‘Malayalam is a Dying Language’

Last Sunday, I ran into my friend, Denson, at a concert hosted by a local Malayali association featuring award-winning singer M.G. Sreekumar, actress Remya Nambeesan and comedian Ramesh Pisharodi. As we sat together in one of the back rows, awaiting the next segment of the program, we got into a conversation about his upbringing in Kerala. Unlike most ‘millennials’, Denson was educated in Malayalam-medium schools prior to arriving in America at the age of 14. He claimed lamentingly that due to the widespread of English-medium educational institutions throughout Kerala, Malayalam is currently withering a slow death.

The assertion that Malayalam is a dying language is hyperbolic, though not entirely inaccurate. This statement has been echoed by MT Vasudevan Nair, a Malayalam literary giant famed for writing a plethora of novels, poems, plays and cinematic screenplays. Many Malayalis would concede to such an alarming conclusion.

Kerala is probably the only state in India where schoolchildren could go through their entire academic careers without taking a course in their mother tongue. My cousin Juhi attests to this fact. Although government schools in Kerala are mandated to conduct all their courses in Malayalam, the majority of middle-class families opt to send their children to Catholic-run management schools to ensure a well-rounded education. These institutions conduct their courses solely in English.

During her primary and secondary education, Juhi says that her school offered Malayalam as an elective rather than a core course, which she shrewdly took to reserve an easy A for herself. But a student was free to select Hindi or French. Therefore, it’s possible to be raised in Kerala and be completely well-versed in English, French and Hindi, but only be conversational in Malayalam.

It would a gross exaggeration to refer to Malayalam as a dead language, as opposed to numerous tribal dialects in Kerala which have already underwent a slow death. However, Malayalam has definitely been reduced to a downgraded status. I can’t imagine anyone my age reading a Malayalam novel. English-medium education would naturally instill a taste for the Western classics and the unique breed of Indo-Anglian literature. An average Malayali teenager would more likely to be found reading  Two States or The Hunt for Red October than M.T Vasudevan Nair’s Naalakettu. 

Within my age bracket, Malayalam has morphed into a Anglicized hybrid language, which would be termed as Aviyal Bhasha, a masala recipe involving a swirl of English and Malayalam sprinkled with tidbits of Hindi loanwords, Tamil phrases and a plethora of creatively-invented expressions incomprehensible to anyone over the age of forty.

If you need a example of how this unique dialect is spoken, watch a video clip of Ranjini Haridas.

Denson mentioned a competition held in Kerala where participants were required to give a speech in pure Malayalam, devoid of foreign loanwords or phrases. However, for its many formidable contenders, the competition has proven to be an impossible challenge.

Unlike my friend, I don’t lament the decline of Malayalam’s status as a language. Considering how sinfully laughable my conversation skills are in Malayalam, it would be hypocritical of me to do so. I just find the evolution of languages very amusing.

As a sidenote: The worst part about being solely receptive in a language is understanding when you’re being ruthlessly teased but being incapable of responding with a witty comeback. FML.

As our discussion slowly concluded, Ramesh Pisharodi came on stage and performed a hilarious stand-up routine (which I wish would have lasted longer than ten minutes). Despite being a young guy, Pisharodi’s stand-up performances contradict the widespread narrative of ‘pure’ Malayalam being replaced with Aviyal Bhasha. In fact, one could call him the anti-Ranjini Haridas (no offence to Ranjini).

It’s natural for languages to evolve, morph and sometimes be replaced with other languages. There’s no need to express sorrow over any current linguistic trend. I mean, god forbid, we turn into Quebecers and start implementing draconian linguistic measures in efforts to ‘save a language’!

 

 

 

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‘I Won The Debate’

We all witnessed that long-awaited battle between the final two contenders for the presidency. We all witnessed how collected and confident Hillary suavely explained her policy positions and reiterated her impressive resume detailing a plethora of experiences. Meanwhile, Donald Trump was practically foaming at the mouth, spouting interjections like a disgruntled child and repeating soundbites that were proven to be false.

