Thursday, September 3, 2009

Malhar- Evaluation

I recommend a reading of the previous note 'Malhar- Situations' to properly imagine what I mean. This note brings out the essence of what the other note tries to preserve. While that, in it's narrative style, could be called a story, this is actually the non-fictional critique of what happens in that story; a critique of malhar.

No, not all of malhar. Just some parts I found things amiss in, the kind of arrangement held for conducting human 'management'- this is what I felt was dismal, at best. Of course, I am just one person; and my opinion is supposed to be mine, I know all of that, I have been attending Farun's lectures, okay? But I am sure not only mine, for there were others who underwent the same experiences and on whose faces I saw an absurd frustration. I think I will respond to that from the position I am in: a worm's position, looking from ground level whatever is happening.

This must answer those who claim that I should join SECURITY: I think it is necessary for all positions to be represented, and I assume that of the common looker. It is absolutely necessary that someone talk from this position, and I think I am fully justified in wanting to occupy it and look at things from here. Moving on,


phrase of an adj. and a n., meaning you have to go whether you want it or not, at the same time refers to a procedure involving the trapping of ignorant fools in unwarned, innocent corridors and packing them off outside.

There is no sign 'COMPULSORY EXIT'. No warning, except if your friend is in security. A hand tips you slightly and tells you to 'compulsorily exit'. Why, what I have done? No answer is available, since it isn't in the volunteer's job description, nor is he/she too eager to give one. Sometimes, yes, but mostly, no. You'll probably hear again: you have to go. And eventually, you do have to go: you are one and they are many. And they have this divine right of sorts, manifest in their t-shirts and wirelesses. One wonders if one is in USSR or something.

The argument runs hence- since we aren't blessed with too endowed a college (uh, in terms of space) why not let as many people as possible to come in and see? But then, for some to come in, some will have to go out? Yes, they will have to. Bas, chalo, compulsory exit. There is no belaying that. Someone who has been around in college would say "look, i could go up to de-congest these grounds. Why don't you let me do that?" Actually, why doesn't the security suggest that? One answer is-


n., somebodies who increase the plausibility of your festival because of their familiar faces, and even tell you if your events and participants are okay or not.

Anybody familiar with Xaviers' would agree that the windows/passages on the floors above could be wonderful spectator galleries. This is one strong reason, I think, why people would want to go up. But, ASSISTANCE informs me, that Guests and Judges are about to come, and we, being ideal hosts, must give up the cream biscuits for them. Absolutely, no problem. I'll clear off as soon as they arrive. But no. I am told I have to clear off immediately. That place is not for me. Do they realize they are laying waste precious space of our under-endowed, beloved college, if not harming the 'spirit' of malhar that common-folk walk away with? What with the number of judges and guests as compared to that of normal watchers, a child could spot the irrationality of reserving so much space for so few people. I think one shouldn't complain of having less space in college when one is wasting it as it is. The same, by the way, goes for water and electricity.


cltve. n., if used by someone on the malhar team, it necessarily refers to a huge gathering of people that creates hypothetical stampedes even before arriving and unbearable chaos too(unbearability is, usually, subtly shown by '!' marks), generally assumed unthinking and unreasonable.

My conversations with most of my security pals has lead me to believe that a lot of security guidelines have to do more with cultural knowledge passed from last years' arrangements, than with a different analysis of present possible situations. This knowledge assumes that if not for some regulation, there would be major stampedes. The argument is a crisp phrase, stale, yet freshly accepted in Pol Sci classes- mob-behaviour. This is one reason, perhaps, why none except one have responded to my suggestion of more sane usage of existing space. It simply doesn't feature in the to-do list of the dept/s. what may be responsible.

Why should we assume that this crowd needs guidance? Why should we assume that there will be a stampede? And why should we assume that 'they would never understand, so let's not waste time in trying to explain what we are going to do to them'? This is what i refer to as pessimism. Our security arrangements are based on this idea. It would do well to the SECURITY and ASSISTANCE depts. to introspect if they do not show this unreasonable behaviour towards 'crowds' who actually ask them why this is happening. As I have said, some do manage to at least assuage some unfortunate beings, and actually explain why this is happening. Some also use their brains as per the situation and this makes malhar more human, and less insultingly pessimistic.


pr. n., referring to a remarkable personality who devises bizarre responses to bullying, possibly great inspiration for those tired of malhar's self proclaimed securors, who end up making life difficult both for themselves and for others.

S crawls out from under the divider; X asks wierd questions; sometimes, he calls out for reason. These are defiant responses. When confronted with power which doesn't care to explain why is it operating, what can one do? Either one can, like T, denounce such power in words but accept it in actions by walking away, giving up. Or, one can accept it both in words and in actions, which many have urged is necessary. There be a third course, mateys- defy this power in words and actions as long as it is unreasonable. As to the unreasonability, there is considerable scope to find it- if somebody says "could you please move away from here?", one can see a certain civility in the manner, even if the request seems absurd. However, somebody saying "you'll have to go somewhere else" or even taking the liberty to nudge you on the shoulders, show you directions and say "keep moving, keep moving" shows obvious signs of power-tipsiness. Further signs of undue power are refusal to answer, let alone even consider one's questions. After all, how much time does poilte, impersonal behaviour take? Or what harm would answering a few questions do?

