Thursday 1 January 2009

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Thursday 26 June 2008

Who says you can make your own destiny?

Every day I try to forget 'Aamir' and every day, the film seems to come up in discussion, the papers or as a TV spot. For over a week, I've been trying to tell myself, it's only a film. But try as I might, I cannot calm down the negative vibes it has evoked in me.

The fact that it is shot in Chor Bazar, Bhendi Bazar, Dongri, the areas that I grew up in, where I still have family, where my family still has family and friends, makes it difficult for me to view the film objectively. In my childhod, these areas were mohallahs, not ghettoes, as they have become now.

And I wonder, how did these traditional community enclaves become ghettoes? Is it due to overcrowding and a breakdown of infrastructure? Is it due to the takeover by communal and criminal elements? Or is it due to a changed perception of a community?

The director of 'Aamir' professes that the film is the story of a common person, and how easily a common man today can become a victim of elements beyond his control.

The dangerous part of the film is how every common man from Andheri to Dongri, in fact, seem to be part of the terrorist network, connected to Pakistan, actively a part of the terrorist nexus, or at least passively aware of it. From the taxi-driver at the airport to the seemingly friendly prostitute in the dingy lodge in Dongri, from restaurant owner to waiter to STD phone booth woman, from the manager of the lodge, petty gangsters to junk-yard workers, and countless other nameless, unidentified faces, they form a malevolent, hostile and inescapable trap for any innocent.

'Aamir' perpetrates the worst myths about Indian Muslims.

1. That most of them live in ghettoes.
2. That they live in filth and squalor.
3. That they do nothing to come out of it.
4. That they eat and butcher meat, and that enhances their inherent violence.
5. That they are more attached to the larger Islamic community rather than their own country.
6. That they get a huge amount of money from outside to fund their terrorist activities here.
7. That most of them are connected somehow with the terrorists or the underworld. Actively or passively.
8. That an outsider cannot say who or who may not be involved.
9. And of course, that anyone, who makes any attempt to get out of the larger community will still at the end be subsumed by it, becoming part of the terrorist nexus due to circumstance, or become a victim to it.

These are as absurd as the myths that all Gujaratis are right-wing Hindu fundamentalists, all Biharis are thieves and crooks, all Maharashtrians are lazy, unfriendly and insular, all Goans are amiable drunks and all Sikhs are either fools or trouble-makers.

The trouble with the film is that it is very well-shot. Anyone, who has anything at all to do with film-making in Mumbai will know how difficult it is to execute a shoot like that, given the crowds and traffic here.

That combined with the narrative form of a man chasing against time to save his loved ones, in fact, does not give any space for the protagonist Aamir, to be well-defined as a character. The one dialogue that makes his stand clear, that he believes that each person can make their own destiny, that they can pull themselves out of their circumstances, gets lost in the thrill of the chase. And of course, by the countering dialogue of The Bad Man who asks if this is the destiny (that is trying to save his family) is what he has chosen.

The Bad Man however gets enough time to repeat ad nauseam his stand on the Muslim issue, spending a lot of precious time haranguing Aamir about Islam, his responsibilities to the community, his infidelity in having a Hindu girl friend, not caring enough to send money to fund terrorist activities, and so on. To the extent, that it gets one wondering whether The Bad Man is more keen on teaching Aamir a fundamentalist lesson in Islam, or he wants him to get on with the job.

Was The Bad Man seriously hoping to convert Aamir to the terrorist cause, by kidnapping his family, having him wade through shit, not letting him drink water (a very un-Islamic thing to do, by the way, because not giving someone a glass of water when they ask for it, is tantamount to a sin in Muslim households), having him beaten up??

In the same vein, it is not clear why Aamir, an innocent and reluctant man, has to be emotionally blackmailed into putting a bomb in a bus, after a complicated, convoluted journey through the city, when it would be the easiest thing in the world for any one of The Bad Man's minions to walk into a crowded bus with a bomb, leave it there, and walk away, without any trace.

