Thursday, July 29, 2004

What Was I Thinking?!

I’ve just been reading a blog by Sankar that somewhat summarily dismisses ISKON as crap. Needles to say the author was flamed in return by a reader. And while I hold that everyone is entitled to their views, I feel, Sankar’s views are not entirely in the extreme. Of course, experiences define impressions and all that.

My own experiences have not led me to form a wholesome view. Of course, what I see of ISKON is here in the U.S. and they have a nice Temple in West Virginia and decent Indian food, but I cannot but help think they are packaging “Sanatana Dharma” as an escapist philosophy for westerners. I mean, you don’t need to tonsure your head and wear a dhoti to be embrace Hindu (now, that should really be Sanatana) philosophy. Moreover, I think cotton dhotis and sarees are especially impractical attire for the cold weather of North America. I get the distinct impression that for many of the westerners within the ISKON fold, adopting the attire is an attempt at taking on an identity different from their peers. It is like the wearing a mullet or a punk hairstyle.

I also don’t give much for how they market themselves either. I particularly resent a fresh-faced white kid in an ucchikudumi (a topknot) accosting me on the street asking me I have been delivered by the words of Prabhupada and if the Geetha has brought enlightenment into my life. And I don’t think a bunch of pseudo holy-bolies singing – RamaRamaKrisnaKrisna at train stations and airports do much to advance the cause of Sanatana Dharma. If anything, our faith is a private affair, our philosophy more subtle and our outlook more sophisticated – isn’t that what sets us apart from the others?

My take is that the ISKON sentiment is well-placed though the delivery mechanism leaves something to be desired. Softly, softly now.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Turning On The Comment Button

After dwelling on the idea for a while, I turned on the “anyone can comment button” on this blog today. It is a little sad to stumble across a blog with page after page of posts with “Comments (0)” under each post. Even if the blog does have regular readers, the lack of acknowledgement could be demoralizing to the writer. The blogosphere is inherently a democratic forum; and the expression of the democratic voice is the post and the comments the post elicits. Witty and informed comments and intelligent questions, I think, add to the readability of a blog. It lends it both relevance and legitimacy. The whole point of a blog is to have conversation. So, here goes nothing!



There is a lot happening on the American political scene this week, not the least of which is the Democratic Convention in Boston, and you can catch all the latest action on the Internet. The Internet serves up a varied fare from your “establishment” views to the ‘extreme.” But, I bet you already knew that.

The funniest thing I saw on the Bush-Kerry spar online was on a site called “”

In case you haven’t seen it, this is a SouthParkish animation set to the tune of Woody Guthrie’s “This land is your land,” with Bush and Kerry trading insults in rhyme. As a parody it is quite good, but its success has once again brought forth America’s ugly side – its propensity to litigate.

The Richmond Organization, a music publisher that owns the copyright to Guthrie's tune through Ludlow Music is taking a jab at… in court.

I just read a story on CNN that quotes an official for the publisher as saying the jibjab parody has caused huge damage to the song.

Now, that is possibly the most stupid thing I’ve heard. If anything, it has exposed Guthrie’s song to a whole new audience. And it is quite obviously a parody, and a clever one at that.

My favourite part is where Bush describes Kerry as “a liberal weiner,” which Kerry counters by calling Bush “a stupid dumbass.” And oh, yes, I like the way Kerry keeps referring to his “three purple hearts.”

And then there is Bill Clinton… well, you can watch it here.

Going back to the suit, I don’t think Guthrie’s publishers have much of a case, certainly not according to what I learned in my media-law class. This is political satire and a parody and therefore, as Jibjab attorney Ken Hertz pointed out in the CNN story “entitled to the fair use exemption of the copyright act."

Moreover the chaps who made the movie Gregg and Evan Spiridellis are not making money out of it. You can pretty much see it for free. But jibjab and its creators are certainly getting a lot of media attention.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

What Was I Thinking?!

“Don’t give balltalk man!”

You could have knocked me down with a feather (or a phrase) – At once both evocative and obnoxious.

Makapau is in the house… Only, it wasn’t. I was one the PATH train riding back to Newark, NJ at the end of an otherwise uninspiring work day that featured dull phrases like Elliot waves, short-selling, stop-loss and the occasional dead-cat bounce.

Balltalk man was a breath of fresh air… from the past. I strained to hear more of the conversation from somewhere within the throng in the middle of the carriage…

“Bullshit! It not happening man!….You tink you’re God or wot?…”

I was really craning my neck at this point.

In case you are wondering, my English motor has not blown a fuse, I assure you.

The language, I record so faithfully here, is what I grew up listening to – English, as spoken by many East Indians. It is what some of us fondly refer to as Makapau English.

I could not mistake it for any other. I have heard it often on the playgrounds of Don Bosco, in the locker rooms at Brabourne, the bus stop in Kalina and a million other places in between. But I hadn’t encountered the likes of balltalk man since I left Bombay in the early 90s.

In case you haven’t figured it by now, Makapau English, does not exactly subscribe to Wren & Martin. I did try and point it out to one of the flock once. It was an exercise in futility...

“F*%# WrenenMartin, mayn”

“Really, now you should adhere to rules of grammar, if you want to speak proper English”

“Who, you to tell me ‘bout English, did I aks you. What you know ‘bout English”

“Well, I figure, I know something... Any way it is ask, not aks...”

“I talk how I want. You know, my people are English, I’m Anglo-Indian. I’m English”

“Well then, all the more reason you should follow the rules, it’s your mother tongue…”

“Ehhh! Don’t go on my mudder ah! I’m telling you, don’t go on my mudder.”

“Alright, I am sorry, but I wasn’t anyway. Look, it is important to speak the language as it was meant to…"

“Who talking to you? Don’t give more balltalk mayn… I am tiring”

Then there are those odd bits that really cannot even be woven into a conversation, like the things you hear on the soccer field.

Alex Fernandes takes a spot kick. The ball flies over half the field landing near Bosco D’Costa, who passes into along the sidelines to Dominic Machado. Running parallel to Dominic along the center of the field is Robert Patterson shouting “Eh Donya mayn, putthru mayn, putthru.” Bosco lends his voice, shouting to Dominic to “see” Robert. Dominic refuses to “see” Robert and attempts to kick a long one to Brian running towards the goal. Brian traps the ball and is about to "poke" one into the right-hand corner of the goal, but the referee blows his whistle…. Brian has been caught off-side.

Robert peeved at the slight runs up to Dominic…

“I swear mayn, you deaf or wot? You can’t see me? I’m shouting all the time.”

The language is not just the punch of words. Undeniably, words like ‘putthru’ could scarcely be used elsewhere. The real beauty is also in the manner in which sentences are strung together - I swear mayn, you deaf or wot? You can’t see me? I’m shouting all the time.

Now, isn’t that a gem!

The train disgorged half its occupants at Harrison station including, I guess, Balltalk man. For, there were no desi-types as I scanned the carriage as the train pulled out, just a gaggle of giggly Puerto Rican girls heading back home to Newark.