Monday, September 4, 2017

ONAM !


Come Onam, celebrities and somebody who is anybody is seen on Television channels reminiscing the Onam of the past and of their childhood.  Amusingly young film actors in their early twenties proclaim, the good old Onam that once was and ruefully reminisces the days of the mythical Emperor Mahabali. Wonder if they confuse Mahabali with Bahubali. That will be the last straw!

Having been through 58 Onams , I guess I have a fair right to pen a few words on it, when Onam was not a commercial melee and ‘athapookalams’ were not embellished with pesticide laced flowers from Tamilnad and Karnataka ; when veggies were not doused in toxins; where there was a feeling of elation and success the night before “Thiruonam”, when the local sartorial expert would honour his commitment and deliver your new Onnam shirt & trousers, skirts & jackets. There was no ARROW and Tomy Hilfigers then to walk in and pick one’s ready to wear ‘Onakodi’ dresses. Moreover elders did not have the vanity to indulge and there was no Maria Saharopovas and Tendulkars to ape.

‘Athapookalams’ had individual flair, even the ones in street corners. They were made in different layers and in clay. 3, 5, 7 & the jumbo ones with 9 layers. Cow-dung paste was laced over to act as glue and petals and flowers were stuck to them. Each household chose their own size of ‘atha-thattu’. Flowers were procured from around the neighbourhood. The cunning and watchfulness, the networking among children’s group enabled to scout and identify houses that had flowering bushes and foliage. Then it was the clandestine hunt early before dawn, crawling and climbing over fences and walls, duping noisy watchdogs that tell the master of little thieves set out to stealing flowers. Some good Samaritans willingly let you in and allowed you to collect flowers for the ‘pookalams’. The nip in the early dawn air, the smell of blooming flowers, the freshness of fallen flowers nevertheless, the sheer motivation for it all cannot be explained and have to be felt.

The ‘pookalams’ at street corners and squares where managed by the slightly older folks  and was enlivened through the day with film songs played over loudspeakers that were not noisy and often a persevering bloke on a bicycle  would undertake  nonstop cycling mission around the ‘pookalam’. I still cannot relate the significance of that during Onam but it provided lot of awe and fun. Then, the ubiquitous swing that remained a sine qua non to usher in Onam!

Then while we were in our late adolescence and into our teens the venturing to cinemas to see the block-busters that were released for Onam. Often they were dominated by either a MERRYLAND Studio production or the UDAY Studio production- a mythical grand story of the war of Gods or the chivalry of a ‘Vadakan pattu’ folklore.

The grand melee and finale on Thiruonam day was unforgettable. It generally would be modest kind of embellishment of the ‘atham’ that morning as the full and blown out decorations were reserved for the late evening when the ‘atham’ was given a grand flowery embellishment. The exercise would begin after the sumptuous Onam ‘sadhya’ in homes and folks would gather by evening and rework the ‘atham’ for the finale. Women folks cook and got ready ‘elapams’. The ‘atham’ was covered with ‘thumba’ a local shrub and the ‘elappams’ are deftly enshrouded in the shrub. Folks got ready with primitively made bows and quiver full of arrows. At dusk ‘onapattu’ is accompanied by folks (mostly boys) shooting arrows into the shrouded ‘atham’ to pick out the concealed ‘elappams’. When finally all the ‘elappams’ are retrieved the ‘atham’ is carefully removed off the ground using a suitable kitchen utensil without damaging the layers and left on a sill by the front gate of the house. It stays there till probably the next Onam beaten by weather- sun and rain and slowly withering away.


As every aspect of human life changes over time, so does Onam and the feeling it gives. But something that can be vouched for is the simplicity and freedom from vanity and conceit Onam of yore lend.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Jungle Book


In an impassioned essay quoting ten acclaimed literary creations that has adoption as the storytelling theme, The Guardian said,   “A profound human experience- and also a brilliant plot device- adoption has inspired endless stories from Shakespeare to the contemporary”.

Those are in literature. But outside, in the real world adoption is yet to resonate among human beings as an epoch and ground breaking act of love, caring, compassion and pathos. If a pack of wolves could adopt a ‘man child’ in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’, why not man?

