Monday, September 24, 2007

india you beauty


suck on this, boca-river

The biggest derby in the world is on tonight, and I can't believe I'm going to be watching it. I promised myself when I started watching football that I wouldn't take it too seriously, and it has helped enormously in my appreciation of the game. But football is just me poking fun at other people, right? Unfortunately it's impossible for me not to feel overwhelmed by the fact that a) cricket has changed, that b) we have truckwads of money to spend on it, and c) b) may have something to do with the fact that d) India and Pakistan are in the finals of a ginormous money-spinner of a tournament.

Now lose the fugly uniforms and I might even stop rolling my eyes at how we have proved Simon Kuper wrong and forced our sport into the globalisation straitjacket. Not, sadly, in the schizophrenic but charmingly European way, which is as obsessed with local tradition and a preservation of ritual as it is with providing a free-market-approved, appropriately packaged experience, but in an altogether more unabashed THIS IS THE EVENT SPONSOR'S NAME EMBLAZONED ACROSS MY TRAINING BRA, IT BE RAH-RAH HIPPY-SHAKE TIEM NAO PLS! American way.

But oh hey, the cricket. It is sick how easy Yuvraj Singh is making it look, isn't it? It's like cricket has moved out of the realm of the wrists and on to the shoulders. Not entirely accurate, I know, but I think it's appropriate every time I take a look at his last few innings. I am so impressed by him and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and this entire culture of exceedingly brash but intelligent cricket that seems to be popping its cocoon under their aegis. I'm sure it has something to do with the Aussie dominance of the game in the last fifteen years [well, greater dominance than before] and their 'you don't like us, we don't care' approach to winning, but, in a rare departure from principle, I have to toe the detestable Times of India line and wonder if it doesn't have something to do with the fact that we are changing. For the first time in Indian cricket the mofussil boys have really taken on the world on their own terms, yes? Without the decadent old brahmins of the metros breathing down their neck. And it's charming and smart and more badass than you - alright, I - could ever imagine. Come on, guys, who does that to the Aussies?

Really happy for Pakistan, too, who look like they're setting their house in order after the maniacal goings-on over the last year. Can I also just say that I am really glad that we have seen the last of Inzamam ul-Haq? I know the guy's a lovely batsman, but he bored me to tears. To think this team was once captained by Imran Khan. Sheesh. Cricket is no fun without a crackerjack Pak team to haunt our footsteps at all times, so premature though it may be to welcome them back from the brink, I'm going to do it anyway. I'm hoping for a decent game tonight, and I don't think it will be a shame to lose a good match to the neighbours, especially considering that we beat Australia and South Africa [and England. LOL.] and - haha - Pakistan once already in a tournament that no one in India, not even the cricketers, were expected to care about. To be fair I'm still not sure it isn't a bit of a Mickey Mouse cup yet, but I think that's just my creaky prejudicial bones feeling the cold a bit. This is going to be huge, isn't it? Who knew that all this slogging could be so much fun?

I will be pissed off if we don't have a Test team three years down the line because of this, though.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

calling the mothership

Dearest Ma,

Happy birthday!

I wish I had a suitably illustrative story to start right off the bat, since birthday letters are always about some kind of transmission of wisdom from the giver to the recipient, but I'm not well-schooled in this whole wisdom business, and anyway, you have always had a firmer grasp of matters of common sense than most people your age. So let me start by declaring that I'm not going to bother telling you about exactly why I believe life is a precious gift, and that it is not a curse to live in interesting times, and how you should seize the day with both hands and live each minute you have to its fullest. You have probably already figured that out for yourself, and, knowing you, have also figured out that sometimes it’s also really, really rubbish, and boring, and hell is by and large just other rubbish, boring people. It’s true, unfortunately, and I’m afraid that as you grow older it just goes on being truer. There’s nothing we can do about that, and the sooner you learn to accept it and just lie low as the bad parts rumble past, and take up the good stuff as and when you come by it, the better it will be for you and everyone around you.

I remember what it was like being young, you know. I don’t know how much I’ve told you about this – we never seem to talk anymore! – but I had a wonderful, idyllic childhood. The nineties were an exciting time to grow up in India. Things were just pouring into the country; money, jobs, global brands, urbanity, international recognition. Good time to be a child. Of course, I had the opportunity to grow up in a big city, with big dreams. And I had the fantastic good luck to have enlightened, encouraging parents. Surely you’re not unfamiliar with the idea of growing up just wanting more; more of everything. Every generation of children does. And at some point of time we all wonder what we are doing to improve on the legacy our parents have left us – how we can go ahead and do something bigger and better than they, and how we can use the good things they taught us and escape the constraints they passed on to us, to prolong the glory of our world and time for a little longer.

