My Opinion of ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi

I am in the process of reading the Makers of Modern India by Ramchandra Guha and thus was tempted to put down my thoughts. They are more than likely things already thought of and well-articulated by many, but nevertheless, they are mine, in the sense that I have not read these anywhere and have not heard them from someone, I came to these realizations while interacting with the world and nation on a daily basis. It is going forward my endeavor to be more regular in writing and will try and update at least once a month if not more.

One of the thoughts going around in my head is the calculated shrewdness of Gandhi. While I acknowledge Gandhi’s role in bringing together a country that was otherwise torn across too many lines and contexts, unifying a people who were never meant to be unified, I have to confess, I am not a follower; believer or sympathiser of Gandhi. Blame it on my generation or the fact that I haven’t seen a war (Kargil happened in my time, but I was really too young and self-absorbed to understand what was happening) or that I am simply ill-informed, but fact remains, I believe Gandhi had tremendous power in his hands and he failed the nation at some basic level. However, this entry is not about that, it is not about why he was wrong, many have spent countless hours and pages recounting the reasons that I do not get into it here.

Despite all my discomfort with his doctrine and ethos, I have to give him credit on two accounts or rather one simple one, he perhaps, among the many great scholars; intellects; philosophers and leaders, is the only one who truly understood the task at hand when it came to achieving India’s freedom from British Rule. His shrewdness, for me showcases itself spectacularly in two places, him recognizing the need for breaking the barriers of social hierarchy and opening up the nationalist movement (for the want of a better word) to every strata of society and his take on non-violence as the way forward. Gandhi entered the freedom struggle, considerably late, in the early 1900s. By then many had come and attempted in their own capacity and perspective, to wrestle some amount of freedom from the British for the ‘motherland’. In keeping with this, Gandhi had the fortune of retrospective analysis, he already had examples laid out before him of what others had tried and what the end result was. Prior to Gandhi, the nationalist leaders (Rammohan Roy, Bal Gandhadar Tilak, Syed Ahmad Khan etc.) were individuals focused on certain aspects or certain territories/provinces. While respected, their influence was limited to particular groups and provinces. The most prominent groups among these were the ‘elites’ the upper castes, classes and educated groups within the country. India till date remains a country with a high proportion of population which is illiterate and dependent upon manual labor for their livelihoods, this was even more so the case in the 1900’s and before. Thus, these individuals, before Gandhi, though having the right outlook, lacked the perception of the magnitude of effort required. Perhaps it may even be said that these individuals never truly aimed to over-throw the British rule, but merely sought concessions and permits within an existing system (of course, it may be argued, that this was also Gandhi’s stand in the initial years of the Swaraj movement) or that they didn’t then have access to the Indian National Congress and its reach. The perception they lacked was that no battle/struggle for Swaraj or independence could be won without the support of the masses. Till then, whatever concessions had been achieved from the British were more towards these elite groups, and in my opinion aimed at appeasement rather than actual empowerment.

Gandhi saw the folly in this, he realized, through retrospection that the only way to be successful against a power so robust and ingrained in our society as the British was to have sheer numbers on your side. He realized the downfall of infighting based on caste, creed or religion and aimed to remove it from our societal narrative. He then systematically moved to nullify these barriers so that we may present a united front to the British. Call me an idealist, but I would rather he had professed that there was no difference between Hindus and Muslims and other religions, that it was not about respecting each other but rather understanding that different cultural practices did not make us different. Every religion within itself has varied forms of worship and do’s and don’ts, that does not mean that the religion gets split into different pieces, but rather each individual piece is acknowledged as being a unique part of a larger whole. I would greatly appreciate it if someone could share any work/speech of Gandhi to the contrary. The same was the case with women. Gandhi was not a feminist, in the sense, that he did not believe men and women to be equal. There are those who have interpreted Gandhi’s work as him not being in favour of women entering the economic sphere of society. Regardless, Gandhi did understand that by keeping women away, he was keeping almost half of the gentry away from the movement. he thus advocated for the role of women in the freedom struggle and in my opinion, advocated against practices such as Purdah which were a hindrance to women’s participation.

