04 April 2011

Changing Address

I've exported this blog to http://flowersociety.wordpress.com. I find it easier to blog there. See you all there soon. 

10 July 2010

Warriors Parade into a Cave

Last night, an architecture student friend of mine, Pratu was talking to me about her Urban Renewal assignment in Mylapore. Apparently, this is just for their study and any suggestion they make will remain in files because no has the money to change anything. More interestingly, she said, "Even if there is public will we need political will to do something."

Today, I am watching Marley & Me. In one scene, the Florida beaches are shining clean. It's because dogs or anyone are strictly not allowed to poop and pee out there. If you do, then the police come in, fine and close down the beach. Hmmm... Okay it is a movie. Nothing to throw a tantrum about. 

What I am finding hard to understand or actually stumped that I do understand is this...If the police or the government want the people to behave, they have to ban. If the people want the government to do something, they have to protest. Both ways it only has to be a fight. Bans, protest, under-the-table creation of illegal activities... The government will ban alcohol and then start selling state liquor creating bigger revenue. All of this is sick. The entire world is a whole lot of garbage.

We have finished the first month of work on our magazine. It is out, everyone likes the look, and everyone wants to read the next issue. Very happy! It can be read here: http://www.issuu.com/chaikadai/docs/cuttingchai-stuck

                                   Open publication - Free publishing - More art

24 June 2010

Destiny differs from Fate: Conversations with Adolf Hitler

I often read that we create our own destinies. However, fate is something that happens to us. Fate is a word/concept loaded with a negative connotation. It is something we do not want but a force that pulls us into a certain life. It doesn't depend on choice, opinion, or emotion. It happens and we have to deal with it then and there.

How can someone deal with their fate? [This post is not about death, though that is one of the larger questions troubling my mind. I will come to exploring the concept soon].

A few days back, I retrieved my copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf from my dusty bookshelf. I have recently been interested in reading the stories (autobiographies and letters) of influential people in history. After I finish this book, I will be reading Azad Hind, letters by Subash Chandra Bose. These leaders whether they did something right or not they understood something very crucial about the younger generation and the part they play in a nation, a society, and this entire world. I have been jotting down questions and comments as I read along.

- In the first few words of Hitler's autobiography, I had a recurring block in my head. This is a man hated by all, with evident proof of massacring people in millions. Why should I read his thoughts? Should I read him to know he is a bad man and reinstate my morality? or Could there be any good that I can take out of this reading?

- The copy I am reading is a Master Mind Books publication. The house offers an introduction, to Indian students, in order to defend themselves and clear the air that they do not support Hitler. They call it a 'warning guide' to be read carefully in order to understand India's diversity and the need for unity; and that to ward away from extremism we should be knowledgeable of the revelations of 'wretched souls of incorrigible criminals like Adolf Hitler'. In fact, there is not much left to the reader to form an opinion anymore.

- Why is the Unification of Italy and the French Revolution treated as a story of Nationalism whereas the story of Germany one of terror? Was it just a calculation of causalities or a bias to certain ideologies?

- Hitler wanted to be a painter! I did not know this, even as an undergraduate history student. He left to Vienna after the death of his father to a life of dire poverty. Why is there such a lack of political and social education amongst the youth of today in my country?

- I might have something to learn (also) from this man and his life, like he writes it.

Only two chapters down, I have put together some passages from the book here that made me reflect about myself and gather some strength. I don't necessarily agree to these passages, but they are worth reading.

Sam: What is all this fight for nationalism?
Hitler: It is the 'voice of a unanimous yearning in the hearts of the whole people for a return to the unforgotten home of their fathers'.

Sam: What should I actually be looking for when studying history?
Hitler: To study history means to search for and discover the forces that are the causes of those results which appear before our eyes as historical events.

Sam: We study everything, but what should we set out to be?
Hitler: I was determined to become 'something' - but certainly not a civil servant (that's only what my father wanted).

Sam: Could your determination help me?
Hitler: Obstacles are placed across our path in life, not to be boggled at but to be surmounted.

Sam: Who are the youth?
Hitler: I make a distinction between the wisdom of age - which can only arise from the greater profundity and foresight that are based on the experiences of a long life - and the creative genius of the youth, which blossoms out in thought and ideas with inexhaustible fertility, without being able to put these into practice immediately, because of this very superabundance.

