Sunday, 16 April 2017

THEY SAY, FIGHTING LONELINESS GETS EASIER WITH THEM BY YOUR SIDE


The news flashed saying, ‘A stray dog that had been adopted by a woman repaid her kindness by laying down its life saving her from a knife-wielding attacker.’ Lucky was the name she had given to this stray who she had adopted and lucky indeed she was to be saved by him. Lucky came into her life when she was battling loneliness after her mother’s demise; and for someone who had lost somebody special in her life, Lucky was like a sudden profit after a colossal loss. I am told and do believe that dogs do fill up gaps in the lives of many.
My thoughts then jumped to a striking statement made some time back by a well-known actor’s wife, who was quoted to have said that she would never want to be a woman who spent her day at work all day long, only to come back home to her baby in the evenings as if it were a puppy. She successfully outraged several ladies who claimed that they stepped out of their homes not to enjoy kitty parties with friends or on shopping sprees, but to bring back home a good amount of expense contributions with self-respect. 
However, when one and all were so much focussed on the love for their children and the pains they took for their upbringing, I could hear a whisper murmuring to me some truth about the way a large number of people behave with animals. I wondered if the star lady’s statement had implied something more about humans who kept pets at their homes. Did they not care enough for their pups who they said they loved and cared for, did they simply had them home to feel better when they returned from work, or were they in any ways irresponsible shirkers who found that dogs would always in their barks and silence accept any injustice mankind did to them in all their ungrateful humanness?
Again, another supporting happening in my thought process was the movie ‘Boss Baby’, which got me thinking over the strange plot of a baby as a secret agent in a secret war between babies and puppies. The modern world being already overpopulated, perhaps some couples prefer to bring home puppies rather than those little demanding human creatures. The question then arises, does man bring home a pet to share his overflowing love or does he do so because he is grieving due to lack of  reciprocated love? Of course, everybody knows that a dog’s love is genuine? Or has man become so careless and irresponsible that he prefers to shirk the responsibility of a human child and instead brings in a fun and loyal companion? Or is it that man has heard enough stories of ingratitude of human children to bother about them; their expenses and the heartbreaks from such relationships and feels lighter with a speechless creature at home?
Whatever the reasons, it does not show man in bright light. Though I am not a passionate animal lover myself, I do respect the four-legged friends who have secured a mark of loyalty in all stories of the past and present. On the one side I feel it injustice towards these animals whose movement gets restricted in cluttered city apartments, for I believe that they need open space to roam around freely. But I am also aware of the research on benefits of pets, which have proved tremendous therapeutic health benefits to their owners. Dogs are believed to reduce loneliness and decrease stress. Dog owners get loads of health benefits when they take their pet out for a walk having an advantageous position of exercising themselves. Dogs are known to repay love tenfold. Their commitment is a life-time one. And all they want in return for all their love is to be loved; it’s that simple. In fact when I wanted a character to fill up a short story of mine, where a little girl needed help to overcome her stress levels, I put over there a dog as her helper. In ‘Reading to Tommy’, little Kishori got an intent listener in Tommy, who simply heard her read, without being judgmental. His silent presence had tremendous effect on her stuttering and she was able to read with a flow which was surprisingly joyful. It was the presence of this animal which helped her to scale new heights. The reading of the story to the animal, itself proved to be a moment of transformation.  “One day, as she was going home from school, she saw a hill-lock. Oh! She walked close to it and felt like climbing its small height. She knew that her mother would be upset with her as she would be wasting a lot of study time, but then she wanted to waste her time and so she began to climb. As she climbed the hill she saw beautiful, colourful flowers growing at her feet. They smiled at her as her toes touched their soft petals. She bent down to feel their smoothness and even plucked a few of them and put them in her hair. She climbed higher and higher till she reached the top.” – (‘The Short Skirt from India’ by Ruby Malshe)

In India, animal activists have a tough job trying to explain to people about difficulties that animals go through due to the negligence of mankind. Take for instance the festival of Diwali, where a number of animals are reported to getting scared and some even fatally burnt due to the careless use of crackers. A little information about Nepal’s Kukur Tihar Festival could help us become sensitive towards these furry and loyal creatures. This five-day autumnal festival has lamps lit everywhere since it is the festival of lights and celebrates the triumph of knowledge over ignorance when it understandingly values the role of dogs in the life of humans and extols them to a position of companions and friends. The festival does not simply waste itself in self pleasures of good food and clothes and entertaining gatherings of the kind, but acknowledges a deep connection between all living things.

At a recent function organised by the Bombay Veterinary College at Parel in Mumbai, a special program was organised to felicitate working dogs from the police, railways and bomb squads and a lifetime achievement award was given to a retired police dog who had been adopted after his retirement by an octogenarian lady, who in her speech made a very striking point that perhaps needs cogitation. She expressed her concern as to why people did not adopt retired or maimed service dogs? She believed that some facility for such animals would be a great service to those who had served us in all their unselfishness, safeguarding the public during their tenure. She expressed that it would be a great way of thanksgiving to these honest and loving creatures, if people who had farm houses could adopt at least one such retired dog. I had always believed that dogs needed space as big as farms but honestly I hadn't given ever mind to a thought as generous and altruistic as this.


Perhaps if her suggestion were to be taken into consideration, then many lonely and remotely placed hearts would get companionship and many more stories of loyalty could be given narration opportunity. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

LET THE GRASSHOPPERS SING


What if the Ant and the Grasshopper, the heroine and the villain of this one of the most read Aesop’s fable exchanged places? If we were to switch their roles, I’m sure they wouldn’t fit in easily. The delight of the Grasshopper to enjoy the beauties of the surroundings; to take in all of the environment as the base of inspiration to sing, rap, dance, write poems and stories wouldn’t be easy for the Ant. And of course the seriousness of the Ant, her laborious life, her hard work would be indigestible for the Grasshopper.

The philosophy of the Ant, the one which focuses on material goods and the philosophy of the Grasshopper, the one which delights in life and its beauties, are two sides of a coin which are essential for the piece of metal to be of any satisfactory use and bring happiness.

The Ant would normally feel that creativity takes no great talent; that it’s just a waste of valuable time where the whole of man is given away to the senses, where he lies drowsing away days, where the creative person is dangerously lazy and a lot of his time is wasted on vain and empty pleasures. Whereas the Grasshopper would express that hard work was not difficult at all; only drab and dull. That it only concentrated on profit in life, that comforts of industrial wealth was a prior in his life, that it always sought substantial protection, that it felt safe only when it saw a firm future, that it believed that joys and security had to be lasting, that it never went out of season to experience something different and that it always successfully passed avarice upon the world.

The moral taught to us in this story, was that hard work during summer prepared rest for us during winter; and that those who wasted their time singing away in summer, could be told mercilessly to dance away the winter. 

The story in a way promoted a strict code of behaviour of toil where misbehaviour of leisure was unpardonable.