His second victory of perception was the emphasis on non-violence. I strongly believe it was the gift of hindsight that allowed him to take this stand. behind him were the numerous struggles and resistances, all armed, all failed, whether that be the regional localized struggles, or even the revolt of 1857. He had also had the good fortune of having traveled to South Africa and the West and had thus been truly exposed to the ‘might of the British empire’. In one of his speeches, on the matter of Hindu-Muslim unity, he stated that there is no victory in violence, that by resorting to violence Hindus and Muslims will not achieve what they wish, but rather only through the sacrifice of self, or non-violence. What struck me was that in the whole speech (four-five pages long) not once did he say that even if victory is achieved by violence, it will be ill-earned and will not serve its purpose. He simply stated that victory was not possible. This I am of the opinion was reflective of his stand of India’s position against the British, it was not that freedom and victory was not desirable through a violent struggle, but rather it was not possible. Britain of the time, before the world wars, was one the mightiest empires across the globe, and controlled all of the legitimate arms trade in the subcontinent. To mount an armed resistance against this magnitude of power successfully would have been neigh impossible. Thus, the other option was to take the route that had worked in the past, of cooperation but turned on its head, ‘non-cooperation’.

In conclusion, I do not believe that Gandhi was an enlightened soul or Mahatma, but rather a shrewd lawyer, who was an incredibly good strategist and orator, for this I will give him his due. I am in the process of reading more of his works, and perhaps there may come a time when I change my opinion of him. However, till then would welcome a healthy dialogue of anyone who wishes to present their view; for or against my own.

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The Stories a Hug Can tell

A hug is of various types and serves many purposes. It ranges from a quick pat on the back with someone you haven’t seen in sometime, to a long lasting one meant to reassure or provide comfort; or simply because you missed the person. It is a symbol of joy, celebration, sorrow, companionship, love and friendship. As versatile as hugs can be they are also specific to each relationship or pair of individuals. Each pair has a typical style of hugging, which rarely changes in cases of joy or sorrow. For some that’s a sideways hug, for some a bear hug and for others it’s one tucking themselves into the other. Whichever form, it tells you a lot about the relationship between the individuals if you just watch how they hug.

I have been a fan of supernatural and the boys for more than five years now. For five years I have yearned and waited with bated breathes (as have most fans) for the next episode, the next season. I survive on the brotherly love, not just between Sam and Dean but also between Jared and Jensen. I adore both the fictional and real life personas tremendously and ship them as my friendship/brother OTPs. Safe to say, one of the things I crave the most is the brotherly moments, not just between Sam and Dean but also Jared and Jensen.

The brotherly hugs between both sets are like chocolate or coffee for me. They have the potential of making me smile bright and full teethed. They fill me with that warm and fuzzy glow; that in most cases lasts through the day. They also at times make me bawl like a baby (when the hug is about comfort, or when one of the brothers is dying, on the show of course). Whatever be the reason or nature, I crave them, cherish them, hoard them and revisit them over and over again.

In this revisiting process I have realized something; the hugs between Sam and Dean are just another example of how J2 are amazing actors and have embodied the characters. The key in this instance is the differences between the Winchester hugs and J2 hugs. I am sure the members of the fandom, like me, can tell apart which hug is for which set just by a glimpse at the picture, whether that be based on the attire or setting.

Possibly the biggest difference for me between the two sets of hugs is how they reflect the dynamics between the boys. The Winchester hugs are another means of personifying the relationship between the two brothers. They are tight, bear hugs, usually with one brother seeking comfort or reassurance. The hugs reflect and showcase the desperation and need to feel the other person against you, reaffirm that they are there, to once again familiarize yourself with their unique scents. But each hug is also another way the dynamic of Sam and Dean is re-established, the dynamic of elder brother Dean and younger brother Sam. This happens through Sam folding himself onto Dean’s shoulder, while Dean himself stands flat footed. When it’s Sam initiating the hug, he usually bends down to Dean’s level (as he does with practically everyone). Even when it’s Dean initiating the hug, he usually pulls Sam down to his level, and Sam of course goes willingly.

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In contrast, a J2 hug, usually involves whoever is initiating the hug pulling the other into them with a hand on the neck. The difference is that it usually involves Jensen standing on tippy toes to accommodate Jared’s height. In the sideways hugs, Jensen is usually seen as happily standing tucked into Jared’s shoulder.
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In the Winchester hugs, I have always seen the personification of the brother’s relationship with Dean as the protector and leader and Sam as the one with faith and trust in his elder brother. In contrast; the J2 hug is a hug between equals, standing side by side with each other. There are moments when the roles are of course reflected of Sam and Dean, but that is usually when one is seeking comfort and reassurance as well.

However, regardless of whether it’s a Sam and Dean hug or a J2 hug, I hope we keep getting more and more of each and may these on and off screen brothers keep fighting the good fight.

Fifty cups of coffee by Khushnuma Daruwala: A book review

Its been ages since I posted anything but since I refuse to be regular about this, I will just simply stop apologizing. In my defense the last three months have absolutely left me with no space for cognitive functioning. My work has taken over my entire day and sadly nights as well. Oh well, hoping the projects I am presently working on turn out amazing, cause literally blood sweat and tears have gone into them. 

Anyways, it’s also rare that I post a review for a book that’s been released the same year, but yes that’s what I am about to do now. Why now, cause I am on a three hour flight and my laptop has died so there is literally nothing else I can do. The book fifty cups of coffee, is my chicken soup for the soul, it’s the book that if I can, I will probably carry around with me wherever I go, at least for sometime (as soon as I get it back from a friend). It’s a book about a thirty plus single woman in India, who is finally ready to get married so starts looking for prospective grooms. Since she is not in a relationship, she is left with the option of online dating and match making websites. The book charts the hilarious journey of this woman as she meets guys and goes on dates to assess their suitability as life partners. According to the forward the book is based on the real life experiences of the writer’s friend.

I honestly don’t care if all the instances quoted are make believe, I absolutely loved it (if that wasn’t already obvious). I loved it I loved it I loved it. Ok I am done fangirling, the book is written simply, to the point and with an amazing wit, sarcasm and humor. Another plus is that it wasn’t lengthy and thus made its points in a very crisp manner. The book puts all the fears and experiences of single women out there in the open, reminding the girls out there that we are definitely not alone when we undertake this journey. This book is basically a mirror held up to our faces and reminds us that we are not idiots for feeling the way we do. The book reminds us to not settle for someone who we know in our gut isn’t meant for us. The book reminds us that just because the whole world thinks we need to settle because ” biological clock is ticking” doesn’t mean we do just that. The book also reminds us that some people will find their happily ever afters with their dream men after years of struggle (or not), but others will find their happily ever afters with themselves, probably chasing sunsets. 

I could go on and on but to put it very simply, everyone girl out there, single or committed, who is yet to get married and is being reminded by society of why she is something lesser because she is not settling down, do give this a read. Give this a read and remind yourself that it’s perfectly alright to wait it out, if you are not ready then you are not ready, it’s that simple and the world be damned. To all the girls out there already married (happily or not) do read this book, and have a laugh probably going down memory lane, or thanking your lucky stars that you didn’t go through that. For the men and boys out there, do read this, of only to get an understanding of our perspective, and maybe someone can write a counter piece from your angle as well. 

Basically, no matter what age, gender or marital status, do read this book. 

Something has got to give

Its been months since I have written anything, honestly its been some time since I felt like doing anything at all. I am always sleepy. I am spending more time on social media than I probably ever did. I am barely keeping in touch with my friends, heck my own brother. I am scarcely exercising. I am barely reading. I haven’t touched my paints in I think 3 months now. I haven’t written a blog in god knows how long. The only thing I am doing is eating, correction, hogging and of course sleeping. It’s like someone has taken the wind out of my sails.

