The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

THE REPUBLIC OF BHARAT? – कहीं कुछ खोता जा रहा है!

Welcome to the Republic called India that once reflected "Bharat" too. Most of the things happening here these days seem to undermine its democratic institutions.

This kaleidoscope of paradox seems to get aggravated when we see another S Manjunath incident revisited. What else can we say on goons burning alive an official who caught them red handed during a fuel heist? The feeling of loss exacerbates.

We’re living in an effeminate sort of country where at one hand, we want to feel proud of it, but then we come across factors that make us creep inside an escapist shell, we hesitate, restrict our thought process and that is so spontaneous that it forms the wider psyche of the population. Here there is no discrimination. See, feelings leave their game of betrayal at bay at times.

We need to accept its getting scary when every other institution seems to be flawed. Last year saw malaise and corruption sweeping every nook and corner. The only hope is you and me. But are we there? Largely we are a disgruntled lot driven by some common good propagated by some uncommon courage thanks again to the efforts of some common men inhabiting both the “Bharat” and the “India”.

What is the most important asset in a democracy? No doubt, it’s you and me and collective “you’s” and “me’s” are pinning hopes on the Indian youth. But we are yet to begin and remember this is a lot with fractured ideals, shoddy upbringing, conceited opinionating, crushed identities, compounded by a manipulated aimlessness.

The wide youth base being propagated as the next big thing in “India’s” projected growth is a dissected lot with most not yet knowing what they are to do. Let’s begin with the clear writing on the slate that the “India” doesn’t want to see and the “Bharat” doesn’t bother anymore – the “have-nots”.

The widest base of the “have-nots” even boasts the good percentage of Ph.D. holders but they are totally rubbish. They are product of an educational system that is so archaic that nothing can be done. They are so uniformly distributed that they have their presence everywhere, big metro, cities, towns, villages. This is the biggest factory system in India where resource is wasted to create more waste. The low quality output gives the industry a hunter to tame the talented folks who genuinely aspire for more.

In the stark contrast, there is the elite educated class always ready to take wings to an alienated soil to go totally aliens. Pity India!

Juggling in a land of “nowhere” comes the lot of sophisticated and half-baked products. Though they have everything from avenues of education to choosing on career streams; yet majority of this enamored minority lot is non-sensical enough to understand even the basics of the “Bharat” and the “India”. This is the so called uber cool urban youth with polished tongue from metros and small sleepy towns with some metro lineage, busy networking socially with all their big debates and concerns ranging from their understanding of things, to the objects of “nowhere” to their bawdy expressions and public displays of intimate things like relations and love. Silly fellows!

The real minority is those who stay here and really want to make good use of their education. They, somewhere, imbibe traits of all the lots discussed above but the real differentiator here is their better understanding of the concepts of the “Bharat” and the “India”. It lets them grow holistically and they are better able to use the tools that all other lots just waste.

So indeed it is scary. It is up to us, the youth to become a bigger voice homogenizing the concept of the “Bharat” and the “India”. We need to become a collective lot to carry forward the “uncommon work” of the “some common men”.

Hope humanity is going to find its way and there is an India somewhere in the making that will truly reflect the "Bharat" ending this perennial dichotomy. Let’s not forget our emblematic base of the illiterates and have-nots, drawn away from all the access points of even the “Bharat”.

Till then it’s "गन"तंत्र vs "गण"तंत्र, the battle Armageddon with intensifying feeling of loss!

Saturday 22 January 2011


Hey guys, it was really cool if we think it from purely literary point of view. What else it can be, when you have Orhan Pamuk, Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, Gurcharan Das at one place to go for and that, too, on a single day. Start with your best and the Jaipur Literature Festival this year started with this pretext as the line-up for other days suggest but I will come to that later on. Last year, I missed it. This year I am missing the India Art Summit while attending it. Yes, to Pamuk first.

