Saaho in this Ruthless World

In a fictional city called Waaji, two Jetman pilots hover over the skies to catch Saaho who is riding a high-speed motorbike. Saaho then clings onto one flying Jetman and shoots up to the sky before crash landing on a high-rise building. Later, he dons that Jetman gear himself and stands tall with that Jetpack wings spread, revealing a macho look akin to a superhero with an ethereal vibe. He then dives into the sky himself to save his love from falling off a helicopter. This cliff-hanger moment is not usually seen in Indian movies. On a normal day, I would expect collective gasps from the audience followed by cheers or claps. But that wasn’t the case on that Sunday evening, as that Vmax theatre was marred by less than 5% occupancy owing to the blatant negative reviews all across. For any movie enthusiast, it will be disheartening to see such low patronage to an Indian film that had high expectations and budget.

There may be multiple reasons for that outright negativity – one of them for sure is the high expectations set by the trailers that are hard to match with a sensible content. The trailer is one of the finest that you can see in the recent times – beautifully edited and supported by excellent background score that promises many edge of the seat moments, leaving you wanting more trucks to roll on the big screen, more goons be kicked and bigger guns fired, but of course intertwined through a coherent plot. In the trailer when Prabhas broke the jaws of a baddie who remotely looked like WWE’s Undertaker in the backdrop of high octane ‘bang bang’ music, there is this adrenaline rush even though you don’t know why they are fighting. A natural expectation is that you would enjoy these fights more on the big screen as, by then, you will have an emotional connection established with the characters. But that wasn’t the case unfortunately. The screenplay was too fast, perhaps, taking audience knowledge for granted. There are many ‘been there, seen that’ moments from Hollywood movies, but still it would have been engaging if it had brought in the emotional involvement right from the beginning. There are many frivolous objections that I have – for e.g., how did an honest and not so ebullient female protagonist tunes into ‘psycho saiyyan’ forgetting her job? Why does it looks like a dubbed movie at times even in its original language? What are a python and a black panther doing in a residential building? Or perhaps there was a context to it that I missed when I blinked. I will be too kind and ignore this nit-picking.

Having said this, there is a lot to appreciate too. A movie is not just a three hour experience, it is the collective sum of all the buzz and excitement it brought in right from the first teaser along with its marketing content until its actual viewing and the debates that follow. It succeeded on that front by creating a pan India buzz. It has all quintessential Indian movie elements – sly heroism, powerful villains, romance, beautiful locations captured by excellent cinematography, action sequences, refreshing background score etc. For the first time we are talking about Hollywood standards. Hollywood movies enjoy stupendous budgets and worldwide viewership and also have great technicians with advanced technology at their disposal. This movie is taking some of the baby steps in that direction, and it deserves a chance for that aspiration and the sheer audacity it exhibits in getting there.

It has many flaws, of course, mainly from a story telling perspective, but there are many other areas it attempts to make up for. Audience can have any view, it’s their prerogative. But that vehement criticism from the regular movie critics is a bit unfair. Am not undermining their credentials, but critics are having a whale of a time trashing it from every corner. A renowned movie critic on a national channel observes it as a 3 hours pounding headache. He smirks on the TV while I sulk in my couch silently contemplating how he became a movie critic when any movie, good or bad, can give him headaches, given that reviews are his day-to-day job. Other reviewer says we could buy 100 apartments in Mumbai with 350 crores instead of making this movie. What will happen to the critics if makers abandon movies for real estate investment? Assuming this is just a rhetoric to make a point, where is the love for movies when plain vitriol precedes objective criticism? There are some honest reviews too that have differentiated the good and the bad.

Last I heard, the movie is still making decent business worldwide despite that epic failure talk on the first day. And for that, a big Saaho (salute) for its existence in this ruthless world.

Pursuit of a Medical Miracle

“Do you have any tattoos?”
“No” I replied
“Do you have any metal implants?”
“No”
“Do you have diabetes?”
“No”
“Are you Claustrophobic?”
“No” I said, not sure if I should be proud of that answer.
Few more questions later I was taken into the room, and the technician asked me to lie down on the table facing upwards. I obeyed. She took my left hand, searched for the vein at the elbow, and asked: “are you good with the needles?”. She prepared the injection before I replied – seemed like my answer would not have made a difference. The needle pierced the veins through the skin, and I squeezed my foot in retaliation to the pain. The technician observed this, and tried to divert my attention “Where do you work?”. I mumbled, “In the city”. She plastered the injection to my skin and remarked “this injection may give an unpleasant taste on your tongue and cause nausea. It is common and not to worry. I will observe you from behind the glass. I will give another dose ten minutes later”. Her words were unsettling. She handed over a button to press in case of emergency. The MRI was switched on and the bed moved into the hollow machine. A few moments later the machine whirred with a loud buzz, and I felt a tingly feeling in the mouth, followed by nausea. As if that’s not enough, claustrophobia kicked in from nowhere.

