Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Art of Professional Begging

Though I have nothing but empathy and a few tears for the poor, I can’t help but be intrigued by the recent trends in begging that have quite changed since I first started observing the methods and techniques used in the profession. Yes, that’s quite right. I wrote and I meant ‘trends’ in begging. The 21st century has, I've observed, brought a number of changes in the styles with which begging is carried out. I talk not of those who are forced to do so because of circumstances one well understands, but I talk of those who are capable and still opt to beg. I’m writing about the Professional Beggar.

There are a number of marked changes in the way this profession is carried out by these professionals in modern times and after intense research (roaming around and chilling), I've come to the conclusion that these beggars are developing a system to systematically get money from those who are sympathetic to the plight of the people who are really in need. This, in turn makes them cons and not beggars. But since there seems to be no differentiation at the current time, I've made up the term, ‘Professional Beggars.’ Oh, I can make up terms because I have poetic licence. Hope Arnie doesn't ask me to defend my statement against the poor of the nation because the country wants to know what the hell Poetic Licence is, just because he doesn't.

Well, now getting to the point. The first change in trend can be seen at the financial level, which is the whole point of begging in the first place. These professionals do not accept small change anymore. If you give them anything less than a ten rupee note, they will not accept it. Yes, crazy, I know. But that seems to be the truth. One rupee, two rupees and five rupees hold no value for them anymore. Inflation you see!

Then there is the language. These professionals have started picking up English and in a big city like Ahmedabad, one can routinely find these professionals begging in English and that too not very politely. Moving on with the times, you see.

Even the attitude of these professionals is noteworthy. They apparently seem to think that it is their fundamental right to receive alms from society. They believe that they are entitled to the hard-earned money of the people who really work for it. And as mentioned above, nothing less than a ten rupees note. I've actually seen one of these professional throw a couple of coins in the face of the gullible youth who gave it to him. Poor guy was aghast! Oh, and yeah, they sometimes keep talking to someone else when somebody is reaching out to give them money. Talk about lack of professional courtesy.

Another trend that is fascinating is that when a kind soul offers them food instead of money, they flatly refuse. Now, I guess they haven’t heard the adage, ‘Something is better than nothing.’ They also want the right of choice. Firstly, they have no intention to work. Secondly, they should not be even getting the food that is being offered. And still they are stony-faced when offered food. They just up and turn away muttering swearwords at the person who is feeling sorry for them.

Last, but not the least, I come to the point of the religion-mongers who attempt to sell their God to anyone and everyone in the middle of the road. Now one might say that this is not a new trend. Agreed. But what is new is that these people then mutter curses and invoke the wrath of the Gods upon those who refuse them alms. Now that is novel! That didn't used to happen before.

Now, as mentioned above, these patterns have been carefully studied by yours truly and I hope that one day, with society getting smarter to this nonsense, this profession will delve into insignificance.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Who the Hell is THAT?

In the modern world, with the ideas of a ‘global village’ and ‘the world is a family’ scheme of things, we make many friends. Some instantaneous, some in hesitant steps, some with caution and some that are best kept a hand’s length away. However, connections are made every day and every hour possibly, in the life of a person, because though one cannot speak for the entire world, a large enough part of its population is connected to the internet today, thus voluntarily or involuntarily becoming part of a global endeavour to better the human civilization and build a tight web in order that we may not be nations in the future, but a World.

Taking what is explained above in macro and putting it in a scale that becomes inclusive in the bigger scheme of things, we come to social networking. And out of the many social networking sites, there is one that has stood out in this decade and much of the previous one. That small step giant leap was the development of Facebook as a tool or means to reach the above mentioned destination, and as they say, ‘the journey is more important…’

Image Courtesy: Google Images.

One makes so many contacts on Facebook. Friends, acquaintances, friends of friends, visitors, relatives, teachers, students, colleagues, seniors, juniors, drinking partners, business associates and even complete strangers are added to people’s accounts every day. It serves the basic human need to be connected and be recognized. The need to know people everywhere and to be pleased in the knowledge that others, in various places, know them.

Then there is the need for communication. To be able to communicate with people, regardless of distance, time and availability; albeit not without an internet connection. The need for rapid, cheap and easy communication is facilitated by it.

There is also a requirement for short-term connections. A need wherein two or more people need to stay connected for a certain amount of time after which they go their separate ways, sometimes without even a single glance backwards. It is this that is the crux of what is to come next.

I've observed, through personal experience that it so happens that after a while, maybe a year or two on Facebook, when one goes through their friends list, they find that there are people that they don’t know. People that they have no memory of and who are just there, God knows how. Actually, they did know that person once, but with passing time, the memory of that person has either become too hazy or has been wiped out totally. This is of course taking into consideration only those who do not keep adding people indiscriminately for the heck of it.

