Friday, September 30, 2011

I Protest by MC Kash

MC Kash is a 21-year-old rapper who lives in Srinagar, Kashmir.

I Protest (Remembrance)

(excerpt)

They say when you run from darkness
All you seek is light
But when the blood spills over
You'll stand and fight

Threads of deceit
Woven around a word of plebiscite
By treacherous puppet politicians
Who have no soul inside

My paradise is burning
With troops left loose with ammo
Who murder and rape
Then hide behind a political shadow

Like a casino
Human life is thrown like dice
I'll summarize atrocities
Till the resurrection of Christ

Can you hear the screams
Now see the revolution
Their bullets, our stones

Don't talk restitution
'Cuz the only solution
Is the resolution of freedom

Even Khusrow will go back
And doubt his untimely wisdom
These killings ain't random
It's an organized genocide
Sponsored media
Who hide this homicide

No more injustice
We won't go down
When we bleed
Alive in the struggle
Even the graves will speak

I protest
Against the things you've done
I protest
For a mother who lost her son
I protest
I'll throw stones and never run
I protest
Until my freedom has come
I protest
For my brother who's dead
I protest
Against the bullet in his head
I protest
I'll throw stones and never run
I protest
Until my freedom has come

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Salinger's For Esme - With Love and Squalour




Just finished Salinger's collection of short stories. I don't have much to say about it, except that it is frighteningly brilliant and exquisite. At the cost of being hyperbolic, I would say, for once, that if I did write, I'd want to be able to write stories like him. Or see humanity through his peculiarly jaundiced and beautifully sharp and unforgiving eyes.

Such an experience.

To think that I will now have to read Brecht's The Life of Galileo within the next two hours for tomorrow's tutorial.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Seismic Zones

In Italy, seismologists are being prosecuted on charges of manslaughter for their failure to predict an earthquake. The victims' families are suing for compensation to the tune of USD 68 million. While it is not ethically and legally tenable to suggest that the failure of a scientific prediction is equivalent to 'crime', the matter of seismic investigation and its translation into policy needs a closer look.

In India, there are identified seismic zones with stipulated building regulations, but as anyone who lives in any of these areas would know, and Assam is certainly a tectonic zone, building regulations are esoteric notions and information on general enforcement is scarce. In addition to this, some, and at least two, of the biggest earthquakes in the last decade took place in unidentified areas (in Maharashtra). Now, as I read in today's paper, the Bureau of Indian Standards has constituted a new expert committee to study and identify seismic zones all over again, at the same time as the National Disaster Management Authority's formation of a similar committee with the same brief. According to reports, their assessments seem to diverge to a great extent.

The moot question is whether the country is ready for disasters of a large magnitude. Something as devastating as the 2005 Kashmir earthquake will cripple life and infrastructure for a decade at least.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?



Reading Albee is a very moving experience. It involves feeling charged, being pulled in different directions, being pushed into a quicksand of emotions and being thrust out into the cold. As it is, this play is really a brilliant reading experience and there is nothing quite like it. Its biting and brutal humour is charged with a vengeful energy so strong, it moves through the characters like electricity. One cannot really comment on the manner in which the play operates because it escapes critical scrutiny - it's essentially very electric and animal-like. It is, however, a play about the morbidity that inheres in our human relations and our susceptibility to violence, internalized very often but just as often unleashed on those we are forced to encounter life with. The vortex of mutual, blind violence into which the characters descend is ultimately so strong, you are left feeling very hollow when you finish the play. The climax of the play, at that moment when the underlying, unspoken "game" on which their lives are built comes undone and understanding dawns on the reader, is a moment of revelation - and you marvel at the simplicity with which the author mocks the suffering of his characters.

Albee is a good writer.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Poetry

Poetry has been afflicting me. All of a sudden, here I am, writing god-knows-what-kind of poetry, most of it hidden. The truth of the matter is, I can't write poetry. The bunches of words that assume the shape and size of a poem are feelings waiting to burst out of the straight lines of my otherwise very monotonous prose. Here is a poem that captures what I feel:

My mind is
a jumble of prose
but when I think of
you, I think
in poetry.

The irony is
that you're the most
unpoetic of everyone
I know.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lady Demagogue

There is a lady who stands outside Arts Faculty these days and speaks continuously for an hour or two in the area around the statue. Her long monologues in Hindi are usually diatribes against the state of the world. The first time I heard her, she was speaking on the topic of corruption - this was around the time of the Ramlila protests. On other occasions, I have heard her speak on the television ("idiot box"), on family values and the youth. She doesn't use a microphone, or any other gadgets for that matter - she brings along with her a huge poster, which is placed right next to where she's standing, and starts speaking extempore to an imagined audience. More often than not, she attracts a small crowd of students, one or two at most. She dresses in a simple, dull sari and doesn't wear any jewellery.

Her voice carries far and her gestures and facial expressions are dramatic. She seems unfazed by the people around her, or lack thereof, and her eyes are always wide and fiery, alight with her forceful words and brisk and harsh hand movements. The first time I heard her speak, she concluded with the words, "Let me fight this battle alone, but fight I will!" ("Mein is jung mein akeli hi sahi, par mein ladte hi rahoogi!")

She is an anomaly. People are bewildered by her and stare as they slowly walk past the gate. As she speaks, she looks into the eyes of those passing by but without pausing, without being affected by the indifference or curiosity she may find there.

I find her very brave. I find her ability to come and speak at a place like this, day after day, with nothing but her dramatic will, quite amazing. Why is she here? Why does she do it? She is a relic from the past. She appears to me to have stepped out of my mind's picture of the colonial period, delivering loud and unembarrassed harangues in the middle of the street, fiery speeches against racist oppression.

