Monday, February 11, 2013

Attack on Sovereignty, Democracy.. anyway pffft?

Afzal Guru has been hanged for his role in Parliament attack case. Without fair trial claim many legal experts and their opinion is repeated in top newspapers in their reports and in editorials which describe it as a 'political execution'. I really am not in a position to take a stand on that but the fact is he was hanged, the govt chose to inform the State CM over phone the previous day itself but disregarding all tools of modern communication it opted to send speed post to the family with the information perhaps that the head of the family would be sent to the gallows on such and such a day and at such hours. I wonder who would have thought of this brilliant idea? May be the team will get PM's award come next April 21st! 
While reading about the execution I could not help recalling the execution of Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru and Sukh Dev.  This link shows the front page of a newspaper day after the execution of the trio. What striking similarities! Is it very strange that whatever happened to Afzal guru was the same thing that happened to those three. I am not comparing those three with Afzal Guru. I am comparing how the ruling government dealt with the executions, then and now. Post-independence Bhagat Singh & Co became freedom fighters but for the rulers who passed the verdict they were perhaps just murderers and anti-social elements, a threat to the law and order. 
Bhagat Singh dropped bomb in the central Assembly hall of the Parliament to 'make the deaf hear'. That was the motive. The attack which actually never happened on December 13, 2001 was intended for what purpose, God only knows. I really doubt that a bunch of five men with one IED loaded car believed that they could reduce Parliament to rubble with a single strike.
The government allowed the hanging of a man for his role in attack on Parliament, which houses nearly 250 MPs facing criminal charges because it was a treason and it was an attack on country's sovereignty hence needed to be given the highest punishment for the 'collective satisfaction of people'.  Is our sovereignty embedded in a century old structure? While the things that define our country like land, water, mountains, forest are simply exploited/eroded to satisfy man's 'corporate greed' right under the nose and eyes and may be covertly facilitated by the Government. 
One of the most blood boiling chapters in our history reading years for me was Dadabhai Naoroji's 'Drain Theory',  Poverty and un-British Rule in India, and how India was systematically and continuously bled of its wealth and resources. Britishers were outsiders/colonisers and may be they were expected to plunder and drain India of its wealth. But what happens to the country if its own people turn in to marauders? The looting is omnipresent. The loot is happening directly in all sectors and indirectly under the guise of myriad of welfare schemes. You will only have to see denuded areas in many mining regions across the country in AP,Karnataka, Orissa,MP, Kerala etc for iron ore/coal/thorium etc. Not a day passes without some report of some real estate scam or some other scam in which either centre or state governments are directly or indirectly involved. 
And this Government hanged Afzal Guru for his role in the aborted attack on Parliament, India's symbol of sovereignty while wearing proudly this symbol, those inside are shredding to pieces the whole and the leftovers without any vision, without a thought for the posterity. May be posterity will have to just do with sovereignty while the country is again in the hands of rulers!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Flight of death

It scurried over my

feet, as I sat

Pondering over what
To ponder.
The Cockroach came from,
I was not sure where

But I watched its flurried

Movement from one end
To another wondering why.

The trouble started when

It showed it could fly

And fluttered right in my face.

I thought then

The creature is creeping me out,

So had to be gotten rid of.

The question of how

Was answered by the
Bottle of spray.

The tiny thing probably sensing
the impending

Doom slipped into a crevice. 

Not giving up I sprayed the spray
around the hole.

