A borrowed experience

It may be attributed to my own lack of creativity lately but this piece is encouraged by one of my friend's experiences.

The whole point in question is to pause for a second and analyze the hell out of the latest embarassing situation which your ingenuity has pushed you into. The situation does not need to be described in detail to you as it should be as familiar as your right hand and as unpleasently yellow as the stinking piece of vegetable which finds itself drenched in the light of the day after 3 months of neglected solitude in the lower most part of your refrigerator basket.

The situation rears its ugly head when you innocently remark over your hatred towards fatty foods in front of an especially portly person, when you ask a disabled subject, why the hell is he hobbling like that or when you start sermonizing over the utter futility of a particular academic field to your uncle whose dear toddler happens to have just started his career in the very same field.

The point of this post is not to summarize the various situations pertinent to the present discussion, for there are infinite, but to analyze the exact emotions which rush through the already cluttered mind during such circumstances.

The first thought which comes to mind in these cases is an unconscious realization that einstien's special relativity is flawed as without any apparent relative velocity between me and the subject of my comments (which by the way has become the most appealing aspect of all of physics at this moment) my clock has somehow become unbearably slow. The expressions on his face, which till now were as innocuous as the next person's, now stand out distinct, deprecating and deploring. He is trying hard to camouflage his embarassment with that forced and laborious streching of the left corner of his lip but reality is frustatingly being bombarded upon me by those wretched eyes which have blinked twice the normal number of times in the last 10 seconds. As I realize that probably history had just been witness to the longest period of speechlesness, my faculties go into an overdrive with the aim of salvaging whatever is possible in this hopelessly lost situation. What should I say next?

1. Well, I am sorry but somehow, inexplicably, inscrutably, I happened to overlook your enormous East-West expanse (a reply, sure to make the situation worse).
2. (matter of factly): by the way, did you happen to watch the finals of the french open? (how will I ever face myself in the mirror)
3. Shit!!! (most honest but honesty doesn't always make a digestible meal to everyone)

As I am ruminating over these possibilities, I again realize that 46 more seconds have been spent and now the probability of saving my face is lesser than my being hit by a lightning right at this very moment (a much pleasanter state) and I, in a rare display of callousness and daredevilry turn my face away as if nothing ever happened.

Sporty Nerves

Its 5:31 in the morning and I am sitting in front of the TV having just woken up after an extremely intermittent sleep waiting for the french open final between federer and nadal which is slated to begin in another 30 minutes.

I don't remember the last time when I woke up at 5:00 in the morning. Neither do I remember the last time I experienced such jittery nerves regarding a sport match. What I do remember is the fact that it used to be sometime about 8 years ago when a cricket match between India and Pakistan used to trespass my dreams in the night often culminating in my getting up just on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Those were the days when taking the next breath often took a lesser priority than the next ball and when the departure of Tendulkar often meant a fresh hole in the emotional fabric of my life. It is sad that I have not felt like this since a long time now. That is till now.

For the last few years, I have gotten so ennamoured by the genius of Federer that his victories have become my own and his losses, sad heart wrenching experiences. Since it is foolish to dissect emotion with something as crass as logic, I won't go into the reasons of my feeling this. I would only go as far as saying that I love this. It makes my life complete. To feel that gut wrenching nervousness, that rush of adrenaline over a brilliant passing shot, an almost unannounced shriek accompanied with that raised fist at another victory, is as innocent and raw as emotions get.

If only I could feel like this for another India-Pakistan slugfest.

The Reservation Impasse

For about a month now, I have been following the quota controversy as closely as is humanely possible by a person residing in the U.S. My opinion over the issue, thereby, has undergone several cuts and chips over this period of time. Begining from an intense emotional backlash and ending in a much more rational interpretation of the situation, I think I am in a good enough position to comment over the issue now.