Today however, the need of the hour urges us to be more forgiving and less harsh with those unfortunate ones who probably were not taught the difference between the right and the wrong of the puritanical code of accountability. Of course we need to take care of our necessities, but once they have been fulfilled we also need to take a look at the needs of our neighbours and give them what we may have in spare. Such encouragement of sharing would do common good to humanity at large. What we need to understand today in spite of wearing our crown of self righteousness, is that forgiveness need not have any feeling in its applicability but a decision to act in a particular way. Wouldn’t it be harsh on our part to focus on one man’s fault while ignoring the duty of another? Our conceited response, bereft of mercy to the wrong the other man did would only lead us to be inhumane. The Ant would have risen in her soul climb if she had relieved the Grasshopper in his distress, even when the troubles his way were the evidence of his actions.

And to look at this issue from yet another point of view, if all the Grasshoppers were left to shiver in the winter as a penalty for spending their summers singing and painting, there would be no art left in this world. It is after all the songs the Grasshoppers wrote that the Ants tapped their feet listening to, when they were labouring away in the heat of the sun.


Our society needs Grasshoppers to make the fabric of our community of workers more endurable. For what are the Ants of the world but little birds who make nests on branches that could break under their weight and yet ceaselessly go on working to establish a place for themselves, tweeting away a song they may have heard which reminds them about their wings which could help them fly in moments unendurable. 

So let us not stop the Grasshoppers from singing if we want to hear and sing charming tunes of encouragement during arduous moments in our life.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

INDIA SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF CELEBRATING WOMEN’S DAY


A few days ago, my daughter called and asked, “Mum, do you know what the problem is?” and without waiting for an answer continued, “The problem is that I am a woman. I can’t help that though.” This angst was regarding the disparity regarding her salary. The Monster Salary Index has researched and found that Indian women earn quite a bit less than the Indian men even though they may be placed in the same position and work the same number of hours.

Today we may not be having a blatant disregard for women like in the olden days, but women still continue to face prejudices; which to avoid inconvenience, many of them brush aside like dust particles under carpets and sofas in their living rooms.
Yes of course women did get, or rather fought for rights to vote or to get educated; or in Mr. Narendra Modi’s India, a toilet to pee in privacy; but there is always a horror story which women seem to be scared of at their homes or work or even in the streets.

In fact on the 16th December 2012, every woman and every man who loved a woman was shaken up by the horrific Delhi gang rape. Since then the fear psychosis continues everyday in all places; even in schools where bra straps get snapped in classrooms in the presence of male teachers who tell the girls to ignore the mischief.

It’s ironic that we study women at the university level in our country and yet are unable to brush off the dust of tradition. Personally I feel that India has no right to celebrate Women’s Day; in fact India should be ashamed to ceremonialize this day. Indian men urgently need to get rid of all their women deities from their temples; their Laxmis and Sarawatis, Durgas, Kalis and Mother Marys must be brought out from the temples and churches as due respect to them from the hypocrisies of duel standard worship. These men must relearn instead to shift their form of veneration; transforming it with reverence towards their daughters, sisters, mothers and wives and women friends.

India must understand that her women don’t hunger for awards during fake elaborate entertainments, where Women’s Day cards or bouquets of roses mean nothing but business for card manufactures and florists. This pink spirit for one day and for the rest of the days the gloom of blood is not digestible.  Women all over the world are in general a strong and smart species. Their courage, their resistance, their smartness, their emotional strength in their day to day life is itself a great occasion for an Every Day celebration without any sort of worldwide recognition.

So this year, sans all the frills of this international celebration, sans the hypocrisy of a good number of Indian men, I prefer to salute this creative force in the world by acknowledging her greatness in all her simplicity.

Happy Every Day to her, who has been serving at my place and making my life easy for more than two decades. Sometimes happy and sometimes grieved; of course she has her moods; which I have learnt to manage, for I know that back home she has to manage a lot more. Married in her teens, troubled by her alcoholic husband and with a toddler in hand she dared to step out with fear and courage to give her company on the rough path called life. In all her illiteracy she had learnt that education was a must for her daughter in order to save her from a life like hers; and now her daughter, an economics major, has bought a home for herself. Today, I salute this courage that overcame fear.

Happy Every Day to her, who fell in love. They grew up together and yes, even got married. Strangely he found someone else. It broke her heart. She asked, ‘How could it have been?’ because it was a long time relationship. A shirt of self-sympathy and an overcoat of sympathetic pats on her back would have been so much more comfortable to shield from the world’s breeze of mockery; but she chose to take a swim in the harsh waters of life. Stepping out of marriage she chose to live life with respect. Today, I salute this strength to overcome disrespect.

Happy Every Day to her, who was too young to understand the difference between a good touch and a bad one. In those days there was no awareness too. Yet, she knew that something was wrong. There was no comfort in his lap. She stopped going near him; hid when he arrived. Showcasing his nonexistent innocence, he kept inquiring why she had turned so shy of him. Now she was big and strong to face the hypocrite. One day she knocked at his door. His wife welcomed her home. It had been so many years ago. “What has brought you home?” she asked. “I wish to confess”, she answered. He was old and his hands shivered; the old man’s disease. She went and sat on his lap. He smiled surprised and said, “Young lady, you are too old to sit on my lap now.” “Oh yes, I know”, she replied. “I just wanted to know if you would have the guts to touch me wrong even now”. Today, I salute this confidence to recognize a wrong and make it right.

Happy Every Day to her, who in a world that rejoices the birth of little boys, was a proud mother of two. They took long to grow and she worked hard too. But one day, the usual bickering and irritable one; unlike the fairy tale ‘one fine day’, she shifted herself to an old-age home because she didn’t like being shifted every few months from one son to another. She had worked hard to make them stable in life and didn’t appreciate the instability they offered her. Today, I salute this power of vision which sought self-respect even when vision in her eyes had gone weak.  

Happy Every Day to her, who continued in her marriage for her children; whose strength lay in abandoning personal joys for the happiness of others. Today I salute this power of sacrifice that woke up every morning with a smile in spite of the tears of last night.

Happy Every Day to all the women who in spite of having a voice, had to go through remarkably quiet and difficult personal journeys to find their vocal cords.

Happy Every day to all those women who didn’t ask who would let them do it but instead asked who would stop them from doing it.


Happy Every Day to all those women who could have sat down and cried till they died; but who instead wiped their tears and chose to stand strong.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

LET’S COLOUR OUR WORLD AND PREVENT PIGMENT HATE


Recently when I had to purchase a gift for a friend from a foreign land, I was advised to be colour conscious. ‘The western world is paler’, I was reminded. As an Indian, it was difficult to digest a colourless world. Strangely, though our skin colours are limited to white, black or brown, our blood everywhere is hot and vibrant red.

