Wednesday, 4 December 2013

AAP and us



DO YOU KNOW WHAT IS THE WORST THING WITH US INDIANS?

I will tell you that! WE ARE JUST NOT IN FOR ANY CHANGE! However sick of the system we maybe, we are simply too regressive to stand up for an alternative.

In a discussion with a group of friends in the morning, I realised how difficult it is to change INDIANS! Powerless as I was, since I did not have my Voter ID I was trying to convince my friends of voting for AAP. Some were BJP supporters, while the others stuck with Congress.  They had their own valid reasons for it, but the only thing that agitated me was that if you are completely fine with the system, why did you always criticise it? First you cry about the corruption in India, and then when someone comes to talk about a corruption free country, you are suspicious of them as well!

It is certain that we can’t have a corruption free India, and I will tell you the reason for that too. People like you and me, who have a decent living, people from the upper middle class, people who have enough to bribe others for their work, will never want a change. Ask yourself, if you can pay “donation” to get your stupid child admitted in a B-School, why the hell will you want a change?
It is not the government who is corrupt, we had made them so! We are responsible for their actions. Had we acted, questioned and protested on the spot, this sad day wouldn’t have come!

I know I don’t have the right to say all this when I have not voted myself, but I am upset with the way people with that power are behaving. Some vote for a certain party just because their parents told them to, while others don’t want to take a chance with the alternative because they are new and don’t have enough power. Some said we will vote for the ever victorious party in our area, because it is certain AAP won’t win and if we vote for them, we are simply wasting our vote!  Different minds, different votes! But people, isn’t our cause common? Aren’t we all fighting with that same giant of evil hanging around all of us?

During the discussion, a friend rightly pointed at me and said that if I am so eager for AAP to win, I should have made sure that I have my voter ID before time. I accept my mistake. I surely wouldn’t have behaved as careless had it been the case with my examination admit card, but I do have the right to share my thoughts about a cause.. I have the right to talk about things which are not just about ‘YOU’ and ‘ME’! It is about the nation, about billions of homeless, jobless, foodless and cloth less people on the streets. If you think Congress has made the Metro and developed Delhi, you are mistaken my friend.  Of course, congress has made considerable change in the state, but do you ever think of those people who are still not aware of what a Metro train looks like? Or someone who doesn’t even know what the Metro is?

I am ashamed that I did not bother myself to take the pain and get my card on time, but people… you have the power! Don’t do what your family or friends are doing blindly!
I discussed it with my friends because I know the one with POWER can bring a lot of change. Powerless like me can transfer our messages to you, the rest is in your hands of course!

THINK BEFORE YOU VOTE!

Friday, 9 August 2013

INDIA - Still a Third World

Where else would you situate a country where corruption is at its peak, where more than half of the population starves everyday and where most of the citizens are deprived of basic amenities, if not in the third world category? I am here to discuss India’s status as a third world country despite almost 66 years after it gained independence. Do you really think that India is a super- power to be? Do you really think India can make it as big as China (if not USA)? Do you actually dream of a state where there would be education for all? If yes, I would not readily encourage you.

For those of you who don’t know what exactly a third world country would mean, I can help you out with that. The term originated during the Cold War and its meaning has undergone a change with the passage of time. During the Cold War, third world countries were a group of countries which did not align themselves with the Western bloc (First World) or with the Soviet bloc (Second World). Most of the third world countries had a colonial past, but during the 1960s the definition of the third world countries changed. Countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America which had low economic development, high mortality rate, high rates of poverty and diseases and all such characteristics which hinder the growth of the citizens were termed at third world countries. The gap between the rich and the poor is very large in such countries.
So let’s just get it straight people. India is still a third world country. We are still part of a group of countries which have failed to make it big. We are a nation where the politicians are corrupt and are only bothered about making money to fill their pockets. (Houses I must say!) They want us to fulfil our duty of paying taxes, but all of us know where the tax goes. Had this tax been properly allocated, India would have been a different nation altogether. There is no place left for morality. We are not honest with our own selves, forget about being truthful to others.

One of the biggest problems humanists find with our capitalist and economist friends is that they only calculate the growth and development of the country in terms of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and always ignore what we call the Human Development Index (HDI) which is a much better alternative to estimate the nation’s real progress. Humanists would argue that a country would be developed only when all the citizens are in good health, have proper education and health facilities and when they have all the basic necessities of life, but for an economist, if the GDP of a country is high, or when the Gross National Income is high, the country is developing. I would certainly disagree with the economists, simply because the nation’s income is not the income of the common man. The ‘profit’ which an economist would talk of, goes only to a few. We should understand that GDP or the ‘profit’ is not what matters, solely because it goes to the ‘haves’ of the society. Had this profit been of the ‘have nots’, the scenario would have been completely different and as a believer in Marxist thoughts, I would certainly discourage this ‘profit’ being the marker of a society’s development. You can only talk of development in the context of mortality rates, literacy rates and life expectancy of the people in a country like India.

