Death or Dystopia?

“Who is your God?”

“Time”

“And what about life?”

“This life of mine has left me exhausted. When the time comes to be reborn, I will decline. If they don’t listen to me, I will make a fuss until they do. A weary man like me has earned his break from living.”

“But life is hope.”

“What good is hope to dead people?”

“In death, we find the hope we had surrendered at birth.”

_Shubhangi Swaroop, Latitudes of Longing

I was watching this episode of BoJack Horseman, where this young and stunning actress, Sarah Lynn, who has tasted stardom at a very young age, is attempting to sober herself up. Her usual young self is used to a drunk and drugged life. She shares how in one of the rehabs she attended, she was told, “Worship your body and take care of it like a temple”. She thinks to herself, “Why will somebody want to assume their bodies are temples? Temples are so boring!!”

I had a good laugh. Also, because this was a distant reality then.

I have been in conversation with a friend, battling a medical condition. And more often than not, I am talking with over-positivity of how with the “right mind”, “right will power” and “right approach”, he can overcome his thoughts of giving up on the goodness of life. I obviously hate how positive I sound. Hate mostly because some realities can haunt your general narrative in life, and haunt so deep, that it can just question the basic tenants of sanity in your life.

But it wasn’t too difficult to be positive. Also, because it hasn’t daunted on you how will you behave in a similar condition.

And now more than ever, I have realised how you can die a multiple times in your head before your soul actually leaves your body. Mind has its powers that our petty daily routine makes us ignore.

And for me, a small sign of illness is a gateway to the dead end. One would think that knowing death would make us more adventurous, kind and forgiving. But it can also make us small, stupid and petty. Especially, when you are not ready to absorb the shock.

Can you ever be ready? I don’t know. For what I have experienced, you always imagine you are ready, but when the realities come closer, you are just hoping to spring back, somehow. And the thought that came again and again to me was not a story, not an age, but just few moments of happiness, just moments, not even incidents, here and there, throughout my life, that I longed to experience again. Moments of sitting in that hilly garden surrounded by pure joy, of sharing a ride in silence love, of walks without destination, and of a good family meal together. Just those tiny moments.

While I had few days of isolating myself only with my thoughts before my family joined me. And they made me learn the other perspective. You will eventually die once but the number of deaths you want to imagine for yourself before the actual death is purely a matter of choice. And that is where people full of life can make you look and feel stupid.

Can we change, swap, merge? Get two opposite thinking people, and make a compound out of them? So the ultra-optimistic and ultra-pessimistic compound gets you two sane realistic people. But what will earth be, if it only had balanced people, No extremes? Apart from it being boring, it can very well be mechanical, too rational. Kills the life out of life (:

And also as the couplet reads,

“Teri kismet da likheya tere to koi kho nahi sakda,

Je us di mehar hove te tenu oh vi mil jaaye, jo tera ho nahi sakda”

We know we can’t change us, atleast not easily, definitely not in the short run. But we can always learn more about ourselves, and get the adequate life support system, through the “right people” contrasting to our natural choice of dystopias.

Damien Rice, No, Not a woman like a man, but a woman with the Scars to Your Beautiful

All you need is to expand your boxes till it becomes a universe PC: Quarterlifepoetry

It goes back to as young as 16 when I first picked my copy of Linda Goodman, where the opening lines of a Scorpio woman was her urge to be a man; and the fact that she is embarrassed to admit it. The thought seeded in me, I wasn’t sure if I really want to be a man and I am embarrassed about it; or is it an external emotion that just got injected and I am not just feeding the parasite. I also recall my convent education and the time when I joined college, my nascent ways of competing myself on physical and mental levels with friends around, especially guys, and the kick I used to get out of proving my capabilities. Although, it just took only a couple of bruises and show of strength moments for me to realise my stupidity in this comparison. My friends were just ‘being nice’ to me so that I don’t get hurt.

Well, that is just the earlier instances I recall in my gender explorations. College has been a huge learning ground and I can’t miss to highlight some of the times that designed my thinking –

  1. We fought our first college elections on “Gender Sensitizing movement” – to make safe spaces for women, beyond the stares and an aggressive nature of the campus when we had joined Ramjas College. While I absolutely loved being a part of this campaign, underneath my skin, I used to always feel like men only dominate weak women, and I used to believe in my own strengths and I always felt I was running this battle for women who couldn’t feel strong enough. And yes, Damien Rice, Your women like a man was my theme song. I may not be in sync with the absolute meaning of the song, but the lines resonated with what I felt was an emotion scratching more than surface for me.
  2. The Gender Sensitizing movement which was brimming in my college, helped me understand gender from many lenses. Having to met Gautam Bhan and his talks on homosexuality, conversations on khap panchayat and honor killing with Scholars, victims, activists and Jatt Boys was most eye-opening. Others included, dialogues on the man’s lament, ideas of masculinity, the politics of rape and the institution of marriage. I don’t want this piece to become a book, so guarding my thoughts here.
  3. A personal incident where I was one of the two girls from the hostel who refused to sign the plea of a senior requesting for extension of in-time for her in the night, due to her coaching classes which was far off from the hostel. I have no idea how I ended up being one of the two girls but what followed was a longer discussion with my professors and mentors on how in this society, women are usually bigger enemies of women, and I kind of, proved the point by my behaviour.
  4. It was the power of leaders and women together that got me to hold my hostel seat twice, once in Ramjas and another in Jamia, when I asked to leave due to administrative suspensions. So have given little, but received a lot more love.
  5. My later years in Jamia, opened pandora’s box for my emotional and mental faculties. I learnt the struggles of women and the idea of being a women from eyes of many muslim women. While their religious identity is not most important, but there were common links that one could not miss. I saw the powerful, the scared and the curious cases, like in any other society. But having defined ideas of how to practice your faith as a women was a strong theme I had never interacted with before.

