Sanskrit and German: Solidarity of languages…

So much time and bytes are wasted over languages and books that are respected already. (And yet I throw my own two cents in the mix)

Everyone in all direction on social media behaves with so much sensitivity, it feels like the entire virtual world is a hormone raging teenager. It is strange, aren’t all of us desensitized from real problems with the overload of news, debates, discussions and comments?

Here is the link to my Hindi article on BBC and below is the same content in English.

Bhagvad-Gita-in-German-in-the-mix

The solidarity of languages

The merits of two remarkably historical languages have been under a lot of scrutiny, especially on Indian social media since past few days.

Dr. Pratiksha Thanki,  Author and Researcher

As the hoopla was all about Sanskrit and German, willingly or unwillingly Germany was also involved in the discussion. Ironically, if any country outside India cares for Sanskrit enough, it has got to be Germany. That’s where one finds Bhagvad Gita in German even on streets of Berlin along with their respected German philosophical and literary works, Sanskrit-German dictionaries are easily available and German Sanskrit scholars are actively publishing their work. The snoozing Sanskrit language gets all kinds of academic attention possible in the European power house.
And yet, it was the Indian HRD ministry’s decision to first include German in the 3 language plan and then replacing it with Sanskrit or an optional Indian language (which was the original status before 2011 anyway) that has brought the matter so much attention. The Germans have already come up with the new proposal to keep it for higher secondary classes.

As an Indian living in Germany, the entire debate seems a bit crooked. It’s a diplomatic change, and eventually any student from India will be free to learn any and as many languages he or she wants to, then why is it being turned into such a big issue?

Let’s be straightforward about one thing. Germany has a huge number of industries, a hopeful job market and reputed universities that don’t burden you with never-ending student loans. An increasing likability, growing away from the shadows of the mid20th century, makes Germany a much more attractive destination. The condition for qualified people to get work in German is: One needs to learn German. Whether you learn it as a compulsory subject in schools of your country or not, isn’t their problem.

Following German media makes one think that crossing the barrier of German language would definitely create a lot more jobs for Indians than Sanskrit would ever do. For that one just has to look at the spread of German firms even in India.
The utility of a language is always debatable. And if a pros and con list is made, German will turn out to be a more practical choice of the two if only looking from the employment point of view. Yet, it never hurts to pick up an extra language. The

‘Summer School of Spoken Sanskrit’ in Heidelberg definitely seems to know the benefits of that.
The intention of promoting Sanskrit is to honour the language of India’s heritage. It is the language of spirituality for a big part of the world as well. Sanskrit may not be too active, but it lives on in various forms of Indian languages anyway. Respecting your own language is a concept Germans definitely understand.

Goethe was a fan of Kalidasa. And he left behind some brilliant quotations for those writing papers on Kalidasa today, in any language. Going by the direction of the tide, a lot of students will need to brush up on both these literary giants. Crude opinions don’t hamper with the solidary that exists between the languages for centuries, they are not competitors. After all, ‘Sanskrit and German’ sounds much better than ‘Sanskrit vs. German’.

Begin Again

The routine way of looking at ‘Begin Again‘ or any movie featuring music as a catalyst will be that music saves the characters. Even the movie was initially titled ‘Can a Song Save your Life?’.

(L-R) KEIRA KNIGHTLEY and MARK RUFFALO star in BEGIN AGAIN

Just to think of it, the music has been there all along in the lives of these characters. Dan (Ruffalo) and his wife are both in the music business, Greta (Knightley) and her rock star boyfriend Dave are also constantly surrounded by making music, writing songs, even her friend Steve who plays music on the street, lives in a dingy apartment full of recording instruments. Music is everywhere in the universe of this movie.

They have to take their music out of the tangles they have created in their lives. In a way, the characters give a new direction to the music in their lives. Sometimes a different setting or different people help you see the same old people and music in new light or simply help you look inwards. There is a scene where Dan and Greta walk through New York plugged into their iPod listening to each other’s play-list. After all you can tell a lot about a person by their taste in music isn’t it?

If you look at it from your opinion of ‘Once’ (also directed by John Carney), ‘Begin Again’ might look too shiny with a big star cast, a studio distribution and all that jazz. However, that’s not what makes it lovable. It is a kind of movie that anyone with even a bit of music in their lives will be able to appreciate.

It is a story of two characters who accidentally meet and literally start making music outside the box, the confinements of studios and the traditional production details.

Too many feel good, preachy movies that try too hard at reaching out, are out and about these days. ‘Begin Again’ may look like one of those on the surface, but watching it will make you realize how it defies a lot of Rom Com cliches.

