The Guardian

I’m late for this. It was long overdue. But it’s never too late to make amends. The following short essay is a pathetic attempt to pay tribute to a guardian, grandmother, friend, philosopher, sage, comic. I wrote it as a part of a contest in my office and it found approval from some people. When I had envisioned it earlier, I would have perhaps written a lot more. But this is perfect.

 THE MOST INSPIRING WOMAN IN MY LIFE

 Every. Single. Morning. She wakes up to open the door for the maid, sharp at 6. All 80 years of wrinkled skin and creaky bones. The winter chills don’t freeze her. The warm blanket has no power over her. The monsoon dampness cannot peg her down. Each slow step has a resolve and a purpose. The arched back has an unknown source of strength. The hands find their support without the help of the weak eyes further weakened by the darkness and dim lights. Her day begins in this darkness, almost mocking the Sun for rising later than her.

At an age when she should waste her time savouring the sweet fruit of a tiresome life she has led, she has come out of retirement only to fulfill the promise she made to her dying daughter. Her solemn word was not to let her grandchildren ever feel orphaned or straying nomads without roots. With every small action, every small word, every small gesture and blessing, she still strives to fulfill that promise.

Her grandchildren use her as a punching bag; an outlet to their frustrations and disappointments. And when all is said and done, they still seek solace in her embrace, and peace in her quivering hand in their hair. Gods will be worshipped. Heroes will be praised. My grandmother will still remain far above them all. She will forever remain the benchmark against which I will measure myself.

DELTA 1

The Horror Of It All

It’s all going to the dogs. Everything is more heinous, more amplified, more disgusting. Scams are not in the hundreds of crores, they’re in the hundreds of thousands of crores. Politicians are not dimwitted, they’re fuckwitted. Sycophancy has made way for a disgusting pride filled slavery. Outrage has ceased to be meaningless and now has a veneer of fashionable impotence. Normalcy was once forced, but is now looked forward to with an anticipation that expedites it as much as it wants it.

The bone-chilling gang rape of a girl in Delhi has caused the entire country to unite for a common cause that, like corruption, goes beyond the petty boundaries of religion, class, race. And yet even in our unity, we remain selective. We choose not to highlight the horror of a four year old toddler who was raped, killed and thrown on the railway tracks. We choose to put our tears on display to perfection. The Delhi CM cried in an interview over this girl’s miserable plight. And yet her office also granted parole to a convicted killer who thought a girl’s life was only valuable if she served him drinks. For every Aarushi that became the poster girl for candle light vigils, a thousand more were lost in the same ashes they were born in, without any mention in as much as an obituary.

I tweeted that the rapists should be castrated to make them understand what ‘loss’ means, what it means to feel ‘powerless’. Will that really work? I’m just treating the symptoms. This wasn’t the first gang rape. It won’t be the last. It’s not about setting sights on a perceived weakling and taking advantage. The real animal lies in the BELIEF that you can do so. It lies in the CONVICTION that you have the right to. It lies in the FACT that you can do what you want and get away with it.

Men believe they can overpower a girl because they’re brought up as the stronger sex. Before they prove it, they’re told they hold the power and position of being the stronger ones. Those who are also taught the responsibility behind it grow up to become the cleaner face. Those who feed that power ultimately become its slave and morph into the vulgar face. It doesn’t stop there. The minute a son sees a father insulting his wife, talking trash to his sister or daughter, disrespecting his mother, he’s convinced his power gives him the right to behave and act as he pleases. That it’s his right to treat the women in the house a little better than slaves and to keep them under his thumb. That’s when things start getting ugly. He looks around and sees a system run by the corrupt. He sees that the police are the ones people actually need protection from, that they’ll sell themselves for a wad of notes stuffed in their pockets and mouths. He sees that even if he ‘may’ get arrested for his actions, he will be released on a paltry bail, he might pressurize the victim to drop the case, or in the worst case scenario, the case will take ages in the sewers of our rotten Justice system. The comfort of these facts is the steroid he needs to break free. The animal is unleashed.

