Archive for November 2006

‘Mukta’ And Her Sister Storms

November 30, 2006

Here’s what happened when I visited India 6 months back. Entire Karnataka was reeling under a severe ‘mukta’ storm. I dare not call anyone – forget visiting – between 9 and 9:30 on a weeknight. The storm was worse during my visit because it was in it’s ‘almost’ final phase and the judge (Ravi Belagere) was going to spell out his take on whether Madhavi Patel and one other politician (what’s his name, Shivakrishna Desai..is it ?) were innocent or not. Forget a storm, I thought it was the arrival of praLaya.

I get it. I bet ‘mukta’ was a brilliantly directed Kannada serial. If it can capture the attention of the rich and poor alike, then it must be a real good production. I respect the fact that everyone wanted to watch it. Within two days, my wife and I realized that we should not disturb any soul in Karnataka between 9 and 9:30 on weeknights. 

But, the problem was not that. I started to realize that ‘mukta’ had many sister storms – too many, actually. None of the sisters were as beautiful or as ferocious as ‘mukta’, but they were all mighty in their own right. It was quite hard to remember all their names. I mean, come on, how can you expect me to remember ‘’baduku’, ‘naMdagOkula’, ‘guptagAmini’, ‘maneyoMdu mUru bAgilu’, ‘silly lalli’, ‘preeti illada mEle’ etc…etc..etc… 

Now I had a real problem. I couldn’t go and visit people at all. There were storms day and night. I thought I was brave enough to tackle the storms. My wife and I visited a few houses when the smaller sister storms showed up. We were in for a lot of surprises. Some of our hosts did not care that we were in their boat. They were mesmerized by the storm. Some of them encouraged us to watch the beauty of the storm and went on to explain the birth of the storm and even predicted the future path. A few others were quite pissed with me talking during the storms and in fact used electronic gadgets and made sure that the sound of the storm was louder. 

There was a huge storm on my previous visit as well. That storm breezed from north to south and was named ‘mUDala mane’. I totally agree that people are awed by some gigantic storms. A few here and there are fine. If I lived in Karnataka, I am sure I would be swept away too. But, getting stuck in several different storms day and night is foolishness. And, I definitely didn’t deserve the treatment which I did, courtesy, the sister storms.

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It’s Just Another Language….

November 28, 2006

A very good friend of mine got engaged recently. He is from a conservative Madhwa Brahmin family from Southern Karnataka. He tells me that his mothers’ only requirement was that the girl be from a Madhwa family. He had a list of his requirements, nothing which you can’t find in most of today’s girls. So, he did find the right match and they are getting married next year.

It has been almost a month since the engagement. They met on a daily basis for around 15 days in India. After he flew back to America, they are in constant touch. He chats with her on Yahoo and talks on phone. My friend was visiting me last weekend and he told me that he and his fiancée have never talked in Kannada, not a word. It’s always been English. 

For one, I was shocked. I thought I knew my friend too well, and I didn’t quite understand why anyone would not want to talk in their mother tongue with their future spouse. He went on to tell me that the girls’ mother is from Raichur, her father’s relatives have connections in Maharashtra etc., and thus their extended families speak different languages including Kannada, Marathi and Hindi. The girls’ father is not alive today. He also told me that they speak 60% Kannada at home and rest English. I didn’t quite understand that as well. Why would a Kannada lady from Raichur talk to her children in English, especially when you still live in Karnataka ?

I am very straight forward. I think I am way too frank sometimes. Point blank, I asked my friend how his mother agreed to make this girl as her daughter-in-law when the girl had absolutely no inclination of speaking in Kannada. I am sure my friends’ mother cannot converse in English very fluently. My friend had no answer to that. He knows me too well. So, he knows the intentions behind my question. He had absolutely no problems with me asking that question. 

Anyway, I guess my friend probably started feeling the pinch of not talking in his mother tongue with his future spouse. He told me that he was talking to her on phone just before he came to my house. He suggested to her that from now on they should start talking in Kannada. Apparently, she responded by saying “You can talk if you want”. I wouldn’t read too much into her response. Maybe she was just joking, or half-joking.

I am very passionate about my culture, language and roots. I don’t quite understand why we want to suddenly stop talking in our mother tongue. If we don’t use our mother tongue, who will ? That’s the primary reason for a language to die. When you look at South India, I don’t see Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam in such a bad shape. Is it just Kannada or is it all Indian languages ? I don’t know, and that’s not the point. Speak your language at home. Love your language.

