The other day my social activist friend said,” Come on we have to start doing something some where”.
“Where exactly do we start? Do you have an action plan”, I asked in a friendly voice, even though he would often term me, in as unfriendly manner as possible, as a speed breaker.
“It is like this. We go and raise funds. Then we buy fifty thousand T shirts”.
Being a born skeptic, I asked, “T Shirts?”.
“I mean these will not be ordinary T shirts. We will get the slogan -Save Trees – printed boldly on both the front and back of the T shirts. If needed we will go for another fund raising to organise a grand function. We will invite a celebrity I know to inaugurate the T shirt”.
“Great”, I said. “Why can’t we use the funds to plant trees. Directly. As simple as that”.
My friend was agitated. Annoyed. I could see the passion of social service burning in his eyes. “You people will never appreciate my subtle ideas. You will never understand. First it is important to educate people. You know, educate people. Create awareness. You know, create awareness”.
He went on and on till I surrendered. His idea was that writing ‘cigarette smoking is injuries to health’ was the only way to eradicate smoking from this earth once and for ever.
We are a people of symbols and gestures. It is in our DNA. That is why events and campaigns about social ills start with a bang and fizzle out in a couple of months, till another grand even after a couple of months comes up to cover up for all our callousness.
Occasions like campaigning for swatchh bharat are great opportunities for schools to improve their brand value. It also provides an opportunity for the teachers and students to upgrade their social media status. You may clean something in the morning and by evening it is back to square one. That is why one should not make one’s hands dirty and preserve their cleanliness to to utilise for a fantastic selfie.
During those initial days of swatchh bharat mania, it was a usual sight to see a duo or trio of school teachers driving a herd of school kids holding placards and shouting slogans. They also held brooms and stopped every now and then for selfies and photo ops. I was so much swayed by their enthusiasm I also joined them. (Not because one of the teachers was pretty, mind you). At the end of the rigorous ritual lasting for one hundred and twenty minute, each child and teacher, on an average, must have spent one hundred minutes in selfies and photo ops. One teacher confided in me, “There is strict instruction from the principal. The photos must be of good quality. This event will be a watershed one for our school magazine. We will also go for a press release”
Social media like whatsapp have created another brand of social activists. You can feel the fire in their fingers. They are experts in forwarded as received messages. They do no have even time to read the messages. Because in a day they have a set a target of 10, 000 messages to be forwarded. So, you cannot accuse them of not understanding the messages. However, it makes them appear more humane than you are. They even threaten you and emotionally black mail you. “You must forward the message to hundred others, or else you are not a patriot/ your are not a human being / you do not love your mother and so on”. By the way I have lost a couple of close old friends because I dared to exit from such non sense groups created by them to spread socially bullshit messages. On their part, such virtual activists are absolved of all the social responsibility that comes up with being actively associated with the issues on the ground.
In the ultimate analysis, it makes sense to wear your T shirt to humanity. You might have erroneously and unintentionally (and very humanely, because to err is human) killed a couple of animals and human beings, but wearing a T shirt is regret enough to absolve you of all your sins, because now you appear more humane than your fellow human beings and animals who choose not to flaunt such a T shirt.
A package tour would definitely include the houses of murderers and tyrants, but not that of a humanist or humorist. So every travel brochure about Mysore, whether off line or online, include the places where the kings lived. I doubt whether even the ritual annual tours of schools include the house of RK Narayan.
What were the kings of yesteryear? They lived the most luxurious lives while the common man of those days toiled day and night to keep his body and soul together. When the country was under colonial rule the kings were cleverly used by the British to act as their tax collectors, of course for a hefty compensation. Neither the British, nor the kings bothered about how the common men suffered.
We hear, how a king used the revenue of sixteen years and a quarter of the man power of the whole kingdom to build a great temple. Those who refused to provide quality work were hanged in public. And many others must have perished due to the collapse of the already fragile public welfare system as every material and other resources were diverted to fulfill the whim of a mad king. At least that is what I felt when I visited the temple some years back.
