Monday, March 29, 2010

My Country, My Countrymen's Life

To the South of Asia, with the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal as it's Coastal Neighbours and Pakistan to the West as a terror, stands India, My Country, whose unique achievement is never to have conquered any other nation in the world, but only liberated itself from the British and East Pakistan from it's Western counterpart and is today known as Bangladesh, is a land of diversity - diversity in terms of religion, tradition, culture, food habits, language, clothing, opinions (?) etc. It houses Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsees, Jains, Buddhists, Athesists as much as it houses Hindus who form a considerable majority of the population chunk. There is so much within My Country to see and experience and feel that never ever have I been fascinated by the eulogies of the Vegas or the Roland Garros, ascending the Qutub Minar always seemed to be worthy than earning the Kuwaiti Dinar, Taj Mahal at Agra is probably more picturesque than Niagara, Jantar Mantar would perhaps amuse me more than Eiffel Tower!

If those last few words inspired you, hang on! There is the other side to My Country as well. Not seriously exposed, or perhaps, we are too scared/busy/least bothered a lot to see it. The travails and tribulations of 'Common Man', who according to my parents, Social Studies teacher, CSR Professor, Industry bigwigs, Economists and not to forget my (abhi)Netas* form a 2/3rd of My Country's population i.e. 67%, and they have only been increasing day by day and years by years! Sometimes I wonder why this 67% is referred to as 'Aam Aadmi' or 'Mango Man' when actually Mangoes are not easily affordable to them (*Netas are the most precious assets of My Country. I will never be able to fix a value for them. This is why I pay for their security, lavish quarters with even more lavishly spread gardens bearing close semblance to the Lumbini, the trademark laal batti-stainless steel antenna-tinted glasses-bright white Ambassador which of-late has paved way for the Honda CRV, Ford Ikon, Toyota Innova - all foreign made luxurious SUVs and MUVs and from that steps down the 'UV Rays' aka Netas with an Indian made Khadi outfit and not to forget the 'Bharateeya Sarkaar' on the number plate, which should appropriately be renamed to *Bharateeya Sir's Car*. Oh.. I also pay for their regular trips to their constituencies, their 1st Class travel by Air India, their regular pilgrimage to Kashi/Tirupati/Gaya/Badrinath/Vaishno Devi, those tens and thousands of free BSNL calls, those free units of power, those thousands of rupees a day as allowance for attending the Parliament where they either dose off and gain more weight or 'Walk Out' and still lose none, those pensions and perquisites which they are entitled to post-retirement and the list is endless. Yes, I was right. You cannot fix a value to them. Priceless!)

From Netas, I move on to my favourite industry - MEDIA. The following quote which I found in one of my friend's 'Status Message' on G-Talk befits the modern day Media. "If you do not follow the Media, you are uninformed. If you follow the Media, you are misinformed". When most news channels and newspapers have remained a mouthpiece of some or the other groups, mind dates back to those DD 1 era where News was just 2 hours a day affair but gave you requisite information, though restricted but the same crap wasn't replayed, censored but not stitched. Of late, Media has also assumed the role of the Judiciary. From Reporting, they have moved a step ahead to Judgment. For example, 'Support SRK' campaign during the SRK v/s Shiv Sena tussle last month. Further, some of the 'disastrous' LIVE or EXCLUSIVELY ON XYZ has only aggrieved the situation and made it worse for the authorities to handle. The 26/11 attacks, which brought the entire news crew to one platform (if there is one at Gateway of India) was telecast LIVE on most news channels including the statements of the Heads of the Security and Intelligence Agencies . The perpetrators sitting elsewhere got a free access to the possible future steps of the NSGs and spot information which helped them weave an attack accordingly. Our Media bigwigs have more degrees and channels but less common sense perhaps.

Let's take a look at some hypocrisies in India. To begin with, the most recently concluded EARTH HOUR. How could I forget that! Switching off your lights and electric appliances for an hour to raise the awareness towards the need to take action on Climate Change. When celebrities from Bollywood and Politics supported the movement, elsewhere IPL matches making use of flood-lights were all in full-swing, notably, IPL is endorsed by several celebrities and politicos and also industry leaders who preach a lot of ethics and goody-goody CSR. Ohhh... the most CSR-centric ad by the Aditya Birla Group, 'Use Mobile-Save Paper'. Waiting for another CSR-centric ad by the same group conveying the harmful effects of heat and radiation generated by the Mobile Phones. Too much an ask ehh? I am also told that majority of the India is seen in it's villages and a majority of them are poor. Our leaders scream to make it audible to every nook and corner of the nation. Aila.... how come foreign delegates in the guise of being showcased REAL India are shown only the Rajpath and the Akshardham, Victoria Terminus and the Marine Drive, Bombay-Worli Sea Link and the Lotus Temple? But then, thank god there is a Danny Boyle who shows the world that which is censored by our leaders! And then, every year, Page 3 Toms and Jerrys gather in the Capital and participate in the Lakme India Fashion Week. I get to see costumes which are worn by probably less than 10% Indians and it is showcased and publicized as if it represents the whole of India or the REAL India. It's high time to rename it sensibly as Lakme Bollywood Fashion Week or Lakme New Delhi Fashion Week as it only represents a select few elite of the metros or the Bollywood.

