Posted by: Neeraj | December 2, 2009

The family – Part 2

In today’s India, families are passing through a lot of stress. An aspirational  set of 3-4 people, with varying interests, try to co-exist, and as soon as the young ones get a chance they move away. India is witnessing what the Americas and the Europes of the world witnessed 40-50 years ago – a naked desire to experience freedom.

So, for the next few decades families will continue to disintegrate. Children will move away to far-away shores, coming together only at festivals or reunions. Living alone will be the norm, with an occasional brush here and there. Finding a partner for life would become more difficult and less necessary as people gain financial independence. A large percentage will choose singlehood over troubled togetherness. An increased number of people will not marry and will pass through prolonged phases of stress and loneliness, with no sibling, no friend, present by the side to share the pain.

And, after experiencing all this, the generation that will take birth would know that a partner would never be the easiest thing to find. They will shun the loneliness and the tag of ‘an abnormal backpack’ to go back to their parents and live with them, just to savour the love that togetherness brings.  A whole lifetime wasted just to getting back to doing what the current generation wants to stop doing.

Posted by: Neeraj | November 15, 2009

The family

Over the years the word family has been redefined a few times. Earlier it was a collection of families living together as one under a common roof, with the great grandfather or the grandfather (read the oldest surviving male member) at the helm and the father, the uncles, the aunts, and their progenies together formed one large elastic joint structure which absorbed all the shocks an intertwined structure threw at them. 

With time, along with the aspirations the price of land began to increase and combined with intercity migration the imminent collapse of the large joint family happened. So, what survived was a smaller scale unit of father-mother-offsprings who stuck together as one small joint family with the father typically ruling even with other adult male members in the house.

In today’s world even the small joint family is disintegrating. The arrival of studios (small one room apartments announcing the winds of change) have again redefined the word. Now, it is one small unit with only young, unmarried progenies living together as one. These progenies too are like birds of flight, waiting to move out as soon as their first career move signifying freedom happens.

I am a firm believer that with all the socio-economic changes that are happening, over the years the most chances of the type of family system surviving are those of the small joint family.

Will continue the second part of this piece soon..

Posted by: Neeraj | November 15, 2009

Why the twain shall never meet?

There is this thing called the generation gap which has been talked of so often with the people on each side of the twain failing to understand the other’s view point. I am afraid that with time this gap will increase, at least, between the next couple of generations. I say this because we still need to do a lot of catching up with the West and most of that will happen over the next 20 years. One of the main reasons is that with technological advancement, the water that flows under the bridge has become faster and the gap between the two generations increasingly wider.  Let me try and explain with a few examples.

The major reasons for a difference in opinion between my small town grandfather and a big ambitioned father could have been moving to a bigger city with better work opportunities, though both of them would have in principle agreed to the concept of marriage, children, staying together and forever in a large joint family. Both of them would have respected their elders and treated themselves as the king of the house, and agreed to the tradition of not paying so much attention to their wives and kids and always acquiescing with their elders. Since both lived in an economy that did not provide both understood the concept of frugality and would have scoffed at the idea of wasteful spending. Then, religion and politics would have been something they would have indulged in throughout their lives considering them to be an important ingredient for a fulfilling life.

Then came my generation. With the opening of the economy came disposable income and the freedom to give life to our dreams. So we began to differ more vocally with the older generation. The concept of neutral family and an independent house began to gain weight. With money came the influence of money and the need to possess more of it. So, the women of the house began to venture out and enjoy their new found freedom. Television by now had become an important part of each household.  What our generations passively witnessed and never realised was the impact that would be made by the advent of the computer, the internet, email, IMs, the cable tv and the mobile phone. And while we were busy enjoying the fruits of a new India order we happily copulated and produced the new, more advanced mutant of the species called humans.

The new generation is technically far superior and work intuitively with technology, not afraid if they see a new gadget everyday. In fact they thrive on new things, be it the latest version of Windows , Google chrome, a vanity url on FB, reading news online, sitting all the time on their computers. With technological advancement they  know so much more at their age than we did at ours and the pace at which they gobble anything new makes the already big gap, bigger. This new mutant is more assertive, more knowledgeable, sexually liberated, has an opinion on almost everything, feel an AC, a computer, an internet connection and a mobile as accessories indispensible for living. They have an entirely different interpretation of the traditional definition of the words respect, elders, family and independence. They are a socially more responsible, non-infringing  people who believe in the mantra of living their own life without interference and advise.  Above all, they have the confidence to take on anyone in the world which the older, docile, diffident,  hierarchy-respecting generation never had. And the biggest difference is in these new skills/ attitude that we still struggle to acquire and the inherent ease and spontaneity with which the newer generation wears them.