Again in the name of art what do you find on the walls of those palatial houses – the painting of soldiers, wars, weapons and other events glorifying mass destruction and the king’s hunger for more territory.
And these are the places that prominently feature on any package tour, whether for recreational purpose or educational purpose.
In our country we are only bothered about the memorial of politicians. Thank God, at last, at least we got a memorial to a writer like RK in India. Otherwise how many such memorials do you find in India. Tagore’s is a different story. He was in some way associated with the freedom movement and he got a Nobel.
In RK’s case, the house built by him was already there. So, no new memorial has been built. In fact had there been no such house, and had the house not been subject of a controversy (when some real estate sharks tried to demolish it), nobody would have thought of a memorial for RK. In a way, like his Guide protagonist who became an accidental Hero, his house too has become an accidental memorial.
RK’s works were not part of my high school or college syllabus. I first came across him through a translated short story published in the local newspaper. It was titled – ‘Another Ratnatkar who could not become a Balmiki’. The gentle irony and humour touched me even in the translated version. There after I developed a curiosity to read his works in original. This happened during my high school days. So, when I visited his house on Vivekanand Road, Mysore, I was filled with a strange feeling of nostalgia. Moreover, his characters are no different from the people who I encountered around my home on a daily basis.
RK has written about how he built this house in his autobiography – My Days. It is a modest house compared to other houses in the locality. Of course the municipal corporation of Mysore that made effort to restore the house and develop it as a museum, has also put directional broads to the house, at many places in Mysore.
The place is nothing in grandeur compared to the regal, religious and scenic fares in store when you visit Mysore. Still, my feeling is that every tourist trip to Mysore should start from this place, in place of a temple. At least, for children it should be made a must see place so that it fuels their creative spirit. But this may alarm our Indian parents who do not want any career for their children other than medical or engineering. (I have also encountered many parents who strictly forbid their children to read anything other than what is there in the syllabus).
I have suggested, through the comment section of the visitor’s book kept in the house and by an email to the City Corporation, to name the street as Malgudi Street. But I know the chances are less. Because the street already has a Shudh Deshi name. Had it been something like Victoria Road, things would have been easier.
Out of home can be at home.
A picnicker on the hospital lawn
talks to someone on phone.
The ambulance has just arrived
to offload a body.
He hears a good news,
and misses the tears
and the gossip
and the relief
as they mourn home
just aother body
in just another van,
an anonymous group of mourners
in this city of multitudes.
The man was something
to someone, somewhere.
He was a hoarder
He built a hundred homes
but never had a home to himself.
He died after a long illness.
Maybe, that is the reason
they had such a sense of relief.
First of all, here is wishing my dear reader a wonderful New Year. May you remain cheerful and passionate irrespective of whether a few wishes got fulfilled or not.
Note that I have not used the word happy. There are reasons for it – profound and scary reasons that google threw at me in form of quotes while I was searching for something else. Take the first example:
So there is no point in having good health and selfishness if, these are not backed by a healthy dose of stupidity. However, it provides for a lot of hope. To be happy is not that big deal after all. It paints a very rosy picture of human society since time immemorial- the vast majority of human society have never been as unhappy as we have made it out to be.
The following one is a very strong argument as to why one should not wish another anything related to happiness:
However, the following is the scariest of them all:
And finally a ray of hope, provided by non other than one of those highest priests of Christianity:
Of course, I am not sure whether all/some/any of the above quotes have been attributed to the right source. Now a days on social media, every now and then one comes across strange quotes attributed to strange people. Sometimes, people making up these quotes do not seem to have even elementary knowledge of history. So, Swami Vivekananda gives very sound advice on the side effects of social media and Mahatma Gandhi warns us about the impending disasters when one harbours thoughts like those of Donald Trump.
But I am sure the following one must have been spoken (or, at least thought of) by Adolf Hitler, who swayed even the most intelligent persons of Germany to his Nazist point of view with his banal rhetoric. I am afraid this must also be the secret of success of writers like Chetan Bhagat churning out best sellers and Salman Khan movies making multiple crores.
