Sunday, 28 July 2013

Student Union OR Student Nuisance?

It is said that unions are built to effectively oppose the unjust policies of employers. Unions are built to look over the welfare of workers. Unions are built of people who work hard and in return want their interests protected. Unions are built to avoid discrimination, partiality or any kind of injustice to the working class. Unions are built to safeguard, uphold and make sure that the voice of the worker is heard above the noise of machinery, barking of the top dogs and clanging of the brass.

Now, in recent years, unions have been set up to protect the rights of students as well. The unions have been hard at work making sure that there is no discrimination in the admission processes, the results, the internal marks, and ‘other’ problems that students face. The student unions are also quick to react to school and college faculties repressing and oppressing the students.

Now all this is well and truly noble – fighting for the rights of the students.

But student unions comprise of students, right?

It is students that fight for the rights of other students?

Students who come to the aid of other students so that their voice is heard, right?

Well, I think that’s what a Student Union is all about, unless I’m wrong, in which case, this whole post is useless and you need not waste your time reading it.

But if I’m right, then how come I've seen men aged between 28-35 years lead these unions?

These people in white kurtas and saffron headbands are students by no long stretch of the imagination. These people come into colleges on about ten or fifteen bikes acting all rough and tough, beat up the watchman who tries to stop them, park their vehicles in front of the college doorway, continue to destroy property till they reach the Principal/Director’s office and then threaten him/her till they are forced to do the bidding of the over aged “students”.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not writing this from what I've heard, I've actually seen this happen in my college and while I agree that some policies that the management of my former college managed to cook up were not in the best interests of everyone, the methods used by the unions were not optimum either. I believe that whatever the problem is, it can be first discussed to see if a compromise can be reached, if not, then certain measures might be defended as being in the greater interests of the mass. But when violence is the first option, there is no defence against the police stepping in to throw the leaders in jail for disturbing the peace, threatening people, assault and damage of property.

It is also necessary, I think, that the “real” students decide what is best for them and wrest power from those who would seek to start a political career on the shoulders of the students. It is also high time that political parties stop inducting these violent and unemployed youngsters into their ranks. It is common knowledge that the two big student unions are supported by the two major national political parties in the country. This needs to stop, not only for a better student union, but for the better future of the country.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Scorned Ones.

I recently heard a piece of news that shocked me just as much as it disgusted me. The news was that 8 primary school children were thrown out of a school because they had AIDS. Yes, that’s exactly what happened. It does not matter where it happened, the shameful thing is that it did and it happened in India.This is the news story.

Apparently this happened because the parents of the rest of the students in the school realized that these kids were HIV+ and demanded that they be removed from the school immediately. Obviously, this paranoia was due to a misplaced sense of fear of their own children contracting the ‘dreaded disease’. How illiterate are people or maybe misinformed that would get them up in arms against innocent kids that do not even know what all the noise and clamour is about.  The end result – the children were expelled from the school for no fault of their own.

Image Courtesy: Google Images.

Well, this all was just the horrible part; the really disgusting part comes now. Not only did the parents demand that the these children be expelled, but they even made their own children, some of whom might’ve been those particular children’s friends, sit outside the school premises with cardboard banners demanding the expulsion of their schoolmates.

How unbelievably naïve are these people that they choose to do this to their children?

How could they spread the hatred of a fellow human in distress to their children?

How could they inculcate such a mindset that will ultimately set them on the wrong path?

Maybe these parents have a twisted notion of them being right by demanding that a child with AIDS not come in contact with their kids, for their own safety; but why teach them to hate people inflicted by something they have no control over?

The news channel was playing a video footage of the children doing what they were told to do and it was immensely sad for me to watch those kids being led down a road that is averse to the modern times we live in and that they will probably be scarred by this incident if and when they realize what was done using their innocent hands. But what is more disturbing is that they had no idea what was happening.