***********************************

I walked into the centre with a nervous smile. The practitioner at the reception desk glanced at me and gave a perfunctory nod as if to say ‘you know the routine’. I would be a fool if I hadn’t known the routine by then. I walked into room number 2, unstrapped my watch, emptied my pockets onto a nearby desk, removed my shoes, and laid on the elevated bed. ‘The bedsheets need a wash’ I thought as I settled on the bed as if I owned the place. A statue of Buddha stared at me from the corner of the room – he looked so serene, lost in his enlightened world, oblivious to these human afflictions.

A moment later the practitioner walked in and asked the toughest question “how were you feeling last week?”. I stumbled for an answer “I guess it was ok however not sure if it had really improved”. “Hmm” he said “let us try it differently today – I will focus on mind relaxation. You will have a good sleep tonight”. He picked up acupuncture needles, and without wasting much time started to puncture my skin across various places starting from the hind foot, moving up to calf muscle, stomach, wrist, ear, forehead and a final needle on the top of my head. “Yell if you need any help. I will be across the room” he said “see you in 20 mins” before leaving. I gazed at the ceiling wondering what I should conjure up in my imagination for those next 20 mins. Many thoughts during that time, but what remained in my vivid remembrance were two – 1. next time I should ask them to play some Bollywood songs instead of the soft music heard on the speakers. 2. I should gift them an air conditioner if I were to become any better because of this treatment.

***********************************

The doctor greeted with a smile and welcomed me inside. I followed him to his room.
“How do you feel now?” the toughest again.
“I will be very honest” I declared “I don’t think there is any improvement at all”.
“I guess we should continue our trial and error” he conceded.
Ah, the words ‘trial and error’ are enough to bring mountains down in the medical world. After a detailed discussion, he prepared a new medicine and explained how and when to take them. I thanked him profusely. At least the visit was pleasant – no needles penetrated and the air conditioning had worked. Just as I was about to leave, I noticed his head and his receding hairline that has seen better days when I initially started seeing him.
I stepped out of the homoeopathy clinic, with the lowest morale of that day. Not much motivation as of now and the path back to home looked lonely. I needed something immediate to keep my spirits up, something tangible – my family wasn’t there at that moment; good music, entertaining movie, or an engaging book were beyond the reach. That’s when my hand involuntarily touched my heart that was beating continuously devoid of any qualms, just doing its duty. In that heartbeat, I found my motivation and I took a step forward.

Spyder meets the Dark Knight

There is hardly any challenge in Indianising, or even Tamilising the concept of Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’. All you need is a Friday night, a pub, and a talkative friend for the inception of a storyline. For the rest, such as screenplay and characterizations, you need Murugadoss of course. The Batman’s take on the historic Joker will have international patrons for many reasons. Both Batman and the Joker made an intellectual connection with the audience. Their strengths and weaknesses are already known to people that gives leverage to get into the dark story from the word go.

Spyder’s Shiva is a self-appointed vigilante just like the Batman, but unlike the Batman, he isn’t rich and doesn’t have fancy gadgets that he can throw off the hook. He works in an intelligence bureau secretly tapping the phone calls and that gives him access to the technology that Batman has with alerting crime. Shiva’s intelligence is well established all the way from suspecting impending crimes through to figuring out the real killers.

On the other hand, the Joker is an epitome of evil. This evil is not just sinister, but also charming; not just intimidating, but also fascinating. The mushy voice and lip-smacking mannerisms bring more appeal to the already menacing character. It needs a dedicated investment of time to emulate joker’s character topology. It is aptly done through the flashback episode of Bhairavudu, the Indian version. The deconstruction of his psychological journey from his birth in the graveyard through to his childhood as a sadistic personality disorder may look too raw and boring to some audience but it is worth the time spent.

