Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Drink in Moderation and Don't Drink and Drive, Just Saying

One thing about moral depredation is how slowly and tenuously it happens, as with any other addiction. Surely, there's an amount of self-denial also happening, as in a drunk saying, "I am not drunk." In this country we have always had a tradition of heavy drinking. That means, if we open a bottle, we won't be content until we finish it. The idea is to numb our senses, to render everything else null and void. We do this with great felicity. We think it's our right after a hard day's work. But alcohol is alcohol and it takes a heavy toll. It does, ultimately. If it is consumed without moderation it will lead to a lot of trouble which will start manifesting later on.

So I discovered the hard way. Not that I was a heavy drinker, just a casual one. "Wine is not alcohol, is it?" (Yes, it is.) "Beer is not alcohol, no?" (Yes, it is.) No, even a casual binge with friends on a weekend is alcohol consumption, or so the doctor warned me. It damages the liver and the liver is such a silent organ that it doesn't send out signals that it is being overloaded. It suffers in silence. So it is heartening to find this site that advocates drinking in moderation, or this, or this article in the Guardian.

One sure sign of addiction is when the drinker reaches for the bottle first thing every morning. Yes, I know of people who do that. First thing before brushing their teeth they down a few pegs and stagger out of bed. A friend of mine does it everyday and then staggers around as he walks. If he is asked he would deny it. They would lie, cheat, bad-mouth, but pretend to be very virtuous people. There lies the danger, because after this point, the drinker doesn't look back, in fact, he/she cannot.

So, moral of the story, drink in moderation, and never, never drink and drive.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Limerick on "Bandh"

What's this Bandh, and all?
So asked Anthonybhai of one and all
The Bandh is when you take a day off
To protest inflation, as economy hits a trough
And all parties declare it a success, cos all work was stalled.

Heard it is a Bandh (stoppage of work) tomorrow to protest against inflation. So, be safe.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Bombay Trains - Just too Gruesome and Shocking for Words

This is gruesome. Too shocking for words. Yet it happens everyday in Bombay's crowded trains. By a conservative estimate, around twenty people die everyday in such accidents in Bombay. I have seen some of the accident victims. I can't describe the mutilation caused. Just too revolting.

The red-shirt-wearing man shown in this video is holding on for dear life. Somehow he has a flimsy hold on the narrow gutter above the train through which water drains in the rain. It's too small and can't support a man's fingers and his entire weight. He struggles to hold on, switching his hands at the same time pushing against the jammed bodies of people to get in somehow. Nobody budges because there is no room inside. No, not even for him to get a toe hold. 

What we see next is unclear as another man's shirt obscures the view. Then we see him fall. Imagine falling from a train speeding at around 100 km per hour. You strike the earth, and the impact can smash your skull. There is no immediate medical facility anywhere near stations. Another train has to come by and he has to be lifted on it to be taken to a station and then to the hospital. The victim will bleed to death mostly. Surely, he must be grievously injured or dying.

Then why did he take this risk? Why? Maybe, he is on his way for an appointment, maybe, he is on his way to see someone he loves. Who knows?

Travel safely in Bombay trains. If a train is crowded, please wait for the next one. All trains aren't equally crowded. The next one may be a local train that originated from the station next to the one you are standing on and, therefore, less crowded.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Limerick for Saif Ali Khan

Poor, poor, poor Saif Ali Khan

Mostly he is as sweet as any party man

This time he lost his awesome cool

Inspired by his own films of Bollywood school

A South African businessman refused to be his fan.


I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Édouard Levé on Suicide and Other Things

Following is what photographer and writer Édouard Levé wrote about himself in the Paris Review before he committed. Here he confesses to have attempted suicide, and having been tempted to commit it more than once, succeeding ultimately. More of it here.

