Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Prejudice


Discussion over lunch with boss and colleagues and much of the prejudice I've seen over the last one and half years in my time here resurfaced. A blanket injunction against Muslims without a sense of history, assuming that religion is to blame and not more human qualities of conquest, desire and greed.

Every time I hear a conversation like this, I think of the damage our education system and politics have done to the teeming multitude that constitutes this nation. How many of us pause to question, find out, read? Somewhere (and I don't know whether to blame the system or each individual who chooses to accept without thinking), we have become creatures of rote as opposed to creatures of curiosity. Politics has exploited this amply, feeding the frenzy. Each time such conversations happen, it disgusts me. I want to sit them all down and give them a crash course and a reading list.

Prejudice has become a way of co-opting dissent in the public space. Of creating a populace that fulfills the agenda of un-enlightenment, of unquestioning obedience in a democracy. No wonder Indian democracy is a success!

I am reminded of a dialogue from the Fountainhead. Toohey says to Dominique(paraphrasing): If you fight a man on the basis of his capability and achievement alone, he can fight back. But prove that he is against religion or god and you've got a case that cannot be fought. Not with logic. Not with the mind.

That seems to be, to me, the main problem here. We've all been made to believe in the non-issues, leaving the issues that really matter to each and everyone of us unscrutinized. Power has used prejudice, not just in India but across the world, to create a self-sustaining cycle where the dominated live under the illusion that the power is actually in their hands. In the mire of prejudice, we forget fact, causality and the things that actually affect us. Potent potent tool to divide and rule.

PS: Reading list (Thanks to Rehab for the suggestion): 

Disclaimer: Am sticking to books I've found useful and enlightening on Indian history else the list is endless. A lot of this also concentrates on the Partition and subsequent Kashmir conflict (on which I did my dissertation in college) but I think Kashmir, like no other issue in modern India, illustrates the point of prejudice and warped sense of history that "Indians" have.

Also, the idea behind this list is to put together books that differ in perspective and none or all together lead to any one definite conclusion. So it includes both non-fiction and fiction that has been spun around India's recent past.

Okay, too many disclaimers. I will get on with the list.

  1. Revenge & Reconciliation by Rajmohan Gandhi
  2. Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lappierre
  3. The future of freedom: Illiberal democracy at home and abroad by Fareed Zakaria
  4. Kashmir: behind the vale by M.J Akbar
  5. Kashmir: a tragedy of errors by Tavleen Singh
  6. The Ice Candyman by Bapsi Sidhwa
  7. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Okay, that's all I can think of now. Will add to this list if I think of any more books.

2009 was

One of discovering and rediscovering. Asking and finding, challenging the old and accepting the new. Of looking within and seeing the unexpected. Of finding passion, courage and the love inside me. Of seeing the world anew, of rediscovering faith and hope. Of old ties and new.

The year gone by has changed much. But it is still only a lump of clay spinning furiously on the potter's wheel.  The coming year may begin to tell what this clay of 23 years will shape itself into. It is time to rebuild with greater awareness, hope and joy than before. Time to start enjoying the uncertainty and stop trying to know everything 60 years too soon. Time to try things new and different, time to do things a little differently for once and maybe more than once.

There has been much to rejoice for, much to lament, much to ponder over and much to accept. It has been the most tumultuous year so far and one that has left an indelible mark on my life as it will be from now. For all the chaos, heartache, tears and smiles, it has been memorable in the way that only such turbulence can be.

So here's to a wonderful year and here's to all the people who have made it so. Some of you have been in my life from much before and will continue to be a cherished part of it. Thank you for being the absolute wonders that you are. Some of you I have found recently. Thank you for showing me the things you have, for giving so much and taking as much in such a short while. I hope you will remain what you are. To those of you whom I have hurt, I can only say Sorry. I know that doesn't make it right but that is all I can say for now. I hope you find greater happiness.

To life, thank you for shaking me out of my complacency.

