Thursday, January 29, 2009

Touchy Indians in Heaven

(This is the second installment of the adventures of the very eclectic group called Touchy Indian who specialise in the vocation of protest. Check this link to know more about them)

No one ever knows when luck would turn against them. Even Naarenathji, head of Touchy Indians Inc. had no idea that death would come to take him, that too on the very evening that he had successfully beaten a liberalist in a debate on artistic expression. His car crashed into a ditch and so Naarenathji and some of his loyal associates were now standing in the chambers of Chitragupta, the divine book keeper waiting for the verdict on their sins.

Just next door, Devendra, the king of heaven, was getting ready for his nightly entertainment. Devendra was really excited tonight. Finally, Vishwakarma, the divine architect, had managed to install a dolby stereo system in the Indrasabha. Today, he would listen to the divine music on an improvised system, watch the beautiful apsaras shake a leg and also enjoy the freshly brewed somaras (an alcoholic drink). But as Devendra started walking towards the divine auditorium, it was not music that welcomed him, but sounds of crash and boom.

Aarghh thought Devendra, that bumbling Vishwakarma must have messed up the new sound system. Just then, one of the guards came running to him.

“Devendra, Devendra, there is an emergency.”
“What happened? Did that Vishwakarma break my new system? I swear I will suspend him from his divine post.”
“No O Lord, its not Vishwakarma, but some earthlings who are destroying your precious auditorium and molesting the apsaras.”
“What? How dare they? And how did they get in? Where were all of you?” Devendra asked rushing towards the Indrasabha.

All the crystalware in the Indrasabha had been smashed. The brand new Dolby system was broken to pieces and Menaka, Urvashi and Rambha were on the floor, their clothes torn and noses bleeding. And in the midst of all this stood 4 earthlings in flowing white kurtas and Gandhi caps.

“Who are you?”, thundered Devendra.
“I am Naarenath. I have just come from the earth and what I see in your sabha is completely unacceptable. How can you, being God, indulge in such activities against our Dharma?”
“What dharma are you talking about? And who gave you the right to vandalise my sabha?”
“Don’t you know, I founded the Touchy Indians Inc. Halla Bol is our motto. We do not tolerate any insult to our precious Bharatiya Sanskriti. And you are abusing our culture. All this western stereo systems, these dancing girls clad in revealing clothes and so much alcohol. Do you think there are no saviours of the culture around to question you? It was good that we heard about your plans and managed to slip away from Chitragupta and end all this frolicking.”
“What do you mean against the culture? We have been doing this forever. Much before your kind even learnt the meaning of culture. It is the way of Indrasabha to indulge in the pleasure of the senses. And all your ancestors have also done so. Come on, you guys worship Shri Krishna’s raas leela, Kunti’s polygamy and Lord Shiva’s love for bhang. What culture are you talking about?”
“Don’t try to mislead us, Devendra. We don’t acknowledge all these arguments. You are citing the interpretations of some western historians and some of those damn liberalists. How dare you throw all this falsehood at us? Now that we are here, we will cleanse heaven, in the same manner as we cleansed the earth and we will vandalise your court till you cleanse your mind.”

Devendra was so irritated that he didn’t know what to do. He was tempted to use the Vajra, but he didn’t want to waste it on these trivial earthlings. Just then Chitragupta entered, “Devendra, I have gone through this earthling’s records and I know why he is so anti-fun. You see he had a very uneasy adolescence. He was not allowed to view certain videos and literature that every boy grows up with by his strict father. The father felt that his son should indulge in all these things only after a certain age, but this irked Naarenath and he became increasingly violent. He developed this sadistic streak and decided that if he could not have fun, he wouldn’t let anyone else have it and the first thing he destroyed was his father’s VCD collection. From then on, he has been on a rampage, vandalising any symbol of entertainment that he could not have access to.” His past exposed, Naarenath was speechless for the first time. “Oh,” said Devendra, “that is the problem. Chitragupta, Naarenath and his associates deserve hell but if we send them there without some treatment they would trouble hell dwellers. So Naarenath, we shall imprison you and your associates in our special video cell. Now you can cleanse your mind of all the sadism with these special videos. But you will have to promise you will mend your ways.” A grateful Naarenath promptly went to the video cell, never to damage any auditoriums or art halls.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Journalistic ambitions

