Friday, August 1, 2014

Economic Jugglery sans Compassion

This is a tiny article that I wrote for the Assisi Magazine of August 2014 & published (translated into Malayalam). 

Even if you can never for real quantify happiness and satisfaction as exactly as you could quantify GNP, is it not better to be vaguely right than incisively wrong?
My apologies to you who may be reading this if you felt that this question was directed at you. No, certainly not, this is what I would ask the economist Dr.Chakravathy Rangarajan who brought out the startling and enlightening report on the poverty level of the population of this country. Startling more than enlightening, because this wisdom comes from a person who possesses scholarly pedagogy in economics and social awareness as the economic adviser to the Prime minister!

He was large hearted in the sense that he rubbished the findings of the Suresh Tendulkar committee report on poverty level. Besides that he added eleven and fourteen Rupees to the findings of Suresh Tendulkar and, Ureka the new threshold for graduating from below poverty levels to richness was determined. If you live in a mountain hamlet in the country, like Attapadi you are not poor if you spend Rs 33 a day, because those of you who spend more than that tier must be living like a prince; if you spend Rs 47 a day on living  in Lutyens Delhi , behold you are a prince too.
I’m not an economist and those of you who may read this are not either. Hence we are not in a position of command to criticise Dr.Rangarajan’s findings and in the bargain make ourselves look like nincompoops. But yet, erudition in economics and financial matters are not necessary to become alarmed at the assertion of Dr. Rangarajan and his defence of his discovery.
It is cruelly amazing that the Rangarajan report audaciously seems to claim that man lives by bread alone. This is if you or I can conjure to buy food in Attapadi or Delhi and live through a day with Rs 33 and Rs 47 respectively. Well, presuming that we succeed in the sorcery, mind you we may have to live like early cave men - without a string of loin cloth around our waist and in sewage canals with overhead shelter or inside discarded giant water pipes that are commonly seen by the wayside. You are in for impossible jugglery and Houdini act if you have a spouse and two kids. Assuming that your spouse too has earnings of the threshold sum, ie Rs 47 and Rs 33 respectively, depending upon where you live, you still have two more mouths to feed – your two children. Dr. Rangarajan is somewhat ambiguous here. He expects all of you to be a juggernaut like he.
Dr. Rangrajan reacted to the criticism of his determination and said. “I don’t think that it is conservative (poverty) estimates. In my view it is reasonable estimates. We have derived poverty estimates independently.” Elaborating further he said, “The World Bank also talks about purchasing power parity terms, (the minimum expenditure per day). They are talking about USD 2 per day….. Therefore it (our poverty estimates) is in keeping with the international standards”.  This seems to be an entendre. In the same breath he quotes the WB figure of USD 2 , which translates to INR 120 or thereabout and pegs his poverty threshold at Rs 32 and Rs 47.

Let me come to the direct question to the renowned former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, a question that any commoner will ask. “Can you Sir, if put in a hypothetical situation sustain a family of four including yourself with Rs 47 earnings a day in Mumbai where you lived and worked as the Governor of the RBI?”  One doesn’t have to own a doctoral thesis in Economics and finance to know that there are other things to sustain one self and one’s family besides the barest minimum of a daily square meal. Clothing and shelter; basic medical care; education for one’s children and last if not the least a provision for the rainy day. Am I being saturnine in my comments, pardon me for I cannot help sounding otherwise.
We must extrapolate the findings of Dr.Rangarajan with utterings on similar lines by some political bigwigs, of which one gentleman possessed a plethora of suffix in degree and doctoral thesis after his name, a person nonpareil.
George Bush Jr observed that the food crisis is largely due to countries like India where people have begun eating meat and exotic foods. He was alluding that the miserable Indians have long last found blithe in economic development and gained the resources to eat luxuriously. What would you say if someone who missed the Prime Ministerial chair by a wide distance, Rahul Gandhi blathering that, “Poverty is a state of the mind”? Meaning poverty is illusion or a hallucination. Who seemed hallucinated is worth laughing about if not scorning about. But then how could we forget about the former Prime minister and Doctor of Economics Manamohan Singh who was nonchalant and callous about tons of food grains rotting in FCI warehouse? What was the psyche of these men when they observed as they did, did they believe themselves to be paragons of frankness or did they consider the fact even remotely that their observations where the most of the irresponsible and cruel kind?
Dr.Rangarajan  need not measure the density of happiness or the scale of satisfaction in the commoners face , he need not bench mark gross national happiness instead of GNP. All that he and men who juggle with the economic livelihood of multitude of Indians need to do is only to show an iota, a fair amount of respect and appreciate that there is something called dignity even in a beaten man. And to extrapolate fantastic economic theories and determinations with poverty line bench marks as he has done is simply cruel and breathe of disdain. We do not deserve that. Do we?

