31 December 2009

Until the sky falls down on me…

‘Heck, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late! She’s going to kill me!’

‘Your fault really! Spent all your time writing when you could’ve easily gotten ready and left on time!’

‘Damn Shakespeare! Never going to write on him again! Oooh, I’m so horribly late!’

‘You might be late Anubhav Pradhan, but if you don’t do as I say, I will definitely kill you…’

‘Unhn? Oh! Er, right…is it…as in…’


‘This is weird…weirdest thing ever…’

‘Just do it!’

‘Oh, alright!’


I’ll be your dream, I’ll be your wish, I’ll be your fantasy…

‘I’m not going to come for the farewell.’

I looked up from my disembowelled breastbone. ‘Why?’

‘I’m not. There’s nothing left to come back to. What’ll I do there?’

‘Well, I’m sure people will miss your presence…I mean, what would the English Department farewell be without you, the star attraction, the Queen?’

‘Hai na? Ha-ha!’ and a beaming smile lit her face.

‘Aur kya! Arre, I’m sure they’ll give you that Ms. Farewell thing or something- if they do continue it that is…’

‘Hunha! No, but seriously, I don’t think I’ll come…’

‘But why?’

‘I told you na! There’s nothing left…I mean, what do you remember on your Farewell, hunh?’

‘Um, I don’t know really…this’ll be my first-and hopefully last-college Farewell so I really have no idea…’

‘Arre, I mean, you know…’

‘Yeah, okay, so what was I remembering on my school Farewell…I don’t quite remember remembering anything particular…’

‘Anubhav, see, what I mean is that you remember all the good days, all your friends, the time you spent with them…but I, I have lost all my friends…’

‘Have you?’

‘Yeah, I have…’

‘Doesn’t seem like it…what about, say, J- ?’

‘Well yes, I have her, but, you know, when you think of friends you think of those you had in the beginning…I’ve lost all of them…’

‘Hmm…perhaps…but not all! You have, well, you still have KP for instance!’

‘Haha! Yeah, I have him…but he’d talk with a corpse as well.’


‘No, I really mean it when I say it! Look at S! We were such good friends! She used to say I’m her best friend! And now…’

‘Er, and now?’

‘Well, now, she thinks I bitch about her! Me, of all people, bitch about her! It’s so unfair!’

‘Um, you don’t?’

‘Of course I don’t! I mean, I’ve said things about my not liking her going into politics but then I’ve never ever bitched about her!’

‘Well, but still, you do have B!’

‘Oh, B, yes, but she and I came close later…in second year that is.’

‘Second or not, she’s still a friend!’

‘Yeah, she is, but with her I don’t have the sort of petty quarrels I have with S…she’s more like…’

‘What you’d call mature?’

‘Yeah! She is! But C…’

‘What about her?’

‘Well, she’s dumb in a way. You know, doesn’t know when and where to say what. She just starts blabbering with anybody without realising the consequences!’

‘Ah yes, a common human flaw…I too know one who suffers from this…’

‘Hai na? I mean, one day she’ll bitterly complain about you to other people and then come back the next day having happily forgotten yesterday!’

‘Very irresponsible…yet, I can’t help pointing out that not all is lost- you still have R!’

‘Oh yes, of course, C! He’s such a darling! He was even ready to marry me!’

‘Oh, I’m sure lots of people are…’

‘Haan, haan…’

‘M, I’m sure, wouldn’t mind at all…’

‘Hunh! He’s so hypocritical! He sends private messages to people on Facebook but publicly he behaves as if nothing’s happened!’

‘Good heavens! You can’t expect the poor boy to be moping around! People like him don’t readily betray their emotions in public!’

‘Yeah, yeah, whatever! At least H says whatever he has to directly! The kind of things he says and jokes about…brr! He just doesn’t know where to draw the line! You know what he messaged me the other day? Something like I’m imagining you in the dark…my Amazonian!’

‘Uhm, well, you know, his sense of humour is a bit out of the ordinary, but still, I feel he just does it to tease people.’

‘Bloody tease! You know what people call him? They say he’s a thirki!’

‘Well, I’ll be dashed! That’s just not right!’

‘Haan, haan, tum toh ussi ki side loge! In sab ki side loge mere siwa!’

‘Nahi bhai, aisi koi baat nahi hai!’

‘Aur kya? Uss A ke mamle mein bhi tumne meri side nahi li!’

‘Well, uski koi khas galti toh mujhe samajh…’

‘Fucking ...! Hunh! I know him inside out! I know he knows he’s at fault! With others I can still reconcile, but with him…with him there’s just too much negativism, too much bitterness now…it’s over with him.’

Over. The walk was over too. Too soon. Never realised it was so near. So near…so far. So very far. Going, going, farther off. There’s something about empty corridors and deserted lawns which chills you to the bone, inspires that sense of transition, opens your eyes to the illusion of permanence. There she was, popular, desired, yet walking down an empty road into a friendless hostel: hurt, her old ties broken, alone…

How lucky is it to not be alone! We come, we wait, we go, alone, but to have one on the way, that is to not be alone…

I’ll be your hope, I’ll be your love, be everything that you need…

‘So, this guy isn’t that sort; you know, the sort who would do gyming and exercise and sweat out…’

‘He’s sort of non-violent?’

‘Yeah, you can say that, but…yeah, you can…so, anyway, he’s not a violence person; but he’s still the sort who has lots of interaction with women, who interacts with women a lot…’

‘A ladies man?’

‘Yes, you can say that…you can, but…so, anyway, so after that other guy, who’s the beating sort, after he punches this guy and this guy gets up and says ‘below average moron’ and then this other guy is about to punch this guy again when the other guy, the my boy, comes and pulls this guy on the ground and saves this guy from that guy and they all get into that guy’s car and there’s that guy’s girl, who’s actually not that guy’s girl but my boy’s girl but that guy’s just thinking this girl to be my girl in that typical chauvinist way, she’s also in the car, and all three, this guy and my boy and my girl, they all drive away.’

‘Ah…how very interesting…so, what is it called?’

‘In the Land of Women.’

Women. Where is that woman when she’s really needed? Why can’t she be around? If only she could be, if only…

I’ll love you more with every breath truly, madly, deeply do…

‘No, we are not going on the roof!’

‘Chalo na!’

‘Listen, I’m not at all in the mood to walk across this parapet onto the blasted roof! No! Just sit here quietly!’

‘Chalo na please!’

‘Argh! How difficult is it to understand! I want peace; I’m not in the mood for adventure, certainly not for breaking my neck!’

‘Accha theek hai. Sorry. Mein disturb kar rahi hoon. Ab mein chup rahungi.’

‘Good! Hamesha chapar-chapar karne ki zaroorat nahi hoti hai! Shant rehna bhi sheekho!’


‘Oh well! Theek hai, sorry! Bol bhai, bol! Jo bolna hai bol!’

‘Chat pe kab chalenge phir?’

Phir kab chalenge? Kabhi nahi shayad. Jaane hi toh waale hain, jayenge kahan? Aur jaake toh bilkul nahi jaa payenge…chat pe, sabse upar; alag, akele, ek saath…

‘There’s something clawing my insides. I can’t bear the thought of you sad…I love you and I’m…I’m here darling…Always, with you…’

I wanna stand with you on a mountain,
I wanna bathe with you on the sea,
I wanna lay like this forever…
Until the sky falls down on me.

24 December 2009

Before Shakespeare: The forgotten playwrights of Elizabethan England

Think of Elizabethan England and immediately Shakespeare comes to the mind. Nay, think as much as of English Literature and Shakespeare looms large, an interminable specter of bardic grandiloquence. To the lay man Shakespeare is synonymous with English Literature, with all its ancient and sublime grandeur, with that very essence of Englishness which makes it a class apart, in a niche well above the others. Five centuries after his death Shakespeare continues to inspire and provoke alike, all in a manner which is typically him, typically Shakespeare. The Bard lives on…

To the perdition, however, of others. For with all our emphasis on Shakespeare we forget to take into account his contemporaries, more so his predecessors who laid the foundations of Elizabethan theatre and made it possible for a genius like him to make all the world his stage. The general impression, even amongst Literature students, seems to be of a bearded Shakespeare standing aloft a high pedestal with a fallen Marlowe on one side, a foxy Jonson on the other and a philosophic Bacon somewhere in the controversial background. This is all that is commonly taken as the range and expanse of Elizabethan theatre so that probing the average DU Literature student for more would yield disappointing results.

Students are not to blame in this though. The syllabus is constructed in such a fashion as to reinforce this overwhelming centrality of Shakespeare. At the undergraduate level the English Renaissance is only a part of a much larger structure covering some two hundred years of English Literature from Chaucer onwards. It is meant essentially to impart generals, to give learners a very broad idea of the evolution of the English tongue and the socio-political circumstances which made Elizabethan theatre possible. One hears vaguely, for instance, of Gorboduc, of the ingenious Burbage, of the Master of Revels and Court diktats but that is all: everything else remains shrouded in that characteristic bogginess which so typifies general attitude to Shakespeare- a beacon of brilliance out of impenetrable darkness…

Current classroom pedagogy only reinforces this misconception. It is forced, of course, to follow constrains dictated by exigencies of syllabus and examinations but then, perhaps by way of habit, it also naturalises these into general truths. The impression which comes across thus further entrenches Shakespeare as the only Elizabethan dramatist of count.

