Love in India – With a dash of Politics, Religion and Consumerism


Love, it’s a beautiful word. In all its forms and with all its little nuances, it’s a drop from heaven. The closest we have to God. Love, you hear the word and little butterflies start fluttering in your stomach. Today I will talk about these butterflies. Some of these butterflies are beautiful, some very ugly and poisonous.  I wish to invite you to look at South Asia, in a small village in Haryana, India. Two people were ordered by local panchayat to parade naked in the village. Their fault? They had married because they loved each other, without the consent of their parents.

That’s not a rare case. It’s one of the cases that modern India faces. An India which was home to the world’s greatest civilization and of course its many love affairs.

How Shiva had wept for his Sati? What heart will not fill with grief for their love story? A princess married a wanderer against her father’s wish, he disowned her. The daughter for love of her father still visited him only to be insulted. She bore that. But how could she have bore any word spoken against her beloved Shiva? She burned herself. Shiva in grief and anger killed his father-in-law and wandered across the country with the charred body of his love. ‘Sati!’ ‘Sati!’ I hear his lamenting across time. Sati is born again as Parvati, another princess and reunited with her love.

Krishna! In him we see the Ubermensch of Nietzsche but the one who lifts the poor and downtrodden. The dancing Krishna with his mesmerizing flute stands in almost every Hindu household with his girlfriend Radha. He married Rukmini, that was also a love affair (and a grand one, rest assured). The music of his flute is heard beyond eternity, calling all the lovers to participate in the grand dance of Ras Leela (The Divine Play of Love!).

Will the lovers participate? That my friends is the real question.

Meera, that beautiful and brave queen. She drank the poison and it turned into elixir. The thorns she walked on became flowers. She left her home, her husband, her kingdom for her love and wandered far and far to find her Krishna. (Once she was denied entry into Krishna’s temple. She laughed at the priest. Krishna lived in her heart, how could they have denied her entry their?) Legend has it that her soul found its way into a Krishna idol and the idol burst for two souls couldn’t live in one stone!

And yet the lovers can’t love today. Not in India which is ‘moral’ at least.

What’s stopping them?

Their parents because they don’t want their children to ruin themselves. More than 90% of Indian marriages are arranged and more than three fourth of them without the consent of bride and groom. Dowry plays an important role in these arranged marriages.

Society (people you have never met and yet they influence you). Because love will ruin the moral fibre. Children will go astray when they will see people in love.

Politicians. Yes, they tell people what to do. And they tell people not to love because it is against Indian culture.

Religious/Spiritual Gurus. The worshippers of Shiva and Krishna tell people not to love! It is against Indian culture!

How did love become against Indian culture? Many intellectuals tend to blame British and Moguls before them for this downfall. I will not delve into history. While reading about section 377 (the law that says love amongst two consenting adults is a punishable offence if they do not fit into gendered sterotypes) of Indian Penal Code in a blog post, I read a line, ‘the British gave it to us but we chose to keep it.’ The British scraped it from their constitution in 1960s. We still have it.

I am reminded of another story. The world was engulfed in darkness and only the offspring of Shiva and Vishnu could defeat the demoness Mahishi. Vishnu was born as Mohini and son of Hari (Vishnu) and Har (Shiva) was born,  Ayappa.

An India that worships love in all its forms says love is against its culture.

Then there is another side of the picture. Equally ugly as the first one. Many youngsters ‘love’ but only to have sex. Boyfriends are abusive and rich. Girlfriends are abusive and rich. It’s a race to more sex, more money and more power. And the race is fuelled by consumerism.

According to an estimate, 5.7 billion Rupees will be spent on 14 of Feb, 2016 in India. Valentine, a festival of love is emerging as the biggest market of the coming age. But that’s just one day out of the 365 (366 this year). There are movie tickets, bike/car rides, mobile recharges, cosmetics (which either adds up to, or is usually more than the first three mentioned) and so many other things that go unmentioned and are mostly unnecessary but amount to billion dollar industry.

