Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Victoria's Secret and Catharsis by Overhearing Oneself

According to Dubby's view of modern psychology, there are 4 stages to the resolution of a tragedy. At first there is denial, which is replaced by shock and disbelief, giving way to understanding that ultimately leads to closure through catharsis - clearing the way for life to move ahead once again. On Sunday night, the group that had gathered at Usha-TV's - were clearly in a mode of transition between stages 3 to 4. Normally, the Kats socialites suffer from chronic party hangover. But, the 2 weeks of mourning (when all entertaining was taboo) had forced a social sabbatical of sorts on the city cocktail circuit regulars. So, recovering from mild symptoms of party-drought, everyone was gasping for a breath of fresh air and an opportunity to unwind. ( Can't think of letting your hair down in the sedate surroundings of a Baluwater Tamil house-hold. In anycase, the men with their shaven heads couldn't have contributed much in that respect ). The only Rana woman in our midst ( the closest we can get to Royalty, as S… never misses an opportunity to point out ) enthralled the ladies with the 'inner sanctum' account of the events and a low down on the who's who of the drama. Equally fascinating, was listening to the RB brothers on how they struggled on that fateful night with the decision of putting up the news on their website. And, of course, we teased RB-junior on the 'Salzburg syndrome' for his valiant defense of Barkha Dutt ("she's really an extremely nice girl - very genuine, you know! ") with whom he had spent a week in romantic Austria on a seminar junket some months ago (no wonder he hears only the 'sound of music' in all her reportage and not to mention the missed dagger 'eye contacts' of his pretty wife). But, by the end of the evening - judging from the roll of laughter and the free flow of the 'unofficial' 'RAT-TAT-TAT' jokes (which our newly learnt rules of self-censorship would not allow us to publish) - everyone seemed ready to get on once again with the business of living life "king size" ( 'Shikhar' being the new brand of choice).

In Bengal, we call the feast to mark the end of mourning - 'Niyam Bhanga', meaning - quite literally - breaking the rule. To that extent, we had a rather 'unruly' ( but thoroughly enjoyable ) bash on Friday for the impromptu celebrations of the 'M's 20th wedding anniversary (for which, we're have been warned by well-meaning well-wishers, our friendly neighbours may never forgive us). It was a last minute impulse decision of S… to call up all (but one ) the guests asking them to bring along something that would both 'surprise' and 'embarrass' the 'M's. With a little help from Khanna-saab of the Anna ( it pays to have friends at the right places ) the Ghoses organised a cake with 20 plus 5 written on it (20 years of marriage and 5 years of 'living in sin' prior to that, making a silver jubilee of togetherness. Prem and Purnima carried 2 shocking heart-shaped balloons. ( It would have been great if one could get a Band-party in tow - but, the notice was just too short for doing anything more creative or dramatic ). But, the Ms themselves rose to the occasion brilliantly, as one would normally expect them to even if it was not their anniversary. After mild initial protestations - they produced almost instantly a neat pink ribbon tied knife (as if they had it ready all along). And, after the ceremonious cutting of the cake , all the other couples took turns (in the order of their seniority - starting with the parents, who were also present) to feed a slice to their respective spouses amidst the click of flash bulbs. Pity, the Blogger doesn't have a photo-gallery, yet.

True, these are times of momentous changes. But what about changing the Self ? Aha , that's not so easy ! The latest HBR ( nothing to with JBR - humro Jung Bahdurs, we promise ) has a very unusual article on "Change Management" - a conversation with the literary critic Harold Bloom. The piece is titled "A Reading List for Bill Gates - and You". Bloom talks of change and says change always arises out of the unexpected. It may be the unexpectedness of self-knowledge through over-hearing yourself or……..something imposed by external events. He makes a distinction between hearing oneself and over-hearing. In the latter you are unaware that, you are the speaker. It's a moment of literal non-recognition in which you're shocked to discover that you are speaking. That's when we learn about ourselves without self-consciousness. He recommends Shakespeare and Cervantes ( Don Quixote ) to all those who are not accustomed to speaking to themselves ( which he suspects is the case with the likes of Bill Gates ).

