Friday, 28 June 2013

STOP and Think for a Moment…

I’m sure everyone has that one family member or friend that is very, very racist/chauvinist/orthodox, oh, unintentionally of course, but very much still biased towards anything and everything that does not match their standard of a normal person. This person may or not be aware of what he/she is doing but to a person who is aware of these things and is sensitive to gender, colour, race and lifestyle bias, this can be shocking, sometimes appalling and more often than you’d think – hurtful.

I have seen many people with the tendency to be insensitive towards people who society marginalizes. These incidences shock me because it’s not only that we are all human and that there should be no demarcating factor there, it is also about not trying to prove that some people are better than others. Because if one is trying to do so, Hitler is a proud man in hell. Here are some sentences that I've heard around me that have caused me to stop and evaluate for a moment, how society differentiates itself on the basis of its diversity.

“What was the name of that of that African coach? You can hardly tell those people apart!”

“You’re SO gay man…”

“So, when are you leaving for the land of our little yellow friends?”

 “You have to learn to cook. Who will feed your husband? You expect HIM to cook?”

“Yo nigga! Waddup man!”

“She’s such a slut! I saw her kissing two guys in the same week!”

“So, what caste do you belong to?”

“Hey, don’t these Chinese all look like - the same?”

“What’s your religion?”

“Dude, you’re hanging out with those goras(white people)?”

And these are just some that I vividly remember for their scathing attack on people of different nationalities, different coloured skin, women, different religions/castes, different lifestyle choices and different relationship status’. It is even more disgusting to hear these things from those who you are surrounded with. Everywhere I go, I get to hear such tripe. Is it that people think that they are perfect and that these so-called “other people” are abnormal or freaks or weird and should not be part of society?

The answer, I feel, to this dilemma is not tolerance of all people. That might be confusing since everyone nowadays seems to be advocating tolerance towards everything else. Tolerance towards other religions, tolerance towards lower caste people, tolerance towards homosexuals, tolerance towards transsexuals, tolerance towards this and tolerance towards that… The list can go on. But I wonder - Is it tolerance that we need? In fact, what is tolerance? Tolerance is the mighty responsibility of the superior people to bear with the whims and fancies of the inferior people. That’s what tolerance means. Now, do we need that? Do we need to look down on people who are a wee bit different from people in our Utopian society? Or do we need to understand that we are all equal and one is not superior over any other person.

I’m not saying that I’m totally blameless here. I look into the mirror today and I see a hypocrite. Yes, because I've laughed at some of these, I've responded to some of these and I've not bothered to rebuke people who have said these things. But in retrospect, I have felt great remorse for what I have done to encourage people who make up such stuff and I have made up my mind to help people become aware of what they are saying and why it is against humanity as a whole. This is my commitment, my contribution to the betterment of society as I see it. I hope that at least one person will someday stop and think what they just said about another human being. That will be my greatest reward.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Is this the Hand of God?

The recent tragedy in North India, the flood, the devastation, the loss of life in that region got me thinking about the expiration date of things. I know it sounds a little insensitive of me to put it in a matter-of-fact way but I can’t help thinking about this series of incidents from an objective angle. Is it so that everything must be destroyed and then renewed again through a new process, is it Nature’s way of saying that we went too far or are these natural calamities God’s way of wiping the slate clean to start again?

I thought about the God angle and as I thought, I saw even deeper into it and came to the following conclusion. There are many examples of floods destroying those places where evil had bloomed out of control and the people become so corrupt that it seemed impossible to remove those stains from their soul and so they were washed away or one can say that they were perhaps smitten by the Hand of God. I’m not saying that it should have happened but it seems that it did. Now, as I mentioned earlier in this paragraph, there seem to be many indications of such incidents to have occurred in the past as well as in contemporary times. I have noted only a few which came through the top of my head because I’m too lazy to research anything in my vacations.

So, first up on the list is the incident from the Bible. In Christian mythology, God washed away life from the whole planet once upon a time and just kept this man Noah alive, supposedly because he was a righteous man living in a rotten world. God, it says, literally made it rain till the whole world was flooded and people of all races and religions and languages and colour and creed were washed away because they had become corrupt and their souls could not be saved. So, apparently, and I’m just guessing here, God wanted to start things fresh but didn't want to go through the whole man-making process again, so he left Noah and his family alive.