I cannot sleep beside someone who moves around, snores, breathes heavily, or steals the covers. I can sleep with my arms around someone who doesn't move. I have attempted suicide once, I've been tempted four times to attempt it. The distant sound of a lawn mower in summer brings back happy childhood memories. I am bad at throwing. I have read less of the Bible than of Marcel Proust. Roberto Juarroz makes me laugh more than Andy Warhol. Jack Kerouac makes me want to live more than Charles Baudelaire. La Rochefoucauld depresses me less than Bret Easton Ellis. Joe Brainard is less affirmative than Walt Whitman. I know Jacques Roubaud less well than Georges Perec. Gherasim Luca is the most full of despair. I don't see the connection between Alain Robbe-Grillet and Antonio Tabucchi. When I make lists of names, I dread the ones I forget. From certain angles, tanned and wearing a black shirt, I can find myself handsome. I find myself ugly more often than handsome. I like my voice after a night out or when I have a cold. I am unacquainted with hunger. I was never in the army. I have never pulled a knife on anyone. I have never used a machine gun. I have fired a revolver. I have fired a rifle. I have shot an arrow. I have netted butterflies. I have observed rabbits. I have eaten pheasants. I recognize the scent of a tiger. I have touched the dry head of a tortoise and an elephant's hard skin. I have caught sight of a herd of wild boar in a forest in Normandy. I ride. I do not explain. I do not excuse. I do not classify. I go fast. I am drawn to the brevity of English, shorter than French.

People who commit suicide go through extremes: mood swings, indecision, moral ambiguities, etc. However, I don't know if someone has expressed himself so well when it comes to actual feelings of a suicide. Look at the attached graph of suicides in Indian states. It shows Pondicherry in number one position followed by Andaman & Nicobar and then -- Lo and Behold! -- Kerala. Not a good sign this. 

Hat tips to Athiran for the link.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Saif Ali Khan's [Alleged] Punching Episode at the Taj

I don't know what this country has become. Are we descending into some netherworld of bad behaviour? Don't know. Being a star is supposed to be a big honour. Now that Saif is a star he has [allegedly] started having fights and [allegedly] punching people. It was no ordinary punch guessing by the bandage on the receiver's nose. Of course, I am just saying, the intent may have been to impress girlfriend Kareena. Normal people would shut up if the waiter comes and tells them that they are being too noisy. But will a star do it? What prompts him to pick up a quarrel on such a trivial issue and land up in jail?

Hm. I met Saif some time ago before he was a star at the Jehangir Art Gallery. Those days he was struggling with only a few films to his credit. He was very polite and spoke very suavely to me, which surprised me. It did. No starry airs, just a decent guy. I asked for an autograph and he readily obliged. He seemed to be of slight build and seemed shorter than me and didn't look the hunk he seems on the movie screen. 

Now why do we expect our stars to be super-humans? Why do stars have to behave as otherworldly beings themselves? Why do we elevate them to the status of Gods and super-Titan who can smash villains, jump from skyscrapers, and drive at a neck-breaking 100 km per hour? These questions need answers and my sociologist friends can write a thesis on it and gain their Ph. D.s. That's all very well, do not mention the thank you, or anything. Just a footnote mentioning this blog will do.

But that said, can a star whom we elevate to such regard behave so erratically in public? I know stardom bestows some confidence. Look at Shahrukh. He had manhandled, or slapped, the long-haired Kunder some time ago. These stars endorse a lot of products which we buy because we trust them and their judgement. Can they act in a manner that's unbecoming?

Questions? Questions? Can you, dear reader, provide some answers?

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Wonderful Innovation of "Missed Calls"

Besieged with work these days. I don't know what a man achieves after working so much. Bad health? Bad-mouthing by close relatives? One of the biggest malaises facing the modern generation is lying (sitting) in front of a stationery screen, as if the small screen was life itself. Include the tiny mobile phone screen also in this. Even life has become a bit morose, a bit depressive with sitting before a computer which is connected to a 256 kbps Internet connection. I wonder how much of our time is lost in waiting for files to download, the site to load, the bane of Internet technology.