Memory took me far back in time when an acquaintance once had stopped me to inquire, as to where in the pink sari that I was then wearing, was there any shade of green, that I had the courage to wear a green blouse. The sari that I was then wearing, had a medley of colours at its base and to my relief, I quickly searched it to locate a tiny bit of green at the bottom. I escaped the cold look of my acquaintance! What got me thinking though was the word she had used. She had been amazed at my ‘courage’ to wear colour. Till then I didn’t know that colours needed confidence. As an Indian, I had grown up being incautious when I draped colours on my body. In fact, colours gave me strength to be happy in the gloomiest of times. And today when I was told that the West largely shirked from colours, I was in a way glad that I had the ability to do that which the West was probably frightened of.
Last year a young and beautiful Mexican friend came to India and splurged with colours from the street shops. Surprisingly again, it was the green and the pink; and what a glow it gave to her complexion! When asked what she had liked most about India she had said, ‘colours’.
In between this West and the East, my mind feels drawn to the earth I live on. How many colours she carries on her body! The brown of the soil, the green of the grass and the visually attractive in between courageous peeks of the colourfully vibrant florets. The blue of the oceans and the white of the waves; the colours of nature can indeed stimulate the dullest mind into creativity. And what’s marvellous is that the earth so effortlessly mixes the hues in spite of being so serene. Probably the West would be ruffled at how easily our planet carries all shades on her skin in all calmness. Perhaps it’s the politics of fashion which play a jinx on us. It has taken on itself the responsibility to teach us to wear colours and we pay it with our freedom of choice. If we were to emulate nature, we would be able to comfortably wrap ourselves in different shades without any rivalry or embarrassment.
A whisper here speaks a bit more to me. The recent shock waves felt in India due to Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian engineer being shot dead in a suspected hate crime in Kansas, has certainly shaken many parents of this land whose children are living in the United States. The scene could become every migrant’s nightmare indeed; but for the Ian Grillots who seem to care for all shades; and who come running to help when impulses of race and nativity begin to hold guns.

Perhaps some parts of our world need art classes to get down to understanding the benefits of mixing and matching of colours in the tapestry of life. Then in the long run our earth could wear a beautifully woven colourful carpet and spare us pigment crimes. The world would then clad itself in different shades of humility and mercy, stripping itself of any thread of ego. Grace from the skies above would shower waters to assist it in self-effacement cleaning up the dirt of divisions. Then there would be no need for new walls to be built with bricks of fear, because finally someday love would overpower the unpleasant emotion of hate.

What an amazingly beautiful world we would have an opportunity to live in, where the winters would blow the breeze of compassion and the summers would give the warmth of blessings. Where every man and woman would belong to the race of humanity and rely on the strength of values, honesty and care irrespective of religion, caste or the colour of their skin. Where people would have the courage to allow colours in their lives and neighbourhoods.
As humans, we have the opportunity to create a masterpiece of our lives using our intelligence by walking purposefully, worthily and accurately on the green grass of love, but sadly some of us prefer to plod through the mucky slush of hate and anger as we let go of wisdom.

“SO BE CAREFUL HOW YOU ACT; THESE ARE DIFFICULT DAYS. DON’T BE FOOLS; BE WISE: MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY YOU HAVE FOR DOING GOOD.” Ephesians 5:15,16

It would be injustice if I end without honouring the one who let go of thoughtless and foolish behaviour and chose not to be vague but grasped and understood the essence of life beyond boundaries. - Love.

(pic. courtesy: Google)

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

THAT DESIRE TO LEARN........!


                       Underprivileged Indian children attend an outdoor school,     
                                          under a bridge in New Delhi.

With the exam season having begun once again, some of us have decidedly laboured day and night; and some instead, in fear of results, have recoiled in submission to failure even before the tests could commence. Some of us may be wondering if it is indeed too late to bring about a change. And some of us may be striving every minute for a transformation. Success though, is never waiting to be achieved in the form of a result. It’s already present in the decision making power and the will to succeed; and simply shows high denominations on the report card later. Surely nothing is impossible if we only decide to not give up! Did anybody ever misguide us, telling us that the goal was a plateau? Of course not! The goal is a Himalayan peak which requires skill, hard work and planning to scale. Every negative thought on this climb will be a land slide crashing us down; but every positive approach will accelerate the escalating journey.
I’m sure we began with a dream. That very inception of the dream in our minds had to create life in real. We must not though forget, that our dream needs the warmth and the security of the womb of faith; a belief that it will soon grow big and take birth; that it will be the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to us. However, if we give up due to the longevity of the growth period and get fed up of the troubles involved during those days, then we will abort it. Only our determination to hold on to our imagined dream in our hands will allow us to cradle it someday soon. The world itself is a reality of a dream, which rests on belief.
If we want therefore a masterpiece stroke on the design of our life, we will have to use the colour brushes of confidence, hard work and sincerity.
The canvas is always waiting to be painted. Either we create a riot of colours on it, or we let lethargy leave it blank. And of course, the choice is always ours.

(Pic. Courtesy google)