Mark Ruffalo’s Dan Mulligan is raw and over the top and expectedly misunderstood. Just watch him stand in the middle of that cafe, adding musical paraphernalia to Greta’s song with tired eyes and the sated smile of listening to a song that stirs him back to life. And who knew Keira Knightley could sing so well too? Adam Levin and James Corden also add to the shine of the movie.

It was drawing similar gushing reactions from a mixed audience last night. Not enough movies make me want to write about them these days. The image that is still left with me is that of Greta singing ‘Coming Up Roses’ in the street studio set up around the trash cans and Dan convinces some kids playing on the street to be the chorus and sing ‘hold on, hold on’.

Passive activities online could make you feel like an ‘oxy-moron’

I just read this article about a writer/comedian quitting twitter for a few months and remembered how i used to write long posts analyzing interesting articles, quotes, movies or even incidents almost a decade back. This is not a throw back to that or anything, but just a rant about how i agree with a certain portion of this article about my generation’s attitude to technology. To be precise this portion:

“this younger generation doesn’t have the demarcation we have—of a world before cell phones and then after. It was always there for them. So it’s not a novelty. And thus has less power. They don’t remember the endorphin rush of sudden connectivity, like when people my age first logged onto dial-up Internet and, after 10 minutes, sheepishly searched for their own name. Or the first time we received an email. And when those things happened on our phones? It was like the apes touching the monolith at the beginning of 2001.”

I was fascinated with the internet as a teenager. So much that in the real year 2001, i published a real book about how to use the internet (a kind of first in Gujarati at the time) and how fascinating your life could be online. People who were toddlers then are on their second or third tablets now. Most of the times, it is those who have grown up without the internet still get fascinated with any new aspect of social media or technology now.

Reading this made me think of how i have tried to break away from facebook and twitter, only to keep checking it passively. I hardly post the real fun i have had or places i have been to or even the articles i have written, wishing to keep my print and online lives separate. Past five years have been spent on staying away from social media and somehow it feels unnatural now not to be all out there. There is no separate, offline life anymore.

I still don’t want to spend too much energy into checking into every theater, restaurant, airport, stadium, forest, castle ruins, beaches, river cruises, and mountain tops i am at, friends i hang with, books i read, movies i watch, cocktails i drink, yes, my life is that awesome too, to put it modestly ;) – i am going to function actively less instead of being a snoozy ‘likes this’ person. Passive activities online could actually make you feel like an ‘oxy-moron’ at times. So a break from it all would mean a complete offline break.

I can’t change the generation i belong to, but i definitely can let the teenager in my head take over, sit back and scroll.

To think of it, a post-Millenial or (Gen Z if you will) won’t feel the need to write a post like this. :p

PS: Here is the link to my latest travel article about the Canary island, Tenerife.

Befriending myself on an airport

There is something about taking a long flight alone that makes me excited and thoughtful at the same time. As usual K dropped me to the airport, and usually while in the middle of one trip, we are always half way to planning the next one. Some alone, some together.

Trying to put his finger on why is long, solitary travel a must for everyone, he said “It allows you to be friends with yourself.” Now he is back at work and i’m figuring out in the ‘Leisure Zone’ of Frankfurt airport if i am already friends with myself?

image

I think I have such a love-hate relationship with myself that i’m in that post break up, let’s try to be friend-zone.
But this whole instead of being self obsessed, ‘itel’, right-out-of-self-help-book-in-love-with-self, wouldn’t it be cool if we were just friends? But all these concepts of being friends or in love or in hateful relationship with self will mean self and i are two different entities?

On both sides between this journey, there are people to meet, places to see and still why does the time spent between starting from somewhere and reaching somewhere has a value of its own? Is it because this could be the time that makes me a different person?

Bah! Look what a long solitary flight can do to your mind…

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Insane fame, accessible writers and John Green…

My German copy of The Fault in our Stars (Das Schicksal ist Ein Mieser Verraeter)
My German copy of The Fault in our Stars (Das Schicksal ist Ein Mieser Verraeter)

I’m unable to decide if I want this post to be about how writers deal with fame or just a rant about how dealing with daunting fame could be tough for a seemingly normal person. Let’s see where it ends up…

Like a lot of awesome things in my life, JK Rowling was indirectly responsible for how I ended up on the youtube channel of John and Hank Green. In 2007 when I heard ‘Accio Deathly Hallows’ along with the concept of Wizard Rock as a genre and the existence of the vlogbrothers kind of changed the way I looked at the Internet. For a long time it existed in the background of my mind till I read ‘The Fault in our Stars’. The hysteria-inducing book didn’t make me realize at first that it is the very same John Green and then followed a binge youtube video surfing that these days happens the moment you come across a ‘celebrity’.

