IN THE END

When your time is near,
And your heart reflects fear,
And you’re breaking down in tears
Because you’ll lose all you hold dear;

When faith unfaithful
Turns her back,
And the vision before your blurry eyes
Turns tar black;

Remember the only thing
That will always hold true –
That even in your end
He hasn’t forsaken you.

God still loves you.

Pradita Kapahi

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PROFANITY IN EVERYDAY CONVERSATIONS

“She’s my bitch!” 

“Yo wassup dawg?!”

If you’ve been around in the world (of course you have) you’ve heard the above statements that have become a sort of fashion statement these days. ‘Hip’ girls and boys referring to their friends or their boyfriends/girlfriends thus and without any qualms too. Note that the intent in the above two statements is not to ridicule or slander, but to express affection for a friend instead. I don’t know when and how this started but weren’t those two words supposed to mean an insult? At least I would be very offended if someone called me a bitch. I don’t suppose this shift in how we perceive these cuss words came about because our generation was suddenly swayed by a sense of brotherhood for our canine friends. Nope! But used affectionately or in a derogatory way, the context doesn’t make their usage any less offensive. They’re both representatives of how profanity has permeated into our everyday parlance.

Profanity today has seeped into our everyday vocabulary to the extent that some things are best described only by the use of derogatory terms. For example –

Shit happens.

Life’s a bitch.

What an ass!

What the fuck is that?

Profanity has shifted, or should I say has been promoted, from being something used only to cause offence to something that sometimes conveys an idea best. But perhaps this shift in how we perceive the use of profanity now is the reason why we hear so much of it in everyday conversation.

Remember the time when you would get a stern look from elders for using terms as mild as ‘stupid’ and ‘shut up’, while today ‘shut up’ has become an equivalent for ‘seriously’ or ‘really’? When language starts to accommodate ‘foul’ in the ‘fair’ category it naturally leads to a downfall in the quality of language and the smudging of lines on what is acceptable and what is not. There is a reason why language from old books and period films sounds classy and sweet. Its because such allowances in language were not allowed then; a bitch meant only either a female dog or an insult to a woman; no other meaning to that expletive was allowed and entertained and the usage of the latter was frowned upon. What’s more, people considered it a part of good manners to keep their tempers and tongues in check.

When language is courteous, foul language automatically is kept under control because its use is considered taboo. But when language starts to get discourteous, starts passing off cuss words as normal usage, ‘wassup bitches’ is what you get and since today we are being trained to see these cuss words not as an insult, therefore even a derogatory ‘son of a gun’  sounds like a phrase used for appreciation.

But why do we use profanity? What makes its use so compelling? We’re all humans, we’re prone to getting angry and letting our mouths run loose along with our imaginations and getting creative with expletives. In some cases, it is even considered cool to use foul words, but what I don’t understand is why we use them at all? Forget about all the morally right reasons for not using bad language and just for a minute concentrate on the practical uses of foul language. What do you get?

Beyond the perverse joy of watching someone’s face fall and getting a kick out of it, or letting off steam, foul language really doesn’t serve any purpose because – 

A.  It doesn’t get the point across. The one being abused closes his mind to any attempt at conciliation or a fair argument thereafter.

B.  It makes the user sound uncouth and vile.

C.  It’s a waste of time and energy because it resolves nothing.

Oh, but it feels so gooooooood, did you say?!

I know that! I’ve been there, done that too. But apart from being branded a ‘bitch’, I didn’t accomplish anything else out of using profanity. I lost plenty though – friends, goodwill and face. I was the proverbial smart mouth who everyone liked to steer clear of and it was the reason why I drove myself into a lonely place. Coming out of that place was tough, and I’m still trying to mend the bridges I tore down.

As someone who’s been both at the giving and receiving ends of profanity, what I’ve come to learn is that using foul language is like using sarcasm – it’s perceived as something cool and witty, but is actually an infantile preoccupation of an egotist who does not have control over his emotions. Sure in some circumstances, both foul language and sarcasm are deserved, but I would say in most cases, a greater revenge would be to laugh in the face of your abuser and never give them the satisfaction of letting them get under your skin.

