Saturday, January 9, 2010

We are Mortgaged Souls

Today’s morning was disheartening and contrite. Watching that visual footage on NDTV brought deep sense of outrage and infamy. It was mortifying, to tell the least.

The video visual of a police inspector bleeding to death and wailing for help while two state ministers and an entourage watched nonchalantly was enough to permananently and effectively lose faith in the human race to which we belong. There were passers by who were absolutely indifferent. And fellow police men were exhibiting muted and eunuch like posture. There was a police man who was throwing water at the dying sub inspector maintaining a distance as if the victim wase a human bomb or a contagiously ill  person.

The district collector who accompanied the ministers was keeping a safe distance and directing some assistance to come their way. Much invaluable time was lost due to the insensitivity of all those human beings. And the unfortunate man was bleeding to death. There were enough motor vehicles in the convoy and not one person wanted to rescue the victim and rush for medical care.

Such are the values of the society of which we all are part of. Such is the insensitivity of our heart. Do we have one? We are soulless because we have mortgaged our souls for personal and only personal gains. What does not touch our dermis does not matter to us.

One should not blame the ministers alone for being onlookers and not directing immediate assistance to the victim. Because they were only elected by the system which is equally culpable as they are, to wiz past in luxury vehicles and be involved in all that negates the core principles on which the constitution was framed. They are part of us. The society they are part of has degraded and is now filled with filth. And when it is so, it is in fact not a wee bit surprising that such indifference and insensitivity becomes a way of life.

Monday, January 4, 2010

An Officer and a gentleman

Back in 19775-77 the Mahatma Gandhi College Thiruvananthapuram (M.G.College) used to disperse for the day at 3.20 pm in the afternoon. We would most often skip the last session and entrench ourselves in the murukkan and juice kada of this fat guy (I can scarce remember his name). I remember him claiming that he donned the role of Swami Vivekananda in the malayalam movie Devi Kanyakumari.This shop was in the Muttada road and it was there right in front, when you take the sharp U bend reaching Paruthipapara junction from MarIvanios.

While we sat at the shop listening to his stories of the tinsel mallu filmdom , this chap used to cycle past us at precisely 3.40. He used to race down from MarIvanios and take the bend. He always knew that more than often he will be howled at. We used to yell “… two three, hey pattalam………”. I felt he took that in his stride. Sometimes he used to whiz past in NCC uniform on his bicycle eyes closed and readying for our shout. I remember him often responding to our howling and hooting with timid smile.

Two years on I and he were in the same class in MarIvanios. And we were to spend the next three years into graduation together.

We used to frequent Public Library after college hours. For me a visit to the Library was also an excuse to stay out as long as possible. But he was back home at the stroke of 6.30 and cycle all the way back home to Ambalammukku. He had strict regime going on at home and was not permitted to be out after 7 in the evening. We used to meet in evenings on weekends and holidays and he was pissed off staying with us at our vantage point opposite the Secretariat. He would pull me with him the length of the road from East fort to the Museum junction. And he used to not to walk like somnambulating like some us loved, but march like a fauji( in fact he dreamt being an army officer).

He had only one targeted aim and that was to enter the Indian Military Academy. He did that in style and I remember the afternoon in Thiruvananthapuram central railway station where I was along with another friend to see him off on the Madras mail en route to New Delhi for the selection interview of the SSB. A thoroughly genial fellow with quite a few discerning idiosyncrasies, who smiled timidly at us while we howled and hooted at him when he cycled down the M.G college road. But he has an antonymic side too. He was wait- listed for the travel to Madras and there was this ticket conductor who looked like a classical mallu film villain- tall and hugely built deep set mush and apparently tipsy on alcohol. This guy refused travel for our aspiring fauji. He pleaded with the guy and tried in earnest to convince him to let him travel as like even a stowaway. The conductor got increasingly angry and adamant. He if I remember forced my friend’s baggage out. The train was almost departing. And it was looking increasingly unlikely that he can journey to Madras and connect the train to New Delhi. He missing the interview of his life was likely. He burst out as if he would probably do now if confronted by a grave necessity to do the ultimate to protect his brigade. We were certain that a bad fist cuff was to ensue with the conductor. And the conductor grew absolutely violent and intimidating and swore that he will make sure that the matter will be taken up by the railway police and criminal complaint will be filed for unruly behavior etc. We were afraid that any police involvement will ensure him missing out the journey and may be the SSB interview. Those days the story used to go around that the SSB sleuths had men shadowing the candidates traveling for the selection and such incidence can be viewed as serious character lapse and result in elimination from selection. I do not remember if it was the good samaritan policemen or if it was some strange change of attitude of the conductor that he eventually let him board the train as it started moving out of the platform.

