Sunday, January 30, 2011

An Anachronism?

"A gun is a reasonably good way of settling an argument but, unfortunately for his assassins, the posthumous Gandhi turned out to be as dangerous as the living one." -Ashish Nandy

I have never been an admirer of the much hailed Father of Our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. It was my ignorance. I have always been more in touch with people who seek pleasure in denouncing the personality that Gandhi was, and who glorify his misgivings much above his contribution towards making India which we are proud of today. Of the many good things I derive out of my recently acquired habit of reading newspapers with a pious, unwavering dedication is feeding on knowledge which is dynamic in essence. I always knew that the Martyrs Day was celebrated on 30th of January, the day when the hand of the Mahatma which blessed our land with a sort of filial love was robbed of us, forever. However, it never happened that I understood the importance of this day. For that matter, many a 30th Januaries came and went- little did I even realize them passing by. Not for once did I stop to pay a brief homage to the soul of this great benefactor of India, whose ideals, though largely an anachronism for many around me, still haunt that part of my mind which is blindly patriotic- and proudly so.

I regret it. I regret never having understood Gandhi. Never having devoted time to it. It is quite riveting to read the venerable journalist, Karan Thapar insinuate towards the not so admirable facets of Gandhi's idealism through his column in one of India's leading daily. It is equally riveting to read a reply to Mr. Thapar's article in the same newspaper by Gandhi's grandson- Rajmohan Gandhi- a prolific scholar, a human rights activist, noted political figure, and the winner of the prestigious Biennial Award from the Indian History Congress in 2007 for his book A True Story of A Man, His People and An Empire, Gandhi's biography. And what was most fantastic while reading the two articles was a conspicuous realization of the fact that there was so much of history of my own land which I failed to connect to, despite having harbored loud ambitions of one day serving the country to the best of my capacities. Knowledge in this context is certainly not irrelevant, in fact, it is most imperative. The present system of education (encompassing the preparations for most governance related competitive examinations) invariably makes us a slave to facts; not for once endeavoring to give us enough time and space for understanding and developing ideologies and principles which we may regard as our own, and which remain a part of our system through every stage of life. A cornucopia of facts can only baffle us, while a cognizance and identification of the ideological path which we seek to tread on can certainly elevate us above our puerile self; aiding in the process of decision making and lending us that coveted mental clarity, without which, any discernment is hollow.

It was in an article in one of the many newspapers I follow that I came across information pertaining to a Fast Unto Death being organized at Jantar Mantar to register loud, but non violent protests against the high degree of corruption pervading our country, by the veterans of an organization called the Gandhian Satyagraha Brigade. This news piece stirred a now dormant part of my memory. A little more than a month ago, I had had the good fortune of meeting up with the vanguard of this long enduring movement against corruption and the honorary General Secretary of the GSB. It was a tryst by chance- but one, that continued to haunt me for long. And I promised myself that I would write about it, a promise that was submerged under a deluge of assignments, examinations and then placement stresses. So 'today' I feel is the perfect day for me race back to that day, and recapitulate, and record in words everything that is worth remembering from then.

Mr. Shambhu Dutt. A nonagenarian. A freedom fighter. A really young and energetic old man. An invitation to meet him came my way through Colonel Dharmadhikary, who works for Transparency International, the very same organization which has ranked India 87 on an index of corruption, in the derisive company of states like Iran. Colonel was a dapper old man, who made me want to listen to him once he started speaking. He requested me to take out time and visit the office of GSB, to meet a 95 year old young man, fighting against the most ugly form of contemporary social evils- Corruption- much in the Gandhian spirit. Colonel said that a dialogue with the young, concerned blood of the nation will infuse a lot of courage and enthusiasm in the heart of this freedom fighter. It was not an invitation I could deny. And so, on a cold winter morning, I set out with my friend Namit, to honor my commitment of meeting Mr. Shambhu Dutt, not knowing what to expect, and pondering even if it was worth undertaking the effort.

