December 24, 2010

The sorry affairs of our states

Over the last couple of months, I’ve often thought if India was a woman; she’d be Dhrupati being stripped to reveal all shame before a full court. Enough has happened in the last few months to keep facebook status updates, twitter feeds and blogspot posts busier than Paris Hilton on her 21st birthday (what with all the globe trotting parties and all). 
Through it all, I’ve steered clear of all commentary and debate. Not because its none of my business, some of it is everyone’s business. Not because I’m not listening in, though like everyone (with the exception of our tax department) not as much as I should. 

The truth is most of these issues are multi layered and complicated and if recent events have taught me anything - it is that most news, by the time it reaches us is a collection of generated lies or deliberate omissions. 

Being as I am, a firm believer in the idea that if you cannot make a difference or do not really know, you should just shut it (that's a joke, yes it is). Anyway, I’m usually the first set of shoulders to shrug and say, “Man, this is India...” 
The trial of Dr. Binayak Sen is not a complicated issue though and it’s an impossible one to ignore. One may even call it a giant farce, being played out right before our eyes. Still if law school taught me in anything in the three years that I pretended to attend, it is the joy of an impartial inquiry. 
Now, I’ve followed this story for a while. After all, it is, according to me, the most prominent source of embarrassment in a long list of embarrassments that the Indian judicial system is currently faced with. So, let us not beat about the bush because time has run out for the doctor who was given a life sentence today.
The story of Dr. Sen’s fight does not begin on May 14, 2007 when he was arrested. It starts in 2005 where Narayan Sanyal (one of the named co-conspirators) disappeared and his family approached the People's Union for Civil Liberties for help. Upon a habeas corpus by the family, it was admitted by the police that Mr. Sanyal was arrested. His brother begins to visit the well-known doctor/ civil rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen in search of help. 

Over the next two years, Dr. Sen does indeed have visits with Mr. Sanyal and even helps facilitate medical treatment of him while he is in prison. 

Then in 31st of March 2007, when several tribals were killed by police forces who claimed they were Maoist insurgents. Eye witness complaints caused the Human Rights Commission to look into the story and in May 2007, several of the bodies were exhumed for autopsies and suffice to say what was revealed was not for the faint hearted. 

Dr. Sen’s report on the matter highlighted that these people were not violent Naxalites as suspected but innocent tribals. Government officials admitted that some policemen had indeed ‘crossed the line’ but no attempts were made to arrest the said officers. 
Lo and Behold! a few days later, Dr. Sen was arrested and detained under the provisions of section 124 IPC (sedition), 120 B IPC (conspiracy) and Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act. It’s important to note that at the time, his arrest by the Chhattisgarh police was voluntarily and there was no attempt on his part to abscond despite knowing about his possible detention.  

