Friday, May 13, 2016

Wonder woman : my 2 cents

So I went to watch Wonder Woman after reading and hearing rave reviews. The movie lives up to all the hype about the fighting sequences, the costumes and the weapons.
It indeed has tear-jerking moments where groups of tall, strong women live and train together, learn sword-fighting, archery and shoot arrows while hanging sideways on horseback.
A strong value system based on ability, honour, justice and compassion lies behind the decisions made by these Amazonian women.
But I couldn't watch it till finish. Something about it resonated with my general disillusionment with the type of characters women end up playing in cinema.
On my way back home, I reflected on what I was expecting to be different in the first ever movie about a woman super hero. Did wonder woman actually break any stereotypes at all? I think not.
Here's why :

The archetype of a Superman, the first glimpse of which I came across in Man vs Superman, has a set of unique features that our collective fantasies feed on. And the gender of the Superhero has little to do with it.
The Superhero's charm, charisma, confidence, intelligence and invincibility intrigue us and make these characters forever etched in our memories.
Their seemingly unending positive self esteem though comes often from super human strength, enhanced sensory perception, sharp intuitive abilities, unlimited wealth and arsenal at disposal sometimes, and a drive to side with the innocent and righteous - which is often motivated by subconscious guilt (over a childhood traumatic incident) instead of blind altruism.
To make this super inflated estimation of abilities believable, there is the innocent boy with wide-eyed wonder, the awestruck reporter (gwen), a young orphan teenager who idolises our Superhero (robin), goosebump giving music every time he makes an appearance on screen, streets full of panic-stricken helpless people looking in reverence and gratitude.
All these elements contribute to the magical cinematic experience that this genre offers.

How many of the above elements does our Wonder woman has at her disposal?
Not many that I noticed. Instead :
1) Through most of the film, everybody including the fearless queen Hippolyta tries to keep Diana from harm's way. Completely ignoring the fact that she's been trained to do exactly that : defend herself.

2) For all his best intentions, Steve Trevor(ST) doesn't let her finish her sentences. (Batman beat the shit out of Joker when Joker wouldn't directly answer his questions, just saying)

3) Inspite of displaying exalted fighting prowess and fearlessness, the valiant Amazonian princess still has to use words and raise her voice to make her point. Does Robin ever come in Batman's way ?

4) The bunch of people who set out with Diana on her journey to find Ares do not exactly belong to anyone's dream team - a person recovering from PTSD caused by war doesn't need to be dragged into another war. He needs rest. Why doesn't Diana have a say in deciding who remains on her team ?

5) ST makes Diana change her costume saying she isn't dressed. Ever remember any policeman making Spiderman change his clothes?

6) How do random people who are mostly dismissive of her abilities even hope to be accepted by her ? For in my mind if indeed an Amazonian, lasso wielding, sword fighting Princess landed on earth, most men would be dumbstruck at best, if they didn't first pee in their pants out of fear.

7) To Steve, I wish Diana said "you'll have to do much more than just be well-endowed". Thank God he redeems himself in the end by sacrificing his life.

Back where I come from, the elder men from ancient times, irrespective of how they treated their women in real, did a terrific job of creating the ultimate super woman fantasy.
The mighty demon Mahisasur had tricked his way into immortality and was wreaking havoc in the lives of innocent people.
The Trinity, for all their powers, were at wit's end suddenly - that they were Men - came in their way , to kill the demon. For the demon could be killed only by a Woman, an enchantress, a Goddess.

Thus the primordial one - the Devi manifested herself when the Trinity invoked her name. Seated on a ferocious lion , clad in resplendent attire, bedecked from head to toe in riches, a crown mounted on her head, long tresses of black hair flowing over her shoulders, the Devi smiles kindly and bestows boons while accepting the task entrusted to her. 

The Trinity stand with hands folded, heads bowed in supplication, marveling and surrendering in front of their creation, singing praises in her name.

As the battle between the fierce Goddess and the mighty demon rages on in the firmament of my imagination I realise that though Princess Diana is superwoman the world wants she is hardly the Superwoman I need.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Hum mein hai zero...

Fact : the 'Zero' was invented by Aryabhatta, an Indian mathematician. Up until quite recently this used to be my favorite Indian contribution to the evolution of the human thought. But in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, as I look back at everything that led to the present economic condition of the world, (in which war is a legitimate revenue-generating economic activity, tax-havens have illustrious names of politicians and artists associated with them, as banks still continue to pay 'billions' as regulatory fines), I find this fascinating invention at fault for the human condition called greed.

