At an abstract level, it’s an everlasting bond which exists for its own sake and all that yada.
But it’s not so easy to define at a more practical level.
Sometimes you share a lot of wonderful moments with a someone who seems to be just the sort of person who’d make a great friend…. but it somehow never happens.
Sometimes you put up with mental third-degree, hard times, emotional strain with someone you wouldn’t really care for if you met them just now, all because you call that person a friend.
Do friends get cut out of your life? When would you do that? Is it a conscious decision you take, or is it something that gradually happens on its own? Is it not being calculative? Rather, is being calculative such a bad thing as it is made out to be?
People change. Relationships change. Does that go for friendships too?
Just what is it that holds friends together? Just knowing each other reasonably well? Or just calling it friendship?
I have relatives and friends in Mumbai. Luckily they live on the outskirts, nowhere near Colaba. Though, my uncle had been to the Taj that afternoon. He returned back to base much before anything happened, thankfully. Just like he was planning on going jogging on the beach in Pondicherry the morning of the Tsunami, but changed his mind at 5 am… but that’s beside the point.
Oh, and I was supposed to go to Forum Mall but didn’t the day they found explosives there. And I watched them defuse a bomb outside Military School on July 25 on my way back home.
After all these ‘close-shaves’, what am I supposed to feel? I can’t feel ‘the spirit of India’ or ‘the resilience of the people’. It is a scary feeling when you know you could have been pushing the daisies along with the rest of the victims. You certainly do not want to feel that emotion again. It’s not the same feeling as thanking God for saving you when you narrowly miss falling off a skyscraper or something. Because you know that a terrorist attack means sure death or maiming, and that it can happen to anyone anytime. And a terror attack is NOT an accident.
Everyone says ‘we need to stay calm’. Yes, I know panic makes things worse, but how can I put my mind at rest when I’ll be had next time if not this time? I don’t mind not panicking, but they expect me to behave as if nothing’s wrong. When it so clearly is.
Everyone says ‘Be resilient, if we show we are affected, the terrorists have had their way’. Why should I pretend nothing’s happened? Doesn’t the incident deserve the attention it does? Don’t I need to acknowledge in some way? Some way different from placing flowers and lighting candles, of course.
And I feel helpless, because there is nothing I can do to stop these attacks. My life is not in my own hands. It never was, but there never was this level of uncertainity when it came to “Will I be alive and well in the next fifteen days?”. And there is nothing I can do about it.
Or is there?
There must be some way citizens can assert their right to live.
Voting is one way. But the average Indian considers it a choice between the Devil and the deep blue sea. Anyway, I don’t think there is any point in advising people about who to vote for… that is the job of others.
I suppose we should form Citizens’ Vigilance Groups. Because terror can’t take such a form without the explicit complicity of locals. When people can agitate so much that people stop bursting crackers during Diwali, I’m sure people can go about educating others on the little things they do that create a loophole which terrorists use. You can go about making it compulsory for police verification of prospective tenants, but nothing will happen unless citizens themselves take the initiative.
You have richkid Rahul Bose blabbing that he does not want India to become a Police State. I’m sure he and his ilk will successfully stop any stringent measure to contain terrorists from being implemented. So what’s the solution? Locality watch. Where people of a certain locality make sure they know each other reasonably well that any oddness is spotted immediately. Like the guy claiming to be from Gulbarga, but who speaks English and Urdu and not Kannada or Marathi. Or the guy claiming to be a Malay citizen but who speaks Urdu and doesn’t pepper his sentences with ‘Lah’s and doesn’t know too much about KL and doesn’t know about the existence of Michelle Yeoh. Or the engineer from NITC who has strange friends dropping over. Or the reclusive Yahoo! engineer who stops everyone at the door and says bye.
Sure, it’s not going to stop all attacks, but it makes it a wee bit more harder for them to find a safe house.
And… such a group which shares a common interest will be able to agitate for speedy justice to be administered in case of caught terrorists, and balance out those Human-Rights activists.
We have groups to agitate for water, power and good roads in their localities. Since basic safety is a more pressing concern, why can’t existing groups make it part of their agenda?
Janaagraha, Mr. Ramesh Ramanathan, are you listening?
Update: I guess I exaggerated the vigilantism bit. It probably wouldn’t have that much of an impact in that direction, considering there are always entire neighbourhoods full of brainwashed folks who’ll very nicely collude in hiding terrorists. But where citizens can help is in forming pressure groups. Groups that pressurize the government and media to make sure terror is not let go scot free. Like people can agitate for the immediate execution of Afzal Guru, or pressurize the ATS into investigating all these attacks more efficiently… or something like that.
