A meta post

Revisiting my own site, I began to wonder who it was that wrote all this. The self transforms with time, and every day he who writes changes, and with enough time even contradicts himself, and after a while may only recognize himself in a sort of nostalgic way, the way you may look at a childhood picture of yourself with a mixture of recognition and curiosity. Sometimes it is possible to walk through the rooms of your own home like you never lived in it. Sometimes you keep repeating a word aloud, and suddenly it loses all meaning and it slowly turns into a random sound, stripped of all association. And so it is that sometimes the familiar, the evolving self of the past may seem like something strange, and new, and occasionally, well, interesting.

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Note on fasting as a protest form

On fasts – A spoken word piece

A fast is not a childish tantrum. Childish tantrums are unconsciously selfish. A fast is not an adult tantrum. Adult tantrums are consciously selfish, and thus far worse than the unconscious tantrums of children.

A fast is conscious, and selfless. A fasting protester essentially makes this point – I believe in the justness of my cause far more than I believe in the importance of my own body or life. And it is this enticing hook, this glimpse of a larger vision, and higher possibility that makes supporters gravitate toward the center of this ultimate protest. The center, to borrow a Sufi metaphor, is the divine flame toward which rush the moths, seeking total annihilation and union with the divine.

Conscious and selfless activities usually disturb rule makers. The rule makers would rather have you lie in stupor, surrounded by the pettiness of your personal universe, and its little problems. Were you to peek over this wall and look out into the world, they fear you would see too much, and know much more. And knowing usually leads to doing – at least in the uninitiated. The well initiated know the pragmatic answer – that not acting is the best action to take.

At the center of the fast though, there is no room for pragmatism. At the center is a clarion call against the deepest instinct of self preservation. At the center is the echo of a resounding slap against the measured, risk free baby steps of our lives. No pretenses can hold their end of an argument here, in the face of a body that is consuming itself for a stand.

The journey toward that center is one we must take. In that journey something important may be discovered. That the gnawing “I” that takes up our all our time, doesn’t matter that much.

—-

After note:

There is something very Eastern about fasting too. A culture that believes in the perpetuity of consciousness, regardless of the impermanence of the body clearly makes it possible for one to stake the body in the interest of a cause that could benefit humanity even in one’s absence. Of course the drive to seek justice in any case is a universal phenomenon.

Secondly, critics may argue that fasts are a form of blackmail, and hence must not be supported. However, the true success of a fast lies in the amount of support it garners from the general public. And it is here that we can hope that the moral compass of the ‘crowd’ will make the right choice, and support only just causes.

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Reservation for women

A well reasoned piece by Sagarika Ghose against women’s reservation in the parliament:

As analysts have pointed out, the Bill contains many structural flaws. First, there will be compulsory unseating of two-third of the members every election. Second, there will be no incentive for MPs to nurse constituencies. Third, there is the undeniable fact that family politics will be further enhanced as a male who suddenly loses his seat to a reserved constituency will be tempted to simply put up a female relative as a proxy. Thus the floodgates of bahu-betis may open. More here

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Quite an interesting title song from the Aman ki Asha initiative.

The lyrics by Gulzar create in the mind an impression of tenuous knots of over a fifty years coming loose, at least for a moment of release.

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A.R. Rahman’s two greatest songs

A.R. Rahman’s most under rated songs are perhaps his most artistic, in the honesty of their vision and expression. It’s as if he is straining at the leashes of mainstream film music, and trying to leave behind some imprints of true artistic genius that people may well realize only years after his ‘hits’ have become pale in the collective consciousness. It’s like he is leaving behind some aspects of his legacy, only for future enjoyment. Here are two of his greatest songs in my opinion:

Do Kadam, from Meenaxi.

It’s’ really a song about inviting life on a journey – or even the body and spirit urging each other to move towards a final destination or consummation, at a magical place full of mystery, beauty and fulfillment. And the last verse (Koun rehta hain sada? chalke dekhen to zara) is possibly the most philosophical question a hindi film lyric has ever asked, though I’m not about whether that was intentional.

Rehna Tu, from Delhi 6

I imagine a melancholic man walking alone through the streets of a city at midnight, lost in his own thoughts, while explaining his spiritual position on love to no one in particular except the night itself.

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Media Bias

Gerald Marzorati, of The New York Times offers a great response to a question on the editorial bias, if any,  of the NY Times Magazine.

Q. The New York Times Magazine, I’ve been told by a former editor, considers itself “centrist” — playing stories straight down the center. Any comment?

— Ron Mwangaguhunga

A. Interesting. What you’re asking is: Does the Magazine have an ideology? At the risk of giving some of my colleagues hives, I think it does. Call it Urban Modern. That is, I think it reflects not a left-or-right POLITICAL ideology but a geographical one, the mentality of the place it is created: 21st Century Manhattan.

So: The Magazine reflects a place where women have professional ambition, where immigrants are welcome, and where gay men and lesbians can be themselves (if not marry, yet). The Magazine also reflects a place where being rich is not a bad thing, where fashion is not a sign of superficiality and where individualism is embraced. Here, arguing is not bad manners. Here, a chief way of loving your hometown is criticizing it: For, say, not doing enough for those (children, the poor, the homeless) who are most vulnerable. Here, art is seldom spoken of in moral terms, and most aspects of everyday life — food and drink and bathroom fixtures — are mostly spoken of in aesthetic terms. And here, as E.B White famously wrote, it tends to be those who come from elsewhere full of longing who make the place what it is.

More generally, we reflect a place where change is not a threat, where doubt and complexity are more TRUE than certainty, and where most everything non-criminal is tolerated — except a bad haircut.

More here

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Shashi Tharoor – Jaswant Singh

A delightfully timely piece by The Hindu about a Tharoor book that was highly critical of the Congress party.

The current Minister of State also took gentle digs at Sonia Gandhi, pointing out that she went to Cambridge to study English, not political philosophy. Referring to Ms Gandhi’s “renunciation” and her nomination of Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, he said, “A builder’s daughter from Turino, without a college degree, with no experience of Indian life beyond the rarefied realms of the Prime Minister’s residence, fiercely protective of her privacy, so reserved and unsmiling in public that she has been unkindly dubbed ‘the Turin Shroud’ leading a billion Indians at the head of the world’s most complex, rambunctious and violent democracy? This situation, improbable if weren’t true, is proof again of the enduring appeal of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.”

Amazing that Tharoor got away with so much and also managed to get a ministerial berth in the current government.

Two books, two consequences

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