Tuesday, February 7, 2017

"Enhance", they said

The memory was thick. They were walking down a thin, winding road having a conversation that he would never forget. The year was younger; so were their dispositions to life. You could actually have these conversations back then. Father and son moments can never be in any less demand.

"So have you given the future a thought", he asked. "Ummm, not really," he replied.  

"You plan to?", he asked.

"Well, right now everything's a rush. I'll chart my path soon", he said, not looking up even close towards his dad. He didn't receive a happy response. Neither was it an unhappy one. It was one of those you-never-know-what-he-means ones. More a but-I'm-sure-he's-not-as-pleased-as-ever kinda look. But dads will always be dads. Between them and their children, one's shoulder shrug is another's short intense gaze. They are sometimes equal their own children in stubbornness.  

Then came the deathly moment of pin drop silence, except for the sounds of their footsteps. This has always been uncomfortable ground. Fear on one side and pride on the other. But you roll with it. Children will be the children they're allowed to be, and dad's, well, will be dads. Some have pot bellies. Some have dad jokes. Some just rule the Universe and are God himself, but have never slipped into the role well. 

"You've gotta have a game plan, son. Waddling around won't get you far", he said. Looking someone in the eye and communicating is not something he, or most grown men, were skillful at. Blame society gender roles. When you carry the weight you carry, it ain't no joke. 

"Yeah, working on it", he replied, hoping to end the conversation, at least that bit of it. Fingers crossed. They had an hour till they were to get back home. Mothers are better, he thought to himself. Plus, there would be a table full of food ready by the time he enters to take his mind off the heavy conversation. 

He looked at his watch as he caught his dad also looking at his. It was like it was a dirty secret they both discovered they had that no one wanted to admit. His dad grunted, shrugged his shoulders with some speed and   continued, "I'll put you across to Ravi. And Sarah too. You'll get a better idea of what to decide to do for your future."

"Ok", he gave in. It would be harmless, he thought. And he didn't have to decide anything after meeting them. He could have to but that was another bridge to cross that was at this moment a long way off. It can wait. Right now, the dying conversation they were having was sucking the very life out of the plants they passed by. 

Like a perfectly timed lifesaver, he saw the car in the distance. The moment became ten times more lighter when his dad took out the car keys and he heard a beep felt so close to home. They got in the car, and started on their way home in silence that could kill a man. It was going to be a ride of some distance. 

He wasn't sure if it was the wait to actually reach home, or the claustrophobic confines of the car, but something was making him stuffy. It could just be that air which had gotten thick again. Signal after signal, jam after jam, they passed by all sorts of scenes outside. Among all of it, he couldn't help see other children, some older and some young, without his present load. Suddenly the window glass felt jail bars. He heard a voice and he was suddenly too scared to turn around and see his own dad turn into a jail inspector. His dad was talking to him, with his eyes on the road ahead. 

"See, son, I just want you to be ambitious enough to never miss a chance at success. I hope you're never satisfied with just enough. I want you to always outdo yourself. Never limit yourself. There's always something you should be hungry for, something more.", he went on. But he was lost, staring at the window outside his prison. He was scanning all the varieties of people he could identify. There were folks who looked as if they were just getting by. Some who were well off, enough. Some were clearly struggling. He noted that most of them were smiling-not just today, but whenever he saw their kind. They were not depressed, and he did give more than a fair thought to the basic economics of it all.

"You would not have the comfort you would have had if I didn't do all of this", his dad continued. He was well aware, apart from what was drilled into him, about his privilege. He also knew what of it he truly loved and what he would choose again, if he was buying. He was also grateful for all the little and big things that no one can go without: good food, a roof and love unending. He wasn't the complaining kind. But he never dug it. He did find some of it, unnecessary, sometimes a lot of it. 

Lots more was on his mind. What's the cost of a smile you can always have on? What's the cost of access to a decent life you can work for? What's the cost of access to the physical fundamentals of life (provided even they aren't completely commercialised to be unreachable to most)? What's the cost of happiness and simplicity? Is it even an option anymore? Or do we have a price tag to live up to the moment we take our first breath? All the while his dad was mumbling away, as far as he was even interested in what he was saying. 

Now, he had ambition, or something like it, and he knew he wasn't rich enough not to work for the rest of his life. He also had a vague idea about his future plans but they would form soon. He wasn't illiterate about the real world. He was a sensible kid. But he was still a kid who needed to figure out stuff and then see where he finds his happiness. It was going to have to take time. He deserved his own options, at least the chance to try and make them happen. 

