Mind

Millenarianism

the political establishes its credo well

so does the economic and the cultural

 

reprehensible personalities ruling and set to rule

going Greek and not Dutch and a new film star each day

 

is the social set for a revamp?

one would never know

 

atleast the religious says so!

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Sleepy Men

10:15 p.m.

Inner Ring Road aka Mahatma Gandhi Marg in Delhi.

The stretch of this road from Rajghat to the Maharana Pratap Interstate Bus Terminus.

The broad, impressive expanse of this road is interrupted by the narrow divider where Alistonia has just begun to welcome the autumn with its fragrant flowers.

Lie untroubled and asleep on this divider scores of men. Feet of this one touching the head of the one below. As seen from the window screen of a moving car, this chain appears never-ending. Ah Woe Betide! The bronze spoon I was born with in my mouth! The riches, the ‘society’ and the obligations I have to take care of. Thanks to these aspects of the worthless life I have come to lead, I can’t get to spend this night here like any of these souls have to. A poignant morose sounding blog post about this sight should be great!

Millions of vehicles from both sides of the road traverse the scripts of hundreds of those dreams. Fairies come close, kiss and get crushed under the screeching wheels of the speeding cars before their palms get to fondle any further. Damsels in the other dreams get picked up by the cyclists and the autos before they uncork that wine and offer to the parched lips. At home, a wife in a yellow saari with a story and a child with an embrace wait. The words of that tale are not audible in the first go and the arms are at such a distance- the noise and the bright lamp posts. The city never sleeps!

Some emaciated, some hungry, some newcomers, some old timers.  A few sit huddled together and smoke. Once in a while this philosopher breaks this chain as he stares at the stars and wonders if it would rain tonight. Nine out of a hundred awake and calculating the hours of the night that remain. As night falls, the vehicles would be less frequent. At around two, they would almost disappear and allow for some sleep that will be a mix of relief interspersed with annoying aphids, lice and arachnids of all kinds. Thinking of food, this one weeps. His top down neighbor might get a good job in the morning. He is thinking of tomorrow’s evening already.

Some lie adjacent in pairs and share the sheet. Must be from the same place ‘back there’. Talking about the quarrel with their common childhood friend over the two thousand rupees that he did not return, their eyelids have just gone too heavy. They just mutter to themselves- Bahinchod!

Of an alley where the grand old man lies cremated on the bank of the Yamuna. The big brave King’s name shining on the main building of the Bus Station. In the midst of this greatness rests a banality- one that I have not ever lived. I should be wisely wishing for anything here- what if a segment of that wish were to come true! ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ is another axiom I have to sleep thinking about tonight!

In the dead of the night, one would tell me tomorrow, came to him the spirit of the Mahatma pillion riding on Maharana‘s horse and wept inconsolably at the comfort and at the bliss that this divider teems up with as and when the stars appear brighter and shinier! On the parallel, outer ring road aka K B Hedgewar Marg must be dozing off another set of nationalists and nation builders!

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Showcasing My Friends-4

(For the fourth post in this series, for which I have interviewed people I am close to, I emailed Vishwanath Ji a set of questions. His responses have been reproduced here. I hope that you would like the idea and enjoy the conversation. The series is to be continued with other friends as and when possible. Sincere thanks to all readers who commented on and appreciated the earlier posts).

My friend with us for today’s post is someone very special. Mr. Vishwanath Gopalakrishna is one of those very nice people whom interestingly, I have known for a very few months. Being acquainted with him is for me a clear evidence of the rich meaningfulness that online interactions can be a source of. I have read a number of his extremely pleasant writings on a whole range of issues- short, amazing memoirs, reflections on the changing social institutions such as marriage and still interestingly his lovely, insightful comments and suggestions on a number of blogs and other online fora which he regularly reads and contributes to. A Civil Engineer by profession, I see in him a flair for continuously exploring and attempting to make sense of the ever-changing world. Vishwanath Ji’s articulations on some of the issues I just mentioned are instances of brevity meeting wisdom and wit. For the short duration that I have known him, he has already become a source of warmth and inspiration. In this extremely enjoyable interview he talks about various aspects of life and its changing course. I hope my association with him becomes an everlasting one and that this exchange of ideas and information continues unabated.

Vishwanath Ji currently lives in Bangalore where his engagements with technology, life and society continue to flourish.

———

Personal Concerns – Thank you Vishwanath Ji for agreeing to respond. To start with, I would like to ask you something about your days as an Engineering student at Roorkee. What was it like in those days to be a student of Engineering?

