Sunday, December 14, 2008

26/11/2008 - The Enemy.

'We are meeting the enemy, and it is us.' (unknown).

Living 2 continents away from ground zero is frustrating because the only way I have been able to vent my frustration is by writing.

In the days following 26/11, I have engaged in (mostly written) discussion with a variety of 'types' -- the indian techie in the US who believes in some sort of generic solution that he can't quite identify but believes has something to do with 'our bloody politicians, yaar', the indian political science student at the London School of Economics who is 'frickin pissed off man!, and we should just nuke that basket-case country, Pakistan', the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) cadre who thinks 'you people who don't pay tax to your own country but leave it to go to America needn't trouble yourself worrying, we have the situation under control', the rich, aloof kid living in South Mumbai who spends her time between 'Mango', the Cathedral and John Connan school, and the Bombay Gym and would you leave her out of all this please! , and the khaadi-loving, liberal indian yuppie with kohl-lined eyes, and a careless cigarette omnipresent between her slender manicured fingers. She has of course, been to pretty much every protest march, candle-lit vigil, human chain organised and is a member of every facebook 'fight terror' group there is.

Everyone is talking, everyone is angry, and everyone is saying the same thing -- our leaders have got us here. They've let us down time and again, and are nothing other than a burden on us taxpayers.
Wonderful, isn't it? If there's any one thing that the 2 billion of us can agree on, it is that our politicians should be put into a big hole in the ground and nuked. (there's cricket too, of course..)

The expression of this collective rage is something very inspiring, motivational, no doubt. To me, it is also confusing. In spite of having identified the problem (and not just once, we do it every time a disaster exposes the utter chaos and lack of planning in our emergency response), we are doing little to address it. Why the slip between the cup and the lip?

I have a theory -- Blaming someone else makes us feel like we're contributing to change. And oh let's not forget, less responsible for those 190 dead people.
But we ARE responsible. Because of our inaction. Because we chose to forget that we have a responsibility beyond just voting these guys in. Because it is our duty to give voice and action to our frustration and BRING change. Because our complacency makes us take Democracy for granted. Because we have forgotten Gandhi and the thousands of others who fought with their blood that we may live free lives and have a say in how our nation is run. Because there is too much hate for us to be able to look beyond our linguistic and religious differences and work together to root out the scum in our leadership.
So, seriously, how did WE let this happen?

An event like this was naturally followed by much discussion between some friends and I. We have spent our high school years together, and stayed in touch much longer after that. These are my best buddies in the whole world. Talking to them at a time like this made me realise how different we are. How, in the deepest recesses of our minds, we cling on to ideas branded onto our minds by that microcosm that we spend most of our time in -- our families. And how if you read between the lines, our responses belie our different perceptions about the degree to which we 'belong' to this patchwork quilt called India.

"Why can't we be like the US? They haven't seen a single attack since 9/11"
"The US is different. They don't have a 14% muslim population that has been persecuted since 1992. They don't have insurgencies."
"That is humbug. Muslims govern with us, study with us, work with us. There are quotas for them. They are part of indian society"
"But that is on paper, look at Godhra '02, look at the social, economic and educational status of muslims today"
"Well, look at '93 blasts in Mumbai by muslim extremists. And there are plenty of poor Hindus too"
"The BJP government has-..."
"The Congress is no better"
"At least they don't slaughter minorities"
"Stop it you two. This is irrelevant to the discussion. The enemy is Pakistan. The US needs to nuke it"
"The US can't nuke anything. That idiot from Texas is gone"
"Nuke Pakistan and bomb their civilians like our were bombed, you mean?"
"Better than doing nothing, right?"
"The govt. should shut down madarsas"
"That is ridiculous. Madarsas are schools"
"Yea right!"
"Discontent muslims in India is not an irrelevant issue. It is our biggest failure as a democracy"
"BJP is just trying to safeguard interests of Hindus"
"By systematically persecuting Muslims and Christians"
"Christians convert tribals by offering them rice and money"
"Oh yeah, so let's go burn their churches and rape their nuns"
"That's not what I said. I just think people should be respectful of Hindu culture"
"You mean INDIAN culture"
"Well, India is 84% Hindu"
"Yes. 84, not 100"
"The problem is that our politicians are not doing anything. What do minorities have to do with the issue? Besides, these terrorists are all Pakis.
"Well who voted these politicians in?"
"Not me for sure"
"Yea right. Cos you've never voted in your life"
"Hell no. Better saving the energy. Where have they got us anyway."

Do our parents transfer their 'baggage' to us? Will we, to our children? Our cynicism, our hopelessness. This negativity, thick and black and dense, that we have allowed the system to beat into us, and have accumulated day by day as we fold the morning's newspaper and shake our heads in dismay. Will this one day, be my gift to a bright eyed young one, whose fresh open mind and eagerness to change the world will make me fearful of the disappointment that I am sure will meet her?

