Wednesday, October 3, 2018

To God Or Not To Guard


A brilliant and brave attempt to question the idea of God through a personified idea of God. Do we live better staying united or with stronger walls built between us? A vada story gives a perspective in this clip from an old Tamil movie titled Rudra Thandavum.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Story Untold

This a story of long ago. Not a very interesting story or one that we can read out loud to our children before their bedtime yet one that must never the less be told and be known. An incident that is unsaid, unmentioned and lies unwrapped in the graves of history. The ghosts of the past, however, cannot be hidden for long and an untold truth must be told and errors accepted, at least to satiate the souls. Perhaps, this story will break our perception of the 'other' and give a better perspective into our own conscience and the idea of justice that should be created with informed choice rather than coached and directed ideas manufactured through populist beliefs and propaganda that have been forced into constructing prejudice and bigotry in our minds while comfortably misjudging the other.

This is a (sadly true) story of General Wheeler, a British General, who had camped in Cawnpore, India, along with his wife, son, daughter and close to 900 others who had by then made India their home for over 50 years. He could even converse well in Hindi and was very confident that a sepoy mutiny - an uprising in 1857 - would pass away without affecting him or his camp for the kind of influence he felt he had in the community and the arms and ammunition he had shared with the Indian sepoys and Kings. He was wrong.
To move on to the lesser known part of the story for many Indians, on June 27th, 1857 when the sepoy mutiny started spreading out in India, the sepoys stepped into General Wheeler's Camp in Cawnpore led by Nana Sahib, a Maratha Peshwa, who was radiating a sum total of irritation for having been denied the pension his father was receiving and was also in the verge of losing the kingdom as he was an adopted child and not a legal heir as was demanded by Lord Dalhousie's Doctrine of Lapse - a British annexation policy that was aimed at helping the Brits extend their colony through policy than war.
While the old Wheeler was sure that Nana, a good friend of his, who had even received a good supply of arms and ammunition from him recently, would not attack him or his camp, as they say, 'For a man walking with a hammer, everything looks like a nail,' this white camp became a target for Nana Sahib who was on a destructive spree.
He started the first attack on the fort and successfully managed to kill a few including Wheeler's son. Later, old Wheeler and his group were promised a safe passage through the Ganges by the Nana if they surrender. They did; and while in the boats in what was supposed to be a safe passage, Nana went back on his promise and in a sheer act of betrayal, ordered his troop to assault and kill everyone - including Wheeler.

Amidst the war cries and witnessed blows that killed their unsuspecting men, the women pleaded with the sepoys to kill them and the children then and there as well; Nana, however, had other plans. The 210 women and children - all white - who were still alive, were to be his pawns in a ploy to bargain with the Brits to reinstate him as the ruler of his kingdom. They were marched back to town and incarcerated in a single-storey house, the 'Bibighar', which means the ‘House of wives’ where they were kept from 27th June, 1857 until 16th July, 1857 with very little food, hygiene, comfort or propriety.
On 15 July, Nana Sahib received news that a company of British soldiers, under the command of General Sir Henry Havelock was on its way for the rescue.
Panicked, Nana ordered the execution of all the women and children.
The Indian sepoys dispatched to murder the women and the little children, had the poor souls come to a room one by one and closed the doors - sealing their exit and fate. Unable to shoot them point blank as ordered from close range, they began shooting the first round through the windows and vents, refusing to look at what they were shooting at. By the end of a round, the shrieks, screams and cries from the wailing souls were too much to take even for the hard-hearted, remorseless and order-obedient soldiers. They found the task too distasteful and could not press the trigger anymore. They stopped.
Nana Sahib called them cowards and ordered professional butchers from the neighbourhood to be brought to the site immediately. The Butchers arrived wearing aprons and wielding cleavers all ready for the slaughter. They showed no qualms in wielding their meat cleavers.
Amidst the screams and blood, each one crying in pain as the butcher's blades severed them mercilessly, some screamed even louder watching their loved ones fall prey to the hungry cleavers that eventually broke from overwork. The pitiless task was completed, leaving almost every British woman and child dead and dismembered by Nana's butchers.
The following morning, the butchers found three women and three children, aged under seven, covered in blood, still alive, quivering beneath the piles of dead bodies in an attempt to hide. They had no time to cut them as the British army was closing in. The six undead, were dragged and thrown, one-by-one, down a 50-foot deep well, and there suffocated under the weight of corpses and body parts butchered earlier - stripped, ripped, sliced and thrown on top of them. And then there was this deadly silence.

