Categories
Thought and Reason

The Virtual world – Virtual or Real?

With many of us living a parallel life ‘online’, one wonders if this throbbing, invisible world is really virtual anymore?

I remember reading a chapter on ‘the Internet’ when I was in school, and quietly dismissing it thinking it was too ‘theoretic ’. I could not have been more wrong!!

Right from my cute 8-year-old neighbour in Chennai till 70-year-old retired school teacher aunty, almost every single person I know is alive and kicking in the Virtual world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_world).

Facebook FeverFacebook, Twitter, Google wave (and many more!)… ‘being online’ is not merely a part of life, but a basic necessity for many! Facebook discussions, for example, are so real that I often find myself pondering the entire day about a single thought floating around somewhere in virtual space. Some people go so far as to claim their life has improved with being able to instantly gratify their need for friendship! We are so involved with the online world that it begins to affect our day-to-day life. We do things, go to places so we can tell the world we have done it. We argue, we strive desperately to show we are right, we eagerly seek approval.. and all this from a community that we do not ‘see’ but only ‘read’.

Media Mania (pic courtesy Hindustan times)

There is this nagging urge to make a strong online presence. It could start off with a completely useless discussion on New Year resolutions that you know will not see the light of day! Or RT-ing anything that Big B, Junior B, or Beti B say (or gurgle, as the case may be). Or even reading a controversial article and throwing barbs at the authors hiding behind a shield of anonymity.

One thing is certain – no matter what form our online participation takes, it is certainly assuming gigantic proportions. Statistics indicate that many Facebook users spend more time on Facebook than face-to-face with friends.

Basically, we do not live in one single world any more. There is this invisible, pulsating virtual world all around us, drawing us deeper and deeper each day.

I wouldn’t say it is a vice, though. Let’s take a look at the incredible benefits of our virtual world:

  • Pretend to be friends with @SrBachchan and go ga-ga about Beti B’s name
  • Find love in chat-rooms (Sure, that makes a great story to tell your grandkids!)
  • Golu (Pic courtesy Wikipedia)

    Valiantly keep Indian culture alive. Especially all those lovely NRIs living in the ‘aasum You-Yes-Yay’ who post photos of exotic Golu and drool-worthy Paniyaram!

  • Say NO to dieting and exercise. I mean seriously! All you need is Photoshop. And tada!! You have a . Throw on a pair of dark glasses, Copy-Paste Santorini in the background, and notice how easy it is to get ‘liked’ without the Kolaveri of sweaty gymming.

    Instant makeover (Pic courtesy home-make-over dot info)
  • Keep a watch on the better-half! You wonder why his SMS reads ‘stuck in boring office party’, when he is simultaneously ‘tagged’ realtime with some hotties via ‘HTC Wild fire for FB’ 😉

Keep an eye on that teenage cousin who wears two-plaits and goes to a girls-school, and quietly tip off her mom when some weirdo with spikey hair comments ‘Dat Pic Lukng Hawt’. Whatever, dude!
Find out what your retired dad is upto these days (even if you don’t really want to). Dirty Picture at xyz Cinema with abc’. Gulp! Shouldn’t Zuckerberg think of introducing an upper age limit on FB users?

  • Free campaigning for events and functions. All you need is an IIT/IIM based story, and Voila! you are the next Chetan Bhagat, and FB is under a deluge of your ‘book launch’
  • Forge great friendships and even greater enemies!
  • And best of all, you get all this for FREE!

All the same, we suddenly have many lurking dangers!

  • Trading Facebook for Treadmill. Er.. not a great idea, really!
  • At the risk of an anti-climax, most of those porn videos that you think are ‘Chi..chi!’ and then click when nobody is watching, are actually spam and could contain viruses. What is worse, the bleddy link does not even play a video afterall!!
  • Attack by virtual trolls. There seem to be an increasing level of aggression and barbed attacks by anonymous trolls who trade subjectivity for offensiveness. Actually, getting to watch a fight for free should go under ‘merits’ of social media, but then, it isn’t always pleasant, is it?
  • Identity theft – This is more common than we think. When I saw my mum receiving FB notifications, I wondered how a lady who refused point-blank to turn on a computer, suddenly got so tech-savvy. Duh! Someone had stolen her ID!
  • Mc Merry!!! (Pic courtesy www dot overgroundonline dot com)

    There is just no privacy! You can’t lie to your organization or school. Like, for example, you cannot bunk school and go to Inox or McDonalds, because somebody is always watching.

  • And what is worse… those annoying/boring/nevertheless curious folks you desperately try to avoid in real life, keep such close watch on you, its like having a personal Bodyguard
  • And on a serious note, considering the amount of time and effort you invest into social media, you really cannot estimate the value of ‘return’. Unless you consider ‘3 hrs per day on FB = 5 kgs gain p.a’.

Evidently, all these merits and demerits of the virtual world are quite tangible. Increasing awareness, thoughtful discussions, resultant mood swings(!), friendships, enemities, losses (of time) and gains (of weight!) are all real.

Can we still confidently draw the line between the online world and the real one?

