Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Boy Dog

At home,
he is bound by
the rules and regulations
of obeisance
at five in the morning
and five in the evening;
he eats purified fare
true to custom
and execrates the
pathologies of the present day.

He is a son,
and he speaks in
the tongue of
his parents,
who do not relate
to him at all, really.
In secret,
he wastes away at home -
wallowing in
alternations of
self-pity and contempt,
hiding behind the mask of
a second-handed intellect.

Here,
he is a libertine,
a parader, stomping
through the carnival
of lust and boredom
sold cheap
on the internet -
he has too many boys.
He lingers in the corners
of foreign eyes and ears
so that they may
catch a glimpse of his
self-pity and take him home.

Here,
he is a single man
parading through
the rush of modernity
in a language he has borrowed
from white lies
and lurid tunes.
Too bad, Mr. Giovanni...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Back to Tahrir

The people of Cairo are back in Tahrir Square. This is proof of the inexhaustible spirit of the Egyptians and their unrelenting, unstinting determination to see the revolution to its logical conclusion. A lot of what they have witnessed and experienced in the past year could have contributed to a growing fear, cynicism and civic depression in the country, but the protests have persisted despite many losses, setbacks and many changing forms of repression. After the Mabarak ouster, the military regime became tighter and more repressive, trying several civilians in military courts and detaining several others. Now, the military has presented certain "guidelines" before the beginning of the election process in the country, determining the kind of constitution it ought to adopt. The guidelines prove that the Egyptian military is what every opportunistic power-broker is in the event of a regime-change - highly cynical and potentially more repressive than the erstwhile regime. The guidelines exempt the military from the civilian government's control and also take the military budget out of the reach of the government and hence the people. The military, through its cynicism, has betrayed its own people. It grew very powerful during the Mubarak decades, and now it seems to want to wrench whatever power it can from the political changes in the country. The Egyptian people are undeniably braver and stronger than these political opportunists and are fighting even today.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rockstar

Film criticism in the Indian media is more or less dead. It has become an extension of the publicity machinery hired by big production houses. That's why they never or hardly ever produce any honest and reliable film reviews. I cannot believe for a moment that film reviewers are utterly mindless and genuinely mean what they write. If they do, then that spells the end of intelligence. They write their false criticism because they are paid to write faux reviews by the film's PR agents. Here are two such "favourable" reviews for the recently-released film, Rockstar: http://www.rediff.com/movies/review/review-rockstar-is-more-devdas-than-jim-morrison/20111111.htm, http://www.rediff.com/movies/review/review-rockstar-is-flawed-but-fabulous/20111111.htm. Instead of their false fawning comments, these reviewers should have had the gumption to honestly tell their readers to stay away from the movie, and should have put the film in perspective by using a smattering of the following descriptions: stupid, mindless, nightmarishly bad, delusional, fluffy, irritating, nonsensical, embarrassing, wasteful, wasteful, wasteful.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Petition Demanding the Removal of Keeping Up With the Kardashians

There is a petition online that's gone viral, garnering more than a 100K signatures over two weeks. Amongst the many important things that share media attention in the US right now, of which the Occupy Wall Street Movement is foremost, this petition opposing a seemingly stupid show too, I believe, has something important to say. The reality show itself, whatever your take on it, is entertainment fluff, and having watched a few episodes of it, I know that nothing could be more unimportant. However, what I believe this petition and its corresponding website do is focus on the basics of media value. At a time when 99% of Americans share the growing frustrations of income inequality (the highest in the world), unemployment, under-employment, inflation, real estate crises and overwhelming loans, the puerile and ostentatious dramatization of the spectacle of relentless, non-stop, mindless spending is wrong. The word "wrong" encourages too many moral connotations. But morality doesn't exist in a vacuum. Morality is determined and shaped by the economic hardships of a society. However, as much as I agree with the anti-mindless consumption argument of the petitioners, I also hope that the argument in favour of content-removal is not taken to an extreme.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Memory

Memory is the artist's curse as well as his gift. Memory serves to retrieve everything that has been lived and experienced so far, to recollect and revive the past, in seemingly beautiful ways that belie the pain and self-examination inherent in the act of remembering. Memory is the curse of those who rely on the past to demonstrate through art the follies and triumphs of the living man, the sunken depths and the soaring heights of his soul, the depravity and the transcendence of his mind. Memory makes the past a part of who you are.

