A couple of months back, I was watching a Bengali talk show, quite on the lines of 'Koffee with Karan'. Well, Bengali television remains something that I make a point of staying far away from, much to the disappointment of all at home. But as I was having dinner in the same room as the television, I ended up watching the show, albeit absent-mindedly.
To start with, the show is hosted by the well-known film director, Rituparno Ghosh, and it's called 'Ghosh & Company'. A total rip-off from 'Koffee with Karan' actually, but the guy does a pretty good job. Or so I've heard. Coming to the episode in question, it had Ghosh interviewing, or should I say having a 'friendly chat' with a popular Bengali (duh!) stand-up comedian, Mir.
The episode started with the usual polite talk and predictable question-and-answer sequences. But then it took on a serious tone, which is when I got interested. Ghosh started asking pointed questions about the comic routines Mir is known for doing, specifically the imitations of Ghosh himself. Pertinent questions, as to why he thought it necessary to over-emphasize on some of Ghosh's feminine mannerisms. He went on to say that Mir making a joke out of it did not affect Ghosh, per say, but a whole community who looked up at Ghosh as a sort of role model.
Now, first of all, I don't think I've ever seen an Indian celebrity 'coming out of the closet' like that. A rumour, or even a well-known fact is a different matter. But admitting to it, and talking about it on prime-time television in INDIA, is definitely huge! I do believe this was a first. To move on, Ghosh's questions, and even his comments on Mir, may have been seen as 'unsporting' by many; but I beg to differ.
In a country like India, where the homosexual community already suffers from ostracization and discrimination of every kind, additional ridicule from such 'celebrities' is certainly not asked for. Of course, it can all be taken in good humour and everything. But think about it... Society, friends, even your own family not being ready to accept you is one thing. You, yourself, not being able to accept the way you are, is worse! And the idea of being an object of mockery for the rest of your life, does not help!
And this is where well-known figures on television and other media come in. It's not just the laws, but also the basic mindset of people that needs to change. There needs to be a change in the fact that homosexual characters are only used for 'comic relief' in most films, serials, television shows, advertisements, radio programmes, and what not!
The comic capers might be great for a couple of laughs, now and then. But (at the risk of sounding 'holier-than-thou' here) think about what those few laughs might be costing a certain minority of people out there, struggling for acceptance, struggling for the freedom to differ.
After a long and stimulating conversation with a friend the other day, I was left shrouded in thought. Well, let me start at the beginning.
Our department in college, recently organised the screening of an award-winning documentary, followed by a talk with the filmmaker. In contrast to our usual attitude towards these sessions, most of us were looking forward to this one. I had actually heard a lot about this guy, Stalin K, and his films. And I was far from disappointed. India Untouched, a documentary that dealt with the issue of untouchability, ran for almost two hours, but did not lose my attention for a single second. Not that the film showed us anything new. Everybody knows that the caste system still persists in India, and that untouchability is still practiced, consciously or unconsciously, in a greater part of the nation. Its 'abolition' remains one of the biggest farces in our history, and indeed, there are many.
What the film did show however, is how it is a 'way of life' for so many. The belief in the 'sacredness' of this tradition is so strong, that even the victims do not feel victimised. And I can think of nothing more pathetic than that.
I would not say that the man impressed me as a filmmaker. The film, if you could call it one, certainly did not boast of technical or cinematic brilliance. But the vision behind the film is what hooked me. The filmmaker's vision, belief, hope, and effort to make it possible. Which was also evident in the discussion we had with him, after the screening. In fact, I think I find myself having a little crush on the guy! ;)
But that's not why I'm writing this post. The session ended, and left me thinking...about a lot of stuff. It's not something I can perhaps explain in writing, but it hit us both. Me and my friend. The urge to do something, about all such issues which we feel so strongly about. Very random, I know. Sounds pretty juvenile as well. But that's the best I can explain it! I don't know if it was the film, or the filmmaker, or simply a long pent-up feeling.