From Plato’s work we get that the Greek God, Poseidon destroyed the island of Atlantis with a flood because the people had become too corrupt to save. There is an alternate theory that says that he was pretty pissed at the Atlanteans choosing to elect the Goddess Athena as their protector instead of him, so he caused the tsunami that in turn caused Atlantis to sink beneath the waves, but who knows? Greek Gods seemed to do whatever the hell they pleased, at least according to Hollywood movies, and you know, the fact that they were Gods… So yeah.

So this was history. Now coming back to the present. India has seen her share of floods but what happens when a pilgrimage spot is washed out? What happens when a place of worship is inundated and a lot of people who have travelled to pray – are killed? It is often hard to believe how these things happen, especially for a devout person (which I assure you, I’m not).

How can a House of God be flooded?

How can pilgrims, who have gone to pray, die?

So, you see what I’m trying to say here is that there is a scarcity of Faith, a sudden dearth thereof.
For example, when India’s east coast was hit by a tsunami in 2004, the Basilica of Our Lady of Health Vailankanni in Tamil Nadu, India, was flooded and a lot of people died too. Then came the questions that I mentioned earlier and the doubt and the questioning of Faith. But, if one were to compare what happened here with those ancient floods and the theory of corruption and the anger of God, it may seem plausible that the same may have happened here. I have been to Vailankanni and it’s a beautiful shrine, but on the other hand, I saw how the people had converted the house of God into a marketplace. I was reminded of another incident in the Bible which describes how Jesus flew into a rage and started hitting the merchants and traders sitting outside and doing business at the Temple of Jerusalem. Maybe this was history being repeated, who knows?

If you have managed to bear with me till this point, you will now notice that I've come a full circle to the point where we started. The floods in Uttarakhand may be the anger of God being directed at the place of pilgrimage becoming a centre for tourism and commerce. Everyone knows that a place of worship, especially one which is much hyped, is sure to turn into a tourist spot as well. I think everyone who is well informed knows the prices at which things are being sold in these religious places and even more so because of this calamity. With that, the ‘Marketplace in the House of God’ scene is replayed. What can one expect then?

Note: Through this post, I’m not propagating that floods at religious places should be a regular visitor. Nor am I insinuating that all the people who died or were affected by such calamities were sinners and deserved it. I’m also not inciting hatred against God (because that would be kind of stupid). These are just my musings on a flood well travelled and one of the possible reasons behind the same.

To know more about the marketplace in the House of God, I suggest you read this post by

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Poker Face

I stayed in my college hostel the first one and a half years out of three and it was the best time of my life. Of course we later left that place because of a rather notorious priest, but while we were there it was fun giving him sleepless nights while we wrecked havoc through the three floors of youngsters sleeping, studying, playing, and hogging in the middle of the night. Cooking with illegal water heaters, talking on the phone during study hour, reading after lights-out and jumping from one floor to another and then outside the premises of the hostel were some of the minor offences we engaged in during our stay there.

One of our favourite pastimes was playing cards. We had bought around four decks and we used to rendezvous at one room or another much like smugglers, and play till two or three in the morning. It was quite safe for us to traverse the corridors when the rector was either sleeping or not in the hostel, but if he was around, we used to sneak into rooms through window sills and balcony ledgers, risking our necks for a game of cards. Sounds stupid, but it was the only diversion we had in that mundane and rigid hostel. So, putting our bodies on the line and trying to behave like Spiderman just for the thrill of it and a lively game to pass the time was pretty OK in our books.

So it was just another boring, gloomy and wet Sunday evening in August, 2011, and the eight of us were wondering what to do except study, you know, because you don’t do THAT on a Sunday! So we decided to have a go at the cards till we managed to decide which roadside dhaba to invade for dinner.

We started around 2 pm, after an atrocious lunch at the hostel mess; where we were served ‘neck-severing’ rotis, ‘radioactive’ daal, ‘sedative-laced’ buttermilk and other “Khana bane Hathiyaar” type of food. At around 4 pm, one of us complained that he needed some tea, it was probably me. But then there was a problem, none of us wanted to pay for it; yes, we were cheapskates back then. So we decided that whoever lost the most games from then on would have to pay for everyone’s evening tea. We reached this amicable solution and started playing again. Fortunately for us, one guy lost almost all the games from that time and he got to pay for everyone’s tea and smokes, which amounted to around a hundred bucks at our favourite Kitli.

