XALA by Ousmane Sembene

In Movies on February 21, 2012 by Sukrit Tagged: , ,

Any Price !

I want to be a Man again

says El Hadji, the protagonist, polygamist, corrupt businessman who forms the central character of Xala, a film by Ousmane Sembene. Xala is a vivid portrayal of the contradiction of Senegalese life post independence from their French colionolists. As the drums die out, the celebration of freedom and independence is replaced by a muted resignation; for nothing has changed. The white man ruled the black man before the independence, now it is the turn of the higher black man to rule the lower black man with the white man’s money. The opening sequence of the film brilliantly captures this- As the traditional costumes are replaced by sharp business suits and by empty speeches of socialism, the white man comes with money in hand to buy out the black ‘buisnessmen’.

El Hadji, a corrupt businessmen uses bribed money to buy himself a third wife. With the purchase follows the big night after the wedding. And, what do you think happend ? Impotence or Xala struck. The movie is at once a critique of polygamy, of the influence of european culture on the traditional but most of all it is a critique of the black man’s dream to become white. This dream is not limited to Senegal or Africa. Instances of it can be seen across the colonized world- in India with the adoption of westernized beliefs, in Pakistan, in Trinidad, in Latin America… It seems as if the colonized suffer from an all pervading Stockholm syndrome. As the urban or rich section of the population transform into “Europeans” the country expectedly goes through a cultural crisis. It is the crisis of a country without a past and without a history to claim as its own. What follows is an inevitable rift between the newly westernized and the nationalists, not unlike fundamentalism in Middle East. Ousmane shows us delicate glimpses of this in the confrontations between the French speaking El Hadji and his nationalist daughter Rama.

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Troubles by JG Farrell

In Books on January 16, 2012 by Sukrit Tagged: , ,

It’s a strange book, unconventional perhaps, charming at points boringly dull at others. The narrative is dense, an unseemly mixture of sarcasm, destruction, sexual desire and comic humor. It is a brilliant portrayal of the upheavals in Ireland during the 1920s and the ensuing disintegration of the British Empire. Inspite of all its qualities, the booker prize seems unwarranted. The narrative is inconsistent and lacks the vision necessary for the work to be categorized as a great historic novel; at best it is not the best work of a wonderfully talented writer.

In those days the Majestic was still standing in Kilnalough at the very end of a slim peninsula covered with dead pines leaning here and there at odd angles.  At that time there were probably yachts there too during the summer since the hotel held a regatta every July. As for the regatta, for some reason it was discontinued years ago, before the Spencers took over the management of the place.  And a few years later still the Majestic itself followed the boats and preceded the pines into oblivion by burning to the ground — but by that time, of course, the place was in such a state of disrepair that it hardly mattered.  Read More »


Jacquard’s Punched Card: How a hand loom led to the birth of the information age

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2011 by Sukrit Tagged: , , ,


Travelling back to pre-revolutionary Lyons, France it would be a customary sight to see the city dominated by weaving studios- large rooms full of even larger looms operated by expert master weavers not much different from the sight opera conductor. For since roman times Lyons was famous for its fine quality of silk weaves – intricate and complicated patterns beautifully represented in fine knit silk. In the late seventeen hundreds Lyons suffered from a peculiar conundrum – It had more orders than its weavers could possibly deliver. A radical new invention was needed to cope with this demand. It was here that Jacquard came up with his design for a programmable loom thus bringing a paradigm shift in the way humans thought of as machines. Just as William Shakespeare might never have become a great poet and playwright without the wonderful simulation and energy of Renaissance London all around him, Jacquard would most likely never have blossomed as an inventor had he not lived in Lyons, the silk-weaving capital of the world.

The standard silk weaving loom of the day called the drawloom was a pitiable machine or rather not a machine at all. It only facilitated the manual weaving of patterns or images in fabric thus requiring expert weavers. At the maximum rate of two woven rows a minute, a mere inch of brocade fabric still required a full working day to complete, each warp thread requiring manual lifting and placement.  What was required was a method of ordering, with complete precision, the lifting of warp threads that formed the shed in a better way than having a draw-boy doing the whole thing by hand. Programming Cards was the answer.

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Two Awesome Sites

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 by Vikas

After everything as good as xkcd, abstrusegoose, questionablecontent, dilbert etc.(if you haven’t gone to any of them please do go.) I have come across two news websites which should be told about.These are

1. Incidental comics

2. Dear Blank Please Blank

I am not saying these are as good as the above mentioned epic ones but they are pretty good.



Seriously this is all I could come up for a post. Looks like I am out of ideas.

College started and the all I could do in the very first week was to be unable to fully decide what courses I am going to take in the sem.

@anurag : thnx for telling me about the second site.


A Quote

In Uncategorized on January 2, 2011 by Sukrit

In Life it is not your abilities that decide who you are, it is your choices.

