Monday, July 23, 2012

To be or not to be...

The brain works in funny ways. When you’re half asleep, and only your subconscious is active, your brain gets flooded with brilliant ideas. But when you try to pen it down the next day, you hardly remember a fraction of the ideas that came pouring into your head like there was no tomorrow, quite literally. A large portion of those absolutely fantastic thoughts (if I say so myself) don’t get to see broad daylight.  It’s almost like your mind closes itself up when you’re awake and opens itself out when you’re sleeping. Perhaps the teachers should stop complaining if people are sleeping in the class. It looks like our brains might be more receptive when we’re half asleep. Also, on a more serious note, maybe that is why, sometimes, your dreams can be the most fantastic things that can happen to you.
Speaking of closed minds, I’ll get down to writing what I really wanted to write about. Being a part of law school gives me a lot of opportunities, one being studying areas I am interested in, albeit in a legal perspective. I now have subjects that allow me to think about homosexuality, as an area of study. By study, I do not mean study the habits of the homosexual people as though they were a different species. For, after all, they are also human and their habits are not going to vary largely or, for that matter, at all from the rest of ours. No, when I say study, I mean study the psychology and the reactions of the other members of the society.
My interest is not a result of the one year spent in law school. I may have led a fairly sheltered life, but that did not stop my mother from talking to me about the realities of life. I must have been 14 or 15 when the whole issue of Sec 377 cropped up, through the Naz Foundation case. Where my friends’ mothers sent them into their rooms and refused to let them watch what was happening, my mother let me sit next to her and watch the whole drama unfold, and even explained some things to me when the need arose. I was strangely affected to see how much opposition the LGBT community faced from the present day society. I heard stories of families breaking, people being uprooted, being ostracized by society and all because of something they could not help. Since then, I have been “straight for LGBT rights”, a term ‘straight’ people use when they want to show support. I have been a closet supporter, because of the society’s expectations from its members. Whenever someone said something against the LGBT community, I would very quietly tell them that they were mistaken, but not more, because I kept thinking I would be mocked at and ridiculed by society because I did not follow their beliefs of what was right and what was wrong. To put it simply, I was scared.
What changed this was not one event, but a series of events. For one, my family never thrust their views on me. I was always encouraged to think for myself and, as I grew older, I started realizing that having an opinion that did not conform to the majority’s views was not wrong. On facebook, I saw that a friend of mine was part of a facebook group called “Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook”, and that must have been the final turning point. She was a senior from school, and I thought if she could do it, why couldn’t I? I’ve become more vocal in my support since becoming a part of the group. Through that group, I've read so many stories, some sad, some happy, some heart-breaking, some heart-warming, and some outright ridiculous. The page has also given me an inkling of what arguments people give when they want to put down the community.
One of the most common arguments I have across is that “it is immoral”, an argument that gained teeth when Devlin posted his views on the Wolfendon committee report (people not of the legal profession, please bear with me). But what is morality? What is moral for you may not be moral for me? What is moral today may not be moral tomorrow. Morality keeps changing. Certain things always remain the way they are; only our perceptions of them change. Let me give you an analogy. Some centuries ago, people thought that the Earth was in the centre of the Solar System, and refused to listen to the voice of logic and science. Why? Because that is what they had been thought, had grown up thinking and suddenly changing the way they imagined their universe, because of one ‘lunatic’, was overwhelming. Also, it boosted their egos to think that everything, quite literally, revolved around them. So does this mean that the Earth was the centre of the solar system, and then suddenly changed positions when we ‘learnt’ about it? No, the truth always remained the truth, only our idea about it changed.
Also, what the majority of the people think has to be right, right? For this I tell you, imagine a room with four rapists and one woman. For that room, morals, as we see it, do not exist. So does that mean that rape is right?
Another common argument is that homosexuality is unnatural. No it is not. My statement is backed by science. Science has proved to us that being a member of the LGBT community is not their way of being perverse, they just cannot help it. It is naturally occurring, and they have no choice. In fact a study has showed to us that 40% of the dolphin population is gay. You do not see them ostracizing the gay dolphins, or conducting scientific experiments on them. We humans can become such a nasty race at times, I tell you. I don’t understand how it affects you when it does not affect you.
I am going into law here when I tell you that homosexuals are protected under Articles 14 and 21, namely the Right to Equality and the Right to Life. The Right to Life granted by the constitution of India does not mean living a vegetable existence. It means living a life of dignity and every person, regardless of whether he is a citizen or not, has the right to be treated equally in the country. Aren’t homosexuals people, regardless of their sexuality? And isn’t it just the correct thing to do to give them their due?
Live and let live, because otherwise life is not worth living.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

