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Independence Day!

It’s that time of year again! Out come the flags and buntings, the patriotic songs that play on loop on the radio, the themed contests on TV, the patriotic status updates and cover pics…yup Independence Day is here…time to feel proud of flag and country! Time to celebrate ‘coz no matter how sorry the state of affairs, for once we have only ourselves to blame ;) Oh yeah! This is our very own ‘Independent’ mess thank you very much! The Brits have been gone 68 years :P Perhaps I’m being overly and unnecessarily flippant – it’s intentional! It’s my safety mechanism…trying to, and inevitably failing to make myself feel better by being humorous about the stuff that in reality has me crying inside.

I’m the first to admit, that although I go through the motions of changing my FB cover & profile pic (the entire extent of my patriotism…a little sad that eh? I consciously didn’t do it this year though!), like a lot of fellow Indians; in my heart all I’m thinking is, ‘What a load of BS’! Not Independence per se you understand. NEVER Independence in itself, just the patriotic avowals that one feels compelled to make, as if to prove that on this one day among all others, our love of country is supreme and overwhelming. Before you hang and quarter me for treason – I do love my country. It’s inexplicable really. There’s not much to love on the face of it – India seen through my admittedly cynical eyes is sadly lacking in most qualities I prize and hold dear and want my son to learn and live. And although we love to blame our politicians for every catastrophe this nation of ours suffers, I blame US. We, the People. We – who tolerate and compromise and manipulate and teach our future generations to do exactly the same while all the time blaming a system that none of us raises a finger to change, coz it’s just too hard isn’t it? How on earth can we be expected to fight injustice and oppose wrong if it means putting our lives at risk? What will happen to our families that we leave behind? Heaven Forbid! No! That was another time – when people were still selfless and motivated. When they truly martyred themselves for Freedom. I’ve often wondered whether it’s easier against a definite foreign threat. Is it? Is it harder to rally, to unite when the danger is from within? When corruption, deception and subjugation come in the form of Indian politicians and goons and often our next-door neighbours, as opposed to the British? If it is, why is it so?

How many of us Indians are prepared to die for India today if that be the need of the hour? And I mean really die – take that bullet in the chest kind of dying as opposed to talking about being ready to die at the dinner table. I know I’m not. Hell, I’m not even brave enough to take a stand publicly for what I believe in. Mine is a closet bravado – I’m a crusader only within the safe confines of my home. Am I ashamed of feeling this way? Not particularly, no. Does it hurt that I’m not ashamed of being unashamed – maybe sometimes…but not enough to get off my butt and do anything about it. Honest to goodness. Not nearly enough. So why blame the politicians? Why blame Government? When the very fabric of our country is old and mouldy, whats the point of using it to stitch new clothes and wishing they would last longer, fit better?

I love India, love her like I love my Mom…it’s automatic. But liking her is a choice that often fails me. And pride?..I wish I could say that I had pride in my country, but I cannot. Not honestly. I had huge hopes when we returned home, to a country on the verge of exciting times or so I naively believed, and yes if success is to be judged by the number of malls being built, the number of cars on the road, the bevy of international brands that have set up shop here, then I suppose, yes, we’ve been successful. But I’ve reached a time in my life where I know for a fact that material success, attractive and desirable as it is, is just a minuscule part of true well-being. I feel like we’ve become selectively aspirational as a society, like money is now our only motivator, so that if we’re driving a ‘beamer’, who cares that that the road is non-existent! I’ve lived in Bangalore for a year and I can confidently say that the craters on the moon would be easier to navigate! The same goes for our education system…it deteriorates by the day and I watch as we continue to choose mediocrity over creative enterprise, marks over abilities and stereotypes over originality. We’re in the 21st century and apparently, with China, the next emerging superpower (this always makes me laugh and not in a good way), but in my state of Goa, one of the most advanced states in the country, we still don’t have enough drinking water and electricity for every citizen :/ The less said about states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Orissa the better. Why even the capital Delhi struggles with these basic issues! But we’re going to turn Mumbai into Shanghai. Meh.

Living here these past 5 years has taught me that much of the change I see is superficial, haphazard and poorly executed; so Mumbai gets a spanking new Metro but leaky-roofed trains! It’s a personal opinion based on personal experience, so feel free to disagree, as I know a lot of you will. I do believe that we must ‘Be the Change we want to See’ – but like most people I too am, at best inconsistent and at worst apathetic…easily swayed by my own moods and circumstance :( All I see is tons of wasted potential and a complete lack of motivation in changing status quo…from everyone concerned – government and citizens alike. If you have hope – well good for you. I don’t – not particularly. Not unless there’s a radical change in us from within. Not unless we give up this meekness (that so often masquerades as respect) and find the strength to truly stand up for ourselves, and by that I don’t mean FB status updates and more dinner table analysis. I mean a consistent, conscious effort to obey the rules – something most Indians manage to do only when they’re abroad! I should know – I’m one of them. Better than most, worse than others.

