Thursday, May 4, 2017

Life of Pie

She woke up as the first rays of dawn grazed through the tiny window. For a while, they toyed around on the floor made of dried mud, forming patterns of different colours and hues. But as the sun ascended, they spread around the single-roomed house, lighting up every corner.
She hated waking up this early but the uncomfortable hay mattress she used, did not allow her the luxury to sleep late. Gazing silently at the thatched roof from where tiny specks of light had begun to beam through, she wondered why they couldn’t live in a larger house. Ah! Anything would be better than this miserable shack!

She could hear her mother talking to the neighbours outside. Oh, how loud were they! A cackle, a gasp, a squawk, a sigh. This wasn’t conversation. This was noise. God! Couldn’t they be quieter? The shrillness of their voice could easily wake up the whole town!
Just as she begun to straddle around, wondering how long her ears would be able to bear the piercing sounds, her mother barged in.

“Oh dear”, her mother said running towards her and gathering her in an embrace, “I am so lucky to have you”. “What’s wrong, Mom?” she asked, sensing the soothing arm of her mother around her. It felt like feather.
“They took away Mrs. Nugget’s son today”, her mother said, her tone bereft of the usual sharpness. “Big fat Tom?” she asked. Her mother nodded. For a second, she was glad. Big fat Tom, as she liked to call him, was extremely annoying. She hated the way he moved around, unable to balance his weight on his legs. At times she saw him through the window, lazing around in the sun, eating corn with his wide mouth. But then, Mrs. Nugget loved him and pampered him to the core. It was for her sake that she should be sad.
“Who took him, Mom?”, she asked, knowing fully well what the answer would be.
“The Master”, her mother replied hesitantly, “Anyway, I am leaving for work”, she said moving towards the door. Before anything further could be asked, her mother had left.
If there was one thing that nobody talked about in their house, it was The Master. Even a passing mention of the man was forbidden. Though curiosity made her collect all the information about him that she possibly could, her understanding was still limited. For one, he was whom everybody in the neighbourhood worked for. He was also whom everybody in the neighbourhood was scared of. Nobody told her why. But there were instances when she had overheard her mother’s friends crying about how mercilessly he had taken their children away.
Nobody knew what he did with them. But the tales were ghastly. Some said he sold them. Others said he locked them in his basement and made them work as slaves. However, once taken, they were never heard from again.

As the day progressed, she decided to take a stroll. Stepping out of the house, she saw everybody engrossed in their daily business. A man was feeding his horses, a woman was washing her clothes, a pig was swaddling in the swamp and a cat was sleeping under a tree. Lazily glancing around the street, she made her way towards the shed where her mother worked. Even from this distance, she could see a lot of movement. People were entering the shed empty handed and leaving with baskets full of goods. What these goods were, she couldn’t really see but the shine off their white surfaces flashed across her eyes. She often wondered what exactly her mother’s job was. Did she make these baskets? Or did she paint the merchandise white? Whenever she asked her mother about it, her queries were typically met with silence.
“What are you doing here?” her mother shouted, “Go back home!” For a moment, she was taken aback. She hadn’t seen her mother coming out of the shed. “I just came out for a walk”, she responded. “Young ones like you are not supposed to come out for walks unattended”, her mother said, barely suppressing her anger. A bark made them both turn. A black dog with a collar around his neck had woken the cat from its slumber and sent it running. Suddenly, her mother grew fidgety and began to look around with fear writ large on her face. Her eyes came to rest on a man in the adjoining field. “Master...” her mother blabbered.
The man was tall, mustached and muscular. Wrapped in a dhoti from waist down, he was kneeling before a cow, praying with folded hands. The cow was busy feeding on the grass which had been neatly laid down in front of her, unaware of her own importance. Steadily, the man opened his eyes and stood up.
She looked at him for the first time. He certainly didn’t appear to be as ferocious as all the tales said! The dog went running to him and began to lick his feet. The man smiled and patted him. This was just the moment when his gaze fell upon her mother. With small but sturdy steps, he made their way towards them. She could feel her mother cringe as he approached. As tall as he was, he looked down at her mother and muttered, “You look nice and healthy. I am having guests over tonight. I think you’ll suffice”.
And then he swiftly walked away, leaving them both too stunned to move.

That night, her mother was taken. She didn’t realize when, she didn’t realize how. But when she found out the next morning, she didn’t know what to do. Mrs. Nugget came over and at her insistence, told her the truth. Her mother had been the meal of The Master’s guests last night. As hens, the primary purpose of their life was to please the taste buds of their masters. The masters loved everyone selectively. Dogs were their family members, Cows were their Gods, Horses were their vehicles and Hens were their food.

