When ‘I don’t know’ is the perfect answer!

A dear friend advised me to stop asking ‘why did he do this to me’ and instead focus on him as a person who is messed up, fucked up and ask yourself ‘why would he do this at all’. Once the ‘me’ goes out of the thought process you are probably closer to closure. Maybe what you should do is be fascinated or repelled by the character rather than by what that person did to you. Sounded perfect to me.

So when I read in horror about the recent Las Vegas shooting, for a moment I was dumb struck. Then I read that the ISIS claimed responsibility. Actually I was relieved . So there is a motive. The old Islam purification technique . Las Vegas, capital of sinful pleasure,  a large crowd dancing to country music and yes …a radicalized white man shooting them down to satisfy his inner religious urge, rage…whatever…. seems plausible. We are not dealing with a complicated psychopath here. And then things became murky and a little frightening when the authorities came up with a blank and had to rule out ISIS.

The question now is who is this Stephen Paddock and why in heaven’s name would he gun down 59 people in a shooting spree? It’s not the favorable gun laws. He could use a bomb or a truck to mow down the crowd. It’s whats inside the head that makes him willing to do this that is scary. Do we want an explanation or do we want to be able to identify such people among us so we can be on guard?…. is it possible that one of us could turn into this heinous creature out of the blue without knowing why? 64 years old Stephen Paddock a retired accountant is the normal next door guy in a law abiding locality. He has a pleasant little house, a steady girl friend, reasonably wealthy, no criminal records, not even a parking ticket,  enjoys gambling in Vegas and has a brother he keeps in touch with, sends gift boxes of cookies to his 90 yr old mother ….normal as normal goes. Yet one fine day this man becomes the sniper who mercilessly guns down 59 people.

Innumerable questions assault you. Is Stephen Paddock a psychopath? Is it genetic? Was he into depression? Did he suddenly slip into some psychotic break? Is he on drugs? Or simply is he nuts? And because of one of these he just gets a load of guns and kills total strangers. The human mind is a big mess. Or…as Lionel Shriver , the author of ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ suggests, Paddock could have yearned to be famous. Actually radicalization seems more sane. Why was he so angry, so murderous, so malicious? Why do people do mean things to others without telling them why?

It’s the intention behind an act that gives rise to consternation, whatever be the act. Taking a page from ‘We need to talk about Kevin’, Kevin’s mother asks her son Kevin who is a teen sociopath , who kills nine classmates, a teacher and a cafeteria worker,  “why did you do it” . He says “I used to think I knew. Now I’m not so sure”. In other words ‘I don’t know.’

When Walter White , the ‘Breaking Bad’ chemistry teacher , father, doting husband, timid humble upright citizen was diagnosed with cancer and he decided to cook meth to make quick money for his family his intentions were clear .Then his priorities changed and we wondered how could he…do this? But in the end it becomes clear. Finally he agrees that  he did what he did, cooked more meth, murdered not just for his family but because he liked what he was doing. He says “I felt alive”. Even cancer took a step back when he was in the thick of being bad because it made him feel good, right and alive. Can we fight that, cure that, explain that in terms of morals , rights and wrongs? No. I still remember the scene where Walt slowly slips down to his death his eyes glowing with the joy of touching his equipment in the meth lab. He loved being bad. He did it because he liked doing it. Maybe when someone gives you the answer “I don’t know why I did it ” the answer is just that he doesn’t know yet that he liked it and that’s why he did it.

So somewhere in our grey matter are these chemicals that given the right circumstances flare up and lead us into doing something cruel, mean, unforgivable, immoral, illegal, bad …everything that makes other people dumbstruck , horrified, hurt, puzzled ,sad ….. and all we can explain it is with the words “I don’t know why I did it”.

Coming back to mundane life with it’s insipid and minor bruises and rejections, I realized my friend was right in telling me to focus on the person who hurt you and not the ‘hurt’ per se. If they hurt you its probably because they had a reason but if you can’t find that reason and they won’t tell you what it is maybe it’s because it’s just a person out there who ‘likes’ doing it , who felt alive dishing it out.

