February 27, 2016

When they hate your God

Sedition: noun /sɪˈdɪʃn/ [uncountable](formal) The use of words or actions that are intended to encourage people to oppose a government
Source: Oxford English dictionary

The reason why I have started with a definition sourced from the Oxford dictionary is to showcase the symbolism of the source itself. The University of Oxford is believed to be established around the year 1096 and is understood to be one of the oldest surviving universities in the English-speaking world and I have aspired to be a part of it at one point in life. That dream is still not dead. Even when the student left of the institution is alleged to be institutionally antisemitic as per news reports [Source: The guardian].  It is an institution older than the archaic section 124 A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code which is still mischievously providing ammo to issues that are hollow as an empty barrel; fueling fires that need not be stoked. Apparently, the word “Sedition” does not occur in Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code or in the Defense of India Rule. It is only found as a marginal note to Section 124-A, and is not an operative part of the section but merely provides the name by which the crime defined in the section will be known. [Source: Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow] 
I am a proud Indian despite all that angers me about this nation. It angers me that after surviving on the same piece of land for 69 years, despite our differing cultural preferences, religious inclinations and ideologies, we can show no respect or tolerance to a thought that does not match ours. Thoughts change. Beliefs change. Change is the fuel that helps evolve a nation instead of intolerance and rising insecurity. Indisputably, open fearless dialogue should steer this change… but so should respect and tolerance. The confidence in thoughts and ideologies is imperative in debate for conviction, provided it doesn’t turn into arrogance. I doubt my nation’s knowledge and awareness on the multitude of cultures, traditions or even religions which have thrived and died in this country (beyond what is officially recognized) and I don’t blame them for that. The officially recognized religions and cultures in India form a rigid knowledge spectrum that limits a citizen’s awareness of anything that exists beyond it.  We still have citizens who can’t differentiate between Tamil Nadu and Kerala, leave alone the cultural difference between the two states. The North East is still a mystery, in terms of its myriad cultures and tribes, to a lion's share of the nation. A niggling few might be aware of the struggles of civilians in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, while governments try to distract the nation, neck below. They can still not be blamed for their lack of awareness. However, curiosity is a far better reaction to areas beyond our comprehension, than medieval resistance and rigidity. Witch burning never killed evils, just gave birth to more.
India’s culture is not homogeneously distributed but it is not our Achilles’ heel. We are not weak enough to get incited by mere chants of inanity. Then how is this insecurity getting triggered? My brain sometimes starts spinning conspiracy theories around a greater agenda on the ruling party’s mind to probably deviate us from bigger issues. But when I look at the reckless handling of raging issues, I can only see insecurity and the helplessness at curbing a turmoil. What follows is desperation at proving your side and defending your stand.
Kanhaiya and Rohith are just talk points in the larger picture. They are vehicles for ideas and thoughts that can exist within India and can drive evolution in thought. These cases are not targeted at a particular government, but the society that eventually forms the four pillars of a democracy. These cases are opportunities for society to realize flaws in its thought process, direction and foundation. Kanhaiya and Rohith are citizens of India and were entitled to every right that an Indian citizen is entitled to. When defenders and facilitators of justice resort to blatant physical and vocal violence with an intensity which is garbed in patriotism for defence, it raises some grave questions. A society bound by words and laws defining a feeling shall never learn of it. A country trying to define patriotism shall never experience it. The debate needs to rise higher than religion and casteism. The dialogue should make every citizen of the country question their love for the country and how one defines himself/herself to belong to a country. Do we even want to belong to one country in the age of global citizenship? Because… honestly, it makes me sick; all this injustice in the name of nationalism.
In the end, quoting Charles de Gaulle to capture what could be a better debate in the country at the moment.  
“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” 

April 7, 2015

Allow me to vaporize

De la nada sale el todo, y el todo se hace nada.

I believe souls don’t understand death the way bodies do. Souls don’t understand pain like bodies do either. Probably a sharp object penetrating the flesh feels like a twitch in the eye to the soul. Pain needs to pierce deeper than the flesh to leave an imprint on the soul. Way deeper into a vortex which is maybe located somewhere behind that rib cage. I don’t think it has anything to do with flesh, or muscle or veins. Not even blood. The soul goes deeper than those… somewhere in between the molecules. I believe the soul is ether and death goes beyond matter for it to feel its presence or lack of it. 

