Saturday, October 8, 2011

Portrait of a perfect family

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina

The living room was spacious and clean. Two red color sofa, one single, another long enough for three people to sit and a teapoy were placed in the middle. There was a medium sized dining table at the far end of the room. It was a rented family apartment with three bedrooms and a kitchen. The four of them sat there chatting, hopping from topic to topic. The elder man was the host, the high school boy was his youngest son and the two young men were the guests.

The host's wife, a pleasant and graceful, slim and smiling lady joined the conversation in between her breaks from the kitchen. The husband wore a red T-shirt and pant. He looked much younger than his years. He was nearing fifty five and she was 45. They were an easy going couple. The conversation was largely jocular and easy going. It was obvious that both the husband and wife were very loving and caring for each other and for their children.

Bowing to his father’s words, the boy brought a family vacation trip photo album to show the guests. Most of the photos were taken in the backdrop of the Taj Mahal and its vicinity. Beside the handsome couple, three of their children were also seen in the photos. The eldest was a daughter and two boys below. The boys looked naughty while the daughter looked lovely and modern. She had a look of self-confidence and new-age, liberated womanliness. She wore light blue jeans and white koorta and her bob-cut hair appeared unruly and bubbly around her bright face.  

“We had this journey four years ago” explained the man in his husky voice. And he narrated the unforgettable long journey and its experiences in details. At that moment there was a knock on the door. The boy opened the door. In came, like a breeze, a beautiful young girl who looked below twenty. Her lovely figure and charming face captivated the guests for a while. She had that beautiful smile revealing her white teeth that would linger on the minds of the other person even after the the meeting was long over. It was the daughter, the one they saw in the photo. This time her appearance was completely different because she was wearing an overall traditional black dress. Though it was in contrast to her image in the photo, she was yet the more scintillating.

She glanced at the strangers sitting on the sofa and exchanged a few words of brief formal introductions, then disappeared to her room. Though the young men wondered whether she would show up once more, she was never seen again,

Then it was time for the dinner. Delicious Kerala style, vegetable dishes were served. The temptation of a nice homely food made the guests forget formalities, in addition with the hosts' insistence to serve them more. After having the food and some more talking, the guests took their leave and said good bye to the family. The host, a complete believer in perfect hospitality and politeness, walked with the guests along the way to show them off.

While walking beside, his low, husky voice became still huskier and sadder. His daughter’s persistent refusal to give consent to find her a life partner was the prime reason for his melancholy. Even though she looked much younger than her age, he said she was twenty six in fact. She had a good education and now she has a well paid job and a prospective best possible career ahead. What she was missing at this stage was a loving and caring life partner. Whenever her mom and dad tried to bring this matter to her attention, she smartly managed to evade the issue altogether. This, in turn made the couple restless in their wakeful and sleeping hours. It had already taken a toll on both of their health too.

“She is our precious child. I wish if she only knew the depth of a parents' sorrow seeing their grown up daughter being single. Still, I hope that she would realize our feelings one day or another, but I'm afraid that it would be too late.” He said slowly and sadly in a broken voice. 

The father being a heart patient and mother very much shaky in her fragile health, these words would have been enough to melt the daughter’s heart if she were to put things in perspective. 

Under the surface of the obvious happiness and bliss, it seemed there was an undercurrent of tension and confusion that made the paradise of a family sail through uncertain waters and sleepless nights. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

The dawn that never was

He was the average Indian. The British had been ruling his beloved country. He was a prisoner in his own land, a victim of human right violations and malnutrition.

Then he rose, he fought and he won his freedom and the British were banished. 

He dreamt of a new dawn and liberation from the chains of slavery. 

Then came the Brown Sahibs to the helm of power. 

Under the new masters, the average Indian was dislodged from the land of his forefathers and it was handed over to the corporate conglomerates for mining and exploiting the natural wealth. It was said that it was all for the overall economical progress of the country. 

Being dispossessed of his only means of sustenance, he was pushed to the ever spiraling slums of the big cities. He refused to give up his land and he took the knives that he used to cut his vegetables to defend himself. 

For this reason he was labeled an insurgent and an impediment in the way of development and progress. 

He may be in the jail or in the jungle now, but it seems that the dawn he dreamt for was not the one he woke for..

