”Former Miss India Nafisa Joseph dead”
When I saw the headlines in the television news this morning I remembered the beautiful girl I had seen in “The Wearhouse” on commercial street 4 years ago. She was autographing tee shirts all of that day there for her fans who had queued up. When the sales assistant asked me if I wanted the tee shirt I had purchased to be autographed, she looked up and I saw a very pretty face and flawless skin. I remembered feeling a little jealous that nature had showered so much of her bounty on one person. Later I had seen her anchoring many television shows and admired the way she carried herself with so much confidence and her ability to articulate so well. She was not just a pretty face. She spoke sensibly and well and deserved every bit of her success. She had so much going for her and so much she could have done if she had decided to. Judging by the number of youngsters who had queued up for her autograph, she was obviously some kind of a role model to the younger generation – she could have worked for a cause is only she had channelised her gifts in that direction.
I have read that people resort to suicide if they perceive one of the following:
No hope for the future.
No hope that things will ever change.
No hope that about ever being well or stable.
No hope about their ability to meet their goals in life
No hope that the pain will ever stop.
No hope about being able to change it.

This was a woman who was anchoring the celebrations on Star TV for Simi Garewal’s completion of 100 episodes of her show “Rendezvous”. There she was among the who’s who of Indian business and society carrying all of her 25 years with total comfort and ease among the ambanis and the bachchans.
Are we increasingly learning better social skills and the ability to deal with others while we are unable to cope with our own selves? Are we becoming too soft that we would rather opt out of tough situations than stand up to them and face them bravely? Is it too tough to ask for help, are there only fair weather friends?


From "If" by Rudyard Kipling:

 If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" 
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings-nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
 With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, 
 And-which is more-you'll be a Man, my son!

There is a television quiz program for school children called “India’s Child Genius”. The children who qualify to participate in the program are extremely bright and clever, good in academics (They invariably introduce themselves as “ I always top in my class”) and seem to have an extraordinary memory for facts and figures and obviously have a very high Intelligence quotient.
But is this what genius is all about? This is the etymology of the word:
genius - 1390, from L. genius "guardian deity or spirit which watches over each person from birth; spirit, incarnation, wit, talent," from root of gignere "beget, produce" (see kin), from PIE base *gen- "produce." Meaning "person of natural intelligence or talent" first recorded 1649.

All these children obviously have a natural gift for learning but still genius seems inappropriate to define them. It seems to me that a true genius would never be able to qualify for one of these competitions because if a child is able to conform to the demands of a structured educational system and these type of competitions , his genius would have been numbed  if he was born with one. That explains why a mathematical genius like Srinivasan Ramanujam actually failed in their school (of course not in math but in English and History and all other sciences!) R.K.Narayan failed twice in his university entrance examination. Einstein failed the qualifying examination for Engineering studies!!
Genius cannot be acquired, taught, developed, practiced. You have to born with it. An advertisement for Apple Computers defines genius best:
“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. You can quote them. Disagree with them. Glorify or vilify them. But the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

So it may actually be good news for kids who did not qualify for these programs - they may not know who invented the telescope or what the parliament of Russia is called but may actually have genius for something else. Parents, please do yourselves and the world a  favour - stop pushing them to be "like" others and help bring out the best in them! No television program or competition or examination has yet been designed to discover a genius!!


While comparing Carnatic music with Hindustani or Western Classical, I have always wondered about the importance attached to the lyrics by using specific compositions generally known to lovers of music. It seemed so much of a limiting factor, and sometimes even a distraction from enjoying the beauty of the raga being rendered. On the contrary, a Hindustani rendition seemed to have unlimited space available for the singer to scale up and down, in and through, exploring a raga completely,pushing to the fullest limits of the singer's creativity.
I realised the value of lyrics suddenly the other day when I heard Lalgudi jayaraman playing a famous song by Subramanya Bharathi - "Theerada Vilayaatu Pillai". The song is about the uncontrollable prankster ( theerada vilayattu pillai) Kannan ( another name for Lord Krishna) and goes on to talk about his naughty tricks on his playmates. Jayaraman's violin told the story with the frustration of a Gopi who was so fed up of the incessant tricks - it complained but not out of anger but with the indulgence of one who could not help loving the naughty rascal; it narrated the tales half smiling and half annoyed at the little one's audacity. And in the tale of Krishna bringing fruits to the gopi to eat and then snatching it away while she is settling down to enjoy it, one could actually hear the fruit being slapped out of the girl's hand - it was such magic. The experience was so total - a lovely story,a nice poem and music that brought it all to life. My knowledge of the song and the words created this special rapport between me and the music which would have been lost on someone who just related to the music and didnt know the words of the song.
Perhaps this is the reason why lyrics still have such importance in Carnatic music - to reach out to a larger audience, to create the mood and a rapport between the singer and the listener. And that also explains why so many South Indians can relate to carnatic music so easily.Otherwise it would have remained too elitist and exclusive.
No way an angel, but it's Charlize all the way
(Review of film "Monster" by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan)

