Monday, May 30, 2011

Pyari sari

Pyari Saree

To me one of the biggest regret of not being a woman is that I will not get to wear a sari, if I may add, publicly. But I have male friends who do not agree: why should women have all the fun?!

The origin of sari is anybody’s guess. And my guess is that wrap around cloth grew longer and longer to become a elongated rectangular cloth, six to nine meters in length, wrapped in a way that allows freedom of movement of limbs, presumably to perform labour-intensive chores that women in those times indulged in, at the same time ensure standards of modesty, which, perhaps since the time cloth was invented, is about covering the body.

Sari is cool, ancient yet contemporary, and scientific. Getting into it or rather wrapping it around can be cumbersome. To tyro carrying a sari is difficult. I know some who feign wearing sari like rope walking. I agree: to hold 6 to 9 meters of cloth wrapped around torso for hours together requires some skill, but it comes easily with practice. It becomes a second nature with time, ask my mother, who only wears sari, 24x7, for last 40 years.

Sari suits, especially over-weight, Indian women. I say this at the risk of stereotyping. Sari wraps body like a holdall. It can also be revealing. It is extremely graceful, suits all age groups and body types. Sari is a clothing that has a moderating effect: fat women look slimmer while slim women fuller.

Since the display of navel is back in fashion, but on a much flatter and toned abdomen, looks like rising sun on a clean sky, sari is in too.

Last week, I had a special visitor: Anicia. She is my flatmate Arthur's childhood friend from California, a fantastic person to know. She wore a sari as a part of culture synthesis programme that we inadvertently carried out one morning.

Anicia is tall and slim, her black long tress, her Indian features (debatable) made her look extremely graceful in a sari. She carried sari very well too, with a twinkle in her eyes. She in that sense is a rare exception to my general rule: sari suits Indian women.

Anicia, in sari, looked to me like a rebel princes of 1950s from a royal family of Rajasthan who insists on riding a horse or driving a Rolls Royce in a local, congested, colourful market-street. She had uncanny resemblances to a prominent member of a leading political-dynasty of India.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. ~Albert Einstein

The Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh’s remark: "The IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) and IIMs (Indian Institute of Management) are good because of world class students, not because of the world class faculty" has stirred a hornet's nest. Ramesh himself is an alumnus of IIT Bombay.

Ironically, IIMs do not figure in the top hundred B schools of the world, so what ‘world class’ is Ramesh referring to?

It is almost a popular culture in India to celebrate mediocrity. Therefore, perhaps, the debates are mediocre as well. We need a constructive debate, with willingness to make necessary adjustment, on how to improve standards of technical education imparted in this country. Perhaps we need to take a holistic view and not that the whole debate needs to be pegged on a dozen IITs and IIMs.

The teaching standards are not world class by any stretch of imagination, Ramesh has a valid point. It is not a cause but the effect of mismanagement of technical education in India. Teachers are multitasking; the pressures of undergraduate teaching; low salaries has sapped their research ambition. No institute can be world class if it is run by disgruntled faculty. There is a general disliking amongst the faculty for the red-tapism, they abhor dealing with bureaucrats, who according to them, are ill-informed (some misinformed) managers designated to make all crucial policy decisions.

This remark has set into motion is not a debate, but a kind of blame game. People in government, faculty and alumni are offended. Like the remarks of Sougata Roy, dean of Kolkata IIM, who is also acting as its director, "These institutes are so good not because of people like Jairam Ramesh, but because of the students, the faculty and the contribution of the alumnus."

There are real problems: government interferes beyond the legitimate; there is a need for greater stress on research, research output is abysmally low. The institutes operate in isolation to the real world; most of the funding is by government and not industry as is the case with the world-class institutes­-all work closely with industry on R&D.

The most popular Bollywood movie of the decade, 3 idiots made by Aamir Khan, is inspired by Chetan Bhagat’s (IIT Delhi, 1995 batch) novel 5 Point Someone. The movie is a satire on technical education system that forces students to make wrong choices due to some extraneous reasons like family pressure, social status or for financial reasons. The movie is also a critique teaching methodologies followed in IIT. Mugging up is a virtue; retention of information rather than the ability to synthesize it fetch higher grades. To be fair, the movie presents an extreme case in a way that tickles our funny bone, but does make an important point. I asked Surendra Prasad, Director IIT Delhi, if the movie is a true portrayal of what happens in IITs? He smiled and just said “well the book is written by our alumnus.”

