Thursday, September 10, 2009

The sin of being single

I’ve been on leave since yesterday – down with a stomach ailment and viral infection. Rendered immobile physically, mind too is lost in cluttered thoughts. The exercise might well extend into tomorrow since Friday is my weekly off. Three days of leaves, a rare bonanza, will be exhausted by an unwanted guest (read ailment). Worse, 72 hours of staying at home and no constructive activity. Not a small sin.

But, there’s a bigger sin, almost cardinal, especially if you reside in the “modern” Indian society. A society, which along with the “Right to Information” (about your life), also exercises the “Right to Interfere” (again, in your life). The two RTIs. And, now I’m being held guilty on the charge of disallowing this “mandatory” access.

My heinous crime: I’m still Unmarried despite reaching the “marriageable” age, which too is deciphered and designated by our august society. It’s issued almost like a diktat and any sign of disobedience or delay on the count is punished with a verbal onslaught, often publicly. I’m beginning to experience the same. What started as a murmur few months ago has started gaining momentum and time does not seem far when it reaches a crescendo. Family, friends, colleagues and whosoever remotely knows me unabashedly fire the question. Again, I’ve no right to answer. For they come prepared with the answers too – “better, hurry up or you won’t get find a good partner,” “you’re already SO late”, “a companion is a must at this age,” and the unstoppable flow of suggestions and solutions continue, till you hang up the ears.

So, the picture is clear. I’m on the hit-list and have only two choices: first, submit to the jury’s verdict and enter wedlock, or second, get prepared for a more vicious attack from different quarters, both for myself and my immediate family, if I fail to ignore the “popular will”. Without a shadow of doubt, I’ve chosen the second one. Horrendous, my so called well-wishers say. Thus the so called “Good Boy” (a sobriquet I neither deserve nor like nor ever asked for, but that too was thrust upon me) of the family is fast becoming a Baddie – arrogant, disrespectful and too outspoken. May be, even eccentric. Though I disagree with such views, yet respect others’ Right to Opinion. But, I would not accept the abovementioned two RTIs.

I cannot allow my life to be hijacked by the whims and fancies of the world, as it happened some times in the past. Certain events of life have taught me that it’s important to live life, especially personal, on one’s terms. Otherwise, the world will use you, dump you, and forget you. Besides, I do not consider it necessary to offer explanation to everyone. Only a select few can ask or give advice to me on the issue, for they are the ones who stood by me in bad weather. Even if they disagree with my explanation, they will continue to remain dear….always.

Most of the people whom I now meet have the question ready on their lips: both to my amusement and annoyance. I ask: why an individual can’t be allowed to live his/her life. If marriage would have been the only symbol of happiness, then we would not see so many unhappy couples around. Further, what may be applicable to one person may not necessarily fit the other. Simple logic. But, how many understand it.

Let me make one thing clear. I do not look down upon the institution of marriage. In fact, it’s a beautiful concept and I feel happy for my all friends who are married and blessed with lovely kids. But then, that does not mean I need to emulate them. Do I? I may have my reasons, my pursuits, which may be far more important than getting myself enrolled in the wedlock register. How can wedding be made the foremost parameter of judging an individual. Besides, it’s not possible to lead a planned life always. Be it past or present, my plans too have gone awry, much against my wishes. Individuals have their own destiny and mission. I too have set my eyes on some targets for next few years.

Hence, dear world, allow me the space and peace to pursue my goals.

There is no denying that in personal life I’m quite a stubborn and don’t get influenced/affected easily by public opinion. And won’t even shy away from defending my single status. Also, I don’t know if it would be a permanent feature or whether the freeze would ever be lifted. Whatever happens, one thing is for sure: the decision would be mine. I’m not the one to succumb to pressures, criticisms or emotional blackmailing.

However, the forward journey may not be easy. The way I’ve started earning people’s ire, it could soon result in strained relations with some friends and relatives. But then, Arjun too had to attack his blood relations in the battle of Mahabharata, for he had the conviction that he was fighting for a just cause. I’m too small a mortal to draw any parallel with the mythological hero. However, I too am driven by my own decisions and convictions and would be ready to face any attack. Arguing with my own people often leaves me in bitter taste; still I’ve to hold my ground. The only grudge is that not many are on my side in this war. Still, the lone warrior will carry on.

To wind up, here’s a couplet my friend (another bachelor, another sinner) sent me. I find it befitting. However, all married people should not feel offended:

Shaadiyan unki huin jinko akl-o-saroor na tha,
Apni to umar kati zikr-e-nikah hota raha….!!

Friday, September 4, 2009

We would need more YSRs

A blazing political flame doused by a whimsical nature. No matter how powerful a person may be, all have to submit to destiny’s diktat. But perhaps, some mortals die only to live forever.