Vishwanath JiRoorkee (1972 to 1974) evokes pleasant memories. I had just obtained a BE(Hons) degree in Civil Engineering from BITS (Pilani) in 1972. But the best institute for Civil engineering and all its branches was Roorkee University at that time. I badly wanted the Roorkee “Chaap” on my degree.

Roorkee was the oldest Engineering college and it was the post-independence successor to the legendary Thomson College of Civil Engineering set up by the British more than 150 years ago. Most of the well-known Civil engineers of the country had studied at Roorkee and I remember that most of the text books on Civil Engineering were written by Professors from Roorkee.

The Civil engineering department of University of Roorkee  was the biggest in the country with over 70 teaching staff, nearly all of them PhD’s in Engineering and offering the widest options to civil engineering graduates to specialize. Getting into the Structures section was the toughest of all and they selected only 10 from the hundreds of students from all over the country who applied. I got through and have never regretted my decision to postpone entering the job market by two  years in order to specialize and get a Masters degree in Structural engineering from the University of Roorkee. It is now called IIT Roorkee.

Roorkee had a special attraction for Civil engineers. The place housed not just the University of Roorkee with its internationally famed Civil Engineering Department but also several prestigious Civil engineering institutions like the Central Building Research Institute, The Structural Engineering Research Center, The School of Research and Training in Earthquake Engineering, the Water Resources Development and Training Centre and the Irrigation Research Institute. All these were located in adjacent campuses. Not for nothing was Roorkee called the Mecca for Civil Engineers.

The one regret I have was that the PG scholarship offered by the UGC was just Rs 250/- those days and it had remained at that figure for several years before I enrolled there.  Several batches of students had been agitating and representing to the Govt of India for enhancing the scholarship to prevent hardship to the students. We were the last batch who were given this paltry sum. The next batch, after I passed out got Rs 400/- per month.

PC – You belong to the very first set of citizens of the country who turned netizens. How has the online world changed in these years?

Vishwanath JiOh! It is unrecognisable! We have all heard of the Industrial revolution which changed the lives of millions of people initially in Europe and later all over the world. That revolution is nothing compared to the second Computer/Software/Internet/Communication revolution that I am fortunate to be part of. I still don’t know whether today we are still at the beginning of the revolution and have yet to see most of it or if we are somewhere in the middle or if we have come close to exhausting the possibilities.  For the generation or two that preceded mine, electricity, the automobile,  printing press, aeroplanes  and radio represented the wonders of modern technology. I grew up without being amazed or impressed by any of it.During my childhood long distance telephony,  supersonic aircraft, black and white movies (35 mm), and the gramophone and tape recorder, typewriters, telegrams and later telexes and modern nuclear weapons and missiles, and the amazing advances in health care, vaccination, birth control, antibiotics and the elimination of small pox and polio etc  and modern methods of  methods of surgery like the first heart transplant represented advanced technology.

In my youth technology was represented by feats like space travel, orbiting and landing on the moon, and military advances and modern weapons like missiles and hydrogen bombs, and neutron bombs.

During my early adulthood (age 20 to 30)  TV, VCRs, PCs, even the humble calculator, Photocopying machine, colour photography, 70 mm movies etc were all unknown and they all made an entry one by one and I watched these developments unfolding and experienced the thrills. I later actually experienced the computer revolution starting in India in the late sixties. I learned Fortran programming on the IBM main frame computers in the late sixties at BITS Pilani, moved over to using minicomputers and later graduated to the personal computers in the Nineties. I was part of the internet revolution right from 1998 onwards and have enjoyed and benefited from the amazing progress we have achieved and are still achieving in this area. I never dreamed 15 years ago that mobile telephony will be a reality and become so cheap and widespread. I think more than anything the cell phone is the device of the century and has done the maximum to influence our life in a positive way. I envisage the gradual amalgamation of entertainment, information, communication and computation into one device in the years to come.

PC – To what extent do you think that technological advancement should be taken to be an indicator of human progress and development as these terms are commonly used and understood?

Vishwanath JiI would say the extent could be 50 percent. When I say this I mean technological advancement is not the only reliable and complete indicator of progress. India with practically no technology (as we understand it today) was considered a country where enormous progress and development had been achieved by the heroes like Ashoka, Chandragupta, and later by the emperors who ruled from Delhi. Prior to this we have accounts from the Mahabharata and Ramayana too about the progress made by human beings.

Today, we need technology but it must be balanced with concern for the environment. I would rate those countries as the best to live in where it is not technological advancement but political stability, security, health and general quality of life of the average citizen that is the criterion. I would not rate USA at the top in spite of all its miraculous advancements in space and war technology but would choose countries like Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Netherlands etc.

