The Endgame

The Yayati stage arena at the Bangalore Literature Festival’19 witnessed a remarkable burst of energy amongst the audience at 12.45 PM as Kunal Basu took over the stage. Kunal, the author of critically acclaimed novels such as – The Opium Clerk, Kalkatta, etc. was accompanied by Teesta Guha Sarkar, the Senior Commissioning Editor at Pan Macmillan India. The session basically revolved around familiarizing the audience with Kunal’s upcoming novel- ‘The Endgame’ which releases this December while Teesta moderated the session. 

 

The Endgame is Kunal’s first novel to be translated from Bangla (originally Tejaswini O Shabnam) to English. However, he did not take up the translation work of his novel. He further went on to narrate how The Endgame as a novel took shape. It started off 2 years back when a Bollywood producer approached Kunal to do a story on the notion of trafficking which he, in turn, wanted to turn into a film. Even though the anguish and rampant about trafficking kept him miles away from writing about it, a small voice from within seemed to call out to him to explore the unexplored. He agreed upon writing such a novel with a word from the producers to get in touch with the trafficking victims from the villages and the traffickers. He narrated how a visit to an NGO that was arranged for him completely changed his take on the entire subject. Prepared with his “toolkit of a writer” he entered a derelict shed where 11 little girls between the age of 14-18 years waited for his questions. “I broke down”- said Kunal. As a result, his gaze into those 11 pairs of eyes melted together to become a character called ‘Shabnam’.

His novel, The Endgame revolves around the tale of two girls- one raised in India and another in New York who ends up meeting in the battlefields of Iraq. Kunal explains his reasons for locating the novel in the context of the conflict by stating that he wanted to see the subterranean connection- war over women’s bodies fought in our country. “Wars never end”, said he. 

 

The 63 years old writer says that he belongs to a bilingual tribe and in spite of being a bilingual writer he kept aloof from translating this novel on his own because he believes going back to translate his own work from Bangla to English is a tedious affair. On his distinctness of style, he expresses his views on making his story the hero of his novel. Coming off the land of Ramayana and Mahabharata, story making he said is fundamental to his outpost. He addressed the audience in this regard by telling them how he needs to think of “a story that would keep people awake at night”. “The writers do not seem to understand the readers’ thirst for stories”, he added.

 

The session ended with him reading out a portion from the manuscript of ‘The Endgame’ and several questions from the audience to which he responded with his need to engage with imagery to bring a story to life, valuable advice to read a lot and write a lot without restricting oneself to any one particular genre, about how writing a novel changes the writer as it changes the readers. He concluded with another significant advice to budding writers – “Research to fertilise your imagination. Not detailing. Imagination will do the detailing.

 

 

About the Author: Upasana Mahanta is an MA in English with Communication Studies student from CHRIST (Deemed To Be University) – Bengaluru, who firmly believes that there is nothing more exhilarating and liberating as poetry. She finds solace in writing poems and travel blogs and has amongst her laurels a 1st Prize in the English category of the All India Poetess Conference, Meghalaya Chapter’s Seventh Poetry Competition cum North East Poetry Festival. She currently writes for TheSeer.

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Savarkar: Misunderstood Messiah?

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar commonly known as Veer Savarkar has attracted renewed academic interest in the country thanks to the highly successful biography by Author and Historian Vikram Sampath. While Savarkar has always been a device for shrill disputes in our country’s polity, this rare academic revival brought him and his biographer to the festival. Vikram Sampath, who is one of the founders of the festival was deftly interviewed by veteran Journalist and SwarajyaMag’s Editorial Director Mr. R Jagannathan. 

 

Mr. Sampath while replying to Mr. Jagannathan said, “The proponents as well as opponents of Savarkar know very little about him. He is discussed during every election for political gains and to some extent both the so called Left and the so called Right have misunderstood him. There are many positions that Savarkar takes which will make the current Indian Right uncomfortable. For example, his position on caste system, divinity of cows are things that today’s Right might not like. Also, a bulk of misunderstanding comes from the history books written by the Left historians.” Mr. Jagannathan went on to ask about the ensuing debate after the demands of Bharat Ratna upon Savarkar. “Ofcourse, this was done with an eye on the elections. In fact, Uddhav Thackerey set the cat among the pigeons in his book launch. Thereafter, the BJP picked it up. Now, both parties have together won the elections, so it remains to be seen what happens of the demands. Also, it is true that these awards of national importance have been the preserve of one particular ideology and family. Our freedom struggle has been narrated in a monochromatic way which is not true. So, maybe it will be some kind of recognition for him. Although, even if it is not bestowed, it won’t make any difference to him or his family.”, Mr. Sampath answered. 

 

Mr. Jagannathan asked several other questions pertaining to Savarkar’s shift in his outlook from when he wrote about Hindus and Muslims fighting together in the first war of Indian independence in 1857 to his idea of Hindutva and also his time in the Cellular Jail at Andaman. Mr. Sampath went into detail and explained how Savarkar was actually the one to start the first secret society in India called Mitra Mela which was later called Abhinav Bharat to create disaffection in the armed forces. For his book on the 1857 revolt, Savarkar spent five years in London, researching in libraries. He understood the Indian perspective of the mutiny and reinterpreted it as the First War of Indian Independence. The book was so popular and effective amongst the revolutionaries that Bhagat Singh got the second edition published. Similarly, Rash Behari Bose and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose too got the book republished.

