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I recently watched Rustom, a film loosely based on the KM Nanavati case which changed the Indian legal system with the abolishment of the jury system. For those who might have not heard or read about the case, Nanavati was a naval officer, married to London born Sylvia and based out of Mumbai. Whilst on one of his missions, Sylvia fell in love with their friend, Ahuja and exchanged letters with him which highlighted the socially alleged fact that Ahuja was an unattached man when it came to his relationships and that Sylvia was unsure of his intentions towards her or the seriousness towards relationships. It was after this that Nanavati comes back home and gets to know this from his wife. After hearing this, he decides to take things in his hands and straighten things out with Ahuja. By straightening things out, it meant a conversation between him and Ahuja about the latter marrying Sylvia and also taking in their (Nanavati and Sylvia’s) children post marriage. Ahuja denied having any plans of marriage which enraged the naval officer who ended up shooting Ahuja to death in his own bedroom. When tried at the Sessions Court in Bombay, he was acquitted by the jury by a vote of 8:1 with a major part of the decision and media gimmicks using communitarian politics to get a judgment. The judge of the sessions court was taken aback and the case moved to the HC where Nanavati was convicted, charged guilty of murder and as part of the legal reform, the jury was removed from the Indian legal system. I read somewhere that later on, someone from the officer’s community had appealed to the then PM Nehru to acquit Nanavati since he was a defence officer and had served the nation. As part of a deal between Ahuja’s sister who was fighting the legal battles on his behalf, Nanavati was then let out some years later while the MH government let out another prisoner from Ahuja’s community as part of a sentence and acquittal community barter.
Now, this case has held the country’s imagination for years. Rustom is not the first film to be made based on the case. There are quite a few others which were blockbuster hits. Rustom only has the Sessions court judgment covered in its story with community politics displayed fantastically. Even the city from that time is projected beautifully, making one almost long to have been born then instead of now. However, despite of all these good things in the movie, watching it left me squirming with discomfort at a few things in the film, more so the overtly lengthy court proceedings captured with sheer ridicule. That brought me to question the ordinary citizen’s take on the Indian legal system – for something as simple as wearing a seat belt and paying tolls. Reminds me of the time when entering MPT territory where one cop offered to let me go past after paying 10 out of the 30 bucks charge, with no receipt of course. Hope was risen again when the driver offered the same option to the next cop who refused stating others might do this, he did not.
Before I digress further, my point here is that a majority of the population in our country continues to swear by trends and brands advocated by film stars, across all socio-economic sections. Even crimes committed by some are inspired from Bollywood. With such great impact, I feel it is quite scary the way the semi fictional story is presented here ridiculing the proceedings of law and order, just like another old Akshay Kumar starrer did. Yes, I agree that even dictatorships are systems and laws and a coup overthrowing a dictator is actually doing good in the larger schema of things but, saying that would just be an adarsh public’s excuse to yet again not see the mirror.
Firstly, in showing the film only upto the Sessions court’s verdict where Nanavati walks scot free and more like a hero makes me wonder if we, as a nation, have issues accepting that our ‘hero’ (righteous male, avatar of righteous principled lord from Hindu mythology) can ever be wrong? Can we not accept that each one of us, even those who are otherwise impeccable in being, can commit acts which can be wrong and harmful to one or many? Also, why do we, as a nation of a 102 billion people, need a hero? Why can’t we choose to find that hero(ine) within our own selves?
The second thought or question that I had swimming in my head after watching the film is the idea of absolute right and wrong, moral black and white and the grey areas of human existence; and the intersection of the same with the legal system in place. While the case highlights the absolutes of right and wrong in terms of fidelity and patriotism versus selling your land for personal gain and favour making the act of murder by the protagonist as an absolute right! But, does this not make the entire case / story / incident grey afterall? You excuse a murderer because he is a loyal country server and husband (how can we forget multiple scenes of him staring at her picture?). And like all Bollywood films that resonate with commercially viable thinking at the writer’s part, this one too falls flat in its face when the hero is yet again made to let go of the love of his life, in order to work towards the greater good, making personal sacrifice the necessity for greater good.
Yes, there are a lot of good things in ther film but, my problem is that it is films like these that resonate the larger Indian mentality and also that films (and TV) have the power of changing things as they have unbridled access to the common (wo)man’s household. I think this film could have been far better at dealing with a lot of more subtle concepts of patriotism, masculinity, honour, integrity. While I like the portrayal of the human strength of being able to do the right thing when life is difficult but, the film just completely misses the point and loses the opportunity of using the most powerful tool in media to leave a better impact. Nanavati’s act of murder signifying honour over respect for human life and dignity was portrayed too casually, especially in politically charged times like these. Quite unfortunate.
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Kuch dinon se mann me khayalon ka silsila kuch bhaaga bhaaga sa hai
Aisa lagta hai jaise ki mere andar se kuch chhut raha hai
ek ajeeb sa sannata hai andar
Bahar bahut shor hai, bahut bheed hai
Andar sirf shanti
Sehlaab ke pehle ki nahi, aisa lagta hai ye to uske saath aane waali chuppi hai.