I believe the body dies once while the soul dies a million times over and over again in every life. I might be terribly wrong here. Maybe the soul dies a lot more than a million times in each life, but I’m sure it does. It’s definitely not inconsolable because it is etheric and one cannot expect ether to be heavy with sorrow or suffering or any similar dense substitute. It’s waiting for the body to release it back to where it came from till it gets portioned into numerous other bodies. No wonder so much in each of us is similar and yet so much is different. Probably you and I have been caged in a common body before… before we parted and became others. Maybe a part of me is trapped in these words that you are reading while the other one-sixteenth is reading it on her iPhone in some vague location and wondering if she should go get some lunch. We are not so different - you and I. 

I want to believe that the ether that I send out into the universe (once this body disintegrates) will carry with it the imprints of all the deaths that this body put it through; and parts of which will become a fragment of another body with a fraction of deaths from someone else. Probably we are all a culmination of deaths and imprints that added more spirit to it all. We are all fractions yet whole. Maybe that’s the reason behind emotions. The countless sentiments, intuitions and the overwhelming sense of fear or happiness are just those chemical reactions when the ether is exposed to a reparation or compensating fraction… wanting to be whole or to balance itself out. I want to believe that the only thing stopping it is the body which effervesces with these reactions because it needs to live and not disintegrate. The body needs the ether and cannot let it go.

The body is just the cage.



(Inspired by Haruki Murakami’s New York Mining Disaster - Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman)

January 14, 2015

The Nair in the ‘Nair-ness’



I am Anisha Nair, raised in a middle-class Indian family in a humble locality in Delhi - a city where humility is hard to trace and compassion is somewhere deep inside a Punjabi aunty’s LV purse who’s traveling in the general compartment of the Delhi Metro on Monday at 7.30 PM from Gurgaon. Like any other human, I was born in a world full of promises and offered choices that I could make - every time. I have had the choice of being a victim in a situation or crawl out and take a larger bite of the opportunity. There were times when I bit more than what I could handle.  All the choices that I have ever made and will continue to make in the future, all the choices that I don’t make or abandoned in the past, every opportunity that came my way when I was ravenous for experience, constitute a significant part of me. Even though I’ve hardly created anything artistic or significant enough in my life (significant enough to profoundly influence another being or existence), I consider myself an artist and my sole inspiration or force guiding me through every choice or piece of work is my own father.

My father is not my inspiration just because I am a ‘daddy’s girl’. Trust me, he’s not the pampering kind and doesn’t take the least bit of interest in flattering me useless, when I make horrible tea. The man believes that horrible tea should not be consumed, no matter who makes it! He believes that anything that comes for free is bound to be useless, ‘coz it didn’t fight enough to be worthy. He also has a strange belief that people with ‘cat-like’ eyes are not to be trusted blindly. Believe me, there's no point arguing with him on such ideologies. I have tried and given up for good. I remember him refusing to acknowledge me as his daughter for more than a year, when I cut my hair extremely short during a rebellious phase to prove something I can’t even recall anymore. He has never said “good job” or “excellent” or “you made me proud” on any of my achievements… at least not in words. Guess he never wanted me to perform for a reward. He wanted me to perform for something greater than a tangible reward. Some might blame him for tough parenting. But, that man still manages to inspire me.

Dad is not the protective kind, even though I now understand how much he wants to protect me. I remember him chasing the school bus on the mornings I missed it, fighting with the bus driver and embarrassing the marrow out of my bones in front of an entire population present to witness the wrath of a scorned father of a lazy school girl. But I also remember him leaving a 6 year old me at the bus stop all by myself, because I couldn’t stop crying at the thought of going to school. The choice was to climb that bus and drag my sorry ass to school or do as I please, ‘coz he couldn't be bothered by such petty fits. So I dragged my school bag all by myself and walked that road back home… following my father who just walked away in a fury without caring much about what my choice would be. I did go to school that day. My mother took me.

