Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Sunshine & Puppiness

Who am I? What am I doing on the planet?
Am I living the life I came here to live …?

I’m thinking about psytrance & psycho-puppies as I amble along, entranced in my Sillie Millie world. We walk a long path at least once a day, an enhanced insight into the world we live in. Every day is a new experience, as we explore the bushes and listen for the birds together, equally curious about the scuffling in the bushes, equally wary to go explore… she sniffs & I sigh at the fresh neon leaves blinging our brains in the bright morning sunlight, and keep an watchful eye out for the inevitable fresh dollops of multi-creature poop she always discovers just the second I turn my back!

From our earliest memories, we’ve been marinating in the mantra….
It’s the pursuit of happiness!

A few months ago, I found myself marinating in my mind…lost in my thoughts, always a million miles away from here & now, struggling to overcome horrific writer’s block, and general apathy. Nothing seemed to be going the way I had imagined things would be…and then, one night, we found Millie Mouse.

Millie Mouse attempts to usurp Fat Jimmy's throne

She bounces on the path beside me, the small frilly tail waving along like a little peace flag as her helicopter ears flap eagerly, ready to dive into the newest poop-pile as I revel in how she has revolutionized my world. Sure, I’m always tired, and sure, I’ve forgotten how many times I've sworn to myself that I’ll NEVER EVER have kids. I’d forgotten entirely how magical early mornings are, and I am grateful that I wake up to her puppy breath every morning when she dives headlong into my bed, excited that a new play day has begun. And when her naughty, button eyes glow in the setting sun, racing in the garden nipping fat, old Jimmy’s legs as she usurps his sand throne, she radiates pure pleasure to be alive.

And yet our mind is full of scheming, and worrying, and fretting….

As far as engaging with the everyday world is concerned, there is a deep void resonating in the recesses of my mind - at twenty-eight, I have very little material possessions. I don’t have a car, or a house, or a husband, or children, or a huge-digit salary, or any of what most of my peers are excited about and aspiring for. I own two ginormous cartons of books, a suitcase full of hand-me-down clothes (and a few bought for me by my parents in the hopes I could manage to look more ‘presentable’). My bank account has had the last laugh for this year.

And yet, here I am, lost along the long path, gazing at the hills all aglow in the setting sun The creeping fingers of dusk soften softens the gloriously green hill, bathing it with a soft golden light, thick motes of evening sunshine creating dappled shadows onto the overgrown path. Thorns prick, and overhanging branches reach out their grasping twigs. My cotton pants rip a little more, silent spectator to all the scrambles through the bramble Millie Mouse & I enjoy so much.

 Love, Medicine & Natural Trance

Our world as we know it, is essentially a lie. The corporatization of love & life has broken us into tiny fragmented societies, divided by fake boundaries and imaginary lines on a map[1].  We are morbidly afraid of each other, and everything, and believe that the ultimate source of our happiness is money[2], and more money. As we discover new conspiracies of control, here are some things that helped me change my heart.

Our craniums are crammed with new thoughts, ideas and decisions on a daily basis, and given how caught up we are in the intricate webs of the internet, we forget how to express ourselves.

I read this list of resolutions we all ought to strive for in the year ahead, and guess what, I’m already there! A good beginning has been to put aside work & technology, and get out there & explore. My world has evolved ever since early morning walks became a routine. I say hi to Jimmy, Lassie, Handsome, Fetso, Puppy & WhatsUp while they play with Millie, and though I usually forget their humans’ names, the whole act of smiling hugely while saying ‘hi’ is a complete change from my usual surly disposition. And I promise you, these aint no fake smiles, I’m honestly happy to see them. The dogs exchange sniffs and discusses details of the latest lump of poo, running amok and over the hill, and the humans smile stupidly at the cuteness of it all. Evenings are spent gushing over Molly, Choti, Martha and Dylan (the human puppy who regularly sneaks into our yard to play with Millie). It is but natural that Love brings happiness.

Speaking of which, I’ve rediscovered that happiness is the best Medicine. I befriended a fitness freak, (yes, while discussing our dogs.) and he encouraged me to exercise with him. A few stretches on a regular basis really changed my disposition. Exercise brings an incredible strength and stamina, and the rush of oxygen is an excellent wake up call for our bodies. It automatically brings in a certain amount of dedicated discipline and happiness. 

we realize that happiness is found
in the present moment…

Being in Goa has given me much to be grateful for. I see the birds & bees, the sun through the trees. Having Millie around taught me to be alive. Millie has moved on to Carl & Noel’s place. She has Spasiba (a.k.a Papa Siba), Handsome Stranger & Loafer to play with, and a giant garden to sunbathe in. Taking her home was the right thing to do, but giving her away, was even better. Her humans all secretly cried, but Millie Mouse is happy, and that’s all that matters.

