Through the Looking Glass – Godfather by Mario Puzo

It has now been a decade since I first picked up Godfather the book and immersed myself into the world of New York City Mafia in the 1900s. The fact that a decade had passed since that momentous moment just came to my attention right now. A whole decade has passed but still the major occurrences in Godfather is still fresh in my head. How could one forget the bedside horse head, Michael accepting his role in the family, Al Neri proving his mettle and Vito Corleone’s daunting presence. So it was with high anticipation that I picked up Godfather for a re-read, my first book at that.

Those of you who are in my Goodreads circle could very well find that Godfather is one of my all-time favorite books. Consequently there was a slightly pessimistic thought in my head that what I remembered about Godfather might not be as huge as I imagined, probably magnified since it was being looked at through nostalgic lenses. But never was I disappointed in the slightest, except when I had to put down the book each day knowing very well that a monumental sequence was waiting for me just ahead. Even though I knew what was going to happen and there was no sense of suspense, the slow build up towards those incidents was exhilarating to say the least. And when the scene actually comes into play, the anticipation bursts into a surge of dopamine leaving a sense of satisfaction that envelopes you.

But despite being one of my favourite reads, I was surprised by how much part of the book my memory had glossed over and how much the incidents varied with what I had in mind. For instance, even though I had a faint recollection of the character called Johnny Fontane, the entire subplot of Johnny Fontane and his struggles as a/an actor/singer/producer never jolted any memory cells to activation. The same happened with Michael’s arc in Sicily. Even though I am still at odds about the importance of those arcs to the main story-line, it was nevertheless plot points that rounded out the characters.

Reading through the Godfather, one could easily differentiate between various parts of the story even when there is no clear distinction. It is best explained in terms of the air surrounding the characters. Mario Puzo makes sure that the reader feels as if present in the room with the characters feeling the same energy as everyone else. Every glance, every nod, every single annotations are expertly conveyed on to the reader.

Setting aside the prologue where Amerigo Bonasera is wronged by the Justice system he believed in, from the moment the scene focuses around Corleones there is a warmth. A general delightful environment kicked off by Connie’s wedding. Even though there are lot of “family business” being carried out, as the reader is introduced to the world of Corleones mostly through the perspective of Tom Hagen, there is sense of smoothness as that of a well oiled machinery. Don Vito Corleone is essentially rendered as a Man who can do no wrong and to whom nothing can wrong.

That is until the coming of Sollozzo, the archetypal villian, making it easier for the reader to root for the Corleones as the anti-hero. By now Mario Puzo has established Vito Corleone as the better evil for those on the fence. But by this time chaos rumbles and the warmth climbs up to a searing heat following the fateful shooting of the Don. The confusion, unrest and indecision that follows increases the value of Vito in the mind of the readers. It is interesting to note that there are very few actual exhibitions of Vito’s brilliance and intelligence, but the characters especially Tom Hagen make sure that the reader knows that the Godfather is not a force to be reckoned with.

Coming to think about it, The Godfather is almost Lion King-ish. We don’t really see that many showcases of Mufasa’s wisdom but we just know it is there. Then there is the eventual break of trust, the exile of the prodigal son, and return of the prodigy serving the cold dish of vengeance.

Going back to the temperature readings, a chill sets down as soon as Michael comes back from exile. The warmth of Vito’s friendships have made way to Michael’s cold stares and dominant aura. The difference between wartime and peacetime is laid out plain. Even though it was my second time through this, I could feel the palpable suspense and tension in the air. Everyone knew that something was brewing, everyone knew that sooner or later the tension had to burst.

And golly it did. Magnificently Poetic! The ending of Godfather is one of the most goosebumps initiating segments I have read. Mere hours of symphonic precision, the test of Michael Corleone and the rise of the New Don. With this Mario Puzo rips off the mask of sympathetic anti-hero to reveal the coldness of a calculating villain.

