Forward March

Suddenly I’ve started feeling envious of all the 24 year-old youngsters. Not that I’m old compared to them, but I wish I WERE 24 today to possess the same energy, liveliness and excitement to do things. With these thoughts I was reeking in a wee bit misery last night, when I ended up reading late at night, a seminal text from 1911 written by Emma Goldman titled, Marriage and Love. It’s an unfortunate reality that society even today in the second decade of this 21st century pressures people and especially women into undergoing choices that are out of their will. Goldman writes succinctly about the institution of marriage and child rearing as these were considered the only circle in a woman’s life back then. The difference between texts and essays written by feminists from all the decades from the suffragette movement is that each one of them clearly expresses their anger and resolve to create a new inclusive world for women instead of disappointment and helplessness at the slow pace of the events that changed the course of politics around the world. Imagine this changed world with little improvements yet for women who still have to fight for legislation for Abortions, Planned Parenthood, Reproductive rights and ownership of their bodies. What would these feminists had they lived long enough think about the current state of women in the world today? Certainly, not a very encouraging scenario from how they started the movement. Isn’t it tragic in a way that we as society still link marriage and love together in a vain connection whose onus solely depends on a woman’s conduct, both inside and outside the home? What are men doing if not put us under a burden of their patriarchal diktats further pushing us away from liberation and freedom for our individual selves? Even today, as I write here, I see and hear talk of marriage as the sole highest point of achievement for women. Not even urban women are spared from the third party decisions took on their behalf for their well-being by people who perhaps don’t understand the pace of their lives any more. If only, as society we let individuals be themselves without any inter-dependence on these age-old institutions and perceived moral cages of social order, the planet would be a definite better place to live for men and women alike.

My thought trail kept on treading too many a different topics. I realised that at age 24, I did not have the luxury of dwelling on the many ideas and ventures I do now. Also, don’t we always pine for the past days and long for them in the belief that it was the best time of our lives regardless of whatever else is happening now in the present? With every bygone year, I keep an account of my foolish and wise ways, of the many good and not-so-good things that have happened in my life, my emotional strength and mental spirit that carries me through everything. In doing so, I believe that we grow in our capacities towards being better than we ever are and could be. Every change is after all an ever-evolving process towards progress. It’s a forward march always!

River deep, Mountain high

Not sure if this is an under-statement but so many struggles in human life seem too irrelevant when seen through different tinted shades. In my country right now, there is a huge debate, newspapers filling their columns and eminent writers, public personalities moaning over political judgements and chaos ensuing in society over nationalism and anti-nationalism, sedition and loyalty to the religion major. It’s sickening but true how students, writers, common people feel the brunt of black jacks but the bureaucracy fails to see the many-hued superficialities it lays on its billion citizens.

Do we have to really wade through such deep, murky waters to reach to the bottom of what seemingly is utter trash? How do we fare in the eyes of the world? Perhaps, that we cannot be bothered to worry about since our nation in itself is a great entity that has survived for aeons and shall do so, with all the ancient rooted philosophies deemed oh-so-relevant in 21st century. Correct me if and only if I am wrong to state that free speech is just a word and by constitutional framework which probably will be reworked soon to suit the many modest aspirations of the politicos, doesn’t mean you blabber on university grounds because why does one attend university? Surely, the grand old gurukuls provide all the necessary wisdom to run a country and still be sufficient, self-dependent is the term. My worries not only extend to the fact that I now am wary of public speaking and my guaranteed fundamental liberty than just offering my head any time I speak and write and god forbid, actually offend the moral jurisprudence that is now running the democratic front of this nation.

Of course, I refrain from inciting hate speech or hatred or hate propaganda but I do not and cannot exercise any power over those who do so. The system will take care of them like they are taking such good care of JNU students, public intellectuals who work against the slave-bondages of superstition and oppression and any damn common person, the citizen who shall strive to assert his rightful opinion of dissent over what he thinks is wrong. But can we accord such free will to common people? The layman- does he know his thought doesn’t count because the great messiah is here to think, talk, and enact on his behalf? Alas, he miscalculated that little moment of power and misused the tool that creates potential evil slayers for the benefit and protection of masses. Fear not, O’ unfortunate bearer, more worse is about to come your way. Take peace in the tiny fact that there are smaller wars to fight and victories to claim amongst our own clans and communities before the country’s troublesome present and future gets us fully, naked and abashed. Yes, the river still runs deep and the mountain is insurmountable since it’s too high.

