Tuesday, March 27, 2007

No answers in the wind

What a week! The co-conspirator in the Nithari case, the richer bearded boss is given a "clean chit", the men in blue lost a few games, and so their funerals are carried out, Nandigram continues to burn, villagers in Maharashtra keep killing themselves, a cricket coach is murdered and somewhere it traces back to India…

These are surely the worst of times…there is no best in it.

If one were to believe the CBI investigation in the horrible crime, the Nithari boss was playing blind, deaf and possibly dead when all that was happening in his house. Over 30 children are murdered and scientifically disposed off by an illiterate servant, while the old man had his orgies. One never interferes in a person’s orgies, but when it manages to corrupt a system-it needs something more. The deaths of course are horrible; so many children die just to satisfy a strange lust. More horrifying are the cops and the administration who did not care then and do not care now. And you know what, neither does the average man on the street, for them the loss in cricket was far more valid.

The men in blue merely lost a game, and the mass despair unleashed. Their homes were targets, mass mock funerals were arranged….if India could carry out such demonstrations for the way that the Nithari psychopath boss is being given a “clean chit”, maybe we would have some real justice.

Nandigram still burns, fanned both by the men in power and by those who want to come into power. The farmer in Maharashtra dies over onions; the girls in Hariyana die before they are born…and we weep, beat our chest, and mourn…because we have lost a game of cricket.

The bossman of the game, President of the Board of Control of Cricket, comes on television and talks about accountability from the captain and coach…Did I hear that right? He is also the Minister of Food and Agriculture –in this land of weeping and angry farmers!.. Hmmm I will not say word more, might be send in for defamation!

There is malaise that sweeps the country, and revolution is right round the corner, but not waiting to happen. Yet there will be pockets that will burn, and maybe many collective pockets will burn together. I certainly don’t want the Maoist revolution to happen, nothing good comes out of that…but I cannot see the change happen either.

Because the same malaise prefers to let things simmer– the collective anger has already given place to despair, there is no answer blowing in the wind.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The square inch of space…

There are days that never seem to end, the demands of people, events…they are not essentially stressful, but take just too much of yourself. Much more than you are willing to give. As a writer, all I really want to do is sit in a wide open space and just write my stories. These are not for clients nor are they meant to be coming online, but stories that I want to tell, and hopefully they will have some meaning for someone else. But there is something else; I also want to make the money….and that overrides the need to write my stories. And to make money I have face up to the all that comes with it, only I meet them in my precious square inch of space.

As a children writer I am often asked. “Are these stories for your daughter?” Much as I love her, no, these stories are not written for her. They were actually written for no one. Perhaps they emerged from around, but written with nobody’s approval in mind. They were written because I had a story to tell. They were born from the square inch of space that I can claim to be my own….it has no real estate value…but I have begun guarding it zealously.

Everyday something happens in life….and these in the cosmic event have no meaning, yet they change you…and that change helped me find this little space. A space which is ready to surrender…to find more in life. And I have learnt to value that space within me…

The demands of people take large chunks of your life. Your boss, family, friends, clients believe that your functionality and purpose is to cater to these huge demands. The writer in me does a good job writing stuff which for me has no other value than earning money. The homemaker in me tries to keep things on an even keel. And you don’t have the luxury to wonder whether it is all worth it. Because this is the time to make the money, and you have this one talent that lets you do it.

Soul searching has no place in the daily grind of life….but it is always there. It is there in the fundamental square inch that no one else can enter. It also gives you certain sanity –yes, your talent in real terms may have been given for better things, but what you do is wholly justified. As a hack, I earn money for myself and family, and that helps in ensuring a decent quality of life. Do I like all the work I do, no, I am indifferent to it, it is difficult to get passionate about country clubs, and apartment buildings.

Most writers, I think, who are content or copywriters dream about their great novel. Very few of us actually write it. I think about it, but at least I don’t agonize over it….There is nothing to agonize about, because after all it’ll happen when it has to happen. And if it does not, then that is one less novel written. But I have a job to do, I do it well, and that itself is worth the journey.

That square inch of space that no one enters, it’s not fortress, it has no walls, yet it keeps me intact. And, yes I know I am worth just 5 pence in carbon, but that’s still worth something…

A little square inch of space puts so many things into a perspective….of course it is your own perspective. But it is valid and the only way you can really see things. That square inch of space is my faith in all things more beautiful and complete than me. It is truly inviolate, yet it allows me to go into crowded rooms, and create a sense of being quite happily alone and unhindered. It’s a space where I do realize that life is much than me…it is my retreat.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Death Over….

Eleven gladiators living out the aspirations of a hopelessly besotted country…they want to see victory…Everyone, the players and their viewers manipulated by a greedy power hungry board, and the rich media that loses million dollars if the team loses, on the periphery are punters.