Now whether we can or can’t is a matter of opinion. Perhaps you will not like to hear it, but Homer said, in the Odyssey, “Few sons indeed are like their fathers; most are worse, few better than their fathers.” Depressing thought, even if it comes from a blind and bitter old codger, isn’t it? [Do forgive me my old-fashioned habit of quoting the Classics; I’ve become rather set in my ways now.] But from the depths of my long endeavour to try and make this world a safer, happier place for generations of children to come, let me share with you a few handy hints to surviving in this rather dangerous new world we now seem to be inhabiting.

+ Drink at least three litres of water a day.
+ Waste a little time whenever you can reading. I know this will seem absurd to you, but trust me, you are at an age where you can afford to let go a little bit. I’m still around to run the show, you know. Make sure that it is excellent reading, though: life is too short for bad books.
+ Make sure to get yourself some regular exercise, even if it feels like too much to cope with.
+ Don’t spend too much time on the phone.
+ Side-partings, like horizontal stripes, are ugly. Never wear either.
+ Respect differences of opinion. [But not too much.] [This may be the foolishness of a doting daughter but please remember that you are still smarter than most people. It’s one of the things I made sure of before I let you go.]
+ Always remember where you come from. There is a long line of women behind you who, we now know, excelled at making the best of a bad lot and facing each of history’s challenges with an iron will and a determination to get and give happiness and self-respect at all costs.
+ Always remember where you are going. There is no such thing as getting ahead of yourself.

While I’m at it, I may as well also remind you that cheekiness is the province of truly small minds, and it is the mark of an excellent character to take a joke in good humour and sporting spirit. [It’s what the English colonialists taught us. That was all before your time, though.]

How strange it seems to see you growing up. It feels like just yesterday that you were a young woman, so carefree, so happy, so ready to be amused at everything I could say and do to provoke you into laughter. How time flies. I could, of course, have celebrated it the way I did last year, with random pictures of aesthetically pleasing young sportsmen, but since we’ve already established that, unlike other daughters, I am a Cool Daughter, I feel like I have nothing left to prove to you anymore. We no longer live in the same house and eat the same food and wear each other's saris [okay, admittedly I only ever did that once every three years] and laugh as one at the inimitably lame humour of the man of the house. [if you are reading this, hi, Dad! Your jokes are excellent and not lame in the slightest! I love you! Bye!] It may feel to you like we have grown apart in the last two years, but I assure you that this is not so. I have been there for you from the first hour of our acquaintance, and even as the years and miles grow to separate us, I will remain yours.

Among the many things I have learned from you, though, is that the times change, and we with them, and the only way to cope with the fact is to ignore it when it’s convenient, and embrace it when otherwise. We are not a race bred for consistency. So if you promise me that you will keep on going the way you’ve started, Mother, I promise that I will do my best to leave no stone unturned in your quest for a wonderful, happy, fulfilling life ahead of you.

Have a lovely day, and a lovely year ahead.

Never be afraid to tell me of anything that’s on your mind. Remember, I love you no matter what.

Yours in [really quite overwhelming] affection,
the filial unit.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

we are not. on first name. basis.

Hai guyz, I'm much better now after my double-barrelled shot of pure melancholy, although the thought of absent iPods still has the power to twist the knife in the gizzards now and then. But it's okay, you can stop passing the hat around and use the money for your own nefarious ends now. Thanks for all your sympathy and many hugs to you for sending good thoughts my way.

I thought I would return in a state of calm, empowered equanimity, but as it happens, I come in a state of pissed-offness. Why? Because Britney Spears has re-appeared in our lives, and subsequently eaten the media up. Or so the media [your average Fox/CNN/reliable web news sources] believes, for it calls her new avatar "fat," and "chunky" besides, and so chooses to expend its energies on bull about her non-performance at MTV's Video Music Awards two nights ago instead of reporting on like, real injustice.

I spent some time flicking over the comments and the outrage about everything from her clothes [which had me seeing red at their sheer porny fugliness] to her performance [lackluster] to the critical opinions, which run the full gamut, from 'the ho deserves to be smacked down, she's made money off us for years and now the time has come to cast her off, for she is deadweight passe ex-virgin now,' to 'awww, the poor baby, she doesn't deserve to be criticised so hard, she's a victim here!' pausing every few opinions or so to sigh or groan at the idea that somehow, because she has ill-advisedly spawned two children before the age of twenty-five and not had her third and fourth ribs removed from her torso as compensation for the change in her body shape, she is now fat. I'm amazed at so many people feeling like the IT'S BRITNEY, BITCH phenomenon is a watershed in their cultural life. I don't blame Britney Spears for being so awful: she has no competition and the constant infantilisation of pop culture and cultural consumers has made her top of the dung-heap from which we currently derive artistic sustenance. Her life is comedy. I'm sure she has every right to protest this, even if she or the bunch of suits who packaged her have taken away her options to get out of the glass jar in which she currently exists. I'll admit I laughed uproariously at the report that she responded to Keira Knightley's comments about "feeling sorry for Britney" with a "who's Keira Knightley?" because she has at least that one double-edged weapon, fame, in her arsenal, to hit out at the patronizing cycle of ridicule-sympathy-ridicule-sympathy spinning around her.

