Sunday, 26 May 2013

Dovetailed in Love

As good fortune had willed, our new school we joined together,
Only in different classes, for he is two years my elder.
He scored and played music to reach his height of glory,
I did this-and-that too, to write my own little story.
For reasons academic or for extra-curricular fame,
Each eventually got to know the other’s proper name.

And he became the head-boy, for that metal he was made of, 
And I, his one-year-junior, became his house prefect, that’s all.
Together we started working, for events and cultural meets,
Talking and coordinating, like really responsible beings.
But when I heard the whisper, that the head-boy “likes” me,
I would turn my head away, when his face I did see.

Blame me not, dear reader, for being so full of pride,
My mother taught in the same school, and I was a “staff child”.
So that big thing called male ego got a little stung,
And out came a volley of troubles for me, ‘The Insolent Junior One’.
Complaints of the irresponsible prefect started reaching the VP,
And at other times, just always so, I was given ‘toilet-duty’.

Some said the head-boy moved on, tied a red ribbon on another’s wrist,
While some kept promoting him to me, till I finally waved my fist.
No peace there was, oh dear, for I felt what’s called hot hell,
I dreamt of days when class 11 would bid class 12 farewell.
So when he passed out from school, I didn’t care a dime,
For what he gave me those days is what’s called a ‘bad time’.  

And then 6 years passed away, no clue no smile no frown,
When certain coincidences brought us both to our home town.
On an otherwise ordinary online day on my ordinary Orkut,
I suddenly see a friend request from, my good God guess who?
A re-union then got planned, for coffee and some cake,
Oh well, I’ll go so what, what difference does it make.

But difference it did make, as I saw something so new,
And that he saw in me some good I dearly hoped so too.
5 months, 5 cups of coffee, it took for us to realise,
That the person sharing the bill with me, should do it all my life.
Daddy, I have found for me what you call a Punjabi boy,
Well-settled, sane, intelligent, in love with me, Oh boy! 

So that is how pretty Lady Luck, turned her wheel my way,
A string of coincidences, Orkut, coffee and some cake.
School meetings, then adieu, and later more meetings too,
What was meant to be has happened, and I’m happy through and through.
Been 5 long years of marriage, and not a tear have I shed,
I think my mom was so right when she said - “He’s so well-bred!”

The toy in the picture above, is symbolic of us, you see,
It’s the first gift we bought for our yet-to-be-born baby. 
Now, on a request note I will end my “love-ly” take,
Kindly do not ask my husband for his side of the tale.
I cross my heart and promise that this is How We Met,
To end up man and wife, and as close as friends can get!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Thank you, Madam CM, for "Power-Plug Unplugged"

I know I know. It’s not like you pulled the plug, madam CM, on my restful sleep last night. It’s not you per se who pitched my humble MIG colony into darkness for 3 hours straight – 12 am to 3 am, to be precise. It’s not you, I know so! But then who’s to be thanked, I know not. So in typical Indian fashion I have found someone famous to write this letter of gratitude to on this very sleep-deprived morning. Yes, I thank you for the power-failure aka power-cut aka load-shedding-for-other-states aka result-of-irresponsible-citizens. I thank you, very much! Here’s why:

I saved electricity for 3 straight air-conditioned hours. Such fan I am of your impeccable English and even better cotton sari collection that soon as you had suggested coolers in place of ACs for those of us who can’t afford either (now that bijli competes with the cost of gold), I went ahead and bought a desert cooler. And a whole desert it could have cooled, if it wasn’t for this accommodation-for-the-government-by-the-government that I stay in. You see, I have foot-ball sized windows in my rooms, the kinds you see at the teller’s in government banks, only square. Fitting the cooler was impossible, and breaking the wall to increase the size against the law of the CPWD land! So AC it is, but what good fortune, I must have saved a month’s salary not having it running most of last night.

