May 28, 2009

'The Metamorphosis' by Kafka

I have heard about Franz Kafka's short stories, so thought of getting a glimpse of his work by reading his famous short story 'The Metamorphosis'. After I finished reading it, I couldn't really appreciate the greatness of the story except to say that it was a very interesting, thought-provoking story of a salesman, Gregory Samsa oneday waking up and finding himself metamorphosed into an insect and how it changes the life of people around him. Nevertheless, it made me to think deeply. Let me share them with you.
In ‘metamorphosis’, Kafka has shown several traits of the society in various places. The fact that Gregory doesn’t even realize his metamorphosis but is worried about his job, his manager and family reveals that in the modern society, most of us keep running towards our goals without having the time to stop and analyze what we are doing. Those of us don’t lead an ‘optimized’ life, i.e., a life in which most, if not all of the important things are optimized to the best. We accept mediocrity and simply want to move forward. Gregory’s plans to get up, even in his bug state, and think of catching a train to report to work is suggestive of the unrelenting pressure that he is under.
His brief mention of the manager and his colleagues tells us about the environment in the working place that one experiences. Highly demanding managers, colleagues who won’t hesitate to backstab if necessary, and an uncertain/unstable job situation are the things that can be seen in the modern corporate society as well. The intense competition at the inter-company and intra-company levels has made this place into a dog-eat-dog world.
For most of the readers from the US, the concept of an adult son staying with and working for reasonably fit parents would appear very strange; but that is the culture in most of South and South-East Asian countries even now. Sons who are married with children still continue to live with their parents. One can also see families in which all the sons live with their respective wives and children in the same house with their parents. In most of such families, the father, or if he is not alive, the mother is like the ‘head’ of the family.
Also, in the US, one can’t usually see an educated and fit female not interested in working or who doesn’t make an earning. On the other hand, in Southern Asia, it is common to see women with even master’s degree not working at all any time in their life. After the marriage, the decision of whether or not a girl works usually comes from her husband and/or her in-laws. Before marriage, her parents decide whether she needs to work or not. Since the education in most of South Asia is government-sponsored, the government’s investment on the girl’s education goes merely as waste. All this means that, a potential and large workforce remains dormant simply because of a combination of laziness, domination and controlling tendency. This trend is seen in many under-developed nations of the world, and I believe that the absence of such an attitude is a very important reason for the success of all the developed nations. In Kafka’s story, these inconsistencies are described quite well.
On one hand, the family wants to be free from its debts; but they hardly join hands together for such an important cause. They have entrusted such a job on the shoulders of their son. Moreover, their son is not even happy with the job he is doing. Even though they are aware of that, they do nothing to help him quit such a job and opt for something he likes. They could have helped his cause by earning some money from their part too. They continue to live in a large house which they don’t have to at all. Reading about such a family in great details first gave me a feeling that Kafka must have experienced a similar situation . Upon reading his biography, in which Kafka was reported to have a sad life with an imposing father, I could agree with others who also believe ‘The Metamorphosis’ to be autobiographical.

I felt that the final act of the family members getting fed up with Gregory and ‘let him go’ is very similar to Terri Schiavo case that stirred quite a bit of debate three years ago. When a family member becomes too ill to live but is somehow managing to merely exist due to life support system, what should the family do? Should they continue to allow him or her suffer in a situation that is far from normal living, or should they just allow them to die and put an end to the agony? This is a question for which there is no clear answer. Similar to the way the Kafka family was hoping for a miracle to happen to bring their metamorphosed family member to normalcy, several other families keep their comatose loved ones in life support hoping that a modern medical advancement would somehow provide a new lease of life to them.
In ‘The Metamorphosis’, many socially relevant themes are dealt quite nicely. It makes one question and analyze the concepts of love, care, career, family and compromise. Its global appeal and the applicability to several issues that the modern society faces help it become a timeless classic. Despite the act of Gregory’s metamorphosis not sounding believable, its underlying themes make this story an unforgettable read.

May 3, 2009

May Madness (Updates at the end of the post)

A cricket post after a long long time, since May promises to be a cricketing month. I absolutely love this year's IPL so far. Quite a bit of twists and turns, plus plenty of drama in the past couple of weeks already.
The perennial problems for most cricket fans are to choose a favorite team, and also to decide whom to support in a clash between two other teams. For example, my hometown is Chennai; I have spent the last 8 years before coming to US in Bangalore; and, my favorite cricketer, Sachin, plays for Mumbai. So, among the 8 teams, I needed to form an hierarchy of sorts, which is the following. What is yours?

#1: Mumbai Indians - Sachin's

#2: Chennai Super Kings - My hometown team

#3: Royal Challengers Bangalore - Team from my favorite Indian city

#4: Rajasthan Royals - For Warney!

#5: Deccan Chargers - For Gilly & Gibbs

#6: Delhi Daredevils

#7: Kings XI Punjab

#8: Kolkata Knight Riders

I am very happy that my least favorite team is loitering at the bottom of the points table. From the time of the 'multiple captaincy theory', I love every controversy that has erupted there. Saurav 'Huge attitude' Ganguly was removed from the captaincy - quite good news; 'Fake IPL player' - Superb fun; 'Kolkata' removal from the team's name - WOW!! And, now, the news of Shah Rukh trying to sell off the team - Good for him!

It is amazing how Deccan chargers - a team every team had fun rolling over last year, has now made a complete turn-around while the current champions Rajasthan Royals are were struggling at 7th place, while the runners-up Chennai are at 6. The first two days of the month have already produced some great nail-biter climaxes. A total anti-thesis to last year when there was gulf between the table-leaders and the strugglers. One look at the points table says that except the miserable Kolkata, all the other 7 teams are within 2 1 points of each other. This, with the tournament at the half-way stage, is a perfect scenario for a thrilling second half in a fortnight.

Also, when everyone who could wield a bat made merry in the first edition, mostly those who have a good technique are able to score in the current one. In fact, the 'Man of the match' winners for the first 8 matches were all proper and proven test players. Also, looking at the success of retired veterans like Kumble, Gilchrist and Hayden, there is definitely a scope for experienced and talented cricketers in the mad world of 20-20.

Tomorrow's Today's matches: Punjab vs Kolkata - I expect Punjab to roll over Kolkata, which should push Punjab from 6th to 2nd position; Mumbai vs Bangalore - Though Mumbai is the team that I would love to see winning (catapulting it to the top rank), a win by Bangalore would take them to the third place and pull down Mumbai to fifth.

Update: Though it was unpleasant to see Mumbai losing a match, Bangalore's win has truly opened up the table. Four teams with 8 points and 3 with 7! And, to maintain the balance, I am routing for Chennai to win tomorrow's match against Deccan chargers, thus leaping from 5th to 1st spot.