28 October 2007

25 October 2007

mistake me not.

I am not an artist, neither a painter. But I like colors and love the brush.

24 October 2007

in my shadow

Mall-ification in the United States of America.

I don't remember the name of the movie - but Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan star in it. Tom Hanks is responsible for building a chain book store right in front of mom-n-pop book store run by Meg Ryan who was an expert at children's literature. The emergence of this huge store slowly forced the meg ryan store which had its run for 40 odd years to die. Of course, the corporate store had huge discounts that the meg-ryan store could not offer and hence had to shut its doors. And that is exactly what has happened in America. The country has been mallified. That is where teenagers spend their evenings. Bored? The adults are at the mall too with the kids. Consumption being the center around life.

Going back to the movie -The huge store represented " quantity " of books and " quantity" of customer service but was never able to do a job which a small store can handle in terms of quality of customer service, opinions, subject matter expertise, which a small bookstore and an owner who is a voracious book reader can offer. This kind of jumbo development has been happening over two decades now and the country is one huge mall. - Huge grocery stores like Pathmark, Shoprite and Walmart has conquered the grocery and pharmaceuticals market. Now old Navy, Banana Republic , Gap, Macys, Kohls and lord and taylor decide what we wear. Every one has the same red sweater, the good old black trouser and a blue turtle neck. In a way, somebody sitting in a board room has implicitly come to dictate what we wear and what we can own. Just like how communist russia decided what russians should wear and eat.

Every town in America has all these - a big mall with the chain stores, a post office, an insurance office, town hospital, bank, grocery store, a movie theatre and and that's it - the town is defined. And to ensure that tourism bring in revenue - a zoo, a japanese garden, a park, a tavern, an acquarium and a few museums are thrown in. Few and far in between some shops here and there too. From the east to the west, from the north to the south - America is homogenous. At least the diversity is not evident (exceptions being Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York city). if variety is the spice of life, homogenity breeds a constipated mind.

The uppereast side of manhattan which reigned in mom-n-pop kind of shops has been at the crucifixation since the 2nd avenue subway development plans were announced. Crate and Barrel, Starbucks; other similar such giants are lapping it all up and repurposing the space for big chains. The very essence of a neighbourhood, the charm, the culture, the people and the ambience that was provided by these small shops are being robbed by the giants . The local eclectic vibe, which was unique to the area is plucked and tarnished, leaving not even a trace. Well, this has happened all over the country in the 80s and now it has come to the last of the small neighbourhood which had retained some synergy of charm , but that is not spared either.

Of course, I am not saying that the corporates are no good at all, but when it comes down to thumping of small stores and stealing the charm of a neighbourhood - I have no good adjectives to offer. But people know to survive and survive well. The farmers market which is held almost everyday and sometimes in multiple locations is an answer from the people's movement bringing in farm fresh produce from the local farmers at a good price. If I were to compare the quality and the price of farm fresh produce to neighbouring new jersey supermarkets, the farmers market has the best produce. With the coming of community supported Agriculture, life has been good for those willing to go out in the farms and bring their share. If the people have found an answer to tackle about fresh produce, certainly they will find a way out of mallification - Will we? or Won't we?

21 October 2007

getting started

In my attempt to pick up the brush, this is the first in a long time.

The battle of the Accents

On the Presidential campaign front Barack Obama, one of the candidates in running addressed that his audience are not the hispanic americans, asian americans, afro-americans but the United States of America. On a popular TV show,the Topmodel, where prospective top models contested for the season, and when an hispanic american and the russian american were the 2 leads, Tyra Banks, the hostess exclaimed that the contest now became ‘The Battle of the Accents." I realised that as the world globally connects, co-operates, contradicts and goes on wars among themselves, it is the English language which is the global force that allows people to talk to each other. Indeed, the English having anglicised the world – it has become a battle of the accents. However the french are not the easy one to cave in.

I was at the French Institute of Alliance franchaise, where beginner french students greeted each other “ Ca Va ( How are you )? And the other person responded, "Ca Va Bien." A passerby french woman was very upset with the conversation that she stopped in her tracks and addressed the two people. “We, the french do not respond like the English – “Ca Va Bien”. Instead we say “palmal.”(spellcheck?) which means okay.” When you learn to speak french, learn its culture too.” It does not come as a surprise that the french language did not spread even when they ruled over certain parts of England and its surrounding for fifty years. To still use french words as part of the English language is considered sophistication itself.

