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Thursday, February 27, 2014

The invisible comrade

It is the thing that a kid fears,
wakes him up from nightmares,
The thing that a wife detests,
awaiting for a shoulder to calm her unrest;

That emotion a widower feels,
as he, at the crossroads of life, kneels;
The tear on a parent's cheek,
gives away more than the lips could speak;

The inevitable truth,
causing people to go uncouth;
Robbed of grace and poise,
in this tryst with noise;

Lonely man was destined to be,
solitude was his bride to be;
Then why seek a consort,
when your soul is the last resort;

Is it the fear of silence,
the drear of melancholy?
Or the colloquy with your essence,
that makes you crave a coveted presence?

Camaraderie with your quintessence,
Indulging in shenanigans;
Life at your heart's behest,
cardinal to satiate your quest.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Independence Day, Happy or Somber?

Our forefathers might have put in their blood and sweat to free this country and its people from the clutches of tyranny, but would they be pleased to witness the shape and form Free India has taken? What would the Bhagat Singhs, Gandhis, Subhashchandra Boses of the revolutionary era have to say about our motherland today? Have we as a nation done justice to their struggles, have we been able to fulfill their dreams, have we actually broken free of the evils of colonial India? Are we failing the bright young faces of India, are we denying them a worthy future?

In some respects, I am sure they would feel proud of the progress this country has made. It has gone from being colonized to being taken notice of across the globe. It has carved its niche in many a fields and brought glory to the people. This country's citizens have made their presence felt in almost every country. But, are these people representative of the country as a whole? Have the issues of poverty, illiteracy, inequality actually been addressed? Does India Shining represent a certain section of the population or the whole country? Should we actually feel proud that our citizens are globe-trotting, making a name for their country; or should we look deeper into the reason behind them actually globe-trotting? It is very convenient to focus on the obvious positives of a country and take solace in that. But, it takes much more strength and conviction to face the negatives and try to look into them.

I know it is very easy to talk about the shortcomings of a country, but actually realizing that and working towards improving is a tough task. In the past year, there have been several occasions, where the country has stood together and tried to make themselves heard. And I feel respectful and proud of that fact. In some cases, the voices actually made a difference, and in others, they were simply ignored. What makes me happy is that people are ready to accept the failures of this country and try to find a solution. Whether or not this is a pragmatic approach that will get through to the people in power is a debatable issue. 

In light of these facts, there are certain issues that have cropped in recent times, that provoke me to think if I actually should be celebrating my country's Independence Day. I am not even sure if the common man in India, even feels like this is an event to be celebrated. And like them, there are some reasons, this Independence Day is a somber occasion for me:

1. Inhuman suppression of women: 
What happened in New Delhi last December is one of the most shameful pictures of India being painted. And it is not like, it was the first time women had encountered such a fate. But, the brutality of this incident was what sent shivers down everybody's spine. It was a rude awakening for the law enforcement authorities when their lack of action was brought to the forefront. It is also true that such incidents happen in other countries too, and it would be incorrect to judge Indian society by that. But, this incident brought to the forefront the appalling indifference of the community and police towards the triggers that lead to such events. The fact that we take the early signs lightly, and to add to that our movies glorify stalkers as eternal lovers, is not only disturbing but soul-shaking. This was one of the occasions where the voice of the people actually made some difference, in terms of faster and more conscientious actions from the authorities. Whether or not this is a matter that eventually gets lost among a pile of other old headlines is to be seen.

2. Increasing indifference: 
The dark hole we send our armed forces down
Is this some kind of cruel joke the country's leaders are playing with the men in green? How many more times do the men defending your country need to be tortured, insulted, debased before you actually take a stern step. The supposed leaders of this country have done nothing but bring shame to the families of these soldiers and made a complete fool out of themselves at the global level. And to add salt to the injury, there is not one, but two neighbors putting their foot in the door. We have had to deal with Chinese incursions this year and now the violations from Pakistan. Could you imagine America or any other other formidable country taking this like a sitting duck? Then why do we take this lightly? Again, it is heartening to know that people are taking notice of this injustice and trying to urge the leaders to come out of their slouch. But, we as a nation have to come out of our soft target image, and adopt an absolute zero-tolerance policy.

3. Inflation, bribery, power games, scandals: 
Seems like a line straight out of a mafia movie, but this is the state of our country that really worries me. With so many scandals uncovered and new ones cropping up every few days, the only thing that comes to my mind is that of the power hungry being ready to put at stake the common man. They don't care if their corruption or bribery costs some people their lives, or even the chance to earn a decent meal. With bribery, goes hand in hand inflation and the ever-increasing prices of basic commodities. It is easy to say that there is a growing middle class that can afford all this, but it fills me with pain to even think of how the lower classes might be surviving. How is it fair that we have India Shining on the one hand and India Drowning on the other? 

