Thursday, August 28, 2008

Y spel karectlee

U must reed this aartickle b-4 u proseed with this blaw post:

Eye kant dishugree mor with Ms. Wocker. As in, y do we rite? We rite b-coz we wish two kumnicate are idias. Eye dont rite b-coz I wont les read lions undir mye weirds in MS Weird. I toetally hugree with Dr. Smith wen he ascs, what is "f" duing in "twelfth". I wood ask that abowt everee leter in the French langwage, butt it's ok two be French and weird (or that hapins automatcally?). In Inglish, ther r tonnes (well, sins ton is suposd two be the rite speling) of weirds wich hav leters b-coz sum dicshunry riter me-spelt them wen he was putting them all down, like "poignant" or "ennui" or eevin "annihilation" ("nihilism" seems two b the rite speling). In the north of India, Inglish is pronownsed in everee pausible way. Hens, Alaarum shud b aloud two (and loud two). Or jomentry (for wat I laytr lernd two b "geometry") in the sothearn states. One Bihari culd teese a UP bhaiyya for pronownsing is-cool as sakool (wile sum "pedantic" teechar insiss that it shud b pronownsed "school"). Inglish is not suposd two b a karectlee spelt langwage. It is suposd two b a langwage for men like cotn wul (olso riten as, "cotton wool") is two the shop flor: for aneething butt mayking beeutifulee simmetrik lions of threds ovar a loom, murj intwo a nise Kancheevaram sorry. It is probablee like paynt used two mayk owl kinds of images and sines and ok-sionalee, art. Inglish kannot b stuk up like "Sanskrit" or "Latin" or Tintin in there infinight rooles and stipyoolashuns. Inglish was ment two spred like a disees "amongst" the I-dill speekar hoo wanted two say sumthing and if asked two rite, wud do so with the sam rispekt with wich they spoke - nun (olso riten as "none")! 

Wich udder langwage has boroed so much frum niyarly everee udder langwage on arth? French, Italian, Sanskrit, Tamil, Hindi, German, Spanish, Latin, Greek, Arabic, Persian... neigh-m it. Everee udder langwage creeated an iden-titty of its on (mostlee). Most Indiun langwages had won pay-runt (Sanskrit) and slolee morfed intwo a langwage of there on. Inglish has been the promise-coo-ass product of sevral nites in sevral fawrin beds. Y then, asc 4 karect speling wen evereething in its or-gin has been unchased (olso spelt as, "unchaste")? It is like asking a ladee-of-un-men-shunnable-trades to where her lay-pels properlee! Reallee, and that is the most importunt thing nau!? Inglish has olwais focusd on b-ing "utile"; Y sudnly focus on serimonees? If speling is not a serimoney then what is it? Gramur is a serimoney two, butt I will wayt 4 sum-1 two rite abowt the need 4 karect gramur b-4 I go there (aneething two rite a post!). If Inglish reallee cares abowt "propriety", then they shud have stuk two at leest "Old English" and staid that way. Life wud have been so much more fun! Think of softwear yooser manwuls in OE!

The point is, we need chased langwages and at leest one langwage that is pyorlee 4 a qwik dispensing of thots and idias. Like we need "pilates" and "yoga" 4 maintining are bodees butt a burp two feel liter this veree minit. Everee-1 thot Inglish was that in the kittee of langwages, butt nau Ms. Wocker says "No". That's plaing a spoil-sport!! Cum on, Ms. Wocker, let us ol mis-spell. Plees!

What do you ask a kid having potty problems?

Fine! No more misspellings!

I was pondering about the consequences of passing a law allowing misspellings:
1. Toilet and To-Let boards will no longer raise a snigger
2. "Meet The Fockers" loses its punch
3. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a happier man
4. Citibank will no longer ask a million questions about my mother's maiden name spelling or about my street name
5. Speaking of my mother, she will be happy too (which doesn't mean you link point 3 and 5 together and consider me to be the son of Arnold!)
6. When someone writes about Tanjore brassware, that article can be deemed pornographic by the VHP because Tanjore's culture never had bras in the the first place and it is un-Indian to talk about brassware.
7. Everyone wins the Spelling-Bee contest
9. Bangalore shops where they fix a puncher will be "But obvious"
10. SMS would be considered high-brow grandiose
11. GRE and GMAT exams would lose half their question bank
12. Proof-readers would lose their jobs or rather re-invent themselves to check for the correct misspelling!
13. Half the Gujaratis will hate their surname and will ask Modi to insist on the right spelling of Bhatt. Mahesh Butt will object and claim that a being at the butt end (or having a butt at the end) is not necessarily a bad thing.
14. Modern poets will claim a new style of poetry where one word is written in all possible spellings and clueless "kanna-seers" (also written as, connoisseurs) will hail it as the most imaginative piece of writing that has descended on mankind.
15. Nearly all mail would be spam. Especially's mail about the tour package which takes you to Delhi and then Mathura Viagra.
16. Google will be out of business or will have maximum employees with the least hair on their head.
17. And when you ask a tailor: "What do you do?" he wouldn't reply with "Sow" (bestiality is still punishable) but "Syoo" or the safer but boring "Stich".

