These days social media seems to be full of hatred and venom for ‘the others’. Others who are not like us.. this categorization can happen on the basis of caste, creed, nationality, gender, geography, language.. etc. Those who are sane and does not want to lose their sanity just ignore that and try to make themselves immune to this hatred by their different measures. This might be giving them a temporary relief but it is causing an immense harm by emboldening those who engage in such an act of hatred mongering.
A couple of days, a clip popped up in my newsfeed. I did not dare to click on that but the heading itself revealed what it was all about. A naked woman was being chased by hundreds of people, and she was trying her best to save herself. She was accused of being involved in the death of a youth. There was no proof, just rumors, and speculations. But these rumors and speculations were enough to showcase our barbarism and treat a helpless woman in the most horrible way.
This is a story from my home state Bihar. But the story is not different in other places as well. We get outraged by these events but we do nothing. The blame is not only on those who chased the woman but also on those who were just spectators.. those who just pull out their mobiles phones to record the event to make a viral video rather than stopping those hooligans and teaching them a lesson.
I grew up with a brutal apathy and derision for politicians, especially for the modern ones, those whom I saw on television or read about them in newspapers and magazines. There were many reasons for that. But things changed. When Atal Ji became the Prime Minister for the first time, I came to know a politician who was different. The grace, the oratory, the charisma, the intellect captivated us.
Today, he is no more and I could not stop myself from expressing the loss I felt. A true leader is gone. I am not sure I would again feel this kind of loss and sadness on the death of a politician. Rest in peace Atal Ji.
Peaceful death is really an essential human right, more essential perhaps even than the right to vote or the right to justice; it is a right on which, all religious traditions tell us, a great deal depends for the well-being and spiritual future of the dying person.
–from The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying: A Spiritual Classic from One of the Foremost Interpreters of Tibetan Buddhism to the West, by Sogyal Rinpoche
The above quote has been one of the most profound things that I came across this year and undoubtedly “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” the most thought-provoking and life-changing book that I have read.
It has been more than 2 years since I left watching news on televisions. In fact, I just stopped watching television completely, except some cricket matches’ live telecast. I still do read newspapers sometime but these days reading news means looking at the headline and getting the facts and ditching all the views and opinions that are forced with these facts. There are no newspapers any more but all are now ‘views papers’.
Knowing the truth means that you need to read 3-4 news papers and use your own analysis to understand what might have been the real picture. All newspapers have started this practice of twisting facts to suit their own agenda. There is hardly a balanced narrative. There are errors of omissions, willful negligence, twisted facts and half-baked research to make you believe their version of the story.
Readers are also very happy to chose the version that conform to their world-view. In fact, most people are actively looking to find news that justifies their world-view. This is a sad development in todays era of fake news and malicious forwards. Earlier there was a lack of information but there is now a flood of misinformation. More disturbingly, this is not an organic phenomenon anymore, several entities are proactively working to make sure that objective information does not reach unless it serves their purpose.
I have been on social media for more than a decade. When I created my first blog on blogger in 2004, the word social media was not even existing or may be it was there but surely it was not as popular as it is today. Now, I think I am every social media app that is popular or is worth being on. Facebook and Twitter are the two most popular one and most frequently used on and I check probably more than 10 times a day. But, I have been shying away from putting my opinion on any controversial topics on social media. My posts are very balanced on twitter and sanitized for universal public acceptance. On Facebook, it is all about random photographs of family (recently almost all my posts were about my daughter) and a few funny forwards or videos.
But my timeline on Facebook and Twitter is full of strong opinions and specially from those who have strong political views and hatred towards one or another group/communities/class. On Facebook, these people are someone who I know personally very well and I wonder how come this person be so stupid or bigoted. The sad part is that most of these people think that I am aligned to their belief as I do not do anything to disabuse them of these notions.
This was quite distressing so I decided to become more vocal, proactive and articulate about what I believe and what I stand for. There should be no confusion about this. It might come at some cost in terms of a few pissed off friends (or acquaintances) but this is a small price to pay for.
Now, I am much more vocal and suddenly my Facebook page, which was meant to connect with my friends and relatives, has become more than that. The primary purpose of being on Facebook is still to connect with my friends and family but now I am also using it for highlighting what I believe in.
Life in or around 40’s is quite unique. For many, this is the time when you are shaping up new lives as parents, at the same time you are preparing for emotional upheaval as close ones start their final journey. Life goals and ambitions are more realistic and most people are relatively more aware of their professional roadmap. This brings sometime a rare calmness and sometime a feeling of lack of fulfillment, failure and despondency.
As I step into my 40’s I am feel more happy thinking about my past then visualizing my future. The past for me is testimony of keeping a number of promises that I made to myself and my family. The future is a different story. The future is surely not what I had ever visualized. I never expected that I would be so helpless against the suffering of my mother. Agonizingly helpless. Nobody should go through such pain.
The cruel twist of destiny can change things so quickly. And, that highlights the futility of our efforts and planning.
Innocence, immaturity and insouciance are quite underrated assets in many contexts; these are often the key factors behind some of our biggest achievements and milestones. But with time, these assets are eaten away by our professional commitments, ambitions and properieties. Our responses become too calibrated; our actions become too calculated. We become more risk averse; we avoid confrontation and conflicts. We became too much concerned about what everyone thinks of us.
Something very similar happened to me a few years back, when I stopped blogging. In fact, I did not stop blogging but stopped opinionating as I continued to post “things” on blogs. I learnt the art of transforming emotional rabble-rousing outbursts into a diplomatic and politically correct, but impotent, comments. My fingers started to doodle instead of showing the middle finger to assholes. Did I gain anything out of that? Don’t know. Did I lose anything? A lot.
So it makes sense to go back to basics. This personal blog was an important part of what I am. It documented the started point of my journey so that I can look back and see how much I have travelled. Many who join in the journey midway, might never know from where did you start and they will never know why you look so tired and beaten. They have a look at your speed and not the distance covered. The starting point as well as the journey need to be documented. Not for others, but for my own stock taking. To understand the transformation, to understand the transfiguration.