Ancestors • पूर्वज

Location: Kanheri caves

मेरे पुरखों की विरासत का भरम रहने दे
तू हवेली को खुला देख के अंदर मत जा
.
A verse from the Ghazal by Qaisar-Ul Zafri (Book: Agar Darya Mila Hota). Read the whole ghazal here.
.

Translation:

Let the legacy of ancestors stay in illusions at least,
Don’t invade their mansion seeing the open doors
.

This verse is apt for the relationship between humans and other creatures. Nature does not discriminate against any species, whatever it has, is there for everyone. Yet, humans have exploited and hoarded Nature since the very beginning..

I interpret this verse as following –

Nature and all of its inter-dependent elements are dying fast; their legacy is now almost as good as an illusion because of us Humans. So the poet says ‘पुरखों की विरासत का भरम रहने दे’ – let it exist in illusions at least.

Just because nature is there for all, just because nature’s doors are always open to all, ‘तू हवेली को खुला देख के अंदर मत जा’ – don’t take it as an open invitation to exploit it.

Location: Kanheri caves

Sea • समुंदर

Location: Vashi bridge

एक दिन मैं तुम्हें बताऊँगा
समुंदर वहाँ से शुरू होता है
जहाँ से ख़ुश्की नज़र आनी ख़त्म हो जाए
फिर हम जब चाहेंगे
नज़्मों की किताब से
एक वरक़ फाड़ कर कश्ती बना लेंगे
और
दूसरा वरक़ फाड़ कर
समुंदर
.
ख़ुश्की – ज़मीन – Dryland
वरक़ – पन्ना – Page
कश्ती – नाव – Boat
नज़्म – मुक्त छंद कविता – Unrhymed poem
.
(अफ़ज़ल अहमद सय्यद की नज़्म ‘हम किसी से पूछे बग़ैर ज़िंदा रहते हैं‘)

.

Translation:

One day, I’ll tell you,
The ocean begins
where the sight of parched land ends
Then, whenever we please,
From the book of poems
We can tear one page
to make a boat
and
Another page
to draw an ocean..

What do you see from your window?

Do you witness the beautiful dawn that promises hope? Or your window is more fond of sunsets? Do you enjoy the glimpses of the afternoon? Or does your window love to expose you to the merciless wrath of the Sun?

What do you see from your window? Another window? Buildings? Trees? Birds? Nests? Mobile towers? Brazen, barren branches? All of these? Or none of these?

Does your window show you the roads? Do you see the people running like ants, struggling to follow their routine? Or is your window too high off from the ground that you can’t see what goes around the Mother Earth?

Do you see trucks, carrying the basic necessities of our lives? Do you see municipality’s garbage trucks? Do you see the quick rush of adrenaline in people when the RTO contractors inspect the street for vehicles parked in ‘no-parking zone’? Do you see the grin on the faces when they pick someone’s bike or car? Do you see a group of people asking if people can’t even read the signboard? Do you see the other group arguing that there is no space left to park? Do you see a third party of people that look somehow content that they don’t possess any vehicle and convince themselves that a simple life is better because they don’t have any choice anyway?

Do you see the street vendors from your window? Do you turn and take a peek at what they’re selling? Do you see the posh humans coming in their cars to bargain with those street vendors for smallest of the small things? Do you see the rush of street vendors to run away when someone comes with the news that police is coming? Do you see the evil grins of the customers who were buying stuff from them just a minute before they had to run?

Do you see the railway tracks being the permanent residence of countless humans? Do you see their children playing on those tracks for doing which you’d forbid your own children?

Do you see the scavengers entering the potholes which are full of your own shit that you flinch to deal with? Do you see that waste-picker woman who curses you under her breath for not sorting out the waste properly?

Do you see the coal black smoke making rounds in the air you breathe? Do you witness the rare times when flocks of birds decide to take the risk and fly the sky that we spoil daily? Do you see the rats and pigeons crashed under the cars that spoil the sky for birds?

