A night at the beach

“I never learned”, he said,”what other people learn in their childhood.”

He gave me a wry smile.

The cold hung heavy in the air and seeped into our bodies through the beach sands. The silence of the December night was disturbed only by the subdued hum of the waves. In the distance the city lights were a beacon to another world-a world of warmth, good food and eternal loneliness. But here, the mind was vulnerable and open. Here there was nothing to distract a man from the one person he fears the most, the one person he avoids at all costs-himself.

In the darkness, his voice was gentle, barely audible. 

“Sometimes I feel like escaping from my own mind, even if only for a moment, and see how things are without being polluted by my perceptions; to enter your mind for eg., and examine your thoughts, thereby confirming the normalcy of my own. I would give anything to have that kind of insight” he continued, his voice now cold and distant.

“Everyone is caged by their self. There’s no escape” I said.

He fell silent for a while. I watched the moonlight dance through the swirls of his cigarette smoke, recognizing in it patterns and faces long forgotten.

“Did you love her?” I asked softly.

He hesitated a little, then said slowly, measuring his words,”I did. And I didn’t. Can you believe that? I think, and now I see it, that I was more in love with the idea of her-that she could be my anchor to reality, y’know, to keep me human. Perhaps I never was in love with the living, breathing human being. Perhaps she was only my attempt to keep in touch with myself. It’s funny isn’t it, how we relate to the world-like we think we’re the centre of it all, the fulcrum around which all things happen. That’s the only way perhaps, to see the world-as our story, and yet the truth is that we are only a minor, insignificant character in the story of the world, which is itself quite unimportant.”

He added, after some thought,”Man believes in the uniqueness of his own experience. His pain is his own, his happiness too. I sit here thinking there’s something wrong with me, y’know, in the way my mind feels untethered and disconnected. It’s like, I operate on a completely different set of frequencies; that I don’t understand others nor am I understood; and yet part of me says what I feel is only a part of the vast body of common human experience.”

I shrugged,”That’s a nice way of thinking you’re not going insane -that there are others like you.”

“You don’t think so?”

“I think everybody has their own little bubble of insanity hidden somewhere, covered with a careful veneer of normalcy-things learned while growing up, relationships, courtesies, how one should think and behave. But all these are external accruments, built upon flimsy scaffolding. A scaffolding, I think, of mostly anxiety, the desperate desire to fit in, to not be left out.”

Even in the darkness I saw him smile in approval.

“Ultimately however, it doesn’t matter. None of it does,” I said.

“It does matter. Maybe not in the grand scheme of things, if there is a scheme that is, but what I feel is not irrelevant for me. It may not matter to others, and obviously I won’t be around to care when I die; but I’m alive now, alive and breathing and cursed with the ability to feel” he asserted.

It was my turn to reflect now.

I laid back, saw the moonlight engulf the winter sky. At that moment suddenly, existence seemed like such a burden. What a misfortune it was to be constrained in the here and now; to be unable to transcend body and mind, time and space. Could such a journey ever be possible?

जीना तो आ गया

मुझ पर उधार रहेगा किस्मत तेरा 
साँसों के बिन ज़िंदा रहना जो आ गया। 
कोशिश तो की मगर जीते नहीं 
ज़िन्दगी से हारकर भी जीना तो आ गया।

इस लम्हे आकर रुक ही गयी 
बुझते अरमानों की वो बहती नदी 
असलियत की आग ने सुलगा दिया जिसे 
साँस लेते हुए भी मरना तो आ गया।

बस एक बार मैंने उड़ान भरी
तारों से गुज़रती वो आशाएँ मेरी 
ज़मीन पर गिरे जैसे हो कोई कटी पतंग 
आसमान को देख आँहें भरना तो आ गया।

यूँ तो रूह झुलसी बस इसी आग में 
मन जो डूब गया इस गहरे दाग में 
कैसे चुका पाऊँगा यह एहसान वक़्त तेरा 
उम्मीद करने से भी डरना जो आ गया।

चाहे चलता रहे ठोकरों का सिलसिला 
ज़हन में नहीं रखे कभी भी कोई गिला 
इतने वक़्त में और कुछ हो ना हो 
आख़िर खुद को माफ़ करना तो आ गया।

ज़िन्दगी से हारकर भी जीना तो आ गया।
ज़िन्दगी से हारकर भी जीना तो आ गया।

Kashmir: A Story Of Endless Misfortune

“Agar Firdaws ba roy-i zamin ast, hamin ast-u hamin ast-u hamin ast,”

Kashmir. The name usually evokes images of unparalleled natural beauty, snow-capped mountains and heavenly valleys. And yet for the people living there, life is nothing less than a journey through hell.

