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..

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..

Keep me alive in your memories..

be-here-now

When Shalini finally came to know that her daughter Leila is alive and safe, she shared her joy with her friend. Friend? Or co-worker? Is there a word such as ‘co-sufferer’? Because that’s what they all were. As close to ‘friends’ as they could be. This ‘friend’, on the day Shalini was going to meet Leila, said to Shalini, “Leila ko mere baare mein batana haan..! (Do tell Leila about me!)” with so much enthusiasm, as if she was going to get the Nobel prize. We never saw her again, we don’t know what her fate was, also because it’s a fictional character.

But the important thing was that she wanted to be remembered. She didn’t know Shalini, she hadn’t even seen Leila, but by considering the little time she might’ve spent with Shalini, she thought she could be remembered by them. As a friend, as a co-worker, as a ‘co-sufferer’, as enemy, or in whatever way they’d seem fit.

Don’t we all want to leave something behind? Depending on which point we are on the scale of privilege and merit, the genre of the legacy that we want to leave would differ. Some would try to buy a cottage for their children, some would spend their life to send signals to aliens. Quite a variety of aspirations, really! But the aspiration to leave a legacy is common. This aspiration gives one something to live for. It gives one a big list of unfulfilled demands for the lifetime. To some, it gives hope. For some, it sucks out their presence in the present. Those who don’t have it, berate those who do. Those who have it, pity those who don’t. Deep inside, everyone knows that it is always there, in some or the other form. It ends only when we actually start living in the present.

But that’s difficult, isn’t it? How easily we procastinate something as simple as a blood test, or disregard years of research done on environmental crisis or reject the concept of something so obvious as ‘end’. The very first reflex is ignorance, because we don’t like to accept vulnerability, because we don’t like to acknowledge limitations or weakness. Instead, we start mocking those who do. We patronize them, belittle them and hope that everyone just forgets them.

The aspiration to leave a legacy comes from the same place. I wonder what we actually achieve by doing that. One day, I am sure I’ll find the answer.

Till then, we sing, ‘Achcha chalte hain, Duaon mein yaad rakhna…!’ (Okay I am leaving for now, but remember me in your prayers)

The Ultimate Question of Existence

Recently, I watched the newly released movie in theater-Jurassic Park: The fallen kingdom. Overall, it was a good movie, technically and otherwise. The usual plot of any Jurassic Park/world movie is almost the same, someone gets greedy and wants to use genetic technology and the dinosaurs for some purpose. For example, John Hammond wanted to create something very amazing with his money and influence so he built the theme park to astonish the world by having living dinosaurs in it, the next part has his son bringing out the T-rex for selling it to a park, the third part deals with adrenaline junkie kids to visit the island for adventure. Then there is ‘Jurassic world’ series, where the park is rebuilt and we see two parties- 1] park’s founding body who thinks that dinosaurs are just another toy to show in the amusement park & 2] The military who wants to create dinosaur species to hunt given target. In the end, everyone learns his lesson in the end in his own way.Jurassic-World-Fallen-Kingdom-Poster_opt

The latest sequel talks about one more problem-the volcano on Isla Numblar getting more and more active, and having the potential to burn the island completely which would cause the elimination of all the dinosaur species from earth (once again). This starts a conflict, whether to let mother nature rule (let the dinosaurs die) or to meddle in her business (and save them by displacing them to a new island). Immediately there are two groups, those who want to save the dinosaurs and those who don’t want to take any additional actions. There is a third hidden group of the opportunists, who deceive the first group to track the dinosaurs on the island and capture them for experimentation and military purposes.

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The lone diplodocus on Isla Numblar

There is one incident in the movie where, from the island, military men rescue as many dinosaur species as possible and take them on their military ship. The time is critical and the volcano is on the peak of destruction. Everyone reaches on board and suddenly they all hear an excruciating sound, the sad cries of a giant Diplodocus (sort of), who was left behind, standing alone on the deck. As if she was calling them to come back for her, or saying her goodbyes, no one would know. No one could do anything. They didn’t return for her, maybe because she was just a harmless herbivore, who took too much space, and couldn’t be a killer. In seconds the lava erupted and poor dinosaur, who was once the crown jewel of the park and the epic magnanimous creature of the planet, was embraced by the flames. This triggers something in the viewers, that they can describe with no locution.