Days of Destruction?

While testing myself for some administrative exams, I stumbled upon the following statement-
A ‘norm’ is a shared expectation or behaviour that connotes to what is considered culturally desirable and appropriate. If that is indeed the definition then we must introspect our role and responsibilities while blatantly passing negative statements about the Refugees and Refugee Crisis. To blame refugees for the terrorist attacks is one of the most illogical thoughts to creep into our minds. As humans, are we going to ever think rationally regarding grievances of other humans without measuring their nationality or patriotism or religious affinity? When I read about the hateful thoughts accorded to refugees, I am ashamed to be not able to do anything to stop such propaganda circulating in the masses. Do we really want to inch towards another world war? Do people honestly think that a war and extermination of minorities will lead to peace in the world? I know there are people who support the view but shall we as able and sensible humans not take the mandate of promoting brotherhood instead of sharing vile hatred amongst ourselves?

When I read history particularly World War II, and the aftermath, it makes me weep for humanity. But not just that, it makes me realize how the greatest and sanest also wronged and were later repentant for their actions. If everything in the current age is about survival should we not be considering the sociological implications of this hate politics many of the world leaders are propagating? World organisations like UN which were supposed to be taking an active part and leading the efforts to maintain peace and harmony, appear to fail miserably over their helplessness to charge actions whilst of course, rubbing their noses against world leaders. This utter impotency on their part is in fact another indicator of how circumstances akin to WWII are in the making. It’s a shame and pity, the world has not yet been able to stand in solidarity over global issues like world peace, religious freedom and interest of nations. As people, we have failed to develop matured sensibilities over personal choices versus social good. Faith has occupied more than just our lives, its become a lifestyle for many. Science couldn’t eliminate the wrong doings when it was being developed and even today, it seems incapable to vouch for peaceful mutual co-existence without feeling the need of racial/biological supremacy.

All current accounts from Beirut, Baghdad, Syria, Lebanon make me wonder if we ever intended to follow religion for its ideals and virtues of being better humans than massaging our egos over personal clashes of behavioural identities of supremacy. This very notion that has resurfaced in the past couple of years over increasing religious zeal that divides the equal status of people from various minority groups in a co-existing world, has damaged and resown seeds for new agitation. The very fact that certain groups are still excluded from their political, social and economic rights and thus, debarred from any representation whatsoever, is indicative of the vendetta political and class system has been inching towards, silently and more noisily as seen from recent years and events. There’s no more a moral and conscience leadership that will be unafraid to speak up against injustice. If this is how rebellions get initiated after every few decades, then yes, perhaps we do need more rebels with a legitimate cause and not planted conspiracy theories for world leaders to mask upon people. But more bloodshed and violence will do no good as it did with armed conflicts 400 years ago. We live in a dialogue friendly society as opposed to the feudal rule, or so we would like to believe. A war is not the need of the hour. Peace is, it has always been. Or if self-destruction is what we aim for then yes, the end of humanity is near.

Truth Alone Prevails

Wow, going by the hate barrage I’m subjected to and almost being deemed as a fanatic on facebook for voicing my dissent against capital punishment, I would say- We have such a long journey to make towards being a civil society. Two things I’ve understood clearly. One, that we hate minorities from the core of our heart, and two, we cannot tolerate being held inferior to other religions apart from our own. There are a lot of other issues too that I’ve started understanding better now. It’s really tragic but also welcoming to finally see the true face of people concealing themselves with a ‘progressive broadminded citizen’ mask after all. When they talk of such hate spewed words for a religious minority group in India, they are really violating their Fundamental Duties accorded to them by the Constitution. But, of course, who really cares about fundamental duties as long as we have all the rights and the ‘righteous’ leaders seeking to right the wrong done by the previous rulers who raided this nation thousands of years ago?

