Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Two Stories

She was always so cheerful when she'd come to clean the house. It didn't matter how tired she was or how many things she had to do,but she'd always sit my brother and myself down and make us a sandwich. M___ was always so humorous and caring. When we were bored, she would tell as a funny story to engage us. When we were sad, she would do far more than necessary to scare away the melancholy.
And she was brave. When she went back to Mexico with her children to take care of her family there, she left without legal hope of return. She did her duty there as a daughter. Realizing that her kids' lives were in America however, she sent them back; she couldn't live without her children though,and her feet voiced her love. She trekked over mountains and deserts for four days to get to the border. After being rebuffed, she attemped it three more times before finally making it.
I know where she got her strength. In her own words, it was "faith and family".

J___ would help out around houses in her area. She was an ardent supporter of her local mosque and worked extremely hard to give her daughter a better life than the one she had fled in a disintegrating Yugoslavia in the 90s
It's a surprise that she even made it. After her husband was targetted and killed as a Bosnian Muslim, she survived brutal conditions, hiding for days from troops intent on genocide. She was even taken prisoner once and abused, but she managed to escape and eventually came to the U.S.
In America, she worked very hard to support her small family. The psychological blow of her traumatic past was still very powerful. Slowly but surely however, as she began to meet with people and participate in the local religious community, the potency of her pain ebbed away.
As a child, I had never known about her roots; she was so full of life, that I had never expected that such a tragedy could have ever struck her. Knowing now what she had to go through, I can only admire her resilience even more.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Just thought you might wanna Know

Dear readers,
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.

photocredit:Nilesh Murali with some artistic help from brother Nishaant Taroon Murali. All elements in the picture are owned by the artist. 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ruffy- The Pog of A Thousand Names

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.
-n.k. murali.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Phoolan Devi- The Real Deal

Dear Readers,

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.


1. *Wikipedia

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

  1. “Devi, Phoolan”, Anonymous,Anonymous (Archived)

             www.loc.gov/rr/international/asian/india/resources/india-     society.html

            (Rescource- Internet)

  1. “Phoolan Devi”, Anonymous, Anonymous www.guyanaundersiege.com/Women/bandit%20queen.htm-

(Rescource- Internet)

  1. “Phoolan Devi, Bandit Queen of India”, Archived www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters_outlaws/cops_others/phoolan_devi/index.html-

(Rescource- Internet)   

  1. “Phoolan Devi, Bandit Queen”, Anonymous, Anonymous www.goodbyemag.com/jul01/devi.html-

       (Rescource- Internet)

  1. “Phoolan Devi is Killed”, Anonymous, Anonymous


      (Rescource- Internet)                     

  1. “Phoolan Devi”, Ranjit Banerjee


(Rescource- Internet)          

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Without Further Ado!

My dad has always been there for me. I also get my passion for writing from my parents. So I decided to post a small excerpt from this story here with the link to the full story provided at the bottom:

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

Up Next and Soon

My relatives have given me permission to link this site to my greatgrandfathers, so you will be hearing about him shortly. Next to be featured is a short story by my father, who is a writer, physicist, best friend, popular superior, and a wonderful dad (okay, maybe I am being biased there). On yet another note, I would like to congratulate South Africa on its new health minister who seems to be ramping up a war against the deadly AIDS epidemic ravaging the country.

Simmering Indignation muddled with Fear of Lawsuit and Reprisal

It seems like every third person at Harker has attended or has a sibling at the Challenger School. Often, Challenger expats at Harker stick like hot glue, and there does not go a single week, when some aspect of this widely shared experience is mentioned in my presence.
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.
photocredit: Me (image is skewed to prevent identification).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Walt Disney and Company

