A Dilemma

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On my way back from my evening jog, I saw a curious incident in the parking lot. A man had caught hold of a boy, not more than 10-12 years old, and was slapping him. I stepped in, told the man to stop it immediately and asked him what the matter was.

I recognised him as the person who runs a small provisions store next to our building. He told me that the boy been caught shoplifting, and that this was the fourth of fifth time that this same boy had been caught shoplifting from his store.

I turned to the boy and asked him his side of the story. He was terrified, naturally. I consoled him so that he would open up to me and talk. The boy admitted to shoplifting, and from his halting answers, I could tell that this was not his first time.

I asked the boy to call his parents. He told me he could not remember their phone number. It was quite obvious that he was scared of letting them know.

I pondered over the various options presenting themselves.

Naturally, the shopkeeper beating the boy was not an option. Not only does no one have the right to hit a child, it would have only sent out a convoluted message of “street justice”. It would have been disastrous if the boy ended up with a message that street-beatings is a legit form of justice.

Talking to him was not an option either. I was a complete stranger. There was no way that I could have established the emotional bond that is an essential prerequisite in convincing him that what he did was wrong. If at all it had been his first offence, I might have possibly considered letting him go with a stern warning – but it wasn’t. The message had to get through that what he did was wrong. A lecture from a stranger would have perhaps convinced him that crying a few tears is enough to get away with a wrong-doing.

So I did this – I told the shopkeeper that under no circumstances is he to lay a finger on the child. He is to take the kid home, and tell his parents what happened. Given the situation, this was the best I could do. And his parents are best placed to impress upon him that his conduct was wrong and that while not a “worthless, criminal, good-for-nothing”, he should not repeat this behaviour either. The entire outcome of this incident – does it become a learning experience or does it end up harming the boy – depends on his parents’ reaction.

And herein lies the crux of the problem – how will his parents react?

Perhaps I am being far too judgemental, but my premonition, based on the boy’s behaviour, was that he would get a beating. And as bad as it is for a stranger to hit a child, it is equally wrong for a parent to beat a child. I think it is plainly obvious why this is wrong on so many levels, and therefore I will not elaborate.

His parents need to sit him down and talk to him. And this has to be done over a period of time. And for this to be conducted successfully, a level of trust and communication has to be established The equation between them has to be such that the lesson has to strike home, and the boy emerges a better person from this incident.

That’s more easily said than done.

In today’s hyper-competitive and high-pressure world, most parents are reeling under the stress of their lives.

As humans, is it not possible that they might not behave rationally and give a knee-jerk reaction? Will they have the time to communicate with they boy? Perhaps they might not believe that communication is the best way out, and might instead think a harsh punishment might instil “discipline”? Or perhaps they might be far too judgemental or disapproving, and end up making the boy doubt his own self-worth? Will they be able to strike that fine balance between sternness and laxity?

Even if his parents do reach out and talk to him, will the boy hear them out? At that age, most kids disregard their parents because they do not speak the same “language”. Speaking for myself, far too often have I belatedly realised the wisdom of what my parents taught me. In the given circumstances situation, it is but natural for the boy to conclude that his parents don’t understand him.

Besides, will he and his parents enjoy an equation where he would feel comfortable talking to them? An admittance of a mistake made can only happen if the boy believes that there will be an opportunity for atonement. And self-improvement can happen only after accepting that he did his wrong. The emotional bond necessary for communicating with absolute frankness cannot be created overnight; it has to be nurtured over the years.

And what about influences from all over the world that bombard the boy? The boy in all practicality had picked up a packet of chips or a chocolate bar. Today, everything from television to newspaper ads (Yes, ToI, I’m talking to you) are promoting consumerism. The boy has to only notice that he is the only one in his peer group who is not being allowed by his parents to eat a packet of chips (health be damned), and what we have is a natural reflex action. Do we honestly expect someone at that impressionable age to be able to decipher influences – gathered from every waking moment – and tell right from wrong?