But on further ruminating, this conclusion seems too simplistic. Could it be possible that in the grimy process of systematically looting and methodically killing each other (while believing that shallow, deprecating sarcasm and humour directed at ourselves would somehow justify our actions) we completely misunderstood the zero ?

In any case, there couldn't have been a better time to re-visit this old but quite interesting concept.
Historically, the zero hardly started out as being as mindlessly used as it is today. Infact for several centuries, its inventors didnt even have a symbol or a word denoting it. 
In ancient India, 'shunya' for a long time was a metaphysical concept that inquisitive seers contemplated on and understood as that which encompassed an infinite universe - from where creation originated, into which it eventually dissolved.
As trading flourished in the subcontinent, new number systems were developed.
When the Arabs were conceptualizing their ingenious counting system based on the zero, the symbol that they used for it was not anything fancy but the unassuming dot. The dot was used, perhaps to represent the point in space time where infinite nothingness converged into the finite something - the big bang in outdated scientific parlance, the hindu mythical event of the churning of the primordial ocean, the first day of the seven days God took to create creation, biblically.

From this perspective, modern classroom methods of introducing the zero to little children, by marking a point in the center of a horizontal number line ending with angle braces (implying that the stream of numbers on both sides of zero never end) is downright absurd. Zero defined as being that which remains when a number equal to another number is removed, subtracted, taken away from it, is an insult to its real meaning. It is of little wonder then, that Indian mathematicians having 'invented' the concept, never began their number systems with it.
Indeed it would appear silly to place the infinite void - from which every thought, word, action (and feeling?)is born - beside little numbers like 1, 2, 3...

Simply put when all mangoes from a basket are removed, nothing remains. But equating this 'nothingness' - to just the absence of mangoes is preposterous. Because this void singularly contains every other object, living or non living, thoughts both material and metaphysical, planets revolving around stars, unproved yet existing mathematical conjectures musical notes waiting to be discovered, the inspiration for art and perhaps unending Love.

Thus, the problem of defining or measuring zero becomes an interesting metaphysical exercise, the unspoken but implied subject of several koans, the start, destination and the path taken while practicing mindfulness. From a materialistic point of view, perhaps important for an individual who spends a significant part of his productive life trying to add more zeros at the end of his account balance, would be to ponder upon if it is worth the effort and sacrifice.

Is it then even possible for the zero to be invented? Or does one discover it while unravelling the abundance in their hearts ?

Is the zero then an absolute void or the holder of abundant plenty? Or something like the feeling after all the guests have left after a party. Or maybe more akin to what is left when your children have grown and left the nest. Perhaps what is left of you when you realise that the person you thought you loved turns out to be entirely different in reality.

"Chandni ke doobte hi, ghar mein kya reh jayega? Tum chale jaogey, darwaza khula reh jayega."

Monday, February 15, 2016

On healing internal wounds, etc.

When Consciousness manifested as Creation, that was the only instance that anything ever happened without a memory.
Since then, everything that has been happening has been crystallized into space time. Thus our minds keep repeating to us what our ancestors told themselves subconsciously. This collective ancestral memory perhaps passes through our genes. Perhaps there is an algorithm for every individual that decides exactly which nerves fire up in the event of rejection, criticism or failure and which kind of childhood memories these incidents trigger.  And perhaps, how each person consequently deals with this new crisis coupled with the sudden onslaught of unpleasant memories, makes each of us so uniquely beautiful. These agonizing internal battles mostly end in 2 ways -
1) The storm causes too much destruction around in the form of blaming, fault-finding, feeling victimised, seeking closure outside, plotting and exacting revenge, feeling guilty for being wrathful, forgiveness and reconciliation.

2) The painful memories give way to the sunshine of pleasant memories of accomplishment, achievements, victories, peace and contentment. One actively seeks closure and healing on his own through knowledge, introspection and looks at the truth objectively by dissociating himself from the situation.

Often when the latter happens, it comes with a gush of original wisdom, inspiration and some form of creative release.