This will essentially be a very tiny post. 
Today at lunch, some friends of mine were discussing Disney's supposedly perverse cartoons. I was very surprised to think that people would think that any real innuendo exists.
Walt Disney was a brilliant man, a man who followed his dreams, and created to entertain all. If innuendo exists, this does not mean that Disney by any means debased his work; firstly, adults tend to steer clear from Disney cartoons, and children would not understand suggestive elements any way, so it would be rather silly for Disney to elaborately disguise innuendo. Second of all, I feel that nowadays, at our H.S. at least, students and faculty engage in too much prudery (where everything's meaning is essentially and tragically warped). I think we have really lost our perspective if we think Walt Disney's intention was to produce suggestive films. 
I mean what next- if a girl or a guy spends time with the opposite gender, is it right that they be thought of as promiscous?
Disney is a hero of mine, and the so-called evidence of his obscenity in cartoons is rather non-existant. Take for example "The Lion King Sex Scandal" (I won't explain it here- et plus, Disney was already dead by then). Tell me what you think?
My whole point is that we really have lost touch if all we can see in anything is  hidden references to adulthood in a classic children's cartoon.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Deja Vu Again- Or not- the Same Old New Person

This is for all the people I don't know but I think I've seen. 
Actually, this is for all the people that my dad does know, but doesn't think he's ever seen. My dad is so bad at recalling names, that his shenanigans (i.e., holding conversations with people for upwards of two hours who know him. Later "Who was that daddy," Reply: IDK). 
Illustrative of this is once at the movie theaters, he had been chatting with a guy next to him for most of the film. Outside the theater as we are going home, he walks up to this random couple and encourages them to buy tickets to the film-- they were the same people sitting right next to us.
And the flip side is also true. Because humans share such a huge percent of genes, it is not hard to imagine at least ten look a likes for every physical type. So sometimes you think you know someone, but it's just genetics playing tricks (or out-of-date glasses as in my case).
Either way, this is just a way for me to apologize to all those people I don't know who I thought I did know who might feel offended that I don't think they are very unique-looking, as well as to the people whose identities the people I don't know usurped in my garbled brain.

I can't rate them as a person or not. There are just too many.

photocredit: www.comic-freaks.com
for the picture, deja vu? I just don't know.

Other facts:Deja-vu means to see again in French.

Rudyard Kipling-racist or cynic?

Rudyard Kipling, reportedly one the greatest Anglo-Indian authors of all times, is definitely enigmatic. Fans of his might love his stories such as Kim, Jungle Book, and Rikki Tikki Tavi. His short story form has rarely been surpassed in Victorian literature (besides Somerset Maugham), and his innovative telling of tales from his childhood have endeared him to the general public.
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

Audrey Hepburn

I feel like the oft-alluded to broken record that cranks out the same old same old, so I do apologize, but my great grandfather will have to wait till the weekend.
But I would like to tell you about one of the most beautiful women in the world. You might have seen her elegant face on the cover of some black and white or been awed by a sumptuous colour poster of her in some bar or restaurant. But few remember the darling Audrey Hepburn as a wife, mother, and humanitarian.
For my six birthday, I recieved video casette version of Roman Holiday. I fell in love that day. The onscreen Audrey was just so buoyant and charming, and with Gregory Peck to lead her on a series of adventures, it is still one of my all time favorite romantic movies (when I visited Rome a few summers ago, I even retraced most of the locations of the film). Of course, I immediately started reading up on her and was struck by her vigorous and driven off screen life.
Bay May 4th, 1929 to a British father and a Dutch baroness who later divorced, Audrey faced many trials in her life. With the onslaught of World War II, Audrey suffered through a period of deprivation and high-stress in occupied Holland. The painfully thin and pinched look that Audrey sometimes exhibited in her films has been linked back to period, as her near-starvation caused a life-long eating disorder. After the war, Audrey embarked on a movie career that took the world by storm, with such highlights as Roman Holiday (Academy Award for Best Actress), The Secret People, Gigi, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Charade, My Fair Lady, Sabrina, and Funny Face.
Often admired by co-actors and directors for her poise, warmth, dignity, and grace-- she had been trained as a ballerina for a short time-- Audrey married several times. Though her marriages ended unhappily, Audrey loved her two sons very deeply and was a very good mother. Even through her divorces, she managed to remain friends with her exs.

