Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Random. So be it!


I am suppose to be finishing an important piece of writing describing my times in form of a story. Instead, i am making these random notes on a cold morning, is fun, as you do not know where to start and where you will be lead, you are not making sense, and you are not trying to make sense, you are just typing in, and there is no qualification to what you are writing, just free flow of thoughts, and then you put it up, like the way it is written: randomly.

I have caged my mind. I am trying not to think anything. I am thinking not to try to think anything. I am not trying to think of a thought that is bothering me for now more than a year. I have not been able to deal with it, effectively. This thought is powerful, it casts its shadow on everything else I do.  I am occupied by this thought. The more i resist not to think about it the more powerful it becomes. So now I accept it. It is there and menifests in various ways. It has had a toll on me. So be it. I am not expecting anything. Nor I am denying anything. I am not dismissing it, either. I am just not trying anything. 


So now I close my eyes and try think about things that needs to be done. 

I realize that I take so much of liberties with myself. I am unaware. I am in the dark. I am not in control of anything. Sometimes, I am not even a witness to my time, hours roll by and I am not doing anything. But yet seem busy for i don't register the flight of time. That should make me a saint, i am hooked on to my own integral self. Surely that is not the case. There is no consciousness. 

I am kind of consumed in my own darkness. And that darkness has engulfed my being because I am not seeking light. There is some good quality to that darkness. It is soothing. There is no tunnel. Therefore no light at the end of the tunnel. I do not need tunnel to be with light. I just need to want light. But I seem to be enjoying this darkness. It is theraputic. And I am subconsciously driven into deeper darkness, light is fading away. That makes me sound like a jerk, drugged and doped.


Now that will change because i am going to light a diya everyday. I will not fight darkness because it is nothing, and you cannot fight something that is nothing, something that does not exist, all you need to do is get some light, light diyas, many diyas, i will light many diyas. All i seek is light in life. Darkness has made me drowsy.   

 
Apply mind! That is so boring, everyone is trying hard to apply their mind into mindless. So for a change i will apply my mind into things that you might feel happy about. Don’t be pressurized about anything, even about applying my mind.


There are things that are not happening in your life but there are other wonderful things happening, life is a tradeoff. But there are reasons for things not happening and the same are the reasons for other things to happen. I am tempted to believe that something far more important is happening in this denial. But there is a need for this thing that is not happening in my life to happen so that I am at the next level of mundane existence. So to make these things happen, try, to increase my realm of consciousness. 

Do things differently so there are all the chances that things will happen differently. At the sametime I am trying to be indifferent about the outcome.  



I am suffering by not suffering too much for my own reasons. So I cannot blame anyone else for it. 

I have a New Year resolution: Don’t be random about things, be aware. Now that I am aware: I am the person I hate the most. This year it has to change this sad fact of life. I have to be the person I am indifferent about. I am perhaps trying too hard, or am not trying at all, kind of confused. So be it!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I Am Blessed