Millie sunbathing in her new home with Papa Siba & Loafer 

Carl & Noel's little princess 

This has been a year to be grateful for. Despite all the deaths, murders, rapes, hunger, starvation, riots, wars & tragedies, I am alive. I haven’t been homeless, hungry, afraid or alone. My family adores me, my friends bear with me, my colleagues care about me. It’s been an important year for me to know that while this world is busy being fucked up, there are many good souls out there. Some are friends, many were strangers. Collectively, they’ve brought on a wholly different dimension to my understanding of the ways of this world. I’ve learnt to dedicate myself to tasks I’ve chosen to do. Sure, I’m slow, and quite the languid soul. But dedication has brought in a lot of free time. Time to enjoy the tranquility of natural trance. I’ve learnt to say NO. I’ve learnt to refuse to do something if I didn’t want to. And I’ve learnt to accept things life as it is, and to change what I can. As I read, travel & meet people, I’ve learnt there are many out there who agree that simplicity is the key to break corporate monopolies & capitalist empires. My friend told me about a minimalist project she has undertaken, and another told me how he’s happy earning 1000INR a day. (He drives a cab here in Goa, and trust me, for him to make such a choice in tourist season, is a huge step.)

What’s been reinforced for me this year has been that money is inconsequential, and what really counts is everyday rebellion. As our world hurtles towards further insanity & destruction, we, who believe in the possibility of a different world must continue to fight for our rights. Our right to land, clean water, freedom, safety and the truth.

Oh Heart, lead the way to the Being within
~ Sarbakhepi (the Mad One), The Fakir

In the year ahead, my resolution is to follow my heart, pick the right sides to fight for, the right people to fight with. I will not be afraid, and nor will I worry. There is a lot of love & laughter right here with me, in the guise of all the friends & family I’ve acquired over the years, all the trance dancers who stomped their way into my heart, all the dissenters who taught me to dream different, and all the doggies who pranced their way into my heart, my home.

Thank you all for believing in me, for giving me the faith to carry on,
and for all the sunshine & puppiness. 

May our tribe increase.

Psst: there's some of you out there I don't have photos of...I still love you anyway.

[1] Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd International.
[2] The Dalai Lama ~ “These days, in our materialistic culture, many people are led to believe that money is the ultimate source of happiness. Consequently, when they don’t have enough of it they feel let down…”

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Dare to Dissent. Dream Different.

A coal blackened board welcomes us as we drive through "Desh ki Koyla Rajdhani - Dhanbad". Coal and Capital. Our country's current obsession. Just a few people shy of complete coverage of human rights issues in all of Jharkhand's 24 districts, a colleague (at the time snoozing on the back seat) and I were Travel-Tripping across the state, reconnecting with the many friends and associates we have acquired in our many years of IndiaUnheard in Jharkhand. The road from Ranchi took us through Hazaribag, onto the broken roads of Bengal, past the "prestigious" Maithon dam (which by the way, displaced thousands of the native people, most of whom are still homeless migrants), right on through the steady, stoic hills of the Santhal Pargana, into Dumka.

Dumka is one of many Coal Cities across Jharkhand, complete with its unique kind of inadequate infrastructure suffering from wave after wave of migrants. Every chai tapri at the main bus stop has filthy, malnourished little boys serving up chai and sweets to tired, daily wagers. The usual labourers trudge through their daily drudgery, as the heat adds to the tentacles of nausea creeping through your stomach...the eyes acclimatize to garbage choked gutters, packs of scrawny, scarred dogs narrowly tottering out of the way of speeding, careless cars, their tails tucked under, much like human shoulders, cowering under the relentless sun.

I think of 'Kalyug', Bengali tongue and wandering mind loosely translating the words as 'Black Age', and I have to smother a giant giggle loop[1], as I easily imagine a giant hand sweep the entire town a sooty, coal black...just another Coal Capital...

Work, is love made visible ~ Kahlil Gibran

These ten days I've been tripping on Bubble. They've sampled Kahlil Gibran into psy-trance! But I digress. It's been ten days. Roughly two thousand kilometres of travel, and I see Jharkhand's Coal Capitals reluctantly give way to green fields. The highway swings dangerously through Reserved Forests. Railway lines meander through elephant corridors of the dense, rocky jungles. I feel a little lost in this world, a world so different, yet so alike the world I live in, high on the hills of rain soaked Goa. As we steal moments of silence, (to balance the relentless public personality required by recruitment drives), the solitude is marred by glitches in radio, hushed tones, forbidden words, and autos with "bhojpuria dabanng" scrawled across the back, reminding us where we are. I think of an old man's stories of a forgotten Bombay where Malad was once overfull with orchards, the age prior to the vulgarization of democracy and before the beginnings of bourgeoisie politics. It's now Mumbai, with a glass cased airport, the epitome of bustling modernity, queues snaking into the buses that roll a few hundred metres, up to the aircraft, as baggage handlers catch their breath on the steaming sidewalks, while on the other side, children clutch coke bottles in their small hands as their press their noses to the glass walls, air-conditioning condensing their breath into little droplets. The music on the bus wails 80's Bollywood laments of times a-changing, and the doors of the bus sigh open, almost in agreement. The aircraft bounces on to and off different tarmacs, Goa > Mumbai > Patna, and finally, Birsa Munda International Airport, Ranchi. Funny, they named it after the tribal icon who led his people to freedom. And I wonder how many of his people were displaced forcibly to build this airport.

Jharkhand has been on my mind a while. The people have a fascinating history and intriguing culture, much akin to our good ol' Goa hippies - a pragmatic reverence of the delicate balance of the environment and the necessity of our dependence on that balance. Embracing the Earth and her elements has been a long-loved lifestyle for these people, and the current race to capital has shattered many a fragile forest, home to many. I'm discovering these similarities during multiple meetings in the midst of mind-boggling confusion of circumstances.

We find ourselves slowly driving down the same stretch of National Highway multiple times looking out for a man in a "pink shirt, carrying a plastic bag". Driving back and forth, we realize he's wearing a white shirt, pale pink stripes barely visible to our tired eyes, and the plastic bag is actually rolled up under his arm. We bump across broken fields, which are pretending to be roads, to come up to a peepul tree, the farthest any vehicle is allowed to go. We're in Chhittarpur. A murmur of Johar, and startled smiles are returned as we step out of the car. Frank, open eyes stare at us as we troop through the village, with solemn sows ensconced in the mud. Children stop frolicking on seeing us. The broken school building meant to host our meeting is stuffy, and plastic chairs pulled out in our honour are uncomfortable, and we prefer to move to chatais under the sprawling  Banyan tree at the centre of the village. Curiosity overcomes the general distrust of 'outsiders' as we start pulling out our laptops and ask details about their protest against mining in their Bauxite rich land. Curious cows and children join the rag-tag bunch of shepherds and farmers as we balance a laptop on a broken chair. They carefully arrange a gamcha to shield the laptop from direct sunlight, and we settle down to watch some IndiaUnheard videos. Approval shimmies through the crowd as two young teachers tearfully thank Chunnu Hansda and the local District Magistrate for helping them receive arrears for many years of dedicated work. Children perch precariously on the tree, and Nirmala didi tells the people of Chhittarpur of her experiences as a Community Correspondent in fluent Oraon. Hesitant questions soon turn tumultuous as they recognize Mohan Bhuiyan on the screen. They know of him, have met him, and greatly respect his untiring efforts to raise awareness about his development damned village in Ramgarh. Sumren's slow style of speaking thinly veils the determination in her voice, and Anastasia's eyes sparkle at the prospect of representing her people. Quickly recognizing kindred spirits, Nirmala convinces the village to do a baithak to decide who should be their Community Correspondent. We take their leave and move further north. We are denied access to other villages where outsiders are simply not tolerated, and drive on towards Daltonganj in disappointment. Subsequent meetings include squatting outside a lota-paani (a marriage ritual) screening videos to the bride's brother, who is the village chief. We cannot disturb the ceremonies, but he's intrigued by our work, and calls some of his companions to meet us. It's hard to believe that many of these people have been attacked, beaten, arrested and some have even been killed as they have protested for over a decade against attempts to usurp these very fields we're squatting in. My knees ache, and I marvel at their tenacity, slow smiles that reflect in their eyes, few words that always translate into action. I learn a lasting lesson: the tribal way of life is to keep a low profile, and ensure that necessary work is completed as required.

I also learn really fast the dangers of making romanchak[2] the sad little situations narrated to us. A preferential attachment to certain ideals obviously clouds my imagination, for Nirmala scoffs as I sentimentalize lack of electricity in a particular village we'd been told about earlier in the day. She echoes an old hippie spirit's pragmatic approach to life, that attachment often makes people forget their moral duties, sometimes even forget who they essentially are.

Keeping an open mind is my biggest challenge on this search for female correspondents. Actually, our biggest challenge is to find such women! While many women are engaged in different empowerment schemes, many are limited by their families. Many find it fascinating that Nirmala and I are "allowed" by our husband/father to be traipsing across the countryside, and I often have to bite back caustic comments in retaliation. People are late for appointments, and some of our meetings are scheduled only for 10:30 pm. There was a day when all technology simply gave up, just like Kayo and I have fantasized about while indulging in our nightly ritual of staring at the ceiling. It wasn't as fun as in our fantasies.  There were days spent gasping in the heat, and nights spent dreaming about a mosquito free world.

As we traveled through myriad and morose human habitations, what struck me the most was the general air of dissent. What is it that makes these people completely fearless to get down and dirty when working for their rights? It's not the money, because many do this without any kind of finances involved. It's not the recognition, because many told me how they are hounded by the police and politicians alike. Some have been issued death threats by the new-age Naxalites, who no longer believe in the age-old ideals of people first. Maybe it's the weather, or the air they breathe or the water they drink. Maybe I'm simply trivializing it to keep you guys reading so far. Perhaps it's just the culture. It's definitely different. And it's infectious.

As I chat with these "dissenters", I learn more about their lives and loves. I learn more about their love for their land, their forests. I learn that hunting is still prevalent, but only based on need. I learn that many tribal communities do not drink milk, believing that a cow's milk is meant only for its calf. I learn that when my beloved Chotu was bitten by a rabid dog, he'd been poisoned to spare him the ravage of rabies. It broke my heart, and yes, I sobbed silently in the bathroom in the dark of night, but it was the kindest way out. Of course, I heard some frankly ridiculous beliefs too, like the one where if a dog's saliva "infects" you, you will urinate puppies! *bites back caustic comment*

Dissent is necessary to relieve society from suffocating complacence. 

In that haze of sleepless nights and frenetic days, what I learnt, read and heard about dissent was mind-boggling. To hold or express an opinion at variance with those commonly or officially held is liable to have you arrested in most parts of the world today. By the definitions of our beloved, benevolent government, all of you who believe in freedom, all of you are dissenters. You, who writes music, speaking of the nature of democracy. And you, who draws cartoons depicting politicians in poor light. You are a dissenter. And a plague on our nation. And you, who speaks out or writes against human rights violations, did you know your work causes a massive loss in GDP to our nation? And you, you who dare to belong to a religious minority, or God forbid, don't believe in're nothing better than the woman who believes she deserves equal access. And if you are from a sexual minority, you my friend, are plain and simple illegal. And as for you, who believe that people are allowed to move freely, and have equal access to food, clean water and homes, stop indulging in ridiculous dreams and please begin to kow-tow to the Corporates. If you're still confused about whether you are a dissenter simply because you exist, do go check out this website which will tell you exactly what our beloved, benevolent state thinks of you.

Jokes apart, let me tell you this -- to dissent doesn't necessarily mean that you have to take to streets, brave water cannons or indulge in vigorous flag waving. Not that that aspect is trivial or unnecessary, but I believe that is best left to the more courageous ones.

I visited a commune recently. I know you're thinking "Hippies!" here mom! It was exactly what my heart has craved every single time I've searched for this elusive clan. A small, two room house with a wide open veranda, crouched over a seasonal stream, with a wide, shady banyan tree with thick roots forming the main support against which leaned an old man, wearing impossibly thick glasses, peering into a computer. A little girl, lovingly bullied a puppy, as her father brewed fresh Italian coffee. The rooms were their workshop. The motley bunch from different parts of the world slept on simple mats, with cushions and patchwork sheets for comfort. They described to me how they have mastered reconverting plastic into fuel, all the while playing with the little girl, teaching her life's tough lessons about bullying, with love and refreshing honesty. Their home exuded the fresh, clean, simple love that the five inhabitants of the house had for the environment. They recycled, generated no waste, lived simply, and loved their nightly chillum sessions. There is a woman, who has, over the last one year, singled out Goa'sgarbage problem as the one issue she wants to solve for her state. A German lady I met, told me of her barter system, in busy Berlin, where people can leave unwanted things (clothes, shoes, books, toys), and anyone who might want these things, can come collect it. All in barter. There are many who have gone back to old school sustainable farming, and every time I meet these people, I can't help but think, that this is dissent. A refusal to kow-tow to "normal" systems set up for us by those who continue to believe that bikini-clad women on the beaches of Goa are the reason for rape.

We are living in an age when the media has sold its soul to the politicians and power. Where the world believes war is a solution. Where humans maim animals for fun, and rape little children to play out their twisted fantasies. We pay toll taxes for broken roads and where we come from is what will decide whether someone wants to rent out a house to us. Thankfully, Travel-Tripping allows me an alternate world. A mysterious, magical world, where I can see your soul. So many people have opened their hearts, minds and homes to me, believing the work we do might perhaps bring a difference to their dissent. Where ever we go, we are invited into people's homes, asked to share the simple, meagre meals meant for them and their families. We get messages from across the country, congratulating and encouraging how we speak of being part of the solution. A stranger walked me back to my hotel through the darkest lanes of Ranchi, hoping that his gesture will enable me to have faith in mankind again.  Many of you reading will scoff at my words, thinking of how you've told me I've sold my soul. Perhaps I did give in to the glamour of living in Goa. Perhaps part of me truly believes in these single-minded, ridiculously idealistic, yet worldly wise souls who continue to believe that every deed counts. Part of me believes I should just give up, and run away (I've started hitting the beach with my friend, Chicken Legs). I usually don't know which instinct to follow, so choose to believe that it is better to live with wonderment than be beleaguered with bewilderment. (Aunty Acid, I miss you very very much!)

You see, all of us hope for a better tomorrow. All of us dream of our future - some of us dream of more money, and some hope for love. Some simply want the truth. Like the little, old bent woman in Latehar said to me, "Hume Vikaas nahin chahiye, sachai chahiye." (We don't want development, we want the truth.)

I dream of the day when we will realize that freedom is the ultimate truth. To lose ourselves in the sounds of freedom, the birds, the bees, the strong, silent trees. We are all born to be free, to spread our arms, and lie in the grass, or spin silly circles under the starlit sky. It's only when each of us know the truth of freedom, it's only then we can truly connect with the concepts of creation. It is only then we can love the leaf fluttering against the morning skies, as the purple night fades into the pink-yellow of sunrise. It is only then that the tongue can truly taste sea-spray, or smell fresh earth as toes curl into the green, green grass.

It was a dark and stormy night, and as we spoke of how our nation has only ever declared war on its own people, Amita looked me square in eye, and said to me, "Sometimes, there's no point talking endlessly about the same thing. Sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do to get something done." The crackles of storm static in the air made her statement more enigmatic than she perhaps meant. Her simplicity and zen calm has taught me one of the most important lessons I've brought back with me from Jharkhand: We are not alone.

Our lives and loves are simply bubbles of space collapsing and coalescing with each other. "When you know how to use it, disobedience can be a virtue.[3]" So go ahead, dare to dissent. You just gotta dream different.

[1] to laugh aloud in the most awkward, somber moments!
[2] a bastardized mix-up of the misunderstood meaning, romance and the actual meaning, mystery.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Broken Hearted to Bhairavi

So much love & power coming my way after my last post.

I've been reading about  Kali, The Terrible One & how through her 12 manifestations She creates, maintains & destroys this universe.

To quote Aljai, "You have been telling people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour."

Kalyug or the Ultimate Downfall has begun. It time to allow Mahabhairava Kali to emerge. As the moon wanes out of her darkest phase, we have felt extreme grief & fear. It is time to look beyond Maya & to realize that the end is near.

May this universe shake with the terrifying laughter of Bhairavi for she represents time, ever inclined to destroy this world, annihilate anything and all that is not worthy of keeping. And like Raktabija, the demons of this world shall be consumed by her tandava.

It is time to invoke this Shakti who shall dance this world to destruction and from the ashes of mankind She shall prepare a naked new world, stripped of human greed, entranced with the light of love & consciousness.

It is time to quell the fears of our hearts, and channelize the pain. "The time for the lone wolf is over...We are the ones we've been waiting for."

Chandi Mata mode ON!!

Note: here are some interesting blogs I read --
1. Angelfire
2. Kali battles Raktabija

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Born to be Broken-Hearted.

I've always been interested in stories. I guess it began with the bedtime stories snoozily crafted by Papa when we were kids. Stories of people who withstood scary Skeletors. Carefully personalized for children. So there was He-Man, running alongside the warrior goddess, Teela Radhika. Stories of Himalayan heroics by grandfathers. Growing up in Bengal meant the inevitable fascination for the Durga Ma, the Mother Goddess, gentle, nurturing & benevolent unless provoked. She has the potential to be a positive pain in the you-know-where for the bad guys. Batman came along much later. As we grew older we discovered our own stories. And scripted a few of our own.

Over the last few years I've been out & about. Searching for something. Shakti. Soul. Shiva. Shanti. Whatever you wanna call it. I don't know yet. All I found were stories. Sad stories. Strange stories. Stories about strangers. Everyone has a story. You only gotta have the time to listen. I try to write these stories whenever, where ever I can. Some are scribbled onto the nearest available ATM slip long-forgotten in my wallet. Or on some god forsaken bill tucked into a book. Or typed onto my recently-chewed up 'smartphone'. Of course I've forgotten some, and have chosen to forget others. But I know that these stories have marked me. Subtly branded a little image in my mind's eye. And whenever I came across a new story, it added yet another lens to my perspective of the warped, wild world.  

I've been working weekends of late, struggling to juggle commitments foolishly made with no prior consideration of inherent laziness & the failure to check unprecedented euphoria of working on your own time. Anyhow, comments on my character aside, (stop sniggering!) extravagant beach lounging Sundays have been replaced with watching films & chasing tales. I saw the highly homoerotic bromance, Gunday (we're currently in talks with our in-house director Deepu to produce our own improved Goan version soon). Inordinate hours on the internet trawling through research essays on alternate lifestyles and long conversations with grass-roots correspondents who've been creating change in their communities have been interspersed with impromptu painting sessions in the Sunday sunshine streaming through my bedroom window. Now that I've jumped on the consciousness expanding bandwagon (albeit a bit late), I'm discovering newer perspectives to stories. And I'm beginning to believe that it's time to start sharing these stories. Put them out somewhere. So whether it's theories of toast or the benefits of being disinherited, I hope I'll have an opportunity to craft correctly a perspective for you to find a place to fit in this world of broken hearts I'm caught in.

All of us are essentially flawed. As human beings. The concept of being human is a flawed one, because it is built on the basic premise that we're smarter than anything else in creation. (Having a larger brain doesn't automatically mean you use it, moron.) And in our flawed, egoistic selfish world, we forget our innate, natural instincts. Clarissa Pinkola Estés writes how, centuries of suppressing our innate nature has made us forget to love, to run free, to be wild.Yes, I know this premise will be perceived as flawed by many of you. It's because we humans are saddled with the unfortunate need to communicate through medium and have adopted multiple means to communicate, instead of learning to savour silence. Every form of communication is essentially flawed. Basically, no matter how you express yourself, there's someone out there who will misunderstand and judge on the basis of stereotypes we've been taught to believe in. However, given our need to express ourselves through blabberghasts we imagine to be communication, we alienate our essential funda - to be free. Because, like everything else in this world, when you fight for freedom, you pay a huge price. Loneliness.

Like the child born on the banks of the Narmada in the '80's. Born into a bitter site of battle, this child will forever be alienated this 'civilised' world. Yes, s/he will have his/her fellow fighters standing by, standing in silence, in non-violence, hoping that someday, somehow, this world will notice their silent struggle. Their struggle to be free.  From the shackles of 'development'. From corporate greed. From the vicious cycle this material world is slowly sinking into. Free to savour the land, the air, the forests & water they have lived with in harmony for generations. You will accuse me of romanticizing their rustic lives. Trust me, I love the comforts one is confident of when living in a city - electricity & washing machines & internet[i].  

