Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Elephant in the Room

When I see something I disagree with, what do I do?

Mostly just gnash my teeth in frustration, curse the object of my derision and decry that i have to be right.
However, outwardly, I maintain an air of neutrality and listen to and consider someone else's impassioned argument.

It is this I increasingly find missing in today's highly charged political atmosphere. A chance for one's views to be heard. And an assumption that if you don't agree with the elevation of a certain politician to PM candidate- you're behind the times, have secret Italian allegiance , or are a dynasty sycophant.

When I listen to people speak, or see innumerable facebook posts regarding Mr. Modi, two things leap to mind. 1) He certainly has an impassioned following, perhaps rightly earned. 2) These followers of his are hell bent on proving his legitimacy by assassinating the 'enemy's' character. While I certainly am no proponent of the ruling government- indeed it is a disgrace that they're still in power- I still believe in finding solutions. Not appropriating blame. It is impossible to hear a speech by Mr. Modi where there aren't sarcastic asides to Italian rule or double entendres about the government. This increasingly negative political dialogue seems to have seeped into everyone's psyche under the guise of nationalism. Unrealistic expectations from Mr. Modi are going to hurt all of us, he may not have the magic wand he professes to have- one wave and this country's misfortunes may not disappear.

It is a difficult balance though- we are a country that has been shamelessly taken for granted by the ruling party and government, all our money has been pocketed by scoundrels, we've been lectured about secularism when people are dying of hunger and we're privileged to a head of state as warm and accessible as a polar bear. Locked in their ivory towers, the ostrich power brokers see all and do nothing. But is the answer a man who does not brook criticism, whose methods are dictatorial, who doesn't seem to want anyone else's opinion?

Only time will tell. In the meantime is it too much to ask people to not dismiss those who disagree, to be respectful of others opinions? To not inundate social media and general conversation with the drool of their expectation, and to deal with the problems of today, not say that we need to pray to Nathuram Godse and thank him for what he did? This sort of behavior is crass, classless and as fascist as rumour would have it, a certain man is. A man, who, while I have great misgivings about- is apparently the only answer to the mess we're in today. I say 'answer' with more than an iota of question in my voice because historically, those who propose to have all the answers- lie. 

And yes, I do wish for days when people were more tolerant, actually genuinely considered others' opinions and weren't dismissive. Then I realise that these musings will probably be swept away amidst mass hysteria for a man who I hope, for his sake and ours, can really do what he claims. Because, unfortunately- we're in hell with no doctors.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Muck Conundrum

It isn’t fashionable to write about patriotism these days. So drowned is my generation in cynicism that we’re immune to what it is to feel that our country needs us.

I say ‘my generation’ with a purpose. For the few of us born in the 80s, ‘change’ actually means change. I think that no matter what our backgrounds are, we have seen India change from a sleepy place to one that is buzzing with life. I won’t (and frankly have no patience to) reminisce about simpler, better times where mobiles and computers were luxury and photographs were in sepia. It is a new world thankfully and glory be to the fact that pubs, clubs and (the admittedly nerve wracking) SHOPPING became such a part of our lives. And we of the 80s are in the forefront when it comes to enjoying ourselves. IN CAPITALS.

All that’s well and good. But where this brand of cynicism and basic disdain for the country crept into our political landscape frankly escapes me. It is almost laughable now to even waste time wondering why we let people like the Mayawatis, the Rajas, anyone who’s anyone in UP, and successive Central Governments take us for a ride time and again. The why doesn’t matter anymore.

A regressive government remains regressive. Honesty isn’t enough anymore. What is needed is a genuine leader with some sort of vision for the country. And the time for party loyalties is long gone. A Manmohan Singh, while irreproachable personally is so devoid of any passion or initiative that occupying that post becomes redundant. And I say this as an unashamed Congressman. I did believe that they were the right party to govern but two terms of arrogant, corrupt, hostile and chicken hearted rule later- they’ve lost my vote.

What’s worse is that there isn’t an option in sight. We are a nation clamouring in the filth waiting for someone to lead. Someone who passionately believes. Not just in nuclear deals, but who has enough capability to think of all sections of society.

