Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Paatti Sollai Thattathey!!

I think that as a fit sequel to my previous post I will review the above named movie. I saw Paatti Sollai thattathey on K TV. It was the best movie experience I have had in a long time. It was like chatting for a long time with a long lost friend and recounting all that we missed about happier days.
Manorama reveals her class. Pandiarajan does what he is best at, look stupid and confused. Adding to the mix was cameo roles by YGM, Venniradai Murthy, Disco shanti, Silk and of course S.S. Chandran. I remember how the "Super Car" featured in the movie was a novelty in those days and beckoned hordes of movie goers to the theater. I am going to leave the details about the story out of this blog because writing details about the story is cumbersome, unnecessary and takes the fun out of writing this post.
With advancing age (yes, I became thirty a long time ago) and expanding family have made me a sucker for nostalgia. Maybe I will write about how the above two factors are connected to nostalgia in a different post. The simple special effects, small town style humor and clearly understandable Tamil makes for a special movie experience.
This movie is strongly recommended for the expat Tamils who want to kick back and enjoy a movie without much stress or work for the gray cells.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Is nostalgia a good thing?

Dictionary.com defines nostalgia as "a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time". If you go by that definition or by your own experience it is a form of selective memory. I call it selective because you are only nostalgic about the things or people you like. When you are nostalgic about a time or place you do not factor in the negative experiences that you had which caused you to move out of that time or situation in the first place.
When I think of my college days in Stanley I think only about the basketball games, long conversations that ran well into wee hours of the night with friends or the movies that I went out with my buddies. I do not think about the stress of succeeding in life, the pressures of not making any money when your engineering friends have started climbing the corporate ladder, the fact that you had examiners who were tainted with prejudice and caste feelings or the fact that you were still dependent on your parents for daily expenses and needs. I would like to think that when I make an important life changing decision I would be able to block out nostalgia. I know that it is easier said than done

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Everybody is somebody's idiot!!

"Everybody is somebody's idiot". I heard the sentence from my boss, Dr. Eric Bloom. He mentioned it, I think, in the context of either his son or wife not thinking highly of his opinion about something or someone. I have never heard wiser words of wisdom. I immediately conjured up the image of Mrs. Gates( wife of Bill Gates) making fun of his taste in curtains or restaurants. Here is a man the whole world believes is a genius and considers him as the greatest philanthropist and business whiz alive. But let him try talking to his daughter about her choice of friends or clothes he will likely be the butt of some joke or ridicule.
I went home and thought about it and just laughed to myself much to the intrigue of my wife. I told her that it was nothing.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Our tryst with Oomathurai!

Some background info- Oommathurai was the legendary king Veerapandiya Kattabomman's general and brother. Our summer vacation place is Thappu mama's place in Pudukottai. Thirumayam fort is a stone fort that exist till today in Thirumayam, which is a town 20km south of Pudukottai.
"Oomathurai is still alive. If you go to the Thirumayam fort even today, you may be able to catch a glimpse of him". "It can't be true uncle" we cried in unison. "Those days the warriors were so healthy because of their fitness routine, they never fell ill. He can hold his breath for half an hour under water. They did not have cancer or heart problems back in those days" said Dharma uncle with utmost seriousness. Dharma uncle was (and probably still is) a close friend of Sekar mama. Sekar mama is one of the three elder brothers of my mom. Anand, Balaji(both my cousins who were of the same age as me) and myself with all the wisdom of twelve year olds lapped the story up. We wanted to confirm it with Sekar mama. "It is all true and....by the way, very few people know about this secret" he said.
We were filled with a sense of adventure and wanted to go to Thirumayam to meet Oomathurai. That summer we did. It was the summer vacations. I think that we had just finished seventh grade and were on our way to starting our eighth grade. We had Sekar mama fashion some aluminum swords (unsharpened of course)from his fabrication unit. We made darts out of matchsticks, needles and Xray film . We made blow darts out of paper, needles and rubber bands and PVC pipe for blow pipe.We were ready to meet him but we were taking no chances!! What if Oomathurai attacked us?
We organized a bus trip to Thirumayam fort after much begging and pleading. Ramesh, Thappu mama's office assistant chaperoned us. We hoodwinked him into leaving us alone. We searched high and low in the fort but there was no sign of Oomathurai.We were utterly disappointed. When we asked Ashok (Balaji's older and wiser brother), he had a laugh and told that Dharma uncle and Sekar mama had taken us for a ride. We were initially angry , but had a great laugh over the whole incident.
The reason for narrating this incident is this. Back then, we had no video games, no computers and no fancy gadgets. We had a sense of adventure and curiosity. Most importantly we had each other. We had uncles who had the time to spend with us and had the time to spin a tall tale to amuse us and intrigue us. Will our kids have the opportunity to take such vacations, spend time with each other and get to know their extended families?
I am hoping that they do. I know that hopes and reality often do not meet.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

To clap or not to clap is the question...