Which also made me realize, and appreciate, my inverter's capacity to work over-time! Here I was sitting and grumbling that my sarkari babu husband just went and bought a road-bike (austerity drive?) when we could have bought an inverter battery and pumped it up for the heated summers to follow, and there was this hand of providence cutting my electricity supply as if to tell me – “Child, worry not! Your inverter is fit-and-strong. In his hobby of morning cycling, let your husband go on.” So worried I am not, but thankful I am for this collateral revelation. Next time, I hope I can see if it runs a marathon 4 hours, in place of 3!

The failure of power may just have made a pop singer success of me. As I lay on bed, clutching candle in one hand matchbox in the other (picture of both you may find above), ready for a dead inverter and pitch darkness, I composed an original score harmonizing my son’s baby-snores with my husband’s scarier ones. Then suddenly, I found music in the 50 year old fan, the leak in the CPWD water pipe outside the window and pigeons in the unoccupied flat above mine. And I think I did a good job! With your blessings (since you had a hand in it all), I am sending the score to Anu Malik ji - to revive his lost legacy, and write my own. I plan to call it – ‘Power-Plug Unplugged’.

Three hours is not a short time! While creativity had its own place, observation followed close behind. A little thesis is ready on my table this morning on positions humans take while asleep. No, please don’t get me wrong. It a ‘U’ rated copy with inferences on how body-positions change with changing temperatures in the room. Nothing that Doordarshan needs to ban or Censor Board clip off. My study simply affirms the well-known fact that while toddler bodies are very flexible and sensitive to heat, husbands continue sleeping stubborn even in the heat!

Lastly, as I thought of this-and-that I caught myself praying to God and thanking Him for not making me that lizard crawling on the wall, or one of the 3 mosquitoes I killed. What a topsy-turvy life they live, and what  fragile ones. Such risk-to-life-by-falling the lizard lived with that night, thanks to the dim light, while all I had to do was be horizontal on bed and compose music. But the doer in me was awake too, when in those 3 hours I honed my skill at mosquito-killing. Where once I used to take 30 minutes for every mosquito, now my score is 27 minutes for 3. I am sure I’ll be even better with the next power-cut. Will mail you my results after due compilation and evaluation. I am sure it will make interesting read, when my power has failed me but your reading light shines without fail!   

I have come to value megawatts and kilowatts and what’s watt better, as they say, after having missed them (I understand if you don’t understand this). This morning, I woke-up to read that you are on war footing to regularize illegal colonies and perhaps do the neighbours a good-turn by selling off our power to them too.  I’m happy because I know that any further crunch in resource might mean longer power-failures, which means many more hours of lying around with the lizards, murdering the menacing mosquitoes and composing chart-cracking music. Just one humble request, madam! Do not hike the power bill any more. The sarkari salary coming home has gone from seeming like peanuts-n-no-butter to just peanut shells. And last I checked, they don’t come in enjoyable flavours!

Thanking you again, and wishing you a happy summer, just like mine!

Warm, nearly 46 degrees, of regards,
Music Composer - 'Power-Plug Unplugged'

(First on CNN-IBN Blogs)

Friday, 17 May 2013

Walking Beyond Differences

Once upon a time, all mankind looked alike. We were little then, when we knew this. We drew stick figures with circles for heads and straight lines angling into bodies, arms and legs – usually a family of four and always in a ‘Hurrah!’ position. As grown-ups, we have not just lost our talent at drawing but also forgotten what we knew once, that we are one big family walking this earth without drawing borders of difference, of any kind.

I took this picture some years ago in Jew Street, Cochin. After unabashedly following these two happily chattering ladies, I finally got an opportunity to go click. And here it is today, standing for a lot many things. Whether the younger of the two is the old lady’s house help, nurse, friend or just a stranger helping her to the other end of the market I know not. What I do see is that in the second that my point-and-shoot caught these two, they were sharing a moment that cut across borders of race, colour, caste, age, class and a handful of -isms thrown in.

