Old dog, new trick...sigh!

Monday, September 12, 2005

The travails of learning a language when you are way beyond the age to be receptive to learn anything new is best understood by going through it personally. And that is the way am getting to know. And if the language you choose to learn is french, then tighten ur seat belts n get ready, for its going to be a hell of a ride. That was a bit of exaggeration :D (n i never tire of apologising for them!).

The best thing about english is that one learns to look at every non-human as a thing, with no gender. 'No sex please, we are british' - so they said and neutered every bit of gender information of the language. So we have it is a dog, it is a cat kind of lingo. But the trouble arises when in a fit of sadomasochism, we enroll into a language class. Sounds cool at first sight. One never stops learning, u know what i mean.

So the teacher goes "in french, every noun has a gender". Oh WTF! why so? Because that is the way the language is meant to be. Every thing is masculine or feminine. It is not so much about a noun having the qualities associated with the gender. It is just one of the qualities of the noun like any other. I am already tempered by my experience learning the German language. The fun of learning the German language is described by a much more capable person, Mark Twain. Do read his essay called "The awful german language", if and when you have spare time. Atleast there is one less gender to contend with in French and that is some relief to me. But to the person nescient of tricks of modern languages, this comes out of the blue and starts questioning their faith in God. try remembering that the "book" is masculine in french and neutral in german and is bloody lifeless in english. And there are thousands of commonly used nouns in these languages!

Funnily, i have to "demand" to request for something in french and the difference in pronouncing poison and poisson can make the difference between life and death. The verb for requesting or asking is demander in french and always confuses us when it crops up in a sentence. Poisson is fish in french and poison the same as in english. This is another grouse against the french/english language. Why do words etymologically from the same root have to mean differently in each language??? Atleast in german, most words similar to english have meanings close to their english counterparts.

I am already in the 3rd week of learning french but i started this piece when i had barely started. So I ll stop my cribbing at this stage and reserve my right to publish again after delving deeper into the language.

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The Ordeal (draft)

Monday, September 05, 2005

I tried pulling the thin blanket over my head, it only ended exposing my legs. The cold air was blasting from the ventilator hole overhead but I didnt have the conciousness or the energy to turn it off. The constant cackling of Wendy besides me was a irritation too. However sweet it may be, the first reaction to a voice that wakes you up is that of a scowl and more so when the voice wasn't specifically targetted at you. We had company. Wendy's friend, one from her group, sat next to her now and they were creating quite a ruckus. Hmm pretty Wendy, working at the education department in Utrecht or was it amsterdam, made me sigh every time I had a look at her. Yeah now i remember, she would soon be in Amsterdam. She was in India to explore this beautiful and wild land. And before you start jumping to conclusions, let me clarify that I had met her only a few hours ago. I hope that exonerates me from any of your premature suspicions/condemnations! Or does it?! Thats not the moot point. We were over Germany. 37000 ft above, to give you a better picture.

The flight from mumbai to frankfurt via New Delhi was in its final stages. Delayed a bit at New Delhi due to a 'technical snag', but the pilot assured us that we would make it on time. Looking out, there was bright sunshine to melt away any frost on the window, it sure looked pretty from the top. With hardly any clouds on the bright spring day, the brightly colored fields were a visual treat. Wendy was butting in every 30 mins or so to inform a very fascinated me which country we were flying over. Some 15 minutes to land at Frankfurt. So i thought i might as well give up my ruse of being asleep. Mistake! Wendy was waiting for exactly that moment. She shows me something below and told me "Look, that is frankfurt!". Which meant we were flying over the city already but then at such a busy airport, one has to wait for his turn to land.

The plane was going in circles changing altitude frequently, skimming the cloudline. At times when it went below, we were offered a breathtaking view of the river Main and the city itself. My heart was beating in trepidation of what was to come. There were stories, always the stories, on happenings at the immigration clearance counter. And there were the worries, such a contagion, of managing to reach Stuttgart safely. Accounting for my debut international travel and barely manageable German language, these worries weren't totally unwarranted. And of course, thanks to the scores of people telling me how tough it would be the first time and that too alone.

There was a churning feeling in the stomach soon, partly due to the descent and partly due to the nervousness. The landing followed soon and we were soon taxiing to the terminal. I went in search of my overcoat which i had handed over for hanging during the fight. By the time i returned, Wendy was already away. With a sense of disappointment and I started to look for Rags. I met Rags when we started our flight at Bangalore. I was walking in the aisle towards my seat when i heard a person asking me "Bosch?". I replied yes and gave a smile. Then I had to move forward towards my seat and didn't have much time to get to know more. Later at mumbai, we introduced ourselves and were happy coz both of us were first timers. But we were seperated when we got on this flight to Frankfurt.

I saw him a few rows ahead of me. There was a heavy rush to disembark and I thought to myself that I would meet him once outside. The aerobridge kept going on and on and once it ended, most people knew where to go forward. Now I didn't. After looking around for Rags and then waiting for a few mins for him to emerge from the plane, I gave up. There were some airport personnel trying to assist people with directions. I approached a lady among them and thrust my ticket forward. She thrust it back and pointed to a passageway and asked me to collect my baggage from there and then go to the other terminal for my flight.

...to be continued

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The answer

I tried my hand today answering the deceptively simple question "What is life?". The friend who I mailed this suggested that this be put up in my blog. So here we go...




There are different meanings to life. There was no short answer and hence composed this mail.

Staring at the sun
If you want a biological answer, it is the phenomenon of self sustenance of a hydrocarbon soup which differentiates it from a non-sustaining one. There are many levels of life with humans being of the highest order and virus forming the other end of the spectrum.

Philosophically speaking, it is an involuntary one way journey on a road filled with potholes to make it less monotonous. But the purpose seems to be to complete the journey in a way considered satisfactory by the lifeform itself during its end.

Being a jain, it is another step on the way to ultimate liberation (kaivalya) with the quality of it determining your next step.

Being a cynic, it is a curse upon a being to suffer through an inconsequential existence and then end it only to enter another unknown and most probably equally pathetic state.

Romantically speaking, if i were in love with you and you'd asked me "what is life?", i'd say "for me, it is you".

I also believe its a precious gift from God given to us to be nurtured and given a complete meaning to,which will make him happier, for He creates us not to suffer but lead a happy and content life. Suffering only comes due to desire and humans confuse/mix the satisfaction of desire with happiness.

Shashank



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