There have been times, when I've gone through my friends list (I do that every six months) and found at least five or more people who I recollected only faintly or who I didn't remember having a decent conversation with, even virtually for over a year.

And sometimes, I'm just like,

“Who the Hell is THAT?”

Image Courtesy: Google Images.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Haiku #9 – The Cost of Life

A haiku, a small contribution towards the awareness of an evil that thrives on sucking out the life of our society: our children. 
Image Courtesy: Google Images.

In poverty born,
Bred without bread, books, abode;
At a brothel sold.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Arnie and the Artist

Yesterday evening turned out to be a most distasteful one among many that I've had watching the Newshour. Arnie was interviewing Vishvas and the same was dominated by questions relating to his past career as a comedian and stand-up artist. Arnie had a lot of pointed questions about what the nation wanted to know, relating to the artists’ body of work.

It seems that Mr. Vishvas had made jokes on ‘sensitive’ topics like racism, sexism and religious fervour and admitted to them with the defence that they those comments were made in humour and as part of a script during a performance. It is therefore to be understood that they were not meant to hurt anyone’s feelings.

But, the Hand, finding no other reason to find fault with the Sweeper politician, had raked up his past and brought to light the blasphemy that he engaged in during his many performances as an artist. And Arnie, in all his wisdom about what the people of the nation want to know, engaged in a dubious and baseless debate about how a politician of his standing (which is none at the moment), could pass such remarks. This, despite the fact that Vishvas apologized on national television for inadvertently hurting anyone’s sentiments.

He also went on to add that though he had apologized, it did not mean that was wrong. He quoted many famous artists who had done the same and then reiterated that it was done in good humour and as a comedian only. But Arnie boy, adamant as ever to prove himself the advocate of the people, public prosecutor supreme and all knowing journalist general of the nation kept trying to shout him down and absolutely refused the defence of poetic licence.

Poetic licence, as given in the Oxford Dictionary:

[The freedom to depart from the facts of the matter or from conventional rules of language when speaking or writing in order to create an effect.]

Poetic licence, as given in the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

[The right assumed by poets to alter or invert standard syntax or depart from common diction or pronunciation to comply with the metrical or tonal requirements of their writing.
The term poetic license is also sometimes used in a humorous or pejorative sense to provide an excuse for careless or superficial writing.]

Now what part of that was not clear to Arnie, I know not. And though I believe his research team to probably be one of the best in the country; I’m disappointed that he would go out of his way to sensationalize something that the media might rather stay aloof from. At this point, I may even say that the channel may be compromised because of the way they have gone after an artist, instead of questioning the politician.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Suffocated Youth

[To do or not to do, to see or not to see, to hear or not to hear and to speak or not to speak; these are the questions that arise in the minds of the youth when it comes to facing the society, both yesterday and today.

How dare they question the perfected system of governance erected over centuries?

What the youth needs is a platform that will empower them to speak, nay, one that will encourage them to speak about the things that they hold in their hearts.]

[This is my article for the Youth Connect magazine as part of the Youth Speak section. You can read the entire article here: The Suffocated Youth]

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Ukrainian Dilemma

Ukraine, a former state of the Soviet Union is on the verge of taking a big step that either holds the key to its rapid development or stagnant rust in the years to come. The people of Ukraine have the choice of joining either the European Union or the Russia led Customs Union. The Ukrainian government is now stuck on both sides as joining the former will offend and strain relations with their powerful neighbour, while joining the latter will cause the people of the nation to throw them out of power.

The state of Ukraine is both, a former Soviet nation and now a European nation. By that standard, it is easy to assume the pull it is receiving from both sides to join in alliance. The European Union claims that Ukraine is an integral part of Europe and that trouble in that country can lead to trouble in Union itself as majority of exports in the form of oils and agrarian products are sourced from there. On the other hand, Russia is attempting to rearrange an alliance of the former Soviet countries in order to increase its influence and bring it on par with the United States. Russia’s tactics are such that it seems to be extending a helping hand to its former family but in reality is just playing the big bully by making institution in such countries dependent on its own economy.

The European Union offers unbridled trade and security in exchange for Ukraine joining its ranks and building a stronger Europe and this fact seems to be ratified by the existing trade agreements between the two. Even the youth of Ukraine sees the benefits, both economic and educational, of joining the EU. But President Yanukovych has sought 20 Billion Euros a year to upgrade the Ukrainian economy.

