09 February, 2015

Mars One : Define Crazy.

“Define Crazy.”

Wanting to find the love of your life, bearing children and then dying with them or pushing the frontiers of humanity by attempting to live on Mars? What’s crazy to you?

The Guardian released this short film about three people from distant corners of the world who volunteered for the Mars One mission. The film tries to explore the psyche of these brave people who find no attachment to their lives on Earth right now.

“You are going to die here or there, it doesn’t matter. Why I die – is what matters to me,” said Dina, an Iraqi woman who left her roots to find a free life in USA.

While some of us are depressed about still not having a date for Valentine’s Day, she claims that she doesn’t need Love. She’s above all that.

“Love is a word that refers to an emotional need.”

“Going back is not an option,” Dina concludes because she doesn’t need a family anymore to survive and exist.

Ryan doesn’t know what it means to have a father because he never had a father.

“Did we miss out on something?” he wonders. He’s not abandoning Earth as a way to get back to everyone who abandoned him.

The big dilemma for him is - how do you stand out when you are competing with 7 billion other people on this planet? If the most important thing that matters is to leave a legacy what options do we have?

What about Sex? Isn’t that important? Ryan doesn’t seem to think so. The only reason he’d even “satisfy” himself is because otherwise you have higher chances to getting prostate cancer. Has he ever kissed? Obviously, no. Does he know up to 90 decimal points of Pi? Yes.

“I think this world is not good for us to live in anymore,” states Mozambique. There is so much pain, war, army complexes, natural disasters and epidemics. It seems like humanity is doomed for failure and we don’t have an out. We need to start from scratch and maybe, Mars is the only option to do it.

Mozambique’s grandfather knows that he’s not going there to commit suicide. He’s going there as a missionary of Humanity.

The Reality of the Mars One mission is far from reaching fruition but the reality of these people aiming for the stars is a compelling tale that forces you to look in the mirror. While we on one hand are battling with struggles like finding a job, pleasing our bosses, keeping up with our diets and balancing friends and family; these people are answering questions much deeper than that.

Every day, we sit in front of our bright screens and shut our minds the moment they start asking existential questions, lest we run the risk of chronic depression or other such disorders. And here, Dina, Ryan and Mozambique have transcended a few levels above the regular human fallacies.

We think that a new button on a phone can revolutionize our lives. Maybe, we need to re-think what really matters to us. But maybe, not. 

What if they think we are Crazy?

09 October, 2014

Kashmir : From an Ignorant Indian

I am a Nobody. I am not an Actor. I am not a Politician. I am not an Artist. I am no one significant in the broad landscape of humanity. I am just another person in a count of billions.

I haven’t studied political science or history. I am not an Economist or a Journalist. I am not the person who watches the News Hour every day or reads the newspaper on a daily basis. I am just another person trying to get through life by being the best that I can be. 

I keep my head low. I have opinions which I keep to myself. I see problems that need to be solved but I let them pass me by because I think I have no control over matters which are out of my hands. I let it go… All of it. 

There is no reason for you to listen to me. I didn’t help elect the old government or the new one. I’ve never been to Kashmir. I don’t have family originating or belonging to that region. 

I am Hindu by birth but practice no religion in particular, by choice. I don’t know if there are a 100 gods or one. I don’t know if I should refer to that higher power as Him Her or Allah, Jesus or Vishnu. 

I don’t know the answers to a whole lot of questions. I had to Google “Capital of Jammu and Kashmir” to make sure that it was Srinagar. Yes, I am that ignorant. 

However what I do know is that I am a person who does not want War. I pick up a paper every morning these days and scan through it. 

ISIS, Syria, Ukraine, Hong Kong and it was Kashmir today. Each side blamed the other. Each side harmed civilians who’ve got nothing to do with the politics of the World.

India, Pakistan… They didn’t care. One villager said that they were forced to migrate away from their homes because they didn’t know when the roof over their heads would collapse. I’m sitting thousands of miles away in a hotpot of global culture and you know what I worry about in the night? My mattress is not comfortable enough and I should invest in memory foam. 

Serendipitously, just last week I saw this fantastic adaptation of Hamlet, Haider. If there is another film which narrated the situation in the Valley as gracefully as this did, then I haven’t seen it. In the wake of the recent floods that devastated the region, this was a perfect reminder to audiences that Kashmir exists, in your own country and it’s fraught with problems that you will never face personally. 

In the past two weeks, people from different cultural backgrounds and nationalities asked me to explain the real problem in Kashmir. Every time I explained it to them, it hurt me because they asked me what the solution is. Every time I said that there is none. Our hands are tied because we, the people, don’t make those decisions. We, the people, can’t come up with a solution that would make everyone happy. We, the people, are not sure if war is the answer. 

Each government wants to take a tough stand and prove their strength. It’s a battle of egos that has nothing to do with the common man, not Indians, not Pakistanis, not Kashmiris. 

