Monday, April 27, 2009

Hope is the opiate of the masses

One great thing, atleast as far as my fundamentals go, that came out of the current fiscal crisis is that people finally realize, or lets hope they did, that hope is hopeless. All you hear of these days are dreams crushed, aspirations falsified and hope faltering. The main reason I believe, for the current grand crisis emerging before the developed world, is that people had great, almost delusional, hope. Everyone believed life could go on effortlessly as it had been, that everything "will get better" someday. Someday we will achieve world peace and prosperity and every man and woman would fulfill his/her dreams. You see, people tend to, for some reason beyond my understanding, believe that somehow the future will always be better. If not better, than at least sustainable, and so everyone lived without any preparation for days like this.
I, on the other hand, being cynical and sarcastic in nature, have never had hope. I have never hoped that one day ill have a big mansion, hope that i will pass a test i wasnt prepared for, hoped that somehow ill acquire great sums of money, hope ill lead a peaceful and great life, and so will the rest of the world. Never. To me, hope is absolutely arbitrary and baseless. I am usually a bit more realistic about life. You know, planning ahead, and then acting on that preparation. Dont get me wrong, I have screwed plenty of times in my life, and will do so numerable times again in life. But i guarantee i will never be surprised by an unfortunate event, as, like i stated earlier, i dont hope for the better. Lets just hope the world, especially the middle class - those are the worst you see, as unlike the utterly hopeless poor class, these middle class men somehow propagate the notion of hope; they believe they too can move up the ladder and join the elite in the festivities, they are the ones who usually blow the biggest bubble. Well, welcome back to earth peeps.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mockery of democracy?

After following the indian election feverishly, ive realized that the event hailed as the largest show of democracy in the world, is at best and worst, a joke. Sure 700 million strong electorate goes to poll booths inspite of the grueling weather and terrorist fears, and the usually quoted achievement is often how the poor cast more votes than the rich in india; that the election brings all the 6000 or so smaller communities together for one event.
Well it doesnt. Infact caste, social and gender differences are exploited more than any other time in country than during elections. The candidates themselves reach out to the voters on ethnic and caste basis. Another ludicrous aspect is the over prescence and involvement of these bollywood stars - all of a sudden SRK or aamir or others choose sides and use their stardom to promote certain ones. Not to mention the latest trend in bollywood of retiring into politics. More and more "stars" all of a sudden have a propensity to help out the cause of "aam admi" (common man); all of a sudden they feel philanthropic and their nationalism just bursts out. But perhaps the greatest challenge and humiliating aspect of the indian elections is that a huge chunk of candidates almost always have criminal records, not to mention concurrent cases!! About 25% of all candidates polling in the 2009 election have cases varying from the horrifying rape, assault, murder etc. to embezzlement, extortion, fraud. Finally this year i actually noticed a drive massed together by various organizations to raise publc awareness and have these candidates revoked. But by no means they are even close to making an imprint, atleast for the 2009 elections. I mean the fallacies and shortcomings of this "democracy" are endless. This year Times of India reported on the first day of polling instances of candidates caught red handed handing out cash and liquor to the slum dwellers to get their vote. I cant blame the people though for accepting, as the election time is perhaps the only time these people get any attention, let alone kickbacks. The slumdwellers, opportunistic as always, confessed to accepting gifts from multiple parties to their fortune. The one case I found extremely, I mean extremely dissettling and amusing at the same time was that in one state, party workers allegedly went door to door binding every woman they could find to cast votes for them by juxtaposing the elections along the concepts of husbandry and loyalty; they made the women swear on a saffron thread, ubiquitously used in hindu religious ceremonies including marriage, that they would pledge their support for the candidate just as they do for their spouse. I have to say that does demonstrate, albeit horribly, the clever, witty aspects of indians to circumvent the system. Jai Hind my friends....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Life is tough.

