Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Airy scary fairy tales

Some of the fairy tales that I read as a child were really quite gruesome, in retrospect… but at the time, I just read them as I read everything else – with an all-conquering greed for new reading material. You’d think I’d be permanently scarred from them - as per the pop-psychologists who say that children shouldn’t read Grimm’s fairy tales or listen to nursery rhymes like “Rock-a-bye baby” and so on, for fear of becoming nervous wrecks. They ignore the fact that real life events all over the world are far more horrible than any fair tale could conjure up.

Anyway, I’m not scarred and nor am I a nervous wreck merely because my mind remembers some of the grimmer bits. I put that sort of memory down to the brain’s – specifically, MY brain’s - ability to retain totally irrelevant and unnecessary bits of fiction (and some facts too) while letting the bulk of useful information slip through peacefully. (Yes, it wasn’t conducive towards successfully passing exams during my school days. Such is life. You’d think that all the random trivia would at least be useful in social situations and make me the life of the party. But no – anytime I need to break the ice or an awkward silence, those facts unhelpfully vanish, only to pop up again when they are not required. Such, again, is life.)

Like I was saying, some things have just stuck in my memory, even though sometimes I can’t remember the rest of the story – like the one about the little girl wearing a giant’s magic ring on her little finger. She was trying to escape from him but the ring kept shouting out “this way, this way”. The solution? Cutting off her little finger and throwing it into a river, thereby getting rid of the giant because he followed the sound, fell in the river and drowned. Ugh. Cold-blooded little girl. Maybe she was a thief as well – I’m not sure why she was wearing the magic ring which belonged to the giant!

The story of Hansel and Gretel was favourite for some real chills... cannibalistic intentions on the part of the evil witch, and then the way she was killed, burnt in her own oven. Definitely double ugh. However, as a child, the horror of the situation – and the agony of being burnt alive – simply did not occur to me. All I thought was “Hooray, they escaped the evil witch!” Maybe I was just an insensitive child - who knows - but the average 7 year old shouldn’t be able to imagine anything more specific than that, don’t you think?

As an adult, though, I have spent many shuddery moments imagining how it would have felt to be burnt alive, and have your screams ignored. That’s possibly one of the most horrible ways to die and just thinking about real-life events, like in Godhra, make me feel ill. What fairy tale could possibly be more frightening than real life? If a child can watch gory movies, or the news even, without being moved, fairy tales witches and monsters are hardly likely to bother him or her. In any case, today’s children have much more real terrors – murderers, kidnappers, paedophiles, school bullies… Reality provides so much more horror than fiction nowadays.

My dad had a 10-book Encyclopedia collection – quite old and outdated, possibly from the 1950s, and a treat to read – in which I first read Thomas Millington’s tragic poem “The Babes in the Wood”. That touched me unbearably… I could dissolve in tears just thinking about how the abandoned children who died in each other’s arms were covered in leaves by kindly robins. For some reason, it was the mention of the robins that always did me in. Maybe something to do with the fact that the birds showed more compassion than the humans. I had quite a phobia about being abandoned – by mistake (hopefully...) rather than intention – which overcame common sense for far longer than I care to remember.

And how about the story of Cinderella? The ugly stepsisters were forced to mutilate their feet to try and fit them in the glass slippers. Me being the shoe-size (basically, boat) I am, I’ve had some very dark thoughts about that, I can tell you…

Somebody in The Telegraph should be "threw"

People who can't spell shouldn't be working for the print media. Isn't this pathetic?

Iraqi journalist who through shoes at Bush appears in court

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

When is a game only a game? ALL THE TIME!

Okay, I'll say right off that I’m very glad India won the test match yesterday. I'm glad Sehwag got his half-century and that Tendulkar got his century.

See, I don’t have anything against cricket – at least, no more than I have against any other organised sport (I think they’re a terrible waste of money). But it IS only a game. The match was not vital in the sense that helping the victims of Mumbai was – and is – vital.

So the general attitude prevailing, that the English team rescued India from some devastating danger merely by continuing the tour, kind of gets on my nerves. This particular comment from some cricket-mad doofus made me want to bite someone/something really hard just to get rid of some of the irritation caused by his overly gushy and unnecessary gratitude.

