mudnsky

Coz you see best when your eyes are closed.


Leave a comment

The Blood Within the Scabbard

Maaf kijiyega, mujhe hamesha se aisa lagta aya hai ki aap ek jung ke maidan me khadi hain. Hamesha ladne ko tayar. Phir samne chahe dushman ho ya na ho.”
(Pardon my saying, but I have always felt like you were standing in a battlefield. Ever ready to fight. Whether or not there was an enemy facing you).

The words of the male protagonist in the serial Radha ki betiyan kuch kar dikhayengi hold within them a regime of truth where the difference between compliment and criticism gets obscured. He is right. The female protagonist does seem to be fighting an unknown battle. She is in a new city and needs to find a job soon. She has a family of four to support and younger sisters to take care of. As an Indian woman with professional aspirations and responsibility of earning her family’s bread, the screenplay has already subsumed a battlefield in the background for her. Lets add to this her intelligence and high regard for self respect. That’s not a battle. That’s war! In any other mode of description, the attributes might have paved the way for a strong responsible protagonist with the power to make it big. But not on the Indian television. Where weakness is the considered default, strength is strenuous. A pain. A battle.

Every aspiration, every endeavour brings with it its own professional and personal challenges. Society meticulously keeps throwing its share of hurdles. We all fight battles throughout our life, some real and some imagined. However our small screen seems to presume a battle within every female protagonist who dares to display strength. It is as if she wants to be weak, she wants to be dependent but circumstances need her to be the male of the house. Left to herself, she would rather wallow in the dreams of others. Following her own dreams is a strain for her, a battle she fights with herself, to be someone she isn’t comfortable being.  A journey borne out of compulsion, not by choice. It’s not a matter of pride to see her strive. The audience instead feels a certain pity welling for her, one that stays irrespective of what she achieves.
rkb1
Here’s a snapshot from the serial which I find representative of the generic portrayal I am referring to. The bangles get replaced by a watch. She holds her own head rather than bury it in the hero’s chest. She uses her own shoulders rather than his. She is independent. But how she would love not to be so.

Contrast this with the other snapshot from the serial JAG. The character of Lieutenant Colonel Sarah MacKenzie (Mac) is one of my personal favourites. Incidentally the serial too struggled to arrive at an appropriate female characterisation in a male dominated profession set against a navy backdrop. JAG2Their journey of landing on Mac’s portrait nails the fundamental handicap in our outlook. Unfortunately what they learnt in a single season, the Indian television still seems wanting. Judge Advocate General (JAG) deals with military legal cases, specifically Navy in this series. They started with Commander Kate Pike as the female lead. She was mentally strong, knew her job and was physically fit. She commanded respect and appreciation. She however was always on red alert and acutely aware of the fact that she was the only one wearing a skirt. She successfully retained the feminine warmth and care in her, not letting the military atmosphere dig into her sensitivity. Despite the confidence, she somehow always seemed furtive. It appeared as if her being a woman came first, and being a JAG officer came second. She had to protect herself and only then think about her work. And a major component of her confidence and dignity came from her success in the former area, not the latter.

With her exit, the series saw the entry of Commander Meg Austin. She wasn’t on high alert. Rather she had an unabashed body language at work. There was no emphasis on ladylike reluctance or safeguarding a flimsily postulated dignity. She was just like the guys. In fact, she seemed to try really hard to make that point. She did fit perfectly in the role, possibly because of the all too familiar picture of women in male dominated professions trying to be ‘one among the guys’. She fought with her physical limitations, fought with her emotional instincts and fought hard to be considered ‘able’ in the sense of the word which the men had defined. In her flailing was the appreciation of her male counterparts, with an underlying cushion of its futility. She had created a sphere of reality where even the compliments sounded condescending.

Harm: (referring to the Ensign) I’m going to have a psychological evaluation done.
Mac: Since when does a woman have to be crazy to shoot a man?

The series finally saw the creation of Lieutenant Colonel Sarah MacKenzie (Mac). Mac was neither the lady on board nor one of the men. She was neither fighting nor giving in. She just was. She wanted to give her best to the job and that’s all you can see her do. That is not to say that she didn’t face discrimination, domination or alienation. But she rode her emotions and her limitations with a panache that can only come from being a human – not a man, a woman or even an officer. All men aren’t alike. Short men work differently from the tall ones, the muscular ones display strength differently from the flexible ones. We all have different emotional weaknesses. Where then does the need crop for a woman to try to do things differently? Why is it so difficult to visualise characters who intuitively think about their work and focus on it without first consciously reminding themselves of the distinction of being a woman. How does a societal demarcative line come between a woman and her thoughts? Are women like this for real or is this a common imaginative thread among creative directors?

