We Can Only Protect Love

My first, best friend.

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I was nine. It was 1981. There was an elocution competition in school. My teachers encouraged me to take part: Topic – “Should women work?” I came back from school and handed over a note from my teacher to my mother. My mother saw the note addressed to her, from my class teacher — I do want Atul to participate; please do convince him. (I had refused, when my teacher asked me to take part). My mother asked me if I want to take part. I said, I didn’t want to.

No need to participate, if you don’t want to, she said. But why do you refuse? I told her I don’t agree with the topic. My sister is having lunch with me. She gets upset, says a few words. I ignore her. Mother asks her to keep quiet.

Then, my mother asks me, “You don’t think women should work?”

“No,” I said, “I think they should go out and get jobs.”

“You idiot,” my sister shouted, from that far side of the dining table. She always sat at the right end of the dining table, with her back to the window, the afternoon sun shining through. Always a silhouette.

My mother calmly asked my sister to eat her lunch, and asked me what I meant.

My class teacher was one of my favourite creatures during those years. I adored her, and I had great respect for her. Even if, I didn’t understand respect at that age. I was upset at her, because she asked me to speak about something I didn’t believe in. It wasn’t as clear, then. I do, however, distinctly remember, I was confused. My mother asked me again, what I meant.

Women should not work. They should go out and take jobs, if they want. My teacher had a job. All women should be like my teacher. They should have a job.

My sister continued to be frustrated, throughout her lunch. She tried many times, during the course of the lunch, to voice her frustrating concerns about the degree of my idiocy. My mother didn’t allow an argument to take birth. We soon established that I had wrongly interpreted what work meant. Needless to say I was confused about work and job. Lunch was over, my mother hurried off to finish her work for the rest of the day, and my sister continued to lecture me about the nuances between work, job, career, profession etc. I don’t remember the exact words. (My vocabulary is better now, and I have my sister to thank for it)

So you will participate, she asked, finally. Yes, I said, but I don’t know what I should speak about, for 15 minutes.

The script of my first ever public speaking event was crafted by my sister. She was twelve, then. Two days later, I read the script with my classmates and my class teacher in attendance. My teacher was more than impressed. Since she knew me (and my sister) very well, she called my sister, and congratulated her on a wonderful and a powerful script. (we studied in the same school) Then, the unthinkable (for me) happened. My teacher warned me (in very polite and decent words) not to screw up this wonderful speech. In less than a week the speech was by-heart. In the presence of of my teachers (in school) and my family (at home) I waxed eloquently.

D-Day.

After about seven sentences in the speech, on that stage, I froze. I cried. I uttered all the keywords I could remember. Disconnected words were rambled. There were unknown people staring at me. I could see all their faces. A nine-year old does not need to see the intimidation of an audience. It was an afternoon; and a well-lit place. Then, I literally ran away. I let down everyone, I thought. My class teacher. My mother. Most of all, my sister.

*

Most people aren’t aware, but I have a bagged many awards and certificates since that day, that relate to performing on a stage. Twelve, to be precise. Since that day, I never left the stage before the curtains fell. Presentations, debates, elocution, and acting (drama). I am 43 now; 34 years since that day, my legs still shake and I break into a sweat when I speak to an audience of more than seven. Yet, I do it. I have not conquered stage fright, I have learnt to manage it. I have learnt, not to leave the stage. And I owe it to one person: my sister. She put me there.

My Sister

*

Today is Raksha Bandhan: A festival, traditionally, celebrated when brothers vowed to protect their sisters. Surely there’s some logic behind it. Women of yore did not have the means to take care of themselves, mostly, because men didn’t allow women to take care of themselves. In these days and times it does not apply. But that should not stop us from celebrating a festival. (In any case, mostly, folks in the Indian subcontinent celebrate festivals just because of the food) We can always redefine the purpose of that festival. There is no more a need for brothers to protect their sisters. I am fortunate to have grown amidst strong-willed women. My sister is undoubtedly, one of them. My first best friend, my teacher, my guide, my guardian, my confidante; to this day.