Any objectively-minded spectator would conclude that Hillary Clinton undoubtedly won the debate. Although she was somewhat robotic in her demeanor, Clinton presented herself as poised and capable of handling the responsibilities associated with the office of the presidency.

However, to Trump supporter, none of that matters. Trump supporters are blinded by their unapologetic devotion to The Talking Orangutan. Their cognitive dissonance knows no bound. Since Monday evening, these people, whom Clinton had unwisely referred to as ‘basket of deplorables’, have continuously insisted that despite the debate moderator’s bias towards Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump emerged victorious in that war of words.

The majority of the country, and perhaps the entire world, wonder how any person could vote a man who is practically a parodying caricature of himself? You have to understand that Trump supporters aren’t attracted to the man himself, but an idea.

Many Americans have grown wary of establishment politicians, with good reason. Our elected officials have proven themselves to be self-serving, opportunistic and out of touch with the concerns of the average American. In fact, this is the root cause behind the increased enthusiasm for candidates like Bernie Sanders, Gary Johnson and even Jill Stein.

Donald Trump is obviously the most well-known of these ‘outsider’ candidates. Since the mid-1980’s, Trump has cultivated an image of himself as a embodiment of American prosperity. After all, it was he who wrote The Art of the Deal (well, if we ignore Tony Schwatz, his ghostwriter), which is, allegedly, a testimony of Donald Trump’s genius and street-savvy business instincts.

Donald Trump has a reputation of ‘telling it as it is’. Of course, every fact-checking media outlet has disputed this claim but try telling that to Trump supporters. Somehow, peppering one’s speech with misogynist/racist remarks and vulgar rhetoric is equated with ‘telling it as it is’. I must have missed that memo. Nevertheless, Trump’s behavior appeal to the voter’s longing for a new brand of politician. A bold, unapologetic outsider.

Speaking of Trump’s misogynist/racist remarks, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room. As I mentioned in a previous post, Trump has anointed himself as the field marshal in the battle against political correctness. In the name of multiculturalism and tolerance, any criticism against illegal immigration or Islamism is construed to be racist or bigoted. This imposed liberalism has resulted in a backlash, resulting in an elevated fervor behind Trump’s candidacy.

Today, the term ‘political correctness’ is all-encompassing umbrella term referring to anything that contradict the rhetoric espoused by Donald Trump, and the overall narrative of the so-called Alt-Right.

Trump’s performance in his rallies and the presidential debates is irrelevant. Trump supporters aren’t voting for a person. They’re voting for an image to their liking. An image that appeals to their primitive amygdalic instincts

Although I’m not a fan of the so-called ‘Sage of Baltimore’, I think H.L Mencken potently described our current situation when he said:

When a candidate faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas … men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people…..On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

 

Tropic of Cancer and Our Tryst with Draconian Censorship

In honor of Banned Books Week , I’ve decided dedicate a post to a novel defamed and banned in a nation hailed as the ‘bastion of liberty’.

Story-telling is one of the greatest skills our species has cultivated throughout the course of our existence. From our ancient epic sagas to those nostalgic, long-cherished bedtime tales, stories have nourished our minds and rejuvenated our spirits. By a stroke of a pen, a writer, geared only with his wit and creativity, could give birth to dozens of intriguing characters who, while existing within a figment of the imagination, are anything but imaginary.

What if a writer was informed that his novel could not be shared with his readers? What if you, as an literary enthusiast, was told by your government that you were banned from reading a certain book? What if every media outlet, from newspapers to cable news, disparaged a certain story as ‘scandalous’ and ‘reprehensible’?

Wouldn’t you be outraged? After all, what right did government officials have in instructing you on what to read? Who certified journalists and media pundits the credentials to dictate what is scandalous?

In 21st Century American, it’s easy to get aggravated and enraged at the preponderance of virtue signalling and sanctimonious moralizing in the name of ‘checking your privilege’. However, only a few decades ago, your freedom of expression was actually at risk. This country was governed by a bureaucratic administration dedicated to controlling our minds through censorship in the name of baseball, apple pie and the American Way.

