The dichotomy of the present and future

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I think yesterdays are easier to manage, for they are dead.

I mean, I understand that we should do future planning and all that shit but let’s try and figure how an everyday focus on what future entails can destroy what engagement with the present.

We waste our today’s because of yesterdays and future days. I think our only job in existence is to live one day at a time as happily as possible. We should do things which make us happy as work and try and make time for our loved ones-family and friends.

If there is a future that shows up, it will show up as a real day one day and it will be present. I know this is rather a complex thought but this is how I want to look at it. All future planning assumes that a future exists. Isn’t there a possibility that it doesn’t even exist?

We don’t know how much we have.

The future may turn out to be entirely different than our plans. If we spend our days happily on a day on day basis, we would like to extend the today into the future. If we spoil our present because what the future might entail, the entire point of wanting a future is wasted.

Imagine a man named John whose focus for the year 2015 is to get a promotion and his wife wants him to take a trip to Paris this year. He doesn’t want to go this year because if he goes, he might forego his chances of getting a promotion.

He works hard throughout the year and during the process, he doesn’t get an
opportunity to either spend quality time with his wife or take her to Paris. They have arguments on a daily basis since the wife wants the present to be beautiful and John is focused on the future.

At the end of the year, John gets a promotion and loses his wife. Not only he loses his wife, but he also loses the time they could have spent together with love only if he didn’t let his job overburden his life.
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Anand loves his parents but he has a huge ambition to make a lot of money. They live in the city of Delhi. One day he gets a job offer from the US. His parents want him to stay but they don’t tell him. They don’t tell because Anand will feel that his feel his parents are obstructing his ambitions. No parents want their children to go far away from them.

“Mumma, I will come back in a couple of years only,” Anand tells his mother.

“Okay, son, fine, wish you stayed with in Delhi only. We are getting old and 2 years seems like a lifetime to me. Come back early.”Anand hugs his father who doesn’t say much, and leaves. A year passes by and Anand doesn’t come. His mother falls sick.

‘Beta, please come back,’ she calls out to him on phone.

Anand can’t leave US because he cannot get an equivalent job in India. He comes for a visit while his mother is in the hospital. She doesn’t want him to leave.

‘Mumma, just this year only and after this year, I will be back for good,’ Anand reassures his ailing mother before leaving again for the US. Anand does return after a year. He lost his job because of recession.

He comes home to a mother who is terminally ill and doesn’t wish to speak to him.

The years that passed by have been lost forever.
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A boy meets a woman in a bar. They like each other.

The guy is studying. The woman is in her mid 30’s. It’s an odd couple. They wonder if they have a future because the boy’s family will never accept this relationship and the society will not accept it either.

They spend time with each other knowing that they don’t have a future and one day, they will have to part and go different ways. Years pass by and the boy finishes his education. The relationship was never disclosed to anyone at his family.

He parts with the woman he loved for many years because it was time to leave and marry someone he could spend the rest of his life with.
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I have realized myself somewhere in one of these stories that the question of living in the present or the future is a complex question. There are no easy answers. In the last story, my heart says that he should stay with the lady he has loved. Having said, if I were the character, I am not sure, if I could do it myself.

We don’t recover what we lose today for what we might have tomorrow. . Let’s live in the present and for the present. The future will take care of itself.

This is not the most convincing piece I could write. I will try again.

Music and Us

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Yesterday, after a long time, I went to attend the Delhi Drum Circle music gathering. I love the music they make, just a group of people sitting together, playing drums. The Delhi drum circle is only a metaphor for this piece. It is also a muse to understand and reflect upon our connection to music.

So, what’s the Delhi Drum Circle? DDC, as they are known is a bunch of people who get together on balmy evenings in the capital city of Delhi with their drums and play any rhythm that they enjoy. It’s that simple. One of them starts and the rest of the gang follows the rhythm. It builds up from the start in a rhythmic crescendo. It’s exhilarating. The last two times I have been to the Delhi Drum circles, I could not stop myself from dancing like a madman.

Many of us don’t talk much about music because it is a difficult relationship to understand. I, for one, don’t as well because my knowledge is limited, only as a consumer of music. I sing a bit but never wanted to learn anything professionally. However, I enjoy music. Some sage said ‘music has no boundaries.’