Today i heard another incidence of americans experiencing hardships and the actions they take in dealing with it; the report was of a pharmacy employee who, upond being informed that he was no longer needed at the business, did what is becoming an alarmingly widespread and sought after solution: he killed two of his co-workers and then himself. This was in no way an isolated event. Ever since i came off the boat to america in 1999, i've seen numerous cases such as this, and they have sort of intrigued me because as it is well known, india is a poor nation. Wait let me rephrase - india has horrendous poverty, both in severity and prevalance. About 30% of people in india live on about 2 bucks a day. And its not even that they earn those bucks in a respectable work place; these are the people the world might have gotten a glimpse of in Slumdog Millionaire. People who get maimed - voluntarily getting a limb chopped off - to earn pennies at red lights, people who drive rickshaws in 120 degree heat and then have to haggle for pennies, people who sell kidneys and other organs in india to make ends meet.
Why am i going on a rant on state of poverty and poor in india? Because if there is one thing i have learnt from watching and observing these people is the resilience. Those 300 million in india realize that life is tough and accept it as an inevitable reality. Ive even talked to some of them and they show no aspiration for upwards mobility - they are just glad to survive. That is the most amazing realization i had about the poor in india - they dont live, they just survive, but do so in a seemingly conforming manner. And thats exactly what the americans are having a ver very hard time accepting. I see people from the detroit carmakers who got laid off whining and complaining on tv about lost of their jobs. I understand its unfortunate, but what i dont understand is how do people forget the most well known cliche all around the world: Life is tough,unfair, hard , or in words of one my favorite rapper Nas, "Life's a bitch, and then you die".
The above mentioned horrific incidents of americans failing to deal with life's problems in a rational way shows just how incomprehensible hardships can be for some americans. During the ongoing global economic crisis, started mostly by americans, one can easily see the fear, the panic on the white faces. I think it is the first time i have seen americans actually starting to worry. Ive also realized americans have always been hedonistic people; they like to enjoy every single of moment of life, and hey, theres nothing wrong with that, especially when its the richest and prosperous nation in the world. But for the first time, in our generation (americans did have plenty of hardships during wwII and later until early 1990s) I have seen the americans actually panic. For the first time, they are no longer obsessed in their usual consumerism, but actually saving and planning for future. Wow. I have to say i like it, in fact im enjoying the current recession in america. Maybe this will be the time they actually realize that buying crap over crap with credit - money most americans never have or had - is just downright unscrupulous and moronic. I see it as a correction, not a recession. I just hope americans dont stray again and put themselves in this situation again, but then again what is an american without that dream - ah yes, the great american dream. Get a house, couple of cars, laptops, ipods, caffe lattes, vacations in bahamas, christmas gifts, hd tvs, all the lavish, unnecessary objects that can be a status symbol - it will all be paid for eventually right? Hell im going to apply for some credit cards myself....That is why i consider myself lucky to have seen the way life is in countries like india for millions - its a rude awakening but at least you do become aware of the actual possibilities of life; you also learn so much about resilience, courage, relentlessness just by watching these people. I never ever had to face any kind of economic hardship, in fact we are well off in india, but just by seeing someone else in those shoes I definitely have a more realistic, maybe a bit cynical, grip on life. Thanks poor people, thank you so much.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Election erection

