Monday, January 30, 2012

A Damp Squib

If I had a world of my own everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because anything would be what it isn’t. And contrary- wise, what it would be and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?  (Lewis Carol in “Alice in Wonderland”).

But Anna Hazare thinks otherwise. Obstinacy and outlandish mindset seems to be driving his cause and demands. Now, he wants the local Grama Panchayats superseding the Parliament. Effectively that will ensure besides anarchy, the rule of the rouges, more pernicious than what we have from the dispensation from five hundred plus elected members of parliament.

I have been a person with pro ANNA leanings. Mainly because the movement that he created in India ,was after the mass agitation evoked by Jaya Prakash Narayan in the mid 1970’s against the autocratic, corrupt reign of Indira Gandhi, the most passionately evocative movement. The cause was inevitable, and the time was nothing but ideal. We are mauled, haunted and sick of corruption, and looting by politician – business nexus. And a mass agitation to incorporate a constitutional law to address the inexorable slide of the country into depths of economic chaos and social upheaval was most necessary.”Cometh the hour and cometh the man”, one may have desperately thought of Anna Hazare!

Anna Hazare seemed to have risen for the hour. And a conscientious team including the super cop Kiran Bedi lined up behind him. The government as expected tried everything in the book and out of the box to scuttle the movement. A Five Star Yogic charlatan was even made a decoy and planted as an alternative cause centre. Allegations of financial irregularities by some members of the Hazare team were made out and leaked out with surreptitious intent. The intrigues and manoeuvrings were obvious and on expected lines, when one considers the criminal legal minds who are in the Congress party, Kapil Sibal, Abhishekh Singhvi and P. Chidamabaram. But the much required provision for benefit of doubt and being the wronged was given to Anna Hazare and his team.

However it seems that the twist to the game Anna and his team made, such as some of the eccentric provisions of the Jana Lok Pal, the obstinacy that Parliament should pass it within a short time frame and to hell if required to the debates and discussion in the house for such a vital proviso of national and constitutional importance all point to one direction,”south” in terms of sanity. And in between we heard Anna Hazare endorse the man who presided over the greatest mass extermination of Muslims since the partition. Narendar Modi.

Then, the much dramatised act, hand in gloves with the right wing Hindu parties. Anna announced that he will campaign against the Congress, which can only mean he will endorse the BJP.   And the BJP cannily scuttled the very same Lokpal bill in the parliament with ulterior design and intent.

And now look at the picture in this post. Constitution of India it says, and has Sivaji, the Maratha warrior King, the Rani of Jhansi ,Swami Vivekananda, Vinoba Bhave and Abdul Kalam Azad. And only the later was related to the drafting of the Indian constitution. What message does this send? Vinoba Bhave while he was alive was apolitical and not identified with the right wing Hindu clan. Sivaji was a local warrior who fought the Muslim rulers of India.. Rani of Jhansi fought for her right to be the queen and have her kingdom not taken away by a weird law the “Doctrine of lapse”. Swami Vivekananda was not a Hindu fanatic, but a thinker and philosopher. But we see Anna and his coterie  , perhaps with the auspices of the right wing Hindu group, usurper  the Rani, the Swami and  the Bhave  into the group of their iconic symbol- Sivaji. Swami Vivekananda has long since been kidnapped by the Hindutva group.

Wonder what these folks have to do with the Indian constitution? The picture cannot be a coincidence of insignificance.

By now, we see the end of the dream that was a mere pipe dream- an effective law to unravel corruption and punish the guilty. There is much for all to celebrate except the vast majority of the   people of India who still long for a square meal a day.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Matter of Charcter

I have not heard about a whole railway passenger compartment being booked in advance for one family. The total members who travelled on the Rajadhani originating in Thpuram and speeding all the way across the paradox called India ,to New Delhi, touched thirty plus. They were off to a Xmas and New Year celebration; call it an en famille sojourn with the youngest sibling and his wife and kids who lived in New Delhi. They even stitched white T-shirts for all to wear on the New Year’s Eve. One of the blokes a good friend of mine got this T-shirt idea as he planned something out of the box to enliven the jamboree. And every one autographed on the t-shirt the other wore on New Year's night. A memorable memorabilia, that memory only can create. It sure must have been a hell of a travel some three thousand kilometres and with six siblings, their spouses, mother and (grand) children.