The Customs Union, or to be more exact, Russia offers financial aid, near redemption of due payments and a slash of a third in prices of oil import to Ukraine. It is also offering to purchase government bonds to the tune of $15 billion. Kiev is also under pressure from her neighbour to pay an outstanding gas bill of $17 billion. Russia has further put a ban on Ukrainian chocolates and will probably escalate measures in order to coerce them into joining the Customs Union that now also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Since President Yanukovych visited President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, there have been rumours that he had decided to join the Customs Union against the wishes of the people. That he might have sold out the country in exchange of all the monetary benefit that Russia was willing to extend to Ukraine. Protests against the Customs Union have been in progress for the past two months and had intensified after the meeting, on the verge of getting violent as claimed by the government which recently passed a law banning anti-government protests, illegal tents on public grounds and criminalized the slandering of government officials. This controversial law was passed with just a show of hands by the President’s supporters in Parliament instead of electronic voting. The opposition has claimed this to be a coup by the government which had turned corrupt to its core and was now following directions given by Russia.

The above is a classic example of a large nation trying to strong-arm its weaker neighbour into submission by the very ‘subtle’ methods of overdue payments, refusal of financial aid and trade embargo. And even though this is a case where Russia is doing so, it is not just them; the United States of America has also displayed this tendency a number of times where it has splayed its military presence all over the world in spite of opposition from all quarters, all in the name of maintaining ‘World Peace.’

Friday, 17 January 2014

The Power of Division in Religion (Guest Post)

[The communal riots in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) are not recent news. Muslims and Christians had been living in a state of unrest since its colonial power, France, granted them Independence.

Though we have seen it in India too, strained relations between Christians and Muslims seem a farce to me because it is widely believed that that the two religions along with Judaism had sprung from the same well. 

But today, Jews are fighting the Muslims, Muslims are fighting Christians and so on and so forth. 

One word: Power.]

[This post has been written as a guest post and you can read it on the Coffee Beans blog. This blog is authored by my very first blogger friend, Namrota Mazumdar.]

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Prodigal Reader...

Yours truly has been an avid reader for as long as he can remember.

Well, that’s what happens when one receives books for birthdays, books for Christmas, books for Diwali, books for Eid and more books in the vacations.  So basically, my people hadn't heard of video-games, movies, cricket bats and keyboards. No, books were the objects that I was surrounded with and every morning, I had to be dug out from under the books that had overflowed off my shelf and table, thereby coming to rest on my bed.

Apart from books that I received as gifts, I also got hand-me-downs from my older cousins. In fact, some of these books were so old that they had been passed down from previous generations. I also got bought books in book fairs and from salesmen and government office sales. I still remember the time when I entered a Crossword shop for the first time. Yes, exactly. I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven. That day, my cousin bought me my first set of English Classics. It was the day I decided to graduate in English Literature (and I did).

But lately, there seemed to be a disconnect from books, I know not why. Living way from my books and multiplication of workload had driven me far from being able to read anything worthwhile. It so happened that my wish list of books started growing much faster than I could obtain and read them. My ledger was showing red for the first time. Of course, I had books stored in my computer, a lot of them. I still do, but I just do not enjoy reading them in soft copies, whatever their merits. Till I get the feel of a book in my hands, smell the musty pages, straighten the dog-eared pages and use a book mark, I cannot bring myself to read anything. Is that weird? Is it?

Well, the point is that now I've come back home for my semester break, I've reclaimed the library card that my mother was putting to good use. I've also cleaned my book shelf and taken an inventory of all the books I have and want (by the way, I collect books).

Reunited with my books, I've even abandoned my laptop and television. And as I select the book I’m going to read today, I say, “Long time, no see.”

For regular updates on this blog, you can follow its Facebook page: Brandy, Whiskey & all that...

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Haiku #8 – On Uttarayan…

Image Courtesy: Google Images.

The Kite soared above,
And then down she came crashing;
Killer? Homonym.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Passenger Problems

On the way back home for my semester break, I found myself in a ramshackle bus with smelly interiors and rowdy passengers who even spoke on their phones for the whole bus to benefit from their conversation. That’s what I get for not pre-booking the ticket.

But all this was alright, even the fact that I reached home after five hours instead of the usual four. But the thing that almost broke my calm demeanour was this one passenger. This one passenger who got under everyone’s skin and almost got hammered, but for the legendary lazy siesta time that my state is famous for. It might be unbelievable but the only reason that passenger didn't get a slap or two for his attitude was because nobody wanted to take the trouble to go hit him. Now, as to what made him so hated in the bus. This man, who was travelling with his wife and teenage son, kept talking loudly to both of them despite the fact that the rest of the passengers were watching the movie being screened. He then screamed at the conductor of the bus to reduce the volume of the film since it was disturbing him. He then proceeded to shout obscenities at a co-passenger who happened to oppose his view of the volume. Wow! How self-centred can one be? Agreed that the journey was not very comfortable and that the movies weren't exactly the better part of Hindi cinema but that doesn't mean one can just look past everyone else’s problems and think no end of oneself.

