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Monthly Archives: February 2016

Aligarh-hindi movie by Hansal Mehta


I’m glad I went to see  the hindi film “Aligarh” this afternoon. I almost missed it . My daughter had booked my ticket online , but at the counter I was told that it had been booked for yesterday . I rechecked the message delivered on the mobile and realised that it was sadly true. Fortunately, lots of tickets were still available for the current show and so apart from the money  she lost, all was well.

 

One vaguely remembered reading about the newspaper reports that spoke of a professor of  Aligarh Muslim University, in North India ,  being caught on video in a compromising position with a young rikshaw-puller  and his subsequent suspension from his post , at a time when a High Court had revoked Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code  which made homosexuality a criminal offence.  Some journalists had broken in into his house, barged into his bedroom and filmed them. Almost immediately, four of the faculty members had turned up at the place and from that point onwards, life had become a nightmare beset with persecution and humiliation for the sixty four year old professor who had spent over two decades , teaching Marathi in that University.  Two days after the petition filed by him in the High Court was decided in his favour for revoking his suspension , he was found dead  in his rented house. The post-mortem  had revealed that there were traces of poison in his blood.

professor siras

 

Hansal Mehta’s cinematic version of this true-life incident is remarkably well executed.  Manoj Bajpai ,  enacting the role of Professor Srinivas Ramachandra Siras is superb. As the soft-spoken, unobtrusive, almost nondescript professor whose lonely evenings were spent with a glass of spirits and old hindi songs of Lata Mangeshkar,  his portrayal etched the character indelibly in the viewer’s mind, I felt.

 

Raj Kumar Rao, in the role of the young  Delhi based journalist  Deepu Sebastian Edmond, then working with the newspaper Indian Express, who had followed this case along with his photographer colleague Tashi Tobgyal, is also very impressive.

deepu sebastian.jpg

 

It was Deepu  who had  highlighted the culpability of the persons who had intruded upon the right of an individual to his  privacy and against whom no action had been taken.  In actuality, Deepu and Professor Siras, had never met and there had been only one conversation on the phone after the judgement was delivered. In the film,  they are shown to have met several times and the mutual understanding , respect and affections that developed between them have been very   touchingly depicted.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JezwsQKpXuU

 

“I don’t like the word gay”, the professor objects in the film.” To me it is like poetry, an indescribable urge”

And how can that be a crime if that relationship is  between two consenting individuals , if it doesn’t  impose or intervene or disrupt another’s space or rights or well-being?  That it is  unnatural , is the reason provided by  almost all religions and the law. How can an individual help the way he feels about love or it’s expression if that is how his nature is ? Isn’t Nature itself a testimony to the fact that homogenity is against the very nature of Nature itself , with it’s myriad forms, colours, contours , climates, niches and nurturing ,  food cycles and courtship and reproduction.

 

In this age of taking sides , of information and counter-information and misinformation,  of strident voices dominating  every aspect of human existence , of confusions and helplessness, how does one sift through the incoherence and arrive at any conclusion? How does one know for sure that what one is standing up for is indeed the Truth in the shifting sands of morality , patriotism, religious beliefs, definitions of propriety, social norms, traditions , culture   and so on?

The truth is perhaps that one may never know . May be the only way we can justify our perceptions is by gauging the truth of  our own feelings . For me, the touchstone would be whether  my alignments are motivated by love or animosity for my fellow human beings. Which side I am on is not perhaps of  any significance .

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2016 in Community, Movies, Uncategorized

 

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I stand with JNU


Life is just wonderful for me as an individual, right now and for most of the time I am without any feeling of gnawing guilt that there is something wrong about me being so happy when that isn’t the case for many of my fellow-beings.

Some days , however, the guilt does take over , like today, watching and  listening to the video in which  P.Sainath  is speaking to the students at Jawarharlal University , in solidarity with the struggle going on in that campus.

It was years ago that I read ,”Everybody loves a good drought” and if I think back , it was reading about the realities of poverty-stricken rural India  from a person who had gone around the countryside documenting it first-hand , that one felt this enormous urge to be part of something bigger than myself  and connect.  My association with a humble effort to bring some education to children of migrant families from rural India , now residing in an urban slum in the National Capital region,  was in many ways an expression of that desire.

I do realise  that even in that desire to be part of something like this, is also about the self…the need for absolving oneself from the  responsibility  for the distressing circumstances around us.

But that is another  personal jihad.

In Sainath’s own words, he is a field reporter  who, who till last year, spent more than 250 days in the countryside  and studies  and reports about the realities at ground zero.

