Thursday, November 30, 2006

Apologising for history

I don’t know what anyone else feels about it, but I think that apologising for things that happened in the past - the distant past - is pretty damn stupid and a complete waste of time. Blair’s “statement of regret” about slavery (never mind the flippancy of the Tory MP) is what I’m referring to.

The thing is, he needn’t apologise for slavery – that was well before even his time and not of his making. What he (and George Dubya Bush) SHOULD be apologising for is the war in Iraq - that was totally unjustified, at the very least for the reasons that World President Bush and World Prime Minister Blair gave for declaring war and invading that country. Weapons of mass destruction, my foot.

That's what they should apologise for - but do you think they would? Hah. Maybe some British leader a couple of hundred years down the line might admit to “deep regret” for the invasion of Iraq – and chances are he wont be a Labour leader. But whether someone makes a near-apology or not in the future, the only thing that will hold true is – it won’t matter! Just like it doesn’t matter now.

Apologies don’t and can’t make up for any of the bloodshed, tears and atrocities. I’m not sure if Germany has apologised for the genocide of Jews but even if it has, would that apology undo history? Would it make the survivors feel all warm and fuzzy and ready to forgive and forget it all? I’m also not sure if Japan apologised to Korea for all the Korean women who were raped and prostituted. But if the apology was made, does anyone suppose that the – again, only the surviving – women would think “Oh good, the Japanese have apologised, this undoes all the humiliation and horror I endured”?

Closer home, how many Hindus or Muslims would be able to forget the murder of their family members in riots merely because the religious/political leader(s) concerned apologised for the violence that they most likely orchestrated in the first place?

Apologies, IMHO, are no good on a wholesale scale, as it were. Apologies are personal, for one-on-one situations between people. They can’t be carried over on a national or international scale because when it comes to that point, the damage that has been caused is at the very least on a scale that affects an entire nation or nations for decades afterwards. Wouldnt it be nice if politicians stopped making fatuous apologies for the past and worked towards making such token actions unnecessary in the present and in the future? Too much to hope for, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

So much to be cynical about

And here's a prime example:

Sunjay Dutt, found guilty in connection with the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, telling the judge:
"I'm the only earning member of the family." "So please dont put me in jail, for the sake of my poverty stricken family" is presumably what he was implying. Oh the pathos of it... not!

That statement coming from a manual labourer would be believable and pathetic - but coming from a Bollywood actor who has made millions and whose family has made probably even MORE millions in the past... it's laughable. I have to say that my heartstrings remained untugged and undisturbed. I'm not surprised the judge ordered him to stop speaking.

Monday, November 27, 2006

My (our) sleeping position

This is correct, no matter how this conclusion was made in the "test"! :)

By the way, this seems to show two men in bed, but neither Pete nor I is (are? am?) gay :) In fact, only one of us is a man and it isnt me!

Also, I've no idea why this is position is called the "Bubble Blower".

I am a bubble blower!
Find your own pose!

Why do these lawyers get involved?

Okay, Seinfeld's Kramer - or rather, Michael Richards who played the nutcase Kramer - insulted two hecklers in an unattractive (to say the least) racist manner. Okay, he's realised the negative publicity that could and possibly has come his way. And okay, he's apologised on TV, live, for the incident. Not just that, he's going for "anger management" therapy. All well and good. It should end here, right? Because the two men who were abused have had a public apology from an apparently remorseful Kramer.

But chances are it wont end there.
Because the lawyer for the two men, Gloria Dwyer, feels that public apologies are not enough, monetary compensation should be considered.

I dont think the two guys have asked for money. At the moment, in fact, they havent been found - even though Kramer (sorry, I mean Richards - but Kramer is who he IS in my head!) wants to apologise in person now.

So I cant understand why that Dwyer woman wants to butt in here and suggest that Kramer should pay out for his insults. Would a cash compensation make the racism any less distasteful? No. Would it repair the injury caused by the insults? Not to me it wouldnt. Would it make Richards feel any more remorseful? I dont THINK so! Yes, there's a chance that his apologies might not be truly meant, but I really dont think that any money Gloria Dwyer might manage to squeeze from him will be willingly given either. Me, I'd rather have the apology than any amount of money.

It's avaricious lawyers like Dwyer who make the world such a litigious, unpleasant place - they use their greed for money and publicity to make their clients greedy too. I prefer to think that most people (unless they be lawyers) would not automatically think of fleecing anyone - that is, if the greed that is dormant in human beings is not aroused by promises of unearned and undeserved sudden wealth.

And talking of lawyers, how come even the poorest people suddenly acquire their own attorney or lawyer when there's any publicity involved? Who chooses whom? Does everybody in the US - and of late, in the UK as well - have a pet lawyer, even if they have nothing else? (And wouldnt that be akin to keeping a rattlesnake in their pocket?)