A witness described the remains of the Massacre at Cawnpore as follows:
“I was never more horrified! The place was one of mass blood. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the soles of my boots were more than covered with the blood of these poor wretched creatures. [I found] quantities of dresses, clogged thickly with blood, children’s frocks, frills, and ladies’ under clothing of all kinds, also boys’ trousers, leaves of Bibles . . . and hair, early a yard long; bonnets all bloody, and one or two shoes . . . All the way to the well was marked by a regular track along which the bodies had been dragged, and the thorny bushes had entangle in them scraps of clothing and long hairs. I have looked upon death in every form, but I could not look down that well again”

A memorial (pic. above) for the dead was erected over the well into which the slaughtered bodies were thrown and still stands as a testimony to this beastly, cowardly and gory incident in Kanpur (then Cawnpore), U.P., India. The retribution from the Brits for this was brutal - then and later.

Why did the butchering in Cawnpore happen in the first place? Why did the sepoy mutiny even begin in 1857? Well, it was not the pig and cow fat smeared bullets (alone). What was the significance of '1857'? It was more than anything else, the commemoration of the 100 years of British rule in India - since the first battle of Robert Clive in the Battle of Plassey in 1757 - a retributive reminder from the Indian side with something brutal that the Brits would never forget, to run home their point, that they were not welcome any more that was mixed with unlimited ounces of selfish motives and other cruel intentions which only the dead should tell.
While this incident would make every Indian who boasts of peace and non-violence as part of his/her cultural upbringing hang his/her head in shame if and when s/he comes to know about this incident at Cawnpore, at times I wonder if we really need a freedom got this way. To fathom an idea of revenge, that we had to kill, butcher and terrorize a group so indiscriminately - blind to the weak and even the innocent - in an attempt to get this idea of freedom that makes no sense to me now. Were we so hungry in this lust for flesh that we wrung the necks of women and children to satiate our appetite? Did our flesh conquer our senses then? Did no one stop anyone? Did not one person stand up to defend the defenseless? Were we at a barbaric orgy of flesh and blood?

Meanwhile, the following is Dyer's (The British Brigadier - yes, he was never a General - referred to as the 'Butcher of Amritsar') statement directed at the local residents of Amritsar on the afternoon of 14 April 1919, a day after the Amritsar massacre:
"...You have committed a bad act in killing the English. The revenge will be taken upon you and upon your children."
This incident that happened in General Wheeler's camp in Cawnpore, was perhaps the incident that justified Dyer's butchery at Amristar - something that he later during his trial in England referred to as 'an act of conscience'. The Brits in London agreed with him and even gathered over 28, 000 pounds to support him during the trials. Dyer during the trial, finally said, 'Let not man but God decide whether I am right or wrong.' Dyer lived the rest of his life in a cottage in the British countryside until his natural death later.

While India roasts the white man for killing 379 (according to the Brits) to 1000 (according to the Indians) people during the Jalianwalla Bagh Massacre or for ignoring the death of 2-3 million Indians during the Bengal Famine, we must not forget to teach our children the capability of Indians to do (horrific) evil as well that is quite evident from the unsaid incident at General Wheeler's Camp at Cawnpore. No Nana or Rani or Shah who fought the mutiny did so with the independence of India in mind yet only for reasons exceptionally and extremely personal and self-oriented and nothing even close for a common good. Rani Lekshmi Bai fought to get her adopted son the rule after her time as the Doctrine of Lapse would go against her realizing this wish. Nana - an adopted son himself who was refused the pension given to his parents, fought against the Doctrine of Lapse to get himself the throne and nothing else. Even Bahadur Shah II - the last Mughal emperor, who was called to enter the fight had no intention of entering it in the first place yet was only compelled to do so against his will. Eventually, the Rani was killed in a battle and Shah II was captured and sent into exile to Burma; while, after the butchering in Cawnpore, Nana Sahib, absconded from the scene and was never to be seen again and perhaps, lived happily ever after - considering the fact that when he chickened off, he did not forget to take the Muslim caretaker of Bhibighar, who was one of his mistresses, along with him.
The Indian government has released a stamp in his honour.
Shame on us... 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Usage Of The Term Doctor

