December 31, 2008

Concept called Country

The events of November in Mumbai did not have such an earth shattering effect on me as it did on most other people. It did not uproot my sense of security as it did on thousand of Mumbai residents and neither did I feel a sense of helplessness where I could be the victim of an act of ‘terrorist’ aggression. 

That will be the only place in this post where I use the word terrorist. To earmark someone terrorist means that their actions does not have a reasoning. These people have a sense of being wronged. I do not know what it is that they perceive, but that is not for me to comment.

The question that arose in me as an aftermath of the episode was what does it mean to belong to a country. The train of thought I followed to get finally to this question is the underlying theme of this post.

I revive on old habit when I say that the Oxford English Dictionary (the online version) defines a country as below

Country: noun (pl. countries)
  1. A nation with its own government, occupying a particular territory

  2. Districts outside large urban areas

  3. An area with regard to its physical features: hill country

Do notice that the basic theme of a country lies in the territorial nature of it. This means that we define country based on its boundaries. When I posed the same question, what is a country to one of my friends, her answer was what I believe is the true meaning of a country. Her reply was that it was a collection of people who share common cultures/ethnic origin. Her definition removed the need for a boundary for a country.

My understanding of root of terrorism in India has been and will continue to be Jammu and Kashmir. I do not mean that the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir are terrorists, what I mean is the way that India has treated Jammu and Kashmir over the last sixty odd years has created a sense of being wronged in the minds of many people who are trying to voice that sense of being wronged. In addition, you have a neighbor who claims to have an equal right on the land of Jammu and Kashmir, creating further rift.

In my limited knowledge, I do not know what the people of Jammu and Kashmir want. I believe that the only way to resolve the long-standing conflict is to hold a referendum in the state. The terms of the referendum are if the people of Jammu and Kashmir want to belong to the collection of states that constitute the country called India, or would they prefer independence.

The reason that I make this statement is my belief that no region whose people do not want to belong to a country must have to made to belong to that country by force. An example to prove this point is in a family, if a member wishes to break free from the ties of the family and live on his own, wants to proclaim his independence, then the family has no right to prevent him from doing that. This I believe comes from the basic right to freedom.

The question that arises here is if the result of the referendum were towards freedom, then there would be other regions that would want to break away too. I hope that as you ask the question you are realizing how misplaced it is. By asking the question, you are telling me that you are identifying the country not by the people who live in the country, but by its boundaries. It is like trying to identify you by the body rather than the mind.

So, if the country is not defined by the boundaries, what is a country? In my opinion, a country is just a collection of people who share a common culture or ethnicity. That is the core issue surrounding India as a country. There are so many cultures, so many ethnic groups that it is not possible to have a unifying culture or ethnicity as the glue. Therefore, we have had to resort to the boundary as the fact defining India. I hope that you are not going to tell me that you belief in India, as a concept for that is not a glue; there still needs to be something that hold India together, not the concept of India and that cannot be its boundaries.

I would go on to state that of all the countries that I can think of at this point in time, the one that most suits the concept of a country is Russia. I am not sure if there are very many other so-called countries that share ethnicity and culture the way that Russia does. I do agree that there bound to be many dialects, many sub cultures; however, they are Russian for they speak Russian.

Given the mass migration of people over the last couple of centuries, the concept of country is getting highly outdated, for there is no particular region that does not have a multitude of cultures and ethnic groups. The so-called alpha-country, the United States of America is not even a country by any means, for it is the collection of people from all over the world. I guess that is the reason that they are correct when they say that the world starts at the Atlantic Ocean and ends at the Pacific (they are actually correct in one sense).

Coming back to the topic under discussion, when I mean that a region must not be attached to country by force, does this mean that I am advocating that India be broken into many tiny parts, each a different country by itself? I did a little research and I think that the concept of Constituent Country might work in India. This same thing binds England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland into United Kingdom.

A final question that could pop up and I want to address here is the significance of the turnout in the recently concluded Jammu and Kashmir polls. Does the ~60% turnout signify that they want to be part of India and be ruled by India. I would not assume so. When the options given are either do not vote and let someone who is not even remotely connected to the state rule the state, or have your say, the obvious answer would be to have a say in the ruler. However, that need not be the ultimate desire of the people of the state. In this case, they are maximizing the return in a given set of limitations. My request is to remove those boundary conditions and given them the option of independence. If then there is as much people who want to be with the country, the abstract concept called India, then I will agree having them as a part of my country. If not, then I would be more than happy to give them their freedom.

As an afterthought, it is the duty of the rulers of the country to give the country and its peoples what they want, even if it is independence from the country.

December 28, 2008

World in slow motion

The world around me, 
Moves at the speed of light
No time for me,
A man on crutches
For whom the world inside
Moves in slow motion.
Every step a challenge
A mountain I see
Where you see a molehill.
Painstakingly slow,
Each step I take,
Efforts and thoughts
A billion,
To put one leg
Ahead of the other.
Your feet move
With a life of their own,
You know not
Where you are going
Or whence you came.
My world is smaller,
Tiny compared to yours,
You claim the earth as yours
I claim my six by three
Every grain of sand,
I place it there,
By choice, by will.
Your world is full of clods
That you threw,
Unseen, unknown.
You rush me by,
For my world too slow,
To keep pace with yours,
You are in a haze, a daze
To see the world in slow motion,
Every action overstated
Every thought amplified,
In this world in slow motion.

December 23, 2008

Facade of love?

