11 9 / 2012
03 5 / 2012
Now I guess there might be a few rotten tomatoes thrown at me for this. But when the itch comes, the one I talked about previously, you just have to attend to it.
It all started with the below picture (photo credit – Indranil Sen). Always biased towards my matriarchal hometown, I was ranting away about how amazing everything is about Shillong:
To the image above, I added the caption – “In the rest of India, peope throw bottles, spit on the walls, strip naked and burn effigies. In Shillong, this is how we protest”. Note the burning part; it’s of particular import.
What follows, is a conversation; primarily between me and and a friend, punctuated by comments from a few others. The string of views made me think. Not a lot.
[NOTE: Grammatical errors and typos have been left intact under the pretext of capturing the moment. It might also be because I am feeling way too lazy to correct them]
The Friend: “well its good but i am sure in shillong we dont protest so peacefully all the time, hunger strike, road blocks , bands etc are something in which we have absolute monopoly…..some spoke about burning effigies, i remember i one incident a burnt national flag was also found in a ” peaceful rally” in shillong…………………. definately the country should learn from shillong”
Me: “No doubt, it rains in Sahara as well. But I would say burning a national flag is a little different from burning an effigy in someways. But you got to agree, we take the step. These people above are protesting for clean politics in a clean way. Hats off to that.”
The Friend: “i would agree to you but i didnt understand what you meant by saying burning national flag is little different form burning effigies, i would prefer burning people alive rather then a national flag, its bigger than me, you , all of us……”
Me: “A certain quote comes to mind. And I could not agree more: “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free.””
The Friend: “land of the free never means disrespecting ones national flag, my dear friend understand this, that free speech does not empower you to disrespect or dishonour any one or any thing- a national flag even the question does not arise. free speech does not empower that tomorrow i will stand in front of our house and swear words in the name of your mom or dad or girl friend. dont mix issues freedom of speech stands in its own place and dis honoring the tri colour in its own, and for the record, i can never ever be proud of a state that burns its own flag no matter whatever they do. i really dont understand you man how can you defend burning flags in the name of freedom of speech, if freedom of speech gives you right to do this then i for a person do not want such right. the flag , for me is bigger them me, my family and every one i know, it because of this feeling that i can lay down my life for it any time,wont think of free speech at that time”
Me: “burning flags and celebrating in class rooms man what is it with you„„„, think about it , what will you be celebrating, dis honour to a nation, to our mother land. you want kids to discuss that in a class room, you talk of symbol, the flag is our symbol and will always remain so, no man should ever be able to insult that. you want buring of flags so that one can express his opinion, dude that person should be killed, shot in the head. big words like “freedom of speech” etc can never take away honour. you may be angry with something wrong going on in the country but, u can never dis respect it, come what man ………. trust me you have given me the shock of my life, i never thought u would say that. dude the nation is above every thing, how can someone even think about it……….. i am sure i cant and also sure that most ppl i know cant……freedom of speech!!!!!!”
The Friend: “nothing else to say, i am sorry that i commented”
Me: “Never be sorry for what you said. You are completely right and I can have no higher respect for anyone than what I have for you.
The flag is indeed above me, you and anyone else. I understand there is a simple question asked here – am I, as an individual for burning our flag? The answer is no. A thousand times no. Is there anything above a nation? What about humanity? Is it in some manner above nationalistic ideologies? If not, then it naturally follows that perhaps national sentiments are also above mass genocide.
Coming to freedom of speech. Let’s get something very basic, clear – the term “speech” has disambiguation – verbal, symbolism, written and behavioral.
I agree with you when you say that freedom of speech is never above honour. Burning a flag is destroying honour. But honour is a personal trait. We cannot imprison someone for not having honour. That is not democracy. Similarly, burning an effigy is disdainful.
In a land of true freedom, a person is allowed to express. It is upto that person to be a patriot, a respectful citizen who protests in love for the country. Or, to be a moron and act in the barbaric fashion of burning either an effigy or a flag. That does not mean that all these expressions are equal in any way and that any of these are to be respected.
A person who burns a flag lives lower than the lowest level of moral dignity. He has lost his soul.
On a more personal note, I would like to say again, that, I harbour the deepest form of hatred towards people of ill morality. But I live in a democracy and democracy allows but hates cheap and distasteful forms of expressions.
It is very sad indeed if there has been any misunderstanding.”
Friend#2: “very well said Bodhisattwa. ppl do not undstand the nuances of “ideas” that u r talking abt.”
Yet Another: “Buring Flags = Bad. Burning People = Good.”
Friend#2: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Me: “That perfectly sums up my whole point. The line of difference is so thin that it can hardly be seen but its strong enough to trip over.”
The Friend: “well my stand is still the same no matter what it will never change but i must say Bodhisattwa Debnath your post was very well written….”
Anyway, what’s for dinner?
03 5 / 2012
A wave of unrest started in the Arab world in mid-March 2011. What started as a small protest in an equally small Tunisian city, rippled across the Middle East. The story of protest ensuing from the torture of students caught putting up anti-government graffiti. The government responded with heavy force, and demonstrations quickly spread across the region.