 
They, God fearing, believe you get an audience with God only if you are destined, and destiny is God’s sweet will. So simply said, you see God’s physical manifestation on earth, if and only if, S/He wants it. By God’s physical manifestation I mean certain select temples, mosques, churches or religious ceremonies.
I am a God loving person not motivated enough to visit God’s physical manifestation on earth, though most are easily accessible. Because: I respect God and believe S/He knows all, is everywhere, one place can't be more sacred than the other. Just by spending (lot of) money (this is not to discount the fact that most of the charity happens in the name of religion) and bearing enormous physical discomfiture, S/He is not going get impressed to shower out of turn booty that was otherwise suppose to go to a neighbour. 
But religion is not about logic. In fact religion starts where the logic ends. But I am not going to shed logic so easily. To me God is there. Notionally S/He guides me, somehow. No. Not just that. That fact that he is there, the presence i feel, like S/He is behind me, standing close, assuring: do what you have to, I am there for you, in good and bad times. Though, I feel God clearer in bad times. "Tum mere paas hote ho goya / Jab koi doosra nahi hota" as great Urdu poet Mohin Khan Momin has said.
I have no qualms in acknowledging something that will not come as surprise for anyone: I am a sinner. I don’t go to any place of worship where people congregate with their long list of grievances. But strangely, I end up time and again doing things ‘supposedly’ in the service of God, by sheer coincidence or thanks to certain circumstance that are unavoidable. I am tempted to believe that I am the preferred one by the God. Or is S/He is teasing me? 
Last week, I was made to participate in langar (sacred food service) at a Sai Baba temple in Noida for four hours, reluctantly, that became utter disgust, and then when I reconciled to the fact that things happen because they have to, so i don’t need to try hard to reason out things, in this case, just distribute puris to never ending stream of people, rich and poor, old and young….
I was to accompany my sister to Sai Baba Temple at Sector 62 of Noida where she paid for a langar that fed about a 1,000 people for over four hours. She fooled me by telling that it will just be a ten-minutes affair, and promised me a grand dinner afterwards. I was to look after my niece, who happens to be my sister’s daughter, and my mother, while she will indulge in this profound act of feeding people to thank Sai Baba for something good that happened to her recently. I realised at 6:30 pm that I cannot leave before ten -o’clock. My sister was categorical: “I will not leave till the last person is fed. You can go if you want and don’t create a scene here.” I looked at the entry door,  hundreds of devotees were  waiting for their turn to enter, made some enquires, it was confirmed to me that it was just a beginning. I was furious at my sister. But she did not budge. I couldn’t have left, for no religious reason, but simply because I couldn’t have left my three years old niece, who was making me run around, in the custody of my 70-years old mother on a cold evening, while my sister merrily distributed halwa-puri. So, I had to stay on in the service of Sai Baba. But, my niece, she is so cute, kind of helped me come over my helplessness about the situation.  She asked me a thousand questions, one of them was: “Who is Sai Baba?”
I blame Sai Baba for my predicament. I recited loudly: Jai Sai Ram tumney mughey fassaya! Sham-bhar mughasey puri batvaya (Hail Sai Baba you saddled me here; the whole evening you made me distribute puris). Some of the elderly folks, there perhaps to seek an easy way to salvation, were utterly disgusted to hear me. The younger lot smiled reluctantly, bemused they were, queued up for divine intervention to bring riches and other worldly pleasures in their mundane lives. The poor kids were there in large numbers for immediate divine intervention: food.
This is not the first time that I was graced in this fashion. I was travelling for a story on the Gir Loins to Gujarat some five years ago. I was on an overnight bus from Ahmedabad to Junagarh, was suppose to get off the bus at 5 am. I did not. I woke up at 7 am when the Bus made its final halt near Somnath Temple at the far tip of Gujarat over looking the Arabian Sea. No bus was to return before 9am. So I went to Somnath Temple felt blessed to hear morning chants there. This is the temple that was attacked in 1025 AD, some thousand years now, by an invader Mahmud Ghazni who plundered enormous wealth of the temple. This temple at that time housed over 300 musicians, 500 dancing girls and 300 barbers to shave the heads of pilgrims. Ghazni carried the booty on hundreds of elephant or camel or horses I am not sure. But what I am sure is that enormous wealth was plundered and looted.
Somnath Temple now stands with majestic ease overlooking Arabian Sea. The stones inside the temple are smoothened by the bare feet of pilgrims who visit in thousands everyday in trans-devotion. The faith hung thick in the sanctum like a profound smell of purity. I was connected to the temple’s past while mesmerised by its present, and thanked whoever was responsible to get me here.
As a child, I have been to Kedarnath and Badrinath temples with my parents some four times as part of our annual-summer-month-long trip to the Himalayas. I am an undeserving witness to an elaborate ritual held inside the Badrinath temple, with ten Brahmins reciting Vedic mantras while performing Rudra Abhishek (Rudra is Shiva being worshipped in the form of Linga or Lingam while Abhishek, a Hindi word that means 'installed as king' is performed with different articles like flowers, belpatra, milk, coconut water, honey, curd sugarcane juice..and more).
Then I have been to Varanasi’s Kashi Vishwanath temple with my aunt and witnessed a similar ritual. The prime reason to visit Varanasi was to buy sarees for my cousin’s wedding. I landed up in Jagannath Puri, in Orissa, by sheer coincidence was not planned. Reporting for a story took me to Haridwar, where I had company of few sadhus for a couple of days who gave me some useful tips about what is not spirituality (will discuss sometime later). I have been witness to largest congregation of humanity on earth, the Kumbha Mela at Allahabad, takes place ever 12 years, simply because I am a local.
I have had many close encounters in places where God is believed to be more accessible. People are able to make it to these places after lot of trouble; to me it happened by chance, and for some strange reason it keeps happening. 
Jai Sai Ram tumney mughey fassaya! Sham-bhar mughasey puri batvaya.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy Birthday


Last week was my birthday. Not that it is a news item that needs to be reported. This is to thank my dear friends, my brother and my two nephews who collectively made my birthday a special one. And my Family; I am mighty lucky to have them. My thoughts go to friends who called me, friends who text me, Facebook friends, and friends who forgot my birthday, and those who remembered but for some reason did not wish me, thanks all of you for making my birthday special. This year i had a special one.   

Some friends were conspicuous in their absence. They did not come for some avoidable reason will have to take me out for dinner (or for lunch, it is bright, sunny and cool in Delhi), individually, and give me two gifts instead of one. There are financial implications of giving my birthday bash a miss.

Birthday is when one gets undue attention. But there is a flip side to it. You have to add another year to your age (that is already fairly advance, soon people will stop calling me a young man)and have to tell people about it. It seems am crossing 30s faster than i did 20s.

I was confronted with question: "So how old are you?" abruptly when I was merrily describing my latest cover story for OPEN magazine (http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/nation/the-new-criminal). Though, can’t say I wasn't expecting this question.
 
"What did i tell you last year? Just add one to it."  

"I didn't know you last year."

"Okay, I am 16."

And then after a l...o...n...g pause added  

'Into two" 

And then after l......o.....n....g...e....r pause: 

"add 'X' to it and then minus 'Y' and do it for 'n' times where 'n' tends to infinity."

Next year i will be X+1 and when i die, i will be X+ l where 'l' is the number of years in left in my life. 


"Okay now we know your age, senile!"



Last week was special also because i moved into a new flat in the same building i am living for last five years. It is bigger and brighter. I have done it up well, it looks fabulous. I have a big study that opens into a bigger balcony. I have declared it as an 'open' space where select friends, who under normal circumstances engage in something constructive and have no track record of causing collateral damage, are welcome to work from here, and hangout. 


I have made a new acquisition and added it to my long list of old furniture I buy dirt cheap. It is an extraordinarily long couch that sits elegantly in my study facing my artwork. My friends have called it a dream room. So I have created enabling infrastructure for creative pursuits. 





