Thursday, September 25, 2008

What can passion do for you

Last night, I watched the new Hindi movie, “Rock On” starring Arjun Rampal and Farhan Akhtar. It is human tendency and media’s obstinate nature to hype up movies, but for once, I wasn’t disappointed. The movie lived up to its buildup and glamour. Maybe I am more biased about the success of this simple yet obvious film as it touched on all the aspects of life that excite me – dreams, friendships, relationships, hope, and the importance of passion.

Rock On
is a story about four artists, who happen to be the best of friends and share a common love, music. The four start “Magic”—this indomitable and the invincible band. The guys perform, breathe, sing, celebrate, and fight life as a magical group. The music is contemporary and in tune with the times. Some might call it an acquired taste. I was extremely impressed with their make up and attire. When in college, they all dressed like the hippie, rock band musicians with their chic T-shirts, cutting-edge hairstyles, and funky jewelry; as working professionals, you could see an altered, individualistic wardrobe—a reflection of their economic, mental, and social status. What’s further interesting is what broke up this group in college and brings them back together after ten years, is their common passion.

So, why am I blogging about Rock On? Not just because I am an ardent fan of Bollywood. It’s rare that a movie convinces me on a philosophical level without an emotional upsurge. Sure, Karan Johar’s films remind me of my good old college days; Yash Chopra keeps the notion of naÔve romance alive; Madhur Bhandarkar has me convinced that the world is a lonely, scary, dysfunctional place, but it was Rock On that taught me a very important lesson—the need for passion. Not in a romantic or sociopathic way; just as a lifeline for personal sanity.

With age and time, our commitments and attitude change—some willingly and others because of societal expectations, especially for South Asians. I mean, we are a milestone driven community. Society defines standards of appropriate time for education, marriage, and children. Somewhere in the journey of striving to not displease others, we go with the flow and lose our sense of self, and in turn, our passion. Question is, are you happy doing that?

I can hear the sighs echo as I write, but think of the times you felt a genuine smile encapsulate your visage. Jog down your memory lane and dig up emotions that make you happy. I bet you, following your passion would take a significant place. Most people relate passion with their past. “When I was in college, I was on the dance team.” “I learnt years of classical Indian music. I have won awards too.” “I won athletic competitions when I was younger.” “Painting used to be relaxant.” So, why stop everything now? Clearly, you haven’t forgotten about the things that bring you bliss. Reminiscence is a temporary solution.

One of my friend’s dad (he in his sixties) is in a band. He has his own software consulting firm by the day, but in the evening, he and his cronies really hit it. The wives are their permanent groupies. They play at functions. My friend’s mom believes that her husband radiates mirthfulness when he’s around music.

I look at women from my mother’s generation. Things were different then, so most of them didn’t work. By the time they reached their middle age, they were affected by globalization and now they suffer from empty nest syndrome. The ones with passion have embraced reality on a positive note; the ones whose life has only been about doting their spouses and children, constantly whine about seclusion. Well, you can impart cheerfulness only if you are blithe from within.

Last night, after we finished watching Rock On, I said to my husband, “I believe human life is such a waste if there is zero passion involved. There has to be that one thing that stirs up the emotions and kicks up your zeal even at wee hours of the morning.”

Life is insipid and barren with just a monotonous schedule. I understand that we live in a demanding world, but I believe it’s imperative to take out that time to follow your passion. Even if it’s for a few hours a week, devote time to that one thing that brings out the true smile from within. People say, “I don’t have the time. I have too many things going on” Well, you have to create it then. Marriage, kids, and family are an inspiration; don’t use them as an excuse for your self-created rut. I have friends with kids, who have full time jobs yet pursue their passion. I believe, they are successful in every aspect because their inner self is happy. That's what passion does for them.

More until next time.

Copyright © 09.25.2008

“The only difference between a caprice and a lifelong passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.” – Oscar Wilde

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Life imitates Bollywood

An honest confession: I have been feeling a little uninspired this week. Maybe my right side of the brain has been working overtime and is in need of a break? I mean, I do not have a case of writer's block, lack of imagination or exhaustion from my world of words; just languor in expressing my thoughts. Sure, it's been a verbally demanding week—both at work and with my other writing commitments, but this isn’t the first time where I have had to juggle my day job (the one that pays the bills) and my true passion (you all know what it is). As the French would say, words are my raison d'être (the reason I exist--well, almost).

To confirm I wasn’t losing it, I spoke with few friends of mine who are in the creative field—to get a sense of how each person works and if they have gone through that “not-in-the-mood” phase. The conversations revealed three categories:

First category: There are few who discipline themselves to write or paint everyday—a friend, whom I absolutely admire, wakes up at 5a.m. everyday to paint. Mind you, this is despite a full-time job, kids, and a successful career. Not to forget, she is an epitome of hospitality.

