What is life? What is its meaning? Is there some significance to life or it is full of just accidental happenings? Is it fine to question the way life is lived? We are all living it in certain way because that’s the way society is going about it. We live in a certain state of mind (proactive presence of the self); does that state of mind determine our entire life, all aspects of it? By chance, if there is a fundamental flaw in the way life is lived, how do we find that? Can we question the very state of mind? Before looking at these, let us look at the facts about us.
One fact is, 'I' am data. Two, I don't realize 'I' am data. Third, the data, the ‘I’, has split itself in to observer and observed and that is how it avoids detection, making itself invisible and survives, as the ‘I’ hides behind the observer. Fourth, through analysis, the observer ensures survival for itself for years and years. Fifth, the observer works for immortality through whatever it does, through painting, singing, good workmanship, building empires and good acts; ending this observer is touching the very root of fear. Sixth, observer, instead of the total being, seeing these is futile: that is again continuity of the data field. Seventh, data, in its drive to win, is doing all the damages. What is meant here is if I, not the ‘I’, not the observer, if I, the total being, don’t see these, that is again continuity of the data. It means analyzing instead of seeing. Analysing brings in the ‘I’ which further splits in to analyser and analysed. Seeing is total-being seeing the data-form in existence, as it operates, instead of feeling defensive about realizing the presence of data. Otherwise, it causes immense damages. This could be seen only in the present, at every moment the data-form comes in to play.
The Data Field has winning posts, peaks, winners and losers. This toy game is our living. In reality, the movement is of perfection, order and rhythm. Instead of touched by that movement of order and perfection, we are opting for disorder by playing this toy game.
These are the facts about us. Let us explore further and see how it is so…
When it comes to the state of mind, there are abstract thinking state and absence of abstract state. The thinking state creates a thinker also. Data gets accumulated in the brain and at some stage, we start identifying ourselves with this data. As more and more we see only the data being respected, valued and recognised, we ourselves may have restricted us only as the data. Then, as the data is used only during the thinking state, it appears that we have restricted our state of presence to thinking state mostly and taken ourselves only as the thinker. What a tragedy? Within this data field, this thinker divides itself from the rest of the data; treating itself as real person in the process. So, in a relationship, one data-form relates to another data-form.
As we see us only as data, every other aspect of us is neglected. Our other state of presence and whatever goes with it gets neglected. Silence, peace, simple physical presence, relating to other physical beings, physical work, necessity to work, any creative skill which would have got exhibited in the other state, physical well-being, hygiene, healthy life, healthy environment, responsibility, peaceful attitude, care, respect for everything around, order, coexistence and love, all these are neglected.
Not only we are ignorant of our true potential but restricting ourselves immensely in data-form, and we could relate all the havoc happening in the world to this state of presence of ours. The abstract state of presence resulted in and equates with massacres of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Rwanda, Godhra and Naroda Patiyas. We’ll see how?
Life is lived in many ways. Whether living in luxury or barest minimum, we live in the midst of beauty, wonder, creation, destruction, violence, exploitation, mass-extermination, mass-rape and burning of women and children. This violence is perpetrated collectively and individually. This could touch us also. Sectarian and racial violence, in which common people are perpetrators and victims (read ‘who is the common man’ in my blog: rajendarr.blogspot.com), could happen in any locality, any time. If one is a victim, how is (s)he going to respond is a big question. Looking at this possibility and helpless scenario, if we ask why we are in this situation, naturally we look at the way we are living for an answer. We present, feel and act in and as data. Basically and fundamentally, we are not data-forms, but the abstract presence has taken over, rather than the absence of it, as we believe and live a life of data. Every moment, this life of data is renewed as the data-field comes in to play at that moment Do we need to question this or why bother, just continue to live as it is?
We could do that, but there is a trouble to that. That disengagement could make us one of the common people who are perpetrators and victims in mass sectarian violence which could erupt in a flash anywhere, anytime. That disengagement could make a child victim of mass-rape. That disengagement should have made that dying-skinny child potential prey for that waiting eagle. That disengagement should have made the concentration camp possible, the delhi-bus rape possible and the millions killed in Rwanda possible. That disengagement may be separating and limiting us from what we are. Is it not shame to live in data-field and play out a toy game in the name of living? How do we realize this?
If we are not conditioned to irretrievable level and willing to be open and allow space for profound questions, then we could quite obviously sense the thinking state and could also see how active it is. Data is getting acquired all the time. If it is seen as it is acquired, that is its end. Otherwise, database, the self, is kept alive through the constant feeding of data. If the supply line is cut off, then the database withers away.
