Monday, December 26, 2005

Trilogy part 1: Demystifying Fame

My vacillating mind gave me all kinds of ambitions in life at various stages of childhood. I wanted to be an actor after I saw heroes pulverize the baddies to dust. A heroic inning by Kapil Dev left me yearning to be a cricketer. During a visit to a doctor, I was impressed by the plush interiors of his clinic and the respect he commanded from my parents; I then wanted to be in his shoes. Other times saw me dreaming of becoming a scientist, a contortionist, a circus joker and God knows what else. An overwhelming similarity in all these ambitions was a feeling of being recognized by others and of becoming so good at my work that people come to see me perform and appreciate me. Money, until then, wasn’t quite a parameter for the ambitions. Finally, I took up engineering. It was something I never dreamt of or understood as a child and doubt whether I still do. I am not an exceptional engineer. Other than my superiors, nobody comes to see me do my work. So do I sulk that I’m not living any of my dreams? Not quite. For I know better.

Fame is but a simple arithmetic. Simply put, it is a subtraction of the number of people you know from the number of those who know you. People spend their entire lives in pursuit of making this difference positive, and once there, they sweat to magnify this positive difference.

The problem with fame is that its entire perspective revolves around ‘others’. Fame ceases to exist the day these ‘others’ become inexistent. While the entire inspiration or idea that leads to an invention or a masterpiece comes from within, it invites problems when the fruits of the act are sought from without. Fame is like a sweet poison. You taste it once and you’re hungry for more, but at your own peril. You get addicted to it before you blink. Shahrukh khan, the Bollywood superstar, is a self-confessed addict of adulation. A beautiful and sensuous Indian actress of the 80s was so enamoured by the fan following she had that she became eccentric when the fickle fans dumped her for younger actresses. She couldn’t get out of that comfort zone. She then ended up ‘demanding’ compliments from the washermen, milkmen and other vendors. Fame is good to vie for, especially when it is a by-product of success, but it needs a mature head to straitjacket the mind from over-indulgence.

At times, people go to any extreme to achieve this. A teenager called Saurabh Singh took the whole of India on a flight of fancy by claiming that he had topped a NASA exam. The shrewd boy added a pinch of realism to the whole story by saying that even the current Indian president Mr. Abdul Kalam had taken this exam during his student years. And the Indian press went gung-ho glorifying this teenager’s unsubstantiated achievements. It was only later when the president himself denied having taken any such examination that sleuths woke up and burst the balloon. This was the boy’s quest for becoming famous in his country and a nation’s quest for becoming famous in the world. Both of them were in a hurry. While this might sound like a harmless April fool game, such quests often take ugly turns and ruin people’s lives when their lifetime’s work is plagiarized by treachery.

So is this quest for fame and recognition such a bad thing? Not quite. Historically speaking, fame, as an ambition or an incentive, would not have existed until the development of human civilization. Nomadic man probably had more similarities in lifestyle with the animal world than differences. And fame has no value in the animal kingdom. So, the earliest discoveries of fire, agriculture and primitive weaponry were more out of survival instincts than anything else. But having formed the civilization and having mastered the survival instincts, man probably would not have progressed further had it not been for his quest for fame and recognition, among other things. The later discoveries and inventions had fame as one of the pivotal incentives. True, from time to time, rulers waged bloody wars and mercilessly killed millions when greed combined with this quest for fame. But the entire process was a churning to reach an end that we see today. The churning is still on - for fame and greed still rule the psyche of quite a lot of us.

Fame is but a necessary evil for humankind. It needs to be nurtured with the right moral fabric within the society, for, after all, it is one of our primary causes for progress. A good way to start would be to develop an emphasis on ethics during early education of children. Success should be emphasized; fame should be exemplified, but the innate human tendency of taking vanity too far should be nipped in the bud.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

My Best Friend's Wedding

The wheels squealed lazily at being forced to move after a short but a well deserved halt as the train chugged painfully, fighting the inertial resistance, to take its first 'steps' out of the station I boarded it from. I pushed my handbag up on the top berth, settled quietly in my seat and surveyed my sleeper class co-passengers: A sexagenarian man gazing blankly through the window, a family with two kids; parents too busy teaching their kids how to enjoy and the kids too busy doing what they do best - flouting those norms, and a young lad; unabashedly staring at me as if I was the only existent key to solving the Bermuda Triangle mystery. It didn't take me very long to get talking to them. An enquiry about their destination was all it took to be a part of the group. A couple of hours later we had discussed most of our nation's problems, almost solved them along the way, shared our lunches and had become a family. It was so easy initiating a conversation with sleeper class passengers. Compare and contrast this with a reaction from a co-passenger in an AC compartment. A similar enquiry would fetch a suave verbal reply masking a curt non-verbal expression overtly portending of a cold shoulder of non-reciprocation for any further attempts at initiating a conversation. The puffed up egos actually keep the AC compartment, which is otherwise cold, quite cozy.

I was traveling by train after a long time. The recent nose-diving of flight fares made them affordable to us lesser mortals. That, coupled with the traveling allowance provided by my company, made traveling by train not just unenviable but also unglamourous. And yet, there was something about trains I missed while flying. Although flying has its own share of ecstasy in take-offs, landings and God's eye view of earth, a train journey is about a different romance altogether. The snail-pace of Indian trains affords us the luxury of sliding open the window and enjoying ourselves in the unadulterated countryside breeze in all its glory. Watching the scared cattle fleeing, the confused dogs barking, the kids cheering and the adult males leering has its own beauty when viewed from inside the fortified window of a train. Sooner or later, our quest for speed will introduce faster, new state-of-the-art trains. But then, we won't be able to stick our necks out of the door and experience the gush of wind slapping our faces. In our hurry to reach the destination, we miss out on enjoying ourselves through the journey. Ironically, while technology helps us connect faster to far off places, it disconnects us from our immediate neighbourhood.

The absence of time zones in India sets you up for some really pleasant surprises as you travel eastwards. A normal day in Bhuvaneshwar, located in eastern part of India, dawns at 5 am. I reached there slightly before dawn. To my relief, it had rained the previous night, forcing mother earth to show its more pleasant face in the midst of scorching Indian summer. A pick-up auto was arranged for me. It seemed to glide over the broad, clean roads of Bhuvaneshwar. Being engrossed in the surreal morning experience, I failed to notice when the smooth boulevards segued into potholed bylanes and brought me to my destination.

I stood in front of a big main gate guarding a small bungalow. The gate was high enough to keep peeping toms at bay. An average Indian would not be able to see through its top; its bottom, however, was considerate enough to give enough space to show ankles. I rang the bell and a known voice answered. It ordered me to hold on lest I wake others up; I forgot, out of excitement, it was still early morning. As the voice came closer to the gate, I started drawing her picture. My mind immediately left for dreamland; I thought I heard a barrage of instructions, I had so gotten used to, coming out of her mouth. She reached the gate and started opening a chained lock at the bottom. I saw only her palms and feet, for the miserly gate would let me see no more. Mehendi, a mark of celebrations in an Indian family, adorned her hands and feet. She opened the door and we were face to face after more than three years. That night was her wedding.