He doesn’t say much… not in words. People rarely see him lose his cool, but there is a thunderous quality in his quiet. I have seen people fear him when they are wrong and he doesn’t need words for that. Let me say this again, people rarely see him lose his cool. He shames people without words. He does that. One might imagine him to be a towering personality who might intimidate people at first sight. He is not. In fact, I’m taller. He’s not a socialite and remains to himself. Cracks a few lame jokes every now and then. The typical dad. But what inspires me is not who he is. My inspiration comes out of how he brought me up.

He relentlessly tried to contribute towards my evolution as a human being. When my classmates discussed the latest Jurassic Park movie that they saw over the weekend, I would tell them how my father took me for movies like the Bandit Queen, which was as heavy for a 10 year old as sand is for water. God knows what’s right parenting and what’s wrong. But the man always exposed me to radical stuff at an age when parents are usually sheltering their kids from “all that is evil”. He threw me into reality and never minced words for my delicate brain to masticate the matter and make it fathomable.

I have never told my father how much I love him (in words) and he has never done that either. But I guess, when I used to stand on the last step of the school-bus and hug him and kiss him goodbye, he knew it. I was told, when I left home to study in a different city, he returned home after seeing me off and just sat in my room for the rest of the day. On his part, I think it goes without saying how much he loves me. With time, I guess it becomes difficult for parents to believe how much their child still loves them and I woke up with this fear today. I doubt if I will ever say it in words, ‘coz dad's not a man who wants those words… not from me. We share a language that goes beyond that and I fear losing grasp of it. 

I fear it so much that it wells me up because I owe the ‘Nair-ness’ in my name to him. I do.

March 31, 2014

What's the point?


She was lying there on her flat tummy with her head turned away and, maybe, even her eyes closed. Her bare bony shoulder peeked from in between the sheets while her jet black hair was strewn carelessly on her back, maybe even hiding her face. The faint morning sun was fighting with the light-green drapes to get in and expose last night’s recklessness. He woke up to this scene with a frail recollection of reality and a reluctance to accept it. A broken smile.

 She moved the minute his head made a rustle against the pillow. Light sleeper. Yes. And turned her head towards him while the hair still covered her face. Her slender fingers reached out from under the sheets to give her a clearer picture of him and parted her hair from her face. She saw the smile. Amused she asked, “What? Was I snoring?”

“Nope! Purring rather”, he replied as he approached to catch her waist and pulled her closer to himself. “Hey look!” she said softly, “Don’t get me wrong but, I need to leave now.” She slowly moved his hand away from her waist and pulled herself up and sat crouching on the bed like she was praying. The sheet was shrouding her slender figure and he could notice her breathing deeply. The smile slowly faded and reality started setting in. She carefully crawled out of the bed to get her clothes and started dressing up. Not once did she look him in the eye while he was lying there on the bed staring straight at her. Now on his back with his arms folded behind his head, he was carefully observing her while she got dressed. Not even a glance his way. There was no hurry in her demeanour and she took her time to wear her jeans and t-shirt that she usually slips into like a Russian magician quick-changes her dresses.

“So, what time’s your flight?” he asked, to force her to break that uneasy silence. “Hmmm? Oh it’s in the afternoon” she said, “But I need to get home and make sure that I have everything packed and ready.” “Do you need help?” he asked. He knew what the answer was going to be, but he was a sucker for a better reply. “Nope. I’m good!” and she finally looked at him and smiled. “You can enjoy the rest of your day. You don’t have to waste it around me. I can manage.” Somehow her words and her eyes just never spoke the same things. He had noticed this too many times before and how that smile was used to mask the dissonance. She reached for her bag, took a final look in the mirror and was probably going to say bye.

“Hey why don’t we go for a quick breakfast and then you can come back home. I’m famished. Care to give me company?” she said instead. The smile was back on his face beaming brighter than the sun. “Of course. I’m hungry too and I could kill for some pancakes” he said jumping up in his bed. “Our last breakfast together. Let's make you some breakfast.”