For most Indians, Kashmir is a very emotive issue. Without Kashmir, the map of India looks grotesque; headless. The governments keep harping all the time on how Kashmir is an integral part of India, yet India possesses less than half of what we see in the maps.

As this rough image shows, India occupies about 47% of Kashmir, which it calls the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and which the Pakistanis call Indian-occupied-Kashmir (IoK).

This hodge-podge is the legacy of Partition. Everyone expected Kashmir to go to Pakistan; so much so that Jinnah actually planned on going on holiday there. However the then Maharaja of Kashmir Hari Singh was having delusions of remaining independent and making Kashmir the Switzerland of Asia. The Pakistanis lost patience with him and sent in their army as kabailis or tribesmen. These kabailis started a campaign of terror and looting. The Maharaja appealed to India for help. Nehru agreed  to oblige but only if the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession and joined his state to India. The Maharaja had no choice. Indian troops landed in Srinagar and pushed back the tribesmen, who were too busy raping and pillaging in Baramullah and Mirpur. However midway through the war Pt. Nehru decided to take the issue to the UN, which ordered an immediate ceasefire. That ceasefire line is today known as the LoC.

The UN security council resolution 47 does advocate plebiscite; but not before demilitarization on both sides. Moreover these resolutions are not enforceable, and have lost all relevance. In 2010,  the UN removed Jammu and Kashmir from its list of disputed territories.

Enough of history. What does all this mean to an ordinary Kashmiri. For an ordinary Kashmiri living under the suffocating gaze of the army all these resolutions and agreements and declarations mean nothing. It can be hard for an ordinary Indian to comprehend the loathing an ordinary Kashmiri feels for India and everything which represents it.

Kashmir Valley (orange bordered) lies in Indian state Jammu & Kashmir

By Kashmiri, I mean someone from the valley (encircled). There is little to no trouble in Hindu majority Jammu and sparsely populated Ladakh. The animosity towards India in the valley is deep-rooted and even understandable. The elections of 1987 which were rigged by Delhi caused mass upheaval which Pakistan actively supported with funds, weaponry and international diplomacy. By the mid 90s Kashmir had become a major headache for India. However it is a misconception that the trouble in Kashmir is wholly engineered by Pakistan. There is genuine disaffection in the mind of the ordinary Kashmiri towards India. The Indian Army has no doubt indulged in human rights abuses in the valley. The thing is, when you have a dangerous and violent insurgency to quell, and the enemy is well blended into the civilian population, and it is impossible to separate terrorist from civilian, armed forces have to do everything in their power to  bring some semblance of order in a sensitive area. At the height of militancy no less than 4-5000 people were being killed every year. Now it is less than 200. This did not happen on its own. Also the nature of the insurgency is one that has strong jihadist undertones (secular outfits like the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front were quickly sidelined by Pakistan’s ISI in favour of more Islamist groups like the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen). Indeed one of the first acts of the insurrectionists was the attempted genocide of the Hindu minority of Kashmiri Pandits, who are even today languishing in refugee camps.  AFSPA is not permanent, states like Tripura have shown that AFSPA can be removed provided all the stake-holders agree on shunning violence. However it is in Pakistan’s interest to keep the Kashmir pot simmering. Even though India claims the whole of Kashmir to be its ‘integral’ part; the reality is that as far as Kashmir is concerned India is the status-quo power. It is Pakistan which seeks the redrawing of borders. Both countries know, and perhaps India knows it better, that reunification of Kashmir is now a pipe dream.

The closest India and Pakistan came in resolving the dispute was under the leaderships of Manmohan Singh and Parvez Musharraf. However internal turmoil in Pakistan and the 2008 Mumbai attacks destroyed all progress.

