Who am I?

My photo
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.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Udta Punjab - Welcoming the unapologetic in Bollywood (Spoiler alert)

Today I watched Udta Punjab. I found it to be a bold treatise on the drug mayhem (I would not euphemise it by calling it “scene”) being played out in the plains of Punjab. It has spread its tentacles so deep into the society that almost everyone has a cousin or a nephew (if not a son or a sibling) who has a pathological addiction to drugs, causing widespread familial disruption and economic ruin. The movie thrilled but was not a thriller, it definitely talked about the “high” but did so without glorifying it, and it made me laugh out loud on countless occasions, but was definitely not a comedy. I would describe it as an accurate portrayal of the state of affairs, the convergence of the venal and the immoral that stalks the youth today and has already been imbibed by the society.

It portrays how even a silent spectator is indirectly responsible for the flagrant corruption of life. It unapologetically shows a lead actress stabbing a man on the face repeatedly till the life passed out of him, and you feel a strange tingling of elation. It depicts an addicted boy of not more than 13 overdosing himself, lying in his own vomit, and his elder brother believing that it must be his friends who forced him this one time, “humara Balli to acha ladka hai”. It is unapologetic about a lead actress getting raped repeatedly, and the other being stabbed to death by a junkie in a fit of desperation. It is unapologetic about a lead actor becoming a part of the system by accepting a regular bribe for turning a blind eye towards drugs being transported, unknowingly for the very drug which destroys his own brother’s life, and the other actor basking in his own pool of vanity, arrogance and puke. It is as unapologetic as real life can be, and therein lies the impact. Watch this movie even if you've read this review despite a spoiler alert, as the strength of this piece of art is not in its storyline but in its direction, dialogues and acting. Give the movie makers an honest day's earning and watch it in the theatres rather than the leaked print. If you've ever watched something for its in-your-face brutal honesty, this movie is for you.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The A**hole

I stepped back, looked towards both sides, trying to figure out not which is the smallest queue – as most of the queues had 3-4 people in it – but which is bound to make me reach the counter the fastest. Now there are a lot of factors which are required to be considered for this – i) the amount of stuff people in the queue ahead of you have accumulated in their shopping baskets, as this is directly proportional to the amount of scanning time for that individual, hence increasing the waiting time of that particular queue, ii) the apparent quickness of the guy/girl at the counter – to be judged in not more than 3 seconds, iii) the queues nearer to you are of higher priority as you don’t want to criss-cross between so many queues of people to reach the row at the other end, and moreover, you don’t know how well do that factors i) and ii) above apply to the queues farther away, and iv) other miscellaneous subtle factors like the anxiousness of the people waiting in queue, as it is directly proportional to their desperateness to get the billing done quickly, which may be important.

So as I stepped back, I made a quick judgement about the smallest queue and joined it. That’s when I saw the gigantic guy. He was not very tall, though definitely at 6 feet. He seemed shorter because of his enormous circumference around the waist. He was bulging from every end you can possible call a corner in the human body. If you could pump air into a huge piece of ginger, it would look like him. Though I did not have enough time to analyse all this before I saw what he was buying. There in his basket I saw three jars of Organic India Green Tea! Hello! No way was he going to lose any apparent weight by drinking Green Tea! For heaven’s sake! He needs to stop with all the namkeen packets he had stacked up in his basket, waiting to be billed. He needed to move around a little to lose weight, not have Green Tea! I mean goodness! I almost laughed out loud!

Then with a jolt, I got the answer to the question - What is the easiest thing for us humans to be? It’s being an asshole. I was passing judgement on that person without knowing an ounce of information about him. I was showing a typical conceited attitude that constitutes a typical asshole. And I caught myself in the act. All this happened within 15 seconds, but those 15 seconds shook me back to reality, brought me back to the ground. We do not know what goes on in the lives of others, we don’t know what compromises they have made, how much hard work they have put in, how much adversity they have faced in life. We don’t know jack about anything for that matter, yet we strut around, handing out judgements to people like candy to children on Christmas. To top it all, we have the smugness to be defensive about it if someone else points it out to us. Truth is hard, but so is an asshole. So everyone, I would suggest whenever you find yourself making an opinion about someone, any opinion whether big or small, turn the mirror towards yourself and just see the look on your face while you are at it. It may not shame the piss out of you, but it’ll at least wipe that smirk off your face. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Doorstep

Not so long ago, we used to be little kids. Beyond caring and full of reckless abandon, we used to drift along in life like a little twig in a mighty river. Not thinking twice before blurting out anything on earth, our shenanigans were outmatched only by our unrestrained passion. Then one fine day, we grew up. We started minding what we said, when we said and where we said. We started appearing ‘proper’ in front of guests and on our Facebook walls. What changed? A lot of things, of course. But what is that one primary thing which made us change every aspect of our public behaviour? We started judging each other. Habit of judgement based on first impressions is formed on the basis of the biases and prejudices that are formed over the years through learning (or a lack of learning). We need to undergo a lot of experiences which shape our thinking, which the children inherently lack.

