Friday, November 23, 2012

A Tragedy Relived & Outlasted...

In a country where life is cheap and social trauma fast forgotten, I still felt a cold shiver reading a recap of the events of 26/11/2009. It was unthinkable when it first happened, it stays equally shocking today. Ajmal Kasab's hanging and the excellent reporting by ToI, while it brings a little emotional closure to the tragedy, also throws into relief some key issues.

1) For every tragedy there are some unsung heroes. Take ASI Tukaram Omble. His almost primitive act of leaping on and holding onto - in the face of certain death - Kasab whose AK47 was blazing away. Had it not been for this adrenaline charged act, Kasab would have never been caught alive.

2) Which brings on the corollary - it is really insignificant that the Government spent nearly 50 crores (going with the unofficial estimate, which is usually more tenable than the official state figure) on keeping Kasab alive and his prosecution these 4 years. Yes I would've liked Kasab to hang earlier and save that cost.
And even ignore the national outrage over the attack that resulted in a pilloried national executive and PM Manmohan Singh - lambasted for not taking on the obvious perpetrators of this social crime.

After all the loss of life and trauma, what matters most is not that our individual or collective desire for revenge be satiated. What really matters is, through a painstaking inquiry under Judge Tahaliyani, the innards of the conspiracy behind this attack were laid out for all the world to see and judge.

True our judicial system allows too much leeway for a criminal to retract his confessions (twice in case of Kasab), but the skeletons of organized terror that tumbled out, coupled with the enormity of this case and the multitudes that have been tracking it, has made us aware as a society of the dangers that lurk around us. 

For once we see, how easy it is for someone to rend the fabric of our peace. At once we have been reminded to stay watchful. And once more have we come to see that individual acts of valour - Omble for holding Kasab alive, Vishnu Zende for announcing warnings and saving commuters at CST, Judge Tahalayani who worked holidays to conclude a fast track trial in exactly a year and delivered a judgement that the Supreme Court recommended for inclusion in the curriculum of the National Judicial Authority - often unheeded, make an immense difference to our lives, and make us bow our heads in gratitude.

A tremendous price to pay for the world to finally sit up and take notice of the state-sponsored brand of terrorism that India continues to suffer at the hands of rogue military states.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Memories of a Vacation

God knows how badly I was in need of a break from routine. Two years since my last vacation, I was getting a bit grumpy in general. Landing in Goa, the drive from airport to resort itself seemed to kick-start the recovery process. Cool, soothing breeze (at 3 pm) -- I later learned it'd rained the previous day -- rolling in from the window, lust green fields and foliage all around, village homes with their distinctive local architecture dotting the roadside. The roads I used to decry during previous years as potholed - now so smooth and even - they'd been resurfaced after the monsoon perhaps. They put the current state of roads in New Bombay to shame.

Back in our familiar resort, settling into a nice big apartment with a master bathroom that outsizes the biggest room in our home in the city. The resort has  nice little store - well stocked - so I pick up a bottle of port wine, a pair of swim trunks (only used the pool once, but it was worth it), bread, and (seen and tasted after ages) Amul Cheese Spread. My maternal uncle supplies two jars of my favorite Alphonso Mango jam. It's amazing how good toasted bread and cheese-spread & jam sandwiches feel at breakfast. We still follow it up with breakfast at the resort restaurant. Small wonder I tip the scales an extra three kilos by the end of the vacation. Fish, cashews, good food - oh we ate!

And relaxed! Long strolls by the beach, sploshing in the waves as they gently break on the beach. Felt at peace - a sense of just being and melting into the vastness of the universe. I wonder why the sea is so calming. Maybe it's immensity makes one's bothers seem insignificant. Maybe it's the sound of the waves - constant, soothing. Maybe it's the feeling of one's feet sinking into the sand and sploshing in the water. Who knows.

Back from a peaceful and refreshing vacation. Was hoping our adoptive cat was okay. Had requested the neighbour to feed it in our absence. But apparently poogie didn't feed out of her dish and disappeared altogether after two days. It's now the fourth day since our return but still no sign. Hope the little bugger is ok and returns soon.