I have never found myself relating to any of the ‘strong’ female characters portrayed on Indian television (even cinema for that matter) like I do with Mac or Beckett (from the series Castle). When I am working, my thoughts do go only where the work leads me, wherever that might be. Being a woman is part of the subconscious. The same way you know you don’t have eleven fingers. That doesn’t mean you need to remind yourself of that every time you use your hands. You try to do your best with the ten you have got. Neither presuming the advantageous nature of having eleven, nor denying the limitation of having ten. Aspiring is not a pain. Nor is fighting for it. What is a pain is letting a foreign fig creep into your rationale and influence the deduction. That is when independence gets bound by its definition. That is when identification needs the crutches of comparison. And that is when no success brings with it closure.

“Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.” – J.M. Barrie

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Speak, they say

If I could speak, I would
to share a part of me
With the world I cherish
with the tomorrow to be

There are lines and points
to be drawn and made
Numerous stances taken
before they fade

There are dreams and wishes
yearning to fly
Declarations of feats
I’m willing to try

If I could speak, I would
to voice a part of me
To change the world a little
with the tomorrow to be

Thoughts wont come
to a grieving mind
No space for any
though emptiness I find

However may I utter
with not a want
When my own voice sounds
an unfaithful taunt

If I could speak, I would
to bleed a part of me
To reach for the world
that holds the tomorrow to be

From a distant voice
I long to hear
From my mouth the words
far too familiar

They resound and assure
relieve me from within
The confines of the need
of a heart writhin’

If I could speak, I would
to free a part of me
To feel one with the world
promising the tomorrow to be

Someday speak I will
a freedom reaching out
For then the hand wont search
for a comforting silhouette

Thoughts will come pouring
and emotions run free
With art n articulation
and boundless energy

If I could speak, I would
to live a part of me
To live for the world
make the tomorrow to be.


Leave a comment

Can you reason? Or have you learnt to reason?

During my high school days, there was a kid who used to do well in studies. My perception of him, however, was that he didn’t have a logical bend of mind. His eyes, his manner of speaking, his sentences… somehow he always appeared to me as a dumb person, lacking creativity and imagination and more importantly a strong rational mind. But surprisingly, he would be the only one who would answer the teacher’s questions. Most of which were reasoning based questions. It somehow didn’t fit the picture. I would sit and wonder “How in the world did he answer that?”. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check it out. The first thing that had to be confirmed was “Was he learning the answers by heart?”. I began observing the questions that he answered, trying to figure out the books where he could have already seen them. I could trace some, but not all of them.

My sleuthing was cut short by the “inquisitive culture”. Spurred by advertisements on television, the children caught the idea that asking questions was fancy. Irrespective of whether they wanted to know the answer or not. There ensued confident doubt asking series in our classes. The teachers, television viewers themselves, also encouraged them. And intelligently, the questions would be deflected back to the rest of the class (my earliest experience with crowdsourcing). This boy would answer. Some doubts were cooked up, some were genuine, some were conceptually tricky, some were imaginative. He would answer them all; the why’s and the why not’s. I was stumped. These doubts could definitely not be standard questions in a question bank. Then how? I began to sense what was happening but decided to observe more such people.

As I got into college and thereon, I bumped into many such students. So this boy wasnt the only one. What they did was this. They wouldn’t learn the answers. They would learn the reasons. It wasn’t rote learning since they didn’t byheart facts without understanding. They did seek the logic behind the answers. And then… byhearted the logic! And since they knew the logic so well, they could apply it to problems they hadn’t seen before and crack them with ease. Let’s pause for a minute and replay. So they know the logic behind the answer, they have imbibed it and they can apply it to other such scenarios. Where’s the catch? Isn’t this what we call learning?

Let us look at a non-specific example. Let us say that the crux of a formulation is that if A is greater than 0.5, B is 1 and if A is less than 0.5, B is 0. This is the logic behind some dynamics, to arrive at which geniuses did works beyond the scope of high school kids. You have read a good book which has cleverly boxed this result, an indication of its importance. If you remember this logic, you are ready to face all sorts of questions that can come up. What is B if A is 0.7? If A is continuously decreasing, what value of B will you land up with? And googly questions like if A multiplied by B is 0.3, what is A? (Answer: not possible) Such reasoning is used in various concepts in Physics, Chemistry etc. When a student not only tells you how A and B are related but also answers application questions like above, you need to give it to him. He has a strong foundation of the subject. If you try him in an interview, he will shine. He will also do well in the job he is given.

He hasn’t memorised the answers blindly. But he has memorised the logic. He has even memorised the line of thinking needed to approach these questions. He has also noted possible traps. He can now reason convincingly. But does he reason? I have often wondered how people who answer these logic questions, act insensibly, not on few occasions but often enough. The perception that we get of the person by interacting with him many a times turns out right; in spite of them answering logical questions. It is this discrepancy that is often termed as IQ and EQ. Reasoning academic questions does not necessarily imply that you are a sensible person. You can be illogical in the way you treat people or draw conclusions in your daily life. What causes this difference? When the same logic is successfully applied to 15 scenarios, why does it fail at the 16th? Is it because the real life application deals with emotions and we don’t have much control over them? That some emotions cloud our heads leading us to skewed viewpoints on issues? The brain that dodged googly questions, now easily falls prey to emotions? Probably. But, in that case, he only learned to reason. He never really did reason.

