Saturday, November 26, 2005

what how what

I have this dream diary. Basically a few years ago, conversations with a friend of mine always started with "guess what i dreamt about last night".. so we decided to write down our dreams and then see if a pattern .. or anything emerged. I've written down some of my crazier dreams off and on for about four years now. I've figured out that if i dream of a tsunami/ flood/ natural disaster it means I'm stressed... and sometimes I don't even know something is bothering me till a tidal wave threatens to wipe out montreal- or something. I wish I could do some more research about the workings of the mind.. but I fear I will over analyse myself thereby not enjoying my dreams anymore.

So I never did get around to it because I started reading some great books and watched some interesting plays.. [btw, saw Kevin Spacey in Richard II tonight and Anthony Head in Otherwise Engaged on monday]. I've been meaning to sit down with my thoughts and post a blog for a while but its been so busy and rushed that I just haven't.

Anyway, I've been busy with developmental communications of late, working on my dissertation idea etc.. and I read this very interesting article that pointed out that most Hollywood movies coming out are 'conscience flicks' .. for example, The Constant Gardener targets corruption by Big Pharmaceuticals in Africa, Good Night, and Good Luck shows how Edward R. Murrow took a stand against McCarthyism and Syriana questions the cozy relationship between the West and an oil-producing Middle Eastern country. And as much as I like cheese on tv (case and point, I'm a fan of the OC, don't ask me why) the education of the American public is something I wholly support. Hey---- just watch Jaywalking, and then talk to me!!

More later, just wanted to check in.

Monday, November 14, 2005

If the blind could see...

I saw Mary Stuart at the Apollo on friday night. I'm a huge fan of Tudor history- well, I used to be in high school anyway, so I couldn't pass up watching this. The acting was simply brilliant. By all accounts I've always read about Mary, Queen of Scots, she;s portrayed as a weak woman who was influenced by the men around her which led to her misfortune. I guess this is also because most of the books I've read on the subject have been rather pro- Elizabeth I.

Anyway, this play does a brilliant job of showing us what both women were going through at the time when Elizabeth had to decide if she was going to give the Royal order to place Mary's head on the block. There is a electrifying scene between the two women where Mary totally loses her composer and tells Elizabeth off- she has been begging for mercy but perhaps she feels that it won't help, or she cannot beg for mercy at Elizabeth's feet being Royal herself, but she talks of how England changed her official religion four times under four seperate rulers, and that she deserves respect due to a queen, and that Elizabeth is a bastard!! Elizabeth of course is appalled as Mary tells her off in front of Leicester and co. and is quite shook up by the meeting. Leicester himself is shown as the weakest link- he cannot fight for Mary because he has not given up hope that Elizabeth might just marry him someday. But at the same time it is not love guiding him but cowardice and laziness.

The script is brilliant. As Elizabeth cleverly avoids an engagement with France, she says something like I will give this ring as a symbol that one day I might marry the King of France, but rings are funny things because that is what chains are made of! Its truly fantastic. There are jabs at the Catholic Church as well, Mortimer, who wants to rescue Mary tells her he has been to a priest who has forgiven him his past sins and absolved him of any sins to come. He then tells her he is ready to murder his uncle, her jailor, for the cause and as Mary looks agahst at the suggestion, he reminds her he has already been forgiven for sins to come! If only the blind could see.... and this brings me to another point--

Funny thing, I went to meet my brother yesterday and he's reading 'The Great Indian Novel' by Shashi Tharoor- its the Mahabharata retold but set during the time of Independance. (Talk about coincidence!!) Instead of the decay of the morals of the higher orders (the Brahmins and Kshatriyas) this one talks of the decay set in society at the end of the British Rule in India. I haven't read the book but he told me that Dhritarashtra, the blind King who lets his son's wreak havoc in the original is Pandit Nehru in the book and the author asks how different the story of India might have been if the blind man could see. Interesting!!

Friday, November 11, 2005

..losing my religion..

I did something today, which is most of out character, although why I did it is most IN character. As always, let me start with a little background: I picked up this book in the library called 'Myths to Live By' by Joseph Campbell a while ago. It’s a series of lectures that he gave. He talks about the relationship between science and religion. What seems to happen is that the more we believe in scientific explanations for things, the less we believe in religion. What he says is that sure that God didn't create the world in seven days and it was probably the Big Bang... but don't discount religion too easily. The stories that we hear as children, the myths perpetuated by society at large all have a reason- they serve as our moral compass. He goes onto find links between religions- rites, love, war, peace etc taking into account Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism etc etc. This really reminds me of the things my mothers told me- she’s a lawyer/historian and she's always drawn parallels for us between the great religions of the world.

So back to what I did today. I started reading the Bhagavad Gita. Its a holy book for the Hindu's. According to the story, right before an epic battle broke out between two families, the Pandavas and the Kauravas- one of the Pandava's- Arjun- asked Lord Krishna why he should fight his cousins. What point is there in winning a war, which would result in the death of not only his cousins but many revered intellectuals and great warriors. Krishna speech to him about the duty Arjun has to perform- and how mortal death cannot destroy their souls is already famous. I know the gist of it but I'm re-reading it to refresh my memory.