Coming back to the original theme of this article, the allowance of profanity in everyday conversations has led to a degeneration of language because we have taught ourselves that it is okay to use foul words even for expressing our appreciation or love. It sets a wrong precedent for not only our generation but even the ones coming after us who would only learn that there is no ceiling to how foul-mouthed you can be because by then the lines between courteous and uncouth words would have blurred to the extent that terms like ‘bitch’ would be regarded as both an appreciation and an insult. When we ourselves make such allowances in language we do not have the right to point to the younger generations and cry foul. Can you really blame a teenager who calls her friends ‘bitches’ or ‘dawgs’ when he/she has seen others do the same? Its unfair to them.

We should either clean up our own act or shut our eyes and ears to the degeneration of language and consequently the degeneration of our morality. Restraint on language also translates to restraint over temper because the use of foul language is a kind of vent for a frustrated soul, so that if you keep it in check, chances are your temper too will subside quickly, but if you over-indulge it, soon your hurt ego will not be sated by the mere use of foul language. It will deviate to worse alternatives. Not to generalize things but an example is that of an abusive parent and one who controls his tongue.  Who do you think is more likely to beat down his own children?

We need today to teach ourselves and our future generations that while expressing our love or anger is alright, the use of profanity to do so is absolutely unacceptable. The languages of the world are rich and flexible enough to provide enough room for creative expression without resorting to the use of bad words. If your tongue is sweet it will only invite more sweetness from others. Nobody likes a barbed wire.

Featured Image: 1820796 at Pixabay

LOOKING FOR THE LOO

I have a great relationship with my bathroom! I see it so often and spend so much time in it that it could very well double up as my bedroom. What isn’t there to like about a place that relieves you of that niggling pain, or helps you relax and cleanse yourself? Which is why I love putting up potted plants, paintings of more potted plants and magazines in my bathrooms. Makes sense to make it comfortable when you want to spend so much time there, no?

But as much as I like my bathroom, I hate my bladder because it has always been the source of embarrassment for me. As far back as secondary school, I’ve had ‘pee’ issues. I was always infamous for being the girl who went every period. At college, if us friends ever decided to go anywhere as a group, someone would inevitably joke, ‘Pradita, make sure you’ve done the necessary before we leave… and no water afterwards!’ What a shame!

Things didn’t improve for me when I got married. My MIL especially would always reproach me for how frequently I needed to go everywhere… and in a Sari too! I think if there is a Guinness record of visiting the most bathrooms in a city, I must be the record-holder because within the first three months of my marriage I had acquainted myself with the insides of each and every one of our family friends’ bathrooms, and the public loos at supermarkets and malls in our area. It got to the point that if an acquaintance wanted to find a toilet in a public place, they would ask me!

It was heaven to know that no one judged you for going when I was pregnant, seeing as how pregnant women have to go a lot. Surprisingly, it’s become better since the birth of my daughter, but even now the odd unfortunate incident does occur, and I still have to maintain my ritual of relieving myself before I venture out of the home… and no water afterwards.

So yes, I hate my bladder and what I hate even more is that it has not an iota of control over what it’s supposed to control and contain – pee! I’ve had misfortunes like missing the school bus, getting an earful from teachers and relatives over my urgency. I’ve lost out on friends and even a potential boyfriend because I got too irritable and screamed at them, all thanks to a bursting bladder. I made friends with Meftal Spas to counter the pain when I had a hold-it-in-thon.

But the most embarrassing moment for me was in Secondary School when I had moved to another city and so had to join a new school. I was new to everything in that city. It was my first day at school and I was, like how most newcomers are, lost. Needless to say, my bladder wasn’t happy with my nervous condition and it quickly starting pinging me evacuation messages. I excused myself from the class and went looking for the loo. The school was huge and old, which meant that I had to walk a lot from one wing of the school to the other as per the directions given by my bench-mate. I ran at the first sight of ‘Toilet’ written on a placard and nearly skidded to a stop when I saw urinals inside. Oops! It was the Boys Bathroom.

Now my bladder had already reached its limit and I was just barely holding on. So my inner-self screamed, ‘The Girls Bathroom is a whole storey up. No one’s here. Just go into one of the stalls!’ And I did. And the moment I did, a boy of about my own age appeared (we must have been ten). He came to a dead halt and so did I. And then he squeaked (obviously because he was embarrassed to see a girl in a boys bathroom. Maybe also because a girl saw him zipping up), “Didi, this is the Boys Bathroom”, and he snuck out of there.

I didn’t pay him any heed. The moment he left, I rushed to one of the covered stalls and relieved myself. Thankfully there was no one else in the bathroom to add to my shame. But when I finally reached the classroom, what do I see? The boy who I had an encounter with was, in fact, my own classmate. He looked at me and giggled, and I could almost see the rest of my future in that school flash before my eyes – being branded “Pee Queen” or smart mouths at school mocking me, “Hey Pradita, looking for the Loo?” Oh god, why couldn’t my bladder just let me be?!

