January 28, 2013

Who says...

…When the going gets tough, the tough get going? When the going gets tough, people simply bail.

…No man is an island? It’s all a matter of choice.

…Better late than never? If you’re late, you’re late. No changing it.

…Fortune favors the bold? Fortune favors only those who are fortunate enough to have it.

…Sharing is caring? Every time I offer to “share” a chocolate with someone, I secretly hope they decline and mentally curse them if they don’t. And I know I’m not the only one who does this!

…Who says when in Rome, do as the Romans? So individuality doesn’t count?

…People who live in glass houses should not throw stones? Freedom of expression, anyone?

…Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst? More often than not, the latter bit is never followed.

...We must keep our friends close, but our enemies closer? Why pretend? Indifference and avoidance work best.

…A picture is worth a thousand words? What could a picture of a fruit bowl possibly convey? I don't get art.

…There’s no such thing as a free lunch? Whoever does, is absolutely right.

…There’s no place like home? It’s more about the people than the place itself.

…Discretion is the greater part of valor? Bullshit.

...The early bird catches the worm? The lucky bird who manages to get some shut-eye does.

…You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs? Humans are incapable of being happy for others without associating a negative emotion with it as well.

…Actions speak louder than words? Pray tell me. Wait. No. Pray “show me” how to get someone’s attention without calling out to them when their back is turned to you. Experience tells me silence never helps.

…Beggars can’t be choosers? I once met a child beggar who wanted the burger in my hand instead of the packet of chips I was giving him.

…Practice makes perfect? There’s a difference between inborn skill and acquired skill.

…If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it? The perfectionist in me stops me from believing in this.

…Don’t bite the hand that feeds you? Shake it.

…Absence makes the heart grow fonder? Nine out of 10 long distance relationships fail.

…Beauty is in the eye of the beholder? While I find pigs cute, others eat them.

…Good things come to those who wait? I say just go for it.

…Familiarity breeds contempt? Some personal space is all you need.

…Two wrongs don’t make a right? Trying to get back at someone can possibly make things worse, but succeeding in doing so can give a person a different kind of satisfaction (and anyone denying this is lying). It doesn’t make them a bad person; it just makes them human.

November 18, 2012

And the legacy ends

As I was going through the numerous "take care" and "stay home" messages I received as news of the death of Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray was reported, within just a few minutes I could hear the noise of the traffic growing louder—nearly as loud as the chatter of the people in the grocery store-cum-chemist downstairs who were scrambling to stock up on eatables to keep them going during the bandh the Sena is sure to call for.

I don’t know what I was expecting to see once news of Thackeray's death spread, but it wasn’t this: A man from the local municipal council, who collects the building’s garbage, standing at my door asking for his Diwali bonus. I found this strangely amusing considering I live right behind the Shiv Sena's local headquarters.

Anyway, the city had come to a near standstill in the last two days when word about Thackeray being critically ill spread. Local trains had half the usual number of commuters; the roads barely saw any autorickshaws or buses plying; shops in the busiest markets in the city remained closed.

After Shiv Sainiks (as the party supporters are known) pelted stones at a restaurant for staying open past 11 p.m. while their leader was ailing, all stores are now shooing their customers away in a hurry to avoid being attacked themselves. And strangely, even the small police check posts (chowks) are closed.

Shiv Sena leaders have appealed to the thousands of mourning supporters gathered outside Thackeray’s suburban residence, Matoshree, and asked them to maintain peace and not disrupt the city’s regular goings on. But despite this, the police are sure to be on their toes the next few days and tackle however the mob chooses to act out.

But here’s the twist: Word is that the "Sena Supremo," as Thackeray is known, passed away a few days back, but given the current festive season, the news was kept under wraps.

Sources from media houses claimed the same, with one having overheard that the announcement would be made this afternoon, as was seen.

I don't know how much truth there is to this statement, but having heard this rumour before the official announcement was made, it all seemed very insensitive to me that the hundreds of well-wishers gathered outside Matoshree were kept in the dark for days.

This has left me with mixed feelings. Yes, I do feel sad about the demise of such a prominent and powerful figure, but also a little angry that the family would leave their loyal supporters hanging this way.

I was in my third year of college in Calcutta when Jyoti Basu died, and in spite of him being in office for over two decades, he did not get the kind of support that I now see Bal Thackeray receiving. There were many who hated him and his beliefs for years, but there was no escaping the reach of his iron fist.

