Saturday, October 30, 2010

Creative Tweets 5

A few more of my tweets here. I must add that all of these are composed during my rather long commute to work each morning. Blackberry in hand, I check my Facebook notifications and catch up with all the world news on my Twitter feed, and when I'm bored or inspired, whatever the situation might be, I tweet! :)

Dreams rule my mind
But life scales them back to the parameters of my reality
It's a "get real" moment
One that I'm still getting used to!

Awe-inspiring drive thru ancient forests
Miles of beaches n outer reefs pounded by ocean swells
The rugged majesty of the Pacific Coast!!

The boats loaded with glistening sockeye salmon
Bring out the romantic pioneer in me
Embarking on a culinary journey
With frontier fortitude

A favorite tune posted on Facebook
Brings back haunting memories, Mummy
The umbilical cord still attached
Beyond death, grave, into eternity

Gorgeous Fall morning, the birds chirping
The sun shining, the dew glistening
The hearth is warm and so's my heart
This cold October day!

The perfect parent am yet to be
Renegotiating my closeness n distance
The dramas n conflicts tell me
Don't finesse motherhood, but let it be

Due to the 140 character limitation of a tweet, sometimes I struggle to make the tweet as pithy as possible and am left with no character for an end punctuation. Still love it though!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

School Day Reminiscences - II

Seventh Day School, Madurai ...a place where the most part of my childhood was spent, and happily at that! The memories come surging back from the nethermost recesses of my brain. Picking up from where I left off in my earlier post, the chapel was the focal point of our mornings. Each day we would gather in it for our morning assembly of hymns, stories, thought for the day, and prayers. The chapel served like an auditorium of sorts, and considering that the school was still small in those fledgling days, it could easily accommodate all the students from Kindergarten to Grade 5. Our elocution contests would be held there, our guest speakers would address us there, our educational movies would be screened there, yet on Saturdays, when I attended church with my family there, it would take on an entirely new form, with the pastor preaching his sermon from the pulpit, and the tank behind him filled with water for the immersion baptism of new members inducted into the church. For the New Year's Day, the church would come alive with colourful festoons and shiny spangles and assorted decorations that brought about that special magic of the season. Come to think of it now, that chapel was an incongruent mix of the academic and the religious, I should say!

The classrooms on the campus were not that many in those days either. As the school strengthened and increased in numbers, tile-roofed classrooms were constructed along the back walls of the school campus. Global warming was not a major problem then, and the red-tiled rudimentary clasrooms were not a big discomfort even during the dog days of summer. Just behind the compound wall was a slum that teemed with a porcine population along with the human kind, and it was not uncommon to hear the pigs grunting and squealing as our classes went on. One of my childhood memories is of being chased by a pig that had strayed on to the school campus. I happened to go to the bathroom behind the chapel one evening, after school hours, and was rudely shocked to find the pig give chase. I remember turning tail and running for my dear life! There were a lot of casuarina saplings (must be huge trees now) that were planted around the campus, and on a rainy day, a naughty classmate would take me under them, promising to tell me a secret, and while I innocently stood under the young tree, would take hold of a branch and shake the water droplets on to me.

I also remember cartloads of sand being brought from the Vaigai River and spread around the school grounds. The sand was still damp and fresh, and we children would frolic in the huge mounds heaped in front, near the school gates. We would jump on to those mini mountains of sand and dirty our uniforms and shoes, and get shooed away by Moses Annan, the school watchman, and Joy Akka, his wife. The girls would put their thumbs and forefingers together in the wet sand and make molds shaped like betel leaves. There was a big tamarind tree on the right end in front of the school, and also guava trees, which we children used to raid continuously. There were huge tamarind trees at the back as well, but several of these were cut down to build the classrooms. As long as the trees lasted, we had a great time plucking and eating the guavas and tamarind. When the tamarind was out of season, we would still munch on the sour leaves. At times, when the guava or tamarind was beyond our reach, an ingenious classmate would climb on to the compound wall, jump like Tarzan and seize a branch and hold it down for us on the ground while we raided the branch and picked it clean. I was particularly addicted to the tender, unripe guavas, and I'm afraid I never let many of them ripen and complete their full life cycle! Oh for those days of mischief and gay abandon!

