Friday, February 10, 2017

To be or not be

Karan Johar has famously declared in his autobiography that he doesn't understand the social repercussions of the way he portrays the characters in his movie and also that he is least bothered about it. All he claims is that he knows to make fun movies.

Let me zoom in a bit and come to my small world of friends and families. Few believe that making innocent sexually violent comments about the opposite sex, preserving interests on one's own caste and deriding people's looks are all personal choices with no far bearing consequences on the larger society.

Come to think of it again!

Are our actions so isolated and limited to our personal space? Are personal and public lives really that tangential? If they ever meet what is the dynamics of that tumultuous space? Do humans exercise any control over the forces in that realm?  When does the personal become political and where does political impact our personal choices? Can we be naive and behave in a way so as to implicate absolute disconnectedness to the larger game of life?

Can I watch sexually violent teenage porn and fight for child rights?

Will I not add to the communal riots by not inviting my other religion friend to dinner at house?

Should I call myself a feminist if I enjoy making and laughing at sexist jokes?

Would it impact the nature if I decorate my house with only plastic stuff?

K P Poornachandra Tejaswi is a renowned Kannada author whom I like specifically for bringing in the social angle to his stories. Seemingly innocent and isolated incidents are shown to create a wave of social sensitivity and one cannot be awed by how effortlessly he shows these connections in his writing. If you have ever wondered about the implications of your actions in your private space on the workings of the public sphere then reading Tejaswi's "Chidambara Rahasya" book is a good start at gaining clarity.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A game of rewind and forward

Roughly twenty years ago, we got a basic Philips tape recorder model. Many of my ticklishly wonderful childhood memories are somehow arrested within this black box, that still sits atop my nostalgic sister's fridge. My sisters and my favorite past time was to repeatedly rewind and forward the music cassettes until we landed on one of our favorite songs. Just to beat the nostalgia I am going to play the game but only imaginarily.

Let us rewind about a 100 years back in time. Right then in a not so well known small town center called Narsipura, I met a girl called Bhagyavathi. Bhagya (for I love to shorten names) was a firecracker in the sense that she had quick wit, a sharp tongue and a insatiable curiosity about the world. She was a natural at reading people's behavior and the underlying intentions. Needless to say she carried a vista of local knowledge about plants. Icing to the cake was that she was highly logical and compassionate! Now you might be wondering how she looked right? Well sorry that I can't help you much out there since her beauty doesn't matter to my story and neither should it matter to you. I often wondered how successful she would be as the main adviser to the ruler of the territory that she lived in. But wait! She couldn't have been that right. Bhagya and many other girls like her were restricted to the domestic affairs, rightly so. What would a curious mind like her do with politics and social welfare? She learnt very early on at the age of 5 that she shouldn't be talking at volumes equal to that of the male members of her family let alone ask questions to them or around them. By the age of 9 all her outings to the nearby woods and hills were abruptly stopped because she was beginning to resemble the adult version of her species. But her parents being highly liberal and fore-thinkers allowed her to read stories from her books until she was 10 after which they all knew that  before she hit puberty she would have to be whisked away to another owner who could decide for her. Thus ended my dreams of her becoming the chief adviser to the ruler. Now I know that you would blame me of irrational imaginations but can you please allow me to narrate another story of a girl in the future, whom also I met only in my imagination.

When I fast forward to 100 years from now, I meet Spashta. She is an epitome of tenderness and kindness. Spashta is one person who people go to for solace. With her rightly measured words she always knows what's the right thing to say or hold back. Her inclination towards caring has bestowed indeterminable courage on her. She works as a bio-conservationist and right now tending to the preservation of an endangered weed species that adds valuable phosphate content to farm lands due to its presence. Spashta's work requires her to visit farmlands at night time when the phosphate generation activity is the highest among these plants and they run the risk of being poached by chemical industry laborers. Her job role involves scientific monitoring and data collection along with manually guarding (and fighting for) the crops. So naturally she needs to be out in the open at night and has claimed all possible public spaces (like all the other girls of her time) at all times of the day irrespective of who is with her or not.

