Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Smelly CAT

16th of November 2008 is the annual historical landmark in today’s times. It is D-Day. The day that will decide how a majority of padha-likkha of the existing graduated Indian youth’s pay-cheques for atleast the next thirty years will be…what sort of a standard of living their kids in the distant future will have. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

It is the day of the--hold thy breath-- CAT exam!!!


It is an unsaid rule among half (nay, more than half) the people I personally know, and their parents, that after a grad degree, an MBA in a “good B-school” is THE step…the ladder to an almost as good as insured good living. A few weeks back, Hugzy and I walked into the computer room (college walla) and we met a friend of Hugzy’s in the Journalism Dept. (Hugzy knows EVERYONE in Journo!).
The Friend shrieked: Ah…have you submitted the CAT form?!?
Hugzy, nursing her ears: No! good grief!
The Friend: Oh…
Hugzy (gives me a “look”): But Anya here has.
The Friend (now shrieking at me!): You have? You are giving CAT?
Anya: Yeah…
The Friend: You know what!! I missed the last date to get the forms! Can you beat that?
Anya: You what?
Hugzy (feeling left out): You wanted to give CAT? But why? I mean, you’re in Journo, for crying out loud! Give Mass Com na silly!
The Friend: Arrey, that toh I will. But it has been my childhood dream…CAT!
Hugzy: Childhood dream?
The Friend: Yeah. To sit for CAT.
Anya (smirking): Wait. Your childhood dream was to appear for CAT. Whether you get selected or not.
The Friend: Yeah.

Erm…yeah. This is an excerpt from an actual conversation from my actual life. Okay, so not everyone is like this highly dynamic woman (don’t laugh at her…her marks are like wow…the pride of our Journo Dept). Many “serious people” who think seriously of their lives (read: careers) start preparing for CAT ever since their 1st year in college. In fact, I once met this guy (yeah, I meet amazing people) who was in 12th grade, was done preparing for Law entrances and used to solve CAT quant section in CRS for “fun”.
But remember: Different people have different meanings of “fun”. ( I also know a wannabe-Melancholy Jaques who, while trying to pursue me to give a test, said “ Chal na, it’ll be cool!”. I mean, hello!! HOW is giving a test, even if you know everything, is cool?!? Oh well…I somehow manage to bump into such characters and like them, maybe because they are such masterpieces!)

The ultimate favorite food of media: HOW TO BELL THE CAT? (because this caption is soooo funny now, after the repeated use!). Everywhere I turn my head, I read CAT, MBA, GMAT, XAT…. But is everyone just following the herd mentality? I know lots of people who are. They want to be anything but managers…but because of various reasons (peer pressure, dreams of good salaried jobs, parental pressure, utmost confusion as to what to do in life and the existing & lingering stereotypes pertaining to any degree that isn’t engineering, medicine or MBA) just appear for CAT for the sake of it.

But there are those who do it because they want to. Genuinely. And work any amount into the night (actually, early morning) to get what they want. I have such unimaginable respect for such people.

Last year, I had a talk with my HOD about my “future” where she asked me what my next step, once I’m done with my grad, would be? I told her I’m thinking of doing an MBA but am not sure if or not I’ll crack CAT. And what’s the point of doing an MBA in a fattoo school? My HOD, an admirable woman, someone I really respect replied quietly “If you really want something in life, its worth putting all you have into.”

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

GANDHIGIRI (oh yeah!!)

Author's Note: This essay was writen by me for a competetion on how Gandhi's fundas on various stuff influence today's youth. I didnt win...maybe because I didnt praise Gandhi enough...or maybe because I did. I'm not claiming I agree with everything I've written in this one. but read on. It aint that bad!

"To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in a prayer."
M.K. Gandhi is famous or his ideologies and his ways of living. Even after around sixty years since his death, his principles are preached, taught and adviced to people all around, not only in India, but abroad as well. The Gandhian way of life is applicable to people from all walks of life because of its universality and its simplicity and also beacuse it istimeless.