Recently, a person who had to make an appointment for my mother to get an X-Ray taken, rolled in her name with a prefix 'Dr.' Well, going by the factual, she has every right to add that prefix and her name does follow with the suffix 'PhD.,' while she has been a Professor teaching English literature for almost 45 years now.
The fun started when I drove her for getting that X-Ray... By the 15 minutes we took to get there, the gate was kept open and we even managed to get a royal salute from the guard; the reserved parking space next to the Radiologist's personal parking space, today, was kept vacant for our car to be parked and I even got support from the hospital staff to reverse (a couple of times) while parking the simple car we drove with incomprehensible patience witnessed among those that helped that was beyond belief. The reception was unusually warm and we got escorted straight to the mouth of the X-Ray room while our file was carried by a Nurse and even for the few seconds we had to wait, we got to sit in the Chief's cabin to stare at his grandchildren's scribblings and drawings that seemed to convey the love they had for him from a distant land - declared and decorating the radiating cabin's walls. This entire experience was like flying super V.I.P class. I never knew my mother was sooooo famous...
That was until... she got the X-Ray done and came out and we met the Chief of the hospital/lab face to face. The moment he saw my mom, he jumped off his seat - recognizing her with a question, "When did you become a 'Doctor'?!" and my mom coolly replied, 'When the university awarded me the PhD.,' - that being something he could not deny. That was a moment of settling an undebated debate without a debate over the usage of the word 'Doctor'.

The word 'Doctor', is derived from Latin, much like its verb forms - 'Indoctrinate' or 'Endoctrinate' (as earlier used during the Renaissance), which simply mean 'to teach' - referring more to a teacher who attempts to imbibe an idea or a concept among a group (of students/learners) than a practitioner of medicine who saves lives.
The word 'Professor' which is also a Latin word is derived from the French word 'Professeur', which means 'one who teaches a branch of knowledge'.
Usually, the word 'Doctor' in the academia is used to refer to a person who is engaged in research and learning - who perhaps has more validity to profess what s/he believes in that s/he later indoctrinates to an audience.

The academia and the medical profession seem to be locking horns for long over who should be using the word 'Doctor'. This tug of war will reach no end as going by populous usage when someone calls for a 'Doctor' during a medical emergency one does not expect a (stereo'typically') spectacled (wo)man carrying a bundle of books well-versed in astronomy or dramatics make a spectacular entry to attend to the person who needs medical care. That now is a possibility imagined in a popular situation in the presence of a populous crowd who we often deem redeemed of sense and sensibility; yet, that is a very common opinion built upon presumptions of who a doctor should be.

Today, every Tom, Dick and Harry wants his/her share over the right to use this word - including the physiotherapist, the dentist, the occupational therapist, the quack who punctures everyone's body with needles and the other one who strips to rip you claiming to massage those freshly crushed herbs mixed with oil in the pretext of magically curing everyone and even our local barber who trims and cuts hair who dabs the diluted cologne to fix the cuts and undercuts and the fellow from the over-rated spa who gives a pedicure and manicure to scrub the corn and crack... to every other despot with little understanding of the context or the usage of words who claim the title and the right to use the prefix 'Dr.' to find shelter in the shadows of the prestige it brings without being one bit worthy of to begin with.
While some in this group have decided not to wait for the verdict and have started to liberally lavish themselves with the title and shamelessly announcing it in their quackier places of practice from visiting cards to door plates to floor mats, the academician and the medical professional - who have found straighter paths to acclaim this right - may perhaps someday consider this to be a case fit for a good round of laughter and nothing more when they meet.

