A digital flirt. Not a nice feeling

I feel like a digital flirt. I don’t enjoy the feeling anymore. I joined instagram few days back. Having the app on my smartphone gives me the freedom to post a photo and note from anywhere and anytime. I see the world through words. Even photographs speak to me through words.

I have an aversion of putting my own photographs. Most of my family members are intensely private people. So I don’t want to be the intruder. Selfies don’t excite me. To be honest, I don’t have the body of  Kim Kardashian.

But I have been flirting here and there in the digital world. And the destinations vary from Facebook, Twitter to Instagram.

As much as all of them allow me to express myself, there’s no greater joy than sitting in front of my computer and expressing my thoughts filling up the screen. The sound of the keyboard makes me feel alive. connected and joyful.

As I write this, I feel this space of mine gives me the feeling of home (Aah.. the Gypsy talking of having a home. But life is all about having possibilities or imagining possibilities).

I have had enough of being a digital flirt. Let me enjoy this solid feeling of being in a meaningful relationship.

And a little note of ‘Thank you’ to all those wonderful souls who have stopped by this space and encouraged me with their generosity of appreciation and heart-warming comments.

The Gypsy hopes to meet more generous souls on the road ahead.

Mobile India err Smart India

A group of youngsters in cool cafes and swanky restaurants sitting with their frothy cups of cappuccino and nachos. But their eyes are lowered and their fingers are in a ‘fast and furious mode.’ You might think that they are the future Einsteins and Newtons all set to unravel the mysteries of the universe. They are all together but not a single word is exchanged. Their silence is intriguing. But their silence has a reason. They are all hooked to their smartphones. You wonder why did they all come out in a group? They could have actually stayed at home and done the same (alone). Welcome to the new age Mobile India. Phubbing is the buzzword of urban India vocabulary.

 

mobile

India has been seized by a mobile revolution. Believe it or not, the mobile phone users in India are pegged at one billion. We might not have access to safe drinking water and toilets but there will be more than one mobile phones per family.
In the beginning, when mobile phones came to India in the late 90s (actually those days the mobile phones looked like those boxes you need for your geometry classes, some even looked like tiffin boxes), it was like caviar. Very few had it and the majority only mastered the art of ogling at the caviar from a distance. Today, mobile phones are as common as idli, vada pav or even paani puri.
Before you think that I am ‘immobile’ or anti-mobile, I must say that I love the way mobile phones have changed the way we communicate. In times of a crisis or emergency, mobile phones come as a great blessing. I love the way mobile phones act as a great democratic agent of change. I love it when the young girl who helps me at home comes, plug in her mobile phone and attaches it to the speakers and put on Rihana’s ‘Monster’ or Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’  and then goes on the cleaning spree. Well, I find it cool when she uses the bluetooth for ‘transferring’ songs from my playlist. She loves it when I play my age-old favourite ‘Katra Katra’ song from Izzazat. Today she told me, “My sister doesn’t like this song. But I think, she doesn’t have emotions.” She says with a smile, “Didi, accha lagta hai yeh gaana sun ke. (It feels nice to hear this song).” When she decides to take it easy, she sends me a message on whatsapp, “Didi, not coming.” Quick communication at its best. On my birthday, she changed her DP to a photo taken with me. Her ‘smart’ way of celebrating my birthday.
But there’s another side to this ‘mobile’ story. India is hooked to the world of touch. Everybody is in a rush to upload their holiday photographs, nuggets about their love life. From your break-up to make-up, everything you can upload in the virtual world by just the touch of your mobile. The art of conversation in India today is on life support system. India which was famous for its oral traditions may soon have to mourn its death.
WhatsApp has become the cool word. Everybody is on a ‘mobile’ high. You are smart only if you have a smartphone. The buck stops there.
India is hooked to its mobile phones but the users have very little or no knowledge of mobile manners or etiquette. So, in the darkness of movie theaters when you are lost in the magical world of celluloid fantasy, you will be ruthlessly pulled back to this not so pleasant real world with a loud voice telling, “haan bolo (Yes, tell me).” I have actually heard people yelling at their top voices and telling, “Woh share bech do (Sell that share), dusra kharid lo (Buy the other one).” You see, I live Ahmedabad, the city of bulls and bears.  Sensex is orgasmic in this part of the country. Where does the celluloid magic figure, actually?
Even as the sound of people munching their caramel popcorns from their paper buckets   slows down and you breathe in a sense of relief, you suddenly hear a woman telling, “Haan, dinner mein roti aur aloo gobi bana dena. (Make dinner for us).” You don’t curse your destiny, you curse that little smartphone and the hands holding that sans any etiquette.
Mobile phones have become a status symbol. You got to flaunt it. Your cool quotient is directly linked to that little one. The ones owning these little ones are on a rampage. They have seized urban India (including real and virtual world). Thanks to mobile phones, in India every Tom, Dick, Harry (or to be fair, say Sunny, Bunty, Pintoo, Chintoo or Jayesh, Jignesh) is a reincarnation of Henri Cartier Bresson. And not to talk about selfies, welfies and the never ending vocabulary of all ‘fies’ coming together. All the while, you are seeing somebody or the other pouting like Kim Kardashian and clicking a picture of their own or a group. It has become a menace, if you can allow me to say that.
Every other guy aspires to be a Salman Rushdie or should I say Chetan Bhagat (he mints a hell lot of money). And you actually thought, writing or photography is an art? You gotta be joking.

