Sunday, August 31, 2008

On Patriotism

It is something that aggravates people enough to stake their lives over.
It is something that unites countries over most of the statistics and surveys.
It is something that make citizens proud, or ashamed... it is the driving force in international clashes. In fact, the very word international says something about the existence of nations, and hence patriotism.

Is this an innate emotion? Are we born with a capacity for love for the community/society/country that we are born in? Or does it come out of constant direct effort and implicit nurture?

For me, it is a confusing emotion. I can never really defend it, and yet I can't deny the sense of belonging that I feel because of it. It makes the girl studying abroad search for Indian videos on youtube, watch over and over again the ad of 'chalo India' with a sense of pride and belonging and a drive to 'do something for her nation'.

The songs of Swades, Guru... the Teach India campaign.. the festivals all around the year... even the Bollywood songs and dancing... the jhumkas and the latkas and the matkas... letting a guy run along the local train an assist him board it in spite of the compartment brimming with passengers... the mithais distributed whole-heartedly in tyohars... the fanaticism over anything Indian, be it cricket or be it parampara/sanskruti... the un-definable yet omnipresent Indian-ness that is unqie and pride-worthy most of the time.

Well, there are probably many things here... but patriotism is the word associated with the feeling of pride and belonging one feels to one's homeland (IMO).

It makes millions cry when it is showed in one angle - the Lagaan or Swades angle... in each case, India triumphs against a foreign power. In Lagaan it is a direct clash between two cultures... whereas in Swades it is more subtle... it lies in the questions that plague the mind that has to choose between two cultures. And eventually, patriotism triumphs.

But it just as well makes millions squirm in their seats when they see the price to be paid for it, or the anti-growth activities flourishing and being supported rampantly in the name of patriotism. In general, looking down upon other cultures/countries in an inevitable by-product of patriotism, or so it seems. In the showdown between patriotism and peace, patriotism wins by a hands-down majority, as the newspapers tell us about the Kashmir issue.

Is it a necessary emotion? Why are we 'patriotic' about our country? Why is granularization fixed to that point? Why not a continent? We don't hear someone being proud of being an 'Asian'. And why not to a greater granularity - a state, or a city or a family? Patriotism is promoted on such a large scale that we are explicitly told not to put religion/sect ahead of country. Sharukh, in Chak De India asks each player to be proud of being an Indian, and not a Punjabi or Gujurati. Well, well, why not ask her to be proud of being a human? I mean, why are the bounndaries of countries embossed on the world map, and not the continents/state/cities or any other significant landmark? Aren't countries created for the purpose of convenient governance/handling of people? There isn't and there probably should not be anything more than the significance of that convenience attached to what people think about their country.

But there is an inexplicable joy in that sense of belongingness. Is patriotism necessary? Is it beneficial? And if it isn't either of those, can it be replaced, or will its removal make a void in the emotional factory section of the human minds?

And going by a new angle that I consider these days, is a patritic person genetically superior? In the game for survival of the fittest, the qualities that do not matter, or those do not give the entity an advantage over another, are lost over the long term. So, if one were to bet on it, would Patriotism survive through millions of generation and triumph as an advantageous/winning emotion to be eventually coded in the genetic material, or will it lose its wajood?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What I really want is...

an avenue, be it a place or a school or a simulated environment or a program that I can upload in my brain... but something that can make me see things from someone else's point of view.

It seems to me that it is not THAT difficult to create such a device/atmosphere. And that if such a machine is created, it'll be the next big thing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A badly done job!

You have ideals/principles/ethics/morals... perhaps all these of yours are entirely self-defined.
But you have them nonetheless. And at times, at the cost of judging prematurely, you shun those who think otherwise.

And then, you who endorsed these principles, violate them... you compromise your values.

And then, nothing is worse than hindsight guilt. You can't live in the present coz your mind can't let go of that wrong-doing.

What is one to do? Sometimes there is no praayashchit. And sometimes, the guilt is the worst punishment.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Living this way

is not too difficult.

There was a time when the 'if onlys' haunted her. The roads, the restaurants and the pav bhaajis in those restaurants, the trains and the rides, the staircase of the college and the small window on it, the fresh breath of air on bandstand, the smart student in the class, the movies... all of this meant an emotional hiccup. Before she would realize what was happening, she would be attacked by the pang.

But now it seems comfortable. There is comfort in longingness, and in tolerance... there is joy in looking at the yellow-lit building in the slums, the bright green masjod ad the Islam flag, there is joy in being called Ma'am, there is freedom and a vantage point to view the worldly struggle from.

There is the joy of playing music in the background and writing a blog post.