If you were to sit and make as many number of labelled boxes on a piece of paper as the points that differentiate you from say your neighbour, chances are it’ll look like a big shoe store stacked full. That many boxes of distinction and that much self shoe-boxing! We have names pointing to our religion and surnames defining us as from a certain caste – high or low or not worth mention even. We have our class stamped all over us, in our clothes and on the cars we drive, or on the cars and the clothes we will never ever afford. There are some of us eating plants only and others eating animals as well, and still others eating animals we only want to look at in zoos or keep as pets. Some of us are women, others men. And then there are a host of defining hues – black, brown, white, blonde, brunette, red and so on, and accents and stations in life and sexual orientation and geography and creed. And I’m tired!

And I’m glad some others are getting tired too!

I love this picture because it shows me a definition of ‘Possible’ on days when I feel I carry more public labels than I carry the Me that I really am. The picture speaks to me and says - it is possible to dissolve man-made walls of defining and become one with the other colours on the palette of life. It is possible to not just live for the difference in sameness but the sameness in difference too. Uniqueness is perhaps not what makes you different from the other. Uniqueness is perhaps in understanding that difference and yet looking for and respecting the stream of commonality running beneath us all, a commonality simply based on being human. In that moment of recognition, you will be one out of the two people in this picture – truly standing out in the crowd, and really happily so, while those around you merge into a sea of life and living based on shadow lines of difference not worth capturing!

Just a thought.    

Thursday, 16 May 2013

My 5 points for a 5-point Neta

Good news! You may finally understand more than your favourite MLA’s favourite expletives in his speech on the microphone. Even better news – he may not dig for gold in his nose in front of you any more. As good fortune has it, MLAs, municipal councillors and aspiring candidates for the forthcoming elections are swarming finishing schools. From a puny Rs. 50,000 to a punier Rs. 4 lakh, a host of “shine-up-my-personality” activities are much in demand - public speaking and how to handle stage fright, body-language, self-promotion, gentleman etiquette, and then the more important ones like how to get down from stage, hair cut analysis, necessity of shaving, power yoga, how to do namaskar and the most important session of all, how to tackle allegations.    

Some of them are designed especially to lure the female vote-bank into thinking them clean-shaven, well-mannered, family-men, with such correct movements of body that instill in us confidence enough to trust them fully with our votes, our support and with our everyday well-being, all together.

As a member of the female vote-bank, I have the following list of suggestions for them, for free:

1. If you want to lead India but suffer from stage fright, avoid wearing lungi (and its cousins) no matter how much you love it and no matter how hot it is on speech day.  They certainly don’t go together. Knocking knees show more easily when exposed. Also, the finer the cotton the more exaggerated the knocking appears. (c.f. Prabhu Deva) Hence, best avoided if you shiver and shudder standing 10 feet above lesser mortals. If totally unavoidable, well, go ahead then. Just make sure the knees and much more doesn’t show. For the latter, sit cross-legged at all times.  

2. An itch is an itch, whether it’s the 7 year one or that 7 second one exactly in the wrong place and at the wrong time. If you’re rearing to go and scratch, quickly get your hands and mind busy with some other activity – say, cleaning your ears for instance. Apart from it being a common activity on a lazy day in politics, it’s an even more constructive one than just scratching, since you’ll go home feeling much cleaner in the ear and lighter in the head. Plus, research says it’s a vicarious way of taking other itches away. No harm in trying, I say.       

3. Noses are important. When we enter politics, it’s our nose which is usually to be kept out of all kinds of dirt and mess. Our nose is at stake always - the higher we keep it, the less untouchable we get. All the more important that we keep them clean if it’s our nostrils we point at everyone else! However, when cleaning nose sitting behind another delivering his speech, make sure the burp from that lunch-break is kept in check. You can’t afford to wrongly upset your party colleague by making him think you are emanating strange voco-nasal sounds as he talks of shining nirman in India. Fighting in the nose should never translate into infighting in the party.  