Do you see the street dogs attending a late night conference? Do you see the empty streets that look peaceful the whole night?

Do you see the marches of people asking for humanity? Do you see the mobs whose specific aim is to smash every aspect of humanity?

Do you see the funeral processions rarely passing through the street? Do you see the young couple taking home their newborn, overwhelmed and overjoyed?

Do you see that lone labourer who drinks on the street to forget the day’s endurance? Do you see the rich kids who decide to take a stroll through the road on the empty streets of night on their new bikes? Do you see the nervous woman returning late from work, constantly looking behind and checking every direction? Do you see that corporate employee walking home after recieving a big scolding from his boss, plotting how to punish his family for his bad mood?

What do you see from your window?

Dear patriarchs of the ‘modern’ age..

It’s the birth anniversary of honourable Jotirao Phule. We are in the middle of a global pandemic, and it strongly reminds us of the time when his wife and a great social reformer Savitribai Phule selflessly helped people during 1897’s plague epidemic and later succumbed to it. That was true sacrifice, many say, and I agree. But he was long gone before that plague pandemic.

I am not here to count Savitribai and Jotiba Phule’s social contributions or achievements; people have been doing that quite efficiently. I am just a nobody who wonders how and why they were what they were. How they could function the way they did, while in today’s era I am yet to find an example with even an ounce of similarity. I do think about this a lot, because the very fact that I am sitting in front of my laptop, writing, that too in English, is because these two rebeled against centuries of oppression of women and the marginalized and gave them the torch of education.

Crazy, is one word I can think of, when I think of them and countless other humans who were way ahead of their respective times. May it be Siddhartha who went on exile to prevent his family’s exclusion from Saakya clan because of his anti-war stance, or may it be Yuang Chwang’s (Xuanzang) 4 years of deadly venture through the desserts to communicate Indian Buddhism with that of Chinese, or may it be Maharshi Karve’s Periodical “Samaaj Swasthya” to create awareness about sexual health or Dr. Ambedkar’s firm stances on every issue concerning humanity (including his resignation in support of Hindu code Bill that was supposed to be women’s legal liberator, or his support for LGBTQ rights and the case he fought for Karve’s Samaaj Swasthya)..

Can you, dear men, wrap your head around the fact that Savitribai lit Jotiba’s pyre in 1890 when most of you still don’t allow women to even visit the cremation in 2020..? Can you understand how ahead of their time they were when Jotiba asked the Brahmins if Brahma menstruated through his mouth (along with other three parts from where other castes originated) since they so enthusiastically claim that they’re high because they originated from his mouth?

Can you dare to ask these questions even today? Can you even think of these queries today in 2020? Do you even acknowledge them fully? Can you sleep after limiting them to their specific castes/religions and pretending that they don’t bother you? How does it feel to look them in the eyes-though in photographs-while garlanding them on their birth/death anniversaries? So many of you sing praises of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s bravery and welfare state, how many of you know that Jotiba Phule had found his tomb and initiated celebration of his birth anniversary? How many of you can claim with evidence that you follow them to the fullest? How many of you know that his name was Jotiba/Jotirao and not Jyotiba/Jyotirao (“Joti” meaning plough, a peasant/labouring caste metaphor) ? Today’s elite Marathi women remember Raja Rammohan Roy, Agarkar, Tilak, etc when it comes to male social reformers; do they remember that Jotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule must have helped the past widows in their families who were victims of abuse? Do they remember that Tilak was opposed to the idea of women’s education and ridiculed the work of Jotiba and Savitribai?

Can you imagine yourself sharing every resources and opportunities you got with your wives like Jotiba Phule did? Can you tolerate your wife having her individual existence like Jotiba Phule promoted his wife to have, so that she could help rise countless other women and the future generations? Can you imagine sharing your dreams, your interpretation of the world with your wife to have a common existence to uphold the society?