Do you know that I started this mail typing out the way I intended it to be and then simply couldn't. So I wrote it the way I normally do (with near zero spelling mistakes) and then powdered this little baby with some pizzaz. Gosh! Misspelling is so tough!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I wish I were you
My hands tremble for I fear that they have lost their wizardry. A man's but single thread to the Unnamed joy is fraying and what can he do but watch. He summons bold strengths and bolder determination, and pauses. Why should they come merely because I have summoned? I look towards the door and back at the blank sheet of paper. I invoke past misfortunes and misdeeds to explain my pen's frigid ink. How I have enjoyed the black on white, like the arranged tresses of a maiden's tale! Now a curl here and a stroke taking flight to shrink into a spot above a swimmer emerging from the pool, thus a "j". 
I smile but the parchment is unscathed. Not a wrinkle appears on this choking whiteness under my nose. I pray, I plead, I threaten, I feign mock anger and turn away to look at some carved piece of wood from Brazil. The man's eyes are narrow and he sees less of the world (blessed soul). His lips are pursed though wide - he must have spoken a lot before he realised the futility of it all. He locks his arms across his puny chest, refusing to let his heart belong to this world and its myriad leeches - his heart shant bleed for them. His nose is chipped and green (actually, most of him is either green or green when I squint my eyes) but he doesn't care about it. He seems to be looking at my barren whiteness and then back at me. 
"Aren't you a writer?" he asks.
"I don't know."
I wait for him to continue, but he doesn't. He sings a song from his motherland and whips his head to the beat of his chant. His voice climbs the strength of human skill and his eyes fill with green dew. He hums his song to sleep and returns to his earlier composure.
"Did you understand what I sang?"
He turns towards me and smiles.
"No one understands that song, my friend, not even he who wrote it."
"Did you write it?"
"As it is today, yes."
"How could you then not understand it?"
"Because all I did was sing it."
He looks at the paper and raises his splinter eyebrows towards it.
"You are a writer?"
"I try."
"Then you aren't."
He pauses and hums a line from his song, or so I thought.
"How much of life have you understood, my friend?"
"Very little"
"But you have lived it all so far?"
"How could you then not understand it?"
"Because all I did was try."
He takes out a flute from the woodwork of his thigh, and proceeds to play a tune. I believe I had heard it before and try to fix that familiarity in my mind when he suddenly stops.
"Sing with me."
"To your tune?"
"But I do not know a song of that tune."
And he starts to play. I watch the green of his body throb with the air of the forest he had once belonged to. The green moves and dances over his torso and I sing a song of the winds that blow through the rainforests. I sing in the tongue of the creepers and falling leaves. I let the rays peeking through the green sky form the beats of my song as the words sway to the melody of his flute. 
"What ails you, my friend?"
"Lifelessness in life."
"What am I to say of that? I am but a piece of wood."
"True, but how different is that from being a human being?"
"You can write and be a writer. I can't."
"Neither can I."
He replaced the flute before continuing.
"Where did life lose its wetness?"
"In ignorance."
"But isn't that what makes you alive?"
"It is that which makes you see that you are alive to all but yourself."
"Write me a verse; on my back."
And he turns around and looks in the same direction as I did.
"But I can't."
"Life has drained me of words and joy and beauty. What is a verse without these?"
"Honest? There is nothing honest that has been spared the touch of man. Even man's need to be honest has metamorphosed into an ugly snake."
"Then write me a verse about that snake."
"I can't", I shout and fling my pen at him. It enters the soft wood and stays there.
"That is a good start. Go on. Please don't stop."
"I have written enough about the dirt of this world."
"Then write about the dunes and falls and bobbing hummingbirds."
"But I can't bleed a word out of me. I have been killed by all and left with a red acid coursing my veins, entering a vial of human residue, cleansed and fountained into the rest of me so that I may live one more minute without knowing why and without wanting to know why."
"But you are a writer."
"True. Hence, I ask you, write me a verse of the blackest poison that you have drunk from the hands of loved ones. Spell me words with the thorns that pierced every friendly clasp that was extended for you. Twirl phrases coated with the roughest sands that every confidant rubbed on your heart. Can you not?"
With trembling hands, I pluck the pen from his back and draw little flowers on his back. The flowers grow bigger and blossom in various shades of green. I draw golden chords between them and make garlands of them before pushing in stalks of fern between the flowers. A cherry blossom there, a little bird here, bees thrown in for the musical score. I shoo away some stray cows and pin up some of the festoons to form curves of the right height.
"Is that how much life has pained you, my friend?"
"Life doesn't hurt. Lifelessness does."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Trucker Tranquility