Raksha (Protection) Bandhan (Bond) is no more about protection from conventional harm.

I have to only protect, if at all, what she wants. I have to only protect, if at all, her sense, that she is alone. I have to only protect, if at all, her beliefs.

~ Love

Why Do I Write?

Good writers are concerned about their writing. Often to the point of anxiety. The worry spans many concerns.

Do I write well? If I do, how do I know? Does anyone read what I write? How do I know that someone is reading what I write? How many read what I write? Do they like what I write? Do they know who I am? Are those who read what I write smart as me, or smarter? Do they like me or do they like what I write? Should I write more or should I write less? Should I write for the masses or for the classes?

These and many other such concerns are a good writer’s constant companions. Different writers are concerned differently, with varying intensity of the concern, and apart for their other interests and intelligence, these concerns are what makes them good writers.

MacBooking

Recently, while writing On the Write Path, Amit asked if writing has value outside of its readership, and I said yes. He then turned the question over its head and asked if readership has a value for a writer (apart from money), and I said yes.

The value in both, the writing and readership is intangible, but is valuable indeed. Writing helps refine our thoughts, create expression, and plants the seed for a conversation. Readership creates conversation, broadens our thinking, enables us to write better. That’s how the cycle starts and keeps going on.

That, you will agree, is a very simple, insipid value statement.

What makes the cycle exciting is all the traps and the escapes that a writer goes through. Staring at the blank page, every writer, has questioned, at least once — Why do I write? While the answer to that question is yet to be discovered, the writer writes, and the question permeates the writing, even though no word will betray it. The writer waits for a reader. Or, waits for at least an acknowledgement, that a reader exists. The writing resonates with a reader. Reader acknowledges the writer. It feels like an answer to the writer’s question, but the writer is mistaken. The writer, in turn, acknowledges the reader. Writer continues writing. More readers arrive. The writer becomes a reader. Writes. Reads. Writes, again. The writer forgets the original question. A new question emerges — Who do I write for? A new trap. And new escapes. Somewhere, while all of this is going on, social compulsions attack the writer. Promotion, engagement, statistics, popularity. Multiple skirmishes occur. New questions are born (see second paragraph, above). New escapes. The writer becomes a warrior. In a few cases, the readers become an army. Some battles are won, some lost. Much experience is gained. Over time, a few from the army, desert. The writing continues. New readers are conscripted. The question — Why do I write — remains unanswered. It bares itself at its whim. Every other question is either answered or discarded as worthless. This one question, just refuses to get answered and go quietly into the night. And the writer continues writing.

All the writing, whether it is read or not, whether appreciated or not, becomes a value in itself, over time. The cumulative experience of writing and reading, that intangibly laces the words, curiously determines their placement, and stealthily deepens the meaning, is the value. Impossible to measure or define, but most easy to feel, right after we write. Part of this value accumulates to the writing, part of value to the self.

Perhaps, that is why I write.

What are Places?

When you undress them completely, they are just a pair of two numbers: Latitude and Longitude. But we like places with all the adornments. The this is there, the that is there. And, thankfully, this isn’t there, and that isn’t there.

If you are a new blogger, take solace in this. When you have blogged for eleven years, (and if you have blogged well), you do not need to search for answers outside. Your own blog will have it all, when you have a question.

Open Your Hand

I wrote this in the June of 2008. Perhaps, I was wiser, then.

Then there those that effect change. And there is only one way, I believe, that they make the change happen. They embrace it with complete and utter blind trust. Not in the result of what that change may bring, but in the change itself. The complete surrender. Because, there is no such thing as a better tomorrow. Either there is a tomorrow or there isn’t. Your notion of a better tomorrow is your today being recycled and realigned to make you believe that your today is better than yesterday. Take the last thirty days and run through them you will know what I mean.

Tomorrow can either be impregnated with the sameness of all your suspicions, cynicism and scepticism, or it can be the tomorrow that rids you of that sameness that you so despise.

VICTIMS OF COMFORT – III

How desperately we claw and cringingly latch, to our fleeting today, is a result of our yesterday’s fears, that hurts our tomorrow.

