Thursday, March 17, 2016

REQUIEM


If one must see the artistic side of hypocrisy then one must attend a memorial service, a requiem. It is amusing and at the same time quite disgusting too. Often, the eulogies sung for the departed is delivered with the same effectiveness as the invectives showered when the person was alive.

I indeed was amused at some of the words and pretentious phrases that were offered at a memorial service I went to, the other day. The service was in remembrance of people in the Malayalam film industry who died in this year since January. “Good mother of God” someone exclaimed rightly there were more than a dozen of them. Not just old blokes but mostly in their mid life. Pretty early to have gone, I thought.

Of the many eulogies that were offered, I felt that only a few, very few sounded honest, sincere and matter of fact. Reserving kindness for the dead after they have departed is rather an exercise in waste and dishonesty. But then the departed seldom come back to comment and express on the encomiums sung at memorials.
Personally, I dissent with the law of Nature that is quite cruel and sadistic that many who are in the threshold of life and thereabouts are pushed down stiff and dead. But one cannot go afar in these matters as the mystery gets curiouser and curosier when you think about it.

Of all matters what was annoying was the speakers at the memorial leaving the venue once their bit of eulogies were said. It was direct smacking of those dead cheeks with their extended limbs of insincerity a specious interlude. I wondered what it could be in their mortal life that was pulling them to some other destination. It was obvious that their presence was just an exaggerated exercise in pretension.

What is putative misery about such gatherings are the wishes and remarks, that the departed have safe journey to the celestial world and their “souls” rest in peace. Goodness gracious what the heck is that -“soul”?

I once read a statement of the late Rajneesh comparing death to orgasm. The later, he may have experienced many times over, but wonder how he could equate that pleasure- to the feeling in death.  One can never know or tell the feeling outside biological existence! Mr. Rajneesh hasn’t come back since he died to narrate the orgasmic enthrallment he experienced in death.  I suppose he was being metaphorical here or may be euphemistic.

Isn’t this talk of soul and peace unto the soul plainly false and simply quibbling? A desperate attempt at trying to satisfy the hankering for mortality?
Come on, as I mentioned elsewhere in some post no one has come back from dead to write a travelogue. Feeding ourselves on fatuous matters is helping us no where further. Attributing truth to something that has not been proven or is simply preposterous is stupid mistake. If the mystery cannot be solved as Bertrand Russell observed suspend judgment rather than mystify and mythicise it.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Response to Mohanlal



There is something remarkable that struck me after reading your blog post, which has also now evoked many comments, critical and quite jingoistic ones too. You, through the entire length of your blog spoke with great veneration and gratitude for the soldiers guarding our frontiers. Your words and phrases often moistened my eyes. Dear Lal, your heartfelt sentiments is what many of us Indians hold close to our bosom. No commoner would asperse and belittle a soldier. But what was alarmingly outlandish in your post was this deft innuendo, the urbane aspersion, the allegation that many of us have no regard or gratitude for the Lance Naiks, the Subedars  and the officers who brave  weather and the tempestuous climate, the terrain and the enemy munitions and  isolated from their loved ones man the frontiers against adversaries and foemen from across the border. I wonder what provoked you to display such naïve and bizarre opinion.

Before I go further what I must say is that I and many who hold an opinion similar to mine on the vitiated social fabric in the country, about life and what we call social relationships etc do not repudiate your right to comment and opine as you wish and as you did. We do not demand you be jettisoned to an alien country for expressing your right to opinion. This, I hope you will appreciate, is unlike the forces that are at play in the country now in the name of patriotism, nationalism and culture.

You indignantly ask if we, Indians had even an iota of humane consideration and feeling at least of that the Pakistanis' expressed for the entrapped soldiers in the avalanche in the Siachen glacier. Pray, what has the plebian got to do with an expert manoeuvre and rescue operation that had to be organised by the political establishment and the military? You seem to be directly alleging that Indians collectively lost sense of gratitude and patriotism and we were only concerned about the right to voice our opinion on trivia ( as you opine) such as freedom of expression, disregarding the freedom we have; the freedom safeguarded by the uniformed men manning the borders of the country.

Yes, now I can  guess, I have understood what you euphemistically addressed. It is not the avalanche in Siachen or the precious lives lost there that is as troubling to your conscience as the persistence of enlightened noises made against fascist tendencies that we have been seeing for a while.