Sam: If I agree to be that kind of youth, what should I do and what should I unlearn in order to live? Should I foremost unlearn my middle-class upbringing? In order to move in society, do I need to sympathize, empathize or understand?
Hitler: The man who has never been in the clutches of that crushing viper [poverty] can never know what its poison is.

These were random questions I asked as I read the book, and from a time long ago Hitler gave the answers he willed to give. I am not here to share what you already know about him or count the Jews he has killed. I am here to question on my own account, in a selfish manner, in order to help myself.

My previous post was published the night before I had to meet my dean and know the fate of my college life. It was on that same night that I retrieved this book from my shelf. As I read, I was not taking a liking to Hitler, but clearly removed him out of the context and read it like a novel. For pure historical criticism, I might have to reread this book in a different manner. But, probably in the world of reading, criticism is not the goal. Here's a passage about reading by Hitler:

Page 27/28: Chapter II Years of Studying and Suffering in Vienna, Mein Kampf -
I know people who read interminably, book after book, from page to page, and yet I should not call them "well-read people." Of course they 'know' an immense amount; but their brains seems incapable of sorting and classifying the material which they have gathered from books. They have not the faculty of distinguishing between what is useful and useless in a book; so that they may retain the former in their minds if possible skip over the latter while reading it, if that be not possible, then -when once read- throw it overboard as useless ballast. Reading is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. Its chief purpose is to help towards filling in the framework which is made up of the talents and capabilities that each individual possesses. Thus each one procures for himself the implements and materials necessary for the fulfillment of his calling in life, no matter whether this be the elementary task of earning one's daily bread or calling that responds to higher human aspirations. 

Such is the first purpose of reading. And the second purpose is to give a general knowledge of the world in which we live. In both cases, however, the material which one has acquired through reading must not be stored up in the memory on a plan that corresponds to the successive chapters of the book; but each little piece of knowledge thus gained must be treated as if it were a little stone to be inserted into a mosaic, so that it finds its proper place among all the other pieces and particles that help to form a general world-picture in the brain of the reader. Otherwise only a confused jumble of chaotic notions will result from all this reading. That jumble is not merely useless, but it also tends to make the unfortunate possessor of it conceited. For he seriously considers himself a well-educated person and thinks he understands something of life. He believes that he has acquired knowledge, whereas the truth is that every increase in such "knowledge" draws him more and more away from real life. 
...On the other hand, one who has cultivated the art of reading will instantly discern, in a book or journal or pamphlet, what ought to be remembered because it meets one's personal needs or is of value as general knowledge...Should some practical problem suddenly demand examination or solution, memory will immediately select the opportune information from the mass that has been acquired through years of reading and will place his information at the service of one's powers of judgement so as to get a new and clearer view of the problem in question or produce a definitive solution. 
What did I choose to take with me on Monday morning? What have I taken further on for myself from these brief conversations?
On Monday morning, I lazed around a bit, made myself tea and finally got myself out of my house. I found a C51 and set out to college. Contrary to my other visits to college to sort out my scene, this morning was serene and free of trouble. I felt like I wanted nothing and expected nothing. I had been told that I might not have to attend classes and only finish exams, the previous night.  I reached, waited and waited, till the Dean finally saw me. We eagerly looked through my files and papers. My fate was announced: You have to repeat a semester. I was not teared up, hyperventilating, or stressed out. I had a brief out of body experience. I was looking at myself smile at the Dean and thanked him for everything, without a single trace of sarcasm. I walked out of college in a dazed manner. Fate happens. Smile at it. Live with it. This might sound cliche, but the relief one feels when the fate is smitten by a smile is extraordinary.

About reading, Baba (my father) has always told me to keep a notebook while reading a book to jot down what our mind wishes to take from it. There is hardly any difference between what he taught me and what Hitler reiterates here.

This series, X Questions History, is in fact my notebooks and my questions that go along with my readings, and what I wished to take from it. These questions will multiply the more I read about history, society and culture. It will be shared with you here in this section. It is a simple window into how my mind wanders and the conversations with these books.

Only three chapters down with Mein Kampf, will be back with more conversations.

19 June 2010

Ivan Illich or John Holt: It doesn't matter anymore.