Joker’s capture is one of the glory moments where the Batman overplays him after by a chilling chasing episode. The capture of Bhairavudu was equally interesting albeit unconvincing. Shiva uses live thermal imaging technology, just like the Batman did, to figure out the number of hostages that Bhairavudu has taken in. He then speaks to five different women of different regions of Andhra Pradesh, on the phone, to motivate them to save the hostages. I realized that the scene was conceived well when my wife clapped as a Rayalaseema woman was empowered on phone. The Telangana, Kostha and Hyderabad applauses became even louder striking the right chords with different sections of the audience. Those middle-aged women roll up their sleeves to take up this adventure; they fall and then rise to save the hostages. This total episode looked refreshing and liberating because, for a change, the hero has taken a back-seat and let the women do the job.

After the joker is apprehended, the Batman realizes that nabbing him cannot stop a sequence of destructive events that were already triggered by the joker by manipulating various unsuspecting individuals. Alternatively, the nabbing of Bhairavudu promises a sequence of edge-of-the-seat thrilling events at the beginning, but what follows is a series of misfires. Shiva saves the people from a heavy rolling boulder that’s unleashed onto the streets filled with people. Taking a cue from earlier audience reaction, my 7 years old son clapped. But this time he was all alone in appreciating, as the audience seemed to have rejected the pretty basic CGI.

Joker’s escapades are a class apart, one, for instance, is evident when he blows up the hospital by a remote trigger. He displays finesse, and nonchalance in the act of pressing the remote. On the contrary, Bhairavudu’s histrionics are never caught in the act of performing a crime. While the hospital building detonates supposedly by a time-based detonator, he is only caught grinning. What started as a promising character that could remain in the books for years have stooped down in the climax by an insane fistfight, as the audience squirmed in their seats. All the more, Joker and Bhairavudu are not street fighters; their strength is their intelligence and their nefarious mind. The triumph of the Batman is not judged by the death of the Joker, but by the death of the Joker’s ideology that people can be manipulated for their selfish survival needs. This is translated to lazy sermons given by Shiva that people are united in helping others.

All said and done, more power to you Murugadoss and Mahesh – keep dreaming big, even if it is getting inspired from a benchmarking script, but please uphold the dream through to the execution; and most importantly leave the Tom, Dick, and Gouthams of the world alone to whine.

May Common Sense Prevail!!!

“Life was going on well, and then common sense played along”

The human mind is the most fascinating creation in this universe, far more mystifying than the universe itself. It is complex, chaos, prejudiced, and often confused. There is no single truth, but just perceptions. We can’t master the mind that is housed within us, and that’s a shame. Amidst this confusion lies the saviour of mankind that we seldom respect called common sense. The mind regurgitates the experiences from our upbringing, whereas common sense can think beyond the general boundaries of life. Following are the thoughts on those days when common sense gets as blatantly truthful as possible –

God
We use the term ‘God’ in two different contexts – the first is to refer to the creator of the universe that no one has ever seen in the history of mankind and that no one will ever see in the future. The second is to refer to few individuals that have shown certain elevated characteristics that normal humans cannot emulate. In the inability to see the actual creator, we found solace by attributing divinity to these individuals. For example, Sri Rama, Jesus, Prophet Muhammad to Sai Baba, were extraordinary humans that have displayed exemplary skills relevant to their times. Some exhibited remarkable valour and righteousness, some immense love and compassion, others great knowledge and wisdom. If they were to be born today, they will not have any relevance in the society. In this age of upsurging common sense, there will be no more Gods created. On that front, we are doomed and we have to live all by ourselves.

Religion
Religion is a community of people with similar beliefs. It works like an extended family – sometimes to derive strength from, and sometimes to give a shoulder to weep on. Religion gives vague and hypothetical answers to many questions that we can’t find answers to elsewhere. Religion is not a tool to either learn about the creator or to reach unto him. Instead, it is a prejudiced outlook that depends on the age old scripts that left us to our own interpretations. There is no heaven or hell beyond this life. Those that are fighting for religion in the name of the God have buried their brains deep under their impending graves.

Happiness
It is said that out of all life on the earth, human life is the greatest. It is because of the human ability to be unconditionally blissful, and not because of the human intelligence that can conquer nature and be on the top of the food chain. Without striving to reach to that purest human form of being joyful, we look for happiness at all wrong places and in trivial things such as family, children, money, position, art, travel etc. Even cheaper, we impose insipid purposes for life and look for happiness in achieving those futile targets. Given that we meander around without living the life to its true potential, animals can be said to have taken over better position than humans.

Grief
Grief is self-inflicted 98.999 times out of 100. We blame others and the situations as a cause to our own grief without realizing that no one else is capable of imparting grief except ourselves. We expect others to impart happiness into our lives – from parents, from the spouse, from children, from friends, and even from strangers. We live through expectations in every aspect of life without realizing that life through expectation from others is the cheapest form of living. Little do we realize it is the fundamental right of others to behave the way they wanted. Our internal joy shouldn’t be affected by anyone, including the close ones. Let the chips fall where they may, we should be untouched by grief.

