Word of the Week #146:

Forewarning

We live in interesting times.

Just last month, the central government gave itself the power to snoop into any computer.

No warrants, no limitations, no nothing. Unlimited unbridled power.

Big Brother is watching. Cool.

I guess I’ll have to set up a VPN and a private browser just to read the news. Oh, how the world has changed.

Additionally, political opponents of the ruling party were thrashed by the police last week. For what Crime? Wearing black clothes and releasing black balloons in the presence of the Supreme Leader.

Who here is surprised?

35 years too late,  but let us still take a look at the 1984 checklist.

  • Personality Cult? Check
  • Denouncement of Facts? Check
  • Rewriting History? Check
  • Hateful Propaganda? Check
  • Eternal War? Check
  • Unlimited surveillance? Check
  • Thought Police? Well, we are getting there

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Word of the Week #145:

Quagmire

‘No’ means ‘no’.

We’ve been hearing that a lot; perhaps more often and more loudly over the past few years.

But is that really true? Does ‘no’ always mean ‘no’? Does ‘yes’ always mean ‘yes’?

You know, humans aren’t the most honest of beings. We are trained to lie and deceive, to blend in and hide our true feelings and desires in order to survive in this world.

Think about it. Try to remember the times when you would attend a birthday party as a kid. Remember how you would be offered an extra piece of cake, and when you took you it your parents would glare and frown at you.

If you were at all smart, you would understand exactly what it meant: “The next time someone offers you more cake, you better decline, you little critter.”

Makes sense, right? After all, nobody wants their kid to be branded as a glutton.

So, the next time you are at a party and someone asks if you want more cake, what do you say? Well, there have been many, many times when I said ‘no’.

Did I mean ‘no’? Occasionally, yeah. If the cake is bad, I’m not interested in seconds… But if the cake is soft and moist and just the right amount of sweet, why would I not want more? Then why would I still say ‘no’?

Well, in some cases, ‘no’ might not mean ‘no’.

It might mean ‘yes, I do, but I cannot.’
Or ‘not right now.’
Or ‘Yes, but I am just too full.’
Or ‘I do, but I am on a diet.’
Or ‘Yes, but I have to fast before my colonoscopy.’
Or ‘Yes, but that amount of chocolate will kill me.’
Or ‘Yes, but I don’t want it from you; who knows where those hands have been.’
Or simply ‘Nah, I don’t do chocolate. Cheesecake only.’

Regardless, that is far from an invitation to come and try to stuff that piece of cake into my mouth. Try that and you’re going to got killed, boy. DO NOT test me.

No matter what was meant or why, when you hear ‘no’, you better take it as a ‘no’.

To paraphrase a beloved poem from my childhood,

Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to get the hell out of my face.

Consent. It’s a piece of cake.

Word of the Week #129:

Supernumerary

You know what I truly dislike about this country? The labour laws… Or perhaps the seeming lack thereof.

How many hours is an average person expected to work in a week? In most reasonable parts of the world, the answer is 40. 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. As I said, reasonable.

In India, however, the answer can jump up to 60. The law actually states 9 hours a day, 6 days a week, but who cares about that, right?

In most parts of the world, every employee gets around 35 days of paid leave every year. Plus weekends, which gives us roughly 140 days a year. In India? 25… So adding a lone Sunday each week, we get around 80.

Add to that the geographical size, lack of affordable and reliable transportation, and the high concentration of jobs in urban centres, odds are you would not get to visit your home more than twice or thrice every year.

And, as I probably do not even need to mention, the pay is far from stellar.

Growing up, I was always led to believe that we work in order to live, but I do not see much evidence of life around here.

Knowing all this, one might wonder just how this can continue, right? Why do we, in India, tolerate such treatment for so little compensation?

Well, the answer is simple. If you don’t, someone else will.

We are a nation of many people. Too many people. Way too many people.

And as the workforce keeps growing, the employment opportunities struggle to keep up. It does not take a genius to realise this system is built to implode.

