Sunday, November 28, 2010

Despair and Hope: To No End

It is indeed not surprising that things have come out to the surface through the ‘Radiagate’ as it is now being called. As a lot of journalists who have given their opinion to the media watch dog have expressed themselves, its better late than never that all this much has finally surfaced, exposing the true journalists from people who pretend to be elite power brokers who wield their power to decide the fate of our nation. There are, however, certain things that have troubled me as an Indian for the past few days now – certain thoughts and questions that have been troubling me to the extent that it makes me worry about the future of a nation. I am currently studying outside India and having talked to people across a spectrum, I certainly reiterated something to myself – the freedom of speech has been indeed a valuable fundamental right that Indians were guaranteed. Have we used it to the best extent possible? I am young, so I cannot dwell on what I have not seen, and would rather like to focus on what I see.

A fantastic 2005 documentary that independent filmmaker Robert Kane Pappas called ‘Orwell Rolls in His Grave’ had dared to expose how the media plays to the tune of corporate interests in the United States of America, arguably the land of the idea of freedom of speech. Seeing that documentary made the hair on my skin rise in fear, for I could see so many parallels being followed in India, it made me wonder as to whether we really are a people whose power to remember is really so short lived we tend to be played by people who are far removed from me but definitely claim to represent my voice on the news channels, screaming 24X7 that ‘I want you to answer me Mr. XXXX, who has given you the right to sit in that chair when so much wrong has taken place?’ Indeed, one simply needs to look at the current crop of journalists to realize that most of them

1. Have not and will most probably not see a village in their lifetime

2. Do not read newspapers or magazines to understand what is going on

3. Have no clue as to what morality really means

4. Are elitist and snobbish, and absolutely dumb if one were to weigh the intellectual merit of the questions asked sometimes in press conferences.

Do not get me wrong. I do not dare to paint the entire media spectrum with the same brush stroke. I have grown up reading and listening to the English language media, so I can only comment on these people, though Hindi channels are equally culpable of sensationalism and cronyism of the worst kind. What saddens me the most though is the manner in which the media decides what is important and worth coverage; who deserves the trial by media and who deserves a clean goody good image in the media. Lobbying is not a secret for those who follow the independent media and especially those who follow the ‘anti development’ environmentalists who have often been at the receiving end of such activities along with the babus (in themselves a corrupt elitist crony exclusivist group) who sit in absolute awe of these sophisticated accented English speaking suit or tussar saree wearing men and women while they jot down the points dictated to them, claiming to turn the wheel of fortune for India and charting its destiny. I have seen it happen in subtle ways around me; I see it in happening in a brazen fashion as well, and the media big wigs currently represent the ground between these two extremes, though no less guilty.

I often worry sometimes that our country is failing itself on the grounds of true democracy, and that we are seeing a convergence, albeit a rapid one, of the corporate, political and media interests, thus forming a coterie of sorts which tries to dictate the voice of India, deciding on what merits a ‘serious discussion’ and what does not. It is shameful to see at times that guilty parties are asked on public television whether they are guilty s charged – has a seasoned criminal ever accepted his/her crime when asked about it? This powerful convergence of interests of people from select families is leading to the formation of a new ruler class or oligarchy that has, sixty years down the line since 1947, replaced the Britishers so successfully it becomes Orwellian in nature the way they speak. Let us just take the instance of the way issues of political discourse are covered. One can often see how friendships between these journalists and their ‘politician’ friends results in a strange kind of bonhomie where these journalists fail to ask anything hard or tough. Just looking at Rahul Gandhi’s press conferences and the kind of questions being asked of him makes me wonder whether India as a country is so bereft of intelligent people who can challenge what he claims or says in a matter of seconds. Or take the case of easily the whole electronic voter machine issue was trashed by ‘Dr.’ Prannoy Roy by asking Mr. Qureshi, the Election Commissioner of the Election Commission of India, by asking him, the accused – are you guilty of using fraudulent machines? And accepting the negative response, Dr. Roy was satisfied. Take for instance the coverage that Arundhati Roy garners in our media space, and projected as the anti development anti India NGO face, when she barely represents these people – do these people ever dare to highlight the work of such people as Dr. Rajendra Singh, Anupam Mishra or Chandi Prasad Bhatt? If I were to ask some of today’s journalists who these people are, I know that I would be met by stony silence and a shrug of shoulders, for let alone see them, our ‘journalists’ have not even read about them or their work. All that they care about is how much money can selling sex violence and glamour on news channels can get their channels. “We subscribe to the people who pay our salaries” is the mantra of journalism today, a far cry from what luminaries of journalism such as Raja Rammohun Roy, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Mahatma Gandhi would undertake during their times of media stewardship. Journalism then perhaps had a sense of purpose of freeing our country; today’s media has a sense of purpose of ruining our country.