Just grab your smartphone and take a walk. Welcome to Mobile India..

INDIA, A COUNTRY OF EXPERTS

India is a country of experts. Everybody is an expert on anything and everything. Everybody has an opinion on everything.

So, people who can’t even spell badminton properly now have an opinion on why P V Sindhu missed getting the gold medal. People who have never played a game in their butter-laced life dismiss our Rio Olympics participants as lazy, completely devoid of any grit and determination. In their cocooned existence, they can’t understand what it means to be a sportsperson in India. Unless, you are playing cricket..What all our non-cricket sports persons  have to go through to arrive where they have arrived. On the international level. How many parents from privileged background encourage their children to take up a sports?

People can talk about wrestling, boxing, badminton and hockey like they have spent years and years sweating over the games. I am curious to know which sportsperson plays to lose in a game? Who doesn’t love to win an Olympic medal?

And then Mark Zuckerberg has gifted Indians a lethal weapon called Facebook. So, the expert comments need to be shared, liked and gloated over.

Now, these experts can do a great service to mankind only if they keep quiet and take a chill pill.

(In the midst of all this, there are some who also searched about P V Sindhu’s caste on the internet. Only God can save us)

 

Of JNU, Emptiness and Azadi

(Yes, I love JNU. If I have to choose something that changed my life and changed the way I see life around me, then it has to be JNU. There’s a JNU in the way I see/love India, its rich diversity, pluralism. There’s a JNU in the way I listen to music, the food I eat and relish, the films I love watching, the way I love people of this land and the way I feel for India’s marginalized communities.  

No, I am not a card holding member of any Communist party. I never was one and will never be one.  I cherish the dreams and imagination of a free, diverse, egalitarian, liberal India. I will fight for your right to say though I might not agree with what you say. And yes, I pay my taxes.  I also enjoy my Macbook Air and I start my day with a cup of Earl Grey tea.)  

‘I am feeling so empty,” I told over phone to my friend who lives in Dubai.  I have never felt so empty before. For the last 2O odd days, I have led a life marked by deep anguish, emptiness and pain. I tried earlier to pen my thoughts but I just couldn’t. Today, I sit down, look back and make a note of myriad thoughts that crossed my mind in the last few weeks. Sometimes at the break of dawn, sometimes in the darkness of night. I am using the symbol of hashtags to express myself because we now live in the ‘banal’ times of hashtags.