Well…now ‘I know’ and that my friend is the closure we need!






Educate a woman you educate a family, a nation.

It was in the 90s. Those were honeymoon days for me. I had just joined my husband who was stationed at Vizag. Our favorite pastime was going on late night bike rides. We would choose deserted by lanes and outskirts for our nightly jaunts. But to our horror we realized we were never alone. Where ever we went there were groups of chattering men and women going about their late night business of emptying their bowels. The headlights kept shining on the business end of these social groups, exposing their bare bottoms. And their attitude to us was one of ‘You have no business riding here now, disturbing our nightly ritual’. Needless to say we aborted our nocturnal bike rides for fear of stepping on people’s toes sorry faeces.
I wondered why they did this. Is it because of infrastructural inadequacies? Or is it because they could not afford it? Or is it because of the funny feeling of keeping your house clean since ‘I live here’. The streets don’t matter. Or maybe years of rural living has given them this deeply entrenched feeling that the result of natural functions is meant to enrich the soil. I remember the lady whose house I was going to rent. She pointed out to the broad neat lanes on either side of her house and said “You have enough place to defecate if you need so”. Not that there were no toilets in the house.
After a gap of almost 15 years I was back in Vizag again. There was a visible change everywhere. There were more school and college buses plying the roads. Girls in uniforms and satchels, well dressed ladies, working women – I was pleasantly surprised. I decided to go for a stroll but with downcast eyes in case I step on poop. Roads were clean. There were no “conference poop” late in the night anywhere. And I searched around for the answer. Chandra babu naidu, the then chief minister, with a vision to modernize and uplift the country had placed a strong impetus on Female education, empowerment and awareness. New schools and colleges exclusively for girls, more seats reserved for women, free education, subsidized higher studies, an effort to spread awareness about the importance of female participation and also greater emphasis on use of computer skills and technology were all not just policies but were clearly implemented.
When the daughters learnt they taught their mothers. The mother initiated the changes in the house and environment. Some of them told me about this bride they had heard about who refused to go join her husband till a toilet was built in his village home. I heard women talking about the dignity of the female sex, their rights and their privileges and the importance of civic responsibilities. No more open air defecation. I felt proud to be a woman. Teach her she will teach the world. Change her, everything will follow suit.

Liberated sex – How far is far enough – (Paru j)

Monogamy is probably the best thing that was conceived by civilization but I have to say that nature is polygamous and so are human beings.The west has taught us that sexual repression is unhealthy and hence freedom should include sexual freedom too. In other words consensual sex should not be restricted by social,civil or religious laws. Personally I do feel that sex need not be given so much of attention , made to be more important than anything else in life, brood over it or even equate it with morality or divinity. A lot of guilt ridden relationships, frustrations, inhibitions, self abuse result from too much of taboo on sex. On deeper introspection we need to relax our stranglehold on ‘morality and character on sexual grounds’. In fact I am quite liberal about pre marital sex, homosexuals; a part of me also can justify extra marital sex but I realized that we need to draw a line somewhere along the way after seeing the movie ‘Juno’.

Juno is a 15 year old American girl, going to high school and living with her parents. She gets pregnant by her boy friend who is also an immature, pimply teenager studying in her own school. Juno decides to deliver the baby because an abortion meant ‘murdering’ the baby and a ‘sin’. What surprised me was the reaction of her parents. They took it as calmly as if she were announcing that she had failed in her exams.In fact her mother’s comment was’ I never knew you were sexually active’. They look for and find a couple who would adopt the baby. The family goes about as if it is the most normal thing for a teenager to carry an illegitimate child. A girl who should be playing , swimming, dancing and wearing cute clothes goes about with a distended stomach. The boyfriend is least bothered about her situation.