 

Savarkar was somebody who spoke of different communities being rainbow on Indian sky and in Mr. Sampath’s opinion, two particular events – first, his experience at the cellular jail where the British played the game of divide and rule and got the Muslim jamadars to convert the Hindus and second, Gandhi’s role in the Khilafat movement to mobilize an entire community to fight for a movement thousands of miles away that resulted in riots across the country, affected his positions and ideas. During the Moplah riots, Gandhi praised the rioters as great warriors fighting for their community and addressed Abdul Rashid, the killer of Swami Shraddhanand as his brother. Savarkar thought that Gandhi needed an intellectual counter and a small book called ‘Essentials of Hindutva’ that he wrote from Ratnagiri jail should be read. Mr. Sampath also stressed that the allegations of him being a coward because he wrote mercy petitions were unfair to him. Petition was a legitimate legal recourse available to the prisoners then and even Gandhi himself on requested for help by Savarkar’s brother, asked him to write a petition and wrote one himself. Also, the petitions were for the prisoners and Savarkar was ready to stay in the jail if others were released at his expense.

 

The discussion was brought to a close with Mr. Sampath explaining many points where Savarkar’s views would differ from the current Right of our country. There on a subject like caste system, his ideas were more like those of Ambedkar and not Gandhi. Savarkar believed that the cow must be treated as a utility animal and not a divine being and his idea of Hindutva was more cultural and nationalistic where allegiance to the country was the only identity marker. With a couple of questions from the audience members, Mr. Sampath explained the inclusive nature of Savarkar’s Hindutva and his idea of ‘equality for all, appeasement of none’.

Body Sutra

The event commenced on time at the Red Couch venue with an introductory address by Lucy Nelson followed by an extensive talk by Dr. Alka Pande (famous Indian academic and museum curator). Dr. Pande spoke about her literary safari over the years absorbing the need to explore deeper into Indian history of aesthetics with respect to the depiction of bodies to represent different cultures in the country, instead of tailing behind the western vestiges. Alka elaborated on her use of ekphrasis to cover the historical journey of sensuality in female bodies and their portrayal in Indian art. She talked about her latest book “Body Sutra” which traces the human form through art and imagination.

 

The famous curator spent 5 years of her life culminating the arguments for this vivid and enthralling expedition about Indian aesthetics of sensuality and form. In the most subtle manner possible she covers the chronological development of ekphrasis in the country. She rendered her perspective on the gender-fluid contemporary India and also enlightened the audience about various cultures, time period, and their approach towards the sensuality of the human body. She looked upon the framework that works behind the pre-modern body, medieval body, modern body as well as the contemporary body. Alka then emitted her expertise about various vestiges of Indian culture and dynamic approaches to a women’s body. She enlightened Lucy about the contradictory muses between western verisimilitudes and Indian version of sensuality which mainly deals with Shringar and Vilas. According to Alka, the concepts of body sutra are mainly inspired by ancient Rasa theories and Natya Shastras. In her book, she mentions about a lot of historical sculptures and monuments which depict the sensuous body of goddesses as well as other women. Her understanding of symbolism in Indian art is beautiful as she goes on to explain the Indian body where she talks about imagery portraying them with pendulous breasts, extremely cervical hips, curled flicks and Mukulas which are eyes formed in the shape of a lotus. This extremely alluring mannerism of women portrayal can be witnessed in a lot of Indian historical venues like Ajanta Caves and Khajuraho group of monuments. The nakedness portrayed in these sculptures refers to the spiritual element of society much more than the commodification aspect. She used a lot of mythological analogy to draw home her point regarding body sensuality. She talked about Arthanareshwar who symbolizes the body of Shiv Shakti, philosophies of Buddha and different portrayals of goddess Kali who is one of the fiercest goddesses in Indian mythology.

 

Dr. Alka explained the aesthetics of the human body and form with respect to her latest book “Body Sutra” in the most subtle manner possible, covering the details of the human body from wide-hipped, voluptuous woman that is Yakshi to her cover for the book which represents a sculpture of goddess Parvati (currently in Los Angeles county museum). This session provided extensive insight into the dynamics of body depictions and portrayals of the human form as a whole, led by the genius of Dr. Alka which paved a new platform for understanding of self and identity in respect to Indian culture.

 

 

 

About the Author: Abhinav Kumar is an MA in English with Communication Studies student from CHRIST ( Deemed To Be University), Bengaluru who believes in “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world”. He is interested in sports journalism and travelogue writing. He currently writes for TheSeer.

Parading Your Empathy Brings No Good to the World

Empathy plays out in our world in different forms. If you are someone who plays by group identities and the sufferer belongs to one of the groups you like, empathy certainly takes deeper colours. It is not impossible to empathize if you do not know the group identity of the individual victim but it just gets more difficult from there. From anonymity of group to a sufferer who belongs to a group you detest, empathy keeps fading till it becomes the exact opposite of itself. Magnitude matters too, although inversely. The expression of empathy is most intense when the victim is one and can be identified with markers like name, age, employment status, proximity from the observer, or photographs. When the sufferers cannot be identified as such and number in hundreds or thousands, a cursory sense of empathy appears but yields to indifference in quick time. Empathy manifests with deepest emotions when the object, event, or individual to be empathized with has an element of immediateness to our lives, for example, our family members or friends. However, as gaps of time and distance widen, empathy starts to come in short supply.

 

But is empathy in itself enough? Can empathy alone provide solutions? While many who have come to be known as ‘armchair activists’ would argue that it can, the history of humanity shows that technological progress right from the invention of the wheel has done more to take people out of their sufferings than empty empathy. Here, it is important to distinguish between people who use empathy as their driving force to act for the good of others and the ones who take credit for all the good happening in the world because they empathize for the weak and the sufferer.