The people belonging to the Narmada Valley have been born to this battle & know nothing but to fight for freedom.[ii] The people of Fakodih, Hazaribagh are caught up in a conundrum I hope to hell you never find yourself in. To live. Or die. You ask why? Oh. The exalted, much admired Tata Company is operating a coal mine to the left of them. And Central Coalfields Limited, to the right of them.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Strangled by these two great harbingers of 'development' in the mineral rich state of Jharkhand, the people of Fakodih have no clean water, no edible food & nothing worth living for. The fires that burn in Fakodih may be extinguished soon, when the people die of hunger, thirst & sheer fatigue. You ask, why don't they just leave? Well, where? Where do they go? To the 'rehabilitation' camps set up for them? The thin tin sheets & cramped quarters are sorry excuses for homes. To become unemployed beggars? To live in cities, to sleep on pavements, and do menial work as servants? To shit on the streets & negotiate their way through the complicated, flawed monetary system that thrives in the cruel, cruel cities of India? These people were proud farmers who lived & worked their own land. They were the people who walked free in the forests & knew which plants are poisonous or which ones had the power to heal. They planted their own fruit trees & fed their families by farming which has sustained them for generations.
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
And Fakodih has filed PILs, approached courts, National Tribunals. Thousands of shocking, horrifying, heartbreaking videos have been made about their plight. International organizations have signed petitions. The world has condemned the coal mining. But Fakodih still stands alone. And when the people of Fakodih die, they shall die alone.

Do you know what the most fucked up part is? The coal which is being mined, is NOT utilized for their benefit. The electricity being generated is SOLD in OTHER cities across the country. The development damn denizens of India.Take Angul in Odisha as an example. The city is constantly clad in a cloud of dust. There are highways being constructed to facilitate the easy transportation of all the coal required for the multiple power plants that have sprung up in their city. Angul itself is allotted about 3 hours of electricity. Kalahandi, Odisha saw some of the worst droughts in this decade. And countless people starved to death. I remember a friend from Kalahandi saying that the year in which most deaths occurred, Odisha was one of the highest exporters of food grain. Look the current battleground of the proposed POSCO site. Along the bay, this site is home to a few thousands of villagers who farm betel nut & prawn and earn more in a year than I have earned in the last 6 years of earning money. And POSCO is bringing their beautiful shiny steel plant there. And will give these 'poverty-stricken', 'illiterate' villagers a 'chance' of living a 'better' life by employing them as labourers on the site, or as security guards. Mind you, these security guards will be there for the sole purpose of keeping away protestors from their OWN village. Once the construction will be complete, these dust-inhaling, now-homeless ex-farming labourers will have no jobs, no homes, no land. No place on this earth for them. The security guards will be replaced by contracted uniform clad goons, who will then beat them away from the site.

The villagers living along the tributary of the Mahanadi asked the government for electricity. The government suggested the villagers invest in solar power as installation of electricity poles & lines would 'destroy' the jungle behind their village. The very same government then sanctioned over 100km of land right beside this same village to a power plant to dump their fly-ash. So, you generate electricity on someone's land, sell it elsewhere, dump the waste & destroy that very same land, water & air they need to survive. What a fucking joke.  THIS is 'development' yo.

This list is endless. There are thousands, no millions of people who do not matter in this 'developed' country of ours. In mid-2012, as I was travelling through Chhattisgarh, I was told of how thousands of villagers in South Chhattisgarh had left their homes, their meagre belongings in a matter of weeks. They were fleeing from the three-pronged menace of the Naxals, the Salwa Judum & the most benevolent State. No one knows where they went. Rumour has it some turned Naxal. Some say they died. I hope they did. I hope they died and never had to see their beloved land being turned into a battlefield or their few surviving clan members who made the mistake of turning to the State for aid. These few were shoved into State sponsored 'rehabilitation' camps to be raped, beaten & to die slow painful deaths due to malnutrition & disease. One guy who tried to help them with legal aid was hounded out of Chhattisgarh. The other was jailed for 22 months & tortured. Another woman had stones shoved into her orifices by the police. Yes, by Ankit Garg. Who was later decorated for gallantry by the State of Chhattisgarh.

Even as I write this, there are people immolating themselves, and marching in protest, and being arrested & beaten, and displaced & dying. What a terrible picture I paint for you. And ironically, every time I stand in the sour-smelling auditorium of Inox, I have to 'respect' the Indian National Anthem as some celebrities wail on-screen with pride for this development damned nation. Yes, I pay 200 INR to watch over-paid star kids cavort in exotic locations to senseless, stolen compositions every weekend. Because I need a break. Because sometimes, just sometimes, I need to stop being broken hearted. But, shaitan ko kabhi shanti nahin milta. And as I walk out of Inox, the beggar at the cigarette shop eyeballs me with hunger crazed eyes. And the old, withered uncle limps out from behind a parked scooter asking us in English for some food. Sometimes I just don't  have the energy nor the strength of heart to ask him his story. It'll just be another of those filed away on a scrap of paper, to rage at in the silence of my lamp-lit bedroom at night.

I remember accusing a beloved professor of ruining my life by adding a feminist lens to the already long list of warped perceptions I have of this world. I say ruined, because armed with these multiple lenses, I stand on one end of this spectrum, unable to understand mankind any more. Because as I read and write about rape culture, I fend off unwanted propositions from creepy 'friends' who disguise these very same propositions as a 'joke'. Every time I tell them off, I am the loser, because I am the one without a sense of humour. When I politely asked one of them to drown himself, he asked if I am gay. To be uninterested in an ugly man, (and I don't mean physically ugly, but ugly because he is one of the most idiotic, narrow-minded morons I have encountered in my entire life) but obviously must mean I'm not interested in men!

