fundamental questions

Rustom

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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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The last one

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The most fun as well as amusing part of having an anon tumblog was the interactions with various poets, writers and readers over questions. Some would share their own tumblogs while the others would be anon, just like me. Why I like it more is because that enables observation and experience of a kind of objectivity in one’s expression, which otherwise is tainted by one bias or the other.

During one such interaction, I received a question from a reader which went as follows:

“Who would you write your last poem to? What would it be?”

When I first read it, I figured that this was a question to be mulled over, brewing thoughts and experiences and then answering. However, it did not take me more than two minutes to come up with this response, as if I was waiting to tell someone, lest I never get the chance.

“Hmm. This is the first time anyone’s asked me this. I wonder will there ever be a last? I may die the day I stop writing or I may stop writing the day I die. I would prefer the latter. 

I am not sure if I have the answer yet however, if I were writing the last right now I would write to this character in my head. Here it goes,

Have we met before?
Did we talk?
I remember your face,
Only vaguely so.

Did you say something?
Why can’t I hear you though?

The flush of your cheeks
and that twinkle in the eye
does give away your secrets.
Stories of joy and sorrow,
Tales of love untold.

Smile a little more for me,
smile a little for
this will be my last memory.”

Safar

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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?

Translation:

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?

 

Aligarh

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I have been meaning to write this down since the time I have watched this film. Is this a film review? Haha, no. Is it a rant on homosexuality and the dire situation human rights around one’s choice of sexual partners in the country is? Not so much.

Yes, I liked the film but, thats pretty much what I want to say about it. More than that has already been said and done. The film is about the incidents close to the eventual death of Prof Siras of AMU. He died of alleged poisoning in his flat one lonely afternoon soon after the revocation of his suspension. He was suspended on ‘moral’ grounds for sleeping with a person of the same sex on the premises (his own apartment on the campus given to him by the university to reside). It was through the sincere work ethic of a journalist that it was highlighted that the suspension and everything else that followed, including his death, were the results of jealousy and envy of his colleagues since Siras was also Head of the Dept.

While I do not want to write much about the part of the debate around homosexuality focusing on the difference between the public and the private and how the ‘personal is political’ becomes his experience eventually. However, what I truly was left thinking about after watching this film was the subtle smartness with which the film handles perceptions of different people involved. Namely, those framing him to bring about his suspension perceiving a homosexual man as weak maybe, as someone who would necessarily be weak and would not speak up. That could also be related to what is the perception of people in their native place against those who are a minority, perhaps, in another land known to be largely oppressive? There is also the understanding of the perception of the media – the part of it that goes berserk sensationalising things / events / lives for business while there is also that part of the industry that just does its job and when done well is lauded by the cynical part of the society as an army of great crusaders.

This however, was somewhere on the fringes. The main perception that the script questions and that grabbed my attention was the idea of one homosexual person in the minds of those actively involved in getting human rights in place with respect to sexual orientation. That is shown by way of the protagonist not bothering or fathoming his identity as a homosexual man at conflict with the law as disinterested in the court proceedings, using the time there to translate his poems or simply done off. Another beautiful dialogue resonates the thought when he talks against the need for society to label a feeling in his heart as a three letter word (read: gay) questioning how merely three letters could express the intense attraction or feeling he might feel towards another human, albeit of the same sex.

When engaging with the community myself or simply browsing through pictures of pride parades etc., I have always had this question which I never dared to voice – all participants or at least, the representatives of the community, seemed exactly the same to me. Now, I am not totally critical of this because looking at where we as a society come from, a community / support group is needed when one is targeted simply for being who one is in one’s private life. However, there used to be this constant question if such cliched representation would not be bad for the community and wasn’t stereotyping the persona actually a contradiction to the idea of the freedom to just be?

After watching this, seeing where Siras seems to be a victim of not just envy but, also loneliness after the stalwarts who were the face of homosexual rights go back to where they came from leaving him alone in the same town where his dignity was undermined for a multitude of reasons using his personal life as the excuse. I can say that I like the film for maybe answering these questions of mine. Maybe the homogeneity of the group in fitting with the perceived stereotypical image is their way to talk to the ones who don’t understand in their own language? Just, maybe.

The Lady in White

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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

at times.

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.

War

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Been thinking of organising my writing properly now. A conscious move to cut down social media helped but, a lot of things were written here and there. Now, in the process of streamlining my thoughts and writings, merging poetry blog and posting final works here while that shall still remain as a draft board.

This one is called ‘War’. I have profound love for detailed conversations around totalitarianism, democracy, gender, sexuality and am fascinated by imagery. Imagery and visuals are what stimulate writing for me otherwise, it would just be a drab academic piece which’ll get tossed in the bin.

‘War’ is, like other poems, open to subjective interpretation, of course. Those who do read it are encouraged to comment and share their views maybe(?). However, for me images and emotions of nostalgia, love, loss, fight and surrender in today’s times made me pen this down. This is a little expression of the constant battle between fighting in an unjust environment versus maintaining a silence and minding one’s business. Will not say more than this lest it taint different interpretations.

In the batting of her lashes,

In the quiet smile that played

on the corner of her lips,

In the memories of her warmth,

I found myself again.

I walked up ‘head in the shadows,

One eye always turning behind,

Awaiting unknown dangers.

I knew victory in the battle was certain but,

Left a refugee in my own home, 

She is the only trace now

of a feeling that was snatched away. 

All’s fair in love and war they said,

Unfairness of their privilege they didn’t let on,

As her womb swells with our love,

I am left with the choice of silence now.

How’s Waldo?

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Found this picture on tumblr which led to the following post:

Credits: http://memecollection.tumblr.com/post/65876663351

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.