One may argue that at this level students are supposed to engage with texts on their own, to explore conscientiously the various strands of background handed unto them by professors. Indeed, one may do so, for the pivotal aspect of higher education is self-study- but then while arguing so one must also take into consideration the lamentable infrastructure available to students in this University. Libraries are mostly tailor made to aid tutoring and address concerns issuing out of prescribed texts; the bigger ones usually broaden their range without including exhaustive matter on this so-called background. The Ramjas College Library, for instance, has a shelf and a half of Shakespeare and related criticism but only three books dealing with his contemporaries. Of these, only one has entire full length plays, and those too of mostly his Jacobean successors- the other two are histories of drama wherein are dedicated compact chapters to the early pioneers of Elizabethan theatre. Faced with this inadequacy, one cannot but be disappointed.

Of course, one may expect this disappointment to be ameliorated at the postgraduate level but alas, by all indications there seems only further disappointment in store. Once again, the syllabus is structured to assert Shakespeare’s centrality: a compulsory paper covers four of his plays while Jonson, Middleton and the like are clubbed together under the broad rubric of an optional course. After imparting generals and introducing students to the genres at the undergraduate level, the University of Delhi persists in delaying specialisation by extending the same logic to post-graduation as well.

This is in no way to deny Shakespeare’s significance: no, instead it is to call for change, for a reworking of the syllabus which would holistically take in account the tradition which leads up to-and in some ways culminates with-Shakespeare. That there are no holy cows is by now well established: we need therefore, not as much as to de-sanctify Shakespeare as to move beyond that stage, to broaden our outlook-and thus to change the processes by which it’s generated-by bringing greater flexibility and choice in the way Elizabethan drama-and by extension Literature in English-is taught and thought of. And even though we need not necessarily go the way Poona University has and make Shakespeare optional, we need to acknowledge that our current zeal for Shakespeare makes us gloss over those who made him possible.

It’s a classic case of marginalisation within the mainstream, by the mainstream, of the mainstream. We need to go beyond and look back. To make available infrastructure and provide options. To see what came before.

Before Shakespeare.

27 November 2009

The Way of the World

What is happening to the world! I mean, like heck! What the hell is wrong with things?

Okay, calm down! You want to know what went wrong, right? Like heck you do! Bless me poor soul, like heck I do too! Things fall apart, that’s what it has been!

It all started with M. M who for long had nursed passion for C. He’d told her some time back, yes, but basically it started with him. There we were, G and I, waiting for him by the ramp: at peace with the world, innocently denouncing some hapless teacher. Suddenly the discussion turned to him. To M. To his lamentable case. His fall. The very remarkable nature of this self-same fall. Of other falls. Of my fall. G’s fall. His shady past as he put it. ‘I can’t believe what I said! I’m like ashamed to even own up!’ Yes, quite shady; G talking about it to me of all people- shady indeed! Do all of us have some shades of grey to our past, some mushy cupids in our ivory cupboards?

It seems we do.

For what else am I to believe after old B’s tale? B who of all humanity I thought incapable of such concealment! It was she who bore it, so perfectly hidden from all eyes as to not exist at all! She, so open and trusty, her life such an open book, she put it deep down, so deep as to almost be out of reach for her own self! Such passion, such suffering, all disguised behind that varnished façade of easy familiarity! The more I listened, the more I thought; the more I thought, the more I pitied. I could sympathise with her, yes, but more- I could understand her pain, feel it through that old severed bond. A sad tale, yes, but with hope…

Alas no! I thought I was done for the day, done with the quota of shocks, surprises and falls. Not so, not so!

I came back home and got talking to M. We discussed C; he told me all about it- how, when, where, all of it. Then, talking of falls, he told me of P.

Good heavens! Even P! P, that sturdy, stoic rock of sense and solitude! That lofty personage, so aloof from the base passions of life, so a man on his own, an institution unto himself! P too had fallen, and long too had it been since the fall- long days, long weeks, long months, a long year perhaps…P fell, but not alone. As last man standing he took with him a whole system, an entire way of life: of affection, of camaraderie, of friendship.

Indeed, of friendship. For B apart, we four formed that old-fashioned type of gentlemanly friendship- all good chums, each for the other a fine chap. We lived on discussions, talks and debates, an exclusive life of ideas, ideals and ideologies. We talked of the world; the glories of civilisation, the follies of man, art and culture and all that is noble and high and true!

No more. The group lies broken, the loyalties dissolved. To each his secret heart, the call of love, the cry of desire. What of the world now? The world looses its charms when all your world gets condensed in a single person…

Does it always have to be this way though? Is there no escape? I used to think Sherlock Holmes the epitome of pure reason; pure objectivity untrammelled by the subjective fallacies of common humanity. Aloof, above, beyond- the unflinching rational man of world. But even he had a blind spot. There was always ‘the woman’, Irene Adler of ‘dubious and questionable memory’- she whose one photo he treasured above all gifts and rewards; she whose memory, perhaps, inspired so many of those mournful violin originals. Yes, there was a chink even in his armour, a fault line beneath even his own surface...

Yet, imagine…what if a person could really be out of the structure? Agreed, not as Bohemian as Holmes, not as misanthropic as Timon: somebody gentle, genial and wise, somewhat like the good Doctor without the wife. Someone above the lures of love and its manifold traps, in that calm, undisturbed serenity of perfect harmony. Not ascetic mind you! No, rather someone in and yet out of the system. Understanding love but unaffected by it: a heart not closed but open, so wide open as to remove all possibility of love. Affectionate, yet not desirous; caring, yet not covetous…

Not unless you’re god. Perfection.

And that we humans cannot be. It’s the only consistently human trait we’ve got, perfecting imperfection, loving desire, want, need…it’s a good thing perhaps. Certainly has been very nice for me! We cannot stop loving; even hatred stems from love. Love is universal.

And that is the way of the world.

13 November 2009

Death of Theatre

It has been in the air for some time now. A decade or so at the least. Theatre, widely acknowledged by its own dwindling proponents as a dying art, is on its last legs.

It can be traced back to the 1950s when television and cinema came in a big way all over the world. As their appeal intensified over the years and more and more televisions and movie halls found their way into homes and communities, the importance of theatre steadily declined to the point that today it is no longer significant in our social life.

Indeed, for all its functions have been successfully taken over by these two mediums. Where earlier theatre served as an accessible medium of mass entertainment, diffusing societal tensions and propagating ideologies as it made people laugh and cry, now television and cinema act as carriers of culture and propaganda.

Of course, it was television much more than cinema which really struck the fatal blow to theatre. It stripped it of the mass popularity which it once enjoyed before its advent, and by thus usurping its vital role as the propagator of popular culture it pushed it further onto the margins of the entertainment industry. Television was cheap, widely accessible and convenient, providing all that drama right in your living room without the hassles of going to the playhouse. No wonder general interest in theatre declined as the reach of television increased.

No wonder too that an increasing amount of plays produced from the 1950s onwards were shown on T.V. For all their dedication to the institution the producers could not resist tapping the immense potential of this wide-reaching medium. Yet, even as it opened avenues it narrowed them down so that while the producers made greater profits the people got another incentive to stay at home glued to the box. A move meant to bring theatre back to the masses ultimately succeeded in furthering it from them.

Deprived of its primeval foundation, its watching audience, all theatre today is, to a great extent, redundant. What purpose remains to a communal art which fails to attract people to it? One can read plays, yes, but that essence of communality so integral to any dramatic performance is lost in any easy-chair appraisal. To feel theatre, to be moved fully by its power, to even strip that illusionary power, one must see the action unfold before one’s eyes. The binary is quite simple: no audience, no theatre.

Though it was not just this pervasive disinterest which brought theatre to such a pass. The death of theatre has also been precipitated by the death of its two distinctive genres, tragedy and comedy.

It was Modernism which took its toll on the genres. Before the reductive, unifying pressures of a modernity which laughed at all things great and grand and which sought to locate the source of life, its very greatness, in the routine life of normal, everyday subjects these primary distinctions had to fail and fall into each other. It became imperative to recognise comedy in tragedy and tragedy in comedy and so came about the genre of tragicomedy, an in-between form which best reflected the absurd realities and tensions of everyday life. What came about was the Theatre of the Absurd.

Which, as can be guessed, was not spectacularly popular with the masses. Critically acclaimed as the movement was, it was typically urban and drew only a small section of that population towards it. The middle and working classes remained more or less isolated from it, caring as little for it as the movement cared for them and their tastes. Once initiated, this process of alienation of the art form from the masses only picked up speed and though in the late 1960s and early 1970s Agit-prop and the Theatre of the Oppressed brought it momentarily close to the people the old days of regular, popular theatre were over.

Indeed, for what has emerged is basically a queer, eclectic residue of the Absurdist and Agit-prop, a brand of theatre which adapts, modifies and re-enacts. Theatre today is more or less black, satirical tragicomedy, reflecting a bleak worldview running short of hope and despairing of change. Most new plays are adaptations of established classics, attuned to (post) modern sensibilities by changes in language and costumes. Some of these are comic, ridiculing the older tragic works through mock-heroic imitations. Others, loaded with sarcasm and generally cynical, are openly political and critique society through juxtaposition of an essentialised past and present- a tried and tested dramatic trope wherein a figure from the past miraculously appears in the present and laments about existing social evils. Others still present tormented subjects trying to bring change but failing in face of the overwhelming social superstructure.

Be that as it may, it is these types of productions which have further contributed to theatre’s alienation from the general public. Whether justifiably or not, theatre is widely perceived to be an elitist institution, the refuge of be-cigeratted khadi and jhola clad (pseudo?) intellectuals: subversive malcontents who wish things to change but have nowhere else to go and no one else to listen. It has gone back into a niche, an exclusivity reminiscent of the isolation which Restoration Drama enjoyed, though, of course, the seclusion here is much in the manner of an irrevocable exile than a voluntary migration. Consequently, it has again become a predominantly urban middle-class art so that only those connected with theatre through familial ties or attracted by extraordinary curiosity find their way into playhouses.

