When and where did the human inside us disappear?

I always wondered why people questioned the utility of subjects that taught people to act more like humans. I knew that those who have utter disregard for arts and humanities are the ones who really need to study them. What’s so embarrassing to learn about the existence of your own species? Why so much disrespect for humanity?

In a country like ours, where the majority lives hand to mouth, we know why earning becomes so essential for survival. To pursue one’s dream of travelling, learning something one loves, doing a job that utilizes one’s talents and not helplessness, is a matter of privilege and an option available only to a few. A significant fraction of the population doesn’t have alternatives to decide on a career. But why is earning associated with only a few kinds of professions and not the others? What kind of blocks have we constructed in our minds, and confined ourselves to that have created a divide between different professions/talents and assigned them values in degrees? (Same can be said of emotions)
Such ideological blocks have driven people to distance themselves from things that demand more than just cognitive intellect, require them to be one with nature, undergo transformations and not be limited by definitions. It has robbed them of their leisure and forced them to behave more like money-minting machines. Music, as a career, is a no, no – Everyone loves listening to songs but thinking of music as a career is looked down upon by the majority. Comedy? Not at all. The same goes for all forms of fine arts. Subjects like history, sociology, philosophy, political science, anthropology, psychology, etc. are exposed to similar dismissive ridicules. So when someone or an institution does give you a chance to do all of these things, and to some extent feel at par with ‘others,’ isn’t that amazing?

I remember the number of times I had to confront the questions of relatives, friends and older people as to why I opted for Social sciences after college (the best of all decisions that I have ever taken), and what good would I get out of it. I was more sad than angry and realized that those who condemn such subjects should be reading them even more than others to realize their innermost prejudices, chagrin for sensitivities, inclination to choose careers that showed a higher cognitive intellect and lesser time to reflect on the world, and it’s intricacies. In short, according to them, whatever makes you feel like a human, is subordinate as compared to what keeps you ‘busy’ and is more ‘productive’. Because leisure, introspection, and creativity are only for the good-for-nothings, right?

However, I think the pandemic of 2020 is cataclysmic enough to show us, humans, a mirror of our brutal selves. When the world is cracking down and trying it’s best to stay stable, (despite the wounds left open by the swords of capitalism) it is because of those beautiful outputs of art, literature, music, rhythm, dance, subjects like history and philosophy that I, and perhaps, a lot of people in the world are keeping their heads and holding onto silver linings. (Vaccines are going to take time)

JNU and You, Monsoon


It’s been raining in Lucknow since morning, but I cannot stop thinking about how beautiful the campus must be looking right now. Monsoons have always been my confidant. Perhaps, that’s why the rains love me and I love them. The JNU campus gave me even more time and space to share my happiness with them. Some say love is a luxury. I think so, too. Not everyone gets to enjoy the taste of love with complete freedom sans hide-and-seeks.
Last monsoon, I used to step out of my hostel room no matter what time of the day it was, provided it was drizzling or the sky was on the verge of letting its cloud-taps open. Skies used to be somewhere between purple and black. A tinge of orange and red here a there. Yeah whites were there but visible only on the edges of the dark clouds. Sometimes they even blinded my eyes while simultaneously, fooling me into believing that it was going to pour but didn’t. How can I forget the bokeh effects of the pink bougainvilles that added to the landscape like the little drop of pink on a water colour painting that rejuvenates all other hues.
You think I’m speaking as if I had never seen the monsoon sky before last year? I did see them, but I never got the chance to sit underneath them with my friends around, with absolutely no one to come about and question as to why we were sitting there or if we wanted to fall sick and didn’t care about the apprehensions of our parents.Back in DU, in the first year, that’s what a man living in the staff/teachers’ quarters said when I with a group of friends went out to enjoy the rains near the hostel premises. We were as happy as ever until that nosy man showed up . Remember the 40 plus contemptible uncles that I keep talking about? Those who keep on disciplining the women and assume that they are doing a service to the society? He is one amongst them. Maybe, he didn’t have problem with random people dancing in the rain as much as he had with 20-year-olds, that too girls, relishing upon the mixture of brief liberty, and nature, with half of them wearing shorts or knee length dresses. Hmmm. How could he choose to stay silent
There’s no such uncle or aunty here. What a luxury! (Some wardens are like that for sure, but they can’t keep an eye on everyone and I know how to deal with them now). No wonder why life outside the campus feels so out of place.
Coming back to my romantic tale of monsoon in JNU. One evening on my journey from the centre back to my room , I looked upwards and found the perfect blend of colours dripping down in the form of mizzles. By the time they reached me , it felt as if it was mist caressing my tired face. The pat of the soft wind wiped it off there after. The little umbrella inside my bag was eager to be let loose, but I, too, managed to fool it and let the drizzles drench me.I spared glances at different angles to see if there was no familiar face looking towards me. There was none so I closed my eyes, wore up a smile and walked at the slowest pace possible. The footpath was almost straight at that place so I worried little about stumbling. There was no hindrance between the rain and me. That’s how I would define ‘bliss’. Neither the brevity of it nor the travails beyond it that existed, could have morphed my mood or extracted out the serenity and content that that moment contained.


Different Tales Of Covid-19

I think of bougainvilles brimming with flowers,
The spring I missed , its waving bowers,
The jocund wind is beckoning me near,
While I count the passing hours.

I see a room dark and low,
A head pressed against the pillow,
Heaving to placate the black and blues,
Or seeking a break out to end this woe?