— Albus Dumbledore


Hell’s Angels

In authors and stuff, Books on December 31, 2010 by Sukrit Tagged: , , ,


Well. Hmm. A cigarette does a person a world of good. No generalities. It does me a world of good. Clears up the head a little. Focuses ones mind. I find it hard to distinguish whether this mind clearing effect is narcotic or rather a play of my own psyche. But that is secondary. Whats important is that it does me good. Didnt i just start out with this. Focuses the mind ! yeah sure sure.

So anyways just finished reading Hell’s Angels , a chronicle of the marauding losers outlaws jokers petty criminals etc. written by the wild man of American Journalism Hunter S. Thompson. Well that guy does live upto his reputation. The book is as good as promised- frank, real, un-prejudiced and with depth. You see what makes Thompson different from other writers is a set of two things :

1. He doesnt go into anything with pre-nomination or rather a pre formed opinion. Like Holmes used to say , its futile to theorize before you have the facts.

2. Unlike other journalists who tend to stay away from the action and take a bird eye view, Thompson jumps in the pot.

How do you chronicle a gang of killer biker outlaws notoriously famous (or infamous) for their notoriety ? Well its simple. buy a big fuckin bike. Fill it up with gas and spend a year on the road with them partying pleasuring eating drugs. Thats Gonzo Journalism. Hunter S. Thompson founded it in Hell’s Angels. What ends in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas begins in this book. Its the freewheelin journey of a man out to document the most awesome and shocking phenomenon of the American 60s- The Hell’s Angels.  It takes a man as crazy as the Angels themselves in order to be able to successfully document them.

Well Hell’s Angels are the elite of the motorcycle outlaws the one percenters, outlaws whose Harley 74 is all they own in the world and all they care about.  Living on the bike from one run to another, booze and drugs and occasional visits to the mamas and huge tattoos and the winged skull on the back of their jackets and the mix of human semen grease and sweat characterizing them and with chains as belts holding up the crumpled levis and orgies and scuffles with the police and shows for the ‘squares’ and breaking up peace marches and constant pondering about the world and the feeling of alienation and constant worrying, worrying that the person sitting next to them might just turn around and stick it in their guts and devotion to their president and a healthy contempt about all middle class upper class and all other classes and the protection of their dominion and to being called losers and being seen with awe and shock by the so called citizens and LSD and marijuana and more sex and week long parties with stupors long enough only to sustain the human body and Harleys and road accidents and road rash and characterized by California and beating up the niggers and being petty criminals showcased by the press as professional thugs and being forced to live up to their image and drinking beer instead of water and knowing nothing or no one except their angel brothers and with no money or property or corrections and showing respect for Ginsberg but hatred for the screwed up beatniks and generally inhuman (or human- depending on which side you are on) and the mystic element and beer brawls and then some more beer followed by sex.

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The Books of Bokonon

In authors and stuff, Books on December 21, 2010 by Sukrit Tagged: , ,

Just got up from reading Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. The book turned out to be typical Vonnegut- full of deadpan humor, bitter irony and tragic satire. It would be a tough quest if one set out to explain or review the book. The book is about life or rather its meaninglessness, the senility of human beings and the futileness of all human endeavors. Its also about the war, the atom bomb, science, midgets , dictators and religion. Take everything around you put it in a mixer turn on the switch and out comes Cat’s Cradle.

Even though Vonnegut’s narration is crazy at best and drivel at worst, the book strikes a chord somewhere deep down. It opens up the box that each of us has kept safely locked up, the box full of Whys.  Why this ? why that ? why iit? why life ? blah blah blah. I wont go on , afraid lest it may turn out to be Confessions 2.0

Anyways the best part of the book is Bokonon – a crazy half negro full of nice little witty sayings. I’ll sum up few of my favorites

Tiger got to hunt,

Bird got to fly;

Man got to sit and wonder,’Why, why, why?’

Tiger got to sleep,

Bird got to land;

Man got to tell himself he understand.


A lover’s a liar,

To himself he lies.

The truthful are loveless,

Like oysters their eyes !


In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in his cosmic loneliness. And God said, ‘Let us make living cretures out of mud, so the mud can see what we have done.’ And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close as mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked, ‘What is the purpose of all this?’ he asked politely.

‘Everything must have a purpose?’ asked God.

‘Certainly,’ said man.

‘Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,’ said God. And he went away.

There are several more. If you liked these then you would love the book. A warning. All of the above are fomas ofcourse. fomas are lies.

I must thank Shriram for lending me In Xinadu. For one I became a great fan of William Dalrymple and ended up reading From the Holy Mountain. On the other it revived my taste for History especially Roman History. All though In Xinadu was splendid in many ways, its epilogue was special. Here’s a snippet –

When Sir Richard Burton left Mecca having spent a year there in disguise, despite having just accomplished one of the greatest-ever feats of exploration he found himself overcome with depression.

The exaltation of having penetrated and escaped the Holy City without damage was followed by languor and disappointment. I had time upon my mule for musing upon how melancholy a thing is success. Whilst failure inspirits a man, attainment reads the sad prosy lesson that all our glories “are in shadows not substantial things……”



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