As a journalist, every one of us probably wants to be an Anderson Cooper or a Christiane Amanpour. We all want to do the high profile stories, bust rackets, hob nob with those who matter. The power trip seems important to many, which leads to the misconception that if you are not there, then you are nowhere. In my short career so far as a journalist, I have seen that view being reiterated many times. You cannot be just a reporter, that’s not done is what you are told. You need to be seen with the right people, appear to be leaning on the acceptable side (no matter what your personal views are) and have a slightly if not totally elitist approach. The last because as a country we still have a colonial hangover and we believe that it is fashionable to say that ‘I can hardly speak Hindi/any regional language.’

And when you are way down in the corporate hierarchy, all these issues seem to have the potential to ‘make or break’ your career choice. I firmly believe that talking things out with other experienced people, with people from other professions and also reading up and watching movies help a lot when anyone faces such problems that are common to youth all over. So it was not a surprise when I found some of my answers in the movie Bruce Almighty. Jim Carrey plays a journalist who does happy go lucky stories about blood donation camps and cookie making contests. But he is not happy even though his editor says that he has the rare gift of making people laugh. He wants the anchor job and that’s all he cares about. He messes up his first live opportunity (which he gets at the age of 40, my boss would probably say look we give you these opportunities much earlier), because he gets to know that his rival has been given the anchor job. He messes his relationship, when Jennifer Aniston goes to dinner with him, expecting a ring, Carrey quashes all her expectations by saying that the party is for him getting the anchor job. Carrey is so blinded by what he doesn’t have that he fails to consider what he has. It’s a habit we all get into. Eventually God comes in and straightens things out in true Hollywood style and Carrey is seen telling his editor in the climax that he is ok with doing the funny stories and making a fool of himself, because that’s what he is good at.

Watching that movie, I realised how many times we all fall into this trap of aiming at something we may not be. In some ways, we never grow out of high school, always trying to fit in with the ‘in’ crowd. It is a trap and many times we know it, but fall into it nevertheless, because we are conditioned to believe that our self worth depends on what others think. Maybe its not that important to get that exclusive, maybe its not that important to boast about an address book with contact details of the who’s who in the world. What is more important is whether you were happy when you did that story. Whether you were satisfied with what came of it. This fact was reinforced for me by an assignment that I got this week. A story on how a group of owls were rescued by some rock climbing experts from a crack in a building wall. It was a totally random story, something some may even scoff at. But it was by far one of the most interesting and enjoyable stories I have done. I met interesting children, interesting rock climbers and some homemakers, one of whom I interviewed later on for another hard news piece. So it was a win win story, even though I may never get an award for it.

Over time I have realised that though ambition is good, it should not be to the point that you lose your own sleep. There is a need to draw the line, know how far you should go. I know I don’t want to be Christiane Amanpour. I know I want to be just me and want to be remembered however faintly, by whatever non descrepit story I do. Its easy to get disappointed that one is not among the ‘chosen few’, but maybe one would start a creed of one’s own :-)

Monday, January 5, 2009

(These were my feelings after I realised the enormity of 26/11...when death comes so suddenly you realise the meaning of the philosophy that life is just a mirage.)

Passing through the streets

Looking at people and things

But seeing nothing

Like a numb zombie

Days and nights pass

And you can never see

Whether you are living

Or is it worth dying

You wait for something

You crave just anything

That would make you

Feel again

And it takes death

To realise that you live

Standing as a witness

Unmoving, immobile

As the specter hangs

In the night air

You see how little

Do things really matter

Those trivial fights

Those trivial tears

Fade with the blow

Of the fatal hand

How small and delicate

How inconsequential

In the cycle of times

One life and its troubles are