Saturday, October 02, 2010

Ayodhya verdict

In recent past, I had in general avoided having vehement discussions related to social issues, religion and so on. But I was recently asked by a friend of mine about ‘what I felt about the Ayodhya verdict’. Although I had so much to say, (or in fact, because I had too much to say) I couldn’t put it all in a single sentence. So even though I gave some short version of my opinion then and there, I felt it to be apt to pen down the whole of my thought process.

OK, on the face of it, as far as the actual verdict of the Ayodhya issue was concerned, I honestly didn’t mind the result going either way (a temple or a mosque at the disputed site). But it was not out of apathy, it was because of my own personal position on the matters related to religion, or more specifically, the social or public face of religion.

I had penned down my thoughts on religion here a long time ago, where I had stated that while I am all for religion being a very private affair for every individual human being, it’s the ‘communization’ of religion that I hate most. This social, public aspect of religion creates a lot of problems. When a religion is ‘communized’ (as most of the common religions these days are) it becomes way too rigid in its practices and that is where many social problems usually arise. This is because, most of the religions, in the process of setting their norms on ‘appropriate practices’ usually tend to cross some sort social borders that need to be respected for social harmony.

Communization or giving ‘public’ or ‘social’ face to religious practices is not always bad. It worked wonders when Lokmanya Tilak introduced public celebration of Ganesh Festival about a century back. It gave a platform for the society to unite in a common cause, and helped our struggle for the Indian independence in a definite and positive way. That was the right choice for the given time and situation.

But often, communization of religion gives way to rifts in society. May it be the celebration of “Chhath Puja” in Mumbai, or building a temple or a mosque at a given site, it is mostly used by opportunist politicians and public figures (this includes people at important positions in so called ‘religious hierarchy’ too, which again, is an outcome of communization of religion) to increase their popularity and their hold on the community they supposedly want to ‘lead’. While in fact, the reality is that common man is just used as a pawn. Each of those who were incited by some politician to vehemently fight for their right to celebrate ‘Chhath Puja’ , could in principle , have celebrated it anyway in a calm manner. But the politicians wanted to make a noise as loud as possible about the issue and religion is their biggest weapon. With the current social, public structure of religion, it is a soft spot for most of the communities while the core idea of religion, as just a ‘way of life’ has lost its meaning completely.

Does this mean that I absolutely hate social side of religion? Of course not. I get really emotional and nostalgic remembering the Ganesh festival celebrations back in Pune (which, for a fact, I haven’t been able to attend for last 6-7 years) . Man has always been a social animal and often religious festivities are always a good excuse to come together and just have a good time. I can safely bet that thousands of people that throng the streets of Pune during a Ganesh procession would not just come there otherwise just for the sake of a social gathering, had it not been for a religious festival that ties everyone together with zeal and fervor. But we have to keep in mind the ill-effects too (which, I believe are currently outweighing the advantages).

So coming back to Ayodhya issue again, the current verdict was quite balanced when we take in to account the volatility and intolerance of certain sections of Indian society in religious matters. I wouldn’t mind any place of worship there whatsoever, in so far as it brings together the people from across communities. Communization of religion often comes in its way and that’s what I am against. That, in short, was what I wanted to say when asked about my opinion on the matter.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Media Monster...

Recently saw “Peepli Live” and that revived an old issue in my mind that was bubbling to come out: Social irresponsibility of Media.

There used to be a time in my early childhood, when Doordarshan was the only practical source of news from all over India and the world. It being a government enterprise, the news there used to be pretty serious, more or less authentic information.

Then came the age of a plethora of news channels: Aaj Tak, CNN-IBN, Star News, NDTV, Zee news, India TV, TimesNow and so on. With it, came crazy competition and thus a mad rat race to get the tiniest chunk of TRP they can possibly get, and thus, a complete disregard for any kind of work ethics this profession demands.

