Friday, 18 August 2017

Random thoughts 19082017

#VandeMataram It is easily the most beautiful ode to the motherland . It is a nice song written in the traditional Hindu style of a prayer. The preponderance of Sanskrit words make it a bit difficult to pronounce for the present generations of confused Indians being churned out of the career building factories aka schools. Set to the tunes by A R Rahman , it became very popular as a nationalist chant  and he , along with Bharat Bala deserve credit for this.  I personally believe those who say that they won't sing this song for their religious affiliations are stupids. And those who say that this song must be sung by everybody to serve as a litmus test of  patriotism are idiots. 

But more than that I wonder how many people have ever read the lyrics of the Vande Mataram song beyond the first two words. And of those how many understand the meaning of each word and line of the song . Further, knowing how many can sing the whole song will be very  illuminating. But even if one has these doubts , I suppose it will be dangerous to express them in this atmosphere of blind and irrational hype about it. So let me save my skin first.

Those lovely ones who love to question me back may please note that I read the whole song at the age of twelve as a part of the novel Anandamath , in Bengali . And since I know Bengali well and also studied Sanskrit upto twelfth , I understood each word of it. And believe it or not, once upon a time I also memorised it fully. Now I don't remember the lines .

And please, please, please believe me when I say that both Anandamath and Vande Mataram were penned in Bengali by the Bengali writer Bankim chandra Chattopadhyay in 1882 , not by Shri Deen Dayal Upadhyay or some other great man in our so called Rashtra Bhasha to drive the British away in  1947.

Let's keep it on record . In this era of  post truth , you never know who will appropriate what and associate with whom.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Randomthoughts10082017

On one hand we hear such  slogans like Beti Bachao and Kanyashree  and get infuriated ( at least on facebook) over the rise in crime against women . On the other hand , the Central Government  defends a provision in the Indian Penal Code that grants immunity to a person from the rape charge provided the victim is his wife and aged between 15 and 17 years, saying the exception in the law was meant to protect the institution of marriage.

Got confused  ?  OK let me explain . It simply means , my dear citizens that under the laws of our country,  if a male person marries a girl aged between 15 to 17 years, he can force himself on the minor girl taken as his wife and rape charges will not be applicable on him. As a corollary, it also suggests that minor girls continue to be married off in our country and the governments, whether central or state can do very little about it.  Rather they chose the shortcut to turn a blind eye to underage marriages and want to perpetuate the marital rape of minor girls. All under the pretext of honouring legal provisions , in the best traditions of a society bound by its constitution and committed to uphold the rule of law.

On behalf of the government , the defense of this repugnant provision of law is done by a female advocate . Crowning glory, you may say. And Ms Binu Tamta, the advocate appearing for the Centre says this -"The institution of marriage must be protected. Otherwise, the children from such marriages will suffer," to the  bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta who are hearing a petition made by an NGO to strike down the Section 375(2) of the IPC, which makes an exception under the rape law by permitting a man to have sex with a girl even if she is between 15 and 17 years old provided she is his wife.

Now tell me does being born as a female makes somebody a woman ? And if women  at high places and positions continue to side with the establishment then what hope do poor and underprivileged women have . What made Ms  Binu Tamta accept this brief ? And what made her not refuse or at least record her objection to the frivolous defence of the indefensible. Was it a professional compulsion  or a bureaucratic  apathy ? Does she have a heart or does she really see any merit in her defence herself . At the end of the day does she look at the mirror before going to sleep ?

Ministry of Social Welfare, Equal rights for women, Beti bachao,  Stop atrocities on women , Law , Constitution ,  all bullshit !! 

https://www.telegraphindia.com/1170810/jsp/nation/story_166509.jsp

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Randomthoughts09082017

Very often I come across social media posts by supposedly normal and sane persons who try to castigate "intellectual" , "liberal", "secular", "socialist"  etc. Earlier , I used to get very agitated but with time, age and perhaps the constant iteration of such views has made me immune to these references ; though mostly they are done with the mischievous purpose to elicit reaction and  release personal frustration .  Now I generally treat these  posts with a slight disdain mixed with boredom and a Jesus like invocation of - Pardon their follies for they do not know what they are doing. 

