Poets and Poems

What does he do? How’s it different from the rest?
not a lot he knew, he never gave his best;
for he didn’t have to.
Do those banks make a river? Or the river the bends?
Do those lips make your words? Or do they just speak?

Is it really true? That he never wrote a word?
only gave them ink, and allowed them through?
from fingertips to sheet; how, he never knew?

he doesn’t have a clue.
Lovers don’t need to know to the why and how
just love will do

 

Under the Skin

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What lies beyond her smile,
the twinkle in her eyes,
the glimmer of her hair,
I do not know

Within my grasp, without a reason,
just outside my reach, just beyond my hold,
it seems to flow, all on it’s own,
oh how it goes and goes, I do not know

But it stirs in me these colours, these notes,
ones I always had; ones I’d never known
so soft, sweet, right out of me, they overflow

so now, to be around you, to have you close
Is all I want,
Is all I know

The Inflexible

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If I told you will die soon,
next month or maybe a few more moons

would you still pout and post
or would you simply smile a little more

What would you do if I said, “you are about to die”,
disease, fatal wound or you pick a reason why,
Would you still stick to your schedule of lifeless repetition
and binge on soaps on your PC or television,

Will every morning be the same
hung over from last night, looking to survive the day again

Or would you break free of webs and bonds
from both, the time to come and the time long gone

and breath in the current moment, the present breath
and for once be free, of doubts and meaningless debts

would you still live as someone as good as dead
Or would you finally wake up from all this,
from dreams of comfort and an ignorance so bliss.

Then find blossoming, just as a Christmas rose,
buried in layers of ignorance, pretense, like snow
a gratitude, a love , a longing for life
only someone dying could know
And then water these feelings in others
for whom death still remains at best
a distant, inevitable guest
who’d uninvited, yet certainly, visit them too

But why do we need to know the time
the year, the month and the style

to know that we are, as it is going to die
sooner or later, we don’t get to decide

But we do decide and make up or mind
on how we spend our borrowed time

we could rush towards the end, proud and blind
burn out rather than fade away, we decide
as these feel like the only two options in sight

or we could master the art of living,
and shine bright, eternal, a guiding light
and paint for ourselves and others, a beautiful life.

The allure of effortless power

Entertainment media is said to be a mirror reflecting the desires of the society. It’s the only way people can be pulled away from their busy lives and made to sit in front of a dumb screen. It has to offer its viewers something which touches them on an emotional level, at that point of time. Deep space travel had once captivated the hearts and minds of people around the world. Time travel, Aliens, Futuristic Technology and other such topics have each seen a tremendous amount of work being put into them during particular periods of time, when the public interest in them spiked.

So by taking a closer look at the waves of trends which have come and gone over the past few years, we can in essence figure out what the average man found interesting. It unarguable shows the pattern of desires which pass through men collectively, as a whole community or country. Of course the creativity and vision of the artists behind such trends, be it directors or authors, plays a significant role in promoting certain ideas. But even the most intricately crafted explosions, in the most detail oriented action movie won’t turn any heads in a community which adores peace and harmony, say the monks of Tibet. The cases of individuals whose work gets rediscovered and then celebrated long after it was created are also not uncommon.  So brilliant and innovative ideas are always abound, but the ones which get propelled forward in the stream of public recognition and approval are the ones which strike a chord very close to the hearts of the people.

The idea of an effortless intelligence and an immense power over large sections of society, a firm hold over them all, seems to be receiving all the approval right now. Be it the movies, books or even television series, the most loved characters today seem to have an air of casual brilliance about them. From Tony stark in Iron Man to Frank Underwood in the House of Cards, such characters have carved a comfy niche for themselves within our psyche. In today’s result oriented world where mind-numbing hard work isn’t always enough, we often look upon such works of fiction; if not to be inspired by them then to just feel reassured that such skills and attitudes are human, and not beyond the realm of human capabilities. A similar argument can be used to bring to light our fantasy of being in control over a large number of people.

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Money is never the primary motivator. It may be used to distract us and keep us under control but the visceral feeling of being bound always persists. Our responsibilities towards the ideas, unseen individuals, ambiguous goals and other factors we don’t whole heartedly believe in bind us. It keeps us under a whip of conformity and routine; one that neither justifies nor helps us realizes our true potential. We may deny it on the surface, but the reasons so many of us admire characters like Don Corleone, Shiva (The Immortals of Meluha), Walter White and more are because they are in control. They overcame their obstacles and are now in direct control of a large group of people, and thus the succeeding events. The same cannot be said for the rest of us. Such tales give us an escape, an alternate reality were the people we admire, our heroes, take us on a ride. We experience the feeling, the challenge of such control through them.

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So this brings us to a very interesting conclusion. Do we take inspiration from such fine strokes of imagination and bring a definitive change in our lives; one which would have been impossible to think of had the possibilities presented to us by such fiction not brought to the fore. Or do we simply sit back, relax and go on a ride of short-lived joy and surrogate adventure, without ever peeking upon the worlds of adventure within us.

