Saturday, November 20, 2010

Will The Meek Inherit The Earth?

I feel for Clarise M Starling.
As I have never before since the Silence Of The Lambs was first released.

The first time I first saw the movie, it was Lecter who caught my attention.
His cold unhurried demeanour, the subtle regality of his words and actions, his appreciation of classical music and of course his cannibalistic tastes, all  intrigued me.
If anyone could have made cannibalism fashionable, it had to be Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

Agent Starling, on the other hand, struck me as a rather strange young woman. 
Mostly because it was a little too hard for me to empathise with the scatty girl who carried into her adulthood, the childhood trauma of the bleating of the lambs during slaughter.

But this past week transformed my long buried disdain for Clarice Starling into empathy.

Last Wednesday, I came home to be greeted by a herd of frisky goats.
The goats, seven in all, were caged in a make-shift pen by the side of my apartment.
The windows opening into my bedroom and living room were festooned with boughs of succulent green leaves. And the goats who were tied to the window grills, eagerly flocked together to partake of their leafy feast.

Every once in a way, a rebellious little goat would stamp his feet and toss his head to the bleating cheers of his bovine mates, in a desperate effort to shake off his noose. But, in a matter of minutes, the lone rebel would realise the futility of his battle and turn his attention back to the lush foliage.

I was rather surprised, and, to be honest, a little annoyed by the new denizens of the building. 
Discrete enquiries, made around the vicinity, revealed that the Muslim festival of Bakrid was right around the corner and the chomping goats in front of me were to be sacrificed at the celebrations the following week.

'Madam, Bakri ka eid hain Bakrid*'  the watchman explained to me helpfully "Your landlord and his family have bought these goats for their sacrifice. I don't know why they have bought them a week in advance though....Most people buy the goats on the eve of the Eid"

The Koran, it seems, stipulates that the sacrificial animal be a part of the family for a whole year at the very least. And I supposed by some convoluted mathematical calculation that was bound to fly over my head at the speed of light, my landlord and his family had managed to compress a long year into a paltry 7 days.

I was livid and agitated.
And, with just cause.
While I would not presume to judge the rites and rituals prescribed by any religion, I do take exception to  people forcing religion or barbaric rituals down my unwilling throat.

Late as the hour was, I was all set to go knocking at the landlord's doors with my objections.

But, a quick call to a wise friend stayed my tongue and feet.
" Do NOT do anything right now when you are annoyed" she said "This is a sensitive matter. Sacrifice of goats is a part of the Muslim tradition at Bakrid. You need to communicate your displeasure about the goats tied to your window and their slaughter on the building premises. But, you cannot in any way imply that they should not slaughter. So, wait till morning so we can talk to the broker who fixed up the house and then let us decide how to proceed" 

I passed an agonising night of sleepless vigil, broken every now and then by the orgasmic grunting of the goats as they tore into the foliage.
But, the morning only brought with it news as bleak and cold as its grey sombre skies.

" Adjust...It is just a matter of a few days"

The response only stoked the embers of righteous indignation that were blazing within me.
And the glowing embers flamed into a mighty conflagration by evening, when I returned home to the news that one of the goats had strangled itself on the restraining rope.

Throwing caution to the winds, I determinedly marched up to my landlord's apartment on the floor above.
As I lumbered up the stairs, I mentally ticked off my grouses to make my case...the stinky goat stench that permeated every nook and corner of the house, the noisy bleats and orgasmic grunts that punctuated my sleep at night, and, the possibility of bearing witness to more suicides.

But, what the girl proposed, Allah was swift to dispose of. 
For I was met at the doorstep by his formidable mountainous wife, who tersely informed me that her husband was out and slated to return late at night.
"Too late to come calling on a SINGLE girl" she snapped at me, disapproval and suspicion dripping from each syllable that escaped her carmine lips.

Not that I was fazed.
"Try, try and try again...till the goats are all taken away" chanted the voices in my head, just as the spider intoned to the legendary Bruce centuries ago.

