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Revisiting Future

28 Jan

In his book Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury presents the possibility of a future where books will be deemed illegal and possession of books a culpable offense. Guy Montag, the protagonist is a ‘fireman’ whose job is to hunt houses that are hiding books and burn them. As I started reading the book, it seemed like an acrid comment on governance. But gradually the book unfolds a peculiar fear of the society about the perception of knowledge. In his world of the future, the society does not want to gain or retain knowledge, rather just wants it to be available whenever needed. Once the imperative fictional adorns of the story are shaved off, a very discrete and factual description of the problems and anxieties of such a world can be seen lucidly. In fact, one is bound to appreciate the realization of a lot of Bradbury’s dystopia in the current times.

Bradbury creates the gory image of a world driven by technology and deprived of contexts. A world where houses have touch screen walls, gesture recognizing robots and hearing seashells for the impaired. If you have already started thinking about these things being a reality in the present, this is just the tip of the iceberg. While we advertise technology to be a tool to connect with one another, Fahrenheit 451 mentions technology to be the cause of the disconnect. For instance, in an episode Guy and his wife Mildred are lying in the bed unable to speak with one another. They do not know what it is to communicate with each other in person. They are more comfortable and conversant through virtual means.

In my opinion, books are a metaphor for the disparate perspectives that exist in our world. They are endearing and empowering. Books make us think and make us believe. In a dialogue between Guy and his supervisor Beatty, the latter presents such compelling arguments justifying the act of burning books as they are the reason for all the misery in the world –

Colored people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it.

If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war.”

Fahrenheit 451 also comes across as a critical remark on the civic responsibilities of the denizens of this world. When I introspect myself, I feel that I lean towards being apolitical. That deprives me of the right to complain about the state of politics. In a dictatorial polity, the kingdom enunciates the character of the king and in democracy; the king enunciates the character of the kingdom. It is not justifiable to blow the trumpet of my nonchalance towards politics. The merit of the political choices we have is certainly debatable. But, that does not give us the right to shun our political and social responsibilities.

In a very interesting way, Bradbury presents the predominantly opposing thoughts about modernization. Guy’s neighbor, Clarisse is a young and jovial girl who detests the technological invasion of human emotions. Her character is significant in that she makes Guy aware of his true sensibilities –

“You’re not like the others. I’ve seen a few; I know. When I talk, you look at me.”

Clarisse’s character shouts out the apprehensions that we see around us today. We cannot tolerate discrepancies. We are filled with facts and quantifiable insights. We are so engrossed in our own individual worlds that we hardly find the need to open a slit of the door for someone else.

Bradbury was certainly not a proponent of the digital age. However, he does not take a fundamentalist stand against technology. He looks at it from different angles through his characters and makes us ask the questions that he wants us to ask – incessantly – Will we be able to appreciate the fragrance of the first rain, the touch of the cool breeze, the beauty of the dew drops caressing the lush green grass, the magnanimity of the mountains, the incomprehensible vastness of the ocean, the careless chirping of the birds, the rainbow in the sky and the golden sunshine glorifying it?

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An Ode to Immortality…

22 Mar

It is rightly said that music is not bound by language, region or anything potentially prejudicial. As I listen to Raag Puriya Dhanashree rendered by the insurmountable legend of Hindustani classical music, Late Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, what amazes me is the impeccable alignment of thoughts in the rendition. Every note so serene, every word so divine, that Panditji’s music challenges one’s vocabulary.

The mere thought of something being immortal is intriguing. I cannot think of a moment when I have not had an emotional attachment with things I possessed – my books, my music collection, etc. Knowingly or unknowingly, we invest both emotionally and mentally in our possessions and it is obviously difficult to relinquish them. My father could not bear the fact that he had to sell his first ever scooter which he had bought by his own money just because it was old. At that time, I could not appreciate his feeling. I was more than glad for the upgrade. A few years later, when I was in his shoes selling my first bike, I could not stop myself from sharing the same sentiment.

