Friday, 31 December 2010

New year, new beginnings. And the same old story

The year's almost come to an end, just seven hours left, to be precise.
Some are getting ready for parties, dinners, night-outs and all the things that people like you and I would like to do on a night so special. It's all perfectly normal.

So, is there a catch? Sadly, if you might say so, there is. There is always a catch.
Of course, this year has been great for so many of us, and for others, not that great. Well, good, bad, and shades of grey apart, the point is, we're so quick to dismiss out misfortunes in the hope of a better tomorrow. Then again, hope is something we all cherish, no matter how dark the times; it gives us a sense of reason, destroys the futility of life, makes us believe that there is a tomorrow, and that it is gonna be better than today, or perhaps yesterday. All that's perfectly normal. I mean, even allow myself that little bit of delusion.

What I have a problem with is the fact that we can never fully come to understand and respect the 'tomorrow', or in today's very special case, 'the new year'.

'End of the World in 2012 Conspiracy' apart, there's a lot that we're just forgetting. Not on purpose; that would be understandable. But by sheer, shameless neglect.
Am I cynical? Of course, I am. You can appreciate the fineness of life only after criticizing and demeaning it.

For example, resolutions. There is no bigger lie on earth that we've invented than New Year Resolutions. It's just to make ourselves feel better (yes, that includes me, too. No matter how much I try, I am human). We feel better for all that we haven't done, and for all that we're not going to do.
Moralistic reasoning apart, some resolutions do work out. Not because it has the auspicious stamp of a 'new year', but for the simple fact that it's a change we accept. We might lose those extra kilos, we might ask the person we like out, we might become super successful, super rich, super intelligent and class toppers. But the truth remains, the world will still be a lousy place. Of course, we'll be liberated from that mess; now that's for someone else to resolve, isn't it?
Sadly, they never quite do get resolved.

Personally, I don't dwell on the past. Nostalgia is one thing; keeping the past half alive, quite another. Actually, the correct phrase is, 'burying the past alive'. Brutally, and in cold-blood.
So, call me cynical or whatever you may, I think you're all murderers. You got away with the murder of your past, and will get away after you murder the future.
People you never cared for, people who receive your mocked pity, they're all buried alive, like the past. Forgotten, uncared for and simply silenced.
That's the price of a 'better' tomorrow. That's the price of your mawkish fantasies.
You can make it stop. Yes, you can. But whether or not you will, now, that is an entirely different question, is it not? The one, perhaps, you may not want to answer.

Well, anyway, happy new year! And have a fantastic 2011!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Those Who (Think They) Know Better

So, I met a friend of mine this morning. Well, he’s not actually a ‘friend’, just some dude who was with me in school. You know, another one of those, ‘oh-I-can-get-anything-done’ types.

So, the conversation goes like this:
Him: So, what’re you doing these days?
Me: I’m doing my BA from St Xavier’s.
Him: What? Why do you have to go that far?! I could get your admission done here in Ulhasnagar!
Me: Um, what makes you think I wanna go to Ulhasnagar?
Him: Arrey! It’s not worth it going that far! That too for a BA! So, what’re you doing after that?
Me: Planning to do an MA.
Him: What!? You wanna become a teacher or what?
Me: Yeah. (He gives a stupefied look; actually, he looks that way, but this was more pronounced) So, what are you doing?
Him: Law, I couldn’t get into computer science.
Me: Great…so, now you’re gonna be attesting documents in front of Esplanade?
Well, I didn’t exactly saw those lines (what! it’s rude, right?) Nevertheless, I meant every word of it. 

I’m pretty sure you guys must’ve met characters like this friend of mine at some point in your life; be it a friend, a cousin, uncle, aunt or even some random acquaintance in the train (yes, even that has happened to me. This particular person tried convincing me to do an MBA then get into finance, ‘cause marketing is ‘too hectic’).
And I am also sure that they’ve managed to test your patience time and again. They never seem to understand, do they? I call this, the ‘I-know-better’ syndrome’ (for the lack of a better name).