It was not a meeting. It was an experience. This I realized the moment I sat down across the table from this affable person in his late nineties, who gave me a very comprehensive peek into the post independence history of corruption in our nation. The medium of our conversation was the Colonial language- English- and the way he spoke his long monologues, I could only feel like a buffoon for sitting there, taking down notes under the table on his linguistics, rather than the content of his speech. He was an austere man, firmly dedicated to the vision of one day living in an India totally free of the hydra headed monster of corruption. Besides explaining to me their three demands from the government, viz., appointment of an effective Lokpal, confiscation of illegally acquired property and disqualification of candidates seeking to contest election who have a pending criminal case against them, he laced his talks with a lot of inspiring opinions and interesting anecdotes. He expressed his angst on the way the common man today has accepted corruption as way of life, and explained to me and Namit the top-down approach at combating corruption which their organization endorses. He stressed the need for the higher echelons of governance to be transparent, because corruption breeds from higher to lower levels. He gave us a lecture on the recalcitrant attitude of the government to go ahead with any concrete step that would help retard the monster of corruption which has already devoured much of the resources of our economy. He told us several other things which have, unfortunately slipped off my mind.

A lot of times while he was speaking, I could feel several miniscule tremors at various parts on my body, which, I later realized were very visible goosebumps. At other times while he spoke, I felt acute derision for myself when I contrasted my often bleak visions of my own future with this nonagenarian's bright, zealous and enthusiastic hopes from tomorrow. A flippant remark on the impossibility of him being able to celebrate his next birthday made my heart sink a little, but my heart sank a lot more when I could witness in documents the callousness of the Indian administration at administering its own subjects. 

Mr. Shambhu Dutt was a true Gandhian who went on reiterating that it was not possible to ever be a true Gandhian. His earlier name was Shambhu Dutt Sharma, but he renounced his surname in opposition to the caste based atrocities which are rampant in our country. I had never in my dreams imagined that I would ever hear from a freedom fighter himself what having fought in the famous Quit India Movement would have been like. He resigned from administrative services under the British Raj a day after Gandhiji was jailed in QIM. Quite promptly, he too was imprisoned. "Now when I reflect back on it Colonel, I feel it was a very wise thing to do. I would never have been entitled to my freedom fighter's pension had I not gone to jail- the only thing I ever did and was tagged a freedom fighter!"- he gently jests while looking at Colonel who was still accompanying us, in the concluding moments of our rendezvous. 

I smiled at myself, finished my tea, collected a daintily prepared envelope which was given to me as a souvenir from this meeting. While Namit gathered most of the attention because of his composed outlook when the monologues were still going on, I was happy I could make a lot of notes which surely added a great deal to the pool of knowledge I was desiring to create for myself. Colonel thanked us for taking out time and keeping our word. We thanked him back for giving us this experience. It was nothing formal- we both meant every word of gratitude we expressed. 

Upon returning, I sank back in my bed, and started rummaging through the contents of the envelop given to me. It had a lot of documents- letters, publications etc. At the beginning of one of the articles were mentioned the three basics which the Satyagrahis of the GSB swore by-
  1. There is no room for untruth or violence in a Satyagraha.
  2. In Satyagraha there is no enemy.
  3. A Satyagrahi knows no defeat.
The last one sounded like a cool thing to inculcate in myself. So did the second, and may be the first too. 

Suddenly, Gandhi no longer seemed distant, or anachronistic. That night, upon reflecting, I could become a little more perceptive of his influence on the modern polity. The Gandhigiri propounded by Raj Kumar Hirani, no longer seemed only a cinematic concept, or at best, a gimmick. I am still to understand Gandhi, but so far, what I have heard of him sounds good. It sounds good enough to intrigue me into reading a lot more about him. For today, I tried reading about the Gandhian Satyagrahi Brigade on their official website. Along with the above mentioned three basics of a Satyagrahi, a quote by Gandhi adorned the first page of the website. I find it worth sharing.
Corruption will be out one day, however much one may try to conceal it, and the public can, as its right and duty, in every case of justifiable suspicion, call its servants to strict account, dismiss them, sue them in a law court or appoint an arbitrator or inspector to scrutinize their conduct, as it likes.
- Mahatma Gandhi

