अनुभूति (A Pervading Sweet Epiphany)

Scattered across a million goosebumps

I waltzed on the edge of my skin

Caught firmly between the two heartbeats

I freed the pulse trapped within

Unhinged, I chased my racing breaths

I found freedom when I gave in

When I saw,

When I experienced,

And simply surrendered…

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WWE Panorama: 5 Flash Stories of Wrestling fans

Note: this article was originally published on Wrestleenigma.com in August 2012

One of the most fascinating aspects of being a pro wrestling fan is that every wrestling fan has a story to tell. It may be the story of growing up with the WWE, and its stars like the Undertaker, the Rock and Hulk Hogan, etc. It could be the story of those moments, when emotions ran high and the adrenaline rushed wild. It could be a tale of that moment in time, when disbelief assumed a new term called “marking out”.

These stories are often subtle and personal. At times, they are anticlimactic. And then, there are those rare fairy tales, as well.

This article, by blending fact and fiction looks at 5 such mini-stories. These stories revolve around three characters – Mark, Tom, and April. They try to explore how we wrestling fans grow up a with this business, how it touches our lives and what it may mean to us in our most personal moments.

The Innocent Believer

Year 1991:

That eight year old boy behind the rail guard was awestruck. He held his dad’s hand tightly, as the scary monster and his ghastly manager walked past him. He was little scared, but too tough to admit it. He knew that his hero is coming to conquer the Deadman. He was eagerly waiting for him to run down the aisle. He had come to this show to watch the red and yellow warrior. His heart began to beat faster, and then suddenly it stopped for a second as the guitar reverberated through the arena. Hulk Hogan, his hero, appeared on the ramp. Mark freed himself from his dad, and stretched his arm through the rail guard.

Hulk Hogan was coming down to the ramp with all his usual theatrics. As he was approaching towards the ring, he high-fived a tiny hand on the way and moved on.

“Dad, did you see that?” ‘Daddyyyy” Mark went ballistic.

He had high-fived Hogan – his hero, his idol.

The smiling Father just patted the ballistic boy.

Spoiler alert

Next day at School:

Wide-eyed Tom and Pauli were looking at Mark with utter envy, as mark told them how Hulk Hogan stopped in front of him and shook his hands. He was still excited, that was the best moment of his young life, after all. Moreover, he had live seen the scary dude – the undertaker, and how he doesn’t feel any pain. Heck, even the Hulkster had lost to him. He had seen Bret “the Hitman” Hart in action.

There was so much they wanted to ask him. There was so much that he wanted to tell them. Three boys were frantically discussing about how cool it all was.

“It’s fake, nerds”, one of their seniors passed a remark and went his way after giving a smug look to these “ridiculous” kids.

Tom, Pauli and Mark speechlessly kept looking at each other.

The Disillusioned One

After going home, Tom asked his brother whether wrestling is really fake, and he got the answer he never wanted to hear. Disheartened, he just went upstairs in his room. He was never going to ever watch it again.

January 1993

Tom was just surfing through channels, and suddenly he saw Hogan on a news channel. The anchor was discussing the massive steroid scandal that had engulfed the WWF. Tom, while feeing being cheated, tried hard but could not fight the stinging feeling and disgustedly he changed the programme.

Sometime in 2001 at a bus-stop

14 year old April was telling her friends how she met Lita at the WWE event. She was still getting the goosebumps as she relieved that moment. She was still little dreamy and mighty elated . Her friends were equally excited. Their squealing voices had generated a frenzied vibe.

“Fucking nerds.” Tom, who could not help but overhear the conversation, chuckled to himself.

The Achiever

2012

April’s teary eyes were transfixed at the latest WWE PPV poster. The poster took her 10 years back in time to the moment, which changed her life. She had met her idol Lita at a signing event. Her palpable joy and nervous excitement had even amused Lita. It was at that moment, she had decided the course of her life. She wanted to be Lita, she wanted to be a wrestler.

The tiny girl enrolled herself in the wrestling school after graduating from the high school to the surprise of many. Those who knew her were puzzled because of her choice. Those in the business were perplexed because of her size.

April did not have a size or the look. She did not have a godfather or even silicon for that matter. What she had was her dream and her heart, and she never lost it. When she took a mighty blow and fell down, she stood up once again with more endurance and more confidence.

As she stood there reminiscing her journey. she realised that she had proved the people, who doubted her, wrong. She had erased most of the question marks. She had realised her dream. She was living it every day, and right now, it was time to live it once again.