And I don’t just mean farmers. The coinage ‘real India’ has always bothered me. The assumption that urban aint real is narrow minded and quite frankly absurd. Our (as in urban, ‘westernised’, ‘spoilt’, the works) India is just as real as the rest, just as much in need of reform as theirs. Yes without doubt Indian agriculture needs reforms, the farmer’s downward spiral should be arrested- but that does not mean we ignore education, health, technology, research, infrastructure and other such ‘urban’ ideas.

Societal degeneration is frankly not ‘the in thing’ to talk about but I do get infuriated seeing an Afzal Guru or Kasab getting away with murder and nothing happening because of a pussy footed attempt at minority appeasement. And a TV show bringing out societal evils while the government sits on its overwhelmingly parkinsonian arse is not a reason to celebrate- it is a reason to bemoan the fact that sensitivity has to be taught. And that raising awareness, sometimes messing even that up qualifies film stars to be hailed as messaiahs. Or that foolish flip flop artists who blackmail the government by starving just demonstrates how we yearn for rebellion but can’t see another ineffectual visionless media hungry ‘leader’ prospering under our noses, because of us.

This may be a rant but the truth is we’ve become numb with helplessness. Nothing works, no one cares. Murder, rape, paedophilia can occur on the streets, the economy can slide, the next leader may be a parenthesis, farmers can kill themselves, urbanites can become cynics- but as long as Amitabh Bachchan is healthy what do we care?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Of Murder, Death and Sweet

I can feel him.

He's there creeping up on me from behind.

I can feel him. I know his destiny. He doesn't, the poor bugger- but I do.

I pause for a minute before dealing out death and judgement. To think that after all his efforts, it all had to end here, today, now- just as he prepares to take my blood.

Of course I'm justified in protecting myself. My blood is my own and mine to give to who I please.

Reluctantly I raise my weapon and strike. Once- swift and strong. Herculean yes, but when I relish the carcass in my hands there's a bewildering sense of pity.

To think that I lured him to his death is strangely fulfilling. As is the murder I just committed.

The laptop flickers. Death comes to all one day and the laptop is no exception. It is dying- excruciatingly giving up its last breath for me while 'Dexter' plays on its screen.

My eyes flicker between my watch, the laptop, the phone-waiting-for-a-text and the textbook lying in front of me. Without turning my head, just beyond the body I see the half read Wolf Hall. Tilting my head at Hillary Mantel's work I wonder if Anne Boleyn was really the nasty bitch she appears to be so far.

No text yet.

The watch goes tick tick. Time's passing real quick.

Millions of pages left to study. Desire to read it- check. Energy to read- check. Getting down to reading it........awkward pause.

Maud probably wanted the crown for herself, not Henry. Then again, Henry II did have his share of formidable women. Maud as a mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine as his wife. 'How beautiful you make me' Katharine Hepburn's sarcastic, bitter, unforgettable Eleanor of Aquitaine comes to mind. Darned good movie that one.

Luring him to his death was not intentional. It just- happened. Another life lost due to carelessness- it won't really make that much of a difference.

Henry thought that too. But the 'meddlesome priest', albeit dead haunted him no end during the 40 lashes.

Will he- this murder most foul- be the Becket to my Henry? The Banquo to my Macbeth?

When Lady Macbeth asked the spirits to 'unsex me here' what did she really mean? I mean seriously. She just wanted a lay or was she secretly into kink what with all the role playing. Ghosts don't really do it for me but then Monica thought Chandler was turned on by sharks...

It is time.

To dispose of the body.

There will be others. I lie in gleeful wait.

How do I know that? Because the bait's here.

On my bed. Lying in secret, patient wait for prey it knows will come.

And that, will be the end.

So I open my hands and the carcass falls to the floor- bloodless, and so.....dead.

PS: Eating cream biscuits in bed and whiling away time to study that will never return is the freaking BEST way to kill ants. Plus that scene in the link is really genius.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New year and all that.

