Saturday, May 27, 2006 2 reflections


“The most important thing in any relationship is a closure” someone had once told me. Of course that was when I was in my bubbly teens where a relationship did not mean much more than a movie date or a well received PJ. If it happens with a High School crush then “Jolly Good!” and if it doesn’t then we always have someone else to blame. As I closed my eyes and walked past several doors with numbers on them (a metaphor for age, mind you) there was one shadow that kept following me. And that was the concept of ‘closing’ things. If I had opened a door, I had to close it. If I had entered somewhere, I had to exit. It never seemed to matter how and why I had made an ‘entrada’ but it was absolutely vital what my ‘salida’ looked like.

The concept of closure is not new to humankind. Back in the stone age when one hairy ape would bang a club on another’s head to establish dominance I am sure he would ensure the defeated primate had been disposed off well. If he did not then I am pretty certain other parasites sure did. In the era of the more appropriately dressed but equally brutal Roman empires if one emperor managed to grab the land and women of another then it was definitely a matter of protocol that the defeated mortal was a) either sent to the gallows to make friends with the local rodent family; b) ensured that a suitable elephant was chosen to play human-soccer with the shackled and panicky warrior or c) re-‘organ’-ized with a shiny dagger across his torso.

Regardless of how the great Roman affair or the greater Ape revolution ended the bottom-line remained the same. Closure is an important factor in any kind of relationship. Even if it means the extent of it was yelling incoherent and sour-nothings into the ears of the potential enemy.

While these are extreme examples of how closures occur we can also examine less violent prototypes as well. Let us look at a regular example. Object A thinks he is in love with object B. Object B is playing hard to get with her usual innuendos of irrelevance that she adheres to with enviable jingoism. Object A is not quite sure how to play the game so resorts to cliché celluloid methodologies of writing love-rich (sick?) poems that invariably end with the three magical words that have retained the ‘sane’ in ‘Insane’. A few weeks or months of this and Object B consents and the picture-perfect couple are moon walking into the distance. A petty fight leads to a pettier argument and ‘war of the words’. Before you had completed your SOS (Sigh Of Satisfaction) at this blessed couple’s journey – BAM! They have parted ways. Object A does not recollect what object B’s name was and object B is rolling her eyes at the mere mention of the word ‘Love’. The best way now for the sting of this separation to heal is by bringing a proper
closure to it. An appropriate meeting with the right words to compromise without letting one’s guard down too low. Things remain less ugly but both A and B can at least walk away with their shadows intact. Another door closed. Did it matter how much time A had spent wooing B into reluctant submission? No. Did it in any way reflect B’s struggle with her inner being to find a middle ground with herself? Of course not.

When I open a newspaper today and skim through it I cannot help but wonder how powerful yet subtle the word ‘Closure’ appears almost everywhere. Be it figuring out how Netaji Subhash Chandra passed away. Be it bringing a closure to the Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination trial. Or be it something as simple as analyzing why India keep losing crucial matches despite being star-studded with Akbar’s nine gems.

But why is closure such a big deal? What drives this basic human emotion? And would it matter if we left things hanging in the air? The answer to these questions is simple. Closures are what eventually matter. They validate the actions individuals take when in the thick of matters. It ensures an appropriate level of peace of mind. It manages to find an accurate place in human history. No one seems to remember how you started but everyone reflects upon how it ended. No one knows who started ENRON but everyone sure knows that it was a bad idea. While only a few might remember Amitabh Bachchan’s forgettable ‘Saat Hindustani’ everyone seems to remember his latest television stint. As important as a delicious starter might be the most common question is always “So what’s for dessert?” at the dinner table.

As I said, closures are what eventually matter.

So here is to closing things. Here is to memories that threaten to haunt us if the doors we open are not closed well. Here is to history itself that has bared to us so many skeletons in this partially open closet. The mantra really is “The next time you start a venture, make sure you have an excellent exit-policy.”

Closing words anyone?

