Monday, 19 January 2015

Gatekeepers of heaven : Blog # 204

Gatekeepers of heaven

I woke up to the usual monologues by my mother “You keep on watching this TV. What do you get out of this?” My father silently listens. He says communication is key to a successful marriage or the absence of it and laughs J.

We sat for breakfast. It was a Sunday and mother had prepared ‘Nadur Mand’. Father had one mouthful and said “Uff, how this reminds me of my village!” Mother sighed and looked at him saying “Why don’t you let it go? How many years has it been! We don’t belong there”. Dad roared in his baritone “How dare they? Who told you that we don’t belong there? Who are they to decide?” If I die, I will die in my Kashmir. We are the gatekeepers of the Heaven on Earth!

“My dear, do you remember Kashmir at all?” He asked me. How will she? She was all of 3 when we were made to leave. It is for a reason that place is called a paradise. I am not talking only about its peripheral beauty. There was a serenity about that place. You could sense the calm in the wind. It was as if even the strongest of tempest wanted to become a zephyr when it entered the land of Kashmir. All that is lost now! You can’t walk a distance without seeing a gun. Do you know what that does to a child’s psyche? The last thing it does is to make them feel safe. That much I can tell you.

“Why do you want to go back daddy? Is there anyone there whom you know? All your friends and family are here!” I told him. Oh dear, you don’t understand the pain.  I couldn’t even say good bye to my friends. One fine day, we were asked to leave. Just like that! As if we never lived there... I feel uprooted. How do I tell you the kind of void I feel? My father and mother are buried in that soil. I need to go there, I need to talk to them. I want to tell them how wrong they were when they told I couldn’t make a living out of writing. I also want to tell them how right it was on their part to reprimand me when I talked to your mother in a raised voice for the first time. How I miss their shadow in my house!

How I miss the courtyard of my house! How beautiful our garden used to be in summer. And don’t get me started with the seasons of this city! How barren this part of our country looks in comparison to where we come from.

Quite often, we had these conversations at home. Whenever there was a social gathering, my father used to talk to my uncles and his friends about his longing. A while later, I went abroad for higher education. It was then that I realized what he felt in his heart. How different it felt to be away from home! How agonizing a longing it is to return to one’s home…

I returned to work in India. My father started becoming increasingly frail. Although, his eyes were sparkling as ever and did not lose their luster. But age had begun to take its toll on him. It was a cold winter morning. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened that day’s newspaper. “Welcome Home, the Gate keepers of Heaven; Welcome Home, Kashmiri Pandits!” Just then, my mother called up. When I told her about the news, she said “Oh dear, your father has already left for heaven!”

Arun Babu

Keywords : Kashmir, Kashmiri Pandits,Exile,25 years of  Kashmiri Pandits Exile, Justice for Kashmiri Pandits,Shortstory, Indian Short story

Friday, 16 January 2015

Who are ‘They’? : Blog # 203

Who are ‘They’?

Quite often we here this phrase:“As they say..”. The implied meaning is that whatever you are saying after that is an accepted practice or well known way of life. For instance, “As they say, you can’t have the cake and eat it too”.

But I think these days, there are a couple of more dimensions to this usage. Thanks to the internet, information has become much more accessible. The flip side is that as much easy it is to access information, it has become equally or much more difficult to verify its authenticity. All you need to do is skim thorough some Face book posts attributed to great leaders like A.P.J Abdul Kalam and Ratan Tata. Some of them are so bad that the moment they see a poster with such worthless words attributed to them, they will want to give up their Life! So coming back to the point of discussion, we do not know the sources of many beautiful quotes that we have begun to use “As they say..” much more often. The other day, I heard someone saying “As they say, there is no advantage for one who won’t read over one who can read”. This is told by Mark Twain, the American author and humorist.

Another situation where we use this harmless term is when we want to pass the buck. We use it in situations where we want to shift the responsibility. For instance, how many times have you heard this? “I want to give you a better rating. But their policies won’t agree”. Here ‘they’ refer to leadership of an organization or the HR. The manager here is also part of the system is something that he/she conveniently forgets. This also happens when two teams are involved in a particular project. Being fully aware that there are constraints from both sides, one team will say “We are ok with all your suggestions, but ‘they’ might not be in agreement.

Many a time, we use this pronoun to represent ominous forces. You might have seen in films where a vicious multinational corporation or a group of evil minds will be referred to as ‘they’. It is like J K Rowling’s “He who must not be named”.  Haven’t you heard the protagonist saying “They are coming!” with a frozen face? And then there is this well known award speech " They said I won't make it! I dedicate this award to them!".  There is another situation in at least Indian societies.Whenever a family makes a choice or a decision, there is this omnipresent question of "What will they think?"! Again who in the world are you referring to???

These days, ‘they’ is used as a gender neutral reference too apparently. By nature, it is a gender neutral pronoun. You don’t get to know if someone says “They will be going for a movie tomorrow” if it is a group of ladies or gentlemen. Gender neutrality in this context refers to those people who do not want to be confined by the conventional addressing of Ms. Or Mr. But addressing a single person with ‘they’ sounds a bit odd. Don’t you think?

We also use the poor 'they' to refer to a set of people who do not conform to our way of thinking or being. Be it someone from a different religion, who speaks a different language or who is from a different country. Here, the sad truth is with this one pronoun, we are separating others from ourselves in a way where there isn't much love left.

Arun Babu

Keywords: Gender neutrality,Ominous forces,Pronoun,They,Pass the buck

Saturday, 3 January 2015

About Dreams and Life : Blog # 202

About Dreams and Life

On New years’ evening, a few of us friends were out to watch PK. After the movie, I was wondering what people found so great about this movie. I liked the message it conveyed but that was it. The high point of that evening was when my dear friend Ashanka told us a story. It was a very simple story yet it hit me hard! The story goes like this.

There was a landlord and a farmer. One day they were out for a walk in the fields. The landlord owned vast tracts of land. He told the farmer “Listen, I am ready to give you as much land that you can cover on your feet by evening. The only condition is that you must return to me by sunset. Hearing this, the farmer got ecstatic. He started running. He did not stop for lunch. Neither did he stop to wish his friends and family whom he met on the way. There were times when he thought he would drop dead. He still kept on running. He thought of all the fortune that he and his family is going to enjoy. It started becoming dark. He reached a point where he couldn’t run anymore. He stopped and though of returning to the landlord. He turned back. When he was about to start walking back, he saw the sun was setting. It was dusk!

I was blown away by this story! Don’t you think there is a beautiful analogy here? The farmer is us, you and me. The landlord represents people whom we hold close to us. We all have dreams to chase, we all have aspirations to realize and we are in a mad rush to make all that come true. But eventually, we have to return to our family and friends. If we don’t return; like the farmer in the story, all the efforts that we put in become half baked. We will be left with a feeling of having worked hard yet lacking contentment.

Think about this. In all probability, this is our only Life on the face of earth. The time available with us is finite. Then why do we attribute more importance to the youth phase of it? Many of us tend to ignore the twilight period of our lives. How will it feel to spend the later years of our life with memories of only the efforts that we have put in to realize our dreams? Won’t we need memories of some moments which will make us feel warm from within? Only such memories will keep us spirited and make us feel alive in those times when our social circle becomes smaller than the years left to live.

As they say, it takes a long time to grow old friends. I think all of us should strive to find some people be it friends or family with whom we can spend a soulful time with, when our bucket list becomes all checked!

Happy Newyear!