I love the election time in India. The plethora of parties parading through streets with cavalcades of cars, begging for the vote; the whole ambiance of country seems like as if a kumbh mela was happening all around. Amazingly diverse and eclectic, the parties try hardest to buy votes. Its ver well known, observed and heard of that parties hand out 2 things usually in the slums as that is a huge electorate, and reltively easy to appease - almost every election i've read in the news of another politician cauhgt handing out liquor and cash to the slums. The handouts are huge for parties in backward states where most people dwell in slums. Theres even reports of politicians using ambulances or private cars to ferry cash around to the slums while hiding it from the scrutiny of media and cops!!
Its known as a celebration of democracy, although i beg to differ a little, as the indians dont really elect the "leader", they elect parties. And thats exactly where the fallacy of indian democracy lies. How can one expect a diversified party forming a coalition with countless other smaller parties will ever get to resolving or focusing on the national issues; i.e. since the politics is so utterly local, it is actually unrealistic (naieve i think) to expect the party to cater to actual national issues.
But people, the electorate - 700 million strong - also does have unrealistic expectations from the politicians. I always hear people complaining about their respective MP (similar to senator in US) not attending to the common and excruciating problems of electricity and water etc. People need to understand that the MP's arent supposed to take over civic projects, but actually make national decisions about education, healthcare, defence etc. It was also pathetic to see that the government of india has alarmingly been absent from doing nothing as well - the government sits for an average of 20 days in a year during the past few years!! Anyways the people will always blame the corrupt politicians (i think the masses of india are corrupt as well as incidents such as tax evasion and theft of utilities is brazenly common.
So you see its a vicious circle - a circle of apathy- politicians dont care about issues, and people dont care about the politicians. And thats the dangerous of all in my opinion; when people actually accept and even promote corruption, assimilation, hypocrisy or exploitation as just a part of life, that is when the masses are actually responsible for their own demise. I would love to blame the politicians too, but first we have to stop over looking the problems and actually become proactive ourselves in holding the politicians more accountable. That requires the people becoming and demanding accountability - but also being transparent themselves.
In the end, I have concluded that it is due to this vicious reciprocation of obliviousness between the electorate and the politicians that the country, in so many words, is fuckt. Cynical? yes Pessimistic? yes But its the reality. Ive tried to bring myself to actually hope for something better, but i realized that hope doesnt go too far, especially in a seemingly chaotic place like india (yes it is chaotic. i wish i had another word. I must mention that it is this controlled chaos that makes me love india even more). So im going to do what everyone in india seems to be content with - live as you want to, and the rest? baaki sab bhagwan key haath mein, as people in india often remark when asked about the future of the country.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

land of opportunities

america is known as the land of opportunities, and no this isnt going to be a blog raving about the great country that is america because of its seemingly warm attitude to immigrants. But i think that the plethora of "opportunities" that people usually refer to in terms of immigrants is jobs. Money. When most people quote that america is land of opportunities, they mean, to a great extent, that america is land filled with money/jobs, which is also the presumption that actual immigrants tend to give to america. Under my experience, i think its not only money, but the other prevalent opportunites that are the de facto product of the life in america. I'm referring to the actual sociological construct in society, the personal development as an individual, the civic atmosphere, the experiences of actually being in american culture. These are the "opportunities",intances etc. that have contributed more towards my better being than actual, monetary or any tangible gain.
It is the fact that as one lives here, one inevitablly finds out, immerses in, or gets a hint of american life sometime (more commentary on american life later) and realizes that the untold faculties of society, such as civic sense or social expectations, are much less conservative and user defined than anywhere else I have ever seen. So its being exposed to a whole another world, the definition of migration, that inevitably leads to a change - ideas,thoughts,perceptions etc.- that are the best gains of the journey.
That change is something that cannot be described or explained as it never ceases - every single day there is some aspect of life ,as played here in america or back home in india, that triggers a mountain of thoughts, usually juxtaposing that very aspect of life, or life itself in general. It is as if migration makes one into a perpetual motion machine, constantly trying to settle yourself comfortably right in between the two dots on maps you call home. And that is exactly why I never will, nor can regret my decision to leave "home".


I chose to write this a blog as means of preserving the experiences, ideas, perceptions, comments, happenings, epiphanies, opportunities, anecdotes - anything and everything that exists within my mind as a direct result of my migration in 1999. I emigrated to the US that summer from my small town, Bahadurgarh, in India, and needless to say, things have never been the same. So instead of writing a book, a task I think requires muh more discipline than writing a blog, which is similar to just vomiting the thoughts out a little less coherently. The blogs will be in no order what so ever, just random short essays/rants/commentaries whose intention, if any intended, is to kindle some thoughts/opinions/perceptions relating to the experience of a immigrant, however faintly it is actually reflected in the post. So here's my puke. Enjoy.