And then there are the cynics. Oh God the cynics. Those aspiring stand-up comedians on twitter who think they’re the Superman of wit and humour. Who think that anything and everything can be made fun of. Who in their infinite wit and wisdom do not know that boundaries exist and need to be respected. Sometimes I genuinely wish harm on these jokers. I want them to be subjected to similar conditions and find humour in it. They’re joined by those doubters with a perennial question about intentions, actions and outcomes. The kind of people who take up the easiest job of demotivating those who believe. The kind of sadists who plant seeds of doubt in others’ minds and nurture them into poisonous fruit bearing vines.

One of these days it will come to a point where a single act will start a chain of event, a domino tipping another and shaping a pattern that will change the face of this nation forever. What face emerges, the cleaner or the vulgar, will depend on where you and I are at that moment, when we reclaim our country from these dogs. And we will have to be in the thick of the action because we’re accountable to our children, and their children too. Because sooner or later, they’re going to ask a single question with tears in their eyes that we better have an answer to.

They’re going to ask us how the hell did we fuck up so bad?

DELTA1

O Captain! My Captain!

Dear Balasaheb,

Rest in peace. Being a father to a state like Maharashtra for more than 4 decades must be very tiring. Standing up for the weak, helping the lost find their self esteem, taking up issues every one else was shit scared of even talking about and above all, being relentless in the pursuit of establishing, nourishing and propagating your ideology must be a hell of a job to be accomplished by a single man. Just imagining all this makes me want to quit and leave town. And yet, you did all that, and did it in a way that made you larger than life for us,   a Demi God of sorts.

The reactions to your death were polarizing, to say the least. People are saying that we are being ‘forced’ to mourn. How can you ‘force’ a son to mourn for his father? How is it possible for us NOT to feel it’s the end of the world when one of the pillars of our identity crashes? How naive can people get in their assumptions of others? As I’m typing these very words, there are an estimated 2 million people on the streets in Mumbai, just to pay their last respects to you. Are they being ‘forced’ to do that? Is it ‘fear’ that is driving them? Did someone stuff their pockets with a wad of notes and the promise of alcohol? Can people be this fuckwitted to question our emotions for you? I guess I can only answer the last question today – Yes.

The apathy today has reached a point where a person who’s just been in Mumbai for 2 odd years thinks he understands enough about you and the Shiv Sena’s ideology and Mumbai’s fabric to comment on your influence on us. For him the Shiv Sena is all about V-Day hooliganism and vandalism of controversial arts. Shiv Sena starts and ends there. He derides your politics because having a cultural identity is bad according to his highly developed, cultured, ‘liberal’ intellect. I don’t even pity him. He has ignored the most important fact of your life – fighting for those who couldn’t. He has ignored your fight to help regain the self-esteem of the ‘marathi manoos‘, who was being ridiculed in his own home as a ‘ghaati‘. He has ignored the fact that right at this moment, Kashmiri Pandits are mourning your death as much as we Maharashtrians because they revere what you did for them. He has ignored that had it not been for you, Mumbai would be run over by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and he wouldn’t have a place to dry his underwear. I bet he was shit scared when Mumbai was attacked on 26/11. I bet his dimwitted, warped intelligence and pathetic grasp of the situation won’t allow him to understand the havoc those illegal immigrants could have caused. For him, all these issues are irrelevant because they don’t affect people like him living in high rises. For him it’s just a matter of opposing anything anyone does which is outside the established and approved thinking and actions, benchmarks of which have been decided by a handful of elitist socialite columnists and ‘intellectuals’. Like these people, he doesn’t understand nor care about the common Mumbaikar who actually goes through this. And when the time comes to right the wrongs, these elitists are nowhere to be found, even when people bang on their doors and beg them to come out and do something as simple as cast their votes. He, like the people he draws his twisted view of the world from, are willing to defend defamation of my Gods being passed as ‘art’, but is cold blooded enough not to feel anger that my Gods were made the subjects of said ‘art’. Little does he realize that had that artist used his own religion’s prophet as a subject of his paintings, the backlash would’ve been near fatal. He prides himself in Hinduism’s freedom, and yet does nothing when that very freedom is abused and humiliated.