Modern technology is okay if everything works. Does it? I hear mobile phone users will number a billion soon. So that means everyone in the country will own a mobile phone and can make calls anywhere he/she wishes. However, just think, is it so? Most networks are so bad half the time what I hear is:

"Can you hear me? Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello?

"Your voice is breaking, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello?

"Can you hear me?"

"I can't hear you."

That's why we depend on giving "missed calls." It's a wonderful innovation of the Indian mind, this missed call. What a way to communicate! Hats off! We know the message has gotten across and we will not be losing any of those talk times, talk money, rather. We make so many missed calls so that there is perfect understanding between the caller and receiver as to what exactly is happening.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Did Whitney Houston Die of Alcohol Abuse?

From this article it seems that pop star Whitney Houston didn't die of drug abuse but from alcohol. She was a more than moderate drinker. It also points to the fact that the liquor lobby is strong in the US and has its spin doctors who -- God forbid -- encourage people to drink by glamourising drinking. While drugs are thought to be an untouchable and smoking something of a errant child, the vice of drinking is left well alone. 

Closer home, in my native state of Kerala, the government coolly collects excise and taxes on drinks and doesn't do much to discourage it. Drinking has caused major changes in the social system and broken down families. Women and children are particularly the sufferers. Yet the government claims they have set up a few de-addiction centres, which do not perform their duties diligently. So the thinking seems to be, "let them drink and perish." Also when it's election time, the beverage most consumed is liquor. 

Excerpt from above article:

According to Robert Brewer, the alcohol program leader at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, heavy drinking is the third leading preventable cause of death in this country, after smoking and a combination of bad diet and inactivity. By conservative estimates, it's directly related to about 80,000 deaths each year, an agent of — or co-conspirator in — cirrhosis, esophageal cancer, overdose, homicide and much, much more. It seeds and squires a broad range of diseases. Multiplies the effects of illicit and prescription drugs. Adds the twitch to a trigger finger. Puts the wobble in legs on a staircase or hands on a steering wheel.

So many perish, so many die, but, no, alcohol isn't responsible. As drunks are know to say, "What me drunk? No, I can hold my drink." 

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Has Your Blogger URL Changed from .com to .in?

I had noticed but dismissed it as one of Googles many quirks (they are quirky aren't they?) when Google changed my blog's URL from http://johnpmathew.blogspot.com to http://johnpmathew.blogspot.in. Have you noticed?

But as quirks go, the curiosity got the better of me and when I saw this article in mashable, I knew why. Realisation hit the right place, ergo this blogpost. I guess it is because Google can administer blogs countrywise and if anything objectionable is posted, can delete it. 

Hm, so Internet censoring is here to stay. How sad! Expletive deleted. The party is over guys, now's the time for the painful hangover. Pass on the Alka Seltzer, or better still drink some milk (popular myth: milk is supposed to wipe away the hangover). I don't drink anymore, doctor advised me not to. He says my liver is weak because I drank. Come on, one beer a week is not drinking, tell me all your tests failed instead, doc. I know of Mallu friends who down a quarter litre of alcohol in one sitting and they drink as if they just walked into an oasis from a 50-degree-centigrade-in-the-shade Saharan desert. That's drinking!

Aside over. Above is the picture I did on Paint of the domain change. Just check if your domain changed too. Also, before I forget, don't ignore the fact that your content is being watched.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Amitava and Amitav Spar It Out

What could be sign of a long face off between two literary giants, both with homophonic names - Amitava and Amitav. Here's Amitava Kumar's vitriolic rejoinder to Amitav Ghosh's article criticising literary festivals.

As usual Amitava is unsparing and deliberately provocative. If memory serves me right, he had written similar criticisms -- being incommunicado, not encouraging new talent, etc. -- about Rushdie, too, some time ago. 