In the middle of all this is an extravaganza, and one of the favorite teams, the Pakistani team loses unexpectedly, the next day their manager Bob Woolmer is found dead. By the evening we have a major TV news station asking an audience in all seriousness, “How does our audience think Bob Woolmer died? A. Was he murdered B. Did he have a heart attack C. Did stress raise his blood sugar levels” A-ha…there are of course trained coroners sitting in the vast populace across India.

Now the Indian gladiators are there, they are rich heroes…and suddenly they lose to the small guy…..their houses are broken, and even worse their mock funerals held….the gladiators have fallen - kill them!

I am no great fan of cricket; my family loves it, especially my nephew. Increasingly I find myself distancing from it. The sheer media hype, blind following, ecstasy, glitzy promotions, power games put me off totally. Yet, it crowds all around you, and you can never ignore it, on it is pinned the aspirations of almost 1 billion Indians and of course the huge media. And when you hear the death of a cricket coach, you wonder what it is all about....it is just a game, a spectator sport - right?

Of course countries have gone to war over football matches in South America, and ordinary people are ready to sell their kidney to buy a ticket to the world cup games. We all need our gladiators,let them fight,and if they fail, everyone has their knives drawn out….it is a case of dishonor before death…

But for now, may the luckiest gladiator win…at least may he remain alive.

SEZ for Who

I sit in the city, cocooned my simpler knowledge of what happens in a village and listen all this talk about creating special economic zones. There is war going on over there…petitions to be signed, riots, and deaths. On either side are a mix of completely untrustworthy politicians, and their ideas of development or non-development for that matter. Who do you believe?

What gets you is the heavy ham handedness of the establishment, the sheer power they wield and the way they use it. The brainless hitting, of workers, students, farmers, people…I mean you stop thinking about validity of the cause and shudder at the brutality that is seen over and over again. It almost as if the system has no idea on how to really deal will people, other than beating the shit out of them…or murdering them.

Of course the entire idea of SEZ is to close in the dramatic economic gap with China, and many would argue that is the way ahead. China has become the country to emulate, the country that in my memory, ran people over with tanks in their most visited tourist spot - the Tiananmen Square…no roses or appeals could stop them that day.

Of course, putting this out a blog is even more elitist. After all, I already am sitting in an economic zone, and the farmer is by his fields, not with folded hands, but anger in their fists. Is that anger valid, or is misdirected or is a just mix of everything that the have not’s hate about the have’s.

India in its villages and small cities is and will continue to brim over with dissatisfaction, yesterday in Gurgaon, then, Pune, today in Singur and Nandigram, tomorrow in the richer Southern states ….Welcome to the great divide, a boiling cauldron watched over by opportunist politicians, power hungry police, corrupt administration….it is and will continue to spill over and everyone will burn.

I have no solution, because for that one has to introduce rational and even more collaborative thinking and none of the above are even remotely capable of that.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Finding Happiness

Stopping at a traffic light, I saw a little boy, dressed in the worst rags, clinging to an equally shaggy dog. It was moment that looked like absolute love. Neither cared what the world thought, they both sat there, for each other.

Another time, another place, the railway station. A family of albinos, all very poor, possibly beggars, sat together eating and laughing. From where I stood they looked happy. Even under the eerie orange glow of the streetlight they had a look of joyful beauty. These are moments of love and kinship. Unwanted souls on the edge of the street with nothing …yet they find happiness to hold on to.

Human beings are meant to be happy. What was remarkable here was the simplicity of it all. I refuse to romanticize it. There is very little happiness in being poor. The sheer human degradation of life will rob most of it away. What makes it remarkable is the way these absolutely poor people found it. Amidst the street fumes, dangers, fears, the simple moment of contact.

Recently in Pune about 250 young people were arrested at a rave party. The police over zealously took the media along, and the camera’s caught them at their happy high. Of course it came rapidly down, as they had to spend the evening regretting their pursuit of happiness,that would be found in a cocktail of drugs, many sounded straight out of a chemistry lab. It was most escapist kind of joy that they were seeking, like so many others, for whom the last vial could be the ride all the way to paradise.

It’s just amazing how many ways there are for us to seek that happiness. Many of the paths actually form the very basis of the seven deadly sins. Yet none of them really harm, a great dinner with friends, with a dance thrown in may cause some cholesterol but other than that no harm done.

Yet, with some happiness gets more and more convoluted…so far from what could constitute reality. The very meaning of happiness changes. Nothing can satisfy, because you are within so unsatisfied. The more convoluted the pursuit the more we hanker back to simpler days, and remember little boys and dogs sitting on the corner of a busy road….simple memories that refuse to go away.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Lunar Thoughts…

Some of the best and worst philosophy strikes you in the middle of the night, especially during a lunar eclipse. I was told about it a day before itself, but, never thought I'd see it. Three o’clock in the morning seems like a crazy time to do anything other than sleep, unless of course you don’t sleep…

I was lucky that night, the sheer freedom of being alone kept me awake, as I browsed, read, listened to music, answered scraps without the usual daytime responsibility.

