Saturday, November 19, 2005

Shadow of The Past

Recently I saw two movies; A History of Violence (starring Viggo Mortensen; directed by David Cronenberg), and Broken Flowers (starring Bill Murray and directed by Jimmy Jarmusch). Both the movies are completely different in all aspects. While ‘A History of Violence’ is a story about, how a man's criminal past comes to haunt and disturb his peaceful family life; ‘Broken flowers’ is about how a man's romantic past puts him in a puzzling and troublesome situation all of a sudden. But both the movies have one thing in common – probably the strongest element in both the movies - The Past.
We have heaps of books, advocating philosophies about 'living in present' and 'maximizing a moment'. However, when we are spending a moment, we are investing in a past. And quite often we forget that. It is wrong to worry too much about future. It is wrong to keep cribbing about past. Hence, one should live in the moment, one should make the most out of the moment. We have heard this so often!
However, when we live in present, our actions decide the direction we go. We don't live life in exclusive moments. We live in cumulative moments. Our actions, our choices, our decisions, keep accumulating. Our present is a mirror image of our choices, decisions and actions. All the actions that we take, all the choices that we make, create our present. But man forgets this too often. It is difficult to live separated from our roots and The Past is the one of the strongest of our roots. One can severe all the connections with the roots, but not past.
Past is also our creation. We all live with a shadow of our past. Shadow of past is like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hide. It may provide you a cozy shelter in scorching heat. But it may get too dark to make everything look bleak. But in any case, it will be there. It’s on us to choose, how we want our past to look like, in future. A more glamorous term for the past is history. Man is given an option to choose his own history. But few exercise this option, and those who do, create history.

Future is a stranger. Present is a spouse- supposed to be with you, but you never know! While Past is like our own child - our own creation - our own reflection. We can never cut ourselves off from it. We can never evade it. We belong to our past and our past belongs to us. We ought to love it- we ought to live it - and we ought to accept the responsibility for the way it is.

(The title of the picture: A Pleasant Shadow of the Past!!! - Can you suggest a better one? - Photo Courtesy: Dongjun Chen)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

When shall we learn?


Riots in France have again exposed us to the problem that entire mankind has been trying to eradicate for more than a century – Racism. Time and again in different quarters of the world, immigrants and foreigners have been accusing local governments of racism. Last week, Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o, who plays for Barcelona, was subjected to racist chants by a section of the audience, when his team played against Getafe, a club at Madrid. In last season, several players of African origin playing in different football leagues in Europe complained of racist abuse by some audiences. Racist conflicts have also entered corporate corridors. Recently an Indian executive has been expelled from the job, after he filed a lawsuit against his employer – non other than City group – for racial discrimination. It is not just that, the white exert racism against the black. Racism goes beyond the skin colour. Ethnic conflicts in countries like Malaysia, Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka have damaged the social and cultural fabric of these countries as much as possible.
The question is why do we still have ethnic differences? Why our education systems are not strong enough to remove ethnic prejudices and stereotypes from the minds of people? In Sanskrit the term for a human being is ‘Manushya’. Which literally means ‘those coming from Manu’. (Manu is considered to be the father of the mankind.) When we all know that we all have the same root, why such conflicts? When shall we learn?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Color Esperanza