Friday, November 24, 2006

He spoke from beyond the grave....

Or so you'd think, going by this headline:

Dead Russian ex-spy accuses Putin

As an ex-editor, I find these sorts of headlines annoying. I guess even if one wasnt in the newspaper business, it would STILL be annoying! I kind of expect more from the BBC. I wonder why.

Ammani's "I Ask, You Write" 11 - My Story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write 11" here

First it was red. Then yellow. Now it's red again. Why can't Shailu make up her mind?

13 years is that exact age when a girl is no longer considered “little” and is not yet treated as a young woman. It’s the age when a girl usually tries to be older than she is, the drawback being that her reactions to everything are still instinctively childish. It’s the age when a girl can get her first serious crush – and not necessarily on someone of the opposite gender, because that intense but undefined feeling is the outward manifestation of a longing for things as yet only vaguely imagined. And that feeling is no less intense for being directed at more than one person at the same time.

That, in a nutshell, was Shailu’s dilemma.

She was going for a barbecue party with her parents. The idea of the barbecue did not attract her so much as the knowledge that two of the people she secretly most admired would be there as well. Jason and Sirisha. Jason, a godlike 16, a top athlete, blue eyed and black haired, who had been her neighbour for the last 10 years but had suddenly turned into a Greek God in the last year. And Sirisha, who was in Shailu’s class but was so trendy, attractive and worldly-wise that Shailu would have given her right arm to be like her.

She wanted to let them know how much she thought of them, but in a subtle way that would not make her stand out like a fool. Her plan was to give them each a perfect rosebud from the garden. She had two of them - a red one, and a yellow one. She couldn’t decide, however, which one was for whom. The red rose for Jason, and the yellow for Sirisha. No, red roses meant love and she would just die if Jason laughed at her. The red one for Sirisha, then. But would someone think she was in love with Sirisha? In love with a girl? No no, the yellow one for Sirisha… but… what did yellow roses signify? No… Shailu simply couldn’t make up her mind.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 10 - My Story

Read the other entries to 'I Ask, You Write10' here

Somewhere in the dark recess of that wooden cupboard, there is a photo album. And somewhere the middle of the album is a photograph of Vaijayanti. She's leaning against a tree, looking up at something and smiling. What is she looking at? When was this photo taken?

I have only one photo of my daughter Vaijayanti - the one that Magistrate Ramanujam ayya’s daughter Chinnu took just a few minutes before she died. She was only 7 years old. My Vaija was 14 then, the constant companion of Chinnu from the day she was born, as carefree and full of fun and mischief as Chinnu herself. I wonder if Vaija remembers the person she used to be, all those years ago…

Of course I kept telling Vaija to be careful - she was only the cook’s daughter while Chinnu was the pampered, headstrong child of a very rich magistrate. But Vaija didn’t listen… she played along with Chinnu’s wild ideas and enjoyed all the mischief-making. Children never imagine disasters – that is left to the mostly helpless adults.

Magistrate Ramanujam ayya and his wife treated us very well, especially as Chinnu was so fond of Vaija. Vaija was Chinnu’s companion and minder at the same time. They expected her to look after Chinnu and keep her out of trouble - but that was no easy job. How that girl got into mischief! Always running around, always getting into scrapes, never scared of consequences. Maybe my Vaija didn’t always try too hard to stop her because she was such a child herself, even if she was 14 years old.

That day, that terrible day, Chinnu had got a new camera and wanted to take photos from the big mango tree in the garden. Of course she was too short to reach the lowest branch herself, so Vaija lifted her up. I watched from the kitchen window as Chinnu climbed the tree like a monkey. Vaija was leaning against the tree, smiling up at the little girl.

Chinnu took a photo – and then, in one endless moment that I relive in my dreams, it all went wrong… my scream of horror mingling with Chinnu’s shrill cry as she fell headlong from the tree, the smile frozen on my Vaika’s face. That was the last time I saw my daughter smile... the shock and guilt of the tragic fall broke Vaija’s mind as surely as it broke Chinnu’s neck.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 9 - My Story

Read the other entries to 'I Ask, You Write 9' here

It's been 14 years. But will Ananthasayanam ever get it right?

Ananthasayanam was well known for never giving up halfway anything he started. Whether it was a jigsaw puzzle or just a nonsense question like “How long is a piece of string?”, Ananthasayanam would stubbornly keep on and on trying to solve the puzzle or find an answer.

Unfortunately, Ananthasayanam's well-known obstinacy was matched only by his equally notorious ineptitude in all matters logical or scientific.

He’s been trying for 14 years to solve the Rubik’s Cube and probably even longer in trying to find out how long a piece of string is. Will he ever get it right?