Dear Lal, tell me what do you think- you, me or the man on the street got to do with the la affaire Solar , the bar sleaze, the corruption, political horse trading and pimping, calculated cultivation of divisiveness, the communal and ethnic cleansing, xenophobia,the distaste for what is different, that are now facts of life? Do you think we don’t have our lengthy shadows etched in all that? Yes, you and I are equally culpable, for us as a society and electorate vote rapscallions and people with tainted past to power, to rule over the country. But do understand they are just the reflection of us – you and me. We deserve the rulers we get! I would now ask you to go back a few decades in our little lifes' span, to the Model School era. Where our minds defiled by caste and religion, by faith, by race, by language? Certainly not! Abdul Harris was equally dear as a Srinivasan or a Jose! So do not hold any fancy notions of washing yourself free off the grime or harbour  hope of  redemption and absolution from all the sins.

You touch upon very passionately about patriotism, love for the motherland and as some call it nationalism. You state that apathy to the motherland may only make one an intellectual but not a patriot. Your metaphor of the despicable act of casting away aged parents to the disaffection to the motherland may collect basketful of applause for you. But what is pity is that your understanding of nationalism or patriotism is naiveté, it is myopic, dangerous  and lopsided. Lal, jingoism is not patriotism and the former is a hideous concoction, a brew that has brought about untold human tragedies throughout the history of mankind. What I would like to remind you is that none of the votaries whom you subtly and so nonchalantly trivalised- the intellectuals, or the students of universities (which you were one few decades ago and I can talk about that first hand) defiled the motherland. There may be cases of renegades, turncoats, quislings , troublemakers and felons and they must  be dealt under the law of the land. All that we say is that we disagree with the culture the acclaimed patriots in the government and their nationalist (sic) cahoots have all these recent times being trying to pile on us. If you deny that fact under the guise of patriotism, if you intend to hide beneath the apron of what you call nationalism well that must be a very sorry state of mind that you are holding now. I hope not!

Blind acquiescence of authority and a blind belief in a system of government or an “ism’ is dangerous than walking into a tidal wave. Germans understood that and in a very bitter way in the 1940s. We Indians understood that in the Emergency era. Beware, those who forget history are condemned to repeat it!

 Mr. Modi reportedly said a few days ago in an address to students at the Benares Hindu University, "Don't let the student in you die.We want BHU to be like Nalanda and Takshashila". Certainly a high ask in the current context. What Modi forgot was that Nalanda and Takshashila thrived as great places of learning for the World itself was because of the great Indian tradition of argumentation.They thrived on the freedom to think and express.

Feeling the breath of great men and in it their thoughts through their literary creations is something of which I need not tell you about. The quest for knowledge that should keep us alive! I suggest you make little effort and get to feel the words speaking to you from the writings of Bertrand Russell, Bernard Shaw, J.Krishnamurthy, Mark Twain, Nehru , Tagore , Osho to mention a few. Watch in silence the resistance organised by  Medha Patkar against the grandiose schemes in the Narmada valley that was ostensibly done for the “greater common good” or read the exemplary analytical essays of one of our contemporary Arundati Roy. You may hate her, but you may not succeed in foisting a valid argument against. Lal, the essays of J.Krishnamurthy on nationalism and patriotism are simply inspiring and beautifully- beckoning you to be part of a better world. In passing let me quote George Bernard Shaw’s very simple, but emphatic expression on the subject “Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it....”

 Hear out what Amabeadkar had to say about a speech on the nobility of “patriotism” to an untouchable (ostracised by virtue of birth over which he had no control), or what would you say in recent times to a dispossessed tribal in some remote village in central India. Do you know that in this great  country of ours  there are villages and hamlets where dalits are prohibited from drawing water? To them what patriotism, nationalism or love for the motherland can  you sell? To a family whose breadwinner was lynched by mob pressed on by macabre thirst for blood and driven by fanatic religious agenda, can you sell patriotism?  The artificially controlled, pleasant air inside your study in which you may have penned this post of anguish is not what is out elsewhere. But remember, that the privilege you have and the comparative comfortable cocoon I have is alien to 80 percent and more of the Indian population, Lal. If you are suggesting that they forfeit their voices, their right to protest and even to dissent and to express, for being labeled patriots and nationalist then what do you then make of them? The air and earth that you hold sacrosanct is meaningless and empty to such souls.

