Sunday, 29 September 2013

Peshawar Bombing Shows That Pakistan Has Lost Its Tolerance Under The Influence Of Extremists It Breeds

Shirts soaked in blood - plumes of smoke touching the sky - burned bodies lying under wreckage - screams for help resounding ceaselessly - breaths of helplessness and despair in the wind. This is only a little description of what an exploded place looks like. What it actually feels like is indescribable. You look up to God, and you see smoke. You look around in despair, and you get more despair. Just what the survivors and the deceased feel every time after an attack. Just what they must have felt after the double suicide bomb attack in northwest Pakistan.

On Sunday, 22nd September, around 500 worshippers attended the mass at the All Saints Church in Peshawar, an important town in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. After the service, the worshippers were about to receive a free meal of rice outside when an explosion hit the congregation followed by a more powerful one. A twin suicide attack that left the walls pockmarked of ball bearings that were used as shrapnel to maximize the damage. What remains of the historic and harmonic symbol of faith is a haunting mix of destructed walls and blood. More than 85 have been declared dead and more than 140 are injured, some in a critical condition in Lady Reading Hospital.

Bodies piled in the hospital while the Jundullah wing of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan(TTP) took responsibility of the attack, claiming it was act of retaliation for US drone strikes. The danger looms large at their vow to kill Non-Muslims till the US cancels its drone attacks. Imran Khan, the opposition politician whose party controls the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, stands strong on his solution to militancy with the magic word ‘negotiation’.

Although, an attack in Pakistan is, sadly, not uncommon – seeing that the Shias have been the target of brutal bombings in the past – but this has served as a major blow to the Christian community in the Muslim-dominated Pakistan. It raises questions on the government’s inadequacy of safety measures for the minorities. It is said to be an unusual assault on the Christians, considering they haven’t been targeted in the past, which makes this the deadliest ever attack against the countries’ Christians, who are a politically weak minority in the country and are subjected to mob violence and prejudices time and again.

The attacks have sparked nation-wide protests by Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. The angry crowd took to the streets condemning the government’s failure to protect the minorities and its steadfast approach to do soft talks with the fundamentalists. Peace talk with these perpetrators of extreme violence is a sure shot failure when they consider Pakistan’s constitution as un-Islamic. Their idea of religion is not humanity. Burning in the hot, relentless flames and taking several innocents in the same griddle of death does not need courage; it needs ignorance, and on so many different levels.

The country that was formed as a secular state, with Islam as its main religion, has lost its tolerance under the influence of the extremists it breeds. While we express shock and grief, some demons in the guise of humans laugh at the terror unleashed and the mission accomplished, in a parallel universe. Unhe faqr hai!

Also published in Youth ki Awaaz

Monday, 23 September 2013

We Need Something New, And Now : Here’s Why Giving The Aam Aadmi Party A Chance Is Worth It

If there is one thing I have learnt from reality, it is this – we all want happiness. And we’re lazy. We fall from our expected territories every time and we crib. We crib and become accustomed with it. Someone comes up and shows how we can change it. We mull over it, discard it, and crib again. Such is life! Happiness is not elusive; we deliberately make it so.

I was never interested in the political scenario because I knew things were a dirty mess and that nothing would ever change. Then came IAC and I could see the silver lining, the texture of hope – so endearing, I wanted more of its yield. But then Modi came into limelight. And, boy, did he drive the magnetism around himself! Knowing full well of his history, people wanted to trust him because he was their saviour; because he could end the Congress regime- like some daredevil force. Agreed. But what about his own personal interest in communalism? Gah, that can be ignored for once, they say. People are choosing the easier way. They want to overlook his deeds in the hope of the development his Gujarat portfolio shows. Most don’t know what it will be like but they are waiting for it anyway. So, what remains of the Aam Aadmi Party? What about Arvind Kejriwal’s challenge to Sheila Dikshit to overthrow her rule in Delhi? After all, she has been the Chief Minister since the past 15 years. It seems that the AAP won’t give up easily. After all, truth doesn’t go without a fight, or some such. But the present situation demands Mr. Kejriwal to understand that:

We are not ready for a political revolution. Sure, he is trying to fight against power and get justice for the masses. Sure, his party has not made caste and religion the premise to lure the voters. Sure, AAP has a sure shot background check with honesty on the top of the list for its candidates. Sure, his door-to-door campaigns in poor localities in the fervid Delhi afternoons are nothing short of applause. Sure, his answers guarantee that things will get done. Sure, his team members are loyal enough to discard all the popular options they are being given. Sure, his brilliance shows in the systematic and winnable plans that he breeds. But there is a mysterious blanket of tolerance that covers all of us. Bad things happen and we move on. It is our spirit, you see, to harbour grudge against criminals and with that in our hearts, we move on. We do not, therefore, require a political revolution.

