Tag Archives: India

Bombay of mine, thank you for you.

So! On the 17th day of January, I decided to kick off with the Number 1 thing on my Bucket list for the year. I booked a ticket for the very next day, on the train to Bombay!
The 1.5 days I spent there were a crazy fest of amazing food, friends, family,barely any sleep, warmth and memories!

Its difficult to talk or write about Bombay simply because I am so aware of my bias to the city I call home, where I know I will always belong but probably would not want to go back to live in. Walking down familiar paths with old friends and breathing in the sea-breeze, it felt like the easiest and most natural thing to be there with those very people. It was so wonderful to be able to talk about things to a friend who knows you since you were 3 and someone who has seen you through all the masks and facades you put up until there were no more left, and knows you for real. and accepts, and embraces and loves. you. There was no need to give a context or explain a story, it all just came from the knowledge of growing up together, in the same little town where most people knew eachother, and lived as a community, with its small failings, and small victories.

I met exactly the people I would meet if I had a limited time in my hometown and the one person I would love to meet but hadn’t made a plan with, I bumped into her on the street although she doesn’t live there anymore either! I ate exactly all that I would have eaten and have been missing.

I had several realizations in the hours I spent there, some whilst sober and other not, which I would like to put down here.
1. Every person from Bombay is an AMAZING dancer of the street ghaati/Ganpati visarjan style. (Look at the little boy in purple going for it here to know what I mean!) I keep forgetting that in Delhi where I have no company for it!

2. Into the Wild should be the next book I add to my reading list. Heard Eddie Vader belting out Society in a room full of happy people and realized that I am someone who likes to live on teh edge or outside of society and thats the kind of people I end up making friends with. hmmm

3. I live intensely in the moment. In the night I spent in Lonavla, for most of the night, I din’t remember or think about a single thing outside of the exact minute I was in, There was no past, no future.

4. A thought about my current partner or the fact that I have one, passed my mind for the first time in the night at 1.30am. I wonder if thinking about someone you think/claim you love  after a gap of four and a half hours is normal. How are people supposed to be in love if they are supposed to be any one way at all?!

5. I love Pav Bhaji, and it will always be my number one favourite dish.

I am glad this is how 2014 has started. I am feeling at peace and yet all the atoms that make me are going crazy bouncing off eachother. Thats what Bombay does to me. Its my medicine and my bane. I love it there.

Also just realized that I haven’t been doing much from the rest if my bucket list, oops! Signing off, here’s a song dedicated to Bombay and its warm showers.  Bombay Rain, I think of you often.

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A question of atrocities

Ashis Nandy’s recent allegedly anti-Dalit remark during a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival, which led to legal procedures against him, has begun an array of exchanges in his support as well as against him, in the media, academic and political circles. It is this attention given to this social psychologist writer’s remark due to his ‘eminent’ position in certain spheres that has escalated this incident to a controversy. To understand the various commentaries and to be able to take a stance on the issue, it is necessary to understand the order of events and excavate the meaning of all that has been said.

It was on 26th January, during a panel discussion at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013, titled ‘Republic of Ideas’ where five men from various fields were exchanging ideas about India, its present and future. The conversation soon turned towards the topic of corruption when Ashis Nandy pitched the idea of nepotism also being a form of corruption, but not being recognized as such. This allowed the powerful and rich to hide their corruption, while incriminating the poor who indulge in corruption. He also said that corruption made our society more humane. In response to this, Tarun Tejpal, the editor of Tehelka and one of the panellists, deemed corruption to be an equaliser since it is a means for the underprivileged to subvert the structure of society and improve their condition. At this point, with a prior warning that he was about to utter something “vulgar” and “undignified”, Ashis Nandy said, “It is a fact that most of the corrupt come from the OBCs and the scheduled castes and now increasingly scheduled tribes and as long as this is the case, Indian republic will survive”. Nandy followed up these words citing West Bengal as an example where nobody from the SC/ST or OBC community has reached any position of power in the last 100 years. At the same time, it is also one of the least corrupt states in the country. By this he implied that since they don’t indulge in monetary corruption, people from these backward communities have not arrived at powerful positions although nepotism among the privileged allowed them to continue holding zenithal statuses.

Ashis Nandy making a point

Despite his seemingly pro-Dalit example about West Bengal, Nandy’s previous and now oft-quoted words had already sparked the ire of his co-panellist Ashutosh Srivastava, Managing Editor of IBN7. He protested saying that this was the most bizarre statement he had heard and that this was the typical perception about Dalits held by the elite. Ashutosh’s objection was met by some supportive applause from the audience after which there was a question-answer round before the session ended and the audience dispersed. In a few hours, a group of people led by Rajpal Meena, Chairperson of the SC/ST Rajasthan Manch, began a protest outside the venue demanding Nandy’s arrest for slurring the Dalit community. Soon, TV channels were displaying a clip only of him making the particular statement that the protestors claimed was proof of his anti-Dalit attitude, in a loop and out of context. This escalated the issue and soon a police complaint under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities Act) Section 3 (x) was filed against Ashis Nandy. Although such a complaint demands immediate arrest, Nandy left the Jaipur Literature Festival premises from a back route and drove to Delhi. While no arrest was made despite four FIRs being filed against him in different parts of the country, the Supreme Court issued a stay order on the arrest of the accused writer on 1st February 2013.