The decisive moments fill our life all the time, all day many a time. Possibility for absence of data-form present itself almost all the time. But, it works in such a way, we are 'self' always. Each time, we take the wrong turn. (may be because, we fail to recognize that the data-field split itself as observer ‘I’ and observed and the observer 'I', the data-form, is present all the time, as our state of presence is restricted mostly to the field of data; we may abruptly move away from selfless state also, as we are used to be present in data-form almost always). All those periods, we could take the right turn, but always we take the wrong turn, all the time we have the chance to lose the self, but we ended up strengthening the self; all because of our state of presence in data-form.
Data acquisition has various characteristics. These will make us understand how smart the structure of data acquisition is. Moments of pleasure-seeking, feeling defensive, moments of crisis-avoidance, moments of right and wrong and intervention to correct are the self strengthening moments.
We see something, feel fully with that and the sensation is followed by feeling of ownership, possession. Moving away from the sensation is the routine moments of wrong-turn.
Feeling defensive are also moments of wrong-turns. Moments you feel defensive are the ones which are precious moments of your life, holding the potential for immense learning. When you cry, don't feel defensive. When you are moved by an intense feeling, don't feel defensive. Those are the moments of reckoning.
When the mind gets in to a crisis, that is a moment of reckoning. In a hurry, we move away from that to 'safety'. That is an invaluable moment. The crisis, if it gets welled-up/strengthened internally, makes the self experiences it's impotential and the self is completely defense-less and gives itself up. The vital difference is that it is not an intellectual understanding, but an actual experiencing for the self.
We can’t worry much about casual moments of lazy thoughts which actually are moments of brain's survival, bring-in-order functions. As sleep is necessary for brain's order, this half-sleep state also is necessary for the same reason. But it is vicious also, that is why we get in to it quite often.
Subconsciously, we are always loaded when we look at somebody....we are not innocent at that time.....we are not open.... the other person is looked at in certain way, either with acquisitiveness or insignificance or profitably or defensively, as a pleasure-object or as a profit-object or as trivial, depending on who the other person is…. This is the major fault-line in our living...that is, we are data-forms in the field of data…..one data-form interacting with another data-form is our field of relationship… this nature of our presence in data-form results in Naroda Patiyas and a 10 year old raped and killed near Salem by 5 people….in a communal violence, any common man could become a victim or a perpetrator….. it means that the individual is not responsible, but his data-form is…..meaning, any data-form.....does it mean that every moment of my presence in data-form is responsible for the holocaust?...
In addition to seeing these subtle aspects of data-form, it is very vital to cut-off the supply line to database to make it wither away completely. As data is getting acquired all the time from various daily activities, even from insignificant engagements, ensuring there is no constant feeding of data from these activities is very important. Does it mean that we may have to be away from certain engagements? It may become clear as we travel; the engagements which are inimical may get dropped on the way, as all these are insignificant in front of the vibrant and living truth.
K says absence of abstract state help human consciousness to lessen fear. Absence of abstract state reduces the common fear, common pain, and common exploitation; could wipe away the cruelty of child rape, the pain of that child; could have stopped the millions maimed in Rwanda and the horror of concentration camps, could have prevented the sad pain of abandoned elderly and makes the presence of energy visible all around us, in the blade of grass to…..
Friday, February 7, 2014
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Krishnaji to Dr David Bhom: "When you were talking to me — I was noticing it — I was not listening to your words so much. I was listening to you. I was open to you, not your words, as you explained and so on. I said to myself, all right, leave all that, I am listening to you, not to the words which you use, but to the meaning, the inward quality of your feeling that you want to communicate to me".