In the morning when I saw its

Upturned body, I said

If only you had not taken wings.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

eReading and eHearing

Are we letting the technology run our lifes? Are we sprucing up ourselves, thinking and voicing our thoughts in such a way that in the virtual world we have many a friend? We play with playstations. We sing with karaoke. We read on Kindle. We replaced pen with keyboard. We share info via social media. We protest via social media. So are we embracing technology just a little too much? This is the question that came to my mind after reading this article about ebooks. If you read this paragraph, then you can decide whether my question has any merit or its just a  babble of a paranoid, techno-illiterate person.
In an effort to underline the uniqueness of the physical book, many publishing houses have begun placing more emphasis on well-designed books — at least for the most prominent literary books on their list. It’s just a matter of time before publishing houses start exploring the many – and unusual – possibilities of ebook design. There are already sites that release editions of Rushdie and Garcia Marquez novels with sound effects, and some of the indie publishing houses are focusing on creative typography, understanding instinctively that the ebook also opens up possibilities that the plain printed page can’t match.
Books with sound effects? Incredible. What next? Would digital books in future carry instead of just illustrations visual effects? Or better still, the story acted out by the best and the worst of the film and tele-industry? That way you won't have to work up your mind constructing the people, the place described by the writer. Just imagine reading God of Small Things on Kindle with all the Kerala scenery duly picturised for you, and may be sponsored by the tourism department of the God's Own Country and the traditional Kathakalai all night performances so richly described by Ms Roy in the story of among other things, the twins, who among other things, break love laws. Do you like the idea? But I wonder how these over-zealous publishers would be able to give you the smell and the taste of Kerala that she so masterfully turned in to words? Or they will put ebook of GWTW along with the film version as a package to woo readers. Methinks generally movie version of any good novel is never as good as the novel. This includes GWTW.    
I should admit that I have not read a full length digitised novel or any bulky book though I am not against it. Short stories, yes. Essays, yes. Short fiction of about 50-75 pages, yes. But not a novel. So I don't know the feel of it. I know it would be very convenient to carry them around while travelling. Only reason I have not yet completed Guha's IAG is because its so huge and hence one cannot carry it around. You have to put it on a table and read it like old people read Bhagavad gita placed on that, I don't know what its called, small reading desk kind of a thing. So in such cases ebooks will definitely help. But if it comes with sound effects/visual effects and may be arguments and counterarguments about things stated in the book then it would not be fun. Because you will end up as just a receiver in the end. When you read any thing you usually undergo what the writer himself might have undergone while writing it i.e visualise the content wherever possible and necessary. And also start a dialogue with the writer in your mind, which is a good thing in my opinion. But if the ebook offers you everything then it puts an end to that process. Anyway everything has its own merits and demerits. Its for us to choose. But then what I found inconvenient about reading digitised thing is that you cannot easily mark or make a note alongside whatever you are reading. It requires effort. May be Kindle has already come out with something to solve this problem. I don't know. 

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Books, Music and Movies

Last night I woke up around 1.30 in the morning to the music of 'Rockstar'. For a few seconds I thought I was dreaming. It’s a bit incongruous because my house is nestled amidst thick mallu neighbourhood who hardly speak Hindi. But the loud ‘ya yaa yeah, Jo bhi main’ blaring from I don’t know where exactly, left no doubt in the mind.  I thought the person, whoever was it, must be like Amitabh Bachchan’s character in 'Milli'!. Tamilians generally don't seem to accept that greatness can exist beyond their borders. Unlike Tamilians absence of love for the language has not made Mallus unreceptive to Hindi film music. That I knew before because some of the Mallu movies I have so far watched have lot of Hindi movie references and people I have interacted here actually know their Rafi from Manna Dey! Then again I also didn’t know much Hindi but knew quite a few things about movies and music.
So following the vedic tradition and changing it to the circumstances I thought ‘let the music come from all sides’. Isn’t life all about books, music and movies? What would I be without them? These are the things that you and you alone can do and get full load of pleasure depending on nothing else. They create a whole new world for you and from there all other things in life look so insignificant and pointless. So paraphrasing Descartes, instead of I think, therefore I am, we should say I read, I listen and I watch therefore I am *.  That got me thinking about my kind of music. I am a sucker for film music based on classical music. In that department contribution of gultis is the most significant IMO.  I think the gultis as a community should get a Phalke award for taking film music to greater heights. If film music enjoys as much respect in the books of art connoisseurs as that of classical I think Gultis are solely responsible for that. Example for that is this orgasm inducing Ghantasala song Shivashankari which whenever I listen to never fails to leave me quivering like a leaf in the wind. It has everything. Music is simply mindblowing.I know of no other song which can or has surpassed the excellence of this song. I am no authority on carnatic/hindustani classical music. But songs like these make me regret that I never took serious interest when we, like all other kids of our age, were pushed to sangeeta classes.
I wonder why Ghantasala or many other noted music directors and singers of south India were never considered for Phalke award. I was just going through the list of award winners since it was instituted in 1969, the list is so skewed towards bollywood people especially actors that its a shame that its called a National award. I mean recognising playback singers is alright but only if they contributed significantly towards music. I mean, both Lata and Asha figure in the list and you have not recognised those who contributed significantly to the music and because of whom the cinema or the music got another facet such as Kaifi Azmi, Gulzar, K Vishwanath, Ghantasala,Adinarayana etc., I really do not understand why the actors should get Phalke award. They do what the directors tell them to do, they bring the Director's vision to reality. Just because of that should they be given the highest award in cinema? I have my reservations on that. No doubt, Dilip Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Dev Anand are tremendous actors. So are all the actors of that generation. Somehow it does not seem okay to me.  
* I would be really furious if someone were to say I facebook and I tweet therefore I am!
PS: I debated including sports in the list but decided against it since even if you are playing alone say squash, chess or even solitaire what you get in the end is sense of accomplishment like 'I did' kind of feeling. But the pleasure that you get from good literature, music and movies is deeper.  