 (If you feel like, you can read more about this organization run by some really dynamic and young-at-heart concerned citizens of our society-

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Earth Shook, My Mind Shook Too

I am still delusional from last night. Had the TV news channels not started corroborating what I experienced about fifteen minutes after the incident, I might have been in a position to dismiss it as a ghoulish dream. Tell me, how easy, or ordinary is it to be suddenly shaken out of your leisure reading time by an earthquake that seemed to last an eternity?

That is precisely what happened with me (and a million other nocturnal swots I presume) last  night at approximately 0200 hours. My room felt analogous to a fragile cardboard box, usurped effortlessly by a giant, who was now shaking it vigorously. My study table moved to and fro, my bed quivered, the keys hanging from my almirah went on clinking ominously- I lost all my wits in that one minute, and worst of all, I had my young sister comfortably sleeping away with the most wonderfully innocent and smug expression on her face. Her face scared me no end.

My heart refused to believe what my eyes were seeing. My mind frankly stated- 'this is it!'. Yes. I feared my building would collapse. And don't blame me for it, or don't dismiss my thoughts as silly. It is the first time I have actually experienced shivering and shaking because of something other than cold. I was stupefied when one of my classmates early in the morning stated that such happenings were as normal as frequent weather changes for her when she lived in Indonesia. All that shaking that went on for an impossible length of time did not scare her. I mean, now how is that humanly possible? I, in that space of time had thought a million things, offered myself consolations (like the epicentre being located far, far away from us- turned out false), said a million prayers. Gosh! I now feel so silly. But, I did not last night. I was very, very serious with everything I was reflecting on in my mind.

So, after ruminating much, once again overtaken by disbelief, I walked (cautiously) towards my parents' room.  My whole body was undergoing convulsions. Even before I could ask my mother to confirm or refute, I switched on the light to check time- their room's precariously balanced clock was oscillating still. I showed it to my mother, warned her, and came back to my room to sleep. Was not able to.

When I switched off the light, and snuggled into my quilt, hugging my own self to stop all that shivering which just refused to leave me, I once again lost myself to my thoughts. My mind no longer was disorderly or scared, it was now only reflecting. So much could have happened in that short duration of time. For that matter, so much can happen in life in just about seconds. None of us is privy to the thought process of Providence, if there does exist anything like that at all. All plans, prudentialities and wishes could have gone extinct then and there. (They might have, for some. I have not really bothered to check the news) How imperative is it then to live here and now? Very. One should not be like me. At all. I should not be like myself. I fret over little moments lost. Little loves lost. At times, I feel, I rummage for reasons to feel sad, or for reasons to start crying. I fret for hours. For days sometimes. The time wasted fretting could be so productively utilized; in my own interest, or in that of the others. Although I forget this momentarily when loaded with excessive psychological pressure, I have earnestly believed that if I could make one extra person smile, I would die a death marginally lesser painful. I fear pain; though not as much as nature. And its elements. My fear for nature has now held onto my for close to a decade. And it stems from one basic cognition- Go on, exploit, be callous; but remember, when Nature dictates, you can only meekly follow. Very, very meekly.

Anyway. So now that is over. I can smile. I cannot stop fretting right away (not that fast a learner), but I can at least instruct myself to get into the process. I can be grateful to existence. I can thank the beautiful like that surrounds me. I can love because tomorrow is not certain. I must not postpone anything beautiful for tomorrow. I must live intensively, live totally, here and now.

And I must share with the readers of my blog the resplendent lines by the great poet- Harivansh Rai 'Bachchan'. These lines were recited to me by Dr. K. H. Singh, my Political Science professor, yesterday at a brief meeting with him.