I mentioned this fascinating train journey to another person, but he was not enthused .I mentioned this as a point to substantiate my contention that there are still families who cherish the oneness and the closeness of being together and are not frivolous. And, is it not a wonderful thing in a world that finds empathy and affection, let alone being together, a nuisance or strange inexplicable words in the lexicon?

He categorically stated that the bonhomie that exists amongst this particular clan is purely because of them all being well in their own choice of living. And character will bare fangs and claws only when situations fall bad for either any of the members. It is a selfish self centred world he emphasised and that expressions of togetherness and affection are superficial. They are always determined by situations that are measured in personal gains and losses.

I did not rebut his opinion, because I sensed that he was talking sensibly with the life that he must have seen on his way in the last six decades of his living.
When I thought more on that, I felt that he spoke with unpleasant candour. And truth always makes a harsh reality of life. Is it not true that situations bring out our true self, in a person?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Stories From Life

Life is a big bore; it is dull and dreary; it is agony to be born and living; it is pain and sorrow; it is grief and it is just fun and happiness which makes it dull too.

This will be what my life and your life would look to another. In the midst of frantic living and utter lust for life, resulting in miserable acts of survival in whatever comfortable way possible, we forget the dullness, the dreary insipid or even rollicking flavour our lives may actually have. And if we were to pen our story, be it the autobiography or a novelette based on our life and our experiences- with the real life characters, places and situations we have experienced what a drudgery and endless tedium that will be to the reader. So be the biography of our life, unless it is compiled by a person who has imagination to provide the touches and finishing, polishing a life dull, sad, fun filled or plain bore like they do to the piece of carbon chunk.

Life retold the way it unfolded and in letters will be vapid and bland. It may be exhilarating to you, can be poignant and filled with stoicism to be rubbished. But to the other who is told about, it can be a sempiternal bore and that is much  asking to endure.

I guess that is why some creations in literature are exemplary in quality of read, and feel. An example of disaffection to a story of a real life hero, whose endurance, perseverance and obsessive purpose has no peers, is in my opinion the story of Lance Armstrong.  It’s not about the bike. My journey back to life”, is perhaps a story of his life written by himself or a ghost writer. Armstrong was diagnosed with terminal stage testicular cancer at the young age of twenty one. The cancer had by then matistised to his brain and lungs effectively consigning him to a world of no return. Doctors gave him a month or more to live. It was from that terminal and utterly depreciated hopeless stage that he came back to living and went on to win Seven "Tour de France". You expect the book to provide you much insight into the life of a rare breed of human being. But the book was tasteless in words and narration it was as bland as a cold meat. I express this with all respect to a man who dwarfed an illness that makes you forget about life outside the infirmary.

“God of small things”, of the onetime novelist Arundathi Roy perhaps is more known because of the Booker prize the book was awarded. Certainly it may not be comparable to much other excellence in literature. But, for a person of her age and generation (including myself), born and childhood spent in Kerala, the book must be fascinating. More because, I could relate to many happenings in the milieu of Mallu life in the Kerala of the later part of 1960’s. Else the book, though narrated in good English, may be dull to many.

Whereas J.M.Coetze’s ,”The Master of Petersburg, I felt was a story apart. Though the plot was based on Coetze’s real life and the agony of losing his son, it was adapted with Dostoyevsky as the protagonist. The story was well adapted and set up by the author, that a real life sage and the experience is mesmerising in content.

I have always wondered how a student of law or of medicine can read through and understand the literature in their respective fields. They are dreary! The convoluted and abracadabra of words Greek and Latin in origin that we see in books on medical science is far too fathomless to many. However the power and artistry in managing words and weaving of ideas and messages with them makes "The Emperor of Maladies" , a book of almost five hundred pages a repository of treatise that a lay man can enjoy. Else how a book on the story of cancer could be so powerfully conveyed to lay people like me and many other? Siddartha Mukherji is a new avatar in story telling based on real life.