Friday, June 10, 2011

Robert Fisk is Robert Fisk

What's the difference between our armchair journalists and Robert Fisk? It's very simple. Our journos are those who don't know what a journalist should be doing. According to Fisk, journalism must "challenge authority, all authority, especially so when governments and politicians take us to war." Another famous remarks of his about journalism is this: "There is a misconception that journalists can be objective ... What journalism is really about is to monitor power and the centers of power." The last one is a view held by Israeli journalist Amira Hass and Fisk too approves of this definition of fair journalism. Now, how many of our journos are really eligible in this regard? We may have a Tharun Tejpal, Sainath or Praful Bidwai. That must be enough in fact. But how much heed our main stream media is paying to these greats? That's where we fail ourselves. It shouldn't be surprising for it's all too natural that we only get what we really deserve. We are a people who are always too ready and happy to be deluded ourselves into manufactured images of self grandioseness by our rulers or anyone else for that matter.

Coming back to our subject Robert Fisk, let's have a few more words. Fisk is currently writing for the prestigious The independent of UK. Whatever he writes is eagerly awaited each day across the continents. Then his words are translated into a large number of international and vernacular languages in the respected dailies and weeklies the world over. What prompts this kind of receptivity among the readers for a journalist who lives so far away from them? It's his objectivity and sincerity while analyzing the events. contrary to our belief it's not because of the impartiality. He is not impartial always. If there is an obvious aggressor and a clear victim, you have to be partial in solidarity with the victim. This rule especially applies to a sincere journalist. Fisk always upholds this basic principle. Fisk's father was a world war(ii) veteran. and he used to talk about the necessity of wars to achieve a peaceful world. The young Fisk may have realized even at this tender age the perennial futility of war and destruction. Perhaps that's what made him dead set against injustice and imposed wars and invasions.

Though his is a British, he has primarily been based in Beirut for more than 30 years. The New York Times once described Robert Fisk as "probably the most famous foreign correspondent in Britain." He reported the Northern Ireland troubles in the 1970s, the Portuguese Revolution in 1974, the Lebanese Civil War, the Iranian revolution in 1979, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Iran–Iraq War, the Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A vernacular Arabic speaker, he is one of few Western journalists to have interviewed Osama bin Laden, and did so three times between 1994 and 1997.His awards include being voted International Journalist of the Year seven times.

Fisk has published a number of books. His 2005 work, The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East, with its criticism of Western and Israeli approaches to the Middle East, was well-received by critics and students of international affairs, and is perhaps his best-known work.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fables from the age of innocence

-To my friend who says that our basic sense of childhood innocence needs to be reclaimed if we are to love and hug the nature in its purity.

It seems, at rare moments of reflections, that many aspects of our lives have become metamorphosed into an artificial existence these days! At times, in order to escape this unfathomable feeling of disillusionment and boredom, at least for a while, many of us, our minds may tend to take refuge somewhere in the past where one could somehow find some kind of solace, traveling back to that time and space where perhaps we had been less concerned about material achievements or failures.

At moments like these, it is your childhood days that you can always depend upon. Those endless chain of treasure hunts. Where else could one retreat to when one finds oneself woken up from such colourless dreams and delusions!

It's like growing back to that fragile infant baby again and falling back onto the lap of your mother once more. To be consoled on her benevolent bosoms, to be fed with her breast milk and falling back into that careless sleep on her ever-supportive shoulders and be worried about nothing in the world. No earthquakes, no tsunamies, no stock market rise or fall is going to worry you anymore. Her soothing voice humming in your soul even while you are carefully being laid into the cradle, and her melodious singing and the swinging of the cradle keeps you calm and quite, you might as well place one of your thump fingers into your toothless mouth in sheer ecstasy and be oblivious of the whole world. In company with beautiful angels, you may smile looking at the stars around you and giggle yourself, seeing this, your mother may forget all her perpetual sorrows and worries and sing for you yet sweeter lullabies and Aesop fables.

Or, it is like growing back to the days of your childhood when you were still in your primary school classes. You had in your neighborhood, very close to your own home, a large mango tree. Your very memories begin with this huge tree with its long leafy branches spread across and around the field where you used to spend your whole days once upon a time, long ago, yet your memories seems still frozen with those times. The time when that mango tree gets ornamented with its blooms, the time when those tiny baby mangoes are grown and seen hanging down from the green thick leafy branches, the time when they keep falling to the ground because of your passionate prayer and desire to mouth them in their tender age.

