Jan 282017
 

The Imperious Houndess

As she enters her 14th year, the Queen of our home has gotten more imperious, if such a thing is possible. She has got her non verbal communication down to a tee. 14 dog years, is approximately 90 human years, so we have a dog who is very ancient. Barking takes up too much energy. So she conserves her energy, and stares, and stares, and stares, till her gaze sears into your back, and you pay heed.

She has taken to sleeping most of the day. And, most activities make her very tired. At nights, when i get home from work, she gives me the “my paws are aching look”. I sit next to her and massage her legs, and her paws. She licks my hand all over as thanks. I call her my ‘grand mother hound”, she snarls, and all is well.

When we get a dog home, we sign up for a pup. And, part of us believe that the dog will stay the same way for the rest of their lives. But dogs grow up, grow old, grow weary, and fall ill. There was a time when she could jump on to the dining table without any effort. Now she can barely get into the car – even when i move the seat, and let her climb in and sit on the floor.

The one thing that hasn’t changed, is her playfulness. She tries even now to play with us. once a day. Almost like she knows we need it more for our wellbeing, than because she has the energy to play with us. But what starts as a game, ends as a full body massage for her … so it is kind of win win.

There are days, when darkness overwhelms me, and i think of a life when she is gone. I can’t. I know that she will go, sooner rather than later. Intellecutally i have accepted that. But, just the thought of it, gets my eyes to give rise to rivulets of tears. The heart  feels heavy – like it is going to break with the grief, and then from no where she comes to me and bullies me out of the darkness.

This is a picture from a few years ago, shot in Lonavala – her favorite place.

Jan 012017
 

I tend to prioritise the things that i am, and i like to do, towards the end of the to do queue. For a person who rarely procrastinates professionally, or has very little pending work on a daily basis – including responding to mails, i tend to procrastinate a lot in my personal life. There are things that i like to do, and have always liked doing, they take a back seat to more pressing commitments. But, as my father once asked, what can be more important than your commitment to yourself ? And, 19 months after dad passed away, i think i am ready to make that commitment to me.

Things I want to do this year – personal goals.  :

  • Write more regularly. Often, i get satisfied with the idea. I am happy the idea struck me. I debate the idea in my head, pros and  cons. Sometimes, when i understand theoretical underpinnings, i have an academic debate too (in my head). And then i am so satisfied with the whole thing, i don’t bother writing. 2017, i hope to be more disciplined. Atleast, once a week.
  • Photograph : sigh. And develop the stuff i shoot. Be more structured in the story telling part of it.
  • Shoot a documentary — or at least write one. i think if i don’t tell a video story this year, i will possibly explode or something.
  • Learn a skill – i am still figuring this one out. Whether i want to learn to cook a specific style, or learn pottery, … i don’t know. much of it looks exciting.
  • Enrol and finish a coursera or equivalent course – something not in my field. The easiest would be picking media or policy. But, i want to experience the joy of discovering new things, new ideas …
  • Be more social in real life – meet people i like. And, i like a lot of people, i have been avoiding people. social media makes the real world nearer, and one day you realise all of it is maya – nothing beats real life interactions.
  • Go to two new places – in India. One is most likely kancheepuram.
  • Read a book a fortnight … finish the books i start.
  • Attend 6 concerts in the year.
  • Watch more movies.
  • Cut down on social media, re connect with real life.

(life emerges from below the web. )

This is just a personal plan. My professional life will follow it’s path. But, generally given my interests, they end up walking hand in hand – doing things together.

Dec 312016
 

Was there ever a year like this ? Every literary cliche you can think of, can be brought into play year. And yet, as 2016 makes way for 2017, a question remains – will 2017 be better than 2016 ? And there are two answers to that – a) how can it be possibly worse, and b) abhi toh shuruvat hai (it has only just begun).  To say we are in for a rocky ride, is an understatement. There was a twitter joke a few months ago, a few years from now, whenever a quiz question is asked “when did event x take place” the safe answer would be 2016.