Monday, 13 February 2017

A DIFFERENT LOVE STORY



This season of love, I saw a film, a love story with a difference. ‘The Case Against 8’, an HBO American Documentary film, showcased the legal battle to overturn California’s Proposition 8, a ballot initiative, and a California State Constitutional amendment, passed in the November 2008 elections, which said that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California”. A question continues to be asked, ‘If marriage is a relationship between two people who love one another then why can homosexual couples not be given the stamp of law to live together respectably?’
The gay agenda has since long alleged and argued about homosexuality being natural; but they have often been questioned with the eternal query of their incapability of procreation. There is also the CDC (The Centre for Disease Control) which reveals to us several risk factors involved in same sex partners. To add to it, there is the lobby of the Psychiatric Association which believes in its research and says that the LGBT people are at a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and deliberate self-harm.
Those with a religious frame of mind also showcase the Biblical verses which speak against such a relationship. They believe that disobedience of age old wisdom will only bring about decay in the society.
Romans 1:27, “Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” The next verse, Romans 1:28 goes on to tell us that when we fail to stay connected to our creator, we are likely to become slaves of the lusts of the world. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.”
Matthew Vines, an LGBT activist, well known for his You Tube video “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality” and his book “God and the Gay Christian” however questions the contextual truth of the above verses. He points out that in the Biblical times same-sex behaviour was primarily seen happening between adult men and adolescent male servants. These adult men were married to women and yet lustfully went in search of young lad prostitutes. He points out that in such relationships, there was no mention of love, commitment or faithfulness and so it was obvious then that homosexuality was rebuked and viewed as sinful and lustful. To assert his need for a changed manner of thinking, Vines points out that Paul as he spoke to the Romans, also condemned women from speaking in the church; but today we do find women pastors everywhere.
Now to be the devil’s advocate, the questions one can put forward to the so called ‘straight’ people are, ‘Aren’t you scared of overpopulating the world and shouldn’t you thank the LGBT for the benefit of their inability to procreate?’ Also, aren’t there enough sexually transmitted diseases in the so called normal relationships and wouldn’t it be unfair to shift the blame on LGBT in totality? As concerning the area of depression, couldn’t it be that if the rate of suicide is large with the LGBT, it is because of the ‘repression’ and the ‘rejection’ of the ‘who they are’ and not because of the ‘what they naturally are’? That if they were not to face the embarrassment of not being straight, wouldn’t there definitely be a drop in their self-destructive tendencies?’
The truth of life is indeed difficult to arrive at! Arguments about the real and the unreal, the natural and the unnatural could go on endlessly but as men and women we have the power to choose. To exercise that power is again our choice. Life offers us many ways of living, and it is obvious that when we are unable to make right decisions for ourselves, we inevitably end up in complicated situations.
As humans, we surely have a right to live our life the way we feel best suites us; provided it does not hurt or cause inconvenience to others. This is exactly the reason why, from the beginning of civilization mankind has tried to make laws, which if everyone were to follow would lead to a problem free life. Take for example the law of wearing a helmet while riding a two-wheeler. A biker may feel more comfortable without a helmet and justify his not wearing one, saying that he feels lighter without it and that he is more relaxed in its absence. Need we say more after the number of accidents reported due to such disobedience of the law? If research shows us, that going away from the usual pattern of relationships causes a good amount of mental, emotional and physical damage, then shouldn’t we as intelligent human beings learn from the mistakes of the others or should we always insist on experiencing everything firsthand? Or should we further argue and point out the mental, emotional and physical damages which also occur in the usual relationships? Even if this is true, should we not desist from creating more such damage? In Jude 1:7 we read that, “as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire”. The flames of fire may look attractive to a child who rushes to put his hands into it hoping that he will be able to catch its rising movement, but the mother who is aware of the natural law, is the one who holds him back from any inevitable harm. Could we say then, that to rush into love of another kind is foolish and that ‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread’? The man, who refuses to wear a helmet while riding a two-wheeler, when he meets with an accident, is not always the only one who gets hurt. A majority of times he causes hurt to innocent people around him and if the accident proves fatal for him, then he leaves behind a very pained family for no fault of theirs. Isn’t such behaviour a kind of intoxication, with defiance of laws? Shouldn’t we be worried then when we break a law such as the one mentioned in Leviticus 18:22, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” Probably it is here that Matthew Vines begins his contextual argument, in relation with the times of the Biblical writings; where he points out the sexual relationship of men with male child servants. But surely the writers of those times did not lack in vocabulary and could have certainly mentioned the word child to be most precise? The lust mentioned in Romans is not between men and male children. The words are crystal clear when they say in Romans 1:27 “......burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful,.....”
On the other side of the world of the Biblical text, there are the Hindu Mythologies, which showcase a good amount of different sexual behaviour. The walls of the Hindu temples show erotic images which the modern laws of the world today deem unnatural.
All rules can be seen to be broken on those walls. Could we dismiss such images as perverted versions of the artist? Some puritanical thinkers believe that such perversions sculpted in stones were the works of degenerate minds at a particular time in the history of India and some believe that the images represented the crudeness in intimate relationships of the flesh which needed to be left out before entering the temples.
There are stories too in the epics that would be worth considering. In Valmiki’s Ramayana, Hanuman is mentioned to having seen Rakshasa women kissing and embracing each other. These were the women who had been kissed and embraced by the demon king Ravana. Could we here conclude that the texts then were attempting to tell us that same-sex relationships were demon induced?
Srila Prabhupada of the Krishna Consciousness, believes that heterosexual desires can be accommodated with the grihastha-ashrama, but that there is no scope of accommodating homosexual desires. For men who express homosexual attraction to men, he recommends marriage to a woman. To cut it short, it is like saying that within the Vedic culture, marriage channelizes lust in an acceptable manner. In the Srimad Bhagavatam purport 3.20.26, Srila Prabhupada says, “The homosexual appetite of a man for another man is demoniac and is not for any sane man in the ordinary course of life.” Some followers in fact go to the extent of believing that even heterosexual desires are a perverted reflection of one’s original love for Krishna. However, they accept that homosexuality is not uncommon today but this is due to the influence of the Kali-yuga.
The story of the birth of mankind, Adam and Eve tells us that God wanted love between the two. This was the actual design the creator wanted for his creation which got perverted in numerous ways by the fallen man. When in the beginning of creation God made Adam, He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” Gen. 2:18, and so He proceeded to make a woman for the man. Mind well, He made Eve and not Steve for the man. The original plan as can be seen from what we read, was that this couple would work together to help flourish the Garden of Eden, but could it be that some Rakshasa wanted destruction of this plan and changed the equation of the sexes?
It is interesting to note that it is believed that the laws prohibiting ‘unnatural’ sex were imposed across the world through the imperial might. Some believe that such laws were the product of minds that were deeply influenced by the ‘sex is sin’ stance of the religious text of the Christians – the Bible. However, in Genesis 2:25 it says, “Now although the man and his wife were both naked, neither of them was embarrassed or ashamed.”  Where then is the concept of sin and shame?
As my mind goes wondering on the journey of the why and the how of such gay relationships, a whisper asks me, “In this world which appears to have taken an oath of self-destruction and goes warring with hate; a world where we repeatedly hear of stories of rape where heterosexuals reveal their basest selves to us, shouldn’t we allow people who wish to live in peace, live the way in which they feel best suited to?”
Life is surely a commitment between all people to live in peace and simplicity. The straight people are the ones who are undiluted in their honesty, and who aren’t evasive but upright, unbiased and without any malice in their thoughts.
As a community of human beings, shouldn’t we consider the crooked married men who visit prostitutes, in line of worrying worthy matter, rather than waste our precious time criticizing people who wish to stay in a relationship in all honesty? Shouldn’t we put our thoughts of violence and hate under scan and get them corrected before we deal with people who love differently?
If we then were to go through such self-analytical exercise, how many of us would be truly STRAIGHT? In our world, there is no dirt of unfaithfulness in many relationships, if then we have some people who desire to be committed and monogamous in their same sex relationships, wouldn’t we be the finger pointing hypocrites?
Heterosexual couples, who cheat on one another or who fail to hold hands even in their differences or who oppress one another in pride of their knowledge or sexual supremacy are in a sorry state of togetherness. In fact they could be called sinners because they choose to live in dead relationships as compared to those homosexual couples who live with commitment and cherish honesty and love in their relationships.