Another area where citizen groups can help is in creating awareness. Jaago Re and all is great, but groups of citizens just like you telling you to get off your seat and register yourself to vote has a better impact that radio and TV ads. Also, most people have a very cliched idea of politics, and assume it’s all blame-game and siphoning off funds. This perception needs to be changed, because it is not true of all politicians. It’ll be great if these citizen groups actually went about spreading awareness about each political party, each controversy, and told people not just the TRP-generating stuff. Distant dream, lots of technical glitches here – like how do you keep it unbiased , but worth a try all the same.
Dedicated to Malu, Pub, Meghali and Indu without meeting whom I would still have thought Assam and the Seven Sisters were another country where people largely wore grass skirts and animal bones and had tiny eyes. One incident that comes to mind is this one during counselling just before I joined NITK where I heard a parent reassuring another that his son will surely get a seat in the casual vacancy round…. who would come from Nagaland anyway. Turns out, people did. And some of them went on to top their class.
You see so many regional stereotypes in Bollywood flicks – South Indians (“Aiyo Amma”), Parsees (always suited and booted, occasionally with traditional headgear), Punjabis (need I elaborate?), Bengalis (the accent, first and foremost)… why, even Nepalis (all named Bahadur, who all say “Ji, shaab”)… but I’m yet to come across a main character from the North-East (apart from in Chak De)… why, even Danny Dengzongpa plays some firang or origins-unknown villain and not a Naga or Mizo. Or does my memory fail me? Or is it plain ignorance?
I’ve not come across any movie set in the North-East either. Though I think Tango Charlie had a few scenes with Bobby Deol battling insurgency in Assam (Update: Turns out it went on to be banned in Assam). And Dil Se was set in Assam (though everyone including me thought it was Kashmir) before moving on to Ladakh?
I’m surprised no one makes a movie about the separatist movements in the seven North-East states. Okay, maybe you can ascribe that to language difficulties (if at all you need to hunt for a reason).. but what about Assam? Bollywood seems to have only fleetingly, if at all, talked about Assam.
Though, a Kannada movie called Hoo Male was set in Assam, and it starred Ramesh Arvind (for those who don’t follow Kannada flicks, he’s a star). And it also had an ULFA militant spout lines like “Delhi to Mumbai is the same distance as Delhi to Guwahati… so why does Delhi concentrate so much on Mumbai and nothing at all on Guwahati?”. Oh, and it had the lead pair doing the Bihu dance, too.
So… is there a Bollywood movie set in the North-East that I’ve missed?
Ah… one comes to mind… Daman, starring Raveena Tandon. Won her a National Award for Best Actress. It had music by Bhupen Hazarika, their family name was Saikia, and the NE connection ended there.
Any NE more? Rather, NE at all?
There used to be a time when the pseudosecularists had their way with me. I didn’t think much of Hinduism… the whole ‘emphasis on rites and rituals’ didn’t go down well with me. In retrorespect, I’ll say it was just that I was lazy and wanted a justification to avoid walking all the way to the temples, standing in queues to get a darshan of God. But back then, I was convinced I was doing the right thing by looking outside of my faith when I was in “doubt”.
Add to that all the Godmen being proved fakes, and…. you get the drift.. Being a Hindu was uncool when I was fifteen.
And the family wasn’t really fixated on the religion question… when they could accept Aunt Sheila and her orthodox Christian hubby, and Uncle Ganesh’s Muslim wife, and numerous others, I was sure nothing I would do would be an issue.
Why, they only laughingly refer to the incident where a relative fell in love with a Christian lady, but in the process of converting to her faith, he was so enamoured by the teachings of Christ that he threw aside all plans of marriage and joined the Clergy.
So what do I change my faith to? Islam was out of the question, as irrespective of any leaps of faith, I couldn’t for the heck of me stand to see a fellow living being slaughtered, halal or not. And the only way I’d have a lamb for lunch was if it was seated next to me, chomping on grass while I ate my ghaas-phoos lunch. And I didn’t think I could devote so much of my faith to God, and go without food for extended periods.
