Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mirza Ghalib, Kimi Raikkonen & Metaphorical Lizards

These days I'm reading blogs - circumnavigating the blogosphere? - quite a bit; no particular reason, just changing whims. Something that caught my eye is this practice of unrelated stories being dumped into one post, with an "xxx" separating them. Visionary that I am, I see vast potential here. It allows people like me to type in the first thing that comes to our minds, and leave the reader with the vague suspicion that there's something deeper, that there are "layers."

"Hmm... 3 different stories, each more banal than the last, completely unrelated, and yet... and yet... they're in the same post. What could it mean? If only I could trace out the underlying theme of it all - figure out what the Supreme Artist had in mind when crafting this work of infinite subtlety - would I not be closer to the Soul of the World?"

It's like the whole business of that hat in "Miller's Crossing." From what I can gather, all the Coens ever wanted to do was to film men in hats. They probably thought Gabriel Byrne, classy as he is, would look marvellous peering out from under a hat, especially when in the woods; the camera and the stirring music goading men for generations since, to buy hats and pose stylishly, thoughtfully, somberly in them. And they were right. It is, "The Untouchables" apart, easily the most entertaining gangster flick I've ever seen. You really should check out the ending - hands down the most powerful depiction of the union of a man and his hat, ever captured on film. It has also raised as many debates on symbolism in film as when Bergman stuck a camera on a beach, and got a young Max von Sydow to play chess opposite a forbidding, scythe-carrying*, black-robe clad, bald dude. 

That is what I want to achieve with posts as these. I aim for the stars, nothing less.

*Having seen the film several years back, I cannot remember for sure whether he carried a scythe or not. I hope I'm not confusing him with William Sadler from "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey."


Last weekend, I got to go to a part of Delhi I hadn't been to before - Nizamuddin. Here we were on a Saturday afternoon, zipping along on magnificent tree-lined avenues and huge flyovers, feeling all cozily modern and materialistic, when the auto screeched to a halt: we were there. Taking a lane by the left, we found ourselves in another place, in another time (poetry having taken hold of us, we ignored parked cars and the tarred road). The air-conditioning of Karim's brought us back with a pleasant jar to the 21st century, but come the food, back we went in time - this time as royalty in the Mughal court. All very schizophrenia inducing.

Stepping out of the restaurant with stupid grins on our faces, telling each other again and again that "we must come back soon, really," we made our way to Mirza Ghalib's tomb. The Nizamuddin Dargah, with Amir Khusro's tomb in it, was next door, but there were way too many people there trying to sell us things. I even made a contribution of a 100 bucks (my Hindi, while improving, is still only passable; but the guy was earnest, and besides, he made an entry in a notebook - I'm sure it was for a noble cause). Ghalib, though, has a resting place very befitting a poet. There was hardly a soul in that courtyard. We asked a lady - sitting nearby, reading a book - which amongst the graves there was Ghalib's; we could've made an educated guess ourselves, but we wanted to be sure. She pointed to it, a marble enclosure.

A little way from it was an inscription with one of his poems. My friend, misreading one of the Hindi words, disagreed with the English translation below it, and gave her own very striking version of it. Since I doubt she'd want me to put it here, here's the official Google approved translation:-

When there was nothing, there was God
If nothing had been, God would have been
My very being has been my downfall
If I hadn't been, what would it have mattered? 

I grew up watching the otherwise dignified David Shepherd hopping about on one foot, on the scoreboard hitting Nelson. The internet not being too prevalent in my youth, it was only years later that I learnt the story behind it, thanks to Ian Chappell*. Apparently, in his days as a player, his Gloucestershire team had this habit of taking both feet off the pavilion floor, when their batsmen were out in the middle and the score touched Nelson. Out on the field, as an umpire in his later years, he decided to continue the habit, to ward off bad luck for the batsmen (albeit with at least one foot on the ground, in the interests of safety). I suppose now's the time for someone to chime in, saying that everything in cricket, including umpires' superstitions, is loaded in favour of the batsmen.

