ठण्ड की ठिठुरती रात

ठण्ड के दिन ज़्यादा अच्छे होते थे।

बहुत प्यार आये तो छत पर चौकी डाल दादी चम्पी कर देती थी।
फरवरी में कभी बारिश हो जाये तो कम्बल फिर से निकल आया करते थे।
दोस्तों की चक्कलस में बाजार रंगीन हो जाया करते थे।

तब जेब में कुछ सिक्के हों तो सल्तनत के मालिक से लगते थे।
चाट-पकोड़े मिलते थे खूब , रंगीन बैलून से मन मुग्ध सा हो जाया करते थे ।
खेलने जाओ तो ठिगुणे छीलकर आना 3 दिन तक दर्द देता था।
सहज था फिर भी जीवन।
हर दिन कुछ नया सा करने को  मन करता था।

आज भी ठण्ड ही सबसे सबसे सुन्दर है।
पर हवा खाते  कुर्सी लगाने की जगह मांगो तो 1Bhk के 12 हज़ार महीने लगता है ।
बारिश हो भी जाये तो भी नल में पानी ठीक से नहीं आता।
अकाउंट इनफार्मेशन का SMS तो आता है , पर सिक्कों की वो खनखनाहट की प्रस्सनता नहीं है।

शायद ये शहरों की बात है , जहा सच में तो आपका रूह भी अपना नही होता।
सबको भागना होता है, move-on और live-on करना होता हैं।
ज़ाहिर है , इसमें कुछ अभद्र नहीं है।
बस सिर्फ कुछ खोखला सा है, जिस्म के भीतर झाँक नहीं पाता ।

हाँ मैं बड़ा हो गया हूँ , वो बचपन की याद रह गयी हैं।
पर सिर्फ वही तो नही बदला।

क्रूरता भी तो बढ़ गयी है।
बारिश में कोई किसी को अपनी छतरी नहीं देता।
ज़्यादा पा ले तो दीवार ऊँची कर लेता है, ताले बड़े कर लेता है।

‘अपनों’ का डेफिनिशन इन शैतानों ने आकर बदल दिया है।
सब खून के प्यासे बन गए हैं, बम-बंदूकों के धंधे में चार चाँद लग गए हैं।

मेरे अंदर का बचपन इसे पचा नहीं पाता , वो चक्कलस को मिस करता है।
दादी को मिस करता है।

पर वो सुनी सी कहानियां ही इन शैतानों को मार भगाएंगे, ये सोचकर मन को शांत करता हूँ।
जब वक़्त मिल जाये , रात दिन कुर्सी लगाकर ठण्ड कर इंतज़ार करता हूँ।


Connecting you to the world; *An ode to iPhone-ism*

Disclaimer – The expensive phone you just bought with 5 months worth of saving from the ass-rubbing job you do 12 hours a day; sucking up your suck-up boss in your multi-storied posh and pompous office – has a newer version. The iPhone X_ (the most random letter from the alphabet)

Shit! What to do now?

You were just sold the most advanced way of mobile communication in the world – which you believed was too good to be true. Suddenly it looks like truest piece of crap because you do not have the version with newer ‘something’ about which you have absolutely no idea what it does.

True, some people do not mind. They were happy with the model with graphic accelerators which made X-box look in the sideways and sigh of the old ways. But I-phone-ism was the one that made them buy one in the first place. It always hurts!

I am a medium-end smart-phone person; keeps me sufficiently occupied with its several applications; keeping me in touch with sufficient number of people. Accessibility is much easier, and is a pain in the bottom. Every time you are not online, people call you to figure out if you are alive. Why, because you have a smart-phone!

I might be challenged on grounds of individual choice here; that I might have not chosen to use the technology at all. But I must admit. I cannot afford to lose touch with these many people. It is my professional requirement to be connected all the time, and be able to check e-mails and messages while travelling to faraway places in the country. But the price for this  is a little too much to pay.

I am also a call-person. I prefer calling people who matter. This new year, when I called the most estranged friends in far-away towns, cities and countries – they were shocked. Why? Because I had called, straightaway. No small talks or asking if they were busy, or wishing them in funny and cool messages Because everyone is busy, apparently! Calling is such a courtesy-breaker!