That whole day I kept imagining the worst, that people were staring at me, that they were making jokes and that no one would ever be friends with me in that school. But nothing of the sort happened. Weeks went by and eventually, I got over that incident. I made friends, lots of them and though they all would joke about how frequently I  needed to go, no one ever mentioned that incident. However, I could never look that boy in the eye and never made friends with him throughout the two years that I spent at that school. Also, I double check now if I’m using the Girls Bathroom.

But just four years back that boy got in touch with me through Facebook and when I asked him if he remembered that incident, he said, “What? That really happened? I don’t remember that.” (No wonder I made friends and no one called me Pee Queen at the school) I thanked him profusely for never mentioning it to anyone. He didn’t seem to understand why I was making a big deal about it.

When I look at this incident now I realise just how funny life is sometimes. Such incidents, to some, they mean a lot; they could mean the end or the beginning of something; they could leave a mark on or even scar your memory. And yet to others who may even be connected to the same incident, such incidents could mean nothing at all. This only taught me that I should never take such silly episodes seriously in life because life is much more than that.

Our embarrassment over something is a state of mind. Like how public display of affection is okay with some, yet embarrassing to others. That day I may have been embarrassed by using the Boys Bathroom in an urgent situation. Today? Well, let’s just say my bladder doesn’t leave me an option.

Pradita Kapahi

Image Source: Zorro4 / 142 images

SPEAK UP FOR CHANGE!

It was a Sunday night when my frazzled house-help called me to tell me that she wouldn’t be coming to work… ever.

I was stunned. For any busy mother with too much on her plate, house-helps are more important than their own husbands. I frantically asked her why she had made this sudden decision because she loved working, I knew. She loved the independence and the money these odd jobs gave her.

She answered between sobs, “Didi, I can’t stay here while my husband is threatening my life. He won’t let me be. He’s lost it. He hits me and does drugs. And he doesn’t even care for the children anymore. What will become of my children if he kills me? I have no one here in the city. At least my people can support me in the gaon (countryside). That’s why I’m leaving.”

I knew what she was saying wasn’t a fabrication. Her husband had been very abusive, both mentally and physically, for over a year, going to the extent of making an attempt on her life last year! Heaven knew why she hadn’t bolted back then itself. I insisted that she see a lawyer for a divorce but she was afraid of her folks; ‘what will people say‘. When she didn’t do that I sent her to a doctor to dress the wound. It was superficial thankfully, but the attempt had shaken her to the core, as it would. The police had refused her help because let’s face it, the Police don’t do much in India unless you have connections (if you know what I mean). Sheer will, her children’s education and a helpful sister were the only reasons why she was staying on in the city even after the attempt, but that sister too had lately moved away, leaving her absolutely alone against the wrath of her terrorizing husband.

There was nothing I could do to help her or to make her stay. I was in no position to offer her a place to stay or another job. Even I felt that she would be safer in her gaon. But I did feel strongly that people like her are always trudged upon by the powers that be just because they don’t raise their voices. They never have. Which is why the oppression never ends.

This whole week on Candles Online we are discussing the topic of Raising Voices. For the remainder of the week, you shall have compelling arguments from contributors who encourage raising a voice against some form of oppression prevalent in our society. In this article, I shall be discussing raising a voice as citizens of a democracy.

I discussed above how people like my house-help suffer in silence because they chose to suffer instead of lashing out at their oppressors. But let me not generalize it for people like her, because it isn’t just ‘people like her’ who suffer in silence, but most of the population. Take for example the recent debacle over the movie Padmaavat, which I have written about here. It was shameful that a section of the Indian population was rioting over a harmless piece of fiction, but what was even more shameful was the way the general public was silent over it, except a few brave voices. Everyone knew that the rioting was unjustified, yet people who Tweet or post statuses about what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or are quick to add hashtags to be a part of the latest fad in the country, wouldn’t raise a voice for fear of incurring the ire of the rioters, while the authorities were, as usual, playing coy of stamping out the riots for ‘political reasons’.

Coming back to the point of the unhelpful Police, have any of you lost a phone, or a vehicle and have been turned out by the Police with the statement, “Lodge an FIR, and then we’ll see”? Or have you heard that a rape or an assault victim, especially a woman, has been taunted by the Police, “If you dress like that, or roam around at that hour, its bound to happen”? Or have you ever faced a wall of stone when you approached the Police about your grievances against a political big-wig? And how many of you have taken action against such latent oppression?

The Police are not the only authority or institution that feeds on the fear or worse still, the apathy of the public to get away with it. Every authority, when it does not have the ‘check’ of a watchful public, becomes a dictatorship, even a democracy like ours that is ostensibly of the people, for the people and by the people.

Forget about the government and other authorities, sections of our population face oppression and maltreatment at the hands of those who wield power over them in some way – like my house-help who couldn’t speak up about her oppression for months because of her husband or her in-laws who forced her into silence in the name of saving the marriage. Or abused children who can’t speak up about the heinous acts done to them because of fear of retaliation and ridicule from their families.

You may say, and your point would be valid, that no good has ever come from raising voices against oppression; you would only be beating yourself down while the powers that be will be quick to dismiss you, maybe even kill you! Some of you may say that ‘the system’ won’t allow any changes. Yes, maybe in the short-term it won’t, but in the long-term, it will. You and I may not be able to see that change, but at least our children will because we dared to do it. 

History has taught us that changes come only when a voice is raised against oppression –

The bans on Sati, child marriage, untouchability, apartheid, and the right of women to vote, to study in general schools and colleges, and to own property, these changes all came about because someone dared to say ‘no’.

Having seen what it is like to be in a Democracy, I think it is time that we stopped relying on the power of our votes alone to bring about changes. All political parties, all elected candidates, all oppressive factions of societies suffer from selective amnesia after they come to power. They may write off their promises to us, giving an excuse of authoritative encumbrances or may just shrug us off like dust on their shoulders after they’ve received our votes. The easiest medium of change is raising a voice because it brings immediate attention to an existing grievance. No one achieved anything by staying silent in the face of oppression. Even Mahatma Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience and Satyagraha movements relied on silent disobedience against the oppression of the British.

We are born free and the same powers that gave the oppressor their voices gave us a voice too. We have the additional right to freedom of thought and expression granted by a Constitution that claims to belong to its people.

Speak up for change!

Let your oppression be known.

Your voice makes this society, this nation.

Make it matter. 

 

Image Source: Ninocare at Pixabay.

 

REGRETS HAVE NO VALUE – THE END

“Is there anyone in your life?”

She mulled over the loaded question while her mother looked at her searchingly, and in typical motherly fashion, where only mothers can guess what their child is going through, she prodded cautiously, “Why do I see regret on your face?”

She was jolted out of her reverie by Maa’s astute observation. Am I so transparent to her? But aching as she was to shed the deluge from her eyes, she gulped it down. Maa shouldn’t see me break down. It won’t be good for her.

“Regret, yes Maa, because I can’t find a prince charming yet. Maybe I’ll die a spinster with a few hundred cats,” she joked while faking a laugh.

“If that is meant to amuse me, it doesn’t. I’d like you to find someone like Diana did. Find a good man. I know why you hesitate to marry. Beta, not every marriage turns out like my own. Look at Diana….” the twin exertion of talking and worrying produced a fit of coughing in Maa and she immediately curled up in pain on the bed.

“Maa please don’t exert yourself for me. I know what you’re saying is right. I know you’re concerned about me but please, don’t worry. I’ve managed just fine till now and I will even in the future. Maybe when the time is right, I’ll find my Mr Right. Besides I have you now,” she smiled while she handed Maa a glass of water, plumped up her pillow and made her lie back down. “Just rest for me, please. Before I leave, I’d like to see you back in your own home and standing on your own two feet.”

A frail smile graced her mother’s face and Nina felt satisfied, no, content in the knowledge that her broken home was repaired at last. She didn’t care if she spent the rest of her life as a spinster, she had prepared for that eventuality for the past many years. But now she knew she won’t die lonely with her regrets. She had the love of a family, the love of a parent. And love does not have to limit itself to a love between a man and a woman. Love came in such varied forms. She knew she’d be just as happy with that kind of love because up until now she had nothing and no one.

Her mother looked like she was dozing off, so she kissed her forehead and tiptoed out of the room, where the doctor found her and gave her the welcome news that Maa was recovering well and would be discharged from the hospital soon.

