Thursday, March 25, 2010

The importance of being Krishna and Radha

By John Cheeran
So it is said that Krishna and Radha, the most romantic couple in Indian mythology, had a live-in relationship. Most of us didn’t know.
Or we couldn’t look upon that that too was a live-in relationship, with or without the knowledge of Rukmini, the official wife. Thanks, me Lords.
The remark of Supreme Court judges must gladden the hearts of those who are walking outside the ramparts of marriage in India.
A friend quickly points out that how liberal India was till the advent of Semitic religions, especially Christianity and Islam. All our gods and goddesses had a wonderful time, choosing to live the way they wanted. Morality was what suited your desires. There was freedom to chase your dreams.
Sex was a celebration of love and life in India. But, then, it got equated with sin with the arrival of Adam and Eve. Sex became only a process to procreate.
Now that live-in relationships gain in currency, though in a timorous manner, it could have much more influence on the way men look upon women and vice versa, than the 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament.
The argument goes that marriage protects the rights of women. Well, marriage protects neither the man nor the woman. May be it ensures a better deal for children.
I don’t know.
A live-in relationship demands a firmer commitment from man and woman to ensure that such an arrangement works. And despite the best efforts, if it does not work, then you shouldn’t be chained by the emotional, visceral baggage. All of us deserve second chances to dream again and live again. For that, to wait for six months or a year, and courts to debate over your crimes is a path that we could abjure, if we could afford.
Long live, you and me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When Krishna and Radha had a live-in relationship…

Are you in a live-in relationship?
Do you know your puranas well?
The Supreme Court says even Lord Krishna and Radha lived together according to Hindu puranas, and living together is ‘a right to life for a man and woman.’
A Supreme Court bench consisting of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, Justices Deepak Verma and BS Chauhan observed that there was no law that prohibited live-in relationship or pre-marital sex.
The apex court made the observation while reserving its judgment on a special leave petition filed by noted south Indian actress Khusboo seeking to quash 22 criminal cases filed against her after she allegedly endorsed pre-marital sex in interviews to various magazines in 2005.
"When two adults want to live together what is the offence? Does it amount to an offence? Living together is not an offence," judges observed while reserving the verdict.
Khusboo has been hounded by criminal trials for expressing her thoughts on pre-marital sex and virginity.
The SC bench said the perceived immoral activities can’t be branded as an offence.
Counsel for the ‘aggrieved’ complainants contended that the comments made by the actress, endorsing pre-marital sex would adversely affect the minds of young people leading to decay in moral values and country's ethos.
Judges refused to buy this argument which is often made in a variety of cases alleging decay of culture, morality and ethos or injury to the religious or behaviour sensibilities of the complainants.
"Please tell us what the offence is and which section of law applies? Living together is a right to life," judges observed while expanding the scope of Article 21 that guarantees to life with dignity, liberty and respect.
Describing Khusboo’s words as her personal feelings, the bench asked the counsel "How does it concern you. We are not bothered. At the most, it is a personal view. How is it an offence? Under which provision of the law?"
The court again countered the counsel who supported a Madras High Court directive, asking the actress to face the prosecution on the charges of obscenity and indecency.
Judges wanted the complainants to produce evidence to show if any girls eloped from their homes after the said interview. "How many homes have been affected, can you tell us?" the bench had a pointed question for the counsel.
When the judges asked whether the complainants have daughters, the counsel replied in the negative.
"Then, how are you adversely affected?" the apex court had another salvo for the complainants and their lawyer.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

