Thoughts and other trivia...

Thursday, August 01, 2013

This Sleeping Beauty



It’s a strange beast this, the collective conscience of our nation.

When not cosying up to Hypocrisy, or in bed with Indifference, it sleeps, undisturbed and sonorously, through the deaths of little children, who’re killed by pesticides in their mid-day meals in their schools. It sleeps while a Christian priest and his two little children are burnt alive in their car by religious fanatics. It sleeps while victims of obviously violent crimes lie unattended by the side of the road, unclothed and stripped of their dignity. It sleeps while brides are burned in homes and little children are sexually abused. It sleeps while young girls are bought and sold. It sleeps as farmers across the country commit suicide because they have debts they cannot dream of paying back. It sleeps while young men and women are killed for marrying outside their castes, communities and religions. It sleeps when right-wing thugs go after people for daring to move to big cities for better prospects. It sleeps while slums are bulldozed and ugly residential/commercial buildings are erected in their stead. It sleeps while children from underprivileged backgrounds are cannibalised.  It sleeps through the millions upon millions that are signed away to the obscenely wealthy by way corporate incentives in yearly budgets Yeah, pretty much like a friend I have, who once slept through an earth-shaking gas cylinder explosion next door, it sleeps through a lot,.  

Occasionally, however, it stirs in consternation and wakes up when annoying little mosquito-like things, for instance the Food Bill, buzz noisily in its ears. Or, for instance, when it’s time to light a candle at a fancy protest march for, or to express solidarity with, Someone Like Us, who’s been wronged. It’s a curious beast this one because, sometimes, we don’t even realise it’s up until a learned judge from our wondrous system of justice swings by to tell us that it’s been pricked and, therefore, wide awake! And, then, like anyone woken rudely from deep sleep, it tends to get nasty and demands to be fed until it’s sated. Who can forget the time when a man had to be sentenced to death by hanging just to keep the hungry beast on leash? If you don’t remember that time, not to worry because, hey, the beast seems to have been pricked awake again!  And, again, another Muslim man, an alleged terrorist in a case that has more holes in it than there are seats in Albert Hall (er, sorry, Paul, John, Geroge and Ringo), must be sentenced to a life in jail to satisfy it! 

But, all said and done, I really envy this collective conscience of the nation thingy. Wish I could sleep half as much because, god knows, I’m so bloody sleep deprived.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Breathe



Free. Finally effing free!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Kindness of Strangers



If you’re a Tennessee Williams fan,  or if you watch a lot of films, you’ll be familiar with ‘the kindness of strangers’. There’s also a film based on the play the phrase features in

Last night, I was watching, again, Pedro Almodóvar’s absolutely wonderful Todo Sobre mi Madre (All About My Mother), in which the Tennessee Williams play is a recurring theme and Huma Rojo, the character who plays Blanche DuBois in the play within the film, an integral character. I have always depended on the kindness of strangers, she says. There’s a certain sadness about this line and I’ve always found it strangely moving. It suggests a sense of desolation that survives on the thin slivers of hope it finds in unlikely places and which serve to, somehow, hold it together. 

An Australian friend often says that ahimsa (non-violence) is the greatest word coined in any human language. For me, it’s kindness. A friend insists that I’m a sucker for it. If someone were kind enough, they could rob me blind, she said recently when she stayed over for a couple of days. Nothing to be proud of, I know, but I really believe it’s something the world doesn’t have nearly enough of. Among all the people I’ve known well, I've thought of a handful as being truly kind. But, the strange thing is, as one FB friend once said, some people show the greatest empathy for complete strangers, not to mention characters in books and films, but they're not nearly as understanding when it comes to friends and others close to them. These are otherwise really nice and kind people but I’ve also seen them being downright mean, judgemental and, sometimes, even plain nasty. And, this often makes me wonder: have these people really been what I thought they were or was it just my need to see them as that?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Homesick



A song for someone who needs somewhere to long for.
Homesick
Because I no longer know where home is.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Finger



It’s always pointing, isn’t it? At the inept government, the inefficient police, the corrupt babu, the crazy traffic, the negligent doctor, the lousy system. There’s always someone else, or something else, to blame for whatever isn’t working.

At the peak of the protest movement against corruption in 2012, one of TOI’s lead stories was about a young Indian man who had flown down all the way from Hong Kong (or, Singapore) to show solidarity with Anna Hazare and the movement. A VP with a multinational bank, he said he never dared to jump the signal in Hong Kong because he knows he will be penalised. But, because the system doesn’t work here, he said he doesn’t care whether he jumps it in India. The system here, he said, sucks.

We jump signals because we know we can bribe the cop and get away with it but, of course, we never fail to complain against corruption; we stand by and watch a young girl and a young man lying by the side of the road, without any clothes and, very obviously, the victims of a violent crime and, yet, we do nothing to help or cover them up but we feel incensed if the police arrives a little late; we sign petitions to ban Honey Singh’s deeply offensive song but we refuse to acknowledge that the man is popular for a reason, not to mention the fact that thousands among us had booked expensive tickets to watch him sing that very song live on the eve of the new year; and, then there’s our favourite bugbear, the West, which we’re quick to blame for the erosion of our values and the loss of our culture. 

We litter the streets, we spit everywhere and we honk needlessly but it’s a rare person who’ll concede any wrongdoing. We look down on dark-skinned Africans and refer to them as kaalu and habshi, sometimes even to their faces. And, our attitude to fair-skinned foreigners is best explained in the words of a German friend, who said that just because she’s white, it seems there’s a stamp on her face that says, “Come, touch me, feel me, fleece me...” We’re deeply racist ourselves but we bristle with self-righteous indignation when Indians are attacked in Australia and elsewhere.

We’re constantly pointing fingers, sitting in judgement and apportioning blame. While we’ve started to ask, and rather stridently, for greater ‘accountability’ from politicians, and from those in public life, we don’t seem willing to want to apply the same standard to ourselves. 

The Anna Hazare-led protest movement against corruption and the current protests against violence against women have mobilised thousands of angry people around the country to take to the streets and to demand change. But, what’s most interesting about both is that, again, they’re built on the premise that the problem and the solution, both, are on the outside. We forget that for someone to take a bribe, it takes someone to offer one. Or, that rising violence against women is a by-product of our attitude towards women rather than inadequate laws. Personal culpability is not on the agenda of either movement. 

So, what is it with us and the finger? Long ago, a friend, who was very fond of quotable quotes at the time, sent one to me in a letter. When we point fingers, she said, we must remember that three of our own are pointing back at us.

Is it just that we’re living in denial? Is it just plain hypocrisy? Or, as a sociologist said in another context in a film I made recently, is it all part of the glorious paradoxes of life that one has to be able to sustain contradictory ideas? 

Also, we need to quickly address why it is that our hearts beat faster for the Jessica Lals, the Priyadarshini Mattoos, the Nitish Kataras, the Ayushi Talwars and why the Nitharis of this world, the crimes against the locals in Kashmir and in the North-East and the atrocities in tribal areas soon become the blips in our memories they are today. Because this feeling of unrest that seems to be festering inside us at the moment could, potentially, have very serious ramifications.

BE THE CHANGE, says a friend’s Gmail status even as I write this. We’ve rediscovered Mahatma Gandhi’s brilliant exhortation but, clearly, we don’t seem to grasp what he meant. We’d rather change the world first.