So the next time you break a traffic rule (of course you will! Don’t even bother to deny it!), it means not bribing the cop, not throwing around your connections (of course you’re the minister’s best friend) and doing it even when you know it’s going to lead to a whole lot of  pain and wasted time ahead. Would you? Could you? I know my Hubby won’t. He’ll think it’s a colossal waste of time that will achieve nothing, change nothing! The tragedy is that although I’ll argue with him, deep down I’ll know he’s right. When we’ve become immune to horrific rapes and endless wars, what’s a little bribe to the neighbourhood cop? It’s a Herculean task and I’m afraid one that we will have to achieve each one for ourselves without much support and few role models.

This has turned into a first-class rant eh?! Truly, I didn’t want to seem so negative and yet these are my deepest fears for my India, that I love despite everything I’ve just said, all the angst I’ve just unloaded onto you poor unsuspecting readers! So although I say I have no hope, I guess I do, even if it’s the tiniest shred, buried deep under a ton of cynicism, I guess I do. ‘Coz to utterly disbelieve is the worst kind of death and I’m not quite ready for that yet. Not just yet. I think the need of the hour is no less than a Renewed Freedom Struggle…this time from internal oppressors and from our own shortcomings – from weakness of character and the need to conform; from rabid materialism and defining success solely in terms of income; from vacuous dinner table conversations and the all-pervasive haunting inertia that I fear will be the death of a country with a glorious past and an uncertain future.

I feel like India is poised on the edge of a precipice, testing Her wings…I hope She chooses wisely. I hope She does what I believe She was meant to do. I hope She becomes truly Independent. I hope She FLIES FREE :)

Week-32_High

 

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Take52 Challenge: Week 20 – Random

Random! A favourite word that appeals because of its inherent promise of aimlessness and the unpredictable – both qualities that for better or worse characterise me and my attitude toward Life :P I tend to ‘go with the flow’ on most things, until I drift into something that ‘hits the spot’ often unexpectedly, taking me by surprise and leaving an imprint that rarely fades away. Most things that have brought me great joy and comfort in Life have as a result been, I like to think, through the ‘random machinations of the universe’ ;) I’m probably completely wrong of course, especially if you happen to be a believer in the ‘great design’ and the fact that ‘everything happens for a reason’ :P Has that ever happened to you? A random happenstance that turns into a life-changing event?

What crossed my mind when I first saw the Theme, was the Sky. It’s classically random – a myriad hues from dawn till dusk and into the night. Luckily, we had unexpected pre-monsoon showers here in Bangalore that week and I was able to get decent shots of the moody skies :) Also last week ‘The Great Indian Circus’ as I like to call our Elections :P drew to a conclusion and as a result there were random firework displays that I caught from my balcony! 

And just because I love quotes, here’s a random one that I fell in love with ;)

“The sky was as blue as orange could get. I love sunsets at noon, and forks disguised as spoons.” ― Jarod Kintz

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Take52 Challenge: Week 19 – Pure

Once again I’m playing catch up with my posts. School is nearing its end and there seems to be a flurry of events to attend that leaves me with time for little else. As a result, I haven’t been as involved in my photography as I would like, but am happy that I have at least managed to get that one shot per week for the challenge! 

Pure – a word with many meanings and abstract enough to pose quite the challenge. We had a lot of baby pictures posted, because that’s what invariably comes first to mind in this polluted, complicated adult word that we inhabit – the pureness and innocence of children :D The light in a baby’s eyes is so clear, authentic and guileless…what could be purer? I had initially thought of water as my subject, but couldn’t make that happen to my satisfaction, which is when I thought of the ‘pureness’ of prayer and was promptly stumped by how to translate this into an image! 

That’s when I remembered the little angel figurine I had picked up on my visit to Phoenix in 2008. I bought it for my son, who had not yet entered our life but would soon and turn it upside-down in the best of ways :) He was an answer to many prayers and so the symbolism seemed appropriate! Yes I know, on occasion, the ‘sappy me’ takes over :P So I placed a lit ‘diya’ in front of the angel, not only because Fire is the great purifier in Hindu culture but also because I love diyas ;) And so I had my shot :) I like how it turned out…let me know what you think!