For an attitude to become a way of life, we need to experience it. And experience does not come just by emulating it. It comes by living it. By making those neuronal connections, by which you not only know where you are but also how you got there. That tells you why you are where you are. It is with that conviction and that journey that you begin to be the attitude and not an imitation of it. We can learn facts, the reason behind the facts, the reason behind the reason for the facts and so on. We can achieve depth in the subject this way, but we cannot experience the journey. When we are teaching students how to reason, we must encourage them to understand why we reason. Make them love reasoning in general, irrespective of what the issue is, which genre it falls in, or what the rewards are. It is reasoning that he should try to understand, more than the reason itself. Unless he lets himself be senseless, feel uncomfortable about it and make his way towards sense, he will never know why he wants to be sensible. He would also not know how to realise he is being illogical and how to find his way to sense. When we take an illogical decision, we feel a pinch. A pinch of doing injustice, of being unfair to someone, of being unethical, of putting ourselves at risk.

Long time back, facts were valued. Being aware of facts was a commendable feat. We graduated from that stage to rooting for reason. Students are now admonished for knowing “what” without knowing “why”. While we have accepted the benefits of external manifestation of reasoning, we are yet to accept its importance as a way of life. But then, we are yet to accept the very need for a way of life…


1 Comment

From your beauty to my faith

“Because beauty isn’t enough, there must be something more.” ~ Eva Herzigova

Beauty is a word that has oft been misused and abused. Attractive, different, colourful, new, alluring, magical, glamorous… Somewhere we ourselves aren’t sure of what we mean when we say “It’s beautiful.” An earring can be beautiful, so can a car, so can a knife! What meets the eye is the fact that we wish to possess beautiful things. Beauty has long been held guilty for luring people, deceiving them and driving them to a possessive lust. At other times, it has been seen as a weak, superficial and frivolous layer of mankind, incapable of growing beyond vanity into anything substantial. How then do we find the smile of a little child beautiful? If beauty begets vices, why does it make us smile with joy. What we choose to do after we perceive beauty is a matter of choice. Whether we choose to stand and stare or run and grab is about ‘us’. But the perception of beauty, the peaceful happiness it induces, is beyond us.

A long standing view has been that we associate thoughts and emotions to various sights and perceiving them as beautiful depends on what we associate them with. We find birds beautiful because we may associate with them flight, open skies, freedom, exploration. Or at other times, when they are sitting on their nests, we may associate security, cosiness, love, warmth. The same goes for colours. A lot has been said about how greens are sensed differently from reds and blues, why certain colour combinations appeal to us while others seem jarring.

Ratios are important too. Ratio of nose to face, of handle to door, in designs natural and man-made. These ratios are important not just for visual pleasantness but also for the utility of the design. And that is something that we do subconsciously – associate a function with an object and thereby decide its beauty. The pen is too thin for a good grasp or the keys are too big to type quickly. And that’s why people are often unable to judge the beauty of an object unless they know what it is. And this is also why beauty is interwoven with utility and efficiency of a design, not to speak of its appeal.

But is beauty such a selfish thought indeed? Is it all about us? Our gratification, our profit, our liking? Could it, in some remote possibility, be about others? Could beauty be our way of recognising their happiness?

A thin line between beauty and painlessness – the knowledge of what went right.

When something is in the prime of its ability and efficiency, it gladdens us subconsciously. We feel like the object in question is living to the maximum growth and progress of its generation of entities. It can make us proud, attracted to or envious of the object. I am reminded of the times my father and I would watch the Olympics on the television, specifically events like parallel bars, rhythmic gymnastics etc. My father would be awed by the appearance of the male and female athletes and I would be enraged. “Be awed by their skill, that’s ok with me. But appearance? Beauty is such a trivial thing to admire in a person,” I would argue. He would smile and explain that the good health, the fitness, the flexibility of the human body radiated a certain happiness to him. Sitting on couches and desks all day, surrounded by people taking tablets for hypertension, the beauty of the athletes revived in him, the sense of satisfaction on seeing humans being as healthy as they can be, suffering as little as they needed to. Efficiency has a selfish hue to it. The more efficient a process, the more we gain. But humans aren’t that selfish a species. It is not always about us and our profits. In fact those are after thoughts. Efficiency is about empathy. The more efficient an object, the less it suffers. An object that’s brand new looks beautiful because it is fresh and fit. Old objects have wear and tear in them which tell us what they have gone through and how they are struggling to function in spite of the weariness.

