Sunday, May 28, 2006

Just a 'reserved' thought. . .

There is a wonderful work on the Indian caste system called Homo Hierarchicus by Louis Dumont. Some critics have called Dumont's book an oversimplification, others have called it Orientalist, but one of the book's most important contributions is the argument that the caste system is not just a social arrangement. In fact, the caste system is a system of ideas. The idea of hierarchy, according to Dumont, lies at the core of Indian society. Hierarchy as based on age, gender and caste, hierarchy which is sanctified by religion itself. "Greater" and "lesser", the two categories that are crucially antithetical to a modern egalitarian society, are in fact embedded in Hindu social consciousness.

Every upper caste child grows up with a mind's eye image of the "achchut", the "untouchable", the "scheduled caste". The imagined Untouchable is perpetually filthy just as the Brahmin is perpetually pure. The imagined Untouchable is squalid in appearance and perpetually inferior. And his inferiority, like the inferiority of the young and of women, is sanctified not just by society, but by God. Today, many dalit writers argue that India will never be a modern society unless the Purusa-Sukta of the Rig Veda is re-written.

The Purusa-Sukta is the hymn which states that brahmins are born from the forehead of the creator, khsatriyas from the arm, vaishyas from the stomach and shudras from the foot. The dalits, or "ati-shudras", are the "un-born". They exist outside the body of the cosmic being, thus they are doomed to endless pariah status, however far they advance in education and wealth. In a society subliminally conscious of the Purusa-sukta, Ambedkarism is bound to fail.

"Democracy," BR Ambedkar wrote, "is essentially a form of society, not a form of government. Political democracy pre-supposes a democratic form of society." In a society which accepts that God Himself believes that some men are born inferior to others, simply providing opportunities to vote or form political parties is inevitably meaningless. Dalit historian Kancha Ilaiah has a suggestion. Just as the Vatican meets periodically to modernise catholicism, he says, the shankaracharyas should meet in conclave to modernise Hinduism. They should not only re-write the Purusa-sukta, but they should also decree that everyone, every woman, every tribal, every dalit, has the right to be priest of God and God is not the exclusive preserve of the brahmin.

The event will have tremendous symbolic value, provide a turbine charge to India's quest for modernity and Bhim Rao will at last be vindicated. Today paradoxically, Ambedkar's legacy poses a peculiar dilemma for the modern dalit. To take on the dalit mantle, to educate, organise and agitate for dalit rights, to set up statues of Ambedkar, to use the dalit as a voter, as say Mayawati has done, is to be radical soldier of empowerment. On the other hand, to neglect the avenue of dalitness and seek to merge with the mainstream would be to renege on the destined cause and risk social disdain from upper castes. Thus dalitness is both a political rallying cry as well as, at exactly the same time, a segregative device from the mainstream. Mayawati may be "free" but she's lonely.

K R Narayanan may have become president but a brahmin woman may never have married him. In the late '90s, B.N. Uniyal set off in search for a dalit journalist. He surveyed many newspapers and magazines but didn't find one. In fact most editors, invariably Hindu, upper caste and male became angry with him for carrying out such an "un-necessary" exercise. Among 686 journalists accredited to the government, 454 were upper caste. The remaining 232 did not carry their caste names and in a random sample of 47 not one was a dalit. Thus the dalit is trapped in certain designated enclaves. He is a politician. He may be a babu or even a lawyer or a teacher in a state school.

But a dalit Bollywood hero? A scriptwriter? An eminent lawyer, artist, model, musician, event manager, hotelier or tour guide? Never. The contemporary dalit (with very few exceptions) is imprisoned in the public sector, precisely because the attachment to caste is impossible to escape. Ambedkar statues have buried his larger message. Bhim Rao's children are still searching for the way to become activists for "democratisation" rather than simply for "dalitisation", the former being a battle in which women, youth and adivasis would be allies.

Perhaps for the renewal of Indian society, to create a spiritual awakening and to revitalize our culture, indeed to become a social democracy even as we are a political democracy, we need, as a conscientious public, to re-write the purusa sukta. Imagine what a thrill such an exercise will send out through our land. Imagine the amazing symbolic power of such a revision. Imagine the massive cultural and social renaissance it will create if the shankaracharyas or the heads of mathas or the mahamandaleswars at Varanasi all decided that for the sake of a massive spiritual and democratic symbol, they will rewrite this ancient yet fundamentally unjust hymn. Imagine the power of change.Now think, wont that free reservation status quo?? Will we really need to fight for space or scream what we rightfully demand possessively as ours and ours alone??
Just a thought . . .

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Sada Shehar...

Sight to wake up too..although i dont sleep in the wild...
Morning Cab to work
Maybe a breezy walk first.
Gherhi sheri oye...... college lunch hour party.

or maybe i'll take to the dirt track instead.