July 10, 2012

Sleep, Y U NO stop disappearing at night?!

If only a person resembling a panda could look this cute.
If there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that I’m sure to look like a panda tomorrow, all thanks to the ever-deepening pits under my eyes.  Sleep deprivation does not suit me very well. Just like most of my nights here in Bombay, I can’t sleep. I don’t know what it is about being here that has messed with my sleep cycle this badly, but I JUST CANNOT SLEEP!

With howling, nocturnal dogs and a beetle that just won’t leave me alone for company (I’m pretty sure I woke people up with my shrieks when it flew right at my face), I’m lying in bed, writing/typing this and trying to figure out what exactly it is that is keeping me up.

Whether it's my body being unable to adjust to the new surroundings, or my stomach’s constant rumbling due to lack of food (thanks for that, Ankita Singh), or the cute, but annoyingly noisy, dogs creating a ruckus outside every damn night, or something entirely in my mind, I can’t say.

I don’t like being around people. The only people I’d like to be with are those that aren’t around, those I cannot be with. I’d rather people just let me be and not try to make me talk.

Stop asking me questions. Stop making me pretend to like you. Stop calling. Stop asking me what I’m thinking. Because more often than not, I have no idea.
Just let me be.

I share an apartment with two other girls—one that refuses to come back to the city and another that I hardly ever get to see. This wasn’t exactly how I had envisioned having my own place with friends would feel like. A great part of it involved actually getting to see those friends. Could it be lack of contact with people I actually care about (and those I work with do NOT count here) that’s keeping me up? Am I actually, subconsciously of course, craving for some company? I find that hard to believe.

I’ve always wanted this life—a job, a house, money, independence and lots and lots of shoes. What I didn’t factor in is the trivial amount of loneliness that would accompany having all of it.

I’m gonna get through this, whatever “this” actually is.

Reading though what I’ve written so far, it doesn’t make much sense to me either. Like I said. Or maybe I didn’t. It’s all a jumbled mess, and the only conclusion I can draw from all the gibberish spewing from my mind is that it quite definitely is fucked (for lack of a more appropriate word).

June 03, 2012

Why, Miss. Banerjee?

Ruled by the left-wing Communist Party of India (Marxist) for over three decades, Kolkata, or the “City of Joy” as it is fondly called, had been the core of communist politics. This, however, had failed to please the people and after years of disappointment, it came as no surprise when the 2011 assembly elections brought on a complete makeover in the affairs of the state. Having gained the confidence of the people through widespread campaigning, the Trinamool Congress, West Bengal’s state political party and an important ally of the United Progressive Alliance, swept the polls and gave new hope for better governance.

A conversation about one’s mission to overthrow communist politics would be incomplete without mentioning Mamata Banerjee, TMC’s commanding leader. Be it via concrete facts or blame games, she made use of every possible means to loosen CPI (M)’s grip over West Bengal politics. Although her aim to lead the state was achieved after a long wait, she finally found her place as the chief minister of West Bengal.

TMC and the Indian National Congress shared a common objective to oust the CPI (M) from its rule in the state. It was with their backing that Banerjee could pave way to her office in the Writer’s Building in Kolkata.

The Congress usually shares cordial relations with its allies, lets them take the lead in the state and depends on their support in the central government. This balance is typically maintained by both parties. So, the growing tension between the two allies in the not-so-recent past came as a shock to many political experts.

Banerjee had plans of her own.

Friction between the allies began with the Congress demanding more seats in the assembly and Banerjee out-and-out refusing them. She blocked the policy of 100 percent foreign direct investment in retail, she gave into secessionist demands and handed Gorkhaland administrative autonomy and also blocked the international agreement with Bangladesh over sharing waters of the Teesta River.

So we ask: Why, after so many years of striving to achieve their goal, would she risk losing out on the Congress’ support? Also, why would she oppose proposals which could benefit sections of the society as well as the population of West Bengal?

A 180 degree change in opinion

“Destructive bandhs (strikes) are not the future, and it ends today,” she said in response the failure of the bandh called by the Left on Feb. 28.

From 2006 to 2011, I lived in Kolkata myself. Apart from the city turning into a ghost town between the afternoon hours of one to five, if there was one thing that annoyed me the most about the city, it was the number of bandhs that were declared by the political parties of the state. It didn’t matter which commodity was the new target of price rise or who insulted or assaulted who in a remote part of the state, calling for bandhs seemed the answer to most of them. And yes, most of them were declared by the TMC.