I could write a piece on all four bullets but I just felt like mapping the milestones and recognizing the strides this journey made for me, my thoughts and action.

Last one year, where I managed to spend more time than usual with family, reflecting on gender relations became one of my favorite exercise. And there is no institution as strong as family that forms your preliminary foundations and it only takes experience, passion and a rebel to expand boundaries of you and your family and thus, your society; step by step. And one important realisation is that many of us in family do not realise when we are empowering or disempowering someone, the details are usually too tricky and too convoluted. I think only conversations have built the bridges.

Some of the major transitions and the emerging principles in my head and heart needed some words, here are they:

I am proud to be born a women in today’s times. This isn’t to say men shouldn’t be proud but I think we are living in times where raising the bar of possibilities beyond the status quo, are challenged by women more than man. If I may take an example, there are various privileges than men and women have in each type of society, obviously skewed. It is the women today, who are raising the voice for things they are not comfortable with, than men voicing out their discomforts. Women are fighting the battle for themselves and as a first mover, also making spaces for men to realise the pressures and responsibilities; or the unfair expectations by the society on their successes and stardom. You can catch the moment or miss the bus.

Second, I feel absolutely proud of being vulnerable and expressive of my needs, my expectations and my failures. It is empowering to speak your heart even if that comes at a cost of laughter, ignorance or a mere non-acknowledgement. We have grooved ourselves so much in society that it takes me real efforts everyday to have meaningful conversations; with both men and women. And I feel the world would have been so much better if people were given training on emotional intelligence. To learn to express, empathize and emancipate with themselves and the ones they meet.

Third and very importantly is the movement on solidarity. There are cases where a women is staged against other women and they see each other as enemies. This could be in professional set up, in an awkward relationship or perhaps in your own homes. I shall say, reflect and restart. Resist looking at just your own’s losses if the situation if putting you up against another women. In the hindsight, I have always realized that there is never a bigger mistake that you can do when you are made to believe you are replaceable or that the cause of your struggle lies in the ideas of another women. The middle-men here is perhaps the one to blame.

I am not sure what inspired me to put this down, but perhaps the day today, and people in my life who made got me to recognize the love and the transition! ❤

Thanks Alessia Cara for giving me some words to close this short piece:

And you don’t have to change a thing
The world could change its heart
No scars to your beautiful
We’re stars and we’re beautiful

She don’t see her perfect
She don’t understand she’s worth it
Or that beauty goes deeper than the surface
Oh-oh, oh-oh
So to all the girls that’s hurting
Let me be your mirror
Help you see a little bit clearer
The light that shines within

Signing off with Love

To all women who are daring to dream

And to all men who are picking up emotional expression as new power to run the world!

Happy Women’s Day (:

Mumbai, You are magical!

Whether it is the pandemic and the associated anxieties or the less frequent travel; or perhaps age is catching up too soon and the feeling of getting old every moment sometimes dominates your mind; I have never felt like capturing some moments for being so magical that I want to live it again through photgraphs. 

Perhaps it is just the spirit of Mumbai that can have that effect on you. 

And trust me, it is not conventional love. 

I spent 3 hours in travelling 35 kms from one part of Mumbai to the other. 

And another time an hour for covering 10 kms. 

I am running on less than 4 hours of sleep a day. 

I was in a full day, quite an ordinary, self-deteriorating meeting. 

What else? In only capturing a moment on camera, I happened to get myself fined INR 200 for removing the mask to get one click of the landscape and how I merged. 

The Sin and the Instigator

But the feeling was special. 

For the safe hands I felt I was in.

For the freedom it breathes. 

For allowing you to be carefree

In love, at work, or just as you. 

I wish I there were more Urdu poets who stayed in this city to express its story. Or may be there are, task at hand I guess.

Oh Delhi, my first love! you got to learn a lot from Mumbai. I know you have the history and geography and even the politics that keeps you the centre of power. And in all gratitude and bow to the magnificence of the aura, I raise Buts. I feel there is power trip that is making you a bit obnoxious. You may want to learn respect, ethics, consideration, tolerance for fellow beings from the city that is brimming with it. 