India ka kuchh nahi ho sakta: Because we, as Indians, are not willing to learn from mistakes. We choose to hide behind the garb of excuses and hurl globs of imprecations when cheated. But we are fine this way and there’s nothing much he can do about it. If we like to shelf our trust in a communal individual and a corrupt official it’s obvious that we don’t deserve a messiah. Now, do we? We are okay writing blog posts full of sarcasm, and blind jokes on the scams, and cartoons of the hyenas in the Parliament. Let’s keep happy endings for the movies; reality dwells in disappointments.

Corruption is like a cigarette. Even when we know its use will one day make us hollow, we use it. Out in the open or hidden behind the crevices of some four walls. Those who don’t use it have accepted the ways of the world and think that their voice will make no difference. They let the world get polluted and live with it. Doesn’t AK know what a mess it would be to clean the air? Does he not know that people have sent themselves RIP letters already and are not interested in his help? Does it not occur to him that his idea of change is something we would never be able to digest? Does he still want to get involved? God save him!

We are an accusation-hungry society. Oh, how we love it! Someone robs us and we have a whole list of people and things to blame: politicians, police, criminals, God, neighbours, pets, the feeble cement in the walls, but we won’t address the main issue of why and what the actual reason was. The crux of the matter is always forgotten and accusations jump this way and that in the hollowness of the wind. Even when Mr. Kejriwal fearlessly exposes the array of corrupt ministers and parties, he gets the famous accusations thrown against him, “You point a finger at us, and you point four at yourself.” So much for logical consistency!

The concept of AAP is so idealistic, it brings tears to my eyes. How can anything be so noble and pure? That’s supposed to be in fairytale books, no? His party is all about truth, sincerity, and what not. But we aren’t conditioned for that. We have been told to live miserably and raise another incredibly miserable generation. So, even if he tempts us with a happy life, a happy society, and happy savings, we do not want to trust him because he promises us happiness. And happiness is elusive, remember?

Comparisons do not deter us. Although, AAP promises all that’s important to the satisfactory functioning of a government – Lokayukta, Jan Lokpal Bill, an independent CBI, strict laws, recommendations from the people, transparency and RTI; but it’s still a new party. Shouldn’t we go for the parties that have been ruling us in tried and tested ways? We’re not shying away from good governance, of course. We just don’t want to be a part of the delusional concepts that AAP is promoting.

We are a bunch of stubborn unhappy voters. We’ll curse them, make jokes on them, and abhor them till our last salient breaths but no, sir, we won’t vote against them. After all, ‘We give, you snatch,’ has become a culture and a game for the nation. And the nation is okay playing this sport. We would hate it if some day we filed a complaint and, without a fight, the police officers go probe into the matter. Not acceptable. We are accustomed to fighting against the police and preaching them about their duties. They can’t be so responsible all of a sudden to do their duties without being reminded of the same. If crime rates fall, what would we protest against? If electricity rates fall, what would we be grumpy about? If things are good, how would we ever complain?

As to my belief, without any sarcasm, I am ready for a political revolution, a clean government, and a happy society. I want change. I want people to recognize change. I want to be a part of this change. We have been given a chance; it’s up to us how we take it. The party, whose very birth took place with the intention of a corruption-free India, will serve us something towards our mutual goal. Of course, it’s too early to give AAP the reins of the central government. But, and this is a crucial but, we need to give them a chance. I hope they win a few constituencies in Delhi and prove themselves in the next five years. Good things come to those who wait, and there is no denying the fact that we have waited far too long for a fair government. It’s time to get off that “chalta hai” soapbox and actually do something.

