Friday, April 24, 2009

The Great Indian Tamasha and other ideals

Cynicism apart thousands if not lakhs of people walked/rode/(insert mode of transport here) to their respective polling stations and exercised their adult secret franchise yesterday. Secret taking second priority, as most wear their political affiliations on their chests. For me secret remains equally important as the right to exercise my vote. A strong ideal ingrained in me by my father who in turn had been adviced similarly by his father.

A large part of the day was however spent in cynicism, evaluating the bios of the candidates and their manifestos. A mighty task made simpler by Mammoth rather, as the Bangalore Central constituency had 37 candidates battling it out including a certain candidate from the BSP whose symbol inspite of violent ideals incidentally is the gentle pachyderm. Of the 37 candidates, 22 were independents. Independents whose manifestos had agenda varying from shockingly turning their constituency vegetarian to more mundane ideas which most politicians (wannabes included) stand for like water/electricity/education for everyone. My father wondered why there were so many in number. It was quite clear that some were in it for working for the betterment of society, others for the pride, some for the mere fact that they could spare Rs 10,000 to contest; but for most, its their single easiest way to achieve higher hits on the media waves.

The Economist labelled the jumbo democratic exercise as "The worst possible way of choosing a government—apart from all the others". I say the method is fine, the participants ignorant (some gullible) and the politicains (at least most of them) whose fate will be sealed for another five (hopefully) years, delinquents. The end result of this massive exercise will be a hung parliament. Independents and regional parties will eat into the vote banks leading to no clear cut results. Parties will look at reworking alliances post results to best suit their power and monetary requirements. Regional parties will become more vociferous on the national front, as they alreay are. I am sure all points aforementioned have been discussed and digressed about by psephologists/journalists/campaign managers/the public. But the point is: Is there an end to this Tamasha? And no clear answer dawns.

My solution would be to eliminate the number of political parties for the Lok Sabha elections. What we require is a basic two party system. The government and an opposition. A government who has administrative powers. All laws and rules will have to be passed by the general public. It would be a rather long process but it can be implemented. The government would act like a CEO and his team would be answerable to us and we would be the final stake holders. In a country like ours with its (trumpets and drum roll) diverse and colourful paradoxes (where else would you see two ladies walk side by side, one with a pot of water extracted from a hand-pump miles away from home and the other ipod plugged into her ears with the latest Laptop strung across her shoulder) such a proposition is hard to dream about but given the right incentive it should take off. As Alan Moore puts it in V for Vendetta, "People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people." A situation which is very much the case here.

The ideal situation would be when we have the freedom to pursue ends for our own good. What we deem good for ourselves physically and mentally and without impinging or denying what others deem their own benfits. But, as is the scheming mentailty of the human species loopholes will be literally expoited at the drop of the coin. The key word being ideal, utilitarianism is again a distant reality which I dont see happening in my progeny's let alone my own lifetime. However the 'human will' will survive and that day will come...soon.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lets put a smile on that face

A trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and norms of behavior. And who better a trickster than....from an old photo album of mine gathering dust in the attics of my mountainside home Beetle Juice and The Joker.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

In the Middle of the Night and Death

Having wrongly read a news report of an electronica music show at the Max Muller Bhavan by Mouse on Mars a descendant of Kraftwerk and having also wrongly informed a friend M about the show, at about 22:00 hrs last night I felt it was only right that I make up for having brought her all the way from Koramangala to CMH Road. After downing a hot chocolate, a cappuccino and a rosemary chicken quiche at Gloria Jean's cafe and knowing she had traveled the distance to capture the electronic colours and hues on her Nikon I suggested that we go down the road to the Lakshmipuram Hindu Cemetery. A cemetery in the night time being one of the bullet points on her "To Capture" list.

A silence intermittently broken by the barks of dogs and ever excited, ubiquitous crickets welcomed us as we crossed the open gates. The quintessential cemetery, stood in the stark yellow light of street lamps throwing an occasional shadow which required a furtive second glance to make sure no mysterious characters were lurking in them. Having set up the tripod M got shutter happy and I just looked around, n stick glowering.

Knowing the area from childhood I was aware we were being observed by a couple of inquisitive characters. Ignoring them for a while didnt quite please them as one of them walked in and started questioning us in Hindi first followed by Kannada. On explaining that M was just taking a couple of snaps and not disturbing the environment or creating a ruckus the ruffled inquisitor inquired if we had permission from the gatekeeper who I assumed to be tucked in bed. The time being past 23:30hrs I contested his suggestion believing the gatekeeper didnt want to be disturbed and the fact that I rather didnt want to disturb him right now. On that repartee the inquisitor took the onus of knocking the door of the gatekeeper's ramshackle hut and after repeated knockings and pleas the lady of the house stepped. Much like Helga, wife of Hagar the Horrible in appearance, the rumpled lady was not in much too a friendly mood to have a chat on what we were doing there and our exact purposes. We explained that we were here just to take some photos of the cemetery in the night time and we would not create any issues natural or supernatural. The inquisitor tried convincing that we were upto no good and had to be evicted from the property immediately. "Helga", rubbing sleepy eyes thought otherwise, warned us not to venture into the crepier looking areas and promptly went back to bed. Inquisitor in question slightly ashamed, slunk away after threatening that we should not disturb the peace of the people in their final rest..supernatural blah...supernatural blah...

We moved ahead. M capturing gravestones, trees, the crescent, inquisitive(apparently our man was not the only one) dogs, smoke from my n stick (quite unsuccessfully though), boards advertising coffin and undertaking services. By about 00:30hrs we decided to head back home. On the way back there was another stop to capture the traffic below, on and beyond the flyover connecting the Inner Ring Road and 100 Feet Road. Some beautiful snaps later I saw M off at her home and called it a rather early Saturday morning.

10:30 hrs or so there was some commotion heard from my neighbour's house. On investigating I found that the purohit who had performed the annual death observance ceremonies had uttered the final ritual incantations and had himself collapsed. Further investigation led me to conclude from a body already quite cold as well as any visible lack of breathing that the man was dead. However to reassure the neighbour that such was not the case and that there could be hope I quickly put the man into the car and drove him to the nearest nursing home. The doctor on duty presumably shared my sentiments explaining that she could not feel a pulse and advised us to rush to Chinmaya Mission Hospital. After weaving in and out of traffic for about 15 minutes we reached the hospital only to be confirmed that the purohit had indeed died. Tight lipped the neighbour and I waited for the purohit's son and daughter in law to arrive, complete the necessary formalities and then returned home.

It was only at home when it struck me that I had a near reverse chronological experience of visiting the cemetery first and then the death, all in less than a span of half a day.
Its a funny thing how after a life of division; from birth through caste, creed, sex, wealth, knowledge, position, health; a life of being ahead or being beaten by someone; a life of compromises, competition, celebration, confusion; everyone meets the same end-Death. Death is the ultimate leveler.