Just like Big Fat Tom and her mother, she and Mrs. Nugget too would be on somebody’s plate someday. If God was good, they’d be cooked in whole. Or else, they would be slowly ripped apart and served as a leg piece, a breast, a wing or a pie.

After all, only human lives mattered.
Chicken were mere protein.

Monday, March 7, 2016

An Open Letter to a Closed Mind

"Bombs and pistols do not make a revolution. The sword of revolution is sharpened on the whetting-stone of free ideas".

Dear Nationalistically-inclined, morally-supreme, omnipotent,'liberal-sickular-presstitude' annihilators,

You must already have judged me by the statement in Italics above (*The font was obviously not chosen because Mrs.Gandhi hails from Italy).
A lot of questions, pertinent at that, must be thronging your mind. Your fingers must be frantically dancing on your keypad, your mind- occupied with devising the choicest abuses to throw my way. How dare I talk about free ideas and opinions? How dare I utter the R word ? What gives me the right to insult our soldiers by denouncing the use of armed weapons? Where was I when the emergency was imposed? Why don't I just accept it that the Congress has paid me to write this? This is a statement of anti-national conjectures and I must be immediately packed off to Pakistan.
Well, so be it. But just so you know, you will have to, hereon, quit your stake to Shaheed Bhagat Singh's legacy because these are precisely the words he used to defend his acts of rebellion in the Lahore High Court. Surprised? Don't be. Indian history is an ocean of sheer magnificence. It can not be moulded to either suit the tunes of the first dynasty or fit the bill of Sangh's ideology.

I write this letter as a worried citizen who is being subjected to needless quarrels and bitter arguments about the status of my country, everyday. Flipping between the tags of 'pseudo-intellectual' and 'anti-national', my beliefs need to be aggressively labeled until I subscribe to a specific line of thought. The din of the past few months has ripped the sheen off the proverbial 'Achhe Din' (Pun intended). Though I can cull numerous instances which have now been conveniently shoved under the carpet, let me focus my energies on just one- Kanhaiya- The not-so-glamorous 'Student of the year' who was branded, detained and reprimanded for having spoken his mind in a place which has been legitimately devised to air free ideas. Welcome to the world of a University, Dear 'Viraat' Nationalists- A place many of you might not have witnessed first-hand, quite like the minister with a Yale-certification, who has mastered the art of veiling her apparent flaws under layers of acute histrionics. I will not take the liberty of talking about how student movements are handled in the United States or across most parts of Europe. Evidently, these countries are not the benchmarks we have set for comparison. Our standards revolve around Pakistan and Bangladesh whose levels of tolerance/intolerance we often refer to. I will also not take this opportunity to talk about what transpired in the Jawaharlal Nehru University. It has been shown (both doctored and original versions) and talked about relentlessly. What I am instead going to remonstrate is the law which was used to give shape to this entire incident. At this point, let us quickly steal a glance at the following-

"Section 124 A, under which I am happily charged, is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or a system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite to violence. But this is a section under which mere promotion of disaffection is a crime. I have studied some of the cases tried under it; I know that some of the most loved of India’s patriots have been convicted under it. I consider it a privilege, therefore, to be charged under that section. I am here, therefore, to invite and submit cheerfully to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is deliberate crime, and what appears to me, to be the highest duty of a citizen".

These words, attributed to the man we revere as the Father of our Nation (Nation being the keyword here), found voice when Gandhi was charged with the sedition behemoth. And he was not alone. Lokmanya Tilak had to bear the brunt of this draconian law as well. It is only intriguing that while the political environ has transformed massively today (democratic ideals notwithstanding) these remarks, still hold water. Of what use is a law which has outlived its utility? Having given to ourselves a pluralistic constitution, why must we retain an anachronism whose singular purpose is to stifle dissent? The Constitution, under Article 19 (1)(a), already provides for a well-founded platform wherein reasonable restrictions have been placed on the freedom of speech and expression, 'maintenance of public order' being one of them. Why should then, Section 124 A be held on to, in its current form, unless it is clandestinely being used to bestow unlimited power to the high and mighty? This point having been made, let us come to the second. On what grounds has sedition been recently invoked? It was lately brought to the fore when a group of students were allegedly found to have raised slogans which threatened the sovereignty and integrity of India. The Supreme Court was said to have been disrespected, hardened terrorists were supposedly idolized and it was forewarned that this country would be shredded to pieces. The content of these slogans remains unjustifiable. No right-minded citizen would be swayed by these words of dastardly incompetence. However, let us accept the fact that these students aren't the only ones who have taken up the cause of the terrorists. Prominent political leaders, including a plethora of formidable regional satraps, have taken up the cudgels for them. Judgments have been fairly criticized, harsh debates have followed and hate speech has been eulogized. And yet, none of it has been classified as sedition. Let's get this straight. The Supreme Court has clearly stated that as long as an utterance does not cause 'incitement to violence', it does not constitute sedition. So much so, that the apex court considered it wise to let go of even those who were caught shouting 'Khalistan Zindabad', a few years ago.
Going strictly by this definition, a Maya Kodnani waving a revolver, asking her companions to go for a kill was sedition; a Babu Bajrangi beseeching his comrades to cut off people's genitals was sedition; a Jagdish Tytler exhorting his partymen to lead a rampage was sedition. Arresting students on flimsy charges and playing a part in politicizing a non-issue is nothing more than an old trick up a dispensation's sleeve, to distract our attention from the 56-inch disillusionment which has begun to steadily creep in. Irony, in fact, will die a silent death if a religiously-propelled party like the BJP is endangered by someone called Kanhaiya.