Nah....more like balle balle at 12pm.... sardars.

oye yar.. dead city. lets go for road kill..

Sunset Strip Chandigarh.

Hm.... wrong entry?

Perfect weekend
Love my, drugs 'n rock&roll
Or easy retirement. Solace... 'n plenty of it!

Shit! I'm late. Its dark.. have to be home..

Foggy midnight sneak out. He he.

"Thank you for visiting...Do come again"

Not just a road sign after all huh?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

pour être libre

Par les soirs bleus d'été, j'irai dans les sentiers,
Picoté par les blés, fouler l'herbe menue :
Rêveur, j'en sentirai la fraîcheur à mes pieds.
Je laisserai le vent baigner ma tête nue.

Je ne parlerai pas,
je ne penserai rien :
Mais l'amour infini me montera dans l'âme,
Et j'irai loin, bien loin, comme un bohémien,
Par la Nature, - heureux .

Sunday, May 21, 2006


I own a paint-shop. Just suppose.

There are shelves and drawers full of paint. Thousands of colours and infinite possibilities. Plastic cans, glass jars, metal tubes, big, small, medium, large, short, round, square, oblong, poster’, oil’, crayons, pencils, cakes, fabric, enamel, powder, liquid, ready-to-use, concentrate.

Psychedelic chaos gestating in wooden wombs.

Then, there are accessories – brushes, pencils, erasers, palettes, thinners, aprons, easels, varnish, sand-paper, rollers, tracing sheets.

And then, there are open playgrounds, canvasses, chart papers, handmade sheets, colouring books, drawing pads, t-shirts, faces, walls, floors, furniture, cars, bags, pets, what you may.

I’m wondering if one night, when the shop is shut, all the paint will fly out of the containers creating their own orbits, writing a new story, painting a new picture.

And when I pack paints and knick-knacks for a customer I can’t help wondering which surface is going to get a facelift, a skin transplant, a re-birth.

Just suppose.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Spiral of Silence

>Slish, slash the razor goes,
no-one cares, no-one knows,
What it is like to be like me
and how I long to be set free.
>Slish, slash, the razor glides
lifting flesh in strips and sides,
A blossom of blood begins to appear
Taking the pain away from fear.
>Slish, Slash a razors dance
fascinates me with a glance.
While along my arms a flood
Of pain , of memory in the blood.
>Slish, slash, I hesitate,
I have to stop before its to late,
I only cut enough to release
the rage inside, that will not cease
>Slish, slash, I cry in pain,
The power steps up the gain,
A second visit to the execution room
The first was but a test for the doom.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Death in a bowl of sugar

I wish I knew her well…………..
I wish sand would never sift through full…
I wish she would not visit me often………
I wish she could just speak to me sometime too…..
I wish she would look at me and not through me every time she visits….
I wish she didn’t know that I feared her…….
I wish she knew that I want to know her…
talk to her….
understand her….
I wish she hadn’t come that night and taken him away…..
I wish she hadn’t run away that sunless morning, in fear or vain….
I wish she had come when I had cried out her name in pain…
I wish I could understand why her love for him overpowered mine…
I wish I could give him all that she promised to free him of……
I wish I knew why she ‘let her go’ and ‘took him’ later instead……
I wish she gave me that choice to make……
I wish I knew why she likes rockstars the same way I do……
I wish I knew what hue of black cloaks her, though she knows all my hues…..
I wish I knew why her blackness makes mine look grey…..
I wish I knew where she lived and the road that takes her there each day…..
I wish she would tell me where he is and what he is now…..
I wish I knew why she cut him open alive…..
I wish I knew why she feasted on his flesh with a promise to make him better…..
I wish I knew why she let him cajole me as a kid……….
I wish I knew why she took that hand away when I was just beginning to grab it…..
I wish I knew why she gave him the pen to wield a fêted life…..
I wish I knew why she let him smoke that life in fumes…

I wish I knew…..

I pray I knew what made her drive with him that evening…..
I pray I knew what she made him believe to be real….
I pray I knew why she tempted him to ride alone………
I pray I knew why she hated his family so much……
I pray I knew why she gave him that racket to wield….
I pray I knew why she made her lust for him so real…..
I pray I knew why she ate him for supper that evening….
I pray I knew why she spit him out later…..
I pray I knew what she did with him when she swiped him clean and raped him alive…
I pray I knew why she gave him the keys for breakfast….
I pray I knew why she took him to his chariot for the last supper……

I pray I knew…..