God’s Own IPL team is an eye-popping moment in Indian cricket

By John Cheeran
So finally, after Tinu Yohannan and S Sreesanth, Kerala gets its own IPL team, for an astounding amount of $333 million.
Of course this is great news for Indian cricket and sport in Kerala. The audacity of the Rendezvous Consortium to dream big and bid for an IPL team, believed to be under the tweeting leadership of minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor, need to be celebrated.
Well, the Kerala Cricket Association does not have its own cricket stadium, and the consortium itself has the presence of outsiders in it, but such things should not take away from Kerala’s Own IPL team.
Many would point out that Kerala does not have enough quality cricketers in the small state. But, then, again, many of the existing IPL teams too have a similar situation to tackle with. Look at Chennai Super Kings. It basically runs on the power of Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Matthew Hayden and many other skillful practitioners of the game quite outside of Chennai and Tamil Nadu. So is the case with Rajasthan Royals.
But, make no mistake, the formation of Kochi IPL team will unearth more gritty cricketers from the state. Now that the bidding is over, it’s time for a suitable name for the Kochi IPL team. Kerala Cobras, Kerala Tuskers, whatever it is eventually going to be, this is a great leap into the whirlpool of sport and high finance.
It is also important to notice that unlike the backers of of Deccan Chargers (Deccan Chronicle) and Mumbai Indians (Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries), Rendezvous Consortium has ventured into a field where traditional moneybags in Kerala have shied. It was, no doubt, the biggest business opportunity of the new decade in Kerala and the very fact that the Rendezvous is a coming together for the love of money and cricket in equal measure is a eye-popping moment in the history of Indian cricket.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A few stray thoughts on Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence

By John Cheeran
Everyone has a right to be happy. Pursuit of happiness, often, is a direct result of pursuit of love. Bitterness, despair and rancour may follow, but just because others have failed to keep the flame of love alive, we should not be scared to look love in the eye.
Orhan Pamuk takes a close look at love and its varied fragrances in his new novel The Museum of Innocence, set in Istanbul at a time when empress Indira Gandhi imposed emergency in India.
When Indians were sighing over love that never could find utterance in word and deed, in Turkey, with its proximity to Europe, it was a time of awakening for lovers. For Sibel, Fusun and Narcihan, making love to the man they loved before getting the seal of marriage was far from a moral dilemma.
More than love, I’m tempted to say, it is happiness that holds together the events spanning more than 30 years in The Museum of Innocence.
Or is it the other way round? Don’t you find true happiness when you are in love that is deep and pure?
Pamuk’s hero, Kemal Bey, starts his story by telling about his happiest moment in life. And, at the end of his obsessive passion, he reminds Pamuk, the writer, of his responsibility to tell the world that he has lived a happy life even though Sibel, the girl to whom Kemal was engaged when his life upended after catching sight of the most beautiful girl in Turkey, Fusun, finds him utterly crushed and spent after the tragic accident in his life.
Emperors have built monuments for their departed loves but I haven’t come across another instance of a lover setting up a museum for his lost love.
It, however, is a moot point that does Kemal’s The Museum of Innocence, deserve that name. There was hardly anything innocent about the love between Kemal and Fusun. Kemal, engaged to Sibel, a pretty and classy girl , and informed about the ways of the world in his 30s, knew pretty well what he was up to when he fell for his radiantly beautiful but poor relative, the 18-something Fusun. Fusun, though not been to Sorbonne, gives herself completely to the passion of Kemal for 41 days. She did not strike any bargain with Kemal while baring her body and soul to her lover. The only thing that she wanted to know from Kemal was that whether he has been sleeping with Sibel. It was a lie that Kemal lived to regret for the rest of his life, when Fusun found out the truth while dancing at the engagement party of Kemal and Sibel at Hilton.
Kemal realises how much Fusun means to him only when she walks away from his life. Kemal’s undoing was his plans of being happy by having a lover while staying married to Sibel. Fusun would have none of that.
Again, most of us cannot even understand when we experience true love or when we lose it. Kemal, to his everlasting credit, realises his mistake and woos an already married Fusun over the next nine years, like a faithful dog, visiting every street where Fusun walked, looking for her scent and anything that reminds him of her.
What takes away from the classic quality of this love story is the fact that Pamuk let Kemal and Fusun unite in body and soul as soon as they found each other; it’s a lie from Kemal that unhinged Fusun and forced her to turn bitter against her cousin and lover.
Despite all the deep machinations, despite the impossible and vexatious demands, remember, Fusun again gives herself to Kemal on a doomed trip of knowing, and settling all old debts. And, in turn, does it make the fatal car crash all the more unbearable for Kemal?
I won’t know.
For, I would have been fortunate to sit next to my Fusun for the rest of my life and listen to and talk to her till the end of time. As Kemal confesses while he is looking for crumbs of emotional comfort at the Keskins’ table during supper for nine years, happiness is being close to someone you love.
How close, one might as well ask, after gazing wistfully at a museum that only has floating memories and sound bites in it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lessons In Forgetting by Anita Nair: A Review