Guess it's the season for literary spats. So let the show go on.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A New Circadian Rhythm for Me

Am reading Deepak Chopra's "Perfect Digestion." Some years ago I had read "Perfect Health" and adopted some of the tips he had given, which I subsequently gave up. I chanced across this book at a local book store and I am liking his observations some of which are encouraging. He says that the body is capable of healing itself and that we are all wired to be healthy and not unhealthy. The thing is that we lead such pressurised lives that we make the choice to ignore our bodies and our health. Just look at the faces of some of your colleagues and you will know what I am talking about: chalky skin, knotty hair, sulky attitude and lots of depression. Yetch!

The greatest culprit in this case is the computer. Yes, the very one on which I am typing now. Computers and the Internet have made us into static, motion-less sphinxes who have practically given up on some activity or the other. The Internet is a very involving medium and at work since we use it so often we don't know what changes are happening inside our bodies due to this stasis.

So I have again decided to do the following things:

1. Meditate for 15 minutes
2. Drink a glass of warm water
3. Massage with sesame seed oil (til oil)
4. Do yogasanas
5. And, finally, be relaxed and supercool.

I hope with these my complaints will reduce and I will be able to complete my novel and many other commitments that have been lined up.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Being Red-faced about a Red Convention

What when the only achievement you consider and console yourself about turns out to be a dud. No, I won't disclose the details but, nevertheless, my feelings must be expressed.

Or, should it be? Okay, I will let it be. I will unburden another time on this blog.

The newspapers are so full of election stories. In Kerala two Communist parties are slugging it out. A leader of the Communist Party of India (CPI) called the CPI(M) national convention as "Event Management." And CPI (M) took umbrage. Not little umbrage, but lot, lot of umbrage.

Yawn!

But "event management" it was. Can you believe the following? You should, as these are stray observations of what I saw on television:

1. Red was splattered everywhere in the city, the flags, the dresses of the volunteers.
2. Even Brinda Karat wore a saree with a red border.
3. The delegates were given bags that were red.
4. The delegates were given a drink (syrup?) that was also red.
5. The huge arches were, naturally red.

So what's it to be red-faced about? If this this isn't event management, what is?

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Encounter with an Artist

Waiting patiently with guitar at a Kharghar bus stop.
Yesterday I met an interesting man, an artist at that. Well, it happened thusly. My guitar class had shifted to Kharghar from Vashi and after lugging the guitar to the new place, what do I find. The carpenters are busy taking measurements, the supervisor stands around with a smug expression, the floor is full of sawdust, the glass lean against the wall. As with everything in Bombay, nothing gets done on time. So I go out into the bright wintry Kharghar afternoon and get upset with the rubble lying around, the building standing like long thin shards of glass, and nowhere, yes, nowhere is there a patch of shade to hide from the hot sun.

Not that it was hot. It wasn't. But I have a phobia for the afternoon sun having heard a lot about the Englishman and mad dogs. So when this bus stop appears in front of me in the mirage-like afternoon effulgence, I gravitate towards it and sit on a long piece of pipe lying parallel to the road. No bus appears. No autorickshaws, too.

Then there's this seedy looking individual who is zooming past on his autorickshaw who stops suddenly as if feeling pity on me and my condition. Yeah, what else would he think of a depressed man who missed his Sunday guitar lesson? He looks out and yells, "Where do you want to go?" He has a beard and is dressed in unremarkable clothes.

"Belapur CBD."

"Hop in."

Thanks be to almighty I say, leaving the bleak landscape that's all weirdly constructed buildings, broken tiles, steel, bricks and lots of rubble. 

"I stopped for you because you are an artist, a kalakar."

"How do you know?"

"Because of your guitar."

"Do I look like an artist?"

"You do. An artist recognises an artist."

"You mean you are an artist too?"

"Yes I was. I played the piano, the banjo and drums before I got married."

The autorickshaw is careening at an impossible speed on roads that seem to have been dug and surfaced a hundred times.

"Why did you give up after marriage?"

"After marriage, there's no time for anything. Only children, school, work."

"And the evening in the bar?" I ask.