While the government alleged that Dr. Sen was acting as a courier between Maoist commanders and was a Maoist sympathizer, as late as a month after the arrest, no charge sheet had been filed. Also, despite proving by his conduct at the time of arrest, that he is not a flight risk detainee, Dr Sen was denied bail and remained in custody. 
When a charge sheet was finally filed, it listed 83 witnesses for deposition by the prosecution. During the Raipur Sessions court trial of Dr. Sen, which only began in April 2008, the prosecution dropped 16 of these people on their own accord and declared 6 as hostile witnesses. In a letter written by the Hon’ble former SC Justice Krishna Iyer to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in April 2009, the Hon’ble SC Justice expressed the view (shared by most of the world) that depositions of the remaining 61 witnesses did not corroborate any of the accusations against Dr. Sen. 
Despite repeated appeals from every corner of the world and literally every great mind on our planet, Dr. Sen was not granted bail till 2009 when the Supreme Court allowed his application due to his ailing health. 
At the time of his arrest, his house was raided and searched. A list was made of the documents found. These documents were meant to prove that he was acting as a courier between the Naxalites and various other persons. These documents were signed by the Investigating Officer, Dr. Sen and two search witnesses and then sealed as evidence. 
The prosecution has chosen to rely on various types of documents found in Dr. Sen’s possession including but not limited to Maoist literature and postcards which address Dr. Sen as ‘comrade’. I have endless copies of ‘V for Vendetta’ in my possession. The graphic novel form, movie, the dvd and of course, the .avi on my computer. I really hope the government does not come in and arrest me for owning seditious literature! As for the postcards, what does one call using that as evidence, but McCarthyism? 
Another important piece of prosecution evidence is a letter claimed to be found in Dr. Sen’s residence during the original search. The letter, which is not hand written and does not boast an author’s signature, is said to be a note of thanks to Dr. Sen for his work and an appeal to have police atrocities in the area investigated. According to the prosecution, the letter proves an ongoing dialogue between Dr. Sen and the Maoists leaders (apparently only Maoists own type-writers) 
Firstly, a dialogue implies reciprocity. No one has ever witnessed or provided first hand knowledge of any response given by Dr. Sen to the said letter or any other such contact made by the Maoists 
But more interestingly, when the said letter was produced before the court for the very first time in June 2008, it was creaseless and the paper looked almost new. This letter is meant to be at least two years old. Whether what I’m about to say is relevant is up for interpretation but; I have a credit card bill that’s a week old and the paper has all kinds of folds, is yellowing and tearing at the edges. 
Further, the letter was not recorded in the list of documents as signed at the time of the arrest. In fact, the letter is not signed by Dr. Sen at all, though every other document (including the ‘super incriminating’ postcards and literature) are. 
Let us for a moment take the prosecution’s case at its best and believe that they did in fact forget to enter into the record, this particular piece of evidence, on which they now rely so heavily. But why, when everything that was sealed at that time of the arrest was signed by all the witnesses and Dr. Sen, isn’t this letter also similarly attested? How is it that the Investigating Officer managed to find it and sign it, but failed to obtain Dr. Sen’s signature?
It’s a bitter pill to swallow to say the least, but lets assume all of the above was an oversight and despite its susceptible origins, we should take this letter on record as admissible evidence because it might really be that incriminating and crucial to the government’s case against Dr. Sen. 
I have not seen this letter and what I do know about it, I’ve recorded above. So based on just that much, I have to say - He is a doctor who has been working  to improve health conditions in one of the most poorest regions of India, it would be near criminal to not thank him. As for an appeal for the probe, it is every citizen’s right to probe into their government’s activities in and around their homes. This should be reinforced doubly so, and not discouraged, in areas where there is near martial rule. 
It is no secret that enforcement of any kind can be brutal. Not too long ago, we witnessed through videos from the Afghanistan war, the Iraq war, just how senselessly heinous men can be, during war time. Not more than a few days ago, four people were killed in another part of our country by SSB jawans who opened fire on a mob of people protesting a jawan’s conduct with a woman in the village. 
It’d be a sorry state of affairs for Indian democracy when a man can be sent to prison for being asked to ensure that those entrusted to govern us are doing so correctly and not with an iron fist (or in this case loaded shot guns). 
I’m not the first to say this, but please let me say it anyway; Even if he was physically going into the Jungle camps of the Naxalites and providing them with free medical treatment and treating their gun shot wounds inflicting during action, he did nothing wrong

He is a doctor and he is doing his job. If more people did their jobs, instead of passing on the buck or putting in their two cents where they have no business to do so, the world would really be a better place. Do your jobs and don't shun or alienate the few, who are doing theirs properly. It could really be that simple a solution; Believe it people. 
As for the co-conspirators. Mr. Piyush Guha, one of the named co-conspirators, was arrested a week prior to Dr. Sen and ten items were recovered from his person including three incriminating letters. 

Oddly enough the items found on him were not mentioned on his arrest memo and the seizure memo records only 3 items out of those ten. In court, Mr. Guha could not agree with his detainers on when the arrest took place, stating that it was on May 1 not May 5 as recorded in the already dubious arrest memo.

Still, we know the police did not fabricate anything because all this took place before an eye witness Mr. A K Singh who incidentally also heard Mr. Guha break down and confess his crimes on the spot. Only the police and Mr. Singh cannot decide between themselves where this arrest took place.
The signed affidavit by the arresting officer at that time states that the arrest took place in Mahendra Hotel. Mr. A.K. Singh’s testimony before the Court stated that the arrest took place on station road and not the hotel. Now witnesses are liable to forget small details by the time the cases get to trial, but does anyone really ever forget where they were, when they saw a man get arrested and allegedly break down and confess? 
The prosecution further produced hotel employees to prove their case of conspiracy. The witnesses were meant to depose that Dr. Sen met with Mr. Guha on a regular basis within the premises of the hotel. At trial, both hotel employees were declared hostile witnesses by the prosecution. 
Mr. Narayan Sanyal, the other named co-conspirator is a Naxal ideologue who has been imprisoned since 2005. The prosecution’s case here is that Dr. Sen visited Mr. Narayan Sanyal during his detention , over 33 times in a span of a couple of months. 