We began our professional careers together in Pune. Fresh out of college, we had a mix of childish enthusiasm for life and a queer anxiety about our first job. We clicked almost immediately and have been the best of friends since then. We've shared some of the best days of our professional lives.

Her house was full of guests but it didn’t look congested. As her only friend to attend her marriage from out-of-station, I was accorded celebrity treatment. We chatted for a couple of hours before we got up to move on with the chores. “Could you tell me how you feel?” I asked her, curious to know what a girl feels on the eve of her marriage. “Don’t ask that;” pat came the reply, “I won’t be able to control myself.” The only child of her parents, Amrita, my friend, would not have been able to control her emotions had she let them flow any closer to that thought. The pain of separation from their loving daughter, in spite of the pleasure of her getting married to a worthy individual, was giving her parents a torrid time. Amidst her parents’ frequent breakdowns, she was the only one who composed herself and kept the situation under control.

I went to the terrace of the bungalow where the ladies of the family were performing some rituals. They were chanting some mantras and intermittently making surprisingly loud noise just by oscillating their tongue left-to-right; an act supposed to ward-off evil. Amrita had called her gregarious friend, Debasis Patel, to keep me company. Thanks to his famous second name, he often had to follow his introductory statement with the explanation that he was not a Gujarati. Amit, Amrita’s cute little cousin, took a special liking for me. He would excitedly share with me all the good things he could lay his hands on. Unmindful of his broken Hindi, he would sing all the Hindi songs I taught him. These two companions made my sojourn worth its weight in gold.

Towards the evening, Debasis took me to the marriage venue. A hall was booked in one of the better hotels of Bhuvaneshwar. The route from home to hotel was marked with pot-holed roads devoid of street-lights. But the cool, unpolluted breeze made the journey exhilarating and refreshing. The sigh of untamed breeze of Bhuvaneshwar, a city with less concretized development than in other cities of India, could only have invigorated my spirits. We reached the marriage hall excited and ready to tidy up things, and ourselves. The bride arrived later, looking exquisite in the bridal wear and totally different from what she looked back home. Debasis and I took the job of welcoming the guests at the main entrance. Then we enjoyed the sumptuous dinner, peppered with ‘bird-watching’. The groom, his family and guests arrived much later. There was excitement all around as the groom’s procession arrived in the hotel. We were running around, hankering to catch a glimpse of the man-of-the-moment. Finally, I found him in a hall of the hotel. He was dressed in cream Sherwani with a traditional turban over his head. Amrita had told him about me. So we chatted for a while after I introduced myself. He came across as a simple, shy and a mature person; quite different from the bubbly Amrita but someone who I thought complemented her well.

The marriage rituals started around midnight. By that time, Debasis had left and Amit had slept in one of the small sofas, big enough for him. Alone and tired, I followed the rituals with intermittent naps. But I was lucky to be awake at the most important moments of the marriage. I saw the groom tying the mangalsutra around the neck of the bride. I saw them exchanging their ‘Varmalas’ (garlands) and taking the rounds around the holy fire. I got goose-bumps as I watched them doing that. A passing thought came across and got me introspecting at the sanctity of those moments. The Vedic mantras that were being chanted during those actions are known to be powerful enough to celestially bind the couple. The bride and the groom affect each other’s lives much more powerfully, astrologically -- and not just because they live together -- after the mantras bind them. It was an act of giving the other individual the control of your life; the key to your emotions. You then give that person the power to make you happy or sad, to make or break your life. Can such a moment of entrusting your life to someone be anything less than sacrosanct? The modern priests chant those mantras perfunctorily for it’s a daily business for them; the bride and groom can’t be more mechanical about following the instructions for it’s too tiring for them. The couple, however, should stop before these acts, take a moment and talk to themselves; think for a moment about the other life they’re making their own and the responsibilities that come with it. To enjoy the good times of married life, they should be good enough to face bad times.

Real life marriages, unlike those in movies, are directed by actors themselves. So, almost every task is a touch-and-go action. Murphy’s laws work at their best here. Things would go wrong or disappear when you least want them to. We had our share of such anxieties, before and after the marriage, the worst of which was after marriage when the rusty lock at the main door of her house just wouldn’t open, all in the wee hours of the morning when we returned from the marriage hall ready to flake out.

That morning was her Vidai. Knowing Amrita, who, while in Pune, used to cry at the slightest thoughts of missing her parents, I expected the Vidai to be an emotional catharsis. But the brave girl that she was, she defied all expectations and didn’t let a single drop of tear come out of her eyes. Quietly, she sat in the car and didn’t look at anyone for a long time. Our eyes met only once after that; I could see the pain of separation from family waiting to explode but marvelously controlled. The car left, unsettling the dust of the road and leaving everyone’s heart with an emotional void in its wake.

“Why is it that Indian girls leave their families after marriage? Why is it not the other way round?” I asked myself. The answer to this is not simple. An average male has much bigger ego than an average female. Due to this, a girl is much more capable of accepting the new family as her own than her male counterpart is. She can take in her stride the complexities of adapting to differences with less difficulty. Spiritually speaking, the ego is one of the root causes of distancing yourself from God. Being born a woman is hence a mark of spiritual upliftment. And only a spiritually higher being can make bigger sacrifices to keep another family happy. Unfortunately, the feminists, thanks to patriarchal zealots, take this as another form of female discrimination.

Thanks to Amrita, my trip to Bhuvaneshwar was an experience worth living. I came back with quite a few memories to cherish and thoughts that probably made me a bit wiser.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Relations of life

Life and its myriad hues,
the joys and the blues
colour our bland lives,
build the staff of agedness.
Expectations make relationships dear;
soul's desire, overpowered and left unclear.
Blossoming kinships marred by the ego,
"Why should I always bend, forgive or let-go?"

Thoughts like these,

don't let people meet.
Even friends in deed
disappear when in need.
Some day in retrospect,
as we sit in tranquil solitude,
we realize our follies and wonder,
"If only, we had a different attitude."

For our self-respect is a euphemism of egoism,
for our love is a function of reciprocation,
for our happiness is a slave to response,
for our vanity we can't forego,
our relationships we let go.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

One Day Mataram

The hair-raising patriotic rhapsody sung in the immortal voice of Mahendra Kapoor goes “Mere desh ki dharti sona ugle, ugle heere moti.” Translated strictly, it means, “My country’s land produces gold, diamonds and pearls.” This song always fills me with a sense of pride for being born an Indian. My chest spreads twice as much; fists clench themselves and I get restless with almost an insuppressible urgency to do something worthwhile for my ‘great’ nation. The song gets over and the goose bumps settle back to slumber. Suddenly my ear starts itching. So I pick up a ear bud, use it and throw it out of the window only to hear an uproarious expletive from an unintended victim of my can’t-care-less attitude. With the bud, I also threw my wish to do something for my nation “out of the window.” My Patriotism existed for the duration of the song. Once the song got over, my sense of urgency evaporated into thin air. Forget about doing something for the nation, I changed things in my immediate neighborhood for worse.

