Posted tagged ‘india’

Can I smoke?

March 28, 2009

Smoking is injurious to health- no, I am not issuing the ‘statutory warning’, it is a fact. Having learnt of the black swan from Taleb, I am not saying this simply because the statistics declare the morbid association between smoking and ill health; I am merely against the dependence and the myths that every mind propagates to make illusory comforts essential. Smoking is not going to reduce anxiety, nor will it be soothing in depression. It will not spur creativity, and it will never make somebody believe you are superior or stylish- ofcourse it is not a sign of intellectual preoccupation. It is a habit and it is a bad habit in the sense that it is at the most harmful to health and at the least a waste of money. Yet, I wonder if I can smoke now!

I learnt smoking when I was fifteen years old, primarily to show off, and now I cannot show off that I smoke! But smoking is not the issue- I wanted to think aloud about politics that worked on the smoke screen called policy! What good would it do other than giving an impression that i am hallucinating- there are no ears to listen!

India is a strange no-smoking zone now! Many smoke on the roads, some even in hospital compounds, but the elite and the socialite circle do not smoke anymore in pubs and restaurants. They shrug and move to non-descript rooms to inhale and exhale on fellow smokers. In a funny way, the rich and the affordable, who have hitherto not cared to follow many of rules that have been framed (for the country?) by the country, adhere to the non-smoking rule! Five star hotels are strict! It is just the poor and the middle class who still decide to light and puff a cigarette at odd places which are supposed to be non-smoking (not smoke-free) zones! But then, it is again the poor and middle class who think that a vote is going to matter, and they ‘elect’ a government which would ‘look after’ them! In my experience, the government always looks ‘after’ they have voted! By the way, I am just curious to know how many of the manicured nails are going to be smeared with the ink that shows you have voted- it is too late to count the number in the last election, but it is possible to attempt now!

Why am I writing now instead of just taking my charminar and lighting it? Simply because I foresee a scenario when I may walk into one of the Taj hotels (even the one which made the socialites weep more than the socially conscious), and smoke on the table where I had just finished my dinner. times have changed! The man who so zealously advocated the no-smoking ban is no more in the ruling alliance. A shameless spokesperson of a party insults all of us by saying there could be post-poll alliances/agreements/adjustments! If in a rare chance the alumnus of my fraternity makes it to the same ministry again, I have to perhaps still hide my lighter and the cigarette pack? This is what my naïve mind thinks! Since it is the policy of the present government invariably the next one will not care much about it. But then, the son of the third(?) big party in tamilnadu could still retain the portfolio- it does not matter whether the congress or the BJP win. Slowly some rules may get relaxed as some lobbies become lucrative! If one decides to fight against someone who had till a few days ago been a partner-in-whatever, what big deal would it be if he decides to not fight against some public activity which had been his passionate obsession a few months ago?

So, can I smoke in public now? As a law-abiding and duty-conscious citizen I should not- in public, therefore I shall not light a cigarette in a forbidden zone. In the same law-abiding and duty-conscious mode I believe I should vote! Just as how some who make laws would smirk when they see me struggling to resist the urge to light a cigarette in some places, so would they, seeing me stand in a queue (and I had better be early else someone else may appear with ‘my’ identity card)!

My vote is rather inconsequential. The afore mentioned minister did not ask for anybody’s vote last time, nor will he this time. He will be nominated, along with the other such ‘born-with-a-political-spoon’ kids!

I have been one of the many who thought that a token protest, very selfishly not causing any discomfort for me, by way of registering my displeasure at the political choices before me in the election, was enough. I argued with confused poll officers, made them create a temporary page in whatever book they had, and registered my decision to not vote under section 49 (O). In fact, I took pains to check with my friendly journalist Gnani, on what exactly to do on the morning of that election, as he was one of the most vociferous advocates of this form of protest. At the end of the game, one of the many who did not meet ‘my’ criteria for a good candidate, won. There were votes polled for and against. In the past elections, there were also a certain number of votes declared as invalid! But nowhere was there, in the last election, any mention about the number of people who decided to register their protest by refusing to vote for one of the candidates. I felt invalid! I perhaps am!

Now I have another chance! I can again go and torture those poor uninformed poll ‘officers’ and sign a register and walk out with ink on my finger. And then? Somebody is going to win. Some losers and some winners are going to come together to save the country, while I will be wailing in my own little blog!

A friend of mine told me just a couple of weeks back that there was a statement in Quran that those who can do something to the society, and still do not do anything but keep talking, are the worst kind of people. I have not read such a thing in Quran, but even if it is not there in the holy book, it makes sense. So? I decide I should do something.