Being a smart-alec has more to it then this defiance: suppose you get summoned by compulsory exit in, say, an hour or so. You see your malhar experience going for a toss. You'll have to wait in line again to get in. So where is the fun? Heck, do crazy stuff, derive your fun from what you have- an unflinching volunteer. That is why it is possible for X to feel happy at the end of the day.


pr. n., college festival of St. Xavier's College, including students from various colleges visiting and participating in a host of events

I was somehow shocked at being asked "Why do you hate malhar so much?" I have restricted my hatred to something more specific than malhar, namely the arrangement for public management. Malhar, or whatever I could see of it, was quite enjoyable, even necessary because there is hardly such an opportunity if not through a college festival. However, if focus shifts to competitions and judges and bureaucratic procedures rather than humane behaviour and enjoyment, we shift away from what is ideally expected. It isn't a shocker for me to find malhar behind many other colleges ( ) as far as popularity goes. I look forward to attending these for verification of campusjunkie data, but I think that votes of people all around do make for a permissible reference. My intention for these two write-ups was to first narrate how one could enjoy because of difficult odds (through defiance) and secondly to suggest positive changes that are lacking through the eyes of a worm. I have no intention of spreading malice, I haven't done so, and would appreciate not being accused of anything such.


n. a form of institution with inexorable rules and procedures, which nobody knows emanate from where, but which have to followed in spite of all their shortcomings. Criticism can lead to accusals of 'all talk, no walk' attitude, demonstration of walking could lead to being ignored.

Bureaucracy generally is accused of making machines out of men. One complains of long queues in general life, of pending court cases, one even supports positive changes in such systems. But in malhar it becomes different: since it is 'our beloved malhar', it has to be perfect the way it is and is beyond criticism. But it is not too difficult to note similar symptoms in it which one condemns in a bureaucracy.

In fact, through my experience of malhar, I noticed it is a micrcosm, a miniature model, of many outside things in the way it is run. Bureaucracy is one of the commonalities; one can find militant intrusionism, as one found in former Soviet Union, or present China; one can find patriotic shouts of 'Malhar Rocks', more emotional than rational. One could find favouritism, like invisible judges being treated to open spaces to look from. All the more, one can find the same points of discussion about malhar that one finds about bureaucracy, society, etc. in general- 'mob-behaviour', 'chaos', 'necessity of procedures' (this very basically means necessary of bureaucracy); all these come from such an analogical discourse.


n., a real life combination of events and entities, that face people in an interactive manner, to which they have to respond.

This write up had to be broken into two, since it came out bigger than anticipated. But this did come out in the way I had planned it to. This is a new and effective method of writing that I have come across, partly discovered. I think this should answer those who think I am generalizing things, and creating caricatures.

What do we mean by generalizing? By applying to a group certain traits just on the observation of a few elements of that group. When it is unjustified prejudice- a judgement BEFORE knowledge. So, for example, one could see gay people wearing pink repeatedly, and assume that gay people wear pink. However, gay people not wearing pink would prove this to be a prejudice. The problem that has happened is that before getting a pure description of what 'being gay' means, one has assumed on shoddy evidence that it means wearing pink, and put it on the whole gay community, i.e., evaluation comes before description of situation. Since this mistake is repeated often in writing, I decided to technically orient this article in a way that the diagnosis (description) of situation comes necessarily before it's evaluation, so that we know enough before passing judgement. That is why the order-

1. 'Malhar- Situations', wherein we understand what we are talking about
2. 'Malhar- Evaluation' wherein we try to find recurring patterns

Let me put up another example (since I terribly wanted it to feature in the other article, but bloody forgot about it at that time)-


Foyer. Huge crowd. Some event is going on, while people are cheering and shouting and whoooooing.
S can't see anything because of the crowd. She asks the guy in front-
"What event is going on"
"I don't know."
"What are you cheering for?"
"I don't know."
"Why the hell are you cheering?"
"Everybody is cheering, so I am cheering too."


Enjoyment can come out of anything. Even from seeing others enjoy. .... in short, whatever you can conclude from the given situation.

Now one may see at a number of places in the article or the responses that I don't label the ASSISTANCE dept. as 'bad' or 'vile' or whatever. I only go after the practices they do to which don't really go well with a huge number of people. Similar with caricatures- they show less reality than is actually present, because they are a scheme of the author's mind. However, if the writer picks up verifiable situations with verifiable characters, it would either be unwary or unjust of someone to accuse the writer of creating caricatures.

As to selectivity, it is a different matter altogether. Let us assume that malhar is our car, and there is something wrong with it. It would follow that we repair what we think is wrong with it. For this, we ought to focus on the bad part. I am afraid that looking at the good side of the car would hardly be of any use to the car; it may be amply so to our self-esteem of owning a wonderful car, but that would mean living with a faulty car in sheer denial or ignorance. One can't confound selectivity with generalization or prejudice, unless proved so; of such proofs as regards to this article, I am most awaiting.

Hoping for someone to take this up into consideration. Hope to meet again, as a worm, next malhar.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Malhar- Situations


"Excuse me, you can't stand there. You'll have to move." The girl was wearing a dark blue malhar t-shirt, with ASSISTANCE written on it in bold letters.
"Why can't I stand here?" X asked.
"This is a judges' stand. You'll have to move."
X looked around, in a way that made the interrogatress look around too.
"Well, I don't see anyone around here. ?"
"You can't stand here. I'll have to ask you to move." The girl replied.
"You already have. But you didn't answer me."
Meanwhile, a boy wearing a similar t-shirt as the interrogatress came about and said, "Listen, please go. This is the judges stand. You aren't allowed here."
"Yeah, she has already said that." X replied. "All I am saying is that there is no one around right now, and so it shouldn't be a problem to you for me to be here."
"Look, friend"- there was some impatience in the interrogator's voice, and it seemed to X that 'friend' was used to hide that impatience- "you can't be here. Please be so kind as to leave."
"You give me a good enough reason and I'll leave."
"Look, even the volunteers aren't allowed to stay here, okay?" he said.
"But this girl was standing here since I have arrived." X pointed out.
The interrogatress sprang to life again and retorted "No, I was moving around. I wasn't standing." Her tone was very fast, spitting out word after word.
"Okay, so I'll just keep moving around." The reaction of the interrogators was amusing X. He was having his laugh.
"Look dude, you can't stick around here, okay? You want to talk to my OG? I'll just call him."
At this, X gave his most heartily acerbic laugh. "So ASSISTANCE means a bunch of unreasonable hooligans, right?" he said. He thought he should leave: there was no point in listening to the same stuff from the OG, and he had had his fun.


