Truth and Dare

Yesterday, Indian social media was abuzz with two events involving journalists. One was about a senior editor being phished into believing she had been appointed as an assistant professor of journalism at Harvard. She apparently shared crucial personal information with the cyber criminals and actually flaunted the not-yet-acquired job position title since the past 3-4 months to get speaking and writing engagements. The latter act majorly divided social media opinion on her intentions and reduced the sympathy and seriousness related to the phishing act that made her quit her cushy job at a leading newsroom in India.

The other more revealing news came in the form of hundreds of pages of WhatsApp chat leaks of a leading journalist in a national news channel. Not only was this bad publicity for WhatsApp that is paying for large advertorials claiming our chats are safe on their platform, it was an absolute riot for Indian social media users, who enjoyed every bit of juicy stuff highlighted in the chat transcripts. The said journalist is believed to be unscrupulous in his means, loud, arrogant, angry, and condescending. At the same time, he has a large fan following of those who condone his nationalist stand and rowdy debates on Prime Time. But this weekend, the Nation wants to know this journalist and his brand of journalism better by consuming the reams of WhatsApp chat in faint Courier New font.

An interesting weekend indeed with the promise of excitement, controversy, gossip, reveals, debates – all delivered directly to your favourite social media account. Needless, to say, it prompted me to pen a verse.

Vagrant Smiles

Finding Our Religion

One of the series that I really liked watching on Prime Video was The Path. Around the same time, I was enjoying reading Sapience by Yuval Noah Harari. While the web series and the book are not connected in any way, as a viewer and reader, I found a common theme. The inherent violent, rather competitive nature of man, the use of myths and stories to advance control over bands of people, and the use of cognitive behaviors and social needs inherent in our genes, to further the misgivings and insecurities of humans, with the aim of subjugation. Harari writes – “…an imagined order is always in danger of collapse, because it depends upon myths, and myths vanish once people stop believing in them. In order to safeguard an imagined order, continuous and strenuous efforts are imperative. Some of these efforts take the shape of violence and coercion.”

Placing both the series and the book, side-by-side, I could articulate the problem I perceive in any organized religion, movement, or cult. It is the concept that nonconformists are beyond redemption and need to be brought into the fold to be cured, saved, and protected. This thought leads to hatred, subjugation, divisiveness, a holier-than-thou attitude and eventually a thrust towards conversion. The same holds true in the political world.

Religion or spirituality has to be a personal experience. Till a religion teaches that the people on the other side of the fence are sinners requiring the intervention of its followers to cleanse them, that religion is teaching hatred and it cannot be a world religion. Can we identify any world religion today … None … Each one says unless you join my tribe of followers you are doomed! This is my reason for keeping away from organised faith of any sort.

Now the question, why do leaders and preachers demand sole allegiance or conversion to a faith, calling it “The Path”to to world peace or Eden or whatever. The first reason is self-aggrandizement and the second reason is funding and fame.

Money and ego are the root of all religious hullaboo and power struggles. Sadly, followers of organized religion – as parents, teachers, social influencers – are propogating this same theory of hatred towards nonconformists in the younger generation. In politics, we are refusing to listen to the other viewpoint – nationalism is being equated with patriotism, and supremacists demand undivided ownership on privilege.

In a world steering towards hatred, when our generation had hoped for a New World Order for a unified flag, for spirituality, and peace, for love for nature, and a flourishing environment, we swiftly slipped into a sinkhole. The only good news we heard in some time was that the hole in the Ozone layer was finally healing. When I was a child, the depleting Ozone layer seemed the biggest bogeyman. Look around you now; every other person is threatening another for holding a different political ideology, for practicing a different faith, for being of another color or race.

I do not know how politics can be cleaned up but maybe we can start with religion because we are born into the religion of our families and introduced into its rituals and customs within the first week of our life on earth! What if we find a personal, unorganized religion; one that doesn’t condition young minds from the start, to look at people different from them with suspicion. What if we started a new religion of love and peace, in our homes, in our family of three, four, or five, and allow our children to flourish in love!

I wonder if it’s possible or is our destiny set in stone on the foundation of myths and coercion, for Harari says, “… despite the astonishing things that humans are capable of doing, we remain unsure of our goals and we seem to be as discontented as ever.”

