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What will you say to him?

What will you say to him,
Who died without a hym,
Who is dead but telecast live,
On whom flies swarmed from their hives?

You who butcher another being,
With much more regard for a thing,
You who doesn’t even cloak a dagger,
And roam around rinsed of swagger.

Did you feel your blood,cold,
When with pride, the story you told?
Were you still hot with hate,
Many others still to eliminate?

What will you say to him,
To your nephew who recorded the film,
When he grows a bit trim,
Or in your image, will we find him?

A Muslim migrant worker from West Bengal was killed in Rajasthan by a man who made his nephew record the murder while ranting against Islam (here). Both West Bengal and Rajasthan are states in North India.

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Anti-Social

It keeps going down,

It refreshes, still stale!

I think it will ruin me…

The Limits of Tolerance

Tolerance has become a quite divisive political word in India these days. After every lynching, mob-violence and murder, we are asked by our supposed thought-leaders to be tolerant of others. After every aggressive collective outburst on social media, there is a call to become more tolerant. More tolerant of the other religion, more tolerant of the other political side, more tolerant of the other point of view, more tolerant of the other gender or sex – so forth and so on. Whatever its philosophical connotations, tolerating someone or something, in a colloquial sense, seems a pretty low bar to have set for ourselves.

But tolerance is ‘bearing hardship, or the ability to bear pain and hardship’. It is inherently an individual character of a person in that it is psychological hardship that an individual faces while tolerating someone/thing else. It asks of us to control our religious, gender, cultural or political morality that we might otherwise impose on others if we were to be ‘intolerant’. It does not even go so far enough as to acknowledge the violence of that morality, much less address it in any positive meaningful manner. It just says, if you cannot respect the other, at least tolerate him/her.

Tolerance is a brilliant management tool out of a long list of ready-made ones, to ‘manage’ difference in society. But it shifts the politics of the violence and micro-aggression into the realm of individual psychology. It does not ask of the ‘intolerant’ individuals to accept a share of responsibility of the oppression committed by their peers and ancestors. It just asks them to turn a blind eye to what they still see as acts of very visible violations of majoritarian code. It says nothing of, nor does it bring positive changes to, cultural-socio-economic-political conditions that have historically been colored as suspicious, deviant or provocative, with the sanction of the law and society.

In effect, it depoliticizes the very basis on which the politics of identity, inequality, injustice, exclusion, oppression, and conflict, is fought regularly – all of which a result of cultural, religious, economic, social and political factors that have worked historically to the detriment of those who the we now seek to tolerate. It reduces that very brutal oppression to a mere misunderstanding among individuals, acquitting the majority of any responsibility. The readily available tools of cultural knowledge – TV and social media (since we are reading lesser each day) and its army- that preach this tolerance do nothing to sensitize us to the spectacular violence. At best, they desensitizes us of the oppression we cause and at its worst, it propels paranoia, fear and violence in all its thrill and grandeur.

What use is this ‘tolerance’ of when the tolerant still view and observe the present conditions as natural order – as pre-existing, which should not be changed. While it is laudable to make society more hospitable for others through tolerance, it will be an exercise in futility if this stops there and does not address the reasons why it had been historically inhospitable for a vast population. Tolerance alone cannot be enough. The point of tolerance is not to address the injustice and violence but rather to mold the mindset of individuals to tolerate others even though they still view the other as suspicious, deviant or provocative. Unless those legacies of oppression are meaningfully addressed, tolerance will just be a line in the sand.

Someday

From stillness to motion,

Silence to sound,

Cries to laughter,

Earth to sky,

Strangeness to acquaintance,

Chills to warmth,

Indifference to difference,

War to peace,

Air to breath,

Routine to passion,

Order to disorder,

There is a road I hope to find someday.

Hiding in Plane Sight

All I can do is think and feel,

Write and question,

Sometimes to myself, Well. most of the time!

 

But I crave conversations too…

I just never seem to make it.

