Saturday, March 13, 2010

Experiencing Meaning

When I was 12 my favorite book was the dictionary. My ambition was one day to have spoken all the words in it. Naturally I would not have the occasion to do so. I also lack the inclination to do so for many of the words (particularly those which are sl. derog. taboo)

Knowledge of synonyms taught me that no word is indispensible. And that the fancy of a new word would never draw to me enough to change my vocabulary (if at all it were to come to that).
Meaning was washed off expressions. What remained was 'going through the motions' of saying them.

Reader: I surmise sir, that you are now devoted to pursuing the reclamation of meaning.
Poet: Nah...I am only pursuing a humourous nugget so I can frivolize this post
Reader: Frivolize ?
Poet: I just wanted to use that word


  1. Dagalti Saar, hello. Long time no read. I think the last post of yours that I read was last winter... about the "Vadivel cellphone" clip from Vel, recollected during your roadtrip down south, in a Sumo, with your "literary illuminati" family.

    I was thrilled to no end, reading your reminiscences. Because it recalled one of my own... A 2002 roadtrip to Karur (from Coimbatore) in a white ambassador, with family, to do my first-born's mottai at the in-laws "kula dheivam" temple of Thaan thondri malai. The highlight of that trip was the driver - one Mr. Chandran.

    A quiet, composed man. Until I probed and probed and got him all talking... about how he was Kamal's designated driver during the "Indian" shooting at Gobi... how dedicated and kind and respectful a human being Kamal was... the works. I was almost hanging on to this guy's shirt collar, not wanting to miss a word, while M-I-L kept gently nudging me and clearing her throat every now and then, trying to remind me that in our families, "aathu ponnugal asal manishaal oda arattai adikka maattaa"...apparently, conversing with "strange" men is not a done thing in orthodox tambram households?

    Too bad. Dad never alerted me to that. I could converse freely with whomsoever I wanted, no questions asked, no matter how borderline raunchy the talk. Oh how I miss those growing-up years. Oh how I miss dad (for the first time, in two years, truly).

    Coming back to the "good Brahmin girls don't get side-tracked by interesting strangers" advice, I totally forgot all about it until I was rudely reminded, last year. And awakened to it, yet again, now.

    Sila sila samayam, vaazhkaila you feel like you are a mridhangam, illa? Beaten from both sides by the very people who know *exactly* how to play you. And funnily, they forget that. (The only thing more ubiquitous than mother's milk is Milk of Amnesia. You didn't know?) Then they get tired. And think *you* are playing them. And yell "Please Stop". Hello? Ever heard someone order an instrument to stop playing itself? Ellaam predicaments, Saar. Neram.

    But because one is who one is, it's eminently possible to experience meaning (see, I returned to your topic instead of continuing to ramble randomly) even when one seeks refuge in that space between the meteor showers "Please" and "Stop". In a way, it's like looking at those (inadvertently) invidious influencers, and saying (with a politely raised middle finger), It's My Way or the highway! Deal with it.

    ps: I loved the Dictionary that way too, still do.

  2. Thanks for the interesting comment Lexicographer.
    Possibly all blogging is sondha kadhai sOga kadhai appropriately frivolized to suit a general audience :-)

    Hat tip to Jorge Cham

  3. Lex-I-Co-grapherApril 5, 2010 at 5:00 AM

    Oh thanks right back at you, Saar. The academia comic strip on "sanitizing Misery" totally made my day; I don't think I've alternately cried and laughed this much in a long time... one of those weeks... so muchas gracias.

    And you'll like this cosmic coincidence: I'd put my "aathula oru kaal, sethula oru kaal" (i.e. sentient corporate slave by day, reluctant scholar carousing in academic argot by night) existence on hold for a full year to contemplate the high, to soul-search and what-not... in essence to figure out what it is that was my poison, the something that I was born to do, etc.

    I know folks generally go thru this bumming phase right out of college (or possibly a few years into a soul-sucking job) but better late than never was I guess my mantra. And "fly" I did, on gossamer wings, into the Great Beyond, I thought, but no. What's "out there" really is a giant machine, a vacuum cleaner of sorts, that invites you to embrace it, only so it can suck your soul right out.