The problem with India is that in the present scenario, it is just too busy competing with the developed nations. We want to Americanize our nation so that we can stand proudly in the global market, but someone tell me one good thing that this Americanization ever did to the poor. The rich is becoming rich and the poor is becoming poorer in this country.
Another problem which doesn’t let India rise is its huge population. China had the same problem a few years ago, but the way it has used its human resource is commendable. India needs to do something similar in order to manage the problem of population and unemployment, which go hand in hand. 
Reports in magazines and newspapers would tell you that in the list of top ten richest people of the world, two or three of them are of Indian origin and this makes India proud. People start thinking of India as a rich and prosperous country which can stand against any First world country. This really surprises me. How can you work out the development of a country with a population of approx. 1.27 billion by what two men of that country earn? They are not contributing anything to the society, or even if they are, it is almost negligible. These well read and financially stable people do not want to bother themselves with the issues of the poor. If they set up a school or two for the rural children, they think their job is done. But honestly that is not the solution.
Our country has high levels of poverty, we don’t use the natural resources judiciously, we are heavily dependent on industrialised nations for most of our needs and we are technologically less advanced than many. Our standards of public health are very low and we are all very well aware of the functioning of our judiciary. This is the reality of India. There is not one thing that makes us a developed country.
Third world countries during the Cold War were a bunch of countries which had a colonised past and for me, India is still a colony. One part of India ( the ‘haves’) rule over the other ( the ‘have nots’). We are still subjects.
 We know that India has considerable potential in its performance on economic indicators (GDP) but we need to improve our position on the HDI to fully utilise the potential offered by GDP. We have to rise up the ladder in terms of HDI.

But there is still hope; we can still be a part of the champion’s league. We can still break away the shackles and reach the heights and it is possible only when we all work for it. Government’s role is primary but as individuals even we can do our bit.
The education policies in our country need to be more inclusive and emphasise on the quality of education imparted. Public health sector also needs improvement; “A nation’s wealth is by its people’s health” according to me. The state should also give social protection to the weak and marginalised sections of the society. It needs to create more employment schemes so that the large number of unemployed people can add to the better functioning of the state and most importantly the government should also ensure and monitor the proper functioning of the reform programmes.
If not in the First World, at least we can make India stand in a world where the citizens are healthy and living a decent life.



Thursday, 11 July 2013

Prostatis

You know, there are things that are really hard to believe unless they happen to you. Ghost stories, accounts of being possessed, tales from mythology, superheroes and their supernatural behaviour and the list can go on. It becomes hard for us to believe in anything that we haven’t come across. I guess it is a human tendency. Many such things have happened to me as well. For instance, one of my cousin’s friends was possessed and she would tell me stories about her. I could hardly believe all that, but she always insisted on it being true.
In the summer vacation last year, another such thing happened to me. There were news reports all over the newspapers, televisions and radios of a superhero who had  come to town and helped women who were being harassed and abused. No one knew the name, no one knew the religion, and none knew the caste. It didn’t matter. What we presumed was that it was a man, a superhero who has come to our rescue in the most unsafe city of India. We were glad. Caste, religion, colour, creed don’t matter when you are in a crisis, right? But my dear readers otherwise they are the only identities you have in a country like India. We had assumed that it was a ‘he’ solely because women were just not capable of performing such heroic and kind deeds. They just did not have the power. Many agreed.
All the news flashes were becoming irritating to me. The saviour had almost become a cult. We knew nothing about the hero except for what he wore. He was always captured in a black suit and came and flew back with weird wings which looked more like a parachute. We never saw the face, never heard the voice and we did not even know the name. The citizens had given him a name. He was now called ‘Prostatis’, ‘a protector’ in Greek language.
So Prostatis was everywhere now. Remember the ‘kala bandar’ who had taken over all of Delhi few years back. We knew nothing about it, from where he came, where he went back. We were just so amazed and stunned by the idea of a monkey troubling people that it became fascinating. The kala bandar was also everywhere. You saw him in the news, heard about it on the radio, read about it in the paper and rumours were everywhere.  Almost a same thing was happening now. There was someone who had come to the city and the name Prostatis was on everyone’s mouth. But, the good thing was that this time, this anonymous creature was here to do good. He was a messiah.       
There were fans all around and the more popular he was became, the more I hated him. You would wonder why a girl would hate anyone who saved girls in trouble. I should have been happy and supportive of the hero, but my dear readers that was just not the case. I hated him more each day.
One fine night post dinner, I was strolling in the street. Music was playing loud in my ears and I was spending some quality time with myself. Clad in a salwar- suit, a woman ran past me and looked messed up. I wondered what had happened. I turned back to see if anyone was following and I saw a drunk man with a knife in his hand, running madly after the woman. Even I was threatened. I did not understand what to do. It was a difficult situation. I had to save the woman and there was nothing that I could think of then. Running after the man would be useless.
I started shouting for help but no one heard. I was feeling scared and vulnerable. We had to get out of it. I reached for my cell phone in my trouser’s pocket and started dialling my mom’s number. Thankfully she picked up the call and as soon as I was about to speak, a bat like creature came gliding towards us and hit the drunk man on his face with a powerful punch. The man tried to respond but he was not in his senses. Blood came out of his mouth and he fell unconscious. We assumed that he dead.
Only three of us were left there on the road. There was silence. We did not know what to say. Then, the bat like creature removed the mask from the face and then the revelation. The superhero, the saviour of girls in an unsafe city, Prostatis was no one else but a woman.
This was the proudest moment of my entire life. Prostatis, was a woman in the garb of a man. She had become a symbol of strength and power. I was the happiest then. I wanted to hug her and thank her. I wanted to shout with joy.
 No one knew about her real identity. I concluded that by cross dressing she had done a great job. She had denied all the gender stereotypes regarding dressing, public behaviour and everything that binds our lives. She had denied to follow manners and left her maryada behind to do something so great. I understood the psychology. She had rejected all the norms.
I was so proud that a woman was finally challenging the ideas of heroes being males. Finally there was a female superhero for us. But all of a sudden, I felt an ache. The world knew her as a superhero, which she wasn’t. She was a woman. I wanted the world to know her real identity and appreciate and acknowledge her for that. She was a brave woman and she should be known as one. I wanted to shout and let the world know that even women can be superheroes. Even they have power and strength. I wanted to fasten all those mouths that confined the women to kitchens and shopping. I was happy and angry at the same time. “A woman’s place is in the kitchen” is not true anymore my friends. If women can go to moon, if women can be successful entrepreneurs, if they can manage work and home, they are no less that superheroes.
I wish the true identity of Prostatis is revealed to everyone one day. The large number of lives she had saved and the lesson that she gave me that day has inspired me to do something like her.