PC – In case you believe that to be the case, how are south and north India different from each other?

Vishwanath JiThe idea of India as a nation is slowly still sinking in. The North-South Divide is still to be completely bridged. The successful  interchange of food habits  and clothing fashions are not enough. We need to go further. Idli / Dosa and Vada are relished in the North, the North Indian cuisine is a treat for South Indian families. The Salwar Kameez of the north has swept South India and the younger generation in the south prefer it to the petticoat and half saree that our generation wore. I was happy that Kolaveri Di and earlier Hema Malini, Sridevi, Rekha and today Vidya Balan were warmly welcomed and enjoyed in North India and
Hindi Movies and North Indian film stars are welcome in the South.
I love it when the whole country roots for our cricket team. I remember the song from Tezaab – Ek Do Teen taught millions of South Indians in just a minute, how to count in Hindi from 1 to 13 at least, something the Central Hindi Directorate of the Govt of India had failed for decades. We still have some fissures which we have loosely papered over and these need to be cemented. The sixties presented a real danger when on the issue of Hindi, the state of Tamil Nadu was showing tendencies to secede. The North East still feels alienated.  Kashmir is only physically part of the nation. The hearts of the people there are not with us entirely. Naxalism and Terrorism are new dangers threatening us. I think it may take another fifty years before India as a nation becomes a well established idea.

We can live with and perhaps celebrate some differences also. It is fact that the South is in general less aggressive. May be the wars in the North have influenced people’s behavior. The south has not suffered as much from wars as the North  (particularly  Punjab) have. I also believe crime in the South is less than crime in the North both in severity and number of incidences.

I don’t believe some myths that the south  (and Bengal) is more “intellectual” and that hospitality in the north is warmer. I am willing to believe that  the average North Indian is physically taller, and stronger and some shades fairer  in complexion than the average South Indian. I believe literacy levels are better in the Southern states than in the north.
I have lived both in North, West and South India and feel perfectly at home in all these regions and enjoy the advantages and tolerate the disadvantages of each.

PC – How many languages do you know? Which one is the most special?

Vishwanath JiIn decreasing degrees of proficiency, the languages are English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Gujarati and Malayalam and French.

By birth I belong to a community that has its origins in  Paalakkad District of Kerala near the Tamil Nadu border and as a child I was exposed to a strange lingo that my parents used. It was a mix of Tamil and Malayalam. The sentence structure of the language was grammatically closer to Tamil but Malayalam words were generously used and the spoken accent was totally Malayalee and my parents wrote in the Paalakkad Tamil dialect using the Malayalam script. This was my first exposure to any language, learnt sitting in my mother’s lap.

Later, having been brought up in a Gujarati speaking neighbourhood in Mumbai, I was exposed during my childhood to Bombaiya Hindi,  and Gujarati. The school I went to was an English Medium School run by Catholic Missionaries and I developed a taste for English and it was my favorite subject in school. I did extraordinarily well in English in school and was the favorite of my teachers. I read voraciously in English.

I learned Hindi as a compulsory subject in school but I polished up my Hindi during the five years I spent at Pilani and later two more years at Roorkee and developed a taste for the language courtesy Bollywood film songs. Starting much later, I worked hard at reading and writing Hindi and read voraciously in Hindi to catch up. Starting with pulp fiction of Gulshan Nanda I graduated to more high brow reading of authors like Premchand. My Hindi speaking skills improved due to close interaction with Rajasthani friends at Pilani and later UPite friends in Roorkee.  I can now talk almost like a native Hindi speaker and you won’t be able to detect a south Indian accent in my Hindi. The only dead giveaway is my occasional gender error. This ka and ki of Hindi still sometimes flummoxes me.  But the language I communicate best is English and this is the result of not merely an English medium education in School but the fact that my profession used no language other than English for nearly 37 years.

In addition I can speak colloquial Tamil and a smattering of Gujarati and Malayalam and Kannada and I manage to  communicate with the servants, taxi or auto drivers, and street hawkers in these languages. I can also read and write slowly and haltingly in these languages. I can read hoardings and sign boards in these scripts but would be unwilling to exert myself to read a book or periodical in these languages.

I learned French for four years in School and got good marks in the matriculation exam in 1966 (90 percent) but due to lack of opportunities to use it later, have totally forgotten it. I can now only sprinkle a few popular French words and phrases in my written English and can read simple French.