Dr. Rangarajan’s poverty line threshold reminds me of William Shakespeare  quote in Julius Caesar, “The most unkindest cut of all”.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

No,I Shall Not Enjoy Raping You

“Why are women… so much more interesting to men than men are to women”? Wondered Virginia Woolf. 

That cannot be true, is not true. Indeed women are interesting to men like men are interesting to women. And the difference is only in the selection process of whom to be interested in. Women choose power and security, while men can be less discriminating. Perhaps they are not tethered to the attributes women get enamoured about.  Can you, a woman, deny that you are not interested in men and do not hallucinate about a Casanova, about the macho quintessential man – the Lawrence of Arabia? I can see your disapproving grimace, the moue. You are offended and outraged by what you may call my crudity. You do often see candour as outrageous. Don’t you?

But I resent your accusations and I ‘m also embarrassed and peeved by your comment that I’m lewd and that I disrobe you, rape you all the while without feeling your skin, your flesh. You say all men are hideous and licentious. You are right in feeling that I’m a rapist even if I have not violated your body by touch. Yes you are right I disrobe you; my eyes can scan the deepest secrets of your pulchritude, your body, the tantalizing beauty of your being that titillates me to no end.  I feel embarrassed when you notice my longing eyes, my skilful glances in the sly at the heave of your bosom, my eyes roving into the deep chasm in them; my gape at the fatal curve of your hip, the irresistibility of your rump; when the puckish gentleness of the breeze gently violates you- blowing aside the pallu of your sari, to feel the enchanting navel; the wheat tanned skin of your nape , and your back that you deftly display with the sartorial skill of your blouse; the low waist jean that clings at the partition of your rump, while you consciously expose the flesh below your navel and the naevus there about  ; the light weight skin thin short knitted top that enhances the contours of your torso, while you wantonly  gives me a peek to the straps of your bandeau and the wealth of your bosom; the contrived innocence in your lovely eyes that bewitches to no end and sometimes the lustful and ravishing glances that you throw at me.

Didn’t this confession satisfy you? Now tell me why wouldn’t I want you?
I was brought up to respect you, to not abuse you physically and by word of mouth. I have been truthful to my conditioning and what I believe in- not to violate women. Not to force a woman to yield to a wild amorous fantasy that may plow me. I fantasise you as you would me. Can you be honest here? 

I must say that your garb, your sex appeal is hard to resist. Often the empyrean beauty of your being is overshadowed by the voluptuousness of your robes that is aided by sartorial skill and the sparse use of the fig-leaf. Often you barely wear enough and flirtatiously expose. You hide behind the argument, it is your body and you have the sole right over it; you have the right to wear what your are comfortable in.Certainly!  You do that I know to impress, to attract me, to draw you to someone, potently and instantly.  I agree that you and I choose our robes, douse our flesh and skin with fragrances (that begrudges even the Gods) with skillful intent to impress, to appeal. You may be confident but your fig up that often is not in sync, is flirtatious and is universally aphrodisiacal.

I do not ask you to move about cocooned in black cloak, head to toe with tiny vents for your nostrils and your eyes, lest my amour becomes roguish and go berserk. I do not ask you to weave into   cocoon like a pupa. I assured you, I know not to violate a woman. But I refuse to be cowed by your statement that it is your body and you have the right to expose it as you wish. Yes you may. So do me. But when I’m what I’m there is always in the inappropriateness that you show that would make me want you, make me feel that you want to let out the beast in me. Choose your grab to suit the time and place. If you walk in the street square in a high hemmed negligee, that is very silky muslin like outlining your lingerie, sans buttons venting your voluptuous bosom you are only a temptress inviting any. Why do you tauntingly smile at me reclined in from the hoarding aloft the rise in the square tantalisngly  and wearing a casual tee that seems to be licentiously and purposefully pulled down at one shoulder revealing the ivory coloured straps of your brassiere?

You even walked about with in an  organised way as sluts in New Delhi. You called that a “Slut parade”. Didn’t you by using the term “slut” defile yourself and violate the many among you? There and then you told me, you confessed that you are aware that sluts and hussies are dressed in such way that would provoke the carnal beast in me.

You may brand me vile, satanic, and slobbering male chauvinistic squalor swine. Yes you may, but first make me convinced that my statements here are rubbish and are fulminations of a chauvinistic pig.