But of course, The Bad Man is a dark, bald, fat, meat-eating monster who shuns light, and sits in a dark room all day. He exudes menace when he holds up a kid, and then proceeds to beat up a toy monkey. So perhaps, one can expect only illogical planning from him.

Review written by Batul Mukhtiar

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Billo Tillo Tachh



Bhai, Kishor Kaka, Raman Kaka at Nariman Point, 9 Sep 2007

Monday 13 November 2006

One plus one

In the mathematics of love, one plus one is infinity.

"Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves." Which great man could have made such a sharp observation? However much you scratch your head, you'll be wrong. This romantic statement cannot be made by Buddha, Mahavir, Jesus Christ or Mohammed. Nor were Vinoba or Gandhi known for uttering such truths. This statement is not by Rabindranath or J.Krishnamurthi. It is not made by Woody Allen, Bill Clinton or Bill Gates. This great statement has been made by the great scientist and lover Albert Einstein. The romantic truth in the statement is something that today's young people can accept. The older people who understand the emotion in this statement will never be unhappy. What does youth have to do with age?

Are you beautiful because you are loving, or are you loving because you are beautiful? Answering this riddle takes up an entire life. Man's heart has its own reasons, which the mind cannot understand. Remember that age does not stop you from loving, but love can stop you from getting old. The mathematics of love is different from the mathematics of the mind. The mind calculates that one plus one is two. The heart is different. The mathematics of love finds that one plus one is infinity. Those who have empty hearts and very logical minds can do business, but cannot love. The mind copes well with the internet. The heart undertands the interior-net.

To fall in love, one does not need the power of gravity.

Translated by Batul Mukhtiar, Oct 2006

Is the Gita a holy book?

I do not think the Gita should be worshipped as a holy book. What can be accomplished by wrapping it up in a piece of red cloth and anointing it with flowers? That would be a meaningless ritual, to escape from reading it. The Gita can have meaning only if the verses on paper, printed and bound, help to keep us away from any deviation from the right path. Otherwise, the Gita would only be a bundle of lifeless pages, without any real relation to our lives. It is nothing to be happy about, if you have the chapters of the Gita at the tip of your tongue. Sometimes, that too is a matter of vanity. In such a case, there is no difference between the croaking of a frog, and reciting the Gita, if it's message does not impress your heart and soul.

I wonder, are our young men and women interested in reading and understanding the Gita. I find the answer in Teilhard de Chardin's statement, " The future is in the hands of the people who can give enough reasons to hope and live to the coming generations". The Vedas are our invaluable reference books. The Upanishads are our textbooks. The Gita is our guide.

It is a pity that the Gita is considered as a book for the aged. To become old without understanding the Gita, is a loss. After all, what has Krishna got to do with any particular phase of age?

From Prof. Gunvant Shah's 'Symphony of Krishna' @ 2005
// posted by Batul @ 12:24 PM July 27, 2006
Ed Viswanathan said...

You are 100% right in saying Gita should be worshipped as a holy book. I also agree with your statement "What can be accomplished by wrapping it up in a piece of red cloth and anointing it with flowers?"

GITA SHOULD BE DISCUSSED to help us in day to day lives. After listening to 18 chapters and 600 verses of ADVICE, Arjuna did NOT become a hermit. He did NOT run away from life. He stood up and fought a ferocious war.

I understand people who are in their 80’s leading a hermit’s life. …BUT I can never ever understand, when young people in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s etc lead a very lazy life after reading Gita.

GITA DOES NOT TEACH US INACTION. GITA ONLY TEACHES ACTION and that to SELFLESS ACTIONS.

