Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rain Makers... Mumbaikars

A beleaguered humid city
Prayers for respite from summer
Rain gods answer
Little raindrops rejoice
Summer runs asunder

A few days of joy
Then the city down under
Gutters run wild, shoes soiled,
Clothes don't dry, Yada Yada Yada
The city prays for winter

Aunt winter wears a sweater
Though its only 20°C-old
Days end early, Asthma attacks, Mosquitoes bite
Exams here and vacations round the corner
The city longs for summer

PS: Looooooong days.... shrt psts...

This post is dedicated to the city of complaint boxes.... I am... proudly... one of them... I enjoy the rains now... I look forward to complaining about it soon... WATCH THIS SPACE...

Monday, June 15, 2009

It’s a load of Rubbish… Read at your own Risk

Agent Green Glass finishes a 101 and Choco writes a 100, and I sit here trying to think of something to write. I realise that I have been thinking ever since I wrote some stupid story about the sweetness of salt.

I burn with envy. How can they be so prolific. Ms. R seems to churn out one poem a day. And each one seems to make so much sense.

In anger, I hunt blogosphere. I have to find another blogger as lethargic as I. My hunt leaves me frustrated and depressed. Everyone seems to be updating the blog at least once a day. And there are those idiots who do it twice.

Slowly I realise. Now I understand how the “little” boy felt in the common shower.

I can’t even update mine once a week. What can I write about? Nothing seems interesting enough. I have a few stories spinning in my head – but then I am too lazy to pen them down.

I can’t write poetry. I can’t intellectualise. I can’t write about food. I find politics boring. History repeats. Stories take too long. Films are watched and then forgotten. Work life is a constant. Women never change much. Who wants to write about men anyway? Nostalgia dawns… then yawns. And pets I don’t have.

I need inspiration. Or a muse. Or something to amuse.

Then I read Choco… write for yourself she screams… and as always she sounds candid… and threatening. I say fine. OK. I will write. For myself. Do I have a choice? Who wants to incur the wrath of a candid friend.

So I write this rubbish on my blog.

I am inspired.

I have moved my ass.

Now I move my fingers.

Still no muse

But now I am amused.

I have a post

I have exorcised the ghost

I rest in peace…

I can be lazy for another week

My blog name should change…

One post a week... by a very lazy freak

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mesmerizing Memories

My Memoirs of Mesmerizing Memories... dark and fascinating... A blog that I came across recently and I cant get enough of.

The imagery that the writer conjures up is fascinating.

A few examples below, which I have taken the liberty to put up without her permission. Apologies Anukriti.

From a post called "My Memoirs of Mesmerizing Memories: Blue,Red and Black-A Dream of Despair, Desire and Death" - This one is a personal favorite...

I see two slabs of walls inclined perpendicular to each other, suspended in space. No ceiling, no floor; no light no darkness; nothing below, nothing beyond - just this piece of existence in the depths of my vision. The wall is monochromatic - an evenly painted - dark as well as luminous, stark as well as gloomy - shimmering as the ultramarine sea, secluded as the azure sky, pure as sapphire - The brightest, deepest, most prominent shade of Cobalt Blue.


A glass coffin emerges from oblivion and encloses me within itself... In complete brutality and heartlessness, I rip open my breast... I take out my bleeding heart and hold it in my hands. My heart is nothing but a grotesque, malformed amalgation of blood and flesh... shapeless and broken like a mirror into a thousand shards!

I don't know if blogging ethics permit this, but something I plan to do every time I stumble on a blog that fascinates me or inspires me, is write a little post about it.

Enjoy this one... My Memoirs of Mesmerizing Memories

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Sweet Taste of Salt

Shazia walked up the stairs. Slowly. Her heart pounding. She legs heavy, like tons of lead. She felt the shackles, that society had put on her, as a woman, dragging her down as she walked up. She felt her desires piercing her mind, one needle at a time. She felt breathless, claustrophobic. The old, dirty, paan stained walls around her appeared to move slowly and come together to crush her. She walked up slowly towards her mousetrap, her one room cage, with all its animals waiting for their banquet - eager to feast on her desires. She was scared. But she had to tell them today.

A thousand thoughts with each step taken. Her life flew by her. She could see her childhood and her father. A policeman stuck for perpetuaty in the bottom rung of the police force and imprisoned in the bottle of cheap whiskey he consumed each night, drowning his frustrations at his pint-sized-life in the gold coloured poison-nectar. He would drink his sorrows and then come home to beat his wife and his children. Two boys and one girl. The girl, his eldest, and, in his opinion, the inauspicious wretch who destroyed his destiny along with his whore of a wife. The whore of a wife who he would fuck each night, after beating her up, while the children pretended to sleep. He beat them every night. With his fists, his belt buckle or with any weapon he could find in his drunken stupor. They hid the knives, each night, in the neighbour’s house. The one time he got his hands on a kitchen knife, he cut Shazia’s forearms and let her bleed until the terrified and pleading neighbours finally took her to a hospital. She still had the scars. He beat them everyday until she was fifteen and till his liver finally, fed up of him, delivered him to his end.

