Deceiving Yourself is Not That Bad….

This autumn I have been reading Emotional Intelligence Fame author Daniel Goleman’s ‘Vital Lies, Simple Truths’. The book talks about growing complexities of this more and more inter-connected world of different people of different capacities living mostly in a semblance of an order and about our sincere efforts to a manufactured-consent where collectively and individually we have designed a mechanism for living peacefully by deliberately ignoring the inconvenient truths and by happily adopting the convenient lies masquerading as truth. He believes that since we have been doing this facade over centuries and millennia, we have now come to a stage where our own brain says that the vital lies are not lies per se but are the truth instead. The brain has adopted to the convenience of survival and thus saves us from the agony of handling and confronting the obvious. May be this is the need of the day in this more-complex-than-we-can-handle-perhaps world. Goleman believes that the faked consensus on this is quite impressive and useful indeed. He says we have developed blind spots to cater to our goals of remaining free from anxiety by diminishing awareness. He quotes authentic historical facts to buttress his claims like French getting to know through a deserter that Germans were preparing for chemical gas attack during first world war but still avoiding to work on this information which eventually  leading to avoidable loss of lives.

  1. Author says that brain’s tactic for handling physical pain through muting awareness offers itself as a template for dealing with psychological as well as social hurts. The perception of pain includes the ability to numb pain by turning it out.
  2. He says events are what we make out of them. What delights a child bores a conductor. How one construes events determines whether or not that will be stressful. Stress occurs when demands of environment in a persons’s eyes exceed his resources. Event is an event subject to a person’s perception. A given event-divorce, job loss, child birth- can be seen as a threat. intimidation, as a challenge or as a relief depends upon the person’s circumstances, attitudes, and sense of resources. Nature of threat is highly subjective. It is not the event  per se but the meaning that matters. When events are seen as threats, stress response is triggered. Stress is the product of cognitive act, appraisal. Appraisals also change.
  3. He says that packets that organize information and make sense of experience are schemas, the building blocks of cognition.They embody rules and categories that order raw experience into coherent meaning. All knowledge and experience is packaged in schemas and they accrue with time. They are the intelligence that guides information as it flows through the mind. If somebody fails to revise a schema to fit to the facts, the resulting perceptions can be bizarre. A schema is a sort of informal, private, unarticulated theory about the nature of events, objects or situation we face. All schemas put together constructs our private theory of nature of reality.With them we go beyond the data. Like for a car we assume it would have a fuel tank, a steering wheel a boot space and cushions etc. This lets us see beyond what has been made available. Like theories schemas are open to revisions. Stereo types are a variety of schema. Also notion of schema is in itself a schema. Schemas are the organising dynamic of the knowledge.
  4. Author believes that we conceal truth from not only from outsiders but also from us and that to an extent that we even forget that we are concealing the information from us.
  5. That memory is autobiographical and we edit our memories at will. Its author is self. The self is built up gradually from childhood on as perhaps the most basic grouping of schemas held by mind. Its origins are in the interactions between parents and child and development follows the contours of relationships with parents, peers, family members.The self sculpts and constructs the way a person will interprets and filters informations It acts as independent and even totalitarian. People take credit and disowe failures. If a team we know, wins we say we won but if the same team loses we say the team lost, while win was of ‘we’ and that includes the team too, the loss was of team. It is said that one’s self esteem is protected by this arrangement as contrary truth may be quite upsetting. Information that fits the self concept is easily assimilated and one that challenges self esteem can cause lot of stress and even depression so the self praising self in this complex world may be helpful. Self finds positive schemas even in odd circumstances.
  6. Noticing what not to notice is also our strategy and author says that we have diversionary schema to do that and author uses the world lacuna to expalin them. The gap or whole the literary meaning of lacuna explains that perhaps. They create blind spots. They are like black holes of mind meant to create anti attention like opiods. They guard self esteem so it does recall good memories easily than the bad ones. If Lacunas are not working then a good recall of all bad memories can cause depression due to over anxiety. More anxious a person is more schemas he has in operation to encode a sense of threat or dangers. More they are, more likely they will be activated by life’s events.
  7. He quotes Neitzsche to say that Madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups.He says a group is changeable, impulsive and irritable. So when self is siubsumed in the group the collective schemas are built and they too are vulnerable to self deception as the focus shifts from individual to common views and directions. They need schemas even now to reduce anxiety perhaps. This grouping is relevant even for a  family as that helps the family to find a common narrative based on multiple dynamic factors within the family
  8. He talks about the adopted schemas of the family also which develops a narrative of everything being fine and good despite evidences to contrary also many times. He says on the face of it it seems that there is nothing rotten in Denmark, while truth may be otherwise. The family self which emerges is protective and filters information as per its choice and assessment and maintains its professed claims to self esteem even at the cost of independence of its members. He says that families develop a sort of ritual which covers the undesirable issues like possibility of divorce between parents which may lead to dissolution of family itself. He says even incestuous families look happy from outside though they betray some signs of that as well.
  9. Author talks about ‘Groupthink’ also and says that in the group all the members subordinate themselves to the collective self which may be hierarchical and not always very efficient. He quotes the example of ‘Bay of Pigs’ fiasco too in which the mistakes or blunders were made despite very obvious facts. He says a group deceives itself to be running on best possible averaged out advice while actually all the members out of adopted discipline do not come out honestly to say the right things. The decision influenced by group think are not the best as they are based on thinking of one or two individual who may themselves may be duped into believing that such decisions were too good as being based upon advice of all while they actually were not.
  10. Author talks about tyrannies and freedoms of frames too. Frames come and go as society evolves. While in traditional societies work and play were integrated, presently the employer owns you for eight hours a day. This happened with advent of time keeping and with need of higher supplies in terms of regularity and speed. The Henry Ford model of assembly line trivialized the work and everybody had to see the small part of whole process and not the full work as a whole. The factory rhythm thus developed reframed the work scene as made of rigid guidelines defining work.
  11. Author says that what you don’t see does not bother you. The social lies of believing everybody as good helps us to find lubricants with tactful inattention. Robert Rosenthal’s work on games of sending and detecting social lies and its implications for smooth operation of daily life have been referred to in the book.  Clenched fist, silence and many more gestures are meant to convey and conceal at the same time.

