Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Femme Noire

"Femme nue, femme noire
Vétue de ta couleur qui est vie, de ta forme qui est beauté
J'ai grandi à ton ombre; la douceur de tes mains bandait mes yeux"

-Leopold Senghor

About 15 years ago, these lines were paraphrased in a Malayalm weekly magazine. Most malayalis who were old enough to read during those years can easily guess that the column was 'Sahithyavaraphalam" by M. Krishnan Nair. I've ben searching for a translation for the entire poem for years and it was 2 days ago that I found it on the internet.

Here is the translation; any commentry is just uncalled-for

Nude woman, black woman,
Clothed in your color which is life, your form which is beauty!
I grew in your shadow, the sweetness of your hands bandaged my eyes
And here in the heart of summer and of noon, I discover you, promised land from the height of a burnt mountain,
And your beauty strikes my heart, like the lightning of an eagle.

Nude woman, dark woman,
Ripe fruit of the dark flesh, somber ecstasies of black wine, mouth that causes my mouth to sing;
Savanna of pure horizons, savanna trembling under the fervent caresses of the East wind,
Carved tom-tom, tense tom-tom, grumbling under the fingers of the conqueror,
Your low contralto voice is the song of the lover.

Nude woman, dark woman,
Oil unwrinkled by winds, oil smooth on athletes' thighs, on the thighs of the princes of Mali,
Delightful play of the spirit, image of red gold on your flaming skin.
In the shadow of your hair, my anguish is relieved by the nearby suns of your eyes.

Nude woman, black woman,
I sing your passing beauty, fixing your form in eternity,
Before a jealous fate turns you to ashes to feed the roots of life.


Friday, September 16, 2005

September 14th was Onam. I didn't know that until my mom told me on the phone. It was also my sister's wedding anniversary. She paused for a few seconds hoping I would wish her. I knew this, and just droned, "OK". That's me, homies.

Onam was one of the best holidays. 10 days of holidays, nice weather and excellent food - plantain chips, the "kaalan" for the feast,..Most importantly no waking up early to go stand and sleep in the church, as for X-mas and easter. I never really mastered the art of standing and sleeping. My dad is very good at it. I just couldn't balance myself.

Onam is a festival about a mythical demon king who was benevolent despot. His government was largely socialist . Where else have you heard of such festival? We Malayalis rock!!!

My friend Noah is throwing a party at his place tonight. He has recently purchased a top-of-the-line beer funnel, and we're going to christen it tonight. Probably not the right expression, since he's jewish.

If you don't even know what a funnel looks like, see the movie 'Old school'.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Once Upon a Time...

..In Mexico.

The movie I was watching on Friday night.

I refuse to feel ashamed or guilty to say I love the 'El Mariachi' series. But Rodriguez stretches this a little too much with the Antonio being called just 'El' and Johnny's fake arm. And William Dafoe as a drug kingpin? Totally lame!

But there was Salma Hayek, athough she appears only in flashbacks as she was already dead when much of the story takes place. Ah...yes, Salma...isn't she the reason these movies are being made? Is there any heterosexual man in the last 10 years who hasn't fantasized about her?

There is a scene when 'El' reminisces his days with his beloved. Snuggled against each other, she asks him in her husky, sensual voice,

"¿Qué quiere usted de vida?"

The answer doesn't come until 'El' kills the corrupt general, destroys the coup d'etat and kills Barillo, the gangster.

"Quiero ser libre".

I whispered the same line. Yes, if I had to chose one thing, that would be to be free.