At the risk of sounding anti-national (which I probably am by now), I'd like to make a mention of another word which has been ruthlessly pushed down our throats in the past few days.'Nationalism'. As if 'Intolerance' was not enough, we now have to prove our love for our country by either endorsing that everything is hunky-dory or being denied a certificate of patriotism. Television anchors who make a living off shouting out their lungs, have grabbed these bits of news like hungry wolves and changed them into shoddy sensationalism.
Let me swiftly take you back to 2011- A year which changed the course of Indian history. A man in his seventies, surrounded by a few good Samaritans, took up the cause which bled the hearts of many common folk- Corruption. The movement sprang many surprises. It catapulted Mr.Kejriwal to the high-bred chair of a Chief Minister, twice in a span of four years. It saw Ms.Bedi, Mr.V.K.Singh and Mr.Anupam Kher (well, almost) going into the folds of the BJP, to seek solace from the ills that plagued the country. And most importantly, it trounced the grand old party from its ivory tower and reduced it to a measly number of 44. Now remember the time when the movement was at its prime. Did anyone cry hoarse? Did someone transform a spontaneous uprising into an engineered assault on the state? Was sedition used for spreading 'disaffection' or 'disloyalty' towards the popular government? Were people in the Ramlila ground arrested for having aired their opinion? Come back to 2016. All it takes for one to be charged is a simple mention of 'Mahishasura'. All it takes for one to be labeled anti-national is to offer a diverse perspective. Where is this coming from? Why have the limits of tolerance suddenly plummeted? Why is the fabric of a heterogeneous country like India being dyed in the winds of European homogeneity? I hope you can recall the last time the concept of a 'Nation' was nurtured so vigorously? Yes, it was the reign of the Third Reich. By the way, Dear Nation-loving-Humanity-hating creed, did you know that Rabindranath Tagore, the man who opened the Indian shores to a Nobel was actually anti-national? Here, have a look-

"What is a nation? It is the aspect of a whole people as an organized power which insists on people becoming strong and efficient. But this strenuous effort to become mechanical, drains man's energy from his higher nature where he is sacrificing and creative. Yet he feels all the sense of moral exultation and thus becomes supremely dangerous to humanity. By this device, people who love freedom, perpetuate slavery with the comfortable feeling of having done one's duty; Men who are honest can blindly rob others of their human rights for self-aggrandizement, all the while abusing the deprived for not deserving better treatment"

At this age and stage, India deserves better. We deserve better than to relegate ourselves to cat-fights over who said what and why. We deserve better than to injure this country's soul by resorting to sheer hypocrisy. We deserve better than to brand everyone who registers dissent as having some hidden motive. We deserve a thriving, striving and lively atmosphere where diverse ideas form the foundation for collective action and a multitude of compassion transcends the narrow inroads of hatred. As I end this letter, I'd only like to remind my fellow citizens of a quote by Martin Niemoller, which (by my own admittance) I have taken the liberty to tweak (and certainly not doctor)-

Yesterday, they took away my secularism and I didn't say anything.
Today, they are taking away my nationalism and I am not saying anything.
Tomorrow they will take away my individualism and I will not be left in a condition to say anything.


Another guy next door

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The India in Intolerance

By the time this message will be read, a lot of dust would have settled over the entire Aamir Khan and 'intolerance' issue. A lot of you would have already formed opinions, not wanting to read anything contradictory. Many others would still be wondering if this 'issue', if we may call it that, really deserved all the attention that it was provided. In either case, I will take this opportunity to speak out loud and give voice to my two cents. You may need patience to go through this post entirely and if you reach the end, feel free to agree or disagree. It is your right- inalienable and indestructible.