Now I can’t blame anyone or anything, or my fate, for my lethargy that is like a log of wood i carry on my back, makes me too slow.  
 

Anyways, have a look at some more soft images of my birthday bash courtesy my nephew Yash who tried to do something smart with his camera.







 

 

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Went Birdwatching!

 Photo: Jan Peters
I went bird watching a month ago. That was because my flat mate, Jan , presented me a pair of fabulous binoculars. He is avid birder who wants to explore the birds of Indian subcontinent. Now I had an incentive too. I had to do a field trial of my new binoculars. What better place to do it than in the seraphic green wilderness?
   
I woke up in wee hours of a Sunday morning and drove some 50 kilometers to reach Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary. This was a bold move considering my knowledge of birds is that of an average non-birder.



It was a visual delight. The birds seemed to be sitting in front of my nose, dense green foliage in the backdrop, an errant branch waving with the breeze in the foreground. I saw birds do things that I never would have observed otherwise, so closely and minutely, saw their eyes move, their restless ease, tilting of head, fluttering of wings, wagging of tail in a greater clarity than the reality. Binoculars are a fantastic optical instrument.
 
I was bewildered by the sheer varieties and number of birds present in the pond. Scores of painted stork were sitting on the trees at the far end of the pond, was a sight of delight. A pied kingfisher made several nose dives to fish, albeit with no success. It did not give up. Last seen, was still hovering close to the surface of the water.  The greater spotted eagle was perched on top of the highest branch of the tallest tree to the birders’ delight. Their conversation, though, was claptrap for me. They have a language of their own which I don’t understand. 


I left the group for some solitary interaction with the surroundings. The fresh air, the mist of the early morning, the earthen smell, seeping of sunlight down from the dense foliage, it was a complete picture of serenity. 

Binoculars redefined everything I saw through it. The clarity of sight brought clarity in thought. I sent a message confessing something to someone that I had already made obvious. Saying is confirming, felt good. 

My cousin Anshuman would be happy to know about my tryst with birding. He tried to initiate me to it some ten years ago. My lack of knowledge of birds (that fly) is a big hindrance and must confess (birds make me confess, now I know), I am still not motivated enough to enhance my knowledge. I need few more trips to the wilderness where birds love to flock, with my wonder instrument—binoculars-- till such a visit becomes a periodic need.    

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rahul Baba



 Image: Mid day


Rahul Gandhi sees himself as an instrument of change. His prescriptions are overbearing: change the constitution and so on. The Congress Party waits with bated breath to listen to his sermons. He does that often, sometimes from the floor of the house, reading out prepared text like a school boy for fifteen minutes in a monotone, with his pseudo-intellectual coterie of advisers, young men of a similar description, some of them are MPs, clap in approval with sycophancy gleaming in their eyes. 

Rahul has said that he does not utter a word on an issue unless he has given it a due consideration, perhaps this explains why it took him this long, he is MP for last seven years, to realize that graft was at the root of the political system.

41 years old Rahul Baba, party general secretary in charge of IYC and the National Students' Union of India (NSUI), declared, "People talk about corruption,” we are glad to know that they do, further,  “The biggest corruption is in our political system," (now we know) he said addressing a two-day convention of Indian Youth Congress (IYC) attended by some 8,000 young elected office-bearers. 

He urged his foot-soldiers in the Youth Congress to join politics to cleanse the system.

Home minister P. Chidambaram, the oldest person present, whose election to the current Lok Sabha is still speculated as a fraud on democracy with allegations to this effect made by none other than the current chief minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalitha, said, "Elders at some point of time must step back and give way to younger leaders." As if he holding a position in the government is at the mercy of his sweet will. 

Anyways, lets deal with Rahul here. He called for a comprehensive change, youth should take charge, he asserted:  "Youth Congress has zero tolerance for corruption and we commit ourselves to fight corruption at all levels." 

He perhaps meant that old Congressmen do not. The senior congressmen who are running the the government, in fact, have great tolerance for corruption. We have seen the 2G scam. CWG scam was carried out with some kind of statutory impunity. No real action has been taken. Small fishes are being grilled while the real big fishes grin. Read my first cover story for Open Magazine WHY IS NOBODY TALKING ABOUT SHEILA DIKSHIT (http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/nation/why-is-nobody-talking-about-sheila-dikshit)  to understand what I am taking about. 

 Image: Paisawala.com

To me what Rahul now says about corruption is a rude joke. I appreciate his candour on corruption in politics, but this lip service is too late and too little. Nation wants to see government act against the corrupt. But people fail to understand how can a government act against itself? Rahul's misplaced candour lacks sincerity. He should first set his own house in order, that is the Congress lead UPA government, and not deflect the issue on opposition and civil society


This whole debate that “Constitution and the institution of Parliament” are being undermined by having a strong anti-graft law is so funny and farcical. He says,  “All attempts that are being made to denigrate them by Opposition parties and some civil society groups." The UPA government is doing a great service to “Constitution and the institution of Parliament”  by not acting against corrupt because most of the accused are the members of this august Parliament. 

It is a different matter, though, that in our Constitution 'we the people' is sovereign, not the Parliament. 

Hitting out at civil society that gave UPA--a very corrupt patronizing and conviction starved government--sleepless nights would not help. A strong anti-graft law that makes corruption a less safe crime is good for the Constitution and for the democracy.  Rahul should know that nearly a trillion US dollar of public money is stashed in foreign banks thanks to the unholy nexus of politician-corporate-bureaucrat. To get it back will require more than a considered opinion aired at a captive audience.
  

