Monthly Archives: August 2014

Bohemian Rhapsody

-Loquacious Llama

A man once passed by a frog who lived in a well. The frog was silently croaking and didn’t want to attract unnecessary attention. But the man thought it would be nice to goad him. So he went up to him and said, “Your vision is limited to the well in which you live. How will you ever know the bigger things in life?” The frog was miffed but courteously replied, “Why, sir, even you live in a well. It’s just a bit bigger than mine.” The man smiled knowingly, ”The difference is that I have been aware of that all along. And, in my case, I know how to escape my well and what lies beyond it.” The frog, slightly disconcerted because what he had expected was a puzzled, tortured man, who would spend the rest of his days spiralling into ruin, tearing out his hair searching for the ever elusive meaning of life, not a grinning monkey; frosted his words with sarcasm to cloak his curiosity and said, “You do? Please elucidate, O enlightened one, for the benefit of us pitiful mortals!” The man’s smile broadened. He gazed into the distant horizon and asked the frog some fundamental questions, some that every mortal should ponder on at least once in his miserably short life. He asked, “What is life to you, my friend? What do you consider to be the most important things in life? What do you think your purpose on this planet is? What do you want to accomplish in your short time here? In other words, Why do you live? Answer these questions of mine and I shall answer all of yours, if you do not see those answers for yourself by then.” “That’s easy!” shouted the frog in glee, for he thought himself a philosopher par extraordinaire. “I have thought often and long on these questions, and my answers are as follows: Life to me is a chain of experiences and emotions, a roller coaster ride that never stops, where sorrow is lightened and joy is made true only when shared, a lemon from which the last drops of juice must be squeezed out, till nothing remains but completely dehydrated rinds. So, to me the most important things would be friends and family, because if not for them, you would not have this life, and without them there is not much point left in living. Why would I live with no one close to me to share my burden and joys with. As for my purpose, I believe it is to live reasonably, settle down somewhere with a beautiful wife and continue my lineage, and live out the rest of my days in peace, causing no trouble and being troubled by no one. People should remember me with tears in their eyes, not with sighs of relief, and my children should have someone to look up to. That is why I live, and that is why everyone lives, eking out an existence somehow, trying to leave a mark of their legacy on the world. Don’t you agree with this?” Smile unwavering, the man said, “The real question is, do you believe all that you just said? If so, you couldn’t be any farther from nirvana. In this world, there is only one truth, only one reality. The self. The great guru Laghima once said, ”The only true love in the world is self love. The other “loves” are simply our attempts at concealing our utter indifference towards other beings.” The only true life is a life is the life you live for yourself. His immortal poem mocks our perception of reality thus:

“Verity, a joke,

recited by many fools.

The cake is a lie.”

