May 042016
 

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(image source : here)

Facebook tells me, it is Star Wars day.

This is how mythology begins. Wait a thousand years, and see it being transformed into a religion, replete with a ‘God’, good and evil, heroes and villains, and most importantly, an organised clergy that helps perpetuate it.

 

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And, it has already begun.

There is a Temple of the Jedi Order that is the main stay of the ‘religious’ movement. it defines itself as follows,

Jediism is a religion based on the observance of the Force, a ubiquitous and metaphysical power that a Jedi (a follower of Jediism) believes to be the underlying, fundamental nature of the universe. Jediism finds its roots in philosophies similar to those presented in an epic space opera called “Star Wars”. It is a religion in and of itself.

The Jedi religion is an inspiration and a way of life for many people throughout the world who take on the mantle of Jedi. Jedi apply the principles, ideals, philosophies and teachings of Jediism in a practical manner within their lives. Real Jedi do not worship George Lucas or Star Wars or anything of the sort. Jediism is not based in fiction, but we accept myth as a sometimes more practical mean of conveying philosophies applicable to real life.

There are, of course,  the 21 maxims of Jediism.

All in all, it has aims that are quite noble, and it doesn’t ask too much of its followers. Which possibly explains why people are choosing it in many countries. New Zealand, Great Britain, Australia, Canada to start with. In Turkey, students are demanding that the Jedi Temple be allowed on University Campus’, along with Mosques.

Any religion that has Han Solo as a defender, and possibly a future icon to whom believers offer prayers, cannot be too bad. I am not quite sure how future followers will deal with Jar Jar Binks, or with the Ewoks; but, i can see Chewie having a pride of place, as would R2D2 and 3PO.

In centuries to come the Great War between the Sith and the Jedi will go into mythology as a religious war.  The Battle for Endor will have ballads written for it, and Darth Vadar would possible be part of the holy pantheon (as opposed to the unholy one). There will be a cult of the Emperor, and other Sith Lords; and I can see  orders devoted to both, and religious wars will continue. It is human nature to fight. People will fight about this too. But, for now the religion remains mostly harmless, and kind of goofy.

My favorite story on this comes from Wikipedia,

In 2008, 23-year-old Daniel Jones founded the Church of Jediism with his brother Barney, believing that the 2001 UK census recognised Jediism as a religion, and that there were “more Jedi than Scientologists in Britain”.[10] In 2009, Jones was removed from a Tesco supermarket in Bangor, North Wales, for refusing to remove his hood on a religious basis. The owner justified Jones’s ejection by saying, “He hasn’t been banned. Jedis are very welcome to shop in our stores although we would ask them to remove their hoods.Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker all appeared hoodless without ever going over to the Dark Side and we are only aware of the Emperor as one who never removed his hood.

All in all, it sounds like good fun, and a joke gone wrong (or right, depending on your point of view).

May 032016
 

I have begun thinking about loss and grief, and coping with grief, a lot in the last one year. Also, about acceptance, and coming to terms with grief. It isn’t that one doesn’t misses the person who is gone (in my case, my father) , one does intensely. But, the death was natural, the natural destination of a life well lived. He went surrounded by loved ones, with memories of a, more or less, happiness and laughter filled life, and today it is possible to remember him with a smile. In a way, acceptance is also because you expect your parents to precede you in death. It is the natural way of things.

I have often wondered, at the kind of grief that one has to cope with, if it is a parent mourning the loss of their child. It is not really the natural order of things.  Many years ago, i had written about putrashoka, the grief one feels at the loss of a child. There are many kinds of losses, and many kinds of grief.

Two days ago, a person I knew and worked with, not even 30 years old died. At that age, it can only be an unexpected death. My heart goes out to her parents. What does one even say at a time like this.

Apr 182016
 

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I can’t remember if I saw, the original Jungle Book on television, or in the cinema hall. But, i remember watching it the first time, with complete delight. I loved the characters – Bagheera, the panther who is Mowgli‘s guardian angel in the jungle, Baloo – the sloth bear who had nary a care in the world; the vultures like the Beatles, and of course, the George Sanders voiced Sher Khan – who was as menacing as a Disney film would let him be. Since the first viewing, i have seen the film many, many times – along with the other Disney favorite, Dumbo – and cried buckets of tears each single time, when Mowgli approaches the prone form of Baloo.

The 2016 adaptation of Jungle Book is not a fun and frolic run through the jungles, like the earlier avtaar. It is a film for a grittier, more violent world – where nothing is what it seems.

The story remains the same. Mowgli (Neel Sethi) , human cub, brought up by a pack of wolves, has to be returned to the ‘man village’ before Sher Khan (the man-eating tiger)  kills him. Bagheera volunteers to do the needful.  Along, the way there are many adventures and old favorites return in a new avtaar.

Scarlet Johansen as the python Kaa is quite fantastic

Christopher Walken plays King Louie, with the kind of manic psychoticness that only he can bring to a role. The sheer insanity of the character reminded me of Marlon Brando’s outing in Apocalypse Now‘my ears have ears’ he tells a stunned Mowgli, as he asks the man cub to share the secret o the red flower (fire) with the monkeys.

But, as with the original film – it is Bagheera (ably voiced by Ben Kingsley), Baloo (Bill Murray, thankfully toned down) as the stern dad and mad uncle figures, who provide the contrasts in ‘good’, the boy’s role models. Hopefully Mowgli will grow up with Bagheera’s moral compass and Baloo’s sense of fun.  The interplay between them, is a flavour carried forward from the older film (and the book)

Sher Khan (Idris Elba, as the menacing predator/stalker), is chillingly focused. His pathological hatred towards humans in general, and Mowgli in particular, have driven him over the edge. It is from this precipice of insanity that you see the character unraveling. In his mind, he is fighting the righteous war. Killing humans before humans kill him (and all of them). And, his rage at being thwarted is chillingly brutal.