The purpose of writing this is to express my opinion that our life as it would be retold, or rewound and played for someone from the netherworld, a stranger, friend or foe, or even a Rip van Winkle, would end up as an eternal famine that will be full of ennui and donkey-work.

Perhaps that must be why there is dearth of empathy in the world we live.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Romance That was Not

Next to Man, among primates Chimpanzees have the general disposition to jealousy. I do not know if jealousy is more a gender specific trait and seen in women than in men, but seems likely so. Men do envy, but some say the extreme feelings are found more in women. And this is a short story of what actually transpired amongst three young people- a man, woman-friend and wife.

Romance, subtle and subsumed is part of academic curriculum. Though in some cases they go overboard and are publicly passionate. And are often displayed in the corridors of the alma mater, to eventually be enshrined in the scrolls as la affaire Romeo & Juliet! Sometimes the philandering consumes the platonic liaison.
It began as a trivial past time and fun for the group. By some odd way the two were declared in love and serious at that, though in reality that was not so. Recess and bunking of classes were in a group and the rest of them ensured to nudge and playfully prod the two as couples in romance. There was eventually a theatre of a wedding towards the end of the college term and was, let me put it, “solemnised”, by another affable chap.The fun and fan fare took place in the college canteen- wedding as if in a cathedral!

She was gregarious, fun loving, exuberant, lively young woman with abundance of laughter and a great repository of good conditioning.

The hero in the dramatics was a frequent and honoured visitor to her home and was considered as one in the family by her parents. They were such good souls that, the small group of her friends all had free access into the house. This gave opportunity for some outings together, with friends and even late in the evenings, of course with her parental approbation. A late evening at an annual fair of flowers was a catharsis of sorts. A fascination to be at arm’s length was discernible. He began to notice somewhere that she was not averse to the much made about peculiar relationship going critical (a term used in nuclear science when atomic reactors go functional, splicing atoms).Which should mean here that she began to like him and can be serious too about. There was love in the air! And it was subtle and quite.

I’m certain that only the duo would know that, without thinking that the other felt alike. He would be keen and willing to acknowledge and reciprocate her fondness. But the will to take a plunge was found wanting in both. Perhaps they were expectant that the other would show the courage. And most of all there was still a way to go to be flying on their own.  Reasons are obvious of a generation that was marooned in conventions and fear of the social controls.

Life moved on and she was married away.

However their affableness and friendly relationship continued. She was gracious to be present as a good old mate at his wedding which took place years later. And she stayed through with her little son and her genteel husband.

As destiny and chance would have it for a while, she moved into an apartment- stone throw from the house where he was with his young wife. It was a remarkable coincidence.
There were a few visits she made to his house, with her toddler son and sometimes together with her husband. It was during those visits and casual meetings on their evening strolls that he began to notice a decided irritation she displayed to his wife. It seemed more like the nagging nudges young kids throw on another. It was inadvertent, he presumed first. And once after a dinner at her house, he understood well and clear that she was fond of taking digs at his wife. Gathering little instances together it was apparently displeasure, annoyance and shreds of jealousy for a still born affair of long ago. It was plain “woman” in the act, nothing more nothing less! And only women can be tongue in cheek and throw subtle digs to make the supposed adversary uncomfortable.

As pedigree and conditioning would have its bearings, her conduct, attitude, and the envy which she may have borne in mind, slowly ebbed to metamorphose into dignified and loving friendship with C.

