Friday, July 28, 2006

The world reacts to Lebanon's devastation

Just thought this passage from the Bible should work as a wake-up call to those who have chosen to remain silent on this subject, and have ignored the suffering of the innocent civilians being bombarded by this insane war machinery. It can be found in Matthew 25: 31-46.


31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."


Monday, July 17, 2006

War

In 1982, I was in high school and had just begun writing poetry and was discovering the magic of producing thoughts and ideas and sharing them with my friends who found it very boring. Anyway, around the same time, the news on all TV screens was filled with images of Israel's invasion of Beirut. The shocking images of dead and maimed bodies disgusted me, and I wrote this poem as a response to all that I saw.

Now that Israel has invaded Beirut again, I see the same familiar images occupying the TV screens, and though, I'm much older now, I feel, the same sense of disgust and revulsion all over again. Ofcourse, I need to clarify that I support neither Hizbollah, Hamas nor the Israeli army... my sympathy and support lies with the innocent civilians who have ended up being unwitting victims of this collective madness.

This is the poem I wrote back then, and sad to say, nothing much as changed in the intervening 24 years.


The little child silently
stretches its tiny legs
to crawl towards its mother,
sleeping on the innocent ground.

The mother is lying all alone
naked and helpless,
waiting for the Red Cross
to pick her up.

But the little child is thirsty
and parched,
and so crawling up
to her body
puts its mouth
on her breast:

but the milk isn't
there,

she is dead!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

This thing called lurrrve

I've been thinking about love. Quite a lot. At least, for the past few weeks or so. Love has been the dominant theme of my thought-life. I won't get into the why or how or what or who, because the reasons are irrelevant and unnecessary.

The thing about love is that... there I go again, hoping to find an answer in one sentence. Explaining everything that needs to be explained and understood. That's usually the trouble when it comes to love. We think we can compress it in one sentence, one song, one poem, one book or even a film or play. Quite a feat, actually, if one considers the objective at hand and the subjects that need to be covered. I mean, just think about it. Is it possible for us to go to the very dawn of time and understand why and how the very first man's feet went wobbly when he saw the very first woman?

The trouble is, most of us focus on the wobbly bits and ignore the more substantial elements. We like the wobbly bits because they make us feel mushy all over. We like the images it produces -- the roses, the music, the kisses, the hugs, the serenading and the white horse gallopinng its way to sweep the woman off her feet. Don't get me wrong. I like these bits, too, and, infact, I enjoy them a lot. But at the end of the day, they're not everything. They are merely indicators of something deep and wonderful, and not the thing in itself.

The thing, on the other hand, is hardly the stuff that will make people go gooey and the Hollywood moneymaking machine go kaching. Love is all about cutting the cords that bind us to the way we like to live, and letting ourselves go in a complete freefall for the sake of the other person. It is all about making ourselves vulnerable. Completely. Totally. And unabashedly. In fact, it is all about making ourselves open to possibilities -- of getting hurt by indifference, of being pained by silence, of being assaulted by joy and happiness, of receiving intellectual and emotional fulfilment, of being in a constant state of delirium, of finding meaning, identity and purpose, of just being happy that there is someone out there who thinks the world of us.

Most of us make the mistake of trying to see what we can get out of a relationship but that's a dangerous place to be in. It makes us raise our expectations and enables the other person to 'fail' in our assessment. Somehow it is humanly impossible for anyone to match our expectations because our standards are, usually, based on an utilitarian criteria. We want the other
person to please us and make us happy. And if that doesn't happen, then, our entire world crashes and we end up noticing the thorns in the roses.

One should think about being a 'giver' than a receiver. Asking ourselves all the time, what can I do to make the other person happy? What measures can I adopt to show my love to her? Is it possible for me to deny myself just to give her an ounce of joy? A giving-focus reduces expectations and the hurts. But again, it is the most vulnerable kind of love because it is loaded with risks. It is never a guarantee that the other person will recognise the 'giving', perhaps, she will never reciprocate or even notice it, maybe she'll be clouded by her own hang-ups that will make it hard for her to 'see' anything. But if at all she does see it, and loves us back in the same way, then, the possibilities of an absolutely joy-filled life are endless.

Ofcourse, it all depends on the other person.