Last year was great, professionally, personally, in every sense. This year, nothing seems to be clicking. It feels like no matter what I do I am not getting anywhere, not getting anything done. It feels like I have nothing to show for this year. You know the hamster that runs of that silly wheel without a purpose; yes that’s me right now. It seems like I have lost my purpose. Like I no longer have my eyes set on the goal. Heck, I don’t think I know what the goal is anymore!

Has it been a bad year, I don’t think so. Yes sure I broke up with the guy I was dating, I didn’t get the promotion I knew I wasn’t ready for but would have loved anyways, I have done decent work, nothing great but haven’t made mistakes either. But I don’t know what it is; I just can’t seem to shake the funk. Maybe it’s time for a change, maybe a job change, or another guy, or even some weight loss (which I am putting back on). I don’t know, I just hope I figure it out soon. Actually I am going on vacation next week (a whole 8 days!!!!), so hopefully it will be just what I need. I better, because I don’t know whats wrong, just that something has got to give.

Memories

It’s been too long, but things have been hectic. So many times I thought of writing something but nothing felt like worth it. Today finally its desperation that is making me write this. Have you ever been just going about your merry way and then Wham! Out of the blue something hits you so strongly. Your emotions go haywire, brain stops responding. Your body freezes, senses stop working. Ya… and the worst part, this happened to me because of the most ridiculous reason.

I was walking home from work today, and out of nowhere, over my headphones I heard a bark. Call me crazy but it was as if the dog was calling out to me. I stopped turned around. I didn’t even make a sound, but that dog ran out to me. He was so happy… he was so happy…. He kept licking me, biting gently as if unable to contain his joy. And what did I do… I froze. All I could remember was Buddy. I don’t know why, but it was as if every fibre of my body accepted that this was my Buddy.

Why, I mean why, he didn’t look anything like my Buddy. And most importantly my Buddy is dead, I know that, heck I buried him myself. I know it wasn’t him! So why did could I not shake of the feeling.

I forced myself to walk away. I walked away!!!!! Literally dragging my feet away. Why you ask, because my mother wouldn’t allow us to keep another dog. That’s it, that’s the reason I fucking walked away.

He followed of course, happy to be trotting next to me, running ahead a little bit, sniffing in random places. He stayed within a few feet of me. All the while walking those few feet home, I couldn’t think straight, heck I can’t think straight now. I just kept hoping he would try to follow me inside our society compound. I prayed he would. I don’t know why, in some twisted logic, if he tried following me home he was my Buddy. I mean I know it’s ridiculous, he is not my Baby, but I don’t know why even after five years, the instinct came so naturally. I don’t know whether to be relieved or upset that he didn’t even pause. He just trotted back to his place.

He trotted back happily but I…… I don’t even know what I am feeling. I thought I was over this, I thought I had made peace with Buddy’s death a couple of years ago. But all those memories came rushing back today and I am barely keeping my head over the water.

The Thrill of watching an airplane fly

I don’t even remember the last time I posted anything, apologies up front for that. My personal life has been a little to entertaining of late, some good some bad. One of my good friends got married, and one is about to, I made some new friends, got my heart broken, assisted my brother in figuring out his next career move, closed two super big projects (I am personally proud of my performance on those), struggled with my parent’s health etc. etc. that’s life for you, and honestly, I love it. However, all this excitement also made me a little reflective, as it usually does.

As probably everyone knows by now, I travel, a lot. If you ask me, one of the things I absolutely love about travel is the taking off and landing of an air plane. Whenever I leave Delhi, on my way to the destination, the initial thrust of the take-off serves as a snooze for me- somehow it always manages to put me to sleep. Except today, I am writing this mid-flight (I just haven’t felt like writing at any other time), though I have a feeling the triple shot cappuccino has a role to play in that. But yes, back to the point, the take-off serves as a snooze alarm, the landing serves as the gun shot in a race- ready set go. That’s when Akshita the Consultant comes out to play, and Tanu, the over grown child gets put away. When taking off from Delhi I was always love looking at the city and trying to find my home- I usually can see it pretty clearly and for some reason it reassures me.