The Introvert Gene

As a loner, I have difficulty in connecting with people. I am the one you will see sitting alone in the cafeteria reading something or the one who refuses to take a walk in the park because there is a book or a craft waiting at home. I have few friends and I just don’t beam into a smile when seeing strangers/neighbours. I am cautious in my dealings and wary in my relationships.

At my new home, I haven’t as yet explored the entire space – the parks, the club, the pool! I look at people huddled in groups chatting away and I almost panic. I fear the small talk and the fake smiles, I fear the comparison or the show off, the condescending and the patriarchal, the overambitious or the downtrodden. I fear of being swamped by energies that I don’t need in my life. Maybe my fears make me lose out on some good contacts but then this is just me.

I can take strong dislikings when I feel my aura attacked by negativity and ill-will. I can feel and be distant because I don’t like encroachment into my time and space. I can see people covet my peace and learning, my meagre possessions and my smugness. I resent their “eyes on me”, their judgement and their covetousness. I am individualistic and that is sometimes difficult for people, specially the gregarious, to understand.

My soon-to-be-11 years old son was so much like me when he was younger and I consciously pushed him into socializing and being active, hoping to make him more outgoing. He is still not super social and can any day sit back quietly in a room with me to do things. He is quick to see through people and decide who’s being nice to him. He is still a child and he wonders why he doesn’t have many friends. I hope someday he is able to find a close friend or few – the nerdy, the creative, the sensitive, the kind, and the warm.

I did well by not telling him to be like me but he is so much me! Now he understands about being an introvert. As I look at him and share his struggles in making sense of the lonely spaces around him and what he must do to fill them with his spirit and his creativity, I see my own tryst with loneliness. It takes time to learn to navigate these silent, meandering paths but it happens and when it does it is liberating.

It is not that introverts don’t want or need friends. We do but just a few – the one’s with whom you can share thoughts and dreams without being judged. Not the lofty ideas but the simple ones where we can connect and go home with insight and feeling of fulfillment. The introvert gene needs to connect with one of it’s kind.

My son and I share the introvert gene I am glad we both enjoy the power of silence and meaningful activities. When the world went into lockdown, we were the less perturbed of the lot because we sat back in the safety of our homes, pulled out our Kindles, learnt new things, and started our blogs. My son has his own blog – http://www.blackpenstrokes.wordpress.com – which will always be a reminder that even in adversity we can stand back and create something. In the year of the pandemic, he discovered his love for coding, story-writing and telling, and between us we discovered the joy of spending time with each other. That is the power of the introvert gene!

Memories of Another Time

Hope and Healing in 2021

The first week of January 2021 has gone by in a haze of fog and rain, and the demanding work desk; the political drama playing out this week provided social media with the ultimate newsbyte to keep the cold at bay (at least in the Northern hemisphere).

As a meme read – “If this is just a trailer for 2021, send me back to 2020”. But I beg to differ for I see that violence has not been victorious. I hope this remains the resounding message in global and domestic politics, throughout the year 2021 and beyond.

I still have hope that the younger generation and the people who are not yet dabbling in hate and divisive thought and rhetoric will help pull up humanity. Though, the amount of hatred and hurt we are seeing everyday is scary, to say the least. The world needs healing – from the hearts of men to the depths of nature. May 2021 see the healing begin!

Fantasies

Do Not Tarry!

Today, is the first day of work
In the most mysterious decade
A new year, waiting for respair;
My schedule is filled
The calendar overflows
So do the diary notes
The brain counting To-dos’
Demands to push oneself
More and more to fulfill
Ambitions, aspirations
Continue to race ahead,
For so say the big-wigs
Competition and corporates
Academies, colleges, and schools,
Innovate, accelerate, don’t stop yet
Rush to grab an opportunity
To make a mark; when actually
The biggest message of last year
Was to stand back and breathe
In the silence of our homes
The deep aroma of peace –
Deliberate, meditate, get insight
Are all the projections, worthwhile?
Then, the fateful year also taught
To be grateful for all we had
And so am I for a bulging diary
Thats calls out to me, do not tarry!

Being Paranoid

January 2021

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