Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Raving about Ravan within!

Today I decide to break the silence on something that I've been carrying around for 4 years now.
I could let this reside within the deep recesses on my heart-mind space without probing it and gently allowing it to turn into other beautiful possibilities.
Or I could bring this very personal account to the open in an attempt to trigger introspection in the light of toxic conversations in the name of righteousness, that are steering the national dialogue of our country.
If you decide to go ahead and read this - my only request to you is to Look, to simply Look without biases, at the emotions and feelings that this piece triggers through your heart-mind.
Whatever arises is allowed, valid and accepted.
The hero in this story has a charismatic personality, is well-read about current affairs, fiercely independent, extremely strongly opinionated, has a dry, sarcastic, witty, often mean sense of humour.
He hardly ever appreciates anyone in conversations instead is quick to recognize flaws and easily labels friends, relatives and people as authoritarian, moral policemen, dictators standing up to them in rebellion.
He is a popular public personality, and frequently writes for major dailies which are read by a number of followers.
The heroine is more in tune with her inner voice - it is a demanding voice which has in the past until now, looked to its own resources to resolve its dilemmas, establish a clear path free from obstacles to take its own story ahead.
She is more interested in arriving at a space of shared understanding with the world in general than on attracting attention, applause, adulation solely for herself.
She currently explores the stage through collaborative dance, music and theatre.
She learnt early on in her life that real relationships are quite transactional.
She was raised by a family under a 'food-for-marks' regimen.
After many years, when she raged that she didn't play enough, she read about nations of families who raised Olympian medalists.
She later came to know about the 'Food-For-oil' program that her nation had signed with their friend nation 'Iran'.
From then on she knew to look at her own inner resources to address her needs.
They met on the common ground of their matching stance against totalitarian regimes, ideologies, beliefs.
When they met she was under great duress, pushed against the wall by a patriarchal social structure to find herself an appropriate groom and settle down into the idealistic security of the proverbial 'happily-married' life.
Making things more complicated was also her inner confusion about her own beliefs about motherhood, the constituents of a mutually enriching and satisfying relationship, general strategies to deal with the ever-growing number of distractions that hinder the development of trust among people, etc.
Initially he showed her off to their friends like the Pandavas showed off Draupadi to Kunti - 'look who we've managed to impress'.
Later he scoffed at her accomplishments as being the result of bourgeoisie privilege.
She thought differently, as she had democratically through a legitimate interview selection process landed herself the job that she had.
She recognized her desire to live independently and identified a role in alignment with her skills and interest and chose to apply to it. She was told that she always wanted to be right.

Every meeting turned out to be about his shows, the next or the previous.
Every person potential material for the next original joke.

Over the course of time their kingdom became plagued with staggering emotional poverty. Where every attempt to establish trust, to engage in a meaningful conversation about meeting and calibrating mutual expectations were drowned in deafening silence.
Where when he raged on, expletive-ridden, about how the audience didn't laugh at his jokes or how many 'likes' on his post were authentic or about how the rights and freedom of a particular animal-eating people were under threat, she listened patiently with undivided attention, waiting for her time.
But when she told him about the challenges and accomplishments of her day, he hardly paid any attention.
His indifference towards her goals, dreams and ambitions hurt her as she positively, courageously invested in his, emotionally, financially and personally.
On voicing her doubts she was told that there were people before who behaved with absolute disregard for his feelings (like psychopaths) - that he reached a point when he kept calling but never got any response while the other person nonchalantly moved on with other people.
Although this was hardly any justification of the displayed indifference, she believed his story to her own peril. She hoped that since he recognized the afore-mentioned behavior as hurtful, he would be sensitive enough to not met it out at her.
She would soon understand otherwise.
She had recently been physically attacked on the road by 2 ruffians and had defended herself courageously against her assailants.
The next morning she went with the police and got them arrested and kept under remand.
During this difficult period, she looked towards him for reassurance, comfort, support, understanding.
Nothing that a friend wouldn't naturally give  - she would definitely not withhold herself if she were in his shoes.
Much to her surprise she got none, instead he went on social media to make righteous statements, righteously, intellectually and impersonally, against marital rape and the like.
She shared his work like champions on her page, he never visited her blog even after repeatedly being requested to.
Over the next couple of months as she grappled alone with the psychological remnants of the brutal incident - she went from mindfulness to healing to taking dance lessons, to taking up new responsibilities at her workplace, all the while sharing her efforts with him hoping for some form of acknowledgement, a little encouragement, validation which would bring back the bounce in her step, help her resume the sense of normalcy prior to the incident.
He continued with his efforts of the preservation of his self-image on social media - from writing witty, intelligent articles for the newspapers to publishing provocative rage comics on social media - his attempts to establish intellectual superiority over everybody else were unabashed and unstoppable.
She had observed her inner dialogue and understood thought to be preceding feeling - and thereby any thought that suggests a belief to be 'incorrect' can be assumed to have another corrective/alternative thought/belief system behind.
When she asked him for the alternative, there was none and when she asked for the reason of his rebellion - it was said that shutting up the internet trolls was fun.
During their time together he triumphantly revealed that he casually, often mindlessly spent brief periods of time with several women, one recollection revealing how he callously switched between TV channels while getting a blowjob.
Many times his absolute lack of respect towards anything in general, his inability to feel any positive emotion for anything except 'cats', the abusive language he used shocked her into numbness.
He said he believed in Batman and loved language in general. Through the days of dealing with appalling indifference and absolute disregard for her feelings, she looked at Batman closely and then at Godzilla searching for any redeeming quality that she could relate to, find endearing.
There by find it worthwhile to remain in the shared space.
There were none. 
Instead she began to feel contempt for the Dark Knight in armored gear mindlessly bashing up the defenseless thief into pulp.
Theft, like most weaknesses in humans stem from a feeling of lack or scarcity - it will hardly be corrected by the brutality of self-appointed vigilantes or state-appointed policemen.
It will also not disappear if we don't talk about it or are indifferent towards it.


