Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Breakup Dissected

Catharsis has never been my motivation for writing. Though, as a few of you know, my life changed this year in ways too weird to foretell, I suspect a lot of changes are yet to appear, and there are still a few choppy currents to cross before I'm able to anchor my little dinghy. However, after some guys came up to me to talk about my breakup (and their impending breakups), I decided to write out what I went through.
This was a very difficult undertaking for me, especially considering the fact that I had already gone through the phases described below and would have to relive them in order to map out my post completely.
The background: I broke up with my girlfriend in the month of February this year. It was a milestone in my life which changed my character in a lot of ways, and left a very deep impact on my psyche. It hasn't, however, destroyed my faith in the all-conquering nature of love and all the resident emotions that such faith implies.

There are people you meet in life who love you and in turn are loved by you, whose delicate strands of existence are seemingly irrevocably intertwined with yours, and then one fine day all that is left of them is a rapidly shrinking image on the rearview mirror of the soul.
But you still hear the voices and feel them tugging away gently, sadly, at your heart. And you cry softly to yourself, knowing fully well that all that is left of you with them is a faint memory of a dream that was never to be.
You move away from sorrow and jump into a maelstorm of relationships, negotiating your way from sanctuary to sanctuary, hoping against hope that the love you find will trump the one you lost. You mingle with the Beautiful Ones glittering away in the firmament of the heavens, and hope that their green-tinged shadows shall cross the chasms of space and time that lie between you and Her. Your birthday appears and disappears without a call. You gasp at the systematic way in which she deletes you from her life.
And then you cry some more.
And you curse and you rant, and you forge for yourself a heart of iron, never to be broken again.
But iron rusts, and the poison of hatred flows through your veins, and you stop wondering whether she remembers you at all.
And you declare yourself a master of your own destiny, and you concentrate on conquering the world, having failed to conquer your own heart. You bury yourself in work and carve your name on mountaintops.
And yet, in the dead of the night, you hear Her voice, and you wake up in a cold sweat.

And you remember touch and smell, hot breath and hot kiss, smile on face and cascade of wet hair, soft hands and teddy bears.
You think of teddy bears, and you cry.
You cry, thinking of the first time you talked, lying down on soft grass and looking up at the stars above, holding hands and promising to be together for ever.
You cry, thinking of the last time you saw her, looking out of a train and shouting out to the whole world that she loves you.
You cry because you miss the way she hugged you, the way she sat on your lap, the way her nose turned red when she got angry, the way she'd stand on tiptoes to kiss your forehead, the way she'd curl up whenever she got tickled, the way she sneezed, the way she laughed.
You miss the way she talked, miss the way she held your hand while crossing a road.
You miss her like hell, and you cry your guts out. You weep and you curse your own life.

And then, all of a sudden, there are no more tears to be shed, and no more knives to wound your heart.
You look back to the love you had, the dreams that were dreamt, the chronicles that shall remain unwritten, the songs that shall forever remain unsung.
You look back, and you smile.
And you wave, and you mouth out the words: Thanks for everything.

Monday, April 10, 2006

How Affirmative Is Your Action Today?

The first reaction was: Rage.
Rage against the crooked political system for getting us into this sad state of affairs, rage against the vote-grabbing politicians who would sell their mothers (that too at a steep discount of 50%) just to get that extra 10 votes, rage against the apathy of the intelligentsia who've scarcely mumbled a word or two since Arjun Singh's announcement.