If one were to hold your expressions on patriotism and nationalism as inviolable and sacrosanct then one of the most amazing human minds ever, Albert Einstein must be consigned as a renegade and an anti- national by the State of Israel. In the book “Einstein on Israel & Zionism: His Provocative Ideas About the Middle East” by Fred Jerome (St. Martin’s Press, New York), you can see the political views of the great scientist and his objection to the creation of a Jewish State.  This was what he said, “I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish State". An opinion such as that on Kashmir or Nagaland, or even the raped tribal belt of central India can be seditious. Voicing one’s opinion on such matters will be classified by you gentlemen as anti- national. By the way would you recommend that brave soldiers on the front in Siachen, in Ladakh, in the Rana of Kutch , in Arunachal Pradesh be given a choice between  maintaining the man made political borders or shelving them to strive towards the oneness of human race? Indeed, today it may seem an utopian gibberish but the every thought that had brought about tectonic shift in human lives were ridiculed and thrown out as blasphemy and ranting of lunatics. All the great thinkers whom I mentioned have advocated this half a century and more ago. So please do not glorify jingoism and what we see of that.

You speak passionately about the great country India is, its great culture, its ancient traditions, its natural beauty, its ancient treatise. You plead to make young minds aware of these manna from heaven, introduce them to the “Letters of a father to his daughter”! You rightly say that these will suffice to infuse sense of love for the country.

Dear Lal, what is the India you speak of, you sign off the post wondering what is it there to live when India is no more? When we speak of India we are referring about a political idea that is about a little over a century old in the time span of a less than a score of thousand years since we know that human inhabitants colonised the sub-continent and when civilisation of reckoning  came about much later. Hence I guess a more realistic emotion will be sufficient here.

Now, ancient culture is awe inspiring. But tell me, single out a monolithic culture that you can call your own and unique amidst the melee of multiple cultures, ethnicity, languages, dialects and so on? Let me mention a small example here in the context. When self-proclaimed custodians of “Bharthia sanskriti” culture go on rampage protesting against invasion of alien culture, what culture are they claiming to protect. In nearby Tamilnad State a marriage between the maternal uncle and his niece is accepted, while just across the ghats in Kerala that is horrendous – its incest! Can you speak of any similarity of culture  in a remote Naga hamlet  or a poverty stricken sub-Saharan Africa like village in Bihar and of our Mallapuram? Even Deepavali is celebrated varied in Punjab and  the other parts of north  when compared to the south. Buffalo or an Oxen is decapitated in the north east during Durga Pooja, while in piety(sic) filled Gujarat that is sacrilege!  Can you clear my incertitude here?

MohanLal dear friend, India as we know is not merely a political ramshackle nation created post 1947. Even if one concedes it is so the multitude of diversity- ethnicities, of culture, tradition, languages, dialects, faith, social customs to name a few aspects, are unfathomable to an Indian like me, let alone a foreigner. It is the rainbow effect of the harmony of all this- the sum total that is India to many of us. Even the military is a spread of different colours, ethnicity and language. It is this fabric that many of us long to live for, not the vitiated, divisive, deprived land that is threateningly held in front of our eyes to behold mutely.

As for the majestic mountains and rivers that the sub- continent is blessed with, we can only wish that we can safe keep them for posterity for we don’t own it we are simply trustees, custodians.Aren’t we?But alas I have all apprehensions and with reason too that, that may be a far-fetched dream.But it is likely from what we have noticed in the past two years or there about, the puritanical patriots you seem to speak for do not consider that - respect and care for Nature ,a virtue!

Oh dear Lal, I've gone too far. A commoner like me may not be able to attract readers. You may not even notice this reply. However let me sum up reminding you these lines from Gitanjali. I shudder to think if Rabindranath Tagore would be branded anti- national in the present India we live in for pronouncing these lines.

"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake .“
Rabindranath Tagore

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Filicide




A few days ago, seeing a message from a family friend on his phone, he called her. It was past 9 pm.  She told him she tried calling his wife, but since she couldn’t get through she tried to reach him .It was awkward moments for him as he said, he did not know what to tell her or how to go about with the conversation after she said,” Nothing much here. What is there for us, haven’t we lost all”?

She lost the younger of her two sons little over a month ago. He told her that she has shown great courage and resilience contrary to what he feared. She said.”Yes, I know. God has given me the courage. I have decided that I have to live and I will.  I have given everything unto him, the Lord.” He was unsure of what to say. She continued, “I often think of my little boy and then when its hurts I can see him seated up there next to the Lord. Then, I feel so comforted and blessed”.

I know that to tell a person in her emotion and plight to be objective about the future and not to be hallucinating for comfort holding to a crutch that we all know is specious and a mirage is preposterous and inappropriate. Indeed   an objective thinking is an intellectual luxury, of which she is not capable now. But yet why do people who have been through similar tragedy hold on to the divine or the supernatural big fellow?  It’s quite a mystery of the human psyche, I suppose.