Also published in Youth ki Awaaz

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Fun At The Cost Of Stereotyping: Here’s Why Apps Like ‘Stripper Pole’ And ‘Boyfriend Trainer’ Are Unacceptable

Fun? Sure, I understand fun. But there are more instances than one where fun doesn’t end as funny anymore. The story stretches to an altogether different level. Fun is subjective, of course. I have no problem with anyone who wants to have a jolly good time with friends or with a smart phone. Heck, have fun in your closet deprived of oxygen, I say. Nobody cares about anyone else’s form of fun but theirs, as long as they are happy with it.

But when you learn stupid things through the real world or the virtual world and do your super best to troll the little morals that are left in this world, I have to intervene. You spread misogyny or misandry like a bad breath and I have a problem with that. You demonize the other sex or make them a plaything, and I’ll tell you how intolerably wrong it is. I’ll never urge that men are superior or that women are. Forget about the qualities and strengths but on a totally humane ground, does it not sound right to treat the other as an equal? Or is it too much to ask for in the era where humanity is being stifled by our own practices?

As much as I try that my words make a difference in the way the world has been plastering typical, irrational adjectives to genders, there are people who love to shuffle the same typical, irrational adjectives your way and every way with utterly miserable ideas.

Play a game on our awesome app that’s designed especially for you, for example, “Shake That Booty”. You can manipulate the size of a woman’s butt (BOOTY, ha!) by shaking your phone. And, hey, don’t you feel guilty about it, big man. She wants it. With the makeover tactics, you get to enlarge body parts in someone’s picture through your iPhone’s accelerometer and share that feat on Facebook And another one, “A Stripper Pole” says, “… clap, yell, make some noise and they will spin around at your command.” Don’t waste your words on them, you control them with gestures!
Okay, so, you don’t have a woman in your life? Too bad. We’ll get you a virtual woman. And now that we are getting you one, don’t forget to order her to clean, serve, and behave. After all, you own her. You don’t need to thank us. Just buy this damn thing.

These apps do exist; some have been taken down after controversies, some still remain on their play stores. These are the burgeoning ideas that are finding a place in the market, with remarkable ease.

There is one named “Door of Hope” that enables a ‘gay cure’ in 60 days. Then, there is Boyfriend Trainer. Yes. You train your virtual boyfriend to become an ideal prototype for your man. You can scold him, whip him, electrocute him, or keep him on a leash if he is untidy or looks at other girls. I wonder if today’s relationships are at such loose ends that they need a digital app to tell you how to treat and how to be treated.

“GoodBoy” aims at improving your real boyfriend by awarding him points on his housekeeping and personal hygiene skills. Be a good boy and you get to “watch the game all afternoon – with no arguments.” Because, of course, a boy is a useless excuse for a human till he is blackmailed into doing his own work.

The brouhaha comes from so many different sources on the internet. But the primary source is the stereotypical phrases of gender roles our society has been thriving on. The idea behind some of these is not offensive, per se, but one can sure judge the negative implications these can have.

Every person likes power (some assurance, basically) over someone else. And it’s fine as long as it’s in a friendly sort of way. What we see today is aggressive, compulsive need to control – somebody, anybody. That is where bullying comes into picture, and rape, hatred, violence, perversion, libelling, and stalking comes into picture. People say that children behave like the company they keep. Sure, they do. But, I believe, parenting is the most important aspect of an overall growth of a child. It is the duty of parents to make their child see the right in a right and a wrong in a wrong. That should be a start.

These apps are downloaded by choice, after all. But any individual can see that most of these apps don’t serve any purpose other than fun. Simple, enjoyable fun is cool and welcome. But if fun is a cockeyed master of derision, it needs to be slayed to obscurity.

I’m sure I am guilty of stereotyping, just like everyone else, knowingly or unknowingly. It creeps in through the weak walls of practices that have been supported by archaic roots. One doesn’t even come to know when the quiet sexism makes its layers impenetrable within a being – brick by brick – and then turns into brazen sexism. Why, I ask, does history sound so intriguing? It belongs to an era that no longer exists, which in turn gives it fictional or rather mythical undercurrents. It has sexism canvassed at every single step, in every chapter. So ingrained it is in our books that we find it okay to attach attributes to genders. I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s not okay. Now that we are a society that’s lot different from what we were 50 years back, let’s forget how our ancestors lived 1500 years ago in their single-digit centuries. Let’s move on, like literally, please.

