CHEERS TO AMITY

Friends are the those who can read the silence amidst a cacophony of words. Friendship is like a cog which, if it goes missing, can bring our entire social machinery to a jarring halt. Friends provide an indispensable stability, along with that extra bit of happiness that makes life more interesting. Call them what we may – buddy, pal, comrade, ally, bro, dost, bhai, yaar – genuine friends wear multiple hats, and can conveniently slip into any role that the situation demands. Of course, they come in different shapes, sizes and avatars, which is what makes their presence in our lives appealing.

The occasional friends are the ones who talk maybe once a year and meet even less. They may not be in touch with each other or even reluctant to meet, but will know everything that is happening to other friends. When they do meet, they behave as if we met them just a few days back, and naively continue conversations that ended when we last met them over a year back.

The philosopher always espouses famous thinkers and writers, mouthing their quotes with gay abandon. They usually send us a well-intentioned quote as their good morning message on social media (a wonderful habit as per me), but remain silent when any other debate is on. Another version of the species are the ones who try playing big brother or sister in all gatherings, and offer unwarranted and usually incongruous advice. If no one is willing to listen, it is possible that they may turn to talking with plants and conversing with walls.

The loquacious friend is great company – mostly for themselves! They can talk till the cows come home and then some more. They will invariably, with their limited knowledge, debate on everything under the sun. Once they start talking it becomes most difficult to stop them – not even putting their foot into the mouth can silence them. But most of them are ingenuous and extremely easy to understand.

The taciturn friend is the exact opposite of the above-mentioned specimen. Their answers to questions asked of them are in monosyllables, and their silence is more irritating than the movie Race 3 (an incredible achievement in itself). They prefer to jab at their cell phones (even at blank screens sometimes) while in a gathering, hoping that no one will come around to making awkward conversations with them.

Drinking buddies are loved by all and sundry. They meet with the sole intention of getting sozzled in the company of other friends. But it is fun to be part of this group – juvenile poetry, silly philosophy and puerile jokes flow as freely as the liquor. Except a few sober friends (one of who is the designated chauffeur), no one in this gathering understands, or even wants to understand what is going on. The whole atmosphere is one of “high” level discussions that seem to go nowhere, ending up in some “spirited” arguments, but good fun nevertheless.

All of us aspire to have a 2 am friend – and the lucky few among us even have one. They are the friends we can call at a bizarre time of say 2 am, and have a perfectly normal conversation, without her or him getting angry about being woken up at such an unearthly hour. This is that friend with whom you can share almost anything, without inhibitions and that too without being embarrassed. Such friends transcend the normal parameters of camaraderie and go into a realm that redefine the established frameworks of friendship.

School / college friends are the best to have for company. This is a story that never ends – friendship that begins in nonage and continues through dotage. Lack of time or vast distances separating them does not matter, for they will remain in touch irrespective. Just as in my case, I got back in touch with friends, 25 years after we finished schooling (thanks to social media), and continued our friendship as if none of us had ever gone incognito. These are relationships that last a lifetime and revive wistful memories of a forgotten childhood.

Whatever their shape and size, friends are an indelible part of our lives. They bring succor and relief when we are going through tough times. They make us laugh and cry; irritate, vex, comfort, encourage and guide us while lending a strong shoulder for us to vent our grief on, and in general make our lives worthwhile. Some of the best moments in life come up when we are in the company of friends. I would like to conclude with this beautiful quote on friendship I came across some time back – Good friends care for each other, close friends understand each other, but true friends stay forever… beyond words, beyond distance, beyond time!

Advertisements

LET’S GO TO THE MOVIES!

India as a country loves its movies – the escapist realism that a movie provides on the silver screen is unparalleled for Indians who meander through life blaming the government, circumstances, fate, upbringing and everything else (except themselves) for their dismal conditions. The few hours of relief that the moving images bring into their dreary lives makes a visit to the theatres worthwhile. Notwithstanding the advent of the Netflix, Prime, YouTube, Torrents and the local cable guy, the allure of watching movies in the darkened ambience of a cinema hall is still numinous. All fears of multiplexes, with their exorbitantly high rates and upmarket image, driving audiences away from movies have been grossly overrated. Visit any multiplex, including the outlandishly over-priced ones, and you see hordes of Indians thronging the place (especially during weekends). Since movie-theatres welcome a plethora of human beings into its fold, it also happens to be the one of the better places to observe people and their foibles.