The senate witnesses a debate between first two groups-whether or not to save isla numblar’s dinosaurs from volcanic eruption? Tough question, because it starts its own list of questions-Who has more right to live than others? Who is the better one? Who has the right to decide that someone is better than others? Who gets the authority to decide everyone’s net worth? Is there any measure, any unit to describe that? How many units is good and how many is bad? What is good and what is bad?

SpecialNeedsThis reminded me of another movie, ‘The Oxford Murders’. In that, the protagonist-Martin, a university student, unravels the mystery of his landlady’s murder, while being fooled by his idol-Arthur Seldom-who is actually, trying to cover the murderer because of some guilt from past. Seldom makes Martin believe that a serial killer is challenging them by giving them a mathematical problem. But his puzzles are used as a cover by a desperate father of a seven year old girl in need of a lung transplant and he murders next few (who are already on the verge of dying). He plans to blow up the school-bus of differently abled kids and use one of their lungs for his daughter’s transplant. He dies in the ordeal, but the curious thing is, why did he think it’s appropriate to take lives of those kids? Because their consciousness was not as developed as ours? Does it make them insignificant? SnowpiercerThe French graphic novel Le Transperceneige (on which the movie Snowpiercer is based) shows the struggle-to live on the same footage, in the ice age caused by a failed global warming experiment, done by humans of course-between the high and low classes of humans-not caring about the whereabouts of other elements of the planet’s biological sector. It, therefore, indirectly shows the narcissistic human nature-how little we care about others, may they be other humans or creatures.

There are many movies and fiction shows that show similar line of existential crisis. It’s funny how the production houses for such movies (which are mostly Hollywood, Marvel or Warner Bros, etc.) keep their own countries at the center of the decision making body in the movie and still make money on an international level. Even in kid’s cartoon, Doraemon shows Japanese earth’s representative in outer space, the Potterverse mentions the magical population from only Europe. This is of course obvious, everyone favors their own troupe. We naturally feel safe in a familiar environment with people we know. This natural instinct-a characteristic feature representing our animalistic lineage-is interpreted by human population as a license to berate the unfamiliar.

In his book Sapiens-A brief history of mankind, Yuval Noah Harari has beautifully given account of the socio-psycho-biological evolution of mankind. There were more than six species under the category of ‘Humans’ (under the genus Homo) one of which are us, Homo sapiens. What made the others decline making us the only human species? Or the question should be, what is so special about sapiens that they are the only lasting members of the said genus? evolutionThe answer is cognitive evolution, which involves more than just communication skills. Many animals and humans (other than sapiens) could say ”Careful! A lion!”-to make others aware and run or to fool them away from food. But a modern human-sapien-can tell her friends that this morning near the bend in the river, she saw a lion tracking a herd of bison. She can then describe the exact location, including different paths leading to the area. With this data, they all can discuss whether they should approach the the river, chase away the lion and hunt the bison.

This cognitive revolution also allows Homo sapiens to acquire the ability to say ”The lion is the guardian spirit of our tribe.” Only us sapiens can construct and believe in a world based entirely on fiction. This enables us to cooperate on a massive level-using one faith system, we just have to believe in the guardian spirit of lion-even without forming intimate bonding with each other, which is crucial in animals to trust each other. This is our secret behind the dominance over other species.But this comes with a great responsibility, because we live in a world that has a huge number of elements connected by webs intermingled in each other in a complicated fashion. It needs to be intact because we can’t afford any single thread in the web to be broken.

I’d say in accordance with the cognitive revolution theory, our current behavior-showing favoritism towards the familiar/useful ones and thrashing others-is very ‘un-sapien-like’. We are supposed to be cooperating with everyone of us, so that the web is not disturbed. That’s the ultimate purpose of our existence, looking at the history of evolution. If everyone understands this, it’d be easier for us to decide what to do with the dinosaurs in Isla Numblar.