What I Saw in Darkness?

Yesterday evening I was back to home relatively early and was reading Michael Lewis’s ‘Undoing Project’ sitting at my porch. As the evening sun was growing more and more reddish it was time to say good-bye to the day, but looking at the fading sun going beneath the horizon, I decided to do a quite stroll on my house roof. I wanted to use this lovely and calm time of the day to just ponder over what I had been reading. Personally, I have been accustomed to these lazy strolls over my roof in this house and in my previous house also but now they are few and far in between. The view you get from the roof is always refreshing as your sight is not blocked by the walls and buildings around and you feel as if you can see far and wide like an eagle. It’s a luxury now a day as in this television and mobile age, hardly few are found on their roofs in the evening or for that matter in the morning either. Few decades ago or I would say almost till the end of twentieth century you might have noticed your neighbors strolling on the roofs as part of their daily routine. In fact far more love stories would have bloomed and blossomed over the roofs than inside the listless bugged-by-smart phone rooms of current times. I still remember opening my eyes to the vast blue sky as I used to sleep under the sky over some nights when either erratic electricity supply had ditched us on few nights or sometimes when, in those non-ac days it was always better to spend night sleeping with cool breezes under a moon lit sky than sweating out in humid nights with ‘Orient’ fans throwing warm gushes of winds over your body. Those lovely moments are now rare and despite much cajoling, my kids after one failed attempt (that’s another story to tell) never have tried that again. But believe me, now I feel those nights were not just five-star nights but a true million star nights.

As I continued to lazily stroll over the interesting insights derived from the book, the sun set further down and soon it got dark enough to enlighten me. Enlighten ? In dark? Yes, In dark. As now suddenly I could see a beautiful moon of the 4th night of the lunar calendar and also the scores of twinkling stars. These stars were obviously there even when the sun was out and it’s light was helping us to see everything very clearly. But the same light was not letting us see the most beautiful moon and the wonderfully twinkling stars. As the sun had gone down the horizon and was not illuminating this part of earth, my same eyes were now capable of enjoying the unparalleled celestial beauty. It was possible to see same dark beauties without sun lights. I was thrilled to note all this.

