ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACKWARD

conversion

When Narendra Modi was elected as the Prime Minister of India, I was overjoyed. After all, I had voted for the first time and it had been to bring this epitome of success to power. I wanted a relief from the scams that were continuously being unearthed from the deep, dark recesses of the parties in power. I wanted a relief from politicians running rampant and arresting any innocent citizen for stating their opinions on social networking sites. I wanted a country that would be brought back to its feet with revolutionary economic reforms and renewed vigor in development. I wanted a country free from unnecessary limitations that would curb the democratic authenticity of this country. Thus, I was very happy when the prime minister announced Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (Prime Minister’s People Money Scheme, a scheme for comprehensive financial inclusion), Swaccha Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean Indian Mission, a national level campaign by the Government of India, covering 4041 statutory towns to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country) and admonished ministers who behaved inappropriately.

Lately, the Hindutva leaders have reigned in the attention with the news of religious conversions that are happening all over the country. The Ghar Wapsi (return home) program, that plans to help Christians and Muslims that had earlier converted from Hinduism to reconvert to their original religion, has been set up in different regions. About sixty Dalit Christians reconverted to Hinduism in Kerala, and many other programmes have been setup by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (an Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist non-governmental organization) all over the country to lure in people to reconvert.  Even though it seems like all there is to it is the news of some people converting to a different religion, it fills me with apprehension. It feels as though we are back to rudimentary fundamentals that we were supposed to have left behind a long time ago. One would think that India has come far ahead and that now its priorities lie in developing the country, but what the people of India have to worry about instead is religion based reservations, caste based reservations, and now forcible conversions to Hinduism. Of course, the members of organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Organization or National Patriotic Organization is a right-wing charitable, educational, volunteer, Hindu nationalist, non-governmental organization) will claim that it is voluntary, and it is high time that we brought back and strengthened Hindu culture, and that muslims and Christians forcibly converted or lured in the poor and the mistreated.

I cannot help but feel cornered and frustrated with what the ruling governments do each time their pressure groups change. Is it not time for us to stop meddling with a person’s beliefs just because she/he doesn’t feel the same?

Advertisements

The Times We Live In

Ten years ago, when I was a little child, when my mother told me that we lived in the Kalyuga the Age of Downfall (The fourth stage of the world development that we are currently in. As the corruption gradually developed wider in the earlier stages), I would screw my face up, and tell her that the world seemed pretty nice to me even though I was not happy with my name, my school, my teachers, and with the neighbor who would pop up at my place each time to take my candy.

Now that I’m a grown-up, it upsets me to accept that this age truly is the Kalyuga. After all, how can one explain barely fifteen year olds getting pregnant or the vulgar songs that play at every night club- be it Hindi or English or the leers a woman gets even if she is wearing a salwar-kameez (an Indian attire worn by majority of women. It is a pair of loose pajamas and a long dress) or eminent politicians advising women to stop going out at night because they are too lazy to do anything about harassment?  The horror of the above list diminishes as the newspapers fill their spaces with gory details of the rape of little children in the most unthinkable ways, of the world fighting for no reason in the name of religion and people from all over the world coming together- not to promote peace or cleanliness- but to terrorize the rest of the world! That is not even the end of it all. How in the world does one explain killing about two hundred innocent children at a sacred institution where they went to grow and bud into better humans? There lie thousands of hopes and wishes and aspirations buried along with the lifeless little bodies of the helpless, never to turn into anything more than hopes and wishes and aspirations. Who are to blame for that? Are we to blame for the selfish leaders of Pakistan who are deluded by the power entrusted to them by the people of Pakistan? Or are we to blame the Taliban? Or are we to blame Lord Krishna for predicting that we were going to live in a gory world?