In the meantime, Ashis Nandy produced a statement clarifying what he meant by his statement at the festival and that it was, infact, not anti-Dalit. This was reiterated by a still-growing number of his supporters from the media, academic and intellectual circles, via articles, petitions and even an Ashis Nandy solidarity blog. Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Karan Thapar and many others raised the argument of the freedom of speech and expression being a constitutional right for all Indians and that we have become an intolerant people to not respect this right and listen to someone’s opinion. Many others like Lawrence Liang and Ritu Bhatia felt that ‘Ashis da’ deserved better and that all his past writing is proof that his heart is in the right place and that he has infact always been a supporter of Dalit upliftment. Others like Ali Khan Mahmudabad attributed this anti-Nandy protest to be a result of manipulation by politicians who have twisted the meaning of his words for identity based vote-bank politics. Many also agreed that Ashis Nandy’s words and manner of phrasing his thoughts was too obtuse and thus, easily misunderstood his idea of associating corruption with caste in India, which haven’t been linked before. These are largely true and strong arguments brought up by his supporters, however, I find reason in the arguments put forward by those disapproving of his action. In an open letter to Ashis Nandy, Kancha Ilaiah, Director for the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, pointed out that labelling SC/ST/OBCs as corrupt to equalise them with the upper castes is not justified because the latter indulge in corruption as well as exploitation. Another argument pitched by S. Anand of Navayana Publications is that Nandy has dismissed the agency of Dalits by implying that even in corruption they are ‘emulating’ the Upper caste people. Urvashi Butalia, who was chairing the panel discussion where the controversial incident occurred, ends her article supporting Nandy, by posing a question. She asks if something derogatory against women is spoken by anyone in public, will anyone protest about it? She speaks too soon when she says there will only be a few feminists protesting, while still abstaining from judicial procedure. In my opinion, if there were adequate laws, the long-oppressed women would have raised their voices in protest and invoked the law.  Dr.K. Satyanarayana also pointed out that all this hype about the issue and the raising of the ‘freedom of speech’ argument is making the Dalits appear as if they are an intolerant community and foreclosing any discussion on their corruption levels by simply stating that they are the more corrupt.

There is indeed no empirical data about the levels of corruption related to castes and communities. In a space like a popular literature festival, Ashis Nandy ought to have weighed his language and articulated his idea in a responsible manner. Throughout this controversy, one can recognize the problem of using words and interpreting their meanings. Ever since Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption movement, the vehement abhorrence for this vice has increased and by accusing a people of being corrupt, Ashis Nandy has stepped on fragile nerves. One also needs to examine the Prevention of Atrocities Act that has been filed against him. The word ‘Atrocity’ is quite a harsh word and one needs to question if by saying something that can be potentially misunderstood and can hurt a Dalit, infront of a large public gathering, he has committed an atrocity. It is apparent in the context of the conversation that the sociologist was not making an anti-Dalit statement, and needn’t hurt or offend anyone, except those on whom he is blowing the whistle. However, I believe that in terms of the law, and in the light of the way that single sentence was used, Ashis Nandy has committed what could be an atrocity towards their life in this country. Someone, who doesn’t understand his meaning and buys into the sentiment that that statement proliferates, could be biased against Dalits which could possibly cost a member of this community job opportunities, food and a humane life. I think the court trial ought to go ahead and the fact that his was not a casteist statement can be proved and established via the judiciary and constitution, thereby maintaining the faith of the people in an Act and a law that has been a tool for their redemption.

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delhi times

I left something in the hills.

This was during the recent trek in the Himalayas. I left something in the hills there. A little joy, a little love, and came back with a promise to return.
May be when I go back next time, I’ll get some of the weather back. Delhi needs it. and I emphasize, Delhi needs it.

I came back here four days back and although its supposed to be monsoon, I have not even seen a drop of water fall from the sky. Not even a bird has pissed down. Who ever in the first place decided that Delhi was a habitable place when they first started settling man. WHO?!! Its terribly hot and humid here and lately, the irritation level has been so high that getting any closer than 2 cms to even your  best friend can result in a sparta like reaction. You know like this-

“Yea we are fucking meeting after more than 2 months but don’t fucking hug me! and if you step any closer, I’ll shower you with my sweat! It’ll be sparta forevuuur!”