He chose to speak with her only under the throes of alcohol after a night out binge drinking with friends. She would be unable to understand most parts of his slurred delivery. The next morning however, he would have no recollection of the last night's events and days would continue with the non- acknowledgement and indifference.


When she thought she was out of her wits, trying to lower her expectations and finding a common ground to stand on, she checked with friends, mentors and life coaches of what she was doing wrong.
They confirmed that within any relationship, if one was hands and feet invested it was only fair to expect the same from the other person.


And then one day, we were able to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all - That we led ourselves to feel contempt for a fictional comic character. We understood that belief systems were not right or wrong but that they were simply powerful.
Because they are shaped by repeated thoughts and feelings and hence exert themselves powerfully when faced with resistance.
That it is easy to take a stance about 'Education', 'Rape' 'Foeticide' , 'Child abuse' - but not so easy to take up the responsibility that comes with a committed relationship, one in which people mutually inspire, take care of and love each other.
In the mind-map that unfolded in front of our eyes, we saw generations of well-mannered and polite but extremely ambitious and driven mothers who diligently set their daughters to work their asses off at great personal cost towards the maintenance of the highly functional and productive households.
We saw that our society is largely made up of such competitive and productive households and that comparison between the productivity of similar households often propelled members into increased productivity.
But this delicate and fragile structure resting on great personal sacrifices is doomed to crash as each member goes off in the pursuit of their own stories.
Stories that are shaped by great grieves and insurmountable rages against parents who fight, lovers who scream at us, friends who don't applaud our efforts, colleagues who didn't have faith in our abilities because we were a certain gender when our performance clearly proved otherwise, suitors who rejected us without even asking our names.
We were sucked for a long period of time into this unseen 'food-for-marks' algorithm in which 'marks' were soon replaced by better university degrees, more financial gains, better performance, increased material assets and even the procurement of a similarly-minded companion.
We pushed ourselves to large emotional and financial sacrifices in this pursuit.


We clung on through the debilitating pressure of performing, clutching tightly on to images of a compassionate, redeeming Christ, a kind-hearted Kabir, the incessantly charming Krishna, all the while searching for similar redeeming traits behind every human we encountered.
Until we questioned our assumption of the truth of our stories - questioning for the first time if they were indeed 'ours'.
When we did this we were for the first time able to reclaim our emotional sanctity, the freedom of deciding for our self, and our lost time.


We don't have a stance anymore on polyamoury or monogamy or even being in relationships with less emotional investment.
We are able to see our desires in the light of an evolutionary agenda, we offer up those which we cannot fulfill to Nature to be recycled into something that is in our domain to control.
We know our self to put all our resources to the best of our abilities into that we decide to put our mind on - time, money, heart, body and soul. We trust our feelings more, to do anything otherwise would feel dishonest.
We've found our reconciliation by looking plainly at everything - and finding out that our minds are quick to corner us into binaries in a world which has been largely operating on a spectrum.
But we feel strongly when people who have little accountability for their own actions speak so loudly and strongly against the oppression by authoritarian figures - a well-meaning close relative, the prime minister, the govt. in power.
These attempts in our eyes reek of attention-seeking behavior -  we've been in systems revolving around people who derive their security from the act of eating and around people who feel uncomfortable the moment people around them are not attending to their immediate needs.
The voice of this witness has only become stronger through the years holding up the mirror for ourselves and others. It constantly states its wish to sing clearly and dance fearlessly, draw magnificently and write in a way which is not threatening and provocative.

Through this piece it begs an important question to be answered -
How can this powerful medium of voicing thought, opinions, feelings be better used to take the common discourse to a more sustainable level?
How can it be used to shape thought and language and behavior that is respectful even while calling spade a spade?
What if we find that we have more in common with our perpetrators than we allow ourselves to imagine, where does that leave us?
How can this medium be used then to explore the paths of reconciliation and understanding between our different selves as complex and layered as to label the act of copulating as differently as 'making love' and 'mindless fucking' and everything in between?


Generally, we've found humans to be at peace with themselves and others when they operate from a level of inspiration.
When there is an exchange of positive emotion and creative thoughts that exceeds the cost of the exchange.
The cost of exchange are often related to the survival and sustenance of the complex mind-body-heart space.
When these needs are met as the by product of mutually creative processes, humans find themselves cooperating with themselves, the joy of the shared creative experience as a mutual reward.
It is not very difficult to find and co-exist with your tribe without having to change others to match what makes you peaceful.
Find a friend who likes the opera, better still go watch it alone.
You'll find yourself amidst your tribe.



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.