These people, as my observations go, are a given in societies. You see them in communities, trains (in plenty, mind you), and among any social group. As irritating as they are, they manage to serve a purpose: annoy you (ok, not a scientific conclusion), and give you a lot to think about. Primarily, the notion that first comes to your mind is: ‘God, I hope I don’t turn out like them.’

They boast about their contacts, relatives, and Heaven knows someone from somewhere, while they, themselves, are stuck in the mediocrities of life. Yes, sometimes I do feel like pitying them, not exactly pity, sorry; but, just sympathize. For all their contacts, they never could make things ok for themselves. Or, perhaps, it’s because of these very contacts that they are where they are—and not on a level worse than that. Because, God help me (and them) if they were.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Path To Un-lightenment

Diwali’s four days away, the market’s buzzing with activity, parents are out shopping with their children, firecrackers and all; and I’m sitting here, writing on my laptop, that too on back up power.
Well, the answer’s absurdly simple! Power cuts.

Unlike many of the privileged people I know, I am a victim of M.S.E.B.’s very long legacy of power cuts, or load shedding, as we popularly call it here. My oldest memory of load shedding dates back to when I was six months old. Of course, I clearly do not remember facts as they were; but my mom and grand-mom never fail to remind me of those days. Sixteen hours plus of no electricity, I believe. The oldest memory I very clearly remember was when my grandmother used to use her authentic, vintage 1924 kerosene lamp (not exactly 1924, but, who knows?). We used to gather around the lamp on Friday evenings; since that was the day we had ‘mega load shedding’, and do absolutely nothing. My grandmother occasionally told me stories (ghost ones and otherwise), while my mom used to cut vegetables; I mean, light or no light, we had to eat, right?

After a few years, our problem eased a bit when my father bought a Honda generator. The procedure to switch it on was complicated no doubt: having to changeover from the mains, tweak half-a-dozen switches on the gen-set, and at a later stage (read late at night), getting out in complete darkness, at 10 in the night, to get petrol from a station in Ambernath (about 8 kms away). But, I confess, life was comfortable.
When the world outside is pitch black, two fans and tubes somehow manage to provide all the luxury in the world.

Oh, I forgot to mention the best part: the monsoons. In the beginning of June, when the skies darkened with the arrival of the South-West monsoon clouds, the generator would be primed up, readied for long hours of duty, the petrol can filled up; and as back up, candles and match-sticks were kept handy. Back in the days when we used the kerosene lamp (affectionately called ‘hurricane lamp’, for its obvious utility in times of hurricanes), preparations weren’t so elaborate. Yes, we had to add the hand-fan to the inventory list. Otherwise, it was just the same!

For some reason I don’t know, the rain gods felt very generous at times. Along with rainfall (and power-cuts), we used to get a good dose of thunderstorms. The power lines were the first casualties, innocent citizens the next.
Our woes, sadly or otherwise, didn’t end with the monsoons. The transformers once in a while gave a little ‘boom’…the aftermath was usually crowds gathering around the transformer, everyone yelling out for some action, responsibility etcetera amidst all that fiasco. Nothing like a blown transformer to promote solidarity in a housing society, I say!
But, if it was just your phase that blew, then you were on your own, and at the mercy of the technician. However, I do take the opportunity to say that some of them are fine people, the ones who’re in short supply.

Fast forward to the present, after years of living in darkness (more often, the in light powered by the inverter battery), I’m here writing about my woes. Not that I’m complaining or anything, in fact, I’m not! It’s just that, like all problems in out great nation, I have grown to live with it.

A couple of years ago, there was a lot of rejoicing among the people here when we heard that the Dhabol power-plant was reopening. Finally, we expected a concrete solution to our power problems. Sadly, by now, I think you know what happened…I mean, after knowing the tragedy of the Dhabol plant in the first place, I was not surprised to be disappointed.
Today, when I look at the newspapers talking about the Tata-Reliance tussle, tariff hikes and all that in the city, I give a cynical laugh. They’ll never know what it is like to be devoid of power, to live by the light of a kerosene lamp, to miss all your favourite TV programmes (even the re-runs), and how so many poor souls in hospitals have suffered. There are places in India where they have power for just two hours (or not at all); I don’t think I have a right to complain.
So, should I try to assert my consumer rights for equitable electricity? Maybe I should. But, where is that power going to come from? And more importantly, who’s gonna stand up for the kind of people I mentioned earlier. Power, water, health, they lack all the necessities we take for granted.
Sure, there are solutions; solar energy is one. But, I hardly think my neighbours are the kinds to afford it.