S was moving along a passage with her friend T, just holding hands, loud music having benumbed their senses. This quiet in the loudness of the festival was comforting. It was as if one could find privacy even among a crowd; this simultaneously gave the two ability to stay in their space, like two idols in the same, limited niche, and it also let them show they were together.

Suddenly, a hand caught S and pulled her. T followed. A girl with a black t-shirt with SECURITY written over it told her "You'll have to leave."
"What? I can't hear." S shouted, and lent her ear, almost flung it, to the security girl.
"You'll have to leave, This is compulsory exit."
"What do you mean leave? Where to?" T asked.
"Out. You'll have to leave college. This is compulsory exit."
"What do you mean? We already got frisked. You can check our bags." S said.
"No, this is compulsory exit (note: the usage repeats itself as if it went unheard before). You can get your hand stamped, and come back again."
"So why send us out in the first place?"
"This is compulsory exit." She starts to mildly pull S out.
T has broken into an argument by now. He seemingly loses his temper. S is watching all this, vexed at the intrusion of their good time. T is eventually pulled away with a little force. He loses his temper, shouts at the security girl, and leaves. Meanwhile, S has evaded the SECURITY, slipping through the divider-poles, and reached out safe. Once out, she first calls the security girl to the divider, sticks out her tongue, and then shows her middle finger.

She calls up T, and tells him she would be coming out in a minute. She takes the 'compulsory exit' passage again, finds the girl who pulled her earlier, asks her "Way out?", smiling while at it, and leaves the college.


10.30 am - A and B come to college gates. "Some festival, I tell you. Just you listen to the music inside, I tell you. You know, they spend like some giant amount on all this, I tell you. Fuhttttay, all this." A is happy. He had been here last year. They see there is a line they have to stand in. It is long, and takes them to the gates of the quiet college behind, which seems to be living in an autumn, especially on this day when the only visible college is Xavier's, throbbing with a throbbing crowd.

11.00 am - "They will take us in any minute, I tell you." The line had been growing since they came. The gates had been thrown open some time ago, but they couldn't alleviate too many aching legs. Perhaps, B wondered, the line must have reached the gates of some other college by now?

12.00 noon - "When the hell are they planning to take us in, dude?" B was getting impatient. This was his first year at this fest. The praises by A started seeming absurd to him. "Anytime soon, I tell you."

12.05 pm - "Do you want a raga, our official malhar magazine? It's for free." A cute girl came up to B and asked. "I want to go in." She didn't know what to say. She recollected herself and replied assuredly and assuringly "I am sure they will take you in. Do you want a raga?" "No thanks." "But it's for free." "I am leaving." He leaves the line, and heads for the railway station.


The Great Hall wasn't called 'The Great Hall' for nothing. It was massive. It took some effort to get from one side to another. Even if it didn't, what is the point of going to the opposite side to get in, when one can very well go in from this side per se?

The 'SECURITY' arrangement made this absurdity possible. Even when there was no 'crowd situation', the security wouldn't allow entry from one door of the hall, while they wouldn't allow exit from another. Of course, if you sported a malhar t-shirt, things were different.

X landed up at the point of The Great Hall through which he couldn't enter. A big security guy stopped him. "You'll have to enter from the other side." X realized the nonsensical aura around this proposition. He said "C'mon man, what's the point? My going from this door would cause no trouble to you, to malhar, or to the world in general. It would save me a pointless detour. Please let me pass."

The guy thought for three seconds. "Okay, get in."

The author deviates specially and wittingly from mere narration, appreciates the action of that security guy, and wishes to congratulate him for having retained his reason.


It is difficult to reproduce this situation. Let me just try to describe it. Mr. and Mrs. sorry, Mr. and Ms. malhar is going on.. but wait, shouldn't it be Mst. and Ms. malhar? Shut up, and just use the convention, okay? Mr. and Ms. Malhar is going on, and the contestants come up on stage one by one. They are supposed to joke, be humourous. They try- c'mon, they can only try, who knows what is humourous? They joke. Mostly, the jokes involve double meaning related to genitalia and actions pertaining to genitalia. X remembers hearing these very jokes when he was in school. Exactly these. Tailor-cut. He sees around. People are cheering. He thinks- "they are cheering, not laughing. We must keep that in mind. They are cheering for these jokes, not laughing at them." He decides to take a walk till the next performance begins.

He thinks he would like a bird's eye view of malhar. He remembers last year, when he spent an hour on the terrace, watching what went on below. He somehow found that mesmeric, almost mystic- the silence of altitude had insulated the terrace from noise, and he found himself immersed in the hush below from this point. And this gave him a sort of puzzle: he, who had been detached from anything he found 'spiritual', meaning unexplainable, mystic, who was hostile to such experiences and actually refuted them, found pleasure in this inexplicable pleasure. He thinks he must find what this is again.

But he sees that there are black t-shirted fellows at the stairs who refuse entry to anyone. He thinks he would take the other staircase. He reaches it, only to be informed that he can't use it, it is only for volunteers. He knows there is a third, but realizes that the last time he had gone that way, he was asked to 'compulsorily exit'. Though it was fun to crawl through the divider to the safer side, he didn't want to go through that again; he had his eyes set on the terrace.
"Are they forcing us to exit still?" he asked the security chap.
"No, they aren't for now. You can try those stairs." How did he know why X had asked that question? Perhaps it was the guilt of not having allowed him entry? Perhaps he thought he ought to give him some way to go up? Perhaps he wanted redemption? Perhaps.