We are our enemy. In so many ways.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Black fizzy drinks are so evil.

Black fizzy drinks are so evil. 

I have a severe case of addiction I think and it makes me sad. I have resolved not to touch a Coke/Pepsi ever, and in general, I'd say I do pretty well. 
But if I ever slip up once, even ONE SINGLE OCCASION (and I crave it when I eat junk), I lapse back, losing precious ground that has taken me a LOT of work to cover.
It has me in its clutches, this bloody drink, poisoning my system and poisoning my beautiful planet. I hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it. 


What should I do? 

Monday, August 18, 2008

Monkeys scare me.

I always get a little nervous when I look at a picture of any non-human primate looking directly into the lens. Maybe it’s not nervousness per se, but discomfort really..

For instance, pictures like these * – What do they mean to you? Me, I see animals that are almost human, but not nearly. And that’s what un-nerves me.
Their eyes, alive and aflame with a curiosity that is raw and intense. Almost dangerous. Of the sort that will not cause them to hesitate before plucking the photographer’s eye out, or lashing a sharp nail across her cheek in order to find a satisfying answer to some question that burns within that cranium (‘why doesn’t she respond to my courting dance?’ / ‘what an ugly chimp; why, no facial hair at all, ugh!’), a variant of which we humans have been using over the last 200,000 years since we diverged from our sister lineage, the chimps. Using it to discover fire, make tools and weapons that could pierce through raw hide, to grow food, conquer, and colonize. And ultimately, use it to take the planet and everything in it down with us in another 70 years or so.

But most of all, I think photographs of this sort defy a long-cultivated and (till a while ago), almost-established stereotype in my mind, of the ‘un-intelligent animal’. No doubt this has in part, to do with my Catholic upbringing and the traditional Christian view of the hierarchy of life that bestows upon Man, the exclusive status of The Intelligent Being.
With the result that now, looking at those piercing, bulging green eyes burning with intelligence and curiosity, makes me nervous, I admit.

* If you can get your hands on the July 2008 issue of the National Geographic, check out this one picture shot in Japan, of a bunch of macaques huddled together for warmth. That one beats all of these. I tried to find it online, but couldn't.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sher Singh

It's strange - i've been thinking of him a lot lately. To be honest, i never thought i would miss him. And i was right. Till he was gone. Don't they say something like that about taking people for granted...? Now, i think of many things. His eyes - hollow, listless, hopeless, his body, always stretched out awkwardly in a recline, his gait - clumsy and unbalanced. But most of all his eyes. Hollow. Hopeless. With the memory of all the thousand other lives he had lived, binding and torturing him, silently, slowly, constantly.
For nobody except her was he worth anything, even the space of cardboard that he occupied. She for whom he was a respite from the loneliness and regret that her life had become. He was her pitiable beggar child cripple whom she would cuddle and pet and mollycoddle and talk to, pretending he understood and maybe loved her back. Well maybe he did both, who knows these things?
When he fell for the 22nd (?) time, it was to be his last. This time though, he was all alone. Ammi was out of town at a loud garish family wedding where the men huddled together and talked about business, and the women eyed each other's kanjeevarams and gold in the 42 degree centigrade, sweltering south indian summer. She hadn't much of either, so she was usually ignored. The maidservant whose responsibilities included looking after him, was away from work, probably arguing with her newly acquired daughter-in-law as had become her preoccupation lately. So Sher Singh lay on the hard ground, crying and paralyzed with a broken spine for three days till Ammi returned.
Pain mixed with melancholy relief as his short, dependent, burden of a life flashed past his eyes, sweeping through his senses? That's how i imagine it.

When Ammi found him sprawled on the ground, he looked at her and summoned his final reserves of energy to let out a low, crackled moan. Ah, but his eyes! They lit up - she was here finally! Everything would be fine now. But the moment they exchanged glances, a piece of her heart tore inside her, and she knew she had lost him. Life had gone back to a darker shade of grey. She picked him up tenderly and lovingly with both her hands and whispered into his ears, Thank you for loving me back.

The neglected, stupid one who everyone pushed around or stepped on because he got in their way. But who always picked himself up and started all over again, forgetting what just happened. The handicapped beggar who'd follow anyone who gave him the slightest attention. The cripple who liked neck rubs and curling up next to me with his nose in my stomach.
My valiant Sher Singh, I wish we could meet again. I would tell you then, that you are one of the bravest i know. That i wish i had let you curl up next to me with your nose in my stomach more often. And that secretly, we all want to be like you. Able to forget when life is unfair to us.

I miss you more than i ever thought i would.

P.S. - This is a picture of his grave that Fatty took for me, when he went to India last. We planted a little sapling there when we buried him, and Fatty put some flowers for the photo.