Let’s not talk for the sake of talking…

                         “My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky” wrote the most celebrated of the Romantic poets. Nature was Wordsworth’s muse. Chetan Bhagat seems to be becoming mine though not in a good way. Any time I don’t feel like or feel up to writing, I just have to see a post from Chetan Bhagat and “my heart leaps up” – albeit not with joy but with sheer frustration at the inanities he churns out and how the masses are lapping it up. My heart leaps out (not up) ,my blood boils over and I am compelled to pick up my pen and write.

            This time he speaks on the sexually repressed society that India is.(  http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/The-underage-optimist/entry/let-s-talk-about-sex ) Sorry to disappoint you Mr Bhagat but no I didn’t fold my paper away secretively or slam shut my laptop on seeing the title of your post. Quite to the contrary the attention grabbing title that you have chosen ensures that people read the post. Content is of no importance. Nothing sells like sex- be it in cinema or print. Yes we are a sexually repressed society; yes we need to accept men-women relationships, sexual or platonic, for what they are; yes we need to talk about sex – but there has to be a method to the madness or to put it more prosaically, a reason to do so and a time and platform for it. Talking about sex for the sake of talking doesn’t serve any purpose. That would be no better than  voyeurism and that’s just about what the post does- state the obvious, state  what we already know with over simplifications and no concrete suggestions.

                   And the unavoidable number game starts all over- we have two problems around sex says he. Really? Just two? That somewhat cheers me up. The first problem with lack of openness is that sexual desire manifests in unsavoury ways- child molestation, rape. And I thought that had more to do with perversion, loss of humanity, lack of respect for other human beings and also total disregard for the law. Silly me! Going by his logic, USA with all its openness towards all matters sexual should be free from such crimes. Sadly it isn’t so. Rape, it has often been said, isn’t simply about sex- it’s about power- making another human being submit to your desires because you are more powerful. How about resisting from such over simplifications Mr Bhagat?

             Second problem he says is that it doesn’t allow meaningful discussion on any matter sexual. How many things do we have a meaningful discussion on in any case? Are our politicians, or even the self proclaimed custodians of society like Mr Bhagat himself, interested in doing anything meaningful for our society or country? Sadly no. No one has the political will to discuss any matter remotely controversial be it sexual or religious. Why blame the politicians? What is Mr Bhagat himself doing if not playing to the galleries by talking of women empowerment or where the protests against Delhi gang rape went wrong or , as in this post, by telling us how we are a sexually repressed society. Yes we are. What is one of the 100 most influential men in the world doing about it except churning out platitudes yet again? How about a meaningful, open debate on lowering/raising age of consent or the potential misuse of anti rape law or how the anti dowry law is already being misused in one of your posts Mr Bhagat?

                   The ills that plague our society and humanity are many. That no one who can make the slightest bit of difference is willing to do anything about it, is perhaps the most tragic of all such ills. Somewhere right in the beginning Mr Bhagat says that “we are Indians later and humans first”. But sadly he equates being human with being ruled by the most primodial of all instincts – sex. “Nature has made sex a powerful internal force. This force is so strong that despite all the progress and comforts designed by humanity, the power of sex still remains. People, Indians or non-Indians, are interested in sex.”  And here I thought we were capable of rising above our animal instincts and animal nature.  Really !! Silly, silly me!

                          Indians or not, Mr Bhagat, we all are human beings. And we as a race are capable of more than Delhi Gang Rape or Godhara. Let us shed our sacrosanct attitudes and display the last vestiges of humanity left in each one of us. How about walking the talk for a change Mr Bhagat?





The Unbearable Itch of Reading Chetan Bhagat

                     “Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq, ishq” …so goes a famous qawwali from an old Hindi movie (Barsaat Ki Raat) that discusses love ,ishq, in great detail. When I was a child and had an unrelenting urge to just keep on fiddling with something that did not benefit me or even intrigue me in any way, my dad had his own rendition of this age old classic for me –“Yeh itch itch hai, itch itch” – not itch as in scratching but itch as in a longing restlessness to do something. This habit has not died down even now as I discovered much to my cost.