I feel that these attachments give birth to desires and expectations. The expectations lead to yearning. May be it is this yearning which has led man to discover earthly secrets and also to make astonishing inventions. While most of the religions preach abstaining from worldly desires, it is also true that it is because of these desires that discoveries and inventions happen. I feel that our sensibilities are skewed when we speak of such intricate designs we are surrounded with. This dilemma does not seem to resolve at least for me!

The fact remains that our expectations do not always align with our destiny. This leads to disappointments in some cases, while in others, an instigation to strive even harder to achieve the desired.  Our desire to make things faster, smaller and more convenient can be considered to be the one end of the spectrum of immortality.

The question that pops up is where does the attachment which someone like Panditji has with his art lie on this spectrum? Is there any amount of insecurity about an artist’s prowess which tags along with fame and fortune? I don’t think these questions have any definite answers. May be someone like Panditji never had these questions; or may be his state of mind was as Kabir exclaims his state of intoxication – void of any differences and segments.

As I get back from my ramblings to the soulful rendition, I cannot help but think of how sad I was to hear about Panditji’s demise. But, I now feel that his notes and his music are so profound that they are even beyond this vicious circle of birth and death… they are simply immortal…

“IMMORTAL is an ample word
When what we need is by, 
But when it leaves us for a time,
‘T is a necessity.”

— Emily Dickinson

Being Millennial!

27 Jan

There are so many words that we use so casually in our day to day conversations without actually realizing that they could mean something so very different in true sense. I was speaking with a respectable senior from my family a few days back who was extremely interested in knowing what were my plans in life in general. His questions were so typical of his generation – Where do you want to see yourself after ten years? Have you thought of the future? And a series of such innocuous questions followed. Of course innocuous to my generation. 😉

The word to be highlighted here is ‘generation’. I have been enlightened of late that I belong to the “Generation Y” also called as the Millennia. I represent the generation transitioning from Generation X to Generation Z. Coming to think of it, Generation X is the one which is completely overwhelmed by the technological advancements that mankind has seen in the past four decades and Generation Z is the one which is completely agnostic to a world without technology. While the prior has a more cynical and jaundiced opinion about every step taken ahead, the latter cannot even imagine a world without the internet. Both the generations have definitive traits and have been quantified very impressively in the pew research publication here: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1437/millennials-profile

The instigation for me to know more about the generation that I am being labeled into came from this family member. The moment I answered his questions with an evident bit of nonchalance, he cited my father’s example stating that when he was of my age, he was crystal clear with where he wanted to see himself eventually. Along with stating that I waste tones of useful time in just posting status updates on Facebook and browsing the internet in general, what bothered me more was the typecasting of the entire clan.

Although my parents are getting to be technologically savvy, for the only reason that they want to make use of the available channels to communicate with me (Yeah! They have not abandoned me yet 😛 ), I do not feel that they are as passionate about it as anyone from my generation is. We are truly the most socially connected generation. Alongside, we appreciate a world devoid of technology as successfully as the one that we live in. One of my friends who is well placed in an awesome company, content, so to say happened to mention that it could have been really difficult for him to get to where he is now without the aid of social networking. The point being that we are more receptive to being socially participative than others.

Well, this argument didn’t satiate my listener in any way. However, I must say that there was one question that made so much more sense than the others – to know what are you here for?

Isn’t this the most fundamental question of any philosophy or any mythology – to understand the reason for one’s existence? How blissful would it be to know the answer to this question and the definitions of success or failure would just fall in place and the conundrum called life would simply transform into a wonderfully hummable song. Well, coming to reality filled with dilemmas, confusions and answer-less questions is difficult indeed… Being Millennial! 🙂

 

GO’TRAdition’

27 May

“Tradition, tradition! Tradition!
Tradition, tradition! Tradition!
.
Who, day and night, must scramble for a living,
Feed a wife and children, say his daily prayers?
And who has the right, as master of the house,
To have the final word at home?
.
The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.
The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.”

This song from the epic cult musical Fiddler on the Roof is just a glimpse of what the word ‘tradition’ meant to Tevye and Papas. While I was listening to this song some time back I got dragged into another of my crazy fits of thoughts, ponderings and the etcetras.

It has been raining comments and remarks about tradition, values and culture ever since the Jindal dude voiced out his affirmation for considering same gotra marriages illegal. The whole country inside and outside India seems to have suddenly started being opinionated about a cloud of loosely linked words like ‘conservativeness’, ‘tradition’, ‘progress’, ‘intelligence’ et al.

It is worth noticing that such incidents hogging all the limelight across the lengths and breadths of the media are the ones which make us cogitate about our sensibilities even more vehemently. It is amazing to see how we define our cultural values and traditions with our own misplaced notion of the society that we are all a part of. Traditionally, the word tradition has been related to inheritence – Customs or rituals or simply a way of living that gets passed on from one generation to another. It does not come to me as a surprise that the same gotra marriages fall within the realms of this definition. In some eon, somewhere, someone got married to his/her cousin and the genes got carried forward to their offspring. But it beats me to think that there has to be a ‘way around’ for those who want to marry in their own gotra in a ‘north Indian Hindu family’. The last part of the statement within quotes further shows how miniscule is the premise of this assertion.

It is undeniable that marriages amongst cousins have been a common practice in various parts of India since the pre independence days. I spoke with my grandmother about this and she said that back then it was difficult to find a match for someone within the panchakroshi (In Marathi – group of five villages.), what without any of the currently mushrooming matrimonial sites that are customized to every particular caste, sub caste, colour, creed and religion. Having said this, there was also a fanatic amount of castial divide polarizing the population of a certain clan together. In such a setup, it was only obvious for mingling of people from the same gotra.

The Khap Panchayat of Haryana demands that marriages within the same gotra should be deemed illegal. And what has gained the ire of the media is the fact that Naveen Jindal, another jack of the clan of the ‘modern’ politicians in India who on one hand flaunts his foreign degrees and his progressive thoughts supports this demand on the other.

 I see two probable perspectives here. One, the understanding that following traditions, or being traditional is being conservative and a hinderance to the progress of the society and the second, the intolerable and unfathomable fact that the Jindal prince is actually in favor of this being a law. I can really not understand the legal connotation of this at all. It beats me to think that a group of old aged, dogmatic men feel that it is ‘illegal’ to marry someone from the same gotra. I cannot digest it for the probable reason that I have been in an urban milieu always. I have seen barriers being broken, that extra mile being taken and differences been accomodated. I am sure I speak for the majority of us here. In a country like ours, where every possible existence of mankind has a representation, it is grossly idiotic to expect that some law like this would fall in the good books of the masses.

I am completely certain of my belief that being traditional does not imply being conservative. In my humble opinion, it is not really being traditional that is an obstacle in the growth of a country, but it is in fact the tradition itself which decides whether it is worthwhile or not. To me, same gotra marriages seem to be as inoccuous as poverty, illiteracy and unemployment seem to be grave. By having such laws, we are only adding fragments to an already clustered society of ours. Every culture has its own values and rituals and traditions and it is entirely upto an individual to follow them or not. At the same time, for the contrarians to respect the individual’s decision. It is rather harsh to align Naveen Jindal in the clan of those who are actually taking us back to where we were half a century ago. Looking deep, it is disheartening to see that we never really grew from where we were half a century ago in so many aspects.

And as the tradition of our national media has been, something as futile as gotra entaglement is making headlines, contents, footnotes and everything in between in every type of media. How I wish someone breaks this tradition!!

Sigh… getting back to the mesmerizing music of Fiddler on the Roof… It has traditionally cheered me up and I am sure it will continue to do so…

[V – Day Carnival] – Not me!