What then, is the solution? It is quite easy for populist leaders and aspiring activists to raise slogans of azadi. Is an independent Kashmir even viable? Kashmir produces nothing of value and is landlocked; making it critically dependent on its neighbors. The state economy is kept afloat by generous funds from Delhi and from tourism. An independent valley would almost certainly be torn apart with proxy wars by both countries, or fall into starvation and economic ruin. What is the guarantee that once Indian forces withdrew, Pakistan would not invade and annex Kashmir? Thousands of Kashmiri students study in various cities in India and find employment here. What would be their future in an independent Kashmir?

Also there is the issue of water. Both Indus and Jhelum pass through Kashmir. These rivers are the lifeblood of Pakistan. The Indus Water Treaty notwithstanding, control of Kashmir gives India crucial control of these rivers as it is the upper riparian state.

And finally there is the question of identity. Control of Kashmir is a crucial element in India’s identity as a secular state. By and large the Indian view is that Kashmiris will see the wisdom of sticking with India and the militancy will die out eventually. Today Pakistan has lost all credibility in the international stage. It is known as the fountainhead of terrorism and is counted among the world’s failed states. On the other hand, India, while continuing to face a lot of challenges,including poverty and corruption, is known as a rising economic star and may well be the world’s third biggest economy by the 2040s. Yes, there is the question of justice, but the Machil fake encounter verdict has shown that India is willing to address the human rights issues in Kashmir. Hence the solution can only  be full integration of J&K into the union of India, abolition of Article 370, normalization of center-state relations and abolition of AFSPA and demilitarization of the Valley. Obviously this is not something that is going to happen overnight. It may take years, decades even, and will require tremendous political will. But it is the best bet the Kashmiris have. And it is the only scenario in which they have a viable future.

The story of Kashmir is the perfect story of how ordinary people suffer in the great games between two powers. This is Kashmir’s misfortune.

I’m reminded of Vajpayee’s impassioned poem on Kashmir

Jabtak Ganga Ki Dhar Sindhu Main Jwar Agni Main Jalan Surya Main Tapan Shesh
Swatantr Samar Ki Vedi Per Arpit Honge Aganit Jeevan Youvan Ashesh
Amerika Kya Poora Sansar Bhale Hi Ho Viruddh Kashmir per Bharat ka Dhwaj Nahi Jhukega
Ek Nahi Do Nahi Karo Beeson Samjhote Per Swatantr Bharat Ka Nishchay Nahi Rukega

The Cremation Grounds

The wood has been piled, the incense procured;
And all the little assortments-my final adornments,are ready.
Ghee and camphor lie waiting meekly;
To accompany me on my journey, my fate.
The priest is ancient, and the verses he astutely mumbles,
Are even more so.
The Wind is eager to serve as my vehicle
For it is on his shoulders that part of me must journey on.
There are no weeping faces, no curious onlookers
Save some crows; who look positively baffled by the proceedings.
The priest goes on with the motions mechanically.
A true embodiment of the ancient virtue of detachment
For it is his own son he must burn today.
But he has seen too many deaths
And has been singed by the death-fires of the ghat.
His lungs are caked with the fumes of burning corpses,
And his eyes are glazed by the lights of death.
I can now see the vastness of open sky
And feel the twists and turns of the wood beneath.
Yes I'm dead, but I'm alive;
And it is in the clear mind of the priest
That I dwell, able to see the vastness of open sky
And feel the twists and turns of the wood beneath.
But now the wood is cracking and the smoke rising
For it is time for me to go.
The purifying fires course through me
And my heart is now a fire engine;
Furiously converting body to part smoke, part ashes.
For I was man, made of elements and breath.
The breath was gone, so what use were the elements to me?
They would nourish a plant; which shall bloom a flower
And in its fragrance, shall I be reincarnated.