The character arc of Johnny Fontane was a curious one. For me the parallel arc with life and struggles of Johnny in Hollywood and later in Vegas served mainly two purposes. One was to show the width of Godfather’s influence and how vast the network of Corleone family was. The second seemed to be as a literary device to cut away from the main plot line, so that the intensity is reset. If the main story line was a TV show, this was the commercials. If the rise and fall and eventual resurrection of Corleones was the main mission, the fall and rise of Johnny was the side quest.

Through my first and second reading of Godfather, I associated myself with Tom Hagen instead of the protagonists. All these years it was quiet puzzling as to why I would harmonize with a character that plays second-fiddle to main characters. But with this re-reading I realized that this was almost intentional. This pattern can be seen in another fictional work – the various cases of the Victorian sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. In both these books the main character is portrayed as almost superhuman, perfect renditions of man at his best – supreme intellect and meticulous observation for Holmes and unwavering statesmanship and peerless cold calculations for Corleone. Unless you have a sense of inflated egotism it is seldom that anyone would associate themselves with these pinnacles of human minds.

It’s all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it’s personal as hell.

Through the looking glass: Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire – IV)

Being someone who is yet to be blown away by the sheer awesomeness of Tolkien’s works, The Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin remains to me the epitome of fantasy fiction. The immensity of the world created with a huge heap of living, breathing characters, big and small, thrown in is enough to humble/inspire any author out there. The myriad array of puppets masterfully pulled by the genius of a single puppeteer, making them dance through all the convoluted intertwined plots would, without doubt, keep any reader hooked.

Despite the popularity and eventual unsatisfactory demise of the TV Show, the books still remain very much relevant. Thanks to the dilution of the book’s complex plot to fit the TV narrative, the hashtag #booksAreBetterThanTheMovie never have been more accurate.

The habit of diving down into something blindly in order to be surprised, got me good this time round. The story started with decay of King’s Landing around Tywin’s decaying body. As I read through the book, the world of ASOIAF slowly shrunk down to the ever familiar Westeros. Though I was too gripped to realize this, there was a constant nagging wait for my favorite character to burst from the pages – Tyrion Lannister the kinslayer. As I sped past one chapter of Cersie after another, the hype of Tyrion’s escape just build on up. Until I slammed on to the door in the form of an author’s note saying that it was all there is to this book. This book was all about Westeros, no chapter for Jon, Daenerys, or Tyrion. GRRM made sure that they were continuously teased throughout the book to finally hit us with the fact that their story is another book altogether. It almost felt sadistic to engross your reader into the book so much that they would be caught blindsided by the inertia of realization that they are not getting full satisfaction out of it.

As any book or any media that deals with storytelling, the characters are what determine the flavor of the dish served. As everyone who has seen, read or even heard of Game of Thrones, it is filled with scheming puppeteers pulling strings to their own whims.

By far the biggest screen time in this book was given out to Cersei Lannister who to me was the most underwhelming character among the whole. Even though she would very well be the most influential character in the book, her domain of influence falls incredibly short when considering her to be the Queen Regent over the whole of Westeros. But that is not to say that she falls short as a character. Haunted by a prophesy from her childhood that is becoming more real by the day, she plunges from a state of grace to a string of panic decisions which she has the audacity of comparing to her father’s statesmanship.

Handicapped by the sudden demise of the wall which had shielded her all her life she feels naked and adding to it is the nightmare of the dreaded prophecy claiming he first-born. She scrambles throughout the book struggling to keep the naive Tommen alive. Along with the loss of her protective wall, her guardian angel Jaime has also become near worthless with the loss of his sword-hand. She realizes that she has to fend on her own with the wits that she believes to match the great Tywin Lannister.

Jaime is also similarly haunted by words, not of prophecies waiting to be fulfilled but recounting of events past. His love for Cersei has been tainted by Tyrion’s revelation that she has made her bed with others. This prospect of being expendable in the eyes of his one true love added on to the already bubbling feeling of worthlessness that came with his golden stump. This humbling series of events incite a rethinking from Jaime leading him down to a path of redemption, an effort to claim a legacy big enough to strike off the tag of Kingslayer. His constant effort to reclaim his fighting skills despite the daily dose of humiliation and the respect his name commands shine a whole new light on the character of Jaime. With the new found handicap, Jaime has embraced Tyrion’s philosophy of “embracing your shortcomings so that no one can use it against you”.