Thursday, May 25, 2006 0 reflections

Educational Euthanasia

KANPUR: A 23-year-old Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur (IIT-K) student, Shailesh Sharma, on Wednesday committed suicide by hanging himself in his hostel room. A resident of Pande Mohal, Nariya in Varanasi, the deceased was a final year student of dual degree programme at the chemical engineering department. IIT-K officials claimed that the student might have taken the extreme step under depression after coming to know that he had failed in two courses —advanced thermodynamics and advanced fluid-mechanics.

LUCKNOW: Pankaj Kumar, 23, a student of Bachelor of Technology (electrical) in Babu Benarasi Das College in Chinhat, committed suicide by hanging himself from the ceiling of his rented room in Chinhat area on Monday. He belongs to Etah district. An elaborate suicide note was found in the room. According to the suicide note, he had done badly in his first semester exams.

NEW DELHI: A college-girl in west Delhi Thursday committed suicide a day before her English exam, police here said. Heena Singh, 20, who hanged herself in her Uttam Nagar home, was a second year BA (Bachelor of Arts degree) student at the Delhi University's School of Correspondence Studies, the police said.

BANGALORE: At 85 per cent, Nandita Nandkishore is among the rank students of the CBSE Class XII batch of 2005-2006 of National Public School, Indiranagar. The results were declared on Tuesday, but it was too late for the 18-year-old. It may be little solace to the grieving family of the “meritorious and ever-smiling” Nandita — as the associate principal of NPS, Shantha Chandran would like to remember her — that their eldest daughter scored a high percentage in her board exams.

Do you notice a pattern here? You do? What is it? Death? Of course. But what else do you notice? Look harder. You will have to do better than this. I request you to please look harder. You will have to look beyond this article, beyond these headlines and into the lives of hundreds of such stories in our country that happen at the same time every year to be really able to see the pattern that is stitched into this disturbing fabric. You will have to go beyond the news to comprehend the mindset of these individuals. Young men and women destined to bring glory and unsurpassable intellectual fortune to our nation. Bright minds with strengths untapped and options unexplored. Buds that never really got a chance to blossom since they were busy nipping themselves off. They now remain as mere names in a forgotten headline with other peers who took that path. Bodies dangling from a ceiling fan somewhere or a carcass that resurfaced from a grim lake outside the city.

India, to the world, is a fascinating place. A place where snake charmers roam free and temples protrude out of thick woods majestically. A country where ‘everything is on sale’ and everyone is a genius. A gentle reminder of the fact that magic and logic reside in the same bosom like two faces of the same coin. This was not supposed to be India’s future. Not based on the predictions the super powers had made about a decade ago anyway. With religion being India’s curse and poverty being its only visible shadow who could have possibly imagined that this starving nation of a billion would leapfrog into a future that the world was not prepared for! Not a soul could have appropriately prophesized the strong man power and stronger will power India has now become synonymous for. American televisions are having a field day with the endless speculations of when is it that India will emerge as a super power. The international market is showcasing us as the powerful underbelly of the knowledge pool that floods the subcontinent. Special television programs and economic forums are going blue in the face debating how India’s fortunes have changed overnight. The Indian movie industry is getting a lion’s share of all this attention and is raking in big moolah while the technology sector is said to be at its all time high. Ah! What a time to be alive, is it not?

Or is it? The people mentioned above in the headlines certainly did not seem to think so. For had they been even remotely enthused by the apparent publicity India is getting in all fields across the world they would not have taken the extreme step that they did. On an average India loses at least two dozen bright and potentially priceless minds every single time an examination result is announced. Be it Kanpur, Mumbai, Bangalore or Chennai. Some young adult somewhere has decided to call it quits. When I used to read patriotic tales of our beloved freedom fighters who were not more than 21 when they took to the gallows with a proud smile on their face and an enviable shine in their eyes I always wondered what invisible force drove these seemingly regular people to find bliss in death. Today when I read the same aged young men and women end a precious life for something as trivial sounding as an examination I cannot help but start getting a better picture as to where India really stands.

There are many factors that drive a person to do such an unthinkable act. Strict parents who condition their children from Kindergarten that succeeding is everything. Failure is not an option. That component of fear is what grows into a monster within them, eating away at their soul bit by bit and eventually enveloping them and gobbling them in one giant gulp. The kind of parents who have time tables of study for their children when they are in elementary school. The kind of parents who are so insensitive to the innocent mind that in the process of making a better adult they manage to successfully kill the child. The kind of parents who make the child feel worthless if he/she were to get, what according to them, is a ‘bad performance’.

