Monday, January 16, 2012

Animals are beautiful people- Meerkats

The cutest resident of Mysore zoo. Of all the zoos we have been to, Mysore turned out to be the best in terms of maintenance, cleanliness and health of animals. We also discovered a couple of animals we had never encountered before or maybe had only seen in animation movies. For those of you who have not seen a Meerkat before remember Timon and Pumbaa from Lion King ? They look even cuter than their animated self in real.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Allegory of the broiler chicken

I visited a neighbour few months ago.They are gadget buffs and take great pride in showing people the projector which gives them ultimate satisfaction in watching the world cup, the 50 inch LCD monitor that occasionally gave the same pleasure at a lower level and the iphone and ipad ( I am technically challenged to 'wooow' at such stuff) that has become a status symbol of the privileged recently.

The day I visited them the lady of the house took pride in showing off how her daughter who was mastering these gadgets wrecking her little brain. My neighbour was bent on proving her 1 year old's intelligence as the kid deftly unlocked the secret code of iphone, played angry birds on ipad2, danced to Sheila ki Jawani on LCD and clapped when Sachin scored a sixer on the projector.

I felt amused initially but the researcher in me , the ardent Piagetian , found this boring soon.It took me micromilli seconds to understand that all this kid did was observational learning she mimicked what her parents did. She was not a hacker to have broken password ( henceforth not a profound genius) she just repeated something she saw and hence it was nothing worth for a world record. Amazing though this could seem to a parent who dotes and marvels at their child's first words and first antics as if this was the first time a child ever did it, this show off seemed quite comical to me.

A cut off, of power supply made me realise what this kid really was.She felt paralysed and baffled. She had nothing to show off and hence felt betrayed and the toys around her never sufficed the void the gadgets filled in. Her mother admitted she could not handle the kid without these gadgets and attend her work at home and she thought these gadgets were a blessing and not to forget she is already showing signs of her Einstenian future.

I paused and wondered if Einstein would be himself if exposed to all these gadgets. He was not dumb enough to look and be pleased at stimulation he would definitely have opened up these gadgets frightening his parents.Lord save poor Enistein whom we quote unneccasrily to show off our kid's intelligence,All I could see in this kid was an over weight, chubby baby who took no pleasure in physical activity, and to whom reading and writing was no pleasure either. And that's exactly what we do to our modern age gadget babies, dumb them, mesmerise them with gadgets.

Dewey believes true education is experience and true experience is any learning that draws our interest to learn further. And dulling senses is not an experience though it stimulates a part of our brain and keeps us engaged. I wonder if these are the modern theorists on parenthood who believe gadgets . I might be old school to stick to books and colouring books but I cant share pride in any child mimicking actions of opening an iphone code.

" She cant read alphabets and numbers but she can open codes her mother chided".

I can imagine the same mother fretting if her daughter does not read or write in a couple of years. The aversion and impatience to read and low levels of reading in the post google era is not a new phenomenon. But such luxurious dumbing down of the child by occupying them so that you could rest for a while seems sad to me.

I see kids from slums come to school daily. I see them invent their version of golf, play cricket with wooden planks. They are bigger decision makers than Ambani's. They need to decide where they would sleep tonight with their mother and her new husband or father and his new wife. They understand the pluralities of life they have fathers and mothers. They dont need to be kept occupied , they find occupations as cleaners, domestic help, pseudo parents to younger ones. They learn to read from newspaper wrappers they wrap the veggies they sell. They know what fidelity is, they dont know what boredom and depression is. They know a pencil broken means two can share. I wonder why they yet dont make it big with so much street smartness? But they definitely thrive. Survival is piece of cake to them.

Our gadget dependent kids are prisoners of modern jails who never long for fresh air and the feel of hot sand. I represent this situation with an allegory of the broiler chicken' plump and raised indoor. Dumb and dimwitted. We create them to land in KFC buckets and thats all they need to know to be plump and dumb.
Whereas you see the country side chicken running up trees and taking you for a ride, living a healthy life till it end in your pot. A broiler even if let out would stare at you and the new found freedom and would not run away while the country side chicken has tasted the soil and fresh air and his master.

Their worlds never meet the broiler and the country side, they live on two planets.

Next time you hit KFC you'll remember my allegory and your kids :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Before Santosh Pandit, After Santosh Pandit and being Santosh Pandit

No other name in the recent time has ruffled the conscience of the movie loving malayali populace (mallus) as has Santosh Pandit. A name, not even a mallu sounding one (he says there’s a UP touch to it), has taken the print, television and radio waves by storm and for better or for worse has made everyone to sit up and take notice. If we go the way of the World Wide Web, his name has created such an audience that commoners like SRK and AB would beg and steal to be in his shoes. Let alone SRK, any person who wants to be famous on the internet, be it on FB or on TT, would wish his/her name was Santosh Pandit. So much so that at one time he stood second only to FB in the most searched keyword on Google, after his videos went viral on YouTube, owing to the curiosity that it generated among mallus; more so from in our homelands - UAE, Qatar and Kuwait.