The abiding irony of this situation is, therefore, that while on one hand theatre screams to be listened it gets only the converted as an audience. Talking about poverty, safe sex, unemployment, caste, communal and regional politics, female foeticide, corruption, dowry and so on to a section which deliberately maintains a distance from governance, is educated enough to generally have nothing to do with these social evils and does, on and off, try through civil institutions to bring change is ultimately redundant. When theatre should actually be diversifying and reaching out to the masses our self-appointed messiahs remain stuck in the comfortable campuses of the Universities and the NSD, so much so that even street plays-nukkar natak-are usually organised in air-conditioned halls in posh localities.

Consequently, theatre has become an easy and convenient way for naturalising the society’s dramatically-inclined malcontents, for by giving them an exclusive space for expression the State on one hand effects a sort of cumulative catharsis and on the other furthers their marginalisation. Indeed, as far as the State is concerned, nothing can be more beneficial than this sort of hermetic containment which ostensibly encourages the form but in the long run only works towards its ultimate doom. As it becomes more and more a part of a system whose ideologies it takes pains to oppose, theatre will only loose its importance and become gradually redundant.

It has already started. We’ve come to the last act; the curtains are about to draw- we near an end.

The end.

The end of theatre.

31 October 2009

Flying Over

Since ancient times, roads have been central to the growth of civilisation. The ancient Romans were the first to realise the great opportunity of growth and development that roads offered and as a result, the Empire was criss-crossed by numerous highways that even today stand as a testimony to Roman Engineering.

The modern world too depends excessively on roads, which provide vital links from ports to inland cities, from commercial hot spots to residential complexes, from isolated hamlets to bustling cities. Roads are indispensable and their growth inevitable.

In cities, thousands commute to and fro from their homes to offices. In big, cosmopolitan cities of the world, despite the presence of alternative means of transport (like the Tube in London, Subway in New York and the Metro Rail In Delhi), a major chunk of the population still relies on roads for its day to day movement and with more and more cars getting on the roads, the volume of traffic on roads worldwide has reached mammoth proportions. In India too the situation is far from rosy and Indian cities are inarguably host to some of the worst traffic jams in the world.

Predictably, the state governments were for a long time oblivious to the worsening situation on our roads. When they finally woke up, they gave way to a bigger folly of constructing flyovers.
It’s amazing to see how myopic Indian authorities become when it comes to long-term planning and making flyovers id just yet another classic example of this costly short sightedness.

Flyovers undoubtedly increase the net available road area; when you can’t widen a road, you can atleast build yet another one over it. So for the time being, everybody celebrates when a flyover is constructed over congested roads.

However, in doing so, our authorities as well as our people are ignoring some very serious implications.

Firstly, flyovers are constructed at a fantastic cost to the exchequer. Their construction is usually delayed and with material thrown helter-skelter, construction sites more often resemble devastated war zones. Moreover, prolonged delays in construction aggravate the traffic situation.
Secondly, by increasing the net available road area, what flyovers really do is to just make way for more and more private cars to ply on roads. What would we do when the number of cars increases the available road area (as it has during the past decade)? Build flyovers over the existing flyovers?

Thirdly, despite the best attempts to introduce Bharat II systems in cars, vehicular pollution is bound to increase if there are more cars on the roads.

The real solution to our present traffic problems then lies not in increasing road space, but in upgrading our public transport system. This is not just about making Metro rails all over the country, but also about completely reviving our buses so that instead of just the lower middle classes, even the upper middle class begins to consider buses as a feasible means of transportation.

To ensure this, the first and the utmost priority must be to establish Bus Driver’s Training Academies all over the country so that all drivers can be taught basic traffic laws and common ‘driving’ sense, something which most of them lack today. This will not only benefit the drivers, but also the common man who might then be assured of a safe journey in buses. Secondly, Transport Corporations (like the D.T.C.) must go in for an image makeover and transform themselves from mundane loss making bodies to energetic, profit making corporations. Thirdly, the existing fleet of rackety-rickety buses must be scrapped and new, disable and senior citizen friendly buses must be introduced in a time bound framework.

It is more than obvious that the current rate at which flyovers are springing up all over urban India would lead to more congestion in not too distant future. The media, which is only too quick to pounce on the minutest of errors that the government might make, has surprisingly been bamboozled into believing that flyovers actually do good for our roads. The sooner we realise that this is not so, the sooner we stop flying over the real solution, the better will it be.

15 October 2009


To Ananya Borgohain:
Muse, friend, model


There are some things which are typically you…you know, things which embody your essence as an individual…like, it’s typically Jonathan to be snide…or typically Abhimanyu to crack smart one liners...things which once you do or say them, others can look up and say ‘Ah! That was so typically you!’

Typically you…

I think it was typically me to install malware on my own computer.

Yeah, well, that’s right. I installed a debilitating virus on my own system: gave it sanction with my own hands- and merrily at that!

Now now, I’m not bonkers. It’s not that bad: certainly not that simple…there’s more to it…

Simply put, the fact of the matter is that it wasn’t your everyday virus…it was quite a malignant malware…a devil in disguise…a smooth talking fiend…

A Kaliyugi virus.

Bilkul. A Kaliyugi virus to the core.

Aur kya? Is it not written that in this dark age the forces of evil will multiply to infringe upon the last remaining strongholds of good, and slowly batter them down till all righteousness disappear from the world of men? That that one quarter of piousness too shall vanish and plunge the world into the night of sin?

Ay, so has been decreed! What surprise, then, if viruses too come robed as guardian angels?

Indeed, that’s how it was! A fell design, to trick simple, gullible folk to ruin!

This is how it happened…

One fine afternoon I opened my computer and checked my email. All fine. Nothing out of the ordinary. That done, I logged out of my account and was about to shut the computer as well when a window popped out of the blue…

‘Inflow of viruses detected onto your system. Would you like to scan your computer?’

‘Hmm? Yes, ok.’

‘Preliminary scan has revealed a massive virus attack on your system. Would you like to continue?’

‘Yes, of course, go on!’

‘There are some 400 viruses on your system. Would you like to do something about it? Would you like to install Personal Antivirus?’

Personal Antivirus. How reassuring. How comforting. There’s such a soothing consonance to the term…personal antivirus: a software specially designed for you, to cater exclusively to your own needs, to resolve all your problems…

To lull you into complacency and whisk all your data.

Kaliyug mein paap bhi punyatma ki bhanti vesh dharan kar vicharega, aur sansar mein bhagwan ki satta ko nasht karega…

Nasht ho gayi meri satta mere hi laptop pe! Cha gaya andhkar, jeet gaya paap!

We had a Council then. Had to. Of course we had a council. Papa, Mamma and me, and Bhai as the conscientious objector from abroad.

‘You freaking idiot, I can’t believe it! You actually installed a frigging malware on the system!’

‘Kaam kharab karma aata he bas, aur phir baithe rehte hain yunhi maaze mein!’

‘Aap log poori baat samajhne ki koshish nahi kar rahe! Inhone…’

‘Tum hi ne bigara he! Faltu kaam karte rehte hain…’

‘Why can’t he use his brains for once? Why!’

‘Aise hi hain…’

‘Baat ko samajhne ki koshish karo…’

‘Anyway, shut it out! Can’t do anything about it now! Best to reinstall Windows now…you never know…clear away everything!’

Hmm…clear away everything…clear away everything…

Aur jab paap ka ghara bhar jayega, jab shristi mein punya aur sachai trahi trahi kar manav ka tyag kar dengi, tab mein Kalki roop dharan pralay ka tanday karunga! Tab iss shrishti na nash hoga, aur jeevan ka chakr phir aarambh hoga!

Clear away everything…clear away everything…

I could see myself rise up, go beyond and above…to godhead…

Even as the Destroyer will reduce all to glowering ash, so will I unleash the fury of my wrath on the arrayed virus! Bit by bit will each corrupted file be consumed till none be left alive! Then, just as the primeval waters will drown the dead cosmos in one overpowering deluge, so will I submerge the corrupt mother board with my missionary flood. And once this debris has subsumed into the general scheme of things, into the overwhelming torrent, then, from the dark, empty, chaotic bits shall arise a new, pure Operating System! This virginal land I alone shall people with the chosen few, the elect software and programmes which shall be the denizens of a glittering golden age!

Rudra, Narayan, Brahma and Vishnu, I shall be all! Unfurl the standard, blow the conch…let there be war! Mahaaaaaaaaaaavirus!

30 September 2009


To Geetika Sinha


I wonder. I really do wonder if I don’t overdo it at times. Perhaps I do. But then, do I? And who’s to say if I really do or don’t?

Ah yes, life’s hard. Real hard. So many choices, so many options; this or that, now or then, thinking and thinking and thinking…

About what?

About what would be the correct response to a cultural performance.

Yes, yes, I can see you roll your eyes. ‘There he goes again’, you just said to yourself ‘rambling on about something as obvious as that! Really, what kind of bugger has these kinds of difficulties in figuring out something as simple! Response indeed! Respond any which way, it’s a free country after all!’

Exactly. Agreed. It is a free country. Theoretically, we’re all entitled to react in any which way to just about anything, and not just a cultural performance. I’m not questioning that, at least not here.

No, what I’m talking about here are the semantics of a viewer’s response to a performance, not as much as the response per se but the type of response: whether, to put it simplistically, it is intellectual, focusing more on its semantics and dealing basically with the varied philosophical ramifications, or whether it is superficial, willingly suspending disbelief to predominantly take note of material realities, sensory delights in all their magnificent multitudes.