A week went by when Maa was eventually discharged and in the midst of family and in the comfort of her home, she got better in no time. Meanwhile, Diana and her husband never once let Nina feel that she was an outsider. Her nieces were always vying for her attention, but what made Nina most happy was that her mother, it seemed, wanted to spend all of her waking hours with her, like she wanted to make up for all the lost time. So did Nina. So they happily indulged each other in small excesses of family life that are born out of love and affection for those we care for.

While at the same time she and Nisha had become more than mere acquaintances. Their frequent phone calls and Whatsapp chit-chats from time to time revealed to Nina how warm-hearted Nisha was. She had come to care for Nisha a lot in a short span of time and it was all owing to how open and kind Nisha was.

“You have to come to Bangalore first and have dinner with my family before you leave for Kolkata, or else I won’t talk to you ever again!” Nisha had commanded Nina and though it came as a surprise to her how quickly Nisha had begun to exert herself in their friendship, this was the most endearing quality of Nisha’s – that she was so trusting and trustworthy. Nina promised her she would come.

The day of her departure from Mysore was a teary-eyed one. Maa kissed her cheeks profusely, there were never-ending hugs and solemn promises that Nina would try to shift her place of work to either Bangalore or somewhere closer to Mysore so she could come and visit Maa and Diana as often as possible. Throughout the drive back from Mysore to Bangalore, she only thought of how bright the future with her family looked. It seemed she had found peace and love at last.

When she arrived at Nisha’s plush apartment, after checking into her hotel room for the day, she received a warm welcome from Nisha and her daughter, Myra. She couldn’t shake the feeling that Myra resembled someone but she couldn’t remember who, that is till ‘her’ Ankit walked in and she realized that Ankit was Myra’s father!

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Time froze as they stood looking at each other. A part of her told her that she shouldn’t stare at him like so because he wasn’t ‘her‘ Ankit anymore, but it was as if her eyes had a mind of their own. They would not stop staring with open longing, regret and sorrow at him.

His own eyes spoke volumes about how he still felt. It seemed the passing years had taken their youth from their faces but the effect they had on each other had not faded.

Nisha was bewildered, offended as well, as a married woman should  be who finds her husband openly gaping at another woman. She cleared her throat and addressed her husband, “Ankit, this is…”

“Nina! Nisha this is the Nina I told you about.” He looked at his wife guiltily, while Nisha clapped a hand over her face in horror.

Nisha’s reaction to this information made Nina realize just what her presence must be doing to this otherwise happy family. Regaining her senses, she stammered, “I… I’m so sorry. I… had no idea she… she was your… I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t be here at all. I’ll leave right away…” and she began to retrace her steps to the elevator, but a hand stalled her.

It was Nisha’s.

“No please, stay. This wasn’t your fault. This isn’t anyone’s fault. You had no way of knowing. And besides, what does it change? You liked him and he liked you but that’s in the past. The future is that you and I are friends and I don’t see any reason why the past should have any effect on that.”

Oh god, why is she so sweet and simple minded? Nina wished Nisha would rebuke her, tell her to leave, tell her that she wasn’t welcome in their cosy lives, but instead Nisha wanted to be friends. What kind of woman is she?

“No please I can’t. I won’t…”

“You will.” Ankit’s voice boomed out from behind them, “Because otherwise, you’ll break Nisha’s heart. And because you owe me an explanation.” His voice may have been gruff, but there was a hint of hurt in it. Nisha tugged at Nina’s hand and after much cajoling, Nina came back to their apartment.

There was an awkward moment when neither knew what to say or where to look but then Ankit turned to Nisha and asked, “Can I have a moment alone with her, if you don’t mind?”

“Why would I? I trust you and her unconditionally.” Nisha smiled up at her husband and then, without a word, without a glance back, went away to another room, shutting the door behind her, leaving them alone in the spacious living room that felt too small because of the suffocating silence that inundated it.

Ankit began, “How have you been?”

She smirked and shrugged, “As you can see, I’ve been good, I guess. And… you?”

“I think you can see too.” His lips smiled but his eyes didn’t.

Nina sighed. Yes, she could see he was very happy and led a blessed life. Till she came around with her sorry self, dredging up memories of a sad past. She felt like a useless piece of furniture that needed to be discarded.

“You’re very lucky you have her. She’s a great lady – warm, loving and accepting. She trusts you so much,” she looked down just then because she couldn’t stand being stared at by his searching eyes.

“I know. But you never did,” he accused and her head shot back up to his eyes. But he wasn’t done with his assault, “You never gave me a chance. You never told me why? And today I want you to tell me because I don’t think I’ll ever have closure unless you tell me why.”

