Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Today my students asked me if I had made any new year resolutions.
I said I never made any. "I never make anything to unmake it."
"Don't you think Ma'am you are a bit old fashioned?" Sumit remarked tentatively.
"What has fashion to do with resolutions, Sumit?" I retorted, a bit shocked.
"It's the in thing Ma'am. Everyone makes it, specially our school teachers. Our English teacher has in fact even given us a holiday assignment of listing our resolutions and how we plan to execute it. "
"Fine," I say, "Let's talk more on it, since you all are so keen on this topic."
Having said so I began to think was I really orthodox , or backward never to make any new year resolutions? Was I not trendy or 'cool' ? I then threw a veiled glance at the class and found them busy sharing each other's NYR [the acronym for New Year Resolutions ]. So I continued my self-introspection. Actually, I said to myself, I was not only trendy or 'cool' but also honest. I had the guts to call a spade a spade. The guts to say that it is just mere fashion to make NYR. I am sure all those who make them are a bunch of blasting liars. Resolutions, as the word suggests, literally means purposeful determination- the willpower and tenacity to stick onto something. Now, making a NYR at the beginning of the year and adhering to it throughout the whole span of the year, is not only ridiculous but also cumbersome and unpractical, according to me . It gives you a foolish rigidity and takes away the elasticity.
It is like I promise myself in the morning ,"I will not lie today," which means I cannot go to bed in the afternoon!!
How can one promise himself something and cling to it till the 365th day, without getting irked, frustrated or desperate?
The class, by now had assimilated some opinions and wanted me to join in.
"Why is a NYR not worth encouraging according to you , ma'am?" Raima chipped. "Should'nt we try to continuously better ourselves? Why do you cross us in this exigent? Did'nt you yourself suggest spontaneous improvement ? What is wrong if a person self-acknowledges his lacunae and swears to improve himself ? Don't you think ma'am you are trying to shirk away from commitment and responsibility?''
I was indeed flabbergasted by these volley of questions.
Gathering my wits I bravely quipped, "See Raima, you have yourself answered your questions. Bettering oneself is a continuous process which requires performance, not words. Spontaneous improvement is possible only when we focus on our present problems and act on them. It requires a tacit action not a proclaimed announcement. It needs dedication and involvement of the SELF, not public endorsement."
Way back in the early 90's , I had once taken a resolution to reduce my weight from 56 kgs to 50 kgs. Consequently the first month of January was spent in setting the Thames on fire and burning the candle on both ends so that my ends looked slimmer. By the end of February I actually secured my target but by November I embraced my earlier weight attaching a few more bonus kgs to it!
This experience taught me two lessons. First : Resolutions taken are rigorously and ritualistically followed in the first month. As the year progresses, they are dusted below the carpet. They become passe. Second : Therefore make simple resolutions, like say ," I'll do exercise once in three months!"
I have heard that the Americans make the most New Year Resolutions the top five being :1. I will lose weight.
2. I will show more fidelity towards my partner .
3. I will be good to my neighbours.
4. I will be more organised in my workplace.
5. I will abstain from having random sex.
I will comment only on the first one. America is one of those nations which is plagued with obesity which seems to be a national crisis!!
Nevertheless, it is never the worse to begin the year with virtuous thoughts, positive approach, benign faith and good hope.
But I did hear to my utter horror, that next year, my students had indeed planned to submit their winter holiday assignments writing about how unhealthy it was, to begin the year with lies, lies and more lies!!!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The White Tiger is a dark, compelling, thought-provoking, stark and a blatantly naked novel. It is a gripping tale of how Munna, aka Balram halwai, aka Ashok Sharma, aka the white tiger , struggles against his sordid birth and background which is so poverty and misfortune stricken. Balram finally succeeds in vanquishing his enemy , that is indigence and penury and frees himself from the shackles of servitude, but not before terminating the life of his very employer Mr.Ashok Sharma whom he would have loved to call [the Lamb].
It is indeed a very different and thought provoking situation, because unlike any other case, where the perpetrator of violence and murder is either provoked, angered, humiliated, beaten, avenged or dealt with harshly by his victim, in this case, the murderer, Balram Halwai does not harp any such angst against his meek, considerate and caring master. He just kills him coldly and later feels sorry for the deceased ! He would rather have killed his elder brother [ the Mongoose], against whom he harps enough disdain, or even their father, [ the Stork, THE GREAT SOCIALIST].