It is easy to spot the early birds. They would be a family or group of people who have arrived prematurely (no pun intended). One gentleman or lady in the group would be a stickler for punctuality, who makes them traipse into the theatre almost when the previous show commences. They would usually seem the most jaded lot of all those ambling through the foyer, with many of them mentally hurling the choicest of invectives at the time-pedant.

The foodies are the easiest to recognize. Even before the show starts, they enter the auditorium with a mountain-load of food, sometimes so horribly stacked that they navigate through the crowd on auto, since the food obstructs their view of what is in front of them. The foodies (either alone or with their family) eat their way through the first half. The disgusting sounds of their chewing food (especially potato chips or wafers) distract and irritate you no end. And then during the interval they go out and get what else… some more food!

The lone wolves (mostly male) are the ones who come all alone to the movies (maybe no one likes their company), and appear busy fiddling with their mobile phones. But if you observe them carefully, you will notice that they catch sneaky glances at the people in the foyer – especially the pretty girls. In their warped mind they are already fantasizing about sitting next to a certain someone, which thankfully remains just a fantasy. The bolder and more brazen version of the lone wolves are the roadside Romeos. Their main aim of coming to the theatres is to pass coarse comments at females. The biological age of their unwarranted objects of desire are immaterial, since in their desperation they would behave lasciviously even with a tree that has a dress (or saree) wrapped around it. They are the ones usually dressed in loud clothes, talking in even louder tones and would surely be wearing ill-fitting sunglasses even in the poorly-lit cinema-hall, making them appear more comical than menacing.

The ones I hate the most are the late-comers. They plod in after the movie starts and ask you to move a bit so that they can reach their seats (inevitably in your row). The worst among them are the ones who invariably trample over your feet and unapologetically stop right in front of you while an important scene is playing on the screen. Requests to move aside are studiously ignored by them while they continue to blissfully stare at the screen and you are frantically trying to peep around or over them!

The fashionistas are the ones who think that they grace the movie halls only to show off their looks, which as per them are trending. They wear clothes that scream disaster so loudly that it deafens the audience, or so glaringly bright that it blinds them. Their makeup is so ghastly, gaudy and overdone that you can adjust your looks by looking at your reflection on the plasticky skin tone.

And how can I forget my eternal favourites – the couples. Irrespective of the movie playing, they continue to live out their personal romantic fantasies in the gloomy confines of the auditorium. They start by holding hands, stealing surreptitious glances and patiently wait for the screen to darken, before they start writing their love stories, regardless of the stares or frowns of people around them. There could be heart-thumping action sequences playing on-screen, but for them the most exciting thing would be the furious thumping of hearts. I personally like these people – most of us have been through this stage (or some exciting variant of this) during our college days, have we not? Well, some of us still do!

It takes all kinds to make the world, and I am sure all my movie-going readers would have seen many such characters in theatres. Many of us do not observe them keenly, but for me they create an imagery which is more animated than some of the movies that I have seen on the screen.

HIGH ON LIFE

Anyone who is a regular reader of my posts will know that I am not a flag-bearer for the Hindi movie industry. Despite the quality of some of the current movies being way better than the staple diet of misogynist and patriarchal movies that we were fed on during our childhood, the industry remains home to the most unprofessional, selfish and egoistic individuals. With a few rare exceptions, this industry is unabashedly inhabited by brazen and thick-skinned wolves who prey on the gullible and naive, in the guise of sheep. Agreed that this industry peddles escapism for the ever-hassled denizens of our country, but the muck that is peddled behind the scenes far outweighs the baloney that goes on in the name of entertainment on-screen.