My opinion in one word – NEVER!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 8 - My story

Read the other entries to I Ask, You Write 8 here

Can you see Sarasa over there? Notice how she winces as she climbs the stairs. She's torn a ligament in her ankle. Ask her how she injured herself and she'll say something vague about tripping down the stairs and so on. But I think you know the real story.

But I do know the real story. I’m Sarasa’s best friend and Sarasa was telling the truth about tripping down the stairs. What she was vague about was how it had happened. I can tell you how, though, in one word – Mahalingam. No matter what he does to her, Sarasa will never, ever, EVER complain about her husband. He has the ultimate hold over her in the form of their daughter, Radhika. Did I say “their daughter”? I really meant “her daughter”. Sarasa’s daughter, but not Mahalingam’s.

Sarasa had made the one proverbial mistake when she was 18 years old, and paid for it in the one proverbial way - by getting pregnant. Her horrified mother married Sarasa off to Mahalingam, her younger brother - yes, Sarasa’s own uncle. It sounds horrible but that sort of marriage used to be traditional in villages, so although there were some raised eyebrows, there wasn’t any outrage as such.

It suited Mahalingam – he had always had an eye on attractive Sarasa. Also, I suppose he felt like a hero and to Sarasa, he was. He had not only saved her from certain disaster, but had even accepted another man’s daughter as his own. At first, that is. He was happy enough when Radhika was born but when the months passed and Sarasa did not get pregnant again, his attitude changed, slowly but surely. He took it as a personal affront, as if Sarasa was deliberately insulting his manhood. She was the uncomplaining outlet for his frustrations. To me she said that she understood his anger – and his threat to let Radhika know that she was illegitimate effectively ensured her silence.

I’m very worried for Sarasa, though. Mahalingam is getting progressively more violent. If I spoke up, Sarasa might be spared a few beatings, but if Mahalingam follows through on his threat to tell Radhika, Sarasa will never forgive me… and her suffering all these years will have been in vain. What do I do?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 7 - My story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write 7" here

I don't have to tell you what you already know about Chakkrapani. So do you think he should have done what he did at the restaurant the other day?

When he wasn’t working as a waiter at the local hotel-cum-sweetshop, Chakkrapani was forever practicing his over-arm bowling action to keep up his position as the fast bowler of the Narayanan Street cricket team. He couldn’t even walk down the road without making run-ups and bowling with an imaginary ball.

Opinion was divided as to his talent – some thought his bowling action somewhat dubious, and inevitably his detractors’ nickname for him was “’Chuck’rapani”. Chakkrapani always hotly denied any accusations of questionable bowling, even if he in his heart of hearts knew better.

One slow evening at the hotel, Chakkrapani was practising his bowling on the spot at the counter, since there was not enough space for run-ups. He actually had a “ball” this time – a large boondi laddoo that was acting as understudy for the real thing. When one of the other waiters indicated for Chakkrapani to toss him a pen, he was so far gone in his fantasy of bowling to Javed Miandad that he automatically let the laddoo fly, flinging it as hard as he could…

That was the day Chakkrapani’s nickname was set in stone for fans and foes alike.

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 6 - My story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write 6" here

What happened last Tuesday when Rajamanickam had gone to the bank to deposit a cheque?

Rajamanickam was not often given anything important to do. His parents had written him off as “useless” and only suffered him to remain at home because they didn’t want to get a bad name in the town. It was his younger brother who was the apple of their parents’ eye because he was everything Raja wasn’t – good-looking, academically clever, always winning competitions and prizes and so on.

Raja, however, was a dreamer. Perhaps he was a little slow, but in his quiet way he was stubborn too. He hated school and because he kept failing, his parents had not bothered to continue his studies after Std 10. The one thing he was very good at was art – painting came to him as naturally as breathing. Once – only once – he had asked his parents if he could study art, and the resulting tirade ensured that he never brought up the subject again. His parents didn’t consider art in general and Raja’s artwork in particular – or, for that matter, Raja himself - to be worthy of notice, and they made their contempt very clear. But Raja’s secret dream still lingered…

That Tuesday, however, circumstances ensured that Raja had to deposit a cheque for Rs.1.5 lakhs in the bank. As the cheque was made out to “cash”, Raja’s mother instructed him at length on what to do at the bank, stressing the fact that if he lost it, anybody could encash it. Finally she let him go, and Raja set off.

There was a crowd outside the bank today, watching a young artist who sat there with a small open box beside him and a hand-written placard saying that he was trying to finance himself for art school. He was doing quick sketches of the people as they watched, hoping that they would buy his drawings. Unfortunately there wasn’t much money going into the little box.