I hope I knew what she did when she came for her that night……
I hope I knew what she robbed of her which she refuses to return now….
I hope I knew how to take it back and return it to her……
I hope I knew what she showed to her that she refuses to let me see….
I hope I knew what stopped her from letting her pass through…..
I hope I knew why she let her fruit ripen in her womb………
I hope I knew what she said to her that has made her so dead and alive…..
I hope I knew why she wandered my home that night……
I hope I knew how to recognise her next time I see her…..
I hope I knew how to look into her eyes when I do recognise her….
I hope I knew the right thing to say to her when I look into her eyes….
I hope I could she could feel how I feel her presence….
I hope I knew why she wandered to the next room and took her instead…..

I hope I knew……….

I want to know why she’s formed a relationship with me………
I want to know why she takes them all away from me……..
I want to know why I live in her fear each day………
I want to know why that fear is for loss of love and not self…..
I want to know how she got to be such a great butcher…..
I want to know why she always comes uninvited……………
I want to know why she doesn’t when invited……….

I want to know why she is ………… DEATH!

Sardar Sohan Singh Sekhon
(1929 - 1993)
Poet and Social Worker.
Succumbed to Lung and throat cancer.

Aditaya Gill
(1988 - 2005)
Upcoming tennis player.
Killed in a road accident.

Uma Sehgal
(1965 - 1992)
Documentary film maker.
Suffocated in an Asthmatic attack.

Mohan Sehgal
Film maker.
Went to sleep and never woke up.

Asha Sehgal
Breathed her last on the operation table while undergoing surgery for breast cancer.

Sharin Bhatti
(1983 - ….)

I wish I knew when she’ll take me with her……
I wish I knew how long she’ll make me walk the green mile……..
I wish I knew if she would make me take them all away from me………

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Warped & Twisted - III

Reaping benefits of a soul drenched morning....

The papers have been strewn across boundaries....

Yet wariness still remains.....

The sun refuses to set ....

Sombre, bright, blinding light greets all night...

We made poetry last night...... My Guitar n I

At the 10th stance..........the melody broke and shattered glass..

Some tragedies are bound to recur, as this morning, the strings were raped.......

Decay of mellifluous flowers......

Sometimes too peechy is too parasitical.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Gospel of Amitabh Bachchan

I cannot, in all honesty say that the meeting with the ineffable Amitabh Bachhan changed my life. But yes, it shattered some myths and reinforced some others.The meeting occurred when the Big B personified himself was shooting in town for his movie, 'Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyon.' That was the summer of superstardom for Chandigarh. Suddenly, everybody who was anybody in Bollywood suddenly (re)discovered the city environs to shoot their amazing next. Budget cuts or the sudden swadeshi-is-exotic or simply supplying the missing Punju touch…………whatever it was, it was raining tinsel in the summer of 2004.

And amidst all big budget ventures, AB spent nearly a month guzzling down the winds of Chandigarh, sticking to his room in the farthest resort in the city, not too much in the hi-how-ya-doin meeting mood and resting his tired frame after a busy day’s work in his cosy studio. Then one night it happened. The owners of the resort, hosted this stiff-upper-lipped-sophisticated –hifi party for all the city P3Ps. And getting a personal invite to it, was like a hand-me-down label, hey you a P3P too. Really! Nah! Duty calls. Many more scribes were called to cover the gala party. The only catch though, "Oh! Don't tell him you from the press. He's publicity shy." My first undercover assignment…. "Yipee"… I spoke too soon.


That the stiff-upper-lipped-sophisticated-professional socialite, who are VVIP's, ex-VVIP's or consider themselves VVIP's, hail from a glorious past and are used to people routing for them and usually don't get excited when someone of stature and fame greets the. NOT. The banquet hall was lined with guests. Close friends and family (ya right. Call the taxation commissioner that too!) and some ex-judges, a lot of IAS officers, an ex-governor, members of the ministries (local) crammed up the space of the hall. The security was outside. Your typical wine and cheese affair. Fake kisses, folded sat-sri-akals, that gentle shoulder tapping, the twirl on the greeting etiquettes were all on full display. The wait was on. About 3 hours and plenty of empty wine glasses later…. he arrived. (and oh yeah, wine is only thing that makes me whine ) The hall shrieked. IAS officers, governor, judges took to the chairs (in standing position) to catch a glimpse of the Big B. Women fainted at his feet. People pushed and toppled in total chaos. That hep aunty sitting royally on her chair a second ago was leaping and screaming at the same time. I was crushed in the madness and didn't quite know where to look.

"Security! I can't believe I'm doing this. These are supposed to be calm, old, sophisticated people,” I heard the resort owner panicking and playing the bouncer.


That hard-bitten journalists who see their share of the celebrities all in a day's work, are a blasé lot. NOT. When the news sizzled – and I use the word sizzled that he was in the room. It caused a reciprocating flutter, in the party scribe tribe. I was there. A couple of us were on the tables shrieking equally. One was seen smoothing her hair and another (who usually covered business at that time) actually pulled put her compact.