So what did Santosh Pandit do to gain such a fan following or infamy, if I may call it that? Actually he did many things and now stands on the verge of making it into the Guinness Book, if you think Limca Book is too native. In the beginning there was a video, on you tube, this one - Spend a minute here, if you have not done it already. So we have had seen music videos in the past, but what got the goat of netizens was not his two size larger and grandfather style suits, nor his dance, which at best was aerobics and at worst a march-past, or the worst lip syncing ever, because his lips were busy covering his buck tooth, and if at all we could ignore the grisly voice. But what irked people the most was his audacity to grasp around a girl the age of his elder sister’s daughter and croon about what his wedding night will be like. But people didn’t start hitting on the above link because they were angry, rather they wanted to see who this fellow was, who had the misled self-confidence (or if I may use the mallu word for it - ‘touli katti’, translated as ‘thick skinned’), to bring on himself this kind of infamy in front onf the whole world.

But all of this would only make sense if we look at it in the right perspective; the perspective of a mallu man or being a mallu man (for once I am sure the ladies will be happy). Like how our state is tucked at the southernmost tip, the mallu man is a back bencher, if not a recluse. He doesn’t like, or hates to be the ‘center of attention’ and would run for cover if there is a slight chance of that happening. Compare that to a panju man and you will see someone who would steal at the opportunity to dance at a complete stranger’s wedding, often wish the newbies or sometimes even shares a toast with the bride’s father. I am not talking about chutzpa here, or the lack of it but about a thought process which grabs your balls and doesn’t let you make any moves if there is a an ounce of a chance that you might get in the eyes of people and lose your image. His IMAGE is like his second self, and he is proud of it, as if it being gilt edged, whom he cares like a new born and caries it around cautiously, never letting anybody touch it, lest it gets sullied, but makes every effort to feed it and make it grow. He is very careful that his IMAGE stands the test of his friends too, especially those from the same southernmost tip, because they all have their own babies to take care of. But his group of friends would never lose an opportunity to make other’s babies’ cry. He is also very careful around his colleagues, relatives and neighbours for the same reason and every action or word that one does or speaks is weighed and cautiously put across. Now that we know the psyche of the mallu being, it would not be hard to understand that Santosh Pandit did a complete somersault of the mallu persona and this is what drove millions of mallus to youtube to get glimpse of what their antithesis would look like. And once they liked what the saw there was no stopping. At least this explains why Santosh Pandit got the kind of eyeballs that the Lalettans and Mammukas never got. This still doesn’t explain why Santosh Pandit, who used to rent out suits for a living, one fine day decided to wear one and act out in front of the camera

After the song went viral there was the news that it was actually part of a movie and the fact was that Santosh Pandit had done everything in the movie from acting to being director, script-writer, editor, music director, lyric writer, editor and playback singer, leaving only the cameraman to see and record all his buffoonery. Then came the promo - and the hype just got quadrupled. Those who were living by bread alone (read: Raatri Subha Raatri song) now started dreaming of a three course meal, with dialogues and fights. The movie - Krishnanum Radhayum – had the grandfathered script of inter faith marriage, with the only consolation that the lady love gets killed before the end. But then who gives a dime about the script if you can laugh your lungs out on songs and fights. When the movie released it brought out people in hordes -, especially students and youngsters, who got an opportunity to let out pent up frustration, in form of abuses and cuss words, which was simmering within for weeks through comments on youtube, when the first video had appeared. Such was the scene inside theatres that much of what was happening was on the screen was subdued by the cacophony that the audience created. The movie ran houseful for the first day, though it was screened in only three theatres in Kerala, and with many who could not get their hands on a ticket. Mainstream Malayalam film industry shouted sour grapes though acclaimed director like Lal Jose very rightly said that the hit of Krishnanum Radhayum shows Malayali's taste for sarcastic pleasure. Santosh Pandit hit back saying when mainstream producers are not even able to recover their cost nowadays, he made a movie for a lowly five lakhs and generated a good profit too. Once the tide settled, Santosh Pandit started appearing on various talk shows and discussions on television and it was hard to understand if Santosh Pandit was enjoying all the attention or if he had just moved his character from the movie to small screen and was continuing with his antics- Even now Santosh Pandit appears on sundry shows and is rumored that he charges a hefty fees for it. After all is said and done, Santosh Pandit is an riddle for us mallus, because even after the audience vilified his first movie he has started shooting for his next film, -‘Jithu Bhai Enna Chocolate Bhai aka Superstar Santosh Pandit’. He makes our skin itch but we do not want to squash him like a fly rather just scratch the surface and let him be, because he is who we would never want to be and it’s good to have somebody to point to if somebody did ask us that. The most dim-witted comment of his was, “From here on malayalam cinema would be split into two eras, one ‘before Santosh Pandit’ and the other as ‘after Santosh Pandit’”.

But I disagree, before Santosh Pandit it was Silsila hai Silsila -  and this too - , after Santosh Pandit it will be and being Santosh Pandit is still an enigma, who we love to loathe.

P.S. The new ‘alien’ star hit Bangalore too but I missed it. But then, there is always you tube.