I remember some time back, there was a great uproar over Miley Cyrus’ latest video-song. Out of curiosity I checked it out, and I was extremely disturbed and distressed. All that I saw was a troubled, misguided girl who needed a paternal, elder-brotherly arm around the shoulder; a girl who needed someone who she could talk to, and who could tell her that she’s going wrong, without making her doubt her self-worth.  What worried me the most was the number of young boys and girls she would be influencing. The number of youngsters being convinced that what her behaviour is appropriate, and that someone who disagrees is basically encroaching on their freedom, and that they need to rebel mindlessly.

I think about the way my parents have brought me up, and I realise that I have been extremely lucky. My parents never, ever hit me. But then, my mistakes were dealt with sternly. Wrong doings were never condoned, but I was always told what I had done wrong and I never was in a situation where I was insecure about my self-worth. Today, as a consequence, there is not a single thing that I cannot share with them, but hearing a grim “Hrishikesh” being called out still does scare me.

What I saw today was a confused small boy, not a criminal. And what he needed was not punishment; it was an opportunity to become a better person.

Slapping a boy – that is easy. All you need to do is stifle your conscience.

Talking to him – that is tougher. You need patience and time.

Reaching out to him and making him a better person – that’s the toughest.

But isn’t that what it’s all about? What we’re all trying to do? Make the world a better place – one boy at a time?

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Selective Outrage

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A plate of French Fries

Please note: Views expressed are strictly personal.


An argument has, amongst other things, a background on which it is based. And a response that it elicits.

A recent book that I read – it was either Romilla Thapar’s “Public Intellectual in India” or Prof. Amartya Sen’s “Country of First Boys”; can’t recall which, and I’m too far away from my bookshelf to check – argued that outrage should not seek historical legitimacy.

An admirable sentiment, and one which I (normally) swear by.

What it means, in a crude, easy-to-digest form, is that “you did not protest *X*; hence you protesting *Y* is wrong”, or “you did not protest at time *T1*; hence you protesting at at time *T2* is wrong”.

One of the chief rules of argumentation – a fine craft that is sadly lost in the street brawls that make up today’s “discourse” – is that an argument should be judged on its own merit. Facts and arguments in its vicinity (and specifically, the identity of the person making that argument) should not be used to test its validity. And ergo, the response to such an argument would also be limited to the context of the argument.

What I mean by this is that whether or not I had a healthy meal yesterday cannot provide a justification for me having an unhealthy meal today. Think of your school teacher screaming at you – “Don’t tell me you did something because s/he did it. If s/he jumped into a river, would you jump in too?”.

But then, at one point, we stop and wonder and say to ourselves, “Fine, you are protesting *X* without having protested *Y*. But why did you not protest at *Y* as well, when you just as easily could have?”.

And therein, as the Bard would tell us, lies the rump.

The Example

(And this is where the plate of fries makes sense)

Consider this – I go to a restaurant “A” and order a plate of french fries. The fries look wonderful – crisp, golden, sizzling hot. But they are overtly salty. Not only is the excessive salt bad to taste, it also adversely affects my health. I object, and send it back, and write a bad review for that restaurant. Nothing wrong in this, right? All perfectly a-okay.

But then it so emerges that I had, a few days back, gone to a different restaurant “B” where I had again ordered a plate of fries. And this time too, the fries had been excessively salted. But this time, I did not object.

I am not even talking about a presumed “conflict of interest” – the manager did not give me a discount or a refund or a gift voucher. There was no “consideration” transferred which would make me want to not object.

I simply chose to not object.

The question, then, is this – am I objecting to excessively salted fries (which are undeniably bad for both taste and health), or am I actually objecting to restaurant “A”? Or, to rephrase this question, am I using my opposition to unhealthy food as a proxy excuse to actually oppose restaurant A?