10:33 PM, September 20, 2006

When we forget nationalism

It's a horrid thing to say, but for argument's sake, let us assume that there isn't a single Muslim nationalist in the country. Come on! Let's assume that the Muslim girl in Maharashtra fighting the elections from the Shivsena is also not a nationalist. Let's assume that the first woman judge in the Supreme Court, a Muslim lady from Kerala, is also a communalist. Let us assume that every single Muslim in this country looks towards Pakistan. Let's assume that they don't practice birth control and are increasing the population. Even if they ask for a second Pakistan tomorrow, we should not be surprised! That should be the limit of the bitter fear that the Hindus have about Muslims.

Gandhari's blindfold is nothing compared to the blindfold that Hindus have tied around their eyes about India's glory and culture. It is certainly a matter of pride to be a Hindu. But some Hindus take pleasure in being proud of being Hindus, without even looking at the Vedas and the Upanishads, without touching the Gita even once, and without reading the Ramayan and the Mahabharat.

We gave the world the gift of zero. Brahmagupta gave the zero the status of a number, for the first time in mankind's history. Bhaskacharya said that the equation "1 divided by 0 = infinity" is the symbol of Brahma, and eulogized the zero by considering it worthy of worship. After the four Vedas, the four Upvedas were created. Vast progress was made in the fields of dance, theatre, sculpture, Ayurveda, poetry, grammar, literature, art, music and philosophy. But when glory is shallow, it looks out of place, and when pride is too scattered, it does not take roots.

A while ago, when we organized a 'Panchshil' rally at Bhuj, there were around ten thousand young people present, apart from the DSP, the Collector and the DEO. In my address, I only said, that if we were to sing "Saare jahan se accha, Hindustan hamara" without embarrassment, were we prepared to give even one minute every day for our country? If so, each one of us, would have to give only six hours a year to our country. Even so, 20 crore aware citizens could give the country 1 & 1/4 billion man-hours a year. Who stops the Hindus from doing that much for the country? But here, Mahashivratri is celebrated by drinking hemp juice, and Gokul Asthami is a day for gambling! If you find a Hindu who reads the Ramayan, on Ramnaomi day, honor him with a shawl! I can guarantee you that, you won't have to spend too much money on shawls.

This is from when I was very little. My father read the Vedas, Upanishads and the Gita everyday, but because he had Surati blood in him, sometimes, he would go all the way from Randher to Surat to have the tasty snacks at Harishankar Dhanji's shop. He took me on this taste-bud trip a couple of times. After eating some ‘bhajiyas’ on Harishankar's greasy plates, we would want to drink some water. This is from memory. Maybe some senior Surati can correct me if I am wrong. Aluminium mugs were tied to the wall by a chain. Each mug had a caste label beside it on the wall: Brahmin, Vaniya, Kanbi-Koli, Harijan, etc. (There were some very offensive words, which I cannot repeat here, that used to be written beside the word - Harijan). I was a tiny tot then, but the memory is still fresh. The Brahmin's mug was the dirtiest and the Harijan's mug the cleanest! Do you understand the mystery? Most people would drink from the Brahmin's mug, and even Harijans would avoid the Harijan's mug. Caste was not written on anyone's forehead, and so this dirty game. These caste-colored aluminium mugs have dragged the Hindus into the pits. Shallow glory makes a lot of noise. Bhratahari described two kinds of clouds - the ones that pour unabashed, and the ones that only roar. The clouds that only roar are usually very proud.

A few years ago, I was travelling with an American friend Professor Nelson Hegerson, from Patan to Mehsana. On the way, near Moghera the diesel in our car got over. In Moghera, one question kept troubling me. Mohammed Ghazni, in 1024 AD, came all the way to Moghera and looted it, and how is it that no one stopped him on the way? When our car was stuck, a bunch of villagers gathered around us, and were looking at my American friend as if he were an animal specimen. A good villager was helping our driver whole-heartedly. He lived in Ahmedabad but his wife's family was in this village, and he had come to visit for 2-3 days. I happened to praise the man's sincerity to a villager standing next to me. He immediately informed me: "He's a Thakker but he's a good man, just like a Patel." When I heard that statement, I immediately knew the secret of Mohammed Ghazni's success. Patels are always good, and the Thakkers who may be good, can be counted as Patels! Great!