One year hence - Victims of heat and more

I thought maybe if a week passed, I’d have something interesting to write about. But right now, I am so overwhelmed I don’t know where to start. To begin with, we all had a pretty horrid surprise when we opened our rooms. We had been warned before, of course, but nothing prepared us for the sight that awaited us. A not so thin layer of sand carpeted everything in sight. It was almost like our rooms had witnessed their share of mini sand storms over the course of two months. A select few had it worse, with their windows being blown open. Their rooms were almost unrecognizable because of the amount of sand that had collected. The cleaning process ensued. I will not go into the painful details. All I will say is that our mothers would have been proud of the effort we put in and that my room here looks nothing like my room at home.
The bright side of coming back was seeing everyone again. You don’t realize how much you miss people until you see them again. It was extremely reassuring looking at everyone laughing and hugging each other. For one, I was not the only going through whatever I was going through. We were all in in together. Our sadistic sides came to the fore and we stood in groups around every new arrival, to see their expressions of horror as they opened their door. I can say with vindictive pleasure that no one got to see my face. I was the first one in my hostel for the 3rd time running in 3 semesters and being the first one back is getting old. As I settled down for the night, my last thought was that it wouldn’t be long till we settled down to our old routines again. I had no idea of knowing then, but settling down wasn’t going to be that easy.
It was hot. I have spent a considerable amount of my life in Chennai and I tell you that it was hot. Hardly any of us got a good night’s sleep, because the parts of the mattress that touched us became drenched with our sweat. This is my second year here, and I honestly do not remember Jodhpur being this humid. When a place is that unnaturally humid, it means that rain isn’t far off, right? Wrong. It was good long and painful week before it rained. I am not saying that the wait was not worth it. It was. But what a wait it was.
The college management was not doing much to ease our stay here either. The second years (3rd semester students) have four law subjects and one stream subject. And four of our teachers preferred assigning us a project over correcting a mid-term. I don’t blame them. We write pretty hilarious papers. I pity the poor souls who have to correct them. But when I heard, I didn’t know whether I was going to laugh or cry. Four projects is every student’s personal hell. If that was not enough, the number of tests has come down to 3 compulsory tests from the best 3 out of 5. Who is going to volunteer to represent our college in moots, debates and sports festivals, I don’t know. How the college expects us to do well in extra and co-curricular activities and perform brilliantly in our tests, I don’t know. Why the college did not consult us when it is our lives they are playing with, I don’t know.
Innumerable changes were made, and not all necessary.  If any changes have to be made, change the medical facilities available in college. Invest in a hospital wing, in a better dispensary. We stay approximately eleven kilometres away from the city. I know from past experience that ambulances are extremely hesitant to come here. “Mandore is not part of Jodhpur. It is outside city limits” was what was told to us when we desperately needed an ambulance for an ill batch mate.
You have been entrusted with students; who have left home, family and everything that they know and have come miles away to study. I stay 2500 kilometres away from home, and it will take my parents a minimum of 24 hours to get here, paying a king’s ransom, if they can get any tickets at all that is. My parents knew this, but they still sent me here because that is the faith that they have put in the management. That is the faith that the parents of 500 students have put in this college’s management. Where a harmless outing for lunch will not kill anyone, lack of medical facilities can. Prioritize. It is not that hard. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Journey - 2

