Saturday, December 11, 2010

Stairway to heaven

Ever wondered why people turn towards God in their fag end of life!? Even if you were to look back in history, specifically the ancient Indian history, you will find life divided into four phases – bramhacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha and sanyasa, where it is again in the last phase that one is supposed to devote the self in search of the divine. Why the search for unknown and eternal when approaching the end? If it is valued above all earthly things then wouldn’t it be more reasonable to invest more time thereby perhaps starting this search in our adulthood itself?

Aldous Huxley in Brave New World has a point of view which is as compelling as it can ever get. Following is the extract.

A man grows old; he feels in himself that radical sense of weakness, of listlessness, of discomfort, which accompanies the advance of age…the religious sentiment, tends to develop as we grow older; to develop because, as the passion grows calm, as the fancy and sensibilities are less excited and less excitable, our  reason becomes less troubled in its working, less obscured by the images, desires and distractions in which it used to be absorbed; where upon God emerges from behind a cloud; our soul feels, sees, turns towards the source of all light; turns naturally and inevitably; for now that all that gave  to the world of sensations its life and charms has begun to leak away from us, now that phenomenal existence is no more we feel the need to lean on something that abides, some thing that will never play us false – a reality, an everlasting and absolute truth. We inevitably turn to God; for this religious sentiment is so pure, so delightful to the soul that experiences it, that it makes up to us for all our other losses.
You can be only independent of God while you’ve got youth and prosperity; but youth doesn’t last till the end. If you have youth and prosperity right up to the end, what follows?? Independence from God! The religious sentiment will compensate us form all other losses. But there aren’t any losses to compensate when youthful desires never fail.

Monday, November 22, 2010

दिल का चिराग

It does occur to us on many occasions that something stirs up our heart and a song or a couplet immediately
springs up in memory to stay on our lips for long.
The following verse from an Ameer Meenai’s ghazal has been a recurring thought for past few days; and the following poem a humble inspiration.

…वो नहीं सुनते हमारी क्या करें,
मांगते हैं हम दुआ जिनके लिए …
~ अमीर मीनाई


उनकी रूठी नज़रें सवाल कर रही हैं  
यहाँ बेज़ुबां निगाहें भीग रही हैं
कल हिज्र की तन्हाई ने फासले कम किये थे
आज फासले दूरियां बन के तन सी गयी हैं

ज़ुबां ढूँढती है उन लफ़्ज़ों को
पर गुम हैं मेरे अल्फाज़ इस महफ़िल में 
बेबस तमन्ना कैसे कह सकें कुछ  
जब बिखरे लम्हों की शोर में -
खुद लम्हा लम्हा बिखर रहें हों

क्या दिल का चिराग बुज गया है
क्यूँ खामोश और चुप वक़्त खड़ा है
कहाँ पलट कर फिर देखूं उनको
जिनका निशां किसी मोड़ पे छूट गया है