Posted by: Neeraj | November 8, 2009

A storyteller is hidden inside all of us

A friend once told me that there is one good story hidden inside everyone. I am not surprised with this observation. All of us lead a life which has one or the other thing which is unique to us as an individual, as a community or as a nation. Someone is a brilliant achiever, someone else is the perpetual king of pain who courts tragedy all the time. There are many who have lived forever stricken with poverty. I know people whose life took a complete U-turn after they unexpectedly lost their young and healthy near and dear ones.

Life is so unpredictable because nobody knows God’s next move. This is what makes it all the more interesting for the people living it. Some of God’s moves are for our immediate good and some drive us to despair. Add to the backdrop the different characters who play out his drama, some strong-others weak, some altruists-others masochists, some patient-others loud, some stoic-others extremely passionate, and the way they choose to react to the same situation differently, the means at their disposal to face it, their demographical location and we will find ourselves surrounded by hundreds of stories, each as unique or interesting as our own. I chose demography because a Buzkashi (a game played with a headless goat with players on horses) is not as much of a story in Afghanistan as it is in India or in the West. A girl in jeans will not invite as much curiosity in India as it will make heads turn in Afghanistan meaning what is routine and monotonous for one may be fodder for a great story for someone else.

And, since all stories are unique for someone they should be told. Doesn’t matter if the teller is a city aristocrat or a desert girl who travels miles to fetch water for her family. Because all stories have a message, a message, which if read in the right spirit, will hopefully make us a better human being.

Posted by: Neeraj | November 5, 2009

The Book

I had that perpetual itch to write. It’s that kind of a thing which has the capability to destroy. I thought it (the itch) was under control till I dabbled with bits and pieces of insignificant nothings. Madness began when I decided to do the unthinkable. I began to write a book, in fact  ‘The Book’.

First of all, writing ‘The Book’ takes a lot out of you. It is a job not for the cowardly. And I, do not consider myself a ‘Braveheart’ by any means. It initially is not but, after a while it becomes a one way street because the only thing that you consider doing is going on till you finish ‘The Book’. That thing called passion will not let you have it any other way. Somewhere along the way you realise that you are no more writing anything even vaguely close to what you set out to initially and that you have changed the course of ‘The Book’ entirely. You feel completely lost but still continue. It’s like swimming in the middle of the sea when you just can’t afford to quit.

So, you carry on, keeping awake at odd hours. eating into whatever little time you have with family, not sure whether what you are writing is really worth all the pain but still giving it that final push that takes ‘The Book’ past that finishing line. Tired but elated, you feel the world is now at your feet. Sadly, no. Just after you finish ‘The Book’ reality dawns that what you considered the end was just the beginning.

The entire process of writing changes your personality entirely. You are considered a Nerd and your social value nosedives. What else do you expect if you resist invites to parties, miss New Year eves and knot your brows when someone visits your home uninvited on a weekend? Add to that your new found desire to get published and the Publisher’s stubbornness in reading a new writer’s book and you almost look like the spruced-up-  photoshopped-image of a madman. But, since you have taken the plunge and without knowing have slowly converted to a ‘Braveheart’, you refuse to quit. That is almost the time when you turn back to God and become his subservient servant, silently asking him for help and conveniently forgetting that you had not let him enter your heart since the time you were born.

The end was happy for me (because surprisingly Rupa decided to publish my book) and I wish it would be so for all the other aspiring writers, never mind the pun in what I have written above. There are examples of exemplary success everywhere. So, whenever you feel down and out just look up to them for inspiration because let’s not forget – they were one of us till some time ago and we shall be one of them in the not so distant future. So don’t give up and go for it. If Rabindra Nath Tagore could do it with only a pen that wrote a few lines (till it had to be dipped in that pot again) and without Microsoft Word, you can do it too. A few good omens are already on your side without your knowing it.

Posted by: Neeraj | August 29, 2009

Once ubiquitous!

The last century could be termed as the most exciting in terms of the development that had happened throughout the world, the most prominent ones being the aero plane (which killed distances), the telephone (which brought people together), the television (which brought entertainment to our homes), the computer (which propelled innovation), the internet (which connected not only computers but ideas worldwide) and the mobile phone (which revolutionised not only communication but poor people’s lives).