We cannot expect this to happen with just about anyone. It needs judgement. Shrewd judgement to find someone compatible enough to love in this manner. We make errors of judgement and find ourselves trying to love someone who is just not right for us. We take emotional decisions and latch on to someone for reasons that have nothing to do with compatibility. We just need someone to shatter the silence around us, and fill some physical void we experience. And at other times, we get influenced by looks, sex appeal, money, glamour, and other superficialities, and lose sight of the more substantial bits -- as always.

While shared values (religious, political, ideological, philosophical) remain an essential component in any relationship for it to really work, there is, however, besides this important point, no cut-and-dried formula for compatibility in relationships. But still, there are two indicators that might help. At least, those are the ones I believe to be the most crucial. It's important to ask: do I want to grow old with this person? And secondly, is it possible for me to have long, spontaneous and enjoyable conversations with the person? Because frankly, when we are old and grey and sitting by the fireside, it is not sex that will get the mojo working because there would hardly be any fireworks in that department, it wont be looks because those will sag and wrinkle by then, it wont be machismo because with old age we won't be able to do any of our Hulk Hogan impressions... all that will remain in our twilight years is the other person with whom we can only sit and talk, talk and just talk because that's all we'll be left with. If we are unable to hold a decent conversation or have things to talk about today while we are still young, then, when we are old we're most likely to hit an iceberg. And the heart-break will be far more devastating than the debilitating pain of old age.

Love is all about making a decision to live forever with this compatible person. It cannot be a temporary measure because it doesn't work that way. It is a forever kind of thing because it is about respecting the other person, and letting her know that you are there for the long haul. That you won't get tired of her when the storm clouds rise and things don't look pretty good.

It is about deciding to love this person as long as one has breath and the ability to construct meaningful sentences. It is all about saying that I shall, from now on, align myself to this person and seek her happiness at all costs. It is all about losing one's identity and finding it in the other person. It is about emptying ourselves and discovering a part of us in the other person. It is about making ourselves helpless and finding strength in the other person. It is about saying to the other person, you complete me.

It is all about the two becoming one flesh, united in spirit, love, mind and body.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dissecting Bomb Blasts

It feels like deja vu again. It was London last year, Madrid two years ago, and yesterday it was Bombay's turn to suffer a series of bomb blasts in its mass transit 'local' train service. The same thoughts of disgust, revulsion, shock and anger that occupied our thoughts exactly a year and two ago seem to be making a return visit. It feels so insanely unnatural because, somehow, we feel, it shouldn't happen this way. These barbaric acts of terror seem to be, according to our misguided impression, the preserve of some bygone era or a regular feature of some hell-hole of a failed and/ or a failing state.

All that is fine but what does one do if such acts of terror seem to happen in places we least expect. Like our cities, for instance. Modern cities that, we believe, are supposedly immune to primal rage. Situations such as these shatter our comfort zone, and increase our vulnerability and sense of mortality. It makes us realise that we are not superhuman creatures at all, and that the savage beast dwells within us and is cleverly concealed by our designer clothes and saville row suits.

However, that's something for sociologists and anthropologists to figure out but, as for me, I am quite keen to know what goes in the mind of terrorists who plant such bombs in crowded places. I'm sure it requires some depraved genius to devise such an attack on civilian targets because a rational mind will not and cannot develop such a terrorising scheme. Maybe I'm wrong in making such an assumption. Rational minds, after all, have, in the past, developed nuclear bombs, planned wars, spread dangerous rumours and hatched conspiracies that it would seem quite natural for even a rational mind to plan such an attack.

In all probabilities, a rational mind would measure the number of corpses in terms of psychological impact instead of looking at it in purely emotional terms and seeing only 'loss of human lives'. In fact, if some historians and commentators are to be believed, Hitler and Stalin were all rational creatures who 'thought' through their genocide and planned their ethnic cleansing operations quite clinically and methodically.

In anycase, that's them and they lived in a different time and era, but what does one have to say about our mass-transit bombers? How do they operate anyway? What rationale do they have in wreaking havoc on civilian lives?

I wish one could come up with a suitable answer that would seek some justification for this horror but I find it increasingly hard to do so. It just seems so inhuman that some people would actually believe that killing innocent lives will serve their political or whatever agenda. I am sure they have friends and families of their own, and are aware that death creates loss and gives rise to an empty void that can never be filled. I mean, I'm sure they know what it feels like to see loved ones perish, and so how could they just lose their sense of empathy and perform the very thing they are, probably, upset about?