The Problem

But, is there something fundamentally wrong in objecting to restaurant A? I dislike the place, I think it is bad for the health of me and my family, and therefore I chose to object to it. I like restaurant B and therefore I chose to not object to it.

Nothing essentially wrong with this, right?

The problem lies at a lower stage of abstraction. Masquerading my opposition to A under the false proxy of disliking unhealthy food is a fundamentally wrong thing to do.

One – not restoring to such “theatricality and deception – both of which are powerful agents” is an important part of intellectual honesty. We all know why we are so dishonest, of course. Far too often we find it necessary to sugarcoat frank aspirations by marketing them under the guise of higher ideals, ideals that only a handful believe in to begin off with.

Two – using such a smoke-and-mirrors to deceive is essential crooked and cowardly.

Three – sooner or later, is going to cook up a healthy dish and sooner or later, B is going to cook up a dish that is unhealthy; such is dictated by the all-powerful, inevitable hand of probability. It is far better to be honestly wedded to the higher cause of healthy food, rather than being short-sightedly committed to a restaurant.

The Rump

All of this discussion about right and wrong, honest and dishonety, lies on the presumption that we, as a society, are capable of moral and nuanced behavior. If we agree that such ethically sound behaviour – of people saying what they mean and being honest – is far too lofty and utopian a goal, then the entire argument I pleaded above crumbles into pointlessness.

Sadly, in today’s age it is impossible to expect such mentally disciplined and honest behaviour – it would be an interesting exercise to figure out if such behavior was always impossible.

What I have said before, I repeat again. These are my personal views, and are mentioned in abstraction. This framework can be adopted and enforced onto any practical example, and its efficacy can be evaluated.

I look forward to hearing views and counterviews on this subject.

I am also fully aware that because I have spoken out on the issue of “selective outrage”, I shall be prescribed certain ideological sympathies, if not inclinations. While I assure you that what I right is strictly apolitical and devoid of any “cult-biases”, I could not care less about the conclusions you (voluntarily) wish to draw regarding my alleged biases.

The Kohinoor Quandary

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William Dalyrymple is a person whose writing I adore. He has a knack for portraying history with a Tolkein-esque flair. “The Last Mughal“, “City of Djinns“, “The Age of Kali“, “Nine Lives” and – most favorite of all – “The Return of a King“. I loved all of them, and believe Dalyrmple to be one of the foremost writers of our generation.

I recently came across this video posted by him –

Source: http://indianexpress.com/videos/news-video/british-took-kohinoor-by-force-but-so-did-the-indians-william-dalrymple/

And I am in disagreement with him.

The diamond was mined in India. Some accounts say that it was mine in the Kollur mines of Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, possible as far back as 3000 BCE. The sources are hazy, but it is definitely known that Alauddin Khalji’s general, Malik Kafur, acquired the diamond during his campaigns of South India (when he went as far South as Madurai and looted the Meenakshi Temple). It finds specific mention in the “Baburnama”, where the Mongoloid warlord Babur writes that Ibrahim Lodi, the Sultan of Delhi, gifted it to him. Nadir Shah, during his plunder of Delhi in 1738 took it to Persia.

This was the first time the diamond went out of India.

It was reclaimed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh – as Dalrymple points out – by force.

In the first half of the 19th Century, following the fall of the Marathas in the 3rd Anglo-Maratha War (1818), and the defeat of Mysore in the 4th Anglo-Mysore War (1799), it was only Maharaja Ranjit Singh who could provide a challenge to the East India Company. It was said that the Company’s army was second only to Ranjit Singh’s in the whole of Asia.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh had willed it to the temple of Jagannath Puri on his death, but this will was not executed by the Company.