X was now in confusion- the third staircase was closed. That meant, it was impossible for someone below to go somewhere above. X inquired with a security volunteer "How do I get upstairs?"
"Through the stairs."
"Which stairs?"
"There are so many stairs in college."
"Could you tell me one staircase that is open to me?"
"Yeah, go there, that one."
"I am not allowed. Your rule."
"The one after that?"
"They aren't taking us in from there."
"Dude, I am busy, could you come afterwards?"
"Yeah, but this is so crazy. I mean, you people are here so that there isn't any crowd situation. These grounds are packed with people, packed crazy, so that time to time, you keep evacuating them forcibly. But upstairs, upstairs it is all empty. Why don't you let us go up."
"Dude, help me by co-operating, okay?"
"Dude, it is as evident as two plus two is four. If you want to de-congest the ground, let the people go up. I am helping you by really helping you, okay?"
"Stop blaming us, there is a crowd for us to handle. Do it yourself if you want."
"Who the hell is blaming you? I am just telling what can be done. This is like shit for me- I can't go up- and almost shit for you too- you can't handle the crowd without manhandling them."
No use. X's doubts- as to if this was really a festival- were becoming strong. What could he do about it? He didn't know. He stood there for two minutes. Suddenly an idea came to him.
"Okay, listen. Can I climb up the pipe to go up?" he asked most naturally, hoping this act would work.
"Yeah, please do. Best of luck."
"Can I get an assurance from you, that you will be responsible if something happens? You are the security after all."
"Yes, I assure you."
"No wait. This won't do. I need it in writing." He took out a piece of paper, and wrote 'IF SOMETHING HARMFUL HAPPENS TO X IN HIS ATTEMPT TO CLIMB UP BY THE PIPE, ' "what's your name?"
"Sign here."
"C'mon man, lay it off. We have work to do."
"But you agreed?"
"Dude, we are in no mood to play smart-alec games." 'We'? Where had the 'we' come from?

X discovered a new mode of fun. He thought he would really have a festival, an unusually shining day. He started questioning the annals of malhar's workings. He would go to security holders, and ask fundamental questions. Here are some of those:
"Can I buy your t-shirt? How much?"
"Dude, give me your walkie-talkie for a sec, would ya? I need to make a call home."
"Listen, before entering here, is there any kind of permission I need to take from you?"
"You would not beat me up, right?"
"Could you make a map of restricted areas in college?"

Malhar had found a new meaning for X.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Why do people slap kids?


In a classroom.
"What is the square root of 4?"
"16, ma'am"
"16?! You moron, this is what I have taught you? Hand forward."

On a railway station.
"Hey you, come back here, stop wandering off."
"Okay, ma."
Two minutes down.
"There you go again."
Catches the kid. Smack!
"I've told you so many times not to wander off."

In school.
"Call your father here. Let him know of your activities."
"Ma'am, I doubt that if I call out from here, he would be able to hear all the way in his office."
"Don't act smart with me, you understand."

In school once again.
General commotion. Teacher not in class. Children unsettled, roaming around in class. The principal comes in. She sees the hum-drum.
"This doesn't befit a classroom." She thinks to herself.
Slap! The nearest kid gets it. All realign themselves wherever they can.

On the street.
Big guys.
"Hey look at that kid. Look at his glasses. Hey glassy, where's your sister glassy?"
Little guy.
"Leave me alone."
"Or else? What will you do, eh?"
Smack! (i.e. big guy to small guy)

These are pretty much everyday events. One need not present a record of acts committed to ascertain their truth. One may do well to look back in his or her own past, or of someone known, to see if sometimes, somewhere, there was such use of violence. One may even look at kids around oneself to know. This essay starts off from such an acceptance- kids are hit specially by older people, in comparison with other older people.

Let us first examine an act of hitting: the child does something, someone elder sees that act, disapproves of it, hits. Considering such originating violence for our question, why does this happen? Why does someone's, esp. a child's, behaviour invoke slaps? The most common justification given is reform- "so that he may not do it again". Let us examine this claim.


One believes that something should be reformed when it acts wrongly or badly. Just so with the child. Further, to reform behaviour, it is argued, one must set clear to the child what is right behaviour. In effect, people argue that hitting would make the child realize how wrong his actions are, and would 'set him straight'. This is our next question: what does hitting have to do with inducing right behaviour?

Nothing by its own. If we ask the question 'how does hitting bring about good behaviour?' we would find it difficult to answer. In fact, if it were true that hitting induces good behaviour, most of the world would be encouraging their children to take up boxing as a sport! On the contrary, violence is culpable as 'bad behaviour' both socially and individually. So one can say that those who hit with authority (e.g. parents, teachers) are inducing bad behaviour by virtue of their being example givers. Then why does it so happen that such a notion of violence being reformist is so commonly held?

Apologetics say- it works. Children give up bad behaviour. Why do they 'give up' bad behaviour? This is how the system works- the person hits, and then justifies to the victim why he has hit, what would have prevented the victim from being hit, and what would save him in future from such punishments. "You won't do this again, no? Promise?" Sounds familiar? In effect, the child comes to know the rules of power: to be safe, you respect power, and since we want to be safe, what power says must be true. In effect, the child doesn't give up 'bad behaviour'; he simply stops doing that which power prohibits. Later on, if that same power in the parent or the teacher tells the child to 'take help' in a competition strictly meant for the child, the child won't bother to ask- "isn't this meant only for me?"- because it is power that says so.

This means that there is no real connection between hitting and 'good behaviour'. It is just that the power that, by default, lies in the hands of certain people defines what is good behaviour and exhorts the child to stick to it perforce.


In many scenarios, one would observe, an act of hitting spills out of this garb of reform. One can make out pretty certainly (as in the case of the incident on the street mentioned above) that power simply means to assert itself, to even express itself. This is the most elemental form of violence- naked, ostensible without the clothes of various justifications. Many a drunk men are reported to beat their wives and children. Many among such drop out of school due to such frustrations, probably due to inability to cope up with both school and home. Many develop anti-social tendencies.

This form of violence helps us understand violence better, even behind the facades of reformist concern- violence is essentially an imposition of will. One wishes the other to act in a certain way, and makes him do so by force. As an experiment, try applying mild force on a child (gently, without letting him know you are hitting him)- you'll notice that the child resists. Now imagine (or see when you can) the child being hit with overwhelming force, on a magnitude impossible for him to reach- how does he resist? He cannot, the power is so strong. Thus, he cries most often. The child cries because he is being wronged against, and because he can't do anything to prevent it. Or any person for that matter. There is something biological, I guess, behind resisting force: even when you can't think about it, your body retaliates. Meddling with such a system results in cries and tears. The connection between despair and inability, thus, is most evident.