And so, similarly, I'm mad at all of you whom I have encountered while listening to your sorrow soaked stories because it is you & your lives that makes it impossible for me to be excited at the prospect of Reebok announcing a 50% sale. And it's your fault too, that I unable to chase that gorgeous Goan stranger to engage in some mindless sex. It is you, from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Kashmir, Odisha, Assam, my very own Bengal & every other fucking corner of this love-forsaken country who have left me standing alone, because as I write, and write, and write some more about the appalling lack of freedom in this fake secular country, there is no man yet willing to stand beside me. There is no man yet who will 'allow' me to be free. In the purest sense of free. To move where I wish, to pick the battles I want to side with, to choose whom to be answerable to. And it's really twisted that it took yet another of the 200 INR films at Inox, to help me realize this innate loneliness. My film-critic friend analysed my melancholy a few moments after I told him I was depressed after watching Highway

(Yes Sid, I fell a little bit in love with Mahabir Bhatti)

And so, as the power packing Priyanka Kashyap, SP, North Goa, controls an enraged mob, she stands alone. Her current agenda of crushing the police-peddler nexus in Goa renders her alone, the lone wild wolf who hasn't kow-towed to power & politics. And the child born in the disputed hills of Latehar has had to give up riding his beloved wild horses in the hills he loves with all his heart, because he has to now spend his life stopping the State from building a giant firing range.

It's not easy, this war. It's not easy to see friends get sidelined into selling their souls & objectifying women and write reams about the amount of cleavage being flaunted by actresses instead of believing that every little girl should have a chance to be A Mighty Girl. It's not easy to snap the neck of the man trying to rape you. Or to be right in front when your protest march is lathi-charged. But it must be done. It must be done by those who have dreamed of a destiny different from the one scripted by our benevolent State. It must be done by those who refuse to be daunted by unimaginative, fettered souls languishing in the lap of luxury, utterly unaware of the world beyond their BlackBerrys. (Yes, I have one too. Mine has been eaten. It no longer qualifies to be a phone.)

As our mighty nation is hovering on the brink of yet another electoral fiasco, we who dream of a life worth living have now changed our weapons of war. Armed with art, music, technology & social media, we are raising awareness, exposing the lies & naming the naughty netas. There are thousands of us today, who are essentially alone, because our deepest desire is to be free. To be free to live on the land we choose, to drink the water we have built our homes beside, to roam the jungles of our own minds, unfettered by social hypocrisy. Many of us haven't chosen this destiny for ourselves. It was scripted for us in the stories we were told as children. Of warrior goddesses waging war to find peace. We lived them when we stood shoulder-to-shoulder as we squared up to bullies or beat up people who hit our dogs. We're drawn to our destinies like moths to flame ~ burning up our souls, little bit by little bit. I guess some of us are just born to be broken hearted.

Note: names may have been changed to protect privacy

[i] Even though my home hasn't had power all day, and my washing machine guzzles a shocking amount of water & the internet in Goa SUCKS!!!
[ii] Do read Arundhati Roy's essay: The Greater Common Good

Friday, 7 February 2014

Where nothing is lost...

Apologies. I got sidelined for a few days because of deadlines I had to meet. Yes, I'm trying to get back into the 'normal' work life. (Note: Normal is supremely over rated.) Also I got distracted by Calvin & Hobbes, who as usual, tickled my imagination far too much to not share!

Before I get distracted again, I'll finish what I started with

I wish the world would understand what we look like the way the stars see us. A blimp in the blackness of the universe. A sole blazing sun supporting this delicately balanced eco-system. Perhaps we would then stop rampaging through this world & her resources without a care. We as a race completely fail to see the significance of anything beyond ourselves.

What if we stopped buying love, as sold to us by these community wrecking companies which seek to train our minds in to thinking the way they want us to - to be singular individuals with the sole purpose of owning far too many commodities.What if we instead focussed on building communities which live in communally owned land, consume only what they grow & need, and built a support system comprised of like-minded, free spirited families with visions of a greater good? (Thank you, Aunty for our hill-top healing session over sunset yesterday.)

What if we ceased to be lost in our warped fantasies of 'superior intelligence' and instead created a system where information, knowledge & awareness was freely shared? It's easier said than done, to smile & to forgive, to attempt to change or understand a world where mediocrity & extreme inefficiency is not only accepted but encouraged. But it needs to be dealt with. And understood. Unfortunately, we cannot always hide in our homes or with Hobbes. It's been simpler to seek out similar people instead. People who believe, like me, that nothing is lost.

