Thursday, November 29, 2018

On Terror, Death and such. . . .

Last Sunday, one Suresh Nair was arrested by Gujarat's Anti-Terrorist Squad as one of the four main accused, in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah blast case that left 3 dead and 17 injured. As per the NIA investigation, Nair, a native of Kerala but a resident of Kheda in Gujarat –an RSS worker – allegedly supplied the bombs to those who had planted them at the 13th-century Dargah of Sufi mystic Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. Nair was also reportedly present at the scene of crime while the bombs were being planted. The bomb was planted in a tiffin box and the explosion took place during 'iftaar' on October 11, 2007.

Well, look at the ‘politics’ behind the arrest amid the Rajasthan Assembly election, we can talk more. About how a thoughtless Malayali gets arrested, while the master brains and their masters continue to rule the land. Hope people do look into that and ponder over it...

Meantime, the news took me to another - the explosions in various locations in Delhi on September 13, 2008. Five blasts took place within a span of 31 minutes from 18:07 to 18:38 IST in busy markets or commercial localities. Indian Mujahidin claimed responsibility or were the suspected perpetrators.

Incidentally Suresh Eledath, who was returning from the British Library, had just escaped the blast at Connaught Place. Those were the years when we had police raiding every bus, every market place. It was a horror in itself. . .

Ultimately, what did we/they gain from all this fear and terror they spread ~

Well, for me in all the horror, I thought I gained a certain courage to look straight into the eyes of death.  Besides, I had a certain fascination for death all through.  The ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’ kind of appeal. So, a poem was born.

Today, looking back, I guess it was all just a fallacy. . . . Death is Death. The final curtain.
Now, if I write a poem about death, it will be an one/two-liner ~  O’ Death, I shall look at you when I meet you. I am no longer looking for you.

And, a word of advice to up-and-coming ‘Suresh Nairs’: ‘Take care of your lives, before you think of taking the lives of others.’ Can only hope people would like to be less foolish in the Information/New Media Age. . .

Now for a little fun, here’s the poem of 2008, when I felt courageous to stare death in the eye. . .

Looking for You, O'

Me and You
Life and Death
We walked together
Coolly so far
Hand in hand

‘You are so frail’
You would trap and tease
‘No worry,
You are so strong’
I would free and ease

And then
In a tease
You left me
To play
Hide and Seek

You became Terror
I became Fear
In the lasting game
I play with you
You play with many

You hide
In those bags
I look for you
In a child’s toy

You pat me,
From nowhere
I turn in vain
Round and round
Looking for you

You hide again
In those bins
I look for you
In a stranger’s eye

His eyes meet mine
Fear greets Fear
We smile in vain
And pass
Looking for you…

O' Death,

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Sabarimala and Women - A personal perspective

As Kerala roiled over the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala, the age-old traditions and the restriction on girls/women aged 10-50 to enter the Ayyappa temple there, we were carefully climbing the rocky steps and slopes uphill at Thrikkalayoor in Malappuram to the Sri Mahadeva temple up the hills there. . . seeking Shiva, the Eternal.  

Not because we are that religious, but because the trail seemed an experience worthwhile to pursue.  And, Shiva or the idea of Shiva always seemed to hold the mystery of a seeker’s quest.  

No one said you can’t. No one says so over there.

Except maybe Suresh Eledath, who cautioned in his own characteristic way.  ‘It gets steep as you climb uphill. Think well before you decide to climb,’ he said as I was making plans. Well, how can one ‘think’ through an experience and save oneself from it?  It only instills a certain fear, and imagined fear is not what I entertain much. Give it a try, said a voice within. And to that voice, I succumb.

While uphill was rather manageable, the tread downhill along the slippery slope was a bit strenuous and risky. Yet, with a little help – a stretched out hand where the gradient was steep – we climbed up and down the hill.The Shiva within and without smiling...

Yeah, made it through.  And the experience, definitely worthwhile.
I pledge to go again. The Himalayas and Kailash still the ultimate quest.

How serene and beautiful it is when people – men and women – have the freedom to seek what their hearts tell.

That brings me to the debate on Sabarimala that continues to roil the socio-political landscape of Kerala.

As for me, I fail to understand why a female should want to enter the temple where the celibate deity is averse to seeing her around. Well, that’s the story we were told since childhood. Not the ‘science’ of gravitational push and pull or the magnetic field surrounding temples. That was the story we have grown up listening to, even as we have seen women devotees of all ages visit and woo or worship Lord Ayyappa elsewhere.

Personally, I love such stories. Stories where gods and goddesses assume human character, stories that form part of our personal story in certain ways. The myth has become a part of our subconscious selves, most Keralites would agree.  And, I am happy to take it along. But now that a day (August 17) has passed, amid the great floods, with no ‘Kanni  Ayyappa’  (a first timer to Sabarimala hills) visiting the shrine, a bit keen to see when Lord Ayyappa would firmly state his wish and will to marry Malikapuram.  Or, if he has no such intention at all. Even as it could just be a story to keep us entertained and our women warned for some strange reason.

If not, what have I to do with Lord Ayyappa? Nothing at all. 
Do I want to go there? No.
Do I want to join the protesters rallying against the SC verdict? No.

Now, why should the governments and political parties take it all upon themselves to send women there or to stop them from going? Let the women devotees decide if they want to go. And, with the new ruling let the law protect her if she decides to go.  In all possibility no Keralite woman - in the restricted age-group, would want to go. Because, most of us have grown up ‘believing’ these stories. Even if not so staunchly.

