Ponderings

Accidental Tamizh Love

Tamizh and I became friends because my parents told me I had to . My mom was adamant about her children learning to read and write their mother tongue. My brother escaped this by being absolutely terrible at Tamizh,like failing level terrible. Me, I was not not so lucky, at least that’s what I thought back then. I always managed to scrape through and be average. But we had a very strained relationship,me and tamizh. First somehow the hindi and sanskrit kids assumed an air of self importance. What was up with that? And then the tamizh scores would always bring my total down. This friendship was not working

It drove me mad. No matter how hard I tried, my scores did not improve.I tried very hard, I would write down every answer , practice writing essays , pour over grammar , try to understand the difference between பெயர்ச்சொல் and வினைச்சொல். My dad had a standing joke about questions on grammar. “Mark all your grammar questions as ஈறு கெட்ட எதிர்மறை பெயரெச்சம்” he would say .“Because there will atleast be two that are those.So you are guaranteed 2 marks atleast”. It was funny when he said cause he was not writing the exams. It wasnt funny to me. So you can imagine my surprise when in my 10th public examinations , I was slapped with a 91% in Tamil. I thought it was a joke. For almost a month after that I was expecting a mail saying there was an error in my language marks and that I had managed a 74%. The mail never came.

My high school refused to let me choose Sanskrit as second language.There was nothing more I wanted than to take up sanskrit as second language cause first, initiation in to cool club which regardless to say was number one priority in high school and second more total score cause you know colleges and all. High school tamizh is the nail in your coffin if you were the type that was harboring ambitions of Bits, Pilani etc. ( Yes, you can laugh here). You can kiss a 90% in language goodbye if you take tamizh unless you are a direct bloodline of mahakavi bharathiyaar or kannadasan. My parents obviously did not help me here.

As I expected, my performance in Tamizh was not great in my board examinations mostly because it is incredibly hard to score above 85% in Tamil board. Atleast average students dont. I was incredbily proud of my 85% in Tamil in boards because that is equivalent to a 99% in sanskrit. I have made up this stat and I am not backing down. But this time I did not blame Tamizh. The two years of high school Tamizh made me fall in love with that language like never before.

I stopped studying Tamizh and started learning and appreciating it. The sangam poetry, verses from agananoonru, puranaanooru, kalithogai, kalingathuparani, silapathigaram, manimegalai stole my heart. The beauty of the language dawned on me in these two years. It was this time that my mom initiated me in to Bharathiyar big time. Apart from curriculum where we learned quite a bit of Bharathi (Paanchali Sabatham being one of my favorite), my mother wrote most of my tamil speeches that were part of our school assembly and she would always, always quote bharathiyaar.There was a bharathi poem for every topic. Bharathiyaar was a huge inspiration for my mom and she transferred that to me. So much that when I left for US, among many things she gave me was a book of “Bharathiyar Kavithaigal”.

When I look back, I am delighted that Tamizh did not let me go and gave me another chance to learn and appreciate her . It is because of those two years that I was able to read numerous tamizh literary works. It was my mother’s maniacal insistence on learning one’s mother tongue and the school’s stupid policy of rejecting my application to take sanskrit that I have to thank and I will thank them forever.

Today is Bharathiyaar’s birthday , and Bharathiyaar to me in many ways is synonymous to my love for the language. He made me appreciate that poetry doesnt have to be sophisticated or embellished with big complicated words. Its the simplicity of his verses that captured my interest. The poem below is one of my favorite and probably one of the best motivational quotes ever. This was also the poem my mom helped me with for one of my first ever high school essays, it has stayed with me ever since.

அக்கினி குஞ்சொன்று கண்டேன் — அதை
அங்கொரு காட்டிலொர் பொந்திடை வைத்தேன்!
வெந்து தணிந்தது காடு
தழல் வீரத்தில் குஞ்சென்றும் மூப்பென்றும் உண்டோ?

Happy Bharathiyar day you all! வாழ்க தமிழ் !

Note: The irony of this post in english has not escaped me. However it is easier to write in a language that all my friends can read under 5 minutes. Plus I still need spell check on my Tamizh
பெயர்ச்சொல்,வினைச்சொல் and ஈறு கெட்ட எதிர்மறை பெயரெச்சம் : Tamil Grammar terms

Thoughts on Kaaviyathalaivan

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There is a scene where Kali(Siddarth) is chosen by his Guru to play Soora Bathman, the mythical demon Karthikeyan is born to destroy. His different portrayal of the demon king compared to the theatrical, loud and more common version of the demon by Gomathi(Prithviraj), won him the honor of playing lead in the play. Right after this, the movie cuts to an artist adding splashes of red to his painting of a demon to be used as a prop in the play. Gomathi’s jealousy is introduced to us very early in the movie in such subtle and then very not so subtle ways.

Gomathi is painfully direct in questioning those who favor Kali instead of him, so much that your heart goes out to him. When he questions Vadivu about her lack of love for him when all along he has only had her best interests in heart , you feel for him. “He has a point you know”, you want to tell Vadivu. Or when he asks his guru whether he would always be the Ekalaivan to him and fall short of Arjunan, you smile at his sly reference to his superiority in acting skills and his guru’s favoritism . Gomathi makes you feel sorry for him all the while making you hate him a little for acting on his jealousy . He makes you want to tell him, let it go, you are good and he is good too.

