Friday, June 29, 2007

The rains are at last here. And I thank my good sense in choosing this house that is "inconveniently located" "far away from all the action" "at the other end of the world" each time I sit on my little coir charpoy reclining against a pillar on my porch and watch the rain. Well, this is not another one of those bored bloggers writing about the wonderfully welcome rains. I have never been a huge fan of monsoon. Though, I am must admit that the two essays that made my English and Hindi teachers take me seriously were about the first day of monsoon. I have absolutely no recollection of that legendary first day of monsoon that made me a favourite with my language teachers and gently drifted me to English studies. A good guess though would be that I was sitting on my bed engrossed in an Enid Blyton or a Nancy Drew oblivious to the rain.

The rains and the monsoon story were a precurssor to a narrative on the advantages of my glorious portico and to reveal that I was not a particularly boisterous child. Other than the fact that we rang out 2006 and rang in 2007 here and had other cosy little parties, my portico is my strategic position to notice the rare passerby in my isolated colony and theorise about the trends in society. While there is hardly a passerby there are a lot of children around. Most of them engrossed in their games and in their world of playground politics. They do not bother me. The ones who bother me are the pre-pubescent over-weight boys and girls trudging up the road, turning back and draggging their feet towards other lanes in the colony. They hardly look like they enjoy the excellent weather. It looks like this is a part of their homework (wonder if schools do give homework even now) or some such 'duty' that children regularly do in exchange for getting undisturbed playtime.

Last evening, I was lost in the tale of Husrev and Shirin that was woven into the tale of a 'modern' 16th century romance in Istanbul, sipping pipping hot tea, munching on a crunchy snack, enjoying the pre-rain breeze, reclining at my regular viewpoint on my porch. I look up to give my eyes a treat of looking at green rather than black print on white and what do I see -- child after child about 12-13 years of age, with various degrees of a weight problem, sadly walking around the colony. I promptly twisted my packet of crunchies into a temporary knot and lay the book aside. And began thinking, how does this happen? Is it home-based recreation? Or the supermarkets? Or ultra-busy parents? Or fat wallets? What is it?

Are we now going to have seminars, academic papers and eventually consumer goods to battle childhood obesity? Is this how contemporary economy sustains itself? Create a market then develop goods to keep the market going? Children have already been dragged into conspicuous consumerism not only as prime consumers but also as ambassadors for various products ranging from chocolates to life insurance. These lonely pre-teen 'walkers' are walking away all the junk they enjoyed eating. Their parents cannot deny they complicity, even if it was not deliberate, in letting these children harm themselves. At least now, these parents should do themselves and their children a favour by thinking carefully before pushing them out of the house on these lonely walks. Pre-teens do not forget these solitary walks and find it difficult to forgive the people who put them through it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Would you agree with me that Eliot is extremely quotable? Somehow, I have always noticed that 'scholars' usually throw Eliot at you and hold their breath expectantly. When they see that particular light of vague recollection in your eyes they start talking to you in their language. If they see blankness in your eye, you can bet they will start their patronising act and if you beat them at it with "oh, not old Eliot again" they will promptly recognise you as one of their kind.

I started with Eliot, at the risk of being labelled a 'scholar', as I remember lines only from Eliot; the exceptions being "...dances with the daffodils" and parts of "The Second Coming". So:

"There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;"

(By the way, I googled that to save myself from pedantic friends who will insist on correcting it to the coma in a comment for this post)

Now, why am I talking about faces and preparing faces? I am surrounded by faces, prepared ones. And I watch them go about their act for that one moment when that face slips or is undermined by a gesture. That one moment when Aishwaraya Rai tripped on her evening gown and went on to become Miss World rather than Miss Universe.
Where do they come from? These people? I often wonder. And how can they go about replacing one face for another seamlessly till they their bedroom lights are switched off I imagine. Would you call this an art or a skill? Whichever it is I am rather awed by it. Having not acquired here in all these years and having given up the hope to acquire it.

So, I go about collecting all those little moments when these faces fail. And I do not mean catacylsmic or even dramatic moments. Completely insignificant ones where a very tall, stern and thoroughly professional manager of a section of a multi-national company casually brushes his hand against a silly piece of office-decoration and a glamorous scholar tastes a new flavour of ice cream and can only utter a shocked "where do they make this?" and a scholastic friend crunches dry leaves under his cycle-tires while seriously discussing Matthew Arnold. These little moments remain in my mind. As I feel a little closer to these people then. That little slip where the face shifts enough to see a less grown-up face gladdens me.