I procrastinate, therefore I am.

I procrastinate, therefore I am.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tumi (Bengali Poem)

Bhebechilam tumi amai poth dekhabe raate,

Kanna-hashi, dukhho-sukhe roibe amar sathe.

Jokhon kono bijon kone katbe somoy shunno mone,

Tokhon tumi asbe jano oporuper alo-

Ghuchbe sokol kalo.

Onekta poth hete eseo paini tomar dekha,

Hoyto aro onekta poth cholte hobe eka.

Hoyto acho sobar majhe, hoyto tumi nei,

Ami kebol thakbo jeno amar ami-tei.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Different Identities

Every person is associated with multiple identities. I was tagged as a Bengali, an Indian, and a Hindu from the first day of my life; nobody asked me what I thought of Bengali as a language, India as a country or Hinduism as a religion. Still these identities play a significant role in the way we view ourselves, and the way people view us.

Born a Hindu, I have grown up to become an atheist. I feel the early prophets of all religions were remarkable men of their time. Jesus and Mohammed were great men, but so were Socrates and Plato. The trouble with any organized religion is it lays a down a set of rules in a holy book thousands of years old, and dogmatically claims that people should follow these rules and the same way of life even in twenty-first century. Plato supported the institution of slavery in his Republic. Today if a person comes to me and says a civilized nation cannot do without slaves, I will call her a racist. However, this does not mean I am discrediting Plato; the society and its value system were completely different in his time. Similarly there are obnoxious passages in religious scriptures, but the followers of the concerned religion will never admit their Prophet could say something wrong. If a person is trying to lead her life according to the dictates of an organized religion, she is in a sense trying to fly an airplane by reading a manual for wheel-cart.

While I have repudiated all religions, I am extremely fond of my nationality and mother-tongue. But I am not jingoistic enough to be a proud Indian or a proud Bengali, due to a couple of reasons.

Firstly, I was born with these identities, and did not do anything to achieve them.

Secondly, quoting Jawaharlal Nehru, "India is home to all that is truly noble and truly disgusting in the human experience". Perhaps the same statement applies to Bengal as well!

I identify with the destiny of this country, regardless of whether or not it is the greatest nation in the world; and I feel extremely fortunate for being able to read Rabindranath Tagore in his native language.

There are people with markedly different attitudes towards the same identities. Some immigrants to the US are devoted to their religion, but feel no compunction while applying for US citizenships and giving up their native passports. Are they doing the right thing? Have I done the right thing? Perhaps these are not the right questions to ask, and one should not to be judgmental about these issues.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Jane Austen and Indian Middle Class

A girl is getting married. She holds a masters degree and is unemployed.

A girl, still in college, is in a relationship with an accomplished software engineer. She plans to get married as soon as she finishes her undergrad.

A young man is looking for prospective grooms for his sister. He is even prepared to accede to demands for dowry.

A girl joins a software company after graduating with a B.E. degree. Immediately she starts a groom-hunt with active encouragement from her parents. Come what may, she has to tie the knot before reaching a certain age.

I mentioned a few incidents from the lives of my personal acquaintances. It is patently obvious that these are not isolated events. Instead, they represent a typical mindset of Indian middle class; and I see an uncanny similarity between the plight of modern Indian women and her counterparts in early nineteenth century England, as depicted in wonderful novels by Jane Austen. A girl is given proper education. She goes to colleges and universities, but ends up being treated like a mortgage loan that must be disposed of before the retirement of her father. It is even more tragic to see the prejudices being reinforced by conscious participation of the victims. The girls themselves consider groom-hunting to be of much more importance than job-hunting, and as if to substantiate the point, no girl wants to marry a man who earns less money than herself. Undoubtedly there are exceptions to the above statement, but I am afraid they are too small in numbers to make any difference to the prevailing situation.