Sharing in the Big Bad Online World

The nature of joy is to share. Harnessing the simplicity and truth of this statement has made Facebook the run-away success is today is, but this idea has been with us for a long time. As a species inherently hard-wired to function and interact in groups, the tendency to share comes naturally. From an evolutionary perspective complex social structures, which existed even in pre-historic times, derived their strength from the feeling of belongingness which each member contributed towards. This required for them to care for more than their immediate family and thus share tools, food and other necessities. This motivation to contribute, however, comes from more than just the omnipresent social bindings. On an individual level it comes from the happiness of being accepted, the increased sense of esteem and the feeling of security and eminence. connect-social-media-s

However, mindless indulgence is never a good thing. When there exists something called water poisoning (that’s right, from over-hydration) you know excessive sharing everything can lead to no good. Chasing the hollow feeling of pride is what leads to people showing-off. Today’s technology makes it possible to share every instance of your life online with anonymous people. When you update your status every few minutes, when all your food enters your phone before entering your mouths and when every little thought is put on a platter and forcefully served to others, you know you have a problem. This constant urge to share on an online platform soon trickles down into your real world social spheres and the line separating public decency from ridiculous behavior begins to blur.live-two-weeks-without-social-media

However in today’s world networking and socializing on online platforms is almost a ritual and such a big part of our daily lives that those who don’t have an online account are thought of as rebellious and borderline anti-social. The online world is simply another platform for us, as humans to interact and share ideas and thoughts in, besides the laughs. Most of us are able to regulate our time online and use it so that it complements our experiences offline. So we should take this opportunity to expand our social spheres rather than to criticize it and resist the inevitable. Besides adapting to change is what has enabled us to survive even more than sharing itself. So now we just have to adapt to this new form of sharing and let the rest take its own course

The Power we Command

images (1)Like all the things we take for granted, our fortune to choose our representatives at almost all levels of democracy is hugely sidelined and ignored. The struggle so many sections of society, in every nation, had to endure to be given this basic right, one almost as fundamental as the right to education, is now a days almost forgotten. The nature of votes, one man (or woman, or any of the 50 other genders included on Facebook) one vote is what gives a democracy power and authenticity but from a large and latitudinous point of view. From closer in, and especially in a country like ours (read over populated), this power begins to feel diluted. Its value appears reduced. Moreover well thought out decisions of a few seem to drown out within an ocean of guided decisions; guided by last minute haphazard actions of various politicians, hilariously designed (last second?) adverts and of course unlimited bottles of alcohol.

The entire purpose of elections is takes a beating every time a section of society gives their votes to a particular candidate for all the wrong reasons. We may cringe and call such a group a “vote-bank”, and roll our eyes saying it, treating it as a menace from a fable but the reality is a lot darker than what even those tales have to offer. After the ruling party is done watching itself in the news for a few years, it is already too late to bring in significant change. Like students rushing through a book before an exam, for the first time mind you, reading only what’s most important, most likely to come, they hurriedly pass bills and clear projects. These are often aimed for the “Banks” as it offers them a quick-fix solution, in return for their temporarily unwavering support. It’s a deal with the devil, one who’s after the Nations soul. Then like students who celebrate after passing by the skin of their teeth, they revel in their sudden burst of efficiency, boasting of all the potential they have for the future.

We are all excellent people in the future. See it is some place where everything is based upon our currently missing needs, so when we are made promises about it by an authority we don’t fully understand, it induces within us an unfounded sense of calm. Continued procrastination and baseless confidence make sure those things never reach the present. Unlike our petty exams ( state exams twice every 6 months and general exams bi-annual, by the way) which we can afford to barley pass, how often can this Nation survive such mistreatment. After all how many more states must be formed before a party feels it can save face in the coming elections.

It all circles back down to our decisions about our representatives’ performance after a run at the office. An eager opposition, just waiting to take over after an abysmal run of the ruling party will never be able to fulfill the needs of the nation with the passion, dedication the task requires. Now a sobering question arises: Who do we pick from this ensemble of mediocrity? But the silver lining here is – “who do we pick”. This is where the immense power we command makes a difference. How can a party deny the needs of the people who will eventually elect it? Only once we are able to overcome prejudice can we wake up to realize our needs and to realize that in this democratic system we must necessarily be served those needs. Only then can we make solid demands which will have any scope of being heard and accepted.

This power will serve its purpose, only as long as it is faithfully used by us. The sole reason behind all the conflicts and hardships which discriminated groups of society, back in the 1900’s, endured was because they wanted to live in a world which they could influence. They wanted a say in matters closest to them, and today we are born in a world with these as our inalienable rights. Let us wake up to the power each of us commands and the responsibilities that come with it. As individuals there’s only so much we can do.  A drop of water may not satisfy our growing thirst but together, in case of a country like ours(read over populated) our potential is enough to fill oceans.