Can you notice the stark contrast that Jotiba and Savitribai founded Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha (infant/child-murder Prohibition Home) for pregnant rape victims to help deliver and save their children, while we still have to impose ban in 2020 on sex determination of foetuses to prevent female foeticide AND the politicians still win elections by promising suspension of this ban? (The authorities have found a new excuse of the pandemic and suspended the ban for two months at least, without taking the possible misuse of it into account. Funny, isn’t it?) Can we pause for a minute and think how brave of them it was to question the British power back then; while we, in 2020, mutely accept that our leaders continue enduring all the bullying by the so called superpowers?

You, who impose that women should cover their body in front of male ‘family members’; you, who still wrap menstrual hygiene products in a paper and insist that women should smuggle it from room to room as if it’s heroin or cocaine; you, who simply glorify women’s suffering instead of making the society equal for all; you, who deliberately overlook the statistics of the overall oppression and exploitation of women while repeatedly disbelieving their complaints; you, who resort to illogical whataboutary and violence when anyone questions or threatens the irrational existence of your authority, you can never ask these questions.

A friend of mine said once that love for a person and love for the society cannot be mingled. He strongly believes that once you fail/are denied love from a person, then you go on a ‘spiritual mode’ and start believing in the love for the society and help the society. I DON’T agree. Look at Jotirao and Savitribai; Jotirao unlearned all the norms and stereotypes enforced by the society and shared his dreams and passions with Savitribai. Savitribai took it further, and together, they made a beautiful world-no matter how surreal it seems even today-that keeps motivating those who seek it. It’s impossible to study their social and personal existence separately. If they could do it, we have no excuse..

..and then I laugh

Oh, how I dreamt in school
When heard speeches of Kalam..

Thought I really had wings..

Thought I’ll make us
THE Superpower,
Thought I’ll help make
Development sustainable,
Thought I’ll help people
See through all the bullshit,
Thought I’ll make
Education accessible,
Thought I’ll give everyone
Every opportunity,

To make new discoveries,
To make ideas come true,
To venture the world, the universe,
To find the purpose-the real one,
To choose,
To love,
To dislike,
To befriend,
To never be left behind..

Today I see
Vilest of the vile people
Doing stupidest of the stupid things,
And taking pride, smaller than nothing,

Now when someone plays that
iPhone-made short film,
With Kalam’s voice in the back
And kids repeating after him,
“I am born with wings”,
I cringe and then
I laugh.

© Mudita Sonawane

Review of books by Girish Kuber

Recently finished reading अधर्मयुद्ध (Adharma Yuddha-war of religious fanaticism) by Girish Kuber.

The first book by him that I read was ‘युद्ध जिवांचे’ (Yuddha Jivanche- bio-war, or ‘war of the living’, or ‘war of people’?) It talks about science and technology’s darker side that prevailed in the power-privileged countries like America, Germany, Japan, Russia, etc and how it created an endless network of exploitation that the third world can’t even notice or imagine. Everyone should read it, especially those in science, technology and pharmaceuticals.

Reading it in school is a bad decision for those who already have their own existentialism. Seriously. It makes one wonder, whether we, the Homo sapiens, actually deserve the title of the most evolved species on the planet. Makes one question how humans can be so sickeningly creative in violence, how the largest share of money from every country’s GDP, people’s hard-damn-earned money, ends up in various violence projects, may it be in the name of national security, or exerting dominance, or simply fear-mongering.. Do common citizens consent to all this? Do they even know what goes on in their name?

When we read these details as science enthusiasts, we are humbled by the immensity of responsibility that’s on our shoulders. More than that, we are disgusted by our ancestors in the field. Depressed, even. We start asking, do we really want to end up like this? Any sane being’s answer would be, no. It also initiates another line of thought-importance of humanities. We take great pride in counting every scientific achievement of our respective nations or individuals, a common sentiment everywhere in the world. But we don’t really care to know why the study of humanities is important. In all these years of human history full of violence, we are yet to learn our lesson and create a system to utilise the resources in trying to learn about the diversity in the world and how to deal with it sustainably.