The youth today is sensitive in the way they perceive and react to the society, its changes and its needs. They are more of a global citizen than their predecessors and are also, at the same time more aware of the problems and the loop holes in the governance of the society. Today’s youth is not only just aware of the surroundings, but is more acceptable to change and is willing to take actions in order to make a difference in the world they live in. Moreover, they are more open to the teachings of Gandhi as they want to make a difference via ahimsa or non-violence to avoid further blood shed and terrorism.

In the 21st century, Gandhi is becoming more relevant as each day passes. His principles and his simplicity is appealing a larger number of people day by day. The youth, as I mentioned earlier, is charmed by his philosophies so much that they are applying them to their daily lives to fight the non-violent battles of justice and truth. They see, more than their ancestors, the need of the revolutionary change in the prevailing social structure and acknowledge at the same time, a need to put an end to corruption and terrorism. For this, today’s youth is seeking their refuge in the Gandhian philosophy.

The youth is accepting the Gandhian ideologies with a good spirit. They recognise his timeless philosophies that can make a great impact without even raising a hand. The media, aware of this shift of the youth’s mindset towards the Father of Our Nation, has also started promoting the basic and vital teachings of Gandhi. It is wonderful to note that, the youth and the children are receptive to such teachings and are actually willing to adopt a few of them in their day-to-day conduct.

Through the forms of popular movies like Lage Raho Munnabhai and Water, Gandhian philosophy, or ‘Gandhigiri’, as they call it, is being put forward to people as a means of bringing a revolutionary change in the society. The audience, which comprised mainly the youth, were so influenced by this that many started finding solace by following the teachings of Gandhi rather than using violent retreats.

The urban-middle-class-English-speaking youth of India have a reputation of being carefree, snobbish and also a little vain. I do not know whether or not they encompass all of those qualities, but they are certainly more privileged in terms of the opportunities they get from life as compared to a lot of other people in thier country. Gandhi, himself, belonged to an English speaking Indian population and was, thus, more privileged than a lot of his country fellows at his time. He, however, was not snobbish or vain or carefree. He might have treated life a little less seriously than what he did during the end of his long life. That shows that the youth of today still has hope, for they too, with proper guidance and will power can aspire to imbibe the great qualities of Gandhi, who was after all, a lawyer practicing in South Africa, wearing a three piece suite and being able to afford a first class train ticket.

The Gandhian way of life does not restrict itself to the ahimsa, satyagrah ( passive resistance) and truth, as many people believe. His principles and ideologies cover a wide range of topics and almost every sphere of life, from social, moral to economical and political. All these ideas may not be applicable in today’s world and the mind set of people, but they stand correct in their own right.

Perhaps, the most famous of all Gandhian ideologies is ahimsa. The word “ahimsa” literally means “absence of violence” but it has come down to mean non-violence in its day-to-day use. Gandhi was a great advocate of non-violence, truth and justice. He wanted justice by using non-violent means as opposed to the other ideologies of other freedom fighters in his time. I am not judging which ideology is better but merely stating that today, the Gandhian way is more accepted by the youth as they believe that to fight terrorism, one should not adopt violent means themselves. Infact, the youth today has adopted ahimsa at at comparatively ground level where they use it to gain justice and bring about a change in the society they live in. One such example of such an instant was the candle-light protest carried out by the youth at India Gate in the capital last year. This was not done for any personal gains, but to demand justice for a woman who had been murdered when even the court of law had not come to any conclusion about the identity of the murderer. The youth did not cry out harsh words to the judiciary, nor were they extremely sentimental in their approach. They were quite practical in the way they handled the entire situation and India overall accepted that its youth is far more level headed and mature than many think. Gandhi was such an important figure in association with ahimsa that now, after around sixty years of his death, the United Nations has decided that his birthday, October the second, should be declared a holiday every year in order to promote peace. Moreover, the panel who decides the Nobel Prize laureates for peace have agreed that they made a mistake in not giving Gandhi a Nobel Peace Prize.