Dilliwalas at the Silly Selfie Spot. YKIYK.

I never thought I’ll write a love post for Mumbai before Delhi but sometimes 11 years of commitment is not enough when someone shows you there is really a better calmer and happier alternative that you fail to chose because you are used to some traumas. 

Signing off

A Dehliwala at heart who just got swayed away by Mumbai.

Walking backwards

The backyard where we’ve played in scratching heat. I can recall the endless catch the ball games and tanned faces.

The little corner for conversations, away from the gibber gabber of the adults, two kids shared what they felt of the world, almost every week. The sun can recall it’s rays of the days, then and now. Imagining what we shall be like as we grow old. Everytime I walk at this place, I recall a new incident from the past. That rich are some memories!
Can recall the fests, the feasts, the cleaning days and the waiting days, the late nights, the early mornings and the endless struggle of catching the hidden as I seek my smarter fellows. Trees from this part of the world converse with you, you can’t miss to hear them!

Pure joy!

This is what an over joy-ed face looks like, absolutely unexpected recall of how far have I walked!

Be like Sharma Ji.

You can choose the face of Sharma ji and Hussain at your own imagination. I can’t help but see them alike.

Hussain is a trained hair-dresser, who came from Moradabad to Delhi some years back to try his luck and hands in a salon. With the pace at which Delhi brings new opportunities and challenges, Hussain transitioned to be an Uber driver, feeling the urge to  travel to newer corners of the city and meet new people and impress them with his charming personality.

Hussain, like many others would have not predicted a lockdown so massive that the Uber industry will fail him.

Hussain like many others, was rejected from many jobs in this New India. Some companies were explicit in mentioning the problem in his name. Hussain is not quite a surname they want to risk their company’s faith with.  

Hussain may be like many others, decided to jump from a typical service industry to becoming a Peldaar (the one who picks and transports heavy load of grains and vegetables manually in local mandis). He claims to have picked an average of 170 kgs of load at one time to transport from truck to godown to shop to wherever. To put in perspective, it translates into carrying an average of 3 adult men on his shoulder and walking approximately 6-8 kms in a day. Don’t forget, he isn’t trained to do so, just one day, destiny shifts gears and he got to transform from a barber to a bully.

Hussain, may be like many others, made many friends and well-wishers in Delhi. Incidentally, Om Prakash Sharma, originally from Mathura is one of them. Sharma ji is in courier and transport business, known from his great mind in getting maximum benefits to the customer at the least of the costs. Sharma ji is a true asset to the company as well as customers, always bridging the needs of both.

Sharma ji, definitely not like many others, stood firm for his friend Hussain and argued his case at his Company, one of the many that rejected Hussain for his name. After 6 rounds of interrogation at different levels, compared to 1-2 rounds in a usual case, Hussain finally landed up a job at the Courier Company.

At the risk of sounding plain idiot, can Shakespeare in Today’s India say, What’s there in the name? A rose, by the name of Gulaab (simply because its Urdu) may not even be considered worth smelling by the millions. How would we ever know if Rose and Gulaab smells the same?!

I can hear Kabir Saheb singing in the background for them, telling the world how religion teaches to love and not hate.

“Kabir tahan na jaiiye, jahan jo kul ka het. Sadhupano jane nahi, naam baap ka let

Kabir Soyi peer hai, jo jaane par peed. Jo per peed na jaanta, so kaafir be-peer”

Kabir stay away from those who love only their own kind. They know nothing of true religion, they care only for social identity

Kabir, only she is a true seeker, who feels the pain of others. He who doesn’t know another’s pain, is lost, without real direction.

Sorry Friends, your hands are RED.

As Ambedkar Said, “They are two arms of the same body and one bound to fight for the existence of the other.” Photo and Caption credit @savarnathings

I never thought I am going to write this because one, it felt so ugly to even accept it in your head. And two, I am not sure I can ever do justice with the gravity of the issue. We are all a Bunch of Casteist, Sexist Self-Claimed ‘Good’ People! None of us can wash our hands off the atrocious past of the savarna ancestors, and the legacy that we continue.

I had learnt this mantra in college, and quite adhered to it, that ‘choose your battles’ and not waste your energy arguing with every Tom, Dick and Harry. But it just so happens, that many, quite a few around me have opted out of the anti-caste, feminist battles happening around. It is not particularly strange though, but I am writing to remind all of us, that our hands are RED.

Just By Chance!!! You would believe that just “by chance” you only have Savarna friends – WITHOUT you making a conscious decision. You never bothered to think about caste while making friends. Let me break just a few parts of what all is wrong here. One, that our environment is so sanitized that we hardly realise that we filter much diversity from around us. Second, just in case, thanks to reservations, if you are blessed with diversity, most of us end up ‘unconsciously’ bonding Savarnas with Savarnas. And it is perhaps thanks to the privileges, tastes similarities, snobbish conversations and lifestyles that two Savarnas bond over. We are not hardwired to be inclusive over centuries and species of evolution. If at all, we were only meant to be best fit to survive. So, it isn’t strange that we are all in the soup and our hands are surely RED.