1. "This country has made Aamir Khan. He should be thankful to it"- Allow me to crash your icy castle of high hopes, but Aamir Khan became Aamir Khan because he worked his ass off to be where he is. He has had his fair share of struggles and has dealt with them successfully. He may not be a 'common man' now, but there was a time when nobody knew him. There was a time he was like us- another man, lost in the sea of unknown. Fortunately for him, he worked hard, put in his best and earned his fame and money. We did not "make" him. His "talent" made him. We watched his movies because we liked what we saw. We weren't doing him a favour. Just like you don't do your boss a favour. She pays you, you work. That is that.

2. "If he wants, he should leave the country"- For God's sake, did you even listen to the interview? Do you know five Union Ministers were in presence, nodding and smiling when he said what he did? And why exactly should he leave the country? He feels unsafe, so he feels unsafe. Quite like a number of our women do when they want to go and watch a movie after eight in the evening. Just like our mothers do, when they send their children to school, not knowing if the institution harbors teachers or sexual predators. How is his feeling of a lack of safety different from any of these? He merely expressed an apprehension. He candidly put forth what he felt. He boldly stated what he thought was correct. And just like you or me, he has a constitutional right to do that, without being subjected to prejudice or harassment. To add on, people are socially committing that they will never "watch his movies or use the brands he endorses". Do you know what this unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behaviour different from one's own is called? Intolerance.

3. "He is a Congress Stooge and is doing this to defame the nation"- When all of us took to the streets in 2011 to express our solidarity with Anna, were we BJP stooges, out to defame the nation? When we lit candles for justice to Nirbhaya, were we ruining our international image? When we inform the government of broiling problems, are we maligning the nation? We aren't. And you know that pretty well. You also know that in recent times the psychosis of fear has seen an upward trend. This is not the first time it is happening. Major riots, murders, violence and killing has happened under different regimes in the past and there isn't much difference between then and now. Except that this time, our beloved supreme leader who is kind enough to remember and wish the Prime Ministers/Presidents of various countries on their birthdays, has chosen to stay mum. His ministers have undertaken hate campaigns (which, by definition of sedition, classify as one) publicly and yet no action has been taken against them. Dadri was a 'stray incident'. Such incidents happen everyday. Okay. Those returning awards are 'pseudo-intellectuals'. Nobody cares what they do. Okay. After all, we are all dogs and no one can blame the government if a stone is thrown at us, right?

At the end, I would like to make a few things clear- Personally, I am not an Aamir fan. I do not like his acting abilities and I think he was a hit, only because he had a cute face. But if he has an opinion, and it does not bide well with the majority, I will make sure that I respect it. Also, I do not think India is an intolerant nation. We have had communities living together for decades and our cultural diversity has only strengthened. But I do think that by jumping at everyone who disagrees with us, showering them with abuses, aspersions, character assassinations and hidden agendas, we are doing everything we can to show how right Aamir Khan really may have been.

PS- I shall not be replying to any views expressed in the comments section. I have said enough and do not think this matter deserves any more debate. After all, it is better to be discourteous than intolerant. Good day smile emoticon

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

He is a Man!

He's a Man, oh what a man is he.
The notions of his manliness, as massive as the sea.
He is who we look up to, he is who we see
He is someone like who, we would all want to be.

He was born somewhere, it was the usual act,
That he was born a man, is the only fact.
What region, what religion, what caste, what sect.
That he was born a man, is the only fact.

His mother cried with joy! She was blessed with a boy!
Against all odds, facing all derision,
Murdering two fetuses, had been a good decision.
The result was here, an outcome of the ploy.
His mother cried with joy! She was blessed with a boy!

Another place, another time, in other dark corners.
A household cried, filled to the brim with mourners.
The iron axe had swooped, there was blood and slaughter.
An unfortunate poor woman had been cursed with a daughter.

They tried drowning her in milk, she lived.
They tried smothering her with silk, she lived.
They tried treating her with sticks, she lived.
Through thicks and thins and tricks, she lived.

He had a phone when he was three,
That's when she was first slapped.
She toiled hard when she was five,
That's while he played and clapped.

He grew up with due recklessness,
She grew up with due care.
He roamed the streets with fearlessness,
She walked avoiding the stare.

Reading and writing was freedom for him,
For her it was struggle and pain.
The world of choices was open for him,
She was bound by the moral chain.

He ogled at women, on long, dark alleys,
He teased and called them names.
His mother told him it was normal for boys,
And things were never the same.

She was promised to a man double her age,
With bundles and bouts of money.
The dark of the night entered her life,
On a day bright and sunny.

He boarded a flight to tour the States,
She went up the wedding stage.
What happened in Vegas, stayed in Vegas,
While she was admitted into the cage.