The effect of perceived pain on beauty is also evident in the aspect of symmetry. Let me go beyond geometrical shapes and take up the example of dance. The grace of a dance pose is primarily viewed as a visual treat. When a dancer lacks grace, it hurts the eye, makes for an unpleasant sight. But, the backbone of what we call grace is balance. Below are two Kathak poses. You dont need to know Kathak to answer which one you find more beautiful.

kathak1 kathak2

If you take the entire pose into consideration, the second looks more beautiful. The stretch of the leg to the left, the bend of the waist to the right and the bend of the arm to the left are supposed to counter each other. The pose is elegant because it succeeds in doing that. She is in a state of complete balance and comfort in this pose. In the first picture the left hand is lower than required and the right hand is straighter than required to balance the bend. I don’t find it less beautiful because it hurts my eye. I find it less beautiful because this pose would have caused her pain. In the pose, she is straining her lower back and left shoulder. In Bharatnatyam, the concept of bending your knees (called aramandi) is crucial to the balance. The modern dances where they mimic Bharatnatyam steps in a Bollywood or Western dance sequence, mock the half-knees. The dancers don’t feel comfortable doing the steps and lack the stability. The aesthetic is not about ‘styles’ of doing a step, it is about not harming the body while doing it.

dance3

Notice the slight bend in her right knee. A similar bend in her left knee. Such bends are crucial for stability.

 

Humans are inherently empathising. As much as we may like to talk about ourselves as self-centred, profit obsessed, mean souls, the first thoughts on seeing something is indeed about ‘it’. Probably our way of understanding something is by emulating its experience, its pain and comfort. How we emulate vision, music, literature, colours is a marvel. It is for this reason that I highly encourage people to learn different arts. These are not just different forms of expression but also different ways of appreciating beauty. The more you learn to recognise beauty, the more you feel their peace, the more you develop hope and the more happiness you spread.

A few years back, when I was in the hospital and advised indefinite bed rest, a well wisher came to see me – an old lady, walking with the aid of a stick. She sympathetically asked me “Of what use is all the dance you learnt?”. I answered to myself, “Dance makes me feel your pain when you limp. Dance makes me feel my legs when I cant move them. The sight of a beautiful dancer beckons me, motivating me with the comfort of the sheer existence of such a beauty.”

Image sources:
Kathak poses, Bharatnatyam pose


Leave a comment

Why I drew a cub

A couple of days back, late into the evening, I felt the urge to draw. Not portraits or landscapes. Something simpler. Like a cartoon. Hattori! I googled for “How to draw Hattori” and found a step wise guide. I grabbed a ball pen and a sheet and began to follow the instructions like an eager kid. The first draw was difficult. Hattori’s right hand was longer than his left. Also, I did not have any space for his chin after drawing his big eyes. But, one could make out it was Hattori. That was encouraging. So, I tried one more time. This time Hattori looked more proportional. With the third try, Hattori was all shaded and held proudly by a 25 year old as an achievement.

I was excited after this mini success. Doraemon was next to follow. I then landed on a cute drawing of two cubs titled “Tigers (for kids)“. They were so adorable, I nearly picked them up off the screen. It was decided. I was going to draw these. There was a childlike enthusiasm in me as I hurriedly tried to draw them. The second cub didn’t come out as well. But the first came out to be a small cute sketch of a baby tiger making a puppy face. I loved it! I rushed to interrupt my mother in the middle of a phone call and show her the little tiger. Her face lit up, partly from the surprise that I had drawn something and partly from the genuine happiness the cub radiated. Her smile was the ultimate reward. Contentedly, I walked back to the couch and sat on it, staring at the feats of my past hour – Hattori, Doraemon and a cub.

I smiled as I recalled the eagerness in me as I drew. I hadn’t experienced that kind of enthusiasm in a while. It felt refreshing. It made me wonder why I got this urge all of a sudden. Suppressed instincts to express? And why did I enjoy it so much? Because of the sense of achievement? It didn’t seem that way. It was neither the satisfaction after writing a heartfelt blog post nor the high of a well received presentation. This was something much simpler. That was it! It was simple. It was innocent. I was told what to do by the how-to guide. I did not take decisions or contemplate. I trusted the guide. It felt good to follow instructions with trust. I tried many times without counting, without looking around to see who was watching. I did not worry about how the drawing would come out. Very conveniently I avoided the second cub which did not come out well. I ran to my mother to show the cute cub. I did not worry about whose original idea it was and that I had only copied the drawing. I felt happy, and I shared the happiness. I felt like a child.

Increasingly I see articles which tell us how to read kids when they are young. How to deduce more and more from their seemingly childish activities. How trying to draw is an attempt, what they draw is a step to understanding the world, how they draw is a skill to be worked on and trying again a method of learning perseverance after failure. When they show you their drawing, they are looking for encouragement. Too much praise could make them arrogant, too much criticism could discourage them. And so on.

But, I had experienced nothing of that sort. Or maybe I had. Just a little. If Hattori hadnt come out right after the third attempt, maybe the cub would not have been attempted. And maybe if people had highly praised my drawings, I would have dreamt of a future of a professional cartoonist. But, no. That entire endeavour was not representative of my nature. It was an attempt to be innocent. An attempt to keep it simple. To enjoy an activity and to enjoy its results.