You said it right. We may have read, listened to experiences, sanitized our arguments towards an equal society, especially the young city dwellers in their 20s and 30s. But aren’t we the same bigots who would like to give capital punishment to the rapist, so that WE feel cleaner and whiter? Isn’t our response more filled with anger than guilt? Because we are angry at what someone did but would never want to internalize the innumerable times I did not speak against caste and gender roles very well established in and around us; and let it thrive – what resulted today. Please accept, our hands are RED.

The Hidden Casteists. Every time, you talk about your privileges and baggage of being a Brahmin, a Baniya, a Thakur, a Rajput you are still harassing the universe with that voice of yours. It is always with a head held high that a Savarna talks about even the ills of being a savarna. If not always, I guess most often. I haven’t really met many deeply apologetic Savarnas. Not yet. Every time you keep the dirtiest task for your maid, you just as well are a casteist. Every person whose labour you have taken for granted or may be let’s say – appreciated from far, be it the sweeper, the guard, the sewage cleaner; you are no less a casteist. I remember how my first roommate and I in my first hostel did not really ‘click’ in the first few months; and we decided to do some room swaps. There were people who came to me asking, if that was because of the caste, I ignored. But today, I feel I missed an opportunity to build the bridge just because of my being liberal and adventurous. Every time, you say your parents worked very hard to get you what you have today, you are laughing at the guy who picked your grandfather’s and father’s garbage for all those times and his hardwork. It is hard to accept that our ancestors were lesser humans. And we are running the same legacy. I can count people I personally know who have radically surpassed the casteist living and being. While they are less than the number of average fingers in my hand, not one claims to be have fully acquired what it means to be anti-casteist. It is so deeply rooted that if anyone claims that they are following anti-casteist to the T, they sure haven’t felt it enough. You can try, you can never be able to cross that bridge, fully. Not in this lifetime, not for another half a century. Don’t let that guilt pass off you. Our hands ARE red.

What do we do about this feeling? Just stay guilty, live with guilt, every moment. Well, I can easily classify most in the active and passive categories. The Active ones are involved in protests, helping in build the revolution. Some are heavily writing about it. And while I truly appreciate all who are building the bricks to revolution, helping in breaking the shackles of caste, I know the mettle one needs to be lead through revolutionary ways is only borne in few. But this can be a trap. Sometimes, we see these as moments of outrage so that we can prove to the world and ourselves, how good we are & how horrible rest of the world is. The others are timid ones, like me, often feeling, writing can help. But from all that I have understood so far, I support Dalit for Dalit Writings, Women for Women writings, Simply because there just isn’t enough emotion – humiliation, resentment, helplessness that can be felt secondarily by the ones who have not experienced it first-hand. One can imagine, but please my friends, don’t obsess over how much you know. Your writings are adding to your own happiness to put your emotion on paper and then live past it; than any other help to the society. And yes, with that, I admit and confess, that I am only writing, to flush away the puddle of thoughts I have got myself into, in the last few weeks of caste and gender based conversations. It is more an act to have a sense of relief than anything else. Our Hands are RED.

There are two non-negotiables I have figured out in this exploration. One, as I have repeated, but worth innumerable repetition, is to not let the guilt go away. Feel guilty, every moment, as if your hands are red, of murder, exploitation, and rape that caste privileges are causing. Feel guilty that you are one of the faces of oppression. Always, be apologetic of even having an opinion. Two, is where I think many of us who may not feel best fit to join the revolution head front, please bring yourself to do work of all castes – don’t assume your job in life is to only read illuminating books and do big wonders of changing the world with our half a pound brain cells. Have elements from the work of a Dalit, a Shudra, a Vaishya and a Brahmin. Educate yourself practically. If possible don’t ignore the blatant caste symbols in and around. Help the society, by feeding on to the evolution that Humans are so very capable of. Commit to yourself, that your 2 generations forward would not have to have their hands in deep Red.

You know, What is Beautiful? Surviving, Resistance, Humility

How often do you meet people who open their heart out?

In early first incidences

And you are left to wonder,

How random, How vulnerable, and yet how so powerful!

And when you call them beautiful

They say back not thank you

But Oh no, I am so average.

Your eyes are beautiful.

And what if you also find

That such people are chasing their dreams

Just letting the storm destroy the world

As they stay contend at their basement

Chasing their small dreams

Consciously staying away from the world.

Are there really such people

Left with a mix of humility and courage?

They don’t have the power to change the world

But their Resistance is in not letting world change them

Not succumbing to the Powers of the World

And let yourself evolve within.

That, when gets aligned with a cause greater than their own lives

Is When no one in the world can stop it from becoming a better place.

And yes, it’s rare.

But no, it’s not unreal.