One of the reasons (other than my wife’s insistence) for me watching 102 Not Out was because of its stellar star cast. Amitabh Bachchan remains a living legend (even I cannot deny this fact), and Rishi Kapoor (despite giving copious super-hits as a romantic lead) remains one of the most underrated actors of the Hindi film fraternity. The plot of the movie is very unique – a bittersweet relationship between a 102-year old father, Dattatraya Vakharia, and his 75-year old son, Babulal. The father wants to break the world record of being the oldest man alive, currently held by a 118-year old Chinese gentleman (whose life-size poster he totes around). He keeps reiterating to his morose and dowdy son that he has just 16 more years to go to break the record. But to do so, he needs to remove all negativity that is around him, and so wants to pack his son off to an old-age home. The movie is all about the son’s attempts to avoid this relocation (he got constipated for six months when the bathroom tiles were last changed!), by fulfilling the “demanding” (for the son) tasks set by his father. How the happy-go-lucky and boisterous father converts his pessimistic son to become an optimist while learning to live life to the fullest, forms the crux of the movie. I will not go into the technical aspects of the movie – the production values could have been better; the play-like feel (it’s been adapted from a well-known Gujarati play) could have been avoided with better screenplay; the movie’s reliance on standard tropes could have been lessened. On the positive side, apart from sensible direction and smart editing, the two veteran actors rise way above the script and take the movie to another level. Brilliance is expected from Amitabh Bachchan (he is superlative as the centenarian) and the author-backed script assists him in it. But it is Rishi Kapoor who surprises you with his dexterous performance – be it his fluid body language, his nuanced dialogue delivery, his metamorphic facial expressions or his measured voice modulation, he matches and, in many scenes, surpasses the senior actor. A special mention here of Jimit Trivedi, who plays their dimwit man-Friday, Dhiru. His authentic Gujarati accent and the deadpan expression he maintains during many comic scenes is commendable. Also, please do wait for the “Badumbaa” song at the end of the credits – both veteran actors put life into it with their vocals and dancing skills.

The movie did raise some very pertinent and disturbing questions. Every morning when you look at the (wo)man in the mirror, do you see an incredulous stranger looking back at you? A stranger who is amazed as well as saddened by your slow transmogrification into another Babulal who is cynical, sullen, agnostic and perennially weighed down by the daily grind of life? Are expanding waistlines and the all-grey cover on your heads the least of your worries? Do the suspicions of an ominous tomorrow keep ruining your today? I am sure many of my contemporaries feel that life has been unfair to them and that they can never get out of the squelchy rut that they are slowly sinking into. Basically, they just continue plodding through the imperfect path that they erroneously feel life has chosen for them. I have gone through similar phases in my life too, but having a wife who acts as a counter-balancing Dattatraya to my Babulal, helps tremendously. She keeps boosting my confidence while egging, motivating and encouraging me to do my best. The zest and zeal displayed by a young daughter also inspires me to be on a permanent high. I have realized (the hard way) that rather than sitting and brooding over a tomorrow over which I have no control, I would do well to safeguard my today.

We are all on the same journey, and heading towards the same destination. But can we not make this ride exhilarating by being self-confident, and remaining positive and happy about the passage of life? Of course, we can! Rather than crying over it, does it not make more sense to celebrate life? Of course, it is! Remember, growing up may be mandatory, but growing old is optional!

A BOND BEYOND LOVE

It is no hidden fact that a daughter and father share an unusual bond that goes beyond the ordinary concepts of love, transcending into something far more magical. Of course, there may be exceptions to this (there always is), but generally this remains true. Daughters may be best of friends, and share the most intimate of secrets with their mothers, but as a tacit rule, when it comes to her father a daughter can effortlessly wrap him around her little finger.

I am no exception to the above rule. When my wife had confided in me that she was expecting our child, I was ecstatic. We both wished for a healthy baby… but preferably a girl. And when I first held our daughter in my hands, I muttered silent thanks to the Almighty for having answered our prayers. She was a tiny bundle of joy who sent me on a poignant trip, with emotions ranging from elation to rapture, traipsing through my mind, finally crawling out of the corners of my eye in the form of tears of joy. She was so small that it scared me to hold her – a cute face flushed with exertion, barely-open eyes seeing the world for the first time, clenched fists, and tufts of dense dark hair stuck to her dainty head. I am sure that the sudden transition from the safe and cozy confines of the womb to the outside world must have been quite a shock. And the then unknown pair of hands holding her must have only added to her confusion. No wonder she was bawling away to glory – I never imagined that a petite little human baby could have such a powerful pair of lungs! I could vaguely hear my wife calling out my name, but the part of me that I now held in my arms had me transfixed with her piercing gaze and I fell head over heels for her! I finally turned to my semi-conscious wife, dexterously holding our daughter, and an unspoken acknowledgment passed between us – the arrival of our daughter had just renewed our love for each other. Moments which may have been fleeting when they occurred, play like an endlessly unspooling film reel in my mind; moments that will remain forever etched in the annals of memory; moments that bring infinite delight whenever I reminisce; moments where I blinked, and she grew up into a graceful lady.

