Who am I?

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I am not religious, but I don't mind calling myself spiritual. Religion, I believe, has, over the millennia, been used as a prop to perpetrate a lot of human suffering. Faith is what matters. I don't believe in the definition of God as a creator. According to me, my God resides within me. Some call it conscience, some call it the sub-conscious, some call it the soul. I don't mind calling it God. So by definition I am not an atheist or an agnostic, but by essence, I may as well be. My God does not reside in a temple, church, mosque or gurudwara. It is right here, within me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Punch called Panchgani

In the past two days, I had more fun than I expected, I screamed way more than my throat allowed, I clapped more than my hands could take, and I cried more than I had done in the past many months combined – and I have no shame in admitting that. Be it the beautiful songs sung by the Asia Plateau volunteers, or Panchgani’s wondrous veil of green, Morrie’s lessons, or Rajmohan Gandhi’s mesmerising stature and the distinct aroma of respect for him that was pervasive in the auditorium, be it the natural goodness of the human spirit that emanated from the volunteer wash-up and serving work that all were eager to be a part of, or the commanding camaraderie that was obvious all around in the batch – everywhere, there was something to reflect upon. In the end we were asked what we took back from this place. Each one of the 209 souls sitting there knew deep in their hearts what was that something. It was something very personal for many of us and I suspect that is why not many people shared it, but the indelible memories that we took away from this trip was a cherry on the cake of warmth and togetherness which all of us got to share. 
                As for me, I discussed with my new room-mates what this unexpected set-up of rooms had done to break the habit – the habit of getting settled down into our comfort zones, of the fact that if you pass a guy one day in the corridor and exchange just a casual ‘hi’, and you do the same for the next two days, then on the fourth day you won’t go out of your way to strike up a conversation. You would feel more comfortable saying just that ‘hi’. So this churning of partners made me get to know this wonderful guy who thinks a lot like me, and who lives in my corridor and was in my section as well. I had not passed more than a ‘hi’ to him up till now. I broke the habit. And God, it felt good! And I am sure each one of us broke our habits in some way or the other.
                The most cathartic session for me was the one on ‘Relationships’ which made a lot of brave souls open up their most personal thoughts to everyone. Like it was said, the power of sharing had a domino effect, and soon everyone was sharing their past and their present, their regrets and their realizations, and the effect it had on everyone was astounding! Like Abdul bhai summed it up, “Have you ever seen a guy crying?” I felt most of them shed atleast a tear. And I did my bit :)
                I can proudly say SIBM 2011-13 batch has a healthy mix of very talented people who put up a series of impromptu performances, which could any day best a highly planned one. For me, I got a book signed by Gandhiji’s grandson, who wished me well, and I could not have asked for more. But everything said and done, Bhale Sir stole the limelight. His ‘fun’ side was exposed to us, the chances of which happening in campus were close to zilch. I hope his ‘fun’ performance rubs off on his no-nonsense attitude which he carries around in campus. 
                And for now, back to the life in a b-school. Or shall I say, welcome to the life in a b-school?

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Hong Kong Files: On Racism

It definitely took us by surprise but we did experience our fair share of racism. Why I call it fair, you would soon know. But for now I will enlighten you on where, how, when. We had to live through it mostly while using the metro, or the MTR as they called it there. On the platform, when there would be multiple queues of people waiting to board an oncoming train, the queue in which we were present would be conspicuously empty. If my friend and I were standing at the beginning of a queue, even though the other queues would be teeming with people, we would be the only ones in our queue. And it happened more than once. 