Sufi music is another genre of music I enjoy. It’s heavenly, it’s spirited. They sing in the praise of God. Love is the God they sing to. The music in Bollywood is good and bad, depending on the artists who have composed the music. I remember many old Hindi songs and sing them to myself whenever in a mood. Mohamed Rafi had the most angelic voice anybody ever possessed. Some of Honey Singh’s songs are so awful that I feel like crashing my head in the wall and wonder how people enjoy them. I don’t listen to western music quite a bit and do not understand what is EDM or progressive house. Recently, I asked a DJ and he said it’s the same thing. DUH! If it’s the same thing, which is beats on a loop, then why are these two different genres? I am a fan of a few old times Bryan Adams songs and my caller tune is 18 till I die! I used to enjoy Backstreet boys’ music whilst they were at their best and have enjoyed some of Bon Jovi’s and Akon’s songs as well. If you have to ask me if I have any current favorites from the west, I have none.

You know, that’s the thing. We can’t quite define my relationship with music. It’s not that easy. Music is perhaps what keeps us going when we are in pain. Music is what gets our feet tapping to dance when we are happy.

Many a times, like at the drum circle, I dance alone. I tried learning Latin Dances but my hands wander and it makes my dancing partner uncomfortable. It’s stupid. I can either focus on my hands or on the music. So, I have given up learning dance but not dancing. I dance alone. One night I danced to EDM (ha-ha!) for over half an hour by myself.

Even if music has no words or lyrics attached to it but it moves you, it has achieved its purpose. Yes, that the purpose of music-to move us-to make us happy or to touch us deeply in a way that we tears well in our eyes.

Music is a powerful emotion. That’s what it is. We are not the same people when we are listening to music that moves us. We are different people. We lose ourselves in rhythm and in the melody. It’s a high that cannot be put into words.

You may have realized that this has been a very rudimentary piece. There is much that has not been said because there is much that still needs to be understood. Pardon me for what’s amiss for I don’t know how to fill it.

Some vacuums are not meant to be filled.

Rape. STOP blaming the victim

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Ever since I understood the meaning of rape, I have always been aghast with fear, disgust and shame whenever I see stories of rape in the newspaper. Unfortunately, they happen every day, day on day.

I wonder ‘why are all the men not as ashamed as I am?’ Are you ashamed that men commit that heinous crime on a woman? If you are a man and the reality of rape does not disgust you, then it should. You should feel horrible that a man can do it to a woman.

Let’s understand this.

What is rape? Rape is a sexual assault on a woman by a man or as it is now got popular within the rapist community, by a group of men, which is called a gang rape.

To what standards do we hold ourselves as a society when we don’t do everything possible in the world to stop this ghastly act? The reason the conviction rates for rape are low is because many victims do not even report the crime. They are scared of the society. They are scared of the law. They are scared that everyone will blame them.

The ones who do are made to go through the harrowing legal process where they have to face the society, which is many cases, blames the victim herself. She was out late at night. She was wearing a short skirt. She was drunk and with men.

I will give you an example when I realized how dumb and stupid it is to blame the victim in case of any crime. This was the first time I was victim of a crime, although a small one, in the larger scheme of things.

I have a habit of walking while I talk on my mobile phone. It was about 7-8 years back when I was walking in my alley and there was no electricity in the area. I suddenly felt that my mobile phone was moving away from my hands. And there it was, being robbed. This was the first time something like that had happened to me and I thought it was a joke and another boy in the neighborhood was playing a prank on me. I could not see the two guys on the motorbike because it was pitch dark. By the time I realized what had happened, the motorbike started to speed up. And I ran behind the bike, they sped.

I lost my mobile phone and for the first time in my life, became a victim of a crime. I was shocked to my bones. I could not think. The news spread like wild fire in the neighborhood and people started commenting ‘Why were you not alert?’ ‘Why did you not run behind them?’ ‘Why were you walking on the streets?’

Most people blamed me for having lost the phone using some bizarre reason or another, whilst I was in a terrible state of shock that I had lost the phone and that two strangers in the thick of a night had snatched it away from me. I knew it could have been worse. And here was the larger society, blaming me for having lost the phone. I never found the phone and you don’t find lost phones in India. Police has many more urgent matters on their hands.

However, this story wasn’t about the phone. What I want you to understand from this story is that the victim is not the one who had it coming. A lot of people said to me that day that I should have been more alert, ran faster, pulled them back and whatever, but the point is, I was in a state of shock that something like that could have happened.

Let’s come back to the Nirbhaya case, as it is called, the rape case which shocked the country. Nirbhaya was returning home post watching a movie with a male friend. It was late in the evening.

Did she have it coming?

The masochist, anti-social, depraved minds will say ‘yes.’ They will say that she had it coming because she was out late at night. They went on and sabotaged her character. Asaram Bapu said that she should have called them ‘brothers’ among other unscrupulous statements that came out from unscrupulous people. They raped her, inserted a rod inside her vagina and threw her out of the moving bus for dead. No, not that I am not aware of the other rapes that happen on an everyday basis, but Nirbhaya was a watershed in India’s history.