So I went calling the next day, and the day after.
And every day of the week, until it was painfully apparent that the landlord had got wind of my intentions and was in hiding.
My phone calls remained unanswered, as were my text messages.
Even the watchman who was recruited to track down the elusive landlord, threw up his hands in defeat and dejection in the face of my aggressive rants.

Despite the best of my efforts, the week continued to progress with the goats remaining firmly ensconced in their pen, steadily chomping their way to tender plumpness. Despite the stench and the noise, I could not help but respond to the furry faces that turned to me with warmth and friendliness every time I opened a window or emerged from my house.

As the festive fervour grew around me, I could not help but resent the people who blithely chuckled and chortled as they compared their goats and eagerly smacked their lips in anticipation of the blood that would flow and the juicy flesh that would grace their tables.

Even Ging, it seemed had discovered her blood lust and turned traitor to my cause, for she took to stalking me relentlessly until she managed to sink her tiny fangs into any jiggling body parts that chanced to sway her way.

And caught in this vortex, all I could do was to rant maniacally to my friends, while adroitly sidestepping the treacherous teeth and claws that swiped at me from under the couch.

The morning of the 17th dawned cold and grim.
The torrential rains that pelted the earth in impotent fury echoed the frustrated pain in my soul, as I tried to shut my ears to the distressed calls of the cattle and the rhythmic sounds of the butchers' blades that rent the air around me. 

It was with a heavy heart and a sense of anger that I lit my candles and lamps that morning.

For once, I had nothing to ask of God.
And so, for the first time in my life, I prayed not for myself or my loved ones, but for the innocents around me whose blood was being wantonly shed.

As I stood there praying, I could not help but wonder.....
How can the meek inherit the earth, when the road to heaven is paved with their blood?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

C'mon Baby, Don't Light That Fire

The truth is out of the closet!
The Moggies, do NOT, like Diwali.

Yes indeed. We don't like Diwali.
And, we are not apologetic about it.

Diwali is noisy and dangerous.
If it had been less so, we wouldn't have had any grouses against it.
After all, each is best left to his own.

But, the loud and incessant kabooms of the crackers that started in the wee hours of the morning and rang on way past midnight, the thick cloud of acrid smoke that hangs heavy in the air, the sight of animals quivering in fear & cowering in dark corners, all reminds me of a war zone than a festive land.

It has finally succeeded in prodding me into coming out of my closet with my dislike.
This, and the fact that I have spent the past two days holding Ging's trembling paw, either semi-closeted in the wardrobe with my posterior sticking out in the most ungainly fashion, or in a supine state on a sofa.

Ging still remains firmly ensconced in the closet -or rather the wardrobe – into which she vanished on Friday evening. And despite my coaxing, she probably will not emerge from her sanctuary for another day, until the last smells and sounds of Diwali fade away.

As I set up a makeshift office well within sight of my little wailing one, I cannot help but wonder if this is the spirit Diwali is supposed to embody.

I had always been led to think of Diwali as the festival of lights....The triumph of good over evil. As a time for introspection and for dispelling ignorance and darkness from our lives.

Maybe, it once was so.
But, in today’s world, I see it more as a festival which brings in its wake as much darkness as it does light.

While most of us rush out to our parties and merry gatherings in our festive finery, bearing boxes of sweets and gifts, to play cards, laugh and gush over spectacular displays of fireworks, we often fail to see the dense smog and the harsh acrid smoke which threatens to blind and choke any benevolent God or Goddess who may dare to venture out in hope of blessing their devotees.

We fail to see the animals and birds of various sizes and shapes with their fear crazed eyes, trembling violently and desperately seeking some semblance of security in dark corners and hidden alleys.

Blinded by the glittering lights and deafened by the blaring music, we forget the endless hours of power cuts and black-outs suffered in the sweltering heat during the rest of the year.
And, we fail to remember the little children in Sivakasi who risk health and life to bring us the bombs, crackers and sparklers to add light and colour to our festival of lights.

Would these children and animals see Diwali in the same light as the rest of us?
I wonder.

I once learnt in a communications class, that the greatness of an idea lies in its relevance to its time.

