Tag Archives: Culture

A day in the bazaar: Handicraft shopping in Delhi

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Dark Knight Rises Review: A conversation with my ten year old son

((Warning: Reveals the plot. So those who intend to watch the movies please do not read any further))

It was late in the night when I came out of the theater, having watched the latest Hollywood flick, The Dark Knight Rises, with my ten year old son Tintin. Both of us had had a whale of a  time – great action, superb story and some tasty popcorn.

Tintin: Awesome. (He gave his verdict.)

Me: Yes, great movie. Less humor than Spiderman, though.

Tintin: That Miranda Tate was a villain. I was so surprised. She was the kid in the well?

Me: Yes. And the Catwoman was not so bad after all.

Tintin: (With a scowl of disapproval) She was bad. She got Batman into the trap of Bane. Imagine if he had failed to escape. But why did Miranda hate Batman?

I explain the plot to him. That Miranda was a victim of the ‘system’ and hated it. Batman was the defender of the city of Gotham. She wanted to destroy Gotham and Batman was in her way. I also explain that Gotham city symbolized the World, but more specifically the Western Civilization, while Bane and Miranda can be equated with today’s terrorists and Maoists.

Tintin: (Confused) Why were the poor people being tortured and put into prisons?

I realized that I had opened a Pandora’s box. I decided to change the track to bang-bang.

Me: Did you notice that Batman rarely uses guns. Most of his fights are hand to hand.

Tintin: That’s why Catwoman said she did not believe in his no-guns policy, when she shot Bane?

Me: Batman wants to restore order with minimum of bloodshed. He normally wants to put criminals into jail, and not kill them.

Tintin: But they said jails were full. Why?

Me: (falling into the trap again) Jails are full because there are extremely rich and extremely poor people. When the poor are exploited, they resent. When they rebel violently, they are thrown in jails.

Tintin: (with conviction) That’s wrong.

Me: (trying for a quick course correction) That is what the movie says, but people cannot be allowed to kill innocent children. For example, even if our system is wrong, you are not responsible. Why should a terrorist kill you?

Tintin: (thoughtfully) The terrorists are wrong.

I sighed. No one really understands who is wrong and who is right any longer. Up till now such dilemmas were part of the vocabulary of the ‘bleeding heart liberal’ intellectuals. But now such questions are being posed in the popular culture by superheroes. Difficult times ahead for the next generation.

Me: Yes the terrorists are wrong. By the way, Alfred the butler was really happy to see Batman living a normal life as Wayne at the end of the movie. (I tried to draw his attention to the good ending.)

Tintin: Ye…es, but what will happen to the people who were in the prison?

I realized the movie had had a deep impact. I quickly changed the subject to the upcoming flick Superman, to avoid getting deeper into world politics and ruining the moment.

But I could not help but thinking that the movie had damned both the system and the challengers. The movie itself gave no answers – Batman could only just restore the fragile old order. It raised questions that probably the next generation will have to answer. For me, that was not a ‘good’ enough ending, but I guess, for the moment that is where we are. And in that sense it was an honest movie, definitely a cultural milestone.

***


No place for strangers

 
Wrong color, wrong size, wrong features
No, no, no!
This is no place for strangers, my friend.
 
 
Wrong thought, wrong word, wrong move
Can hurt!
Be careful whom you trust, my friend.
 
 
Wrong world, wrong time, wrong attitude
Adapt or leave!
We live in packs, in clans, my friend.
 
 
Wrong education, wrong books, wrong arguments
Do not work here!
We have all the knowledge we need, my friend.
 
 
Wrong painting, wrong cartoon, wrong song
You offend so!
Be sensitive to our sensibilities, my friend.
 
 
Wrong caste, wrong creed, wrong language
Remember your place!
We never cross our lines, my friend.
 
 
Wrong class, wrong job, wrong side of the city
Do not presume our goodwill!
We have rules for everyone, my friend.
 
 
Wrong tribe, wrong gang, wrong loyalties
You are marked!
We have to protect our own, my friend.
 
 
Wrong border, wrong picket, wrong barricade
Say the password!
Sorry, we have our orders, my friend.
 
***

Rule of law

The law is clear –
There is a clear direction
In the country: the law –
(One of the great
Traditions given to us
By the colonial rulers,
And observed since
As an honored convention)
Says- ‘The more powerful
Can loot
The less powerful.’
 
Nothing can be simpler
To understand;
One wonders why
There is so much
Confusion.
In all places
Where there is rule of law
This law is observed
Faithfully.
 
It is in the jungles
Or where the civilization has collapsed
That you find
The obnoxious spectacle
Of the poor looting the rich,
Of the exploited
Picking up the guns, and hiding
Dastardly behind the bushes,
To shoot at the powerful.
 