Marriage
It is almost a crime to bring two distinct individuals together and get them to live as one. Marriage is a compromise, a bondage for an individual, regulates a free thinker, and adds blinkers to the explorer of different dimensions of life. But in this society, it is this restriction that gives a purpose to live for. A social human needs a social identity. This identity comes as a package to support social, physical, biological and emotional needs. Human is perverse by birth, and marriage keeps the various aspects of perversion inside the house. In this age of misplaced ideologies, the family gives purpose to live for and saves them from the existential crisis.

Children
This is not a great world to bring children into. Our priorities are confused and our purposes are contrived. Given that, the fundamental quality of humans to bring the children into this world should be the ability to give the children a better world – better not just in terms of wealth, but also nutrition, a perception of life, and the stability in thinking. Those that cannot feed themselves should not beget children. Those that are utterly poor both in economic and psychological aspects should not conceive children. It is cruel to get them to this world and not give them the necessary atmosphere and tools to deal with it. Children can be bundles of joy, moral support etc., but these aspects should only be seen as an offshoot of responsibility.

My tryst with Detachment

“So sorry to let you go” I looked at the watch one last time as I placed it in the shelf. My sister gifted it 6 years ago and now it looks old, beaten, scarred as it endured through the sun, wind, rain and snow along with me all these 6 years. That was a long time association for anyone to have an attachment with. I had been in many such relationships in the past that pinched the heart when I broke up with – the toys I played, the shirts that I wore, the car that I have driven, and even with the rented houses that we lived in. That dejected look at the vacated house regurgitating every possible memory is reminiscent of the feelings of parted lovers. But then we move on to another house, and the bondage goes on from one to the other.

It is in one of those thoughtful moments, I rake up the fundamental vice that we thrive upon called as attachment. Lord Krishna preached through Bhagavad Gita that we should be like a water drop on lotus leaf in the way that the drop stays on the leaf without getting attached to it. The simplicity in that juxtaposition made an immense sense that we can perform actions without being emotionally pulled into it. Later I chanced upon Buddha’s preaching in which he said “attachment is the root of suffering”. These were some profound statements that left individuals to their own imaginations and inferences. Wonderfully put, but it was unfair for them to just preach and not give away the necessary techniques to implement. It’s like luring by saying Biriyani tastes good, but not giving away the recipe to make it ourselves. Still I have taken inorganic approach to understand detachment as a concept through certain mundane aspects of life which took me nowhere. For example, you can’t be detached with your personal relationships, nor even with profession especially in this age of insecurities.

Through careful reflection, it dawned upon much later that to understand the true nature of detachment one should look beyond its definition. It shouldn’t be dissected as a concept, but should be seen as an intrinsic way of living just like life and death. What if the world is seen as an integral part of you? What if every person or every object is seen inclusive within you without separating from you? What if you see a pebble and a gold coin the same way? What if you are not just the body but more than that, as many scriptures prescribe? The question of detachment doesn’t arise. This experience requires a certain degree of intelligence and enlightenment, and I believe that there lived few enlightened souls that walked on this earth. Some people claimed to have spotted them. It’s like alien spotting – you want to be believe it but will always have a sceptic mind. I may have spotted one in my childhood.

Long ago, there used to be a naked man wandering around the streets of my home town chittoor. He randomly appears from nowhere twirling his arms as if doing some ‘yoga mudras’. Some called him mad man and some called him God man. Some pitied him and some detested him. Occasionally he walks into random shops raising his palm seeking alms without speaking a word. Some offered money, some offered food, and some scooted him away. On one such occasion, my father and I were in a shop and this naked man suddenly appeared raising his arms seeking (perhaps) money from my father. Instinctively my father shooed him away as this man’s appearance didn’t fit into our social profile. Few months later when we spotted him again in yet another street, my father voluntarily offered him money. But this man ignored and moved on, not to avenge the previous incident but because he didn’t need anything at that point of time. Perhaps he was that enlightened man that we talk about, probably the richest in the whole world, devoid of any attachments, devoid of mortal needs. He was most blissful in the way he is.

Until then, I can only take rudimentary steps towards detachment by not getting into another new relationship that could cause long term bondage. For example, don’t beget yet another child, don’t buy yet another watch.