Heck, what I really want to know is how can someone come out of a two hour long performance to just comment that the lead male was cute!

Yes, I mean, fine, agreed one notices such things-I in my turn thought a certain female character good looking-but to say just that and nothing else?

Is it possible that a performance should evince just such a response? Can a person really have nothing else to say about an excellent dramatic feat? To observe nothing but the looks of the actors on stage?

Even if one was extremely besotted with a particular person one would take in some amount of the dialogues of that particular character…would these not stimulate mental activity? Can the mind really be so completely turned off as to affect a total shutdown of the intellectual faculties?

I don’t think so.

But even as I say that, even as I deny the possibility of a complete shutdown and argue instead for an orientation wherein enjoyment supercedes analysis, what I’m concerned about here is the comparative worth of the two: which is more worthwhile and which should be given greater weightage, enjoyment or analysis?

As literature scholars, we’re conditioned to never accept a text unquestioningly. There’re always issues and motives, hidden or otherwise, and it is of paramount importance to identify and engage with them. To analysis a text-performance in this case-in our context is to actively seek out the politics of the artist, critique it from your own ideological standpoint and then apply the criticism to the larger social milieu, thus establishing its relevance to the present social structure. In doing so, in thinking about those issues, one goes forward onto other things, and other things, and so the chain goes on and on till one reaches a conclusion ostensibly far removed from the original topic but nonetheless linked to it by a series of interconnected ideas- which, interestingly, has also happened in this article right now!

However, even focussing on just the visual, sensory aspects of a performance too is criticism. If you like an actor, if you think s/he acted well, and say just as much, even that is passing judgment. In any case, saying just as much doesn’t really mean that you didn’t think of those issues or ideas: it implies, as I hinted earlier, that you choose to focus more on these visual aspects more than those analytical ones, and that they are, in the immediate context of your comment, more important to you than those latter ones. Perhaps you might go back home and think about them; perhaps you might not- perhaps you’re never really struck by these things.

And what if you aren’t? What if you always think of these so-called visual aspects, the sensory delights, and are never ever perturbed by avalanches of ideas? Don’t you become a lesser mortal? Doesn’t your incapacity, or refusal, to identify and critique make you backward, some sort of a retarded creature with stunted mental growth?

I would say it doesn’t.

After all, what ultimate end does analysis serve? You understand things more, you can see through artifices and constructs, look at them as they are, but then what? Few of us possess the power to actually affect any tangible change just through the dint of our criticism and even if we did, what is it for? To build, as it were a better world, a safer, happier place for us and the generations to come.

And is not the person making the most of the situation and enjoying the here and the now to the fullest abundantly more happy than the analytical critic arguing the nitty-gritty’s?

13 September 2009

Observations Upon Romanticism: Or Reasons as to why the Poetry of Mr. Wordsworth Sucks

Commending his verse to the reading public in Great Britain, Mr. Wordsworth emphatically emphasised its novelty: the motif of ‘low and rustic life’ supposedly put it in a league altogether different from that of his predecessors and peers. He made an elaborate case for his poetry, dexterously arguing the advantages poets stood to gain by versifying ‘the manners of rural life’, those ‘elementary feelings’ which, from ‘the necessary character of rural occupations’, ‘coexist in a state of greater simplicity’ with ‘the beautiful and permanent forms of nature’: the closer one moved to Nature, the more one threw over the ‘language used by men’ a ‘certain colouring of imagination’, the better one’s verse became. This was a ‘mark of distinction’ worthy of the serious reader’s scrupulous attention: indeed, ‘twas a veritable revolution in poetry, the strong herald of a new dawn for art and humanity.

This, of course, is what Mr.-Monsieur-Wordsworth would have us believe. The disjunction betwixt truth and reality is such, however, that one cannot but wonder at the credulity of his peers in believing doctrines as naïve as Mr. Wordsworth’s: simultaneously, one cannot but marvel at the contriving cunning of Mr. Wordsworth himself in convincing entire generations of the supposedly worthless worth of his worthless poesy.

Consider, for example, the poem ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’. In the misguided pursuit of an imagined ‘overbalance of pleasure’ Mr. Wordsworth stresses excessively upon ethereal intangibilities-imperial palaces ablaze with celestial lights-with the unfortunate consequence of degrading the material, tangible realities of human existence into fond folly. A parent’s doting encouragement of his/her child’s playful mimicry of the adult world is to him foolhardy indulgence, succeeding in naught but accelerating the process of the child’s departure from his/her native innocence.

Not fully satisfied with thus demonising parental affection, Mr. Wordsworth further rambles upon his airy arguments. Beneath his/her ‘exterior semblance’ the child is actually a ‘Mighty Prophet’, a ‘Philosopher’ who has all the knowledge in the world. Of course, the reason why we-or the blessed child for that matter-never get a taste of his/her ‘Immortality’ is because the poor child is himself not aware of his ‘heritage’- and since in growing up he/she gradually looses sight of that heavenly light, any parental intervention to affect the same merits unequivocal condemnation.

Mr. Wordsworth’s worldview is patently exclusive. Been from an early age besotted with the supposed virtues of ‘low and rustic life’, Mr. Wordsworth, himself a well-travelled Cambridge man, zealously thrusts his blinkered vision upon his readers. Going by the gloriously befuddling evidence of his poetry, it seems there were no children in the world besides shepherd boys, farm lads, amateur woodcutters and lonely peasant girls - this, or that the others are not worth mentioning at all. His narrow classist mindset is clearly laid bare through the constant elevation and glorification of these children.

Be that as it may, the idea of a troubled childhood seems totally alien to Mr. Wordsworth’s skewered conception of society. It seems he was so busy running for inspiration-and Nature knows what else-after children in lonely woods and mountain valleys that he lost sight of all reality: all children did was innocently play in ‘endless imitation’ of the adult world. Victims of war, hunger, manual labour and sexual exploitation just did not exist- or if they did, they were best dealt by being pushed out of consciousness into, as it were, the ‘eternal mind’, the great memory…

Interestingly, inspite of remembering so much about his life before he was born, Mr. Wordsworth seems to have had no real memory of flesh and blood children- even humans for that matter. One might excuse him for forgetting the earthly needs and nature of children-who, like Celia of yore, puke, pee and poop-but considering he’d already had a daughter through Mademoiselle Vallon his mystification of children is not in the least justifiable. Even if one were to argue that he never met his bastard Caroline till she was ten, one still has the evidence of his boy John who was born in 1803, a year after Mr. Wordsworth started composing this Ode.

In light of Mr. Wordsworth’s personal life, his poetry is hard to explain, leave alone justify. If children came ‘trailing clouds of glory’, then how were his bastard and John born? Did Mr. Wordsworth, like those famed Spanish stallions, direct his clouds of glory into the respective French and English receptacles from afar, and was later, in a state of ‘tranquility’, inspired to imaginatively recreate the scene and thus arrive at the metaphor? One can really not think of any other reason than this for an experienced, married man to thus romanticise such a crucial, life-giving activity, though, of course, it’s possible that searching for the child within he forgot those around him, forgetting not just parenting his children but also the fact that, after all, he alone had fathered them- or perhaps even that might’ve been done under inspiration, a trance induced with Coleridge’s expert guidance: Mr. Wordsworth humping away to glory, totally unaware of either the act or its shackling consequences, thinking only rapturously of ‘clouds of glory’…

Any sane reader of Romanticism will, therefore, recognise the same as the greatest artifice thrust upon Literature- and that too by a bunch of insignificant, frustrated zealots who fondly imagined themselves heralds of a new dawn while being in actuality messengers of a dark, dull night. Indeed, it is a bane upon the Academia, throttling novelty and encouraging instead single-minded devotion to dubious dogmas. It is the sacred duty of all Literature scholars to consciously overthrow these dogmas and so liberate Literature from the clutches of Romanticism: to this we must devote our combined energies, to this dedicate our collective acumen!

Yes Mr. Wordsworth, as for Dorothy, you live on with us as well-and in unison do we sing you this solemn ode-Wordsworth sucks!

29 August 2009

Chalte chalte…

Chalte chalte, chalte chalte,
Yunhi koi mil gaya tha, yunhi koi mil gaya tha,
Sare rah chalte chalte, sare rah chalte chalte...

I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream!
I know you, the gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam!


“Goddamnit! There has to be a place!”

“I hate humans!”


The road goes forever on and on,
Down from the door where it began,
And I must follow it if I can!

Like hell I was! Past the Blackened Gates, ‘cross the road, up the hill, down and down…

“Heck! Let’s at least sit here for a while!”

Wise men say only fools rush in
But I can't help falling in love with you
Shall I stay would it be a sin
If I can't help falling in love with you

“You know, we could turn our backs to the road…”

Khullam khullaa pyaar karenge ham dono!
Is duniyaa se nahin darenge ham dono!
Haan, pyaar ham karte hain chori nahin,
Mil gaye dil joraa-jori nahin,
Ham vo karenge dil jo kahe, hamko zamaane se kyaa!

Good idea. Closer, closer…

“Damn that bloody cycle-wallah! Damn these richshaw-wallahs! Damn that guard!”

“Humans! Friggin’ place’s full of them!”




“Chal na. Come…”

Come away with me and we'll kiss
On a mountaintop
Come away with me
And I'll never stop loving you…

Indeed! Up and up, into the deep, out and yonder, farther beyond, past a bend, onto the gate…

“This looks interesting…”

“You wouldn’t want to go there. Shady…very shady…no.”

“Ah well…”

Jaye to jaye kahan? Jaye to jaye kahan? Jaye to jaye kahan?
Samjhega kon yahan, dard bhare dil ki zubaan?
Jaye to jaye kahan?...

“Waapis chal...”

