Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Travesty of Divine Justice?

I woke up to a dreary morning in the small town of Kakinada on the eastern coast of India. Everything this morning held up the promise of a Sunday not unlike any other in the recent past. I had an appointment to keep at a give-away function organized by my company for the distribution of free food packets to HIV infected children from nearby villages; an event that hardly conjured up any prospect to enthuse my spirits. However, I conscientiously regarded it my duty to be present at the function as I am one of the contributors to the fund that supports these children. With these thoughts of dutifulness and an inflated sense of nobility firmly ensconced in my mind, I set out for my destination with my friend and colleague, C N Wong. On our arrival at the site of the function, my spirits were bogged down even more at the sight of the dilapidated building and the gloomy confines in which the function was to be held.
However, when we finally emerged out into the open after more than two hours of the function, my mind lingered on in that dingy room; 0n the faces of the children and their parents and in the whole unfortunate situation that destiny has cast them into. I had expected to see a whole bunch of morose children with despondent countenances that implored for rescue from their state of misery. Such a sight might have justified the images that I had harbored in my mind. But what I saw and experienced was totally the contrary. As soon as we entered the room, we were greeted by sounds of excitement and chirpy laughter of a group of children in their early childhood, blissfully unaware of the dark uncertainty that has come upon their lives through a cruel quirk of fate. The way the little children pranced and jumped about in excitement as they played various games or the pure cheer on their faces when they were presented with gifts were sights that moved me deeply. They reminded me of my own fun-filled childhood days. All my sense of false nobility at my contribution for the well-being of these children evaporated in an instant, only to be replaced by a feeling of helplessness that filled my being at my inability to do more to retain the cheer in the minds and beings of these innocent souls for as long they desire; to defeat the forces of nature that are threatening to deprive them of a life as full of happiness and prosperity as any other child in this world deserves to have. The gay abandon, cheer and excitement with which the children talked, laughed and played only accentuated my feeling of sadness for their plight.

I cannot claim to be a die-hard follower of religion and all its associated rituals, but I have always had an unshakeable faith in Divine justice. Yet, I have always found it hard to justify certain events such as the cruel deaths of innocent children in riots, robberies, terrorist acts and accidents. Today, the sight of these innocent children being cruelly incarcerated in the clutches of fate revived in me my frustrations at the apparent inequity of Divine justice, and left me searching for answers to my perennially unanswered questions yet again. I can only hope that I will find satisfactory answers to my questions during my lifetime, and hope that, someday, the sight of the godly, uninhibited cheer in the faces of children will cease to be marred by the cruel machinations of fate.

I returned from the function with my mind a bit more burdened with thoughts of the incurable miseries of this world but certainly more enriched than when I set out. It has been a Sunday I will remember for some time to come.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Michael Jackson – Poesy of Innocence

The news of Michael Jackson’s death struck me like a bolt of lightning. To many, the happening has been a virtual non-event; but somehow, the whole journey of the enigmatic personality from his death to his funeral has been one fraught with poignancy for me.

As stories of Jackson’s life flashed incessantly on television, I wallowed in a pleasurable wave of nostalgia. Images of Michael Jackson’s dominance of the 1984 Grammy Awards flashed across my mind. I recalled my brother and I watching the nominations of the awards on Doordarshan late into the night on our portable black-and-white TV. At that time, music in video form was at its infancy and watching Michael Jackson performing in “Beat It” and “Billie Jean” on video was a heady visual delight. Memories of pavement slabs getting illuminated at his every step in the video “Billie Jean” remain etched in my mind to this day. We were truly fascinated by this slightly built, cute Black boy with his natural dance movements setting the screen alight. That day, Michael Jackson ignited in us a love for western music that was to stay in us forever. I am sure that there are many more like us who were charmed into addiction for western music that night.

Over the years, our admiration for the immense musical talent of Jackson diminished somewhat, maybe because we could not find the same rapturous delight in his later creations, although I must say that even his worst musical piece is better than most of the music of today. The “Thriller” album was so sublime in its musical and lyrical value that all the songs that came after that seemed to pale in comparison. Actually, songs like “Bad” and “Human Nature”, which I did not feel were up to the Jackson standard at that time, compares with some of the best non-Jacksonian compositions I have ever heard and watched.

However, notwithstanding the peerless musical and fleet footed genius that Michael Jackson was, it was the character of the man which has always fascinated me and was something I found to be most adorable. Michael Jackson was clearly in love with his childhood. We all are, in one way or the other, but Jackson chose bravely not to let go of it till the end. Even at the age of 50, the freshness of childlike innocence was markedly impressed on his visage. This might explain his obsession for the company of children and his fascination of fairy tales, playgrounds and all things that we loved as children. Jackson believed in following his heart as long as he lived. But the canons of human society demanded that he be an adult like everybody else, be a celebrity sex symbol and flaunt his private life for the consumption of the press and the public. The world would just not let him follow a life of his choice. Rumors of child molestation, questions ranging from the changing color of his skin to his plastic surgeries to his sexual propensities flooded the media in an attempt to goad him out of his confines. Yet, he chose to live in a world of his own, away from the glare of the public. He did not even bother to refute or comment on all the cruel rumors that threatened to trample his individuality and reputation into pulp. Instead, he withdrew more and more into his shell, revealing himself in all his innate brilliance only on stage. Towards the end, he was continually fighting a losing battle against his loneliness, his fears and insecurities and most of all, his failing health. Jackson did not seem to have any strength left to fight all the insidious forces of the world around him.

To his faithful fans, and to the more empathetic eye, Jackson’s innocence and simplicity were never ever in doubt. To all of them (including myself), Michael Jackson had a heart of gold, ever giving, never asking for anything in return. He was a man enraptured by his love for music and the fairy tale world of children. He just wanted to drown himself in his own, quaint universe and lose himself completely in it. His sole recourse from the woes of life was music and the stage. His human frailties, his childlike innocence and his love for dance and music shone through in his songs and videos. He did not deserve the cruelty meted out to him by certain sections of the media and the public while he was alive. Hopefully, they will realize their folly now that Jackson is no more. Maybe, these people just do not deserve to be mentioned in the same phrase as Jackson. Maybe, the world and the society of today do not deserve Michael Jackson’s greatness any more.

I will never ever forget the images of Jackson rehearsing for his marathon comeback show just a couple of days before his death. I was just amazed that he managed to look so enthusiastic and energetic on stage at a time when he was supposed to be in the worst state of health in his life. Indeed, Michael Jackson was no ordinary human being. He was simply God’s gift to the world of music. His passing away surely marks the end of a golden era of pop music, melody and dance. But, in my mind, Michael Jackson and his music will live forever, as he will in the minds of multitudes across the world. Rarely has anybody been such an embodiment of gift and virtue as was this incredible genius called Michael Joseph Jackson. Long Live The King of Pop.

Michael Jackson – Poesy of Innocence

Trapped in The Web

With the turn of the century, I graduated from inland letter cards to email; from landlines to mobiles; and from social visits to socia...