Ultimately, every soul is important and if we claim to be so great, then most certainly let us share our great knowledge with all, but let us not take away their decision making powers. Let not a brother, fight a brother because he believes himself to be better, let the work of judgement be left to the Father.
We definitely need not accept a thought if we do not agree with it; but let us be able to at least hear it out. As someone rightly said, “We are all sinners, judging sinners, for sinning differently.”
A transgender once asked me, why the so called normal and straight people, seem to be so very upset with the Pride Marches, when he very willingly goes for their Pride Marches- their weddings? How would it be if the LGBT began claiming that their kind of world and love was the correct kind, and that the others were perverts? He further added that when little boys began writing love poems to girls, he desired to write them to boys. He indeed felt that he was a woman caught in a man’s body. This wasn’t something I hadn’t heard before, and wondered if he had ever given a thought to a sub-conscious mind which had received some kind of different information in his childhood? Could there have been some incidents in his life as an infant, which had triggered the future happenings in spite of him being unaware of them? Well, haven’t we all heard of cases of infant molestation?
If marriage is a relationship between two people, then life is an art of relationship to exist peacefully between ideologies. Let us be more humble unlike the military authority who gave a medal for killing two and a discharge for loving one.
Probably, when there is too much evil all around, the only alternative left is to choose the lesser evil. But then Psalm 119:2 and 3 says that “Happy are all who search for God, and always do his will, rejecting compromise  with evil, and walking only in his paths.” It is difficult indeed to continue to walk in His plans when the world at large is walking the Pride Marches, one may also have to face rebuke from the world. Psalm 119:22 “Don’t let them scorn me for obeying you.”

Let us then not be holier than thou and say that the only thing we can do is to pray for all those who have strayed from the STRAIGHT path. Because, prayer is not an expression of being better than the other; it is a voice of love and friendship. Prayer is an expression of silence in which we do not force decisions on others but present them in submission on our knees.
 (Pics courtesy:Google)

Sunday, 15 January 2017

PATRIOTISM - A FEELING OF LOYALTY

Today, on the 69th Army Day -15 January 2017, my country salutes the comrades in arms who have always been ready to sacrifice their lives in the line of duty. To think of it, it must not be very easy to selflessly commit oneself for the safety of others; to relentlessly vigil the challenging frontiers across some of the most perilous terrain in the world or to come rushing to help during natural calamities. Besides great bravery, sacrifice and passion to lay down one’s life for a cause, it must be needing great love for the nation.

A whisper here reminds me of the story of Chittagong of the early twentieth century where a large number of teenage boys were led into a revolutionary movement by their school master Surya Sen, to revolt against the British. What a passion they had! Can those today, who are arguing whether to sit or stand during the national anthem understand such intense enthusiasm? On the one side, we have those who daringly commit themselves to achieve the highest level of security consciousness so that the people of our country can move about their daily life in peace, and on the other, we sadly have some who seem violently vexed about issues regarding the standing or the sitting when the national anthem is being played. Could somebody tell them that respect is inborn and cannot be forced? My country it appears is getting divided into hyper and lethargic nationalists. The Supreme Court order regarding the national anthem to be played in cinemas has been inviting two extremist opinions. What I feel is that though the court assumed that the anthem would instill greater pride in the nationals for their nation, it overlooked the fact that a majority of the nationals today have been born in a free land and therefore have no real idea of the pains of bondage.
Honestly, it isn’t surprising to see the political stuntmen then disguised in robes of love for the nation, fearlessly crossing limits of domination. They are the self-styled patriots who can unflinchingly attack the young, the careless, the unaware or the modernists who refuse to stand up for the anthem. Can you blame a child who swims in the ocean of corruption with political sharks all around him and only a few honest anchors of help of great leaders from his text books, to have respect for his nation? Couldn’t they for a moment give a thought for reasons of such behaviour? Couldn’t it be possible that these are the people who have not been brought up on stories of freedom fighters but feed on dramas of corrupt politicians? Couldn’t it be that they have no real time idea of what living in their own land but being ruled by another would be like? Couldn’t it just be as simple as someone who was on a wheelchair was standing up emotionally though his legs didn’t permit him to do so physically?

As instances of reckless students getting thrashed in Chennai, or a disabled man getting abused in Goa come to light, it is probable that the joy of going to cinema halls will soon get transformed into fear of the wrath of vigilantes. Then, instead of instilling love and pride for the nation, the playing of the anthem will be likely to promote riot like situations in the country where then, the police will have to be present to stop violence arising out of a strange couch potato kind of love for the country.

Bedabrata Pain’s film ‘Chittagong’ is a worth watch today. Though some would argue that the school master Surya Sen did wrong in making revolutionaries out of teenagers to raid an armory of the police and destroy the telegraph and railways in order to isolate Chittagong from the rest of the British India, wasn’t it better than today’s teenagers becoming rapists, molesters and rioters. The film is about the rise of passion for the nation in a thirteen year old Subodh Roy popularly known as Jhunku who passed away in the year 2006; but I wonder what his thoughts on the anthem controversy would have been if he were to be alive today. This is a tale that all those who are unable to decide whether to sit or stand during the playing of the national anthem, must watch.

If we believe that patriotism is a sentiment latently present in every true Indian’s heart, we would never have faced a question of arousing patriotic sentiments. Reality though, shows a different picture. A majority of cinema goers today are in a rush to leave the theatre if the anthem is shown after the film and if it is played before the screening, they probably prefer to buy popcorns. We have reached a stage where we as a country need advertising skills to draw the attention and respect of our common country men and women towards our national anthem. Don’t you remember the silent national anthem by the children of India and the one sung by transgenders?

What a pity!  A country which once upon a time had to fight for freedom from a foreign rule and later got partitioned in caste hatred is today after 69 years of independence, at the risk of forgetting the real joy of being independent and instead is wasting its time in thinking whether to stand or sit.

What a pity! The school teacher Surya Sen, who got captured by the British in 1933 had to suffer tortures where his teeth were broken using a hammer, his nails plucked out, his limbs broken and then was dragged unconscious to the rope; and all that for useless arguments of the correctness of standing or sitting for the anthem.

What a pity! We, who got freedom on a platter have willingly suspended the belief in the awesomeness of the sacrifices of our freedom angels and are shamelessly indecisive about something as simple as standing in respect to the national anthem in memory of those who cared enough to lay their lives for our independence.

What a pity! That our leaders have not been able to instill love for the nation in our youth and instead prefer force of discipline.

What a pity! How forgetful have we become of those glorious sacrifices of lives for our nation and instead are so immersed in the present dislike of corrupt politicians that we are missing out on the woods of overwhelming splendour because we are busy counting individual trees of inappropriate leadership.