But...(so many but's, I know!) But, then again, what?! What can we possibly do to change things? Even after I manage to convince myself, that it is NOT a completely useless effort, I'm still faced with the same dead end. What can we, as today's youth, do to initiate this process of change? And where do we start? Of course, there are the usual answers to that. But does any of it really work?!
Damn.. I'm back to being the same old cynical me, eh? But like they say, you scratch a cynic, and you'll find a disappointed idealist.
Yesterday morning, while sitting with my morning coffee and newspaper, I was greeted by a pleasant surprise. After ages, if I may say so, I found something in the news that made me smile!
Lucknow: Masood Ahmad recalls the hush that fell when he went onstage to announce an unscheduled break during the raging battle between Lord Rama and Ravana, last Dussehra. The huge audience assembled at the Bakshi Ka Talaab ground was not amused. A few even began to boo, till the reason was explained.
The Ramlila cast — including Rama, Ravana and Lakshman — Ahmad explained, needed to offer namaz and break roza. Not a single protest was heard after. The show resumed only after the actors rolled up their prayer mats post-namaz and shared the iftari snacks — right on stage.
Masood Ahmad took over as manager of the BKT Ramlila Samiti from his father Muzaffar Hussain, who floated the outfit and also the concept of a mixed cast along with a Hindu friend in 1972. The move generated much curiosity and even a whisper campaign initially. But things have gradually settled down.
The casting coup of the year, says Ahmad, is the new Lord Rama — gawky 15-year-old Mohammad Sher Khan from BKT higher secondary school.
Khan, who’d been playing Bharat and Shatrughan over the past three years, is exultant about his elevation to lead status. “I have read Ram Charitmanas several times and particularly liked the ‘kirdar’ of Rama,” he declaims in true thespian style. An unimpressed director, Sadiq Khan, exhorts the youngster, just back from school, to go over the script once more. The stage props are garish, the makeup is loud and the costumes even louder at the dress rehearsal on the BKT gram sabha land, 20 km from Lucknow.
The Ramlila cast, which comprises mostly young Muslim youth from Bakshi Ka Talaab village, provide a soothing balm to nerves shredded by the Delhi, Gujarat and Malegaon blasts and their reverberations in nearby Azamgarh. “All that blood and gore and mutilated bodies shown on TV seems like part of a different world,’’ says 75-year-old Maqbool Ahmad, a carpenter from Nishatganj.
Ahmad is still to get over the death of nine-year-old Santosh Yadav in the Mehrauli blast. He says, with a shudder, that the child could well have been his own grandson. “Aam admi kyon, khas admi kyon nahin (how come always the poor, why not the rich)?’’ he asks.
Known as the mandir wale baba, Ahmad has been crafting wood/ plywood temples for Hindu homes for more than 30 years. Initially, some accused him of blasphemy. Ahmad’s response was simple and steadfast: He was an artiste first and Muslim later. “Now, the entire lane of carpenters — all Muslims — have turned into mandir makers,’’ Ahmad says with a chuckle. As for terrorists, he says they are bound to fail because “our people are too secular’’.
Ahmad’s eyes grow moist as he recalls how at every Ramlila performance, audience members fold their hands in supplication and mutter prayers — some even weep copiously — when Lord Rama is exiled. “At such moments, no one is bothered that the man portraying Lord Rama is a Muslim by birth,’’ he points out. Excerpts taken from www.indiademocracy.org
After over a month, I finally found something that inspired me to write again. Actually, this is something I felt I HAD to write about.
The recent murder of Soumya Viswanathan has grabbed enough eyeballs, as well as newspaper space over the last few days. And with reason! I hardly need to re-introduce the particulars of the incident, but just a little background for the uninitiated...
Soumya Viswanathan, a successful producer with a popular Indian news channel, was shot dead while driving back from work, at around 3:30 am in the morning. From road rage to a jilted lover to a stalker; the police suspect everything and know nothing.