These 33 visits they are referring to, were sanctioned by the jailors and government personnel, applied for on the letterhead of the People Union for Civil Liberties and supervised by the jailors on duty at all times. These above facts were corroborated by the prosecution witnesses i.e. the jailors who supervised the visits. So what are we to decide: A doctor visiting a man for whom he is facilitating medical care must have ulterior motives? 
The witnesses could not cite a single instance when document was exchanged between Dr. Sen and Mr. Sanyal and it is on record that the conversations were in Hindi, even though both persons are well versed in Bengali and English and, the guards were not. I have to say, perhaps because I’ve lived with (sorry guys) Spaniards, Israelis and South Indians, that was pretty polite of them.
Conspiracy by its very nature, is a hard act to prove, but it is not impossible feat to do so. Nixon was a paranoid president and still, there was more proof of the Watergate conspiracies than there are of the one Dr. Sen is charged with. 
Then again, I suppose if we can say that the CIA had something to do with Kennedy’s assassination because Lee Harvey Oswald was a former U.S. Marine, it can also be said that a doctor who helps provide healthcare to the poorest of the poor, must be involved in the terrorist activities of a certain group within these people. Is that how it’s meant to work between citizens and governments? It’s tit for tat time now? 
As for what little the prosecution has managed to produce, one doesn’t need to be a legal pandit to take note that most of the evidence against Dr. Sen is circumstantial and you know what, that’s fine too. The law allows for convictions based on circumstantial evidence, IF there can be no other reasonable explanation to these circumstances. Call my glasses rose coloured, but all I see is a good man who cares passionately for his profession and is going through hell because of it. 
We are not talking about a man who has shown any inclination towards violence, nor does Dr. Sen appear to be a man with any great political ambition. This is a man who graduated as one of the top ranking students in his class at the Christian Medical School and after his post graduation rejecting offers from top notch medical institutions, began working with the poor communities in Madhya Pradesh fighting tuberculosis. 
But Dr. Sen and his wife have time and again expressed the view that health care by its very nature is political. They believe that in a politically unstable environment, any medical activity, from training a health professional to providing health care, can take on revolutionary form. 
In other words, they believe that medical professionals can make a big difference during times of martial instability.  Let us ignore the historic proof of that: we will not even mention the story of doctor turned revolutionary Che Guevara. However, after the US and the globe has only recently been entrenched  in a brutal, near government crippling debate on the health care system, is there anyone left who is naive enough to refute their view that health care has a political aspect? 
Looking at what little I do know, which I’ve recorded above, it's needless to say I think  the Raipur sessions court that has judged that Dr. Sen is guilty of sedition and waging war against his country has either judged incorrectly or has done so at the behest of the powers that be. 
Making matters murkier, the order has been delivered right at the time when the appellate courts are on vacation, thus delaying the process of appeals that will and must rightly follow such a move by the lower courts. 
On an international front, with this particular order, the court has ensured that the world will never see India as the same beautiful country that Mother Teresa fell in love with or the great democratic nation that Mahatma Gandhi (incidentally another professional held for sedition and conspiracy by the then British government) once envisioned. 
No, now we are not so far removed from our neighboring countries. One of whom just had a citizen win the Nobel Peace Prize for the very first time. It was also the first time that a Nobel prize winner was entirely unrepresented at the ceremony. Why? because this country whose just received this vicarious honor is also the same one jailing its very same citizen for sedition and conspiracy against the state. 
The incarceration of Dr. Sen is not the first of its kind or even one of a kind. Sadly, it probably won’t be the last such incidental use of the government’s powers to squash those who chose to speak their minds. 
In such cases, to stop my blood from boiling right over, I try to imagine our government as a  little child who lashes out at its overindulging parents when they try and offer constructive criticism. Since every citizen is parent to his or her democratic nation, its pretty much up to us to take a stand. Much like that spoilt brat, if we continue to allow this to happen, our society can only turn out rotten and shallow. 

December 18, 2010

Plain Janes

Most of you won't laugh out loud, so I probably shouldn't admit that I was trying to write a comic verse. Anyone read 'The art of seduction'? It's quite a depressing book, more so because it's indecently insightful.

