On the pride of a blogger

Who are we, the bloggers? The guys who scavenge for left over attention of the reading populace, after they’ve soaked their feet deep enough in works of conventional content creators- “accomplished” authors, columnists, journalists, photographers.

What does the blogging community mean at all in the literary demography? A roof above the head of the heterogeneous clique of greenhorns, wannabes, grumps, prudes, average and awful writers to bring a false sense of entitlement.

The answer for all the politically incorrect rhetoric, would be a resounding “no”, as it obviously comes from me. A “yes” would mean my spot under the sun as a writer was also a making of my delusion, depriving me of a place to continue to bask or an identity to wear as a badge of honour.

There are skills, that need pruning, curating, polishing, assessing and regulating from time to time by a professional body like- medicine, constructing, accounting and law to name a few. And there are skills like painting, singing, dancing and writing that don’t need such external recognition to pursue. The former set belongs in an inflexible square box with overseeing guardian angels from the fraternity. The practice of the same is an external process with an impact aimed at fixing, curing, building, solving or approving something. The outcomes could be in the form of a cured patient, an audited balance sheet, a seven storey structure or a jail sentence. As you can see the performance has a direct impact on the recipient and the society he belongs. Hence the practitioners need to be regulated from time to time. And hence the sheen around the qualification.

Now let’s take the latter pool which thrives on the fresh air outside the square box the former finds itself in. These are creative processes; disruptive, inventive, imaginative with no specific structure to adhere to or fall in line with. They’re primarily works of art. A reflection of the creators moods. A peak into his soul. An artifice to make his ideology palpable to the connoisseurs of the art form he pursues. The stakes are different here. A great piece of music could bring sleep or open tear ducts sealed for ages. A well made movie could advocate a school of thought or propagate a taboo through its mainstream sensibilities. A book could engage, evoke, instigate or just bore to death.  As can be seen, this stream unlike the former, doesn’t necessary leave behind a specific-tangible footprint, necessarily. The outcome or the experience is subjective changing from one subscriber to another depending on beliefs and predispositions.

Coming back to the blogsphere, I see it as a sort of fringe community that exists outside the conventionally recognized art-space. A rebel outfit of sorts.  While there could be an acclaimed Chetan Bhagat doling out one best seller after another, when not commentating on social issues; there could be a rank novice touching upon similar stuff albeit in a classier manner, to a smaller section in his personal blog. While a Vairamuthu might have Rahman to embellish his lyrics, an average joe would put a smile on a fewer lips with his limericks in his wordpress account. A photographer could be crowned by National Geographic, while a better photographer would have his work liked by 83 followers. Apples and oranges, right!

Who is to say, what is frivolous or what is not? The purists or the populists? Does an art form become better because it holds more eyeballs under sway? Or does an artist become smaller because he caters to a niche? Not necessarily. An underrated short filmmaker might be a master of screenplay, while a popular mainstream director could be churning hits after another without the slightest clue. But nevertheless, both are part of the same ecosystem.

We never know what influence our creations would hold on this world. A 220 character poem on childhood might bring a perspective to a parent, a best-seller or parenthood couldn’t. A political article could stir up some fury, if not disobedience; who is to decide we can’t be the final straw to break the camel’s back? . A technical blog could just prevent an ill informed buyer from sinking twenty grand on a mobile with glitches. A story is a story, whether it comes from Ruskin Bond or grandma.The prominence of these creators and their works might scale with time to become something bigger or not. But the work’s their legacy. An extension of them to the world. They could be a lone apple in an orange cart or an apple orchard. Who is to say if it’s enough or not?

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On living among gods and religions

It all started in the woods, we were forest people. The first conversation. The first love. The first spittle to make mark it. First time the man got wooden and woman became wet there. The first consummation. The first pregnancy. The first birth. First instance of man manufacturing another life. The forests owned us along with the trees, animals, birds, rivers and rocks. And it was our habitat as much as we were a precarious part of its ecosystem. Precarious because the forests that loomed over us knew that the day wasn’t far off when we would begin to loom over them. And in time loom did we, shrinking them in tandem with our tribe’s endless extension of headcount and greed.