But what shocks me more than the crime itself, is a recent comment by Sheila Dikshit. In the midst of all the public sympathy and outrage, the Chief Minister of Delhi decides to go on record saying, "All by herself till 3 am at night in a city where people believe…you know…you should not be so adventurous." The remark is so outrageous, so uninformed, and so insensitive, it's almost funny! Not in the humorous way though.
What was she thinking??? Instead of being ashamed that such an incident could take place in "her" city, she trivializes the issue and shows complete apathy against the victim? She inadvertently (I hope!) ratifies foolish notions and cultural stereotypes like, "She was wearing short clothes, she deserved to be eve-teased..." or even better, "She was asking to be raped..." and so on.
I daresay, I am not surprised, that such regressive thinking still persists in India. Who are we kidding? We are not really the most progressive of nations, as far as societal norms and basic mentality of people go. But such a statement coming from a person of such stature, a political icon representating the Capital, no less, and a woman, to top it all, is sadenning.
When asked to imagine children between the ages of 3 and 10, the image that flashes across our minds is that of healthy and cherubic infants, bubbling with energy in their carefree lives, without any worries beyond the loss of their play toys. But there exists a grim reality outside this pretty picture. A reality we might be aware of, but do not care much about.
While on one hand we crib about being stuck in long traffic jams while inside our air conditioned cars, there are those whose daily bread depends on these little gaps in time. Dozens of children, armed with miniature dholaks and sticks, flock the Siri Fort Crossing right from 10 in the morning, till 5 in the evening, displaying their “talents” to any interested onlooker. Yes, we are talking about kids who earn their livelihood by “performing” on the streets. Coming from as far as Patel Nagar, they commute using buses and local trains. At an age when they should be learning their ABC’s and enjoying ball games with friends in the park, these kids are forced to spend their days languishing on the streets of Delhi, without any shield from the scorching heat or the bitter cold.
Kalpana, 3 and Chand, 7 have grown up following the footsteps of their elder brothers, Aakash, 8 and Sajju, 7. Originally from Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, they have migrated to Delhi and resumed life at a different pace from their parents, who work as farmers in the village. In the formative years of their life, these children are forced to survive on a single bag of fruits all day. Not surprisingly, the little money that they earn in a day, Rs. 100-150, mostly goes into buying food.
Life on the streets is not an easy life. The children have not only learnt to live this hard life, by begging for each penny they earn, but have also experienced situations unimaginable for any regular kid of their age. Says Aakash, “Ek din hum sabko Police pakadke le gayi thi, par shaam tak chhod diya tha.” Objection from the police is routine, but they continue to ignore the men in uniform, and carry on with their antics at the red lights.
The possibility of school has never occurred to them. They have never thought of contemplating about the future of such a trade. But there are those who are more privileged. “Mera chhota bhai (Arjun, 4 yrs) gaon mein padhta hai”, informs Sajju. The boundless freedom that accompanies their peculiar choice of profession holds a childish appeal for their innocent minds. A life beyond this is unimaginable for them. And there is nobody to mourn this pathetic waste of youth, the loss of their childhood...
This is me, with a vengeance. It's just that I feel like throttling some people by their necks right now, but I unfortunately cant! So I want to vent out my feelings here, and hope that I can get it out of my system that way. I know I am going to regret this post as soon as I publish it, but I am past caring right now. And I know this is not a very MATURED or "evolved" mind talking here, but what the hell - this certainly qualifies as RANDOM, to put it mildly!
The thing that I don't understand is, why cant some people get the HINT? And probably get a LIFE too in the process, if it's not too much trouble? OR, at least try and RESPECT the fact that other people DO have lives of their own, thank you very much! Like there ARE people who do NOT want to spend every waking moment of their lives listening to your pathetic love sagas or morbid day-to-day events or just inconsequential crap that nobody in their right minds would ever care a tiny rat's ass about? And how can you possible justify a person sharing the dreariest details and minutiae of one's life with someone you know for like, FOUR HOURS? I mean, HELLO??? Did somebody release them from a state of complete and absolute silence, that they feel COMPELLED to make amends for the years that the world lost out on, on their not-so-wonderful voice? Then of course, there is constant abuse of the already much abused term "Best Friends Forever", which someone decides to honour you with, when just about a week back, you were blissfully ignorant of such a person's existence!