11 Feb

The V-Day carnival is in full swing and it seems like the entire blog-o-sphere has been smitten by the mush bug. It is raining poems, photographs, stories and more. If you haven’t fallen in the pool yet, dive in. 🙂

This is my wee bit to the flow of love. Love – one word which has given so many poets a reason to write poems, innumerable stories to be immortal, a plethora of films unfolding various facets of it and for some it’s a reason to live while for others a reason to not. Blame it on the mush in the air that I am getting all philosophical! 😛 🙄

Anyway, let me share an anecdote. A few days back, I went to this mall close to my place with a friend of mine who wanted to shop for some formal wear. I am a certified shopping averse bloke. Although I know a lot of guys who ‘like’ shopping, I can never really understand that emotion. I have accompanied (read: played a driver + coolie) a number of times my mom, my sis, cousins, et al at their exorbitant shopping expeditions and I have always been amazed and mostly irritated by the amount of enthusiasm women have when it comes to shopping. Quarreling over colors, textures, matching perfection and after all the cogitation about the cost, women have all the energy left to gruel the poor man with their bargaining tactics. With guys, it is mostly plain and simple. The color is decided even before deciding what to shop for; the budget is decided (needless to say) even before deciding the color. All that is left is following three simple steps of this algorithm – go to the mall, pick the trouser/shirt/t-shirt/whatever of the decided color, pay and catch a movie. With women what transcends between the first and the last step is an epic and is beyond the confines of this post. :mrgreen:

So coming back to my shopping experience – this friend of mine, as previously mentioned was absolutely clear on what he had to buy and from where he had to buy it. So, it was fairly simple to follow the algorithm. We went to the mall, he picked up the stuff, I checked out (you perverts 😉 ) the store, he tried them on, I continued checking out (the store 🙄 ) and finally we were at the billing counter. Next to us was this absolutely madly deeply in love couple. The girl undoubtedly was gorgeous. There was no way that our radars would not have noticed her. And believe you me, unintentionally and totally unknowingly, we happened to Adams-drop into their conversation. (If eavesdropping is possible, what can’t Adam drop it? 😆 )

She (Showing him a ghastly pink thing. No offence Sree 😀 ) – How do you like this one darling?

He – oh it looks beautiful. Anything and everything looks beautiful on you my love.

(The next few statements need parental guidance for the readers and hence are not included in this post. For those who have had such discussions before, you can very well figure out what ALL would they have spoken/done. And those who haven’t are free to imagine ALL that they would have talked about! )

She (With an awful grimace) – you’re just saying that!

He – Oh no. not at all. Why would I say just like that? It is seriously looking awesome.

She (snatching him away) – I am going to try it again and tell me for sure if you like it

He (With the same expression as Amol Palekar in Choti si Baat) – Ok darling!

I was a little surprised, a little irritated and me being me, I started thinking to myself. Is that what happens when you are in love? Is being in love losing your own self or does it mean discovering yourself newly? Does love make you change so much for one particular person? Ahh… This whole love thing is as intriguing on one hand as it is enigmatic on the other. May be no one really knows what it is.

I was brought back to senses when my friend handed me the Starbucks cappuccino that was my fees for accompanying him for shopping ‘clothes’! Our shopping was done in 5 min flat. And it took 15 minutes of this mushy conversation to allow us to reach the billing counter. Although it was none of my business, just out of curiosity I asked him the occasion for buying the formal wear. He was going to attend his friend’s wedding and the new stuff was to impress the fairer sex. There I was triggered back to my flight of thoughts… yet again…

And so I spew this hopeless rhyme about the person that is not me! 😆

 

 

The treacherous turns that the river takes, to destine herself in the vast sea,

The calm and compose that the ocean keeps, blissfully lost in her reverie.