    But all is well now, because soul-lessness is the natural state of being in the corporate universe, into which I've just been joyfully re-inducted (yup, starting a new job with an ex-boss next week, so tearful bye bye to Desperate Housewife alter-ego), and oh yes, I'll be back in school too, in three months -- this time lecturing undergrads (as opposed to simply helping grade papers) in the ENGL 106 class, "Novel and Homelessness." Here's an excerpt from the course description:

    "Whether romanticized as a flight into the wilderness or depicted with gritty realism, homelessness has long been a central theme of American fiction. This course reads fictions of homelessness in American literature, and explores how such fictions pose very urgent questions concerning social responsibility, the promise of America, and the relationship between ownership and identity, at the crossroads of class, race and gender. Texts and films include Huckleberry Finn, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Our Nig, A Country Doctor, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Ragged Dick, Bartleby, In America and O, Brother Where Art Thou?" Ah joy, oh boy!

  4. PS: Speaking of Misery, there's this TV sitcom called "King of Queens" whose episode titles are a pun lover's paradise. They are in re-run mode now and the one that aired earlier this week was entitled "Papa Pill."

    Carrie's retired dad lives in her basement and has this curious relationship with son-in-law Doug (is the general storyline). The dad character is outright hilarious (he's the guy that plays Castanza senior in Seinfeld, but he's much more of a "pill" in this one. So in this particular episode, dad gives daughter the dimky late one night, i.e. slips off to go to a seedy bar by the docks; to top it off, he picks picks up a pro named "Chick" half his age; daughter tracks him down, drags him home and gives him an earful, to which he retorts (geriatric ego all prickled) "I'm your father, not the other way around, so stop trying to humble me like that fat broad from Misery" - I LOL'd.

  5. The course description does sound interesting. Hope you manage to dodge the professional disfascination. :-)

  6. Funny observations on the career conundrum, aanaa enakku economics paththi oru mannum theriyaadhadhu naala missed the essence of some of the *in* jokes.

    But am forced to agree with you (thanks to some serious sledge-hammer blows by my best friend Fate) that it's better to bake bread separately and expend time on xyz whenever I'm "free" (dammit -- "free time" -- the biggest (f)oxy Moron there is!). And as for professional disfascination, it's par for the course, no? That much even my head-that-clearly-needs-help has fully figured out, LOL!

    ps: Loved the Bertrand Russel quote on your friend Mutrupulli's profile - "In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted."

  7. pps: As you can see, I'm all about 'Pun'ctuations! :)

  8. Saar, ennadhu idhu? Neengalumaa? Jumping on board the "subliminal messaging" bandwagon like this? By hiding my "p.s" @7 (about Mutrupulli on affairs and such), the "meaning" you want me to "experience" is...? Let me guess. Mutrupulli vaandaamaa? Pinna, Comma pottukavaa?

    Cha, cha, advice onnum seriyaa ve illaiye... indha kaalaththu perusunga ellaam chinna pasanga manasa kedukkaraangabaa, LOL!

  9. Eh ?

    Appreciative audience member to Shanmugi mAmi on her rendering of the Deva-kriti rukku rukku rukku: "jayadevar ashtapadhi maadhirinnA irukku, arththam purinjA innum nannA irukkum"

    What p.s @ 7 ?
    Is there a comment of yours that's gone missing ?If so please do re-post. I don't even moderate comments around here.

  10. ROFL @ Shanmugi mami and rukku x3 dot dot dot (which, btw, reminds me of -- tan-gent-I-ally speaking -- that song "Ladki kyon" from the Hindi movie "Hum Tum"; it is bookended by "dot dot dot" and quite possibly the hardest on-screen slap in recent memory!).

    As for my kuttaiya kuzhappifying, pliss to ignore my previous post; it only just occurred to me that's my old friend, The Server-Side Ghost, playing the all-too-familiar game of hide-n-seek. Oh the horrors, to drag innocent bystanders into the melee like that, erbärmlich! Sorry Saar...