Do we know when exactly a Facebook campaign suddenly gains huge momentum, facilitating a mass-protest in a country (eg., Egypt protests organized through Facebook and microblogging site Twitter)?

Pip pip Pippaaaa! (Pic courtesy telegraph dot co dot uk)

Why! We even saw a bunch of ‘real’ people who witnessed the Royal wedding and promptly went on to create a Facebook page for ‘Pippa Middleton Ass Appreciation Society’. The page has 241,492 fans!

We did not see this coming (And I don’t mean Pippa Middleton).

We did not realise when or how the virtual world became an integral part of the real one. When being ‘online’ changed from a one-off indulgence to a gnawing daily necessity! When the power of the online world began to threaten that of the real one. Or when thoughts floating around online started influencing mind-sets in the physical world.

What do you think? Is the Virtual world really virtual anymore? Or is it so real that it poses social and even political dangers to society?

Pic courtesy: Wikipedia

Perhaps we should ask Kapil Sibal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Cross-posted on the nri dot com)

 

Categories
Book review Thought and Reason

A real treat – Palace of Illusions

(Apologies for having to bombard you with this – but *** A gentle reminder : If you liked my earlier post titled ‘Past Promises, Forgotten Futures’, then please Vote to promote it on Indiblogger, here:http://www.indiblogger.in/indipost.php?post=34664 *** Thanks :-) *** And again, do vote for a post, ONLY if you like it)

After having read the review of Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni at Smitha’s blog, I ordered the book from the local library. The thickness of the volume, however, put me off. Until this morning.

I picked up the book, and only a few pages into the story, I could not… absolutely could not.. put it down. I took a couple of ‘essential’ breaks 😉 but was otherwise hooked onto it completely.

The book is the narration of the Mahabharatha, seen through the eyes of Draupadi.

I’ve always loved reading mythology, Indian and otherwise. To me, reading this book was like a flashback of a movie seen in childhood, but this time, in technicolour 🙂

It isn’t boring, I assure you. And for once, I have read a book that has left me with absolutely no words of criticism or nit-picking!

I love the way the author has humanised (is there such a word?!) the characters. She turns a mythological Draupadi into a living, breathing woman! In this character called Draupadi, you will probably see a piece of yourself. Or others you know.

It makes one realise Draupadi was not an average person, specifically a woman, whose life revolved around cooking, keeping house and breeding!!

Draupadi is beautiful, confident woman, with higher aspirations, but is typically trapped in a man’s world. She is intelligent, fully aware of both her ‘desires’ and ‘limitations’. She realises ‘a woman’s place’ in this world, and abides by it.

I loved the way Draupadi beseeches to Arjun, to stop her from being ‘shared’ by his brothers, and where he subsequently redirects his fury and frustration on her, as if she were the culprit, not the victim!! Isn’t that exactly what happens even in the modern day world? In the case of rape, the first reaction is that the victim must have done something, to provoke it.

What shocked me though, was that since Draupadi was to be ‘shared by her five husbands’ – one husband a year, Vyasa ‘blessed‘ her with a ‘boon to become a virgin every time she went to her next husband‘. I almost felt the bile rising in my throat, as I read this. Draupadi or Divakaruni (the author) rightly says, this is a boon, made very conveniently, for the men, and not for Draupadi.

The delicate relationship of mutual mistrust between Draupadi and Kunti is described in such a simple, practical manner. It makes one realise why MILs and DILs co-exist the way they do 😉

Draupadi herself is a survivor. She does not simply make her mark in her household. She tries her best to not allow any adversary into ‘her’ palace, where SHE is the Chief Queen.

I enjoyed the way Draupadi tried to make amends to Karna, for her insult to him at the Swayamvar, but where he refuses to be mollified, and yet, he does his best to protect her from harm, when the court broke into pandemonium!

There is a brief moment where Draupadi (in this book) admits to not being very maternal. She says being a wife to five men, and stately duties sapped her, and she was more than happy, to have her nanny take the children off her hands. Why are ‘women’, specifically in Indian society expected to ‘want’ to take care of children? Why is it not a choice? If a woman does not enjoy feeding her child, does that make her a bad mother? Do we, as a society, have the maturity to realise that a Mother is also an INDIVIDUAL who might simply yearn for more in life, than mundane chores?!

I’ve encountered very severe reaction from a couple of friends whom I sometimes call to watch a movie or something over the weekend. Their reaction is one shock – ‘How can I leave my family, that too on the weekend?’ Its not like I’m asking them to elope!! They feel guilty to even ‘want’ to dedicate some time to themselves. Earlier, I used to feel sorry for such women, who ‘constrain’ themselves. Now, though, I feel sorry for the handful of ‘Draupadi’s that remain, for wanting ‘more’. Strange as it may sound, it is they who are constrained by their wants!

Nevertheless, what struck me most, was the fact that despite being foretold her future, she did not stop it ‘because of the circumstances’.

Arjuna's deadly attack on his half-brother Kar...
Image via Wikipedia

Draupadi could have chosen Karna over Arjun. She did not. (Which by the way, makes the reader feel really bad for Karna, who was always the subject of unfair treatment. In colloquial language, Karna got a bad deal!)