This weekend found me in the portion of ghats between Mangalore and Hassan. Had normalcy ordained, that stretch would have passed ignored while I uncomfortably curled up to live some dream punctuated by blaring horns from the real (?) world. As you might have guessed, nothing is quite so normal in my life! :-)
For reasons insufficient but nevertheless offered repeatedly, we were stranded for about 6 hours in the ghats. This meant two things: unwobbly sleep and changing plans (which could follow the unwobbly sleep). I tried to achieve the first of them (as the second didn't really need efforts from my side) and must have managed some unshaped fragments of sleep as I kept waking to a watch which had jumped haphazardly in leaps of 10-45 minutes. At length, I decided that staying awake was bound to be more rewarding than these misbehaving naps. There wasn't a single dream that could complete or make itself available for recollection.
It was amazingly dark outside and occasionally a passing bike or car (somehow the vehicles were moving fine in the opposite direction) slowly dissolved a portion of the black in the yellow of the headlights. I was told that we were in the ghats and the blackness suddenly had a meaning, though of least worth.
Being stranded in the ghats at this hour is an irony. The ghats are (to me) of aesthetic worth alone. The punches of green amidst tired browns of ancient trees, a whispering secret of water trickling over impassioned rocks, a garrulous stream gathering reluctant silt and wood debris in its wake, the sigh at a hill's jaw overlooking the quilt of farmlands over some seemingly unreachable valley below; it is this that comes to my mind when I think of the ghats. None of this pierced sharp enough to penetrate the nocturnal blanket outside. All of this was there, but I was simply not allowed to see it. I was teased with some sounds which were immediately tossed out by drowning it in the loud grunting of some truck trying to climb the roads. A whole world out there alive and happening but not available, a world whose existence can only be ascertained at daybreak. Like a child, promised a world full of excitement but only available to the adult, I waited for my youth to arrive. The tragedy of life laughed in my face at that very moment. Breathe InWe always look forward or backward (depending on our capacity) but rarely ever see with the fullness of our senses and inner being.
I decided to meditate (that everyone around me was busy sleeping encouraged me further) on the pure sounds of the ghats. It didn't take me long to note that the ghats (or maybe all of Nature) don't raise their "voice" and it is the work of man that is louder and in loudness derives security and a sense of (misplaced) rightness. The distant rub of wind against moistened branches and of branch against fellow branch was pure and had a quality of this Earth. The lowered chirps of winged creatures dotted the black air with a blip of yellow alertness which flicked my ear and inner being. Such suddenness brought me to perk up with an intention of missing nothing that this infinite blackness had to provide. The brittle rush of streams far away in the darkness filled the air like the hum of a mother's breast to a new born child. The breathing quietness ensconced me in a cocoon of worldlessness where my sole companion was life's inevitables without.
I must have spent quite some time like this, for when I opened my eyes, the sun roof revealed a lighter canvas for the dark swaying leaves above. Rain beat unheard (and hence, uniquely beautiful) tunes on the metal above creating fugues with the clear tones of the wet world around. My mother stirred beside me and I heard the noise of a horn far away. Does it mean we'll move? My mother was annoyed at having lost so much time.
I watched the driver keep an eye on the road for any movement. He must have gone through this several times, for he appeared calm and aware. Over sleeping heads I craned my neck to observe other drivers on the road. All the vehicles within my range of sight were heavy vehicles and all their drivers were calmly looking ahead (or so I thought), waiting for the road to clear. I could see very little in the dark but what I say is not romantic imagination. Nothing in their mannerism revealed the stereotype rashness that one associates with highway truck drivers. They were nearly smiling as if they were too familiar with this trick of the mountain and were waiting for time to pass. Isn't it an amazing quality in human beings when they have the humility to let Time take its course without resisting or demanding favourable minutes? Not everyone can manage that and restlessness creeps in. To just watch and not wish, to just breathe and not become tense at the nape of your neck, to just accept and not resist; qualities which make a finer man and makes him more of a beast. I have watched cats (the whole family), and they reveal this state of being several times of the day. They must have all been Zen masters in their previous birth!
But truckers being calm was new to me. I couldn't prove their calmness, but could feel it. Maybe it was just today, maybe it was just these drivers, maybe it was the weather - whatever, be the reasoning that a foolishly rational mind searches, they were calm and even scared me at times with their cheer. Merriment in times of difficulty was not a human quality. I thought that existed only with animals and sometimes with children (if they are not hungry). But truckers! While all the passengers grew restless, our driver behind the wheel calmly answered their questions and shrugged his shoulders often. I shut my eyes again and effortlessly I was able to imbibe their calm. I spent a lot of time in that state of stillness when our driver turned the ignition. The bus refused to start! My mother nearly panicked and exclaimed, "Don't tell me!" I couldn't help it and burst out laughing, for which my mother chided me: "How can you laugh in such grave moments?"
That was when I recalled this blog. I remember writing extremely happy posts when I was sad and conversely. Not every post would follow that pattern, but those who know me, know enough. I smiled and watched the landscape move about me as we ambled our way through the ghats. Thereafter I obtained evidence to quieten my rational mind. Several drivers I got to observe, and they all bore no trace of irritation or frustration. They let the faster vehicle overtake them without a frown or snort. They carefully handled the bends and slopes and treacherously rocking potholes. It seemed as if, their journey through the ghats had slowly and without stating so, changed them to be people who could accept. As they say of a good teacher: wisdom imparted without consciously doing so. I find such human beings fantastic. They simply go about their life and without intending to, they transform people around them. Such men are few and I might have met just one or two such individuals. Here, Nature as the guru and the truckers as the sishya had achieved what a hundred self-motivation speakers could not.
The mountains have always been regarded with a lot of romance amongst spiritual seekers. I for one never understood that and felt that spirituality can be attained just about anywhere. I had the Azhwars as proof for immeasurable devotion and several wise men as evidence too. But the ghats did have an element unique to them, and wordlessly the drivers seemed to be aware of it. There was nothing that could be done against the might of the ghats. Control as many machinery as we might want, the ghats ruled their space. No driver seemed to hold an attitude of overpowering the ghats. They were yielding and proceeding and breathing the same oneness where none was essentially superior but all were vital. Would that explain why Nature was so pleasantly sweet then? When the inner and outer meet, Purusha and Prakriti cease to exist.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Play On