And Christianity…. well, for all that my teachers said at school about how ritualistic Hinduism was, they introduced more rituals where we thanked God in the morning, in the evening, before meals, after meals, before lessons, after lessons… and my good friends Veronica and Joy said they attended Catechism classes on Sundays… oh, lazy me wouldn’ t want to put in so much effort. So what if the Sunday school teacher was goodlooking… in Veronica’s words, “he was soon to be a Father”.
Anyways, I didn’t want one of these mainstream faiths which are involved in communal riots. I wanted something “different”.
I was more or less non-violent (apart from when it came to showing the class bully his place) and vegetarian. Jainism would have held its sway, ably helped by the serene environs of the Jain temple in the neighborhood, but for the wee bit of extremism in denying oneself the pleasures of the world. No roots and tubers, no honey, no silk, and that was just the beginning. Bahubali’s statue at Shravanabelagola might be impressive, and the Mahamastakabhisheka a treat to watch, but maybe I’d consider this way of life after I’m retired. Not before.
I needed something a little less extreme. Something more inclined to the ‘middle path’.
I devoured all the stories about Bodhisattvas. And the legend of Asoka’s conversion too. All the stories about the Buddha too. The detached sort of philosophy was nice. No rites, no rituals. Or atleast so I thought… I hadn’t been to a Buddhist temple. I was regaled by the Buddhist monk characters in Tamil novels about the Pandyas, Pallavas and Cholas. They seemed so serene, so sure of their philosophies…
And then I visited the Namdroling monastery in Kushalnagar. Serene place, with Buddha-like sayings pasted all over the place. The childlike innocence of the Tibetans was appealing. Their curious little traditions were, too. The butter lamps made the whole place look so meditative.
But after I was back, reading the Amar Chitra Katha stories about Bodhisattvas turned out to be disturbing experiences. The story of Vasavadatta and Upagupta unsettled me. What was Upagupta’s brilliant idea? He was so insecure about having a beautiful wife that he waited until she turned ugly? Did he want to make 100% sure that no one other than him would get her? And what was the whole point? To recruit another follower of the Buddha? What a twisted, convoluted way to do so!
When you are in doubt, even the slightest thing tends to unsettle you. That was the last Buddhism saw of me.
I was sick of all these age-old traditions. Their founders are so long-dead that the followers spin yarns which have gotten distorted with age and possibly perverted to suit selfish ends.
So, well, I went for this new-age philosophy whose founder was still alive.
Art of Living. A bunch of my friends bucked the trend too. I would probably have become a very active follower, and possibly a teacher like Seema Ramchandani who quit Viva! to become an AOL teacher…. if it hadn’t been for an AOL teacher my folks knew personally who (gasp!) ditched a (double gasp!) job interview as (gasp like you’re in the last third of the Sudarshan Kriya) “Guruji was in town”.
Heck, I had a life. Rock satsangs were great, but I did not want to be so close to something so all-overpowering that would probably make me ditch everything else in life.
Hey, what about Aurobindo Ghosh’s followers in Pondicherry? The twenty minutes of silence at Auroville was such a nice feeling I wanted to experience it again. The place seemed so energized, with a quiet, calm force, with everything positive about it. But it sort of faded out.
That’s coz the visit to Auroville brought back memories of the visit to the Lotus Temple. One of the most peaceful places I’d ever visited. Ten times more peaceful than Auroville. There was no enforced silence there even… you’d just be silent of your own free will there, because the silence was so beautiful you just wanted to let it be.
So there I began an intense web search for everything about the Bahá’í faith. Everything seemed perfect. They combined the best of everything. You were free to lead your life as you please. You had no rites and rituals to follow. And what made it more attractive was that these innocents who followed this non-intrusive, non-proselytizing religion were persecuted in Iran – back then, I always backed the underdog (I even rooted for Kenya in an Australia-Kenya match once).
So how do I join the brotherhood? I just had to write to some address. I started going through the philosophies. God, did it read boring or did it read boring. They prohibited monasticism. GREAT! They considered work to be a form of worship. Even more brilliant. I’d probably just join right in.
They seemed like some closely-knit brotherhood. Almost like some Priory of Sion or something. Hmm.. heck, what was this! They considered Krishna one of their Gods! Oh and no stories of benne-kadhdha-Krishna? Man, they made Krishna out to be some boring philosopher, not the fun flamboyant young God we heard stories about, and made seedai and murukku for, and painted little feet leading up to the puja room every Janmashtami….. heck, wasn’t I against rite and ritual?