She could have given up her life, rather than be a Queen to five Kings. She did not.

Krishna could have stopped the Great War if He wanted to.

There are just so many instances.

Which made me wonder, is Life about Destiny or about Choices? All my life, I thought it was Destiny. Today, somehow, I think, it is probably not as simple as that.

The book isn’t without humour either. There is a reference to Yudhishtra being ‘blissfully unaware’ that people could mean them harm. And to Bheem’s plate being piled higher than the other brothers. It all made them very HUMAN. There is a Yudhistra in each of us. A Bheem too. Some brave ones even have a piece of Arjuna in them.

There were some extremely distressing moments as well. Like, the murder of Abhimanyu. Or that of Karna. Both these ‘hunks’ 😉 were killed unfairly. What really moved me, was the description of young Abhimanyu staring in ‘disbelief’ at the the unfair play by those whom he had always respected.

Caution: This book is not for the judgemental reader. You read, you nod either in agreement or disagreement, and you move on. If one were to start judging any of the characters as moral or immoral, cowardly or brave… then, IMHO, it defeats the purpose of the book. Any book, perhaps.

This book, is the life of a woman. Of her aspirations, her boundaries and her will. One cannot help wondering how similar it is to the story of a woman in today’s world. Not much has changed over the centuries, has it??!!!

I leave you with some snippets from the book…

– This one: ‘Between Yudhistra and Krishna, a woman cannot even enjoy being in misery!’ LOL! I loved that line!

– Or this one: ‘There is a strange freedom in realising one is not that important!’

– Or this: Krishna says to Dhritharashtra: ‘If you had believed all (Kauravas and Pandavas) were YOURS TO LOVE, this war would have never taken place’. Isn’t this exactly what we need today? Look at the Ayodhya issue. If only we believed we were truly ‘one’ – would there ever be bloodshed?!!

The book is filled with glorious and inglorious incidents from the past, but in that, one can clearly draw references to today, and even to the future!!

I hope this inspires you enough to grab a copy of the book!!

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Categories
Incidents Thought and Reason

A wasted life – Sarita suicide case

The news flashed on NDTV: “Sarita commits suicide…husband refuses to cremate her unless the policemen who had allegedly raped her are arrested…”.

Please read the foll. article on expressindia.com: http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/No-news-of-accused-cops/321408/

On the TV screen…a mourning family…a helpless husband…two innocent young children…wide-eyed, not able to comprehend what is going on…the noise, the chaos, the media..and where is their mother ?!

A lump formed in my throat when I saw Sarita’s children. Those little boys have lost their mother, because of the crime committed by two policemen.

There is a game children in India play – “Chor..Police”. The Chor (the thief, traditionally the Bad Man) runs, while the Police (obviously, the good man) chases him.

But when the Policeman himself is a criminal, then what who runs and who chases ?

Or do they both run, leaving the common (wo)man helpless and battered ?

Why did they rape a poor woman ? How could they rape “a mother” ?? What kind of men were they ? Or were they bloody animals in human clothing ? They have families too…wife and children. Did they not think of them even once while doing this gruesome act ? They have been in the Police force for more than a decade..is this how they have executed their duties ? Does Power always Corrupt ?

What was Sarita’s mistake ? That she was a woman ? Or that she was poor and powerless ?

What was the children’s mistake ? Why have they lost their mother ? When they wake up tomorrow morning, there will no mother to smile at them, to wash their face, to feed them, to love them and to take care of them. For what felony are they being punished ? Because two immoral policemen had to satiate their lust ?!

Let us imagine (wishful thinking, I guess), for a second, that Sarita had lived. This is what would have happened:

– Her physical being was wounded, but on the emotional side, she was already maimed for life.

– Her pleas against the policemen would have gone in vain.

– The policemen would have the power to keep themselves free. They would have even labelled her a prostitute, and have had her arrested, shaming her and her family even more.

– The children would probably be taunted by their friends and neighbours.

– For all we know, even the husband might have deserted her, for becoming “impure”.

Sarita’s life would have been more miserable than Death.

Should Sarita have lived…I still say, Yes. Because, ‘Where there is life, there is hope’. Hope for justice, hope for retribution.

Should the policemen be sentenced to death… I say Yes. I think anyone with a charge (of rape/corruption/any sort of crime) against them, must be suspended from duty immediately, and allowed back into work only if proved innocent. And if proved guilty, they should be awarded the ultimate death sentence.

India is supposedly a poor country. So, why waste a space in prison for animals like these ? Why drain the country of resources (food/water/clothing) ? If these two policemen are found guilty, they must die. Let them be an example of ‘what not to do’ !

In every forum, we talk about the ‘culture’ that we Indians are steeped in. Why then, do we have a Scarlett and a Sarita , every other day ? It clearly shows, we have no values, no morals, and NO RESPECT FOR EACH OTHER. We should be ashamed of ourselves.

It is said “The meek shall inherit the earth”. Really ?? When ?!