And also came across this point about children in a website http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/listen_to_yourself_talk_pbs.html/context/634 :
Listen to your tone instead of your words . At times, it’s not what you say, but the way you say it that makes an impact. Kids sense what their parents are feeling. Often, they’re not listening to your words so much as looking at your face and reacting to the tone of your voice
Can we not look at the truth without creating ideas? It is almost instinctive with most of us when something true is put before us to create immediately an idea about it. And I think if we can understand why we do this so instinctively, almost unconsciously, then perhaps we shall understand if it is possible to be free from effort. - Krishnamurti, On Truth
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Who is the Common Man?Nissim Mannathukkaren
"As far as men go, it is not what they are that interests me, but what they can become" - Jean-Paul Sartre
A couple of years ago, my then four-year-old daughter asked me, “What are all these tiny shoes doing here?” She was pointing to the mountain of shoes in glass cases. There were nearly 80,000 pairs, including 8,000 that belonged to children. We were at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland, at the site of the deadliest concentration camp of Nazi Germany. I pretended not to hear her question and looked away. I did not tell her that it was people — common people like us, aam aadmi , if you will — who manned the camps; that it was common people who sent other people to gas chambers; that it was the people who elected Adolf Hitler to power. It was ordinary people who eliminated nearly one million of their countrymen in Rwanda. It was common people who burnt alive fellow human beings inside a train in Godhra. And gathered in Naroda Patiya to loot, rape and burn their own neighbours.
The aam aadmi has risen. And we must celebrate that. But what do we mean by the aam aadmi ? Does it include people who live in a 27-floor mansion surrounded by other people who live in slums?
The task of defining what is common and ordinary confronts us. What classes and what standards of living are excluded from the definition of ‘common’? Even if we empirically account for that, there will still remain moral and ethical questions about what values commonness should imply. Because we have already seen what ordinary people are capable of doing to other ordinary people.
We cannot wish away these questions by simply wearing the aam aadmi cap or chanting, “main bhi aam aadmi”. ‘The people’ cannot be a singular entity devoid of complexities and contradictions, or of class, gender, and ethnic divisions. If we do not recognise these divisions, and a democratic way to mediate these conflicts, democracy turns hollow. The rule by ‘the people’, as theorists Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue, can become the rule of ‘the one’ over ‘the many’. This is the irony of the people as a collective turning authoritarian and dictatorial, capable of committing the worst atrocities.
One of the dangers of celebrating the rise of the people is the equating of ‘people’ with ‘most popular’. Democracy is not just a question of ‘opening the phone lines’ and asking what the people think (as a certain television anchor threatens to every night). If we go by what is most popular, we might have to conclude Big Boss on television is the most democratic activity in the country because it involves voting! In fact, a few years ago in the UK, when Big Brother (the parent of Big Boss ) was the reality television rage, there were debates about whether more young people were voting in it than in the general elections.
People in a democracy are an ethical category, not just an empirical one. We are not born as a people, we become one. By our social locations, all of us are not the aam aadmi ; even those who are might not have the desires and aspirations of one. But all of us can become the aam aadmi . What is more important is deciding what kind of aam aadmi we should become.
Historically, the most just outcomes have resulted when social and political struggles have alluded not only to a concept of the people, but when the concept represented the most marginalised and oppressed in society. Unless the concept of the aam aadmi does that, the ordinariness and commonness it claims become vacuous.
When the Mexican government tried to tarnish Subcomandante Marcos, the legendary leader of the Zapatistas (who fight for the rights of the indigenous people of the Mexican state of Chiapas) by branding him gay, Marcos responded:
‘Yes, Marcos is gay. Marcos is gay in San Francisco, black in South Africa, an Asian in Europe, a Chicano in San Ysidro, an anarchist in Spain, a Palestinian in Israel, a Mayan Indian in the streets of San Cristobal, a Jew in Germany, a Gypsy in Poland, a Mohawk in Quebec, a pacifist in Bosnia, a single woman on the Metro at 10pm, a peasant without land, a gang member in the slums, an unemployed worker, an unhappy student and, of course, a Zapatista in the mountains.’
Can the aam aadmi become, like Marcos, ‘all the exploited and oppressed minorities resisting and saying ‘Enough’'? Can the aam aadmi become, like Marcos, ‘every minority now beginning to speak and every majority that must shut up and listen’? Can the aam aadmi become a Dalit in Khairlanji, an Adivasi in Bastar, a Kashmiri woman in Kunan Poshpora, and a Thangjam Manorama in Manipur?
Should the aam aadmi only represent their immediate needs and aspirations or should they be equally aware of a world beyond themselves? Should they only be proud patriots or be aware of a larger responsibility beyond one’s country to humanity itself? Finally, in our precarious present, should the aam aadmi not plausibly have a responsibility to save the planet?
If there is no recognition of these questions and no attempt at providing some answers, there will be nothing aamabout the aam aadmi . On the other hand, if one does attempt it, even the people in 27-floor homes can aspire to become the aam aadmi . In that sense, it is disingenuous to claim that the aam aadmi does not have any ideology. If there is an ethical imputation to the concept of the aam aadmi , it cannot but have a robust ideology.
