Scribble

Stories & storytellers I grew up with

The first & undoubtedly the best storyteller I’ve known is my mother.

Her tales of her parents, herself, her husband & her kids is how I’ve come to define my world. Since childhood I’ve seeked escape from boredom & homework in her stories. I’ve heard the story of how her father(my Nanaji) had to choose between getting married as a teenager or his father’s(my mother’s Dadaji) second marraige and how he chose the later option for a chance at walking 40 kms daily to study. I know how her mother(my Nani) was raised by her mother(my mother’s Nani) because her father (my mother’s Nana)- an affluent moneylender was killed by the same people he had lended money to on a remote road in the jungle while he was on his horse. My mother’s nani had cooked sevaiyan that day & that’s why they never cooked sevaiyain at my Nani‘s place anymore. I avoid an argument on the logic here because firstly, I don’t think any logical argument will be crushed down by the strong emotions in this case, & secondly because I’ve always had this aversion to sweet milky flavor.

However, when I needed a stronger dose of escapism, I used to steer her into talking about her own life, her childhood & her youth. How she grew up in this huge house where they had cows, a private kitchen garden on a hillock situated on the outskirts of the village where the villagers used to gift them extra produce, milk products. How they had a servant who used to give amazing head massages when he used to be high on bhaang. She tells me of the time when her family finally moved to Udaipur. How she used to go for ice-cream & movie every week on Wednesdays with her 2 best friends during college, because Wednesdays meant no uniform. How she took a bus to Bicchiwada- her Dadaji’s village & also her destination wedding venue- from Udaipur, straight from her last graduation exam. How mischievous kids from the village had sprinkled khujli powder on the reception chairs because they were awestruck by the chairs & the wedding overall.

She becomes happier when she tells me about the adventure, that living with my father in an altogether new city was. To this day & date, her willingness to agree to that without having a common past or passionate love; is something that I’ve not been able to understand. But the way she tells her story has made me open to the idea & the possibility. The way her story intersects with Daddy’s story is something which makes me believe in the randomness of story plots to keep on unearthing interesting developments. It’s a story  which made ‘me’ possible after all. It’s a story which neither of them ever tire of retelling on anniversaries- marriage, engagement & the first time they met each other.

It’s amazing listening to both of their versions of meeting each other & the seemingly old-school romantic courtship that they had. I’ve spent many conversations deciphering what made them say yes to each other, each time being more convinced that- you can only connect the dots looking back.

My mother’s stories about my early childhood are so detailed that I no longer know what my first memory is. Because even the incidents that she has narrated & re-narrated seem clear as a memory. I could tell you of the time I was born & how my Nani & Nani‘s sister were worried that the doctors would change me with some other kid because they thought I was so cute! When I was 2 years old, I was standing near a door & it banged shut on my finger. My mama(mother’s brother) , to take my mind off the injury told me that I’ll have to search for the chopped part so that the doctor could sew it back. To this day I don’t know whether it is an actual memory of mine or is it reconstructed memory from the subsequent stories.

If my mother’s story is how I identify myself, people & other things, my father’s stories are how I know him and also the fact that our experiences, how we look at them, or how we tell those stories- is what defines us.

From his stories of mornings spent diving in the village pond, I know that he was not always this cautious. His responsibilities have made him that. From his school & college stories, I know that he has never been the one with a huge friend circle, but almost everyone who he’s crossed paths with, has fond memories of him. I also know that this is something he’s proud of. From his first experience of coming to Ahmedabad for schooling from his village, being awestruck by the vastness of the city & then renting a bicycle to explore the city on weekends I know that he’s a happily unsatisfied explorer. I know that he’ll always be so.

I know that he’s a dreamer & works patiently to achieve them because he’s told me about the time he first heard the almost silent engine of the Hero Honda CD100 & how he told his friend that this is the bike he was going to buy. I remember my mummy telling me that she has only seen him ‘almost dance’ on very few occasions- when I was born, when my sisters were born & when he bought that bike. I remember him telling me about the first time he went to a readymade garment shop in the city. How he promised himself that once he started earning, he’d buy a new shirt for himself every month. I had a similar plan too myself, but the difference is that he tells the story while laughing off his naivety whereas I as initial signs of failure.