“We don’t need a cape and superpowers to be called superheroes.
    Women are born super humans.” –Me.




Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Struggle


“Arvind tum sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hain”. These were the words of a bunch of people marching outside my street just the day before. When I first heard the sound, I wasn’t sure of what exactly was happening, but when I peeped out of the window, I realised that it’s the cry of the common man. The unheard cry, unnoticed and ignored for a very long time. This was the cry which needed to be attended, which needed a wipe. It sent shivers down my spine. I felt a weird sensation in my body; something like when you hear the national anthem... something which gives you goose bumps. I was feeling proud of this cry. I knew what this is going to bring. This cry was the beginning of a bright smile. Deep down in my heart I knew that the brutality and pain suffered by us is soon going to end. This snivel was like a ray of hope, but at the same time I was a little upset. The reason being the fact that we have come to such a stage that we have to literally cry and beg for our rights... for justice... for equality. It was at this moment that I comprehended that the present state of our country is no less than the time when we were a colony. I sensed that maybe we are still taken over.. we are still ruled over..still begging for fundamental rights..for a decent life. Our ‘democracy’ is still a subject state, the only difference being the reality that this time we are colonised by our own people. Probably we are capable enough now to dominate and exploit our fellow citizens; we don’t need anyone from outside this time. Our politicians, chosen from amongst us have become so powerful that they rule over us. Instead of addressing the grievances of the common man, they are busy filling their own pockets and emptying ours. The British Raj did a similar thing by looting us of all are treasure.
We are ruled by a group of people who don’t care about our well being and this is why the silent flame has turned into wildfire. The revolution which got us independence is still on...this time to free us from the shackles of corruption, deception and everything that hampers our country’s growth and progress.
Another major problem with our system (of which we are also a part) is that we are always critical of the one in power. This happens with our politicians also. The opposition will always speak against the party in power. Had they been really worried about the public good, they would’ve supported each other and collaborated for a better nation. But unfortunately, all of us are too busy to be self-critical.
The message that I wanted to convey through this small piece of writing is that it’s high time we get up from our sleep and work to turn the dreams into a beautiful reality. We are a young country; it’s our chance to make a difference to the nation. No one can stop us from becoming a super power. All we need are efforts. Let’s make India the golden bird again!

Heil Literature




“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” This amazing quote by C.S. Lewis did not hold any relevance to me till quite some time back. Through this quote Lewis probably tried to tell the inevitability of literature; he must have wanted us to realize that literature is like a thread running along our lives. Since I've never been able to define what literature is and I'm in no hope of doing it ever, this quotation did not really ring any bells in my mind. I simply mean that literature is not a chemical or mathematical formula which can easily be penned down and learnt by heart. It's really a difficult thing to be put in words, but  my recent visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 helped me in understanding what my friend meant by what he said back then and I concluded that there is a little literature in each of us.