By John Cheeran
Who doesn’t think about beginning life anew?
Of course, such thoughts punctuate the middle age. Only a few hours ago I read a newswire story saying the middle age begins at 36 and the old stage starts at 58 (that’s in England).
Ah, well. I have recently finished reading Anita Nair’s novel Lessons in Forgetting. Characters in Anita’s novel talk about forgetting and coming to terms with second life. It’s a theme even I’m keen on. Apart from that how good is Lessons in Forgetting as a work of fiction?
Anita Nair, of course, writes well. It is important to admit that, for me, Lessons in Forgetting was the writer’s first book. But often writing well does not make a great work of literature. One may well ask, why should anyone read a particular book?
So let’s ask, why should have I read Lessons in Forgetting?
Does it offer any insights into life, relationships between men and women?
Anita Nair makes a valiant effort to present her work as a map to the minds of corporate trophy wives. It begins when a disillusioned corporate honcho walks out on his homemaker trophy wife. When Anita makes out that Meera (wife) did not know that Giri (husband) was planning to move out it does not cut any ice. Despite the pretty prose, Anita fails to come up with arresting reasons for Giri walking out on Meera, the flimsiest of excuses being lack of funds to climb to another level in life and Meera’s refusal to sell the old but sprawling bungalow somewhere in cozy Bangalore.
It also does not add to the charms of Lessons in Forgetting that Meera has been portrayed as the sacrificial lamb. It’s only after Giri has walked out, Meera knows other men, including the philanderer cine star and Jake, the storm predictor.
Unfortunately, I did not find any insights into man-woman relationships in Lessons in Forgetting. In fact, I felt that Anita Nair forgot how to conclude her lessons. How to finish what you have started used to be a great gift among story tellers. Some of the modern story tellers tend to make it more exciting by leaving it open ended, which, at least in this case, I find a weakness of spirit and craft.
A lot of thought, apparently, has gone into the writing of Lessons in Forgetting, such as weaving in the status of women in contemporary India by skimming the surface on female infanticide in Tamil Nadu. I’m told by a friend that during one of the launches, the book was handed over to a researcher on female infanticide.
Jake and his daughter in a vegetative state do not add to the strengths of this novel which held out so much promise in the beginning.
But I’m happy for one fact.
Meera does manage to stay on her feet in the absence of Giri. She finds a job, manages her responsibilities as a mother and a daughter and slowly accepts that life has more to offer, even though she does not know what exactly is in store for her. For that matter, who knows what has life in store for us?
And the very fact that Meera and readers do not hear anything more from Giri, apart from an email in the aftermath of his walkout, shows that it is possible to move on without dollops of guilt and bitterness on both sides.

Friday, March 12, 2010

IPL-3: Will KKR reverse the slide?