Because the prime emotion behind every project mentioned in the book is hate and greed. Greed, or a general sense of superiority that makes one ignorant of others existence and gives them a ‘license’ to exploit them however they please. ‘Lisence’ with which they escaped any questions on the sweet coincidence of the sudden rise of the company manufacturing Tamiflu from total bankruptcy and the sudden emergence of swine flu all over the third world.

Or a general sense of hate, that helps them legitimise and defend their actions. Hitler’s gas chambers are the least of such horrors, purely motivated by hatred.

Whatever it is, it’s far away from where we all should’ve been. The current situation is worse, these tools have reached in the hands of terrorists even. But looking at the rising communalism and racism in politics (but hey it was always the same!), along with the peaked greed, it’s very hard to differentiate between the right and wrong. We live in a world where the terms ‘killing’, ‘murder’, ‘massacre’, have different meanings for different socioeconomic-political dynamics of the victims and the perpetrators. Which brings us to three of other books by Girish Kuber- एका तेलियाने, हा तेल नावाचा इतिहास आहे & अधर्मयुद्ध.

एका तेलियाने (Eka Teliyane) gives a brilliant historical account of how Ahmed Zaki Yamani almost dictated the oil strategy for international markets during the period of the 60′ to 80s. हा तेल नावाचा इतिहास आहे (Ha tel navacha itihas aahe-This is the history of oil), as the name suggests, it gives an insight into the history and politics of the journey of oil, from nothing to everything. These two books, along with the third (which is not based on oil, but on terrorism and opportunism that revolves around oil) अधर्मयुध्द, create a master package to understand what’s going on in the world and which all factors are responsible for it.

अधर्मयुध्द makes us furious at the west, mainly America and England. It explains how the greedy capitalists chose Islamist terrorism over Russian communism-a heavily messed up decision and how they kept making the same mistake of fueling and utilising terrorism to spite&fight Russia again and again, how insolently they overlooked the bigger horrors that were being set up parallelly, proving their complicity again and again. Now along with them, the whole world is paying for their mistakes, and the powerful, are still busy filling their own pockets.

Thanks to Girish Kuber, who narrates this like an everyday conversation in Marathi and makes the complex history and politics of the world easier to understand for everyone.

PS: The list is incomplete without his another Marathi book on Putin (पुतीन: महासत्तेच्या इतिहासाचे अस्वस्थ वर्तमान- Putin: The turbulent present of the history of the superpower), with an interesting subtitle, but I am yet to get my hands on it. Hope to get it soon..

American Horror Story Season 9-‘1984’, afterthoughts..

Poster
Honestly, this was the only sane looking poster I could find..

 

If one has watched all the previous eight seasons of American Horror Story, the latest season 9-1984, seems a little offbeat.

This season is kind of a ‘tribute’ to Hollywood’s slasher genre, it revolves around the camp Redwood that has been renovated and reopened by the ‘sole survivor’ (Margaret) of Mr. Jingles’ previous attack in the 60’s on the same camp. A group of youngsters go for volunteering at the camp to spend their summer away from the horrors of Los Angeles, because they believe that the serial killers get more active in summers. But later they realize that the camp is even bigger a mess than the city.

The story has some shockers (should I give the spoilers?), it has several places where the story smashes your assumed designations for victims and villains. So when we take Margaret for an overly religious Christian who keeps insisting that ‘God’s light helped her survive the attacks, and think of Mr. Jingles as an evil psycho who cannot be tamed, Donna-the enthusiastic psychologist-comes as hope for Mr. Jingles to find a cure, and changes everything. Similar to the earlier seasons, we get various shades of human nature. We get confused with the motives of each character but it later gets cleared to some extent.

It also leaves us with some bizarre plot-issues/holes.

Firstly, it’s very short, it makes one wonder if the story is even complete. Surely they have established a plot-line, but it leaves a lot of loose ends left for the viewers to wonder about. The short duration of the season limits the story to a very small and shallow ground. They introduce every character but leave their stories incomplete. Unlike earlier seasons, where every character has a past and is linked with every other character, 1984 fails to connect and tell stories of people in it.