It is the height of all that is cliched in the world to blog about the year gone by. Meandering and frankly useless ruminations about the constantly churning vile political turbine, about yet another Bachchan who merits the 'actor of the year' award, of another smug looking Aamir Khan basking in the triumph of another movie glorifying poverty and of millions of reality TV shows coming up with increasingly desperate attempts to win the TRP crown at midnight on 31st (I'm convinced that the day isn't far off when 'Sex on the beach' ceases to be a mere cocktail)- bombard us every year. All this in the vain hope that there is some family out there with a tired housewife, a broke father and two irritated kids spending their new year's eve in front of the idiot box, all with unfulfilled visions of a better, sexier new year's celebration.

It's all the pressure isn't it? The pressure of HAVING to enjoy oneself. Of making sure you've had a wilder, crazier New Year than anyone else. I feel it right now in fact writing this post- because I want it to be hilarious, poignant, touching, introspective, meaningful and deep all at once. Which obviously isn't going to happen. It'll be another new year blog post lost in the oblivion of thousands of bloggers- teenage girls with bursting hormones and cheating boyfriends, the Mark Zuckerberg wannabes of the world, some dark drunk failed author convincing himself that his time hasn't really passed, the lecherous pedophiles prowling cyberspace for another victim-

My blog post is going to be one among these fine specimens of humanity. Ah well.

But if you stop and look into the stillness and darkness of a whole year gone by, of another dendrochronological ring added to the trunk of our lives, you will find certain experiences that stand out leaving indelible impressions.

I am currently posted on official duty in Sabarimala- a place apparently as holy as-well- comparisons elude me for once. And I have probably not a grain of religion in my body, except from the interested curiosity one has when one looks at a vaguely interesting social pattern of behavior from a safe vantage point. Yet I deigned [;)] to ascend the hill amidst the filth and muck- make no mistake there's a lot of it- suppressing the skepticism to a minimal trickle instead of the usual downpour. It helped I was accompanied-nay, led by someone unquestioning, full of faith and probably infinitely better than me. The ascent itself wasn't hard, we did it quickly.

Right on the top where the shrine stands in its modest beauty, it is absolutely- words fail to describe the ABSOLUTE FILTH there. I remember walking barefoot using only my heel and the tip of my greater toes throughout, my face contorting in the agony of inquisition. And Praise the Lord and all that but with all due respect he sits in a golden altar with golden steps and beautiful clothes. With fair maiden waiting patiently for him a little distance away. Why the devotees need to wade through the foul to prove their piety is something I'll never get.

And yet, there was a moment when I stood, clad in Jeans and a T Shirt outside a run down house looking at it with all the curiosity of a tourist, that I looked around me. In one panoramic view, it was as if I saw the world- the run down buildings, jauntily lit shops, people struggling to see the deity, angry superior looking priests thwarting yet another determined devotee, a huge gathering of black clad devotees chanting loudly and out of tune, dozens of people hobbling past stewing in their own putrid sweat, fires lit outside the temple and a pool with a fountain. And it was here, amidst all this that there was a moment approaching epiphany. I'll dial it down. A moment of acceptance. That this is where I belong. That this country is with all its faults and muck and nonsense, mine. That although I'm dressed in branded clothes right down to my personals, I have no hesitation or embarrassment in claiming these people as my brethren. And if blind unquestioning and unwavering faith be their fault, if the supremely filthy be their calling card then so be it. I will never be one of them but they still figure in the larger set of us the (thankfully) affluent urbanites.

To not believe does not mean to not admire. For to really decide which is easier- unwavering faith or rational questioning- one needs the many gifts of Cicero or Socrates or Vyasa. Is it easier to quell all questioning, to suppress independent thought and put all one's hopes and belief into one person- (divinity being a matter of opinion)- or is it easier, say even lazier to constantly doubt and question- for otherwise there would have been no religion, no festivals, no quaint traditions, no moral fibre. There would have been science yes, the unbridled joy of reason, but no Hampi and no Benares.

