Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My friendly, furry neighbours

My new workplace is quite far away by Bangalore standards, which is a combination of distance and traffic. With Vijay's office also not being close to where we live presently, it made sense to move to some place closer. Therefore for a series of weekends we went around the city, scouting for a more suitable accommodation.

Alas! It wasn't as simple as I thought it would turn out to be! Aside from the rates, which, by the way shot up in areas that we preferred, something or the other was never right. Either the ventilation wasn't good or the parking wasn't spacious enough. If both these factors were taken care of, the locality was not to our liking. But the one factor that eventually changed my mind and made me stay put in our current apartment is the greenery - and the friendly, furry neighbours that reside in it.

You see, I live at the top floor of a stand-alone apartment block. It is open from two sides ensuring free flowing breeze and ample sunlight. Since the Madiwala lake is at walking distance, it ensures that the breeze is 'air-conditioned' before it reaches us - at least most of the time!

The best part, however, is the presense of a number of trees - Almond and Coconut - right outside my balcony. The result is a green canopy that is soothing to the senses. All I need to do when I need a change is to stand at the balcony and take in the sight; rather - breathe in the sight.

But the cherry on the cake is the family of squirrels that resides in this cluster of trees.

Amazingly energetic, acrobatic and spirited, the squirrels tear through the green landscape, leaping across branches, twisting around twigs, balancing precariously all the while. The way they move from one tree to another would give Tarzon a complex! Up, down, right, left; they traverse the web of leaves and twigs and branches as if it were a high speed network of highways.

When they are not playing, they are eating. And watching them eat is a delight! Their tiny months chomp away rapidly while their intent black eyes look out for more food. And my... can they eat in any position? Oh yes! be it hanging upside down or perched dangerously at the edge of a twig, these creatures surely know how to combine adventure with gastronomic delights!

Their shrill calls are often the first sounds that I hear when I wake up in the morning. When I need some cheering up, often what works is the sight of these cute neighbours in action. Their tiny hands, sincere eyes and amazingly cuddly tiny torsos never fail to make me smile!

The day we almost finalized a deal in far away Sadanandnagar I realized how much I would miss my furry friends. The fact is, I haven't had enough of their mischief.

In a city far away from one's native place, it is these small things that make a house, a home.
This is what gives Bangalore some semblence of Dun - at least to me.

Therefore, until my heart is strong enough to be able to create a home once again in another locality all by itself, I am sticking right here... with my furry friends, no matter how many traffic jams I need to endure and how many hours I waste on the road!  

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Speaking of dropping names...

It is difficult to let go of something, of which one is perversely proud.

I have often come across people who, when asked where do they belong to, gently, but proudly slip their caste into the answer.  "No, I don't belong to Bangalore. I am a Kumauni Brahmin", or, "Oh! We have to be very particular about the match. We are Saryupani Brahmins you see..." and so on so forth.

Yes, I admit, only Brahmins, and occasionally Rajputs, proclaim their caste with such impunity, at a day and age when casteism is looked down upon, at least by the educated and the 'informed'.

Honestly, I find this attitude thoughtless and embarrassing. What do you expect your audience, who perhaps is not a Brahmin or a Kshatriya (the so-called higher castes) to say? Something like, "Oh I understand. Fortunately I am a Shudra so I can marry whichever kind gentleman comes my way."?

I can understand that people take pride in their roots. But is it really necessary to announce it? The discerning or the curious will anyways find out. One can at least spare the average listener who is just wanting to know from which part of India you hail from.

I could be a Rajasthani, proud to belong to a colourful, vibrant and courageous race. Or I could be a Kashmiri, having great respect for my learned ancestors. It is not really necessary to add your caste to your geographic signature in order to feel proud of your heritage!

Personally, I feel immensely blessed to be able able to call myself a truly cosmopolitan Indian, having roots in most parts of India! Each time someone asks me, "Where are you from?" I sigh... because that's a long story! And only if someone is extremely persistent and curious, do I explain the caste bit.

Frankly, caste is so not cool. Culture, heritage and traditional wisdom is.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I don't find that funny

A chance conversation with my mother yesterday brought up an interesting, and potentially important, issue. I had asked her if she enjoyed watching 'Three Idiots', and was surprised by her negative critique. Amongst other points, to which I don't agree to, she complained about the thoughtless usage of the word 'balatkar' which is the Hindi word for 'rape'.

I am a 21st century woman living in one of the most cosmopolitan cities of India. I am a liberal and broad minded non-feminist, and can digest a good joke, even when it's on me. Though I don't agree with my mother often, in this case I have to admit that she is correct.

My mother said that 'balatkar' is one of the few words, that cannot be used in just any context. It carries a lot of weight and many serious connotations. 'Balatkar' - The word generally elicits deep emotions such as shock and pain. The word conveys the alleged victim's misfortune, the sense of being violated and the possibility of being ridiculed and alienated by the society. It also conveys the seriousness of the crime and forces people to consider it with the force of their conscience. In such a case, spinning a joke around the word somehow trivializes the impact of the word and the meaning that it conveys.

Let me clarify myself. I thoroughly enjoyed watching 'Three Idiots', including the portion in question. Or so I kept telling myself. After my conversation with my mother, during which we argued inconclusively, I looked back and traced my reactions during the movie. And yes, I had to admit, I had felt a twinge of discomfort while the portion in question was being screened. I don't know why, but I guess I am not ready to joke with the word 'balatkar' as yet... I don't have the stomach for it. Also, since I am a woman, I feel the ramification of this word a bit too strongly. In all, the word was like a thorn that pricked uncomfortably, and which unconsciously I decided to overlook, since the rest of the movie was fantastic.

And looks like I am not alone. I watched the movie at PVR, one of the best halls in the city. Fortunately, the crowd there is elite and well-behaved. My mother, who lives in Dehradun, watched it in the best hall that's available there, a run of the mill movie theatre. She described the crowd consisting of youngsters, mainly students, with boys and girls in equal strength. During the scene in question, the boys jeered and cheered uproariously, while the girls smiled and shifted uncomfortably. I am sure if movie-makers were to poll youngsters on their choice of humour, they'll find that girls don't find jokes about rapes and molestations as funny as their male counterparts.

I am not clubbing all men together. I am sure there are many sensitive souls out there. But let's face the truth. Movie makers have been including titillating rape and molestation sequesnces in movies all through the ages because the audience likes it and the hero gets to justify his existence.

I remember that as a kid I used to be horrified of the mention of the words 'rape' or 'balatkar'. Somehow down the years I have made myself immune to their impact, frankly because my psyche cannot bear the emotional impact of even hearing about such incidents. A few years ago when I watched the supposed 'rape' scene in the laugh-riot Golmaal, I felt distictly uncomfortable. But I told myself that this is supposed to be funny! Take it easy! Laugh! All through the years this is what I have told myself time and again. As a result, tomorrow if I watch such a movie again, I might not even blink.

But the question is, is this good entertainment? Should I have to condition myself in order to enjoy 'popular' humour? If I don't find something naturally funny, is there something wrong with me?

I don't just speak for myself. I am sure there are many women out there who feel uncomfortable at the trivialization of such words. Aamir Khan surely has studied the psyche of children and young adults. I really admire him and am his fan. But I wonder how much really he understands the psyche of women...

I really wish movie makers in the future utilize intelligent humour. Resorting to such simplistic tricks to tickle the rib somehow looks cheap...