Tuesday, August 8, 2006

A concept of time


What if we are not really different people but the same person at different times? Imagine the big bang and with it the birth of the universe and cosmic inflation and energy and stars and galaxies and quark-gluon plasma and finally a little blue-green planet we like to call Earth. Imagine then, life. Complex cellular water-and-carbon based organisms. Then imagine Intelligence... Perception... Cognition... Sentience... Self-awareness. Now imagine you.

You are born, you live your life, you have your 'points of reference' - your mother, your father, your family, your home, your city, your school, your preferences, your physical attributes, your thoughts. And then you love, you laugh, you cry, you feel fear, you feel pain, you think, you act, you feel, you procreate (or not) and you die. What if, you are reborn as your mother?

What if time, not the quantifiable force that we as humans have sliced into infinite portions of measurable units but true time, absolute, flowing, endless, without reference to anything external, in and of itself, ceases to exist in the spatial-temporal continuum of the universe. What if it never was! What if instead, it continues in the nonlinear medium of your consciousness.

Reborn, with the rebirth of your pinpoint of comprehension in another space-time reference. Time begins again, when you are again, as your mother, your father, your son, the ladybug that crawled/crawls/will crawl over your bookmark. And so it runs on, boundless, ceaseless, infinite and you run on for all time, re-living the same life through different perceptions, beings and thoughts, being and not-being at the same time from the beginning of the universe, like every strand of hair you have shed, every fingernail you have discarded, every thought you have outgrown which still constitutes and defines you as a being and an entity… till all reality converges onto itself into that primeval atom of singularity, when you are not!

The end of the universe, whereupon you permeate all consciousness, all realities, all time, and you, the and and the or and the not and the was and is and will be in the conjugation hell of quantum mechanics, are all that remains.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Theatre festival


Two plays in two days, one a light british musical-comedy and the other a tragically beautiful play about coping with loss. Marvelous stuff. Makes me wonder what on earth am I doing warming the seats when I should be out there *emoting*! (You love me, you really love me!)

Right. On to the reviews then. The festival kicked off with 'A Very British Affair' by Escape Theatre Singapore. We've got London West End star Matt Jasper and British actor Mark Waite and a delightful pianist Ian Lee, who kept gettin hit on during the play by Matt in drag. The play itself, well, it was hardly a play, more like snippets of lyrical comedy strung together interceded by pieces of beautiful solemnity, was pleasantly enjoyable.

There were a whole lot of comedy sketches, including a sly dig at Shakespeare. There was bit with Matt in drag sporting a ridiculous falsetto, playing the overbearing Dame Mary Sunshine in his song and dance routine. There was the old hell and eternal damnation bit with the devil sending the lawyers off to go join the French and Germans in the corner. A bit of Phantom of the Opera. A bit of Gilbert and Sullivan. Countless jokes made at the expense of the poor Singaporean chap happily playing the piano in the background (Who's he then? I dunno, he was on the plane so I brought him along!) He does of course come back in the second half in full Elton John garb. And loads of other sketches. My personal favorite, A fantastically over-the-top operatic rendition of Kylie Minogue's 'Can't get you out of my head' replete with gyrating hips and robotic dance sequence. The show wasn't without its minor hitches, but on the whole light, fun and musical, and although none of the sketches were brilliantly belly-clutching laugh-out-loud affairs, it was a thoroughly delightful evening.

Tonight's show was 'Shadow Box' by the Madras Players. A very moving, strangely compelling drama about three cancer patients and their broken lives and broken dreams. Poignant and sensitive, it was a remarkably beautiful play with shining moments of laughter (the heavy kind, the laughter-with-baggage variety) peppered throughout. Never overbearing or pretentious, never agonizingly raw, it was nonetheless forceful and fragile at the same time. There was the mother and daughter duo, the old woman dying of cancer and her second-favorite daughter laboring after her mother. The tortured writer and his ‘friend in the greek sense of the word’ visited by his colourful former wife in all her drunken grandeur. The separated mother and father, joined once more for the last time and their unsuspecting son. Three beautiful streams that pulled each other and came together in a sad, delicate way. Very moving.

So that was that! And then there’s more, Othello's on tomorrow night and Macbeth and Amadeus sometime later. Not sure if I can make it to them all, there is still the matter of the college application essays waiting to be written.

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show…

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Of witches and black pudding


Guess what black pudding is? Cmon on then, just take a guess. Oh stop trying to google it already! Go on... take a wild guess. What could this small circular slightly crisp black disc that's sitting oh so innocently next to your toast and eggs possibly be? How about this: Congealed Pig Blood!