Raja watched the young artist for a long time. Then he quietly placed the cheque in the artist’s box and turned back for home. He himself might never amount to anything, but at least that young man’s dream would come true. That satisfaction could never be taken away, no matter what his parents did when he got home…

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ammani's I Ask You Write 5 - My Story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write 5" here

It was the same thing every morning. Jo would slam down the alarm, turn over to the other side and go back to sleep. And invariably, she would curse herself for turning up late for work. Today however, she had a fool-proof plan. What was it?

Jo was tired of being late for work every morning. Today, however, she had a foolproof plan – one inspired by a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and she was a brilliant engineer, after all. She spent an hour Sunday evening rigging up an arrangement using a simple pulley system that would result in a small bucket of water, balanced on the mantel over her bed, spilling its contents all over her face at the right moment. (Don’t ask me how she worked it out – I’m no engineer).

Jo was very pleased with herself - for once she would be at work on time, ready for her performance review – as she snuggled down on the sofa to watch an hour of “America’s Next Top Model” on TV before going to bed.

Alas for Jo – she fell asleep right there on the sofa halfway through the programme and didn’t wake up all night.

PS. Her pulley system worked, though. It took Jo the rest of the week to dry out her mattress and bedding.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 4 - My story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write 4" here

You haven't spoken to your best friend Jalajasri for nearly two years. Do you remember what caused the rift between the two of you?

Do I remember, you ask? I wish I could forget that back stabbing, self-serving b*tch! After all that I did for her when they moved to this city on a transfer - helping with admission for her snivelling daughter in the prestigious school that my Sreeja attended (actually getting her into the same class!), introducing her to the headmistress to whom I was very close, arranging for her to meet the other mothers and my kitty party friends, putting in a good word for her husband at our club… oh, the list is endless! She was my friend, my best friend, and I couldn’t do enough for her. When my friends praised her to the skies, I was happy. When she became head of the parent-teacher association, I was thrilled. When she was asked to be the compere at the school function, I was pleased for her. All this wasn’t enough – she just had to get it all!

How, you ask? Our esteemed Education Minister was going to give away the prizes at the function and the headmistress had actually told me that Sreeja might be asked to present him a bouquet at the beginning and make a pretty little welcome speech. How I slaved away at the speech! I even showed it to Jalajasri to get her opinion. I could see my little Sreeja so clearly on the stage, being photographed by the press and getting her photo with our esteemed Education Minister in all the papers. I made Sreeja practise the speech over and over until she had it word perfect.

On the day of the function, even as my Sreeja got ready to go on stage, my so-called friend coolly announced her own daughter’s name to present the bouquet to the waiting Minister. To add insult to injury, the speech that the girl gave was the same one that I’D prepared for MY daughter!

And you ask me if I remember what caused the rift???

November 02, 2006 3:14 PM

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 3 - My story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write 3" here

She knew he wouldn't approve. So why did Visalakshi go ahead and do it anyway?

Visalakshi had dreamt of doing it for literally years. As she walked quickly down the road, she knew nobody was likely to give her a second glance. She was only 30-something years old but even her contemporaries called her “mami” rather than by her name. She looked traditional and orthodox because of her oiled, braided and bunned hair, the big kumkum pottu, the diamond studs at ears and nostril, and the fact that she only wore sarees.

Her upbringing had also contributed to her image – her strict orthodox parents who married her off at 18 to a man who was a good 15 years older, then having to live thereafter in a joint family with equally orthodox in-laws. Added to that her own shy, quiet nature… all these had contributed to her maamification (as she resentfully thought of it) much before her time. She was sidelined because of her looks. Nobody stopped to consider that she might have an open mind on controversial matters like premarital sex or divorce or inter-caste relationships.

Her husband did not care for “modern women” – but what annoyed Visalakshi was that his disapproval extended not only to looks and clothes, but also to opinions. And now it seemed like her 15-year-old daughter would be forced to go the same way as her. Well, Visalakshi would NOT allow that. She wanted a lot more for her brilliant, sensitive daughter. But to be heard, to be noticed by husband and family and outsiders, she knew had to do something radical. Something that would make people realise she was not the typical orthodox mami with typically old-fashioned views.

She was going to the hairdresser’s for the very first time in her life, determined to drop her old persona along with her long hair. Visalakshi knew her husband wouldn’t approve (to say the least!). But she would go ahead and do it anyway. For her daughter’s sake.

November 01, 2006 12:40 PM

Trying my hand

Yep, I'm trying my hand at writing short stories, a la Ammani, by taking part in her "I Ask You Write" event. I wish I'd taken part in the first two (although I suppose it's never too late to join in!) but I'm determined to give it a go for as long as she continues this event! At least that will force me to exercise my imagination and maybe write something.