Technically, the word 'Doctor' was meant to fill in when referring to a 'Teacher'. Nowadays, more so, since collegiate education bodies and decision making authorities in the field of higher education, consider it mandatory to not just qualify in an eligibility test like NET yet also to have a PhD to be teaching in the first place. As some believe, including Socrates, Aristotle and other educated-kinds, that majority can be wrong and need not be right, (almost all the time), we can still decide who to refer to as a 'Doctor' and indoctrinate the other.

In today's scenario, the medical professional who insists on using the word 'Doctor' has resolved to use 'Dr.' as a prefix while adding a suffix 'Med' within brackets while an academician using the prefix 'Dr.' adds the suffix 'PhD.,' to mitigate confusion.

Hail the Doctor!        

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Essence Of Being A Teacher

There are two age-old sayings in Tamil that kept popping in my head last week while wondering - why am I doing what I am doing today?

Saying 1: Vaathiyar pulla makku. (A Teacher's child will be a fool.)
For the starter, I am not born to one but two Teachers. Perhaps that makes me double the fool that I should be. Quite true actually this saying and I fit in perfectly to this saying like a hand to a glove. I have always struggled with education, have always found myself being dragged into learning things I never wanted or often felt never needed to. I have always resisted learning than being able to see any possibility through education. I have often seen it as a tiresome, worrisome and wasted investment of time, energy and money. I am still allergic to chemistry and maths. I take a much longer time to understand things and wonder if I would be labeled a 'retard' if I did take the proper psychological tests. I try to understand and communicate concepts in the most simple way even until this day - not because my students are dumb but because I can't understand it otherwise.

Saying 2: Vuk'cuth'tha'vun Vaa'thi'yaan (The incompetent becomes the Teacher)
Holds true too (in my case at least). I have never been able to handle the politics and associated nuances required to survive the field. Very often I wonder if that is what brings me back to the comfort and safety of classroom walls from where the utopia can be dreamt in absolute complacency. No one can criticize me more than I can about my incompetency to put an end to fraud, malpractice, hypocrisy and pseudo-goodness often projected and existing in many organizations and institutions I have worked for - many times holding a leadership position - which if some else had held, might have perhaps used to do wonders. I have been the most incompetent in many ways especially when it comes to applying what I teach and am wonder stuck when I see many of my students, on the other hand, do a much better job than what I probably can or will ever be able to do. Perhaps if anyone must use a name more casually to establish the truth in this saying, they should feel free to use my name as a living example.

Mentioning these, if that is what makes a Teacher, well then the role I play fits me well and perhaps that is why I adorn and play it happily.
Yet, beyond all these, there is a happiness that I manage to reach by doing what I do that cannot be kept a secret - a happiness that unfolds and moves me everytime I see the brightened glow on a student's face if s/he has understood a concept when explained in a simple way - perhaps in a way that this incompetent fool has managed to understand in the first place - not because of the presence of ample intelligence yet the gifted absence of it.
May every Teacher - otherwise bright, wise and clever - and still the rest, have a 'Happy Teacher's Day' today. God save the world...  

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Royal Enfield Bullet That Killed An Indian

What does the Indian youth's favourite bike today and the Indian freedom struggle have in common?

Ask any Indian boy or a self-proclaimed Indian gentleman from yester-years what his dream bike is, and he will tell you, 'The Royal Enfield Bullet,' with an air of pride gushing at his irrevocable matter of choice. It is a great bike, no disappointment in that, no matter what the model; people take pride to flash the acronym that reads 'RE', the emblem of the gun and the logo that reads, 'Made like a gun, flies like a bullet.' Girls like it too and often subconsciously connect a man riding a Bullet bike to masculinity.
Capitalizing on this craze and trend, this bike company has catapulted its sales volume and sells more than a million bikes a year at a price set understandably high from a pure economic perspective - more the demand, higher the price in today's market situation. Simple and wonderful!