Bloom is, however, candid enough to admit that, although literature makes people more aware and acquire a broader range of sensibilities and thus increase our capacity for mastering change - it does not necessarily make us more moral. Some arty folks - who have the subtlest and most comprehensive consciousness are also the biggest scroundels on earth. Something, that Dubby and our 'hubby', would surely agree with.

And, if you were wondering where all this was leading upto - it's to S..'s latest find on the Amazon - Robert Wright's : The Moral Animal. After the Selfish Genes ( Richard Dawkins ) and the Red Queen ( Matt Riddley ), Wright is the latest to join the Darwinian band-wagon of evolutionary psychology throwing new light on the same questions: Are men literally born to cheat? Does monogamy actually serve women's interests? S…, of course, would insist that he reads such stuff only to 'understand' D's fatal obsession for D…, which was the root of his now "Famous Grouse" against the parents.

Back to Bloom again, he laments the decline of humanities by what he calls a curious amalgam of Feminism and Marxism. He talks about this young lady he knows, who is doing her Doctoral Dissertation at Yale on the history of representation of the female breast in English novels. So, look out for previews of Victoria's Secret in future editions of the Blogspot. That will be the ultimate cathartic experience, in the best of Blog traditions, guaranteed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Memories at Random and Often Blemished

At last, thanks to Sudha Murty, the Ghoses Blogspot is getting interactive. The postings on the Ms of Infy have drawn sharp response from the non-millionaire wives' club. The V-s have written from Chicago : "Murthy's toilet cleaning habits have been oft quoted in press and frankly just serve as exercises in PR. As for me, I would rather go for the goblets of wine and morsels of whatever-you-call-it …. ". Mrs D from Ruislip, UK says - All this talk about put-on austerity makes me nauseate. But, the most spirited rejoinder came from the Chennai-wasi Amma . Here it goes unabridged and undiluted - complete with Molagu and Puli ( Pepper & Tamarind in Tamil ) to make a perfect Rasam:

"I was really curious to know what your friend found "inspiring"abt her life. I've always found them to be rather pretentious & their holier than thou attitude sickening. SM claims to run her household on 8K a month. Wonder how she manages to fit in the son's education into it-or am I not understanding the meaning of the word "budget". NM's "simple" fa├žade obviously cloaks a shrewd & calculating brain. The media hype he manages to create is a lesson in itself for any aspirant seeking to be in the PR biz. It never ceases to amuse me that any article on him begins with the ubiquitous statement that he is media shy. For somebody who claims to be media shy, not a day goes by where there is not a major story on him & this is true of the national/Intl press, not just the local one. Also, full marks to him for successfully masking the fact that Infy is still a Co which still gets 80% of its revenues from body-shopping. The manner in which he orchestrates the media is something his peer Premji can learn from. Guess the parallel between SG & NM( vis a vis vision & zero capital )also drives home the point that while NM's risk-taking has catapulted him into the big league, maybe SG's caution finds him plateauing in Kats".

It probably just goes to show that , what glitters usually turns out to be either brass or copper and even if it is the 'real thing' has a generous dose of alloy mixed in it. This was once remarked about Meryl Streep - who for all her appearance of professionalism personified is supposed to be a savvy operator, when it comes to bagging the best roles.

Talking of Films, Anjalika ( the youngest of Sharma sisters )'s graduation film - 'Meena Jha' - has won the National Award (Rajat Kamal ) for the best debut and is getting rave reviews in the festival circuit. She is one of the first batch of students to come out of the Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute ( SRFTI ), Calcutta. S.. - who played something of an internet postman in arranging the finance for the film - is upset that, his name doesn't appear in the 'credits' . He claims that, normally it is the "Producer" who gets the award and all the accompanying photo-opportunities ( especially, if it is a woman director ) and he, with his growing pot-belly and receding hair-line, would have perfectly fitted the bill of a sleazy 'financier' ( of the 'Bharat-bhai' kind ). As a minor concession, Anj has condescended to let him make a mention of it in the Blog.