Among the rants of countless book readers against the TV Show, there was one point that ranked high among their grievances, the omission of Dorne plot. Doran, the ever patient, “wheelchair”-ridden ruler of the lands of Dorne might seem like a pushover during the initial chapters. But there is an air to his wisdom and calm demeanor that make us curious about what is happening under those eyes that seem to be content with the simplest of things. Despite the many pleadings for revenge and a potential coup in motion, Doran’s unwavering stand for being content with what is offered seems puzzling. This lingers on until the final unmasking of the genius behind. Seldom has any book kicked off such an adrenaline rush as this chapter in Dorne has. I join my voice with the screams of unfair exclusion of the Dorne plot from the TV Show.

Another set of characters that the TV Show has been unfair towards is Euron and Victarion Greyjoy. Victarion the noble and dutiful servant to Euron’s cunning and mysterious alpha, yin and yang. Even though their actions have been limited mostly to the islands, the potential that these characters hold is suspended mid action, to be boiled over.

All the other characters seem to be on an RPG quest of their own. Sam with his easter eggs of Dany and Aemon’s prophecy, Arya’s slow rise to something potentially badass and Briene being the quintessential knight in an RPG game. Then there is Littlefinger and Sansa dancing through his schemes. But admittedly Littlefinger’s show of strength with all odds against him puts him up among the best players in the Game of Thrones.

Using the age-old storytelling device of ending a book in the middle of a series, Feast for Crows ends with a lot of unanswered questions and cliffhangers that leave us wanting for more. A Song of Ice and Fire is a series that despite its volume take us along a ride that we are never ready for. Each time I closed the book, I had to take a deep breath and stare ahead for a second to unplug into the world that encompassed me.

“How much can a crown be worth, when a crow can dine upon a king?”

Through the Looking Glass: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport Book Cover

Considering the fact that I have a general aversion to self help books, it is a welcome change that I picked up this book. Maybe it was the title that fooled me, with the ironical click-bait term “Digital” in it. Show anything with the name Digital in it, it is bound to get at least a second glance from me.

But though it was indeed tagged under the category of self-help, I am not entirely sure it is. Logically it has all the characteristics of a self help book – from practices that you could take up on a regular basis to the list of practitioners that have benefited from the idea. Maybe it is my denial talking, but this book was seemed more than that.

The book came to me when I myself was slowly realizing the need to cut down on social media exposure given the amount of time it siphons away from my day. By the time I started reading the book, I had already cut off the visceral serpent that was Facebook. But I was still struggling with it’s equally evil cousin Instagram. But while Facebook never had me in its grip, Instagram had me by the throat. It was Instagram that showed me how hypnotic social media giants can make their apps to be. I have felt myself immobilized under its influence over hours unable to swipe myself away from the continuous stream of content curated entirely for me. Coincidentally it was soon after this realization that I got hold of this book.

Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism was a reinforcement to my thoughts. Most of the practices that Cal mentioned was something that I already had put into practice and I had a sense of appeasement to realize that the path that I was following was not a lonely one. This helped me realize that the thought of missing out if I unplugged, was exactly what the attention conglomerates want to instill in each of us.

The book also comments upon the rise of extroverts and the imposed expectation to be always connected with the rest of the world. Cal emphasizes on reclaiming the lost art of introspection and embracing the leisure of solitude. He tries to shoo away the stigma associated with being alone.

My own journey of severance from the visual drugs began with small self imposed rules like never look at your phone when you are with someone, with whom you can have actual face to face conversation with. This is a rule that I try to follow even if it is excruciatingly trying with the other person boring into his phone. Admittedly I myself don’t keep this rule all the time. This book similarly has easily doable or achievable practices that pave way towards sanitizing yourself from the web of hypnotic screens.