Am looking forward to the new year with a vengeance.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Santa Claus

In the season of Santa Claus, it is time to put up a stocking for all that one would wish for. Only this time around, I am the only one who can give myself the things I wish for. It'd still be a good idea I think to put up that stocking and drop the wishes in. Just so I can remind myself of the things to look for when it is my turn to play Santa Claus for myself. And yes, as someone commented recently, I am wishing for a LOT this year. Fortunately or unfortunately none of it costs money :P So yes, recession is not an excuse for not getting the gifts I want.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Wordless exchange


I was thinking about books and I remembered this little incident that happened to me sometime ago. I was walking down the ramp at Currey Road station, on my way back home from office. I was scurrying in my characteristic impatience and had a book in my hand  - The geometry of god (I haven't ended up reading much of that book but more on that later). As I was running down that ramp, I suddenly felt a tug on my hand and looked down to find a man yanking at the book. I stood still, he took the book from me, turned it over, read the summary at the back, returned the book to me, smiled and went on his way. I smiled back and continued on mine.

Such things happen only in this city. I wonder how I might have reacted to this in another city.

Dreams

Something I read that I want to put up: quoting from the Queen of Dreams

The dream comes heralding joy
I welcome the dream.
The dream comes heralding sorrow
I welcome the dream.
The dream is a mirror showing me my beauty
I bless the dream.
The dream is a mirror showing me my ugliness
I bless the dream.
My life is nothing but a dream
From which I will wake into death,
which is nothing but a dream of life.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Seeking Solace

I've been thinking of how I, for one, always seem to seek solace in people who are distant from my situation, who cannot offer understanding, sympathy or empathy. I am finding more comfort in inanities, random conversations, talking to those who are utterly unconnected to the things that weigh me down in solitude. And maybe once the smiles are a little more permanent, I'll get down to untangling my heart.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Little nothings

Today morning I woke up missing an old pair of jeans that I had. I threw it away a few months ago because of a couple of irreparable tears in unmentionable locations. But today I just miss that pair.

PS: And I see the blog posts are getting teenier. Long one coming up as soon as I get my thoughts together on that topic

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Desire

Many faced and multifarious, all pervasive and ruling every thought and action in some form or the other, Condemned, envied, longed for, wished away, brushed under, denied, fulfilled, guilt-ridden, indulged, baseless and meaningful. Desire.

I've been thinking about desire a lot over the last few weeks. It's also been the most difficult thing to acknowledge, for it seems the most shameful, most condemnable. But why should it be? In this one life, why should we not be unabashed about our desires? Why should we not live fully and completely, reveling in the endless cycle of discovery and fulfillment?

Acknowledging its presence has brought both a certain degree of peace and acceptance.

Nose fight

Read this lovely post called Heartbeats yesterday. It reminded me of this nose fight that I once had. Lovely, cute, innocent, full of desire and anticipation and oh so mundane! It'll stay one of the cutest memories that I have for a long time to come.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

I

To say "I love you" you have to first know how to say the I.

The above has always been one of my favourite quotes. In fact, I even had it scribbled on the wall in my hostel room in MICA. Yesterday, I found the same concept explained really beautifully in an article that someone gave me to read.

There are, the piece said, 3 relationships that define each of us as human beings:
  1. Our relationship with ourself
  2. Our relationship with others
  3. Our relationship with spirituality/god
The first, one's relationship with oneself, is the fountainhead of all else. It is what defines how we see and react to the world. What you give yourself is what you can give to the rest of the world. Love yourself and you will love the world for what it is, hate yourself and you will only find fault with the world, accept yourself the way your are, with all your flaws, and you will find the capacity to accept others without finding fault with them. Love yourself and you will find the courage to make the choices that make you happy. Selfishness, in the deepest, innermost core of every human being is important to creating common good. Only when you want the good for yourself will you be able to want good for others too.

And while Rand maybe offensive to many (the quote is from The Fountainhead), I think the piece is above is what she truly meant when she advocated self interest above altruism. True good for others can spring only from wanting the good for yourself. And as I have discovered in the last few weeks, you cannot love another unless you love yourself. You can only admire, listen, compete, compare. But you can say I love you only when you say the I.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Truth

A friend posted a thought on telling the truth or rather questioning the necessity of telling the truth. And it is something I've been thinking about a fair bit over the last couple of weeks. I've tried making do with half truths and almost truths. Fact is beyond a point it just doesn't work. Not with the big things. Not when it affects so many people so deeply (yourself not the least). Deciding to tell the truth isn't easy either especially when it does not reflect to well on yourself (to put it mildly) and goes a long way in hurting a lot of people.

