Saturday, April 08, 2006

Of lungis, books and everything in between

While the millions that make the world's economy throb with the pulse of consumerism are busy eating their potato chips sitting on their couches and flipping through their 12,500 channels on their 175-inch HD plasma flatscreen TV with direct satellite link and tivo, I sink into my recliner and flip the pages of some yellowing book printed in the pulp age. While the modern viewer gets ads and product placements flung at her at the rate of one every three seconds, I take two to three hours to plod through a whodunit to finally figure out, oh the butler did it.

The printed word is fast going the way of the dodo. Rumor has it that Governor Schwarzenegger is pushing for a bill in the People's Republic to protect all remaining books as historic artifacts. Export of all books will be prohibited with the possible exception of the Holy Bible, copies of which are eagerly awaited by villagers in Somalia and Niger. The grapevine also has it that the Discovery Channel is about to declare the bookworm an endangered species.

Like it? How about this one?

Back to the train. So the train would merrily wend its way through the wastelands of the Bombay suburbia and halt for its next mouthful of passengers at Kalyan. Typically some Mallu family, let's call them the Geevargheses (the Geevarghese?), would board the compartment and occupy the other three berths in the sleeper-class booth of six we were in. Heaving the luggage on board and lugging an offspring each, our mythical friends Baby and Blessy Geevarghese would battle their way to their seats and stow their luggage and offspring appropriately. Baby would be fastidiously padlocking the luggage to the chains under the seat when the train would start with a jerk, and Blessy would promptly interrupt him with, "Babychaya, veettil cupboardu poottiyo?" Did you lock the cupboard at home?

Being a man of the world, Baby would summon all confidence, flash his brightest back-from-the-Gelf smile that had won Blessy's heart five years ago, and say, "Of course Blessykutty. Nothing to worry." After which my father would catch his eye, and they would both exchange an understanding glance and a silent nod as if to say, "You too, my friend?" In that instant they would have formed a bond between them that would be much stronger than any bond their wives could form by gossipping about common acquaintances till the Geevargheses alighted at Alwaye 40 hours later. Needless to say, a strict code of silence was always followed among men regarding these assurances of security of cupboards and balconies given to women. In Mallu it was called omerta.

Not rolling on the floor yet? Check this one out:

Not many have read that obscure chapter from one of our great Hindu epics that describes how the lungi was born. In the days of yore, men of India dressed in the purity of white and the soberness of subdued colors, much like men of the Western world do today. Bright colors were for the womenfolk. The lungi was fortutiously designed by the third of five brothers, who was roaming the land in search of adventure thousands of years ago (so the epic goes). One evening he rested for a while on a river bank, when what should catch his eye but three sarees folded neatly and placed on a rock. "Aha, abandoned clothes," he thought. Little did it occur to him that they might belong to three hapless damsels who were bathing in the river. The onset of twilight had probably obscured any visual clues to that fact. Had he known that, his upright moral values would have kept him from changing the course of fashion history. But as it happens, he tucked the three sarees under his armpit and trudged home. All three were brightly colored. Perhaps they were purple, orange and green; or one of them might have been bright yellow or red, and a couple of them may have had a floral pattern. You get the idea.

The three bathing damsels came out of the water and were shocked to discover the loss of their garments. Reluctant to trust their modesty to the cover of darkness on their way home, they prayed in unison to Lord Krishna. Promptly coming to the rescue, he blessed them with the gift of the garb. (Astute readers are no doubt noting that this was not the only instance in Hindu mythology when Lord Krishna has imparted this gift to women in distress.)

Yeah, okay, click here, here and here to read all.

It is with great pleasure that I announce to you diligent reader, that Anoop Iyer, fellow traveler and bestest friend is back on the blogging scene. Here's to another blog that cannot be missed. Cheers.

No comments: