Friday, January 19, 2018

Black to color

In the last odd twenty years we have seen considerable development , actually its at a pace that can’t be measured ,and it cannot be stopped or checked . In fact , we would get into this debate another day . On a nostalgic note, what I remember one very special and interesting way of chronicling our lives; it was through black and white permanent pictures. It was such a ritual , getting ready , dressing up in one’s finery , hair oiled and slick and then standing straight waiting to be called where the photographer came. The elders sat ramrod straight on the chairs or sofa , and the youngsters all lined up sitting on the floor or standing on the side with practically no smile.
A photographer was called only for special occasions and everyone was together for the ceremonial picture which was chronicled as part of the family history.
There were no retakes, no selfies, no taking of unnecessary pictures, just the few because the bottom line was everything cost money . Birthdays, weddings, deaths , important milestones were all marked and pictures were collected and pasted in albums where the page was black and was separated with paper and cloth bound in a spiral manner and had Memories written on it .This was kept as a piece of pride in the drawing room taken out and shown to guests . It was a matter of pride for the parents and embarrassment for the kids who were paraded out always.
Remember the times, when you were called to come and show your skills and made to enact in front of all to the present day age , where the proud mother just shows the video clip on the smart phone.
Life was sepia colored with the occasional touch up in pink done by the photographer and then we graduated to color and the practice of albums also started declining. One started making smaller albums and they started being relegated to different corners of the house. And, thus began the advent of a fast pace of life. Did we grow up? Have we gained more , are we happier with this sudden increase of materialistic possessions? Are we happier with the instant filming of every moment ? Where filters decide us,and I have known of women to stand in a particular way, pouting away just like Ms. Piggy and with hair all over . We have started documenting every moment with the fear that we will lose the picture but we lose the moment as one was busy taking pictures!

The fear of missing out has made us all in a hurry to take pictures with the best exposure , pixels. In fact , the airbrushing and the coloring of one’s pictures and just wiping away the wrinkles to enervate the maximum likes has given birth to an industry that is just dedicated to making us look like Greek Goddess and Gods. Being Human is just not enough , that also got patented you see. How I long for the days, when pictures were few, genuine ,we looked like we were, and they were treasured rather than deleted at whim! Call me old-fashioned, but the vintage rocks.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Lohri and soul to sole

Do you realise the funny thing about your chappals or shoes , you keep on wearing them , year after year and the sole wears off , we just throw them but it wears off in funny uneven way? Some portions are worn so thin and some are high and bumps are left in places. In the same fashion , we lead our lives and some encounters leave you with a warm feeling and some drain you away leaving you all wet, cold ,and desolate .
These are all learning processes .You know all those forwards you get in the morning on your Whatsapp that you are scrolling sitting on the throne ; those all were written with some kind of personal knowledge and acumen and insight .
A cynical view is that someone somewhere is being paid to write all this stuff and being paid by the mileage the quote gains . Well, I think that all these were written when our soul gets affected and it wears thin . It’s always when something happens to us , a personal incident that we learn when the pain hits us close to home but do we ever see whether the soul gets worn thin too ..I think it does. 
Every day we feel is a new day , walking in our shoes, clocking the mileage , but being so nonchalant about the incidents that happen in our lives that we don’t let them impact us any more.Has the soul become so thick , that we have an arm or around it of indifference that we lead our lives in a rut and just ignore by losing oneself in the virtual life we lead , the blinders we put so as to just be worried about the likes we get.
A Netflix drama that impacted me in a big way was Black Mirror that I watched that had a society just livin gits life based on the popularity index one had. One was measured literally by the likes and the percentage one got .
It was so hard-hitting and was a true depiction of what we are currently living our lives as. I am also guilty of using hashtags to highlight causes, to support movements online, but I wonder where does it all end? Suppose one day our lives are governed by the percentage of likes one gets ,that would in turn influence every decision of how we live , eat , where we live , our performance ,our jobs, our dating pattern, our entire lives.
This life would just be controlled by artificial intelligence and a world where everything would be picture perfect and painted in rosy hues .
Is that where we live?
Tomorrow , is Lohri, a day of celebration where we burn the fire to get rid of evils and to spread good cheer. But , do we get rid of the evils or is it just a day to have another holiday , another party and eat some more. I think the only new invention of my life is the hashtag , that has been elevated to heavenly levels to support a cause , but does the rot end? Justice for Zainab , has pained just as much as Nirbhaya did, raping an innocent child then strangulating her and letting her die.. Who does this?
This is the scourge that needs to be expunged and we have many like this in our country , this is where the universal rule of justice should step in and  we all need to unite universally as one to end this.
Walk the miles, walk the years , let the chappals wear but let the soul /sole be intact , then only does Happy Lohri happen .

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Nikki ya Chotu

How would you like to spend your entire life, being called as Nikki or Chotu? Shakespeare didn’t mean that ‘ a rose by any other name would smell as sweet ‘. In Punjab, and primarily in the villages every young boy is Chotu, and every young girl working at home is called Nikki. They are always introduced with their names but slowly and surely one starts calling them Chotu and Nikki and before you shake your head in denial and say no, well it is true. You all have done it, and continue to do it, as we don’t think they are so important to remember their name, it’s a chalta hain attitude and Punjabis are so guilty of it.
We just go with the flow and ignore and forget or should I say conveniently forget. Stop and try and learn about them. It changes everything to the next level. Next time, call them with the name they were given and you will be rewarded with a smile and the efficiency would be manifold. The personal touch that is so missing in our lives comes back and the bond becomes stronger. No one, if they could avoid it would ever work for someone in a subservient way. Its not, easy being a servant and to be at the beck and call of someone. Try it for a day and you will start the next revolution. And, on top it to be a faceless one, no reference to the game of thrones, please.
Arvind is a young boy, he wants to be an actor but is stuck in Punjab that is more economically sound for him but is not what he wants. It is stifling, the food, the culture, the language, everything brow beats him into submission. He has no name but is oye chotu to all, and all he does is sweep the lawns so no leaf is left on the turf. Aren’t leaves supposed to fall? Isn’t there a change in season and a cycle but his destiny seems stuck in a cog in some nondescript village dotting India. The biting cold makes him want to buy a muffler but the phones minutes and talk time leave him stretched.
Sunita, a young Christian girl wants to study but is a maid and is a professional choir singer and has a tutor coming to teach her, she works all day long but her dreams make her soar. Life for her is not about who is at the helm of affairs; all she wants is her salary and how to make it stretch and also educate herself.
Day to day living trying to make it through in one piece and stretching the rupee is what counts. I think ordinary people are the real heroes. Try talking to one, next time and life sure gets interesting. I usually strike conversations with the people that re in the background, the ones who are there but are not there. The sweeper in the emergency PGI ward, who cleaned the ward with such a holy zeal that one, was left astounded. Asha, the old nurse who brought me a cup of tea just because I needed it and loved my smile! In the moments of adversity and when one is down, help and smiles come from people who you would ordinarily never ever bother about. I know this sounds very arrogant and snobbish, but we never expect kindness. Society nowadays has become so jaded that we do not expect kindness, empathy or sympathy or plain basic manners. But, help does come from unexpected quarters to paraphrase my favorite book Harry Potter. If the person reads this who handed me a sweet just when I crucially needed it, and I was lost, scared and had panicked in a real life emergency situation, you are truly divine. Thank you Sir.
I wish I knew your name, Sir.
Empathy is what makes us truly human. There is nothing that comes closer and there is no substitute for this , no education , or money or what the is virtual world is making us, I fear one day we will all be known by our online, projected identities and the art of talking would be lost . After reading this , try asking a few questions to your help  and delve into her life , it would make all the difference.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

An Age old dilemma

Kaka, my age is 35 to 40 years, another said she was 61 /62years. All the ladies at the medical camp proclaimed themselves to be at least ten years younger when the slips were being made. We recently held a medical camp for the neighboring villages and our own and the funniest was that all the old aunties, grannies and every woman that was in line denied her real age!
It was hilarious and comic to see them saying in loud tones that they were all younger than they looked but don’t know how the had all the ailments of old age. Buddhapa was just in the air, they said. Must be the hawa –paani of the pind that they all looked older than they were.
All our lives we are manipulated into presenting ourselves to be younger than what we were. When we are young children, we all are in a hurry to grow up, and grow up fast. When we are older, we all want to look, feel younger than what we are. It is always a race against time. The society conditions and exploits us to manoeuvre, engineer us to buy cosmetics, to be body shamed into looking younger and always holding to the fountain of youth. This subtle orchestrating is quiet and bombards women and now men also to look younger in every way. Being fit is one thing, but where to becomes an obsession and we stop aging gracefully, things go asunder. A few grey hairs are the cause of worry. And, then when gravity starts dragging everything down we start striking deals with the new age dietitians who exhort huge amounts of money and then drinking all the dishwater to loose the fat we Punjabis have in our genes.
You know the amount of money we spend on loosing weight through exercise and the new age fangled diets where we are given the newest of seeds that aren’t heard of and numerous smoothies, and sometimes the early morning hot water –lemon, cinnamon mix and the requisite number of dry fruits to accelerate the metabolism. How lovely it would be if we all loved each other and accepted each other as we were? We all are different and we all are born to stand out, to change the quote of Dr Seuss. Instead of becoming and aping the starlets and the glamorous women who are shown on billboards and on social media whose real picture is photo shopped, airbrushed, highlighted, contoured to look all different.
Life has all become about filters, we just don’t want to show our real self anymore.
This has filtered to our villages also, the village shop boasts of an all time high sale of green tea, and every nook and corner we have girls who do facials, brightening ones to look all fair and lovely and the hair is masked for as cheap as Rs 5 thanks to Godrej kesh kala.
This has been the lament of one our maids who thinks I am going the wrong way and should color my hair jet black. I have hair that announces that winter is coming.  All the women go on early morning walks try new things just to loose weight and to look better.
Vanity, beauty is just not for the rich, its for the masses and is so rightly been used by the multinationals when they made every thing sachet size. From the soap, to the cream, to the body soap so full of perfume and the oil and the facemask has been economized and packaged attractively to lure the customer.
We are a nation in a hurry to look, be smart and western and this is influencing the next generation who subconsciously now think the way to arrive or to be noticed is to look western, wear clothes and to have hair that are cut, streaked , and teased ! In fact kids have started eating more junk food to escape eating whole some food and to just have kurkure so that they don’t get fat . It took me a long time to convince a young girl I taught that eating roti was healthy too. She didn’t want to get fat , you see .

To solve this weighty debate , and to stop the clock we need to be confident and embrace ourselves as we are and be confident and what we are ! Otherwise , you and me would also be shouting and saying no we aren’t 60 years old.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What's in a name ?

What is in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet  is a popular reference to William Shakespeare play of Romeo and Juliet . Shakespeare would have loved visiting my small village that has the most colorful names, its like as if the naming squad decided to pay homage to the Britishers who ruled us and just left all of us with complexes to have the white, fair skin and the best ode naming them after the gora log. So, one ambitious lady who wanted to out do the rest of the women, named her son Bladder. Bladder is the best cow-help we have, he can coax milk out of the most stubbornness’ of them.
His name as you can see is contradictory or on some levels an indicator to milking.
What must his mother be thinking when she named him this? Does she know what it means? I don’t think so. There is another tall, old, with a flowing beard Gursikh gentleman who works on the farm is in charge of the planting is quite senior in the hierarchy whose name is, Phanni. Yes, you heard it; it’s a funny name.
This person is extremely religious, makes annual trips to the gurudwaras and is a devout Sikh. He’s been a Phanni all his life and now has grandchildren who go to English schools.
The measure of success in Punjab is how well you speak English, to ape all mannerisms, to be a pseudo- intellectual with complete disdain for its rural identity. The culture, the identity and the ethos of what we stand for, has changed as we try to embrace a culture that is not ours.
At first we gave up wearing our clothes, and simultaneously the language we speak. In fact, it is a matter of grave concern if you can’t speak English and have an accent that is pronounced Punjabi and is pendu. Also, heaven forbid, if you wear Punjabi clothes and don’t wear the western attire. I have had ladies express horror and sadness that I lived in a village
And they wondered how I commuted to the city. It also doesn’t help that I wear suits and have hair that goes in a bun. And isn’t colored to suit the rainbow. I don’t have the requisite streaking you see.
They also wondered what I did in the evenings.  There are  William , Nathaniel all who live in the next village , who have the best waiters in town. I wonder, how many Alices ,Preety , who is pretty , by the way have a life that the Alice’s of the west have.
We name our children with a hope that the names influence their destiny but sometimes all the names chosen go astray. Issac of the next village is Issak now. It doesn’t end there, Lot became lutta , and Same became Semaa , the best green fingers doctor. It is how ever another story that he is a reformed drug addict who had a mild problem, is forever in  need of money but can coax life out of a dead plant also. He has magical green fingers.

The old fashioned names which were synonymous of Punjab, have given to names that are modern, short. We all try to blend in, to blend into a nameless, faceless society that has lost its will , identity and has forgotten to be proud. We are in fact a, society that is looking for answers from outside, and love blaming the ill wills to a fast paced virtual life that is so far away from the problems that plague us. Embracing oneself, bing proud of one’s heritage and sticking to the old fashion values that we had would lead us out of the problems of corruption that has seeped into the fabric. Naming a child with a fancy schmancy name isn’t deliverance, deliverance starts by the values, morals and the valor of yesteryear and don’t let it be relegated to monuments only . Till then , we have trivial twitter debates on Taimur’s name  and the recent ugly spat of Hrithik and Kangana!