The people, as history shows, are caught in what the philosopher Theodor Adorno calls the “dialectic of culture and barbarism”. After all, it is the people who stormed the Bastille to overthrow monarchy, and it is the same people who participated in the most successful slave rebellion in Haiti.
Let us continue our search for the aam aadmi who will refuse to serve as the janitors, clerks, guards, and managers of the Auschwitzes, Rwandas, Godhras and Naroda Patiyas of the future. Let us build our own aam aadmi .
The writer is Associate Professor, International Development Studies, Dalhousie University, Canada.firstname.lastname@example.org
Protect our wetlands
According to the Ramsar Convention, February 2 is World Wetlands Day. A day to emphasis the importance of one particular ecosystem.
February 2 is designated World Wetlands Day.
In 1971, in Ramsar, Iran adopted the Convention on Wetlands. It is an intergovernmental treaty and gives the framework on how wetlands need to be protected and how to use its resources wisely. The mission of the Convention is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.
Why are wetlands important? To begin with wetlands prevent flooding by holding water. They keep water levels normal and also filter and purify the surface water. They function very much like a sponge would when submerged in water. When water levels are low, wetlands slowly release the water they hold.
Besides being a store for water, they also release vegetative matter into rivers. This provides food for fish. They also counter the human effect on rivers by rejuvenating them and surrounding ecosystems.Wetlands are ideal during migration and for reproduction.
As we can see wetlands are not only essential but also unique. However, they are not isolated and independent but connected to the land around it, the flora, fauna, animals and people. It is the wetlands that improve other ecosystems because they act like cleansing agents. In fact, they work as kidneys do in a human. They control the water flow and clean the system. Wetlands clean the water because they can filter out sedimentation, decomposing vegetative matter and convert chemicals into useable form. This ability to recycle gives them an important role to play in the well being of the earth. Wetlands are probably the only eco system that is as productive or unique in its process of conversion. It is for this reason that in some places artificial wetlands have been created.
The theme for World Wetlands Day 2014 is Wetlands and Agriculure. This is because 2014 is the UN International Year of Family Farming.
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The Ramsar Convention is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem. The treaty was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and the Convention's member countries cover all geographic regions of the planet.
For millennia, wetlands have been used directly for agriculture, and for supplying food, fuel and fibre to support lives and livelihoods. Wetlands continue to play an essential role in supporting modern day agriculture.
© The Hindu
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Imagining GandhiT.M. Krishna
He made an entire people visualise a future without blood on their hands, says T.M. Krishna on Gandhi’s 66th death anniversary.
Whether you worship, revere, respect, fault or even detest him, the Mahatma, Gandhi, or as his British Indian Passport saw him, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, remains a character of great, if intriguing, relevance.
Among his numerous contributions, one of the greatest is his redefining of the idea of struggle, of revolt and the role in these of violence. Each of these concepts has traditionally invoked hurt, suffering, and even death, very often to the oppressor himself.
In Gandhi, the hurt and the suffering were self-inflicted. In fact, the more the hurt and suffering, the higher the risk of death, the ‘purer’ for him was the struggle, the more justified the revolt.
For Gandhi, his work, his passion, which found such intensity in struggle, was not a question of good vs. evil but a series of battles within the site of the ‘good’ itself. Each mass movement gave a paradigm of change, which was about more than just the immediate objective. Both by intent and method, he left behind an altered scene in which both oppressed and oppressor stood challenged, transformed.
Every January 30, at 5.17 pm, we revisit the moment of his ‘silencing’ with silence. At that moment not only was he killed but a wholly new vision that he had created evaporated. The sense of loss that engulfed the nation was about more than the loss of a person. A whole world crumbled at that instant, something only he represented, something only he was.
Gandhi was saint, social reformer and freedom fighter, but what intrigues me is why he was different, not just in degree but in his whole being, from the many others who struggled for exactly the same causes. Like many before him he too traversed the country. But Gandhi did not travel to observe or learn from India in the ordinary sense. He became the laughter, tears, drudgery, suffering, friendship, anger and hope. The observer became the observed. Every experience moved him closer to who he was, leading to revelations that were not always pleasant, but were the truth. What he saw as the future was very different.
The difference lay in his imagination, in his visualising sensibility. Yet what he saw as India’s destiny was anything but imaginary, it was tangible. It was not just about social inequalities and the depressing conditions, but he saw deep inside these external actualities, the hidden fire of tomorrow, the fire that would burn not to destroy but to recreate. This was the imagination of a master visionary, not a delusion of Mohandas.
