Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Life Has Value

Over 1 billion people.

I want to know what we are made of. I don't understand how we function. How do we stay together? How are so many of us staying in this same place, quite easily too small for 1/6th of the world?

These aren't philosophical questions. It is just about rationality. Rationality does not seem to apply to this at all.

How do we stay together? So many religions, so many different beliefs - cutting and thrusting at each other every day.

How do we meet each others' eyes every day, at work, at school, on the roads? So many stereo-typings, so much bias against each other - jokes, declarations, proclamations aur yeh toh aise hi hain.

I'm very curious about India and how it lives with itself.

Or, forget that for now. I'm very curious about how we, as Indians, manage to live with our country.

No right thinking, educated man sincerely believes in any political party. They cheat us - all of them. Each and every one. There are hundreds of them - sprouting up out of bushes and jails and gangs. Not educated, although probably a criminal. We know it. None of these politicians, these statesmen, these MPs or these MLAs are going to clean the crime. No one is going to reduce corruption. No one is going to clean the streets. Nobody wants to educate us. Then we'd all know more than them, and that's a problem.

Except, we already do. Enough of us at least. But still, we vote. For one party or another. People bother to listen to speeches, they bother to cheer, they bother to analyse with the sincerest scrutiny where the lesser of the evils lies. Who is less likely to cheat us less than the others, given half a chance of doing so? Who would probably maybe not totally ignore every single thing he is saying right now, even though he said the same 4 years ago, and opposed it for the last 4 in opposition?

So, how do we not split at the seams? Why don't we scream in this horror of hypocrisy? I mean, come on people! This isn't a joking matter! This isn't cheating at cards or in your history exam! This is cheating with one billion people, over and over again, the same tricks and the same bluff. They don't bother to even ask. They just take it all. I am very curious to understand how we still exist.

There is a rat-race in the name of success. The bright youths, bright as earnest young bulbs, children only to the age of 15. Then it's time. The world's responsibilities are plunged on our shoulders. Think about your future. Think about what you are going to do. Think about your job and your position and your salary and your degree from that university. But wait! Not that way! Do not think of it as a dream! Do not think of it with a smile! You fool! This is serious business! Everything is! Stop smiling about your future! Drop that cricket bat, bundle away the tennis racquet. Enough child's play. Come, be a man/be a woman. Stop laughing and study.

Where were we? Yes, engineer or doctor forms please. No, nothing else. Of course not. What ever should we think for? Your whole life's ahead of you, so don't start living it just yet. Let us put it on hold while you open that book with the big equations. Feed it in. Stop dreaming!

Uncle ke saamne bolo, beta. Kya karogi bade ho ke?

I want to be an engineer. Or a doctor. I am studying for both.

Good boy. Now dance a little jig and go back into that dark room lit by the table lamp. We shall discuss your options and decisions. Of course you can have another sweet. There you go. We always have your best interests at hand.

How do we still do this to ourselves? How do we not grow up, in the way we were supposed to? When do we take control of our life the way we want to? How can you stand a dictatorship, a rule, a given path, an obvious route? There is no such thing!

You won't be successful until you pass out of IIT? Give me a break! You're trying to tell me that the alumnus of the IITs are the only successful people in India? Or the IIT-IIM package, I forget. A formula makes a man. You are where you come from. You will be only what sports you gave up as a teenager. Wealth is directly proportional to listening to others.


How do we stay with all this in our heads? When did we shut our minds and just accept the stories? We know that nobody successful ever did that! So why don't we idolise them? Why idolise the guy with the 25 lakh placement, over the man whose company hired him?

Selective memory. Deployed in the most important decision of a person's life. His life. The decision left to the majority. Since when is the majority right? Show me a person who says success comes from following the herd. If he's an Indian, he will follow that up with a rote passage on doing what elders tell you to do and not messing up your life.

Long hair, loud music, thinking different. Stop it now! Grow up. Real life has nothing to do with you or how you want to be. Be like us, because we are all...what?

It doesn't really matter. Nothing really matters. Anyone can see.

I'm very curious about how we still think, how we still act, how we still are, despite all of this. Despite the pollution, despite the politics, despite the pressure, despite the 'ground reality of Indian life'.

How do we, the youth, still live? It amazes me.

We sit at CCD, in blue jeans, yellow shoes and a brown coffee mug. We loiter in campus, sleepy in the middle of the day, throwing garbage just 10 feet from a bin. We muse over love and romance, watching that hideous Shah Rukh Khan with wide eyes, then marry a spouse pre-selected. We can read about the hot sunny days of Ayemenem. We can quote from Harry Potter.

We can listen to people telling us the way to live, because that's how it has been done for years now. And tradition must not be let go of, at any cost. Seriously, any cost.

Because if we lose tradition, we lose everything.

I think so too. If we lose our tradition, we will lose everything. The simple fact here being that we have nothing else.