In the era of smart-phones and the ‘i-phonism’, the most rudimentary application of the telephone (i.e. calling) is rarely used – suddenly it is ascribed as a phenomenon of urgency. Gone are the days of special night-calling packages and cheap SMS rates (I am not aware of the very young generation’s requirements for calling their loved ones. I might be unaware about such extant calling cards).

Thanks to the mobile device in your hand with cheapest internet connectivity, everyone is online all the time. You can just see who slept when, and who is ignoring you, and who is on holiday, and who is anywhere and everywhere.

Great! And that’s when privacy concerns went south in history.

Someone called me to check if I was already dead when I did not reply to their online chats for three days.  Pissed, I switched off my phone. But I had a tinge inside me which said someone was texting me – or worse calling me. I had to switch it back on. The last time I had switched off my phone for a night without telling anyone, I had missed calls in the tune of several hundreds.

I guess it just feels safe to see someone online, why do you need to call them anyways; someone had suggested.

I merely wondered. Have we replaced the pleasantness of hearing voices over merely ‘seeking information’ from their end? True, it is a boon in the fast-paced world; but what is the price of ‘keeping in touch’ with these many people – when you can no longer have real conversations with people who matter the most.

It could be ‘old-school’ or ‘uncool’ or anything the urban dictionaries suggest – but I love the nostalgia of greeting cards over long chat messages, gifts hand-packed with paper over online shopping, books with rigged covers over kindle. I love waking up to hand-written notes or hearing someone’s voice rather than formal good mornings; they reek of formality.

Inspired by the realities shown on the website ‘STOP PhUbbing’ – http://stopphubbing.com/

The curious case of Indian Nationalism

The history of India is a long contested one. Not only has its origins been contested but also the ‘Idea of India’ in itself is a comparatively recent historical trend. If we leave alone the nationalist discourses in the British Raj which flourished as the most useful counter-ideology to that of colonialism, there has rarely been references made to the collective consciousness of the Indian people – as belonging to the common land. And this is mainstream history – one which has for centuries neglected the voices of the women, dalits, adivasis, religious and sexual minorities, ethnic and linguistic groups. Think of any group which has been fighting for their rights, or struggling to fight for their rights today – you will see they have had almost no presence in any kind of ‘history’. Where does the entire gamete of national identity and nationalism fit for these millions of people, needs better introspection.

We have all seen instances of the collective consciousness poured out in the streets. The recent Delhi gang-rape case saw the middle classes come away from their TV sets and the shopping malls. They came together and protested, unparalleled in the recent public memory – also got an anti-rape act in place, the moral pressures ensuring that the prime accused died in a much too deserved shameful manner. There were outraged people, wanting to lynch him and his partners in crime causing the most painful death, demanding for chemical castration and death penalty and public executions, again unparalleled in the recent public memory. We were all very angry. The people of the country were rising. A revolution, to take the guarantee of the security of its citizens, was in place, people told. If it was collective consciousness or mob fury, I am not entirely sure. I have till today not been able to establish for myself if I should support whatever comes as support and solidarity from an increasingly detached and dehumanised class, or be critical or dismissive of it. I leave that view open.

There are decades of struggle ongoing in several parts of the country, they have not received as much love and affection of the media and ruling classes as the concerns of the urban elite. A power cut in Delhi or Mumbai for a day gets hours of nervous reporting, poor adivasis dying in order to prevent their land from being taken away is never interesting enough. A rape and murder of a young dalit girl is mentioned in passing – as if its nothing to worry much. It indeed has stopped surprising me, because the public apathy to them has shown neither sympathy nor remorse for the millions of such cases. It is not just what is ignored, it is also what is highlighted. The fallacy lies not just in making these people invisible, it is also their protests which are highlighted as the ‘single biggest threat to democracy’. When the state did not hesitate to lathicharge and use tear shells on a peaceful protest demanding stringent rape laws; what makes people stop thinking that flesh-piercing bullets are not being used against their own country-people. What makes them not believe that the landmines are used by the security forces, executing orders of the state, to silence opposition – to pick out and choose people who do not let their lives and livelihoods snatched away in a flash. Is it the supreme idea of the nation – the idea of public good – is it the idea of the supremacy of the state, as the protector, executer and arbitrator of inviolable rights and fundamental duties? What if the state has failed to perform its primary role, what if it has conveniently stopped performing its primary duty. Seems a bit scary for a generation blaming individual corrupt politicians as the reason behind everything that is wrong with the country today.

