Thursday, July 24, 2008

A book I read

I am doubtful on how war can be a way to peace. On this thought I base my blog.

All Quiet on the Western Front
By Erich Maria Remarque

The book is founded on World War 1. The author is a German (June 22, 1898September 25, 1970), who was conscripted into the army at the age of 18. In 1933 when Nazis came to power his books were burnt, claiming it was a betrayal of the German front-line soldier.

The first sentence of the book aptly describes it.

‘The book is intended neither as an accusation nor as a confession, but simply as an attempt to give an account of a generation that was destroyed by the war – even those of it who survived the shelling.’

The story revolves around a few young men, around nineteen years of age who were all classmates.
The protagonist is also, the narrator. Paul Baumer.

Each of them is recruited into the army directly from school.
Each of them with hopes and dreams of their own.
Like Muller, who dreams about taking school leaving diploma later under special regulations. ‘ …he even swots up physics formulae when their is a barrage going on’

The book describes how a person gets transformed, adapting to his surroundings. Things once he thought as disgusting turn out to be a pleasure later.

‘I can still remember how embarrassed we were use communal latrines..there are no doors so that 20 men had to sit side by side as if they were on train.’
Paul goes on to say that the as the days go on the whole business in the open air is a real pleasure. And now he can’t understand why people ‘…skirt around these things nervously –after all its just as natural as eating or drinking’

Paul talks about his school . He talks about a particular form-master at school. ‘..they were supposed to be the ones who would help us eighteen year olds to make the transition. Who would guide us into adult life, of civilized behavior and progress….but the first dead man we saw shattered this conviction. Our first experience of heavy artillery fire showed us our mistake, and the view of life that their teaching had given us fell to pieces under that bombardment.”
Paul goes on to describe their state ‘…we are like children who have been abandoned and we are as experienced as old men, we are coarse, unhappy and superficial-I think that we are lost.”

Paul a year ago was quite a different person .He had interests in literature. He used to write poems. When he is back home for a short interval , he wishes ‘…I want to get that quiet rapture back ,feel again, just as before, that fierce and unnamed passion I used to feel when I used to feel when I looked at my books.’
He just stands looking at his shelf with books
Words words words they can’t reach me
Its over.
I leave the room quietly.’

Paul talks about the first person he kills on the front …
‘I just stab wildly…when I come to myself again, my hand is sticky and wet. He is dying ..but not dead’.
Paul gets water for the person. He has to spent hours with the dying man hiding inside the shell hole. The time tortures him.
‘…the dying man is the master of these hours, he has an indivisible dagger to stab me with: the dagger of time and my own thoughts’.
Paul starts to think about the dead man’s wife. In his desperation he talks to the dead man. He asks for his forgiveness. He can’t see why the dead man is an ‘enemy’.
‘Under their uniform they are all the same, scared’
He says,” take twenty more years from my life camarade and get up again – take more, because I don’t know what I am going to do with years I have got”

The sheer hopelessness and gloom is evident in certain lines.
‘I am young ,I am 20 years of age but I know nothing of life except despair ,death, fear…for years our occupation has been killing –that was the first experience we had. Our knowledge of life is limited to death.’

Books have strange effect on one’s mind. Some books stay with you only till you finish reading the last page. Some books just stay on. I guess this book has such an effect on you, maybe because its still quite relevant today.

The concept of victory in a battle is alien to me. If a side loses even a single human life, I believe its reason enough to say it has lost the war. Just think about that one person. He lost the precious life in which he would have wanted to do a thousand things. He sacrificed his life for the sake of winning a war. The word sacrifice is quite a big word. Its not a single word. It is the cumulative of many words. Sacrifice of hopes, of dreams, of goals, of laughter, of sorrow, of love, of hate, of family, of society. Are not all these, that make life worthy of living?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Less Coffee

Excerpts from The Hindu Sunday Magazine...

" this very same place there used to be an old India Coffee House, renovated to make way for an ultra cool chill-out place for youngsters like myself. It would be a lie to say that I dont miss that coffee house - a dingy place with ceiling like a dome; the cheap wooden tables coloured to give an impression of mahogany; waiters in long pagadis; the always-present group of oldies who looked like communist poets or war
veterans or editors of forgotten newspapaers; the glasses and the occasional plates of egg pakodas. I thought the oldies owned the place , but i realise they were there because that was the only place that had not grown younger as they grew older. The India Coffee House had grown old with them...Now a cafe stands in its place. I hang out there, but it remind me of the coffee house and its surprisingly affordable delicacies...Not that this change isn't good, but I want to know what happened to that group of oldies, those waiters,that manager and those tables..."