HIV

Recently in Junagarh Civil Hospital near Ahmedabad, 23 thalassemic children receiving regular blood transfusions tested positive for HIV. Patients suffering from thalassemia receive free treatment at government-run hospitals and usually require transfusions once or twice a week. The recent case in this particular hospital has brought to the fore the outdated screening methods for the blood used, and the threatening possibility of the negligence being far more widespread than ostensible. There is an inquiry underway at the hospital which should submit a report to the hospital authorities within a stipulated time-frame.

But the truth of the matter goes so much deeper than the negligence at stake here. 23 lives have been unalterably changed forever, with no recourse to 'justice' of any sort. What can one expect? Even if the departmental inquiries yield some result, the lives of these individuals will never be the same again. They are necessarily now compromised forever. To know that your life is predicated hereafter on a vulnerability you cannot help and cannot control is something beyond one's imagination. The finality of this disease, this vulnerability will weigh on their lives, and it will weigh on them heavily because they will remember it as something that came upon them without their agency, as a fait accompli. 'Fate' is such an amorphous concept, but how deadly, how inclement, how merciless it can be in imposing conditions of death on lives that are yet to be lived.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Delhi HC

Yesterday was a Wednesday, the day for public interest litigation at the Delhi High Court. On Wednesdays, a lot of people aggregate around the reception area for court passes. PILs are filed and deliberated.

What does it mean to be the victim of a blast? A story in the paper described the journey of a woman from the outskirts of the city who had come to the high court yesterday, accompanied by her father and younger son, to follow up on the bail application of her elder son, who is lodged in Tihar Jail. He has been accused of murder and has been in Tihar for the past two years now - without trial.

In those two years, her eighty-year-old father fought alongside her to secure her son's bail, but could not make any headway. They received a date for their bail plea at the high court. They arrived at the court yesterday and waited in the reception area for their court pass, but an explosion ripped through the area around 10.15 in the morning. Her father died later in the hospital of heavy injuries.

She will return home now. Her son will continue to remain incarcerated in Tihar Jail without trial.

On the day that was supposed to have been the culmination of their efforts for the past two years, she lost another member of her family.

In the meantime, life will go on. The metro did not halt its services yesterday. The roads were as full of traffic as on any other day. Life in the city will not, or cannot, come to a standstill. And if our vulnerability were to play on our conscience, we will forget it in a day or two. No one can live in a state of siege, even those who have been denied justice for two years and more.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sleep

If I talk
in my sleep,
you listen for a while
and wake me up
with a jolt;
there's laughter in your eyes,
stupefaction in mine;
you muffle
my embarrassment
with your rough embrace
and ask me about my dream.

If you lie
awake at night, your eyes
flickering open,
irritated by the bright light
as I work on my computer,
I feel compelled to
turn around and
assuage you
ever so often,
with a nervous promise
of finishing soon.

If I wake
up in the morning
to a mugginess
rolling in the air above,
resisting my efforts at
squinting through shut eyes,
you toss around
and draw me back
into our entanglement,
and I give in.

Here is sleep,
crawling back to us,
always at the ready
to swallow us whole
until the next time.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Excerpt - Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello

The Father. ...believe me I feel what I think; and I seem to be philosophizing only for those who do not think what they feel, because they blind themselves with their own sentiment. I know that for many people this self-blinding seems much more "human"; but the contrary is really true. For man never reasons so much and becomes so introspective as when he suffers; since he is anxious to get at the cause of his sufferings, to learn who has produced them, and whether it is just or unjust that he should have to bear them. On the other hand, when he is happy, he takes his happiness as it comes and doesn't analyze it, just as if happiness were his right. The animals suffer without reasoning about their sufferings. But take the case of a man who suffers and begins to reason about it. Oh no! it can't be allowed! Let him suffer like an animal, and then -- ah yet, he is "human"!

The Manager. Look here! Look here! You're off again, philosophizing worse than ever.

The Father. Because I suffer, sir! I'm not philosophizing: I'm crying aloud the reason of my sufferings.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Political Vendetta

The aftermath of a successful mass protest is the political vendetta that follows immediately after. Politicians are essentially not only vindictive, but also extremely short-sighted. After alienating the electorate by a show of inefficiency and non-commitment to facing the problem of corruption head-on, the government is now trying to victimize some of the key organizers of the recent movement. Two of them are glaring instances of vendetta widely reported in the media. There appears to be a breach of privilege motion against Kiran Bedi in parliament, and an income tax department penalty against Arvind Kejriwal. In the latter's case, he resigned from the civil services several years back after an extended leave, but the department to which he belonged refused to accept his resignation. To me, this appears to be a case of blackmail. The department intends to use this method of extortion to demand that he return his salary from that period and pay an interest on it as well. Kejriwal's case is one of executive malfeasance on the part of his department and should not stand in court. The political class is ignorant enough to believe that this form of petty victimization will not be held against them by the larger public.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Heat

The heat in Delhi
is a round-up
of queasy mornings -
eyes torn asunder
by a bulbous sun;
of snarling traffic
on roads
choc-a-block -
where your feet wouldn't fit
the gaps between them;

of a sea of dark, stringent heads
floating down the
university promenade;

of lying after lunch
on a bare-stripped bed,
sun shining on the skin of your back,
wasps playing overhead;

of evenings
smothered by pungent
sweat-laden air;

and floating memories
of the night before,
arms entangled,
forehead lodged in the hollow
of your neck.