Turns out, I liked religion to have some sort of a relevance in my life. I didn’t want to go out searching for the true ‘I’, like Ramana Maharishi (who is apparently a far-relative of mine… trust these grannies to record family history) did. I don’t think I felt a need for it. I did not mind the rites and rituals… they gave me something not-so-boring to do.
I didn’t have to give up my life for a religious quest; I could even achieve the same if I said work is worship. And if i wanted the religious quest, I could do that too.
My religion wasn’t fatalistic that I’d say ‘sab moh maaya hai’ and trudge on the middle path. Serving God wasn’t the main objective of my life. And God wasn’t a punishing-type entity that He/She/It’d mind if I thought of myself more than I thought of God.
And my religion was an organic one – it blended into every aspect of my life. Right from my being born, from my first taste of solid food, from my first letter… it was ceremony alright, but the star of the show wasn’t some unknown entity (whose existence was more in doubt than Subhas Bose’s), called God, but me. And God, any God was just a sideshow here who got a request from all of us to bless the event.
My religion is centered more around me than about any or all of the 33 crore Gods it is known for.
We worship money, we worship food, we worship our tools, we worship our books. How much more closer can religion get to life and just continue to augment it and not dictate how it is to be lived?
Oh and best part, I don’t have to be spiritual. Or debate whether God exists (the sort of debate where you hear the most hackneyed of arguments given in the most passionate fashion) – religion continues irrespective of whether God exists or not. And you can say God is Elvis, or Paul McCartney or even Guido van Rossum for all you care, it doesn’t make a difference. And your bunch of rituals can involve your daily puja to Tkinter or Stallman. Or Ram Jethmalani or Sonia Gandhi. Or if you want, to your reflection in the mirror, like Nana Patekar in Bluffmaster.
So… well… this tale has the standard ‘there is no place like home’ ending. And since then, I don’t bother about the meaning of life or any higher goals we might have been made for. Religion and religious debates and lectures only serve to bore me. Ditto with new-age philosophies on how to live life and what it means… drop dead Mr. Coelho. So in case you want to debate about the validity of what I believe in and all that jazz, it’d be more responsive to talk to a wall. Or an idol of Krishna/Subramanya/Mother Mary/Ganesha/Shirdi Sai Baba… they’d probably drink milk or shed tears of blood, making them more responsive than me.
First they fool around with my GMail settings. Then they deny me (and so far it seems like only me… and Ego) GMail Themes.
Is it because I use all your products so much that you are scared of monopolizing my life?
Is it because you are concerned about the way I use my time?
Or do you want to spur me on to compete with you and then you’ll acquire whatever I create and leave me rich?
Or…. what? I just want to know.
Update: Themes work for me now Though the drama queen bit was fun while it lasted.
Cant seem to post more than text…not that i do much more anyway.
So Obama’s Presidential Transition Team has an Indian woman now. Sonal Shah. Her appointment has sparked off a controversy. Not coz she’s Indian or anything, but because her father was closely associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Some groups called ‘Coalition Against Genocide’ (who count amongst their achievements getting the US to deny a visa to Modi) have kicked up a controversy about this. And predictably, the lady has denied any links with VHP and RSS and says she is against divisive politics.
I’m sick of the whole ‘Right is wrong’ approach that has been drummed into our heads. In any other country, the VHP would be just another religious group, the RSS one of the foremost volunteer organizations, and folks supporting these groups would just be nationalists… but in ours, we are fascists, neo-Nazis, Hindu versions of Zionists, terrorists, mischief-mongers, communalists, you name it.
The VHP has never outright supported any sort of violence, and never has the RSS hand in communalism, if ever it had one, been proved. Godse assassinated Gandhi of his own volition, and the RSS had nothing to do with it, for all you folks who suggest that line of thought. In fact, that was a mere excuse for Nehru to ban an organization which was against his policies… that man couldn’t stand any differences in opinion now, could he? He blacked out Godse’s defense of himself in court… read it here, and you’ll understand why it was blacked out.
I’m sick of watching people apologize for the religion they follow, even though it’s the one which has shown maximum resilience, maximum tolerance, maximum flexibility to its followers, maximum objectivity and maximum ability to change and adapt as the situation demands, and almost never seem like an anachronism.
It doesn’t do to be in denial anymore about our past and heritage, or to continue to believe myths that make us feel ashamed of our rich history and traditions. It only serves to deplete us, bring down our self-esteem and self-confidence, turn cynical, not have faith in ourselves and our abilities. Lesser cultures have sped ahead of us merely by virtue of their self-confidence.
