26 March, 2010

"How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live."

~ Thoreau

18 March, 2010

Dadigiri or Park Parody VI

I was on one of my post office errands. Cutting across the park, I enjoyed the silence and the flowers. Phlox in pinks and purples. Sweet Williams, ruby red - a flower I could never come to like. Nasturtiums, their eager orange heads bobbing through the slim-stalked leaves. Hollyhock looking like gawky teenagers who are suddenly unsure of what to do with their height. Even the yellow neem leaves strewn across the path seemed to dance around. The freshly cut grass smelt the way it should. Things were moving, at the unhurried pace of a groggy morning.

There were adolescent boys playing badminton in the street. Fluorescent racquets. A pitiable shuttle cock. A lot of swearing. Two teams. Puppy fat waiting to be lost. Heavier voices waiting to be broken into. Each team threatened the other into submission. Nasty hits were met with nastier ones. The imaginary boundaries were negotiated at each point. Services kept. Services lost. A car came but was made to take a U-turn and find another route. The swearing continued in a jovial that's-the-way-we-communicate-yaar way. A lot of testing of The Testosterone if you may. 

Suddenly I heard a shrill bell. It was a girl on a cycle. No more than eight years old. She had pigtails with blinding blue ribbons. A tracksuit the colour of the DTC low-floor green buses. Parrot green. A determined frown on her face. Her cycle had a basket in front with a sipper (!) and biscuits (!!). Hearing, the bell, a strange calm fell over the boys. 

"Bhaaago yaar. Aaa gayi humara shuttle cheen ne. Yaar ye kabhi khelne nahin deti. Chudail." 

I never realized so much could be done in a second! The boys disappeared, net, shuttle and racquets in hand. By the time pigtails reached the spot, she had the street to herself. She stopped at the place where the boys had been playing. She purposefully rang her bell twice and sure of no tresspassers on her turf, she steadied herself. She looked around once more and then raced an invisible friend to the end of the street.

16 March, 2010

Greening Your Conscience

I scavenge the net often for finding ways to lessen my carbon footprint (if you still do not know about it, read here for a very simple definition), sustainable lifestyle choices and easy do-it-everyday ways to greening your conscience. A good (and highly recommended) place to begin your reading would be the Indian arm of Al Gore's The Climate Project which has some doable, some extreme ideas you could read here (really, have a look). If you would like to understand the science of climate change, the University of California, San Diego's Global Change site is a simple, accurate place to go to, while for a more holistic approach the World Bank has a good site.

I have a few things to say that may or may not catch your fancy. It's not even about the environment sometimes. Its just about honing the skill of jugaad that is so inherently Indian. It is perhaps about wasting less in a country that's always needing more. Its about realising that our country with its multi-layered society always discards things that percolate through the layers: your old shoes go to the servant, his broken chappals to cobbler across the street who will repair them and eke out a few more months out of them, his worn out soles being picked by some beggar. We belong to a place where waste is not an option, reuse and recycling is part of the social fabric, want has necessitated thrift. However, that is changing now. We buy and we discard, We consume and we throw. New laptops, better phones. More clothes, another deodorant. Who goes by bus when one has a car?

But let's look through the smoke and jump into the fire (sad sad way of writing, but forgive me will you). Here are some things I do:
  1. My family enjoys ordering fast food every now and then. (Actually more now than then, considering that all the unhealthy fattening processed food outlets don't even cross check our address anymore since they've been here way too many times!). Apart from it's astronomically large carbon footprint, fast food leaves in its wake, a sizeable amount of waste. The burger boxes, and puff covers, the brown paper bags and flimsy menu leaflets, the pizza boxes and noodle cartons. Instead of throwing them away, for the past couple of years, we have been neatly flattening out all such recyclable waste (and I am not referring to the left over slice of pizza people, that goes into the fridge) and keeping it with the other stuff that the kabadiwaalla, so efficiently picks up. It's simple, you recycle, less garbage. 
  2. Another trick I learnt from my Aunt is using things to the maximum. For example, face wash or creams. Most brands package their products into tubes with a small opening through which you squeeze out what you need. The catch is that a lot of it (I think around 30%) never gets squeezed out! So after wringing the damn tube, you just throw it away. The next time, before throwing the tube away, try cutting off the rear end and checking what's inside. You will be amazed at the amount of cream/wash/guck you find. So here's what we do. Once done contorting the tube into every imaginable shape, cut the...ok I'll just post pictures and you can figure out the steps.     