If you can learn something about life, and about yourself from a Robert Rodriguez movie, I guess your are in pretty good shape!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Edasseri Govindan Nair

Edasseri Govindan Nair is given the epithet the 'Poet of Strength'. He is celebrated now, more than when he was alive. It's indeed surprising the he never won any major award while alive. A contemporary of many poets including G. Shankarakurup, Edasseri was never considered part of any trinity. While Valayar Ramavarma thundered about the struggles of the working class and P Kunhiraman Nair sang about the beauty of the North Kerala landscape, Edasseri's eyes wandered among the hills, paddy fields and streets of Valluvanad (north-central Kerala, parts of Malappuram, Palakkad, Thrissur and Kozhikode districts). His pictures were rough, humanist murals of this region and its people, one of who I consider myself to be.

The first Edasseri poem I read was in 9th grade - his most popular 'Poothappaattu'. This is a story based on a Valluvanadan myth that behind the hills, there roams a 'pootham' or a vampire who is so lonely that he steals young children. Please, don't attribute any pedophilia to this, we Valluvanadan people are much too innocent to think about such things. The poem sings praises of a mother Nangeli who searches for her missing son only to discover that a Pootham has lured him away. Her fortitude and maternal love is the centerpiece of this great work.

A few years later, I was vacationing at Kunnamkulam and was browsing old dusty books from the shelf on the second floor of my grandparent's house. I started reading Edasseri's selected poems, probably was one of the language textbooks one of my aunts had to learn at college. The first poem I came accross was 'Kuttippuram Paalam' (The bridge at Kuttippuram). It was so taken over that I immediately shared it with my cousin. The next morning we were up by six, and off to Kuttipuram by bus, just to experience these lines
"Irupathimoonnolam lakshamippol
Chilavaakki nirmicha paalathinmel
Abhimaanpoorvam njanerinilppaa-
-nadiyiloodozhukunna peraar nokki."

(On this mighty bridge worth millions
I stand with pride of our success
And below I see Perar flow meek and quiet
Only to roar again next monsoon)

I have taken my liberties in paraphrasing, but this is what the poet wants to convey in the first few lines.

Edasseri was probably the first poet to genuinely raise concerns about the dangers of development and a mechanized world, that would not only alter the physical landscape, but also change the culture permanently. 'Kuttippuram Paalam" was written during a time when literature concerning the environment did not exist in any Indian languange. His words are wise and his admiration for technology bringing common good is genuine. Yet he is nostalgic about everything that is replaced and hopes we act cautiously. Now many years later, sandmining has lit the pyre for Perar, we can only lament that we didn't heed to Edasseri more often.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Grilled catfish and other happenings of the past week

My parents arrived last Monday. My dad has lost almost 20 pounds, most of it muscle, unfortunately.

Since there was only one building key (an additional one costs $50), I had to come up with a scheme to let my dad know that I am home, so that he could open the door. I tried the two-way radio thing, but with less than desirable results. I gave up and got a Verizon local calling plan for $15 a month.

Is all the Indian food making me a little too soft? I am listening to Goerge Benson and Neil Young in my car than AC/DC and Maiden. Even Dr Dre's Chronic - I consider it the best piece of music ever made - seemed a little irritating.

Took my parents to a Louisiana restaurant on Sunday. Now these are people who cannot tell the difference between Cajun jambalaya and clam chowder. The Chicken Po'boy that my dad ordered was very good. The grilled catfish was delicious. My mom, the hard-to-please cook, was very impressed and waxed about its taste for 5 minutes while later talking to my sister. I alone, was given an overcooked burger (I did ask for medium).

The next three weekends will be of relentless travel - Atlantic City/Philly, Niagra Falls and Minneapolis/Duluth.

I miss sports - MLB and pre-season football games. This new apartment has no TV.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Manny "cannot be Manny" anymore.

I am a fan of Manny Ramirez. He is arguably the best right hitter in the game today. The best RBI machine. The reigning World Series MVP. Inspite of a poor average, he is within top two leaders for both home runs and RBIs in the American League. I, a grown man of 29 years, spent $70 on a jersey that bears his number last Novemebr.