To me, the people with big guns and by that I mean the terrorists like Taliban and the members of Islamic State seem to be the face of the problem whereas it runs very deep. The village of Ajmal Kasab , the terrorist (of the Lashkar-E-Toiba terrorist group) who was sentenced to death for killing hundreds of innocent citizens of India in the 26/11 attack in Mumbai, cried over him and cursed India. They even pelted stones at the reporters who had gone to cover the story and instead of condemning the horrifying act, they worshipped him.  I still remember the maid who worked at our place in 2008, Zahira, told my mother once that Osama Bin Laden was their God, and that he was the rightful ruler of the world. As astounding as that is, it does not seem to surprise me now. Families tell their sons that they can live in whichever fashion they want to and that the daughters are to stay at home and cover themselves from head to toe. And if they are harassed even after that, well too bad, it is still the girl’s fault because she provoked the “pious” man who can do no wrong. Men recruit little children and train them into doing wrongful things because these children have been taught that it is their duty to kill for religion, or that their families are living in peace and comfort because of what they are doing.

What we are told is what we believe. People are brainwashed and told things that they eventually start believing. It is similar to a little child believing in the tooth-fairy or magic or monsters under the bed. I believe the problem starts at the base, it lies in what we are taught is right. To curb the big problem of terrorism, I believe people must be shown how to interpret situations in a different way than they do right now. People must be educated- in the right manner- in a way that promotes harmony and peaceful living rather than destruction and violence.

The Trip- Day 3 and Day 4

DSC05415DSC05344DSC05338

The next day we visited Tsongmo Lake, the holy lake in Gangtok, about 12,400ft above sea level. As the roads wound upwards, I found myself a bit bored because of the rain that poured insistently. It seemed like we were more on a mission to a gory work than the happy, tourist times. The condition of the roads was bad. We drove on the potholes ridden roads and it was scary because the driver drove perilously on the edge. But as we ascended, we saw huge waterfalls cutting roads and thundering and descending downwards to an apparent nothingness.  I say that because the visibility was so poor that one could not see beyond a meter. I could see a marked difference between the heights in Uttarakhand and Sikkim. The chill becomes cutting and unforgiving in Uttarakhand, whereas it seems as if the heights are calling to you in Sikkim. As we went up higher, there were notice boards informing us of being under Chinese observation. We stayed at the lake for a while. It was here that I saw a yak for the first time. They are adorable ox like animals with curly white or black hair. Their horns and torso was covered with decorative clothes to attract customers to ride on them. It was afternoon as we started descending. It has been and will be the most strikingly beautiful thing I have ever seen. On one side, blindingly bright clouds shielded the sight of what lay below them and on the other, waterfalls cascading down on the moss ridden surface of the mountains. The view was so overwhelming that all thoughts of boring monotony and restlessness to reach the hotel room fled and were replaced by awe. It was exactly what children imagine heaven to be- fluffy bright white clouds to jump on and sleep in, and beautiful scenery at your disposal all the time. As I slept that night, flashes of the scenery haunted me and filled me with yearning to see it one more time.

DSC05399DSC05347DSC05213DSC05215

The next day we visited the famous monastery. The walls that led us to the main worshipping place were adorned with praying rolls till the top of the mountain, where the monastery was situated. Unlike the Hindu temples, red, blue, green colors dominated the building. The walls were awash with a very different style of painting, depicting the folklores. The sanctum sanctorum of the worshiping area was quiet and calm. And the same feeling rushed into me as I entered it. Intricately woven scrolls hung down from the ceiling and lamps flickered as wind rushed in. the most enchanting part of the sanctorum was the gigantic idol of Buddha, serenely sitting cross-legged. As we walked down the mountain to the car, we came across a very amusing scene. Generally, one expects cats to scamper away as soon as they see humans. Here, a cat sat stoically as children tried to bother it. Some other cats slept without cares, and some rolled along with dogs.

DSC05222DSC05273DSC05413As we rested in our hotel room that night, I knew the coming days were going to be as good as the past four days had been and I was certainly looking forward to what all delights the east had in store for me.

