Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Forget your 'Q's

Looking up the etymology of, 'gratitude', in the English language, it seems perfunctory to say that its association with thankfulness for help received is the source of all civility in human discourse. Psychologically, the study of gratitude is only now drawing linkages to the perception of indebtedness towards the benefactor(s)  by the recipient party for the largesse so received that led to the feeling(s) of gratitude in the first place. But as all things psychologically disseminated, the study of gratitude seems far too focused on the negative aspects of the base emotion representing the magnanimity implicit in its expression within the human condition, and let us be in no doubt that the popular manifestation of gratitude is solely a human trait and therefore divorced from evolutionary theory and its psychological repercussions.
For the purpose of this post, let us then separate the moral obligation for gratitude from its expectation by the donor party; the religious, ethical and social arguments for the requirement of the existence of the former state being well established and therefore in danger of being regarded parsimonious if employed simply for the sake of copy herein.

The expectation of gratitude, therefore, is where the real juice lies, because the weight it lends to myriad social interactions within a multitude of milieus pretty much determines the course of whole lives, without ever drawing attention to itself, and that itself should be reason enough for deep individual reflection.
We start off life constantly being reminded that we should be grateful for being born - grateful to: our parents, current society for providing us the harmonious conditions for existence, and a number of individual and collective benefactors that we wouldn't really want anything to do with once we come of age, but who irrevocably helped us on our way through the birth canal by the grace of the degrees of complicity that bind all of us human beings together, and did so even before the advent of virtual social networking. So where does that leave us? We are bound by the law of Te Deum as soon as we are born and continue to implicitly adhere to its precepts till the day we die without ever having a choice in the matter. The law follows us everywhere through adulthood, even as we are dismissive of its impact in childhood and adolescence; we passed our first competitive examination because of the munificence of our parents, our teachers and the institution that arranged them (the examinations). We managed to achieve gainful employment and economic security because of; the existence of the market-place, our predecessors, and individual and collective consumers of our hard work, most of whom we shall never encounter. Retirement brings with it another set of gracious imperatives; the pension funds controlled by the great and vaguely grey men that you never thought to think of (and thank) who are responsible for the relative ease of  your present rectitude... society at large... the benevolence of one's children etc. etc.

All this gratitude that follows us around our whole lives must exact some sort of toll, no? And in what form can that toll be measured - lily-liveredness (sic), ingratiation, unconscious groveling, an expectation of a similar toll to be exacted on those who are in the same position you once were in?

It is heartening to hear the collective yell of young people everywhere in the world today sounding out, loudly and clearly, that the age of gratitude is past and that we are not bound to the sins of our fathers and are not responsible for the state our world is in today. Let us be done with the political and economic correctness that has led us to this permanent state of uncertainty and pervasive dread of a future that nobody can predict. We really need not be grateful anymore to those who deserve our gratitude less than the scavengers that feed off the carcasses of hidden kills - at least they play their part in cleaning up the environment.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Third-World-conditioned acquiescence

"Do you see it?", he suddenly asked.
"See what?"

"Do you see it now?"
"See what?"

"Do you really not see it?"
"See what?", he was answered.

Untitled (23rd Sept 2000)

The Master woke to the sunlight,
And knew that today...
Today, he must set out.

And at once he sprang up,
And ran out,
And was oblivious to the heat and light,
that swiftly engulfed him from everywhere.

And the Master ran over hill and glade,
Village and town,
City and country.
And the onlooker saw that,
His feet never touched the ground.

And in the sea,
Where the onlooker could not sight land,
Try as he might,
This way and that,
There, the Master met his muse.

His muse, the boatman,
Splendid in solitude,
Saw him coming,
But doubted his vision.
Time had taught him of:
Mirages, human nature and the dangers of hope.

But he could not doubt his senses any longer,
As the Master came before him,
And he realized that,
That he could smell, hear and watch the Master.
And could touch and talk to him,
If he so wished.


The world blurred,
In space and time progressively.

Until nothing was left,
But his hands,
The steering wheel,
And the continuous pressure of his right leg
On the accommodating pedal out of sight.

The road was bathed in light,
But only until its outer limits,
Even the air seemed rarefied,
As if not willing to intrude,
On the complete consummation,
Of  Driver and Machine.

Until nothing was left,
But the pleasure at a memory.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Shakedown

Ever since the mass-capturing of the notoriously fickle attention span of the teeming Indian middle-class by Team Anna began, and through the wide-ranging national repercussions being felt on a day-to-day basis due to the capitulation by the Government of India to what is essentially a challenge to their authority to govern, I have tried to apply for and failed to garner: a Residency Certificate from the concerned government office in my adopted city, a Voter's Identification Card which is the only thing that allows me to fulfill my constitutional duty to vote, and I have nearly failed in my attempt to get my passport (which I have continually possessed and traveled on since I was four years old) renewed, notwithstanding eight trips to the Passport Office over a period of two days.

During these odysseys through the corridors of power (some old and musty, and some new and anaesthetized), I admit I have sometimes felt the urge to shout, 'ANNA HAZARE!' when standing in various queues for the inevitable third or fourth form that required filling out before submitting it at the third or fourth counter wherein the filled-out forms were then to be subjected to scrutiny along with the original certificates they allude to, or the counter-signed affidavit (if necessary) that they were required to be accompanied by... just to see the reaction of all present: officials and fellow-petitioners alike. But, at the last-minute, the urge to find out (as an upstanding member of the Great Indian Middle-Class) exactly what going to a government office as a petitioning citizen entailed, for the very first time in my life, as opposed to the usual; using of influence or expending of a bribe on the concerned person, won out over the other equally adventurous, but more momentary, stupidity.

Reading through the numerous essays in the media about the Jan Lokpal saga, and carefully avoiding all the relevant debates on television, I have finally come to this idea: the Jan Lokpal insurgency is not about the attempt at procuring for our generation a fairer world where merit is rewarded and might ignored - It is about what We as a society would like to see ourselves as.
The middle-class morality we are taught at our parents' and grandparents' knees or by heroes in fiction, we find, is suddenly turned on its head when we first enter the sodden adulthood we are ill-prepared for. The means of communication we have these days and the greater measure of financial resources at our disposal have combined to provide us a platform to exhibit our disappointment with the system, in ways that are still inconceivable to the millions of victims that extortionary corruption affects the most in this country. And we are not concerned with terms like left-of-centre or right-of-centre or blackmail or even democracy anymore, having experienced the existential failures of our Republic from dirt-level up more keenly than any intellectual or academic could ever perceive from his/her ivory tower.
This is most certainly not a revolution for authoritarianism as some commentators are insisting it is.
This is a revolt for a new national identity.