Sunday, January 22, 2006

Let’s change the Social Order!
No, I am not out to kick up some revolution, or even, to do things those would unsettle lives of my close ones. But, yes these thoughts have occurred to me, just because I seem to acknowledge that, well, there are other people also, who, think a change is definitely necessary. I am not talking about those, who file PILs incessantly, so that there be could social upheavals, no, I mean I do not have, nothing against, Pratibha Naithanis, even, Mahesh Bhatts also. I thought about those, who just go on doing their jobs and never come in the public eye. As ullas mentioned in his blog, the man who planted trees on the roadside, baba amte, pandurang shastri aathavle, and many others like them.
This thought about change, has kept me busy for a while. And I have arrived to a conclusion that, nothing on this earth seems to be perfect. No government, no judiciary, no religion, no office nothing. And there are careful monitors over the factors those would ensue any kind of change. For example, Rang De Basanti, just a week before its release, it kicks up a storm, over the subject matter it has got. As it is famous now, still I would like to quote, a character in the film, a fighter pilot, dies in a MIG21 air crash, and thus his knowledgeable friends, tend to ask a few questions, but they are suppressed. Similarly, in order to see whether there was anything objectionable in the movie, MOD, all force chiefs, and Pranab Mukherjee watched the movie, and suggested few changes. That means there’s no kind of creative freedom either. And what’s there to shy away from the facts. Facts and agonies of those families who have lost their bread earners in such foolishly tragic accidents! Going by the numbers of such ill fated crashes it is very obvious that these mighty machines must be outdated or ill maintained, then why those hard working pilots are being sacrificed. Obviously MOD is at fault in this case. This film as apparent from the promos is about “change”. I am expecting a lot from the movie, frankly. I wish this movie works well, but seeing past trends, meaningful cinema in India has few takers.
Another thing, that I felt was even when there were revolutions, it was not like a sea change would have occurred overnight. Indian independence was also achieved slowly over so many years. Though I don’t know how it was with Marx in his times. As far as my mental capacity permits, revolution for me occurs really, only when the mindsets of people affected changes. It pains me when I realize that there are hardly any people who want change. Most of us are content with the ways we live and go to sleep. Earning a square meal is the biggest priority for most of us. For me, I know one thing for sure, had I been living in Assam or some naxalite pocket, I think, I would have turned into one of them!
We faced worst floods of our lives in June last year. When no corporator turned after the waters receded for relief operations, so called society administrators were enraged and fuming and said things like, “let them come asking for votes, we will break their limbs”. Last month, municipal elections were held peacefully, with “Bhaaratiya janata party” representatives winning all over, no reports of violence occurred in gujarati newspapers in Baroda. We are just loud motor mouths and when it comes to real action, the tails get tucked inside. When a rickshaw wallah overcharges we are scared not to ask him, because “pandu’ gets a “hafta” from him. And who has got the time after all.
This all may sound vague, but if we are talking about some kind of a change then this all will have to go away. Indian Express, my staple read, has interviews of foreign students, visitors in Mumbai, about what they like or hate, food preferences, etc. On being asked to one such person, what was a common Indian quote that she uses, guess what was it,“Sab Chalta Hain, Yaar”. Guess how deep Indian indifference is rooted?? Or is it that I am reading too much in these mere words of a very chilled out expression?? Please give me an answer!
The city of lakes - “UDAIPUR”.
This is not the first time that this has happened. Just when I was dying to have a break from my routine life, it comes, like a fresh whiff of air, which reinvigorates me to take on further questions of life. As I reached Ahemadabad, to board a metre gauge train to udaipur, I knew this would be a special visit.