Amidst all these going around and countrymen being taken for a ride, what's in store for the 'Common Man' of My Country? Is there anything rather?

"If they answer not to thy call, Walk alone, Walk alone, Walk alone"
- Rabindranath Tagore.

Common Man.
Corrigendum to the previous post

I had a few queries from what looked to me as disgruntled readers. Let me try to clarify them.

1. If I have a proof (an URL/written literature/recorded document perhaps) of M F Hussain saying that he draws nude only those whom he hate - Let me clarify that this is something which I either read in some website or heard during a debate on a news channel. I must confess I am not able to recall in which one of these two did I come across that piece of information, but come across I have for sure. I did some Googling to find out the URL, but did not get any. It directed me to some discussion forum though, where one of the readers claim the same about MFH as I did. But I find it unworthy of producing as a proof. Hence I confess that I do not have a proof right now. But that doesn't change my opinion(s). I am not a critic of MFH but that particular act(ivity) of his. Hate the sin, not the sinner. Mahatma or Christ told this perhaps.

2. "how do u feel that he should not respect the goddess of other faith"? - Respect has to come from within. One cannot force the other to respect someone or something. This is the point I was trying to make when I mentioned that I don't expect MFH to respect the goddesses of other faith. I also did not say 'disrespect that which is Holy to others'.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

'M'other 'F'orgive Hussain - Why we don't need more Hussains!

Whenever a great returns to soil or is on the verge of retirement, the big question arises - WHO NEXT? Be it after Gandhi's and Nehru's death or during this twilight time of Sachin Tendulkar's career. It is always difficult to fill the shoes of the greats. India's Picasso, M F Hussain too 'retired' from India recently. But the question "Who will fill MFH's shoes?" did not arise. Why? Well... he walks bare foot! His claims are that he wants to feel 'Mother Earth' which is why he stays away from footwear.

This reminded me that 'Mother Earth' is represented in various forms. Some see Goddesses as Mother Earth, some see Mother India as Mother Earth. Motherland is often referred to as 'Janani' (One who gives birth).
When Laxmana eulogized Lanka, Ram said "Api Swarnamayi Lanka Na May Laxmana Roachathi, Janani Janma Bhoomischa Swaragadapi Gariyasi" (Lanka might look like heaven, Laxman, but Mother and Motherland are more sacred than Heaven") This is true not only to the followers of one group or inmates of one country but to each and every soul on this very 'Mother Earth'.

It is not that Hussain cannot exercise his rightful 'Freedom of Expression'. But it is the haughtiness of using his vague 'Freedom of Eccentricism' to hurt the feelings of a group of Indians that irks me the most. On questioning, he reportedly replied that he draws nude paintings of those whom he hates. One (or rather, I) could still forgive him for the blasphemous image of the Hindu Goddesses but not 'Mother India' for sure. He being a follower of a different faith, I don't expect him to have any love or respect towards the beliefs of other religion, but certainly, I expect him to show respect towards India, one of the few countries in this world which can boast of endless religion and faith and still lives in harmony, treating all as equal (barring a few bizarre incidents). Moreover, it is also the duty of every Indian to uphold and maintain the secular fabric of this country rather than give scope to tear it apart. This is where Hussain has erred, and this is where I see him not being apologetic about!

What put me to AWE (rather than WOW) was a few people putting forth the Khajuraho carvings as a justification of Hussain's blasphemy. Nowhere in Khajuraho would one find Hindu Gods being depicted nude. Moreover, it just depicts common human beings in the act of sex which is common human tendency to indulge in (responsibly and legally I mean). Khajuraho paintings haven't hurt the religious sentiments of any group so far, atleast none have claimed so. So it is a spineless point to justify Hussain's paintings using Khajuraho carvings. No human being mates in open like depicted in Khajuraho, do they? The reason for all such turmoil prevailing in our country is too much emphasis on RIGHTS. For every mean act of ours, we refer the Constitution and take refuge under copious sections and laws. It's a tad too late but we rightfully need to have some sessions on DUTIES. Duty to preserve peace of the society, Duty to uphold the unity of the country, Duty not to hurt the beliefs and religious sentiments of fellow citizens etc.

Hussain is now India's past. With him accepting Qatari citizenship and India not permitting an individual to hold two citizenship simultaneously, he has naturally lost his Indian Citizenship. He claims to have not lost his Indianness though. Whether he is still the same M F Hussain to Indians matter more than what he speaks for himself. We Indians have a rich tradition of respecting the aged and the old. He is 95 and we wish him a peaceful life ahead. One only hopes he doesn't 'express' much in Qatar, for we all know how 'liberal' are the Gulf countries.

Oh My Dear Holy Mother Forgive Hussain!