YSR could be one of them.

The tragic death of Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash on September 2 has plunged the entire nation into inconsolable grief. What has really stunned me is the kind of emotional outburst seen from across the country. Even the political parties, cutting across lines, have united to mourn the death of a man whose phenomenal popularity most of us realized, albeit ironically, when he is no more.

There are two reasons which leave me (happily) amazed. First, a CM is basically a state’s leader only. Unless an incumbent harbours the national politics ambitions, he/she is confined to the geographical limits of the area under his/her jurisdiction. YSR, in my view, confined himself to this role. Still, his death shows that he had a taller stature, one which went beyond the person of a chief minister. Second, the Indian political jamboree does not believe in praising opponents. Almost all parties show a penchant for this (unacceptable) practice. Hence, the kind of positive words they have spoken for YSR show the return of some mannerisms, otherwise grossly missing these days among the power echelons. I hope this becomes a permanent feature of Indian polity.

YSR’s death has evoked a response not witnessed in recent public memory in the country, especially for a political leader. One thing we can be sure of is that it is not stage-managed. The only episode that seems motivated is the clamour for his son to be named the successor. However, this is only by a section of the party workers who could be trying to justify their role of being the sycophants. Anyway.

We have seen this kind of public outflow of grief in the case of leaders who had a larger than life image, at least in the public eye. Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, MGR and NT Rama Rao fall in this category. But, they already enjoyed a celebrity status during their lifetime. And therefore, when they died, the reactions were on the expected lines. Some died after hearing the news of their deaths, some – unable to bear the loss -- committed suicide. The news of YSR’s death too has evoked similar reactions. But no such grief was witnessed when PV Narsimha Rao or KR Naraynan passed away. The former served as the prime minister and the latter as president. Both considered capable and held higher designations as compared to YSR. But, even though in death, YSR has surpassed their stature in terms of mass following. He rose from the roots and seemed to have carved a niche for himself by slow but steady strides.

I myself never had the idea that he was so overwhelmingly popular, not just in his home state but in other parts of the country as well. I never followed him so closely to be able to form an assessment of his work or to shower panegyrics on him. But then, I cannot also afford to miss the void and the mass hysteria generated by his sudden demise. What I understand is that while Andhra is mourning the irreparable loss of a man who was a PERFORMER, the nation is disheartened over having lost a promising FUTURE LEADER. We may be a billion plus country, but there is dearth of politicians who can be bracketed as ‘Leaders’ in the real sense. We have already lost some promising ones in the likes of Madhav Rao Scindia, Rajesh Pilot and Pramod Mahajan. And now, with YSR gone, the vacuum is being felt all the more since all of them had long political innings to play, but were taken away abruptly.

YSR’s tragic departure, however, proves one point to the hilt. A leader who performs would always be loved, respected and remembered by the people. It is not that he was a perfect politician or was controversy-free. In fact, his name figured in the Satyam scam as well. The allegations could be true or completely baseless. But, YSR’s legacy would be his constant urge to put AP on development path. He showed the instincts of a leader who wanted to connect with the people. How many leaders show this ability in India? Andhra is a big state and one does not get a second term there so easily. That the public gave him a second term shows they had reposed their faith in him. May be in the coming years, he could have played a role in the national politics as well.

Like many, I’m also saddened by his death because it seems once again we have lost a promising national leader to the Master sitting above. In present times, our only consolation could be if some politicians begin to follow the footprints of YSR.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Zubaan Sambhal ke

First of all a big THANK YOU to all those who took the pains to visit my blog, and some of them even posted their comments. It has really been very encouraging.

This piece is dedicated to my city – Lucknow, the City of Nawabs, rich culture and eloquence. Despite its many shortcomings, it remains dear to me, especially for the sophistication and refinery of its language. But sadly, now that seems to be changing.

Years ago, we all saw how Pankaj Kapur struggled to teach his students Hindi in the famous TV serial “Zabaan Sambhal Ke”. The striking thing about the serial was its chosen theme – Language. An essential component of our personalities, yet most often we tend to ignore the essence of language or zubaan.

More than a decade after the ordeal of Pankaj Kapur, I’m sure many teachers in Lucknow too would be undergoing the same pain with their students. The city is largely dominated by the Hindi speaking populace but there is also no dearth of denizens who have mastered the Queen’s language. Next comes Urdu, which with its delicacy and grace lends uniqueness to the tehzeeb of Lucknow. But, its speakers are shrinking in numbers and would be far less as compared to the other two languages.