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Red Hills, Blue Mountains…

This year we spent Easter weekend in the Blue Mountains in Ooty. The Nilgiris (Neel = blue, Giri = mountain) are part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves and a place I’ve wanted to visit ever since we moved down South. Don’t get you’re hopes up – I didn’t go trekking in the Mountains or discover a new species but I did have a wonderful time soaking up the atmosphere at Red Hills Nature Resort, nestled in the valley :)

But first things first…getting to Ooty from Bangalore involved an 8-hour long drive during which we passed through two adjacent National Parks – Bandipur and Madumalai and negotiated 36 hairpin bends! Exhausting yet exciting :) especially when a mother Elephant with her baby charged us in Madumalai! That was awesomely scary :P They were just off the road that runs through the park and we thought they were chained, just like the ones we’d seen in Bandipur. Boy were we wrong! There’s not much scarier than an angry Mama Jumbo I can tell ya! We were shaking and screaming but it was supercool! The cars that were headed in her direction stopped dead in their tracks while we speeded off. I wish we could have stayed to see what happened, coz she was right in the middle of that road – all Queen-like – when we left her, but we were too chicken to hang around :P

After that exhilarating experience and the 36 bends up the mountain, followed by countless bumps on a mud track that passed for a road, we finally made it to Red Hills, tired and ravenous! It was worth every jolt ;) Lunch was great and there was fish which was a welcome happenstance :) When we were rested, we were able to take in the idyllic setting of this cozy family-run resort. Flowers everywhere and birdsong, a cool breeze and stunning vistas of the Nilgiris and Emerald Lake…really…a small slice of Paradise right here on Earth. Add to the mix friendly fellow travellers, warm hosts and their extremely friendly and fun-loving pooches, 8-yr-old Moby, an ageing German Shepherd with the gentlest manner ever and playful puppy Mikah – a Golden Lab who stole our hearts – and you have the makings of a pretty special holiday :D

I spent every moment I could bird-watching :) There were so many of them…Sparrows, Sunbirds, Shrikes, Bulbuls, Great Tits and my favourite – a flock of Oriental White-Eyes. I saw a few other brightly coloured birds fleetingly that I unfortunately could not identify and a lovely black one that I can’t either. The property is surrounded by tea plantations that belong to the owners and even has a little temple of it’s own next to the campsite. And the flowers…oh so many, oh so beautiful :) I’m no expert but I took pictures so you guys can exercise those ‘little grey cells’ ;)

Now for the birds!

And now for the beautiful Blue Mountains, so called because they glisten blue in the morning mists :) I have no words to describe how stunning they are, how serene, how uplifting. The fact that beauty like this continues to exist on our Planet, despite us and our destructive ways, gives me hope, and reminds me of Nature’s tenacity. It’s a comforting thought. I drank in the beauty of those Mountains, etched them in my memory so that now, when I’m back in the bustle of the city, I can close my eyes and be transported in a magical instant. Like Narnia <3 While we were there, I watched the most stunning sunrises I’d ever seen! If every day began thus, all would be right with the World n’est pas? :)

And so, after an idyllic 3 days, we returned to the chaos that is Home. I cannot wait to revisit and explore those mesmerising Mountains! Junior too is enamoured…more with Moby & Mikah than with them mountains I admit, but I’m not complaining. Hubby would still prefer a TV in the room (city boy that he is :P), but they do have wifi (works pretty well too), and even his urban soul cannot help but be moved in the presence of such awe-inspiring surroundings ;) I hope it will be soon :D

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Take52 Challenge: Week 18 – Down

For last week’s challenge, the theme was ‘Down’ – another word that can be interpreted several ways. This Challenge is so educational in so many ways! I was once again uncertain about what I was going to do, although staircases came immediately to mind. I even went hunting for one, but no gorgeous spirals live in near proximity ;) and so had to think again. The picture I finally went with, is not special in itself, but important to me because it’s the first time that I was bold enough to take pics in the Mall with my DSLR! I’m very conscious and nervous when it comes to ‘street photography’, just scared of giving offence where none is meant I guess. So taking a picture of people on an escalator was quite the Challenge. I kept thinking someone would come over and object or that Junior would raise a ruckus, but ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ :) Then Junior got into the act and made me take the second picture! I hope this will nudge me along in the right direction as far as taking ‘public pictures’ goes. I love that kind of photography and want to get better at it. This time I didn’t really have time to delve into my archives…

Meanwhile here goes…

And just coz 3’s my lucky number, here’s one of a sunset that I took a while ago…

Sundown at Bangalore...