Yougaiz, I hope, are in a better place. Is it raining where you are? Sweet blessed warm showers like Bombay? I am longing for the smell of wet earth.  By the way, did you know that there was a word for that lovely smell- its called petrichor.

 

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people getting married

My grandparents are my favourite people in the world. They are also quite deaf and I suspect its my grandma’s habit of watching TV real loud that made him hard of hearing too. When they are around, conversations are funny and repeated four times. We all talk really loudly and the TV volume is further increased and so we all talk more loudly. Even if they want to talk about something secretly, they go to the other room and talk loud enough for us to hear. haha! I love them. Blindly and more than anyone.

Last year, they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. It was on 2nd April, 1951 , a day after April Fool’s  Day ,(my grandfather often jokes about it) that they got married. So 60 years on, we arranged a great party and even had their friends from old times over. Watching them that night, and even now, it struck me that even after so many years of being together, they still have things to say to eachother. They even spend all their time together, so its not as if they are informing eachother about what they did that day. They look out for eachother and truly care. They still fight and crack jokes about eachother to us.  But I know, they would crack without eachother.

 

My grandparents’ wedding photograph, 1951

Their marriage was arranged by their parents and they hadn’t even met before they got married.  And this is how it turned out. On that one day, I felt may be marriages can work. But may be it was just them. May be they wouldn’t have separated even they hated the guts of eachother simply because of societal stigma.  One never knows.

My grandparents of Grandpa’s 80th birthday ceremony

Yet, I am somehow, never lay my hands around the idea of spending the rest of your life with one person. Though I understand the value of companionship, the idea of spending the rest of your life with one person, really scares me. You might say you are in love with him. But I wonder if it won’t fizzle out, won’t you begin to doubt, get bored, get scared or fall in love with someone else? I know that divorce is fairly common and accepted now. However, why would anyone enter a relationship, already anticipating an end and knowing that they have a way out of it?

I read in the news today that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are splitting after 5 years of marriage. Can you beleive it, after he clowned around so much on Oprah. I don’t care about them at all but didn’t they have time earlier to figure out that they don’t get along? Arnold Schwarzernegger and his wife split up after 25 years of marriage because of some illegitimate child he fathered many years back. I know I can in no capacity understand her situation, but I suppose I could forgive some mistake like that. Especially if I have discovered that for 25 years  this person has kept me happy and we can be in the same room, without shattering plates or having the silence shatter us.

Marriage is something I haven’t understood even with the countless movies, famous couples or even with my own family and parents. I don’t know why its necessary to put that tag on your relationship just because society is comfortable with it and thinks it appropriate for you to want it. Even live-in relationships can have everything a marriage has. and have equal chances of failing, ofcourse. Why does an acknowledgement by a governments civil laws or by a religion, make a relationship sacred or more important? I am sure the breaking of any other relationship should be just as painful and important or unimportant.

In India, parents think its their duty to get their children married by the mid-twenties and pay for it too. The whole event or the not timely occurrence of it is a stigma and becomes an over-riding question in the lives of the parents, grandparents, uncles,aunts, neighbours and colleagues. It becomes everyone’s business really.

As my understanding of it stands now, love usually fizzles out. and after that its just habit and fear of the lack of this person, or of loneliness that keeps one going. Marriage usually adds other wheels like children and property to this.  I am not really sure of all these things about relationships are marriages.  But I sure of one thing- that I am afraid to find out the truth.

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My Himalayan Story 2012

I was in the Himalayas this summer. Trekking upto almost 13000 feet, we crossed the Saurkundi pass in the Kullu valley through an expedition organised by the Youth Hostel Association of India. From reporting at the base camp to touching the base camp again after the trek it was 11 days in all.  As we climbed and went to each campsite, nature in all its splendour was revealed to us.

The thing about the Himalayas is that never ceases to amaze you. I have been to the Himalayas before while trekking on another valley, and yet, this time again , I was moved beyond words to see snow-peaked mountains. It’s incredible to see these shimmering white all around, except perhaps a few mountains far across that have black clouds hovering above and are shrouded in fog, and you know that it’s snowing there. The fresh sweet water, the wind whispering tales of where its been, green blades of grass uncrumpled, the kiss of the first few snow drops –  everything resides within me.

The wind is young, the wind is alive.