While coming back, it’s a slightly different experience. While taking off from the city, I like looking at the city- a fond good bye (well 90% of the times it is fond) and a thank you for the memories. The thrust at this time serves as the finish line- Akshita the Consultant usually goes for a break at this time. However, the best feeling in the world- touching down in Delhi. Somehow it always fills me with a sense of peace, of homecoming – and I instantly feel tired. People say you get this kind of feeling when you return home to your mother and allow her to take care of you. For all of its fault- Delhi has always been my home and always fills me with the same sense of comfort that my home does. Of course, that’s only till I hit the roads and the inevitable traffic jams.

However, the other day, I passed the airport on my way to work, and noticed something I learned to tune out as a kid- numerous people standing by the main road, waiting to watch an air plane take off. That got me thinking, they were all adults and had undoubtedly seen numerous planes in their life time,, so why stop. Why wait- sometimes as long as 30 minutes, just to see a flight take off. What is it that makes us want to show this spectacle to our kids. That is one of my fondest memories- sitting on the roof of my car, or my dad’s shoulders watching the magic of physics play out.

Is it just that – the thrill of physics? Or is it imagining yourself in one of them? Imagining what it feels like to experience it from the inside? Or maybe they are remembering their childhood memories- reliving the good ones, just like me. Or is it more philosophical? The reaffirming of the faith that we Humans; are the masters of innovation. That there is next to little that we can’t achieve if we really put our minds to it? Is it the manifestation of the whole idiom of try and try till you succeed? Though I doubt people are really thinking of the Wright brothers and other’s struggle to come up with the flying machine. Or is it the feeling of freedom, of an escape from reality and the mundane problems, while fighting everything stopping us and moving against us?

I suppose each of those people stopping there have their own reasons and it could be any or neither of the ones I thought off. I just know one thing, even after more than 100 flights in my own lifetime; I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the spectacle. When the front wheels left the ground, I had an unexplainable feeling of satisfaction. 

So here is to freedom, to having enough thrust and power within us, to defeat the odds. To overcome the hurdles life sets in front us. Leaving behind every naysayers- everyone who said (or says) you can’t do it, of conquering each and everys fear and leaving behind obstacles in a blaze of fire (Ok fine, air planes don’t have fire coming out of them in normal circumstances, but you get the meaning). Here is to each and every one of us being our own air planes.

When I travel….

Each site visit is different; each travel is a story that deserves to be told. Some for the fun, some for adventure, some for the life altering experiences they are, some for the sadness and loneliness they bring. No matter what, each story deserves to be told. As I sit in the Mumbai airport, waiting to go home, there is a sense of Melancholy.

 The last 10 days in the city have almost flown by. Mumbai is one of the cities I love coming to. I have friends here, some at work and some outside and they always try to make me feel welcome. My mother once accused me of using my travel to escape, escape my family. I forgave her a long time ago, but those words still sting. I agree at some level travel is a much-needed escape, and I understand why she, who doesn’t have to, would resent my travel.

 But see the thing is, my mother hears my stories, hears of the fun I have. What she doesn’t hear, what she will never know, is the times, when I have been lonely in a hotel room without anyone to talk to, when I can’t sleep because the bed isn’t my bed. She will never know of the times it felt weird because the toothbrush I used wasn’t my usual one (I have a separate one for my travel kit), where my towel didn’t feel the same. She won’t know of the times when I had no hot water, but still took a bath, because I stunk. She won’t know of the times when I got acidity burns because of the food I had to eat for days on end, or when I almost threw up because I was so repulsed by it. My brother will never know how many times I think of him. How many times I crack a joke that no one’s get, no one will get but him. They won’t know how many times I have been scared out of my mind because I can’t get through to them. How scared I was when I was held captive by some local villagers or when I was almost arrested in a foreign country for no fault of ours.

 My home is troubled, yes, but my family is my safety net, and when I travel, when I am on site, I don’t have that.