In an era of technological advancement and development, do we, the people, want our taxes to be wasted in wars where innocent lives are obliterated, defense arsenal is hoarded, environmental pollution is not given a damn about; whether we are on this side of the border or that?

I’ve promised myself that I won’t watch prejudiced news channels. I’ll try to be objective. I’ll try to not let myself get carried away by nationalistic sentiments that do more harm than good in precarious situations as this. 

Last evening, one of my professors shared this case study with us in class which reduces me to tears every time i watch it. Take a look.

It summarizes everything that you and I would want or what we need. Who enlightened us with this vision? Not a media house. Not any international body. Not any political leader.

I don’t know. Sometimes, I think if it were left to us, normal people, with no access to guns, nuclear weapons or suicide bombers, we would be sitting by the bank of Jhelum, sipping on hot chai and pulling each other’s legs.

Maybe, that’s just me. Or is it you too?

(This article is by far, one of the best ones, i've read this week. Click here.)

Photo courtesy: http://www.mid-day.com/articles/life-as-they-live-it-faces-of-jammu--kashmir/15537159

24 August, 2014

Unhappy and Gay

"What hits me most is that they believe sexual orientation can change and I'm being blamed for not compromising."

Statements like these feel like a dagger in my heart. A dear friend of mine shared this Al-Jazeera article on his Facebook timeline and I can’t thank him enough for that.

Since, the past few days I felt the world was trying to tell me something when I heard stories about people who couldn’t be themselves because of cultural or societal pressures.

This story is about how “Indian gay men’s wives are trapped in marriages”. But who said it’s only the wives who are trapped? One of the interviewees in the article explicitly states

 "In our society, even if you have a great job, you are considered a failure if you are not married with kids"

Why is it necessary to be defined by such beliefs? Don’t we all know of unhappy loveless marriages where people just end up being together because they don’t want to upset societal harmony?

What if happiness to me is being able to provide to for my loved ones and having a roof over my head? What if happiness to me is having the liberty to pack my bags at any given point of time and set shop in a country I barely know?

I say all this not because I’m a vocal supporter of gay rights. I say this because I believe in happiness and individuality. We are entitled with the freedom to decide what makes us happy and what doesn’t.

"Most parents tell the men to produce children and be gay in secret," says Anjali Gopalan, the executive director of Naz Foundation in India, an NGO which is actively fighting to decriminalize gay sex in India. Our parents told us to do a lot of things as we grew up. They told us not to have too much ice cream. They told us not to ever touch alcohol. They told us not to talk to strange people. But we did all of that anyway, didn’t we? Then why blame them for asking us to take drastic measures like procreating when we clearly don’t want to?

Maybe, I’m not gay and that’s why I can’t comprehend how it is to be on the other side of the fence. But hiding under the pretext of model behaviour when clearly we don’t always strictly abide by society’s code of conduct is disappointing. Sometimes, all you need is a pair of balls (Excuse me for the sexist language).

What are we so afraid of? They’ll talk behind your back. They’ll ridicule you. They’ll treat you as an outcast. Maybe, yes. They will but if you suffocate who you are in the process of pleasing someone else’s idea of perfection, then you’ll never flourish. It’s a mental suicide. I’d rather live with my heart wide open than bury myself under a false identity.

"Gay sex is not natural and we cannot support something which is unnatural," said Rajnath Singh, Home Minister of India.

There are over 2.5 million gay men in India according to a census conducted by the Government of India. I’m more than certain that the actual number is even higher, Mr. Singh. How can it be unnatural when millions of people across the globe know it to be the most natural way to be?

It’s hard to change how you are perceived by the people around you. But if you are comfortable in your skin, then they will look at you with envy and awe. They’ll secretly wish in their hearts that they could be more like you.

Be who you are. Society will find a way to assimilate you. And if they don’t, do your own thing.

Whatever you do, ask yourself first – Are you happy?
Whatever you do, ask yourself – is this your decision or theirs?

We can never be perfect. But we can always be the best of what we can be.

04 August, 2014

A Friendship's Day Story

I’m scared. My bones are shivering even as I type this. You think that this would never happen to anyone you know. You think that the world is a perfect, bright and happy place. But people just bury the ugly stories in order to keep this myth alive. I have a story today which I need to tell the world because something needs to be done, my hands are tied and this is the only thing that I can do as a woman who wants to stand up for another woman.

They were in love. He used to sit in one corner, away from the world and sketch his thoughts and ideas. She looked at him and felt a magnetic pull towards him. Within a few months, he became her world. With friends and family, they shared their love and made memories. He learned everything about her that he possibly could. She couldn’t get enough of what he offered.

A few more months down the line, he started becoming distant. She was worried.

“Why is he always on the phone?”

“Why doesn’t he allow me to touch his phone?”

“What is he trying to hide?”

She tried to rationalize it with her friends. Some said that maybe it is a new friendship that he can’t let go. Maybe, it’s nothing and she’s just imagining all these things. She tried to calm herself down but women are blessed with this thing called “intuition”. She couldn’t let it go.