Every year, we Indians celebrate 15th of August as our Independence Day. People show their love for India in various ways on this day. Government offices, schools proudly unfurl the tricolour on their buildings. Individuals stick the flag on their vehicles. People wear ‘Patriotism’ on their hearts and sleeves. The national flag becomes so valuable a commodity this day that it sells like hot cakes. The day gets over and by evening all the excitement gets petered out. By the next day, you can find flags wallowing in dirt like waifs and on manholes, being overrun by the same vehicles that still proudly bear the flag on their embodiment. The previous day’s pride becomes the very next day’s burden. Three cheers to our “One Day Patriotism.”

Our whole idea of Patriotism needs some revamping. Is it actually enough to stick the tricolour on our peripheries and sing the national anthem with gusto while standing in attention? Even here, there are so many prejudices playing their hidden roles. Those who stand in attention while singing the anthem deride those who don’t. But the former are blissfully unaware of the fact that by doing so they’re actually approving the very act that they choose to disapprove. Independence Day, then, stood for freedom. Freedom, not just from the British rule, but also from our pique of being ruled by ‘others’; freedom from everything that was ‘phoren’, be it product or system, to things that were more Indian. Standing up in attention, as a mark of respect, is a British relic we’re unable to throw out of our psyche even today. Eastern culture, be it Hindu or Muslim, doesn’t decree the same. Unlike the western culture, it allows us to stay seated while praying. Reciting an anthem being an act of professing your allegiance could hence be done staying seated. Ironically, the British left India long back, but they still rule our psyche. This knowledge does nothing other than further deepen our prejudice against the British. While that is one aspect of patriotism, elucidating that is not the purpose of this write-up.

Why have patriotism at all when all it does is divide humanity into superior, loveable, smarter ‘us’ and inferior, hate-worthy, uncivilized ‘others’? Why should one man’s fight-for-freedom be another man’s terrorism? Technology, especially Internet, is erasing the borders. Politics needs to open-up to embrace this development. The world is at a crossroad now. Terrorism has never been more powerful and is threatening to engulf most of the world. It knows no boundaries of nations and is bent on destroying the same. Technology is also doing the same but is the obverse side of the same coin. The solution doesn’t lie in guarding our borders even more zealously. The solution lies in melting our borders and making ourselves more inclusive of the ‘others’ than we’re now. We need to wisely use technology to send across the message that we care to the nations that feel relegated. Foreign policies of nations need to be more ‘foreign’ sensitive from now on. The Independence Day should now symbolize freedom from ‘Patriotism’. Pablo Casals put in succinctly, “The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?” Let us aspire for a world order where patriotism is not haute. I won’t be very comfortable when my kids would ask, “Who draws lines around the countries?”

Friday, August 12, 2005

Stranger on the shore

A hastily written poem on my last day with Oracle.
Wanted to write more.
With the passage of time
and the intake of breath,
older we get
and experiences we beget.

People we meet,
tricks of the trade we learn;
priorities get changed,
societal wisdom we earn.

Work makes us.
Work breaks us.
In the mad quest for survival,
thirst for mammon and fame rules us.

The same quest rules me
someway or the other.
Every move I make for my happiness
thrills one and betrays another.

But I've to move on,
whether it gives joy, or causes uproar.
Hope you folks remember me,
this stranger on the shore.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Editorial

I am a member of the editorial committee of an internal magazine of Oracle. It's an online magazine we plan to release soon. This is the editorial I wrote for the inaugural issue which was accepted wholeheartedly. I think it's an honour I want to share with all. There you go.
A wise man once proclaimed that man’s greatness lies in his relentless quest for improvement. First he does things well and having done them well, he tries to do them better. This quality of his ensured that he ruled the earth and every being on earth.

His quest for improvement started with his primitive survival instincts. None of the rival flora or fauna, no matter how fit they were for survival, could use anything other than what they were physically and instinctively endowed with for protection. Man, on the other hand, turned stones into weapons and invented fire. Having developed reasonable defenses, he gave up nomadic life to settle for an agrarian one. The discovery of agriculture led to the development of human civilization. Societies developed and with them took shape man’s wants and necessities. Inventions were made to increase comforts for man; processes were streamlined. Barter system gave way to monetary exchanges. Money, in turn, gave a totally new dimension to man’s existence. It started making the world go round. Soon the pursuit of money became the aim of many a lives. Industries evolved to design new tools for comfort and entertainment of man. Corporations spawned and competed for the market share. Companies, through their employees, started working harder and harder to increase their bottom-lines. In this complex society, any given person became a customer to someone and a vendor to someone at the same time. The increase in options made the customer more demanding while every increased demand meant someone had to slog at work someone. The vicious circle ensured that almost everyone worked harder, as a vendor, to meet those never ending deadlines. Man’s progress – that started as a creative streak has brought him to a point where the very existence of this creativity is threatened.

We, at Oracle, are contributors to and at the same time victims of this phenomenon. Have we not questioned ourselves in the recent past as to where have we lost that creativity? “EBUZZZ” is a modest attempt to invite all of you to search your soul and rekindle that creative fire of yours. It is an attempt to unravel that undying human spirit of yours that has been buried under work pressure. It is an attempt to help you express yourself in ways more than one. It is an attempt to help you stand up, be counted and get known for things other than your good work. Let’s raise a toast to this endeavour.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Divide and Survive

As a newborn baby, I communicated in only two ways. I cried when in any kind of discomfort and slept blissfully in its absence. As a newborn, I came as close to desirelessness as any person could possibly dream of. Barring my physical needs to satiate my hunger, I had no known desires. Slowly my cognitive senses developed and I began to identify sounds, people, and things around me. My first fascination was with sounds. I was surrounded by all kinds of sweet sounding toys. I would turn, stretch my hands and try to grab the toy whose sound lured me most. I wanted those toys to be in my hands, as they made me feel good. I would cry if the toy I held was taken away. Those were my first visible signs of desire. From then on, my body ceased to be my only source of discomfort. My fast developing mind had started giving me factors, external to my body, through which I was to feel pleasure or pain. My sense of "I-ness" was developing. Anything that wasn't in my hands was not mine. So, I wanted, in 'my' hands, anything that lured me.

As my mind evolved further, I started identifying people. My parents and siblings, owing to their frequency of meeting my eye, were the first ones I recognized. They expanded my emotional boundaries of I-ness. My house and its now familiar surroundings expanded my physical boundaries of I-ness. I still wanted in my hands anything I liked. But if I couldn't handle it for any reason, I wanted it within the familiar boundaries of my home, or in the familiar hands of my family members. I would feel uncomfortable if anything that I thought was mine went beyond this physical and emotional boundary. My first sense of partitioning my world was slowly shaping up and gaining ground. The irony of the whole development was that nobody taught me these things.