Within these stories I’ve tried to find similarities between the 2 of them & have only found I- honesty. No matter how a story would make themselves look, or their loved ones look; the stories have been true. And here is probably where one of my most fundamental inner conflict & guilt stems from.

Personally, what fascinates me about stories is how they make the listener feel. How the reactions can be manipulated by slight changes to the story. I for one do not believe in honest storytelling, but in being inspired by reality to create a sellable & a memorable version of it. I am gradually coming to terms with the fact that just like them I also love telling stories, but unlike them accepting my dishonesty is all the honesty I’ve got to offer.

 

 

 

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Book Reviews

Book Review: English August

English, August: An Indian StoryEnglish, August: An Indian Story by Upamanyu Chatterjee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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“The mind is restless, Krishna, impetuous, self-willed, hard to train: to master the mind seems as difficult as to master the mighty winds.”

“The mind is indeed restless, Arjuna: it is indeed hard to train. But by constant practice & freedom from passions the mind in truth can be trained.”

As far as I remember, the first time I heard about English August was in some article about the birth of the indie-cinema in India. 4-5 years back I read a book titled Keep off the Grass by Karan Bajaj. The author talked about Agastya fondly quite a few times in a way which made me want to read the book. And after reading Weight Loss by the same author I grew more curious.

English August tells the story of 24 year old Agastya Sen, August to his friends; who belongs to an affluent family living in urban India who passes the IAS examination is posted to a remote town called Madna for his 1 year traning period.

The novel starts with Agastya sharing a joint with Dhrubo while driving around in Delhi, when Dhrubo predicts he’s going to be hazaar fucked in Madna. From there the story moves to the town of Madna,a town full of paradoxes like every Indian town, a town where Agastya neither speaks nor understands  the main language, a place where he’s an outsider.

Upamanyu Chatterjee brilliantly writes about the feeling when you go to sleep knowing that you have nothing to look forward to apart from going to sleep the next night at the same time & on & on. What you do in between doesn’t matter much, whether it’s getting stoned while listening to Jazz, jerking off, going running or reading Bhagavad Gita or Marcus Aurelius.

Despite the fact that it is a story about the indifference to the mundanity of a life yet it is brilliantly funny. One particular incident which I found hilarious was the time where Agastya & Bhatia are drinking whiskey & Bhatia stops & simply stares at the glass.

“Do you feel like a writer of ghazals over his empty glass?”, Agastya asks him. Bhatia replies “I think there is something at the bottom of the glass. I think it is rat shit.”

Another incident which had me in splits after reading was Agastya’s introduction with his future colleagues.

‘How old are you, sir?’

‘Twenty-eight.’Agastya was twenty-four, but he was in a lying mood. He also disliked their faces.

‘Are you married, sir?’ Again that demand that he classify himself. Ahmed leaned forward for each question, neck tensed and head angled with politeness.

‘Yes.’ He wondered for a second whether he should add ‘twice’.

‘And your Mrs, sir?’ Agarwal’s voice dropped at ‘Mrs’; in all those months all references to wives were in hushed, almost embarrassed, tones. Agastya never knew why, perhaps because to have a wife meant that one was fucking, which was a dirty thing.

‘She’s in England. She’s English, anyway, but she’s gone there for a cancer operation. She has cancer of the breast.’ He had an almost uncontrollable impulse to spread out his fingers to show the size of the tumour and then the size of the breast, but he decided to save that for later. Later in his training he told the District Inspector of Land Records that his wife was a Norwegian Muslim.

In the book Agastya remembers an essay which he had written on the subject of ‘My ambition in life’ while he was in school,

“In his essay, Agastya had said that his real ambition was to be a domesticated male stray dog because they lived the best life. They were assured of food, and because they were stray they didn’t have to guard a house or beg or shake paws or fetch trifles or be clean or anything similarly meaningless to earn their food. They were servile and sycophantic when hungry; once fed, and before sleep, they wagged their tails perfunctorily whenever their hosts pass, as an investment for future meals. A stray dog was free, he slept a lot, barked unexpectedly and only when he wanted to, and got a lot of sex.”

