Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Though this is not a movie review site, I would like to relate to you a little visit I just paid to the theater.
My brother and I went to watch Knowing, the film with Nick Cage and some other peoples. This was the first sci-fi I had dared to watch in three years; earlier experience said that I didn't like such movies, but I went against my intuition and decided to check it out anyway (that, and that it was the only option both my brother and I could agree on).
Long story short, with an interesting beginning, a horrorful middle, and a plain stupid and then randomly Edenic ending, I consider the movie a failure. I thought the child actors were interesting, but that's about the only slightly redeeming feature. It was really funny, because the movie left me really irritable at the end, before my brother and I realized what it was about.
It's really a very elaborate advertisement for hearing aids, which were featured throughout the movie. The extremely loud volume of the movie is supposed to induce a desire in viewers to go and by the brand they saw on the scene. Imagine head-on multiplied by a million and you know what I mean.
So the point I'm trying to make is that whoever made up such gook about floaty black rocks and weird wispy angels at the end should be aware that the whole last part of the film, I was thinking about some Telegu lyrics ("Nee pondu nae kouri abisarakai naenu" which translates something about Angels and something else). I hope I never know who came up with the random randomness inherent in Knowing (unless, this was simply part of the elaborate ploy of the hearing aid company), because I have to say that the Indian movie which contained those lyrics (a film that is so silly, it's not even worth mentioning) owned Knowing.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I call him pog (meaning pig and dog). But you can call him anything. I rate him among the greatest and most human of humans. A bounding, furry, golden, tiny, little ball of puppy scurrying under the useless barrier which kept him from the object of his fury- the carpet. If I have any memory that I can see with complete clarity, it is this one. The clever little animal, Ruffy, is now an adult golden retriever, but I will always see him with the blind eyes of one who loves a puppy.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
This is an article that I wrote sometime in middleschool. All the information provided is accurate as of when I wrote the story. I found this again after believing I had lost in years ago. Her story still fascinates me to this day.
Bandit Queen of India
By Nilesh Kamal Murali
The U.S. Embassy quieted to a respectful silence as the white-shrouded figure walked with a lumbering step towards the consulate desk. The posse of gun wielding bodyguards moved to box her in. She had an elaphantine grace about her and her eyes flashed with a quick smile. I was only seven and could not judge her exact height, only regarding her as a statuesque persona who stood at the end of my peripheral vision that day in 2000. The only other thing I remember from that day was the deference that permeated the air. I always wondered who she was. I found out five years later. Her name was Phoolan Devi, the most famous Indian decoit ever!
The decoits, a term that the British had twisted from its original form, Dakku (thief)*, had been over-lords of the Deccan Plain of India for more than a millenium. They were a descendant of an even more ancient group of plain-roaming bandits, the Thuggees, a group of bandits who worshipped the Goddess of Death, Kali. The decoits worshipped Durga, another form of Kali in Indian mythology. During the seventy or so invasions the motherland had suffered, the decoits managed to thrive. Their mode of killing was simple, strangling, and they usually preyed on single travellers. They were a very well organised and close fraternity, bigger than the Mafia in modern times and responsible for possibly millions of deaths. Even the might of the Mughal empire which ruled India from the 1300s to the 1700s could not squelch their trade. The decoits raided villages in a defiance of even the world's greatest empire, The British Raj. India's version of gangsters, these decoits, were real killers. Daku Behram, one of India's most famous decoits had killed at least 900 people (He killed 200 personally) in his violent career in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
But it did not seem to be Phoolan's lot to attain such a violent title. Indeed, Phoolan was born into a time of relative calm. The only real tremors of trouble that surrounded her birth in her village in August 10, 1963 were the tremblings that stemmed from the growing caste conflict. By this time, India was a free and relatively modern nation and most of India's Caste System, an infamous Hindu fuedalism system which divided people into different classes, had been eliminated in big cities.* However, an integral part in the Hindu culture, it survived unabated in the largely illiterate farming society of the rest of India. This caused much strife between lower castes and the plantation owning Thakurs, or high caste Indians. For, most lower caste members in the really remote villages lived in squalid conditions with not even properly thatched hovels. Of course, there was nothing new about this as it had been going on for three millenium in the old rutted land of Bharat (India). However, recently a number of failed reforms had prompted young militant lower caste men to rise up against the Thakurs and take "justice" into their own hands. Thakurs' houses were burned and in return Thakurs used corrupt government officials, rampant in India at the time to get back at the lower castes. However this was largely localised and there are only a few verifiable incidents that these took place.
