The Lowest Common Existence

I grew up in a time when achieving more was the aim. When music had harmony and tune. When clothes flattered the form. When ladies did not raise their voices and gentlemen did not walk around in shorts unless on holiday.

I am very much an Indian. Growing up in middle-class India. In the heart of bhadralok values.

So why has the world outside my window changed into something unrecognisable?

Music, today, is jarring. Hurtful to the ears. With lyrics that are not lyrics, but offensive opinions and actions, usually demeaning to a whole category of human beings. It is loud. It is constant. There is rarely any escape.

Clothes are either exorbitant or ugly. Two types. Only. And in case one thought that more money buys better stuff, one is wrong. More money buys more expensive but still ugly stuff.

What is the point of civilization, of evolution, if we do not get progressively better?

It is NOT O.K.

– To say “That just so raped me!” after a bad day at work.

– To refer to a loss at a football match as “XYZ just raped them, man!”.

– To refer to a woman, any woman, as a “whore”. 

– To have endless televised debates denouncing rape when not a single panelist is a known rape survivor. 

– To leave the making and implementing of anti-rape laws to men, some of who face law enforcement enquiry for offenses that would involve some level of moral turpitude. 

– To instill fear of the dark, the outside world and the unknown in little girls, only because the world is infested with monsters we do not wish to fight. 

– To not be angry. 

Writer’s Gone Off the Block

I have nothing to say.

Apart from the fact that I have nothing to say.

The din of opinions aired, the chaos of ruffled feathers….. the air is rife with the wish to be heard and noticed.

We are angry – too many things anger us. But we are not angry enough to act.

We are indignant – too many things cause us offense. But we are not rattled enough  to fight back.

There is no time to stand and stare… frighteningly, there is very little left to stare at.

There are cameras and photographs, monologues and group meets – time is poured into publicizing its expenditure.

We want The Perfect One – to mate, to work, to befriend, to employ. We refuse imperfection because it is unfashionable.

And yet – we wear different attitudes and manners as a badge. A close-kept brother (?) hood of – what?

People lose their way when marbles are lost…

When It Made Sense…

Epiphanies would be far commoner than they are if only we recognized them as such.

An epiphany in itself, one might say.

No amount of Jonathan Livingston Seagull or The Secret  can actually switch “on” the proverbial Light inside our heads until we’re ready to open our eyes. Life has been kind enough to let one encounter a Guardian Angel or two along its intriguing – if not always easy – meanderings. Such serendipitous meetings have given one a sense of … well… common  sense.

To those of us who ponder over the whys  and the hows,  maybe we need to accept a basic truth. We analyse ourselves more than we should and we analyse the world less than we must. Every thought, word and deed is mulled over in great detail – using up too much mind-space. This leaves far less time and energy for the really important nuggets where all we need are single word answers to vital issues – such as is it worth it? or does this person make me happy 80% of the time?  Instead of focusing on these, we spend endless hours wondering about why communication is non-existent or how to deal with mood swings. So maybe we need to shift focus on what to analyse and what to merely discard as background noise.

Added to this, is our innate need to throw the cross of responsibility onto an Undefined Power. Perhaps not in so many words (or a well-etched idea) of a god but some Parameter that will somehow predetermine the outcome. We tell ourselves that we need to be “sure” by applying certain rules/ideas/concepts to the situation; that our ‘faith’ in the situation should somehow be ‘justified’ by a predictable set of outcomes. Let’s get real – Life is unpredictable. So why would it make sense to try and predict how it will turn out? Make a decision for Now. Be happy Now. Be healthy Now. Tomorrow will be much better if we go to bed happier tonight. It’s quite simple, really, isn’t it?

And then is the Big “E” –  Emotion. One has long wondered why they exist if some of them are such a taboo! The very fact that human beings emote – to wit – connotes that they are – even if for some unfathomable reason! – supposed to. Then should not emotion be unconditional?   Whether a positive or a negative one. In our bid to protect ourselves for the Future (again that fear of the Unknown!), our survival instinct tells us to love only if we are loved back and morality, vice-versa, tell us to hurt only in self-defence. If the defining factor that sets up apart from Nature’s whimsical instincts is rational thought, then our emotions too, should lead an independent life. Love because you choose to – give because you wish to – and hurt because you need to. Life has a strange way of giving back in equal measure – love will come back (as does pain!).

And finally – this almost singularly human need to define ourselves in context of another being/ idea/ object, constantly restricts us on who we can be. We tend to tie up our happiness and well-being to one thing – be it a person, a set of ideas or a lifestyle. Again – Life is an amalgam of each of these and then some more. True – that only one may give us one particular kind of pleasure but is that single-dimensional pleasure enough of a reward to justify the price? Life has much, much more on offer. Judgements cost nothing and yet – are such a heavy debt to pay off. Where as experiences may cost a bit but in the long run, don’t incur Emotional & Mental Involvement – a.k.a. EMI. Let’s leave the conclusion-making for afters and enjoy the situation for what it is.

Maybe all we need, after all, is some Light…

The Curious Case of the Three-On-A-Date

There’s a fairly large-ish park across the road from our home. As is a common sight in Bangalore, it’s usually swarming with SCs (Senior Citizens), aunty-jis-with-bachchas in tow, laughter club enthusiasts and the occasional Nike-sporting-plugged-in runner on a regular basis. Evenings especially.

In the increasing summer these days, one tends to go for a walk around dusk, when the dust of the day has had a chance to settle. It is during such solitary perambulations that one encounters the Curious Case of the Three-On-A-Date.

