Monday, 30 March 2009

Fear and Forgiveness

Once again Abi's blog directed me towards what I would otherwise have missed - a book, Fear and Forgiveness, by Harsh Mander on the Gujarat 2002 carnage and its aftermath, which is excellently reviewed by Chandrahas Choudhury. An immediate reaction to reading this review is 'how many of those comfortable bigots will actually read this book?', how many of those 'wavering' reflect and independently take a stance?, how many of those already sorrowful, sympathetic towards the victims accept responsibilty of being members of this civil society and 'voice their views', anywhere, everywhere, speak out - because that is the least they can do?? When will we ever learn?? that we have far more to lose by keeping quiet.

I will read this book, but only on the reviewer's promise of those humane stories that makes its bleakness less black- not enough pin holes to lighten a night, but just enough to hold promise of an eventual day.

Friday, 20 March 2009

News Today

A few pages into today's paper and I smiled - in fact I grinned and couldn't help a chuckle to myself as I read the news item in Hindu "Mallika Sarabhai to contest against Advani"- just imagine that!
and that too as an Independent! That requires confidence, guts - to say " What the hell, I'll just take the biggest BJP honcho on!!" A statement like that from a woman, an artist, dancer, writer, you name it, in today's world - and suddenly the world is filled with hope, light, radiance. Anything can happen now. She is young, beautiful, smart, gutsy - and he is old, crusty, power hungry - stooping to whatever levels to make it to the country's highest office. Yet, today he'll sleep an uneasy sleep, dream a few sordid nightmares, see his own fall, his shame - wonder if he should have spoken up against hate, violence, divisive politics -whether it was all worth it? maybe he'll pray, offer penace to Gods, promise a path of peace, righteousness, if he could only sit on that chair!!

Nah! thats too much day dreaming going on! Better stop here - kudos to Mallika - may her tribe increase!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

A Reasonable Voice

As a recent subscriber to Tehelka, the one thing I am coming to truly appreciate is the surprise factor it carries in its news. Mind you, this does not necessarily mean breaking surprising news only. Today, at the breakfast table I picked up the new issue that's arrived and caught a surprisingly sane voice speaking out on the old Ayodhya issue. Here is the link.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Reflecting on A Story

A few years back, I was trying to set up my farm on the outskirts of Bangalore. The process was difficult, and at times traumatizing because of intense hostilities by the locals to an outsider, especially a woman, in their territory. It was then that a friend told me his story.

Many years earlier, he was part of a similar 'return to land' experiment. He lived alone on this land, making a home, going about his life. At this time, this piece of property came under intense land dispute with many parties claiming ownership, or a previously inherited stake in it. Things got ugly. One evening, when my friend was alone at home, he heard villagers clamor outside. He knew instinctively that trouble was brewing. He went outside and saw a few men carrying shot guns, with aggressive stance, challenging attitudes. My friend smiled at them, welcomed them inside, and offered coffee. He suggested that they should sit down and discuss any problems the villagers had. Soon, the guns were leaning against a wall, and people talking. Later, my friend invited the whole village for evening tea, snacks, to get to know each other, and establish a relationship. The issue over land dispute got eventually resolved, and now a community lives on that farm, in harmony with the villages around.

Recently, I have been reflecting a great deal about the recent attacks on women in Bangalore, Karnataka, and I remembered this story. I was wondering what I would do if attacked by a bunch of goons. Either I could lash out, yell, scream,try to escape, call for help, create a ruckus. Or I could, turn towards them, with a smile, ask them what they wanted, and offer to discuss it over coffee?? Will I be able to do that - have no fear, no anger? Will I be able to be such that I am no victim, therefore they become no aggressors?? Will I be able to turn around, and smile, with my heart, my eyes, my being, a gentle smile of honesty and ease - my friends smile? no you, no me, no boundaries - just human beings trying to relate? Will I take that first step?

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Whats In a Name...??

I often wonder where words come from - what past associations, what lingering memories, what rainbow reflected mind pools create the bed of layered pasts from which spring words. I have been wondering about how I came to name this blog 'I Witness'. As I pondered on my role as an 'audience' , my self preservative internal need, just to see, think, and not get involved in the larger canvas of social theatre, the name appeared, in my head, on my tongue - easily, naturally, appropriately.

Yesterday, my husband asked me how I chose this name for my new blog, pulling out a volume of 'I Witness -Partial Observations ' that I had picked up many months back - a book of poems by Kapil Sibal. I remember being completely engrossed by KS's words, experiences, imagery. I was moved, haunted, impressed.

If this blog title seems to be borrowed from his, than it is done so unwittingly, but in respect, honor for his shared observations, views, a peek into his internal ramblings.

Using Gender Power

In Bangalore, in Karnataka, a whole gender is under attack. That is half the population is threatened, coerced, terrorised by a male defintion, a party's definition of womanhood, culture, relegion. Yesterday, Advani finally issued a statement 'girls should not be beaten'. Yes, we all know that - all mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, relatives, friends. Most of us also know that 'no one should be beaten' for making individual, personal choices in a so called 'free' democratic society.

Did it really take so long for Advani to some to his senses? To issue a statement? Because of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections?? Is that all he can do? All that the BJP government can do?? Issue a statement? It is really, really funny that he invokes Gandhian values to condone, in some sense, the earlier acts of violence, aggression - something like "Gandhiji did not believe in alcohol"- ha! ha! What else did Gandhi say, you BOZO! Do you not remember? or do you just want us to forget???

It is a laugh that the BJP govt. holds 'anti-terrorism' rallies, issues 'zero-tolerance' stance against terrorism, of protecting a nationhood, borders, boundaries - it cannot protect its women, or does it not want to protect women of this country from its own virtuous self? We will Impose, Subjugate, Violate, We the great custodians of our faith, culture, religion. Or really, is the party so out of control to keep their own kind in check?? Then, please Mr. Advani, just graciously step back, do not participate, contest, national elections. Please say, we the BJP, do not believe women to be equal citizens, we cannot protect them, or will not do so. We only want them hostages in our homes, the earnings generated from behind their purdah, and their democratic votes!You know what!! We will NOT VOTE for you or your kind - no woman will. No woman, who believes in her right to not be beaten, not to be defined, not be bounded, imprisoned - no woman who sees herself as a human - and her right to be so - free, expressive, independent, an equal, secular partner in this largest democracy!

There are large scale protests planned. We must speak, we must protest, in all our multitudinal dimensions, styles, expressions. We must raise a chorus of different voices, colors, castes, relegion - a chorus of one combined womanhood. We will VOTE and NOT FOR YOU!!!