It was acquired by the then Governor General, Lord Dalhousie, who treated it as a spoil of war. Writing to his friend Sir George Cooper in the August of 1849, he stated:

…it was more for the honour of the Queen that the Koh-i-noor should be surrendered directly from the hand of the conquered prince into the hands of the sovereign who was his conqueror, than it should be presented to her as a gift—which is always a favour—by any joint-stock company among her subjects…

Dalhousie arranged that the diamond should be presented by Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s young successor, Duleep Singh (aged 13) to Queen Victoria in 1850, who travelled to the United Kingdom to present the jewel.

This much is historical fact, and is undisputed.

The Flaw in Dalrymple’s Argument

William Dalrymple argues that India’s claim is rendered illegitimate by the use of force. It is no one’s contention that neither Maharaja Ranjit Singh, nor the Company (nor any of the previous owners of the jewel) used anything but force in the acquisition of the Kohinoor Diamond.

But the Company’s acquisition hints at something more sinister.

Prof. A. Srivathsan of CEPT University, Ahmedabad, writes that in 1815 European powers agreed that the plundering of national art was “immoral and illegal”. However, this agreement was limited to European countries, while the colonies were merrily plundered.

As is evident by Dalhousie’s letter above, the Company acquiring the diamond wasn’t mere commerce. It was also a product of the colonial sense of superiority, the White Man’s burden being physically instantiated. European powers – while respecting each other’s national heritage – believed that the Colonies were “fair game” in being looted, and there was nothing wrong with the “superior” English man acquiring something of value from the “native”.

Therefore, it cannot be equated with previous instances of the diamond being acquired by force.

And that is why India must reclaim the Kohinoor Diamond. The monetary value of the jewel is immaterial. But there must be a account presented of the heritage looted by colonial powers from India. The British “Empire” must accept it’s own horrific colonial past – and there are far, far worse events that besmirch the *spotless cricket whites of Eton*; the Great Bengal famine of 1943 being one example – and repent.  Returning the Kohinoor Diamond is one tiny step in that direction.

Incidentally, the same argument holds true for Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s Bhavani Talvaar.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

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“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”

– Comrade John*

* – sources report that this may be a misquote.

There is a periodic fluctuation that casts its spell on me, a time when I listen to only the greats – Lennon, Clapton, Hendrix, Ozzy, David Gilmour – and grow a beard and wear crumpled up cotton kurtas and give up worldly pursuits in general. These fluctuations are like the phases of the moon, they come and go; only, they are much less capable of adhering to a schedule.

Such times test my resolve with the strongest of temptations – reading. Far too often has a summer evening gone past by when I’ve wanted to ignore the demands of a working day beckoning me in the morning and retire to the confines of my collection, reading deep into the night, and emerging from a warm blanket only when the day’s start was well past.

My sister tells me that I’m far too young to be fantasizing about retirement.

But there is a greater ailment that claws my heart. You see, I am a obsessive, compulsive, shopaholic. I buy (far) more books than I can read. I know there’s a word for this, but I’m too lazy to Google it up, don’t bother.Ever Jan, I set up an annual target on Goodreads for a *reading challenge*, and by April concede that I won’t be making it this year – but next year…

A sworn brother of my order sends me an article from a journalist whom we both adore, and I am compelled to buy the latest commentary on the “Darbar”, written by another journalist whom we both adore. A scholar of great renown shares an article on Wodehouse, and I am consumed by the nostalgia of nights spent audibly giggling over the antics of Bertie. The Hon’ Governor – राघोबा दादा -mentions Thomas Pikkety,  and I have that familiar pang of guilt of not having read “Capital” visit me yet again. I am gifted a book of travel poetry to accompany me on my latest journey, and it stares back at me from my table, accusing me of promises left half-filled. And where would I be without my love for History? Hemchandra Raychaudhari’s beautiful, cream-colored “Political History of Ancient India” with its thick, *white egg-shell* (ref.: Christian Bale in American Psycho) and the huge sheet of genealogy that folds up on the inside begs to be opened. Kaushik Basu writes a new book and it stares at me from the front lines of every book shop. Hussain Haqqani is a man that I admire, a man of learning, an intelligent man, a balanced mind – and his titles keep flooding my list, stagnant, unmoving.

And what about the literary greats? Proudly have I bought Joseph Heller’s “Something Happened” (“after all, can’t read *just* Catch-22”). But it lies dormant. Harper Lee wrote her sequel – which, thankfully, I gobbled up in time before her sad demise. Julian Barnes writes a new one, and I need to buy it. The 2015 Man Booker Winner is supposed to revolve around Bob Marley, and we can’t let that go past by, can we now? And as I search for who won the award last year, I realize that the “Narrow Road to the Deep North” evades me. We go to a book store and I try to show off (let’s face it, who doesn’t love to impress?) and the number of unread titles that I get asked about unnerves me. And God save us all when either Rowling or GRRM make the cut.

It’s a very agitating process. It gets me restless and flustered. And I mean this for real.

तोह problem क्या हैं? (Fans of Kannan and Biswa’s “Pretentious Movie Reviews” will be familiar with the import of this particular phrase).

Problem दो हैं.

One – lugging it around. And no, I’m not going to switch to a Kindle. No matter how *ergonomic* it is. अंग्रेझोन के जमाने में, bureaucrats would travel with attendants and aluminium trunks and have carriages all to themselves. Good luck to us – 21st century Babu-lok – to be able to find someone to help lug that metal abomination down the stairs and into a truck. Also, it’s adorable to think we can afford the cost of transporting something that heavy across stations.

Just joking – I think.

And two – time. Yes, I know it’s a silly excuse, and I should not be whining. But it’s true. If only I could run multiple processors in my mind. But I can’t. If I could, I would dedicate one *me* solely to the mundane task of surviving from one day to another – you know, getting up, getting ready, having meals, sleeping. The other *me*s would be dedicated to other tasks.

Like it or not, there is always going to be something else to do. Between that struggle, we will have to carve out much-needed time. And that is the cause of much agony to this shopaholic.

Random Musings…

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(Random musings that occured while reading. These may or may not be related to each other)

On dismantling religion –

Far too many concern themselves with the dismantling of religion – the whole notion of “destroying temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras” etc., and in its stead looking at humans as humans. Nothing wrong with this approach, of course – there is evil, plentiful evil in all major religions.

My problem is that there is no notion of creating an alternative. Man created religion for a purpose – and it is has stood the test of time because there is something undeniably marketable about it.

The mere dismantling of religion will not suffice, it will merely create a vacuum; an alternative must be created. Its essence of spiritualism, of looking for meaning and purpose and peace that it is supposed to espouse, the reason why man turns to a “God” – that reason must be quenched.


Why I find it difficult to share –

There is a certain sense of exclusion I feel while talking to people about [books, movies, music, and (primarily) ideas] that have appealed to me.

You take a lot of effort in understanding something, there is a massive process behind appreciating something. And this effort, this process adds value to the final conclusion. And then you turn to someone, excited to share it. And they go, “Yeah. That’s pretty cool.”. And the scales fall from your eyes. And you scream within yourself, “No, you idiot. You don’t understand. You may see, but you do not understand.”

Appreciating the conclusion without appreciating the process behind it demeans the conclusion. It seems to trivialize it. I find pretense – its shallowness and its dishonesty – despicable. That I do not like. And hence I find it difficult to share.


On “Madhushala”…

These “random musings” have all been reflections that came to me while reading this monumental work in the Hindi language.

The writing has perhaps the best “rhythm” of all that I’ve read – so spectacular that at times, I enjoyed verses purely on the basis of their metric, rather than their content.

I appreciate the title – “Madhushala”. It is a reflection of the sentiment of revolution (reformation?) against orthodox, structured edifices (primarily  religious edifices). The idea of *alcohol* has a very strong connotation to it.