I know it is very easy for me to comment from a distance, and a lot of people would suggest that I show it in my actions rather than words. But, I have absolutely no clue as to how to bring order to this society. Are we doomed for inequalities? Is this what we are supposed to accept as our country's fate and let it pass? When I was younger, I thought the answer to this was to take action and bring about a change. But, looking at people like Durga, who tried to take a right step and was penalized for it, I no longer trust that actions of certain self-righteous people can transform this country. 

Although, the silver lining to all these issues is the fact that there is growing awareness and a need to bring about a change among the people. Having lived away from India for 4 years, I find utter respect for the masses who have made the effort and have attempted to bring about one small change at a time. It is not easy to be in the eye of the storm and still be capable of thinking straight, to find a solution. I don't know how strong of a voice the masses would have to present for the top tier to actually be scared and take necessary measures, but the attempt to stand by each other is a victory in my eyes. In the past, even the general public has ignored the signs of doomsday and moved on. The fact that they feel the need to protest is in itself a start. Whether the momentum is enough to get this country through true independence from these evils is something that only time can tell.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Of opinions and biases!!!

If you are active on any of the social media avenues, you would have heard of the event that is doing the rounds lately. This event has all the trademarks of something that can keep you hooked. There is drama, beautiful people, a lot of anticipation and excitement attached to it and most important, there is love and the underlying notions of humanity. It is supposed to be one of the first Indian lesbian weddings and everybody seems to have an opinion. The official photographer who is friends with the couple was touched to be part of the celebration and in turn created a photo montage. He is the one who made the pictures public and tried to carve a story through his pictures for friends and family. (For more on that, click here).

What is normal and what is not?
What he and the couple entering wedded bliss might not have realized is that this little venture turned out to be the staging area for many debates and opinions. As with every social issue, people tend to have an opinion and with SNS so easily accessible, it has become increasingly simple to lend a voice to your thoughts. Every person is entitled to his/her opinion. With respect to sexual orientation, there are people who get uncomfortable, others that vehemently support the issue, some others who detest people out of the usual (whatever usual might mean), and others who would rather just ignore the issue altogether. There is a wide spectrum of reactions elicited from people and especially when it comes to laws being framed around the issue, the voices become louder and clearer. Questions like whether it is legal or acceptable in society start arising. My concern is that we as liberals favor democracies, but want to curb the rights of some people. How does that support the principles of democracy? 

Yet again, there are people who liken implementing gun control to a violation of rights. It is not that I am comparing the right to love someone with the right to own a firearm. It would be like comparing apples to oranges. There are multiple dimensions to these issues and that is a completely different debate. But in both cases, the commonality is the fact that there are people with opposing views, numerous opinions and strong reactions. What I am unsure of is whether these opinions transform to biases somewhere along the line. Currently, sexual orientation is the flavor of the decade. But, all through human civilization, there have been issues with people on different sides of it. As the intelligent animal we are touted to be, it is thoroughly acceptable for us to have opinions and choices. But, is it fair to justify our opinion and use that to discriminate against someone with an opposing opinion?

A week ago, me and my husband were having a conversation over our weekend brunch (which is fertile ground for many of our debates), and got into a heated argument over some issue. And that is when I realized that is is very difficult to have a bias-free opinion. Bias necessarily does not mean exposing someone to insult, or inflicting physical or mental abuse. Just the fact that we consider people to be out of the normal and form certain impressions about them could lead us to compartmentalize them and establish notions,which might not always be true. We don't realize many times, but even thoughts can be discriminating; it does not always have to translate into action. Even though discrimination in its truest form might have been rendered inactive, there are always subtle discriminatory phenomena. Associating people with a certain habit and trying to avoid them, because they belong to a certain nationality or ethnicity is in a way discriminatory. Assuming that one person represents the whole group is being biased. Assuming women can't work in physically strenuous jobs because their physical make-up is different from men would mean harboring a prejudice. And even though, it might not feel wrong to the person doing it, the person at the receiving end knows that he/she is being looked at differently. 

So does all this mean that you are not supposed to have an opinion at all? I am not so sure I can answer that. After all my pondering, all I know is that it is very difficult not to let your opinion affect your judgement. And the best practice that I have been trying to implement is to judge as less as possible. There is no way I can stop myself from having an opinion, let alone stopping someone else. So, the best I can do is not to let my opinions interfere with my interactions with people. Yes, I may not like smoking; but that does not mean that there is something wrong with smokers. Just like I have an opinion, they have a choice. It is their free will they are exerting and there is no reason to judge them for that. They may be perfectly good people, excellent at work, kind at heart; and their habit should not stop me from recognizing them for who they are. But like they say, easier said than done.

What do you think, could you keep opinion and bias separate?

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