After her father died, they moved to her grandmothers house. The tyrant’s mother and mother of all tyrants. Shazia’s mother worked in the houses of the rich, cleaning their grime and helping them shine. Then she came home and cleaned the grime at home while the tyrant's mother, in her chair by the window, said the rosary.

Shazia went to school along with her brothers and excelled while they just about managed. As a ritual, they beat her up every year on the annual results day to wipe the smirk off her face each time she topped the class. They beat her every year until she finally hit back at the eldest brother. She hit him with his hockey stick and cracked open his chin. They never hit her again. But her grandmother almost stopped her school because of the incident and Shazia’s mother had to fight, grovel and plead to get her back into school. The grandmother finally agreed but not before her mother agreed to hand over every rupee of her income each month.

Shazia’s mother, to her, came before God. God never suffered at the hands of men. Men, the cruel bastards’ had use for women only as a body that satisfied their carnal desires or as a womb that protected them. She had experienced the wretched life of women in her society. A woman’s life is never her own. She can never have her own mind. She can never speak her mind. When she is a child and before she is married her life is run by the father. After marriage, her life is run by her husband and after the husbands death; she is dependent on her sons. No one understood women and no one wanted to. God did not understand women either. God, after all, is not a woman.

Shazia could never say no to her mother. Her mother loved her. Her mother had fought tooth and nail to give her an education. She had fought the tyrant’s mother and the tyrant’s sons to allow Shazia to take up a job. Not that it was much of a job. She made peanuts. But at least she was away from hell for ten hours a day.

Shazia had only one more floor to climb. She had been preparing for this day for months now. But she knew that this one time, even her mother would not understand. She was, after all, a product of the same society. Speaking to her mother, was what Shazia feared the most. Mother had battled men, poverty and the society all her life. But this would be the last straw. This would hurt. This would break her mother’s spirit. Mother would never agree. And Shazia could never say no to her mother.

Shazia worked in an old part of the city in an ancient establishment and had an unfulfilling job as an accounts assistant. She could do so much more. She was made for so much more. If only she wasn’t to be born a woman. If only she was born elsewhere, in another family, in another society, in another land, she would have archived so much more. Yet, she felt, it was better than cooking and cleaning in that chicken-coop of a kitchen.

Most importantly, she had ten hours each day of her life at her disposal.

And she had found love.

It was nearly a year now. In her twenty years on earth, she had never felt the emotions she experienced in the last one year. She felt buoyant and exhilarated. She felt wanted in her lovers arms. Love felt like a steady drizzle on a hot and humid summer morning. Lemon flavoured raindrops. Consistent, wet, fragrant, and refreshing - washing away the years of pain, agony, fear, and unhappiness. Love was like a floating feather and Shazia had found herself levitating, her feet always a few inches above the ground. Love scorched – making love in hot summer afternoons. Love was naughty and tickled. Love was risky and asked many questions. Love made her lie - to her mother for the first time in years. But love was never guilty. Love was faultless. Love was her only desire and her only hope. Love was also her only fear.

Shazia found herself smiling, thinking of love, at her doorstep. And then she realised. She was home. The smile disappeared. She walked in. Her head bent low, her eyes searching the floor - with dignity and humility, she walked in. She dropped her bags on the table and paid her respects to her grandmother, who refused to die, and was always seated on her chair, close to the only window in the room, a rosary in her hand. She hugged her mother and went to the little space in the corner of the room, designated as the bathing area to wash her feet. Each time one of the women had a bath, everyone else had to leave the house. The three toilets, shared, by the other ten families who lived on her floor were in the corner towards the right end of the floor. Chicken-coop for the soul.

Shazia, went into the toilet and locked the door. The smell of faeces hit her senses but that didn’t bother her. She had grown up in this place and the toilet was the only place she had any privacy. Not in the morning though, when everyone from the ten families lined up for their chance, a bucket full of water in their hands. She closed her eyes and gathered courage. She had to tell them today. Tomorrow would be too late.

Tomorrow would bring home the suitor her grandmother had found her. He would come with his extended family and she would be required to cover her face and serve them sweet tea and salty savouries. They would ask a few questions which her grandmother would answer and then it would be over. She knew that the events that would unfold tomorrow were only a formality. Her grandmother had already decided her fate - she would marry the balding son of her distant relative. She had seen a photograph and the man looked, according to her, like a bollywood villain, with paan stained teeth and a potbelly. But no one would ask her for an opinion. It was decided and she would be required to comply - with the dignity and humility required of a young woman in her society.