Now back to where I am today in 2016. Unlike Bhagya for whom having a voice and education was next to impossible, I enjoy a certain degree of intellectual and political freedom through which I can claim my rights to study as much as I want. However I am still not as free as Spashta in pursuing job roles that are gender-unbiased, roaming wherever I want at whatever time I want with whoever I want doing whatsoever that I want. I feel fortunate that I live in times where there is so much progress that women have already made and the fruits of which I already taste. These times are also tempered with a restive feeling of injustice where I know there is so much that women still cannot do.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pigeon story

This morning when Bangalore was recovering from an incessant rainfall of two days, there was a pleasant lull in the air. The air was unusually chilly, humid and the sun didn't claim his share like he usually does. I persisted with my love for warm clothes. One of the places where I am consulting these days happens to fall right beside Lalbagh lake. As I was talking over my phone, a curious flock of pigeons were eating rice grains that were laid out on the moist ground for them. After a minute or two of mindless watching, I observed a strange phenomenon. One of the pigeons, which was fat, let us call it 'Dumma' for the moment, strutted along elegantly into the center of the group and started pecking any pigeon who tried to eat the grains. Dumma would peck a pigeon until it flew away and then peacefully pick on its own grain not until another pigeon came in the proximity, by when it would again start its irrational assault of sharp pecks. This continued to happen until Dumma had successfully driven away more than 11 pigeons and had a big fill.

This incident made me reflect strongly on one philosophy of life that has stuck with me for a very long time now. Nature always tries for disorder, a phenomenon beautifully captured by a scientific term called entropy. It has been observed that all molecules try to attain the state of highest disorder. It takes more energy to maintain order than to disorder. It is easy to allow water flow than to restrain it. It is easy to break than to build. It is easy to rumple than to tidy up. When such is the natural order of the world, human beings are trying to build a cumbersome case against nature by trying to hold an enormous social system in a unified fashion. It is extracting painful energy on part of humans to maintain this system that is so inherently unstable. All the additional energy that is going in to retain order rather than chaos is bringing up strain in the human society. The cracks due to this are conflicts. Conflicts within human mind, families, communities, nations and ultimate globally.

Human mind tries to rationalize every act as moral and immoral thereby laying huge stress on the mind. Like for our Dumma, for a human mind too it is natural in an evolutionary sense to fight for the available resources, to gain supremacy. This act demands an exercise of power at all times which gives rise to unfairness and inequality. When such is the case, for human mind to pursue illusionary quests of equality, honesty and justice is just hypocrisy. As Sartre says "man is condemned to be free, because once thrown into the world he is responsible for everything he does" and to hold responsibility for a world as chaotic and as random as ours is nothing but insanity. Likewise in family and relationships as soon as the human mind claims unconditional love, it is fake, for a human mind or for that matter any species can look after only its own survival and it will pursue any relationship only for its usefulness in its survival. If this argument is further extended to nations and global relations, we can soon see sense that any claim to eradicate the inequality and crime to humanity (is there a thing called humanity after all?) is doomed.

So that leaves us with the question of 'what is the ultimate good in the world?'. Well that is an effing joke. There is nothing called the ultimate good or the noble truth. Humans need to shed all delusions of grandeur and realise the fact that they too are humble species on the Earth trying to etch out a living for themselves by fighting against many odds of the nature. Sorry to break this you but you (and me) are not special in any way.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I cried!!

It was a pleasant rainy day at Bangalore and I had the most productive day at work. To add to it all I had a sumptuous lunch and an interesting snack time :) Just when I thought the world was at its beautiful best in an Ola share cab, I met a woman who challenged it all.
This woman that I so unsuspectingly helped was reeking pride and meanness. First of all she made the driver wait in front of her hotel door for 5 minutes even when he called her. She simply assumed (without checking her app for the car number) that he isn't the one. Then she strutted around to the front of the car grudgingly when she couldn't get into the back seat because there were already two customers from the previous bookings. She allowed 3 men, plus me, to fit her big suitcase next to my bag in the back of the car without offering so much of a thanks in our way! Fast forward 15 minutes, it was time for her to get down. The cycle repeated when she loitered around the car door and let the driver manage her heavy luggage all by himself. I would have still not minded her lack of compassion had she not thrown away the driver's book rudely onto the seat that she had nudged down to the road while getting down.
This miss here is the answer for why big reforms often take a very very long time to bring about a small change. It's because we forget to give the world a little more compassion on our part. 