The past might just be the past, dead and gone, and never to return. But it surely would serve to inspire us, to give us the energy to go on with our duties even when we feel we’ve hit a brick wall.
Like, Koreans work fifteen hours a day, take very short breaks, and in general do things which we folks would consider symptoms of OCD… but they work at whatever they are doing with the feeling that every drop of sweat they shed is helping build their economy, which was shattered by the wars and invasions. And apart from boosting deo sales, it makes their country a rich, prosperous one. I don’t mean to say that’s the path to salvation, but this is just to illustrate what a bit of patriotism and self-confidence can do.
Separation of religion and state is ideal for oppressive, hierarchical religions, but not for pagan heathens for whom religion is a way of life. We worship rain, money, food, tools, animals, you name it. Religion is so ingrained into our lives that to shift-delete it from our lives would be to obliterate our identities and all that we stand for.
Being ‘conservative’ means to ‘conserve’ the ideals our forefathers have left us. For other countries which were left legacies that aren’t organic, and are not sustainable, it might be ideal to have revolution as the midwife of history, but when we already have a nicely-working legacy system, it doesn’t make sense to break it all down just because it’s old, though it might be more robust than any new system you might bring in. Ancient does not necessarily mean outdated.
In the Indian context, it makes more sense to preserve than to destroy what we have.
A Muslim country like Indonesia considers the Ramayana as an integral part of its culture, so much that it finds representation in currency notes, and we question and deny the same thing, which is more a matter of faith than logic. And choose to emboss our currency notes with another sacred cow.
I see no anachronism in chanting the Gayatri Mantra, wearing a sacred thread, going on a pilgrimage to Rameshwaram, believing Setu existed, celebrating a thousand-odd festivals, worshipping thirty-three crore Gods and Goddesses, doing the Surya Namaskar, rendering the Omkara, playing religious music on All India Radio, speaking Sanskritized Hindi, Tamil or whatever Indian language, being vegetarian, being allowed to joke about my religion, being allowed to believe, or not, having enough authority to bring in reform as and when I choose to to my religion.
I see no point in espousing atheism and denigrating Gods and idol worship if the alternative is you are supposed to revere sacred cows like this one and this one and against who it is illegal to commit any blasphemy.
Hare Krishna and Vande Mataram.
So every Vamsi Krishna, Nijalingappa, Unnithan and Murugan I know is gunning for Obama. I think I know why.
For starters, the general view is that Southies have more melanin than the others, never mind the Kodavas (who are all Greek to us anyway) and Saurashtris. And that is ascribed to our constant exposure to Sun TV, Udaya TV, Surya TV, Teja TV, Suryan FM, S FM… And so it’s easy to suppose anyone of Obama’s complexion is one of our own.
I guess Mallu names – Achama, etc, Gult names – Chinnamma, Chilakamma, Seethamma, Kodava names – Chondamma, Poovamma, Nanjamma, all sound so much like Obama… and the Kodavas, martial race that they are, (they are one of the very few people in India allowed to keep arms without a license) I guess are enamoured by the ‘Barack’ in the name.
And the Kannadigas now… we all feel proud of being the home state of one of the very first woman freedom fighters in India – Onake Obamma. And we quite easily assume that this dark man is quite possibly a descendant, or a worshipper that he sports her name as part of his. Maybe the ‘Barack’ is to signify the armed resistance connotation.
Tams.. especially Tam-Brahms strongly support Obama like he were a family member or something (no, I’m not referring to Dayanidhi Maran-Karunanidhi here.. they are exceptions), because among the gallery of Ambi Mama, Mani Mama, Cheenu Mama, Badri Mama, Raghava Mama, Kittu Mama… Obamama doesn’t seem so new.
I find there’s an ethnic group in various districts of Karnataka called the Siddis who are of African origin. They only look African, but are in all other aspects, completely integrated into Karnataka… they have been here for five hundred years, apparently. So I guess these guys hail Obama as one of their own race…. oh, man, first the Kodavas, then the rest of Karnataka, and now these folks… why is Obama so allergic to Bangaloring, again?
Well, well, well… the Gandhis are not the only ones whose name rings a (Pavlovian) bell.
Low-level programmer: “Oh, no, I write drivers… I can’t drink”.
Mathematician: “Nah, I don’t touch the stuff… I can’t drink and derive”.
PS: I am sick and tired of being mistaken for a fan of ethanol.