The flickering yellow bulbs, in obviously, uncomfortable coaches of the metre gauge train, took me close to nostalgia. The toilets were unusually clean and the coaches well kept. Being the off season, it wasn’t crowded to my respite. It took ages for the engine driver to blow the whistle, and then gallop his mighty chariot towards the destination. Being the winter season, I was made to carry few extra blankets with me, and thus I made a cozy “bichouna” on which I could retire. But unfortunately, the bed sheet kept skidding, on the plastic sleeper berth. As the train, started chugging and swaying sideways, I found myself slipping into a mood of carelessness, long away went the rules of good behavior, and the anonymity which embraced me, was my companion for the rest of the journey. The chill, though alarming, was quite enjoyable, and being tired of all the luggage shunting, I had done in the day, I immediately, switched into slumber mode. Before falling asleep, I knew one thing for sure; I must catch the sunrise, first of all. In the ghats of Aravalli range, “Kharwa Chanda” station, slipped away quietly, as if it was still waking up from a delightful sleep, and there behind a marble stone laden hill, I see the rim of the Orange globe, how peaceful, he rose to fill the airs with his golden arms. The rays lightened all the faces in the coach and a beautiful co-passenger smiled back at me, obviously, because she enjoyed the company, of nature, of course. My wet palms, after the brush and face wash, slowly dried out by the warm rays and then suddenly, the chill bit them, so pleasingly that I had to hide them in the woolen gloves, my Aajoba had lent me. I was happy for having caught the spectacle, and then population of udaipur, started making its presence felt. The familiar stench, smoke oozing out of “chulhas” meant to heat up, “Bambaas” of bathing water, kids lining up on a tiny trail to reach the school, the milkman humming a mysterious tune cycling along with the train, and birds flying away in calculated groups for work. By the time, I could satisfymyself fully, the scene gets changed and I am amidst, iron and ballast, and …..is it Udaipur city? A fellow passenger asks me, I try to hide my astonishment over the metamorphosis of the railway station, and assure him that it is Udaipur indeed. The change was all because of the gauge conversion, I discovered. Being educated placed me in a funny situation. I had decided to take a “chakda” to the training school, so that I don’t spend much. Here comes, a rikshawallah, who entices me in his “khatara” by saying that, “ saab, aaj to eid he, aaj sab chutti pe henge”. Ok, I struck a deal and reached the school, only to realize that I was fooled. Anyways, I got myself registered and after a wash, and necessary arrangements, I set off on, my foot!!!! Yes, on my foot, to discover the changes this historic city had gone through.
Within no time, I reached Fateh sagar lake, I was amazed by the sheer opulence of this magnificent lake, this time around it had rained well in this part, and thus, it looked as vast as an ocean with islands on all the four sides! As I walked briskly, a distant observatory caught my attention, and I felt the calling, from somewhere there only. As I sipped on a piping hot “Espresso”( this is how they spell it) I asked the vendor, about the observatory. His reply was, “saab, sarkari log jaa sakte hain andar, apne ko malum nahi”. I took the long road around the lake to reach there. On my way, I received few inquisitive glances from passer-bys as they were not used to see somebody walk so far. Before I could reach the observatory, a road took me to a place, from where I had heard those callings. Few minutes away from the lake, here was a village, which had all kinds of hutments found in India. It was called “shilpgram”. It housed rural artisans in it; they would sell their goods and thus earn a living. One such artist took my attention; he was a “warli” artist, from rural maharashtra. As I sat down to talk with him, I found the ground, coarse with cow dung “Leepan”. How happy was I to know that he was not one of those miserable people, who were dying to receive some recognition. His wife was from a village next to Baroda, and that, kind of, made us close friends. We both pondered over the dismal state of art and culture, and he felt happy that I understood his apathy. He offered me to, purchase a painting, but I told him that I was not as rich as his esteemed foreigner patrons were. He gave me a small painting, for 50 bucks, which otherwise would have fetched him a good enough, 300 bucks. As I set out to watch other things, another guy, a “madhubani” artist pulls me inside his hut to show his expertise. I chatted with him, and then left. Some 2 hours later, I was happy with whatever I got to see, and wondered who was calling me.
Now it was getting hot and I was hungry. Looking for food, I reached a stall, where I ate, very real “Daal bati choorma” for a reasonable 50 bucks, and then as decided, I entered a bar near by. The bartender was the owner of the resort himself. Being my shameless self, I asked him, “Boss, first time pee raha hoon, kuch tasty pilao” he could not stop laughing and that pressed me to clear myself, “jyada chadhe nahin aisa kuch, majaa aana chahiye”. “sir, Tom Collins pilau” Amit Deshmukh st. Destiny b. Bartender. He sounded as if he had preserved some Tom Collins ka pee and was offering me that. I asked what would the contents be, “lime juice, sugar syrup, and gin” he said. “Wine kitneki he, sir?” I asked. “ Sir, poora hi lena hoga”, “yahaan log kam peete hain”. I was an established drunkard it seems, in his eyes. “ nahi nahi vo Tom Collins vala hi pila do, badhiya banana ha!, majaa aana chahiye”.