Games people play
After several months I was finally granted one night of peaceful sleep and an entry into a joyous world of dreams. Nothing that happened during the waking day earned me that nocturnal bliss. Nothing I ate nor spoke nor did deserved rewards of that nature, but it is human folly to weigh every phenomenon and seek a clear link from there to things past or worse, braid tenuous ropes to a future portent, half raised by the guilty mind into reality. My day was plain and the world's bit in which I live was covered by clouds which failed to play their role. Failure to be the true self was filling the world around me, anyway! The night becomes more beautiful when one wakes up happy and is immediately surprised at the sheer lack of incidents leading up to that treasured salve to the aching soul. To think it was spent sleeping!
Amongst other beautiful things that happened to me that night, was the composition of 2 very interesting and intriguing games. I tried very hard to recollect the rules of the grand game which I had created, but in spite of going over the rules just before my eyes opened, I forgot all of it. I only remembered some part of it, and will return to it after a while.
The other game was also invented during my sojourn and I remember it with fair detail. I recall this game being played in 2 different ways. There were games played with only 2 people sitting facing each other and there was another session where children sat in a saw-tooth row. It was not as if every alternate child formed a team or anything, but they nevertheless sat in that manner.
The rules of that game were rather simple. Someone starts with mentioning a word and the next person must compose another word using the last 2 or more letters from the word mentioned by his companion and predecessor. As an example:

Person1: Multiple
Person2: Please (3 points)
Person3(or 1): Asexual (3 points)
Person4(or 2): Allied (2 points)

