15 December 2012

Cry. Heal. Repeat.

I am not a parent. I am not an American. I am not a shooter. I'm simply a person across several time zones from Connecticut right now who witnessed what the world did. A massacre. Brutality. Let's face the facts. It happens all the time in many countries. On a daily basis. It will happen again. Now turn around and go get a cup of tea, sigh, cry a little, feel better, have a second cup of tea and go shopping for tonight's dinner. The next time, you'll be the one in the supermarket being shot at, with that bottle of wine dripping on the floor, mixing with your own blood. Because it will happen. It's not an if. It's a when. 

Through the entire tragedy of Sandy Hook, there are three clear things that have surfaced and I'm stating them in absolute terms, with no exceptions, zero apology for profanity or emphasis and plenty of evidence. 

1) The NRA are fucking criminal bastards. 
2) This is not a mental health issue; it's a gun availability issue.
3) You are already too fucking late. 

It's no longer a question of debate; in fact it hasn't been one for years. Death and taxes don't include the phrase death by murder. When you ensure, as a nation, that bullets and candy are available less than a mile apart, you're ensuring a million Virginia Techs, a million Sandy Hooks and the inevitable destruction of an actual population who will one day see no value in having a child. This isn't just about the USA being lackadaisical, nay, criminally stupid in its gun control legislation and clearly President Obama, while shedding a tear on international television still didn't have the gumption to come prepared with actionable words. Like everything else, it's about the profitability of keeping it so. Some other White House idiot said today isn't the time to discuss policy. That's right you moron. It isn't. That time has long since passed you by. The time to grieve isn't mutually exclusive to the time for action, to redress, to rectify, to change. Bloomberg, for all his nonsense, was right when he said 'This must end today.' 

But will it? America is so fond of telling the world what to do and how to do it. Doesn't look so easy now, does it? A friend of mine, an American, said today: shame, shame, shame on my country. I'd go a step further. Shame, shame, shame on all human beings. Someone should have stopped at monkeys. 

20 June 2012

The Colour of Money

In the movie 'The Color of Money' Paul Newman's character, Eddie Felson has a great line. 'It's even but it ain't settled. Let's settle it.' 

India needs a bit of Paul Newman's chutzpah. As a common person on the street- well, not so common that I'm spitting anywhere- I'm a little intrigued and a little confused. Complex economic theories are all fine study material on most days but when there's a country of over 2 billion people who count among the world's youngest work force, there are bound to be a few questions under the banner of 'This just doesn't make sense to us!' 

Fact: India's current GDP has expanded 5.3% in the first quarter of 2012. Expanded. 
Confusion: Fitch downgrades India from stable to negative.
Common Man: Does that mean I'm doing well or am I being bollocked? 

Fact: India's total debt currently stands at  $316.9 billion. 
Confusion: Who do we owe so much money to? The World Bank? Other countries? 
Common Man: How am I going to end up paying for this? And when? 

Fact: India gives $ 10 billion in aid to the Eurozone
Confusion: Where is this money coming from? Don't we need it for ourselves? 
Common Man: Why am I helping people when I myself don't have enough to eat? 

The latest headlines have raised not just money for the ailing Eurozone (I can hear my Czech friends saying gleefully: we told you it was a bad bad idea!) but also many questions in the minds of the average Indian who prays to a thousand unanswering gods before heading off to work. 

Did my country just loan 10 billion dollars to people who enjoy a better lifestyle on average than we do? 

Did my country ask my permission to distribute my money to people who don't exactly treat me with respect when I visit them? 

Does anyone wonder why it still costs 70 rupees to purchase 1 euro? Or 56 rupees to purchase 1 US dollar? Or 88 rupees to purchase 1 British pound?

Does anyone question why it takes so much money and time for Indians to obtain visas to all these countries that claim they have no money and need ours? 

If they have no money and we have plenty, how come we're still the developing world and they're the developed world? Do they have the money to turn on all the lights they've strung up on every street? 

I see, hear, read and smell all these questions on every Indian's lips, whether he's a janitor at an airport or a fat corporate cat planning his next acquisition and most especially on the lips of all those Indians in between - the me and you and all our friends who just don't understand why it still isn't settled yet.

25 February 2012

The Miseducation of Miss Kamal

Yes I've attended colleges and universities and have some sheets of papers that have some names of degrees printed on them, gathering dust somewhere in some cupboard that defies a kingdom of termites out of sheer fear of my mother.

But I'm not talking about that education. I'm talking about my miseducation. The one that I could have almost missed. The one that's cleverly hidden away until we look in the unlikeliest of places. It's really like finding a lion in a teacup.