However, the three languages are losing their popularity with the Gen-X (read SMS generation) which is busy evolving its own lingua franca. I see youngsters in the city developing a penchant for a language whose etymology is beyond my comprehension. I can bear with slangs, for you can look up their meanings in dictionary and thesaurus. But, what do I do with words whose origins and meanings remain untraceable despite all efforts. They are manufactured in the factory of these youngsters’ minds, circulated among their friends, who probably understand and appreciate them, and then somehow reach mortals like me, who lack the intelligence and taste to comprehend and praise them.

I’m not separated from this young bunch by many years. But, the change seems wide. When I was studying then too there would be a wide circulation of abusive words. No day would pass in my alma mater when I did not hear the word “F***”, used effortlessly and generously by me peers and teachers alike. It was either my upbringing or self-restrain that forbade me from picking such words. Or perhaps it was sheer hesitation or a strong dislike. But, above all, it was a conscious effort not to include them in my lexicon. Today, however, their usage in conversations is considered “stylish” and is also acceptable.

Words like Saale, kaminey, pagal, bewakoof can still be considered endearing to some extent, but the ones coming from that detestable genre of MC/BC can’t! Worse, there are innovative ones from Hinglish. No dearth of acronyms as well, thanks to the SMS culture. In fact, at times, my younger cousins send me SMSes in such short-cuts that I’ve to often take a long-cut to derive the message conveyed to me.

For a city which has earned a distinctive stature for its tehzeeb and whose communication skills are emulated and adored outside, I see the new invention as an embarrassment. I may sound dogmatic. So it be. Someone aptly summed up this change the other day to me: Earlier, it used to be ‘Pehle Aap’ in Lucknow. Now, it’s ‘Pehle Tum!’

What is worrisome is that adults too do not lag behind. In offices, public places or drawing rooms, you cannot miss hearing conversations laced with the “exquisite” vocabulary.

So, is this degradation in language incurable? Is there no Tamiflu (medicine given to swine flu patients) for it? Think before you speak. We were told umpteen times in schools. Then, why not choose before you speak. Choosing words which make the conversations sound decent at least if not eloquent. Perhaps, it’s time we seek some inspiration from the students of Pankaj Kapur, who at least made efforts to make the needful amendments in their language.

Guy De Maupassant once wrote: “My choices are simple. I like the best”. May be, the young brigade can try to pick the best words from the lexicon when they next utter a sentence!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Love Freedom, Respect Nation!

Love Freedom, Respect Nation!

Once again we smell the manure of freedom. 15 August, 2009. Another addition to our independent existence. A long and eventful journey of 62 years. And still, the tryst with destiny continues. We marvel and mourn, grow and groan, wander and wonder, crib and yet live. Mired in controversies, yet rarely tired. That’s India – of you and me.

What is that keeps us going, often in most difficult of the situations? A spirited approach or a reckless living? Perhaps, both. Let me try to explain. We have been traumatized by those two dreaded words – Swine Flu. The rising number of casualties and medical helplessness in curbing it presents a bleak picture for the near future. You walk into any public place and the fear of catching the flu is writ large on the faces. Sneezing, in recent memory, never invited so much public ire as it does these days. And if you exercise caution then it’s wisdom and not a foolish act. For the scare, to a large extent, is valid.

Yet, it failed to dampen our spirits on Janmashtami (which fell on August 14). The sea of people overflowed almost from nowhere on the streets of Mumbai and festivity exploded. The drooping India was suddenly vibrant. Who would believe that swine flu virus and dahi-handi were swaying together in the air. At least, we would. For, we are a nation of paradox and we revel in it.

This is no easy art of living, especially with tags like “emotional country” or a “soft nation”. We suffer yet know how to forgive. Even if someone decimates our population with an AK-47, we ensure that he gets a fair trial. How many nations in the world would appreciate it, leave alone emulating. But, it is somewhere in this weakness lies our strength. We value freedom – ours as well as those of others. Indian democracy has loopholes, but it’s not a failure. Freedom is misused in the country, but it still exists. We hate the khadi-clad but know can’t also live without them.

In short, we know how to live in contradictions. Oxymoron is India’s elixir of life. A nation where one finds the co-existence of Fear and Faith, Optimism and Pessimism, Joy and Sorrow, Hate and Forgiveness. I quote these because they are not identifiable with any caste or religion. Instead, they undeniably run in the veins of each Indian.

It is also beyond my comprehension how we manage to survive it all. However, like many I too complain and regale about such things. Fret and fume, muse and amuse. Still, I love the breath of freedom and also my country. Its patriotic fervour surely has a unique aroma. We tangibly feel it on 26 January and 15 August, but almost invariably breathe it round the year.

To each one of you, therefore, I urge – Love Freedom, Respect Nation. Even in a billion population, we derive our individual existence and identity from these two words.

Jai Hind