Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Eternal Optimist

Switched on the telly this afternoon - and saw different headlines for a change. It was a relief to see news other than that of dismal bombings, dreaded terrorists, bigoted religious leaders from the dark ages, and more often than not, a bigoted American president.

Turns out the IRA has decided to "disarm, though not disband" to borrow from CNN. This is the follow up to an official cease-fire adopted since the late 90s ('97 i think). More importantly - it brings the end to a 36 year old campaign - often violent at times. Cynical newscasters and politicians alike think not too much will come of it. But i am more inclined to go with Tony Blair's "step of unparalleled magnitude".

In a disenchanted, mistrustful new world, news of an alternative way of life for a 36 year old crusade feels like the antidote to cynicism is finally here. It also brings to mind an incident that recently occurred.

B & I were in London for a few days the week after the 7/7 attacks. London and its mosaic of cultures seemed to have bounced back from the week that had gone by. All seemed kosher. We were in the St. John's Wood tube station one night, returning from dinner with friends. It must have been about half past 12, the platform was virtually deserted save for a couple of people at the other end. At this point, a well dressed, good looking young gentleman, staggered onto the platform, and made his way towards us. By the look of him - he had clearly had one too many to drink, as he insisted on shaking hands with us repeatedly! He then started a conversation with " I am Irish, I know how it feels to be stared at!" and carried on at some length about the 80s, the IRA bombings, and persecution. He then proceeded to tell us that he understood how we felt and that it was not a great feeling! B & I were somewhat puzzled - should we be feeling something? He spoke of how the muslims are the new Irish of London etc. We smiled at him, and were not unhappy when the train arrived, and hastily made our way to another compartment.

It would have been too complicated to explain - that we were not muslim, but hindus. that we were merely brown, as were some of the bombers. that classifying everyone as "pakis" doesn't work, given that we belong to a civilisation that predates most others. And confusing Indians with Pakis is a bit like mixing your vowels.

But then again - how was he to know any better? His fume filled head only recognised the most basic of human traits - that of colour. He was doing what Malcolm Gladwell describes in Blink - yet another example of bad rapid cognition!

Bad or good rapid cognition - the only things can that can change these stereotypes is a call for peace, alternatives to violence. Preachy, simplistic, but earnest. I don't like being pigeon holed.

Tonight, I for one will go to bed happier, knowing some people will sleep without a gun under their pillow, for the first time in several years.

Sweet dreams!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Falling off the Map

It does feel like that when you visit the Arctic circle and back! Herds of elks,wanton wildflowers, frozen glaciers, too much sunshine and some eerie experiences later - it feels good to be home.

There's just so much to blog - i don't when to start, or how to. As B. would say "There are more things on heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy"!

But i guess an update of the map is a good starting point. See how the red has grown!

create your own visited country map

Su Su Sudoku

I think it's inherited.

If I were to turn back the clock about 25 years ago - i recall summer vacations in my grandmother's house in Calcutta. Idyllic afternoons, naps that the kids were supposed to take, gentle and furtive whispers filled the air while some of the elders snored, and others lazed, and a few exceptions to the norm. One was me - i couldn't bear to sleep in the afternoon (probably had something to do with my need to wake up later than everyone in the household in the morning, hence the inability to cozy up with Kumbhakarna a few hours later.) The other was my grandmother, universally known as Meme - who spent the greater part of her afternoon engrossed in the Bartaman crossword. Her otherwise serene aspect would be contorted with strange expressions as she racked her vocabulary for the right word.

Years later - i see the similarity in my mother , who spends her afternoon in a similar quotidian fashion - just like meme. Once she is back from school (yes, she is grown up, she is a teacher) with the dogs (now dog) at her feet, completing the Telegraph and TOI cross word. She is rather annoyed when i am around and get to some parts of her afternoon delight before she can get back from school, and even more annoyed if i don't get to it!

This child of the chatterji clan loved getting to the crossword as well - typically by afternoon since mornings were better spent sleeping or getting to school or college or work. The habit broke soon after once the workplace didn't allow me to even realise the day was over, let alone give me time to take an afternoon break! An occasional afternoon flight or train ride sometimes helped me find the crossword, which i put down soon after, feeling like a blunt knife.

But here I am - having converted to a house elf in recent times as my husband christened me today - and discovered the joys of a new kind of crossword ( I guess you can call it that ) - the Sudoku. Similar to a magic square, latin square, and a crossword -the Sudoku is a number puzzle of a different kind! Full of possibilities, a few keys that can unravel the grid, and bring you complete joy or frustration!

There's a link in my blog to a cool sudoku site that sends me puzzles every day! It really is fun - try it!

To borrow from Amitav Ghosh (Hungry Tide)
"She recalled the mythologies of discovery that attracted her to the sciences as a child, and how the most miraculous seemed always to be the ones that had the most quotidian origins - Archimedes and his bathtub, Newton and his apple."