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Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Veritas

The whole of social media has been boiling over the murder of Chennai techie Swathi, who was hacked to death last week by a criminal. I've consciously not named the killer as I feel he doesn't need anymore publicity than the media has been giving him at the cost of emotional torture for Swathi's family. The criminal has been arrested and I believe in the judicial system to serve him right even though I have fair enough reasons not to.

As I've been reading the numerous articles and posts all over the internet, I've been coming back to a pattern. There has been anger and support from the social media elite each time something like this happened which is a good thing. A young lady murdered in daylight in one of the highest traffic local railway stations in such a manner is definitely a busy day at work for these social media revolutionaries. 

One person has poured her anguish in a vivid descriptive with it's share of classic stereotypes. Her claim is that the on lookers didn't help Swathi while she was bleeding to death. But, I don't think that's her real problem. She worries that no one dared to touch the body of a Brahmin girl. While she seems to be a very talented writer with a knack for vivid imagery (I give her that) I find it obscene that she thought this was about caste. How many people would have seen a young lady lying in a pool of blood and seen that as a body of a Brahmin? Amidst all the things that could've popped up in her head, she thought this was about caste. All that the article does is reflect on the author's mentality and obsession with caste. The funny part is that if this had happened to Dalit there would've been a similar article by a caste obsessed author who'd have claimed the same thing from the perspective of a Dalit. Not everything is about caste and we'd be wasting our time if we spent further time entertaining these nut jobs.
As a budding engineer who earned her place in the sun through hard work and determination Swathi was also in some ways the archetype of the modern South Indian woman who could be both traditional and modern. She wore a salwar kameez, sported a simple bindi, not necessarily the more elaborate caste marks.  
What the papers do not underline, though the vox populi does, is that she was the epitome of a Brahmin girl, born to succeed. Even as she lay dying, no one dared to touch the body of a Brahmin girl.
Another regional article says how this is Swathi's fault (of course) because she carelessly ignored the guy stalking her for a couple of weeks. A few even accused her of having enjoyed the stalking (yes, that's what the movies tell you, and yes the movies are everything). How convenient!! I couldn't but wonder how Swathi would've gone about this, if she had decided to report it. She would've definitely taken it up with her parents. I just can't picture a middle class (caste-no-bar) girl walking in to a Chennai police station by herself to report a stalking incident. I'm not saying she shouldn't do it. She should've been able to, but wouldn't have. Her father wouldn't have been that cool movie dad who would've stood by his daughter. The first thing he would've done is to accuse her of the responsibility for someone stalking her. I can go on, but, I'm sure the rest is a known tale of the middle class status versus the right thing to do. It would have been a much better use of the author's time if he/she could've at least mentioned what's the process of reporting such incidents to the cops to educate and encourage people in the future. Yes, it would've. Unfortunately, it wouldn't sell or garner more webpage visits. 
இதை சுவாதி தன்னுடைய நெருங்கிய தோழியிடம் சொல்லியுள்ளார். அப்போது அவர்கள் போலீஸிடம் தகவலை சொல்லிவிடலாம் என்று சொன்ன போது அதை பெரிதாக சுவாதி எடுத்துக் கொள்ளவில்லை. அதுவே அவரது உயிரை காவு வாங்கி இருக்கிறது. சுவாதி முன்எச்சரிக்கையாக செயல்பட்டு இருந்தால் இந்த கொலை சம்பவமே நடந்திருக்க வாய்ப்பில்லை.
Translation: She recounted this (the stalking and subsequent including an assault) to her close friend who advised her to report it to the cops but Swathi didn't take it seriously. That was the sole reason for her untimely death. If she had been careful and acted with caution, there is no chance for this murder to have happened.
I read an article about how movies are totally inspiring these criminals to stalk girls. The author has recalled a series of scenes and stories from Tamil movies to support her claim that movies are glorifying stalking. While I agree that she's absolutely right about the claim, the genre in discussion has been in existence forever and it doesn't feel right to have enjoyed all these movies at the time, called them (at least some of them) epic romantic stories and now claim that they are endorsing stalking. Ladies having a thing for the bad guy has become a regular theme in movies. Let's face the fact that we're responsible for making these films hits, thus encouraging more creators to fall back to such distasteful writing. Having said that, India is in dire need of decoupling movies and lifestyle choices. These are just movies. They are just actors. It's just entertainment. But, no. Let's all blame it on the movies, ban filmmakers, walk happily arm in arm and ever after in to the sunset. The End.
In a society where there are so many rules for falling in love (No.1 being that you don’t), it is not surprising that our ideas about love are so warped. Good girls and good boys don’t talk to each other. They are strictly heterosexual and marry the person of their parents’ choice, carefully selected after matching caste, class, education, complexion, height, salary, and horoscope. In the movies, romance is the selective disruption of these factors. The hero is an aspirational figure, the go-getter who overcomes any number of obstacles to ‘win’ the girl. And many a time, the obstacle on his path is the girl herself who calls him a ‘porukki’ or tells him in no uncertain terms not to follow her around. By the end of the movie, however, all her nays magically turn into a coy yes and everyone goes home happy. True love has won, consent be damned.
As Baradwaj Rangan has written in his usual matter of fact manner supported by data, movies seem to be a soft target for any and every inconvenience.
We need to seriously and rigorously study the impact of cinema on society. (Quizzing Ramkumar about the films he likes, the heroes he worships may not be a bad start, even if this isn’t technically a “study.”) We need to study why so many people remain impervious to the good things cinema says — vote wisely; abolish the caste system; don’t do drugs — and take home only messages like “smoking is cool” and “girls who say no are really saying yes.”
Some articles talk about how ridiculous it is to not have any CCTV cameras installed in a very crowded and high traffic local railway station. By far, that's the only relevant article I've read in the past week about this incident. It addresses a way forward to help in someway. I'm sure there are more speculations, accusations and so on.