What a pity! The extraordinary glory of the past which needs a standing ovation, has its ordinary citizens today sitting complacently unconcerned. 
(pics courtesy: Google)

Saturday, 31 December 2016

“THE FEAR OF THE LORD IS THE BEGINNING OF KNOWLEDGE” PROVERBS 1:7



Today being the last day of the year let us not simply get excited to step into the new tomorrow, but let us also look back into our past and understand that there are some things we need to change. Though we have the strength to alter a few of those there are bound to remain some rigid impenetrable walls. But then let us pray to receive the gift of mercy which could help us to transform the impossible and the unbearable into a possibility with the knowledge of love.
Every New Year holds before us, stories of the last year to cogitate upon. These are the accounts which in the long run make history which assesses notable events and becomes a subject of study in schools. Ironically, these stories which are the collection of the doings of the adults become a burden of learning for their very own children, while the adults keep repeating the errors.
As we all know that children learn by seeing the performances of the adults, a lasting impression is left on them and then, ‘history repeats itself’.  
Like many years in the past history of the world, last year too, a great many people in our world slept with the terror of destruction and woke up to the fear of suffering. When during the Christmas week, news arrived of a Gurudwara in Canada vandalized with ‘racist’ graffiti, a part of the world once again indulged in anger which obviously gave rise to fear.
A Gurudwara - the ‘Doorway to God’, is a Sikh temple where the believers continue to worship a book containing the teachings of their masters. The Sikh as a community rejects the caste system of the Hindus and believes that all are equal before God. The racist graffiti displaying the Swastika – symbol of prosperity is not revered by the Sikhs and in fact was instigating and distressful when used against them on the walls of their place of worship.
Cogitating over this recent happening far away from India, the home town of the community, a whisper reminded me of the 1984 Operation Blue Star, a military operation ordered by the then Prime Minister, Ms. Indira Gandhi to remove Sikh militants who then had formed a political nationalist movement – the Khalistan Movement; as they wanted to create an independent state for the Sikh people and were amassing weapons in the Golden Temple to establish control over it. The operation was accordingly launched as a response to the deterioration of the state of law and order in Punjab.
Surprisingly, it was only a few days back that I happened to watch, a Punjabi writer Waryam Singh Sandhu’s story, ‘Chauthi Koot – The Fourth Direction’ directed by Govinder Singh. The story was all about the time in the history of India when fear had gripped the hearts of the turbaned people. Ironically though, when fear and mistrust rule, the victims are always the ordinary men and women, whether it be the Punjab of 1984 or the Syria of 2016.
The film began by showing faces gripped in fear and like always, there was no one story of fear as there are fears within fears; the story had a microcosmic story of fear within the macro cosmic story of fear in the environment. The train moved making all the noise it could when it’s few passengers sat numb, their tongues silenced with the fear of the times. It appeared that only inanimate objects or nature had the courage to make noise.
To show us these silenced people of the times, the director led us into the life of Joginder, a lone humane voice living with his family and a dog that refused to cease his barking.
The dog in the film was a metaphorical voice of the spirit in each one of us which is often caught in the crossfire of human brutality. That particular voice of the spirit of those times wanted to continuously bark at the Sikh terrorists as well as the military men who insisted that Joginder kill his noisy pet. But it has never been easy to silence the voice of one’s spiritual conscience. And though Joginder claimed that he had tried to keep that voice silenced and even deserted it, it returned with sheer determination. Every time he went and tried to leave the dog in faraway places, it searched its way and returned to Joginder’s house to bark once again.
It’s actually only when people feel wronged from the direction of the self, of the other and of the mind that the Fourth Direction becomes the only choice - and that is the direction of the spiritual conscience. The seed of consciousness has to be allowed to grow and bark out loud enough to be heard by one and all and not crushed in the silence of fear.
When humanity begins to fail, it gives rise to a silent human angst which amidst the disturbing scenes of torn limbs searches for dignity in life. The film, ‘Chaauthi Koot’ speaks of this search in the silence of human words as the director makes nature speak loud and clear in the atmosphere of fear. Nature is not distinct from man and therefore when man gets violent, it also feels pain. The audience in this environment of hidden terror is held under a coverlet of fear, with eyes anxiously fixed on the screen. Nature, in all its simple sounds of thunder before the actual rains, the raindrops falling on the muddy floor, the quiet of the fields, the whistling of the breeze when the crops begin to dance, all tear through the viewer’s heart. In fact, fear in this film can be seen more in the atmosphere than on the faces of its characters. A heavy cloud of anxiety is spread all over the lush greenery.


Coming back to our present times when racism throws paints on Gurudwaras, the question is do all humans who wish to preserve humanity believe that they have a task at hand? Will they choose the ‘Fourth  Direction’ of the spirit, like the dog in the film who does not seize to bark until silenced to death or will they like Joginder, despite the pounding of the heart which is trying to speak fearlessness, kill the voice of the within because the voice from outside is a scared voice? However, before jumping to criticize Joginder, we must not forget that the voice of the outside has seen blood unlike the voice from the inside which has never seen the outside. The outside of the world today can shake up many an inner voice with its shocking reality.
But then, as Pope Francis in his last Christmas message for ending war in Syria said, “It is time for weapons to be still, and the international community to seek a solution, so that civil co-existence can be restored.” This is not a message for Syria alone, or may be Canada, but for all the world that never seems to learn from its past and instead continues to spill hatred and fear.

In this new beginning let us then look back and focus on what we need to change not only for a New Year but also for a New World. Let’s keep aside our own little resolutions of giving up sweets or studying better or working harder and getting home a fat packet. Let’s instead focus on the biggest problem our planet faces today; that of hate leading to fear, and instead work to change it into love and fearlessness. Let’s be accountable for every pain in every heart. Let’s not forget the grief of the yesteryear's for if we forget, there is no hope for change. Let’s work towards a transformation. Every man has to be set free from this repelling fear of men and instead have in his heart the fear of God. For it is only when man will begin to fear god that he will cease to hate and be filled with love and then as John says in 1 John: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Let us begin this New Year with the knowledge of the power of love. Let us continue to bark.
(Pic. courtesy: Google)

Saturday, 24 December 2016

VIEWING BEN-HUR IN A WORLD OF STRIFE

   
     


Ben-Hur had to be seen again! I’m sure that all belonging to my age bracket would remember Charlton Heston’s movie, but then in the early 1970’s, I was too young to understand the actual story and significance of ‘Ben-Hur – A Tale of the Christ’.

Lew Wallace’s best-selling American novel, first published in 1880 has left its’ mark forever and ever. Obviously! A Tale of the Christ could never grow old. And I’m sure that for every generation it will continue to hold the heart of every viewer.

Back then in the seventies, it was the handsome Charlton Heston, the chariot race, the leprosy cave and the face of Christ that made up for the attraction; but now this time in 2016, Ben-Hur pinched my heart where it needed to.

To go back to the origins of the story, the writer Lew Wallace was not a warm or a hot Christian. In fact, he didn’t know much about his own faith. All he did then was to attend the Methodist Church without any relationship with his creator. The world today is full of men and women who are regular visitors to churches, temples and mosques and yet have no relationship with their originator. The wars are proof of what I express.

However, coming back to Wallace, he was a writer and wanted to write a never to be forgotten best-seller with Jesus Christ as the chief protagonist. You can imagine how unprepared the nineteenth century American reader was for such an idea.

Knowing full-well then that Jesus Christ would not sell to the people of the time, Wallace thought of a different approach. He told the Tale of the Christ through the eyes of a young Jewish Nobel. What turned out to be wonderful was that in the course of researching material for his work, he was at least motivated enough to read the Bible. He confessed later that he had been led towards ‘Absolute belief in God and the divinity of Christ’.