We hate our neighbours, because they are from that part of the country where people are loud and boisterous. From that part of the country where people eat strange things and dress all alike. From that part of the country we haven't been to and every one looks just alike. From that part of the country where the language sounds just nonsense and the music from their living room is unbearable. From that part of the country where they only eat sweets and talk shop. We hate other people. So we think of us as separate entities.

We hate our politicians, because they rob from us. They cheat and steal and make no claims otherwise. The tax collector will take a bribe. The passport office will not work without more money. The local municipal does not exist. The police are scarier than the thieves. And the politicans won't do anything about it, because the politican is the mightiest serpent of them all. So we're scared. Unless we can sit on the serpent a while, and take a trip around the office. Let's not pay tax if we know the commissioner. Let's not pay the rent, if we know the policeman. Let's not stay together, in case the others want in on our fortunes too. Especially that man from that state, living in 3B. Those [North/South] Indians, I tell you!

So we stay away from each other.

How will it ever go away? The stupid rat race for a job, for the exact job that the boy in the newspaper with no social skills got himself. The giant, humongous monstrous corruption (unless we can get away with it ourselves) leeching off us all the time. The evil causing war and devastation in so many parts of the world. The stupid, unaccountable bureaucracy which cannot protect us from bombs and mad terrorism.

None of it will go away. No one can do anything.

I'm very curious to understand why we must all think this way. That we are alone in all of this. That only I suffer and only he suffers and only all of them suffer? No, you idiot. We suffer. Use the right word. We.

That is a collective noun. A. Collective. Noun. More than a billion people saying the wrong words every single morning of their lives.

Open your eyes. Look up to the skies and see.

We are in this together. Learn that word, we. And we can get out of it too. All of us. Stop scurrying for cover.

We are not alone. We can all stand. We can all fight against all of this.

Yet we are all the fools, trying to live just one day longer. Just one day more, and I can finish the EMI on the TV, on the new car. Just one day more and I can also afford the new apartment complex. Then we won't have to complain about the water supply. It won't be our problem. Just one day more.

Let me just survive. That is enough for us all.

I'm still curious. Can anyone explain how 1 billion people continue to think like this?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Burning Bridges

In keeping thoughts to yourself, there is a feeling of security in knowing that secrets are safe and nobody can judge. Of course, since nobody can know.

He knew this and practiced this. The feeling of security was well worth any downsides, as past follies clearly illustrated.

Small wonder then that when the chronic illness showed itself for what it was, he was in too much shock to understand. Denying, refusing and all those funny stages of non-acceptance were followed by a resignation to where he was. There was no way back, he realised. He would live now, without it.

Remembering unemotionally the days that had brought him to this, the childish pains and the immature temper followed by that petty age of revenge and sleep-depriving ego, he could see himself cutting off the connections.

Now he didn't know what he did. Or why he did it. Why did his friends all leave him? Why couldn't he explain his moods or his reprisals? Even to himself!

Slowly, with a blunt knife which sharpened with use, he had severed himself. And become the man who had cut his mind away from himself.

Monday, April 13, 2009

To All That Could Have Been

You died a long time ago. I denied it at that moment, when I first saw your sleeping form. I have continued to ignore it ever since.

Today, the denial has broken down. By itself. Weeds grew slowly against the wall, expanding in the many crevices of slipshod, hurried construction. The endless rains battered the stone and the patchy masonry was washed away.

Now, worse than your dying, what hurts is how long ago it had happened. So much time has passed, since you were put to sleep.

The denial was useless, of course. You will never wake again.

Tch, to my fellow bloggers of an age past. Tch.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Gangster Murder Train Idiot

Yes, Mr. Hashmi, I am very pleased to inform you that I have a major part for you in my new movie.

Really? I'm so excited! What do I do?

It's really something very unique. You play a gangster, waylaid since his early childhood. The pains of his growing up years have hardened him up inside, and he lacks the open emotion of a normal person. Everything is bottled up inside him, since he has never had anyone to let into his life. So, he doesn't show any visible emotions on his face at any given time or scene. Is that good?

Sounds perfect. Anything else?

We're going to give you a few action scenes with guns. Big guns.

Good, good. And?

Well, you have long hair. And your character possesses a curious disposition to stand in the middle of the street, across the divider and raise his arms up to the skies while singing from a potpourri of Urdu words in a deeply nasal yet soothing voice. There is no evidence of the character ever taking vocal training in Sufi music or such like, being too busy trying to find a square meal a day. But this sort of stuff goes down well with audiences.

Right, right. I totally agree! What about rain? Does it rain in the movie?

Ha ha! I can't believe we haven't worked together before, we think so much alike! Of course it rains in the movie! Incidentally on all the occasions that villains of rival gangs come to beat you up, in the hope of quashing your intense manliness with their larger numbers and long hockey sticks. Then again, we very cleverly arrange for it to rain whenever you go to the bus stop to check out your co-actress travelling to and from college.

Really! You must be some sort of genius!