And so on till one runs out of words, when s/he gets to challenge the predecessor. If the predecessor can compose a word, then half the points of the challenger are transferred to the predecessor, else the challenger gets to choose a new word and start a new chain. A person can challenge atmost twice in a game. Simply adding an "er", "ly", "es", "ed", "ness" or plural forms do not count. Substrings of the word are also not acceptable. E.g. in the words aforementioned, Person3(or 1) cannot say "Lease" or "Leased". 
The participant with the maximum score wins. In a tie, the person who covered maximum domains (words from finance, law, medicine belong to different domains) wins. Thereafter, maximum successful challenges taken, minimum times when only 2 letters were used and eventually, votes on who used the most beautiful words are employed to resolve further ties. 

I remember spending several years creating the grand game (which wakefulness has made me forget) and then mastering it. I recall a scene where someone (who I think plays the character of my wife in there) comes forth to distract me with some mundane queries and I in a rage banish her from my life in order to focus on this grand game. She then gives birth to my son who returns to challenge me at the same game and defeats me. No, I have not been watching any Hindi movie of late. As I said, there were no bones from my day's carcass that went into the frame of my night's angel. I spent the following day regretting having forgotten the grand game's rules. I recall that it was a delightful bijou providing immense pleasure in creation and in indulgence.

Nevertheless, I woke up feeling quite happy and pleased with my sleep! It is rare that a night like that takes one unaware and for me it was a welcome break from life's nightmares!! :-D

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sans keys

It is ironic that I, a software engineer, sitting at my computer am typing out this post which I shall confess at the outset, is about the ways the internet and computers are changing our 3 R's (I could write it as 3 Rs but a reader might skim over it as 3 rupees, which I have no intention discussing as the value of 3 rupees is all but nearly lost). 
Please find time to read this:
Let me be honest, I read one paragraph and then sent it to a reader friend of mine and then read a lot more (measured by the scroll bar having crossed half the screen height) before deciding to write about this. Come on, I suffer from this problem too!!
I must agree with what Carr says in there. We really have changed a lot since the advent of "surfing". I remember surfing in Unix mode when I once had a student's account. I had to use the scroll keys and hops between links and hit enter for launching the webpage! Gosh! Imagine having to navigate through Blogger in such a mode. If I remember right, "D" was used to download (images, pages, whatever). I think the first thing I downloaded was a Mona Lisa painting. All surfing was done without any colour and shape. In spite of that, I had had a bookmark file of over a few hundred entries. Links which I had planned on re-visiting some time in the future. But the future had IE, Opera, Safari and Firefox on the crystal ball (which now resembled a TFT screen gone out of focus!). Thankfully they had a way of importing bookmarks. Now my bookmarks number nearly 4000+!!
I think the point I agree most with, in Carr's article, is about the staccato quality of reading. I read a paragraph, assume that I understand the rest of it (but my mind working like a self-learning spider (in web terminology), weaves logical and intelligent assumptions based on extrapolations and interpolations to create a semblance of having read and assimilated the entire article) and proceed to the next article with the intent of reading it "completely". I recognise my mind working like some summarising-engine: pick the keywords, string them together, pick some names that are mentioned, interpolate, check the nature of the understanding curve, extrapolate, summarise. I had done this about one such book from which I had quoted in an earlier post about the "Lost Art of Reading". Whether I come across as well-read or learned is such a pointless thing when I know that I just dropped the penny in the summarising-machine slot.

“You are right,” Nietzsche replied, “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.”

Nothing is closer to the truth than that. I loved the Hero pens that I had back in school and held earnest conversations with my black Camlin fountain pen with a striped translucent belly. Today, it has been over a few years since I wrote with a fountain pen. I used to have a nib-maintenance kit with me which consisted of a Eau-de-Cologne bottle on whose smooth glass surface I polished my nibs. Nowadays, I confess to being magically taken over by the keyboard. Often (though not always, as my writing includes stressful and tortuous products too) I would start writing and it would just happen: a continuous movement of fingertips on a bunch of yielding black squares in a flow which I would give anything to make permanent. It seems Nietzsche's writing was also altered ever since he took to the typewriter!! I think I should return to pen and paper (purely a romantic coming home).
But I think this approach to information versus delight and knowledge also slides into our approach to many things in life. We no longer are willing to give time to things that need time. Expertise, is one example. People want to become a genius - NOW. They can't wait for 20 years nor go through the rigour of practicing their skill with fervid indulgence. People want to be a philosopher - NOW. They read a bit here, and a bit there, take on a slow and measured baritone and speak as if they have seen it all. People want to be respected - NOW. They have no time to build their reputation through careful and continuous practice of virtue. Gifted genius acknowledges a very short latency between want and realisation. But Time's tell cannot be totally undone, though time's tell should not be the single governing factor of our lives and the pleasure we should all derive from life. It is simply vital to provide for the intangibilities (not as a mere loophole in defining a holistic system, but because we are a product of things tangible and intangible) which cannot be quantified, measured, weighed and set on an assembly line. To quote the article (which I am scanning for apposite lines and points that I can use):