As far as life was in the precincts of the woods and dependent on its resources, we worshiped it. We were a gullible lot; content when it came to needs and sentimental about utility received. We saw the trees that bore fruits, provided shade and let their bodies be used to make our homes as gods. We saw the mountains and the forests that let us live in them as gods. We prayed to the rivers that quenched our thirst, kept our crops alive and transported us. We remained cordial with other creatures some of whom we hunted out of hunger, not for the want of a sport or cuisine curiosity.

Man’s worship of nature went on till the intelligence improved. When it did, worshiping trees, mountains and rivers seemed impersonal. Not just that it was almost defeating to bend down before manifestations who were at his mercy, didn’t talk or look like him. The alpha status of the human race had started to kick in, around the same time his civilization pangs began. He had learnt to demolish, destroy, usurp his way to a better quality of life, the need and definition of which kept changing with time. His peers in the jungle became minorities who were relegated to being- in the zoo; in the circus; in a cage; his pets; in labs; his agricultural machinery; the centre part of a burger, if not his Sunday meal.

As Utopian aspirations took over his soul with him progressing beyond the brink of civilization, the next stop was changing his god, nature. The old god, couldn’t continue to exist in his concrete homes. After centuries of plundering her, he had started to feel more powerful. Not only that, he started to feel that every other manifestation was at his mercy.He appointed himself to be the god’s deputy on earth, picking and choosing utility for other creatures. The milk giving cow was holy, he let it be alive and domesticated. The bull was strong, but tasty as well; he let it either toil in the fields or boil in the stove. The dog was faithful and protective, he let it live and watch.

But he needed someone mighty above him to god him. His god had to look like him, talk like him, possess supernatural prowess and be a much, much better person than himself. So with time, he started scouting for gods among his tribe. The virtuous, the powerful and the honourable among him were celebrated as gods. With time he spun their lifetimes into folklore, passed it onto the next generation. And the next. And the next. And it went on. His gods were growing in stature through his imagination and Chinese whispers.
He put this god in charge of everything beyond him and above his control. So if a meteor struck, it was god’s doing. If it rained during a famine, it was god’s doing. If he wanted or didn’t want something badly, he turned to god. If he got what he wanted, god gave him. And if he didn’t, god chose not to give him. His birth started with god and his death took him there. Life became peaceful with accountability for the unknown shifted to another entity. The suspense account in his balance sheet finally had a name.

With god appointed, the next necessity was to regulate, preserve and curate gods. For which he designed a way of life around them and called it religion. Religions were nothing but philosophies,prescriptions, dos and don’ts, procedures to tread along the path of a certain god. God might’ve formed the religion, but it is religion that put a roof over his head and a sanctum sanctorum around him. This difference from one god to another were the things they stood for differed, their ethnicity and as a result, their teachings.
The transition of religions is a curious one. Over time, religions became competitive institutions, breeding grounds for one-upmanship among their affiliates. Religions also started becoming cannibalistic creatures that would often feed on one another, poach followers from one other and even bringing chaos and destruction over peace and prosperity. How much the followers consumed beyond the surface level of hymns and austerities is another thing. From nuclear ecosystems of worship they grew in stature to become formidable scaffolding to political belief, to fashion the way countries were ruled.

With god and religion being appointed to point fingers at a direction above or within, the next endeavour was to get to the bottom of a happening or a consequence. Thus was born Karma, the spiritual excuse for coincidence. If hardwork didn’t bring results, it was one’s karma. If dumbness kept prosperity intact, it was a forefather’s karma. Karma became the reason for god’s discretion.