Is this the narrow minded way in which India claims to be progressing today? There are tall claims of literacy being given emphasis on but when one reads of incidents such as teachers beating kids half to death or kids being fed poisoned food or girls being harassed by their principals or kids being thrown out for being different, I ask:


Fellow blogger Suchita Goel  has written a poem, “Apathy and the Spectator”on a person infected with AIDS. It is very touching and I thought it should be part of this post so that people realize the state of the scorned and the abhorred ones. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Into the August Rains…

If you live in India, you’ll know that the month of August is filled with religious and cultural occasions and thus there are holidays galore, in both; offices as well as educational institutes.  I believe it was during one of these August holidays that the five of us had gathered in our apartment.

It was about twelve in the afternoon and we had just been awakened by PD and NG banging on the door. We let them in and they promptly passed smokes all around as a good morning gesture. How thoughtful! But since we were already awake and there was no point thrashing them, we lit up and ordered tea from downstairs. We settled in for a lazy day and were wondering what to do. JJ was just flipping channels on the TV, hoping for a good Malayalam or Telugu movie to be aired. I was about to get my laptop out and start working and RW was still in his blanket, half sleeping and half muttering obscenities at being woken up so early on a holiday.

Five hours later we were still deciding what to do when PD proclaimed that he could “borrow” his father’s Honda City for the day, since his Dad was on a trip to the friendly, neighbourhood dragon-country. That got our attention and we all sat looking at him with the expectation of puppies hankering for another bone. He then suggested that we take a cruise to the next city and visit a place that served killer milkshakes, and by killer, I mean Killer.

Now you might think, “Another city for a milkshake?” “That’s crazy!”

But that’s only because you might not have tasted that particular milkshake nor might have you experienced the joy of driving miles on an open highway with the four guys you trust with your life.

So the plan was made, the car was “borrowed”, the shorts were worn, the shirts were put on, the wallets were checked for inklings of cash, the car was checked for inklings of petrol… and we were off!

As soon as we were clear of the city and clear on to the highway, we rolled down the windows to a slight welcome drizzle, which added to the flowery fragrance in the car. The mixture of the two was like the fragrance of the soil that is experienced in open fields during rains. It was heavenly! And, it also helped ward off the smell of the cigarette smoke that was being puffed out by the ton inside the vehicle.

PD then put on the music system that had a CD of all our favourite sound tracks that included, “Pyaar hume kis mod pe le aaya”, “You are my Cinema”, “Californication”, “Rain over me” and so on. The loud music, along with the smoke and the fragrance of wet earth in the car took us higher than the ‘Empire State’, (if you know what I mean). We were in and remained in a ‘State of Trance’ till we reached our destination and then we only came to our senses when we piled out of the car and got drenched in the downpour that had begun.

As we ran into the milkshake parlour, I exclaimed, “That was the best road trip, EVER!”

This post is written as part of the Ambipur "Perfect Road Trip" Competition.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Do we need Superheroes?

Image Courtesy: Google Images.

Recently, there has been a spate of superhero movies being released in Hollywood; The Ironman series, the Dark Knight series, the Avengers, the Amazing Spiderman, X-Men First Class, Man of Steel and Thor. Now I’m a big fan of comics and Batman just happens to be my favourite crime-fighting, martial arts performing millionaire.

But all this got me thinking about the need for superheroes in society. Why do we Humans need Super humans to help fight crime and other such stuff? Why can’t we puny little creatures do it ourselves?
What is the reason? Why do we look up at these extraordinary people and wish that they were real? Why not rely on the people whose job it is and who is designated to the things that these people do?

I think it is because we do not trust the Police to do what is necessary to protect us. We look around us and we see the devastation of society galore. We see the crime rates increasing phenomenally, we see rapes and murders and robbery and stabbings and muggings and drug smuggling and violence and no sense of civil order. And then we think to ourselves, what would have been the situation with one of these superheroes about.

We look towards the Armed Forces and then at national security. If I talk only about India, we see cross-border terrorism from the west, military incursions from the North, foreign nationals being smuggled from the east and racial tensions to the south of the nation’s borders. Then we hear about scandals in defence deals and compromises being made with the security of the country. We hear about pilots dying in plane crashes in peace time and we think whether this would have been the case if there was a superhero about.

