A complimentary copy of the books recently published by her publication arrived by post. As one can expect I was happy and excited. Taking the books wrapped in a newspaper from the postman I started removing the knot of the thread with which the books were tied. Before I could unknot it and have a look at the books the newspaper caught my eyes. I stopped. Extremely familiar fonts. Extremely familiar page design. Extremely familiar colour schemes. More than familiarity it was the emotional attachment towards the newspaper which made me stop. The emotional attachment towards the newspaper has been not just because I love it and because we were told during our course in journalism that it is the best and the most respected newspaper apart from being reliable. The emotional attachment towards the newspaper has been also because I worked for that particular newspaper for a year!
I smiled to myself recollecting some similar incidents that took place while I was working as a reporter for that particular newspaper. Our office was located in the outskirts of the city. At times in the evening if we felt hungry we would ask the security guard to get some masala dosa. I know not how far was the hotel from where he brought the dosas. He used to say it was some canteen. Canteen or hotel I did not know how far or near it was. But I had not seen any canteen or hotel near the office. So it must be slightly far I always assumed. The distance of the canteen/hotel aside for now. Yeah, the security guard would get masala dosas for us neatly packed in the newspaper we all worked for!
We would laugh or ignore.
We would ignore because evening is the time when newspaper offices come to life, for the reporters. Would laugh because we knew that the shelf life of a newspaper is maximum one day, except for libraries and researchers. But it pained me, though I knew that newspapers were dead after a day. It pained to see bread being packed on that very sheet of paper which earned me my bread! I remember remarking once, “Cant he at least avoid packing dosas in our newspaper when the order if from our office itself?” and my colleagues had laughed over it. I dint know nor I don’t know how I expect the canteen/hotel fellow to know where the order was from. I made the remark because on that particular day it pained me more than ever. The extra pain was because it had affected me personally for that evening when I unwrapped the masala dosa I found my own name inside it!!! My story smiled at me as desperately opened the parcel in extreme hunger!
My report next to my bread. Perfect. The cause and effect. I wrote so I could afford a masal dosa. I was eating masala dosa so that my hands wouldn’t shiver in hunger and I would be able to write one more such story, that evening! Perfect. The circle seemed complete!
Later that night while walking back home the image of my story being used to wrap masala dosa kept appearing before my mind’s eye. I shouldn’t be ashamed to accept that I felt my ego was hurt. But then I also felt that one’s ego must be hurt in that fashion once in a while before he/she starts assuming himself to be extremely powerful. Yes, journalism has the ability to give that arrogance, at times, to a reporter for he/she is not just well treated and respected but also for the access to places, people and more importantly information and the knowledge of the ability to create public opinion. A puncturing of the ego and arrogance at times helps one find gravitation, I concluded and accepted that how much ever powerful I assume myself and my profession to be, after the end of the day my story is either found in the canteen kitchens or in the cupboards to sheet it from dust.
I also told myself that if the canteen fellow saw a pit toilet he would also feel grieved as I was thinking “what a waste of all my efforts!” But that would actually make him also find gravitation from the ego, if any, of being the one who ‘feeds the hunger of people’, I told myself and consoled myself that every profession had something to feel disheartened about. But such disappointments I thought and I still think are necessary to make us more humble.
Unknotting the thread and tearing the cover I took out the books. But the smile remained on my face as the newspaper sheet with which the books were covered lay next to the feet of the chair turning into a paper ball…
Her college was located in Andheri west and her house in the east of Andheri, in Mumbai, the then Bombay. Reaching the college meant crossing the railway bridge to move from west to east, as the sun would rise in the east and start moving towards the west. She not just would be moving in opposition to the flow of sunlight, making her shadow fall behind her but also would be moving in opposition to the speed of light. Slow like a just born snail. On either side of the bridge there would be vendors selling plastics and trinkets. The business of all these vendors would be accompanied by their singing radio. She would walk as slow as possible only to make sure that she heard a minimum of two songs as she crossed the bridge making way to the college. With every line of the song sinking into her through her ears as she took slow steps her spirit rose like the rising sun.
It was once during those days that she heard ‘Tu Mere Saamne’ from the film Suhaagan first and fell in love with it instantaneously. Recently when she heard the song again, she crossed the bridge once again. When she shared the song with me and told me about those bridge crossing times I told her that I remember listening to the same song on DD Rangoli during my childhood. She belonged to the radio era and I belonged to the TV era.
Watching Rangoli was not out of self-interest for me. It was my sister was a compulsive viewer of Rangali, Chitrahaar and the Friday night films. Being her younger brother I followed her idealizing her. I sat with her and watched songs and that is when I first heard the song ‘Kisi Ki Muskuraahaton Pe Ho Nisaar’ which has been in the left pocket of my shirt all through.
While my sister and I watched Rangoli my mother would be preparing breakfast and as and when she heard songs which she was familiar with she would come running and hum with the audio of the video. I used to wonder how my mother knew those songs, for in my mind those songs were being heard for the first time not just by me but by the entire world!
Once when I asked my mother how she knew some of the songs she said that she had heard it during her childhood. She narrated about the days when they did not have a radio in their house and the neighboring Muslim house had one. My mother would stand near the fence that marked the edge of her house and the neighboring house and listen to the songs from the neighboring house’s radio. It seems once when she was sent to the shop to buy some grocery she heard a melodious tune taking wings from a house by the road and she stood right over there listening to the song. My aunt was sent to see where my mother had gone. On returning home the music had cost her a bit of jarring scolding.