I'm sure the terrorists have some genuine grievances that are making them behave in such a horrible manner, but it makes me wonder if this particular grievance is really worth all this trouble and misery. If it is making its supporters behave like savages, then, perhaps, they need to re-evaluate their priorities, strategies and, if need be, question the grievance, too. In my opinion, no grievance or cause or ideology is that sacred that its violation should demand the loss of innocent lives. If its proponents believe this to be the case, then, they are seriously misguided and must not expect any sympathy or support from fellow humans.

Such terrorist activity, in my opinion, is quite self-defeating and counter-productive because it makes it hard for anyone to take their 'cause' very seriously. No one is ever going to believe that a mass murderer has something important to say, and the same goes with these bombers. No one will ever take their cause seriously and it will, eventually, die an ignominous death. Sad. Very sad, because it completely destroys the possibility of dialogue and communication, and the benefits of possible reconciliation it might produce. It ends any hope for peace, and scuttles any chances for happiness and joy.

I wish I could understand why terrorists do what they do, but I doubt if it will ever make sense. And I don't think it is meant to make sense anyway because some things, however hard we try, can never be understood. It's the way things are, and will remain. But I do hope there is, at least, a fear of God that would make these terrorists think twice before embarking on their 'projects'. Am not sure if it will help, but, at least, it will be a beginning of major changes. And hopefully, a re-think of strategies and priorities. If that happens, then, it will definitely be worth celebrating, and let's pray that that will happen. Someday, soon.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

In Hughes' Footsteps

So now I know why I feel so alone on weekends. Or for that matter, on most weeknights. And if this news report is to be believed, then, the main culprit for all my miseries is the Internet.

I should have known all along but, no, the lure of the net was so strong that I blamed everything and everyone else but never fully realised that the root cause of all my social miseries was this darn computer after all. How could I have been such a moron? I should have guessed it from day one anyway because of the amount of time I spend on the computer at home and at work. Ofcourse, I have good reasons for doing so. Updating this blog, for instance is one of them, keeping in touch with very close friends is another top reason, taking part in various writing exercises and networking with writers from around the world, also, provides sufficient motivation to remain glued to the net.

Now for all these laundry-list of reasons, I deserve to be a social misfit and in need of some serious therapy, at least, according to the researchers. Well, all I can say is, the jury is still out on this one, and for all you know, a year from now, some researchers might come up with the exact opposite view-point and pom-pom it as a scientific fact.

I'm, obviously, not taking this report very seriously, but if truth be told, it did make me think about something. What this article suggests is that the Internet is forcing people to be 'alone', and cutting them off from the mainstream of the human social experience. My problem with this premise is that, I don't think the Internet alone is to blame for such a situation. The last twenty to thirty years has witnessed a trend in precisely that direction especially with the way technology has gained gradual ascendance and seeped into every conceivable area of our lives as well as the way in which the social and economic dynamics have changed its contours completely.

Let me explain. These days it is quite possible to live alone, and to have nothing to do with other human beings. And technology is proving to be a willing accomplice.

We don't need to go out to restaurants to eat food because we can always order a take-away by checking restaurant websites. We don't need to go to the cinema because if we buy a plasma screen TV and a home theatre system, we can replicate the cinema experience at our home. We don't need to go out and meet people because if we have a broadband connection and use webcam, we can spend hours 'talking' with friends from all over the world. Or for that matter, online gaming and virtual reality applications make it even more unnecessary to go out and interact with people in the flesh. There is, also, absolutely no need to go to a video arcade because having a playstation, nintendo or an x-box make a trip to an arcade unnecessary. And gyms and health clubs? Now you can purchase all that paraphernalia for yourself and convert a room into a gym. No need to pay membership fees and meet people. Just do the workout at home and be satisfied with the results. Even work can be done at home if you are connected to the office, and are able to send your assignments to the boss by email.

These are just examples. And perhaps, they may sound a bit of an exagerration, but frankly, I haven't used all the examples that I should. Truth is, technology is making it easy for people to isolate themselves and turn into recluses. It's not their fault but a result of how things are shaping up in the world we live in.

Just makes me wonder... what would Howard Hughes have to say about all this? Ofcourse, he could afford to cut himself off, but now it looks like technology is making everyone follow his example. Not sure if that's a really good thing though.