Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Guilty Conscience

On my way to the bus stop today, I came across a sight that made me think that my life was not so bad after all. There was a lady, naked and extremely frail, by the road. She was moving on her hands, since she didn’t have one leg, and the other had been rendered powerless because of the lack of strength. She looked pale and exhausted. I wondered how long it will be before she becomes a victim of the awfully cold winters.

I was getting late so didn’t stop to help her. It was like so many other times, where I have wanted to help, but chosen not to go out of my way in doing so. Will without action is futile. I know I am not indifferent, but I am also not proactive and forthcoming. I feel so useless.

When I sat in the bus, I started feeling guilty. Yes, just as I do, on those numerous other occasions when I could have done something which means a little to me but could have done them a lot of good. I could have got her food to eat, given her some money, or got her an old t-shirt from home. But I didn’t do any of it. Going to meet friends was the most important thing in life.

There are moments that just force you to ponder- Why this disparity? There are people like us, who have all the necessities in life, if not luxuries and on the other side of the fence, there are the destitute and helpless, who have just been pushed deeper into their side of the divide partly because of the social and economic layout of our country. In colloquial terms, we often use the phrase the 'haves' and the 'have nots' to refer to these two sides of society.

Despite of all their impediments, we, the 'haves' are the ones who can’t stop craving for more while they are satisfied with two meals a day and a room over their head, no matter how meager the meal may be or how weak the roof may be. We are the ones who can lend a helping hand, and yet, we shirk of the responsibility as the self-sufficient section of the society and let them be.
Charles Darwin said, “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” I couldn’t have put it in better words.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Relations Management

This has absolutely no relation with my article in Education Times dated 17th January. As always, it is another random post on the who's who and what's what of my so-far insignificant life. This time I look at standard dialogues of the apparent members of my extended family.

First and foremost is the introductory dialogue. "Pehchante ho?" Since it is not good to be asocial, I try to blink, smile, then blink again, feigning the 'I am pushing my memory hard to conjure some name' look. On a memory miss, I say a polite and soft "No". Knowing the consequences of the reply, I force myself into a trance to skip the huge chain of relations that emerges out of the conversation, more so, if the reply is in English. "I am your father's maternal uncle's wife's sister-in-law." It would have been way better on my behalf to add an " and I am not interested in knowing you" tag after the first "No" but being curt is not a trait appreciated by most, in spite of the fact that it saves you a lot of time.

The uncles and aunties who have never seen you before will act so fond of you as if they have changed your diapers. "Kitna bada ho gaya hai." I mean I can't say "Aap bhi to buddhe/buddhe ho gaye hain." Again, a stupid smile is called for. On certain occasions, they even go on to enquire about the heights your family has scaled and where do you stand in the ranking.

Further in the cliched conversation, they add "Kabhi ghar to aaya karo." Why? Why should I go to some one's place who I didn't even know before the conversation began? How do you just drop into somebody's house without reason the first time itself? There has to be some rapport between people before they start visiting each other's residences.

False presumptions are a big pain in the ass. Once I was introduced by a self-delusional relative as "He is an intelligent boy who studies a lot. He tops the university. Usse 95% marks milte hain. But he is a loner. Bahut kum bolta hai. Thoda shy hai." Those who are familiar with what engineering in Mumbai University is all about will know how true the '95% story' is and those who know me, will clarify the 'shy' and 'loner' bits too.

Lastly, a mention of all eligible bachelors and spinsters including me, who are not interested in being categorised as 'eligible and available' in the first place. Seriously, when they want to be left on their own and enjoy their freedom, pursue studies and grow in their careers, relative should stop seeing possible couples and marriage proposals and just stick to their normal bitching and gossip. There is enough fodder to feed their jabber anyways. Spare the guys and girls.

Having said all this, if you happen to be my relative and are reading this, it is not that I don't like you, but the next time you talk, please keep the above points in mind and try and not do to the next generation, what the previous generation did to you. You know it was not fun.

No offence meant. Ceasefire.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Question Mark

Each answer has a question, but is the converse true? It is. It isn’t perhaps. I am confounded. Some might say it’s a matter of whether you belief in what answers are given to you. Some might simply accept the fact that there are no answers. Others will argue that these questions themselves are objectionable. I don’t know about which side of the debate to support, but what I do know is there are a few questions which I haven’t been able to find convincing answers to.

Science has given us a lot of convincing reasons behind how most worldly occurrences take place. Its arguments are supported with facts and figures and can be considered credible. We now have answers to a variety of questions like what an atom is made of, what the El Nino cycle is all about, how to control nuclear fusion and even what led to the creation of the world? Ever wondered how did all the matter come into being in the first place? If there was no matter in the first place, then where did all the energy to create that matter come from? You know at some point in the unending inquiry, you reach a stage where you say “God made it all, he is the creator of the Universe,” but ever wondered who made God? Isn’t God simply a mirage of human insecurities? I am not atheist and I do believe in the power of the Supreme Being, but then if you look at it logically, it doesn’t fit.

Move on from the point of creation to the point where it all ends - Death. Or wait, does it end after all? Is there salvation in the truest sense of the word? Legend has it that a number of ancient civilizations laid a lot of importance on a person’s life beyond those doors of death. Another few believed in the second-life, that is re-incarnation. Does life after death exist?