I once asked C, much later in life, if she ever noticed a petty irritation and annoyance in her during those early days after our wedding when we were neighbours. She nodded in the affirmative. And was also intelligent enough to realise that it was the ghost of a long ago relationship that never was, but could have been.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A winter Evening by the Sea

It was cold winter evening on the beach
The people loitering on the beach or gazing at the blue waters were thin and sparse. The air was whiffing cold and I felt a bonfire would be wonderful to spend the star lit night, gazing in askance,contently or in awe at the sea.The waves of the ocean lashing gently on to the beach, against the sun that was gently hovering down in the horizon, enhanced the wonder of Nature. Sublime, caressing! It seemed like the shore and the ocean were engaged in foreplay. Could the ocean be tranquil as this? The question came back more often to my mind as I left the seaside. By then the sky was heavenly inundated with golden, twinkling specks that seemed like glow worms. They as always reminded me the insignificance of the bipedal ones down on the beach. I left him watching the gently lashing waves, still not quite convinced about my riposte and standpoint. His mind, I sensed was much as not as near calm as the ocean and the tempest was very much alive.

Perhaps that is the way human mind is. It often does not reflect in the facial muscles. Sometime to some it is the opposite, it mastitis in the face and all over the physiological being.

“I’m dispossessed”, was his curt retort to my query about who and where he was from. It was he who initiated and opened the conversation. And was not in my temperament to ask a stranger who he was and where he hailed from. With my characteristic apathy to strangers and discomfiture, I was confined to a good extent and more than often. If I were to be a salesman, which I detest and is unable too, to barge into any, everyone and at all times, it takes a considerable length of time for me to be anywhere proximal to the comfort zone with another. And, I was somewhat offended by his brusque reply.

We chanced to be sitting at the far ends of the disused stone bench which lay on a neglected but quite corner of the beach. I fail to recall who occupied the stone seat first. But it was he who initiated the opening conversation and then exclaimed,”Goddamn ocean this, hardly behaves like one .Look at the damn waves they seem to be of a shallow ces pool.”
“Cesspool”! It was my turn to exclaim and in silence. I looked guardedly into his eyes. This man terms the vast and beautiful ocean, a cesspool?
Tucking my palms into the jacket pockets, I suggested, “Relating this vast confluence with a shallow pool is rather strange. Is it your mind that refuses to see the vastness that is in front?’

He got up agitated, and gesticulating his fingers at me,said in a cold voice, “Man when you wear those leather boots you do not know what frost bite is.” He turned around and walked towards the water.

It was a cold winter evening on the beach!

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Laughter of Jesus

Here is an interesting piece of thought from Osho (the late Rajaneesh).To be offended by this loud thinking is unnecessary, but to introspect conventions as fed to us will be interesting and a revelation.  

Christ's message IS rejoice and be merry. But that is not the message of Christianity. Christianity's message is: be sad, long faces, look miserable; the more miserable you look, the more saintly you are. Sometimes I really feel for poor Jesus. He has fallen in such wrong company, and I wonder how he is managing in paradise with all these Christian saints, so sad, so dull.
He was not a dull man, he was not a sad man -- he could not be. The word 'Christ' is exactly synonymous with Buddha. He was an enlightened person. He rejoiced in life, in the small things of life. He rejoiced in eating, drinking, friendship. He loved companionship, he loved the whole life.

But Christians down the ages have painted him as very sad. They have painted him always on the cross, as if for thirty-three years he was always on the cross. And my own understanding is that a man like Jesus will not die sad, even on the cross. He must have laughed before he died( if he ever did).
That's what Al-Hillaj Mansoor the Sufi mystic and poet did before he was executed in public by the fanatic Mohammedans, because he had declared: ANA'L HAQ -- "I am the Truth".  Mohammedans could not tolerate it, just as Jews could not tolerate Jesus. They killed him – tortured and chopped of his organs one after the other- but before they killed him, he looked at the sky and laughed loudly.

And that's exactly what Jesus must have done, laughed. But Christians have tried their best to depict Jesus as sad. They have made a saint out of a real authentic human being; they have cut everything. The gospels are not true stories; much has been changed, much has been reduced, much has been added. They have become mere fictions. Emperor Constantine decreed what must be the Gospel . A happy Christ is a misfit for Christians and Christianity.

