Friday, 21 June 2013

Read the writing on the wall...

Flash floods....destruction....and the ineptness of disaster management by the civic authorities makes for tragic consequences. Pilgrim sites are always vulnerable areas with the overload of visitors which as a result become potential venues of tragedy when natural calamities occur. However India never learns  it's lesson. The political tug of wars which always arise  dissipates any possibilities of change or  implementation of new policies becoming a reality. Across party lines politicians  will always seek to stall any and all attempts at better governance,  because the bottom line is that no one ever keeps the welfare of the nation as the real focus when becoming  elected representatives in government posts. We as citizens are left with numerous "battle grounds"  that have no victory to record as all issues are played out to the tunes of vote bank politics. No stand is ever taken because to do so would require guts to perhaps be viewed as unpopular within some sections of an electoral base; which of course no "wise politician" will ever contemplate. 

Death in an over populated country has no meaning. We think of all situations of chaos as part of the great Indian traditions of Karma and Kismet; and so another day begins with no conscience of the wilful wrongs we contribute towards as we absolve ourselves with tokenism rhetoric. 

I wish that incognito visits across the country by influential power brokers within the central and state  governments would become part of the mandate of governance. Why are migrant labour forces compelled to live on pavements? Why is sanitation still an unattended issue in India? Would any public toilet be considered user friendly and hygienic by a politician? Are the constitutional norms for education truly the birthright of all in reality? Why are roads  never well laid? Why is town and urban planning so shoddy? Why is corruption so obviously rampant and yet never addressed ? The list of "Whys" are long, but the issue here is really to point out that accountability seems to slip through every ones fingers conveniently.  Finally there is always the protection of the power brokers amongst themselves that will cover up the wrong doings as well as  manipulate all systems to exonerate themselves. I think the recent BCCI and IPL cricket tamasha  clearly showed how the powerful protect themselves because the code is never to "snitch" on the sacred brotherhood of power ever!

Today the BJP divisions are a paradox of their own mismanagement. When the Gujarat riots occurred the courage to book the leadership under whom the atrocities towards a minority community occurred never happened. Instead L.K Advani lauded praise on his colleague. Today this same colleague has displaced him, as Advani attempts to caution his party from following this same leadership he once stood up for. If you can figure the logic of this, good for you; because for me I am truly stumped by it all. It is so ludicrous that the polity of India is so two faced in all that it does and still believes it can face the nation and ask for its trust through an election mandate.

Yes I'm naive. I want a better India. From every aspect....I want a functioning political system that understands the responsibility of nation building through wise and effective governance. I want a visually beautiful India that blends it's history with it's contemporaneity from an understanding of ecological and social accuracy. Where democratic  methods of planning habitation affords dignity and up-liftment where genuinely required. I want traffic rules to quell the chaos of city life and development to be where financial accountability is transparent. I want gender equality to represent itself not in tokenism but in programs that can punish offenders to crimes such as female infanticide and acid attacks and dowry deaths. I want the farmer to know that his or her plight of a failed crop will not be ignored and that subsidiaries and waivers of loans can be offered to them rather than suicide becoming their only option.

Let us clean up the debris that is strewn around us both literally as well as metaphorically. I remember my friend Pablo giving me a T. Shirt with the Indian flag on it,  many years ago,  just before I boarded a plane to go abroad. I loved wearing it and then later my son Mithun sort of inherited it,  and wore it till it was tread bare. We all hold a national pride and want to flaunt it. But for heavens sakes we need to have things to feel proud about. The way India is sweeping its faults under the carpet is only indicative of the rot of apathy that has set in. How about some proud Indians demanding that wrongs can be about our political service working for us....

Saturday, 15 June 2013

A sad ending .....

When I first saw images of Jiah Khan a few years ago I thought to myself that there was a palpable desperation that came through the "posed" boldness of this young girl. I felt instinctively that she was laying herself vulnerable by her extreme need to "succeed" in the flashy world of Bollywood. I thought nothing more of it till the tragic news of her death was plastered all over the TV channels, making it into a reality show for their TRP ratings. It isn't really about love stories going wrong that brings these tragic spaces of defeat into the mental landscapes of the younger generation (the suicides of many young women who were known faces in the recent past is already recorded),  but much more the craving to be a celebrity at all costs. When that alludes them then the inner rage of discontent swells, and if not checked, spills over to consume all rationality and sensibility. 