There are several of us who are reading this whose first language is not English, but have heard and spoken the language since we started learning to form words as toddlers .Whereever the English went, it roped in people as its slaves and expanded the kingdom and with it adopted many words into English. English, in becoming the most widely spoken language in the world has been influenced more as as a vocabulary than other languages and is always in a flux. For eg: the word guru, a word in Hindi ( language spoken in India) has been increasingly used in the English language that it is now part of the english dictionary. So is the word, restaurant, which originally has its roots in French.

Though English is used as the most colloquial form of language in the business world universally, the Anglo-Saxons way of using expressions, phrases and idioms is different from the Euro-Americans who has settled in the land of the Arawaks (now Americas) who came in search of gold speak English. Though each one battles over who has the right or the authority in deciding what the standard is, one of the greatest figures in literary land, George Bernard Shaw, an Irish, came up with his own spellings. From the east to the west of the globe and from the north to the south of the globe people have found their language – interspersing their own mothertongue with English. For instance the spanglish as in the US. In the world we tread, we have realised that the rulers of oil dictates other countries as well. So who is it this time – the “gas” calling Englishmen or the “petrol” calling Englishmen?

If one eavesdrops a stranger’s conversaton ( not that I recommend) on the streets of New York you will learn how a native spanish speaker sounds different from a chinese speaker to an arabic speaker or a guyanese when they speak English. This constant clashing of English voices on the the streets of New York is a remarkable feature of the language.The grammar and the syntax are the same , but the phonetics vary while English is spoken and broken.

01 October 2007

The five of us

It is a common remark to hear "we like to celebrate with family and friends". Friends ? The people who stand by us and support us when families don’t. The people who encourage us when our very own flesh and blood have lost faith in us.The people that warm a certain part of our soul .Are they mirrors of ourselves ?They bring us a smile, pat our shoulders, and bring sense into our lives when we don’t see it. They save us from blunders and call us crazy at times. They may not stay within driving distance and they may have been out of touch but it only takes a call or an email to be with them when distance seems to be a hurdle. They are never away.

K, B, R and S were four guys whom I met in my first year at college. I was standing with my other girl friends, when another friend D introduced us to each other. I immediately noticed K and R were very good looking and handsome men. B and S were the first athletic people that I came across. I was taken in by all of these, but mainly by their sense of humor. What else can you expect from someone who had just turned 17? Though we never took any classes together we would hang out. They grew on me. And may be I grew on them. We had fun in each others company.

Their parents were great hosts and we felt very welcome at their homes even when we went in for lunch unannounced. I don’t recall many specifics but each one would bring out the best in each other and sometimes the worst. We discussed, debated, disagreed and played very hard. One incident that is vivid in my memory is my 20th birthday. I had graduated from college and was distraught and still figuring out my next step in this world. We got together without any preplanning. It was as if it was a premonition that they knew I would be at the train station. I was on the way home after running an errand and they picked me up at the station - Just the five of us and the friend, D who introduced me to them. In the two hour of togetherness they gave me wings to fly and a renewed sense of courage, and a message that good wine comes in old bottles. As time passed each of us moved onto other pastures and met occasionally .

Very soon I left the country. A new marriage, a new country, school, work kept me on my toes. Meanwhile I tried to get in touch with K, B,R and S but their phone numbers had changed. Back then there were no face books, you tubes and Google was still in its nascent stage and no luck searching them on Yahoo lists either. I had lost in touch with them for five years by then. One day when I was reading a news article, I came across a name which was very similar to D’s husband. Thanks to the internet I found out the address of the company that he was working with. When I called he was attending a family function and seeing a strange number on his cell phone, picked up the call. He beamed on hearing my voice and couldn’t wait to pass on the number to his wife D who in turn gave me the phone number of all the four. Within hours I called each of them – K, B, S and R. They couldn’t believe their ears and the minute I said hello – they responded with excitement ringing in their voice .They verified it was me, "Is that you ?" and asking me other funny questions – their humor rising in each of them and making me laugh. My telephone bill was rising every minute and that month it went through the roof. We have kept in touch ever since.

They have beautiful wives and children. It is now nearing a decade that we have met. When I called K’s house – his beautiful wife picked up the phone. After our initial greetings and other friendly enquires I asked “Can I speak to K? She said, of course, you should not be asking to talk to K; you should be demanding that the phone be given to him. I was touched by his wife’s words. I now share a special bond with their wives. We have kept the flower of friendship alive even when we have spread ourselves.
Image: Valanne's photostream

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