Because he discovered the great truth, he spent the rest of his years untethered to the ground, blissfully floating. You see, all that matters in life is to be happy. One comes into the world with nothing and one leaves with nothing too. Sure, you might say that one leaves a mark on the world, but you aren’t there to see it, are you? It makes no difference to your corpse how big or small that mark is. And those grieving relatives? It’s all a show, a pretence, to make it seem as though somebody actually cares. Don’t get me started on “friends”. A more miserable class of human beings I have yet to see. Not even being blood relations, friendships are just an opportunity to plunder benefit, without even the necessity to put up the show making it look as though you actually care about the other person, the biggest scam of them all. So, you see, it’s all about you living with yourself and finding happiness in solitude.” The frog was now more than a little confused. He stuttered, ”W-what? B-but that goes against everything I have ever known or believed in! That cannot p-p-possibly be the only truth!” Then, regaining a bit of composure, he coolly tried to argue his way out. “What about what your family does for you, eh? What about when friends help you out? That’s pure and selfless love, right there. What about your parents, huh? Who’s gonna help them out in their old age? What about marriage? Is that love not real too? Isn’t it true that a man cannot live without the help of society? Or is that a sham too? You seem to be an ingrate who takes all he can but never gives back. What kind of life is that, one where you always walk alone and you have no shoulder to weep on, no one to share a smile with? One would rather die than live such a painfully dull existence, I think. Don’t you know, a form of punishment in the Arabic countries is to lock up the guilty person in a dark room for the rest of his life, with no one to see or talk to. It would be a living hell if no one ever had relations with anyone else! Don’t you see that?!” The man never even batted an eyelid. All the while, his smile seemed to broaden, as though he were expecting these questions all along. Then, looking straight into the eyes of the frog, he said clearly, “Have you ever thought of it this way, when your family decided to bring you into this world, they accepted responsibility for you, and it became their duty to care for you. You will also consider it your duty to take care of the people you are responsible for. It is the natural way of the world, it happens even in the wild. However, in nature all relations between the parent and child cease as soon as the child is able to fend for itself. The beast never asks its child to take care of it after its “retirement” either! We are born, we live and then we die, all alone, that is the way of the world. And as far as “friends” and relatives are concerned, with them it is just a system of favours given and taken. If you don’t do anything for them, they won’t do anything for you. It isn’t very selfless if you think of it that way, is it? In fact our entire society is just a group of individuals who don’t really care about each other, just pretend to so that they can reap the benefits of living in a society. In fact, we put on a mask for everyone we meet, living many lives with many lies, juggling these masks, pretending where there is no need to pretend. The only person we are totally honest with is ourselves, the only person we don’t show a painted-on face to is our own dark self. What we might feel for a person of the opposite sex is either lust or a strong desire to pass on our genes with the most fertile-looking mate, a very basic animal instinct. Love has nothing whatsoever to do with it. Everything you see around you is an illusion, only it has been fabricated by us, unwilling to face harsh reality, we cower and hide behind the “safety” of “society” and “relationships”. In this way we dig ourselves even deeper into that well, firmly rooting our feet in the boggy mud at the bottom, tying ourselves down to the well, never able to get free like we were meant to be. It is only when you are alone that you can think the deepest thoughts, sing the loudest songs, dance the liveliest dances and live the fullest life. The presence of others stifles us, constricts us. Get rid of those earthly bonds and you will find the meaning of life.” “B-b-but…” mumbled the toad, all he could manage to say before his head exploded into tiny fragments of grey and red. “I guess not all of us can handle the truth.” said the man, flicking specks of brain off his tunic. He shrugged, took out a panda phalanx and chewed distractedly as he continued on his journey, taking long strides, his feet not quite touching the ground.

Leave a comment

Filed under Prose

Introducing JAM

-Coordinators, ELS

When was the last time you could say, “A chimpanzee is a fruit that cries out every time I offer it an octopus,” and not attract weird looks from people around you? On the other hand, when did you expect people to bang their hands against tables in vehement protest the moment you say can’t or didn’t, as if such words were tabooed? If you think this is just random blabber, you haven’t been in a JAM.

Just a Minute or JAM is perhaps the most boisterous event that ELS conducts. With a minute that sometimes lasts longer than half an hour, it demands you to be on your toes at every point in time. Those who have played JAM long enough to accumulate words of wisdom will tell you that JAM is not so much about speaking fluently as spotting the errors that others make. In other words, you could consider yourself lean hungry opportunists who thrive on the wrongdoings of your fellow participants.

Right, so what are these errors anyway? In a JAM, you are supposed to speak Queen’s English. If you don’t, you will fetch points for the person who points out your error first. Is that it? Do you just have to curb your natural instincts to swear or blurt out slang? Not quite. You also can’t hesitate or slur or stop or speak at an unnatural pace. You must talk mechanically, like a robot that talks mechanically (which makes it a useless analogy). In other words, you are not supposed to dramatize or intonate like a normal human who talks with voice modulations and gestures, which is an even more useless comparison. Ah well, I hope you get the idea. There are also other errors like paraphrasing but those involve positioning of clauses or objects or some such stuff that is too boring to explain here. Anyway, the one thing that is easy enough to explain is the repetition/plagiarism error which bars you from repeating things said by you or others too many times. Sometimes the JAM-master may also introduce certain special rules for his/her sadistic pleasure. Those are just whimsical (for instance, once a JAM-master asked everyone to end the second sentence of his/her speech with the phrase ‘past a chequered flag’).