Believe me your beauty is given to you with unrestrained abundance by Nature and the many artificial gimmicks you borrow to enhance it, to take it to a level where you would succeed to entrance me, to provoke me- might stumble me , might unleash all restraint that I guarded with care. And that thinking you have is naïve, is perilous to you and me.

Believe me, I admire you, respect you but it is you who can make me crave lustfully and it is you who can make me behold you in awe,  in awe of Nature and her creation that is you.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bigotry of Burqa

This is not a post of irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race, or religion. In fact this is an earnest attempt to air some point of view as candidly and as succinctly as possible. This is a reply to a Blog commentator by the name Aziz who commented on a Blog post of Retired Justice Markandeya Katju  titled, “Do away with  Burqa” ( . Mr. Aziz was quite upset with my opinion endorsing the Justice’s view and more so to some of my observations and chose to be the jihadi against my views.
I have edited the exchanges (my comments) between me and this mysterious Mr. Aziz and have added more thought to it.

Comment-Anilkumar Kurup
“If a religion that is didactic and stifling with its bigotry decrees, yes Sari, Salwar etc. too may become dresses that will be banned by the clerics. And anyone questioning it will be stoned. Wouldn’t this be the case? Sati was evil and so is any form of practise thrust upon women/people and Burqa is one such. Are Muslim women given the choice? They are controlled, blinkered and choke collared and if they dare resist the Damocles sword of religion is used. Isn't this the real life story?                              
 And famously a clichéd phrase is used by the controlling forces and unfortunately even some women swear by it,'burqa is the expression of Muslim identity" .Identity- my foot.”

Reply -Aziz - June 2014 12:28
First of all there is no difference between burqa,sari and salwar in terms of freedom.                       Second, when you are talking about choice ask the same question to your self, are your women given the choice to follow western fashion? So please don't talk about choices, the only difference in choice is the limit, your limit is sari and salwar and our limit is burqa. And if you are taking about those tiny percentage in big cities and movie industry, Its because being educated they are not following Hinduism any more, after your scriptures have been proven wrong for 1000 times by modern science. But this is not the same with muslims because nor their scripture is incompatible with modern science neither their beliefs became weak.

Anilkumar Kurup12 June 2014 08:49
Firstly I comment not as a Hindu, though I have been born to parents who are Hindus. Mr. Aziz has commented like a typical ordained, indoctrinated Muslim. i.e.” all else and all things other than what Islam say and follow are wrong. All those who are not Muslims are khafirs. And that only Muslims bleed.” It’s a pity Mr. Aziz.
This reminds me of a fascinating anecdote. A Muslim preacher (Mullah) vociferously kept proclaiming that there are all things that pertain to Man and Universe in his holy book. And that every invention has been mentioned in it before it was invented or even thought of as a possibility. An enterprising boy stood up and asked either after becoming unable to tolerate his lopsided claims, "Mullah in your holy book is there something mentioned about Paracetamol and how it can be produced"?
Mr. Aziz until you guys learn to tolerate, respect and accept argumentation and inclusion , all that Islam can produce for posterity is nothing but suicide bombers and violence. You cannot for any reason claim that Burqa is not vile. It is t an archaic form of forced dress code not meant to cover skin but the soul and spirit of women.

Aziz12 June 2014 09:58
"You cannot for any reason claim that Burqa is not vile." Its so pathetic that when you have nothing valid to say in support of your argument, you start commanding it. And always alleged terrorism on muslims as a last resort, because thats the only way to escape for you....So pathetic.

Anilkumar Kurup12 June 2014 17:20
Ok friend, my apologise, I rephrase. "Burqa is evil and stiffing of the spirit". It is now a statement and you can refute it with reasons that are not masochist.
The unfortunate fact is, it is in societies where Muslims live that violence is unabated. Though we have problems in all societies Muslims think for them as a class apart. And the Wahhabi form of Islam wants the world for them and them alone.
It is a pity, Mr. Aziz. Why cannot you respect other religions? Why do you want to dominate other societies? There is considerable freedom for all faith in India but even a Muslim cannot breathe without fear in the barbaric country of Saudi Arabia where ironically every word is spoken sworn after your Prophet and God. There Wahhabi Islam is a threat to world order and inclusiveness. They export it through the power of petro-dollars.
The issue here is not just a burka or if a woman wears it of her volition or is forced to. But even educated Muslims such as presumably you, are living with blinkers and shows no mindset to be inclusive and tolerant.
And Mr. Aziz, if you are there please care to answer my two replies point by point. That is what discussion is about isn't it?