The late Christopher Hitchens was asked in an interview which apparently turned out to be his last (he died a few days after from the terminal cancer that plagued him), if he feared death and wished he was not an atheist. Was it true that most atheists ask for confession like Joseph Stalin allegedly did in his death bed? Hitchen’s , though obviously tired , said without remorse and batting an eye lid that he spent his life for reason, logic and science and he did not see it necessary to be woeful of a physical condition that is purely biological. Yes he would love to live some more years and direct his activity against un-reason, falsehood, superstition and fanaticism.  As for Stalin’s alleged confession he said, it is often said about all unbelievers and he emphasised to the interviewer not to believe similar stories about him after he was gone. I could only admire the man, his courage and his stand for reason.

To me the lady’s words were quite mystifying. It is the same attitude that many in whose life unexpected bolt of tragedy have fallen. A tragedy often triggers further tightening of the hold on to the spiritual crutch. It is simply revolting for me form the point of view of reason. If one believes in an omnipotent to whom one supplicates and appeals to with fervour respect or fear, however mortifying and ignoble the whole matter may be , then shouldn’t it be incumbent upon the omnipotent to reciprocate honourably? Instead  nemesis and agony is sent forth. Even in simple terms of a contract is it not breach of trust? I suppose that ought to trigger a revulsion and revolt towards God. For he has forsaken you! But that is not the case. Quite inexplicable!

The most offensive part of religion is this abject, meek surrender to a profoundly pompous, egoistic, masochistic, maniacal, sadistic, depraved  person , supernatural being or idea called God. I wonder what is it about this sickening bloodletting aspect of Abrahamical religions, each of which incessantly shouts about the peaceful and loving philosophy of their faith- whose omnipotent God demanded Abraham to sacrifice his son to convince him about his love for God. When Abraham almost goes through the fillicide,  God is appeased. This is the most revolting part of a story ever and even to this day we have faithful singing panes of Abraham and his God The infamy is commemorated with reverence and fan fare .Will such an act of attempted fillicide or murder itself call it sacrifice or noble deed unto God etc go untouched by the law of the land now, even in the most die-hard theocracy ?

What difference does such hallucinated devotion and abject surrender or prayer for succor fetch which is different from the hallucination that an inebriated condition fetch you? It is a false consolation.Certainly it is, unless you do not want to admit.

I cannot find a more appropriate statement than this in this context. It took Marx the son of a Rabbanical line to say so. "........... Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world,just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of man..The demand of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition that needs illusion........"



Wednesday, February 3, 2016

To be or Not to be



It was a few weeks since I was invited to and then reminded every Tuesday about the meeting of a few blokes at the residence of a genial fellow. But it was only yesterday evening that I could make it to their meeting.

I left the informal meeting after about two and one half hours with a few feelings. Firstly, since the chat was not supplemented or sautéed with alcohol, the discussion was on a different plane, there was no impassioned oration and arguments. But most of all, the individuals present there did not have the cantankerous, menacing and totalitarian attitude. Disagreements were argued off than shouted down or fumed at like monstrous grotsoque looking dragons I have sometimes confronted. None of us present there had a termagant flip side. What relief!

The meeting takes place every Tuesday evening and a subject or topic is laid on the table. Though I did not see any spectacular debating skills or opening of repository of knowledge, I felt some of them were quite competent and were actually people from whom one could be enriched in terms of ideas, insight and information.

Rights of LGBT! That was the subject for discussion. The contention was not more about transgender than about homosexuals. It was a pity that none of us were with a strong educational background in biology or genetics. None of us would disagree that the rights of gays and LGBT is as inviolable as that of any of us. However we just could not recall any definitive scientific study that tells that a homosexual disposition is genetic nor could we quote a definite study that it is epigenetic. Indeed it was not a malediction from the heavens or a mental illness.  But heck, nevertheless how could be a gay, bisexual or transgender be seen as tantamount to a thief, rapist or murderer? We were unanimous about one thing, that even if the SC throws out the anachronistic Section 377, the antiquated persuasions that people harbour about LGBT and homosexuality in particular will corrode minds like the egregious caste bias that stays put in spite of the ambitious statements in the statute. Mindset must change more than the law and for that we must heed to the revelations and power of scientific knowledge that always opens new vistas, if only we care to notice.

