Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What If. - Mr. Kipling, the pit and the fall. 
If you can keep your head when all about you 

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 

But make allowance for their doubting too;

Rudyard Kipling's first line of his immortal poem asked everyone a simple, but a very sophisticated question. It seemed simple enough; that old bloke didn't want you to donate someone your head, he just wanted to ask you whether or not you could keep yourself from donating your head all by one's own self. Absurd, but true. I woke up this morning unhappy, gloomy and extremely irritated. My friends were calling me out for tuition but I simply refused, I am snobbish on days like this. With no disrespect to Wednesdays, I have no love for this day (no wonder you were voted the worst day!). So I decided I would not eat anything for as long as I could. I spent my day, procrastinating, listening to some catchy and some particularly vague numbers on the radio and sleeping (now don't we just love to do that). I still had not had any food, and my stomach was pretty much growling away.

With a heavy heart and an empty stomach, my nutrition deprived brain, absent with glucose, began a wild goose-chase. I began an infinite quest to derive my life's meaning, questioning all my decisions and re-visiting every crossroad that I drove through. Then it hit me. I had no sense of ambition or 'lakshya'. My life was a grave pit, an abyss like Tartarus, where my Cronus ambitions were imprisoned by my Zeus-like fate, waiting all eternity to break free. Everyone tried to coax me out of my trance and lighten up a bit. I bluntly refused. I didn't realize that in doing so, I was following an endless chain of people who sulk, one of whom I faced the previous day. I may have said a word or two at the person's insensibility but astonishingly found myself caught in the same emotions that he must have indeed experienced. Although I was swimming a river with a stronger emotional current than my mentioned colleague, it felt as though I was letting myself drown by removing my very own life-vest.

A few springs back, my English teacher asked me a very funny question. It revolved around a story where a circus performer dived fifty feet into a small pool of water. His manager, pumping with amazement, guaranteed him his job and asked him the number of years into his career as a diver. The man was trembling with fear and blurted that it was his first time and that he just wanted to take the plunge to know how it felt once one climbed out of the pool. Everyone was astonished, including me. Then came the question. What did the man think before jumping? Hands shot up around me; almost everyone knew the answer. I had skipped last evening's study hours. A weak digestion process, vulnerable to raw potatoes, I claimed (boys hostels, I tell you). I grimaced and mutter out a vague answer, "He probably wasn't thinking anything, Sir. He wanted to think after he had jumped, before crashing into the water". A few giggles popped out: I was drenching in my own embarrassing sweat. Sir meekly smiled and asked again, "Would you also have done the same Nayan? Take the plunge without thinking?". I nodded in order to avoid further shame. He now carried a plump grin, "Smart answer. I think he is right." I  quizzed back, pondering my positive answer. My teacher than explained that it was the very reason that the man refused the job later on. He jumped without thinking and on the way he realized it was a mistake and that he might probably end up dead. On surviving he ensured that he would never do it again, he had made a mistake.

Then it hit me. I may have made a hell lot of mistakes in my life, but the important thing was that I wasn't stupid to take the same plunge twice. I decided to break fast and dinnered upon a roti and some daal and went up to my friends and apologized for my serene and mystic attitude I wore the entire day. Some groovy music and poor jokes, and I was back on track. It may have to take many more plunges in life, but I must ensure that it doesn't land me a career in professional base jumping! Next time onwards, I decided I would appropriately calculate the height, analyze the impact and spill and then jump if necessary. 

Everyone is a dare-devil, but we shouldn't dress up in red and leave a glowing "DD" sign wherever you go. If you are not Matt Murdock, then you only look stupid.

Friday, August 19, 2011


As the UPA Government twitched up to the wants of Anna Hazare and Co. people all over the country erupted with glee. Fire crackers exploded nearly two months prior to Diwali, and the rains felt as if it had struck a drought-ridden kingdom. The self-proclaimed Gandhian, freshly released from his voluntary custody, began a Dandi-like march to the Ramlila Maidan in the heart of India’s renewed capital. Only this time, instead of a mere two hundred that accompanied our Father of the Nation, thousands joined in, but not for a handful of salt, instead to stand united and face-to-face against corruption.

While support poured in from every ‘adda’, every ‘mohalla’ in our nation, one small debt-ridden and fiercely corrupted, north-eastern state chose not to show its support. They have been waging war against the Government in their very own way; a war that is being fought by one single person, which began more than a decade ago. Irom Sharmila is Manipur’s very own Wonder Woman, but with no extra-ordinary super power. If one had to assign her a power, it would be that of resilience and patience. Since the morning of 2nd November, 2000, the “Iron Lady of Manipur” began her incredible journey to which only a handful of people have yearned upon. That morning a battalion of soldiers from the Assam Rifles shot down about 10 innocent people at a bus stop in Irom’s home town. The victims included a senior lady and former National Child Bravery winner. The usual Thursday fast turned unusually long for Irom after she decided to hold an indefinite fast to show her discontentment at the The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which allows for the armed force in India to arrest and interrogate any citizen on the suspicion of being a rebel, no holds bar. The Act has already faced serious opposition from many human rights camps, who suggest that some forces within the Indian Military framework may have violated the act or misused its jurisdiction.

Irom was initially arrested just three days into her fast, on charges on a suicide attempt by the local police but much like Anna Hazare, she continued fasting, which seriously weakened her so-much-so, that the police decided to force feed her through a nasal incubator, pushed down harshly through her wind-pipe, into her stomach. She had been released earlier but her continuous fast left the police little choice but to arrest her repeatedly. Since then, she has been force fed and hasn’t chewed a morsel for over ten years. Her beautiful, rosy face transfigured into a gruesome zombie-like structure, as she sat through all these painful years carrying on her protest. Her face now resembles a saint, one who seems lost in meditation. She can only smile weakly to media persons who wish to narrate her story to the world. Once in a while she would meekly ask someone if the Government is willing to negotiate. People have tried to convince and coax her out of this spiteful state, but she keeps reminding everyone about her dream and that it was but a door-step away. Once a poet who waved her pens to the mystical hilly terrain of the Land of the Floating Lake, she now is very much a warrior whose voice may have fallen to deaf Government ears, but her echoes have touched hundreds, many of them women and human rights activists. She was even in contention to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. That would have certainly been a fairy tale, only this one would have featured no Cinderella or Snow White.

The Indian stronghold in high seats of New Delhi has witnessed tremendous will-power from many commoners in the past few weeks. People have found reason, a cause to unite for the first time since Kargil, but not against a foreign dominion. This time the rat is within the house. Despite of Anna Hazare’s ‘David-esque’ struggle against Goliath, Irom Sharmila’s cause is very much similar, even though their ideals differ. One is marched on by a company of thousands, while the other waits for death or salvation; a salvation that many claim is widely far-fetched. But Irom’s determination shows, if not anything else, courage in a country where it needed a 70-something man to stir its population’s feelings to vent out patriotism. Her struggle is against her body’s temptation for food, her throat’s quench for water, her mind’s claim for peace and her heart’s desire for victory. Her story depicts the Government’s serious neglect of the north-eastern sector and the media’s lament and inability to show the same. In a country where world records are provided with TV shows as a stage and uncaring souls for an audience, this is, perhaps, one record that screams out to deaf ears through a woman’s muted and starved battle for what is right and what is wrong.

Irom Sharmila: the Iron Lady of Manipur.