AIB, Value & Restriction

(Revisiting an unpublished post courtesy the recent Tannishtha Chatterjee story)

This post is inspired by a late Sunday night viewing of a TV show on the AIB Knockout Roast controversy. I once remarked to someone about it that it was not something you would watch with your mother, and I’ll support that statement by the end of this post.

First things first—the right of expression. We are all entitled to it. There are views and there are counterviews. In a diverse society, everyone is bound not to like at least one other person’s broadcasted views. It’s but natural. So then, we tolerate. Because, even without a right that has been inserted through universalisation, if we want ours as much, they should have theirs as much.

Then, Value. By this, I don’t mean the moralistic condemnation of someone else’s values (note the inflection to denote the singular of “Value” and the plural of “values”). Values indicates the sum total of singular, specific, objective or subjective principles that define how we behave, act, talk, make decisions and do all that we do, often referred to in a generalistic sense but being an objective set/subset of a certain number of such principles. Value indicates the principle of having one (or more than one) singular set of values.

During the said TV show, there were a bunch of comedians on the panel who supported AIB and their right to comedy. Things that were said included “If you don’t find it funny, or find it distasteful, don’t watch it”, “As long as Yo Yo Honey Singh is not touching and abusing/molesting anyone, he can rap whatever and whichever way he likes” and “comedians have a responsibility to make observations of society and do them humourously”. There were also insinuations that this making light of more-than-serious on ground social issues was effective in bringing out the truth of the matter (via sarcasm, I suppose).          

There are two things about that.

Free & Objective/Subjective Morality: What the comedians were espousing is free morality i.e. every person(s) (one or more than one) must be free to do (in this particular case, express) as they wish what they wish. What this thinking conveniently forgets (and those in the TV programme defending the AIB Roast) is that while we live free, we also build society as we walk and talk. Every step of ours is a building block of life ten years from now, or at least a little crumb of the bricks that (hopefully) make a sustainable way of life—the same manner in which responsible parents engage their lives when they bring their children up. We have to watch and advance with that perspective. You will not champion demeaning (sorry, “rude”), vulgar (sorry, “funny”) and other kinds of jokes as the main talk of a generation. It sets the precedent of how depraved, wide, intelligent, sensitive and/or  crude the qualities (among other ones) will be that they will attain, primarily identify with, culturally justify and pass on without the bat of an eyelid (that’s before you start to berate society, teenagers, people these days, “this generation” and such!). Don’t approve of it, mildly even (or just in jest), unless you’d want to complain of it years from now.

To Value: To value is to hold something precious beyond everything possible, usually something priceless, like everyday sleep, manners, or people. When we hold what we value precious, it starts to define us and those are the steps that I elucidated in the first point. Point being, we cannot value jokes that are meant to be rude for the purpose of a roast unless we are of the values we’d be attacking or offending first. When we laugh at those jokes, we assume that all are values are indeed thrown out of the window (because that is the premise of the roast), just like how you tease best friends or people you like very much. But, the underlying assumption there is that outside of a comedy routine, we would not catch ourselves even making light of these issues. The alibi is that that is exactly what comedy is about. But, hey, wait a minute! And that’s where the irony starts—at least the irony that smacks you in the face each time you offer it up as a reason, and every time thereafter like a stuck record because of the right to comedy (which is not being disputed here, or reasonably anywhere else).

While embattling the above said principles, this nature of censorship is like not allowing younger children to watch the many certain kinds of movies we often do. We say they are “too young” for it. It does not mean they won’t watch it later when they’re older (which doesn't make it an over-protective conservative stand). It just means (usually) that they should watch it after they get value (note: singular). The double-sided nature of it doesn't make this system hypocritical. It only makes it protective. The same people protecting them now are not the ones who will make them watch it. A value-filled life is the only protection against the big bad world which will present to them a singular warped version that amounts to a boundariless pit of individual freedom-based preaching: a do what you want & don’t restrict yourself attitude, all in an unrooted vacuum. How will you know when you're spinning yourself crazy, and if you are, if you don't have one?

Being valueless is a social vacuum that can never logically exist on its own. It only exists because, well, we come to the point where we have to independently assert a specific set of values that add to a linear system that keep things in balance. I don't, for a second, say that this form of linearity should be restrictive.