Her only hope was her mother. But she knew that this time, even her mother would not agree. She had tried for months to gather the courage, and yet, if her grandmother had not forced her hand by trying to get her to marry potbelly, she would never have managed to muster the courage to speak to her mother. Now she had to and she was scared.

She did not care for what they would think of her or the names that they would call her. She was prepared for the beating she would get at the hands of her brothers. She was prepared for the trial that she would have to face at the hands of relatives that her grandmother would gather, to deliver her to eternal damnation. She could fight them all. But she could not fight her mother. She could not think of breaking her mothers heart.

But she also knew that she had to try. It was her one last attempt at life.

Slowly, she walked out of the hell-hole she had locked herself in and walked into the hell that was waiting for her. She saw God at the stove, preparing chapattis for the evening meal. The devil, on her chair, praying her rosary with eyes wide open, watching, on TV, a young couple running around trees in an old hindi movie. A little devil, having just walked in and flung his shoes in the corner, sitting on the floor with his sweet tea and glucose biscuits.

Softly she said “Mummy, Can I speak to you for a minute”

“Bolo Beta” mother smiled a mother's smile

“Mummy. I wanted to tell you something. Please tell me you won’t get angry”

“Jaldi bolo beta” said mother, now impatient, her attention taken away from the chapattis.

“Maa… I can’t marry… please ma….please don’t hate me…. I…. I am in love ma... I love this person from my office…. I can’t marry that man grandmother brought…. I…. I love…. I love this girl called Deepti ma”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ahimsa! Then and Now

In my last post. I wrote about Ahimsa and its relevance to our current circumstances. As a Riposte, AGG put up a very interesting post with a very valid point. Very correctly, she pointed out that an eye for an eye would make the whole world blind. She goes on to say, “Ahimsa looks good on paper, and not in practice. Still, there must be something to it, if it helped us get rid of the British.” Towards the end of her post, she says that she does not yet have a definitive answer.

I can understand that. There is no definitive answer. The reason - there is never one definitive solution that applies to all circumstances, all problems and all situations.

On Ahimsa itself – It isn’t that I think Ahimsa is not relevant anymore.

It still is and yet it always isn’t.

I had, in my earlier post, said that Ahimsa was a very practical solution to a problem of the time. Let me try to explain myself.

Gandhi, a brilliant politician and the man who introduced us to ahimsa, used non-violence shrewdly and wisely. He used ahimsa to bond a fragmented, culturally diverse people and direct their combined energy towards one common objective. As an example, what did Madras have to do with Punjab then... or even now… culturally? How else could he gather the numbers together on one platform to fight one battle, unless he appealed to some collective sensibility?

Ahimsa appealed to our cross-cultural (now Indian) sensibilities of self-pity and self-sacrifice. If you think that I am going too far about our sensibilities, go back to our Hindi film music. We have very popular songs such as “Gunghoroo ki tarah bajta hi chala hun main” OR “Sheesha ho ya dil ho... thooth jaata hai.” Read the Ramayan or the Mahabharata and you will find stories about rishis and saints fasting for years and giving up worldly pleasures to achieve enlightenment or seek an audience with God.

In addition, ahimsa ensured that a people, weakened by years of oppression and therefore obsessed primarily with self-preservation agreed to conflict because the perceived collateral damage and loss of life was relatively minimal.

Whenever, there were mass deaths, such as the Jalianwala Baug incident, it appealed to our “Gunghoroo” mindset… it made us pity ourselves and yet make us angrier and more resolved to beat down the demon that attacked the unarmed.

Ahimsa was a very practical solution, by a brilliant strategist, to a problem of the time.

Yet, Gandhi supported the British in Boer war and helped recruit Indians for World War 1. He also offered “moral and non-violent support” to the World War 2 effort, but this time in return for freedom.

This is not a criticism of Gandhi. I have immense respect for the man, his methods, his passion, and his organisation skills. It is to his credit that he very effectively used the only weapons at his disposal to achieve a very difficult end objective.

Gandhi, by the way, did write to Hitler to try to get the only man who could prevent the war to do so. And in the end the Congress did not end up supporting the British WW2 effort after negotiations failed. The result was the quit India movement.

Some would call this blackmail. Some called Gandhi a wily baniya.

In my opinion, I think he used his weapons effectively. Ahimsa, his first weapon, was only a means to the end – freedom. His other weapon was negotiation. He used that very effectively too. He did as was required, in the circumstances that prevailed.

Would Gandhi use different weapons in different times? I am convinced he would.

Nevertheless, is Ahimsa applicable at all today? I think it is. But to understand Ahimsa, it is equally important to understand the use of violence.

Man has always used violence for defence, for retribution or to exploit an economic / moral opportunity.

My personal interpretation of Ahimsa does not allow me to use violence for either retribution or for exploitation. I would however; use violence for defence if there is no other alternative.