We haven't seen the film yet - but, are quite impressed by the quotes attributed to the director. Didn't realise Mala's little kid sister has grown up so much - not just to make an award-winning film but to speak with such maturity. The reviewer in the Express writes: "Ayesha rides away to an escapist world …. Leaving everyone with a smile. With Meena Jha, we see our silly selves…. in every frame. Stories of memories, friendships and expressions… in a confusing world." Sounds bit like our Blogspot - or at least what we intended it to be in some sense - "memories at random and, often, blemished".

Jaya started her new school from today. After the trouble at Rupy's last month, we decided to play it safe and shift her to the Kendriya Vidyalaya at the Embassy. Contrary to our apprehensions, Jaya took the change quite easily in her stride. S.. recalled what a traumatic time he had when he moved from South Point to Don Bosco at the age of 10. It took him weeks to settle down. The next generation it would seem are much more practical about such things. Coming to think of it - this is Jaya's 5th change of school before she reached even Class 2. Guess she has little options - having been tagged onto such bohemian parents - or, that's what her grand-parents would say ( irresponsible, is the word they are more likely to use ).

Friday, June 08, 2001

Puppy Love, Millionaire Wives and Pandu Strawberries

The Ghoses are suffering from terrible television fatigue. Even Barkha ( Dutt ) couldn't relieve the monotony. All the entertainment channels have been taken off air and the remaining news channels endlessly re-cycle the same stories. These are again discussed over phone with friends - being stuck at home with the curfew, no one had anything better to do. And, the Internet only adds to the Cathode Ray over-exposure. By the end of the 3rd day, boredom levels had soared so high that, S… remarked - one more day of captivity at home and there could be many more mini-family massacres in the city. Mercifully peace seems to be slowly returning to our midst, as the men get back to work.

For a minor variation of theme, we had an addition in our neighbour's family and considerable excitement over the christening of the new acquisition - a Labrador pup. Choice of names ranged from Dopey to Snoopy. Jaya wanted one for herself and almost succeeded in convincing her Dad - among whose many 'loves' the canine variety was not to known to rank very high. But, such is the sway young daughters wield on their slavish fathers.

A friend has forwarded a short autobiographical sketch of Sudha Murty - wife of Narayan (Infosys) Murthy. ( He writes Murthy with a 'h', whereas she has dropped the 'h' from her surname. If it was for Numerological considerations then it certainly shows in the figures of Infy ) . Our friend wrote - take it up with some time in hand for it is an 'inspiring read'. Inspiration for whom - we wondered ? S… had displayed very similar competencies till we got married - loads of 'VISION' and 'ZERO CAPITAL' ( and, always making his girl-friends pay for the dates ). But, not sure where he lost track thereafter. Thank God, to use one of Jaya's favourite expressions ! Otherwise can you imagine N… having to give up buying Sarees for a lifetime and wait for kindly friends and relatives to gift them to her. Apparently, Mrs Murty vowed never to go 'shopping' as an offering of love to Lord Vishwanath, after she visited Varanasi . She must have had a lot to thank Him ( the Lord ) for but what a disturbing thought for the rest of us ordinary non-millionaire mortals.