He knew that he had to address Today for a Tomorrow. But he also immediately realised that no one can address reality without imagining the future. To imagine something for oneself is one thing, but to make every other person imagine it at the same time is completely another.
What of his own did Gandhi create in the actuality of Indians’ lives? The most magnificent ‘creation’ was the possibility of a future in which violence, bloodshed, hurt, and destruction were not part of the edifice. It was not a passive vision, rather an active, dynamic, even aggressive force that sought to change the weaknesses of a violent today for a morally mature tomorrow.
He made an entire people envision something radically new. They were imagining a future without blood on their hands. This was the creation of the Mahatma.
Was the identification of India with Gandhi’s vision of India self-deceptive, or, worse, was it false, a dream?
As much as Gandhi may have tried to transfer his imagination to the people, it was essential that they feel his imagination, his vision within themselves as their own imagination and their own impulse and feeling. It was essential that they make Gandhi’s vision of the future, their India of the future, for which they took responsibility. They did try to do this, earnestly, emotionally, intellectually, with utmost loyalty. They felt the empowerment, happiness, joy and a possible future in equality in independent India. This was the master at work. This emotional world was charged using created action. The actions were not just about their political or social impact but about creating an emotional anchor. This was not the Mahatma’s personal anchor; it was the collective foundation for all. But this left everyone believing that Gandhi’s vision was their own.
This connection existed only till the creator of the vision lived. His imagination of a future India was like a painting, which he made with his own life. The painting was his life and his life was the painting. Until he remained, the future as he envisioned was within everyone’s embrace. But with him gone, the illusion disappeared; what seemed to be their future, created by him, but collectively owned, existed no more.
The memory of it lingers, of course, but it evokes nostalgia rather than the active, living participation he wanted. So, was his imagination a waste of his energy, of India’s time? The problem lies in the fact that everyone else is living in the imagination of these ‘thought leaders’ and not imagining for themselves. Every individual must imagine and work for true change in society. We took shelter within Gandhi’s imagination, forgetting that his greatest gift was the idea of imagination itself, which he did not own.
Gandhi’s use of creative imagination is fascinating. He created from his experience and skills a certain vision which, like a piece of art, arose from within him, and then tried to envelop every individual around him. He also gave his personal vision a collective personality, by investing it with an objective quality, like an artist would his work of art.
Was the Mahatma an artist? He would have been happier being called an artisan. What distinguishes the two? Nothing but this, that while an artist hopes to create art, an artisan is untroubled by the thought ‘Am I creating art?’
But is every one of us an artist? An artist lives within everyone, but we need to have the sensitivity to ‘receive the world’, the strength to question it, and emotions beyond the self to make of our experience what Gandhi did, namely, to present a new imagination that goes beyond the person who is imagining it. For a beautiful world, we all need to be artists in life and not live within the creations of others.
© The Hindu
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Avian Super Singers
Jan 19, 2014 06:24 PM , By HEMA VIJAY | 3 comments
Life's A Song: Cuckoo
From koels and flycatchers to magpie robins and whistling thrushes, birds seem to have their own concerts with raga and thala intact — think Mohanam, Bilahari, Kalyani and kanda chapu thaalam! Hema Vijay sets out to learn more about their melody- and rhythm-based tweets
The city’s annual musical extravaganza may have just winded up, but plenty of complex music still hangs in the air — thanks to the city’s diverse birds and their sweet songs. To the untrained ear, bird calls may sound like noises in different pitches and tones. For that sound to be perceived as a melody and translated into a scale, one does need a fair amount of musical training. But could there be a definite raga in the chirps and tweets?
“Bird songs, too, are in different ragas. For example, koels tend to choose Shankarabaranam. The Malabar whistling thrush, a versatile singer, sings very complicated phrases, and is heard singing in Mohanam and Bilahari. The orange-headed ground thrush can be heard singing in Kalyani. Indian robins are heard singing to kanda chapu thaalam, the 5/8 time signature in Western music,” says A.J. Mithra, music teacher, zoo musicologist, and someone who has been studying bird calls for several years now. As in Indian classical music, birds use microtones in their songs. This creates a great degree of musicality in their songs, Mithra points out.
