27 February 2005

About a girl

She loves mythology. Like all teens, she feels misunderstood and wronged. Her eyesight has begun to suffer from having nothing distant to stare at and the constant semi-lit rooms.

She writes with amazing clarity and little reserve, seems to have been gifted with the tricks of the trade. She wants to be a journalist one day, and then a writer. She can no longer step out of the house, and she realises that she is being wronged; that a life in hiding, however better than death, is still a life full of merciless compromises.

Yet, she manages to find her little happinesses, and stops complaining, at least once in a while:

"What could be nicer than sitting before an open window, enjoying nature, listening to the birds sing, feeling the sun on your cheeks and holding a darling boy in your arms? I feel so peaceful and safe with his arms around me, knowing he's near and yet not having to speak; how can this be bad when it does me so much good?"

She dares to dream, and what dreams!
"I still have visions of gorgeous dresses and fascinating people ... I want to see the world and do all kinds of exciting things, and a little money wont hurt!"

By age 15, she is aware that the world and its cruelties make no sense, has the insight of a 60-year-old, and yet is intensely sensitive to the beauties of life - however fleeting a glance she has of them:
"I was greatly struck by the fact that in childbirth alone, women commonly suffer more pain, illness, and misery than any war hero ever does. And what's her reward for enduring all that pain? She gets pushed aside when she's disfigured by birth, her children soon leave, her beauty is gone. Women, who struggle and suffer pain to ensure the continuation of the human race, make much tougher and more courageous soldiers than all those big-mouthed freedom-fighting heroes put together!"

She died in misery and hopelessness in a concentration camp in Germany, without ever blooming to her full. A soul ever in quest of love, understanding, freedom; a kid ever wanting to get back to school, ever wanting to enjoy the beauties of nature: full of hope, aspirations, fear, courage, and wonder. Her life stands as testimony to man's destructive instinct; to man's hatred based on vague notions of difference, of 'we' versus 'they'; to what depths man can fall, and to what heights woman can reach.

She is Anne Frank.

15 February 2005

Me via you

My quest for the alter ego has ended. What appears to be the near-perfect almost similar is just that: almost similar. Or similar. It is never the same. If you believed, it was the same, blame it on maya (what else, you have been had).

The moment you realise how complete the self is, you stop looking. But there was a need to look. Else, how would you realise that there is a self in here that is different from what you see outside. The other actually shapes your quest for the self. And you thought all along that you had this totally mapped quantity called the self.

I cant explain the above sentences. Neither can I explain the moment of peace that I am feeling now. But it's just the beginning. Didnt create this post to sound mysterious or all-knowing: it's just me, the here and now ... and realizations of rebirth. (That should be crystal clear, yeah.)

12 February 2005

What's up with Bollywood, da?!

Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black is a pleasant surprise. The promos had made me a little wary though. What if it was Mumbai masala in arty-farty guise? Also, it is a Bhansali product, and the memories of Devdaas still made me wince. Anyways, I went to the movie with a brave heart.

Through the first half, I was still wary. It was decent and quite predictable till then. The plot was straight, the narrative not bad, and Rani's performance was promising. But I didn't really expect anything much in the second half.

Later, I left the movie thinking, 'What's up with Bollywood? First Swades, then this ... have I missed out on some undercurrents? How, in the name of God, did the creator of Devdaas make such a surprisingly bold and hatke movie?' (But I have to give it to him that he made Khaamoshi, too.) Black and Swades are precisely the 'type' of movies, which our masters of masala have been saying the audiences will reject. (I know, Swades had some masala ingredients and there were some flaws in the movie, but when was the last time you saw a starving Indian farmer family on the big screen? Today, it takes courage to even raise some issues publicly.)

Some of the scenes had left me shaking my head. At one point, I thought Bhansali had lost his audience, and I am sure Bhansali was aware of the risk he was taking with that scene. (Won't spoil the fun for you. See it for yourself.) They initially booed, but the same scene turned out to have won the audience for Bhansali. Everyone was still in the hall with tension, not knowing how to react, waiting for what was to come next.