The second obvious factor is our beloved education system. A cruel and heartless soul laundry of a factory that heaps loads of work for the young minds without leaving them any other option except to memorize the most mundane details about some meaningless piece of information. The monster-manufacturing unit that works 24/7 day and night tirelessly dishing out new assignments and new ways to torture the developmental process. With time this process has only become more meaningless and more abundant.

While these seemed like internally manufactured electric chairs the third factor is the world outside. The global community that is expecting India to keep pushing the envelope in this insane race towards an unknown goal. Is the need to succeed so important that it is becoming unbearable by the child and the hands that rock their cradle? The competition in the current market in almost every field is so ridiculously Herculean that there is no way to even start to comprehend its solution, as it were. With changing lanes and growing pains this factor is only becoming worse each day. You are either in or you are out. No other choices offered.

The only question I have for all these factors is - Are we training these individuals to live or to die? What use is this ‘cutting edge’ concept making in India if it turns out to be an evil which is cutting the throats of our future? What is the point of such a meaningless rat race if it is going to end up becoming one vicious never ending cycle of distress and suffering? What is it that eventually matters? And who decides that?

The aim of this article is not to offer solutions since the solutions are not out there. They are within us. Each one of us who is a cog in this systematic eradication methodology behind applied by the education and economic system in our country. Solutions that need to start at the grass root levels of our up bringing and social platforms. Solutions that will hopefully lessen the burden on the child who now takes a bag-on-wheels to school like an international tourist in an airport. Solutions that help the future understand that succeeding is not everything. A solution that hopefully teaches a child to follow its own heart and not that of a looming shadow. Could this scene be more tragic? Is there a way out?

I leave you with these questions to ponder on. Meanwhile we lost a few more Einsteins, a couple of more Kalpana Chawlas and one Sachin Tendulkar this year. All hail this successfully implemented educational euthanasia.


Sunday, May 07, 2006 7 reflections

ShaKri Publications

This post contains all my published work in Newspapers, Magazines etc. Please click on the images for the larger image. The articles are arranged by the date they were published on.


Friday, Oct 29, 2010/ OPEN magazine, Page 3

Friday, Apr 2, 2010/ OPEN magazine, Page 3

Friday, Mar 26, 2010/ OPEN magazine, Page 3

Friday, Feb 26, 2010/ OPEN magazine, Page 3

Monday, Feb 8, 2010/ Deccan Herald,Page 10

Friday, Sep 25, 2009/ Open, The Weekly Magazine/ Page 4

Friday, Sep 18, 2009/ Open, The Weekly Magazine/ Page 4

Saturday, Sep 5, 2009/ Open, The Weekly Magazine/ Page 4

Thursday, July 11, 2009/ Open, The Weekly Magazine/ Page 4

Friday, May 29, 2009/ Open, The Weekly Magazine/ Page 4

Thursday, May 21, 2009/ Open, The Weekly Magazine/ Page 4

Thursday, April 30, 2009/ Open, The Weekly Magazine/ Page 4

Friday, April 24, 2009/ Open, The Weekly Magazine/ Page 3

Friday, August 10, 2007 / Deccan Herald / Page 11
Tuesday, August 7, 2007 / Deccan Herald / Page 10

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 / Deccan Herald / Page 11
Tuesday, March 13, 2007 / Deccan Herald
Saturday, January 13, 2007 / Deccan Herald


Tuesday, January 2, 2007 / Deccan Herald

Friday, December 29, 2006 / Deccan Herald

Wednesday, October 18, 2006 / Deccan Herald
Tuesday, October 17, 2006 / Deccan Herald

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 / Deccan Herald

Saturday, September 2, 2006 / Deccan Herald - Page 12-----------------------------