So, it's a free society and that implies that we must be able to speak our minds and crack our jokes as we please. We are also free to opt out of participation in such events, such a culture, and what they stand for as a whole. But we forget the fact that we build society everyday. While we are free to choose our building blocks on any basis we like, which is our choice (temporary fun because, why not?/long term and meaningful because that's the stuff of life that actually lasts after temporary fun), we have to understand that we are opting in for convenient moral codes of behaviour that aren't linear, destroy the perceived good created by one way when switched to the other way at convenience, and inherit the uninformed, and being informed, ones watching a confusing, unrooted culture which celebrates nothing. When we move to a culture that we are able to freely propogate, and end up teaching something with consistency (without the switch of convenience), we can have a discussion about the virtue of the content it does propogate. Till then, for the above reasons, I don't suggest that you watch the program with your mother.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Other Side Of JNU

First off, this is not about the “sedition” issue. Law making only on assumed/perceived intent and never on action is not admirable modern 21st century trait. I’ll post my political dissent note after I address the main topic of this write up.

This is about JNU because one of the details that surround it is that all/most of the protesting students were MA/PhD students in Social Sciences. It seems like their parents never told them that an MBA, Medicine or Engineering is the ticket to real money and career. After all, what good is studying sociology, society and politics with that focus unless you teach it? That too, at the fag end of your education when it’s supposed to define what you do with your life. Aren’t the ones who teach the same people who are absolutely hopeless at doing the same thing (http://zenpencils.com/comic/124-taylor-mali-what-teachers-make/)? Doesn’t studying to eventually teach create an unnecessary industry for these useless courses? They could also join an NGO type institution that studies people and culture? I mean, what RoI and big pay does that bring? Perhaps we can do something more productive with ourselves that debate things like society, politics and sociology. 

Well, maybe, just maybe it’s because we got the tables turned to begin with. Let’s define the categories here. There’s the Social Sciences/Humanities folk (History, Economics, Sociology, English and the types) and there’s the Sciences folk (BSc, BCA, BE, BTech and their consequent masters fields). They’ve all done 12 years of a factory-set education where they’ve been drilled with more of the latter (technical knowledge) and less of the former. More so, we’ve been filled with a truckload of knowledge that makes us say things like “Which school did you go to?”, when someone doesn’t know something that everyone knows because most of us are supposed to have gone to school, however irrelevant what we learnt may have ever been to life that matters. It’s strange that we’ve had to create a separated (now justified to become mainstream) knowledge system in order to justify a hurried approach to learning which we refuse to dispose.

We’ve spent all those years learning more about science, maths and physics than about people, culture, society and life. Agreed, these are things we observe and learn from the world around us, not things we need to be schooled into. But these are also things we need to introspect and examine on a critical basis. While we do some of it, and earn acclaim for courage to challenge society and bring about good change, that remains in project work. They may as well be allowed to reap some benefit for you.

All of that attention to introspection sadly only gives way to an importance of economy over society. We end up studying further with the sole focus of becoming something when we grow up. Our education has a pre-cost economic/financial value more than being filled with values itself. And everything has values. No one creates values. They exist, just like we have parents of a certain kind who live a certain lifestyle and just like our first view (and referral point) of society is. This will always be our primary viewpoint of them unless/if/when we find them destructive to ourselves.

When we prioritise economy and innovation over society, people and values, we create zero space for something that we find that we (surprisingly) have a missing appetite for which provides balance to everything. For example, a highflying engineer who has broken industry records who won’t allow his daughter to prioritise an education over marriage or a nation with scientific achievements (which it revels in) that kills over things such as meat eating. An economy without ethics and a market without values, the ethics and values which we have not deliberated upon enough to go ahead in consensus first, is detrimental by nature. It leaves with you with an identity crisis that you don’t recognise, and one which you will refuse to admit when it hits you. All you will do is say that you’re right and make sure you get the satisfaction of that being grandly accorded to you, whether you do it by via state force, a stick or mob frenzy.

In JNU, the issues that were raises were fall under exactly these: ethics and values. The essential ones, dissected and laid bare to see what they’re worth (or whether in that form they were worth a lifetime of following and swearing by). Maybe with a little passion and bias towards one side, but would you be one of the few who prefers a stance distanced from passion? And that’s all just style and statement. Most of the truth is in what’s left after the issues have been cut apart and whether they’d still command your respect as a whole, or in part, and why. 