I just hope I do not get caught in the aftershocks.

Word of the Week #125:

Amour

Ah, love.

Everyone loves love, right?

Isn’t this what we grew up watching in our movies? A young couple, hopelessly in love, who battle against all odds and either end up living happily ever after or die trying.

The formula is quite old. Romeo and Juliet was written over 400 years ago. Considering this, it is quite surprising that the story is not considered outdated.

Why?

Because our society still does not seem to understand that personal relationship should be just that: Personal.

Instead, it becomes a referendum for the entire country. Not just your close family and friends, everyone from your teachers to priests to gynaecologists feels the need to weigh in.

Of course, none of this concerns you when your parents have your back. But when they don’t? When they cannot accept the fact that their children are capable to making decisions for themselves?

That is how we end up with 251 reported cases of honour killings in one year. The key word here being ‘reported‘. Who knows how many of them slip under the radar because, well, dead men tell no tales.

I would generally go on to elaborate the widespread chilling effect this has on women in general but Kavita Krishnan already did a great job at it, in her article for Al Jazeera.

For now, let us look at something interesting.

Our Constitution gives us the right to freedom of speech and expression, which should enable us to express our feelings for whoever we happen to love, and any person who tries to stop us will face the wrath of our legal system, right? Right?

Actually, quite wrong…

You see, there is a catch. Just half a dozen lines later, the Constitution also states that the State can “impose reasonable restrictions” in the interest of “decency or morality“.

34% of our Members of Parliament had pending criminal cases when they last got elected, 21% being charged with serious crimes.

These are the people who get to “impose reasonable restrictions” on us in the interest of “decency or morality“.

After all, nothing says freedom like having your voices muffled by thugs.

Romeo and Juliet must be rolling in their graves.

Word of the Week #124:

Secession

Earlier today, on the eve of our 72nd Independence Day, the President addressed the nation.

Did you watch it?

Of course, I did not watch it live. I did not even know it was happening tonight. For some reason, I thought the speech happens on the Independence Day…

But, for the very first time in my life, I actually watched the entire thing.

Among his 21 minutes of remarks, one statement stood out in particular to me. I must warn you that the following is not a precise translation, but I believe I do his sentiments justice.

At the very least, I did a better job than the folks over at NDTV. Come on, guys. You are supposed to be the professionals, around here…

Expanding the extent of freedom is an unabating endeavour.

— President Ram Nath Kovind

Such alliteration… Wow…

Of course, it is news to nobody that we, as a nation, have a long way to go.

On 15th of August, 1947, we did successfully secede from the British Empire. I wonder if any country can truly be called independent, in this day and age, but we have maintained our sovereignty, which is commendable.

However, when it comes to freedom, we have a particularly long way to go.

Just a couple of years have passed since the JNU incident, wherein the government decided to arrest students protesting in the campus and charge them with sedition. Talk about overkill…

While the matter is still sub judice, the court asked the university to take no coercive action against the students, including Umar Khalid.

Naturally, the university responded by refusing to accept his PhD thesis. This was, once again, followed by much hullaballoo.

Now, Khalid was allegedly shot at just three days before the next hearing. Coincidence?

Maybe it was all unrelated… Maybe he is just unlucky… Who can say, am I right?

Of course, according to the National Crime Report Bureau, over 142 unrelated cases of violence against journalists have been registered in the past 3 years. One wonders how many passed not registered.

Interestingly enough, not a single murder of a journalist has been solved in the country over the past decade.

So much coincidence. It makes my nerves tingle.

Clearly, we have a long way to go. And a particularly difficult one at that.

But for now, we fly these colours. Let us talk more about it next week.

Word of the Week #123:

Apocalypse

This post culminates the discussion we have been having for the past few weeks, and let me just begin by saying this: DON’T PANIC.

Now, anybody who has not been living under a rock for the past few years must have noticed a few subtle changes in our socio-political landscape over the past decade or so, in our country and across the world. Certain elements that have existed on the fringe of modern society suddenly find themselves a part of the mainstream..