You may have tasted Chinese food, Japanese Sushi or Mexican delicacies or exotic fruits of various breed or brand. But that pungent smell and taste of those infant mangoes in its early stages, then the juicy rich, mouth watering sugary taste when it ripens never fade away from the tip of your tongue.

Those wild summer seasons, the month of May, when the school is still on vacation and you the children are camped around the mango tree from dawn until dusk. Waiting in the soothing shadow of the vast mango tree in a hot summer, waiting for the cool breeze that brings you on its wings the cooling comfort of the Mother Nature. The same breeze that blesses you when it passes through the leafy branches of the mango tree when ripened, sweet, yellow burst, mouth watering mangoes are waiting for the feather touch of the wind to fall into your hand. The other companions that you fondly remember are those beautiful noisy, mischievous squirrels, crows and party above you who in their own celebration of the season jump from branch to branch in merriment and endless dancing that makes the ripened sweet mangoes find their way down to your eagerly and earnestly waiting little hands.

A falling mango is expected to make a thudding noise when it hits the ground. So, you keep your ears in a permanent state of alert. Once a mango falling noise is heard, your eyes simultaneously jump into action to locate the fallen fruit. It may have fallen on pure earth, or among the dry leaves. In the later case, it demands further exertion of your eyes to locate it exactly. Once it is located, begins the real "survival of the fittest" contest. The most sharp, agile, able runner may grab it. But if someone is lucky enough to be near the falling hot spot, he or she may get it without much effort. And others continue their wait for their lucky moment to arrive (fall).

Sometimes, arguments arise over a disputed grab of the mango. One says, “I got it first, but you snatched it away from me. So, it belongs to me”. Or perhaps he would say, “I saw it first” usually a weak argument point to make a claim.

But, often, with good solidarity, children share their fortune of sweet mangoes with their buddies who were not lucky enough that particular day. Thus, the good camaraderie is kept intact for the most part between the kids. After all, it was an age of innocence. Wasn’t it?

A scene from Vikom Muhamed Basheer's Balyakaala Sakhi comes to mind. In the beginning of the story, we see Majeed and Suhara under a mango tree arguing over a fallen mango. At the heat of the moment, ensuing an intense verbal fight, Suhara rushes forward and gives Majeed a skin peeling, burning scratch with her sharp, long finger nails. In reply, Majeed thinks over how to revenge her appropriately, but his imagination fails him to find a way. Then to his delight, Majeed sees Suhara’s small hut like house and his tile roofed comparably well built house through the coconut and banana trees. Both of them are neighbors. Looking at both the houses Majeed’s face brightens and he declares to Suhara with a victorious smile: “See, my house is tile roofed, but yours is leaf roofed” (roofed with dried coconut leaves). But then, to his horror Majeed finds out that Suhara is not a bit annoyed at this earth shaking attack on her honor. She simply stays cool and never loses her pose. He feels defeated and beaten by a “little girl” again. However, after this fighting between them and Majeed’s humiliating defeat thereupon, gradually, both of them become best of friends on the course, and the story progresses to a heart wrenching end that no reader of Basheer can ever forget.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

When the lullaby of rain never ceased

Gone are the days, never to come back again.

Welcome to a short journey down the memory lane through the isles of childhood, once more to feel and see the wind and rain and the sunshine of those times as though it was only yesterday.

Generally, people of those days were happier and more content. They lived a life that was calm, simple and down to earth. Their lively income mainly came from agriculture and farming. They walked often and rarely did they travel in vehicles. Life was more in-tune with the nature and the seasons.

The monsoon rain was a completely different kind. Contrary to our present experience, the monsoons always kept its date starting around 1st of June without fail. It was long, sustained, steady and stormy. The heavy rain poured down from the cloudy sky was like it was never going to cease. The wells and the ponds fill to the brim and then it overflows to make a narrow stream that leads to the paddy fields.

Rain rain come again
(Please keep the speaker on)

My friends like Kunhippa (real name is Hassan and we sometimes call him Hassainar Aduvanni), Mustafa Neduvanchery, Satyan, Babu, Salam Neduvanchery, Ravi, Unni, Mohan and a host of others come to my mind, and the memories of how we celebrated the rain. Usually we reach school by 10am and the study period is extended up to 4.30pm. At break periods we engage in games like hide and seek and small games of other kind, all the time we are waiting impatiently for the evening when we have planned our water adventures.