We wouldn’t have to debate all of this if we were all in such a celebrated hurry to turn all our young ones into achievers of innovation without being good receivers and keepers of values first. Having spent no time for the latter, the cognitive dissonance rules the dialogue, if you can call it one, of what values must be and what mustn’t. What’s more is that these values too guide our innovation and economy. Though they seem uninvestworthy by educational institutions that want to impress uninformed parents who don’t understand the whole ecosystem that their child will play a role in when they take up further studies and career, and are overlooked for market movements, they are worth far more. Why? The peak of the mountain you wanted to reach all along is not the place to realise that deep down inside you’re made up of nothing you’d respect (that’s unless you’re in a state of self-denial and you go on a rampage to protect your half-built identity).

We wouldn’t have to pretend to know and be right, if we did a lot more arts and humanities first. We’d learn about culture, society, people, values, languages and so much more. We’d interact and cross-interact till we influence, understand and learn from each other what’s best and what’s most ‘us’—individually and as a people. If you want a united nation that you don’t want to unite by force, you have to allow us to grow up as one. You don’t just ‘become’ united in a second with one kind of unity that does not involve *everybody* else. Each one. The terms of that unity are only consequential. Agreeing to disagree comes in where it fits in. Maybe India is is not your India, or even my India. Let’s go see what piece of the puzzle we’ve missed out and let’s allow it to teach us. Don’t teach it what it should be. Instead discover it and let it help you too.    

There are enough working adults in the world to keep it running when it has to be run with Pythagoras Theorems and Nuclear Fission. Even those are best guided by a good set of values and ethics. The kids will get there as they grow older. The technical stuff will work its way in if we let supply and demand of the curiosity of knowledge work its way through to the system freely and define it. We may even bring the system down to give root to a better one. But a system that gives you a generation with no root in values, ethics, people and society will always topple when they’ve reached the top they are working towards and realise that. Have you ever seen a falling tree fighting silly-ly? I’m sure it’ll be a sight as entertaining as the silly logic of the people opposing all of this “anti-nationalist” talk.  

Even if we end up with no system (which seems our greatest worry for those who want change), they’d actually be learning better and more and in a way that’s a thousand times more relevant.  

My note of political dissent: Given the events that have happened at JNU, and my continuous reading of them, there was nothing with wrong what happened. The event was held in honour of a Kashmiri poet’s work, and linked issues were raised which is not objectionable at all. The objectionable slogans were raised by outsiders. The ones arrested have no provable charge, and sedition is a law that belongs to tyrants that appear in whichever form of mildness. The present government has not yet publicly come out as one, and I don’t think they intend to. Anti-nationalism is not a thing, except being a sentiment, and one that’s not supportable in the form it’s being enforced by the proclaimed “nationalists” with the diversity of views (values, ethics, society, people and culture) that is representative of this whole nation’s diverse people. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Certain Person

There was a Certain Person 
At a certain time 
Who had an uncle, aunty, mom, dad 
Or grandparent gone mad 
Who’s uncle, aunty, mom, dad (or grandparent gone mad) 
Told them to lead a life that is very sad 
To be respectable among folk 
Lest their actions may bad reactions provoke 
So they took the happy and easy route 
So that their lives would bear the fruit 
That their uncle, aunty, mom, dad (or grandparent gone mad) envisioned 
Probably because of their own strong lack of self vision 
So as they went along 
They sang a happy song 
Thinking that it will only a few years last 
Once they’re done they can have a blast 
Leading the lives that they’ve always wanted 
The least to one that must be granted 
But as it turned out, you see 
More than one year too many it turned out to be 
For their uncle, aunty, mom, dad (or grandparent gone mad) 
To be finally happy and glad 
That their little one grown big 
Has pulled off, so far, a great gig 
Now that everyone is happy and gay 
They can easily be one their way 
Just when, “What a liberating feeling”, they were about to say 
They realized that there was nothing that could pay 
For the years lost by in which they paid 
The price of a life that has been wastefully lead 
Of no meaning to their own soul 
But a curse with which they will have to stay till they grow old 
Because too deep had the life so far engraved 
In them a scar that can’t be saved 
But life must go on and much depends 
On them and while fulfilling these duties, they can’t make amends 
To the rot of the soul that was in them so deep 
That they dream of the disappointment everyday in their sleep 
But deeper it goes as time goes by 
As they live with the lost dreams as if on a faraway isle 
Till it comes to them to instigate 
That Certain Person that very road to take 
And something of their life make 
Such that nothing can be at stake 
So their respectability they can remake 
And salvage what was lost by them 
In lieu of their supposed-to-be lived life, the gem 
This process goes on and on 
Yes, it is an endless song 
That is passed down the ages long 
To only put to rest dreams, hearts and souls so strong 
But one thing can stop this tyranny 
This destroyal of heart, dreams and souls to be free 
If that Certain Person stamps their feet 
And says that these demands they will not meet 
Because we are making zombies of ourselves 
Lives that are not worth even putting on the shelf 
So if that Certain Person is you 
I beg and plead you to come through 
For this day, this age, this generation at least 
So people can follow their hearts in peace 
So you Certain Person wherever ye be 
Come out I pray ye 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Some of the many things that Jesus said

