Archive for December 2008

shoes, slippers

December 17, 2008

With all my philistine and bourgeoisie trappings, I am happy. Not for the millions offered for the boots, but for the boots themselves.

Shoes were always a nuisance for me till this day.My school insisted in my growing years, and then some clubs and pubs insisted. I have never felt the need to wear them after school  till now!  But then shoes are good looking. They hide your dirty feet.They are to be worn. Every shoe henceforth shall carry the potent slap on the face of  “farce”ism. With pride, (and perhaps some discomfort due to the long years of discontinuance) I shall try to wear my shoes. And may the Gods that even our atheist/rationalist/pseudo- intellectual politicians of Tamilnadu and India worship in secret, prevent me from wearing one to one of their august assembles.
Shoe or slipper? Which would be more effective to hurl at these horrendous monsters that perpetuate social inhumanity? I wear slippers. I am lazy. I am middle class. Why do I have this snug sly smile when I write? I am rejoicing.

In my usual middle class mentality, in my usual mundane existence I have found another reason to rejoice than sachin’s hundred. I never loved Bush. I never loved (though I had hoped he would be good for the country) our great MMS. But then that Bush was allegedly loved even by me when our PM declared that India loved Bush. Let anyone try to hurl even an unused slipper at someone I love, and I shall demonstrate what love is and how indignantly violent love can be.

I digress. I know. This is common when emotions take over language. What do I want to write about? Shoes? Love? Anger? Indignation? I am just writing all that come through my fingers on the keyboard.
Well… it is time indeed for all those pseudo-moralists to take a know-all attitude and condemn the ‘bad’ behavior. I have already seen one hypocrite saying in a blog that he ‘condemns’ this act, being a ‘journalist himself’. Good. I am happy that journalists have reached this point of sincere(?) and succinct self-modulation. It was all missing just a couple of weeks ago.
So here we are.!All of us who have foot wear! We can use them more effectively. But even for those who grumble at VPSingh and the mandal, ( I saw one doing so in Tehleka too), this is a great opportunity. Those who love globalization can use an Iraqi model. Those who love modernization can use the latest Italian ensemble. Those who are like me stuck with the indianised slipper can still use it.
My only discomforting question was, would the millionaire who wants to buy those shoes care to educate the ‘cobbler-community’ of south india? They can provide you with all those dispensable shoes, while they remain dispensable (and despicable). OK. I know what the comments would be. I am going to be called casteist! Perhaps i am a global casteist! How else can I be when I wear slippers while wanting to wear shoes?

and, i also wonder why all those who protest in words or actions use slippers/shoes to show their anger? is shoe a symbol of anger? or, are even those intellectually posing pseudo-leftists too guilty of saying shoes are a symbol of degradation? if this is the case i am happy at the degradation of dignity dished out to Bush.

But then, why  indeed are footwear symbols of degradation? is it because those deprived few were supposed to be born of/from/beneath the feet of God?



December 6, 2008

It is time now for me to introspect.

Nobody near or dear to me was flying in or out of Chennai airport on the fourth of December, but I still kept watching the news channels. It was a week after the Mumbai attacks, a week after the men in uniform finished their jobs, and a couple of days after even socialites stopped commenting on the tragedy. The terror threat was mentioned in the newspapers too, but I just counted on our newscasters to give me the latest with spice and spectacular voice modulation. Unfailingly they were there, waiting with their cameras and anchors for the first blast or the first dead body. It is their job. They need sensations. Exaggerating an event is easier than creating one. And as they waited, I waited too.

Was I waiting for a bloody event too? On the surface I will not agree to this. I claim to be a sensitive, concerned citizen who would naturally not want fellow-countrymen to suffer. But why was I watching continuously? Why do we all watch this news continuously? On the two days of terrorist engagement in Mumbai, I had an excuse. I was waiting to know that the terrorists have all been captured or killed. But, after that? I certainly was not waiting to see who the next CM was going to be, after all it is a party with the tagline “high command will decide” as its headline. I was watching the airports shown in multiple windows.

What was I waiting for when those airports were covered live? Was I also waiting like those journalists for something sinister to happen interestingly? When I introspect on this, I am ashamed. I never imagined a voyeuristic streak in my psyche. What happened to my sensitive empathy? It may appear as voyeurism when I think of it as a perverted pleasure derived from peeking at persons without their knowledge, but perhaps in a way it is sadism- the thrill experienced on seeing pain inflicted on and suffered by others. Am I single in this subcontinent with these morbid subconscious tastes, or are there millions like me out there?

This is a terrible thought. It is more terrible and terrifying than a terror attack. Why do I and others do this? It cannot be few in number. Just a few people watching will not bring revenue for the channels. They have mechanisms to show that they are being watched. When they are being watched, they make money. What do ‘we’ gain by watching?