We are. I mean, yes I am! You see, even the gods empathize with you, our lead character. They gratefully manipulate Mumbai weather to mimic and model your moods in this tumultuous life you lead. Did I mention we have a cameraman who simply loves you? He insists on swooping down from insane angles and perched up heights to capture the essence of your glorious stubbled visage, as you see thugs approach or your lady walk away in a fit or your friend get crushed under a horse's hooves or your shanty get evicted because your neighbors, although they love you as much as they do, do not want any trouble or anything like that. And you, sir, are plagued to bring trouble wherever you go, to your loved ones as well as your closest friends. I mean, what are the odds of getting crushed under a horse's hooves in this modern time and age, eh?

I'm very glad we're getting along so well on this. But you still haven't told me about the most important bits, you know. How many kisses do I get? Something different this time? Can I do a Spiderman?

Well, we have looked over our script several times. Analysing your character from one angle and then another, we don't really see a kissing scene cropping up anywhere. He remains pretty much on his own, you know. He's also kind of ugly.

But, but, you have to give me a kissing scene! At least one. Right?

I don't understand what you mean, sir. The script doesn't allow it. It's really very tight. Everything is already planned out.

Stop pulling my leg! Ha ha! You can't be serious! Really not even one tender liplock, to bring out my conversion from a stoic, roughed up ruffian/hitman to experience the thrill and warmth of life and love (its true essence)? No scenes in which I experience a breaking down of my inner walls, built with hate and the need for self-preservation in the wicked streets, and let in the gushing streams of love for the whole world as expressed by loving the beautiful heroine opposite me? Even if she belongs to another, she shares with me one passionate night before she must leave, playing her part in catalysing my humanism and growth as a...growth as a human being? Our love lasts forever? And occasionally, in my old age, still roaming the streets and talking trash, I can find solace in the memory of my night of love? And we could have sepia-tinted replays played out in slow motion, with the sound (comprising moans primarily) intentionally slightly out of sync with the video to make it all seem overly chaotic and intense, to further push the idea of totally mad love-making scene?

Are you...are you...some kind of idiot?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Career Planning

[With more than sufficient high-fiving and over-due credits to Trivik. Happy?]

Put on a parachute and jump off a plane, into an ocean ten thousand feet below.

Go sailing in Australia and pick up the accent. Run Parkour, drive thousands of miles and live in a shed in a ranch 200 acres across.

Smoke up in a police station in Amsterdam. Hit a policeman, run around the buffoon calling him names, drunk and delirious. Call Su to bail you out. :)

Be a tourist guide in Athens, for one Grecian summer. Amidst sculptures and heroic tales, smuggle in drugs and milk the foreigners. Visit the little homes, pick the rarest rugs.

Live in Spain, driving around in a convertible. Speak the Spanish, fight in bars, woo the ladies, stare down a bull. Have a couple of months on the coast, in a villa abandoned long before. Then drive off into a Spanish sunset, someone stroking a guitar on the radio.

Report in Afghanistan. Listen to the stories, of wars and battles and living through them all. Ride the horses like only the Afghans do.

Train in Ferrari. Engineer a F1 car. Watch it race to victory and money and millions.

Crash land in Brazil on an old, battered bi-plane. Love the women. Infiltrate the gangs, make your way up. Scheming still, run away with a shipful of goods one day.

Party in an Armin van Buuren concert. After party with Pamela Anderson. Or Carmen Electra. Or Jessica Alba. Or anyone really. Don't discriminate so much beyond a certain threshold.

Climb the Alps. Sit at the top and shout at the world.

Walk all over India. Or take the trains. Learn at least5 languages. Visit the places they don't take you, and are still untouched and pure. The green and the rains in the hills and the vast waves of sand in the deserts. Drink chai at road-side shops only.

Find Hatori Hanzo. Learn the katana, the kung-fu, the ju-jitsu and the elusive art of the chopsticks.

Own a Lamborghini. Explore a pyramid. Be seduced by Salma Hayek. Go to a Playboy party. Find the island of Dr. Moreau. Read Homer and Leo Tolstoy. Make a sword. Run a marathon. BE at a Led Zeppelin concert. Be 6 UP or 24 DOWN on the Times crossword puzzle.

Save the world before bedtime.

Friday, April 03, 2009


In a land far, far away once, a man screamed.

In a land (as compared) merely far away, the wise woman heard.

She swallowed, feeling his pain.

Her piano she played, mournful that night.

Sadness travels faster than the speed of light. Are you listening, Mr. Hawking?

The keys strike notes within the boundaries of a chord, frozen in time, an arpeggio to some.

Reaching out in every direction, connecting with but one. Not so much to the others.

Yes, crying out to only one more mind in the world, I wonder if he...or she...hears.

And understands, and listens. And passes on the sorrow. And the pain.

What a waste it is, if no one does!

And tough luck it is indeed, if someone does!

One of a few billion is he. Or she.

That's several hundred in a million that is.

Hundreds and hundreds of thousands.

And so many thousands of hundreds.

Le kapiche?

The next time you play your keys, little woman, remember this irony.

Nobody may be listening, although everyone still is.

Maybe sadness is slower, very slow indeed then.

Jump in anyway, will you? It's time you did.