Rahul made certain politically motivated statements thinking that the people of Uttar Pradesh (will soon have assemble elections) in specific and people of this country in general are blinking idiots. He called for "inclusive politics" which is all about inviting a Dalit and minority communities on the podium to address the gathering. Mere tokenism. So banal, lacks imagination, thinking and vision.


He also defined the difference between Congressmen and their political rivals. "In other parties, senior leaders command and junior leaders obey. But in the Congress all members come to the party on their ability and strength. Not one of you has come from the sky through a parachute. You know what I mean by that," he said. Well we do know what he means by that. His entire youth congress office bearers, in all the states, are from some political family or the other. He himself would not have been a prime candidate for the prime minister’s post had he not belonged to the Gandhi dynasty. A dynasty driven party lectures others on internal party democracy is unpalatable.  

While Rahul was celebrating risibly internal party democracy, his own aid reaffirming that Congress Party and the Gandhi family are synonymous. AICC general secretary Birender Singh, also a Rajya Sabha member from Haryana, son of a renowned Congress leader Neki Ram (mini dynasty), made a strong case that the Congress was weakened whenever the hand of the Nehru-Gandhi family was not with it. “The party, which had witnessed many splits, had remained united since Sonia Gandhi took over as it chief," went on to say  "If anything can ensure Congress success, especially in adverse circumstances, it will be your (Rahul's) leadership."


Image: rediff.com
Jai ho Rahul baba ki.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Incorrigible Sister

We are the most unlike twin.


She is the only one I have a license to misbehave. I can say things to her that she hates hearing, say it repeatedly. I take her for granted. I can afford to take her for granted. I know she will be there for me, always, whatever I may do, howsoever intolerable I may become.

I have been intolerable, lately. She calls me to inform something nice. I pick a fight. I react rancorously for my own reasons or failings. She keeps listening to my banter, silently. Then, reminds me politely, ‘I am in office.’ I counter remind her that I don’t care and that I have nasty things to tell her, I will continue to do that. She listens holding her mobile six inches away from her ear. When I take a breather after explaining why everything about her is wrong, she asks me calmly, “What is wrong with you?” I yell back, “Me!?”  "Get married," she commands and then declares, “I am going to put an advertisement in a matrimonial site or Times of India.” This predictably infuriates me even more. I yell back "it's my life!" saying horrid things to her. She continues her chanting: "get married, get married, get married……. get married………. get married.” 

She has done well for herself. But she has had her share of raw deals. She dealt well with them. She is strong and resolute. 

I will never learn to deal with her properly and will remain atrocious and absurd as always. 

Notwithstanding anything mentioned above, she is nowhere close to me in terms of grayness of matter inside the brain. She tells me “okay, if it makes you feel better,” and asserts after a pause, “but do get married.”

Will add more soon, after next fight, it is a developing story. 

October, 2011: with her daughter.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

FACTS AND NOTHING BUT THE FACTS

A column of a senior journalist I read this morning was objecting to the Media Trails. 

I agree, there should be no mudslinging. But, if the reports are based on facts, there should be no stopping them, either.

Transparency is India's only hope against institutionalised corruption that to me seems bigger than the formal government processes.

I don't think that there is any problem in bring facts, more facts, in public domain. It puts a cap on the government's ability, and that of its agencies, to cover up.  

The other objection to the media trail is that it creates a false perception in the minds of people at large. If the reports are based on facts than there is no such danger. Facts don't lie. 

As far as media trails putting undue pressure on the judges, specially lower judiciary, is concerned, i think the judiciary should be matured enough not to be guided by just media reports.

This is all true if and only if, and that is a big if I acknowledge, media reports are factual. If they are factual there cannot be any divorce between so called 'media trails' and the actual trails, as they both ideally are driven by facts, and not by some misplaced emotional drive.

Judiciary is in the best position to decide a case because they are presented with the complete set of facts, with the players and participants saying what they have to under no duress. 

Even though media does not have access to full facts, as judiciary, by bring out more and more facts in the public domain, it puts a cap on the ability of investigating agency to present a 'selective' factual premise to sell their, sometimes awry, conspiracy theories to judiciary. 

In long term it hurts no one to be transparent but for the notable exception of those who stand to benefit wrongly from the system.    

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bet its not Cricket!

Pakistani cricket players, former captain Salman Butt, opening bowlers: Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, are convicted in a match fixing case in UK, may end up 7 years in jail. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2011/nov/01/pakistan-cricket-trio-convicted-conspiracy?newsfeed=true).

So why do players do what these three did?

Cricket is just not another sport in Pakistan, like India, it is a passion. It is a very sad situation for any sport when the outcome of a match is decided outside the playing area. But in the case of cricket, when it comes to the Indian subcontinent, it is worse than treachery.

In the past, players from Indian Subcontinent, South Africa were found involved in match fixing. This is not new. It is an ongoing phenomenon that is only growing in scale with the every passing year.

Cricket-because of the kind of popularity it commands-is a money spinner like no other activity in India. That is why India is now the new powerhouse of cricket as 70 percent of the cricket revenue is sourced here. The focus is shifted to the Indian Subcontinent from England and Australia. It is no more a gentleman's game, cricket is the sport of the masses.