With every invention, scientific breakthrough made life definitely became easier. The effort out of processes gets drained. The satisfaction increases; the quality of output improves. Life becomes that simpler. If once there was a phone to talk, camera to take pictures, radio to listen to songs, theatre to watch movie, computers to automate work and compass to find directions; today’s smartphones are all of that rolled into one and more. Not only has the quality of communicating improved or the world shrunk in size, but utility of several gadgets are found in one place. But while breakthroughs no wonder make life simpler, they don’t necessarily make it happier. They’re materialistic influences that have an impact, largely external. Add an A/c to a car, journey becomes cooler. Add a stereo, you could hum a few songs along the way. Have a GPS, it spoon feeds with the navigation. And add to it a seat that reclines, your back is pampered. The purpose of the car doesn’t change. The destination doesn’t. Just that every breakthrough makes the journey that comfortable. That’s the thing about comfort it distracts you from yourself by the external experience.

That’s where the last, but strongest stop of the god-religion shebang comes, the internal personality- the soul. The concept of soul is that every individual is made of an inner manifestation that regulates his conscience. It neither has a beginning nor an end. Like water, it takes the shape and color of the person it is within, reflecting his state of mind. The soul needs to be at peace for the individual to be happy. Some agree. Some laugh. Some diss. But for the sake of this rather long piece not turning longer, let’s agree.
The thing about the soul is it doesn’t get influenced by sensory experiences that bring comfort, entertainment and desire fulfillment. So while biriyani might be sumptuous food ,the soul would remain hungry. A good article might be food for thought, but the soul would still crave.

Religions and gods address the soul. For all of them through their teachings and philosophies single-mindedly pay attention at enriching this entity. While we can debate the soul’s existence, we can’t but agree about how the core of every religion is directed towards the internal journey of an individual. Religions don’t address hunger, education, entertainment or travel, but talk about karma, good deeds, virtues and salvation instead through anecdotes and holy verses, that are largely abstract concepts. That’s why the eternal appeal of religion and faith that attend to the internal itches.

While there is a price to most commodities and awareness of the place to get them from, there’s neither a price for an abstract commodity like peace of mind leave alone a place to get them from. Given the fact that eight out of ten people are believers in a higher power or faith that gives them a ticket to it, the few who claim to know the whereabouts of god, salvation, karma automatically become monarchs in a seller’s market that can put a price it deems fit. Because as far as soul-searching goes, neither the pain or the antidote are defined; nor are the search and the eventual discovery.

A four Kilometre life lesson on a sunny afternoon

What does three seconds mean? Probably  one twentieth of a minute, if not anything significant in particular. Well that is how much it meant for me as well, till today’s afternoon. I was zooming past at 72 kmph to work- when in a matter of few seconds,three to be precise -the speed went from that to zero. I had driven without petrol for the past few days. And my Pulsar- older than sum of all my functional relationships put together -diplomatically protests in these kind of non verbal ways. Especially in routes with no semblance of a fuel station for the next few kilometres from all four sides, to gently remind me to not take it for a ride.

So here I was with a bike with a vapid tank, weighing just the same at the Madhya Kailash to Tidel Park stretch. For the uninitiated non-Chennaites, this particular stretch is notorious for its stagnating traffic. If that opening scene from La La Land was to be recreated, this stretch would be a top contender, notwithstanding Bangalore and Mumbai. And did I mention it was in the afternoon? A humid, sweaty one. With the pores in my body over-timing to compensate for the lack of dampness in the air. And it really didn’t help that I was wearing a white translucent shirt.

And like that, the afternoon’s journey had passed from warm wind blowing against the face to trudging in search of the nearest fuel station. And to add salt to the wound, the Talaash songs were still playing on my earphones. Karma’s a bitch.