 

A scientist working for the cure of a deadly disease may or may not be guided by empathy. If he is not guided by empathy, he might be driven by any or all of the following things – an obsession to solve problems that are difficult to solve, fame that would lead to greater wealth and personal well being, or peer competition. If at all such an individual is driven by empathy, he does not stop with expression of that empathy in words. He gets up everyday, walks up to his work, and channelizes his empathy with the help of his intelligence and skills towards solutions. If this individual lacks skills or intelligence, he will either stop at empathy with a whimper or make a living out of empathy exhibition. 

 

Though feeling true empathy is a great first step, we err when we stop ourselves at empathy. Empathy can play the role of a catalyst but a catalyst without reacting compounds can do little. True sympathy needs the reactants to come together in order to produce something more effective. Unfortunately, what we have today amongst  us is ‘manufactured empathy’ that is a product of media plots and schemes. What passes as empathy is often just a jolt out of our routine and a reckless expression of fear. Then, the engines of this artificial empathy – the news media and the social media among others take you on a guided tour of your favorite show that you missed last night or throw cute cat memes on your timeline and you are unconsciously driven to a ‘manufactured routine’.

 

Empathy in isolation is an exercise in self-gratification where you make yourself feel better by thinking that you think about XYZ cause and somehow that makes you a better person than everybody else. Some people who have taken to empathy as their full time job have it even worse. I see them on the front pages of the Internet, TV, and Print, showcasing their empathy as some sort of object to be revered and celebrated. They come, they display their empathy, and then they blame the entire world for the situation. That is their solution. Such empathy can lead you to dark places, mostly towards blaming the system and the society. True empathy will lead you to act to do something for the empathized apart from putting up a self congratulatory facebook status. If your empathy ends at empathy, it is veritably a manufactured empathy that has been cultivated from the outside, cultured for the external world, and waiting for a beholder. That empathy is not enough and it does no good to the world or even you.

 

Empathy doesn’t work in isolation. Empathy alone doesn’t make you a good person. It may hint at your goodness but it doesn’t mean you are good to the cause or individual you empathize with. All the empathy of the world couldn’t save the two-year old boy Sujith Wilson who died stuck in a bore-well. If empathy could solve problems, he and many others like him in India who die in bore-wells could be saved every time. Empathy must wed intelligence, skills, and action towards solving the immediate problems around you. An intelligent act is to either keep your bore-wells covered or keep your toddlers under supervision all the time. Another intelligent act is to not let your own child drown in a tub while you are busy letting news channels aggrandize your empathy for Sujith Wilson. 

Angel Child Sculpture

In The Aftermath of a Miscarriage

Miscarriage occurs in 10–25% (or more in older women) of all diagnosed pregnancies – Science Direct


When the joy of pregnancy gives way to a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), the suddenness of the traumatic experience can cause a spiral of grief, guilt, and depression. While the psychological ramifications the mother goes through is frequently palpable, the grief often extends to their partners and respective families. According to clinical psychologist, Daanesh Umrigar, “There’s a lot of stigma attached to it… Motherhood and death… Two basic things that cause a lot of conflict for the individual. Couples also tend to keep it hush-hush.” Media professional, Rizoota Kashyap Chaubey, was heartbroken after her miscarriage, but she says, “It got me and my hubby closer, to understand life and the importance of it.” For some, the trauma of pregnancy loss can extend for months according to the
International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, with miscarriages leaving in their wake “30 – 50% of women with anxiety and 10 –15% experiencing depression.” 

 

Anupama Maurya Chugh
Anupama Maurya Chugh

With 5 miscarriages in 4 years, it has been difficult for Marketing Merchandiser, Anupama Maurya Chugh: “I have done all required investigations. Every time, I followed all advised instructions; but every time we failed. Now I’m left with lots of sorrow and pain.” Umrigar has found that, “Often, they try immediately afterward… Two things:  ‘are they biologically ready and are they psychologically ready?’ and ‘even if the child is unborn, it does not mean that the mother has not internalized the grief.'” Despite the possibility that 1 in 4 pregnancies could result in a miscarriage, policy interventions facilitating psychological support are inadequate, and Sanghamitra Acharya suggests that “the support of bereavement arising out of early deaths does not form a part of any (Indian) policy including the Health Policy of 2017.” 

 

Priyanka Kumari
Priyanka Kumari

With a woman’s identity largely structured around motherhood in India, the psychological impact of social response to a miscarriage influences the woman’s experience of grief and is often a barrier to emotional recovery. Stepping out after almost 2 months since her pregnancy loss, Composting & Gardening coach Priyanka Kumari encountered “rumours… that she is careless, she is into all forest, soil trees, insect, and weird stuff, so she didn’t take care.” Priyanka says, “Neighbours were a little empathetic, but they too gave unsolicited advice. In my experience, out of 100, only 5 % people felt my pain genuinely and didn’t judge me, didn’t make stories.” Umrigar says, “Social reaction could lead to internalization of the grief.” Those experiencing recurrent miscarriage like Anupama have it worse with the stigma of pregnancy loss exacerbated in a largely traditional society like India.

 

In case of women from less-advantaged socio-economic sections of society, a miscarriage changes power equations within the household as well. Researchers Lisa Roberts, Barbara A. Anderson, and Susanne B. Montgomery assert that “for poor women with low autonomy and low education levels, from low castes, who are socially isolated and highly dependent on their husbands, fertility is ubiquitous to their identity and worth.” 

 

Factors-Affecting-Pregnancy-Loss

Self-image as derived from social identity is crucial in emotional recovery from the grief experienced as a result of miscarriage. Social derision or lack of empathy adds to an Indian woman’s trauma of pregnancy loss. While Anupama had her husband’s support, she says, “Only my family and few of my close friends supported me… otherwise, everyone… either office colleague, relatives, neighbours… is still asking me when will we have baby. That is the reason I have stopped/ reduced attending any family function, social gathering, or other ceremonies.” Additionally, those who empathise with the women experiencing miscarriages often are ill-equipped to provide emotional support. 

 

Daanesh Umrigar
Daanesh Umrigar

In many countries, memorial ceremonies are held to bring closure to losing the unborn child which include naming the baby and planting a tree in their memory. Umrigar suggests to support the individual, “Allow the person to go through the grief. Don’t push it under the carpet. Allow the person to talk, talk about their emotions. If the person is crying, it’s fine… it’s an expression of emotion. Don’t alienate the person, don’t let them feel like they are going through it alone. Social interactions should be such that they are supportive and also productive for the individual… even if the person doesn’t feel like going out, (you could consider) coming over, being there for the person.”

 

Ultimately, it is essential to ensure the mother does not blame herself for the pregnancy loss, as many are prone to do. With non-invasive prenatal screening (NIPS) available nowadays, it is also possible to identify potential risks early to be better prepared for possible eventualities. Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, suggests that “Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression.” In the aftermath of a miscarriage, it is essential that individuals allow themselves to go through the bereavement process and slowly get involved with activities that motivate them out of the spiral of grief or guilt. As social awareness regarding mental health improves in India, there is hope that women will have increased support through such traumatic experiences which often have a deep psychological impact.

 

Special thanks to Malini’s Girl Tribe and Miss Malini for their assistance.

Best Lipsticks 2019

Friday night and you are getting ready to party. Your favourite part about the night? Your little black dress and your red lipstick. You are running late, your friends are blasting your phone and as you hurriedly put your lipstick in your purse, you fail to notice yet again that there are 22 different ingredients listed at the back of its box. Half of them you can’t even pronounce. And why bother to notice at all, why bother to ask what you are putting on your lips and also unintentionally eating it when the ad says it’s safe. Besides, Alia Bhatt says it’s great too.

 

In a hypothetical scenario, if you had taken a little bit of your time you would have noticed a few familiar names in the list of ingredients.

 

Polyethylene, Nylon, PEG, all of these are different forms of plastic. Isn’t that weird? That your lipstick has plastic?

 

Your lipstick has plastic, your moisturizer has it too, and it’s probably in your shower gel and toothpaste too. There are different kinds – Nylon-12, BIS-PEG-12. And when you remove your makeup, wash your face, these chemicals go into the ocean via drains. Who would have thought that throwing a plastic bottle in the ocean and removing your makeup are eerily similar?

Another common ingredient, Titanium dioxide, prevents phytoplankton from growing. Phytoplankton, algae found in the ocean, are the real lungs of this planet that contribute to more than 50% of oxygen in the atmosphere. Who would have thought that washing your makeup and burning the amazon isn’t that different either?

Maybe the environment can handle it. But what about you?

There are more names in the list – Laureth and Parabens. One google search and the terms like cancer, hormonal disorder, skin irritation pops right up at the top of the page. PEG (Polyethylene glycol), is made out of toxic products like dioxane, and if not processed properly it can be carcinogenic too.

As if environmental and health concerns weren’t enough, we have a new guest to think about – ethics.

You may spot the innocent looking ‘mica’ in the list. Don’t be duped. It isn’t. Mica is often illegally mined by Children.

And what gives your lipstick that attractive colour? You will find weird names like Red 7 Lake CI 15850. These artificially synthesized colours, may have heavy metals in them – like Aluminum, Cadmium, or even Lead.

But you don’t know all this. You never checked.

 

Most of your enquiry began and ended at – How much is it for?

 

Where is it coming from? What does it contain? Is it safe to use? What are the manufacturer’s ethics? No, you can’t ask these questions – your life is too hectic. You barely have enough time to breathe and check Instagram.

 

In this office to home, home to office and stay hammered during the weekend lifestyle, what place does “being responsible consumer” have? Perhaps it’s okay to stay ignorant, to be lazy, to be addicted to cost-effective convenience. It’s easy and smooth life after all.

 

Go ahead, you are late. Your friends are furious. The happy hour is ending. You look great in your little black dress and that blood-red lipstick. Your lips may be red but it’s the planet that’s bleeding. And maybe inside, you are too, maybe there’s a time bomb ticking waiting to explode just a tiny mutation away. Never mind though, have a great weekend.

 

P.S.

  • So what now?
    Boycott the companies that don’t care. Explore the ones that do. To name a few, there are startups like Bare Necessities, Grinding Stone, Soultree and Rustic Art.
  • Sorry for clickbaiting. We really wanted you to read this one before you stepped out for that party.

 

We have a theory about how open defecation is quickly migrating to our cities. Read it here Open defecation has migrated to cities!

 

 

Reference:

 

Howdy Modi and Why They Hate the NRIs

There was a time when crossing the seas was forbidden in India for the fear of the mlechhas who if mingled with, could disturb the purity of character of the sanctimonious Indian. Out of this fear, many never dared to go to the foreign lands but the traders had to travel to do their trade, so, they would come back and undergo some sort of atonement. However, the worrywarts of the community would still continue to enforce the prohibition and condemnation. As decades and centuries went by, these stopped mattering to people, or at least to most of the people. Most, because, it seems the regressive trend has made a grand come back.

