Thursday, 1 March 2018

A disgruntled Vegetarian's rambling at a moment of vulnerability. I do not endorse these views (non-vegetarian bashing) at a saner state of mind otherwise! :)

I'm a vegetarian. I even call myself a Born-Vegetarian sometimes (by virtue of being born in a family practising vegetarianism for generations). The society has a flippant attitude towards us (here, most importantly, me). When questioned of my diet, my response always is retorted with a condescending smile. To be a vegetarian is a matter of mockery; I have been, and continue to be, an object of ridicule, constantly bombarded with a variety of questions by the people around me. The one that tops the list is "Why?" which never fails to amuse me. Being a Vegetarian is pitied and remains a cause for regret (as if I have missed out on something indispensable in life). They also exhibit their curiosity by asking the second question on the list, "Don't you feel tempted to taste meat?" As a child and an adolescent, my choice of being a vegetarian was rather arbitrary; born in a family practising vegetarianism, it was not much of a matter of choice than an obligation. Only with the passing of years did I realise that I was not one who would yield to the whimsical fancy of tasting meat. I took a conscious decision to abstain from meat and eggs (the dictionary classifies me as "lacto-vegetarian").

I could go on to furnish a tedious list of questions that I usually encounter, but I withhold my urge of listing them all.

As we talk of all kinds of discrimination in the contemporary world, being a vegetarian is again a reason for one. Starting from finding a vegetarian restaurant to looking for a vegetarian counter at a party or wedding is an irksome task. Even worse is to be a vegetarian among people who eat meat; you have to constantly endure good-humoured teasing which can turn annoying over a period of time. You are obligated to endure long, moralising talks advocating the benefits of non-vegetarianism. On a lighter note, you would also hear people criticise about the lack of variety in vegetarian diet which is but another covert attempt to sway you to non-vegetarianism. You will be told that non-vegetarian food is flavourful and relishable, whereas vegetarian food is bland; sometimes you will hear the audacious comment, it is unpalatable. People get rude, impolite, discourteous, insulting, and a lot of other adjectives when it comes to vegetarianism. The only thing possible at such times is to engage in this kind of non-vegetarian bashing to assuage the mockery you have been subjected to for being a vegetarian.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

To Perceive is to Live...

Ultimately, as in all experience, no clear line marks off what is "mine" from what I lived through other.
                                      - Arthur Frank, At the Will of the Body: Reflections on Illness

Arthur Frank states these words in narrating his illness experience. He comes to terms with his illness through others' experiences of their own. If all experiences, yours and mine, merge into one and can never be "marked off," what separates mine from yours is but illusory. We believe that one's store of experiences defines and gives an individual identity. We often see and perceive the world through the knowledge and wisdom we have acquired though our experiences, but we fail to understand that our perception of our own selves is made possible only through others. The self can be perceived and concretised only through others. Frank's words only disturb the complacent self, and makes one become acutely aware of the indispensability of people around us. We realise that by ". . . all experience is an arch . . .", Tennyson meant the collective experiences of men and women. If each one's experience is adding to the wholeness of human experience, each experience becomes significant and the need to validate one's own as worthier over others vanishes. This realisation awakens us to the vast sea of human wisdom in which each one of us is a drop. 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

In memory of the man who taught me to love. . .

Papu (as we lovingly called my grandpa) was a man of few words, and mostly kept to himself in his period of retirement. I have heard stories of his passionate involvement in the labour union for bank employees, how he relentlessly fought for their rights, and how he had never budged from achieving his ends.

Numerous anecdotes illustrate his greatness. In the early sixties, at the beginning of his career, he once wore veshti and shirt to work and was barred from entering the office. A rebel in his own rights, he quit the job to express his defiance; he was an unpretentious man who always professed only what he truly practised in his own life. Being born in an orthodox family that upholds tradition and follows conventional rituals without questioning, Papu was different. He possessed the courage and the individuality to rise above the repressive and oppressive effects of caste and creed. He stood as a role model for us to emulate and worship. He passed on his rebellious spirit to his son, daughters and grandchildren. His wife (my Patti) is no less a rebel. Patti and Papu never discussed caste or religion at home. I have never cared about my religious identity for I never witnessed people who did when I grew up.

Papu is synonymous with love. He never hated a man nor had he wished anything bad for anyone ever. He taught his children and grandchildren to be brave and always stand up for what is right. His love sustained me as a kid and his loving memories would be my sustenance in future.

I was fortunate to have my grandparents with me during my growing-up years - they held my hands teaching me to take small little steps as toddlers; fed my mind and tummy with stories and food; strengthened and moulded me with morals to carry forward their legacy. I fondly smile with contentment as I look back and reflect on the times I spent with my Papu.

Papu was a father I never had, a grandpa one could never find, and a man who left his indelible mark on the world.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

It has been a while since I posted something... Deserted by the Muses, I waited for a spark that would set aflame the desire to ramble. And then, I watched Vikram Vedha. Watching a movie is an experience that never fails to set me thinking. It is not everyday you witness the paths of an antagonist (debatable) who walks a tightrope between dharma and adharma, and a cop who spends sleepless nights manoeuvring to catch the former alive cross, only to pose the greatest existential question: what is dharma/adharma? The tension in the movie escalates when you see that the cop, Vikram is lured into the entrails of a moral mess by the Betal, Vedha; and then you are even more intrigued by the readiness Vikram exhibits in letting himself be controlled by Vedha (which I find quite natural for the person he is). 