And still applying the term celebrity to John Green felt difficult. As someone who has worked around celebrity culture through tabloid writing, interviewing film related people I understand that celebrities are often those who go around with a sort of attitude of entitlement and behave as if they are a gift to their fandom. They want to guard their privacy which they very well can if they wanted to and still complain about a lot of things after fake thanking their fans for everything. It is very easy and very difficult to  see genuine people these days. May be the fault lies in the way we treat our ‘stars’, or the way they treat fame.

And here comes an internet savvy author whose entire USP is deeply rooted in how accessible and normal and yet extra ordinarily talented he is, becomes so popular that you start worrying that at some point hope he does not shut off from the world.

His books don’t only communicate to the teenagers, they are little pieces of new age literature sans the pomp of the traditional literati and catch the edginess associated with our times with appropriate amounts of sugar.

I’m gobbling up all things John Green at the moment and have reached ‘Papertowns’. Perhaps instead of fearing how fame of this magnitude may change him, there is a possibility he may directly or indirectly dole out a few lessons to a lot of old and new celebs about how to deal with fame and still be normal and productive. May be a Crash Course video on How to survive Fame? Looking at his this week’s video, I’m pretty sure there isn’t much to fear. He just needs to stick to his own mantra, DFTBA.

Adventures of Sally and the simple pleasures of reading Wodehouse

adventures-sallyApart from ‘Piccadilly Jim’, I haven’t read anything PG Wodehouse that isn’t about Jeeves.

Totally out of the blue, I dived into ‘Adventures of Sally’ this week. Near the end I realized how uninhibited his prose, especially his humour could be. It is a thing of marvel.

Not that I would dare to analyse or critique or try to ‘review’ Wodehouse, I’m just here to gush, if that doesn’t sound too eeky.

Some really cool insights apart, I loved it how Ginger (Mr. Lancelot Kemp) has an uncle Donald (oh the Wodehouse uncles and aunts..) and he uses his mustache as a soup strainer. Now now, there have been several ‘walrus mustaches’ across the pages of literature but none in particular that ‘heave gently upon one’s labored breath, like seaweed on a ground-swell’ or the one that gets employed ‘during meals as a sort of zareba or earthwork against the assaults of soup’.

It also made me realize how since time immemorial, in a story involving any kind of romance, if the girl or a guy are engaged to someone else, they are often incompatible and heading for a break sooner or by the end of the story.

Amazing how a lot of characters are kind of selfish but good-natured and quirky. Since I married the man who introduced me to Wodehouse, I have a different filter for this humour, but Wodehouse kind of gives you a funny lens to view your own world along with the world in his pages.

This week has been comparatively lighter, what with our detour to Nuremberg Nazi Rally grounds and Munich’s Deutsche Museum wing of airplanes and zeppelins, I could only read John Green’s ‘Looking for Alaska’ and Wodehouse’s ‘Adventures of Sally’.

The coming week looks promising. A woman’s mag article, a couple of travel bits and loads of reading. Not too shabby.

The Bookworm Resurrection loop…

When i decided to set a target of reading at least 50 books this year, there wasn’t a fixed list and a lot of YA books trickled in. I blame The Fault in our Stars that I’ve already listened to and read three times since past ten days, thanks to its compact size.

My April reading list looked something like this:

April reading list...
April reading list…

Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth (It is so derivative from a lot of fantasy and dystopia pieces from the past few decades that one could easily play a ‘spot the inspiration’ game with the story.)

The Fault in our Stars  by John Green (This one is staying with me for a long long time. Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace are carved in my mind permanently. Yes I am a soppy teenager at heart, ‘Okay?’)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Captivating, interesting dual narrative. The end is highly criticized, but I loved it. There is something about an open-ended cruel, chilling story…)

To Kill a Mockingbird (re-reading) by Harper Lee (As usual elevating.)

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (No fan of hers but the research is commendable, she should have kept some of it out of the book. Loved Alma Whittaker though.)

I use a combination of audio books and real books. My obsession with audio books has doubled this year since they are easy to stay hooked to while I’m otherwise occupied. Gilbert’s mammoth book was read while burning the midnight oil. It isn’t easy to keep up with the target keeping up with the scheduled deadlines for my articles, but I’m not going to let even a genuine reason be a hurdle this time till the end of the year.

My List for May is a bit tricky. But I’m pretty sure I’m up for the serious reading after the April full of YA.

Up for the coming month are Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, Hemingway’s The First Forty Nine Short Stories, Monisha Rajesh’s Around India in 80 Trains, John Green’s Looking for Alaska and the long pending  Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. (Nope there is no pattern here yet) I think except John Green’s Alaska, this list is a toughie. But as a birthday month, I’m generally in high spirit through May and am sure I can pull through.

PS: The passive consumption of online crap and blog writing hiatus is officially over. Expect more posts.

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