I would therefore never recommend finding the chap who hit the Indian student and bludgeoning him to death OR killing Kasab now. Both are acts of vengeance. Eye for an eye makes the world blind. I buy that.

Neither would I recommend getting children to elbow each other to get into a bus first. This qualifies as using violence to exploiting an economic / moral opportunity. So does going to war with a country to exploit its natural reserves.

However, I would recommend violence if a nation started bombing any country and all peace processes failed.

That in a BIG nutshell, is my take on ahimsa.

Ahimsa… is there still such a thing… The answer my friend… is blowing in the wind… in the winds of change… and the winds blow differently… in different directions… with different answers... to different questions...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Brown but not Out...

Chain reaction. Two angry young ladies. Kadambari wrote something followed by Agent Green Glass. I started to comment on AGG’s blog and realised that I had ended up writing a full-fledged post…

AGG and Kadambari are very angry. And rightly so. Angry with the recent attacks on Indians. And they have a very interesting solution. They recommend that we retain our posture of peace and ahimsa and attack these nations with our largest weapon - Our population.

Procreate and conquer.

Interesting concept and communities and religions have tried this before but with very limited success. This is also one of the reasons why societies, historically, were partial to that the male population. And men could marry multiple times. But I digress.

In my opinion, however, procreate and conquer is unlikely to bear dividends.

When populations migrate, they eventually take on the identity and adapt to the culture, habits and customs of their new adopted land. Over time and generations, the original identity is lost. Third generation brown skinned people living in the UK, for example, ARE as British as any white skinned man is. Loss of jobs to India hurts them as much as it pains a white skinned citizen. Bottom-line – if the procreate and conquer theory succeeds then brown skin may overcome but India won’t.

And some day in the future... we may have brown skinned citizens of one country attacking brown skinned people of another country.

Furthermore, we are not equipped as a nation to procreate exponentially. We prove this to ourselves each day. Moreover, we don't want to continue to create a nation of servants.

Its probably utopia... but the solution lies instead in managing our problem of procreation while at the same time empowering our already massive population with infrastructure, skills and knowledge to take on the world.

History is witness to the fact that it isn’t always the most populous nations or communities that have succeeded in creating new markets. Look at what the English, historically, and the Japanese, more recently, have achieved.

The solution lies in flooding the world with the power and output of our most potent weapons. Our mind and our creativity in “Jugaad”.

Most importantly, it is critical to achieve this from “our shores”. Work harder… in our country… to create our land of dreams… for us tomorrow… for our children…

While this is easier said and done, we have, over the last twenty years or so demonstrated considerable initiative to make this possible. Furthermore, the good news is that even if we achieve success with a fraction of our population, our strength in numbers ensures that returns are massive. It also helps that while the developed world is getting older... we are relatively young.

At the same time, we have to stop lending ourselves to the situation we often find ourselves in...

We have to stop being colour discriminatory ourselves. Oh yes! Indians ARE colour discriminatory. Our markets are flooded with products like ‘fair and lovely’ and our classifieds carry matrimonial ads for “young, fair complexioned men and women”. Bottom-line – A large part of our population still believes that the white skinned man IS superior. This shows in our behaviour and our attitude. Unfortunately, the way the world works… if you give an inch…

We have to treat ourselves, our infrastructure, and our nation with more respect. You will never find an Indian throwing litter on the streets of a developed nation. But bring him back to his country of birth… and he starts flinging garbage missiles out of his car and out of his window. Then we go and blame Slumdog Millionaire of bias. And we think nothing of badmouthing our roads, our infrastructure, our people, our habits, our democracy, our politicians and our everything to all and sundry. As a result, the picture that the world has of our streets and our people reflects on us. A people that thrives in filth… A people that come from the back of beyond.

Change is critical. Change is constant. Unfortunately, we hate change. We are Indians. So remain our habits. Even in Rome, we do as the Indians do. We lend ourselves to caricature.

We compete on cost. We fear competing on quality. We forget our ability to do "Jugaad"... our ability to conjure up solutions. We underestimate our creativity... And we are looked upon as cheap.

Ahimsa is history. Ahimsa was a very practical solution to a problem of the time. Ahimsa was not an excuse for cowardice. Ahimsa should not be used as an excuse for cowardice. Two men beat up one. Three friends of the man being beaten up stood by and watched. They came from the land of Ahimsa. They offered the other cheek… not theirs… but that of their friend. They were non-violent… not by choice… but by compulsion… They were cowards. Cowards attract bullies. Remember school. I don't recommend violence. But if you are dragged into it. React.

If we smell the salts... wake up... change... be practical... not just radical... think... create... improve... little by little... each one... everyone... the possibilities are endless... and brown will be the colour of choice... of success... of opportunity...

Finally... a day where we all go colour blind... Ah... Utopia... maybe... but feels good...