Even now when my mother listens to some songs of Lata Mangeshkar, Hemant Kumar, Kishore Kumar she stops for a while, sings the song with the song and then with a shine in her eyes says, “I remember how I used to listen to these songs standing near the fence of our house.”
It was for my mother that I got a World Space connection when I started working. But the mechanics of the Word Space system was slightly complicated for my mother. By the time she learnt it World Space stopped its service.
When we got a World Space connection at home an aunt of mine also got the connection. Once while discussing WS and radio in general she said that during her childhood she and her classmates would listen to the songs on the radio and discuss about the songs in the class, the next day. The discussion would be guessing how the visuals of the song, in the film would be. Say when the line, “Lo jhuk gaya aasmaan bhi,” from the song “kaun hai jo sapno mein aaya,” was sung what visuals would be accompanying that line? Everyone used to have their own guesses. Music gave eyes to their ears. Later all would go to the theater to watch the film to see if their imaginations and guesses were anywhere near to the imagination and visualization of the film director. Each of them directed their songs till they saw the visualization of the director in the theaters. My aunt said that at times their imaginations were more imaginative than the film and said, “We all had our own versions of the film in our minds and we all loved our imaginations a lot. When the actual filming matched that of ours we felt happy and when it did not match we felt disappointed.”
When my friend shared “Tu mere saamne hai,” song with me and the story of her radio experience the radio stories of my mother and my aunt were also aired in the radio of my memory. When was the last time I heard radio, I don’t remember. While in Delhi occasionally during late nights Faizan would turn on the mobile radio. Shifting from station to station we would be listening to songs till we fell asleep.
Now if I feel like listening to a song, I immediately log on to Youtube and watch the songs I want to listen. Incidentally when my friend shared the song ‘Tu mere saamne hai’, saying it reminded her of her slow walks over the railway bridge, was a Youtube link! Watching it and listening to it I had said, “I had seen this on Rangoli,” and added, “I belong to the TV era and not to the radio era so my memory of this song is attached to TV and not radio.” Now we were revisiting our sound and audio-visual eras after we both had moved to the era of Youtube and Facebook.
Attacking the statement of the Chairman of Press Council, Justice Katju over the first page coverage of Dev Anand’s death, a blogger (Archana Venkat) wrote a blog titled ‘The Obsession With Framer Suicide’, starting off the blog saying that even farmer suicide, on which Mr. Katju stressed, doesn’t qualify, like the death of Dev Anand, to be front page news, “particularly when there is no development in the issue.”
She has voiced her opinion in the website The South Reports. I learn that she has cross-posted the same on The Hoot too. She voices her opinion that the government should have taken proper actions to address the issues which it hasn’t and adds, “Why then should the media cover farmer suicides repeatedly again when there is little development around the issue? How long should they harp on the same issues? Should we dedicate a portion of the newspaper or a segment of air time exclusively for farmer suicides and perhaps run the same stories because we have no new ones to discuss?”
The blogger goes ahead to say, “While it is understood that media has a moral responsibility towards creating awareness about lesser known yet grave issues, it is largely a private enterprise and must be allowed to function as one, keeping in mind its readers and business prospects,” which reveals the idea of journalism the blogger seem to have. This idea of journalism and media as a business gets reiterated when she asks PCI to make provisions, by talking to government, of “subsidy” and “tax wavier” for media houses and “travel grants,” apart from “scholarships” for journalists to unearth the real issues and to get trained to do such specialized stories.
I was angered majorly by the way the blogger trivializes the issue of farmer suicide by saying things like news is only if the Government does something which implies that the suicide of farmers by themselves do not hold any news value. There seems no value to human life in the eyes of this blogger.
More sadly she says, in a comment on TSR that “one” suicide is no news but “many” suicides is news. It seems the blogger looks at farmer suicide as numbers which make her say that “one” suicide is not news and “many” suicides are news. “How many deaths does it take to be a massacre?”- Derrida is said to have asked in the closing hours of his life and is said to have answered the question as “One.”
News worthiness, according to the blogger, is decided by the media itself. Media as she sees is a private enterprise and has its own “business prospects”. By saying this she implies that the business interests of the media is more important than the expected job of the media. Worse she expects “subsidy”, “tax waiver”, “scholarship” and “travel grants” to do what is supposed to be the job of the media!
In anger I ask myself how could the editor have approved such an insensitive and inhumane post be published. What is the role of media-house while such insensitive views are being aired in the space provided by them, though the views of the authors may not be that of the channel/newspaper/website. Though the website may say, with its disclaimers, that the views expressed in the writings are that of the author and not the website but when the website allows such insensitive writings in their website the editor cannot excuse himself/herself with the disclaimer for (s)he has given the space. He/she too would be responsible.
Like in the case of DNA publishing the article by Subramanian Swamy where the views expressed by the columnist may not or is not the views of the paper. But by providing space for such a hateful piece of writing DNA did cause damage. How can it excuse itself by saying it is the view of the columnist and columnist himself is responsible for his views?
I ask myself if the blogger can be permitted to air such views on the grounds of “diversity of opinions and views”?
My problem with the post in question is not that the blogger holds a view which is different from mine. My problem is the insensitivity which the blogger’s point of view holds, which it is likely to pass on to the readers.