It is also the favorite sport for betting cartel in this part of the world. Some Rs 10,000 crore worth of betting took place during the one-day cricket world cup last year. The most recent, twenty-twenty format is very  conducive for betting: offers quick results, quick bucks!. The 'spot betting' has ensured that outcome of every delivery bowled is up for betting: would it be a hit for a six, or four, or will it be a no ball or a wide? Make your bet.  Every aspect of the sport is to play for in a gamble house.

The bookies are desperate. Lot is at stake. They have to, somehow, influence the outcome of the match in a way that makes them big money. They need to have prior knowledge of micro and macro outcome of a match. The bigger the match, more is at stake. India-Pakistan encounter in a cricket field is a golden opportunity for the match fixers that comes rarely. One such match can earn them hundreds of crores of rupees. Bookies will leave no stone unturned to caste their shadow on the match.

While some players cannot deal with the temptation that quick bucks offers, the match fixing cartel does not operate only with the support of some of these unscrupulous players. The cricket management, umpires, referees, even players' support staff and groundsmen all have their part to play, all have their claim to the booty.

It is the parallel economy of cricket. It is not about the game, but manipulation of the game. Cricket match is a like a stage where players (read performers) enact their preordained part.

This is really not going to stop because of the big money is involved. A friend in the income tax department told me that cops, politicians, industrialists and other categories of respectable citizens actively indulge in cricket betting. There is little hope.

There can only be a deterrence value if match fixing cases are investigated and players punished/convicted, as is happened in this case where three Pakistani players are staring at 7 years of imprisonment. They can at best make cricket match fixing less safe a crime. 

Till then, all Indian victories, or lossess for that matter, would appear fixed to some reasonably skeptic fans. 

  


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What do you say when you have nothing to say but you have to say something?

Describe weather! But alas the weather is inclement, already a freak snow storm hit the North Eastern America, too early in the year, and power cuts followed, the east coast was engulfed in darkness (reportedly will continue for a week) as the temperature dipped low. This winter promises to be very severe. So talking about weather is not essentially a polite talk about good things in life.

I read a banal piece that reiterated that India is a country of contradictions: Formula 1 car race happen in a country where the poverty line is Rs. 32 per capita per day (technically some one who makes Rs 33 per day is above poverty line and is relatively richer). 



The newspapers celebrated the birth of 7 billionth living human being of the world, Nargis-a girl, 1.2 billion of them are Indians anyways. It is a reason to worry.

A German friend was cursing Indian middle class, now about 250 million people, for indulging in wasteful expenditure. "They are worse than Europeans," he said. 

I would call it complexities of urban life in a fast changing society. The need to look good is intense. People are willing to pay huge price to get structural changes done to their bodies to look fancier. The need to seek external references seems to be the most potent motivator. It can really get nagging.  

The amount of success achieved in life is directly proportional to the size of the car one owns. Richer people move in bigger cars. Very rich people have private jets. 

While the middle class (this term is used very loosely, i must say as lose is the whole concept of middle class) is busy setting new standards of material success, the streets in the bigger towns are traffic jammed by big cars, as there number of successful people is on a rise, is rising all the time. Delhi alone buys a thousand vehicles every day, air therefore is polluted, food is contaminated for different set of reasons. It is normal for young men to die of heart attack because they demand a lot from themselves and they take these demands rather too seriously. Consumerism is become rapacious. The hate crimes, passion crimes and incidents of road rage is far more brutal. The number of stab injuries inflicted per murder is exponentially higher. It is not happy times as people carry huge amount of latent anger within, waiting to explode.

And what do we do about it? What can we do about it? Those who survive another day are glad they did. Ignore the rest of humanity as if it does not exists. People are happy because they are immune to the miseries of others, also to the collective miseries. It is perhaps a survival tactics. 

A brat in his late teens makes a passionate case: all beggars should be shot down as they are parasites. The civic agencies are committed to the beautification of the cities, considers homeless people an eyesore, dump them in sub-human conditions on the peripheries of the cities. 

Prices of essential commodities are at a all time high, living is expensive, death is getting dirt cheap. 

The economy is sliding down. Economist prime minister is busy playing political games. 

Corruption: kingpins roam around freely, scapegoats are send to the jail.  Whistle blowers (opposition MPs) who exposed MPs were bribed millions of rupees to vote for the government in a crucial no confidence motion in 2005 after Left parties deserted Congress lead UPA, are in jail. The mastermind, the most powerful political wheeler dealer in the country, is doing what he is best at, making money for the party fund and to buy MPs if need arises in the future. Corrupt are protected. Government even makes a case for special immunity against law to certain industrialists who indulge in shady deals, in other words it should be an acceptable practice to bribe ministers and babus to get government to act, if the country is to maintain double-digit growth trajectory. 

Corruption crusaders over bill fraudulently to pay for their charity.  
 
China is belligerent against India. Pakistan, a rogue state, loves to hate in India. Friendly Bhutan's king is on an official-honeymoon visit to India. 

Right winger RSS is meeting Mawlanas to assert essential unity in diversity before elections in the state of Uttar Pradesh where Mayawati, a Dalit, rules with iron fist.

So much is happening but really nothing is moving forward.

What do you say when you don't want to say anything but have to say something? Keep maun vrat (vow to keep silent). Silence can get deafening, sometimes.


 


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Listless on a lazy Sunday afternoon


I am listless on a lazy Sunday afternoon; yet happy. Things are happening well for me. There is a lot of action in my life. 

I really do not have anything to complain, but I do feel the need to complain about life.