As I grew, this sense of I-ness and its related boundaries also grew but only so much to serve my purpose. In the school, the boundaries included only my closest friends. I still wanted the best of grades for myself. I would then expand my I-ness to get the next best grades for my friends. I soon learnt to make this I-ness very flexible and expanded it only if it suited my purpose -- my selfishness. The essential pattern of my existence was slowly developing. At any given moment of my life and under any circumstance, I needed those boundaries to exist and separate me from the rest of the world. The defining factor of this boundary was that I wanted it to be the smallest possible coterie of homogeneity to share my I-ness with and yet just large enough to get my job done.

A dog doesn't let another dog intrude into its boundaries. This is true for almost every animal. Man, having evolved with and from them, is also bound to have such boundaries. Man has evolved enough to proclaim himself a social animal. But those primitive instincts are still deeply rooted in him. Man needs an excuse to shrink these boundaries and a reason to expand them. Caste, religion, patriotism, racism and others are such excuses. Development, well being and protection are the reasons that force man to expand these boundaries. The very fact that patriotism exists means a country exists. The very existence of a country entails a division of land. That essentially is another fallout of separating the world from your collective I-ness. Patriotism is but a hypocritical and celebrated form of selfishness. This essentially makes a traitor a person who prefers a more conventional selfishness to the covert selfishness that is patriotism. Are we then justified in punishing him for treason?

What would happen to our petty excuses for dividing humanity, if entire earth were to be attacked by aliens - a la the Hollywood movie "Independence Day"? Would Al-Qaeda, whose entire existence is a consequence of this exaggerated I-ness, still go on with the terror strikes? Or will it welcome the aliens with open arms? For, after all, aliens are doing its job for free! Wouldn't our petty squabbles on caste, religion, land, patriotism and others lose their prominence when our very existence is threatened? Wouldn't we expand our boundaries to make the whole earth and 'humanity' a part of our collective I-ness and separate the rest of the universe, aliens included, from us? But that essential boundary would still remain. It is this boundary, this division that separates man from God. "The body has fewer inhibitions than mind", said Dr. Victor Frankl in his masterpiece "Man's search for Meaning". The day the mind successfully overcomes these inhibitions and breaks this boundary, man would knock on the doors of divinity.

Monday, July 04, 2005


I'm the road.
Now, I'm the road.
I was once, not the road.
I once dwelled on the road.
I once had life, unlike the road.

A lively kitten, beside the road.
I lived, foraged and played around the road.
A jaywalker that sometimes crossed the road.
My instinct was my 'Oracle' on the road.
It once ditched me, when on the road.
A car ran over me, on the road.
I wasn't a human dying on the road,
so the traffic didn't stop on the road.
A trolley then crushed me on the road.
My eyeball popped and rolled over the road.
Only to be sandwiched, between a tyre and the road.

I soon resembled a torn leather on the road,
as blood stains mixed with the dirt on the road.
Now, I'm one with the road.
Rather, I'm the road.

Man didn't let me live around the road.
He didn't let others scavenge me from the road.
Nature's law of "nothing to waste" -
is itself a waste, when on the road.

Monday, May 16, 2005


My mother bore me,
but parents couldn't afford me.
So they sold me,
to these "good samaritans"
who proffered to take care of me.

Dangling the carrot of city life
over and above the paltry aid,
they beguiled my poor parents,
and bought a dirt-cheap maid.

Now, I must be seven or eight.
In this city bustling with people,
I 'work' as a live-in-maid
and foster this toddler so cute and supple.

Guests come and guests go,
wonder if they even notice me.
When they dine together,
I sit out in the balcony.

Unaware of the ways of the world,
the kid thinks I belong to the family.
In the bliss of mirth or tears of sorrow,
she simply toddles over to me.

Slowly, the garb of innocence will wane,
as societal wisdom the kid will gain.
Then I won't belong to her family,
joy or pain, she won't hug me.

Her mother is her good weather friend;
she keeps the kid when neat and nice.
I get to keep her rest of the time,
whether she is busy or otherwise.

I've this house, but I need a home.
I get food, but I need some love.
I've a life, but I don't live - I exist.
I yearn for that one hug,
the touch smeared in affection,
a lap to put my head on,
a shoulder to cry on,
a face that lights up on my glimpse,
hands that beckon me, not just in my dreams.

In the ever gnawing loneliness,
grew my precocious seriousness.
The burden of this responsibility,
crushed my budding childishness.

I must be seven or eight.
I work as a 'live-in-maid'.
My name they say is Kaanta,
Waiting to be rescued by my Santa.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Black Magic

As the carousel rolls and the projector throws the beam of light, the dead, bland, blank, abstract and emotionless screen comes to life and through the chiaroscuro of the projected rays, it emotes, taking the audience with it, in an otherwise dark, often faceless, hall. The usher guiding the latecomers, with the only other official source of light, through the aisle becomes a nightmare for those sticklers of time, who restlessly oscillate to see through the silhouettes as if their very life depends on seeing every inch of the screen. The ease with which the inanimate screen catapults the consciousness of hundreds of people, which normally revolves around their individual selves, to itself, is nothing short of a miracle. For the duration of the movie, the individuals cease to exist and the screen becomes the centre of their collective conscious universe. It almost enslaves them. They smile, sigh, sob, shiver with fear; all in unison -- so uncanny of individuals when they form a crowd -- and yet we fail to notice that single most radical change a movie screen entails in the crowd behaviour. The degree and smoothness of such a magical shift in the centre of consciousness of the audience is proportional to quality of the movie. Black, the recently released Hindi movie, is an undisputed apotheosis of such quality.

What would it be like to be congenitally- visually and audibly challenged? Being surrounded by vast oceans of blankness; a blankness consisting of eternal and ubiquitous 'blackness'. And a perennial deafening silence accompanying that blackness. You're left to perceive and identify the things around through their shapes; a practice not vastly different from what the majority follows, but the means to that end is touch and not vision. The very thought tingles our skin to discomfort. And where does this handicap leave the individual in the omnipresent nothingness? Would the people, who move and talk, be any different from the inanimate furniture when you just can't see or hear them? How would it feel to be happy and yet not be able to wrap it in the package of words or feel sad and be hysterical about it? How would it be to not know that there are more colours in the world than 'Black'? How would it be to not know that sound can also be heard and not just felt with the hands? Our life, in contrast, looks like an unending honeymoon. For so long, our film industry has fed us with the strong, smart, successful, larger than life, Adonis and Aphrodite image of lead actors that we forget there are people, for whom success isn't about saving the world or about winning the love of a nymph but about taking their first step towards a dignified living and being recognized as equals despite their preordained shortcomings. Michelle McNally, played by Rani Mukherji in Black, is one such character. Her deafening shriek of ecstacy, on realizing that her mentor Mr. Debraj Sahay is back, sets the tone of the movie and portends what is in store for the audience. Rani, through this movie, has put herself in the league of Nargiz of 'Mother India' fame. The mesmerizing performance is sure to make her the toast of Bollywood. Rani, you're the Queen.