Phoolan was born a mullah*, a lower fishing caste girl who brought her parents no joy in their tiny village. Her name meant "Flower Goddess". She seemed a charismatic child, an ordinary village girl. Early in her life she suffered from injustice. At twelve she was married to a man three times her age for a one cow dowry (this was illegal but there were no policemen to police the villages). She was repeatedly raped and abused. Two years later, at 14, dishonored and disgraced, she was sent back to her home village. In all probability, she had fought back and escaped, showing early on that she was a fighter, not willing to take things without striking back. Her father promptly disowned her. At this point, her tale was not so different as multitudes of village girls. For a time, she lived her life surviving on the edge of society. This was probably her most formative time apart from her time as a gangster. She was thoroughly indoctrinated by the injustices the poor women like she suffered daily. She would probably have ended her life there and then except that god seemed to intervene on her part. She was captured by a group of multi-caste bandits in 1978. This may not seem like a very good thing by any ones point of view but we would never have heard of Phoolan Devi otherwise. She had no way of knowing, but at some point in the future, she would be hailed as the greatest of the decoits, leader of the very bands that captured her as they raided the villages of India.
At first the decoits (the gangsters), threatened Phoolan Devi with rape. Baboo, their notorious leader, looked down on her as a lower caste and therefore unfit to live. However, Vikram Mallah, a young lower caste man, killed Baboo and saved Phoolan from a terrible fate. They eventually fell in love and would be known as Phoolan- Vikram as long as they were together. Phoolans lightining introduction into the gang and her subsequent leadership suggests that Phoolan was very adaptable and clever individual. She learned to ride a horse and shoot with along rifle extremely quickly, important skills for the gangster in making. Within the next few months, she was already participating in the gang activity that made her world famous. The gang would usually abduct sons of rich higher caste land owners and would demand ransom*. Thanks to Phoolan's experience and empathy, women and children were duly spared. In the late 1970s, the gang committed a variety of crimes that made the famous in India.
A famous story surrounding Phoolan Devi's constant fight against injustice is told here to demonstrate the complexity and the simplicity of this woman whose extremely short career resulted in fame. One day, with her boyfriend Vikram, she takes revenge on her old husband*. She goes to his house in her old village and stabs him in the leg and drags him in the main street for the villagers to see. She supposedly leaves a not which reads simply, "Lechery is a Sin". Though this message is probably a fabrication since she was illiterate the general idea is is given in all the stories about her.
During this period, Phoolan seemed to take a great interest in social issues, as ironic as it may seem. As she went with her gang from village to village, she would throw insults at higher caste members shile she looted their houses. She gave part of her loot to the poor lower-caste members of the communities she visited. This would give her steady if covert support in the villages. She was seen as a modern Robin Hood which she was. And always, she would go to thank her patron goddess Durga after a successful raid. However, her happy days, if not dangerous days, with Vikram were nearing an end.
A friend of Vikram's, Shri Ram, was released from jail and demanded leadership of the gang. He would make advances towards Phoolan and it took all Vikram's energy to protect her. He would also abuse and beat lower caste members of the villages they raided and would insult them. Many lower caste members of the gang left after seeing this partiality. One day, Vikram suggested that the gang be split in half. The higher caste members under Shri Ram could go their sepparate ways. This inflamed Shri Ram who lead an ambush and nearly captured Phoolan and Vikram. However Vikram died from wounds and Phoolan was quickly taken captive there after by Shri Ram. She was held in the village of Behmai and was raped by some of the higher caste men of the village. Finally after nearly a month of abuse, a lower caste man helped her escape the village.
In 1981, she quickly re-formed a gang made of lower caste members. She continued to loot higher caste villages and became famous in the Indian headlines-"Phoolan Devi hangaama Machaaya aathank Bathaya"* (Literally, Phoolan Devi spreads chaos and disruption). By this time, she was a phantom who haunted little children as they slept. She joined with Daku Man Singh, a bandit who will late become famous for committing 1112 felonies including 120 murders. She expected her gang members to call her Phool, the masculine version her name. She one day stumbled on the village of Behmai and realized that this was the place where her once captor resided. She supposedly ordered all higher caste men in the village, 22 in all, executed for her rape. She later denied this in her auto-biography. The police ordered an enormous man-hunt for her but could find no trace of her. She had slipped away into the gullies of the Chambal valley.
