Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Vulnerable Child vs Venerable Parent

The story goes like this:-

Once upon a time there was a rich girl who, like all rich girls, possessed lot of footwear -  Nike running shoes, Keens all-weather flippers, Bata regulars, flip-flops, crocs, high heels and low heels and everything in between. And yet, she wasn't much pleased with her collection. Her parents (who, of course, were a part of a rags-to-riches story) thought she was out-of-control and beyond redemption when it came to her imprudent shopping sprees. But she successfully over-powered them and dragged her harrowed mother to a shoe store to get her a pair of daring red stilettos.
It was there that she saw a girl without legs... suddenly there was torrential rain in the background (and it got the leg-less girl soaked), there was lightening, there were terrifying terrestrial movements, and invariably, these movements caused the camera (that was filming this story) to shake and zoom into the leg-less girl's forlorn face. Three times. From different angles. With zooming in and zooming out swish-swoosh sounds.
Cut to the rich brat: She is clearly humbled. It was the classic epiphany moment and she 'realized her mistake'. She, who could choose a new footwear was face-to-face with someone who didn't have the choice to choose.

Another story:-
The rich daughter (who now walks barefeet) had a sprightly young brother. He would ask the servant (a decrepit old lady in the most tattered saree) to make him a lot of food for lunch - he would want dhokla and ghee-na-phaaphda, and a lot of undhiyoo made for him. He would fill up his plate, watch TV while eating, and then call the servant to take away the plate... which had a lot of leftover food. One day, the mother, tired of his ways, edified him on how "there are so many people in the world who survive a day on half a bread or less... so you here are wasting food that would probably feed a dozen starved fellas. Do you know what a criminal waste that is?"
This time, the epiphany moment was not that powerful (no lightening or earthy movements... just a daunting adult staring at a confounded child), nonetheless, the guy felt a moral pinch and gulped down all the food.

Well, apart from the colorful dramatizations, I have had (a not-so-unique) privilege of being the audience of such stories. Surprisingly though, I have hardly ever questioned their logic. They seem so saturated with moral fiber that it felt almost blasphemous to question them... as if the question-er did not have heart enough.

Since now I am anyway classified as a heartless creature (by the same people who I was afraid of offending with my heartless questions), I might as well take the plunge. 

1. What does the food content on my plate have anything to do with food content in the sub-saharan regions of utter poverty? Do those guys benefit if I eat up all my food? Or do they suffer if I waste?
Or will the girl get her legs back if the rich girl is any less voracious in her shoe appetite?
In other words, connection kya hai, dost?

2. Do those who are 'suffering', have a claim on those who are relatively well-off?

If all the stories that a child is made to hear as a part of her 'learning/culture/sanskaar', are consolidated into a single volume, I am certain there would be moral/logical holes in the arguments. But that is not the disturbing part. What is disturbing and also often, annoying, is that the principles meant to be imparted are deftly sewed together with the fabric of guilt, sympathy, and similar feelings.

For instance, why couldn't the girl who goes to purchase new shoes be poor, and the leg-less girl be rich?
Or why can't the hungry child example be that of a naughty kid who is kept in detention and hence hungry?
Is there a fear that if these lessons are not camouflaged under the coating of emotional drama, they will taste bitter or be rejected?

I personally believe that if one wants to drive a point, especially to a growing being, like a child, one has to be honest and clear about it. Else, it messes up the child.

And if this continues, I think it is time for some of us motivated adults to take up this case and come up with stories for adults that are all-the-more heavily laden with guilt and sympathy and all those things that are tricky to handle... just for kicks!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Current Thoughts

Following are unrelated thoughts that currently bother me.

1. Sticking to my decisions.
Every once in a while, or more often than that, I come across an article or a book, or a person or some perfectly random trigger (like hearing my friend praise a book) that gets me motivated. I get charged... super-charged perhaps. I am raring to go, I could run a Marathon in that state perhaps. And then, in that state of mind, I make decisions. I commit myself to "I must do this by this month" or so very easily in that state. And then, when the time comes to actually executing that commitment, I become lethargic... I find reasons to not do it. Simply put, I have lost my drive. I know that I must do it somehow, I must get hold of that finance book and read it through. I feel that twist in my long intestinal tract when my mind tactfully refuses to go along with those decisions.
And at the end of it, the failure is mighty frustrating. I look at that book and give up.
Well, THAT act, of not sticking to my decisions is doubly harmful... not only do I not live up to my resolution, but I give my brain negative feedback. I tell it, through my actions, that it was ok to break my word to myself. And that completely ruins self-image.

2. Mental health
I see a lot of people trying hard to 'become fit'. Irrespective of their fitness goals there seems to be an effort dedicated by the enterpreneurs to assist these people to reach their goals. There are gyms and aerobic classes, Yoga teachers and a million-dollar diet industry mushrooming that capitalizes on this intention of people - to 'become fit'.
I am genuinely surprised by the lack of 'mental health' gyms. I wonder why it has not become a fad yet. Ostensibly, people are becoming unhealthier in terms of mental health, at least in Mumbai. For whatever reasons, there is a major resource crunch which is causing life to be more painful. There is more traffic, more rush, more competition to get admissions, more pressure from parents on kids, more pressure from kids on parents, from society, from boss... from your freaking kaam-wali bai. It's getting tougher to be happier, or so it seems. At times like these, there should be gyms that sort of increase fitness level. Perhaps the gym should simulate a stressed atmostphere and the trainer trains the patron to stay calmer and happier. Really, it seems to a much needed facility.