Aziz13 June 2014 15:09
“Well, First of all I don't know what you are calling violence, if you mean by wars in syria, egypt and other few countries, then it is because of transitional period as respected justice Katju said, it has happened to all the countries including America, Europe and US. And it has nothing to do with being muslim country.As far as the wahabiat is concern I don't know much about them but they are very few in numbers and almost negligible in India. It is just a perception that muslims cannot respect other religions. can you make clear where are you seeing muslim not respecting other religions. In fact you have problem with burqa,beef and 100 many more things of muslims which is no where violating any right of you. Have you seen any muslim protesting against your sati,cast system or rape and fraudulent acts of some Babas. These misconception are literally created by western media and millions of anti-muslim books written over the last century for their own gain and later on followed by the Indian media as always.Muslims, specially Indian muslims always respected the other religions but unfortunately they have not been treated equally and thats the problem. As far as the wahabiat is concern I don't know much about them but they are very few in numbers and almost negligible in India.”

Anilkumar Kurup15 June 2014 18:19
My friend you have got it wrong. The problems or the gory violent life that persists in the Arab world, in the Middle East is nothing related to transition. Transition can happen only in societies that have institutions that are democratic. The violent saga in the Arab world in the name of “Allah” and his Prophet has been on since the advent of Islam. It is rather ironical that the same God and his messenger could not put to order the perpetual warring Shiites and Sunnis. One can understand the tribal societies in a certain age in history that were perpetually killing and plundering but the same to happen in this era is quite an achievement of Islam or whatever people in the Muslim world makes out of it. Don’t you see? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? Care to enlighten me? Give me a logical explanation. I say that it is because of intolerance of Sunnis and in equal measure the Shiites. These two folks will for another millennia and more kill and maim one another to determine who can be the legitimate successor to Mohammed. And still not find and answer. Reason – intolerance and disregard for another’s view point- the bane of Islam as we can see. However you can find consolation in the fact that the right wing Hindutva groups are now rivalling extreme Islamists to be the custodians of intolerance and bigotry
“As far as the wahabiat is concern I don't know much about them but they are very few in numbers and almost negligible in India.( Quote Mr.Aziz)”                                                               The above statement I’m afraid tells your ignorance. Wahhabism is the brand of Sunni Islam that Saudi Arabia is exporting. And the terror angle in India is funded by this Wahhabi money. What we see in the ideology of Al Qaeda and other terror wings like LET or Jaishe Mohamed and even in the ISISI , now in Iraq is another extreme form of Sunni Wahhabism. They want to create a Caliphate stretching from the Mediterranean to South Asia. Fantastic philosophy of inclusiveness and tolerance! Isn’t it?

“It is just a perception that muslims cannot respect other religions. can you make clear where are you seeing muslim not respecting other religions. .( Quote Mr.Aziz)”
My friend, are you feigning ignorance. Surely you cannot be naïve as you seem to confess through your statement here. Let us discuss examples from history and recent times. Tell me why was the Bahamian Buddha the 6 th century year monolith sculpture, the monumental statue of standing Buddha carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamwam valley in Afghanistan bombarded by the Taliban the neolith faithful’s of Islam? If that was not uncivilsed and abhorrent intolerance then certainly it was also a blatant form of intolerance propagated by Islam. Those criminal, the terrorist, and the thugs- the Taliban tore down the statue with heavy artillery in the name of Allah. Strange if the God of Islam demands disrespect and irreverence of other faith. Do you really believe that there is an Islamic God the only true God, that there is a Christian God a false one at that, and that there is a Hindu vile God and a Jewish God again a false one? Do you insist that people believe in this fairy tale and kill their own? Why is the Muslim foray into India splashed and soiled by blood and aided by sword? Why were the Hindu temples of ancient India deracinated, desecrated and Hindus put to sword? Why were there forced conversions? Look at the biographies of Mohammed of Ghori and Ghazanni for instance. What else were those excursions of terror if it was not intolerance? Rajiv Gandhi buckled and leaked through his trouser like a fool and amended the law under Muslim pressure to circumvent the court ruling favouring a destitute Muslim woman ‘Sha Bano’ who was denied maintenance by her husband sighting the ‘glorious’(sic) but God given Muslim personal law. What was that my friend if that was not intolerance and refusal to heed to civilised norms? My friend do you know which was the first Mosque in India? Do you have any idea? Can you guess? The ‘Cheraman Masjid’ is in Kodungalloor, near Kochin in Kerala is said to be the very first mosque in India, built in 629 AD by Malik lbn Dinar. The land was gifted by the local Hindu ruler.