#  It was a February late night when before sleeping, I scrolled down the notifications on my Facebook .  I came across a post from a friend (ironically she lives in Nagpur) which mentioned #shutdownjnu. I was too tired to delve into the details. I left it there to sleep.

#  After  JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on charges of sedition, I listened to his speech to understand what he spoke. Yes, he ripped apart the BJP-RSS politics in that speech but I didn’t find it at all anti-national. And being a student activist in JNU in the 90s, I have heard far more scathing speeches. I loved that line in Kanhaiya’s speech, “What are universities for? To critically challenge, the society’s ‘common conscience.” Yes, we need universities to encourage a society to think, question and dissect. A nation is not made of computers, smart phones or tablets. A nation is made of men, women and children who think, imagine, love, debate, discuss. There’s no uniform software.

# Just a day after his arrest, the onslaught of hate speeches on social media happened. Prime Time TV studios felt like war zones. The talks of JNU students being ‘prostitutes/call girls/anti-nationals’ dominated the public space. I put a post on my Facebook timeline celebrating the ethos of JNU and an idea called India. The so-called ‘friends’ came up with choicest abuses. They showed the ugly face of aggression through their comments, personal messages.

# As a social sciences student, I am really curious to understand how do these people harbor so much of hatred, venom, violence within themselves. How do they live, work, sleep and raise children with so much of aggression, violence wthin them?  Yes, they have this AK 47 called Facebook and Twitter accounts and they think they can engage in mindless violence without rhyme or reason.

#   What’s nation? What’s the Idea of India? What’s imagination of a nation? Can a nation exist without imagination? Who makes a nation? These are the questions that have always fascinated me. Where does my cook who can’t now afford a bowl of her favourite Gujarati khatti mithi dal (Thanks to arhar dal being so expensive) figure in this idea of nation?  What about the rivers, forests, mountains and valleys that make this nation so beautiful and the way we are abusing them, destroying them in the name of development?  And who will decide what’s nationalism? Who will define how Indian am I? Will the central government (whether it’s a BJP/Congress/any coalition) decide what is nationalism? Will these governments put a stamp on my love and idea of my nation?

#  How will we thrive as a nation, as a society if our young minds are not engaged in debate/discussion? Why are we so scared of young minds? How will we arrive as a society if our young minds don’t think out of the box? Why are we scared of dream catchers, rebels, thinkers, philosophers, poets, artists? Aren’t ideas/cultures/narratives all about evolving? Where does critical thinking figure in our political/social/cultural narratives? Who are these people who are jumping into conclusions without even discussing?

#   I am not even talking about doctored videos, fake voices. I am not talking about somebody offering Rs 5 lakh for cutting off Kanhaiya’s tongue? Or posters offering Rs 11 lakh to anybody who will shoot Kanhaiya. And who were these masked people shouting slogans in JNU? Why can’t our state machinery/apparatus put a face and name to them?

#  Three of my close friends have lived a life of ‘the other’ in this country. My soul sister is from Manipur and she lived in Delhi for more than 15 years. All through her Delhi years, she was seen as a ‘Nepali’. But never as an Indian. House owners in mainstream India shut doors on her face when she went to pay the deposit money because they couldn’t possibly give the house on rent to a Chinese/Nepali/Chinky. Her face became her greatest enemy. She became ‘the other’ in her own country.  My friend ‘M’ is a Kashmiri Pandit who has lost her home in the valley. She mourns the loss of her beautiful land which now hides behind a veil of pain, anguish. Her voice chokes when she talks of her Kashmir yet she says she feels a sense of joy and warmth when she meets an elderly Kashmiri Muslim woman in a phiran in Delhi. She says time has stood still for her as she can’t connect with today’s Kashmir. Another close friend who’s a Muslim feels like an outsider in the land he loves dearly and warmly. His young daughter was traumatized for days when she was called a ‘Pakistani’ in the school.  I can’t understand urban India’s obsession with Pakistan. Pakistan is not my benchmark so far as the ethos and imagination of a nation is considered. I am sure many will agree with me.  Why should I celebrate a monolithic nation?  India with its vibrant democracy, multi-culturalism, diversity is closest to my heart.