But Balram is a killer with a purpose. He loathes his lifelong servility, having to grovel and toady every now and then. He has BIG dreams. Dreams to quit being a driver. Dreams to become rich. Dream to be an entrepreneur.
Thus his chance journey away from the murky village of Darkness , to Delhi, the Light, is fraught with struggles. The readers are of course supplied with acrid humour, showing the utter despondancy of our protagonist who is on his plight to become The White Tiger. Yes, he achieves all his dreams.
The narration is addressed to The Premier Of China. Why China ? He already expresses his admiation for three nations in the early part of his novel, the two others being Afghanistan and Abyssinia as they never let themselves be ruled by foreigners. It is indeed exemplary, how this ' half-baked clay' rises from filth to fecundity.
THE WHITE TIGER, with its dark plot makes for a compelling read.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Vijay Mallya has aptly termed the terrorist crisis as the 9/11 of India. The whole world empathises with the Mumbaikars. The entire nation is shocked and grieving. I personally salute, along with my country, those heroes - the police officers who lay their lives in the fight against terrorism. I specially offer my heartiest homage to those staff of the Taj Hotel who, despite being common people, sacrificed their lives for saving their guests. They have indeed proved that the highest standards of hospitality lie not only in providing luxury and comfort which do come with a cost, but also in laying their own lives to safeguard their esteemed guests which is costless ! Besides, all the police officers, the constables and even the common ones who are handing out teacups to the officers-on-duty, are doing no mean stuff.
Even as I write this, I pledge never to feel morally and mentally subdued by the humanity-starved, psychological-deviants, ethically-deprived brutish beasts, whose sole purpose is to intimidate us with their fatalistic gimmickery.
Even as I write this, I know that all I am doing right now is offering my words, yet hoping that, sometimes words can be mightier than guns and bullets- because being a commonplace citizen,if I can feel the pangs of sorrow , will not our leaders feel the brunt and pangs all the damned MORE?
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Life is one long journey beginning from birth and ending in death. But this Great Journey is the sum total of all the smaller journeys , comprising man's achievements ,accomplishments , failures and successes. It is not on one such journey that I write today but on a much simpler and pleasurable one.
The incident dates back to the year 2003 when the Mumbai blasts rocked the nation. A student of mine had shifted his base from Mumbai to Jamshedpur. It was just a week that he had joined my classes. In one of the language sessions, I gave an assignment to my students, in which they had to write an account of any experience they may have had of communal harmony. What one child wrote deserves merit and I shall narrate his experience in his person.
" I live in the outskirts of the throbbing and the bustling city of Mumbai. Our vacation for the 'Ganapati Mahotsav' had started ; the atrocities of the Mumbai blasts were smarting in our hearts and minds ; we were still reeling under the horrific trance of the incident .Yet life did not stop but went on. We were a group of ten to twelve boys who travelled to school by local trains and then took buses to reach our destinations.
They were long journeys indeed and difficult ones, I swear. But we were brave hearts. On this particular day when we were travelling back home from school,with great relief that we would get respite from this cumbersome journey for a brief period - we decided to celebrate. So we began to sing ; from the peppy numbers of Himesh, Mica, Abhijit sawant and Daler Mehendi to the old numbers of Kishore Kumar. We tried to compensate our lack of musical talent with our volume and vigour. I wish I could freeze those moments!It was an amazing feeling as the train crossed one station after another.
But our fellow travellers were least amused. A few smirked, some smiled okay. Most were irritated. An impudent uncle even remarked," This is where the tomorrows of our nation are heading towards. The moment they get an opportunity they start wiling it away . A bunch of disoriented fellows. That's what they are."
One disgruntled gentleman ordered us to stop our cacaphony ANON!
We stopped. Not because of the hysterical command but because of a voice. Another voice ! But this time a softer and a more soothing one. In a reflex action we all turned our heads to see from where the voice generated. Only after straining our eyes and craning our necks in the crowded compartment, did we finally spot him . He was a short, frail man, probably in his mid-fifties, who had managed to squeeze inside the train with an 'ektara' in his hand. You guessed it right . He was a minstrel.
"Another singer!" "Oh no, not again!" exclaimed two hopeless passengers. Those who had turned their heads resumed their work. Some slid behind their newspapers. Some feigned sleep. The hapless minstrel must have pretended to be oblivious of all these initial apathy because he began to sing . He sang the popular Kishore Kumar number 'Zindagi ka safar, hai ye kaisa safar'. No sooner had he finished the line than every head voluntarily turned again. This time not in disdain or in indignation. Not even in reluctance. Their heads had turned inadvertantly. Their ears became receptive. Men who were posing to be engrossed in the newspapers now looked up. The sleepy ones opened their eyes. A mother who was hushing her infant to fall asleep by droning a lullaby stopped droning , when her neighbour glared at her indicating her to shut her mouth.
The man continued to sing. One after another he delivered such soulful numbers that we , in fact, joined in too. The whole compartment sang in unison because most songs were very popular. Then he sang the last song , as we approached our destination. This one, he said, was composed by him. It was a very moving lyric where a father was looking for his lost son in a crowd. When it was over, MOST of us had our eyes moist. Then he requested us to join him to sing 'Vande Mataram'. The national song , came alive, as everyone, the young and the old ; the men and the women, the stoics and the flippants , lent voices.The compartment reverberated with an energy that was so profound, so pure , so poignant. It was a veritable mini India. For the next few moments we forgot our sorrows, the blasts, the missing ones, the dead. Many people from the adjoining compartments left theirs to see what was happening in ours. This impromptu vocal ensemble, this medley of voices and this unity of spirit was REAL, was INDELIBLE. Its glory became clearest to me when I saw the impudent uncle chime along , with tears in his eyes.
The power and the impact of this moment will remain with me forever.
The train stopped. Our terminus had come.We got down.
Then someone from the crowd cried out aloud to the minstrel, who was standing behind me, scampering patiently for some space to move ahead, "ASALAAM WALE KUM, Noor Salim!"
Noor salim reciprocated, "WALE KUM ASALAAM , Hari bhai". "
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Abominable but true. The days of expectant dads are not far behind. Hats off to the marvels of science and technology ! What intrigues me however, is not what would make such a feat possible - deviant though in our conventional norms of parenthood, - but how would the father-to-be endure and entail his nine month long stint.
Having conceived and the news made public, his friends amd family will share a toast for the good news with several rounds of rum and whisky.Will then the father in question, forgo the temptation of those coloured liquids in the interest of his ' little one', braving all odds? Or will he give in to his just- a-little-bit-now attitude? The next question that haunts me is more amusing. Will the expectant father get paternity leave from his workplace? If the leave is sanctioned , how long will be the duration of the leave? Three months as in the case of maternity leaves, or shorter, or longer. Shorter because men are stronger than women and find it miserable to sit at home doing nothing? Longer , in the pretext that since many men have not undergone the process of procreation, they need to be under constant survelliance and medical check-ups?
How nice indeed would it be for the mothers-to-be, who would now boast of being mothers without having to entail the pangs of pregnancy! Oh for the querries that bombard my little brain! And what will happen to those regular hindi film dialogues,"Agar ma ka doodh piya hai to samne aa"? Will the man in question never be able to come infront?
So much for the burlesque.
I admit the frivolousness of my thoughts. Yet I could not help these musings clouding my mind, flooding it and then overflowing it when some time back I watched a programme in a channel challenging medical frontiers claiming that it was not long that such breakthroughs were possible.
When I asked a friend of mine what she thought of the matter, she shrugged and called off the whole idea of paternal child bearing . She said that she had heard of fathers rearing children but fathers bearing thm would be 'ugh',' chhii' and what not!
"Are you crazy?" she cracked. " What about the psychological aspects of men? Will it change too? Soft emotions like warmth, tenderness, which till now were a woman's stronghold would now be the forte of a father too,eh ? What would happen to the real macho man ? What of their chauvinism, .fortitude, power and strength ? You understand my implications, don't you?" I said yes I did. One can condescend to the idea of a man giving shoulder to his wife during her nine-month-long labour, but how does one expect or imagine the wife giving support to her pregnant husband?