Of course, the eldest among us would argue that the fringe has always existed and it is only the media that now highlights it more than ever before, but there is more to it. One cannot deny that the extremists among us have been emboldened by certain individuals.

One might be tempted to ask, “Really, just what does it matter if certain dogs continue to bark? It is what they do, after all. Why should we bother?”

The answer is actually simple, and lies in the Middle East.

The Iranian Revolution in 1979 overthrew the Persian monarchy and replaced it with an Islamic theocracy. There may be some who would argue this was a step in the right direction but the members of the Jewish community in Iran, which essentially halved overnight, might want to disagree.

There are always certain people who will ask, “What is wrong in seeking religious, ethnic, or ideological, homogeneity in your country?”

Well, if every citizen chooses to believe the same thing, nothing is wrong, is there? It is the opportunity to make that free and informed choice that matters.

Of course, you cannot choose your ethnicity, so if the regime suddenly decides it does not want you around, you better get ready to run, am I right?

The question we now have to ask is this. How does this lead to the end of the world? The answer is, once again, quite simple.

The world is always ending.

It is the rule of entropy.

It is why your clothes are constantly getting dirtier, and your body is growing wearier every day that passed. Both avoid complete degradation because you put some effort in making them last just a little bit longer.

The same is true for the world at large. It is always ending. It survives when the best and the brightest of the entire human race come together to make it last a little longer.

However, that may not continue forever, and from the recent evidence of our self-destructive nature, I wonder how much longer we might have.

Word of the Week #122:

Pestilence

Okay, I’ll try not to get too dramatic, here.

However, as I mentioned two weeks ago, we may be approaching what can only be described as the beginning of the end.

Let us skip the feels and focus on the facts.

Last week we discussed how the world we live in can be defined by two words: Liberalism and Globalisation. Of course, these are not firmly established truths in all parts of the world, but at least they have been seen as ideals worth striving towards. Unfortunately, in many nations around the world, that no longer seems to be a case.

In the words of every horde of aliens invading the planet, let us start with America. The so-called leaders of the free world are themselves being led by a historically incompetent administration, and its population is deeply divided on all major issues. Of course, a difference of opinion among the masses is not a bad thing. But if those opinions are based less on rational facts and more on irrational feelings, there is no way to address those differences and move forward.

Sure, we could talk about the situations with xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, Nazism, gun control, or the lack thereof, failing healthcare, crumbling infrastructure, income inequality and dozens of other things going wrong with the country, but those are just the symptoms. The two causes are actually quite simple, and exceedingly common:

  1. Apathetic ignorance among the many
  2. Unmitigated dishonesty among the few

The British are similar of course, but with better accents. Their own chicken, fondly known as Brexit, is coming home to roost soon enough and they could not be less prepared if they tried.

The rest of Europe is also far from flawless. Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán is extremely popular, both within and beyond his own country. This is despite his blatantly Islamophobic views on immigration and the European society in general, or is it because of those views? Just last week, the government in Poland passed a law that allows them to handpick the chief of the Supreme Court. Neat.

Additionally, economies like Greece still remain in crisis, while Italy is plunging towards a crash. That is definitely going to hurt the entire European Union.

Towards the Middle East, just earlier today, Israel signed a new law, essentially mandating apartheid. The crises in Syria and Yemen are far from resolved, and the Arab Spring has subsided into the Arab Winter.

And this is all without even talking about the Russias and the Chinas of the world.

These can be seen as isolated problems faced by separate countries, but nothing is truly isolated in this ever-shrinking world of ours. If allowed to fester, I see this as an epidemic that can decimate our world just like Black Death through Medieval Europe.

Some people might think this is too outlandish. They would want to remind me that, despite all its problems, this is by far the best time to be alive.

Well, they are not wrong.

However, I would counter with this: A mango is the sweetest just a day before it starts rotting.