In a sense, the perception of a raga in a birdcall could be a subjective matter too. “I never heard anything as beautiful as the whistling thrush I heard during a camping holiday in the hills. And when I hear the koel sing, I hear the basic sa-pa-sa in its song. When the cuckoo oscillates its songs, I hear a few distinct notes in it, representative of raga Suddha Dhanyasi. But bird calls could translate to different ragas to different people. That is because we identify a raga in the bird call, based upon the pitch we take from its call as its base note. For instance, a pentatonic raga like Mohanam can become Madhyamavathi or Hindolam, if I take a different base note in the song,” remarks Carnatic vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan.
Moving further, it becomes clear that musical improvisations of a basic tune are not the prerogative of Carnatic maestros alone. “Birds such as the Oriental magpie robin and Tickell’s blue flycatcher improvise their songs all the time. Sometimes, within the same morning, they may improvise their basic song with up to 20 variations,” mentions Mithra. Another point he makes is that birds use the ambience pitch to sing their song, the way Carnatic vocalists use the tanpura to help them sing in pitch. “When the frequency of the background sound rises, the birds raise the pitch of their songs too,” Mithra says. Meanwhile, the saptaswarasor the seven notes — Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, in Indian Classical music, are considered by many to be inspired by the call of both birds and animals such as peacock, dove, cuckoo, frog, and elephant, while ragas such as Hamsadhvani are considered to have been inspired directly by birds. Complex ragas evolved over centuries, taking cues from Nature’s sounds, ranging from incoherent sounds such as that of the wind, the waves and the rain, to the precise and modulated phrases of birds. Further, birdsongs have inspired compositions in the Western operatic tradition too. Says Anil Srinivasan, Classical pianist, “For instance, French composer Louis-Claude Daquin’s ‘Le coucou’ (The Cuckoo) played in a higher octave sounds exactly like a cuckoo’s cry. ‘La Gazza Ladra’ (The Thieving Magpie) by Giuseppe Verdi sounds like the magpie’s song, and Robert Schumann’s ‘Vogel als Prophet’ (The Prophet Bird) lets you hear forest birds’ calls. Then, of course, there is Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’ composed as a duet between a male and female parakeet. It sounds exactly like the parakeet’s songs.”
Well, the perception of ragas in bird songs might be either the cause or the effect of mankind’s musical endeavours. But either way, bird songs do remind us that an evolved sense of aesthetics and musical finesse are not exclusive to us humans alone
A personal account of how the millstone of being identified with a religion hangs heavy much of the time
I was born in a liberal Muslim family in 1950. There was nothing liberal about my name, though: Mohammed Nadeemullah Khan. The mixed neighbourhood where I grew up never found it worthy of notice. But some children in school found its association with a religious community a source of entertainment – at my expense. Digs on beards, lungis, skull-caps, Friday baths, and – the perennial favourite – circumcision.
It never descended to fisticuffs or a brawl; probably I was too timid, probably I needed their friendship. So, no serious damage done. Evenings of high-energy romps in my lane with friends helped flush out whatever trace of inadequacies I might have carried home. This “innocent” ragging decreased as I moved to the higher classes, and disappeared in college.
Meanwhile, the world of my private thoughts and beliefs was describing its own trajectory. The earliest I can remember is a vague, unconscious acceptance of the benevolence of all supernatural beings across the religious board. This changed during my mid-teens to a sharp appreciation of the singularities of the faith I was born into. I got into occasional fasting and prayer and recitation of the Holy Book. In my late-teens, scepticism gathered strength. I was muddled, yes, afraid, yes; but I preferred confusion and fear to unsupported certainties. This was the result of the company I kept, the books I read.
Well before I married at 27, I was a full-blown, hard-core, unrelenting atheist; which also meant I would marry someone who, at the very least, sympathised with my state of (un)belief. It thus happened that my daughter and son arrived to parents for whom any kind of unsupported belief was anathema. If they were to grow up as free-thinking persons, why, then, should they carry the mill-stone of being identified with a religion to which they bore no allegiance? I had carried its weight around my own neck, albeit mildly. I had managed by deliberately projecting a secular persona. The aggressive, intolerant fringe within and without the Muslim community had started gaining strength, and we could foresee the demonisation of the entire community on account of these lunatics. We didn’t want our two kids to have to pay for a faith they wouldn’t even be buying. So we chose religion-neutral names for them and rolled them out for easy assimilation in a name-obssessed society. The plan was that they would marry outside the concern of religion, and free themselves and their progeny of affiliation with anything except good sense.
