Thursday, January 28, 2010

Centurial Proceedings

I had a half written post lying around my drafts which I had intended to put up today, but that post will have to wait for a while to see the light of day. I did some simple addition and realized that what I'm putting up now is the 100th post on the blog. Every blogger, I believe, has the right to an occasional my-blog-is-so-awesome gloat. Anyone who is unfortunate or unemployed enough to read my blog should be prepared to bear this mind-numbing torture (if you're still reading it, you've probably become immune to it) about once every 100 posts. On the occasion of my 100th post, I also find it entirely appropriate to title this post with an invented word and blame it on artistic licence.

On to how awesome my blog is, then. I started off this blog along with a (now defunct) blog called Booze Diaries. Booze Diaries finds itself under ten feet of dust, not because blood alcohol levels have dipped. Quite the contrary, in fact. It owes its decline most, to a lack of memory about the previous night. On a more serious note, I have found it difficult to keep a thematic blog going. You can't risk yourself landing in the gutter every night just to keep a blog going, especially one that's probably read by about two people (one of whom is you yourself). This blog too, started off as "Travel Travails". In fact the first post on the blog was written under that banner. Soon enough I realized that unless I turn this blog into a day-to-day one, I'll find myself only writing about how answering nature's calls in places that I go for trips is so difficult. Soon after the switch to the current title I wrote "Perspective", which continues to remain one of my favourite posts. Therefore I believe we find ourselves in agreement, that the switch from "Travel Travails" to "Days in the Life Of..." was a move for the better.

It has taken nearly two years to reach the centurial (in your face, Firefox spell check!) mark. I feel happy when I say that the blog has now reached a decent level of regular readership, far away from the two-hits-a-day status. That obviously doesn't mean that I don't open my counter about fifteen times a day. Let's just blame that on the attention seeking nature of man. All said and done, writing is a fantastic creative outlet, and it feels good to know that people are reading stuff you write. That, especially when you know people are hardly listening when you talk (a lot of it that I'm told I do). As Manu once put it, "I find it admirable that you can treat your blog as a creative release. I'm a total sell-out. I write only so that I get all comments and the fan-mail!". Unfortunately, Manu has stopped selling out as often nowadays. I'm sure I'll continue to sell out and pretend like I'm getting creative release out of the blog for a while. There will be phases when inspiration (or inclination for that matter) to write will be hard to come by, but then there'll be days in the life of Siddharth Krishnamoorthy when he'll crack his fingers and get typing again (and then check his blog counter 20 times over the next three days), and come back to remind you why his blog is so awesome approximately once every 100 posts.

Here's thanking all my readers who keep me writing. May you continue to not have a life and find yourself getting tortured by my aimless rambling for a long time to come!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Perceptions and Contradictions

Uncle SS left a few days ago. Uncle SS is also one with questionable secular credentials. Notice how calling someone un-secular is almost swearing now. I remember this episode of Boston Legal where someone sues Denny Crane because he tells them that they "don't sound black". Denny asks Allen whether saying someone sounds black is racist, to which Allan rather elegantly replies that it would be much more racist to say "someone sounds street or urban and mean they sound black". My point at the end of the day is that if you hate a section of people and typecast all of them under one bracket, and then expect others to agree with you, you'd better have a good explanation for it. I'm sure Uncle SS thinks of himself as a perfectly liberal and tolerant man. His well-to-do, affluent and highly educated sensibilities will find it too politically incorrect to realize his lack of tolerance. Living in denial about the same ensures a peaceful existence under one's skin.

Uncle SS has not lived in India for almost two decades now. I have met him on and off throughout that period and never have found myself informed or opinionated enough to actively engage in a debate with him. This time, however, things were different. If anything, the debate ended only because I realized there's no amount of logic that wins against one's emotional faculties. That's not a bad thing per se. But when the emotion is hate and exclusion, it's better to use mind over matter and suppress until one is thoroughly convinced of the truth of the matter. You see, Uncle SS is of the firm belief that everything is black and white. So much so that I might actually end up rechristening him Uncle Noir et Blanche. Everything he says, needs to be weighed on objectivity and needs to be enforced emotionlessly. There are cold, hard decisions to be made in life and emotions only drag you down. On a personal level, I might get myself to somehow agree with him- there are tough decisions to be made in life and sometimes you need to keep emotions out of these decisions. But when he extrapolates the same logic to tell me how India will never progress unless it stamps out the greys and starts seeing everything in black and white, I begin to flinch. We had a rather heated argument the other day on who to ascribe moral responsibility to, when a bribe exchanges hands. Uncle SS believes that as a citizen of the country (as a doctor, say), if I do my job correctly, I have no other moral responsibility to society. "It's a matter of free choice. No one forces you to take a bribe", he argues. I question Uncle SS' belief, saying that the person accepting the bribe may be in a dire financial condition and may not always be in a position to be able to make what Uncle SS might call a morally right decision when a carrot is dangled in front of him. Free choice is not telling a person that he's free to choose and then load the choice heavily in one direction. I'm not using this as an excuse to legitimize bribing and corruption. All I'm saying is that the moral responsibility cannot be passed on to one person in all cases without consideration. Probably never having been in such a situation himself, he cannot admit the existence of such a middle ground.

Uncle SS also returned rather traumatized from the Auto Expo. One of the things that traumatized him was this lady who was sweeping the floor at Pragati Maidan with a bamboo broom while there were Mercedes cars on display right behind her, complete with blondes and brunettes to add to the glamour. "The lady was stupid. What kind of an image of our country does this portray?", fumes Uncle SS. I smile feebly, simply because I realize that this is another argument that won't be won. It tells the world that there exist such contradictions in our country. Right here, a woman can continue sweeping in front of Mercedes cars worth millions, only to look up to be appalled by how skimpily clad the accompanying blondes and brunettes are. She knows she'll never be able to afford the car, but the sweeping of the floor atleast feeds her family, and that's all she's concerned about. It also tells the world that our country can survive (if not flourish) with contradictions like these. So I'd rather let them see it, rather than sweep it under the rug. After about two decades of being away and dealing with binary issues, has forgotten about the existence of the middle ground. One can't blame him; there are very few countries in the world that throw up as many contradictions in a single day as this one does. But to suppose that everything needs to be seen in black and white and the greys need to be stamped out is suicidal. The difference at the end of the day is that I find it quite amusing (beautiful, even) that we continue to function despite so many parameters to balance in every equation (something he might refer to as me having been sanitized to all of India's problems).

Let's face the fact- while that middle ground may create more factors to manage on a day to day basis, hence complicating problems and their solutions, that same middle ground is where people struggle every single day to make something out of their lives. The day you ignore that middle ground in this country, you begin to regress. The same regression which will be termed as true progress by Uncle SS and the like, simply because the white contains everyone who thinks like him, the greys cease to exist and the black (which has essential grown to swallow the grey), we simply turn a blind eye to and pretend it's not there. Democracy wins. Free choice prevails.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Aman Ki Asha

I woke up this new year's day with the painful realization of a screaming headache that had probably been afflicting me for a a couple of hours now; only that I was lost in deep, alcohol-induced slumber so I couldn't feel it. As I stumbled across the hall in my friend's house (where last night's revelry had unfolded, and caused the said headache) and laid my eyes on the newspaper, I found the front page yelling, "Let's talk to Pakistan". This was a pleasant start to the new year. Having walked across the border at Wagah and therefore seen more than the pompous machismo most get to see at the change of guards ceremony, I had returned very happy with the treatment I had received in that country. The hospitality extended out to us, especially when people came to know that we were from the country next door was heart warming to say the least. The hospitality-givers didn't come from a restricted section of society. Shopkeepers, pedestrians, students, taxi drivers - a wide range of social and economic backgrounds were nothing but warm and generous. On new year's day then, one found oneself cheered up in throes of a dirty hangover. Even though I know where the whole Aman ki Asha hoohaa is headed, I know for a fact that there's no better feeling than getting an opportunity to tear through the iron curtain and realizing that the rather demonized common man at the other end is an average Joe like you. A lot of Indians will get to go to a lot of countries in the world, but still not get a chance to pay a visit to our neighbours. The tragedy of the situation is that there's so much distrust fuelled by emotional indoctrination that it takes a herculian effort on either side to even admit an opposing opinion. I remember the expressions on the faces of a lot of members of my extended family when I told them that I was going to Pakistan for a debate- sheer horror, an expression that they may have shown my corpse if I had committed suicide. Having gone and returned (in one piece, all organs intact), I'm glad about the fact that my words against the type-casting of a people hold more weight.

I read a post recently on another blog on how the move is superficial and can never succeed in improving our relations. The funny thing you'll discover, if you read the post is that the campaign affected our hangovers in separate ways. While I might dare to agree with him on the success of the campaign with respect to achieving its final objectives, I find myself in total disagreement with him as to the cause of that failure. Ironically this morning, the front page of TOI carried news of the exclusion of Pakistani players from the IPL and the reaction of the Pakistani politicians to it on the front page and about halfway into the newspaper, there was a full page spread on Aman ki Asha. On the front page, Nawaz Sharif called for a ban on Indian films in Pakistan and on the 12th, stories of collaboration between artists from two sides. With the IPL blunder, we've sent out a message that we did not want to send out. That dichotomy brings to light, the essential nature of the problem.

The sad truth very simply is the fact that no campaign for peace between the two countries can survive without political sanction, which is fundamentally fickle in nature. Both governments have this dying need to be politically correct (which one really can't blame them for) which involves striking a balance between wanting peace and at the same time reconciling with images of people dying in the streets. Having written the last line, I immediately begin to question whether the governments on either side are even concerned with striking that balance. Truth is, patriotism and nationalism sells better than tolerance.

Having said that, I believe it's better for me to not discuss Kashmir over a cup of tea with my Pakistani friend rather than treating him like an enemy. Aman ki Asha, with all the official sanction that it does not have, may not solve the problem, but is certainly better than not wishing for peace.