On behalf of the Weekend Thoughts team, my best wishes. We look forward to this new year as one in which we (as a community here at Ornet) hope to add more members, and contribute to healthy, vibrant, and useful discussions and exchange of ideas over the internet.
Can we make Ornet more *useful* in any way? Can we initiate meaningful dialogues on relevant issues, whether philosophical, or practical?
The Weekend Thoughts column completed two years of its existence. Happy birthday to it. Special thanks to Debasmita Misra for his encouragement and support, and to Ashutosh Dutta and others, for giving us the most wonderful listserver in the world, Ornet! Thanks, too, to the group of reviewers and editors (listed below) at Weekend Thoughts, who have contributed their time and energy to this endeavour. Editing is usually no fun, but we've enjoyed it all along.
Let me welcome Miss(Dr.) Arati Nanda as an editor on the Weekend Thoughts team. Her wonderful poetic skills apart, she will be of invaluable help in improving the quality of postings.
But don't go away just yet! Below is a summary compilation of all the articles that appeared on Ornet as part of the `Weekend Thoughts' column this past year. Hope you enjoy it. Once again, a happy new year to you.
Amitabh Mishra (email@example.com)
December 31, 1996, San Jose, California,
on behalf of:
Debasmita Misra (Minneapolis, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Arati Nanda (Linz, Austria, email@example.com)
Sidhartha Mohanty (Allentown, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Surjit Sahoo (Huntsville, USA, email@example.com)
"Honey Bunny," called out my wife, Seema.
I was watching football on TV; I pretended as if I hadn't heard her. My wife calls me `Honey Bunny' only when she's feeling romantic, or when she wants me to take the trash out. In this case, I had a strong suspicion it was the trash, because she'd been doing a bit of cleaning up since morning. Moreover, we've been married for over a year, and the romance thing isn't working any more. I pretended as though I was lost completely in the game.
"Honey," Seema called out, again. Now, for those who don't know us personally, in the hierarchy of names, `Honey' falls just below `Honey Bunny.' She calls me `Honey' when she's in a neutral mood. Not romantic, not unhappy, just in a wife-ish sort of way. When I've done something to annoy her (which happens kind of frequently), she'd call me `Hon,' and when she's truly upset with me, she'd simply call me, `Ho!' I have often wondered if she'd ever be annoyed enough to call me simply `H,' although I admit that's stretching it a bit too far.
Anyway, I was lost in these thoughts when, suddenly, there was the sound of a plastic bottle thumping my head, "Boink!" I sat up, startled. Seema was standing nearby, one hand on her hip, the other holding an empty plastic bottle, with which she had struck me moments ago.
She looked beautiful. She always looks better when she's upset. She was wearing a salwar kameez, light maroon in color, with a dark maroon churni, spotted at places with a flowery, whitish pattern. The churni was tucked neatly around her waist. She was clearly agitated. The eyebrows were arched high, and the lips were tight.
"So!" she said.
"So what?" I said, retreating a bit into the sofa. "So what, you say!" she said in a hurt tone. "I'd come over here and had been watching you for three minutes, and all you were doing was gawking at the TV with a vacant expression on your face," she continued. "Looking at those idiotic-looking Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, that's what you were doing!"
"Silly," I said. "Of course not! How can I even look at those girls when I have you? They're not even close to you!" I said. "Pooh!" I added, for emphasis. Seema looked happy now. With one hand, in a flowing motion, she adjusted her hair a little bit, un-tucked her churni from her waist, and re-positioned it properly. "I was simply watching this football game, and thinking about things, that's all," I explained. "Oh," she said, as she sat down. She took my hand. "What were you thinking about, Wookie Pook?" she asked. (`Wookie' is another name for me.) "Me?" At this time, she lowered her head, and fluttered her eyelashes in a way only she can.
"Yes," I said. "About you, and our life in general." I paused a little bit. "And about another problem which has been bothering me for quite some time now." "World poverty?" she asked, hopefully. "No, Ornet," I replied. I switched off the TV, got up and fetched two cans of Coke from the refrigerator. "You know Ornet, don't you" I asked her, while handing a can to her. I opened my can. "The mails I forward to you for you to read, remember?" "Oh yes," she said. "I love Ornet!" she said. "And I love Arati Nanda's poems! Can't you request her to write more?" "I will," I said. "But I haven't read anything on Ornet in ages!" she said. "Why is no one writing any more?"
"That's precisely what I was thinking about," I said. "And I don't have a clue. What can possibly be the matter with Ornet? I mean, one month we're okay, posting stuff everyday, fighting over things, and everything is just fine, and the next month, we lie cold, silent, as though some misfortune has occurred. Look at December: no one posted anything. Not even a single Sardarji joke. Something is definitely wrong. But what can it be?"