Why should a girl who is physically and mentally still immature go through the difficult process of pregnancy? Is it the fault of a liberal society ? Parents have to look after their children. Apart from providing for them they also have to make them aware of life. The greatest invention of man is ‘birth control’ .Instead of ‘sexual liberation’ being all about ‘have sex with who ever you want, whenever you want’ should it not be ‘sex can have serious repercussions in the form of a new life’. Unless you are ready to take up its responsibility do not go in for careless sex. There are birth control devices. An awareness of those is what is needed. A liberal society with no sense of responsibility is a dangerous one.

Juno would give her baby for adoption, go on with her life, forget about her unfortunate meandering into the world of adults, enter new bonds, may be have other babies too. What about the child, the illegitimate mite discarded by an immature mother, caught up in the trauma of life with non biological foster parents whose marriage could be equally flimsy, isolated in a world with no one to call your own? This I call a greater sin than an ‘abortion’. It would be a sign of compassion if the liberated mother while wondering if her daughter is sexually active or not, is able to spare a thought for a child born at the wrong time in the wrong place.

Take sex lightly, but be sure to take children seriously!!

I can’t see u now so I……..

I had just reached Mumbai. I was alone since my husband’s ship had sailed out . Our luggage was stored in someone’s garage . Our accommodation was ready but not yet taken over. It was my first time in Mumbai  so I felt a little lost in the naval area at Colaba. A close friend (so I assumed) had invited me to her flat and I found my way to it. I stared at the lock on the front door. I distinctly remember talking to her the previous day and telling her the time I would reach there. She had been pleasant enough over the phone. I searched for some message on the door and found nothing. Having no access to immediate phone service ( cell phones were not as ubiquitous then as they are now) I wondered what to do. With an infant in my arms and a toddler beside me and tired from a long train journey I felt helpless and dizzy. I decided to go down and try the help desk when I glimpsed someone stepping out of the servant quarters. It was my friend’s maid. I pointed out the lock and asked  her where her memsaab was. She was puzzled. She said ‘Memsaab is inside . I have just come from there.’ She did not know what to do. I understood one thing. My friend did not want to receive me. I walked away. Tears blurred my eyes as I stepped into the lift. When the lift door opened I bumped into an officer and before I could apologize there was a warm greeting from him. He was one of my husband’s course mates. Relief flooded through me. I told him my plight and he immediately took me to his quarters and there I stayed till my husband’s ship reached Mumbai.

I often wondered why my friend decided to avoid me. Did she resent me , had I hurt her at some point of time in the past? I was positive that there had never been such instances . It can’t be anything personal. But.. then why ?  I met her many times after that and neither of us spoke about it. But something was lost between us. There was just the shell of friendship, the essence had gone. Whatever her reason the simple fact is that she did not know how to tell me that she was not willing to receive me in her house that day. She just wanted me to assume that some  pressing need  had kept her away from the house and if the maid had not seen me I would have believed her too and our friendship would have slipped back into the same smooth groove it was in  before.

Wanting to” keep away ” from someone  is something which all of us want to do at some point of time. It is not always wanting to completely break away. It is just that we need a respite , a breather for  may be a day, an occasion, a few days or just ‘that moment’. Today with mobile phones it is easier to avoid those we wish to evade . Picture this. If  it is now, we  can remain behind a locked door, keep our  phone in silent mode , switch off  TV sets and when the door bell rings followed by a call just sms a reply  that you ‘ are stuck in traffic, was called off on an errand , busy at a meeting, couldn’t get away, will call u back, sorry catch up later,etc. U are right there in your house. The guest would go away but with out any resentment and the friendship  would  be intact.
Why do we do this ? There are so many reasons for not wanting to meet someone at that precise moment when they come visiting. You could be engrossed in a movie, book, serial, feeling drowsy or be chatting online  with some one special when the visitor’s presence is totally an impediment: Or you have no more need of that person since your business with them is over and time spent with them is sheer waste : Or you know he /she is here to ask for something which u are not willing to do or give: Or simply because he /she is a bore and u don’t want to waste precious time on them: Still it can be because u are really in a depressed state of mind and will be a morose companion and you  have nothing personal against the individual who is at your door step.Yet again it is because u so desperately want to be alone with your thoughts : Or maybe  u are waiting for someone important and do not want a third person in your midst.The reasons can be umpteen but in every case we resort to lying, camouflaging  and pretending. The truth is, even the best of us sometimes find it harrowing to be always convivial, friendly and available for social contact. At  times  we will want to say no to company. We should definitely  have the freedom to say it but then say it gently. Probably our various tools in a cell phone make things easier for us. I have heard people sitting next to me in weddings and scream into their  phones “I am at Calicut not in Kochi” (And he is very much in Kochi) or ” in a train” or “driving”  etc etc. I smile because I probably would be doing the same if the situation calls for it. Not one of us will simply  say ‘Look I don’t want to see u now’ because  such bluntness sours relationships and although u want to avoid them  now it is not that u never want to welcome them. Mark my words. Rudeness and rejection can leave painful scars. We need to keep the social machinery well oiled and lubricant . Otherwise the resulting friction would leave us all disgruntled, revengeful and hostile towards one another.