Midnight on 31st will be a swirl of diverse complicated imagery. From brilliant blue bathroom tiles, sharks and turtles, a moment at Cochin airport, the first traumatic duty, an argument on the roadside, the date, the girl, two movies back to back, the ugly rash ridden mangy sickness-to Natalie Portman's supreme moment of realization, the birthdays, wine, wine and sugarless iced tea on Christmas Eve, hats and motorcycles, the stalling of a car at Edapally junction and the random yet unforgettable late nights with friends- all will coalesce in one gigantic eruption of midnight memory.

The huge dilemma on New Year's Eve- Who is hotter- Kate Winslet or Natalie Portman? Winslet's 'The dead are still dead' or Portman's 'You want their names??'. Earth shattering decisions these. I mean why worry about medicine or corruption or family or world peace- when I have to decide which of these women gains the honour of being my new favourite? And don't even get me started on who will dominate the 2011 tennis season.

2011- Federer or Nadal? Common sense says the latter but sport is like constantly changing bedfellows- each new year is the first time. So I'm going to start ratchetting up the non existent tension and hope for a Federer Nadal final in all 4 grand slams, with Federer winning all of them! Granted Roland Garros won't be easy- BUT ITS JUST A MATTER OF THE PERFECT SERVE, FOREHAND, BACKHAND, INCH PERFECT VOLLEYS, APPROACH AND PASSING SHOTS AND NO UNFORCED ERRORS. Who said tennis was difficult?

People make life what it is and this past year I've met people I never thought I would. Or could. Three in particular- C, S and A have affected me like few others. C for his absolute friendship come rain or shine. The discovery of a kindred spirit is a rare occurrence but as I've mentioned before, C isn't even 'like family' or 'like a brother' or any of those oft used, oft sullied terms. He just is. Family/brother. And yes blood is thicker than water and all that but sometimes you find blood outside your home. And then there's no difference.

As for S, he's the Fool to my Lear- endearing, entertaining, entirely lovable- and occasionally, although I hate to admit it and will probably never live it down, capable of thought that approaches wisdom.

And the joy of A is in the being. 'Nuff said.

The first time I saw a woman naked was when I was 12. (Reference- Titanic. Kate. Necklace. Voila!) And my Grandma was with me. And she said- Kartik, that is what a woman looks like. Family is one thing. You have to love them and care and go through those motions but the difference with a grandmother, and a cool grandmother is that you really cant do without all those things. And cut the sentimental crap she would say, her scotch swirling in her glass. Have a drink and be happy!

Family is as always brilliant. The Mother. The Father. The Sister. The Grandmother. The Grandfather. The Dog. All without whom I'd be lost. The merry flags on the arctic wilderness of my calendar.

About politics, who's less corrupt than whom, who has murdered less people, who slept with whom, who won what award and who the so called 'Indian of the Year' is- I couldn't- actually, won't give a damn. They aren't worth it.

The others are.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bolt from the Blue

A quaint Japanese woman lives in Lankanfinolhu for 10 months of the year.

She can read, write and swim and may or may not have children (I never asked)

She is married to a dutchman, doesn't earn all that much, visits family in Japan or Amsterdam once a year depending on which place she wants to go.

And yes she has a name, but I don't know what it is.

And I? I'm a doctor, studying under some of the most learned people I know, earning decently , with a family reasonably well off, amazing friends..........

But at this moment, I'd give anything to be that quaint lady from Japan, married to a dutchman (figuratively).

Because the lasting image I'll have of her is her body suspended in the ocean 40 feet below the surface, hands held against her chest as if in prayer, with the flippers on her feet gracefully cleaving the water.

And me- only slightly above- thinking Damn this is going to end soon!

And it is in that moment- that revelation strikes me with a blinding flash with all the ferocity of a bullet hitting its target- This was what I was born to do.

The diving session ends all too soon. Surrounded by huge moray eels, giant turtles and a riotous festival of colour, time almost becomes irrelevant at the coral reef. Only on ascending to the choppy ocean surface does regret set in.