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Familiar Stranger/The Act of Evaporation

If 1=5
   5= ??
Water is on the Heater
          When do you feel close to a person? Is it really necessary to know a person to know him/her? Have you never warmed up to a character created by somebody who may not be of your country or even time also? Have you never wondered how come you are so similar to the person you are reading about? Have you never run your fingers over the few lines that touched you deeply and clutched the book and whispered ‘wow’ to yourself? Is physical proximity essential to feel that intimacy, the kind of intimacy where you are sure you know all about him/her even without having met even once? Have you never shared the emotions, feelings of a person you are reading? Don’t you get intimate this way. 
           I know from the smile on your face that you think I am crazy to think like that and you will also deny that my words brought you to me. But I know that, you think you know everything about me because you have read every single thing I have ever written. And I know that you walked across the bridge constructed with my words to reach me.
Water starts boiling.
          There can be nothing bizarre or funnier than meeting of two strangers who are sure that they know everything about each other. That’s what I thought when we first met. You came to me with a perfect idea of me in your head and how could I deny you the pleasure of that knowledge and familiarity. I was amused that you got carried away. I was happy that I had touched that unknown chord which even you did not know existed in you. I reveled in my power and I liked you for wanting to make me happy. Your eagerness to be mine in no way created distance.    
Water continues to boil but less and less remains
        It feels as if its been ages since the first time I took you in. I look at your face. The dent left by the spectacles on the bridge of your nose catches my eye. And I don’t want to look in to your eyes. I do not  want to read the questions or the accusations in them.  I turn away so that you can escape staring in to a blank, dark abyss.
        Perhaps now you have realized that me and my creation are different.  I am not what I created. The pale, colorless skin tells me that the knowledge has frozen your heart.
With continuous pressure all of the liquid water has turned to vapor, visible for a fleeting moment.
*Did you say 25 to the puzzle? Its logical, isn’t it? But take another look. Do you still think it is 25? Okay, may be you are right, but don’t you think 1 can also be the right answer.  Ummm, Check the first line once again. Hope you got it. We train our mind to work logically, see reason in everything we do but I guess there can be multiple answers to the same question. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why the 'Lift' music never rocks?