With over 300 authors, 150 poets, musicians and performers from all over India and abroad, this year's JLF, held at Diggi Palace was a literary blockbuster. Till then I had no idea about the influence of literature and how effortlessly it attracts all! Being held for the past six years, JLF continues to be the biggest literary festival in Asia-Pacific. Be it a legend like Rahul Dravid, or a lyricist like Prasoon Joshi everyone was there, to speak up, discuss, question and debate about things that matter in life and this is what literature also means in one way. Subjects ranging from the life of mathematical prodigy, Ramanujan to the art of the ghazal, from women empowerment to epic imagination, from freedom of speech and expression to the making of James Bond, this literature festival had something for everyone.
I could only reach the festival on its third day and the first session I attended was focused on the role and importance of a language in literature. C.S. Lakshmi, popularly known as Ambai was one of the panel members and gave some really interesting points. She focused on the view that one should always write in a language in which one thinks, and in this way we’ll be able to express much better. Other panel members also supported her view. Another interesting discussion that I attended was titled "Lok Geet, Folk Geet: Bollywood ki Nayi Sanskriti" which focused on the new tradition in Bollywood, i.e. the use of 'folk songs'. Lyricist Prasoon Joshi said that these so called folk songs are not really folk songs but item numbers which focus on attracting an audience. These songs don't have a consciousness, hence no meaning. He also made an important and relevant point when he said that the "Film industry is very much a part of literature; it’s an extension of literature. If you see the initial works of cinema, it was all literature that got converted into celluloid. There shouldn’t be any surprise that people from the film industry want to be here". It was true that many from the film industry wanted to be a part of the fest, and many did make it. Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Anupama Chopra and a few others did come and added glamour to the event. Some came to listen while others to speak. Other discussions of which I was lucky enough to be a part of was "Falling off the Maps: The question of Failed States" which was hosted by Barkha Dutt and had a huge panel of members for the discussion. This was a very electrifying talk which tried to define a nation and a state and also discussed why US has got the privilege of tagging random states as 'failed states' according to its will. Thirty four year old Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy from Pakistan took away the attention with her rage against US and concentrated on the importance of Pakistan's growth which is important for India’s development as well according to her.  She said that if Pakistan becomes a failed state, it’ll be bad for Pakistan but worse for India.

The fourth day was overflowing with immensely fascinating and enlightening talks. The one which caught, all my attention was "The Epic Imagination" hosted by Vayu Naidu who also released her book Sita's Ascent at the festival. The panel members included Devdutt Pattanaik, Madeline Miller and Sitanshu   Yashaschandra. Madeline Miller also released her new book Song of Achilles at JLF '13. The book would interest all those who had a great experience with Homer’s Iliad and continue to have a fascination for mythology and epics. Miller talked about her book which focuses on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. Pattanaik, a mythologist, also talked about his book Mithya. Shobhaa De was the prime attraction on the last day. Maya Rao, Namita Gokhale, Ambai, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Urvashi Butalia and Nirupama Dutt talked about the silenced voices of exploited women. Maya Rao gave an exquisite solo performance. Another feministic discussion was "Stree hokar sawaal karti ho? Women's Voices" which was hosted by Dushyant and had only female panel members Lata Sharma, Preeta Bhargava and Sushila Shivran. Lata Sharma raised a very significant point when she said that there's a colonial hangover in all of us when we compare women to slaves and treat them likewise. She also said that men are a mere gender that is why they only see the 'female' in women. They can't afford to go beyond this stereotype, had they been sensitive and had their own psyche, perhaps they could have seen the human being in "their female", but unfortunately our men are just too busy to reflect on this. She also quoted from Simon de Beauvoir's Second Sex. Her basic question to all men was why they couldn’t see the women as humans and not slaves. Lata Sharma also said women all across the world might have different skin colors, but the color of their pain is alike. She encouraged women to be strong, confident and advocated the fact that rights are to be snatched by women if they want a halt to the oppression.
 Apart from these intellectual discussions, this democratic literature fest was also a platform for many authors, new and old, to launch their current works. Musical performances were also held after the discussions in the evenings.

With beautiful traditional decor, food stalls, music, and people from all across the globe, JLF proved the fact that literature respects and welcomes ideas, free thought, imagination and freedom. It truly binds us all together in some way or the other. This fest was local and rooted but also global and international at the same time. Despite being full of controversies, media criticism and lampooning due to its perceived elitism, commercialization of literature and dependence on celebrities, JLF is turning out to be a ‘Mecca’ for literature lovers. Truly literature is a thread running across our lives. Heil literature!