Why did they have the guts to do it? Why do men have the guts to do it?

Only yesterday, activist Sunitha Krishnan exposed the Whatsapp video being shared about 5 men raping a woman amidst laughter’s and cheers. It is a matter of grave shame for conscientious men that such videos find audience. It is a matter of grave shame that the rapists had the audacity to make that video and share it forward as entertainment content. We need to be ashamed of ourselves as a society.

The rapists are sick men. They are not normal human beings. They can’t be normal human beings. How can a self respecting man draw any pleasure out of the sexual act when the woman is crying, screaming for her respect and dignity to be spared. What pleasure is there in such a sexual act? How can a man not be pained by the cries and screams of the woman he is having forced sexual contact with? A man who can draw pleasure in such a situation deserves to be punished.

These are sick men and it is a sick, debase act which does not owe any allegiance to moral human behavior. These men need to corrected much before they can go and commit such an act because by the time their life and moral standards reach a point where they will beat a woman, tear off her clothes and have forced sexual contact with her, they are beyond repair. By then, they have become animals who need to be removed from the society. They deserve the strictest punishments that the law can afford to give them.

Don’t blame the victim. No woman ever asked for it. No woman will ever ask for it.

It is we, the people, and the society, which deserves the blame, for shielding men who rape, by blaming the victim.

What for God’s sake is Culture?

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Indians in the house give me a cheer!!! We remember ourselves as Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis and forgotten who we are together. Do we have an Indian culture? What is it?

While we talk about what is sensitive to our culture, let’s try and understand what we really mean by ‘culture.’

This is a feeble attempt at understanding culture. What forms culture? What are the sources of culture?

I have been asking myself these questions for a while now. I tried discussing them with friends and could not find answers which were very convincing from anywhere, yes, not even Google could tell me where culture originates from.

Nobody knows, and everybody follows it. Isn’t it funny, or rather, ridiculous?

I liked the following definition online:

‘The ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society”

The ideas, customs and social behavior have to have a source now. Don’t you think so? Look at yourself. There is a way you are dressed. It could be western clothing, which means, what they wear in the west of the world map. From the female dressing perspective, this could mean skirts, trousers, shirts or what you have. Alternatively you could be dressed in Indian suits, saris or kurtas, which are considered largely traditional wear in India.

You behave in a certain way. There is a way you greet people when you meet them. There is a way you talk to them. Different societies have different ways of greetings. In India, we say Namaste with our hands folded. Etymologically speaking, Namaste is derived from Sanskrit and means bowing to you. It is a sign of respect across the country. The archaeological findings from the Indus Valley Civilization have revealed many male and female terracotta figures in Namaste postures, as per Wikipedia.

So, history is one of the sources of culture. It has been happening for hundreds of years and so, it must be right. Well, for Namaste, it makes sense because Namaste is a sign of respect and when we think about it with our own minds, it is a wonderful gesture. It makes sense even in the context of the 21st century, not matter how old the tradition of Namaste has been.

I would like to quote the Buddha.

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

So, you think about Namaste and you accept it and make it a part of your daily behavior. You want to respect someone; you fold your hands and say Namaste.

What are the other sources of culture?

Religion is one of the biggest sources of culture. Religion, espoused is one of the greatest sources of acceptable behavior and one of the key sources of morality in our society. India is deeply religious society. All religions existing in the country tend to assert their own definitions of acceptable behavior, good acts to do and bad acts which should not be done, since they are not a part of the particular culture. This is what makes India complex. Unlike western civilizations and societies which are monotheistic, Indians, especially Hindus are a polytheistic people. Although Ram and Krishna continue to get better press owing to the mythological texts of Ramayana and Mahabharata, there are millions of Gods in the country and people travel far places to visit the ‘temples’ of their chosen Gods.

This is what makes the issue of Indian culture even much more complex. Let’s look at the practice of monogamy. It is a part of our culture. In some countries in the African continent, polygamy still continues as a practice. I learnt that even the president of South Africa Jacob Zuma has 3 wives and has 20 children from them.***

Polygamy is illegal in most civilized societies because it disrupts the institution of marriage and its existence since it leads to feelings of jealousy and immorality among other objections to polygamy.
Which side are you on? Well, it depends on which culture you belong to. In countries where polygamy is illegal and since the law states so, you cannot even think about it. So, you don’t think about it. In cultures they accept polygamy; the key argument is expansion of their own breed. You could argue that in order to do that, they don’t care about the physical and emotional exploitation of the women, which is a fair argument.

