Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A New Year Is Upon Us

If space and time were interchangeable, we'd be constantly leaving worlds behind.

Our hearts are stout vessels, forged out of tissue stronger than tempered steel. How else can they remain undaunted in the face of savage change? How else can they desire transformation and simultaneously abhor it?

A new year is upon us, to lift us like leaves, like petals, like clouds. And to crush us like withering rocks under iron soles.

Do I take time and space by the scruff of their necks, force them to do my bidding and perish gloriously in a blinding white light? Do I sit in my balcony and watch the whims of the Universe turn beggars to kings and kings to beggars? Do I submit myself to the blessings and the onslaughts?

Am I a subject of this world or an object for another's taking? Or are these different ways to view the same reality? Or are these just lies!

Resolutions are for cowards. I will confront the new year, armed with nothing but belief. I will not wilt under the brutalities of  adult society. I will learn from the past but I shan't cling on to wisdom. I will retain the heart of a child.

I will look to my compass for guidance, for it errs not in this world of mirrors. I will draw lines in this grey battlefield of meanings, and I will have the courage not to cross strokes of peril. I will accept paradoxes instead of bartering goods.

In a way I never have before, just like I promise myself year after year, I will prevail.

"How can this be any different from what we have already seen?"
"It's a trick. They always change everything when you're looking away."

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Up The Mountain With Friends

A gurgling river, sparkling like silver, rushes underneath the bridge. The mountain is lush and green, and a path has been cut through it, extending into heaven and perhaps beyond. The same road, a few hours into the future, can be seen in the distance, wrapping itself around the mountain in a fond embrace.

Seven children stand at the beginning of the road, with heavy bags on their shoulders and warm cloaks over their bodies. One lad, who has been this way before, stands in front of the rest and talks of the adventures which lie ahead of them. A few chocolates come out of a hidden pocket, and he offers these to the rest. Only the girl with curly black hair refuses to accept the treat. Another girl promises to eat her chocolate soon; the others swallow theirs eagerly.

They begin their trip, with smiles in their eyes and songs on their lips - songs set to the beat of their hearts. The climb is steep and soon their tongues are dry. The two lads who trail the group are filled with doubt. What lies ahead? Exactly how much adventure can we have, so that it can be termed an adequate amount?

One of these lads, bespectacled and slim, trails the group with a book in hand. He carries it as a jewel, afraid of losing it, and within it, his thoughts. The curly-haired girl and a boy with a cap too large for his head walk in front of him. The boy plods through the path, stumbling across small streams and rocks, shouting out to the people who walk ahead of him. He is in the mood for an adventure, and he is letting everyone know.

Suddenly he sees an elf. The elf crawls over the rocks, and jumps across streams - which appear to him as almighty rivers. This amuses the children, who stop to catch a glimpse of the violet mountains. The sun is overhead, throwing its golden rays at large blue butterflies. Blue wings flutter vigorously in the cool misty air, and carry their dainty bodies easily across the rocks.

The mountain now looks like a game: it resembles a puzzle, but no one quite knows what the puzzle is about.

"This is a land where people only walk up the hill, and no one goes back," cries the lad with the oversized cap.
"It is so beautiful!" says the elf from atop a high rock.

The girl who promised to take her chocolate soon looks pensive; perhaps she feels left out? She stares into the kaleidoscopic abyss. The tall lad, wrapped in an earthy shawl, stands away from the rest of the group, seeking silence in the mountain's intrinsic sounds. The boy wearing glasses scribbles furiously in his notebook, but he doesn't know what he writes.

They walk along the edge of the mountain, but the children are not afraid. It is because they don't look down. They don't fear that which may not exist. At every turn, a path opens up in front of them. They rush eagerly to the edge of the mountain, and just when they are about to reach the corner, the path bends and escapes their clutches. The mountain changes hue and voice - first it is violet, then orange, suddenly blue and finally red.

The air thins. The leader of the group stops to rest. He seems to know the path well. He stares animatedly at the most inane objects. There is so much to see! Everything is vivid, vibrant and tangible. Even the air appears in a cool blue tinge. But when they stop to meditate upon what they see, the children realize that they do not see anything in particular.

By focussing upon any one object in their fields of vision, they lose sight of everything else, and therefore lose the moment.

"The moment is part of the picture," cry one of the boys. "You cannot take a picture of this even a moment from now. It has to be now. Or it never will be."

This puts everybody in a deeply contemplative mood. A few faces look sad. The boy who trails continues to write: "What am I if I cannot document?" he writes. He realizes that his scribbling disturbs him, but he cannot help himself. He is trapped by his own enterprise.

The air is thin now, and shrubs gave way to grey stone. The mountain has turned hostile. "We must not rest now; it will soon be dark!" says the leader.

"Do not cease to climb until the slope levels," says one of the girls.
"If I climb this hill alone and no one sees me climb, do I really climb it? What proof do I have that I have climbed it?"

The children are going mad. It is becoming cold; the sun fades in the west behind grey hills which are tinged with orange. The climb is nearly over, or so they have been told.

"There is a hot spring at the end of all this," says the boy in the shawl to the elf.
"Is there really?"

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Paint, Blood and The End

I prefer the setting sun, when the clock nears the end
To the rising one, full of uncertain promise,
When you don't know the beginning from the middle;
Where the day will go, you are unaware.