We had to pay for his dinner that night…

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Locked Door

There has been a severe spate of happenings in our nation, those things that should not have happened and those things that are often not named or just spoken about in hushed whispers in polite society. Yes, I mean the issue of rape, female harassment, brutal beatings and murder. These things have been prevalent in the past too and it's not like there has been a sudden surge of such criminal behaviour that has hit our nation, it is simply that the media had nothing better to show, so they picked up this story and ran with it. I read about rape, suicides and killings almost everyday in the newspapers, however these everyday rapes don't become topics of national interest. Why? Just because they didn't happen in the capital of the nation? These things are very disturbing - to me of course, but I'm sure a few others must have also realized this folly.

Anyway, I'm digressing. So coming back to the matter at hand, families today have become very protective of the women in their households. I'm not generalizing here, merely stating what I've observed in my circles. They want the women to dress 'decently', not stay out 'late' at night, not get 'too friendly' with boys and to keep calling home every two hours to report in. 

What does this say of our society? 

What does it tell us of our attitudes towards these happenings? 

How have these happenings affected the mentality of the people?

These recent events have, in my opinion, endangered the Woman even more. She has become a captive in her own house, it seems. She may be safe physically (or so everyone seems to think), but Her spirit has been killed. Her freedom taken away and Her choices limited to those deemed safe for Her. These limitations may be seen as cruel bonds biting into the soul and everyone may blame the Woman's father for these chains tied to her ankles. But, reflect for a moment from the perspective of a father who is perhaps very scared and horrified by what he is seeing on the news and only wants the safety of daughter. Is he really to be blamed? Is it only His fault?

Well, I don't think so and thus I wrote a few lines taking inspiration from the experience of one of my friends. It describes the strife between a father and a daughter but it also comes with a realization at the end.

The Locked Door
(A daughter’s silent scream)

I remember the day I tried to fly, my first flight to redeem          
The blue beyond that called to me, though silent it so seemed;
The wind above, the clouds below, though frightful it all was,
My wings I poised, my feet I set, to take off into the sky.
The clouds then took a blackish hue, a shadow form above,
My protector there from all to save, his daughter to defend -
Came swooping down and set his wings around my little form,
And set me back and held me close and shut me off the edge.
I shrieked, I clawed, till bruised he got, but leave me he would not;
But I blame him not, his child I was, regardless of it all.
     -Brendan-Anton R. Dabhi

Quite a number of women among those who are my friends have agreed that they carry such a sentiment, but I would like to know if women over a large populace believe what I've written to be true. So I urge the women reading this post to make a comment, however you may feel.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Paradise Paradox

I just returned from a trip to the state of Jammu & Kashmir. As advertised, it is the most beautiful place I've seen in my life, but then again, I haven’t visited those many places to give a good comparative opinion. Anyhow, it’s very green, very cool, and absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. Well, at least rural Kashmir is. I say this because the urban areas are not what one expects. Perhaps some people do, but not all tourists who visit Kashmir for the first time expect military and paramilitary personnel manning posts every 20 feet along every road on Srinagar. It’s very disconcerting and makes one feel rather insecure, to say the least. Ironic, isn't it? There is indeed a reason for all that security there and I’m not saying that there shouldn't be; all I’m saying is that it doesn't go too well with the scenery.

It isn't just me, I think. It’s just human thinking that doesn't allow scenic and natural beauty to go right along with guns and grenades. What do you think? Would you like to see a beautiful valley with mountains and a river… and wait… tanks and guns and barbed wire? How paradoxical it is to see the beauty of God’s hand and the twisted violence of humanity in one place, almost welded together by the force of situation.

If you are a well traveled person, you can clearly see the difference between God’s two homes: Kerela, God’s own Country and Kashmir, Paradise on Earth.

In Kerela, it’s just beauty - pure, unadulterated beauty, albeit one with less English and no Hindi, but beauty nonetheless. At the same time, Kashmir has been ruined by conflict, hate, presence of the (clearly despised) CRPF and lack of proper infrastructure development. It is not only saddening to see the state of this place, but it is also a matter of great concern, for whatever the reasons, Guns & Roses cannot go together (yes, wordplay intended).