A tear rolled down her cheek and she swiped at it with an irritated hand. She didn’t need any more embarrassment, but God, it seemed today her body was not under her own control. “Why?! Why indeed! Maybe because I didn’t want a marriage like my parents had. Because I didn’t want a broken home. Because I wasn’t sure if I could survive after suffering another heartbreak…”

“You thought I would walk away from you just like that? Nina, you never trusted me or my love to give yourself up to me…”

Yes!! Yes, I couldn’t trust you Ankit, because I didn’t trust myself! I didn’t want you going through what my father did. I didn’t want to be a mother to a child who grew up in the fear of being rebuked, beaten and abandoned. I didn’t want to turn into my mother!” She was crying openly now, uncaring whether her mascara and kohl ruined her face or not, or whether his neighbours heard.

“So this was why you rejected me? Because you couldn’t trust yourself to be better than your mother? Bad families do not run in the genes, Nina! Love, togetherness, effort, sacrifice…trust, that’s what makes a happy family.”

“Yes, I know that… now. My sister has a wonderful family of her own and I know now that broken homes can be mended as well. And you… look at your own family. It’s beautiful, just what you deserve! But it’s too late for all that now,” she looked past Ankit to his home, his happy abode, his life, and then with the solemn understanding of someone who has come to terms with their loss, she said, “I love your wife. She’s the perfect partner for you that you deserve. I think it was destined for you to marry someone like her who had no issues with trust. I wish you two all the luck in the world and I want you to know that I’ll never, never, never bother either of you again.”

Alarmed, Ankit said, “But why can’t we be friends? Nisha is not the sort to bear grudges, Nina. She likes you immensely…”

“And so do I but I can’t live with my regret staring me in the face everytime I see you or her. And neither of you deserves that kind of burden. We can’t be friends!”

She started backing away from him and he opened his mouth again to say something but Nina cut him off with a staying hand, “No Ankit, there’s nothing you or Nisha can say to convince me that staying friends with you will be of any good. I’ll only cause problems if I stayed. I was the past, she’s your present and your future, and the past has no place in the future, Ankit. So please don’t stop me. I won’t be stopped. I’m so happy that you’re happy, believe me, I am and I’ll always pray that you stay this way with your family. Farewell.”

Clutching her handbag to her heart like it was her lifeline, she hurtled down the stairs. Ankit called out to her, but she didn’t answer. Then Nisha called out to her, but she didn’t turn back. She knew what she had to do. She knew her place and it wasn’t as anything or anyone in their lives. She knew what she had found back in Mysore. She knew there would be no happiness for her unless she let go of the past. Her past had only regrets and regrets had no value. She had vowed she won’t lead a life of regrets anymore and she knew letting go of this regret was the right step into the future.

Onward she went and never looked back.

 

THE END

 

Image Source: CC0 Creative Commons at Pixabay.

FREE INDIA: I BURNT YOUR HOUSE BECAUSE YOU BURNT MINE

Today is India’s 69th Republic Day.

69 years ago we gave ourselves the Constitution and swore to abide by it as honest, progressive and peace-loving citizens. 69 years hence we are doing everything but that.

We are now a nation that not only endures but covertly even encourages religious bigotry, self-righteous vandalism, myopic sexism and ruthless rioting. Certain sections of our citizens have learnt that the Constitution is actually a toothless tiger. Worse still, some of our countrymen believe that it exists only so that it may allow them the freedom to engage in vandalizing properties, killing their own countrymen, abusing each other’s religious sentiments, violating our men, women and children and terrorizing their own brethren over trivialities like a movie!

This anger in my writing is a reaction towards the fringe mob attack on a school bus which was conveying children to their homes. The mob was protesting the release of the controversial movie, Padmaavat, in Gurugram, India, and had preiously burnt a State Transport bus before setting eyes on the school bus. Those of you who yet do not know of the attack, please head to this link and see the horror for yourself. And those of you who want to know why there are protests over the movie Padmaavat, please click on this link.

Anger swamped me when I first saw the video on a news channel and I’m sure this is the same emotion that must have overcome you while you were watching that video through the link above. These were innocent, harmless children, some as young as 4 – 6 years old, who were heading home from school, while their bus was assaulted with stones and sticks by an unruly mob whose only reason to protest was the release of a movie that depicts a character from folklore…okay, maybe history, but that character is very much dead.