In today's world,
where everyone's looking for a mate;
if you're an average, ordinary girl,
it's near impossible to get a date!

The saints are looking to save,
a sinner or two;
Whom they'll teach to behave
as according to the world view.

The rakes seek sirens
so that they may blindly worship.
Followers will flock to tyrants;
so if you're not an extreme, your love life may seem a tab glib.

The charismatics end up with the meek,
The child finds someone who cares,
Stars get whoever they seek,
and poor goldilocks is driven to shacking up with bears.

so what about plain you,
being, as ordinary as can be,
no one sees, because there's no credit due
for those who don't participate in the insanity

you may have heard me before, and I'll say it again
Serial killers find love easier than, your typical Plain Jane.

December 07, 2010

On people

I read a card the other day that said 'Sooner or later, everyone hurts you and that it is up to you to decide whose worth the pain'

The problem with this brand of Hallmark advice is that it is trying to reach out to such a large audience, that it forgets to be specific and ends up being vague and therefore, unhelpful. There's probably another card jumping to its rescue right about now saying, 'Well, hey its better to try  and fail rather than to never try at all.'

Without any criterion specified, how do we decide whose worth it? How do we decide who is our friend or predict which one of them will eventually hurt us? And how does one calculate if a person adds more value than they do, pain, in one's life?

When you're younger, these decisions are easy. In nursery school, you are friends with the first person who shares their goodies with you. In high school, your friend is the first person who smiles kindly your way. In university, it tends to be the person who likes the party in the same way as you do.

Then you cease to be young. I did not add 'one day' to the beginning of that sentence because that is like saying 'once upon a time'. There are no fairy tales, this is one of the things you learn in the painstaking process that is adulthood.

During this process, the same kid who shared his chocolates with you in kindergarten may have grown up with a desire to share more than you are willing. Is he still a friend, even if he no longer wants to be just so? The girl who smiled at you sweetly in school now tries her best to frown you down at every turn. Is she still a friend, even if she is not behaving like one at this time? If along the way, an enemy accidentally does you a good turn, is he your accidental friend?

Perhaps the easiest thing to do, would be to look at intentions. Then again, so many good intentions translate into ineffectual actions, one has to wonder if this system of rewarding intentions rather than results is really working to our benefit.

Still, perhaps we should assume the simplest path as Ockham did. If we were to do this, we would tell ourselves that the kindergarten friend knows everything about us and loves us. Then we would try and reciprocate. The frowns that are directed our way could be protective shields and we will hide behind them.

Then one may think,  what about love at first sight? or perhaps that we needed support at the time and not a shield. Picking your friends on the basis of what you need is a dangerous thing too. Just as we sometimes do not know why we do the things we do, we are not always the best judges of what we need either.

Which brings us back to - how do we know who to let in and who to keep out?

You know, the truth is , I don't know. What I've observed though is that you cannot control who enters your life or even the lives you stumble into. What's more, it seems to me that people cannot add or subtract value from your life. The only person who can bankrupt your life is you. I've never met an accurate accessor of the human spirit either. Whoever tells you that they can gauge the worth of a human being or encourages you to try to do the same thing, is lying.

People are unpredictable and usually so complex that their motives are hidden even from themselves. People will hurt you, love you, bring you pain and pleasure simultaneously, make you laugh till you cry, bruise you with their hugs and push you around with a kiss on your lips. Basically, people will bring you the broad spectrum of life, sealed and stamped right at your doorstep. There is no avoiding them.

This may perhaps be the best way to judge if a person is your friend- have they offered to or do they share a part of their experiences with you? Are they a part of your life? If the answer to these questions is Yes, then you must stop bucking, stop judging, stop examining and accept them as they come- because that is what friends are for.

and if the answer is Yes, then you must take deep breaths and remember the times that you inflicted on your friends, not so pretty parts of yourself. If you're really a friend - and you have to be one to have one - you will not tally the times against each other.

I think what I've concluded is that: people being people and life being life, one can not control either or bog them down with our individual expectations. One must simply allow each to run the course that they are. For the days that this current runs rough or inexplicably against you, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by the support you receive, from unexpected sources.

November 24, 2010

Random musings - my favorite past time

A friend and I bought journals the other day and like Camus, decided to write one interesting thing in there everyday. Just something we may notice about the world. Shortly afterwards, I came across a picture in the new scientist magazine - the link for it is and I thought to myself - isn't it interesting that these fish should turn into something that they fear?