Then there are out beloved Political Leaders. We look upon them to lead the nation from the front, towards progress and prosperity. But instead, we see large scale corruption, lots and lots of red tape, money laundering, caste politics, divisive strategies and financial failure. We see more walk-outs in parliament in a single session than bills passed in a year. When we hear the politicians blaming each other for ‘unfortunate’ incidents, we wonder if things would have been different if we had a wise superhero about.

Well, we can wonder and wonder and we’ll probably never know but can we pause for a moment to think of those superheroes we just criticized? Yes, I mean the above people I just hit out at. I believe that there are always “A Few Good People” who behave like a Superman or a Green Lantern or a Wonder Woman in times of crises.

Can we not look upon the police officers who laid down their lives at the siege of Taj and say that these were superheroes? Can we not look upon the soldiers who saved thousands of lives during the Uttarakhand flood and say that these are superheroes? Can we not look with hope towards the new generation of politicians and see a brighter future after this night of turmoil and say that these are superheroes?

Yes, we can.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Death, I choose You!

Immortality, however tempting the concept may be, is still something to be well thought out. Given that there is a choice in the matter.I cannot speak for everyone, of course but I for one would like to die when my time comes. I would like to embrace it, for what is death but the next great adventure?

I put a lot of thought into it. In fact, I did not sleep last night because this particular thought was nagging me ever since I went to pick up the newspaper in the morning and saw my dog just lying on the floor and basically just chilling. I know not from where, but the thought of him dying entered my head. Well, he is old and I would be lying if I said that I hadn't thought of this before, but today, this thought took me in a new direction and this tangent ended at the point of Immortality and its desire.

So, as mentioned, when I was thinking of my dog’s impending death, I thought of my life with him. He had been there ever since I had moved into the house and we had hit it off immediately. I’m kind of a dog charmer (or so I think myself to be) and these three stray dogs soon became my best buddies. They’d be there whenever I came back from school and they’d come to the end of my street to see me off on my bicycle when I went out. Then they used to wait for my bi-monthly visits home when I went to study in another city. They used to stand right outside the door of the rickshaw and pounce on me the moment I set foot on the ground.

Now, one of them is dead and the second one is old, very old and I fear that the next time I come home, he may not be there to welcome me back. So, at this point I got to thinking about immortality and how would I be able to bear the pain of losing everyone I knew and loved and cherished when I cannot bear the pain of my canine friends passing from this realm into the next.

How would I be able to watch years and decades and centuries and millennia pass by and watch the world change before my very eyes? 

To lose everything I once had, to see time literally run away like sand from my hands and witness an ever-growing sense of loss in my soul. 

How terrible to make and remake relationships and bonds and then see them being ravaged by the sands of time? Again and over again...

It is a pretty horrifying prospect to me and one that far outweighs the benefits of everlasting life. So if I ever had a choice, I’m going to choose death – voluntarily.

Go figure.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Haiku #3 – The Visitor

Image Courtesy: Google Images.

Gulmohar’s carpet,
Laid to welcome it back home;
Summer’s here again.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Divide and Rule?

It was a very pleasant day in my city yesterday. No sun, just a layer of clouds, a gentle breeze and a slight drizzle outdoors. All in all, I was having a pretty good day when my Dad asked me to watch the Newshour Debate with him. As everyone must be well aware, this show is hosted by the great and all powerful, people-empowering journalist, Arnav Goswani. That’s when my very peaceful day started going vertically downhill.

No, no, come on, it’s not always his fault. This time it was the panelists who made me jump out of my comfy sofa and scream at the very least three very horrible obscenities at the television screen before realizing that my mother was in the middle of her dinner. She looked at me sternly, but then she understood what was going on in my head and turned to face the television again.