Jokes apart, the Murty family is - for the lack of a better statement - 'different' ( and, shouldn't they be?). Recently, we met their son Rohan ( who according to the article was supposed to have had infantile eczema soon after he was born, but shows no signs of it today). He had come to stay with the Ramaswamys, as their son - Anand and he are soul-mates from school. He is going to Cornell for his under-grads - but has no absolutely no airs about it. ( Tho' he never mentioned his parents - he did talk about the 'son of the Satyam owner' who is at Kellogs. So, he is not entirely oblivious of the significance of 'lineage' - it would appear ). Anil asked him - what he plans to do after that ? He said, he won't return till he has completed his Phd and then would like to come back only to teach at Bishop Cottons, Bangalore - his old school. . Well, he probably would - as the son of Sudha & Narayana Murthy, he could afford to. There was one point, however, we couldn't understand - the Murthy's insistence on their kids to produce bills and vouchers for whatever they buy. We are not talking of trust here - it must be something deeper than that, which we are missing. Finally, we learnt that Sudha Murty is a fan of Hrithik Roshan and she went to watch "Kaho Na Pyar Hai" with her secretary. Whereas, Narayana Murthy had gone to see Titanic with his secretary. S… was ecstatic about this perfect arrangement and fantastic understanding between the couple until he discovered in the following lines - the name of Narayana Murthy's secretary is 'Pandu'.

Today, we had the first strawberries from N's experimental farm in the backyard. They looked luscious red - so what if the taste was somewhat closer to sour lime. Better than grapes anyday - since, this is probably the closest we shall ever get to living in Wimbledon or, for that matter, even Panchgani.

Monday, June 04, 2001

Curfew, Ablutions and Sundry Rumours

Another old friend informs from Delhi, the banner headline in the ABP ( Ananda Bazar Patrika ) on Sunday read, "Jato Kando Shei Kathmandutei", an obvious play on the title of the Feluda tale by Satyajit Ray( Shall write about Ray's Rana connections some other day ) !

Three Kings in 4 days - that's quite a record. N.. is finally convinced that, her husband moves ahead of times. The curfew he had predicted on Saturday finally happened this ( Monday ) afternoon (Mercifully this time he missed the mark by just a couple of days - it's usually by a few centuries ). The "transition management" didn't quite work - in fact, in hindsight it might appear that the interregnum gave people more time to ruminate on the "conspiracy theory". Last evening, as Star News reported a seething build-up of tension , we thought this time round they were doing a "Zee" (i .e. over-sensationalising ) - notwithstanding the isolated incidents and burning of Indian newspapers in New Road. So when, The Nepalese Ambassador to India, Dr Bhek Thapa, appealed to the Indian Media to allow them "space" to come to terms with the tragedy - we wholly empathised with the feelings. If anything - the tragedy brought home the essentially traditional character of this society, which is often masked under a veneer of modernity. Though much of the expression of grief - the shaving of heads, the tearful participation in the funeral procession could have been prompted by group instincts, I know of many who did it genuinely on their own volition.
But, this morning - as the news of the death of the young Prince ( designated as King ) spread and the coronation was announced the pent-up emotions simply spilled over onto the streets. And, almost before we realised the curfew had already been declared by the afternoon. The cremation ceremony of the young King took even lesser time than that of his parents, as there was no lengthy procession through the city. It was all over by about 8 'O clock in the evening - this time marked by the presence of even fewer people, mostly from the Army , Ministers and Palace Officials. The Regent now appointed the new King addressed the Nation over Television and the Radio at 9. The announcement of an enquiry commission - comprising the Chief Justice, the Speaker of the Parliament and Leader of the Opposition, which would submit its report within the next 3 days, was a smart tactical move - even though some, like the Nepalese Correspondent of BBC, doubted what would come out of it. Leaders of different political parties and the Prime Minister came on air appealing to the people to restore calm in these difficult times.
Today was again a day of rumours. The news black-out is probably contributing to it. By the evening even Star and Zee News were taken off the air. Only the BBC and CNN remain. The last one to do the rounds is that the city water-supply has been poisoned. I guess we shall only get to know tomorrow morning. S.. has left strict instructions that, his bed-tea should be prepared only with bottled mineral water. Otherwise, it's a terrible thought of having to be carried away with a feeling of 'incomplete evacuation' of the bowels - which might interfere with the passage of the soul from the body, he firmly believes. ( That's if you didn't know about a good Bengali's obsession with his morning ablution ).