This is the reality for many millions of people, who have nobody to go to in times of desperate need. The middle classes are too busy trying to eke out a living in small towns and cities, to try and run with the pace of their lives. The NGOs are too busy to develop plans to ’empower’ them – building models for alternative life and livelihood for them. They usually don’t ask these people to question why they need an alternative in the first place. All these people have with them is themselves, to organise, mobilise and put up a collective fight – to fight with the overarching state. When one such successful campaign gains momentum and is read about in some newspaper, it is dismissed as an attempt of foreign countries trying to disrupt the ‘development of India’. Seems quite ironic an opinion from a population obsessed with foreign brands of clothing as a favourite choice. ‘Anti-patriotism’ and ‘Anti-development’ are buzzwords. It actually fits in line with the present idea of India – one of systematic exclusion, injustice and historical oppression.

An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.

Martin Luther King Jr.

On identity, ideology and idiosyncrasies

To believe in an ideology, and to say so comes from a particular identity. This identity does not appear out of thin air. Most of the time it is who you are only a second after your birth. It depends if you are male, female, or transsexual. It depends on the caste of your parents. (The higher it is, luckier for you in terms of survival). It depends if you are born in the air-conditioned posh hospital or adjacent to the rotting garbage dumps. It depends on whether you are born legitimate – out of a socially sanctioned marriage or out of some ‘sinful’ exercise. This usually determines if you are going to the recognised schools or will work in the illegal factories – if you are able to survive the initial 5 years of your life. And add to that your religion, your geographical area, your skin colour – of course, to this long list.

But it is not the end. These are the identities that you have done nothing to deserve or not deserve – depending on which position you are in. Then there are those which you have earned in your life, voluntarily and usually involuntarily. You are either the shy kid or the bully. You are an educated professional or a bidi worker. You are a hard-working yet dying agriculturist, or a mall going-processed-food consuming developed person. You are normal heterosexual person, believing in marriage and god or one of those members of the sinful and ungodly homosexual species. You are upholder of caste purity or you deny that it even exists. You are compassionate patriot or a hardcore maoist. Finally, you are a person who makes choices or else a person who is forced to choose. You call the shots in all of these identities. Barring a few exceptions – while a major cause of possessing all these identities is because you think that it is the right thing to do – there is a string somewhere which makes you become all that. And when you think of what you actually are – think of all this before you make a final conclusion.

Now, an interesting part is that everyone, including me, claims allegiance to one or more ideologies. As long as we speak from one of those identities – which we possess in our quiver of multiple and intersecting identities, everything seems comfortable. People pause to listen to what you have to say. People sympathize with you. People even cry with you and hold your hand – assure you of their support. Because somewhere it is assumed to be real – to be accurate and to be precise. Each one, by virtue of this phenomena builds alliances – personally and politically. That results in a close-knit group formation, from inclusion to striving to fighting together. The only problem remains is that nobody really knows who the enemy is. There are rules and machineries, provisions and safeguards – to determine the strength and provisioning of these groups. The question still looms-to fight against whom?

There are oppressive structures and systems, larger ways of exploitation, of domination and control. Everyone needs to fight that – no confusion here! The key to all of this is simple, I believe, – be offensive or be defensive. Either keep strengthening yourself so that the oppressor can no longer oppress you. Or you dismantle the cohesiveness of the oppressor(s). How to do that is the continuous struggle. When everyday life makes inroads into all the gathered strength, when an invisible hands throws you off corners – you are usually left wondering as to what went wrong. The moment you forget the dynamics of your identity, and you think you are an individual – fighting it all out in the world, you are only sure to sink further.