Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Lesson In Tolerance

   unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one's own
 synonyms: bigotry, narrow-mindedness, small-mindedness, illiberality, parochialism, provincialism

It's not as much about unwillingness to accept different views or beliefs, it is more about unwillingness to understand before judging. And for all the fuss about intolerance, I think FB is a great teacher for tolerance: it patiently teaches one to be tolerant of all this exhausting drama and debate about it. 

Earlier this year, I penned a pretty sarcastic post when I saw an upsetting excerpt of the documentary covering the infamous Delhi rape case convict. When I wrote that, I assumed that for anyone with a fair understanding of the English language, it would be clear that the note called out the fakes who use culture and religion to defend their own twisted version of it. 

As it turned out, I couldn't have been more wrong. Most of my FB "friends" read it very selectively - like all other words blurred out, and they saw only "religion", "culture", "bad" (oh, and "aamir khan"?) pop up at them, and in their mind the equation was simple: "this note == insulting indian culture and heritage". And I was called out for disrespecting a great nation and its cultural values. 

That was my first taste of my take on "intolerance" on social media, although given the reactions I have seen elsewhere, I must say that I got off easy! I mean, really now- I could have been called "a liberal", "a feminist" (did you notice that these were not considered insults for the longest time!). Or worse - I  may have been asked to go be a citizen of countries that don't offer as much liberty of freedom and opinion. 

So now, I prefer not airing my views on social media, because I simply don't think most people reading my comments or posts have the maturity to entertain a thought other than theirs - they have already decided not to agree with it actually. No point inadvertently exposing myself to people who believe that being on social media automatically gives them the (birth)right to judge everyone and everything around. 

This constant propaganda for or against political/movie celebrities is tiresome. Mind you, I have no sympathy for shrewd "businessmen" who make the most of a sensitive topic simply for the sake of trending. But I am just plain bored of this repeated bombardment of similar, heavily opinionated forwards and posts. I am in half mind to just go off FB because my news feed just keeps getting more and more annoying, but I stay here to keep in touch with those 10 people who I know are worth the drama of the rest of the 90, and I am secretly hoping that the capacity of those 90 people for drama is not as much as what it seems like right now. 

It is not really the country that's becoming intolerant, is it? It is us - you and I and everyone else. Please let's stop blaming the "country" as if it is a nameless bystander who can be conveniently blamed for everything that is not going the way that "we" would like to go. 

And I admit that I, too, am intolerant - intolerant of all this unnecessary and cyclic debate. 

PS: The image above is a real screenshot that I took of Google as I searched for the word "intolerance" .. 

Monday, January 12, 2015


"We live in a world that fosters the technical rather than the artistic, the mechanical rather than the organic and a financial rather than a mechanistic approach. Art goes against all of that. While it can have a technical aspect, such as digital photography has, art is eventually about expressing yourself, about what inspires you, about sharing your view of the world with others. What medium you use, as well as all the technical intricacies of this medium, eventually fade away when compared with the message expressed in your work. Who knows the size of the chisels used by Michael Angelo and whether they were made of hardened steel, Damascus steel, or some other metal." 
~ Alain Briot, Being an Artist
Borrowing from Alains words- the freedom to create is a precursor to being creative, being an artist. A wonderful thought at the end of a busy day. Thank you Mike Chowla, for sharing the original article with me.

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तुला मला ही जाणीव नसता
अशी अचानक गाठ पडावी
अन दडलेली रात्र मनातिल
चांदण्यात निखळता बुडावी

जपला तरीही उडून जावा
पाऱ्याचा क्षण क्षणभर खळबळ
आणी लवावी शांत पापणी
हलके स्पर्शित काळे वर्तुळ

तुला मला ही जाणीव नसता
उडून मनातिल रानकबूतर 
प्रश्नांच्या डोहात शिरावे
शोधाया दडलेले उत्तर

तुला मला ही जाणीव नसता
अशी अचानक गाठ पडावी …

- कवी 'बी'

I heard the first two lines of this beautiful poem from Kunal when he was reminiscing about one of their performances almost 12 years ago at Kalyani, the intercollegiate musical competition in Pune. I was so taken by the lines, that I wanted to know the entire poem and luckily for me, Kunal remembered it. He and I don't know if he remembers it accurately - I wrote it down as he recited it, and must have read it multiple times since then. It reminds me of this quote:
"In your life, you meet people. Some you never think about again. Some, you wonder what happened to them. There are some that you wonder if they ever think about you. And then there are some you wish you never had to think about again. But you do." 
~ C. S. Lewis

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Addiction Awareness

H: I wonder if there is a program called Impulsive Anonymous, you know?
M: Yeah sure there is. It is called growing up. 
H: But what if I have the Peter Pan syndrome?
M: You don't. You just wish you did, for then you would be able to justify all that craziness that I have to curb.