The setting sun is a symbol of everything good
In a world where nothing is certain;
Because promises are lies, and embellished truths,
Realized only by coincidence.

I prefer the void of leaving someone
To the impatient beginning of relationships
When people are full of energy and trust,
When all there is can be lost forever.

I prefer painful, heartfelt words
To poems that will render me happy.
For there is truth in only one of them,
And poems can easily be taken away.

I am yet to meet a malevolent person,
Which is why there isn't, I am certain,
The need to doubt the intentions of a man
Who leaves you bloodied and brutalized.

I prefer sweat and blood to conditioned hair,
Wrinkled skin to the pale white cream,
Ignorant men to the preachers of this world;
I want your face, not your mask.

The closure in the evening West
Makes the day worth living again;
Misery will end and so will happiness,
And you will fall asleep to wake up again.

Endings are more glorious than the start,
Because there is closure in the finishing line.
There are no chasms, there are no peaks,
There is the end and nothing else.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

An Insufficient Democracy - The Defense of Arvind Kejriwal

The way people have been swayed over a period of two weeks is nothing short of unbelievable. Around the time of Christmas, AK was still being hailed as a messiah from the heavens, as a savior of the common-man, as the last bastion against corruption - he was almost called the son of God. Today, he is nearly a criminal: he is a fool whose understanding of politics and its nuances is worse than those who sit in their armchairs and spew venom on him.

"Delhi ka CM pagal hai", "He is an anarchist", "He is the Item-Girl of Indian Politics" - I don't think anyone in the recent past has been showered with as many vivid adjectives during such a short period of time. As the anarchist staged a dharna on the roads of Delhi, people fumed and cried foul. During the days preceding AAP's great run to victory, protests identical to this had become synonymous with the name 'Arvind Kejriwal'; they did, by no small measure, influence the outcome of the 2013 elections.

People criticized him even during those days, and they are right to carry on in the same vein for nothing has changed with Arvind Kejriwal. But why are his own supporters up in arms? What has changed now that the very same dharna has become unacceptable? Did the voters of Delhi bring AAP into power hoping that the Aam Aadmi Party would change its colours and become another Congress or a BJP? When you vote for a zealot, you will get a zealot - not a tame country mouse.

"Why did you not stage a dharna when a child was found abandoned in a rubbish heap a few weeks ago? Why are you silent, Kejriwal?" challenged a man who claims to be the Voice of India. Suddenly, the various times AK had not staged dharnas became important to people. Arvind Kejriwal was using these cheap tactics only to further his Lok Sabha ambitions. Everyone had something to say about the wolf in common man's clothing.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - The Man in the Arena, Theodore Roosevelt

When Delhi voted the AAP into an unprecedented second place, I was shocked like many others. Here was a man with absolutely no history in governance, and people had trusted him to go all the way in the capital of the country. Kejriwal, since the beginning, has maintained that his one goal in life is to eradicate corruption. To hand over the reins of a large city to such a man was always a risky prospect - but Democracy allows people to make such choices. And people made that choice when they undertook the risk: corruption had quite clearly leeched its way into their very bones and they took a leap of faith.

Today, Kejriwal defends the same promises that he made. He may be a fool, but he is not a hypocrite. This characteristic of his makes for a strange politician. Democracy doesn't support such men who walk their talk. Democracy is at its best when it does nothing; when people are lulled into a sense of security, they absolutely love their leaders. People may appreciate the talk, but they are averse to actions. In the great average that such a political system creates, a man with ideas stands out like a clown in rainbow clothing.

I am certain that an intelligent man in the CM's chair will not hold protests in Delhi's cold streets if he was able to solve his troubles sitting at home. Clearly unable to effect change from his chair, he came down to the roads in order to utilize the only method he seems to know. Whether this is right or wrong is debatable, but the people who voted him into power shouldn't really have a problem with it. He is, after all, only trying to deliver on his promises.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.
The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest-
-For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men-
-Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man. - Mark Antony, "Julius Caesar" - William Shakespaere 

"But Arvind Kejriwal is an honourable man" - I cannot help but draw parallels. The above speech ended with the words - "Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou what course thou wilt". When everyone says the same thing again and again, even if it is untrue, it will become fact. 

Dialogue and opinions are an integral part of democracy. Everyone has the right to voice his or her views, but with media shouting its 'news' into peoples' ears, the aam aadmi no longer knows what to do. We must remember that the aam aadmi is one who laughs at Kumar Vishwas' racist and sexist humour; surely, such a man cannot hold his own opinions when he's being pummeled into submission by might of the Voice of India.

Arvind Kejriwal's goal is not in question; if his means to the goal weren't a problem to you before, it shouldn't bother you now. The vigilantes among his comical assembly of politicians have much to learn, but having brought a party into power, it makes sense to give them some time. Perhaps an insensitive haasya-kavi and a reckless Law Minister will go some way in eliminating corruption: two weeks is too small a period to develop opinions about anybody!

Most importantly, let us realize why we praise or criticize anybody. In this market of voices, we develop meaningless opinions in the hope that we get heard.

P.S. Every single person I know wishes for a corruption free India in which they alone can pay a small bribe and get their work done.