Victor navorski embarks on a short trip to New York to fulfill a promise to his dead father. While he is in his flight, there is a bloody coup in his country Krakozhia. On landing at the JFK airport, he is told that he cannot get a visa to enter New York because the new government in his country is not recognised by the U.S.Government. All flights to his country have been suspended until further notice. In 24 hours, he has become a person with no country, no rights , no priveleges - actually a non- person. Thats where Speilberg's "Terminal"begins and then we have a delightful movie which tells you of the victory of the individual over the system and good over bad etc.. I hear this is based on a real individual's story and he is still there roaming the terminal of an international airport. A person who became nobody because of no fault of his.

My friend's mother who is from Lahore and moved to India during the partition told me stories of lots of people who lost their possessions, friends and family in one stroke when officials drew a line right in the middle of their property and told them that what was on the other side of the line was a different country from that moment onward.

My friend built her house in Jaffna putting into it all her dreams and hopes and all their life's savings. Exactly one day after the house was completed, she had to move to another city because of civil war. And this was fifteen year ago - she has not been able to go back to that house ( or where it stood) yet!

Scary, how everything that you have always taken for granted can be taken away in the flash of an eye! Perhaps Life is after all a transit terminal as Shankara says in his Bhaja Govindam:
Maa Kuru Dhana Jana Yauvana Garvam
Harathi nimeshath Kaalaha sarvam
Maya Mayamidam akhilam hithva
Brahmapadam tvam Pravisha Vidithva.
Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam!

( Don"t stay in the cosy comfort basedon proud thoughts such as : " I am rich, I have so many relatives and I am young". Time can snatch them all away in one instant! Remember that this world is nothing but an illusion and attain the state of Brahman.)

I realised that I have not blogged in a while. It is one of those times of pseudo nirvana when you do not have the urge to say anything and actually "know" that it does not make a difference to the world if you did not utter another single word for the rest of your life.

But I came across some delightful expressions in the past week:

Phebe in "friends" referring to a "superlative - addict" boy friend breaking into ecstasy at the most mundane things:
"He is like santa claus on Prozac in disneyland."

Tom Robbins in "Skinny legs and all":

"Babylon was riding tall under its powerful leader nebuchadnezzar. My, oh my, they don't make names like that anymore. Ronald, Gary, Jimmy, just plain Bill: these modern mediocre monikers aren't fit to shine the shoes of Nebuchadnezzar. John is a label. Nebuchadnezzar is a poem. A monument. A swarm of killer bees let loose in the halls of the alphabet."

Lynne Truss - "Eats, shoots and Leaves"

"As with other paired bracketing devices( such as parenthesis, dashes and quotation marks), there is actual mental cruelty involved, incidentally, in opening up a pair of commas and then neglecting to deliver the closing one. The reader hears the first shoe drop and then strains in agony to hear the second. In dramatic terms, it is like putting a gun on the mantelpiece in Act 1 and then having the heroine drown herself quietly offstage in the bath during the interval. It's just not cricket. Take the example, " the highland Terrier is the cutest, and perhaps the best of all dog species." Sensitive people trained to listen for the second comma (after "best") find themselves quite stranded by that kind of thing. They feel cheated and giddy. In very bad cases, they fall over. "
(Lynne Truss - "Eats, shoots and Leaves")

Boy, if only I could say something like that!!!!

It is a great learning process for me to observe and listen to the young people who come to the French course I take at the Alliance Francaise. The oldest of them is about 26 and the youngest is 12 ( seems so far back in the past for me).
Last week the teacher announced a mid-course test, the questions started from the group.
For how many marks?
What is the pattern?
What is the break-up between written and oral?
Will the test be only on Unite 8,9 and 10 or would concepts from previous lessons be included?

Neither the teacher ( who is closer to my age and from The Rishi Valley school) nor I understood the relevance or need for any of these questions. This is a foundation course in language where you either knew the concept or you did not. And the concepts from one lesson flow into the other - how does one use past tense if one didnt know how to make a sentence in the present tense?
As for marks the only relevant question according to me would have been, what is the mark required to pass? Does it matter whether one gets 70 or 100 as long as 50 lets you go to the next level?

I guess this has a lot to do with their experience with the educational system - so much premium has been placed on the marks that even the study of a language is not excluded from it.The students are careful to frame the sentences on a known pattern and re-use previously used sentences rather than try out new words or new sentence structures, so you are sure not to lose marks! Does n't this kill the whole joy of learning a language which is to learn the rules and the million deliteful exceptions and experiment with them and create your own style of expression? A paper in Language affords a kind of freedom and possibility for creative expression that is not possible in a science or a Math paper. Why should we bind ourselves in a chain of marks - and when this is not even a course that decides your career?

Wasnt it Shaw who said that he never let his schooling interfere with education! May be it is time our educational system stopped interfering with the joy of learning at least the languages.
The other day there was a traffic jam in the centre of town because of a few hundred people in a peaceful protest march ( Of course there were policemen walking along side to ensure it was peaceful.) I could not see what this was about as it was tough to read the banners while trying to manage to steer my car through the human and vehicular traffic. This brought back memories of processions in calcutta where I lived 25 years ago for a brief 8 moth period - people marching for causes like liberation of the oppressed in kampuchea, protesting violence in yugoslovia or somewhere in latin America. It seemed amusing to my inexperienced mind at that time that a few hundred people marching in calcutta hoping to be heard by governments in far off lands.
Now 25 years later I realise that silence in the face of crime is tantamount to participation in the crime. We live in a time which will be remembered by posterity - if there is one, for we seem to be hell bent on wiping out human race in the next few years- for inhuman crimes in the name of God. In this age of networked terrorist operations , we have to break our silence and voice our protest any time there is a terrorist activity or crime against humanity anywhere in the world. After observing the customary three minutes silence for the innocent victims, let us scream - on the roads, through any channels available for us and express our disapproval. Let us do it in the remote corners of India for the babies and innocent victims in Russia and America and Spain and Iraq as much as in Kashmir and Gujarat. Let us not stop screaming until the violence stops. Let us not say it is happening in "far away" places. In today's world nothing is faraway - it takes minutes for anything to reach your door step.
Let us break our silence. That is the only way we can save this earth for posterity.

We shall have to repent in this generation, not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked people, but for the appalling silence of the good people." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.