While President Bashar al-Assad gave hints of reform in Syria, coming out of a tell-tale dictatorship from his father Hafez al-Assad, an Indian sat at his desk at night, scratching his eyes and wishing for a little rain. Wasn’t Bangalore supposed to have equable temperatures year-round?
While all that happened, I did not find myself looking beyond the occasional headlines from which I knew something was the matter with Egypt. Now it is not that bad! I did know about Damascus and that the city had arguably the best dressed boot-polishes in the world. Although, I do admit, I had no idea about the tear bombs out on the streets. This place is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Surely, something is sacred?
My philosophies, at this time was going straight out of the window. I always took pride in what seemed like a very fashionable tag – “world citizen”. I knew that the smallest part of the title meant knowing about what’s going on in the world. Now, note that I am not saying ‘understanding’. Understanding is a heavier term than knowledge. Guess I still have some hope left.
All right, so I did not know about the cataclysmic events unfolding. Well, I had writing articles about Spring Breaks and old men worshiping Wayne Rooney in a Burmese village to think about.
But the world tonight was in the mood of playing ‘catch-me’. At three in the morning, there was a breeze filtering through, and it was a chilly one. But I was not having a good time trying to figure out a plausible route for a mother-of-all roadtrip from Bangalore to Niederelvenich in Germany.
The first part was easy – safe and sound India (kind of puts things is perspective, does not it?), starting from Bangalore, onto Goa, then Mumbai and Ahmedabad. I had considered taking the route straight north, and cross-over a thin stretch of Afghanistan, onto Tajikistan. However, this route would be madness. There are numerous permits to take care of, there are negligible reports on the roads along the Tajikistan-Afghanistan-India border, and lets not even get started on the LOC issues.
Pakistan it was – no sweat! Pass into Iran (yes, I do know about the US section and the possible Iraq repetition – I thought nuclear deterrence might have kicked in by now), and onto the port town of Bandar-e-Abbas. Catch a ferry, cart your car along to Dubai, and we are in the Gulf!
But as Reuben puts it “you are still in the middle of the fucking desert”! Google Maps crash after I try to put in the 23rd pit-stop, there are no plotted roads connecting Saudi Arabia to anywhere in Jordan, Lebanon or Syria and I am drawing a blank wherever I look. Now I have to keep off dangerous areas. So I figured I cannot route through Afghanistan or Iraq. Reason why we took that 73,81530.49 Iranian Rial ferry in the first place.
The TV had BBC on and a British bloke was questioning an American newspaper columnist who just had a round of exchange with Barack Obama (no, I will not call him only Obama) on US’ stand on Iran. And I heard ‘Syria’. Now I was writing about Syria. I was at last successful in charting out a route through Damascus to the Turkish border.
And I thought the difficult part was over by successfully meandering through the endless Saudi desert. Syria was boiling over and bleeding and in all its misery, it was giving a new nightmare to an Indian, sitting in Bangalore and that too, without an Israeli stamp on his passport. I can’t cart through the country.
Photo Credits: Syria Damascus Douma Protests 2011 - 01 By syriana2011, Road in Jordan By Taras Kalapun
03 5 / 2012
The Free encyclopedia defines metamorphosis thus: “Metamorphosis is a biological process by which an animal physically develops after birth or hatching, involving a conspicuous and relatively abrupt change in the animal’s body structure through cell growth and differentiation.“
Me and this blog have gone through this particular phenomenon; albeit disambiguated into more philosophical and anthropological terms. I had started this blog with the rather self-starred notion of noting down personal schemes, revelations and epiphanies. And then, quite naturally, the question is asked; why would someone read this? The equally natural answer often is “I am not writing this for others”. A not so natural question then asked (not because it is quite unnatural to beat one-self in tengwar; logical dialogues or debate) is, why write it online? Followed by that sheepish look that you try to hide.
There has been metamorphosis, all right. From being a vague parchment with a confused sense of purpose, I have decided to turn this into one of those ominous manila folders from the classic novels. You never know what revelations might come out of those. This however, is an envelope with a peephole. There’ll be travel, political thoughts, and maybe much more. Ah yes, those omnipresent poetry inclusions too.
Nagging requirement yet again!
03 5 / 2012
Right, so here I am. When I started this blog, like so many others, it had all the intent of being a regular. Like that ever happens. While there is quite a collection of forgotten diaries in the cupboard with each having a few pages being devoted to a dreamy eyed boy’s visions of spewing forth an earth-shattering piece of literary exploit, this little nagging electronic address has stuck to me like gum. Right, so here I am.
The last time I was here, I was struggling with the chances of events. If by any chance, the reason for which I am sure I can not fathom, you are still interested to know what is going on now and how far I have been able to go after that day, well, I have managed to survive. I did manage to get a pass for Probability and Queuing Theory, by the way.
So, now I am in the Garden City. I was skeptical about it, for good reason, I might add, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Even with all the biased visions that I had cooked up in my head, the first sight I had of the city one misty morning through the glass of a Volvo was that of clean roads and a sense of independence. I am still basking in it.
Well, then, I guess I have got rid of the annoying itch that I have been having. So, let’s see when I am back.