"Sir, that's natural. I can't help it," he says smiling.

I gather that he did stage shows with a troupe, played the drums on Navratri dance nights, and had gained some recognition and fame before it all ended. Many an artist's life ends thus, in India especially. He/she is enthusiastic initially, then something happens and the love of art takes a back seat.

We talk till we reach our destination, Artist Village. He parts with the assurance that we will meet again. I look after the disappearing autorickshaw and think, there goes another unrecognised artist.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Amitav Ghosh on Festivals and Tamashas

In what may be a sarcastic dig at literary festivals in general and Jaipur Literary Festival in particular, Amitav Ghosh (yes, the one who writes translucent prose, read, read!) says:

I have never attended the Jaipur Literature Festival; nor does a visit loom in the foreseeable future. This is largely (but not wholly) because I have no taste for tamashas. 

I am not against literary festivals, however, I am against festivals which are seen as elitist and sort of a venue for writers to meet and socialise over cocktails. This only gives rise to controversy as writing is a lonely profession and a writer may lose his unique point of view in the cocktail chatter and gossip.

Well, hm, that's my view.  

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Sales of Skin Whitening Creams Have Outstripped Coca Cola and Tea

It says here that sales of skin whitening creams have outstripped sale of Coca Cola and tea in India. It also says that the market grew at 18 per cent and will touch 25 per cent growth this year. I don't know where this will end.

There's nothing more for me to add, except perhaps a few things. Ahem! Every beauty product company has a whitening cream in the market these days. There are creams for men (Fair and Handsome). In Kerala people stand in queues to buy "Fair and Lovely" cream, since the stock gets depleted fast. I once heard a mother advising another mother, "buy her some 'Fair and Lovely' cream." This is also the land where people queue up patiently early in the morning to buy liquor. 

Are we living in some make believe world?

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Gandhiji and Second Class Train Travel - My Experiments with Truth

Sorry for being absent from my dear blog for so long. Had some health issues to sort out. I mentioned about nausea and giddiness in the bus a few days ago on Twitter. I have been under treatment for a month and am doing okay. The secret is not to believe that something is wrong with you. So shave, bathe, exercise, have your medicines and go to work. Like any normal healthy person. I have been following this for the past few days.

I am reading Gandhiji's "Stories of My Experiments with Truth" and I notice how much it is about food and travel that he writes. Truly for every Indian, food and travel are of prime importance. We travel a lot within the country, and eat all sorts of bad food. Gandhiji travelled mostly in second class trains, that too, without a reservation. Not that he couldn't afford first class travel, but he wanted to get the pulse of the people. When you travel second class, you see India in its feral worst.
 
I remember my first journey when I was only eight in an unreserved first class compartment when my father brought me to Bombay for a better education. I was so nauseated and horrified by the toilet that I didn't step into it for the three days the journey took in those days. I didn't know to which hell my father had brought me. I sat there holding on, and my father being a careless man, callous in such matters (a miserly man, at that, sorry Dad, but I had to say this! I had not proper food and water for three days, yes, three days!), didn't even ask me if I wanted anything. (Learning from this experience, I would escort my son personally to the toilet everytime we travelled.)
 
Our trains horrify me still when I travel second class. Though the fare difference between second class and second air-conditioned (second a/c) isn't much, second a/c is much better cleaned and maintained. In the last second class journey we undertook in pouring rain, the compartment leaked and our luggage were all sodden in the night. The passengers talked in loud voices throughout the night and were ill-mannered and uncouth. Some played cards, some played the radio and some ate paan and spat everywhere (smoking is prohibited, so they eat paan instead! Gawd!).
 
Anyway, I have digressed from what I wanted to say. Oh, forget it! The Kala Ghoda Arts (and Literature) Festival is starting today. Go here to get the details of the literature section on Facebook. With Facebook being the medium of expression these days I am glad everything is in one place. Well, sort of. Bye for now, come again! I promise I will be regular.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.