January 28, 2009

Culture Shock

However so prosperous we become, whatever so good we do, it still is our responsibility to live each day better than the previous one, to respect the one in front and moreso - the one behind you. But what happened in Mangalore and was so horrifically captured in camera is a shame and a blot on our national character.

I usually refrain from writing about issues other than my immediate own, nature and forests and traveling. However, the audacity with which the attackers chose to direct their attacks towards hapless women is our collective shame. India, they say is a great culture but what I would think is it is a culture in severe stages of decay. And it was best exemplified by that afternoon in Mangalore.

Often, several evils work as a computer does - through multitasking, the computer relegates the one programme that is not of immediate concern to the background. Similarly, several evils in a line causes the stale news to fade into obscurity. But that should not happen in this case. It was an affront that does not parallel and has made me realise that as long as we respect our women, we would be still insulated from the degradation that is setting into us. I am not pure myself and have committed grave errors through life whether be it be fighting with my sister or mother or Samita - this incident makes me realise the follies of any kind of misbehaviour shown towards women.

I am not a political commentator but there is a growing intolerance in a society that is already ( inspite of confluencing attitudes) largely heteregenous and easily prone to disruptions in its fabric, as has been evident through centuries. It does not make sense to evoke traditions that basically value positive interpretations rather than jingoistic manifestations of outrage. Traditions does not proscribe asking others to follow your dictum and this is the larger challenge we face. This is the question I ask them and I ask myself, especially when they, me and you cross the line in order to bring others into homogenous thought processes as yours. It is always possible for them to understand that forcing others to follow your path is just not done in the modern sense............ I wish that this attack be seen as a watershed and severe punishments offered to the people behind it. It may be too late for the rest to convince these people into an attitudinal change as they already are fixed on the their idea of power that is non-reversible.

January 22, 2009

An urgency that is missing!!!

Now I truly believe that we in this generation must come to terms with nature, and I think we're challenged, as mankind has never been challenged before, to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature but of ourselves - Rachel Carson.

It is surprising that a profound statement such as this made some decades ago holds truth even today and in a sense, requires more urgent attention from all. It is an extraordinary fact that a rich heritage is no guarantee for the acts of the present generations. We find that awareness is often lacking in much of the popular consciousness that makes up modern India and its acute loss has been felt by the natural heritage of the nation as compared to more prominent forms of heritage such as art, religion and architecture.

Indian society was built on continuing respect for all life forms including plants and trees, but the rapid acumen with which we have embraced the industrial economy has led to scaling down of our traditions. Many of us now look towards nature as one to be subdued with an apparent disregard towards what constitutes nature. However, though it is true for a large segment of people to try and exert power over natural systems, what has been of ever increasing worry is the growth of neglect. As a community which has sustained itself on natural systems, we now face a lack of imagination from parents who struggle to explain to their child the difference between rice and wheat or ragi and sugarcane. Trees are being forgotten and even an iconic tree like ficus or mango requires third party certification before the parents tentatively mention to their child the correct name. This issue of neglect has taken severe proportions with our growing zeal to keep our surroundings squeaky clean. Gardens are not diverse but more a monoculture where no weed is allowed, neither are toads and buzzing is a strict no-no. Where children used to defer to shy snakes and allow them to live peacefully, they organise group bashing of the poor reptile which is finding itself increasingly on the no mans land.

This growing neglect has had side effects. A snake which would earlier be avoided for its threat to mankind is now killed, a wild boar which would be chased away from the fields is an enemy lesser than none. On the other hands, certain elements of nature which held out special benefits to mankind were judiciously protected, often worshipped. That as then and now, the very basis of our beliefs are challenged when we overturn our respect to the rivers and the mountains, caring for the ore below and not the heritage above. Somewehere down the line, the reverence provided to elements of nature has decreased drastically because of the reduction of dependency and a perceived decrease of benefits to us, humans. So, we don’t need a river running free but one whose primary purpose is to provide drinking water to the nearest burgeoning town and neither do we need forests as they existed because their economic value is much higher as compared to their existence.

Rachael Carson was speaking about the world in her times and the division between those who want to achieve mastery and those who advocate equality has grown sharper. It is a challenge for us from now till the end of our lives on this planet to be able to come up with constructive actions that will ensure real sustainability and not just what is advocated by the academic types......

My Year in Photos

At Devbagh, an amazing morning that was in November

An Elephant close to where I live decided to have some fun with us

Jeffery Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com came visiting one day

A Traditional dance being performed by a troupe from Mandya in honour of Jeff Bezos

Gazing around in Dubare

Lazing around in Dubare

These and many more have been what I have been upto over the past year. On a scale, the last 12 months have been that of travel and more travel and it seems that this year will be more of that......

Hampi Uninterrupted