Our daughter is now just a few months away from entering her teenage – a period that all parents warn their children to tread with dread. The intervening years have been nothing short of amazing – she is growing up to be sensible, mature, lazy (this trait comes from me), garrulous and temperamental (from both of us), impatient, recalcitrant, moody, irritable, inquisitive (comes naturally from her being part-Malayali), lovable, compassionate… in short everything that is ubiquitous in kids of her generation. As father and daughter, we have frequent fight and arguments – mostly over silly issues, but some that are intensely insane. We subsequently sulk and maintain an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, but an impish smile from her is all that is needed to bring my defenses crashing down, to turn me into a puddle of paternalistic affection. She loves going out on weekends, while I hate it; she loves to socialize, I hate it; like her mother she loves shopping, I hate it. She loves to cook and aspires to be a world-famous pastry chef, while I only prefer eating what is cooked. But she also loves reading and shows high levels of interest in music (like me). In between her academic studies she loves to watch (age-appropriate) videos on the net, while regularly pestering me to download popular apps on her phone (either parent must approve what she has on her phone). She has me model in silly poses to click pictures, so that mother and daughter can have a hearty laugh over my inanity.

In between all the paradoxical differences and having fun together, lies an undefined love and respect that we have for each other. She gets hurt and I am in pain, she is unhappy and I am miffed, she gets shouted at and I feel piqued, and without doubt, whenever she needs me, I will always be there for her. I do not know what the future holds for her (or for any of us for that matter), but like all parents, we hope to see our offspring do well in life. As parents we trust her, and believe that the values that her mother and I imbibe in her today will help her allay challenges of the future. Forget all the cliched quotes you read about a father-daughter relationship – the experience of having a daughter at home is something that is indescribable in words. I mean no offence against friends and relatives who have only sons, but a daughter’s ingress into her father’s life brings about a transformation that is fascinating and educative at the same time (as it did for me) – this is a relationship that has no equal. I can proudly claim that I am a father who hates dancing… except to my daughter’s tunes!

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

When we planned a short trip to Puducherry (erstwhile Pondicherry, still referred to as Pondy by almost everyone), I was excited. I had read so many romanticized versions of the quaint French-style houses peppering the place, that I was looking forward to this trip; the other reason being a visit to Auroville.

Now, all trips that my family undertakes are mini-adventures, which start from the pulling out of empty suitcase from the closet / loft to initiate the ostentatious ritual of packing. I always empathize with the suitcases, since I can feel the discomfort it will soon be undergoing. What starts off as a pleasantly sane activity soon graduates into a frenzied bustle, that ends only when the said suitcase groans under the onslaught. But the suitcases in our house are like the heroines of our television serials – suffer in silence and happily take on more! Over and above the skewed human-being-to-suitcase ratio, are the varied little carry-bags, that are like side dishes to the main course. In addition to clothes, we always carry enough food to feed the entire state or country we are heading to. Ours is a family that loves to travel… and eat; also eat while travelling and travel while eating. The vagaries of being married into a lovable Gujarati family are multifarious. My most creative contribution to the packing exercises are the inexorable one-sided arguments I have with my wife (which I invariably lose), on the state and shape of the poor suitcases. My nerves are always at an edge when we weigh baggage at airports, but thankfully we have never been overweight – speaks volumes about my lopsided estimations and misplaced assumptions about my wife’s capabilities!

Puducherry is like any other wannabe town in India – pretentious, chaotic and traversing a desultory highway of self-destruction, like most of urban India. Traffic is as bad as any other town, with traffic rules being observed in abeyance. Pollution levels are threatening enough to raise concerns, and jay-walking seems to be a local pastime. The afore-mentioned quaintness seems to have gone out of the non-existent French windows and, other than in a few difficult-to-locate by-lanes I saw more French on the toast that I had for breakfast. The surprisingly well-maintained beach offers a soothing view of the Bay, but oppressive heat during daytime blights it. And unless you are prepared to jostle and grapple with thousands of people who turn the beachfront into a wrestling arena after sunset, the vista is not worth it.

My equation with the Almighty is bemusing to many – especially to God. My personal belief is that religion was created by man to contain his flock and lord over them. I do not understand the logic behind walking in processions and creating a din with blaring music, while trying to propitiate assorted Gods (irrespective of your religion). I do not believe in visiting places of worship to seek blessings of a God who, I believe, resides within each one of us. Unless you find the God within, no place of worship will help you get close to the Divine. And this search for the God within is a constant and unceasing process that makes our lives worth living.