When the school closing bell rings at 4.30 we take a rabbit-race home and reach there before the bell is finished. As soon as we reach home, we rush to the large water-pool overflowing with sky-blue water to begin the real fun. He who jumps first into the water is a winner, and the race to win is exciting without end each and every day. Heavily pouring rain or earth shaking thunder and lightning doesn't deter us from our game in the water. Instead, it makes the game yet more thrilling even if it is fearsome at times. Some acts of the boys are really dangerous and sometimes life threatening. For example, while jumping into the water from a fairly higher ground, some bold-boys turn around in the mid-air. The one who makes a double turn-around in one take is a hero. Thus the water-game goes on and on till the approaching night makes it impossible to stay any longer.

A swim in the water-pool
(Please keep the speaker on)
Then, every one walk back home, with eyes reddened and hungry but still anticipating the thrills in store for the next day.

Talking of monsoon and rain, a beautiful passage from Arundhati Roy's Booker winning work "The god of small things" seems relevant here:
"But by early June the southwest monsoon breaks and there are three months of wind and water with short spells of sharp, glittering sunshine that thrilled children snatch to play with. The countryside turns an immodest green. Boundaries blur as tapioca fences take root and bloom. Brick walls turn moss green. Pepper vines snake up electric poles. Wild creepers burst through laterite banks and spill across flooded roads. Boats ply in the bazaars. And small fish appear in the puddles that fill the PWD potholes on the highways.
It was raining when Rahel came back to Ayemenem. Slanting silver ropes slammed into loose earth, plowing it up like gunfire. The old house on the hill wore its steep, gabled roof pulled over its ears like a low hat. The walls, streaked with moss, had grown soft, and bulged a little with dampness that seeped up from the ground. The wild, overgrown garden was full of the whisper and scurry of small lives. In the undergrowth a rat snake rubbed itself against a glistening stone. Hopeful yellow bullfrogs cruised the scummy pond for mates. A drenched mongoose flashed across the leaf-strewn driveway."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Came, Saw and Colonized

Change that we hoped for?

It was hardly a secret that Mr. Obama mainly had economic and geopolitical motivations behind his recent visit to India. Any head of state visiting any other countries would always have the same considerations as his or her prime agenda, it's quite natural. Mr. Obama categorically declared this in his press conference too. And it's no crime. You can’t blame them for that, after all, the declining super power's unemployment rate is skyrocketing while it is spending billions and billions of dollars in wars and invasions on other sovereign countries. Another rather hidden thread that runs through this visit is the U.S unease over China's growing clout across the continents. The white house assumes India can be used as the best tool in containing the raising dragon. On the other hand, India is also looking for an ally to cope with its giant neighbor super power. Hence, the U.S is trying to make an alliance of the willing to encircle China. Naturally, India is too happy to participate in the great gamble.

But when it comes to Pakistan, the game plan of both India and the U.S diverges. The U.S cannot afford to shun Islamabad in its “war against terror”. But India is desperately seeking to make the U.S subscribe to its view that Pakistan is a part of the problem not the solution and that Pakistan is merely a thriving factory of terrorism and the ISI is the main sponsor of all the terror networks throughout the glob.

An embrace in need

India wants the US to condemn Pakistan for its interference in Kashmir that the US can't afford to do. On the other hand, Pakistan is also feeling restless about the US hobnobbing with India. For its part, Pakistan is going through an existential crisis. It has already become the synonym of a failed state. Pakistan is the reality-show example as to how a state can be driven into anarchy and chaos if religious fanatics are allowed to thrive. India has a lot to learn from Pakistan’s nightmarish experience especially when it has its own homegrown variants of fanatics such as the RSS and SIMI etc.

To come back to the point, what both India and Pakistan refuse to recognize is the perennial fact that they are there own to sort out their problems and conflicts between them. U.S has never stabilized any country it made friendship with or invaded on. On the contrary it has a long history of destabilizing other sovereign countries. Be it Colombia, Chile, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Iran, Lebanon, Afghanistan or Iraq etc. Be it in the continents of America, Europe, Middle East or Asia the list goes on and on.

Kashmiries pelting stones at the security forces.