Here are some of the many things that Jesus said
Only He knows when, only He knows where
And no one really knows why
But we must follow them to our last breath
The imagination that makes this poem
Comes from the specifications of these instances and reasons
As far as they make any case at all
If they cross a certain line
Such is only the basis of these things that He said, apparently

Having gathered His beloved around Him
For some time of sweet communion
He spread his arms wide, and then with a gleeful smile
He said, "Let's talk about ME"
With his thumbs pointed firmly towards Himself
Which is why we must give Him all the praise
Talk only about him, only His exact name spoken makes any talk worthy
Because He really needs to be told how awesome He is all the time
Everything he created is a tribute to himself
Not necessarily a natural reflection of Him
By default, with souls of their own
That feed his ego, or so it seems, in a strange way
In the same tone voice, He said,
"Build me a great big grand majestic house
One that's truly worth my splendour of My Majesty
One that I will be able to rest my head in atleast."
That's why we like things in his honour to be of large sizes
The larger the building, the greater His honour
The fancier the arrangement, the more He is happy
The more money spent, the more glory He is given
The more bling it involves, the more of his riches it sings
Funnily, the empty spaces in between the high walls
Only echo lack any real worth of His Word
How more worthy would it be if the fanciness of the arrangement
Was first, always and primarily the prettiness of our hearts inside
And that prettiness was made not made into non-breathing art or sculpture
But living work that spoke the His Word indeed
If only the money was spent on living
And not dead, works of His Splendor
In the temples that are you and I
In our actions, deeds and words
With true grandness, prettiness and richness

Setting his standard higher, He said,
"I need to be worshipped in hallowed portals of praise."
So, we are to always worship Him in such a manner
Where we express our desire to put him on a pedestal up high
For, and out of, the abundance that He has surrounded us with
Where we plan the whole affair knowing we will glorify him
And put him on that pedestal, in a manner that's grand, pretty
And with the richness of our abundance
But then just imagine the effort, planning, sponsorship
And all that goes into its organisation
Why don't we break out into praise in all this abundance
When we are out on the streets
And hold it all inside for these moments so grand?
Isn't that the grandeur, prettiness and richness we should be naturally exhibiting instead?
Carrying on with the theme of grandeur, prettiness and richness, he remarked,
"I want you to devote your lives to, every second of it, to Me in worship of my Majesty"
In perfect obedience, we took our passion for Him
Along with the grandeur, prettiness and richness
And added to it tremendous organisation so that it would be efficient
After all, the corporate guys did it and they were successful after all
So, we got the funding right
So that we could present a close-enough-to-perfect picture
We need to make it sound cool and fancy
It'll sell a little bit more
That's the point after all, right?
But then we ran a ministry with no involvement
No real involvement, that is
The guys who ran the show has their designations
And the volunteers came and did as they were told
They both worked according to agendas
They sometimes even let the money that ran the show speak first
After all, you needed the money to run show now, didn't you?
And of course, there were the organisational issues
We couldn't let the organisation die either, right?
If it did, so would our means of following God's call
Ministry became a business
Wasn't it to be a lifestyle? Something we do anyway?
How difficult is A to B logic now?
Weren't we supposed to go when He said, "Go"?
We were really busy with our agendas
We forgot that people don't see what we teach
They really, really see what we preach
We really devoted our lives to Him
In worship of His Majesty indeed
Absolutely Corporately
To end the discussion, He said,
"Keep my flock. Make sure they don't go astray."
Taking these words to heart, as we should,
We did that, as we should have
In an effort to keep it simple
So that we reach out the most people we probably can
We started getting relevant, of course, with right intention
So that they indeed don't go astray
To fight the influence of the world
We started packaging Christianity in boxes that sold
Hoping that all the packages will add up to Real Thing soon enough
We must take the fastest route that will probably be the most successful
Link it to everything around and they'll obviously get the sense in it
But when you juxtapose the Word and the World in such close relation
You obviously are messing around
A little too much more than you should
The healing is not in the reasoning of the mind
The healing's in the heart, only by the Master
Not by convincing that it's the better truth off the shelf
By telling them things that are much more than obvious
Than when we preach it for its original worth
The fun'n games follows suit