The spark

A few months back, the Justify Fullcoalition Government of India headed by the Congress party introduced 27% reservations for OBCs (Other Backward Classes) in all the institutes of "national importance" (later extended to all institutes of higher education). This decision was promulgated by the HRD (Human Resource and Development) minister, Arjun Singh. Summing with the already existing 22.5% reservation for SC/ST, this decision took the total reserved seats to 49.5% (just .5% shy of the upper limit of 50% reservation set by the Supreme Court of India). This decision came just before the assembly elections which are supposed to be held in 5 states. Caste politics which has always been the most important vote garnering means in India seemed to be the reason behind this sudden decision. When enquired (and to some degree reprimanded) by the Election commission over an alleged breach of the model code of conduct (which prohibits parties from promulgating populist measures just before an election is due), Arjun Singh took refuge in the argument that the present decision was just a natural succession of the 93rd constitutional amendment passed in the winter of 2005 (which was unanimously passed in the Parliament). Although sound, the argument failed to explain the fact that the constitutional amendment was just an enabling act and unlike many other such acts which are languishing and begging for attention, what was the reason that this particular act had to be implemented at such a crucial time.

The Mandal Controversy

There is a very important reason behind the nationwide political support to the reservation issue. The Mandal Commission, constituted in 1980s to assess the composition of India's caste fiber among other factors, came up with a figure of 52% OBC. The commission in an effort for suggesting ways by which the oppressed majority of the Indian population could be brought in par with the upwardly mobile middle class supported the implementation of limited reservations. The commission however went on to suggest other steps like improving primary education, land reforms etc also. It was not until 1990 that the suggestions of the Mandal commission were given a thought. The then Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh decided to incorporate 22.5% SC/ST (the most oppressed classes) reservations in higher institutes neglecting all the other suggestions owing to their low political visibility. By doing so, he opened the pandora's box. The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) which has traditionally ridden on the upper caste votes vehemently opposed the move then. They were made to bite the dust as caste emerged as the latest dividing and polarizing factor in Indian politics. The move created huge uproar among the general public and culminated in the self immolation of several youths. Following this, V.P.Singh resigned as P.M and was succeded by P.V.Narasimha Rao. The caste division of politics got wider and uglier as national politics came to be dictated by caste leaders like Lalu, Mulayam, Mayawati and many more. Due to this BJP lost power in one of her stronghold states, Uttar Pradesh. Now that caste is very much the deciding factor in most of the constituencies across India and SC/ST+OBC votes range from a pessimistic estimate of 50% to an optimistic estimate of 80%, no political party dares to raise her head against the increase in reservations this time around.

The present agitations

The latest move angered the influential minority which comprises basically of the middle and the upper classes. Begining with strikes from the medical students of AIIMS in delhi, the protest as of today has engulfed the IMA (Indian Medical Association which has purview over other medical facilities across the country), the IITs along with many other engineering institutes, the chamber of commerce, the knowledge industry in general, the lawyers' association, trade unions, shops etc. Despite repeated pleas by the Govt. and the president (and once by the Supreme Court), the strike continues today, thus hampering critical services like medical etc. The quota move triggered the resignation of 2 of the 6 members of the knowledge commission (especially comprised by the Prime Minister to assess the education scenario of the country). The matter has now been taken up by the Supreme Court which has asked the central government about the rationale behind this decision in addition to asking the strikers to stop their protest.

My Views

Rationally speaking, I feel that in a highly heterogeneous society like India, reservations, if used judiciously, can serve as a strong means of achieving social equality. The fact that after 50 years, the need of reservation has only increased goes on to indicate that its implementation has been done from behind politically coloured glasses. The fact of the matter is that no political party (especially today's Congress) wants a rationally developed vote bank. The reason behind the widespread poverty and illiteracy in India is not any physical constraint but an underlying politican gain which stems from an impoverished majority. In such a scenario, political parties can garner votes over baser issues like caste and religion rather than more important topics like development and education. In this context, the present move is more the case of breaking the leg of a patient and providing him with walking sticks than striving to improve his condition and enabling him to stand on his feet. The whole issue stinks of political murkiness and I pretty much support the ensuing protests.