In February 1983, Prime Minister Indira Ghandi (herself, India's most infamous prime minister), herself offered Phoolan Devi a half pardon if she turned herself in. By this time Phoolan was very sick and she had Ovarian Cysts which required surgery. She was tired of living on the run but she remained shrewd in turning herself in. Phoolan engineered her surrender so that she cannot be hanged and her gang members will get less than a decade in prison time per person. She surrendered her guns to the Goddess Durga at a temple. At her arrest some thousands of villages went out to worship her as a Robin Hood. She was taken into official custody and for the next eleven years was imprisoned (at the time of her arrest, she was just shy of 20).
After an exhausting decade in prison in which her trial detailing 48 known crimes was delayed, she was released on bail by a lower caste politician who hoped to boost his own standing in local elctions. By this time, a movie titled Bandit Queen was already released which immortalized her. However she contested the movie because "it showed her as a victim which she was not". That year, with the help of two international authors, she drafter her own autobiography which became a hit. She married a Delhi business contractor within that year (the man must have had extraordinary tastes) and seemed to turn her life around. In 1996, she became a politician for the lower castes who widely supported her. This was significant in two ways, first it brought out her goal all along- fighting injustice- and it protected her from a possible upcoming court trial which she could sidestep by joining the Parliament of India. She did a relatively poor job and was rather corrupt. She would use state run equipment for her own use but her heart was always in the right place it seemed.
In 1999, she won again in parliament and did a much better job*. She championed newly enacted stronger child labor laws. She brought many reforms to the poor of India. However, she was visciously kept from doing more by politicians who blamed her for her part in what became known as the Behmai Massacre some 18 years earlier. In 2001, she was shot dead in front of her house by a high caste fanatic. She had no police protection and she was an easy target because the police refused to protect the woman they spent half a decade chasing.
Phoolan is forever an enigma. She was gracious and kind, yet she was an illiterate bumpkin turned gangster. She fought for women’s rights in an uncondonable method, and yet later redeemed herself and achieved her goals. Many Indians hated her. They also feared her. And then there were those who loved her. Many city folks were disturbed by her actions and the police quivered at the mention of her name. She was however to some a simple village girl who fought back, made a difference in the world, and made history. Her actions may have been terrible but she will continue to awe generations to come.
2. *Times of India
3. *Statistics and Reports taken by the Indian Government confirmed this
4. *According to the “Life and Times of Phoolan Devi”
5. *This is not the exact transalation verbatim but it means exactly the same thing.
6. *According to “Guyana Undersiege”
Bibliography, Phoolan Devi
- “Devi, Phoolan”, Anonymous,Anonymous (Archived)
- “Phoolan Devi”, Anonymous, Anonymous www.guyanaundersiege.com/Women/bandit%20queen.htm-
- “Phoolan Devi, Bandit Queen of India”, Archived www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters_outlaws/cops_others/phoolan_devi/index.html-
- “Phoolan Devi, Bandit Queen”, Anonymous, Anonymous www.goodbyemag.com/jul01/devi.html-
- “Phoolan Devi is Killed”, Anonymous, Anonymous
- “Phoolan Devi”, Ranjit Banerjee
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The Road Not TakenBuzz
“Wasmi beta, wake up, it is 7:30.” My Ammi has an internal clock that is so precise that she hollers wake-up messages in exact five-minute intervals. I know I cannot laze around any longer under the comforter, otherwise I am sure to miss the school bus which comes sharp at 8:15 AM.
“Ammi, I will be down in five minutes.” I quickly brush my teeth and bathe as I mentally revise the Physics lessons for my first period quiz. It suddenly occurred to me that for the first time in my life I was actually enjoying studying for a test. Well, to be entirely truthful, my interest in doing well in physics has to do a lot with impressing my teacher, Lakshmi. She joined our school this year immediately after finishing her M.Sc. degree. She is the most beautiful person I have ever seen in my life (I can feel my cheeks flushing even as I think of her). Dusky complexion, sharp features, beautiful expressive eyes, thick curly hair, and when she wears a saree to school, only the fear of expulsion from the school keeps me from trying to touch her bare waist. Somewhere deep inside I do know that there is no hope for a chubby twelve-year-old student to win a twenty-four-year-old teacher's romantic attentions but if I really do well in tests, you know maybe…
“Wasmi beta, you are really late, come and eat your breakfast. God knows what he daydreams about all day long.”
I think Ammi would have a heart attack if she knew what I was thinking. I stand in front of the mirror and comb my hair. I look hopefully for any signs of facial hair, a faint trace of a mustache maybe -- nothing! With Abbu's strict edict on my hairstyle (dorky) and no facial hair, how am I ever going to get Lakshmi teacher to take me seriously? A deep sigh escapes me.
