Sunday, June 10, 2007

For the tiger...

Hope on to this link below and do what you can...

The Case of the Incidental Rat

Like any other weekday, I came in by around 7 PM, changed and logged on. I checked out my usual websites, fiddled around with my guitar till I couldn’t ignore the rumblings in my stomach any longer. Of course, to cook you need clean dishes and so I proceeded with the ones in the basin and switched on to the news channels in the telly. You ignore Paris Hilton at your own risk.

Soon after, when I was eating and trying to figure out why my sambhar tasted sweet, I suddenly saw the rat. I had heard some noises before in its general direction but had learnt to ignore such sounds. A lot of wood is used in the construction here which is not really conducive to sound proofing and odd noises from neighbor’s filters through often. But this wasn’t a neighbor I was looking at eight feet away from me. This was a huge rat which had made its way from my bathroom into my living room and was now considering future course of action.

I acted first. I closed my mouth which was agape with a mixture of astonishment, confusion and puzzlement, put my spoon filled with my sweet sambhar rice back on the plate and blinked. Fortunately, before I could put my feet up on the couch and say ‘uhudhfgu’, the creature decided that it had had enough of a foreign realm and retreated back into the darkness of the bathroom.

I think that I pride myself on being prepared for any eventuality. For example, I know that if I were mugged, it will take me only 2.4 seconds to take off my wallet, watch, mobile and ring in one smooth movement. Or for that matter, not to use a deodorant when I am journeying in the forest so that I don’t have to lie down and play dead when I encounter a bear. But this, I wasn’t prepared for. It’s not that I hadn’t encountered a rodent in my house before. I remember a small mouse looking trapped, trapped as it was in a mousetrap when I was six. I remember mom not being very keen about me adopting it as a pet. And for good measure, it was decided that the mouse should be released to terrorize other families in a colony a few miles from my house, so that it couldn’t find it’s way back. There was nothing I could do except give it some company before I saw it disappear for ever from my life.

Then of course, was the unforgettable experience at the Rat temple, I think, somewhere in Bikaner, Rajasthan, where the whole place is infested with the lot of them. If ever there was a Rat Heaven that would be it. Being a temple, you couldn’t wear your shoes in the place (a logic somewhat lost on me as the place couldn’t have been more disease prone than already) and I remember me and my college friends tying plastic paper bags around our legs with rubber bands before venturing in.

Cut to the present though and it was pretty clear to me quite immediately that my past experiences were not going to teach me anything of any significance on how to deal with the current predicament. Anyway, self defense and fortification being my first thought, I immediately closed the door between the bathroom and the living room and considered the gap between the floor and the door. It didn’t look very big but a determined rat could squeeze through, was what my grey cells were telling me. As I considered further moves to safeguard myself, I unwisely decided to calm my nerves by drinking gallons of water. Soon enough, I had to take a leak. It is amazing how a man can gather his courage where taking a leak is concerned. Armed with a broom, I gingerly made my way into enemy territory and placed my ass on the usual place. Those twenty seconds when I was at my most vulnerable passed away uneventfully even though I had morbid thoughts about what happened to Saif Ali Khan’s character in ‘Ek Hasina Thi’.

Further investigation of the bathroom revealed no presence of the rodent any longer. Wherever it had come from, it had gone back and hopefully was at peace with itself. There were a couple of crevices in the bathroom which seemed to lead into some dark depths but never for a moment did I consider making a closer investigation. The next day, when I encountered this experience to my unflappable letting agent, he did express some sympathy.

“It’s rare for them to show up at a first floor flat. Let me know if it shows up again, otherwise we will just forget it as an isolated incident.”

I told him that I was having visions of rats partying away in my house while I was away at work but he just nodded and attended to another customer. But, to his credit, I must say that he might have been right. I haven’t seen any more signs of the rat two weeks hence and have stopped carrying a broom with me every time I want to pee.

Wait a minute, what was that sound now?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

‘Upper Castes’ should Convert to Buddhism

So by now, 30 people have died in that needless violence which has followed the Gujjar’s demand to be given the ST status. Is it just me or do you think as well that today’s India is being torn apart by the overwhelming presence of the caste system and its dynamics now then ever before in our coherent lifetimes?

As much as many of us are impatient to embrace the India which is growing at 9 plus percent, we cannot ignore the fact that there are weighty questions to resolve. And only when the questions affecting the multitude of masses which are out of our vision and earshot are answered, that we can hope our country to have a future we want for it.

A few days earlier, I had read news articles about one lakh people converting to Buddhism in Mumbai. One lakh! Most people who were part of the mass conversion were nomadic tribals and Dalits.

What a contrast! At one end you have a set of people who want to be given the ST status and are willing to hold a state to ransom to achieve that end. And then you have a whole bunch of people (One lakh, remember) who one would think are mostly ‘STs’ wanting to escape the clutches of a religion which they believe can do them no good.

Dalits and lower castes converting to Buddhism has stopped being a big story unless the numbers are big enough. The reason is that most mass conversions are perceived as being less of a matter of choice and more of an easy escape route from a desperate existence. A sort of a short cut, perhaps. There is nothing noble in that. Let’s go to Page Three.

So I think its time for us so called ‘upper caste’ intelligentsia to step up and do something for a change rather than expend our arm chair expertise on the ills of our country.

Give up our ‘Upper Caste’ status, Convert to Buddhism, what say?

Why, you ask? If you are from an ‘upper caste’, give me reasons why you should be proud of that fact which are of any relevance in today’s age.

If you say that you couldn’t care less about being an ‘upper caste’ but also see no reason to take the trouble of doing something as obscure as a conversion of faith then I give you a couple of reasons. They are full of noble-idealistic bullshit.

-You will express your solidarity with the lowest of the low in our caste system.
-It will be a slap on the face to all those people who are earning their living by cutting up our country on the basis of caste.

But why Buddhism?

Now that’s a good question. Well, there’s no point in joining the Gujjar’s and clamor for an ST status for yourselves as well, even though your reasons (mentioned above) maybe noble and all that. Nobody will believe you or take you seriously.

There are other options as well. There’s the ‘Arya Samaj’ organization which is the watered down version of Hinduism without all of its caste trappings, idolatry etc. I will leave it to you to explore them if you want to. But Buddhism has a clear modern history as a vehicle to deliver the lower castes from their unwanted religion. It is a natural choice if you want to join hands.

Of course, you should know what Buddhism’s all about and only take the plunge if you are convinced. Here’s a link. Click.

Am I convinced? Am I going to convert? I don’t know. I know, it’s very unlike me to take the trouble and do something about anything. Maybe I’ll just forget pretty soon how I am feeling right now and go back to eating my curd rice and worrying about my career.

Or maybe I’ll just dwell on it for some time (I’m sure the Buddha would have liked that)