My niece, Ananya, was singing her favorite rhyme, "If you are happy and you know it clap your hand". I thought for a second. I was visiting my nieces and having a great time with them. I was relaxed that weekend and was off. I told myself "Of course I am happy". Then I proceeded to clap my hands.
That night I asked myself what being happy really was all about. Merriam Webster dictionary defines happy as "enjoying or characterized by well-being and contentment".
I asked myself, "Is being happy a transient state of mind or is it a feeling deep inside of joy and completeness?". In other words can one be happy in a particular moment while at the same time brooding over something or worrying about something? In a nutshell what is happiness and more specifically what is happiness to me?
Deep inside I was upset by the politics of caste and division back home, worrying about the falling US dollar (in which most if not all of my life savings is), missing my parents zillions of miles away, stressing over the seemingly elusive green card and anxiously anticipating the humongous pay cut that I am going to take in the near future as I start my nephrology training. At the same time I was playing with these two gorgeous nieces of mine simply smitten by their playfulness also thankful to God that I was not living too far from my sister( and sister-in-law) thereby able to visit my(and my wife's)nieces.
It is precisely this inability to define and hence achieve total happiness that leaves mankind in an eternal search of happiness. While one may never find total happiness, that shouldn't prevent anyone from having fun and enjoying and living life by the moment.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Betcha didn't know!!

With the US presidential elections not very far off from today, every candidate is busy (at the time of writing this blog)writing up his or her(of course...)environmental policy. Conspicuous by absence is the push for vegetarianism. Before you go off ballistic and ask me what the heck does meat eating have anything to do with hurting the planet, let me preempt your question by answering it....A WHOLE LOT.
Let me use the example of soy beans. It takes 16 lbs of soybean to produce 1 lb of meat. Pound for pound it almost 5-10 times more water is consumed for producing meat as compared to soybeans. It takes more energy to store and transport meat as compared to grains (refrigeration is a costly and an energy intense process). Vast tracts of land and forest get degraded annually to raise livestock and agriculture (to feed the livestock and human beings). There is a vast consensus among the scientific community and irrefutable evidence that vegetarianism is not only eco-friendly but is also probably easier on your wallet. So why is it not talked about?
I think one reason is cultural. Vegetarians, in the US, are viewed as far-left leaning liberals. They are viewed by the right-wing people (Glenn Beck and the likes for e.g.) with disdain and suspicion. Most Americans are meat eaters and they support a multi billion dollar meat industry. Farmers who grow traditional crops like corn and wheat do sell a huge portion of their crop to the livestock industry (for cattle feed).
I do think that the general attitudes of people towards vegetarianism will probably not change for eons to come. I think that I can make a teeny-weeny difference by opting to be a vegetarian. After all why break something that you cannot fix?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Hinduism and the Guruvayoor incident!

I read with horror about the incident at Guruvayur temple. For those who did not hear about it , here it goes. Unny Ravi, the son of Vayalar Ravi, was there for the darshan of the deity of Lord Guruvayurappan. The priests at the temple had to "purify" the temple with water after his visit. Vayalar Ravi was furious and has threatened to move the court. He felt that it was gross case of caste discrimination. Vayalar Ravi is from the Ezhava community and hence a non-brahmin. The temple authorities contend that Unny was a Christian (his mother, Mercy Ravi is a Christian and Kerala society is matriarchal) and hence violated the temple policy of disallowing non-Hindus from worshiping there.
I think Hinduism as a religion has grown stronger and more humane because of introspection and reform. The average Hindu today feels that sati is a crime, child marriage is a social evil and that untouchability is unacceptable. Reform in a religion is hardly exclusive to Hinduism. The role of the Church in labelling non-conformists as heretics in the medieval society is well known. The practice of burning people labeled as heretics by the church has long been abandoned by mainstream Christianity. I think hindus need to have a dialogue about the need for exclusion of non-hindus from places of worship. Until as recently as sixties black people were excluded from white churches in Jim Crowe era America.
I think debate and dialog within a religion is healthy. Let us continue to evolve intellectually and spiritually.