The Forbidden Fruit

This is going to be a controversial post, I suppose. As the name suggests, the post is about things that are forbidden in our society/culture. Okay, not really forbidden, but things considered as taboo.

The roots or trigger for me to write this comes from a very recent session I attended, courtesy, The LitFest 2016. It was a session on Erotica and the panelists were established writers in the genre, Margaret Mascarenhas, Amrita Narayanan and Ananth Padmanabhan.

Like many others who had come for the session, I was very much intrigued by the title. What I had wanted, I got. It was a liberated and relieving session about erotic fiction, LGBTQ community etc. I felt nothing odd or weird on being one in the audience. In fact I felt proud. Proud that for once, I shed the inhibition and broke the stereotype of being all hush-hush about it.

These were the people who had considered erotica and sex to be a normal human process like hunger and anger. That got me thinking why our society has become very much closed. This was not the case in the Vedic period, as far as I had heard about it. So the logical conclusion would be that people who lived after the Vedic period messed it up. They created rules and norms based on the idea of patriarchal dominance and made India a conservative place to be in. I refuse to accept the argument of Indian Culture. People who thrust these conservative ideas are generally pseudo-conservative. One can actually see the same set of people asking about progeny six months after a couple gets married. Yes, six months.

Talking about how sex is still a taboo, this quote comes to my mind.

“They say India is shy and conservative, but the population stands at 1.2billion!

I don’t deny the fact that India has one of the richest heritage and cultural background in the World. I grew up in such an environment where I woke up early in the morning to put Kolams in the front-yard of my house. I am proud of it for sure. But since when did we start to look down upon sex and same-sex conjugation with disdain?

Aren’t the sculptures in Khajuraho enough proof for our culture? We gave the world the renowned Kamasutra, the book of love. We take pride in exhibiting these to the Rest of the World, but when it comes to our own people, we take a different stand. Isn’t that hypocrisy at its best?

I have noticed many a times that we look differently at people who “come out of the closet” and at trans-gender/trans-sexual people. Aren’t they people enough to warrant a little respect at least? It pains to see people of my generation adapt and carry forward the same hypocrisy that our ancestors so proudly adorned. Isn’t it high time we change the course?

Our society is filled with taboos. Sex, Adoption of kids, surrogacy, live-in relationships, LGBT rights, marriage and divorce, anything that makes you uncomfortable is tagged and given a label that it is out of our culture and hence should not be encouraged. We are more worried about those “Chaar-log” who governs every single thought that we get and every word that we speak. We conveniently forget that those “log” were conspicuously absent when we were battling our inner demons and also when we were struggling without food. Are we still going to chart our lives to abide by the rules that the society has given us? I don’t mean to say that we break the rules. I intend that we make better and sensible ones. I want us to be supportive of each other and be less nosy about others personal affairs.

I would wish we do exercise our brains when we decide to make or break a rule and be open about it. I wish we live by a set of values than some social rules that was thrust upon us by a dominant and patriarchal society or by an even more worse English-Raj. Strangely British Raj has legalized LGBT marriage and we are still holding onto it.

A civil society is born out of its people. Unless we exercise our sensibilities and sane minds, we cannot see India progressing on its social front. Do I see hope? Well, yes. A Ray of Hope.

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Transcending life with the Tirukkural

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It is not very often that one gets to witness a session on something that is timeless and precious. Not every work of literature sustains its sanctity and relevance even after about 2000 years from the time it was written. “ Ulaga Podhu Marai” as they call it, is a revered book for many out there. 1330 couplets and 133 chapters shove more sense into people than any other similar comparable work.

I had the honor of being a part of a session on the Tirukkural during an event. It was focused on the work of Shri.Gopal Krishna Gandhi on the Tirukkural.

The book is dedicated to two important people in his life, Shri.Rajaji and Shri. E.V Periyar.  The author urges us to read the Tirukkural and in the process discover another speed in probably envisioning the world.

Respect and Reverance are two different aspects. Valluvar approaches life and its multivariant hues with a bold and frank respect. He was conscious of human feelings and emotions. That must have been apparent to us since being oblivious to feelings and emotions, one could never have completed the third book, the book of love, Kaamathuppaal. As an example of Valluvar’s respect (not reverence), Gandhi quotes the below given Kural.

