Idle Mind…Ranter’s Paradise

It hasn’t been too cold this year, call it El Niño or global warming, something’s up. But I am not complaining, if winters were always like this I would be someone who is heard saying – I love the changing of seasons. It’s all a part of living in the present and forgetting for the moment that this could signal a very bleak future for us during our lifetime. But I better stop before I get carried away with this “nostalgia for the present”.

This has been an easy day so far. A half day at work, lots of time to write. I should make the most of it. Yet I sit here making plans about what could make this a perfect day. The clock ticks as I make these plans. There is probably a little person inside my brain, scribbling something in a notebook then scratching out what she’s written, tearing the page from the notebook and balling it up to play trash can basketball. I am sitting here catching up with all the daytime soap operas. I get to see these maybe 2-3 times a year but the story is almost always at the same place, no one ages, no one changes, The Young and The Restless are forever young and restless and so are the bold and the beautiful. I channel surf a little bit. I stop at Doordarshan which is now a part of my cable TV line up. Homi Adijania, the writer of Being Cyrus is being interviewed by a guy called Ashok Vyas, who is trying to sound as if he knows the distinction between w and v sounds. Homi talks about writing the story as a narrative and thus having complete control of the script and the plot as a result. He’s asked about his decision to stay from the standard Bollywood format of breakout song and dance sequences.

That gets me pondering Hindi films and their long tradition of break out song and dance sequences. How did this operatic style come about? Generations of Indians have grown up around classic musicals and know the names of the movies, the lyricists, the music directors and singers. It is a passion for many, yours truly included. But when I think about all the black and white classics that were broadcast over Delhi Doordarshan every Sunday as I was growing up, I remember being entranced and never once thinking (even as a more grown up and rational person) how out of place or unnatural it was to see actors and actresses mouthing serious, romantic or humorous dialogues one minute and singing and dancing the next. To my mind, the songs always fit in, they enhanced the story telling, those movies wouldn’t have been the same without their music. Now I watch Salman Khan and some unrecognizable and skimpily clad new Indian actress (they all look the same) energetically dancing on the cobble-stoned streets of some European city and wonder where things went wrong, when they stopped seamlessly complementing the story.

So back to the writer of Being Cyrus, a young person, confident in his abilities to step away from the run-of-the-mill absurdities, willing to create something that can garner fame and international recognition, rejecting all stereotypes. But once again, why isn’t this a seamless transformation? Why is there an air of trying too hard? Of wanting people to applaud ones desire to be different? Is applause the goal? Is appearing different the goal? Why does this seem insincere to me, as if doing meaningful things isn’t a natural extension of oneself, as if being better in comparison is the goal?

This thought leads to another one about vegans. I was reading something in the news about vegans. They shun leather, silk, fur, meat, even shoes where the glue was animal product based. The ideals are commendable, environmentally conscious, and more humane. But then there’s talk of advertising campaigns, marketing campaigns, new stores, new promotions that are focused on making the vegan lifestyle appear “sexy”, “coveted”, in turn enriching companies and corporations that will add the consumerist touch to it all. The same goes for the ubiquitous pink bags, purses, bracelets or any number of pink accessories and clothing. One buys these in the hopes that they are doing their bit for breast cancer in an effortless, painless way. One can continue ones indulgent behavior with the promise of trickle down charity in the background. What portion of this obscene spending actually ends up going to the intended cause?

However, I didn’t intend for this to be a rant. My glass house keeps me from casting too many stones. Although I can’t help wondering about the woman in Florida who was so tempted by a long and luxurious looking chinchilla fur coat on the cover of a glossy magazine that she flipped the covers to find the 1-800 number of the store that sold it and placed a phone order for this $65,000 extravagance! My daughter used to own a pet chinchilla, an adorably soft and cuddly animal, about half the size of a rabbit. This ankle length fur coat had several 6”X2” panels of fur stitched together. I was wondering how many chinchillas had to be killed so someone could spend $65,000 for a coat they would never need in sunny Florida. It’s an eye-popping story for me!

Such thoughts naturally lead to the millions of hungry men, women and children dying from hunger, disease, lack of medicines, misappropriated aid funds, corrupt, vested interests and to an article in The Economist about the Indian state of Bihar where kidnappings for ransom are supposedly down from 214 in a year to 166 under the new CM Nitish Kumar’s watch. Certainly something to celebrate, what say? The article also quotes a police official making a case for progress by saying that crimes were committed in the daytime before and are now restricted to the hours of the night. I am sure nighttime crimes are infinitely more preferable to the residents of the state than daytime ones. There was also some mention of 54% of this state’s under-fives being malnourished; higher than the 47% rate found outside the state of Bihar, which in itself is worse than sub-Saharan Africa! This in a country whose economy is allegedly booming, where four satellites were launched in one go, a land of any number of corporate successes, a nation that is certainly considered newsworthy by business publications the world over, a country I love and hate to see as possessing the leading edge in a malnourishment statistic, beating out sub-Saharan Africa. Let’s hope Mr Nitish Kumar can do more for this sorry state of my ancestors (pun intended) than chasing Laloo and Rabdi’s old cows away from the chief minister’s residential compound and replacing Remington typewriters with computers in government offices.

I see that the little person within my brain has found a lot to rant about; she hasn’t balled up scrap pieces of paper in sometime. Meanwhile, several more hours have gone by, the sun is about to set, a whole minute later than it set yesterday. That is certainly cause for cheer. The days are getting longer as life gets more pathetic. I suddenly realize that never before have I paid such close attention to the exact time of sunsets and sunrises, or the phases of the moon or worried about planning my attire a night earlier, after listening to the weather channel. When did these things become important? Maybe it is the phase that precedes the geriatric predilection with circadian rhythms and routines, bowel movements and other bodily functions or malfunctions. Maybe in mid-life one starts with worrying about external minutiae and as the years go by the attention is turned more and more inward, as if one was imploding, or getting swallowed in within ones own being.

A part of me is celebrating this three day reprieve. It’s a long weekend and I am full of hope at this moment with plans to use it “wisely”. That’s in quotes because I haven’t defined that word for myself yet. I know I am always left with a strange sense of regret at the end of every long break, mourning the wasted time, the lost hours of inertia that served to heal absolutely nothing and the cold plunge into the upcoming mindless work week that promises to be no different from that of a hamster’s time on its wheel.

Maybe I’ll write something I can be proud of, maybe I’ll end the procrastination on some pending projects, or maybe I’ll just concentrate on getting at least six hours of sleep everyday. Any number of those things could be considered “wiser” than the most likely possibility of paralyzing inertia. Let’s see how it goes.

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