There are a few characters who plead to be brushed
aside. And if you have watched her previous films,
Charlize Theron’s roles would perfectly fit the bill.
Her presence is in all her previous movies was just
that – a presence - and was easily replaceable.
Whether it was doing cartwheels on the beach and
leading a chic lifestyle in ‘Sweet November’ – apart
from devoting one month to each of her boyfriends – or
a sweet goody-two-shoes in ‘Cider House Rules’ or even
a paranoid wife in Devil’s Advocate – whose sole
purpose is to get a supernatural vision – we hardly
bother. So it’s no wonder that the recurring theme
when the Oscar nominations were announced was,
‘Charlize who’.

And then we realize Charlize why, when we see
‘Monster’. No goody maneuvers here as she crisply
slips into the character of Aileen Wuornos, a
prostitute who killed seven of her clients, was
famously branded as ‘America’s first female serial
killer’ and was convicted in Florida in 2002.
Ironically, the witness who gives the evidence against
her is her lesbian lover, Selby Wall (Christina
Ricci), and for whose love Aileen was willing to go to
any extent.

A miserable childhood riddled with fantasies of
stardom; of true love and a fretting for the ideal
guy. All this result in Aileen turning into a
hitchhiking hooker - a deeply frustrated one – and
takes her to point where she has just five dollars and
seriously contemplating suicide. That’s when she meets
Selby, in a gay bar.

It’s ironic that Aileen, who has fantasized about men
all her life, would ultimately find her ideal partner
in Selby, an ideal example of muddled adolescence. At
the same time Aileen has a terrible experience –
ending in murder - with a man who acts like a john but
actually tries to rape and kill her. Completely
shaken, Aileen wants to lead a respectable life and
give up the ways of the street once and for all. But
after some humiliating interview experiences and
Selby’s constant nagging for a fun and party life, she
is left with no choice.

Back to the ways of the street, but this time of blood
and gore. As a paranoid response to the rape-attempt,
she unleashes her anger on her clients. She takes
their money, traps them semi-naked – pretty much a
point of no return – and then shoots them with
cold-blooded venom. With that money, and her client’s
car on most occasions, she keeps Selby happy as they
swing through clubs and bars of Florida. The tough act
of oscillating from a psychotic killer to a loving
girlfriend within such a short period of time is
executed without the viewer even noticing. And
Charlize pulls it off with a fantastic swagger -
pushing her hair back with machismo, puffing a
cigarette with eyes askance, and spewing profanity at
one and all.

The most disappointing aspect about the movie is how
Ricci (Selby) dampens the intensity with her inept
performance. There are occasions when Aileen is
desperately traumatized, when Selby chooses to contort
her face into a apparently confused state and utters
some powerful statements insipidly. In this case,
Selby will probably be the character being brushed
aside by many.

Inevitably, Aileen gets caught, when she is looking
for some change to make a phone call, and gets her due
from the jury. But the enduring moment is when she is
captured outside a bar, surrounded by cops and she
wails out, ‘I just want to call my girl’.

The phenomenal face-change that Toni G has given
Charlize and her ability to sustain the intensity
lives on once the movie is done. There are shades of
Hilary Swank, winner of the best actress award in 2000
for her role as a cross-dressing teenager in ‘Boys
Don’t Cry’. Swank’s performace was described by the
New York Times as “a bleak slice of American life that
leaves a bitter aftertaste”. Charlize's deliverence
isn’t too far behind.