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.