So there you have it. My most 'adventurous' food ever, and that's counting raw fish, lamb brain and snails. No, I'm not upset at having wolfed down god knows how many pints of thick pig blood and fat, I'm upset that they call it black pudding! Pudding! For the love of God... Oh I would voluntarily have opted for a slice of congealed pig blood if only they were polite enough to ask instead of foisting it on unsuspecting tourists like moi. What bloody impudence! Oh just naturally assume wont you, that everybody would obviously come to the only logical conclusion that black pudding is some leftover cannibalistic recipe you got from the three cackling crones of Macbeth.

Imagine yourself walking into this quaint typical English country house hotel one fine sunny morning and you order a traditional full English breakfast. There's this sweet elderly lady behind the counter who keeps smiling while you decide between the orange juice and some new fangled fizzy diet drink. Minutes later, there's a piping hot plate laid in front of you - bacon, eggs, sausages, toast and this little black disc demurely peeking out from under the toast. Black pudding, the menu reads. Oh hey, must be some traditional English delicacy! Hmm, never tried it... looks harmless enough, must be some sort of popular local savoury. So after sitting there quite contented and at peace with the universe, delicious smells wafting up to your nostrils, you decide to tuck into your breakfast, black pudding et al. Tastes decent enough. You wonder what it is for a while before you forget everything and lose yourself in your eggs cooked to perfection.

Days later, on some whimsical fancy you decide to find out what it is. Wiki tells you in a very light, matter-of-fact way, oh its only just blood of a pig cooked with fat and allowed to simmer till it clots and congeals and then cut into the most dainty shapes so they can adorn your delightful white china plate with gold inleaf and pass of as some sort of pudding. You'd never guess would you that that charming old lady probably went into her quaint English kitchen and pulled out her evil, wicked witch of the west cauldron, scraped off the burnt bits of mashed human skull and hair sticking to the bottom from her previous traditional dish, and then promptly proceeded to fetch a pail of hot sticky pig blood and pour it inside the cauldron, add a generous dollop of white pig fat, and cackle and hiss over her double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble. Now where’s that recipe gone. Ah here we go.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,
— For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches' mummy;
maw and gulf Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg'd i the dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver'd in the moon's eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,—
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our caldron.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

No wonder they joke about English cooking. That cackling old devil woman could probably teach old Mother Hubbard a thing or two. And here I was living all these years in comfortable ignorance, thinking pudding was a type of English dessert, light and fluffy and made with milk, sugar and eggs. How do they eat such stuff? Just screw your courage to the sticking place and we'll not go hungry.

These brits are crazy. *Taps side of head*

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

They've all gone to look for America...


Kathy, I’m lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the new jersey turnpike
They’ve all gone to look for America

Yesterday one of my close friends just left for the states. I didn't go to the airport to see him off. I suppose it just seemed so commonplace now, what with everyone 'doing my MS in the US'. I've got now 6 of my close friends happily slogging away in the States. With the others scattered across Hyderabad and Bangalore and the paltry few in Madras (down to two now, one of whom probably will be leaving to the states on work in a few months) working late nights, I don't recall the last time I've had actual human contact with any of them. I probably know every line on the faces of their yahoo avatars tho (Hey, nice tee! When did you change your shirt?)

But the funny thing was when and how it actually hit me that this guy who I've grown quite fond of and so close to in the past few months is leaving, putting miles and miles of vast blue sea between us. It happened when I woke up the next morning and stopped halfway thru my message and had to erase his number from my mobile phonebook. When do you say your goodbyes? In the airport? At your last get-together? Over your last phonecall? I think they should turn erasing numbers from your phonebook into a symbolic rite. You know, like dropping the first fistful of dirt over the coffin. It doesn't really sink in till you see those unsettling words surface on that wretched device. What do you call that moment? That actual moment in time when you stop and your mind quickly shifts into reverse and plays back all the memories, all the scenes of the last eventful days, complete with emotional baggage? It's the very opposite of the 'Aha' moment, a kind of wind getting sucked out of you as opposed to running thru the streets stark naked shouting Eureka!