I think this is true of our festivals too.
Festivals, like lifestyles, education, food habits and traditions, must be relevant to the changing times. To achieve this, man must find from within himself, the ability to look beyond iron clad traditions, to understand the true spirit of the occasion and interpret it in accordance with the world he lives in.

And until he learns to do so, the bright lights of Diwali will continue to be the right of a privileged few.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Quivering Cat Cracks Down

Early this morning, mommy and I woke up with a jolt.
There were loud resounding booms from the skies outside.
As if the rising sun was splitting the dark dawn skies into a million pieces.

I was scared and huddled into mommy's side.
After all, she is bigger and fatter, and therefore, less likely to be crushed by the falling pieces of the sky.

But instead of grabbing me and running for cover, Mommy furiously muttered a few Fs and Bs at the skies outside our window, burrowed her head under the pillow, wrapped her arm around me and went right back to sleep.

I was still scared.
And perplexed.
So I dug the tip of my claws into her side till she emerged from under the pillow to comfort me.

Mommy said, with much exasperation and annoyance, that the Festival of Lights is here again.
And that I would have to be a brave girl for the next 3 days because it was going to be very, very noisy.

She said I wasn't to hide in her wardrobe like last year because then she would also have to try wriggle in with me and she didn't think she would fit !!
So she said we would dim our lights and curl up on the sofa together to watch cartoons and romantic comedies on the telly. 

I like snuggling into mommy's clothes in her wardrobe.
But I like sleeping on mommy more, even though the sofa is a little too cramped with her on it.
So I agreed to her plans...for now.

But, I still do not understand.
Why is the Festival of Lights so damn noisy?
And suffocating?

Mommy says people burst firecrackers to celebrate...That most people think it is fun.
Although she doesn't approve much of it, she still thinks the multi-coloured spirals and cloud bursts in the night skies can sometimes look beautiful.

I think she is crazy.

Firecrackers are bad.
They smell!!!
They make the skies go ba-da-boom till our fur stands on the end.
And the air...oh, crackers makes it smell so bad and harsh that it makes our eyes, throats and delicate noses burn in pain..

As much as I do not like to share my Mommy, Wanda the fish or Alvin the mouse, I cannot help but feel sorry for my sister and brother cats on the streets who have no homes to hide in or mommies to protect them.
Not to mention the big bully dogs, frisky goats and twitching cows on the roadside who suffer as much as we do.....Who ever said size matters?

Heck, I even feel sorry for you humans.
Especially those of you who are prone to allergies like mommy is.
You may not know it, but your noses, eyes, throats and lungs are as affected as ours are.

Mommy says I should not complain because the damage to our throats, lungs or nerves is nothing when one considers the health and life risks faced by the thousands of children who are put to work in very unsafe conditions to make these fire-crackers.

" Think of the little children working in dingy, cramped places to make firecrackers which we burn without a second thought for the little hands that made them" she tells me when I mew to complain "So many of them would cheerfully suffer the raucous noise and acrid stench that you are cribbing about if it meant an escape from their unhappy lives and back-breaking schedules.....I bet most of them wouldn't even mind being you"  says she, giving me a long disapproving look.

Trust mommy to sneak a dig at me in the middle of her pontification!!!
But, I guess she does have a point, doesn't she?

So, peoples of the world who celebrate the festival of lights, when you are about to fire that sparkler tonight, do spare a thought for Mother Earth and us poor quivering cats ( and dogs and cows and mice and rest of the Good Lord's four legged creations on earth).

And if that does not stir your conscience, think of the poor little children in their dingy dangerous workplaces whose blood, sweat and tears have brought that cracker into your hands. 

After all, it is the festival of lights.
Not some gaudy light and sound it?


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Girl, The Cat & The Wardrobe...

The slow creaking of the door stayed the hand poised over my eyelid.

Mothers, they say, have eyes at the back of their heads.
It must be true, for I instinctively knew that neither a truant gust of wind nor a stray critter was to blame for the mysterious creaking. 