The quaint Japanese woman looks exhilarated. At my 'success' she called it. At being able to dive with no problems. We set out to the dive school and she says something that makes my insides lurch.

'I'm so lucky to be doing what I love.'

How it must be to feel like that I can only imagine. For there- underwater, with no means of talking, where your survival depends on an oxygen cylinder in your back and the mercy of sharks and manta rays around you- it is there that I finally know- that this is where I want to be and this is what I want to do.

That medicine for me is wonderful in its complexity, but intellectual stimulation is not what I seek anymore. That medical school has killed whatever enthusiasm I had for the subject- was it ever really passion? Can one really enjoy having to make decisions everyday about another human's life (too grandiose- perhaps) or health? Knowing that your quest for knowledge is not for the sake of knowledge itself, but because you want to know enough so you do not screw up?

The Japanese woman is beside herself with excitement because she saw a turtle. A turtle. And I can understand why. Because there in the watery depths surrounded by life, by the graceful giant turtles swimming around you, there amidst life so infinitely varied- constant only in its continuous change- it is there that -dare I say- spirituality exists.

And tomorrow I go back to the hospital- to a life full of panic and deadlines never met- a life of endless academic pursuit.

All the while knowing I'd be happier- much happier- earning less but diving more.

While the nameless Japanese woman takes the next visitor to Lankanfinolhu down into the waters where she can glide once more amongst those she loves the most.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sickness vows

It's been so long since my previous post that I suspect I've forgotten how to write- at least that's what I call this messed up jumble of words that make up this blog. Since I last wrote about buses and Sheldon Cooper, momentous things have happened- not least the fact the Sheldon now has a girlfriend. At least at the end of Season 3. And Sheldon isn't the only one (How my subtleties amuse me, convincing me more and more of my brilliance. Oh and they frequently make me puke in their obvious connotations. You see self deprecating humour is my strong suit too)!

The term 'in sickness and health' struck me as a curious phrase when I was lying in hospital last week undergoing my latest chemotherapy cycle. [LONG PAUSE] Fine, it wasn't chemo- 'twas viral fever to be more- well, accurate. 'An ugly rash ridden mangy creature' is what one of my best friends called me and that was what I had/have become.

Emotionally moved by the above mentioned love and caring shown by my friends, when I got admitted I must admit I felt- and I have to bow down to quotidian common parlance here, much as I hate doing so- Awesome!

Visitors have this advantage of superiority. They have already in my opinion atoned for some sin by visiting a sick person (which, lets face it is a really nice thing to do) and to add to the nicety overdose, they usually bring fruits when all you want is chinese or the next Kate Winslet movie. I had this one- pardon my language- absolutely asinine visitor everyday who came to see how I was and couldn't stop giggling and touching herself. I'm all for flirting but NOT with the cleaning lady. Unless of course it is J Lo from Maid in Manhattan- a film I regrettably endured on hospital TV.

The other type of visitor is the all knowing type- who comes and advises you about a disease which you already know about. But you respect seniority and nod along and pretend not to know when he tells you after a great deal of thought and looking at charts- 'It is viral fever'. 'Is it?' one asks all wide eyed and filled with insincere admiration at the phenomenal diagnostic skills of the hospital hawk.

Then there are those whose job it is to visit, bestow a dazzling smile and leave. Let's not begrudge them their daily bread.

There are those with whom you are good friends but don't get to see them too often because they are caught up doing all the work you were supposed to and really have no time to visit. But it is cool when they do.

Needles. En masse. In a river of blood flowing into my mouth and out through my nostrils. Now that my dreams were beginning to resemble some sort of gross Salvador Dali orgasmic thought process, it was time to get out of prison.

Whether one really loves their better half in 'sickness and health' I have no clue- is it possible to have affection for an ugly mass of tissue? It probably is.

Because it has to be said- that the three friends who visited brought only cheer. Best friends have this way about them and damn do they do a great job of caring.