 

Happy Independence Day

“Next to ‘God’, ‘love’ is the word most mangled in every language.”

Thus spake Richard Bach, in The Bridge Across Forever: A True Love Story Frankly, there are so many words in every language that have been mangled beyond recognition, we hardly care about them. Outrage has to count amongst them. Freedom, even. What the hierarchy is of this mangled-ness, I do not know. Erich Fromm, writes, in “The Fear of Freedom”:

[ … ] the modern individual has lost to a great extent the inner capacity to have faith in anything which is not provable by the methods of the natural sciences. Or, to choose another example, we feel that freedom of speech is the last step in the march of victory of freedom. We forget that, although freedom of speech constitutes an important victory in the battle against old restraints, modern man is in a position where much of what “he” thinks and says are the things that everybody else thinks and says; that he has not acquired the ability to think originally—that is, for himself—which alone gives meaning to his claim that nobody can interfere with the expression of his thoughts.

On social or mass media — we see this rampantly. There is no original voice anywhere. We are all adding the proverbial 2¢ to an existing voice. The 2¢ from everyone adds up to a $. Then a few thousand $s. Then to a million $s. That becomes the voice. We are slaves to the voice of convenient beliefs. If we were ever to ask a question to our selves – what we felt, or believed, that would be too much of a task.

My country’s struggle for freedom was staged on more than one stage. Self-appointed smart-holes, corrupted by an ideology and tried and paint a picture and simplify the story to suit one dogma or the other. Other idiots join in and celebrate it. We came unto our own, after 15th August 1947. We learnt very quickly, how to exercise our rights, we forgot very quickly the responsibility we had to shoulder.

When we were a colony, we learnt to accuse and fight the foreign head of state. Over time we forgot, that the head of state was our own. We continued to badger the head of state, irrespective of the ideology. Habits, apparently, are genetic. We never came together. We were given a nation that could celebrate differences. We forgot the nation, we remembered the differences.

Some day, this nation will become more important than our differences. And in hope of that day:

Happy Independence Day.

The Lost Lovers: #Anthem 15

Not all lovers are lost. Some are.

And they are lost differently. Notwithstanding how and where they are lost, they never cease to be lovers. They are as much lovers as the person standing next to them. Though, given that they are lost, there is perhaps no one standing next to them. And yet, they are not alone. There’s always someone calling out to them. Sometimes, these lost lovers hear the calls, sometimes they don’t, sometimes, they ignore.

The lost lover is conflicted. Between the head and the heart. Between the here and later. Between the discrete and the abstract. Between some this and some that. The lost lover is unable to love something or someone. The lost lover is trapped being in love with love itself. The abstraction of being in love, in the first place — and then, the added abstraction of being in love with love. That’s a sure place of being lost.

095532: Squinches

Those of us who do not understand the lost lover call the lover selfish. Dry. Empty. Soulless. And then, Loveless. We can call them anything we want. We cannot call them loveless, however. They me be lost. But they are lovers.

*

I am not a big fan of Ranbir Kapoor – the lead actor in this movie. #Statutory #Disclaimer. I love this song, however. And the irony, that this song is titled Kabira (I am assuming after Kabir) is not lost upon me. This is an accusative song on the face of it.  Tochi Raina and Rekha Bharadwaj  have rendered this song with the kind of sensitivity that it deserves. It’s not a dialogue – even though it is a duet. On the face of it, it is a come back home song.

We may do it a disservice however, if we leave it at that.

*

For those of us who would like to know the literal (not philosophical) meaning of the song, see this page. If this video doesn’t show up in your region, use these key words to search for the song: Kabira, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone

Calling You Out

Dependency.

That’s not a strategy. I hope you make a mistake which I will capitalise upon is the worst strategy ever. Wait. It is not a strategy. If there’s a game going on, which has two components — of offense and defense (yes, for once, I am using US spellings), what kind of a team are you – that plays just one component. And that one component that you play, is completely dependent on the mistakes of your opponent.