It is what we only treasure,

When we learn how ugly can the others be.

Like one can only treasure peace,

Once they survive a war.

Can’t Thank You DA

Photo Credit: Sudhir, on special request 😀 😛

As the ceremonies of faring me well got closer to a close, one of my elder colleagues, who had also given his services to army before DA, came to me and said, “Anshul, when I joined my service, I imagined some of things I would like to hear at my farewell. And trust me, what I heard today for you is exactly what I had imagined.”

I do not know what I could have imagined. But that moment for me, can never be fully described. How to live infinite moments of learning and unlearning; moments of fun with perhaps 3-4 generations at DA (By generations I mean set of colleagues); moments of confidence (sometimes over-confidence) and leadership – in one single farewell.

Like Chandler would say, can there be any better place to learn and blossom? I am afraid no. I am sure many of my old colleagues and friends may not fully agree with me. Some of you may ask what inspired me to write this. Well, the thing is, since I move out of DA, a lot of my ex-colleagues reached me out. Some congratulating me for making the exit, some of course in surprise and shock – they thought I shall happily fossilize there, while very few mentioning how you will always miss that place. What triggered me to write this that I somehow became a part of this informal alumini group and the conversations made me almost puke to unconsciousness. This isn’t a response, this is just to put down my own piece of experience, learning and immense gratitude to the place that groomed me. Primarily, so that I don’t forget my amazing time, given the rate at which I am growing old with experiences! 😀

Organising this piece is quite difficult. It took me more than month to make sense of what all I want to write. And here comes my broad classifications: The Story of 3Is and the road less travelled by.

To anyone who has been in DA for a day would know what 3Is stand for. For other curious souls – it stands for Innovation, Incubation and Influence – the three core functions at Development Alternatives. Many of us have heard the legacy of DA, by older (ex) colleagues, also especially if you have got the chance to meet staff at Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change or other development practitioners in the field of environment. What I am writing is my personal account, of what DA was to me, for the 6 years of joy I am forever grateful for!

INNOVATION

LIGHT ACROSS THE TUNNEL I think DA can take credit of infusing hope in you in the most of hopeless of the situation. I think the fighter in DA just doesn’t let you believe that there is no way to make things better. When George would say, there is light across the tunnel; and he can see it – we all would believe – not because we saw it. We just believed in Him and his confidence in us. I call this an innovation because in these small and big acts of finding hope and joy, we learnt how to really handle the hopelessness around us in our society, and sometimes even within ourselves.

DUTY BEFORE DEATH: With the set up that DA has made, one is always rewarded more work for good work, which might look like an exploitation. Unless of course, it is duly recognized, which I feel they have been trying well. The system gave me multiple opportunities to work with many across verticals and horizontals in the organisation. It works on the simple principles of volunteering to work, where you might end up working a lot more than your fellow colleagues but with the promise that you will be recognized. What does a young professional need more than opportunity and due feedback with pinch of recognition? And its not always more work, the first principles come straight from doing your work well. Dr Khosla, at one of the times when I travelled with him, never let me hold his bag, was never late for a meeting, will still be sending us late night mails, only because he wasn’t just expecting us to give our full cent but he was contributing more than he was expecting.

INCUBATION

ARGUMENTATIVE PROFESSIONAL: I may not be too wrong to say, that Zeenat is one of the best incubators we have at DA or may be beyond that. Incubating young professionals. She is the one person I have had most scoldings from and engaged in most arguments. And yet some of the fondest memories at DA are solely because of her. She has the ingredient of curiosity and argumentation that nurtures the perfect incubation space for a professional. There isn’t anything else needed for growing up together with someone.

ORGANIC GROWTH @ CAGR 11.3% Like Dr Arun explained my transition in his eyes, someone I only got the opportunity to work a few times. He said, for most of the times, as he was listening to me in Saturday meetings or other such meetings, he would not really grasp what I was saying. But he felt that I am very confident and aware of what I am saying, so he would peacefully reflect, he doesn’t need to get it, till I get it well enough! Of course, at later instances, I slowly learnt his language, or he learnt mine, or may be both, and we had smoother exchange. But isn’t this the seed for incubation? Give the sapling enough space to expand and blossom? Trust the sapling!

INFLUENCE

SEEDS OF OVER-CONFIDENCE: I don’t think there is another organization that will send their young colleagues to share the stage with Steven Stone. Not many organization will send the same young colleague to go present a proposal to the Joint Secretary, MoEF&CC. And guess what? Actually win the proposal, despite the old grey hair gentlemen walking in teams of 5-6 that you can get intimidated from, just by their suited-booted presence. There are innumerable times of not just recognition but also the kind of responsibility and trust the organization puts on you. At that moment, you might feel lost, may be angry and stupid in the room; but it only takes the time to walk in, present and walk out like a champion. Championing one’s own fears and evolving on the way. At TARAgram Yatra 2017, on the two days of sessions hosted at Orchcha, Mayukh and I were chatting in the evening. And I remember this conversation because we were speed racing with time. And wondering – why do I not feel any anxiety to engage 80 odd people for two days; and conduct most of the plenary sessions. And we said this together, we have got embarrassed, ridiculed, shouted at so much at one or the other Saturday or internal meeting that this feels like a piece of cake.