When we truly celebrate each other in the Lord
The frontier that is to be conquered
Is not to be bargained for by the mind
It is one that is to be bought over by the Master
We fully and completely inform and leave for
The deal between the Soul and the Master to be sought

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Rape. And the woman who gets stuck in the middle of it.

Delhi: Rape - the name the city has come to go by, not just since the infamous Amanat/Nirbhaya rape. As we, as a society, try to grapple with the situation, we tried to get an all-round, clear understanding of all issues at hand. Dispassion helps, especially when more-than-justified rage will just only make the cycle bigger, all the while remaining equally frustrating. What you need to do is break the cycle.

Anger-fueled punishment for rapists will only give us temporary redemption. While the chorus rings that stricter punishment will deter the instances of the crime, if not abolish the crime itself, it is clear that future rapists are not/will not be deterred by almost anything. Factors that contribute to this are the far-reaching rural areas where laws don't reach usually. Sheer ignorance and a non-understanding of the concept, benefit and rationale of civic compliance defeats obedience and fear of law. Add to that the quick and stern action and taken by the police, and you have a situation that one peaceful protest or one well-drawn law can start to undo with the snap of the fingers (note sarcasm).

We went around taking stock of the people's opinions to get the right understanding of what the true ground reality is among women, since the men get all the attention these days. There seems to be an unanimous ring to the collective opinion of the women in the country.

Sheila, a vegetable seller, who toils from the early hours of the morning to the evening around Chandni Chowk says, "Every morning near the Metro station, I see young college boys come dressed to kill and every other moment as they pass by, I sigh. How I'd love to hang with them, but what can I do?" She is but all of just 18. The average age of these children and sounded almost helpless. She has crushes on a few boys who pass by daily because they fit her perfect prince charming, and their tight bodylines made evident by their stick-on t-shirts and jeans only send her in a tizzy - she sometimes forgets to take the money her customers hand her. When asked if she will ever act upon those feelings, she replies with a firm, "No."  It's taboo, she feels, and certainly not a privilege she has. We were not able to make out why she started to suddenly ignore us when we asked her why she felt so - if she felt she had spoken out of turn or that she had indulged herself enough.

Down south in Bangalore, in one of  MG Road's swanky branded showrooms, Prathiba deals with many high-class clientele. Most of them well-groomed, or really rich, almost take her breath away when they come to pay their bills. What just gets her are their fancy suit cuts. That tugs at her like an elephant's pulling at her heart, and everything else along with it. Unfortunately, she fights it every second as response times with servers the swipe machine is attached to work in time units less than those seconds. From a poor family, to have a handsome man (which her job gives her much viewing access to) who is rich enough to flash cards like that is her dream. Her dream, in the last year she has worked here for, has been to find a handsome man with that perfect suit cut that comes along the perfect heart of gold that deserves it. Despite the constant war that's raging inside her, she has chosen to stick with such a dangerously stimulating environment. We asked her what drives her to stay in an environment that makes her constantly vulnerable but she funny-eyed us while the next customer came forward. You could almost see her fighting inside, like there was a battle zone in her eyes as she routinely swiped the card and delivered a, "Thank you, sir" with ultimate poise. You'd only have to be there to see it.

Mamta, a 3rd year college student from Kochi's prestigious Maharaja's College, has gotten used to tingles every time she goes to college. With the college full of hot, cute boys, she admits she should hardly expect to feel any different. A student of theatre, she likens the feeling to her experience with over-coming stage fright. Just like her master used to push her onto the stage to overcome initial hiccups, she feels a hand pushing her out there every time the hordes of cute males enter the canteen. It's worse when hordes of boys enter the library but she has garnered enough self-control to pin it down. She is not sure yet whether it indicates that she is sapiosexual or whether it's the same hand-pushing-her-from-behind effect. She didn't shy away, like Prathiba and Shiela, when we probed further. She said that sometimes it starts to feel right, as opposed to the other times that when it's generally supposed to feel (or be) wrong. She does act on tingles some of those times. 