You may say, after reading my diatribe, that my cynicism has no space in India’s future. I am not a pessimist – I believe we have a bright future to fight and perhaps perish for that our country represents. But seeing what is happening justifies my middle class hypocritical cynicism. Hammam mein sab nange khade hain got a new meaning today, and that it is for the worse was perhaps my misfortune. An institution that dared to fight an Emergency today needs to fight an emergency of another kind – of purging itself of the corrupt elements from within, and the sooner the better. I pray for my nation to be rid of this cancer of oligarchy that we have developed – else I can only pray for peace in this country of angry frustrated people whose limits of patience has been crossed, and for whom no institution is free of blemish, reiterating their cynicism all over again.

I feel that I have failed my nation and its aspirations. As the hope of the nation today, I have nothing but cynicism and vitriolic humour to offer instead of hope and a breath of fresh air. But why is it that I feel so helpless and dejected, and believe that I cannot make a difference? Is it because I have been trained by the system to be so? Or is it because I have let the system do it to me? A mix of both perhaps; but what if I want to rebel against it now? What option do I have? Do I pick up the gun and share the field with those whose politics and ideology I do not believe in, whose idea of India is repulsive to me? Or do I enter the ballot field disadvantaged by the lack of any political base, especially family base?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Aa Poh

She sat there, sketching
While I was standing
And people walked past
Unruffled, as if pretending

She sat there, a cloth laid out
Held down by a few cents sitting
On it with a few notes lying here and there
While she remained stooped on her drawing

Shriveled structure, eyes longing
For the times when she was young
And important, but now only a shadow
When once she too was vibrant and strong

Now all alone, I guess
And no one to help, or offer any
As we all remained aloof
To her troubles and obscurity
And she continued sketching
While we breezed past her silently

Thursday, October 14, 2010


The sun rolled by
The moon looked on
While we stood there
Wondering what was wrong

The blood of the martyrs
Flowing like rivulets
Thick and red, they were
Going to a complete waste

The spirits of the dead
Kept staring at me
Asking us questions silently
How disappointing could you be?

Our tears, our wounds, the deathly haze
For what? Oh what mistake did we make?
Was it for this miserable day?
That kids are buried by fathers in haste?

That mothers ran out of tears
Crying for the missing ones
And wives stare at the door
Hoping they get their husband's glance

That the dead would pile up in heaps
While their flesh gets eaten by worms
Only because no one can decide
Who killed whom, and whose is the turn

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lets Go

Let us go towards that far away horizon, so that I can see you clearly in the sunlight, for the world blurs in my eyes your true beauty, by illuminating you with all that fake light.

Let us go towards that clear blue sky, so that I can breathe in your fragrance, for the smells of the world tend to screen from me that which is your true essence.

Let us go towards the mouth of the river so that I can truly feel you, as the mud and grit tend to hide from me your skin's true touch, your body's vigour

Let us go towards the the ends of the garden of Eden, so that I can relish you truly, for all the world's tastes have obscured my tongue to your true your true taste, your true flavour

I know we cannot run away from the world but we can definitely hide in its corners, for there is nothing more in this world that I want than you being with me forever.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Bad Dream

Long ago the clock washed midnight away; bringing the dawn;
I wake up all of a sudden. Its dark around me, and I am scared - scared that darkness will engulf me and swallow me up to the point of disappearing forever. Dawn is far off it seems, and I for one am clueless as to what is going to happen to me next.
I get out of the bed to realize that the floor is still there. Its chill sends a chill up my spine; but it is comforting in a weird sense. I can see in this darkness a strange silhouette of the doorway, as I stumble along towards the kitchen, trying to get for myself a glass of water to quench the thirst. The sweat trickling down my back makes me uncomfortable; not because of its expression of wet, but because it flows out of fear - fear of the bad dream I saw when I was perhaps asleep.

Oh God, I must be dreaming; time to get up again; and time to start up again

Terrible dreams plague me. They seem to be chasing me from a past unknown to me. In my dream I was an audio witness to the screams of a woman being raped; her cries of help shattered the night's hourglass, and all I did was to stand and listen to the piercing screeches of the woman. I was the only person around; the house was hauntingly familiar; the place too; and though I cannot see it, I know what is going on. What happened? It is difficult to explain. And yet, the discomfort of my aloofness in the dream disturbed me to the very core; it scared me of myself. Yes, that's why I woke up frightened - frightened of my own reaction.

The glass of water trickled down the throat, and perhaps also gave me a feel of myself once again. I was reassured to some extent - at least there is something human about me again. And yet the dream lingers on; it keeps playing back like a re-winded tape that has been repeated to perhaps highlight a particular scene in a movie.

Why? Why is this happening to me?

I don't know.

Perhaps the only person that can answer this question is the dream catcher who went away, leaving behind his trash in my brain to ruin my night.

Maybe the night knows something, but it does not want to answer. Even before I could ask it, dawn broke out, chasing the night away with the answer to my question.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A story about Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi's Impact

 A man once boarded the wrong train and ended up in Tamil Nadu near Arunachala in Tamil Nadu, a holy pilgrim site that has moved many a seer...