LET’S SAIL & SINK TOGETHER: The second influence is more internal. The amount of how much you can co-learn is tremendous. I think I started off in good hands/company, amongst Mayukh, Kriti, Mandira and Chitrangna percolating their infectious enthusiasm. And how will I ever love Harshini enough for all that I have learnt with her, not forgetting my extremely poor MS Excel and Word Skills to becoming the go-to person in office for presentation & formatting! Of course, life at DA didn’t end me there, it got me into making Kavya’s life sour, just to enjoy the dessert later, making Stella’s life hell and then make it sound like it’s fun. And then ofcourse there are ever so thankful Isha! Some of finest colleagues where we sailed together not just professional but also building personal bonds to keep each other’s boat from sinking. I cannot forget to mention Shivani, Farhan, Shruti, Ria, Reemsha, Tarang, Gazala, Sandhya Mam, Vinod Sir, Vijay Bhaiya, Vaibhav, Tushar N, Chandan, Rupali, Rowena, Sudhir, Mayank, Vandana, Pratibha, Srijani, Krishna, Deshraj, Omkar. Not sure if I can ever complete this list, not even trying.

AND IT TOOK THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED BY

  1. Sometimes, I feel DA picks the vibes of people wrong. In my 6 years, I have seen them hiring people who are perhaps not aligned to the spirit of DA. And DA being DA usually waits for 6 months to tell that person to leave; and most times, take much much longer. Two kind of colleagues have the highest degree of criticism for DA: People with specialization in a particular area/subject; And People who are too confident of what they know/are and do not want to look for change or challenging way of doing things. My two cents here is that it does expect people to diversify and to pick varied skill sets and sometimes themes, beyond your comfort zone. It is exactly this reason why youngsters are more aligned to the ways of DA.
  2. All this spirit of keeping the place young and innovative, came at a cost. The cost is that of consistency in projects, retaining expertise in sectors. And that has led to many times, some very talented colleagues could not really get the kind of projects and opportunities they hoped they will get. On a corollary, a lot many times people have to do things that does not necessarily align to their personal goals but that’s the task at the hands of the organization. But what is life without a spark of change?
  3. Every Senior has some set of favorites issues, things that they are probably good at or have special interest in. It is lucky if that aligns with you. If it doesn’t, sometimes that can be a big decision point for colleagues to feel frustrated. But I guess, keeping an organization and its heads as human as possible, puts biases of such kinds inescapable.

When Pat says judge yourself keeping the constraints in mind. A 95 in 12th Boards Mathematic Examination doesn’t mean you are a 95% in Mathematics in general. It means you did that well, in the constraint of time, whatever challenge was put in front of you. And similarly when he points the trust that he has that I will always abide by my values. It is not the cause but sure helps you know stay strong at your ground.

14 years of school, 3 years of graduation, 2 years of masters and then a job. In each of the previous instances, your time and your part of learning is somewhat fixed. And then comes a job, where, really, your time nor what is the scope of learning – neither of the two is fixed. Specially if you are at DA.

After a lot of exploration on how to look for right answers, the only thing I have learnt is that You know. You just get to know when you must leave. And that is where one transcends from being given a complete plan for the first quarter of life to be left on to the intuitive self.

A lot more can be said, but why not end with the perfect quote in spirit.

“What can an eternity of damnation matter to someone who has felt, if only for a second, the infinity of delight?” _Charles Baudelaire

Can’t Keep Calm because My Family doesn’t Keep Calm!

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Some of us are spending much longer time with our family than usual. After I tried to introspect the two worlds – our parents and ours – in a small piece, few weeks back, I had planned to explore those sides with some of my friends.

Stories about habits that stick too strong with your family from the cultural setting – Too Punjabi, Too Bihari, Too Nepali in their blood. Or the idea of introspecting on any ideology or philosophical thought that you differ from your parents, with your parents.

Before we engage with the 4 selected stories in this piece. I want to put in two thoughts in perspective:

  1. The relationship of a child and a parent:

I happened to receive the book Prophet by Khalil Gibran, that started a conversation with a friend, where he pointed out how one of his friends used to following verses by Khalil Gibran to get his way with his parents. The verses are:

“Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

It helped my friend of a friend get his way with his parents. Although the parents were devastated, emotionally.

And I do personally feel that there is a karmic connection between a child and their parent. After all, we are the consequences of their choices and action. But that doesn’t oblige us to follow everything they wish for us, because then, what use is evolution?

What it does gives us is an opportunity to engage, build a bridge. And I know, it isn’t going to be smooth. So, Choosing ones’ battles is always a good idea. Some things are perhaps best left undebated. And for those undebated topics, there is always a choice between Kant’s white lie and misleading truth, to keep the calm going.