And there we were, husband and wife, pondering deeply about this seemingly deep mystery. I think we must have been like that for fifteen minutes: Seema on a chair, resting her chin on her hands and staring at me, and I, sprawling on the sofa, staring back at her, and tapping my chin once every five minutes or so, in order to assure her I wasn't sleeping. I vaguely remember there was a phone call in between; it was her friend, Meera, I think. Seema said, "We're busy wrestling with a problem, sorry; I'll call you back," (or something of that sort), and hung up.
I shifted a little on the sofa. "Is it possible that people haven't been posting their mails to the correct address?" I said, finally. "You know, instead of posting your mail to `ornet,' if you post it to `otren,' `netro,' or worse, `metro,' it'd never go through. Would drop dead right there." "No, I don't think that's the problem," Seema said. "If you post your mail to `tentro,' or `tentoon,' or `poon-toon,' it'll bounce right back to you. You'd then know immediately you were wrong about the address." "You're right," I said. Smart girl, my wife. I looked at her admiringly, and pressed her hand a little bit.
But we were back again in square one. I mean, you can give smart answers, like my wife did, but unless you solve the problem, you know, the problem isn't solved. Finally, I saw light. "See," I said. "It's Christmas time, and people are probably kind of busy sending cards, visiting folks, hosting other folks who have come to visit them, taking their parents-in-law out for showing them around, keeping their babies quiet, and things like that. So no one has time to read Ornet any more!" "Why, that must be it!" she said, happily. "Wookie Pookie," she said, "you are a marvel! I wasn't able to see that at all!" "Oh no, it was nothing,"I said modestly, waving her off. "Just a little bit of deduction and reasoning, that's all."
Seema seemed to think for a while, and then got up and left for the kitchen. I switched on the TV, but they were again showing the cheerleaders. Now, I must admit I'm not entirely against the cheerleader concept, but then, one has to work out one's priorities in life. So before my wife returned from the kitchen, I switched off the TV, just in the nick of time, and tried to look as philosophical as possible. Seema walked back, holding a plastic box containing home-cooked pitha's.
"But one thing about Ornet, I must admit," said Seema, "is that you get to see wonderfully practical stuff at times. Like that article on food, by Ms Chitralekha Hota sometime back." Seema handed me two pieces of the pitha on a small plate. "Two more," I said. "You greedy ..." she said, and heaped three more on the plate. "As I was saying," she continued as she replaced the lid on the box, "that article about food. She wrote about a delectable series of traditional Oriya dishes, and made me feel so very homesick! She has a wonderful knack of presenting the ordinary in a most refreshing light. Talking about practical articles, take Sidhartha Mohanty's article on dowry, for example. What a different way to look at dowry!" "Well," I said, "you are right. He wonders if dowry could be seen as a form of cash flow and wealth distribution. Of course he was kidding, but he expresses himself well." "Yes, he writes so well!" said my wife. "But why doesn't he write more frequently?" "Oh, he's busy working hard," I said, "plus, he isn't married. Before I married you, you know how much time I spent thinking of you?" I asked. "I know," she said, happily. "But whom does Sidhartha think about?" she asked. (This part edited for reasons of privacy -- Editor's note.)
"Take Debu Panda's article, for example," said Seema, after a while. "You remember, the one about his perennial struggle at quitting tea. Do you think he'll be able to give up tea?" "Can't tell," I said. "Who knows? But the suspense is good. Probably in the future, he'll have a chance to write a sequel, like `Quitting Tea With a Vengeance,' or something of the sort." My wife nodded her head. Then she spoke: "How did you like Sukanta K. Dash's piece, where he writes about not being able to convince his wife of his research findings, about cooling a baby's milk bottle?" "Enterprising," I chuckled. "Good enough for the world, and yet, not convincing enough for the wife. And that article, `The Feast,' by Sidhartha Panda, was also good. So delightfully natural, the way he describes an average marriage feast in the neighborhood!" "Right," agreed my wife. "Debasmita Misra's article on the significance of Indian movies was also very practical. Do you agree with his conclusions?" "Yup," I said, at a loss for a better word.
I stretched out a bit on the sofa. I was feeling drowsy. Seema switched on the TV. She sat glued, for they were explaining an European cooking style on that channel. Seema loves to watch such stuff. Now, there are some things about my wife that I absolutely love. The eyes, the long hair, that dimple on the side of her lips, everything. But there are some fundamental, philosophical differences between us. Take football, for instance. I think football is the greatest thing to have happened to mankind since the Stone Age. Ok, probably I'm exaggerating a bit; it's just the greatest thing since the *Metal* age. You know what I mean. She couldn't care less about football. Her interest in cooking drives me nuts. Zuccini this, Pasta that, and Lasagna them. I got up, and sat down again, near her. Took her hand, pressed it in a loving way, and slowly, took the remote control away. Switched the TV off.
"Oh?" said my wife.
"What did you say?" I asked.
"I said, `Oh,'" she replied. "Oh, you said `Oh.' I thought you said, `Ho!'" I said. "No, silly," she said, petting me on the head.