But, what does it mean? Does it mean that some times you need darkness around to see more beautiful things? It seemed to me that you sometimes need to free yourself from the shackles of light which might have by its nature, obfuscated or compromised your vision. To me this felling was another Eureka moment. I realized that you don’t need just light to see, you need darkness also to see around! Yes, that was obvious to me yesterday evening. Likewise perhaps, the lack of light in a situation of life might be giving us an opportunity to not miss seeing what was no less important and no less beautiful either. This is life actually. We fail to notice what is within our eyesight whenever we were blinded by the excessive lighting of the light or metaphorically excessive light of ‘name’ and ‘fame’. We may easily get lost in the glory of the light and avoid and hate darkness, while the latter shows us what you normally don’t see at all. So next time you are in darkness, don’t despair. Just see in the darkness of the day or in darkness of life what you might have missed till then. There may be more options and may be better scenarios than before. So don’t need to run from darkness. Just open your eyes without the noise and pollution of bright lights and see what you can possibly see. Just be yourself at that moment and even if there was nothing else, don’t forget to relish the beauty of the moon and the twinkle-twinkle little stars. They are really beautiful.

A to Z of 2016

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I started writing this blog at the break of new year, but due to bone breaking schedule of 7 phased U P elections which I presided as Joint CEO U P, I could not finish this any time before. So with this delayed delivery I am trying to pen down the key words which appealed to me relevant, in the year gone by.

America. Yes, its America. I finally striked of ‘America’ from my bucket list which for long, had ‘visiting America’ as one of the items in my to-do list. So in year 2016, I landed at JFK Airport. The first brush with USA was a long queue at immigration counter which was longer than what we all witnessed outside ATMs by the end of the year. Though I was expecting some piercing questions by the immigration officer, but that gentleman from Florida was welcoming in all respects. Sorry Shahrukh, but I got through rather too easily.
Banks of Course. The banks were there since last century or even before but with onset of ATMs we had starting to forget the banks staff and their managers quite conveniently. We were quite cosily interacting with ATMs till demonetisation hit us all on the fateful night of 8th November. We soon realised that we need to know our bank and its staff, otherwise we would end up standing in queue for ages. So now I know Mr Naval and Mr Jha and Miss Priyanka and Miss Divya are important persons in my bank as they could easily tell you that bank did not have Rs 24000 to give you and you could be unceremoniously returned with a paltry 5000 instead, that too in soiled notes or unmanageable for now 2000 bill. I learned the lesson hard way.

Calories. Ask any body who wishes to be fit. Keeping track of calories burnt in every step you take and in each work out you do is the new fad.

Demonetisation. Do I need to write anything on this? Everybody right from Bastar to Banaras, Kashmir to Kamnyakumari, Terrorist to tourist knows about it. It was the world of the year not for me alone but for the whole country, literally. Disney

Election Commission comes to mind as my year ending quarter was spent for days and nights at the commission’s Lucknow office preparing for all too important U P Elections, the result of which is out now and you can see how important and how meteoric that was.

Florida is the place for kids as with Disney’s multiple game parks and Universal Studio’s fun parks, you would not feel anything but younger. This is the place to be for the kids and also for those who want to be kids notwithstanding their age. Florida is fun actually.

Grand Canyon and nothing else. The history of millions of years beckons you to feel like a very small droplet in this big cosmos. The grande rocks stand their with all majesty and grace.

Hong Kong for being my multi transit route airport  and for offering some hot soups and souvenirs for my visits to Fiji.

Irom Sharmila ended her fast after 16 years. What a resolution!!

Joyrides. I wanted to close the chapters of joyrides in 2016. I had enough of them this year. Though kids were the reason we went to Orlando, the Mecca of fun and amusement parks. The Disney and Universal and Sea World are located here and you can have one of the best rides available anywhere. I enjoyed all of them in front rows and believe me they give more thrill than anything else in this world, but I think it’s time to hang my boots at 45 plus as far as joyrides are concerned.