I  am not aware about the exact reasons for their antipathy , but can only guess that the opposition to these  above mentioned categories of people stem from a hidden inferiority complex  and deep rooted prejudices.  While vehemently opposing or running down these values  are such people aware that the opposite of these values are "stupid", "bigot", "religious", " capitalist" respectively.  If someone wishes to bracket himself or herself in such categories of personality , then I have nothing to say further. 

But is the real reason for attacking a person and painting him as one of the above only about opposition to these values. Or is it more sinister?  Is it not a way to denigrate free thinkers and those who try to bring a different perspective to any narrative that is forced down the throat of the people on the pretext of being popular. This  of course is nothing new or unique . This happens everywhere and been happening through ages . Whenever the mediocre and regimented thought process encounter something which has the potential to disrupt or invert the whole paradigm , there is a reaction and backlash. Conformity to the popular standard of social , political or attitudinal norms is what is expected .

This blind conformity to set rules , regulations and social mores are what makes us hate people for their caste, creed, colour, religion, nationality . And once being tied to a specific position , very few can come out of it and therefore cling to the overall falsehood that defines him or her as a person. Because it is very difficult to admit mistakes , before others  and more difficult to  reconcile the self  to it. 

It haunts us to no end to find that our direction of life is opposite to the core values of humanity and we have no way to stop it because we are under the false notion that swimming against the tide may affect our present material benefits . This dichotomy makes people unhappy and they try to punish their conscience for showing them up in a poor light. The negative sentiments pour out from within and it needs a target to attack . One can't attack people who are like themselves . So they pick up the intellectuals, liberals, seculars, socialists and further modify them into anti nationals because their mind is closed within boundaries and the largest boundary which they can think of is the imagined boundary of a nation state.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Sawan ko Aane Do

#SawanKoAaneDo  I felt much amused today while listening to some people discussing about the start of Sawan and the associated sacrifice of food habits . The Indian month of Sawan  purportedly starts today or sometime this week. A lot many people do not eat meat, fish or poultry during this month as a part of some religious belief. And many also abstain from drinking alcohol.  So all around, you will hear people arranging get-togethers and  to have their fill of these soon to be banned for one month delicacies, 

Here in Mumbai , they celebrate something called Gatari  when they embark on a spree of heavy drinking with non-vegetarian food  with such a fervour that it may turn off a person who does not realise that these poor souls will abstain from the goodies of life for the next one month.  In fact after coming to Mumbai and watching people participating in this orgy like ritual of eating , I had doubts whether the word originated from - Gutter , in English . People simply down their drinks as if the world would end tomorrow and chomp on their Tandoori chicken pieces with a most prejudiced view on the whole species of chickens .

It is again a bout of  revelry after Sawan ends . People make plans to celebrate the end of Sawan almost as it starts. And for one week after Sawan , the bars are filled with thirsty tipplers relishing kebabs and fries with their drinks. Venegeance is written large over their expressions as they seem to have come back from an exile .It would appear that the restriction was not for a month but for a whole life. Such is their steadfast affinity to the religion as also to their drinks.

Frankly speaking, I am happy with Sawan and  people abstaining from non-veg food and drinks because I don't abstain from anything . The prices of fish, chicken and eggs go down during this month, even if slightly. And bars are less crowded , definitely. Wine shops announce different schemes to boost sales . Last year I noticed a - Buy three , get one free - scheme being advertised for Beer at our local wineshop and immediately took advantage of that .  Some times, I wonder why such rituals are not celebrated three or four times in a year. That would make religious people feel  holy and holier and make life less expensive for unholy people like me. So I say with a loud cry - Sawan Ko Aane Do.

P.S. Air India has decided that it's Sawan all the year round . They will not serve non-veg food , as reported in news items.

Facebook post on 10th July 2017.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The lotus of faith

The Jataka tales are a very important part of the Buddhist philosophy. They form a collection of over 500 fables and anecdotal stories which tell about the various incarnations of Buddha who was born as Siddhartha Gautama. The characters of these stories are humans as well as animals as the Buddhists believe in reincarnations as a stream of consciousness that links one life with another life. This concept known as “punarbhava” in Buddhist literature means – “becoming again”. Also rebirth is a process in cycles until one is liberated by self actualisation and extinguishes all the desires within. It may be noted that unlike the Hindu philosophy the Buddhist do not follow the premises or concept of soul or spirit.

Benares or Varanasi is considered to be the oldest city in the world under the Hindu mythology and maybe so, indeed. It is also a very important setting for many of the Jataka stories. For the Buddhist too, this city is as sacred as the Hindus and very near to Varanasi is Sarnath, where Buddha is supposed to have begun his teachings. Most of the Jataka stories are educative and informative from the angles of moral, spiritual as well as common sense. One of such stories which appealed to me is narrated as below. This one sets the precedence of duty and commitment above anything else.  

Varanasi was once ruled by the king Bramhadatt. Under his reign, peace and prosperity prevailed over the kingdom. The holy city abounded with apes and peacocks, the trumpeting of elephants and the neighing of horses. Melodious music created by instruments wafted from the homes of the singing girls, accompanying their mellifluous voices. Known as the city of seven wonders, tens of different voices mingled with each other on the streets here. 

A Bodhisatwa (future Buddha) was born in the family of the royal treasurer here. He had already passed through Koti(ten millions)s of births in his different incarnations before this and was ripe for attaining the height of consciousness(Moksha). Being born as a son to the wealthiest person of the land his childhood was most lavish and luxurious with all amenities and wealth.

In spite of his splendid upbringing, the Bodhiswat grew up as a man of great piety and extraordinary knowledge as he mastered all branches of teaching from his Gurus. He succeeded his father as the keeper of the king’s treasury. But though he exercised all his duties in the most efficient manner, he never missed out on helping others by giving out gifts and alms to anybody who approached him. There was none in the whole country who could excel him in giving alms to the poor and needy.

During the same time there also lived a holy Buddha. As a part of fulfilling the ten perfections, he had passed seven days and seven nights without eating a morsel of food. On completion of his holy trance he decided to have some food, only enough to keep him alive. Cleansing himself and wearing a Vikshu(beggar monk)’s robe , the Buddha reached the gates of the Bodhiswat’s palace, travelling through the thin air , with a begging bowl in hand, by virtue of his meditation.

Immediately on noticing the holy person in front of his door the Bodhiswat went in and brought rice and vegetables on a plate. He instructed his servant to fetch the bowl from the Buddha and fill it with food for him to eat. So the servant proceeded to fetch the bowl. But even as be advanced, and before he reached out his hand to hold the bowl, the ground beneath rocked with a terrible sound and heaved like the turbulent sea. Within moments, the earth opened itself, and ripping the ground like a huge yawning monster created a deep separating the holy Buddha. And the chasm was filled with seething flames, as if a volcano erupted.

The molten rocks spewed forth like fluid wax and rose up in clouds that even darkened the sun casting a dim shadow on everything. Seeing the fury of the hell unleashed before their eyes, the servant fled, along with his fellow menials. Only the Bodhiswat was left, standing upon one side of the abyss, and the Buddha, calmly waiting, upon the other. The abyss was not wide enough near the feet of the Buddha but rapidly widened before the feet of the Bodhiswat, and threatened to engulf him with the raging fire. This was all the handiwork of Mara, the evil demon. He wanted the Buddha to die of hunger and therefore sought to prevent any alms being given to him. Presently he too appeared in the form of a large cloud hovering to darken the place.