Also, if we were fortunate enough to get seats on the metro when it happened to be relatively empty, the seats close to us were the last ones to be occupied. Many times people would prefer to stand than sit next to us. It was very obvious and not some flight of our fancy. You would say that I am exaggerating. The Chinese people have to reason to act like that. But then if racism were governed by logic and reason, it would not be so pervasive, so omni-present. And they do have enough reason to act like that after all, what with the Indians there staring like crazy, and jumping lines, pushing and shoving intentionally; well what one reaps is what one sows. It’s not like we Indians are very courteous to the Chinese populace in India. Or for that matter to any person who is not a citizen of India. Or from our other neighbouring country. Or a south Indian in north India. Or a north Indian in south India. Look around and it’s present everywhere. It’s an inherent part of humanity. And that’s the sad part.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Hong Kong Files: On Civic Sense

We Indians pride ourselves in being a product of a rich historical and cultural heritage. I’m not sure if that is the reason but there is also a pervasive holier-than-thou, sanctimonious haughtiness about us that sets us apart from others. It is this sense of being better than others that, I fear, could be India’s nemesis. 

I recently spent a week in Hong Kong, which not only conditioned me therapeutically, but, to my surprise, also introduced me to a perspective which is very hard to grasp, being in my motherland. For example, the cars all drove at a very high speed. No, it was not the smooth-as-butter roads, nor was it the super-fast super-costly sedans, though one can’t deny their presence. We were travelling by a taxi on that day for the first time when we saw a huge double-decker bus approaching at around 70kmph (which also happened to be the speed of our taxi) on the road that merged with our road, but the lane in which the bus was travelling happened to be the one right next to ours. It is a normal reflex for us to slow down at such a junction. But to our utter surprise, the driver of the taxi drove confidently, without so much as turning his head ever so slightly, and merged in the bigger road with the huge bus right next to our taxi. It was then that we realized that here everyone did the same, no one slowed down at junctions; in fact no one had to slow down, because it was assumed that the other person won’t attempt to change the lane and would keep cruising, undisturbed, unconcerned, disciplined, in their own respective lane. It was this sense of faith in the other, this sense of civic sense which made me wonder how different this is from India where everyone is in a rush to reach somewhere; where on highways, overtaking from right, left or centre – everything goes. 

A similar experience we had at all the queues we waited in – there was no intention of anyone of jumping the line, and everyone waited for their turn, be it at ticket counters, smaller lifts, metro (MTR) stations or the queues for immigration at the Hong Kong airport. Every officer was unruffled and there did not seem to be any sense of urgency, neither among the officers, nor among the people in the queue, and at the same time no dilly-dallying was perceptible either. The work moved on efficiently. We noticed a stark contrast to this as soon as we set foot at the Indira Gandhi International Airport at New Delhi. At the immigration queue, a female with a kid in tow – more like in fetters, the way the poor kid was being dominated – was right behind me. There were fewer queues, their places determined by the security demarcations, indicating where to go, and greater number of counters. Thus inevitably, each line forked into more number of lines as it approached the counters. On seeing that the “other line”, actually one formed out of the one we were in, seemed shorter, the female right behind us “reminded” us that we were, and had always been, a part of that other shorter line, and that we should move ahead to stand behind those couple of people in front, bypassing at least 4 to 5 people who were legitimately ahead of us. I politely informed her that the seemingly small line was a product of our line itself and that it would be wrong to leapfrog so many people ahead of us. After a mere 8-10 seconds of deep thought, se came up with – “Excuse me, if u don’t want to join that line, let us do so”, and she and her kid passed us by and, to their relief, found themselves only third from the counter. Not to mention that later the same female lost her boarding pass and made me and my friend the last ones to get cleared off from immigration despite the fact that we had initially chosen the smallest queue that there was. So much for saving time! And also a crude reminder that we were back!

There should not be anything debasing in admitting that we, as a people, lack the basic civic sense that governs a society and makes it function efficiently. Although, trying one’s hand at “foreign things” like not honking and still trying to make people not walk in the middle of the road in front of your car, trying to maintain your place at an imaginary queue at the cricket match ticket counters or even stadiums just before a match, or playing the role of a good citizen when in such similar situations, could be demoralizing or even suicidal if one is alone in the endeavour. I do not know how this change could be engendered on such a large scale, but one thing I know – if we do not inculcate this sense of being sociable and mannered in all our routines, we will always remain far behind the “foreign” nations.