After dinner, we sat around the table and Roshni (one of my Indian flatmates) and I started telling Anna (one of the Greek girls) stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. As we told her more and more stories, I started really enjoying going through them again. Anna wondered how we could remember such details- these stories span generations and are a curious mix of fantasy, incidents that might actually be factual and moral code. While we treat most of the leading characters as "divine" yet the stories portray them as very human. Ram distrusts his wife, thereby insulting her and being a bad husband, and she leaves him. He might have been considered a God but he is victim to the prejudices of his caste and does not let a man from the lower caste pray to God as was the custom of the time. The Pandavas lose their wife in a gambling game with their cousins and watch helplessly as the evil cousins try and disrobe her in court, but Krishna comes to her rescue. I could go on and on. We told Anna that besides having heard these stories from our grandmothers (etc) and learning some in school, the fact that Doordarshan (the Indian Public Service Broadcaster) serialized them into a fantastic Sunday morning show has left them imprinted in our memories. You even find comic books of the stories, called Amar Chitra Katha. For children, visual imprints help keep them fresh in our minds.

The Ramayana and Mahabharata no longer come on TV in India. I'm not sure how popular these comics are with the younger Cartoon Network generation. The very thought made me sad and brought me back to Campbell's books. I know these tales are not fact, although historians and archeologists have discovered old ruins etc that correspond with some of the tales. But the thought that perhaps my children would not know these made me very sad. Fairytales and mythologies are so important that we take them for granted. So granted that perhaps one day they will be lost.

They also allow you to debate what is 'right'. Authority is always in danger of arrogance. However, these old Indian mythologies do not try and be the definitive authorities and even when they give an opinion as fact, this is after characters in the stories have raised serious objections and argued about them. Amartya Sen's latest book talks of this quality that captures the essence of being Indian. We all know that India is a rich culture, one that has imbibed much from the various religions we have in our country. His book is called the 'Argumentative Indian'. I went for the book release in New Delhi where one man got up and said to Dr. Sen "I don't see why you called this book the Argumentative Indian, why not the Curious Indian or the Questioning Indian?" Dr Sen smiled and told him "I think you've answered your own question!"

In the end, my point- and I am not a religious person at all- but I do have "faith" (just not in organized religion)-- is that I can boast that I have these opinions because I have listened, learned and evaluated. The loss of religion would lead to a black and white society--- and the excessive dependence on it also, ironically, leads to a black and white society. My only hope is that people can understand the myth behind religion and form opinions taking from them- and not take myth for science (or "law").

I've heard that most bloggers only write their blogs and don't bother reading other blogs much. I hope this is not true because I'd love to hear what someone else thinks of my opinions. And that’s what they are -opinions- so lets not have a bitch fest please!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

As the world turns....

I had a very interesting conversation at the dinner table today, made me think about a lot of things. Two of my flatmates are greek, and there was another Indian girl with us. We started with a little Bush bashing. Well, let me give some background. I was listening to Talking Points (BBC) - and there were a lot of callers from all over the world giving their view about Bush and Iraq et al. Now, I'm very used to the anti-Bush brigade, having been a part of them for ages. But what I am really curious about are the pro-Bush supporters. Because, I want someone to convince me that I'm not seeing the whole picture. It takes me back to what it must have been like when Reagan started his anti-communism campaign and I'm sure people protested then, but isn't democracy the best form of government? Even if we have to fight hard to establish it? Now, I don't think Bush is a visionary but I do like to think of a bigger picture. Sure, he's got some twisted reasons for going into Iraq, and sure, Iraq is a big mess at the moment. But, if it does spark the desire for freedom in the Middle East, is it not a good thing?

We started talking about terrorism and how the world changed. I was telling the girls that I believe more than just that 9/11 happened in New York (a city I am deeply fond of) the point is that for the first time we saw a terrorist attack- from start to finish- happen in real life, real time.. and the entire world could witness the destruction. That changed everything. I'm studying the media, and indeed visual images are far more powerful than the written word. My earliar post was about this too- what I felt when I saw the BBC documentary about events that I had only read about.

We went on to discuss civilizations, because at the end of the day, America might be a world power but an old power it is not. Its only been on the top of its game for 40 years. Talking to Greeks and Indians (including myself) .. after all, we boast of ancient civilizations. We began to discuss how Iraq was invaded and that itself makes it wrong- not my rubbish about "but what if the fallout is good?" We talked about how the Americans leave things in a mess- Vietnam, Afghanishtan, South America, Iraq... and went on to talk about how the British Empire operated. The Greeks seemed to hate the British far more than we did; it confirms my theory- that the main reason we do not hate the Brits is because we got freedom in peace (props to Gandhi) and ultimately that allows you to let go of your anger because the violence is that much pre-dated. But the partition between India and Pakistan was so horrific that we cannot make peace to this day. [I said something like it reminds me of two girls and a guy, invariably the girls hate eachother but both still seem okay with the guy... it did get a giggle out of them!]

The Brits just had diplomacy in their blood- they - and aren't they a tiny little island- ruled the world. But they knew how to get into the blood of the people .. they knew how to make alliances with those in power so as to keep subjecting the weak. They knew how to stab you in the back while smiling in your face. The Americans just cannot compare. This in turn led us to discuss how the British have such old artifacts that belong to all our countries but do not give it back. I suppose thats their history- as conquerers, but it takes away ours. I said that I definately want all the Indian stuff back but a little part of me is happy the British have had so many jewels, paintings etc because they have taken such good care of it- something we would not have done in India. Not everyone appreciates history in the same way, case and point, the Taliban and the Buddha stuff... (Bamiyan.. I can't remember right now, sorry) and the Greeks told me of what the Turks did to their church .. Sophia was it? I'll edit ths later, its quite late.
In the end, its all about how the world turns, and I agreed that if history just went the way it was 'meant' to go, with no aggression and no domination, we just wouldn't be the same planet. This is why I never understand.. with so much happening and so much that HAS happened in our world, how do people find history boring? Why don't they put on the news? Its far more racy than any soap opera can aspire to be..