Another important philosophy that Gandhi believed in is satyagrah. It means passive resistance. The youth has recognized this method as something more practical than using violent means like burning down houses and so on. Satyagrah and ahimsa go almost hand in hand as one uses passive resistance to avoid using violent means.

Gandhi also stood for simplicity in his time. There is a story related to him that when he was traveling throughout India, after returning from South Africa, he saw a scarcely clad woman across the bank of river Ganga. He was so saddened by her poverty that he took out his rich European clothing and set them into the river towards that woman. It is said that that incident made such an important mark in Gandhi’s life that he never dressed exquisitely again and wore nothing but a plain simple dothi for the rest of his life. Even when he went to Manchester to deliver a speech, all he wore was a dothi and a light shall.

It is the simplicity where the youth’s ideas today and that of Gandhi’s do not completely match. The youth today is more prone to the pomp and show. Most of them set out great store by the outer appearance of people or things. It is advisory to adopt some degree of simplicity in the point of view of the youth. It does not mean that the youth should go around wearing nothing but a dothi, but they should realise that in thelonger run, outer appearance solely does not exist.

Gandhi believed in practicing what he preached and one of his many cardinal principles included speaking nothing but the truth. It is an important lesson that the youth should learn for it is beneficial to them, not only on a personal level, but to their nations on a large scale as well.

Gandhi was a man with many ideologies and many ideas about a lot of issues pertaining to life. While most of them have been acknowledged as noble thoughts, there are some of his ideas that have not survived in its full form in today’s world.

Gandhi’s economical policies was one such idea. He believed in total self reliance of a country. Gandhi’s notion of self reliance was that every country should be self sufficient in everything they utilise. For this, all the products should be manufactured in the home country for its own use and be available at reasonable prices. This idea might have erupted from the fact that in Gandhi’s time, India was importing almost everything ready made from abroad at very high prices. To be self sufficient, was a means of boycotting the Britons. It was due to this ideology of Gandhi, that he began spinning his own clothes with a charkha. As the years went by Independence, we have come to realise that total self reliance is not among the best economic policies. A country exists in a globalised set up and should manufacture only what it is best at and import the rest. This has been proved better for the economy at a long run than total self reliance.

The youth today might not still be in favour total self reliance, but they are gradually opening their minds towards self reliance in certain sectors of production. Most of all, they have recognized a need for ‘gramin swaraj’ or ‘village self reliance’, which is another one of the principles of Gandhi. For him, the villages of India were the important core of the country. He was of the opinion that all the villages of India should be self sufficient and not dependant on anybody. It also includes, the vital role of the Panchayat and emphasises that the village Panchayat, with the consent of the majority of the villagers, should make all the important and vital decisions regarding the village. Also, the village administration should take care and judiciously utilise all the resources that the village posses. For a long time, this ideology of Gandhi had been dismissed but until recently. Now, the need of gramin swaraj has been recognized by the newer generations. Today’s youth looks at it from a fairly capitalistic mind, and sees it as an opportunity to encourage entrepreneurs to invest in the villageand their local specialty. The main catch in this process is that the industrialists will need a consent from the village government so that the welfare and livelihood of the villager is not tampered with.

Quite a lot of people criticize Gandhi for some of his views. A lot of people believe that Gandhi was not very liberal about issues pertaining to gender. It is said that he believed that a woman’s place is at home and within the domestic sphere. Perhaps he was not as liberal as many people are today, yet he did believe in the welfare of women to an extent most people in his society did not. He urged the women of India to participate actively in the ongoing Freedom Struggle. He urged them to discard and burn all their foreign goods in a massive bon fire to boycott them. Also, he believed in widow remarriage and believed that widows should not be shunned from the society or not forced to lead a life full of shame and misery.

Gandhi was also against the strict caste laws of Hinduism that existed (and to some extent, still exists) when he lived. He interacted with the low castes or the ‘Untouchables’ and talked to them like an equal, much to the perplexity and dismay of the society. He was of the opinion that all humans are born alike and no one particular group should be segregated from the rest of the society merely on the basis of birth. ‘Untouchables’ or ‘sudras’ was a derogatory term used for the low caste people. Gandhi opposed the use of such a terminology and insisted on the use of the term ‘Harijans’ (people of God) to address them.