Is this wrong,
This feeling we share?
The passion
I can see flowing
Through your lips
Through my lips,
From your body
To the core of mine.
Every moment
A drugged state
Ecstasy and pleasure.
Pain and torture.
Pleasure in the ecstasy
Pain in the torture
That I know this can't last,
This night will not live on.
Your family beckons,
Your wife,
So lovely in her cotton saris,
Knowing every want of yours,
Waiting to hear your steps
As they come from the street
On to the doorway
The one you share with her.
Does she smell me,
My perfume on your shirt
My scent on your skin
Does she hear my voice
In every word you say?
Does she run up you,
To be hoisted in the air
The way you hoist me
When you see me after a long time?
Do you hold her as close
As close as you hold me
Never letting me go,
Until it is time for you to go?
I will never as you
To let her go,
For she is the mother
Of a daughter you love
As much as you love me.
Does my understanding
Of my position in your life
Make me cheap
Do the gifts you give me
Make me paid?
Is the idea of love
That we share
That you share,
With your wife,
Just a lie,
A farce
A facade?

December 19, 2008

Full stop

Your life is mine,
For you are me,
Not entirely,
Though entirely from me.
Now that you are here,
My life seems to stop,
Everything revolves
Around your presence.

Your life is no more,
You have left nothing behind
Other than your memory
You memories in my head
In everything I see
My life seems to stop
For everything revolves
Around your absence.

The post is based on a line I read in a book from Shashi Deshpande's "In the Country of Deceit". The line goes Both birth and death make you take your eyes of the clock. Time comes to a standstill; the hands of the clock cease to move.

December 2, 2008

Sincerely sorry

I have post where I expounded my theory that one is not to feel sorry, for that means regretting a choice one has made. When there is a point in life, where one does regret the choices that one has made, is it better to apologize to the person concerned?

I asked this question to Suchitra over an SMS and I will paraphrase, without her consent of course. 

"Which is better? To apologize for a mistake very old or to let it go, for it was so so long ago?"

The reply received was, "It depends. I guess on what complications digging up the past can bring against what good an apology can do, repair a relationship may be. Sometimes, I think that an apology is transfer of responsibility, but at least you have the satisfaction of being honest with yourself."

I kind of like the last lines. The apology is transfer of responsibility, a transfer of guilt. When I apologize, I am relieved of the pain that caused me to want to apologize. It is now the prerogative of the other person to forgive me or not. At least my conscience is clean. 

However, I am not sure if this is being honest. It seems to be more of cowardice than anything else for the reason that by apologizing I am saying in not so many words that I do not want to go on regretting what I did. Therefore, I am apologizing for the effect my choice, if it were a choice has on you. Now forgive me, or not, it does not matter for the moment I have let you know that I am sorry; my soul has been freed from the clutches of guilt. 

We are honest when we accept that the choice was wrong and that someone was hurt by it. Not when we go a transfer the responsibility in the mess to the person who was already wronged. The best thing we can do is regret it, to ourselves, keep it to ourselves and try to ensure that the regret is not repeated. To accept that one was wrong is honest. To rid of it because it caused pain is more like cowardice, the inability be true to yourself and the choices one has made. 

I am sorry, 
That I was foolish
In my choices
But, it is my secret
For my sin in life
Is my sin alone, 
I will be brave, 
I will be strong, 
For my weight to carry
I will not spread
Among people
People I already wronged

Accepting ghosts

There are a lot of things I know, these are things I thought, I think and I hope to think about. However, knowing them is far removed from accepting them. 

These are like the ghosts in our lives, the ones we believed in as children. When we were kids, there were many methods that our parents and elders at home devised to keep us from doing things. I am not sure of many children who have loved the dark as kids. Again, that depends a lot on the way that the parents have exposed the concept of darkness to a child. With most of the faiths believing in post mortem life, in other words, life after death, it has never been too hard to imagine those spirits of once alive people to be among us. Why, this is amongst the most popular of all genres of movies, with creepy crawlies. Ghosts, the things we sense, the things we believe we stress, dead people, coming back to haunt us, to protect us, to take care of us, to cause us harm, we have the entire gamut of emotions that we can feel, we attribute to them. No matter how many times we have read that there are no ghosts, and there is no place for such entities in the science we believe in, many of us get goose bumps when we enter a dark room, when there is a slight breeze touching us, when there is a sudden noise, for which we are not able to place the source. Then our cognitive mind comes in, reassuring us that it is either a figment of our imagination, or just a breeze or some earthly incident, and not a ghost. 

This is what happens when you have believed in something for a long time and then have that belief destroyed by reason. When we believe something, we do not need reason. It just is. God, good, evil, right, wrong, everything is a belief. The ones we choose to believe in is something we picked up from our parents and that is because since those sets of beliefs worked for them, there is a high probability that those will work for us. I am not sure if ever running away from a hungry tiger that is directly in your path, without anything separating you is bad. You can try reasoning it as much as you want, but logically, and instinctively it is the best path.

What happens when reason destroys a belief? Well, in that case, you stop believing because you can think that it is not true. However, there will be a part of you that still wants to believe for there is a comfort in belief and human beings are creatures of comfort, comfort derived from habit. The destroyed belief will leave scars, it will come back in different manifestations. It will ask, when you reasoned that I was wrong, what prevents the current belief, which came as a result of that reason from being wrong. 

If your reason is air tight, you will have an answer. However, reason cannot be airtight, for it is something mankind developed to explain things. This means that, what we know to be wrong, because it cannot be reasoned is not out from our system yet. This goes on to mean that until we can accept that the belief has gone and either find a better belief to replace it, or accept the absence of the belief, we would still be haunted of the departed belief. 

The question that arises is, since all are just beliefs, what prevents us from holding on to just the first belief, and not questioning it? Since reason, even if it is paramount, cannot be tantamount to carved in stone. So why change a belief in the first place, and then be haunted by the changed reason?

Man kind will never learn, for learning means more questions, and more questions is both a measure of ignorance, and knowledge.