Since we’re on the topic, let me bring up another familiar discussion, that of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). At times when I wasn't going around sight-seeing, I took the opportunity to talk to a number of people from different walks of life, about this situation. A lot of them were uncomfortable talking about this but a few people quite vocal about their thoughts, though they spoke about them in a roundabout manner. But that is justified, since we Indians are not unfamiliar to people being thrown in jail for speaking their minds. Well, about their thoughts, I’ll give you a dialogue I had with a horse rider in Gulmarg, here is what he said:

Rider: “Kahan se aaye ho?”
Me: “Gujarat se.”
Rider: “Oho, kem cho, majaama cho!” chuckles at his awesomeness. “Aap khushnaseeb ho ke aap                    aa sakte ho free mein Jannat (Kashmir) dekhne, goro (foreigners) ko toh visa lena padta hai!"
Me: “Haan bilkul.”
Rider: (To other rider) “Inshallah, jald hi hindustaniyon ko bhi visa lena padega.”

These words came as a complete shock to me. It was only later that I realized that a lot of people harboured the same feelings and a lot of hate towards the military stationed in their state. Another quick fact: PoK is known as Azaad Kashmir in the local tongue and I heard it being used many times in conversation.

I wish I could've stayed for some time more to understand the sentiments of the people and to get a feel of the real situation but since that was not possible, I returned; in a very disturbed and intrigued frame of mind.

Note: By this post, I do not mean to say in any way that the people of Kashmir are not patriots, neither am I trying to question their loyalty. I’m also not trying to defame the Indian army. I've just noted down what I observed and these are my personal views on the matter. Please also note that I’m not trying to incite hatred against any person, city, state, country or religion.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Liebster: Número Uno!

As you've probably guessed from the title, this is about my first Liebster Award. Namrota nominated me for this prize and I’d like to thank her for doing so. I’d also like to thank her for taking the time to read my posts and commenting on them. Also, I believe congratulations are in order to my fellow bloggers who were nominated with me. Each one of them are definitely deserving of the same.

For the uninitiated:

The Liebster is given new and upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. The word ‘Liebster’ is a German word that means kindest, nicest, dearest, and other synonyms of these words. So if you get it, it’s really cool to show it off on your blog. Secondly, it helps you get your confidence going in a rough time because then you know that you can really do well. So, it’s a real honour to receive the Liebster.

Terms of Nomination:

1.) Each blogger should post 11 random facts about themselves.
2.) Answer the 11 questions asked by the one who has nominated you and then frame 11 of your own for the bloggers you nominate.
3.) Nominate 11 other bloggers to pass the Liebster on to. Link them to the post and inform them of the same. You cannot nominate the blogger who gave it to you.

Now that we are done with the explanations and the vote of thanks, let me get down to business. I will now fulfill the terms of my nomination for the Liebster.

Here are 11 random facts about myself:

     1.)     I love to read. My favourite genres are war, history, adventure, thrillers, detective fiction and war, oh, I already said that?
2.)   I collect coins. Presently, I have coins from over 35 nations and some going back to the East India Company.
3.)   I love to see my work get published. I have carefully collected every work of mine that has been published.
4.)       I write poetry. It releases me from this world, at least in that moment when it is penned down.
5.)   I love the Terminator series and can watch them however many times it is shown on television. Apparently, the guys over at Star Movies love it as well.
6.)       I've discovered a new love in prose writing, thus the blog.
7.)       I cannot live without tea.
8.)       I collect books. It is not safe to leave me in a book store with a credit card.
9.)       I regret not being able to see Michael Jackson perform live.
10.)  I absolutely hate spinach.
11.)  I capture in my lens what I cannot capture in words.

Here are my answers to Namrota’s questions:

When did you start blogging and why?
- I started blogging on the 3rd of May 2013; exactly 22 days before I was awarded my first Liebster. I started for the simple reason that I love having my work read and that I wanted something constructive to do in all the free time that I have.

What inspires you to write?
- Anything that strikes my mind or hits me suddenly and forces me to question things. I’d say that the World is my muse!

When you become a world renowned writer, would you give up blogging?
- Ever since I've started blogging, I've felt a close connection with my readers, at least those who have bothered to comment and share their views. I would love to maintain my relationship with them. So no, I’ll not give up blogging.

How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
- Jack of all trades, master of none.

Which is your most cherished memory till now?
- There is no single memory of that kind. I have cherished moments with people in all facets of my life. I cannot single out one.

Something that you learned recently...
- Driving a four wheeler!

What is your pet peeve?
- Customary cheek kissing. It’s very and I mean very annoying.

Did you ever have an imaginary friend? If yes, tell us something about him/her.
- Never had an imaginary friend but always have random characters from books I’m reading flowing in and out of my head, giving advice and such.

What is your idea of heaven?
- I believe that for heaven to be the perfect place, each person would need a personal heaven. So mine would be a library with huge French windows, oak wood study table, maple trees outside and the fragrance of old volumes filling the air with the weight of history hanging on to it.