We did not notice that our discussion moved on to topics and we ended up with the suicide of the research scholar at the Hyderabad University. His misfortune need not be trumpeted to highlight the plight of dalits or the discrimination they face in society and across which ever political ideology they run to for succour. One need not even go excavating and hunting for information as to the lineage of the poor chap. He may have been a dalit or he may not have been one. He may have been a half dalit if there could be one such. But as one of the guys asserted, his suicide was perhaps a genetic temperament, an aberration that he was inborn with, only that the right moment and incidences accentuated it. The guy who stated this spoke about the state of depressive disorder and he asked if we could tell what it is to be plowed under by depression and then you are bludgeoned by the effect of medication. He said that there was a time in his life when he contemplated suicide every day. There were moments when he almost ended his life. External environment also was unhelpful to his crawling out from the plight.

I could not help remembering the young boy who I knew since he was little, perhaps 6 years old. He, the 27 year old young fellow who snuffed out his life the previous month, ending his untold agony (I suppose) hanging by the neck. Was he depressed, was he unable to tell his receding plight? Couldn’t the people near him notice? Or did he decide because of all that he reached a cul de sac?



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What is it in a Temple Entry?


It really does not matter to a person like me if I’m barred entry to a place of worship. For, petitioning at such places has been a long forgotten or ignored matter. The acknowledgement and acceptance of the futility in frequenting temples or churches with the intent to petition and supplicate has prevailed. Fortunately! Often zealots among friends taunt me for my distaste for such socially and culturally responsible behaviour (as they say). So be it, I conclude.

But should one forfeit ones right to express an opinion in matters relating to such “socially and culturally responsible” matters? I guess not.

A few days ago a video message was circulated on the social messaging sites and it had a pretty looking woman who would pass off as a culturally endowed upper caste Hindu conveying to us the sinister plot behind the public interest litigation that challenged women being barred from the Sabarimala shrine.Her logic and inferences were banal and laughable. The very same bogey and trumped up anguish cultural custodians express when their traditional and debilitating hold over religion and social fabric is threatened.

Firstly this woman slanders the person and the sinister covert hands that she alleges have worked behind him to file a PIL in the Supreme Court against an age old (sic) temple custom. The innuendo which she subtly moulds towards the end of her exhortation is pathetic, coming from a woman. I suppose that she has not been enlightened to the historical fact that it was not that long ago women in Kerala fought against a vile custom that barred them from covering their bosoms. An inverse matter to the obnoxious purdaha and veil Islam dictates to women even to this day! Had those men and women who resisted that reprehensible custom that was enforced for ages in the name of tradition and culture succumbed to the vested interests and their criminally orchestrated pressures, this woman sitting in New Delhi would be speaking to us in a different physical appearance!

Perhaps the Young Lawyers Association whose member, a Muslim filed this particular PIL erred in not getting a Hindu to approach the court with the PIL? That would have voided the innuendo now being circulated about the sinister designs of pariahs out to denigrate and deracinate Hinduism and its age old values and customs. You see these are times of tolerance!

Further the lady in question speaks about the “Naishtika Brahmacharia” of the deity at Sabaraimala shrine and hence women who have attained puberty and have not come off the menstrual cycle are prohibited from visiting the shrine. I had no idea what goddam matter that was, though I have often heard people mention it. I checked a few web sites hosted by Hindu organisations and this is what I got, quite enlightening!

A quote from ancient purana, a discourse of a ‘rishi’ called Durvasavu. “…… . One who lives where there are no women observing celibacy is not the real ‘naishtika brahmachari’. The one who lives amidst women and is not caught in the sway of desire is in reality ‘vairagya brahmachari’ .Krishna who sings and dances with Gopikas without a sense of ownership is ‘parabrhamam’. His love and grace are property for all. He regards all alike, irrespective of gender. He lives without carnal desires in word, mind and deed, although he is the subject of love and attachment of everyone! He is the real “Naishtika Brahmachari”.
This rubbishes her claim as well as the oft repeated claim of custodians that the Sabarimala deity being a celibate, the place is out of bounds for women, (lest they sway the deity’s celibacy vows). Ouch!

What is so much the serious concern here is not the survival of myth, lore or the trumped up tradition and custom of the shrine, but the willingness to accept social transformation from the corroded, moth eaten customs and practices that we clutch to, like limpets- customs that have been used against women, women who were for centuries held servile and not (financially) empowered to resist the masochistic male mindset.

Noushad the president of Young Lawyers Association who filed the PIL was threatened and he even ventured to recall the PIL, which now the Supreme Court declined as it was seized with the matter and smelled foul. Question can be asked if the Supreme Court is an accomplice to the audacity of the young lawyer and his baleful intent. Laughable! The leaders who spearheaded the Vaikoam temple entry agitation in 1930s in Kerala, men like A.K.Gopalan and Kelappan too were hounded by the elite upper caste as renegades. Temple entry was denied for dalits and low caste. The usual exculpation of centuries old custom, Hindu tradition and values were put forth as reasons. AKG and other stalwarts were physically threatened. But the relentless movement of Time that takes with it maggot infested customs and practices, right to temple entry became a reality.