This youth is not only cut off from its roots but has no sense of growth as well. They can neither count in Hindi nor in Roman and if you ask me, I sincerely doubt if they can in English though they only watch English movies. This is the youth which claims to be educated but has in truth mastered only the art of cat-calling and throwing racial slurs.

There is an old Hindi song which I love:

Babuji dheere chalna, pyar mein zra sambhalna,
Bade dhokhe hai, bade dhokhe hai is raah mein.

Loosely translated it means, ‘Dear sir, walk slower, be wary in love. Too many deceits there are in this path.

So what is the point of all what I have said? Where am I going with this? Nowhere. I have no conclusion to make. I just wanted to put forth some thoughts that had occurred to me in regards to this festival. How it’s almost next to impossible to find love and add to that the parental/societal/religious pressure. Then there are gender stereotypes to be fought with and the corporate’s greed. I am no one to provide a solution. I am raising an issue and wish to start a meaningful discussion which will find a solution. So please join me in this debate and let’s discuss on all the topics I have mentioned.

And what I believe is that love, despite all that surrounds it, is beautiful. Despite all the threats of society and religion, media and market, love will triumph. Do not give hope, but be wary in love.

Image shows Krishna and Radha. Courtesy: Saatchi Art Artist

Rahman Abbas: Author Interview


Rahman Abbas doesn’t write to make this a better place. For him writing is to understand this absurd place we all have landed ourselves into and understand the absurdities of ‘being and nothingness’.

In an interview conducted via mail, I and Rahman Abbas, a Mumbai-based author known not only for his characterization and rich descriptions in his novels but also for his outspoken and straight conversational style, discussed about writing, condition of languages of India, the hypocrisy of religious fundamentalists and his upcoming novel Rohzeen.

Rahman was outspoken regarding growing intolerance in India and he returned his Sahitya Academy Award to protest along with many other writers and creative geniuses.

When asked for the interview Rahman answered in a few hours positively and we set the time, on which we were not able to talk but Rahman, like a wonderful person he is, rescheduled it to a few hours later and we began with my initially long questions and his short replies.He opened up soon and then I asked small questions to which he replied in great detail!

Here ya go!

Dharmesh: If my research is any good you have five published works under your name. Your debut novel Nakhalistan Ki Talash (Search of an Oasis) followed by Ek Mamnua Muhabbat Ki Kahani (A Story of Forbidden Love) , Khuda Ke Saaye Mein Ankh Micholi (Hide & Seek in the Shadow of God) , Ekiswin Sadi Men Urdu Novel aur Deegar Mazameen (Urdu Novel in Twenty-first Century and Other Essays) , and Ek Simat Ki Talash (Search of a Haven). And now you are about to release your sixth book, Rohzeen (The Children of Betrayed Parents) in December. Is that correct?

Rahman: Yes.

Dharmesh: And you got in some trouble for nearly all of them with religious or moral fanatics?

Rahman: As far as novels are concerned, yes. Religious-minded people have had found it unbearable and they had directly and indirectly reacted over the subject and my style.

Dharmesh: Which brings us to your new novel, Rohzeen. Do you think this will also offend some groups?

Rahman: I write stories because I feel I can narrate them honestly. [The stories] about people and conditions in which [they] live. I never think that it can offend anybody. If people feel they are offended by [written] words and situations in which other people exist or live, then I feel sorry for such naive people. As a society they need to grow up and show some maturity towards creative expressions and Fine Arts. Moreover, they shall stop living in denial mode about realities or truth of our ways of living as human.

Dharmesh: There always have been attacks on freedom of expression. From the banning of great classics like Lolita to allowing total trash, which is in a way harmful, like Fifty Shades because of its portrayal of women, to be published freely. Who do you think sets standards for what people can read or write?