Still as a statue, I peered out of the corner of my eyes at the gaping door...And sure enough, out popped a pair of dainty white feet.
Dark gleaming eyes framed in an inquisitive little orange-white face sidled out behind the feet and widened as it met mine. And then, with an involuntary miark, a furry orange body tumbled right out of the wardrobe.


For a long minute, I stared with feigned annoyance at her now brazen look, which was focused on the kohl pencil in my hand.

"Just in time...."  twinkled her sparkling eyes at me, as if she had saved me from a life altering catastrophe.

The excitement then gave way to mock puzzlement : "But mommy, why on earth would you want to maim yourself with a pencil?" 

And if that was not enough, behind the injury came her carefully delivered insults.

She let her disdainful eyes rove over my still damp form before shooting me an "ugh!!! don't tell me you intend to go out in that ugly blue towel?" look

Another insolent miark to lend weight to her opinions about my intent to self-mutilate in an unfashionable state of near undress and then, the impudent little Missy plonked herself down and proceeded to lick her paw with an air of innocence that fooled none.

With growing apprehension, I made my way to assess the damage caused by my little marauder.
And with just cause.

The innards of my wardrobe was my worst nightmare come true.....
Well, it was not as bad as having my clothes split in public, but it was a close second indeed. The neat, crisp and colour coded stack of clothes now lay in a pile of utter disarray....crushed, crumpled, and speckled with stubborn orange fur.

For once, I truly had nothing to wear.
And, I was already running late!!!

Gnashing my teeth at the fates that had placed me at the mercy of a devious feline, I grabbed the first furry dress that crossed my hands and shook it out with all my might, cussing at the little picture of feline innocence who now sat at my feet grooming herself in joyful oblivion.
The perpetrator of the crime, of course, seemed blissfully ignorant of the glares and muttered
Every once in a way. she shot a hopeful "mommy stay home?" look at me. 

It was a good 30 minutes before the dress began to look presentable.
My muttering had given way to little grunts of triumphant satisfaction as each vigorous shake took me a step closer to a picture perfect dress.

Absorbed in my efforts, I was quite blind to the subtle shift in the mood of the truant feline at my foot who, had by now realised that neither blazing hell fires nor roaring high tides was going to deter mommy from going out. Desperate times call for desperate measures and kitty wasn't above a little emotional blackmail in a last ditch effort to keep mommy home for the day.

All at once I found my hand stayed in midst of the last few hearty shakes.
And as I peered down impatiently at the insistent little paw that held the dress, I found myself looking into a contrite pair of eyes that willed me to bend over so that my nose could be enthusiastically licked by a candy pink tongue.
"Stay" pleaded her beady little eyes "We can go walky mommy...And chase squirrels...Maybe even catch and share one for lunch....Or we could huddle under the covers and snooze"
And her face, bright with hope, continued to sketch out one tempting option after another.

With a regretful sigh, I gathered the little fur bundle into my arms and nuzzled her in mute apology, before setting her down on my favourite T for a vantage view of mommy's final touches to her attire and make-up.

A few minutes later, I was all set.
Steeling my guilty heart in anticipation of being accosted by those oh-so-sad accusatory eyes, I slowly wheeled around to face my recalcitrant feline child. But, surprise of surprises, the sad eyes and the accusing face was buried within the depths of her furry self on my asleep !!!

I crept out of the house on tip-toes....a little relieved.. a little disappointed...And immensely grateful to the powers above for their kind intervention in what could have otherwise been a sticky situation.

Indeed, all's well that ends well.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Payback Is A Bitch

Spying her dearly beloved's eyes trained on a passing posterior, a fair lady reacted with righteous indignation.

" How dare you ogle another in my presence?" she exclaimed with barely suppressed annoyance.
"Don't deny it" She snapped as her guilty partner opened his mouth to defend the rogue eyeballs, "...I just saw you leching at that woman out of the corners of your eyes.....Seriously, what is wrong with you men???"

From the depths of his mind, he dredged up an age-old martian platitude to launch his counter-offensive "There is nothing wrong with us. We are men. And, we are wired to look. What is the harm in looking? It isn't that I am cheating on you...I am just looking"

Attack, they say, is the best form of defence.
But, not when one has pledged his body, mind and soul to a watchful virago.