Kural 1062:

இரந்தும்உயிர்வாழ்தல்வேண்டின்பரந்து
             கெடுகஉலகியற்றியான்.

If he that shaped the world desires that men should begging go,
Through life’s long course, let him a wanderer be and perish so.
Couplet Explanation:

If the Creator of the world has decreed even begging as a means of livelihood, may he too go abegging and perish.
Transliteration(Tamil to English):

 

irandhum uyirvaazhdhal vaeNdin parandhu
keduka ulagiyatri yaan

The author says that he is fascinated by the form and method of conveying his point that was adopted by Tiruvalluvar.

When asked about how he set on working so closely with the Tirukkural, he says, that he was honored to have gotten a chance to work with it in such an intimate fashion. People just do not work casually with something as great as this without spending a lot of Intellectual energy on it.

On the influence of G.U.Pope on his work, he adds that it was as important to him as the original was and that he revered it.

What actually intrigued me, as a lost individual, are the true words that Mr.Gandhi spoke about how one must approach the Tirukkural. He says, one must read it with a Thinking Mind, a Healing Heart and A sensual Body.

When asked about the prominence of the Third book in his work, Gandhi says that it was not an easy job. It was more like grafting the Kamasutra, the book of Love onto the Bhagwat Gita. Neither of the two other books, the Arathuppaal or the Porutpaal had as much discussion about Ethical behavior as the third book has.

Kaamathuppaal has been further sub-divided into two divisions on pre-marital love and Post-marital love. It makes me wonder about the present day moral-policing and allied atrocities happening around.

The session was followed by rendition of a few Kurals tuned to music by Shri Chitraveena N Ravi Kiran and rendered in a mellifluous way by Shri Thiruvarur Girish. I personally would have loved it if it was a session of music and kural explanation in an alternate fashion.

The Tirukkural is a work of a genius that lives and breathes beyond time and age. An ageless classic that is very much accessible and relevant for the Town mayor and also to the barber. It is the code by which people must live by, in a perfect and ideal world. It is the code that we must try to adhere to, not only for a better society but also for a better self.

Each One’s Gita- Devdutt Pattanaik

I had no idea who Devdutt Pattanaik was. No, I am serious. I hadn’t read any of his books, I haven’t wikipediaed  him either. The most I had heard about him was from a friend of mine who was reading one of his books and had mentioned it as a passing comment among many topics that we discuss. So when I saw about this session in the newspaper and other reliable media, I had no expectations about the content or the person.

When Bharadwaj Rangan introduced Mr. Devdutt Pattanaik as a mythologist, I had my own doubts. Mainly because I have not heard about anybody being a mythologist. But I sat on. When he came up to the dias, I judged. Basically because I was human but also because he seemed like the uncle next door. Congenial and ever cheerful.

“My Gita” was the book that he was there to talk about.

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Lord Krishna says,” Understand the relationships and don’t judge them”. That was one of the first things that Mr.Pattanaik conveyed.

We humans have evolved to such a level that apart from food,clothing and shelter, judging others has also become a basic need for survival. The reason or rationale,if any, behind that activity is unknown or in most cases irrelevant in any point of time.

The focus is thrust on perspectives.

Truth is complicated. What may be true for me might not be true for you. Worst case, it might be preposterous for another person, altogether. So it all depends on where we stand. Truth isn’t static.

The Gita,according to him, emphasizes on us keeping our eyes open to the world. It encourages us to participate in the world and the worldly affairs, in contrast to renunciation. The Gita encourages us to be more human and less of God. As human beings, we tend to make mistakes, we tend to judge people, and we tend to negotiate with God (Yes, begging Him to give something in exchange for an abhishekam is exactly what I am trying to say). He says, The Gita encourages us to be humans. It also pushes us to get out there and try and understand the human relationships rather than forming an opinion or a judgement about the same.

In Bhakti Yog, he says, Lord Krishna becomes a parent. He gives Arjuna the moral support that he needed at a crucial juncture in the War. That’s exactly what parents do to us. I remember my own childhood when I used to blindly believe whatever my mom or dad told me and I go ahead with that fake courage that was given to me by them. That was Bhakti Yog for me. Well, the blunt truth that it happens at all stages of one’s life is a different story altogether.