3. Empathy
So, as I walk down the street, there happened to be a bullock-cart wheeling it's way on the busy street in the tempering heat. The slow speed clearly annoyed the driver who, seemingly mercilessly, whipped the bull. And almost everyone who witnessed it, cringed at the sight and felt that terrible rigmarole in the pit of their bellies. I did. And I wonder why. Why do I have to thrust my world-view on the bull? Perhaps that whip didn't hurt much. Perhaps it likes it. Perhaps it got turned on, who knows... goddamit, why do I empathise? I have no idea of what it is to be a bull. My physical strucutre is completely different. So, a whip may not hurt him at all. Clearly, I cannot put myself in the bull's shoes, for the lack of such feet or shoes. So why do I assume it hurts him? Worse still, why do I feel anger at the driver who probably cares more and loves that animal more than all the on-lookers collectively? It really is difficult to shrug off this empathy. It's one of those things were my philosophy is in dissonance with my actual instantaneous reaction to such an act.

4. Why most of the exciting lives are not built under such a structure.
I am, for a year now, trying to live healthy and mindfully. I am, more than ever before, conscious of my lifestyle - physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, socially. I eat and sleep healthy and I exercise regularly. I have become financially independent and actively invest and learn more in that field. I do yoga and keep a check on all my negative energy/emotions actively. And I have tried my hand at Art of living, Jainism, meditation for spiritual well-being. Socially, I am more involved with my family and have gotten closer to my friends (through all that partying ;-)  )
And I am certainly happier for it.

But, grudgingly, I concede that most of the exciting stories I read (fiction/non-fiction) seem to have the protagonist living a super colorful and much-envied (by me) life without really taking much effort in the directions of well-being that I am taking. Shantaram, for instance, lived the most exciting life I know of. He was the most-wanted guy of Australia and broke thru the highest-security prison, lived in the Mumbai slums, was a part of mafia, lived in Arthur road jail, fought in Afghanistan, fell in love, and wrote a book about all this! What could be more enviable.

And the guy smoked regularly, was financially questionable, a social-outcast once, and emotionally on heroin-support when he felt like!

 Anyway, I guess one can't plan an exciting life. It either happens and you are prepared for it. Or you just survive a banal existence.
But like Klaus had once told me, "luck favors the prepared". I am going to be prepared (with all my strength training) in case I get an opportunity to join the Mafia ;-)

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Stud

He knew her for a long time. He knew exactly how she felt about studying incomprehensible subjects before the exam during those scary engineering days, he understood her frustrations at her failure to score well. He could make her laugh by simply making faces... and he knew her humor g-spots so well, that she would metaphorically shudder at the slightest insinuations of his typically flamboyant-yet-honest, semi-mocking, semi-cocky jokes.

They would discuss movies, and he would give the most appealing reviews which were just-rightly aberrant from her perspective.... the aberrance that provoked the most intriguing thoughts in her head.
He understood music and sang well. He enjoyed correcting her singing. He knew about the raagaas - not too much perhaps, but just enough to amuse her. He enjoyed dancing and she did too. He explained history and civics and geography and politics to her in the most fascinating way - combining story-telling with subjective edification.

He took deep interest in people and their ways, in societies and their working, in finance, in sports, in trivia, in making friends and mocking them amicably, in postulating outrageous theories, in devouring unhealthy road-side indian-chinese food, in sitting on the steps of a moving train watching the scene go by.
He possessed a great interest in life, in love... and in learning.

She thought of him and her as two tributaries of the same river which ran down the mountain together and faced similarly challenging terrain, which often converged to form a single stream, and then again diverged at agreeable deltas... only to join the sea together.

He defined what it implies to be 'an old friend'.
He had been a savior during those vivas, and an entertainer in the mind-numbing lectures, and the guy who hinted the answer (often wrong) from the side when the teacher asked her a question, an annoying lab-partner who consistently undervalued her attempts at programming and discussed ways of procuring the program print-out directly. He was the understanding 'best friend' to confide the excitement of young love as well as the tumultuous woes of a heart-broken, disillusioned damsel in distress... and everything between those two states.

He was her alter-ego... someone she could always bounce her ideas on, seeking clarity of her own mind.

There are certain relationships that don't fit the framework of social structure.
Was he a friend? Much more.
Was he a good friend? Ya, but more.
Was he a boyfriend? No.
Did she have a crush on him? No.
Did she love him? Yes.
But didn't she open out more to him than any other person (crush/boyfriend/'guy-friend'/girl-friend) she knew? Yes.

Bollywood honchos have had it right from the beginning - "Ek ladka aur ek ladki kabhi sirf dost nahi reh sakte hai"

Here's raising a toast to a lifetime of companionship with him - fun, frolic and living life fully!