 

After the NRIs put up a commendable show with ‘Howdy Modi’ at Houston, a set of descendants of mlechha-haters has surfaced on social media to profane at these NRIs who according to them are enjoying all the perks that a developed country offers and yet want Modi to continue at the helm in India. This according to them, is a bad thing. Since, these NRIs have already left the country, they can no longer have any views about India. The US immigration department, it seems, has kept brain scanners at the airports that scan and delete any opinion on India from the NRI’s brain on arrival.

 

Let’s understand this with an example confined within the boundaries of our country. If an NRI cannot have an opinion on India or a stake in Indian story, why should a Kashmiri studying in JNU or a Bengali settled in Bangalore have any opinion on Kashmir or Bengal respectively? In fact, when all the hotshots of Indian media can spend weeks of prime-time discussing US politics and their favorite Satan Trump, why should the austerity of self-censorship be forced only on the NRIs? Or perhaps NRIs are not the problem. It is not the NRIs who generate the hate.

 

Just a few monsoons ago, Kangana Ranaut was the Iron Lady of Indian feminism, hailed and cheered from all corners of self-declared woke media. Then, she made a mistake and professed her liking for Mr. Modi. This was a gobar-on-the-face moment (gobar is cow-dung) for many people who were looking for a new member for the Modi-Haters group on whatsapp.  This was not the only time they had gobar on their face. Ranvir Shorey was a greater disappointment. Considering his filmography of off-beat and critic friendly cinema, he was to receive a wild-card entry to the group. Alas, he too spoiled his chances by backing Mr. Modi and was castigated by leading lights of the group on Twitter. The trend became predictable at one point after people like Kabir Bedi, Shekhar Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Vikram Sampath, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Maurice Obstfeld voiced their confidence in Mr. Modi and were hounded by the touchy people who deactivate their social media accounts for a day and skip their leg day every time Modi gets an award outside the country.

 

Your enemy’s friend is your enemy. Your enemy’s nobody is also your enemy. The hate originates, primarily for Mr. Modi and after travelling a distance of about 14000 kilometers now, seems to have reached Houston. This anger is mostly for the NRIs in the US and not the other countries like Saudi or the UAE. A reason could be that one of the admins of Modi-Haters group was beaten fair and square in a full house wrestling bout by the NRIs at the Madison Square Garden in 2014. However, I wouldn’t count on that as the primary reason. The NRIs in the US are somehow amazingly tantalizing at displaying their affection for Mr. Modi and with their money and political muscle, they manage to organize these colossal shows that give Mr. Modi global platforms to laugh at people who effected his US-Visa denials while he was the Gujarat Chief Minister.

 

It is not only Modi who is hated with such gusto. His supporters are told to drink Gau-Mutra (Cow Urine) and eat Gobar (Cow Dung) by almost all of these self-appointed custodians of India’s secularism. You are told to not talk to Modi supporters, not have Modi-supporting friends, not marry a Modi supporter, and push the Modi-supporting old woman crossing the street under the bus. For this set of people, either you shouldn’t have a political opinion so that they have a shot at washing your brain and injecting hatred for Mr. Modi or if you have one, it must conform to theirs. If it is neither of the two, then either you would be requested to drink cow-piss or in case you happen to speak English, you would be shouted down at literature festivals. No matter how many trees you have planted in your lifetime or how many people you have helped with your abilities, if you like Modi, you become Public Enemy No. 1. Unfortunately for Modi-Hate hags, the Houston event was not a literature festival. It was a display of the growing power of India in global decision making. At such events, only a leader who is democratically elected and has the backing of a majority of his countrymen can make a mark. It is a far cry from a literature festival of the self-proclaimed intellectuals who lecture on moral standards during the day and entertain with their drunken fights during the night. There are so many individuals in our country today who have Modi-Hate as their only claim to fame.

 

I was on an author’s panel once. One of the panelists had published his first novel and even though the book was grammatically holding fine, he struggled while speaking in English. That notwithstanding, he went on about his book at length. This was not received very well by a lady poet sitting beside me who continued to smirk at his struggles with grammar and accent. Once the event was over, she ran up to me to share her opinions about this author and all she had were words of insult and condescension for this writer. Of course, I was expected to join her in her circus of snobbery. To her disappointment, I had only respect for this guy who could complete a book in spite of his limitations with the language. Of course, in an instant, I became an NRI-mlechha to her. If only I had conjoined my sur (tune) with hers, I could have been part of some non-native-speakers-haters group. When you find out that the person next to you is not thinking like you do, hate begins to unfold. When you find out that a majority is not thinking like you do, you start turning into a fanatic.

Waiting for Godot

A lifetime is spent to find the actual meaning of happiness. People procrastinate their means of joy, just to have a better means someday. In search of that ‘someday’ they lose their glorious present. This vicious circle keeps moving till one day the end arrives and realisation and remorse does no good. It is imperative to live a fulfilled life day by day as it comes to us. We cannot postpone smiling and dancing to a tomorrow that never arrives. This realistic circumstance of life reminds me of a classic book ‘Waiting for Godot’ by Samuel Beckett. The protagonist is a foolish person who spends his life doing nothing because he has to wait for ‘Godot’ who apparently will get happiness for him. Seasons pass and he grows old, but his insanity and fixation of Godot does not let him live his life. Godot, obviously doesn’t exist. The protagonist of the story departs from this world in vain, without living a single day.