And one fine day, things changed for them,
The day their paths crossed.
And one fine day, things changed for them,
The day her life paused.

She dared to venture in the night,
In a dress that bared her legs.
He happened to be driving by,
His throat numbed by pegs.

He pulled her in, without much thought,
His craving needed to be satisfied.
She screamed, she cried, she begged, she pleaded,
She was stifled, gagged and tied.

He tore the clothes off the object
The machine was ready to be used.
He scratched and pushed and beat her through,
She was way too dazed to move.

When it was done, the machine was dumped, across an empty street.
The meal was eaten, the dessert relished, here was the leftover meat.

She was a woman, oh what a woman was she.
Her dreams, her hopes, her expectations, shattered, with glee.
She lies bare on solid ground, see many a passerby,
She steadily takes shallow breaths, almost ready to die.

She knows she has no option now,
She is now a cog in the game.
She happily welcomes the world beyond,
Where there is no loss of name.
It's not her fault, it's not her doing,
And yet she'll take the blame.
She slowly accepts eternal sleep,
Her life confined to a flame.

He's a Man, oh what a man is he.
The notions of his manliness, as massive as the sea.
He is who we look up to, he is who we see
He is someone like who, we would all want to be.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Be who they want you to be.
Do what they want you to do.
Say what they want you to say.
Stay how they want you to stay.

'Stop being a chick', they point.
'Oh, that's effeminate', they lament.
'Boys don't cry', is the adage.
Maybe, we're just not on the same page.

When did emotions become gender-ized?
When did expression gain a copyright?
When did politeness become meek?
When did silence become a tool of the weak?

Talk about women, drink and make hay.
If you can't do that, you're probably gay.
You're judged by the quantity of your hook-ups.
And the quality of your street fights and your bloody crook-ups.

If you're a Casanova, you're smart.
Oh well, a Prostitute knows the same art.
Sparkle your language with bouts of dirt.
That should do the trick, you pretentious flirt!

If you're different, it's obviously a stigma.
Or maybe you're just a boundless enigma.
It doesn't matter, what are your battles or your hopes.
You, my dear, are bound to be the butt of our jokes.

Those subtle moves, that sway of your hand.
The manner of your talk, the way you brush off that strand.
There's a sublime thread to it,
To which we shall add our judgment.
Boys will be boys, they're just born that way.
You either accept that code of conduct, or lead a life astray.

You laugh at my difference, I laugh at your similarity.
You laugh at my ignorance, I laugh at your familiarity.
We were never meant to be together, You and me.
The depths of my ocean could never be fathomed by your sea.

You see what your eyes show you.
You assume what your mind tells you to.
Break away your restrictive conventions young man,
And see a life with your heart, a person anew.

He's not as you want him to be.
He's not as you expect him to be.
He's just an object of your beration
And that sweetheart, adds to his liberation.

We've cried hoarse over the dearth of Feminism.
Let's get back to the cores and accept our Menifism.

Friday, August 28, 2015

"They are Pure and Pious"

How many times have you stopped by a traffic signal with its bright red light glaring at you? Ordering you to quit doing whatever it is that you are doing and at the same time, daring you to disobey it. You know you have to follow its instructions, restricting your movements according to its whims and fancies or else the outcome would not be pleasant. You stop when it orders you to stop and you go when it orders you to go. Try violating its command and gear up to face the consequences. If the feeling is familiar, dear friend, you have been 'Radhe-zoned'. Now, this word might appear to be a new one, but it has had a long history which has spanned regions and religions, men and women, times and tides and has yet survived the vagaries of sanity and justice. And contrary to its origin, it does not just include Mother Radha. It carries within its ambit the likes of Father 'I will give you Hope, you will give me sex', Brother Monosodium Glutamate and numerous others who, if you are fortunate, will play only with your minds and if you are unfortunate, will also play with your genitals.
Well, Welcome to Babaland, people.
Taking over geographies and histories, this land has carved a niche for itself amidst the mental space of almost everyone. The poor pay tips to get rich. The rich sway hips to get richer. And those who fall somewhere in between would rather part with their hard-earned money to buy their adopted Maa an extravagant dress, while their biological Maa languishes in pain, for the lack of adequate healthcare. These examples are merely a tip of the iceberg. The impact of this culture of Godly Godlessness is far more severe. It would be wise, at this juncture, to analyze the broad contours of what transpires every time we step into the dominion of an 'Ashram'-

