Thursday, June 19, 2008

Separated at face

Charlize Theron at the Meteor Ireland Music Aw...Image via Wikipedia
There has to be a term for being told that you resemble a certain famous person. If I were constantly told that I look like, say, Charlize Theron, I would have come up with the term by now.
As it stands, the famous mugs to which mine has been compared elicit in me, mostly, an eye-roll. Some of these are- Asha Parekh, that lead singer from the Pussycat Dolls, Jennifer Lopez, and the latest and most bizarre- Indira Gandhi.
Maybe it's a good time to call that plastic surgeon.
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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The un-psychic

There was once a test I took somewhere on the Internet that claimed to tell you if your psychic abilities were above average. One of the questions was, "are you drawn to the color violet?"
My answer was an emphatic Yes, most shades of purple being high on my favorites list. However, psychic abilities? Not so much, perhaps.
Oh wait, but I always know when I'm about to sneeze. Does that count?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Terima kasih kerana memilih

It is bizarre- I have this sensation of having been here for days. "Here" being Kuala Lumpur airport. Time has lost its meaning in a strange way. My watch is still on Los Angeles time, so I add three hours to that to get KL time. If I want Bangalore time, I add half hour. Quite a wonderful system- now if only I could still work it when it is time to get on that flight. Simply changing it to show local time would help, of course. But for some reason this annoys me and I will insist on my own little metric until I set foot in Bangalore again.
Speaking of which, I am dying with curiosity to see what our brand-spanking-new airport looks like! I am tempted to unkindly say that after KL, it might be a hard act to follow, but that is just the cranky time traveler talking. So I will just see for myself whether dear old BIAL, which I will fly into near midnight tonight, Friday the 13th no less, will live up to my hopes.
In other news, I now know the Bahasa Malaysia words for "toilet" and "exit." And as this post heading shows, a phrase on the seatbacks, which I have forgotten the meaning of. (Oh, what an awful sentence- up with this sentence I will not put!)
There are many shiny little stores selling Versace and Dior. (Outside one swank store I saw a six-foot tall stunning girl and a mannequin-like guy talking animatedly and swinging luscious leather bags- it turned out they were shooting some sort of commercial. Immediately, a gang of desi boys stopped to gawk.)
I am beginning to feel like that Navorski guy Tom Hanks played in The Terminal. What to do only? Maybe I will walk around and make sure that in the midst of all my time-zone trickery, I have not missed my flight.


Taoyuan International Airport, Taipei- A trio of monks sits waiting for their flight. They are youngish, dressed in heavy brown robes, wooden beads on their wrists, and simple sandals. One of them appears to be meditating. They each carry a small cloth sack with what I presume are most of their belongings. I think of my own heavy bags and wish for such simplicity, such real detachment from posessions that one could carry them all in one cloth sack over a shoulder.
So a few minutes pass, and the boarding announcements begin. The announcer, in his oddly placating tone, cajoles 'first crass passengers to Kuara Rumpur' to proceed to the aircraft.
And the trio of monks gets up and serenely files to the aircraft.

Friday, June 06, 2008

At Play in the Fields of the Lord

This is a magnificent novel by Peter Matthiessen that I have just finished. Set in the jungles of South America, the story is about adversaries- the Protestant missionaries, and the merceneries who have been hired to exterminate the indigenous jungle people.
The novel excels particularly in two aspects- character study, and the intimate details of the vast, lush, mysterious jungle, (so much so that the jungle is a character in itself.) Take Hazel, the wife of the missionary Martin Quarrier. The portrayal of her slow descent into a mental breakdown is nothing short of brilliant. Then the enigmatic and unforgettable half-Cheyenne Indian, Lewis Moon, who embarks on a journey of life and death that is open to interpretation at the end. In fact, each and every character, including the Catholic priest Padre Xantes who pops up irritatingly at the Protestants, will remain etched in a reader's mind for a long, long time.
The descriptions of the jungle and its complex rhythms really have to be read to be believed. In fact, the novel as a whole is a work of such complexity and skill that I was blown away on many levels. Not to mention the mordant humor- without mercy shown to any of the parties- not the missionaries, the merceneries, or the Indians.
The story is dense and many-layered, so reading it requires full and intense concentration. On different levels, it has a different focus- each character's struggle with his or her motivations and desires, the overall subtle symbolism about evangelism/Western influence on ancient peoples, the questions of identity, relationships between men and women, the clash of different church ideologies, and many others.
At times I may have wavered, with the result that I became mildly confused, what with the many tribes of Indians, the names of rivers, and the motivations behind each plot twist. However, that was my fault- I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a challenging and intelligent read.
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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Just Thinking

Got up on a cool morning.
Leaned out a window.No cloud, no wind. Air that flowers held
for awhile. Some dove somewhere.

Been on probation most of my life. And
the rest of my life been condemned. So these moments
count for a lot—peace, you know.

Let the bucket of memory down into the well,
bring it up. Cool, cool minutes. No one
stirring, no plans. Just being there.

This is what the whole thing is about.

—William Stafford
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