 

We tangle ourselves in wires and threads of emotions and judgements. So much so, that it is impossible to get out after a while. We want to live a life on our terms; the terms may be good or bad but our ego presumes they are the best for our soul. These terms are based on experiences, which are a consequence of these threads of judgements and emotions. No one but us can take us out of this paranoia. This state of anxiety and haste builds a labyrinth around us which eventually becomes a way of our life. Each of us has a personal labyrinth designed and customised personally by our thoughts and decisions taken over a period of a time. The morass therefore, gets complicated with increase of our age. We spend the rest of our lives living in the self constructed confinement going round and round in circles trying to resolve our delusions. The more we judge actions of our own and of those around us, the higher the walls of the labyrinth become. The process goes on till we die one day dissatisfied and lonely.

 

Only if like an efficient gardener, we keep trimming the hedges of our labyrinth and plant more trees of happiness instead,,we can get a lot of sunlight in our lives. Instead of an unattended ruckus we can live in a well groomed haven. The choice is ours and the way we choose to live defines the boundaries we build around ourselves. The ethereal question that rises is how at all we can trim these overbearing walls to have a hold of our lives?

 

Sadhguru says, “…it’s important to grow trees in people’s minds. It is important to acknowledge that we inhale what these trees exhale.” Once we are able to connect with these trees, we will realise that we absorb whatever life gives us and similarly the world absorbs what we exude. Gradually, we will be more aware of what we spread in this world because as a part of life cycle we will receive what we give. Therefore,the hedges of the labyrinth will be short lived and will disappear with time, giving way to a beautiful garden of openness, joy and non judgement. There shall be no labyrinth at all and it will become a way of life. There will be pleasantness and positivity around us which shall spread contagiously.

Let us all learn to live a life sans labyrinth for god has given us a life sans confinement and boundaries. Let our prejudices, envy and wrath not multiply and grow its roots to form a puzzle. Let the human inner beauty and sanity take over this antagonism hence giving us a garden of freedom that has flowers of love and spreads jubilance.

 

Krishn and Arjun at Kurukshetra Battlefield

The Heroes are Dead 

Mythology and historical tales are an interesting part of the everyday life of inquisitive people. It always calls for inspiration and the power to bring about a change. The change is felt deep within but no effort is taken towards achieving it. Let alone the excuses one follows while being driven to the decision of not going all the way. Be it the inspiring Krishna or Rama, Arjun or Hanuman, or even the mighty heroes from Greece, all are momentary whose stories turn powerless once the reader comes to a point of action. Many of them have questions like, ‘Can I make a difference? How will I be able to conquer a problem that is huge and largely deemed impossible?’

‘Myth – a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.’

All the heroes from the past are worshipped for their might, but are we willing to apply the learning from these mighty stories? The mythological tales give a perspective towards things that the audience should interpret and apply to contemporary times for their benefit.

 

The fear of judgement from society nags the masses. The stories narrated to us with a rising hope, often create a fascinating picture in the listener’s mind. The narrations of bravery and decisions made in times of trouble look wayward to the contemporary. Would you rather choose to slay your brothers in today’s world in choosing the right over wrong? In the event of a real-life circumstance, you need to quit pondering over the probabilities and take action by applying the lessons learnt out of these inspiring tales from times gone by.

 

The Kali Yuga is here, but how will you go further? We live in a world where everyone seems to be making excuses and there is no development towards cumulative betterment. Those who try to keep up the fighting spirit are being bogged down and diminished by the so-called virtuous ones in society. All those who had been applauded for their courage and mysterious outcomes are now dead. We need to look at it with some implication and application to the current scenario. The world is looking for new heroes, those who could switch the perception of the old into the new.

“कर्म करो, फल की चिंता मत करो” – श्रीमद भगवद गीता

This quote from the Bhagavad Gita translates to – ‘Set your heart upon your work but never its reward.’ By applying these lessons in everyday life, individuals who seek change can develop worthy future.

Straczynski has righty stated that the masses are going wayward and losing attention towards the contemporary – “the point of mythology or myth is to point to the horizon and to point back to ourselves: This is who we are; this is where we came from; and this is where we’re going. And a lot of Western society over the last hundred years – the last 50 years really – has lost that. We have become rather aimless and wandering.”

The modern-day heroes do exist, but they are few in number with a vast mission. Ones who will take righteous actions in everyday life need to be encouraged. Benevolence in this world full of atrocities is highly valuable. The society needs a warrior to fight the ethical devaluation and immoral activity with courageous wisdom, not swords and arrows. The outcomes of issues that have been plaguing the ethics and questioning sovereignty need acceptance. A passionate individual will drive many and create not one, but an army of societal heroes.


The quest for quick success is a myth and the war is larger than what meets the eye.

 

Rajagopal

More Lessons from Dosa King Rajagopal’s Death

How dear is your reputation to you? If you are an individual who is reputed and well respected in the world, and if it comes to a situation where you get to keep either your life or your reputation, what would you choose? It is not a trivial question, you’ve heard stories of men and women who died for their honour! I would like you to take some time and ponder. You may reach a point in your reflections where you will want to remember your actions that took you there. Take one-step further and now think of this – you are not going to die, that is not your option now but you lose your reputation and you would need to live without the dignity you had earned with mountains of efforts. Would you feel relieved to have your life spared? A fine line separates the two situations. In one, your life choice is in your hands where as in another, someone makes that choice for you. You must have heard a lot many people say that an honorable death is better than an ignoble life, but are you sure you would not choose that life over a death that promises to cover your sins?