The Universe always balances things out. I never knew how true that was until my journey from Coimbatore to Jodhpur. The thing about train journeys is that, I enjoy them but too much of a good thing is not necessarily brilliant. A 40 hour journey, directly from Coimbatore to Jodhpur requires more grit and determination than I possess. So I always break my journey in Bombay, or when my father is in a particularly generous mood I take a plane.
My journey to Bombay was amazing. I would count that as one of the best journeys I have had till date. The first day was pretty uneventful, with me sleeping most of it away. I love that the Indian Railways has installed curtains, which I put to maximum use. The only negative point was that the side berth did not have a socket, so I had to keep asking permission to use one of the sockets by the main berths. That aside, the main positive was that I had the whole window to myself and I could look out to my hearts content. And boy did that prove to be a boon for the second day. The train had to go through Khandala to reach Mumbai, and that is one of the most beautiful stretches I have ever been on. It looked like a page fresh out of a fairy tale, all green and magical. It helped that there was a slight drizzle so everything looked fresh and new.
That was also the time when I met him. He was standing by the door, when I went outside to get a better view. He was funny, cute, and attentive and had the gift of the gab. He was also representing his state in a National swimming competition, in the under-12 category. He was fabulously easy to get along with, and he made me revisit my childhood by making me play games that I had last played when I was 14. I loved every minute of it. The icing on the cake was going home to spend the day with my cousins and their wonderful dog.
This journey was in stark contrast to my journey from Bombay to Jodhpur, which I would rate as one of the worst journeys in my life. It’s probably in the devil’s diary of successful accomplishments. It started on a terrible note, where I almost missed my train and caught it with less than a minute to spare. It got worse. The porters were extremely smart. They knew I just didn’t have the time to bargain and I ended up paying 270 bucks to the porter who carried my luggage. As I settled down in my berth (side berth again), I realized that I had forgotten to buy a bottle of water and had to use an apple to quench my raging thirst. As the day progressed, I realized that I was in the compartment next to some of the noisiest girls known to mankind.
I tried tuning them out, first using the strength of mind, and then, when that failed, by plugging in my earphones and listening to really loud music. That seemed to work, and I imagined that it wouldn’t be long till they went to sleep. It was nearing 9:30pm after all. I didn’t know it then, but I was very wrong. They kept gossiping, giggling, screaming, clapping and jumping till about 12:20 am. There was a brief period when I thought all had quietened down and I finally pulled out my earphones. To my extreme horror I heard them speaking from the berth below mine, and they went on to play antakshari for the rest of the night. If my upbringing had not stopped me, I would have probably leapt off my berth and slapped one of them.
I was woken up by high pitched chattering the next morning. I never thought I would feel so, but I was extremely relieved when the train pulled into the Jodhpur station. If train protocol didn’t expect me to keep moving with my luggage, I would have probably fallen on my knees with cries of “Praise the Lord”. It soon dawned on me that my guardian angel had taken pity on me because a porter took me to the auto stand at a very reasonable price and very soon I was bouncing my way to college in one of Jodhpur’s many ‘wannabe’* autos, without any further drama. What happened when I entered college is another story altogether.  

*AUTHOR’S NOTE: The autos are not wannabe autos. In fact they are perfectly decent autos; the only issue being looks is higher up their priority list than speed. Some friends from my batch coined the term ‘wannabe’ autos in the first few months of college. It just showed that we looked down upon these unconventional autos initially. But when the time comes and these autos are finally phased out, a small part of most of us will probably miss them.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Journey - 1

Four months in college seems like a lifetime and two months at home seems to pass in an instant. Just yesterday I was crossing days off my calendar, counting down, and waiting for the day when I would be home again.  Today, 2 months later, I am on the train and heading back towards the land of extreme temperatures, Jodhpur.
Jodhpur is 2500 kilometres away from Coimbatore. A journey that can be covered in either 12 hours or 48 hours depending on the mode of transport. My preferred mode of transport is the aeroplane. I love flying and life is so much easier when you do not have to spend time cooped up in a steel container with screaming children. Don’t get me wrong, I love children, but I prefer peace and quiet to an orchestra of bawling babies and yelling toddlers. Also, you reach your destination the same day you leave. But, unfortunately, I have not started earning yet and since my dad pays for my ticket I have to go by his preferred mode of transport, the cheaper one.
I am not complaining, not much anyway, because the experience of travelling half way across India in a train is an adventure unto itself. You can sit glued to the window, staring outside for the entire journey, and still not get bored. I’ve always found it fascinating, how the gentle hills, and the smooth, undulating plains of the South flow seamlessly into the rugged, tough and craggy landscape of the North West, each beautiful in its own right.  I can sit for hours by the window and watch the world go by me.
Even if you aren’t the kind the kind that finds poetry in the passing scenery, but are more of a people person, you needn’t worry. You’ll find a myriad of fascinating people around you. A train journey from one region of India to another is the perfect place to find a cross-section of people from different cultures, with different identities, and who speak different languages. It is a psychologist’s heaven and his worst nightmare. One coach has approximately 72 people, and one train can have anywhere from 10 to 24 coaches. You do the maths. That many people, each with his, or her, own quirk, all travelling together. Imagine each person as a unique sound. Together, they can create either the world’s most beautiful melody or they can sound like nails tearing across a blackboard. You’ll either get off the train with a splitting headache or a smug satisfied expression on your face. Either way you would have had the adventure of a lifetime.
You’re probably agreeing with me right now, or are wondering how on Earth I can know this. When you have spent half your life travelling, you tend to pick up and recognize certain things. For example, my years of waiting at the railway platform have made realize that a train is a bit like a diva. It doesn’t care about you and will follow its own rules. Sometimes it will be late, very late and will successfully mess up your entire, carefully made out, schedule. But when it finally does chug into the station, unapologetic and remorseless, you are only thankful that it has arrived and that the show can go on, albeit not completely as planned.