Television Needs A Vision

Image

People say that watching television is a bad thing to do. They will put before you a list, listing the bad effects of watching television. I am aware of them. The researchers tell you that it is bad for your health. They might tell you that it makes your functioning slow and that it makes you dumb. But to be honest, I love watching television. It takes me to another world; a world of happiness, of innumerable possibilities. For me, it is a very pleasurable activity. I have recently switched to Indian television. I have been watching snippets of soap operas, mythological drama, even comedy shows. i was left horrified. And I kept asking myself if airing all of this was the right thing to do.

Image

Ever since I have had a sense of understanding of things that go around, I have watched TV. serials with my mother or my cousins. And all I have noticed is that Indian programmes cover one topic, the relationship in joint families. I particularly remember two serials of that time. One was all about a righteous daughter-in-law who is shown overcoming obstacles that stand in the way of her family’s happiness; and the other one was about two lovers who were never together and their love kept changing and they had many children out of marriage. The characteristic thing about them was that there were many plotting women who were devious and wanted the worst for everyone but themselves. Their characters were as hideous as they looked with their make up on. Each episode had lesser dialogues than the dramatic music in between, and the story went at a snail slow speed. If one program was popular, the other channels would follow and give way to a hundred more serials of the same type. The serials which I mentioned above went on for eight or seven years and there was planning and plotting right till the end. It became so ridiculous, watching the number of villainous women increasing one by one. Fourteen years later, I saw some change in Indian television when the SONY channel introduced a series of new ideas, one involving an estranged princess, one with two people who had grown out of the usual age of marriage, and one with a wife handling six childish men of the family. It was like a fresh air wafting through Indian television. But yesterday, I saw that nothing had changed. There lacks creativity. It is the same planning and plotting by devious women, trying to break their own happy family. In 2008, a serial started off involving two children victim of child marriage, and it goes on to show how the child daughter-in-law copes up with everything. The show was set in Rajasthan. The concept of filming each serial in Rajasthan thus emerged. And now, whichever channel one switches to, the same is found. And now, to get even more attention, there are people happy and getting away with rape or having extra marital affairs and people are still stuck on mothers-in-law or sisters-in-law planning to oust their daughters-in-law.

Image

I do not understand why the creative directors would not think of anything new. If nothing, they could at least copy the other shows. The cooking show that was copied was so dramatized, it became unbearable to watch. I think the TV industry must move on and rather than stretching one concept to unbearable levels, for many many years, they could end the idea before it stales. The dramatization must be curbed a nit too. No one needs loud music at every intense moment; a shot of expressive eyes could work as much magic. And the male dominance that is depicted in about every serial these days is gut wrenching. I hate the way a man is allowed to bully his wife into eating or accepting his extra-marital affair or his decisions which are stupid. The objectification and the cheap levels a comedy show went to, just to grasp at more TRPs is even more saddening. Creativity must be revived in the most affecting industry. So many young minds who sit with their mothers to accompany them during television watching are affected. So are these young mothers, or old mothers-in-law who when have nothing to do, are suspicious of motives behind their sisters-in-law or adopted daughters. The stale ideas are just poisoning the minds of roots of the family, because it is these women who keep a family together.

What To Wear

Bcm4k_FCUAAD2cu

 

I recently saw a post in which a lady figure was wearing different clothes- some deep necked, some really short, some very tight, one in a bikini, and one naked. And in the end, a very important line was written, “Rape is never the victim’s fault”. It is so true. No matter what a woman is wearing, whether it is the most provocative dress in the world, it is always the rapist’s fault, and nothing justifies the act.