We’ll be coverning  a novel which was considered to be one of the most salacious literary works. Tropic of Cancer is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Henry Miller.

Now, here’s a fun fact. The original title was intended to be ‘Cracy Cock’! However, in order to negotiate with the average reader’s penilephobia, Miller thought it was prudent to pick a different title (at least that’s my assumption).

Miller’s intention was not to write a novel in the ‘ordinary sense of the word’. Tropic of Cancer was meant to be ‘song’ or an epic poem, like Beowulf but with more ass-fucking!

The narrative chronicles Miller’s years in Paris living within a community of bohemians as he struggles with the separation from his wife. The overall story serves as a reflection of the human condition.

Miller unhesitatingly writes about his numerous sexual encounters, which, despite being described with low-brow imagery, had a peculiar visceral appeal. Many literary scholars, including Micheal Hardin, have proposed that the novel contained a ‘deeply repressed homoerotic desire that periodically resurfaced”.

The novel was published in Paris in 1934. Unfortunately, due to its unconventional and risque subject matter, Tropic of Cancer was banned by the United States Customs Service. The prohibition, however, did not stop a Manhattan-based bookseller named Frances Steloff from smuggling copies of Tropic of Cancer and selling them at her Gotham Book Mart. Ernest Besig, director of the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in San Francisco, launched a lawsuit against the government in attempts to remove the ban. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful.

In lieu of the controversy regarding Tropic of Cancer, numerous writers and journalists praised Henry Miller’s work. Baltimore-based journalist H.L. Mencken commended Henry Miller stating: “I read Tropic of Cancer a month ago. It seems to me to be a really excellent piece of work, and I so reported to the person who sent it to me. Of this, more when we meet”.

In 1961, Grove Press, an alternative publishing company in New York City,  released an edition of Tropic of Cancer that resulted in a series of obscenity trials challenging the American laws against pornography. In 1964, a landmark decision by the US Supreme Court declared Tropic of Cancer non-obscene, allowing it to be read by millions of American.

Tropic of Cancer is undoubtedly a monumental novel that challenged mainstream notions of sexuality. The book played an impactful role in the Countercultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Today, Tropic of Cancer would be perceived as tame and unremarkable in shock value compared to contemporary literature and cinema. The chaotic episode involving Tropic of Cancer is a testimony to how far we have come.

Galloping Through Troll Country

8958-004-4d4a49beIn Scandinavian folklore, trolls were supernatural creatures who lived far from the villages and towns. They were depicted as grotesque in appearance and unfriendly in demeanor. They became hostile upon encountering humans. Even going as far as threatening to kidnap them. In Norse Mythology, the trolls were the enemies of the beloved deities, and therefore, they were to be scorned and feared.

In 21st-century Internet culture, not much has changed. Despite the societal progress accomplished over the past few centuries, trolls continue to exist. However, the descendants of those dastardly, anti-social creatures have drastically revamped their habits and lifestyles. Rather than residing in the mountains, forests and under bridges, trolls dwell among us. A troll could be found anywhere, from the office to your local art museum. They occupy all walks of life, from well-to-do medical physicians to card-crunching janitors. They’re parents, children, siblings, friends, and lovers. Not only are they indistinguishable from the homo sapiens, they are, indeed, members of our species.

Cyberspace is the troll’s natural feeding ground. The troll scavenges from behind his computer screen. Lurking through various web outlets and social media platform, fueled with a strange combination of hate and boredom, the troll baits his prey with vitriol. Every emotional response, every tear shed, every bellow of angst nourishes his craving. So the troll continues to sow his poisonous seeds, hoping more users would take the bait so he can sustain a widespread hobby unknown to those who lived during the pre-WWW era.