I think knowledge is a very active concept in this fast changing global village. The timely application of knowledge, quick adaptations is a mantra of success. My friend Arthur Dudney in his essay Beyond Techno-Coolies (http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?271696) is batting for liberal arts, argues that education is not a ‘fusty’ notion about reading good books but rather an important investment in the future. Students should not only acquire certain set of skills but also, with it, the capacity to acquire new skills.

This is ironical. India is a country of people with innovative minds. Indians have done well in innovative setups all over the world. The informal sector and their jugaad (would define it as an improvised solution made possible with a heave doze of inventiveness, ingenuity, cleverness in an unfriendly environment that is characterized by acute limitations and shortages) has shown that need is the mother of all inventions. They are now into manufacturing of technology-intensive products, have uncanny knack to make anything work and serve a purpose. It is has worked because it is need driven and market driven, is all about application of limited knowledge and resources to find a workable solution. And more importantly, is devoid of any positive government intervention. Jugaad has a serious message for the formal sector, to the technical centers of learning. The spirit of jugaad should be internalized in the formal, technical education system, which should be need based, centered around finding solutions, flexible rather than parroting of same texts year after year.

So Ramesh has made an important point. It should be discussed in a clean and heathy 'environment'.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I WAS ADVICED: HAVE NO VICE!

I WAS ADVICED: HAVE NO VICE!

I have been advised to LAUGH at the absurdity of life every morning.

Also that, Goodness is to the core of my being and I should do nothing to change it. Goodness speaks in a whisper, evil shouts and gets deafening, and one tends to give in. I must not.

There are times when you want goodness to be reciprocated by others. And you hate when your goodness is abused. It goes without saying that you know exactly when your goodness is a matter of abuse, as goodness can never be abused clandestinely. But, sometimes, being abused is preferable to being alone.

I was told that be the way you are. Do what you feel and don’t try effect change in others. Do it because you want to do it and not because you want it to be reciprocated.

In that case, I asked myself, do I want to be good? I do not know. The reasons in me said don’t be stupid to be good. But, I keep reason at bay in tricky situations, because if reason has answer then it is not a tricky situation. Also, reason demanded to curb my instinct, when I did curb my instincts, I was still miserable.

Those who do not reciprocate generosity with goodness or reciprocate it with indifference or with clapper claws it is their problem. Feel pity at them for a fleeting moment, wish them good, and remain anchored to your core.

So I have to be myself; do it the way it makes best sense to me. It could be good or bad.

Then, I was advised shun the need to react. To react is a sure way to suffer. Also this way I make others suffer too. I am reacting too much these days. I react to those I can get away doing so, we all do, that is so hypocritical.

At least, I know I am reacting. So as a matter of practice, I will keep a tab on me, and stop reacting even if I feel compelling need to do it. Even Aristotle found it difficult, who am I? He said: It is easy to perform a good action, but not easy to acquire a settled habit of performing such actions.
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Expectations are distracting and hurting; they consume mind space too much. Therefore, I was told to learn to let go. Forgive (even if there is nothing to forgive or no forgiveness is sought) and forget (the problem is when you try forget, you are actually remembering). This will vacate my mind space for things that are generally preferable, though not always desirable. And must remember: Good and bad men are less than they seem as pointed out by an English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Monday, May 23, 2011

This weekend was dedicated to Rituparna Ghosh

This weekend was spent with family and had two wonderful encounters with the finely crafted cinema of Rituparno Ghosh: Antarmahal and Nauka Dubi.

Family is my refuge from the rest of the world. In the time spend with the family, certain other non-issues become paramount, that isolates me for a while from the world of the written word, and its push and pulls, compromises, dictates, job requirements and requirements that are not professional, stress that comes from fending for the obvious.

Antarmahal is inspired by Tarashankar Bandhopadhyay’s novel Pratima and Nauka Dubi by Rabindranath Tagore’s short story. They are finely crafted movie with great eye for details. The early twentieth century Bengal comes alive in these movies. There is a kind of celebration happening, there is pomposity yet sedate. The idea is not to ridicule the era, but higlight the conflict between modernity of thought with actions that are based on the long held traditions that were stifling, unjust and dehumanising; was clearly portrayed.