So here's my first entry into the first journal I've kept since I was sixteen:

Over the passage of time, the flight or fight instinct has been ground into the very essence of all living things. It has ensured that choices are made logically, and programmed us to pick those battles, we know we can win. Another way of saying this is - It teaches us that we must be afraid and what it is that we should fear. It's that way throughout the food chain, indiscriminately working its way to the top.

Given that this is the most primitive of genome codings, one would imagine that the more evolved the animal, the greater its power to manipulate its primordial urges. Conversely, one could trust in nature's wisdom and accept that fear is around for good reason, because perhaps it is. Then again, lots of things that are here for good reason can be shown expendable for better ones.

We may for instance realise what Columbus was trying to prove all along - There is no running away from anything; The universe is structurally designed to ensure that you end up where you started from.

Given that the universe, the earth and even we are all made out of the same basic matter, it is not strange that everything - the physical, the ethereal and emotional follow the same cyclical format of existence. For example, our souls re-incarnate to complete a cycle even as  our bodies serve as vessels to start another and so on...

Similarly emotions follow their own circular paths. If you give out love, you receive it; on the other end of that spectrum, detest a man and he will hate you right back. In that sense, fear is a more narcissistic emotion or parasitical (If one were to look upon fear as an external stimuli, which I don't.) While it may affect one's periphery very much in the manner that the moon affects the tides, it boasts for its victim (or itself) an eternal gnawing.

If we cannot banish our fears, we are always prisoners to them; in one way or another. Some may end up their slaves, forever living our lives to the tune of their wishes. So it may happen that we will never see an acrophobe at the top of the Eiffel Tower. A boy who fell off his bicycle one too many times, will never know the thrill of straddling a Harley. A girl who saw Jaws too early in life will never know the pleasure of swimming in the open sea.

Then there are those who may attempt to take a French leave from their fears. This too, can be a counterproductive route to go down. Such people may find that the farther they run, the closer they are to where they begun.

People who are afraid to admit that they are not children anymore, may run amuck rather than plant roots. Responsibility may escaped through day dreams or drug addictions or even hedonistic excitements, but constantly seeking frontiers too takes its toll. One sees such people everywhere, eyes jaded and faces old.

Men who are afraid of being alone, may try to distract themselves with wealth, power and the women that come along with it. Waking up next to a stranger, or at best, a siren, is essentially being alone. Similarly a woman whose scared of being fooled or getting hurt, may find herself unable to see clear toward sincerity. She may alienate herself against any chances of being loved. In essence, for her, everyday is a fresh heartbreak.

I suppose the problem is atomic, we seem to be built to chase our own tails. Still, we have also proved ourselves to be voracious learners blessed with the capacity to grow beyound what we personally know.

Perhaps, given this, and also the eternal nature of this same passage of time that taught us to fear; we will hear the 'Whooop!' of  a man who sees the arial view of Paris for the first time (It really is fantastic.) We will see the ying and the yang united by contentment and trust. People everywhere may decide to confront themselves and embrace their fates.

We may find, given the intricate weave that is space and time, that once this happens,  ripples are felt far and wide.

It may happen that those who feared ridicule and prejudice will bring into the light, their special powers or that those who have long feared oppression will stand united and taste victory. The possibilities are infinite when there is no fear limiting the horizon.

November 17, 2010

Winter in Delhi

It’s a day in the city just like everywhere else. Only in cities, time’s an amateur marathon runner; It seems to be desperately trying to adhere to some pre-set pace, sometimes allowing excitement to add wind under its feet.

It is mid November weather in New Delhi. Winter is ready to take over everyone’s lives, and like a cold-hearted woman, she seduces you at first with promises of pleasure. So, for now, the air is fresh and the skies are mostly blue. The city thinks its stepped out of a cold shower.

During this time, the metropolitan people are more alive and more active. They do not wilt away into air-conditioned rooms and afternoon siestas like they did during a few weeks ago, during summer. The sun, rendered near redundant, is like the last king of a long and celebrated bloodline of stars.

Sporting baubles and boots are the pretty young maidens of his city. Moving from here to there, being everywhere, reaching nowhere. They pass a group of urchin children.

“Didi, paise dedo, didi. Bhook lagi hai, didi. Khaana khaana hai. Sukhi rahogey; shaadi hogi… sundar didi.” Such lies fall out — literally— from the mouths of babes who long ago learned deceit is survival skill.