First, scrambling to get enough material for a 24-hour news channel, these channels filled up their programs with ridiculously stupid, insignificant news, unnecessarily dramatizing it. Showing same old reports every 10 minutes (with possibly a 20 second video clip which they would show at least a 100 times) was yet another ploy. If you watched them more than a few times during 2-3 hour duration, you could possibly recite the whole of their news report, as by that time you would basically remember every line.

As if this was not irritating enough, they started sensationalizing every tiny bit of unimportant news details. Then came an age of Live or breaking news. The worst part was that the common people actually liked watching them!

Until this point, whatever News channels did could be rationalized by their popularity. They can surely ask the question: “Who are you to question us if people in general are liking what we are showing?”. Fine! I do not have any grounds except for a mature idea about what is worthwhile to be shown as news. But if market forces are stronger than a sane mind, nobody can do much.

But then, it slowly enters a grey category. And depiction in Peepli live, which falls into this, was what primarily made me coherently write my thoughts here. Media, being ignorant or just greedy, sometimes helps increase social problems. Initially, I had thought this was only present in Indian media until my ignorance about American politics was recently brushed away by controversies about Fox news and its bias against democrats. This made me realize that this problem is, if not universal, definitely not restricted to India. Political bias (it being just one of the examples of things in this grey category) by media is common in many other countries too.

Still, if one does that within legal limitations (something Fox News apparently has not achieved doing, as far as I know), it is probably off the hook, except for allegations of breach of moral responsibilities of a media entity. Surely, they won’t be following work ethics as expected from a news channel, newspaper, magazine or any media source, but they won’t be punishable legally.

Then come the worst in the lot! And this made my blood boil (and I am sure tons of people like me were equally disturbed): November 26, 2008: Mumbai and the whole of country were in utter shock of terror attacks. While the operation was still going on, with terrorists still under siege, hundreds of innocent people still waiting in terror inside those buildings, many brave officers and soldiers trying to save those innocent lives, and Indian media showed utter disregard for their social responsibilities, capturing each and every tiny bit of movement of Indian soldiers, practically helping the terrorists in their plan. Of course, it was stupid on the part of government to even allow any media within 100 meters of the site, but news channels proved that they are hungry for every tiny bit of TRP they get, that they care shit about lives of those innocent people inside, and those trying to fight for their country’s security. Any person sitting in front of TV that day could have known the exact information about how many Indian soldiers were trying to attack those buildings, from where, when and with what weapon and a school-going child could have guessed that this might actually hurt our efforts to save innocent people and fight those terrorists. And those holding masters and Ph.D.s in journalism and probably decades of experience in the field did not have a clue (or acted as if they did not have a clue) that they were actually helping terrorists.

This, in my opinion, is the worst ever example of lack of social responsibility. Before this, the stakes were low. All of what they were doing, at least the most of it, was within legal limitations. But then you see utterly disgusting examples like these, and you really start worrying about the future of media and its ill-effects on contemporary society.

Coming to what triggered all these thoughts in my mind, Peepli Live did an excellent job of taking a satirical view on things, making the contradiction very clear, and that too really effectively. It touches up a serious issue in a mockingly funny manner, making one realize the existence of a monster we’ve created. Definitely worth a watch, and makes one contemplate for sure...

Thursday, June 03, 2010


परवाच गोनीदांचं ‘शितू’ वाचत होतो.. त्यातले कोकणाचे रम्य वर्णन वाचता-वाचता माझा मीच भूतकाळात शिरत होतो.. कॅमेऱ्याच्या फ्रेम सारखी आठवणींच्या ढिगाऱ्यातली अस्पष्ट, अंधुक चित्रे माझ्या डोळ्यासमोर येत होती..