In Google’s world, the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the fuzziness of contemplation.

And this is where I am reminded of the Glass Bead Game, where the practitioners made contemplation a vital element of the game, because it was transforming into something that people ended up memorising (like chess moves). No, I haven't read the book but have read up to the point (and perhaps a little beyond) where this observation is made. Think about it. 1 week of pure contemplation: no computer, no network, no gadgetry and what will happen!? 
I could summarise, but there is no fun in that. Go figure! :-)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

My Grandmother

I know this starts out rather like an essay one would write back in school! Well, I wish I were back in school with less to bother me about the adult life of mistaken importance! But I really want to write about my grandmother (paati as she is called by her grandchildren). There were two recent incidents which reminded me of her and I have no clue why.
My cousin (who is 11) insisted on watching Fiddler On The Roof (which she has seen several times before). I had already seen it but that confession bore no weight on the ears of the little girl who considered doing things together as a way of bonding. I was touched by her simple outlook which I was also raised in and hence we decided to watch the movie together (with a lot more people in the van). I honestly, find a repeat telecast boring unless the movie is one like the Godfather or Terminator. Nevertheless, there was one bit that caught my attention and made me think of my grandmother. There is this one song where Tevye asks his wife Golde whether she loves him. This is how it goes:

                Do you love me?
                Do I what? !
                Do you love me?
                Do I love you?
                With our daughters getting married
                And this trouble in the town
                You're upset, you're worn out
                Go inside, go lie down
                Maybe it's indigestion.
                Ah, no, Golde, I'm asking you a question.
                Do you love me?
                You're a fool.
                I know.
                But do you love me?
                Do I love you?
                For  25  years, I've washed your clothes
                Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
                Given you children, milked your cow
                After 25 years, why talk about love right now?
                The first time I met you
                Was on our wedding day
                - I was scared - I was shy
                - I was nervous - So was I
                But my father and my mother
                Said we'd learn to love each other
                And now I'm asking, Golde
                Do you love me?
                I'm your wife
                I know.
                But do you love me?
                Do I love him?
                For  25  years, I've lived with him
                Fought with him
                Starved with him
                 25  years, my bed is his
                If that's not love, what is?
                Then you love me?
                I suppose I do.
                And I suppose I love you, too
                It doesn't change a thing
                But even so
                After  25  years
                It's nice to know

Vellai JayamI couldn't help but smile at this song-conversation and it reminded me of my grandmother. I am told she was married when she was 13 or so. I wonder what were her thoughts that ran through her mind when she was told that she will have a man as her companion for the years to come, a man much older than her. Did she think of her dolls, her mother, her running around the well to the rear of the house, her future, her present, her past? Did she blush? Did she know why she was blushing? Did she know what it was to get married? Did she know that she would grow old to have grandchildren write about her with a mottled photograph of hers!? Did she know what she was getting into? Did her husband ask her the same thing that Tevye asked Golde? What would she have said? I am sure she would have smacked her forehead and continued swirling the ladle over the pan painting a white disc of rice batter. I am sure she must have smiled in between and shook her head at the sweetness with which her husband of 25 years asks her something that really has not much meaning anymore and is just a passing note. But still he asked. She must have smiled again before realising that she forgot to turn the dosa. She would eat this slightly charred one.

Currently, I am re-reading the Lost Horizon. There is something about the promise of peace and tranquility that draws me to this book. It is perhaps the essence of the strife that many people go through and find no escape from. It is perhaps a dream-come-true for many people to find themselves suddenly in a Shangri-La. I had read this when I was a boy and for unnamed reasons, I found myself smiling at this book and Conway's thoughts. Today, I find myself nodding. It is amazing how a book - the same text, the same words, the same characters and expressions - carries a more telling if not entirely obvious and recognisable import over time. Time sure is a funny element in the grand scheme of things. It can take the same element and transform it into something (perceived) disgusting, wonderful, beautiful, all over a period of time. And Shangri-La plays exactly with this very same concept of the tell of time.
In this book there is a conversation between Conway and Chang (about another character called Lo-Tsen):

Conway: She was deeply attached, I suppose, to the man she was to have married?