What is not to like about him? To me, his dislike of the media spotlight is certainly a point of admiration rather than aversion. His crimes on the field (defense and base running) can be forgiven. What can not be overlooked is his attitude. His tantrums. Manny thinks he is bigger than the game itself, let alone the team. Every season he suddenly becomes frustrated with the media, fans and the spotlight. Once in every 30 games or so he wants to sit out. Sometimes he wants to DH. And Red Sox have given in more times than they should have.

Manny is clever although he appears to be crazy with his bad hair and wierd slacks. He rarely shows any emotion on or off the field. That is why he isn't hated like others who have issues with the team. Remember Nomar and Pedro? But with him, its always "Manny being Manny" BS.

Manny was trying to gamble with the talk about Mets being interested in an outfielder. They are only team stupid enough to shoulder some of his humungous contract. Red Sox would certainly not give up their best run producer without the other team taking a big chunk of what is owed to him over the next 3 years. Ramirez certainly wouldn't want to go the Royals or the Reds. He would like to stay on the East coast, preferably in New York, where he grew up. He has constantly expressed his desire to be a Yankee, but that a'int happening. Matsui is doing such a great job for the Yanks and Torre wouldn't want to deal with Manny's idiosyncricies.

What should the Red Sox do? I would say any trade offer that takes up
a reasonable percentage of his contract is good enough. Manny never seemed to really fit in. He is 33 now and offense isn't going to get much better than what he has now. If all that money is spent on pitching (both starting and middle relief) and on getting better defensive players, it could make a difference. Specially in the close game losses.

Other news:
Toga Party next Saturday. It will be my first one. I have been to very few costume parties and its going to be fun. Since my parents are coming the Monday after, I need to party hard. It will be a while before I can do that again.

Watched "Last Waltz" while I was out sick on friday due to a digestion problem (possible food poisoning, I think). This was the first time I heard so many songs by "The Band". I cannot say that I am a huge fan of folk rock. But these guys are very good musicians, especially Robbie Robertson. It was totally disappointing to see Muddy Waters not play the guitar and just sing "Ain't that a Man"!.

It was the first time I saw many of those artists perform on stage. The most important facet of the movie was a chance for people like me who were born after the flower children had turned to fruits or "gone back to the seeds" to see what rock n' roll was really like. The pleasure it gave you, and the toll it took while you were travelling with it on the road. Martin Scorsese, still in his thirties, captures on camera so beautifully how it was to be a rock musician before the money and show biz took over. Like Robbie Robertson remarked, the Last Waltz was truly a celebration, and I wonder when we can see another one again.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Morena De Mi Corazon

The Desperado soundtrack. This is the opening song sung by Antonia Banderas himself. I was surprised to learn that he played a little guitar too for this tune.

I am getting this CD today. My friend Ricardo who is a amateur mariachi himself, gives this song the title 'the Mariachi Manifesto'.


Soy un hombre muy honrado,
Que me gusta lo mejor
A mujeres no me faltan,
Ni al dinero, ni el amor

En mi caballo
Por la sierra yo me voy
Las estrellas y la luna
Ellas me dicen donde voy

Ay, ay, ay, ay
Ay, ay mi amor
Ay mi morena,
De mi corazon

Me gusta tocar guitarra
Me gusta cantar el sol
Mariachi me acompana
Quando canto mi cancion

Me gustan tomar mis copas
Aguardiente es lo mejor
Tanbien el tequilla blanco
Con su sal le da sabor

Ay, ay, ay, ay
Ay, ay mi amor
Ay mi morena,
De mi corazon

Me gusta tocar guitarra
Me gusta cantar el sol
Mariachi mi acompana
Quando canto mi cancion

Me gustan tomar mis copas
Aguardiente es lo mejor
Tanbien el tequilla blanco
Con su sal le da sabor

Ay, ay, ay, ay
Ay, ay mi amor
Ay mi morena,
De mi corazon

Ay, ay, ay, ay
Ay, ay mi amor
Ay mi morena,
De mi corazon