- Feminist as I am, I think this news should sound great to all working mothers, who for once can turn the tables on their husbands to give their family a descendant ! If for nothing else then at least for making them realise the sacrifice, the pain and the 'gravity' of being pregnant . But the brightest part of the whole story is this. Then the would-be mothers-in-law would have to have their mouths sealed once and for all because they can no longer blame their daughters-in-law for giving birth to a girl child!
which is a complete foil to my novel attempt. Yet I must mention it here.
"Do you think men would rush in where women fear to tread?"
Saturday, October 18, 2008
WHY I AM A FEMINIST
I had heard that Taslima Nasreen was a feminist. I read 'Lajja'. I was unmoved and became apprehensive. Was I not a feminist not to feel for the women in this politically flavoured book? Soon I was proved wrong - by myself of course, when I descried that I was not among those who preferred to join the bandwagon of feminism just for the tag.
Feminism for me had deeper implications.
I did not feel bothered if a wife was called 'a man's better half' and not vice versa. Nor did I knit my brow when a beautiful lady was called 'femme fatale'. But when ANDREW MARVEL profusely exclaimed to his beloved-
'An'hundred years should go to praise/Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze,/Two hundred to adore each breast /But thirty thouthand to the rest.' - I was greatly amused. Later yet I was very disappointed to read the Bard make Hamlet sigh for his mother and generelisze a folly made by a single woman, in a remiss statement, 'Frailty, thy name is woman'.
Since generations women have been physically and mentally battered by their counterparts.They have been labelled as the 'elusive gender' or paired opposite to wine as a source of succor for men. Most professions involving women tend to explore their outward beauty. Most again, are meant for the pleasures of men. Be she a masseur, a cabaret dancer, a prostitute, a model , a photographer's muse , a painter's theme or an advertiser's catch. I often wonder is feminism all about possessing and exposing a naughty fissure of the bust, or does shaving off all those extra hair from the body assert feminism? Why more than rewarding them for their fecundity in various fields of profession, are they paid for how they 'carry themselves', I ponder.
I despise rallies where women, with placards in hands demand equal rights and status, declaring they are not any more the weaker sex (the fairer sex,yes), nor are they chickens to be taken for a ride. All these appear so perfunctory; at the end of the day, a few 'liberated women' take to walk the ramp, in whatever robes their designers choose them to wear. Or not to wear, providing pleasure of the umpteen degree to fetists and voyeurists.This I refuse to accept as feminism, for the simple reason that none of the displayed dresses are wearable in streets, workplace, or even in a social gathering, by middle class women.
I had once helped a school launch a special package of interest for the girls.This brainchild of mine was supposed to explore the girl's flair for expressive writing besides voicing their grievances and displeasure on any matter that caused them physical or mental discomfiture at school.They did not write their names but keeping the word limit as hundred, had to write and put the paper into a box called, 'Its my voice'. Every weekend ,the best confidential letter was picked up for a student- teacher discussion and attempts were made to alleviate problems. Thus the troublemaker either surfaced to say 'sorry' in solitude to the victim or regretted his mischief. The girls became vivacious writers. I admit that shortly we had to open a separate box for the male complainants too! But this was not a buttery smooth journey for me. In the uphill task, I had myself as much pulled down as less pushed ahead. Yet I left no stone unturned to see that the girls were heard.
Feminism is not about kissing the blarney stone with flaring speeches on women's rights. We can seek them within the parameters of our homes. Nor do we need to kowtow before our men .What is required is a little diplomacy. Having performed my uxorial duties , I am now a successful mother. I have learnt that husbands and their mothers are strangely and secretly alike. They always refuse whatever proposals their wives and daughters-in-law make. So whenever I have to plan or make my ideas implemented I propose the opposite,which I know will be vehemently declined. Then as if hesitatingly, I give in to their alternative ideas - which were forever lurking in my mind ! They feel satisfied and happy that they made me eat humble pie. God bless them! What they will never know is I had not actually thrown in the towel, but out-Heroded Herod.
Of course I am cautious to implement this gameplan once in a while, for,it is risky to take the bull by the horns more than often !