Sundown at Bangalore…

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Monday Musings…

Here we go again…

I’ve been babysitting Junior all by my lonesome since Friday, so Monday morning comes as sweet release ;) Oh I love my son, but love can be exhausting n’est pas :P So I was joyful as he clambered onto the school bus this morning and from the looks of it, so was he ;) We’ve actually had a fun, relaxed weekend – a bit of the Mall and lots of time playing outside with his friends :D 

Over the weekend, my FB page has been inundated with posts celebrating Mothers on the occasion of Mother’s Day yesterday. I’ll be honest – I had no clue it was Mother’s Day until I saw the posts! I love and respect Mothers as much as the next person, but I don’t keep tabs on ‘Days’. I’ve said this before on countless occasions and I say it again today…I have a love-hate relationship with my Mom. We are completely unlike each other in thought, attitude and manner. I try my best to understand her and I know she does the same for me, but that doesn’t seem to stop us from being at loggerheads over the silliest of things! It’s hard as children, to be non-judgmental where parents are concerned, even when we know better, and are wiser and even when we become mothers ourselves…or maybe that’s just me and the rest of you have it all sorted. My Mom spent a huge chunk of my life, dedicating herself to my brother’s care…he was totally dependent on her and it was a choice both my parents made. While they were busy with him, I was already a rebellious teen, studying Medicine, spreading my wings and thinking myself ‘independent’. I was wrong of course especially about the ‘Independence’, but try telling an adolescent that! They were in Singapore while I finished my basic degree and when they returned it was for my marriage! So for almost all of my adolescence, I lived with my Gran. She was my rock.

Like most people I know, I’ve made a conscious effort for a while now to spare my parents any worries that I might have. It just didn’t seem fair given all that they were going through and because I had acquired the Hubby to pester and rile at ;) So it’s strangely difficult for me, now that Mom suddenly wants to share every little detail in her Life after decades of relative silence. I find sharing difficult coz it’s become such a habit not to and frankly because I still don’t want to burden her with my troubles. Her life isn’t much improved from what it used to be. She of course insists that her Life is just the way she wants it and I cannot for the life of me understand how that could possibly be! I can see a hundred ways in which I can help and improve her Life, all of which she perceives as ‘condescending’ and ‘interfering’. Sound familiar? Yet every conversation we have of late sounds to me like a litany of troubles and complaints, while she maintains it’s ‘just’ a daily report of her Life and I should listen without reacting. Huh? Really? I realise I’m being silly and juvenile…but when it comes to our parents, aren’t we all? Isn’t that the one ‘no holds barred’ relationship where we’re allowed to be exactly who we are? 

Since I’ve moved to Bangalore, it’s become a norm for us to speak every morning. She’s usually the one calling, after Junior and Hubby have left, to catch up on stuff. Frankly, there isn’t much to catch up on when you speak every day but I know that most of her meaningful conversations are now telephonic and that the sound of my voice makes her happy. The sound of hers makes me happy too – it reassures me of her well-being and promises continuity if only for one more day. How important that assurance! I’ve just returned from talking to her – she chided me about not calling yesterday and immediately I felt my ‘hackles rise’. But instead of turning on my inherent smart aleck, I just apologised and had done with it! See? I try and sometimes I even succeed ;) There are times I wonder whether things would have been different if we had been a ‘normal’ household like any other but then I look around me and I think not! There’s a lot of scary ‘normal’ out there and all said and done, I guess my Life is exactly how I want it! I guess I’m more like my Mom than I care to admit :P

So here’s a shout-out to Mom’s everywhere – Congratulations on doing the Best you can and Celebrate Yourself every day :D

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Because – YOU’RE TOTALLY WORTH IT :D <3

Happy Monday People!

P.S. I’ve decided to share images from The Happy Page instead of Monkton (at least until he makes more!). I’m just sharing them and  take no credit except for my good taste in choosing them ;)

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Take52 Challenge: Week 17 – Markings

Last week’s challenge was themed ‘Markings’. Another easy one really considering ‘Markings’ are omnipresent and so naturally one that I found challenging :P Do you see a pattern here? I certainly do! Oh well – when in doubt – ‘Use the Kid’ I say ;) They’re generally adorable and make great pictures :) So that’s what I did, although this time Junior wasn’t a keen subject. He doesn’t like being ‘Marked’ but luckily is easily bribed :P I applied the red mark you see on his forehead, (a ‘Tilak’ we call it in local lingo) with powdered vermilion. We use it on auspicious occasions and it signifies a Blessing from whatever deity we’re in the mood to worship on the day! You know we have like millions of those right? ;) The pic on the right is the final post-process result (I increased the blur significantly in PS leaving just the mark sharp to fit the theme), but many friends in the group liked the original (on the left) better because his eyes are in focus and they are rather dreamy – even if I do say so myself ;) But I admit my extreme bias :D I’m still undecided on which one I like best, but I’m glad I got some PS practice!

And as always I travelled back in time to find more markings – this is what I dug up…and as usual…Nature comes up Trumps! 
And here is a little ditty that came to me when I was thinking of how Markings are ubiquitous.
Leopard spots and tiger stripes
Pretty birds and rusty spikes
Marks in red and marks on gold
Treasure maps and ancient scrolls
Painted roads and painted faces
Spades and Clubs, Hearts and Aces
Beetles, rings and butterfly wings
Markings on most everything!