So, my trip to the experimental township of Auroville, founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa (known as the Mother), was purely as an intrigued visitor. The immaculately maintained lawns, walkways, greenery and serene environ was mesmerizing. I was also attracted by the Matrimandir – a geodesic dome covered with golden discs. This houses the Urn of Human Unity that contains soil from 121 countries and 23 Indian states. Prior to entering the dome, you are requested to deposit your mobiles, remove footwear and maintain complete silence. On entering, volunteers (using hand gestures) request you to wear a pair of socks and follow the path to the sanctum sanctorum. The long, curved and extremely steep ramp leads to a massive door, which opens into a humongous, white-marbled circular hall that hosts the Urn. A single source of light shining high above the Urn dimly lights up the hall. There were others who were seated in different meditative poses around the Urn, and I soundlessly joined them. For the first time in my life, I witnessed the sound of silence – a sound so loud that it deafens and numbs you! The whole atmosphere transported me into a different universe. Believe me, the fifteen introspective minutes I spent there helped me rediscover God within. Those epiphanic moments renewed the subscription of my omnipresent inner strength, that I call my God.

Our suitcases may be packed with different clothes, but we ultimately use only what we need. Similarly, our paths towards self-actualization (visiting places of worship being one) may differ, but the ultimate goal remains the same – to be happy and at peace with oneself…

A FISTFUL OF HOPE

The recent startling revelations by a veteran actor about the physical abuse she went through as a child artiste at the hands of someone who was a “family friend”, is a bold but necessary step towards cleaning the stygian stables that is our entertainment industry. A month back there was the unfortunate demise of an ageing actor which, in addition to the totally uncalled-for media frenzy, also spawned a plethora of conspiracy theories regarding the use and abuse, of undesired substances, by almost everyone in this industry. Unfortunately, this is more of a fact than a figment of someone’s imagination.

My association with this industry runs way back to the early 90’s. I have taken part in a musical game show, acted in a couple of television serials, recorded songs (for friends), been part of a few musical shows and hosted a few events. A very close friend of mine is a movie producer, whose late brother was an erstwhile movie hero. My wife’s family is intrinsically linked to this industry – her grandfather was one of India’s biggest movie distributors, while her father and uncles have been an innate part of the movie industry. We ourselves have friends who are stalwarts in the movie and television industry. One of the industry’s top couturier who has designed clothes for some of India’s leading actors (and recently made his directorial debut with a Marathi movie), is a family friend. A veteran actress from the South Indian movie industry, and her producer / director / writer / actor husband, are also very close friends. So, when I say that I know a bit about this industry, I would not be boasting. However much this industry tries to beautify and mask itself under layers of gaudy maquillage, it cannot hide its dirty underside – a simple scratching of the surface bares its misogynist, sexist and patriarchal mindset. Casting couch aside, the travails that upcoming actors go through can be absolutely degrading and demoralizing. Having a filmy lineage may protect you to some extent, but even that is no guarantee that you will not have to submit to the bestiality that goes around in the guise of producers / directors / senior actors / cinematographers / casting agents etc. And mind you, this granting of “favours” is not limited only to the above-mentioned men (and women in some cases), but extends to their family and friends. I have heard horror stories of mothers pushing their daughters into spending “script reading sessions” with many of these despicable characters, just to garner roles in movies / TV serials.

The condition of “junior artistes” is even more pitiable. Out of the thousands that aspire to become actors, just a few reach the level where they can achieve what they started out to do. For every Shah Rukh Khan or Deepika Padukone who reach the pinnacle, there are a thousand non-entities who are left in the doldrums nursing their bruised egos and decimated self-respect. They are willing to put everything (including self-esteem) on the line to make it in this industry, a huge majority of who end up with rejection, dejection, desolation and ultimately depression. The big stars may have their vanity vans and toadies to fan them and their egos, but these junior artistes work in an environment that is genuinely wretched – substandard food, horrible working conditions and extra-long working hours. Even children are not spared this agony. All reality shows create a melodramatic atmosphere to portray participants as impoverished or underprivileged, just to reap sympathy from audiences, but their working conditions (with some exceptions) are just as deplorable. Ever wonder why we do not see children from well-to-do families in such dance / singing reality shows…obviously no calamitous story-arc or tragic misfortune to be purveyed in their case! And winning such shows is no guarantee of success – we regularly read about many such “winners” who are now living in penury.