Sunday, October 10, 2010


It’s been over two months now since my arrival here in Phoenix, and I am yet to see anything that can put me in a state of awe. Now, why should it be, anyways!? Because, isn’t America a dreamland where you find tall buildings, snazzy cars and ‘gori mems’, all unheard and unseen at home!?
 This certainly was a view, unfounded or fed, but firmly entrenched in the minds of people who got a chance to travel abroad. And, to be fair, was also the case as someone from yore would vindicate. But I think this has ceased to be the case anymore. People now realize that all the above three listed are available in plenty at home and, often, are of a better quality, too.
Take for example the office campuses of companies like Infosys. The kind of infrastructure and architecture they present can easily outclass some of the heavy weights in the world. Marquee brands in the automobile sector like Jaguar have, courtesy Tata, become ‘desi’. Tata and other brands make India, perhaps the best small car market in the world. Indian ‘mems’ regardless of the color of their skin, have bagged more number of beauty crowns than any and are second only to Venezuela. And that’s just not all about us, which is the best part!
So has the American postcard got nothing to offer to excite us anymore? Well, it depends on what one is looking for in the postcard. Is it the visible and more palpable infrastructural development all around or is it the development in the societal mores – a kind of development which I would attribute to ‘soft’ infrastructure? While some may still be amazed by the former, it is, however, the latter which evokes larger interest and, here I would like to concede, has put me in a state of awe.
We, as a society back home, may have caught up, or are fast catching up, with acquiring the various amenities, which a developed world already has, but it is the ‘soft’ infrastructure that still keeps the society in the developed world way ahead of ours. And it is here that a lot of work needs to be done by us; since, on one hand we have shown remarkable growth in our economy but on the other, are definitely lagging behind in building a ‘social wealth’.
Social wealth resides in the consciousness of a society having bred on collective conscience that is responsive to the needs of all. It is a result of a gradual maturity of a society, which takes time to absorb the numerous advances man makes, and then assimilates them into its being. Therefore it is essential for any society to give itself sufficient time to grow and become mature – in other words, follow a natural curve of progression.  Developing societies, which are in a haste to get up among others, would naturally tend to follow a far sharper curve which won’t allow them to assimilate the progress in a gradual way.
America got its independence way back in the second half of eighteenth century, and hence got more than two hundred years to settle down with the various advances its society was making. India, on the other hand, which was ruled for two hundred years and got her independence only six decades ago, finds herself with hardly any time to grow along with the changing times. And this is the reason why we as a society have so far been poor in accruing any social wealth.
Any invention that man makes goes through various stages in its lifetime before becoming obsolete – experimentation, exploitation and reconciliation. So any society witnessing any development needs to give itself time to allow that tool of progress to reconcile itself with the needs of the society. India came into existence amidst so much advancement that she was not able to reconcile the advances to suit her needs. She might still be in the exploitative phase of so many advancements while also at the same time trying to reckon with the rapidly changing times she is living in now.
Social wealth stems from ‘soft infrastructure’, which can be loosely described as facilities a society has at its disposal. But there is a difference. For example, there are ATMs all across the US and India. This comes under the head of ‘facility’. But ATMs that have their keypad numbers in Braille too would come under the head of ‘soft infrastructure’, which one easily finds in US and not in India. One not just finds such ATMs but also almost any other public facility in US made with enough thought for people who are differently abled. Doors have buttons next to them so that they can be operated by people on wheel chair. Buses are constructed in a special manner to aid wheel-chaired people to board and de-board easily. Traffic rules bestow the first right to pedestrians by not just asking any vehicle to stop if anyone is crossing but also by allowing the person to cross first and only  then letting the vehicle to continue. Further the traffic lights have a mechanism to allow the pedestrians to change the signal so that they can cross the roads. These are but a few examples which are enough to suggest that the developed societies not only have made infrastructural advancements but are also sitting on a heap of social wealth.
While I would agree that that these societies were not having such measures in place from day one, but the fact that they do have them at least today should not take away any credit from them.
One might argue that the lack of social wealth can ever be attributed to the foreign rule India was under since, in a way India benefited from the British Raj in the sense that she had a foundation laid for her present growth courtesy the various elements of development that the Raj brought here albeit for its own facilitation. In other words, India didn’t need to reinvent the wheel and got a chance to start at an equal platform as others. But that’s the whole point – that India didn’t need to reinvent the wheel actually wasn't such a blessing in disguise as it led to an alienation of her from the evolution a human thought undergoes for any kind of development.  The platform, which India got to rest her present day growth, was heavily doped with foreign thought. It hasn’t been an independent thought, or an experiment in self to determine the course to be taken for future. India continued, and continues, to leapfrog from one milestone of development to another without going through the journey that led to the development. The result is that we lap in the various inventions that man makes but stay untouched by the ‘necessity’ that led to the invention. Our base hence becomes an imported set of developments we land upon that in turn makes us good only as far as ‘application’ is concerned. We become good in applying things but not in inventing things. It is worthwhile to ask why almost all inventions and developments take place in the West and not here? Because they have had an uninterrupted chain of an evolving thought which is growing along with the progress that is being made. Ours is an interrupted and in a way a usurped thought because of the alien rule that we were subjected to. It would be a good academic exercise to ponder on the possibilities of an uninterrupted reign of the Indian society which wouldn’t have seen the rule of British Crown but rather the growth of its own civilization through its own trials and tribulations. We could have been a society with great social wealth with our own set of inventions and advancements as we would have allowed ourselves the luxury of progressing at our own pace. Our thoughts and advancements could have surpassed all others had we followed our own natural curve of progression. It is no secret that Indian science was way ahead of times and the Western world woke up to many ideas which had been invented here centuries ago. The fast disappearing language of Sanskrit is hailed, alas by the Western minds and not by us, as the only natural language best suited for Artificial Intelligence. Had these and many more chains of thought and ideas progressed uninterrupted we could have been a different society and may be an even better one than many others.
All said and done, however, nothing should stop us from becoming better and if we have been imbibing things from West, maybe we can imbibe some more to make ourselves richer in social wealth.

Friday, July 23, 2010

To be or not to be

It’s been pretty late that I’ve become politically conscious. Not that this awareness is grounded on a firm foundation of theory and arduous research on the politics of this country, which the reader might construe as the reason for such a delay, but a steady accrual of interest has been  courtesy the ubiquitous 24x7 news channel hogging the television screen that helps keep my political quotient grow and my political naïveté at bay.
And what this consciousness has led to is a very engaging curiosity about the political phenomenon in India.
Take for example the two principal parties in India. Both the parties are remembered more for their darker deeds than for any glorious contributions that they have made in their years of reckoning. And not as if this were a specialty that only these two can find their names against - almost every political party in the world has a darker side which it tries to hide - but the effect they have had on the years that followed, and the years that are yet to come, is something that has defined the existence of the people of this country as no other party has ever done perhaps anywhere else in the world. This is not an exaggeration as it is the very nature of the Indian society with its innumerable oddities that makes the situation so unique.
The Babri episode in 1992 was a major turning point in the Indian politics. An attempt so blatant to mix religion with politics could never have taken place but for a desperateness to lay hands on power that yielded to such an act of utmost vileness. The fault lines that this incident begot have been expanding ever since and got widened further in the Gujrat pogrom stemming from an act of communal barbarianism inflicted upon the passengers of the Godhra Express. It is interesting to note here that the word ‘communal’, which in standard English refers to of or by community - having therein a sense of togetherness, has acquired an entirely sinister meaning in the Indian context. Communal riots, communal speeches, communal politics and all other such terms are so antithetical to the very concept of a community. Rewind a decade back from that of Babri’s and history is yet again bloody with the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. When a big tree falls, the earth shakes - that was the state’s explanation to the role it had chosen to play when innocent were getting butchered before its very eyes.
A lot of water has flown through the Ganges, or shall we say a lot of malice has flown through the Indian heartland since these unfortunate times. And yet, politics here has never stopped to acquire newer and more fantastic shades of color.
Recent times have seen some very erudite people join these parties. Some have joined one party because the rival is overtly communal, while remaining have opted for the other party because this one is covertly communal. Which ever way you look at, both the parties have in their kitty some of the best in class people for the business. And yet, one begs to ask, why hasn’t either of them in its respective regimes done well?
The pre-millennium decade saw as many as six governments getting formed. The seventh, which finally managed to pull off decent numbers in the parliament, was a massive coalition of several parties coming together on a ‘common minimum program’ – a recent phrase that owes its currency to such efforts of coalition. The cabinet presented a very handsome picture with some seasoned players at the helm of affairs. But as one recollects now of the years that passed under them, one is reminded of some high profile scams which kept tumbling out like skeletons from their cupboard. Acts of state complicity in violence against innocents, active promotion to adopt some ancient norms and practices in the name of culture, and state support to surreptitious acts communalism dominated the headlines. Whatever happened to the scholars that formed the backbone of the government? Whatever happened to the hope that they had sown in the minds of people? The veterans of the party, unfortunately, continued to believe that holding onto the party’s ‘roots’, which they surmised to be the reason for their coming to power, would still be their best bet and hence worked hard to keep these ‘roots’ alive . This notion led to a misplaced sense of euphoria and a belief that people too shared their sentiment of a ‘shining India’.
Then it was the turn of the grand old party. A remarkable resurgence, which has seen the party in the seat for more than a full term now, led by someone whom many had set aside as a ‘videshi gudia’, easily qualifies as one of the greatest comebacks Indian politics has ever seen. But here again nothing of note has really been seen from a very able portfolio of ministers, barring of course a few. The expectations are justifiably high since the man leading from front is the one responsible for bringing the economic turnaround in India. Strangely, though, factors beyond their control are holding back this bunch of technocrats from bringing about another revolution in the country. The coalition compulsions forced them to befriend with people who have done more harm than the ones in the opposition could have done. First, it was the archaic ideas from Left. Then, in the second innings, came a string of pain points in the form of incompetent ministers forming the alliance. And as if this is not enough, past conducts of the party keep looming back into present to cause much discomfort to the leaders.
In an effort to absolve it of the sins of 1984, the party leaders expressed quiet publicly of the shame and trauma they bore of the incident. But later they again found themselves in the dock with the Sajjan Kumar episode. Very recently it has been the ‘anniversary’ of the Bhopal incidents that has started taking a toll on the party.
It is a little unfortunate that when the incumbent dispensation has some excellent heads at work then episodes embedded in the past still rise up to have a bearing on the present and stall any good efforts from being made. Even more unfortunate is that people have to stand up in defense of such episodes just to protect the image of the party and unwittingly become a party to the crime that they never involved in.