Kaun hun main?
Kaun hai tu?
Kaun hain ye log sab jo aas paas ghoomte hain –
Muskurate hue ya udaas, chup chap ya bolte hue ya bas sar latkaye kahin jaate hue?
Kya hai ye zindagi ka safar aakhir?
Agar iss safar me hi sab kuch hai
To hum ja kahan rahe hain?
For a few days now, the threads of thought in my mind have been running here and there
Feels like, within, I am loosing something / something is being left behind
There is a strange quiet within (me)
There is a lot of noise without, a lot of crowd
Within it is just quiet
It is not the silence before the storm rather, feels like the silence accompanying the storm.
Who am I?
Who are you?
Who are these people who move about us –
Either smiling or sad, quite or talking or just walking somewhere with their heads hanging low?
What is this journey of life after all?
If the journey is what life is
Then where are we going?
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Had this scene in mind with a faint idea of a poem since January 2014. Sometimes the scene came out but, the words didn’t and sometimes the words were fine while the scene didn’t match. Finally sketched this the other night. Text below:
I had seen her every morning,
The lady in white;
Trudging along the pavement.
She would be constantly mumbling.
Maybe, she saw someone?
I would peer at her through the
White lace of mother’s curtains,
My heart thumping with fear –
What if she saw me?
I was eight then.
I left home.
I heard she died one morning,
How did they figure out, you ask?
She wasn’t seen mumbling,
hollow eyes darting, trudging along
for a week.
They say the stench traveled
Till the end of the road.
Why didn’t they go earlier, you ask?
Pope says, ‘Ignorance is bliss.’.
I still dream of her
No, she doesn’t haunt me with
Those empty eyes.
It is the emptiness of her life
That kills me now.
Was reminded of this sort of incomplete poem written a few months ago while talking to a friend about the idea of loneliness tonight. I remember writing this with the thought alienation that an urban life can bring in at times weighing on my mind – the desire to connect with human beings but, the simultaneous hesitation and mistrust to do that ultimately failing to recognise that we are a religious, casteist, regional group later but, a ‘human’ community first.
The concept of loneliness used to be pretty alien (as well as pretty scary) to me earlier especially while doing a project on it for an Archaeology class back in 2012. I remember the five of us dwelling on the concept of loneliness and what people resort to as a coping mechanism. We covered the likes of art as a way of venting out to addiction as another escape. While the former can be cathartic in a way, the latter has worse consequences by way of slowly taking away ‘life’ from a person. Of course, what one implies by ‘life’ can be rather subjective. Precisely why I chose not to dwell on the reason why addiction as a way of dealing with loneliness is not the best idea. I couldn’t really point out which part of the subjective answers to ‘what is life?’ I related to.
However, talking to this one friend today I realise that life means to have the will to move ahead – a step a day maybe, but to move ahead. And I say this not in the ‘move-ahead-only-career-wise’ way of thought (can take it as that too if one pleases) but, essentially to keep pushing oneself to grow as a human being a step a day. Sounds vague? Maybe. But, in each one of us is a tendency (or many tendencies) which makes one unhappy. The will to change that trying harder every time one feels defeated is the essence of life.
Where does loneliness fit in all this? Loneliness stems from the occasional or regular lack of the desire to be better every day. When lonely and lacking in this desire one would loop in that constant feeling of self pity (and anger maybe?) that grabs the focus of the mind so strongly that one cannot think of anything but, being lonely and miserable and unfortunate; totally, forgetting that one is an independent entity with one’s own choices and to choose to not grow and learn is what brings the stagnation that is loneliness.
Found this picture on tumblr which led to the following post:
Irony of humour with a pinch of sadness, this.
Kind of brings me to the random thoughts floating in the head as the car flew again on the highway today. I think I am particularly in love with the possibilities in the brain esp when on the move, mostly in the dim glow of the nightly travel. Today(night) was no different. As we drove past the others, my head swam to conversation with a cynical friend one afternoon. According to this friend, one doesn’t have to seek value everywhere and with every interaction. Same thing another cynically inclined friend had said to me. I cannot accept the concept. Nada.
As things go in the flurry of life, I had once tried to make peace with it thinking that I need to learn to accept that some interactions just won’t add value to any life which lead to another spin of thoughts. However, trying and testing the fantastically great number of friends / people I have had the fortune to meet in the past 24 years of existence brings me back even more strongly on my belief – every human interaction has the possibility of it being value creating.
One must not understand this view point as foolishly idealistic / optimistic. I do not claim that all these people will be haloed angels showering you with love at all times. They can maybe but, won’t. Some might be outright negative, some might be quietly indifferent, some manipulative! However, point is, having them around has always brought out some good thing or the other in me. Of course, that also depended and continues to depend on whether I’m open to understanding, realising, accepting and learning or no.
I think everything changes with a smile. Even the annoying aunty in the local.