Winter

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It is that time of the year;
When Nature goes back to sleep;
When the sky freezes into a gray crispness;
And the velvet of snow blankets the earth.
You shiver in the air's frigid embrace;
And the cold sinks in deep;
Unearthly light glows from decrepit cottages;
Anonymous hopes are burning in the hearths.
The wolves are howling in the woods;
And at dusk the darkness does creep;
The silence builds up, like the icy crystals;
On the walls of some ancient caves.
But a more mystical Winter has taken birth;
The melancholy of life chokes me more;
Than Winter's frozen breath ever could.
In Winter's seclusion I find my solace;
And in the knowledge that I never would;
Escape from the Winter in my heart.
No, even a thousand Suns would be powerless;
Because I have seen Life for what it is;
And there is nothing I could want more;
Than to escape the sheer tragedy that is existence!
And in Winter's arms I have my chance;
To finally live in a world of my own;
A world so beautiful! and wholly mine!
Where Winter reigns in body and soul;
And Magic pervades into every cell;
In every breath; in every heartbeat!
Just take me to that place;
Take me there where Winter reigns!
Where even a thousand Suns are powerless,
To thaw the ice; both temporal and spiritual;
And where the waterfalls are frozen in time.
Take me there where Winter reigns;
And its Magic pervades every heart...

Autumn

autumn_evening_in_park-1564343.jpgThey say we are each born with ideas;

And we pick up more as we grow;

Till we are so full we can’t take anything else in;

Unable to carry the burden we walk around;

And the weight keeps tightening in our throats.

However as I walked back that day;

I could hear my dreams crunching beneath my feet.

They were autumn leaves.

Shed by trees who had undertaken their ritual austerity;

And who waited in anticipation of a long Winter;

When they can finally go to sleep.

As the trees had shed their leaves;

So had I shed my old dreams.

The air was crisp and thick with the crushed expectations.

When an idea shatters, it leaves in its wake grief;

But also the promise of rebirth;

Of something better, something even more beautiful.

Under the glow of the solitary street lamp;

I watched as the dew drops glistened on the golden leaves.

There was no pain in my heart;

Only a most addictive feeling;

Being overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of life!

What is indeed, life meant for;

If not to savor the beauty of Autumn?

When a hope is crushed, it makes but a feeble sound;

Which nonetheless can be heard clearly;

And which fills the heart of men with sadness, sometimes pity.

But hopes are crushed so new leaves can grow.

Green and vibrant, full of life!

Dancing in the joy of sunlight!

The hope is replaced by something better, something more beautiful.

For what is indeed, life meant for;

If not to savor the beauty of Autumn?

 

 

A nation of Adarsh Bhakts and Adarsh Liberals

flag759Observe any discussion on social media. What is the first thing you notice? Did you ever manage to find an agreement emerging from all the hateful comments?

The fact is, our society, at least the educated class, people with access to internet and smartphones and enough time to waste,  is today unbelievably polarised.

The Indians are long dead, we are today a nation of adarsh bhakts and adarsh liberals.

We see a perverted form of nationalism being forced down people’s throats at one end, while at the other an equally macabre trend of being ‘intellectual’ by abusing the country is emerging. The key point here is both sides want to provoke each other so as to elicit a reaction. The so called ‘liberals’ of this country ( a blight on the tag ) would like to make you believe they are the victim. The world loves victims. Playing victim is the surest way of gaining public sympathy, both domestically and internationally. And yet nowhere in the world have I seen the blatant hypocrisy and double standards of the Indian liberal establishment.

And yet, thanks to their Oxford and Cambridge degrees, and their accented English, they virtually control the discourse the international community takes on India. Their domination of the country’s universities and colleges, hitherto unchallenged, is now under threat.

Today’s Indian does not need someone else to do his thinking for him. He is well capable of thinking for himself.

As a political force, the Left in India is weak, but their stranglehold on people’s minds in unparalleled. Hundreds of millions of Indians have grown up reading books written by Leftist authors, glorifying revolution and socialism and Stalin and Mao; while hating globalisation and free trade and the United States.

What is the reason for the Left’s total domination of the intellectual discourse of this country? The emphasis on education, on good English, and the ability to sound as if they could create the perfect socialist utopia are possible reasons. Also, leftist movements have played a not insignificant role in fighting against social evils and for the rights of the marginalised. This is an area where some credit is definitely due.

As for the Right- uncouth, clumsy, pompous; these are just few of the words that come to mind. For years the Right has been a marginal force in Indian politics. Relegated to the sidelines by a Congress dominated polity and Left dominated intelligentsia, the Right was probably waiting for the right moment when Indians would have had enough of the basic necessities so that they could start thinking about things like religion.

