Sunday, September 9, 2007

Shehrullah Mubarak

Wikipedia tells me that the word Ramazan derives from an Arabic word meaning intense heat and scorched ground. I had not thought about the origin of the word till recently and I am a little surprised at its literal meaning. We pay so much attention to the fact that Ramazan is the holiest of the months in the calendar year that sometimes this simple meaning and its significance is lost.

The weather in all the Arab land is more or less dry and very hot throughout the year and I can see the difficulty of keeping rozas for thirty days in such hostile conditions. But may be that physical pain is a part of the larger purification process which all rozdars invariably go through during the month. Calm and serenity and a feeling of oneness pervades all of us for the whole month. I wish that could be the case for the rest of eleven months too.

Shehrullah Mubarak!

Notice the Mubarak? I am happy that Ramazan are beginning in a couple of days.


Did you know that the author of this blog was born on the night of Lailatul Kadr during Ramazan? :-)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Holy Cow!

Cow is a sacred animal in hinduism and hence is considered holy (no pun intended). But there is a totally different emotion which is conveyed by the phrase Holy Cow! in the English speaking world. I won't go in to explain that because the nerves in my spinal cord are very tired to be surprised by anything these days.

I've been going to driver's education classes since past couple of weeks and trying to learn driving the way it is supposed to be learned. Not like the way I learned to drive a motorcycle where I got the hang of gears and brakes two years, three accidents and four permanent scars later after I got the bike.

So today in class, we were talking about identifying sources of potential conflict (read collision) when one is driving a car. The correct way here would be to see things on the road, process the acquired image in the brain and try to figure out a conflict. But with lazy and unskilled drivers (read me), it happens that even though one sees something on the road, he is not able to process that image and extract from it the sources of a potential collision with another car or a pedestrian. In other words, dimag ki batti gul ho jati hai. The brain cannot make sense of what the eyes are seeing and as a result one is not able to take proper measures to prevent a collision.

!!! I did not realise when I enrolled in the drivers education class that there would be lectures on neuroscience too.

To illustrate his point, the intructor showed us an image and asked us to identify it. I am attaching the picture below. Can you identify what is there in this picture? I've already given you a clue.

O.k. Stare at the image for 5...4...3...2...1...0. Got it? Good! No? Here is the answer.

The more interesting part in the whole episode was when the instructor told as to imagine a real cow on the road while we are driving. A cow? On a road in America? I don't know how it easy or difficult it was for American kids in the class to imagine a cow in the middle of the road. But for me, it reminded me of matrabhumi. No pun intended here as well. Here is some help for my American classmates at drivers ed classes if they actually comes across this blog.

Holy Cow!

On a not so unrelated note, I got this message from a friend which says a lot about multiculturalism and the associated feelings of chauvinistic nationalism:

"Being British is about driving in German cars to Irish pubs for Belgian beer, going home, getting Indian curry or Turkish kebab to sit on Swedish furniture to watch American shows on Japanese TV.
And the most British thing of all? Suspicion of anything foreign"


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Drinking from the fire hose

I recently watched Satyajit Ray's Shatranj ke Khilari. A friend had recommended this one to me a long time ago and I was finally able to get the movie. A little googling told me that this movie is one of the only two hindi movies by Satyajit Ray.

One of the reasons I liked the movie was the chaste urdu spoken throughout the film. Urdu is such a beautiful language that even wtf in urdu would sound like a compliment. There are a few instances in the film which would prove my point. It is a sad realization of my lingual incapabilities that I can think of no better way to express the beauty of this fast fading language.

Besides that, the narration in the movie is by Amitabh Bachchan. It was refreshing to hear Big B's young voice as the movie was made in 1977. Probably, Ashutosh Gowarikar got the idea of having Amitabh's voiceover in Lagaan from Shatranj ke Khilari. Though by the time Lagaan was made, Amitabh was much older and his voice had become much heavier. It is serendipity that Lagaan portrays the year 1893 while Shatranj ke Khilari is set in the year 1856.

As much as I have enjoyed Shatranj ke Khilari, I cannot help but feel sad that I can't understand Bengali. Judging by a Bengali friend's adoration of Satyajit Ray movies, I think I am missing out on a treasure trove. Though subtitles are there, but subtitles can rarely come close to the essence of a movie. A case of lost in translation. May be someday, I'll learn to understand Bengali (and eat fish curry 8 times a week too which would come naturally then).

There is so much to see, so much to read, so much to explore, so much to discover that the water invariably falls out of the fire hose. I cannot drink fast enough.

I am trying though.