Also published in Youth Ki Awaaz

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Ever Imagined How Emoticons Would React To The Political World? Here’s How

Every month Emote Villa has a meeting at the grand venue of an undisclosed domain name on the internet. The purpose, apparently, is to check which emoticon has been used how many times and for which particular reason. 

The Grin Gabbler, the President, comes to the stage to proceed with the event.

“You, big boys! There are so many things going on at the same time in the human world. It’s chaos, almost. And you each have a place in there somewhere. So, for the month of August, let us find out how much ya’ll fit in, shall we?

The Frown Monk. Oh my! You really can make anyone feel sad. LOL Not good for health, bro. Okay, now. You showed up every time the news of The Great Fall of Rupee did the rounds on the television. We saw you when Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35-year imprisonment. You also came up when the Indian rationalist, Narendra Dabolkar, was murdered in Pune.

The Grumpy Goliath. Hey, Grumps! Why do you look so dis... umm, never mind. So. You kept showing up almost everywhere. Quite in demand, eh? But the most that we saw of you was when the honest officers were suspended for doing their duties. We further saw you when Pakistan passed a resolution of ‘unprovoked aggression’ against the Indian Army. You were also useful when the neighbouring countries of India tried to illegally enter her boundaries. We also saw you after the Mumbai rape case. And, when the files went missing in the Coalgate scam. Plus, when there were endless instances of the poisonous food that’s served in the name of mid-day meals. You also reflected in the ire of the many people of India when it was time to save RTI. We saw you often when Obama’s ‘Yes, We Can.’ became ‘Yes, we will spy on you.’ Oh, now! You were also much visible when the self-proclaimed godman and the ‘Bhaiyya’ of all, Asaram Bapu, was accused of rape.
Grumps, ol’ boy, it seems, the situation of India really does make you invincible.

The Cry Cassette. Poor soul! We haven’t seen you much. I think people have understood that crying in front of the state brings nothing but inferiority. So, they have turned to showing their dissatisfaction in the form of endless forums to make negotiations and petitions on. But, hey! We did see you when the price of onions touched a good Rs. 80 per kilo. People cried. Quite literally.

The Tongue Tappers. The general expression being--The rupee plummeted but, peeps, “no need to panic.” The GDP is at an all-time low but, really, “no need to panic.” The rape cases have ashamed the nation in front of the world but, please, “no need to panic.” Basically, the government wanted the people to not hit the panic button and sail their boats in the calm and old-fashioned ways. For this, of course, they decided they wouldn’t let criminals enter into the world of politics. The government also wanted that people should not be worried about the dismal condition of the economy as they had taken it upon themselves to solve all the burning tales of the nation. Loljk.

The Unsure Uncle. When the Food Security Bill was passed, the reasons were evident. The elections have made the UPA and the Opposition work for the Muslim community sooner than they ever would have had. When IM co-founder Yasin Bhatkal was arrested, one wasn’t sure if his fate would be decided by the crime he did or by the amount of time that was left in the elections. One is always left uncertain by past failures and frail promises. The recent changes in the privacy norms have made the users unsure of using the mail service providers like gmail. The number of deaths in Syria and Egypt has left people wondering about the end of this all.

The Heart Hoopla. Omigod. Nothing that touched anyone’s heart?! Sorry, you weren’t seen even once in the whole political scenario.

The Gasp Gutter. The gasp-o-meter is pretty high. You come into picture just when something happens and then it often turns into The Grumpy Goliath. The major incidents of gasps were when some of the Indian officials came up with ridiculous comments on how cheap one could get food for. As cheap as Re 1. Their comments were so gaspworthy that the social media came alive with poems, fictional stories and memes on these comments alone.

Now, this is good news that we emoticons are really valued by humans but it’s unfortunate to see that The Happy Hook is nowhere to be seen. I guess, he has found a home in the Sports and Entertainment sector. The scenario looks ugly, doesn’t it? And the story is of August, not the whole year, mind you. This feeling will pass but, for once, I, The Grin Gabbler, want to borrow The Grumpy Goliath for me. Please, eh?”

Monday, 2 September 2013


I remember it,
the beginning of this tale
with your gentle touch.


You are the 
young hope in my heart. 
You will live.


In need of some light,
a selfish me looked up at you.
You shone brighter.

More at: Haiku Heights

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