We demand a lot from what we do. An activity is seen as a means of expression or learning. It is evaluated along prescribed measures. Even when the child is not ready for evaluation. An action is viewed as a manifestation of a thought, a glimpse into the psychology of the child. We observe kids like eagles, scrutinise their every action, attach serious intentions to each action and translate our own emotions of these intentions onto them. But, the intentions we impose on the kids might be totally alien to them. The emotions they associate with the activity could be completely different. They might not want to feel arrogant or confident. They might just want to feel – happy. They might not be fishing for your praise or a reward. They might just be waiting to see a smile on your face. They are very happy. Their love makes them want to pass it on to you too.  In this simplicity and in this innocence lies a freedom. A freedom from reasons and objectives. A freedom to experience and share, unabashedly. In spite of the lurking reality of the complexity of their own emotions and the world. In spite of grappling with the knowledge of it all. A freedom to smile from within.

I did not draw to express. I did not draw to impress. I did not draw to learn. I drew because I felt it was a good thing to do. I drew because it made me happy. I drew because it made others happy.


Leave a comment

Aadrika – Trapped in the open

She looked around her. She was trapped in a cramped room with walls almost in her face. She could barely move around the room leave alone attempt to flee. She looked up in despair, only to be met with a ceiling so low that it looked like it needed her support to stay up. Her heartbeat quickened as she realised she was breathing heavy. Her chest visibly rose and fell as her lungs tried to take in the air they needed. Panting, she sat down on a tiny bed, the sole piece of furniture in the room, the only thing she could see in the room other than the walls. She didnt know how long it would be before someone let her out of here. She didnt even know if she would make it alive. She surrendered to the situation, not fighting with it. She just wanted it to end. She just wanted to hang in there till someone took her out of this.

—————————-

“I have to open this window. There is someone trapped inside. This seems the quickest way to save her. If only the window would budge. It’s jammed. I could break the glass but she could get hurt by the shards. Shucks, this is not a room, it is literally a cell. As if it was intended for confinement. Let me push this lever harder. Open damn it, open. I have been doing this for an hour now. Is there some other way to get her out? God, I need a break.”

—————————-

She felt dizzy. As if the blood had stopped feeding her brain. She gingerly lay down on the bed, afraid of hurting herself. She knew she had to save every ounce of her energy from now on. She couldnt waste it all away. Eventually, someone would save her. But she needed to keep herself alive till then. Her eyes began to close. She sensed it and began talking to herself. That was the only way to feel alive, to stay alive. But, what was she to tell herself? She tried wording her situation in an attempt to keep her rooted in reality. She felt limp. Powerless. Helpless. She wondered what her life had come to.

—————————-

“Poor girl. Must be struggling in there. How claustrophobic it would feel to be inside such a room. How long can humans survive in such situations? Freak, what am I talking. She doesnt need my sympathy. Or my analysis. She needs my practical help. I have to get up now and give it one more try. Budge you stupid window. You can act all stubborn, but I am worse. If you think I’ll give up easily, you are mistaken. I am going to save her, come what. And you shall see. Ha. Take this. And this. I can do this all day. You have to give way sometime.”

—————————-

She began slipping into the cloudlike world of confusion and peace. She wondered if this is why people thought those who died went to the sky. She did feel like she was flying. She was nearing the end of her reserves. She didnt bother fighting now. All she wanted was to die. Therein lay peace, therein lay no pain. It was as much an acceptance as expectance. Somewhere at the back of her mind, she kept a tiny flicker of hope alive. Just maybe someone would save her now and she could still make it. If not then death was still beautiful.

—————————–

“I am exhausted now. Is this window going to open? Maybe I was wrong to put all my energy onto the window lever. Maybe I could have broken down the wall. No, she would have got buried under the bricks. Hell, why am I wasting my energy thinking. I have come this far. The lever has moved half way. Just a little more and I will get past this rusted part. Come on. Come on. I cant give up when I am this close. Cant give up now. Focus. Aaaargh.. Aaaaaaahhh..”

—————————–

She felt a cool breeze of air hit her face. It shocked her for a second. She had been willing this to happen for so long that her mind refused to understand whether this was her wish or for real. As fresh air began to seep in slowly into the damp, stagnant room, she began to see clearer. This was for real. She could feel this air, even touch it. She felt like collapsing on the bed out of relief. The wait was over. With great difficulty she mustered the strength to walk upto the window and crawl out of it. A blast of fresh air hit her, almost knocking her off. She laughed as tears sprung to her eyes.