1. The Economy of Losses- You undertake a journey to the earthly abode of the God. Obviously, they do not pay your travelling expenses. You reach the gates of a lavish heaven and are instantly charged a hefty fee to 'register' yourself. Maa would bless only the registered candidates while all other lesser mortals incapable of shelling out money, would have to suffer a lifetime of misery. If you decide to somehow find just the sufficient amount to get in, you are asked to choose from amidst a few 'classes' at offer. The A-class people would get to view the divine Mother up close and may even be called up on the stage to shake a leg with her! What a totally amazing opportunity! The B-class people would get to watch the sacred soul from a little far away and there is a possibility that she might throw a glance your way. Can't be missed either! The C-class people are the relatively poorer ones who would get to sit on the fringes and hear the beautiful voice of their Messiah, lifting their sorrows and leaving them spiritually enriched but materially penniless. To top this, a number of people would come equipped with gifts, both cash and kind, in order to please their holy guru. Economically speaking, the investment of a citizen's savings into the purchase of devotional shares is nothing but a meaningless waste of the nation's resources. The currency which could have been spent to boost growth at the household, if not the national, level is drained down a senseless pit. The result? We end up filling the coffers of a few and happily create an economy of losses.

2. The Great reversal of social change-- If you've ever heard this crop of God-men/women speaking, you'd realize that they've somehow skipped that stage of evolution where man gave up being a monkey. The thoughts, ideas and interpretations imposed on a mass of eager believers, is horrendous to say the least. Consider the example of the man currently behind bars, who rendered a simple solution to the brutal Nirbhaya rape case. He said and I quote, "The victim is as guilty as the rapists. She should have called them brothers and begged them to stop". And this is just one declaration. A plethora of other pearls of wisdom have emerged out of these ancient modernists, ranging from, "Get yourself castrated and you shall meet God" to "Women are domestic animals, meant to be treated like one". Hang their photos, buy their magic drops, bring home their products and provide a well-fooled market of aggressive sympathizers. Technically, we have created our very own East India company. However, it doesn't just stop here. Cases of dowry promotion, forced donation, blackmail, abortion, sexual perversion, malpractice and thuggery have been filed against several of our Baba's. If we extrapolate this data on a larger scale, we'd realize that by turning 'followers', we are extensively cultivating a civilization of absolute dependency. We close our eyes and their word becomes our deed. Instead of sacrificing our potential to action, we surrender our dividends to faith. With the promise of dealing with our liabilities, they brazenly take away our assets. And the ever generous, loving and forgiving race that we are, are more than happy to oblige. Socially, India has been a culture of tolerance and amalgamation. But these subtle trends, pregnant with religiously convenient diktats of morality, seem prepared to spell our doom. Nonetheless, what we have suitably forgotten is this- Independence has no meaning for enslaved minds.

3. The Politics of Religion- A rather unobserved and overlooked effect of this classic buffoonery is that it brings together two territories which were meant to be separated. Politics and Religion were designed to run as parallel lines- complementing and not contradicting each other. Whenever, they have crossed into the zone of another, it has spelled disaster. This distinction, however, is slowly being blurred with each passing day. The bunches of devotees are being treated as a measure to consolidate vote banks. In fact, the 2014 general election, saw the strengthening of this tendency. A bearded man who artistically teaches the art of living, openly espoused the cause of a particular candidate. So did the famed Yoga guru who prefers to walk in a set of saffron robes but run in a pair of salwaar-kameez. The Sikh guru of a certain Dera too did not get left far behind. Those who listened to them, took their word for God's word and voted en masse. It doesn't matter who won. What really matters is that Liberty lost. In a democracy, leaders should be chosen by the virtue of reason, not the vice of divinity. God or his loudspeakers should not influence your voting behavior. Education should. Regrettably, for a country that has more places of worship than temples of learning, this is apparently a tough job.

It began with Radhe. And it shall end in her name. It is not her skirts that bother me. She is a free woman and is in a position to decide what she should or should not wear. For all I care, she could make a public appearance in a bikini. It is also not her excessive use of Red, that is of concern to me. She is permitted to use all the make-up in the world and yet look disastrous. What bothers me, is the empire she is unashamedly running, in the name of theology. What bothers me, is the ruthless instructions she is issuing to hapless families, who have no option but to obey her. Quite similarly, I couldn't care less about Asaram's sex life. But I do care about how he deceives. I do care about how witnesses to his criminal intent are being continuously eliminated and nobody is raising a finger. And I certainly do care about how, despite gruesome blood and violence being involved, his 'gang' of followers are still dubbing it as a conspiracy.
After all, what can we do? Maybe raise our hands and pray for deliverance. Because that is what we do best, don't we? Shift the onus of our losses on others and take the credit for our wins ourselves.

And yes, never question the Baba's intention. Like the lady in her refined English spoken with a Gurumukhi accent, clearly stated, "I am Pure and Pious".
You bet, they are.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Battered, Bittered, Bettered.