On a simple level, those who put forward the reformist argument for use of violence against children have already been refuted. But then, this wouldn't solve our next problem- how to tell the child what is not permissible action? I think reasoning is the most obvious (and effective) solution. Those children who are given the help and leisure to think out 'things' in general are ethically most critical. In fact, the reformist arguments completely reflect the unreasonable, emotionalist tendencies in child care. They show a certain impatience with children, a certain refusal to use one's brain whatsoever, to speak nothing of how they provoke such tendencies in children. On the contrary, making children think would induce patience both in the parent and the child.

On a more macro level, there is an inherent problem we face: by default, children are one of the most vulnerable groups of society. They are left in the care of older people, who by default hold more power. Many of us older people, sometime or the other, misuse this power. Using our own argument, one could persecute the 'bad-doers' massively (jails, torture, etc.)! But this would be of no use. In fact, many of those who bluntly make sharp remarks about the depravity of hitting children get the obvious reply- "my child, my wish!" The more subtle solution, I think, lies in mass education, from childhood itself. But herein come the other variables that affect behaviour- underprivileged environment, forced child labour, sham education, wrong manipulation by lumpen elements (hoochery, gambling, molestation), encouragement to harmful 'values' (e.g. celebrating the birth of a nuclear weapon). The problem goes a long way to be solved; a start somewhere is, nonetheless, indispensable.


A Schoolday Experience

"Pratik, I wanted to talk to you about something," the Principal told me this afternoon.
"Yes, ma'am." I replied.
"This boy, Aziz, in the sixth standard, he runs away daily, you know. I ask him to stay back, but he runs away."
"What's the matter with him, ma'am?"
I knew that not everyone stays back for remedial classes. So why was Aziz asked to do so?
"His father is in jail. He is a smart kid, you know. Just bad influence. Talk to him."
"Sure ma'am, I will talk to him. He must be having his last lecture now, won't he?" I had gone to the school early that day. So that gave me oppurtunity to catch the kid before he could 'run away'.
"Yes. Come, we will go there. Both of you sit in the libary, and you guide him, okay?"
We went to the class.
"Aziz," the principal called out.
"Aziz is upto it again," said the teacher. "He hasn't done his Marathi homework, and is not paying attention in class."
"Come here Aziz, what's this?" There was an affected authority in the principal's voice, befitting a Principal in such a situation.

School principals are given a position corresponding to God's, if school were considered a microcosm of human existence. Students rarely meet them, and even when they do, not so personally. The teachers, like priests or guides, threaten students by the principal's name. There is something casual about the teachers: the students can joke with them and ask them things. Since the teachers teach them for some time, they are within the students' imagination. Lack of any imagination creates a fear about the Principal, an alienation that only a few can manage to overcome in the entire school. It is well established from the start that tremendous power is vested in the principal, and the students accept this dictatorship from the beginning.

So I remembered, today, and I am thinking, how Principals would bring with them a wave of silence, which they would unleash all around the class just by standing under the door-frame. And how uneasy I felt when my Principal used to enter my class. It was as if the fear of imbalance would make me wobble, when we stood up to wish her like helpless robots programmed to rise before their creator. And I assumed that since the Principal has come, someone would get slapped. Like a residual, undegraded corpse, I rediscovered this assumption in the underground stream of my subconscious today, as I saw the doomed face of Aziz approach the Principal. I remembered the time when I was an Aziz, so strong was the feeling of being in his boots. She would slap him.

But she did not, humbling my cynical attitude of the meek. "Aziz, he will talk to you about your studies, okay?" she told him, pointing at me. I smiled at him. We went to the library, which I must say was cosy because of its small size and sufficient because of its number and type of books- a set of Britannica Encyclopaedia and another encyclopaedia for children, some abridged novels, some picture-books.
"Hello Aziz, I am Pratik."
"So, what happened?" I asked him about that last incident, with a broad smile, knowing perfectly well that I had to be on his side.
"Marathi bounces off my head. Can't understand much." he willingly confessed.
"So, which language do you like?" I asked.
"English." The reply didn't take time to come.
"Not even Hindi?"
"Not even Hindi.". I saw a pattern.
"Here, read this." I said, showing him my journal. His supple English, with a proper understanding of phonetics, surprised me. He could wade through words like 'involvement' and 'programme', though he must have been reading them for the first time. When I later asked him to read a Marathi and a Hindi journal, he couldn't. As was visible, he could not comprehend the Devnagari system of vowels in script, nor could he string together the syllables. This is a pattern I see in some other kids too: none of them can cope up equally well with English as well as a native language.
"We will take care of this language problem, don't worry." I assured. "So, where do you stay?" I asked, having nothing else to say.
"Metro. Near Bombay Hospital."
"Oh, Steven lives there too. Do you know Steven, from the eighth standard?"
"I don't live in a house, I live on the street."

A floodgate was opened in my mind, somewhere. I could sense violent activity in that corner of my mind. How could such a simple question be so dangerous? Why did I have to ask him that which could humiliate him? But no, wait, there was a certain frankness and objectivity on Aziz's face, unperturbed by reality, like evergreen leaves of a pine tree in the coldest of winters. He seemed not to be bothered. I was goaded.
"Who else is in your family?"
"Mother, a sister, and an uncle."
"Papa?" I quickly realized my bunder, as these words came out, perhaps while they were coming out: I had forgotten that his father was behind bars. But while the privileged falter at every step and still remain insulated, the unfortunate, in spite of all their misfortune, brave stormy questions, somehow.
"He is dead. My Papa is dead."