The question I ask is WHY??? Not just "why me", but "why anybody"!!! But yeah, I am basically interested in the "why ME" part of it, because I really think that over the years, God has had MORE than enough of His(or Her) share of laughs at my expense, but He(or She) just doesn't seem to be CONTENT! So here I am - a helpless, hapless, miserable, oppressed and long-suffering victim in the hands of The Almighty (or maybe The Devil had something to do with it! Ah me!)
Sheesh! I am not shamed to say that I feel SO much better now! Though I know I am going to feel differently the moment I see a certain somebody's name flashing on my mobile anytime now...
Last Saturday, our class was taken to a film festival, organized by the Kriti Film Club, in remembrance of the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. The festival was actually a part of the 2nd years' curriculum, but we had been dragged along by our CT teacher, simply for the sake of attendance. So there we were, waiting for the torture to begin, pretty convinced that the films would have nothing new to show us, nothing that we didn't know already about the infamous tragedy. Even the turnout in the little hall, as I looked around, was pretty non-committal. I could see only a handful of unknown faces, as the crowd mostly consisted of my classmates and my seniors.
The session started with a short documentary on the history and anatomy of atom bombs. Then came a film showing the victims and survivors of the atom bomb, which made us look up - literally. The jarring visuals caught us unaware; had us riveted to our seats. The children screaming for help from beneath tons of rubble, mothers helplessly watching their infants writhe in pain, people crying out for water, charred limbs separated from their bodies, little school-children asked to shout out their names as they walked in the midst of the ruins, because even their parents wouldn't be able to recognize them in this state - are images that are going to stay in my mind forever. I found myself shedding a silent tear as a woman, a survivor (if anybody CAN truly survive from such an incident) recounted how she crawled her way through a railway track, probably for days together, in her quest for water. We watched as an army man, who had been a part of the rescue teams at that time, choked, as he lamented not giving water to the victims, as he had been told that it would cause instant death. We saw the predicament faced by the lone doctor in the hospital, trying to cure the victims of a phenomenon he did not yet understand - the effect of the radiations, which would plague the people of Japan for generations to come. My eyes filled again as I watched the few people still alive, trying to quench their thirst by taking in drops of the poisonous Black Rain, not knowing that that would in fact be the cause of their death, soon after that.
But it was not just the film that had a lasting effect on my mind. The discussion after the screening made me think about the sanctity of nuclear weapons from a different perspective altogether. For the first time, I found myself questioning the very NEED (if there is any, that is) for their existence. This was a novel experience for me, per se, especially because I have been advocating FOR the Nuke Deal ever since the debate started in India. And I confess, I am still battling within, as to what I really think of the repercussions of this deal now...
I do not, for a moment, say that I am "anti-U.S.A." or any such thing, as many people did after watching the documentaries. Even the Pearl Harbour tragedy had had similar, though not so far-reaching, consequences for the Americans, courtesy: Japan. What I am saying is that the root cause of the problem is not the U.S.A or Japan. It is the POWER that comes with the possession of nuclear weapons; the kind of power that can only be misused, that can never do any good to anybody. Of course, I am hypothesizing, but Japan might indeed have done the same to America, if they had been in possession of this "power".
So if the fact that they EXIST, is actually the root cause behind such massacres, why DO they exist? Are they really the only way to gauge a country's, or rather the human race's advancement in technology and otherwise? Is it all we have, to be proud of, in today's world? Is the creation of something that has the potential to destroy everything that was ever created on this earth, really that important?
This is something that has been on my mind for sometime now. And I decided that the only way I could get it off my chest, was to write about it here. I don't know if I'll be able to put across my thoughts in words, but I'll just try my best!