Speaking of watches, I saw a beautiful watch during a casual web browsing a few days ago. It has the curves to crave for, and the dial to die for. It was sheer temptation as another bondage beckons. My hands wavered around “Buy Now” button from the moment I saw it. But in a sudden bout of enlightenment, I withdrew the temptation as if exhaling a whiff of air. It was that simple. I basked in this new found glory, so simple yet so profound. But this bout of wisdom lasted for few more seconds until I found a note underneath that I didn’t notice until then – “Half price. Offer ends today”

Bahubali 2: Epic Conclusion

The Bahubali mania entered our house almost a month ago when the trailers were released. We have seen many larger than life movies such as Avatar, Avengers and The lord of the rings, but surprisingly none of them had the effect that Bahubali had – probably because of the emotional connect to the regional story, and must also be owing to the marketing strategy that the makers deployed through various channels to increase movie’s reach. My six year old son had replaced his style icon from spider man to Bahubali, and his current favourite movie from ‘Kong: Skull Island’ to Bahubali, and understandably so.

Before we entered the theatre, I warned my son to empty his bladder that there will be no wee breaks, for I didn’t want to miss any single scene of this visual extravaganza, but partly also because I paid a ruthless $40 per ticket even for the child and I want bang for every buck. The titles began to roll showing a recap of memorable scenes from ‘Bahubali: the beginning’ etched through sculpted images with the backdrop of Keeravani’s mellifluous ‘Oka Pranam’ (Telugu version), followed by Amarendra Bahubali’s grand entrance against a raging elephant. This giant start has asserted my cause to pay attention to the happenings that has been rendered so well on screen.

I normally try to watch any movie as objectively as possible without any empathy on the story/content/characters, but my critic’s hat was instantly replaced by that of a fan as the proceedings unfolded.  The movie was engaging right from the word go that it didn’t give me the scope to astutely observe the other aspects of movie such as cinematography, camera position, the supporting actors etc., which I am used to look for.

There is a lot to like in this film. Its scale is far bigger than part 1, and as the makers suggested, there is so much emotional drama that never bores us. It is a simple story of two cousins’, one upright withholding dharma from all corners, and the other deceitful whose innocent smile hides far more sinister mind along with ever scheming father to usurp the throne and still wanting more.

The screenplay was tight that there seemed to be no extra scene. Contradictory to the many reviews, the humour in first half is engaging that shows the other side of Kattappa. The Kunthala kingdom is enchanting with the CGI looking far better than its predecessor. The only complaint, if I have any, is that Devasana was a bit more aggressive than required for a bride-to-be during her confrontations with Sivagami. If only she played smart, she may have even saved Bahubali, or probably not. But then alas, even Bahubali can’t escape the saas-bahu fiasco (pun intended).

Now the infamous question “why Kattappa killed Bahubali?” was more of an expression that’s used to raise intrigue, as honestly, I was more interested in whodunit than ‘why’dunit. The sequences leading to Bahubali’s death is believable and poignant that there will more likely not be a dry eye watching it. The screenplay was interlaced by creativity at every possible level – palm trees used as catapults, bulls with flaming horns, multi arrow archery, telescope created through crystal viewers (reminded me of Shrek series). A discerning eye can find many faults in the making – for instance, the quiver never falls short of arrows despite delivering many in a fight. But I chose to ignore them in order to keep the fun afloat.

With the larger than life imagery clamouring for every attention, the almost 3 hour duration and three unwarranted pee breaks claimed by my son (thanks to the jumbo coke) didn’t appear long and I didn’t want the saga to finish.

Now as I sit back to reflect on the movie, I silently salute the might of the director that has left nothing to imagination, but instead converted every imagination to reality. In short, it has taken movie watching experience to a new level.

As much as we like to see it one more time, the mental effort to muster another $40 each for the entire family seem to be a true bahubalian task.

Hypocrisy Is Our Birth Right!

Very early in the morning

“Are you ok?” I stifled a yawn

“Yes” replied my wife

“You don’t seem alright?” I further probed

“Nothing, it’s just a Facebook post” she looked at her phone

“What about it?”

“Well, there is this post about an old age home back in India. They have interviewed few parents on how their children leave them unto themselves in their old age. It is heart wrenching”

“Ah, I have seen that too” I looked at her “My heart bleeds upon hearing such. Its atrocious how these scoundrels leave the parents in pursuit of their personal happiness”

“Hmm” she concurred

“You shouldn’t see Facebook as soon as you wake up” I said as an afterthought

“You are watching your mobile too”

“Well, I am seeing twitter. Its news, unlike Facebook. It’s different”

“Right”

“By the way, remind me to have a skype call with my mother this evening. It’s been a week, and the last time I spoke to her she hasn’t been keeping well”

Little after mid-day

“Am I late?”

