Saturday, 31 May 2014

Liberty is a hard won space for every woman…...

The journey of becoming independent as a young woman is not always as easy as many urban educated privileged child imagine. Western societies wean their fledglings out of the home far too early leading to many behavioural insecurities from this forced independence; and on the other hand the typical Asian parent keeps their children  trapped in an over protected monitoring of their lives,  that seems rather tragic if not totally bizarre, producing another host of behavioural insecurities as a result of such smothering.  The Indian parent appears to be grappling with attempting to be liberal and "westernised" in their approach to the relationships they share with their kids,  and yet that very glove camouflages  the punch of obsessive control and conservative mindsets that unfortunately derails mature family ties.   Parents need to nurture relationships that invite interdependence which is with We all evolve from our teenage years to face the challenges of an adult life. We stand taller from the mistakes we make, and  continuously hone the directives that help us define self-accountability,   and establish the financial stability essential within an independent space of existence, to create life patters that determine who we are. 

Every parent must encourage their daughters to seek their lessons from varied experiences and not behave as though outside influences will steal their innocence away from them. Liberal and unorthodox upbringing offers a wide spectrum of life lessons, making  alertness to life more real, and promises as a result,   greater self-accountability from a learning that is not cliched and stilted.  It is perhaps also through exploring the experiences and stories of other women that we understand better where our paradigm shift needs to really be in what women need to desire for themselves as their spaces of liberty. Such explorations of truth taught me to find meaning and purpose from the choices I was making and  made my life fit the philosophies that  form my character.

But too often I see the chop and change of decisions randomly made and reversed by young women that are unable to pitch the first  peg of their tent and work to set-up that "life structure" of personal existence, so as to find its shape and form and experience and know whether it accommodates them, if at all. Oscillation is like a bad decease.The back and forth of indecisiveness never lets you completely comprehend anything as a full experience, and allows you the escape to cop-out and always be at some "new beginning" with no conclusions to ever round-off any one experience fully. Life must teach you to be brave and to hold sentiments that do not get corrupted by desire alone. It should offer and hold simple goals that make the travel within lifes-journey real and attainable. Energies are as effervescent as you desire them to be,  and life is as fulfilled as you craft it for those of us women privileged with education and who are in good health.  And yet I continue to encounter young women unable to utilise their life skills to their maximum, who have received great support and generosity and yet who appear always in confusion and crisis from their own lack of initiative to make the best use of what is good within their lives,  to walk forward with purpose. 

In stark contrast there is the other story…..
The story of the lesser privileged young woman whose bravery to survive is often cut short by tragic circumstance or atrocities that have become an everyday occurrence.  Often brutally raped, mutilated and abandoned from either caste and class dominance meted out to them from the violence of oppressors these brave hearts never stop aspiring to make changes that are significant to their personal lives, desiring through this to inspire others to utilise opportunities of will and determination to  hold their empowerment against all odds. 

Is it that the more privileged young women often squanders the scope and potential of her discovering liberty by remaining mute in the cage of over protected parental vigilance, that then gets exchanged for the super-hero husband who become the next custodian and interpreter of her freedom, because it can also be comfortable to keep such a status quo intact that then allows one to never have to really stand alone? Unfortunately the reality around me shows a percentage of many privileged young urban women not having the gumption to be the architects of their own destiny. 

Perhaps it is time to consider to be more alert...
Steer your life with honest direction to a space that holds your truth…
And it will always yield your liberty.
Pretend that you are free by hiding your shackles  from yourself….
And you are your own hostage forever.

*Photograph of my teacher Nasreen Mohamedi who taught me lessons of survival, desire, courage and humility, and perhaps most importantly, the lessons to live life with passion on ones own terms, un-compromised by sentimentality, guilt or apprehension. 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Thank you for lighting my way…..

Maya Angelou has taught many people across the world lessons about life from the simple honesty with which she could lay open her own life for others to perceive. That she is no longer with us today does little to diminish the power of her wisdom and the scope of its influence,  because her literature will carry her voice even more stridently than ever before to generations that span centuries to come.

I discovered her books in London and read her writings in the years when I was young and shaping my own personal feminist mould; and through her wry humour and quiet factuality, she opened up a world of courage for many by her fearless ability to leave no space for secrets or shame to cloud the clarity of the truth that she delivers.

To laugh at yourself is what keeps the balance in ones life when the odds are against one….
and to know that tenacity is required to find what you desire from life rather than merely letting life dictate to you in random ways, is a very Maya Angelou lesson that scripts itself between all the lines that she writes.

Maya grew up in a period of extreme racism and yet knew how to hold the dignity of her equality at all times; insisting that violence and bigotry would not break her spirit ever. She attributes a great deal of her influences to her mother, who taught her to stand up and fight for what she knew to be right and not care too much about the consequences, because otherwise fear would rule you and despair an endless trap.