The afternoon was quite difficult for us as well, but was relieved to see him wave at us from the door of the moving train.

Later in life when he was selected into the IMA as gentleman cadet and after his commissioning as second lieutenant our relationship continued, through post and personally on his vacationing. It is his dedicated attitude that he visits his friends without fail when ever he is back on vacation.

If the cantankerous Ticket conductor had refused journey that day in 1980 India would have surely missed out on a truly sincere and dedicated soldier today!

He volunteered and opted for infantry and in the Gorkha regiment. An army officer who is not enamoured by the position and power he has. A person who still continues to be a teetotaler and a strict vegetarian, but religiously serves me when at his house, beautiful whiskies he gets from his army supply; a fantastic officer who was rightly awarded the Presidents seva medal;  perhaps also hand picked by the Army on absolute merit to head the Indian contingent in Botswana and assist them put up a defense staff college in Gabbone; an officer who was tormented and disheartened that he could not join the IPK to Sri Lanka when a irritable medical conditon intervened ; a foot soldier who braved the night patrolling and in the terrorist ruled Punjab; a gentleman and an officer who refuses to let his orderly do domestic chores for his wife (in fact he respects his orderly as an individual); a discerning reader and a man who excels in gaining knowledge and meticulous details of every thing;

I cherish the day he took me with him to the house of Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw in Connoor. I could meet a valiant veteran and a truly dedicated officer (both from the same Gorkha regiment) engaging in conversation. And I felt it was father son like! General Manekshaw considered him a close soldier to heart and special.

I felt immensely happy and proud that I could have a friend who unlike me is dedicated, hard working, sticks to core values, a man of good knowledge and above all honest and excellent officer who has become now a Brigadier in his on right.

I tell Ara and Radhu that my luck is  having friends who are better persons than I am on the bench scale.

A small Riposte

When I posted the piece "Spirit Rekindled", I was expressing bond with certain events, and experiences in creations of art how ever insignificant or otherwise, which may have helped me kindle the past.

I was not labouring to exercise marketing strategy for God of Small things (in fact the novel has ample novelty and candid substance to sell itself). What invoked a sense of bonhomie with GSM were certain events and experiences the characters in the novel go through and how I could identify with similar experiences in my life and from the same times I grew up like Arundati Roy. So goes with the movie “neelathamara”. For those of us in the genre of AR, it is easy to identify and notice the social set up of the times we grew up like the author herself.

As for Ashok’s opinion that Ms Roy derided the Malayalee psyche to win accolades- well  I disagree, however I do  respect ones right to keep one’s side of the story.

Now since the topic has been thrown into play I prefer to express my opinion on GSM and Arunadathi Roy's writing as well. And beware this is a view of a lay mind.
I fully agree on the points made by Kpj and Balan.
Malaylees have an extraordinary quality of hypocrisy and trivalisation of anything and everything different. Mallus have made hypocrisy a State virtue. Arundati Roy had the guts, daring, and uncanny literal acumen to be candid about such abhorring mallu trait.. If you can remember, D.H.Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” was written in the 1920’s but could be published in virtuous England only in the later part the last century. And in India as well the book remained off the shelves. I remember buying a smuggled edition in New Delhi in 1982.Why was the novel banned from publication? Because D.H Lawrence was stunning and upfront enough to portray a every intimate relationship between an aristocratic woman and commoner in a non-confirming and explicit language. I recollect reading somewhere that hypocrisy is absent in social groups who practice nudity!!!

Arunadati Roy is not a story teller in the mould of Marquez or Hemmingway. And in GSM she translated her experiences and life in Mallu land with deftness and audacious use of language.
Leaving that apart if one has to see the persona of AR I would suggest to read the book “Shape of the Beast” – an interview N., Ram had with her. I m certain it will be difficult to find a person like her who is incisive, not superficial nor trivial. And her knowledge of the subject she writes or speaks is sans rivals. She has the fearless quality of speaking her mind without succumbing to the double standards and fake mindset of the society in general and mallus in particular.. Her articulating of social writing and speech is not a penance for penning GSM, on the contrary I feel a timid woman such as her can confront the trivilisation and social concept of good, bad, money, power, want, need and greed in this world only with a razor edged pen, language and irrefutable substance.

Remember we mallus adept in wearing snow white “mund” but there ends the virginity of our pallor...