When the number of students outgrew the chapel, the morning assemblies were held outside, near the main gates of the school. I had the honour of hoisting the flag during the assemblies and would recite the National Pledge aloud ("India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters," and so on), and all the students would repeat it after me. My brother Karikalan used to joke around at home saying, "You know, when you say all Indians are your brothers and sisters, you have to silently tell yourself, 'Except one'!" The assemblies were eventually reduced to twice a week, and then to once a week as time went by. It was around this time that a new campus was bought, the one in Ellis Nagar. The campus, as it was then, is still vivid in my memories. There were lots of coconut palms all around the campus and again, tile-roofed, rudimentary classrooms were built there to accommodate the primary classes of the school, and eventually the entire elementary section moved there. It was a pang to see many of our teachers and our loving juniors move to the new campus. The students in the higher classes felt sort of isolated, and the only time we got to go the new campus was for the weekly assemblies and our Physical Education (I think they were called PT) classes.

Memories will continue ...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Same, Yet Different!

India is truly a sub-continent, teeming with a lot of languages, customs, traditions, religions, and cultural practices. One begins to realize the enormity of this truth only when we live far away from our homeland, where the diaspora that speaks one's own language is few and far between in a foreign land. As long as I lived in my hometown of Madurai, in my home state of Tamilnadu in India, I simply took for granted the joys and nuances of everyday life. When I moved to California, I still didn't miss my state that much because Silicon Valley was swarming with Tamil engineers whom I could bump into on the streets on any given day. Life here in Vancouver, British Columbia, is different though, and it is very rare that I run into a Tamil-speaking person from Tamilnadu, though there are a lot of Sri Lankan Tamils here. Consequently, most of the Indians I know here are East Indian (as the Punjabis are called here), and though my heart sings with joy at the sight of an Indian face, I realize we have nothing in common at all in terms of language, traditions, religion, culture, etc., etc.

Other than the common bond that we're Indian, everything else about these friends is Greek and Latin to me, if you'll excuse the cliche. Take for instance the occasion when we were invited to Bob and Raji's house for the kirtan ceremony (religious rites to name a newborn child) of their first grandchild, Athena. The husband and I had no clue what the Sikh rites entailed, or what to expect there, and the first major faux pas of ours was to enter the house with our heads uncovered. The reaction of several Sikh folks there, total strangers to us, was as if they'd stepped on live coals. They immediately rushed to our sides, politely ushered us out of the hallowed hall, and while I was instructed to pull the palloo of my sari over my head, the husband had his covered by a piece of red cloth that was dutifully provided to him. I had no clue about the goings on there, but however managed to observe and follow. The next dumb thing I did was that there were some golden coloured rectangular objects stacked at one end of the reception area, and I saw two women go over and take one each. I told the husband that perhaps I should do the same, thinking that probably it was a book of prayers or something of that sort. I promptly went over and took one, when Raji sauntered over to me, and said, "Olivia, please have a picture of our grandchild as well," and handed me the same. The box, I discovered, did not contain a book of prayers, but laddoos that the hostess was giving away to the guests, thanking them for attending the ceremony. I shouldn't have gone and taken one myself, I realized with a great deal of embarrassment!

Anyways, last weekend we had another invite to attend a Thanksgiving ceremony at the Nanak Niwas Gurdwara in Richmond. Friends Malwinder and Avneet had bought a new house and this was an occasion to celebrate that. The husband and I knew what to expect this time round. I wore a chiffon sari for the occasion (knowing very well that I needed that palloo to cover my head), but little did I know that it would be a herculean task to make that stay on my head as long as I was there. I really hate it when I have to leave my husband and go over to the women's side, particularly when every one of those women is a total stranger to me. Go over I did, and there was this huge mound up front that was covered in a shiny, pink, sequined cloth. There was a bearded, turbaned gentleman with a duster-like object in his hand that he was fanning the mound with. By his side were three Sikh gentlemen singing in Punjabi, and I became lost in the magnetism of their deep voice, though I had no idea what they were singing about. Folks who came into the hall went up to the mound, respectfully knelt down and touched their foreheads to the ground. I was trying to figure out what could be under that pink cloth, and was wondering why they couldn't openly display it, whatever that object might be.

