Sunday, May 20, 2012

147 Monday Musings- Cartoons and Caricatures

147 Monday Musings- Cartoons and Caricatures

This might slip into the certitudes of shoulds and musts, but that is the price one pays to write on something that has been written about so much, that one more attempt only draws out sighs and yawns. The Indian parliament erupted in hurt on the issue of an cartoon that got published almost half a century ago being included in the NCERT books, which depicts Nehru pulling up Ambedkar on the delay in the framing and scripting of the constitution. As if the outrage itself was not tragic enough, Kapil Sibal went out and apologized for the inclusion of the cartoon, the two academicians behind the inclusion of the cartoons in the text book resigned and to add insult to injury, a few lumpen elements went ahead and vandalized the office of one of the academicians.

There is enough in this incident why anyone in his right mind will find reasons to be disturbed about. The cartoons in question are half a century old, based quite on facts and the actors concerned themselves never took offence during their lifetimes - and these must be reasons enough why we must ask in exasperation 'what’s the bloody fuss about?
Second where will this end? If we start feeling offended on everything that ever happened, on fears and phobias, complexes and hurts, based on real or imagined events, then I guess we are creating a worldview so downright intolerant, touchy and sensitive, that joyful living will always elude us.

This incident is not a random, isolated event - it’s a part of larger pattern that is being played out with uncanny and scary regularity. Sentiments of all kinds seem to be waiting for being hurt, feel insulted and wronged. Identitities of all kinds are so fragile that only one question can trigger mayhem, only one cartoon can trigger hurt and insult. All scrutiny, academic delayering, discussion on anything related to belief, faith, icons, leaders, are out of bounds. The industry of faith and idol worship seems to run on the fuel of suspended inquiry and meek submissiveness. If we are incapable to question and learn from the past, if we are incapable to scrutinize and analyze our present - then it will be of little surprise that we are also hopelessly incapable of chiseling out a great future. Our faiths are not perfect, neither were our icons and role models, but despite their imperfections they left a legacy. In questioning an analyzing them we are paying them the ultimate homage of engaging with their legacy. It’s better than paying lip service to them or being apathetic to it. We must be comfortable in questioning the holy cows and accepting our past, its people and faiths. Irreverence is not always bad - it’s a sign of a very confident people.

The last thing about this incident that left me with a sour taste is the realization how incapable we as a people have become in laughing at ourselves. Cartoons lighten the day for us; the intent is to take light hearted pot shot at very serious things. As Rufun wainwrith says "There's no life without humor. It can make the wonderful moments of life truly glorious, and it can make tragic moments bearable. I fail to understand the composition of people who cannot take a good hearted dig at themselves. In failing to see the funny side of life, the banter in inanities, the humor in small mercies, we reveal a lot about ourselves. We might have fought the cartoons, but in the process have reduced ourselves to caricatures of what we can be. Let’s be better than that.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

146 Monday Musings: 10 strangers and 2 snakes

10 strangers and 2 snakes

They were ten of them, mostly corporate wallahs, who were perched at various points of the corporate food chain. The journey was by choice, the meeting by chance, and the companionship purely by discovery. Each one was peculiar in his/her own right, with dissimilar plots, subtexts, nuances, characters, twists and turbulences,bound only by their peculiarities. They came together the way people come together in a long distance train journey, awkward to begin with, getting close to each other meal by meal and conversation by conversation. Sometimes its easy to share with strangers because they are not burdened by common memories, there is no fear of being judged and most importantly there is a comfort that you will not face them often enough.

The eleventh member of this story was its settings - far removed from the din and bustle of civilisation, in the middle of wilderness, surrounded by dry fields and rocky mountains, bereft of human company and its more ubiquitious cousin - mobile signals!! There was a strange stillness in the air, a lack of sound and noise that the average urban ear is so unaccustomed to, broken only the chirp of the bird, and the deafening chant of a thousand grasshoppers together, a sound that can be ear shattering in that stillness. Its like the roar of a mighty riverfall in the middle of nowhere, one second one is councious of the the abyss of stillness, and in the next of the roar of the waterfall.
A thousand ants in the soil everywhere, the company of multi coloured bougenvileas, low hanging mangoes, tall coconut trees, and a distant pond added to the surrealness of the settings. The 10 strangers negotiated with the settings as much as they did with each other. Nights were dark, still and soundless. The stars shone brightly and full moon appeared brighter and bigger in the clear sky. They were almost rediscovering new joys in familiar things like the stars and the moon almost as if they were seing them for the first time.
They were waking up at dawn and going to bed latest by 10. The bodies had much to revolt against - against pure air, against silence, against normal waking hours and against so much purity and serenity around that they had not experienced since the time they left the comforts of the womb. They slept in tents, on the floor and within mosquito nets, used common bathrooms but uncommon facilities. Collective discomfort broke the ice and collective trauma brought them together. And they lived happily thereafter - or so they thought.

A few days of pristine living later they had two guests. A cobra and his cousin from a different family, who both chose the youngest and the only lady amongst them. The next 48 hours were mayhem. If the snakes had a particular agenda in mind, they did not let them know, and if they did let the lady they visited know of it, she did not share it with others. Since no news of the actual conversation was forthcoming, conspiracy theorists had a field day. Some interpreted the significance of snakes, others recoiled in horror about the possibility of snakes diverting attention to them. Every one let the lady and the snakes to thier own means. If the men felt a bit ignored by the snakes and experienced a gender discrimination against them, they did not express, not at least to the snakes. Every event was dissected and had its own impact. One was reminded of the Bog Boss house, where even a small vibration had a tremor like impact.

Much more and ten days later, and with a little help from the snakes, the strangers forged bonds and built friendships, something they had not done for a long long time. That is the beauty of proximity in wilderness - it robs human imagination of all fears and pretences, allowing the person to let be. The strangers have since then returned to civilisation, and i have a feeling that despite the comforts of everyday living and presence of familiar things around, the strangers are missing each other, if not the snakes. I wish them well.