Now lets go back a bit into some rotting pages of History. To make it more specific and even dustier; lets get back to a dark chapter of Indian History. The year was 1857, must have been a year of frustrations I believe, by this time, Lord Dalhousie's Doctrine of Lapse, an annexation policy of the British Empire was at its full swing - which basically said that the Brits would take over kingdoms that did not have a heir to the throne while refusing to accept prospective adopted children as legal heirs, this lapse of heirs, infuriated a few like Rani Lekshmi Bai of Jhansi who felt her adopted son, Damodar Rao would not reach the throne and also Nana Sahib a Maratha Peshwa who was earlier refused pension by the East India Company was now at the verge of losing the chances of inheriting a kingdom as well, as he too was adopted.
We (Indians) already had over 3, 00, 000 (Three Lakhs) sepoys serving as loyal British troops while the actual white Brit soldiers stationed here (in India) stood a head-count of only 50, 000 (Fifty Thousand Only) - a 6:1 ratio which tilted the scales for the Indian sepoys who in turn felt that they could demand better working conditions and could have their way - the thug way - with a mere display of majority in power. Sounds familiar isn't it?

Trouble was reported to be brewing in barracks and brothels visited by the soldiers and it only intensified and reached its brim when the Brits introduced the "Bullets" that were supposedly smothered in pig and cow fat that came straight from His/Her Majesty's "Royal" Empire that had to be bit (by the predominantly Hindu and Muslim sepoys who found it religiously insensitive to be asked to do something like that) before being loaded into the "Enfield" rifles. Rings a bell now? Yep, it is the same company that made those rifles and bullets that erupted the sepoy mutiny then that makes those much favoured bikes today.
The sepoy mutiny resulted in the death of over 2, 392 Brits and over 1, 00, 000 Indian sepoys and resulted in only a more oppressive rule and in the creation of an equally paranoid society - both ways - rather than any whiff of freedom for the Indian side. Each side demonstrated its barbaric side and there began a silently silenced holocaust at our side of the map. And to think that it all erupted because of the Royal Enfield Bullets...

Now you know why the word "Royal Enfield Bullet" that we feel so proud to possess today in our lapels and bikes and everything connected therewith, would not have appealed to our first freedom fighters and nationalists a few decades ago - no matter how subtly they announce where it is made, who makes it or how it is expected to fly.  Have we betrayed history or is this a historic betrayal by not knowing this fact?
Meanwhile, when an array of the Royal Enfield Bullet thumps its way past me with riders flashing their grin moving those wasted miles on the road - perhaps a symbolic representation of an equally purposeless and wasted life they have, each thump reminds me of a bullet from the white man's gun that shattered the counted and discounted Indians who laid down their lives for refusing to use the Royal Enfield and Bullets that day. Perhaps at the end of the day, for many, this sentiment is invalid and the bike is more important today. Well, ride on...

Sunday, August 5, 2018

How To Deliver A Talk Like A Politician

To get quickly to the facts, the three main steps for making an impact in your speech like (or perhaps better than) a politician:

1. Create Discontent: This is the foundation in which your argument and the reason for your speech must be built. The audacity of a complacent crowd must be broken at the start to establish power and to grab their attention. This may have to do with their perception of an issue or perspective of a subject you are asked to bring focus on where you may see space for indicating a difference. Do your research, optimize on the chances of people to ignore or be apathetic about something - the third dimension to a subject which is usually only seen in black and white, right or wrong, true or false and step in the Discontent to make people realize the grey line in between that they so comfortably have missed. Creating Discontent is the foundation for any Social Action to be initiated as any Social Scientist would agree. What if...

2. Comfort Disagreement: 'Agere Contra' is an Ignatian spirituality that forces us to 'Go Against' anything. Disagreement is that which has built anything worth its cause to be established in the first place. Disagreement has been the sole reason for any kind of progress in our society. Perhaps the first person to have ever disagreed must have been the guy who refused to live in a cave; thanks to him, today we live in ginormous concrete jungles out there. Going by Agere Contra, we could test our beliefs before we embrace them for life by checking if they are worth our devotion by simply going against those beliefs; well, if they don't withstand our resistance, they are perhaps not worth our thoughtless trust. Give your audience the right to Disagree - even with you - perhaps a luxury they have not experienced so far - even if they refuse your case, they will end accepting you more. Why not?