So, what is culture?

We are back to square one, I know. I have realized in the course of writing this piece, that I won’t be able to answer this question for you. I don’t think it is correct for me to answer this question for you.I can say one thing and it is this- question everything, accept nothing without having thought about it in your mind.

The state will do its own it to define what culture of the land is. To what standards do we hold ourselves to will define the culture that we choose to embrace or we choose to reject.

Religion and history are the key determinants of culture. That something is being done for a very long time makes it a case for being done in the future as well. That something was practiced by the Gods is another extremely potent and almost sacrosanct source of culture. But, wait, ponder, consider, think and then decide if a custom or a tradition which has been going on for thousands of years is a useful in the current context.

What are the standards do we hold ourselves to, when we think about the question of culture?

To my mind, it is the peace and happiness of the people involved. The practice of Sati- where a recently widowed woman would commit suicide by fire, typically on the husband’s funeral pyre existed for many years before it was outlawed. To what kind of a mind would such a practice attract? Why should a woman die because her husband has passed away? What was her fault? She has already been rendered unfortunate and now the society wants her to incinerate herself! What kind of society allows such a practice?!

So, what is culture?

Is culture what we individually believe in or what we collectively imbibe? By definition, it is the collective behavior. Our collective behavior must lead to the welfare, peace and joy to the people who imbibe and inculcate such a behavior.

Caste system is an ingrained part of the Indian culture. One day, hopefully, we will reach a point where it will cease to matter what your caste is. It will cease to matter what your origin was and which religion you were born into. That day, there will be joy.

I knew at the outset, that I will not be able to convincingly answer the puzzle of culture. However, I hope, I have been able to give you some snippets about a few it its sources and the underlining reasons.

Other sources of culture are our celebrities and our leadership. What they do becomes popular culture. What the king does becomes the culture of the masses. But, don’t accept it blindly. If you think what the king does is right, embrace it. If you think the king is wrong, question the king.

Culture is what we collectively do. Culture is what we collectively embrace. Culture is what we are known for. What would we like to be known for, years after we are gone?

Thanks for reading.

Sources***: http://www.polygamy.com/polygamy-in-africa.html

The Culture of Pretense

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I will start with a motherhood statement. We live in a culture of pretense- the culture of a false show off and I am not quite sure who we are trying to impress. Many of us are going around wearing many masks, a different mask for a different occasion.

Most people are living a life trying to impress others who are trying to impress them.

FRIENDSHIP

People get into friendships because they can’t be by themselves. They find themselves with people they don’t quite like but they are with them because loneliness is not acceptable to them, even if they find themselves lonely and lost whilst they are in company. I know that solitude is not a popular notion, especially in the part of the world I belong to. Nobody wants to be lonely. But it is bewildering how people can be friends with people they don’t like and respect. We can choose our friends. We can’t choose our parents. Why would you choose friends you don’t admire?

People who can’t be in their own company will must have someone for company. Why?! Someone has said to the effect that ‘if you get bored while you are with yourself, you are in bad company.’ I know, it wasn’t exactly this, but I don’t care to know what the original thought is.

What is the purpose of friendship?

The purpose of friendship is to be able to share life with people who understand us. That they understand us is the key prerequisite for a friendship. In addition, they are also willing to open up to us about their fears, happiness, joys and sorrows. If they are not willing to open up, you can’t develop a friendship.

Our levels of intimacy with people is directly proportional to the intimacy they are willing to offer us.

Friendship is understanding.

Everything else is pretense.
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WORK

We all have a very important relationship with our work. If we find our work intellectually stimulating, engaging and challenging and money, we will find fulfillment in it.

Very few people in this world are fortunate enough to first, arrive at what they truly love and enjoy and secondly, being able to create a life on the basis of what they love and enjoy doing. It is a speculative figure but I don’t think even 5% of the people in this world are living a life doing what they truly love and believe in, what their congenital talents have been. It is alright to change tracks in life, I know many people will disagree with me. Steve jobs reflected on it too.

‘Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.’

The problem is that we are in a rush to settle, especially in India. For many of us, it takes a long while to figure what we truly love and by the time we do, we have settled. Very few of us are fortunate to find out in school or college years what we really love to do and by the time we find it, it’s too late.

I love to see people who follow their passion and do what they truly believe in. The only definition of success I know is being able to make a living doing what doesn’t feel like work.

It is happiness, too. And, if success # happiness, it is not success.

Success = happiness
Happiness = Success

Everything else is pretense.