Oh well, the situation isn't that dire I suppose. There is *sneers* tech-no-logy. *tries to inject as much venom as Times New Roman Font Size 10 will allow* But jokes aside, it really is infinitely easier to keep in touch with these days. Thanks to tech-no-logy. It's been hardly two years and I think I've forgotten how to be happy with 1MB of email storage. Ah but lets start at the very beginning... I remember in the 8th when I was one of the very few people who had a computer and I think the only one in the entire school to have a modem. Forget that it was an ancient smoke-signal-sending relic cleverly crafted by VSNL to look state of the art with lots of flashy LEDs that didn't do a damn thing but looked quite spiffy, like something a 1960s movie would take to be their idea of a 21st century computer. Also disregard the fact that it was in fact a measly 14.4kbps that would take hours to connect, staying connected for only a few seconds at a time and in those elusive few seconds make you want to manually push out the 0s and 1s over the dodgy telephone line. Forget that. The thing is, we were actually around to see it happen and we remember a time before the Internet. Heck, I even remember pagers and pre-historic motorolla phones that had all the sleek elegance of a brick tearing away one pocket seam at a time.

Do you remember what a pre-Internet era school assignment used to mean? It meant physically hauling your ass into the nearest mode of transportation and stepping into some dusty bat-filled archeological site called a library, complete with dusty bat-filled librarian. I remember going on this great coming-of-age-ritual when I was twelve years old. There I stood, in the savannahs, armed with only a rusty old spear and staring eye-to-eye with one famished jungle-cat… Oops, wrong story. There I stood in that old dusty mausoleum, armed with only a pen and 180pages ruled notebook with a picture of Shah Rukh Khan on the cover, staring eye-to-eye with a crusty old relic, replete with tight hair bun, huge black retro frames four decades out of fashion, big billowy flowery ruffled shirt tucked into a chest high ‘midi’ skirt and culminating in four inches of pruned weathery old-maid-skin before ending in socks-covered feet carefully tucked into sandals.

‘What do you want then Eh?! Can’t you read! SILENCE!!’

The cry of the shrill banshee. It was a ritual every school girl went through at least once in her life. It built character. Sigh, those were the days. And now look!

‘Where’s your report?!’
‘Give us a second, luv, haven’t had the chance to google it yet’

Whatever happened to good old-fashioned 180pages ruled and Reynolds pen? I dread the day I’ll see them nestling comfortably in some forgotten museum: their final resting place, next to one dusty bat-filled banshee. Relics of a bygone era. This was the stuff my childhood memories were made of.

It’s not all been bad tho. Pre-internet meant wallowing in a pool of ignorance in those Doordarshan filled days. Every Sunday you went in your white ambassador to the beach, happily scorffed down beach soondal without having to worry about your five year old nephew start off again in his nasal tone about how he read on MSN Health that soondal contains 15.7grams of carbohydrates and then come home in time to watch Olium Olium and all the women would speak about that beautiful parrot green saree newsreader Fatima was wearing and all the men spoke about government and politics and propaganda and we just ran around in circles till the cartoons started. Now with everyone connected, knowledge really is power.
Whether its keeping track of the latest news events as they unfold across the globe, or downloading that fab new sound from that UK garage band or keeping tabs on Who Paris Hilton is dating now, it’s amazing how much has changed and how quickly. Having spend the last dregs of childhood growing up in such changing times, it only seems natural that you would turn to that machine hooked up in its medusa of wires for some human contact or pick up the nearest radiation emitting device to holler out a ‘Hi, how’re you doing?’

It’s not bad, just a bit weird that’s all. Still, if I hadn’t the Internet, would I be blogging? I don’t think so; I was never that keen on keeping a journal. A blog on the other hand in like your own republic of Lavanya. You make up the news, you provide the commentary, you initiate debate and dialogue. You keep tabs on people living thousands of miles away. You know what you friend in Indiana thinks about the Israel-Lebanon crisis unfolding as we speak or how your friend in Washington completely botched up his first disastrous attempt at cooking. Surely it’s not a bad thing that we have recreated the experience of sitting around a table in someone’s basement smoking pot and talking about like, whatever man, dude, that’s deep!

So what if you’re not constantly ‘constantly’ in touch thru sms (5am broadcast messages: Hey, anyone up and studying at this hour? 5:01am - 17 replies: Yeah, what do you think?!) and cell phones that have become an additional growth on your hip. (I suffered phantom pains when my last phone was amputated. My fingers still ache for the touch of those familiar grooves I know and love). Between audio and video net conferencing and VOIP phones and orkut scraps and Gmail talk and offliners left on yahoo… I think we’re doing pretty alright.

Phonebook Contact Deleted.

Amen.