Apart form one black character, the story is a little less inclusive, especially of the gender roles. We see a fluid sexual representation in all other seasons, while in 1984, we only see glimpses of Xavier’s struggle for identity-that too is shown as a desperate attempt for sustaining his acting career. Despite having 2 major male serial killers, the depiction of toxic masculinity was done through the male volunteers, destroying the alienation of the concept (showing you don’t have to be a psycho to exhibit toxic masculinity, it’s everywhere!)

If this were a usual AHS season, every character’s story would have grabbed our attention and we’d have swirled in the loops and connections all over the season. It doesn’t fit in as American Horror Story, because it doesn’t care about the details of plot lines other than that of the two serial killers (Benjamin Richter aka Mr. Jingles and Richard Ramirez aka The Night Stalker.) everyone else is almost a nobody.

Entering two serial killers in the same camp (Mr. Jingles and the Night-stalker) becomes very confusing especially when the real purpose behind Jingles’ first return gets revealed. Though the story propagates through Jingles’s gaze, the Night-stalker steals the limelight. And oh, all that blood(!)

Ramirez
Richard Ramirez aka the Nightstalker. Looks nice though..!

Which brings to the question, what might be the need of a parallel plot for the Night stalker? Ramirez (who existed in real life) is shown to have a troubled childhood and an early exposure to crime, and that’s a fine depiction. But he is also shown to have some deal with the Satan (how convenient it is to blame the horrors done by humans on a virtual entity, isn’t it!); but the why, when and how, are unknown. Satan doesn’t even have a purpose in this season, unlike Apocalypse (season 8), in which he had a full-fledged plan and tried to execute it through Michael Langdon (and later through another Satan-baby in the epilogue). But in 1984, Satan is just, high. He, through Richard, revives any random dead-fellow that shows up (or dies down). It’s almost as if Richard acts as the HR for the Satan enterprises (!)

I won’t talk about Mr. Jingles, because that will give away everything, he’s literally the only prota/anta/whatever-gonist. Everyone else is either almost a nobody or revolves around him. But the mystery behind the blood curse in camp Redwood-though they have shown the history of it, linking it with Mr. Jingles’ childhood-remains a mystery, it doesn’t clear why it traps the souls inside the camp for the eternity and how to get out of it. I am unable to grasp how they got away with leaving it unanswered.

S9E1_Margaret_2
Margaret instructing the volunteers

The curse points out another big mistake. The souls in the camp decide to trap Ramirez inside and keep killing him (because he keeps getting resurrected by Satan for no reason) to restrain him from catching Jingles’ son, who was safe in the outer world. So we see that Ramirez (or/and his soul) is inside the camp till 2019 (at least). Here we can see they’ve improvised, because the real life Richard Ramirez was immediately caught within a year, he was in jail from 1985-2013 and died of blood cancer while in custody. Going back to Season 5 (Hotel), we’ve already seen Ramirez’s soul attending the annual Devil’s night arranged by James Patrick March (in 2015). There he tells the Detective Lowe the real story. Since all the AHS seasons have a linear timeline, this information does not fit (how he managed to breakout the vigilance in the camp to visit the hotel, how he came back inside etc..), it changes everything because AHS shows strong links between seasons.

Also, the short role of Bruce (played by Dylan McDermott) who’s just another sadist who has set a target of killing x number of people, was annoying. He was not even needed in the story.. It was evident that he was in it just because he has been a major part of Murder House and Asylum (S1 and S2).

Then comes the 80’s nostalgia. It’s very clear from the name of the season that it’s mainly based in the 80’s and the season does capture the audience by quite a loud display of the iconic American capitalism and consumerism with multiple tools from that era like aerobics studios, camping site with all the slasher-gore, making everyone look extremely sex-deprived(!) and the Synth title track (it’s bad, lacks all the intensity) and rock music all over the season. But it becomes repetitive after a point and the whole season gets trapped in ‘the 80’s will never die’ narrative. It non-inclusively  assumes that the viewer is all too familiar with the cultural dynamics, which doesn’t help a lot of them to connect with it. But I must say, it’s sick; or should I say the society itself is, if they really considered it glorious..(?)