She shrugged off the nostalgia and moved away from the poster of “No Way Out”.

April proudly started to walk towards the ramp as AJ Lee’s music reverberated through the arena.

The Torchbearer

2013, at the WrestleMania 29 –

22 years later, while standing at the similar place in a WWE arena, Mark was still awestruck as the legendary Phenom walked past him.

The life had come to a full circle.

Just like Tom and Pauli, he, too, was distraught to know that wrestling is “fake”. But a much bigger crisis at home took his mind away. A bitter divorce of his parents changed the little boy’s life drastically. At such a time, it was only Hogan and the scary deadman who provided him some solace. It was the WWE which provided him much needed entertainment. Over the years he realised that WWE was the sole string that tied him and his father together. It connected them on one Sunday every month.

Many things changed in his life, but the WWE remained a constant, and the Undertaker remained a constant in the WWE for these 22 years.

But today it was going to end.

Here he was, at the WrestleMania 29, to witness the last match of the Undertaker. He was there to bid adieu to the last bridge to his childhood and to his innocence, and to someone who was the only constant in the changing landscape of his life.

Mark was engulfed in ocean of emotions as he relived 22 years of his life in few surreal minutes.

“Dad, did you see that?” ‘Daddyyyy”, his trance was abruptly broken by his 5 years old son, who was hiding behind Mark’s leg during Taker’s entrance.

“Daddy, John Cena just shook my hands” the little boy in oversize cherry-red t-shirt was screaming ecstatically.

The smiling father just patted the ballistic boy.

Tiny Little Tales

Resurrection

A flame ignited within, soon turned into fire. It engulfed the space. It vanquished unholy shadows that lurked in distant corners. It burned the entire place down to ashes.

It was here, and it was then, the Phoenix rose.

Blink and You’re Gone

When I blink, I see your pretty face. My pupils dilate like a pulsating heart. My breath becomes heavier, and the mind races to catch your glimpse.

Then I open my eyes, and the heart breaks.

Fickle

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9… 9.55, 9.56, and 9.57…

A fraction faster would make him the fastest man alive.

A fraction later, he would just be an afterthought.

Remembered by some, and forgotten by many.

Secularism Needs a New Definition in Modern India

Political discourse in modern India has consistently revolved around religion. With the ascension of Narendra Modi the debate over secularism and communalism has gathered even more momentum.

In the vitriolic attempt to paint Mr Modi in communal hues, and in efforts of exposing phony secularism of the ruling parties, both sides have completely missed a great opportunity to define India’s secularism in a meaningful way at the time, when it matters the most.

The Political Dimension

Indian National Congress and a slew of regional parties claim to hold the mantle of secular thought. Their claim however is rendered hollow, when one looks at the way they have turned religions and castes into a vote bank of their own choice. By erecting a scarecrow of communal forces, they have tried to keep minorities in their toes.

What they have completely neglected is the true essence of secularism. Secularism does not distinguish between different communities. It neither grants preferences to certain groups nor does it create a hierarchy of human rights. In secularism, there is an absence of religion in governance. In secularism, “human” takes the top billing over all sorts of different labels we attach to our existence. Secularism is the creed of empowerment, not of appeasement or entitlement as the secular parties of India make it out to be.

The other side, led by the BJP and its allies, misses the point, too. They oppose the politics of appeasement and entitlement. Fair enough. But by constantly alienating minorities from their political discourse, they have limited themselves to a majority oriented image. Merely reaching out to minorities and trying to establish a contact is a not a long term solution. It can a win an election or two, but it will go nowhere in seizing the opportunity they are presented with today. “India first” is a good thought, it indeed is. However it is not enough. They are guilty of never providing insight into their philosophy on the blend of politics and religion.

One cannot simply hope that election oriented strategies could even begin to demolish thousands of walls that have been created over the centuries. It cannot understand the evolution of modern India either.

A Society stitched together with many patches

For ages, we have developed a society, in which a newborn child is labelled with several stickers of caste, language, religion and regions before calling him or her an Indian. That child is a human being first is reduced to a “given” fact, which remains a footnote. For all progressive talk we often hear, it is a sorry reality that a Muslim family finds it incredibly difficult to buy a home in many plush urban localities. Our towns are still inhabited in segregated manner. Matrimonies catering to specific communities and castes are a thriving business. The fact is that we Indians almost willingly stick to the walls we have created, that we are too complacent to abolish them.