I admit I have  artificially inflated my list of languages here. To be really honest, the languages I can rightfully claim to know are English and Hindi. English and  Hindi are both special to me. I value English as my ticket to the world beyond India and my proficiency in this language has helped me advance in my profession and also build up an international network.   I value Hindi as it has enabled me to reach out to the largest number of my fellow citizens in this country. I love to read technical literature only in English but I don’t fancy reading about our myths , scriptures, culture and tradition in English and always prefer Hindi. I love reading poems in Hindi and listen only to Hindi Songs, never English. I respect the west for some technically great movies they have produced but I can’t relate to the story in English movies. I ALWAYS prefer watching a good Hindi Movie or Teleserial  to an English Movie or TV serial if I  have the choice.

PC – Do you believe in what is commonly referred to as generation gap? If yes, can or should that be bridged?

Vishwanath JiYes, of course, there is a generation gap and there has always been one and perhaps there will always be. The youth of today will be the elderly tomorrow. The issues may differ from age to age but the gap will always exist.  It is not a bad thing. It is natural. I am quite comfortable with it and I tolerate it and do try to bridge it without sacrificing what I cannot give up and without imposing my views or prejudices on another generation.  I don’t feel comfortable with some of the beliefs, tendencies and practices of the younger generation but I live and let live.

In particular, I do not approve of youngsters tattooing their skins. While I am comfortable with both love marriages and properly arranged marriages I am not comfortable with living together relationships particularly when children are born to such couples. I am not comfortable with sex outside marriage.  I don’t like both men and women smoking and drinking and consuming drugs and I shun night clubs and night life in general. I believe night is the time for sleeping.  I have adjusted to the  fact that the joint family is dying and do not mourn it, though I recall with nostalgia some great moments in my life when we lived as a joint family. I could cite more examples.

PC – Who are your favorite authors and artists ?

Vishwanath JiI am unable to give an honest answer. I can’t single out any one. I can only narrow down the list.I have been heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s thinking and also by Jawaharlal Nehru, but in the last ten years, I have begun questioning some of their policies and beliefs. I have loved reading several authors but cannot pick out any one as my favourite. I have absolutely no knowledge of painting and art. I love classical Music and light semi classical music but have no favourites. I don’t fancy western music, pop music, or rock music. In the field of arts and culture, I am a pakka  Desi and nothing in the western world attracts me. I believe our classical dances and our Yoga are better than anything they have to offer. My choice if I am asked to pick the most  beautiful woman in the world would be a Sari clad  woman from India, never a western lady in their dresses however tall and fair they may be. But I readily admit their overwhelming superiority in sports.

PC – I wanted to know about your favorite films/ books.

Vishwanath JiAgain, I can’t pick just one. I loved the movie Mackenna’s Gold released in the late sixties or early seventies for sheer technical brilliance during those less technologically advanced times. There are too many Hindi/Tamil/Malayalam films that I can list as my favourites and it is impossible for me to decide which was best. My favourite books include the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

PC – Please share with us a song of your choice. I would like to know what makes it stand apart?

Vishwanath JiI admit my failure here also. I can’t name any one. There are just too many and depending on my mood, each one lingers in and torments my mind at various times. An example (just an example) is the Magudi tune played by the late Carnatic Violinist Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan. It was mind-blowing. There are others too that captured my imagination and made my hair stand on end when I listened. I have been enthralled by Bismillah Khan‘s Shehnai, and the Saxophone played by Kadri Gopalnath. I love flautists T R Mahalingam, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ronu Mazumdar, My favourite singer is Lata Mangeshkar for light music and I have too many favourites in Carnatic Vocal music. It would be sacrilegious to compare them. They are all simply great. In Light instrumental Music I have been impressed by flutist Praveen Godkhindi.

PC – Towards the end I want to know about your views on tradition and culture? Will these notions soon be a thing of the past?

Vishwanath Ji – Tradition and culture will never be a thing of the past. Yesterday’ customs and practices are today’s traditions. Today’s customs and practices will become tomorrow’s traditions. What will change is the actual customs and practices that qualify as tradition.

——–

(All comments and suggestions about the format and the presentation of the interview would be deeply appreciated. Friends who wish to be included in this series, please let me know. It would be lovely to have you here on my blog. Cheers!)

Mind

Missed Opportunity

The newly formed Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh holds new promises for the people of the country’s politically most significant state. In Akhilesh Yadav, the state has its youngest Chief Minister who so far has appeared promising. Mulayam Singh Yadav, the grand old man from Indian politics was successful in installing his son on the chair of the chief minister. The real performance of the new man on the job is yet to be evaluated as it has not been more than a month that he took the reigns of the state in his hands. Some actions like asking for a feasibility report about the introduction of metro rail tracks in some of the cities like Lucknow, Kanpur and Varanasi, efficient use of the social media for governance and a few other key decisions in favor of the hitherto marginalized groups sounds like a good early start.

