I have noticed, I'm in complete love with language! And it's slightly scary because I do not think that people take it as seriously as I do. I would even go as far as hinting that there might be something wrong with me in the indulgent pleasures I take in the obscure quirks of language. Let me explain.

It's one thing laughing at a joke. It's an altogether different thing if that joke makes you feel fulfilled. Language does that to me. When I come across something intelligent, a witty play of words, a subtle innuendo, or a masterful exposition, to say that I enjoy it would be a massive understatement. Something as trivial as an insightful double entendre makes the world a better place for me. The trials and tribulations of a world so deeply entrenched in dishonest mediocrity do not seem quite so imposing after all.

It was a bright June morning in mid May when I woke up rubbing my eyes and clicked on my laptop to check my mail. In my inbox was a mail from UCSD parking office waiting to be opened and read. As a general habit, the importance that I give to any mail reduces exponentially with the number of people it is sent to beside me, with mails sent to 2 or more people hardly ever registering in my consciousness. It is only fair to say then that a mail from UCSD parking office to all UCSD students might as well find it's way to Junk for all I care. Anyways, it did catch my attention. It was a very small thing. Their subject had the name of the office itself and it was very smartly called 'between the lines'. I was so happy for the rest of the day. I wanted to tell it to so many people but after the first few who blinked at the complete pointlessness of the whole issue, I gave up. Nevertheless, you get the point.

I love the inherent music that words have. I think that a phrase as senseless and stupid as 'hoversmack tenenbaum' dances and sways with as much beauty as any abstract piece of art. I love the ringing sound words like 'junction' and 'gumption' make in the ears. I love the sophistication vested in the pronunciation of 'boulevard' and 'bourgeois' and I am happy that there was a time when people were brave enough to invent words like flaucinaucinihilipilification.

English is inherently conducive to linguistic manipulations. Comedy based purely on language is inbuilt in English. It's a facet that woefully lacks in so many other languages including Hindi. In fact I feel that linguistic comedy is the most sophisticated form of humor possible as it requires a level of intelligence that is far beyond what is required for slapstic humor and considerably beyond incisive satire. Sarcasm as an art is a subset of the intelligence that is developed enough to dabble sophisticatedly in language. That is why while a 'Yes Minister' can afford to be a brilliant satire without relying too much on language, 'A bit of Fry and Laurie' necessarily has to be a great satire in order to fulfill it's linguistic destiny.

There is a reason why we find bollywood comedy as nothing better than loose stool and arse gravy. Bollywood comedy has never been sophisticated, at least never on a large scale and one of the reasons is definitely a non-conducive language. Our best brains and our best language vests with the creative minds and foul tongues of 20 somethings and not in the wisdom of the balding and the spent. It's in the greasy corridors of hostels festooned with unwashed dishes and unwashed boys that language in all it's majesty finds its true colors. It's here in the hallowed portals of... whatever, that it soars into the stratosphere of brilliance. Too bad that we as a culture are either prude and intolerant or mediocre and non-discriminating. It shows up in our cinema.

I see that I have digressed again :).


Spot the error: Answer

Well, Nikhil had to get it right. After all it has to do with the history of photography and for all his maniacal insistence on knowing the ins and outs of the trade, it's only expected.

The above image is one of the many in which horses were shown galloping with their legs splayed apart. Somehow, such an image appeals to our sense of speed and agility that we associate with horses so art accordingly imitated our prejudices. It wasn't until the late 19th century that a person named Eadweard Muybridge studied the motion of horses by taking a series of photographs and running them consecutively at a high frame rate to produce an illusion of continuous reality. Here is what he saw:

As you can see, he demonstrated that the legs of a horse, when in air, are never splayed apart. This, incidentally, is the first motion picture ever produced. So there you are.


Spot the error

:) What's wrong in the following picture:


Stereotypical Humor

I was watching "Hunt for the red October" yesterday with a couple of friends and remember making a lot of jokes stereotyping Russians and Blacks (forgive me for the use of this supposedly derogatory term but the intent to insult is definitely not there). I also remember thinking that had a particular friend of mine been there at that time, he would certainly have commented caustically at our misdemeanor. Which brings me to the point of the post. Most, if not all comedy is about stereotyping.

We do it all the time. Whether we are laughing at the social inadequacies of the geeks or chortling at the mental ones of the blonds. Whether we are sarcastically giggling at the political deficiencies of the ruling class or the herd mentality of the upwardly mobile middle. We stereotype the 'questioning intonation' of the teens as mercilessly as we do the general American obsession with cheese. The relative societal stuntedness of the Indians and the Chinese are as much a source of amusement to us as the unruliness and excessive physical exaggeration of the Italians or the hilarious snobbery of the British. Corpulence is as potent a topic for comedy as excessive thinness and the driving sense of the fairer sex figures as prominently in our humorous musings as the sexual drives of the not so fair.

The point is, stereotyping is most essential to our sense of humor. We need a sort of familiarity with the subject for us to appreciate its ridicule. Imagine trying to make up a joke about an alien blob of gooey substance about which you know absolutely nothing. Although the depth of comedy increases with increasing sophistication, more often than not, at the end of it all lies a good old stereotype. When you have waded through the linguistic tricks and the obscure references, when you have managed to find your way through the intricate forest of jargon, its a stereotype you are more than likely to find at the end. Even as abstract a form of comedy as purely linguistic humor (I am a big fan of which by the way) ridicules and stereotypes our knowledge of language and the way we take it for granted. To say that such a form of comedy is pompous is probably our cry for a subject that we can understand as a stereotype.