After smoothing my hair (okay, that was me!) I pushed my way around and infusing a sense of urgency in my tone, told my mom that we had to push in and meet him. After the initial amusement subsided, (or what seemed to be calmer now) my mom pushed through the VVIP's and made her way to the Big B. The tired old actor, equally amused at the plight of small-town-socialites decided to sit down. Holding his arm, she shook it and told him. "Hi! I'm Kanwal. My so-n-so worked with you in the so-n-so ad and so-n-so movie. We have to talk. Give me five minutes,” she literally screamed into his straining-to-hear ear over the loud hum of the room. "But its only time that I don\'t have. But I know that so-n-so and yeah he's damn good," he simply smiled.


That women acquire maturity as they age and lose their giddiness of their teenage years. NOT. Mid-drool, I realised I was supposed to be covering the god-damn party. Oh! Fortuitous circumstance! Out popped the camera. So I walked up to AB, (hey my mom could do, so could I ) asked, "Mr Bachhan, can I have a photograph taken with you?”
All I can say in my defence, now that time has imposed its own perspective, is that a momentary madness had overtaken me. In any case, Mr B graciously obliged and even, put an arm across my shoulder. People rushed to aid (of the picture) on all sides. The resort owner-ne-bouncer asked which button to click. The excitement had driven all coherent thought out of my head so I stared blankly at him. Till, he somehow trying not to falling apart fired a shot.


All one's education is liable to desert you at crucial times. AB and I didn't exchange profound thoughts, just a couple of sentences. I had a job to do and I had to regain my equilibrium. NOW. A veritable queue of women asked for a copy of the photograph. When it was developed, it came out shaky and barely discernable. Alas! But there was a prominent nose, salt and pepper beard in the picture and zillions of gleaming white teeth.
And a year later at my Interview into journalism school, the BIG B's meeting helped me get a seat. "How was it meeting him? Some say language fails when you speak to him,” I was asked. And I had quite a story to narrate….


Into every life, some rain must fall

Friday, May 05, 2006

Walk with me

Theres an old NIKE ad that reads ~

"You don't stand in front of a mirror before a run and wonder what the road will think of your outfit.
You don't have to listen to its jokes and pretend they're funny in order to run on it.
It will not be easier to run if you dress sexier.
The road doesn't notice when you're not wearing make up.
It does not care how old you are.
And you don't feel uncomfortable if you make more money than it.
The only thing the road cares about is that you pay it a visit once in a while."

and then there were none ....

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Could have been...

laying awake in my bed this morning
my eyes still shut
i imagined i was listening to rain pelting on my window

turned out to be the hum of the air-conditioner
but it still felt like a rainy morning
as a consequence of a stormy night
when i sat next to my window
writing poetry in loose sheets
and then leaving them there
hoping the wind would burke them
like an ex-flame

which it did
but the relucent raindrops did kiss them
washing away the words
and yet i glowed at the relics
remains of night poetry in smudged ink,
on wet, delicate sheets, sticking to each other

of course it didn't really happen
just felt like ityou do feel like it did

when you're reading Wislawa Szymborska between breaks in exams.

discovered her in the most queer of places last year.
at work in office.

It doesn't matter what i was thinking of last night
"How to live - someone asked me in a letter,
someone I had wanted to
ask the same thing.
Again and as always,
and as seen above
there are no questions more urgent
than the naive ones."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Graduating. . .

Had my convocation yesterday....

Class of 2005 Humanities wore their ghosts on their chests and grabbed those scrolls with pride.

Back on (un)familiar grounds a year later to grab onto the last few traces of being a college go-er.

Nothing had changed. we were still in all white 'monday' uniforms.
Same teachers hugging and planting lipsticks on cheeks, whose sarees we took abode in three years ago.
Reunion. . . .Same friends.....same. some with the sparkiling reds running in their hairline, some fingers sparkling with earthy sparkle, others with sparkling crowns in their hair. some in corporate ties, some just the same a they'd always been.

some with fat circling around the waist, some three inches below the collar bone....
some laughter still running around the corridor, some with same laughter tugged on the shoulder in a reflective index....

some still talk of reaching the stars and how college was so boring....
some miss the years gone by and hope for merrier times still....
The prank on the principal, the rebellious strike, the crazy winter afternoon naps on the green, the hidden conversations on the illegal cellphones.....................

chit chat, coffee, fruit chatm, pictures,swings, trees
some faces all i see in me, still wanting more and grabbing onto the old....

Today back home with Graphic Arts in hand for the big test day after. The new polished gold medals merit have already found their place on the pin-up board, the trophy on the desk and the MERIT Sashay already tucked in the cupboard and the degree........ forgotten already in the document corner.......

Sounds of music meshing. One day gently pushes you into the next. ..

Time brutally cut short for unimportant things such as a job, a career, a life!!
Life is here.
Right now.
In Yellow and Black..