Kapil Sharma Show continued to amuse the nation with his team of Dr Mashoor Gulati and Bumper and Chander and all. Always a fun to watch.

Las Vegas was on my itinerary this year which I can also call an extended Indra Sabha for all it shows you and you find out sooner than later that why it is called a Sin City.

Cirus Mistry was ousted out of Tata. The full story behind this will always remain a foraging agenda for journalists or may be a biography coming soon.

Narendra Modi obviously continued to hog the limelight for all the right reasons.

Olympics at Rio were in this year. Notwithstanding politicians’ embarrassing desire to get clicked with the star athletics at the wrong time at the wrong places, P V Sandhu, Sakshi Malik and Deepa Karmakar gave us many chak-de-India moments.

Parenting. I had never before confronted and struggled more on the issue, than this year. With tow teenage kids the parenting can be most challenging and unnerving task of the world. You can prove to be an absolute dumb. It can expose you like never before. You can handle your kids only if you know what parenting is all about. Thankfully by the end of this year, I came across a masterpiece book, ” Between Parent and Child” written by Haim Ginott. This is a master piece. I am still convalescing after being hit by this book. Thanks Ginott.

Queues of course, with rich and not so rich queuing up right from the dawn to dusk.

Cho Ramaswamy uniquely talented and fearless journalist left us in 2016. We are going to miss his no holds barred journalism from southern part of India. Knew perhaps too much about politicians.

Surgical Strikes was a word used as never before and the scars of it on our neighbor might be still fresh.

Thinking Fast and Slow. This is the title of the book written by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman after almost half a century of serious psychological research work is a gem, the most elaborate treatise on mind.  It tells about how our mind thinks and how it does not think. In my life I have not read a book more important and more revealing than this. It talks about system 1 and system 2 and thread bares the concepts and frameworks of mind. I can say before I read this book, I was a moron who did not know about his own mind, I may not still be a great brain, but I know, I know a lot more about me than I knew in 2015.

European Union lost its sheen when Britain decided to do a long overdue Brexit.

Varanasi. In this second visit of me to this city of lights, I realised to some extent that Varanasi or Kashi or Banaras was a not a city alone. It was more than that. It’s a way of life, its whole philosophy of life. I think there can not be more layers in any other place in this world. It’s a city full of energy and full of consciousness, its full of life and full of death. Manikarnika ghat can so easily unnerve you and so easily can enlighten you. Just be there.

Wikipedia continued to give us an access to the store house of information of course subject to the choice of those who  are contributors to it. Wordpress though continued to be my desired place to be always.

Xander Cage and Deepika continued to keep us waiting to thrill. Its out now though with less of a fizz, but still not that bad either.

Yoshinori Ohsumi won the noble prize for medicine for his outstanding work on Autophagy.

Zika Virus did some more damage in Brazil and continued to remind us that we have more to do in the field of health and nutrition globally than guessing the height of trump towers.

Amma and Her Newspaper

I set to read newspaper one fine morning downstairs with Amma as always going in with maximum enthusiasm at her command in making tea for her beloved son. As she was walking in the kitchen, she murmured that she did not get to read the Hindi newspaper yesterday. As she completed her sentence, something hit me. The newspaper had been delivered for sure and I had read that myself. So how could she not get that to read. I could read the sense of resignation in her statement as she moved further by few inches into the kitchen to make tea. Because of her age and weight she makes penguin like steps to move, but she moves with determination for sure. Her weight also does not help but her will power is still strong enough to move inch by inch to make tea for her kids. She is perhaps happiest when she does that. Even at this age she is the last to eat at the dinner table and she is proud of that. I could listen her murmurings coming from inside the kitchen as she was preparing tea.