How wonderful it is today, to understand this beautiful story as an allegory on Revenge and Mercy. These abstract principles come to the viewer in the characters of Judah Ben-Hur and his brother like friend, Messala.
The world today has many such brothers gone astray due to fanaticism of beliefs and revenge of different faiths.


It’s the ‘your knife, my back’ and ‘my gun, your head’ principle operating everywhere around. As human beings, we were obviously not meant to hurt or hate, but to love and care. The news channels in our living rooms though, showcase the most unlivable scenes to our eyes.


We have been pushed so far away to the wall in stories of hate, that we have nowhere else to move and instead console ourselves that any amount of blood, noise or trouble cannot rob us of our peace; for peace is that within us that allows us to remain calm in spite of the horrible mess all around.
Acceptance has become our nature. We continue to live accepting blood spills and hate overflows with the ‘what can we do?’ shrug of our shoulders.
In a way, we are all modern Judahs (this time it is Jack Huston), loving and supporting peace but turning a blind eye to various atrocities as long as they don’t touch our families.

Everywhere we see violence, we know full well that it is only an unnecessary holding on to revenge. Like the characters of Judah and Messala, are we then racing ourselves to death, to fuel a worthless pride of retaliation?

The hopeful part though in our surroundings of betrayals is, that we too like Judah, unknowingly come across the knowledge of the Conscience which offers us a sip of forgiveness when we are falling with hatred growing out of revenge; like a cross on our frail shoulders. It is in our power then, to drink from that cup of mercy which will help us flush out the indigestible residue of hatred. Whether we sip it or not, is what will determine our future. Ironically though, it’s our tragedy that in spite of being surrounded by the fluid of freedom, we continue to hold on to our cross, tying our self to it in fear of drowning in the ocean of love.




The epitome of the movie this time is Andra Day’s soundtrack, ‘The Only Way Out’; the words tear through the heart searching its origins of love, and knowledge of mercy. It reminds us of how deaf we have gone, to be unable to hear love because of the noise war makes. It throws us down on our knees to let ourselves out of the cage of revenge and recognize that the only way out is mercy. Andra tries to sing loud enough above the sound of war, for otherwise the people as usual will not be able to hear love since they are at war. As always, ‘...revenge is so loud and the drums are so proud. But oh, I’m in a cage and I hear mercy say I’m here now and it’s the only way out’. Seeing Ben-Hur in the twenty-first century will, I can only hope make all warring nations put down their weapons of war and allow mercy to fill their hearts and let the world continue to be; because after all, that is ‘The Only Way Out’.

(Pic. Credits: Google)

Thursday, 22 December 2016

KEEP THE CANDLES BURNING


“It may be your blood or theirs,
It is the human blood after all.
War may go on in the East or the West,
It will bleed the peace of world, after all.”
-         Sahir Ludhianavi

History provides us windows through which we can look into the past and understand our present to predict our future. If we fail to understand his-story and instead only mouth, ‘history repeats itself’ then our future will impute our failure of peaceful living to our lack of knowledge.

The Nazi past of Germany has awakened its present people on a mission to prevent what had happened a century back. When Germany opened its borders for migrants fleeing war and turmoil in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, its intention was to announce to the world that it had suffered enough in the days gone by and did not believe in war.

However, I believe that the country which is coping with the arrival of a million refugees after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policy, has realized that love and understanding is not what half the world is looking out for anymore. Pain and suffering for some have been too bad to forget and instead appear to have squeezed out any hope of love in return from affection and acceptance.

The Islamic world seems to have forgotten the message of love of Allah and the nations who are giving respite to it are instead in fear of ‘Islamization’. Germany may have done a great moral service by opening its borders, but has missed the point of cruel understanding that appreciation and thankfulness is at its lowest point in the world today.

One would think that a people who have escaped everyday bombings, would be grateful to be at rest in safety; though in not very good conditions of food, shelter and work opportunities because after all life is more precious than anything else. But some stories indeed have surprise endings.

Now, when an asylum-seeker, mows down a Christmas market in a truck, the understanding of peace is bound to change. Those who have always preferred to see good in mankind will now be forced to see evil and move suspiciously. Now, the philosophy of love which had promoted one’s land to be shared with those in need will change and instead begin to shut its boundaries in honour of its victims. A moral obligation towards the world will obviously get shut down and focus will be on priority obligations towards the family first.
As I shut my eyes, I see a street in Berlin and amidst echoes of laughter and Christmas joy, I see glitter everywhere. But suddenly, amidst all the shops and stalls selling food and wine, I hear screams of pain and in moments everything gets crushed under revengeful wheels. I see anger rolling over lives cutting happiness into pieces of destruction. My mind informs me that it is a terrorist attack on an innocent and happy people. Then in this cacophony of war, I strain my ears to listen to a whisper. It says, ‘Terror is in the air. The world has become compassionless, ruthless and impulsively furious. Clouds of death can come all of a sudden even in the season of showers of love as ears pick up tunes of Christmas carols everywhere.’ My mind of understanding I can feel wants to give up on humanity. It tells me that there is no hope for this creature called man. He has transformed into a beast! He is drunk in hatred and clutches on to the dagger of destruction in his hands. Holding my disturbed head in my hands, I bend it to look towards my heart as if it needs to search over there for answers. My heart gradually gives strength to my shaken mind. It says, ‘Don’t ever give up the longing of peace. When the terrorists relish spectacles of destruction and drown the world in the sea of blood of the innocents, don’t allow that red colour to blind your hope. Life and death are not just illusions in this phenomenal world, but living powers which have to be fought for and against, till “In that day the wolf and the lamb will lie down together, and the leopard and goats will be at peace.” Isaiah 11:6
So I continue to listen to my mind and hold on to hope even though many call me an illusioned fool hoping against hope. For if we, even if we are only a few who want peace, get immuned to death, then how will life get a chance to live? So we keep the candles burning because it is after all only light of love that can show us a way through the darkness of hatred.
The light of wisdom then will tell us that, “Bombs may fall on homes or on outskirts, / They wound the spirit of life after all.”

It is better then, to follow the Indian poet, Ludhianvi’s advice when in his poem ‘O Gentlemen!’ he implores mankind, “So, O gentlemen! / It is better to end the war. / In the courtyards, yours and ours, / It is better to keep the candles burning.”

Sunday, 18 December 2016

EMANCIPATION IN THE BACKYARD


No matter what the world speaks about women’s emancipation and the revolutionary women who dare to step out of their skirts and begin wearing pants, there is always some place or some upper hand holding them down with the age old adage which repeats ‘boys will be boys’ and allows them to excuse bad behaviour of the other gender.

It is as if the whole world of women is a pot of mud on the potter’s wheel and of course the potter is a man giving desired shape to the pot. At the end of his creation he has in all probability given rise to a patriarchal mold.