I run into the dining room where Ammi has just put a couple of steaming parathas on a plate for me along with the standard tall glass of milk -- yuck! “Ammi, what is this -- paratha again, can't I have toast and chai. I hate this milk.”
“Good morning, beta and by the way, I have told you a million times not to use the hate word,” Abbu's baritone voice rings out from behind his newspaper.
“In our times, Gandhiji used to say that all this bread wread is another way for the English to dominate the Indians. We should eat parathas,” Daddoo (my paternal grandfather) weighs in. Trust him to get Gandhiji to comment on the merits of bread versus parathas for breakfast. He is 73 years old and came briefly in contact with Gandhiji during the freedom struggle. Each passing year his exploits in the freedom struggle increase in their magnitude and scope as he recounts the same stories over and over again.
The link to the rest of this story is here: http://sudha-murali.sulekha.com/blog/post/2002/07/the-road-not-taken/comments.htm
I had never read the real version of this story before as it explains on the site. The story, written based on the Gujarat riots, is a very poignant reminder of the power of love and hatred. Please, only post, and I emphasize ONLY post a comment if you have read the whole story, otherwise posting would be rather pointless.
Thank you for your cooperation,
Monday, March 23, 2009
And if there are two generalizations that almost all ex-Challenger kids feel, it’s “Challenger has gotten so bad” and “Barbara Baker is… I can’t even find words to describe how I much hate her.” While it is true that the phrasing can be more negative or more polite—but still really—, the basic fact is that there is a huge amount of discontent with Barbara Baker, and by extension, Challenger.
Having attended the Almaden Challenger campus from second to eighth grade (seven years for those counting), I can say with honesty that I enjoyed my school experience, but that is just because of the campus and the teachers there. With a brother and mother attending and teaching at various Challenger campuses respectively, however, has allowed me to study the situation and Mrs. Baker more objectively, and I must conclude that it is no surprise that she and the administration are vilified by current students, parents, and expats alike.
Barbara Baker, a first-grade teacher back in the 60s, has successfully created an educational institution with around a score of campuses in the United States. Baker’s school has provided academic instruction for thousands of students, and Challenger students, after the eighth grade, often continue on to prestigious public and private high schools. All this being said, a repressive comportment code for students and their parents (few say they have received copies) and a very conservative value system have left many students and parents exasperated; Baker has consistently imposed her political views on students and employees. For many, the problem does not lie with the values the school espouses and inculcates into its students, but find issue with the fact that Baker has imposed her Republican views on everybody.
Take for example, the Obama campaign recently. The administration gave a pamphlet/survey to many campuses which considered that the political race in terms of an animal allegory. The pamphlet, which at every turn stressed the moral superiority of one of the creatures (the Republican) was obviously to influence the political stance of students— a plain words, a brainwashing scheme. Parents were not even notified that their children were being forced to fill out these surveys; the questions and therefore “correct” answers were so blatantly partisan that a student would have no opportunity to disagree. (Note: For personal reasons induced by Baker’s policies, I cannot even publish source documents or unveil sources).
Forcing her views on her faculty is even easier. She routinely tours her campuses, and teachers are forced to attend long sessions where she harangues on the Second Amendment and how Democrats have subverted the Constitution. Teachers were expectedly to respond enthusiastically to her statements, or else.
And nobody can do anything about except leave. Parents at one campus who were dissatisfied about the removal of certain staff sent in a petition to the campus office. The child of the parent who bravely submitted the form was summarily expelled, due a phantom “Parental Comportment Code”. Faculty likewise have been forced to leave when their ideological views are contrary to Baker’s. For all Baker’s brouhaha about the Bill of Rights being destroyed, she obviously does not believe in the freedom of expression.
Which of course sounds reasonable as it is her school, and by her philosophy she can do whatever she pleases (it’s true). But with a poor economy and the migration of many parents and teachers away from Challenger, Baker is shooting herself in the foot. In addition Baker’s listlessness in rejuvenating the educational infrastructure has contributed to many leaving in search of better opportunity. I personally once had utmost respect for her work and drive, but her intolerance has disillusioned many. It is very telling that rival school Stratford is staffed by many ex-Challenger teachers and attended by many ex-Challenger students.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
This will essentially be a very tiny post.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
This is for all the people I don't know but I think I've seen.
But was Kipling a racist? Many critics thought that he was a proponent of imperialism, and his poem, The White Man's Burden, created huge controversy. Kipling, who is a symbol of pride for many Indians and who also appreciated Indian culture, had often talked about his connection to his birthland. Thus, among many Indians, confusion over how Kipling's memory should be preserved is still rife. It takes a very contradictory man to state that he loves the essence of native culture, and yet believes that that culture should be destroyed and subjugated.