4. Prosperity deposits itself in bellies. The more prosperous your business of politics, the bigger the pot you carry around the waist, one assumes. Buttons on coats often rebel from closing in such cases, hence, avoid having buttons on your coats altogether. In an oft-hidden case of endangering another’s life, an MLA who managed to close the top button of his coat (in keeping with the proper norm) almost popped the speaker’s eye out when his button popped - as he stood in the House, opposing the ruling and getting opposed in turn as he flung his arms and legs here and there and a few objects too. It’s best to wear starched white patriotic kurtas in days of physical activity in the well. Not just low on maintenance, but also safe when in heated company.

5. Lastly, make sure you bathe, shave and use antiperspirant as often as possible in your busy schedule. Works well with both women and men, and gives you a look cleaner than may suit you. Use mild incense for morning puja. You may have pleased the deity for that day, but you won’t please too many if you look like an incense and smell like one too.

Thank you for your patient (and clean) ears Neta ji. You are ‘finished’ for Session 1, day 1.

Happy politicking! (Oh no! I don't mean those ticks.)

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Jolie's mastectomy and my aunt's arthoplasty

As I write this, my aunt undergoes a knee replacement surgery. Both her knees will be metal soon, for arthritis has eaten into what she was born with. As I write this, I also see a piece of front-page news about Angelina Jolie having underwent mastectomy, as prevention against the risk of cancer, which her mother died of. Two surgical stories in a day, totally unconnected, or are they?

Educated for her times, married soon as she was ripe, a devoted wife, a radical mother and a selfless grand-mother is my aunt; her only weakness being a complete intolerance for pain. A head-ache meant the sky has fallen, a tooth ache that the world is ending. And then one day the doctor announced she needs to undergo double knee replacement, sooner better than later. It meant a long hospital stay and nerve-wrecking pain, with painful exercises to follow for weeks. But, the voice on the other end of the phone line was excited like a little girl’s as she told me she had given her assent for the surgery and fixed a date even. The signature on the lease for painless living seemed to be working already.

And then today I read about Angelina Jolie, the woman who has success, talent, beauty, motherhood, charity stamped in every atom of her existence. Living her life queen-size - with her name and her fame and her family! How she, in order to defy her cancer causing gene, got both her breasts removed and replaced, to avoid the c-word from marring her body, her life and her very existence.

In their own circles of life these two totally different women “met” in my mind, as they overcame and brought to light two of the most basic fears which sit camping within us all.

The first fear that they shook off was that of medical science and surgeries, and all that’s known and unknown about them – the doctors, the risks, the bills, the hospitals and life after. We usually ignore the pain, trust our chemist’s suggestion will work, try homoeopathic or maybe yoga instead, pray a little extra, suffer a little more for a few years, and finally one day sign the dotted line with a heavy-hearted “I’m 80 and I’m ready to see my OT”. We delay, because we don’t trust tomorrow in the hands of those we don’t want to trust. And when they do take that pain away with a nip-tuck-stitch, we thank God for saving our lives and go home good-humouredly cursing the doctors’ apparently inflated bills and the nurse’s even more inflated attitude. Seeking delayed help may still be useful. But seeking when we need it can never be futile. These two women unknowingly awakened me to what I call my Medical Responsibility towards myself. An assurance I make to my body and not just an insurance I sign for my life. A stitch in time saves nine, if we understand the rhyme, we’ll all do fine.

The second, perhaps bigger, fear that was shed was the fear of societal gaze, and what it may see and say. Hospitals are not just impersonal but they impersonalize too. Strangers sponge you, dress you, empty your U-bag and hand-over that bed-pan. For a person like my aunt, agreeing to this would not have been short of agreeing to walk the ramp in a bikini. Too much courage was needed on her part to shed the cloak of self-consciousness and just become a patient patient. But while her suffering the “disrobing” is short-lived, Jolie agreed to challenge the societal gaze permanently. In times of breast implants and augmentation, mastectomy is popularly perceived as a loss of appeal, appearance and to some as their womanhood itself. Call them gender biased notions or those generated by the male gaze, the idea of what it constitutes to be a woman is most often related to what the women have or what the men lack. To be an Angelina Jolie and then to be brave enough to let go of these notions, in order to prevent what may never actually set-in is enough to shatter certain gender stereotypes and perhaps metamorphose the male gaze into something that looks beyond what appears and goes deeper than what meets the eye. And only a very brave heart can promise itself this post-operative happiness, an operation where the gaze is permanently removed from the mind and thrown for the winds of change to consume. 