                         I happened to read Mr Chetan Bhagat’s five tips to women on Women’s Day and could not resist but post my reflections on. All would be fine if it ended there but no. I had to dig up and read many of his old blog posts- WHY?I ask myself. I don’t even like his writings or his sermons and advices. “Yeh itch itch hai, itch itch”…. thats all that I could come up by way of an answer.

                        What I have realised is that Mr Bhagat is obsessed with numbers. Look at the title of his books – “Five point someone”; “One night @ the call centre”; “The 3 mistakes of my life”; “2 states”; “Revolution 2020”. Even his blog posts are loaded with numbers.“Five things women need to change about themselves” being a case point and the other post that compelled me to write today- “Open Letter to The Indian Change Seekers” – too has a lot of numerical juggling in it. Maybe it’s the background in investment banking talking. And yes, he’s very fond of “open letters”. But more on that another day.

                           To be fair, I haven’t read most of his works. “Five point someone” I just about managed to run through; “One night @the call centre” made me panic that the night I had picked it up would be the end of me and as for “3 mistakes of my life”, all I knew was that picking up that book was one definitive mistake of my life. And thereafter regardless of the lucrative price tag his books carry, I never ventured to buy another one. Only that I chanced to come across his blog and the irresistible itch to read them took over.

           After  reading the advise he gave to women on the auspicious occasion of Women’s Day, I came across his “Open letter to the Indian Change Seeker(http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/The-underage-optimist/entry/open-letter-to-the-indian-change-seekers)  inspired by the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape that saw unprecedented protests. Bad news for the protesters, who in any case, have long since gone back to their humdrum lives- Mr Bhagat doesn’t approve of the way they had gone about their protests. In order to make his point clear he goes on to “explain” India.  Move over A.L. Basham,  Bipan Chandra. Mr Bhagat is here to do the honours!

                   What follows is a mind boggling jugglery of numbers wherein he divides the Indian population into 4 categories and in this whole “Threes” and “Fours” game pretty much lost me. The point I think he was trying to make was that the “Threes”, i.e. the upper middle class, the likes of him and you and me, are using our new found power for self serving purposes just like the “Ones” (our political masters) and the “Twos” ( Industrialists and Capitalists) have been doing all along. The “Three” need to include, take along and also fight for the cause of the “Four”, the vast majority of our country who live in abysmal conditions. To make any change happen, the “Threes” should fight for the causes of the “Four” also- “only then is when true change will happen” he proclaims.

        No doubt there is some merit in his arguments. A modern sensibility has to include and at the same  time make concessions for traditional and conservative attitudes. Any change or revolution from the grass root level alone can work. To that extent we all would agree with him though there is nothing new that he is saying. However what intrigued me in the entire piece is a “holier than thou” attitude. He talks of the “Threes” misusing their media power for their ends. Who doesn’t? Writing, publication, success are today more about being media savvy than actual merit. He ought to know that better than anyone else. The one true test of any great literature is the test of time. How his works fare there is yet to be seen and well, anyone’s guess.

        What has he, whom Time magazine called “one of the 100 most influential people in the world” done for the “Fours”? It is one thing to be speaking on National Development in air conditioned halls of various conclaves and entirely another to be actually contributing towards the welfare of mankind, number tags being irrelevant.

                Media is what made him into a youth icon as it did many others. Isn’t it a tragedy of our times than none of these icons are willing to accomplish anything beyond pay token lip service? He himself says that he is a “Three”. How about preaching by doing? Why not set an example for us lesser mortals by accomplishing something for the masses?

       Why have I zeroed down on him and no one else? No it’s not simply my “itch” to do so but because he,unlike others, is one of the “most influential 100s” worldwide. And because I feel upset when people, who excel in one particular field ,assume that they are the know all and be all of everything else as well. Apparently he was a successful investment banker and thereafter became the best seller author though, to my mind, with mediocre novels. Does that also make him an authority on every matter and every ill  that plagues an individual or class or society? Even if so, why not preach by example? And why not, for a change, think out of the box? Churning out platitudes in different phrases doesn’t take much. Following them through does.Or maybe he doesn’t really mean anything? Maybe writing these posts is as much an “itch” for him as reading them has become for me. And this “itch” is a very dangerous thing-“yeh itch itch hai, itch, itch.”












