Thursday, April 30, 2009

The latest flu in town - IPL

Not that I hold anything in particular against one of the most celebrated cultural legacies that we have bequeathed from the British imperials – Cricket; however, I fail to fathom the feverish popularity of this colonial game.

The game assumes epidemic proportions during the World Cups, Indian Premium League (IPL) series and, these days, any match that India is playing in.
Deserted streets, cold food waiting at the dining table, selective hearing disorder in especially the men folk, joyous applaud interspersed with sighs of disappointment, the rambunctious bursting of crackers, irrespective of the hour of night or day, at a win, and the fanatic violence at a loss – ohh how I hate it all, this obsession with a game of bat and ball. (Wow, that rhymes; I always knew the first step towards poetry is misery.)

Ok, let’s talk about the latest manifestation of this malady – IPL. ‘Cricket for cricket’s sake’, they say – balderdash! The who’s who of the bollywood fraternity, the liquor baron, the Ambani’s, the ‘whoever’ with that extra buck, bid for players as if they were horses or something.
The millions pumped in by the otherwise broke sponsors (and no, I don’t specifically mean Citi), the deluge of ads, the not-so-bad cheerleaders (alas, South Africa seems to be outside the ruthless control of the Ram Sena) who seem to cheer the crowds and not the players, the pathetic expression of SRK after every match, the irritating interviews of Priety Zinta where she shows her support for the “boys”, the Shetty sisters giggling in corner, the Kingfisher with the mermaid (Katrina), the boy-cut Mandira Bedi, the MTV VJ compering for Set Max – tell me what is not unbearable about this game.

Everywhere – at home, office, the local grocery store – people are speculating, betting, hoping, praying – Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, Delhi Darevils, Royal Challengers Banagalore, Rajasthan Royals, Punjab Kings, Mumbai Indian, Deccan Challengers – how does it matter who wins? They do not really represent the state they are playing for. They are a part of the team cos they were bought for so many millions and they are raking even more because everybody is so emotionally involved in this game of moolah.

The politics of the country – the impending General Elections - have all been pushed to the periphery of our consciousness – relegated to the space of the media. We are not sure, and frankly, care a damn as to who the next prime minister will be. Mention IPL, and our brows knit together in deep concern - we sincerely deliberate – Chennai doesn’t seem to have a chance, close call between Deccan and Delhi, Punjab’s not far behind, Mumbai can still bounce back, is Kolkata still in the series?

Nothing unites us or divides us like Cricket does. And it is precisely this despotism that the sport enjoys that exasperates me thoroughly. Relish the game as you please, don’t revere it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I need a break!

The last two three weeks have been frenetic. As if extended work hours (from eight hours to nine hours a day), thanks to my organization's paranoia over recession, was not enough to frazzle me, now work spills over to holidays and weekends!

Have been toiling away every holiday (Tamil New year, the impromptu bandh by the Tamil Nadu govt.) and weekend for the last three weeks. Add to that 3 hours of traveling everyday - the perfect recipe for an exasperated and weary being faintly resembling me.
Often my mind feels numb and it takes long to focus on something outside my long list of to-dos.

The only extended family, relatives and friends I am in touch with are those that are on Orkut and Facebook. For some small mercies, since I am always at the comp, I steal some time here and there to log on to these social networking sites. Gone are the days of those never-ending phone calls with endless banter and gossip and the aimless surfing of channels on the idiot box. I am totally out of touch!

Believe me, I am not a cribber at work and till a couple of months back, I have seldom had Monday morning blues. In the true earnestness of being a Monday's child (yes, was born on a Monday!), all through school, college and work, I have been that one-off cheerful kid, enthusiastically and meticulously engaged with preparation for the coming week every Sunday evening.

But this year has been so frenzied that all my patience and perseverance has been put to test. I swear to god I need a break to recuperate from the damage of having overworked and to rejuvenate my spirits so that I can atleast endeavor to think from a new perspective.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Princess I Don’t Envy

Having grown up on an extravagant indulgence of fairytale romances with princesses in distress and knights in shining armor, I have always envied the lives of the royalty across geographies and cultures – the Victorian splendor, the Mughal opulence, the Arabic excesses.

I have read legendary tales of birds in gilded cages but I always felt that in any given period in history, I would rather be a wealthy queen with no freedom than a woman who has to struggle. My argument goes like this - a Victorian princess must have been much more blithe and contented than a woman from, say, the bourgeoisie. Going by that logic, till yesterday, I’d not mind being an Arabic heiress with plenitude and luxury at my beck and call. Ignorance is bliss, they say and I agree. On my mother-in-law’s recommendation, I decided to spend my weekend reading “Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia” by the American writer, Jean Sasson. The book has been classified as the top 500 books written on women.

The story is a non-fictional heart wrenching autobiography of a princess that takes its readers to the forbidden realms of the royal house in Saudi. The princess, unfortunately, has an indomitable spirit and great courage, both causes of grave threat to a patriarchal society that sees women as only objects of possession. The men in her life – her brother, her father, her husband rule her life and do everything possible to annihilate her chutzpah. Much as the tale is about the harassed weaker sex whose only sin is the missing male organ, it is also a tale of the decadence of the male community who continue to live in the barbarism of the dark ages.

The powerful indictment of Sultana, the pseudonym of the central character of the narrative, made me shudder in first, disbelief, then anger and frustration. The thought of a contemporary undergoing such an arduous and torturous life in this age – yes, Sultana is still living, if her existence can be passed off as that, is abominable. This is not a prehistoric saga but a 21st Century extraordinary account of the ordinary lives of women in a part of the same world that we inhabit. I am inevitably forced to compare our lives. Is my equal status to my husband something I should feel privileged about? Should I be grateful to my dad for having educated me? Am I honored that the society I live in considers polygyny a crime?

A profound sadness shrouds the book, leaving little room for hope even though the Princess tries every trick from open defiance to subtle manipulation. The story ends as it begins, the closest men in her life visiting the mosque, leaving her alone behind. There is this helplessness that is so intricately woven with the unfolding of events that no reader can escape the despair the reading of the book brings. I have little courage to read the other two books as part of the trilogy – Princess Sultana’s Daughters and Princess Sultana’s Circle.
Equality of men and women is debatable in any society, but this blatant denial of basic human rights to women, and relegating them to a status worse than that of animals and slaves, is very disturbing, to say the least.


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