What do I do? Can I smoke?

To die or not to live as dead

March 5, 2009

Some die, in fact all die. To die in anonymity is considered a humiliating end of existence- albeit purposelessness. But, death at will, and at prime, and above all with dignity that will declare to posterity about the existence of individuality, is not the blessing that all have. There are deaths in coma. Deaths in isolation, deaths in uncared corners of the society, deaths that are prayed for as the ultimate deliverance- they are all deaths not really wanted when living, but wanted just before dying. If ever we have the choice to die at whatever is the most opportune time that our dreams and desires dictate, our lives would really be fulfilled. We do not have much such choice. We wait to die, when we are supposed to die- the supposition being a physiological or a providential dictate.

There are some who die at the right time. There are some who die extending their life time causing misery unto themselves and others. But, there are a few who die- when they do not want to. There are a few who die because they are lost. They get lost not in the myriad quagmire of life, but in quixotic lawlessness of the state.

The very fact that I have to vote in the forthcoming elections means I am alive and accepted by my state as being alive. The votes are needed by the state- irrespective of its inherent capacity to produce, nurture or sustain statesmen. The elections keep telling the world and me that India is a wonderful democracy. It just happens that the democratic flame gets ignited only once in five (or just a few less) years. I am going to go to the voting booth, and like the idiotic and meaningless exercise that I did the last time, I am going to use 49o-the option to not cast vote! Who cares? What matters? I would have done my democratic duty, and the democracy would give me the devils that I did not requisition. This blog was not about voting, it was about living, and more specifically about dying- in dignity.

Some sportspersons (I wish they were sportsmen too) have been injured, some security personnel have died; some more blasts have occurred somewhere, some more and then some more, would have died. A few however would have disappeared. The media more than the governments concerned is outraged. Every news paper has the news on the first page as a headline; every TV channel keeps flashing this news and holds talks showcased for viewership enhanced sponsorship. I feel sorry for the trauma of the injured, I feel sad for the dead, and in a few minutes I worry about my beer being not chill enough.

If I were to react just this much to this “major” event, screaming at me as headlines, breaking news and news analyses- how would I care to notice a small news item that is lost in the later pages and scrolls? I do not unless perhaps, I decide to blog and get some attention- more on myself than on the matter.

200 odd people have been declared dead- declared not after examining the dead bodies but after a lapse of a few years (7?). They have been missing for years. They were not ‘traceable’- whereabouts not known! They are dead legally! The law and order that were supposed to take care of them and find them have shrugged and moved on, like what I would be doing in another few weeks when I stand in the queue to vote (or register a non-vote). Democracy lives. It has already claimed victory a couple of years ago when Modi was elected!

How many people do you know whom you can call and speak anytime of the day? For me the number is restricted to less than ten. How many people whose death would spurt tears in my eyes- my number is restricted to less than two! So 200+ is a big deal for me.

These 200 people have been missing, now not just believed but declared dead, in Gujarat. They were the ones lost in the carnage. They were the ones lost when blatant brutalism masqueraded as mass ideology. They were the ones who were no more to be seen by their loved ones, after the inhuman but vote-profiting plot of villains. They were the ones whose votes could have been polled too! After all in the pseudo-electoral process you don’t have to be alive and around to vote, there are goons to take care of your vote- as though that matters in any sense.

I feel sick. Just look at these two news reports-

1. (March 1, 2009) those missing since the 2002 post-Godhra communal riots in Gujarat will be declared dead soon by the authorities with the expiry of seven years’ stipulated time. As a result, the official death toll of 2002 riots will go up from 952 to 1,180, as 228 people, who are missing, will be presumed dead.

2. (11 May, 2005) The government told parliament that 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed, 223 more people reported missing and another 2,500 injured. It was responding to a written question from an unnamed MP. Junior Home Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal told the upper house that more than 900 women had been widowed and 600 children orphaned in the riots.

So? it took three years for a government to say 200+ ( the numerical discrepancy attributed to a careless clerk) are missing, and seven years to say to those who still search for them to shut up! (check on Parzania after all you dont have to pay the original price in the black market). So what happens?

I type a blog. The charred corners of my conscience are cleared of the stains of societal guilt. I move on.

Some tears can never be wiped. They may not be streaming down the cheeks, but the wetness of the wailing soul would constantly make the mind damp- with guilt and shame, with anger and angst. Some tears would dry the mind so much that nothing would ever make a sprout of a thought grow. Tears that do not burn my eyes are just waters flowing, as waters should- eslewhere!