 जीवन में एक सितारा था
माना वह बेहद प्यारा था
वह डूब गया तो डूब गया
अंबर के आनन  को देखो
कितने इसके तारे टूटे
कितने इसके प्यारे छूटे
जो छूट गए फ़िर कहाँ मिले
पर बोलो टूटे तारों पर
कब अंबर शोक मनाता है
जो बीत गई सो बात ग

जीवन में वह था एक कुसुम
थे उस पर नित्य निछावर तुम
वह सूख गया तो सूख गया
मधुबन की छाती को देखो
सूखी कितनी इसकी कलियाँ
मुरझाईं कितनी वल्लरियाँ
जो मुरझाईं फ़िर कहाँ खिलीं
पर बोलो सूखे फूलों पर
कब मधुबन शोर मचाता है
जो बीत गई सो बात गई

जीवन में मधु का प्याला था
तुमने तन मन दे डाला था
वह टूट गया तो टूट गया
मदिरालय का आंगन देखो
कितने प्याले हिल जाते हैं
गिर मिट्टी में मिल जाते हैं
जो गिरते हैं कब उठते हैं
पर बोलो टूटे प्यालों पर
कब मदिरालय पछताता है

जो बीत गई सो बात गई

मृदु मिट्टी के बने हुए हैं
मधु घट फूटा ही करते हैं
लघु जीवन ले कर आए हैं
प्याले टूटा ही करते हैं
फ़िर भी मदिरालय के अन्दर
मधु के घट हैं,मधु प्याले हैं
जो मादकता के मारे हैं
वे मधु लूटा ही करते हैं
वह कच्चा पीने वाला है
जिसकी ममता घट प्यालों पर
जो सच्चे मधु से जला हुआ
कब रोता है चिल्लाता है

जो बीत गई सो बात गई

Monday, January 17, 2011

Musings Of An Exam Ravaged Mind- Faces

Last year, for most part, was a rigmarole. It was a story I will tell myself many a times over. On the highway to Agra, our car fled at a nauseating speed. I could not keep pace with the surroundings gushing past me. Giving up, I yet again allowed myself the luxury of drifting away into dreams- to recall to mind every single scene from 2010 that had to be included here. First, I saw my college. Then the exam hall. Then the pen in my hand which refused to budge. Then the confused, panicky, frustrated, helpless expression on my face. And finally, I saw her. She was giving me the most awesome comfortable smile from across the room. The smile was comfortable because it shared my most notable reaction to the exam paper-helplessness. She continued writing, while I let her thoughts linger longer as the exams paper was simply beyond me. I could think only this- "Pallak, you are incredible!"

I have hated Pallak for most of the past year. The reasons remain secret between us. However, I cannot deny the fact that the unthinkable miracle of surviving in an all girls' college has come true only because of her. This girl is a phenomenon- a packet of unbelievable energies. She is perfect for almost every one. The misery attached with finding faults with her is exclusively mine to savor. She may be infallible for the rest, but never can be for me. I think her greatest fault is her incapacity to realize that she is missed acutely, every single moment my eyes are deprived of her. Every morning, I await her arrival eagerly. I am almost fidgety till she comes. When she finally does, and starts off babbling on an amplified version of the most mundane thing in the world, thats when I calm down, and smile at the knowledge that college is not yet over. She is still around.
The Year 2011- I really hope she gets a boyfriend this year, so that I can intervene is time to save the poor guy from putting his own head under a guillotine!

I often lament what a thankless job being a good friend is. This lament ceases by its own when the face of this incredibly cute, and outrageously hardworking junior of mine comes to mind. Niyati. I would have been on anti depressants and in consultation with a psychiatrist to cure me of work tensions had this girl not kept of magically manifesting at the venues of all the events I did, with her consistent reliable and adorable presence, without so much as the expectation of a 'thank you' in return. Shameless me! I hence ignored the basics, and was only disturbed by grossly selfish, sporadic late night fears that she might get irritated and back off. Stupendously surprising- she never did. She worked even harder, and always gave me the respect and affection I craved for. She has a unique way of loving people and expressing that love. My days inevitably turn brighter when she lends a helping hand, or an eager ear to hear out my silly confabulations. She is selfless, giving-she is everything I aspired for but gave up. May be, she is my faith reignited.
The Year 2011- A wish for her I will whisper into her ears. This year has something really big in store for her. Am sure.