Chop off the top

Peer inside to see all the stuff you were about to throw away

Use cut off end as cap!

No, the brand is probably by chance, I don't want anyone prosecuting for me for cutting up a tube. Excuse the ridiculously poor picture quality, I don't profess to be an artist, I'm just making a point. Which brings me back to what I was saying. Even if you weren't paying attention, you must have heard of the Copenhagen brouhaha, how the world was getting warmer and climate change negotiations colder. At the end of the day, it boils down to the choices we make as individuals. Voluntarily.

07 March, 2010

Waking Life

I am a big dreamer. In the sense I have a lot of dreams. Vivid. Colourful. Long. Musical. Real. Surreal. Ever since I remember, holiday mornings have meant narrating and hearing out dream sequences with Girl 1 (aka The Girl With the Intuitive Dreams). Her motto hovers around the If Sleep Will Dream Concept perfected by compulsive dreamers. We'd wake up, breathlessly narrating bizarre sequences of utterly improbable events or nodding knowingly at the pen-not-working-in-exam, being-smothered-to-death, running-but-never-reaching dreams.

Coming to what triggered this post. Waking Life, a Richard Linklater (Linklater! Crazy surname!)  movie that I began watching solely because it boasted of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reappearing as their Before Sunrise/Before Sunset characters and the visually stimulating concept of rotoscopy. Good old Wiki describes rotoscoping as an animation technique in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame, for use in animated films. In the movie, it creates an interesting unreal fabric, making innaminate objects like tables and glasses float about in gravity-defying ways. The constant movement and shifting shapes craft a dream-like quality to the entire movie, which beautifully fits into what Waking Life is all about.

The movie touches a wide range of esoteric topics from consciousness to the meaning of life, what reality really is and dream interpretation. It plays with various subjects from philosophy to politics, the arts to scientific discourses on the human brain and REM. Following the conversations and often seemingly disjointed scene sequences, the movie may seem preachy to some. It has that Sophie's World kind of layered quality which makes it engaging and yet you have to go over it several times before assimilating most of what is being said. (Sophie's World is a whole other discussion we must have sometime).

However, what I was particularly fascinated by was the concept of Lucid Dreaming. The Lucidity Institute (wow!) defines the concept as
dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming. The term was coined by Frederik van Eeden who used the word "lucid" in the sense of mental clarity. Lucidity usually begins in the midst of a dream when the dreamer realizes that the experience is not occurring in physical reality, but is a dream. Often this realization is triggered by the dreamer noticing some impossible or unlikely occurrence in the dream, such as flying or meeting the deceased. Sometimes people become lucid without noticing any particular clue in the dream; they just suddenly realize they are in a dream.
Have you (those of you who dream) felt as if you know that you are dreaming while in the dream? It happens to me often (and to other people too, I found out) where I will be running and running and running and though I am panting and almost dead, I know its a dream and that the race will end. What is more crucial is that in lucid dreaming, you are actually (as the word suggests) conscious while you dream. You know you are in the dream and can acknowledge your power to change the course of events. You can choose how the dream unravels. You can just stop running, or turn around. And no, this is not something I dreamt up. It is a well documented and researched phenomenon. It is also, a skill that can be developed! (Side question: Why would you want to control your dreams? They are the one place that you are unfettered, reason flies out the window, so why would you train your mind to channel your dreams?)

Dreams and their quality of amalgamating recent experiences (a horror movie you saw, a conversation you had yesterday, the cake you ate) with your feelings (subconscious or otherwise) have always fascinated me. Waking Life and its interesting discussions of an exhaustive(ing?) range of topics reignited that.

04 March, 2010


I wonder if dogs think that poodles are members of a weird religious cult.
~ Rita Rudner


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