This is written for those who think they understand, actually understand, and simply don't know. Some of you might never take a chance at reading this, but I don't stand to lose anything but your understanding. That's fine with me. 

Dear ..............,

On Monday morning, two days from now, I have to go to college. In the pit of my stomach the noises of scary creatures have started. No need to worry, it could just be hunger for I haven't eaten yet. After a bit of work on this random Saturday, I lay down on the floor and stared at lotus on my ceiling. I breathed, I thought, I pondered and questioned. 

Why am I here? What do I want to do?

Three years back, I did not want to go to college. I did not know what else I wanted to do. In March 2010, I dropped out of college in my last two months of undergraduate education, right before my examinations. When I decided to adjust to college for two whole years, what could have happened to me? 

I had comments calling me lazy, irresponsible, ungrateful, scattered, and stupid. Like all mistakes done and gone, I had my own set of excuses - teachers, attendance, etc. 

This letter is not an excuse, but an insight into what went on in my mind in the last few months of college life. After reading it, you can call it some name and categorize according to your judgement.

I love studying. I love to know, to learn, to read, to write, to analyse, and to even write examinations. This is an ability that I am extremely proud of. I wanted to study History, because I saw it as my base for any other social science, art, literature, or philosophy. Anything, I wanted to learn about had a history and so I chose that as my Undergraduate Major. 

In my first year of college, I maintained notebooks, timetables, and charts about my subjects. I bought books, I read them, analyzed them and wrote papers for personal use. I was enjoying my bout of self-studying. We were allowed to read in class and often had long library breaks. It wasn't crime to visit another class to listen to another lecture. It wasn't a crime to sit under the trees and share readings or thoughts. The point was not necessarily to score high, be popular or wear IDs. 

Second year, I was lost. My first semester that year was remarkable in the same flow and my skills on studying History were improving. I decided to get involved in college culturals and had many lovely ideas. Nothing worked out. 

Third year, too many things had happened in my life outside college by the end of my fourth semester. I had lost my ability to study, because classes were dry lectures that most of the time had nothing to do with the subject. We had to listen and take notes, even though we might know what they are saying otherwise. The only focus of the teachers of making every student pass. The projects included 'Question and Answer sets', with questions as dry as 'What was the Cuban Missile Crisis?' or ten-page summaries of any topic we deem to choose from our scattered syllabus. I grew tired. I was learning NOTHING. I still don't know if this was all my fault. 

Probably, if I had just focused on studies for that one year or treated like just an examination to pass, I could have gotten out of this rut earlier. Instead, I escaped. I joined everything and did everything. I found my foot in theatre. I directed plays, brought together a lot of people, and lived with it. 

Was finding theatre a fault? I should have said no to those plays and distractions. I should have not worried about Chai Kadai or anything else I created. I should probably not search for avenues that I can actually learn from. Maybe the point is just that paper certificate. But, why should I waste three years for that in an institution interested about examinations and paper qualifications, but not actual studying or understanding of this world?

I am not saying I did not learn anything from this college. If I did not have any reason to escape, I might have never landed on Chai Kadai or theatre. I'll take it as an experience. 

My mom asked me, "You want to drop out? Do you think you are too smart for college?"

I want to tell her now, "I might not be smart for college life. But, I have completely lost my ability to study because of this college and I can't go on."

My parents chose to understand this in their own ways. They never accused me. They never told me I was completely out of my mind. But, they would rather I finish those exams and have a paper qualification. 

I wonder why? Why aren't individuals allowed to make their own mistakes after a while?

I am twenty-one and I can't understand this. 

I will go to college on Monday. 

I will try and figure this out. 

I will meet all those people whom I don't want to meet. 

I will study on my own finally. 

I will write all those exams I have missed.

I will beg those teachers who hate me. 

I will sit and write Q&As and ten-page summaries.

I will do this and more.

All for a paper.


p.s.: Guess no one is allowed to run away. If you have to beg to get something someone loves you wants, you have to beg. 

01 June 2010

The Words that Go with a Heart

I was reading Susan's post on meeting Seamus Heany, when my mind started wandering. I started counting the poets who had taken me on journeys. People I wished to meet, and cried when I learned of a few deaths. Pablo Neruda, Sheldon Silverstein, Charles Bukowski, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and this one poem by Elizabeth Bishop.

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.