So how do you win this slugfest? You get points for the length of time you speak before someone gets offended by the impurities in your speech and you also get points for pointing out those faults. This is what JAM is all about. But before we wrap up, here are some more words of wisdom – memorizing a paragraph about the properties of chlorophyll might help but it only goes so far in a professional JAM, which is just like a professional foosball championship.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coordinator's Desk

Wasted – A Dizain

A Dizain is a French form of poetry consisting of eight or ten syllabled lines with a rhyming scheme of a-b-a-b-b-c-c-d-c-d (that makes it ten lines long).

-Caustic Camel

Dizzy, I toiled in the harsh light
My hands slowing as my heart paced
Armed and stoned, I’m ready to smite
Never had wine but bile I taste
Holes in my soul too large to baste
Now I lay on my earthly bed
On the green cush I rest my head
Warm sylvian breeze, cool me down
Seal my wounds now, enough I’ve bled
Cover my eyes, Dream, let me drown.

Leave a comment

Filed under Creative Writing Topic, Poetry

Introducing DumbC

Dumb Charades graphic

-Coordinators, ELS

Dumb Charades, the marquee event of the English Literary Society, needs little explanation, if any. We have all pantomimed names of movies over family gatherings, glowing cinders of dying campfires and filled the lacunae of boring hours with the strange pleasure of guessing movies and acting them out. Let us just say, DumbC (which is how we fondly call it) is a tribute to all those fun filled moments and an attempt to relive them.

If DumbC is just your good old Dumb Charades, why does it need an introduction at all? Because DumbC has a unique structure to it. First of all, you play it in teams of three. Also it has a few rules that make it slightly more difficult than the game that the uninitiated are used to. For instance, you can’t break words or change the meaning of words while acting them out. If you were really good at guessing movie names from the ‘sounds like’ clues, you would want to adapt your style just a bit because DumbC does not allow that. You also can’t use props. So if you are acting out a colour, you can’t point to your friends’ shirt. If you want to show a wall, you can’t actually stand next to a wall and point it out. So in a way, DumbC is universal in nature; you just need your wits to play this game. Does it make DumbC too difficult to play? Well, there are ways to get around these rules, we call them conventions. Let’s just keep it at that; we will not reveal anything more about conventions.

DumbC has numerous rounds that test the various skills that a team possesses. While the first round most probably would have you guessing four items in two minutes (movies, places, personalities and books), the Blitz round is the ultimate test of speed wherein you have to act and guess truckloads of stuff in just four minutes. Triple DumbC involves three way acting and guessing, all the while being able to communicate through only gestures. And if some of your body parts are also restricted from movement, for example hands, then DumbC becomes a real test. If you can’t handle your nerves, the bidding round will give you nightmares. Because when you have to act and guess the phrase, “Elvis has left the building”, within five seconds, you have to get your act together or else risk getting an overall negative score.

These rules and rounds are standard. Once in a while, you might have some crazy rules thrown into this equation. You could be asked to participate in a Q&A session wherein you have to guess both the question and the answer or the actor from your team would have to identify the name of the song being played to him/her and act it out to the guessers simultaneously.

The act of playing charades can also be viewed in a different light. When you slow down a film and play it frame by frame, it is completely changed. You can no longer be invested in it, suspension of disbelief is harder. It gains a different meaning altogether. Similarly, by conveying something to someone else without the use of audible language, you gain a different viewpoint, a new perspective on the matter you are communicating, it gains a different meaning for you.

If after reading through all this, you feel that DumbC is serious fun, you need no more convincing. If you think that DumbC is just serious and no fun, you have no idea what is DumbC like, which is one more reason to actually find out. And if you think that DumbC is a frivolous event meant to entertain people, well, that’s what it was always meant to be.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coordinator's Desk

Achilles Last Stand: A review of Princess Mononoke

“Is someone different at age 18 or 60? I believe one stays the same.”
– Hayao Miyazaki

-Loquacious Llama

After watching this masterpiece for the fifth time (literally) and feeling emotionally blown away for the fifth time, I sat at my chair and stared off into the middle distance, ignoring my leering roommates. I thought hard and long on why I like this movie so much. I mean, sure it was a Miyazaki movie, what’s there not to like? But, what made this stand out, what made it my favourite, over Oscar-winning Spirited Away (2001) or the critically-acclaimed Castle in the Sky (1986) or the surreal, yet endearing My Neighbor Totoro (1988)? Why was I revisiting this movie so many times, each time finding something new, loving it even more on each rewatch? Well, here’s why. (The thing about Miyazaki films is: You Gotta Watch them All!)