What made me wonder was that he concurred with my view that there was no right or wrong in the world. It all depends on the side from which you see it. It is abstract. It is mysterious.
Devdutt says you cannot hope for the Nectar when there is no other side to participate in the tug of war. (Remember the story of parvatham and the tug of war between the Devas and the Asuras?).  Where there is good and evil, nectar will emerge. Poison will emerge too, but let us choose to see the positive benefit of the entire exercise. He uses this analogy to describe the current status of the Indian parliament sessions, wittily.

Renunciation is not the key here. Renunciation,to him, implies that “ I have no desire hence you should not have them too”. That is faulty at the foundation itself because it not only encroaches upon ones personal space but also eats into one’s own desires and needs.

He urges us to find our own Gita in a way that is most suitable and feasible for us.  Each one of us has it in us to explore relationships without being judgemental or condescending. That itself reduces half the problems that spring up out of nowhere, these days. Letting go would work well in such cases where we don’t force something upon the other person.

Ultimately it is not about focusing on reaching Heaven, but it is all about making the place in which we live right now, as one. We do focus way too much on the future and in the process forget the path to get there. It is the same phenomenon. The hidden message being that each of us is the other person’s Krishna and our current abode is Heaven.

Sigh, there is so much good in this world apart from all the crappy stories we read and watch, isn’t it? Gives me hope.

The Musical Enlightenment with Mr.Sanjay Subramaniam

The Hindu LitFest 2016 gave me an unforgettable opportunity to listen to literary geniuses talk and discuss about things that had had a huge impact on them, the issues that, in their view would go on to bring in a magnificent shift in the general structure of acceptance and non-acceptance etc.

The first session that I attended was titled “Sing My Song” which had the renowned Carnatic Music exponent, Mr.Sanjay Subramaniam in conversation with Ms. Nirmala Lakshmanan.

I have always had great regard on Mr.Sanjay Subramaniam and Ms. Vishaka Hari because I know them to be Chartered Accountants who had the drive to pursue what they loved and to break the stereotypes of being auditors and the hype surrounding it. (I know the hype and also the respect it commands in the society because I am one of them)

Starting off with talking about being awarded the “Sangeetha Kalanidhi” award, he spoke about the massive personal responsibility that has been served upon him. Of course that did not mean that he had altered his journey or destination based on the award. He was careful about not letting the influence of the award and the recognition that it brought to interfere in his already pursuing path of music.

     “Restriction breeds Creativity”

That was one of the prime take-aways that I had got from this session apart from the humour and cricket that was generously sprinkled. I found this statement from him to be very true and honest. In most of the cases, where there is restriction there will be rebellion. Most of the times such rebellion creates history. May be it is something to do with the human mind which is known to be complex and intricate. The mind is thirsty when it is deprived of something. The “yekkam” they say, is boundless during such situations. I have felt that personally and could relate to that statement in a more intimate fashion.

On the way the traditional carnatic music format is evolving, he says,” Art is never static” and that all art forms go through a phase of turbulence. Art is supposed to give rise to different feelings and opinions to different people. It is not science to be perceived in the same manner by everyone. True words, Sir!

An artist derives energy from his audience. That is a hundred percent true. An artist must be true to himself. He must be daring enough to take risks in his performance and to attempt improvisation.  He must be ready to accept and must be open minded enough to experiment and explore the hidden realms of the art that he fervently and reverently practices.

Also apart from the little thoughts on the Vivaadhi Concept, the prominence of Tamil Keerthanams in his concerts, the impiortance of the rapport with the accompanists and also about the general dilemma of the superiority of the Guru-Shishya mode of imparting musical education over the now-prevalent trend of Skype Classes, the one thing that made me admire him was his acceptance.

When one member from the audience asked if he has done anything at all to spread and increase the reach of carnatic music on a grassroot level (What the question-asker intended to know was if SS was going to schools and doing anything tangible to increase the awareness of carnatic music), SS was gracious and grounded enough to accept that he hasn’t done anything of that sort. I admired that quality in him. Instead of beating around the bush saying superficial things or adopting to shame the person who had asked such a question to him on a public platform, SS accepted it. It kind of felt that it all boiled down to one’s own choices and one need not try so hard to fit in to another’s definition of something. It implied, albeit silently, that one can be original and be unapologetic about it. In my words, to one his own.