"It was a great match given the circumstances. People of India will always be grateful to England and its cricket team for standing by its side in need of crisis. And Pieterson, you are now part of Indian cricket folklore as a hero.
gaurav, Mumbai, India"

Oh my GOD. It’s a game! A GAME! The English cricketers didn’t save India from any crisis, they just played a GAME! Why do men lose all sense of perspective when it comes to cricket?

Considering the amount of security that was set aside just for the cricketers, did the tour really have to go on? I think I read there were about 5,000 policemen and commandos to keep the players safe. Wouldn’t that have cost a lot of money, and did the BCCI or the various commercial sponsors pay for the security? If they did, this rant has no worth whatsoever - its backbone is not just broken but excised without a trace.

But … if it was the TN Government or even the Central Government that bore the costs, I think it was a shocking waste of money that could well have been given to the families of the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in Mumbai.

Tendulkar’s dedication of his century to Mumbai is a nice gesture, but it isn’t of any material use. Now, if only the cricketers from both sides would donate all their earnings/fees from the entire tour to the victims, I would consider the tour well worth it – and think better of sports in general and cricketers in particular.

Note: I’m not sure, but were the English cricketers going to donate some money to the Mumbai victims? Sure hope so.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "I knew instantly..."

When the teacher taught us fractions, and called on me to write the result of 2/3 divided by 1/4 on the blackboard, I knew instantly – mathematics was not my forte.

When the teacher taught us about governance and panchayats and zila parishads and other things incomprehensibly boring, I knew instantly – civics was not my forte.

When the teacher taught us about the laws of physics, the properties of chemicals and the facts of biology, I knew instantly – science was not my forte.

When the teacher taught us the rules of accountancy, both American and British, and asked us to balance the books, I knew instantly – accountancy was not my forte.

When the teacher taught us the principles of economics and I fell asleep in class, woken by an accurately thrown piece of chalk, I knew instantly – economics was not my forte.

BUT… when the teacher told us to write a 100-word paragraph describing a day after a rainstorm and I handed in an effortless 500-word essay, I knew instantly – I had finally discovered my forte.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The evil without?

“It is understood that US envoys have made clear that India ought to be able to strike at suspected terror camps if Pakistan fails to move against them.”

That final sentence from an article in The Independent online made me blink. How very kind of the US to worry so much about the terrorist attacks in Bombay. How marvelous to know that it is leading the international pressure on Pakistan to crack down on the terrorists. And, most of all, how magnanimous of the US to say that India ought to bomb suspected terror camps in Pakistan! (shades of Simi Garewal, perhaps? Her idea? Their idea? Who knows!) After all, exactly what India - and the world - needs in these times to take attention away from the worldwide economic meltdown is a fresh new war in this region (Afghanistan? Old news, m'dears. Do try to keep up.)


The evil within

Why is this man allowed to live in the UK, free to spew his venom? And he’s a lawyer? Doubly damned, then… once for being a radical Muslim and again for being a lawyer. A combination from the depths of hell.

On a not entirely unrelated note, I read an interview with Imran Khan (unfortunately I don't remember which online newspaper, but it was yesterday) where he had said that the term "Islamic terrorist” - I think he was referring to the terrorist attacks in Bombay - is inaccurate because, according to him, terrorism is political - never religious. Methinks that theory doesn't stand a chance at gaining any credibility anywhere... witness Mr Chaudary's ridiculous and unwarranted attack on Christmas as a religious festival, apart from anything else!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Tradition"

Is it just the flip side of trendy? I think tradition is just a trend that has been followed (blindly?) by a person or persons, most likely for far longer than it really deserves.

I’m also not sure that it isn’t just a one-word definition for “But that’s how it’s always been done” – said phrase usually uttered with a superior sniff or bullheaded stubbornness or as a desperate wail. The point is, no matter how it is said, it’s pretty much a declaration of resistance to change, even if that change is for the better.

A tradition is really only as established as the person who is perpetrating it now… if the next person who comes along doesn’t consider it worth continuing, or changes it to suit him/herself, then it’s no longer what it used to be. It then becomes a “new” tradition – an oxymoron if ever there was one, because tradition implies longevity.

*** Sighhhhhh… even to me this smacks of the sort of school compositions found in the cheaper “guide books”, pathetic little essays on various topics supposedly beloved of secondary school teachers while setting exam questions.

It’s so difficult to get back into the rhythm of writing after a break…