I got uncomfortable on hearing her not so much expressed pain of missing the newspaper and could visualise the whole day as she would have tried to get hold of her daily dose of news. I have seen her since last 4 decades and more reading the newspaper daily immediately after finishing her first daily tranche of work in the morning. She did not studied beyond 9th but that had been no impediment for her reading a newspaper as avidly as possible. She would not recall the names of all foreign politicians as easily as I could and sometimes she would mix and mismatch the news and curse the one who was gentler, she has been more than aware of what has been happening around her in India. She can win I believe any quiz show if she had to face contestants similar to her background. She gets angry sometimes more than she ought to, when ever she reads news hurting the interest of the nation. She would not stop short of prescribing immediate and on the public square sort of punishments for the greedy and the culprits. I remember her reading same news multiple times whenever there was any, about her native place. I still remember her preserving a copy of the newspaper which had published the news of a dacoit attack in her native village Ujhaiyya sometimes in 1980s. That copy of newspaper neatly folded might still be there somewhere in her closely guarded old steel trunks. She still guards them well!!

So in this backdrop it was a heart wrenching moment for me as I could visualize that how hard and how helplessly perhaps she would have tried the day before to search for the newspaper as she is an octogenarian and finds difficult to walk without the support of a walker. I could not help myself for my visualization of her looking for the newspaper here and there and sometimes waiting in vain for that to arrive from outside. She might have gone out too albeit with much difficulty to see if the hawker had thrown it somewhere in the small garden on the front. She would have asked her woman Friday Rita too to look for the newspaper and finally settling down to resign to fact that she could not get the newspaper. As on the day I was out to office till late, she could not have got any other help to get that so she could have preserved her half a century ritual of reading a newspaper for an hour or so. In fact she uses newspaper to sleep also as many times I have found her sleeping and snoring post lunch beneath the two folds of newspaper. Perhaps the tough bone-breaking daily routine would squeeze out even the last ounce of energy by afternoon and she would sit down to read the remaining newspaper after having her lunch and more often that not she would fall asleep in next 10 minutes.

As I understood her pain, I went upstairs to look for the newspaper as sometimes they do get mixed with my steady supply of newspaper. I found her Hindi newspaper hidden in those multiple reams of read and unread newspapers. I picked that up and went downstairs to deliver that to her. Though the day had passed by, she was happy to see that and without saying any other word, kept it on the table besides her to go through it, later in the day . Finding her settled,  I sat down to sip the tea and just then few drops rolled down my memory lanes marking a path on my cheeks.

One More Suicide or One More Murder ?

This morning all the newspapers of Lucknow have published a heart wrenching news of a young boy of class 10 shooting himself to death at his home. He was solving numerical when he shot himself and was preparing for his pre-board exams next day. This young boy wrote a one line suicide, “I Quit………….” There are images of the suicide note with blood splattered on it and parents in the deepest sorrow of their life. The pain is too much for them to bear and I have to admit that this news coming on the back  of so many similar news in last few years, I am most deeply disturbed. I am disturbed not only because I too have teenage kids but because this is too close, too real to face, too heavy a price to pay for the mad rush of marks  and successes in the coming exams over Feb and March. The Kota for so many similar reasons is gradually becoming the suicide capital of innocents of India.

In this interconnected world every body wants to be number one only. The school wants to be the best, the top ranker. The teacher wants to be the best in school. The parents wants to be the proud parents of the most successful kids only. The family wants to be the best family with highest number of successful boys and girls. The society wants to leave behind every other society or ethnicity. They want to be endowed with best and brightest. Moreover the parameters of being best and brightest are so narrowly defined in terms of material indices that we all have thrown the innocent kids into the harshest and cruelest  ring of their life where an innocent child has to save himself from marauding tigers. At age 3, a child invariably is thrown in front of hungry lions of the system as if he was a gladiator of Roman age. Just visualize the trauma of a child preparing for a pre-nursery admission in all parts of India. This is nothing but exposing your innocent most child to pack of wolfs. Just try visualize the stress every other boy and girl is undergoing before board exams. They really shudder to think about the reactions of their school and parents if they scored anything less than 90%. This is killing them. They may be undergoing stress of nightmarish proportions without almost nobody to share.