Sunday, June 03, 2001

The Kingdom Mourns

A friend has written from Australia : " Ok, I know the Ghoses spread mayhem in their wake, but the current carnage is really too much. Where were U guys ? " S.. had returned from a quick trip to Hetauda earlier in the evening and we were out at a Friday-night dinner with some friends in Tahachal (near the Soaltee - actually quite close to the Army Hospital at Chaoni which was to be the scene for much of the action soon afterwards). The weather was just perfect - we all preferred to sit out, braving the mosquitoes with coils of tortoise under our feet, guzzling mugs of San-Miguel and downing tiny goblets of a lovely fruity bordeux, nibbling at very succulent pieces of a baby "Bandel" (Wild Boar - the highest Newari delicacy), commenting on how this year Kats didn't even have a summer. It was nearly 10' when Sophie and Prem arrived narrating how their little Indica was nearly bumped off the road by some crazy army jeeps. Next to arrive was Rohini who also mentioned that, he had seen a lot of army vehicles on the road . Still, we had no clue of any trouble . Around, 11 - Rohini received a call on his mobile from his BK of the Rads. He talked of rumours about some "serious" developments in the city - hinting probably of a Maoist attack somewhere. Rohini teased him of paranoia - saying he shouldn't take a chance of going back home that night and should sleep instead in his hotel and we all had a hearty laugh over it.
First news trickled in closer to midnight. Sanjib's web-site editor reported the death of Princess Shanti - the King's sister. So, we thought - that was it. But, almost immediately - Sophie received a call from her daughter saying that the Princess was probably "killed" in an attack by the Maoists, the city was very tense and we should all get home fast. The next minute someone else got the information that, there was a shoot-out or explosion in the palace. No one knew the details or what to believe but that's when we all decided to disperse and scrambled for our cars.
The route back home - through Kalimati, Tripureshwor, Bir-Hospital and Jamal - was remarkably peaceful - there was absolutely no signs of any trouble. Only near the Sundhara crossing , there was a rush of taxis - clearing out, what appeared to be, a crowd from a closing discotheque ( Dance & Dinner ) Bar. We deliberately took the route via Kantipath and the West Gate of the Palace. It was absolutely quiet. As we were reaching home in Baluwater, Anil who was following behind gave a ring on the mobile to say "It was all a silly hoax - seems like we have to get used to such false scares". But, the moment we entered the house - there was M… calling to tell what even the worst doomsday prophet could never have imagined in his wildest dreams. A quick check with Tharakkan-saar of the Embassy confirmed the worst had happened.
The rest of the night we didn't sleep a wink. The phone kept ringing incessantly. It was in some ways reminiscent of the night when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. Details kept getting added on in bits. Very soon the list of casualties had enlarged from just the King, Queen and the young price (Nirajan) to include even their daughter ( Princess Sruti ), his cousin ( Princess Jayanti - daughter of Princess Helen, owner of the Annapurna ), the King's other sister and her husband. Finally, only at 4 in the morning the news broke simultaneously on CNN & BBC and also came up on Kunda's website of Nepali Times. By then, there were also speculations of a possible emergency and a curfew being declared. Shalini called from Delhi to inform that Rakesh had moved in to the hotel with the boys and suggested that we should go there too. After speaking to Samir, we decided to shift with them to the Anna, as it was closer to home and the office - thinking that would be more convenient, just in case, we get stuck there for long. Besides, we felt it would be a good idea to keep the families and the kids together.
Nepal Radio and TV officially confirmed the news only at 1 ' O Clock on Saturday afternoon - after the Raj Parishad ( the Privy Council ) met and decided on the succession. The funeral procession with the cortege was scheduled to leave at 4 from the Chaoni Military Hospital for the Aryaghat at Pashupati, where the cremation would take place. In between, there was a little time for people to go in and pay their respect to the departed Majesties. We stayed in the hotel and watched the proceedings on TV. One was moved by the spontaneous but simple expression of grief of the thousands who joined the procession. The cremation ceremony - sans regalia - had a touch of austerity that made it even more heart-rendering. Under the arc lights of the TV cameras - Pashupati looked beautifully resplendent in a somber glow.