Friday, January 27, 2017

December and Chennai

We have seen and have now got immune to collective apathy, you know that ignoring what happens around and going on with life has been happening everywhere for long. If you are from Chennai however December seems to be a month when collective apathy is kept aside and people come together for the good of the other. If you have been in the Chennai floods or cyclone Vardah you will know what the emotions behind this post are.

This year Chennai added one more page to it's growing list of encomiums, the jallikattu protest. Much has been written about the protest and this post is not about the protest but the day when the protest ended. If you were in Chennai and in some parts of the city that felt the effects of the police action you would remember the paralysing traffic jams that threw the city out of gear. I was affected too, because my daughter was stuck in the van for over 3 hours without food.

Though I was upset at the mismanagement of the events by the powers that be, I observed that like me many others did not blame the students for the hardships. It will be grossly unfair to pain the entire protest as a student activity for it was not just the students but their parents, few grandparents, relatives, neighbours and many others who converged on the beach. The Marina has been the venue for many landmark gatherings and public meetings till the historic and monumental Seerani Arangam was demolished but this was a spontaneous demonstration of pent up feelings of a large section of the citizens of the city under the collective banner of jallikattu.

         (The Seerani Arangam where many historic speeces were given - pic courtesy Vikatan)

I digress from the post but I observed that many like me did not blame the movement (better than protest) because maybe they were also a part of the movement by deed or in spirit or maybe they have developed some empathy from two Decembers gone by. What was heartening was the relative absence of anger and road rage that you will see on the streets of Chennai, those who usually break every traffic rule were silently waiting it out. Many helped to regulate the traffic and I noticed a few youngsters sharing a few reassuring words to the rare harassed motorist. I observed one bride in her finery and wedding gown sitting in a car and I noticed the lack of tension on her face despite been stationary for a long period, her bridesmaid on the other hand was visibly nervous! Motorists who were getting diverted from one crossing to another smiled in resignation and kept going, something that was unbelieveable to see.

Chennai, you are changing for the better and it seems that December brings out the best in you, more than the music festivals, the kolams and the Christmas festivities. This year the goodness seems to have flowed over into the New Year. Here is a silent prayer that this goodness grows and spreads through this year.

 P.S. The picture is my fooling around with MS Paint

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Monkeying around...

Observing the children play in the Tower Park Annanagar I was wondering how did we grow up to be like this? How did we who were born like monkeys grow up into staid and boring men or women?

The children’s play area is full of slides, swings, see saws and jungle gyms. Watching the kids run around and play on these simple mechanical or stationary devices and having the time of their lives made me wonder if we stopped believing that life is not complicated at all and is all about simple little things. The biggest fascination for me was the many jungle gyms that had so many little kids on it.

Climbing, swinging and jumping seemed to be the most basic of activities after walking and running. Every kid seeing a jungle gym even for the first time took to it like fish to water. I remember few years ago when my daughter climbed on her first one. The kids are excited and so much at home up there, climbing, swinging and at times falling only to pick themselves up and start all over again.

As we grew up and other things occupied us we forgot monkeying around, we forgot getting down to the basics. These days Parkour sessions are slowly catching up and they are making an attempt to rediscover the skills that are inherent to everyone but are forgotten due to non-use. As we grew up we relegated physical activities to the bare minimum and its results are fairly evident: obesity, poor health are just a few.

Next time we call someone a monkey, maybe we should pause and think if being a monkey is really such a bad thing after all.

Image courtesy Google Images / Shutterstock

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Stolen moments...

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this picture should merit at least a hundred. Hand drawn by 5 enterprising youth as the décor for their new themed café, this was one of the many pictures that brought me many happy memories when I was there. This was a 90’s themed café and this picture brought many memories of school days.

Those were the days of simple joys, restricted television time, board games, comic books,  outdoor games that went required no equipment but had enough space to play, softy ice creams that could be licked off a cone, bicycles  that came up with the glamorous name of Street Cat, PTC was the preferred mode of travel with tickets under a Rupee, picnics in school was a trip to Guindy park or Golden Beach. Ah!!! Those were the simple days.