At the outset, let me clearly state that this is not a success story. This is a journey. If you are here to look for guidelines, motivational quotes or any sort of encouragement regarding UPSC preparation, I would, in all probability, be disappointing you. And yet I feel the need to narrate my experience. Not because I want others to take lessons from it. But because I want others to avoid what I didn't avoid and pursue what I couldn't pursue. This is merely a story of hope, of patience, of isolation and at the most, of perseverance.

It all began in the summer of 2002. I'd just come back from the boarding school after having finished my matriculation. The days of disciplined life were thankfully over. No more 6'o clock rousers or 9'o clock preps. Home was heaven. Or at least it felt so, until my father dropped the bombshell, "What now?". Frankly, I had no clue. I'd been so engrossed in my everyday routine, board examinations and declamation contests that I'd never really given it much thought. Yet, the crucial time was now upon me. In those days, making a career choice was relatively simple. You took up Medical subjects in Plus one, if you wanted to be a Doctor. You took up Non-Medical if you wanted to be an Engineer. You took up Commerce if you wanted to be a business-person. And you took up Arts, if you wanted to be a loser. I picked Arts, and Medical was thrust upon me. No parent wants an unsuccessful child, right? And thus began my journey to jump from one professional option to another, having absolutely no clue about any but having relatively some idea of them all.

1. When I wanted to be a Doctor- 'A Doctor is the savior of lives. He is only next to God. It is a respectable profession. It does not have a retirement age. You can practice throughout your life, irrespective of your whereabouts.'- This was essentially a gist of the pre-medical advice I was rendered. The foresightedness of my loved ones was obviously the true determiner of my future. My myopic vision could only see laboratories, endless experiments and dissections worth throwing up. I clearly remember my first day in class. Physics disgusted me because it was the sister arm of Maths. I could never bring myself to balance both sides of an equation in Chemistry. And Biology was, well, embarrassing. The teacher's crude explanation of human anatomy, appeared filled to the brim with sexual innuendo. The boys winked at one another while the girls suppressed their smiles by putting up a straight face. Back home, everybody read the 'Reproduction' chapter over and over again, only to be repeatedly shocked and sensationalized by it.(Somehow, I feel this is what today's 'Breaking News' concept primarily relies upon. Shock, Repetition, Sensationalization). The solo class that I truly enjoyed was English. Our teacher was a stern South Indian man with a heavy Tamil accent. This challenged my level of linguistic understanding on very many levels. While on one hand, I had to deal with raising my vocabulary standard, on the other, I had to find a common ground between all that I'd previously learned and all that I was currently learning. I suppose I was one of those few rebels, who read Dickens wrapped in a thick brown paper and stamped, "Physics Notes". This is exactly what brought my percentage down to a meager 55 in the first year. I was rendered a 'Hopeless' case, an 'Average' student. For someone who was used to being featured in the top ten, this came as a shock. I instantly broke up with Dickens and hooked up with Newton, who, in due course of time, turned out to be an excessively dis-interesting partner. Nevertheless, I pretended to fall in love with Science- hiding my misery behind numericals and killing my hope with test tubes. As a result, I passed out with a staggering 78 percent. It would not take a genius to guess that English (where I scored a healthy 91/100) had provided the requisite thrust to my percentage. As is the convention with most medical pass outs, I appeared for the PMT and qualified for BDS. By this time I'd realized that I did not want to poke around with people's bodies, and certainly not with their teeth. I was at a precipice again. What do I do? My father was hell bent on pushing me off the cliff to join the medical fraternity in the valley, while I was insistent upon retracing my steps and beginning anew. And this is when Ratan Tata caught my fancy.

2. When I wanted to be a Business Tycoon- - Isn't it a brilliant word,'Tycoon'? So strong, sturdy and powerful. Almost, Godly. At the age of 16, the best way to turn on a rebellious stance was by defying the wishes of my parents. They asked me to look East, I looked West. They asked me to move South, I moved North. Add to it a dislike for higher studies in the Medical field and you get the sudden desire to do an MBA. I revolted against the 2 years of forced studies and decided I was mature enough to make my own decisions. The parental government finally gave in to popular will and I ventured into the premises of a certain University,(I suppose it will be sensible to keep its name under wraps), in order to do an undergraduate course in Business Administration. I figured this was my best bet. This way, I could pursue my love for Literature and yet earn enough money to keep me afloat. Unfortunately, Business was nothing as I'd hoped it would be. It had no glamour, no riches and no takers- unless you were shrewd enough to extract these out of it. I was not. And I'd realized this soon enough. However,giving up now would mean a loss of face. I felt my parents would never trust me to make a sound decision again and why should they? Wasn't I the one who'd fought my way out of Medical and chosen Business? I'd made my choice and I had no option but to live with its consequences. While I was struggling with the monotony and frustration which'd begun to define my everyday life, a bolt struck out of the blue. The University was de-recognized by an order of the Supreme Court. In an instant, my future hung loose in the gallows of jeopardy. The struggle to get through the trivialities of life had all of a sudden turned into a struggle for survival. The implications soon began to settle in. A lot of time, money and effort had been wasted. I ran from nook to corner, but to no avail- The University was clearly shutting shop. And that is when I realized the gravity of my blunder. A silent pin had pricked the balloon of my bloated ego.