The other day, I went to Halloween party. It was good fun. Initially, I was a vampire, then graduated to some manifestation of Satan with red horns. A friend complimented that the look suits me. Another friend, who is more Indian than American, laughed at the idea of Halloween party in India.  

It was euphoric to be ghostly. Susanna painted my face. I was the scariest character around. I painted her face. It was a masterpiece. She looked like a worried vampiress, played her part well. 

October 28: Anshuman is father now. I am very happy for Riddhima and him. Santosh became third time dad on the same day.

The best part of Diwali was a very special gift from my flatmate Jan. I am a proud owner of Bushnell binoculars. I am now equipped to revive birding as a hobby. I am thrilled.
 
Work is good. The new work place has a great positive energy. Hartosh is a fabulous leader.

Kiran has been feeding me lately with the best food in the world.

Last not the least; Family is rock solid behind me. Confession: I am a little irresponsible towards them.

God has been kind to me. There were issues that I was not able to deal with. It was weighing me down. I am better equipped, now, to deal with my own self.

I told a dear friend that I have a got a real good push. It should propel me to break from the past. But the past is sticky and bonds are strong. I am not scared of my past. I should learn accept my past to start afresh.

It is time to go for a jog.  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Where the corrupt operate without fear, let my nation awake to that de-light!

I am taking about India without taking names.
The economist prime minister and his government saturated with articulate, rich lawyers who have no understanding of the popular mood of the nation, have been suggesting very innovative (almost bordering to stupidity) ways of taking the country to a higher growth trajectory.
They argue for an extra leverage, almost immunity, for corrupt corporate to carry out scams with the partnership of government. That will allow them to pocket public money, the managers in the government--bureaucrats and politicians--will get the facilitation fee, this would also ensure a growth trajectory of 10 percent plus per annum.
If we punish the corrupt industrialists for committing frauds and scams, and dump them in jails, and not allow them special home cooked food, it will send, understandably so, a wrong message to the business community that the laws are meant to be followed. This would vitiate the economic environment and make India a not so preferred destination for future investments. That would be a suicide given the growing economic might of China next door.
One minister, again a lawyer, advised the Supreme Court of India--which is supervising various corruption cases, one of them a multi-billion dollar telecom scam where soon prime minister’s office along with home minister might come under scrutiny for their role as facilitators—to understand the larger picture: overlook scams involving industrialists in the larger interest of healthy economic growth of the country.
The other argument put forward by this government for their poor show is greater transparency that the working of the government is subjected to actually hampers its functioning and is therefore counterproductive. Earlier, the government functioned peacefully without the fear of favors extended to certain client corporate getting exposed. Their dealings in public money were shrouded in mystery. The opaqueness in the functioning of the government ensured a safe environment to carry out corrupt dealings. And whenever questioned about something that was prima-facie fishy, just these couple of words uttered in defense: official secret! 
Thanks to RTI or Right to Information Act (which is the gift of this very government to the nation in their previous avatar) can make their secret dealings, files noting and opinions public. The so-called public servants (are no more master custodian of information) do not feel secure enough to express their opinion simply because it is no more a secret. And, thus, in effect they can be held accountable. They are so shit scared to be held accountable that they prefer not to make any noting on a file at all, the functioning of the government is thus paralyzed.
The message is clear, options available are limited, the people of India have to choose between these two: no governance at all or corrupt governance. As clean governance is a notional concept, it does not exist in real life.
Corruption cannot be eliminated, we have heard a thousand times.  But, for sure, it can be made a less safe crime. RTI and judicial activism, with a lot of qualifications, have done well in this regard. Lokpal has the potential to do wonders by actually making corruption a risky preposition. But, according to government, Lokpal with both the teeth and ability to bite is unconstitutional. Is corruption a fundamental right?
The arguments and justifications of the government infested by lawyers who make enormous wealth doing corporate litigation, perhaps are paid to make this argument, try makes us believe that like inflation, bit of corruption is good for the economic growth. It lubricates the growth cycle by providing extra personal incentives. What if it is a crime?  These additional incentives to select corporate allow them to milk economy, make them rich beyond reason, and also ensure ten percent growth.
This government has no business to be in power. But alas! they still have the numbers in the Parliament. And that is what matters. But for how long?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Destroy the Marriage to Save It!

Yesterday, I met an old friend to discuss something professional.

But a cup of coffee on a lazy afternoon does wonders. He got talking about his next experiment with truth. To me it is revolutionary given the contours and context of the Indian society, that is in a transition, all right, more hastily in cities than in smaller towns and villages, where deviation is acceptable not just tolerable, but is still dominated by male chauvinist pigs.


He is trying something interesting to save his marriage. He is temporarily destroying it. The two are separating for sometime (he has no fixed time frame but six months is what he mentioned) where they have agreed to give each other some space. The space is not just an opportunity not to see each other's faces everyday as a fate accompli, but also freedom to have new partners. "We will now have open marriage" he told me. That is not an open marriage, in strict terms, because the couple stay together without the requirement to be monogamous (which those in marriage, who are not lucky enough to get this concession, that is why jealous, argue: why marry then?).

Basically, they are separating to give their marriage a chance, to explore life minus of each other to see where they stand as individuals. This also translates into exploring other options, and hope that it would resurrect their love for each other. It is true that sometimes you realise the value and role of your partner in your life in absentia. The presence can get nagging but absence might turn out to be unbearable. And they will be together again in flat few weeks.