#  Post his release on conditional bail, Kanhaiya Kumar became a prime-time hero thanks to his earthy, fiery, witty speech.  His speech appeared as front page lead in many newspapers. In the times of 24×7 channels and social media, he suddenly became the flavor of the day. ‘Azadi’ became the word of the season. For some, spring suddenly felt more enticing, more young, more beautiful. Was his speech a ground-breaking one which would go down in history?  I will suggest restraint. Let us not go overboard. As a student of JNU (in the 90s), I have heard equally soul-stirring, fiery, political speeches by young student leaders. There were no 24×7 channel television then to beam those speeches across the nation. There were no twitter trending hashtags then. Let us not become a desperate nation looking for momentary heroes or anti-heroes. Let us look at the larger canvas of nation building. Let us think of a nation that gives a fabulous world class education and medical facilities to its poor and marginalized. I liked it when Kanhaiya said in one of his TV interviews, “Speeches alone don’t make for political leadership.” The struggle has to go on. And the toughness of the struggle ahead will decide who is what.  The struggle ahead will separate the wheat from the chaff.

Let truth prevail. Let our young and old minds celebrate ‘azadi’.  Let the young think, imagine, feel and work for those who still can’t afford to study in this beautiful institute of learning in the last range of Arravalis.

Why are we behaving like Americans?

I need three bottles of karela (bitter gourd) juice to balance the harmful effects of reading all the super sugary FB status updates on Mother’s Day.  I grew up without having any knowledge of celebrating Mother’s Day. I don’t really remember wishing ever my mother on this second Sunday of May. Now, the Americans have taken over urban India.

A week before this Mother’s Day, my e-mail inbox was bombarded with messages from Amazon, flipkart, myntra with messages that read like  “Deepika, buy this/that for your mom and make her happy.” Skype went a step further and sent a message, “Put a smile on your mom’s face and skype with her.” Well, I never knew that skype can make me connect with my mom who’s hopefully having a good time up there since October, 2013. Aah technology, wish you were that advanced in your astral presence.

This Mother’s Day started on a beautiful reflective note for me as I started the day by writing a long letter (e-mail) to my spiritual companion. Writing to him is cathartic. And then I had a nice conversation with my close friend whom I later met in the evening. Even as I was busy cooking and cleaning my kitchen pantry during the day, there was virtual outpouring of emotions happening on Facebook.

When I logged on to my FB account in the evening, there were too many notifications from my friends. There was a common thread running among these posts. Suddenly I found that almost everybody worth their sugar had changed their profile pics. Some did the hard work of digging out some 50 year old picture of their mother and then scanning it before putting it. Too much of hard work, I would say on a Sunday. And that too for few likes.

By the end of the day, there were too many pictures (all mixed up) dancing in my head. Was she R’s mother? Or was she M’s mother? My mind was all confused like the Indian economy.

And all the status updates read the same — Mom, thank you for making me what I am today (hello, yes.. the piece of shit you are as a human being). Love you, mom…. for being there for me always (Yes, she got to be there. There was no shopping mall/ no multiplexes/ no coffee shops either.  Or for that matter no Facebook to while away time).

This whole business of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are nothing but gimmicks of a market-driven society. Some years ago, I read a beautiful narrative of an American woman living in an old-age home in which she mentioned that all her three children come to see her only on Mother’s Day. I hope, there lies a lesson for all of us.

In stead of putting up sugar-coated FB status updates on Mother’s Day and in turn waiting to count how many likes we have got, let us look after our mothers. Let us not dismiss them just because they can’t operate a smart-phone or they can’t walk fast anymore. Let us look after them the way they looked after us. And remember they looked after us beautifully without putting a single post about the joy of parenting on Facebook.

It’s ‘cool’ to be tender with your parents in your day to day living.