Friday, February 16, 2007

Have a nightmare on me, do!

Argh! Does NOBODY think that the little story in my previous post was scary??? I'm beginning to feel that perhaps I overreacted to it in remembering the damn thing at all, through all these years… or maybe my story-telling technique isn't what it should be?

I might be a crap raconteur (is that word only used to describe someone who tells funny stories, not scary ones?) but the ingredients for classic nightmares are right there in my bland description. Imagination is where it's at, folks. Could somebody kindly have a nightmare arising from that story and – this is absolutely vital - LET ME KNOW? Thanks.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Of dreams

Dreams by their very nature are surreal, usually but not always garbled, but still very real. I read somewhere that if you dream you are running away (from something chasing you, perhaps), and you wake up, your heart will be beating just as fast as if you were actually, physically, running. Mine usually is, at any rate. That's how real dreams are. A good way to have a heart attack, methinks.

Anyway, of late I've been having serial dreams - yep, exactly like those "to be continued..." that you find in stories in magazines. My sub-conscious takes up a dream more or less at the same point that it had left off the previous night. Sometimes it can even be a gap of a few nights. The not-so-subconscious, not-so-asleep part of my mind (yes, I believe I have one even if it goes wandering sometimes) thinks: "hey, that's weird, it's a continuation dream". And dreams being what they are, time, place, people and events get thoroughly mixed up. Sometimes I remember them, sometimes I just remember that they were mixed up, but not exactly what occurred.

Some dreams, of course, I'm happy to wake up from. For the longest time, after I moved to the UK, I would dream that I was back at The New Paper in Singapore, reporting for work at 3am, feeling as miserable as could be. It was so real, every single time, and each time I woke up with a jerk, it would take me a few minutes to reassure myself that I was safe in Shrewsbury, lying next to Pete, and I would never have to return to Singapore. On particularly bad nights, the moment I fell asleep, my dream would take up where it had left off and I'd go through the entire process yet again. Believe me, it was exhausting!

I seem to have grown out of those SPH (Singapore Press Holdings) dreams now, with any luck, but the serialisation thing is still going strong.

One of my most vivid dream memories is of coming home one day from school? college? work? and finding my dad at home, just as if he had not died way back in 1988. I even remember asking "where were you all this time?" (although I never did get a satisfactory reply to that) and then my dream went on. And all through, I knew it was just a dream and that if I woke up, my dad wouldnt be there... so I tried really hard to continue the dream and not wake up. It sounds crazy but everything is possible when you're asleep!

One of the most frightening short stories I've ever read was about a man admitted to a psychiatric hospital because he was so terrified of his dreams. The psychiatrist couldnt understand why he was so desperate not to fall asleep, unable to believe his claims that the dreams were real. According to the patient, he had the same dream every time he fell asleep - that he was injured and marooned on a beach, back in the Dark Ages, and he could see in the distance a group of horsemen galloping towards him. Each time he went back to that dream, the horsemen were closer. The man was mortally afraid of the horsemen because he was certain they would kill him. There was nothing he could do to save himself, bar trying to stay awake and thus avoid the dream.

But the psychiatrist kept giving him sleeping pills each night, forcing him into the dream, ignoring his frantic descriptions every morning of how close the horsemen were getting, how he could hear their blood-curdling yells, see their swords flashing in the sun. The psychiatrist kept records of all he said, but wouldnt - couldnt - believe him. Until the morning when he entered his patient's room and found the man had disappeared, leaving behind no trace but a bed soaked in blood...

Scary or what?

Friday, February 09, 2007

You name it, they mangle it

What is it with the English people who cant be bothered to pronounce – or who comment that it’s too difficult to remember - names which they consider foreign? Shilpa Shetty is a perfect case in point. Two syllables, that’s all – “Shil” and “pa”. How difficult can it possibly be to pronounce it, or remember how to? It’s not like they were faced with Tripurasundari or Kameshwari. Not that those are difficult to say – they just LOOK formidable. Break ‘em down into individual syllables and they’re easy enough.

But no, people (even a friend of mine, not in the least prejudiced or closed-minded, who claims she simply cant remember how to say “Shilpa”) have to bumble around with Shipla, Shupla, Shulpa, Sheepa and so on. Not even the simplest names are exempt - Sunita becomes “sun”ita, as in that great orb of fire in the sky; Kumar becomes Coooma, Guru becomes Gooroo, Adi, is Addy, Suresh is Soorash, Abdul Rahman is AB-dull Raamun, and so on.

At work I kept taking calls from someone whose name I simply could not figure out. It sounded vaguely Arabic (Al Peche Metta), and what made it more confusing was that the moment I told him MY name, he immediately asked if I was from India. Now most people here cant tell where I’m from (not over the phone, certainly), and equally certainly they’re not savvy enough to place which part of the world I’m from, just by my name. So this Al Peche fella had me stumped.

Until I happened to catch sight of a letter addressed to him – and THEN the penny dropped like a tonne of bricks, removing all confusion. Alpesh Mehta. THAT’S what his name was. Alpesh – which should have been pronounced Alpaysh, not AL-pesh. Phooey.