On the other hand, one has to keep in mind that SC/ST/OBC comprise atleast 50% (possibly much more) of the 1 billion Indians. These classes have traditionally been discriminated against and there is a genuine need to provide them with help and assistance. The help might come in the form of reservations but it should be based more on economic backwardness than the now abstract notion of caste backwardness. Moreover, any such move, which threatens to change the face of the country should be backed by more concrete numbers rather than the whims and fancies of one HRD minister.

Finally, over the apparently cold governmental response over the present strikes, I can only say that the middle class deserves such a treatment. The reason is the utter apathy which the middle class (sadly including me) displays over other issues of national importance (like the Coffin scam, Gujarat riots etc.). Now when it has suddenly woken up and started protesting, everything seems so selfish. How many of us really go and vote? If we are too busy to voice our opinions, the political parties would be more than happy to ignore our presence because as I already said, the oppurtunists called politicians thrive on an illiterate and divided India.

Poseidon

If you have been a veteran at the numerous screenings of those mind-numbingly dumb hollywood disaster flicks, what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you are presented with a 360 degree span view of a garangutan ocean liner, the inners of which are ornately decorated with elaborate doses of blindingly affluent profligation. How and when the hell is all this going to be turned into a confused and lethal mass of mangled wires, upturned furniture and strewen dead bodies?

As you are rubbing your hands in expectation, the director of Poseidon, sympathetic to your 8 bucks, glosses over any unnecassary character development and jumps straight to the action within 15 minutes of the start of the movie. Without any detail being supplied, the hapless audience is told that the Poseidon has been struck by a 150 ft. rogue wave and the ship has turned upside down (as if the passengers, now standing on the cealing are dumb enough to not figure this out). The film is not helped by its irritatingly banal dialogues. At the time when the grand central ball room is looking like the mangled remains of Hiroshima after the bombing, replete with disfigured corpses flying around every which way, one person asks the other, "How bad is it". "Really bad". As this line basically sums up the movie you can only tear apart those last remaining hair.

As the most foolish captain in the history of foolish sea-disaster movies cries to maintain status-quo as he thinks that help will arrive shortly, it is no surprise when a group of dare-doers led by the affectedly unnerved Lucas decide to reach the hull of the ship and get out. From this point you can basically guess whats going to happen in the movie. The group consists of Lucas (the daredevil hero), a former mayor with his daughter and her boyfriend, a mother with her child, a mexican waiter, a latino and a suicidal gay businessman. As far as final survivors are concerned, you make the following conclusions:

1. The mother and the child are not going to die as possession of a child imparts an immortalty to the mother and it is too sickening to kill a child, no matter howsoever irritating and troublesome he might be.

2. Josh Lucas is not going to die as he is ofcourse the "Hero".

3. Either of the girl or his boyfriend might die but if she has an expendable father, both might get saved.

4. Since the mexican waiter and the latino are played by relatively unknown characters, they will be the first to die.

and the movie lives up to all these observations. The only other things which should have been un-guessable are well, guessable. Like the lift falling down when the last guy just makes out of the vent. The sudden movement by an assumed deadbody accompanied by an orchestral bang. The water drowing the hero for just as long as he might survive.

The sole revelation of the movie was that the actors, instead of being homo-sapiens, belonged to some kind of a human-fish breed who could hold their breaths for unimaginably long intervals of time and traverse unimaginably long distances under water.

A final word. You can put your time to better use by counting the number of grass strands in your lawn.

Random Musings

The day has become so cruel now. Its no more the friend which used to conspire in our plans, cheer at those shots, revelle in our victories, lament at losses, confide silently, listen patiently, wait for me. Now, its so much more detached. Like a salesman, always in a hurry, phoney, like life, critical, demanding, too busy to pause for a chat, too short to allow a breath, too long to bear, too hot for a liesurly introspection, too cold to be a friend.