Down the ages, Christians have been trying to paint Christ as  sadder. Why? -- Because all over the world religion has been dominated by a neurotic kind of people. It has been dominated by the people who are masochists, sadists. In the East too, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism -- they have all been dominated by the masochistic people, the people who enjoy torturing themselves, the people who are incapable of living life in its totality. The people who are too cowardly to live, escapists, have dominated religion up to now. These escapists have depicted Buddha as not laughing, Mahavira as not laughing.

And Christians actually say that Jesus never laughed in his life. Can you believe that? Jesus never laughed in life? He enjoyed all kinds of people, and he never laughed? Can you imagine that a man like Jesus, who was always feasting for hours with his friends, never laughed? It is inconceivable! How can you go on wining and dining without laughing? He must have joked, he must have told funny stories. They have been edited out. He was a very true man, and very courageous. He accepted Mary Magdalene as his disciple. It needs courage, it needs guts. I cannot believe that he never laughed.

We are made to cry – as soon as we are detached from the womb. Up to now doctors have been very Christian. The first thing they do is they hang the child upside down and hit him on the buttocks. Do you expect a child to laugh? This is a great welcome to the world, putting the child upside down, giving him a hit -- a good beginning, because his whole life he is going to get hit in the pants, again and again. And hanging upside down, how can he laugh? No wonder he cries!

Now there are a few doctors working in a different direction. They bring the child in a more natural way out of the mother's womb; they don't cut the umbilical cord immediately because that creates crying, that is violence. They leave the child on the mother's belly with the umbilical cord intact. They give a good bath to the child, a hot bath, they put the child into a hot tub of exactly the same temperature as it was in the mother's womb.

In the mother's womb the child is floating in water. The water has the same contents as sea water, salty. In the same salty chemical solution, of the same temperature, the child is put in the tub. He starts smiling. It is a real beautiful reception. And not with glaring tube lights... that hurts the eyes of the child. In fact, so many people are wearing glasses only because of the foolishness of the doctors. The child has lived for nine months in the mother's womb in darkness, utter darkness. Then suddenly so much light... it hurts his delicate eyes. You have destroyed something delicate in his eyes. The child should be received in a very dim light, and the light should be increased slowly, so his eyes become accustomed to the light. Naturally the child smiles at the beautiful welcome.

I can't believe Jesus not laughing at all. He lived thirty-three years and did not laugh? -- That can only be possible if he was absolutely perverted, absolutely pathological, and ill. Something must have been wrong if he didn't laugh. But nothing is wrong with him; something is wrong with the followers. They depict their saints, their messiahs, their Prophets, as very serious, somber, sad, just to show that they are above the world, that they are beyond, that they are not worldly people. Laughter seems shallow, seems unspiritual.

Although the message of Christmas is rejoice and be merry, still there is sadness, because the whole of Christianity teaches you to be sad. It is not a life-affirming religion, it is life-negative. It is much more life-negative than Hinduism, much more life-negative than Judaism. It has no sense of humor at all. And a religion without a sense of humor is ill, pathological. It needs psychological treatment.

Peter, standing in the crowd, looked up at Jesus on the cross. As he watched, he distinctly saw Jesus motioning him forward.
"Pssst, hey Peter, come here," said the Lord.
As Peter moved forward, two Roman guards blocked his way and beat him till he fell to the ground.
A few moments later, Peter, bruised and bleeding, looked up and saw Jesus again motioning him forward.
"Pssst, hey Peter, come here!"
Looking around, Peter noticed that the crowd was gone and so were the Roman soldiers. He moved closer to Jesus, "Yes, Lord, what is it? What is it you want?"
"Hey Peter," said Jesus. "Guess what? I can see your house from here!"

Sunday, December 11, 2011

St. Antony- A Story

It was late January and a holiday. The tropical weather was mild and comfortable at that time of the year. And besides, being little over couple decades and more ago, the severity of climes have not begun to be felt then. The sea breeze that came from the west when blowing in over the inland lake and caressing the bamboo shrubs in the perimeter of the church, ensured to bring along heavenly spell and mirth. Or was it the sheer presence she lend or the gaiety that accompany a wedding- the wedding of a close friend?

