Thursday, April 28, 2005

Of Verbiage & Verbosity

I can't seem to figure out where to place my commas anymore. Don't even ask me about the state of the semi-colon. I don't know if it is just me who struggles with English Grammar or if it is everyone who has been sending emails peppered with corporate euphemisms. On one hand, words are being axed with undue severity (SMS of course!) and on the other, there are all sorts of phrases that are used to avoid being sued for admitting to a problem.

John Humphrys' Lost for Words is a collection of such abuse to the English Language. He argues that inflexibility in a language makes it unpopular. However, that is no reason for allowing gross abuse.

People who say every rule should be observed meticulously do not know what they are talking about. And if you don't believe me, try "correcting" that sentence to end: "... don't know about what they're talking".

If we were indeed being oppressed, the liberals should have realised that the way to overcome our oppressor was to use his own weapon against him: good English. Rules do not confine; they liberate.

We talk of future plans and past history; of live survivors and safe havens. Children have temper tantrums and politicians announce "new initiatives" - though maybe that is to distinguish them from the many "initiatives" that are recycled versions of failed old ones. We say "from whence" and "he is currently the chairman..."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Oh dear...another Madras!

Who would have thought that in a faraway corner of the world, in Jefferson County, State of Oregon, there exists another Madras? My husband found out by sheer chance a few hours ago when searching for the 1950 map of Madras. He laughed in surprise. I squealed in enthusiasm at the thought that my dear city had a namesake. In my childhood, on hearing about Salem, Massachusetts, I had rushed to my mother and asked if Salem, MA was better than Salem, Tamil Nadu. I don't recall her reply but I do remember how fascinated I had been with the idea that two cities belonging to different countries shared the same name.

[Wearing a pleased grin ever since...]

Friday, April 22, 2005

360 degrees of Yahoo

Yahoo has come full circle indeed. From the days of the early search engine and email to the wholesome integration of a lot of useful online services, Yahoo has grown so much. And now comes 360 degrees - a service that integrates most of the online services of Yahoo. It offers a blog, photos, mobile connectivity, messenger integration, communities, reviews and a whole lot more.

Like Orkut before it, 360 degrees is right now in beta and taking a leaf from the exclusivity idea of GMail, 360 degrees beta is by invite only. Orkut has been functioning under the beta tag for such a long while that it makes me wonder what beta means. I guess it means that when you get the "Bad, bad server. No donut for you" message on Orkut, you smile indulgently and let it pass. It is just in beta anyway. It will be interesting to watch how long 360 degrees stays in the beta state.

Given Yahoo's huge user base, 360 degrees should be a furnace!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Yoga School Dropout - Fresh, Funny, Western-Eye-Perspective of India

Yoga School Dropout has been read, fondly looked at after the back cover closed on the last page, and relegated to a snug position in the book cupboard. I am now ready to wax eloquent on its contents.

This book has been categorized as a travelogue though the author, Lucy Edge, employs interesting fiction elements to maintain the momentum of the book. The characterizations are endearing and Lucy has generously ripped apart the quaint usage of the present continuous tense in Indian English. She clearly captures her emotional response to India as it swings from very positive to embarrassingly negative.

The Yoga School Dropout is a book about Lucy's trip to India in search of spiritual fulfillment, a well-toned Yoga body, and some fun vacation on the side. She visits several hallowed cities and towns in India that house famous Yoga/Spiritual retreats and tries to find a place that offers her a solution to her problems. She travels across the subcontinent: Rishikesh, Kerala, Pondicherry, Chennai, Pune, Delhi and Mysore. Finally, she figures out that she is the solution that she is seeking. The narrative provides an interesting perspective on how many Yoga and spiritual retreats are run and how Westerners are treated in these places as well as at large in India.

This is a very interesting read and I recommend it for those who have atleast a marginal interest in Yoga or a curiosity about happenings in general.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Bravo Miandad!

I never liked Javed Miandad. He was far too offensive whenever he played against the Indians. And I am talking about offensiveness in manner and not exactly in cricketing shots. The only time I hated him as well as admired him was when he struck the super six of THAT last ball that made him a hero and more or less ruined Chetan Sharma. And every time I hear him mentioned anywhere, the image of the mockingly jumping Miandad comes to mind.

Inspite of history standing in the way, I had to say, "Bravo!" to this article. A very perceptive, scathingly frank piece that I simply had to agree with.

The Pakistan team that won the one day series reminded me of the heady days of the Indian team's revival in 2003. So much of young blooded enthusiasm and team spirit marked the Natwest series then. The same spirit is evident in the present Pakistani side. Kudos to them for a well-deserved victory.

A heartening fact in the matches played between India and Pakistan since last year, is the friendliness between the teams. The animosity that used to exist during the Miandad and Imran Khan days is no longer there. Now it is just two cricketing nations playing a game and not two neighbouring countries at war in the cricket pitch. And I am hoping that increased trade between the two nations will keep the friendliness going.