With an open heart, her mellifluous sweetness adorns his brazen salinity,

To fall in love with their disparate waters, is what they are meant to be….

 

 

 

 

His sky blue expanse engulfs the earth with his magnanimous serenity,

She engrosses him with her lush velvet, elaborating her prosperous beauty.

He rains for her, she blossoms for him, and their love is an ode to divinity,

To be together until they unite at the horizon is what they are meant to be…

 

 

 

 

A lone traveler is a mere ignorant, endearing his need to be free,

Steering clear through the rough path of life in an enigmatic spree,

To decide the course of the wind and the water is what liberty seems to be,

To be swayed by a tide or a typhoon mere, is the person that is not me!

 

 


Delhi 10

4 Oct
My memories of the city of Delhi were truly quite unpleasant until I visited the capital a couple of years back. The Delhi I want to cherish in my memories now is what I saw most recently. Broad roads, well marked lanes, traffic rules being followed most of the times by most of the people, public transport running on CNG and the amazing advent of the Metro rail. When my friend told me that the change that I was raving about was for the Commonwealth games that Delhi is going to host in 2010, how I wished that every other city in India should host the games every year, if that is the only incentive that can make all the difference.
We all want to have fond memories of the places that we visit and this is a fact that the government seems to realize pretty well. As I was skimming through the latest news, I got to read something about how the authorities in the capital have “removed” the “filth” in Delhi to deck the city up for the Commonwealth Games.  The “filth” being referred to here are the over 50,000 beggars and the “removal” mechanism is to shun them out of the city under the pretext of rehabilitation. I was greatly disillusioned of my previous assertion, or at least I questioned my self as to whether I really wanted such events to be hosted by every other Indian city.
So how does removing beggars from Delhi clean the city? The government believes that due to the magnum opus of the Commonwealth games, as foreigners would be arriving at Delhi, there is an inevitable need to ensure that they are not troubled by the beggars while they roam about in the city. The concern that is being displayed is typically for the Westerners. The argument sounds even more obnoxious when you hear someone saying that we Indians are used to seeing beggars around, but the Westerners are not. It is not only disheartening, but agitating to come across such insecurity that the government puts on public display. I fail to understand this fear of discovery of facts. The very fact that those who act all prim and proper underground while traveling in the Metro, spit out their paans when they are at the ground level supplements the irony of the situation.
In my opinion, whenever someone visits India for the first time, the immediate things that get noticed are the slums, the open drains, the crowd and the pollution. However fascinated a foreign vistor gets by the marvel of Taj Mahal or the spellbinding sculptures of Khajuraho or the expanse of the Himalayas or the devout milieu of Varanasi and Ajmer or the inescapable aroma of authentic Indian cuisines, the memories always remain etched in their minds are of the poverty and illiteracy that they witness first hand. And what holds true when an Indian visit’s a Western country for the first time is that he/she invariably notices the cleanliness around, the civic sense of responsibility and the law-abiding majority.
What reason do we have then to oppose Danny Boyle showing the life of a slum dweller in Mumbai through Slumdog Millionaire (which indeed has been misinterpreted as a rags-to-riches story. In my opinion, it is a fantastic love story!) in a very realistic way? Why should we be surprised when the only Indian films that have been recognized at the Oscars, Salaam Bombay and Pather Panchali, speak about the poverty in our country?
The bottom line is that we ought to accept these fallacies. We ought to agree to the fact that in sixty five years we have not been able to create an India of our dreams. So, do I mean to say that we should do nothing to eradicate poverty or illiteracy? Certainly not! We ought to make this country a better place to live in. But, the motivation should not be the arrival of foreigners. We should feel the need to make the change for ourselves, for every single citizen of India, for the reason that every Indian does have a right to live freely and happily in this country.
There is a need to make improvements at the grass root level to present India to the world in a pleasant way. As Shera sets in to welcome the firang athletes, the government proclaims to present Delhi as a truly international city. And that is by not eradicating poverty, but by hiding it. We need a catharsis of our hearts and minds to eradicate the filth of our thoughts and our skewed perceptions!