*

I support U Mumba — my home team. The celebrities of my city (most of them born and brought up here), support a team that is not their home team. Born, brought up here, you would expect they would support their home team. No. They support a garishly-pink team of Rajasthan. Only, because the garishly-pink team of Rajasthan, is owned by the first family of the local movie industry. In my personal opinion all the celebrity supporters are sucking up to the that first family rather than the pinkies. I have now seen the power of free pink-T-Shirts. Clearly. After having not lost one match since the league started, my team lost today. Yes. I am hugely upset. Yes, we lost to the pinkies. [Fair disclaimer, some would say]

*

Some smart guy somewhere, came to my team and made a big deal of playing defense. I think, he didn’t explain the difference between defense and defensive. My team is playing a defensive game, imagining it to a defense strategy. I doubt if my team will win this season. I say this even after the winning streak. All the games we have won, were won badly. They don’t want to play the full game. Strategies cannot be made in isolation. Strategies are made in the context of the opponents.  And our opponents are changing strategies every day. They are coming out to play. If our Coach does not see it, we are doomed.

*

There may still be a larger strategy in play here. I am not aware of it. If there is, I hope it helps us lift the trophy.

*

Friends are sending me links to articles of the success of their regional players in my team. The fact that the captain of their cricket league team (mired in controversy) is from Jharkhand, is, perhaps, lost upon them. I call this experience a “Twitter Orgasm,” Thankfully, I have learnt to ignore them. Further, that the only South Indian team is composed of heroes from Haryana is further lost to them.

*

I am a bad loser – you are sure to say. I am not, in reality. There’s no such thing as – “in the end the game of [insert name of game] wins” No game ever participates, it is played. Teams and players win or lose. Let not a pro-region commentator (who has to identify every player by town and state) define what you feel about the game. The [player]-[region] tag is his way of breaking the game. For, if that be a challenge, let’s have teams of state (which we do anyway).

*

There’s a good chance that my team will not pick up the trophy this season. Unless they fine-tune their strategy.

Friends Forever

The last few days; I’ve wanted all my friends to be around me. Talking with me. I didn’t reach out to all of them. If I had, I know, they would be talking with me. And I didn’t reach out to all of them, because I know them. Well.

*

My friends are smart. Given that I am smart, it’s no surprise that I have made friends with smart people. I don’t ask a question, but they hear the question. And to that unasked question, they don’t give an answer, but I hear the answer.

*

I may have said this before in this blog, but I don’t want to search for it now. Long ago, (and what seems like) very long long ago, in the wee hours of the morning, no access to tobacco or alcohol, twenty-five years ago, while sharing a makeshift cigarette, we — friends — were having a conversation. It was the end of college and we were soon to be dropped, without safety nets, in the real world. The conversation dropped for a couple of minutes. Then, one friend said, “It’s about respect.”

We knew we would move out in search for employment. Mobile phones were non-existent at the time. A 40 MB HDD (MB, not GB – just to let you know, it’s not a typo) meant we could store the world in that disk. Internet access was costly. I was still writing letters to a potential girlfriend using pen, paper, and postage. Long distance calls were cheap, after 11pm. And we used to throng public phone booths for that.

We all slowly looked at him. A big question mark etched on our faces.

“I’ll never remain friends with any of you, if I don’t respect you,” he said. “We will all leave this place (he meant, the college) with memories or respect. Eventually, the memories will fade. Respect will never fade, even if we never ever speak with each other. That’s how we will know, we are friends.”

*

Our friends don’t expect us to behave the way they want us to behave. They know how we behave, and continue to be friends. Take me, as an example. I am never straightforward. I start with an abstract of what I feel or think. I tend to prolong a conversation. A few of my friends come straight to the point. Which often leaves me dumfounded. Eventually, I gather my senses and respond.

*

I found out today, that today was friendship day. Like any other day — I’ve never felt the need to celebrate it. For, all my interactions with my friends have been a celebration.

***

My bestest friend died 14 years ago. There’s little conversation now. There’s just one glass on the bar. I stopped bumming cigarettes after he died; started buying my own. Nothing has changed, however. He is still my bestest friend.

BFF, yo! Between you and me, Forever means an entirely different thing.

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