seen the end of it.But I was much mistaken. I left home to college with two containers of beauty powders pressed into a nook in my stuffed box. I admit I did apply them for a few days. I didn't have much of a choice- I used to be "reminded" to do it everyday. When the phone bills intervened, the reminding stopped, but then there was the guilt factor. So i kept at it for a while. Human nature saved me from falling into the clutches of beauty- plain laziness put an end to my beauty treatments.

The days turned to months, the months into years. The skin tanned, the hair mussed, but I continued uninterested. That is until the NoseRing Girl intervened. NRG is a babe of the first order. And she takes it as a personal offence to find someone not interested in personal grooming. Pretty soon I had to listen to blistering set downs for standing in the sun, not using cream, bla bla bla (Sorry NRG). And it's not just NRG. The aunties and uncles, not to mention cousins (traitors!), joined in. Every college break was punctuated with comments on the lines of- "Oh you used to be so fair! What happened?" or "Your hair!!..(shocked, tactful silence)". Still the human spirit in all it's resillience refused to be converted. I remained a slob. After a while the "advice" began to die down. They had finally given up at the sight of my unrepentantly unpretty face.

Or so I thought.

I return home for the brief space before the race restarts-A few weeks of relaxation while the rest of the family slogs (hah hah hah!). I get woken up in the morning by a mother who in the middle of rushing to work remembers to tell me- "Oh and put that thing on your face alright, it's good for your skin."

And here I sit in front of the computer looking like something from some B grade alien movie. Life has a distinctly ironic way of saying things never change.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Phantom limb

It's only when your friends start talking about their families that you realise how much you miss yours. You'll be talking about your mothers amazing food, your brothers sense of humor, about how your father keeps maintaining he isn't artistic at all and then makes terracotta sculptures just because he got started;and then it'll happen. Dishkyawn! Like a sledgehammer out of the blue. Of course you'll cover it up immediately. Crack a mokkai joke to get you through. But the bruise still remains there- you don't even know where, but it's there.

People who undergo amputations talk about phantom limbs- the ghost of the limb that used to be there. The limb aches, itches, twitches and never sleeps.

Here I am. Away from them all. In an environment which,logically,should distract me and help me get over the distance. But,defying logic,the phantom limb stretching over an ocean twinges and winces. And a tear falls down onto the family photo(the only one we took after months of nagging) still pristine and unbent among all the tattered notes and files. I curse myself and call myself a baby, and succumb to it-

"Hello Ma? Yeah I just called for no reason. How's everyone?..."

Sing...Sing sing..

A tingling at the back of your throat, a sudden rush of air into your lungs, a lightness in your head, a feeling like you are going to rise gently on your toes and soar upwards. And then, the sound.

The mechanics of singing is simply a burst of air shooting out through the larynx, creating a vibration of the vocal chords which is commonly known as voice/bellow/screech...whatever is appropriate. What goes unsaid is the absolute high that one gets when that rush of air flies euphorically out of your lungs.
Nothing but a silence or a song can express pure emotion. Which is probably why Tagore wrote "I would speak but words do not break into song." The laughter of love flowing out in the chords of a sublime sweetness,undefined. The cry of anguish crashing onto the ear straight from the heart- these ions and charges race across the universe, caught only in the golden threads of song or silence. And in todays noisome world, silences are lost in the din. The only hope is song.

When one sings full-throated with the sole intention of singing,there is a rush of adrenaline, the heart throbs like a river in full flood. And as each note rises into the air, bursting the glass orbs of silences, your spirit rises too higher and higher. Until, as the song closes, you are left breathless and flushed, streams of sweat beading down your face and a great sense of liberation. The feeling a child has after running at break neck speed down a meadow. It is pure, it is sweet and it is peace. It is an inexplicable happiness that comes fro release.

Every being on earth was meant to sing, to give voice. It was the Original Expression. The Note of connection. The ultimate expression where nothing is not understood and everybody is heard.

So sing.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Dr.Ames' Inventory of New Age Diseases-1

Diabetes Smellitus
: Most individuals with an acute mania of the gastronomical variety generally suffer from this merciless menace. Symptoms include immediate sensation of weight gain following an inhalation of fragrances arising from any food item. Several patients suffering from this ailment express a feeling of "..growing fatter just by smelling it[the food]". This sensation is especially acute in the case of
a)the horizontally prolific in the company of permanently horizontally challenged individuals.
b)Individuals on a restrictive intake of sustenance-also called a 'diet' by some.

There is no cure.

:This ailment is exclusive to the learning-class. It generally comprises of the rash of unstudied portions that erupt the day before the exams. Ancient Sha-moms advocate the absolutely improbable cure of prevention. Present day scenarios reveal an impossibility for the success of this option. the easiest way to tackle this problem is to scratch as much as you can and then place your faith in the higher powers. Several individuals have tried to tackle post-exama problems with chits of paper and communal chanting and sharing.Bribing the in-charge might help.

Free-mentia: This is a burgeoning epidemic today. The disease is mostly caused by the viruses sale-monella and offerillia- the breeding place of which is any area with retail tendencies.The general feature of this disease is the tendency to buy something for the simple reason that something else comes free with it. The utility and the necessity of the of the freebie is disregarded. This results in not only loss of the Green Financial Cells (GFC) but also in over crowding of living space. OR worse still, the giving and receiving of the freebies to unsuspecting masses.

Cure is a severe reduction of the supply of GFCs. Wearing blinders at shopping arenas would be an effective preventive measure.

Foot-in-Mouth Disease: Generally found in people with tongues longer than their thought processes, this disease is known to have wrecked several endeavors. It is difficult to ascertain exactly in what case this disease is most devastating. The un-complimenting compliment, the brash statement, the offensive joke are all just minor manifestations of this terrible menace. . The impact of this disease is generally pulse like- it ripples outward from the source.The curtailing of this is difficult as the occurrence is completely unpredictable (excepting in the case of known foot-in-mouthers). There is no definite prevention except keeping shut.

No-shoe-a: This ailment attacks at the worst of times and usually when there is no time. The characteristics of this disease involve the absconding of a single shoe from the pair or the pair itself. This results in mild hysteria and general rise in blood pressure; especially since-as mentioned before- this condition strikes when there is no time to spend searching. Scenarios include an important meeting, a movie etc. Causes of this include
a)"kicked off" footware.
b)clean up processes unknown to the owner of the footware.
c)sneaky room-mates/siblings.

The case becomes critical when the patient has only one pair of shoes.
Cure would require a substitute pair or handy fellow beings to borrow from.
A similar ailment is No-sock-ea. Substitute shoe with sock. This is a more virulent and common disease. The ailment is doubly painful in he case since the missing items are smaller and often, never turn up.

Further developments in the New Age medical field will be updated as and when the venerable doctor feels like it. Until then, good health and happiness to all!