I am a person who loves technology and digital media. I have my entire day to day schedule programmed in my mobile. My life is dependent on technology probably more than half of the world. The not-so-rare time when my phone is out for repair, I can feel myself struggling to do even menial tasks. I use my mobile as a tool to program my day-to-day activities efficiently. I have a fitness band that more or less serves the same purpose, and to top this all off, I drown my own breathing with the din of music while working out. I can’t function without technology and I crave gadgets and apps. Hook me up to a machine and you can see that me updating my apps have the same dopamine level to a junkie on heroin.

This is where my respect for the book roots from. While Cal asks you to restrain from social network, it doesn’t mean forgoing technology as such. It encourages you to embrace technology to be more productive, but at the same time asks you not get carried away by it too much. Learn to differentiate when an app is taking you towards your goal and when it is distracting you from it.

Digital Minimalism is not an anti-technological movement. It is a book that asks you to use your time wisely and not be a slave of the noise that drowns your original thoughts. In this aspect it reminds me of Fahrenheit 451.

“they joined Facebook to stay in touch with friends across the country, and then ended up unable to maintain an uninterrupted conversation with the friend sitting across the table”

Gratification Index

Image Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-wwuxqTfT4

All of us who have ever fell for someone, ranging from a crush to full blown relationship can associate with the initial act of wooing the other person.

I still remember the long-wait for a side-glance, the electricity when our eyes lock, the sudden awkwardness about what to do next – do I turn away or do I keep the lock on. Then there is the sudden surge of heart beats as you see a smile creep up on her face, and you feel the corners of your mouth widen uncontrollably as your brain sends all the neurons sparkling. The worst of it all is when she comes across and brushes past you. Suddenly the heart which was running on turbo takes a sudden break and you are left gasping for breath as all your senses go hay-wire on her fragrance. You find yourself addicted; you find yourself wanting for more of the drug that made your body go through the wildest roller-coaster.

The next part is creating excuses or scenarios to get close to her, make an environment that instigates a natural conversation so that you start to get to know her better. Slowly I ride on the elation felt with each of her laughs. Her presence is magic, it is intoxicating and by then I am already thinking about how to prolong this moment or keep this recurring.

Moments come one after the other, rippling from the initial drop of shared laughter. Soon you find her sailing the same boat towards the horizon that till now didn’t seem this beautiful.

As you glide on this “Relation-Ship” (sorry!), soon the gentle ripple that nudged you forward, seem like waves that slowly rock your boat. A text message that is left unanswered annoy you, an otherwise innocent joke prick you, suddenly the time you have with her doesn’t seem enough and you fight for more. Each moment they spent with someone else seem like a wasted time that could have been spent with you. Soon enough the Ship starts tumbling under the waves that beat all around. The horizon is dark and stormy, you feel the ship breaking apart and you try to keep it together with all the force you have, directing all your anger at it – realizing a little too late that your directed force was what was breaking the Ship all along.

I won’t say that all relationships go through this, but most of them do. The initial phase of elated high is what is generally known as the honeymoon period, where the couple gets to know each other and when just their presence is enough to make the other person happy. During this time minor inconveniences are ignored, and everything seems rosy as baby cheeks. Then slowly these minor inconveniences become major.

The very presence that made your heart go from 0 to 180 and vice-versa seem not enough. You want more of what you are getting. This gradual shift is what I would call a “shift in your Gratification Index“.

You can find this Gratification Index in everything new that you try or do. Take for example something simple like coffee. Initially a shot of espresso would give you the boost you need, but as you keep on the intake the boost dwindles down. You start increasing your intake so that you can get the same boost that you got till now. Slowly you are dependent on it. You can’t function without your daily intake – you are addicted. Speaking of addicted, you could switch coffee with anything in this example from alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and of course, the presence of The One.

With continuous exposure to a particular addictive (yes, I am counting relationship as an addiction) your Gratification Index in relation to the particular object increases over time, forcing you crave for more of the same to get the elation or reward that you had till then.

But the difference is that each person has their own rate of increase of Gratification Index with respect to each stimuli. This would explain why two people who start well off in a relationship struggle to keep in pace later on, since their Indices are going at different rates – a phenomenon we articulate as “being in different places in a relationship”.