I must confess here that we as Indians probably stereotype the most, which again is a stereotype ! But our hypocrisy lies in not being able to sportingly take a joke upon ourselves. On the other end of the spectrum are the Americans who are more than happy to take a joke but who seem to be trying too hard to be political correct for too much of their waking time. But political correctness, as detrimental to a healthy society as it is, is an entirely different ballgame and requires a different arena and a sterner and more acidic tone. So we will leave it for now.

I feel that the maturity of a society is defined, to a huge extent, by the freedom with which it can mock its elements. Stereotyping, therefore, lies at the very heart of a healthy society since it is so intricately related to comedy. It is perfectly acceptable till it's done with the understanding that it does not necessarily apply to each individual constituting the group. It doesn't have to be insulting to be effective but then what is insulting is more often than not determined by the most regressive elements of the society. Those who twitch their brow and purse their lips when they come across an otherwise harmless piece of stereotypical comedy, generally are moralists if not hypocrites. But then I have not known a moralist who was not a hypocrite.


Mr. Malaprop - 1

Mr. Malaprop:

Oh, yes yes. I remember this place. I have great memories related to this place. This is where I saw my wife for the very first time. I remember thinking, "My God! what a tiny women she is". She was about 2 and a half inches tall, heels included. Of course, it was only after a few days that I realized that it was because she was standing 55 meters away. While sitting next to me on the coffee table, she seemed quite a normal sized human being after all. It was the glaring eyes that made us realize that sitting on a coffee table in a public place is not a very nice thing to do. So we both climbed down and sat on the chairs. Oh! how clearly I remember those first sparks... The overhead wires must have short-circuited due to the recent rains and it did not take long for those first sparks to turn into a modest fire. Things did settle though, and I asked her if she wanted a hot cup of coffee to which she innocently replied that she would prefer hot coffee instead.

Oh! how so very beautiful she was. Her blond hair shimmering in the brilliant yellow sun, her skin glowing with the radiance of full moon on the surface of an ocean, her eyes alight with the twinkle of a thousand stars. I was completely lost in her beauty until she asked me if I wanted whipped cream with my hot chocolate. Slightly confused, I replied in the negative and resumed conversation with the woman who had the distinguishing characteristic of appearing 2 and a half inches tall (with heels) at 55 meters. I noticed that she had a most beautiful plumage of black hair... Then she took out the blond ones and the brunette ones. It seemed to me that she took her job more seriously than it deserved and I was just relieved that she wasn't a heart transplant surgeon.


Yearning for a story

It's weird that I woke up in the morning thinking about my childhood, specifically about all those stories my grandfather used to tell me as I snuggled beside him in a warm blanket with a white cotton cover on a cold winter evening. With the reassuring knowledge of mother busy in the kitchen and father too occupied to pester me with any more mathematics, and with the ever so imaginative beginnings to entranced escapes which went, "once upon a time", I would look into his bespectacled eyes, old and wearied but fixated somewhere in the distance, continually brimming with excitement as he recounted, for the 100th time, how the prince killed the monster. Once in a while, he would look at the boy, who by this time was completely bewitched, and he would smile ever so gently and pat his head and say, "do you know what happened next". Of course I knew, but it was a million times sweeter if he told me once again. And he would. In the sweet white light of a warm cozy room with the muffled sound of an electric heater in the background, the slightly cold touch of a freshly cleaned pillow, and the assurance that the only person in the world who could save me from doing chores and studying and general parental bullying was sitting right beside me recounting stories: it hardly gets any better.

I woke up in the morning not just with these sweet memories. Sweet memories hardly ever wake you up. I woke up thinking about our, as in our generation's, apparent lack of imagination and creativity. I was wondering, if we are ever called upon to do so, would we have a good story to tell ? It is human to hark upon imagination when our experiences are not good enough. But imagination needs a foundation to grow upon. While my grandfather's generation had religion and social boundaries and superstitions to provide them with a framework within which their imagination could thrive, hardly anything is left to imagination now. Whatever is left is hardly innocent and mostly drab. In the tech savvy world of today, incredibility is associated with the next big thing in mobile communication. And since we have learned to be skeptical about our own incredulity, it's just not good enough. Social and economic freedom have made cynics out of us. In a huge sense it's obviously good, but in a small way it's bad.

It's bad in the eyes of the boy who sat entranced when the 32 statuettes enlivened to dance in the royal courts of Vikramaditya. It's slightly sad that the ponds of yesteryear which supplied an endless stream of wicked witches and haunted trees has gone dry. It's sad that the castles which beheld the most opulent of dances and the arenas which hosted the most brilliant of wars and the daring knights and the stately beautiful princesses and the conniving stepmothers and the obedient sons and the innocent daughters and the helpful dwarfs, they have all withered against the onslaught of time. I distinctly remember this line my grandfather beat to death: "Din beete, hafte beete, mahine beete, saal beet gaye" (days and weeks and months and years went past). And I realize it only now.

About Me

My photo
Like a particularly notorious child's tantrums, a mountaneous river's intemperance, a volcano's reckless carelessness and the dreamy eyes of a caged bird, imagination tries to fly unfettered. Hesitant as she takes those first steps, she sculpts those ambitious yet half baked earthen pots.