They grew up with an indulgent irreverence for handed-down wisdom. The daughter, a 35-year-old careerist now, does not want to marry only because society expects her to. She hasn’t met the right man yet. The son, now 31, is happily married to a girl born in another (un)faith. Before he met her, I had asked him whether he would marry a Muslim. “Why not?” he replied. “All I would care for is compatibility!” It revealed to me my own insecurities that those “innocent” raggings had engendered.
It occurred to me that as a first-generation atheist I carried with me the passion of a neo-convert. My children often call me the Osama bin Laden of atheism. They are completely in consonance with the rational position, but they do not carry the same abhorrence for the faith their father does. They didn’t have to hack their way into a world of human beings out of the smoky, suffocating, spooky, soul-destroying, yet strangely mesmeric space of gods and demons and prophets. Could their neutral names have shielded them from the ravages to which I was subjected in school?
Our foresight, it appears, helped them slip past the emotional vulnerabilities of childhood and adolescence. It could not insulate them, though, from the morbid curiosity of a name-obsessed segment of society.
My daughter recently took up a job in Ahmedabad. She had been alerted to the unbridgeable polarisation that has taken place between Hindus and Muslims since the 1985 riots, and later the Godhra riots in 2002. But it was only when broker after broker showed either unwillingness or helplessness to find for her a cosmopolitan area that the dimensions of the divide hit her. “Tamey Juhapura nu ghar dekho ne ben, ek dum a one chhey!” Or try Jangpura, or Jamalpura, or any of the ghettoes. Jodhpur? No! Vastrapur, Ambawadi, Bodakdeo, Satellite? Mushkil chhey, ben, mushkil chhey.
The girl, however, was determined. She planted herself in a guest house and lived out of a suitcase till she finally landed a decent flat in Prahlad Nagar, owned by a Delhi Sikh. “Prahlad Nagar?” said the astounded Muslim autorickshaw man chatting me up from the railway station to my daughter’s flat.
“What’s a girl from a good Muslim family doing there?” Why didn’t my daughter hide behind her religion-neutral name? Because Prithviraj Chavan’s Mumbai had exposed its inadequacy to cover her culpability from end to end. Before signing a tenancy deal in Santa Cruz, she was required to go for police verification. That required identity proof. She flashed her passport which, alongside her sanitised name, carried her father’s name. The landlord was livid.
“Kai tumhi? Itkya mahattvachi gosht saangat naahi?” (What did you mean by concealing such vital information?) We just don’t rent our house to Muslims. The Society rules don’t allow it.” My son did better while looking for a flat in Mumbai. He used his company-issued identity card, that didn’t carry his father’s name.
In Bengaluru some years ago, the story was the same. It had driven both my children up the wall with its “Saary Amma, Saary Saar, we cannot give our house to Muslims.”
Yet, whether in Ahmedabad, Mumbai or Bengaluru, my daughter and son have always managed to find gracious landlords, all Hindus. For them the name has been only for the purpose of identifying an individual, not to get a peep into the secret gods that animate their beings.
Yet, I don’t consider myself any worse a victim of social vagaries than all of us who share this earth with other human beings. I have earned decent money, lots of respect, and phenomenal friends — all of them Hindus! I write only to raise consciousness about the people who have suffered because of our vicious human kinks. I only desire to raise awareness about the demon that can so easily take charge of every one of us.
Monday, January 20, 2014
Anniversaries of pogroms and ethnic cleansings don’t matter. There is no closure for those whose lives were shattered through these upheavals.
For the last many years I have tried to get in touch with a woman who lives in a government colony in West Delhi’s Janakpuri area. There is a park in central Delhi named after her husband. Telecommunications engineer B.K. Ganjoo was roughly my age in March 1990 when he was shot in a drum in which he lay in hiding in the attic of his house in Kashmir Valley. Three terrorists had come looking for him but were unable to find him. As they were leaving, a woman in the neighbourhood, who had seen Mr. Ganjoo hiding, signalled to them. They returned and pumped bullets into the drum.
Vijay Ganjoo was a witness to her husband’s murder. She asked the terrorists to kill her as well. But they said they were sparing her to let her cry over her husband’s corpse.
Later, Mrs. Ganjoo came to Delhi. She was offered a job in her husband’s department from which she retired recently. I tried many times to get in touch with her because I felt this story should not be forgotten.
