Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Word of mouth

It is no surprise that word of mouth plays a major factor in the success of a product. Be it movies, restaurants, shopping malls, brand names, music, theme parks or be it anything, word of mouth surfaces and resurfaces time and again, putting the final zing thing in a person's mind. OK, let me go for it or No, the reviews are bad, let us forget the whole thing! Our minds are embedded with set ideas, obtained from different sources that we are absolutely tuned to what we should expect. Over-expectations can sometimes be a real dampener. You expect a lot of things from something, and, even if it is above average, you get the feeling of being let down.

The reverse mechanism, don't hear from anybody's mouth, can sometimes work out to a terrific advantage. You know nothing about something, and when, finally, you get the taste of that something, it leaves you with an exhilarating feeling. Now, I should go around telling something about this. So, the bottom line is, over expectations can be stifling, while no expectations is bliss. You must be wondering, what the hell am I trying to say; as usual, I am making a complete mess of the topic!

Here I go! Life has been pretty hectic in the last few weeks. 8-8 (AM-PM) of outdoor activities from morning to evening leaves me with a drained up feeling. Not that I need an excuse to feel that way, but the truth is, I have kept myself busy. At the end of a hard long day, if in the mood to cook, after having finished up that, when He feels touchy about the whole thing for having treated you like this, will spare you with about forty five minutes to one hour before you hit the bed. This is the time, when you have shut down the always in problem HP (I wish I can write this in size 25 font and a hundred people can look at it) laptop and feel that it is time you took up reading, lest you forget what you think you are passionate about. So, you suddenly remember that you have brought some books from the local library, and there is a collection of books to chose from, for that book that is going to make a difference for the next few days!!!

After having heard so much about Brick Lane, at last, I finally got the chance to lay my hands on Monica Ali's much acclaimed, much talked about novel. Over the last couple of years, I have developed this disgusting habit of reading something and leaving it halfway. It has easily happened with two or three books, and I was determined, come what may, whatever I read, I will finish it completely before going to the next one. So, here I was, flipping through the pages, finding out what happens to this Bangladeshi family, which is settled in London. I sailed through the pages, finding myself immensely involved with the characters, with the usual oohs and aahs floating around, as I made my way through some exceptional quotes. I was truly impressed with the way Monica Ali has dealt with the plot, bringing out the good and vice in each character beautifully. This immigrant setup would lead me to an inevitable comparison with the other popular author, Jhumpa Lahiri, who I am a big fan of. Although it is wrong to compare two different authors, in this case, I was led to doing that. While Monica Ali has written a good book, I still feel that Lahiri brings out an eloquence, when it comes to handling these subtle nuances; those little things that make a big difference when you are reading a semi-fiction. But, at the end of the day, I would say that Brick Lane is certainly a good read.

Now, when I had to choose the second book, I had to select between two books, written by Indian authors. I had not heard of both the books, but I just went ahead with The Romantics, by Pankaj Mishra. He may be a great author, but with all due respect, I had not heard of him. I had not read a single review of the book, so, I had no idea how I would be journeying through the pages. But good books have this great quality of getting you into their fold within the first few pages. That's exactly what happened to me, as the inter-cultural theme set in Benares, India's home of ancient cultural heritage, discussed a complicated relationship between an Indian and a French girl in beautiful English. Some of the quotes are just brilliant, and I lapped up the novel in quick time. I was pleased with this, because, I somehow take ages to complete a book these days. Definitely a good read, and I would love to see a book lover read this book. It is a pleasant experience.

Now, I have ventured on to another unheard of (it may be a popular) book, The hungry tide, by Amitav Ghosh. I have completed about seventy pages, and the language has filled me with bliss. It is heartening to note that we have some amazing Indian authors, many of whom, we have not even heard of, but contributing so much to the world of literature. It is a pleasure to absorb what these people have to say, rather, what they put down in simple, plain English that can leave you with unimaginable after effects.

So, I definitely would recommend these books to you, but I hope the burden of expectations would not create a negative mindset when you read the books. Again, the way you treat a book depends on so many factors, but more often that not, I notice that there is a section, who tend to tread on similar characteristics. So, as I go on to find out about what happens to Piya, Kanai, Fokir and a bunch of other enteraining characters in the Sunderbans, I hope you read my recommended set of books with the least expectations. That way, you are assured of a good read!!! I hope to catch up with the blog world more regularly, and that entirely depends on my irregularly functioning laptop.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Maami, the match maker!!!

In what can be termed as the most orthodox form of arranging a marriage, the match making process is tied to fate rather than love.  Though the conservative image of India is changing, arranged marriages still form the most popular way of tying the knot.  Speculation and analysis fills the household as soon as people realize that there is a boy or girl of marriageable age.  The mega event begins not just a day or two before the marriage, but months, sometimes years in advance, so that the best proposal is sealed.  In this duration, magically, every elder in the house will remember you, and each time, you are encountered with, Ennada (What's up?), as if their sole aim in life is to extract a blush from you.  You are hardly the type to care about such things.

Anyway, Karthik Chandramouli (remember the protagonist of the Boston video mimicking Rajini) and I came up with a gist of the conversation that would take place between two tamil maamis.  I have to do the write up in typical Tamil, because the whole fun would be lost if the discussion is typed in English.  Of course, I have included the translation in brackets, but knowing Tamil would make the whole conversation enjoyable. 