Audrey was also loved her fellow humans. She was a UNICEF ambassador and worked and travelled to promote the issues that rocked the third world. She continued working and travelling even as her health deteriorated due to the ignored symptoms of the colon cancer that would finally end her life.
Audrey's versatility in acting is the envy of many a Hollywood star this day, but Audrey's true magnetism stemmed from her exuberance and love for mankind, qualities which have enchanted me for almost a decade. In fact, she is the only movie star I have ever bought a biography or calendar of, and I only wish that I could have met her once in my life.
- Nilesh Murali

One of My People

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sweet Sixteen- a Special Report from FindingMyPeople

Dear Readers, 
I will have to again postpone the great great grandfather story (first great as in awesome, and the rest as in an adjective for a really vieux homme). But I would like to tell you about Meghna, whose sweet sixteen we just celebrated.

I have known Meghna, who currently is a fellow H.S. student, since third grade, when we had a group of four best friends at my old school. I always remembered her as a very humorous, down-to-earth, and cool person, and she hasn't changed one bit. I remember how she could do perfect Pokemon imitations (some crazes should have never gone out of fashion)!

Today, Meghna came to the Turmeric Restaurant, all dressed up to attend an Indian wedding, that she didn't exactly want to go to. As she opened the door, the traditional marriage music was pervasive, and the setting was dark and moody. What a delectably boring and horrid wedding this would be? Some priest would be chanting some mumbo jumbo rites, and the guests would be a'twitter about everything and anything. As she entered, the sweep of her saree end as her father and her little sister lead her in was just audible over a muffled nervous breathing (probably the restless guests) coming from the interior of the restaurant. She had been forced to wear the saree, and though her friends had tried to make her feel better about going to a random ceremony, what fun was a wedding when she knew no one there. 

"Meghnaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!" we shouted, intermixed with yelps and what sounded like wounded barks. The lights flickered on to reveal a fantastically vibrant array of friends and family who had come to celebrate her coming of age. As if like a the switch, her smile lit up the place further, and even though she was initially silent, it was a happy silence.

Little confetti poppers were duly popped, and I had the duty, along with a friend, of sprinkling rose water over her and draping her in a Miss Congeniality-like pageant band thingy. The cameras flashed for the entire evening (hey, somebody needed to be the papparazi). And all I could think about was how amazing life could be. Meghna was entering adulthood, and so were we all, her friends. 

The poignancy of this thought was driven home further as near the end of dinner, her mom added a tiara to her head, to signify her rite of passage. 

We, all her friends, savoured this moment with her, and I know now that growing up can't be the end of the world. 

Best wishes Meghna if you read this blog- sorry if I embarrased you further! and to all my family and friends! And happy bday to S. whose s.s. is soon.
I would like to take this moment to thank my lucky stars for the life I have the privilege to lead.

My People

photo-credit: http://www.tutu.com


Please suggest people you would like me to write about if you have a strong preference etc.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

No Name

Deeming that I don't have enough time to write about my great-grandfather (his expose demands true verbosity), I have decided to postpone that and other stories for other nights. However, I would like to tell the story of someone who really demonstrates what I stand for.

We were in Prague last winter, after a harrowing flight and short train ride. Stuck in the unfamiliar metro system of a region known for its pickpockets, my family and myself were utterly lost and demoralized as midnight approached and we still had not found a route to our hotel.

Out of the blue (or rather should I say the pitch black soviet era-looking terminus), a middle-aged woman came up to us. Poorly dressed, she had a very sinister aura about her, and we all felt wary as she approached us. Just a few feet away from us, she began speaking in broken English interspersed with what could have been Czech. I know how stereotyping people is bad, in short, but humans engage in it constantly, and I am human after all (I hope).

Though our brains were only paying half attention, trying to be alert in case we became the object of mugging, we understood that she was trying to say that she had seen us stranded here and that she was willing to offer her services.

Suffice to say, we relunctantly took her up on her offer. Traveling nearly four subway stations with us, she managed to maneuver us quickly through heavy crowds, and even helped us in purchasing some of the snacks they sold in the underground station platforms.At the fourth station, she simply pointed out the rest of the route (which had initially been confusing and full of switches). Without even pausing, she wished us a good stay and left on the subway going in the other direction, probably back to the station where she had been originally.

