Month: August 2015

Remembering Independence Day and the cost we paid for it.

Independence day brings to mind the unforgettable sufferings of millions of people who had known themselves as Indians and then had to learn and adjust with new facts: that they were citizens of artificially created nations, India and Pakistan. What a shame that we accepted that. The colonial masters gave partition to us as their parting gift, read kick. The lofty leadership of undivided India accepted and agreed. The political leaders and the industrialists who funded and sponsored them were not affected by partition or riots. The communal disharmony had been planted and grown for a long time so that the country could be raped and spoiled and the age old tradition of tolerance could be dismantled.

Two crippled offsprings were born on 14-15 August 1947 and both nations were fated to remain mutual enemies for a long time to come without rhyme or reason. Stalin remarked ” what a joke, I cannot believe that a partition can be made in this century in the name of religion.”
Berlin Wall Was taken down. Artificial walls or boundaries don’t work, do they?
This Independence Day we could take a pledge of bridging the gaps between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
If Europe can create an European Community why cann’t we whose bond is far older, deeper and stronger!

The freedom unleashed untold tales of woe ruining lives in millions. An excerpt for your reading:

“Partition of India, the pain.
Just watching a documentary of an Asian Indian actor tracing her roots. And then the documentary talked about her Grand Uncle and his family being massacred on a train as they fled from the newly created Pakistan. She even met her great aunt who was on that train when she was 20, but somehow survived. Why do I feel a stab of pain each time I hear or see anything on the partition of India ? I am a partition baby, but I don’t really remember anything… but after all these years, whenever I see people from the other side of the border speaking Punjabi, looking and speaking exactly like my grandfather, I can’t help shedding tears …
….. why did we allow this to happen ? What happened to us that we became such barbarians ? Ruthlessly massacring one million men, women and children on both sides. Ten million people became refugees, causing the greatest mass migration of people in known history.
I escape into blaming the British. Not willing to accept that I carry the genes of the people of Punjab that did this. My culture, my genes. How could you take a sword to an innocent child and ruthlessly run it through her heart ? Could I do that in those circumstances…
.. so I escape. Escape into the politics of that time. I hate Mountbatten who came home as a hero, lauded for the fact that not a single British life was lost at that time. Who cared about a million Indian Hindus and Muslims ? In my mind I rebuke Nehru and Jinnah for standing on their ego’s, unable to compromise their personal desires to be the first Prime Minister of India.
But it was not the British that did all the killing. It was us. Our forefathers.
My parents were in Lahore where my mother went to Kinaird (spelling ?) College. My father to the Government College in Lahore, and then the Medical College. After partition my family came to the newly formed India as refugees. But my father went back because there were not enough doctors to treat the wounded and the dying.
I would often talk to my father about that time, and I would see the pain on his face. About his muslim friends lost in time. Friends with whom he stood shoulder to shoulder as they took the Hippocratic Oath. But the very friends that were too afraid to give him morphine to treat the wounded, just in case the raging, raving crowds found out they were helping the Hindus. And years later as I would go along on my scooter to my University in Delhi, I was shown a spot in Paharganj where apparently muslim women and children were thrown alive in a burning bonfire.
My mother would recoil at talking about that time. Except for the memories of the drains around the houses filled with Kerosene and put on fire. But she would soon escape into the memories of better times. Of when Lahore was the cultural capital of Asia. Lahore was still the greatest city to anyone that had lived there.
Years later I went to Lahore. To record the music for Bandit Queen with the amazing Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I remember walking into the local recording studios where a large orchestra suddenly broke out in the theme music from Mr India and songs from Masoom to welcome me to Lahore. It was a moment I will always remember.
I went to Kinaid College. Where my mother went. I saw shy girls, giggling as they recognized me, looking so beautiful in flowing Salwar Kameez’s. I tried to imagine my mother as one of them. I saw her as a pretty young girl who passed me, and then looked back and smiled that eternal smile my mother always used to have. Everywhere I walked I imagined myself as one of everyone.
And I wondered, what turned us all into such beasts ?
Shekhar”

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Loneliness

This saturday’s blog will be on loneliness, a subject too close to my heart. I dedicate this post to all who are lonely for whatever reasons. We are born alone but in a community which takes care of us and help us grow up. But is it really that simple? Readers and writers of blogs belong to the population who can eat, work, love, hate within a community or social playground. Isn’t it! What about them who are born to shame, poverty, indignity and foulness we are only familiar with in a very remote, vague and distant way. What about the children of prostitutes, the jobless, the drug mules, the population living in criminal or socio economic blackholes?

We don’t know really know the answers to these questions.

However, even the children born in a reasonably stable community, the children stop being children after a while and step into the dark deep forest of adulthood. People want to trust and get betrayed, want to love and get ignored or neglected, want to befriend and get shoved off due to no fault of theirs really. We often fail to understand why we were treated unjustly and not treated as brothers and sisters in God’s family.