The whole process starts with your mother prodding you with a neat

Dei, unakku theriyuma, naa inniki xyz maamiya vazhila parthen
(Dei, you know, I met xyz maami enroute)

Knowing your mother, you would not even venture to ask what the conversation was about.  But, mothers have developed the kind of resilience and relentlessness over the years, that without waiting for your reply, would then proceed to say what her good friend said,

Maami, unga payanukku varan thedrela?  Enga thambi ponnu, avalukkum varan thedindu irukka.  Ponnu romba azhagu, gold medal ellam vaangirukka.  Sagalagalavalli!!  Enna solrel?
(Maami, are you hunting for a bride? We are looking for a suitable groom for my brother's daugher.  She is very beautiful; she has also procured a gold medal.  Multi-talented!! What do you say?

You would obviously not let go of the chance to take a dig at your mother,
Ennama, ava Olympic Championaa? Jaakardhaima Thorathappora!!!
(Is she an Olympic Champion? Be careful maa, she will chase you!!)

At this point, your mother, very carefully will take a step further
Maami kooda ketta, payyan US la dhaana irukkan? Enna pandran anga?
(Maami asked, the boy is in US right? What is he doing there?)

Obviously, the boy will be working.  As such, it is difficult to stay in US with all the complications of work visa itself.  Who will come to US and stay here without a job?

Immediately, your mother will rebuke you, as if that maami is a lifesaver.
Dei, tharkam pannadheda.  Maami namba wellwisher, nalla varan thedra, nee enna kudarkama pesare!
(Dei, don't argue.  Maami is a great wellwisher, she is hunting for a bride, and why are you talking like this?)

In other words, it means, do what you want, I will do what I want.  Just shut up and listen!!!

Finally, the mami, as if she is truly a lifesaver, will come out with a classic!!
Maami, enakku unga payyanoda jadhagam kudungo.  Naa ponnathukaarala jaadhagam kudukka solren.  Apparam, neengalaachu, avaalachu!!!
(Maami, give me your son's horoscope.  I will ask the girl's house to give her horoscope.  Then, it is left to both your families, here on).

This maami is certainly a clever lady.  She wants to create the alliance, and ultimately, does not want to take any blame on the outcome.  But again, it is also very important for the maami not to let herself disassociate from the whole exercise.  She would be very much involved in the merry making, but at the same time, play safe lest people blame her later.  This comment would certify that move

Maami, namba kayilla enna.  Ellam andha bhagawan parthuppan! Enna, ungaathu payyana enakku nanna theriyum.  Adhe Maadri, enakku en thambi ponna nanna theriyum.  Chinna vayasulendhu parthu valarthadhu.  Iva rendu berum onna sendhu, nanna vaazhundha, adhuve namba manasukku nimmadhi tharum.  Kadasila namba enna eduthundu poporom, naalu perukku nalladhu senja namba atmavukku nimmadhi kidaikkum!!!
(Maami, what is there in our hands? Everything is left to the almighty.  I know your son well.  In the same way, I know my brother's daughter well.  I have seen her grow up from birth.  If these two get together and live happily, that would give so much peace of mind.  What are we going to take in the end? Atleast, if we do some good to others, that will help our soul rest in peace.  )

Just see the beauty of this sentence.  This maami is talking non-stop.  I am sure that the boy's mother would have no chance in uttering anything in the middle.  Every sentence is beset with tremendous amount of sentiments.  In the end, she has even uttered a couple of words that reflect worldly philosophy.  What a lady!!

Aaana onnu mattum solren maami.  Payyan, indha maadri ponna kattikarthukku kuduthu vechchurkanum.  Ponnu besha karyam seiva.  Nalla padippu irukku.  Top software companyla velai paakaral.  Chinna vayasulendhe veetu kaaryamellam, ava amma nanna kaththu kuduthurka!! Periyava kitta adangi amaidhiya nadandhuppa.  Adhan solrene, romba kandippa valathurka ponna.  Paarthu paarthu, aasaiyavum kandippavum valathurka!!! Bhagawana vendikkongo maami, nallabadiya mudiyanumnu.
(But, I will tell you one thing.  The boy must be lucky to get such a girl.  She does her work beautifully.  She has good education; works for a great software company.  She has been brought up with her mother teaching her all household chores.  She treats elders with respect.  That's what I am telling you, she is brought up very well.  Pray to God that the alliance must click.)

This maami is surely a genius.  Starting the conversation with a simple question asking if the boy is ready to get married, she has driven the message beautifully that he will be fortunate to get the girl. 

Then the great saga of horoscope matching enters the fray.  That is no joke.  It is always such that, if one side says that the horoscope matches perfectly, the other side would say the opposite.  In such cases, the maami would again come to the rescue

Maami, jaadhagam paakara kavalaiyum vidungo.  Enakku therunja oru nalla vaadhyaar irukkar.  Pramadhama paapaar.  jadhagam portuththal avarkitta pappom.  Edhakku neenga oru edathula kuduthhu, avva oru edathula kudutthu, edhakku indha confusion?
(Maami, don't worry about horoscope matching.  I know an excellent astrologer.  He sees brilliantly.  Let us take the boy and girl's horoscope to him.  Let us finish the process in one place and avoid all confusion!!)

As a result, the fate of the girl and the boy are perpetually hanging in everybody else's hands except their own.  So, the whole concept of arranged marriage undergoes a strict process with the all knowing maami ensuring that the all unknowing boy and the girl end up in a fine predicament.  If the phone call gets disconnected in the middle of the conversation with your mother, it is not because the line is bad!!!