Presently, we were back to Ornet. "Philosophy runs deep in us Oriyas, doesn't it?" asked Seema. "I agree," I said. "Take Debasmita Misra's article on marriage, for example. It's such a rich, meaningful analysis of marriage, and so very well thought-out. Or Sashi Satpathy's piece, `Of Dinosaurs and Men:' the lessons man can learn from the species that became extinct ages ago." "I like Shishir Ranjan Ray's article `The Mask,' on the way the average Indian man seems to maintain two different standards: one at work, and one back home. Don't you agree?" "Err, uh, I mean, well," I said, fumbling for words, "yes, why not, I mean, not at all, not at all! Do you remember Radhakanta Mahapatra's article on `sun-glasses,' the one about man's prejudices and predispositions? And the one about the similarities between two historical figures, Chanakya and Gandhi, by Satyabrata Pradhan?"
"Yes, I do," replied Seema. "But the ones I like the most are the ones that tried to explore the meaning of life, and the key to man's happiness: `Rainbows of Goals and Dreams' by Markandeswar Panda, and `To want or To be Happy' by Satchi Panda. Devi P. Misra wrote about organizations in Orissa that need our help and support, Prasanta Sahoo wrote of time management, and Sadananda Sahu posed some difficult questions regarding the caste system. All of these had something we can learn from. Very useful articles. And speaking of usefulness, is there one to beat Dr Prabodh Kumar Mishra's piece on the creation of the province we know as `Orissa?' In a nutshell, he explains to us the essence of modern Oriya history. Another eye-opening article was Dr Lingaraj Misra's piece on the functions of, rituals in and the evolution of, the Oriya family. A true masterpiece by a noted sociologist."
"Wait a second," I said. "The title `To want or To be Happy' reminds me of a famous saying someone had said once. Let me remember ... oh yes, it goes like this: `To eat or not to eat, that is the question.'" "No, silly," said Seema. "It was, `To be or not to be, that is the question.'" "Oh, I see," I said, shooting an admiring look at my wife. She knows everything.
"Back to Ornet," I said, "You know which pieces I like the most?" "Nope," she said. "The ones about reminisces, down the memory lane, the pieces like, `The Second Time' by Subhankar Nayak, `The Changing Face of Bhubaneswar' by Ashok Swain, `The Meandering Thoughts of a Lazy Saturday Morning' by Rashmiranjan Jyotiprakash, `Weekends' by the same author, and Chitta Baral's `A Tribute to my Teachers.' In a different vein, Swapnakant Mohanty's `A Day At My Dad's Office' is a child's interpretation of his father's work day, and the feeling of awe and pride it inspires," I said.
Seema sat up stiff in her seat, and arched her back, as if fending off a yawn. She clearly was tired. Had been working non-stop since morning, cleaning stuff and all that. She's amazing; full of energy. In addition to working as a advertising executive (she writes text for advertisements with a marketing agency), she's a good painter, too.
"But you know my favorites, don't you?" asked Seema. "Yes, Arati Nanda's poems, aren't they?" I asked. "Yes!" said she. "So unusual, and meaningful. Take `Back Projection,' for instance. Only a poet like her can come up with such a beautifully dreamy trip along the corridors of memory, and only the mathematician in her can think of a title such as `Back Projection!' And her poem on the lost identity of the once-proud Oriyas, `Jaaga re Utkaleeya' is woven expertly. I've read it numeorus times thus far, but each time, it fills me up with awe and inspiration. I liked the other one, `PrateekshyA,' very much, too. The most touching of all was her rendition of the love a mother feels for her child, in `Mo heera kete sundara.'"
"Yes," I sighed a bit. "Wonderful creation. But I wonder at times: why doesn't anyone write about football?" "You and football," said Seema, as she got up, and started towards the kitchen. She started cleaning the microwave oven. "Why football? I mean, there are so many other things to write about. Say food, for instance." "How on earth," said I, a bit agitated, "can you compare football and food? I mean, can you take a dish of food and use it to play catch-and-throw with your neighborhood kid?" I asked. Seema shrugged her shoulders, and said, "No!" "Ok, now you can take a football, and play catch-and-throw with anyone you like! See? Now, if 22 grown-up men were to take one single pizza or burger or something, and fight over who gets it, what would you call it?" "Disgusting," Seema replied. "Precisely," I said. "However, if 22 grown-up men take a football and fight over it, what do you get? Professional football! You see how football is superior to food?" Seema pondered about this for a minute. She could not make much sense out of my logic. She opened her mouth, as if to protest, then changed her mind at the last instant, and got back to the cleaning. She nodded her head slowly. "You're right!"
A few minutes passed, and she finished her cleaning. "Off I am, to the showers," she announced, as she breezed past me. I stretched on the sofa, happily. Now I can see all I want to on TV, I thought. Switched on the TV, but now they were not showing the cheerleaders anymore. Only the game. I sighed and raised my hands heavenwards, in a resigned fashion, and dozed off on the sofa.
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