So, why do these aspirants continue to tread these stardust-filled roads, when they are not even sure of success? It is that tiny little thing called HOPE. Despite the privations and bleakness of their future, they continue to hope that one day their luck will turn and they will make it big. Sadly, this is the very same hope that I see missing in many of my educated countrymen. They have reached such levels of pessimism and despondency that they look at outsourcing their insecurities by blaming others for their problems. No individual, profession, industry or country is without flaws, but giving up hope is the greatest insult to all those who work for a better life. So, never give up and keep hoping that the amelioration of your life is just around the corner. As they say in the movies – everything will be OK in the end… if it’s not OK then it’s not the end!

PARADISE LOST?

Dubai is an Emirate which has always fascinated me. Transmogrifying itself from a sleepy fishing village, into a concrete ogre that it has now become, it is at first glance stunningly beguiling but hypnotizingly chimerical once you scratch its surface. It is also a utopian dream that can disintegrate into the very same dust it has arisen from, with just an untimely shrug of Mother Nature’s already jaded shoulders.

Dubai is a quixotic apparition – an inveigling shapeshifting specter that entices you. I visited it a week back for work, and noticed a slew of new attractions which have popped in the last couple of years. Of course, it is currently in the news for all the wrong reasons, but let’s not go there – we have been unnecessarily inundated by the fatuous and asinine media brouhaha about the unfortunate demise of a film star. Dubai was built on the diaphoresis and cruor expended by thousands of gullible and naïve Asians – mostly Indians and Pakistanis (working in unison, without echoing the trans-border aggression of their respective governments). The Indians, thanks to their enhanced English-speaking skills, and chiefly due to their inane ability to survive the worst of conditions, used an escalator to ascend the upper echelons of Dubai’s social hierarchy. So much so that there was a time when Indians were part of not just the business and private sector, but also in mid-level governmental positions.

Things started going south for the Indians when the UAE government started a localization drive to get more Arabs into public and private sector. Indians soon got unceremoniously pushed out of their cushy admin jobs, and they barely managed to retain jobs requiring technical and professional skills… but not for long. Over the past few years I have noticed that Filipinos have taken over almost all the pink-collar jobs (which was once the fiefdom of our countrymen) – they dress smart, speak good English and work at salaries far less than what Indians demand. Many of the technology jobs are in the process of being taken over by Sri Lankans – they too speak good English and show far more patience when dealing with their cantankerous Arab superiors. The construction industry is now dominated by Bangladeshis who do not mind the harsh weather conditions, so long as they can escape the drudgery of their own country. Many Pakistanis have taken advantage of the ease of doing business in Dubai and have entered businesses that were earlier run by Indians. In short, Indians have managed to get themselves demoted in almost all walks of life in Dubai. It is no rocket science to guess that Indians themselves are to blame for this fall from grace. Most Indians tend to get falsely self-righteous, pretentious and presumptuous once we taste success. We are never mollified with what we have in hand, and always indulge in bizarre and never-ending games of one-upmanship with others. The secret about remaining successful is to keep pushing boundaries and create new narratives. What Indians in their complacency tend to do is to allow others to redefine the proverbial box, and get entombed in these newly defined boundaries! And that is what happened in Dubai too. Not that all Indians are in this situation – there are some extremely well-to-do and successful Indians too.

In the two years that I was an erstwhile resident, I have seen otherwise vociferous Indians meekly surrendering to the demands of the Dubai government – Indians who vituperatively haul the Indian government over coals for the very same issues. Some examples – giving out the minutest of their personal details for the Emirates ID card (akin to our Aadhaar card); a cyclic increase in parking charges and road tolls; the barbarously unforgiving weather conditions that blue-collar workers labour under, and the abominably punitive conditions in which they reside in; compulsory learning of Arabic in schools; the exorbitant real estate rates; obligatory job reservations for locals; the subtle but omni-present bias favouring white-skinned individuals; accepting the recently introduced VAT without a word of protest… I can fill cumbrous tomes with this.

Sadly, this inclination to misstate exists within India too. We like to pontificate and indulge in finger-pointing rather than introspect and improve. Misplaced priorities are now personal habits and arm-chair activism a national hobby. Instead of being thankful that bank scams are finally coming out into the open, we blame the government for letting the charlatans flee; Aadhaar card registrations have wiped out millions of phony ration cards holders, but we only crib about inconvenience; we are willing to allow smart phones access personal details, but cry wolf about data breaches by UIDAI… and so on! This may sound like a rant, but needs a serious rethink by all of us. We cannot keep blaming others for our misfortune, while blithely ignoring our own fallacies. Time to clear the cobwebs of our mind…