I too have demons of my own to slay. I didn’t agree with your protests and vandalism of V-Day. What Marathi youngsters today lack are a proper education about our culture and it’s strength, virtues and values. That is just bad parenting, more than anything else. That coupled with how V-Day is marketed (a way to express your love for your girlfriend / boyfriend, rather than a universal expression of love) is why that day is eagerly waited upon by youngsters. To target them physically won’t solve problems. And yet, more than that, I’m eternally grateful to you for often doing what I was too much of a coward to do. Like when I wanted to but couldn’t defend my religion, or when I wanted Mumbai to breathe again and not be subjected to the hordes of illegal immigrants. That is my solace. That is my redemption. Knowing and understanding what you did, and being able to see what it meant for the average Maharashtrian. Perhaps that’s the reason why today out of the 2 million grown ass, hardened people on the roads that are crying their hearts out for you, none are the typical page 3 mourners. On your last journey, you’re surrounded by the people you loved and fought for, and who loved you back. For all of us, you are the hero we needed and the hero we deserved.

I have a sneeky feeling that people hate you just because all your life you said and did what they could say in the comforts and anonymity of their living rooms and the internet. They too wanted to use cuss words in public, berate the corruption riddled, blood sucking government, but couldn’t find an ounce of courage to do it. And when you did it, their coached civility and the shepherds who herded them forbade them from applauding you, and their instructions manual asked them to condemn you. Such is the inbred hypocrisy around here that while you were targetted as being communal, MPs in Hyderabad walked, and continue to walk scott free after giving hate speeches on a daily basis. Such is the sycophancy today that while people worship the feet of the family that was forced down their throats, your’s is called a Mafia family and we, your followers are labelled blind whose ‘intelligence is hijacked by hormones’ (sic).

A hypnotist who ruled the subconsciousness of an entire state, a strategist who fought in the trenches and checkmated kings in their own courts, an orator who mesmerized millions, a leader who was as relentless as he was astute, Maharashtra’s Tiger who when sprang his claws drew blood, without the slightest care for opinion or votes. Words fail me to describe what you meant to this state, how burdened we are by your debt to us, and how disturbed at the thought that try as we might we won’t be able to fully repay you for what you’ve done for us. To quote Walt Whitman –

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

DELTA1

Death Be Not Proud

Death be not proud
There are those who conquer You.
For it’s foolish how You think You own
Souls who have stopped fearing.

While you cast Your unseen shadow
Over the unsuspecting heads of peasants,
Your naivety never lets You realise
It’s but a moment’s clarity to salvation.

A body that gives up the fight
But a mind that stays sharp to the end
Is always invincible even in defeat
For You’re not mighty enough to break it.

So live in Your delusion while You break hearts
And celebrate Your false victories
You are but an urn full of ashes
About to be scattered on their next journey.

DELTA1

Hero Worship

A footballer, not particularly well known, falls on the ground in a match. he’s taken to the hospital, in critical condition, where it’s announced that he’s fighting life and death. Over the next few weeks during the course of his recovery, people fall over themselves on Twitter and Facebook in showing their support for him. It’s boils down to who has the most eloquent, soul stirring, inspiring 140 characters to show support on his path to recovery. All this time, the true test of character is reserved only for him and his family as they grapple with this adversity. As he completes his recovery, people lose interest, and he fades into the same normalcy from which he was pulled into the cold limelight. Within a matter of days, a quarter of a turn around the globe, an unknown footballer falls on the ground during a match in a city, and dies due to the lack of the most basic of medical infrastructure needed to take him to a hospital. His death goes largely unnoticed. Later, on a Facebook football forum created by some friends, a supporter of an English football club from that same country shows his solidarity with families and friends of 96 fans who lost their lives in a tragic stampede at an English football ground many years ago. Chances are he wasn’t even born at the time the tragedy occurred, leave alone know about the club he supports. He doesn’t make any posts related to the death of that unknown footballer who died less than a 1000 kms away from him.

A cricketer, once a rising star, then branded arrogant and wasteful by some, regains his stature in the World Cup, only to be diagnosed with cancer immediately afterwards. People take it as their duty to encourage him, re-tweet and favourite his tweets and shared photos. A processed foods company comes up with their signature adverts saying ‘We’re in this together’. He finds a new meaning to life as he fully recovers and claims his stake to his position in the starting line up of the national team. The media finds a new darling – a hero that can inspire millions fighting this monstrosity of a disease. Meanwhile the fact that a majority of those millions don’t have the financial means to fight this disease is conveniently ignored. Even more ignored are those countless success stories in which ordinary people go broke in winning this fight and come back from the worst stages of cancer, and live.

