Monday, November 28, 2011

Makeover

Next week I plan to give this blog a makeover. The idea is to make it more minimalist. For instance it now has text in three colours (not counting black); I intend to get this down to one. We want to move away from purple prose and other youthful follies, and towards a layout more befitting of lists, aphorisms and proofs of Euclidean geometry. (Is there such a thing as an excess of minimalism? We may be about to find out.)

There is much to be said for minimalism, though for obvious reasons its greatest adherents – like Master Yun-Men (A.D. 949) – tend not to say much. Among other things, it imparts an aura of profundity – an effect I have been aiming for since early infancy.

Take for instance what is reportedly the first coherent sentence I ever spoke (to a visitor who called for my father): বাবা বাজার গেছে (Father has gone to the market.) Simple, beautiful, direct. And untrue (my father had not in fact gone to the market).

So in the meantime, if you have any suggestions – features that should go, features that should stay, new features, font suggestions – please do let me know. Minimalism has its place, but it should never extend to the comments section.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Notes from a Concert

Email
It all started about two months back, with an email from Nirmalya: Dylan and Knopfler are playing in London in November. Interested?
And what a piece of news and I said yes of course I am yes book it now yes and dream come true and loved them since I was little yes like crazy and yes I said yes I will Yes.
...Well, you get the idea.

Photo
Dylan at 70
But first, Dylan at 24, and six minutes that changed rock ’n’ roll.
Forty-six years on. Naturally, nothing this revolutionary was expected on Saturday, and nothing revolutionary occurred.

Dylan’s voice
Has changed beyond recognition
The three-note growl, they call it
And his band were too loud for my liking

Why we still bother with Bob Dylan live
I wasn’t expecting musical perfection, or to witness a seminal moment in rock history. I went for a reason as unworthy, and as simple, as this: to see Bob Dylan in the flesh.
But it was more than that. The last song of the evening was Like a Rolling Stone (for Mr. Dylan has no truck with encores). “How does it feel? How does it feel?” a thousand people shouted back at him, and for that one song alone, it was worth it.

My first Dire Straits album
was Making Movies, which I borrowed from a friend. It seems odd now to reflect that even fifteen years ago, original tapes of older music were hard to come by, at least in Calcutta, and were passed from hand to hand like rare and precious objects. In trying to record it, I accidentally erased most of Side A, including Romeo and Juliet. It would be months before we could locate another copy.

My first Dylan album
was a greatest hits compilation, also borrowed from a friend. I was listening to it late at night, louder than was strictly necessary. At first I didn’t know what to make of it.
My father walked into the room just as Dylan was launching into the chorus of Mr. Tambourine Man, and politely asked me to turn down the caterwauling. I wasn’t your typical rebellious teen – far from it – but I made up my mind, then and there, to like Bob Dylan.

Ayan on the tube
On the way home, Ayan remarked, “I’ve just been to a concert featuring two legends of rock, and you know which song is stuck in my head?”
It was this one, of course.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Asian Fail

This quote on OHinNY instantly reminded me of Pratiti – I was her Statistics tutor for a year, and each time she left more than four marks unanswered in an exam, she would moan that she would fail (I have written elsewhere about her nerdy habits, so I will not elaborate).

I have been blogging infrequently of late because I spend most of my spare time studying for my upcoming Japanese exam. In August, just before I left Tokyo, my Japanese teacher persuaded me to sign up for an exam one level higher than my actual level. This seemed like a fun challenge at the time, but there are several factors I did not take into account:

  • In London I only read Japanese when I open my textbooks, whereas in Japan it was all around me.
  • Here there are only two people with whom I can converse in Japanese – a Japanese lawyer (the only one in our London office) and a Buddhist priest whom I have befriended.
  • I don’t have a teacher, and self-study requires a lot of discipline.
  • For the level I was foolhardy enough to sign up for, they recommend 300 class hours; as of September, I had about 80.

It doesn’t help that my attitude towards the exam fluctuates every day, sometimes every minute. Some examples:

  • I’ll give it my best. That way, even if I fail, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I tried.
  • This is hopeless. Let’s go on Facebook.
  • I left office after 11 pm every day this week; I can cut myself some slack.
  • That is an excuse. We don’t do excuses.
  • Let me take out my textbook. I’ll show them!
  • Effing kanji.
  • Do I really need to memorise the characters for 航空書簡 (Kōkūshokan = aerogram)?
  • This is so awesome! I love studying!
  • I’ll study tomorrow.
  • I can’t fail. The humiliation!
  • Effing kanji.

The upshot of all this is that I rarely blog, I don’t make fun weekend plans, and still I study much less than I could.

So now you know. In three weeks’ time, an Asian will take an Asian exam, and he will fail. Only, it won’t be an Asian fail. It will be a fail fail.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Want My MTV

While revising old chapters in my Japanese textbook, I came across a comprehension passage in the chapter on Expressing Wishes and Desires. I scanned it, just in case you like looking at foreign languages like I do, but my rough-and-ready translation is below.

Things I Want

We asked various people what they want most of all.

1. I wish I had time. I go to office, work, come back home, and the day is over. The day is too short. I wish there were 36 hours in a day. (Woman, 25)

2. I wish I had my own bank. If I had a bank, I could take out money whenever I wanted and buy things I like. (Boy, 10)

3. I wish I had a potion which would make me young. When I was young, I did not study much. If I could be young again, I would study hard and get a good job. (Woman, 60)

4. I wish I had ‘humour’. If I make conversation, my wife says, “You will be busy tomorrow, won’t you? Go to sleep early.” The children tell me, “Father, we’ve heard this story about three times already.” I wish I could be more interesting. (Man, 43)

5. I wish there were another one of me. I have to go to school every day. If there were two of me, while one ‘me’ was studying, the other ‘me’ could do things I like. I wish there were two of me. (Girl, 14)

I remember learning this chapter back in July. My Japanese teacher had me frame sentences of the form “[noun] ga hoshii desu,” which means “I wish I had [noun].” This form is only used for things. It should not, for instance, be used to say, “I want to go to Iceland,” which in fact I do want.

And the funny thing is, I could not readily think of anything that I want, and I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing.

So, what do you want?