When somebody justifies a gory act like rape, they state that she was asking for it because she was dressed a certain way. But it is just a justification and it is unforgivable. But whenever something like that happens, a question pops up in my mind- “Isn’t that what we are taught? Aren’t we told to take care of what we wear on streets because there are too many people leering at you even when you have covered yourself up?” Well, that is the case in India. We are told to cover ourselves up, from head to toe, women covering their faces with scarves, wearing long sleeved tops and loose jeans in summers on streets. Ask any commoner who travels via state buses. “I cannot afford wearing a sleeveless blouse when I travel in buses. It is bad as it is even when I cover myself up” said a woman when I talked to her about it.

There is always a feeling of guilt when a woman wears hot pants, or a tube top because of the way she has been brought up. It has been conditioned into her mind to think of her and other women through the masochist point of view. She has been taught to look at herself as an object, ready to be at their disposal. So when she wears something other than a saree, or salwar kameez, or half sleeved or long sleeved tops and a loose pair of jeans, she feels it is inappropriate and provocative.

The others, who have not been conditioned that way, prefer covering themselves up at least in the streets because they realize their state of insecurity and vulnerability. They realize that although covering them up will not prevent a rape, which is only because of some perverse mentality, but it will make her roaming around easy and fewer leers would be directed towards her.

It is the social bonds that a woman tries to break herself from, and this patriarch, chauvinist, masochist society breaks them down. Every child, be it a boy or a girl is conditioned to view women as inferiors, objects, okay to be grabbed at, fondled with. It is dirty and depressing. But it is the ugly truth. Once we start clearing out crap like that, teaching our children to respect women, see them as equals, perhaps we might as well have a chance to wear what we want to and roam around as freely and fearlessly as people in other countries do.

“We Don’t Love You”

zoozo

 

When does a parent feel distraught, exasperated, annoyed and anxious? When their children are in some sort of trouble, when they feel that their children are shutting them out of their lives. Everything that could possibly bother children bothers their parents. Imagine how broken a parent must be, when her/his teenage daughter screeches, “ARGH! I hate all of you! I wish I was dead! I wonder why you brought me into this world, when all you had to do is love him!” (Him- the younger sibling), or a child nonchalantly repeats, “I know you don’t love me mother, don’t fret over it”

The parents claim that they do not understand why the elder siblings are so jealous of the younger ones, and why they believe that their parents love the younger one more. I believe parents themselves play a major role in making children believe that. A child who has been reared alone for say, four or five years, is used to being pampered and has been the only one with all attention showered upon her. She realizes that she can wrap anybody around her little finger, and that even if she throws a tantrum, it will be borne with patience. She never has to share her belongings with anyone, has everything at her disposal. She can preen like a princess and nobody would bring her down. Even the parents are blissfully happy to have a child so pretty and adorable and smart, because they are blinded by parental love for their only child.

The parents are happy, and so is the child. But it is after the second child is born, that the problem starts. Parents expect their first child to be very happy and excited to have a new playmate. And initially, the child is, she asks what her sister/brother is doing in her mamma’s tummy, or if she/he is listening to what they are talking about, or if she can talk to her sister/brother. And all is well.

When the second child is born, there is a flurry of activity. In India, a function is held to welcome every child- every relative visits the parents and the second child, coo over her, gift her clothes or toys, eat, and leave. The first child does not care much about it all, because she believes all will be normal in just a while. And that is when it gets ugly for her. As the other child grows, she realizes that the attention that was previously bestowed upon her has now shifted to this alien creature that came from mamma’s tummy. She will scream, or cry, or even be violent sometimes to gain attention. This makes the parents wary of her. They shrink a bit away from her and bestow even more attention to the younger one as they see her as a prey to the older one’s scathing attacks. That agitates the older child more, and thus the cycle goes on.