Kaaviyathalaivan has fantastic performances. Prithviraj dazzles as the jealous actor forever hoping to one up Siddarth who effortlessly wins everyone’s heart as the more natural actor. How this story of jealousy unfolds in the backgroup of a traveling theater when India is in the cusp of the freedom movement makes up the story. The art direction in the movie is stellar. It brings forth a dream world that is theater with the props and the actual staging of the plays.Very little needs to be said about the music , as much has been said and much more written. ARR is fantastic , his music was one of the reasons I wanted to watch this in the big screen and he did not disappoint . Vedhika was good too as the KB Sundarambal inspired Vadivu. You just wish she was given more scope and a more meatier role than just being the pretty , nightingale voiced girl in love with a boy .

There is something unexplainable and wrong in this movie. In spite of the great performances and a pretty strong storyline, you don’t walk away with the feeling that you just watched a great movie. Instead you immediately start thinking about what this movie did wrong and why it fell short. The answer to me was that this movie tried too hard. It was too ambitious. The jealous actor story definitely worked better in the world of theater than movies but the independence backdrop somehow seemed squeezed in to the movie . They neither evoke any sense of nationalism nor make you root more strongly for Kaali.

But then there are some wonderful scenes like the one where Kaali and Gomathi talk about the Rajapaat who reigns high and their ambitions in the world of theater.There was an MGR-Sivaji analogy there , atleast for me. The fundamental idealogical difference in their schools of thought. The Sivaji reference did not stop there. Going back to the Soora Bathman scene, when Kaali acts out his version of Sooran, with a demonic laugh that could run a chill up your spine, all I thought was this was how Sivaji would have done Sooran. (Please lets forget Veerabahu)

Kaaviyathalaivan – Watch it and if you left the theater feeling something was wrong , let me know what you think that is.

Yours,Mine and Ours

Walking along the beach has been my favorite past time turned routine for the last many years. Time went blazing past my young adolescent fantasies and replaced them with responsibilities and wisdom,or so I would like to think. However my walking along the beach ritual continued.

I spent a large part of the walk people-watching and trying to imagine their personalities,conjuring their life experiences,building their life stories in the few minutes that I see them and walk past them.Today, I was taking my kids out for a stroll. I wanted them to experience what I did during my walks, hoping it would enrich their creativity, that the televisions and video games were hell bent on destroying. The ice cream shops along the way caught their attention and we took a brief recess from walking to get some ice cream.

As I came out of the ice cream shop, I could not help but notice a string of beggars sitting along the sidewalk. There was perfect symmetry in the way they were sitting. It was very territorial too. They all had a mat strewn on which they sat and a small hollow cylinder which had once housed items from instant noodles to baby food to collect other people’s hard earned money.

I walked towards them trying to make up their stories in my short movie, when I found myself stuck in a writer’s block. I could not make up their characters in my mind. It was as though my elite mind refused to let a dirty beggar inside my script. My thoughts were interrupted as I heard my daughters fighting for each other’s ice creams. Kids! how they always fight for the things they don’t have. As I thought that, I was not sure if it was just the kids who did that.

We crossed the beggars and I saw the person ahead of me drop two pennies in one of the hollow cylinders. The clunking sound was too clear since they were so few and far in between. I was now conscious of the many pairs of eyes looking at me wondering if I was going to follow suit . I shied away from looking at their eyes. As I was about to cross them by and look for new characters to fill my creative canvas, I saw one of the beggars taking a coin from his booty and giving it to the one sitting next to him. He found that he had no need for two coins when his friend had none.

I looked at my little girls fighting over a piece of orange ice cream and could not help feeling small. All of us , wallet hugging folks walking across the beggars refusing to acknowledge their presence seemed tiny in contrast to the perfectly aligned line of beggars . I was not so sure if they deserved to be called that as my writer’s block faded away.

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The poster says it all.

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The Before Life

Does anyone remember a life , an age where we did not have Google. An age when every information was not at the tip of your hands. An age when you did not run to the internet for everything. The before Life!

Well , I certainly do remember one such era, cause I spent a reasonable amount of time in that era. But what I absolutely cannot remember is what did I do at that time for information. I simply do not remember. I just draw a blank when I think about it.

Did I just not need the information or did I have other means to find out ? I just dont remember. For one we did not have assignments which needed so much outside information. It was all there in the textbook, learn the book, apply what you have learnt and solve the problems. And apart from homework, there was nothing that really needed the internet. There was no internet banking because people still went to banks for thier banking oeprations. There was no real email, even when email started it was more of a pride thing than anything else.

All I remember about the before life was using MS Paint and to draw pictures. It was just a source of entertainment then. Now I cannot imagine a day without my laptop. It has become the most essential thing. There is an obsession to check email like every second, as though a zillion mails come in a second. There is an insane need to have more scraps, more replies on the wall, more googling for information. It is almost like its a magic potion for continuing to live. Sometimes I think if its unicorn blood. If its causing us to lead a half life.