The importance of Gratification Index is to appreciate the fact that the things we take for granted now, used to give us a different range of pleasure in the past. It is also important to understand that each person is has different scales of gratification and it would fare better for a relationship when regarded as such. Of course, it is easy enough to reset the Index by “taking a break“.

All said and done, the most radical sacrifice of gratification that came to mind while writing this is the relation your share with your parents, most significantly your mother. From the close proximity of being in her womb, you grow distant to her arms, to where your legs take and soon to where your money takes you. All the while she stands and asks you to run farther.

The Monthly Outcast

I recently had a chance to converse with a long time solo traveler who lets his mouth travel in tandem with his brain taking us through long thought provoking roller coasters. It is staggering how conversations you have at distinct times trigger a network of thought that web around your mind, connecting ideas one after the other.

Somehow during a completely unrelated conversation, he asked me “Don’t you think that girls are very chill about breakups? While men are rolling around in a puddle of pitiful sorrow, women just seems to take it so well. They have no problems going on as they were”.

Even though I didn’t agree with his opinion that girls don’t suffer as much when a relationship ends, I did partly side with him on how they seemed to take it so well. When I was going through my share of the inevitable breakup ritual, anyone remotely close to me could sense that either they should keep away from me or get ready to bear the brunt of all the pointless days, hours and minutes. But then there she was chirping around like she always had, with a hint of disconnect.

“As the time nears, I dreadfully wait for the day it finally starts. And when it does, a wave of anger builds in me. It irks me that I have to face the world for five more days with this peeve.” But then it is not an excuse for her to be short tempered as she would like to be. She had been taught and is expected to bear it all with a poker face that shows nothing except responses to stimuli that the Man approves and what he don’t or won’t try to understand is not approved.

She has been conditioned to bear pain, bear the mild irks and piques. What doesn’t kill her she bears with a nonchalant smile. 50 years, 5 days per month she doesn’t show the world what she is going through. Why then should she start showing emotions now. Just because he is morose and expects you to be the same doesn’t mean that she has to. She has been through worse.

Periods are uncomfortable conversations. Nobody actually wants to talk about it. It is always pushed off by the phrase “that type of the month”. Women are expected to hide the fact that they are going through periods or any articles related to periods from the Man. Man is uncomfortable seeing that, it is something he can’t relate to and doesn’t see any point in making an effort to. Admittedly it is not a pleasant conversation (far from that) to have when you hang out, but it sure is a conversation that people need to have and understand.

I was born into a society where the phrase “menstrual cycle” was unheard of. It was shushed into oblivion. The only vague exposure i had to this topic was the ad where people show how a weird shaped cloth absorbs ink pretty well and that it comes with “wings” now, which made a girl really happy. I never understood it. So it was obvious that information about periods was next to nil until my twenties. That’s when I got the opportunity to pick up a couple of sanitary pads that a kid had knocked down the shelf. Suddenly the people around me started eyeing me weirdly and some were smirking. I didn’t understand the reactions then. But that drove me to understand menstruation and the taboo around it. The former was easy enough, since I had people ready to share but I failed at the latter.

~*~

During my recent travels, I was able to know about a temple in Guwahati, Assam – The Kamakhya Temple. A Hindu temple that actually celebrates menstruation and fertility. Every year during the month of June, The Goddess menstruates turning Brahmaputra red. In a country where women are considered impure and kept at bay while going through their periods, here is a temple that celebrates it with a Yoni (Vagina) as the object of reverence.