This game of unequal gladiators is played with the connivance of everybody the society, the parents and the education system. Shivyansh lost his life yesterday. No, actually we all have literally conspired to kill him. We conspired to create circumstances so that he jumps over a cliff to save his dignity like a girl would do sometimes to fend off lecherous mob after her. Shivyansh was a sensitive boy. He was happy with his brother, mother and father too. He tried his best. He was solving numerical just before he quit. He tried his best to stand up in front of hungry mammoth systemic tigers. But the hungry lions of expectations and forced- down-the-throat aspirations around him were ruthless and mean. They did not let him survive. They tore him apart. They killed him with a purpose. They wanted only the best to survive. They wanted only most ferocious to survive so that he could take their place once they were old and could not kill themselves. And so that he could also devour without compunction the innocent hare of future.

Dear Shivyansh, I am sorry. I am part of this pack of systemic wolves. I could not save you. May your soul rest in peace and may almighty punish the killers. Here, the killers are roaming free. May be, they don’t even know that they killed somebody yesterday. Or they would say nonchalantly that nobody killed Shivyansh.

Really ?????

Victory is Mine!!

Happy to see my daughter Jyotsana making her place in the world of writing and bringing in the energy of youth and exuberance.

YOLO

New years have always given me the ‘conquering the world’ vibe. They give me a clean slate to break, mend, treasure, throw away or whatever. They give me an urge to jump up and give a war cry. And this feeling is not just limited to new year’s. I have these moments at random places, at random times and due to random reasons. If I had to break it down for you then I would say that it’s just like those memes where iron man is walking away from an explosion in a totally awesome manner (well instead of iron man it’s me there). The best thing about these ‘moments’ is that nobody knows that I’m having them (and honestly if people found out about the silly things I have them over, they’ll tattoo crazy on my forehead). When I have these moments, I might be looking all poised on…

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Do the Dew…

This morning I was on a morning walk at the Vanasthali Park, close to my home. I did my walk and as I settled to stretch myself before  leaving the park, I noticed drops of dew glistening at the tips of blades of grass against the morning sunshine. The small dew drops were illuminated like small Diwali lights and it was a captivating sight. I paused to watch it more attentively.

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All of us (those who like me were born in 20th century) have been hearing about the miracles of walking barefoot on grass soaked in morning dew. I have been told by my grand mom and all that it betters your eyesight and bestows the vigour and vitality. Though I am bespectacled already, I thought it could help me to keep my eyes healthier for a longer time perhaps. There was some hitch of course due to the clumsiness of taking off your shoes and socks and getting a wet foot and eventually sogged socks and also of hygiene, but eventually I did manage to overpower my reservations and went in for a dew-walk.

Believe me, the moment I kept my feet on the grass I felt as if I am walking in the clouds. The morning dew on the well kept grass had created such a surreal carpet to walk on that my feet would have felt like being caressed by Mother Nature. It was an unbelievably pleasurable experience. I closed my eyes for few moments and tried to feel the most gentle coldness of the dew. It was simply intoxicating and mind blowing experience. I was thinking that God has unrationed the most valuable things in life . Anybody and everybody can enjoy this priceless pleasures of life without any cut in supply. No competition with anybody or from anybody. What a pleasure…

I came back to my home and though of keying in this idea to just remind me and everybody that how easily you can enjoy the most valuable pleasures of life. I will request everybody, that don’t forget to do the dew tomorrow morning….It’s a bliss…don’t miss it…