Well, that was my sports superstition story. I'm sure each of you have your own. What reminded me of it was an interview of the Iceman himself, Kimi Raikkonen, in which he reveals his sentimental, superstitious side:- 

Q: The helmet has a special meaning for many drivers. How important is it to you? 
Kimi: It protects my head. 
Q: Do you have any special rituals where the helmet is concerned, like many have? 
Kimi: I wipe it so that I can see better.

 *This article by the man himself contradicts my memory of the Chappell story, but I'm sure Dave wouldn't mind; I've cherished it for far too many years to let it go so easily.


Many months back, just after I joined my current workplace, I was having this chat in the cafeteria with someone I was sharing the table with. I happened to mention that I had a lizard for a roomie - kept bumping into him occasionally in the kitchen. Since I don't cook, and don't even have a refrigerator, the kitchen is a room I rarely visit. Still, on the few occasions our paths crossed, usually with him scurrying out from behind a garbage bag, startled by me switching on the light, we would nod civilly at each other (and this, despite him not once having shared the rent).

She, smiling playfully: "I hope he isn't a metaphorical lizard."
Me, not wanting to appear thick: "Ha ha ha. Good one. *snigger* Heh heh."

But seriously, what is a metaphorical lizard?


missjane said...

That's a good trick: of course you could've done several smaller posts and appeased some of the critics of your long posts.

Not sure if you've tried googling "metaphorical lizard" but I got some interesting results. Nothing substantive, but you'll be pleased to know this post is already number one in that particular search.

And it's all very deep - let me know if you'd like my full review in which I analyse the post-modern tendencies in this post in light of some obvious Freudian references and the post-colonial mileu which you are clearly attempting to explicate in an ironic way - but where are the movie reviews??

Rohan said...

If I split it up into separate posts, I would have

1) a mildly interesting post about a weekend trip, rounded off by a poem written by someone else
2) a story with wild inaccuracies, plus an interview reported by some other site, of someone else
3) a conversation that I remember only for its complete inanity.

Put together, though, I have the hope that the sum would be greater than the parts; of immortality.

The rest of the movie reviews are coming right up. Every time I start on them, I get sidetracked by something else: reading books on discipline.

PkS said...

Lizard, here, can be a metaphor for a zombie. A lovable, fascinating yet fearsome domestic companion. Intriguing to look at yet, something that keeps you out of the kitchen when it decides to have a late night snack.

Pardon me for my fascination with the netherworld in general and zombies in particular. My roomie made me do it.
He is a zombie.

Rohan said...

You mean, there's a good chance that I was too thick to notice she's a B-movie fanatic? Damn it, I should've gotten her number!

Since you're a netherworld-phile, I may as well pass on a movie recommendation that I got - "Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter." Wikipedia says the movie deals with "Jesus' modern-day struggle to protect the lesbians of Ottawa, Canada, from vampires with the help of Mexican wrestler El Santo." Sounds epic.

Mr. Ordinary said...

The metaphorical lizard made me search for it, and the lizard got it me here

http://ardictionary.com/Lizard/4059 -
a man who idles about in the lounges of hotels and bars in search of women who would support him.

Rohan said...

Hmm... the plot thickens.

Susan Deborah said...

I love lizards . . .

Rohan remember me? Been long. You were the first to comment on my blog way back in 2008. Gosh, was that so long ago. Time is strange and seductive. Hope you are well.

Glad to see posts now.

Joy always,

Rohan said...

I remember you, Susan. Your posts on your travels and the strangers you met struck a chord with me. Thanks for stopping by.

And it's nice to see that your blog is still a pleasure to read, and an incredibly popular and lively one, to boot. Well done!

missjane said...

I wasn't saying that shorter posts would be more interesting, just that they would be shorter. You whinge a bit about people whinging about long posts, so, you know.

During my metaphorical lizard research, (I'll leave it up to you as to whether the lizard or the research was metaphorical) I tried looking up alternative meanings for lizard i.e. the things that lizard can be used as slang for. I discovered that there are quite a number of contradictory, occasionally educational, options.

Unfortunately, I'm still not sure whether she was insulting you, hitting on you or none of the above, but according to the Urban Dictionary, there are some interesting variations to add to the list.

If nothing else, it's resulted in me using 'metaphorical' as a descriptor much more often.

Susan Deborah said...

Thanks Rohan. It's lovely connecting with you after two long years.

Joy and peace,