An ode to Sweet Lime

Sweet lime,
tender, pulpy, crystalline
Offspring of the sun,
you were born to sooth its heat.
In your bubbles
I see my happy reflection
in you I see
the ideal sweetness that could ever be.
You are true, unsynthetic,
you are beautiful
and so you taste.
Imposters there are, but alas
they shall not, and you alone shall
stand the test of time,
sweet lime.


Butterfly Song

A whimsical, tipsy leaf
lapped by the air, across my face
pulls me back to the world from myself,
from my eye-contact with the ground;
my calf muscles go stiff, in fear,
and loosen themselves again-
it is a butterfly.
The solitary fruit of my mountain walk
-not a bird could I spot-
wrapped up in these tiny wings
of stained glass, just floating away.
Amazing creature this, as if your baby sister,
newly arrived from mama's womb,
with alien objects for limbs
stuck in a hurry, put together.
Just a union of two fans
held together by venerable worm-god,
like a clip on a clothesline,
or like a book of absolute symmetry,
of two pages repeated, one after the other
the first saying- all this can be,
the other- all this cannot.
My descent turns into a symphony,
orchestrated by the intoxicated butterfly,
unspoken music, the mother of music.
Constant, harmonious, laborious-
I look through my eyes, find her there;
I close my eyes,
and still find her there.


Looking back at the 2009 elections..

The celebrations that the UPA coalition made during this election , if they thought about 'democracy', would have been unnecessary. For most part, they were simply because they managed to procure most amount of seats. In fact, the mourning in the Left and Saffron quarters is well-placed.

This is how all of this adds up- against the phenomenal rise in seats that the UPA got, we only find a 2% increase in the total number of votes procured by the Congress in the entire country (TOI, front page, 16th or 17th of May). In fact, the voting trends are pretty simple to understand in many places. What has happened is that people have voted against the dominant party in that particular area. The BJP has lost out in Gujarat and MP, BSP in UP, Left in W. Bengal and Kerala, the Congress in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, RJD in Bihar, if percentage of votes recieved is considered. In these places, on the other hand, the votes have consistently gone to those in the opposition. Thus, a few combinations arose-

1.. The votes were divided between a major opposition and a maverick new-comer, still enabling the ruling party to win on seats. e.g. In Mumbai, while BJP-Shiv Sena were being pulled back by the MNS, the Congress managed to just win on the seats, inspite of a remarkable fall in %age votes received.

2.. The opposition managed to procure votes as well as seats. e.g. West Bengal and Kerala, where TMC and Congress won remarkably.

This is a clear signal that the electorate are not satisfied with those that had been at the helm of their respective spheres, and have chosen to pass the opportunity either to the major opposition, with some hesitation (so the Saffrons couldn't make it big) or have voted to the promising and rhetorical local mavericks (Praja Rajyam, MNS). Further on, it can be said that since the people disapproved all their local administrators, there must be that anti-incumbency, which mostly comes out of poor or shoddy performance. This is signal enough that our politicians are Non Performing Assets, and that their promises are not being taken for granted a priori.

Thus, the Political Parties have no reason to celebrate. While the others mourn, the UPA may be rejoicing the seats, but it is either ignoring the popular vote, or is blinded by it's seats so much that it fails to observe the discontent.

First Science

It seems to me highly probable, for various reasons, that Mathematics was the first science developed by man. By science I mean a mode of reasoning which organizes a vast amount of disorganized phenomena in an understandable system.

If it is assumed that, at any rate, man is not born with a proper training in such science, it follows that he would be amazed by the complex scheme of things external to him, when not insulated by a developed culture (e.g. early man as a vagabond). He may fear and revere the uncomprehensible situation, but given the necessity he finds in survival, a part of him would certainly try to manipulate reality by making it comprehensible , ie, the emergency of survival would be the conquest of unknown reality.

Along with this emergency to simplify the world would be the ability of sense-experience and a computive mind (as scientists have us believe). They will see most clearly the presence of numbers (basic quantitative units) and sets (groups of similarities)- 10 fingers, 2 eyes, a group of 12 people, 4 men and 8 women, x no. of fruits, berries or animals hunted, n no. of positions of the sun all throughout the day, etc etc. They find these numbers consistent and trustworthy. With this ability to gauge the number of one kind of things, even if rudimentary, is satisfied the exigency mentioned earlier, ie, of simplifying the world. Slowly, by having to manage the numbers they have created, they would then understand the operations involved in Mathematics, they would find rules that can't be applied to different realities, and for these realities they would diascover newer rules. So, by the obvious presence of numbers, and by their consistency, Mathematics is, if I am not mistaken, the first science to be devloped by man.


Collapsing anywhere

I wake up from sleep
as if from a bath
of beautiful black water,
freed from all wrath.

Like an eager coffin,
my bed engulfs my all.
Deeper it takes then size may show;
in water a stone's fall.

In months of macabre heat
when time melts away.
Space is all that pervades
and budges not the day.
In macabre months like these
the only panacea I keep-
clinging even to a snail's shadow,
an hour or two of sleep.

Sleep for those who weep-
for tears in that dark do seep.
Sleep for the unheard meek-
to hear one's own self speak.
Sleep for the broken or bent back,
for he needs rest more than anyone.
Sleep for those who sleep
for simpler joys and pure fun.

A sleeping man is allowed all-
walk, blabber, on the floor fall.
While others pardon you, the insane you,
fling out far your deepest call.

Sleep immeasurable, the sleep that is yours.


Grateful to life

Life is like bull shit, or bird droppings;
you sometimes tread upon it, unconscious,
and sometimes it lands upon your head.
Sometimes it enrages you,
and makes you curse and abuse-
for a while,
till the dung on your shoes
(if you have worn any)
dries or withers away.
Sometimes you laugh it off
and this earthly humor remains.
It founts during grim journeys
like sparkles of forget-me-nots,
like vagabond winds that
greet drooling voyageurs.
Whatever be the case
move on, don't mind life.
However shitty, that's all you have.
Laugh it off!


The Beauty of Black

At the train's window
I pass through the night.
All black before me,
all purged of plight.