The story gradually moves forward with the character reluctantly interested in the concepts of renunciation, in Hinduism  in Bhagavad Gita & Marcus Aurelius. It becomes a tale of Agastya’s ‘secret life’, as he calls it, which comprises of contemplating whether or not to smoke a joint in the morning, then whether to smoke one more; of impulsive decisions to stop masturbating, then mechanically masturbating anyway, of walking around the town in the evenings, hoping that you don’t run into somebody so that it would save him the effort of making small talk, but also visiting people, to squeeze dinner invitations from them because that’s the only hope of surviving; ; of insomnia, & consequently staring at the ceiling, exercising at 2 in the morning.

The story is not one about  the protagonist realizing his true calling or a coming of age story of a character finally understanding his purpose in life. Instead it’s the opposite. It’s a story of coming to terms with the lack of a purpose. The lines that could even come close to summing up the book are

I don’t want challenges or responsibility or anything, all I want is to be happy.I don’t want the heaven, or any of the other ephemerals, the power or the glory, I just want this, this moment, this sunlight, the car in the garage, that Music System in my room, these gross material things, I could make these last forever.

“I want to sit in the mild sun& try & escape the iniquity of the restlessness of the mind. Doesn’t anyone understand the absence of ambition, or the simplicity of it?”

All the characters in the story are intelligently created. And I felt that every character was necessary.

For the first few pages I was a little surprised because this happened to be one those rare books where my thoughts happened to be identical at times to that of the author. But I didn’t feel any camaraderie with the author. Instead, my thoughts were again similar to the ones Agastya has when he finds that Bhatia has somewhat similar ways of tackling with boredom in Madna. Bhatia shattered the illusion of any misconceptions of grandeur I had after my many pointless musings.

Bhatia, the college acquaintance is brilliantly used to show Agastya’s analysis of his own secret life. He realizes how ridiculous his ‘secret life’ is. He also understands that the major consolation of the secret life was the possiblity that it was a profound experience; something rare. His last consoling illusions had been that his sense of loneliness was too precious to be shared.But Agastya also realizes that there is no point in sharing any personal thoughts among misfits for the simple reason that- both of them are islands in his own universe, immense only to himself.

Sathe, who’s introduced as the village clown, seems to laugh at everything wholeheartedly surprises as he turns out to be a cartoonist who tries to make political commentary using Bhagavad Gita. After reading some of his dialogues are profoundly funny. Sample the following

“One day, when you turn sensible you’ll stop. You’ll learn the complete unnecessariness of any excess physical exertion. You do it to feel sexy, but sexiness is in the mind. And as an Indian you should live the life of contemplation. Does Kamasutra recommend push-ups ?”

Putlukaku’s character is brilliant. Most of his sarcastic comments on Agastya’s lifestyle are accurate to the last bit. He rightly notes that Agastya’s first instinct to everything around him is to relate it to something western, to something foreign. This statement was true for a part of the generation back then & & is still true 25 years after the book was first published.

But my favorite secondary character remains Shankar, who happens to be Agastya’s neighbour. The singer who sings amazing thumris & smells of whiskey all day long. There’s one dialogue that I will not forget,

“We are men without ambition, and all we want is to be left alone, in peace so that we can try and be happy. So few people will understand this simplicity.”

With great difficulty I am refraining myself from posting the letters from Agastya’s father & especially the one from Renu.

The book has some brilliant lines from the Bhagavad Gita & Marcus Aurelius.

“In the dark night of my soul I feel desolation. In my self-pity I see not the way of righteousness.”

“But many branched & endless are the thoughts of the man who lacks determination.”

The book ends with a beautiful quote by Marcus Aurelius

“Today I got myself out of all my perplexities; or rather, I have got the perplexities out of myself-for they were not without, but within; they lay in my own outlook.”

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Book Reviews

Book Review: The Elephant, the Tiger & the Cellphone


The Elephant, The Tiger, and the Cellphone: India, the Emerging 21st-Century Power

The Elephant, The Tiger, and the Cellphone: India, the Emerging 21st-Century Power by Shashi Tharoor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

The Elephant tiger cellphone.eps

 

The Elephant, the Tiger, and the Cellphone: Reflections on India – The Emerging 21st-Century Power is a collection of 69 essays authored by Shashi Tharoor, which have previously appeared in his own columns in The Hindu, The Indian Express & the Times of India, & in many other publications which include the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the International Herald Tribune, India Today Plus, Time & Global Asia.