In this post however, I wish to point to the opportunity of a lifetime that the Samajwadi party missed when it overlooked the candidature of the prominent Muslim leader of the state Mr. Azam Khan for the coveted post. It is clear from Mulayam Singh’s decision (which was covered under the garb of the decision taken at the meeting of the MLAs) that he failed in not getting rid of the compulsions of dynastic politics and nepotism- an accusation whose most ancient receiver has been the ruling party of the country-the Indian National Congress.

The current composition of the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly is striking on many grounds. It is for the first time for instance that the assembly has welcomed the largest number of Muslim members. Out of the 63 Muslim MLAs 40 belong to the Samajwadi party alone. 14 Muslims from the Bahujan Samaj Party, three from the Congress, three from the relatively new political player- the Peace Party, two from the Quaumi Ekta Dal (Mukhtar Ansari being one of them) and another independent have made it to the assembly this time. Coming to the case of the Muslim legislators from the SP alone, it is interesting to see that they have flown in to Lucknow from all corners of the state. The previous assembly had 56 Muslim MLAs and the lowest ever number has been 25 in 1993 when the Ram Janbhoomi Mandir agitation was at its peak.A report in one of the national dailies says:

“The results in the 122 constituencies in the state in which Muslims play a crucial to decisive role show that half (61) went to Mulayam Singh Yadav’s party. The Muslim population in these 122 seats ranges from 20% to 50%”.

If politics in India is about effective manipulation of the religious and the caste equations in one’s favor, it is also at times about making the right moves, however melodramatic they might seem to be. A decision taken by Sonia Gandhi to not become the Prime Minister of India after the win of the Congress led United Progressive Alliance in 2004 has already gone down in Indian political history as a memorable and a defining moment. That remarkable decision not only established her as the tallest political leader but also gave a fitting reply to the adversaries who had entered into a phase of delirious clamor about her foreign origin. That to my mind was a political masterstroke that shot so many birds with the same stone. It was also a decision that shaped and continues to shape the future of the Congress in the country.

A very similar opportunity knocked on the doors of Mulayam Singh Yadav after the results of the assembly elections were announced on the 6th of March this year. It took the party about a week to finalize and make a formal announcement about who the next Chief Minister of the state would be. This delay was somewhere a signal of the strength of the candidature of Azam Khan. Hectic efforts at convincing him to accept the post of the Speaker of the assembly were reported. In choosing his son for taking oath as the CM, Mulayam Singh definitely missed an opportunity of winning over the hearts of the Muslim voters residing not just in the state but throughout the nation. It was a decision which if taken would have redefined Indian politics. I can only guess about the possible fears about Akhilesh’s political future which might have forced Mulayam Singh to settle with his name. At the outset, his decision only hints at the central role that dynasty has come to play in Indian politics. I don’t wish to write off Akhilesh’s splendid performance as the star campaigner. This is only to express a sense of bewilderment about the fact that the political acumen of someone as experienced as Mulayam Singh Yadav was not able to make the most of this ripe opportunity.

A respectable leader who is widely hailed as “Maulana Mulayam” would have succeeded in putting a range of Muslim identity politics in the region to a pause and such a decision would have ensured the support of all and sundry for his larger political programmes in the future. In the larger public domain too this ‘sacrifice’ on his part would definitely have sent a very positive signal. The prevailing attitude against nepotism and dynastic politics would certainly have stood addressed.After all democracy is so much about impressions and impression management.

A decision however has already been taken and the state has entered a new phase under the young Chief Minister. I am hopeful that Akhilesh will rise to the challenges that his new position will carry with it. Wishing him all the best!

Mind

Satanic Verses

English: Salman Rushdie at the Vanity Fair par...
Image via Wikipedia

The Jaipur Literature Festival goes on unabated. Neither necessary or unnecessary hullabaloo over the visit of Salman Rushdie the renowned writer and winner of many of awards and honours bestowed to the best in the literary world, to the festival has catapulted the festival to the status of a hot news item for the last few days. A controversy that is now more than a couple of decades old has refused to die out and become a thing of the past. As per my analysis of the developments,  there have emerged the following broad sides with respect to the issue.

