Friday, 12 September 2008

Importance of being earnest

- Coffeland News. Fri, September 12, 2008.
- Bangalore Mirror. Sun, September 14, 2008.

I walked into my parents-in-laws’ house one day, to find the kitchen and part of the dining room under siege.

Warm and sweet-smelling, the vapours of steaming rice filled my senses, as I stood in the familiar aroma of my favourite dish. For a quick moment, I tranced back to a life I was married away from, just months earlier.

As my husband pushed past to get the car ready for the long drive, my mother-in-law was already onto her second round of kadambutté.

The sekala simmered away on the hob and the pandi curry came to a boil. As I tucked into the putté - my first involvement with a community I was yet to meet, my father-in-law wore a beam on his face and proudly educated me on what was to come.

We were getting ready for the annual gathering of the Coorgs in the UK- an eagerly awaited event at home. For six long years, my father-in-law oversaw these re-unions, with my mother-in-law in the background, constantly encouraging the cause. And as a family, our commitment to Coorg will only continue.

Since my first koota as puthangarthi, way back in 2001, I have watched the UK Coorgs, each one valiant in their efforts, championing the endeavour to retain the affinity to their roots and propagate the pride of their race down the line.

The full significance of an initiative such as this came home to me along the years that followed, as I, guided by the exacting precision of my father-in-law, mulled over drafts and re-drafts of the newsletters that chronicled all the gatherings he had presided over.

Pre and post these meets, the many stories told during our frequent family dinners in front of warm gas fires, made me realise, afresh, how fragile the sustenance of our community really is- and how earnestly we need to address the truth.

Far away from a land that gives us our identity and strong sense of self, there is always a longing, unfulfilled.

Somewhere, in the contention between homeland and home, roots and fruit, and head and heart, intentionally or on impulse, we tend to flock together and seek out our kind.

Somewhere, a common bond keeps us tethered to what we know as our own. Call it strength of blood or even a well-wrought web cast by the veterans of our cozy community, the confluence of thoughts, variously modified beliefs and an incessantly evolving culture, ramifies a lineage well alive and holding ground.

While our genes dictate who we are and our aspirations define our lives, an institution brings us back together. At least once every year, we remember what makes us proud. We re-connect with what makes us one. And we awaken to what will keep us going.

The elders have, with experience and foresight, nurtured a quiet movement. Now, I find the current generation taking on the onus with pride, and making their own difference come alive.

Looking from the other side today, I see even more clearly, how distinct we are as a people. How progressive we are of tradition. And how indomitable we are in spirit.

With warm regards to all seniors, love to the little wonders and cheers to those in between, I wish the Coorgs in UK, a happy Kailpodu and all the very best for the London get-together, 2008.

~ -- Bangalore Talking -- Blog Talk -- Importance of being earnest

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Bangalore Belles Rock On!

Aha! Got you there.

Now, for the mix: A bit of movie. Four belles. And a lot of Bangalore.
It wouldn’t work any other way.

There would have been more of us, but hey! you can’t have it all. Not always. Why, we even had to make do with Arjun Rampal in a 2D 70mm format. And then, we were crazy enough to miss him in the flesh too!!

Ok, we still don’t know how Rock On! starts, but by the time magik’s reunion got underway, we had our own little magic working outside the cinema.

Time, it seemed, had stood still all those years we’d been away, and yet, a city had metamorphosed.

Here we were, the four of us, springing up with funny incidents at college, not allowing any to be forgotten.

All characters – the poker-faced prankster, the ever-hungry foodie, the always agreeable rebel and the invincible bright-eye – well alive, it was a back-in-college-on-the-bunk escapade, as perfect as the richly iced chocolate cup-cakes we greedily devoured.

But this came at a price. After my usual grind on the road and, now, customary speed attacks between gaps in un-indicated lane changes at break-neck speeds with barely inches in between metal (sorry, my pet moan will not escape expression), you’d think a manned basement car park would have more order.
I was helplessly amused at what awaited me.

To monstrous 4x4s and elongating sedans, the manoeuvrability in our new-found car parks under self-contained malls, remains in inverse proportion.

So, while a hapless pubescent dealt with his embarrassment at having to do the forward and back routine about eight times, I sat back, turned on the music and fixed my hair. Madonna’s Ray of Light melted down and the X-trail grudgingly heaved into the miserly bay.

Calling from a restaurant close-by, the prankster was on to me. After my own struggle into a space meant for a kitten and an invigorating bout of giggles inside and outside the phone, we finally met!

Still giggling, and with KD lost in magik world, we sneaked our way into the packed, dark cinema hall and settled to enjoy an afternoon that had already started with a tickle.

Through all the dynamics on screen and our unanimous declaration of going back for it with the other halves (the only time they were missed- sorry guys), I noticed something fantastic.

Time indeed had retracted a while and the four of us there, were just that - four girls. We were not wives that day, not mothers and not women who had been regulated by life. For those few moments, we were who we were, those many years ago - young girls, full of beans. Our memories were bound by each other, the places we haunted, the tricks we got up to and the city we obsessed about.

This would not have happened anywhere else in the world. As I bid farewell to my friends that evening, everything came together - the mad crossing of the road, our unending indecision as to who waits and who goes, the spitting rain that cleared as soon as I found shelter and on my drive back home, an automan’s ‘hogo llllo!!, suitably accompanied by the gesture, loud, over no one in particular.

I am bound to this city. And the four of us, no matter where we go or live, will always be Bangalore girls. First and final.

Friday, 5 September 2008

A Date with Time

The Temple of Divine Caesar immortalized the greatest ruler of the largest empire in history, by inscribing his words ‘Veni, Vedi, Vici’ on the altar erected where his body was cremated. After he came, he saw, he conquered Imperial Rome, he made another conquest. A conquest as significant then, as it is now. From January, through July and every fourth February of our present times, an ancient verdict keeps our busy lives on a track that remains consistent - all eventualities calculated and logically catered for.