This goes on for about ten or fifteen more years, when either the siblings come to terms with each other, or the rift deepens. And thus it is embedded in the older child, that no one will budge to take it back to older times, to make her feel loved and attended to again, that no one loves her anymore. And when these declarations, passionate or nonchalant, are made to parents, they are appalled. They agonize over the times they had sacrificed to spend with these ungrateful children which had come out of them. Of course there is a child’s fault in being selfish and unthinking and uncooperative, because she has to bear with the younger one’s tantrums, but aren’t the parents a wee bit responsible for being too consumed by everything other than the first child? The reason parents give for being so apathetic is, “why, the first is always the first! She has always been the privileged one! Poor child (second child) has always worn the worn out clothes and never complained!”. But little so they realize that it is never JUST new clothes or toys a child craves for, she craves for attention, and love and care, which the parents forget to divide as the second child comes in. It makes the parents look like they are screaming “We do not love you”, but silently.

So even though it is agonizing and annoying to hear a child whining about how her parents don’t love her, parents must accept it, if true, and try to make it better, at an initial level, because then the thought becomes deep-rooted, and hard to be rooted out.

 

WARNING!

betabeat

There was a boy. He felt worthless. And he wanted to become something big in his life. What is that he did first? He decided to use less cell phone, disconnect himself from this vast world through the internet to have some time for him. Did he really do it? Or did he just think of leaving it all but decided to use it nevertheless, gently trying to convince himself that it was just for a while? Nobody knows, because I tell my storyteller to shut up right here.

What my imaginary storyteller was aiming at was that no matter whom they are, the first thing we blame of our failures is a small object called mobile phone. When it was first introduced in India 2003, it was a bizarre object which magically connected two people just by dialing their phone number. At least that was what was told to the ignorant old people by their equally ignorant children. No one then might have thought of how dominant it would become in our lives, and so sneakily, that we never realized it. So much so, that our life without a mobile phone these days is simply unimaginable. Be it a small child of five years, who passes his time by playing games on his mother’s phone, a student, who thinks it is nothing but normal to change his display picture everyday on facebook or whatsapp, that pouting for photos is the most obvious thing to do. Or that he has to show his friends everywhere he has been by checking in, or be it the old people. For them, a mobile phone is an absolute necessity to keep a track on their children’s activities or reply to emails or keep in touch with their friends.

People are so engrossed in the phones, that they do not even realize when and how their time flies by. Every night I promise myself that I would not use my cell phone for more than five minutes, and just as I take my eyes off the screen to check the time, I realize that it has already been three hours of me using my phone.

A simple gadget which helps your call people is less time taking than the one with an internet facility. And some might put arguments against it, saying that it is the quick facility of internet on phones that has made us better equipped and more informed. But question yourself- how much time do you spend talking to your friends through internet than using it for banking, or searching information or just working? Yes, this facility, so easily available, has made us better equipped, but all it has provided us is, an easier way of throwing away our precious time. Had this precious time been used to think about where India has sunk or what kind of politicians are really are ruling us, India could be a better country already.

Where such mind numbing facilities have been made available to the most rural parts of India, be it the auto-wallah who is taking you somewhere, or the butcher nearby, or your housemaid, or the adivasi that lives in the jungles, or the banjara who lives in the desert- each one of them has it., whereas most of them are blissfully ignorant of who is ruling them, or what his/her ideas are to make their lives better. Is that the reason we are so easily led to believe anything anyone says?

Although a better phone is defined as the one with every facility – be it the whatsapp, or facebook, or snapchat or whatever, these really are the evils of the society, barring you from thinking of anything but about the little comfortable bubble that surrounds you. And it should never be like that.

Because that gives a wide, unquestioned opportunity to fools, corrupted minds and bodies, and utterly selfish people to rule over us, who think of nothing, but gaining their interests and miserably failing but still trying to rule the world, when their own country is staggering, wounded by the fatal attacks they have made on us, the common people as a whole, our country.

The whole generation, be it the fluently  English speaking elitist children, or the gali ke tharki (vulgar vagabonds who lurk around dirty streets, ogling at every girl that passes by), all mesmerized by a small palm sized entity, blissfully ignorant, working like mules, to pour their hard earned money to the big sharks, and what for? For a few days of pseudo-pleasure, which turns to restlessness if denied to you.