Rahman: In my view, reading and writing are personal choices people must be free to make. No one can set standards, history illustrates that standards of a country, community, or language are contradictory to each [other] and evolutionary within. Hence banning books or curbing freedom of creative expression had never worked through out the history. The tyrant, religious and/or inhuman forces had tried to subvert freedom of choice to read or write but they too had been overthrown. However, every culture and language has got its own set of standards which is in fact a result of its civilization and excellence in human understanding. Within the arena of culture and language people themselves should be free to sets standards for reading and writing. The jurisprudence or laws have never worked appropriately or served amicably to guide creative writers. In fact struggle of James Joyce and Manto have only proved laws need to be revoked.

Dharmesh: Now taking a break from laws, censor and freedom of expression, because that debate can go for hours, let’s talk about Rohzeen. If you will, what are its major themes?

Rahman: Throughout the history.

Dharmesh: That’s very little information! I guess your readers must wait for December.

Rahman: (laughs) Rohzeen is all about life and culture of Mumbai. It’s also a political and psychological novel. The major theme of novel is existence of those children who witness or come across betrayal of their parents with each other or of one of them to other. For more details you will have to wait a few more months. (chuckles)

Dharmesh: You sure know how to hook your readers! Was it always this easy? Not counting the fanatics, what were your biggest problems when you started writing?

Rahman: I had no problems at all except [that] of dealing with the language. I always wanted to write finest prose, prose unbelievably creative and vibrant. I am just trying to learn that magic, that ‘spell’ of words. At one hand my novels have not been liked by fanatics but on the other hand major literary critics and senior writers had come up and they spoke on my novels. I have meet many common readers in different parts of country who like the way I write and love my style.

Dharmesh: Speaking of style,Wikipedia writes “Later, reading Latin American, Western, and African novels, especially the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, George Orwell, Victor Hugo, Milan Kundera, and Ben Okri, played a significant role in his formation as a novelist.” Is there some less known author which you think people must read and/or had a major influence on you?

Rahman: Oh, sure, Nadeem Aslam is such a good novelist, Hindi writer Uday Prakash and Urdu writer Nayyar Masood are lesser known writers that I like. I am impressed by Ismat Chagtai, Sadat Hasan Manto & Rajandra Singh Bedi too but they have no influence on me. I think new comers must read all these writers along with Umberto Eco, Orhan Pamuk, Rushdie and V. S. Naipual. This list would be incomplete. Always.

Dharmesh: Of course, given the fact there are so many great authors!
New comers. What is the most common mistake new writers, especially Indian writers do? And what is your advice to them?
Rahman: I will not say ‘common mistake’, but I do find that many new comers don’t read good writers or a great deal of fiction across the languages. It is the responsibility of Indian writers to read regional fiction and assess how masters in regional languages are dealing with the contemporary Indian realities. Indian languages are rich and literature excellent. I advise all my friends to read from regional Indian languages as much as they can read along with European, African, Middle Eastern, Latin American or South Asian writers. One more thing, one should have passion and madness for literature. If you lack it, do what best you can do.

Dharmesh:…passion and madness for literature…” That and as it has been often said, the art of applying seat of the body to the seat of the chair. But there are times when that may seem quite hard. Writer’s block for example. Did you ever face it? What are your tested methods to overcome it?

Rahman: Yes, There are times, hard, and harder, but for me, in every vertigo, literature was therapeutic. I live and live through pages, words and illusion of being in it or inside it.

At this point we finished the interview for the day as it was midnight and then we mailed again a day later.

Dharmesh: What are the three must know facts about Rahman Abbas?

Rahman: Oh, sure.
1. I am not a literary critic, though I write critical essays.
2. I am a patriot, thought I openly criticize nationalism and political parties that claim to be nationalist and
3. I am not anti-Muslim, though I openly criticize Islamic religious & organization because I believe organizations are not Islam, it is just an interpretation of Islam.

Dharmesh: That’s great! I like the word play in the first one. Third one is profound and true.
Now, favorite book?

Rahman: Selected Short Stories of Manto.

Dharmesh: Favorite movie?

Rahman: The Perfume.

Dharmesh: The Perfume is… quite disturbing.
Coffee or tea?