The socially vulnerable, larger than life characters in the films were strong individuals. There was melodrama and romanticism, like an art form, in the way sets were designed, frames were captured, the postures of the characters. I thought Rituparno has great understanding of woman as a form and how best it can be captured in the camera. The windows were used with great adroitness, and the light or lack of it.

The good thing was that despite having to read subtitles, I could feel the emotions portrayed and their nuances as well. I liked that script of both the films: tight and tacit. Long pauses, body gestures, bit of humour, light and shadows, frames all added to a picture that was so clear in what it wants to say.

Rituparna has eye for details. The tall bed with post, chair, rural Bengal, and culturally proud yet anglicised Calcutta, scraped walls, curtains, lamps, window and scenes outside window, gust of breeze, lamps, pond, courtyard, maid-consort, jewellery, bindi, indoors and outdoors was spot on. He is the new Cultural Tsar from India.

The strongest point of his movies is the meticulous research, and I am sure he is versatile too. In the two movies I have seen so far there is a strong Rituparno signature, but I have to see more of his movies to know whether he can get out of his own mould in terms of telling a story. Next on the agenda is Last Lear. He is a fantastic filmmaker and I would want him to try make movies outside the Bengal construct, say eastern Uttar Pradesh or western Punjab or for that matter in Tamil or Telgu.

In the interactive session, he said something interesting, he now wants to make a movie on a story that can only be told via cinema as a medium. He is very capable of it. Meanwhile, characters of his movie are still playing in my mind long after the movie is over.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Hard to defy categorization

Recently a friend called me a tea-man to ration a portion of coffee offered to me.

It was treat to read anther friend’s craftily written thesis on Metrosexuals as urban-e men who defy stereotypes.

Dalits. Corrupt. Compromised. Talented. Gay. Lesbian. Criminal. Terrorist. Saint. Learned. Nationality. Religion. Colour. Creed and many more identity points that humanity is compartmentalised into.

The only saving grace is that humans (who I will dare refer to as we and us) can have multiple identities.

We have categorised us in many names, ways. It is about exclusivity, also about predictability and stereotyping of behaviour, custom, attitude and more.

I always question this business of caging us into categories. It is a tool of some of opportunist us to deny the legitimate to many, many more others of us. Categories are a rallying point to humans like ants converge on a sugar cube till it is finished. And before they are finish one, they find another sugar cube kind of stimulant. To us it provides reason/s to fight for, to die for.

The fact that we are different from others is no surprise. The fact that we have similarities with others is no surprise, either. The fact that we get influenced by plethora of things does not require rocket science to understand. But, these are not reasons to fight. Diversity is to be celebrated. And we need to be connected with different parts of the world so we fuse to form amazing music, literature and art. It is the cultural imbalance (difference) amongst regions enables fruitful exchanges. It should not be a cause of dispute, or exclusion, but a reason to celebrate.

We get militant about our differences, it starts with battle of tongue and ends up in a war with guns, followed by battle of tongue, it's a vicious cycle.

Segmentation of us with restrictive entry should be curbed. Temple is where Hindu gods reside but Muslims should be welcome there. And all those who visit temple, mosque, church, gurudwara, synagogue should respect the sanctity and popular sentiments attached to that place. So the idea is to celebrate the fact that we are different but that is not a reason to segregate.

I approached an American friend residing in Mumbai with a certain honorable (another category) request and used the word ‘expat’ for him. I am guilt of categorising him, alienating him in a way. He felt bad about it, replied saying: “I am not an expat in India,” with a strong sense of belonging and ownership. I send him a long note telling that though I did categorise him, the idea was not to alienate him. But, usually, when we categorise people, like I was told you are a tea-drinker in a company of coffee-drinkers, it is about denying and alienating, like here, in this case, a ploy to serve less coffee. It is also about who owns the infrastructure, here the French press to make coffee.

Colonial setup was about exclusivity that came from the ownership: 'Indian and Dogs are not allowed' would read the placard outside a posh hotel. Now, after 60 years of Independence it is, there is only a slight modification, now it's 'poor and dogs'. In some places pedigreed dogs are welcome but not poor. So more than the political, it is the economic considerations at play, sometimes the two are indistinguishable.