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Hi, I’m a thirty-something year old ‘journalist’ who chooses to bleach my hair and invest my spare time insulting people on the Internet 

A couple of weeks ago, ABC News ran a story on this strange, yet ubiquitous phenomenon of internet trolling. They profiled a (in)famously polemical writer named Milo Yiannopoulos, a technology journalist for Breitbart News who unabashedly brands himself ‘the supervillian of the internet’.  Yiannopoulos made headlines last mouth for verbally harassing Leslie Jones, a lead actress for the feminized Ghostbusters remake, on Twitter and subsequently got banned from the micro-blogger site. Flamboyantly histrionic, Yiannopoulos made it clear to the interviewer that he has no regrets for his behavior. In fact, he believes that trolling is warranted in order to “combat feminism and cultural liberalism”.

Now, I don’t have to restate my opinion on third-wave feminism and SJW liberal rhetoric. You can refer to my previous posts. Nevertheless, I don’t approve of Yiannopoulos’s actions. His asinine behavior was completely juvenile. I mean, we all cringed at the Ghostbusters remake but it doesn’t mean  you have to act like a middle-school bully!

Leslie Jones deactivated her Twitter account as a result of the trolling. However, I think she was mistaken in her approach. On the other side of the globe, there is another television personality who also received unwarranted comments from those anonymous, behind-the-screen, warriors.

Ranjini Haridas is a Cochin-based model and host of Idea Star Singer (the Malayali version of American Idol). Although her Anglicized Malayalam has annoyed more than a few (including myself), she is deemed as the epitome of the modern Malayali woman. Despite being past her thirties, she’s unmarried and has no qualms about it.  She’s notably fashionable, luring the admiration of young girls and triggering the fantasies of teenage boys as she sensually dons a dazzling, figure-hugging outfit during every airing of Idea Star Singer. She’s outspoken, bold and independent. Unfortunately, this has somehow attracted the ire of a certain group of men in Kerala, drunk with misogynistic rage. They’ve taken to Facebook and posted vulgar comments about Haridas, shaming her behavior, her attire, her lifestyle and even her ancestry (apparently tharavad-shaming is a common practice in Kerala)!

Ranjini Haridas continually makes the conscious choice to stand above the cyber-hatred. The vitriol spewed from trolls is nothing but a source of amusement for her. After all, we all know the adage: “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me”.

Although, she hasn’t shied away from giving her detractors the finger..

ranjini

We often envision trolls to be these basement-dwelling losers, desperately putting down people to compensate for their own misery. While this may be the case for some, most of the time, trolls are moderately successful people who inexplicably take pleasure in provocation. In the words of Alfred Pennyworth from The Dark Knight..

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So what is the best way to combat the plague of trolling? Well, trolls are histrionic narcissists who thrive on hostile reactions. So the best thing to do is deprive them of their nourishment. In folklore, trolls reside under the bridge. In the modern era, trolls hide behind a computer screens. Under they have the guts to be inflammatory to your face, their remarks don’t warrant a response

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Grandiosity of Being ‘Politically Incorrect’

Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump has elevated himself as the field marshal in the holy crusade against political correctness. He has gathered an army of angry voters through his fiery rhetoric, denouncing the political left for promoting cultural decadence in the name of diversity and tolerance. 

A myriad of politically right-leaning journalists, media pundits and bloggers have also pontificated on the folly of political correctness, echoing Trump’s reactionary rallying cry to ‘make America great again’. Millennials, the humanoid punching bags for anyone over 40, are accused of being the useful idiots for this obscene leftist ideology.

What exactly is political correctness? I’ve actually used that term in a number of my own posts to highlight various forms of censorship imposed on movies, books and other works of art in order to irrationally appease political and religious sensibilities. If you’ve read my blog for long enough, there’s no question that I’m an ardent proponent of free speech, which I believe is the currency in our globalized market of ideas. 

However, the term ‘political correctness’ has been co-opted to refer to anything that contradicts the narrative of the so-called Alt-Right, a 21st century rehashing of Know-Nothing Nativism. Anyone who dares to espouse a nuanced view on the Syrian migrant crisis, immigration, women’s rights, racial relations or Islam is shamefully branded with the scarlet ‘PC’.    

Similarly to the fanatical Puritan society portrayed in Hawthorne’s timeless novel, the ‘alt-right’ and their allies elevate themselves in moral superiority. After all, they are the custodians of Western Civilization, which the PC left has infiltrated from their Trojan horse to poison with multicultural venom.