And this being my two-pence on what’s trending today – at my home and in the world! People are setting examples and re-writing their stories, everyday. We only need to spot the right ones and read the message in the bottle in time. And for the rest of the hours, we need to wish ourselves and everyone a happy and healthy life. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Why the Indian Middle Class got 'Great'

‘Great’ is a very big word. In fact, it’s the greatest big word. The Indian middle class earned the epithet some time back, perhaps as a middle name, albeit put in the front. We are the spree shopping, holiday hopping, caviar craving, boom boxing, truffle tasting, Jaguar jetting, mansions making Great Indian Middle Class. Getting bigger in size and the size of our pockets, perpetually upwardly mobile, holidaying in Amsterdam not Agra, buying gold online, sending our children to fully air-conditioned schools and we deserve to be called ‘Great’.

Now, economics is a new word for me, socio-economic even newer and socio-political economics by far the newest and the most exotic sounding. So such reasons for rise of the middle class I understand not. But there are 2 other reasons behind this ascent which you may consider – our undying capacity to store the old and our strong will to preserve the new.

Storage of Old

If storage is not next to godliness for you, you are not the middle class I’m talking about. Throwing something that has lived its life is a sin, and re-using it in a different capacity good family upbringing. Be they objects or traditions, we have enough storage or plenty recyclable ideas to rehabilitate what maybe needs to see the inside of a trash can, but should not Oh God forbid! So what do we all have in common? We have at least 2 trunks of different sizes full of quilts of yore, their covers galore and linen with obsolete patterns, with the smaller trunk perhaps carrying old-fashioned woolens and jackets we wore back when Big B was smaller and releasing his first movie. We have 2 pairs of boxes in beds – always a pain to open (since more than one mattress lays over it, why throw!) – brimming over with rejected old clothes, gifts we hated but want to gift still, a handful of shapeless pillows and maybe some T-shirts to be cut-open as rags one day. If we were to put the contents of our trunks and bed-boxes combined into one pile, it would reach Mars then the Asteroid belt and then back home. And then there is the fridge taking the cake, and many other delicacies, for bringing out the art of storing-fitting-piling-packing in us! Left-over food tastes delicious the next day, or the day after the next. (If you haven’t heard this at home, you don’t belong here!) So bowls and boxes all sizes scientifically balanced in every corner of the fridge to store what may just be eaten the next day. Why waste? If Mr’s wholly holed vests can come in handy for something so can those 2 spoons of dal mixed with 1 of bhindi in the tiny katori. And if the fridge dies on you (or more likely go on strike for being over-worked) it may turn into a funky little cupboard in your child’s room – with one “drawer” for his toys and another for namkeens and nutty biscuits, to keep away from the prying maid’s eyes – unplugged but totally alive.  

Preservation of New

The great Indian middle class welcomes anything new, after the old is stored and stowed away and ample space is made. New ideas, traditions, fashions, rituals and vehicles - nothing is free, or even cheap, and everything comes at a price. So why remove the plastic covers from your new luxury car seats before the red swastika on the bonnet has faded for 2 seasons or 2 years, whichever comes first? Why keep the new sofa exposed to a guestless existence when you can clothe them in sheets from the box-beds and keep them shining as new under the veil? Why waste the new dress in the next kitty, when we can preserve it for the next big family wedding and in bigger cameras to be seen? New shoes in shoe boxes, new appliances in crochet covers and new crockery only for VIPs. Even newer newspapers and magazines in a separate pile from the older ones! Preservation of new is a step even more advanced and precarious than the storage of the old. And it must be done, for preservation is even better than cure. Or something like that, anyway.