शाळेत असताना प्रत्येक उन्हाळ्याच्या सुट्टीत माझा व आईचा बेत ठरलेला असायचा.. मे महिन्यामधील सोयीचे १५-२० दिवस हेरायचे आणि मामा-मावशीकडे कोकणात तेवढे दिवस नुसता मजेत आराम करायचा.. पुण्यासारख्या शहरी वातावरणात बाकीचे पूर्ण वर्ष घालवता-घालवता माझ्या मनोरंजनाच्या जागा, करमणुकीची कल्पना, खेळ, गमती-जमती हे सर्व माझ्या कोकणातल्या भावंडांपेक्षा खूपच वेगळे झाले होते..

म्हणूनच की काय कुणास ठाउक, पण मी वर्षातले ते १५-२० दिवस अगदी वेगळ्या विश्वात असायचो.. तिथल्या छोट्या-छोट्या गोष्टींचे मला फार नवल आणि कौतुकही वाटायचे.. शहराकडल्या अनेक गोष्टी नसतानाही आपापल्या ठिकाणी इथली घरे कशी स्वयंपूर्ण असायची.. लाल मातीच्या चि-यांचे गडगे, त्यावरुन कधी-मधी उड्या टाकताना आमची ढोपरं ब-याचदा फुटायची. पडवीतून शेजारच्या रस्त्याने मागच्या दारी गेले की न्हाणीघर लागायचे. त्याजवळील चुलीवर सकाळी एक भलेमोठे तपेले तापत असायचे. वर्षानुवर्षे पाणी तापवून ते काळे-कुळकुळीत झालेले असायचे. त्याशेजारी ब-याचदा आयांचे आपल्या कच्च्या-बच्च्यांना आंघोळ घालणे चालू असायचे . आंघोळीचे पाणी जायलाही अगदी नैसर्गिक उतार असायचा..घरामागे नेहमी फणस सोलणे किंवा आमसुले वाळवणे वगैरे चालू असायचे..जर अधेमधे मांजर व्याली असेल तर ती व तिच्या पिल्लांसाठी कोनाड्यात एक टोपली असायची ज्यात एखाद्या जुन्या साडीचा तुकडा घालून त्यांच्यासाठी अगदी मऊशार गादीसमान पृष्ठभाग तयार केलेला असायचा.. नवीन झालेली पिल्ले म्हणजे पोरा-टोरांपासून अगदी आजीपर्यंत सगळ्यांचा कौतुकाचा विषय असे.. मागे वाडीत गेले, की एक छोटासा आड, त्यातील पाणी मोटरने बाहेर येऊन लगेच चिऱ्याच्या पन्हाळयांमधून खालच्या माडांपर्यंत जायचे. माड संपले की मधे थोडी रेती , थोडी झाडे, आणि मग समुद्रच..

नुसते घर आणि परसच नव्हे, तर इथल्या रीती, सण, पूर्ण विश्वच वेगळे होते.. माझ्या भावंडांबरोबर भटकताना मला गावातल्या अनेक गोष्टी कळायच्या..होळीच्या वेळी इथे लोक (अगदी मोठे लोक ही ) कसे नाचतात, मागच्या वर्षी होळीच्या वेळी त्या गुरवाने भांग पिऊन कसा गोंधळ घातला होता.. गावदेवीच्या जत्रेत कोणाच्या अंगात देवी येते.. पावसाळ्यात शंकराच्या मंदिराबाहेरील बावीवर पोहायला कशी मजा येते, भोपळी बांधून पोहताना कुणाची कशी भंबेरी उडाली होती..गावच्या एका बाजूला असलेल्या पाताळेश्वराच्या मंदिरात लोक अंधाऱ्या रात्री जायला कसे घाबरतात, मागच्या वर्षी ज्येष्ठात कलमांच्या बाजूला बिबळ्याने कुळवाड्यास कसे धरले होते.. एक ना दोन..