Our systems have been developed on the same lines. There is a unity of divisions, but not of the divided. Even today, an inter-religion marriage is riddled in so many legal complications that they remain borderline illegal for as long as it could last. And we are one of the very countries, where gay marriage is legal. That is called irony.

The fact is there has been little conscious effort to actually cultivate unity and humanity in our lives. In its essence, our politics has only reflected what we are as a society.

A March towards Modernity

However with a changing generational paradigm, the society is changing. Due to heavy migration of student population and information-technology revolution a force has been unleashed that can transcend all sorts of barriers.

Over the last 20 years, Indian youth has developed a strong interaction with western culture and lifestyle. In return it has given something to other cultures too. The youth across national boundaries has in fact adopted a common global culture to a large extent. That is why aspirations and preferences of an Indian youth are greatly similar to those of someone sitting in Philippines or to those of someone living in New York. A consistent cross-cultural communication has strongly affected the way perceive our identities. There is a heavy thrust towards individualism. There is an inculcation of modern humanism. There is a strong incline towards political correctness. This political correctness is somewhat superficial and phony at the moment, but with time it hast the potential of defining 21st century’s political discourse.

Unsurprisingly for a significant chunk of Indian youth, religions and castes do not form their identity. They are their own men and women. They have their own creed that can hardly be generalized. However these personal ideas share a common tenant of modern humanism.

I will digress here a bit to briefly elaborate on the idea of modern humanism. Corliss Lamont, a leading proponent of the philosophy defines it very beautifully, when he states that modern humanism is “a naturalistic philosophy that rejects all supernaturalism and relies primarily upon reason and science, democracy and human compassion.”

Such a massive change has resulted into a conflict equal magnitude between age old trepidations of Indian society and the ethos of modern life. And to make the matters even more intricate, a new player joined the game in the past couple of years.

Social Media: Harbinger of the New World

Contrary to what many feel, or rather hope, social media is here to stay. Social media is natural extension of globalized world, and hence, it is only likely to become more nuanced and stronger in the coming time.

The most curious consequence of the social media has been its impact on religions and associated identities.

It is a double edged sword. On one hand, it enables fundamentalist creed a loud and penetrative medium. There are people who use it solely in order to spew venom. Provision of anonymity ensures that one faces little consequences for a foul behaviour. Some more conniving individuals promote their agendas in more subtle manner. They offer their vitriol in an attractive package of politeness. But ultimately it could be seen through anyway.

The second side is far more engaging, where millions of people interact with each other without any consideration for cultural, ethnic and ideological identities. Some believe in a god, some in many and some in none. In this world, no barrier matters, except may be of a language. One could term these liberals. But it will remain an insanely vast term, which will blanket let wing liberals, humanists, capitalists and environmentalists. And even this label leaves out millions of people, who have absolutely no ideological orientation in the first place. The only common bind is again of humanism. Economic or political orientations take secondary place.

These people talk on issues that have hitherto been considered taboo. They argue, they have debates and they make friends. These people never see each other. They essentially talk to a computer screen. There is a good chance that the next person may not be what he or she proclaims to be. But they trust. We trust. And it is the same trust which is missing from many real world societies, one of which is our Indian community.

A good part of social media is world without any label. It is the ultimate manifestation of modern humanism.

Critics rightfully point out that noble intentions of netizens seldom translate into real world activism. But they need to understand that social evolution is not a process that fully blooms in one spring. It is a secular process that lasts for decades. First change takes place in ideas. Once a mind is influenced, mentality changes as well. And it is after that action takes place. No matter how much one glorifies action, without intent it is pretty much meaningless. Social media is still finding meaning. It is not even a decade old. So give it time before jumping to a conclusion.

The reason behind discussing this at such a length is that Indian youth forms one of the biggest contingents on the social media. And it is thus a part of broader evolution of modern generation. And this process is going to have a big impact on the discourse of modern India.

It’s Time to Change

Despite such massive disruptions, the Indian politics however has stopped at the same juncture. Congress and BJP have committed their biggest felony in neglecting the changing dynamics of India in the last 10 years. Forget adjusting to changing India, they have not even comprehended the change in the first place.

They are still playing petty games of secularism, when secularism has acquired a whole new dimension in the modern world, and amongst modern Indians. Merely putting up a boogeyman of Narendra Modi is not going to earn anyone a dime. Merely saying “India first” is not going to convince many either.