We didn't even get a chance to thank her properly or say goodbye, and we wondered what she had wanted. As soon as I got back to the hotel, I started checking if my money was still on me, and family members acted similarly. As soon as we realized that had everything on us, we started feeling ashamed for suspecting the helpful stranger.

That night, I reflected on the great generosity of a stranger to a group of tourists. She probably had spent a long workday before coming to the subway to go in a different direction. Our conversation was barely intelligible, so surely we could not have been of any interest to her. And yet, through her simple act of kindness, we discovered later that she had saved us an hour of needless travel by taking us through the shortest route. Human compassion is not dead after all.
I re-edited some parts, even though this was published earlier in the evening.
She is One of My People

One My People

Special Announcement-
From now on, I am going to have 5 star rating system at the end of every post. Those with a five are considering My People, those with a four Pretty Cool, with a three Strange, with a two Why I am writing about you, and with a one Wow.
Nilesh Murali

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ann Coulter and Stormfront

Everybody knows Ann Coulter (at least, know one fact- she is an ultra conservative, liberal hating author). Her book Guilty: Liberal "Victims" and Their Assault on America is a wildly humorous rendition of history and politics through "Republican" sun glasses. Though Coulter does cite her evidence in the form of statistics and facts, her dubious application of studies and her rabid attacks on anything not conservative are hilarious at best and downright wrong at most. She is a bible for some conservatives, as she is a fairly popular, though ironically, she is non-denominational. In any case, the only reason I got within ten yards of her rant, was because of an investor/family friend sending me a copy

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.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Alicia Appleman-Jurman-- Human Light

What do we learn from our heros? Perseverance. Honor. Strength. Love. Easy words, and I can't even begin to comprehend their application. But these abstractions describe one venerable San Jose resident in the least abstract way.
Alicia Appleman was a young Polish Jew during Hitler's reign of brutality in much of Eastern Europe. The last surviving member of her immediate family, Mrs. Appleman-Jurman has touched hearts through her courage and her fortitude. Thoughout her memoir, Alicia- My Story, she comes across as an average girl thrown into extraordinary circumstances; she is really anything but ordinary. Starvation and dehumanization-- Alicia maintains her spirit and her dignity. The most impressive part of her memoir is her empathy for all of humanity, and her burning zest for life.
I mean, how much more can one be marginalized than being denied a place with other children in a school room, being segregated in a tiny liquidation center, and then being shot at every opportunity? But Alicia managed to live and perhaps even thrive.
When I read her memoir in the seventh grade, little did I know that it would affect me enough (I was in tears and an alternating hysteria for much of it) to phone Mrs. Appleman-Jurman to come visit our school. At that time, she lived in the Bay Area. Knowing full well how she would have to discuss a period in her life that had so haunted her, she still came, prepared with a dvd recording of her lecture series to help us, students, understand the girl she was and the woman she has become.
I remember once during her visit, we asked her how she had rebuilt her life, as she declines to discuss too much her emotional distress. She replied simply that she had love in her heart, and that she needed to survive in order to tell the saga of her family and life. After a period of photos and eventual book signings, I wanted to ask her what she would do now that her memoir was over and done with--unlike some other survivor stories, the royalties from the book were relatively small. I never had the pluck to do so; thinking on it now, if one girl could face the entire might of Nazi Germany and then survive the USSR (even founding a business run by orphans) prior to finding a dream in Eretz Israel, why was I so afraid of asking this question of a woman who was so open in sharing the darkest periods of her life?
I recommend her novel to anyone who doubts the power of humanity or anyone who cares to read about this amazing woman. Even Holocaust-deniers cannot deny the simple, beautiful, and human soul that pervades the novel.
Your life is not as bad as you think. Buck up and discover your strengths.
If you can, please share an instance where you have had to display fortitude or have been the victim or even the perpetrator. I have filled both roles to a tee.

Monday, March 9, 2009

My Blog

Hi y'all,
I will start blogging soon. Feel free to comment, but please no profanity. I am excited about this enterprise!
- DieuBleu