The Academy awards committee that claims to be the foremost representative of the global cinema has actually never done justice to its own claim by restricting the global cinema under the "Best Foreign Language Film" category. Mahatma Gandhi never won the Nobel Peace Prize. Leo Tolstoy never won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Yet, one wonders if the mortal prizes like Nobel could've done justice to their immortal contribution by merely recognizing them. Amitabh Bachchan has also never won an Oscar. Need I say more? Or shall I say, with a movie like Black under his belt and having acted in it the way he has, he probably stands the best chance, he ever had, of leaving the distinguished company of those immortals? As he rightly conceded, his performance in Black effortlessly relegates his past and future performances to mediocrity. Not that he is to be blamed for that. Thanks to the parochial Bollywood film-makers, who cannot think beyond the much clich├ęd romance and the nauseating melodrama, Amitabh Bachchan, the colossus that straddles Bollywood, seldom got roles that could make him stretch his own limits. Until that practice is ameliorated, he will be wasted in utterly forgettable roles.

The very thought of Ayesha Kapoor, who plays the young Rani, scares you to death. Assuming that actors mature with age, I fear Bollywood might not have enough roles to even scratch the surface of her potential when she finally ripens. Her performance is the result of a child's energy channelized in the right direction by the director. I also wonder if there are enough directors good enough to tap her incipient potential.

There are moments that make you laugh. In 'Black', such moments come as often as oases do in a desert. But when they come, their innocence, simplicity, naturality and spontaneity give you a relief comparable only to the relief you derive out of oases. It forms a lump in your chest; a lump so full of emotions that you almost choke with suffocation and yet so empty that you fail to react in words. With his vision, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has created a song-less wonder, in an industry where songs, beyond anything else, are the USP. Inspired by "The Miracle Worker", "Black", with its power packed performances, riding on mesmerizing, almost magical play of light, gives any sincere watcher, a punch of conscience. It hits you hard, where it hurts most. In our daily selfish existence, it makes you wonder whether there could ever be people, except the "Indian house-wife mothers", who dedicate their whole lives to others' cause so selflessly. It makes us wonder, when was the last time we sweated for others? When was the last time we dedicated a day for others; for someone, who couldn't in any way, have returned the favours? It gives you a void of conscience, and then fills it with a thankful realization that you are blessed; blessed that you can see with your eyes and listen with your ears. As for the feelings, well, the heart can never be a vestigial organ.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Impervious to Love?

After reading this, you're going to ask me one question. My answer to that is "no".

I always thought I was a strong person. Not in the physical sense of the word; but from the perspective of heart. Although an emotional person, I never quite understood what actually caused a boy to fall in love with a girl. Yes. True. I think I never really fell in love. Apart from the mild crushes and the childish infatuations, I never really felt the pangs of love for any girl. I always believed I was impervious to love. My conservative Gujarati upbringing, along with my sensitivity towards my parents' feelings and expectations, never really allowed me to water the plant of feelings for girls who did not belong to the Gujarati-Brahmin bracket. And having stayed outside Gujarat for most of my youthful years, I didn't quite meet those girls, with whom, I could've permitted myself to indulge. I almost prided myself on the fact that I can't fall for a girl. That was until recently, when she, out of nowhere, came into my life.

She works for a client company at Bangalore. We started chatting over some work. Some high-priority work forced us to call each other once in a while. She came across as a friendly girl - a Tamilian, basically from Calicut, brought up in Mumbai. It couldn't have been a more cosmopolitan upbringing. It was a delight to hear a Tamilian dishing out Mumbai's colloquialisms of "haan kya" and "nahi re". Before we knew it, we were constantly chatting to each other. We both would wait impatiently for our chat windows to produce that 'click' sound and then blink, signaling a message for us to open and read, so we could reply... and then wait... for the next reply...and so on... it went on... tirelessly. And before we knew it, we felt depressed and suffocated if no such sound came or if the screen didn't blink for some time. Much before we knew it, we knew a lot about each other. Much before we knew it, we were getting addicted. Within a week of our first chat, she spilt the beans by saying she was getting addicted to me.

I had not as yet thought about this. I was still under the impression that we were nothing but good friends. Years and years of self-imposed restrictions never really allowed me to look at the whole thing beyond the purview of friendship. And yet, I found I was being drawn to her; drawn, like I had never been to any girl before. Knowing her in the week that went by had been the most exhilarating and unexpectedly pleasant experience of my life. We had started talking to each other at night. But, it was not just talking. It was each other's presence at the other end of the phone that mattered. We both just wanted to be on phone, with the surety that we're both speaking a lot; and yet, nothing from the mouth. Her very presence on the phone was reassuring enough; reason enough for me not to hang up. It was as if, hanging up of the phone was suddenly the most difficult thing to do in the world; as if the one to hang up first would end up at the gallows. And still, I was hopelessly preventing myself from believing that I'd fallen for a girl who was a brahmin, but not a Gujarati. I was still trying to give myself an assurance that there was an escape; there was still a way to avoid all the hassles I was going to plunge myself into. And yet, there was a desire to be wanted, to be loved by someone other than your parents and family, by someone really unknown, for whom you could be the world.

During the course of our last late-night conversation, I failed to tell her unequivocally that I had fallen for her. May be I hadn't decided. May be I wasn't sure of its outcome. May be I was overcautious. May be I wasn't ready for a commitment just yet. But I made her say the same thing scores of times. And she did repeat it, without expectations. Each of her statement tingled my skin to discomfort, gave me a kick that could match the addictive trance of cocaine. And yet, I didn't realize how selfish I was in making her profess the affirmation repeatedly. With each statement, I was plunging her into a deep valley, from which I myself would not be able to rescue her. I then told her a whole lot of things about my tastes, talents and female friends. She then realized she was different; different from the kind of girl I was looking for. She realized I would reject her on seeing her; if that day ever came. She developed a fallacy that I was a class apart and deserved a much better girl than her. So, she decided to break it all on her own. She gracefully accepted the fact that it was not necessary for me to fall for her just because she had fallen for me.

She came to my life like a whirlwind. In a matter of a week, she made me realize I was not impervious to love, and these feelings could enter my fortress irrespective of caste, religion and other barriers I had built for myself. She pulverized the castle of my pride to dust with her gentle voice and friendly demeanor. She taught me that the character of a person is not found when the relationships are made, but when broken. It is the grace with which she accepted our differences and loss of the first love of her life that made her a much better person than I was. My being a much more talented person made her feel she was a raw deal for me. How do I tell her that finding your love is not about finding the best person in the world? It is about finding the best fit.

The ways of the world sometimes puzzle me. Everyone keeps scouting for talented people for company. And yet, one's talent can hardly be of any use to others except for public display of the pride of such a possession. It is only one's 'goodness' that could be of any use to others when it matters most. We've scores of yardsticks to measure the success of a person. But the strength of the person lies in how gracefully he accepts the failures. And we've failed to produce yardsticks for that. The discrepancy in the talent between us became the reason for our breakup. And yet, I doubt if my talent makes me any better a person than her. Does my talent really make me good enough to make her undeserving of me?