It is not often that one meets such people that are so selfish that they cannot look past their own comfort. But there are always those who are not ready to compromise or let go. Those, who cannot bear to be in a problem out of which they cannot escape. They will go to any lengths to save themselves, even if that entails climbing over others in order to do so. People in similar predicaments mean nothing to them as long as they have an easy way out. They will only help others if it furthers their own ends, albeit grudgingly.

There is only one way to deal with these people and that is to wait and watch. I believe that time and karma will play their part eventually and what has gone around will one day come back around and bite them on their gluteus maximus.

Till then, just put up your legs, lie back, listen to their skewed opinions of the world and chuckle to yourself.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Bane of Education

Now I know that this is a worn out issue and everyone is tired of listening and reading about the state of education in India. However, I’m still going to rant about it because I’ve just about had it with trying to remember dates and Acts of the Constitution and the number of internet users who are active on social networking sites. It has come to the point where it’s probably screwing around with my mind because there seems to be a reference of study material in almost every third sentence I utter!

What is the point of learning for the sake of learning?

And what is the point of learning something that has no practical application?

And what is the purpose of learning something that one can possibly have no interest in?

These are some of the questions that swirled around in my head as I attempted to relax after the completion of my exams just a few hours ago.

I’ve often wondered why nobody ever taught us how to calculate taxes, how to survive in hostile conditions, how to defend ourselves in times of danger, how to judge what was morally correct, how to apply logic, how to understand theories and their application, how to give back to the society and how to live in peace with nature.

Basic life skills do not seem to be taught at all. Even at the graduation and post-graduation level, I’ve noticed people studying only subjects that are necessary to get them a job. I’ve seen many a talent go to waste because their passions do not coincide with the amount of money they hope to earn. We do not even have the concept of doing something because one wishes to do so. Study something because of genuine interest. It is just about money. It is always about money. And the education industry today endorses it by ensuring job placements and attractive salary options rather than good education.

Although I understand the need for education, I sometimes really feel that,
‘We Don’t Need No Education.’

Here is a poem that I’d written a long time ago about the condition of education as I saw it.

A Student’s Burden

As I go a passing by,
I see some students trudging by,
With bag loads full of studying books,
People giving them pitying looks;
Off they go to school.

Small kids & big ones alike,
Look like they’re speared on a pike,
Schools turning out robots by the ton,
Aw! Come on, when will they learn
The stark reality.

The education system is skewed,
With the kids’ language turning lewd,
Universities turning to dust,
The students' brains rotting with rust,
What is our future?

With money running through the veins,
And students taking many pains;
The quest for knowledge now has ended,
Its great fort now undefended,
Is falling down in ruins.

                                            -  Brendan R. Dabhi

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Haiku #7 – Ready Redemption

Image Courtesy: Google Images.

Sins galore have I,
In acceptance lies the key;
Repentance absolves.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Sir Conan Doyle’s Curly Fu & Peanut!

The British Broadcasting Corporation’s ‘Sherlock’ series has garnered great support and has probably amassed a huge fandom since it premiered. I think this has taken place quickly and more so than other English soaps because each season has just three episodes which leave the audience begging for more. Even more so is the great initiative to bring Doyle’s most beloved character into the present age and still maintain the same amount of respect for the author’s original work. But then, the BBC is expected to do something new and that is why it is where it stands today.

Photo Courtesy: Google Images.

Now this may seem a bit funky because I read it in a feature on BBC’s website itself but it claims that Sherlock has obtained widespread acclaim from Chinese viewers too. It seems that when the British Prime Minister visited China and opened an account on a local social networking site, most of the requests he received were for the third season of ‘Sherlock’ to be released as soon as possible. This may and can be true, but with so many international issues at stake, would the most number of requests a Prime Minister receives be concerning a show? (China, you never cease to amaze me).

Let me now explain the title to this post. It seems that Curly Fu and Peanut are the names given to the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson respectively by their fans there. Apparently, their names resemble the Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin, I don’t know which) names to some extent.

Another interesting part of that selfsame article was where it was mentioned that people there also read homosexuality in the show. They claim to make out that the show reinforces a strong tie that exists between the two central characters to such an extent that may even be homosexual in nature. Now I, in my three years of reading Doyle’s work as a reader and in another three as a student of English literature have never even imagined that such a relationship may be hinted at, what with Watson getting married and Sherlock having a secret crush on ‘The Woman’. Well, it may be so in the show and maybe I've never thought of it like that but I’m certainly going to watch the previous two seasons very closely, not only for this factor but also for others which may have escaped me before.

And to the director of this show, I say, “Good show, old chap!”