The coffee house at Kolkata’s College Street was the place for intense intoxication, but achieved without the aid of liquor, remembers eminent Bengali writer Nabaneeta Dev Sen.

A visitor during the 1960s, though not a regular, to that now almost mythical cradle of intellectual discourse, Ms. Sen recollects how the “intoxication of creativity, intellectual excitement and free exchange of ideas” energised the place.

A cauldron of creative energy, the Coffee House was the ultimate pilgrimage for the aspiring writer, the budding poet, the young painters, playwrights and filmmakers or the radical in politics. “It was a kind of lounge where new ideas would be generated and exchanged, where young, creative, thinking people would congregate,” Sen said.

Amid the twirling haze of cigarette smoke, editors of little magazines would prod wannabe writers to submit their articles, while intricate cinematic aesthetics would be laid bare in discussions where Satyajit Ray or Mrinal Sen would hold forth.

Notwithstanding the heated political debates during the turbulent Naxalite movement, the general air was one of friendly camaraderie.

Dipak Majumdar might break out into a full-throated rendition of a Rabindra Sangeet, while writers scribbled furiously on their sheets or enthusiastic painters sketched. Interestingly, there were not too many women who frequented the place in the mid-1960s, Sen recollects."

Away from home...

Almost 2 months in Bangalore...

Black cloud...

I lost my purse with some amount of money and my driving license.

A bad bout of viral fever...

For the first week there wasnt a single day when we didnt lose the way.

Pollution...Traffic fares...

Silver lining.

I still love the city.

My first job..The sense of being on my own. Though not many responsibilities on my shoulder, but for the first time i feel responsible for myself. Before i never needed to make a choice between good and bad...coz their never existed a bad world.

But now I understand the true meaning of free will.

I month of strenuous training , 10 days of absolute nothingness, and 15 more days of training to go ..At my new job its been almost a roller coaster ride…that would have been the case for any new joinee guess. I never had any particular inclination for software. But there was no aversion too. After college I had different options like trying my chance in BSNL or taking up teaching profession..both would have kept me rooted to cochin….and my father would have been more than happy.

It was not the interest in programming or software that made me join Wipro. It was simply because I wanted to go to Bangalore. Because I like to travel , explore.I wanted to feel how its to be on your own. People told me when I live away from home I will understand the importance and comfort of going to office from home(cochin).I am just 2 months old in Blore. I did have an attack of “I want to go back”. But I have passed that phase. I like it in Bangalore. Don’t know what lies in future. But for now I am okay.

August 15 , 2007

10 years ago I was in my 7 th standard .

It was the 50th Independence day. It was a happy occasion. There was celebration of patriotism , freedom, Indian ness. They served payasam and ladoo in school. My school Kendriya vidyalaya. The school to which I am indebted for imbibing in me all the values that I hold close to my heart. We students had the feeling of patriotism to our heart’s core.

My History textbooks gave me the first glimpse to our freedom struggle. My teachers who had this unfaltering love for the nation and those values flowed into us.

The books presented to me a fairy tale which ended with ‘India was independent’. I don’t remember whether the books mentioned the tales of the bloody partition. There were stories of courage, valor which I completely drank in. My perspective I knew later was so limited. (Maybe its only better by a minute degree now..but that’s another topic.)

Later years I began reading more books related to the struggle, it opened me to another India which I had missed between all these ‘feeling good’. Its not that I didn’t know of the challenges the new India faced. But I had never given much thought to the religious clashes that had happened. Thinking of which today I am not able to understand them, I am not able to accept them. I learnt about the Indian birth pangs, the partition, the gory massacre, the tribulations. The more I read the sadder I became. On this day a channel aired 1947 earth. A movie which is set on the day. In Lahore. It showed neighbors killing one another. Massacres, rape and what not, there is a scene which almost took the last straw from me. Some villagers are gathered around to here panditji’s speech on a transistor as the world sleeps India awakens to a….:. One villager remarks na jane yeh neta log kya keh rahe he”…he shakes his head in despair and disappointment. He switches off the radio.

I couldn’t sleep at night. Suddenly I felt as if I could see the whole truth. Not just about the past. We lost much at the cost of freedom. I am not blind to the contributions made by many to the growth of our nation But we could have done better in the past 60 years we could have made the cost of freedom more meaningful. And today what do we see around us corruption, Politics………It is not that there is no hope. I have hope.

Today we have brought our country to a point were we need to begin a new freedom struggle. To fight all the evils that has infected our nation.. a freedom struggle which requires the same courage , vigor and valor its just that the face of the enemy has changed from imperialism to our own mindsets.

Entry for August 02, 2007

Past and present

My Grandmother is staying with my family for a week. My mom is her youngest daughter.