I know I am judging people here. I have no business to do that. People have their own priorities and choices. I am nobody to question that. But, he is such a close friend and I feel awful. I have the right to feel awful, just like he has the right to treat Kannada with scant respect. My heart is bleeding….

Past the Fork

November 27, 2006

PÀtð, UÁA¢ü, PÀĪÉA¥ÀÅjUÉ £À«Ä¸ÀÄvÀÛ

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PÀȵÀÚ, §ÄzÀÞ, PÁgÀAvÀgÀ£ÀÄ £À£ÉÆß¼ÀUÉ ºÀÄqÀÄPÀÄwºÉ 

And the English translation:

Bowing to Karna, Gandhi and Kuvempu

I am unlike you, and I don’t need you

is all I sang; In search of eternity

I am looking for Krishna, Buddha and Karanth inside me 

For my non-Kannadiga friends, Kuvempu is a great Kannada poet and Dr. Shivaram Karanth is a larger-than-life personality and a multi-faceted writer. Both have won the Bharatiya Jnanpeeth. It is hard to examine their lives in a small blog post, so I will leave it at that. But, you can get the gist of the poem even without these two names in it.

At the Fork

November 21, 2006

The legend says that when Gandhi was slapped by a man, Gandhi turned and showed his other cheek and asked the man to slap him again. 

In ‘bhagavaDgIta’, Krishna asks us to pluck a thorn using another thorn. 

What do I choose ?

A Lazy Evening In An Unknown Country

November 17, 2006

When I wrote about the pathetic state of media here in America, Saaaar (aka Vijay) and Opinionate Indian wrote a few comments. The discussion slowly turned towards NRI’s, their reasons for staying in America and returning to India. Saaaar then came up with this nice write up on his life in
America. Continuing with the tradition, I decided to write a few more lines from my past.
 

All the incidents in this post are true. What is untrue is that I have made it look like they all happened on the same day. Most of these occurred during my first year as a student in America. 

It was another sunny evening and I decided to go and meet R for a small talk. He worked at the “Memorial Union” and was responsible to setup different meeting rooms everyday. His worked involved lifting heavy furniture and making sure that the meeting rooms looked neat. All across American universities “Memorial Union” or “Student Union” is a common place for food, games and refreshments. During summer, there are quite a few temporary stalls outside the building – they sell books, preach religion, sing with live bands and what not. This sunny evening I was about to enter the building and a smart guy in his 30’s stopped me. He was wearing saffron from top to bottom and his head was shaved. He was standing in front of a table full of books. He handed me a book titled “bhagavaDgIta” and went onto ask me “Have you heard of Krishna ?” I guess my stare was piercing enough that he did not bother to utter another word. He took the book back and started looking for another kuri (sheep, in Kannada). “Ahhh one more Hare Krishna ! Hare Rama !!!” was all I could say. 

After meeting R, I came out of “Memorial Union” and started walking towards my student office. I had to pass an underground library. There is a very small church in front of the library. A nerdy looking guy with glasses, white T-shirt and khakhi shorts stopped me. He wanted to find out if I was doing fine, and I told him that I was doing great. He then asked me if I had visited a church across the street. I said “No”. He wanted me to go to that church and see how nice it was. I told him that I was “absolutely not interested” (A note to my Christian friends – I have been to several churches, just not when I am forced to).

After work, I had to go to the library to help out a group of people who were implementing a cryptographic project. I was supposedly an expert on their project topic and my professor wanted me to help them out. The group had three people – two Indians, like me and an older gentleman from
Iran. The Iranian worked in the semiconductor industry, and he was in his late 40-s, still unmarried. I went to the science library and they were all waiting for me in a small study room. I finished going over their project updates. The Iranian started some general talk and said that he wanted to get married and asked us if we knew any girl in school. The rest of us were obviously puzzled, but politely said that we didn’t know anyone suitable for him. The study rooms in this library were at far corners. Literally, not a soul walked near that place. My Iranian friend told us that when he did his bachelor’s at Purdue, they had similar study rooms. Apparently the biggest problem at Purdue libraries during those days was the fact that guys would go into these study rooms, and for the lack of a better expression, relieve their stress. So, it was hard for the students to find study rooms which were not ‘messy’. I smiled at my friends, gave them some new assignments and walked out of the study room. Hmmmm, Purdue was so messy…the nerds, I thought.
 