The end of a life is one thing; the end of the world is another. Is there a possibility that Universe will end one day? Scientists say there is an anti-thesis to the Big Bang Theory, called the Big Crunch, which claims that the world will end in an exactly opposite way it was created. But if it has to end, why was there all this jazz in the first place creating it?

On a different note, there has been more than one instance of a haunting, unexplained death or disappearance, a great miracle and there is a lot of study going on in this regard, but none has ever been as conclusive to show what the truth is. That doesn’t mean I want to have an encounter with a ghost myself, but I will like to see if science can explain this phenomenon of spirits – good or bad. Is there a meta-physical world? Are the after-life and the supernatural connected?

I have asked these questions to myself, but then think they are of not much consequence to the world. There are question of greater concern to humanity which need to be answered first. What is a greater worry is that some people who are in a position to give answers to significant questions don’t choose to do so. Why are nations still building nuclear arsenals? Why are industries and their machines still polluting the atmosphere in spite of the prophecy of the mega-floods due to global warming? Why are there deaths in the name of God? Why are we so high-handed in our approach towards living in a world of compromises, but a world which is peaceful? Too many questions, some will never find their answers, others will never get their answers. The line of distinction is fine but worth noticing.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Biggest Cheater Jeetega

I always had respect for the Australian cricket team’s game until I witnessed what they did in Sydney. The match was memorable for a lot of reasons- some right, most wrong.

For the first time, we also saw the Aussie sportsmanship being replaced by such a strong thirst for a win that they stooped down to shameful levels. The arrogance of the world champions has driven the spirit of healthy competition out of them. They were quite shocked with India’s response in the first innings because they had not faced opposition in the last 15 matches they played. They resorted to unacceptable measures on and off the field.

Whoever goes to the match referee for on-field sledging? The Aussies don’t even have the right to, because their team is the fore-runner when it comes to playing on-field word games. People who watch the telecast from their homes are not blind to not see the number of times the lips of their players shape to say the f-word. I don’t even think Bhajji called Symonds a monkey. Even if he did (he deserved it), I don’t think it falls in the domain of racial discrimination. Kindergarten kids often use monkey and donkey in their harmless banter.

The glaring blunders by the umpires were just one-too-many. Either they chose to err, or they have a genuine problem of the sensory system. The latter however, seems unlikely. If they had a problem in sighting the ball or listening to the edges, it should have affected decisions against both the team’s batsmen. As most of us know, this was certainly not the case. The former is a possibility, but I am assuming the integrity of men that operate on the panel at international level should not be doubted.

It was more like the umpires were in awe of the appeals the Kangaroos made. They were tested time and again, with appeals that didn’t even qualify as appeals. The way Dravid or Yuvraj were given out was absolutely crazy. The third umpire with all that gadgetry available to him could not have gone wrong with Symond’s decision. And then asking the fielding captain whether the batsman was caught cleanly was like asking a barber if you needed a haircut!! It is hats off to the Indian players for having fought so hard before going down in a battle which could not have been won. The next time Steve "Slow death" Bucknor shows our batters the finger, they know which finger to show in response.

The Aussie media might call Indians bad losers. They say a champion team is one that raises its game in the time of adversity. Agreed Indians didn’t bat well in the second innings but why were Ganguly and Dravid not given a chance to fight it out for India in the second innings? Agreed that they could have bowled better to the Aussies in the latter half of the game, but do they think Australia could have been won the game had Symonds been adjudged out when he was at 30 in the first innings? He went on to make a 130 more!

My heart goes out to Anil Kumble and his players for having conducted himself with such dignity. Our team deserved to win. Australia won the match, but the game of cricket lost like never before. For me, the Australian team is now nothing but a bunch of arrogant and cheap players. They should learn to behave like world-champions.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Steely Resolve

Promises are meant to be broken and resolutions even more so. I barely know of a few people who genuinely stick to them. For most others, it is fashionable to make resolutions and then claim "I am going to try to stick to it, thought I don't think I will be able to do so beyond a month." I was partly successful in some of them. ‘Them’ included resolutions like not having tea for a year! With the slightly more difficult ones, failure was inevitable. However, I soon stopped committing myself to them at the start of the year and have now completely moved towards a goal-oriented approach. But if I were ever to make a resolution again, these are the ones which will test my patience and determination to the limit(listed in random order).

I Net - Centric
I will stay online for a maximum of one hour in a day.
I will orkut only once in a week.
I will not torture readers with highly opinionated political blogs.
I will not rush into writing testimonials.

II Behavioural
I will not give advice when it is not asked for.
I will stop bitching about people.
I will not play devil’s advocate.
I will stop being over-realistic.

III Educational
I will stop bulk-xeroxing.
I will not leave the syllabus for the preparatory leave.
I will not show my disgust at VESIT’s policies.
I will write my assignments on my own.

IV Social
I will attend all community functions.
I will entertain people even if they are talking crap because they belong to the group called ‘relatives.’
I will stop having long telephone conversations.
I will meet all my friends at least once in a month.

V Dietary
I will stop eating at Khau Galli.
I will not dine/lunch out more than once in a month.
I will stop eating ketchup.
I will not experiment any more with noodles.
I will learn to cook something beyond noodles.

VI Miscellaneous
I will again start talking in unadulterated slang-free English.
I will not take a rickshaw between home and college on all the times I am not in a hurry.
I will stop clicking random pictures of myself because it’s not good being a narcissist.
I will follow a healthy routine and go for morning walks regularly.