The book consists of 6 sections:

1. The Transformation of India

2. Ideas of Indianness

3. India at Work & Play

4. Indians Who Helped My India

5. Experiences of India

6. The A to Z of Being Indian

Most of the Essay topics are wisely chosen in keeping with the ‘Reflections on India’ theme. But the problem is the fact that the average length of each chapter/article is 4-5 pages, which is a desirable length & depth for a magazine article or an op-ed column but not enough for a book which promises to explore what India means to the outside world in the 21st century. That Shashi Tharoor comes across as a knowledgeable, well-informed, intelligent & an insightful man most of the time shouldn’t be a surprise given his diplomatic & politic career & the fact that he remains the youngest ever Under-Secretory General at the UN.

I particularly loved reading ‘Being Bangaloorued’, an essay about the Indian obsession of renaming our cities. The story about the goof-up around the renaming of Madras was fun to read. Here’s an excerpt that I particularly liked.

“In some parts of India it is customary for a bride, upon marriage, to take on a new name- not just a surname, but a first name-chosen by her husband’s family. It’s a signal that her old life is over, & that she now belongs completely to another. This is the kind of thinking that underlies India’s renaming mania. It is if the rulers of Bombay & Madras, men of dubious credentials & modest achievement, wanted to show that they are now the lords and masters of these cities- and to demonstrate the change by conferring a new name upon them. For what these aggressive nativists are doing is to demonstrate that they are now in charge, that the old days are now over. They are asserting their power, the power to decide what a thing will be, the power to name-for if one does not have the ability to create, one must at least claim the right to define.”

I was glad that I came across the articles such as ‘Hinduism and Hindutva: Caste and credo’ & ‘Of Secularisms and Conversions’ because I am glad to know that there is at least one man in the Parliament who agrees that religion/spiritual life should not be mixed with public & absolutletly never with political life. It is also good to know that he calls Babri Mosque demolition & the Gujarat riots of 2002 wrong not because of the reason that another party was responsible allegedly, but because it was-wrong.

Mr. Tharoor also brilliantly uses some anecdotes which show India as it is- a mosaic of many cultures, religions, languages & practices. He compares India’s ‘thali’ to the American ‘melting pot’:

“If America is a melting pot, then to me India is a thali – a selection of sumptuous dishes in different bowls. Each tastes different, and does not necessarily mix with the next, but they belong together on the same plate, and they complement each other in making the meal a satisfying repast.

“No one identity can ever triumph in India; both the country’s chronic plurality and the logic of the electoral market place make this impossible. India is never truer to itself than while celebrating its own diversity.”

In an essay he writes ‘I am normally allergic, both as a reader and as a reviewer, to collections of official speeches.’ Ironic, because that is exactly what the book starts to feel like at times: A collection of Official Speeches. The essays sometimes get emotionless, & starts reading like a collection of statistics to prove India Shining/Not-shining or sometimes highlighting the paradoxical nature of things. Also because it is a collection of articles published in different publications over a period of time, some of the points feel repetitive & irritating at times.
But what bothered me about the most was the fact that in many essays the author gets into South India vs. North India comparisons, which I felt was a little hypocritical when the author himself mentions(boasts) about his cosmopolitan nature of  growing up- in Mumbai Bombay, Kolkata Calcutta & Delhi. On numerous occasions he starts comparing what I think is the stereotypical Kereliate (all South-Indians on some occasions) to a stereotypical North-Indian. If this could’ve been once or twice, it could’ve been passed as a sign or affection & thereby a possesiveness for one’s roots. But as I mentioned earlier, many points are repetitive, & so it creates an impression that the author is trying very hard to prove the superiority of Dravidian over the Rest.

Overall, the book makes for a okay-ish read, but isn’t as interesting as you’d expect after looking at the brilliant cover page. It becomes monotonous at times. I thought the book was a little over-hyped. Now I am trying to get my hands on one of Shashi Tharoor’s novels before I say something about him as an author.

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Eclectic

Proud to be an Indian??

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Every time I read an update “This time I will not celebrate Republic Day” it leaves me confused.