A few years ago, a Dutch acquaintance narrated why he and his wife decided not to beget children. They were married after the Second World War and during the acme of the Cold war era. Nuclear Armageddon was imminent and many like the gentleman and his bride decided not to bring forth children into a world that was hurtling down inexorably into cataclysmic termination. In retrospect that may seem to be a highly cynical decision, but it is all the more pertinent today and sapient. Today it’s the man-made existential threat that hulk like the more definite threat of environmental and ecological melt down but also the utter chaos & anarchy in social, economic and political environment. Well the sleight of the hand of human kind is reflecting in all the dire prophecies.

I was driving past a city school this morning and the traffic was moving as fast as the fastest tortoise ever could. It was rush hour for the school and there was long winding queue of school kids waiting to go in through the half open school gate. May be some five hundred of them! Little, young, cheerful looking lads and girls all in their adolescence. I wondered about the less than a decade from now, when these kids pass out at different stages in their education, what prospects does the world hold out to them?

In a world already burdened and plowed down by over population and consequent unsustainable living, already vitiating the natural environment and heralding ominous climate change pushing human race farther into perilousness; in a world where political and social environment offer nothing but despair; where macabre of religion and xenophobia eclipse acts what we often proudly attribute to human sensibilities, what can these kids and hundreds and thousands of them expect from the World? Nothing but stolidity and desertion. The Gods are silent too even if they did exist.

In India we may touch the 1.5 billion mark in population as fast as in a decade and little more. Which means well within the fertility age of our progenies. An exhortation to the fecund generation to restrain from begetting would be termed as selfish and pessimistic alarm. But it is not, certainly! In fact it will be an act of cruelty, selfishness and crime if human race continues to be driven by the irresistible social and cultural urge, exhortation or custom to procreate. This world as it is hurtling along offer no solace or hope for mankind. More because humankind is in an irreversible kamikaze gear and obstinately so.

This is where adoption can be a nobler and wise deed than the act of copulating for procreation. Almost two thirds of infants in India are malnourished. “World Bank data indicates that India has one of the world’s highest demographics of children suffering from malnutrition – said to be double that of Sub-Saharan Africa with dire consequences. India’s Global Hunger Index India ranking of 67 the 80 nations with the worst hunger situation places us even below North Korea or Sudan. 44% of children under the age of 5 are underweight, while 72% of infants have anemia!”

To argue emotionally that biological bonding cannot be replicated or substituted with acts of philanthropy is quite naïve. Aren’t there enough instances and stories happening around us to the contrary, where an artificial bonding proves to be far more potent and enduring than the trappings of cognateness?


Leaving all that aside, one hard look at the world around us will make one rethink of ever begetting and there are plenty of lives waiting to be rescued from what otherwise would be a sure dystopian life.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Cinderellas


It is often quite true that empathy is  nonexistent in a person or hard to come by because he or she may not have been through a situation to feel the scars  desolation can bring about. But at the same time what distinguishes or what we daringly claim to distinguish man from beasts is empathy! The feeling for and oneness with a fellow being! I firmly believe so. Yet often we are found barren, indifferent smug and abounding in or given to pompous or aphoristic moralising. Ironically some video footage that are viral on the NET from the wilderness of Africa tell us that beasts sometimes outflank man in empathy and acts of compassion.

Yesterday a few of us got together at home and we chanced upon a discussion on the trauma of child abuse and the  indelible scars that it  leaves upon the person as he or she moves through adult hood and even late in life.

A few things became apparently reinforced to me from the argument we had. Men are men like the clichéd quote of some idiotic politician, “boys’ are boys” while commenting callously on sexual violence against women. Indeed men are men that (may be with some exceptions, mercifully)! But the vast majority regardless of their education and sophistication are egocentric chauvinistic porcine.

Is it not true about people confiding their deepest mind to even a comparative stranger or a new acquaintance, even traumatic experiences and thoughts which they otherwise bear like dark menacing shadows in the farthest corners of their minds? Is it not true that friendships develop early in life and is it not also a fact that bonds that develop in later life may stay stronger than a bond through years of familiarity from the cradle? One fellow was so sure that such a thing as confiding one’s deepest secret and very personal matter is inappropriate and suspecting and that it belittles the person and her or his acceptance as a decent human being. Utterly,utterly obnoxious thought,I argued.  