Do you think anybody who wrote their piece (including the one you're reading now) genuinely cared about Swathi? It's human nature that they didn't, at least not as much as they cared about all the issues they have written about. Let's say that everyone embraced Brahmins and Dalits, people stopped making crap movies, all the girls behave responsibly by reporting stalkers, they also cover themselves from hair to toenail and the government installs gazillion CCTV cameras across the universe. The guy with a mind to kill will find another way and another reason to kill her or someone else. 

I was talking to a colleague about this a couple of days ago. The first words he mentioned about this topic started with, "These girls are playing hard to get with guys ('pinaala sutha vudaradhu' in Tamil) and they enjoy that". I stopped him right there. Let's assume that Swathi played 'hard to get. Let's assume that she enjoyed the stalking. Let's find every angle in the book and blame her of every wrong that she could've done in this case. Does that justify violence against her? Does that justify murder?

The suspect in Swathi's case has been arrested, but his case is going to be buried along with millions of pending cases including the useless ones like MS Dhoni being accused of harming the sentiments of Hindus because a magazine put a picture of him disguised as a Hindu God and one of the objects in his hand was a Reebok shoe. The court will not throw this case out in a heartbeat but will hear Swathi's murder case for 25 years. We don't have time to talk about this, but yes, we will call upon the mysterious case of Swathi being a Brahmin.

Few years back, someone filed a case against a movie claiming that the movie disrespects lawyers because there was a lawyer in the movie at the receiving end of a joke (yes, one joke). However, the same movie had scenes where the hero professes his love to the girl and talks about the way she dresses in public in the most distasteful manner possible. We cared about neither of the above back then. Why? Because Facebook wasn't so much of a thing in 2005. Today, we can say what we want. So, we will say what we want.  

I see a clear pattern with all these articles and arguments. We need something or someone to blame, close the chapter and move on. Caste, male chauvinism, feminism, movies, fashion sense, government, security lapses and so on. We'll blame everything. We need to write that category and stick that note on it. It's because of this. It's because of that. If this had been. If this hadn't been. We never run out of conjuring excuses and reasons, do we?