Look there, the bees fluttering with glee
No man has yet come to steal the honey,
If only their freedom lingers,
They can live at peace on the family tree.

A labourer ambles off on foot,
To reach his village, though shrouded in soot,
And hunger, and thirst; no money, no fear,
The hope to stay alive keeps him enroute.

That wanderer seems perplexed,
When will she pack her bags next?
Where silence and sound felt equally fiesty,
The morbid stillness, now, keeps her vexed.

A vendor switches from street to street
From dawn till dusk, and then repeat,
He must sell to keep loss at bay,
Lest his mangoes turn obsolete.

Some souls stray in search of smile,
Science; religion spray hopes beguiled,
It’s the artists,poets, singers and comics,
That make it all worth the while.

A few are reflecting back on life,
Others fear future; the interim strife,
While humans seek options to survive,
Revive the herbage and the wildlife.

A film of a catastrophe on a live screen,
Of such mixed content, a genre unseen
All because of an invisible beast,
The different tales of Covid-19.

शून्य

छत्तीस किलोमीटर का फासला
चंद रोटियों से हौसला
शून्य थी जीवन की कीमत
घर लौट आते, वही गनीमत
किसकी थी ये आनाकानी?
पांच लाख की मेहरबानी?

Aurangabad

Homo ignoramus

Many a people walk along the shore,
Stand amazed by the the waves that roar.
They ruffle the sand, shuffle the air,
Swerve about with unwonted care
Create a mess, corrupt with garbage,
Turn away and let the ocean sore.
I behold a glacier melting in May
Meandering as a river, cutting its way,
In whorls and loops it slithers the town
A dozen falls come cascading down,
A little later it meets the barrage,
And the dream to meet the sea go astray!
A jungle dense with wild and green,
Species yet to be found, their awe unseen,
The serpents became the guards of danger,
The lions- kings,  the birds- harbinger,
Then came check points, roads, and carriage,
And intruders named it a sanctuary.
Feel the breeze, hither and thither.
Seasoned by burgeon and the wither,
Downpours, bathed up it all,
If only they knew the mayhem that'd befall
Acid and gases jammed up to ravage
Birds of a feather, smothered the city together.
Centuries have passed; what've you gained?
For wars, mishaps, each other you've blamed,
You've dented the nature, tainted the weather,
Projects high and low, in the name of better
Greed unleashed, virtues- just a camouflage
Drunk in conceit, you are least ashamed.
Look around humans, is this your reign?
Of droughts, disease, discord, disdain
There are not enough supplies on Earth,
Signs of a mammoth dearth?
Steer your reins to end this carnage,
If humans you are, be a little humane!

Pandemic or Pandemonium?

It’s a pandemic in the physical world, but a pandemonium inside our mental spaces. Doubts, questions, fears, and anxiety have rented plots in our mindscapes. In spite of all of it we pretend to be calm.

We are all afraid of death. We don’t talk about it straight from the shoulder. When it’s poured over by humour, it is assumed to be tongue-in-cheek or sinister and hence displeasing. When it’s a physical entity that causes cessation of life, like a gun, missile, assault, assassination, genocide, each of which requires some human force from the opposite direction, we demand vengeance, sometimes disguised in the garb of Justice. We cry over it, thinking about how it could have been avoided by altering our space-time circumstances. However, when the cause of death or disease is an intangible entity invisible to the eye (for e.g., virus in the present case), it subsumes a different tale. There’s no one that we can seek for retribution (the state can only be protested against or censured for its inefficiencies). Besides that, we think we are invulnerable just because we can’t ‘see’ it approaching us. No vengeance is demanded. Nor any solidarity towards the victims. Instead, what deepens its roots is the evil quadruplet of negligence, self-interest, insensitivity, and classicism.

Moreover, whatever the means of the end, humans assume that they are meant to live long and that the divine providence can’t possibly choose them to feed with disease, deficiency, deformity, or even death. No wonder why humans cry and curse the powers they believe in. The simple question, ‘Why me?’ is not just exemplary of man’s and woman’s oblivion to the constant probabilities of the universe that they are exposed to, but also of the sudden lament to their unconscious inclination towards Karma (a belief that the past actions determine the present) or Talaividi (as the Tamilians call it- a belief that one’s fate is inscribed at one’s birth on the forehead). Having said that, did any soothsayer know that a population of millions and maybe, more, can be the victim of the same pernicious yarn, in the same temporal zone?

No matter which strata of the society we belong to, can it be doubted that the pandemics, climate change, natural disasters, and the wars in the name of peace are affecting the entire human race? The dangers and insecurities we are exposed to may have degrees. Still, the eventual consequence is the same for all of us- the vengeance that the Earth swore on its immemorial antagonist- the egoistic Us. Call it Karma or Talaividi, nature will sooner or later overpower us.

We all are anxious and disquieted, but only a few would admit or overtly voice their opinions. Why do we choose to continue to behave, perform, or, in truth, pretend to carry out our daily missions and engagements as if we are inordinately calm? Can our sanity ever trounce the unpredictability of the evanescent world? Can we be a little more expressive as humans about our own emotions, fears, and anathemas? There’s no harm in doing that, right? If we achieve nothing by it, we will at least feel a sense of belongingness to this world, and to our fellow humans. The storm will pass, and may even come again, but their will no longer be a pandemonium in our minds. We’ll be reflecting about things larger than life, beyond ourselves, and will not refrain from talking about an ‘end.’