So, um, I think I should really stop writing; my laptop’s charge is dwindling. And I don’t expect the power to come in at least another two hours.
If nothing else, these long, dark hours have taught me patience, austerity and the value of enlightenment.
Or should I say ‘un-lightenment’…?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Nation's Hero

Suresh Kalmadi, who unarguably is the most talked about man in India (and perhaps, the rest of the Commonwealth), is a national hero. In a day and age filled with unscrupulous, conniving and corrupt schemers, Mr Kalmadi represents the shining ray of hope that this nation has to offer. Sure, one might say that he’s the one responsible for the debacle known as Delhi Commonwealth Games, 2010. But, Mr Kalmadi’s love for India and Indians far exceeds his desire for material gains, which if I may add, were just means to a far greater and nobler end. 

In so many decades of Indian sporting history, what glories have our athletes won? I certainly cannot think of too many. One might cite certain statistical data, but it doesn’t paint the glorious picture that we’d wish to see. Too long have we been content with bronze and silvers; we just remember the one gold (won by Abhinav Bindra, if you remember, that is). Another great tragedy is the treatment meted out to the players by the coaches, and the pitiful condition the politicians’ subject the coaches to (why, some even refuse to acknowledge that there are any coaches whatsoever!). The point is, India’s image as a sporting nation is in shambles (no, we do not include cricket in this category). In such grim times, Mr Kalmadi has done what many thought was beyond even the impossible.

Kalmadi had a simple philosophy when he began preparations for the Games: with great power, come greater responsibilities. He sought to bring back the golden glory of Indian sports, and he did so by employing what some might call ‘questionable tactics’, but his intentions remained the noblest.

Well, to start with, Kalmadi orchestrated every single tendering process with pin-point precision giving the bids to those who wouldn’t get them otherwise. It takes an unselfish man to think of those who are more unfortunate than he is! Look at all the contractors who were given a job in these days of recession. Kalmadi’s concern was not just limited to these people; it was the athletes-the bright and shining future of India, that he really cared about!
Since the Games are in Delhi, our athletes would enjoy a home-ground advantage. Kalmadi merely made it more home-like. One has to but look in the papers and read about collapsing bridges, building, ceilings et al. Now, if Kalmadi gave the foreign athletes a flavour of India, can we really blame him?

I mean, it’s not exactly an act of sabotage; when in India, live like the Indians. Of course, if those poor chaps decide to pull out, it’s really their loss. And since Indians are so used to jumping over craters, pot-holes, dodging falling debris, branches from the sky, leaking roofs, and living in harmony with strays, the advantage is ours. If the Games do go ahead (and I assume they will), our athletes will show the world that they are the best, even in adverse circumstances! Of course, sceptics might argue that since there would be no foreign athletes, there would be no competition. Thus our fellows would win by default. This is utter nonsense. The Games are a celebration of India, and everything that we stand for, which is, resilience, endurance, sportsman spirit, and an optimistic outlook to life (exemplified by how Sheila Dixit goes on record to say everything will be fine. What an amazingly optimistic woman!).
And, we shall get home the gold, not by an act of shameless nepotism, but by overcoming the challenges that the common Indian man faces every day.

Suresh Kalmadi, with his hard work and fruitful endeavour, has given a lease of life to a dream that was, is, and will always be cherished by Indian athletes: the gold medal. He did so not at the cost of harming others (no one died in any of the accidents), nor at the cost of chasing away foreign athletes (are we to blame that their infrastructure is so good? Besides, they even have different levels of hygiene!).
He has fought for the Indian dream, for the Indian common man, and the aspiring Indian athlete (there’s no evidence that he doped some of those losers, is there?).
And for all this, Mr Suresh Kalmadi is the greatest Indian of the decade, a true patriot and a national hero!

Note: This essay is a work of satire, and while the facts are one-hundred percent genuine, the manner in which they are discussed is done so from a purely artistic standpoint.