Neel Sethi as Mowlgi is entirely believable. There were parts you think – God how did his parents allow him to run around with wild animals, till the rational part of the brain tell you – CGI. Given that a child of his age was in a green screen environment, his performance is quite superlative.

The real star of the show is the breath taking CGI. The jungle looks real. The water buffaloes, the hedgehogs, the python skin, the python, look real. The tiger is all together real. The bit where Kaa is trying to hypnotise Mowgli, and you have a shot from Mowgli’s eye level, the python in full glory – you find yourself retreating into your seat.

As entertaining as it was, it was also educational. I got more on understanding wildlife from this film, than through a series of animal world features.  You appreciate how strong a tiger’s legs are, in the sequence where you see Sher Khan’s legs in fully muscular, sinewy glory,  you understand, how they can kill.   the minute observation about animal movements, have been well researched and recreated by the CGI team. This is possibly as close to a real world experience of a jungle and animal life that most kids are going to get (most adults too).

It is not just that, it is also the simple appreciation of the natural habitat and weather patterns.
There is a scene, almost at the beginning, where they show the impact of lack of rain, on the forest. The simulated ‘time lapse’  CGI in describing this is awe inspiring. I think that any school going child, watching that scene, would have learnt more from the 1 minute or so sequence, on drought and it’s impact on forests, than the way it is taught in schools today. The sequence where the monsoons begin, in full glory, and it’s impact on the forest – it is seeing it in a 30 second scene, that makes the power of nature seem all the more real.  The sequence of the water buffaloes stampeding through the countryside, in their quest for water, while Mowgli makes his escape from Sher khan (possibly the best sequence in the film). It would be so cool to teach kids about migratory patterns of animals looking for water,  through a sequence like this. I seriously think it is a must watch for children, it works on multiple levels.

Is it violent? About, As violent as a discovery channel film on how tigers hunt for prey.

I am going to end this one, with an absolutely fabulous rendition of “Wanna be just like you”, by a rasping Christopher Walken

Apr 152016
 

I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve.

it is deeply personal, and a source of spiritual solace.

I usually don’t take offence at stuff spoken or said on Hindu Gods, simply because they are Gods, they can take care of themselves and me (and the universe, while they are at it).

But, i saw this emailer with a sense of deep disquiet. It has been bugging me for quite sometime, this entire “Buy more” messaging around festivals. I would hate for it to happen to Hindu  religous days, what has happened to Christmas. IMHO, days like this, are not about a deep display of consumerism. It is not about spending. It is not about this entire call of ‘more, more, more’ …it is not transactional.

This entire thing of targeting customers on every aspect of their lives, every religious ceremony, and having communication for the brand around it. It is not needed. IMHO

They of course, in a free country, have full right to do what they want. This is within the law. It is just that i am not sure i am going to feel fondly towards the brand, or think highly about their sense of judgement.

ramnavmi

Apr 082016
 

Three months after the Pathankot terror attack forced postponement of Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan, Islamabad’s envoy Abdul Basit Thursday said the comprehensive bilateral dialogue process has been “suspended”. He also said “cooperation” is key to the investigation, and not “reciprocity” — putting in limbo the National Investigation Agency team’s visit to Pakistan. –

Today’s Indian Express.

The last Indian Prime Minister who understood Pakistan, and knew how to deal with their duplicitous Government, was Indira Gandhi. She was also the first Prime Minister who understood those. I am possibly going to get massively trolled for this statement, but her grasp of Pakistan, and its Government, came less from political acumen, and more from gender.

Women, know instinctively, about safety, and have an early warning alarm bell system, that possibly is an outcome of 50,000 years of evolutionary biology. The warning alarm bell screams – don’t trust, don’t let your guard down, get ready for (a) fight or flight. Most of us (women) face issues, when we chose to override our most primitive instincts, feel guilty about distrusting ‘such nice people’. As a professional, at a younger age, i used to over compensate for my warning bells, by being really nice to people, whom my instinct told me to avoid. I learnt my lessons the hard way. I have discussed this with multiple women, across socio economic groupings, and they have said that they have these almost physical responses to ‘danger’. It is a very personal response. And, it works the other way too – it tells you who you can trust.

Men look at war and peace very differently from women. The fight is a different fight. They fight for a greater ‘glory’. women fight so that they never have to fight again.

The problem with Indian foreign policy vis-a-vis Pakistan is not enough women call the shots.

This belief that Pakistan will do the right thing, and expending so much energy that we look like idiots every time, has to stop. How many times will India be stabbed in the back, before decision makers decide that we don’t have to be friends. We don’t even have to be friendly. There is nothing that they have that we need, except a whole bunch of criminals. And, they can keep those.

I used to believe that part of the Indian political system’s problem with Pakistan, was that there were too many people whose ancestors were from, what is today, Pakistan. I believed that having people outside the partitioned regions would make things better. Alas, that is not to be. There is still this romantic notion that our PM has, like PM’s before him, that shared history and culture, shared stories and food, will improve relations. It won’t.

I feel for the Pakistani people. They are stuck with a system that is hocked to the militants and the secret service. And, their only raison d’être seems to be lies, deceit, and making India bleed. And, they do it not just because some people like to see the world burn, but because it makes economic sense. The day there is peace (in the true sense of the word) between the two countries, the massive military  aid that flows into Pakistan from the USA, will dry up. That is a lot of money to lose.

Mr.Modi, has done more than what he should to bring about ‘normalcy’ with Pakistan. It is time he stopped, and focused attention elsewhere. It is less about him trying to trust, and more about them, who are not worthy of trust.

indo pak

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