We seek & find people who complete us. And when their contribution to our daily epiphanies are done, the universe dictates they move on. I've learnt that mum was right as usual. Auras & Vibes. The scruffy Goan boys fascinated by our piddly recognition of Konkani words, or the cheeky Kashmiris constantly poking fun of the inability to remember unimportant 'work' stuff. Pahadi boys who string together random English with the most serious intent of rhyming. 'Paneer Pakora, Chalo to Chapora.' Their big toothy smiles are like rays of sunshine in our humdrum, humid days without electricity in the office. Gorgeous Goan boys, humma-humma hippie mamas, (Seriously, these Mamas are so hot. Like really.) Rib-crushing restaurateurs or the shady sexy silhouette I spot at every Psy gig I go to. So we get to drive by the caravan with the bed looking out to sea or sunbath in eye popping sunshine, acquiring wrinkles that come with the wind & the waves. Auras & Vibes. We attract auras we give off I guess. So my Wyrd Witch who chanted 'My bumps,...' in unison with me to describe multiple mosquito bites peppering our bums, and strange, kind Germans are equally welcome to clamber some hills & listen for the peacocks with me.

The 'Normal' world (yeah, the same one that commercialized love & compassion) is the one which paints large, old, weathered rocks on beautiful (now-deforested) hills. Goa pays the price for rich people wanting to cavort in cocaine fuelled ecstasy, staking their filthy claim on free sunshine & forests. This 'normal' world doesn't understand the fascination of owl-spotting in mango trees on moonlit nights. I can't even disclose these locations, because every beautiful spot discovered in our lost rambles across Goa have had to be hidden. From you. Yes, you. You, who logs onto that infernal watsupgoa website to find pseudo 'parties', where you grind up against girls, labouring in your assumption that you are most attractive when your pelvis is uncomfortably thrusting against women who only, and just only, want to trip in shanti. Yes, it's the damned network, and connectivity that allows these creeps into our paradise. And corruption, but that again, is a different story.

Aunty was telling me about how the prophesies warn of the end of the world - as the human race has pretended to know it. The message is ultimately about how our chaotic lives need to calm down & understand the ways of the world better to be able to survive. Bittu Sahgal said the same.

This world needs to get Psy-High. It needs to learn to indulge in psychedelic experiences and understand that dogs are solar powered for a reason. It needs to learn to love the hot afternoon sunlight. The way it sparkles on the river. It needs to learn to discard money as the primary method to measure success, and needs to learn instead to map life in terms of health and happiness. And no, your pelvic pumps to make 'friendsheeps' really don't count - it's easier to be friends only with those who are sheep no more. We need to re-engage with art for protest, and guerilla re-forestation. Not 100 days of happiness which perhaps is a well-meaning idea barring that it limits documentation of 'happiness' to techno-geek city-slickers. How am I supposed to photograph that rippling tanned fisherman's back yanking the boat on to the beach? Social norms only allow me to look down upon him & dismiss him as an illiterate fool. Social norms restrain me from engaging with him or learning about his life & home. How am I supposed to document that oh-so-sexy jaw-line spotted in the thrash of people thumpling around at the speakers? Social norms dictate I must not be out of my home post 8 p.m. And especially not at the beach banging my feet on the floor boards with loose, immoral abandon. Somehow I'm not yet convinced I need to scramble towards the nearest tourist infested spot to find 'free hi-speed wi fi' to be able to post/tag every time I pose pouting against the sun/mirror/bathroom/whatever-catches-my-fancy. It's just an indicator of every single time I've denied myself imaginative, intelligent conversation with another individual.

There's much to be done, and too few people doing it. Systematic disposal of garbage & curbing useless generation of junk synthetic inorganic goods are unfortunate grim realities we must engage with. This constant need to be connected should be channelized into building alternate channels of information exchange. We live in the age of the World Wide Web. So whether you re-post articles from your work desk, or you draw up a contrived plan to teach your mum how to segregate garbage, share, for there is much to be done.

There exists an alternate world where freedom of spirit & love are openly celebrated, respected and encouraged. I smiled at a stranger. He tucked a flower behind my ear and walked away. 

It is a possibility because you manifest love enough that a 12 year old has the freedom to retort, 'You two need to grow up!' when you're having a giggle fit with her mom over an over-flushing loo story. Dogs live free & safe, and cattle roam wild, deftly picking out tourist trash from plastic bags strewn around after a 'trance party'. Night time spooks include my own shadow which sends me sprinting down the beach. Far away thumps of bass vibrate the moon's slender shadow over Chapora River. Our toenails are silver in the lightwash of the moon. The dog flopped out at my feet quivers in his dreams and rolls over. A gang of Europeans whiz by, not noticing the shadows by the road. This life has taught me to look beyond a world caught up with what they're being told on TV.

So here's what I think. I think we ought to look towards a life full of love. For every moment we can enjoy sunshine & fresh air. To find fresh juice in a world obsessed with tetra-packs. Give, give without a thought to getting back. Because you shall. Always. Two-fold. Nay, manifold. And yes, you will be battered by the bad ones which over-populate this planet. And you will be cheated, and lied to, and lied about. But never let forget to live free, without negativity to narrow your vision, and live with love. 

For when you're low, looking mournfully at your computer, thoughts of looming deadlines and unpaid bills messing with your mind, Fat-White climbs into your lap, suddenly needy after months of completely ignoring you. And love is scattered around in the hearts of all the lives we matter to. Our loved ones come & go, and live & die, but remain in our memories for ever, like little bubbles of colourful love. With rainbow explosions in our horizons every time they see the same stars we do, or wish us well. For a world with love is full of free sunshine. It's a world where nothing is ever lost.

note: Thank you for the music & memories of 'Nothing Lasts...But Nothing is lost'