“No, we just got started” spoke my colleague munching on the food

“Only 3 of us. Where’s the 4th one?” I asked opening my lunch box

“He said he will join” replied the 3rd colleague

“Have you heard of Bangalore molestation on New Year’s Eve?” I started a topic

“Yeah, few rogues molested women on the roads. My blood boiled reading that news” the 2nd colleague fumed

“Where do these guys come from? Don’t they have sisters?” the 3rd colleague exclaimed

“The pathetic part is that the onlookers just gazed on without helping. The police should shoot them on the spot” I passed the verdict

“Men molest; Movies objectify; Society restricts; No country for women” the 2nd one whirled his head

“What’s up guys” joined the 4th colleague

“Hey, you are too early. We are almost done” I joked

I brought a news. Guess what?” the 4th one continued “the rumours are true. They have selected that pretty girl that came to the interview the other day. She will be our new team member, joining us next Monday”

“What are you saying?” we raised our eyebrows

“You heard me. At last some motivation at work” the 4th one chuckled

“I didn’t see her the other day. How does she look?” quipped the 3rd one

“Ha. If I answer, I bet you will cancel your work-from-home shift on Monday”

“You better bet, and I still would” the 3rd one snickered

An hour after evening

“I love office parties”

“Same here” responded my Aussie colleague

“What do you think this is?” I showed the first platter on the table

“Beef pie” he responded

“Nah, I can’t eat this. How about this?” I peered into the next platter

“Ham I suppose, mate”

“Eww, will not eat this too”

“That’s chicken” he pointed at the next platter

“Great” I took two servings

“You don’t eat beef and ham, I reckon?”

“Yeah, ethical reasons” I bit my tongue “I don’t eat chicken either on Saturdays”

“Ha Ha” he continued “what’s all this fuss about…erm, Jallikattu? Did I pronounce it correctly? Is it a fun game?”

“It is just a bull sport from ancient times. Unlike similar sports across the globe, the bull here is treated with reverence, before and after. The intention is only to tame the bull – just the man vs beast thing, and not harm it. And once it is done, the bull is served well” I explained

“You guys seem to have great respect to the cow, don’t you?”

“Absolutely. We Indians live by certain principles that we take pride in. Non-violence towards animals, and respect to the cows is one of them” my chest expanded

“That’s not entirely true” intruded my other Indian colleague from across the table with a grin on his face and two beef pies on his plate

An hour before sleep

“Don’t watch iPad while having dinner. That’s a bad habit. I told you many times” I raised my voice

“Why, Daddy?” asked my son

“You should concentrate while eating. That’s good for digestion. Switch it off”

“Ok. But why are you watching TV when having dinner?”

“I am an adult. I can watch news on the TV” I chewed a mouthful of dal rice

“That’s not fair, Daddy” he switched off the iPad

“Look, son. We tell you what is good for you. You will grow up a good man if you listen to us”

“Ok”

“Now tell me, who do you like the most – me or your mummy?” I kissed him

“It’s you, Daddy” he didn’t wait a second

“What did you say?” his mom screeched from behind

“I just fooled Daddy. I like you the most, Mummy” I heard him whisper into her ears

“That’s my boy!!!” she giggled

Anarchy of Democracy – Road to Revolution

It was in early 1990’s, we students were attentively listening to the social studies teacher in a sultry classroom made with thatched roof. The teacher read through a sentence from the text book “India is a developing country”. She said that there are few developed countries in this world such as America and Great Britain, but we are still a developing country. We didn’t bother to know the definition of a developed country, but our little egos were hurt with that comparison. One of the fellow pupils quipped “why are we still a developing country and not developed like America yet?” The teacher replied that India has been developing from the last 45 years since independence from British in 1947, and it normally takes few more years to be completely developed. She further assured, perhaps not to disappoint us, that when we become adults we will live in a developed country. Our ego was replaced with aplomb.

Later, my parents confirmed the teacher’s claims on India’s development from the time of Independence. For example, they never saw electricity in their childhood but now there is electricity despite frequent power cuts. They used to walk long distances to fetch water from the well, but now there are bore pumps right across the streets that we can self-fetch water from. There is better employment despite continuous proliferation of radicals in the society. That’s a great development in 45 years indeed.

