Of Cabbages and Kings

January 26, 2009

A fundamentalist Octogenarian Obama

Filed under: Across the Universe, Random musing — Tags: , , , , — Chinmayi @ 1:21 am

As I watch the young president prance about with that delightful fresh young energy about him and give speeches and orders that hold in them all the enlightened liberalism that this man brings to the office after his years as an academic, I am forced to recall another man far far away who hopes to convince people that he is India’s Obama. He is (virunlently) of the majority religion and is from one of the dominant castes. He is eighty and the last time he decided to emulate somebody, he apparently chose Hitler

This news article is old but I still giggle every time I think about it.

January 25, 2009

Aravind Adiga’s new bit of fiction

Filed under: Fiction — Chinmayi @ 7:26 pm

has been published in the New Yorker – it is called the Elephant.  Try it out.

The narrative smells strongly of James Joyce to me, with a generous dash of someone else that I cannot quite put my finger on. The perspective of the rebellious rickshaw-walla, the callous and ridiculous upper classes, the helpless rage…I have seen this before but I can’t remember where. Is it Rohinton Mistry…VS Naipaul…Upamanyu Chatterjee…I wish I could remember.

January 21, 2009

My American friend X came over today. X is of Indian origin and American sympathies. She loves butter and hates ghee. She starts many of her sentences with “America mein…”, and she has the usual distaste for arranged marriage and community centric living which to her are the defining characteristics of what might easily have been her country. X is a living breathing pity in many ways. She has travelled the world but never read a book*. She has grown up in America but in pursuit of ‘qualifications’, did not look for an education. She mouths the usual platitudes about Obama but would not take time to cast her vote for him. X is a pity because although her parents knew enough to move to a prosperous country and to grow wealthy in it, enough to shower their daughters with affection and to help them mingle in the new country, they did not know enough to use their wealth to purchase a different life for their children – the sort of life that moves beyond the pursuit of wealth for its own sake… one in which people understands things bigger than themselves and the boxes that they live in. 

But I think that the world may have changed a little today. My professor saw fit to interupt class and project the inaugural speech of that man who has been the symbol of a better world, so that we wouldn’t miss what is likely to turn into defining moment in history. As I type this, I can imagine gnarled and shaking hands moving over a keyboard decades later and tapping out my memories of this day.

Perhaps this man, with the popularity of a rock-star, and education and promise that truly befits a leader…perhaps this man who has found a way to reach the hundreds of people in front of him as well as thousands around the world, like myself and like X who hang on his every word…perhaps this man who has learned to tell the world what he knows instead of merely mouthing to it what it would like to hear…perhaps he will change the way that some people think. Not all people, but many people?

Today, he said “the success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.” If everybody who heard him understood him, I have faith that the world really will change. If not X, perhaps X’s daughter will learn the joy of studying something fascinating, and working towards something constructive…building a community not just a house in the posh part of town.

*okay that is an exaggeration. But she’s never even heard of P.G. Wodehouse!

January 8, 2009

Beautiful short film (Cannes award winner)

Filed under: Across the Universe — Tags: , — Chinmayi @ 2:46 am

Government funded pornography

Filed under: Across the Universe — Tags: , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 12:28 am

Yes, the porn industry doesn’t see why the US Congress should treat it any differently from banks or automobiles. They believe that porn is more important to America than cars are and that they shoud get a a good $5 billion government bail-out. I am not making this up …doubters may read the newsreport.

January 6, 2009

Power (and music) to the people

Filed under: Across the Universe, Music — Tags: , , , , — Chinmayi @ 11:56 pm

I have very good news for the two or three people who read this blog. Apple is dropping Anti-copying measures from itunes!. And that’s not all…it is going to price downloads a little more reasonably instead of that stubborn flat 99 cents that it has hung on to for so long.

Sigh..the rare moments when consumers and governments prevail over profits. I am sitting back (ignoring the essay as usual) and enjoying this day.

I always thought those cheerleaders looked dangerous!

Filed under: Across the Universe — Tags: , — Chinmayi @ 9:36 pm

Steve Wells of the Guardian’s Sports Blog has described cheerleading as the most dangerous sport. Incidences of extreme (often perverted) violence have been reported amongst cheerleaders, as have drugs, guns, sexual harassment and anti-semitism.