Roopa, 35 and quite the socialite, was unlike all of the above. She's at a party every day. She keeps enough male contact, and even dances with them, to make an entire Khap Panchayat go insane in a second. She celebrates her tingles. For her, it's no big deal. She's never been taught to lie about the truths of life, and she doesn't see the need to now. She said that individuality is important in society, individuality of all kinds. Society is made from and of healthy blocks, not the other way round, is her philosophy. We asked her at any point if she felt unsafe or was abused while so, she replied in the negative. She did admit, though, that many people like her are abused - those who have learnt to enjoy, appreciate, relish and celebrate the freedom in individuality, sexual and otherwise. To them, she said, there is no consolation except revenge, of which there is only empty hope from the authorities. In defense, she questioned the logic of keeping women away on the basis of the probable atrocities per rapist, as opposed to actually putting away the cause i.e. the rapist (she made that very clear) and not just the symptom. When it came to the root of the cause, she said that the roots has too many ends which rapists use when they find best convenient. They even make new ones to justify the act.       

All across the nation, we asked women across the spectrum of age, colour, caste and economic status. It was like standing in a hall with reverberating effect, just in a different language, in a different tone - but all spelt out the very same thing, loud and clear. One thing that we asked the three of them, and the others whom we spoke for this report, was whether women are isolated in feeling this way - having to fight a war inside more than once a day. They resounded with strong, "No." We then asked them whether their male counterparts also had a struggle that was going on inside them. And they resounded with a stronger, "Of course", but they added more before the excitement of the echo ended. The added echoes implied - "At least we admit it. They wouldn't ever. The shameless among of them only justify it and we end up being the victim!"

Lil' Jesus the Centerpiece

Lying on a toy shop window
Taken from the box of Christmas Last
Was a manger with a baby in it
Lil' Jesus the centerpiece

He was kept on  that window
For it was a season
Among many other things
of Christ the Reason

As the days went by
Many things were moved and were replaced
But that on window remained
Lil' Jesus staring out, unfazed

And so days did pass on by
Even the snow started to bellow
As did the people coming in
But Lil' Jesus didn't seem to go

As the days began to grow old
And the season began to fold
The owner set to close the doors
For even his Christmas was due too

As he was clearing up
He lay all things remained in a neat little heap
To go in which came the turn
Of Lil' Jesus the centrepiece

He lifted it up
And turned it around
“To what do we owe you here, still?”
He sighed and he breathed

As he was about to put it away in the heap
A rap on the door came after scuttling little feet
In a squeaky little voice, he spoke
“Please sir, can I have that please?”

Looking at it once again he almost bellowed
“But for its price, if you please”
The young lad pinched out a penny or two
And with a smile, he grabbed it and off he went

Glad that Lil' Jesus was gone at last
The owner went to put away the rest
And in his drawing he got much a surprise
For inside was a nativity fest

But there was commotion which he could sense
And he asked what was the problem was to his little darling princess
“What is the matter, dear daughter, pray tell?”
“There's something missing, Daddy. Look, can't you see?”

So he looked hard and fast at the display
To find out what what was missing, he just may
And as he was about to give up, something caught his eye
There was no manger and baby was what he saw

So, out he went, his coat he grabbed
To find that squeaky little lad
To bring back for his little princess that priceless toy
of Lil' Jesus the baby boy

Upon the window, he stepped
And, oh, did his heart melt
There was the boy next to a plain wooden table
Which had Lil' Jesus but there was no stable

There was no Joseph and Mary either
Nor the wise men or the Shepherds
He lingered on to analyze
What for the boy only wanted Lil' Jesus Christ

Just then, a gentle voice hushed him inside
“Hello dear sir, would you like something warm?”
It's cold outside. The wind is getting strong.”
He looked at the woman and asked her the tale

The woman told him that her little son
Always dreamed of having himself a nativity display
This year, she saved just one coin
One coin which she gave up for the dream of her little son

The rest of the story's already been told
He could choose but only one little nativity toy
But he chose not the sheep, the shepherd or king
He chose Lil' Jesus the Centerpiece

He went to the boy and asked him why
He chose that single piece out of all
The boy turned to him and smiled
“Because, sir,  without Jesus everything else would be nought.”