A longhaired beauty teases one of the children. “What if I’m already married? You’re saying divorce ho jayega is wale se? Phir doosri shaadi? Touba touba!”  Toothy smiles on both sides testify to them enjoying the banter. She is too young to be married — only sixteen. The kids aren’t hungry either — they ate from a nearby dhaaba an hour ago. Harmless as the dishonesties are, the girls extend no alms. Neither beggar nor brat is any better for it.

The children will eventually find themselves a sucker. Some day the girls will meet a person who genuinely needs a hand. The question is, who will recognize the truth then? To be fair, naivety, through no fault of its own, is easier to spot than sincerity.
Eye on target, the children run around their mark. Before he knows it, he is parting with his small change. Men are easier to fool than women, some studies say. The urchins could help verify these results.

The sucker — the mark — will then go about his day with a chest swollen with good intentions and pride at fulfilling them. He opens a few doors here, smile a bit more than usual there. No sense in breaking a streak, he thinks to himself. Eventually he will be on his way home, joyful heart near busting and he may find his wallet gone. Streaks find a way to get broke.

On days it is not too smoggy, people will visit the older parts of the city. Old buildings, filled with loud and confused people moving through crazy and colourful things. If one was following society as a person, this is Indian culture in its tweens.

There's old men smoking beedis and spitting out paan. A man with a beard till his knees is driving around two young boys in his cycle-rikshaw. They talk incessantly; are boisterous and cheerful. The tired old man is none of these.  Yet, his mind is full with thoughts of a young wife waiting in their jhuggi with a cup of rice and watery lentils.

Old ladies bustle about picking up diamonds and dreams for their daughters. Haggling, screaming, pouting are the accepted mannerisms here. Still, no one would dare push a woman around. They are content to stare from a distance. It’s unclear which is the better way.

The sun may like shining on the Red Fort on such days. It bathes in warmth the road that leads up to the majestic structure. Here a mosque, a temple and a church reside side by side on these roads — as do the temple-goers, the 5am-crooners and the bible-readers. Because it gets around, the sun sees that a more socially mature city remains in uproar about a mosque being built near its churches and schools.
As time speeds along, it becomes the moon’s turn to watch over the city. It wrestles with shadows to indulge in voyeurism.

If the moon is sentient, it may be thinking that we’re all pretty fucking pathetic. Millions of us crammed up in a tiny little space ball and still living in fear of being alone. Here is the moon, singular since time immemorial and not a single droplet to be found. Now that is what you call proud. Or maybe, just like all the pretty girls, the moon’s all cried out.

November 01, 2010

Kasar Devi

There are some holidays you go for that are planned. I mean day one, sight seeing, break for lunch, visit to the park planned and then there are some, where you buy your ticket as you board your train and find your next bed, when it’s time.
I suppose there’s a school of thought that says the first kind of holiday helps you make the most of your time. When you reach Kasar Devi though, it hits you is that time isn't running anywhere.
It’s the kind of place that doesn’t dole out its time to you in tiny rations. The people have plenty and share it with the same pleasure a self reproaching heir would his wealth. Though perhaps not with the same guilt, because here everyone’s time is their own.
I met a few people here and the impression I got was that everybody is a character, or rather everyone I met had character. It wasn’t always beautiful or benevolent, unless of course you consider any sort of a strong will beautiful. A lot of people do that. 

The owner of the guest house where I stayed was a character too. In the same way that all hosts are I think. He laughed with us and then turned around to bark orders so that we wouldn’t have to. By we, I don’t mean any particular group. He ran the place in such a way that everyone came in separately but left together. To every guest, he was a friend indeed and with him, they shared their weed. (sorry, couldn’t resist)
Because I’ve never been one, I think its a skill to be a good host. It requires magnanimity of soul and a real tolerance for people. To a good host, nobody’s uninvited and everyone is the life of the party. It’s a heavy crown, in my opinion and he wore it well.