What is the reason for the Right’s political successes in India?

The fact is there are genuine grievances among the people. Grievances which cannot be brushed away even with high doses of political correctness in Oxford English. The cynical exploitation of these insecurities, real or imagined, is what has propelled the Right forward the world over. India is no different. People like it when someone is in charge. They don’t like weak governments. Hindu mythology is replete with warnings on the dangers of anarchy. However more often than not, the Right gets bogged down and obsessed with trivial issues instead of implementing the larger picture. At this point I would like to remind that there is no right or wrong in politics; there are only narratives, and those narratives prevail whose proponents are the strongest.

The Right in India lacks tact. It is clumsy, it defames itself and is ignorant of the way international perceptions work. Notice the brilliant way the Leftist media and journalists controlled the JNU issue. Contrast it with the bone-headed clumsiness of the Right. Lawyer goons, bounty announcements and death threats, yeah sounds like the perfect way to get people to your side.

In the end, what would you rather have? A country with people like Kanhaiya or a country with people like Vikram Chauhan?

I’m reminded of an interesting analogy. It is a borrowed concept so it is possible you might have heard of this before. A country needs to stay in balance to move forward while protecting the rights of her citizens. Both ‘feminine’  and ‘masculine’ forces have to interact in a delicate balance of power. ‘Feminine’ societies emphasise individual freedoms, a culture of discussion and debate and the pursuit of things like arts and philosophy. On the other hand, ‘Masculine’ societies emphasise discipline, unity and strength. Both these systems have their own merits and demerits and no one system should be allowed to dominate. Instead they should coexist with a delicate balance of power and the influence of each should wax and wane in accordance with the needs of the times.

Hence we should not take extreme positions on any issue. It is extremely important to understand that there are two sides to every issue. Let’s not widen the unfortunate gulf that has emerged between us. This country belongs to all of us. All of us have an equal responsibility to its welfare and an equal claim to its benevolence. Can we not agree to build a consensus to take the country forward? Why is India still bogged down with all this mandir-masjid, beef, and JNU bullshit? Within ten years we can become a ten trillion dollar economy (PPP). The nineties generation is the one which is going to take India beyond the five trillion dollar level within the next ten years. For the first time, the dream of having decent living standards for all Indians is within sight. Let’s not allow ourselves to falter once more. This country has suffered enough under Nehruvian socialism. This is the time when the animal spirits of India are finally about to unleash. Don’t restrict them with trivial issues.

 

 

 

 

 

Approach To Life

“What is the meaning of life?”
“What is the purpose of life?”
These are such clichéd questions aren’t they? And yet all of us have, at some point, asked ourselves these questions. These questions continue to vex us. Like anyone else I too asked myself these same questions. But where were the answers?
A natural response is to try to find the answers in religion. So I read the Bhagavad Gita, I read the Bible, I read the Quran, I read some of the Upanishads. I read the writings of people like Swami Vivekananda. But nowhere could I find a satisfactory answer. The so-called spiritual gurus almost always avoided this question in that sly way of theirs.
The pursuit of knowledge is what makes us grow. Therefore I started reading books on evolution. I read the works of people like Dawkins and Bertrand Russell. This was the point where, the answer came to me in a flash one night.
The answer is very simple.
There is no inherent meaning to life. It is for us, as self-aware, thinking humans to choose what meaning we want our life to have.
We owe our existence to an accident, that’s it. I know it is very tempting to think that there is some divine plan behind why things happen. Trust me, it is simply your brain playing games on you. This is because the brain is conditioned to discern patterns. Inevitably we overlook things which don’t fit into the pattern while amplifying things which do. It is almost as if the pattern has created cavities in the mental fabric and hence you only detect those things which fill into the cavity.
There is no meaning. What a liberating idea isn’t it?? There is no meaning! You are free to choose what meaning you want to give to your life because that’s what makes you happy. That’s all

The Beginning

Hey guys.  A lot of people have been telling me that I should start my own blog. I also felt that Facebook is not really the perfect platform to put forward my views on various subjects. So here it goes and hope you all like it! 🙂