Friday, August 15, 2008

That unsuspecting moment...

that's the moment when I fall in love... I am listening to a song that I have heard innumerable times. But just that one time, in an unsuspecting moment, I am hit by something about it. And it wins my hearts and a higher ranking on iTunes.

Same with people. I know them for years, have interacted with them in many ways. But all it takes is - I dont know what about that moment - that somehow all they've done, and all they believe in, seems to be appropriate and make sense... Perhaps not defensible, but justifiable.

And then... it even works the other way. There are things I take for granted, and beliefs that I have comfortably defended. But something shakes them. And after the initial discomfort, I begin to see what I had totally ignored. I begin to question that which I was sure of.

Well, it may be because of the people I am interacting with these days. But surely enough, I am not as open-minded as I assumed myself to be. I react too strongly, too soon. I quickly dismiss things that don't suit me, and favor those that do. But I credit that to an efficient judiciary system of my body, I claim that I know what I am doing. I say no to pills too soon, and say yes to bollywood too soon. I believe basic physics is an obvious consequence of natural instincts, and so when NandaBai cant shut the door and can't figure out which way to shut it, I am surprised. Isn't it obvious? Well, that's my shortsightedness. I am impulsively put off by English music - heavy metal/hard rock/rock/soft rock/alternative/trance and all those things that I don't understand. I put them in a category of 'English music'. Only when I was forced to listen to some songs from those category did Sir Elton John become a fav. I didn't want to look feminine for the fear of loosing my boyish charm. I stubbornly refuse anything that make it seem that I am trying to enhance my appearance. But now I am stuck with a penchant for ear-rings and salwaar kameez.

There are countless such cases... but well, does having preferences mean lack of open-mindedness? Well, to answer my own Q, no. But having fixed beliefs is the opposite. And although I always thought I had preferences, most of them turned out to be fixed beliefs.

It's a scary ground to stand on when opinion of self changes. When the primary quality you were proud of about yourself, ceases to exist... and you realized that it perhaps never existed.

You fear that you will age now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

opening the mind

Emotions are potentials. We, as human beings, have the potential to emote. These emotions are then mapped to the society we live in (and society implies our sphere of influence), such that they fit that society. The settings of the knob of each emotion is set according to the comfort level of that setting in the society we interact with.

I don't understand when phrases like "your mind makes you believe BLAH", or "the mind plays tricks" etc. There is no you and your mind. Its all the same. You are your mind. A person is defined by his beliefs/culture/philosophy/morals... all of which are residents of the mind. We live in our minds.
To understand this, to really get a feel, one must alter one's mind. By alter, I mean, live in a (hopefully) temporarily different residence to realize how different different residences can be. A small dose of an opiate can give a sense of that. And it drives home a point that may never be driven home otherwise.

Screwing around with the mind is the way to get that kick that you can't get anywhere else. Agreed.

And although it is a scary process with scarier prospects, it is probably challenging in certain intellectual ways.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

An awe-inspiring sight

How close can you get to someone?

Initially we pull out the 'best-looking' garb and adorn ourselves with it. Then we gradually shed it, giving the other entity a 'taste' of the real us. And then, if we sense it going down well, we start shedding and letting the true light sine through.. and all that.

But can we completely be ourselves in presence of someone else? Some things about us are so personal that perhaps NO ONE will ever see/know. After decades of companionship, couples sense that they know all there is to know about each other. True. But there is, perhaps, still a boundary.. a thin but existing wall of privacy that can't be completely gotten away with.

It is difficult to define that boundary. What I can do is give instances of things/activities that can only be done in privacy. Of course, it can be argued that this has nothing much to do with 'sharing and enjoying each others' company'. But whatever!
So, my sister once told me that you should eventually be so close to your husband that you can fart in bed without anything becoming uncomfortable. I say "aaargh!"

But I saw something beyond it today. It was not a romantic companionship, though.

As the local train by which I was traveling passed Mahim, the usual stench of uncleared refuse filled the air. And there outside, in all the muck and lazy, unplucked weeds and dead-plastic choked tracks and the rotten garbage from months... far far away from all the palpable and unbearable filth, sat two friends, sharing a joke. One said something to the other, and the other smiled. Both of them had a ghamla (a container of water) in their hand... and both of them were chatting not over chai, or naashta, or around the corner of the street. They were chatting while defecating.

However repulsive it might appear, it seemed like true liberation. How is it possible?

Is it the same civilize-ation that makes me repulse at the thought of engaging myself in such an activity, that bonds them closer in such an act?

And here I crib and complain when someone enters my room unanounced. So much for privacy!