"Just looking?......Just looking???"
Her lilting voice was now pitched to lethal sonority.
"You don't think it is offensive for me stand by your side and watch you ogling shamelessly at every woman we pass?? How would you feel if I leered at every pair of pants that came our way? "

" Stop yelling...You know women are different that way. Why ARE YOU making a fuss over nothing? I told you, looking does not mean cheating...Just what is IT with you women??? "

" There is nothing wrong with us women. We are women and we are wired to react when we are hurt. You look, I react...Live with it!!!"

Payback is a bitch, huh??
:) :)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Capitalism For Souls...

Last weekend was rather extraordinary. 
On Saturday morning, we woke up to the loud chanting of sanskrit mantras in the neighbourhood. 
Not a surprising turn of events one might say in a country dominated by Hindus. But, it was surprising in a neighbourhood that has been home to a sizable Christian and Muslim population and their religious edifices for decades.
Even more surprising was that the mantra chanting was often interspersed with the muezzin's call to prayers, without an effort from either to outshout the other.

That  evening, Ging and I cooked dinner to the pulsating beats of Christian rock and then, turned up the volume on our television so that Manny Mammoth and his ludicrous herd could drown the booming music from the outside. As happy as we were to witness the religious harmony in our surrounds, we were looking forward to a lazy, quiet Sunday. 

But, it seemed that the Gods had not had enough. 
For come Sunday morning and there were more mantras and songs blaring.

Muttering and grumbling at insensibility of the Powers Above who should have doused the fervent chants with a deluge of rain or a thunderstorm, I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and decided to make the best of a bad day by catching up on my chores. 

As I dashed out of the house for a spot of weekend shopping at the shop round the corner, I ran into my neighbours dressed in their Sunday burkhas, all set for a day out at the most fashionable mall in town. 
We were standing at my doorstep making polite small-talk about the weather, the merits of KFC chicken vis-a-vis other native impostors and the shopping hot spots in  town, when all at once, one of them who had been avidly scanning the insides of my house caught sight of the Buddha at my door.

" Buddha is a Hindu God also?" she asked me with hesitant curiosity.  

"No" I clarified " Buddha was a wise, noble sage who found enlightenment as well as a whole new religion...He is not a  Hindu God"

" Oh, when I saw the statue I thought he might be another one of your Gods like that Ganesha in that corner"
The lady was quick to extend the olive branch, lest her query had caused umbrage.
After all, discretion is the better part of valour, especially when one ventures into uncharted territory. 

But then, when her darting eyes spotted a stone sculpture of Mother Mary, a wall hanging with an evil eye and an Arabic inscription, a few more Buddhas and Ganeshas, as well as an array of  gleaming lamps and colourful candles glittering and twinkling in different corners of my house, she threw caution to the winds to exclaim " But you have different Gods from differnt religions in your house".

Her announcement had the desired effect on her sisters in black who looked suitably shocked and intrigued.
But before any of them could join in the inquisition, my questioner continued " Do you pray to all of these Gods? How is it possible?" 

For a moment, I was lost for words. 
How could I explain my spiritual beliefs to a gaggle of women whose approach to God, religion and spirituality was similar to that of a horse with blinders?  

So I flippantly remarked "We Hindus are used to having many Gods and Goddesses who co-exist in harmony. If I can pray to Ganesha, Durga, Shiva and Krishna in the same breath, why would it be a problem to call upon Mother Mary or Jesus or Buddha or Allah for comfort, peace and guidance"

I don't think the ladies in black quite expected that, for I could see a few eyes widen in shock.
Others were looking around distractedly- at the floor, the walls, and even invisible people next door.  

Etiquette and prudence must have demanded a graceful and hasty retreat, for one of them laughed nervously and quickly chirped an awkward "we must not keep you from your shopping"  to signal to the rest of her herd to lift the ends of their black robes and run for their lives before the brazen heathen corrupted their immortal souls with her heresy. 