However, as those in advocacy of the truth would put it, there's no point whatsoever living with a Democles' sword hanging over one's head. It is the tougher choice to make at the moment. But only at the moment. It is by far the easier choice to make for life for when this time passes, one will be rid of it forever. One will be able to put behind and truly move on in life. There will come a time when we will all be happier for the things that are coming to pass now.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Manifestation

Two friends have now said the same thing to me: Your deepest desires manifest themselves even if you try really hard to push them under the carpet. You wish for something really badly and you send that energy out into the universe and it comes back to you. So be careful what you wish for.

I'd put it more optimistically: if you are sure of what you want, wish really hard for it. It'll find its way to your life. And then have the courage to recognise that it is what you wished for and don't turn it away just because it didn't come at the time or in the manner that you expected it to come in.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Ignorance is Bliss

Was having a conversation with my mom today on how all we "intellectual" and "thinking" people have done is to complicate our lives. She gave me the example of a second cousin of my dad's who just got married (she's just my age folks!) and was perfectly fine with whatever she had and without any fantastic notions of compatibility or romance or connect or whatever other hogwash that we come up with in the name of enlightenment, intellect, exposure blah blah blah...

Well, you see mommy, it is a double edged sword. You gave us books to read when we were little. We became the intelligent, broadminded little know-it-alls who were always the teacher's pet in school and got good grades. But along with that our imaginations also flew. We discovered thoughts and desires which we might not have chanced upon in our limited experience of the world. We learnt to look, question and re-examine everything. We learnt to want things and we learnt how we could get them. We got addicted to the joys of curiousity and the search for more.

Ignorance is bliss indeed but once you chose to think, you can't escape it. Neither can you escape the consequences of suspending or ignoring your thinking for a short period of time for it will always come back to you multiplied manifold.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Morals and Values

This post follows a little tweetcussion started by a dear friend on morals. Now that word usually puts me off a good deal. Let me try and explain why. Morals as I see them are injunctions imposed by society on those who are its members. They make a pronouncement on good vs. bad, acceptable vs. unacceptable and more yins and yangs on the same lines. Nothing really wrong with that on the face of it. Every society or group of people or community needs definitions of the acceptable and unacceptable. However, why morals to me have become problematic is that over the years, societies have forgotten why they have those morals in the first place. They have come to be blanket injunctions enforced by self appointed moral policemen (and women... no gender discrimination here). We have examples aplenty. Some of the more trivial ones have been contributed by politicians in our own country. They have enforced the morals of Indian society through vandalism, force and verbal harrangues. Ask any of them why Valentine's day is immoral and they don't have an answer.

Morals have also become, over the years, a convenient way to avoid making a difficult choice or taking responsibility. "I have better morals than that. I don't want to upset people" or "What will people think of me if I say or do such and such". And so in the name of morality, we keep quiet, do nothing, or do things that we do not want to do.

But then doesnt society need some standards? Aren't there things that are acceptable or unaccpetable? Doesn't society need to pronounce judgment to keep order? True, society does need to keep order. That, and convenience, is the whole point of society. Else we might as well be living solitary lives. But what society should be talking about is values and not morals.

To my mind the difference is essentially this: values are things that prompt us to think, help make choices and answer to that eternal larger "purpose of life" question. Morals tend to be action points: do this, don't do that. And there in arises the problem. Action points are always relative. They don't work for everyone and they are not always good or right or acceptable. Values, on the other hand, stand for things define attitudes that are beneficial to society and to individuals. For example, learning or knowledge would be a value. And it is a value that is applicable across societies and cultures and individuals. However, how one chooses to learn is entirely upto each individual. You cannot pass a moral injunction claiming the study of say medicine as the only true path to knowledge (sorry... nothing against the profession of medicine per se). Peace is a value. The moral injunction of not killing proceeds from that. But if I were to pass a blanket injunction saying "Do not kill" it would serve no purpose (for there are times when wars are justified. Hitler could hardly be allowed to go on a rampage in the name of a moral that says "Do not kill").

Values in that sense are more objective and it is from value that actions arise. I'll end with a lovely definition of good and evil that I came across when reading Shantaram. I am going to take the liberty of paraphrasing: anything that helps the universe move towards greater complexity and order is good. Anything that hinders that is evil. For the exact quote refer here. I think that's a great starting point to get thinking on how to define that ultimate set of yins and yangs centering around good and evil (such loaded words both!).