3. Create Distance: Anything can be understood only when we detach rather than attach. Attachment causes us to become too blind by making us come too close to the subject and object and renders the idea blurry. We had to find distance to understand that the world is actually spheroid by shape and not as flat it seems up close. We need Distance to appreciate a relationship which might be suffocating otherwise because of its closeness. As with life, so with ideas; we need to deliberate Distance; a sense of detachment from the subject at the end to help us appreciate other limitless extensions in this world. Closing the talk with a vague sense of space creates the required vision-like (end)statement to establish an enigma of an ever-growing, never-meeting circle like the ying-yang by giving space for the conversation to continue well after it is over. Well, who is to so surely know!

Don't Disappoint.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Evan Maar'okkay

When you are an outsider, that ugly duckling, the other, you are seldom free from being targeted or being slammed from repeated attacks with an indiscriminately fixed slur aimed and shot to do the intended damage behind one's back when nothing more rational or logical can be done in an open and fair battle ground. It saddens me to find that these comments are received by certain people expected to deliver justice in such situations choose to rather add their loose comments and criticisms that are often very stereotypical, lacks sophistication and showcases a very low taste and definitely does not demonstrate nor substantiate a multicultural inclusiveness as they tend to often claim in more open forums. Blatant lies so confidently told by mongrels who thrive on constructed pseudo-reality thinking they have harnessed the protection of people with the same amount of prejudice, stereotyping and bigotry as themselves; possibly as low in civility and cultural exposure as well. The limitless abundance of such pathetic ophidians.  
Recently I was a victim to one such racial remark too. Despite trying to shed identities, identities don't seem as merciful with me. My regional, religious and linguistic difference are often spotted and spite raised in spite of me making every conscious step to avert such awkward attacks. Recently based upon some baseless comment by a mythomaniac, another sacrosanct religious mortal referred to me with an instant disdain, "Evan Maar'okkay..." (which by the way means, "All these people" in Malayalam - supposedly what they manage to say when their conclusive opinion of a person is to be understood on the basis of what they have managed to limit their understanding of a group they suppose a person belongs to be.) hahaha! What limitless plethora of mediocrity! Evan Maar'okkay...
From a point of reflection, what do those words 'Evan Maar'okkay' even mean at its deepest sense? Isn't this the vulgurest way of showcasing one's attitude and perspective of others with which one has decided to see the so-called "others" with stereotype, prejudice and bigotry just because one has failed to understand them or even sanction their liberty without a bit of conscience to speak anything about someone just because the 'other' has been patient and does not react? Isn't this the reason for ethnic cleansing in many parts of the world just as genocide and lynching that happen in some parts closer to us? Aren't these racial and regional slurs reflective of their thoughts(?) and how long before these thoughts become action? How different are they that kill from they that consider it right to think in the same line?
I just wanted to reflect and at the same time clarify as to with what perspective am I being seen in a different space among people different from me - (differences I haven't noticed till then)? It is very odd to be the oddest one out in such a beautiful golden pond - a reminder that is reinstated every time incidents like this happen around me. These odds are identities made and handed over to me to wear and bear time after time, incident after incident, from which I have no escape or a resort to go for seeking justice as these are oppressive mandates directed by those to whom I am supposed to go to seek justice again; these situations which rarely happen yet undeniably happen seem to be happening over and over again within the past one year repeatedly ever since a cleansing ritual has began in this place I have been. This has made me feel ridiculous when I have found myself helpless and unable to defend myself when not even give a chance when often targeted. In Tamil, I have heard that bullets taken on one's back shows the cowardice of the enemy one has been fighting with so far; going by that I have fought too many cowards I suppose. At the end of the day, we have two divisions of people; the one who divide and those who don't. Evan Maar'okkay...  