From the large line of cartoons, two stand out for me:
He Man and the masters of the universe: The goose bumps that I felt in the moment when Prince Adam says “By the power of gray skull…” the transformation from an ordinary man to a super man was unmatched. Funskool had a range of dolls, oops action figures that was the collectibles of small boys then, the girls had and still have their Barbies from the same maker.

I may have outgrown He man but Tom & Jerry, especially the classic series never fails to keep me entertained. Tom & Jerry kids are like the Hardy Boys case files series an attempt to sound better but pathetic in reality, but I digress. The antics usually violent and dangerous of the mouse, probably the cutest ever (if you discount his nephew Nibbles) and the usual adversary cat Thomas never fail to bring a hearty laugh no matter how low I may be. Tom & Jerry also introduced me to some wonderful classic music an integral part of the series. Life is a cat and mouse game often but Tom & Jerry taught us that it is always good to take time out and have a laugh.

We cannot turn back time but it will not hurt to revisit the past for small moments to suspend the present and enjoy the small joys of life. So what is your choice?

Iniya pongal nalvazhthukkal

Pongal from childhood has been an enjoyable festival, coming after the Christmas and New Year Holidays, this break of 3 days was a great time to spend at home with family and friends. Since it has been a purely urban upbringing with no rural origins the rural connect was never there and the festivities was centred at home and probably some visits to relatives.

Today Pongal as a festival is all about gratitude far removed from the fun and frolic the TV would lead you to believe. Gratitude to the Almighty for the graces we have been blessed with no matter what faith you may follow, there is never enough time to say thanks. Thanks to the farmers who toil for days with so many challenges both natural and manmade to put food on the table of everyone. Thanks to family and friends who make life worth living every day.

Ancient traditions have structured the festival to thank all three and it is fair that everyone take this moment to thank God, the farmer and family for all that has happened in the year that has passed and for those that we look forward to in the days ahead.

Today after a disastrous monsoon, Tamilnadu which is predominantly a rain fed state solely dependent on the North East monsoon for its water needs is staring at a crisis both for food and water. As we wish each other for the festival season we can offer a fervent prayer for unseasonal and immediate rains we can also pledge to conserve and diligently use the precious resource of water to make this festival more meaningful.

Wish you all a very happy Pongal!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

2,3, 4...

Recent events have left me puzzled.  We seem to have transcended from a “Generally Indifferent “group of people (who did not bother when things happened around them but did not affect them) to a “Grimace / Grin and bear” type of people and it is a scary thought.
Just look at the reactions to a wide range of events that touched people directly or indirectly:
  •           Demonitization
  •           Amma to Chinna Amma
  •           The Swathi murder
  •           Mass molestation of women in Bangalore

Enough has been spoken, debated, written by people; whether they were competent to do it was never an issue but what affected me was the reaction of the common majority. There was a minuscule outrage in the online space and by a few fringe elements who organize demonstrations in public places where the media and police usually outnumber the protesters. The general public just moved on.

Earlier there was no outrage and people were indifferent if things did not touch him, now even if things touch them they seem to shrug it off and move on. If society is going to be reduced to set of exclusive individuals operating in their own cocoons then the term community will no longer hold good.

Two is company, three is a crowd and you will still need four to carry the coffin. If people are going to get insular then there may be a time when in the hour of crisis there will not be even company.

The Indian freedom movement back then, the Arab Spring recently and so many more mass movements were sparked off by small incidents but the collective outpouring of people for or against the cause changed the world as we knew it. The above incidents are grave and deserve better responses than they have got, these events are a small sample of what is going on around us. If this is how we react to these things, I fear that we all are in desperate need of help.

And oh! It’s already two days into 2017, so here’s wishing you Happy 363 days more in 2017.

Image Courtesy: Google Images