Here is wishing you again, a happy (er. sorry) , a wonderful new year.
Three blogposts that you may have missed
I started this blog in July this year.
A blogger is not like an ideal parent for whom all children should be equal favourites. Nevertheless, he has paternal instincts. It is natural for parents to give special attention to that child who lagged behind other siblings while at the same time proudly bringing to attention of the special skills of a particular child. The following blogposts from this year are a mix of both.
An evolved human being has the innocence and intelligence of a child, yet is without the accompanying helplessness and childishness.
The evolved human being loves his neighbors, his culture & his nativity. However, he never confines himself to any boundary. He learns to see an individual as an individual and does not draw pre-matured conclusions based on the particular group the individual belongs to, by virtue of his birth. (more of this elaborated in I see you as you are)
He recognizes all the conditioning he is subjected to by the society and the vested interests and rises above them. However, he does not forget his duties to the society and his fellow living beings.
He may or may not be a follower of rigid religious rituals, but he has a kind of religiosity or spirituality that is not dependent upon any concept of God or Heaven or Hell.
To be an evolved human being is not only about valuing one’s own freedom, but also recognizing and respecting the freedom of others, at the same time realizing that we are all interdependent.
To be an evolved human being is about never going beyond a healthy point to persuade another to our own views and behave to our liking. It is never projecting our own dreams on others, however dependent they may be on us.
The evolved human being has his way, which he may follow very fervently. However, he recognizes and respects other paths.
After their adaptability to the mobiles, social media apps like Facebook have become a rage. On these very social media platforms quite often we get ‘forwarded as received messages ‘ ringing alarm bells as to how real relationships have taken a back seat as people spend more and more time on Facebook, Whatsapp etc. .
This week’s Indispire topic too raises questions linked to the above propagated fears. It says, “In this world so connected with technology, we have actually lost our real connections. Technology has actually surpassed human interactions. Real time conversations became texting and feelings became status updates…. “.
I am reminded of an often repeated theme in twentieth century Bollywood films. The hero would go to a foreign country for studies. When he comes back after twelve years no body is able to recognize him. Sometimes, the story would take a ‘comedy of error’ twist. Now you cannot present such a story to the present skype generation. It is a great loss to the Bollywood script writers.
Barring the above notional loss, I do not think there is any real cause for alarm. Rather three are reasons enough to rejoice.
We can look at it this way. Now we leverage technology to save a lot of time. No more do we travel 20 kms to a railway station and stand in queue for two hours to book that vacation ticket. We do not have to visit a post office to send money or a letter or a telegram. Some even do not go to office to their official job. This in turn gives us more time for creativity, productivity or have real life fun.
Even though my wife is very active on social media, she does not miss her daily quota of enlightening and philosophical face to face conversations with her neighbours. Now there are more topics for discussion. Like, why her dress from Amazon cost more than her neighbour’s.
Jokes apart, now she is able to connect with her daughter in Switzerland on a daily basis almost at no extra cost. Sometimes during the video chat my daughter closes in on the dinner plate and they both cry. In a way it has deepened the feelings. Imagine how we would have interacted ten years back. Maybe once or twice a month a phone call. Or, an international mail. Hardly can our daughter be out of sight, to be out of mind.
There has been no let up in my face to face interactions with my family members, my neighbours and my colleagues, even though I use technology a lot. Now, due to these latest developments in communication technology, I am able to make connection with those with whom I would not have been able to do so if these latest developments were not there. In fact technology has helped me to connect more with real people, far and near.
Thanks to their status updates, now I feel being connected on a daily basis to hundreds of my school/college mates and ex- colleagues. Many long lost friends have been found. Those who are nearby still come physically to express their feelings whenever the occasion demands.
The fear that the virtual world created by technology has taken over the real world is over exaggerated. Especially in the case of India. Or else, every year you would not be seeing larger crowds at public events and holiday places with their friends and families.