Lost in thought, I happened to glance over to the men's side and found the husband frantically gesticulating something to me. It took me a while to discover that he was trying to tell me about the palloo that had slipped off my head ...the horror! To make the long story short, I completely lost interest in the proceedings thereafter and was focusing valiantly on keeping that piece of chiffon on my head. The husband went up to the mound , genuflected, and touched his forehead to the ground like the others he'd seen, but I prudently stayed behind, not wanting to risk my palloo slipping off at the holiest of places and scandalizing the entire Sikh population there! We came out of the hall and on the opposite wall was this huge portrait of a Sikh gentleman, a religious leader, I presumed. "Is that Chatrapathi Shivaji?" went the husband. I shushed him into silence lest anyone hear him air his ignorance, and as soon as we left the hall, we both burst into laughter. Indians we all are, the same, yet different!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

School Day Reminiscences - I

These past couple of months have been especially nostalgic for me. I happened to reconnect with a few of my juniors from school on Facebook, and slowly all these fascinating people from my childhood days seemed to come out of the woodwork. My husband cropped my picture from my Grade 10 class photo, and jokingly posted it as my profile picture on Facebook because he thought it was cute, and lo and behold, it stirred a whole lot of nostalgia in many of my schoolmates and opened the floodgates of memories past! I absolutely revel in walking down memory lane because it puts my life in perspective, helps me relate to folks with our shared recollections of teachers, events, friends, and the like, and makes me feel proud of how far we have come in life from those days of fun and childish laughter.

Well, school was the Seventh Day Adventist School on Travellers' Bungalow Road (TB Road) in smalltown Madurai of those days, in Tamilnadu, India. It was founded in the mid-1960s, following the establishment of the SDA Church, predominantly for the church members' children, but then grew into a behemoth of education for the general public. My parents, Mr. D.G. Samuel and Mrs. Mercy Samuel, were actively involved in the forming of both the church and the school, and my mother was one of the pioneer teachers of the school. I must admit I had the honour and privilege of attending this great institution right from Day 1 of its inception, until I graduated from the Grade 10 ICSE class, the first ICSE batch in the whole of Madurai! My memories of my school days are nothing but pleasant, my teachers extraordinary in what they imparted to me, my friendships so precious, and my childhood days full of sunshine, geniality, and general bonhomie! Needless to say, all that I am today is because of my wonderful school and its superlative teachers!

I remember very vividly my Grade 1 teacher, Mrs. Abraham Koshy, whose daughter Anita Koshy was in the same class as well. I credit this teacher for having taught us reading skills at a very young age. I was 5 at that time (1967) and would eagerly await my turn to read aloud from the English Reader, a practice that was continued at home, my Dad relaxing in his easy chair with eyes closed shut, as I sat opposite him and read aloud from the Reader's Digest. Pastor Samraj was the first Principal of the school, and he and his family lived on campus. His son Edison was a few years my senior, and we children used to play with him on the sandy grounds of the school. On the side of the chapel next to the road leading to Ellis Nagar was a huge tree with fragrant white blossoms (not sure of the name...they were shaped like trumpets!), and I can still recall the heady scent of those flowers early in the morning, as we filed into the chapel for our morning service!

Memories will continue...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My Take On "Endhiran the Robot"

I hardly ever see Tamil films and go to the theatre very rarely to catch one, Tamil or otherwise. The only exception is when a Rajni starrer comes to town, when the hype is built to a level bordering on mass hysteria and there is a fevered anticipation until D-day, the day the movie is released globally. To those of my international friends who may not know who Rajnikanth is - well, you just have to google him to find out his colossal stature in Tamil cinema, and now with Endhiran, in Indian cinema on the whole! His legions of rabid fans are legendary. To them, he is usually a demi-god to be worshipped, but in Endhiran, he becomes God the Creator Himself who creates the ultimate in Artificial Intelligence, Chitti the Robot!