Amongst the more popular urban legends is one pertaining to a quote by the ancient Chinese, which was also a curse,  “May you live in Interesting Times“. The only problem is that no one can find a single ancient Chinese reference to this. It is a bit like the stuff my grand mother would tell us, when we were growing up – ‘if you do this, this will happen’. Brought up to be inquisitive – or sceptical – we would ask “how do you know”. she would respond “the elders said so”. I have never been able to figure out if the elders indeed said so, or did she attribute it to the elders. But, there you go.

In a post truth world, it is useful to remind ourselves that all falsehoods didn’t spontaneously come into existence in the last 5-10 years. We have had post truths that have defined worlds. the earth is flat; The King is God; Our Religion is the Best; The Caste System is God’s will; An Angry God will condemn you to eternal damnation; people of colour x are better than people of all other colours; I can go on and on- but, you get the gist. Those in power tell lies to stay in power. Those without power tell it to get into power. I think that most normal people, outside ivory towers and echo chambers, get this basic fact. Leaders lie. These could be outright lies, or these could be being economical with the truth. There is that old joke. How do you tell when a politician lies? his (or her) lips move. In today’s world, with fragmented power bases – add corporate leaders, media stars, top journalists, and every other ‘manufactured’ image to this – and you have a certain fuzziness as far as truth is concerned. If events were always represented from the observer’s point of view (and the observer was always the winner), in today’s era that observer is manifold and can add his or her voice to convincing you that night is day.  Orwell wrote about this in 1984. Way back in 1949, when the book was published, it was an allegory of those times. It really wasn’t that dystopian. It was their current reality. One of the most famous created words, Doublethink originates from this book :

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. doublethink lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary.

And, while the former was considered to be the process that those in power used to create the sense of social coherence, this is how Winston, the main protagonist in 1984, saw it

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word “doublethink” involved the use of doublethink.

 

If we look at the world around us, based on both social chatter and main stream media – you will find that you are living in a rather schizophrenic world. There is a part of it that tell you we live in the worst of times. And, another part of it tells you that this, indeed, is the best of times. Nether data, nor evidence seems to matter. What matters is belief. Their hero approximates to God or Prophet, or a historic hero of mythic proportions;  and all others approximate to the demon, or the enemy. And, conversations tend to follow partisan lines. Very little discourse, and a tremendous amount of validation and re-validation.  It is almost as though the process of dialectic and the evolution of a synthesis is discarded, and we are reversing back to dark ages – where a truth is  prestated and accepted without question. Questioning is seen as blasphemy, and the punishment for blasphemy is death. And, blasphemy was defined as anything you didn’t believe in, and attributed to God. Today, you look at topics as diverse as beef ban (in India) or abortion rights (in the USA); climate change or automation – the middle ground is being squeezed out, and all of us are being asked to take polar sides. This or That ? A or Z? And, while death may not mean the state will shoot you, it means that enough nutcases, frenzied enough in their belief, might. And, we see the most extreme forms of this behaviour from organisations like ISIS. If something doesn’t fit their world view – and given how warped their world view is, most things don’t fit – they destroy it. People, history, institutions, everything. If i spend a lot of my time on the interwebs – and i do – this is the world i see. A world with two opposing sides, battle lines drawn, no conversations, everyone snarls at everyone else, and there is no common ground even in areas there should be.

But, is the real world really this polar? is all of humanity gathered around two poles of opinion, on each topic. Do each of us, in real life, want those who have divergent opinions from us dead or worse? Are we really, as a species, so bereft of decency and niceness ? Does the world depicted by Main stream media, and increasingly by social media, reflect us as a species? are we really that terrible ? Is the dystopian future already upon us ? is there nothing really to look forward to. And, the answer, no matter how politically or cause aligned you maybe, is no – the world is actually a comparatively nice place. People are nice and helpful. Random strangers are kind to people. Families are still the source of support. Friends still catch you when you stumble, and help you up without any expectations. It is still possible to have a healthy exchange of ideas, and even disagree with people without being called names, or threatened with death. Even on social platforms such as twitter that are accused of fermenting hate and fascism, you find decency and niceness.