Yet another weak and erroneous argument in favour of this egregious custom is that women were barred entry to the shrine since ages- meaning hundreds of years. The fact is that   Sabarimala came into prominence after 1950s and in the 1970’s. History tells that the hill shrine was a detritus relic of Buddhist shrine later brought about as the abode of Hindu God after Buddhism waned and was routed from the peninsula. Age old practices are not inviolable or sacrosanct, often they are vile. Remember even Adi Shankaracharya could not escape the age old customs of his tribe.

As for the purity of mind and body that is required as a sine qua non for entry into Sabarimala, the fact of the matter will be monumental stories of hypocrisy, which will make us feel ashamed and abhor our human self.

Finally besides meaningful and symbolic end to a discriminatory male dictated practice shrouded in the name of Hindu faith and custom what can the right to enter Sbarimala shrine fetch women?  A few thousand women may venture there each season, a tiny fraction of the throng of devotees (sic) male who are there at any given time during the season. I do not have to be more explicit here as to what plight women would be put to amidst those vowed celibates.

Sabarimala is one of the most desecrated places in Nature. I have been there once and have no intention to journey there again and let me be plowed down by the apathy of devotees (sic) to what sustain us – Nature. I’m sure Gods must have long vanished from that hill abode faithful would want them in. It will be just and appropriate that the Lawyers Association also file  PIL against the rape of Nature in the Sabarimala Hills and also against the wretched “talaq and purdha” – yet other  symbols of Man’s depravation.


Most of all because the person who points out the bad in a community, faith , political or religious system is from an alien  belief , that doesn’t absolve or negate the evil of the system in question. Will it?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Childhood Musings- "The Seven Tiles"



All that it takes to know what one missed in life is to pause and look back into one’s childhood. The bareness or near loneliness of child hood, without friends, being free to make friends, bring them home go to their homes, fly kites, play football and 7-tiles, cycle along together through narrow alleys, but could only watch from the sidelines with envy, what they  little fellows did. All that you always wanted to do as a child! Later, when one could gather the courage and temerity to venture out in the sly, enjoy and be delighted in the fun filled moments, you do that often not forgetting the severe reprimand and punishment that awaits you back home. Oh, those were miserable times from which those occasional rendezvous, clandestine ventures and rapture of those experiences can be savoured even today.

In childhood days the norm at home, a sort of joint family and which unfortunately was ruled by regressive despots who were often at loggerheads except in the matter that unified them and that was the dictum that ‘friends are dangerous and a child’s duty is to study and mind his lessons not play with friends’. So you can imagine the miserable state of mind and body of a child amongst such dystopic mindset.

Father and maternal grandfather were like the Old Major in the ‘Animal Farm’. There were also women heads that were quite capable of rivaling them in terms of regressive, domineering and annoying mindset. The standing decree that was to be zealously and unquestionably followed was that friends are peril and children shall not make friends, go out to play with any or to their homes, unless otherwise vouched and vetted by the elders. This monstrous state continued till late into my late teens when rebellion was the only recourse. The oft quoted role model was my maternal uncle who was the youngest of my mother’s siblings. This bloke my uncle, while he was kid and even later, in his youth would never let any of his school mates or neighbourhood boys into the perimeter of the house. When some school mates came looking for him, he met them outside the gate to the house and disposed them off there. He made no friends! He would not go out to play. After school, he would bother with his homework and lessons. What estimable quality! My mother and grandmother used to sing paeans of this guy. His story was often mentioned as example of good of good behaviour and grooming; what a child should do. The epilogue is that he is in his late seventies and hasn’t changed much.


Near where we lived, lived a family that had three boys of which two were my age and a little yonder a few more of fellows of my age. I suppose they were economically not in the same class as perhaps we were and ipso facto socially too, perhaps. Moreover these chaps were all going to the local government school of notoriety. It was also true that none of them were excelling in studies and were below average. I could not recall something more that could be added up against befriending those boys or spending some time with them playing innocuous games children play. Most evenings, after school I climbed and perched precariously on the wall to watch their revelry and banter. On few occasions I was attracted to venture out to where the kids were and join them that provoked severe rebuke and censuring at home. I can recall one evening that registered in my mind as ‘the evening of infamy’. I rebelled and was playing cricket with the boys. One of us hit the cricket ball pretty hard and it flew foolishly towards my house and landed on the terrace after bouncing of the terracotta tiles. It was my grandmother and aunt who secured the ball and refused to give it back and ordered that I go back home. Foremost, I was recalcitrant and the cricket ball was a hard nut - stone like and  the game with such nasty thing was dangerous to play. How I wished that the ground beneath my feet caved in and took me within, else would the earth split and took in both my aunt and the old grandma fore ever? It was piquant situation and I was shamed in front of those boys and their folks who were witness to the priggish and gauche of my folks.