A friend of mine told me that it was fine if the blogger had aired her views in her personal blog and said that because she had aired her views in a public sphere he finds it objectionable. I don’t know if it is ‘fine’ if one shares his or her opinion in their personal blogs, given the easy access to the blogosphere. But yeah as my friend pointed out the website which is a collection of blogs is more of a public sphere and has more accessibility than personal blogs, which makes the insensitive writing more dangerous.
Antonio Gramsci wrote, “How the ideological structure of a dominant class is actually organized: namely the material organization aimed at maintaining, defending and developing the theoretical or ideological ‘front’… Its most prominent and dynamic part is the press in general… The press is the most dynamic part of this ideological structure, but not the only one. Everything which influences or is able to influence public opinion, directly or indirectly, belongs to it: libraries, schools, associations and clubs of various kinds, even architecture and the layout and names of streets.” Had Gramsci been alive now, undoubtedly, he would have mentioned the internet space too for it too has the potential to influence the “public opinion.”
The blogger through her words is strengthening the dominant class and weakening the causes of the wretched of the earth. She, in an ‘intelligent’ manner, is shaping the public opinions in favour of the dominant class! What is the blog in question turning the public opinion to? The bloggers ends her blog post saying media has a moral responsibility to its readers and no moral obligation as such. It is not a moral obligation or moral responsibility that the media has. It is the social responsibility and the social obligation that it has. Thus in an ‘intelligent’ manner she shifts the focus from social responsibility and social obligation to moral responsibility and moral obligation thus liberating, at her convenience, the media from social responsibility and obligation. By saying that press is a business the blogger is making people believe that the press need not have social responsibility for it is a private enterprise. By saying farmer’s suicide doesn’t qualify to be front page news she is trivializing the issue and pushing the issue to invisibility. By this the cause is being weakened and business being strengthened for she claims absolute liberty to the media as it is a private enterprise.
How much ever one says that the new media and its public sphere is more democratic for it provides for an opportunity of discussion, debate and dialogue these opportunities do not make any difference. What would be the point of all the debate after the damage has been done with words by passing on a good amount of insensitivity to the readers?
I ask myself if the blogger can be permitted to air such views on the grounds of “Freedom of speech and expression”?
I remember when controversy rose against the play ‘Mahachaitra’ penned by H.S. Shivaprakash many authors and activists defended him on the grounds of “freedom of artistic expression” and “freedom of speech .” Interestingly the author said he doesn’t want to defend himself under the banner of “freedom of the artist” and said he defends himself on the grounds of the “responsibilities of an artist” being sure that he had not been irresponsible in his speech and expression. H.S. Shivaprakash believes that the freedom of an artist or a writer is not absolute. He believes that responsibility must be over liberty to writers, for their speech and expression can make an impact. What Leni Riefensthal enjoyed was freedom what she lacked was responsibility. The impact of her work has been witnessed. Under the banner of ‘freedom of the artist’ she can be defended but not under the banner of ‘responsibilities of an artist’.
In a society where there are thousands of people who do not have the freedom to live, like the farmer’s who are forced to commit suicide, it would be highly insensitive for the writer to speak loudly about his/her freedom to speech and expression, that too when with that very freedom of speech and expression, the writer dismisses the issues of the wretched of the earth not having any freedom, as a trivial issue and reducing lives of those freedom-less humans to mere numbers.
A Hungry Bony Boy
Begs His Mama For Food.
Mama, teary eyed
Points To The Sun Glowing Red.
Then, Give Me That Bread Now
I Haven’t Eaten Since Night
Stomach Is Growling.
Let This Hot Bread Cool Down Son
So Far, Yet So Scorching
It May Blister Your Mouth!
The Hot Sun Journey
And Dipped Behind The Mountain.
And Waiting For His Bread,
Bony Boy Went To Sleep Hungry Again!
Can the author be defended in the name of “freedom of the writer” or “diversity of opinion” in front of the boy that the farmer poet Late Shri Krishna Kalamb from the Vidarbha district describes? Especially when the writer wants to enjoy his freedom closing his/her eyes to the misery of the farmer who doesn’t have the freedom to live! The freedom of the writer is not above the freedom of the wretched of the earth. How can the blogger ask for “subsidy” and “tax waiver” for the media while to the wretched of the earth food is as far as the sun? How can the blogger demand for a “travel grant” to speak the stories of those bony boys and those teary eyes? How can the writer be defended on the grounds of “freedom of the writer” whose writing trivializes the issues of freedom-less wretched of the earth?
Karl Marx had something beautiful to say about the freedom of press. He said, “The first freedom of the press consists in its not being a business.” Interestingly the blogger in question is declaring that media is a business.
It is not just the idea of media as a business which strengthens the dominant classes but also the false notion and obsession that most of the media houses seem to have about “neutral”, “impartial” observation and presentation and also the attitude of the media personnel’s which they wish to call as “liberal” which accommodates all sort of views as “another point of which needs to be respected.”
Most of the media personnel- as they are taught in their media schools- believe that to take a side in their report means to be biased. When the world in itself is not balanced how can the reports be “balanced”? The world is not balanced. The reports cannot be balanced. One needs to take sides. To take side doesn’t mean to be biased. To be neutral is to be apolitical. To be impartial is to be apolitical. These apolitical attitudes can and will serve only the dominant classes. The idea of being “liberal” allowing all kind of views in the name of “diversity of views” also ends up strengthening the dominant class and not the wretched of the earth, by diluting the cause of the wretched of the earth by getting trapped in the false idea of a “balance”.