By undermining
The law of the land;
 
By questioning
The rightful authority;
 
By grabbing
What is not mandated to you
By those who decide;
 
By obstructing
The march of civilization –
When you are expected to side step
And let it march ahead
To wherever it is going;
 
By creating doubts
With your silly arguments
And fake stories
Of hunger and exploitation
 
And by your incessant whining
 
And by your not following
The simple law
That determines
Who exploits whom
And who is permitted
To loot whom –
 
By all these acts of deliberate defiance
Of the law of the land,
You lose our sympathy,
And justify
Whatever action
Is mandated for you
By those who decide.
 
Please remember-
It is in all our interests
To uphold the laws
Given to us
And adopted
Or created
By those who are mandated
To decide on these things
By us.
 
***
 

Top ten (and more) psychological advantages of being an Indian

Mind boggles at the sheer advantage that one gets from being an Indian. It is a pretty comfortable culture to be a part of, provided you can tolerate all the other crack-pots around you, like they tolerate you. Consider this randomly thought-of list of psychological advantages:

(Warning: Ultra-nationalist, ultra-patriotic, ultra-sensitive Indians need not waste their time reading the list, for you guys already know everything.)

  1. You will never feel lonely or an alien, anywhere in the world – nay, even on Mars. (When you get down from your rocket, there will be an Indian taxi to welcome you.)
  2. Even if you are dumb, wherever you go people, by default, will think you are an IIT-an, and a geek. An early advantage always helps.
  3. You can always be on a high moral ground, being from the world’s largest democracy, though you may never have cared to vote in your life.
  4. You are not bound to follow laws and rules. Traffic rules or traffic lights are an example – here you are the master of the road. Another benefit is the thrill that you get on reaching home in one piece, for it is always a gamble.
  5. You can lecture the world on the greatness of Hinduism, of family values, of spirituality, of Gandhian thought etc etc….while being ignorant and intolerant at the same time.
  6. You can be proud of things people did thousands of years ago, as if it was you (or your grandfather) who was directly responsible.
  7. You can be a full-grade male chauvinist but still flaunt your Goddess-worshipping culture and claim to be the most liberated-advanced-enlightened race.
  8. You can give a few rupees to the nearest beggar, have a dip in holy Ganga or recite a holy mantra, and all your guilt (for your cheating, lying, exploiting, corruption, thieving etc) gets erased, as if by magic. Great therapy is available for free.
  9. You can always flaunt being a part of a multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-race, multi-linguistic society – though you may never have learned any of the other languages of your own country, and may even be bad-mouthing other  communities on the internet social sites.
  10. You can lecture the world on the half-baked ideas on Vedanta that you have read from English text-books. It is pretty satisfying to know that all what the scientists of the Western world are slogging to discover was already known to YOU.
  11. Pray to a God of your choice (from an assorted set of thousands of them) or even remain atheist or agnostic (for those are also valid religious streams in Hinduism), fanatically follow from any of the ideologies ever propounded (all have popular pockets of influence in India), do nothing in life except argue and criticize (Amartya Sen approves)….
  12. Have a great family support, with parents feeding and supporting you for virtually your entire lives, till they live that is. Feel pretty superior about your joint family traditions, though you may not even remember the names of your first cousins. Have the psychological support of a huge family (which acts like a New York gang in times of trouble) to support you in bad times (i.e. when you have really messed up your life being selfish and careless). It is, indeed, a great advantage.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. No wonder Indians love to create ‘mini-Indias’ wherever they go.

***


The Mall Girls

They line up outside the Malls
Before they open,
They are the last ones
To be chucked out;
They plan to spend their honeymoon,
Nay, their lives,
In the glittering environs
Of shopping arcades
For they are, unabashedly,
The Mall Girls.
 
They need a lot of dresses
And accessories to go with them,
They need some plastic money
And a nice designer bag;
It takes  care and planning
To be just right
When they are on the marble floor
Of the spanking urban oasis
Of modern life – for they are
The Mall Girls.
 
They lose their heart early in life
They bunk schools and college,
They forget their homes and kids
To be where their heart is;
Though they found their love
When young,
They remain loyal till the end
They pine to be with their love
Everyday, for they are
The Mall Girls.
 
                                                                 ***

A Poet’s world

A poet lives on a rainbow.
When he descends
to write about the poor,
he fails to notice the tattered clothes,
or the stench of disease
in their sweat, in their breath –
he can only see a brave man
loved by the Gods.
 
The landscapes in his poems
are either sunrise or sunset
(preferably on a beach);
and when he writes of deserts
he misses
the fierce mid-day heat,
the searing sand,
the cacti and the scorpions.
 
The world of a poet
is rhyming, metered, musical.
His ears are not tuned
to register the jarring note
of jealousy and sarcasm.
He believes
that all laughter is joy,
and all smiles are honest.
 
Let us drag the poet
to a market and make him sit
with the ledgers, or the beggars;
let’s make him carry coal
on an empty stomach.
And in the evening, let’s take him
into the graying lanes
where the mobs feed on the innocents.
Let’s squeeze poetry
out of the poet.
 
***
 

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