As far as Indian cricket goes, like Miandad says in his article, India needs to get back to the drawing board and draw new plans.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Yawn! It is just past 10pm and true to character, I simply cannot keep my eyes open. I am reading Yoga School Dropout by Lucy Edge (check out the sidebar for the link) and it is a very funny travelogue about Lucy's search for spiritual highs in India.

I was reading an article about Indian Writers in English and the author of that piece mentioned that a lot of Indian Writers in English are able to present India in a highly interesting manner because these writers do not live in India anymore. The view of the forest can only be seen from a distance. I'd like to extend that same point to the author of the Yoga School Dropout. She presents a very interesting perspective of India which a resident Indian is likely to miss.

I am waiting to write a review of this book, hardly 140 pages to go!

discovering Jugglezine

How many times have I said 'super' on a Monday morning? Hardly ever. But this morning, I fell in love with the Jugglezine site. There is something about the touch and feel of the site that makes me very comfortable. I am sure to check this one out often. Thanks, and this is getting very frequent, to Jason Kottke for the pointer to this one.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Jason Kottke almost throttled a rude mobile phone user - hmm...tell me about it!
Also from A.Word.A.Day:

Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one's self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all.
-Thomas Szasz,author, professor of psychiatry (1920- )

Anu Garg introducing the theme of this week's A.Word.A.Day:

If we could remember that God doesn't live in a church, temple, or mosque,there would be no need to preach to anyone, no need to save anyone's soul.The best we can do is save ourselves and improve our own lives and/or after-lives. Imagine a world where we don't feel a need to condemn anyone because "the book of my religion says so."

how true...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Trimming the Trimmings

When I feel really low, I start cleaning the house or rearranging furniture. This morning, I moved around the seating in my drawing room single-handedly. And while I was at it, I was channeling the irritation of the little things into the force that actually moved the furniture. And moving a three-seater, two single seaters, two lounge chairs and a bunch of side tables needed quite some force. So there - today was bellyaching day.

Usually I am pretty self-critical and it can be tiring to be both at the giving and at the receiving end of the stick. Over the years, I have been consciously trying to become a better person each day. This means that impulsive anger goes right into the dustbin and deep breathing is as important as coffee. Along with all sorts of seemingly crazy targets, I set myself a real tough one about not being judgemental about other people. Now, that is as easy to do as climbing Everest on your first attempt without any prior mountain climbing experience. I normally catch myself after a few judgemental thoughts shape themselves into words; the self-critic objects strongly but I atleast try hard.

This morning a few memories of the past months flitted by and left me with the sour taste of dissonance. I don't know about you, but I find it annoying when someone comments about another person's bad taste in X where the range of X is pretty much anything under the sun that can be chosen. It is as if one is so convinced about one's own good (great?) taste that any other choice that conflicts with one's taste has to obviously be bad. So anybody who wears the same string of pearls with every dress is a dowdily dressed lady with poor taste. "How can you possibly wear pearls with a green and gold saree, Madhu? Padma has such bad taste". Sure, pearls may not look deadly with a green and gold saree but it hardly spells out the end of the world. And Padma probably wanted to to wear something on her neck just so that it did not look bare. She did what she did and that is all there is to it.

Another thing that annoys me is someone exchanging a gift item for something else because the selection showed bad taste. I mean, I would be disappointed if someone I gifted something to asked me for the bill of that item so that they could exchange it for something else. I believe that a gift is only a symbol of someone's affection and regard for you and that cannot be valued in hard currency. It is the intangible wrapping of the gift that is far more precious than the gift itself. If the choice of gift does not match my taste at all, I would give it an honourable place in my closet and certainly not insult the giver by asking for a bill.

A third thing that ranks at the top of the pyramid of pettiness is sharing the details of someone's confidences. It shatters the basic trust between people. And isn't 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' effective anymore?

So what is it that prompts such behind-the-back comments and petty behaviour about really little things? Maybe the smallness of the mind that thinks such thoughts. Maybe the satisfaction of assuring the small mind that it is one up on another comparable mortal. I have been guilty of such small mindedness several times in my life and so have you.

This morning, as these negative trivialities crossed my mind, I was partly angry with myself for having been a mute spectator. But then, like the little drops that gather steadily in the ocean of change, I am resolved to be non-judgemental, harder than ever.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Playing with Colors

Don't be horrified. I know the orange sidebar with blue links looks pathetic. I started experimenting on my rather plain Bluebird template and had to suspend the experiment because of other activities that needed attention. I promise to make the appearance minimal and pleasant if not fascinating. Until then, spare the rod please!

And I do need to post. I have been thinking of some ideas like, 'How well can you really know a person?', 'Man, Woman and Child?', 'What would I do if I had a year's paid Sabbatical?'. More on those shortly. For now, I am out for dinner.