I have always found the duality of dharma and adharma riveting. The Mahabharata, the greatest of epics, also exhausts this question to an extent that the line dividing the two blurs gradually. The director duo, Pushkar-Gayathri astutely point out the aforementioned blurring of the line; only here you find a real line with Vikram and Vedha on either side. What appears white and black turns grey (if only the duality of good and evil, or right and wrong were discernible, which in most cases is difficult, the world would be a much peaceful place to live). The peaceful world of Vikram is disrupted by questions he is forced to ask himself. The cop-ego he possessed of killing the wrongdoers is punctured; he is consumed by guilt and doubt. Vedha's nonchalance, and his rumination on the concept of dharma ensnare the righteous cop to engage in a moral dilemma. Vikram's discernment of good and bad is altered by the events he witnesses; he can see the "greyness," the point where the white and the black blend. This transformation fascinated me the most about the movie. If I could see people beyond the categorisation of good and bad, I could purge myself of the prejudice that I harbour against them. Good and bad are labels we attach to humans — we do unto others what we do not want from them*. Moralising is the least thing that the directors engage in Vikram Vedha; but you see what you want, and I did. 

(*An antithesis of Luke 6:31)

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Come what may…

Isn't twenties a great phase in life? I also engaged in that illusory belief until reality shook me out of my complacency. Being in my late twenties now I know better. 

My entry into twenties was surreal and was filled with countless dreams and aspirations. My days were ridden with bucket-lists of this and that and motley of things to be done before I celebrate my twenty-fifth birthday. Writing, reading, travelling, cooking, and many more… Here am I turning twenty-eight, and still wondering what worthwhile had happened in my life at this juncture. I am not cribbing and whining that things didn't go the way I presumed; but I can't deny the twists and turns that sprang up. Disgruntled though I may sound, I am quite happy the way things panned out. I have eventually realised that happiness is a state of mind, and as much as I seek it outside of me it further evades my grasp. 

Coming 2017, I look back at the road travelled. Bumpy and bone-breaking as it might have been, the rides were/are (past though they be, they lead to my present) memorable and I wouldn't trade them for better days. 

I always feel amused when I read Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” for ironically, the road not taken remains the offbeat, untraversed path in my life. The road taken by me conforms with the traditional view that people have of professions — teaching (at college). Isn't teaching the most preferred profession for a woman? It is surely not the road “less travelled”; and undoubtedly not the road that I wished for. Yet, it is a road that had revealed to me the happiness that lies in teaching. Enthralled by the sheer joy of teaching, I think it almost impossible for me to take the other of the “two roads.” I simultaneously possess the wisdom that life may continue to throw surprises, and I am prepared to take them as they come. In all likelihood, it could even help me find the way back to the long-forgotten road that I wished to take.

Wishing myself an eventful 2017! 

Monday, 19 December 2016

How about some 'me' time?

Whenever I feel lost, and wish to reclaim the "me" in me, I rush to the nearest cinema theatre -- the darkness of the hall helps me find some light within me. As I am ushered into the hall by the vague-eyed lanky guy, a tide of calmness washes me over. I know not what that makes me feel addicted to this experience of watching a movie alone in the midst of strangers, however paradoxical it sounds! There is an odd sense of belongingness one feels to oneself amidst people one wouldn't meet again in life; I know what you think -- that I'm crazy! May be... Strangers freak me out; being an introvert I have never felt comfortable dealing with people. I might pass off as a friendly person, but it is possible only with great efforts on my part. Yet, theatre is one place where I completely feel at peace with strangers. I like to have a person seated beside me, so close that you think it is discourteous to look into the eyes of the person, and spend the rest of the two and odd hours in silence. A lesson on the ephemerality of life and relationships (I'm fighting hard the impulse to sound like a yogi)! A young chap, a middle-aged woman, a thirty-ish fellow, an empty seat -- I've had all kinds of partners in my movie rendezvous. You feel some karmic connection with these people whom fate shall never bring into your life again. You laugh, you cry, you are at the edge of the seat! They laugh, they cry, they are at the edge of their seats! You wonder what separates an individual from the swarm of people around one? It gives way to more philosophical questions that you forget to sneak out of the movie hall to grab some popcorn to munch. You ask yourself if you walked into the hall intending to watch a movie, or raise such existential hullabaloo, that are so frequent in your late twenties. As you walk out of the hall, you know you haven't seen the visage of the person who spent two hours seated next to you; rather you chose not to. As you walk out of the hall, you see hundreds of people, yet you know that you strode into the hall with grace befitting the Queen of England and took your rightful place. You didn't bother to know who sat next to you, you cared not about what they thought of you, you asked not what they expect of you, for only you existed those 120 minutes of your life. You forgot the world around you, and for good. However egotistic, or narcissistic it sounds, it sure does make you feel significant. It makes your presence indispensable for just a while. It gives you an escapade from the jolting realities of life; to believe that your life is every bit perfect and is absolutely under your control. You wish you avail this newly found wisdom to help you on those days when you feel miserable and wretched and sulky.

And then, the movie is over, so is the escape to the wonderland. You go out to catch an auto, haggle with the autowala to feel absolutely normal and sane!