And yet, I'm jealous of her. She had the courage to accept it all and get to the depth of love without bothering about the consequences. She was debonair enough to go right under the waterfall of love. I stood at the shore and sprinkled my feet with water. I was the loser on both counts. I lost my pride and am bereft of her love as well.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Paradox of Nobility

One morning in my portico,
as I sat on my swing,
enjoying the breeze,
hearing the birds sing.

Up on a wall crevice I found,
a spider had cast its web.
An ant struggled to escape from it;
of urgent succour, it was in need.

As the old-wily spider crept to its prey,
the ant struggled harder, seeing its end.
A bout of nobility struck my head;
I broke the web and saved the ant.

Relieved, the ant walked off.
I went back happily to my swing.
The hungry spider, bereft of its prey,
too old to re-spin, ended up dying.

The 'web' of nature is so intricate,
here one's death is other's life.
My smug nobility lay rebuffed;
for in saving the ant, I took spider's life.

I always carry a first aid kit
to help anyone in need.
Ever ready to salve others' injury;
be it a small bruise, or a mild bleed.

One day in a bus
a co-passenger was injured.
Out came my kit to soothe;
he was relieved and I was pleased.

But a sudden shock, a moment later,
came to me in a flash of light.
Am I to take the credit for helping him
or to take the blame for his plight?

The seed of desire carries with it
the hidden tree of its fulfillment.
The fellow's injury was not a cause here,
my desire for nobility lead to his predicament.

In the existing reality,
a doctor is a noble man.
But in a healthy society,
he is a nonentity.

The nobility of curing is
but an after-effect of disorder.
It would meet its obsolescence
in neverland and its inherent order.

In a utopian world, nobility is extinct.
In the death of utopia, nobility is born.
It needs suffering to survive,
and ironically, calamities to thrive.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

I will. Would you?

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The curves of your back,

the contours of your neck,
the divine grace of your walk,
the mellifluous nectar in your talk.

The tacit lingo of your alcoholic eyes,
only my love-lorn heart could surmise.
I live a blissful eternity
in the blink of those eyes.

I, and this tranquil solitude.
Your thoughts and the moon-lit crescent.
I want time to stand still today
and prevent the sun's morning ascent.

In your blissful presence
my limbs go numb.
My tongue ceases to move
and you think I'm too dumb?

If hearts could sing,
my serenade would win by miles.
You'd then fathom my unspoken love,
when inundated with my hearty smiles.

Not just in the comfort of my quilt,
a castle for you, my love! I'll someday build.
I'll make you feel like a princess,
I'll shower you with my love, so boundless,
I'll make you wonder at my art,
when I'll make you a stranger in your own heart.
I'll be the reason you wake up every morn,
I'll be the reason you dream every night,
I'll be the reason you think every thought,
I'll be the reason you take every breath.

Would you?
Would you not love me just enough
to make me write my requiem
with a stylus,
dipped in bliss?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

From Genesis to Denouement

Genesis in the foetal trance.
Bathing in the bliss of abundance.
Draped in the vulnerability of innocence.
In the present, the complete presence.
Unknowing, and yet the 'knower' of life's real essence.

Living through the vagaries of existence.
Surviving the aimless subsistence.
Fretting at the unwarranted concomittance.
Drowned in the vanity of flatulence.
Parochial brain doubting divine providence.
Tightwad man blocking nature's munificence.
Kinship - increasing from him, his own distance.
Scared of change - loving the inertial resistance.
Knowing, and yet, ignorant of life's real essence.

Staring at the impending obsolescence.
Looking at life in a penitent stance.
Retrospection in every glance.
Will I ever have another chance?
Knocking on the heavenly entrance.
Denouement in the astral trance.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

If Only: The Perspective

Its a new thing I've tried and I'm not sure if I can call this a poem. But until my creativity helps me coin a name for this, I'll call it a poem. This poem is about events and a perspective look at those events from different, especially opposite, angles.
If only I get God's grace

from this benevolent act,
I'll be a millionnaire.
An aspiring millionnaire giving alms to a beggar.
If only he gives me a Rupee,
I'll have enough money for a morning tea.
The beggar.

If only I cut him in the right places,
I'll succeed.
A surgeon in an operation theatre.
If only he cuts me in the right places,
I'll survive.
The patient in the operation theatre.

If only they select me,
I'll stop existing
and start living.
An orphan girl in an adoption queue.
If only we select her,
we'll have a live-in maid for free.
The adopting couple.

If only you knew that you have what we lack,
you could've been happier.
An adult observing kids at play.
If only you knew that you have what we lack,
you would cease to be kids.
Another observer.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

When did I last

When did I last see the moon
and appreciate its crescent?
When did I last watch the morning sun
and admire its ascent?

When did I last observe the stars
and guess the shapes they form?
When did I last watch the kids
and notice the innocent acts they perform?

When did I last let things happen
at their pace and not hurry?
When did I last let events carve
their own path and not worry?

When did I last keep dishelved hair
and yet fly without feathers?
When did I last be happy with what
I am and not bother about others?

When did I last live not just to fill my belly
but also to feed my heart and soul?
When did I last not bother to know the outer world;
but to discover my inner self?

When did I last believe
that my well-being is the grace of God
and my suffering is the will of God?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Path

With this poem, I attempt to draw out the path that, sooner or later,
is going to be our calling. We experience a part of this path in our daily life. The remaining part is what will make the difference.

Life. Rhythm.
Consciousness. Subconsciousness.
Day. Night.
Sleep. Wakefulness.
Love. Heartbreak.
Profit. Loss.
Success. Failure.
Mirth. Sorrow.
Crowd. Solitude.
Outward. Inward.
Exhibition. Introspection.
Seeking answers to questions.
Who am I?
What am I?
What is my purpose?
Play of Consciousness.
Samadhi: Demystification of death.
Death of duality
The Holy Trinity
Omniscience. Omnipresence. Omnipotence.
Aum - The Cosmic vibration.
Pulsating Silence.
The Unbeing, Unmanifest.
Pure consciousness.
Supreme Being; God.

Monday, February 07, 2005


With my ordinary looks, so commonplace,
a face guys hardly ever chase,
I feel so lonely, sullen and depressed;
an ordinary looking girl at best.
How I wish I was a beautiful actress,
ruling the hearts of many a guys.
Piercing their hearts with every move,
an anathema to their wives.
The outrageous beauty like nectar divine.
The alcoholic kiss, sweeter than wine.

This beautiful actress' body,
and its overbearing presence
shadow the real me,
conspicuous by absence.
I'm a walking, talking doll
measuring 36-28-36 .
I've a heart behind the body,
a mind within my head.
But they don't love the real me,
but my figure instead.
A double edged sword is my beauty.
In all its glory,
it enslaves the beholder,
and then smothers the holder.
How I wish I looked ordinary.
So the guys who loved me
did so for the person that I'm
and not for the nymph in me.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Gibberish so Desultory

What girls want?