This was nothing short of a miracle, that she hadn't said anything to my swearing at the dinner table. But she was worried and so were my Dad and I. What was happening on the debate was very unnerving. We listened in silent disgust as spokespersons from all the major political parties in India spoke eloquently in favour of the Caste system in India – in the 21st century, mind you. They all backed up each other in saying that this revolting system was very old and ingrained into the minds of the people.

On the charge that was leveled against them of promoting caste based division to garner votes, they all refused vehemently but also urged that caste was there to stay, however evolved India would get and whatever ruling the Supreme court made. One of the panelists, I believe said:

“Jaati kabhi Jaati nahi” which means, “Caste never goes away”.

Today, every party claims to be secular. The ones who demolish mosques, the ones who burn churches, the ones who instigate the rivalries between groups, the ones who promote inter-caste violence and those who indulge in caste politics. Every Politician today is supposedly secular but the Public is not. That is what the leaders of the people have to say. Apparently, it is not they who are playing caste politics, it is the people, who are stupid and divide themselves among castes.

I’m not saying that they are completely to blame, nor am I saying that they are solely to be blamed. After all, we are all smart enough to gauge what is right and wrong. We have the ability to think and evaluate what is best for ourselves and our country.

Why then do we allow such opportunistic politicians take advantage of our gross stupidity in broad daylight?

Why then do we not caste our vote for something better?

Why not vote for results in development rather than our own group or caste or religion or sect?

Why bring down the future of the country for selfish motives?

Why not understand for once, this ‘Game of Thrones’?

These are the questions that haunt me as I lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling… fearing for my country and my people.

I had written a post along the similar lines on the matter of caste being in the forefront of people's imagination. You can read it here.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Haiku #2 – The Miracle Worker

Image Courtesy: Google Images

On burning coals can Man walk,
But on the ocean’s
Living surface, only God.

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Night of Recurring Horror...

It was a semi-cloudy night in July 2011. The three of us had just finished dinner in the hostel mess and were walking around in the campus after-hours. Now this was a risky thing to do; not only because of all the priests patrolling the grounds like ghouls but also because the college campus was pretty damn scary at night. But we three, the residents of room number 9 were well acquainted with this place after thoroughly combing it for the whole of the previous year.

Now obviously, our rector wasn't in attendance that night. So we locked the room, slammed the hostel gate and marched out into the college grounds feeling like real badasses. It was still pretty humid, so we promptly took off out shirts and started our rounds of the grounds in just our shorts. I have no idea what we would have done in case our warden or some priest showed up (they had a knack of doing that).

We were walking towards the gate and one of us, I forget who, suggested we go and get some paan (betel leaf). Good for digestion apparently! Well, that and we also needed an excuse to get out of the campus. So we promised the night watchman to bring some or the other gutka product for him and we were off. The paan parlour (Yes, we have paan parlours. Fancy huh!) was just 50 metres from the college, at the edge of the crossroad named after our college. So we were back pretty fast, having chewed on a hard hitting, high quality tobacco infused paan which, I must admit, was unlike any other experience I had ever had at that time.

Well, we got into the campus and then decided to while away the time sitting and chatting on one of the various benches scattered on the college walkway. We talked for a while about the girls in the economics department some important assignments and then just lay on the benches, enjoying the gentle breeze when suddenly, out of absolutely nowhere, the breeze turned into a brisk cool wind and about a hundred crows took flight from the trees and started screeching like bloody banshees from the depths of hell. As if this were not enough, a lot of dogs started wailing at the same time and as you can imagine, our blood froze cold in our veins. It was like every Hindi horror movie scene I’d ever seen and when one knows what to expect, the scene seems to become even more horrifying and surreal.

We promptly collected out clothes and made for our room, seeking the blessed haven that was room no. 9. As soon as we reached the room, I unlocked the door and started to undo the latch. But then I stopped and looked back.

It was quiet. Very quiet. As if something was about to happen.

No breeze… No crows… No dogs… Nothing at all…

And then we all burst out laughing at ourselves for having got frightened so easily by a random sequence of events. It was then that I felt my badassery coming back to me and I locked the door again. I looked at the other two and they were in agreement, so we slung our shirts back on our shoulders and walked back out like the Three Musketeers in heat.