In fact technology is providing me less and less excuses to be alone. The virtual reality provided by technology is only a medium. The people I interact with through this medium are real. Does not matter if they are far or near. And sometimes even if I have never met with them.
What about our blogging activity and our real time interactions over so many bloggers from India and outside?
Before the era of computers and BPO did you hear of someone earning a salary in one year, the equivalent of his father’s life time earnings in a private or government service?
Or the senior citizens (and the non-IT guys) attributing all the ills of present Bengaluru, including cost of living and heavy traffic jam, to ‘those IT guys’.
Well, that could be a kind of loss to those attached to the idea of good old Bangalore.
Right at the moment of start I was stuck by the usual fear: “Will I get a place for parking? Even if I get it how far will it be from the venue?”. Added to this fear was the feeling of loss as we missed a couple of interesting sessions caused due to poor judgement of Saturday Bangalore traffic. So, it was a pleasant surprise when the hotel staff offered valet parking even though neither was I going to stay in their hotel, nor was I going to eat anything dished out by their chefs.
But for some pressing personal engagements, I would have liked to attend all the sessions of the Bangalore Literature festival held at Hotel Royal Orchid on 17 and 18 December. Then of course the events took place simultaneously at three venues. If you sat through one, you missed two others. Or, you had the option to be a casual bystander at each of the venues hopping from one to the other. It is like you have a number of marriage functions to attend on the same day and you cannot afford to miss any of them.
In this post I am not going to give a journalistic narration of what happened. I will give some glimpses into the events, some titbits and my ruminations spurred by the discussions that happened among the panelists.
It was for the consecutive second time that the BLF was conducted at this hotel on Old Airport Road. I wanted to suggest the organisers to shift the venue every year, preferably to a venue in North of Bangalore (where I stay :D) so that it would be convenient for those who were coming from outside via Bangalore Intentional Airport. In fact a similar suggestion came up during the discussion on ‘Askew- A short Biography of Bangalore’, where in one of the panelists suggested that an event like this could be held at a heritage site to create awareness about the golden Heritage of Bangalore.
There was this session with the representatives from the famous publishing houses. In a literature festival it could be expected with a fair degree of confidence that a large chunk of audience would consist of wannabe writers. It was heartening to note a few of them petitioning, cajoling, praying to the high priests and priestesses of publishing industry to consider publishing their books which they have already published through self publishing route.
Somewhere I had read that if you are a first time writer, you have to write better than the established authors to make any impression on the publishers. Moreover, if you read the guidelines of the publishing houses they make it clear that if Salman Khan writes junk, they would prefer it over your brilliant book that may turn out to be a turning point in the history of literature. Of course it is understandable. The roti, kapda and makan needs of he owners and the employees of the publishing house depends upon the ‘sale-ability’ of the books.
Sometimes I wonder what do the publishers learn from the history of some of the books that made history, yet were rejected for publication umpteen number of times. Take this extreme example of the comic novel called, “The Confederecy of the Dunces”. Now the book is among the all time top ten comic novels. But the author was so much depressed by the consistent rejection of the book that he committed suicide. A decade after his death the book was published due to the initiative of his mother and the interest taken by another publisher. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981.
God must have said to the common man long long ago, “Come ye to me, but only thorough a priest”. Following this dictum one of the panelists suggested that new authors should go to literary agents in stead of coming to them directly to better their chances of getting noticed. I wonder why the publishers cannot have some policy and a dedicated section for new authors in their own set up. Of course, even in this route things are not easy. JK Rowling got a simple rejection letter from the first literary agent that she sent the book. The next one sent it to twelve different publishers, before it was selected. The rest is history.
At another venue, there was a melee around and a long queue. Wondered what might it be? After a little tussle with the crowd, discovered that the queue was to get the books autographed by the author Shashi Tharoor, whom I spotted on Day 2 as well. This time he was on the first row of the audience along with his relative to cheer his son Kanishk Tharoor. Kanishk read out a few paragraphs from his book – Swimmer Among the Stars. Found the paragraphs quite humorous.