But this piece is not on what we were able to achieve through persistence, innovation and genius but how those achievements have almost furtively changed the way we live our lives, directly or indirectly and made some things which were an important part of our childhood disappear from our lives, namely:

The tin school bag: A symbol of my first introduction to school which I carried with so much pride. It made me love the sunshine which bounced off its shiny surface and squinted my eyes.

The black and white TV and Doordarshan: An important part of my early days, both have become extinct for me as a species. Once upon a time they were my only means of entertainment when I came back home after playing. The solid state picture tube which took an eternity to pop the picture up (the process was called warming up) and the staple diet of one film and one song program per week are both a part of my familylore.

The Kulfiwallah:  The loud resonant voice which announced the arrival of the kulfiwallah and made me run out of the house bare-feet with a twenty five paisa coin (extinct too) for a small kulfi died more than ten years ago. Now he can be sporadically found, in a renewed slightly corporatized avatar in the mall (a promotion or a demotion?).

The landline phone/The STD Booth: Both are dying very fast.  I use the landline phone only for answering unsolicited calls aimed at selling me a product I do not want to buy. I fear the worst and feel it will lose even the ornamental value that it carries in our house once the baton of running the house passes to the next generation.

The other endangered species on the verge of extinction are:

- The writing pad
- The wrist watch /the alarm clock
- The CRT monitor 
- The pen
- The playground

The sad part is that all of them made had a role to play in what I am today and I have stopped missing them already, not even caring to remember them on their anniversaries – the day when they entered my life.

* There would be many more things which could figure in this list but I put the only ones that I can recall easily. See, I suffer a memory loss even when I try to remember the other things that were at one time so very important for me.

Posted by: Neeraj | August 16, 2009

Why are recessions not good for us?

A recession is a general slowdown in economic activity over a sustained period of time – that’s what Wiki says. A prolonged recession does not augur well for us. Understood, that it breaks people down who lose jobs or whose expenditure is always greater than their income or who incur huge business losses which are difficult to recoup. But why do the ones whose life is not so drastically impacted suffer too. Let us analyse why:

Recessions take away our freedom to do

Recessions force us to change the way we live our lives, taking away from us the freedom of making a choice. Even when we don’t need it we still need that comforting thought that we have that freedom to do whatever we want. And when that freedom to do is taken away we rile.

Recessions impact us psychologically

We need change constantly.  A lot of that change is affected by our buying power. A recession strips us of that power and makes us defer our decisions to buy indefinitely – so we delay a decision to buy a house, we stop buying clothes, a car or a mobile. They also don’t let us go out on a vacation and stifle us into sitting at homes. They make us forego that change that we need constantly in our lives to perk us up. Add to this the uncertainty of not knowing the end date of the troubling phase and we begin to feel extremely insecure.

The result

This constant feeling of insecurity and helplessness which when faced everyday starts to break us down. The symptoms could be minor irritations, leading to increased phases of unhappiness and then depressions.

What we should do to tide over?

Apart from cutting down on the unnecessary expenses we should remember the simple principle of hanging on as this is just a passing phase in our life which is cyclical and will pass just like everything else does. In fact, we should take it as a lesson to be better and stronger for the next recessionary phase as and when it comes. And also we should not forget to add recession to our daily prayer asking God not to let the next one be as long because one thing is for sure – just like all natural calamities, recessions too will inevitably strike again and again and the people who will suffer the most would be the ones who are least prepared to handle them.

Posted by: Neeraj | January 13, 2009

The Resolution

Its been a long hiatus. Hope it has done me some good and I am able to write better (read readable) blogs. While I had been away, I was pushed hard by my friends (and push came to shove and shove to pester – never heard of it?). One of them even had the gumption of comparing a writer to a cricketer and insinuating that as cricketers practice daily so should I begin to write daily too. My good friend does not realize that we writers may suffer from a tennis elbow too and need to recuperate.

Read More…

Posted by: Neeraj | November 9, 2008

The Pilgrimage

I regularly go out on a pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi – once a year at least and at the most. It absolves me of my sins and my conscience of the ever nagging thought that I don’t remember Him too often. I always try to choose the time of the year very carefully so as to avoid any mad rush on the way. Read More…

Posted by: Neeraj | October 18, 2008

The experience

Being adventurous is at most times a virtue but sometimes it can lead you to trouble. The adventurous are sucked in by the charm of the unknowing, succumbing to that wanton lust of exploring beneath the surface and beyond the obvious. The problem is that you fail to realize when you have scratched more than needed and discover places that need not be discovered in the first place.

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