Rahman: Both, coffee and tea.

Dharmesh: Both! (chuckles)… so you don’t want to disappoint your fans on either side?
And finally, how is this world a better place with your writing?

Rahman: I don’t write to make this place any better. I write only to understand this absurd place and the absurdities about ‘being and nothingness’. This place and our ‘being here’ is more mysterious than we can imagine.

Dharmesh: Ah, a classic!
Is there anything else you want to add?

Rahman: Nothing, all said. (smiles)

Dharmesh: Thank you for your time and words. Now we finish this amazing interview which was more like a chat session.
Thanks a lot!
And we are hooked for Rohzeen!

Rahman: Thank you! Stay blessed.
Bye.

Dharmesh: Bye. (smiles)

 

Follow the links to know more about Rahman or just Google him!

WebsiteWikipediaTwitter, Facebook

I Too Had a Dog


When I was 2 or 3, I don’t really remember when, we had a dog. I don’t even know his name and I don’t know his breed. What I do know is that he was black and I loved him very much. I know this because I still remember his death. He was a funny dog. Ma says, we, that is me and my brother, used to play strict teacher with him. We would get a cane and just come at him. He was always brave and maybe more mischievous than us. He would snatch the cane and throw it in the pond nearby our home. We would go crying to ma that how bad our dog was for throwing our things. Ma only laughed and he would come and sit silently wagging his tail and acting all innocent.

We loved him. He always chased us when we went out to fields to explore in the sun and brought us back. Ma had told him to keep us inside when it was hot. He was good at it.

I remember he was sick and ma says it’s because he had fallen down the stairs while chasing a monkey. He was much hurt and our uncle rushed him to the vet, who was quite far because we lived in a village. The vet stitched his injuries but said he won’t live. Uncle brought him home. He just lay down by our bedroom door and refused to eat or drink. I remember this clearly. He was sad. We were sad. My grandma tried to cheer him up but he wouldn’t listen to her. Perhaps with the fall, his appetite had fallen too. He did not eat or drink for two days. In the evening he started whimpering and everyone knew he was going. Everyone but me.

I was not there then. I don’t know where I was, I just was not there with him in his last minutes. Somehow I think it was for the best. Uncle made him drink some water from Ganges River and put some basil in his mouth, a Hindu custom for a departing soul. He left this world, while people who loved him sat by him weeping. He left a people broken-hearted. And those people decide not to have a pet anymore. It just hurt so much.

Their poor baby, he was sweetheart to everyone when he lived and after death he was so missed. He made everyone laugh. Grandma has told us many tales of his. He would guard her door while she worshipped and let no one enter to disturb her prayers. Later I took the post with him and continued his legacy till we moved to a different city.

I don’t remember a lot of things, but I remember his death. I don’t think I can go through all that again, so maybe I won’t have a pet. One of my friends just lost her dog and she is so heartbroken. It just reminded me what we had gone through. I am left thinking when someone we love dies, some part of us die with them. A part that will never again be born like all souls, it will never reincarnate. With so much love, how many parts of our souls have died?

What Are You Doing?


In my last post Sorry, I’m busy! I said how I’m so busy writing my novel that I can’t seem to find any time for my blog and that means I haven’t taken a look around at what the bloggers I follow are up to. Continuing that I also said how I am reading A passage to India by E.M. Forster, which happens to be an amazing book. I have written down so many lines from that book I am starting to believe, this is the book that I will remember when I’m eighty and telling people about my most loved books.

Here I’m just quoting few of my favourite lines:

One can tip too much as well as too little, indeed the coin that buys the exact truth has not yet been minted.

Nothing’s private in India.

“We are not pleasant in India, and we don’t intend to be pleasant. We’ve something more important to do.”

… thunderstorms seldom clear the air.

… where his compatriots were concerned he had a generous mind.

I’m a holy man minus the holiness.

Everything exists, nothing has value.

If love is everything, few marriages would survive the honeymoon.

God who saves the king will surely support the police.