She reminds me of the chapter in English that I learnt in my twelfth std., My Grandmother by Kushwant Singh.

My grandmother is very old. And just like Kushwant Singh’s Grandmother she has been this old since I can remember .Her face too is like parched land full of crisscrosses. But she is very pretty. They say none of her grandchildren have got her looks.

I always think about my old age. When I am… say 80. I guess I would have lost all the energy and passion in life. I would be so cut off from life. I would probably have no clue as to what is happening in the world. My eyesight would have grown poor and I wouldn’t be able to read even the newspaper. May be I wouldn’t be able to walk also…maybe I would be confined to the four wall of some room, me who is a claustrophobic!!

I would be this person who always broods and talks about illness.

My Grandmother by God’s grace can look after herself. And she manages to read the headlines of Malayala Manorama with her specs.

She always tries to adjust with life. She doesn’t complain too much. But I know…she has lost the aptitude for life. Now who wouldn’t if you have absolutely nothing to do, nobody to talk to during the day and you spent life doing ‘nothing’. Now those days when I was waiting for my results after my college ,when I had absolutely nothing to do, I had become disgusted with life. I can’t blame my grandma who has been sitting at home doing nothing much for years.

I was reading the newspaper and having my breakfast. She was sitting near me.I know she likes to know what’s happening in the world these days. She likes to be updated. I tried to make some conversation. I told her I would read the newspaper and brief her on the happenings. I am reading The Hindu.

Okay the front page news is Brazil for IBSA link to mercosur..hmmm I don’t think she would be interested…I brush thru..ok” amma the num of people with chikungunya is coming down”. She is interested. I turn the page.”amma they are making a waste disposal plant at Brahmapuram. The work will begin by next feb.” she tells me that at the plant they wud crush the waste and turn it into manure.she adds that eventhough they say its feb its going to take atleast 5 years. With education till 4th standard I guess her explanation is pretty good. I smile. ”amma have you heard of Japan” she nods. ‘well there Has been an earthquake. 6 people died. But Japanese know that there place is earthquake prone. so they have made quake resistant buildings. Now she smiles.

I have heard Kamala Suraiyya sharing my fear of old age in one of her interviews. But she finds solace in the fact that even if u lose your eyesight, sense of hearing, you still can dream. and thru your dreams u can live. I guess I should try to live sensibly and should do things that I really want to so that I can dream about them when I am 80.

Entry for March 07, 2007
I have just read Nobel Lecture, Oslo, December 10, 2006. by Muhammad Yunus.
These are the excerpts from the speech…

“….Young people dream about creating a perfect world of their own….

…. I became involved in the poverty issue not as a policymaker or a researcher. I became involved because poverty was all around me, and I could not turn away from it. In 1974, I found it difficult to teach elegant theories of economics in the university classroom, in the backdrop of a terrible famine in Bangladesh. Suddenly, I felt the emptiness of those theories in the face of crushing hunger and poverty. I wanted to do something immediate to help people around me, even if it was just one human being, to get through another day with a little more ease…
….I offered US $27 from my own pocket to get these victims out of the clutches of those money-lenders. The excitement that was created among the people by this small action got me further involved in it. If I could make so many people so happy with such a tiny amount of money, why not do more of it?....
…..We get what we want, or what we don't refuse. We accept the fact that we will always have poor people around us, and that poverty is part of human destiny. This is precisely why we continue to have poor people around us. If we firmly believe that poverty is unacceptable to us, and that it should not belong to a civilized society, we would have built appropriate institutions and policies to create a poverty-free world.
We wanted to go to the moon, so we went there. We achieve what we want to achieve. If we are not achieving something, it is because we have not put our minds to it. We create what we want. …
….A human being is born into this world fully equipped not only to take care of him or herself, but also to contribute to enlarging the well being of the world as a whole. Some get the chance to explore their potential to some degree, but many others never get any opportunity, during their lifetime, to unwrap the wonderful gift they were born with. They die unexplored and the world remains deprived of their creativity, and their contribution….
…Let us join hands to give every human being a fair chance to unleash their energy and creativity..”
Please read this link if you think not for yourself , but for the world.
I wish to convert my thoughts into deeds.
I dream for a better tomorrow

I believe in a better tomorrow and I am going to work for it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hi Everyone

I had started blogging initially in yahoo 360. But unfortunately the place where I work has included yahoo 360 amoung the sites that they have blocked. I really miss blogging in there, but I do hope I will have a nice time here with friends and critics. So I am here to begin once again.

But I thought I would transport some of my old blogs here to get a hang of things.. so the next few posts are actually what I have posted already in 360.

Yours Faithfully