April 27, 2007

The Travails of Womanhood!

As if it weren't enough that the fashion world in the west keeps such a tight scrutiny and an even tighter tape on the body measurements of the female, now we have the Iranians keeping watch on how much an Iranian woman clothes herself! Why won't the world let women decide what they wish to do with their bodies? It is preposterous that even in the most developed nations of the world the woman adheres to what the male deems beautiful and attractive. Why are we then shocked that this week in Tehran, "Thousands of women have been cautioned by police over their dress, some have been obliged to sign statements that they will do better in the future, and some face court cases against them."

For decades the likes of Calvin Klein and Lauren have dictated the standards for female beauty, and that has resulted in various eating disorders among women across the western hemisphere; bolemia and anorexia being the two most rampant. Ailments such as these, have long term impact on the female constitution, and often prevent women from motherhood. In places such as Japan where the growth rate is already negative, trends such as the aforementioned can wreak havoc on the population. Besides the physical damage, these stringent measures for what's beautiful also affects how young women feel about themselves. A teenager who is unable to fit into a size four shuns the mirror and her friends; becomes a recluse confined within the four walls of her room, simply because she believes she's 'fat', and fears rejection by her peer group!

In the light of this scenario, the US, or any other European country for that matter, has no reason to be so condescending about what is happening in Tehran today. People living in glass houses ought not to throw stones! The Iranians are but mandating the female garb; we are tampering with the female body! As for the women themselves…one wonders whether the female of the species has a backbone after all, or else there’s a masochistic gene in her that makes her a suppliant victim.

April 22, 2007

Earth Day 2007

Save the Earth

I am old.
Been there since time eternal.
Mother of all species.
Respected, revered, restored, and reaped
in times forgotten. But now..
eroded, evacuated, embedded, and raped;
Droughts and earthquakes are worries no more.

Darfur, Iraq, Israel, and Hiroshima,
All but parts of me.
Dented and cracked irreparably.
I cry, weep, hurt, yell, and scream.
Divided, amputated, suffocated, and mutilated,
searching a lebensraum
in my very own universe.
while my progeny tightens my noose.

April 13, 2007

On Truth and Lies; with due apologies to Harry G. Frankfurt

Calling a spade a spade does often get people in deep trouble, and could cost you some friends as well. However, the pleasure and peace that unloading a truth brings, simply by articulating it, is tremendous! Whether the end justifies the means, is the question.

Is speaking ones mind synonymous with being abrasive? Is the truth always bitter? Does being liked entail telling lies or at least half truths? Are being liked and speaking the truth mutually exclusive of each other?

Would President Bush be liked if he were to speak the truth that going to Iraq was a mistake?
Did Clinton's lying about his association or the lack thereof with Monica Lewinsky keep him in good stead with his fans? The answer to both of these questions is a very obvious, "No". Then, is it fair to conclude that telling the truth does not necessarily redeem you or place you in good light; just as the telling of lies does not guarantee loss of friends or a falling in people's eyes. In that case neither the speaking of truth or the telling of lies should be the preferred code of conduct. Thus your life can be a bunch of lies splattered with some truths every now and again, and you'll be in good company! However, this is what Harry J Frankfurt (author of "On Bullshit" and "On Truth") has to say about truth: ' Recognizing truth requires selflessness. You have to leave yourself out of it so you can find out the way things are in themselves, not the way they look to you, or how you feel about them or how you would like them to be.' That is an impossible asking so would anyone even attempt it!

A friend captured the Manhattan skyline on two different occasions but from the same vantage point; both the pictures present the Manhattan skyline. This is obviously a photographer's articulation of a reality he perceives, and he's fortunate that he doesn't have to justify the difference or have to decide which of the two is the preferred one.

However, if you were asked to choose which one of the two pictures you preferred, how and what would you decide?

April 07, 2007

Mira Nair's "The Namesake" - An Identity Entrapped?

"What's in a name?" Apparently plenty, according to Mira Nair's movie, "The Namesake". A name for Indians is apparently a hope, an expectation, perhaps a trap, even a blessing; something which connects the past with the present. However, what happens when this connect goes unrecognized or unacknowledged by an individual? The Namesake explores the conflict that arises when immigrant Indian parents presume or perhaps hope that their children, born outside of India, recognize this connect. Nair is not breaking new ground making a movie around a theme that presents the conflict of values between two generations in an immigrant Indian family. I am told that in recent years there have been innumerable films coming out of Bollywood (in Hindi) that explore this theme. Mira Nair has portrayed an Indian immigrant's struggle to hold on to what he deems represents his identity (in this case his name) in a foreign land. However, a non Indian audience may not be as sensitive to some of the cultural nuances presented in the movie that contribute significantly to the understanding of the conflict; like taking off ones shoes when entering a home, the process of selecting a name for the newly born, the son having to shave off his hair after the death of the father. All these events have a deeper meaning than the one that a western audience may take from it.

Who did Mira Nair have in mind as her audience when she made the film? Will ' The Namesake' have the same impact and invoke the same empathy in India as it did in the hearts of all immigrant Indians in the USA? Which makes me wonder if this is a nation specific conflict, one lacking universal appeal. If indeed it is, then would Ms. Nair have been better off making her movie a Bollywood presentation?

The movie is based on Jhumpa Lahiri's novel, The Namesake. Ms. Lahiri is a Pulitzer Prizewinning novelist from India who is renowned for her short stories. I read her novel, The Namesake, a couple of years ago, and it did not make an impact. The writer introduced and abandoned some very strong points of interest; for example the reference to Gogol, and his story 'The Overcoat'. For some reason Ms. Lahiri did not elaborate upon why the father chooses to call his son Gogol. As a reader I felt cheated, even mislead after I finished reading the novel.

Despite all of the above, the movie is definitely worth watching for the outstanding performances by the three main characters; the father (Irfan), the mother (Tabu), and the son (Kal Penn) who put up some heart-rending scenes that had me all choked up a couple of times during the movie. Irfan especially, playing the role of a father who though a man of few words says it all with his abrupt body language, did an excellent job.