‘Spare my mother the reminder’
In all marriage functions I attended in Jammu where a majority of Kashmiri Pandits are settled now after their exodus from the Valley, I sought information regarding Mrs. Ganjoo from everyone I met. But in marriages that are solemnised in exile, nobody wants to remember a brutal death. Many pretended to make inquiries about her. “I will get her mobile number by tomorrow,” a man who I was told is a relative of the Ganjoos promised me at a function in April 2011. But nothing came of it. It was almost a year later that a friend thought of looking up a telephone directory and discovered Mrs. Ganjoo’s landline number. I hesitantly called up. It was picked up by a young woman. She turned out to be Mr. Ganjoo’s daughter. “Please don’t call again,” she said in a cold, steely voice after I introduced myself. “Please spare my mother; don’t make her remember it again.”
I held on to the phone a minute after she had disconnected it. I tried to imagine the young daughter. She must be working somewhere. She would probably be married by now. She would have a life here. She would have friends on her BlackBerry messenger. She would have her own fights to fight. Perhaps she kept a picture of her father in her wallet. The day when her father was murdered won’t matter. She will never forget it. And she knows her mother won’t either. But she still wants to protect her from a phone call.
Most Kashmiri Pandits will not remember March 22. They will remember the night of January 19 — the night when their Muslim neighbours, friends and colleagues turned against them. The night when they kept awake all night, as frenzied mobs on the streets and inside mosques called for their extermination. They will remember how many of them left a day after, crossing a tunnel named after one of their own, and were just happy to be alive in refugee camps infested with disease and sickness.
But it won’t matter to Mrs. Ganjoo. For her, every thought of her young husband is January 19; every look at her daughter reminds her of March 22.
For Zakia Jafri, too, every sound on the street would remind her of the mob that killed her husband Ehsan Jafri in Gujarat’s Gulbarg society.
Mr. Jafri had a nest of sparrows in his room. He was so protective of it that he would even tape up the switch of the ceiling fan lest someone pressed it on by mistake. On February 28, 2002, a mob hacked him to death and then burnt him with many others including two young lovers who had sought refuge in his house.
Petition after petition filed by Mrs. Jafri has been rejected in the court. While the TV cameras adjust their sound and colour levels, she looks down. Probably her husband’s killers watch her on TV sets looted from some Muslim shop owner in Ahmedabad. Every wrinkle on her face is a lash from February 28.
The neighbour who pointed out Mr. Ganjoo’s location to his killers is probably around as well, living perhaps in the same locality. Or perhaps her family has moved to a better one, occupying one of the houses left behind by a Pandit family that is in exile now. Perhaps she hugs the former occupants of her new house when they come visiting sometimes and tells them: “Kashmir is incomplete without you.” One of Mr. Ganjoo’s killers was garlanded after he was released from jail a few years ago. He also visits one of the Hindu shrines during a holy festival in June and embraces Kashmiri Pandits for the sake of a photo opportunity.
We move on with our lives. The house has to be cleaned. Electricity bills have to be paid. Children have to be sent to school. Money has to be earned. Food has to be put on plate. Sometimes we even return to localities, to streets we were displaced from. Our neighbours are friendly again. They have started wishing us on our festivals. They look at us as if nothing ever happened.
Life and memory
Journalists call up on every anniversary of our violent past. As if memory were some computer software that gets activated each year on a particular day and is switched off by the time we wake up the next day.
But it doesn’t work like that. Some of us still file petitions.
In TV studios, unsolicited advice is offered to us: move on. Forget the past. All is good now. Look ahead at the future. There has to be reconciliation.
Of course, we have moved on. But we have moved on with life. But memory — what do we do with that? That will come in the way of history, as Agha Shahid Ali wrote.
And it must. Because Vijay Ganjoo still hasn’t got justice. Because the cataract of sorrow will never go away from Zakia Jafri’s eyes. Because there was a woman I met many years ago in a locality called the “widow’s colony” in Delhi’s Tilak Nagar who saw, in front of her eyes, her husband whom she called “mera sardar” and her two young sons burnt alive. Because some very prominent people who many believe led some such mobs are still out of the law’s net.
Because in a village in Assam’s Kokrajhar, two children of a father went missing and even after the incident was reported to the Prime Minister, they could not be saved. Because there is a place called Muzaffarnagar and, as children died of cold there, a Lohiaite was enjoying a performance put up by a horde of film stars just a few hours away.
That is why I pick up my phone every day and scroll down to Vijay Ganjoo’s number. One day, I will find the courage to dial it again.
Because there cannot be any closure. Because there should not be any.
(The writer is a journalist and an author. He can be reached at email@example.com)