He prepared a concoction, which tasted very much like limbu pani I have outside Mumbai central station for rs 2.50 only. Here I was doling in rs.130….????? I had it, along with peanuts as accompaniment, and then ….I left. The gin never appeared for me to make mighty wishes, and thus I was laughing on myself, for this wonderful deed. For the world, I had drunk, but for me, it was some augmented nimbu pani of sorts. By the time, I could reach the observatory again; I was not interested in it anymore.
I reached the hostel, where my other room partners had arrived. After a decent dinner, I resigned, and then had the most peaceful sleep in the past one month.
Rest of my tour went off thick and fast, as study began. And no sooner could I set out again, on that road, it was time to pack my backpack. Those were very tranquil, quiet and happy 7 days of my recent life.
It was nice meeting you, Udaipur and of course, Mr. Tom Collins!
Whose truth should I purchase?
“let the truth prevail”, “khabar vohi jo sach dikhae”, “sabse tez”, “feel the news”, “ whatever it takes”. Loud enough! Aren’t they all? I yearn for those good old Doordarshan days, when it was just good Hindi, or even English for that sake, that made me interested in the evening news. Sensationalism was too big a word for a, 10 year old to understand. But, these days whenever I tune into, any news channel, I can’t stop thinking about one particular aspect of this, progressive trend. I would like to put down few incidents, and then continue, with my pondering references.
1. Some foolish old man, who claims he is a “jyotishi”, in some remote, rural, underdeveloped ghetto, pronounces that he will die, soon enough that, most of the television channels will reach there. Ultimately, he missed the pronounced “tryst with his destiny” and fails the test of time. He survives, leaving back, a question over credibility of news channels these days! I was shaken when; I learnt that even Prannoy Roy’s “NDTV” was there. (Where are you Mr. Prannoy Roy of yore)
2. Manjunath Shanmugham’s Murder goes almost unheard, when The Big B was going through, a normal, bowel ailment. Hours of air time went into this useless issue, but the whistleblower’s death, took ages to reach our PM’s ears.
3. People’s private lives become the most plentiful raw material, for the channels to reap benefit out of. Just today I saw, a woman being grilled, for allegedly beating up her step daughter brutally. There have been plenty of such showings. Masters of this art, channel 7, aaj tak, India tv!
4. What with “sting operations” becoming the order of the day. I don’t know whether shakti kapoor was all that guilty, but I mean this is not journalism. Its just, “shikaar” of some kind, where a trap is laid with a bait at the centre, the victim (like shakti kapoor) falls prey, and then what! Nothing. Its like “khel khatam, paisa hajam”.

Rajdeep Sardesai, one of the names, I respect, (for the sheer manner in which he has gained knowledge and has tried to impart it to the society) left NDTV and now has joined CNN-IBN, may be just because NDTV was walking the same path, other sensational channels were trudging on.
One thing rather strikes me quite blatantly is that; all this mutilation of facts is for the sake of TRPs. Less the TRPs, less the channel runs. More TRPs, more sponsors. People watch what is sensational. And to me this sensationalism appears a rather shameful act of perversion. Anyways, I do not want to make a statement about the Indian psyche, which, in its entirety is a very broad and funny topic. I dare say that we have got this eye for perversion, because, I have noticed a few times, that we (Indians) prefer to remain spectators, rather than stand up and act upon something. One phrase, I hate is, “kya karega, chalana padta hai” when one in particular, finds himself helpless, despite of his expected behavior being a very minuscule effort. We mob around an accident site, we turn our eyes when a mentally challenged girl is being raped (ref: borivali rape) and later throng to watch the victim, how insensitive! Spy cams, MMS videos, phone tapping etc ….what the heck.
Imagine a desirably intelligent student, pass out of a prestigious journalism institute, say Jamia, and then run around, places marred with controversies, sex scandals, terrorist attacks etc. Eventually, by the time, this young guy or girl is 40, they are totally exhausted with the plans, they had with their career, their dreams etc. Then later they write down a book, join a political outfit or otherwise take a sabbatical that never gets over.
These days, huge posters of CNN- IBN are all over Baroda. Another sexed up, extra masala product from the Times group is about to be unveiled. Times Now, a news channel will soon join the race for TRPs. I have only seen movies being publicized so well. I always wonder if truth was ever so sensational.
This is a very big topic, but I need to come to some conclusions, though they may not mean anything to the entire media enterprise. First of all, let people live their life. Secondly, stop running around, sit down and talk with people, this race isn’t taking anybody anywhere. And finally, try to empower people rather than projecting them as mere scapegoats, mere baits in a juggernaut of politics, corruption and indifference. Try to bring back the arts of story telling, painting, music, and a happy living.