As I walked down to the shop at the corner, I could not help but wonder why we humans tend to complicate God and Religion, insisting upon the need for die hard loyalties to a single God especially when we revel in the power of choices in every other aspect of our lives.

We are not confused when faced with an endless array of choices at the local supermarket, are we ?
Chicken, Fish or Mutton?  Breast, Thighs, or Wings?
Whole Wheat, Multi Grain, Rye or Just Plain Sandwich Bread?
Red Wine or White?  Sula, Grover, Australian, Italian.....?
Surf and Ariel Vs the 'sastha' brand on the lowest rack?
Plain Cornflakes or Flavoured?
Or, should we ditch breakfast cereal for Muesli or Porridge?.....

Are we confused while making selections off an excruciatingly extensive but mouthwatering menu card?
North Indian, South Indian or Indian Chinese?
Oh wait, there are Burgers, Sandwiches and Indian Continental too!!!
Soup? Starters? Paneer? Chicken? Fish?
One by two? Or each to his own?
Dessert anyone?

The truth is that, choice is the least of our worries.

The truth is that we consider choice as our due rather than a privilege.

And, in every other aspect of life, we pride ourselves on our ability to pack as much of the goodies as we can into our wallets.

So, why should there be a dilemma when it comes to deities or religions? 

For the life of me, I could not comprehend my neighbours' quandary at my spiritual style. 

Was it that they had overlooked the possibility of Hindus, with their plethora of Gods and Goddesses, having been the original capitalists of our world?
Come ye, Come all...
A God for every need & mood...
Take your pick...
Pick as many as you wish...
Pray as you will...
Pray where you want...

Was it that they had overlooked the truth, that most of the old religions - Hinduism, Paganism, the religions of ancient Greece, Rome, Germany and Egypt - all offered a free market of Gods and Goddesses where the souls were kings and queens?

Or, could it have been that the ladies in black were suffering from the classic " My God is better than yours, and no, before you say it, more IS not merrier" syndrome - a particularly infectious and mind rotting disease that is fast proliferating in the world today.

Can we imagine such an attitude towards, say, Coke and Pepsi?

Or, the possibility of a group of die-hard Baklava fans flying an air-plane through the World Trade Center to terrorise the unsuspecting population into declaring Baklava as the one and only true dessert?

Can we conceive of a situation where the teetotallers of the world unite to declare a spirited Jihad on alcohol and resort to covert and overt acts of terror enforce their choice on everyone else?

Silly as these may sound, the fact is, would any of these topics result in heated discussions, mulish obstinacy or a stand-off from one or both participants if there ever was an argument on the subject?

So why then, about which, and, how many Gods one prays to? 

Why is it hard to logically assume that a polytheist, like any other consumer in a capitalist society, would choose a God or Gods who delivered the maximum value to his soul?

And, if there are doubts and uncertainties, one always has the option of experimenting, as with a detergent or a cereal, before settling on a favourite.....
Nirma one month, Surf the next, Henko in the third, so on and so forth before Mr. White is crowned the favourite! 

Easy peasy, ain't it?

Disclaimer: I am not a axe wielding, gun toting die-hard Hindu, and, this post is not meant to promote Hinduism in anyway. If my words offend the religious sentiments of any reader, please do accept my apologies for having done so. The intention is not to hurt, but to merely point out that religion and God, like every other thing in our life, is a matter of personal choice, and, it is up to us to exercise our Right of Choice in a matter we think fit. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Speak Up!

The Power of Sound.
T'is the one secret that cats know well.
And, men not at all.

It doesn't matter if you go through your entire life knowing just one word, or a single syllable.
As long as you SPEAK UP!

You can cajole responses with short, sweet chirps that roll fluidly off your tongue
Stretch nerves to a frazzle with high pitched trebles, to get yourself the attention you want

Growl a fierce hssssst to warn off offenders...
Or, to lash out, if need be

Send chills down the spine with blood curling shrieks

Warble in happiness for the sheer joy of living
And, caress the ones you love with your gentle crooning.

After all, it isn't the number of words you know that matters. 
It is, what you choose to say, that makes the difference. 

So, Speak Up!