It must have been early dawn, well before sunrise and I was woken up to the clutter and chatter, the excited shrieks and exhilarated talking, shouts that results when dear and near ones meet. She had arrived by the early morning train that must have laboured in some time before then. Not being quite congenial and comfortable with young strangers of the fairer sex, I chose to stay a little longer than usual in my bed And when I came out of my room it was with some pleasance filled  excitement and curiosity and caution. Something told me that I must not betray clownish discomfiture that can envelope me when unfamiliar young woman are near. A woman who I have only seen in photographs and not seen or personally acquainted before!

I saw her lazing down the stairs and I guess the first smile, nod of the head and the “hello” was not too bad. It was apparent that photographs captured in a camera are sometimes a faint image of what the subject actually is and can be grossly unjust too. Something inside pumped the excitement and heightened the heartbeat. Strange, I thought. All through during the couple of days she stayed at the apartment ,whenever I could  grab and create an opportunity to be near her and engage in some conversation, I ensured the chance never went begging. I wonder if others noticed the sudden oddity.

Something always kept telling me, there was a mutual attraction, but more latent in her!

She came back a few months after. There was no communication between us in that short interregnum. However the second meeting was a friendlier and alleviating affair. She had come for the wedding that afternoon of my close mate. Though social prescripts did not require her presence at the wedding, I was thrilled that she was there in any case. Perhaps she was gracious to accept the invite and be there as the representative of her parents’ .Perhaps, looking back destiny enticed her!

After the wedding we all moved to the adjacent banquet hall for the grand feast that the bride’s father had richly organised. I and a few friends amongst us proceeded out after the sumptuous feast and the brief revelry involving indulgent drinking of wine. We took off towards the pier to take the boat ride across the lake to the island. She was the last one to hop on to the boat and I offered her my hand to hold on while jumping on to the rocking watercraft. Which she unhesitatingly accepted!

We had a refreshing couple of hours on the island. The optical illusion in the west caressing the ocean- of the sun set and the magical shadows the illusion provided on the lush green foliage and trees that fondled the island and also the sparkling waters of the vast lake that straddled the piece of land we stood- all,   was wonderful for the occasion. There were three women in the group besides her. It was exciting. All the more for the two of us, which we knew and we alone knew in our hearts, unbeknownst to each other and the rest. Modesty demanded that I must be cautious not to reveal any sort of excessive care for her comfort or needs.  Lest her brothers would notice .Quite timid I felt of myself, but could not go any farther than being so.

It was dark when we returned to the boat that would ferry us back to the mainland. The journey back to the apartment had to be sorted out as some of us had taken a taxi to the wedding and now all had to reckon with the few motorbikes we had. I was the loner on my bike and wished   I could suggest that she could travel pillion with me. But timidity stamped out the grit to say so. As luck could have it or destiny having its say, one of her brothers suggested that she travel pillion with me. And he reminded me to take care of her while on the road. She accepted the suggestion without hesitation. It was perhaps a relief for her too if she were wishing so. I chastised myself for thinking for her. Stupid Cupid! But she travelled the distance back with me.

I rode the bike with great caution and sensed her timidly holding on to my shirt, while I maneuvered through the traffic. On the way back she suggested that we stop at the church of the Saint Antony .She enquired if I had any difficulty in doing so. I answered absolutely in the negative. I smelt that doing so would fetch me more time with her on the road. We went in to the shrine. The shrine of the Saint was a popular destination for the faithful who believed that their supplications and petitions will get favourably disposed by the benevolent Saint. One’s wish is sure to be granted! I wondered what wish and favour she might have had in askance submit to the holy saint. She bought candles and flowers from the vendor outside and I joined her in patiently lighting them at the altar. It was indeed a good feeling to be in the shrine with her .I wished that time stood still.

When we began our ride back I was disturbed and annoyed that the distance to the apartment appeared shortened. I frantically thought of  ways to stretch the distance and time, so that it could be a long never ending ride with her.

Did the Saint see my thinking?