जसा जसा मोठा होत गेलो तसे या ना त्या कारणाने कोकणात जाणे दुर्लभ होऊ लागले.. शेवटचा जेव्हा मी मागच्या वर्षी कोकणात गेलो होतो, तेव्हा भावंडांबरोबर फिरताना माझ्या मनात सतत येत होते, की सध्या मी exactly "लहान" व "मोठा" च्या हद्दीवर आहे .. यानंतर जेव्हा केव्हा येईन तेव्हा "लहान" नक्की नसणार.. म्हणून मी आपले माझ्या लहान भावंडांबरोबर "डबडा-इस्पैस" खेळून घेतले..ना जाणो, परत कधी यायला मिळेल किंवा नाही, काहीच माहित नाही..अगदी मी गेलो जरी, तरी "डबडा-इस्पैस" खेळायच्या वयाचा नक्की नसणार.. मनातून बालपण संपत असल्याचे दुःख होत होते .. पण काय करणार..मी आपली सगळी मजा एकदाची शेवटची अनुभवून घेतली..

आणि आज, "शितू" मुळे पुन्हा ते सर्व डोळ्यात उभे राहिले..या कोकणमेव्याची चव काही तोंडातून जायला तयार नाही...

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Natural, unconventional, enchanting...

When you think about movies these days, all that you get to see is a horde of movies with not-so-original plots, same old love-hate-revenge kind of stories, stereotypical melodrama and a painful overdose of the likes of "Himeshs-Salmans-Emran Hashmis" ! So naturally, it was utterly refreshing to get a sweet surprise with a masterpiece, with a fresh storyline and a powerful screenplay underlining nuances of unconventional human relationships.

I am not talking of a brand-new movie or anything but a fairly old one that I chose to see a couple of days back: “Mr. and Mrs. Ayyar”. I am guessing many must have seen it long back but here I explain what I found incredibly exciting about the movie.

These days when they show relationships in movies, we get to see only the usual, mundane boy-meets-girl kind of romantic relationships, or father-son, mother-son relationships, or the ones of a platonic friendship between colleagues, or just a plain villainous hate between enemies. But life is so much more complex. Real life does not stick to these stereotypical relations. Many books often bring out such unusual, delicate, complex relationships which cannot be labeled by a particular name. But movies rarely make an effort in this direction.

This was the most appealing thing about the movie for me. Well, two strangers brought together by a situation is not a new thing, neither for movies, nor for books. What is original about the plot is the complicated relationship between the two. A married Tamil Brahmin woman with a child and a young Bengali muslim man. Situation forces them to pretend to be a married couple. This is not a story with artificial twists and turns trying to make things interesting. It’s a story wherein the very situation and the way the two react to it make it enthralling.

Apart from this most important factor, a lot of the film’s aura is also due to the way it is made. Niceties of various situations and that of human nature are really well brought out. Things seem to be well thought out (to the smallest detail) while making the film. For example the pronunciation of a certain words as it should be from a woman of Tamil background is strikingly effective. Often, it is a convention that the central characters get the most of the screen presence at all times. But while describing a situation to the detail that is intended in the story, the film-maker makes sure that the aforementioned usual convention does not hinder the storytelling itself. Acting, dialogues, diction only add to the overall enchanting experience and at the ending scene of the movie, you are left spellbound by the overall impression that it creates on your mind...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

And that’s why I love the snow !

For the past few days, it has been snowing rather steadily and continuously here in Ithaca… and I heard a lot of complaining voices and troubles faces, which was rather surprising for me… I realized soon that popular opinion about this constant snowfall is not similar to what I feel, and I made a list of reasons behind my complete adoration for the snow…

1. Snowfall ( at least for a first-timer like me) is a heavenly feeling. You always see those mythological TV shows wherein gods float on clouds and everything around is white and fluffy. The nature of the landscape in steady snowfall is as close to that as it can get.

2. Snowfall (as against the rains) is SO damn quiet! There is no deafening roar that you have to endure. Instead, you have a gentle caress of feather-light snowflakes, as if mother nature is showering you with happiness.