It isn’t all hunky dory. You find the nutcases too. But, and this is the big question, do you want to focus on the ugliest aspects of human behavior to the exclusion of everything else. If you see the world through a distorted lens, the world is going to look ugly. If you take away all lenses and see it, you will possibly see it for what it is – mostly good, often helpful, mainly decent, with a bit of humour, instinctively helpful. At the worst of times, the decency of ordinary people has shone through. Maybe we all, especially those who are in AC offices and run the media or social media,  need to get out of our comfort zone, and stop having pure social media conversations. The nuances that come through real life conversations, may redress our balance and our world view.

And, on the last day of 2016, ask this question of yourselves – was the year really as bad as it is made out to be, or do you feel it was terrible because everyone else is saying it is terrible?

My year, like all years, was a mix of the great, the good, the nice, the fun, the sad and the tragic. And, as with most years i am grateful to the people in my life, my friends, my family, my colleagues, and my dog(ess) who have been there for me. stood by me. and made me feel loved. There isn’t much else one can say about 2016. If you ask me a few years from now, i will possibly remember it as the year Mohammed Ali died.

 

Nov 282016
 

Sometime last year, I figured one thing about my life. That my brain was going to rust, metaphorically speaking, if I didn’t do things apart from work. A news role, placed serious dampeners on my meeting interesting people, and doing interesting things – both of which i did extensively in my earlier life. Everything i did, i tried to bring back to the work space – how does it fit here, or there – and my personal space, and interests were getting squeezed. And, i had begun chaffing (at myself).

One of the things i do enjoy is photography. And, walking around Mumbai and just shooting buildings, street life, and life in general, was something i toyed with. But, I have tremendous capacity for personal inertia — do nothing apart from have a happy thought. The thought of the photo walk made me so happy, and a few weeks passed by without me doing too much about it. It was also a bad time for me personally and professionally. The reasons don’t matter – all i know was that i felt like i was in an Indiana Jones film, and the walls were closing in on me (very rapidly).

It was at this time, i came across Khaki Tours (via a kind soul on twitter, when i asked about walks around mumbai). And, i have been attending a fair few walks since i first discovered the group.

My love for history, my love for my city, and my love for photography – have all gotten satisfied – on these trips.

clastrophobia_

This is from the first walk at Gamdevi – literally the village goddess. Gamdevi as an area of Mumbai, is brimming with history. It is the seat of Mani Bhavan – the Gandhi Museum. There is the Theosophical Society in the area. It is also the seat of modern Hindustani music. IT is also where the Indian National Congress was born, where the Quit India Movement was launched, and where many progressive men (and in those days it was men) decided that they wanted to help their fellow countrymen to not just gain independence, but also help them to become equal.

Right now, like the rest of Mumbai, there is a tussle in progress. Vertical Growth or conservation of heritage. There is a lot of brown heritage in the area. The Goregaonkars and the Rauts who helped build the city. The old temples and homes. Unfortunately, it is not seen as heritage.

theosophical-society

And, one of the things I do really like about this particular walk, is the focus on the Indian part of it. Indians who helped build this city. Indians from all over India.

There is a lot more to gamdevi than two photos and 5 lines – but, i did mention the inertia part. I have my notes. I have my photos. But, i have to still put them together. I did a series of other walks – the Banganga Walk, the Parel Walk, the Bhuleshwar walk — all of them not just great fun, but extremely informative and engrossing.