Yesterday was Deepawali. The biggest festival of Indians. Deepawali is festival of lights - festival of hope. Lamps lit on Deepawali, are a symbol of hope and optimism. Hope and optimism play a big role in life.
Anybody who has seen the movie, 'Life is Beautiful', by Roberto Benigni, would remember brief mention of Schopenhauer. In a scene Guido (Benigni's character) is told by his friend Ferruccio, "Schopenhauer says that with willpower, you can do anything.’I am what I want to be'." This may not be correct interpretation of Schopenhauer's work, but it has an important message. In life most of us undergo periods of doom and depression. But life always provides us with opportunities of bouncing back. Every doom precedes redemption. Every sunset is destined to be followed by a sunrise. All this may sound a cliché. But how often we badly such cliché to drive us out of our depression.
Sports - is where we can find maximum examples of such redemption. Some of them are almost magical. After being written off by fans and critics, Andre Agassi bounced back to become one of the greatest players of Tennis History. After being blamed for 'boyish' behaviour in the Pre-Quarterfinal against Argentina in 1998, David Beckham led England to win as a Skipper against the same Argentina four years later. However, Lives of all greats in all fields are full of such 'bounce-back' stories.
Let me share lyrics of a nice Spanish song, by Diego Torres (A famous Argentine Singer)
Saber que se puede; Querer que se pueda
Quitarse los miedos; Sacarlos a fuera
Pintarse la cara; Color esperanza
Tentar al futuro; con el corazón
(To know what one can (do) ; To want that one can (do)
To take off the fears; and throw them away
To paint the face, with colour of hope
To have a go at the future, with all the heart)
It is very important to keep up this spirit in life. It is really difficult to get rid of our own fears. It is easy to dream for a bright future, but it is really difficult to believe in one. Because, when you believe in something, you need to commit yourself to your belief. And the journey beyond commitment is full of pain and torture. Once I heard an Indian actor, Dr. Shriram Lagoo, who was a very successful Medical Surgeon before taking up acting as a full-time profession at the age of 41. He said, "When you pursue your passion, you need to undergo unbearable torture. But when you look back, you find that the torture you underwent was the most memorable and joyous period of your life."
According to our calendar (Vikram Samvat), Today is the first day of our new year (2062). Let's decide on the first day to paint our faces with colour of hope and optimism and have a go at the future, with all our heart!!! (Today I am attaching a photograph, and I am giving it a title 'Colour Esperanza' i.e. Colour of hope.....What do you think?)

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Do We Need A Language ?

Hello Friends

This is my first posting on any blog. Hope it marks beginning of a new process, and just doesn't get obliviated as a one-off event.
Today, I would like to share some views on languages. The very creation of language always fascinates me and amuses. "How was the first word invented?", "How was the first sentence built up?", "Who would have thought that man would require a language?".........These are questions, I am sure, am never going to get answered. Still, I love exploring this amazing world of languages.

In April, 2004, in Economist, an article titled, "Language Barriers" was published . The article posed a question, "Can a concept exist without words to describe it?". It talked about a Brazilian tribe - 'Pirahã' - living along the banks of the Maici River. This tribe, mainly consisting of hunters-gatherers, use of a system of counting, "One-Two-Many".....Ya Esta! In this system, 'One' means one or two, 'Two' means a bit more than that, 'Many' is everything more than 'Two'. Not only that the Pirahã don't use a number system but they can't even learn numbering and counting when they are exposed to. Lack of enumeration and counting skills of this tribe, led some scientists to call them, 'Men from Mars'. Their language is unique not only terms of numers but also in some other aspects. They communicate as much by singing, whistling and humming as by normal speech. It is not that this tribe has lived in complete isolation. They have been having some little trade with other Brazilians for more than 200 years. However, socially they have strongly rejected to be a part of mainstream. Moreover, internally, they use a barter system. And probably that could be the reason why they would never need a complex number system. Because in barter all you need is 'one or two' and rarely, 'many'.

This also has another interesting insight. Our language not only determines our thought but also our ability to think. The Pirahã cannot learn numbering because they simply don't have numbers in their language. Language is a medium of expression. Words are an invention, and necessity to express, is the mother of this invention. But language can also limit your scope of expression. You can express, only what you can think of. And you can think of only, what your language allows you to think of. Well, this is getting complicated. Without language you cannot think and without thinking, you cannot develop a language !!!??

But does this tell us that our language is making life more complicated than easier? We have invented complicated languages - labyrinths of complex structures and words. And now we have complicated expressions and confused individuals. Can't we just part with our over-dependence on language? Can't we become 'humans' instead of mouthpieces of ourselves? Can we put emotions ahead of words describing it? When we use words like 'love', 'anger', 'patriotism' etc., words become more important than actual emotions, for which these words are used. What is 'love' for me, is not 'love' for others. What is 'fear' for others, may not be 'fear' for me. Words continue to cheat us. Language continues to mislead us.

Can we think independently of language? Probably no! Our minds are programmed by languages learnt by us. And it is difficult for us to reprogram ourselves. Probably its not that language is at fault, rather we human beings, misuse it to cheat others. What we need is a little bit more of honesty on our parts. If we become honest with our own emotions and expressions, words will no more be our masters, they will no more cheat us. Let's own our words, and not be enslaved by them!
(Finally!! - In the beginning of a post, I have posted a photo image from my recent rural excursion of India. Can you suggest appropriate words to describe it? Or, we should just leave it like that?)

- Kandarp