“Who among you would arise from a severe traumatic beating very early in childhood and then look life in the face?” I asked the women folk. I explained seeing their confused faces. I rammed it in further. They had to nod their head in utter disbelief when I narrated. But then was it not rather naïve and foolish to disclose that to another person and worst of all one’s spouse- husband? This is where the male chauvinism and hypocrisy boils over, one that I mentioned earlier. Worst of all women endorse the right of the man to be offended and rattled by the news of the abused childhood of his spouse. Utterly shameful I had to say, particularly in a moment when his understanding and acceptance would serve as panacea for the years of mental trauma and profound horror she was plowed under. But that is not to be and men are men and boys are boys. It sucks!

It takes courage and that deserts most men and women to be honest with the new people in their life about their past, to admit  the trauma of their abuse as part of what makes them who they are rather than trying to enshroud  like it’s something to be dishonoured  and penitent about. That is potently honourable and courageous! “A frank brave heart she has triumphed over pain and set a courageous example by leading her safely out of the dark stalking shadows of her abuse." Some women cannot understand that any man could accept the courage and perseverance of a woman, whereas they seem to be more comfortable with the existence of a spouse who would be enraged and offended by the unveiling of the abused past of the woman and his relating virtue of the bride to her virginity. Is it not natural for men to be so? To be piqued by such a past? A trite and a pity I was indignant!

The epilogue- “by calling herself Cinderella she is standing her ground. This isn’t a girl running to a man to be rescued. This is a girl saying here I’m scars and all take it or leave it, but don’t expect me to be something that I’m not. A fairy tale can’t get more empowering! Cinderella is without a future and resigned to her fate only until she finds the courage to stand up to her abuser, her stepmother. Once Cinderella decides to try and attend the ball, when she realises her worth of a better life, that she doesn’t have to live this way, then amazing things begin to happen before the prince even enters her life.”

The story of the ever present prince is just the extended narrative of male priggery and chauvinism. For it is fed to us no Cinderella shall be complete without the chocolate faced rubicund charming young Knight or a Prince on a horse back!


Yet what is ignored is the Prince bewitched by an evil spell cast on him and transformed to a toad, could break the spell and regain his form as the charming prince only when the beautiful princes kissed him and broke the spell. Yet this narrative and its ideal is lost in the wilderness of what is our society. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Glenlivet Moment



I have come across men and women too, of whom I long to keep no memory and I have come across a few men and women of who, I would always think with pleasantness and with deference.
He was a man in his early sixties and a doctor. It was in 2010 that I first communicated with him through comments that were exchanged on my blog.  For an amateur writer I was easily excited with an endorsement of sort on my views and writings per se, it was fantastic. There were disagreements too but he was quite impressed with my style of penning.   We found that we were from the same city. He was living in the UAE and his spouse was in Thiruvananthapuram. It was then that he messaged me that he would like to meet me and another friend of mine with whom he developed acquaintance on the blog. That chap was a fantastic writer and a passionate poet. His verses used to drip with feel and pathos. Doctor was very impressed with him.

I would not digress here. So there, then was the Doctor, during his visit home arriving one evening to meet us with a bottle Glenlivet Single Malt. What fabulous way to toast a friendship, I mused! It was during the course of that evening which lasted till late into the night that I told a little bit of myself. It was the immediate aftermath of a nerve racking and ravaging turmoil in my life and the Doctor could gather a little bit from my conversation, though pride ensured, I revealed little as possible or necessary.

But the doc ( as I began to address him) got a complete status report of myself from my friend  and he invited me to go to the UAE and I could use his home as a base for any venture I want to prospect there. “That can be your home too.” he said. I was wordless!

I soon reached Sharjha and he was at the Airport driving some 125 kilometers from Fujairah, where he lived. I lived there for more than t a month and he was absolutely unbelievable. It was an apartment with a huge bedroom a living room and kitchen. The very first day itself he picked up his mattress and began sleeping on the sofa in the living room. It was awkward that he did that and told me, the bedroom was mine. He ensured the kitchen was packed with food and asked me to feel free to use whatever I wanted in there. I was quite embarrassed to be a piggybacking on him. He out rightly refused to take money from me and after finding that one day I replenished something for the kitchen by picking up things from the Super market down below, he chided me and sent down an instruction to the Super market to provide me whatever I wanted , but not to take any payment from me. It was awkward but humbling! I remembered the Shylocks I have encountered!