Now, believe it or not, the moment we stepped out of the hostel gate, everything started up again – the whole enchilada!

Well, what was there to it?

We turned right back around, got into the room, closed the door, secured the windows and went right to sleep under the covers, holding on to our faith and muttering prayers to angels and other messengers of God.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Haiku #1 – An Act of God

Zeus pierces the clouds,
And the nectar gushes forth;
Impregnating Earth.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Can a Writer be a Terrorist?

I know that many of you who have opened this post are very intrigued as to what follows. I’m sure many will vehemently disagree with what I have to say but I’m also sure that a select few will understand what I’m talking about here, which is very important because writers, I believe, have a moral responsibility to their readers. So I’ll begin from the point where I feel the line is drawn between voicing one’s opinions and inciting the mass.

It is quite common for writers, even more so than others, to feel strongly about issues that assault their region, state, country, religion, caste, community, etc... Sometimes, I feel that writers feel the utmost impulse in these cases to voice their opinion on the matter. It may so happen that the writer/s that have chosen to voice their thoughts in the public domain may do so very vocally, i.e. in a most precisely accurate or in a biased manner. In a very soft approach or in a very direct accusation. In an objective and distant style or in a highly subjective and opinionated piece of work.

It is all very hunky dory till the people feel that something should be done about the problem OR that it was time to take action OR that it was imperative that the government did something about the issue OR that the opposition party had to question the government OR a petition needed to be filed OR a candle-light march should be organized OR there should perhaps be a ‘Bandh’…

Till then it is all very good, but what happens when a writer’s work is so flammable that it ignites hatred in the people, either against one another or the government? What happens when, due to a single article or a book or false propaganda or misuse or misinterpretation, a writer’s work becomes a weapon in the minds of people, who are then turned into senseless monsters of rage?

Doesn't then the Writer become a Terrorist? Is he/she not igniting the fuel of anger in the public and whitewashing their brains into turning upon each other as animals? It may so happen that the writer’s work is misused by someone else as a tool of violence. This is seen in the case of major religions everywhere, since a lot of religious texts are misinterpreted to incite hatred against other people. In that case, I cannot say who is to blame. But if the writer, in all sense and proper frame of mind has written something that incites the readers to act against the law of the land or against humanity or against a general code of morality, then that writer can, in my opinion, be called a terrorist.

All I can say in conclusion is that some fervour, a little motivation, some morale building is acceptable, inciting hatred is NOT. Writing, just like teaching and healing is a sacred profession and is to be practiced with the utmost care, keeping the sensibilities of the society and age in mind. A writer wields immense power and with

"Great Power comes Great Responsibility"

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

An Unexpected Saviour

Usually, as a poet, I am not moved by the rains. It’s kind of weird, I know. It’s a bummer! But that’s what happens to me. But this year, I don’t know what happened. A certain somebody drew my attention to the particularly heavy unseasonal rain in my town and suddenly words started forming in my head. I had to literally grab a pen and some paper from company stationery and scribble furiously to get everything down before the words got washed away in the deluge of emotions that it evoked in me.

An Unexpected Saviour

These dusty days are here to stay,
With their heat and sweat and blinding glare;
And lack of shade or shadow firm,
Till as far as the eye can see.

This lonely road upon which I walk,
Is fraught with absolutely naught,
But sand and rocks and sand some more;
That beg for company not.

Into the distance rises firm, 
A dust-dervish that turns so fast,
That safety cautions me to move –                    
A little faster still.

A full-blown West Wind hurls at me
And tears form in my eyes;
It tears at me and scours my throat,
And burns my very being.

Just as despair and death creep in,
Does hope shows its blessed face,
And come pregnant clouds from that very West Wind,
That sought to destroy me.

They shower upon the disturbed sands,
To sooth them back to sleep;
Each drop a blessing in disguise,
That succour me from peril.
                                                                                 -Brendan-Anton R. Dabhi