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Archive for February, 2008

Of dreams and resolutions …

February 27th, 2008

While I am in a wailing kind of mood right now, let me not rant.

The aim of writing today’s post is to express gratitude to that unknown theater called Providence.

So it has been several years (well, not as several as you may think or I thought of as I was on my way back home!). Let’s put it that it has been some years, some years since we spoke. Or rather, some years since he built the wall. Of course, things were very painful, ugly and difficult, but then they were and there was nothing much that I could do about them.

Last evening, as I was flying to Mumbai, I noticed the mountains during our descent onto the city. I wondered whether these were the mountains of Panchgani. Then I thought, I must be wrong. But those beautiful mountains reminded me of the mountains in Srinagar, those beautiful and ruthless mountains who I consider as my mother, that mother which taught me about beauty and ugliness through the scholarship of life …

So, I was reminded of Kashmir, of Srinagar, of that place where I have learnt of both love and hatred, the intensities of love and of hatred, the many facets of love and hatred. There I was, about 4 years ago, but never returned thereafter.

So, I was reminded of Srinagar when I saw those mountains. Then, that thought of Srinagar translated into my dreams last night. I dreamt of him. He appeared from somewhere in the streets. The streets had these dilapidated wooden homes, almost like the chawl frontage of Mumbai. We both started walking on the roads. We spoke of something to each other. I felt myself very serene in the dream as I was talking to him.  He felt it too. In that serenity, I felt he was admiring my beauty. He was admiring my speech, as he has done in the past. He was admiring my maturity, like he has done in the past. He was enamoured to some extent. And to some extent, I realized how much we had loved each other, how much …

Then we walked together to his home, his home from which I have been exiled for four years now. We walked up to the first floor. I saw Faiza (though it was not Faiza). I said bye to him there, stating that I was not sure if I was to come upstairs and meet his folks. He, in his usual crafty manner, smiled and said bye, leaving it open for me to decide whether I really wanted to come upstairs. And if I wanted to come upstairs, it was to be purely my decision. The consequences were to be purely and squarely mine.

The dream was certainly a resolution. It was also a calling, a calling to come back, to come back to the place that I have called home. I don’t know how long it will take for me to come back home, to those mountains – my mother, to the waters in which I have sunk and learnt to swim, to those Chinar trees upon who I have cast glances in moments of sheer romance, to those roads on which the adventure of my life has passed and who still call to experience the unknown … To Srinagar, my home …

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Another encounter

February 25th, 2008

So, after a depressing day at the High Court, listening to the CMH Traders association court case against the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation, I thought I had spoiled my entire day. I felt I would not be able to focus on anything else after this. I somehow knew in the morning that court would not decide in their favour. When I asked one of the traders what he was feeling and whether he was nervous. He mentioned that he was confident and that god was on their side. I wished the same too. But some designs of the universe are unknowable and the court case just reinforced this belief that sometimes you have to fight because you have to, detaching yourself from the consequences.

Surprisingly, this evening I encountered a 14-year old girl who started off by calling me “aunty”. It was very interesting meeting her. I felt I was almost her. She expressed this desire about wanting to know what was happening in the world around her. I almost thought she was out to save the world. I gave her copies of Ishmael and My Ishmael the stories of a man and a 14-year old girl(respectively) who want to save the world. A gorilla is their teacher and he is out to teach them on how to save the world. He does so by telling them the story of evolution. Beautifully written – kudos! to Daniel Quinn!

The best part of all this encounter with her was that I unhesitatingly gave away two of my precious books to her, in the knowledge of the fact that my books may never come back to me. I am learning to dispossess myself …!

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Of Vulnerabilities (Notes from Rangshankara Cafe and my home …)

February 24th, 2008

So,

How do you kill time?

How do you appear busy?

How do you pretend you know when you do not know?

What are these vulnerabilities?

My current experience of Bangalore oscillates between vulnerability and feeling in control. The perception of immobility makes me feel disempowered, vulnerable.

How does one become mobile in a city? As I ponder over my own experiences in Bangalore, I recognize that mobility is not merely a matter of having a good public transport infrastructure. Surely, having a good public transport system matters. And it matters most when autofares are so exorbitant. But what also matters, as a woman, is whether you feel secure in a city. That sense of security is what enables mobility.

What provides a sense of security? Immediately what comes to my mind is the provision of adequate street lighting. The other night, when I was walking on Hosur Road, the patches where there were street lights seemed a relief to walk on. Where there was no street lighting, I felt a tremendous sense of fear that someone would stick his hand out from the Army Military School compound and grab me. Moreover, the movement of traffic on Hosur Road provided me with a sense of comfort. The fact that there were so many vehicles moving on the road, besides me, was a feeling of reassurance. At the same time, when bicycles and motorcycles moved too close to me, I would have to move away from the edges of the footpath and walk a bit inside. This is because of the fear that some of the riders would want to touch me, grab me.