Utpal Dutt believed that, “Only if one identifies oneself with the cause of the proletariat and its struggle can one discover the intricate social connections beneath the simple incident and interpret it in truthful terms.” If one identifies oneself with the farmers or any wretched of the earth then even one suicide will mean more than a suicide and one will be able to see the structural violence which snatched the freedom to live from the wretched of the earth. But one sadly identifies oneself with the business of media and not the spirit of media which stands for and with the wretched of the earth.
“Here is the fastest growing media in the world, a politically free media, imprisoned by profit,” says P. Sainath in Deepa Bhatia’s documentary ‘Nero’s Guest’ and recollects a portion from Gandhi’s Talisman, while responding to a budding journalist. The portion of Talisman which he reads is: “Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?”
Gandhi was also a writer, a journalist who fought for freedom but also realized the responsibility which is well reflected in his Talisman.
“Why do people just disappear?” read her status message on Gtalk…
me: they just disappear… even i wonder why.. probably because in their emotional world we disappear..
me: Some questions have no answers as such… for our satisfaction we give ourselves some answers… but with any answer or any reason the pain caused by such disappearance doesnt decrease nor does the wounds heal…
she: Ppl disappear but the questions still remain hanging.. Asking for answers… N when u don’t have answers u leave it on time or u cook up the answers
me: cooking up the answer is the right answer… i mean yeah, we cook up reasons in the absence of a reason…
me: accepting the fact of disappearance, if not the very disappearance itself, for some cooked up reason is better than the absurdity of no reason.
she: Dil ko samjhane ke liye yeh khayal accha hai
me: there is great pain in that ‘push’ to cook up reasons for oneself…
she: Khud ko bevkoof banane ke liye kya kuch nahi karte
me: woh toh hai… but its a very pitiable condition in which one is put where (s)he has to betray himself by making himself believe in a ‘partial lie/truth’ which he himself has cooked for himself <‘himself’ can be replaced with ‘herself’ in all the places>
It is a small shop in the heart of Manipal (Karnataka) called as Tiger Circle, popular as TC in short form. A small juice shop. There I stood with my friend having ordered for a Jaljeera. My friend and I kept discussing the new discussion at the local administrative level to evacuate small carts, especially the mobile ones, from the town, while waiting for the shopkeeper to prepare the Jaljeera.
As Jaljeera flowed down my parched throat I asked the shopkeeper, “Where are you from?” “North,” came the answer.
“Where in North?”
“Ah. It is a beautiful place.”
“Have you been there?”
“Once while going to Kolkata the train went through Jharkhand because a bridge in Orissa had collapsed.”
“Oh. When was this?”
“Hmmm… It was August 2008.”
“What did you see in Kolkata?” he asked to which I gave him a list of places that I visited. Listening to which he asked, “Did you see Howrah bridge?” I told him that I did and I also sat in the ferry and told him that my first experience of a metro was in Kolkata. There was shine in his eyes.
“But the best of all was the Ramakrishna Ashram there,” I told him. “Dakshineshwar too,” he said. “Yeah yeah,” I agreed with him and told him how beautiful the experience of crossing the Hoogly river to reach Dakshineshwar from Belur Mutt, on a boat, was.
Listening to me saying I liked the Dakshineshwar temple and the Belur Mutt over all the other places in Kolkata he seems to have concluded that I am a very religious person very devotional. I am sure my khadi kurta and a beard gave a totally different meaning to him.
“Next time you go up north do visit Deoghar.”
“Where is it? Near Kolkata?”
“No in Jharkhand.”
“Oh. Ok. What is there in Deoghar?”
“There is a temple there. Beautiful one. Famous one.”
“Temple of which God?”
“Shiva,” he replied and continued to say, “There is a story about the temple.” I nodded my head to tell him, non verbally, that I am listening to him and he went on to narrate the story of the temple at Deoghar. The story goes like this:
Ravana pleased lord Shiva with his devotion and convinced Shiva to be taken along with him to Lanka. But the condition to Ravana was that he (Shiva) should be taken to Lanka before the sun sets else he would institute himself in that very place he would be at the hour of sunset. Agreeing to the condition Ravana took Shiva on his shoulders and started speeding towards Lanka. While crossing Deogarh he wanted to urinate. While he couldn’t continue to keep walking with his urinary bladder filled he couldn’t even pass urine with Shiva on his shoulder. As he was calculating what could be done he saw a young boy was walking on the same path. Asking the boy to carry Shiva on his shoulders Ravan went to relieve himself. Beyond Ravan’s control urine kept flowing out and wouldn’t stop. Hours passed and the Ravan kept passing urine. The boy was tiered and he left the place placing Shiva on the ground. The sun set as Ravan kept relieving. Shiva established himself at that very place. Now a temple is set up in that very place hence it is called Deoghar to mean the house of God.