Truth-Face off!

2 Aug

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them”

I was spontaneously reminded of the aforementioned adage while I caught hold of a few episodes of the latest fiery offering of the circus called the Indian television industry – Sach ka Saamna. A lot has been spoken, affirmed, criticized, printed, dictated and heard about the show all across the information channel. After music, dance, creativity, brawn, morality, virginity, peace and hatred, its time to sell truth under the pretext of being audacious.

The Indian television industry has been “inspired” by its western sibling intermittently in the past, and this stint is no different. A show that proclaims to impose honesty on its participants by virtue of the questions that are thrown at them like barbs, is enough flesh to chew upon by the audience, who are annoyingly tired of the drama unfolding in some great “Khandaan” whose “parampara” has been tarnished by the sole harbinger of the family hierarchy, or the story of a poor girl who is not accepted as the ‘Bahu’ in a wealthy household, or of catty rivalries between women tarred with quintals of make up and kilos of jewellery – in short the obnoxious K-serials.

We have all the reasons to be addicted to this reality show. We have been conditioned that way by the predecessors of Sach ka Saamna. I clearly remember how the only one topic with which the discussions would start and end in the office, in the bus, on the telephone would be the contestants, their emotional atyachaar and sometimes their singing prowess when Indian Idol was launched. The focus soon changed to Rakhi Sawant’s extreme machining in the Big Boss, another flimsy rip-off of a show which has been a rage in the west. And how can we forget the time when Shekhar Suman tried to do a Larry King Live on some god forbidden show in which he would purposefully rip apart the participants with slick questions. We have been exposed to such a great deal of fraudulent offerings, that we tend to believe in the reality that the television offers much more than the reality that it erases around us and the massacre it creates around us.

“Moment of truth” has been one show that has been making waves all across the west and it didn’t come as a surprise, that its Indian twin was conceived. Although, the original show is known for questions that are bold and that compel the participant to be honest, the desi version is just jaw dropping, eye ball rolling and stomach churning. A person is probed with questions that bring his/her straying and betraying self open in public. Questions that make the participants sweat like pigs and the viewers cringe and squirm in sadistic satiation and well, the producers to be green with Gandhiji. I am not talking about societal morality here. There is nothing in this show that we Indians have not heard of. We all have a dark side of our personality, of course with different hues of darkness. We have seen husbands cheating on their wives, children of troubled marriages taking wrong turns in their lives and siblings ready to bury each other in the graveyard for the legacy of their deceased father. And that’s the very reason, why we tend to be fascinated, entertained and pleasured by someone’s admissions of guilt, misery and deceit. The question is do we really need to be exploited by the idiot box in this spectacular way?

The bigger disappointment and indignation is caused to know that the dodos called parliamentarians in our country have the cheek to argue that Sach Ka Saamna is adding profanity to the Indian way of life. These insolent mispronounced leaders should be enlightened with the fact that they are not the leaders of a developed country in which there is such a dearth of issues to tackle that a debate on a sensational TV show should seize the operation of the parliament. Do we really need a bunch of jokers clad in veils of shamelessness and indifference to decide what is good for us and what is not? Can a show being aired at 10:30 in the night cause a bigger blemish on the Indian culture and values than when these vultures throw microphones and chairs on each other in the House? Is it really that tough to change the channel or lock a reality show which we don’t want to watch or which we don’t want our young ones to watch?

If it is only truth that is creating all this sensation then why not bring a footpath dweller on the show and know about his/her dark secrets. Nah! That wont be as juicy a stuff to know as compared to Urvashi Dholakia getting pregnant as a minor. In spite of the fact that as kids we all listen to stories about truthfulness and honesty, do we really need a television show and an incentive of a few lakh bucks to speak the truth? That’s the naked truth – face off!

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