Apart from uploading an Indian flag as your Profile picture & posting a “Happy Republic Day” update how did you celebrate the last republic day? Won’t you do that this year? Will you stop sending me messages explaining why you are proud to be an Indian or how proud you are of the constitution of the world’s largest democracy?

The same constitution which has no laws against “Marital Rape”. But until a few years back considered homosexuality criminal. Are you proud of your lawmakers who were quick enough to question the abortion laws in Ireland because they were done perfecting the Indian laws? Or proud of the representatives who cried foul against the Norwegian child services because we all know how safe kids in India are. Or maybe who asked for an official apology from Jay Leno,a talk show host about a Golden temple joke but were okay with a representative,who also happens to be the president’s son calling women protesters at India Gate “Dented & painted-discotheque going women”. Are you proud of the medical infrastructure which has excellent facilities to take patients out of the countries, as soon as things get serious? Are you proud of your law enforcers who so efficiently used tear gas shells & water cannons against such dangerous elements out to disrupt the nap-time of the good old folks at Rajpath?

O Proud citizen, as I ask these questions one thing becomes clear, between you & I; one of us is STUPID.

“Sare Jahan se accha Hindustan humara” ??

Eclectic

TO VOTE, OR NOT TO VOTE; THAT IS THE QUESTION.

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It has begun. The Consiglieres have formed their strategies & discussed it with their respective Underbosses. The underbosses have woken the bosses and sought their blessings. The Capo régimes have been updated with their new areas; who in turn have issued their commands to the soldiers under them. Yes. It has begun.

But I am not talking about the Italian Mafia.

Let me rephrase that. Strategies have been formed. High commands have nodded its approval. State High Commands have been informed. Candidates have been decided. Constituencies have been allocated to them. Party workers have been briefed.
See the Italian connection?

A survey shows that over the last one month; 1 out of 3 news article/segment in both print & TV has been about the Gujarat Assembly election. Oh come on. It’s election time. Not a time to cross check the numbers.

Now, Elections are a time to ask questions. Many questions are being raised. Most commonly asked for this one are:

If BJP wins by a majority (as some polls have predicted) will this just be a prologue for Modi’s Delhi dreams? Will he stop tweeting those Vivekananda quotes? Seriously Man, can somebody please tell him to tweet the Wikiquote link once and relax. And how Can I forget will he build the Ayodhya Mandir in Maninagar?

Or if Congress comes into power (as some other polls have predicted) will all students really get free laptops? Or did they say Aakash Tablets? More importantly will the people of Gujarat really get Potato chips at 3 Rupees/kg? And most importantly what kind of subsidy is Rahul Baba getting on his potatoes that he’s paying only 3 rupees for a kilo? Rs 3/kg:Rahul Gandhi lands in a Potato Soup

Or if GPP; Guajarat Parivartan Party wins (as Keshubhai himself has predicted) will…oh wait. What is GPP promising? Is Keshubhai Patel the oldest man alive in India?

But in my view the important ones that we should be asking are:

  • Will Vitthal Radadia’s neo Election Campaigning actually work? Poll result to prove if gun toting will fetch votes: Vitthal Radadia
  • Who is Congress’s C.M. candidate?
  • Except for Narendra Modi, Who else is there in BJP?
  • Who is Shweta Bhatt?
  • Why is Gujarat a dry state?And the most important…
    Why should I vote?

    I see you are shocked. But India is a democracy. No seriously. And apparently one of the biggest advantages of a democracy is the power to choose your own representative. If experts are to be believed also the only one.

    Now I am familiar with the theory that my vote is precious & other such jargon.

    But, going to a polling booth is going to feel like going to a party uninvited. (Which contrary to rumors, I don’t do…regularly) Every candidate has promised something or other to the voters. Better roads, water supply, sanitation etc. for some constituencies. More reservations for some “economically & socially backward classes”. Houses in some cases. Laptops for students. But not even a single promise for me.

    Now just like you, I’ve heard fairy tales about how political parties try to bribe voters with food, clothes, cash, and alcohol. But unfortunately nobody has approached me with any such services.

    If you know any concerned parties/people please inform them:
    MY VOTE IS UP FOR SALE.