In a deep guttural voice that resonated like a mountain thunder Mara announced – “Go away, you foolish man. The Buddha shall not live by your alms; his hour has come and it’s my fury that you encounter between you and him.”

As the Bodhiswat looked at the Buddha across the chasm and the flames of fire; he found that the equanimity written all over the face which had not changed even a bit. Neither did he utter a word to dissuade nor give a sign of encouragement.

Putting all his concern away, the Bodhiswat cried aloud - "Mara, you shall not prevail! Your powers are not greater than my duty. O my lord Buddha, here I come. I fear none under your patronage. Come Sir; accept this food from the hands of your servant."

And with the dish of rice in his hands, the Bodhiswat strode resolutely into the roaring blaze of fire, uttering these: “Better to enter willingly into hell than neglect a duty or knowingly commit a wrong.”

The calm countenance of the Buddha now radiated with a benevolent smile. And, before the Bodhiswat could fall, there suddenly arose from the depths of the pits of the fire, a vast and beautiful lotus, like the one whose golden womb Brahma was born; it received the feet of the Bodhiswat, and bore him beyond the pit, as a spray of golden dust, sprinkled on him like a shower of stars. Then he poured into the Buddha's bowl the alms he deserved.

The darkness vanished; the abyss was nowhere and the Buddha, rising in air, passed over a bridge of rosy cloud into oblivion.

But the Bodhiswat was still standing upon the golden lotus and assured the people with his kind words of knowledge.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction from my perspective and without any prejudice or affinity towards religious feelings. I have taken some creative liberty to change the texture of the story from the version which I read, way back, first in Bengali and later in English. This is neither a literal translation nor a copy.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Random thoughts 27072017

Contrary to the popular belief many Indians have , that it was brought by the Portugese,  Christianity had its roots in India even before England and Ireland heard about  Christ. Though it is widely believed that it was introduced to Kerala within a century of Christ's death , by St. Thomas, one of the apostles of Jesus himself; it can be confirmed that the advent of Christianity was established in India by the 6th Century A.D. Kerala always had a substantial population of Jews in its coastal areas , particularly Cochin and most probably they were the first converts to Christianity because of the language affinity.

And it may also be noted that the first mosque of India, was supposedly built in 629 (during the life of Prophet Muhammad) in Kerala.  Many won't believe this  but this is a fact and there is nothing to be surprised about it. Even before the religion of Islam was established by their Prophet Mohammad , Arab traders were in contact with India. Merchants would regularly sail to the west coast of India to trade goods such as spices, gold, and African goods. Naturally, when the Arabs began to convert to Islam, they carried their new religion to the shores of India.

So those who believe or want us to believe that both Islam and Christianity are alien to our country may please note that it is more integrated with our country and its culture than USA, England, Russia,Australia and China. Those who believe in any religion can let others  practice their own religion, in peace without doubting their nationality, intention or purpose. But it's much better not to take any religion seriously. They are all controlled and propagated by vested interests.

Also people should note that our history did not start with the establishment of or freedom from the British rule. It dates back to many centuries . Much of it may be myths but nevertheless the study of recorded points of history can dispel many misconceptions that we have in our mind.

Random thoughts 28072017

With the onset of the rainy season, I now have to drop my wife every morning to her school. It takes about 10 minutes to reach the place from our residence, out of which half the time is taken to negotiate a  stretch of about 200 meters just in front of the school.

The place is well connected; a straight wide lane connects the school to the main road. On both sides of the lane, there are multi storied buildings and housing complexes. People living there are all quite well to do and more or less belong to the upwardly mobile class. Being in Navi Mumbai, the roads and buildings are well planned, well maintained and spacious too. Everybody would like to stay here and definitely aspire to buy a flat in such a locality

BUT IT TAKES ME MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES TO CROSS THE LANE, A STRETCH OF ABOUT 200 METRES IN THE MORNING. Why ? Because on both sides of the spacious lanes, cars belonging, presumably to the owners or tenants living in those flats and building complexes are lined up on both sides of the road,. And with parents coming out to drop children to schools in their own vehicles and school buses picking and dropping children from this school and also to other schools, it is a two-way traffic and becomes dangerous considering everybody is in a hurry and kids walking and crossing the road. In spite of two cars parked on both sides of the lane, it is wide enough to accommodate and allow two more normal sized cars to pass, in opposite directions. But the moment, someone drives out from the gates of one of the housing complexes or a big school bus stops to pick or drop children, there is a clogging of the lane. Honking and cursing by irate drivers start immediately as everyone is in a hurry.