I repeat – this was a ‘moving school bus carrying children‘.

Thankfully there were no casualties, but what if there were? What if the driver got hurt while he was driving, leading to an accident… and deaths? How does attacking children resolve the issue for these rioters? Where do we draw the line between the right to protest and heedless vandalism? If you have watched the video you may have noted the newscaster’s anger and she is right in pointing out, ‘These could have been my children, these could have been your children’. But it’s not just about whose children these were. The bigger question is how do you justify attacking an alive human being over a piece of fiction?

Sometimes I feel freedom is wasted on us Indians because we don’t just misuse it, we abuse it. This is not the only case of abuse of freedom that we have seen within the last one year itself in India. The very start of the year was besmirched by the infamous mass molestation of women in Bangalore on New Year’s Eve, followed by equally shocking incidents like the inter-religious attacks over the beef ban issue, the Bhima Koregaon attack and the northern India riots over Godman Ram Rahim Singh’s rape conviction. But these are bigger transgressions in the name of freedom. How about everyday abuse of freedom – in the blatant violations of traffic rules; in our stubbornness in finding loopholes in the law; in our netas not only supporting but propagating vandalism and unlawfulness; in our ‘chalta hai‘ and ‘jugaadu‘ attitude for everything; in a person spitting or peeing on public property because he can and because there’s no one to put a check on him?

The above instances prove that we have not only no regard for the law, but also that it has become the agitated Indian’s habit to take to the streets and cause mayhem, sometimes going to the extent of drawing blood, in the name of religion, cult, culture and gender? Throughout these incidents, the Police were powerless, the governments inert while the opposition is either muckraking or fuelling the agitation.

What use is the Constitution? What use are these words contained in the Preamble:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and… FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation…

These are just words if we Indians do not internalize them and base our lives upon these ideals enshrined in the Constitution. My fellow Indians, remember, we are lucky that we have the freedom to do as we please, to go where we want, to worship who we want and to practice what we want. There are many other nations out there where freedom is not freedom in the real sense of the word; where you may be free to breathe, but death is considered a better option. Consider yourself lucky that you are born in a country where tolerance is not just an ideal but a way of life. But in your lust for freedom do not forget that you are part of a bigger thing – you are a nation. You, your beliefs and your actions are what shape your nation. The future of us, our children, will have the same beliefs as you do. Give them a better lesson than violence and intolerance.

Freedom does not mean that you do as you please. If every one of us was free to do as we pleased, we would have anarchy. Freedom comes with a responsibility – that of respecting the freedom and well-being of others. If you don’t respect the right’s of other’s, why will other’s respect your rights? If you have burnt someone’s house to the ground citing religious freedom as the reason, remember tomorrow your house could be the victim of someone else’s right to religious freedom.

Violence does not need a reason but remember that you only reap what you sow.

This Republic Day, let’s take a vow to be responsible citizens. To bring out differences and resolve them by dialogue and not violence. To practice freedom but not out of malice and indifference towards the freedom of others. To abjure inhumanity, intolerance and deviant behaviour that harms the people of this country and the ideals of our forefathers. Citizens, compatriots, this Republic Day vow to rise above your menial differences and become better human beings.

Jai Hind!

Image Source: Catchnews

WHY SARCASM DOES NOT MAKE YOU WITTY

“She’s so fat even a hippo would look slimmer than her.”

“I thought I was looking at a blackhole!”

“Dodos aren’t extinct. I’m looking at one.”

“Looks like the waiter went off to grow those coffee beans.”

And the quintessential Indian snark – “Arey kahan mar gaya?” (Where did you go off to?) Actually, nothing in the English language comes close to translating the anger, frustration and derision in this Hindi idiom that literally means ‘did you die or what’.

When we, at Candles Online, decided that this week would be dedicated to ‘Pour Out’, meaning thereby that we would get an opportunity to rant on anything that our hearts desired, I jumped at the opportunity of writing about Sarcasm and how we seem to confuse it with wit. Well of course, there is a fair bit of wit involved in making a sarcastic comment – you have to know the recipient, you have to select a thorny topic that irks them every time, or would irk anybody in a certain situation, and find a clever way to garb that in a jocular form so no one can call you a meanie on your face. That takes intelligence alright. No wonder sarcastic people are also liked so much because it requires ample presence of mind to make sarcasm work. So, to anybody sarcasm = intelligence. But I don’t see it that way, or don’t see it that way anymore. This article makes a case for why witty sarcasm does not make you intelligent.