Doc ensured that the liquor cabinet was always full and we used to sit and chat over a few drinks in the evenings after he came back from his clinic past 8 in the night. In course of those conversations we got to know more about each other, our life, our past, our disappointments and triumphs.
One day, Doc offered to help me revive my wrecked business back home. I was utterly speechless and plowed down by his offer. It was gracious of him, but I told him the chapter was closed.
We are in touch often and meet up when he is in Thiruvanathapuram. And again during one of those meetings Doc was at his altruistic self. My daughter was going abroad for her studies and he egged me to feel easy to ask him any help that I require to provide for her.

I wonder often why at all must a person who has had no long term connect no relationship through blood or clanship offer and actually selflessly do things for you. Perhaps such people with their acts goading the world to turn around!

Can’t agree more with H.G.Wells, “One of the darkest evils of our world is surely the unteachable wildness of the Good”.






Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My Space ?




The question that I ask myself when folks fret over what they claim is their personal space in social media, as if it were their private fiefdom and abode, that they bought paying a few million. Worse still, social media have brought about a paradigm shift in the definition of friends and friendship. That sucks. It really sucks!

My understanding is there are no written rules in social media but civility and keeping away gauche is an established conduct that users must bear in mind. Civility doesn’t mean being tacit in face of conventional narratives or being mute when encountered with strong opposition to opinions, nor does it mean indulging in language and opinions which are  not only gauche but utterly fit for the sewage tank.

A few years ago Karan Thappar interviewed two well-known political figures- the two who came to prominence, one by her association with a political icon but later carving a niche for herself and notoriously too; the other rode into fame through sheer shenanigans that were examples of infamy and full of guile. Karan Thappar’s prodding interview was too much for the man to handle that it must have been like strapped to the electric chair and bombarded with high volts of electric. He gave up unable to stand scrutiny that Karan Thappar attempted through his questions and he fumbled to pull out his lapel mike, drank a glass of water and escaped looking miserable and disheveled.  The woman fought back with arrogance though her discomfiture was there to see. Many who sympathised with her accused Thappar of fielding uncomfortable questions.

What irked me was the allegation against Thappar and that he was uncivil to a lady and for incessantly prodding in the interview. The question is when you are a politician it is like being on social media and your past and present conduct & words are scrutinised. If you cannot stand up to that well quit -it is at your peril if you do not. Is it wise to blame the interviewer for asking inconvenient questions?

Likewise if one choose to be on social media and expresses one’s opinion he or she must be prepared to take accolades and brickbats with equanimity. To frown, fret, fume and cry foul when countered with disagreements and varied opinions is nonsensical and silly. One must either be able to handle it with reason and élan or must accept to be a sore loser; one can perhaps even consider changing one’s opinion in face of substantiation and reason and that is not vain in any way. But to hold on to one’s contention peevishly accusing the whole world of being unfair and uncivil is childish obstinacy.

Some folks cannot stand satire and sarcasm. Sarcasm is more or less the sine qua non of argumentation. That, particularly in the Kerala milieu! Being impish about that is infantile. Unfortunately lamenting about hurt sentiments is a national pastime and an unworthy pursuit zealously followed these days. This is when any opinion that is against the popular narrative is considered offensive and that is absolutely superfluous and primitive.

What I strongly feel is persuasions do matter. We form opinions based on our awareness and knowledge that we strive for and acquire. It is when blinkers are put and an inane bullheadedness & refusal to see fresh avenues and opinions blind us that we fret. We fret when the comparative cocoon of our long held beliefs and judgments, our bias and with it our comfort is threatened. We would rather be an infantile infliction than be a matured being who is willing to change his ideas and opinions when encountered by reason, and fresh idea, however foreign it may seem. Is there something belittling in accepting that we were wrong and yes, thankfully the new awareness helped us? Faith & creed, political leanings and cultural fancies are crutches that we latch on obstinately and often unwisely.

If I do not appreciate a strong opinions and a strong critical definition of my opinion, I feel I must not air the opinion in public. For if I air it in public, I must be prepared for critical evaluation, else I must stay shut.