So yeah- and much as I hate myself for saying the word- whatever!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Winds of Change

Self styling oneself as an 'observer' has one obvious BIG advantage- it allows you to sit back and inwardly snicker at the things people say and do. And then you can pretend to yourself that it is vital information that'll someday pay off when you write the next Catcher in the Rye- that one day you'll look back at this voyeuristic habit and thank the stars that you have it.

That day hasn't come yet for me. Neither have I yet stumbled on the next genius idea after Harry Potter.

In this post, I'm going to write about 'my' generation- children born in the late 80's and who grew up in the 90's. In India. The 90's were for us the time when we transitioned into mordernity. When not only were western markets famously made accessible to us by Manmohan Singh Part 1/2, but what was triumphantly denounced 'western culture' by our culture-vultures invaded. When our parents gasped in horror the moment Monica and Chandler saw each other naked under the sheets and said that their friendship was effectively ruined.

And so it has come to pass that a lot (if not most) of us follow Prison Break, 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, the ubiquitous F.R.I.E.N.D.S, etc etc more than our parents followed the insufferable Swabhimaan, Tamas and Buniyaad. And a lot (if not most) of us have surprisingly- almost European- liberal views about sex and 'hook ups'. And I am part of the generation that proudly bandies words like global village and intellectualism to justify our choices.

All of which is true- let's face it. The hawks who go on crying themselves hoarse about western culture 'destroying' India through Valentine's Day, The Da Vinci Code and late night clubbing are dinosaurs- and they know it.

But although it kills me to say it, this endorsement of the western way needs to have its limits. And not in terms of clothes. Or TV. Or Movies. Or porn. Or booze. Or XXXX. Those things come under the 'personal details not to be given out' heading. Fair enough.

But the kind of blind euphoria Indians in India go into when they see Barack Obama on TV is inexplicable. Especially we- the children of the 90's go into raptures. He's going to bring about 'change' we say- in a foolishly misguided belief that he is going to save the world. Even today- when his international stature hangs on the thin thread of his oratory ability, if you look past the obvious- and undeniably great- black metaphor, the fact remains that foreign policy has returned to the hawkish pro Pakistan roots that the Democrats have always been mired in. The man is apt to make statements that on the surface seem full of warmth and non partisan haloes- like 'I love Pakistan because I once had a Pakistani roommate', but lurking under the gloss is a clearer roadmap visible to any discerning non fanboy mind that American policy has shifted westward.

This isn't meant to be a political blog. It is just because I know of people who gush over the man's charisma, his command over language and his being black. True, true and oh boy- true. Look under the wrapping, and Pakistan is revelling in millions and millions of dollars given by the agent of change.

I am probably in the minority who actually longs for the Bush days. That man- whatever his faults- gave a truly historic, a truly great gift to us in the form of the civil nuclear agreement.

I suspect- at the risk of trivialising issues- that it is the same attitude that made us like the aforesaid mentioned TV programmes- a promise of greater intellectual reward if you will- that makes many of us- Resident Indians coo over the US President. Somehow we've convinced ourselves that it is hep and the in thing to say how (to use an alreadly obscenely overused word) amazing- he is. It is pop culture now you see. The same attitude that leads people to orgasm when he greets the Muslim world in Arabic, but ignores the actual working- and illuminating- statements of Hillary Clinton.

It happens in India too- with suave, Twitter using verbal diarrhoeaics like Shashi Tharoor. Just because he uses Twitter and speaks good- maybe even great- English doesn't make him cool. Cool would be him casting off his garrulous frivolity and not making ghastly mistakes in Sharm-al-Sheikh mentioning Baluchistan in a document that is going to come back and bite us in the arse whenever we deal with our oh-so-friendly western neighbours. But no- the 'support' galvanised for poor Tharoor focussing his energies on cribbing about flying economy- cattle class I mean- and possibly having clandestine links to the IPL franchise seems to say- excuse him because he's sophisticated.

Codswallop. Or considering that Monseiur Tharoor has given new bovine meaning to the phrase 'If pigs could fly (economy)'- Cattlecrap.

Oh and by the way- I can't get enough of The Big Bang Theory. How effing amazing is Sheldon Cooper?

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