I remember listening to an interview that Tim Sebastian did on Hard Talk with this legendary writer and was amused at the open flirtatiousness with which Maya ended her talk with him, leaving the otherwise rumbustious Tim completely floored. For a man who normally exerted control over those he put in the hot seat to interview, Maya effortlessly subverted the power-equation to effectively  ridicule such methods of communication,  and put him in his place with great humour. Her confidence always filled a space she shared with others with experiences that were powerful and her responses provoked a deciphering that required you to examine yourself more closely to find your own indomitable spirit to succeed.

Oprah Winfrey has always regarded herself as Maya's spiritual daughter, and I have loved the few interludes I watched them interact on the Oprah Winfrey show, communicating beyond language and exuding such a strong bonding that is drawn from the lineages of shared history and feminist quest. Maya Angelou radiated a light that was about self empowerment and self esteem, and the desire to know oneself without fuss or pretensions.

Many of us are also Maya Angelou's spiritual daughters. 
Re-born from her wisdom and engulfed with the celebration for life that she insisted living must entail….her life offered us a second chance …..a new beginning from the words of her enlightenment.

Warm and compassionate, in interviews she would talk of life with her throaty laughter interspersing the poetry of her words, bringing you closer to a space within yourself,  of understanding and forgiveness. A mighty woman who like a massive tree, even if felled,  would surely  have its roots spreading  far and wide;  Maya Angelou's roots spread over a universe and more.

Know you are always loved dearest friend,  as your spirit resides in each of us you have touched.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

I'll tie a yellow ribbon on the old oak tree….

Yesterday the swearing in of the new Prime Minister has brought with it a new chapter of governance to Indian polity that talks of more determined leadership. In the lead up of this election we have witnessed a battle of the two major parties attempting to win the confidence of a voting public, wooing them to agree to their ideas of leadership for this large and proud democracy that is our homeland, with many words and many promises. With a sweeping majority a single party has come into power, putting aside the hotch-potch bartering of yesterdays coalition governments that held decision-making and each other at ransom on too many occasions and for too long; frustrating well-wishers and disappointing its voters on many occasions.

Putting aside my own personal political preferences, I watched the proceedings of the transfer of governance since the election results and the swearing in ceremony yesterday,  and agreed with those commentaries that brought to  attention that India is a nation that truly understands and celebrates its democracy. The mandate of the people in elections is always respected and it is a country that honours change without compromising itself dignity by resorting to  the shame of violence at such times to display disappointment or dissent.

Without doubt each of us must hold a space of critique for accountability from every government, and so the same must be for these new office bearers too. But we must also be fair in allowing for this regime to showcase to us whether it delivers on its promises or not. To simply rant and condemn would be that we are merely sore losers over not having the party of ones choice that holds an ideological position that one identifies with at the centre.  A democratic process has delivered its verdict  and people have sought for change, so we must now look to set aside our differences and work collectively for common goals. Those who held power and squandered it from weak leadership must now hold great humility to introspect and take steps to restructure and find new leadership. This is imperative if the opposition is to be strong. I will tie a yellow ribbon on the old oak tree* and hope for the rejuvenation of ideals and values to bring home a cohesive political strength and unity to those political parties that did not deliver as promised, and where lessons from history through which to learn, are sought.

We also recognise that a country as complex as India cannot have its course of progress redirected too drastically by any government, and so it is more the methodologies of approach to the areas of existing development and progress that will be fine-tuned, and where hopefully corruption is clamped down upon and transparency of governance is offered instead.  It is also the stability of a pluralistic nation with its course of growth and aspiration already charted which must get more focused attention, and with the dynamics of  newly elected government which brings with it fresh perspectives,  ideation and energy;  it  perhaps can work its magic to revitalise a weary nation that seems rather beleaguered by scams and inflation. 

Everyone deserves a chance to hold their space of leadership if it has been fairly fought. Today Narendra Modi has to prove to people like me that he is the person I can trust with the leadership of my country despite my political affiliations lying elsewhere . He and his party have won an election and hold the popular mandate of this country,  and so in the spirit of optimism I therefore must now hope for this leadership to yield my dreams too. If that occurs then I will know that democracy has truly won.

* The symbol of a yellow ribbon is a reminder of an absent loved one, that would be welcomed home on their return.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Demolished heritage...

 Once again we show case the attitudes we have as a nation that chooses to be selective in its upholding of traditions and heritage. Yesterday, a beautiful old palace building, the Nazarbaug Palace, situated near the old city area of Baroda was torn down to be able to facilitate development plans for that space. A large contingent of activists for conservation of heritage properties have been long on the war path with the to oppose this terrible act of destruction, but as is always the case, the abilities of power to manipulate a system for corrupt gains always appears in this day and age to win such battles and fudge the rule book in their favour.