Unfortunately in the times we live the social fabric has been so corroded that a narrative or opinion that is not acceptable to the popularly held belief is frowned upon and even rubbished in feral ways. We just do not want to let go our belief systems and come out of the comfort zone we are cocooned in. For that we wail, we cry offense and then if  all that fails we fume, for our vain pride takes the better of our being!


“Vanity dies hard; in some obstinate cases it outlives the man.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Polemics


“ All this madness, all this rage, all this flaming death of our civilization and our hopes, has been brought about because a set of official gentlemen, living luxurious lives, mostly stupid and all without imagination or heart, have chosen that it should occur rather than that anyone of them should suffer some infinitesimal rebuff to his country’s pride.”         Bertrand Russell.


 Every person who is   not an exalted nationalist (like the folks of the BJP, ABVP and the Sangh) would wish that he or she had a daughter like Gurmehar Kaur, the conscientious and brave young lady. I hope that my own girl has the courage to stand upright and speak conscientiously as Gurmehar Kaur.  I think one must use ‘audacity’ in lieu of the word ‘courage’ if you must, so as to throw more punch into that wonderful trait.

But it requires a different sort of mental makeup, deep moral bankruptcy and arrogance to call Gurmehar’s brave polemic, anti national and attack her on the social media like mad swarm of wasps brandishing and using their uniquely nationalistic (sic) vitriolic as the ABVP members and  Sanghis did.  
 What did they do?                                                                                                                     They trolled her and posted invective that tell us how morally depraved, blind, sick, petty, unjust, bloodthirsty, licentious, rapists, misogynistic, racist, genocidal, filicidal, sadistic and feral uncouth they are. The wider and glaringly ominous matter is that the trolls were mostly all by folks in their youth. That tell us that the future of the country is precariously on the verge of doom; so is the place and status of women in the society. Imagine that a few years from now we may have such depraved minds lording over us. Oh well, they already are!

Threat of rape and incessant abuse forced Gurmehar Kaur to back off. She asked to be left alone. It is a sad reflection of the times we live in, that a young woman is not allowed to express herself. We call this a free country! That these rowdy elements and barbarians had to take recourse to threats of rape, violence and abuse tells us the fact that the premise of their outrage and anger is baseless and they cannot argue for their beliefs with clarity, logic, truth and substance.“ The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. ‘Off with his head !’ she said , without even looking round.” Lewis Carol, Alice in Wonderland.

Indeed it was the war that killed her father and not Pakistan; indeed it was not a Hindu that gored out the foetus from the womb of a Muslim woman in the cleansing programme in Gujarat, it was the indoctrination of religious hatred; it is not Muslim men who kill hundreds in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan every other day detonating  suicide vests strapped on them, but it is the vile religious hatred which they succumbed for. More often than not is it not the thought process that leads a person to commit a crime that must be seen as culpable, than the person who commits the crime physically?

Gulmehar Kaur has in her young mind wisdom, that perhaps we heard before from renowned thinkers like Bertrand Russell .“ Of all evils of war the greatest is purely the spiritual: the hatred, then injustice, the repudiation of truth, the artificial conflict.”
 It is the pathetic state of the minds of these men who hounded her and that of their handlers in this Government in power that sanctioned them to abuse this young woman for what she opined and eventually threatened her with the most potent weapon in the male armoury- the threat of rape. True, rape is very much part of the Indian masculinity(sic) that these rogues laud about and often is used wantonly by authorities in Kashmir, North East and against the Maoist & Tribal women. Rape- a potent male weapon to pound, plow down and scythe women into submission, submission of abject state, when they lose all semblance of self respect and worth.

I wonder if these men or their handlers in power would ever be able to logically, intellectually and with civility repudiate each of the arguments Gurmehar Kaur made and earnestly used in favour of her plea for peace and cessation of hostilities with Pakistan. No they won’t. They can’t. For just as the military establishment in Pakistan wants perpetual simmering hostility with India, the BJP needs the Pakistan bogey to stay in power when all the  sophistry, loot and lies come to light and people get restless.

But until then we need to be in awe of this   young lady whose wisdom and courage, we can only hope pollinates many such young minds.