If Hindus are really proud of being Hindus, then I request them to think about the following questions with a quiet mind:

1. Why does such Brahminism exist, that in Mithila University, Darbhanga, even peon's jobs are given only to Brahmins?

2. In Tamil Nadu, why is it certain that Brahmins will get the jobs?

3. During the reservation agitation, when the upper-caste Hindus attacked groups of backward castes, were those who were attacked Hindus? Were the Muslims responsible for these attacks?

4. So many Hindu BJP candidates lost the elections in the Hindi-speaking belts, because it seems that most Hindus there had voted on a caste basis. Where was Hindutva then?

5. Why are there such few inter-caste marriages amongst the Hindus even now?

6. Are the women who commit suicide because their in-laws harass them for dowry, not Hindus?

7. How many Shankaracharyas have been to the Harijans' settlements and how many times? How often have they gone to court? What is the real reason for religious conversion?

8. Why do thousands of child marriages take place in Rajasthan on the Akha Treej day, every year?

9. Why are there more than 5,00,000 ‘devdasis’ even today, in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra? Isn't the custom of ‘devdasis’ a form of prostitution in the guise of religion?

A fan of the spiritually emancipated Bhakti poet, Dula Kaag asked him once: "Kaag Bapu! Saurashtra is the land of saints, of Krishna-Sudama, of Narsinh Mehta, of Mahatma Gandhi! This is the land of brave outlaws! Here the villagers will call out to unknown passersby, and feed them with care. In such a holy land, how is it that so many women commit suicide?" It is worth the while of every Hindu to ponder on the answer the poet Dula Kaag gave, so that there is no haste in taking pride. Kaag Bapu said: " Brother! There is a lot of hypocrisy here. In the day time the brothers-in-law, and father-in-law maintain great propriety with the widowed daughter-in-law who lives in a corner of the house, with her head shaven, dressed in white clothes. But at night, it is different. In the darkness of night, the man does not feel ashamed to enter the widow's room. There is a moment when both the veil and the skirt are overthrown! When the widow becomes pregnant, these men deride her before everybody, and call her a 'sinner.' Where else can she go except to the well?" Tell me, how many tons does our pride as Hindus weigh? Where are the Muslims Involved In this?

In North Gujarat, in the Choudhury community, even today girls are exchanged between families. When marriage becomes a bargain, then even the seven circles around the holy fire, can become a great misfortune. Women have still not got their individuality.

The people that are proud of their tradition but cannot examine the limits of those traditions, end up nurturing their backwardness. Hindus may have many limitations, but they have been able to survive only because of one wonderful quality. This is a people who are a little open about improving themselves. This openness is the shield of Hindus. This people can accept Buddha as an 'avatar' and call the Shankaracharaya, 'Prachanna Buddha'. The poet Jaidev said; "Vishnu took Buddha's form." If the Hindus had not shown such openness where would they have been? Arnold Toynbee says: " The only religion which I would like to be converted to is Hinduism. Because the Hindu religion is big-hearted and all encompassing. If the Hindus accept me and let me become one of them, I would like to be lower than a Shudra in their caste-system."

I would like all my BJP friends to reflect on the unpleasant points mentioned here. I repeat that only openness and the readiness to improve oneself can save Hindus. The Hindus have only to fear narrow-mindedness. I can write such a bitter article, being a Hindu. What if some Muslim writer criticized Islam in this bitter a way! Surely that writer could not remain alive.

From 'Ishwar Allah Tere Naam' by Prof. Gunvant Shah
@ January 1993

'Ishwar Allah Tere Naam' - Ishwar and Allah are Your names.

// posted by Batul @ 7:03 PM July 13, 2006