All of us, at some point in our lives, have been guilty of using the highlighted statements above, or something similar to that. We may have also been at the receiving end of such statements. After all, it’s so satisfying to dole out smart and wicked barbs at others just for the pleasure of watching them cringe or suffer. Right? But when you were at the receiving end of such barbs, did you ever notice the feelings it generated in you, even if it came from a friend? Did you not feel insulted, ridiculed, angry and disgusted, even if it was only for a fraction of a second? Would you want to feel that way? I don’t think I’ve ever come across a person who likes to feel that way, forever or even just once. Then why do we like to incite such feelings in others, when we ourselves would not like to feel that way?

No, no, don’t try to defend your statements. Don’t try to tell me ‘that person deserved it’ or that ‘it was meant as a joke’.

Sarcasm is never, I repeat, NEVER, a positive thing. Even if it is deserved, or meant as a joke, there is an element of derision present in it. Which is why I said, ‘guilty’ at the start of the paragraph above because it is a guilty pleasure that is purely born out of our contempt for someone or a situation.

Being at both the making and receiving end of sarcasm has taught me just one thing – it’s never welcome. I have been one of those people who would make unwarranted sarcastic comments on people only to watch them cringe, or to look smart. I’ve done that even to friends and at the time I used to think that it was cool, that it showed how intelligent I was. Only when I lost a lot of friends owing to my sarcasm did I learn that it just wasn’t worth it. But by then it was too late. There are some of my acquaintances who I’ve met recently and who were unaware of my changed behaviour, they still dislike me because of how I used to make fun of them. And now it hurts!

But I’ve noticed that it’s become a trend these days to not only make sarcastic comments but encourage them too. While I was at school, it used to be considered cool to say ‘Excused!’ in reply to ‘Excuse me‘, or if someone is clumsy, then remark ‘he was born with a hole in his hand‘ or when you bumped into someone, ‘do you have eyes or buttons’. Even when I joined college, it was not only the same, it was happening even more. Maybe I’d always been this sensitive but it always came as a shock to me how someone could be so blatantly contemptible to others, even to their own friends. Maybe that was the reason why I became that way as well, because I saw it happening around me all the time, but I shouldn’t make excuses for the way I behaved. Watch any television show, especially comedies, and you’ll come across characters like Dr. House who makes blood-boiling sarcastic comments. Yes, we love him but that’s because we are not at the receiving end of those comments, unlike his poor co-workers.

So, we know that sarcasm is not a good thing. But how do I prove that sarcasm does not make you intelligent? I’ll give you an example from my life.

A few weeks ago, while I was dining with some friends, I heard someone in my know remark, “I think she’s gone off to Darjeeling to pluck the tea leaves”, to her boyfriend, about a waitress. This was followed by pointless tittering from both she and her boyfriend, who I could see, liked the way his girlfriend made such ‘smart’ comments (trust me, I know this person very well and she LOVES to make sarcastic comments ALL THE TIME). This incident was the reason why I started to think about why we are encouraging sarcasm so much in our society. It’s a nuisance, admittedly, but its encouraged because it gives us pleasure to inflict pain on others. That sort of behaviour is called sadism. Why are we garbing it as intelligence? Why are we encouraging behaviour that inculcates tolerance to sarcasm? Intelligence does not lie in making fun of someone, especially when that someone is in a position where they cannot answer back. Like the waitress in the above case, or a daughter or son in law, or an employee or servant. If you make a sarcastic comment on people who have the better sense to not answer back, and you know that they can’t answer back, then who is the more intelligent of the two?

Real intelligence lies in knowing when to shut up and when to just ignore a person, even when he deserves sarcasm from you.

So if your friend drops something for the thousandth time, now I think it’s better to just walk away rather than say something sarcastic and hurt our relationship. If you have never known just how much more satisfying it is to just walk away from a sarcastic person, rather than getting down to their ugly level, then I urge you, please try it. It’s difficult at first, but ultimately every bully will learn that his barbs are not working on you. But the main reason why you should not be making sarcastic comments is because it hurts someone and because you would not want to hurt that way. 

I hope that I have convinced you, dear readers, that sarcasm is not a witty thing, it is the opposite of it. It may give you a moment’s pleasure, but in the long run, the real loser is you. I know all of us get tempted to succumb to that sweet pleasure, and maybe every now and then someone may deserve it too, but please don’t make it a habit. You never know when you may be at the receiving end.