In the name of love………

There are many things done in the name of love. Women asking men to sell their integrity for money; men making women give up the work they enjoy ; parents expecting children to live their lives according to their standards, chase their unfulfilled dreams and never allowing the children to develop standards of their own or even recognize their dreams ; children who expect to be parasites on their parents all their lives never allowing them to rest and relax in the autumn of their lives .
People who think you have a duty to make yourself miserable in order to bring happiness to those you are supposed to love . There are those who say “I love you ,so you owe it to me to love me back.” People who demand that you share everything, lay bare your heart, your most private thoughts because you love them.There are those who expect you to change totally, lose your identity, even dress differently ,eat to please another, give up your hobbies, your leisure activities and become their shadows,puppets or clones ; those who move presumptuously into your space and crush you with their personality and all in the name of love.
Again, in the name of love for a concept called God humanity is butchered everywhere without qualms . Young lives are sacrificed in the name of love for religion while the same love denies people simple pleasures forcing them to live a life forever dominated by the guilt of sin and fear of divine punishment. All in the name of love for god and religion.
No one has a right to be loved ,not even God . It is something that is given freely or not given at all.

Are wE moving on ? (Courtsey Narendra modi)

My commendations to Raheel Dhattiwala for elucidating why Muslims in Gujarat support the BJP. This is news to us isin’t? There is no shift in religious sentiments or communal feelings. Just that the attitude of the modern day Indian is undergoing a metamorphosis. Ahmadbhai is busy helping the BJP workers in his ward . His reasons are simple.” If Modi is in power our drainage problems will be solved “.In Ahmedabad, the campaign trail of the BJP includes two groups -The muslim clerics and the muslim traders.Two groups that we will assume have different reasons when it comes to party preferences. The traders go by the rational logic of voting for a party that breathes “development”.For them the key to survival is to stay close to a government that is focused on total economic and industrial advancement.. Resource distribution in a democracy depends on the discretion of elected officials.So for the traders the history of Gujarat under Modi is synonymous to prosperity.
What about the clerics, the religious groups.They wish to remove the label of anti-social and anti- national. Religious muslims have replaced their caller tunes with patriotic songs.A fruit vendor in Ahmedabad commented that the terrorist tag was too much of a cross to carry and wished to be rid of it. He further commented that it is no shame for a muslim to be known as a BJP supporter.
The power center for a religious muslim is the local cleric. For these clerics to establish credibility and popularity among the people, they need the support of politicians. They need to work without friction to ensure their community is not trampled. Many muslim maulavis have realized that they need to be part of the mainstream for improving the life of their community.Almost 70% of muslim managed schools and colleges have been established between 1993 and 2005.It is not religion anymore, it is a better standard of living that is the maxim of the day. Unheard of earlier.
The movement ‘to move on’ has begun.If all of us do not assimilate with each others communities it is the end for us. Every political party needs to address issues which are of paramount importance to the life of all their people- issues like clean water,electricity, food, education, employment ,health care, equal rights, good
roads, law and order and a lot more which are common for all and have no bearing on which religion or caste u belong to.
It is time to put aside past grievances and hurts. Move on.