Politicians are utilising social media in political campaigning. With the sole exception of Narendra Modi to some extent, none has stopped, and thought of its effect on social philosophies, prevalent dogmas and their place in polity of India. By recruiting “trolls” and paid armies to upvote partisan comments, political parties are making mockery of social media’s power.

A debate has to take place to determine religions’ place in Indian politics. Politicians have to drop the gimmick of “messiah” of different communities, and show willingness to move beyond the politics of religion. To truly connect with the new generation, politicians across the board have to expound on their philosophies in a constructive manner.

There is a reason elections of 2014 are being so hyped up. It is not only about Modi wave or mass disdain of Congress. It is about India. The Indian society is coming of age. A whole new generation is adjusting itself in the driver’s seat. The future of this country rests on what happens in 2014. If things go awry, the entire generation will resort to cynicism. And a value of humanism will be lost, and the same walls will keep dividing us for decades to come.

At such a crucial juncture when the India of tomorrow is in the making, by singing the tune of the last millennium, politicians are doing a great disservice to the nation. The time is ripe for them to come of age. The time is now to redefine the secularism in modern India.

Politicians and their idea for India’s future are pivotal for the development of this nation and to the evolution of Indian society.

The sooner they grasp it, the better it will be.

(This article was originally published on now defunct isaidit.org on November 20, 2013)

On Rapes and the Rapist: Introspection of an Indian Man

Once upon a time, a monster ravaged a girl. Villagers searched for the beast everywhere but to no avail.

Fearing an infection, they locked the girl in a cellar. After more attacks, villagers imprisoned every girl to contain the beast.

They could have found the monster, had they searched the one place they had overlooked: the mirror.

Today the story is remembered; it’s the moral that has been forgotten.

The flurry of grotesque crimes against women has shaken the very roots of India in the past year. There is outrage. There are doubts, questions and condemnations. A wound that was not spoken of for years is now open for everyone to see, but no one really knows how deep it runs.

It happened in Delhi. It happened in Mumbai. It has been happening to working women, old women and young innocent girls. The truth is it has hitherto been happening across the country, but we have come to know just a few cases. Silent victims are forced to spend their time in oblivion due to the social stigma. The few, that come out and try to reclaim the life they once had, are almost always shunned by the society. Surveys over the last 25 years suggest that only 1-4% percent of the rape victims acknowledged the crime, (Source: Guardian). That means the real numbers are 100 to 400 times higher than the government statistics.

As if internal atrocities were not a sufficient reason for a serious introspection, numerous accounts of foreigners have damned the Indian society even further. The story of a Chicago girl created ripples on the internet. Her journey in India left her shattered. Her experiences of Indian men are harrowing. While no one could truly know the extent of her suffering, her example is far from isolated. There are millions of women in India, who suffer the same fate every single day.

Unsurprisingly we all are engulfed by a climate of distrust, suspicion and anxiety. No woman can roam around alone without a lingering fear in her mind. No matter how well lit it is, every street remains dangerous. The presence of hungry wandering eyes makes crowded places ghastly. No girl can think of fully relying on a strange man even the in case of an acute emergency.  This situation is not a figment of imagination of a paranoid mind; it’s a despicable and disgusting reality of our society.

When one looks for reasons, one can find many. They cover a vast spectrum that consists of sociological and cultural aspects. A report on the Time World website states that crimes against women are related to the growing population of struggling youth, which lives without any prospects and hope, and which hence tries to assert its dominance over the people, and women in particular, who have it. The same report alludes to a class war and a reaction to rising population of successful women as well.  Some feel that increase in crimes stems from the conflict between traditional ethos and increasing modernization of the Indian society (Source). While poverty could be one of the reasons behind growing crimes against women, it is extremely unfair to pin the larger part of blame on it. The affluent part of the society has quite a few skeletons in its cupboard as well. Unlike what a few might think, poverty is not a state of mind, however depravity most certainly is. And it is the depravity that is a driving factor behind all of it.  Shuddhabrata Sengupta, in his article on Kafila.org, accurately remarks that rapes are motivated by the intention to humiliate a woman. It is a reaction of a patriarchal society that resents modern women.

While the academic research on rapes in India is scarce as compared to the western societies, one can find excuses in plenty.