Here, I met a Swedish woman, she sounds like the Godfather. Her throat is ailing and so she weezes her words at you. Still, every word hits you with an authority fit for a Drill Sergeant. She’s been here before so she knows every trick the Devi has up her sleeve. She notices and immediately corrects the slightest of slights and jogs your hoodwinking conscience awake. She notices the briefest of exchanges as well, and the tiniest of sparks. To her, no one is invisible.
I met a child who looks like a pixie but instead of prancing about in the forest, he works in the village all day long. Then he comes to work in the guest house at night and here, everyone teases him about being lazy. He’s got no shoes but his eyes sparkle and he laughs at the people who deride him undeservedly.
I met a beautiful old man, who told me he was lucky to keep his youth. He added right after that he meant mentally and spiritually and not just physically. He told me about past and present lovers  and because I wonder, as I think a lot of women wonder, I asked him, ‘So when do men grow out of the phase where they chase a million women?’ 
I don’t ask this question a lot but I’ve asked it some so I do have comparisons enough to say that I liked his answer, almost the best.  He said (No drum roll please, because the best things in life are simple), ‘They stop when they realise it takes more out of you than it gives you.’ He’s just a guy who lives in a village, makes music and watches movies, but I thought that was pretty well observed. 
I also thought it was sad (for women) that men come to this realisation as late as he admittedly did because then they’re only pretty for another fifteen years (on the max). It reminded me of Malay Bakawali flowers that bloom briefly and only once before they wilt. If you replace bloom with enlightenment, maybe that describes all of us, so I shouldn’t be so stately with my feminist pride parade. 

In general, pride is a dangerous thing. It sneaks up on you and makes you alienate everyone who loves you. Its got a voice as smooth as honey too, so you mistake it for its more charitable cousins such as justice or righteousness. 
Speaking of which, I met another man who is incredibly talented and just as full of pride about it. He does what he pleases with his art and says what he pleases with his words. There was no censorship about him, so even minor causes are colored red across his face. Though, I think he would say, ‘there are no minor causes.’ and perhaps he might be right. 
I met two young boys. One is beautiful and so disappointed with himself that he looks at the stars for some release. Another, you may never notice in the kind of place where time has a blackberry. He’s disappointed too, but at the world and so he’s looking for a way to change it. Maybe because you have more time to think here, but it occurred to me that the concept of beauty deserves a re-haul. 
Not that either activity is good or bad. The stars are just stars and the world will never change. I don’t think they need to realize this just yet though, like I said they’re young, we should let them enjoy it while they can.
On my way out, I met a taxi driver. By which I mean, he drove me to the station. This is a four hour drive and he was my radio through all of it. He was estranged from his family when he was six and drifted around a lot of places till he settled near Kasar Devi. He likes his drink and kept offering to stop for one. He also liked Punjabis so he listened to me when I said I’d be too scared to sit in a car if the driver was drinking. He never insisted too much and listened to reason almost immediately. It’s good when you hold the purse strings. 
Another thing he liked doing was observing people and he told me that one must observe every minute detail. Some people, he said, look at life through a telescope. Always thinking about how it looks from a distance, how it should be or could be and worrying about the ideal. 
It doesn’t seem to bring them much joy so he decided to try it the other way. He looks at life up close. So when he sees foreign children cliquing together, he understands that they feel less safe than the people around them. Or when an Army wife takes on an illicit affair, he sees that she’s lonely and has needs.
Sounds like a creepy conversation for a Taxi guy to be having with a woman passenger but I didn’t feel unsafe. Maybe its because when I asked for a quote for the taxi ride, he gave me an amount that was (surprisingly) fair. If you’re honest in business... who said that?  was it Jeffery Archer? 
Maybe it's because  your brain is oxygen deprived or perhaps its that everyone moves too slowly to try anything untoward, but you tend to trust people here. Not in the stupid, unconditional way but in a smart, worldly way that acknowledges everyones’ shortcomings and doesn’t give them the opportunity to transgress. In that way, the Swedish woman is most in tune with her environment. 
There were times that I didn’t stop talking and times I went days without saying a word. Both were wonderful times because neither were lonely. It felt like achieving verbal balance. 
I’ve been back a day now and maybe the fact that I haven’t stopped smiling is a co-incidence or maybe it was just a much needed break from the city. Or maybe I’m just happy that for a few days, I didn’t have to kill time or waste it and neither did I feel that it was running away and trying to abandon me somehow. 
More so, till its very last breathe, I felt like the time in Kasar Devi was on my side and even as I was leaving, I knew I could always come back. Not just in the ‘I could make my way back’ sense. Perhaps I should say, you leave thinking ‘well, I’ll always be welcome here.’ In that sense, Kasar Devi is like a sincere and serene woman who knows without doubt that she’s loved.