Friday, October 2, 2015

An orbituary for a victim of fascism

Running through a busy street
Chased by an armed mob
I was surrounded by a deafening silence.

I could have escaped the mob
But the silence got me.

Parvez Imam
October 2, 2015

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Veils We Carry

Another day, same routine
Preset tasks, preset time
Must groom, must clean
Masters must be pleased
In lieu of cash or kind…
To survive another day, another week
Or a month at the most
To earn the bread
And the roof above
To earn to groom
And continue
The daily battle with doom.

Walk into the chamber
Follow orders
Bend backwards, forwards
Lie prone or supine… or sit
…Whatever the master likes
Must continue to bid
Without a sigh
Lips contorted in a permanent smile.

Day ends
Home beckons
Lonely and broken
Or back to children
Or family or clan
Either way, to mend the wounds
Eat and feed and rest again.
And reaffirm belief in life…
And hopes… and dreams of justice too
To another day, ahead we look.

Isn’t it easy to prostitute
The body, life or your sparkling soul?
Morality – the delusional veil
That segregate and celebrates
Your holy grail
From my daily toil.

Parvez Imam
(Jan. 18, 2014)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Divisive politics and the notions of majority and minority

Fire in a slum in Delhi NCR, where the majority was a minority. Pic: Parvez Imam (2014)
It was a sad state of affairs - the political campaigns in India during the 2014 elections.  Every big player tried to outdo the other with street smart tricks, under the belt blows, lies and lures.  The election could have been a sign of a healthy democracy but unfortunately the antics of the major players focused on dividing people and playing to the hilt what we know as the ‘vote-bank politics’.

No denying that India is a land of diversity.  From geography to people to cultures, languages and even food, we are one of the most diverse countries on the planet.  Should this be our bane, boon or merely a slogan for some sort of book-of-records claim to fame?  The self-styled guardians of the land, the so called servants of the people (who actually turn masters the moment they get some power) see to it that people are continually pitched against each other.  Given our history it isn’t very difficult either.  Instilling fear against the ‘other’ is the easiest task in this country of billions.  A mere use of the words ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ gets more than half the job done in no time.  Not because these words are special, but because of the way they have been used repeatedly by those who play a divisive politics happily.  The partisan within us is trained to get triggered easily, even if we may never have faced any communal violence or discrimination ourselves.

We know that smooth talkers get by most things pretty easily.  Be it business, politics or anything else in life, inspite of umpteen popular sayings that warn us about people who sugar coat their words not only do we fall for them, we also try to learn their exploitative ‘art’ ourselves.  And why do we need to sweet talk?  Why did the social system place so many road blocks all around our lives when it is supposed to actually do the exact opposite?  Instead of challenging that and working together to remove these roadblocks we simply chose to sweet talk our way around them because it seems to be the easier thing.  Our focus shifts to ‘greasing the palms’ to extract ‘favors’ and keep going ourselves, ignoring the larger humanity. 

One may argue that we have imbibed this attitude out of our helplessness as individuals pitted against a monstrous system.  But can we ignore our selfish trait when it comes to doing things for others or for future generations?  We know well that in the present system we can only live well if some ‘others’ do not.  All the talk about patriotism and love for our country is either a jingoistic exercise of showcasing a farce or usually an abuse of these terms to suppress anything that may question a rotten system so that the status quo is maintained.

Now dig these definitions from oxford dictionary.  ‘Majority: The greater number.’  ‘Minority: The smaller number or part, especially a number or part representing less than half of the whole.’  It is only by a crooked and wile logic that we agree to apply these words to people and imagine ourselves as clumps of sorts to get an image of a larger (and hence more worthy) and a smaller (hence less worthy) individuals.  What an amazing way to reduce real, living people into a simple binary or worthiness.  The blindness that follows this game stops us from seeing humans - people in whose veins and arteries blood runs and who go through all sorts of emotions and struggles every day, the same as you and me.  Thus, we disengage ourselves emotionally from the 'other' group – an epic segregation of people from people – and willingly reduce ourselves to a mere number. 

If this is not the biggest crime against humanity, then what else should be?  What logic (but for a petty one) makes us believe that a group of people with a bigger number value has a right to suppress another with a smaller number value?  That is how we ourselves have become willing perpetrators of inequality.