ED1ivSXWkAU-r_l
Beautiful scenery of the camp

But that’s not the only factor to blame. Another reason why it seems alien is that it’s too outdoor-ish. The very essence of American Horror Story is to present the ‘internal’ crisis and conflicts of Americans (or humans in general) using ghosts/supernatural tools. It uses all kinds and forms of external interventions, folklore, ghosts and whichever species one can imagine, to tell a story-a story of people, their emotions, struggles, bindings and interaction-to bring everyone’s internal horrors and pain alive in an actual form, and to show how trapped everyone is in their own personal hell (AHS S3-coven-has literally shown ‘personal hell’s of the characters). This doesn’t need the overly outdoor settee that has been used in 1984, it just leads to distraction.

AHS-1984-donna570
Donna the psychologist.

 

Despite this, the female characters stand out in their individual performances and make a significant impact on the story. Donna, is an ambitious woman who almost directly triggered the 1984’s violence in camp Redwood. Initial perception of Donna is, a ruthless academician who doesn’t care about the human price to get her work done ‘in the name of science’. Why she was so obsessed with serial killers, gets clear after a peek into her past. Her story looks complete, but later we see a surprising switch in her character which changes the course of the story.

Brooke
Brooke: before and after

The relationship between Donna and Brooke’s also shows a drastic switch. Though Brooke is initially shown to be a submissive, shy girl, her experiences and alliance with Donna turn her into a ‘badass’.

Jingles
Benjamin Richter aka Mr. Jingles: while in asylum vs after fleeing the camp with Ramirez-then philosophical awakening-then getting Ramirez to police-then-normal life with wife and a kid (hush)

But she wins us best in the season finale, where it’s revealed how she moved on and started a better life by seeing light from Mr. Jingles’s story, proving that inspiration can come from anywhere..

We don’t get to know much about Montana’s history, apart from the fact that she was probably fat-shamed in childhood and was seeking revenge for her brother’s murder (she held Brooke accountable). Initially she seems like a messed up individual; but her philosophy makes one wonder about social conventions of good and bad. She gives a very important insight when Trevor admits his love for her and tells her that he wanted to die there and spend the eternity trapped inside camp Redwood with her.

She says “It’s stupid. You don’t even know me, I’m not someone you can love. I’m not someone to die for, I’m a monster.” And when he asks her how she could say that, she tells him “My ex-boyfriend was Richard Ramirez.”

He gives a horrified expression to that and then she snaps, “Wow! I can’t believe you! I see how you look at me now; like I’m disgusting..

montana-duke-dress
Montana

“Men do heinous shit all the time, (gives the triggering details), and you know what, they are treated as Rock-stars..! Fan-mails, movies, books, and research papers, articles.. And somehow, it’s always the mommy’s fault for not loving them.. Or the wife who couldn’t satisfy him.. Or the pretty girl who rejected him.. Why are we (women) always the scapegoats for sick men to blame their bullshit on? I didn’t make Richard evil, he was already messed up when I met him. F*** you all..” and she goes on with her monologue that’s relevant to the scene. Shows how twisted and biased the whole world has always been with women, may it be economy, entertainment or even scientific research & psychology!

This season also makes us wonder if the Americans were really that sick during that period, feeding on the horrors faced by others to thrive the economy. How else can we explain the way Margaret became a millionaire turning horrible experiences into tourist attractions? Or the way people worshiped the psychopaths and held ambitions to become killers like them? Or the way even after so many murders, all the musicians and fans were desperate to arrive at the camp for the program in the same week? Not to forget the extreme creativity in ideas of violence..

The only takeaway message would be- – -no there’s no takeaway message. Bye bye.