I remember the rising of the annoyed dust as the first rain drops came crashing down. I remember the smell of the partially wet earth. The unusually fresh green of the garden. Those puddles. That warm touch of the cold water. The dripping flocks. The shivering wind. The unusually grey sky. Distant, muffled lightning. Streaks on my window pane. Ripples in the river. Jumping in the puddles. Two worlds, one wild and turbulent, other snug and cozy, separated by a glass window. Now, rain is reduced to an inconvenience. A temporary, unwanted hiatus disturbing normalcy. The window has gone lifeless. Its there just to serve the purpose. The metaphor is gone. And the rain, desolate now, cries quietly on the other side.

I wonder, have the sacrifices been worth the gains? In this rush, innocence has paled and died. Time is fragmented with each fragment already claimed. There is a thick coat of dust on real pleasures. And I shrink and flinch as I try to remove it. Finally I give up and that bundle of joys, now blurred and hidden in the dust which binds my hands, hangs on the wall, sad, lonely, perhaps disillusioned and on its deathbed. And I look on, with nostalgic eyes, weigh reason against emotion, and turn away yet again.

Palomar valley

Our car came to a halt in one of the designated parking lots.

Peeping from inside the car, I managed to appreciate the foggy clarity of the valley outside. It was drenched with sunlight but I knew that sunlight was competing with the effects of high altitude and chilling winds. From the touch of the cold window pane, I could make out the elaborate comouflage of the nature outside. I stepped out onto the clean, black tarmac of the parking lot. Cold breeze, filtering through myriad trees, bushes and flowers on the surrounding mountains sent a shiver down my spine. The calliphany of the songs of the birds, floating in the air with the breeze, exploded through the deafening silence which permeated the atmosphere. In the front lay an amazing sight. Miles and miles of vast empty grassland sparsely dotted with occasional lonely trees punctuated on all sides by enormous mountains. It was quiet. Extremely quiet. So quiet so that even the flow of water far out somewhere in the grassland could be heard clearly. The silence of the vast empty land was broken only by the low chirping of blue mountain birds. The atmosphere was filled with some kind of extreme sloth. Even the strands of grass did not stand erect but chose to sway towards one side as if under somekind of a trance. Sun shone with all its fatherly warmth on the tips of those strands and made their surfaces glisten with a crystally shimmer. The lush green trees which marked the boundary of the immense wasteland stood silently, patiently, with bowed heads, trying to absorb what I was witnessing. Nature in its immense glory.

Believe me, if you could not see what I saw, could not feel what I felt, the flaw is in my limiited ability at being able to describe the undescribable.

Federer Mania

I guess this was expected sooner or later. Considering how big a fan I am of Roger Federer, it was only a matter of time when I wrote a small piece as an ode to his genius.

I heard of the man during the course of Wimbledon '04. Even at that relatively early period, pundits of the game had started hailing Federer as one of the best natural talents ever to grace a tennis court. Remembering the old saying that 'where there is smoke, there is fire', I decided to follow the slam and the man. Needless to say, there was something special in him but the one aspect which really impressed me was the clinical precision of his methods. Like an experienced practitioner, the man never ever gave any indication of his emotions. It seemed to me that he had everything figured out and there was nothing at all, atleast on the tennis court which could surprise him. He ended all his matches with a small smile, a courteous handshake, a ceremonial wristband throw, and a climactic clap of his raised hands. I liked that lazy, confident arrogance which seemed to say, 'I know the result. Its just a formality'.

After that wimbledon, I have followed his matches most diligently and am happy to say that even a die hard believer in his abilities like me has been surprised by the meteoric rise that the man himself has registered in the last 3 years. From a cold killer, he has now become a silent, calculating, winning machine. And with this, he has developed a repertoire of shots, which is unparalleled in history and some of which are really beyond the wildest imaginations of the craziest sport player and fan. His version of the game has now transcended the game itself. Its more like music. A Don Bradman setup such records in cricket which might never be surpassed but his technique could never be termed perfect. A Tiger woods might go on to become the greatest golfer ever, but he sometimes lacks the humility which should accompany success. A Michael Jordan will be remembered as the best basketball player ever but he was also nasty sometimes. Federer is all of these men and more. He combines perfection with humility, a combination extremely rare to find.