Miseducation Number 1.
Theatre. Had I not been involved with it since an early age, I wouldn't have understood words the way I continue to. I would have been literate but not truly educated. Thank you script, stage, sound, lights and costume. You have been my toys and my weapons and I owe you much.

Miseducation Number 2.
Manooghi Hi. Music is looked upon as entertainment. As a hobby. As a passion. Rarely a job. Never a miseducation. But this band is miseducation at its best. It seduced me, in the last few years to re-examine old theories, concepts, even distorted words, corrupted ideas, birthed sound with a screech that left me cross-eyed between desire and disgust. This band of crazy, wonderful, miraculous, hopeful losers, taught me things about my own job, my beliefs and then rattled every part of my brain into unlearning it. I don't know how and why they do it and how the hell they find the strength and drive that allows them not just to be fabulous musicians but to really educate, teach, impart and colour the world they touch, in the most brilliant paroxysms of sound and word. Thank you Mehnaz, Todd, Ava, Hollis, Jimmy, Jarrod, Kent. You are the actual spelling of Hope and Joy.

Miseducation Number 3.
Teaching India. From a tiny volunteering teaching job to being a guest lecturer at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Hyderabad, teaching is the biggest miseducation of all. We know nothing is a phrase that pops out in particular. The youth, the biggest know-it-all group in the world is a hungry predator and if you're not practising the kill, they'll chew you up and spit you out with their thousands of questions and why nots. I owe them all a debt of gratitude for re-educating me about education and teaching and the courage, discipline and fun that are prerequisites. Degrees are for sale. Those are not. Thank you, Nishrin and all the students. Even the ones who dozed in class or texted behind a book. Yup, I knew. I just need to teach better.

Miseducation Number 4.
Kristin Pedroja. Yes, that's right. One person. When we met. 2003. Number of times we've met since then. Zero. Number of times we've collaborated on ideas, taught, critiqued, cajoled, helped, exposed, trashed, praised and assisted in nothing less than a PhD in 'The Thankless Pains Of Writing.' 987,654,321. A tiny woman who's so tall, it's hard for me to imagine not walking with that shadow by my side as I toil over each sentence, punctuation and character. She is proof that no publisher, no literary agent, no appointed editor can do for your writing what a writer who really loves to write, read and selflessly share her brain, can. Thank you, Kristin. You're really one of my Tall Women.

And thus continues the Miseducation of Miss Kamal for which she's truly grateful. These are not paper degrees nor are they merit badges. They are simply what allow me to find and refine my unique expression. And then try to find a word that's not as un-unique as unique.

10 February 2012

Like or Unlike

This is the first posting in 2012 and it's strange that I'd opt for a topic related to technology rather than the things I love - books, art, music. But I observe that the things I love are somewhat reluctant hostages to technology in many ways and so I find myself unable to live in a world where the two are separated. Coming from a generation that was truly transitionary - we went from the rotary dial telephone to the mobile communication devices we use today- it's been a wild ride from simplicity to sleek sophistication. In other words, user friendly gadgets designed to make our lives easier and faster. 

Frankly I'm a bit of a luddite and a bit lost. I know how to use a telephone, a television and a computer. I know the various brand names and the various formats and the various uses. I know I know I know. Do I care? I apparently don't. Sure, this blog wouldn't be happening if someone named Gates or Wozniak or Jobs hadn't done what they did and I'm probably grateful to them in some sort of begrudging way. But did they put the thoughts into my head? I'd like to shout out a resounding NO. We've learned to do everything faster and in more colours than we can pronounce, but haven't learnt how to be more creative, more thoughtful, more patient, more kind or more responsible. We've just learned how to spin the wheels faster and change them every nine and a half days. Upgrades we call them. But we upgrade things. Not ourselves. Updates we call them. But we update things, Not our deeds. 

I'm not against technology, certainly. In fact, I do embrace it. I like my fancy new phone and my fancy new iPad and what have you. I like I like I like. I even like the Like button. But I keep circling back to the same thought in my uncomputerised brain. What about me? What about you? What about the people I interact with or hate or love? What about them? There seems to be an inverse ratio between technological upgradation and human upgradation. The more buttons we play with, the less human we seem to become. 

In the last year, there have been incredible upheavals of man and nature. The humanity of man has seen a sharp and direct drop just as technological advancement has reached new peaks. Isn't there something wrong with this picture? I would rather have one less version of Apple or BlackBerry or Android or whatever and one more version of charity, kindness, justice and peace. Would you?

The race towards the smallest chip, the thinnest computer, the fastest car and the biggest building is unstoppable. But in the midst of all this demonic speed, our humanity is still wrapped somewhere around the cord of the rotary dial telephone.