Thursday, March 19, 2009

Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Justpontification.

There is a song I used to hear very often a few years back and it still comes up in my audio awareness every now and then.

The song is Californication. It has a very lilting tune which you can always catch on You Tube. I liked the audacity of the title of the song for the style of “sin” that is suggested besides its association with images of California.

The song was popularized by a group with a boiling Andhra-Restaurant name “Red Hot Chilli Peppers”. Now as we all know Red chilli has Vitamin C which is good for your health even if it is sometimes so hot that its fumes clean up your ears. However, there is no lurking lip-smacking anticipatory immorality that is suggested by the group’s name.

The lyrics of this song, when I finally got to read it on the internet, are as sober as young people can get --- a tad disappointing for people looking for sin.

The first verse describes what they meant by Californication.
Psychic spies from China
Try to steal your mind's elation
Little girls from Sweden
Dream of silver screen quotations
And if you want these kind of dreams
It's Californication

The use of China and Sweden may be the trivial parts while “mind’s elation” and “screen quotations” form the essence of the fruitless californication.

The creators of this song (John Frusciante and Anthony Kiedis, names I have also just obtained from the internet) have personal life styles, which --- as was said for Sister Maria in “Sound of Music” records --- would “throw a whirling dervish out of whirl”. Both were extreme drug addicts and, if they were experimentalists, they must have gained considerable wisdom from the lives they led (look up Wikaepedia). They must have survived when they wrote in Californication
Marry me girl be my fairy to the world
Be my very own constellation

There may not be Beatles’ greatness in the lyrics of this song. They did, however, coin a new word, californication, and they did say what it means.

No californication is expected when you are in your ninth square-year (between 64 and 81 years). That must be a blessing, especially if you do not insist that the best part of your life is when you were californicating. You are also not expected to get any attention --- another blessing --- from californicating youngsters for whatever words of wisdom you may want to give them. Young people have to live their life to learn and they would not want to learn by proxy from eight-to-nine-squarers.

Nevertheless we must have our say. As one ripens with age one is left with a head which would seem (see image) very swollen with respect to other organs such as those of smell and hearing and sight.

When the 8-9 squarers have their say, the younger people dismiss it as gyan (implying “wisdom of our ancestors” used first as a slang “ by Sir William Grant when speaking against Sir Samuel Romilly’s proposal to make men’s real property subject to the payment of their debts” if we are to believe New York Times of 1871 Feb 26) and bhashan (sermon as in the Beatles’ song Eleanor Rigby where we have “Father Mckenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear, No one comes near…All the lonely people.”

The title of this blog might as well have been “Dena gyan aur bhashan” which is a dismissive phrase used by youngsters for advice from seniors especially when it is filled with good sense. The hindi word “dena” means “giving” which I have included for rhyming with (in sound and syllables) “californication”. “Dena gyan or bhashan” would then be “Justpontification”.

It may not come as a surprise that most times, the things that constitute Justpontification of the 8-9 squarers could as well be “minds elation” and “screen quotation” as in californication. It would be disappointing if that is actually how trivially life is played on chequer-boards, checking and mating and slaying; not even ad-spiraleum in Hofstadter’s Escher-Godel-Bach sense. But we don't give up that easily.

It is hoped that the Justpontification blogs, of which this is the first, may do things a little different from californication, even if Justpontification is suggestive of a monastery and some chilling vibrations of rattling bones and weak digestive systems. No red hot chilli peppers; only cool rice-curd-cucumber. At some stage of life that must be the ultimate blessing.

One of the nice things about getting older is that you have never been that old before. You cannot really say that I have not been younger before no matter how metaphorical you would wish to be. My mother used to say at her old age that she does not know how to judge what is going on with her because she did not experience old age before. She just said she is finding out what old age is all about.

You are still climbing your mountains even when you are old. Rigor of the mortis kind and dogmatization is avoidable in older persons. So as you grow older and look back you can always say about trespasses of youth --- as the Roman catholics would quote Jesus Christ even at the hour of death “Father forgive them their trespasses for they know not what they do”.

But can we forgive the trespasses of youth simply because they know not what they do. Repentance and mending of ways is accessible to the youth. Should they not benefit from the “wisdom of our ancestors”? Part of this wisdom is punishment for trespasses as a deterrent towards future trespasses.

Why are we deferring punishment? Should punishment be deferred simply because it helps the economy to package and sell sin by mocking at the “wisdom of our ancestors” as gyan aur bhashan? Should one overlook shortcomings when it increases profit and drives the economy? We never ask “Whose profit and economy of what?”