Some of us blame it on the “evil influence” of the western culture, and conveniently choose to ignore the humongous amount of dirt that we have in our own backyard. Some blame it on Bollywood movies. Well, the entertainment industry in the world is not vastly different to the Indian cinema. Right from video games to the WWE, the general depiction of female characters is far from dignified. And more importantly they all create the content that sells. Its reflection on the taste of the audience is far more poignant than the product itself. Some of us blame it on short skirts, jeans and women’s attire in general. This is an atrocious excuse to begin with. If anything, it exposes the wafer thin moral resolve of our society. The thing is, for a hungry pair of eyes even the sight of female fingernails can seem very arousing. To twist the ancient wisdom of Plato, bait lies in the eyes of the pervert.

When we put all the pieces together, and look at the picture, the onus lays itself on Indian men. It has been reflected in the global perception of Indian men as well. We are not far from a day, when the first word the world would associate with Indian men would be “the rapist”. Being an Indian man myself, such a situation forces me to look around and more importantly to look within.

I know that just like every other guy, I appreciate it when a fine specimen of the fairer sex passes by. I try my best to remain dignified. However the effort in itself is an indictment, since the dignity should come naturally. It becomes even more dreadful in the current climate, as the conscience asks haunting questions.

Then I look around for more questions.

I see glances. Many of them are momentary and quite innocent. Then however I see glances turning into stares, and stares that seldom look directly into the eyes of a girl. In public places, I notice eyes similar to mine, but which are scavenging for something to satisfy their hunger.  They gaze, and those gazes that are backed by plastic souls, and are fueled by vulturous desires. They are intentional and intrusive. They resemble to a sharp dagger that can penetrate through the heart. I have seen the pack mentality, which encouraged an otherwise wobbly pair of legs to confront and corner girls.

On interpersonal level, I have seen people, who thought stalking and eve teasing was a legitimate way of wooing.  Aggression, abuse and coercion are also accepted practices for many. I see guys finding so called “signals”, where clearly there was none. In some circles, if a girl speaks to four boys, two of them fall for her. The third finds her openness quite inviting, and promptly spreads his insight. It leaves only one sane individual.

On such a backdrop, many instances and reactions explain themselves. The question, which I have heard many times “why these girls have to be so arrogant, and ignore us?” seems tragically hilarious.

Admittedly, such a population makes up for a small portion of the large sample pool. But its size is big enough in itself to make a strong soul nervous and anxious. And it is the very section that paints us all in the same stinky paint. We, as Indian men, are gradually being relegated to a horrible stereotype.

If these excuses point at anything, then it is the mirror.

We, the Indian men, are in a desperate need of a serious introspection. We ought to understand that our mindset is flawed in many ways. We have created a culture that encourages many of the aforementioned tendencies. Our concept of what it is to be a “macho man” is ludicrous. That concept has fostered a different form of misogyny, in which we don’t hate women but rather we want them. It is exactly in that “want” the problem lies. We have created a notion that it is obligatory to have a girlfriend. We have forgotten that relationships are not a matter of social compulsion, but it’s a personal choice, a beautiful one at that. This has led to the perception, where we look at girls as a trophy to boast of, as a conquest to be proud of, and the most demeaning of all, as a means of gratification. In all this mess, we ignore the simple fact that women are normal humans like most of us, but with just a few differences.

I admit that our behaviour is directed by instincts, some which are human and some of which are primal. However, trying to control those instincts is a big part of actually being a human. We  need to hold our eggshell conscience together, lest our delusions break it into pieces. And “I am just being a human” is a far more responsible response than the quintessential lameness of “I am just being a guy, bro”.

And mere introspection is not enough either. It should be accompanied by two traits, which have been buried under the numbness of our society for eons: acceptance and responsiveness.

No more should a victim be shunned. The stigma that we harbour in our minds, we have to get past of it. Their rights to life have to be respected and protected. Secondly, if something wrong is happening in front of our eyes, then instead of becoming a bystander we have to take stand. Most certainly times are changing, and so are we. There are citizen groups that are standing up for the protection of women. This is a very welcome intervention. Because, no matter how many institutions we set up, they will never be able to contain the beast without our actions. No matter how many candles we burn in protest, they can never vanquish the lurking shadows. If we change a little bit as individuals, and if we spread the word, the society will change a lot. It is something that someone like me, who chickens out at the very sight of conflicts, has to learn and imbibe too.

Anyway, like I said before, I have no right to preach, thus I will not. Introspection is a choice after all. There is no way to thump it on anyone.

Personally, I can do at the least one thing.

It is to keep my own mirror clean, and to take further baby steps towards becoming a responsible human being.

(This article was originally published on isaidit.org on October 1st, 2013)

of the Pulse

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