Although they overtly offer lip service to our timeless virtues of free speech and the free exchange of ideas, they retreat to their fortified echo chambers upon encountering a dissenting opinion. I suppose no one can break free from the cushions of their ‘safe spaces’. 

Nevertheless, these valient warriors against PC culture wear their ‘political incorrectness’ as a badge of honor. After all, to be anti-PC is the pillar of nonchalant edginess. 

And that shit can really get you laid!

So if you want to join the elite ranks of the Politically Incorrect brigade, you must follow these Ten Commandments: 

1) Recite the Anti-PC shahada: “There is no world more civilized than the Western World, and Donald Trump is its savior”

2) Staunchly assert that Islam is monolithically evil and refer to anyone who contradicts your statement as a ‘Islamic Apologist’

3) Use snarl terms like ‘Cultural Marxist’, ‘Apologist’, ‘Race-Baiter’, ‘Regressive’ as frequently as possible. You don’t have to know what they mean. Just intersperse them in every other sentence.

4) If someone successfully refutes your assertions, just shrug and claim that you were being sarcastic

5) Slut-shame any blogger or media personality promoting a feminist cause. If someone dares to criticize your asinine behavior, accuse them of being a ‘white knight’

6) Play the victim card when someone calls you out on your bullshit 

7) Express your heartfelt patriotic zeal by maligning ethnic minorities, immigrants, women, the handicapped and babies

8) Infuse identity politics and nationalistic rhetoric in every political discussion

9) Ignore the plight of the working poor, unless the topic of immigration is brought to the forefront

10) Make 4chan your homepage

Romanticizing Suffering

This Sunday (Sept 4), Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu will be officially recognized as a saint in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church and the general public. For the benefit of those who are too lazy to do some quick googling, Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu is the birth name of Mother Teresa.

download (5)We all know Mother Teresa as that angelic Albanian nun who dedicated her entire life to the poor and destitute in Calcutta. Although she is widely lauded for her social work, Mother Teresa hasn’t been immune from her share of criticisms; financial secrecy, her stance on abortion and contraceptives, her connections with the Duveliars in Haiti, her unabashed support for the Indira Gandhi administration during The Emergency of 1975, the sub-par conditions of her treatment centers and allegations of forcible conversions have all contributed to the controversy surrounding her legacy.

I’m not going to dive into any of the issues mentioned in the last paragraph. I’ll reserve that for journalists and ‘media pundits’. I actually want to discuss Mother Teresa’s take on suffering.

According to Mother Teresa, “Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow and suffering are but the kiss of Jesus-a sign that you have come so close to him, he can kiss you”

The Problem of Suffering is the oldest connundrum in religion. Assuming a benevolent God exists, why do we suffer?

Mother Teresa’s quote is a common rhetoric espoused by religious people to explain away the problem of suffering. They circumvent the paradox by concluding that suffering is an expression of God’s love.

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Now, I’m no farmer but I know manure when I smell it…

Seriously, the whole “suffering is a gift from God” saying sounds like nothing more than  a spiritualist blend of hot air. It’s an attempt to romanticize suffering (as bizarre as that sounds).

Of course, we would have to ignore the fact that the whole point of modern medicine is to alleviate suffering. I have never met a person who has prayed for cancer. However, if you take a stroll through the oncology department at any hospital, you’ll see cancer patients begging God for a miraculous cure!

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness is not a celestial blessing. No one praises God for being mercilessly beaten by their spouse. Nor are they filled with grace while being anally-raped.

Suffering, unfortunately, is an unavoidable fact of life. Some people suffer for than others. As we acquire more knowledge, we, as a species, can invest our time in alleviating pain. However, we can only go so far.

Nevertheless, we shouldn’t delude ourselves in putting a positive spin on suffering. We shouldn’t sugarcoat our pain and agony. While one can certainly overcoming the burdens and tribulations inflicting his/her own life, to perceive them as ‘divine kisses’  is severely delusional