Bharat Gothoskar, whose brain child this is, loves the city. And, that comes through during the walk. This isn’t about dry numbers and dates, and events. This is about exciting human beings, who pushed the limits of their era, to succeed. Recently, Bharat and Khaki tours have moved beyond the walkabouts, and added an open jeep ride to the menu. Saturday, last week, i went on an Urban Safari (it is called that) that took us on a Fort Ride.

asiatic-3

From the steps of the Asiatic, the journey begins that takes us through the last 150 or so years of history. From the Opium traders, to the modern bankers. That part of Mumbai is quite fantastic. If this is your kind of thing, the do look out for the walks, and the rides.  The story of Bombay (as it was then) is quite something. She is quite a character, our city … 🙂

 

Nov 062016
 

From yesterday’s news, this

Police at Kankroli in Rajsamand district of Rajasthan have registered a first information report against Hindi film actress Rakhi Sawant on charges of indulging in obscenity by wearing a dress with the pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi printed all over it. …. The FIR has cited offences under several sections of Indian Penal Code and the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act and the police have launched investigation.

From a few days earlier

The pub, located in Oberoi Mall, had a church-themed decor–Bible quotes and stained-glass paintings–that Christian activists found ‘blasphemous’ and protested against. As the protests took a serious turn, the pub’s management pulled down the decor to appease the infuriated Christian community…..filed an FIR at Dindoshi police station under Section 295A.

These are just the one’s i can easily find. There are more. Lots more. Many of my fellow citizens like being offended at things that they see and hear in the media, or experience in real life. Films, books, bar decor, clothes, people, photographs and more. Each week, i am amazed at people dedicated to finding offence at everyday things, then having the energy to act on that ‘feeling of offence’ … go to a cop station, file a FIR, talk to cameras, post on social media about the sense of being offended – create tiny little communities of the offended. And, keep those communities together till, nurturing the ‘sense of being offended’.

I am afraid, that while these people are exercising their constitutional rights – to being offended (section 295 of the IPC deals with this), the system is letting them down, by getting the same over worked criminal justice system, that is overloaded with completely mundane things like murder, rape, domestic violence, robbery etc.

Section 295, for the not normally offended, is this

Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class.—Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defile­ment as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

 

Which just about covers everything from the Good Lord Almighty (in any religion) to your favourite film star, your favourite animal, colour, hill, drink — anything you hold to be sacred. For example, i won’t be terribly surprised if one day, the association of Old Monk and Thumps Up drinkers, gets offended at Old Monk and Pepsi drinkers, and accuse them of offending deep held beliefs and practices.

The police, i believe, are not particularly adept at handling touching feeling subjects like offence. They are trained for other things — evidence, people, paperwork, etc etc. Loading them with abstract tenses, not to mention belief sets, is just beyond their remit. And, they will fail, and in doing so deprive justice for those who have been offended.

Therefore, i would humbly suggest the setting up of a new department, that can both investigate, question, and adjudicate on offended feelings. The newly created Department of Offended Feelings will also be staffed by pass outs of the administrative service. And, here i propose a special exam — the IOS exams– the indian offence service exams. There can be lateral entry from distantly related wings of political parties, from people used to protesting ‘being offended’. Students unions, trade unions, and stone pelters can be given special consideration.

This does two things — one is it reduces the pressure on the police to investigate ‘hurt feelings’ and lets them finish their more mundane tasks, ie, fight crime; and second – more importantly – it opens up a new avenue of employment. If the government chose to charge per complaint investigated, it could be a self sustaining model. More over, i see an entire business ecosystem grow around the department of offended feelings– social media activation, ground events, social networking and even dating sites — imagine being able to bond over being offended.

It just requires all of us to marginally shift gears and think about the possibilities. What we need to realise is that people being offended is hear to stay. People whining about being offended is only going to grow. And people, bonding on ‘being offended’ is possibly the new killer app. Given that ‘offended feelings’ is a growing market, it is about time that the Government took proactive action and set up this new department.

 

 

84yvb5p

(image, from here)