Technology has for a fact enriched life. Everything is easy today. Dont know a small fact, not to worry, there is google and Wiki to your help. Dont know the route to a place, dont worry , there is google maps. Do not know what the capital of Japan, again, who needs to study geography when there is Google around. It the last fact that scares me. The information outburst has almost made on apathetic to gaining knowledge. While there are a whole bunch of things that makes life so much easier , they also take away a certain very important thing . The need to possess knowledge.The pride of knowledge the small trivial things give us.

Written mails are almost vanishing now. how many of us write mails to our friends or parents? how many of us send postcards ? We dont cause its just too much effort compared to the other options we have. Try doing it once though, try sending a hand written mail and getting a response. It feels great. Somehow the easier and faster things are not the best things. By no means am I suggesting a freeze or a total take over of the online life. Like it or not, we are a part of the ever increasing online life, but if we could maybe have a balance of both, if we could give the small things a chance, it would not really be The Before Life.

The advise of the Nobody

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So here is a story that everyone is super familiar with. I am going to take you through a nostalgic route.

High school, 12th standard, board exams are over, you are relaxing in your house, with a hot cup of tea, bajjis and TV. This is the only time after ages when your mom or dad have not told you to study and have not thrown dirty glances when you were watching TV.You are blissfully happy thinking about the next 3 months you are going to spend royally wasting your time and sitting on your bottom doing nothing.

Enter useless-full-of-uncalled-for-advice-mama.

“Enna pa, 12th mudichitiya? (So boy! you are done with your high school?)

You are suddenly awakened from your day dream by this huge person and you immediately sit properly in the couch and try hard to quickly swallow the big piece of pakora from your mouth meanwhile nodding so as to not make it seem like eternity until you give your answer.

“Ammam uncle”(Yes uncle) Still wondering who this guy is.

Your mom then comes in and exchanges pleasantries with him and tells you how she knows him, he is as expected an aunt’ husband’s brother’s uncle or something similar to that. Well basically you dont care.

Not only he is loud and disturbs your perfect evening watching TV,since he is around, you cannot watch your regular MTV, Channel V where there are always near naked women dancing. It just was not manners. So you are forced to switch to Sun TV or worse Sun news to watch a bunch load of crap. So successfully by entering your house, he has screwed your mood.

Then he goes on to your studies. He wants to know all about your scores, right from 12th board results to TNPCEE , to what college you want to what course you want.

So you triumphantly mutter that you want Computer science. You then look at his face and see that every muscle of his face slowly changing to finally end up in a cringing look which is as scary as Vijayakanth smiling. So obviously you are scared and wondered if you said something blasphemous or if you accidentally changed to MTV.

“Enna pa, Why do you want to do CSE, the market is down no” he says.

You blink your eyes as obviously you are not quite clear as to what market he is talking about. What do vegetables and computer science has to do with each other . Immediately your mind wanders towards the potato your mom promised to make today only to come back to the crazy old man talking again.

“THe computer industry is down my lad. You wont be able to find any jobs. Dont take CSE or IT” rambles our all-knowing nobody.

“But I have always wanted to do CSE and I like programming and everything” you say in a weak feeble attempt to try and speak back to an elder. Now we all know how blasphemous that is.

Your mom then throws you a ‘listen to elders’ look.After 16 years of being in a Tam-Brahm house, you should almost expect this look. You get that look 10 times a day if not more.

“You should do ECE pa. That is the course that has more scope today. See if you do an ECE you can get an IT job and also do masters in America if you want . With ECE you have cross functional advantages pa. Don’t do just because you like it, you should also think about what will get you job no” our well equipped nobody gives free advice, the only thing that comes free really.

So here comes someone, completely ruins your evening, eats the remaining pakoras your mom made for you and confuses you on your future life ,altering plans!Now he has made you think! THe one thing you did not look forward to do the whole of your summer.

I have heard this take ECE, you have cross functional advantage, you can do anything you want mambo jumbo too many times when I told people I wanted to do computers. I am taking nothing away from ECe guys, if it excites you , that is what you should do and not even think twice. ECE was never my cup of tea so i decided to not heed to the nobody’s advice and went my own way.

Considering its the time of counseling, let me just ask all these nobody’s who throw away free advice to everyone who seems to have an ear attached to them.”How many ECE guys get to work on electrical companies? 1 or 2 in a college.Everyone gets absorbed in to TCS, Infosys or one of the other mass recruiting IT giant. So is the work that they do there electrical or electronics. Nope. I am sorry , you code!

In that case why not learn coding! If you go to do masters, that is an entirely different ball game, because you are obviously interested in studying more of the subject.

So please dont buy the whole BS about doing ECE because the industry is down. Even if you do ECE and industry is down, you wont get hired as you will get placed in an IT giant in India!

And btw I really hope people who still profess allegiance to the dont do CS as market is down try and explain to me who is having the last laugh ! Cause I sure did.

PS. Nothing aginst ECE or EEE , I have a bunch of friends who love those subjects and who are rockstars in it. The post was only for those who were forced in to taking ECE when thier heart was some where else.