I would give Ruddy the benefit of the doubt, personally, because I like his writing, and it would be a pity if his work were misunderstood. After all, in the case of The White Man's Burden, one does wonder if Kipling is simply being sarcastic. But, meaning, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Here she lies:
"Take up the White Man's burden--Send forth the best ye breed--Go bind your sons to exileTo serve your captives' need;To wait in heavy harness,On fluttered folk and wild--Your new-caught, sullen peoples,Half-devil and half-child.Take up the White Man's burden--In patience to abide,To veil the threat of terrorAnd check the show of pride;By open speech and simple,An hundred times made plainTo seek another's profit,And work another's gain.Take up the White Man's burden--The savage wars of peace--Fill full the mouth of FamineAnd bid the sickness cease;And when your goal is nearestThe end for others sought,Watch sloth and heathen FollyBring all your hopes to nought.Take up the White Man's burden--No tawdry rule of kings,But toil of serf and sweeper--The tale of common things.The ports ye shall not enter,The roads ye shall not tread,Go mark them with your living,And mark them with your dead.Take up the White Man's burden--And reap his old reward:The blame of those ye better,The hate of those ye guard--The cry of hosts ye humour(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--"Why brought he us from bondage,Our loved Egyptian night?"Take up the White Man's burden--Ye dare not stoop to less--Nor call too loud on FreedomTo cloke your weariness;By all ye cry or whisper,By all ye leave or do,The silent, sullen peoplesShall weigh your gods and you.Take up the White Man's burden--Have done with childish days--The lightly proferred laurel,The easy, ungrudged praise.Comes now, to search your manhoodThrough all the thankless yearsCold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,The judgment of your peers!"
Even wikipedia failed to mention this poem as a part of his body of works. There is an obvious need for some people to hide/dimutize Kipling's potential racist tendencies.
A Person I'm Not Sure About
Monday, March 16, 2009
- Nilesh Murali
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I loved her book. It was so blunt and politically incorrect; my secret intolerances and unfocused brain whirls were laid out by a very genuine diary of this woman. Her barbarisms and im-tellin'-you approach brought about such indignation from me, that I just couldn't take her seriously (talk about the giggle fits). But the more and more I read of her, I began to see that Ann Coulter resembles many of the followers of Stormfront.org, a racist and censorable (at least in parts of Europe) website that denigrates everybody but the "white race".
Like Ann, people who post on the site tend to air their views more than discuss issues. Evidence is almost always misused, and the website, which has ties to the Klan, is rather heavily promoted (like Ann who is her own best advocate). Not only that, in an interview that I watched of Coulter on LKL , not only does she not answer questions, she starts off making off topic accusations! This is kind of like what white supremacists on Stormfront do; when asked to justify a position on a topic, they a) fail to answer the question and b) harangue on some different topic (generally).
Furthermore, similar to Coulter''s bombastic statements (after all, when commenting on terrorism, she did say, "Not all Muslims may be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims"), posters on stormfront say things like all non-white races are stupid and inferior. Too support a conclusion that caucasians settled all the world and were responsible for all good on earth, these purists spew forth random statistics--- after all, aren't 87 percent of all statistics made up on the spot? And when you begin to look closely at both Coulter and these people's gripes, there is a frightening similarity. The opinion that no one has the a right to their own beliefs or opinions for that matter is definitely vocalized.
So my point here is, that a hate group exists in the world that sounds like a woman whom people hate in other fancy hate groups and both the woman and this one hate group share certain elements, and hates pervade the atmosphere. And not only that, but there is no room for compromise. I'm not making any judgment on Coulter's character as that is not my job. Pardon my French though, but some (in various groups) feel that she is a nutcase. I just think it's funny that this big advocate of good solid marriage is as of now single, though maybe that's because who would marry her (just an honest question)?
Next up on this blog,
look forward to an expose on founder of the Challenger school system, Barbara Baker (whom almost 1/4th of Harker knew at one point) or perhaps a sampling of the erudite M. Anantanarayanan, Madras High Court Justice and great-grandfather of yours truly. (ஓர் சொமேஒனே எல்ஸ் தட் நோபோடி மிக்சட் க்நொவ். ப்ரோபப்லி இ மிக்சட் டூ சம்திங் அபௌட் அதர் மெம்பெர்ஸ் ஒப் மி எக்ஸ்ட்டேன்தேது பாமிலி வதோ ஹவே ஆல் அபிபிச்டேது த வேர்ல்ட் வித் தெயர் லிவேஷ்.