By John Cheeran
Who will win the IPL-3?
May be, we should narrow our focus and ask who will win tonight’s contest between Deccan Chargers and Kolkata Knight Riders, with which the event begins in Mumbai.
There is a lot different in 2010 when compared to last year’s 2020. The most important one is the nature of wickets with the game returning to India. Team compositions, however, remain by and large the same. You cannot ignore that there is less turmoil in KKR camp with little hints of experiments.
I believe Kolkata Knight Riders’ supporters have slain a kangaroo or two to propitiate the gods. If everything goes according to script, KKR should beat Deccan Chargers tonight. The underdogs, last year’s wooden spoonists, hurting the champions in the big game.
What a way to start? Eh?
But despite the so called tactical brilliance that Sourav Ganguly brings to the KKR side, Chargers would not be an easy side to beat under the leadership of Adam Gilchrist.
There, however, is no doubt that everyone would love, especially, sponsors and marketing kids, a KKR victory. That will make the event more open, more sexy and more Bollywoodish.
But right now I’m interested only in finding out whether KKR still have the Fake IPL player in their dressing room.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

At any moment, all these can end

By John Cheeran
This word sticks in my throat
Can’t utter this without upsetting
My kind, patient listener and the world
and neigbhourhood around
You are being selfish, I’m gently reminded.
At any moment, all these can end,
Don’t you know this?
This, this idle talk of an idyll
That one can create by bruising egos
Looking only into you and me
Redrawing the lines of this fading picture
Another world but in this space itself
Another life but without dying
Another song but with new lyrics
Arguments begin and end
Another night walks into the promise of a dawn
Voices crackle in distance; I hear a sigh, my own
Hope fills my heart as I hear your prayer
And the footfalls of a child chasing her stars
I rise, look towards you,
And catch your radiant smile
Caught in the gleam of the days to come

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The truth about Indian hockey

By John Cheeran
Now that Indian hockey has lived through its customary World Cup convulsions, it is easy to talk about this game dispassionately. The problem with hockey in India is that it has not too many takers. But, then, if you don’t fly into a rage, hockey is not a sport you fall in love with, wherever you are on this planet.
It is a fallacy and fantasy that hockey had huge support base in India once upon a time. Yes, India has won eight Olympic gold medals in the sport, but for most of us that’s an incredible piece of statistics, nothing else. India’s last Olympic gold came in 1980 in Moscow during an enfeebled competition when the US and its allies boycotted the event.
India’s Olympic gold medals did not create a nation-wide support base for the game when it was winning. And it is important to ask why the sport did not catch the imagination of the nation at large. A few north Indian boroughs do not make for a Pan-Indian appeal.
Many ascribe 1983 World Cup triumph for cricket’s astounding popularity in India. But much earlier, in 1975, India had won the hockey World Cup under the leadership of Ajitpal Singh. Did it lead to a surge in popularity for the game? It did not. In fact around the very same time, contours of hockey as a game were redefined.
Modern hockey is a different beast altogether which does not have much resemblance to what Dhyan Chand and his ilk used to play. It’s a fast paced sport and India has to realize that it is yet to master the basics of the new game.
Hockey, as a game, has inherent flaws. Its appeal is limited. That’s why Bolywood hottie Priyanka Chopra and cricket king Virender Sehwag urge you to give your heart to hockey in ads but themselves stay away from the hockey stadium even if it is a World Cup. It’s not a place to be seen.
Hockey is not football, it’s not even cricket.
Hockey is hockey and it is quite sad that not many are willing to watch this sport which definitely calls for a high degree of skills and loads of talent.
And I’m certain that even if India emerges as World Cup winner and Olympic champion in hockey in the coming years, there will not be any increase in the support base for the game. It will remain as a game played by a select few for the pleasure of a select few. It would be difficult for many, and especially hockey watchers, to accept such a viewpoint.
In the next years, sports such as NBA, football and tennis would demand more attention from the Indian public and the space for hockey would be shrinking fast, despite whatever the players would achieve on astroturfs.

Monday, March 08, 2010

What does a woman want?