I feel comfortable with the knowledge that I know very little. It is scary and overwhelming – for it drives a screwdriver right at the idea of self-preservation; if we do not know, who are we? (Please don’t answer with the trivially obvious Jon Snow).

In any case, returning to Madhushala – it has been overwhelming. Firstly, because of my own discomfort with the Hindi language. This is the first time I have read Hindi, aside from the school textbooks that I gave up in 2006. Secondly, I am also quite a novice when it comes to poetry. That makes this all the more difficult.

But the main point is this – the work is immensely layered. The meaning of “Madhushala” that is interpreted is so subtle, so intricately woven, so finely balanced, that at times the literal reading of a few verses came across as a shock. Certain verses I pondered over several times and found to be exquisite. Certain verses I skimmed over, unable to grasp the meaning and the vocabulary.

There is no rush. I am confident that with time, further layers, the entire depth of the text will reveal itself to me. As I said, I am comfortable with the knowledge that I know very little.


Languages

All of my South Indian friends speak Hindi. That makes it three languages – their mother tongue, Hindi and English. All three with drastically different scripts, grammars and contexts.

Very, very few of my North Indian friends speak anything other than Hindi and English.

I speak Hindi, Marathi and English. The two are very similar. And since I’m bad with both, it doesn’t really matter.


A World I Cherish

Ideas, and intelligent people.

What is intelligence? In a nutshell – creativity. The capacity to entertain an independent thought.

A world where ideas and intelligence rule, where conversation and sharing flows freely. Where these mental stimulations are so overwhelming that human fallacies melt away, identities disappear and only discourse reigns.

You need to have but eyes to see…


The Compromised Scholar

A Sanskrit verse that I learnt in school said – “The Father is worshipped in his house, the village-head in his village, the King in his kingdom;  but the scholar is worshipped everywhere.”

Such are not the times we live in. Standards of intellectual integrity have nose-dived. Each scholar (true or self-proclaimed) has a personal axe to grind and will stick to the values he or she shouts from rooftops only as long as it remains convenient to do so.

Homo Homini Lupus – Man is a Wolf to Man.

The Story of My Moustache

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That glorious upper-lip worm.

“Tell me the Indian rates”, I argued, “not the ones you tell the *firangis*.”

My travels had brought me to the idyllic city of Udaipur – famous for its tourism, infamous for its expensive rates – and while wandering through the bylanes in the heart of the city, I had stumbled upon a tiny store that sold beautiful, hand-crafted, leather-bound journals. Eager to buy one, I had embarked upon an endeavour that I am singularly unequipped to complete – bargaining.

“In any case, you must’ve jacked up your rates the moment you saw me get off my bike. Any tourist like me is an easy customer”, I continued.

“No, no, Sir!”, the shopkeeper pleaded. “You don’t look like a customer at all. With that shaandaar – magnificent – moustache, you look like a localite.” 

My chest swelled further by a few more inches, I whipped my wallet out with flourish and tipped him handsomely. As I write this, I realize that he probably used flattery to trick me.

But then, he wasn’t so off the mark either, was he?

It is time to address the elephant in the room. I am always noticed for my moustache. I usually am complimented for it – and this includes even random strangers on the street and at traffic signals, struggling to muster up the courage to do so. I am very infrequently criticized for it – chiefly by my beloved Mother. But I am always, always noticed for it. And regularly questioned.

Hence, my decision to collect and narrate stories – and address questions about it.

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Third Year Engineering. My *handlebar* phase.

First and foremost, the most popular question – I have never shaven it off. I have had it ever since I started growing one, which was sometime around Class 9. The style has changed over the years, but the moustache has always stayed.

The second most popular question – who is my “inspiration”? This is quite a difficult one to answer. The Chattrapati had a magnificent one. Rau had a marvellous one as well. So did Hercule Poirot, and one of my idols – Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Saab. That nice chap who was helping me out with the form-filling during my Civil Services Exam Final Interview reckoned that it looked a lot like Field Marshal Manekshaw (a very high honour).

But the long and short of it is that it has no inspirations. It has been me all the way. Whatever fancy struck me, whatever I felt like doing – that is what I went with.

Doesn’t it make me look much older? Yes.
Do I care? Not a tiny bit.
Doesn’t it make me look intimidating? Hell, yeah!
Do I care? Of course! I love it!
Is it difficult to maintain? Of course. I take 15 minutes to shave.
Isn’t it tricky to style? Yes it is. It is quite intricate.
Does it require conditioning? Yes. Coconut oil works best for me.
Doesn’t it get hot? Stupid question.
Doesn’t it tickle? Another stupid question.
Am I worried about tanning? A stupid-er question.

Will I ever consider taking it off? That’s the dumbest question of the lot.

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And now for the most difficult question – why do I keep it? That’s the most difficult question to answer. People have pre-set notions and expect you to confirm to them. They do not comprehend an answer that does not fit into their framework – square pegs, round holes.

Most people consider it to be a sign of machismo, which it isn’t. The sort of man you are isn’t determined by the size of your moustache – it is determined by the way you behave, every day. It is not a social convention, it is not a religious convention – I don’t care for either. I don’t do it to grab attention, I don’t need to.

I do it for one simple reason – because I want to.

I’ve been presumed to be a Tamilian in Chennai. I’ve had the security guards in the Delhi Metro break into Telugu while chatting with me. I’ve been called “Bana” in Jaipur, and considered Haryanvi in Faridabad. A security guard hailing from Illahbad, working in Mumbai, told me that I seem a proper “UP-walle-bhaiyya”.

Across the width and breadth of the nation, it’s a remarkable journey.

When Destination Matters More…

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Location: Dhikala, Corbett National Park

In violation of the common refrain – the one where the journey matters more than the destination? The one everyone keeps on quoting without really appreciating the depth of its meanings? – there are certain places where the destination matters more than the journey.

Dodital in Uttarakhand is one. The Rann of Kutch is another.

Dhikala, deep within the heart of the Jim Corbett National Park is another.

Sitting right at the edge of a cliff, Dhikala overlooks the massive grasslands within the park. The road leading up to it runs straight through a thick forest of Sal, and sometimes if you’re lucky – as me and my dearest buddy were once, ten summers back – the flowers fall off the trees onto you in carpets, welcoming you like the heroes we imagined ourselves to be.

The magnificence of Dhikala is such that it cannot be captured fully by neither photographs, nor by words.  As Salman Rushdie wrote in “Joseph Anton” about the South American plains, photographs or words provide only one stationary frame. To experience their true, immense beauty, one must travel through Dhikala.

This provides a delicious (seeming) paradox – for travelling through Dhikala is a transition; ergo, the journey should matter more than the destination. But that is diametrically opposite to what I am arguing.

You see, we, as humans, are in a perpetual state of both being and becoming. It is vital to attain a balance between the two – to both exist and transit in each moment.

“We must be still and still moving, into another intensity.
For a further union, a deeper communion.
Through the dark cold and empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise.
In my end is my beginning.”

-T. S. Elliot

And while the journey is the joy of travel, and while places like Dhikala can be cherished only by passing through and not seeing them through single-frame windows, there are some places where the journey must be broken, in contemplation.

And that is what the beauty of Dhikala encapsulates. It is one of those places where we arrive, not travel through. It is one of those places where I have experienced an intensely spiritual connect – not in terms of divinity; but in terms of deep introspection.

Such places are, after all, spiritual. And I have a hunch as to why this is the case. Dhikala, Dodital, the Rann – their beauty is so overwhelming, so pristine that it crushes the “me”, at least momentarily.

And it is in that moment of tranquility that real conversation can occur. After all, “Jab Main Tha Tab Hari Naheen. Ab Hari Hai Main Naaheen”.