A Fishy Affair

Swimming_1

Every summers I resolve to learn swimming. That I haven’t even ventured near a pool since so many years, shows the strength of my resolve! This time however I did make some progress in that direction as I went checking out the Speedo swimming costumes. But that’s about it. I saw no point in spending about Rs.6000 on something that will just sit prettily in my dress. That, was the beginning and end of my summer resolution- learning how to swim.

Why I haven’t been able to learn swimming? Well I’m as comfortable in the pool as a fish would be out of it. The only time, some 10 years ago or so, when I did enter a pool I flayed my arms and feet around wildly, screamed like a banshee and convinced the instructor within 2 days that not only would I drown and die a horrible death but would take him down as well. The argument that no one can drown and die in 3feet of water had, and still has no merit in my eyes. After all one doesn’t need 3 ft or 6ft to drown in but just a mug full of water in the lungs! That I haven’t drowned and died while taking a shower is nothing short of a miracle. One of the few things that I thank God about( I mostly curse Him) is keeping me alive despite a daily, at times twice a day, shower. But why tempt fate? So I’m better off alive and non swimming than swimming ( or trying to) and sinking.

Had I tried to learn swimming way back in my teens or college years I may have fared better. Or so I’ve been told. Just like I’ve been given similar gyaan about cycling. Not that I didn’t try cycling. I did but, to juxtapose two random images, I was as comfortable as a fish would be on a cycle. The only cycle I can today ride, without just toppling over, are the spinning cycles in the gym. So it goes for swimming. The reason I didn’t try in the ages gone by was fear of a different kind- donning a swimming costume. In the teens and thereabout, the pressure, real or imaginary, to “look” good is just amazing- somehow you expect yourself to have the perfect body, perfect skin, perfect hair and so on and so forth. All the teenagers and college students have my full sympathy. What with media flashing “perfect” looking women everywhere, it’s a tough life. It wasn’t so bad in during our college days but was bad enough to deter me from wearing a swimming costume, even the silly ones that come with an attached skirt. Rest, as they say, is history.

Today I often take my 7 year old sonny swimming, who, despite my fears, has learnt to swim beautifully. As I sit safely tucked away in the sides, I cannot help but be amused by the motley crowd that comes- all shapes and sizes and, what amuses me the most, wearing all kinds of ridiculous looking prints in the name of swimming gear. There are those who look like a rundown zebra, an old tablecloth or bed spread. I mean really now! What is it with these manufacturers? Why can’t they just KISS- Keep It Simple Silly with a black? I mean if you have a colour blind stylist, just go with something that you can’t go wrong with?

I sit there, day after day, looking at these people and what I gradually realised is the vast difference in the body language of men and women. Women, regardless of their shape and size, are impeccably waxed and clean and yet strangely conscious. They have bothered to maintain not only standards of hygiene but also attractiveness and yet seem oddly uncomfortable. Just a few with something like a Prime Body are comfortable, but still seeking approval. The rest, lesser mortals, are visibly conscious and uncomfortable. The men folk on the other hand have no such qualms. Most of them even defy basic standards of hygiene and grooming with ogre like feet and body odour, stomachs hanging over and out of the swimming trunks. Yet they walk around like they were God’s gift to mankind.

As I witness this sight every day, I’m not only reminded of myself in my teens but more importantly of the recent Dove Real Beauty Sketches Ad that shows the tremendous difference between how women perceive themselves and their beauty and how others see them. Why are women so harsh on themselves? And not merely about their physical appearances but about every role they play- a wife, a mother, a daughter, a daughter in law? I’m yet to come across a woman who considers herself a “good” wife or mother and not simply in the traditional sense. We are always beating ourselves up over a cake that we didn’t bake for our children or a birthday gift that was late for our husband or something else in a similar vein. Men, however, have no such qualms. I’m yet to come across a man who considers himself a “bad” husband, father or son. In one of the rare moments ,even if they do admit to falling short on some account, not only is there a jolly good explanation for it, but they’ll also fall right back into the habit. Why can’t we women be as smug and complacent? I know I’m on slippery territory here but really ladies, let’s just be easy on ourselves. Children will not be scarred for life if you just don’t feel like cooking one day(not because you are too tired; just that you don’t feel like it) and order a pizza instead. Quite to the contrary they’ll thank you for the unexpected bonanza. And neither will your husband be charred if you don’t whip up a king’s meal whenever his family comes visiting. They’ll all survive. More importantly we need to learn to live and not merely survive. Or else one day it may be too late to overcome your fear of water even if you have overcome the fear of wearing a swimming costume.