Most of my past year, like the year before, and like the year the year before has been spent away from the college in the preferred company of my male buddies. Two of them in particular worked handsomely well in helping me combat the nightmares of an all pervasive female company. These two, veritably, are my nocturnal anodynes. No matter what my state the day before; a night conversation with them almost always makes me wake up with a goofy smile on me face.

Akshat aka Mittal- His love for English language is what drew me towards him. It felt fantastic the way I could throw the most grandiloquent sentences at him without the apprehension of being met with a contempt-filled stare in return. With an insatiable urge to learn, he forced me to marvel as to how a person as learned as him could still be searching for newer bites of knowledge in every nook and cranny of the world around. As well as he learns, he can teach too. He has taught me a great many things. Not just new words, but newer dimensions to view basic things in life from. An intrinsically beautiful thing he made an exceptional effort of inculcating in me was confidence in my own self. He once called my clattered brain 'clear headed' and I believed it. I have believed it ever since. It is a good feeling. Any frictional trysts in life and both of us are on the phone seeking advice from each other. The catch is, even though we know what the other is precisely gonna say, it is always wonderful to hear it out in words, from each other.
The Year 2011- I wish his writing habits improve from where they stand, and the year 2011 witnesses the beginning of his blog, for he really write stuff which is readable and appreciable to say the least.

Namit- He is one of those wonderfully enigmatic friends of mine, who humbles me by his very presence most of the times. It was around the end of 2009 that I met him, and it took me whole of 2010 to discover and understand him. I am still trying very very hard to comprehend the arcane world he inhabits. Hi persona is one of ease and comfort. Bluntly said, I consider myself superlucky to be among the closer circle of friends of this hyper social bee, which goes on buzzing from person to person. Sometimes, it is wonderful to just listen to him speak. Yes, I complain all the time about his scant audibility, but that is only because I like to absorb every single word he utters. His subtle mannerisms are inspiring. His affectionate presence cheers me up. He cares like its the most natural thing in the world to do. He asserts where he knows its important for me to learn. He is an elder embodied in a friend- the sort I would have definitely missed the 19 years of mine life he was not around.
The Year 2011- I really wish he were inebriated more often, so that I could hear his expressions unleashed a lot more times than I actually get to. On second thoughts, giving up liquor altogether does not itself seem like a bad idea. Anyway, the first one serves my purpose better.

I had a more than wonderful life before college began. Sadly, very few elements of my precollege life still inhabit my world. One of them is Mayank- My companion for all seasons of life. He is dependable to an extent that is gets frustrating. If there is anything in this world that I need, it can't be that he does not have it. One typical characteristic of his' is his eerie clairvoyance, especially in matters related to me. Nothing I do or say goes unnoticed by him. That I am a fabulously bad actor is a fact testified by him- no matter how much I conceal, the texture of my voice almost always gives it away. Last year, every time life felt tumultuous, I sought his company. And then, over a cup of corns and a big Embassy special Samosa in CP's Inner Circle, all turmoil magically subsided. I was once again ready to laugh at insane decibels on jokes that only we both understand.
The Year 2011- As banal as it may sound, I really wish you propose to that girl. And I wish this in pursuit of pure self interest.

My life in 2010 more or less revolved around these five faces. A 'thank you' is not good enough to express anything, but I must say it still.

My post would have ended here had it not been for that fateful rendezvous on 19th December, 2010, over three glasses of cold coffee, with two of the most offensively awesome people I have ever known. In what was supposed to be my year end post, it is only apt that I remember thanking them too. There are few people you just feel lucky after meeting. These two most definitely fall in that category.