“But all this was just the tip of an iceberg — an iceberg of sleaze, violence, substance abuse, puritanism, hypocrisy, bullshit and corruption that makes the sordid world of underground dogfighting look positively wholesome.”

– Steve Wells,  Sex, drugs, booze, kidnapping – just another year in the most dangerous sport.

cheer-cartoon

Lawyers lawyers

Filed under: Law — Tags: , — Chinmayi @ 6:42 pm

This is what I do when I have a tough essay to write on a tight deadline. Here’s what emerged after the last half hour’s wandering around the internet:

“Lawyers should never marry other lawyers. This is called inbreeding, from which comes idiot children and more lawyers.” – from Adam’s Rib 

“Of course I’ve got lawyers. They are like nuclear weapons: I’ve got em coz everyone else has. But as soon as you use them they screw everything up.” -from Other People’s Money

“Lawyers are the only persons in whom ignorance of the law is not punished”- Jeremy Bentham

To some lawyers all facts are created equal” Felix Frankfurter

“I get paid for seeing that my clients have every break the law allows. I have knowingly defended a number of guilty men. But the guilty never escape unscathed. My fees are sufficient punishment for anyone” – F. Lee Bailey

Menon on Mumbai

Filed under: Across the Universe — Tags: , , , — Chinmayi @ 12:58 am

Meena Menon has written an excellent account (which I found via Law and Other Things) of the period in which Mumbai was attacked. I rarely make it  to the end of news reports on the Mumbai tragedy these days. Most authors seem to explore the same tired themes and offer what have now become familiar images. This piece is different. It took me back to Nariman point, to stand among the people of Mumbai. Not just the heroes, furious people or tragedy-stricken people but All the people: the fascinating mix that will save lives, mistake gunfire for domestic sounds, bring popcorn along to see the “live action” unfold, jog on Marine Drive while there are terrorists in the Trident and protect their guests even in the midst of the most frightening events they have ever seen. Excerpts:

At first, many had thought the firing was firecrackers, and so had not thought of escape. A lady whose husband had been killed in the firing inside said, in an interview much later, that the gunshots had sounded like chana spilling on the ground…

A bald tourist in a pink silk bathrobe was being pestered for interviews. His face blackened by soot, he was clearly in a state of panic, trying his best not to speak. Still the journalists persisted. He had run down the fire escape, more than 20 floors…

In the high drama that was captured moment by moment on live TV at the Taj, the Oberoi and Nariman House, people somehow forgot Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The stories of death and disaster from the historic landmark became known only later, but they were no less traumatic. An announcer who cleared the suburban concourse saved many lives; a motorman who was able to keep his wits suggested the announcement; a railway policeman who fired at the attackers with an outdated rifle – these and other stories of alertness and caring came later. In the rush to cover the siege, we had all but forgotten that 56 people were killed in that railway station, named after Queen Victoria and renamed after Maharashtra’s most famous king.

The two armed policemen who had shot another attacker, who was driving a hijacked Skoda, had never before fired their 9 mm pistols. One policeman trying to grapple with the captured Kasab did not realise that the gunman had an AK-47 along his prostrate body, and died after taking five bullets.”

I wouldn’t miss this article if I were you.

January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Filed under: Personal, Random musing — Chinmayi @ 10:38 pm

I will miss 2008 – it has seen me live in three different cities and make several major changes to my life. It has saved people I love from death and disaster.  It has brought me new friends and brought my old friends happiness and success. It has brought me to places that I dreamed of seeing and music I dreamed of hearing. It has even brought back on occassion, that increasingly-elusive pleasure that I used to take in my work.

Perhaps this year will heal us a little and help us rise into promises only glimpsed in 2008. Perhaps the world will start shaking off the cycle of violence that terrorism repeatedly pitches us into, and will look upwards at Obama’s message of hope and backwards into all that has redeemed it in the past. Perhaps this will be the year that will begin the end of distrust and will bring to the world a dazzling new idea like glasnost. Perhaps…

Here’s wishing the world a very happy 2009.  This day (if illusorily so) is special for all the hope that it carries. From here, 2009 could be a hundred kinds of beautiful…

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