Which fictional character from a book would you like to be and why?
- I’d like to be Dr. Watson from Sir Arthur Conan Ignatius Doyle’s detective fiction series, Sherlock Holmes. Well, because he’s a gentleman, an upstanding human being, an honourable man and above everything, he’s a writer.

Whom would you like to play you, in a movie on your life and why?
- Well, I’d like to do it myself but if an actor had to do it, I’d choose Will Smith. He’d be the best choice to play me.

Now, by the power vested in me, I name my successors. Kneel and accept thy claim to the Golden Trophy, oh chosen ones!

Shruti Chaturvedi


Sreedev Soman 

Aziz Ampanwala 

Rayla Noel 

Kriti Bhatnagar 

Aliasgar Mukhtiar 

Yamini Krishna 

Anunoy Samanta 

Jahid Akhtar

R. Vyas


Now THAT was hard. It was an extremely strenuous job nominating the above 11 bloggers. I should get another Liebster just for that. It’s amazing how many good blogs are out there. I almost selected some blogs who had above 200 followers. But in this cut throat competition, these 11 have emerged victorious. Congratulations and best wishes on a successful blogging future.

Here are my 11 questions to the nominees:

1)      How do you make time to blog?
2)      Which character from a book or movie do you relate to the most?
3)      What/Who is your motivation to write and what if he/she/it goes away one day?
4)      What is your opinion on Journalism (media) in India?
5)      Do you think India is secular? As in really secular?
6)      Give five reasons for why you should be named President of India.
7)      Name your all time favourite singer and the song you love.
8)      Do you believe science and religion can go together? Hand in hand?
9)      Do you think the printed word will be wiped out by technology someday?
10)   What is your idea of an ideal death?
11)   Do you think the internet will one day become self-aware and take over the world?

So, that’s that folks. Not getting very high on my first achievement, I’ll try to keep the blog lively, interesting and regularly updated. Happy Reading!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Kitli: Much more than just Tea

Everyone may not know what I’m referring to, so in public interest, I will first explain what a Kitli is. A Kitli is the roadside stall that serves tea. That is at least the basic definition of what it is and what it does. It is, in my opinion, much more than what it appears to be. It is not only made up of the guy who makes and serves tea; rather it is the gathering of peoples, the makings of a family, the mixing of cultures, a potpourri of thoughts, the generator of ideas, the stirring of emotions and somewhere perhaps the beginning of a revolution.

Image Courtesy: Joel George.

I know that above sentence must have taken you by surprise but kindly bear with me while I attempt to clear my thoughts and explain my point. The kitliwala does not only sell tea, but also cigarettes, minor snacks and a lot of information and local gossip by extension.

The Kitli is therefore...

A Social platform. People from anywhere and everywhere gather in one place, not with the particular intention of mingling but it is something that happens automatically among those who are frequent visitors to a particular kitli. Exchanging common courtesies like passing the tea, holding the plate, lighting a cigarette and asking for change often lead to conversations, sharing of incidences, common friends, gossip, fun, fights and more often than not, a closer bond among those kitli-goers. After a few visits, even the kitli owner is familiar with the order you usually place, your brand of cigarette and whether you have cash to pay him or not!

A Newsroom. Kitliwalas subscribe to at least three different newspapers for their customers. At least the ones I visit do. Customers often ask for the papers while sipping their morning tea or while chatting over their evening snacks. This leads to a lot of information being shared along with maskabuns and omelettes. People all over the place recount incidences of similar happenings in their part of the city and whether one realizes it or not, one does certainly become aware of what’s happening in their city simply by visiting the kitli.

A Platform for discussion. Students, employees, players, officers… all visit this place to discuss the most important aspects of what they do, what should they be doing, what is happening, what’s wrong with it and how it can be rectified. Groups of people gather at the kitli with a certain purpose too, though it may seem unlikely. These gatherings focus around certain subjects and often lead to strong or heated discussions/arguments within the group. But ultimately, everyone makes up with a hot cup of cutting chai and one cigarette being shared by everyone. Discussions here often lead to serious decisions by individuals and can affect their mindset. Opinions change, faith is reinforced, doubts arise and fate is changed all because of a talk at the innocuous roadside kitli.

This has been my experience at the kitli; you are welcome to share yours. It’s always good to hear stories, because after all, it is stories that make up this world, not atoms.

Image Courtesy: Joel George.