Not one person is responsible for his actions. A movie is responsible for his actions. A girl is responsible for his actions. A caste is responsible for his actions. But, he is not. When there's one more murder, one more rape, one more victim and one more chance, the social media elite will rise to the occasion to speculate, crowd source the motive, tarnish the victim, devise statements for the defense lawyer of the accused and claim to have discharged their social media civic responsibility of voicing their anger.

This habit of not taking responsibility for our actions is rooted in our day to day. It has become a part of our lives. Everything happens around us. We don't take responsibility for anything we do. We neither care about the problem nor the solution as much as we care to blame someone.

One human killed another. No matter what movies the killer watched, no matter what's the caste of the victim, no matter what dress the victim wore, no matter if someone else told the killer to kill, it comes down to this. A killer killed the victim. The killer had a choice, a very simple one, to kill or not to kill. The killer made his choice. The killer killed the victim. Let the killer face justice. Let the killer serve time. Maybe, the killer will reform, maybe the killer will come back and do the same thing only to face justice again. But, let the killer take full responsibility for the deed. Let us hold the killer accountable for this. Not the movies, not the caste, not the onlookers, not the government, not the society and definitely not the victim. Let's hold the killer accountable for this. The killer is responsible for this. The killer did this. The killer did this!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015

I don't completely understand the concept of the social media (read as Facebook) year in review. My definition of Facebook is a forum to post/share stuff in a whim when you're in that sweet spot between excitement and sugar rush or frustration and ferocity or doubt and totally clueless. Our daily life demands a lot of our intelligence, clarity in thought and patience, makes us very tired and has a lot of reality in it, at least my life does. Looking at a bunch of funny lines, places checked in, profile/cover photos changed every three or so months and meaningless hashtags shouldn't be the year in review exactly. If those are the only things that made my year, Man! I'm living a pathetic life.

The last time I wrote year end posts were in 2009 and 2010. I read those before I started writing this one and realized how tacky they are. The 2009 post was tackier than the 2010. That says something, isn't it? No matter what I had or wanted to say, I was writing regularly back then. Yes, it was a simpler "empty vessels make more noise" time. Today, when I read those posts, I can't but wonder how different life is. The definition of what is important and what makes me happy/sad/angry etc is completely obsolete now. The people in my day-to-day, the people who read my blogs and the priorities of who have all changed. It's definitely embarrassing to think about the person I used to be, but there are no regrets.

Given a choice, I'd pick the lifestyle of 2010 at the blink of an eye. Yes, I was naive, I was a tacky blogger, I was blurting out stuff on Facebook, I had no direction in life (please don't ask me what's my direction now), but I remember being happier, I remember having more fun. My life was definitely more eventful and I definitely had more people around me. I can think of 5 different people who would read this and tell me to "get married soon". But, that's not at all what I'm talking about. That nearly perfect gang or a like minded, non-busy friend/sibling/cousin to whom you can fallback at all situations can never be replaced by a marriage. I'm neither complaining nor blaming anyone for moving on. Unfortunately, I'm mature enough to understand that everything has a time and place and people have no other choice than to move on and that's the right thing to do as well. Enough said about why I'd rather pick 2010.

This year has been a different kind of mixed bag. I can fill about 1000 pages of cliche to talk about 2015. The most important aspect of this year is that I have learned to live with myself. Couple of years ago, a very wise soul mentioned to me that learning to live with oneself is the first step in learning to live with others. It did not hit me then, but, over time I realized that half of the problems we have with other people are actually problems we have with ourselves. So, my main motto (I like this word better than resolution) at the beginning of the year was to fall in love with myself. I wouldn't claim that I'm fully there yet, but, I can feel that I'm somewhere on the way.

Materially speaking - For the first time in life, I'm a car owner (February) and home owner (in India - July). These were definitely the best things in the material side of life. An annoyingly practical way to look at it is that I'm in more debt compared to 2014 (when I was in zero debt).

The good son of Vegas - I took my dad to Las Vegas. My dad has traveled a lot during his youth, but being the one to take him to Vegas meant a lot to me. Just to top off that feeling of growing up.