A more apt statement would be that things change when we become aware that others are judging us; that others are watching us intently with an oblique eye, tracing our every move, waiting to pounce upon us with an Ahaaa in their minds, judging and labelling us in an instant, for ever. This singular awareness inherently changes everything we do. From here on, all our actions filter through the thick lens of judgement, are tempered and controlled, lest people call us wild libertines, unpolished and rustic. I would not think it an exaggeration to call this the single biggest switch in human behaviour, the doorstep leading us from childhood to adulthood. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Don't Judge a Person by the First Book He Names

I always find myself in a conundrum when someone asks me my hobbies, because that leads me to mention that I love reading books, and then, since I have proclaimed my ‘love’ for this clich├ęd act of ‘reading books’, an act which many proclaim pretentiously, I have to quickly get down to defending my proclaimed love as pure and honest. This is a situation in which I find myself in a lot of interviews as well, though it’s easier in that case because everything I have to say is already prepared – I know who will I name as my favourite authors, which will be my favourite books, and I will know (because of a quick summary revision the previous night) the motivations of the protagonist to the most subconscious of details.

Coming back to the act of defending my love as pure and honest – whenever the situation is unexpected, I fumble for words. My mind goes blank and I’m not able to remember the book or books I’m reading. It’s usually in the plural – I have a habit of reading more than one book at a time. One will be a fiction, which will mostly be a paperback – literary fiction like Orhan Pamuk, Haruki Murakami, Milan Kundera, etc. or one of the classics; another will be a non-fiction usually being read on my phone during loo breaks – either a historical work – most often about Indian partition, or ancient Indian history, or some biography of a historical figure; or a business management related work – Malcolm Gladwell, Steven Pinker, Dan Ariely, and their ilk; a third category is the one I’ll be reading on my Kindle – mostly authors that are otherwise either inaccessible because of their books not being available in India or those one-time but must-reads which I don’t believe in buying physical books for– these days it’s the A Song of Ice and Fire series – hope you get the idea.

So whenever someone unexpectedly enquires about the book I’m presently reading, my mind goes blank. I used to wonder why it is so every time. Lately I believe I might have grasped the reason. There is a subconscious struggle in my mind whenever I face this question. As I mentioned earlier, invariably I would have been reading 3-4 books at any given time, and when I have to give a name, I face an instant paradox. If I name the lesser known work that I am reading (if I’m reading one), I fear the other person would not have heard of it at all, and the conversation would end right there. Also, the other person may be a casual reader and I would like to make him/her curious about what I read so that he/she can also talk about what he/she is reading. Such a turn off is definitely not the right way to go about it. I could also say the name of the very famous work that I might be reading (e.g. these days I’m reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – an extremely famous work which I should have read years ago but always missed it somehow or the other). Now I always pause before mentioning such a work. Would the other person judge me to be someone whose reading prowess extends only to the most famous of works? No, I do not want that. The breadth of what I read is considerable, and I would want to be recognized as such. So I do not want to say the name of that famous book, even though I might happen to be reading it at a given point of time.

I also don’t want to name a non-fiction book as it can generate strong impressions. For example, I am reading Nehru’s The Discovery of India these days, but the name Nehru these days prompts a political connotation which has nothing to do with this seminal work. I cannot always explain that I am also interested in the works of political commentators like Noam Chomsky, Arun Shourie, Shashi Tharoor and Amartya Sen, and my present political view has been shaped by immersive reading of many others socio-political writers like Sunil Khilnani, Edward Luce, Ramachandra Guha, Gurcharan Das, Louis Fischer, Nelson Mandela, Che Guevara, among others. In such a scenario, it feels cruel to let yourself judged by people based on the first book you name. But such is the way of the world and I must learn to live by it. My suggestion to the world – like you should not judge a book by its cover, you should also not judge a person by the first book he names.