Fame is undoubtedly a heady space of existence. However the road of sustained achievements is what can lead to fame. It has no short cuts and comes from the quiet insistence of personal excellence that others take note of. But what I have observed is that the youth of today often believe that high visibility alone leads to fame.   They then instill within their own minds a make-believe  celebrity status where being noticed becomes the feel good factor, the high that opiates instead of better sense prevailing of old school norms that teach you that there is no substitute for hard work. In today's world of easy-come easy-go,  the dispensability of people has equally become part of the throw away life-style we have adopted as "avid consumers" of life's goodies, and so these impressionable young people don't foresee this cruel reality;  and in many instances fall prey to deep frustrations of "assumed" failure. So my question then is where does it leave for the protection of their vulnerability in this fast paced circuit that feels its self-worthiness lies in the flash-bulb moment and the page 3 photo opportunity?

Creating ones self worthiness comes from the delicate balance of loving oneself and also having the courage to be self critical. People need to take a reality check when they begin to feel victimised by the world. The blame game is often a convenient one. However a worthy life is a holistic one that mediates peace within ones self  by understanding  that the universe is truly vast.  Our existence becomes meaningful only when we live life with responsibility that celebrates life instead of searching for reasons to drown ourselves. We therefore need to  learn to love and protect what keeps us grounded, and to encase ourselves within a world that holds dreams that are achievable.   The tragic consequences of manic anger can be potent.  Suicide is often a romanticised space by those who crave attention. I have experienced a friend committing suicide. His act was one of defiance. To teach others a lesson. Of course no such purpose ever gets served.

We don't know the story of Jiah Khan. However what is a time tested truth is that the simple pulse of life, if maintained,  holds more to offer than the jarring violence of destruction.  Everyone wants to be loved and understood. But violence and recrimination is a dangerous venting that never justifies itself. 

Friday, 14 June 2013

The voice of reason....

The oral histories of women fascinate me. Women share their lives in ways that are unique because of their willingness to offer insights into their personal worlds that hold both the areas of difficulties as well as those moments of triumph, and they do so with no undue self-consciousness or inhibitions. The struggle of women who resist the straight jackets of conformity are always stories that are the most inspirational; holding anecdotes and parables that have the resonance of strength and courage for all to see.

Amongst my favourites is Maya Angelou an American author and poet who has published seven autobiographies that share her life with an amazingly rich candour. Reading these stories are motivational. They take us through our own labyrinth of life experiences and coax us to ask more pertinent questions, ones that we may sometimes perhaps avoid because of our discomfort to confront what we consider to be difficult. Oral narrative forms are imperative to social histories and hold subtexts that are invaluable and often complex. 

Asian women in particular fascinate me with the extreme worlds that we juggle. In situations of economic difficulties the professional and the domestic space are often so finely meshed together within that clock of 24 hours. And it is done so effortlessly that often the sacrifice and endeavor can sometimes be missed by those who may have perhaps benefitted the most from these tightrope acrobatics of survival. 

My world was thrown open at an early age to the wisdom of learning that came in many instances from the oral lessons of elders. I am drawn to listening to interviews and as a student in England understood my fathers love of the radio. The sound of a voice that rings sharply with the experiences of personal truths is a blanket worth wrapping oneself in. Listening to Nelson Mandela and more recently Aung San Suu kyi in televised interviews speaking so simply yet with such eloquence of their respective journeys to discover political liberation, and as a consequence, personal  liberation too. 

Even today when I open books of Indian miniatures, where visuals that hold my heart are looked at frequently, I hear the voices of Mildred Archer and B.N Goswami come back to me,  as I relive those times one has sat in rapt attention listening to lectures and conversations that gave shape to a world of my personal belonging. Perhaps my most precious memories are those few occasions when I visited my mothers ancestral home as a child, and fell asleep to the sound of the voices of the women sharing stories of their lives together. I never imagined how much I would hold that memory as a personal space of history, to insist  from myself a life that must hold meaning. 

I was gifted a book titled The Cat and the Tao. I love the visuals and didn't pay much attention to the proverbs, till recently. On reading them, this one in particular struck me with its simple relevance:

To know what is going on takes sense;
To know what to do about it takes wisdom.