To the literate people of the 21st century, this might seem as a just thing to do and also an acceptable way to behave, but in Gandhi’s time, widow remarriage and treating a low caste individual by an upper caste one was unthinkable. Gandhi must have astonished a great number of people to do what he thought best and not be ashamed of it. It takes a lot of courage to do this and the youth must learn from such examples and help bring about a radical change in the way the present society functions for the benefit of the people on the long run.

Gandhi was a human being and was, thus, prone to make mistakes. One can not say that everything he said and did was always the correct thing to do. He has made mistakes in his life, and has done at least a few wrong deeds. This is, however, a human tendency and it is only natural for Gandhi to act like a human. What made him different and certainly more appealing from the others, is that he would always own his mistake. He never shifted his blame on any one else and neither did he deny his faults. This quality made him a great soul or a ‘mahatma’.

People nowadays are prone to shift their blames on other people or justify clearly violent activities in the name of nationalism, religion, justice and so on. What they do not understand is that by creating a situation of mass hysteria, one cannot attain any objective.

The youth is now recognizing other ideas of Gandhi and inculcating them in their own framework. The ideas might not be entirely what Gandhi had suggested, but the basic ideology is essentially the same. The youth is using a little hybrid version of his teachings. The youth still has a long way to go, but at least, it is a start. A lot of the young people still do not believe that tolerance and non-violence is the best way to combat a problem but as long as even 1% of the youth have some faith and believe in the peaceful and simple ways of Gandhi, we still have hope.

The new generation, that is, today’s youth is reviving Gandhi. Many believe that Gandhi and his views are merely in vogue and like all forms of fashion, will ultimately, whither with time. Such people believe that Gandhi and his ways are merely talk of the town because it is fashionable to do so due to the recent hype of his ideas by the various forms of mass communication. It is because of these reasons, they believe, that there is a sudden empathy with Gandhi, and sudden overflowing of the discussions pertaining him.

This is not true. Yes, the mass communication has played a vital role in reviving Gandhi but at the same time, his timeless ideologies have been accepted as something as a morally correct thing to do by most. Not every one believes in everything Gandhi believed but there is atleast one Gandhian view that everyone believes in. It is this, that makes Gandhi as special as he is. His more than sixty years old point of view has been found to be relevant even in the 21st century by the youth.

The youth have their own way of accepting Gandhian ways. As mentioned earlier, they might use a little hybrid version of his philosophies. They might also apply certain principles to certain situation that did not exist back then.

A remarkable change has taken place within the mind set of the average youth of India. It might not be overtly visible or that obvious. They are, indeed, little things that prove that the youth is taking Gandhian way of life more seriously than many would believe. Apart from the apparent influence of the media, the youth of India is seeking refuge in doing a non profitable social work. It may directly not be linked to Gandhi in youths’ minds, but it his philosophies nonetheless.

Gandhi was an important figure during the time he lived. Many people would follow him, a thin, frail figure clad in nothing but a simple dothi, and his ideas. Perhaps they were entranced by his simplicity of living and his high thoughts. When he fasted, a huge number of people were disturbed by this practice and it had started to pose as a threat to the then existing form of government. This indicates that Gandhi was quite an enigmatic person and anyone who came in contact with him or his ideas, were charmed by him or them. This is, perhaps, the reason why Gandhi is still an equally important figure.

Theme of War in 'Gone With The Wind'

“You all don’t know what war is. You think its riding a pretty horse and having the girls throw flowers at you and coming home a hero. … It’s going hungry, and getting the measles, and pneumonia form sleeping in the wet.”
--Margaret Mitchell
(Gone With The Wind)

War is that phenomenon which occurs in time under the guise of various terms. Some call it rebellion, crusades, mutiny and so on. War is also, among other things, that phenomenon that catches the attention of many writers, Margaret Mitchell being one among them.

