Three days of pure magic : Jashn – E – Adab, A harmonious hymn of Hindi and Urdu

‘Magic happens when you least expect it’, this beautiful dictum happened to me in three days of colourful and majestic celebration of Hindustani Zubaan at Jamia Hamdard. The occasion was ‘Jashn – E – Adab’, A celebration of Hindustani etiquette, refinement, manners, morals, decorum, decency and humaneness. This was magical for me because I experienced a harmonious mix of Urdu and Hindi, celebrated in the works and words of poets, writers, historians, actors and musicians. I not only got a chance to meet celebrated artists but also humans of Jamia Hamdard who belonged to a different faith.

When I entered campus of Jamia Hamdard, it felt and smelt different, I don’t know if it was wide and green space in otherwise jammed Delhi or Hijaab clad women driving scooty, Jamia hamdard was atypically non conforming. At the end of a very long road there was a beautifully decorated lawn with colourful flags, flowers and fairy lights. You know one of those places which are lit with setting sun and cool breeze, where just your mere presence makes you joyous, such was evening aura at Jashn- E – Adab. But there are days when god is brutal to his children, within minutes sunshine disappeared and a strong storm appeared. It was a huge challenge and disappointment for Jashn-e-adab team since their all arrangements for the evening were al fresco. Weather went crazy and Jashn- e – adab team within minutes took all equipments inside the convention hall. Without any sign of disappointment on face, team managed to pull a spectacular evening. There were praises all over. During that time I met a very beautiful woman who wore even more beautiful hijab over her kurti. I felt aliveness in her eyes when she came to talk to me. We instantly connected and started chatting about Islam and Hinduism. From religion we went on to spirituality, from spirituality we came back to Jashn E Adab. She very innocently said, “When I came to Jashn-e-adab, it felt mine. This is my tehzeeb. These clubs or pubs are not for me, this Sufism is mine.” I understood how content she was feeling by the shine in her eyes. Such was the magic of Jashn E Adab.

2nd day of Jashn-E-Adab was marked by two very talented and veteran artists, Piyush Mishra and Yashpal Sharma. During the event, Yashpal Sharma was asked how he reached Bombay from Delhi. His one liner reply threw light on his life full of struggle. He said, I didn’t reach Bombay from Delhi, I started from my village to town, from town to Chandigarh, From Chandigarh to Delhi, then from Delhi to Bombay.” Indeed Ranbeer Kapoor and Alia Bhatt are talented but they haven’t seen the struggle that Piyush Mishra and Yashpal Sharma saw, and today this struggle is their legacy. Day 2 was houseful because of these wise legends.

3rd day was most magical for me because it started with disappointment while it ended with enchantment. Previous night I got to know that I was rejected by my dream organization. It broke my heart and confidence. Because of my responsibilities as a volunteer, I came to festival while at the same time I wanted to shift my mind to something else. Jashn- E- Adab was a buffer for me in this time of hardship. On day three two very strong women journalists formed a panel to discuss women empowerment in the festival. Disturbed by the events of my life I asked them why freshers in industry are so exploited. The people at top have luxury to practice unbiased and civil journalism while people at bottom remain jobless if they even think of doing so. Understanding my condition Sonia Singh gave me an avowal and assurance. She said that the people like us are working hard for the people like you, but world cannot change in a day. Just do justice to your work and you will notice the change. Perhaps that was something I needed to hear.

After that when the day passed away, I wasn’t able to realize. I was so busy with interviewing revered personalities that I didn’t notice when the moon replaced the sun. When I was about to leave for home, a lady security guard came to me and said that she also wants to stay with me. I mockingly replied that I myself don’t have a job, where will I keep you. She laughed and asked me if I can get a picture clicked with her. After that she gently put her hand on my head and said ‘Jeete raho’. A tear rolled down from my eyes and she hugged me tight. That was the moment of the day.

Three days of Jashn-e-adab made me realize the magic called life. Time in life takes you up, pushes you down. In really happy days there can be seconds of monumental sadness and in worst days of your life there will moments which you will remember for years. This is what life is. This celebration of life and living will always be a fond chapter in my life’s book.


The Role of Media in Stereotyping women

Media is vital for society because it shapes the mind of people living in a society. So it is a responsibilty of media to break the stereotypes that exist in society by the effective use of medium. Media has an immense effect on people and it could help in bringing a change in society and stereotyped perceptions.Media plays a significant role in shaping a society where women and men enjoy equal rights. It is very unfortunate that Mass Media reproduce discriminatory stereotypes about women and portray them as commercial commodities promoting the sale of a product in a predominantly market oriented society or are shown in the traditional mould of a housewife, mother or a sister tending and maintaining a man’s home or at best fulfilling a subsidiary role to man.

‘Men look, women appear’, these words indicate that media were initially managed solely by men. The media images of men and women were customized to men’s preferences. Hence, the creation of images by media of both the gender as men wished to see in reality.

The sub-ordination of women in different human societies is a fact of history and unequal distribution or the lack of access among women to socio-economic conditions is a prime determinant in all societies. And, the concept of femininity and Masculanity are socio-cultural constructs rather than biological. So the representations and manifestations of femininity differ across culture, time and societies. This concept is cultivated by the society, education and largely, the media.

The depiction of women in media remained a means of cheap and popular entertainment devoid of any meaningful social purpose. The negative effect of such a situation is the depiction of vulgarity or excessive importance to female sexuality, be it relevant or not to the product.

The woman portrayal are always in black and white but not in various shades of grey that encompasses any issue including the woman. A woman either a Phoolan devi or Indira Nooyi in a news story. She is either Sita or an achiever to be fit to be in the media. Worse still, women are occassionally seen in clear contradiction or contra-indication to man where the interests of the two sexes  cannot be harmonised on issues like prohibition etc. why must prohibition be a woman’s issue so acutely and not just society as a whole is because of the essential flaw in understanding that a woman is traditionally more concerned about the economic well-being and welfare of her family and children than others. Why this portrayal of traditional mother-figure in a Durga mood? or so-called ‘special treatment’.

The ubiquitous way of looking at a woman especially in India still continues to be ‘manusmriti’ view. For instance, association with wicked people, separation from husband, rambling abroad and sleeping at unreasonable hours are facts to brand a woman ‘ruined’. Not only the representation and manifestation but the plight of women in media industries as an employ is also not very progressive. Till today women in such a mindset are considered fit only to write on subjects like cooking dress designing, fashion, religious matters etc. The employers, whether men or women very often are reluctant to employ women because of a general bias against them and due to a low perception of their capabilities. They discounted on the account of higher costs involved by waybof maternity leave, duty at odd hours, odd places etc. Also, the sexual innuendoes against women employees and hesitation of male colleagues to take instructions from women in such positions.

The special journals for women make the issues stand on their head. The acute and obtuse treatment of the subject becomes abominably boring or completely one-sided. And in the hands of campaigners, especially the foreign fund, guzzling NGO’s, the issue becomes wholly commercial. It is just a method to secure a jaunt abroad with many NGOs. Though, without doubt, there are exceptions.

Though the contemporary media increasingly associate femininity with independent and powerful women, qualities informed by sexuality continue to play a dominant role in the shaping of femininity. But, the long term change in women’s images in media could help change the perceptions and stereotypes women face in society.  Hence, with the emergence of technology and New media, the image and voicing of women and their concerns are also changing in a very revolutionary way. Today, an era of user-generated content where we are not only consuming the content but at the same time producing also and anyone man or woman can raise their voice by themselves. It has some negatives also as if we see closely in traditional media, it is possible to work with the leadership and staff to undergo training and achieve some results Whereas in Social Media the threats and offensive comments about women are much more sexist and patriarchal.

A walk to Lothian Cemetry at Purani Delhi!

“SACRED-  TO THE MEMORY OF THOMAS SAMUEL THE BELOVED SON OF LIEUT RAYNOR ORD DEPARTMENT WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE THE 14TH DAY OF JAN 1854 AGED 14 YEARS AND 6 MONTH DEEPLY REGRETTED BY HIS SORROWING PARENTS”, I read aloud while my eyes still inspecting the bleak- reddish, old cubical structure standing upright on a broken platform. Its upper layer has worn out and inner skeleton of old bricks is peeking out from here and there.

Similar is the condition of other graves lying in this old, imperialistic cemetery. ‘Lothian Cemetery’ is about one and half centuries old and so are its residents. A majority of beings here breathed and lived in the era prior to 1857 revolt in India. All of them belong to families of Britishers who ruled us for centuries. This portion of India’s history is placed in old Delhi. It is about half a kilometer from Kashmiri Gate metro station and ISBT.

Walking down on Lothian road, towards the railway tracks you see an old iron gate. Through the gate, you sight a vision of old and ruined cuboids like structures. They all look like brown-stone mushrooms growing in the wild grass which has been left uncared for years. Some of these graves are named while a lot many are unnamed. They make you wonder about the causes of their death. This place seems to be inhabited by monkeys, crows, few stray dogs, ants busy in occupying this area and the ones lying beneath these structures since many decades.

Entering the gate, you sense a strange sense of history.  Laying your eyes around, you are transported to a painful era of imperialism and torture.  You can visualise, people bending and grieving over the death of their beloved ones. This place also puts light on the negligence of authorities over such forgotten pages of Indian history. Wild creepers, flowers, and grass have proliferated and in its larger part. Previous day’s rain has left a bitter odor of neem along with the moist soil beneath your feet.  Some graves have been carved with beautiful flowery and geometrical designs. All of them have been damaged and broken as a result of a century-long tussle going on between these graves and waves of time. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is now keeping it under its eye. The task of its rejuvenation is going on. You can visit these graves in daytime only and the entry fee is zero.

This graveyard is also enlisted as one of the spine-chilling haunted sites in Delhi on few websites.  I could not observe anything unnatural about it. Many people claim having felt the presence of some lady under the peepal tree which is in the center of this graveyard. This tree is known to be as old as the cemetery and is the only living witness of that time. People who live in the slums aligned near the railway tracks confidently talk about having seen her sitting on one of these graves. I can’t vouch for these people talking truth. But I can guarantee you a deeply moving vision and memory overflowing with the idea of history and horror after a trip to these ruins in Old Delhi.

Unseen, untouched and unfelt, these graves lie here reminiscing their own past.

Beyond the four walls : The lesson of Democracy that IIMC taught me

For the first six months of this nine month diploma course in Indian Institute Of Mass Communication I always criticised it. I was angry because I thought I would learn something different and novel in the best J – School of India, but the monotonous routine classes proved IIMC a wrong place for stubborn inquisitiveness that I had. I almost stopped participating in activities of IIMC. One such activity was the protest that rocked the floor of the institute this month. A bunch of boys of Hindi Journalism supported and strengthened by girls filed a petition in administration for provision of boys hostel for the next batch. Since starting of the course boys always came out and fret that for students of this year no hostel was provided as a part of a larger political controversy, but this time it was different. It was more intense and chronic. It began with a series of applications that students gave to Director General of IIMC who either refused to entertain them or didn’t comply to demands. Students became vocal on social media that how hostel and library which are basic fundamental needs of a students are not provided to them. Administration retaliated by warning the students writing against the institution, in class. I still remember one day I was late to the morning class and a teacher who was in class then, said, “This girl Srishti supports those who want to tarnish the image of IIMC.” Just because I commented on someone’s objectionable status.

I was very disheartened because the college of my dreams was a shock for me. I am a learner, but in IIMC I learned how to waste time, professionally.

One month after that retaliation by administration went smooth. But suddenly one morning I saw a man of Hindi Journalism standing in front of main gate with a placard saying ” IIMC prashashan murdabad.” In a while he was manhandled by security guards which led to a small dispute.

After few hours almost 20-25 students came and sat with banners and posters in their hands against IIMC administration.

No one thought situation will deteriorate to this extent. Police was called for necessary precautions. Administration wore a veil of women security as an excuse of not giving hostel to men, this whole movement saw involvement of women students who came out and said, not in my name.

After that, the whole college was divided into three groups, the one which supported the cause of hostel, one which was totally against it and the one which was neutral.

After this rocking day protest in college a committee was formed with senior faculty members. It assured students a bit but in no time this committee was dissolved. It was the beginning of drama which was to be played ahead. A digital war on Facebook began in which both sides not only criticised but also ridiculed each other, one was pro administration and one was anti administration. The war was becoming ugly with every new status update. There were character assassinations sarcastic remarks on women.

This brewed the state of politics to next level when students declared that they are going on indefinite hunger strike against the administration. Situation was so dramatic that two students from anti – administration group went for hunger strike with demands of 24*7 library and hostel, so to counter them four students of pro- administration group went on hunger strike against the on going hunger strike. For me, this was too much of drama. Even if students represented the genuine cause, it was hidden in layers of political crises.

For a student as detached as I was, all this was distant phenomenon which I was noticing from a distance. I wished to ask for the well being of students sitting on the hunger strike but I don’t know why I wasn’t able to do so. Perhaps I never related to their cause of struggle or maybe I was too disappointed with IIMC till then.

The hunger strike as well as the counter hunger strike went upto two days. On the third day, students from RTV tried to reconcile the both groups with fresh delegations. I hoped for something positive but situation was too complicated.

I already had a tough week and along with my friend decided to sit and study in library which was ironically centre of protest but one of the most peaceful place during the protests. In middle of giggling and focusing on newspaper me and my friend heard some loud noises and cheers. The DG along with senior faculty members came out in front lawn and declared that they have decided to honour the demands of students. It was provided in written that students will get hostel from next year. With frooty in hands students started singing, dancing and giggling like never before. The smile that I saw on their faces was so genuine and real.

Happiness is contagious, I was happy too. Without even participation in the whole struggle, I felt its my win too. Perhaps I was also a part of IIMC, perhaps I knew now that what they were asking for was right. But it caught me into thinking. Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is courage to continue that counts.

I kept on thinking what got me into this institute, what life wanted to teach me through IIMC. I always wanted to go beyond the four red walls of institute and this struggle that I witnessed took me beyond it. Very honestly I never thought DG would recognise the demands of students, I never thought the strike would end, but the beautiful ending of this story filled me with hope and pride.


Gita Press and its Undiluted Agenda

‘Religion is the opiate of the masses’ with ‘Religion is the medicine of masses’ – Karl Marx
Gita Press took this as an attack by antagonist or foreign civilization or religious community like Islam and Christianity that spoiled the tenets of Sanatan dharma.
In India, religion is part or a way of life for her people. We cannot imagine India without religion and religious discourses, which happens at every nook and corner. The riots or the communal violence exhibits religion, a sensitive issue which is attached to people’s mind and heart. The symbols, colors and things for instance the saffron color and Hinduism, cow and Hinduism, long beard and Muslim, Burkha and Muslim, these have gained the belongingness to a particular community. To position the identity in the society and claiming Hindu community as majority, in 19th century, organizations and groups started using Print medium to circulate their ideas, which gave birth to various Journals.
Religion is at the heart of India’s inception and character. It is not a newly evolving entity for India. In the Hindi heartland, you can’t do politics without engaging with caste. The 19th and early 20th century were a time of religious-enmity between Hindu and Muslims, marked by various riots and competitive communalism (91 riots between 1923 to 1927).The issue of Cow slaughter and fight for supremacy between Hindi and Urdu. During this time, Religious journals became captious to this expression. Religion was (Mukul, 2015; 17) gaining ground as a subject of debate in the public domain and slowly but surely came to be reflected in the pages of various genres.
Periodicals of different genres surfaced like, some related to women (Chand, Jyoti, Grihalakshmi), to children (Balak) and to education (Shiksha Amrit, Shiksha Sevak), besides the magazine of Arya Samaj and magazines like Brahman, Matwala and Pratap. These became vehicles to express the aspirations of the expanding class of literates.
The Religious division of the 1920s and 1930s redefined the politics of nationalism and also blurred the lines between nationalism and religious revivalism. It is not that there were no special journals dealing with Hinduism in general and Sanatan Hindu dharma in particular. Sanatan Dharma Pataka was started in 1900 and continues only till 1920s because it failed to make any impact on the concerned readers and society itself. In this context, the birth of Gita Press and how its magazine Kalyan became a successful vehicle for the expression of religious and communal issues, in order to share and position their views on the Hindu concerned issues in a society till today. The propagation of Sanatan dharma, with all its prominence on rituals, texts social practice and institution was mixed with the ideals of nationalism among the Hindu people and ultimately the readers itself.
 The occurrence of Gita press/Kalyan(monthly journal of Gita press) showed that how Gita Press created an empire which spoke about Hindu and their position in society in such a manner which creates fear and a model of ‘Bhakti’ that you can count for instance taking the name of Lord Rama 1001 times. Gita Press created (Mukul, 2015) an empire that spoke in a militant Hindu nationalist voice and imagined a quantifiable, reward-based piety. Almost every notable leader and prominent voice, including Mahatma Gandhi, was roped in to speak for the cause.
So specifically, the ideas expressed by Gita Press and its publications played a critical role in the formation of a Hindu political consciousness in the light of following issues: Cow protection (a law to ban cow slaughter: role of Gita press), religion in electoral politics, caste issues (temple entry of untouchables and Gita press opposed of it), Varna system and rejection of Hindu code bill.
The increasing communalization of politics and Gita Press/Kalyan came to engage the space relating to public discourse on religion, it is also about that how two Marwari businessmen turned spiritualists Jaydayal Goyandka and Hanuman Prasad Poddar, set up the Gita Press/Kalyan Magazine in the name of defence of religion and uplifting the Hindu community.
The introduction of print technology and oral culture that go generation by generation in India in a form of passing a traditional legacy. The mixture of print and oral propagation worked perfectly for Gita Press for their goal of re-establishing the superiority of Santana dharma.
 The Popularization of Gita and other texts in Hindi was seen as strengthening self and to counter the efforts of Christian Missionaries. The printing of religious texts contributed to the consolidation of Gita press as Paul Arney calls Gita Press the ‘leading purveyor of print Hinduism in the 20th century’ and ‘ able to take advantage of the introduction of mass printing technology and successfully promote a homogeneous, popular, Bhakti-oriented Brahminical Hinduism to which spiritual aspirants of many theological and sectarian persuasions could relate.’
Gita Press aim of promoting the supremacy of Hindu identity and superiority of Sanatana Dharma continues even today. At a time when politics causing a lot of differences between  people and causing them to separate into various groups, despite of that Gita Press’ pattern is unchanged, and its political agenda remains undiluted even today.

Top 5 animated movies to stream on Netflix right now.

Movies mean different things to different people. When you hear the words ‘top animated movies’, you might remember those Disney animations from your childhood, or your mind might wonder towards adaptations of your favorite comic book stories. Animation is a category that allows broad range of stories- some for kids, some for adults and some for everyone. This is an excellent way to experience fantasy world and the events which are impossible to act out by actors. Here are our suggestions for animations to stream on Netflix right now :

5.) Zootopia (2016) :
Zootopia is a city where both predator and prey have learned to live together. A rabbit (Judy Hopps) has to flee her carrot farm upbringing in order to pursue her dreams of becoming a police officer in the city of Zootopia. She wants to fight the prejudice that a rabbit is not fit to become a police officer because it is small and weak. In this process, she has to hook up with a con-man fox to uncover a kidnapping case. It is a complex film- portraying racial tensions and stereotypes, and it never fails to entertain.

4.) Chicken Run (2000) :
It is a prison break film. Set in a chicken farm in England of 1950s. Two chickens are in love, but they want freedom. They make an escape plan, and they want other chickens to escape too, when they learn that the owners of the farm are moving from egg business to chicken pot pie business. In this brilliant film, you have chicken doing absurd things, with brilliant funny dialogue and sweet engaging story. This is a true homage to prison break films, with a lot of action.

3.) April and the extraordinary world (2015) :
In a radically different world, France is being ruled by Napoleon V and scholars and scientists have been disappearing mysteriously. Mankind lives without electricity, radio, television and planes and is dominated by coal and steam. In this world, young April, her cat Darwin and a scoundrel Julius go off in search of April’s parents, two of the scientists who went missing. This film is beautifully drawn and has flawless, charming animation with a interesting storyline. It has science fiction, dystopia and emotions and it has a message for girls- to follow their dreams.