I roundly hate Spears' music and regret wasting so many minutes of my life at the age of fourteen grooving to it, and over all I think I would sleep better at night if the cult of Brit Brit just went away and took its little disciples, Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan, with it, so I am actually quite annoyed at blogging about this, as well as being forced into a position where I have to defend her detestable empire of vacuity because my humanity forces me to acknowledge that there is a person caught up in its centre. But as I was watching this do the rounds of the YouTube/feminist/culture/fan blogosphere over the last two days I felt the cold hand of fear clutch at my heart, because I thought to myself, my god, one day this acrimonious, vapid, deeply sexist culture war is going to blow up to its fullest extent to India, and there will be one more thing to obscure the problems of women dying and not being educated and not having control over their bodies, lifestyles, children or property, because it also sells. I mean, it's already here and no one has noticed, because I don't see anyone [apart from Aishwarya] expending too much time being outraged over the disgustingly classist, sexist, deeply hypocritical problem society seems to have with Rakhi Sawant, for example, but someone has got to be around to be righteously angry when we buy ourselves our own little blow-up doll and pretend like our money didn't go into it.

Phew, if you didn't read all that, I'm now reading Corner Of A Foreign Field and enjoying it two chapters in. Also, next up, Project Objectify!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

take a sad song and make it

This weekend I lost my iPod. It's been my constant companion over the last two years, a birthday/congratulations on your new top job/don't come back soon! present from my parents, one of the loveliest things I've ever owned. Now, on the cusp of a new turn of life, my demonic hands went and lost it in somewhere between airports. I hope whoever has it now treats it well, and loves the music in it at least a little bit as much as I have. I hope Santana's guitar will make their eyes sting in the middle of the night. I hope they will dance to the sound of Goran Bregovic's mandolin. I hope they understand English so that they will know where the words, "do not say the moment was imagined/do not stoop to strategies like this," come from, and hopefully what they mean. I hope their chests will swell appropriately at the sound of Puccini. I hope they will find it useful to put the A R Rahman playlist on repeat from nine to five on a dull working day.

Oh god, I thought, when I discovered what I had done. Does this mean I'm going to have to go out and meet people now? Will I have to relearn how to bear the great embarrassments of listening to music in public? Nobody does that any more. Music's biggest asset is its portability, the ability of its bassline to trump the sounds of traffic and keyboards. It should fit so snugly in your ears that it won't fall out when you're pounding the pavements in rush hour. You should be able to loop it endlessly. It should come out of your pocket. It should be civilised and non-imposable on the life of others.

But most of the music on my iPod was recorded in uncivilised times in uncivilised countries. If people could bear it then, I suppose I'll have to learn to bear it now. Most of the music on my iPod wasn't made with privacy in mind. They are festival songs, and film songs, blaring out of the middle of trucks in Bombay streets, and cinema theatres. Some are played by philharmonic orchestras, and some sung by sopranos who don't need a microphone to make themselves heard to an audience of five thousand. Some of them are part of eight-hour concerts in sweaty little blues bars by drug-fuelled trumpeteers and rock guitarists. Some of them are used to wake up every South Indian within ten kms of a village temple every morning at six am to this day. Some of them have travelled down the centuries and across continents. Some of them have changed the world.

Maybe keeping this to ourselves is not the way civilisation intended us to go, at all. If music really has the ability to break barriers, then maybe we should give in to our compulsion to listen to what other people are hearing, once in a while, just as we eavesdrop on their conversations and peek at the names of the books they're reading. Music is hawked so persistently at us that perhaps we should find ways to hawk music back at the hawkers. Maybe the ability to switch music off whenever we like has increased our tolerance for the sort of music that we're always reaching to switch off after half a minute.

Whoever it is who has my iPod, I hope you know the story about how, when Lennon and McCartney finished working on Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, they took the recording to the house of Mama Cass in the wee sma's, and flung her windows open and blasted the new songs out of her apartment, and that this is how her neighbours woke up in the dark, and raised their shutters, coming out one by one to listen to the sound of the changing times.

I hope you listen very carefully to my favourite songs. I hope the voice of the Beatles in your dreams makes you wake at four am and open your window, wishing that the neighbours would turn the lights on, look outside, and start to sing along when you teach them how to sing Hey Jude.