'The poor' itself is an interesting categorisation of us. Non-possession is a demon-like quality that dehumanise people of this category amongst the category of 'the rich' people as pests. And they are shooed away, hidden and ignored.

Coming to the categorisation of us as Metrosexuals. Now this categorisation is interesting because it a category of men that defy long held, stereotype categorisation of men. There is another interesting category by the name pomosexual that shuns the categorisation of people based on their sexual preferences. I am excited about this category because it rejects all forms of sexual categorisation to form another category. It's like a religion of atheists.

But giving devil its due, categorisation and segmentation of humanity into various categories is like organising books in a library. So everyone knows where to go for what. But the problem starts, unlike books, us fall in multiple categories, and there cannot be many copies of us like books, so we kind of struggle to balance demands of various identities.

And the problem is also because identity is not a passive concept. It is demanding. People live and die to serve their identity, sometimes live a life of denial if that is what our segmented identity demands. It add layers to our existence. And more the number of layers we add, the further we are from the reality of self.

I wonder: Is there anything I can do without causing harm to others and not be labelled for it?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is Rahul Gandhi spreading rumour is a new political tool?

Rahul Gandhi appears sincere and an apolitical politician is his USP. The fact that he belongs to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has made his life so much easier. The heat or dust, and the hardships and the struggle that comes with it, carves out a leader in a mortal being. This is never happened to Rahul; need not happen to him. So, he has to proactively strategise, go and play with heat and dust in a way to rouse sentiments in the electorate that would transform into votes for the Congress party.

The recent appointment with the heat and dust in Greater Noida where he landed up in a bike (not a super bike) with some high profile supporters to support the agitating farmers, a hot day out. He courted arrest but was not arrested. He thought he was at the cusp of causing an agrarian uprising against the state with the help of some opportunist local politicians. That was not to happen. But he did manage to hassle Mayawati, the Dalit-woman chief minister of Uttar Pradesh who runs the state with an iron fist. Having said that, it is also true that no body takes 40 years old ‘Amul baby’ or ‘baba,’ as he referred to, seriously. And they have reasons for that. Youth congress candidates vouched and campaigned for by Rahul did not do well in the just concluded assembly elections of various states. The Congress party would soon come out with an innovative explanation of how Rahul is not responsible for this electoral debacle.

I write this blog for a different reason, though. The reason is not to discuss: the fading magic of Rahul Gandhi, or Rahul's magic was never there, is just a media creation or that he belonging to the dynasty cannot be the only reason for him to do well politically.

I write the blog to discuss spreading rumour, and that too of a malicious nature, as a political tool now employed by Rahul as the events of the last few days suggest.

Hitler used lies, deception and conspiracy theories effectively in World War II to quell morale of the Allies forces. In fact he had a deputed person by the name Joseph Goebbels who had a single-minded agenda of spreading rumours and lies. I know it is an unfair comparison but I see hints of it in the recent events.

Rahul has alleged that in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh, while trying to stop or control the agitating farmers with legitimate demand, the state government resorted to brute force. So far fine. But then he went on to say: “people are being murdered, (and he sighted of pile of ash, there were 74 mounds with bodies inside which could mean that farmers were brunt after being murdered or murdered by burning them alive), and women were raped, people thrashed and houses burnt.” As a result many of the agitating farmers are missing.

Interestingly, not one person in the two villages stepped forward to back the claim. The local authorities, villagers and just about everyone who is at the ground has not supported Rahul’s claim of a potential genocide carried out by the local law enforcement authorities. He might have been misinformed or must have misread the situation. And such confusion happens when you meet heat and dust of the political life like out on a date. The dynamics of people’s politics is revealed only when you stay with them and not when you visit them to make a political statement using their miseries as your rallying point.

But it is difficult for Congress to confess that he is wrong. Rahul can never be wrong. They will perhaps indulge in more lies to support this lie. Congress spokespersons, especially Manish Tewari, defends the dynasty with great imaginative zeal. And he wants a CBI enquiry to fix the lie as unmitigated truth. He insists on CBI doing the probe because has no trust on the state machinery under Mayawati. But by same logic, CBI cannot be trusted either given that this premiere investigative agency has a long history of serving its political masters who run the central government. The one example that comes to my mind is of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, close to Gandhi family, in Bofors guns kickback matter CBI worked overtime to withdraw all the charges against him.