Cast:

Girl # 1 – Lead Female, does not make eye contact with Boy # 1. Directs all conversation to Girl # 2.

Girl # 2 – Female in Supporting Role. Flirts with Boy # 1 on instructions of Girl # 1.

Boy # 1 – Semi-bewildered expression; anchors secret hopes of losing Girl # 2 under a passing TATA truck.

Storyline:

Boy # 1 encounters Girl # 1 through Social Network/ Girl # 2/ random cousin-thrice-removed’ wedding. Boy # 1 gets talking to Girl # 1 through said channels of communication. Usually this involves Girl # 2 – in various capacities such as enabler of communication situations, carrier of Notes as well as counsel to either party on What To Say.

When this scene plays itself out for about six months or so, it is now time to meet.

Enter – the Community Park.

Scene – Dusk. Shadows play across the hard cement seats, warmed all day in the sun.

Girl # 2 is seated between Boy # 1 and Girl # 1. She giggles, with the occasional elbow-dig-into-Girl # 1 for good measure. Girl # 1 furiously types away on her cellphone. Occasionally participates in conversation by addressing Girl # 2.

Boy # 1 has the erstwhile mentioned semi-bewildered look.

For a long time, yours truly did not figure out the dynamics of this unique menage-a-trois.  It took a lot of walking – and a couple of re-runs of Chameli ki Shaadi to start gleaning the situation.

It seems it is improper for a Good Indian Girl (aka GIG) to be in communication with a Boy unless he is (a) a Brother (Brotherhood of the Rakhi  will suffice to establish this particular form of relationship) or (b) her “would-be” (only arranged by Papaji-and-Phamili). Any Male of Adult Nature who is neither of the two mentioned hereinabove is automatically a serial assaulter and also a blot on the reputation (aka khaandaan ki izzat par dhabba) of said GIG.

And hence, we have Girl # 2. She of the vital link between Lead Female and Boy. One wonders how this pans out – for instance, is the Boy to pay for the  chane  that Girl # 2 also wants? How about her travel/postage bills for ferrying communication? Also, what about her reputation? Or is it that by virtue of being Girl # 2, it doesn’t count as much? Maybe the khandaans  have a hierarchy on who’s daughter gets to be Girl # 1 and who’s doesn’t. Complex!

The final absurdity was a chance reading of a back – issue.  Gruha******. (In defence of yours truly, there was nothing else to read at the dentist’s waiting room!) Anyways! The article had such nuggets of wisdom for a GIG as a Bride-To-Be – including – Yes! You guessed it right! – “always take your girlfriend with you when meeting your would-be. This way, you can protect your reputation and yet, spend some time getting to know each other.” 

In India, where the one thing in abundance – apart from political insipidity – is the human populace, it seems three isn’t a crowd.

The Magic of the Indian Summer

Mangoes. Watermelons. Litchis.

Pastel shades of cotton, Lucknowi chikankari  clothing.

Desert coolers.

Khus flavoured water from a matka. 

The smell of freshly watered mud in the evenings.

Long, balmy nights with faint strains of an old Rafi number wafting along.

Champa. Chameli. Mogra.

Aam ka aachar. Khatte aam ki chutney. 

Sleeping on watered terraces on old charpoys.

Drying papads  and red chillies in scorching day-sun.

Night-life and day-siestas.

Kulfi.

Evening outings en famille. 

The anticipation of the monsoon.

Weekend escapes to the relative coolness of Hill Stations.

Aam paanha. Lassi. Nimbu-paani.

 

 

Of Dreams

Being a lawyer today carries certain unwritten text around it – if one is even half-way capable of stringing a sentence in grammatically correct English, one is expected to be making so much per annum. Sub-text involves owning a car, some form of an artificially intelligent telecom device, a fruit-featuring computer and regular illustrated updates of holidays and/or revelry-making.

Is life only about getting to the next milestone?

Why is the constant rush to achieve and accquire called the “rat race”? As far as one is aware, rats are not known to race in the natural state of affairs.

Or is it – very quietly but very much in reality – the realisation of the Great American Dream by India – albeit half a century later?

Look around you – the symptoms are all there.

Suburbia? Check.

Mortgaged Apartments/Houses (American for Home-Loan)? Check.

EMIs for everything including the kitchen-sink? Check.

Ill-brought up children with dysfunctional upbringing in two-income working parents’ homes? Check.

Prolific “fast” food that is over-priced and ill-tasting? Check.

Mushrooming malls and ugly, mass-produced matrial goods that just shouldn’t exist? Check.

Why do we do this to ourselves? It seems, if we can’t get the Oh-so-coveted Green Card, we merely bring the accompaniments to our doorstep.

Ill-cut skirts and too-short shirts replace well-tailored salwar kameezes.  It’s un-cool for working women to “enjoy cooking” – a cook is a must – and the regular griping on the lack of culinary skills of said cook follows. Entertaining at home is a chore – let’s just catch up over an unrecognisable-in-Italy Italian meal at a chain restaurant. Schools teach and young adults still graduate without the faintest clue of when the Second World War ended.

This *may* read like a rant – but it isn’t. It’s a thought – said aloud.

Is it a stage of natural Darwin-like evolution on a country-wide level? Is it merely the lesser following the greater in a tried-and-seems successful method? Or an unconscious collective practising of a mentality that is inherent to oour culture?  Or is it a deep-rooted inferiority complex where if the gora sahib  has it, then it must be worth having? So politically incorrect in the times where “racial studies” connote mildly enlightened perceptions!

Think about – on the next break off the wheel.