——————————

“Phew. That was some challenge. A close shave. She looks like she wouldnt have lasted another second. Am so glad she is ok. I didnt realise she was depending so much on me. There was no one around. I would have been consumed in guilt had I been unable to save her. Feels proud to see her on her feet, safe and alive. She needs to rebuild herself. She is pretty shaken up. But am sure someone of her calibre can pull that off easily. Must have been tough to keep the hope alive in there. If I had shown half the determination she did, maybe I could have cracked the lever earlier. I wonder if I could have tried some other means of saving her, something that would’ve worked sooner, so that she didnt have to suffer for so long. Well, I did manage to save her in the end. And she hung in there till then. Thats all that matters. My job’s done. Time to move on.”

——————————-

She made baby attempts to look at the sky above. The brightness of the day excited her, but hurt her eyes that had become accustomed to the close-walled darkness. She stepped out of that comfort zone and pushed herself to enjoy the day. She thought of the person who had rescued her. She wanted to imbibe the same zeal, the carefree attitude, the confidence to take things on and win over them. She had to shed the habit of inhaling measuredly, of saving her energy. The ordeal was over. It was time to breathe freely again, to enjoy life again. A life saved was a life lived twice.

———————————

Aadrika walked up the hill to the small cottage atop it. A blend of elegance and strength, Aadrika looked like a mountain tree, with delicate sensitive branches and firm determined roots, with green succulent leaves and a dry weather-hardened trunk, divine in her form of kissing the sky and speaking to the Lord above. She had undertaken this arduous journey to revisit the small room beside the cottage. She had once got trapped in this room. Caught unaware, she had initially got scared. The scare had then transcended into resilience and then faith. Her hands delicately ran on the window sill before deciding to touch the lever on the window. She slowly turned it, surprised at how easily it turned. She pushed it open and stood on her toes to peep into the room, careful not to fall inside. “How did the lever turn so smoothly? Last time around, it was so rusted and jammed that I had to whack it over and over again. Took all the strength I had to wrench it open. Did someone oil it now? Or has it loosened since?”, she wondered. She looked at the lever and smiled to herself, proud of not giving up till the stubborn lever gave way. She could have never come out of the room had she not opened the window. “How long did I last in there?” she tried to recall. Her fingers left the lever and held onto the sill as she took a good look inside the room. What met her eyes shocked her. She was nearly face to face with the opposite wall. Adventurously she reached out to see if she could touch the other side. Her hand had only just come upto her chest level when it refused to stretch out. This was scary. “How could anyone stay here for so long. Did I really do that? Somehow it didnt seem so gory back then. But now that I am standing out here, it hurts my senses to imagine the torture”. She shut the window and turned her back to it. Maybe she had spent days in there, but now she couldnt stand it even for a minute. Not because she had gone through it, but because she now saw someone else going through it. It was this very sensitivity that had motivated her to save herself, to push the lever with all her might. But now that she wasnt the victim anymore, it hurt her bad to visualise someone sufferring. With her back to the window, her hand still lingered on the lever for a while longer. She recalled the inspiration, the will it had taken to move it then. The very thought of that strain scared her now. She felt pained to imagine the torment she must have suffered through, how close her body must have been to giving up. She shuddered and let go of the lever. Several moments passed as she stood still. With a sudden surge, she turned and smashed her hand into the glass. The window shattered into the room, little glass pieces scattering helplessly, suffocating before falling motionless. Aadrika looked at her hand. A tiny shard had pricked her on the side of her palm. She felt the sting as she pulled it out. Blood began to ooze in a valiant attempt to recreate the pain she had gone through then. She threw the shard on the ground outside the room and walked away. A walk filled with a deep-set rage at the agony she was unaware she had endured and a vow to not let anyone go through it again. The shards in the room lay dead as if in remembrance of those who got trapped inside. And the one shard with her blood at its tip lay orphaned in the open.


1 Comment

Breaking the loops with the search for a bead

Randomness, superstition and understanding:
Everything starts by being random. You can’t spot the head or the tail. But you don’t just feed the angel or kill the monster. You try to figure out its start and end. You start with correlations coz that’s what your brain can spot at first. Your beliefs at this stage are nothing more than superstitions if you stop here and hypotheses if you pursue them. You carry out fair experiments to test each factor and then zero in on the ’cause’. You then try to find a ‘method’ by which the cause can lead to the effect. With that you claim to have understood something of the monster.

 
Correlation may not be the causation, but it might be a future causation:
Correlation is not causation. But, many correlations are results. And many results are feedbacks into the system thereby becoming a contributing cause of whom they were themselves a product. Feedback is a lovely aspect of evolving systems. It changes dependency into inter-dependency. The dependencies get woven so intricately that we no longer like the term dependency. We prefer to use the word interaction. We interact with our surroundings and the surroundings in turn interact with us. A positive feedback encourages us, a negative feedback discourages us. If we get encouraged, it encourages our surroundings which encourages us further. This phenomenon is a fundamental part of what we encounter every day. We see it in brawls when anger escalates, on social networks when a topic trends, in fashion when a style is a hit and in society when beliefs get accepted.

