Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is Republic Day Really Happy?

“Who wakes people up at 7 am on a holiday?”

“Flag hoisting at 7! Are they kidding? Ek din toh sone do yaar

These are some of the various sentiments voiced by hostelites on the morning of 26th January as they wake up to go down for flag hoisting. You get the gist right? So, 26th Jan is just another holiday for people today, especially the youth, the “future” of our nation! The sentiment of patriotism is fast becoming extinct even as people just love cursing India’s bad politicians, corruption and inefficiency in the bureaucratic system, poverty, and other evils.

While I am usually a very patriotic person and feel myself welling with love for my nation every time I hear the national anthem, or the notes of vande mataram ring in my ears, or just a positive thing about the nation, and never miss a chance to tell my friends how I am proud of being an Indian and would never trade with anyone else, this year I am not feeling all that proud. This could be because of the string of scandals that shamed our country internationally last year (CWG, Raida Tapes, 2G scam), the inefficiency in our system screaming out all of a sudden to be noticed by one and all, the new level of lowness our country explored this year in various ways – all this just astonished me!

I was speaking to Binayak Sen’s daughter the other day, trying to get the true picture of what was his role in the entire matter, and she told me about how he was simply fulfilling his duty as a doctor by treating Narayan Sanyal, in keeping with his Hippocrates oath, and was not trying to represent Naxalites or their interests. Arrested on the accusation that he was acting as a courier between Piyush Guha (a businessman linked to Naxalites) and Narayan Sanyal, Dr. Sen was actually conducting treatment sessions with Sanyal, with the jailor’s permission and under his supervision.

She related the tale of how her father was framed by authorities over the “salwa judum” movement which prompted the authorities, encouraged by Multi-National Corporations (who were seeking profits) to clear out tribals from their own land for the MNCs to reap the benefits of that land. It was those tribals interests that Dr. Sen was representing, through his organisation People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

It is simply very scary how Corporations are in cahoots with authorities responsible for our welfare, and how they are together exploiting our interests for their profits. An innocent man is behind bars so some big companies and a few politicians can fill their already overflowing coffers with more money.

This fact has prompted me to think how good a republic are we? A republic is a state in which people or a significant portion of them retain supreme control over the government. The word “republic” is derived from the Latin phrase res publica , which can be translated as ‘a public affair’.

But what have we here? We have a bunch of administrators and the ever powerful, profit crazy corporates, busy indulging in personal affairs with a damn-all attitude towards public affairs.

So here’s something for all of us to ponder over as we ‘celebrate’ our 61st republic day. Is India a republic in its true sense? Or are we fast losing the essence of the word and moving towards a scary future for the people of the country?

Books of the MILLENIUM!

It is sad but a fact that we reside in a cruel world – one filled with twisted human beings who are numerous shades of grey. This statement has never been highlighted with greater intensity than by the Millennium trilogy – a set of three books written by Swedish journalist and left wing enthusiast Stieg Larsson.

The man has brilliantly penned down a blend of fiction and fact, sticking to a world he is most familiar with, rather than venturing into unknown arena. Genius and enthralling reads, the books - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest - were published posthumously as Larsson passed away in November 2004, soon after delivering the manuscripts of these three books to his publisher.

Larsson drew heavily from Astrid Lindgren’s children’s books and based the protagonist of his saga, Lisbeth Salander on Pippi Longstockings. The idea for the character came to Larsson when he was discussing with his colleague, Kenneth Ahlborn, how characters from children’s books would manage and behave if they were alive and all grown up.

The books trace the journey of Lisbeth Salander, a social recluse who has been declared of unsound mind by the social welfare bureaucracy. She is fierce, pierced and tattooed, bisexual and heavily independent. Yet, she is an enigma – she is a multilayered personality who will leave you shocked, outraged and impressed, all at the same time as each layer is peeled off, one at a time.

Salander meets a disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist who is one of the directors of the magazine Millenium, famous for its outstanding journalistic efforts. The character of Blomkvist was inspired by another Astrid Lindgren character, ‘Super Sleuth’; thus the nickname Kalle Blomkvist for the journalist. Together, Blomkvist and Salander embark on a journey which exposes scandalous stories, shocking secrets, deplorable acts, and appalling misdemeanors on behalf of people supposed to be caretakers. The books are undoubtedly for grown up readers, certainly not a fairytale read and compel one to reflect on society and its dark realities.

The saga raises a variety of issues – cruelty towards women, corruption among authorities, propagandist agenda, appalling manipulation, and exploitation of basic human and civil rights. It forces one to not only ponder on these issues but also the multi - faceted monster that is society.

The characters are so well rounded and etched out so perfectly that one tends to forget it is fiction one is reading. Larsson’s feminist world view is what probably encourages him to sharply criticize Sweden’s misogyny and discrimination against women in the trilogy.

The books have enjoyed tremendous success in a very short while. The trilogy was in fact translated into 12 languages and sold over 6.5 million copies.

If there is ever a set of books I would heavily recommend, swearing my life upon it, it’s the Millenium series. Definitely a must read, a worthwhile read.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, who Played with Fire and Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is indeed someone you would want to encounter!

A Heavenly Bond or Earthly Desire?

It is very common practice in society today to mind other’s business rather than our own. People, men and women alike, love to rip apart someone else’s life, their decisions, their actions to contemplate on what could be the possible motive and then the consequence of everything they say or do, and also whether it is right or wrong. And God forbid if it’s a celebrity that too of an international stature. Has anyone even thought of who WE are to pass judgments on others?

Even as the 84 year old magnate Hugh Hefner, the multimillionaire responsible for Playboy – a magazine which satiates our basest instincts – has gone ahead to satisfy his own desire to be formally committed to Crystal Harris, his 24 year old girlfriend who used to model for Playboy, the international forum has gone berserk pondering on whether the relationship is based on pure love or materialistic desires. While it is true that the speculation may be fuelled by the many instances in the past where a young woman has married a much older man for his money, is it stupidity to think that this case might just be different?

But it’s difficult now to think that materialistic desires do not overwhelm our innate affection for someone, our very basic desire to be with them no matter what. This is further fuelled by cases where men and women get together purely because of material wealth or when a woman is not given in marriage to a man who is not “wealthy enough” to support her financial needs. While financial support is necessary but is there no value of a bond that is as old as civilization? Nowadays, couples tend to break up over non-issues like property or money so often that it leads people to wonder about the sanctity of marriage as an institution.

On another note, don’t Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris have a right to take decisions of their own accord, whether they are for materialistic or passionate reasons? Just because Hugh Hefner is an international figure does not give a right to tongues to wag about what possible motive could be behind Harris accepting Hefner’s proposal. Even if Hefner proposed to Harris for her outer beauty and Harris accepted because of Hefner’s wealth and influence, it is entirely their business and their decision. Their step of committing to each other to the extent of legalizing their bond in the eyes of society is only being undermined by these petty speculations. It’s a case of the devil or the deep blue sea. They bite the dust if they choose to opt for a largely socially acceptable form of union that is marriage or then face conjecture about their seriousness to each other if they choose to merely live-in together.

Don’t you think it might do us a world of good if we focus on our personal selves more; engage in some self study and self improvement rather than suggesting ways of how others could improve their lives!

Maybe it is true after all – ‘Kuch toh log kahenge logon ka kaam hai kehna’!