It was not long before she was appointed the CM of West Bengal that she organized a sizeable number of road blocks and called for bandhs across the state. Why, I ask, would she make such a hypocritical statement?
It is only when in opposition that political parties realize the inconvenience it causes to citizens when such untimely bandhs are declared.  Clearly, such is the case with Banerjee as well.

Change in alphabetical status or mere stupidity?

State leaders believed that they faced an alphabetical disadvantage in meetings and surveys. To counter this drawback, West Bengal was renamed “Paschimbanga” in August 2011. This was done to raise the state’s alphabetical position from 28 to 21.

However, if raising its alphabetical position was the only motive behind this sudden need to rename the state, why did they not go with other suggested names such as Bangla or Banga? As filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh said, Bengal would have been the ideal replacement. Not only does “Bengal” sound a lot better, it would have also raised the state’s alphabetic position to fourth instead of 21st.

Not to mention it would be ridiculed a lot less.

Where is the need to maintain the term “west” in the name of the state (“paschim” in Bengali, means west)? Except in history, East Bengal no longer exists. The circumstances in which the state was partitioned was not one that called for celebrations; they were tragic and do not deserve to be remembered, even in the form of a mere name.

In spite of all the criticism thrown her way, there is no denying that Banerjee’s popularity has risen over the years. She knows her way around politics and is good at moving the crowd to accept her ways as well.

Littering and Indians' all-pervading apathy

Every time I draw near a street corner, I hold in my breath. Strange as it may sound, this is something I have learned from years of experience. Having come to realize that a street corner in India is synonymous with an enormous pile of garbage, I know that I will most definitely be hit by an awful stench every time I approach one.

Around the world, people are taking note of India’s economic growth. However, to those who live in the country as well as those who come for visits, one thing about the country which is clearly noticeable is that their disinterest in taking care of environmental sanitation and their propensity to litter are fields in which India and its citizens seem to have come to a standstill.

There is garbage everywhere in this country: in public spaces like parks, before government offices, and also, the most ironical of them all, under signs that say, “Please do not litter here.” In all these spots, one is sure to find a heap of innocent-looking trash just waiting to grow. Nobody seems to care about the right way to discard their waste. If anything, when a person finds a mound of garbage, he or she only adds to it.

Throwing our trash out in the streets seems to be the norm for people in this country. It seems standard here. Having lived surrounded by waste and garbage all their lives, it does not bother people anymore. As long as they have some place to dispose the trash from their houses, they are content. No one seems to care about their social responsibility of keeping their surroundings clean; and by surroundings, here, I mean the neighborhood beyond their doorsteps.

So, what does this say about these people?

No matter how the country progresses economically, there never seems to be any change in their attitude towards the environment. The streets seem to be everyone’s common dustbin. Everything we don’t need ends up in a pile somewhere out in the open.

Such is the scenario now that dumping garbage in open grounds and littering is no longer seen as an environmental problem. It is shameful that one of the fastest-growing economies needs to be seen in such light.

Although environmentally conscious people do exist, there is only so much that they can do. When these rare breed of people call the commonly seen littering mongrels on their behavior, they are either mocked or simply ignored. Instead of looking up to such people for the cause they take up, they are ridiculed.

Several municipalities in the country have proposed anti-litter laws that never see the stage of actual implementation. Even if such laws are really enforced, they would become nothing but a source of illegal income for the police or others who are given the responsibility of tackling litterers. Any fines imposed on a litterer would turn into bribes and be pocketed by them.

Apart from people’s indifference and the corrupt officials, inefficient municipalities and their inability to do away with trash from the streets, as they are supposed to, is another reason behind our filthy, garbage-cluttered streets. More often than not, the pileup that we see is trash that is overflowing from a dustbin which was probably meant to be emptied months ago. What can we expect from the common people if those, who are given the official responsibility of keeping the streets clean, slack off?

If people need to shop, they can walk all day long; if money is involved, they’re on their toes and working hard for it; but if they are asked to move a couple of feet to reach an actual dustbin, all the lethargy in the world seeps into them.

Indians’ mentality towards the environment needs to change. Their lackadaisical attitude and sheer laziness needs to give way to environmental consciousness and a basic sense of community hygiene. Sooner or later, Indians need to realize that, socially accepted or not, the “practice” of littering must be brought to an end.