I’ve noticed that the Brits tend to consider the letter “r” at the end of a word as silent. Which is why the name Kumar becomes Cooma, or at best Kuma. But then they go and add an “r” to words that end in “a”, so it all tends to become quite puzzling. For instance, if they’re saying “in India and other countries”, it automatically becomes “In Indiar and other countries”. It’s like they cant have two consecutive words that end and start with the same vowel (or sound).

But note this - an “r” in the middle of a word, especially following an “a”, is taken as an extension of the “a” sound – “aa”. Pete is simply incapable of saying “Sharma” the way an Indian would – which is to say, Shar-ma, with the “r” clearly sounded. He says “Shaama”. Which is also why, when my sister-in-law spells my name as “Sharm”, in her head she’s actually saying “Shyam”. Pete’s aunt routinely spells my name as “Chyrmala” on her Christmas card to us, although I always sign myself with my full name – Shyamala – in the hope that she’ll notice and correct herself. I don’t have a clue how she managed to come up with “Chyrm” to signify “Shyam”, though. Heehee!

I can understand if the Brits have a difficult time with difficult names, to get back to my original point. Then again, my family have come up with some rather strange pronunciations for Rebecca, Pete’s daughter. Re-bake-ah, Rebukka, Ray-bukka and other variations. I’ve asked them to call her “Bex” or “Becky” instead. That’s easy enough for anyone.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Some cartoonist

As is usually the case when it comes to Allah or Muhammad being satirised, Muslims are up in arms - legally, by suing - about the Prophet being "depicted" as a person (albeit a cartoon one) in Charlie Hebdo magazine. Apparently the cartoon insults all Muslims by suggesting they're all terrorists - but Christians and Jews are also represented in the cartoon. So, going by that particular bit of reasoning, most of world's population (bar Hindus and minor religious communities) since nobody represents them) is made up of terrorists. Yikes.

But that was not why the cartoon caught my attention. To my eyes, the supposed "Muslim" in the cartoon looks like a Sardarji... the turban isnt the right kind. I find that offensive, although I'm not sure on whose behalf - the Sikhs or the Muslims. Shouldnt someone sue the cartoonist for not knowing the difference and thereby being potentially offensive to two different religions?

"3" tag

Three things that scare me:
1. Losing family/friends
2. Heights (especially if there are no safety railings, like on cliff tops)
3. Being paralysed and dependent on others for everything

Three people who make me laugh:
1. Terry Pratchett
2. My brother (especially on his
3. Pete when he makes puppy-dog eyes at me, with the accompanying little whines

Three things I love:
1. My books
2. My selection of music on my Ipod
3. My warm cosy soft bed

Three things I hate:
1. Aubergines (brinjals/eggplant)
2. UK/US consulates in India and their visa sections and ESPECIALLY their local employees
3. Slugs

Three things I don’t understand:
1. Why people have children if they don’t intend to look after them (I'm with you there, MumbaiGirl)
2. Physics
3. Maths

Three things on my desk (at home):
1. My computer
2. Stray hair clip (should be upstairs in the dressing room)
3. Lip balm (belongs right where it is)

Three things I’m doing right now:
1. Feeling cold (feet in draught!)
2. Dreaming of 5pm when I can go home
3. Choosing the colour combination for this meme (dont want to know if anybody dislikes it)

Three things I want to do before I die:
1. Learn Japanese
2. Travel the world
3. Learn to grow plants and not kill them

Three things I can do:
1. Cook
2. Read anything and zoom in instantly on spelling errors (even if I dont know the meaning of the misspelt word)
3. Make a mess of any room without trying

Three things you should listen to:
1. The flute, played by any maestro in any genre of music
2. Irish drinking songs
3. Advice from people you trust to be sensible

Three things you should never listen to:
1. Punjabi rap (If I never hear "kudiye", "soNiye" or "munda" in a song again, it will be too soon!)
2. Malicious gossip
3. Politicians' speeches

Three things I’d like to learn:
1. Japanese
2. How to make the perfect samosa
3. Silk painting

Three favourite foods:
1. Mostly anything my mother makes
2. Idlis with chutney, sambar and molagapodi
3. Jilebi

Three beverages I drink regularly:
1. Tea (even though I dont like it) because it's better than the slop that passes for coffee at work
2. Water
3. Milk

Three books I read as a kid:
(Wasnt a TV addict as a kid, didnt have a TV for the longest time and preferred books in any case)
1. Anything I could get my hands on
2. Amar Chitra Katha/Marvel Comics
3. Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys mysteries

I'd like to tag (even though I know they're busy folks and might not take on the tag):

My brother, Kumar

Monday, February 05, 2007

Continuing the "green" theme

I think I'm in love with Clive James, whoever he is! Read his article here

I'm glad that global warming as caused by human beings is not a theory to which he subscribes. We need more people like that! If nothing else, that theory more or less means that we humans should all lie down and die - after first shutting down all mechanical and non-human devices to stop the consumption of, among other things, all non-renewable natural resources and everything that contributes to global warming, depletion of the ozone layer and the destruction of the natural habitat of non-human living things. Thus Nature can be left to work her magic and take Earth back to its unpolluted state. Too bad we'll all be too dead to enjoy it.