Up above, a surrounding dome
a screen of things beyond- sky.
Stars, aplenty, and my friend Orion
at my guard from that high.

And I stare at the surface of things,
searching nothing, freeing my mind
of theories, strifes and earthen strings.
All melt away and are left behind.

Bulbs I see, fires a few
suppressed in immutable calm
of black, just black, many a hue
for daytime beggars, like alms.

Eyes closed bring me no joy
for some mystery light they possess.
Silent pleasures, endless measures;
to me only night can bless
an escape to clear nothingness.


The Sea of Metaphors

The sea is not just a sea;
it is a sea of metaphors.
So much has she to tell, to show,
everyone everything; each one a new thing,
as if it erodes each particle
of all it's sand, of all it's epithets,
and they all come up, floating and gushing.
War, trade, suspicion, festivities, routines-
she has been through all, so constant,
so veteran, so ancient.
Yet, everyday,she whispers in my ears
like the ever-loving bride.
From afar, she resembles an alloy
of steel and silk,
shining under the eye of light,
forever unfurling her
velvety fabric.
She bathes, she jumps,
somersaults by her own.
Or just beats, soothingly, her soothing beats:
the sea of metaphors,
the metronome of my thoughts.


Accustomed to the move

Like a horse's gallop
the wheels of the train
through time
tell me something.
The din now smells like music
and I hear the
throbbing rhythmic beat
as I would listen to a charming companion.
Like the untiring knight
it runs, day or night
and tells me- we are in the womb
of a mountain.
we are above a river,
we are approaching a place where we
can replenish ourselves.
When he is silent, he is a workman in his break-
smoking, eating his lunch.
When he starts- fury, zeal, the will to fly-
all drive this hand
that that strikes the void


Puzzles of Sleepwalking

It happens all of a sudden- Mr. Roy wakes up on a hard surface, two incandescent eyes blinding him in pitch-yellow brightness. These eyes are approaching and it seems to him that he is the convergence of their sight. He hears, what may be called, in light of those eyes (pun not intended) , the purring of a cat in ultra-slow motion. He realises. The two eyes are headlights of, and the purring, the pandemonium from an approaching car. It wasn't visible in the dark, but I'm sure his face would have been dripping with sweat and pallour. For he realised that he was about to be hit by the car. His body went numb, and he felt his feet become heavy and rooted on the place.
The driver, he sensed, was in no mood of, if not stopping the car, even blowing the horn. He lay there, head tucked between legs (as if it would make any difference) , awaiting his inevitable fate, like the greatest fatalist ever to be born.
And with a gush of wind on both of his sides, the vehicle passed through him, he felt. He emerged from the lump he had tucked himself into, like the foetus who shuns foetus-hood, to enter infancy, and to enter a whole new world where the frontiers are widened to Himalayan extents, and all previously concieved notions seem faulty. He looked at the place from where the vehicle had come and seemingly, passed through him, as if through thin (or thick) airt. This revolution clenched him in a state of mind that can only be called 'morbid'. Does death feel like nothing? Is that moment of no gravity, no weight at all?He gets up, struts around at random, as if to find something that had fallen down. He pulls at his salt-pepper moustache, since he was bald, to make sure it wasn't an illusion that minds create when indulged in nothing but stark-nothingness of sleep.It hurts, all right. What am I? Dead or dreaming. He feels it all too burdensome. He decides to decide it the next morning, for he stumbles upon a soft bush, and decides to lay asleep, whether in death or in a dream.
An old man, hefty in body and taking huge steps, walks into Rahul's cabin. The young, clean-shaven doctor looks from above the rim of his glasses, diverting his attention from some paperwork to this burly bear-like figure in a yellow shirt and black trousers.
"Mr. Roy! Have a seat. Long time no see?" Rahul welcomes the old man.
"Son, this is important. Last night, out of clear blue, I found myself in the middle of a road. What is even more outrageous is that a car passed through me. So, I lay down to sleep besides that road, to make sure that I was physically there. This morning, I woke up to find that I was. I was alive too, since people noticed me and were laughing at me. I could'nt have been dreaming, since I was there. I went home, and got fresh. I've come to you with this puzzle." As he started speaking, he was in a calm hurry, with consistent speech. Gradually, he became more animated, and let out hisses of laughter, like one of those pedestrians who had made of him a laughing stock that morning.
Rahul's eyes now stared at the papers in front of him. They could'nt meet Mr. Roy's.They were trying to unearth something of the past, and the face had a perplexing look about it. Perplexing, not perplexed. He said in a grave tone, "Such cases were unheard of, you know, all this car thing and all. But, have you been sleepwalking since long?"
"I don't know. But my daughter has complained of creaking stairs and opening and shutting of doors at night. Can that be me?" Mr.Roy pleaded.
"Possible. For the time being take these nerve-stabilisers which I am prescribing.Try to get more about your sleepwalking. You can come at my hose on Sunday. Morning?"
"That will be fine." Mr. Roy took the prescription and, in his ursine trot, left the cabin.
Rahul, that day, left his clinic early.

Ting-tong,Ting-tong. The bell rang a desperate call at Mani's house. He came to the door in a loin cloth and a vest, gold chain in his neck, white shaving foamon a sun-tanned face, a razor in his hands. He opened the door and Rahul barged in, a diablic smile on his face.
"Remember the old chap we met yesterday night?" he enquired.
"Yeah, what about him?" asked Mani, reciprocating the devilish grin on Rahul's face.
" An old patient of mine. He first came to me two years back. His wife had died. He was undergoing depression. Later he became an absolute atheist, a realist to the core. And now, he comes to me and says,'A car passed through me.' Looks like our trick has won me a rich client, and loads of fun."
"SO, should we tell him?" asked Mani growing more childishly devil throughout.
"No, friend.There is a time for everything.A time for life, and a time for death."
They talked on, amusing themselves all the while.