A woman in the first day of her courses is known as an outcaste, in the second day murderer of a Brahmin, in the third day she is known as a washer woman and on the fourth day she gets purified! ” – Aangirasa Smriti

“When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.” – Levictus 15:25

“And they ask you about menstruation. Say, ‘It is haram, so keep away from wives during menstruation. And do not approach them until they are pure. And when they have purified themselves, then come to them from where Allah has ordained for you. Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.'” – Quran 2:222

Images: https://www.grinnell.edu/news/destigmatizing-menstruation-through-art , https://mysticalbee.com/kamakhya-devi/

Parameters of Evolution

Image Source: BEHIND THE BASTARDS

Reading through the evolution of human species, it was written that the Neanderthals and Denisovans lived with Sapiens at some point. Lived together, not just that they existed together. They lived, loved and bred together. Even if it is speculation, it does prick ones brain thinking about the times they coexisted leading to their eventual extinction.

Its obvious that Sapiens ran the race and won the race, since I am here to write about it. Imagine how it would have been for the “inferior” species when a new line of species came to being. Imagine their awe when they first saw us. But how would it have happened, the eventual extinction? Was our ancestors also victims/perpetrators of racism?

Extinction of a species is defined by the death of its last individual. The when is almost almost a fuzzy value, but the aftermath is certain. The moment when Homo Sapiens started sprawling Earth, were we so uniquely attractive that we were the preferred partners as compared to the rest? The species thrives as long as their genes are passed on. But somehow we dominated over the other driving others to extinction. Were it just due to the fact that we had the dominant genes or was it that we forced the others into extinction. How did the cross breeding start? Did the Neanderthals mind their own mingling with the new kid on the block. But did the inter-breeding become so favorable that intra-breeding became unfashionably non-existent.

Darwin’s theory of evolution suggests survival of the fittest. While mating each individual is programmed to subconsciously be attracted to the other individual with the set of genes that they want to propagate to their future generations. The programming that we humans identify as Love. So it is reasonably logical to conclude that Home Sapiens were able to prove themselves superior to the others that existed before.

Earth revolved through millennia into the current history. The history with Dark Ages, Industrial Revolution, Colonialism, Racism and White Supremacy.

Somewhere around Europe, a group of people revolted through the Dark Ages into Renaissance and later the Industrial Revolution. Through Industrial Revolution, Man found that he could reach for the skies and rule over it if he set the mind to it. Greed mixed with a sense of righteous duty flowed through his veins. It was his duty now to spread the message of this new found power all around the world and lead them to a new era. And thus as a direct by-product of Industrial Revolution Colonialism came into being.

Through Colonialism Man realized that there was a whole set of manpower that he could bent to his will, willingly or otherwise. He found new races, cultures and slowly started influencing them to his own benefit. The “Man” that started all this was “White” and he labeled all others he found under various color names that came to his mind – Black, Brown, Red and Yellow – bring them under a single umbrella – Colored People.

He was cunning enough to drive his thoughts deep into their culture. He showed his new found powers and fancy outfit, enticing other to believe that he was what they should hope to become. He became the package of the genes that needed to propagated. His magnificence was driven deep into their Psyche.

He started to win the race of evolution. It was his intelligence, shrewdness and unwavering supremacist thought that drove his gain.

Would you agree that the Racism that we see in different forms are just part of evolution. Like how we won over the Denisovans and Neanderthals. Survival of the fittest, but the definition of fit differs for each circumstance. Right now the definition of fit is manipulation of thought and cunningness.

But is that what we want to give our future generations? The message that the race is won by shrewd manipulation. Wouldn’t it be a better world, one guided through by compassion and understanding. Imagine a world where each individual is comfortable with how and where he is born. People are not judged based on how they appear to be, but rather how they contribute to the world.

*This article is not in support of racism, but against it. Please do read again if the intention is not clear.

*The use of “He” is a notation for Mankind, inclusive of all genders.

The Fall of Man

“I see through the lies of the Jedi. I do not fear the dark side as you do.

We live in a world of order with a pinch of chaos thrown to maintain the balance. Picture ourselves as one side of the Yin-Yang. And when you picture, didn’t you just pick the white side with the black dot. After all it has been drilled into our heads that order is good and chaos is evil. Who told you that white is the good color?

Your opinions and thoughts have all been primed since your birth to align with the accepted normalcy. There are no original thoughts, every single thread of thought is a child of two or more parent threads. But then the moment this thread of loose thought shows signs of moving towards the chaos island, it is stared down so hard that we bent our heads and prune our thoughts to stay within the accepted boundaries.