Hence, our plethora of collectibles - Inanimate Objects or Animated Traditions – which we can remember and retrieve at opportune times to adapt and adopt in the present times - help in making our Indian middle class greater and greater each day. We’re never short of solutions, never scared of problems. We have a tradition for every objective and an objective for every tradition, with objects new and old to come in handy for both. We are the Great Indian Middle Class, becoming greater. Because we are always prepared, for anything! 

And who knows, maybe one day the contents of a certain trunk at home may get sold off as antiques. That day, perhaps, I too will be a BMW-er, standing on the same rung of the ladder as my neighbour, and an even greater part of the Great Indian Middle Class. But until then, I need help. Is it better to wrap-up my old chappals in weather-proof material for next Holi Milan or preserve my new ones for grocery shopping with the neighbour? Now, if that's not called being stuck in the middle, what is? 

Friday, 10 May 2013

Oh Chetan Bhagat! Read what you write.

Don’t get me wrong. I do like you, Chetan Bhagat. Not just your peppered hair kept neatly trimmed, features that make your age seem a guessing game and all your book cover designs. I haven’t read any, though. I was going to when you spake thus in an interview: ‘Shakespeare was the Ekta Kapoor of his times.’ And then I did not pick my copy of your many best-sellers. I will, after I get that indigestible comparison out of my head, as well as what follows here.

I love Facebook, and I can see you do too. But your love affair with it is far more supreme than mine can ever be, for you, dear Chetan, are the Giver while me just a humble receiver. You write advice, in a scientific point-to-point format on topics galore, and then make posters of them to be liked and shared. And you give advice to women, mostly, which is nothing new in Indian society if you ask me. I collected enough evidence, and then enough courage to write this – a point-by-point critique of what you do in your hardly free time.
Ladies first!

Here’s a part of you trying to “attempt the unthinkable” in your own words, and advising us women, followed by what I think:

1. You once said: “Don’t get competitive with other women. Desire to judge other women needs to end. Why be so hard on each other? Can you let each other breathe?” And in another piece you wrote – “Don’t ever think you are without power. Give it back to that mother-in-law. She doesn’t like you? That’s her problem.” Your self-contradiction aside, while I agree with the first part, the second stems from a complete lack of experience of wearing a daughter-in-law’s shoes. Asking us to give it back to our mothers-in-law is asking us to not just judge rather harshly, but also reject after the judgement is sealed. Rather misleading advice for a society where every home lives in a context and by rules which just might be too complex to brush off with a guerilla out-fit and a rebel’s hat one fine day. This behaviour being more fuel for the fire of the “drama of relationships” you want our kind to exit, any further advice for those who may have got inspired?

2. Then, one day – “The faking needs to end. A common female trait is the relatively quick adaptation to feed male egos. What's the point of collectively harping on equality, when as individuals you are happy to lapse into being clueless eye flutterers, just to keep men happy?” My husband will envy you your female company. They seem to know how to keep you feeling happy. However, most women reading this advice are perhaps doing no such thing – no faking, no fluttering and certainly not without a clue. Don’t call it a ‘common’ trait (we’re not so easy to shoe-box!). Call it an assumption and what a man perhaps likes to believe? What’s next, that we wax our legs and pluck our eyebrows for you? Breaking news – we don’t! And to let you in on a secret, clueless I’m certainly not about my wish-list that’s to follow when I’ll flutter my eyes today as soon as my husband comes home from work. 

3. You say – “Do not ever feel stressed about having a dual responsibility of family and work. It is difficult but not impossible.” I agree! Especially since you have a solution for that stress too – “If your boss doesn’t value you, tell him that, or quit.” And “next time your husband tells you you are not a good enough wife, mother, daughter-in-law, you can tell him to take a hike.” There, stress busted. It’s a different matter that these are not resolutions to deeper problems inhabiting our social and professional mindsets but something we said and did when we were 14, or maybe 4.

And now for the men, and how they should “revise their ideal woman criteria”:

(i)        “Having a traditional wife who cooks, cleans and is submissive might be nice. However, choosing a capable, independent and career-oriented woman can also bring enormous benefits.” You haven’t met a capable wife who is traditional, cooks, is independent, career-oriented, cleans and is not necessarily submissive just because she does cooking and cleaning? Come and meet me! Also, these are not antonyms. Why use them as two opposed types of personalities?