Forster has this amazing technique to say things which grasp you by throat. When I tried to read A Passage to India back in April this year on my PC, I got bored and left it around page 70. Then months later I picked it up at a bookshop and began reading. The first thought that came to my mind after reading the first page was: why did I not finish it? There are some books from which you could quote some lines, but this book is one of those books whose every line is a quote.

More about this book with my unconventional review later, as of now I wish to give you all tender-hearted people some good news! My novel’s first draft will finish in 10 days! I’m super excited but a little sad too. The world I had created had become my home and now I will have to leave it. But then I realize it’s a good thing, leaving this new home I will embark on a tedious journey of editing and rewriting and editing and rewriting till I feel like I have drowned into it. Oh wait, where is good in that? Ah well, the good is that the novel will get out into a big bad world and will be ready to get published and face the criticism and applause. I’m looking forward to a million rejections, billion negative reviews and trillion positive ones. Too ambitious? Mark of a novice!

Oh in case you might be wondering how long I’ll read A Passage to India, I may as well tell you that I’m reading other books too.

Social and Political Philosophy by O.P. Gauba.

A Critical History of English Literature, Vol. 1 by David Daiches.

Philosophy of Religion by John Hicks.

Mera Mujhme Kuch Nahi (Nothing Mine In Me) by Osho.

The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution by P.D. Ouspensky.

Long list? Not as long as I want, sigh

So leave a word about what you are reading and writing, so we may find a little time to interact.

Thank you for reading this.

And I’m not bald, don’t get any ideas from the picture.

Sorry, I’m busy!


Now I know that’s like the worst thing you would have ever heard but unfortunately it is very true for me as of now. You already know I’m writing my novel and recently I got more involved in it. I have to do some research and talk to a lot of people about it, I happen to find no time to write something interesting enough. I haven’t read a book I would like to review. Great expectations is still hanging with me, (will I ever be able to finish it?) and I am having all the ideas about my novel and none, not a single one about stories which I am very much interested in writing. Though I have some projects under construction (ten maybe) but I have only done the first draft and not went through them.

Poems on the other hand being the stuff of inspiration are increasing and I’m thinking of posting poetries only for some time. Maybe till I drag myself out of my fantastic novel and edit my beautiful stories (you agree about the stories, right?) I may just have to post some poetry. I although have some great books with me and I would like to review them. But as soon as I open my word processor my novel jumps up to me and demands my immediate attention. I have not told anyone what it’s about, have I? Well here is a little that I think won’t give away too much and still be able to explain a lot. A little synopsis if you will. (This will probably not be the same when the novel ends but still…)

***

After the Aryans nearly wiped the native Indians referred to as Rakshasas (Demons) in their history and forgot them as a matter of folklore and myth, one Rakshasa of a fierce clan is ready to take revenge and no one can stand in his way; not even the Rakshasas who had become their enemies centuries ago for their support of Aryans.

When Ayan finds himself in the center of long fought battles and bloody revenges he knows there is no way out. As he grieves his losses and finds new friends he comes across secrets history has hidden in its intricate stories. How far will he go to know them? Will he be able to face his own fears as he stands to save the Aryans and Rakshasas falling in an abyss of carnage?

I see in you a different future, a future that had never been before.”— Anant to Ayan. Will Ayan create that future?

***

And I picked up ‘A passage to India’ by E. M. Forster and it’s a wonderful book, more about it later.

I resolve to finish my social life. I know that will make me a nerd but I don’t care. I’m busy people! Stop asking me what I’m writing.

Anyways my Internet friends over here, what are you writing now? How close are you to becoming a writing nerd? Drop in and we will chat a bit unless of course one of us is busy writing!

Almost forgot… Yes, the picture is not very relevant.

Edit: None of this talk on my novel is relevant anymore. There have been massive changes and it’s new name is ‘Dronyaksha and The Rise of Asuras’, Book I of Rakshasa Trilogy and the protagonist is Pratham Vyas. For more see my Facebook page or Twitter handle.