Friday, February 3, 2012

You shall not be named.

You're a Mask
I loan out
to the phantom
in my head.


Beads of impressions
patter and skid.
Sweep, collect and dump.
Some spill over-
the mould is broken.
Or incomplete? Nebulous?
Poetry comes to me
in snatches.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


It’s been so-o long since I’ve written anything that’s not an assignment or a research paper…I mean, unless someone sets down a topic for me to write about with instructions for meeting a particular deadline, I just cannot seem to form words! For one, how on earth does one pick a topic? In fact what should this very article that I’m writing be about? Something awesome, clearly , to commemorate my return to creative writing with a flourish…maybe I should write about something that I feel strongly about… maybe Eve Teasing? Hmmm I know it’s been done a lot, but that’s because a lot of people feel strongly about it. You would too if you had to live with it every moment of the day… Walking on the street, being jeered at, commented on, jibed, groped…humiliated, insulted, not for something that you’ve done or are wearing but because of your very unfortunate existence as a woman in India in this time and age…but why? What is it about this time and age that we have to bear such torture? Men are unable to respect women as fellow human beings with similar consciousness and notions of self.

Is it because this country is unable to accept the fact that the suffragette movement established for the West-that women are actually human beings just like men and have similar desire for love and self-advancement and freedom? Maybe universal adult franchise wasn’t such a boon after all…it delivered, on paper, equal civil rights to all… but unfortunately that paper was documented by a bunch of men who were ready to accept those ideas, and they, unfortunately, formed a miniscule portion of the population of multiple millions, out of which most couldn’t even read the said paper and were unaware of its very existence or significance. People are not machines…you can’t programme them to do things and to have their internal processes and actions match. By force of law you could make people do what they don’t believe in, but this would be in inconsistent with their values and will and this would give birth to contradiction which would slowly erupt. Eve teasing is one of those eruptions.

What our country desperately needed, then, was an extended movement to make people believe that women are equal to men and the differences between the two are biological and strictly non-hierarchical. We did not get one, and what’s scarier is a lot of us are unaware that we even need one. Being allowed to wear western clothes, work, vote, study doesn’t signify freedom…We are not free until we can walk on the roads with our heads held high, wearing outfits of our choice and staying out till whatever time we want without worrying about being attacked, with our mere presence being the only provocation. We will be free the day we stop needing chaperones.

Okay, this is Cyclopean topic and as I write one thing a thousand other thoughts approach my mind, begging to be articulated… not all of them can be written about, considering what we got in 1947 was only pseudo-freedom, and a lot of rights that were allotted to us remain a bunch of pretty-sounding words, especially Right to freedom of Expression… The other day in class, one of our teachers was telling us about this brilliant scholar who had researched on the Mahabharata for many years and had collated his findings in an extremely interesting version of the Epic… our appetite for the tradition of Mahabharata having been whetted by the small portion of it that was included in our course of study, we expressed an ardent desire to peruse the said work…only to be told that it had been destroyed by Hindu activists angered by the subversion of the true word of the holy text in this work which expressed ideas subversive of Hindu religion! Highly ironical, considering that the Hindu religion isn’t even a formal religion with prescribed scriptures and is actually a collection of vast and often mutually contradictory beliefs…in fact it’s the only ‘religion’ whose philosophical thought permitted even atheism. This attempt to define and defend fanatically, this homogenized version of ‘Hindu culture’ seems like a kind of reaction to colonial rule. They’re trying to carve an identity for India which is ‘free’ of the influence of our erstwhile western rulers. What they forget is that identity is not something you can ‘reclaim’ and ‘impose’. It’s a continuously evolving construct, and during those 200 yrs of British rule, we changed, and that’s a fact no one can escape unless we acquire time traveling powers. Any construction of identity cannot be based on ignoring those 200 yrs and reaching back in time to a period before that and carrying on from there pretending like the intervening years were lost in a time warp. To define ourselves we have to look at ourselves, with untainted glasses, in the Now, accepting things that happened in the past because they did happen, and ignoring them would mean clouding our sense of present reality. And we need to look at ourselves not as a people capable of being clubbed in a single community, but as a conglomeration of diverse communities, cultural practices, views, ideas… ‘Unity in diversity’ is an extremely interesting phrase which is often misinterpreted to mean that diversity be homogenized to impose unity, a national character…I think what the phrase truly means is an acceptance of diversity as THE definition of national character of the multi-cultural, multilingual democracy that India is…and the mode of such definition can be no other than free expression.

But is free expression possible? Freedom of expression demands freedom of thought, and that is something no one can grant us by allowing it in a constitution… Whatever the conditions in the environment around us be, if we unshackle our minds as much as possible(the definition of what’s possible is another interesting topic, for another time), if we lose self-consciousness and decide to be true to ourselves and allow our thoughts to play around with each other, forming different chains of thoughts, giving birth to new ideas…if we allow ourselves to have confidence in our notions…we may achieve that elusive prelude to freedom of expression-a free mind.

This Write-up has been one meandering, tedious assortment of digressions…but isn’t that what one needs?…digressions…digressing from the planned, tested path…doesn’t that afford a heady kind of freedom (it did, to me, I didn’t have to sit around for hours drawing up a structure for an article…all I did was consider ideas for an interesting topic to think about and pronto was born an article)? That’s why my blog’s hereby christened ‘Digressions’…I will be writing about my thoughts on a wide plethora of issues and non-issues, without paying allegiance to any fixed kind of ideology or style…Lots of people may find it head-ache inducing, which is totally fine because in my Lala land I welcome dissent and criticism. I am satisfied with any response that I get as long as there is one faithful reader reading this drivel- the person writing it. I promise I'll stop writing the day I get bored of my own writing and then my thoughts would remain and die in my head and the world would be deprived of a lot of groundbreaking, path-breaking ideas but what do I care, an insensitive world doesn’t deserve to be thought about, and an insensitive, inarticulate mind doesn’t deserve to think them.

Dedicated to Jonathan Swift- The interesting parody of digressive thinking in 'Tale of a tub' planted the seed of this article in my head.He intensely disliked digressions and felt they revealed unfocussed thinking. But who defines what to focus one's thoughts on? How do new ideas present themselves if not through digressing?