  1. Why should we engage in stories? Who is a writer?

A line of Goethe’s West-East Divan: “Is one alive when other men are living?” As Milan Kundera writes, that hidden within Goethe’s question is the mystery of writer’s condition: By writing, a man turns into a universe; and it is precisely the nature of the universe to be unique.

But who is a writer?

I have always found writing as a therapy. Anything I write, helps me drive that emotion out of my head, and I can progress further, emotionally. But I am tempted to steal the comprehension by Kundera that feels quite universal in its thought,

“The irresistible proliferation of graphomania among politicians, taxi drivers, child-bearers, lovers, murderers, thieves, prostitutes, officials, doctors and patients show me that everyone without exception bears a potential writer within him/her, so that the entire human species has good reason to go down into the streets and shout, “We are all writiers!”

For everyone is pained by the thought of disappearing, unheard and unseen, into an indifferent universe, and because of that everyone wants, while there is still time, to turn himself into a universe of words.

One morning (and it will be soon), when everyone wakes up as a writer, the age of universal deafness and incomprehension will have arrived.”

So we have only time to write and shout out loud till everyone becomes a writer!

I leave you for your own introspection, I am more of a collator than a writer in the late instances of this page.

Here Comes the Stories from the corners…

So here I present to you the four selected stories. And there is no amount of gratitude enough for Isha (Story Alpha), Ruhi (Story Beta) and Azeemah (Story Gamma) for sharing their parts of life with us. It takes courage, commitment, and comprehension; and I am truly delighted and feel blessed!

Have a good read and I hope to publish few more soon, to keep this place and myself evolving! 😀

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For the one who shall never return but never leave.

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Thomas Mann wrote a naively entrancing story about death: in that story death is beautiful, as it is beautiful to all those who dream about it when they are very young, when death is still unreal and enchanting, like the bluish voice of distances. And that’s how I lived, believed death will only be one of the many beautiful junctures that one has to pass through.

But there is something more enchanting that I witnessed. And may be C Fuentes has the answer when he says that, when we die, what we lose is not the future but the past.

This post is only a petty attempt to keep traces of the one we once knew so close. One of his true nature, as we were sharing on his first death anniversary, is the urge to be known, the urge to write his heart out; and voice it loud and clear, in his humming style.

These are some words written by Smriti, for the love that shall live through times, in the past and future. Being hopelessly positive of a union in the roots, when the shoot breaks from a tree and grows in a handsome tree beside.

Sketch by Smriti

तुम गए तो सारी शिकायते ही चली गयी

मानो सारे गमं और गिले फिसल गए

वोह मुस्कुरहाते , वोह चेहरे का नूर इन आँखों के आसुहों मैं बेह  गए

फूलों से खुसबू और तितलियों के उड़ने का ढंग चला गया

आज फिर आयी बारिश लेकिन बारिश से मिट्टी की सुगंध चली गयी

वोह बच्चौं की खुशियां

वोह रातों  की सारसरहात

वोह तुम्हारे आने का इंतेजार

वोह जाने का गमं

सभी किसी वक़्त में फिसल गया

जहां ना तुम ना हम

बस एक

गुजरे हुए समय का इंताकाल  हैं

 

Why you should worry about how you are feeling in these rare Corona times? #notaboutselflove

In no mind and space to write at length. But there is no better way I have yet found, to bear your own self and the world, in what we are consuming as information, conversing with near ones and reflecting our own.

And like Michael J. Sandel says before he begins his class on Political Philosophies of Justice, “Self-knowledge is like lost innocence. However unsettling you may find it, it can never be unthought or unknown. Once familiar turns strange, it can never be the same again.”

Moral pursuit is not solitary pursuit but a public endeavor and so I picked my self to write another piece of reflection in these ugly(-ier) times.

Bull Fights Versus Bharatnatayam*

 

*Indian-ised version of dog fights versus Opera

If you live in a country where majority of the people prefer bull fights as the means of entertainment over Bharatnatyam, would you justify Government’s act of subsidizing Bull fights over Bharatnatyam?

Take another one if a group of 10,000 or lets just say 10 million Indians for sake of the example, get their delightful happiness by seeing a dozen of Pakistanis stoned to death in a Stadium. Does the collective of 10 million enjoying the brutal murder of a bunch of Pakistanis still make it just?

Last one, if your government decides to increase the tax on rich to 60% of their income, will that be just?

If you agree that these ideas are unjust, we agree here that democracies are good but there are certain moralities which are much sacred and that no democratic government has the right to take that away from the society. Like Shashi Tharoor said in his book, Democracy is the worst form of governance, except from the ones that have been tried so far.

(Just in case you think any of the three acts can be classified as just, I will be happy to engage with you, but this piece will surely not be best suitable!)

The three examples illustrate the right to life and the fact that certain acts are heinous and there are certain pleasures which are of a higher value than the other. The quantity of pleasure being equal, UNO can still not be as good as poetry.