“Waapis! Bilkul nahi! Haad hai! Itni door isliye nahi aaya tha ki...”

“Accha baba, chal, aage chal…”

Kahan? Ye hansata hua kaaravaan, zindagi ka na poochho chala hai kidhar
Tamanna hai ye, saath chalate rahen, ham na beete kabhi ye safar
Ye hansata hua kaaravaan, zindagi ka na poochho chala hai kidhar…

Poocho mat kahan kahan gaya! Idhaar, udhaar; aage-peeche, upaar-neeche, har jagah…

“Is it just me or do you also think the bloody place’s full of people today?”

“Argh! Don’t remind me! Damn them all!”

“What now?”

“I’m tired! I want to rest!”

“I want you…”

“Uhm, here?”

“Let’s go up…this tower block.”

“Pagal mat ban…”

Baawra man dekhne chala ek sapna,
Baawra man dekhne chal ek sapna.
Baawre se man ki dekho baawri hain bate,
Baawre se man ki dekho baawri hain bate…

Dreams don’t come true. Not up, but on: on and on and over across.

“Gothic fiction’s interesting y’know…”


“Haan-haan! You know, crumbling castles, dungy dungeons, haunted houses…”

“Darling, ye side wala khaali nahi hai! Kaam chal raha he!”

Mera sundar sapna beet gaya
Main prem mein sab kuchh har gayi
Bedard zamaana jeet gaya
Mera sundar sapna beet gaya…

“Waise, hum bachon ka bachpan to nahi bigarna chahte, right?”

“Sharm karo!”

“Mazak, mazak! Aise hi kaha tha, bhatate bhatate aise hi!”

Yahoo! Yahoo! Chaahe koyi mujhe junglee kahe, kehne do jee kehta rahe!
Hum pyaar ke toofaanon mein gire hai, hum kya karain!

“Aakhir yeh ghatiya sarak jaati kahan hai?”

“Police station, phir ek school, thori jhuggiyan, phir ek aur police station…”

“Brilliant! Police station ke siwa kuch aur he yahan?”

“Kahan jana he?”

Wahin, jahan koi aata jaata nahin…

“So, we’ve conclusively established that there is no place!”

“So it seems. You’ve something to write now at least…”


“By the way, what’s that?”

Every bursted bubble has a glory!
Each abysmal failure makes a point!
Every glowing path that goes astray,
Shows you how to find a better way.
So every time you stumble never grumble.
Next time you'll bumble even less!
For up from the ashes, up from the ashes, grow the roses of success!
Grow the roses!
Grow the roses!
Grow the roses of success!

Roses don’t grow in August. Not here in over-populated Delhi at least.



“Your smell…”

“Damn these people!”

Ai mere dil kahin aur chal
Gam kii duniyaa se dil bhar gayaa
Dhundh le ab koi ghar nayaa
Ai mere dil kahin aur chal...

“Chal, ghar aane wala he...”

“Ji. Aur kya? Ghar jao, mai apne yahan jata hun. Ghar. Aur kahan? There is no place...”

“True. Buh-bye.”


Doorie, doorie, doorie!
Sahi jaye naa, sahi jaye naa, sahi jaye naa, sahi jaye naa!
Khomshiyaa yeh
Seh na saku
Aawaaz deke mujhse tu
De ja sukun
Doorie, doorie, doorie!
Sahi jaye naa, sahi jaye naa, sahi jaye naa, sahi jaye naa!

“Sach me pagal he! Pagla kahin ka! Utar kyun gaya?”

“Tere liye. Aise hi chali gayi...”


“And, I thought this place looks promising…”

“Hmmm…so it does…”

“Chal phir…”

Kahan jaate par? Jahan jaane ki sochi, who to band nikla. Waapas aane lage…

Jiivan ke safar me raahi,
Milate hain bichhar jaane ko
Aur de jaate Hain yaadain,
Tanahaai me tarpaane ko…

“I can’t believe it! There’s no place in this goddamn city!”

“I wonder what’s behind this 6-foot high bush wall…”

“Um, do you want to find out...”

“I wouldn’t mind an adventure…would you?”

“Of course not…chalo”

Yunhi chala, chal raahi…
Dil ko hai kyun ye betaabi
Kis se mulaaqaat honi hai
Jis ka kabse armaan tha
Shaayad wahi baat honi hai

“This looks really promising!”

“Indeed! Very if I may say so!”

Hum tum ek kamre mein band ho,
Aur chaabi kho jaaye…

“So, finally!”



Don't be scared,
You better be prepared,
Go on and kiss the girl!
Don't stop now,
Don't try to hide it how,
You wanna kiss the girl!
Go on and kiss the girl!

And there it ended.

17 August 2009

Beyond Boundaries, Borders, Lines and Cultures

(written long, long ago)
Thanking Tridib and D.M.
A book-worm’s confessions…
I have to do it; it’s been on my mind for quite some time and I just feel like saying it. I must say it.

I’ve been addicting myself. I think I’m quite a hopeless addict by now. I seriously need to de-addict myself…

Yes, I’m addicted to books. To Literature. I’ve indulged myself horrendously over the past one and a half years, so much so that I don’t even remember the basic mathematics of senior school. I discovered this while preparing for my economics exam- I couldn’t even recollect the names of elementary Greek symbols, like delta and beta and so on!

Oh well!

Oh well indeed! Reading is such a pleasure. It transports you to places where you could never go in reality, to ages back in time, to places in the future, to cultures far and beyond, beyond all boundaries and barriers…

Oh well! How stereotypically conventional! Books are magical, they transport you…oh yes, you’ve read it before, haven’t you?

I bet you have. I won’t claim originality for myself here. I’m like anyother bookworm; hopelessly infatuated, caught in the trap and not quite willing to leave it.

My mind, and I think I shamelessly gratify my vanity in this, is an extraordinary mixture of a plethora of cultures, of whole new worlds which I constantly discover and re-discover. Once I’m in Troy, outside the famed Gates, witnessing Achilles’ wrath play the dance of death. Then, quite suddenly, I’m with Dr. Watson, riding up to Baskerville Hall through that dreary, foggy, excessively spooky and mysterious Moor. Very soon I’m with Everyman, journeying through the pilgrimage that is life and then with Monsieur Poirot and Captain Hastings in a quiet country manor trying to exercise those little grey cells to their level best…

I have to admit I’m suffering from severe dislocation. Most of the time I simply don’t know where I am: I might be walking in college, but I could pretty well be far away in ancient Egypt, walking in solemn state with the Pharaoh. The boundaries between fact and fiction constantly keep dissolving till reality becomes strange, unfamiliar, ‘unreal’ and the world of fiction, the world I share with sundry other folk, real and a lot more material.

Perhaps that’s insanity, a mark of my slip into lunacy, a signal that I’m beginning to loose, or perhaps have already lost, my marbles…

Or perhaps it means I am, to quote Monsieur Poirot, at the verge of true wisdom…

31 July 2009

Keeping Faith

93% of Indians believe in God…

Or so said a report in the Hindustan Times long, long ago. Somehow, this little figure, this absurdly accurate figure, so full that self-congratulatory statistical pomposity, has remained stuck in the forefront of my otherwise cluttered mind. I mean, kuch aur nahin to 93%, nothing more, nothing less…

And whenever I think of this that inevitable query crops up- what then of the remaining 7%?

Indeed, what then of the remaining 7% of Indians who, according to the HT, do not believe in God?


I ‘became’ an atheist quite early in life. Somewhere in eight standard. My dear elder brother had renounced religion sometime before that and I, the obedient younger sibling, decided to follow suit by killing God.

But that was more of a statement than an actuality. A fashion statement of sorts. To be an atheist, to pretend to have stripped yourself of the over-whelming baggage of religion, of your ingrained cultural consciousness, was-and still to a large extent is-to be modern. Many who claim to be atheists do so without really believing in disbelief, to rather project their so-called modern, rational credentials than actually arrive to the conclusion after in-depth philosophical engagement and interrogation. A considerable amount of these 7% would be of this type, people who’ve given up on God just for the heck of it, only to enhance their coolness quotient.

Certainly, for me, it wasn’t as if I stopped believing the day I ‘gave up’ religion. Diwali Pooja continued unabated, as did the faith in an over-arching moral framework guided by supernatural powers. As a child of the 90’s I had grown up watching Ramayana, Shri Krishna and Mahabharata on Doordarshan and the indelible marks which they have left upon my subconscious were well nigh impossible to erase…

Indeed, at that stage I did not even feel compelled to do so. I had moved above my Gods, but they continued living right there in my heart: an interesting symbiosis which ensured that I lived undisturbed, at peace with my affected atheism and inherent faith.

It was only later on, in class eleventh or twelfth, that I really started questioning my faith. Was there really a supreme power, or a trinity of supreme powers, which rewarded virtue and punished vice? Did good always-ever-triumph over evil? The evidence of the material world suggested otherwise. All around an uncaring, corrupt society which committed crimes under holy disguises. The fatalist logic of the yuga theory lost ground: why did Narayan preordain decadence and annihilation for his own world? Which creator would want his own stuff to be destroyed, and by his own hands too? Certainly not a caring, empathetic one! Wasn’t the idea of caring divinity a big fat lie then? A hoax perpetuated to conceal the real tyranny and sadism of a being for whom we were all playthings? God was a despot, undoubtedly so, and to put life in the hands of such a dictator was intolerable.

I did the only thing I could think of to hurt him: refusing to acknowledge his suzerainty, I shut myself against him in the firm resolve to be my own master. Of course, this little personal rebellion happened in full knowledge of the irritatingly smug claim to sovereignty which religion maintains for itself: we don’t care if you don’t believe in us, for try as much you can never get out of the system. The system in eternal, inviolate, and there is always a place for disbelieving buggers like you- hell!