Firstly there are the ones who have vehemently opposed the said visit on the grounds that Satanic Verses is blasphemous to the core and a tricky assault on their religious beliefs. Men and women possessive of varying levels of piety and religiosity are party to this camp that has seemingly displayed little  regard for the author’s freedom of artistic expression. The other section of the public consisting of men and women of varying literary calibres (most of whom don’t seem to be reliable proponents of the humanitarianism that they preach and whose accessibility they demand) has equally vehemently defended Rushdie’s right to visit and be a part of the festival. The hollow clamour arising from this camp has centred around some notion of right to artistic expression that according to them should be absolute and un-curtailed. Thirdly there are those not so interested members of the (civil) society who have been ambivalent about the issue. I see myself belonging to this camp. Lastly there are those who haven’t even heard or don’t want to hear about the controversy. Out of these four camps the first two seem to have taken the entire onus of either opposing or defending Rushdie, on their shoulders as a matter which they consider to be nothing less than some ‘holy responsibility’. They have so far acted as the spokespersons of certain constituencies they think exist  to second and vouch for all their views. The entire universe of readers and writers, pious and the secular are being appropriated as devoted constituencies by these camps. Hardly any attempt at the deconstruction of what people belonging to the last two camps have in mind about this issue seems to have been undertaken. The silence of certain people has been somehow automatically understood by the leaders of the first two camps.

A voice that I wish to raise in this post is that ambivalence, confusion or even ignorance with regard to such an issue is a matter worthy of equal consideration and analysis. The fact that a large section of the populace does not even know or care to know what the fuss is all about, is not to be dismissed as irrelevant or of no concern. This segment comprises of the very same citizenry that votes, that decides things as far as the future of the ideals of secular democracy and life in the world remains at stake. People who are literate, erudite and equally responsible in their thoughts and actions form a part of these sections in the same way as the ones whose slogans no more excite me. The attitudes of these segments can well be written off as ignorance and political insensitivity only to yield a grossly overestimated sense of power resulting from their constituencies that the ‘representatives have increasingly come to rely on.

The idiom ‘make hay while the sun shines’ has been taken up quite seriously by those opposing or defending Rushdie. While one  faction has the upcoming elections in various legislative assemblies in mind, for the other pashmina clad section, this controversy is its chance of rising to the occasion, speaking up and showing their secular, liberal genius to the world. They well know that such moments do not recur so often. In these largely successful manoeuvres, social media has helped them tremendously. What the ambivalent and the ignorant receives from these representatives is disdain, pity and a condescending eye that actually the looked down upon has hardly cared to notice. This self celebratory aspect of the entire affair makes me very unsure of my belief in an intellectualism that ideally should help us in making sense of the complexities that characterise the contemporary world and should also gradually arrive at better argumentative positions.

I have no intention of offering a solution to this issue. I only want to focus on what as a section has until now been written off as politically immature and incapable of a kind of nauseating mode of articulation that certain sections of the wise and politically alert citizenry believe to have conquered in both letter and spirit. Such articulation is predominantly put on display in the public domain. (Remember the nods and the movements of the hands of the ‘experts’ on Television shows!). No one knows enough of the private aspects of the street smartness that today surrounds the sensibly lost and confused citizen (like never before). Who actually are these ‘guardians of the faith’? If they come out in the open as a response to such a post and declare themselves as one, I would like to ask them about their personalities and would like to decide those eligibilities based on which they have begun to execute a responsibility which was never granted to them whether on an personal or a communal level. At the root of this grossly mistaken self-burdening is the fantastic manner in which the discipline of politics has of late emerged as the wholesome cause and effect of every phenomenon, reality, event, saying and doing. Even dreams occur to us because we are political beings! What is not political or not worthy of being politicised (almost everything is political though!)  does not and should not exist. At the best the resting, loving, compromising soul is needs to be awakened from the slumber of stupidity and has to be reformed. Else the world is in danger. We shall soon be eaten up by monsters because everyone did not wake up while it was time to do so. Neither did they attest to the reign of the well read, wise avant-garde which was forever willing to raise them in their laps.

Politics (the term used in whatever sense one pleases) seems to have (in all those senses) dominated the intellectual landscape and clouded every alternate possibility after resorting to which any meaningful way out of contentious issues like Satanic Verses might be achieved. I find all political articulations which necessarily base themselves in the belief of coming up with a clear stand   on an issue utterly foolish. Such are the times that voicing an opinion like the one I am trying to do invites its own forms of ridicule and intellectual intimidation. My question to the people in the first two camps then is : “What have your political stands and the  mindless actions based on those stands done to help us in thinking of the issue in a better way?” “The problem that you have raised and sought a solution for- has it been solved?” I know the answers. Would it not be a better option then to seek alterations in the dominant mode that has trained us to continually think of our lives and those of the others in a one-sided way?