Most dictionaries consider "uninhibited" a synonym of "impulsive". And yet, one is more positive than the other- maybe because the former is what it seems like in the present, and the latter is what it seems like in hindsight.

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I don't think I have encountered a bigger oxymoron in terms of conflicting emotions than the one expressed in this snippet. Love, when platonic, is sans lust. And yet these words irreversibly mix the two. Although the final representation is worthy of literary respect, it leaves a strong after taste, almost like shooting a really dark scotch- you do feel high, but without really experiencing the flavor. But would you even want to experience a flavor you don't really like? 

Oxymoron or irony? 

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Friday, January 09, 2015

Terminally Prompt

You are to me, what /dev/null would be to a verbose program. You keep the output free of unnecessary information. No wonder I am still kept running, no one knowing how much they do not see. 

Oh wait, that went to /dev/null too ..

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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The I in NRI

I think it all started with the Indian Independence Day when some folks in my FB list called out pseudo-patriotism, especially amongst "NRIs". For my non-Indian friends, NRI stands for Non Resident Indian. While it refers to Indians who reside in any country other than India, it has over time become synonymous with Indians residing in the United States of America. It does not matter whether they are yet citizens of USA or even if they are still citizens of India. All that matters is that their current address has a state and zip code that is not Indian.

It apparently upset some of these folks that many of us proclaim love for India via social media on Independence Day - "Who are you to say you love your country? What are you doing for your country sitting oceans away, earning in USD in a fully equipped residence with modern amenities, lightening fast Internet and no looming power cuts? Do you think you are a patriot by updating your profile picture to the Indian flag or by using hastags like #iloveindia? Patriotism is not a one
day activity. So stop your pretense"

With some others amongst these folks, NRIs expressing their love for India is a constant source of amazement and consternation: "Why bother to feel emotional for a moment, when you know that you are going to be back to normal the next day, just to feel emotional again after a while. You have made a choice to not be in your country, just stick to it and be happy in feeling 'Indian' on festivals and continue your wholehearted attempts to be American the rest of the time. Don't torture yourself (and bore us) by being sentimental over some random ad or song or movie"

All of this sometimes-direct and sometimes-sarcasm-laced and poorly-disguised venom made me go back to the source of it all, the word itself: Patriotism. The dictionary defines "Patriotism" as devoted love, support, and defense of one's country or national loyalty.

Here's an analogy for all of you who subscribe to either or both of the opinions I mentioned above.

I love my Mom. I don't live in the same house as her, but clearly that has never reduced my love for her. I may not be an ideal daughter in any sense of the word, in fact I may have been a really bad daughter at times, which is not something I am proud of and I admit it and try to be better. But none of this ever makes anyone question my love for my Mom. When I post a heartfelt message to her on her birthday or simply some day when I am missing her, no one questions the integrity of my emotions. No one tells me how hypocritical I am not to live with her and yet claim to love her. No one snorts at the fact that I am just reminded of my love on some random day and will forget all about her the next day. No one calls me an emotional fool when I feel tears of happiness and pride sting my eyes on hearing that my Mom has gotten out of a serious illness.

For me, loving my country is the same. Am I an ideal citizen? No and I am not proud of it. Am I serving the country as much as I would want to? No, far from it. Am I complaining about any perceived bad state of affairs in India? No. I am not, because unless I can do something to help, I don't think I have a right to complain at all. And I will help. I know what I want to do and how I want to do it. I have plans for my life, like everyone else, and my country is a big part of my plans for my life.

So, I have some requests to make of all of you mentioned-thought-subscribers.

I would request that you stop making assumptions about my state of mind and sentiments and telling me and the world that my emotions cannot be permanent enough to matter or make a difference. You are not an NRI. So I am sure you do not have any experience to be able to associate meanings to my words when I express love for my country.

I would also request that you stop taking that condescending tone with me while telling me exactly how NRIs feel and how they should feel. I would like to pull the "you are not an NRI" card here as well. You simply cannot know how I feel. When you make comments about me trying to be more Indian than ever in a foreign land, you do not know that I do so cautiously because I do not want to antagonize the folks here who have welcomed me in their country. When you joke about me trying to be an American, you do not know that I do so because I want make an effort to understand their culture, which is a very small token of appreciation for their openness to my traditions. I understand that you just want to engage in "harmless" humor. Which is fine, because you don't really know what it's like. So it would be great if you can stop claiming to know at all.