“So be it! Damn you and your bloody system! Hell better than this!” In retrospect, it was the typical late 70’s angry-young-Bachchan relation with God- waise to bhagwan ko nakarte rahe, aur jab sar par mushkil aan pari tab to toofani raat me mandir jaakar use larkara, aur chila chila ke kaha ki aaj tak tujhse kuch nahi manga, aaj tak sar nahi jhukaya, par aaj aaya hun ek cheez mangane…Can’t live with him, can’t live without him!

I tried hard though. I became a nature-worshiper of sorts. One fine day I told my best friend Rajat that I had given up on God and religion as we know it, and that from now on nature alone would be my dharma. “I will plant a sapling every festival as a mark of respect for Mother Nature”, I said, “So that by the time I grow up I will have enough plants to generate oxygen for me!” The idea, nobly novel though it was, didn’t go on for long and the afforestation zeal fizzled out in half a year or so. In any case, investing nature with divinity was indirectly conforming with one of the traditional strains of religious belief. Something more was need.

And so, as usual, I turned to science. I adopted the clichéd, conventional rational attitude in dismissing much of my heritage as childish bosh. Mythology and the great epics were rejected as fanciful exaggerations; organised religion demonised as a ruthless institution of appropriation and power. I suppose it really was providential, getting Hawking’s Brief History of Time as an award for “excellent academic performance in tenth”. The Big Bang and related theories accounted for everything- the formation of the universe, the laws of physics, the evolution of man, everything could be understood as a rationally irrational, inherently chaotic sequence of chance events.

Everything, yes, but not quite. The primeval atom burst, yes, but why? What cataclysm made it erupt? Science can offer no possible answer to that- no trajectory can be traced beyond to before that primordial explosion; the inviolate, insurmountable break in the space-time graph will not allow it. How then do we explain things?


Something, or someone, did cause that big big bang. That, and that alone is God- the reason behind the Big Bang, and so the reason behind us all. But God now was a curiously impotent figure- he just caused the crucial event to happen and after that they took their own random, unguided course to reach to this stage. God’s role ended with the explosion, with kick-starting the game: chance was the new god.

The idea, of course, is disturbing. To think everything, not just the existence of this planet but your life as well is just a simple matter of a few odds is not a comforting idea…for one, there are umpteen what ifs. What if that meteor hadn’t wiped out the dinosaurs? What if a meteor were to wipe us out tomorrow? It was a difficult choice, between the vagaries of a tyrant and the vagaries of a meteor.

I chose the meteor.


Narayan, Nature, Science, we humans always need something to believe in. What we do as atheists is to just replace one faith with another, God with Science. The trick, I think, is to believe in both, to lug around the baggage of God with the rationality of Science, to see them as not distinct but overlapping and drawing a lot from each other. In any case, God or no God, it really is no use outright rejecting all one’s heritage for an idea- I love it too much, more indeed than any idea to let it go. I love mythology too much to let it go for an obscure bang…

It has helped, really. I believe in disbelief, in the rationality of science but still let it not affect my engagement with mythology and organised religion. I have once again attained that peace by balancing rationalism with religion, by blending them both to form my own eclectic potpourri of a factual faith…


Yes, I chose the meteor, but-and I’ve never confessed it-I have always wanted to choose the tyrant. The tyrant in all his/her/its glory, all the undying, eternal glory and omniscience…after saying all this, I finally come down to where I started- atheism is perhaps only a mask to hide one’s doubts. One word, one conviction, and we’ll change over. Of course, it may never come and many of us die without it coming, but then, I believe that is what it is all about. Of waiting, patiently waiting deep down within for that ultimate conviction, that leap of faith to the hereafter.

Of keeping faith.

16 July 2009

Metro Trouble

I believe that a Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) like the Delhi Metro is not a feasible, long-term intra-city transport option.

Here’s why.

As an entirely electricity dependent MRTS, the Delhi Metro naturally consumes a considerable amount of electricity. Nonetheless, there seems to be no general consensus regarding its exact consumption- a paper on the Institution of Railway Electrical Engineers website claims it’s the largest power consumer in Delhi, a May 9, 2006 report on the Tribune website puts the same to 45MW, or 1.15%, of the average demand of 3,200MW and a write-up on the Metro’s website fixes total consumption to 75+45=120MW or 3.75% of the average demand of 3,200MW. Now, as anybody who’s spent this summer in Delhi knows, this last figure cannot possibly be accurate, for, first, as the channels and papers have been publicising, the total demand at the peak of summer in June was a staggering 1000MW more at around 4,400MW and second, since this figure is so patently obsolete and the Metro’s network has increased considerably since then, its net consumption of too must’ve gone up. There is, unfortunately, no clear figure for that.

Be that as it may, one thing is totally unambiguous: an over-whelming percentage of the Metro’s electricity comes from either non-renewable fossil fuels like coal and natural gas or from ecologically unsound hydroelectric power plants in the lower and middle Himalayas. This crucial fact has till now been consistently ignored by media and civil society alike, for even as we rightfully applaud the DMRC for installing a solar power plant on the Connaught Place station and justifiably take pride in it been awarded carbon credit validation by the German TUVNORD for the use of the innovative regenerative breaking technology, we simultaneously forget that at its core the Metro still functions on hazardous, toxic and ecologically unsafe technologies. Like a majority of successful corporate establishments, all the DMRC does is to stay on the right side of public conscience by adopting small, piece-meal green methods with great fanfare without changing it’s core base of unsound energy generation technologies.

What is urgently required, therefore, is a holistic scientific analysis by an independent, unbiased agency on the overall environmental impact of the Metro’s creation and its unfettered expansion.

First of all, it must be found out to what extent electricity generation in thermal power plants offsets the Metro’s commendable achievement of preventing emission of around 2,275 tonnes of vehicular carbon-dioxide. Indeed, even as we in Delhi celebrate the supposedly modernising influence of the Metro and felicitate it for it’s role in the reduction of vehicular pollution, we overlook the fact that the DMRC characteristically follows conventional Western wisdom of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ by increasingly buying power from a NPTC plant in far-off Orissa. All this happening in the National Capital acquires another, ironical dimension when we consider how the Indian Government cries itself hoarse in every international climate change forum about developed Western nations relocating all their dirty work to developing countries and so making them victims to their insatiable hunger for resources.

Similarly, a detailed study on the multi-nuanced ecological impact of the construction of the Metro too is in order. The DMRC claims to be “one of the most eco-friendly projects in Delhi” so it will be worthwhile to find out whether or not it sources construction material like bricks, cement, concrete, girders etc from clean, green and ethical firms instead of the popular run of the mill profit-maximising, unsound businesses. The affects of exposure-whether adverse or not and if so, how much-to fine concrete dust to construction workers and those living near construction sites too must be conclusively established.

Moving on, one must also consider the costs involved in maintaining the DMRC’s entire network. Whether or not the Metro makes profits, maintenance costs are bound to go up each year as its assets age. Gradually, in about a decade or so, it’ll be bound to phase out a majority of its existing rolling stock if it still wants to maintain its current high standards and afterwards major changes and upkeep would be required in all the stations as well. It is not wholly inconceivable that as time passes maintenance costs would slowly become a considerable amount of its expenditure so that the DMRC’s huge infrastructure and unmovable assets might just end up as an encumbering public liability. Once again, an unprejudiced investigation is in order to determine whether or not these will eventually become equal to or override the net income.

On the whole, I think the DMRC can really not be fully blamed for not being far-sighted enough to anticipate these issues: it is, after all, just a modern replica of a century old transport model carried out under the guidance of a smart and efficient yet aging man. What is surprising, however, is that nobody in Delhi seems to have realised that the Metro, in its current avatar, is only repeating old mistakes and so seems to be going well down the way of becoming an embarrassing liability for the city. Indeed, had even a fraction of the will and money spent in erecting the humongous Metro network been spent on refurbishing roads and revamping the bus system the need for the Metro would never have arisen and the transport problem solved without so much exertion. The very induction of air-conditioned buses in the DTC’s fleet, which will make available to the common citizen a facility till now the Metro’s complete monopoly, coupled with the increase in road space and, so, vehicular traffic raises serious question marks over the very existence of the project as some of its basic objectives get gradually defeated.

All of this is not to say that I am against the Metro. No, like all Delhities, I too have more or less enjoyed the Metro experience and do sincerely believe that by setting enviable professional standards it has brought about a sea change in and contributed immensely to the evolution of public attitudes and consciousness, creating, in fact, a whole new ‘Metro culture’ of discipline, responsibility and patience. Nevertheless the Metro is no holy cow and, more now than ever before, we need to evaluate the whole project in a radical, all-encompassing manner and ascertain its viability for the moderately long-term. That alone will be beneficial for the city.

29 June 2009

Death of a Phone

The moral of this story is crystal clear: jhagralu women are injurious to cellular health.

No, I’m not a misogynist. Neither am I one of those people who blame others without rhyme or reason, just because it happens to be convenient to pass the buck. No, I’m a reasonable, rational, sensible man who comes to an opinion after carefully weighing all possible circumstantial evidence. I have the authority of experience backing me, so I say: women are injurious to mobile phones.

First it was Cynthia. Now, it really was Cynthia who initiated me into text messaging; infact forced me into it by messaging at all sorts of inconvenient hours. I had this idea that if somebody’s taking the trouble to call or message you it’s basic human courtesy to reply.

And so I replied. Replied and replied and replied till I finally got the hang of typing a full message and successfully sending it within a minute. My speed, as she complemented me one day, was now tolerably decent.