I'm a diehard party animal who attends atleast one party in two years. Almost a year ago when I attended the last party, a good-looking girl accompanied me. While we were enjoying the party together, I noticed she caused quite a few heads to turn. I managed to read the thoughts behind those 'turned' foreheads. They were all  wondering how lucky the girl was. Later, quite a few of my friends enquired about that girl. Needless to say they were all impressed. However, that silly girl was more bothered about the 'more beautiful' hair of another girl at the party. Whatever party it is, boys look at girls with 'varying' degrees of appreciation while girls look at other girls with 'superlative' degree of jealousy. In either case, no one looks at boys unless there is a queer in the crowd. English, in all its grandeur, has also not been very kind to men. Of all the adjectives that exist in English, ninety percent can be used to describe feminine beauty and ninety percent of the rest are derogatory. No wonder  men are hardly the subjects of poetry. Harking back to the party, I wonder what is it about girls that prevents them from seeing the good in themselves that boys so effortlessly see? They always seem to be on a lookout for things they lack rather than discover the things they have. If only they could look at themselves from the eyes of boys, they'd fall in love with themselves.

Fun with Failures

I am known to be an all-rounder. My school teachers acknowledged me as the most complete student who participated in everything under the sun, sans studies. I learnt invaluable lessons in teamwork at school when my team won the first prize in a group drawing competition. I had passed chalks and colours then. I also learnt early lessons in leadership when I became the President of the 'Rotary Club' in the school. Under my able leadership we had so many social service events that we missed the century by a mere hundred. I also participated in a city level athletics competition. In an 800m race, I crossed the finish line seconds before the other participants did. Yet, I wasn’t awarded the first prize. The rest of the participants were crossing the line for the second time. I have been a pretty good swimmer as well. I once came fourth in a swimming competition that had four participants. My penchant for learning new things has kept me in good stead. A friend once suggested that if I wanted to hold any beautiful girl's hands, I should either learn palmistry or learn to lie about it. I didn't know either of the two then. A couple of months later I held the first of the several soft, silky hands I've held so far. I am yet to learn palmistry. I always thought I was a pretty good student as well. I wrote all my exams pretty well; unfortunately, my marks would almost always beg to differ from my opinion. Needless to say, I'm a strong supporter of the spirit of participation over the philosophy of winning the event you participate in.

The Business of Marriage

I'm the most eligible bachelor in my family of five, consisting of, besides me, my parents, my younger sister and a younger brother, who is too young to marry. I'm an unhappy single and hence ready to mingle. I'm looking for a girl for company so we can both be unhappy together. Almost all my friends are of marriageable age now. If looks could kill, a friend of mine would end up at the gallows. I almost died of a heart attack the first time I saw him. He'd easily get the role of a starring ghost in a spooky movie without wearing any make-up. He may have had a bout of somnambulism when God was distributing looks but he has a heart of pure gold. He is by far the most perfect person I've ever come across. And yet, he can't find the girl of his life only because his face doesn't comply with the conventions of physical beauty our society has built for us. Wonder whether it is he who is abnormal or the world he lives in. Whether you like it or not, the truth is physical beauty matters. My circle of friends consists of doctors, engineers, chartered accountants and MBAs amongst many others. My doctor friends wouldn't want to marry anyone other than doctors. When it comes to spouses they think anyone other than doctors is not human. Some of my engineer friends also think on the same lines. They claim that their thought levels wouldn't match with those of an arts graduate. A slightly deeper investigation would reveal as to what primarily separates doctors and engineers from the rest. It's probably their analytical ability and I.Q. Beyond a certain limit, you don't need either for marriages to succeed. Academic qualification of a person is mistaken here for the proof of his character. How many of us have become the good persons that we are because of the education we've received? In our being good, it's not our education but our family values that play a much bigger role. Our family is where our roots lie. Marriage happens between two individuals but it bonds two families. That is why our Indian forefathers laid so much stress on finding better families. Somewhere in the deep recesses of our hearts there is a hidden desire to see the reactions of envy, pride and happiness on the faces of others when we introduce our spouses to them. Unfortunately, it is this overriding desire that guides our choices more than anything else. It is almost as if we're marrying that someone special for others.

From Bollywood to Cleaners

I've never traveled out of India. However, thanks to our Bollywood movies, I've had many vicarious experiences in cosmopoliteness. Come to think of it, so many of the Bollywood movies are conceptualized, planned, and shot outside India that the name Bollywood is as apt as the the label of 'Eternity' for celebrity marriages. They then make a big bang release in India only because the foreigners would've seen the whole melodrama unleashed on their streets and so wouldn't care a hoot to watch it again; more importantly pay for it. Their gain now becomes our loss. Probably the only gain of those movies is the eye candy of salubrious and clean locales. Talking about cleanliness, Bangalore was once known to be the cleanest city of India. My recent visit to Bangalore was an eye-opener of sorts. If what I saw were the cleanest then it would be a euphemism to say that Indian standards of cleanliness are abysmally low. Personally, I'm extremely finicky about cleanliness. For instance, I change my bed sheet after every epoch. The epoch may be anything from the bed sheet getting torn due to shameless overuse to someone fainting on smelling it or from someone complimenting me on my olfactory immunity against foul smell to the bed sheet changing colour; in case of the last eventuality my ingenuity inspires me to use it as a darker new bed sheet until one of the first three epochs materialize. The maid who finally washes the bedsheet is then forced to take a two-day sabbatical due to backache. Cleanliness is divine as long as it is the responsibility of others.

From POMS to US pranks

The Americans have been so prejudiced against the British that they tried their best to turn upside down every ritual originated or followed by the British. They thought that cricket was too boring and lengthy so they developed baseball. They thought soccer lacked the cruelty they wanted so went on to conceive "American Football". The right hand drive, so widely accepted in commonwealth countries, was changed to left hand drives for the same God forsaken reason. They even went on to the extent of reversing the process of "switching on" of the lights. I'm glad some processes have been irreversibly designed by nature.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Critique-ing Swades

Success is a sweet poison. It smoothens the rough road ahead and then as the person prepares for a smooth ride, it dumps him by disguising itself as the unexpected pothole of others’ higher expectations. Even more so, if success is as humungous as that of Lagaan. Lagaan, Ashutosh Gowarikar’s oscar-nominated mega success, not only ensured that Swades began with a full house but also that eight out of ten people came back dissatisfied, thus ensuring a lower turnout in the days that followed. The damp squib that Swades turned out to be at the box office would’ve left Ashutosh Gowarikar feeling like a snake that has bitten its own tail.

Swades, unlike most of the contemporary movies pitted against it, is smeared in honesty. Lets start with the names. The ‘h’ in Swades(h) is conspicuous by its absence, and yet that is precisely how the rural Hindi populace pronounce it. After an eternity, we came across a mainstream movie that didn’t have seductively named lead characters such as “the Raj Malhotras and the Rahul Srivastavs” but chose instead to give them largely unglamorous and yet much more quotidian names.