It was not until I was at the end of a two kilometres dead rubber walk, did I get my first rendezvous with humanity. There was this gentleman, in cheap clothes, on his bike who seemed to be stalking me from a few metres on his bike. I stopped. And he came from the side and offered to toe my bike to the nearest station; still a kilometre and a half away.
Wow! I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the gesture for a moment. To actually offer a ride to a sweaty stranger while he pulls his bike from the side is no mean thing. One, it’s inconvenient. Two, it makes you look silly. And three, I wasn’t even his friend for him to go through the inconvenience or silliness. Yet he did. I certainly wouldn’t have, not even to a friend had I seen him drag along on a Thursday afternoon. I profusely thanked him and continued to drag along.

By now, bathed in my own sweat, I was beginning to vicariously go through Christ’s last moments uphill; just that I was dragging a bike instead of a crucifix with absolute certainty of not turning God to a new faith. That’s when the second intervention happened. The station though not in the viewing perimeter was under a kilometre away, when an auto slowed on my side to offer to toe till the station. The driver was a dark man, with a stern but kind face. He had a passenger, yet he offered to chip in. I politely refused his generosity and thanked him. Not someone to take a “no”, he insisted again and I thanked and continued to drag. Disappointed he drove past. He must have thought of me to either be high handed or a masochist. Rightfully, so. To me, this was as moving as the former gesture. Actually, a little more considering the fact that he had a passenger and was still willing to do this. Guilt was eclipsing me as I thought of the number of times I’d condescended auto-drivers for the low lives they were on road.

I’ve fed pets, given money to homeless elders and sometimes even offered them a ride on my bike. I’ve always thought of myself to be a good person on the basis of these rudimentary acts. Yet there I was stranded, ego crushed, never having felt smaller. These men who stepped out of their comfort zone for an absolute stranger, were way better men than me. Maybe the rights and wrongs I was seeing from the high horse of my moral compass were ill founded from the vantage of my comfort zone. While I’ve frequently chipped in for someone from the warmth of my comfort, not once have I left it to lent a shoulder to someone outside of it. Maybe I needed to come down, introspect, learn and more importantly unlearn from better people like them.

Reality had dawned upon me before the fuel station could. Coming to think, the entire afternoon was after all not about getting petrol alone. Obviously, I’ll be more vigilant over the fuel meter. But that was just a ruse to a more pertinent internal journey. A reality check of sorts to become a better person. Baptism under the sun if I may.

Virtues like virginity

There are certain things that continue to perplex me- meat eating pet animal lovers, coexistence of religious donations in nation with rampant poverty and the sanctity of virginity. Especially the female virginity. For brevity sake, I’m gonna call it V. We Indian are the forefathers of the concept of foreplay-to-foreplay in movies. Though Hollywood has been filming nudity and intercourse with minimal fuss for decades, it barely has explored the sensuality of the female anatomy like our filmmakers have, with moral daggers hanging above their heads. Case in point, the countless dance numbers involving our actresses dressed in miserly two pieces, gyrating to lyrics that would put seasoned perverts to shame. Just look up “navel” on Youtube to come to terms with the extent of our hoi polloi’s carnal fascination. Our films depicting relationships will go up the entire nine yards-stalking, lengthy phone conversations, dancing, songs, almost-there-kisses in painful detail, to only leave the ‘thing’ to the audience’s imagination at the threshold of the ninth yard. The distance between the eight yard and ninth yard constitutes the average Indian’s erogenous zone; the inch beyond the ninth , his orgasm. So in a nation like ours that nurtures the male promiscuity through popular culture, it’s bewildering as to why V features, still in the moral code of women more than men, obviously in an unspoken capacity like most assumptions about one’s character in this part of the world.