“Pancakes sound decent” she said with a smile that brought a sparkle to her eyes. He was out of bed even before she completed her sentence. He made the breakfast while she lent a hand with a few things that he let her help with. He hated people invading his cooking space but that was not important now. It was a perfect breakfast of pancakes, apples and some coffee with the regular banter on the side. Not once did last night appear in the conversation, though it was constantly on their minds. The regular nonsense was just to distract from last night. There was desperation to fill in the awkward silences. No one wanted to discuss last night or maybe that’s all that they wanted to talk about.

They finished their meals and washed the dishes together. Soon it was time for her to leave. "Could there be more reasons for her to stay?" both of them thought. The moment they reached the door, she turned and hugged him tight. “It was awesome” she whispered to him and he could almost hear her smile in his ear. “Yes, it was” he said. She looked at him and beamed... and slowly let go of him. She opened the door, gave him one final glance and said her final goodbye as she walked out on the pavement.  When she turned back one last time, both waved at each other. He took his time to close the door behind her while she walked away. She trotted down the quiet lane, kicked a stone lying on the ground out of her way and continued walking to her house.

January 18, 2014

Knowledge gained is knowledge shared | University of Westminster

This is an entry for a contest by the British Council on Indiblogger.com. For more details, please visit: http://knowledgeisgreat.in/ 

After recently completing my MBA in communication management, my next quest was to understand ‘Subliminal communication’ as a subject. Having presented an award winning research paper on the topic at one of the oldest universities in India, Banaras Hindu University, I finally identified my calling.

A subject that merely gets a page in communication management books, or barely a one-hour lecture in most business schools, definitely means more to me. Moreover, the lack of awareness on the topic in my country made me run after it even more. Currently pursuing a career in communications at a reputed branding and communications firm in Delhi, I realised the pressing need to pursue this subject more aggressively. Hence, began my quest on researching options in the subject abroad.

A quick search on the top communications colleges in the world to pursue this passionately was the first step. The countries that topped my list for this were US, UK, Netherlands and Australia. These countries were selected on the basis of various factors like college rankings, weather and culture, opportunities for foreign nationals, suggestions from friends and relatives, etc. That’s when I learned about the University of Westminster and the research options available in my field of interest. The research areas available in Communications and Media Research; and Research and Education in Art and Media were exactly what I needed. After a little more seeking, I learned that their media research was previously awarded an excellent (5 out of 5) rating in each of the three past Research Assessment Exercises.

The clarity in instructions on their official website for research applications was more than impressive. Since each college has its own requirements for research programs, exploring research opportunities that fit one’s bill can be quite a tedious process. The step-by-step instructions on their official website were extremely helpful. Moreover, the new QS Worldwide University Rankings places Westminster above the London School of Economics in the UK, second only in Europe and number 19 in the world. These ratings are based on the university’s reputation among academics and employers and citations to published works. There was no doubt that this was going to my list of most sought-after colleges for research opportunities abroad. The university receives more than 20,000 students from over 150 nations and has been continuously encouraging new developments, research projects and new ideas. All this makes this university unerringly one of the best media research hotspot where I want to flourish.

CREAM – Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media is one of the UKs leading centres for research in visual and media arts, design and music. Being a connoisseur of music and wanting to streamline my research in the subject around the music industry, this was the best place to be! I have been strongly influenced by music and arts since childhood. With a strong background in Indian classical music and dance, I slowly meandered into western styles of music and dance. This is how I got acquainted with the music scene in the UK. Especially Indian artists who found great reception in the UK and other countries were awe-inspiring. Understanding subliminal expression and messaging in the music industry has now become more of a habit than just an aspiration.

CREAM’s members include internationally renowned artists, filmmakers, photographers, ceramicists, theorists, critics, historians, designers and musicians. CREAM focuses on critical and cross-disciplinary approaches. Whilst its individual members cover a wide range of subject areas and expertise, they do encourage cross-connections between areas. It is also home to a range of research centres and projects including: Africa Media Centre, Ambika P3, Ceramic Research Centre, Documentary and Experimental Film Centre, India Media Centre and Screenplays. With all this information, I can already see an opportunity with CREAM on my subject turning into an obsession that I’ve been losing my sleep on, for the past one month. All that’s left to do on my end is to make that cutting-edge proposal that they can just not say no to. The rest will be a dream-come-true with a fairy-tale ending!