One day she found pictures and messages which she couldn’t comprehend.

“How can these things mean nothing? Am I a retard?”

“You are overreacting,” he said.

He started lying and deceiving her. He said that he won’t talk to her. But talk he did under a pseudonym that she could possibly never guess.

Misunderstandings led them away from each other. Her friends told her to stay away from him.

“He’s a cheater, a liar and a manipulator. Stay away from him,” they said.

She tried to but she loved him too much and didn’t know a world where he wasn’t a part of it.

“Can we be friends, at least?” he asked her.

He crept his way back into her life. This time her friends left her to make her own choices. The heart wants what the heart wants, one could conclude. They found each other again. He became her world again until one day… she picked up his phone and saw messages from the same woman he thought was just a friend.

She asked him, “What is all this about? Would you care to explain?”

“You fucking whore! How dare you touch my phone?!”

He charged towards her and slapped her with all his might. He was consumed with an adrenaline pumped fit of anger. He slapped her again and again. He pushed her against the table. She cried in pain. Her already sensitive back was further hurt in the battle of fists and feet. He kicked her in the stomach. She cried out more profanities and he hurled her with abuses, both verbal and physical.

“You slut!” he exclaimed and tried choking her in his rage.

Somehow she broke free and rushed to a place she could consider safe. Her parents saw the swollen cheeks and bruises. The taxing episode drained her of all strength. She was administered IV and a lot of love.

She didn’t know what to do next. She didn’t know why he did what he did. She wanted answers but that boy had all his defences up and ready. She told his mother but blinded by her love for her son and manipulated by his act of innocence she gave no heed.She told her friends and they asked her parents to approach the police.

“We don’t want to get into a mess with the police,” they said.

Her friends wanted to beat that boy black and blue. They found out that he had done the same to his ex-girlfriend but he found a way to protect himself against any kind of charges. Smart people know how to manipulate the system.

I was told that they want to break a few bones to teach him a lesson. But we all knew that this is a violent vicious cycle that can lead to no good. One of the friends suggested that let’s make his act public and push a campaign against him in social media.

But I got scared. I was worried they’ll charge me or them with a case of slander. We can’t go to the police. The parents of the girl are too ashamed and scared to take concrete action. They want to save their girl’s integrity. The mother of the boy is blinded by her love. The friends can’t do much because they will get stuck in a cycle of blame games that will get their lives into trouble.

That boy will be free… out in this world with the reassuring belief that he got away with it and will get away with it again. He’ll have a ton of other girlfriends who he’ll cheat and abuse and no one can do anything about it. Because according to him and the public perception he has built, he’s an angel.

I can’t take names because I’m scared.

This girl has been a victim of domestic violence before this too and in her warped view of the world, that’s how all boyfriends of hers will be, now.

The girl lives in agony with wounds that will never heal. In every possible scenario that we thought in our heads, the system supported him and not the girl.

Domestic violence is real. And all of us are cowards. We women justify it to ourselves that maybe we deserved it or maybe, we pushed them too far. This comes from a woman who has been a victim of domestic violence herself. What did I do when this happened to me? Nothing. I did nothing. I lived with it. When I told my friends, what did they do? They wanted to break windows and bones. But what could they do? Nothing. They could do nothing.

What is this girl going to do? Nothing. The only person who could’ve possibly changed things does not see that she is a woman first, mother later. There is nothing in this world that can justify a man hitting a woman, especially in a conflict.

Our hands are tied and we want to change things. 

Will they change? Can we change it? Or does another soul bite the dust in the injustice of it all?

You tell me.

23 June, 2014

Fly baby, Fly

We are fantastic the way we are and sometimes we need to be reminded about that. There is nothing that I have to say except a few idealistic statements and realizations that I know to be true.

The big bad world out there is ugly and heartless, that’s absolutely true for most parts. But in the bitterness of our harsh realities we often forget how there are small pockets of happiness and pure-hearted goodness that are going to warm our hearts amidst this drought. We forget that much like us there are others who are suffering in their silence hiding behind the unbreakable shield of their smiles.

And maybe, they are distrustful of everything just as you are because it seems unfair. If we all get stuck in that cycle of distrust and loathing, can we blame anyone for the eerie sensation of hostility when we thrust ourselves into the open? 

Have a little faith. Go in blind. Leave it to the Universe. Hang your boots in the air and surrender. Let go of your expectations. Don’t follow the script. Make your own story. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

You see what you want to see. I chose to see beauty, wonder and awe. And I find it in places that I never thought I could. I chose to see the smiles and not the frowns. I chose to look straight in the eyes and see their souls and not cast my eyes away out of embarrassment. I chose to dream and hope for unachievable aims knowing very well that it would break my heart if they wouldn’t happen.

I dream and dream unabashedly. And as the globe spins to take us from night to the day, I know that I’ll get there even if it’s at an infinitesimal speed.

Fly baby, Fly.