Finally, I would request that you stop assuming that your public commentary will not be taken personally. You may disguise it as advice, but no one is really naive enough to believe that you don't have an opinion about NRIs. I mean, really now. We may be "emotional fools" but we clearly are not foolish :)

Now may be the time when you go down the "you are not taking it sportingly" route. But believe me, there are many of you, and there have been many posts from all of you over time. So if you have survived reading through the end of this, I hope that this gives you a chance to ponder over my side things and my side of the world. I would like for you to come experience it once so that you can see for yourself why some things become personal, and why I sometimes feel more welcomed in a group of "foreigners" rather than in a group of  fellow countrymen who judge me for my choices.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


"I won't be able to talk much, I cannot talk. I know only one thing and that is to sing"

I laughed as you said that Arijit, because talk is superfluous when you sing! You made thousands of people scream and go ballistic with excitement as you crooned one song after another, non stop, seamlessly blending your own songs with others', across genres. You had my complete attention from the moment you made an entrance on that stage till the time you said goodbye over two hours later. And I felt like a pendulum going between goosebumps and warmth, surprised by your innate skill and overwhelmed with the natural romance in your voice that makes silly, mundane lyrics sound like beautiful poetry. No wonder "Tum hi ho, ab tum hi ho..".
Ladies and gentlemen- the one and only Arijit Singh, Live in concert!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Surround Sound

I tell you there is too much noise in the room. You tell me to figure it out. I happily agree, confident that I will do so. I then find out that your concern for the noise supersedes your belief in me sorting it out. So, you go ahead and install sound proofing. I am still in that room with all the noise, which is now more pronounced because of your dampners. It's fine, you can continue to think you are helping me. I already know you are only helping yourself.


"A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead." 
~ Graham Greene, "The End of the Affair"

Where did it begin, when does it end? Right here, right now - my words to blend.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


"Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts." ~ Sigmund Freud

This surprising patch of yellow seemed to mock this quote as it bloomed resiliently alongside a busy road that does not offer the habitat for curb-side blossoms. And yet there it was, a display of everything but a lack of emotion. Defiance is an emotion too.


"I wish it were as easy to stop hating as it was to start."
~ Chakotay, Nemesis, Star Trek Voyager

Can you end that which you start? More importantly, would you want to? Most importantly, will it let you?


"Big Sur is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked at from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look" ~ Henry Miller

As I watched colors shift from a sunny blue-and-golden to a misty grey-and-silver all in the span of 90 minutes, I could not help but be awed by the paintbrush with which nature paints a masterpiece every single day, in her very own art gallery. 

Veiwing is not free of course. It needs you to pay attention. Oh, and a sense of adventure coupled with loads of humour especially when you are naive enough to believe a weather forecast that proudly proclaims a "warm day in Big Sur"  :)

Needless to say, the photograph does not do justice to the engaging beauty and mysterious temperament of the Pacific Coast. 


"I assumed that romantic love was a human weakness. But clearly it can also be a source of strength. Perhaps my analogy was flawed. Love is not a disease. Get well soon." ~ Seven of Nine, Star Trek Voyager

It would seem strange how the last two sentences there contradict each other. A second thought, and they silently fit well. For what is love if not a contradiction, for how does one explain an affliction that harbors rapture.


As a child, I remember once asking my elderly relatives why she served tea to her household help in an old, chipped tea cup. She had looked at me nonchalantly and had said:

"We don't use that cup anymore- why throw it when she can use it?
"Why don't you give it in the cups you use? 
Her nonchalance had now turned to indignation. 
"We cannot drink tea in the same cup that a servant has used!" 
"But she washes the plates we eat in, then why do you ..." 
"Priya.. GO PLAY!!
My Mom voice interrupted me as she stared at me with her "wait till we get home" eyes. I dutifully slipped out, as I overheard the relative curtly commenting to my Mom how kids nowadays don't have any manners. 

Almost 20 years later, I thought of that "forbidden" question as I was pouring out tea for Lakshmi Bhabhi, our household help in two identical cups - one for me, one for her. The question had answered itself. 

I was reminded of that incident again today when I watched this video. I wish we would do this in schools in India as well. I would be very happy if I am told that it is already being done. 

Skin color discrimination might not be the top rated issue in India, but the self importance that humans tend to associate with themselves is pretty clear from the wide array of factors that people have identified to continue indulging into their discrimination addiction. Making a child realize how cancerous this attitude is might serve as the right foundation for eradicating this disease.. Well, maybe some day!


Unity in Diversity

I listened to this song once. And then I listened to it again. And again. And again. It reminded me of what Independence Day has meant to me. And should mean to me. 

Of course, there is no shortage of cynics in India who complain about everything ranging from bad governance and rampant corruption, to inexcusable flaws in Rahman's Bengali pronunciation. I don't understand Bengali, but I did feel happiness ripple through me when I heard him sing the words that Tagore put down decades ago. 

This composition is a beautiful and rich tapestry of hope and inspiration. It is the epitome of how Tagore co-exists with rap, how a powerful, traditional Hindustani sargam can co-exist with super funky bass guitar. 

It epitomizes how we have co-existed as this diverse group of idiosyncratic people who collectively define what I know as "India". On this Independence Day, I hope for us to awake in that heaven of freedom that Tagore had envisioned.