It was not just about his works with “My Name Is Red” and “Museum of Innocence” in greater focus here but also how a family man of Turkey became a global icon of thematic writing. The important point is Pamuk talked about things in a generalist approach of a legendary writer, suave, direct, yet in-between the lines. He says at one place while answering a question on “Museum of Innocence”, “about what a man can do to a woman when he is terribly in love”. Yes he can change the world, the world that means for him and for his partner; the shape and parameters of the change may be something to be debated, based on the circumstances.  A good writing always emerges from cravings of something gone horribly wrong with you and you want to have solace that only a post-mortem of the wrong can give. It may be due to any reason being as simple as not being able to express your love in an effective and glossy way to as complicated as Pamuk’s concern of diminishing language and culture when he sees a rich heritage in some other part of the world.
As the session moves, the writer in Pamuk talks more about love, its nuances. He says he believes human heart is basically same everywhere. He talks about manifestation of love and how he goes about it in his works. Love attaches itself to the objects and when we encounter them they bring the past back to us. Isn't it the reason behind the psyche to kill an identity, a relation first, either deliberately or spontaneously before going on to try the other? Idea of co-existence is probably the most poorly understood concept in human relations.
And pain has this virtue that it makes a conscious soul even more soulful. One needs to endure the pain to the level of finding extreme bliss in one’s own company.  I cannot comment on Pamuk’s biography but when the author talks about enduring and assimilating loneliness and learning to live with the pain of love for a soulful writer, it tells many a things. As almost all literary endeavours, writing too, has its overtures of reflections. Pamuk is there as a fictional figure in his works entertaining and antagonizing his readers.
It all depends on our idea of time as it shapes how we think. And time is modified by various proximity factors. Pamuk echoes here when he says we live in two types of times. The sooner we realize what is apt for us better human beings we become.
“I talk in terms of images may be because I am a failed painter.” Pamuk explains while answering a question on his style of writing and use of motifs in works like “My Name Is Red”. It again conforms to the craving to prove you through your words imagining and imaging what you so desperately wanted to be. When you are terribly in love and you get an immature and dishonest partner, you may end up doing up terrible things positively or negatively, positively to feel levitated, negatively to feel liberated. So we have another great work on human emotions from Pamuk in the ‘Museum of Innocence’.
Pamuk talks about themes. It reminded me about a recent debate on ‘themes’, ‘literary skills’, ‘Nobel’ and Chinua Achebe. Anyway, why the name “My Name Is Red”? Pamuk dwells further on terms like ‘past’ and ‘modernity’ while talking his piece of meta-fiction. He tells he was trying to see Sufi culture in a traditional way. Isn’t secularism is at the very core of the Sufi culture? Pamuk talks about being a dissenter in his works and says he needs to preserve his apolitical nature. Questioning a system can have many ways and what Pamuk does in his works is careful observation of things gone horribly wrong without attempting to create some controversy raising work. He does talk about ‘being forced to raise his voice to protect his integrity and dignity’ but that is it only. Now I think I have the answer why Pamuk didn't reply me when I asked some questions on the similar lines a month ago. He laments about past glory shrinking on the library stacks and museum shelves and ends up saying “past is not to be kept in a museum but it has to be in the living”
Pamuk talks about feminism, sexual politics and other related issues in his works especially in case of “Museum of Innocence” but skirts a direct answer to a question thrown on quality of commitment in love in philosophical terms and love in real life. But can a girl ever love anyone else or can she be a true friend of someone other than her own self honestly? It might be bizarre or funny but, yes, this one is a relevant question.  Probably some great literary work would try to answer it one day.
Overall, it was a session away from the serious hangover of pure literary discourses with few questions by the person entitled to be in-conversation with Pamuk as well as three-four questions by the audience. I am no literary hand but the questions asked were typically of the nature of Jaipur Literature Festival, a serious literary event now so heavily commercialized that it kills the soul of the literary discourse. But to compensate that one can find good things here to talk about like catching your favourite author in person for a one to one talk.
Otherwise it was so far so good with some more Pamuk on the way. “I was supported by my father till 31”, Pamuk replies to a question on how he managed life of a writer with no returns and recognition during his initial days when and that, too, in a society like the then Turkey. Yet he points to the fact that aspiring authors have more difficult times in the Western countries while their counterparts in the Eastern part of the world have thankfully a great family support system acting like a cushion.  In the Indian context, this statement is certainly debatable.  He goes back to his 2003 India visit. He tells us how he arrived on the literary scene and captures it in one sentence when he says his days in Turkey to get published his first novel were the most difficult one.
So it was certainly a trademark Orhan Pamuk session all the way, at least for me.