The prevailing Vadodara Municipal Corporation have turned a blind eye to the demolition knowing fully well about the amendments in the General Development Control Regulations of 2012 under chapter 28 of the Heritage Regulations which defines the process of listing and grading heritage properties as mandatory for protection against such acts of vandalism. The current owners who received this property within the dispute settlement of the Gaekwad property litigation  case are completely aware of the rules they are violating, however who cares to be concerned about ethics in the face of larger personal revenue gains today….? To many who look at conservation issues with an eye on progress and development  and the monetary gains to be cashed in on (excuse the pun!),  will sell you a Mayawati-style dream of developmental progress that thinks nothing of damaging the foundation structure of the Taj Mahal as an off shoot of such planning schemes. 

I came to the city of Baroda in 1967. I still can recall that first evening driving from Makerpura to the cantonment area in Fatehgunj and being mesmerised by the layout of this green city as it stood in pristine splendour with its neat roads and quiet order, sparkling like a unique gem. Full of trees, each area of the city with is dwellings and market places, university campus areas, and large public gardens were magnificent to perceive; all holding the concept of an architectural and city planning design that came from informed ideas of experience.  This beautifully laid out city held the potential of defining future development and urban planning that could have continued to be in keeping with its existing elegance,  and enhanced the grandeur  of this domed city, if little thought had been applied.  Instead we got a "doomed" city that crammed commercial enterprises higgledy -piggledy and without any conscience keeping ever caring to note the ensuing damaging consequences of such actions.

Crores of rupees will be spent on lavish Indian weddings and sports extravaganzas, but the private and public sectors fail to recognise how important the preservation of heritage really is.What they need to do is to address this with committed seriousness that holds accountable actions as visible inroads of  change towards the apathy we possess regarding conservation issues.  But no...Instead we have a paan-spitting-urinate-in-public attitude that views the entire city as its personal garbage dump, so where do the finer issues of pride and heritage fit in to this crass make-your-money- and move-on trend. 

A mall or ugly high rise apartment building will now come up upon the "grave site" of this old palace. Still partially standing tall the beautiful Nazarbaug Palace continues to hold its delicate charm preserving to its very end the regality of its origins even when its desecration will soon obliterate its physical presence on earth. Who will come forth to mourn this annihilation, or will we just drown this tragedy in the blaring of horns from packed roads with SUV's and Audi's showing off the wealth of muscle power? After all,  to the ignorant and corrupted its merely a pile of rubble with nothing too much of value to pilfer. History be damned, no?!

Monday, 12 May 2014

A long leave of absence, and many new beginnings...

Sometimes time demands other things from one which hold at bay activities of desire till later. I have written many blog posts in my head all these many months because writing is like painting for me; even when I am not in my studio, I conjure images in my head continuously….

Illness has dotted this new year of 2014; both for me as well as within the family. With such challenges we begin to comprehend the real meaning of energy and life.   A new cycle of experience is charted and old methods of adaptation facilitate change, making for new harmonies in otherwise discordant  situations. Hopefully the balance, though tenuous, is now in place and reordered structures of work slowly set a new normalcy. 

I was unable to vote as I was out of the country. And mores the pity as this time more than ever I so desired to execute my voting franchise. The country as it calls for change from the weak governance of a government that took its mandate and vote of confidence perhaps too lightly, now sets itself up to face a regime that will hold conservative and regressive ideas on culture; and design a new vocabulary to accommodate and sells its agendas in the fast track of supposed progress and development. 

I fear that in truth all  countries with political histories that have had outside agencies govern them find their greatest moments of political clarity at the time of their freedom movements and the   initial years of self rule. It is perhaps the only time when political service holds the greatest ideals and is relatively less imbued with corrupted practises.

India now is a cacophony of multiple roars….all deafening and sounding ominous without the slightest overtone of comfort and peace. Like a bad hazer party that makes mud pools to initiate the incoming fraternity on many a Western university campus, the Indian political campaign trail has the equivalent in the mud  slinging that is often crude and violent in nature during campaign speeches. The palpable aggression that is omnipresent which does not tolerate any differing opinion other than which is being rammed down ones throat as a monolith truth is being showcased with high TRP ratings by news channels. These programs all sound the same and feature the same people and air the same cacophony that leaves one exhausted and bewildered and without much hope.

Is my India slowly fading away? That vision of modernity that is to up hold humanism over caste and creed and work to dispel religion as a vote bank card, and hold instead democracy and progress at the fulcrum of driving our nations future? What I see is a new re-drawing of a national agenda that appears to pull region and caste into the belly of political discourse; and the attempt for a new governance to originate from a mindset  that chooses to view Indian culture from the prism of Hindu accordance,  desiring to make this the new definition of "the Indian way of life".

As the 16th of May  draws closer I fervently hope that the secular forces of politics within India can make its presence felt in a significant manner to reinstate itself with new vigour and atone for its dismal performance. If not then we certainly are in for a new chapter of Indian political history, the consequences of which I remain deeply uncertain of.