Monday, August 14, 2006 / Deccan Herald - Page 9-----------------------------

Sunday, July 30, 2006 / Deccan Herald


Sunday, July 23, 2006 / Deccan Herald


Tuesday, June 20, 2006 / Deccan Herald - PAGE 11


Thursday, June 8, 2006 / Deccan Herald - PAGE 13


Sunday, May 14, 2006 / Deccan Herald

Sunday, May 7, 2006 / Deccan Herald


Sunday, March 26, 2006 / Deccan Herald

Friday, May 05, 2006 10 reflections

Memories of Malgudi

“Some great man once said that it is so simple to be happy but it is so difficult to be simple” said a brimming Rajesh Khanna in the Hindi feature “Bawarchi”. This line, despite its antique factor has remained with me for all the years I have convinced myself I am growing up. And with each passing day the truth behind this statement becomes more apparent to me. If as a child I liked the way this line sounded, then as an adult looking at the door with the number 30 written on it, I have made it a part of my being.

Circa 1986 and simple things ruled the television in India. An age where being innocent was not a choice but an attribute. An age where the larger and complex seeming worries of the world could wait. An age which validated us as regular folk. Simple folk. As I browsed in between the lines that Arundhati Roy had jotted for “The God of Small Things” I kept getting constantly reminded of the one simple thing that I could never forget. The one simple thing put so eloquently that it almost guided me into the person I am today. In a day and age where television is frowned at and kids in school are made to celebrate “TV Turn Off” weeks, I could not help but reflect back upon the kind of television that shaped me as an individual.

If I regard all the timeless classics I have been fortunate enough to be a part of, the one series that sticks out like a gentle reminder of life itself is the late Sh.R K Narayan’s ‘Malgudi Days’ which was brought to life by the late Kannada actor/director/genius Shankar Nag. The two names that have become synonymous to me with being simple yet powerful. The two souls that have given me so many memorable moments on print and celluloid.

R K Narayan has been a part of me almost all my life. I am still fascinated at the ease with which this man managed to craft the rhythm of the life in his stories. His creation – the town called Malgudi. Just the mention of that name spells magic as far as viewers of Nag’s ‘Malgudi Days’ are concerned. As I sat watching some episodes from the DVD pack of this gem a couple of days back it was as if I was watching myself in them. Each scene brought back an essence that I have almost forgotten in the high-tech, fast-paced and stress-happy world we live in. Values that have shaped us as Indians. Ideals that we seem to have put somewhere at the back of a dusty old room. My mind kept dusting off those old piles of memories as the characters spoke to me in a profound yet simple way.

I was probably 10 years old when the ‘Malgudi Days’ was first aired. I still have vague recollections of being extremely excited about the stories in them since they always contained an immensely surprising element at the end of each tale. If some of them ended on a sad and depressing note, then others were quick to have us rollicking in laughter at the wit they effortlessly presented. If on the one hand the tune “ta na na na na na na na…..” became a folklore of sorts, then on the other Sh. R K Laxman’s cartoons flashed by like pleasant electric poles from a fast moving train.

A whole new perspective arose. A new dimension emerged. A new light shone. Draped in the practicality we are so used to, it hid within the simple nothings of life that are everything. It transformed into the words that stay behind long after an enriching conversation. It became a song. It was now a poem. Watching the series on the door step of the number 30, I had an awakening of sorts that would not have been possible back when I was 10. The journeys I have been a part of in the last two decades have had bits and pieces of Malgudi in me at all times. Any town. Anyhow. Anywhere. They all are representations of the society we live in. It probably has taken me two decades to realize that but I am glad that I have. Malgudi, as I now realize, was not just a television series. It was a collection tales that taught us how to empathize. An attribute, I am sure, that is fast losing its worth in today's dog-eat-dog society.

Today I watch tireless viewers watching stories of infidelity and loathsomeness over and over again without a blink. Today I watch sad narrations of “reality” the way the series makers see it. Today I am a part of a culture that celebrates hate and animosity. I feel sad for them since they do not know what they are encouraging. They probably never will. I feel sad for myself since classics like ‘Malgudi Days’, R K Narayan and our dear Shankar are now part of history. But then again, I am glad I was lucky enough to be a part of it when they were moving shadows in our lives and that makes me happy.

It is true indeed. Being happy is very simple yet being simple was never harder.

Here is to another simple day. Here is to another memory for Malgudi. Cheers!