ANAMIKA

'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Odd Curiosities

1. A bit from N.S. Madhavan's notes from Cuba, referring to Tomas Alia's film 'Chocolate and Strawberry'(1995).

"Diego, the protagonist, is an intellectual. He first appears before David, a young Communist, at an ice cream parlor. When Diego asks for strawberry flavor, David suspects him of being gay - since he knew 'real' men are supposed to choose chocolate! Homosexuality was a crime in Communist Cuba till only a few years back. However, David generously decides not to report Diego to the authorities."

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2. Remembering 'Viking'

Long ago, in the 1970s, when America's Viking spacecraft touched down on Mars, it was a big event even in the then backwater of Kerala. The picture of Viking sitting pretty on the very red and rocky Martian landscape was everywhere; it graced even the cover of the local Sarkari Physics textbooks for several years thereafter. Now, half a life later, when India is just taking her first unsure steps towards getting a bit of gadgetry to fly all the way to Mars, it has become as big a media event as Viking then was.

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3. Every highschooler in Kerala has heard about the 'Tarisapalli Copper plate', an ancient title deed ('pattayam')handed out by a 9th century Keralan chieftain to a Christian colony called Tarisapalli. Recently, a remarkable volume on this very remarkable document has been brought out by historians Raghava Warier and Kesavan Veluthatt. To give just an example of how little is known about how things were in these parts a millennium and some ago:

The word 'Manigramam', featured more than once on the copper plate, is widely believed to be a guild of merchants who had something to do with the Tarisapalli colony. But what type of merchants? The answers proposed by various experts over the last two centuries include: "dealers in precious stones"( from the Sanskrit 'mani' meaning gem), "Manichean immigrants from the middle east", "A sect of Christians 'corrupted' by the Saivite saint Manikkavachakar (the mani connection there) and lapsed into Hinduism", "A subsect of Sudras who became christian and so were looked down by other Hindus" and so forth...

Even the name 'Tarisapalli' appears to have had nothing to do with 'Teresa'. A derivation proposed recently traces 'tarisa' to the mid-eastern word 'tarsak', meaning 'fear'. 'Tarisa' could imply 'the fear of God' and so would refer to a group of devout Christians, living in fear of the true God - sort of an oriental precedent to members of the 'Religious Society of Friends' receiving the epithet (over generations, it became more of a 'moniker' than an epithet) 'quakers' when they exhorted others to "tremble at the word of the Lord"!

There ought to be many more such volumes on our ancient inscriptions.

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4. A member of a voluntary organization that went to clean up Sabarimala ahead of the forthcoming pilgrimage season said to me: "As we expected, the whole place was a rubbish tip. New, unnamed hills had come up around the temple, all piles of compacted garbage. But the pits was the valley. The Pampa river had about a foot of water and was clogged by ton upon slimy ton of rotting clothes. Some years back, some pilgrim came up with the bright idea that discarding one's clothing here is an act of profound religious merit - the more one strips down, the purer one gets. And the idea appears to have really gone viral. Now many chaps simply jump into the river and emerge, totally sanctified, like Naga Sadhus at the Kumbh Mela! And it is poor us who now have to fish out their stinking mess - everything from dhoties to you know what!"

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5. A recent newspaper story:

A 32-year-old man from Bangalore quit his job as he felt that his employers were paying him too much money. This guilt of being 'overpaid' led him to depression - a condition psychiatrists term schizoaffective psychosis or chaotic thought process. A psychiatrist commented: "Stress triggers this condition in certain individuals. It is because of a dispute between unlimited ambitions and limited capabilities. It could be also because of certain biochemical changes that occur in the brain. Their discipline puts them in such a state of mind that even if they make a small mistake, they think they have committed an unpardonable sin and have to punish themselves for the consequences. They tend to develop an inferiority complex..."

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6a. Kerala Communists have recently been seen appropriating religious symbols and religious imagery, things they used to anathematize not long back. During the 'chain of fire' agitation, a symbolic act of protest against fuel price hikes, communist cadres set up rustic owens on roadsides and cooked kanji - very much a throwback to Southern Kerala's 'pongala' ritual as many observers joked. Their more recent attempts to disrupt Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's much-hyped public outreach functions included slogan shouting cadres blocking the path of the CM's car and beating the vehicle with sticks - an act with echoes of how frenzied devotees ritually defile the temple at Kodungalloor during the Bharani festival. The latter ritual is called 'kaavu theendal' so the new mode of commie protest can be called 'kaaru theendal'.

Communist Leader Pinarayi Vijayan has been acquited in a corruption case; celebratory boards all over our city declare: "Comrade Pinarayi, you are now purified by Fire (agnishuddhi), now lead us in a victorious Ashwamedham (a Vedic horse sacrifice)!"

6b: At Kannur, someone threw a stone at Chandy's car. It allegedly broke thru one of the thick car windows, hit the CM smack on the chest and bounced off with enough momentum to break thru yet another window and shoot out. The only similar episode one can recall is from the Ramayana. I quote from Mali's retelling of the epic for children:

"With all his force, Sugriva hurled a huge boulder at the advancing Kumbhakarna. The giant parried the deadly projectile with his chest; then, with a single thrust of his huge lance, he knocked out Sugriva...."

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7. There is a strange fad afoot in Malayalam filmdom called 'NewGen'. The first half of the recent recent '24 kaatham North' is packed with all the usual New Age tropes - a geeky, maladjusted IT professional, occasional snatches of English dialog and open use of cusswords... But the film claims to be more than NewGen and is being marketed as appealing across generations. Sure enough, its latter half exhumes and mercilessly overcooks one of the most rotten Mallu film cliches - the well-read, uber-secular, stoic, do-gooder Communist from north Malabar; suitably enough, the part has been played out with sickening repetitiveness by veteran actor Nedumudi Venu.

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