I do not count myself a Rajni fan, nevertheless, I watch his movies because they guarantee rock solid entertainment, and also because I'm a little curious to see what the hype is all about. There is something compelling about this man, a charisma about his on-screen persona that transcends words and expectations. His unique style, his body language, his punch dialogues whip his fans into a frenzy, and woe betide the mere mortal who dares question the acting prowess of Rajnikanth! He clearly orbits the stratosphere in terms of fame and fortune, so tell me now, how could I miss a Rajni starrer, particularly when it is screened thousands of miles away from my homeland, here in beautiful British Columbia?!?

Endhiran did not fail to impress, and the 15 dollars spent on the ticket was well worth the 165 minutes of sheer entertainment it offered. The subject is something very new to Tamil/Indian cinema, and to see it having been shot on par with Hollywood shows that Indian cinema has come of age for sure. The stunning display of robotronics and spellbinding graphics is a visual treat in itself, an amalgamation of Terminator, Godzilla, and all those other superhero movies rolled into one. I am using Hollywood comparisons merely because they are the usual standards of comparison, but Endhiran is uniquely Indian, and any other future Indian sci-fi movie has a tough act to follow. Rajni truly rocks as Chitti the Robot and Vasi the Robotics Engineer who created him! He plays both with equal panache, the former with all his child-like innocence initially and as the vile monster he morphs into later on, and the latter as a genius engineer who outdoes his Professor in Robotics but lacks the heroism to stand up to a drunken hoodlum and runs away from him. Rajni somehow looks ageless, flawless, suave, debonair, fascinating and extra handsome in this movie, thanks to his makeup artists!

Man, how could Aishwarya Rai look so ravishing and sinfully gorgeous?!? She exudes charm in every frame and oozes sensuality in every dance move. She's HOT beyond words on the screen and leaves me wondering if Rajni could have any other heroine to match in the future. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, particularly the song sequences shot in the deserted splendour of Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes, and in the tantalizingly beautiful blue and green lagoons amidst the sand dunes of the Brazilian desert. The music of Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman is another hero in the movie, so to speak, and when the songs come on, one is mesmerized, trying to take in the beauty of the location, the magic of the music, the poetry of the lyrics, and the sensuousness and charm of the choreography, all at the same time. Oscar-winning sound engineer Rasul Pookkutty dominates throughout as well, I must add, and that adds to the heightened effect of a movie of this genre. The stunt scenes have a fire and spirited style to them that Rajni fans of all ages will find a treat.

Flaws there are, of course, as there will always be, to the discerning, critical eye. The scenes of Rangoski, the mosquito, despite the superiority in graphics, fail to add to the humour, and appear artificial and contrived. The same goes for the comedy of Sandhanam and Karunaas who are sadly outwitted by the humour of Chitti, the Robot himself. Their characterization seems abrupt and stunted, working as assistants in Dr. Vaseegaran's robotics lab, then switching sides to aid the villain in his nefarious deed, and then reapppearing in the last court scene of the movie with Rajni. The humanoid Chitti begging Vaseegaran not to kill him when the engineer hacks him to pieces and dumps him in the trash, yet being able to reassemble himself from under all that rubbish in the dumpyard is quite unbelievable. It is also not so plausible that the super intelligent Chitti would try to find out the human Rajni in the midst of all the android Rajnis by clanging a sword against their metal bodies or plunging it at random into them. Doesn't he have sophisticated sensors and scans that should help him identify a human being among the robots? The stunt scenes of death and destruction unleashed by the army of robots appeared a bit too long to my liking, despite all the computer-aided graphics and stunning technology. It's also not clear how the monstrous Chitti happens to get trapped in the hi-tech van so conveniently at the end for the engineer to comfortably deactivate the notorious red chip. The Judge at the end orders the robot to be dismantled, citing it as not suited for that day and age and the untold destruction it had the potential to cause, which makes it again an anachronism in the first place.

Overriding all the negatives are the positives, and needless to say, the movie is indeed a feather in the cap (excuse the oft-used cliche!) for its director, Shankar, and the producer, Kalanidhi Maran, and a remarkable milestone in Indian cinema! It leads the viewer on to a willing suspension of disbelief, and aren't movies supposed to do just that? In that sense alone, besides its many other plus points, Endiran the Robot rocks, for sure!!!