The party spokespersons have a very difficult task to deal with journalists, and in the case of Congress party, defend the dynasty on issues that are undeniable. They remind me of Joseph Goebbels. They also remind me of quarrelling housewives who fight on and for non-issues in the most passionate manner. The diatribe is all rhetoric and no substance. There is no message. The idea is to confuse. But confusion can help win one election at the most. To be a leader it requires meatier engagement. Rahul should refer to his great grandfather, Nehru. He loved to be with people not as a photo opportunity.

I don’t blame Rahul, perhaps the times is such where politicians have to play their part to the media and through them to the people, and being yourself could be risky, especially when you fear failure as a catastrophe.

Phool Mandi, Delhi

Today in the morning my flat mate, Arthur Dudney (http://www.columbia.edu/~add2115/writing.html) and me were hosted by Himanshu Verma (himanshu@redearthindia.com; www.redearthindia.com; www.thegendaphoolproject.com) for a trip to morning phool (flower) mandi (wholesale market) in South Delhi’s Lado Sarai.

This is one of many daily phool mandi in the capital temporarily organized in the mornings at various localities of the city. Phool mandi like many of the informal sector activities in the city (cycle rickshaw, hawkers, peddlers, small scale industry, etc…which are been condemned to the peripheries of the city, devoid of basic facilities like electricity and water) is under threat from the city government that is committed to the skewed development of the city, which is about beautification, is completely anti-people. The people in question are urban poor who lead a marginalized life in the margins of the city, make a livelihood by efficiently transforming the leftovers of the development process into life sustaining enterprise (Delhi has the biggest ‘informal’ urban recycling industry in the world).

These informal activities come up where there is a market for it; with, without, despite of the government. In that sense they are the purest form of fundamental principles of capitalism that was elaborated by Adam Smith in his seminal work An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

The city is changing fast, thanks to the last years Commonwealth Games that acted as a catalyst. This change is not planned for, even if it has some semblance of planning, the planning is not about people. The fact that more than half of the people in Delhi reside in unauthorized dwellings, many thousands don’t have any dwelling at all, and more than 60 percent of the denizens are directly dependent on the informal sector, says a lot about the planning process, that it is a sham. The urban poor are a numerical majority, town planners try hide them from urban landscape as if they do not exist, but they are there, in the way they always were: poor and marginalized. Their existence dubbed as unauthorized, and their occupation categorized as illegal. The shallow concept of how urban spaces should look and function is completely divorced of the prevalent ground realities. The ugly imitation of the West as a development model is just unsustainable.

I am absolutely amazed and disturbed by the terminologies used to describe urban poor and their existence. How is it permitted in a welfare state like India governed by a liberal constitution which makes ‘we the people’ sovereign? How can citizens, under any circumstances, be described as unauthorized?

The urban planning, not only in Delhi, has a very land-centric approach. Land is where the money is, it is the scarcest and limited resource unlike people who are in plenty with no inherent cash value attached to them. The Delhi Development Authority (belongs to the government of India) functions opaquely; is dubbed as the biggest land mafia of Delhi. Multiplicity of authorities that run Delhi has been used as a ploy to shun accountability.
As far as the informal sector or the unorganized sector is concerned, by providing sustainable employment to the teeming Indians, it has actually prevented a revolution from happening in this country that would have demolished the prevalent system that allows flourishing rich to build their empire of wealth by denying the poor. Government has been a party to it, has been a miserable failure in effecting a move towards a more equitable society.

At the phool mandi in one of the shacks a middle aged woman was weaving a garland with some other girls. I asked if I could click a picture. She raised her eyebrows to ask: “why do you guys insult poor?” People come here to take pictures, show the rest of the world that poverty can also be glamorous. “They exhibit and sell our poverty to get rich,” she explains. Yes, their life, their interaction with the state, and the way they are treated is best described by the word: insult.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

DIDI DID IT!

Didi did it!

Mamta Didi left LEFT dyspnoeic. Her single-minded determination ended the Left reign of 35 years in Bengal.

The Left rule in Bengal is described as a third degree cancer with every organ of the state was turned malignant red. But Didi has delivered Bengal from power of darkeness. Will she be able to cure the curse is what needs to be seen?