The lack of vibrancy on the streets is somewhat discomforting and irritating. It feels like this city is absolutely flat. But coming back to the experience of vulnerability, I feel another factor that produces this feeling is the inability to trust people and constantly having to ask auto drivers, vegetable vendors, paanwallahs, etc. to explain how they arrived at the figure that they are quoting. It is this feeling that everybody is out to cheat you and that you have to have your defenses on, all the time. It gives this feeling of tiredness if I have to keep my defenses on me all the time. It is as if I am defending myself, instead of living.

I was writing these words in the cafe of Rangshankara auditorium . I was alone there, waiting for the gong to go so that I would move into the theater. I did not know anyone in the cafe. As I stepped into the cafe, I felt vulnerable.

How am I going to kill time?

What am I going to do that appears as if I am doing something meaningful and not occupying space without eating or drinking anything other than a cup of tea?

At that moment, what struck me was that the city is the experience of encounters, encounters of all kinds. Until now, I encountered the director of a play that was a visceral experience. I encountered a man sitting next to me in the auditorium who had a synopsis of the play which I asked him if I could borrow to see. I encountered another man sitting next to me who was being hit by the severe lighting and was covering himself to prevent the glare. I encountered people in the audiences who I never spoke to, but who spoke to the director, many of them stating that they did not understand the play. I encountered the director saying that his play was open for audiences to interpret. I encountered an auto driver who allowed me to take photos of the advertising on his auto. I encountered a man at the bus stop who I thought was trying to make a pass at me, but who probably was as much waiting for the bus as I was. I encountered the bus, the bus driver, the passengers in the bus, the man and woman sitting behind me who wanted to travel to the next stop without paying the extra fare. I encountered the grocer from who I buy vegetables. I encountered the shop keeper from who I purchase provisions and who was angry with a bunch of North Indian men who seemed like labour class. These men were agitating about the shopkeeper not giving a receipt for the purchases. Another one of them was fighting with the shopkeeper for not giving back the change money and the shopkeeper in turn irritatedly saying he had given the money and now if he does not give then what happens?

I guess it is the search for the extraordinary that prevents me from noticing these absolutely mundane encounters. Perhaps, I have to have an encounter with myself in order to understand myself in this city …

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Norms and Standards contd …

February 1st, 2008

The other day, I was writing about a meeting with an organization that works with construction labourers. One of the persons from the organization was talking about how the home state workers can be lazy while the migrant workers are hardworking. This person also spoke of how Kerela has no industry and the government simply taps into the remittances made by Malayalis from Gulf countries.

I was thinking about this meeting all of next day. I was visiting some of the periphery areas around Bangalore that are now being integrated into the city. We spoke to a migrant construction labourer in one of the areas. This person mentioned how if he was educated, he would be sitting in front of a computer, and not languishing around. He spoke of how he had made a choice of not working on a farm but coming to the city and working on a construction site. “Farming requires a lot of money. You have to have money to purchase seeds, fertilizers, implements and then you also have to put your own labour into the process. Here, we have a few implements and lo and behold! we are ready to work and there is a daily wage waiting for you.”

We often speak of how in today’s times, we have become consumerist and how this is an age of shopping malls and multiplex cinema halls that are redefining our experiences. But I have been thinking of how this is an age where things are just the same – we still attach value to a person who is working against someone who is not working. Someone who is educated is of a higher standard as against someone who is not educated. What is happening now is that technologies are being utilized in order to mark people and ensure that they are conforming/adhering to the standards and norms. So according to the person from the organization making databases of construction workers, the database and issuance of an identity card will make the person work harder.

This moment is also bandied by some as the time where we can exercise our freedom and choices by choosing between products available in the market. That is what the free marketeers seem to be tom-toming. I wonder whether our freedom gets actualized simply by choosing between maggi, top ramen, chings and xxx noodles. How have we come to ascribe freedom to choosing between products?

I somehow felt quite happy when the worker we spoke to mentioned that he decided not to go to work that day. He said very frankly that by not going to work, he was also aware of not getting wages. “Morzi” (will) he emphasized emphatically and matter of factly explaining why did not go to work that day.

So I had started out by wondering whether this is an era where our experiences and notions are being redefined. I now believe that these values and standards and norms have always been there and are still there in today’s time. These are becoming more strongly attached/ascribed in this day and age. We seem to attribute this era to freedom – some freedoms have been created; some freedoms are simply non-freedoms.

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