Being A Woman

mn n women

                     Women’s Day ! Wow ! Honestly, what celebrating days such as this means, I don’t understand..women’s day, father’s day, mother’s day and the list goes on. Does it mean that you can pay lip service to the person/s concerned on that particular day and carry on in your old, staid ways for the rest of the year? Would seem so. What not will we witness today? Long sermons, tall promises, host of demonstrations- some peaceful, some may be not so. And tomorrow we’ll be back to same old, same old.

                 A question that is often asked today is  “what being a woman means to you?” Prima facie, it sounds like a fairly silly question. It means being myself.  I mean I’ve not known anything else. So being a woman means being “me”. On more considered thought…what does it really mean? The question seems to evoke more questions than straight answers. When I woke up to the whole politics of “being a woman”, it became synonymous with being a firebrand Feminist. As a student of English literature, feminism, Simone de Beauvoir, Kate Millet, Eve Ensler made their entries and influences earlier in my life than they might have otherwise. Patriarchy,society,men became easy punching bags and not necessarily in that order. Being heard meant having an opinion on everything and that too a loud one. Holding your own, not becoming a door mat varied from the stubborn to verging on the downright rigid. From fiery speeches in crisp cotton sarees to equally fiery protests and demonstrations complete with breaking police barricades and facing the water cannon and lathi charge – been there, done it. Unknown to me I, and many  around me had fallen into pitfalls that face any kind of activism – seeing everything through tinted glasses. Every non issue was an issue and many issues were blown out of proportion.  Or to put it another way, making a mountain out of a mole hill and, in the process,often missing the mountains worth noticing.

              Living at such an emotionally charged level can be quite draining. Even a strung bow needs to be relaxed. Luckily for me, I grew out of this bra burning feminist phase. Then came the lull ‘after’ the storm and now I think I’m somewhere near finding my balance. Men vs women; us vs them – where will this battle of the sexes take us? Is it, in fact, even a battle? Does “empowering” women mean taking something away from men? What, in any case, constitutes ‘empowerment’? Are there any blanket solutions and universal answers? Can I impose my modern day cosmopolitan thoughts and sensibilities on women from entirely different background and socio-economic strata?

                    As a society, I often think we are living on clichés. Not so long ago I witnessed a glass of cold drink being thrown on a boy by a girl at a Mc Donald outlet, who it turns out was his classmate. The boy’s crime? Asking the girl out for coffee in full view of all their friends. The last time I checked, that was not a crime. Assuming she was not interested, did she have any right to humiliate him? A simple and straight no would have sufficed and been in line with the boy’s forthright approach. But we are a sexually repressed society – straight approach doesn’t work. The instinctive reaction of the bystanders was to assume the boy was at fault and almost lynch him. What happened to our sense of perspective and fairness? Is it fair for us to assume that always men are at fault without even looking into the matter?

              Yes women deserve respect. So does every human being. Do women treat the men they come across, from the labourer on the road to the milk delivery boy, with as much respect as they demand? I’m afraid not. By behaving thus we ourselves set the standards of behaviour for these men who in turn will treat their wives and other people similarly. Preaching is one thing, practicing in daily life quite another.  

                      Power, of any kind, corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. What started out as simple division of labour with women taking care of the household and men of the outside work, eventually led to subjugation of women. Do we want to rectify this wrong by making the pendulum swing to the other extreme? When and how will the swinging pendulum find its centre? Is it not as wrong for a woman to misuse her power, be it sexual, social or legal as it is for a man  to misuse his? In this dog eat dog world, how many show the responsibility that comes with power? Not many I’m afraid.

                               Today if anyone asks me what being a woman means to me, my answer is simple- it means being human. Is this the kind of thought that Salman Khan had in mind when he founded his “Being Human” foundation? Looking at his asinine movies, one is not likely to think so but people are capable of profundity (and stupidity) beyond what is apparent. Even if he didn’t, it’s about time that we started focussing on being human rather than being a woman or a man. How do we propose to empower women in any case without the support of the other half of the population? For every Asaram who shot off his mouth with comments that don’t even merit attention let alone a protest, there were thousands of men on the roads demanding justice for a woman they didn’t even know. If this is not being human, I don’t know what is. This women’s day we ought to celebrate not only every woman in our life but every man in our life as well for it is only together that we can build a better world for us human beings.