A guerrilla group’s leader hits global consciousness as his heinous acts are publicized and authorities are pressurized to act with urgency. College going kids take an oath to make him famous by showing what horrible acts he has committed, and everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Engineering students from a city nicknamed ‘The Oxford Of The East’ are interviewed by the leading local newspaper where they share their plans to stick posters about the leader on the college walls to ‘make him famous’ and draw attention to his atrocities. Ask them about the number of infanticides in their city in an year, and chances are they’ll be dumbfounded.

The heir apparent to a nation’s Prime Ministership consoles a 10 year old boy who lost his father, a police officer, in a Naxal attack by saying, ‘I know how it feels to lose a father.’ The nation swoons. The subservient media glorifies the politician’s statement even further. Tons of ink blackens paper in singing his praises. Not one self righteous journalist comments on the fact that the politician has a last name that opens locks of the nation’s treasury and is the only qualification required to rule the political party and country. Whereas the little child will perhaps be forced to beg on the streets before he receives even half of his father’s ‘Full and Final Settlement’ amount.

The bravest woman I had the privilege to know saw her husband go from a healthy man, without any medical history, to a corpse in the matter of 14 days, while she herself fought a losing battle against her arch nemesis, cancer. There are no records of her bravery, no songs of her valour when she confronted death twice – once of the only man she ever loved, and when it returned to claim her. Her memories only linger on in the hearts of her children, her mother who watched her lose, and her awestruck family. Her story is perhaps more inspiring than the hyped up battles of those with the means to fight them easily and yet she remains a statistical number. There are countless others like her, who displayed human will at its magnificent best, braving the odds to fight such wars without caring about the consequences, only to be relegated to the shadows of the unknown, no matter what the outcome.

Hero worship is not what it used to be. Heroes are no longer defined by their character, their actions, their ability to inspire the commonest of the common. They’re instead defined by the visibility they receive through the manic tweeting fingers, perpetually in a race to outpace everyone else in being the first to post about that perceived heroic act on social media. Everyone knows everything about the chosen heroes, and yet no one is truly inspired by them. The only return sought on this investment of characters in a post is the visibility that post can receive, gaining likes, re-tweets, followers and shares in the process. The man who walked thousands of miles against the atrocious policies of an empire is etched in immortality, and yet the hundreds of thousands of ghosts who followed him to make his agitation a success receive not even a footnote’s worth of space in the annals of history.

When the ashes turn cold and the dust settles, the people who trend on twitter will always be forgotten. Facebook likes will become meaningless. Inspiration will remain a buzzword associated with posters with abstract images and fancy quotes.

What will persist is our failure to recognize true heroes, without the crutches of the instruments of hype.

DELTA1

Ambassador

No sooner did Aamir Khan’s ‘Satyamev Jayate’ air, all sorts of opinionated blogs and articles came out of the woodwork. Cynical eyebrows were raised. The usual questions were thrown around. Is Aamir’s motive truly altruistic? Is this really going to help? Does the team only care about TRPs and advert money? Are they really talking sense? Is this really a case of the proverbial and cliched ‘old wine in new bottle’? Did Aamir really seem genuine in his approach? Did the whole setup of the show really connect with the common man? Will things change? A very no nonsense friend of mine tweeted asking if the difference between Sony’s ‘Crime Patrol’ and ‘Satyamev Jayate’ only the packaging called ‘Aamir Khan’?

I haven’t seen ‘Crime Patrol’, though honestly from the looks of it, I always thought it to be another ‘C.I.D.’, and you can see where it logically leads one. But coming back to the point, sometimes packaging IS what you need to get the message across right? There was an extensive sting operation by two journalists exposing rampant female foeticide, but nothing came out of it. None of us watched it. None of us recoiled in horror at this heinous crime being committed, which MUST be punishable by death. The yearly topic of sex ratios and the falling number of girls against boys is a favourite one for the mainstream media to intellectually masturbate over. However, in the span of just one 1 hour show, India woke up. Social media was abuzz, twitter trends went worldwide. Feminists found another reason to hate men. The in-laws were condemned once more. But above everything else, IT MADE PEOPLE TAKE NOTICE. It was a show that brought out the emotional and physical hell women go through, the social implications, the filthy commerce behind it, the government apathy, and the public inaction due to an indifferent attitude. It went a step ahead and promised action.

