Monday, July 16, 2012

Women in India

Just another day in the busy saga called India.

In a country of a few billion, what are a few negative incidents - no different than the pickles lying next to our dal-rice. After all, its a country where most of the population is still struggling at the base of Maslow's hierarchy.

The government, apart from minting and swindling money, is busy trying to provide food, clothing and shelter to everyone first. The corporates are busy squeezing employee hours and minting money. Every now and then they wake from their slumber, conduct some CSR and go their way. The middle class is busy pretending to try to grow, while most of them tend to stay where they were. The rich are busy finding / discovering / inventing new ways to stay busy.

More or less, everyone is doing what they can do. No one has the time, money, energy or inclination to do more than what they need to.

Who needs to care about a few deaths and a few mistreatment and in-human behaviour?

This is precisely the time when the first thing most of us come up with is, "It's the government's responsibility".  I don't think so. I believe, a country is who its citizens want it to be. The precise state of our country is just a mirror image of who we are, what we have become and more importantly, where we are headed!

So, when incidents like the one in Guwahati happens. We create a furor around it, blabber away for a couple of days and then go back to our coffees and conversations. In fact, in quite a sadistic manner we start looking for the next big scoop of news - old is boring. We need more. Something / someone else to talk about.

And why not?

Guwahati is in a far away, almost forgettable corner of the country. When there are bigger issues like death by Maoists, terrorist, internal conflicts, hunger and nature, hooligans do not seem to feature too high on the list.

I have a bigger concern. It's not a problem at Guwahati alone.

A few days back, I was passing Andheri station (one of the busiest work hour local train junctions in Mumbai). To the uninitiated, the place is maddening. There are people everywhere and constantly moving. Those getting off are rushing towards bridges and exits. Those entering the platforms are rushing to catch their train and grab a seat. Simply put, everyone is just rushing about, especially at peak hours.

And among the crowds that day, while waiting for my own train to make an appearance, I happened to notice something that made me question the perception of safety in Maximum City. As I was watching a woman dressed in traditional Indian wear, office bag on her shoulder, was making her way through the crowds and moving towards one of the bridges. There being too much rush, she chose to walk nearer to the edge of the platform. As my train rolled, I watched as the woman tried to get further away from the train.

She moved a bit too late. Even as she tried blending in the crowd, a hand purposely stretched out and whacked her. I will never forget the look on her face. I would describe it as stunned. A few of those walking around screamed obscenities at the person, which made the woman more conscious. The woman clearly figured the damage was done and as the train rolled over and new crowds mixed in, she simply lowered her head, walked a bit faster and did her best to blend into the crowds unnoticed. The moment when the woman got hit on, infuriated me. I feel ashamed to say I did nothing myself. The rushy life of Mumbai soon sucked up my thoughts and it was a lost incident like many other that catch my attention, till the Guwahati outrage, brought it back.

I have questioned myself. Should I not have rushed to the woman's side? Did that eve teaser not deserve to be publicly dragged and taught a lesson that he or others like him dare not repeat? Why did I not bother? More importantly, why did the woman herself not bother? More thoughts brought out more questions. What could she have really done? It was not the woman's fault - unless you want to call her walking on this platform an error on her part! She was clearly not dressed provocatively. She was out in broad day light. Earning a living, like every human deserves too. Yet she went through what she went through.

I have since then stopped often, stared at the mirror and questioned myself. That girl could have been me. I rush about, do what I got to do, live a life where I can always hold my head up in public. Why would I deserve to hide my face or hang my face in shame because someone else is so blatantly shameless?

Is it really a woman's fault that she is popularly considered as weaker sex? We are way stronger than men in so many more ways. We work longer, harder and still are caring and take care of families. Is it only an Indian-men-mentality? I know I am generalizing right now and I am glad I know loads of good men too. The kind who respect women and would step up to help them, if the need arises, not molest them when they are down on the ground.

This lead to another area of probing. Maybe, its the way we treat those whom we consider below us. I have yet to see someone who misses a chance at oneupmanship over those in a tight situation, even if so momentarily. Those who do (thankfully I do know a few!) are a dying breed.

Are we really such a frustrated lot?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mumbai Rains

The skies are gray. The trees and leaves are clean and ridden of their dusty summer trails whatsoever.

The first anticipation of the rain is our annual invitation to visiting treasure troves of memories collected over years of getting wet in the first rain, dancing on the the terrace with other kids, being towel dried by mom and warned about the perils of getting wet in rain to the beautiful walks in the rain with buddies in our teen years to walking and crying in the rain after your first breakup to leisurely walks in the rain holding hands with the one you love to watching our new born being terrified of the claps of thunder to leading them into their first rains!

I have yet to come across someone who has not floated paper boats in muddy puddles or jumped strategically through puddles enjoying the brown splatter on white uniforms.

If childhood is so strongly linked with the onset and splash of rain, what changes when we grow up?

After the initial euphoria surrounding the first pitter-patter of raindrops, hot spicy bhajiyas, roadside bhuttas and reveling in cutting chais, most Mumbaikars are back to blaming everything from God to BMC and everything in between. The rains are blamed for the high humidity, the trains / buses running late, traffic jams on the road, potholes - and if life has been uncannily kind to you so far, you blame the rains as the lesser privileged have lesser dry space to sleep in.

While I do not trivialize these issues and understand that it is important for the parent with young kid to return home on time and roads being free of car breakers aka potholes and one's need to be comfortable; what I am really hinting at is our attitude towards rain.