Then we come to realise that we are not in a community in real terms. We are individuals with ownerships, we will get paid only if we can transact certain products and services effectively, it is no more the playtime, win or lose, after the game we come back to fireside warmth and family dinner, no sir. The seed of division is planted into us by the community itself to which we were born. The values of competition and quality creep in and we interpret them as going ahead in life as killers. Don’t we all hear the mantra, you have to have the killer instinct in you or you do not survive.

Lonely people are seen in both the so called killers, who don’t care whether anyone suffers or fades away on the road he is travelling to succeed, and in the people left behind, unable to cope with killership, incompetent to compete and thrive. Like our fingers the individual minds are also of endless variety isn’t it. There are freaks and casatway, those who opt for non mainstream life, those who prefer singing to killing and imagining to doing real things. The suicide as a theme I chose for my last blog in fact is rooted in loneliness and is more an internal thing than external. The lonely person seeking comfort or relief in work, family, alcohol, dream, egoism and what not but repeatedly defeated to beat loneliness of his or her heart has in his or her mind the ultimate solution sketched in, suicide, the ultimate route of escape and revenge.

My friend Alena living in an European seaside town wrote me: Debashish I think it’s time to quit. My family is grown up and left, scattered all over outside, I feel so lonely, so alone, the moments in the evening are just unbearable, television and newspapers are so dull, I find only marginal relief in drinking, that’s also going into overdrive ruining my health, relations with neighbours. It looks like I know the answer, it’s hard but works.”

Raj is a distant cousin with IBM background but out of a stable job for a long time. He had a messy divorce behind him and two offsprings in expensive colleges. He is into IT, earns something from off and on consultancy, but becoming more dependent on drugs to ease the burden of his fractured soul. His father had committed suicide long back when our neighbouring industrial township closed down due to the closure of Dunlop, the famous tyre manufacturer. Raj’s family got simply washed away by the impact, one sister lost to the dark evil world bordering on prostitution, another younger brother blown away by suicide after he failed to get a job at the end of his post graduation.

My friend Alok Nath is a CEO and he has different kind of loneliness to suffer. Alok said one day, you know I don’t have anyone to share with me my thoughts and problems. I asked him, why, you have such a nice family? He said I don’t discuss anything official or deeply personal with them, why should I burden them unnecessarily? I cannot share in office, all are either sharks or sycophants. They want to further their careers at my cost.

I saw Alok trying golf, meditation and club life at different times and of course alcohol and women. Alok is really a good soul but a victim of his greed for power and money and does not have the guts to face that he is losing the game. He is proud and vain as successful and competitive people are.

One night my son called me from the bed and we drove fast to a posh clinic in the town to see Alok, doctors trying hard to pump out the too heavy sleep medication he had taken. Thank God he came back but it might have been otherwise too. Alok is one of the more intelligent persons so he opened a new chapter in his life after he came home from the clinic. After three years from that dark night of fear and despondency Alok is now a detoxicated man, dividing his time on the one hand between work and another his home and family. The growing rift with his wife is bridged well by now and the rebel children are less on rebellion and more on admiration towards him.

I asked him recently over a few drinks how is he now. His answer was I am learning to be with others and that has reduced my loneliness ( he used the word self centred actually).

Andre in Paris is sending me pictures of his dog through Facebook and email saying that he has got a friend at last. Reshmi, the topper of dance class in her state academy says, whenever I focus on competing and beating others I fall sick. Now I focus on my passion only, and I am feeling better. Reshmi was a girl of average educational talents but she always loved dancing. Her parents told her for a long time that it wouldn’t do, she must do academically better, dance could not be her mainstream study. Reshmi was so scared and uneasy that she ran away once to her aunt’s place to seek emotional shelter against parental dictatorship. But alas once she got an award in a club dance competition she was taken up by her father seriously and he asked her to become a topper in dance. She was put in an academy and under an expensive trainer to earn accolades and pursue a career in dance. As a result she became a state level topper but gradually slipped into a severe depression. Psychiatric medication and counselling failed to cure her.

When I saw Reshmi she was a ghost of her former self, no longer the bouyant warm girl she had used to be but a depressive maniac who was doing wonders in dance more out of practice and habit than of love. I took her to a friend of mine who ran a non profit organisation for poor children. I asked Reshmi’s parents to lay off their hands from her for three months. Reshmi took a little longer to recover from her depression but she undoubtedly bounced back to life and told me, I have begun to live a less lonely life, I am teaching dance to the kids twice a week for free. Her parents asked me why do I take her to these unproductive work? But their family physician prevailed on them saying, don’t you see the girl is normal again?

Loneliness reminds me of a documentary seen in BBC longtime back. It was about a doctor, a very successful surgeon in Europe who took out time and effort to make a home for some mentally or physically challenged persons at his home, a village somewhere at the foot of the Alps. Every saturday he drove down from his city of work to his home and worked and dined with his more than dozen mates who were misfits to the society by general standard. He spent the weekend with his odd bunch of friends who treated the doctor as equal and not as a mentor or a superior. These guys scarcely had a sense of money, or even, for that matter, gratitude. They worked on the lands together and sold vegetables, fruits and flowers to a nearby marketing cooperative.

The last scene made me cry – all of them including the doc walking along the fields towards the setting sun in the melting hues of a magical twilight.