They say when you have nowhere else to run, you run back to the mastership. And that is exactly what I did. One week and my life was completely transformed. From the searing heat of Pathankot where this college was located, I found myself in the soothing lap of Dharamshala, where a new college awaited me. In order to save an year from going down the drain, I was granted late admission with subjects I'd never dream of taking in the normal course of events- Geography and Public Administration. I cursed myself and gave in to my destiny, not realizing that blessings usually came in the form of a disguise. It was during my first year in college that a fleeting thought of IAS, struck me. I dismissed it as another reckless opinion of an infantile mind. However, by the time I appeared for my third year exams, my belief in civil services being a final career choice, had begun to take shape. And this is when I made another brash decision.

3. When I wanted to be on Television- - This time, my decision led me to the heart of India,or as they call it- Delhi. I chose Mass Communication as my subject for Post-Graduation and came to believe that this would be my final calling. Not only did the choice help me vent out my creative energies but it also provided me an opportunity to do everything that I ever wanted to do- Write, Read, Speak. Marvel & Excel. Things went on in an amazing manner until I was allocated to a certain channel in order to pursue my internship. That changed everything. I will not name the TV channel lest they take offense at the kind of treatment I was meted out. Nevertheless, my dreams were shattered on the very first day. It began as a jovial interview after which I was ushered into the Production room so that I could get a hang of how things worked on Ground Zero. As I entered, I felt an unseasonal chill. The room was exceptionally cold and the four people inside were wearing shawls. The artificial cooling, I was told, was undertaken to keep humidity away from production equipment. A heavy set man, probably in his mid-forties was supervising the four interns. He looked at me warily and asked me to stand at a corner and observe how others were working. I could not contain my thrill, as I traced my steps to a far off corner of the room. The way their hands moved on the control panel, The way they consistently spoke on headphones, The noise, The cheer- Watching it all caused a flutter in my belly. I was soon going to be a part of this world! At about 6 PM, the shift ended. A rerun of some poorly crafted astrology show was put up, while the four interns packed up and left.
"Sit on the Panel", the man instructed me, "I"ll teach you how to control it before the next set of interns come in".
I happily made my way to the revolving chair. As I settled, he came up behind me and pointed towards the screen. "Don't take your eyes off it", he said, "And move your hands as I tell you to". With this he placed his hands over mine and brought his face so close that I could feel his breath on my neck.
"You have a beautiful smile", were the next words that he uttered, "How about coming in for the night shift tomorrow?".
The question hung mid-air. It was as if a noose had been tightened around my neck. But, That was the last straw. I got up, turned back and angrily whispered, "Don't you dare", before I picked up my stuff and stormed out of the room. By the time I reached college, the story was already known to them. However, the version they'd been told by the channel related a trivial argument over not being offered a chair. I was beckoned to the Director's office and offered some harsh words. They never asked me my version, I did not bother to explain. I consoled myself simply with the fact that I was not going to let an idiot ruin either my career or my peace of mind. I went on to complete my course, do another internship and isolate myself for an year to prepare for civil services.

Today, when I look back at the last ten years of my life, I realize the importance of whatever happened, whenever it did. Had I not taken up Science then, it would've been very difficult for me to revisit it during my preparation. Had not the Business college been de-recognized, I wouldn't have been pushed towards taking subjects which later served as my optionals. Had I not had that 'experience' during post-graduation, I would've never discovered my zeal to set things right. All my life, I'd tried to break free, not realizing that I didn't really want to do so. All I ever wanted was to pull the chains off and yet stay put to exercise my will and assert my rights- as an individual response and as a collective force.

If you've reached till the very last of this terribly long blog post, let me only state this- As I enter upon a new phase of my life this September, I will try to live up to the standards I have set for myself and the expectations others have tagged unto me. I've had my share of struggles, my chunk of battles- unwise,immature,foolish but as an Officer of the Indian Administrative services, I will yearn to become the voice of the unheard, the light of the unseen and the compassion of the unkind.