A break from politics I think would be one attempt at reconciliation. Most importantly it would offer us an opportunity to invent or discover newer vocabularies that can be depended on for future thought and action and such opportunity has to be immediately seized. Better late than never!

Uncategorized

Showcasing My Friends-2

(For the second post in this series, for which I have been interviewing people I am close to, I emailed Lokesh a set of questions. His responses have been reproduced here. I hope that you would like the idea and enjoy the conversation. The series is to be continued with other friends as and when possible. Sincere thanks to all readers who commented on and appreciated the earlier post). 

Dharaji, a village facing submergence by Omkareshwar Dam project

It was some fourteen years ago that we finished high school. Lakkhu Bhai Pathak – as most of the classmates called him, was everyone’s friend . Often seated on the back benches, I remember him as a quiet and shy but not so shy student lost in thoughts about everything other than what was being immediately taught. His ‘areas’ were quite varied- international affairs, literature, art, cinema and sports! At least that is what I can recall right now. I could be wrong and Lokesh should excuse me for any exaggerations here J

Having finished school, both of us came to Delhi for higher studies. Lokesh studied Political science (he had to!) and then went for a degree in law. In all these years, the occasions on which we met each other can actually now be counted on fingertips. In spite of such an apparent gap in communication, we have remained so much in touch. Looking at the thinker and the artist that Lokesh has evolved into, I have realized the package of talent and creativity he is. His simplicity and the “I am lost in this world” look that he wears all the time impress me the most. A voracious reader, painter and now an equally accomplished photographer (all the photos in the post are his own!) he is someone who continually chooses to defy most conventions. On the occasion of the new year, it is my sincere wish that Lokesh succeeds in all his ‘out of the box’ endeavours and continue to be the amazing individual and friend he has always been.

Lokesh now lives in Bhopal where his projects-actually several of them- continue to take shape.

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Personal Concerns- Thank you Lokesh for agreeing to respond. To begin with, I want to mention to the readers that you recently changed a part of your name. Could you tell us something about this journey- from Lokesh Pathak to Lokesh Malti Prakash?

Lokesh- Adding Malti Prakash required lots of deliberation and overcoming certain hesitations. It required rejecting certain norms and accepting certain others over and above them. To put it straight, what I love most about this journey from Lokesh Pathak  to  Lokesh Malti Prakash is this element of choice and challenge. It’s definitely about standing against caste and patriarchy though it might be symbolic. In a way it is. The fight against caste or patriarchy lies at many levels and that at the levels of symbols (and languages, and names….) is no less important.

It’s also an intimate personal journey of constantly trying to regain myself, to imagine myself in a way I like. Just another milestone of a long journey!

PC- How are you liking Bhopal? How is life over there different from that in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh?

Lokesh- I love to be in Bhopal. Delhi has perfectly imbibed the new culture of the globalised India. It has become monstrous in the process. I know Bhopal is no escape. No place is an escape from this predicament unless it chooses to resist. But still, Bhopal retains something of the charm of its peculiar character.

More than this, my love for being in Bhopal is in a way related to my journey that we talked earlier. It is this particular fact that has made my life different from what it was in Delhi. Personally, Delhi was like a lost decade. In a way it’s like redeeming myself as I could be. It’s not a nostalgic longing for Deoria. It’s more like living and reimagining a lost imagination.

At a rally of Narmada Bachao Andolan in Bhopal

PC-  How do you react to a commonly held belief of our times that the national language- Hindi,  is facing a challenge and therefore is in a state of crisis?

Lokesh- I don’t care about the “national language”. But yes, the language Hindi that belongs to its people more than the nation is facing a challenge. But again it’s not in a crisis because of this challenge. The crisis itself is a challenge. A challenge more to the people than a language. A crisis of a society that is unable to accept anything except English as a language of erudition, status and power. I have nothing against English. I have loved my Shakespeare and Shelley in English. But in India and especially in our Hindi-belt English is not merely a language it is more a power-system. And I am very clear that the Hindi of Bollywood and TV ads won’t change this situation.

PC- In case you feel that to be the case, what was so remarkable about the year that just went by?

Lokesh- Personally, Lokesh Pathak became Lokesh Malti Prakash.

For the world at large, (as) you might have expected. The most remarkable about 2011 was not the crisis of neo-liberal order. That’s a stale story. Capitalism has never been free of crises. What is really remarkable is that we are witnessing the rise of resistance that is increasingly globalising. From the Arab Spring to the Occupy. The resentment is maturing into resistance. I wish in 2012 it turns into rebellion.

PC- Which book have you been reading these days? How are you liking it?