  • Arpit Goel- Although in the past two years of our acquaintanceship I have lost my temper on him a minimum two hundred times, I can never forget a very valuable lesson he taught me. It is, how to 'chill'. Yes. He is a champion at 'chilling', I mean, leading a chilled out life. Without that having been foisted on me, I would have never lived through the amount of work I load myself with. It took me time to start admiring him, but once I began, his candid talks, his humble ways and his casual demeanor only made my fondness for him grow. It keeps growing still.
  • Twishmay Shankar- "You must write a blog. I think you would be good."-it was he who said it during one of our rare gtalk conversations about two and a half years back. That was the first ever time Nascent Emissions was conceived in my mind. I thank him for it. Besides, I also thank him for offering me astounding alternative perspectives on things we all deem basic- perspectives which seemed preposterous at first, but invigorating and inviting once my humble brain grew up to them. He has a grand personality, inimitable (and a little intimidating for poor souls like me), the sort that invariably leaves an impact. He left one on me for sure.
Thank you both for making my last month eventful. Thank you all for making my life so splendid.

"And the days went by like paper in the wind. Everything changed, then changed again. It's hard to find a friend. It's hard to find a friend."

"And the days went by like paper in the wind. Everything changed, then changed again. It's hard to find a friend. It's hard to find a friend."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Musings Of An Exam Ravaged Mind- Intro

The dreamer in me almost invariably surfaces in it's full strength and color each time the word 'examination' is even remotely sighted in my life. It is the case with many I know; but with me its exceptionally beautiful. Brutal too. I have spent the most pleasant moments in the world of my imaginations where for once I can live everything I find lacking in my life- I can be an artist crafting murals on the opposite wall, I can be a free bird taking a lone vacation in Nainital only to read, write and drink coffee, I can be the topper of my college (University actually!), or I can be singing in a concert, mesmerizing multitudes with my voice. And all this I can do only till my gaze does not flicker to my illegibly scribbled notes and the clock in rapid succession. Then, I am doomed!

Now that I reflect on it, I feel stupid, funny and angry. I screwed up my exams; but that's consistent. So no anger or frustration there. I feel angry and stupid at having postponed my New Year Celebrations, and along with it, an associated ritual I am particularly fond of. Now, what use was it all? I spent the New Year's Eve studying, and the subsequent two days frolicking. I am failing my papers as it is. Had I not studied I would have failed by a greater margin. Big deal! Huh!

Now, the ritual. As the dying moments of every passing year erect a sepulchre of memories above my head, I only patiently gaze up, and see images of the best and worst spent moments strewn across the sky. Then I absorb. I experience. I live it again. Finally, I write.

Last night was particularly daunting for me. I feared that the pleasant nostalgia I experience while ruminating on the past year would have ebbed away by now. Worse- it will go unrecorded this time. I was wrong. It intensified. And I felt happy. For a change, for once, I was not harrowed by the negative visions from the past. I was, rather, greeted by a montage of some really pretty/handsome faces who formed a very fond part of my past year, and who will continue much beyond into my future. My bright future. My dismal future. My great future. My not-so-great future.

After this particularly long introduction, it is these faces whom I want to pay an ode to through this post. My diary knows enough about them- its time my blog marvels at the enviable assortment of friends I have who make my life splendid, tough, royal, ridiculous- all at the same time.

It is in the following entry that I will introduce them all to my blog. Not all of them are friends- some are subtle sources of inspirations, who offer me alternate perspectives to view life from. But all of them, every single one of them have two things in common-
1. They are people I absolutely respect, 'cuz they all humble me with whatever they embody within themselves.
2. They are the highlights of the year 2010 for me. Besides being with me the whole year, they all have taught me a lesson or two- something that will stay with me for a long time to come.

Right now, Agra beckons. Yes, after a hectic examination time, I am off to Agra to spend some time in the relaxed company of relatives. I'll return to my blog on Monday.