Broken Windows in India

The Broken Window theory is a criminological theory of “the norm-setting and signaling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior”. In other words, it suggests that an atmosphere which is indifferent towards small and petty crimes tends to promote antisocial behavior and provide crimes of greater magnitudes a conducive environment to flourish in.

Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.

Or consider a pavement. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of refuse from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars.

This is applicable to other unwanted trends our society tends to pick up too, like littering of public places. Take for example the pool of garbage all around the dustbins placed strategically in our locality. Or the pools of garbage not around those dustbins and everywhere else.

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The most interesting and practically useful suggestion it makes is to counter crimes and other unwanted occurrences in their infancy, before things get out of hand. This is of course much easier written than done. Litter had been around us since we were little kids. After all, we have grown up seeing little children take a shit on the side on the road almost as often as we have seen Akshay Kumar make a sensible movie (not that often, thankfully). Our community, it feels, had always been indifferent towards dirt. This trend passed its infancy long ago.

In India litter, it seems, has always been and will always be. It’s something we grow up looking at every day.
But it’s not like we are dirty people, oh absolutely not. Our house’s floors look like that’s where all the Fair and Lovley is applied (two shades lighter in 3 weeks, was it?). Nobody tries to improve their basketball by throwing junk at dustbins indoors or at any other place of social significance (They all dunk). It need goes without saying that we are at our best when we are someplace that has received an investment by either us or somebody else, both in terms of time and money. These good manners are more evident when the concerned party is either directly present or can take action if informed later. Take restaurants, temples, societies and offices for instance. Be it the owner, the societies head, our boss or even god we always wish to please them. I dare you to litter your kitchen.

So what happens when the boundary of ownership becomes vague and finally disappears? We have all seen Hotels and Shops where this boundary is actually visible. Clean rectangular patches of roads leading in, surrounded comically by junk on all sides. We are clean only about our personal spaces. What Happens the moment we are left where to our own devices in places only the government is (supposed to be) worried about. Basketball time.
So this brings us back to The Broken Window theory. Crime was rampant in New York during the mid-1980s. Subways provided the poor, helpless artists of New York a means of transportation and infinite steel walls to spray paint. Fair evasion was so common that culprits were not even chased after. Dangerous gear was smuggled almost as often. This was happening when above ground, the conditions were even worse. The New York City Transit Police hired George L. Kelling as a consultant and some major policy revisions, based on ideals from The Broken Window were enforced. They recognized the vandalism and fair evasion as one of the key factors which helped this criminal atmosphere thrive. It reinforced the belief of Police’s incompetence and left even the innocent passengers in contact with possibly dangerous men. No one cared up until then.

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The “zero-tolerance” roll out was part of an interlocking set of wider reforms, crucial parts of which had been underway since 1985. Bratton (another intellectual and a natural leader) had the police more strictly enforce the law against subway fare evasion, public drinking, public urination, graffiti artists and the “squeegee men“. They were in other words targeting the roots of this plague, the smallest of things when compared to murders, kidnapping and car- jacking etc. Without going into details let’s just say that the effects were immediate. A success in the subways led to timely reforms in the NYPD too. Today William Bratton is the current NYPD commissioner.

New York solved is problems this way, but can we do the same with respect cleanliness? It would require a pretty heavy handed approach with the dreaded “chalan” for every minor act of polluting the environment. The pan eaters would suffer the most, followed by the rest of us, for anyplace we can’t sleep is a place we can litter. The feeling that just this one packet of chips won’t tip the scale when it joins the rest by the side of the road is our problems take root.

Years and years of negligence have left us devoid of all feelings of responsibility. How ironic that we are in such huge numbers all over the world, in so many aggregated societies in so many countries, yet we feel it’s alright to spit out the window of a car here. It’s because of all the broken windows all around us. Why would someone pull us over when there are half a dozen people fertilizing the bushes (or brick walls) near-by. Why would someone stop me from throwing my food wrappers when every other person is throwing it too. This cycle of why should be the first will never end on it’s own as there is no shortage of self-righteous hypocrites for whom the outside is just another place which doesn’t belong to them.

New York had the courage to begin penalizing minor criminals and miscreants heavily. Every fare evader was search, questioned and examined by the NYTP. The resulting arrests due to carrying concealed weapons, prior charges and pending cases was over whelming. As outlined in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, all social epidemics are the dedicated work of a few who knowingly or unknowingly spread the wrong message throughout their social group. These could be a father setting the wrong example for his kids, an angry driver who makes honking sound way better that it should. This is where, in a society, the roots of negligence, of apathy and eventual degradation grow from. These are the roots which need to be taken down.

Whenever you are about to contribute to our diverse, dazzling and ever growing collection of litter next, i would like you to ask yourself a question. Is it already too late for this neighbor, this locality that there is nothing you can do to make it look better? If not then go ahead and give the next hoodlum his excuse.