Mr. Roy niether died, nor was he dreaming that bright yellow night. What could have happened? We'll have to try and gauge. Surely, cars don't run through people, atleast the ones I know of.
One- most probably, somnambulation would have brought Mr.Roy right in the middle of the road. What about the car? I think that there couldn't have been any car. Rather, there were two tricksters on two motorbikes. Perhaps they saw that human mass on the ground, and as human nature would many-a-times have, they decided to stun him.They drove their bikes from his sides, peut-etre. And what co-incidence! Seeing from front, the spectator couldn't make out what was behind the two blinding lights. So, perhaps Mr. Roy assumed that the two lights had just one body behind them. Moreover, one doesn't wake up in such dreadful circumstances as one would wake up to an exquisite view after a good night's sleep. The mind always contracts the dread of the sinister conditions it goes through.


Mr. Roy, since then, started living in contemplation and fear of 'the unnatural', while Rahul and Mani believed and joyously hoped, that on Mr. Roy's deathbed, they shall spill the beans of laughter and unforgetting, and let Mr. Roy know what truely happened that night.

-Pratik Ali

The Murder

Mr.Roy had been in the passion of building card-houses since he was ten years old.It was something that kept him busy in an otherwise world of indifferance and monotony.He excelled, way par exellance, in making card houses,and loved it a lot.Oh! It should be the other way round.He loved it and so, I think, excelled in it.
It so happened that there had come up, in the City Art Fest, a proposal for "THOSE WITH UNIQUE ART AND TALENT".Mr.Roy read it.He thought that bthe flier was specially crafted to address him.He was sure in his mind ~no one else would be presenting a card house! I think that it was the first time that he looked at his skill from a social point-of-view ~how would the society appreciate such art?He was overjoyed.
Here we must make a digressionto the flashback of Mr.Roy's paper-architecture.When he was ten, he had already turned into an iconoclast.He seemed to fit in with nothing around him.He sneered at the conspicuous show of wealth, love and vulgarity.All his peers were his peers, only because he had to have some.And anyways,he was of a rare kind;serious in studies, active in studies, and considerably good-looking.He was too smart to be left friendless in such a utilitarian world.He liked to read;but he could'nt find much worth reading.The company he had in sports made him feel out-of-place and uncomfortable.He never found anything worthwhile on TV.So, he finished his daily studies, listened to some music and sometimes, if lucky enough, could read something he would n't call 'crap'. He groped for something he knew not, tried to find his glasses without having worn any. Fortunately, before frustration, he chanced upon 'card-house' making.
Initially, the task had started disappointing him. His prismic chambers kept collapsing. It was like taming a wild horse. But then, wasn't it occupying and challenging? Wasn't he happy when he would get at least two floors right? Yes, he was. And the game kept him busy. This rather clumsy acquaintance blossomed into a steady and interactive companionship. Mr. Roy, from then, knew what to do.
Swoosh......... to the present! Mr.Roy sat looking at the Orion constellation on that black ocean overhead, in contemplation of what his decision should be. He thought his talent was unique. It went through his mind ~even if he remained modest, he could n't deny that he was spontaneous in his art. He couldn't remember repeating a house pattern that he had already drawn. Everytime a new one! Moreover, he became a freelance journalist-cum-columnist so that he could utilise time card-house making. He was convinced. He peacefully kept looking at Orion.
The next morning Mr.Roy picked up a new double pack of cards from the shop, and left for the City Fest Hall. There, unprepared and uncaring as to what he will make, he informed the co-ordinator, who happily gave him the requested space. Mr.Roy, for a moment, squinted his eyes at, what one would have perceived as nothing, but what was the virtual image of his new creation, in his mind. He set forward to the job, and created a wonderful 'Mahal' in just two hours, placing every card in geometric correctness and symmetry. The placement, he told the co-ordinator,could'nt be harmed by itself, it was so infallible.It could only be dislocated, and then surely debacled, due to external forces like breeze or pestilence,etc., etc. The co-ordinator, overawed by the Moghul Magnificance of the 'Mahal', placed a glass cube around it. Mr. Roy's name-plate was displaced in front of it.


That evening, when Mr.Roy came at the exhibition, he was in for a shock!Next to his creation was a completely unique card-house. Nothing resembling his;not even any created earlier.But it was equally beautiful and as robust an architecture as his.Mr.Roy didn't feel any sensations of 'happiness' that artists often show on seeing some 'good art'.He was enraged and in absolute respite of whoever- it- was- that -created- this -card- tower.
"Hello Sir",Mr Roy was jolted back into reality by this youngster who had wished him."I am Ashish.The tower belongs to me.And I suppose you must be Mr Roy?"
"Yes son,I am ".Mr Roy managed to reply in a muffled tone, still in a medley of conscious-subconsciousness.
" Sir,I am grateful to you.You have given me this new art .From the past four years,I have been watching you make your card-houses from my window.Such elegant designs! Such careful placements!Your art was so beautiful, so novel that I couldn't help imitating it.Slowly, I began my own designs."At this, Ashish offered his hands in a sub-servient manner, like a disciple.Mr.Roy, flustered, had now listened to every word said by Ashish, every moment rejuvenating hi angerto a virile and fiery youthfulness.
"Congrtulations, son." He croaked. Took his hand. Refused to shake it. Gave a reluctant smile. Left the place.
On the way back home, his mind violently thought of what seemed an unswirling illusion ~the punk, he has the temerity to imitate what I have cultivated since twenty years.He copied each and every move I made, I had to discover, to create this art.He thinks he can get it in four years?No sir, I say "Not this time".
In a state wherein one feels a breach of one's privacy, encroachment of one's territory, and mocking one's integrity and one's flesh and blood, he located the boy's building, waited for the boy at the entrance, and stabbed him with a screw-driver in absolute insanity. Iconoclasts don't like to share the only things they find refuge in!



The realization is absolute, it has no scope for debate, it brimming out of my body and of my mind- one needs to have a single blog in which one can post all one's works. Will put all my stuff here, delete all the previous ones.