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Normality Check

Recently a young doctor couple dropped in and asked, 'Is something wrong with the both of us? Can you analyze us and tell us what is wrong?' In the field of psychiatry often we are called to lay our judgments and stick a label to people's suffering. All these get done based on some parameters and within the limitless permit of our limited perspective.
We teach in Social Work to be non-judgmental yet, we end judging people the most - based upon their clothes, their gait, their gesture and every little clue and cue we get while recording a patient's MSE. Can we really say what is wrong? What is abnormal? I doubt. 
When we say, someone is behaving abnormally, do we really consider the situation, the experience or even the remotest expectation of the person that makes him/her behave the way they do? Perhaps give their situation, they would be abnormal if they did not behave the way they do... isn't it? Should we not expect our experiences and expectations to have an impact on us at all?
During post-tsunami I remember watching a school teacher standing on dry ground trying to grapple something very invisible to me. It seemed like what learned psychiatrists would call, 'catatonia' or unnecessarily repeated motion. Later I was told that this poor soul witnessed his entire family - his wife and both his little children - being pulled by the merciless tidal wave right from his hold. Ever since, he has been grappling this image of his family washed away in an absolutely understandable attempt to deny the trauma. 
Is he abnormal? Despite what had happened to him, if he were untained, unaffected and be technically 'normal' to comfort my parameters, would he be really normal then? What is it being normal? To condone our own beliefs and to submit to satiate the beliefs and needs of others? To compartmentalize our perceptions and perspectives to the conditional boxes of the society and to confine ourselves to the mediocrity of the society? What is this problem with its measurement?
Today, as I teach students those parameters, clues and cues to look for to measure the concept of normality and those tools to measure the same, it makes me hate myself for teaching them something that I don't believe in these days. People cannot be analysed without making an effort to understand their invisible world. Once we understand that, our limited judgments welcome a cloud of acceptance to drain those perspectives, prejudice and bigotry that we carry. Then why am I not teaching the value of 'acceptance' more? Why is it so difficult to accept people as they are? Their situations, circumstances, experiences and expectations as it is? Why do I deliberate to change something and everyone to fit into my perspective and make sure that they are measurable within the limits of my tools?
At times, being abnormal is the perfectest way of being normal I suppose.    

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Meeting Holocaust Survivors

Travelling over 25000 km during the last couple of weeks, I managed to encounter a few people and incidences that I shall write one by one. The most important meeting I had was with a couple who are perhaps the oldest living holocaust survivors today who have taken their refuge in New Zealand ever since their escape from Auschwitz. I met them at Tauranga - Bob and Freeda - Bob happens to be a successful lawyer and a dotting husband while Freeda on the other hand was a sweet, soft-spoken lady surrounded by an aura of beauty. We met over a dinner hosted at conference during which Bob delivered his talk about their life and survival during the holocaust. Listening to their stories of survival in the concentration camp was like watching a blockbuster Hollywood movie in action (incidentally, the story of Bob and Freeda, is to be made into a movie) and the way the couple met and happily live ever after, more like pages taken straight out of a fairy tale.
To cut the long story short, Bob and Freeda had lost it all - family, friends, possessions, country - at a very tender age; yet, they survived. In the face of inhuman conditions - when their chances of survival was the meekest, they did get a chance to be cradled by humanity - by people who saved them, protected them and kept them safe. They later met for the first time at a gathering for holocaust survivors, fell instantly in love and have two kids and live a life advocating against violence by telling their story to the rest of the world - students and youth mostly - at any invited opportunity they get since then.
The next day, we once again got a chance to meet them as part of a small group to discuss with them any doubts we carried from the previous day. There were all sorts of questions from the Academicians from around the world who had gathered there for the conference - from requesting details of their escape to chronological arrangement of the sequence in which they met - everyone had something they wanted to ask. As for me, I had counted three things to ask...
The pains and terrors of Auschwitz, is not a stranger to me; I have used the ghosts of the concentration camps to initiate discussions and thinking in classrooms over unmanaged genocides and ethnic cleansing happening in our world even today - be it in parts of Africa, parts of Bangladesh, several parts of India and the whole of Sri Lanka. Being a witness of a hot, boiling pot from the outside, it often has disturbed me and continuously frustrates me as to why despite these efforts to inform, educate, sensitize and think, stereotyping, prejudice, bigotry, discrimination, violence - and whatever one would like to name it, call it and label it, the evil consequence of violence would still not appear to stop. I had to ask Bob - who was not outside; yet, right in the middle of the boiling pot as and when it happened during the holocaust, who suffered its consequences directly - if he felt that there was something more we must do that we have not done that needs to be done to contain this rascalish demon of discrimination - the foundation of all the violence around us. When asked, Bob frowned, shook his head, looked at Freeda and without looking at anyone, said, 'I don't know'. An answer simple, honest and straight forward just like the man himself. With the images of NEWS from India reporting the rape and murder of children running in my mind during that time, I tried to push him a little further and asked him to tell me how human beings could be so inconsiderate to their fellow beings and be so selfish, self-centered and oblivious to the rest of the world around them, he nodded his head and replied, 'pervert thoughts'. Perhaps with the wisdom that comes with age (for some), he spoke less while explaining more.
Finally for my third and final question, when I asked him what we should do further to contain violence in this world, he said, '... let us continue to do what we already do, and keep doing it until we find something better to do.'
So there ended our meeting and when I stepped back to my staff room here in India, a lovely young girl who knew that I had just arrived from a visit to New Zealand and Australia, came with a very interestingly concerning query; she asked, 'How is racism there in New Zealand and Australia? Do they discriminate Indians? Will an Indian be able to survive there?' Meanwhile, out here, I was wondering if an Indian would be able to survive India in the first place considering the discrimination we have to face as we move every 100 km within our own land. Jai Hind!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Go Forth and Multiply