 
A single source, feedback and a continuum of sources:
The beauty of a feedback is not just in the interaction but also in the establishment of a diffused source. What originally started from a single source, now seems to spring from various factors. This is because the first round came up with some outcomes, each of these outcomes acted as a feedback source thereby becoming a source themselves. By the time you are done with twenty rounds, you don’t know how it all began. In fact, the point from where it began may not even exist at present. Yet the structure exists. It may have started with your boss shouting at you. But with you getting irritated at a wrongly parked car, the driver challenging your parking skills, you abusing his sister, he punching you in your stomach and now both of you in hospital, there really isn’t a single source you can trace this menace back to. The boss meanwhile is enjoying saas bahu serials at home.

 
‘Source’ is the source of cessation, not the source of origin:
How it originated is not the question here. If that’s the path you are going to take, it’s not going to work. There is absolutely no way by which you can trace your way back to the origin in an evolved system. But, what you can do is attack from the periphery. Curb future feedbacks. Eat your way back into the system. You don’t even need to eat your way right to its core. There is no core now. The extended expanse is what it is, hollow from inside. Kill future feedbacks and you can starve the system to death. Feedback is the food for the system. Education is a means of implanting new sources, but the environment still governs the feedback. We can have endless debates on whether illiteracy is the root cause or whether educated men don’t commit crimes. The answer is “I don’t know how it began. But I can suggest how to curb it. There isn’t a direct cause-outcome that led to it. But there is a direct cause-outcome that can hope to curb it.”

 
Brain as a cause:
While humans may struggle to make sense of the world around them, there is a very simple causation that they intuitively agree upon – thoughts cause actions. Maybe you didn’t think, but the thought came and so you acted. This isnt correlation. It is outright causation. Even in the case of impulses. For us to understand the actions, we don’t even need to bother whether it is ‘the’ causation or a pawn in the path of some other causation. All we care is that thoughts are an inescapable precedent to actions and curbing thoughts is a way of preventing actions. To bring about a change in actions, we need to curb the feedbacks that lead to the thought itself. You can bring forward deterrents for the action. But that is like applying pressure on a tube. The content is going to find some other way of coming out. If you are applying pressure on this end by deterring actions, the thoughts are applying an equal pressure from the other end causing the frustration to build. Kill the sources which feed the content itself. The thoughts.

 
Mind and Mentality:
Mind is about emotions. Mentality is about expression. Mentality is a more physical level wiring which allows for routes to express your emotions, give them a form. Anger is an emotion. But do you get angry when you are jealous or do you get angry when you are in pain? What do you get jealous of? A woman who is earning more than you or a man who is stronger than you? These concepts shape our mentality. When we are hit by an emotion, we look to the mentality routes for expression. As magically bizarre the rise of emotions are, the shaping of mentality is pretty much comprehensible. I cannot predict when you will get jealous. But I can shape your wiring to not get jealous of, say, kids who are playing in the garden. I can discourage you from beating kids up every time you do get jealous of them. Am not changing your mind, am changing your mentality. And that is not very tough.

Mentality transcends smoothly into actions. The routes provided by the wiring lead right upto tangible objects. If the emotion is intense enough, if you are weak enough, if you don’t question your thoughts, you are one step away from executing the mentality. Love is mysterious. An emotion you don’t know what to do with. But when you associate smashing cars with it, you know exactly what to do the next time you feel romantic.

 
Mentality and cache:
Mentality is not always about deep-rooted beliefs. It is, many a times, about your cache memory. What have you been thinking about for the past few days. Funny how the people who resist attaching narratives to every outcome feel uncomfortable doing something without a reason. But, that’s how actions unfold. Many a times what we have is not a reason but a comfortable route provided to us. We don’t always question why we do things, we don’t always evaluate the pros n cons before taking a decision, we don’t always “really want” to do something for us to do it. We often crowdsource the thinking to the environment. Not everyone who uses a car knows why the car is shaped that way, or why it should have gears etc. You could be inquisitive and find out. But somewhere, you do trust the people who have given it enough thought. More bluntly put, you trust the society. If this is how you see it happening, this is how it must be meant to happen. And this is where feedback latches directly onto your mentality and hence your actions. This part of evolution of the system is so direct that given its vagueness, you are tempted to attack this part first. And profitably so, it yields immediate results. Of all the people who have cellphones now, not everyone really wants to carry one. Some had even strongly spoken against carrying one. But now, if everyone is carrying it, they go with it. This must be the way it should be. We instinctively accept the societal norms prompted by an urge to survive. If they say men shouldnt cry, that must be the way it should be. If they say men should dominate women, that must be the way it should be. No personal vendetta against women. No belief to be shaken either. Just something that the I go with since that’s what I see. Show me something different and I will quickly switch to that. This is how a lot of product adoption graphs evolve. The early adopters start a trend. If enough people adopt, it cascades into the entire system going for the product. Argue all you want – Maybe the product had intrinsic value, audience matured, there was no competition. All arguments can be countered. Reality only being that the initial feedbacks created a fertile environment for it to grow and the subsequent cache copying led to an unchallengeable establishment of the product.