The reason I got personally urged into this topic is because of a very scary experience a few days back. Our car, driven as always by Lalitha, was going at a comfortable speed on a badly lit Baner road (Pune) in the night when it was rudely shaken up as it was grazed by a speeding yellow-board fat Innova Toyota car near the Mahabaleshwar Hotel. The Innova did not stop and sped away in a flash. Lalitha’s car swerved to the side. Her car grazed along a banking on the road. There were other vehicles all around. There was a pedestrian in front of the car who was urging Lalitha with two hands to stop and was confused why Lalitha’s car was not stopping. There was a young cyclist ahead. It took some time to apply the brake. For those few instants visions of things going horribly wrong floated across every body’s mind. The cyclist was hit lightly just before the car managed to stop. Fortunately no one was hurt even slightly.

Did this really have to happen. Was this a consequence of forgiving too many trespasses?

The Baner road crosses the Ram nadi (river) near Mahabaleshwar hotel. There is a narrow bridge across the river. A very inconsequential Commonwealth Youth games was held few months back. There was a huge construction contract for people who require making filthy amounts of money. The Baner road was to be widened; it was widened in a hurry (without calling for proper tenders). The widening of the bridge could not be done in the short time. So a typical Indian solution was applied. The widening of the bridge was postponed. The widened Baner road now narrowed near the bridge leading to congestion of traffic. Traffic slows down because of the congestion. Road rage increases and young minds throw caution to the winds; they curse gentle ladies driving with caution. The driver of the Innova must have tried to scare the old lady.

Does the blame fall on the rash driver or does it ultimately fall on the greedy contractors who set standards.

As a good friend pointed out to me, the word that is most impressed upon the minds of a good middle class (Bengali) Indian is to be chalaak. “My son is so chalaak!” a father would proudly say. Being chalaak is not being intelligent but being cunning just as there should be a difference between californication and justpontification. Other languages have their equivalent. The chalaak mind usually benefits from bending rules and exploiting the “forgiveness” of good behavior.

The chaalu --- as they would say in Hindi --- belongs to the same tribe as several other get-rich kinds of the world. In India they include the Gutka barons and political representatives of the most populated kinds. They make money by milking human weaknesses. They sell cheap addictions and dreams to the poor and the ordinary. The chaalu makes a little profit from the poor. Every little illegal profit makes a mighty bank account in some understanding/conniving foreign account of a non-resident Indian (NRI). In principle, there is little difference in the methods of most rapidly rich people and that of a beggar who sells his poverty and earns a little bread. Would we call a rich beggar a good entrepreneur of the same class as the Gutka baron, or the beer king, or the swimsuit calendar seller, or the politician who gets (or claims to get) a rupee each from voters in his/her constituency?

One of the personalities I love to not love is our “sports baron” Vijay Mallya. Since he is not a friend and is only a public figure with a public record he likes to flaunt I feel free to discuss him just this time. It is not because he is super rich. Its not his fault if his father left him a sound business at the age of twenty eight. It is not his fault that he became an NRI which helps rich Indians not to pay Indian taxes. He seems to have all the virtues of super-rich American companies such as AIG, or Lehmann brothers, or even a Madoff. He overspends and influences people to get better credits and also not to pay, say, fuel bills (1000 crores?), airport bills (~250 crores to Airport Authority of India) for his airlines. As somebody said Mallya is now a king of Unaffordable Good Times living of government doles that are euphemistically called bail outs.

If you make a simple calculation you may find (sometimes calculations go wrong) that Vijay Mallya owes to the people of India more than twenty rupees per every Indian, and there are a billion Indians. You can be very rich if you can afford to owe that much! If you don’t return my twenty rupees I don’t talk to you. One billion Indians would not talk to Vijay Mallya. But does he care? He does not darn his socks like Father Mckenzie in Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby. He is not one of those lonely people.

In India, as I am sure it is so elsewhere, the richest people build the biggest temples. One may not associate Mallya with praying in temples. He does something equivalent. He buys Tipu Sultan’s sword and Gandhi’s spectacles and is rewarded by waivers on his petrol bills and relaxations on debt payments.

It is perhaps unfair to single out Vijay Mallya. Poor man! There are so many other influential people like him living on forgiven trespasses! Why pick on Mallya? Simply because he reminds you of George Bush --- another spoilt rich kid who did not grow up. But then, can you imagine if there are so many filthy rich like him, how much money every Indian is owed!

I suppose all this must be reflected in some way in the economic meltdown in the world starting from the very very chalaak attitudes of investment bankers in the mortgage crisis and the very generous bailouts of the US government by “forgiving their trespasses”.

Maybe we should have listened to the “wisdom of our ancestors” or the justpontification of economists before communism was known. Did not Marx say something like big fish swallowing small fish till there was no small fish and the big fish died of starvation? Or was it in Aesop’s fables or Thurber’ morals?

Interestingly Karl Marx did californicate. He ran up debts and was wounded in a duel before his father pontificated.

No californication please. Just pontification.