(ii)          The “benefits” of a working woman (you make this sound like a business deal!) vis-à-vis a housewife include “relating better to organizational issues”, “help afford a decent house” and help a man “discuss his own career with”. Very capitalist and incorrect. Also, the house is an organization the running of which not many can manage. Try it!

(iii)                “A working woman is better exposed to the world, and brings back information that can be useful to the family.” Watch some TV. Adverts on new holidays and good mutual funds to invest in are running as you read this. Staying at home doesn’t mean staying uninformed or naive. And “quality of life” is often independent of which mutual fund is least subject to market risks.

(iv)     “Children of working women learn to be more independent and will do better than mollycoddled children.” Any examples/research to support this, please? Mr. Google is proving to be of no help, at all. 

(v)              “Sure, there are drawbacks also in being with working woman. But the modern age we live in, the phulka-making bride may come at a cost of missing other qualities.” Drawbacks like? Also, a bride who likes cooking more than careering may not lack in any important qualities. Maybe looking up your ancestral family tree will help change your mind?

I do agree with you on one thing – “Yes, we men have to learn. However, the stubborn, fragile and pampered Indian male ego is a tough nut to crack. Collectively, we as Indian men, have a long way to go before our women can be proud of us.” You are absolutely right. And I wonder what makes me say so!
And now that we have ended on a note of agreement, may I be sent one of those Motivational Frames your team is selling? (Why do I feel your team is all men?) My mollycoddled son would love them! But that aside – I need motivation. You see, I’m the person you asked to quit her bad boss’s bad job since I’m one of the “talented hard-working people who are much in demand”. So, when do I report for work?

[Printed in Democratic World magazine] 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Sarabjits and Us

Have you heard of Tihar Haat? It’s a humble store running out of Tihar Jail and selling goods made by the inmates. Plants, rugs, namkeens and biscuits, durries, weaves and the tastiest ever muffins, for the price of nothing, come home with us every time we visit. What marvellous fortune to be staying next door to not just one of the most VIP areas of today, but also one churning out such wonders - neatly packed and nicely priced. However, not many share our excitement, or our muffins and namkeens for that matter. Made by prisoners? How can you buy this stuff? Are you sure about hygiene? Some of them have blood on their hands. Ram Ram! You really think this is a good idea, letting goods made by criminals enter your homes? While we continued to think it was, everyone we spoke to wrongly rejected the place as nothing but an off-shoot of evil minds, idle hands and sub-standard products.

Then one day a certain Sarabjit succumbed to his injuries - brutally beaten to death in jail after decades of being a prisoner across the border. And suddenly, we found tragedy. Swarms of protests, posters, rallies and ranting against our neighbour began. We felt for the grieving family on TV and screamed in one voice that those responsible for this murder should be brought to task. That this Sarabjit be provided the best medical treatment in our country. Justice, as it’s popularly called, was demanded, as is usually asked for.

And here I sit today, wondering without answers, as his name vanishes from everything that we see and read - What does all this mean?

Is it because he died in the prison of our arch “enemy-state” that we got so angry? Or is it that no other tragedy was doing its rounds at that time for prime time - that time we tell the time by?

Is life really so fickle that one day we other, and the next day we mourn? Or is it because for death there is sympathy but in life there is no time to think to know to even care?

Statistics and numbers of prisoners lodged in jails are floating around now. Numbers. Big numbers. This side that side and all over everywhere. Sarabjit was a nameless number for most of his life, and just a name and a number when he died. The person that he was was never alive to us, and so could not have died on us – and no amount of money or days of state mourning can make it seem otherwise.      

However, we found tragedy, the news channels found a topic, and two nations found more politics.

There’s nothing more there. If there was, dear Tihar Haat and it's muffin-making Sarabjit would not be dying of unnatural causes either.   
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