Chang: Hardly that, my dear sir, since she had never seen him. It was the old custom, you know. The excitement of her affections was entirely impersonal.

Again, I couldn't help but think of my grandmother. She too must have had an excitement which was customary or demanded of the situation for a reason and an individual she had hardly seen. Her excitement, if any, would have also been entirely impersonal. What could she have imagined? She had no way of knowing what he would have liked. She had no way of knowing whether his hands would be rough or soft. She had no way of knowing whether he would sleep off when she recounted tales of how she loved playing pallaanguzhi and how many games she had won with her sisters. And if he did sleep, would he snore? 

It is indeed amazing how in spite of being handed over so much unknown details, the woman still managed to run the family well. She mothered six children and loved each one of them differently, always having to answer another child's question as to why she didn't love him/her as much as that other child! In all this, she also had to manage her husband and his ways. The amount of faith people placed on time's remedy has vanished over generations. People believed in tradition and were aware of a husband and wife's duty and conduct. Each one conducted themselves in the manner expected thereby letting family and life go on smoothly. Today we hear of how women were dominated and suppressed in those ages. I asked my grandmother whether that happened to her. She said that she had taken the responsibilities of a family and knew what was best for all and herself. 
I, of course, knew her only when women become a sort of a termagant with their now aged husbands. Something in most couples I have seen is that the wife may be sweet and docile in the initial few years or so, but once the kids are grown and man has mellowed due to age, she takes on his facade and runs the house and her husband with a bossiness that one normally associates with men. If the woman was already the bossy person from the start, then god save the poor man!! I heard how tough my grandfather was with everyone and would sympathise (although late) with my uncles and aunts. So, my grandfather was already that docile man which time makes of an average husband and my grandmother was already the boss of the house, when I recall my first conversation with them. But I was privy to her many thoughts. I enjoyed spending time with her and listening to her stories of years I had never seen. She would tell me how her world was and how her house was set in a particular village. She told me about her mother who was widowed early but still ran the household and managed the family land very well. She told me about her sisters and how they got married. She boasted about the compliments she used to receive for her looks. She never bossed over me and when she wanted to assure herself that she had the right to boss over me, I let her. Isn't all relationship an illusion of what one knows and what one wishes to grant? I used to tell her things that happened in school and then at work. She never rebuked my grandfather or ill-treated him, but she was his wife so she badgered him around like most wives of that age do. I think he liked it too - the attention that she gave him. 
Paati was terribly efficient and good at managing the house. She had several pins in the air while she managed the chores of the house and other details. I think that is why my grandfather respected her and loved her, because it always feels good to have someone share your responsibilities and do so without having to beg them to do it. My father was also very impressed with my paati and would always say that had her parents let her study more then she would be running some organisation right now. Paati would simply blush (she wouldn't smack her forehead at her son-in-law) and rush back to the kitchen under some pretext.
Even today, paati provides me with surplus advise about the way of life and how to lead it smoothly. She doesn't realise that the world has changed and people are mostly only interested in themselves, and traditional ways of the family or society or propriety are no longer recognised, let alone respected. She still thinks that everyone is as simple and sweet as the girls she knew in her days. Girls who must have rushed up to her and giggled with her for no reason upon knowing that their friend was getting married. They must have all giggled and poked her in the ribs and she would have blushed, albeit an impersonal blush.
She doesn't blush much now. She walks very slowly unable to hear her own footsteps well and afraid that the lack of noise portends instability and that she might fall. She stares vacantly into space often and wants to know what everyone is talking of now. She has no husband to boss over and all her grandchildren have grown too old to have their ears boxed in affection. It has been a long time since she could reach my ears anyway! She still pinches me once in a while when I tease her. She has lost all strength to her family and life, and regains it every time when one of her children or her grandchildren comes and sits next to her because they wished to talk to her and keep her company. She smiles and shakes her head in disbelief that a young man would still be interested in talking to an old (nearly) toothless lady. Then she looks just like she would have when her husband asked her what Tevye asked Golde. But for what is already lived and realised, do questions matter?