While contemplating on the issues that have polluted and has corrupted the world, above all else, it is the moral pollution and the subsequent corruption of the human spirit that must top today's civil society.

This tendency probably began the day we stopped speaking what we thought and carefully spoke what we never meant in our earnest fear/effort to survive. If there was a place to begin cleaning, it probably begins within.

Perhaps we can go on blaming the western education system - implemented in most parts of the world - through the famous 'Macaulayism' in the colonies of the Brits to make the common native obediently nod with humble submission and say loud and clear to any and all demands, 'Yes! Sirs' to their white sahibs in order to fit into their roles of servitude, shedding the last limping link of dignity and respect rested within to remain in positions to serve their white-skinned western masters, by training in rhetoric rote learning rituals that seasonally and willfully condition us to become glorified and dignified clerks - nothing more and nothing less. Yet, despite realizing this simple fact, on many occasions, by (m)any thinker(s) and possible change makers, we still insist on making people - the same old way - by deliberating them to understand and to fit into the role requirements of the job market with unquestioning obedience - just as our English Baboos trained us to be - file carrying donkeys then for the monarch to 'B'school-bred rats for the corporate (for) now.

At times, our brown masters -for who we render this same delightful service with more angst than agony - must feel proud for having outdone our colonial masters in their game of oppression - perhaps only twice or more worse, bitter and sinister than the white man him/herself who they try to emulate. 

'Don't question! Just do your job. Don't worry about what happens to others; just do your job.' being the mantra if not schooled by our teachers, that our parents try to rote us to understand and sincerely adapt as our way of life - our only way of life. This that shall be our ruin to be so selfish, self-obsessed and self-centered that the goddess of vanity may bless us with the curse of not bothering about any one more than we constantly and so compellingly care about our self. Well, somehow, though silent, we have systematically and successfully created the nightmare of our own fate by enshrining the thoughts of immortality compromising on our morality to attain this lucid idea of creating the self by removing others from our vocabulary. - by every demons right that shall be the penalty we so rightfully deserve - a world that spins so fast around the self so much so that it even doesn't pause to care to speak for others... especially for those voiceless by succeeding to live a meaningless life of servitude eventually. For those who still wish to differ, in God's own words, 'Go forth and multiply' or whatever it could mean in short.