For those who are not yet a fan of this man, just a look at some of his records,

Federer won all his matches against the next 10 ranked players from October 2003 to January 2005

He has won 24 straight finals. The second best in history was 12

During 2004,05,06, he lost only 8 matches, winning 180 odd.

He has won all the grand slam finals he has reached which is a record.

He has won 52 straight matches on hard court. The second highest was 35.

He has won 37 straight matches on grass and is eyeing the record of 42 this wimbledons

He is already half way through the tally of 14 grand slams of Pistol Pete and he is only 24

All of the above is quite surprising, but I like him for his rendition of the art that he has made of Tennis. I adore him for the almost spiritual exhilaration which I feel while watching him play.

One

To a reader blessed with a reasonable amount of Intelligence Quotient, the facts that I have a lot of time in hand and that I am inconsiderate and profligate enough to squander this entity, which to many, represents the most valuable possession possible but which, if endowed in abundance over someone like me can only result in its criminal abuse, should manifest themselves quiet readily upon his glancing over this piece, which has to its credit, neither one of the chains of logical reasoning which made many an illustrious careers, in fields as diverse as mathematics, philosophy, physics, investigative detection and professions of these sorts, most notably that of the victorian sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, nor does it have the emotional punch which might bring that tear at the corner of your eyes, nor does it claim to be comic, but in essence, is written just to test the sole capability of the writer in conveying his ideas in as long a sentence as his ability allows and the limits upto which a reader might go before turning dizzy, insane and possibly extremely hostile, the latter effect which is affected by the simple fact that it is not at all easy, making sense of all the blabbering which went into the last few lines and to deal with the realization finally that it was all, indeed, never intended to make any worldly sense, is very understandable but I hope that the reader will be able to recover from this taruma and shall read my other blogs which surely mmake much more sense.

Plight of an English poet

I was watching this program called dirty jobs on discovery when I started wondering, what could be the most despicable and painful job in the world. It did not take me long to zero-in on the poets who squander their complete lives trying to rhyme those wretched emotions which have this uncanny habit of popping up in any and every line of any and every discussion with words which you will never ever use in a decent, sane discussion but which turn out to be the last straw in this unabashedly rhyme-starved world. These poets lose much of their hair and sanity in the search of this fool's gold. To top it all is the obligation that it all has to make some freaking sense. No, not to everyone for then it will be too easy and mundane. The poem should be screwed-up enough not to be too transparent and logical enough to make sense if a reader having a reasonable I.Q is ready to scratch the bottom of the barrel in search of meanings and interpretations.

The problem is much more acute for an english poet due to some very important factors. For eg. which is the one word that you think represents the most important and recurring emotion in the poetic hyperspace?............ Why, its 'love'. And which are the words which would rhyme with this all pervasive emotion. Now you have started scratching your head. This is the plight I am talking about. The best you can do is probably 'dove' or going to the extreme, 'skies above' and the buck stops there ('shove, glove etc. are termed too dry and it would take a real heartless foolish poet to use them in his poems). Its almost as if the makers of the english language had some personal hatred against the poets of the future. Compare it with the hindi language. The hindi equivalent of love is pyaar which can be conveniently rhymed with zillions of words like ikraar, intezaar, bekaraar, sarkaar etc. (And believe me, all those zillion combination have already been beaten to death in the hindi movies). If you atlast run out of all these combinations, Hindi has provided you with the freedom of making up your own non-sensical words so that even the most talentless poet can rhyme 'pyaar' with 'vyaar' and 'ishq' with 'vishq'. This fact has a very strong impact on the society in general. When a little johnny goes up to his father and says that he wants to be a poet, the father conveniently kills his innocent ambition by the words- "Why johnny. You know how tough a life these poets lead? Even of you are ready to face those hardships, will you ever be able to find rhyming words with love, heart, cry, eyes?" And little johnny reluctantly sees reason in this charade and drops all his plans of becoming a poet and starts concentrating on sports (presumably the easier field). On the other hand when a pappu asks his papa the same question, the papa can only look to pappu's bleak future in dismay as he knows that even pappu, with his limited IQ, can rhyme words in this hopelessly romantic Hindi language. And the Indian sports arena suffers another setback.