Shift some gears. How would you see the situation if the imminent death is as ignoble as your life would be? You are not sure about things that happen after death. However, in life, you know you can control a few things even if people do not like you. Does it become easier to live then? You believe in God, so, you make him a promise – “let me live, I won’t kill anyone again.” You also know that God does not operate in your currency. You do not get a reply. Nevertheless, he is ‘your’ God, you know him well enough to believe that he will forgive you because you have atoned. God has done his work. Now, you need to come out and manage a few things in a world that is up for sale. You have powerful friends; you have wealth that injects fuel into these powerful friends. You may not know the other world but you know your way out of the incarcerations of the world-of-the-living. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. You and your powerful friends make your ignoble life a comfortable one. Slowly, you make yourself forget the reasons for your fall and buying time becomes a contest for you. You have won all the games of the world before this one. You are confident you will win this one too. So, you keep buying time until one day, you have spent all your money. You realize you were buying time from your own store. Your storekeeper throws you onto a hospital bed and whispers in your ears – “of course, you will not kill anyone again”. Your heart stops beating.

Dosa King Rajagopal evaded jail-term for 15 years before being sentenced to life-term. He surrendered with an oxygen mask on his face, developed heart problems, and went to a hospital before he died. In the face of his life and actions, how should we define ‘justice’? Is it nature doing what the oft-fallible and corruptible humans could not do? Does that mean a life sentence was not enough for his actions and he needed to die? Or should we come from the opposite side to say that it became all too easy for him in the end? A life term might have perhaps put him in a situation closer to that of the Prince Santhakumar’s family.

It may take some time for our society to understand this phenomenon. We are so bored of seeing criminals dying their natural death before the courts are able make up their minds that it comes as no surprise any longer. To me, death is not justice. Death may wear the mask of poetic justice but poetic justice does not care for time and proportion. In effect, poetic justice is not justice at all. It is the consolation prize of the losing side.

Rajagopal did not serve his sentence. He was never going to be living behind the bars but he has died with all his dignity crushed and ground to dust. The winds of the coastline that carried his fame to far-off lands have now drowned themselves in the sea. The chaos of renown has turned into a lull of condemnation. Saravana Bhavan’s story will always carry the blandness of vanity and the vapidity of overcooked lust. Its success tale will always carry the rancid odour of the ghost and that might remain our only consolation.

Junior doctors at NRS Medical College and Hospital demonstrate against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata.(ANI)

O Doctor! My Doctor! Our Fearful Trip is Done?

When I was a child, my mother always used to say that doctors are the living embodiment of God. I never understood what she meant by that but nevertheless, I believed her. I have grown up watching people obey and respect doctors, place them on the highest pedestals of our society and worship them – and then, I have seen people curse them, beat them and if need be, kill them! Gradually, I started asking myself, is this how we worship Gods? Is this what we do—repay humanity with vengeance? Are doctors truly gods in the first place?

I write this article a few weeks after a heinous incident shook the core of our nation. On 10th June, 2019, two on-duty intern doctors, Dr. Paribaha Mukhopadhyay and Dr. Yash Tekwani of Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College & Hospital (NRSMCH), Kolkata, West Bengal were attacked by a mob of 200 goons, all claiming to be relatives and well-wishers of a 75-year old patient who had passed away in the evening after a major heart attack. While Paribaha suffered a deep dent on the frontal bone of the skull and was admitted in an ICU at The Institute of Neurosciences, Kolkata, Yash also had a serious head injury. What ensued thereafter, were a political melodrama, harassments caused to thousands of patients, more attacks on doctors all over the state, mass resignation of doctors and medical professors all over the country and most importantly, a nationwide protest of a magnitude not witnessed in India for a long time.

The NRS incident was neither the first nor the last attack on doctors. On one hand, when the nationwide protest was going on demanding the safety of the medical fraternity and proper infrastructure in government hospitals, on 14th June, 2019, a doctor in Gaya district in Bihar was tied to a tree, while goons gang-raped his wife and robbed him. On that same day, the owners of a dog in Kerala assaulted a veterinary doctor. The list goes on!

As I kept pondering over the grave situation, the question that kept on haunting me was why would people feel the need to take up arms against doctors in the first place! Of course, the answer to this question brought me to the dark side of the medical fraternity. Often, people complain about doctors refusing to treat poor patients in government hospitals and instead, forcing them to make appointments in their private chambers. People who cannot afford to make such appointments are forced to undergo treatments in government hospitals under extremely poor conditions, which often leads to medical negligence and imminent death of the patient. In addition to this, India remains an easy market for illegal organ trade where avaricious doctors trick and coerce financially unstable and illiterate people in donating their kidneys, liver etc. and sell them for lakhs of money.

I also dug out certain facts on the other side from some of my friends who are ex-students of NRSMCH and had participated in this movement. In our country, the situation is such that around four doctors are operating the emergency of a government hospital with the help of nurses and other staff. Adding to this, the OPD ticket cost is as low as 2 rupees per patient, which is even less than the one-way bus fare of the patient. Even with minimum infrastructure and unchecked patient load, doctors manage to perform their duties in these adverse conditions, sacrificing their own family lives. Under such circumstances, when a patient is brought to the emergency in a delicate condition, even after all necessary measures required to resuscitate him are taken, he might succumb to the natural consequences. However, when truckloads of goons attack a doctor or assault him, the only defense he has is his knowledge – not a gun, not a stick, not an iron rod, not a brick – only knowledge! It seems though, that lately, knowledge is falling short and the saviors of the world are quickly becoming the victims while the government and the police authorities stand aside without uttering a word, witnessing these events as silent spectators.