On the other hand, this new found freedom can also reaffirm the feeling that good days between them is over, therfore the need is felt to take a break, the reason for this quasi-separation at the first place.

Some background is essential about the two. They are seeing each other since they barely hit 20s. At the age of 23-24 they moved in together in a hired flat. Family was not happy but they did not have an option. They got married two years ago and shifted to a nicer place with the promise of a great life together. They were madly in love with each other is a cliché I would use for them.

Their 'need for my space' is a recent development. So, now, they are quarrelling more often to prove 'my' point. Things that they loved about each other now irks them. The tolerance level to each others antics is far reduced. They both realise that they are not doing good to each other.

My friend asserts that they still love each other and that this experiment will do good to both of them. He is aware of the fact that this ‘good for both of them’ might not necessarily translate into they being together again. He is hopeful and mindful of the repecussions, too.

The family is aware of this decision and they are not very sure if this is the right way to deal with the situation. To be frank no one is sure, they themselves are a little shaky. They both are sure, though, to try it out. He is busy finding a house for her.

The logic is simple. They would have not gone too far the way they were behaving to each other. So might as well try this.

Who made this suggestion? “It was decided after many discussions,” he replies. I persist, who of the two suggested this as a possible option, or solution. “She,” he replies.

He is emotionally stressed. He puts up a brave face, denies unconvincingly.

They are true to their feelings and about their feelings for each other. If things are not working, they are upfront about it and are working hard to make it work.

Such disputes more often than not are ego driven. They know that. They are unhappy that the magic is gone. They want the magic back. They are willing to take great risk for it. It will be difficult to lose 'exclusive' rights within the superstructure of marriage.

So be it. Let it be.

Monday, October 3, 2011

BREAK [----------]UP

Durga Puja this year has come with a lot of changes. The most painful of them is the breakups. In the last couple of weeks, a dozen friends are confronted with emotionally degenerating phase of breakup.

Few of them called me up and informed about it. About others, I learned from reliable sources. I told them things that will comfort them.

Now that i think of it. There is a discernable trend. There is a common set of reasons for it.

It is somewhat strange. The two partners work overtime to invent reasons and narratives, basically, to put the blame for the breakup on the other. But face it: the reason is you and not the partner and this is applicable to both the partners.

A relationship is about sharing, it becomes a turf war, who gets to control what and how much. The relationships are very selfish in nature. It is all about 'what i get from it'? and not ‘what can i give to it?’ It thus, soon, on numerous occasions ‘stops making sense.’

The real pang is that, despite it being self-seeking, it remains very intense. 'I' remains paramount never lets 'we' have a say. One of the menifestaition of this is that both partners work hard to make each other suffer. And suffer themselves. Therefore, breakups comes as a ‘relief’ yet it f@*ks up all the happiness.

‘I' or the ego has the inherent need to control things, outcomes. Human beings are a complex animal, ego subsumes their instincts. They are affected (governed) by ‘n’number of factors where ‘n’ tends to infinity. Many of these factors are not even known to them. So it is fallacious to think that things can be controlled. It is delusional to think this way. It only causes a lot of complications. The great expectations are never met. Things happen in their own ways. Then comes dejection and rejection follows soon.

Rejection: ego loves this term. Ego feels elated to have rejected someone. You get to hear all this so very often, I called off the relationship as it was getting on my nerves. So i am the one who took the call, called it off. I will remain unrelenting. He is suffering. I am suffering too, perhaps more, but as long as he is suffering, my suffering is worth its pain. It is about who can take it more. Who is ready to give in? If none, then move on.

There is a prescribed drill to it, post breakup. Just vanish from the scene for sometime. Try do things that have the ability to occupy your mind, but nevertheless suffer, and cause enormous suffering to the other, and try come to terms with who rejected whom, and tell yourself that i would be careful next time in picking my partner, find a down-to-earth (malleable, less egoistical and pushy) person, and that he is nice and caring (will do as told) and so on. The whole idea is to find someone who is not like ‘I'.

Marilyn Monroe puts it well. “I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.” So deal with me as i am and not as you want me to be.

The end result is nagging. Both end up punishing someone they love the most and also suffer enormous pain. If only they could think from the 'we' perspective. Even better, if they could think from the perspective of 'you' and not 'I', and not deal in balance sheets—who needs one more than the other kind of equations.

This is hackneyed but needs to be said: Rise in love and not fall in love. Do well to each other.

So all those who have recently parted, stop for a moment and think of each other and not your ownself, there is no bravery in escaping, redeeming is an art, live life present moment, and not bother too much about the future, the long-term perspective sucks the present and fills regret in the future when it comes to relationships.

Please note this is a generalisation, exceptions are always there. But do not be tempted to believe that you are an exception.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Green Corbett


This is my second trip to Corbett National Park in four months. I nearly repeated the drill. I had my new flatmate Jan Peters as my co-traveller, is a birdwatcher, nature scientist and an expert driver on nearly non-existent roads carefully maintained by the government of Uttar Pradesh.

The drive inside the forest was very interesting, soothing and rejuvenating as lungs are not used to so much oxygen per breath devoid of any carbon content.

The forests are lush green dominated by Sal tree. Lantana bushes and elephant grasses covered the landscape like a thick, green blanket. It was thus virtually impossible to sight a tiger unless it decides to take a stroll on the forest road in our presence. That did not happen. So this time there was not even a ‘perceived’ sighting.