I believe that this very important factor has lead to the development of a class of poetry in English which does not have rhyming words as one of its prerequisites. You can basically write a prose on the economic repercussions in socialist russia, punctuate it with a large number of unnecessary commas, colons and semicolons, break it into different lines and submit the final product as a poetry in the International poetry competition and stand a good chance of winning the first prize in this hopelessly rhyme-impaired english world. You cannot do the same in India. Upon doing this, you stand a good chance of being reviled as uncreative, boring and many a times even blasphemous. Why else did you leave the comforts of the discovered territory and venture into the unknown and the wild?

Rang de Basanti

Well I finally saw it. After receiving such good reviews from people about the movie and getting comments like "I" would particularly like the subject and the treatment, I finally saw it tonight. It is 4:24 in the morning and I am writing this blog instead of going to sleep because the movie was based upon a subject which I value very dearly and contrary to expectations, I did find some flaws in the treatment of the movie.

The movie is based upon the transformation which is brought about in the lives of 5 young men after they come to learn about the sacrifices of indian freedom fighters upclose. This transformation then leads them to kill the defence minister as they hold him responsible for the Mig. crashes which have become routine lately.

The first and foremost irony which the movie depicts very successfully is the fact that we as youth of this generation are sadly unconcerned about the idea that India is. Looking at the growth that India has been registering lately (although it effects a small minority), it becomes difficult to decide whether this is not the country which was in the visions of those who died for her independence. On the other hand, the rampant corruption, the disgusting politics along with many other such factors make me believe that surely a Chandrashekhar Azad died for something better. The sad part is that all of this is conveniently ignored for daily chores by all of us today.

The depiction of the lives of Azad, Bhagat Singh, Ram in the movie is more history than innovation and improvisation although its effect on the protagonist is handled pretty efficiently by good direction. The director somehow forgets the fact that India is still a democracy wherein it is just not possible to order a lathi charge on peaceful demonstrators in the glaring presence of today's stifling media. The situation looks more like an autocratic society. Same is the case with the ending of the movie wherein the killing of the young men who had surrendered gives an indication that the director is trying to pull the strings too far in order to get his point through. If not from a moral conscience, the material, and political repercussions alone can dissuade a democratic government from taking such a step.

Finally the most important question. Was the killing of the defence minister justified? I have always believed that such corrupt politicians belong to the social strata which comes way below that of a despicable pig. I have always believed that such people have long lost their right to live and are now only a burden to the society which the societ would do well to throw off. But practicality does not rest on beliefs. Frankly, I don't find anything wrong in the idea of killing those who are guilty of such hienous practices but the justice should be dealt to all and not just one person. The problem with this theory is that even if you identify all those with tainted linens, their number is so huge that killing them may first of all be practically impossible and second may induce a kind of anarchy in the society. Recently I had a very nice discussion with one of my friends on this topic and I was almost led to believe that such a solution although swift and emotionally fulfilling may lead to instability in the society in the long run. I hate to admit the fact but I have come to support this argument in some measure. The solution maybe lies in democratically fighting the disease that is politics. Finally I would like to put forth the following points and conclude this topic:

1. We know that something is terribly screwed up in the Indian society.
2. We know that the most educated section of the society is the one which is most removed from any concerns about the situation.

In such a situation, how practical is the democratic solution? For me the light only comes from the solution potrayed in the movie. As they say: "It sometimes requires a bang to wake up the sleeping"

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