It is a celebration time for Bengal. But soon the celebration frenzy will end, and Tsunami waves of expectations will have to be addressed. Didi is maverick; she is at best unpredictable and very mercurial. This is how she is being described. The running of state requires, especially Bengal after Left made to leave, great administrative acumen. She has not exhibited that so far, critics argue. And then they also make fun of her Hawaii slippers. People often confuse good English with good governance, bad clothes with bad intent. I will not rule out Didi till she rules her out of Bengal. That is not going to happen in a hurry. She is there, at the helm of affairs, for at least next five years.

Her first few speeches after the victory talk of reason, restraint and responsibility. She has accepted this historic (and landslide)verdict in for her with humility. She is making right noises for development of the state and is even conciliatory to the truncated and battered Left who have been rendered homeless by her in their own bastion.

It is one of those rare episodes in the political history of a country that can be dubbed as momentous, will remain alive in the psyche of people for at least next 35 years. It is a triumph of democracy; will of the people as a peaceful transfer of power is happening in the original land of landmines.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Amar Singh and Privacy

Supreme Court has vacated the stay on the telecast of Amar Singh recorded phone conversations. They are damaging to the speakers and far more embarrassing for the listeners.

This brings fore the issue of right to privacy. Should for any reason, under any circumstances, a private person be allowed to record personal conversations of another person/s? The answer according to me is NO. After illegal recording, making it public is sinister and dangerous.

Privacy is sacrosanct; it should be protected by all means. To me it is a fundamental right of life. I will be dead if my personal space, movement and conversations are opened for public consumption.

There is a case against privacy for larger public interest. No right is absolute, is conditioned by larger interest of the society, even in a democracy.

Now the moot question is: who gets to decide when to put whom under surveillance under what circumstances? This function cannot be delegated to a private person. It is, to me, has to be exclusively a sovereign function, be used rarely under unavoidable circumstances. It should never become a tool (this cannot be made abuse-proof) in the hands of government for purposes of voyeurism, for personal reasons. This is an issue that needs to be handled with sensitivity.

To be fair to Amar Singh, he is a victim. But tapes don’t reveal anything that comes as a surprise about him.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Summer of Letdowns

Summer of letdowns

This is a summer of letdowns. Things that could have happened in normal course are finding reasons not to happen. So I am in bit of a fix.

I perhaps need a course correction. I need to find people: friends and colleagues, editors and collaborator who are interested in my ideas. I am pushing myself too much. And I am putting myself under tremendous pressure.

It is a good learning phase, as well. Fend for yourself is what I am being told time and again. Good.

The pressure is what I have to learn to manage. It might consume me as it is already reached unsustainable levels.

There is a silver lining to it. God remains kind, as always. I have friends who come to my rescue, from unexpected nooks. Yesterday, I visited friends, French in nationality, they have given me name Soleil, which is the French translation of my Hindi name, Mihir, which means Sun.

I had good time with them. They were kind, hospitable and available to my insatiable desire to talk. One of them was really good to me when I needed it badly. So when things really go wrong, I find something that just keeps me afloat. So I thank whomever I need to.

Yesterday, I met family. That helped.

But this summer of letdown has to end. The rising heat should come as saving grace to me. This week is crucial. I have two important meetings that may change the complexion of this summer.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Emotional Dealings

Emotional Dealings

Just yesterday, I was discussing the consequences of getting married to two friends: one is an eligible bachelor and the other is an eligible spinster. They were both non-committal about it.

I have been thinking about it. The point is that we lead complex lives. We really don’t know what we want and what we do not. Therefore, our own needs and expectations are complex and layered. We crave for change, but are scared of it too.

I have been involved with some emotionally in the past. I am an emotional person. These emotional flings and relationships have helped me immensely to understand dynamics of courtship that never ends in a marriage.

As you get know people better their real side comes to the fore. And that real side may be very different from your initial estimate, both for the better and the worse.

Sometimes, it is not good to know them the way they turn out to be. And you regret that you now know them the way you do. Some are egomaniacal. They cannot take rejections. They do not want others to decide for them. But they want to play God in their partner’s life. They are therefore looking for partners who they can boss around with. And such relationship ends in a no; the rejection comes from weaker partner. And the rejected, who is used to playing God, cannot deal with the fact that it is a mortal who gets to reject. It is not rejection, but who rejected causes the real pang.