    Please share this post & I will give you 500 rupees.(It’s the season of promises Baby !)

Eclectic

FREEDOM OF SPEECH ?

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

“With all respect, every day, thousands of people die, but still the world moves on. Just due to one politician died a natural death, everyone just goes bonkers. They should know, we are resilient by force, not by choice. When was the last time did anyone showed some respect or even a two-minute silence for Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Azad, Sukhdev or any of the people because of whom we are free-living Indians. Respect is earned, given and definitely not forced. Today, Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not due to respect.”

Remember that time you pressed the “Like” button on a Status Update just because you thought that is what it would take for that hot ex-classmate of yours to fall madly in love with you? On Monday the Maharashtra Police made it absolutely clear how seriously it takes the like button & the status update. Two girls were booked under section 295(a) of the IPC for hurting religious sentiments and section 66(a) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 for posting & liking the above mentioned comment. First of all, I must say this. LOL. Are we not talking about the same Bal Thackeray who achieved great political power because of his anti-South Indians, anti-Gujarati, anti-Islamic, anti-UP/Bihar, anti-tolerant, anti-democratic, anti-intelligent political comments & practices? This the same guy who made & published comments such as “Lungi Hatao, Pungi Bajao” against the South-Indians “Ek Bihari,Sau Bimari” & “If a Shiv-Sainik has Done it,I am proud of it” after Babri Masjid demolition; the man who allegedly engineered the communal riots of 92-93. But apparently, a Facebook Status Update is a more serious matter.

A huge outrage followed this incident. Of course, on the Social networking sites. A section felt that the both the girls deserved it & were elated some 100 Shiv-Sainiks ransacked the clinic of one who is the Uncle of Shaheen Dhada, the girl who posted the Status Update. Now this is the same group of people who think burning BEST buses is the only acceptable form of protest in a democracy, & also feel that everyone living & working in Mumbai Bombay must have a permit from “the Godfather” himself.

While many also felt that the girls should have been more “Careful” & instead should have continued Copy-Pasting inspirational quotes. Because let’s face it, that is what social networking exists sites for. That & typing “Happy Birthday” on the Walls of people; who most of the time you’re not even sure whether are alive or dead. And don’t even care.

Some sane people called this anti-democratic, but only after they programmed their respective lawyer’s phone number on the speed-dial.

But coming back to the issue did someone say “religious sentiments”? What? How? Why?

Now any person with a double-digit IQ can understand that the allegations are just plain bullshit. More experienced ones might also throw some light on the brand & the exact number of quarters required in getting such an arrest warrant made, & make the Maharashtra police take action so quickly.

But what bothers me more is that such laws occur in our country; the world’s largest democracy. Now,most of the countries compromise somewhat on the freedom to speech. Almost every country penalizes hate speech. As far as I am aware, US is the only country which takes its freedom of speech bit seriously. In the United States, hate speech is protected as a civil right (aside from usual exceptions to free speech, such as defamation, incitement to riot, and fighting words). Laws prohibiting hate speech are unconstitutional in the United States; the United States federal government and state governments are forbidden by the First Amendment of the Constitution from restricting speech.

But why do we really need these laws? I mean,religious people believe in the concept of God; the almighty, the omnipotent, the omnipresence. Do they think somebody who supposedly created them,the Himalayas, the oceans, the entire mankind, the Sun, the whole Universe cannot deal on his own with a blasphemer? But I think that’s not what they’re worried about at all. I think, most of the religious people think that religion has a referral scheme. The more people you can get to “respect” you God, the more bonus points you get from the big accountant up there.

Now I might seem like a morally bankrupt person, but I also believe in some values, some principles. But I don’t feel the need that those around me should also believe in the same values or even respect them. I still think my beliefs & values are mine. Alas, I am still plugged into the Matrix. I still haven’t woken up to the real world; the world of Men. I am sure; there is something wrong with me because over the years I’ve realized that even if a TV anchor calls a supposedly holy place someone’s summerhouse, a madhouse or even a whorehouse I won’t be much bothered about him apologizing to me & my brethren. I cannot think of any content in a book, movie, TV show, painting, song lyrics, music video, sculpture, CBSE text-book, graffiti or my neighbor’s 5 year Old’s sketchbook that is not related to me & would make me burn effigies of the artist in question (or the artist itself), announce a bounty on his/her head or even ask for a worldwide ban. I won’t buy the tickets for the next Sajid Khan film or the next Stephenie Meyer book, but that’s the extent to which I am capable of taking my “protest” against the content that hurts my “religious beliefs”. There are no upcoming sports events that would make me dig up the ground. And I cannot stress this enough; but there is nothing that you can post on the internet that would make me stone your uncle’s clinic. I might block you if you keep on posting “Like this post or you’ll die a violent death by next Tuesday” but that’s it. Hell, I won’t even block you if you have a pretty profile picture.