Watching TV is by itself an obsession for many people. If the TV is not functioning many people become restless and irritable. The same is happening to the net .It has become a part of our lives. I have been critical of the people who were hooked on to the soaps, but that was the intellectual-aesthetic part of me. And, it was that same sly self that pretended to update itself on the happenings when in actuality it was an addict wanting that one more shot. I have to admit with shame that I have become addicted to these ‘latest happenings’ and ‘breaking news’ that feed my urge for ‘that’ something to happen. So, I begin to wonder if (1) I am addicted to TV news channels and (2) if I have developed a sinister streak in myself. TV addiction is understandable even if not acceptable and the acknowledgement of this fact is not going to hurt my ego as it is not a socially despicable behavior. But , waiting to watch terror? That is neither intellectual nor aesthetic. It is not acceptable to one’s carefully nurtured self-image. Yet, I fear that is what is happening- not just to me, but to lot more people.

If this is an addictive behavior, one has to look at it from that perspective. Initially (for ease of writing let me call the addiction-inducer the object), the object is interesting and then becomes alluring. It is being the source of atleast fun if not happiness for people around you. It is not despicable atleast amidst your peers. You always feel you are just going to have one good look at the object before you throw it away for good. You perhaps use it and do not return to its pleasurable qualities immediately; but over the course of time, you think that you can handle it and want to use it on and off. The usage becomes frequent. You get obsessed with it. You develop a compulsive urge to keep using it. You miss it. You crave for it. You want more and more of it. With this framework of reference regarding addiction, I wonder more whether we are getting addicted to news on terror.

I am scared that one day I might miss my daily scare.

In any addiction the addictive substance has to be available in the beginning, and its sellers ensure that it is in regular supply. If this is our new addiction who sells and who keeps selling it? We are not innocent and blameless. We are responsible for buying it, enjoying it and craving for it. But in any de-addiction programme making the substance non-available or atleast not easily available is the first step. And in my experience only those who accept that they have become addicted and want to get out of the addiction recover.

I want to get out of this. I hope that those who are like me would also wish to get over this new addiction. When we decide to desist, the sellers will not offer the merchandise.

mumbai -the pain and the shame

December 2, 2008

I speak because I exist. Had I existed just because I speak, I would have never known silence. I imposed silence on myself for the past few days, not just to mourn but to watch. And as I watch, words and thoughts are piling up and pressurizing me to write. Newschannels have left me numb- with pain and anger.

Mumbai was tragic. It was terrifying. Even without the melodramatic exaggerated expressions of our newscasters it was terrifying. Death became statistical while Drama became the priority. Even as the brave and committed men in uniform were battling on behalf of us, everything was presented on the little screens with the usual fierce journo-competition that takes precedence over prudence and proper conduct. What if even as they kept claiming that the big hotels had no TV connections, someone near me in Chennai calls his terrorist-buddies and tell that there are commandos being air dropped and there is a man with a rocket launcher? Barkha and Arnab were at their usual best – dramatizing even the English cricket team’s decision not to play two more matches. In fact, I learnt that VPSingh had died much later in the day since he did not get the flash news that just gets in– the English team was more newsworthy for our news givers. And then came the discussions!

I was spared of the dramatic loading of a gun by a superstar but a starry writer compensated with a ’wowable’ response. Shoba’a’ is infuriated and indignant. Enough has become enough for her. She had the audacity to say live on TV that being the highest tax-payers in the country they needed more protection. Is tax a bullet proof suite (pun intended) ? Just because I pay less tax, as I earn less than the exquisitely dressed lady, should I take a couple more bullets? I am not supporting the idiotic if not chauvinistic comment from a saffron goon about lipstick and candles. I do not expect anything sensible or sensitive from them. But Ms.De ? She was proud of the whole of India in her book, and now she is becoming as regional as the MNS goons.

Mumbai means as much to me as Chennai. The murders in the railway station are as pathetic as those in the star restaurants. But is this the time to say enough is enough for Mumbai alone. It is now (as always) the whole of India. The pain is national. The shame is national. The whole country has had enough of rubbish- the latest being the regional chauvinism.

And it was not even a Mumbai citizen’s natural reaction to an assault on her/his peace and existence. It was the rich man’s annoyance that his citadels of comfort too are mere illusions in the face of terror which had hitherto struck mostly people on the streets, buses and trains. This was the shameless sub-text of those TV discussions. Their anguish though called a Mumbai citizen’s anger was more a response to the affront on the protection that their affordability was promising. True, Mumbai is the frequent target, but  the second attack should have seen all these people out shouting and demanding a better system in place. Even now, if this nth number of attack had not been at those two landmark-but-rich-man’s hotels, I wonder how much of real tears would have dripped down those cheeky cheeks. This was the shameful shadow of the terrible tragedy.

We have lit the candles, carried placards, condoned and cried in real pain or with appropriate emotions as the correct response, and now we shall get ready to vote for the same bunches- our politicians, who have continued to prove their mettle. A Marxist dared to say no dog would care about a house- a house in which resides the father of a slain army man! A minister quoted film dialogues! BJP in their confusion over whether or not to praise the slain ATS chief say that the anger on politicians is not fair. The congress having decided to sack its chief minister could not find a replacement even after 30 hours! Thank god we did not need the permission of the `beloved’ Bush to say we are angry. If this is the way this country is going to behave, then will its million Gods be able to do anything?