I am sure this scene is repeated during the afternoon too when the schools close for the day. And this is not a one off or a unique thing happening to me or only at that place. I am sanguine that if this can happen in a well-planned locality like Nerul in Navi Mumbai, much more and exponentially irritating clogging of roads are happening every day in the thousands of bustling towns and cities of our vast country. It is nothing new. And it will carry on like this. That's what people will say. Only I am bothered because I have a nit-picking, intolerant and negative mind. The remedy to this is having a deep breath and forget about it.

OK, so far and so good. Let me come to the crux of the issue which is prickly enough and make everybody lose the slight hint of a smile at my lunatic raving and ranting.
WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THIS ROAD BLOCK?  The answer is simple enough - Occupation of the common space provided by the Municipality authorities in a planned city by the residents there. Yes, that's the truth. Bitter, maybe. Why,  some of us might be doing the same thing. You can't blame people for parking their cars on the roads. Where will they park their cars then? The government must do something, the municipality must do something, the resident owners' committee must do something, the local council-member must do something. Well, in effect, everybody must do something other than the person who parks his car every day on the side of the common road, as if he owns the space by virtue of his buying or renting a flat in the adjacent housing complex.

And mind it, none of the people who do this are impoverished. They are well heeled and their families belong to the top ten percent of the population of this country by income considerations. In many of the cases, the car parked outside is the second or the older car in the household with the costlier and newer one safely parked in the parking space within the housing complex.

I recently discussed this phenomenon with a gentleman. He immediately got offended and in a very much irritated tone told me that I was not saying anything about the slums that grow up in different places by the encroachment of government land. Then he accused me of harboring an anti-elite bias and also being a habitually anti growth person. Rounding off, he marked me as a Communist - speaking like a bloody Commie - that was the exact word he used. Probably he meant it as the vilest abuse that can be made without being charged of being an abusive person.

And this is exactly the point I want to make. We, the privileged, park our cars on the roads, the common spaces provided to make our living nicer, as a matter of right and perks of being privileged. Then from the cozy confines of our aseptic and comfortable lives, we castigate the poor for the "Jhopadpatti" they create by encroaching. The average price of a car nowadays would be more than Rupees Five lacs. It will take 10 years for a person to earn that amount ( not savings ) going by the minimum wages paid in India. And needless to say, not everybody is paid the minimum wage prescribed.

The other point that can be made is that the lack of planning both at the individual , societal and governmental level. You will find that numerous housing colonies come up and people buy them without providing common spaces, for parking. I  myself have such an experience. People don't plan for their future growth while buying a flat because the main consideration is the price, not the living. And then later, after they attain a certain level of disposable income, they think of buying a vehicle. And for parking, the roads and the common spaces are naturally the choices. The real problem is of the mindset. People come and live in cities but can't discard the village from their thinking. So just like the bullock cart that is parked in front of the house in villages, they park their vehicles in front of their house in cities too, be it a public road or a common facility.

There will be many who will point to the lack of good public transport system in our cities and towns. And they may be correct, but to an extent only. It is not the only reason. If you don't agree then I request you to visit places like Cuffe Parade, Nariman point and other such places which are considered to be posh areas and see for yourself how the cars of the rich and powerful occupy the roads. Some of them may even be costlier than a small flat in a smaller city. I can well imagine what happens in the numerous towns which have come up without any plans throughout the country.