Next to Sex in the taboo index in India are discussion of topics concerning Hinduism and Evangelism. It was heartening to note the open and non-hostile discussion on these topics involving both the panelists and the audience. For the entire session I was engrossed in the discussion on the ‘Clash of Civilisation’ between Mohandas Pai and Rajiv Malhotra. Since the media houses in India are sold out to various vested interests for various reasons, Rajiv Malhotra suggested that we should more and more depend upon the social media to counter misinformation and the bias of the mainstream media. Here again the problem is that most of the social media organisations are controlled by the west. Hence he suggested that Bangalore being the hub of IT activity the Bangaloreans should take the lead in developing desi social media apps in line with China who have their own version of Facebook and other social media apps.
It was equally heartening to see the enthusiasm of people to buy books (in hard copies) at the venue even in this age of Kindle, Amazon and Flipkart. The queue to pay for the selected books was as long as the one to get the books autographed by the authors present.
And this gentlemen who shifted from venue to venue reminded me of the jesting Pillate who would ask what is truth and would not wait for an answer. This gentleman in question would be missing through out the duration of the discussion and appear from nowhere towards the end of the session holding a mike to ask a question. Actually he did not have a question to ask. Nevertheless, the compassionate panelists would somehow guess what he wanted to ask and answer it. And how he managed to appear holding the mike to ask questions consistently events after events and venue after venue was a miracle, because, there would be more than thirty candidates vying for the honour of asking one of those those three to four questions permitted towards the end of each session.
Did not have time to hang on to the last event to listen to Piyush Mishra. However, we had enough time to attend the first half of the the penultimate session when Shatrughna Sinha regaled the audience with his inimitable style and humour.
May be somewhere at the age of twelve I started to have deep feelings of uselessness of life. The feelings continued off and on. Pressing responsibilities and needs, first of a student life, then of a professional and family life drowned out the inner call.
Of course, since childhood I had been interested in yoga and meditation. I used to do certain practices following the instructions in some books that I had come across. However, I was not having any deep feeling or any significant progress as an amateur self taught pilgrim of the spiritual journey. But my self taught yogic practices continued from high school till the first year of college. Then, sometime in the second year I discontinued the yogic practices and my lifestyle took 180 degree spin off.
It is said in esoteric spirituality that every spiritual / non-spiritual cycle lasts twelve years. It may be a matter of pure coincidence that after my third 12 year cycle, I started again to search for answers to some of the existential questions that had bothered me every now and then: Who am I? What is the purpose of life? Is there any use in this thing called life? yeh jina bhi koi jeena hai yaro? These feelings of inner emptiness, uselessness, meaninglessness continued for quite some time. I turned my attention to a variety of spiritual literature. But nothing satisfied me.
One day while channel surfing on TV, I got stuck with an interview of Sri Sri Ravishankar taken by Pratibha Advani. I do not remember what exactly was the question or what was the answer, but I had a feeling that I got a starting point for the answers to some of the disturbing questions in my mind. Then, one day out of curiosity I went to the Art of living center to inquire about their workshops. It was a Tuesday and I was told the next workshop known as the Art of Living Basic Course was to start in two hours.Without thinking much I enrolled my self. Then I was in Hyderabad.
The six day workshop, for me was sheer bliss. By the end of the course my journey of self discovery had begun on a serious note. After that I visited the Art of Living International Centre in Bengaluru and met with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I also did many advanced courses.
Of course till now I have not got the final answers to my ‘existential’ questions. The quest of self discovery is still on. But the difference is, now I have the feeling that I am on the way. As I continue with the spiritual practices and knowledge, I experience many positive changes in my attitude towards life and society.
Different people may have different experiences and opinions about Art of living and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. But one thing I know is that the word bliss cannot remind me, first of all, anything other than the Art of Living.
I have realised that one need not be a believer of anything to experience the bliss of meditation, yogic practices and mystic glimpses into the nature of truth.