Second category: These people truly need to be in the mood to create their work. Most of my writer/painter friends fall under this category. They delve into their work and then don’t look at it for six months.

Third category: People in this group are never devoid of ideas or inspiration but are unable to devote time as much as they would like to for disparate reasons. Another friend, who is an avant-garde and noteworthy artist, falls under this category. I met up with her for coffee earlier this week for tête-à-tête, and we sighed about the challenges of fitting it all.

So, anyway, I have been trying to nail down “that” core reason for my apathy. It’s been haunting me! Maybe it's the tanking market accompanied by the fear of near and dear ones losing their jobs; or, perhaps, it’s the current election scenario in the country. I wonder if there is a reason that only my subconscious mind understands but doesn’t reveal.

The other night, on my way back home from my poetry workshop, I revisited my activities from this past week. Sure enough, I had an epiphany. I realized why my behavior has been so “not-like-me” this week. The culprit for my tedium is, Chamku, the worst Hindi movie of 2008 (yet).

Chamku, (What an alluring name. Of course I am being sarcastic!) starring Bobby Deol and Priyanka Chopra, is a movie where the main protagonist, Deol, looks perpetually bored. He is the King of Ennui in the movie. Through glee, love, and trauma, Deol has a disinterested look. Given the appalling and confusing story as well as direction, can you blame him? He was exuding the truth, if anything. If you have watched Chamku, you know there is not one good thing about this film based on nonsense. Of course, my husband disagrees, since he thought Priyanka was worth the mental exhaustion.

What I am trying to say is that who knew bête noire Bobby Deol’s apathy would rub on me? But then again, when it comes to Bollywood, I am quite impressionable:-) . I don’t know about life imitating art; what I do know, is my thoughts emulated (even if subconsciously) Bobby Deol’s attitude. Scary, right?

More until next time.

Copyright © 09.18.2008

“Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” - Ingmar Bergman

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Is necessity the mother of all inventions?

In one of my writing classes, to encourage the fruitful fusion of the right brain with the left side, the instructor suggested that we go crazy with our imagination. She asked us students to invent an equipment/machine (in our fantasies) and write a few lines about this "dream come true" piece. Okay, so this machine could perform any function that you wanted. The caveat: it could perform only one core task.

Anyway, when the time came for us to go around the class and share our imaginations, I was dumbfounded by some of the choices. The classroom was redolent of New York attitude. Each one of us, even in our fantasies, chose to invent utilitarian objects, in turn, making life easier for ourselves. Like automatic dog poop picker, mugger alarm, subway sound-deafener, tourist-repellant etc. I was one of those who chose to invent a machine that would give a 30-second buzz to men adorned with jewelry--like zinging them and throwing them across the room. I mean a thin chain across a man’s neck or a wedding band is one thing; but some men can take it too far with piercing and metal indulgence. Well men, here is a newsflash: call it sexist, but most women get nauseated when you flash your bracelets, earrings, and other strange piercing and blind us with metallic reflection.

I digress. Anyway, about fifty percent of the class shared a common desire. How strange is that, right? They wanted to create a remote that would mute kids around them—kinda like the Adam Sandler movie, “Click.” None of these people came across as children loathers. They didn’t mind the presence of kids in their world; they just preferred not to hear them.

Let's talk about the "mute- the-child-" remote that most of my classmates decided to invent. The few of us, pretending to be socially appropriate, expressed our surprise at the choice. I mean, how could they say such a thing? Aren’t children lovely etc. etc. etc.? The truth is, every adult, at one point or the other in his or her lives, has desired for a gadget of the sort. I have friends, who love their children, but would trade in their vintage jewelry for moments of silence. Still, I pondered over the candidness with which my classmates opened up their heart.

The same evening on the subway ride home, in my continued state of bedlam, I was rudely introduced to the adage and the reality in "necessity is the mother of all inventions." A lady with two kids (maybe 8-year old girl and 6-year old boy) hopped onto the subway. Okay, my Indian customs and attitude coerce me into offering a seat to the elderly, pregnant, and people with children but at 10:30p.m., on a weeknight especially, I wish I could care less. I mean, by then, I am out of compassion and full of cynicism, hunger, and exhaustion. You know what gets me the most-- people embarking on the sympathy bandwagon and cashing on the situation--like this lady. With a pitiable face, she stood right next to a few us --”Poor me. I don’t have a seat.” Before I could replace my irritation with empathy and offer the woman my seat, someone else decided to earn “good karma” points and did the good deed.

Uh-oh! Biggest blunder.