I enjoyed the session mainly because of the energy that it gave me and also for the core ideas that I had in me when I walked out of the auditorium. A very good start to an awesome feast, I would say.

The Curious Case of Chennai

Five frigging years and every year it has become my way of life to miss either Pongal or Diwali. It so happened that my family will be celebrating it in a full blown fashion while I will be here in Chennai struggling for food. ( Courtesy- Closed hotels and road side vendors)

Chennai is one city which becomes very much empty during festival season. The pattern is like this- Just before the festival, the entire population of Chennai and also of all four states of South India go GaGa over the single shopping centre named Ranganathan Street to such an extent that hoping to make it alive to your home-town itself is a big miracle. Then comes the day of the holiday days.  All roads lead to Koyambedu. No, Seriously. It will seem as if the entire traffic moves towards CMBT only.

CMBT is an entire hell by itself. It becomes a grid-lock and buses would be lined up without any considerable movement at all. After all this confusion, one sleeps the night away and wakes up the next morning to see Chennai all silent and empty. All those notorious junctions like Gemini Circle, SRP Tools, Guindy-Velachery Intersection road, Porur Signal etc are empty! One just wonders whether she is in a dream or in real world.

Empty roads, like empty work-days, make one think about the demographic fabric of Chennai. A conclusive proof that Chennai has a huge number of people from outside the city. To see something, that you have taken as a given, to materialise in front of you with evidence is a surreal feeling.

Vandhaarai vaazha Vaikkum Oor idhu. It truly is 🙂 (A city that welcomes and gives livelihood to anybody who comes)

After All This Time? ALWAYS!!

This might sound so hypocritical to you all. I don’t really care. You might even go to the extent to call me pretentious and “peter”. I still don’t care.

Alan Rickman is dead. The man who breathed life into a fictional character, the man who I grew up watching and hating ( yes, sadly, Thanks to the plot twists).

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Severus Snape. That is how many know him. That is how he most probably will go down in history. I have not watched any of his movies other than the Harry Potter series ( I guess I haven’t. I have a poor memory for movies) and I feel void. It is something similar I felt when Sirius, Fred, Lupin and Tonks died. Damn! It reminds me of Dobby’s death.

Those were all fictional characters. But here is a man who gave life to such a difficult role which had to conceal so much of his dark past and his loyalty.  I highly doubt if anybody else could have portrayed that role of so much enigma and indifference as well as Alan Rickman did.

I don’t know what else to say. I am speechless. I wish he had lived longer. Atleast to give me the consolation that Snape lives still. 😦

Huge Respects and Rest In Peace, Severus Snape. You will be loved, forever!

I just did a Neville!

Absent mindedness and I go a long way back. Growing up in a semi orthodox environment with disciplinarian parents, I remember getting flayed for being mentally absent. I don’t deny the fact that I usually live in my own world, but that never meant that I was doing all those foolish stuff on purpose.

 

A recent chat with my friends revealed that I was not just absent-minded but also slowly turning to be dumb. 😛 . The banter then continued to the realms of the unspoken, my trysts with being lost and absent-minded.  The three incidents that I am describing here happened in the span of a month. 30 days and 3 major incidents of being labeled as dumb and facing a thorough Facepalm moment. Not bad eh??

 

Being brought up in a house that had or has no WiFi, I had no knowledge about connecting my gadgets to a network, leave alone configuring it. So one day during the Chennai floods, I am sitting bored at my place, facebooking my time away with the help of the home WiFi connection while my phone network had conked off. I am chatting with a friend of mine and was complaining to him that I miss the chattery Whatsapp group activities and was telling him to convey my regards to all in the group. He immediately asks me how am I able to come online on Facebook while my phone network is not on at all. I immediately reply that my home has WiFi. That dushman not just teased my life out, but also took a screenshot of our conversation and posted it on the group. That’s how I earned the tag of “Tech Illiterate”.