And this was just to home the point that no democratic government, just by virtue of being a democratic government, gets absolute rights over its citizens.

 

Does five lives matter more than one life?

This is a classic philosophical example. Let me take you through one of the many. If a doctor can save 5 patients who need a transplant, by killing one healthy person who just came for a regular check up to him, would you think saving 5 lives is justified?

If you think this is also unjust then how do you justify saving more lives by putting lives of few Indian migrants at stake? Whos lives are more precious and nobler?

Just a parallel thought, what we call as few is not even close to few. But I shall stand to the rule that even if it is only one, how, on this shameful planet of human beings, can anyone justify saying there was no better way for India to deal with this?

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A man in Nashik, Maharashtra, carrying his 85 year old mother back to his village. Happy Mothers Day! 

 

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A 12 year old carrying her 5 year old brother from Delhi.

Today, I felt deeply ashamed that there are AC trains being run at 3-4 times the fares in the same times when our very own fellow citizens are desperately waiting to reach homes. They just don’t have the means and right in front of their very own eyes, you decide to run only AC trains that are unaffordable to them. All they can afford is to be crushed under these trains, and you with your logic can only wonder, what fools, why were they sleeping on the track. You can only be in someone else’s shoe if you remove your own shoe. You can’t wear both.

And our villages are not homogenous. I don’t even want to imagine when they reach their own village, some may face the caste super-structure and harassment that they had escaped by running to cities. But the only hope is perhaps that they do what they would like to do. They will be where they wanted to be.

And I know economics comes to rescue of our conscious, doesn’t it? We are in a dire state and need to revive certain sectors, make certain section of people travel and get back to work, raise the bar, raise the GDP. Markets and capitalism is, like someone said, the only system where taking a small sum from the rich is seen in shock; while people dying of hunger and nature dying of pollution is never a worry. And that’s why I doubt whether there would be any real change after all this is over, to be kind to nature.

And some of us may want to call India a Malthusian catastrophe, explaining how high numbers in population is the cause of trouble in our country. Remind yourself of the fact that more than 80% of India’s wealth is held by less than 10% of Indians. So scarcity of resources, for whom? Thank you Malthus, for the easy escape to conscience for many Indians.

Because the current times are worse than ever I have personally read or lived in the history of our country. Also perhaps because I am watching live media on a daily basis, half consensually. We have now a range of lesser humans, who are not bounded with labour laws. Conversations as I over hear on how to continue to push the labourers to work without pay given for lockdown days; and to bear the pressures of reviving the economy, work in least safe conditions, prevent them from leaving the state because that may harm the ‘economy’ – these are all just mini glimpses.

Let us be a bit ashamed as a collective, as part of the society that failed them. Because privilege is not easily felt. Celebrating mothers’ day is a privilege, not able to feed your child safe and timely meals is the ‘other’ reality. We just happen to be too close to ourselves to count our blessings, or our ancestral unjust conquest, our bourgeoise nature of work or just a matter of luck – but that is rare, trust me.

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I was newly introduced to Diogenes as a thinker and I would like to introduce him and more importantly to his minimalistic living. So much so, that people used to call him a dog. Diogenes actually took this as a compliment.

Fawn at who give me anything

Yelp who don’t

Bite with teeth at rascals

Living a life of a Nomad, he had only few belongings. He once saw a boy drinking water from the river through his hands. Watching this, he threw his mug and said, I don’t need the mug anymore as I have learnt today to live without that and quench my thirst.

And that is perhaps a subtle but strong mantra of knowing where we have gone all wrong. Unless we contain our boundaries, our wants – material and aspirational, we will only be extractive and least in sync with our fellows citizens and the planetary boundaries. The hope doesn’t lie in saving the world, or saving the migrants; the hope lies if we as humans can explore morals and justice that we abide to.

And no science can help you here. If they give you a tech advancement, it will come with its own baggage of viruses and social apathy.

And no economics has never helped, it just tried to justify your pleasures and their miseries.

History, well if you learn from it.

Polity, if we could make better human being, we will have better leaders. Our leaders are just a reflection of our society.

And Philosophy, to survive.

Can the earth take one more chance with us?

Corona Cage Survey #1

So here comes the result guys. I had sent you all a bunch of questions, and I received an overwhelming 39 responses!!!  And this is magical, given that all of you are my known ones. And I wasn’t looking for such a big sample or any sample at all!

Plus I am exhausted. Dealing with two qualitative answers of 39 people was not something I was prepared with. So have fun going through some of the collective responses! I could only do, as much, no great insights, just some raw reactions to absorb.

For everyone pinging me for sharing the play list, I have a youtube link where I have added all the songs I received, except the generic ones – all songs, romantic songs, songs of despair, blah, blah!

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Click on the link below to get the entire playlist                                                      https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2RTApxMASfbxU9zEihWN2iYugrEtrQmE

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