Now it’s been 25 years from that day in the class. The electricity cuts remained same; water shortage has worsened; the age old democratic vices such as corruption, reservations, money laundering, and tax evasions are prevalent; the GDP has improved owing to the globalization. To be fair, India is so diverse that every section/state/community has its own requirement and expectation from the country. This diversity is taken as advantage by many political parties for their vested interests.

It has become fashionable for the general public to discuss over these issues, but do nothing about it. There is no point in debating on corruption whilst participating in corruption erstwhile.

The rich continue to be rich. They have the knack of understanding the system well and grow up through the loop holes. Once on a train, during a pep talk, a fellow passenger spilled beans that he is carrying huge cash in a sack for a college seat. We were amused at the idea and wished him luck. We didn’t realize then that his selection into college impedes the selection of another merit student, and his stashed cash has an indirect cascading impact on the water tankers that we receive once a week, and on the mud roads in my street.

The middle class is too busy in their continuous struggle for survival. In their struggle, they don’t mind encouraging corruption and nepotism. They participate in caste/religion based politics. They prefer the likes of private chit funds that promise lucrative returns over regularised banks. They are too busy to feel moral responsibility for the nation, and I am as guilty as charged. Once in Singapore, our apartment security guard jumped out of the seat horrified when I offered him a dollar for allowing me to use his landline phone. His fear of corruption is of no comparison to that Indian officer who casually shrugged while stashing Rs.500 bribe offered to deliver my rightful certificate. My guilt while smiling at the easily acquired certificate is of no comparison to that I felt in front of the security guard.

The poor are helpless, and do not feel that they are part of the system. ‘Upliftment of poor’ has shamelessly been on the agenda of political parties over 70 years. The parties try to appease the poor by giving incentives than by working on the root cause of the poverty.

Unfortunately, our minds are conditioned with these practices that we don’t see them as issues any more. They have gone under skin, under the muscles, into the blood. The change in the mindset doesn’t come through baby steps. It needs dialysis. It needs chemotherapy. It needs revolution. A revolution similar to that makes us change our lifestyle overnight after being diagnosed with diabetes. A revolution similar to that makes an earthquake victim to look for houses with strong foundation thereafter. A revolution that makes every earning citizen to feel the moral responsibility to pay taxes and then question the government on how they spend every single penny.

Revolutions cause grave inconvenience to the public. If you abolish the reservation system, there will be blood on the streets. But once those blood stains are washed off, there will be a new beginning of development.

Revolutions make people stand on the roads. But it is on these roads, I hope, the rich will reflect on the age old ill practices and vow to think about nation’s development along with theirs.

It is on these roads, I hope, the middle class will imbibe strong love for nation and look for prosperity within the norms of economy.

It is on these roads, I hope, the poor will feel inclusive in this society as they look up at the sky and hope for a brighter India.

Life is an Affliction

The world out there is inherently beautiful,
The reflection of it in my mind is unfortunately not!!

It dawned and the day soon slipped into dusk. Days turned to months and then to years. I realize yet again that the life is meaningless, and this world is a very sad place to live. This is an unfortunate but the ultimate truth. I find a sense of despondency behind every living being created in the universe, and it is immaculately designed that way. I am not looking through the wrong eyes, am not under the influence of emotions, and am not playing the game of perspectives either. Life is a long and moronic journey till death. Shakespeare said that the world is a stage and we are stage players. We enter, play our parts and then exit. The ulterior interpretation is that the stage players sulk behind their makeups to put up a ‘good’ show for others, and that’s exactly what we do.

Human mind is the greatest yet complex creation of the creator. In reality it is created that way as part of his sinister design. Mind is multi layered. It is always under the influence of hypnosis. It doesn’t have the ability to differentiate ultimate truth from lie. It gets bored easily and take refuge in diversions – play, education, job, marriage, children, welfare, and so on. Mind is ever scheming with innate desires. Life is nothing but a series of desires, one after the other, and the pursuit to satisfy them. Desires are persistent and manifests in multiple forms as we age – I want food, better food, job, better job, life, better life, and so on. Listen to the mind for a minute and you will understand. Desires never end, and it is insane to contain them through the methods prescribed by scriptures and psychiatrists.

Happiness is a myth, and so is sadness. It is yet another passing state of mind manifested through (un)successful quench of a desire(s), yet we fall behind the pursuit of happiness. Nietzsche said there are no facts, only interpretations. If I interpret a result in one particular way, then I am happy else I am sad. A word uttered by someone can take me through myriad emotions based on my interpretation of it, and that’s enough to prove the sorry state of our minds. ‘Hope’ is a funny thing – it is the same ‘hope’ that I share with a sheep that is feeding on grass in a butcher shop. They say faith moves mountains. My faith leaps high when I listen to good music or read some good quotes on internet. So isn’t it a fake state of mind? The world is a result of million reflections through million eyes. Life is made of a series of fake emotions.