Iron Man 3 – The Man, The Suit

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I love Iron Man. Actually I love Tony Stark (and Robert Downey Jr) but, for all intent and purpose, they are both the same, at least for me. Other than Batman, who is too dark and brooding, I can’t think of any other superhero who owes his super powers to technology alone and not to anything else- random spider bite or a random planet. But, as I said above,  Batman and his Gotham City are just too bleak for my liking. Iron Man, on the other hand, is a rock star. He does have a “change of heart”, literally, after he is abducted in Part 1 but anonymity or subtlety are not his style. Not that he is not a “good” human being. He is but whatever he does, it’s in a very “in your face manner”. This is a man who is a narcissist in the true sense of the word and unashamedly so. He suffers and from there starts his attempt at finishing the technology that makes him capable of fighting. He does good as he goes along the way but the motive is also self aggrandizement. Faced with the possibility of poisoning and death does he go all out to save the world while he can? No sir! He goes to party and boy does he party hard! He fights tooth and nail to prevent anyone else from getting the Iron Man technology. As he says, he has successfully, and if one may add smugly, “privatised world peace”. He plays to the galleries with élan. He is a showman. Even at his worst and weakest, he cannot resist histrionics. And we love him.

And in Iron Man 3 comes the inevitable downfall of the superhero. And he learns- yet again. Showmanship, for all the audience it can get you, comes at a price- a price that Tony Stark did not see coming. He is brought down to his knees, in more ways than he or we can imagine. And along with this also comes the inevitable question- is it the suit that makes the man or the man that makes the suit ?

Iron Man 3 has a new director, different from the earlier two Iron Man movies. Yet the tone of the movie and the character are retained, for without them, Iron Man would not be Iron Man. The same cocky attitude, same irreverence, same classic one liners and wise cracks that were the hallmark of the earlier two Iron Man movies run throughout. Robert Downey Jr as the inimitable Iron Man deserves yet another round of applause. He carries the role in his inimical style- he and Iron Man are practically synonymous. Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Ben Kingsley as Mandarin are nicely played out. But it’s Iron Man and his show all the way as he falls and as he resurrects himself, phoenix like. The movie gives you a lot of moments to cheer, whistle and clap. It’s in movies such as this that I miss the good old cinema halls when the audience went berserk cheering Amitabh Bachchan on in his yet another avatar as the angry young man. When did we become the strawberry and cream eating stiff upper lipped audience? It’s time to lay aside your popcorn and coke-This one is definitely worth a lot of cheers and whistles !

 

 

 

 

One Master One Disciple by Jyotii Subramanian

One Master One Disciple 175

                   If you found the “Pray” section of “Eat Pray Love” absurd ,or the coincidences Gilbert refers to ( her husband signing the divorce petition or the effect of her chanting of Guru Gita on her nephew far away) way too much to handle, then this book “One Master One Disciple” is not for you. In fact this is a book not for any sceptic but for a hard core believer and not even someone who is just dabbling in meditation or some form of new age healing . To be able to read, let alone appreciate this book, you need to have Faith- in every sense of the word. Faith that there is a Power above who manifests Himself in various ways; faith that this Power is all pervasive though we may not be able to see or feel it with our blinded eyes; faith that human life is but an episode in a long karmic chain; faith that the ultimate aim of human life is God realisation and most importantly faith in a Guru- that when the time is ripe and your search genuine, a Guru will come to guide you, show you the way and that this “guru-shishaya” bond is something that cuts across life spans. If the reader has this kind of faith, then this will be a worthwhile reading. Or else, as the author goes on to recount her journey and her experiences on the spiritual path, it will sound like nothing more than ramblings and imaginings of a fevered mind. Out of body experiences, astral travel, divine interventions, past life revelations, black magic, visitations by Divine souls- all this and much more is a part and parcel of author’s daily life. Unless the reader too is a “sadhak”, a seeker on the spiritual path, all this will be enough to put him off rather than make him read.

           Jyotii Subramanian’s book belongs to the same genre as Paramhansa Yoganananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi” and Christopher Isherwood’s “Ramakrishna and His Disciples”. Same genre though not the same league for those were all time greats Saints, Gurus who have inspired millions down the ages and continue to do so. And, to her credit, the author makes no attempt to claim a place among them either. All that this work seeks to do is present a straight from the heart account of her own wanderings in the wilderness, her phoenix like resurrection from the depths of despair under the guidance of her Guru , Yogiraj Gurunath Siddhanath.

                    What strikes one immediately is the author’s alarming honesty. Anyone who is familiar with Chandigarh, the city that the author has been residing in and still does, will also know that for all its modern exterior, Chandigarh is a very small, closely knit conservative society organised unofficially into cliques.  People who have been residing here for sufficiently long period of time, like the author herself, know everyone else in the city. In this kind of a society, for the author to openly admit to her own and not simply her husband’s extra marital dalliances, is nothing short of social hara-kiri. Yet she does so, not to incite gossip, but to show her path to salvation and therein give hope to all sincere seekers. And if the reader is willing to lap up all of these personal details and believe them, why not believe her spiritual adventures as well?

    The style is very matter of fact and straight forward, nothing really to write home about. In fact at times the descriptive passages may not seem interesting enough. But the worth of such works lies not in their style, plot, characterisation or other such standards used for judging works of literature but in their insights into the spiritual life of the protagonist-author and whatever they can contribute towards the spiritual yearnings of the readers. The reader, even the genuine seeker, may not agree with her understanding of spirituality, her reflections that are interspersed throughout the book, may even argue whether experiences such as those that she has described should in fact be shared with the world at large. But what one cannot argue with is her genuine quest and the blessings of her Guru that keep her going- achieving and reaching out for more. And for that alone, it is worth reading.