Wednesday 12 January 2011


This one is from an interesting discussion on a forum on why some greats like Chinua Achebe are not likely to get awarded a Literature Nobel attributing it to the factors like thematic and artistic greatness of a literary work. I thought to share my views here:

I don't find me apt to comment on works of such greats.  I so love Achebe and for me his magnum opus is beyond any word. I cannot say much about relevance here as Nobel is becoming more and more politicized and certainly there are many figures a Nobel must be desirous to go to like the most famous omission - Mahatma Gandhi. But, indeed, the theme is good, for it is going to enrich if pursued.

Personally, about literary skills and greatness of a work, I consider it secondary. The primary thing is reflection of relevance that a work intended to express, that it intended to connect, that it intended to propagate, if any, or just for pure joy of engaging a reader. Many great Indian scholars (and many others elsewhere) were illiterate or men of common attributes in terms of 'literary skills'. Yes, literary skills do enhance the pleasure of reading but at the same time, these must not be set as benchmarks, especially in case of works with mass followings like 'Things Fall Apart'.

These are the debates we love to debate and it is not just with art, it is with every part of the life that comes within purview of our conscience. Sooner or later, a conscious mind is going to question 'what everything is supposed to be'. And the first critic that we get for us is our very own selves. Yes, the proposition is enhanced when it comes to the application of enlightened mental faculties like the one we apply during a creative endevour like writing. 'Art for art’s sake' has its own relevance and 'art for sake things beyond art' has its own. What we need to see the perennial debate has always given us a synthesis. And at the level of appreciation, any art has very subjective and individualistic prospects. We all enjoy an artwork, we find themes, and we modify themes, in order to contextualize the experience. These are two very different worlds hinging on a same point-the world of the reader, the world of the writer of the book, and the common point-the literary work.

We need to understand the power of simplicity. We need to understand the art of simplicity. Any artwork with millions of followers shows one thing - all those millions could find some relevant themes in the words there - the simple fundamental of appreciation amplification to the level of mass following. Application of literary skills to the themes raises this level to the cult following when we read an artwork more in the thoughts. 

There are award winning works. There are works winning masses. There are works winning masses as well as awards. And though the line cannot be so properly demarcated, there are inherent limitations of each, and that is part of another debate. You know it’s always like this - art and proponents - they mutually influence each other. 

The age-long debate between the conservative and the progressive modernists on use of art is a perennial one with their rounds doing the rounds circumnavigating the contexts.

Tuesday 11 January 2011


So logical!!

In the increasingly information-heavy times in which we live, distractions abound. The word distraction literally points back to a certain losing (dis) of control (traction). We start off with an intention to focus on something, but then a momentary lapse of clarity leads us astray.  The drifting isn’t just arbitrary – there is a subtle attraction, and our attention finds itself diverted. It doesn’t help that there are many things vying for our time, some of them designed specifically to reel us in. And then there are times when we actually want to mentally check out. This is what a mindset of entertainment is, seeking amusement over engagement, and appearance over essence.

Of course, there is a major distinction between entertainment and art. Both operate in the domain of aesthetics – but the difference is the depth with which we experience and explore. At its crux, art is about recognizing, knowing, and appreciating beauty. It implicates us in ways we don’t even realize. Consciously practicing this kind of engagement with art is to hold a certain mindset. “Art is an attention to everyday living,” a dear friend once told me. Is there art in the way we make our beds, or the way we cut fruit? In the way we see the sunlight bathing the hillside? Bringing this kind of understanding is really about recognizing that we have access to that beauty exactly where we are. It makes the ordinary, extra-ordinary and also, the extra-ordinary, significant. In that sense, art can bring us deeper into our experience of the moment, enriching our perception, and deepening our awareness of the previously unknown, and perhaps even previously unknowable. Something about the process of engaging in this way not only changes what we perceive, it changes how we perceive.

Ultimately, whether we approach an experience with a mindset of entertainment or art is determined largely by what we practice.  Entertainment can be repeatedly experienced, but it can’t be practiced. Art can. It is conscious, reverent, and limited only by our imagination.

--Lariv Athem