Had been living without a regular camera for a long time (was using the smart phone till it conked - but doesn't compare with a dedicated cam). Got a digicam some months ago and put it to good use on the vacation. There's a lot to be said for high-res, good quality snaps that come out of an adjustable focus camera lens. Even more to be said in favour of printing and distributing prints of pix among friends and relatives. Reliving happy memories and sharing good times is what keeps us going and healthy. Something we've generally cut back on since the transition from film roll to digital clicks. Sure almost everyone we know is on Facebook now. But there'll always be a generation that hasn't completely bridged (the latest) wave in the digital divide, and some folks who have a preference for tactile. Or maybe it's just me that's a bit old-fashioned.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Of planes, bitches and beaches

a simple vacation... an eyeopener that provides many insights.
Just how dependent have we become on electronics. I sat up till 1.30 am this morning, packing and repacking. Repacking?  There's this marked preference for travelling light, instilled in me by my father, in our joint amazement and ridicule of, the mountain loads of luggage that the average Indian family carries on flights and vacations in general. You know the sight -- trolleys laden with bags that would take a strongman to lift  -- bags with dimensions that might give you a hernia at the thought of lifting them off a baggage carousel. So we always ganged up on my mother to get her to reduce the load that a woman feels inclined to pack on a trip outside home -- namely the urge to transport home with her.

anyhow, on this occasion, my mission was to reduce two bags to one. which i did, at the expense of some shuteye. (that I was industriously engaged in this endeavor till the wee hours -- and I'm someone who loves to snooze - should tell you how obsessed i am with travelling light).

but i digress. electronics! i needed my laptop yes, as I had some work to tend to during the vacation. but i also wanted to take advantage of the free time to listen to audio books,  music, catalogue my collection and cleanup some deadwood. so that meant i'd take my dedicated juke box (a netbook) along, and also my mp3 player for listening to before bed time. and of course what's a vacation without a camera. and then there are cellphones and chargers, and the camera usb cable/charger adapter. and of course i'd like to be able to do some reading on the beach or the bus, so there goes the kindle and it's cable. oh and the laptop adapters, and mouse! at the end of this my backpack felt like it was loaded with rocks! luckily it's built pretty sturdy and didn't give way. but in the end, i realised i'm packing as much electronics (or more), as I have clothes! so much for travelling light.

at the airport, was forced to catch sight of (they were in the waiting lounge standing next to their kids seated in  the row of chairs directly facing me), some hot young mothers. Young girls really, wedded into rich money, dressed ultra-stylishly in minis, and the most expensive clothing and accessories from head to toe. didn't hurt that they weren't too bad looking either -- which would explain why they were married into rich money. but i digress again. they had with the three kids in tow, a nanny -- who herself was a young girl, quite pretty by any standard, and well dressed -- like a trendy teenager from any upper middle class family. Now this nanny's job profile was to take care of the feeding and play activities of the kids, while the mother's themselves played out their part of bored, rich ultra-mod babes (mommies, no! eeks! just babes with kid appendages.) It was amusing. and i'm willing to bet those kids will grow up with complexes or maybe lack of affection towards their natural mothers, or worst case a bunch of people who treat affection as an object that is up for sale, like a trophy wife.

back on the beach after nearly two years, it doesn't cease to amaze me, the power of transportation, whether physical or ethereal, like the communication of ideas. just this morning i was 300 miles away, and now here i am with the waves shifting white sand under my feet.

Standing with my face out to the ocean, watching a red sunset, listening to the rough yet soothing crashing of the waves. the sea meeting the horizon with a tranquility that brings the edginess of my mind into relief. that's when i sense the insignificance of my being. the elemental nature of the thing that is me. lying in those cool white sands i wonder how far removed I am from my essence. staring into that vast infinity of the ocean, i glimpse both insignificance and potential. But i cannot absorb that potential, unless i empty myself first. and so i go to the infinity of the ocean, to empty myself on it's shores and to breath in again, anew.