Good leaders never talk about money

I have had the fortune of meeting leaders from various walks of life. I have been blessed to witness the works of student leaders, leaders in education, art, engineering, design, motivation, service, dance and spirituality. One common trait among all of them is that they do not talk money! However it is not to dismiss their understanding of finance in reaching their goals or meeting their teams' inspirations. Although they realize the importance of constant flow of funds and remuneration for their team members' work, seldom do they base their decisions on how much money flows in or out. They constantly define their actions based on the strong shared values and principles that they uphold and inspire people to meet their best performance under all circumstances. Their language is one of hope and motivation and is never infused with the threats of financial gains.

Good leaders
-talk of organisational or personal goal to set their milestones
-write about coherence of budget with their dreams
-incentivize their team members on the positive growth they have achieved
-evaluate the organisational or personal outcome on the yardstick of their vision and mission

It takes immense reflective capability for a leader to see gains beyond the monetary ones. The moment someone gets entangled in the woes of balance sheet and payslip, he/she is a mere manager of tasks and teams and not a leader!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Where are the women anyway?


The perks of working from home is that you can cut down that draconian travel time in Bengaluru traffic and use those precious hours to do what you like. Today I went out on an excursion to explore the very architecturally attractive CCD near my place. When it turned out to give me a capitalist and mindless consumeristic feel, I decided to move on to take a walk (more like a stroll actually). In the stretch of 3km I came across a humongous playing ground, 3 beautiful parks (yup that’s Bengaluru) and serene streets of J P Nagar (a predominantly middle class and upper middle class settlement). To arrive at the point of this article, there were no women at all! Now you would accuse me of making a preposterous claim but before you do that let me clarify what I’m trying to say.

The gigantic playground that I mentioned above was filled with only boys! Not a single girl found. The streets were empty of women who strolled around in leisure. The very few women who were on the streets were young mothers taking their kids on an evening walk and the elderly women walking in pairs. My question is where are the women like their male counterparts just chilling in the breezy Bengaluru weather? Do good girls avoid public spaces because that’s what makes them good in the first place or are the public spaces so unsafe that even a soothing chilly weather doesn’t pull the girls onto the streets?

When our system and culture celebrates a fit body, does it dutifully open up public spaces to girls? Is a playing ground the property of only the boys? It means that only the rich who can afford an enclosed safe place for sports  can indeed indulge in sports.

The gender politics doesn’t get played only in the parliament, government buildings and corporate offices, schools and hospitals, instead it reeks its bloody teeth in public places. You needn’t go look into compelling radical feminist articles and books to understand the nuances of sexism. Just look around. I ask for only this puny indulgence. When you are whizzing away on your vehicles, or sitting in a coffee shop or simply sipping chai on the roadside tapri, look around. You’ll see that the roads don’t welcome women. They prove that it’s a man’s world after all!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Boys vs girls

On my visits to multiple rural schools I am greeted by beautiful school campuses with gardens, lively colours and huge farms attached to the school premises. One cannot help but relish this picturesque view outside the highly populated cities. But as soon as you bring people inside those school buildings, my heart gets punctured rudely with the inequality that reeks in every nook and corner of these schools.

A stark gender divide appears in the schools. Starting from the teachers to the students discriminative gender roles are a norm. Majority of the lady teachers show submissive nature. Most of it has to do with the typical gender stereotyping that occurs in Indian households. Teachers favour boys which is evident in the way they position themselves while teaching (they stand closer to the boys' column, they joke around with boys more (that is whenever they do)). Teachers restrict girl students to gender typical jobs such as fetching snacks/drinks to guests, decorating the school premises etc., When it comes to  students, on a qualitative analysis boys answer more number of questions than do the girls, boys undertake more volunteering tasks while girls are typically huddled up not taking initiatives on most occasions (like typical good girls, they come forward only when asked to).

I do not know the ways to end these seemingly minor yet potentially harmful gender discrimination acts as an outsider. In my capacity as a teacher too I  found it hard (if not impossible) to make everyone act in gender neutral ways since gender stereotyping runs deep in our psyche as a society. I know 'this is how the world works' but let me tell you that it is definitely wrong. There are societies that are worse than ours but that doesn't stop us from progressing on right paths.