To me, as to many others, he is one of those who has maintained utmost integrity in his journalistic profession.

So I tend to completely trust what he says  and in the cacophony of all the different channels on television and social media,  a voice like his , gives me a better insight into the larger picture  and the long-term  consequences of economic policies  that have been manifesting itself in rural lives.

Sainath is an alumnus from JNU.

These are some salient excerpts from his speech:

According to the Socio Economic Class Census  data , in less75% of rural households which constitutes around 883 million people , the income of the main breadwinner is less than Rs.5000 and if that limit is raised to Rs.10000, it will include 90%.

He describes the current years as a period in which there is the greatest degree of inequality.

Pitched against the above above average  income of rural India , is the Forbes report which ranks some Indians as the fifth or sixth in the list of dollar billionaires and for a better perspective , he draws attention to India’s ranking as per  the Human development Index, which is 135th, which is lower than all Latin American countries, fifty positions lower than Vietnam who went through the ravages of the world war, and twenty positions below Sri Lanka , who had a civil war going on for thirty years.

 

Another glaring aspect of this wider picture that he was sketching in his speech was that of the  declared assets of elected representatives through the years. While the number of crorepatis  amongst them was 32% of all M.Ps in 2004, it was 53% in in 2009 and a whopping 82% in the 2014 elections.

So who is getting richer at whose cost?

 

Anybody who questions these inequalities which is being systematically  created by political and corporate vested interests, is being branded as a criminal and cases are then slapped upon them. This is what has been going on in Odissa and Chattisgarh  and elsewhere, where corporates are setting up their industries, taking away agricultural and  forest land and curbing restrictions on the forest rights of tribal communities.

When we talk of love for our country, is it just an abstract idea?

Is patriotism and nationalism worth their names if it doesn’t include empathy and concern for those whose rights to a dignified survival are being gradually eroded away with state collusion?

Are we  a free nation if the majority  of our brethren are left with no real choices to make about the things that spell the core of their existences?

India is a country which has  some of the most regressive practices on earth, said Sainath, but then adds that it also has some of the most fascinating and brilliant things about it as well…a land where 833 million people speak 780 living languages, out of which 6 are spoken by more than 50 million people, 3 are spoken by more than 80 million people and  one is the language of 600 million. One language (Jeru in the Andamans) is spoken by just one person and another  (Saima in Tripura) by seven persons. This diversity is India and this is the richness it possesses.

Sainath has done extensive investigative studies on the agrarian crisis and the farmer suicides in the Vidarbha region and elsewhere. As he mentioned in  his speech, he is a field reporter who till last year,   spent more than 250 days in rural areas  and he hasn’t been a stooge of any particular Government. So what he says should have some legitimacy.

The responses to the matter of farmer suicides from the Government, intelligentsia, media and the general public have been generally lukewarm, he blames, although he gives more credit to the empathy of the general public as compared to the other three.

And then we have an elected representative of Maharashtra describing these suicides as a fashion trend and another from Andhra who had remarked that they did it for the compensation. The compensation, says Sainath is Rs. I lakh, 30% alone of which is paid to the widow in cash. Of the remaining 70%, which is tied up as a fixed deposit, she gets only the monthly interest of Rs.446 or so.

That’s how insensitive we have become.

Comparitively, he mentioned , the officers of the Defence Institutions where he had given lectures were more  empathetic and concerned  as many of the jawans were farmers in uniforms and they were witness to their  tension and worry when they received a distressing telephone calls from home.

What is at stake here in the present protests, in the context of the arrest of the JNU student leader  Kanhaiya Lal, is the liberty to dissent  and Sainath emphasised in his speech that the fight was not just for their immediate demands , but against the criminalisation of dissent.

With the death of the ten soldiers under an avalanche in Siachen, the figures of casualties in the Glacier has risen to 879 , says an Indian Express report.

Is it lack of political will  that we cannot resolve these border issues.? Who gains from keeping these conflicts alive here and elsewhere in the world?

Who is the enemy of the state?

Does the State always work in the interests of the human beings, they are supposed to represent?

Is it sedition when you speak up for the latter and raise slogans against the former when it is perceived that they don’t?

 

Jawarharlal Nehru University definitely stands for a place  where all such questions  have always been raised and debated.

I’ve spent around 34 years in Delhi . Now a persistent regret  has raised it’s head…that I never had an occasion to visit that campus.

 

I stand with JNU.

This is the You Tube link of Sainath’s speech. It’s long , but worth listening to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3dq6pApmhk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on February 20, 2016 in Community, Uncategorized

 

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