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LOVE

Now, I don’t mean parental love. I mean love between couples.

Why do we need love?

We need love because friendships have a line and its love which crosses that line. There are no limits anymore. If there are limits, it would rather be a friendship. Love knows no limits.

I live in a country where most couples do not love each other. Marriages are the foundation of relationships. People get married first and hope that they will fall in love later. They expect marriage to solve their problems of loneliness, sex, company, social conformity. I am not quite sure if most of them even look for companionship.

Companionship is the key reason why seek love. I am not talking about arranged marriages. They make no sense. If the reasons for getting into a relationship are anything but love that originated because of genuine affection, admiration for each other, the relationship is most likely to be a failure.

Companionship is the output of an intimate relationship. That one person is your key source of emotional and sexual satisfaction. I am deliberately not saying intellectual satisfaction because we don’t get into relationships owing to intelligence. I may be wrong, but this is my opinion.

That one person is your go to person when you have great news and when you have miserable news. That one person is the closest you are to. You will not be as close to your parents even, since you don’t have sex with your parents. Physical intimacy is a part of a relationship and it builds on or takes away from emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is a complex affair since emotions are complex. You want to love. You want to feel loved. You would know, this is much easier said than done.

Either you feel loved or you don’t. Either you want to express love or you don’t. Relationships are complex and they deserve the press they deserve, so to say. Either you have a companion or you don’t.

If you are in a relationship but you have to always find friends to talk to, when you are high or you are low, there is something that’s gone wrong somewhere.

Love is companionship.

Everything else is pretense.
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We have got one life. Let’s not pretend, please.

If you are miserable, accept it to yourself. If you are happy, admit it to yourself. What you say to yourself is much more important than what you say to others. Unless and until we are brutally honest with ourselves, we will continue to pretend. We have got to face life head on and look it in the eye, without the mask.

Everything else is pretense.

On Feminism and Sexism

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Feminism
The doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men

Sexism
Attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of gender roles

These are the dictionary definitions. Now, let’s try to understand this. We live in a difficult world. Women are accusing men of all sort of things and for most part, we deserve the blame. We suck as a gender and male history is replete with exploitation of women. That is the reason, one day, a group of urban middle class women proclaimed that henceforth, men should have no right to tell us to cook. Thereby, feminism was born.

Sexism is only a corollary of feminism. Sexism entails breaking gender stereotypes. For examples, why should only women be the cook and men not contribute to the kitchen, is a pertinent question. Basically, the idea of sexism is that men and women have no differences and therefore, there should be no discrimination to women on the basis of their sex or gender, whichever way you like it.

See, men should go around calling each other ‘bitch,’ gossiping and general chatter. Men should start wearing lingerie because it is sexist to say that only women should wear lingerie. If sexism gives equal rights to women, even men have the right to demand equal rights.

Women should be selling stocks in the stock market and that is supposed to be cool and if you find a woman talking about the ups and highs of the stock market, please ensure that you don’t lose your focus.

Women should be riding the bikes and two wheeler/s and men should be riding petite scooters. Why should girls have all the fun? Better yet, I suggest changes in the world of sports. The swimming costumes ought to be replaced. I don’t find it fair that men are always expected to show off their nipples and it is considered okay by the society at large.

I find it offensive that we are talking about Kim Kardashian’s talent on paper magazine and nobody cares about the talented men with great talents and nobody wants to focus on their talent. It is not fair that men’s nipples are always taken for granted. It is absolutely sexist.

I am all for feminism. I think women deserve equal rights in our society but I also believe in malism- men should also be given an equal opportunity at things which are considered are female fortresses.

Let’s just abolish all stereotypes. The problem is with the middle way. The problem is when we try to abolish some stereotypes and keep the other ones.

I would like to see a world devoid of sexism.

So, here is my list of equal rights for women:

 Women should be allowed to wear male swimsuits
 More women should be farmers and engaged in agricultural activity
 Women should refuse to bear children and push the scientific community to come up with solution so that men can bear children as well
 Women should initiate more dates; they should be wooing the men, rather than men trying to woo women. It’s a stereotype
 The next James Bond should be a woman

And, here are a few things I think men should be doing:

 Men should be wearing female swimsuits and lingerie
 Men should be homemakers while women work and take care of the household expenditure
 Men should try and bear children. I don’t care how, it’s a gender stereotype
 Nude men photography should be considered pieces of art
 Men should try to cook and mop and broom

I guess that’s about it, for now. Unless and until we break the natural stereotypes, the problem of feminism and sexism cannot be solved. I am with you, women, in this fight.

Let’s kick ass.