The baby boy (old enough to have a coherent conversation) decided to pollute the subway car full of ornery commuters with his shrieking and yelling. He wasn't in pain; he was being a pain by throwing unnecessary tantrum for attention. Everyone sitting around the family had the same look and thoughts too, "Get off the train. It's too late in the night for this drama.” The mother looked aggravated with her child and a bit mortified too. Twenty random strangers giving you the “I hate you” look cannot be pleasant for anyone.

Anyway, at one point, I thought something would happen to this kid if he didn’t stop screaming and drowning in his tears. After 30 minutes of howling, this brutish boy decided changing strategy for attention. He started singing, "If you are happy and you know it, clap your hands". He expected the rest of the commuters to join his choir and scream our lungs out. I think his mother agreed with him. Ironically, happiness arrogantly exuded the train when the wailing kid decided to embrace it. The song was like spreading salt over a wound.

It dawned onto me what my classmates had been venting about all evening. When my stop finally came, I mentally apologized to them. I could finally vividly see the genius as well as agony behind their fantasy.The train ride taught me that necessity is the mother of all invention. I guess, Bose came out with those soundproof headphones after genuine market research. Maybe my classmates were a part of their focus group. Who knows?

More until next time.

Copyright © 09.11.2008

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” ~Franklin P. Jones

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Is it “aphrodisiac” or African American Disiac?

I was watching reruns of “Two & Half Men” the other day where the adorable kid, Jake brings up the interesting and delicate issue of “political correctness” aka the title of this blog.

Okay, I grew up in a culture where you told it like you saw it. There was no sugar coating or time spent on cogitating about the right words. The notion of “It would hurt someone’s feelings,” was unheard.

One of my best friends, who has green eyes and light-colored skin (I am not referring to Aishwarya Rai, in case you Bollywood starved readers, like me, are wondering:- ), was told by her father that she looked like “white shit.” The words of wisdom weren't shared in a derogatory tone; it was more like “as a matter of fact.”

One extreme: In South Asian culture, commenting, assessing, and analyzing another person’s physical traits are never condemned, especially if you are a woman of marriageable age. Hell, the matrimonial columns flaunt rigid physical requirements (caste and community specific at times). Most people want women who are tall, slim, and fair to guarantee good looking future progeny. This unwarranted list of physical traits is bragged about nonchalantly.

The other end of the spectrum: As a debutante in the American Society, I was introduced to the world of “political appropriateness” in an unanticipated way. I am like Chatty Cathy, so in one of my conversations with a random store owner, I casually referred to “Native Indians” as “Red Indians.” His face turned white--like he had seen a ghost in broad daylight. I was bewildered by his response. Later that evening, I was told about the genius of “American opinionated rightness.” I should have said “Native Indians” to the store owner; Red Indians refers to their skin color.

I remember thinking, “How hypocritical! You chase people away from their land and make them relinquish their being, but this poor immigrant has to watch it.” I regurgitated what I was taught in school. South Asians find a sense of comfort in allocating color-related names to people. We never say blasé colors like “white, black, brown” etc. We have clear definitions in each color category.

A short tale: This friend of mine and I have the most unreserved conversations. He addresses me as the “Indian girl with an incomprehensible Indian accent.” He then shakes his head like a pendulum--reminiscent of how people in certain southern and western parts of India talk and continues to make fun of samosa. Well, I address him as “the fat, white boy from the Midwest on a staple diet of potatoes, who could never own even 1/1000th of my Indian brains or charisma.” Sometimes, I sing “Go white boy! Go white boy!” We both love our rapport. There is no malice whatsoever in our banter though I can smell activists a mile away trying to drown us in the world of “Gee that sounds abhorrent. How dare you!”

The layers of diplomatic American vocabulary inducted by sanctimonious, pseudo intellectuals, and guilt-ridden individuals are nebulous. Who truly gets them or even follows them without errors?

I am constantly under the pressure of what is an okay expression to use—the avant-garde word for house wife is “home maker”; “secretary” is now “personal assistant.” Should I say “African American” or “Black”? What if the person doesn't have an African heritage, like Barack Obama. Then what? My journalist associate confirmed that Associate Press recognizes the references to “Black” and “White.” Hmm. This clarification came from a “White,” sorry “Caucasian” woman, who for the most part is disliked by others around her.

I am not in favor of the South Asian apathy towards words but the American over protectiveness exasperates me at the same time. It’s de trop. Fear and scare tactics shouldn’t be the reason for human compliance.

The shackles of bigotry or human inappropriateness won't break unless people change their attitudes and become more accepting from within. Dousing everything with “politically language” doesn't solve the core of the problem.

More until next time.

Copyright © 09.04.2008

“How clever you are, my dear! You never mean a single word you say”— Oscar Wilde