“In fact you have problem with burqa,beef and 100 many more things of muslims which is no where violating any right of you. Have you seen any muslim protesting against your sati,cast system or rape and fraudulent acts of some Babas. ( Quote Mr.Aziz)”
You got it wrong here using me in the first person. (‘…your Sati, your beef etc.”)Yes I was born to Hindu parents and that precisely helped me to respect and tolerate different faith. My friend do you really believe that there is a Muslim God, a Hindu God, Christian God, a Jewish God etc.? My friend I’m not a Hindu as you may believe, and perhaps I will agree if you say I’m a Hindu with no religious fervor and madness like some Hindus and many Muslims and Christians too. I do not believe or see any reason to claim that there is a Hindu God and he alone is great. I see only reasons to rubbish people who say so and Muslims too who claim that only Islam is true. If Muslims did not protest against Sati it shows how barbaric they thought. My friend, Sati was one evil aspect of Hinduism and thankfully done away. Casteism, child marriage, ban of widow marriage etc. are other forms of evil in Hinduism. Like stifling woman in Burqa, like stoning women, like your triple Talq helping men, like polygamy and subjugating women thereafter are vices in Islam. If you do not protest and raise voice against all these evils and  be it in any faith you are a bad Muslim and above all a worst kind of human being, an abominable one. That goes with me and everyone. Understand that. Even though I’m not religious I go to temples, Churches and have been to Mosques too. I find no God cursing me for that. Can you do that with free mind without your mullahs and fellow Muslims kicking you in your arse? My friend it is not Muslims alone who bleed. The colour of blood for you and me is red.

“These misconception are literally created by western media and millions of anti-muslim books written over the last century for their own gain and later on followed by the Indian media as always.(Quote Mr.Aziz)”
Why do you allow for misconception? Have you listened to this Islamic preacher Zakhir Naik? The invective he throws at Hinduism, Christianity and other religions? He proclaims that as I mentioned in my earlier reply to you that Koran has everything truthful. Not only implying but asserting vocally that all other Texts, texts of other faith is rubbish. The silence of the educated among Muslims in the face of the bigotry of Clerics and their perverted ideology is what helps the West talk nonsense of your faith. Come-on my friend Muslims has been allowed to migrate to France, to UK, to Spain and many Western countries. They are free to practice Islam there. They have equal citizenship rights. And you say that there is misconception in the West. This is ungratefulness and nonsense my friend. You will have more freedom and respect in the West if you go there than in the custodian country of Islam Saudi Arabia.

“Muslims, specially Indian muslims always respected the other religions but unfortunately they have not been treated equally and thats the problem.( quote Mr.Aziz)”
Wrong absolutely wrong and your contention is egregious. In fact Muslims in India are a pampered lot, by the Congress rule and their vote bank politics. I do not know what the BJP would do, if they will correct the lopsidedness or go to the opposite extreme. If Muslims in India have not developed they are themselves to be blamed. Their stifling laws, practices and clerics who hold fatwas like in medieval Arabia to silence progressive voices among Muslims are the reason for your backwardness. Why do Muslims in northern district of Kerala want the criminal law to be amended to free Muslim men to marry minor girls? My friend you go to Pakistan, go to Middle East you will then see what it means by freedom of expression and fundamental rights you have  here being an Indian. As for a country carved on theocratic mumbo jumbo look at Pakistan. You will then fall prostrate and thank your God for creating you as an Indian and being able to live in a free country like India. If the Jews were driven out of every land they went to, there must certainly be something unsavoury about their attitude as the guest in a foreign land. But remember they the Jews could find sanctuary, identity, peace and quiet in India and nowhere in the world where they safe-look back into history. Mr. Aziz if you cannot be happy still, I implore you- look within. For the Kingdom of heaven may be within you.
A few years ago the well-known writer, and novelist Kamal Das ( Madhavikutty), turned  Kamal  Suraya after her impetuous conversion to Islam was disillusioned with herself and her capriciousness  and expressed desire to be as she was before the conversion. She was threatened (in her own words as said in her memoir) by Muslim groups of dire consequence to her life if she chose to discard her Islamic conversion. Is this is the mark of Islamic tolerance that many Muslims swear is vouched in their scriptures?

These observations are not to vilify your faith, but to seek civilized responses and answers to my questions. Why, Mr. Aziz, do we not see even feeble voices of protest by learned Muslims against Islamic militancy, terror, injustices and atrocities perpetuated in the name of Islam?