While understanding the purpose of everything, the mind, if you've established a fairly decent rapport with it will bring you to this shore : There is Nothing - absolutely zero, zilch, nil to be deciphered, understood, discovered, or be enlightened about. How the mind brings you here is the interesting bit and all paths broadly fall into one of these two :  

1) The path of disbelief, of darkness, of the absolute abandonment of wonder and the suspension of imagination. This path is boring.

2) The path of faith, of wonder, of miracles, of Gods and godmen, of tears of anguish and joys in redemption, of boons and curses, of beauty and the mundane, of opposites and their enchantment with each other. This path is very interesting because it contains creation in its entirety (without cherry picking).

But when the shore is reached, one must bid adieu to dear mind and set sail on his own.
Ultimately this voyage will annihilate everything one identifies with. Thus it is not not difficult to see how both paths above can lead to the same state.

The final destination is the return of the original innocence, an eternal silence, it is the final dissolution of my face and yours and every mask one wore on the journey, from universal memory.
It is the great purge and also the most resplendent reunion. It is the cessation of fear forever, it is also being what you truly are.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Take off!

Amidst your mundane, robotic activities that constitute life, pause suddenly and spontaneously.
Turn around to heed to the chirping birds, respond to the trees - tall and handsome, and so very green. While walking on a lane flanked with trees, look for long at the tapestry that the leaves have formed at a distance. Stop and stare, wonderstruck, as you would be if you saw them for the first time (even if you've walked this lane everyday for the past several years of your life). Stop to smile at little children who wait intently for your sparkling glance, lift them for indeed their place is within loving hearts.

Watch movies with all your attention but do not remember how they end (so that when you watch them again, it'll be like the first time).
Remember everyday to pause suddenly and spontaneously, (without having planned for it previously in any way), for real understanding descends in these pauses. That this exquisite world with its chivalrous and respectable mountains, the charming rivers and elegant oceans, its adorable birds and delightful flowers took milleniums to become so that you would arrive one day and walk amidst them for some time, stunned at the breathtaking beauty of it all.

Occasionally,  you may find your consciousness at the brink of the unbearbly dense, teethering to take flight in to the infinite expanse of lightness, like a satellite on its final moments in orbit before escaping into the peaceful void beyond the iron-grip of gravitation.

It is at this very edge of gravitas that life's most valuable realisations lie. And when you wake up on another day, you would have turned into a different person, with just the distant memory of the person you were a long time ago, someone who amidst intolerable grief and heart-breaking agony was able to lift the weight of it all and turn it into Nothing.
Or perhaps something slightly significant, akin to inspiration.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Myth called Closure

Seems like yesterday when you'd caught hold of my diary and wouldn't give it back before sneaking a peek. You'd opened the pages where I'd written this:

Be the home I return to for laughter 
When I turn around let me find you laughing too

Be there 

to share with me what I lovingly cook up
let your heart be a canvass for my colours
Let me paint my dreams

Be there
when I bring home a homeless little baby
Help me bring her up.

Be my church and my temple
Pardon me when I err

Be successful in what you do
so that I can take inspiration

Was that the day when you'd sealed the fate of our friendship?

I know the kind of jokes that would make you laugh, that you like to listen more than speak, that you stop for that clandestine cigarette not in front of the stall in front of your apartment but at the one a little further away (although the chances of your mother (who probably knows that you smoke) discovering you smoke are very remote). 

I know that you value your friendships. Once when we were walking with friends, I fell behind to tie my laces, to see if you would turn around and wait till I caught up. You did.
I know these these things about you (that will absolutely of no use to me soon)
Whom are you kidding? I know you like me, you always have.
You are at peace when I am around as if there is order suddenly in this chaotic world, as if everything is as it should be in our random lives. I know this about us.

This knowing you and being friends with you didn't happen in a day.

This note though is about today.

Unlike every other time, today I spared the pillion on your bike for your fiancee. Obviously dancing with you was out of the question at the club. Thus, while you were dancing with your fiancee I was left at the gracious company of her friends.
Occasionally I stole a glance to see if you were happy. I caught you looking at me wondering if I was feeling lost among new people. 

Your fiancee, I am sure, is a fine woman. One day, she'll know you more closely than I've known you.Can there be an end to how much there is to know about a person?

Occasionally in those stolen moments while deeply inhaling a smoke, you would perhaps think of me, of those long drives along pristine beaches, on silken roads.

Having let you go, I on the other hand would forever have the satisfaction of having known you once in my own way and having written about it.