They need a companionship, not necessarily a relationship. But they will deny it to themselves, simply because they feel good being pampered by someone, after a rather blunt rejection: stay away! They feel that they need to inflict pain on others to do justice to their own afflictions caused by a rejection. I feel pity that they will never get what they aspire for because it is not based on parity; in the process lose that they may have now.

Emotions are strange. They give you wrong signals. They make you believe in things that are not true; they make saint appear monster and monsters as someone you should bleed your heart for. But, then, when you get close enough you realise what a disaster you were heading for. It is revealed that person you have attached with is overburdened by past, so much so, that every day of life in future will be coloured and dimmed and sad and layered and calculative and jealous and artificial and in a constant mode of denial. And on bed they are a miserable failure, it feels like carving a logwood. And then you are awakened. And rescued.

But then there is a positive side of the story as well. There are times that you take people for granted at your own peril. And you realise with time what a big disaster it was to lose them. The complex interaction of mind and heart make you do strange things. So as matter of practice, to deliver me from the evil of layered existence and making life miserable and painful by denying thing that one needs the most, I have decided that in the matters of heart, I will apply my mind to minimum possible.

The best way to do this is to be true to your emotions, say what you feel. And that’s it. There is a need for a direct heart to heart interaction with people who do not carry enormous burden of the past. Will I find one?

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Mortality and the Myth of Osama

Nothing succeeds like success; nothing fails like failure. That is again shown by brilliantly carried out operation by US Navy’s Seal-team 6 to kill, capture and submit Osama’s body to the sea. This with it ended the goriest chapter in the history of Islamic terror, so far.

Osama was living in a three-floor mansion in the heart of Pakistani military establishment for last five years, would confine himself to just few secured rooms. While he was resting here, the US was spending billions of dollars to nab him.

He had become a mythical figure. He had a strong presence in his absence. There was no confirmation whether he was dead or alive. The buzz emanated from Afganistan in 2002, fuelled by Pakistani establishment, that he suffers from chronic renal problem. It was made to believe that if he is not already dead, he would die soon courtesy to kidney failure. But the raiding Seal-team 6 found him with his ‘nth’ wife. Like most facts about him, his renal disease also seems mythical.

So when the myth was cleared-a mortal, helpless Osama appeared who tamely fell to the American bullets. Now what survives is a prolonged debate again fuelled by lack of information or contradictory information: what happened in those 40 minutes of American raid on most wanted terrorist of the world given asylum in Pakistan? Debate range from whether Osama could have been captured alive; to legality of American operation on Pakistani soil; to Pakistan vouching that they have an army that can retaliate to cause 'terrible catastrophe'; to India claiming that they can do what Americans just did; to Americans asserting that if need be such an operation can happen again.

But this particular act is done. The mortality of Osama had the last laugh over his myth. Pakistan could do nothing, at least the ‘state-actors’. The ‘non state-actors’ seem to be gearing up to act. But they as of now are occupied with the succession battle in Al-Qaida.

I refrain from being judgemental as reality is not black and white, but manifests itself in complex mix of shades of grey. But i will say this: Osama most gloriously represented the dark influence of negativity and destruction. He caused phobia in the minds of Americans (and the rest of the First World) who were till then rest assured in their misplaced sense of security that comes with perceived invincibility. 9/11 shattered this myth.

A huge chunk of Muslim feel wronged and insulted by the West, even those who live in the West. It is an explosive grievance they carry. This sense of being wronged has to be addressed. Or else there will be many Obamas revenging many Osamas in the future. May peace prevail? But peace that follows violence seethes with anger. Worried.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Will Osama death fume Jihadis to act?

Will Osama death fume Jihadis to act?

The thing that bugs me about the Osama killing by Obama forces is that it might be given religious colour. Islamic clerics are already hinting at it. Obama clarifies that it is not a war against Muslim religion as he knows that’s how it will be interpreted by the disgruntled. I agree with James Kirk Wall, Author of Agnosticism The Battle Against Shameless Ignorance, that Osama bin Laden was an absolute embarrassment to all decent Muslims.

A friend of mine made an important point that Osama was in the hiding for years. He was at best a ceremonial head of Al-Qaeda with no real powers to cause another similar or smaller 9/11 kind of an attack on the developed world. He would be traced if he dare make a call on a satellite phone; that explains why there was no communication devise in his mansion of hiding. So in real terms there is no big loss or gain in his death.