The crux of the dispute between
India and Pakistan is the unresolved matter of Kashmir. It was the departing "gift" by the British to the subcontinent. The will of the Kashmiri people was never sought at the time their King acceded the entity to India. Later the government promised the people that a plebiscite would be held on the future of the valley when things came back into normalcy. Soon Pakistan sent its tribal militia to infiltrate and occupied a small portion of Kashmir ever since. The people of Kashmir has become sandwiched between the two warring neighbors ever since. They have no love lost for either Pakistan or India. As both Inida and Pakistan have long been acquired the ultimate weapon of atom bomb, Kahsmir has become a nuclear flash point.

If the narrow minded religious prejudices continue to make us blind towards the lessons that the history has taught us, the entire region may slide into uncontrollable turmoil and chaos. The dream that the U.S would take care of all the trouble shootings may well turn out to be an inescapable nightmare.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Some thoughts on Arundhati Roy

Again, today, I read a few lines from that beautiful work by Arundhati Roy “The God of small things”. It has been quite a long time, exactly it was in 1998 that I read this book for the first time. Roy got Booker prize for her first work in 1997. How fast time flies, I wonder. Today, when I read this book again it is still fascinating, charming and captivating.

Meanwhile through out all these years I have already gone through almost all of Roy’s non-fictional works. The last one I read was “Listening to the grasshoppers”. It was as relevant and meticulous a work as her first non-fiction work “The end of imagination” which she wrote in the aftermath of the Pokran nuclear test. Since then, how many political turmoils we have witnessed between India and Pakistan? How many innocent men have died? All for what?

The so called nuclear deterrent has not brought any solution to the standoff between the two neighbors. In fact it has increased it to further heights. The people of both countries are looking for peace. But some fanatics are there in both countries with their narrow divisive agenda to spoil any move towards peace. The Muslim extremists with their jihadi mindset in Pakistan and the Hindu extremists with their inhuman caste preserving mindset in India are the main culprits in this impasse.

The spread of Wahhabi extremism actually cultivated groups like Taliban and Al-Qaeda with the support of America, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. At first the sole aim of this alliance was to defeat the occupied forces of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Once this target was achieved a realignment of interests took place where the creators and created fell apart and declared war against each other. Now when the chickens have come home to roost, when these groups have started to attack the ruling governments of both Pakistan and K.S.A, the ruling elites of these countries suddenly realize the dangerousness of the hydra-headed monster they created for making chaos in other countries. Jama’ate islami founder Maulana Maududi’s books and thoughts in the Indian subcontinent as well as Hassan al-Banna’s Islamic Brotherhood based in Egypt too contributed to the growth of religious fundamentalism.

The same goes for the Nazi-Sangh parivar in India too though they are not as global as the Jihadists in reach. The Indian establishment always showed a soft corner for the Desi-fascists. And they thrived on that to the extend that today there is no single department left in the administration where the RSS doesn’t have a hold. RSS and Al-Qaeda are the two sides of the same coin. They seek to implement their respective narrow minded medieval ideologies wherever they can get power. People of India and Pakistan need to become more alert and aware to defeat the designs of these evils before they destroy whatever remaining harmony of these continents.

Meanwhile, there is a great villain hiding between all this to fish in the muddied water. It is easy to guess, the US Empire with their great Christian-dom to come agenda. It is not hidden. This Chritiandom to come is nothing but a vast corporate empire who wants to loot all the remaining resources of other countries so that they can become yet fatter

It is in this context that Arundhati Roy’s works becomes a beacon of truth and conscience which cannot be allowed to lose completely in this insane world. Another world is possible. A really secular, all faith tolerant, free world where innocent will not die in false encounters, men and women would wear what they like, where no fanatics will find any appeasement from the ruling government.

The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things (1997) is a semi-autobiographical, politically charged novel. It is a story about the childhood experiences of a pair of fraternal twins who become victims of circumstance. The book is a description of how the small things in life build up, translate into people's behavior and affect their lives. The book won the Booker Prize in 1997.

The God of Small Things is Roy's first book, and as of 2006, is her only novel. Completed in 1996, the book took four years to write. The quality of the writing was first recognized by Pankaj Mishra, an editor with HarperCollins, who sent it to three British publishers. Roy received half-a-million pounds (approx. $970,000 USD) in advances, and rights to the book were sold in 21 countries.

Links to download free and read some of the works by Arundhati Roy