Am I still just a boy & not a man?  Are my glands not producing enough testosterone? Will I ever believe in something, be so protective about it that I will start rioting, destroy public & private property & beat up random people on the street for its sake?

But I live in hope.

P.S. : My Uncle doesn’t have a clinic. So don’t waste your time on Google Maps.

Eclectic

Dearest Bapu…

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Dearest Bapu,

Happy birthday!
Today on the occasion of your birth anniversary I would like to thank you for all your teachings which have helped me in facing this cruel life’s dilemmas.

“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?
Then you will find your doubts and yourself melt away.”

Bapu, you truly were an enlightened soul. It is applaud-worthy how you gave a master solution to life’s biggest mysteries. Whenever I find myself on the crossroads & confused as to which path to select I always apply this test & ask myself if the poorest & weakest man I have known (me), will benefit anything from it. Usually though, I seem to be making stupid assumptions & continue to be unhappy & ‘spiritually starving’ but that’s another story.

Around my 18th birthday, just like every other teenager, I was extremely excited at the prospect of being a part of the real world, the world of grown-ups. I was elated about getting a driver’s license, voting ID etc. I knew they would serve the same purpose my goatee served, but were a little more official. A proof of my post-pubescent age. The day I received my voting ID I was very elated about being a part of the world’s largest democracy. But soon, I became a victim of the ailment that commonly affects the middle class-Dissatisfaction. Unsatisfied with the political & the judicial system. Unsatisfied with the existing infrastructure. Unsatisfied with the future I was being promised.(Also sexually, but I managed to convince myself that I was following the path of abstinence that you showed us)

Surely, this wasn’t the India that you had envisaged. So what went wrong? I mean, we had a plan. We had carefully calculated the reservation system. We had mixed religion & politics in the right proportions. We had censored everything which was Un-Indian or was hurting to our religious, patriotic or digestive sensitivities from our media. We had named at least 1 street in every city after your name. We had formed a systematic hierarchy for corruption. We criminalized the sale of sex-toys. We had a bullet-proof plan. We were so determined to create a utopian nation. So how did we reach on the verge of dystopia?

I once again turned to your teachings & decided to incorporate the ‘Non-cooperation movement’ & wash my hands of the whole fucked up system & join my peers in the ‘Quit India’ movement.

While my visa arrives, I make it a point to get into intellectually stimulating political discussions with my friends where we have long debates about the state of the nation. We discuss whether some other form of governance would have been more effective. You see, most of us are much more politically aware than the average citizen, because the ability to talk about such topics is very important to score well in Gd-Pi section of MBA entrance exams. You would be proud to know that I can talk about 5 minutes each on communism, socialism, capitalism, fascism, left wing, right wing types of government. 5 minutes each in support of & opposing it.

A few days ago I was trying to do a Google search for ‘sexy bikini babes’, but as soon as I typed “S” the auto-complete feature gave an option for ‘scams in India’. I was shocked. Scam before Sexy!! This challenged all my conceptions about the internet. But I decided to read on. I saved the web-page as memorizing the amounts could be helpful for some general awareness test in future. One of your most brilliant teachings helped me to be completely unsentimental about the whole discussion of the misuse of the tax-payers’ money.

I have learned to turn the other cheek.
We all have learned to turn the other cheek.

Sincerely,
Pratik.

P.S. Bapu, remember Dandi March ? Where you walked 400 kms for a pinch of salt. You would be happy to know that people from Gujarat travel approximately same distance to Rajasthan border (some prefer Diu & Daman though) for ‘Satyagrah’.
There is salt involved most of the times.