My friend and I looked at each other with great excitement. “This is so much like the Gokarna myth,” my friend said. “Exactly,” I exclaimed. The myth about Gokarna goes this way:
Ravan had won the heart of Shiva and thus won the Aatma-Linga of Shiva on the condition that it should not be placed on the ground and if did it would get rooted in that very place. Agreeing to the condition Ravan took the Aatma-Linga with him. He was on his way to Lanka and while crossing Gokarna it was the hour of sun set and he had to perform ‘sanhdyavandana’ (prayer ritual of the evening). To perform the prayer service he couldn’t place the Aatma-Linga on the ground. While he was wondering what to do, the Gods unhappy with a Rakshasa taking Shiva’s Aatma-Linga with him to the land of demons (Lanka) sent Shiva’s son the elephant faced lord Ganesha to Gokarna in the form of a small Brahmin boy. On seeing a small Brahmin boy Ravan requested the small boy to hold the Aatma-Linga till her performs his prayers service. The boy agreed to hold the Aatma-Linga for a while on the condition that if he was tiered he would call Ravan thrice and if Ravan failed to return before the third call was given he would place the Aatma-Linga on the ground. Ravan agreed to the condition and went on to perform his evening prayer service. After a while Ganesha in the form of a Brahmin boy called Ravan once. Ravan was deeply involved in his prayers. Ganesha called him the second time. Ravan did not return for he couldn’t leave the prayers service half way through. Ganesha called him the third time. Ravan was still not done with his prayer service. Ganesha placed the Aatma-Linga on the ground which got rooted in that very place which is Gokarna where a temple was built.
My friend insisted that I tell the shopkeeper about Gokarna myth. I felt like telling the shopkeeper about it too. I started, “There is a place named Gokarna close to this place and there is a similar story around Gokarna too…” Before I could complete the story the shopkeeper interrupted to say, “The temple of Deoghar is very big, very powerful and very famous also.” I realized that he felt offended by me starting the story of Gokarna saying, “A similar story” exists around Gokarna too. I decided not to go ahead with the myth of Gokarna and shifted the conversation to asking him how to reach Deoghar.
As we took leave from him, my friend and I started discussing how interesting the similarities of myths were. We were amused by the coincidence that we chanced upon this while the controversy around A.K. Ramanujan’s essay ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas’ had grown to a different level by the Delhi University dropping it from the syllabus following protests from the regressive right wing groups.
When I reached home that night I surfed the net to find out more about the place Deoghar. One of travelers cum bloggers has documented the myth around Deoghar but with a slight change in it, making way for us to believe that there are many versions of the same myth in the same palce. His version of the myth goes like this:
“Legend has it that Ravan meditated upon Shiva and requested him to come over to Sri Lanka, in order that his capital may become invincible. It is said that he attempted to lift Mount Kailash and take it with him to his capital; however Shiva crushed him with his finger and Ravan prayed to him and sought his mercy, after which Shiva gave him one of the twelve Jyotirlingams with the condition that if it was placed on the ground it would take root immediately.
Ravan carried the Jyotirlingam and began his trek back to his capital. Varuna the God of water entered his belly and caused him feel the need to relieve himself. Vishnu then came down in the form of a lad and volunteered to hold the Jyotirlingam as he relieved himself. Before Ravan returned Vishnu placed the Jyotirlingam on the ground and it became rooted on the spot.”
The temple at Deoghar is called as Vaidyanath Temple. While surfing for more information about Deoghar I found out that the Vaidyanath near Parali in Andhra Pradesh is also claimed as the place of Vaidyanath Jyotirlingam!!!
A friend had requested the owners of the Facebook group- ‘Good Indian Girls’ to disable chat. She did complain more than once. But I guess when FB doesn’t provide the option to disable chat and hence chat remains unblocked. I really did wish that it was disabled because a couple of times I witnessed that some random guys, who have joined the group, would come on chat and try their luck to ‘flirt’ with some girls. It was quite irritating. So I did stand with my friend in her request to disable the chat.
Few days ago something on the same lines happened. Some guy started saying “hello” and after a while on seeing no response from anyone he took the name of one girl from the FB group who was also online and asked how she was doing. The girl asked him who he was. He introduced himself and without taking time to breathe said, “Nice DP. Where are you from? I am an Engineer” The girl did not respond for, I guess, she did not find the guys intentions correct or may be she felt weird to speak to a stranger, in the illusive presence of many strangers like me who were also online. He kept asking where she went… And she just did not respond, though she was seen online…
His repeated enquiry popping up on my page made me angry while I was trying to find a link that a friend had posted. “Mr… How is my DP? Is it also nice?” I asked. I was being sarcastic. He responded very normally to say- Good but common. I was taken aback by his normal tone for I thought he would say something like, “Mind your own business, while I am.” Then immediately he asked me who ‘A.N.’ was! I was shocked. How does he know A.N.? I realized he had visited my profile and scanned through the photos of my friends. I was angered by this. I asked him, “Man, how desperate can you be?” I thought this would begin a fight between the two of us. But again, very normally he replied. He said, “I am not desperate. I am lonely. I want someone to talk to. So I was trying to make new friends.” I was again taken aback by his gentle tone! Had he been of the flirting kind, probably he would get angry with my intervention plus he wouldn’t have cared to reply gently.
In all possibilities he must be lonely and must be looking for a companion and a friend to whom he can talk, I thought to myself. One thing about the social networking sites is that it gives a feeling of presence, though an illusive presence, which gives a sort of comfort that there is someone present. However stupid and foolish one would brand it the mere presence of an illusive presence is enough for a lonely person than the vacuum of loneliness. As man would desire nothingness than desire nothing at all, one would desire an illusive presence than complete absence, complete vacuum, complete loneliness. I wouldn’t dismiss this aspect and nature of facebook which provides some level of comfort though the illusive presence.