As I pause to conclude this outpour, I realize with a heavy heart that I am writing this on 1st July, 2019—the day celebrated as National Doctor’s Day all over India in memory of Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy on his birthday. He was a man who believed in People – irrespective of religion, caste, creed, or political views. He believed in humanity! I wonder if this is the India he dreamt of freeing from the British stronghold – a world where innocent doctors pay for the sins of money-mongering doctors who use their knowledge for some sinister business. Or a world where a mob is ready to assault doctors whenever it is discontented! It is true that if a patient feels that his doctor is at fault, he has the right to question him but as patients and caretakers, it also becomes our responsibility to opt for the right recourse.

The act of hooliganism witnessed by Bengal on the night of 10th June, 2019 must be condemned with the severest of measures taken against the perpetrators. The whole nation stood by Bengal in this time of distress because it was the right thing to do. However, it is high time that we start addressing the real issues haunting the lives of millions of people in our country and uproot them root and stem, that we start asking questions more often without waiting for a Paribaha or a Yash to get attacked while serving the people of this country!

लिंच होने से बचने का रामबाण

कल जब घर से निकलना तो कुछ मत बोलना, सच तो बिल्कुल नहीं। ये पुराना वाला इंडिया ही है, इसे सच से एलर्जी है। इसके लिए सच वो कीड़ा है जो एक दिन अजगर बन कर तुमको ही निगल लेगा। ये नया इंडिया भी है, यहाँ सच का डेमोनेटाइज़ेशन हो चुका है। सच लीगल टेंडर नहीं रहा। यहाँ झूठ के अलग अलग ठेकेदार हैं, सबका अपना अपना यू.पी.आई. है। किसी के साथ भी खाता खोलो और झूठ के लेन-देन में शुरू हो जाओ। महफूज़ रहो।

कल जब घर से निकलना तो चुप रहना। कल जब बाज़ार में कोई जेब काट ले, दो गालियाँ परोस दे, धक्का दे दे, या सामने से आकर घूँसा ही बरसा दे, चुप रहना। ये वही पुराना इंडिया है, ये घर में घुसकर मुसलमानों को मारता है, ये बाहर निकलकर हिंदुओं को जलाता है। यहाँ आज भी वो सब मुमकिन है जो पहले मुमकिन था। ये नया इंडिया भी है, ये अब मारते वक़्त रिकॉर्डिंग भी करता है और 4जी स्पीड पर लाइव स्ट्रीमिंग भी क्योंकि ये इंडिया एक भीड़ है, कभी हिंदुओं की भीड़ तो कभी मुसलमानों की भीड़। इस भीड़ का कोई चेहरा नहीं, सिर्फ मज़हब और जात होता है। इस भीड़ को सबूत होते हुए भी गिरफ्तार नहीं किया जा सकता। भेड़ियों की भीड़ में तुम जज़्बाती मेमने – चुप रहना। आज ज़्यादा मिमियाओगे तो फिर कभी नहीं मिमिया पाओगे। शाम को घर वापस आ जाना, बिना कोई नयी दुश्मनी मोल लिये। समाज को ठीक करने की ज़िम्मेदारी जिसे दी थी वो बैट लेकर समाज को पीट रहा है। तुम कौन से समाज-सुधारक बनने निकले हो? चुप रहना सीखो, आदत डालो, आईने के सामने ख़ामोशी की प्रैक्टिस करो।

ये सब इसलिए बता रहा हूँ कि कल जब घर से निकलो तो लिंच न हो जाओ। हो सके तो भीड़ का साथ दे देना, उसमें सेफ्टी है। लिंच करने वालों में शामिल हो जाना, लिंच होने वाले तो कमज़ोर होते हैं। असली इंडियन लिंच करता है, होता नहीं। इससे पहले कि कल किसी लिंच मॉब के हाथों तुम्हारा फ्री एकाउंट खत्म कर दिया जाए, आज किसी लिंच मॉब के पेड सब्सक्राइबर बन जाओ। ये नया इंडिया है, पुराने इंडिया वाले अपने बाप वाली गलती को मत दोहराना। वो मेम्बरशिप टालता रहा, इसलिए लिंच हो गया।

और तुम – जो आज अपने घर वापस नहीं जा पाओगे, कहीं किसी चौराहे पर लिंच कर दिए जाओगे, मुझे माफ कर देना। मुझे ये हिदायतें आज सूझीं, वरना शायद तुम्हारी मदद कर सकता। पर ये सिर्फ हिदायतें हैं, इनसे किसी की जान बच जाये, ये ज़रूरी नहीं। वैधानिक चेतावनियाँ जारी करने का अधिकार सिर्फ सरकार को है, उसी सरकार को जो वैधानिक शराब का ठेका चलाती है। मेरी बातों को कौन मानेगा? मैंने तो कभी एक पान भी नहीं बेचा। सो तुम चिंता मत करो, ये नया इंडिया है। तुम कोई आखिरी लिंच होने वाले इंसान नहीं हो। लिंचिंग वायरल हो चुका है। वो भी ऑर्गनिकली। बस ऊपर जाकर न्यू इंडिया वाले चैनल को सब्सक्राइब कर लेना। सारे लिंच अप्डेट्स मिलते रहेंगे।

अल्लाहू अकबर। जय श्री राम।