Friday, June 13, 2014

In the Rain

The rains have  not just the romanticism about, they  can lend you a salubrious effect whether you walk in the rains or sit indoors and watch through the mullioned window the silver drops falling from the skies like arrows of avidity. I’m enjoying the monsoon, reveling in it, tactile about it after very many years. When was the last I was in the land “Where the rain is born”, in the monsoon?

Where is the dullness of spirit the occasional ennui that besotted?  The friendships that were faux serenading thus far in malarkey, wasting many a happy hour?  All washed away in the monsoon down pour like the calloused rubble and dust.

Last night it rained, waking me up like with the accompaniments of a Kathakali libretto and I pulled aside the sashes of the window and lay in bed melting in the cascading waters from the heavens. The glow of the lone light outside lend an aura of abstractness to the moment. It was sublime and longed that sleep doesn’t power over me.

Ironically power cuts come about in the land of rains, now even in the monsoon. But then this is a land of ironies, of contradictions, of eternal disagreements, of many gods and of men who fiercely are querulous and unilateral, of the ones despairing to make believe there is a halo about them. This is a land of opinions galore, of many News Papers and news makers, of bandhs and hartals protesting a cur crossing the street or a mongrel’s bark, of literates and lovers of Nature, of activists and patrons. Like squelch after the monsoon that usually stays for about ninety days life is akin to squelch in this diversity, incongruity and contradictions.

A few days back, she called from Mumbai to tell what she wanted to do about her future. The longing, exuberance and tenacity of youth, like Jonathan Livingston the Seagull learning about life and flight, and a about self-perfection! That is the import, she will know.

“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.” Indeed, yes to fly, fly higher than any seagull and to be the architect of your own fate.

The power of monsoon rains!

Friday, June 6, 2014

"Hello Friend , Good Day"

We Indians, especially the Mallu lot have a predilection to snoop, stray and often intrude into another’s privacy; privacy of personal life, family, habits, professional activity and even his mundane routine. Some do it wantonly and some with manicured innocence. Though, I must admit that there have been in my experience a few civilsed exceptions to this.

It is in our temperament and tinctured social etiquette to ask a friend or an acquaintance who we meet  on the street, not how he or she is this morning or exclaim a pleasant day, but where he or she is going to. This I’m afraid may sound innocuous and even unpretentious but to me intrusive and an avoidable one at that.
Even if we ignore such enquiries as trivia and forgettable, there are the elements, the wiggles that hold us on the way, even way lay us, ambush us and literally cross examine us. I loathe such kind.

Long ago in my teens, I guess I was in the first or second year in college- it was the period when exploratory journeys were made with the taboo and banned practices say like smoking. Though I have never been a regular smoker, I have also been provoked by the charm of cigarettes. So most of the smoking adventures where in the College Hostel, canteen or in alleys. Cinemas where insecure as one could not tell who among the public would snitch back to the folks at home. One day after college I bought a cigarette at the pan shop next to the bust stop, lit it and luxuriously pulled in a lungful of tobacco smoke when I noticed the middle-aged man who lived in my neighbourhood walking towards where I was and I sneaked behind the pan shop. But I was actually provoked when I learnt that this impertinent fellow saw me light the cigarette and even before I noticed him and was headed towards where I was. He headed straight to me throwing perverted glances at my hand which hid the cigarette in the palm rather instinctively. In reality my reaction was borne out of a little respect for a person who was quite older to me and known to me as well. He came to me and asked facetiously as if it was the sole question that he was seeking an answer for the whole of his life thus far.” Why are you standing here?”  It was specious. I decided to confront him at his game.   I gathered the strength and impassively looked at him, my annoyance got the better of me that I put the cigarette to my lips and pulled in a lungful and threw it out sideways. I do not remember well what he did after. He vanished and since that day he would cross the street whenever he has seen me approaching his way. Audacity of teen and rebellious though, I could not understand even from then why some people choose to be intrusive and ask things that are impertinent and are best left to the privacy of another.  I would have honoured him had he ignored my standing there, walked past me unconcerned and then gone to my home and told folks that I had taken to smoking.

Besides the pleasure of seeing the discomfort of another, what ails many and make them ferret with their stinking noses is some have no subject matter or topic to discuss that they display impertinence.
At a recent social gathering where there were quite a few strangers’, I was introduced to some and I preferred to confine to exchange of pleasantries and handshakes. Some enquired where I lived and such innocuous questions. One fellow went further and in his sonorous voice asked me what I did for living and I told him I was retired from active work. He persisted. “That is alright, but what were you doing?”             