I felt bad for having suspected him to be a desperate fellow trying his luck with unknown girls… I felt bad for having suspected of his intentions… I logged off… I logged of not knowing what to do.
But something happened just before I logged off… He said, while I decided to log out, “I am a ghazal singer”… The cursor had moved to the right top, to log off… But it came down… I said, “I am a ghazal writer” and logged off…
I have always loved the idea of meeting for a cup of chai. Be it tea, coffee, juice or even alcohol there is something lovely about sitting across the table and conversing. It makes way for what Jacob Norberg puts as, the “opportunity for people to talk to each other beyond the constraints of purpose-governed exchanges.” So whenever there is a chance for such a meeting, I hardly let go the chance off. Though a non-alcoholic I have enjoyed sitting over the table with alcoholics while they drink sip by sip or shot by shot, conversing without the constraints of a purpose-governed exchanges. But more often I have enjoyed these over the table exchanges when it is over a cup of chai, for it not only allows an exchange without purpose- which makes way for “the wind to blow in from all the windows”- but also allows me taste the taste of chai, which I enjoy as much as the conversations which are not governed by purpose.
It was one such chai session in the college canteen, few days ago. As I was waiting for my lemon tea with a friend of mine waiting for her cup of tea a person I did not know entered the canteen. The unknown person who is a senior correspondent in a daily newspaper in Bangalore greeted my friend and made me realize that the two were friends and also colleagues at one point of time. The conversation between the two focused on the office where one works now and where another used to work earlier. The office, the work, the employees etc left their footprints on the path of conversation. All of a sudden the conversation moved to the city where the office was located.
After discussing the rise in auto prices and the inconvenience of the city buses the conversation drifted to the metro. “How is it?” my friend asked. “It is good. Makes travelling easy. But the construction of metros has changed the landscape of Bangalore,” came the answer. After explaining a bit about how certain areas of Bangalore had changed completely she said, “These places cannot be recognized at all. I wonder at time whether it is the same area! One thing about urbanization is that it doesn’t have any space for nostalgia, for memory.”
Memory is not an imaginary space in the computer and other devices related to the same gadget, to save programmes. Memory is something which grounds our worlds on the earth which has the gravitation of history- social, political and personal too.
We live in the times of development and growth fetish. The ever growing is ever changing. Growth demands change. It demands a change which will not repeat history because this fetish wants to create history and not continue history. So, growth demands focusing on the future and goal and not being nostalgic. So what changes is not just the landscape but also the mindscape.
When people, say they want to and believe in, “Moving on,” what they essential mean is “leave the past behind,” which not just means, “carry on with your life,” but also, “forget the past.” The meaning of these words is that the road ahead and the (imaginary) goal ahead is more important than the road treaded. This reflects the detachment the new urban civilization has with memory and history. The new urban civilization believes that to have memories is to be stuck to the past. To be stuck to the past is to be not updated. Not to updated means to be out of fashion. To be out of fashion means to be irrelevant. To be irrelevant means it needs to be eliminated. So in the cycle of things what needs to be eliminated is memory of the past and the very past itself because what is important in the race of our times is the goal the future and not the past not the history not the memory attached to it.
Memory is a burden which makes the walk towards the future slow. So unburden it, calls the new urban civilization. These notions of past and the memory attached to the past, makes the new urban civilization script lives and spaces in such a fashion that there is no scope and space for nostalgia, divorcing life and space from memory.
The new films have no concept of flashback. Recollection of the past is missing. Recollection never paused the narrative but reinvented the narrative and gave scope for reflection. It carried the narrative forward inventing new meanings to the narrative and gave a complete picture of the narrative.
The first thing needs to be done to revive the technique of flashback is to make the urban civilization realize that memory is not a burden and to have memories is not to be stuck and also that what is old is not outdated and irrelevant. The larger game would surely be battling the development and growth fetish of our times.
When our chai glasses went empty the lady got up. While leaving she said, “It was nice to meet again and revisit the past. Back in Bangalore there is no time for anything, to sit and have a cup of tea with friends or anything.” Yes, the modern urban civilization is a mad run to nothing within the framework of nothingness. In that run to stop for a moment, to revisit the past, reinventing one’s own narrative, to reflect on one’s own narrative would mean to reenergize oneself.
More reason to celebrate a cup of chai, where one has all the time indulge in conversation not governed by purpose, which might invoke memories of the past and create secret roads to the future through the past…
I got up and said, “I will make a move now. My grandfather is in the hospital. Need to go there before going home.” We had been together for more than an hour discussing. He did not know that my grandfather was unwell and hospitalized. After asking what had happened and how was he now, he said, “Be with him. Else later you will feel guilty.”
I wondered how he knew and spoke what I had in my mind from the past few days. He shared his own experience of which he feels guilty which made me realize that he had not read my mind. But when he shared his own experience, I felt at home and shared my own previous experience…
It was in the year 2010 and it was the last day of the month of July. My grandmother was hospitalized for cardiac problems. She was in the ICU. That late evening when I reached the hospital I saw my mother standing outside and my father running from the ICU to some other room with more complications for the more complicated. I knew something was wrong. I went to my dad and asked what had happened. My dad took me into the other room where they had tied my grandmother and it looked like she was trying hard to untie herself. She was struggling. She was bouncing on the bed because of the struggle. It was evident that she was in pain. It was painful to watch her struggle and struggle while tied tightly from all sides.