Monday, March 29, 2010

एक रूमानी सा मन

कल रात आँगन में बैठ एक टकटकी लगाए
मैं चाँद को देख रहा था
हल्की हवाओं ने भी वहां अपना डेरा जमाया था
कुछ अलग ही था वो समां
थोड़ा रूमानी शायद और कुछ जवान सा भी था

कभी बादलों का पर्दा सामने आता
तो कभी चुपके से निकल कर  
चाँद भी मुस्कुराता
हवाएं अपनी बेखयाली में  
कभी मुझसे आ टकराती  
और अचानक मेरे होने की खबर पर  
फिर थम सी जातीं  

सहसा मुझे ख़याल आया
कहीं हवाएं चाँद की हमजोली तो नहीं
ये  शाम को रोज़ यूँ आना   
कोई आंखमिचोली तो नहीं

मैं मुस्कुरा कर अन्दर लौट आया
खेल्ती पिघल्ती चांदनी को  
हवाओं के संग छोड़ आया

तब दिल ने एक दस्तक दी और कहा
कुछ रिश्तों को एक आज़ादी ही सुहाती है

क्या हो गर चांदनी को लकीरों में समेटा जाए?
या फिर,
हवाओं की मर्ज़ी पर अपनी हुकूमत चलायी जाए?

तब क्या होंगी वो शामें,
जिन्के लिखे गए हैं अफ़साने?
तब क्या बनेंगे वो ताज,
जिन्में  किसी मुमताज़  की होंगी यादें?

क्यूँ न कुछ रिश्तों को  
यूँ ही छोड़ दें हम
न कोई शर्तें हों न हो सवालों की घुटन
बस हों तो सिर्फ  
हम तुम और एक रूमानी सा मन...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Paa - Review

If you remember, the promos of Paa had featured the progeria afflicted character of Auro, played by Amitabh Bachhan. Clearly, even the film-makers believed that the singularity of Auro was the selling point of the movie. Then why, in heaven's name, was the movie titled Paa?? Even a generous consideration of the movie's plot wouldn't justify this title. There isn't Paa anywhere in the movie but only Maa and Auro.

The story revolves around Auro who is suffering with a rare genetic disorder called progeria. The body of a progeria afflicted child ages very rapidly and hence has a very short life-span of around 13 or 14 years. Auro and his single mother, played by Vidya Balan, have, apparently, reconciled with this fact and are living peacefully till the day when a fortuitous encounter brings Amol Arte, a politician played by Abhishek Bachhan, in the lives of the mother and son. Long forgotten memories spring back to life and the lives of the three unwittingly get more and more drawn towards each other.

The most notable performance comes from Maa. In a movie where the title alludes to a strong patriarchal role, Vidya manages to lift her character and brings it to life beautifully. She grabs every little opportunity provided by the script and makes the most of it even when she has to cradle a legend like Big B in her arms. Abhishek Bachhan leaves a lot to be desired. His being the central character seemed incidental to the movie and on occasions his absence actually benefits the script. Abhishek sleep-walks the entire movie and couples that with some cheesy dialogues to make the performance supremely forgettable and unreal. Paa is to blame himself to push his character to the peripheral gloom of the movie. Amitabh Bachhan performs as per the script, but then that is not what is expected from a legend. Here, R Balki should take part of the blame. Balki sketches a frustratingly unreal character of Auro. Given this irritating challenge, Amitabh Bachhan rises to the occasion to make some sense of Auro's character. It occurs as if Balki has a completely misplaced notion of what a childhood is like. Most of the child characters shown in the movie are unnaturally mature beyond their age. Where you expected a child's innocence you find sometimes crisp and sometimes just outrageous dialogues. Same was the case in Cheeni Kum. There you had a child who preferred being called as 'Sexy', expressly wished to watch adult movies, for whatever reasons, and on top of that had worldly wise view of life even before hitting her teens! Here, too, Auro seems just too mature for his age and needs no confirmation in this since he is shown to be smart enough to engineer a truce between his estranged parents.

This movie may either entertain you or simply annoy you. It may even thoroughly disappoint you. With such a brilliant concept - bearing an uncanny semblance to that of a movie featuring Brad Pitt, the movie had the potential to achieve the glory of Taare Zameen Pe. The potential ingredients were there but sadly no tight script. The script loses its grip in too many places to be ignored. Going by the purported theme of the movie, the script comes up with multiple sub-plots far removed from the main theme. The film wanders into political rivalry only to jump out abruptly and not before delivering a tirade against the media on ethics. Unnecessary and amateurish, the scene makes the character of Amol Arte even more unreal. The script puts both father and son in a unique role-reversal, but attempts to weave some magic moments between Amitabh as son and Abhishek as father are wasted in some silly scenes like the one where Auro sits on the hand of Amol or where Auro gives potty lectures to Amol. The only convincing performance came from the mother-son duo and may be it would have been a lot better to have the trials and tribulations of a single mother and a progeria afflicted child as the central theme. At least, that would have reduced scope for making complaints.