Lokesh- Most recently I started reading Hind Swaraj. I am still reading it and I love my disagreements with this marvellously frank book by Mahatma Gandhi. Though my disagreement over specific prescriptions of Gandhi do not preclude me from agreeing with some general principles I am able to discern from what I have read till now.

There is one thing called civilization, there is another thing called modernity and there is a third thing called capitalism. Privileging Marx over Gandhi I would argue against capitalism retaining modernity and civilisation. At the same time, privileging Gandhi over Marx I would argue industrialism as the means of developing the ‘productive forces’ of human society has long outlived its utility and is now threatening life.

PC- Please tell us something about your favourite artists. Who among them impresses or inspires you the most?

Lokesh-This is a very long list. There are painters, poets, writers, film-makers. To name a few….Chittaprosad, Monet, von Gough, Rivera, Picasso, Cartier Bresson, Yeats, Muktibodh, Mayakovski, Kumar Gandharva….

It’s very difficult to say what impresses or inspires me. It can be the beauty, the aesthetics of expression, the politics of expression, desire, nostalgia, love……

PC- You are passionate about photography. In what ways do you consider the photographic image to be significant?

Lokesh- I love the medium of photography. For me the photographic image is significant just like any other image. There is one peculiarity though, the certain tension in the photographic image between the apparent factual depiction (of what was there at a certain point of time) and the loaded interpretative subjectivity that it can’t avoid.

From the same rally in Bhopal

PC- What are your views regarding the need of the institution of an ombudsman in India and the movement led by Anna Hazare?

Lokesh- The movement led by Anna Hazare has obfuscated the issue of corruption in its thoughtless hyper-nationalism with reactionary right-wing leanings. An institution like ‘ombudsman’ might be suitable for checking corruption in a legal sense. But what if corruption is endemic to the system …. I mean it’s structural and beyond scope of ‘ombudsman’. We have had an activist Supreme Court at a point of time. But it could not save the system. Can the Lokpal do anything if the Parliament passes an act privatising the water resources of this country? At best the Lokpal will ensure that this is done without the need of anyone bribing the MP’s.

Anna’s movement is reactionary also because it has raised this hoopla at a time when the market driven policies of governments are increasingly being challenged and resisted. It’s a good safety valve. If the government is not listening it is not because of any revolutionary potential of the proposed Jan-Lokpal it’s only that they want to save their necks.

PC- What are your plans for this year? 

Lokesh- Read, write and shoot!

PC- One event from school days that you are reminded of- mention it here 🙂

Lokesh-Pandey sir, maths, Mrs. Sakhuja, chemistry, physics, Mrs. Ifat, samosa-wale bhaiyya, our cycle journeys!

From my ancestral village Sajaon

(All comments and suggestions regarding the format and the presentation of the interview would be deeply appreciated. Friends who wish to be included in this series, please let me know. It would be lovely to have you here on my blog. Cheers!)

 


Heart

Red

You paint all those sights which are worthy of being called a feast for the senses of a thrill deprived joy gatherer. Center staged and firmly seated on the throne of the universe, you rule all romance and reason. The whites, the blues, the greens and the blacks connive and plot and fume and never succeed. King you were and that will you be.

Characterizing all epiphany, love and contempt, joy and energy, your chariot keeps passing through the minds and hearts of the fragile and the wicked. Trails left on the damaged tissues blacken only later. The way angry faces succumb to your domination and the way joyful veins willingly carry you to the limbs of the two-year old…wow! What of flora and fauna should I say? You have been a miser with flowers, birds and beasts. Red marigolds, red cranes and red peacocks would have been wonderful. Do think about it. The mischief of blue worked and it got the skies. Nothing to worry about. No one looks at the sky anymore. The greenery that once challenged your rule is now only a matter of the dining table and the white and black remain restricted to the wise and the refined. Do not rob these little ones further of their hard-earned misfortunes. Your influence remains as pervasive as ever.

Be wary of your kin though. The maroons and the pinks for instance! Keep such contamination in check. They have been for sometime now standing up in your name and representing you. You are at your best only in a state of purity. The state when the eyes can no more look at you, the mind can no more think of you and the heart can no more pump of you. You have been seen, thought and pumped only because you allowed for a mingling with the dark and the dull. Keep them at bay. It will be a boon for men if not the others who are no more intense. Your contamination has made them so. Make a note that the dull and the dark are beginning to achieve the status of a celebrity.

One more thing. You are being misrepresented in the world. Try painting all flags red. Those who have done so already seem to present you to me in a very nauseating way. Get up and take the world by storm once more. Fill it with beauty, joy, pleasure and bloodshed. Leave nothing untouched. I will rejoice. Hail to thee!