“What happened?” I asked my father. “She had a heart attack while in ICU. Now they have brought her here,” he replied. Immediately the doctor came and chased us out. We decided to drop my mom back home and then come back to the hospital. We took mom home and got back to the hospital. The doctor now said that the condition was serious and by suggesting us to inform our relatives that they could come see her they indicated to us that the night could be the last night of my grandmother’s life. The struggling of my grandmother, her bouncing on the bed was because life and death were wrestling inside her body!
Because the condition was serious more than one person from the family had to remain awake in the hospital. I called couple of my cousins, asked them to come and asked my dad to go back home. My cousins arrived and also my brother-in-law. There was no scope for us to close our eyes even for a while, for the doctors would just call us anytime and ask to get kilos of medicines hour after hour. Between these medicine bringing sessions and asking the nurse how the condition of grandmother was, the two of my cousins and my brother-in-law would narrate stories to each other, from their own lives, to chase away their sleep and that of the other too.
I was just a listener that night. Unusual for a talkative like me. But yes, I had no story to share. No, its not that I did not have. There was one story that kept bothering me. It is that story which had silenced me. Silenced me by pricking me. Silenced me by making me feel guilty of myself. The story of a day in 2009, December in the very same hospital, but in the Out Patient’s Department…
I was told the previous day itself that I should be accompanying my mother and sister to take my grandmother for check up. I had agreed too. But when sunlight woke me up an sms from a ‘friend’ had already landed in my inbox saying her eyes were swollen and turned red because of dust allergy. This ‘friend’ was a student in the institute where I studied and also worked once upon a time. It was vacation time but this ‘friend’ for reasons unexplainable had not gone home but had chosen to intern in Mangalore and travel everyday from Manipal (hostel) to Mangalore.
It was accidentally that I got to know this ‘friend’ and got friendly with this ‘friend’. With passing time I grew very fond of this ‘friend’ to the level of treating her like my own child. In fact I was so fond of this ‘friend’ that on the first day of her internship I had taken her, like a small child, all the way to Mangalore and dropped her in her office, which she later said was “like a child being dropped to the school by a father.”
Those were the days when the widening of the National Highway was in full flow. Because of the dust filled roads her eyes got infected and had swollen. Nobody was in hostel. She was close, very close, to me. So she informed me about her eyes. I got worried and asked her to get ready immediately so that I could take her to the hospital. I informed my mother that a ‘friend’ whose family or friends are not in town now needs me to take her to the hospital and said, “I am sure you and sister can manage without me to take grandma to the hospital.” My mother said nothing. May be she had something to say but I did not have the time in hand to listen to. I rushed to my ‘friend’.
The department of Ophthalmology and Cardiology are opposite to each other with a common waiting space for both the departments. The scene in the waiting room was this: I was sitting in one row with this ‘friend’ of mine and in the next row my mother and my sister were sitting with my grandmother. After a while my father also joined them. They were waiting for the check up of my grandmother and we were waiting for the checkup of my ‘friend’. My family was on one side and my ‘friend’ on another side of the waiting room, I being with my ‘friend’.
This image, of me remaining distant from my grandmother and my family, kept pricking me that night when life and death were wrestling with each other inside my grandmother. I felt terribly guilty. Guilty because couple of days after her check-up, in Dec 2009, my grandmother had gone back to Byndoor. I had gone back to Delhi. Even when I came back for vacations in April-May (2010) I did not visit her. I went back again and when I returned in the last week of July she was hospitalized for her condition was critical. That night, which the doctors suspected could be the last night of her life, I was sitting there, pretending to listen to the stories being narrated by my cousins and my brother-in-law, feeling terribly guilty as the image of the waiting room, the image of 2009 Dec kept appearing before my mind’s eye… It was a story I could not have narrated to my cousins. The weight of the guilt was so much that it wouldn’t let words fly out from my heart.
To intensify the pain caused by guilt and to make the absurdity of life even the more evident, that ‘friend’ for whom I left my grandmother with my mother and sister in 2009 Dec by 2010 Aug had not just betrayed me as a friend but also backstabbed me. Not just that, but was running a hate campaign against me, for reasons best known to her. I laughed at myself, thinking of it while feeling extremely guilty for having neglected my grandmother that one day… and for not having met her after that and on realizing that her life could end in a few hours… That night, for me, was darker than darkness…
My grandmother miraculously survived all the danger and I survived life-time guilt. But I haven’t forgotten the night and the way guilt pricked me and troubled me that one night… I will never forget… I should not forget, for it is my conscience keeper now…
The character of Nyla (played by Anju Mahendroo) in the film The Dirty Picture at one point of the film says, “Samajh mein nahi aa raha hai Silk ko kya kahoon- baazaari ya bechaari, a vamp or a victim?” The film directed by Milan Luthria also seem to be a bit confused like one of its character as to what Silk was- a bazaari or a bechaari, a vamp or a victim!
Perplexity, as Gibran said, is the beginning of knowledge. The tragedy is when perplexity remains and doesn’t translate itself into understanding or knowledge.