With the verdict, the Supreme Court of India has only asserted that the Law of the Land shall be equal for all, much like the preceding decriminalisation of homosexuality. It doesn’t urge you to go. Personally, I welcome the decision because it corrects a social anomaly.

In this digital age, why are we so averse to social change?  Isn’t the liberal approach of Hinduism that makes it extraordinary among world religions? Isn’t that why Hindus – a good percentage of us – find it agreeable to be a Hindu? Why do we need strict dogmas to hold us together as a community?

Furthermore, if it’s all about purity, rituals and tradition, what authority and control have we to assert and exert our views on God and godly matters? On a lighter note, who can say for sure if Lord Ayyappa himself isn’t seeking a rendezvous with Malikapuram at this time, having lost his vow to Time?

Even as such questions arise, it is worthwhile to examine the background and basis of the petition to Supreme Court.

Who are the appellants in the Sabarimala case – Not you. Not me.
The verdict is the outcome of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a group of women lawyers at the Indian Young Lawyers' Association - Bhakti Pasrija, Laxmi Shastiri, Prerna Kumari, Alka Sharma and Sudha Palat - through counsel Ravi Prakash Gupta.

Who are these people, what are their credentials?
What is their motive and interest in Sabarimala?
Do they plan to visit the temple now that the ruling is in their favour?
Or were they just doing it for other women? 
Or, was it an activist revolt against what they thought was a social anomaly?

And beyond ensuring equality before Law, is the SC ruling another ploy by Hindutva forces to divide a society further, where their religious/communal campaigns weren’t selling much? 

In all possibility, it is that.
The Kerala Government and an unassuming public are beginning to get that ploy.

Is there anything more than vote bank politics in all this hue and cry over the verdict? Every political party is increasingly seeing ‘we, the people,’ particularly a good majority of progressive Hindus giving them a blank stare when they begin to over-politicise religion. There is little doubt that politically, the ruling parties have mostly lost voter confidence for all sorts of reasons. As financial frauds and scams mar the political landscape, with Rupee taking a plunge in the Pacific like never before and a definite gloom take over the economic sphere, religion has become the ultimate refuge for politicians. It is the only cauldron left to cook electoral politics.

They are playing politics with religion, and vice versa. They have always done it. For, ‘we, the people’ do not bother about the well being of the society – economic or social; we have no problem seeing fellow beings hacked to death, or die of hunger or commit suicide, or struggle to make ends meet. We do not want to concern ourselves with issues of political significance. We do not bother to participate in a democracy as responsible citizens, or seek responsibility from the leaders.

And all they need is an issue, or a non-issue, to divide us. So they can rule us. This time in the name of Lord Ayyappa and Sabarimala as Lord Ram and Ayodhya take a back seat.

But, don’t we yet know that no one can win the game, when Time begins to play actively. Many a tradition has gone up in the air as Time turns the tide. This country has also seen many a political ploy fall apart as Time played its part. . .  

And when Time takes on the game, the game is worth watching.  It brings in a certain poetic justice with the turn of tides.

This is the time to actively watch the game. We may pass on before the end game, even so. . .

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

India - the World's Largest Democracy?

India, the world's largest democracy? Is this what we do to the voices of dissent?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Proud to be an Indian? Really?

How can one feel proud when scores of children, the future of India, have been dying in a hospital for want of oxygen? 
What a freedom - What a progress is that!?

How can one feel proud when the very principles of our Independence are being trampled by the day, by forces within? Do we still call ourselves a secular, democratic country?

How can one feel proud when each day you wake up to the gruelling statistics of deaths, murder, rape and all things unfair?

How do we feel proud when our spiritual ethos of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” – all the world is one family – is shaken by narrow constructs of religion and politics - to think of your’s vis-√†-vis your friends’ and your neighbours', within and without, from dawn to dusk day after day?

What is it that makes you still proud of your country, at this time?
Proud to be alive, when children die? – No!
There is nothing I feel proud of...sadly.
Just this vain freedom that makes me think a few times before I breathe the air I breathe. Yes, not a Muslim, but I share the unease that Hamid Ansari recently said.

Is this the India of our dreams?
Is it time to give up the India – the idea of India – we cherish in ourselves?
Hope not ~
But, as India prepares to celebrate its 70th year of Independence, the way seems dark and long – more than ever before.

Yet, Independence is Independence. Freedom is the very oxygen of the soul – the very breath of life. Let that be not lost to the fascist forces ruling the country today.

Commemorating a great day from 70 years ago and the struggles of our great men and women to reach there ~

Proud or not, may peace and freedom prevail!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Merci beaucoup et félicitations, France!

Merci beaucoup et felicitations, France!

Thank you very much for showing the world that the larger, deeper humanity is more important than the narrow domestic walls of nationalism.
Yes, despite all that you have gone through ~


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

To what strange darkness. . .

"Return your sword to its place, for all who will take up the sword, will die by the sword."

a stark darkness
has befallen upon the land,
as the men of honour, 
were looking the other way. . .

blinded by might,
blinded by faith
accursed swords slicing lives,
lives of men like you, like me,
beaten to death at the break of dawn
yet, not a word from the one
at the helm. . .
or his blind henchmen

to what strange darkness
has the men of this land fallen to,
at the break of the day?

Uttar Pradesh: Man beaten to death in Bulandshahr    4637915/