The uncle becomes the uncle - On April 12th, my sister gave birth to Diya, her second daughter. Unlike when Diksha (Diya's elder sister) was born, I haven't been able to see Diya in person yet. That's definitely a regret for 2015. Coming soon, hopefully.


I, Driver - Most of the fun times I have had in 2015 are in the driver seat of the black beauty below. The first thing I do when I get in to the car is turning the music on. Driving around the silicon valley and amidst the hills listening to Rahman and Ilaiyaraja have by far been the best moments of 2015.

14000 miles in 10 months says something, doesn't it?

From hog to hug -  I have become a pure vegetarian since September. I have always wanted to be one, but, egg and chicken are too tasty. I'm usually on and off in this area, but I feel it this time and it may be the real deal.

Walkathon - I've taken to brisk walking as an activity. Yes, it sounds like a 'thaatha' (grandpa) exercise, but I'm really astounded by how beneficial it has been for me. Having a job that's mentally draining and physically futile, walking has helped me in both areas. I've clocked around 350 miles of 15-16 min/mile dedicated walking activity in the past 100 odd days. Apart from the benefits, I'm actually keeping at it which is a great deal.

Chiju Sings - I performed in the PayPal Risk Diwali party this year. After 3 long years, I went up that stage and sang a classical number. And with that a band (tentatively named as Swaralaya) was formed. It wasn't the cleanest of performances. I did mess up a lot of notes, but, I enjoyed as hell.


Happy Toasting - This has been the another very productive part of my year. I've been progressing rapidly in my Toastmasters journey. I've been the VP-Education of my club since January and I'm really loving it every bit. I finished my Competent Communicator (CC), Competent Leadership (CL) and Advanced Leadership Bronze (ALB) in 2015 and I'm five speeches away from my Advanced Communicator Bronze (ACB).

Intimacy at its best - Since I came to the US, I've been wishing for Rahman to visit for a LIVE concert tour. I missed it when (a mini version of ) it happened in Boston last year. Finally in June, Rahman toured North America with a new concept called "The Intimate Tour". True to it's name, it was fresh, intimate and real. He performed in the San Jose Civic Center with a minimal band. We got the perfect seats with a straight line of sight. I couldn't ask for more when it came to watching him LIVE.

Line of sight to witness magic

I'm looking at the W.E.N.U.S and I'm not happy - In the work front, things have been really fruitless. It has been that kind of year where the results have been in reach of the eyes, but, the hands almost always keeps grabbing at nothing. 2016 is definitely going to be interesting in this front and I'm excited about it.

Movies I loved: OK Kanmani, Thani Oruvan, Tamasha, Premam, The Martian, Baahubali
Albums most looped: OK Kanmani, Uttama Villan, Naanum Rowdy Thaan, Yennai Arindhal
Favorite Book: Conversations with Mani Ratnam (I read it only this year)

Hoping to write more in 2016. Looking forward to an exciting 2016. Wish you all a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Don't be a stranger

There was once a time,
To forget it, would be a crime.
The stage has now by gone,
The play though, is still on.

To recount this over and again,
My voice takes quite a strain.
You know this little quirky tale,
Lived long it has, and become stale.

To erase the past, safe it's not,
Spoken words, have become what?
The present, my friend, is all we have,
Forget not, we carry that we carve.

This strange new face, about I wonder.
Shades it has, makes my mind wander.
Is this grey mask newly worn?
Or the old mask, now thrown away torn.

Beauty and strength there to see
Are like green leaves on a tall tree.
Drained off color, they will fall,
To be stamped and crushed by all.

Success, my friend, is so strange.
Formless it is, and can change.
Character, you can shape only once.
Build it well, while still there a chance.

Oh my friend, you're in a dream,
And you will wake up with a scream!
For a world you paint, dear artist,
Has never been known to exist.

Oh my friend, you fly high.
Wings - you have, I don't deny.
But, a bird, away you fly past,
Is a bird less that's left to last.

Flap and fly, and go farther
And higher, and even further.
May you grow taller and stronger,
But, my dear friend, don't be a stranger.