It was, of course, this very messaging and the misunderstandings it created that led to a nice big jhagra.

So far so good. Dear beloved phone still alright. It was after reconciliation came about that weird things started happening. For about a week or so, the messages she would send would arrive dot on time but those sent by others would take hours upon hours to reach me. I consulted experts-my technologically minded brother and Mos-but to no avail. To this day I call it the B- effect.

A dark omen of things to come.

Next was a little tiff-it cannot qualify as a full blown jhagra-with the Stage Queen. Within a span of about 5 minutes I received some 10 frightening messages. Now, my phone is a simple, sasta-sundar-tikau Classic model with a set of inexorable limitations. If you’re typing a message and another one comes, you have to be extremely careful in patiently guiding the highlight to “Ignore” and pressing “Ok”. A chance mistake and all your carefully typed reply disappears. Often, even if you take all the precautions, your reply will vanish nonetheless and you’ll be left staring blankly at the black-bubble colour display. Just like me, my phone has a mind of its own that rebels at the very thought of external control and supervision.

Anyway, as I would type a reply and be about to take the highlight to send another message would come. As luck would have it, the phone was not in a mood to cooperate and so in spite of all possible precautions I was reduced to typing the same message for about 5 times. As I typed the sixth, the last nail in the coffin was hammered- I didn’t think you’d ignore me.

I was paying more attention than I have to any set of messages in my entire life.

Finally, the next morning, I got back to replying. Having learnt my lesson from last night’s disaster, I now wisely saved messages before sending them so that in case the phone became Satanic and exercised too much free will or the network played truant, I wouldn’t have to type the entire saga again.

Very wise. But phones will be phones and women will be women. Unknown to me, all the harm had already been done. The matter got resolved, but the phone took it all to heart and decided to not let go of the messages saved in its Outbox. Those 7 or 8 messages are still there, defying all efforts to open, leave aside delete, them. This was the P- effect.

‘Never mind’, I reassured myself, ‘What if the Outbox’s not functioning? Heaven help me, I can still send and receive messages!’

Sometimes, even heaven conspires for your downfall…

I must’ve been under a bad shadow, my stars under some evil influence, for how else can I explain my own Guardian Angel making a Faust of me? Alas, be it me, be it the loo, ‘twas to be, ‘twas to be! A jhagra, dramatic on a totally different plane, and my poor phone left bristling with indignation. Just as I messaged “I want you to be happy!” the K- effect went came into being: the phone decided that it had had enough of all the drama and the cheesy cheeky messages and B-grade shayari it had been exposed to throughout its career. Renouncing the world of text messaging, it relapsed into a mode of defiant sanyasa, meditating, perhaps, on the great ills of teenaged existence…

So, here I stand. This is me, this is you: there is somewhere else I’d rather be. I’d rather have my phone returned to its primal innocence, the spic and span way it was before all these falls. I’d rather have it working, cooperating with me than sulking away in silent defiance like this…

All my pleas, however, have been put on hold. The Phone Devta heeds not my calls and even as I type it networks the remaining signal of my phone’s battery to its own anant connection…

Ah well, such is life, such are phones, such are women…if anything, remember, as my mother said, this: never have a jhagra with a woman on your phone!

15 June 2009

Me and Mine: A Plurality of Forms

To Shefali Bhakuni
(Because a fascinating ass would never let me be and a silly ass would never believe me)
What is in a name? A name shapes one’s perception of the self, of identity and communal belonging. A name places one in a socio-cultural milieu, defining one’s roots and, more often than not, neatly docketing one in ethic and racial compartments.

There is something rotten about names…

I, like a majority of us, love my name, but even as one thinks of a name (of a person one knows) one conjures certain ideas and images which one’s subconscious consciously associates with him/her. This, of course, is but natural, for it is in us humans an inherent cognitive faculty which links names and faces with certain perceptions and ideas. These perceptions, which may be acquired or inherited, perform this self same task of definition and categorisation.

So far, so good. What irks me is that after forming an opinion, a majority of people restrict themselves to that single image, idea of a person. They allow their perceptions to ossify and think of people as only this or that, as a particular, distinct and more or less unchangeable form or personality. In trying to define and compartmentalise people as neatly and efficiently as possible, they tend to forget, or overlook, the basic mutability of individual human personality.

What we are is what we choose. There is no natural or primal state- except the nothingness of a babe that is. Exploiting the building blocks of examples and precepts made available by society we create ourselves upon the foundation of inherited genetic traits. Of course, these ‘creations’ are always influenced by society in certain more or less predictable forms. There are people who are shaped directly by their surroundings and social group of family, peers and colleagues and there are people who adopt the I-don’t-care attitude and feign independence from societal pressures- for the most these latter are remarkably sensitive and are greatly affected in subtle, often contradictory ways by societal input, doing and becoming the opposite of what others around them want/suggest.

Broadly speaking, childhood, teenage and young adulthood may be considered the most dynamic years of a person’s life, physically, emotionally and intellectually. It is during these impressionable ages that the human animal evolves the most and, under influence, plants various forms and designs into his/her persona till inspired experimentation sediments into the quasi-stasis of middle age. Of course, after settling into a personality form/type a majority of us rigidify to maintain the status quo for considerable stretches of time- often lifetimes. We then experience occasional bouts when the old urge for change materialises in ‘new looks’, those small periods of experimentation which are soon absorbed into the continuum of monolithic monotony.

In face of this near-complete universality exceptions inevitably suffer. Those of us who experiment or change have to face a barrage of unwelcome criticism, most of it odiously unkind. Our inherent subconscious cultural prejudices and suspicions against change lead us to consciously browbeat this difference into submissive absorption, so much so that even those of us relatively more receptive to change often fall into this trap of inflexibility. Doing so, we forget that what we perceive as natural and given in ourselves and others are in fact our own creations and can be altered at will. Indeed, such is the malleability of human nature that it will change marvellously under pressure and though each individual has his/her own breaking point-and the range varies-but each of us does give in at some point or the other.

In light of this, it will be pertinent to consider the common (mis)conception about natural state(s). One often comes across homilies or adjuncts advising us to ‘be ourselves’, to ‘top pretending’ and be our ‘natural selves’. Social networking sites are choking with testimonials and profiles of people who’re either acclaimed by their friends for ‘being themselves’ or who openly display their intense dislike of ‘hypocrites’ who ‘pretend to be something they’re not’. What ‘being oneself’ means is something which never crosses their narrow, blinkered minds.

After all, what one perceives as one’s ‘natural state’ is just one of the infinite possibilities which has been for some time past in favour. This misguided notion leads one and all to confuse it as natural and given and consequently view any change as an unnatural disturbance to be rectified at once. Indeed, we all get so involved in the idea of being ourselves that in the constant endeavour to live up to that image we forget that the self same idol can at any time be altered, or even altogether replaced. Many people suffer under this delusion, that they cannot change themselves for the better, and mistaking the temporality of existence for the permanence of Bhagvad truth fail to try hard enough to improve their lot.

Therefore, the demise of a quasi-permanent natural order of being makes the very idea of duplicity, so heavily demonised in our cultures, patently superfluous, for one’s changed form is not as much of a detachable mask or hat as a whole skin with accompanying blood and bones- a manifestation of our boundless nature and not some extraneous addition. Furthermore, the beliefs which make us punish differences of personality are really culturally imposed barriers which cloud our vision to the unending diversity of our race, the only thing ‘natural’ to the homo sapiens.

The discovery of change-for convenience’s sake ‘form’-is often startling and the resulting recourse to charges of duplicity and perversity understandable and, to an extent, justifiable. This is not a value judgement on the ends to which perceived duplicity, or change of form, is, and may be, put to. Instead, this is an iteration of the belief that we as a species need to wake up to the undeniable reality of our mutability and so move on-rather evolve-to a more advanced state of flexibility, understanding and acceptance.

30 May 2009

In Defense of Toilets

It’s the 100th year of the lavatory- or so says the Hindustan Times. I sure am glad that it is, even if it’s really not. My happiness stems from the realisation of the comfort which all our umpteen modern ‘conveniences’ (talk about fitting names!) have brought to our lives. Sadly, we seem to take all of them, including the humble toilet, for granted.

Arguably, the toilet is one of the single most important invention without which the progress of human civilisation would not have been possible. Without toilets life would’ve been miserable, trudging to the bush and back again every second hour. Without toilets we would never have had ample time to devote ourselves purely to work or leisure, for we would still be nicking into the nearest convenient bush to answer nature’s inexorable call. Villages would not have developed into Kingdoms, Kingdoms not into Empires; Empires would not have fallen, Kingdoms again not risen, Monarchies then not evolved into Democracies.

Considering the pivotal role which toilets have played in human history, it is surprising that so little attention has been paid to them in world literature. The near-universal silence of literature on this vital aspect of human life is as shocking as it is suspect…a gigantic consensual conspiracy of silence, transcending all socio-politico-cultural barriers and shadow lines, seems to be underway to edge out the toilet from public consciousness, thus denying it its rightful place in the annals of history as one of the most fundamental building block of human civilisation. Indeed, the degenerative mythification of the toilet as a cultural taboo unworthy of mention is one of the greatest crimes which Literature is yet to be accounted for.

A world without toilets, a world wherein we did not pee or shit is unimaginable. Yet, the evidence afforded by our Literature seems to suggest otherwise. In no work have I come across a passage wherein somebody just breaks off with a “I gotta pee”. The narratives just go on without any regard for realism. This tendency towards deliberate over-simplification and programmatic marginalisation of important life-processes is markedly prominent in ancient and medieval literature.