From our birth we are fed what is right and what is wrong. We are bombarded with these directions at every turn that we make. We are so tightly boxed in that there is just enough air to live by, and not enough to ask Why? Soon we grow so accustomed to the box that we stop struggling and accept the box to be our world. We struggle just so much as to make a breathing space.

Again the process repeats, there is a new life and suddenly we see them to be vulnerable without a box around them to protect them. So we forget the breathlessness we once felt and build a wall around the new life. Pushing the walls from the outside inspite of their struggless so that we can be sure that they are as protected as we are.

There is a sort of bell curve to our struggles to chaos, we begin helpless, purely dependent on the ones that came before us. Eventually we see the world around and realize that the ones we were depending on were pushing walls around us, slowly creeping them in. So we start to struggle and at a virile youthful age we get a peek in to the chaos outside and that’s the tip of bell. A few at that point break to form the droplet of chaos inside the Yang. The rest are either overwhelmed by the freedom outside or succumb to the push from outside.

But then a question pops up, if we are in the Yang with chaos as a droplet, wouldn’t there be a place with order as a droplet – the Yin. Would that be as balanced as the Orderly Yang. Would that mean that it is possible to embrace the chaos and still find balance just as we have eked out with Order.

“better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven” – Lucifer in Paradise Lost, John Milton

MythoTherapy

Tom Hiddleston said it

John Barth said it

Steve Maraboli said it

Everyone likes to think of themselves as the heroes/heroines to their story. We are hardwired to do that. The shoes that fit perfectly for us are the shoes of own. So we trudge on with them inside the safe cocoon of our own delusion. But then one day the curtains wave and you peer through it to find an infinitesimally large extent of reality with the fingers pointing at you.

How do you survive that? How do you breathe through the smothering torrent of truth being blown to your face? You begin to stumble as the shoes that you were wearing suddenly becomes uncomfortable. You stagger at the despicality of your actions. You realize that you are the villain of someone else’s story.

Patches appear in your own stories that you somehow had been oblivious to in the past. As you go around trying on the different shoes that lie around. You find your growing and shrinking at the same time. All the justifications and judgments that you meted out suddenly turn around to you.

~*~

I first came across the word introspection after I was taught the poem “Keeping Quiet” by Pablo Neruda. The word had a profound influence in my life along with the word monotonous. While my reaction to monotonous was immediate disgust, introspection was something I wanted to embrace and reuse in the days to come. I remember gloating at how I was accustomed to introspection and having a wider frame of reference. Sympathizing at others who were seemingly looking through horse blinds.

One fine day I saw a quirk at the side of my eye. A sort of blinding gleam. I stared at it and broke down. I had been looking down upon others with horse blinds that I refused to realize that I had been wearing one all along. Mirrors facing each other, an illusion of infinity.

~*~

And now do I paint the strikes to right my wrongs. Or do I rather take the easy route and let the mirage of shrubbery behind me remain untouched . Its so much more undemanding to just keep my head straight, look on to what lies ahead and maybe once in a while do nothing, a huge silence to interrupt the sadness.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go

Through the Looking Glass: Petta

Rajnikanth’s latest outing with the director Karthik Subbaraj was a cash-in on the nostalgia wagon with everything from Rajni’s costume to the character mannerisms reminiscent of Padayappa and a story line that matches Baasha. The fans were long waiting for the Rajnikanth that romanced and joked around all the while keeping the badass quotient high. So after Kabali and Kaala, they were more or less overjoyed by the return of yesteryear Rajni.

