Saturday, March 25, 2006

You Name It, We've Got It!

I'm one of those people who gets a big kick out of puns, smart names and funny song titles. Every now and then I make people groan and throw things at me because of my awful jokes and puns...
Today I realized that there have been many masters of the art who have gone unrecognized for their talents, and I want to pay a little tribute to them. Here's a collection of some of my favorite store/business names.

Brewed Awakening - Drive-through coffee shop (love this one!)
Stand your Grounds! - Another drive-through coffee shop
Fussy Cleaners - Dry Cleaners
Interior Motives - Home decor store
Control Freaks - Computer services
Store-ables - Storage containers 'store'
Kitchen Kaboodle - Kitchen stuff
Heaven 'N' Hell Tattoos - Need I explain?
The Funky Hippy - Tye-n-dye T-shirts, psychedelic art, mirrored skirts, obscure Sitar albums, incense and quite possibly marijuana!
The Tao of Tea - more than 200 varieties of tea
What the Pho? - Vietnamese restaurant (Love it!!)
Souper Bowl - Restaurant (I think! Love it anyway!)
Mad Mex - Fantastic Tex-Mex restaurant

There's a lot more of these than I can recall right now, so feel free to contribute...I will come back to this list if and when I find more gems!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Springing into (in)action

Ahh Spring!
Grass turns green

The blooming buds bloom
My eyes water,my nose tingles
Ahh Allergies!

Ahh Spring!
The earth awakens
The breeze in my hair
The darned birds shriek
Ahh Sounds!

Ahh Spring!
Bicycle rides
Brighter skies
Farmers' markets visits
Ahh Action!

Ahh Spring!
The Academy Awards
The loss of an hour
The forced optimism
Ahh Repentance for another season past!

Ahh Spring!
Billowing skirts
Shirtless men
Enthusiastic exercisers
Ahh The Elusive Spring in My Step!

I'm a little irritated as is evident. Apologies galore...(No relation to any James Bond girls!)
I feel like rebelling against the enthusiasm, the hope, the new spurts of life, the reminder that another season's come and gone (almost) and in a lot of ways, I'm the same.
Ahh Spring :(

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Jazz like that

One of the stations on my car radio settings is a jazz station. It's the one, I admit, that I listen to least frequently, but the other day, nothing else was gelling, so I settled on this one on a late night drive to the library to drop off some woefully late books.

Jazz and I have had a off and on rocky affair...The night in the smoky Chicago jazz club, the blues (ok fine, sort of jazz!) festival in Portland's city hall, the Jazzfest in Akron (Listen to my favorite piece from that night: Dave Brubeck's Take Five)...Every time I've been exposed to jazz music I find myself caught up in its magic, its crazy unstructured wonder and the passion of the musicians. However, like one-night stands, there is no attempt to reconnect, to find out more, to re-establish that magic. It's almost like it is too perfect to destroy with analysis.

Having said that, I confess that this time I started wondering what it is about music in general, and jazz in particular, that strikes a chord (pardon the pun!) in me. Here's what I think...
Jazz, by definition, is the epitome of creativity in music...there's little predictability, lots of improvization and crazy, unstructured ups and downs. Sounds a little like life, doesn't it?

However, stick with it a bit, unwind and relax with it a little, let it take you with it, and you'll start to make sense of it. Beneath the seeming randomness is a pattern. A steady thub-thumping of the bass guitar or the viola, a steady beat that ties together the various streams into one ultimate rush. Sort of like the chaos theory notion of 'attractors' which define the overall boundary or pattern of a phenomenon, within which there can be countless random behaviors. So from within this, if you focus on the immediate randomness, you see no pattern, no melody, no sense. Zoom out a little, and a pattern begins to discern itself and resonate within you. Sounds a little like life, doesn't it?

The other thing about jazz music, is the way it is created. Having had much greater experience with Carnatic music, I can talk about its equivalent in that system - kalpana swaram. The musicians have to be so in tune with each other (pardon this one too!), they have to stay one step ahead of each other, and the best performances are the ones in which they anticipate exactly what the other one is going to do and do it with them. It's like bridging the gap between minds, trying to understand and predict the other person, and that brilliant flash of satisfaction that results when you've succeeded. Sounds a little like life, doesn't it?