Angels & Demons

Progress and development have become such ubiquitous terms these days that we have come somewhat oblivious to whether we are any of them. In fact, we often mistake change for progress – how bored are we! Certainly progress is not something that has a unanimous acceptance, neither does change. But this loss of a sense of the difference between what is progress and what is change seems to have become a narrative we hold dear to our selves – politically, socially, technologically, financially and increasingly religiously. It most definitely relieves us of the responsibility that comes with recognition of the very important difference – that one is subset of the other.

With technological “development” and innovation, we have exerted our control on a vast variety of life aspects, so much so that we feel, to the point of surity, that we can shape life and lives as we like. The accomodation of the unknown or the oulier event seldom figures in our thinking, not when it matters. At the same time, we have become accepting of large, complex and mementic narratives that perpetuate a sense of progress – whether or not we it happens.

Solutions to our problems seem to be inevitably found in deterministic structures of simplified and engineered models without regard to the social and emotional flux of social tensions that invisibly, but boldly, underline the superficial waiting to pour over the skeletons that line our closets. The ultimate solutions are digital – either angels or demons.

Angels – who save us from the dangers of thinking freely and informedly, who save us from the dangers of counter-narratives, who question those who question us or our like, who limit our own sense of self by making us unaware of the reality we face, who seldom talk to us directly but make hypnotic speeches, who lie to us because we are too limited and timid to face realities, who make us feel as if we have a purpose – that we belong here , who eventually possess us.

Demons – who think thoughts we do not think, who let us shrink in the counter-narratives, who question our assumptions and narratives, who hear our views and agree to disagree, who let us decide for ourselves what we think, who question our purpose, who make us liberated, dispossessed.

Let Us Not Suspend Disbelief

Every year since our ‘tryst with destiny’, a person has stood on the pedestal of Red Fort and exhorted us to embark on the path of ‘nation-building’. Every few years, we see, or rather imagine, the dawn of a ‘New India’ – one where there is freedom from involuntary dependence, not just ‘independence’.

This year was no different. 200 kms from the capital, in Gorakhpur, a cruel tragedy unfolded, as it does every year. Newton would have felt insulted to see the inertia of bodies, stillness of momentum, lack of actions and abundance of reactions. Neglect of public health and sanitation weighed heavily on the strings of flags as they unfurled pompously. There are laws to punish denigration of flags and disrespect of anthems. Alas, babies are too lightweight to seek vengeance. Will our nation building have enough oxygen and vaccines next year? Let us believe what we must!

Further down the much worshipped banks of our filthy river, lives and livelihoods have been lost to floods, which are more regular than good monsoons. It is claimed that there is insufficient funds for relief operations and rehabilitation. Well, let’s just say – priorities matter. Fleets of helicopters took politicians over the flooded areas, ‘surveying’ – a euphemism for looking down – on the disruption. Once, the scene of havoc appearing in the window of the chopper had to photoshopped, just to make sure that people, not the affected but the unaffected, know that their leader was there. Perhaps, certain ‘reshaping’ of political expressions are needed when aired publicly, like the once demanded by Prasar Bharti as a condition for airing the speech of a chief minister. Is our notion of ‘nation building’ is too narrow in its considerations? Let us believe what we must!

A regulator suspends trading of some ‘suspected’ companies on stock exchanges and the financial press goes berserk. They find it an ‘ill-considered’ move by an ‘overzealous’ regulator, intruding without being given an opportunity to explain the innocence on the part of companies. The same press was all cheerful and exuberant when a few months ago, the currency supply of the country was left in tatters ‘at the stroke of the midnight hour’. The intrusive nature of the change was only scantily acknowledge, if only apologetically so. The depressive effects are still visible in remote villages. When decisions of ‘nation building’ are examined, will we be equally touchy in our assessment of its microaggressions and of it macro-objectives? Lets us believe what we must!

We are perhaps like the inebriate, looking for the lost keys under the streetlight because that is where all the light it. The effect is such that we don’t see occasional, now regular, flares that happen outside the narrow radius of that streetlight. We are inebriated by a pied piper, that controls not just the confines of the streetlight, and hence our vision, but also whether we will ultimately, however untimely, find those lost keys – keys to the chains that still confine us into self-assigned silos. We are too invested in the belief that we are independent. Let us believe what we must!

More importantly, let us not suspend disbelief.