A few weeks ago, I underwent the torture of watching Kisna in the same hall. After the first 40 minutes or so, the audience knew they had been had, and booed and jeered, and hooted to let their steam off. We had to sit through the movie, stuck as our car was in the parking lot. But know what? Even a movie like Kisna has its uses: go tell your boss or any other jackass to go watch Kisna in PVR gold class ;)

So, my point is that in Black, some facts very indigestible to the average Indian movie-going audience (pardon the sweeping terms here) were thrust in its face. And they didn't boo. The parking lot was still full when the movie ended.

All you film makers out there: if you want to make a bad movie, please go ahead and make it. But do not dare to justify the shit by saying that this is what the audience likes. And this is for the arty farty ones: there are only two kinds of movies - good and bad. You can't be spared just because you are a non-commercial filmmaker.

So many times, the audience has hardly a choice. Of course, they can be merciless in their rejections sometimes. But they don't deserve to be made scapegoats. It is the entertainer's job to entertain, and take up the challenge to win the audience. We are waiting...

05 February 2005

What we are entitled to know, but dont know

In my last job as copy editor, I had interviewed Arvind, a core member of Parivartan (an NGO), as part of my story on the Right to Information Act. I have been meaning to write about Parivartan on the blog since quite some time now. It's happening today.

Parivartan does just this: help people of Sundernagari resettlement colony in East Delhi and other slums get their rights from various government agencies using the Delhi Right to Information Act. For the last two years, Parivartan has been seeking daily sales registers of the ration shop owners in different parts of Delhi.

Shouldn't be a struggle right? After all, they are just seeking public records. But it was. And is still going on. There have been at least five near-fatal attacks on its members. Indeed, information is power. The government officials are loathe to part with information, because that would strip them of their power. As a reaction to the latest attack on a Parivartan member, the people of Sundernagari colony decided to not take their rations (wheat, rice, sugar) for the month of February 2005. But they will check the records in March to see if the rations foregone were returned to the government or not. The monthly rations mean a lot to these people. Yet, they are ready to forego them for the sake of their right to information, or their right to live with dignity.

Parivartan is one of the few NGOs I have met up close and admire. The others are Mazdoor Kisaan Shakti Sangathan led by Magsaysay awardee Aruna Roy, and Janaagraha. Their work reminds me of P Sainath's statement that the government has to be involved in change. If you bypass the government, the change will be very limited. Especially so today in the age of gigantic all-encompassing corporates. But more about this in another post.

The NGOs listed above believe in working with the government through mechanisms provided by the government. Sometimes, of course, they have convinced the government into creating a mechanism (Eg: Jan Sunwai was adopted by the Rajasthan government after MKSS popularised it.)

When I was still doing my BA, I remember wondering why information was so important, and how could it solve problems such as poverty. As a journalism student, I quickly realised the need for information. With no press card in hand, I got to wait like any other citizen. I also understood how people empowered with information can and will build a better society.

On a different level, this is also why I think the information glut is happening in the wrong places. In the villages of India where there is such a hunger for information, the miracles that IT can create are many. But this calls for more open source and user-friendly technology.
The above paragraph might seem unconnected to what I began talking about, but look closely, it's not.
  • If you live in Bangalore you might like to bookmark this blog: Let's stop hatching eggs. It's little bits of information from here and there to find a place to go to, or about a movie fest, etc.
  • On suicide bombers: Terry Eagleton's Literary Theory impressed me a lot because that was my first serious philosophical reading, (apart form Nietzsche) and I seemed to understand quite everything! Recently I read his article where he talks about the difference between martyrs and suicide bombers. Take a look.
  • Probable Googles: Oh, this is hilarious. You never know, some of it might just come true. The world is full of Google nowadays. The page might take some time to load though.