It’s sickening but not surprising considering the winds of change we’re seeing for sometime now. It will be better for ourselves to be a part of the majority in any nation, than being a minority or second class citizens. Of course, we will all fight back vehemently when being subjected to racist behaviour/attacks abroad, but wouldn’t really mind doing the same to our fellow Indians/minorities. All we need to do to prove our nationalistic pride is hold our head high and pump our chests with the false assurance of being proud citizens. It is seen through various incidents really in our day-to-day lives. We don’t mind watching movies that are ruled by people of a certain religion, but we cannot tolerate common, poor people of that same religion. Our festival wishes are limited to our own religion. And then we cry foul when there’s no response elicited for our religious festivities by these very minorities. We are in awe and such respect for Parsis and Christians because though being minorities they’ve carved themselves respectable lives from equally limited resources. It doesn’t matter if they are prude to us or crinkle their noses on our participation or eagerness for their culture and acceptance. We go on throughout our lives living this lie that all religions are equal and they preach peace, when silently in our heads we always consider our ‘own’ religion the superior most among others. Children and generations are brought up and raised on religious discrimination and an apathy for religious doctrines other than our own. We teach kids to recognise the black veil and the colourful pardah system as being one of the markers of identification. We teach children in schools to pledge not their minds to the growth of our nation but invest their energies in hatred and bias towards each other in the form of caste, gender and religion. And in doing so we make sure we are churning out the best minds of our nation towards a narrowed sense of self unable to unfortunately use their potential as human beings who could perhaps create a change for good.

It’s absolutely illogical to refute the many theories and examples these religion-obsessed fanatics use while being incapable of rational conversation. Its always best to voice our opinions, YES, even of dissent. It matters not if our number is small, truth alone prevails.

Rang de Basanti again please!

2006- second year of Architecture school. I am tempted to go back to those days and write about them. Rang De Basanti was released and what euphoria it created! I remember youngsters beaming with pride and a renewed sense of patriotism, speaking up in college projects about their nation as it belonged to them. I don’t know how they viewed their country prior to the movie’s release. What I remember is students debating in excited tones about nationalism and inequality. That was rare. The songs were played at all public functions and it was suddenly cool to be a rebel. BE A REBEL was the cry.

The Right to Information Act was passed in 2005 and it ushered a new wave of keeping tab on government affairs. So many things changed. Social media was introduced. Students got hooked to websites like orkut. Every other student in my school would be in the computer lab after school hours to connect via orkut. The concept of online friends and friendship seemed cool and the ‘in thing’ at that time. We suddenly had more access to our freedom than we ever believed. The dynamics started changing in schools, colleges, universities. Many of my girl pals befriended strangers and even met them. Something like this would have been unthinkable and dangerous prior to the orkut phase. They exchanged phone numbers and would chat in excited tones about their interactions. Everything was changing. The youth of India were redefining themselves.

Yet many of these new rebellious things died a sudden death by 2010. By then, facebook was everywhere. Internet was available on the phones. No more running to computer labs or internet cafes. The patriotic wave also washed off. Economic depression from 2008 had played some part in creating havoc in graduating students’ lives. Nobody cared about their country anymore. It was enough and essential to look after your own selves.

The Anna Hazare movement caught on by 2011, created a frenzy among many a young urban working citizens. Some quit their jobs, devoting themselves to the India Against Corruption movement, some became full time members. Students emerged to be the biggest supporters then. Non violence, Gandhian principles and Hunger strikes became the ‘in thing.’ This also fizzed out in two years. People started going back to their work, faith in ‘money equals happiness’  was restored. Nationalism was an issue to be spoken on television debates. Every organisation that succumbed to the charm of politics was disowned. And then emerged the great orator and messiah of this crestfallen nation that was lying in dumps for the past 60 years. Suddenly all lights came back, there was glitter in the skies, hope had aroused in the heart of a sleeping nation.

And now comes the reality check.

Perhaps, we need a Rang de Basanti every few years eh!