Inspired by the life of Silk Smitha, the film The Dirty Picture, seem to have failed, in spite of all its efforts, to understand Silk Smitha. The physiology is fine, but what essentially remains missing, in intensity, is the sociology of Silk and more importantly the psychology.
The audience can see the ‘dirty’ on screen but not the ‘dark’ and there remains the untold story unsaid. The director of the film, in an interview, said that while convincing Vidya for the role of Silk he told her that he would not exploit but would explore. With all his efforts he has failed to explore completely. Good effort but not enough.
But at the same time has not exploited and for that he deserves applause. He explores, not just the story of Silk Smitha, but also the body without making it too vulgar and like a soft-porn while he could have. He truly deserves a pat on the back for the same and Vidya Balan too deserves a standing ovation for carrying the role so well. Not just carrying but balancing between vulgarity and “body as the message”.
The tragedy of Silk was not that she couldn’t handle stardom and that she lost market. That too might have been one of the reasons, but those alone couldn’t have sealed life with suicide. The tragedy of Silk was not just the dark circle, the bloating cheek, the bulging belly and spilling hips. When a heroine loses her figure she loses her market and she loses her popularity too. At that point the industry and the people of the industry sweep the earlier stars to the corner. This is tragedy yes, but it is the social tragedy of Silk. But there was, I believe, more to the tragedy of Silk which created a state of mind which sealed her life with suicide.
The tragedy was what Mahesh Bhat recollects as, “Her eyes had an unhealthy vacant look. When one tried to talk to her, one realized there was nobody ‘home’… Silk was treading an emotional knife-edge and the abyss was beckoning her.” That is why Mr. Bhat says he was not shocked when the news of Silk committing suicide reached him for he saw it coming.
The director hints the tragedy of her inner world when he makes Silk rest on the shoulders of Abraham (played by Emraan Hasmi) while a romantic relationship is sprouting between the two. He hints at the tragedy while Silk’s mother slams the door on her face and also by making Silk act as her own mother when a reputed magazine asks for an interview with her mother. The loss of family and friends and a companion leading to the creation of an emotional vacuum get a passing reference in the film. But the film doesn’t stop for a while in her emotional vacuum and be with her in her loneliness.
Another tragedy of Silk was that she wanted to become an actress not star. But she was made to be a ‘body’ and never to rise to the level of a ‘character’, though her body got her stardom. Even in the beginning of the film she says, “Mujhe actor ban’na hai.” This dream remains unrealized and she remained more of a flesh and blood for the film industry and the film viewers. She colouring herself up before committing suicide is an indication of she wanting to ‘act’ for the screen and not just dance or create a sensation. Incidentally she wears a saree while committing suicide! This tragedy of being reduced to a body, fails to come across in the film.
Yes, her body was her message, as Paul Zacharia put it. Her message had a revolt in it. But it must have caused pain to be seen only as a body and the commodification of the body to be seen only through lust filled eyes. In one of her films- Neengalum Herothaan- Silk Smitha playing the role of a heroine when seen as object by the villagers during a shoot says, “Why do you see women like me as objects? Why cant you see us as humans with feelings?” Was it also something which Silk Smitha wanted to say in real life? In all possibilities…
But the same body had nobody to pick up when it was lying in the mortuary. It was a violent death, as Paul Zacharia said. But violent was also the way her body was treated after death. It was the same body which drew people crazy, but without life. Sadly nobody cared for the life within the body and just saw the life in the body. That too till the life existed in the body.
Though the director sincerely makes an effort to explore the inner world of Silk Smitha, most of the times, he remains only at the skin level. With all his sincere efforts the director could not bring the complexities of the inner world of Silk Smitha on screen. He struggles to understand her but it seems like in trying to negotiate with the market and the craft of mainstream Bombay cinema, he has failed to grasp the complexities of the ‘sensation of a bygone era.’ The over stressed scene of she looking at herself while she has lost the charm of her body, also indicating she losing her identity and popularity, and at the same time recollecting the old days of glory or in one of her last scenes by making her colour up herself, the director reduced her tragedy to her body. The inner world collapsing doesn’t come across as strongly as it could have existed. The loneliness and unrealized dream is overshadowed majorly by her insecurity and her body getting disfigured. The dirty overshadows the dark.
A lot of praise has come Vidya Balan’s way for her performance in the film and every pixel of every praise is well deserved. But the talent and abilities of Vidya is well known since her debut. She just proved herself again. The real discovery of the film is Emraan Hashmi! This man is with semi-nude heroines, like in his almost every film, but he manages to give the exact opposite expression of what he has been repeating almost all his film (remember the scene in the film where Vidya, as Silk, says “roz wahi scene wahi script. Naya hai hee kya?”) He acts. He proves that he too can act. But he has always been employed as a “serial kisser.” His acting skills like that of Silk Smitha is less recognized in comparison to the sensation he can create with his kissing like the way Silk Smitha could do with her body. His acting skills is a real discovery in the film. But still, Vidya performs in such perfection that Emraan is likely to be unrecognized for his performance like Silk Smitha was for her performance in Sadma where Sri Devi and Kamal Hassan bagged all the praise for their performance.
With all this the dirty picture remains incomplete without the darker side remaining under exposed and under explored. The unknown story remains untold. The real story remains untold. The complexities of the story remain less understood in spite of all the sincere efforts. But in the end not just a story remains unsaid and unexplored but remains confusion as to what was Silk? Was she a vamp or a victim?