But the forest was far more alive this time compared to the last visit in late April. There were fresh scratch marks on the bark of trees; the tiger community was fairly active, on a prowl with fresh pugmarks to be seen at every nook and corner. There were at least three occasions when I could sense tiger in close proximity of 50 meters; langoors were dangling hysterically on the high branches looking down, of course they were seeing a tiger, or a leopard, while thick Lantana bushes ensured that we did not.

We were basically moving in and around the Jharna range of the Corbett National Park. Rest of the park remains closed from May 15 to November 15 to allow some privacy to tigers during their extended mating season. It is easier to sight a tiger during this off-season as they are mostly on the move in search of food and sex.

We did fair bit of birding, as well. I am not an avid birder. My friend Anshuman tried to initiate this hobby in me ten years ago, with little success. I did use to go with him to birding trips. The reason for it was not love of birds. It was primarily to participate in scrumptious breakfast that followed a birding walk. Jan’s joy at sighting Indian variants of birds, that were new to him, is infectious. I am convinced to revive birding as a hobby. I plan to take it beyond palatable motives. So for a change, this time, on Jan’s insistence, our objective was to sight great hornbills and elephants, and not just tigers and leopards. We can always blame bad luck for not sighting any of the above exotic denizens of the wild, but the forest guide accompanying us did nothing unusual to help us see our objectives. Though Jan was happy sighting an Asian Barred Owlet and a Spotted Owlet, I could not escape the feeling that this guide made us ullu.

For this reason, I am going to devote a paragraph castigating the forest guides. They mug up names of the birds and trees, some memorise French and German names of various flora and fauna too, quote erroneous figures to unsuspecting tourists, act an agents of the Forest Department to paint a rosy picture about the health of the forest and its inhabitants. I was told that there are 200 tigers in Corbett National Park and there are 200 rangers to guard them. I know both the figures are erroneous.

It is never the less an interesting statistics: one ranger per tiger is a handsome ratio. Figures may be wrong but it is true that tiger is the most protected animal in the country. Despite this, it continues to remains top in the list of endangered species for the last thirty years. The trade in tiger parts is the one biggest threat to its existence—primarily to keep Chinese men virile—is flourishing.

Sorry for transgressing, but this needs to be mentioned. In India the concept of protection—whether people or animals—is so area specific. We do not protect denizens of an area but the area itself. Like we have protected tiger reserves not tigers. In case a tiger gets poached or killed for manmade reasons, the local wildlife department takes lot of trouble to clarify that it happened outside the national park or in somebody else’s area of protection. The idea is obviously to shun responsibility.

Like earlier this month when the Delhi High Court blasts happened, the first confirmed piece of information given by Delhi Police’s special commissioner Dharmendra Kumar was that the blast happened “outside the protected area.” But the real lives were lost outside the “protected” area. The count of dead has risen to 15. Are these killings justified just because it happened outside the protected area? That makes the life of those killed any less worthy?

It is high time for a long time now that government starts protecting the denizens and not fortified areas where some important and influential people live and work.
It is not that the government is unaware about it. It is simply not serious about it. It is selectively serious about protecting very select people. A good example is the Special Protection Group (SPG) (also to an extent Black Cats of National Security Guard mandated to provide Z Plus {http://www.hindustantimes.com/What-is-X-Y-and-Z-security-category/Article1-228435.aspx} level security to certain threatened current and former senior government functionaries) is the best equipped force in India with the objective of protecting current and former prime ministers and the family of Sonia Gandhi, so also future prime ministers. They actually protect these very important persons and not just guard their houses. Can this same philosophy be not extended to people at large, in the case of wildlife department to tigers and others endangered animals?

It is not so as difficult as it seems. It is plausible. A change in attitude is required. If only our security mechanism becomes a little more proactive than reactive. Their reactions are also so stereotypical. The security agencies come into action only after a bloody blast is happened.

I remain sceptic about the future of tigers in India as much as the security of common citizens outside small enclaves dubbed as protected areas. I want to be proved wrong.

The glistening green cover over Corbett is recharged my capacity to deal with dark smog cover over Delhi.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Date with Earthquake

It was Tuesday night. I returned home late from office, well past midnight. I was so tired that could barely decipher written words. But typed random thoughts for an hour.

It must have been 2:30 am when I went to bed. My exhaustion prevented me to sleep. I was numb. I was not sleeping; the red light on Internet modem was flickering rhythmically.

Soon, I experienced shaking of my bed, albeit mildly. Earthquake, not again!

Last time, I felt similar tremors was three days ago when a major earthquake hit Northern India with epicentre in the province of Sikkim. I switched on the television, news channels confirmed a major earthquake.

Sikkim is partially decimated, the death count is reaching hundred, landslides and rains have hampered the rescue operations there.

My mother, my sister and her daughter stay in the Thimphu, capital city of Bhutan, not very far from Sikkim. They stayed outdoors for couple of hours in the chilling winds before they felt safe enough to enter the house.

Now, this has happened the second time in three days. I call my family in Thimphu. They were sleeping, did not answer to my calls. I switched on the television and waited for news channels to confirm another earthquake. The confirmation did not come. The shaking of ground this time was not real, just a perception.

Next day newspapers reported some traumatised survivors in Sikkim still perceive walls and floor shaking. I am traumatised too, it seems. That is why, perhaps, every night I wait for my bed to shake without me causing it.

My bond with family is strong and sticky.

I am sure tonight my bed is not going to shake. It better not.