Have you wondered why those who get to choose music for elevators always select slow and often only instrumental music? Why not some heavy metal stuff or rock music or punju drum beats. Why not actual songs since people who are 'lifted' up and 'lifted' down are not actually having some serious conference. Then again I think it is even wrong to suppose that songs would disturb people and not instrumental music. Is there any empirical study which states something like that? If not, why people do not play songs or music with fast beats in 'Lifts'. Slow and melodius music  is supposed to relax people. May be thats the intention. But don't you think it can be counterproductive. I mean, people like me might actually take whatever one listens to in the elevator for the entire day. And what if it starts to influence the pace of my work also. Imagine after listening to slow jazz in the elevator I do whatever little I do in the office in slow motion! I would require five year plans to adhere to RFD. Thank God, there's no lift in my office, I have to climb the age-old cement stairs!

Primal Cry

       "Those who think that there is no connection between corruption in public life, the growing crime in society, the restlessness and discontent in family life, the atmosphere of indiscipline in the studend world, the films depicting amorous dances and songs, the growing admixture of sex and love life, social indifference to vice, in fact the tendency to justify certain trends from half backed authority from some science, or the degeneration of human mind are indeed fortunate. But God has not included me among them. I am unfortunate. I think that all these evil trends in society are branches of the same poison ivy. The fast moving life, making a robot of man, is feeding this ivy"
Do you think this is some octogenarian unable to accept the fast pace of modern India in the 21st century ranting about it? If you did, you are wrong. This is an excerpt from Introduction to Jnanpith award winning book/novel Yayati by V S Khandekar written in 1959(1)!! The original is in marathi, translation by Y P Kulkarni(2) is about 250 pages and is titled 'Yayati; A classic tale of lust'. Well, I didn't find it really as a story of lust. Khandekar’s Yayati is centred around man's longing for the unknown, appeal to the unknown. Khandekar is too kind to King Yayati. Here King Yayati is not totally consumed by his carnal quests. He also wonders, worries about those 'great questions' that sages also worry and do penance to find an answer. While reading it I thought the book is more about Yayati’s Primal cry to fill the vacuum that he feels inside himself but finds it unfillable, because it gets emptied in spite of whatever and howmuchever varied efforts he makes than about his indulgence.
Who does not know about Yayati's story? The story or rather the beginning of the story was part of our non-detail Sanskrit text book in High school(3).
Khandekar's Yayati is quite different from whatever remains of the story I had in my head. I thought King Yayati had too many sons and out of the many, only one accepts 'youth exchange offer' and hence gains the love and also the kingdom. If you want to read about Khandekar’s Yayati you can read it here.
May be it was just a coincidence that I read this novel while in Delhi last week. May be that god-awful city(4) made me interpret King Yayati's profligacy as a cry for release. I don't know. I have never screamed in my life. So I have this fascination for music which kind of echoes my unscreamed scream. Music of Enigma, which apparently used a lot of Gregorian chants, many songs of A R Rahman especially those with a touch of Sufi and several ragas such as  Malkauns, darbari, bhairavi, des and the film songs based on them so touchingly depict man’s inner’s struggle and strife. Whenever somebody says its a primal cry we normally associate it with unrestrained, unfettered tribal scream. But I think its a wrong association. Archimedes' Eureka scream is also primal so is Caesar's proclamation 'veni, vidi, vici'. There was this movie, 'Sur' which got released some years ago, may be a decade, which sort of focused on music. It was a watchable movie. I liked it, not just because it was about a teacher and a student! Two songs from the movie 'jaane kya doond tha hai di' and 'Kabhi shaam dhale' are my favourites and you can count it as examples for the primal cry as well, even though the first song is more of a musing than a cry. 
(1) This makes me wonder whether its the habit of those who cannot indulge, splurge to criticise and put the blame for everything that goes wrong in the world on those who can!
(2) I think its an abridged translation of the original. And its not a good translation, more often than not you feel that its not flowing smoothly, that its forced. 
(3) Now when I think about it, I wonder why it was called non-detailed text. Really it does not make any sense. I have forgotten in which class we had that as our text book but all I remember is, when after the lesson, our teacher told the entire story and asked us what we understood from the story, one of the boys had said one should never offer a right hand to a girl!! 
(4) Delhi has changed said a colleague and urged me to explore New Delhi doubly made new with CWG money. I felt the city looked new but like a woman who looks fresh and younger with the help of botox. One of the images from Delhi of 10 years ago that refuses to go is of a small singing girl (5) who ran after a bus in centre delhi while I was waiting for 522 to take me to Malviyanagar. Those days Delhi had those infamous blue line buses, I guess they are off the roads now. The bus driver slowed down and as soon as that small girl holding ektara and towing another small boy along with her neared the slowing down bus, he pressed the accelerator and fled. The face of that small girl and the conductor who stood grinning on the footboard is still so fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday. The girl was stunned for few seconds but without making much fuss merrily returned to the bus-stop. But I was angry and hurt.
(5) Whatever happened to those vagabonds who used to sing popular bollywood songs in buses? May be like Rajiv Gandhi who asked Bangalore Municipality to throw out monkeys for beautifying city for SAARC Summit, Delhi also did away with those singing nomads.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Presumptive reasoning