Since it was a Friday, I was looking forward to going back home. The plan was to go to yet another movie with the gang. I had to walk back in front of the same church. I was looking around and was happy to see that the nerdy guy was nowhere to be seen. I was about to turn left and go home when a white girl jumped in front of me. “Wow” I said, not because she was beautiful, but because I didn’t expect someone to stop me at that hour. I don’t remember the exact dress (even though it hardly covered her body), but her dress was made up of some translucent cloth. She wore a ‘shawl’ kind of thing on top of it which had a regular pattern of holes. It is fashion, I thought. She tried hard to give the sweetest of smiles, but I couldn’t help but think that the smile was very artificial. And, I was definitely not surprised when she asked me the “Have you been to that church across the street ?” question. I said “No”. She went on and asked me “Do you want to come there on Sunday”. Again, I said “No!”. She was more persistent than that morning’s nerdy boy. She went ahead with a “Well, you should come there on Sunday, I will come too”. I am like “So?”. She must have been taken aback, After a pause she goes on with “We can do something nice after the church”. I am like “Yeah, right” and I walked away. 

Friday night movie was a very big part of my student life. Irrespective of whether there was a good movie or not, the gang would always go and watch some movie. It was a pleasant evening and the theater was hardly a mile from my apartment. So, we all started walking towards the theater. When we were crossing the parking a lot, a really old car came from nowhere, and hit me !!! There were two girls in the car. They were scared. They got out to see if I was fine. I had a bad muscle pain, but no obvious injuries. As I said, the two girls were so scared. They got back into the car and just drove away. 

The movie was not bad actually. We were returning home and it was past midnight. No big deal since our gang was quite big. We were walking on the pavement by the main road. Some of my friends were just pushing their cycles and walking with the rest of us. A car came onto the main road and the guys inside the car shouted something which none of us could decipher. Within the next second, a guy inside the car threw something which came and hit me in my stomach directly. Oh God, that was a bad one. It pained a lot. My friends panicked. Finally they found out that it was either a balloon filled with water or some kind of a small ball. The pain was bad, but it didn’t remain for long. 

We were close to our apartment. Another car came by and stopped next to us. There were two white guys. They asked us if we had been to the party at a yet another church, We said “No”. The guys were obviously drunk. They were harmless, but they really wanted to help us out. They asked us to go to the party. One of them winked at us and said “Easy girls, man !!! You can get a lot of them, I swear….go there”. One of my friends smiled at him and said “Thanks”. The two guys were happy that they helped out a few more guys that night. They zoomed away. We all looked at each others’ faces and walked back home discussing the movie.

Children’s Day Ramblings

November 14, 2006

We have a four year old boy who has his name in Limca book of records and who is really vying for a name in Guinness book of world records. Yes, Budhia Singh ran 65 Km in 7 hours and 2 minutes. He has no father and his mother sold him for Rs.800 to some moron. Then, a brilliant coach spotted Budhia and paid Rs.800 to the original moron and bought Budhia, so that he can make the kid a star. 

Closer home, we have Master Kishan. Yes, the genius 9 year old who can direct feature films. His heart ached for poor kids, from time immemorial. His name is already in the Guinness book of world records. Oh, how sweet !!! He still gives tons of interviews and his parents are oh, so much proud of their son’s brilliance and achievement. 

And now, we have this 4 year old magician in Bellary. Srivathsa plans to get into Guinness book of world records by riding a motorcycle blindfolded. His father, a magician himself, is obviously thrilled. I guess now it’s time for us to wish him luck !!! 

Do I see any difference among the three kids here ? No, I don’t. Does it matter that one of them is poor and the other one is rich ? Does it matter that one of them likes running, the other likes movies and a third one likes magic ? Does it really matter that the guardian angel in your life is some Judo coach or your own parents ? No, no and no to all the questions. 

What I see is exploitation, for name, fame, and money. What I see is the same boy in three different families. What I see is the innocence of a child being snatched away. And, I see mute spectators like me, enjoying the show !!!

Husband and Wife Quarrel Until They Eat and Sleep

November 10, 2006

A friend of mine wanted me to write a small article on what I think is the meaning of this Kannada proverb. Here’s my take:

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In IE, select the following menu option :

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And for you slackers, I have a JPG below. Click on it to open the file.]

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