This fascinating story begins in ancient Egypt, picks its threads through various civilizations, withstands many political deviations of the Romans and after a long period of sustenance, finally settles along a more stable course only in 1582.

Three constants remained - the natural cycles of days, (lunar) months and (solar) years.

And though our perspective remains largely influenced by the shape Julius Caesar gave history the way we know it today, a very mature civilization, much before his time, and deep in scientific understanding, had become obsessed with harnessing the synchronies of the sun, moon and stars, to account for life in a tangible context of time.

With their advanced knowledge in astronomy, the Egyptians constituted the ‘Sothic’ year of just over 365¼ days, with the earth taking 365.25636 days to complete one revolution around the sun.

Their solar calendar, spanned 12 months of 30 days each, leaving them with 5.25 days less to complete the year. Taking a very uncomplicated approach, they added 5 days every year, and one extra day every four years, to synchronise with the solar year.

The precision of this system is proven conclusively, by the illumination of the statue of Ramses II, placed, among other statues, 180ft away from the only opening to the Abu Simbel Temple of Ramses II. For more than 3200 years, this statue has been illuminated by the sun on 22 February, every single year.

If the minute difference of 0.00636 days per year (365.25636 - 365.25) had not been accounted for, this date would have changed from the original, many years ago. Over the 3200 year period, the discrepancy would have been of 20 days!

However, this placement did not align with an actual year and the Greeks finally added the concept of a Leap year, adding a day to the shortest month, every four years. In another era, the Romans reinforced this concept when they re-structured the calender during their rule in Egypt.

The consequences of this momentous re-formulation were substantial and the reason is a long-winded tale of multiple theories, incessant discoveries and gross misuse of power.

Romulus, the founder of Rome, devised a strictly lunar calendar with ten months, six of 30 days and four of 31 days, making a total of 304 days. This calendar started with March and ended with December. After a gap, the next year would start on a new moon to bring it back in sync with the lunar cycle.

Many such failures at synchronising the lunar calendar with the solar cycle continued. Numerous more attempts were made.

An extra two months were added- January in the beginning and February at the end. Now the lunisolar year had 354 days. To undo the inauspicious effects of the even number, more days were added and deducted variously across the months to make the year 355 days long.

Another modification changed the order of the months, so that February followed January. A deficit of 10 ¼ days resulted.

The solution seemed to be the introduction of the intercalary period- a buffer of around 23 days. The Intercalans or Mercedonious, as it was called, was inserted in February, every alternate year, while five days were dropped in Intercalary days. What presented itself at the end, was a rather compliant four year period, averaging 366 ¼ days per year. The one extra day was adjusted every 24 years, by dropping one of the Mercedonious months.

This thoroughly complicated system still fell short of synchronising with the phases of the moon, so decisions on additions and lengths of Intercalary months, became the onus of a panel of high priests called pontiffs.

Political agendas flourished and abuse of power thrived. Inconsistencies caused the months to waver across seasons. Ridiculously, by the time Julius Caesar ascended the throne, the civil equinox was three months away from the astronomical equinox!

To put an end to the farce that the Roman calendar had become, Julius Caesar, in consultation with Alexandrian astronomers, abandoned aligning the months with lunar cycles and reformulated the year as we recognize it. In honour of his contribution, the Roman senate named the sixth month, July, after him.

Starting in 45BC, the Julian calendar was configured as 365.25 days long and came to have, on a regular basis, 365 days across 12 months, with a leap year every 4 years, when February got longer. The year began in January, saw spring in March and contemplated fall in September.

With due attention to the detail of individual days, each month, was divided into three points of reference.

The Kalends was the first day of the month. It was the day debts were due and interests were incurred. Books maintained to track payments were called ‘calendarium’ – our modern day ‘calendar’.

The Ides was the 15th day in a 31 day month and the 13th day in the other months.

The Nones was the 9th day before the Ides, hence being either the 5th or the 7th of the month.

In tune with our penchant for countdowns, the Julian calendar calculated days inclusively backwards from one of the three points of reference.

Thus the 25th of December would be written as, ‘VII kalends January’, the 11th of April would be, ‘4 days before the ides of April' and our 5th of September would be the Julian ‘nones of September’.

Had he paid heed when the Soothsayer warned, 'beware the ides of March', Julius Caesar would have lived to learn the depths to which greed and power mongery could take even the most trusted coterie. The 15th of March spelled doom in Shakespeare's play and was quite the reflection of what went on in Rome during the time.

The Julian calendar recorded most of what we know of their history and beyond, until the Christian church started gaining ground. In 1582, yet another problem was discovered. The calculation of the leap year would amount to nearly 11 days more, in a thousand years, as the true calculation was not six hours over the 365 days in the Julian year, but five hours and 49 minutes.

Based on the motion of the earth around the sun, while the months have no connection with the motion of the moon, the Julian calendar was reformed. Pope Gregory XII brought forward the Julian year by ten days. The 5th of October became the 15th of October.

This rule was then prescribed for all Christendom. Barring Russia and the Greek church, most of the world had moved toward adopting the Gregorian calendar.

The length of the year is 365 days, 5hrs, 48 minutes and 46 seconds and the time between two full moons is 29.53 days. There's a leap year every 4th year, where February has 29 days instead of the usual 28. January, March, May, July, August, October and December have 31 days and the rest have 30.

This is essentially the modern calendar, where every page, however formatted, bears testimony to Egyptian exactitude, Julian grit and Christian endeavour.
And going against the Julian manner of looking back on things, we count forward.