A couple of days back, I was on the way back to my college along with two of my classmates. It was raining heavily, and we were getting drenched in spite of being in an auto. The downpour had managed to bring the city to a standstill, as usual! This meant water-logged roads, hours spent at traffic jams, and sewage water splashed on the main roads. Yes, I am talking about Delhi, the CAPITAL of India!
Anyhow, as we were stuck at one of those excruciatingly slow-moving traffic signals, I saw a group of women making their way from one car to another. At first I didn't take notice, they were the usual beggar women who we see everyday, in tattered clothes, an infant in their arms and/or some unfortunate physical imperfection. At the risk of sounding insensitive to some, I have always been one of those people who steadfastly refrain from giving alms. It's not about the money of course, but I really feel that they should not be encouraged, when they CAN earn on their own and contribute to society in a better way. But as they came closer, I saw that one of these women was pregnant - she sported a conspicuous bump, and was in obvious pain. The other women were helping her walk, and asking around for money to take her to the hospital. It was a pitiful sight, one that could move anybody. When they reached us, I found myself looking for loose change or tenners, but I wasn't carrying any. My friend gave her some money and they moved on to the next vehicle; but the image stayed on in my mind.
As I kept pondering over the woman, I cringed at myself for the fact that, for a moment, I had inadvertently scrutinized her bump - trying to decide if it was genuine. Looking back, I felt guilty, ashamed and embarrassed. But isn't that what we hear about these beggars all the time? That they are professionals, out to earn a living by playing with people's sympathy? Well, that is what we are made to understand from the films we see about them, the stories we read, and what not...
But somehow, I wasn't thinking about what the truth was, anymore. It did not matter, because it was a pathetic situation whichever way you looked at it. If the woman was an impostor, what kind of circumstances could possibly make her put up such a facade? And if on the other hand, she really was suffering, then what kind of a person did that make me?
I don't know how to explain this, but this incident got me thinking - not only about the kind of life some people are forced to lead, but I found myself reflecting, wondering at the kind of doubt-filled, disbelieving world we live in...
Back in school... Boy! That sounds like it's been years since I passed out, doesn't it? But hell, it does FEEL like it's been years already!
Anyhow, back in high school, one of the most memorable things that I did, along with my two best buddies, was make our own Band. It sounds cliched I know, after all those run-off-the-mill Hollywood teen flicks, but it's a LOT of fun!
I remember the three of us, spending most of our English (because we were "above" the subject!) and History (because the subject was "below" us!) classes, trying to come up with a name for our band. After a number of unspeakable ideas, we zeroed in on three final contenders, one from the each of us. And since we were pretty confused and unscientific people, we decided to make the final selection in the most juvenile manner possible... We did an "Inky-Pinky-Ponky", and thus came to be called as 'The Black Angels'!!!
God! We used to have the most amazing time, trying to write weird songs (though our official lyricist, Antara, did manage to write a couple of really good ones!) and doing crazy stuff in general. One particular thing that sticks out in my memory is when we were asked to do a Radio Show in one of our English classes. We wrote the most random and insanely funny script for the same - the details of which are quite "unwritable" for this blog, or any kind of sane human readership for that matter!
And yeah, at a much later stage, we got a very unpleasant shock when we found out that a band called the 'Black Angels' already existed. That made us start the thinking-of-a-name-game all over again, and it was then that we decided to add the '(D)' in the middle, the significance of which I refuse to disclose here - sorry guys! I can just say that the addition was VERY appropriate, as far as the three of us were concerned...
~~~A Tribute To 'The Black (D) Angels'~~~ Members:- Antara (Lyricist and "supposed" Drummer) Ishita (Lead Singer and Guitarist) Ayushi (Second Lead and "supposed" Music Composer)
Disclaimer: These are entirely my own thoughts and experiences, i.e. unless mentioned otherwise. They do not represent the views of any organisation(s) I may be a part of, or am otherwise associated with. Nor are these ideas borrowed from friends, foes or family. No, not the dog either.
P.S.: Do not believe everything I say. Though you might be better off paying attention to some of it...