Kudos to Ashutosh Gowarikar for restraining the unruly horse called Shahrukh. Shahrukh, who needs dramatics to survive and emotional catharsis to thrive, was completely subdued and yet gave arguably his best performance ever. The actor has done an amazing job even without his characteristic K-K-K-K-Kacophonic lilt of overacting. Be it the presentation scene at NASA or his argument with ‘Geeta’ (Gayatri), he has hardly shown the kind of restraint and right emotional expressions to boot in any other movie as he does in Swades. Arguably the best dressed Bollywood actor ever, Shahrukh restrains himself here as well; he dresses like a mortal in Swades and rightly so.

Gayatri Joshi ‘Geeta’ has a refreshing screen presence. Her confidence gives an impression that the role was tailor-made for her. The debutante manages to hold her own against Shahrukh, which is a good start to have. But a tad less make-up on her would’ve done well to augment the authentic theme of the movie.

Rahman’s music makes subtle transitions from the foot tapping and the hummable to the mellifluous. One wonders how easily he flows from folk to pop and back. He just can’t stop inspiring awe.

The songs, although good, are a tad too long. This affects the overall length of the movie; an aspect the director needs to improve upon. Unlike other movie songs though, songs in Swades don’t hold the movie to ransom. They are situational and the story continues to flow through them, which is a welcome relief.

Ashutosh needs accolades for not succumbing to commercial pressure. The movie breathes nobility and sincerity of purpose from start to end. Any individual who is not able to serve the cause he so dearly espouses will share Mohan’s sense of ennui. The dialogs are simple and yet effective. He rightly shelved the unwarranted ‘filmy’ rhetoric, especially the ones on patriotism, which in some movies border on jingoism. Lagaan was about winning over your adversary. Swades is about winning over yourself. The analogy is akin to what Buddha, Christ and more recently Mahatma Gandhi had preached. “If someone slaps you on one cheek, show him your other cheek”. Doing that is a distant dream; we’d rather punch him on both his cheek and bludgeon him to his handicap. Showing your other cheek requires winning over yourself and is not a cowardly act as is so often made out to be. This is precisely where Swades failed. In our failure to win over ourselves, to see beyond our immediate benefit for the holistic good and to dare go beyond the expected and ‘pragmatic’ reactions to events, Swades was doomed.

Swades they say is too preachy. But the movie is far better than the much-abused good-wins-over-evil gibberish, senseless romantic melodrama and the forced-to-laugh comedies that Bollywood dishes out ad nauseum. It shows us a way out of our rut. The least we could do is watch and appreciate the effort. Our failure to do so makes me think we’ve reached the wrong end of societal cul-de-sac and yet seem to enjoy it so much that we even fail to appreciate a sincere effort to take us out of our self-imposed predicament.

Swades is a flop. Not because it was deemed to be so by the box office. Box office is too insignificant a measure to measure the depth of this movie. Swades will remain a flop until it brings out a “Mohan Bhargav” from atleast one of the Indians who earlier chose to blame ‘others’ for or to gloss over the rampant malaise that plagues our society. One “Mohan Bhargav” for any village in India is worth much more than the millions a hit Swades would’ve generated. The day that happens, Swades will meet its success. Box office is a nonentity. It always was.

Is it Swades that has failed us or is it ‘We, the people’, who’ve failed ‘our’ Swades?

Saturday, January 01, 2005

I, Me and Myself

I don’t have any memories of my infant days. I also can’t recollect my toddler days. My earliest recollections of myself are my kindergarten days when I used to cry my heart out, a reaction not vastly different from other kids, when my mother used to drop me at the school. My recollection gets progressively better as I move my thoughts from kindergarten to primary and so on.

Today, as I sit introspecting my life in this moment of solitude, I ask myself a question, the answer to which is very subtle; subtle enough to give me a new realization, a new perspective to look at things around. The question is, “What is it that is essentially different about my infant and toddler days that causes my memory to fail from any other stage in my life, the events of which I can recollect fairly easily?”

The answer to this question cannot be given in a statement or two. The answer is a realization that your consciousness should slowly absorb as you read on.

You’re more likely to remember the things and experiences you think are ‘important’ to you. The word ‘Important’, in itself, is deep enough for philosophers to write books on. But for the scope of this write-up suffice it to say that you deem ‘Important’ a thing or an experience that gives you happiness or robs your happiness. Bottomline: Anything that meddles with YOUR happiness is IMPORTANT to YOU.

This realization alters the above question to, “Why are infants and toddlers not able to differentiate between things that are important and those not so important to them?”

To understand this, we need to change our perspective a bit. ‘Important’ is a relative term. What is important to one may be entirely useless to another. So what is the reference point that gives the word ‘Important’ the relativity it enjoys? That reference point is none but your royal highness – “The I-ness”. This 'I-ness' is nothing but your 'ego'. Ego is nothing but your soul identifying itself with your body. What is it that you refer to when you use the words such as ‘I, me, myself and mine”? If it’s not the body that you refer to with these words, then you’re an enlightened soul and may choose to discontinue reading further.

If you’re reading this line, then we both are in the same boat. Welcome aboard.

An infant’s soul doesn’t yet identify itself with the body. So, the infant doesn’t have what we call an ego. All it has is the bliss of a soul that has not yet forgotten its true identity even when it is bound by a physical cage. Hence the body is not yet the center of its consciousness. Put differently, the soul is an infant’s reference point. For us, the so-called grown-ups, the ego is the reference point. This shift in reference points is another reason why we struggle to reach the bliss that an infant so naturally seems to possess.

Take a small experiment to understand this well. You’ll hate me for the crudity of this experiment but also love me for the insight it will bring forth. Slap a kid or a grown up and see what happens. The former cries and the latter hits back. There will be so much negativity around. In either case, if you want normalcy to be restored between them and yourself, you’ll have to apologize or explain the reasons behind your action. In short, you’ll have to heal their hurt ego. Now slap an infant. It’ll cry, as the action will cause pain. But does it harbor any negative thoughts against you? Not quite. Its reference point is the soul. And you can’t hurt a soul. The moment the physical pain subsides, it returns to its bliss and you’re welcome to play with it. No apologies or explanations needed. This aspect of an infant brings it on par with God realized saints and prophets who could think of giving back forgiveness and love even in the midst of hatred, jealousy and treachery towards them.

An infant, with the soul as its reference point, doesn’t take the bodily experiences as ‘IMPORTANT’ and hence doesn’t register them in its consciousness. As the infant grows, the soul faces cosmic amnesia and starts identifying itself with the body. Slowly, the ego becomes its reference point and it starts registering the bodily experiences as they slowly become more and more ‘IMPORTANT’ helping him remember them better.

Another reason to call a child the father of man?

So think for a second what you’re doing when you ask an infant or a toddler what his or her name is. You’re giving the body a name. You’re making a soul identify itself with the body. But you’re not doing anything wrong here. The very fact that the soul needed to take birth proves that there is an earthly purpose it has to fulfill. For this, the soul has to identify itself with the body. You’re merely a channel in helping the soul shift its reference point. We all are channels for a purpose much bigger than our brains, in the current state of evolution, could comprehend.

Enjoy your life. It has a purpose to achieve; no matter how useless it seems.