And then suddenly outside my bedroom window was a rather funny looking, slightly red moon. It was strange, almost beckoning the world to see it and perhaps even save it in this dark hour beyond witching. An eclipsed moon brings out certain primeval thoughts. The dark demon swallowing it whole, perhaps never to return it again, the scientific mind screams, but….

Of course, usual ideas of being a dot of the vast space went through the head. And so did the thought that just suppose we are the only life in this vast universe. Six billion people and the millions of other teeming life. But that’s all there is, because there is no other life around….no one else in this vast universe. Life on earth was an accident…

But philosophies of midnight need to be discounted….especially if the moon beckons.
So in this dark hour, I went out to see the moon a little better. Three o’clock o four in the morning is a nice time. The goons who were awake last night have passed out fatigued with their booze by now, and it is too early for the daytime sneaks to get up…so you are safe. Reaching a higher plane I saw the eclipse, without a thought in my head. No philosophy, no cynicism, no wisdom,just the sight of a moon being partially devoured and then returned. I was in time and space with the few others across the world who saw this. Scientists and astronomers armed with data, riders on the highway, night shift workers….anyone who was awake. These are the times you are glad to be alive….and no you are never that alone.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Child Sexual Abuse Happens Because We As a Society Allow It

“Orkut” which is so maligned for corrupting kids, also has a plus side to it, one of them being the “Elaan-Combat ChildSexualAbuse” community. This community is concerned with sexual abuse of children, and one thing I learnt there that little boys are as prone to abuse as little girls.

A woman I know very closely, was sexually abused for a period of two to three years; she is still not clear about the age, possibly because there is a need within her to hide the facts even from herself. It went on sometimes sporadically and other times often, but enough to for the scars not to heal till today. Actually one doesn’t know which scar stayed longer, the abuse, or the certainty that she may never be believed even if she told her parents about it.

She got away lucky, maybe there is a God watching over her, but though the scars still fester, she has not emerged broken. The life she leads is normal, and reasonably nice. But there were many a strange and wrong choices because of that and yes there were lost years trying to find trust with other people. In spite of it all, she now middle aged, copes reasonably well with it. The scars don’t show, and apart from being obsessively protective with her daughter, there are no outer manifestations. .

The woman is often asked by those who know, “Why did you not tell?” She still has no answer for that. From what I have understood, there were two reasons. One, the man in question told her that everyone would think of her as a bad girl, second, her parents would beat her up if they found out. She says, at that time, and perhaps even till today, both rang true. Think of her as a small 10 maybe 12 year old, very confused about herself, her sexuality, her intelligence, and her goodness. She did not want be the “bad girl”, nor get beaten by her parents. So she kept shut and got abused. This man, she says, was at her house all the time, he was a “family friend,” an assumed brother. He was there at her dinner table, in her bedroom shared with siblings, at movies…and for some reason he was liked. And she had a strong feeling that she was not. So it is better to be quiet and abused.

There were repercussions, all of which she has eventually got over. Bad grades in school, and low esteem for a very long time, and this desperate need for approval. But perhaps the same God, who managed to keep her sane, took care of her this time, and she has come out pretty all right in the long run.

But there are many who have not. Boys abused by fathers, uncles, teachers, older kids in hostels. Girls abused by family, and the same group of guys who really deserve to be burnt at the stake. And then there are child prostitutes, beaten till they submit, and passed from hand to hand, till one day they die. Boys and girls are sold on the streets everyday, their rapists, and abusers have protection, but they are left without having the capacity and the will to fend for themselves. And yes serial killers who have been caught after abusing and then killing children are truly just one of many thousands who escape punishment.

I asked this woman, what would does she want to do if she came face to face with her abuser. “I want to slam him against the wall, and hit him till he dies,” came her clear answer. But she will not do it, because she still does not want it known. But we have to do something about it.

Child sexual abuse would not go on, if it was not covertly supported by society. We encourage it by turning a blind eye, and pinning it on the uncontrolled “urges of men”. There is only word suitable word for that. “crap!”

We encourage it by not protecting our children enough, and by not arming them with knowledge and self belief. We encourage it because we don’t value our children; they are but cannon fodder crushed by the depraved society.

We allow it because we don’t value ourselves as human beings enough, if we did, we’d take care of ever individual child, rich, poor, quiet, scared, boy or girl.

We allow it because we don’t care for the individual child…who is but a dot on this abusive, unkind landscape of ours.

And we cannot allow it anymore.