By John Cheeran
I’m against reservations of all sorts and hence, not enthused by the idea, nay, the bill seeking 33 per cent of seats in Parliament for women.
Instead, reservations should go.
Especially, when it comes to what a woman can do or not do in her life and in society. Ordinary woman does not dream to turn the tables on her male counterpart in Parliament. She only wants to have her voice to be heard at her own home, by her gatekeepers and guardians, in most cases, her parents and husband.
Who can reserve that space and freedom for an Indian woman at places where she lives her life? At work place, at home, at public places?
No one, but woman alone can. Yes, of course, men can help them. No doubt about that.
More than a bill in Parliament Indian woman deserves a change in the attitude of society.
And it would be important to remember that often, it is other women who stand in the way of this change in attitude.
A change in attitude both on the part of men and women will lead to women living their lives to the fullest. Such a shift in attitude will only make men’s lives qualitatively better.
Man, fear not woman. Let her dream her own dreams.
Let’s live without handcuffs.
Quite often it is true that no one knows what exactly a woman wants. May be, not even UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi knows it. But, then, there are women and more women. Some of them are happy to take things as they are or eager for a 33 per cent of the Parliament slice.
But what do you offer a woman who wants 100 per cent from her life, not just 33 per cent of dole from her gatekeepers?
A copy of women’s reservation bill, or a page from scriptures?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A prayer with eyes closed

By John Cheeran

I close my eyes but open my mind
To new roads that lie before me
I feel like a bride again at a Swayamvara
Choose wisely, girl, choose wisely

Breaking free from this world is not easy
Oh, how I hate tears, drama and courtrooms
I don’t want to be the wanton one of my clan
Woman like me are told to live for that epitaph
“Here a lies the woman- husband’s pride and daughter’s refuge.”

I have been gazing at a new map
A map marked with old ink
Streets lined with my heart’s deepening desires
Is this dusty path worth its way to happiness?
Is this the road that leads to a new light?

Scarred and scared as I’m
How am I to trust this stranger?
How am I to trust myself?

Lord, Lord of Nandana, can you hear my heartbeats?
Do you know for whom my heart is beating?
Oh, Lord, are you the stranger?
Are you the voice that I hearken to
every day, night and waking moment?

Hear me, answer me and open my heart
Show me the right path and walk with me
So that I can start to dream again

Monday, March 01, 2010

When beggars turned into kings for 70 minutes

By John Cheeran
On Sunday, it was a 'if wishes were horses moment' for Indian hockey team. It so turned out that beggars were kings at least for 70 minutes of the match against fierce rivals Pakistan in New Delhi, a city that was shaken by the footfalls of refugees in the wake of the vivisection of India.
Let's be honest.
No one, including the team's Spanish coach Jose Brasa, would have believed that India would whip Pakistan they way they did.
India not only dominated the match but scored four goals stamping their authority in no uncertain manner. For the record, I did not expect India to outperform their rivals. In fact I was prepared to watch India sink in after a flurry of well-intended thrusts into the D.
After fighting for their self-respect within the federation and country, Rajpal Singh and his co-conspirators had a tough task. Otherwise they would have been pilloried for their ‘bloody-mindedness’ for asking for what was their due.
To begin a World Cup campaign against Pakistan, that too at home, presents pressures that few can understand. Unlike cricket, which offers a chance for some players to stay above the team's downfall, in games such as hockey and football which calls for team effort at all stages of the game, there are not many escape routes.
On Sunday, it was pretty evident that Brasa had helped the boys to improve their basic skills such as trapping and passing the ball. Even in the matter of penalty corner conversions, not the strength of Indian sides in the past, there is a marked improvement.
For many Indians, the 12th World Cup got over the moment referee blew the whistle on the India-Pakistan game on Sunday. What happens in the remaining days is now merely academic. Indians have won it. Considering the animosity between the two nations in recent times, especially in the wake of 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, blasts in Pune, beheading of Sikhs in Pakistan, hunting down of Indians in Kabul and the botched talks between the foreign secretaries, only the utterly naive could miss the political significance of this classic encounter.
For supporters of India, the battle is over. But not for the Indian team. They have a lot to achieve in the days ahead to redeem the status of the game in this country. For that, they will have to make heavy inroads into the far better orgainsed defences of European teams and emerge as strong contenders for the World Cup.
John Cheeran at Blogged