This article titled ‘Missing from the Indian Newsroom’ published in the The Hindu yesterday is nothing less of moronic piece of senseless prattle. The article is written to establish ‘The media's failure to recruit Dalits is a betrayal of the constitutional guarantees of equality and fraternity’. To put it briefly the writer (1) argues that in 1992 he didn’t see any dalit in any of the media rooms and the situation is no different now. That Dalit absence is a calamity and its presence should be encouraged basically for three reasons, a) it’s a constitutional promise, b) varied coverage by dalits would mitigate the resentment of people who are ignored and discriminated against and c) I just could not figure it out. Please be my guest and tell me whats the third reason he is trying to convey. Anticipating the arguments 'Good journalists, regardless of caste, cover stories objectively' or 'Quotas and reservations are the bane of modern India — only ability counts,' he counter argues citing India’s nationalist experience when the national newspapers such as The Hindu, Amrita Bazar Patrika and Hindustan Times came in to being because Indians were not satisfactorily represented in The Statesman and the Times of India. Then he suggests that, I hope I have understood it correctly, newsrooms should fix targets to achieve equality of representation and that Dalits should have their own media to voice their opinion. And finally concludes that until there is diversity on television screens and printed pages, the promises of the Constitution will be unfulfilled, unthinking prejudice will persist and simmering resentment will grow. Media diversity is a matter of national self-interest as well as justice. I found the entire article basically faulty and completely unnecessary. 
I just don’t understand why the issue of representation of various sections in an institution like media should be raked up in the first place. If you really think, may be, it is needed to understand the undercurrent of Indian social politics then why leave out health, education, police etc. We should also know how many dalit doctors are there, how many dalit teachers are there etc. Journalists are journalists. Why should we talk about Brahmin journalist, Khatri journalist or a dalit journalist. It is odious. Already media has acquired political and religious colours. And now you want to add another shade. To what purpose, my dear friend, I would ask. 
Okay, now coming to his statement ‘The media's failure to recruit Dalits is a betrayal of the constitutional guarantees of equality and fraternity’. Where has the author established media’s failure in recruiting Dalits? Its not as if the media organisations have been asking candidates to state who they are and deliberately screening dalits and picking only the upper strata. If dalits are not there, they are not there (2). The problem may be on the supply side. Why put the burden of guilt on media. 
Now of the three reasons he has stated for arguing that dalit absence in media as a calamity I will talk about only two because as I told you earlier the third reason I just could not figure it out, its kind of lost in the maze of empty words. It is against the constitutional promise of equality and fraternity, says the writer. How, I am unable to understand. As I said earlier if the media rooms are deliberately avoiding dalit presence then its discriminatory and against Constitution. Constitution does not mandate everyone to ensure equality by ensuring equal presence of all sections. My understanding of right to equality is absence of discrimination based on caste, creed, religion, gender, sex. Hence, to say absence of dalits in media rooms is against constitutional rights, one has to establish first discrimination based on any one of those categories (3). The second reason he has given is that varied coverage by dalits would mitigate the resentment of people who are ignored and discriminated against. I really cannot help but laugh at this argument. Women in India are not a whole empowered lot. You think by watching all those women in media studios, the women out there struggling day in and day out, would feel less resentment against the society which does not give equal wages, good food etc? Well, I don’t think so. If you argue that the increased number of women in the studios can talk more freely about women issues, then we need a thorough study to establish a correlation. Because there is always a difference between ‘can’ and ‘will’ and final outcome. Then the writer talks about how today’s main national dailies came about. Yes, may be those great men with vision started newspapers because they were not satisfied with the state of affairs. The mistake the writer makes here is attributing lack of representation as a reason to start Indian newspapers, which I think is wrong. Representation was I think not the issue. It was the media space for the Indian cause relating to self governance. It would be nothing less of absolute lunacy to compare absence of dalits in media rooms today and absence of Indians in pre-independence era in the media rooms. His suggestions for increasing dalit representation are as faulty as his reasons provided for viewing the absence as a disaster. Even though there is nothing wrong in starting a media set up to voice its issues concerning a particular community and many have already done that. A journalist covers all issues with an open mind. If you argue that a dalit would give a better insight to problem related to dalits and hence he should be given adequate representation, you will be creating whole different set of order. It would not stop there. You will have to look at other sections starting with hindus, muslims, Christians, sexual minorities, physically challenged, visually challenged and also mentally challenged. Every man is an island. He feels the need that he should voice his opinion in the media. Hence the popularity of Citizen Journalism, me thinks! 
(1) Who is Prof Robin Jeffrey any way? He does not even have a wiki entry for his name. All google throws up is some not so relevant pages and images which includes a guy strumming on the guitar!
(2) I honestly cannot believe that there is not a single dalit or SC or ST in media. They are, for sure,there in the Government media such as Doordarshan and All India Radio. But in private media,there are several columnists starting with Dr.Kancha Illaiah who write about Dalit issues. At least in vernacular national media I think they have presence. Atleast in Kannada media I knew some journalists who did not belong to the upper strata of the society. I have seen so many north eastern faces on so many channels I suspect they do belong to Scheduled Tribe category.
(3) Probably it would be easier to establish absence of sexual minorities in main stream media and discrimination if at all its there. Yeah, am thinking of Philadelphia!

