Saturday, December 17, 2016

Mujhse Pahli Si

Imagine a recently disillusioned bhakt. Now make a leap of faith and also imagine that he has read Faiz Ahmed Faiz. This is what he may write:

mujhse pahli si aqiidat* mere murshid* na maang
maine samjha tha ke tu hai to mahfooz hai hindostaan
tera huqm hai to huqm-e-insaniyat ka jhagda kya hai
tere 56inchi-seene se hai aalam* mein bhakton ko sabaat*
teri baaton ke siwa duniya mein rakkha kya hai
tu PM jo ban jaaye to mulk tarraki kar jaye
magar yoon na tha, maine faqat* chaha tha yoon ho jaye

bass! kaam aur bhi hain hume teri bhakti ke siwa
sach aur bhi hain zamaane mein tere jumlon ke siwa

an-ginat jumlon ke tarik* bahimana* tilism*
resham o atlas o kim khab* mein bunvaye huye
jā-ba-jā* bikte hue kūcha-o-bāzār* meñ "spin"
jhoot meñ luThḌe hue fake meñ nahlā.e hue

jumle nikale huye teri P.R. ki masheeno se
jhoot failaaye huye watsapp pe teri party ke namuno se
laut jaati hai udhar ko bhi nazar kya kijiye
abb bhi pur-shor* hain teri awaaz, magar kya kijiye

bass! kaam aur bhi hain hume teri bhakti ke siwa
sach aur bhi hain zamaane mein tere jumlon ke siwa
mujhse pahli si aqiidat mere murshid na maang.

~ Bhaqt Aimak Bhaqt

[Glossary of terms:
Aqiidat = faith; murshid = guide; aalam = world; sabaat = stability; faqat = merely; tariq = dark; bahimana: dangerous; tilism = spell; resham o atlas o kim khab = silk and satin and brocade; ja-ba-ja = everywhere; kucha-o-bazar =  whole market; pur-shor = loud.]

Mujhse Pahli SiSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Discussion and The Herd

Unity is merely an instrument that can be used for good or for bad. In itself, it has no intrinsic moral worth. It is not a value. It can at best be a precondition for pursuing some collective goals of a herd*. It is these goals that must then be examined for their moral worth.
I would argue that it is desirable -- even a moral duty -- of every member of the herd to question these goals and not merely pursue them blindly.
Being human entails autonomy and thus a capacity for moral responsibility of our own choices. This is the basis of all human rights.
But if you merely pursue the goals of your herd without questioning and examining them -- like an automaton following the one in front of you -- you abdicate your moral responsibility. Though not ideal, this is still bearable for this is itself a moral choice -- even if a bad one -- and concerns only you.
However, what is morally abhorrent is denying others in your herd a chance of questioning and discussing its goals. In doing so you deny that autonomy for moral choice which makes us human. (Of course, some may point out that it will be an impossible situation because two members of the herd may decide on contradictory goals. But that difficulty can be handled by some agreed upon rule -- votes, for example. In that case everyone is still allowed to make their own choices even if their preferred outcome is not achieved. What is immoral is disallowing equal chance to anyone to discuss and influence the goals of their herd according to their own conscience.)
This is the moral argument for tolerance of questioning and discussion in a herd.
There is also an instrumental argument. The herds that allow the collective intelligence of the member to discuss and choose goals are more successful and resilient. Conversely, the herds whose self-definition is based on taboos -- we are a herd that does not discuss this or that -- will disintegrate sooner than later.
[*It holds true of all herds -- your nation, your religion, your organization, your sports team or whatever herd you feel part of.]
Discussion and The HerdSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Silence of the rocks

Near my house is a rock. It looks very impressive and measures 56 inch in width. And for last year or so it has gained tremendous following. Bhakts and believers from all over the country see it as an answer to all of their troubles. They say it not only answers their prayers but also speaks to them, heart to heart ("mann ki baat" is what they term it in Hindi). A young student, now studying in 11th, told me that some wise words from it helped her lessen the anxiety before her board exams last year.
Impressed, I went to pay it a visit with few other friends. One publicly inclined friend asked it why the nepotism and corruption in the upper rungs of government doesn't seem to be coming down despite the change of government. The rock was silent. The bhakts present there clarified -- it only talks to believers, and by your hostile questions you clearly don't look like one, hence the silence. But how can we become believer before it answers our questions, we asked. Faith does not submit to such rational calculations was the terse reply.
On our way back, one of the friend with a political sense of humor observed -- this rock is just like our previous prime minister who always kept quiet. Another one corrected -- no, it's more like the current one, who talks depending on the topic and the audience.
Silence of the rocksSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kafka in MEA

Contrary to the rumors of his death, Kafka is hale and hearty. Met him at the passport office of Ministry of External Affairs, India last couple of days.
Went to get my passport renewed. Since I had got married in the interim, I wanted to get Manvi's name added. The document list on the website suggested that I submit a joint affidavit declaring that I and Manvi are married. Sounded pretty legit. I did the needful and attached the affidavit with the application. The officer at counter B who was responsible for verifying the documents didn't seem convinced that I was married to someone I was stating on a sworn legal document that I was. (Even though the MEA's own site said the document was sufficient.) The officer, in his own infinite wisdom, then decided to ask for the verification of originals -- the wife, in this case. No kidding! His logic: since the affidavit was executed on the same day, he needed to double check. (Implying that had I sworn in the same statement a couple of weeks ago, it would have been more believable. An affidavit is perhaps like concrete that need to be curated for a week or two before it achieves desired strength.) He and subsequently the deputy passport officer asked me to come next day with Manvi.
So I and Manvi reached passport office again early next morning. The only problem? The security guard was adamant that the rules are pretty clear -- in no case can anyone be allowed to accompany the applicant who was not a child or senior citizen. So I tried to make him see the catch-22-ness of my situation. Finally after about 15 mins of hand waving and emphatic arguments, we agreed to wait for some officer who would review my case. In the interim I was left wondering my luck -- had the officers at counter B yesterday shown the similar spirit of sticking to the letters of the rules as this guard was showing today, I and Manvi would have been spared this trouble. The wisdom in a government office is always arbitrarily distributed, I surmised.
Finally the guard talked to someone inside and luckily this person wasn't as stickler for details and advised that we both be allowed in. After about 3 hours of other multiple rounds of verifications, scannings, and clarifications, my file was accepted. Funny part -- the file had exactly the same documents as were submitted the first time. Only consolation -- throughout these hours of difficulty, the wife was present, in original, alongside me, as she promised about a couple of years ago.
Kafka in MEASocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Came across the following Hindi poem on Twitter via @iawoolford - 

And my attempt at translation -

I stumbled upon
As one would on a new word.
To grasp and comprehend you
I accepted my own inferiority;
And with a student-like faith
I turned into a believer.
Doesn't being a believer imply
That only as the understanding dawns
One becomes uncomplicated like a learner?
Isn't word polymorphism the essence of texts?
O my word
O my meaning
O my text

YouSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, May 18, 2015

Stoic Ethics

Change what you should and can. 
Accept what you shouldn't or can't change. 
Understand, regardless. 

~ Stoicism, basically.

P.S. Sounds like a good programming maxim.
Stoic EthicsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, May 11, 2015

On Tolerance

I get along well with people who've high tolerance -- for ideas and alcohol.  
Others generally throw up too soon -- in a pub or a discussion.
On ToleranceSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend