Saturday, February 23, 2008

Matrimonial Platitude

The matrimonial column beats the stock quotations page in its formidable quality and the gossip column in its entertainmetn quotient. I often read the matrimonial column when the stock market is full of 'bears' and when there isn't enough gossip making the rounds. My mother,a stauch believer in the indomitable goodness of the human spirit, tells me to keep an 'open mind' when it comes to finding a spouse. 'If you start looking now you might find someone nice by the time you're 27', she says to offer encouragement.(Readers please note,I don't believe that the goodness of the human spirit is indomitable.At least not in the treacherous field of matrimony.)

As I am still waging an endless battle against platitude. Here are some terms that are peculiar to the average Indian matrimonial advert.

Slim - Quite a misnomer because the average Indian woman lacks the genetic makeup of the likes of Kate Moss.

Fair- A highly relative term indicative of 'skin tone'. I really cannot define the word 'fair' without coming across as being racist.A foreign writer once said that he couldn't tell the difference between a 'fair Indian',a 'dark Indian' and a 'wheatish Indian' because all Indians looked the same to him.

Homely- Here's an example of the importance of taking words in the right context. When taken in the context of the dictionary, homely means 'plain'. When taken in the context of Indian matrimony; homely is a term applicable only to the female kind. A 'homely bride' is one who keeps the house squeaky clean,cooks a delicious meal and is a model of perfection irrespective of the circumstances.

Convent educated- This was a very common requirement prior to the IT boom. A girl who was convent educated was something of a 'trophy'. The 'convent educated' requirement has now been replaced by 'bachelor's degree'.

From decent background and tall- I don't quite understand qualitative terms without a point of reference.

Drawing six figure salary- This is a trait used to describe prospective grooms. Even 000000 has six figures doesn't it?

It's time to trash platitude. Long live originality!

Random Conclusions from the Reading Room

Too much reading makes the average writer feel inspired and 'blocked' at the same time.

It is better to read 'To Kill a Mockingbird' when you are an adult.The dichotomy becomes crystal clear.

Bad spelling and grammar may complement Joyce's 'stream of consciousness'. Nevertheless,'Ulysees' is sometimes impossible to read.

D.H. Lawrence comes across as a hopeless romantic with a whiff of the 'Odeipus Rex' complex.

You cannot implement Ayn Rand's philosophy by the book unless you live in Utopia.

I love John Steinbeck!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

It Happens only in India: Camel Rides in Silicon City

'Bangalore,India's silicon city'; is an overused cliche in it's own right. However,not all silicon cities can boast of Bangalore's little quirks. At least not in the department of camel rides. Read on for more.

How it all Started

Camels are brought in from Rajasthan (I've heard they are actually made to walk all the way from the Thar desert to silicon city)and sent to 'camel farms' in the outskirts.There was an epicurean angle to the whole thing. Apparently some folks think that camels make excellent grub. By some stroke of fate, the animal rights activists became aware of this practice. There was quite a furor over the sale of camel meat and soon a ban was imposed. This hasn't been a deterrent to some enterprising members of society who thought that 'camel rides' would be a great way to generate revenue.

Enter the Camel!

Camel rides are typical weekend features, particularly in the suburbs of north Bangalore. The ships of the desert are decked in colorful attire and paraded from street to street. They have formidable anklets that sound like the clanging of temple bells. One can hear their approach from quite a distance. Excited children come running out of houses in anticipation. The adults gaze in curiosity as the mighty beasts sway from side to side,much to the chagrin of all the stray dogs. What ensues is sheer cacophony. The deadly combination of canine hysteria and ringing anklets is enough to curtail the peace of a lazy tropical afternoon.

The Outcome

As an aftermath, there has been a surge of camels in the neighborhood. In addition to this there are happier children, unhappy dogs and adults who have found an ingenious way to keep their brats amused.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Skipping Introductions

It is an opinion, held unanimously by folks who love to read and folks who don't, that the introduction is the most dreary and the most dreaded part of any book. While it may be of some accidental use to a literature student in desperate need of a decent summary of the the book's general premise,it tends to crush reading pleasure for the the rest.

I generally avoid introductions like the plague. I care to read them only if they have something insightful about the author. An introduction to a book is more painful than the stiff upper-lipped and excruciatingly formal pleasantries exchanged when people meet each other for the first time. Introductions to books contribute to that annoying sense of bias and expectation, just as personal introductions often ruin first encounters.I like to read a book without any prior knowledge or suggestion of its content. I like the uncertainty of stumbling upon the unexpected,and sometimes, the unpleasant.

'Atlas Shrugged' is probably one of the few books that had a fitting introduction(I read it after I read the rest of the book). I liked Leonard Peikoff's unobtrusive and respectful account of Ms. Rand's masterpiece, with references to Ms. Rand's actual notes and thought process. I also liked the humble translator's note at the beginning of 'The Brothers Karamazov'.

As an afterthought; it is probably more fitting to have an epilogue and an index of reference. What good is an introduction if it doesn't serve its purpose?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Confessions from the Reading Room

Here's to John Galt,the man who stopped the motor of the world a.k.a. the answer to Ayn Rand's most pressing question,'Who is John Galt?'. I still cannot fathom how a near-radical ideology like objectivism can deliver so much peace to a reader. The motor of this blog came to a halt last week,with undersea cables going 'snap'. Nevertheless, it made enough room for introspection and some much needed inspection of my reading space.

I tend to rave about my bibliophilic tendencies without actually attributing any credit to the folks(my parents) who made bibliophilia synonymous with a way of life. I also owe them credit for my inclination towards art.Except that they love the impressionists and I whatever came towards the end of the impressionist movement,as a precursor to abstract art.(My only form of artistic rebellion.)

It is hardly surprising that the bookshelves are filled with books on impressionism. My mother says that she couldn't get enough of the impressionists when she visited the Louvre and other art museums in Europe.My particular favourite is a large hardbound volume on impressionism written entirely in German. It has pictures of great works by the impressionsit masters and analysis accompanying each painting.

Other books dying of neglect include 'Tess' by Thomas Hardy(the neglect in this case is intense enough to make me forget the complete title),'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee,'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' by Victor Hugo, 'Pastures of Heaven' by Steinbeck,'We the Living' by Ayn Rand,'Nineteen Eighty Four' by Orwell,'Gone With the Wind','Shirley' by one of the Bronte sisters, entire volumes by Dickens,O. Henry and Guy De Maupassant. Perhaps the hallmark of shame lies in the fact that I haven't read any of the books written in Bengali(which is supposedly my native tongue and the only language that I can speak and not read).I am reminded of the translations of Gitanjali and other works of art by Tagore, looking as good as new even after three years. (One can always use the condition of a book to confirm if all this biblio-gabble is true.)

I suppose I have my resolutions for this year charted out clearly, at least in the reading and writing department.I hereby pledge not to buy more than I can consume.