When fiction becomes reality

When I wrote this fiction piece, I had this blog in my mind. I have been following this blog since 2006. I never wanted to put it under the blogs I follow because, you know women are neurotic. The guy is good. He is too good and a genius. And like all geniuses a perfectionist.  His writing is logical, beautiful, touches you in more than one way. I can guarantee that if there is any set standard for creative writing, his writing belongs to the highest standard. Only thing I felt that his writing lacks, which even as I am trying to type my heart and mind is rejecting it out rightly as abstract, rubbish and also untrue, is soul. No, not exactly that. May be he is too hung-up about being perfect and logical in his thought processes, expression and such other things. But you know what I think, there is a different kind of beauty in things which are not logical, which do not follow any set of rules and which do not confirm to a standard. I am not saying writing about implausible and improbable things as if they are possible. But, it’s a cliché which I hate use, but nevertheless use it in this context, one has to think out of the box. You know if one admires Shakespeare and Kafka it does not mean that one has to write like them. It would be foolish. I thought that’s what was wrong with Philip Roth books. This guy, I mean Falstaff with his enormous talent, I hope, develops a unique writing style and unique way of narrating fiction. Imitation is best left to people like us.
It has been my ardent effort to turn this blog somewhat like that blog and think and write like Falstaff. You see, imitation is the best form of flattery. Of course most of the posts on this blog are just plain crap but there are some posts which I have genuinely enjoyed. Anyway Falstaff has stopped posting and locked comment section which brought a smile to my face, because I had not anticipated that when I wrote my fictional piece. Anyway, Go, explore and have fun.