What you see in majority, what you hear every hour every day, shapes your cache. Recall the time when you are getting late for office and don’t have time to think. What do you wear? The one right in the front in your wardrobe. Quickly pull it out, wear and leave. Or maybe the one you are most used to wearing. You know its buttons are intact, you are comfortable with it. Don’t want to experiment at this time. Fall back to your most used suit and rush off. This is the power of mentality. When you are looking to express your emotion, you don’t have the time or patience to think of avenues. You then either go with the cache route that had been bred into you by repeated inputs from your environment. Or you retrieve your own most comfortable route, the mentality you have lived with for long, the wiring your brain has traversed n number of times.

Change mentality towards women you say? K, do that. How are these guys then going to vent their frustration and anger? Maybe they begin a mentality that plants are our enemies. Maybe they begin to religiously visit parks in the evening, in gangs, and pluck all leaves out of a plant, meticulously, violently. You can then begin sensitizing them towards plants, tell them it provides you food, bring laws, bar parks after 8 pm, deter them. They will look for other avenues then. The idea is to keep doing that till they find a harmless or better still a constructive way of expressing themselves.

 
Cultivate interests:
And this is where education comes in. Education not only helps you cope with your emotions but also provides you with alternative channels to vent the emotions out. We have heard about artists who dance till they faint to vent out their anger, who play till their fingers bleed to vent out their pain. Lets talk about a more common emotion – boredom. We have options, we actually ask ourselves what we want to do to entertain ourselves. Maybe chat on social networks or watch the television or read a book or play a game. What do you do when you don’t have interests? You go back to the wirings your mentality provides. You try to implement your emotions through the same channels. The guys who went to pluck leaves out of anger have cultivated a feedback environment which now others take to when they are bored! What do you do as a law imposer or an activist? What do you call a cause, what an effect and whom a perpetrator?

 
The case of feeding sexual channels:
For those who feel lyrics of a song, the television, movies, language etc are trivial things to focus on, step out of your world of myriad interests and enter this world where people live, breathe and eat sex. Right from getting up in the morning, watching people in tousled clothes, watching people bathing, hearing songs on the radio, calls on the cellphone, words used in every sentence… The entire day is filled with not so subtle innuendos which shape your mentality and fill your cache. These are not people who have developed skilled channels for expression. Language and songs make up for a major chunk of their interaction with the world. Some resort to sexual channels to vent anger, some to vent energy, some to vent frustration, some to vent helplessness and some just to vent boredom. There’s a guy who rapes because he has lost his job and a schoolboy who gropes en route from school coz he doesn’t know what to do with his energy. The core cause is not the same, but, the feedback is the same. They all take to what you feed them. All those who listen to songs and sing them do not do so coz they have a musical inclination. Society drills music into them. Feeds them music. You do the same with sex and you have what you have now.

 
The special mention on expletives:
Expletives, abuses, create the environment, the feedback that works on your mentality and cache. How far you let it affect you is your own control, but the idea is that it needs a control from you. By default, it does affect you. There is no way you can say F*** hundred times in a day without at least thinking twice about the act.
And let us just say that you don’t mean it when you say it. You don’t mean it when you dance to Chikni Chameli in a party. It is just a word or just a song. Am willing to go with it. After all we understand what kids mean even when they use wrong words from the limited ones they know. But then, if that’s how you treat words then how do you pride on your vocabulary, how do you incorporate complex structures like pun and sarcasm into your words and how do you challenge me randomly on my choice of words. How also do you attach style to words? Why is “hanji” mediocre while “yup dude” is happening? And why are you using the word F*** specifically? If the word itself doesn’t matter then why not duck or muck or luck? Coz you too rely on what the society feeds you. You may not mean the word, the insult when you say F***. You still say it coz the environment has fed that into your cache. When you are irritated, this is the word that comes to your mind. Translate this onto the mind of the perverts. Not all who molest are sexually aroused, not all are mad about women, not all are suppressed souls, not all even know what sex is all about. Yet they take to it. The way you take to F***. Your saying may not harm me. But their doing does harm me. Immensely.

 
To end fashionably:
Causes aren’t always direct and time bound – Not like you wash your hands and a disease will go away. Not like for the time you havent washed your hands you are suffering from a disease. But, not washing hands is a cause for many diseases. It encourages the growth of a breeding ground for germs.

Feedback may not be the cause for existence, but is a sure cause for death –  Not like you feel hungry every time you pass by a fridge. Not like the fridge makes you eat. Not like you wont feel hungry if a fridge is not around. But, a fridge is what you will open when you are hungry. And the contents of the fridge are the choices you will face. And one of those contents is what you will eat. We can’t control when people will feel hungry. But we can control what we are hoping to feed them.