The second reaction was to ask: Why?
Politics is about numbers. Pure unadulterated decimals which decide the fate of a nation. Our political system is organized in such a way that theoretically the three arms of Government, i.e. the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary, balance each other perfectly so as to maintain social harmony while performing the onerous duty of governance.
Or so they say.
The truth is plain and simple, Tonto. But, to get at it, we need to know the root need of all political animals.
The thirst for power is what drives canis politicianis to unprecedented levels of investment in terms of time and money. The power to decide, as mentioned earlier, the fate of a nation.
Power, in our system, comes through the ballot box.
Now any human with the brain cell of a flea can recognise the inherent flaws of such a system. The burgeoning middle and upper classes have no stakes in the democratic process. Our lives are scarcely affected by the sounds of thunder emanating from Parliament (and the State Legislatures). We live, like we always have, on the surety that "their" decisions will not affect us.
Like this decision, which will not affect us to the least bit.
Me speak truth, Tonto. At most, the (unreserved) middle classes will simply send their children abroad for higher education at the undergraduate level, just like the upper classes. Just like the politicians' children. The entire matrix for higher education leaves one component out of the picture: the lower classes.
Class matrices are always interesting in that issue analyses leads one to amazing conclusions, i.e. the lower classes are going to send their children to IIT.
If only things were that simple.
Because whenever a system exists, there is always some fatal flaw which can be exploited to gain admission. The system can be electronic or social, but the rules of the system are what matter in the end, and the loopholes through which one can push oneself into the system.
The loophole in this system is this, Tonto: The lower classes will not have a say, because the reservation is caste-based, not need-based.
I hope that's spelt out perfectly. Tonto knows I can't spell for nuts. Let me repeat it for the sake of dear-buddy-Emphasis: The reservation is caste-based, not need-based.
It's not tough to extrapolate from this point on. After all, we Indians have always had a natural flair for extrapolation. ("Tendulkar's sniffing today. He's gonna score a century.") Here's my two cents' worth of what's going to happen:
  1. The new Constitutional Amendment Bill will be passed by Parliament. No political party (or politician for that matter, and while we're at it, let's refrain from calling senior politicians statesmen, because they're not. The last statesman was Indira Gandhi, which says a lot about the state of Indian politics, as well as male machismo) will have the balls to vote against the bill, for the OBC vote is crucial to gaining or retaining power.
  2. There will be tiny disorganised protests across the IITs, because the majority of people will not care/be afraid to voice their opinion. These protests will be ruthlessly suppressed by the authorities, who will as a result get a biscuit or two free from the tables of their political masters.
  3. The batches that enter the IITs and the IIMs will be full of rich landed Thakurs and Jats from North India, who will have finally managed to gain a foothold and can arm their newer generations with the latest brands to ensure success in life. If nothing else, a rich dowry is always waiting in them badlands.
  4. The first new batch that comes up according to the newly-sanctioned reservation Act will be ragged mercilessly in all IITs, poisoning relations between batches and ensuring that new batches never feel a sense of co-ownership of the institutes.
  5. Companies will howl in protest and will request that, during placement season, job applicants specify their castes, effectively pruning out "undesirables".
  6. Arjun Singh will have ensured a permanent votebank for his political party - his legacy to the nation will be enshrined in the Halls of Social Justice and Empowerment (if ever there was such a place).
  7. Five years down the line (for the IITs, for the IIMs it's two years down the line), salary offers across these "premier institutes" will plummet, as companies realise that talent and "brains" went out for a toss circa 2006 along with merit and will be returning to Planet India along with Halley's Comet.
  8. Once the juggernaut of India's liberalisation has been successfully halted and chained to a ruminating cow in the fields, elections will vote the NDA into power which will then proceed to bomb Pakistan. Who cares about the damn Economy anyway?
Think, Tonto, think. I urge you. Why are the politicians going forward with this step? Again, I offer a couple of reasons:
  1. It makes good press. As an election sop, reservation policies are always a goldmine waiting to be harvested. (Take that you mixed metaphor you.) Of course, the next step in such a situation is to reserve seats according to communal lines. Competitive reservations have never been so good! While we're at it, we can also provide citizenship to Bangladesh (anyway, half the nation's people stay in Kolkata); I've been assured by certain sources that it's a legitimate political strategy thought of by the Left Front administration in Bengal.
  2. OBC reservation allows significant portions of the populace to gain the two highly-prized brandnames of Indian higher education, at a very low cost. Junior will not have to work hard to get in, because that slimy bastard Merit has been taken to the backyard and shot. Accordingly, the levels of hard work that are required to sustain oneself through a rigorous undergraduate education will be absent. Junior will flunk out in two years, unless Senior calls the Director and applies pressure.
  3. It allows the rest of India to pull down the IITs and the IIMs to their own levels of mediocrity. Gasp. There. I said that. Ms. Dam Buster and her legions of fans will not speak out because to identify with a meritocracy is to commit suicide in Socialist Land. Also, need I say it, there's a faint glow of satisfaction among vast swathes of the Indian population, thinking: "Those guys were flying too high. I'm so glad someone's banned the sky."
The third reaction was to ask: What can we do about it?
This is where the mind falters. I've seen scores of my fellow students here at Kharagpur stop at this stage, muttering that it's not their business and that they will not be able to do anything about it anyway.
Well, for those of you who are thinking along these lines, I have good news and bad news.

The bad news first: You're right. There's not much you can do about it. And I guess you know why. It's simple, Tonto. We, the middle class of India, have sacrificed our voices and our opinions, our ethics and morals, at the expedient altar of Goddess Liberty of America. When was the last time any of us went out to vote (myself included)? Voting is a fundamental duty of every citizen of this nation, one that we have failed miserably to perform. And we plonk ourselves in front of the computer screen and wax eloquently on the Internet. We balk, however, at undertaking any step bigger than this, afraid that the Evil Eye will cast a spell on our glorious shining future.
The good news next: We can still do lots of things. Here's a few things that any of us can do:
  1. Talk to your parents. Generate opinions by inflaming passions. It's the easiest way out there. Once sufficiently roused, ask them to vote with their minds in the coming elections.
  2. Use the Internet to find out the exact procedures on obtaining a voter identification card, and getting your names into the electoral rolls. I'll give a tip here; check out http://www.eci.gov.in/Forms/Forms_fs.htm
  3. Find out details of your elected representative in the Lok Sabha as well as the Vidhan Sabha. These details can be obtained from the Election Commission website as well. Contact them, meet them along with your parents, and ask what they are planning to do about it, and try and convince them to raise this issue in their respective chambers. One can also try to contact the Young Parliamentarians' Association, but I doubt they'll be of much help, having entered the said august institution by holding on to Daddy's dhoti.
  4. Once the third step fails (:)), you can go two ways. The easier way is to give up all hopes of this country rising to meet its destiny, immigrate to America, and laugh at the poor sods who are still stuck in the Land of the Qrazy Fuques that we call India. The harder way is to stay back, and work at the problem. Work on raising this issue at public fora. Work on pissing off the symbols of authority that are waved in our faces to halt all protests. Work on teaching canis politicianis that there is a significant constituency that it has ignored since Independence, and that when this constituency raises its voice, it's time to start listening, or he can wave the next election bye-bye.
I have the same feelings as all of you, namely, disgust, anger, helplessness. All we can do about it right now is speak out, opine, and raise our voices. Just before writing this post, I was looking at some petitions on PetitionOnline!, and was saddened by the response. 20000 votes is not enough to change the outcome of even a single Assembly seat, and we talk of changing the face of this nation.
One can only hope and pray, Tonto. Hope and pray.

And yes, Mr. Arjun Singh, I forgot to ask, how much did you say your mother was worth?