First off, direction. Miyazaki is the master of fantasy and his movies have an almost surreal feeling to them. You will find stuff from your wildest dreams gambolling about like there was nothing to it. The worlds he creates make you wish that they were real and you could live in them. The characters are extremely relatable and human and make you fall in love with them. Some of his common themes are: Shoujo, or strong female protagonists; flight scenes which are dreamy and buoyant, which to Miyazaki represents freedom and attaining new heights; ma, or scenes in his films where instead of every movement being dictated by the story, sometimes people will just sit for a moment, or they will sigh, or look in a running stream, or do something extra, not to advance the story but only to give the sense of time and place and who they are. Then, there are the hidden subliminal messages of feminism, anti-consumerism, pacifism and environmental messages, not very glaring and in-your-face, but not so light as to be invisible. His movies are powerful, thought-provoking, deeply emotional and very well-loved. If I were stuck on a desert island till the end of time with only one movie to watch, I would definitely hope it was one of his.

Next, we come to visuals. All Miyazaki films are hand drawn, apparently because he doesn’t like computers. That’s like tens of thousands of frames, each of them drawn manually, with a lot of effort and love put into each one of them. It makes the film so much more human to me. That does not, however, mean that the film has lost out in the quality of the visual art. Just look at these stills from some of his movies. A feast for the eyes, truly.

Mononoke1

Mononoke2

Mononoke3

(Here I speak to you, reader. Why are you even still here, reading beyond this point? Go watch the movie(s) already!)

Now we come to the movie itself. A mega-hit that became the highest grossing film of any genre in Japanese history, it is an epic fantasy set in medieval Japan with a strong environmental message, which is partly why I like it so much. It isn’t so much of a film as it is a journey, both visual and mental, as you are gently nudged into asking deeper questions to yourself.  It involves you in a story which is extremely gripping as it shows you the pointlessness of war and environmental desecration, how violence doesn’t solve all your problems, all while not creating any one-dimensional villains, showing you both sides of the coin, not picking any sides. It is the only film I have seen on environmental issues which does that. It doesn’t spoon feed you anything, keeps things as unbiased as possible and leaves a lot of open ends which get you thinking.

The basic plot involves a young prince named Ashitaka who receives a wound while defending his village from a forest god, who turns into a monster because of an iron pellet lodged in his body. The wound infects him with what seems to be evil, but gives him superhuman power. But, like all things evil, it is slowly and painfully killing him off. He journeys to the west, hoping to find the source of the pellet before the wound can finish him off. Along the way, he meets San, a girl raised by wolves, who considers herself to be a wolf and fights against the humans who encroach into the forest. She is in war with a small iron worker’s town, led by a strong willed Lady Eboshi, who she believes is the cause of the problems in the forest. Ashitaka realizes that hate is poisoning the area and turning forest gods into crazed monsters. He has to broker a peace between man and nature before things get out of hand and nature is thrown out of balance, all the while searching for a cure to his wound. San is shown through Ashitaka that all humans are not evil and that violence solves nothing and she undertakes an internal journey to overcome her hatred of humans. Even the residents of Iron town are shown as likeable and noble people, simply trying to make a living, who later understand that one must not meddle with nature and there is no “villain” as such.

In retrospect, it is one of his darker and more gritty films. The whole mood of the film is very somber (though it has its share of light-hearted moments) and serious, which is how I like films to be. Overall, though, it is a great movie, which I honestly believe, should be watched by everyone, regardless of age, gender, nationality, or any other dividing characteristics; a very esprit humain thing. So, if you have the time, sit down, watch it and be treated to one of the greatest experiences you will have known.

P.S. Go out and plant a sapling today! I mean it!

Leave a comment

Filed under Art

Time

-Nihilist Numbat

It is a beholding that the reader will understand the most,
When he will ponder upon the reason he read this post.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

Tranquil Tempest

-Capricious Crocodile

Ahab

Tempestuous sea,
A dastardly plight beckoned,
Murmurs in the wind.

Bellerophon

A deafening cry
portentous calm breath and
the sullen sky spoke.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry