AIB Knockout Ripples

Even the polemical topics in India are becoming a cliche this month. Its generally either “swearing” or the “Right” opinion on Valentine’s Day. Indian and Pakistani parents who disapprove of homosexuality please turn away, this is a hard-to-digest post (but certainly much easier than the programme that has wrecked a propriety havoc in the subcontinent).

I must clarify this is not a reactionary piece like the 495 seconds long torture inflicted by #KRK review and no, I have not googled AIB which returns more than 2 million results in 0.31 secs but yes, people are talking. Bollywood, Maharashtra Government, religious organizations, the censor board, even the kids of the “Aam Admi” can’t keep quiet on this one. Apparently songs like “Mai maal gaadi tu dhakka laga” are pretty entertaining but AIB Knockout is not. The banality of “first talk about corruption, sanitation, rape, dowry which are ‘darker kalanks’ on Indian sensibility than AIB” is being plastered over the Internet. Like any other country, there is no dearth of ‘cheapness’ in India. It comes naturally to humans. Being sophisticated is an abstraction; its a fight. AIB in its open letter proclaimed “we wanted to push the envelope of comedy in this country” by introducing insult comedy. What AIB failed to recognize is that insult comedy needs no introduction here, “Udaana” is our favourite passtime, is it not?

Every StoryPick article even remotely related to AIB Knockout is fetching thousands of shares (trust me that’s not the intention here :p ) . Here, I am trying to react to the reactions.

Their open letter depicts them to be heroes of societal change (who are they kidding? They are no Savarkar or Tilak). Their letter is so serious and pleading, they sound like damsels in distress. Consequently, AIB has gained many supporters (read saviours), a small pocket of which exists in the Indian community around me at New York.

AIB however,is right about one thing- in a secure culture, a knockout like this wouldn’t matter much. Maybe it’s unimportant, but the effect it has had on people is drastic. The laziness of the blizzard-phase forced New Yorkers to not watch it once or twice but umpteen times. Aftermath? Absolute shamelessness :O . The jokes that were shared in men’s locker rooms or private chats have suddenly surfaced in full colour in the subway, in the drawing room, infront of Starbucks, at birthday parties, at libraries, at Queens’ sidewalks, during movies, in the kitchen, hell even during casual conversations! I am a woman who is not comfortable with casual hookups (judge me). So of course, this is a mild/slightly-creepy cultural shock. Men and women are bouncing out of closets of accepted propriety, deriving motivation from the AIB Knockout panel. They don’t exactly think its cool, I wonder if they think anything at all. However, the jokes flow easily like water. After observing me for sometime, a friend asked whether I have a problem with “tharakness” with its all encompassing meaning, I am assuming. I gave him a vague answer. Of course I don’t care that the Knockout happened but I am glad I laughed my head off at some of the jokes but I am happier and more shocked that it helped me to understand my friends better in ‘traditionally unspeakable ways’.

“Long Live Freedom of Speech”

With surprize,

Snigs

 

Idealism Over Love? Really?

I have been trying to address this issue for many months now, though I have never been able to articulate it well. I keep asking everybody else’s opinion so that I can achieve some clarity on my own.Rama and Sita

It started when I began re-interpreting the Ramayana after reading its multitudinous renditions. The character of Rama draws me like no other and all my life I have tried to justify his deeds towards Sita. Of course we might not know the whole story but what people do construe from different renditions is that Rama’s acts towards his wife cannot be pardoned. “Why was Agnipariksha necessary? Did he not trust his wife enough? Was he insecure of Ravana’s wealth, charm, majesty and intelligence? Or was his urge to please the society so dominating that it made him blind?”

Sita’s aspect of Ramayana has been propounded, elaborated and extrapolated by many authors, directors, philosophers and theatre-artists. What most scholars have missed out is Rama’s aspect of it.

Well, Rama chose idealism over love. The fact is, he would have chosen idealism over himself and his family on any given day. This was the only principle that made the world around him sane. Everything else was chaos to him. Was Rama happy about the decision he made to send Sita away or allow her to go (if it happened through consent) when she was pregnant? No, he definitely can’t be. But was he satisfied by his decision as a king? Chances are really high that he was. But how did he feel about it as an individual? He was a man who loved his wife very much, who gave up polygamy when it was rampant in the society, a tendency that science says comes naturally to men. No matter how satisfied he was as a king, he could never have found peace again, or perhaps the same amount of happiness because we must acknowledge that no matter how idealistic he was, he was after all a human. A human with an exception, somebody who preferred indulgence of much loftier texture than ours.

However the big question that pierces us every now and then is how much can we learn from his point of view. “Does it even make sense in our present world where things like “Rajdharma” have essentially become a ghost, where love and happiness are considered supreme? How correct is it to weigh a person through the eye of cold logic, as Rama did, than that of the heart? Should happiness, love and heart be considered more sacred than a duty or a principle one has vowed to? Of course a man is born for many reasons, but he is also born to be happy and loved. Denying yourself these basic pleasures takes away a lot of  what it means to be human.twinflames1

Shouldn’t principles change with our experiences? After all, principles are almost always formed by our private perceptions of the world and most often than not by the perceptions of our parents which are in-turn formed by deep experiences, events, history, stories and literature.

The next question that comes up in this chain-reaction is how flexible one must be? The answer stems from just one sentence- it depends on what you are willing to DO to be happy with the cards you are dealt with.

So, whether you choose idealism or you choose love, you are actually looking for a private gratification. That gratification may come from loving others unconditionally like a mother loves all her children; it could come from passionately loving that one special person, as Amish’s Shiva loves Sati in his trilogy; it could come from sticking to your principles as Mahatma Gandhi or Lord Rama do (which sometimes can also be obsolete); it could come from being compassionate and then serving others from a certain distance ( as Lord Krishna explains in his philosophy of detached attachment); it could come from fulfilling your carnal wishes;  it could come from turning your love into servitude as Mother Teresa did; it could come from renouncing everything to seek enlightenment as Gautam Buddha did; it could come from pushing your logic as Einstein did; or it could come from sticking around and spending time with your family as most of us do.

No one particular way is greater than the other in an individualistic system until you become directionless or your ways harm the good of other people.  Everything else is right for you as long as it is successful in answering your questions and is providing you with constant gratification.

You choose idealism or love according to the person you wish to be and are meant to be; the person that you already are deep down inside but don’t know how to be.

(Part-1) The Classic Duality in Mythological Goddesses!

Since long, Indian women have tried to live up to an epic ideal, a lady who earned the designation of a goddess in all Hindu homes, an ephemeral queen named Sita. As Vayu Naidu tries to paint Sita to be more than a Helen in The Illiad, it makes one to reflect on the true role of women in our great epics and indeed in our society. As Sita and Urmilla discuss the very same issue in her novella, Sita challenges the present concepts and says that it is unjust that wives are considered to be adopted into their in-laws’ homes. It works in a diametrically opposite fashion- a girl adopts a man as her husband and entwines a home and a family about him. Sita though considered an epitome of endurance and perfection is also weak and unassertive, vulnerable and insecure at the multiple desertions by the love of her life, a man whose name she breathed in and breathed out, Ram. Though Sita’s ideals clash with that of Ram on some level, she remains compliant and the couple choose to ignore it forging bridges after bridges between them which cannot be crossed. It is not the case that Sita was incapable, physically or otherwise, it was her unfailing conformation to the norms of the society that shaped her destiny.

On the other hand, there is another protagonist in one of our great epics, Draupadi (rendered alive in a compelling retelling by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni). A character so inauspicious in India that no girl is named after her. She is a colossal reminder that even if you have five husbands, you can still be lonely; that even if you are a princess, you may never be one with your love; that you could be just as insecure and jealous; that you could easily be surrounded with men who are weak, indecisive, dogmatically self-righteous, brave but disappointing; and unfortunately these could be the men by whom you are led or must conform to. Under such a case, Draupadi exercised powers to mould her destiny by weilding the thoughts of her husbands as often as she could. Draupadi, however was hardly submissive to her husbands. She probably would have been a lot more yielding had she married Karn (do all women have the weakness to be servile to the ones they love or is it hardwired into them during their upbringing?). Though she is considered a woman who incinerated a home, the truth is, she only fought for justice that belonged to her.

Sita and Draupadi are two epic characters- one rebellious only in thoughts, other in actions. Both women were wronged repeatedly but obstinately refused to be victims, both were defined initially by their husbands but then created empowering identities beyond them, both women had a better sense of judgement than the men who surrounded them, both women started regarding social conformity as a delusion, both women were after all- women, struggling against the society’s dogmatic dispositions in their own unique ways.

Their dichotomy of perfection and insecurity, godliness and weakness, opulence and austerity, fulfillment and yearning is their tragedy and indeed the tragedy of all human beings.

The reason why one is worshiped as a goddess and other is considered inauspicious is because most probably, Draupadi sought a more so-called masculine way to acquire justice through war than Sita’s method of self-sacrifice. It is a stigma on our very perceptions should we judge the ideas of righteousness based on genders.

This yearning and idea for universal equality protests not only the rapes and mental molestations but prejudices stemming from one’s sexual orientations; bias at work; unjustified expectations, doubts and servitude in relationships; and the social ostracization of unique individuals born to the Earth and who seek to preserve it.

Acknowledgements: The ideas were inspired by the novel “The Palace Of Illusions” by Ms. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and the novella “Sita’s Ascent” by Ms. Vayu Naidu.  I express my gratitudes to them.

MY MULTI-COLOURED UMBRELLA

We tend to think that it is about

“Your culture, my culture

Your language, my mother tongue

Your temple, my church

Your perspective, my perspective

Your world, my world”

But the truth is dear brothers and sisters, our nation is one and our nation is home.

Whatever you can rightly say about India, the opposite is also true. India is a land of historic pluralism and heterogeneity, a virtue with which every Indian is born with, made inevitable by India’s geography, reaffirmed by its history and reflected in its diverse ethnography. India has rightly been called the epitome of the world with its 1700 odd dialects, a gamut of religions, all the 28 states and 7 union territories housing not just a multitude of cultures, senses of music, dance, arts and theater but over 13 races from across the world but harboring the fundamental commonality of “live, let live and if possible, live while appreciating others”. India’s culture has been enriched by successive waves of migration which were absorbed into the Indian way of life.

However, the whole of India is not a melting pot, existing to achieve cohesion. Rather we have become “a bowl of salad” searching for harmony. Indian culture is a continuous synthesis and therefore the Indian mind has assimilated much of the thinking of other cultures, making itself richer, durable and virtually indestructible. Diversity in culture also gives us diversity in thought processes, a pre-requisite for a nation with multi-faceted growth. Ours, therefore becomes, a pluralistic democracy, giving us the privilege to be many things at once. As an engineer, I’ll conclude with proof, that there exists a Diversity Prediction Theorem which states that the diverse group almost always outperforms the group of the best by a substantial margin.

It is, therefore, a pity, that in recent years, the communal clashes and all-too-frequent denunciation of each other has been reborn due to lack of appreciation of a kind of beauty that is different from ours, but opus dei all the same. The reason that our indigenous cultures have stopped being “cool” is that they have not been marketed as well as that of the westerners. Or it could be because of either of the possibilities of we being too egoistic or we being simply ignorant. Friends, the most Brobdingnagian tragedy of ignorance is that it compels the system of mind to lose its capability to entertain an intelligent thought.

On the other hand, Swami Vivekanand’s reaffirmation of “Vasudhev Kutumbakam”, Sri Rabindranath Tagore’s pluralism which allowed him to write the national anthems of two nations, Satyajit Ray’s belief of cultural intercourse, Sardar Patel’s idea of national tolerance, Dr. Kalam’s talisman of brotherhood, Ashoka’s thoughts on peace, all tried to kill the expansion of cultural sectarianism as they all believed it, and so do we, that it is closely associated with an artificially separatist view of culture. However it’s not mere talk. In the recent times, the corporates are taking huge initiatives to promote unity by celebrating various festivals, recruiting a diverse team, etc., Dr. Kiran Seth’s endeavour of Spic Macay, The Special Marriage Act, the introduction of the study of cultures at school level curriculum are all big leaps.

It is true that only through performance music and dance traditions thrive. The great Kumar Gandharva’s work, a gamut of underground collaborations like The kabir Project, the Laya project need to be thrown into the public eye for mass consumption and the department of art, culture and languages of our government as well as the Ministry of Telecommunication can step up to the job. 

Bruce Tuckman gave a model for nation-building and team development. He said that there are 4 steps to it.

1. Forming- where divergent groups come together

2. Norming (self evident)

3. Storming- where divergent and diverse groups exchange not only their thoughts but their thought processes so that some kind of friction also develops

4. Performing- where the nation becomes mature and rises up to the occasion whenever and wherever need be.

Even though we are still toiling on the “storming stage”, I am hopeful. I am hopeful because I believe that we are inching towards the path of progress despite the fact our country is comparatively young and way too populous.

Let me take you to the bone-chilling winters of 1947, when a Hindu family was desperate to get out of Lahore and move to India after the partition but were fearful for their very lives.  Their neighbours, the shahane pathans, devoted Muslims, not only saved them from getting butchered but ensured that they left the city safely. How did they do it? The ladies at the neighbours had cried to the city that if anybody durst so much as touch the Hindu family, they would shed all of their clothes and jump off from the highest terrace at Lahore…

Two families of two different cultures, caught in the irony of time. They had a choice to make, and they chose friendship over madness. It was in 1947 but still, 65 years later, friends, we all face the same choice.