Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How Dutiful Is The Rain?

The rain Gods are no longer as benevolent as they have been for India. The writing is large and ominous on the wall. India can no longer afford to lie back and hope that the clouds from the South West will come knocking at our doors on the dot, year after year. El Nino is one explanation for the aberration this year, but there are sure to be other reasons that may crop up in the future for Mother Nature’s inability to quench our thirst. Politically appropriate statements from ministers and statistical jugglery from the meteorological department have never done anything, or are ever likely to do much to assuage the despair and despondence of the millions of Indians whose very survival depends upon the timely arrival of the rains. Agriculture is the very foundation upon which the economic and social well being of the entire country rests. To allow this foundation to be held ransom to the Monsoon winds, which are threatening to be more whimsical than ever, would be the undoing of this country. If there is one thing that needs to change with the metamorphosis of India from being a languishing third world country to one of rising global stature, it is our dependence on the mercies of nature for our daily bread. It is high time that erudite deliberations and histrionic political resolutions be speedily converted into effectual action. India cannot afford to ignore this disappointing Monsoon as a one off event. As long as industrialization persists on this earth without sufficient regard to environmental balances, global climatic conditions are only expected to worsen. And one of the biggest victims of such degradation of our environment will certainly be India. As international diplomacies would have it, a consensus and a resolute will to combat climate change at the expense of industrial development, especially on the part of the developed economies (the US of A being the leader of the pack), seems remote at this point of time. As such, India will have to develop its own means of protecting itself from sure economic crises in the inevitable event of the Monsoon rains misbehaving on a regular basis in the not-too-distant future.

Question is, do we have the will to secure our country from being converted to an arid waste in the future? Do we have the resolve to ensure the basic need of man – drinking water – for all Indians? Tough as these questions are, tougher still is the search for the answers. Yet, the task at hand is nowhere nigh impossible. India is a not a land starved of water, notwithstanding the fact that most of the water is still out of reach of the masses. The numerous rivers with their voluminous flows criss-cross the length and breadth of the country, but we are yet to find ways to harness their immense potential. The country waits in eager anticipation for the onset of the rainy season, and despair at its reluctance to move forward. Yet, when the rains do come in spate, we find ourselves in distress, unable to convert the surfeit of heavenly discharge to our advantage. Damming of river-water and harvesting of rain-water are two straight solutions to all our problems. Still, we continue to drag our feet in even taking the first step towards embarking upon the gargantuan task.

It is time we stopped looking heavenwards every summer for deliverance from the impending spectre of drought and starvation. It is time we started looking earthwards for ways and means to obviate situations of the kind. After all, even heaven cannot help those who cannot help themselves.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Panacea For The Soul

What does one do at the end of a fruitless day, inconsequential and mundane; when one is in the company of none but solitude, enveloped by the monotonous silence of mute confines; when one has to strive hard to prevent his or her spirits from being dragged down under a quilt of gloom. Moments like these can be frequent, yet always unwanted visitors in one’s existence. When I have had the misfortune be in the throes of such torment, my mind always sought refuge in the ever-faithful realm of music to battle my blues. Western slow rock and country music has always been very close to my heart but the lyrical gems of Hindi film music are in a league of their own, and the one can never be compared in relation to the other. I can never tire of listening to my favorite Hindi mp3 music on my laptop – a collection of priceless melodies from the days of Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar. It is amazing how the sublime poetic thoughts of the seventies and eighties, which was, without doubt, the golden age of Hindi film music, rendered timeless by enthralling scores and the magic vocals of great bards of romance, mirth and melancholy never fail to touch the deepest chords of emotion in my heart. Today, the air was replete with the kind of feeling that made me long for some soul stirring, dreamy, magical melody. The kind of music so soothing to the soul, the lyrics so touching and the vocals so passionate that a better cure for a despondent mind is yet to be known,

Dekha Hain Zindagi Ko
Kuch Itna Kareeb Se
Chehre Tamam Lagne Lage
Ae Ajeeb Se……

Kishore Kumar’s plaintive voice bores into your heart as his emotive intonation of a poet’s emotion engulfs the senses. The mind bonds seamlessly with the tunes and severs itself from the unfeeling world of reality. My soul gets inebriated with the soothing touch of the mellifluous verse; I can go on listening forever. The stream of melody continues to flow with yet another classic number,

Kya Khabar Kya Pata
Kya Khushi Hain Gham Hain Kya
Leke Asoon Jo Hasi De
Gham Ke Badle Jo Khushi De
Raaz Ye Jaana Usi Ne
Zindagi Kya Hain Zindagi……

And another,

Pyaar Hi Jeene Ki Soorat Hain
Sabse Badi Zaroorat Hain
Pyar Se Kya Darna…

And another,

Koi Hota Jisko Apna
Hum Apna Kehlete Yaaron
Paas Nahin Toh Door Hi Hota
Lekin Koi Mera Apna…

As Kishore’s dulcet rendition faded gently away, the silken voice of Lata Mangeshkar wafted into my being with all the tenderness of an angelic touch,

Rajnigandha Phool Tumhari
Mehke Mere Jeevan Mein
Yuhin Mehke Preet Piya Ki
Mere Anuragi Man Mein

The rhythmic cadence of unadulterated melody caressed the weary senses and made my mind drift into a sweet reverie. At the end of it, as I inevitably awoke to the somber environs of my dispassionate dwelling, which seemed even more so after my dreamy journey through the surreal world of soulful melody, I was filled with a feeling akin to bereavement from a loved one. Every time I let my mind swing to these captivating lyrics ensconced in lilting music, my mind yearns for more. Surely, this cannot be too different from the pleasures of heaven.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Sibal Revolution - Blessing or Curse?

Kapil Sibal seems to have embarked upon a route that might change the face of Indian education forever. On the face of it, the new reforms do promise relief for young minds stressed with the ever increasing burden of expectation and the pressure to perform. It will certainly ease the trepidations on an exam day and on the dreaded day of results. As it is, the race for higher percentages has already begun to undermine the actual purport of knowledge acquisition. The minimalization of the importance of the class X exams, the first big test in a kid's life, and the clubbing of percentages under the broader system of grades will go a long way in alleviating the pressures of modern-day education as also in preventing students from getting into an ugly rat race of marks.

Notwithstanding its obvious advantages, Sibal's innovative new reforms does have their flip side as well. There is hardly any doubt that, along with the moderation of stress, the fire of competition too would cool down significantly. As a consequence, the motivation to climb the pedestal of academic success in schools and colleges would mellow down considerably as the pedestal itself would be removed from the system. This may, to some extent, pose some difficulty in extricating the specks of brilliance within a sea of average to mediocre talent. However, no system can be severed of its innate weaknesses, and Sibal's scheme is no different in that respect. It is only a walk down that road that will reveal it true efficacy, or, for that matter, its inadequacy.

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...