In this battle of gender equality, many women have successfully won equal rights in their peripheral worlds, but many I’m sure have sacrificed their hearts and minds due to societal pressures. However, the women who courageously lift themselves up from quicksand like situational and circumstantial spots are those who express their inner voice in an outward action. They may outwardly appear to stagger under the load of emotional burdens but in the end prove themselves strong. Their individual small stories display the big struggle of womanhood in personal or public arenas. Their persistence to stand up above the common acceptance of many in similar situations is what in the end makes them stand tall even if they are seen standing alone.

A very popular personality from India recently moved on and no doubt that the nation will always remember and grieve the loss of Jayalalitha the chief minister of Tamil Nadu who lived her life on her terms. Her death brings to my mind a condition of vacuum in the lives of a great number of women, caused largely due to restrictions and mannerisms posed on them by their families and society. Jayalalitha was a bold lady; strong enough to accept being a failure in her personal love life and yet holding on to the spark to create an identity for herself. Probably women need a fire in them to create a strong platform for themselves. After facing rejection from being accepted in a legal relationship, she boldly refused to accept the Indian tradition where a girl was born a daughter, to become a wife and die a mother. Though she failed to achieve the wife status, she prophesied that she would die as a mother and rightly, many in India have lost their Amma today.

But India and the world have an inexhaustible number of strong women. Yes of course when we lose them we have wet eyes but life moves on with their memories.

A few days back I had the privilege of watching ‘45 Years’, a British Romantic Drama Film, directed by Andrew Haigh. It was actually the least frightening ghost story that I had ever watched till then. When I say ‘ghost story’ I do not mean the one which makes you grip the seat handles and sit upright; tensed enough and alert not to jump up to some sudden loud surprisingly scary music. Instead, the story starring Charlotte Rampling as Kate and Tom Courtenay as George is a very extraordinary story of a very ordinary elderly couple. I felt it to be rather an intensely complicated piece of work which made me begin to wonder about any insignificant matters of significance from the past which could be secretly holding on to a destructive power and capable of destroying the present.

The drama has a rude awakening for Kate from her slumberous existence where she daily walks her dog, visits the market and cooks the usual meals which make life appear to be moving on smoothly. Of course, on the surface level everything appears to be full of domesticated contentment but only till the arrival of some uncomfortable information from Switzerland. A letter we learn, brings into the life of the placid couple who are about to celebrate their 45 years together, the most significant character of the story. But ironically Katya is dead 45 years before she surfaces in this quite home. Katya stands out in her pictures as a bold young woman who had dared to live with a man without being married to him and worse still, she was pregnant. Mind well, we learn from the story that George meets Kate only after Katya’s accident in the Swiss Alps. The arrival of the letter informs him of the recovery of her body after four and a half decades, opening up an interior world of his unknown life to his wife Kate. The ground splits apart for Kate! The body of his live-in partner has been found in the Ice Mountains, preserved by nature.

Suddenly, George feels it his moral responsibility to go and see her but finally gives up realizing that even walking just a few steps causes him breathlessness. And so the film moves on show casing an intense emotional crisis for its female protagonist. Questions surface in her mind and she asks her husband if he would have ever got married to her if Katya hadn’t moved on.

He is honest in his answer and breaks her heart. I think that her pulling back her desire
to buy him a watch for their 45th wedding anniversary, is because she is wondering about the time she has spent with this man and how much of it has really been worth it.
However, in spite of the hurt, she wishes to forget the past and desires to begin all over even though it is so late in life; and it is here that we see a very gracefully enacted bedroom sequence where her hurt surfaces when he prefers to keep his eyes shut. Probably she is wondering whether their unison in the past has been between him and her alone or has Katya always been present between them?

The drama then beautifully moves on till the couple, immaculately dressed, walks into the anniversary party where the husband speaks in the memory of the years gone by. Actually nothing really happens and yet everything appears to have changed. Kate can be seen standing alone with a burden on her heart and mind. There, in the midst of the noise of celebration of togetherness she cries with a feeling of being stranded. She doesn’t have a living rival and yet the dead has proved strong enough to destroy her present.

However, the prize of watching the film is when Kate moves away from the gathering and stands in silence; a picture of strength. She is old but not without the power of self-respect. Let us not assume here that Kate is a grumpy old woman; she is in fact a quiet and uncomplaining wife and an understanding lady who has tried to learn about her husband’s past and has really desired to help him wean out of it. She has asked him questions, though has sadly been unprepared to hear the answers. She certainly couldn’t ever have not wanted the dead past to destroy her present and therefore has continued with the arrangements for their 45th anniversary. Those visits to the watch shop in the market are probably the director’s way of telling us something about time which has stopped from moving ahead and has instead gone far too back in her life to dig a grave. The question is, would this elderly protagonist of the movie, continue to live a lie or would she give air to the fire of survival in herself and move out? Does she have the courage to fight the situation that life has suddenly placed before her? As a woman who has lived with her man for ‘45 years’ she would never have believed that there could have ever been something about her husband unknown to her. Living together for four and a half decades, one would assume, would be enough to know one another inside out. The movie successfully jolts the viewer out of a very quiet and peaceful life of a very mature couple which goes berserk at the interference of a reality long dead and over.

In my novel, ‘Jars Filled with Gold’, I attempted to showcase the same unrecognized strength of women. My three female protagonists fought their circumstances in their own strength and stood out strong.

Traditional values may go against Kate in her decision. Many men and women would probably call her crazy for the decision she ends up making. Many would say that such a decision was probably an outlet of insecurity but few would like my heroine Maitreyi, and Kate from ’45 Years’ think that a decision was needed.

There are movies which promote gender justice and there are movies that promote humanism; but ‘45 Years’ promotes self-respect and I think that for that one reason it is a worth watch.

Filmmakers often rightly attempt to connect reason and reality in their films and I think ‘45 Years’ has reason enough to emancipate a senior female citizen in spite of the reality of her age. Resisting all fears of age and community beliefs, Kate stands up in the end for her right to self-respect.


Probably every woman, be it Kate or Amma or my heroines, have to fight their ways even if their journeys are lonely. As I sat through the film watching kate’s character unravel, an ostensibly troubled love song from the past played in my head. ‘See the stone set in your eyes/ See the thorn twist in your side/...Through the storm we reach the shore/ You give it all, but I want more/ and I am waiting for you/ With or without you’.  Yes, sometimes life proves itself difficult and pushes us to move on with or without the ones we love because we can’t help respecting and loving ourselves too. The Irish Rock Band’s song ‘With or Without You’ suddenly sang loud and clear in my ears. Kate was then ready to make a choice just like Maitrayi, the heroine of my novel had made. “She would never hide in the fear of loneliness; in fact she would stretch out with the limitless supply of love with her. She was a pioneering woman who had worked on her strength and courage to go ahead with a new life. Some deep inner promptings had urged her to make her choice. She would be eternally grateful to that something inside her which had allowed her the vision of this new ‘heaven’.” Kate too perhaps had a heaven in mind and Amma was already there.