One of the first things that you would notice if you walk into one of the mammoth old buildings around Dalhousie Square in Kolkata are the rows and rows of electrical cables that hang from various corners of the ceiling. The tangles would put to shame a highly intricate streamer decoration at a party.(see some here) They are dangerous, yet everyday people walk in and out or sit for hours under them without a stutter.
In some kind of graphical representation, that is probably what our country looks like. A montrosity thats bursting at its seams, waiting to spill out its contents and held together by a network of flimsy patches at various places. Yet, it stays in place. Just like inside those old buildings, people carry on with their lives nonchalantly. More as an existential pattern they have known for a lifetime. Any alternative is unknown or doesn’t seem to work (and i am guessing here) mostly due to a lack of familiarity. With a billion other people to fight against for a share of food, jobs, a berth on the train and everything else, life as we know it here in India is a constant challenge that most of us don’t really sign up for, but nevertheless accept because otherwise we may risk losing what we have managed to gather.
What breaks this mad rush are incidents induced by nature’s fury or misguided human fury. Like the other day. Bombs, in Mumbai (yet again). What followed was the usual round of calling up friends, family and other folks to check if things were ok. When things settled without the detection of any cause for alarm, one could divert their attention to the messages of wrath that started pouring on various timelines. Some called for an attack on the perpetrators, while others lamented upon the lack of tooth and nail within the general populace. Honestly, even I have felt the same way, when accosted by a situation grave enough to rattle me in some way. However, in most other cases I prefer to maintain a reserve. Not because I do not empathize, but rather I have inherited a trait from a parent who describes it as – unless there is a fully informed solution that has any practical implementation in a conducive environment, it is never a good idea to ramble opinions about sensitive matter. Well.. not in gentle company atleast.
A lot of people have questioned the effectiveness of our intelligence agencies and how porous our defences are that terrorists can make a serious attack with the least of efforts. Personally, I am not in a position or informed enough to provide a serious analysis of where the failure was and how things could be strengthened. Instead what I see is an unmanageable chaos. Stop for a moment and look around. What you’ll see is a unstructured mass – not just of tangible objects like people, vehicles, buildings, but a carefully nurtured cultural shroud that binds all of these. Call it rich Indian heritage, difference in castes, inequality of the classes, regional biases, the all encompassing ‘jugaad’ – in short the cultural fibre that dictates how the people of the land live with each other. And one of the things that rarely finds itself on this list is perhaps ‘respect’.
Its probably hard to describe how thats a conclusion I can come up with, except for the various instances that I see around me. Being a microscopic instance of a billion+ population, it comes down essentially to the equation of demand and supply. The more in number, the more devalued it is. In this case human lives. No one really cares about another person, because they have to struggle to ensure that atleast that one human life still gets a bit of importance – their own. Stretch it maybe a little further to family, children, parents, someone-who-matters. As long as this coocooned bunch is taken care of, nothing else matters. Trains can burn, young children can beg, a hapless guard can be yelled at, plastic bottles can be thrown into rivers, walls can be defaced, red traffic signals can be run over, a bribe paid, examinations cheated, or the nextdoor neighbour called a racist vile term.
Seriously, where is that element of respect that drives a community to stand up with pride and reclaim its glory. I find it really funny when people mouth the cock and bull statements about a ‘country that is unified in its diversity’. Bull crap. Define diversity – the politically correct regional culture or things that create differences worse than plague – religious rigidity, caste based divisions, financial demarcations, occupational supremacy…you name it and we have it. There is always a reason to disrespect the other person standing next to you. How would anyone be able to collaborate with harmony with people they don’t feel good about? Even if its for their own safety? I seriously don’t know. These differences have been passed on for generations and I don’t see it changing very soon.
Its probably like working at a place where you don’t care much about the work, but you get your paycheck at the end of month and go home happy as long as you get to buy that perfect pair of shoes or a crate of poison. Well.. as long as the next bomb doesn’t get you.
Just a general FYI (instead of emailing across a few dozen mailing lists) that I’ll be mostly offline for the next two weeks. So any bug, ticket, e-mail etc. waiting on me during this time may go unanswered. Thanks.
ये बात बता रंग्रेज़ मेरे
ये कौनसे पानि मे तुने कौनसा रंग घोला है
के दिल बन गया सौदाइ और मेरा बसंति चोला है
अब तुम से क्या मे शिक़वा करु
मैंने हि कहा था ज़िद करके, रंग दे चुनरि पि के रंग मे
करमुहे कपास पर रंग ये ना रुके
रंग इत्ना गेहरा तेरा कि जानो जिगर तक को भि रंग दे
Rangrez Mere from Tanu Weds Manu – sung by the Wadali Brothers
(There could be spelling errors as I am not much familiar with the written form of Hindi)
“Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.”
নূতন প্রাণ দাও, প্রাণসখা, আজি সুপ্রভাতে ॥
বিষাদ সব করো দূর নবীন আনন্দে,
প্রাচীন রজনী নাশো নূতন উষালোকে ॥
This song by Norah Jones is one of my favourites. Besides her beautiful voice, I like the ‘farmville’-ish video that comes with it:
Looks like mornin’ in your eyes
But the clocks held 9:15 for hours
Couldn’t tempt us if it tried
‘Cause the afternoon’s already come and gone
And I said hoo…
Couldn’t find it in your eyes
But I’m sure it’s written all over my face
Never something I could hide
When I see we made it through another day
And I said hoo…
Now good night
Throw its cover down
On me again
Ooh and if I’m right
It’s the only way
To bring me back
I had never heard of Opal Whiteley before today. With my newly found interest in verses, I may be reading her more often. Here’s a poem I found to go with the swirlings inside my head:
In Man’s heart is a little room.
He has named it
And things are arranged along its wall
That he does not wish
To think about.
Every time he pushes something in there
He closes the door very tightly.
But in hours when he is weary,
In the hours that walk around some midnights
When high fires have burned
To a low flicker
Then the little door swings on its hinges.
And no thing
Will make it stay closed
All of the time.
When he is near death
All the Velvet-footed Wanderers in there
Join the throng around his bed,
“We will not die,” they whisper
To one another.
While Beauty waits with drawn lips,
And dry eyes.
But, there is heard
The patter of a little sad rain
In her heart’s garden
Where some little flower buds
That were once thinking of the sun
Will never open
Because man keeps a little room
Of oblivion in his soul.
Sometimes unbridled hatred for people drives onwards to massive indifference. Thats probably called moksha in some kind of metaphysical level. Takes away a few smiles but then its not worth any bit of eventual scrap to salvage.
I started reading the first of the much hyped Clifton Chronicles and after a long time, read for nearly 12 straight hours (at night) to finish a book. Brought back good ‘ol memories of similar times, when my mother used to saunter over atleast 5 times during the night to holler, plead, threaten and then retreat with resignation after failing to get me to go to bed.
বকুলগন্ধে বন্যা এল দখিন হাওয়ার স্রোতে।
পুষ্পধনু, ভাসাও তরী নন্দনতীর হতে॥
পলাশকলি দিকে দিকে তোমার আখর দিল লিখে,
চঞ্চলতা জাগিয়ে দিল অরণ্যে পর্বতে॥
আকাশপারে পেতে আছে একলা আসনখানি,–
নিত্যকালের সেই বিরহীর জাগল আশার বাণী॥
পাতায় পাতায় ঘাসে ঘাসে নবীন প্রাণের পত্র আসে,
পলাশ-জবায় কনকচাঁপায় অশোকে অশ্বথে॥