There was an exception to the rule. There was a fellow in the neighbourhood with whom I was allowed to befriend; he could come home and I could go to his. But his folks were more churlish and annoying than my folks. They wouldn’t send him nowhere or befriend kids. Once we were given permission to visit the library and unbeknownst to us they send one of his elder cousins to shadow us and report if we were at the library or we took a detour or went elsewhere. I may have been about ten then and that incident still ranks as nonsensical attitude of grown-ups.

Later, in the teens ostensibly going to the British Council Library which was a kilometer away was a ploy to also spend time at the stadium near there and watch folks play. There were times when I would join some chaps to play cricket. However getting back home disheveled and soiled would blow the cover off the library alibi.

The fascination for cricket was rebuked as much as footballs, as both games were seen dangerous. The reason for sentencing football as a grievous sport was amusing and idiotic. One of my maternal uncles who were poles apart from the prudish younger fellow I mentioned before was once hit by a football on the chest while he was watching guys play the game. He ailed from asthma since then for quite some time, it was told. Remember he did not play but was a mere onlooker! Doesn’t that go to show how unsafe the sport is?

I was fourteen or fifteen and I managed about five Rupees stealthily from home and bought a pair of sneakers to attend the cricket coaching every evening at the stadium. An apparently convincing tale of late evening classes in school was the handout alibi. However the lid was blown off somehow, the cricket coaching ended abruptly and the sneakers confiscated.
Going to the movies was severely frowned upon and cinema was considered as of a medium that can debase children. But what I could not gather was what fucking moral corruption can happen if kids indulge in games and spend childhood as children naturally are inclined to- a vital aspect of healthy growing up?

Teens brought with it temerity. Summer vacations were spent in the uninhibited surroundings of Ambalapuzha. Swathes of green paddy fields, rivulets, brooks, backwater, and ponds added fascination to the milieu there, besides the ubiquitous groves with folklore surrounding each and huge mango trees that beckoned kids with their elixir filled succulence. Elder cousins were entrusted with life guard duties of taking care of kids from cities who were not trained to be buoyant in water. Not knowing to swim was often undermining one’s vanity. Local fellows took to water as fishes do while we were confined to the fringes and edges of the water and always under the watchful eyes of the elder cousins who were natives.


I guess I was thirteen or fourteen when the idea dawned upon me, well take swimming lessons and what better way than sneak out to the swimming pool in the city! A few hours in water there cost 50 paisa. Some friends were in cahoots and we used to slip away from school to take to the water. And swim we did, soon to be able to show jump and dive off the spring-board and the raised floors into the water.

Finally when it was time to make the summer trip to the country side, it was uncontrolled excitement , eagerness and joy abound that plowed me down; eagerness to see the faces of those folks there- the cousins gape in wonder about how this city lad swims in water. They just could not believe how I acquired the ability to swim and I dared not tell any.

(Pictures from Google)



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Estrangement


Sometimes it seemed childish, often it was; somewhere, the reluctance to grow up, more unfortunately pettiness and the amour propre -the ‘I’ out shadowing the ‘Us’.

“You know, it seems true it seldom can be fifty-fifty in a marriage”. She said.                                   “It can only be disproportionate, how so ever passionate and liberal one may be. That counts for both man and woman. It could only be sixty-forty or thirty seventy”. She paused, her eyes were brimful with tears but she would never shed, she held them back with amazing grace and painfully. I felt uncomfortable looking into her eyes, miserable that I could not offer much for comfort, except an occasional mutter, “It will be alright soon”.                                                                                        She  said, “Infatuation cannot afflict adults. Can it? But then in one’s teen how adult could one be?  It was falling in love; someone has to first, right? I don’t know if we fell in it the same instant or was I awed by his youthful charm, his enamouring self, candour and spirit that were lively?”
I told her I knew bits and pieces of their romance, the long courtship and then the fairy tale wedding itself. She cast way a promising career for a life with him. She put him on a pedestal. She ignored oblique misgivings passed about him while they were courting.  She decided that she would work very, very hard to keep things aloft if unpleasantness came about in their lives and she did. But she did that through silence. Ignoring and acquiescing often his infractions, his levity and his irresponsibleness, his waywardness and most of all his lack of openness that was always so in matters that concerned her, them and their children. That was very unlike him while they were courting. That was the mistake she did – the silence and wishing away and that has now come to torment her. He sailed along with not much understanding for her and her feelings. He was too preoccupied with his wide circle of friends, his increasing public importance as a young celebrity. To him she and her devotion to him was a fait accompli. It was a fairy tale beginning that did not quite tread the fairytale path as it moved forward in life. But he did not notice and she hoped it will reverse back on fairytale course.