PS: this post is dedicated to all those people who have used more question marks than full stops in their conversations with me. You know who you all are. Love all of you. keep the questions coming... they make me feel very vibrantly alive.
Special mention: Cynduja for starting the tweetcussion and this post. :)


PPS: I don't know how articulate I've been above. Would welcome comments and a debate. If all of you agreed with me it would be boring. ;)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Points of view

Was discussing this with a friend yesterday and ended up quoting what another friend had told me when I was complaining about no one getting my point of view: "It is your point of view. Why should anyone else get it?" (forgive me if I am not quoting exactly). But yes, I'd have to agree. Points of view are unique and while we may agree with each other, no two people will see the same situation in exactly the same way. Makes for infinite and interesting perspectives.

Also reinforces one thing: one must ultimately and always reach one's own point of view on anything. And that however similar two people maybe, we have to agree to disagree and go our own ways where required.

And I'll finish off with another quote (from Anthem, a book I am rather wont to quote from): "In the temple of his heart, each man is alone, as he must be."

PS: this train of thought also reminds me of something Milan Kundera had written in Ignorance about memories and shared experiences. That post is here

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Dear Heart

Dear Heart, lie a little still for yet awhile. I know I haven’t let you speak much in the years passed but I hear you loud and clear now and I know I will find the courage to walk down the path you want me to. I don’t promise that it won’t hurt but I promise I won’t give up without a fight.

Understand, dear Heart, that I must clear up the mess of my mind before I can begin to give you the things you want. And yes, two years of my shutting you up have made you as impatient as ever (you were never particularly wont to waiting it out you know) but just a little while more and you can have your way with me.

I promise not to be the other seagulls of the flock and protect you with the convenience of food. I understand Jonathan now and that the pain in making that swooping dive will be well worth the ecstasy that it will bring someday.

Keep your voice up dear Heart, for in its impatience, despair and hope I shall find both myself and my courage. They say the mind is superior to the heart but I realise now that it is only so once it has accepted what the heart has to say and not by silencing it into submission. This dear Heart, I shall remember the next time I make a choice.

Courage

This and the post below this were written on the same day as "Sacrifice" but I chose not to publish them then. Am publishing them today because I know clearly why I wrote them.

Find me the courage to make a choice; to find contentment and happiness in that choice.

Find me the courage to hurt, to share, to discover, to explore.

Find me the courage to break the bonds that I try so hard to keep.

Find me the courage to face my demons and yet be optimistic for a happy ending.

Find me the courage to say that I have made a mistake or that I am about to make a bigger one.

Find me the courage to say that it is not too late.

Wishes


Every night descends like a cloud

Bringing thoughts that lay long forgotten

Strange memories, unspoken desires

And a tear rolling gently down my cheek.

The day passes in conversations

As I search for hidden meanings

Signs perhaps that will tell me

What lies behind the clouds.

In this bright sunny land,

I wish for the warmth of winter.

I wish for my heart to lie still

To let me hear the voice of my mind.

Or maybe I wish for the courage

To walk alone on a cluttered path.

What I wish for most,

Is to know what I wish for

Friday, 16 October 2009

Sacrifice

Over the last couple of days, I've been having a conversation with a friend and with myself. And I am reminded of a scene from Atlas Shrugged (we've been talking about this book too!) where Dagny is standing with John and Fransisco in Fransisco's house in the valley. I'll not get into every line of that scene here (sorry to those who haven't read the book enough times to know what I am talking about). However, subsequently Dagny introspects about the nature of sacrifice in the context of human relationships (I think the idea of sacrifice with respect to material needs has a different connotation and different implications. Also they are take the form of trade offs since they are more measurable). This is essentially what I've been thinking about for sometime now.

I better appreciate now the nature of the dilemma she was contemplating and John was ostensibly facing. I can see where the temptations come from and why they are so tempting. Why it is sometimes easier to contemplate making the more "acceptable" choice knowing that one will hurt oneself in some measure, greater or lesser. I also realise that it is not easy to decide which choice is the sacrifice; that human relationships are not linear balance scales nor are they a fixed quantity where the sum of all relationships must always be the same. I don't know what choice I will make or when I will make it but at least I know what questions to ask myself this time around. And that I've found some measure of the courage it will take me to make either choice.
 

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