3. Your belongings and clothes don’t get wet at all ! People living in places like Mumbai would totally understand this point when everytime during monsoons you have to put in painstaking efforts to protect every tiny bit of your backpack and clothes. And yet, invariably, you reach everywhere ( that includes classes, hostel-mess and your own room) with clothes half-drenched and ink in your notebooks doing a randomwalk…

4. Snowfall gives you tons of opportunities to play around, have fun! Having snow-fights, building snow-man, making your firm footprints in nice, thick and clean snowbed, observing beautiful tiny snowflakes and their fractal nature, disturbing beautiful snow-patterns on bushes, looking at huge icicles formed in the vallies and gorges and enjoying the view of frozen water-bodies are just few of the luxuries that this weather offers.

5. Unlike rains, the snow dries out fast. Of course, the snow on the grass (at the sides) doesn’t melt easily, but the walkways and the footpaths are dry the next day after the snowfall. This means that while walking, you don’t have to worry about ditches as puddles ( at least not as much as in the rains) and shoes getting completely wet .

6. Usually snowfall means comparitively milder version of cold. This makes the weather much more favorable when it’s snowing…

7. While walking at night, it’s so beautiful to watch the snow on the sides of the walkways shimmering in the dim glow of streetlights…

Of course, there are some downsides to snowfall like slush and slippery surfaces. It’s unpleasant when it’s windy.. but things like these are too feeble to match any of the perks that it offers…

And that’s why I love the snow !

Sunday, February 14, 2010


(पहाटेच्या शांत वेळी सुचलेल्या काही ओळी..)

गर्द भीषण तिमिरातून
कळी प्राचीची उमलली
उजळल्या आशा जणू
पुनवेच्या क्षितिजापरी

धीर गंभीर तो रवी
आणि त्याची ती प्रभा
सृष्टीचे ते नवे रूप
आणि ती नवी शोभा

- मिहीर

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Do we need the “Days” ?

Well, I have had this thought picking my head several times before… But I never really got down organizing my thoughts..But recently, I was reminded of that again, by someone’s facebook said : (on India’s republic day): “Do we need a special day to show our patriotism?” (the comment was referring to fervid status messages that people had kept on facebook that day)

As I said, that started a train of thought in my mind: the same kind of objection had been raised in past against valentines day too, when many (self-proclaimed) “protectors of Indian culture” had taken it on themselves to vandalize whatever there was, that was related to this day. There were other instances too..

Do we really need the “Days” ? Of course, on the face of it, acts do look really shallow. Take the facebook example for instance. Many would argue that all those fervid fanatics keeping those status messages on republic day would forget everything about it the very next day. Isn’t it better instead that they keep that “spirit” in their minds throughout the year, without having to show it fervently to everybody?

Well, my answer to that is: I wish it were that simple…YES, ideally, we would like everybody to keep that spirit alive all through the year, making them take steps accordingly in their everyday lives: following civic rules, coming out clean, making their locality a better place to live..

Ideally, we wouldn’t want a single women’s day in the year.. we would definitely like to have people bear in their minds all throughout the year the place of a woman in a society, her aura, her importance…

Ideally, we wouldn’t want a single world environment day in a year.. Ideally, we would undoubtedly want people to categorically inculcate green practices in their lifestyle and help fight the problems that the earth, and in turn, we are facing..

Ideally , we wouldn’t want a single world health day in a year.. same goes for world labour day, world AIDS day and the list is limitless..

But, we still need them. Because we, as a community, have a very short memory and need to be constantly reminded of what we believe in, and to discipline ourselves into doing what we set out to do.. May be those people on facebook would soon forget about republic day. But without it, they would not give it a thought even for a brief span of days that they remembered it instead. And the same goes for all other days.

Days serve their purpose. A select few do take up something that they would continue for the rest of the year. Few at least remember it for a few days around that occasion. Other ignorants at least know about it, and may be, some time in future might take it up. An apparently shallow practice, but a must for a community.