2.) Minions(2015):
The cute guys from Despicable Me have their very own film. And why not, they have been around since the beginning of time, and they have ruled internet since beginning of this decade. These are the guys who have been saving the bad guys, and then causing their death- accidentally. In this film, minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob are recruited by a supervillain, to take over the world. It is a good family movie with a toddler level humor. If you aren’t bored of memes of these cute guys on the internet, you should watch this film.

1.) Anomalisa (2015) :
If you love cinema, then Anomalisa is your film. Directed by Charlie Kaufman, the guy who wrote ‘eternal sunshine of a spotless mind’, this is not an average animation film. It is a weird, yet powerful and amazing film about human beings and their relationships. It is a thought provoking gem, with insights on human soul. To watch it, you have to stop understanding the film and surrender to its charm and emotional tensions. It is neither a drama, nor a comedy- it is a dramedy.
Besides these, there are other options available, like The Little Prince (2015), The Prince of Egypt (1998) and the Oscar winning Wallace & Gromit : The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Guardians of a glorious past

“Hamare to ghar ki chatt se hi dikhta hai Taj Mahal!” declared Mohammad Shoeb (12) proudly. Shoeb, oval face with dark, stern eyes and Ajay-Devgan styled hair cut, minded this small shop along with his cousin brother Mohammad Aman (16). Both of them go to a nearby school and in their spare time explore their shop keeping and guiding skills under the scrutiny of Taj Mahal. Shoeb has been guiding not only Indian but also English, Japanese and American tourists. His experience has taught him several languages including Spanish and French. While, the elder one, Aman, is more into academics.

“Sana Marbles Handicraft” is one of the tens of hundreds of shops which have been aligned around Taj mahal since centuries. These shops provide tourists with mini- Taj Mahals so Shahajahan is not the only one to have one. Agra’s panchi petha, handicrafts made out of marbles, chole bhature, lemonades are the kinds of items you will discover in these  narrow and crowded lanes of this market while your way to South Gate to this incredible ‘Epitome of love’.

So was this one. Initially it didn’t seem any special.  Visually, it had a similar resemblance with others. All the artefacts in the shelf behind were no different from those in the neighbouring shops except the interesting small faces behind the counter. An hour of chattering with these young shopkeepers added few more pages of my knowledge of Mughal history. This shop is owned by ‘Baig’ family. Aman and Shoeb would be the inheritors of this shop. Their ancestors were few of those thousands of slaves who constructed this huge marble building with their hands.

I was surprised by these boys still referring themselves as “Badshah’s slaves” with an interesting extroversion. Shoeb who was more frank than his elder brother told me about how close his great-great-great grandfather was to Mugal emperor Shahjahan. It was this friendship due to which which this place was given as a present to Baig family to live several years after Taj Mahal was complete.

Initially, this place was not a market. These houses like structure were used as stables for horses and elephants which were engaged in the building work of this monument. After exhausting all the energy in the hot and dry climate of Agra, laborers also sought shelter here. Baig family’s shop is the closest shop to the Taj Mahal. In fact, this is the very first shop at southern gate of Taj Mahal. There’s another door in this shop which acts as an entrance to these boys’ house.

My unresisting curiosity made me ask,” Did your ancestors too were amputated by the emperor?”.

Shoeb and Aman looked at me funnily and corrected that no one was amputated. According to them, all the laborers were sworn by God that they won’t try to rebuild any such monument. They told me that their hands were tied by this oath. This fact did intrigue me. I realized how facts get deformed with the passage from people to people, which is also the base of hundreds of communal disputes across this globe. All their historical anecdotes transported me to fifteenth century, when the construction work was going on the south bank of Yamuna River. Truth can still be debated but not the experience.

Their history stringed with the glorious Mughal history made me comprehend Taj Mahal with an entirely different perspective.

Meeting these young guardians of history was a memorable experience.

Why I Write ?

On the opening page of his only book ‘The Histories’, the great Greek historian Herodotus explains why he set out to write it in the first place : ‘The purpose is to prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time.’ A simple goal, yet the founding block of our civilization. Herodotus was obsessed with memory, even scared of it. For him, memory was something defective, fragile, impermanent or even illusory. It can simply vanish without leaving a trace. His whole generation was possessed by the same fear. Memory is what elevates man above beasts, and yet at the same time so unreliable, so elusive.

We are not obsessed with memory as Herodotus was. We live in abundance of memory – search engines, books, documentaries, libraries, audio and video recordings and archives. Countless words, sounds and images have been recorded by the human civilization and it is now being done on an unprecedented scale. History and communication are the two pillars on which our societies have been formed. In most animals, history is something genetic and biological, it forms the basis of all their actions but we as human beings, have managed to engage with history on two levels – biological level and also an emotional and intellectual level- the other side of history that forms the basis of our knowledge and our wisdom.

But there are questions that haunt us – are we any wiser than people in 400 BC were? Many will say we are not. Some nostalgics will even say that we are worse off than people in elder generations were. And yet none of them would argue that we stop recording history, stop writing words, and capturing images; for all of our foolishness can be attributed to lack of knowledge of history. We have written about tyrants, genocides, wars, injustices, sufferings – only in the hope that future generations will learn from past.

The only serious challenge that has been posed to the written word and our recorded history has been from the Buddha. It may seem strange that the most wisest among human being never wrote a word, and advised his followers to live in the moment. But Buddha understood that memory is also the root cause of all our mental suffering. Our past affects our present more deeply than we can understand and forces us to constantly worry about our future. The experience is so enchanting, the sense of calm we feel when we try to follow Buddha’s words on living in the present, and yet, we have never thought about letting go of our memory, our history.

Herodotus and Buddha, both have been proved irrelevant over the years, and yet here I am, writing about these two men. A young man like me has a lot of goals when he sets out to write something, He maybe wants to change the world, or he wants to become immortal through his thoughts, when he’s wiser enough, he wants to prevent the traces of human events being erased by time. In the short term, he wants to get famous, be admired, or simply wants to earn some money. But on a deeper level, it’s always about connecting with some other person, touching someone’s heart. I have come across so many random blogs which have left a smile on my face and a feeling of companionship in my heart. It’s always about making someone feel a little less lonely and a little less alienated by telling them that they exist, like I exist and they are not alone in their pursuits, they have a fellow traveller. For a while, I am not trying to sell anything, I will do it if my profession requires, selling words and making viral content, but meanwhile, what I can offer is me, and what you can offer is you. And maybe long after I’ve stopped writing, some people will visit this blog by mistake and realize that they are not alone in this world, that someone thought like them. As E.E. Cummings once said, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.”


New Year, New Beginings, New Challenges

A year of elections begins today. Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland will go to the polls before March. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh also face elections in 2018, and Karnataka Promises a close fight, like Gujarat. The opening salvo may have already been fired by Union minister of state, Anant Kumar Hegde, who lashed out at the Constitution and secularism — even though he has apologised for his comments since. If this was a curtain-raiser for 2018, it bodes ill.
Once upon a time, in a half-remembered golden age, adversarial political speech was restricted to a category termed “parliamentary language”. It was not alright to say, “The minister is lying.” The permitted construction was, “The minister is misleading the House.” Elections are contests to choose legislators, who must follow parliamentary norms while in office. But it has become acceptable to seek office by atrociously unparliamentary means. The Gujarat campaign has thrown up regrettable examples, which have considerably lowered the level of political debate. Vituperation also deflects public attention from the substantive issues of growth and development which should determine the vote.

It would be a dreadful waste if the assembly elections of 2018 become action replays of Gujarat 2017. The BJP remains in permanent campaign mode, and its competitors are forced to match pace with it. But it is time to abjure loose talk of miscegenated calves and cabals hatching coups in South Delhi dining rooms, and of charges of lowness and EVM tampering. Rahul Gandhi has taken a positive step by declaring that his party will not stoop to conquer, but he, or his tweets, have failed to live up to his own words since. The champions of both sides must remember that after the elections, they would have to legislate and run governments, by discussion. If they speak so freely that they cannot remain on speaking terms after they win, governance would be discredited. The electorate expects governance to follow from elections, and Pyrrhic victories at the expense of civil debate are not what the people want in 2018. A little moderation from all sides is required to bring Indian politics back from the edge.