Whether in his death Osama has flared up the jihadis outfits remains to be seen. Most of the Muslim fundamentalists are not for hitting out. But these micro terror outfits that operate as modules all across the world, engaging local youth, are a reason of worry. They draw their inspiration from Al-Qaeda’s notoriety and achievement of causing widespread destruction in New York and Washington DC.

To them Osama’s death is a reason to act. When emotions flare up in this fashion, these miscreants look for easy targets. So I guess Americans, Europeans, in that order, would run a risk in Muslim dominated parts of the world. It just remains to be seen how, when and where they strike. US today closed its consulates in the Pakistani cities of Karachi, Peshawar and Lahore to the general public until further notice.

The sorry fact of the matter is that it is far easier to destroy. It needs just few committed men to cause twin WTC towers collapse like a pack of cards in few minutes. It took millions of hours of human labour for years to build them. So we should as a matter of rule never underestimate the destructive power of the terror-mongers. But we should not get paranoid about it either. It pays to be cautious.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama dead gives life to Obama's presidency

So much is already written, so much will be written about how Obama’s men killing Osama. This ended perhaps the longest and the most expensive manhunt in the history. This will secure Obama a second term as President.

Pakistan has a lot of explaining to do. Osama was living in a mansion not far from Islamabad for last five years. It is hard to believe no one who matters in Pakistan knew about it. The government or the ISI had no role to play is improbable. It never was a secret that Pakistan was a safe heaven to one of the most dreaded terrorists in the world. Now with the death of Osama in the heart of the country, near a military base, has exposed Pakistan like never before.

The question is: will Pakistan still be the key ally in war against terror? The government of Pakistan says, and predictably so, that they have no role to play in this operation. Retired generals who have the know-how say that such operations could not hve happened without the support of insiders. Already, there is news of a Pakistani army captain participating in the operation that killed Osama by shooting one bullet each in his eye sockets.

There is a lot of hope now: Dawood will meet the same fate soon, as he too lives in a mansion in Karachi.

I wonder what made Pakistan change its mind and allow America kill Osama after protecting him for ten long years despite enormous pressure. Some kind of pro quid quo?

The American establishment all over the world is on the high alert. Islamabad is no high alert. My flatmate travelling to Rampur was advised to return back to Delhi. What repercussion would follow is anybody’s guess. But the tension is in the air.

It is an end of an era of terror mongering, a good new for the timebeing.

Failed love long lost

There was a great desire for someone.
The desire not fulfilled,
There was no future,
only caused heartburn.

I don’t believe it is happening to me,
Why is this happening to me?
There is no logic here,
There is so much better else where.
But I want this badly,
Love is blind,
is mad, too
Emotions are foolish,
It has made me vulnerable.

But in this state of being vulnerable,
I am falling in a pit less hole,
With pitiless,
Or just alone,
But I am enjoying it,
The feeling is exhilarating,
And intense,
And it feels good to be connected,
To your own self,
To be true to your feelings.
It is a good phase,
That brings joy,
So experience the joy
The present moment joy
And not colour it with the demands of reason.
It is when you are vulnerable
That you know you are not.
It is when you are vulnerable,
A new you is revealed to you.
And I am happy with what I am doing,
And I am happy with what I am not doing.
I am in control,
And out of it, too.
I am high,
and low.
But I am true to my emotions,
It has made me vulnerable,
also made me strong.

But reason comes to me rushing,
When I am mesmerised by my emotions.
It jolts me to say:
Wake up!
Why with inert?
Don’t sow a fallow land,
Whatever you may give,
It will not reap.
It is a myth.
A fantasy,
That fails in reality, miserably.
You are running after nothing,
You will get nothing.

I feel sad for my desire.
My desire is unfortunate,
Is dead to life,
Can’t feel desire,
Vision is clouded,
And burden is immense,
Subtle joys that come in simple packages,
Get crushed in that burden,
And then what is left is vacuum,
Where there is nothing that soothes,
The emptiness bites,
Alone and morose,
Denial is not bliss,
Denied gets dimmed.

I am for light.
Will not seek light in the heart of darkness.
I am rescued.
Am I?
I am.
God is kind.
Always.