How much more idyllic seems the life of the man who forgets easily, how much more beautiful appears his pragmatism, compared to the lethargy of forgetting. Take memory away and you are new again, everyday, fresh and alive to the incidents of today that will be forgotten tomorrow.

And yet, to me, forgetting the love, compassion, kindness and adventure I have today seems unimaginable. I could never forget. Not this time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

8.11.11

Woke up at 6 AM this morning with a vague recollection of a dream; walked out to the balcony and found the college completely dark. A light pink touched the sky behind the silhouettes of dark trees. I couldn't see the sun. I could hear the soft murmur of trains chugging in the distance. Somehow, looking at everything around me, combined with the effect of the dream, I sensed something like (and I shudder at this word) an epiphany - I had the feeling that I was now onwards going to be a part of the New World (this phrase literally came to me) and I had finished with the Old World, had finished with everything in the Past. After that, I slept again, but I felt acutely aware of some kind of New World dawning on me.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Chaos of War

It's been so long since the start of the uprising in Syria and yet the repression continues. War is so chaotic, people lose track of numbers and casualties midway into the conflict. The military repression becomes a fact of life for those living in the conflict zone, and they are forced to acclimatize themselves to the new state of disorder surrounding them. Since the intervention in Libya, seen in the international community as yet another oil war, public opinion has moved away from the call for such interventions. The oil underpinnings of the Libyan war have cast a shadow of doubt over the possibility of an internationally-mandated intervention in the conflict zone in Syria. And yet, if you read reports of atrocities in Syria, you cannot rationally take the position that any intervention there would be worse than/ more illegitimate than the military repression of the Syrian government. The position adopted by China and Russia, of blocking decisions at the UN on the grounds of "sovereignty", is the least tenable of all. The hypocrisy of political discourse at the level of governments lies in the use of such terms as "sovereignty" and "domestic affairs" - the whys and wherefores of the Assad regime's usurpation of sovereignty never enter the debate. The fact that "government" and "sovereignty" are used interchangeably indicates a deep loss of political wisdom.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Frederick Douglass


The Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave is an immensely powerful read and you cannot escape from the oppression described in the text; it overpowers you with its physicality and its brutal recollection of every physical, mental and social indignity inherent in the history of slavery. It is a powerful indictment of the role of the individual white man and woman in the perpetuation of slavery, and of their absolute complicity in the barbaric practices and torments institutionalized in that sub-human system.

It is, however, interesting to me that historical characters are so complex and multidimensional, and this complexity is often subsumed by their progressive historical personae. Douglass, for example, had a very estranged and, to my eyes, highly problematic relationship with his wife.

Having helped him establish himself after his escape from slavery, putting her life and livelihood on the line, Anna Murray, a poor laundress, found herself distanced from Douglass, who, it is said, found her lack of education incommensurate with his newly-found intellectual, abolitionist circles. It is said he had affairs with an English abolitionist and a German-Jewish journalist, the latter of whom he invited to live in his own house. The elitist German treated his wife, who obviously lived and worked under the same roof, with the utmost contempt. She revered Douglass, loving him and expecting him to forsake his marriage for her; and she dehumanized Anna, refusing to acknowledge her position as a fellow human being and as a woman. The illiterate Anna's blackness served as a source of disdain, whereas Douglass' was celebrated as the harbinger of a new racial equality. Douglass allowed and actively participated in the dehumanization of his wife at the alter of high Emancipation intellectualism.

It is not for us to judge historical characters for their lives and decisions anachronistically. However, let us not forget that they led very human lives with very human flaws and weaknesses, and no narrative is as self-sufficient as it claims to be.

Friday, November 4, 2011

End of Term

There is no time of the academic term quite so bad as the end approaching semester exams. Life comes to a standstill and you suddenly realize how much time you've already wasted. You involuntarily become disconnected from the rest of the informational world (no time to read newspapers), and you feel like a frog in a well, caught up in your own problems and your own discontent. Work piles up and you contemplate doing it more than you actually execute any plan of action. If you spend time outside college, you get that strange guilty feeling. And, then, of course, there are the hundred other extraneous factors that you cannot control/ predict/ ignore. If you're something of an oddball with a few irritating quirks and eccentricities of your own (OCD, facebook false-consciousness, desperate need to eat), you will waste even more time than otherwise by the end.

There is no time quite so bad. And yet, how much does it really take to say - "That's it. No more distractions. This is me and my work, nothing else really matters. No temptation to eat. No gallivanting around town. No anxiety about future plans. My room, my work, my deadline."