The Midnight Lucknow Station

Main Entrance of Charbagh at Midnight

Main Entrance of Charbagh at Midnight

Waiting midnight at 3:00 am at Charbagh Railway station for my daughter coming back from her school trip to Jaipur and around, I was seeing a different sort of railway station altogether. It is not that I had not seen it for a long time or I had not been there at that unearthly time ever, but earlier I had not been at this odd time to receive somebody, and therefore had the time to see around. While usually you find a perennial stream of crowd jostling to rush in or rush out of this British period iconic station, at this wee hour of morning you would find more person sleeping at the platform than walking at it. The people who have to find a connecting train perhaps in the morning or who have nowhere to go right in the midnight and no connections to flaunt to get a cozy wait at AC or VIP lounges, have surrendered to the call of the sleep and were lying in all shapes and sizes. They have surrendered to the circumstances and have no compunction in prostrating themselves at the platform in whatever little spaces they could claim to and with whatever little they could their bed. Usually it is recycled poly sheets or any piece of cloth or any newspaper spread. It’s a surreal feeling of socialism at it’s best where the poorest and not so poorest were sleeping side by side, snore by snore. I used this forced opportunity to pause and look around, though I would not have minded to sleep beside them in that milling cloud. On my part sitting at one of the rare benches of the railway station to wait for her daughter who was coming back after a cherished trip, I was feeling like a responsible father. I smiled at the scene around me and just then the train carrying my daughter chugged in at the platform.

She was really happy to find me right in front of my bogey and as she alighted, hugged me. Both of us came out of sleeping labyrinthine negotiating like a skilled driver through the lanes of sleeping millions. We were happy to see that not many were disturbed in this whole process……

Charbagh Railway Station Platform 1

Charbagh Railway Station Platform 1

 

A No Means A No

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Except Pink, which I saw almost a month ago, I don’t recall seeing any movie in last few years which has resonated in my mind-space beyond few hours or may be a day or two at most. But Pink directed by Anirudh Roy Chowdhary is a different movie altogether and it’s courtroom drama is still fresh in my mind. But why is that so? Is it because of Big B’s baritone voice or is it because of contemporary issues of young women coming out of their hometowns and working in big cosmopolitan and merciless cities growing everyday ? For me, the arguments of contending lawyers Deepak Sehgal and Prashant Mehra played brilliantly by Amitabh Bachhan and Piyush Misra are still hitting the inside walls of my prefrontal cortex. The habits we have inculcated over years are stored there and one habits that is ingrained in the minds of all male Indians (even females, I would say), is that there are different rules of social behaviour for males and for females and therefore if any Minal Arora or Falak Ali or Andrea broke those norms expected to be adhered only by females, a lecherous Rajvir Singh or a Dumpy would find an able excuse to rob their dignity and respect. And Yes, it does not matter even if we were living in 21st century.

So, as the courtroom drama unfolds, the learned advocate of lecherous males questions the right of working women wearing short clothes and drinking with men and still say no to resultant rape? How could they ? They should have better known that they were females and they would be leached upon if they did not wear sarees and did not get escorted by a male family member and then were doing the sin of drinking like men (which for males was a health hazard at best) or went for late night parties like men. The norms enunciated eloquently by Advocate Mehra made very clear and very shamelessly that these ‘types’ of girls invited rape and invitation could not have been avoided by the testosterone fired males. Could we be more crude ever? What a ‘shit’ this is ?

I credit the team of Pink for exposing naked, the mindset of Indian Males including me of course. Perhaps even inside me there were some germs of unequal social norms of behavior for men and women, but I had been literally purged of them by the end of the movie. Misguided by the trailers of the movie before the release, I had gone to watch the movie with my wife and did not carry my teenage son and daughter along with to avoid confronting the embarrassing issues which movie intended to raise. But as soon as I came back I asked both, my son and daughter to watch the movie, more so to my son so as he grows into an adult and healthy Indian male without proselytizing into a MCP. I think the movie nails the lies on the head. Alas, If the movie had been made few decades ago, Jessica Lal would have been still alive perhaps because then people would not have asked question that why the hell, close to midnight, Jessica Lal was serving Liquor at Tamarind Bar? She was a hard-working women like your daughter or mine and was working late to take care of her family and she had every right to do so. Only if those Sharmas and Manus had seen the movie and respected her choice to say no !

Yes, A No means a No.

When Gandhi Saved Me…….

mahatma-gandhiji-essay-english-essayIts 2nd October today and hardly anyone in India will miss the fact of today being the birth anniversary of the father of the nation, the man who extricated India from the clutches of Britishers. He was a great soul recognised both locally and globally and has the distinction of having statute of almost every capital of the world. He deserves a special place in my heart as he saved me too once. Yes, but for him I would have been in a different job and who knows, would have been a dissatisfied soul. Actually, he helped me more meaningfully than he helped Munna Bhai in the Bollywood movie Lage Rahe Munna Bhai ! The year he helped me was 1997, a good 49 years after his unfortunate death. Yes, it’s true.