 “I was in business.” I said, smelling his inquisitiveness.                                                                        
 “That is strange I have not seen or known people retire from business.” He said rather pompously. I felt that like a question to which he demanded an answer.  I could see some other people milling around.                 
 “Well, now, you saw me! I guess that will make your evening.” I stated and moved on. Here the fellow was simply being inquisitive but I did not appreciate it much.

I have a distant relative who is an expat and he has been cooling his heels presumably assisted by the resources he may have saved during his working days.  That must be one of the reasons why he directs his unspent energy, time and mind on matters that are not his. He collects tit bits from sources sauté it and diffuses around. That, I’m certain invigorates him and makes him appear sanguine. Once, at a wedding reception he with artistic pureness asked a person who was estranged from his wife why he did not bring along his spouse. The miserable person was constantly avoiding such social functions since the estrangement as he was uncomfortable when people made such enquiries and few of us had persuaded him to attend. He did not stop at that and continued ferreting. Where she was? Why she could not get leave from her office? Why she is living and working in another city? Why he would not bring the children? And how sad he felt that he could not see all of them at that function! It was chagrin. The outrageous part was the fellow was aware that something was amiss in the miserable person’s family.

Isn't it bare decency that people confine to pleasantries invoking the sunny day or the cool evening or even the warm day after the torrential rains than ask awkward questions to a stranger or someone who is not a close friend? Could we tell if the other is not awkward towards our, perhaps even innocent ask or something we presume is a mundane matter that is generally discussed? Shouldn't we pause to watch what topic the other is comfortable to discuss with us? Shouldn't we accept an iota of privacy as a person’s birth right and inalienable?
“Privacy is not something that I'm merely entitled to, it's an absolute prerequisite.”  Someone said that.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Kerala Cafe"

The night was warm but it was about the humidity that we spoke about. The sky was cloudy and that shut out the stars. But more than the absence of a starry sky, the cloudy night was a matter of discomfort. The terraced balcony of the house was half shaded by a canopy roof, underneath which it was warmer than out in the open terrace.

What the nine of us who gathered up there did not acknowledge was that it was not an inconsiderate weather that was enhancing the humidifying feel, but the warmth of whiskey and Vodka that we were liberally ingesting. The spouses were down inside the house congregated presumably around the dining table fanned by the cool breeze of the ceiling fan.  The twenty-fifth wedding day anniversary dinner of a friend was what that brought us together at his house.

“Hey, by the way how about your father? Is he better now?  I asked B.
“Well how can it be better? It is getting worse.” B said.
Well, I remember when we last met you mentioned that he was not too bad and was back home from the hospital.”
“Yes, yes he is home. But then he has forgotten how to get out of his cot. You can see what would happen if we try to get up from bed only using our legs and that when an eighty five year old man does, it would be inviting agony for him and trouble for others.” I felt I noticed a glimpse of a tiny streak of irritation in B’s face and in the words. B continued. “I’m really worried for him if he has forgotten what a fall is .A fall, a broken bone can be very difficult in his age and in the mental state that he is.”
I nodded in agreement.

B said. “I fear he is fast losing all mental faculties. And besides that he is reasonably fine for a person of his age. That in fact is compounding the problem for him and for others.”
“In a way he is fortunate B. There are people to take care of him, I mean his children. Didn’t we hear the story on TV the other day when five children forsake their old mother- casting her away at a temple town? Then when the district administration and police traced them, they refused to accept the mother back. They were even not deterred by the threat from the District Collector to slap criminal charges against them.” BJ who was a professor said.

“Yes, that was raw negligence and ungratefulness. Wasn't it?” said I. “Remember TC.” I said referring to our host. “He had to bear with his mother for five long years. She was bedridden and was struck by dementia. Lucky for her he and his wife took good care of her. It was not the money alone that matters in such cases. It is the goodness of heart, whether children or stranger.”

“I have no hope for these words and deeds such as of gratefulness and gracious. They are luxurious nouns and adjectives meant for eulogies and sycophancy. They are all defunct in today’s world. And I have decided that I will have nothing to do with my son when I’m old and if I live long. I will sign my savings to a hospice or an old age care and be comfortable. One has to be stupid to tag on to their children hoping they will take care of us when we are old. One has to be practical and feel no anguish about. They, the young too have a life to live. Don’t they? And if the old outlive and become encumbrance, do we still blame the young and their attitude?” P said aboveboard. He in fact had signed and legalised a document consigning his cadaver to the medical school and also donated his organs that could be harvested.