This time, we were the 15th group to leave from the Saurkundi base-camp at Babeli and were hence called SK15. Quite funnily, my younger brother was chosen the group leader and after two days of acclimatization, we set out for the top.  I have been on such treks before, but what was extraordinary was that 25 deaf-and-dumb students from a school in Bhavnagar(Gujarat) were trekking with us along with their teachers for guidance. Spending many days with them, they taught us not just the sign-language, but many more lessons. They were always so excited to learn and really see what was around them. They accepted their handicap as a part of something god-given and never were they upset about it. I remember, once I was talking to one of them in sign language and telling him that I love to dance. I asked him what he liked, drawing?singing? To that, he indicated, ‘yes, singin. But I can’t really sing because I have no voice.’ Thats when I realized. I had become so engrossed in conversing that I had forgotten his disability. A glass shattered within me as I realized that even our hobbies have so much to do with our senses which we so often take so much for granted. They could not hear music. I was distressed. I apologized to him and he just replied saying that god had made him that way. I also realized that its stupid that I was surprised at these children being able to trek. Ofcourse they could. They had their limbs, but more than that, they had the will. It was me who was disabled in the mind, to think that this was a great challenge for them. They had conquered much more, a long time back.

I suppose some disabilities are apparent, and others are not. In some way, we all are disabled. Or “differently-abled”, as its called in the parlance of our times.

Wes once told me something very remarkable. He pointed out how they laughed so uninhibited and with so much truth, when infact, they couldn’t even hear themselves or each other. Its been more than a month since this, and I haven’t gotten over what he said.

Well, getting back to the trek. We lived in tents at each camp and got simple yet nourishing food that will give us the stamina and strength to climb. It’s always fun at these treks. There are so many different people around, there is time to socialize and yet be alone and contemplate. Everything from politics to stupid toilet habits are discussed, and a new intimacy is found. This is a comfortable one, where there is not much hope of meeting again, though there are promises. This is an intimacy , that you think might soon fizzle out with distance,and so there is also an uninhibited-ness about the bonds formed. I met a lot of fabulous people here. Aparna, Minhaj and Wes, being the closest. Ofcourse, I found out once again, that my brother is a superb guy. At one of the lunch stops, a guy came along with the local attire and jewellery that women in the Kullu valley wear. He rented it to me for Rs 20 while I clicked pictures with it on. I even held a kid (baby goat) while I posed and learnt some steps from the local folk dance from him. 🙂

In one of the camps, Dora Thatch, I witnessed a sight we only see in paintings. Up away a little above, the hill we were on was silhouetted against a deep navy blue sky. In it, was a single large planet, the shining Venus. I had never seen her so large. On the hill, we saw silhouettes of ponies grazing and bounding around.  I saw this, and such beautiful sights that I don’t have the right words to describe.

I hope my brain and my memory, can forever recollect these sights and images and people in the exact shape and shade. I don’t want to forget the details. I don’t want to forget the water’s taste. Most of all, I don’t want to forget that freedom. I don’t want to lose it.

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exams-the brain-the number-your life.

Exams finally got over yesterday and my Second year BA is officially oh-ver! That is assuming I am passing in all subjects(definitely happening) , not with flying colours though.. but whatever.

I must admit that although we make such a big deal about exams,  arts is definitely not as difficult as an engineering , medical or CA course.Atleast its so until the Second year. I remember ranting to my friend Bing* about how I had to study 110 pages of a pathetic text book for my Foundation Course exam the next day.And in response I got to hear quite a lot of grumbling as he 110 pages in very small font was the size of one chapter in his engineering text book.But again , Foundation Course is not even a real subject.

So yes, arts definitely has made me quite laid back.Photo-copying notes a few days before the exam, not buying the text book at all,  and watching the movie version of a novel one day before the exam(yes , quite a fiasco that one) are all part of my course.

Lately I have been finding my course to be quite irritating.i don’t regret the subjects I chose- economics, english literature and statistics.Infact, I love them.But often I feel strangulated by the fact that I can’t choose my course content, drop and pick subjects as per my wish and do a more wide variety of subjects. For instance, if I could choose subjects from across different streams I would even have selected physics and geology and dance as my subjects. But it is not to be. 😦

Actually, I am even against the idea of exams and One conversation with a very frustrated John Y made me even more critical of the examination system. Leaving out entrance exams, most exams till our college level only test the left side of our brain.I’ll elaborate.The leftt side of the brain is responsible for the analytical, methodical,quantitative and memory skills. While the right side pf the brain performs the functions of feeling, imagining and perceiving.So while some people are adept with their left brain others use their right more.These exams test only the left side of our brain ,leaving the poor right brain users in a sorry state.And the result of the examination is a number which is stamped onto us ,that runs the risk of deciding the trajectory of our entire life.

Instead, we could just have a system in which students could choose their subjects across streams,  drop a subject they dint like and not lose a year, select the course content, lecture timings, choose their own projects and manner of assessment.All this is happening in universities abroad.And although a handful of colleges have made some progress towards creating such student friendly systems, majority of the students are unfortunate.

But the good news is that my generations growing up and hopefully we will bring the change.

By the way, Kapil Sibal , the Indian union HRD Minister seems to be taking a lot of positive steps towards creating this healthy environment for education.So cheers to that!

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