By 1996, at the age of 25, I had cleared the IAS Allied Services of Union Public Services Commission and the Dy S P by U P State Public Services Commission before that. However, I was still aiming for the post of SDM, for which there were just 10 slots under unreserved category and I had to do extremely well. I had cleared the rather tough prelims that year and knew somehow that was going to be my last good chance to get to the still best services of the Provincial Civil Services of U P. It still is. My optional subjects were Political Science and History. I was very confident of Political Science but History was not my best one. I had done well in General Studies and other compulsory papers and was cruising smoothly till I faced my Waterloo moment in the 2nd paper of History. That paper was about the Modern Indian History and as I started reading the question paper, I realised that somehow out of 12 odd questions, I was not thoroughly prepared for even one. I had to attempt just 5 out of twelve questions including two compulsory ones, but I was not sure about which question to start with. I still don’t know why all the questions looked so tough to me that day. I got nervous and felt like that my chances of getting into SDM were all but gone, as with not even one question being properly answered, I could not hope to get the top of the table to secure one of the ten seats of the SDMs. I felt exasperated and started to curse myself. It looked like the end of the road for me.

I had to spend three hours still, so I started reading the question paper again. Suddenly, I looked at the 12th question of the paper and I noted that it was about the life and teachings of Gandhi Ji and its seminal role in the struggle for Independence. I paused at the question to reread it. I had been a good student of Political Science and one of the finest teacher of Political Science, Prof R K Misra had taught me well about him. In fact Prof Misra had explained the life and teachings of Gandhi Ji, so thoroughly to the entire class, that I knew almost everything about Gandhi Ji and his idea from the perspective of a student. I smiled at this little ray of hope and and thought of starting with answering Gandhi Ji and  then finish other four answers to the best of my capabilities and leave the rest to the wishes of the almighty. I was sure that if I started well and did build the flow of writing, I could give a good shot to my aim.

With a sense of new-found confidence, courtesy Gandhi Ji and Misra Sir, I started writing about Gandhi in right earnest. I wrote everything I knew about him in next 45 minutes, about his ideas about Non-violence, theory of trusteeship, his theories about hating the British ways and not the Britishers per se and his ideas of civil disobedience and it’s contribution to the freedom struggle and finally his ideas to keep all sections of Hindus and Muslims to keep together to save the fabric of India as a nation of all and not just for Hindus. I remember as I was writing about Gandhi ji, my pen was flowing like a sword as it about a person whom, I felt like knowing very closely. That was the power of the ideas of Gandhi on me.

After consuming more than slotted time for the question on Gandhi, I moved on to answer other four questions of the subject and with the newly gained confidence and with the flow developed finished off the rest of four questions in the nick of the time. At the end of the three hours, I was largely satisfied and relieved. Though it was not my best performance, it was not very bad either. I knew if I did well in other papers, I could make it. I thanked Gandhi profusely and Misra ji and came out of the exam hall.

The result was out in next few weeks and I was more than happy to see my roll number in the list of persons called for interview. I really smiled at that moment and once again, thanked Gandhi Ji. I knew, but for him, I could not have even attempted all five questions. The answer related to the question on him had certainly given me a good head start and made all the difference.

I appeared in the interview and since it was my 4th at the U P Public Service Commission and as I was slected already in two others, I did my confidence best. I was not sure when would the result be out, so slept well for next few days. Then one fine morning in those days of no mobile and no internet, got a telephone call from one of my class mate, Pratibha. She told me, “Jitendra, you have topped the exams!” What? I topped it? I could not believe that for next few minutes. I took many more minutes to sink in the feeling of being the topper of the exam in which but for Gandhi, I was doomed, literally. That’s the magic of the father of nation. I thanked him again. Today 19 years down the road, I am in job, because of him.

Gandhi Ji changed my life too!