"I really believe that if there's any kind of God, he wouldn't be in any one of us -- not you, not me, but just this space in between. If there's some magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone else, sharing something. Even if it's almost impossible to succeed, but who cares, the answer must be in the attempt."

Yep...I think it's almost impossible for me to completely understand the magic of music, but who cares, the answer is in the attempt!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


She is on her way to work. It's summer in Bombay and sweat is pouring down her back. She waits for the 8:06 train to Churchgate, knowing fully well how packed it will be. She shifts her heavy cotton dupatta so that it covers her head properly, wishing she could throw it away and stand naked under a fan. She looks up at the college student next to her, wearing shorts and a sleeveless top that reminds her of her son's banyaan.
Part of her envies this carefree creature - cool and fresh in this summer heat, with her perfect slim body and long legs, with no drunken husband to dread and probably a handsome hero of a boyfriend to protect her.

She is on her way to college. Another day wasted in the classroom when all she wants to do is practice for the swimming meet. Another day to be spent beating off advances she didn't ask for, from boys she doesn't know, in ways she is too shy to carry through. Another day trying to focus on the lecture instead of having to find a seat away from the aisle so the professor doesn't meaningfully rub against her every time he passes by.
It wasn't her fault that she was beautiful and healthy and the envy of every woman and the object of desire of every man who saw her. She envies women like the dowdy specimen next to her in the cotton salwar kameez. She had no need or space in her life to think about leery professors or psycho stalkers. Oh, what a blessing to be plain looking, poor and unambitious.

They both glance up for the train and see the lecherous guy approaching, giving the pretty student the head-to-toe apparaisal, with a long stop a third of the way down. His eyes move to the other woman, and repeat the routine with a twisted smile.

One hugs a bag close to her body, one readjusts the dupatta and looks down, an umbrella is held ready to keep unwanted hands at bay, a quick glance to check for the arrival of the train, hearts beat faster for a whole minute, as the man ambles past at a maddeningly complacent pace...

It's about time this stopped. We have the right to walk with our head held high, mind at peace, bare arms to the side, unafraid, confident and proud of being beautiful women. It is time we said NO to eve-teasing and NO to every form of dishonor and sexual harassment, small or big.

No matter how she looks, what she wears, what her background, where she's going, what language she speaks, what time of day or night it woman in most places in India steps out on the streets confident in the knowledge that she will be unharmed or unaffected by eve-teasers.

Here's to the day when we can step into the street knowing that we will be respected, perhaps admired but never harmed, and always protected and safe in the city we love.
Here's to the Blank Noise Project.
Thanks to Aparna for introducing me to this.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Last Straw

As he gathered his coat and things and started walking away, he knew that he should have realized it earlier. He could have done something to soften the blow, perhaps. Or controlled his feelings so it would not have led to this demeaning dismissal. He had his pride to protect, didn't he?
Why did he let it come to this desperate end? Why, oh why did he fail to see the signs? It wasn't that they were lacking..He should have noticed when his friends started drifting away, shaking their heads at him in pity and disbelief. Or when her looks of eagerness and invitation started to turn into disgust and disapproval. Or when he first realized that the lines between reality and fantasy had started to blur. Definitely when he saw her talking to the strong, handsome man in the black T-shirt and the comforting arm around her shoulder.
Now he was left with nothing to do but beat a reluctant retreat. No use glancing at her wistfully as he neared the door. Nothing he could do or say would change her mind now. She was pleading, but firm, "Out, please..NOW!"
The burly black T-shirt advanced, as if to protect her. "This does not have to get nasty, you know."
He knew. He was too tired, too resigned to protest anymore. Moreover, he still had the scar on his cheek from the last time he had tried to fight the inevitable. He rattled his glass empty, threw down the straw, and got up. He left quietly.
As he stumbled into the cab in confusion and regret, he saw the handsome bouncer turning over the chairs, and turning off the neon "Open" sign, as the bar-tender wiped down the bar and removed her apron.
He took out his cell phone and called his Alcoholics Anonymous buddy. "Hey Kev, I got kicked out of the bar again".