Writers of fiction imbibe together their stories with important backdrops of the element of war to depict what a devastating and other roles they eventually play in people’s lives.

“(Land is) the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for--worth dying for,” this is Gerald O’Hara’s advice to his daughter Scarlett in Margaret Mitchell’s work, Gone With The Wind. The novel is set against the backdrop of the American Civil War fought between the Southerners and the Yankees. Even though the cause of the war is said to be the abolition of slavery (a cause supported by the Yankees and refuted by the Southerners), Gone With The Wind carries dramatic details of lands being taken over, destroyed and besieged. An example of this is the much repeated incident of Atlanta’s fall in the novel. The story’s protagonist, the vivacious Scarlett O’Hara, also fights a parallel war against then existing social norms, the Yankees, the carpetbaggers and so on, to keep her beloved piece of land, Tara, safe. This war to survive and to keep Tara influences shapes and affects Scarlett’s life much in the similar manner the Civil War manages to change the life of the Old South. Land, thus, end up becoming one of the very few things genuinely close to Scarlett’s heart as she is ready to declare a war against anyone who tries taking it away from her, so much so that she agrees to jettison her “honour” (by willing to prostitute herself to Rhett Butler) to save Tara.

Gone With The Wind is also, at an underlying level, about the personal war of Scarlet (and to some extent, that of the various other characters in the novel) with the existing social norms and expectations. Scarlett is trained to act like somebody she isn’t--a “Lady”--because the society demands it from a woman of her class position. She is expected to stifle her real emotions, just to fit in the society (which she ultimately does not).

Scarlett’s personal war against set norms of the society has its sparks in the initial part of the novel where she questions them: "I'm tired of everlastingly being unnatural and never doing anything I want to do. I'm tired of acting like I don't eat more than a bird, and walking when I want to run and saying I feel faint after a waltz, when I could dance for two days and never get tired. I'm tired of saying, 'How wonderful you are!' to fool men who haven't got one-half the sense I've got, and I'm tired of pretending I don't know anything, so men can tell me things and feel important while they're doing it..." This feeling of ridicule towards the existing customs and the need to battle it only heightens after the actual, physical War between the South and the Yankees. Scarlett undergoes a rather magnificent transformation of character while on “the long road to Tara” when she realizes it time to fight of the expectations and the set roles of a “Lady”, a fact she actually articulates verbally on reaching Tara-- “to-day I’m no lady, Pa, and there is work to do to-night.” After that point, she, although not verbally, but through actions, declares a war with the “aristocrats” of the Old South (which, ironically, does not even exist after the War) because she believes their ideologies an almost waste of effort and downright foolishness.

Another character, Melanie, who is depicted to be a rather passive character and ‘an angel in the house’ figure also silently fights symbolic wars in the novel. Her war is for survival during the childbirth on the night Atlanta falls, fighting to give Scarlett the least of troubles (a task, she does not quite manage). The most evident war Melanie fights is during the times she decides to stand as a pillar of strength for Scarlett. Her silent war with India Wilkes shows her determination of fighting for her ideology (no matter how unreasonable) reminds the readers of Scarlett herself.

Rhett’s war against his people, again for survival and the way he wants to, is another important aspect in the text. He fights for his personal freedom but also ends up fighting in the Civil War in the end. His joining of the Civil War even when the South has lost the war shows that Rhett has not completely been successful in battling of social norms much in the same manner Scarlett is unable to when in the end, she tries to seek sympathy from the aristocratic circle of the Old South.

Other, comparatively minor characters have also been shown to fight their personal wars throughout the text: Ellen O’Hara’s war against her father in marrying Gerald and her life long battle of cherishing the memory of Philippe but never showing any sign of it, Gerald O’Hara’s war in his initial days in Georgia to prove his worth as a planter and of course, the actual Civil War fought by the South.

While the actual War is criticized in the text by describing its violence, destruction and chaos, the personal wars of the characters are not particularly shown to be a negative trait.