Will we ever give equality a chance?  Can we re-learn to look at people as people - each as precious as the other and not as majority and minority or vote banks of caste, religions etc. etc.?  If yes, we may ignite a new flame where diversity can become our strength and the base for multiple dimensions of cultural explorations, assimilation and knowledge.  If not, it shall remain the unreasonable reason to hate another, as it is.  The choice is entirely ours.

Parvez Imam
(Unedited version.  Initially published in the Financial Chronicle, April 24, 2014) 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Outside a government office

Learning to wait
Learning to accept
To wait for the powers
To show their benevolence
And find time
To look into petty matters
Of the commoners –
People who don’t matter
To those who sit in high places
To serve the people

Parvez Imam
Nov. 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Game of Death - II

Setting sun rises again!
Do you want to see me trembling with fear
Naked, cold and hungry
Crying, huddled in a corner?
What else is this hunger for war? 
To hurt, defeat and kill
That devours us… forever?

Let’s strip to the skin
And stand naked
At least some layers less of the burden.
Why hide the hatred, the hurt, the anger
Beneath colorful fabrics
And choke with pretense?

Come, let's play the game of death
Let's get our arsenals out for once
Let’s bare it all - the love and hate.
So you can tear me apart with yours.
And I can blast you with my hurt.

And maybe, when we are done with that
We will look each other in the eye -
Without the fear, anger or hate -
In the stillness of our sighs.
And then we’ll sing a silent song
Of death, of hurt, of senselessness
Of immense pain, from years suppressed.
And somewhere, maybe, in the twain
We will then come to a refrain
A shriek, that will forever break
The cry of war
And the game of death.

(All rights reserved.)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

He Saves The World - 2

The other planet and the being repair shops

Far away in another galaxy hangs a planet occupied by a crazy race (‘race’ because they are always racing against each other).  Their survival depends on ‘greed’ - the life force, something like our sun.  Their power and status comes from the amount of ‘greed’ they can inhale and snatch from others.  The more ‘greed’ one has, the more control on the system one gets.  That makes the ‘greed-y wannabes’ and the ‘greed have-nots’ the subjugated, lesser beings who must work under the greed-rich and also stay at a distant from greed through the morality idea passed down by the saints and high priests who live and preach in these specially designed, awe inspiring, peaceful structures.

The only greed-free places on that planet are the ‘repair-shops’ (somewhat like our hospitals).  This is where the beings are sent when they breakdown either because of the greed of others (somewhat like malnutrition) or because of excessive greed that they can’t digest (something like overeating or food poisoning).  Until recently, the master repairers (kind of doctors) were a respected and trusted lot by all beings because they worked hard to repair the beings before sending them back into the system - the lesser ones to work and the better ones to continue to rule.  The repair shops are kept highly sanitized by a ‘morality spray’ that deactivates the greedvirus and prevents it from causing corruption.  Both, the greed filled and the greed wannabe beings, ensure that the repair shop system works smoothly so they can have an ample supply of fit workers.  The have-nots anyway have neither the means nor any say that can influence any change.

One day however the greedvirus gets force-mutated to resist the morality spray and infects a repair master who is working on a being with a very high quotient of greed.  This being requires an urgent organ transplant but there are no donors.  The infected repair master, under the influence of the greed virus infection, steals the organ from a have-not in the general ward of the repair shop and installs it into the greed-rich being.  The ensuing rewards satisfy the deadly greedy-itch that the virus triggers in any infected soul.  Ever since, the repairer continues to find his release in stealing organs and passing them to the haves to ease his itch.  By the time the press gets the wind, years have passed.  The repairer has turned into a powerful, evil villain supported by the greed-rich beings at the highest echelons of power and politics.  Some have-nots are scared of repair shops while some are still ignorant.  A few good Samaritans (there are always a few of those on  every planet) file police complaints, hold protests and even try to argue on the greed-e TV channels, but nothing works.  Most of the important (read greed-rich) beings are working for ‘development’ (a very important word on that planet) and have no time to waste on the have-nots.
The laboratory of organs
At this point our hero walks in – a street smart, dance heavy, macho man who likes this cutie-pie girl from another slum, whose father is one of the victims of the organ stealing racket.  Now this girl does some sleazy cabaret stuff at a local bar but she is a pious soul who prays to god everyday.  She has taken to cabaret because she wants to extract revenge from the cruel repairer who still visits this gaudy bar.  The hero is anyway born with a mission to kill one evil villain and save the planet so that development (whatever that means) can take place while the have-nots continue to remain as they were so that the haves inch ahead or atleast remain the same.