What more should we expect from a show? In an article on firstpost, the author references an article Aamir has written. My first reaction to the critique the author has offered was that of exasperation. Aamir’s article was nitpicked, his personal opinions countered by more personal opinions without any shred of facts or references and no comment on what the real issue at hand is. In this article in TOI, the author just tries to point out how artificial he and the show were. Honestly, I stopped reading after the first few lines.

Does the end justify the means? Or does it always have to be about the journey as well as the destination? Watching this show, I never felt it was about Aamir or his aura or star power. It was about an issue we choose to neglect because we smugly believe it won’t happen in our homes. ‘Apna kaam banta, bhaad mein jaaye janta’ sorta thing. What I saw was a superstar putting all his weight behind an issue and really trying to get people to do something about it, starting with himself. Isn’t that commendable? In times like these, when mainstream media colludes with politicians, edits interviews which are then broadcasted as ‘Live’, cuts and pastes words from an uttered sentence to completely change the context and intent, isn’t this perspective a bit better suited to the needs of this nation? If you answer in the affirmative, do we really need to judge the messenger? Is it really important if he fails to appropriately display depth and emotions? Isn’t it more than enough that he’s stirring a slumbering nation into action? If even 10% of the husbands watching that show grow a pair of balls, and oppose their parents’ wishes for a grandson, won’t we achieve something? If even 10% of the in-laws become aware of the fallacy of their demands, won’t we be better off as a society? If this really happens, will the messenger and his actions, methods, the set, the number of tears he shed really matter? Will they be responsible for the change, or will they just be a necessary part of a show that was a catalyst?

I’m not kidding myself thinking that the team doesn’t want commercial success. They do. Roping in a star like Aamir Khan would definitely not be cheap. And I’m not sure if they’ve declared at the beginning of the show that this is a ‘not for profit’ show. If their success lies in more people watching it, giving the better ratings and advert revenue, I’d be happy. For it would mean that the show is reaching out to more people, making them aware, enabling them to think and hopefully, do what is right, what is NEEDED. I couldn’t care less if the producers and the actor make a ton of money trying to clean up our mess.

For me, the end DOES justify the means, this time around.

DELTA1

The Bigger They Are

Possession football can be dangerous. Perfecting possession football can cause your downfall. Barcelona has taught us that lesson, after learning it painfully themselves. The Titans of Spanish football fell to the stubborn laggards of their English counterparts.

Chelsea may have come into this game with a formation on the game board, but quickly settled into the inevitable 10-0-0 shape and began fighting for every bit of possession like caravans fighting over an oasis. Barcelona quickly settled into their routine perfect first touch and pass game and Valdes and every neutral began their yawns.

That equalizer came, as did the red card for the stupidest of the 22, John Terry. On the stage of the biggest theatre, he improvised the script, thinking on his knees, and earned himself an unceremonious exit. Barcelona must have begun planning their trip to Munich but they simply failed to imagine the impact that card had on Chelsea. Chelsea had packed a dose of extra strong stubbornness tablets.

Chelsea caught a break and Ramirez chipped over a rusting and forgotten Valdes to exquisitely bring back his team from the dead. And what’s more, they now had that crucial cushion of an away goal. Barcelona were slowly waking to the fact that they were behind enemy lines, at their home and needed to score at all costs. They responded in typical BORING BARCA (TM)  style.

The second half was all about 10 stubborn men in their box, keeping 11 hurt and wounded bullies away from their castle. Cech was as alert as a sniper stalking his target. Barcelona were having to working extra time to even get a shot on target.

Here’s when their own game plan failed them. There were so many side passes one would believe they were taking pride in just retaining possession and creating a statistical record. There was so little credible threat that their back four and Valdes must have started day dreaming. They forgot that Chelsea while defending, had also brought in a rusting sword that was still capable of serious damage, given the slightest chance. And they ended bleeding out of the Champions League.

Torres etched his name in sweet history, scoring a $50 million goal, and giving himself another shot at redemption. Terry etched his name in infamy and countless timeless twitter hashtags and jokes. Barcelona etched their name in the list of teams unable to retain the trophy.

Chelsea etched theirs as that team of 10 men who gave the Titans a match to remember and a scar to hide.

 

DETLA1