I joined an Audit Firm recently and was assigned a team to work in. Two juniors and an associate, we gelled on well. Later one day, the junior came to me and said “Please save my number, I will give you a ring now” to which I agreed. After saving her number, I told “I will give you a ring now, you please save that as my number “. The blank stare and the suppressed smile didn’t wake me up from my “zone”. A split second later she says,” How do you think I gave you a call a while back?” That struck me hard. I just gave a sheepish smile and bid her Goodbye. 😛

The third incident happened during my exam holidays. So this incident happened in November 2015, when my CA final exams were on. My last exam got postponed due to rains in Chennai and it was scheduled on 26/11, a Thursday. So that Saturday, the 21st, I sit with my books to study and revise for the exam. I find the syllabus to be very vast and decided to write down a plan so that I could have a track of my progress. I jotted down the crucial areas that were not to be missed at any cost and other important areas and started assigning days on which it has to be completed. Finally after much game playing on it, arranging and rearranging the days, I finally was satisfied that the portions would be fully , effectively revised by Saturday. (28/11). Not once during the while process of twenty minutes that it struck me that the goddamn exam was on Thursday, two days before the scheduled completion of revision. After twenty odd minutes, I realize something weird with the timetable and Lo! I understood my oversight. That was a truly facepalm moment for me and I still can’t believe I was so careless about it. My mom gave me a big exasperated look while my brother looked at me with horror on his face when I narrated the whole thing. 😀 I am so sure that he must have thought, “The hell is wrong with her?” that moment.

I don’t take pride in being such an absent minded person, but then I do end up creating memories that still makes me smile and remember with fondness, all those events.

After all what is life without a few Leg-pulling events, right? 😉

Rocking at the Rock cut temples- Mahabalipuram

Five years in Namma Madras and Me not having visited Mahabalipuram was a shame not just for me, but for my entire extended clan. I know that it was unjustified but then better late than never, right? So yes, my friends and I set out on a trip to Mahabs on a chilly Sunday morning.

Mahabalipuram is a coastal town near Chennai which is known for its Rock cut temples and sea shore. It was an ancient port town which was the port of contact for trade connections with South East Asia. It has exemplary historical identities that were carved during the Pallava Rule.

I have been to Mahabs before but that was a trip to a resort there and not to any of the tourist spots that were famous. So this time around I was determined to visit the maximum places and have my own kinda fun.

So we guys had breakfast in a restaurant in Uthandi and sped away to Mahabs. About 30 minutes of drive later there we were!! A bustling town that rakes in revenue in the form of tourism. I had always thought that this place was overrated by people, but then how would I know that I would be proved wrong like this?

Our first stop was the Shore Temple. It was a lovely place and my favourite of all the places that we had visited in the town. It was a temple on the sea shore and was picturesque. The area around the temple was neatly laid out and designed and was a very pleasing sight for the eyes that were sore of the city way of life.

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Our next stop was the Five Rathas. These are structures that resembled Chariots and were actually carved out of a single stone. These are named after the Pancha Pandavas ( Dharma, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva ) and Draupadi of the Mahabharatha. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rightly so. The way these structures stand today is a testimony to architectural marvel of those days.

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There was also a Sea shell museum and an Aquarium there. Man! I totally loved the sea shell museum. It is said to be the personal collection of one person and it was damn lovely. The guide who was in charge of the sea shells was amazing and patient enough in explaining the speciality of few of the collections kept there. ( Watch out for Breath Mary while you are at it, peepals) .

We then broke for lunch and loitered around for a while there in the lawns adjacent to the Varaha Cave and Arjuna’s penance.

Arjuna’s penance was our next destination. This place is said to be the place where Arjuna receives the Pasupatastra from Lord Shiva and also where Ganga falls on to Lord Shiva’s head and flows. This place has very intricate carvings and are very much descriptive of the mythological event.

 

We then proceeded to the Maritime museum and another archaeological artefact museum which were very much interesting to check out. People who dig maritime stuff and related old time tech will absolutely adore the place.

Light house was the penultimate stop for us and that was so crowded for we had reached there at the perfect time. The view from atop the huge structure was breathtaking and we could catch a glimpse of the IGCAR also.

 

Will a trip to Mahabalipuram be complete without a beach visit? Never! So off we went to the Beach and had the customary Feet-wetting ceremony in the cold waters of the Bay of Bengal. That was it. That did tire me out after about 6 odd hours of total enthusiasm. All that I remember now after that point was that somehow I managed to get back to my place and am typing this post about the memories that I had managed to make during the day.

Mahabalipuram is well connected and pretty famous in the Coromandel coast guys. Worth a visit if you dig historical places. (Oops! Pun)

Will I dare another visit? Ohhhhhh Yesssssss!!!!! 🙂 🙂