I have a friend, who is about to get engaged. The other day we were talking about the awkward spot she found herself in, between her soon to be in-laws and parents after she unassumingly let out about being in a relationship a year before. What about this filled the hall with taciturn after that, we pondered together? Maybe, the thought of her flirting with another guy before their son. Barely, they were liberal enough to ‘let’ such interactions, their son went to a coed, after all.  Then could it be the thought of her straddling coffee-shops and malls with this guy. Could be, but still didn’t add up to the pale white, their faces turned into. Is it probably the thought of exchanges between them, a little beyond words and glances that stupefied the room. Most likely yes, since the other alternative to such collective response was that she didn’t have legs when they looked down, which likely wasn’t the case. So why this friction to a woman’s past, all the more with our great grandparents and grandparents being born into set ups with sibling count exceeding a test team. My great grand mom for instance, died in her sixteenth trip to the maternity ward. What my friend spoke next, caught me unaware. She told me about how despite being in a few physical relationships, she’s never done ‘it’. God, the same ninth yard syndrome, she had walked the entire distance to only stop at the door to save sacrilege. She was saving ‘it’ for after marriage, she naively went on. She was one of the most liberal souls in my life, at times a little more Bohemian than me, but here she was bending subconsciously at the feet of conservatism. This was the place from which she was surreptitiously seeking approval to her past life.

To try understanding this paradox, let’s go back in time to an age where men were neanderthals torn between increasing evolutionary insights and declining primal pangs. They had learnt to attend to hunger, passion and shelter diligently. Languages were spawned, body fur had vanished to make way for clothes as intelligence took over instinct, emotion took over expression.Man prostrated before every facet of nature that brought life to him- trees, rivers, animals, birds and women. Nature was mother to him, women that expanded his tribe; mother goddesses. It must have been a largely matriarchal set up. He humbly bent before nature and nature benevolently put a hand on his head, not knowing a day would come were the places would reverse.

Be wary of a worshipper, even more about his worship.With time he’ll draw a jurisdiction around you with his ideology, to protect you from your freedom.

As his life moved from the forests to the cities during the Neolithic era with nature turning collateral, he began to feel bigger than it. From this new found vantage he felt the need to protect his erstwhile protectors-nature & goddesses, the nucleus to his belief system from a life gone by. Things that held emotional value, turned into religious sentiments.As the vision was lost, with faiths turning blind. But nevertheless they were revered, but regulated to same extent.

With time matriarchal system caved into patriarchy. With it came chauvinism and double standards like ticks. The man could have as many wives. Each one had to be chaste.Male promiscuity was seen as virility. Women promiscuity; well spawned a new profession, prostitution. Women were plundered along with the wealth of a lost kingdom and taken in as war slaves.With time they were dichotomised  into wives and whores. Femininity became the virtue to yardstick a woman, with motherhood hyped to be her nirvana. Her ambition had to revolve around her man and the progeny he gave. If she dared to think beyond or much worse differently, she would be tamed as a shrew. Her gift of life creation was starting to be used as a noose to strangle her, by the very man she created. Her womb turned a holy grail. Her puberty was celebrated like a festival of harvest to notify eligible suitors to give her away in marriage; proudly with the designation of a ‘virgin’. She was a liability that had to be sold for a dowry to the highest bidder. Her life was to revolve around him and was to end along with him, sometimes forcefully like in the case of sati. Attempts at consummation outside this draconian system was frowned upon as being extramarital, premarital and illicit.Hundreds of years, colonization, few many reformers and contraceptive devices later, she is treated with dignity and respect that extends beyond her ability to give birth. Yet the patriarchal mind set continues to exist strongly in the heartlands of the country that continue to function with a value system from a bygone era. In the cities though it exists in its more palatable subversion of traditions and culture.

It’s about high time we started accepting an individual’s sexual curiosity, within or outside the precincts of a socially accepted institution. It needn’t be about making love or having a child, all it needs is an itch in a couple, heterogeneous or not. It needn’t be subjected to baptism by fire, morally.It can be an expression of desire, attraction, admiration, commodity, transaction or just a lonely night well spent. A woman should be embraced with her share of fantasies and promiscuity, just as her male counterpart would be as a player. Motherhood is her choice, lets not paste a hallow around her head. If she wants a relation that lasts till her orgasm ends, let’s not name call. She needn’t be a goddess. Nor does her sexuality need cordoning as a forbidden fruit. We need to respect her above the belt, just the way we would like ourselves to be.