Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bawling for Columbine...

Maybe because America is such a developed country, maybe because America trusts its citizens, but I still find no rational rationale to give people guns to safeguard their lives. This is a country that is as safe as it can get...a police force which inspires respect and awe for their patrolling and service to community, citizens who follow every rule almost to the point of perfection, laws that attempt to keep cigarettes, alcohol and drugs away from youngsters below 21...but this is also a country with a lot of people who are mentally sick and guns neither protect nor provide any form of defence from them. A fortnight ago, I read this short story and it refused to leave me...and then yesterday happened.

Last weekend, I saw not one, but two gun shops right outside a friend's apartment. The scene evoked horror in my eyes...after all why do citizens need guns in a democracy, aint their voice and votes more powerful? It is time America's wise politicians decided to sweep aside the power of the gun lobby.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Kerala Phenom...

How i wish I could pull off some magic and flesh out a post, off nothing. The cupboard is bare, every story begun winds up unfinished, a long list of such broken threads await my review and reworking. Sometime early last year, a resolve that every post on this blog should also give me creative satisfaction surreptitiously crept in, and seems to have influenced my mindset, i began to see myself as something more than a blogger and the opinions, commentaries and observations on daily life and happenings gradually ebbed out. I am tired of my folks and surprisingly even an anonymous reader asking me why nothing new has come out...well the cloud just doesnt lift but here's something for you all to read and forget...a post i wrote a long back, but just didnt find good enough to publish then...well Vishu is almost here, we are planning a sadya, what might just be missing is the mundu.

Move over jeans, khakis, chinos and whatever new fashions yet to come out...the pride of place in my wardrobe is a cream-coloured thin fabric, almost 2 metres long, folded in two, a thin band of gold streaking down its width, a few inches from the edge, All over India, urban dressing has undergone a seachange in the last 20 years. The North India dhoti has become a dress meant to wear only on religious and festive occasions and that too mostly for the tradition-minded. And that is where coming to Kerala brings a smile to my face...for most youngsters wearing a mundu is as much a lifestyle statement as wearing a jeans/t-shirt. The first item on my shopping list when i reached trivandrum last time was to buy a kasavu mundu and i walked into karalkada, a shop that has for decades been the much-vaunted destination for mundu's and set sarees. In place of their old shop which was steeped in traditionalism with kerala architecture in wood and customers sitting on the floor, i found to my dismay a modern shopping arcade, all airconditioned and looking just like any other garment shop in the city. The price-range made my heart sink...all their good mundus came priced in the 800-plus range while real crap stuff came at Rs.200 and with a sinking feeling i wondered how many ordinary folk whose pride and culture would not allow them to settle for cheap stuff could anymore afford this place.

So i got mine from a cooperative khadi store near my house, a really good one at just Rs.300 and proudly put it on and went for onasadyas, cinemas, outings to the bar, wherever possible to my hearts content. Our household help remarked to me, "Mone ithaa cherunnathe, pantum jeansine kaalum". I could just quip, "Enna cheyyaana chechi, kaalam maariyille. Ennum ithitte nadakkandathaayirunnu njanokke". Its not just me...almost all my friends love to wear it as much as possible, i go to any of their houses, from kerala to delhi to new york, and they have a stock of lungis or ottamundus that they keep so that guests can change to, for the night. The first time i wore a lungi was sometime in the 9th, a signal to my parents i had come of age, but like the by-now-beaten-to-death aphorism of malayali productivity being so low coz 90% of time being spent in tying and untying the lungi, the first year continued true to that saying.

I remember in college we even had a strike once coz some evangelist christian management in kerala banned the mundu in their college and suspended students for wearing that, the rage on everyones faces was so real, seeing the unison with which warring student parties chanted their "Vidyarthi Aikyam Zindabad" slogans made us laugh our heart out. And when I look at college snaps I noticed, not without a slight tinge of envy how one of my classmates, Kannan, an sfi leader, was always to be seen in a mundu unlike us sayyips. Once chanced to read a tamilian blogger, pretty much parochial in a lot what he wrote, yet grudgingly admit Kerala happens to be the only state in the south where traditional attire still holds sway among the youth. Had a debate with a bengali friend who mocked me for wearing a lungi, and i responded saying he was jealous coz the bengali dhoti was unfashionable. He took offence and said for them its very much in fashion, but coz its a little cumbersome they have readymade ones available in the market, but as a result the art of learning to tie it would soon get forgotten. But victory was mine as he admitted it had gone out of everyday usage by youth.

The mundu continues to hold a high place in kerala's popular culture too. Without a doubt, an actor of Mohanlal's standing has boosted the continued sexiness and comeliness of the mundu in malayali men's eyes through countless popular films like Sphadikam, Aaraam Thampuran, Narasimham, etc, etc. The trend continues to the next generation too with Prithviraj donning the mundu with elan in the recent blockbuster, Classmates and the critically acclaimed, Vasthavam. Even some women continue to be partial to it as i found out recently...we were talking about the recent sherwani rage in malalayali weddings and my sis threatened to show me the door if i came wearing something like that to her or my marriage! I have been digging around for topics close to the heart that still remain unsaid, to keep this blog ticking, until a friend phoned and amidst our conversation he remarked his idea of giving a set saree as a gift to his gori mem fizzled out as his cousin reminded him that it was an act akin to pudava-kodukkals! Poor poor mallu boys...maybe i should write a post soon on continuing traditions in multi-cultural setups!

P.S - More of these discarded write-ups should be coming out now from their folder close to the recycle bin. From now on i will use them to intersperse the dry periods. Hope everyone had a good easter...wish you all a Happy Vishu! Here is one of the best ever posts i have seen in blogosphere. Its written by an ABCD mallu...am not much of a fan of the american way of writing but this one was different and sucked me right in.