And we inch towards the climax when the girl begins to dance seductively around the villain with two knives in her hands but doesn’t stab him.  The hero meanwhile enters the repair shop, ofcourse after killing a few guards and discovers all kinds of organs pickled in jars waiting for rich recipients.  He orders his friends (they have been there since the beginning and provide some funny moments of stupidity and comraderie) to deliver the organs back to their original owners and even stitch them back.  Then he heads to the farmhouse where the villain is about to force himself upon the girl while she begs him to spare her for god’s sake.  That is when the hero lands in like batman through the glass window.  A fight ensues where the villain almost kills the hero after about fifteen minutes of kicking and fighting.  The victorious villain lets out an evil laugh and throws the girl on the bed.  This is when the hero comes back to life again.  Barely able to open his eyes and stand properly he manages to pull out the spear from the life size idol of god and nails the villain with it.  The police enters in full force with guns and arrests the dead villain.  The girl kisses the hero.  Everything is sorted and life continues as it was.

Text and Pics - Parvez Imam  (Copyright 2014) 
(Un-edited version of the article published in my column in Financial Chronicle on 17th  Oct, 2014)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

He saves the world - 1

It is a highly convoluted world
It begins with an existence in a highly convoluted world.  Infact it is quite corrupt, discriminatory, fascist, bigot and much more.  Thank god it is nothing serious.  The social structure rests primarily on creating insecurities while talking about security.  Some say it is because of greed.  An inbuilt discriminatory mechanism ensures that only a few benefit from the system and then become the representatives who keep suggesting that all is well.  They aren't lying - all is surely well for them.  Their children aren't starving in a slum.  The upper caste people haven’t taken over their land and pushed them into subjugation unlike some nondescript lower status people.  By the powers vested in them by the system, these beneficiaries also control and dominate spaces where concerns can be voiced.  They have serious concerns about the rising costs of fancy cars, fashion statement, hoi-polio events etc. etc.  Beside that the good people also drench themselves in ice cold water and apparently that somehow helps the lesser people.  Doesn't matter if a huge population has neither electricity nor a fridge that runs on it nor even plain water to drink.

It’s a very sensitive world.  Thousands die of hunger every moment.  The good people hold music concerts to raise awareness and funds (most of which go into staff salaries and half payments to the benevolent artists).  By the way, this is just a film script about a faraway planet ruled by a cruel species of blood sucking aliens.  It has nothing to do with you and me.

Among the rest of the population, some feel too small to understand it all.  Others focus on career and growth, even if that means joining the wheel of discrimination and stepping on another in a race towards another race.  A few mavericks try to take on the system and fail miserably.  They are crushed, confined and punished.  If their thoughts continue to persist, the system turns them into religions, heroes, saints etc. etc.  If it reminds you of Jesus, the man who stood up against a cruel system of his times or Socrates or maybe Galileo or thousands of others through the centuries, it is purely coincidental.  And this is where the quintessential popcorn and cola break comes.

The second part begins with our hero promptly taking off his shirt to display a much advertised x-pack abdomen while the heroin displays her cleavage.  The cleavage immediately offends some of us.  Maybe we should only cast flat breasted women, or even better, force all women to have breast castration.  Then even women will be allowed to bare their chest, like our heroes.  It may become the next big fashion statement and solve all the issues on the planet.  Coming back to the script, our hero learns that the heroin’s father is not only the killer of his father but is also plotting to wipe out two noble souls on the planet - the PM and the CM.  He immediately shares the truth with the heroin.  She breaks down, locks herself in her room and cries on her velvety pink bed.  The hero meanwhile starts destroying all the Casinos and Godowns (filled with drugs) owned by the villain.  The PM and the CM, are about to make a public appearance on an open stage.  The villain has planted dynamites beneath the stage and kidnaps his daughter - the heroin (who turns out to be someone else’s daughter now) - to blackmail the hero into blowing the dynamites to kill the PM and the CM.  For a hero with a loaded pack of abdominal muscles, nothing is a problem.  After a barehanded fight through an army of men guarding the villain, he finally kills all the bad people, including the villain, and releases the girl.  After a long kiss, he rushes to save the very nice, honest and people loving PM and CM and pushes them off stage just as the explosions take place and cars toss up on flames.  Thus He saves the world and everyone.  The heroin comes running to kiss him again.  All is well.

(Un-edited version of the article published in my column in Financial Chronicle on Oct. 10, 2014)
Text and Photographs: Parvez Imam (Copyright-2014)