B was completely in agreement with P. He said.  “We cannot be judgmental. To slur those people who left their old mother will be unfair. They were being as P said practical. Perhaps they ran out of options. Didn’t you see the movie “Kerala Café” where a scene shows this man who had to cast away his mother who was afflicted by Alzheimer’s? The agony and raw torment he faced was well copied. What could he do? Abject poverty and no way he could feed or take care of the old woman; a cantankerous wife but to blame her was unfair. She was beyond her tether of her patience and forbearance; little children to take care and above all he were the only person to bring home bread.”

Now it was P who said. “Now listen, Man as a species was meant to live and procreate. Nothing more and nothing less. Nature have never intended Man to live beyond say forty or fifty years life span. It is the so called progress, inventions, discoveries, science etc. that has given man longevity, well beyond what was sustainable from Natures’ point of view. Come on yar our productive procreative life begins to ebb after forty. The prime is over in the forties. And what else are we here for. All this sociological commitments, the notion that “Man”, with a big Capital “M” is more  advanced, developed intellectually than beast, we cannot compare us to beasts etc. are bunkum.  They are off shoot of our conceited inflated self, our false feeling, and our silly belief in our prominence.”

We were going through a very interesting discussion.

“But why then do we have faculties of cognition, contemplation, and reasoning? Aren’t we differently evolved than beasts, though we are not in any way superior? Certainly each species is superior in its own ways learning to survive. Isn't it so?” I wanted to say but by then the call from downstairs for dinner was relayed to us  and we had to leave the matter and move down.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Conversation

“It is the easiest of all acts to display being offended and you must understand that, see through that act. One doesn’t always  have to be coached at a school of acting to display expressions to cover ones underbelly.  Ha, don’t you see that being offended is our national pastime and sport? ” I said, the last sentence in lighter vein.

Though we have been discussing the topic for a while, the protagonist was not agreeing with me completely and seemed to be in déjà vu. “It may be true; perhaps you have been right in your judgment. Perhaps! But his conduct and the utter demeaning way he speaks, he rubbishes make one feel having done something gravely offensive.  In fact he makes you feel guilty of having wronged him.”

“Now look.” I said. “That is exactly the point I want to make. Alas! He has seen through you like he may have seen through some others, who may have had the same failings as you- who may have had timorously swallowed his acts of prudishness and preferred to see his idiosyncrasies as harmless and passable. You must ignore his malarkey, his acts. His sophistry, his imperious self-obsessed self-righteousness did not allow him understand you and acknowledge your honest feelings about him.  He may have had his way with people who were timid and passive; he loves their company because he can brusquely lord over them and revel. He may have noticed that strategy worked well for him and he has continued to practice it as an art and craft that gives him pleasure. He thus acquired the audacity to expect, to demand the same unquestioned pliantness form all. Hence his arrogance, his tantrums of being offended. That is only a decoy to sustain him.” 

“I guess so.” She replied.

“And doesn't he get wretchedly personal when he has this grandiose feeling of annoyance of being offended?  When he has nothing else to elevate his ego and his imperious righteousness to levels where others cannot rubbish it?” I said.

She said.“Of course he does. I have heard him often and seen him too; he has now directed his ire towards
me like he has done to others in the past. He has the bloated egoistic feeling of having been offended. Yes, he does. Sometimes when he displays his dictatorial annoyance, he makes people feel that he is “Napoleon” the rather fierce-looking big boar, the character in Orwell’s Animal Farm; not much of a speaker, but with a fearful reputation for getting his own way. He brooks no critique and dissent. Once at a friendly gathering, he threw up tantrums that were sour and behoved people who have not been through proper education and it was gauche. It was his reaction that was offensive and peeved me and others to much extent. All because a gentleman was expressive with his opinion that he resented.His opinionated statement about the gentleman whose only fault was that he spoke his mind and conviction, even to this day is derisory. Yet we brushed  it off as a tiny dark streak on the moon. ”

“Precisely the point. Brushing it aside may have been the mistake. But we do that because each one of us has characteristics and idiosyncrasies’ that are both good and not bad. Long at last, you seem to have finally after these many years understood the emptiness in the person. Such folks are selfish, unsure of themselves, they fear their weaknesses.  They aspire but are non achievers because they revolt within than be honest to themselves. They cannot be gregarious. They are double-entendre. If you trusted him it was your error of judgment. Your limitation! They think they can get even with others if they indulge in personal diatribe. Thus they expect to plow you down. You know? Ignore him, such lot. Move on. There is much brightness elsewhere in this world than to be tethered into a dark alley that can only be lit by an artificial source.” I said.

We spoke about other matters in general, a bit of politics and what could be in store with the general election results on May 16. Orwellian possibility! We agreed upon that without ado.