It is hard to be torn between them two, for he is a  good friend and she attracts the respect that a dignified lady would. “Why don’t you talk to him? Make him sit here on the sofa, or at the dining table, have food together, talk over the difficulties, your feelings, apprehensions and loneliness. Make him understand what you folks are missing and there is more to life and family than a bunch of friends and acquaintances?”

“Hmm I have tried that in vain. But when do I get to see him. Off he goes at 9 and might or might not hop in for lunch, if he does he takes a nap and he is gone coming back after his usual revelry with friends at the club. It will be past midnight and I will have slept after staying awake as long as I could with dinner for the two of us on the table. He must think that his wife is at home. When children were growing up, I had enough to bother about and his absence or indifference did not matter much. My hands were full. Now they are gone and I’m left to sit and stare at the empty wall in front.” She said while she deftly touched the corner of her eye and with the tip of her little finger gently wiped the tear that would have dropped down her cheek. The élan and deftness of a danseuse was evident in her eyes and even in her fingers while she did that and when she gestured while speaking. “You would not do what he does. Would you?” She asked softly and enquiringly, she knew the answer.”You will not. Anyone who loves his family, hold it dear will not. I do not matter a wee bit in his scheme of things. I’m just a marionette, dancing , walking, running, sitting and going wherever he wants me to accompany.”

It is difficult to take sides here, though one may. The difficulty is his resentment sound so true while he confesses his mind and at the same time one feels that she is justified while listening to her. He blames it on her for being lazy and disinterested in activities.”Why could not she promote a school for dance?  Her reputation on its own will ensure a decent attendance?”                                         “Yes, precisely the question I asked her.” I said.                                                                             “And what did she say?”                                                                                                           “Nothing. Silence!” I said.                                                                                                                        “Exactly, what I want to tell you. She knows nothing. She just will not heed, listen.” He said.                                                                                                                                                     "But why don’t you discuss matters with her, your finance, your business? You see sharing your burden, your stress and strain of life with your partner makes a lot of difference. It enlivens the bond, the closeness. Man, you look half more than your age."                                                                          “Closeness, my foot, she will not understand all that. I see, you seem to have been carried away by her tale.” He sort of accused me.                                                                                                                “Look man as far as I can see, I do not feel happy about this discord in your midst. The quality time you spend with her is little. I’m certain you do not eat together. It is pretty true that a family that dines together stays together.” These are not little children to be told all this. Grown up folks!

 I tried to make her understand the professional talent that she was wasting. She need not have to sit back and rue what he does and what he does not do, curse her loneliness and the idiosyncrasies he has, (to put it politely). Yes it is true that he cannot draw the line between their lives and what that he is intoxicated about – his friends. To him acquaintances are friends. That sounds dismaying and discomforting. When she narrated about how some idiots, his friends move about with scant regard to her privacy and the privacy of her home, I could only wonder why such an intelligent respected fellow as her husband could be so thoughtless. It was gauche and intrusive of those fellows to be so impertinent, but then why invite people lacking social polish and etiquette to your privacy?             "I do not blame them. I blame my spouse. He ought not to have let them cross the living room. No woman other than I would swallow such graceless, cheeky behaviour even if the person is his bosom friend as he claims. I have been seeing this and bearing this excessive indulgence from the day I stepped into his life as his wife. His spread -out arms to every urchin- friends as he calls them embolden some that they show annoying impudence.”                                                                        “A friend would not be so cheeky.” I said.                                                                                                “Tell me what I should do when he is so indifferent and naïve? Oh it cannot be naiveté, a man of his age? Come-on people grow up. Wouldn’t they?” She was, I noticed quite indignant. Her eyes betrayed streak of disgust, like that swift display of intense emotion in the eyes of a bhrathanatyam danseuse enacting a moment of disgust and distaste.                                                   “It is plain and simple disregard, for his wife. It is as if I do not matter to him. I’m just a piece to showcase and I have been aware and have been so all these years. It is out of my volition because there is nothing I can do.”