Consider for example Homer. The great bard versified so much, yet he could not bring himself to make any single one of his characters to relieve themselves when it’s patently obvious that all of them must’ve spent a considerable amount of time and effort doing so. By a rough estimate, there must’ve been more than 90,000 men in the Achaian army. While the high ups like Achilles must’ve had the luxury of deflating themselves in small pots in the comfort of their tents, a majority of the common soldiery would’ve had to go out, either by the sea or under cover of wooded Ida. Imagine first the sight, thousands upon thousands of men groggily tramping out of their miserable camps to ease out last night’s ration. Imagine then the cumulative stench which would have accumulated around the camp in 10 long years of continuous excreta. Imagine now the environmental degradation, the inestimable damage done to the rivers and fields of Troy. All these are important, pertinent issues, but that all too famous poet sheds no light upon them.

The additional burden of structural artificiality of irresolvable, unbelievable imbalances added on to such fantastic works as epics becomes all the more apparent when one tries to imaginatively identify with their characters. Take the Ramayana. Ramanand Sagar’s version; the final fearsome aerial battle betwixt Ram and Ravan. A volley of abuse and deadly arrows flying over to each side. The tacky ‘mahasangram’ tune blaring in the background.

(Mahasangram! Ek dharm raath par baitha, ek paap rath par baitha, do maha bali, do maha rathi sangram karte hain! Antim charan mai yudh Ravan Ram karte hain! Yudham, yudham, yudham maha-yudham!)
Ram (righteous wrath): Neech nishachar! Asahaiye striyon pe veerta dikhane vale kayar! Tu kis baat par apne ko veer kehta hai! Dharm ki maryada bhang karne vale paapi! Teere samast paapon ka dand aaj tyujhe avash milega! (lightning across the blue-red-yellow-green sky; Narad and Devtas nod in approval)
(Mahasangram! Ek dharm raath par baitha, ek paap rath par baitha, do maha bali, do maha rathi sangram karte hain! Antim charan mai yudh Ravan Ram karte hain! Yudham, yudham, yudham maha-yudham!)
Ravan (devlish sarcasm): Dand dene ka kaam raja ka hai, bhikari ka nahi! (demonic laugh) Hahaha! (more lightning; Narad and an assortment of devtas look worried)
(Mahasangram! Ek dharm raath par baitha, ek paap rath par baitha, do maha bali, do maha rathi sangram karte hain! Antim charan mai yudh Ravan Ram karte hain! Yudham, yudham, yudham maha-yudham!)
Ram (eyeballs popping out in anger; taking up his bow): He paapi, kshatriya prahar karte hain, shastron se, shabdon se nahi! Seh mera var!
(Mahasangram! Ek dharm raath par baitha, ek paap rath par baitha, do maha bali, do maha rathi sangram karte hain! Antim charan mai yudh Ravan Ram karte hain! Yudham, yudham, yudham maha-yudham!)
Ravan (casanovic carelessness; taking up his mace): Kaal tumhe pukar raha he Ram!
(Mahasangram! Ek dharm raath par baitha, ek paap rath par baitha, do maha bali, do maha rathi sangram karte hain! Antim charan mai yudh Ravan Ram karte hain! Yudham, yudham, yudham maha-yudham!)
Ram (sheepish, but with all the Iskvaku dignity): Ruko Ravan! Ruko! Shan bhar ke liye ruko! Yudh viram karo! Aaj subah se sonch nahi gaya hun: aab sheegra, ati-sheegra jana hoga! Mai abhi aya...(to Matali, the charioteer of his divine raath)…Matali, jaldi jungle chalo!
(Ravan, Lakshman, Hanuman, Sugreev, Jamvant, Narad, Devtas and others aghast)
(Mahasangram! Ek dharm raath par baitha, ek paap rath par baitha, do maha bali, do maha rathi sangram karte hain! Antim charan mai yudh Ravan Ram karte hain! Yudham, yudham, yudham maha-yudham!)

I mean, I can take dragons and walking mummies and gandharvas and fairies and daemons, but I simply cannot believe in a world where nobody never ever needs to shit and pee!

Just how simple and easy it would’ve been for us students and critics of humanities, of history, sociology, religion, politics, psychology and literature, if writers had just mentioned the toilets of the rich and famous they immortalised. Had Plutarch just dropped in a line or two about Caesar’s loo before he fell with ‘Et tu’, we could’ve have saved a whole colosseum full of money spent in archaeological excavations. Had the unknown bard of Beowulf just put in a few verses about his lavatory we would not be scratching our head with regard to early Anglo-Saxon conveniences. Had Shakespeare made Hamlet continue his trauma while letting go of his inner tensions our perception of Elizabethan hygiene would’ve been a lot less murky. Had Eliot given Maggie just a wee more room in a little loo of her own we would’ve better understood not just her but the Mill, and so the Victorian milieu, as a whole…

Had…if…the literary history of the toilet’s representation is a sad invisible chronicle of deliberately squandered opportunities, of blatant sacrifices of realism to arbitrary cultural norms in the name of a mythical purity. Of course, Literature’s reprehensible role in the formation of these norms, as for other norms, cannot be over-emphasised. The loss, however, has also been Literature’s, for the toilet’s comic, tragic and tragi-comic (things…cameras…going down the chute) potential has been largely unrealised.

Fortunately, the democratisation of Literature along with the emergence of literatures has ushered in an open-minded honesty which slightly redeems it of past atrocities. (Post) Modern writers in their depiction of reality-which is no longer thrice removed from anything-do not shy away from toilet scenes, be it escaping the police by jumping down a toilet in the Louvre in Brown’s Da Vinci Code or wild sex in an asylum’s washroom in a Bond thriller. However, what really broke the porcelain ceiling was the entry of cinema and television and its depicting of all sorts of toilet and toilet-related activities: sex, strangulation, drinking, electrocution, smoking, stabbing, graffiti, cat-fights, vandalism and so on. Posterity will be indebted to modern-and post-modern-cinema and television for an open, unbiased and healthy pursuit of lavatoric realism which does away with the restrictions of previous narrow eras...

There comes a time in every society’s history wherein it makes a tryst with destiny. Long ago, with the emergence of modernism, we did that and the time has come to redeem that pledge. At the dawn of history the toilet started its unending quest for glory and the trackless centuries are filled with its unyielding struggles. The toilet’s star has finally risen and Literature now stands at the cusp of a new age, a new dawn of equality and emancipation. Freedom and power have brought us a responsibility to correct the wrongs of the past, and we must all labour hard to give expression to our reality, to write in unison for the formation of a better, shitty world…

14 May 2009

Padichcha Muttal

To my parents, thanking them for their good sense, for had they not been so, I would not have been able to write this at all.


“What is education?”, I asked P.T., my oldest-and now settled in Canada-friend.

“I guess its school and college, test and exam, certificate and degree”, he replied. “You know, all that boring stuff.”

However, as I lay down to sleep that night, that seemingly simple question haunted me and my friend’s answer got me thinking.

Is education just about school and college, test and exam? Is its purpose so shallow or is there nota higher meaning attached to it?

That a huge majority of people hold my friend’s view is more than just obvious. Society considers a matric pass to be more educated than an illiterate. Similarly, a degree holder is more educated than a matric pass and a 95% scorer is definitely more valued than a 75% one.

Society is of course right in adopting this approach, for it creates standards which must e met and which, if met, augur well for a person as far as his/her economic condition is concerned.

However, what I feel is that society cannot be justified for calling each and every degree holder or matric pass person as educated.

According to me, education has a far greater meaning than just what our parents and friends would have us believe, for just as it is about ‘all that boring stuff’, it is (or should be) also about acquainting students with the finer aspects of human nature (such as kindness, compassion and honesty), imbibing in them a sense of what is right and what is wrong and sensitising them towards the plethora of problems that mankind faces today and making them realise the individual’s role in solving them.

So perhaps what we consider as education is just the process of getting literate, partially or fully as the case may be. The wisdom and foresight that comes with education has perhaps nothing to do with the subtle art of scoring in exams. If this be the case (and I strongly feel that it is), then all of us ought to stop, introspect and pose that dreadful question to ourselves- “Am I educated?”

Let me give an example of two men whom I happened to come across.

The first one is an amiable man, ever so polite in his manner and ever so witty in his speech. He works hard, is honest and true of heart. This man is a rickshaw puller, an illiterate person from one of the lowest strata of Delhi’s many layered society.

The second is a boisterous person, vulgar in his behaviour and totally unruly in his conduct. His speech is always graced with the most unutterable of swear words that were ever made. This man is a class fellow of mine, a person from a well to do, respectable middle class family.

Who would you consider more agreeable, more likeable, in fact, the better human being- the unlettered, but yet humble rickshaw puller or the so called educated, but yet atrocious middle class lad?

There is something fundamentally wrong with a society that scoffs at the poor rickshaw puller, but showers praise on the rowdy school boy as long as he continues to score (which, considering the technological advances made in the still more subtle art of cheating, is not so difficult!).

It is clear that education and the process of getting literate are two different phenomena, though slightly inter-connected. Therefore, the question worth asking is this- If schools don’t educate, then what does?

To me, the answer lies in that most primitive of human creations that has uptill now stood the ravages of about 10,000 years worth of time and provided the foundation for human society to grow and to flourish- the family.

It is undeniable that a strong, sensible family gives a stable and fruitful environment for children to grow, and resultantly, get educated. It is also undeniable that a weak family deprives children of the essential atmosphere for their stable growth.

Therefore, if the system is churning out such mammoth proportions of uneducated literates, then it is not just the fault of the so called temples of learning that have converted into temples of Mammon, but also the current generation of parents who look inside just the report card and not the heart.

To be literate is easy enough. To be educated is what is challenging.