Karthik Subbaraj had already proven his mettle with critically acclaimed movies like Iraivi and Jigarthanda already under his belt. For Petta, it would seem as if Kathik called in all his specialized cast for king-sized outing. The movie boasted so many industry bigwigs like Rajnikanth (duh!), Simran, Trisha, Vijay Sethupathi, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bobby Simha, Sasikumar and the list goes on. But the handling of each cast and their characters seemed a bit lacking. Other than Rajnikanth’s and Nawazuddin’s and, if we stretch the measuring stick to its extremes, Vijay Sethupathi’s character none of the other mattered much. But even then An actor of the caliber and range of Vijay Sethupathi seemed so underused, a mere pawn. Even though Bobby Simha and Sasikumar had screen time, their roles were nothing mold-breaking. And don’t get me started on the ladies – all three of them, including the comparatively new Megha Akash, were so inconsequential to the plot that they were almost dummies with low-level sentience.

But from a director like Karthik Subbaraj you don’t settle with a one-man show sautéed with lots of hero-worship, you dig deeper to find the meat inside. The message he wanted to send across with subtle hints sprinkled around – the name, the situations, the characters and their characteristics.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays Singaar Singh, a Dravidian who escapes to North India to become the sickly mastermind behind a saffron-clad political movement with “neo-sanskari” views that they press upon others.

Vijay Sethupathi is his son Jithu from a Dravidian wife who the does all the dirty work spraying Singaar’s influence and fear from ground up. From harassment to murder Jithu does it all.

Then there is Arjith played by Shabeer Kallarackal who is Singaar’s stepson from an Aryan relation. While Jithu spends all his time wiping the dirt from underneath, Arjith enjoys a more stable cleaner image as the front-face of the party. Even after denying multiple requests for a seat from Jithu, Arjith conveniently gets a seat with little to no effort, probably due to his cleaner image.

This discrimination between the two sons seems a little too similar to the emotions felt by Dravidians in India who feel they are ignored for various positions in favor of their Aryan brothers. It also doesn’t help that the name Arjith seems like a shortened Aryan-Jith, as in an Aryan version of Jithu.

Rajnikanth and Sasikumar, in my view, plays the Tamil pride/revolution who even after broken down to pieces (the Gangs of Wasseypur style shootout) still remains strong (in contrast to the ailing Singaar). In the end Petta Velan makes use of this discrimination between sons to his advantage in order to get inside Singaar’s fortress to finish him off.

The movie ends with an ambiguous ending leaving audience to guess Jithu’s fate. Does the Tamil revolution spare the pawn?

Fun Fact: Singaar means “make-up” and also “toilet” according to https://www.shabdkosh.com

Disclaimer: Apophenia – search for it.

Credibility Whore

I recently looked up the meaning of a “credible source”. Rather I had to look it up, because slowly my understanding of the word deteriorated into something rather obscure. In general the definition is that a credible source is one that is unbiased and is backed up by evidence. But lately it seems the importance of the two basic criteria for credibility are out of the window.

I may sound like a conspiracy theorist in doubting whether there does exist a source that can be unanimously tagged as credible. With information pouring in left, right and all the other corners, each competing with the other for viewership, one can’t help but wonder where the facts are. One can’t help but be afraid that the facts have been whored off for an extra pair of eye or ears.

There was this movie that I watched long back called “Aankhon Dekhi”. The movie, for those who have not watched it, is about a guy who takes a decision based on facts that had been fed to him by people around and when finally he realizes that the fact was wrong, is profoundly impacted by it. He stops believing in facts that he himself has not seen/verified. Thus he starts a journey from being a considered a lunatic to having multiple followers that dot upon his every word. The same question comes up after watching “The Truman Show”. His entire life was a series of spoon-fed lies for the amusement of random people. This had such a huge impact on the viewers that a syndrome was named after it called the “Truman Syndrome” or the “Truman Delusion”. Now the question I would ask you is, have you ever questioned the so called facts drummed into you?

The principle of Aankhon Dekhi and being deluded by the Truman effect is obviously extreme. Even then consider doing an exercise once in a while. How much of the things that you think you know have been directly verified by you? Doing this makes you question a lot of things, things that would have been better not questioned or some things that you could not, in your comfortable life, chase the answers for.

This could probably turn you into a distrusting loner or someone open to conflicting opinions, depending upon the path you choose. But one thing you could be sure is that you no longer are deceived, and probably you now know a little more than you used to.