There is definitely still ecstasy and aura around it. I have seen people steal glances at the windows with a clear anticipatory question in the eyes... Is it raining outside? I have seen craned necks catching a purgatory glance at the heavy showers outside with a glint in the eye that dies when the eyes return to the computer monitor.

Then why not embrace and enjoy it wholeheartedly? If this is what growing old is all about then I am glad I choose not to grow up. Which makes me think some more.

I have seen the most sane people go totally philosophical just by spending a few minutes by the sea or ocean or any water body? Just as if by sitting upon its shore and pondering it sucks you in and with its gentle warm currents washes the pains and tribulations of everyday life and fills you with a deep sense of fulfilment and understanding instead. No wonder you see people, spending some time by a Marine drive, gazing as the sun goes down and city lights go up and just walk off with an inner sense of zen the coolly reflects on their face.

And yet again, the same does not seem to transcend too far beyond the first few showers. Maybe then it is about growing up from loving the first drops of rain to falling in love with the deep and infinite ocean. Or maybe its something more.

I hold my steaming cuppa by the window with the rain splattering my face and wonder on, "What is it really about the rains?"

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Digital expressions...

The world will never cease to amaze me.

Just when you think you have seen it all, done it all and thus, know it all, it knocks you down once again. You can never say you know it all.

Blame Darwin.

Evolution. Humans through times have evolved from bring primates to sapiens to homo sapiens and now homo sapiens sapiens (This is the last time I looked it up!). Stopping is not our genes. Evolving is. Continually learning, growing, getting better, shedding the useless is us. Faster. Stronger. Better.

Skipping a few connections now, lets talk about the growth user generated content on social networking sites. Most social networking sites work purely based on content that is user generated. Imagine a Facebook or Twitter without any friends or followers. Blank!

So, while doing what I usually do, I came across another trending topic on Twitter. 


On click has suddenly opened up Pandora's box.

To join trending twitter topics with your own thoughts is what lots of us do. And so it happened this time around. Except for what I was reading surprises me no end. Or does it?

When I saw the link trending, the first thought to hit me was to respond with something about a clean green environment for my kids. However, I first decide to read what everyone is talking about. And that is what is now an itch. It will need more scratching.

The responses on the trending topic were far from that. The responses, to me, were a psychological window to our world. To me it really reflected who and what we have become as a society. Most the responses, at best, were a ghastly reflection of their own childhood. And unhappy at that. It should no longer be a surprise that most tweets talked about what exactly they would not put their children through. And the list includes everything from allowing concert tickets to never having to not know who your father is.

The fact is it is natural for us to pay most attention to whatever hurts the most, even though the rest might be still as beautiful and unique. I remember reading the 90-10 rule which says we do 90% of the things to avoid 10% of the pain. And this is what really stood out for me today.

Our society today has so much hurt huddled up inside us that it is unreal to happily bear the pain. We take refuge in social networks where people cannot really see where we can hurt. After all, when you do tweet even on a trending topic, who really notices, but it does get out of you! The more people we know, the faster the timeline shifts. What is one lost tweet among trending topics that seem to change faster than our thoughts?

We need to express, even if no one is listening, even if it does not fix anything. We don't want hurt anymore. Instead of fixing what needs to be fixed, we seek new addresses to be happy. If Facebook bores us, there is a Twitter. When that gets too drab/textual, there is Pinterest and Instagram. If images get boring, there is always YouTube. And so on and so forth.

We are open to express ourselves more freely than our ancestors ever did, yet we seem to be hiding under new layers than imagined. And I bet I am just scratching at the surface here.

Do you agree to disagree?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Bucket List!

Not very long back... maybe like 10-odd years ago, I read somewhere about creating a bucket list.

I don't really remember what triggered it. However, just like an itch that needs to be scratched, soon after, I ventured into creating a bucket list for myself. I have no idea where that list lies today! However, I bet, that does not change much. Think about it, as a person despite of me having changed I am sure most of my bucket list would still remain consistent.

So, today morning I came across an a picture of me a few years back and happily told myself I have changed so much now. Or have I? And the itch came right back!

And I looked up the social mirror and re-discover one such list by me done in 2009. Although the list was meant to be about random things about me, I believe it clearly highlighted what I like to do and what I would love to do in the future with sufficient resources.

But looking at it now, surprises me, disappoints even. Here was a list of things I would love to do. The disappointment was simply because it made me feel so common. Just like everyone else. Finite. Perishable. With a due date.

Years pass us by. We live and love loads of moments. But how many of us really fulfill all our bucket lists before really kicking the bucket?

And that is when lightening stuck me! We love to make plans and think we are the masters of our lives. I will travel the world. I will leap from the highest mountain and dive into the deepest of the ocean bed. I will be a best selling author. I will mother a daughter. I will climb the Everest. How close I am to living any of these at the present moment... barely any! What stops me? 

The everyday realities and emotions of our livelihood.
I travel the journey of life everyday. I take giant leaps of faith. Divulge in love which leads to emotional roller coasters ranging from happiness like being on the top of the world to lonely depressions like being hidden underneath the earth's crust. By forging new friendships and sometimes letting go of some others, write and re-write the story of our enmeshed lives. I allow myself to dream, the highest dream. A new dream every day and every night.

These never feature on any bucket list that I have seen. I live my bucket list. It is pretty never ending. I still want to travel the world & author a bestseller besides other things. It just means that my bucket list will remain never ending. But none will be able to say I did not live up to my bucket list either! 

What do you think?