In reality, there is no real purpose of life. Earning money or living happily are just materialistic journeys and not the real purposes of life. Many years ago, I argued with my late grandfather that Shah Jahan got it completely wrong in building Taj Mahal as a symbol of love for his wife. It may have remained as a great monument in the history that millions across the world admire, but what use was it to Shah Jahan and his wife who didn’t live to see it. That said, the optimists and philosophers across the world have done a great job in instilling false purpose.

If you look at it objectively, there is immense positivity in Death. Death may be beyond the comprehension of a material mind, but it essentially stops the mind chatter, and puts all the hypnosis to rest. It technically puts him/her to rest in permanent state of peace. It is perfectly ok to rest in peace permanently than to wake up to see what’s happening in the world.

People come and go. If on an average, people live for 80 years, then every 80 years there are new set of people living in this world and yet they live with their own idiosyncrasies and learn nothing from their ancestor miseries. While I am amazed at the amount of stupidity that we house within, I am equally amused at our innocent spirit to live through it. I was watching a puppet show on TV the other day along with my son. The set up was grandeur. A human marionette had a brazen outlook and said to the donkey “This is my life. I will live it my way”. The audience smiled, and I laughed.

The Beast Inside Me

(Following is an excerpt from the diary of a confused man who was born back in 20th century)

An epic battle has just ended, and I lost to the beast inside me. I sat on the couch and poured a drink in the glass to concede my defeat. The beast smiled, and I started to write.

Let me introduce the beast first. Some call him the inner demon, some call him the alter ego, and some even call him the monkey in the mind. I called him the beast because of the sheer power that he exerts to dominate me in all facets of life. He is the master of my body, and thereby my senses. In Bhagavad Gita, a human life was compared to that of riding a chariot driven by five horses. The chariot stands for the body. The five horses are the five senses. The reins stand for the mind, and the driver stands for the intellect. In my case the beast, more or less, is the driver and I am the rider. We travel together, but our destinations are different.

My life is nothing but a constant battle with him. My success purely depends on how well I overpower him on any day. I want to wake up early, he wants to sleep; I want to exercise, he wants to relax; I want to eat what’s healthy, he wants to eat what’s tasty; I want to aim higher in the spiritual path, he wants to aim higher in material gains; I want to push through the limits, he wants to sleep through the comforts. I am ever complacent and he is ever greedy. I have to face him first before I face the world.

A spiritual guru once advised on TV that one can tame the beast through meditation. I tried, but failed. However the meditation helped me to comprehend the true power of this beast. It requires more than just will to subdue him, which is a paradox in itself.

We have conflict over many things, so we agreed upon having some equal grounds – on the subject of eating meat, I have objection to killing animals. But he argued that the animals do not have purpose in life, and that the God has created them for our consumption with us being the higher ups in the food chain. So we agreed on subjective consumption based on certain types and certain days in a week.

There are certain concepts on which both our ideologies are misplaced – one day I was overwhelmed with compassion and donated few dollars to a homeless man on the way to office. The beast argued that this act was performed by him, and not by me. While compassion is a virtue, what I did was certainly a selfish act as the donation has helped in gratification of my senses. The subject was too complex, and I gave up from further retrospection.

Our debates continued –

“I am eternal, you are material” I poked

“You are a myth, I am the truth” he argued

“Your only purpose is survival, I pursue the higher truth” I mocked

“You are the confused soul, I am the pristine body” he retorted

On this reply, however, he wasn’t totally wrong. The body is innocent and pure like water – it is created out of biological reactions and takes the form from what it feeds upon. Its sole purpose is survival and it remains truthful to it. The so called human vices such as greed, ego, envy, anger and lust are its natural ornaments and are integral part of its survival eco system. The same cannot be said about me. I am confused on my purpose, and I suffer from existential crisis.

I see the physical world through his eyes, and he is my only foe. I can conquer the world, alas, only if I subdue him.

Back to the present, I sipped the last drop and placed the glass back on the table. The beast, now satiated, appeared to have retired to his dark corners. My thoughts flew like a perennial river as I typed this. The beast whimpered slowly “Enough writing this, no one will read this anyway”. I ignored, but he continued “Switch on the TV and check out the new titles on Netflix”. I replied “No way”. But then he winked.