Saturday, 19 November 2011

Mumbai Frozen


A caricature of disproportionate dimensions of what the world lives day to day. The remains of time and space that preceded the consolidation of what we now perceive as the universe, resides here, in the form of utter chaos...and sucks you in when you've been there long enough. The crowd, the ancestral customs and the climate are just parts of the whole equation, which gives form to this unique place in the world called Mumbai. A caricature, because everything comes in extremes: people, customs, colors, buildings, work, weather, food, traffic, history, religion, education, flora and fauna....a whole civilization which resides in the brink of living and dying. Everything is either black or white; there is barely a rising presence of grey in the middle class of society... the younger ones, who have to deal with the burden of global competition, old unchanging traditions and a system of no order that begs for constant change.

Mumbai is a city of sizes and quantities, where presentation is overlooked and lost in the midst of outstanding activity. From loud horns and heavy smog of the traffic, to the immensity of linguistic variety that anyone can possibly hear on just one alley...to the eager cries of crows and stray dogs throughout the day...Mumbai's voice is a particular one, which only a few outsiders would withstand. Smell carries that eccentricity too, along with a dose of unattended poverty odor that impregnates wastelands, water canals, street pavements and roads, and heavily slummed urbs. Sight is as heterogeneous as it can possibly be on any place on Earth; you just need to look no further from Bollywood and Diwali. There is no wonder why India is the most diverse country in the world demographically, racially, culturally, ethnically, religiously and linguistically. Mumbai is probably the best representative of such diversity. And taste doesn't fall short either, gastronomy being strongly linked with the aforementioned qualities.

Fascination comes to those who look at Mumbai from the outside. Frustration, exhaustion, pain of knowing better...to those who come from inside and step out, perhaps visit the West and unavoidably compare. Idleness, uniformity, even comfort on the disorder...for the inborn, happy ones....perhaps some of them ignorant too, predestined to lead a life according to what the overpowering caste system has dictated for them...or too afraid to rebel against it. All of this, once again, comes in extremes: the smartest children of the future, as well as some of the most disfavored conditions in which a population is trying to survive...all colliding in one conglomeration. And with all this, an outstandingly great amount of love: family bonds, marriage relationships, and Gods worships...and, as with anything, abundance can have a potential to do harm. Millions hold the view of respect and sacrifice wholeheartedly, which can be a double edge sword of honor and love, as well as repression if faith is blind... like pressed brake pedals for those who seek privacy, independence, and an identity of their own... A good lot of the grey section of society is relying on hard work and education as the means of a better life...and devote a whole lifetime to pursue that, or at least ensure that their children will carry on the legacy and achieve the objective. And at the same time that wives worship their husbands, children obey their parents for life, and friends become as good as family if not better... a good lot condemn those who try to be shepherds and not the herd instead...prejudging from individual past experiences and do not make any attempt to question the rules and regulations....or the lack of, for that matter.

The mentality of no order has invaded Mumbai with strict laws of nature. Rickshaws are coexisting with cattle in the asphalt...buses don't bother opening or closing doors, and trains get jam packed like beehives...the constant race of who gets first and who leads the run never ceases. There is no time for "excuse me's", "sorry's", "thank you's" and "please's"...you'll be eaten by the mass need and greed if you wait for the value in them to expose...it just doesn't work like that there. And is all logically justified too, contrary to the belief of human rights bystanders who try to make big fuzz about it all: how the hell are you supposed to control such a huge mass, without some austerity?

Modernization in India is coming by the need of giving people a place rather than comfort of living. The latter is just a luxury, the former a priority. Mumbai is a metropolitan city unlike any other, because abundant projects are taking place, all at the moment in their skeletal phase....an initiative to make a jump from third to first world country, which right now is on the rise, but with a lot of room to still overtake. It’s a much better contender to the title of “sleepless city”, and a much bigger apple than NYC. The sparkling glows, the colors, the festivals, the activity and the transit make it beautiful, loud, life-full, and energetic. But behind this curtain of awe there are also some of the most subhuman places on Earth, some of the most impoverished families, and some of the filthiest, most rejected and punished members of society...which cannot even afford to be part of the beautiful city lights when you see it all from far away at night, through an aircraft's window or a sightseeing spot like Marine Drive.

“Mumbai Frozen” is the title of the video I’ve attached to this article: a subjective portrait of a tiny fraction of my odyssey in this part of the world. Humans give a soul to this megalopolis, and among the overwhelming and bustling vivacity I stood with my camera passively absorbing as much as I saw. My habitual sketching attempts and still photography were not enough to accomplish what I wanted: to deliberately suppress the uncontrollable flow of life that people displayed, and to appreciate its uniqueness bringing it down to my own speed of perception. It is a humble view, from an outsider who’s unknown yet deep roots were seeded in this city; a self-conscious look into the contradictions and the marvels; the exuberance and the idiosyncrasies; and the purity with no course that has shaped every single corner of this polis. The rich and the poor, the secularity and the orthodoxy, the tough grind and the lack of choices, the give with no take, and ultimately the exorbitant pandemonium make up the essence of one of the most bewitching places ever, that will spellbind you for the most unexpected of reasons…

My words fall way too short in comparison to face value experience. Even the video is no way a fair justifier of my need to express and share. Yet somehow, I felt the compulsion to act upon the sentiment and this is the best I’ve come up with in my endeavor. I hope you can at least see some of Mumbai “frozen” as I saw it…and empathize with my raw feelings towards the curiosity to learn about ourselves and the whole world.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Loyalty to Evil

So last night I had the chance to see one part of a TV special called "Hitler: The Rise of Evil". It tries to visually give us an idea of Hitler's years of struggle during his youth, to achieve his ambitions for Nazi Germany. From his early days in Austria as a poor aspiring painter, to his participation in the First World War and his imprisonment later on in 1923 for the failed revolt in Munich, the film tries to depict the personification of anti-Semitism and anticommunism in the form of this man.

Regardless of my opinion for the film (which is very positive), I was intrigued by the reality of it...how could all this be true? More importantly, where this mentality came from? Surely I was dragging myself into a need for a deep historical research, but it was the fact that support was given to it what fascinated me even more. How did Hitler came to be who he was isn't the curiosity I was having, but rather what was the mentality of the German society in those circumstances and how did Hitler manage to use their inner desires and exploit it.

As far as I know, the First World War (1914) came as a result of pure antagonism between the powers present in Europe at the time. All sparked when the archduke of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo (Bosnia), which the highest circles of the German Empire in Berlin used as an excuse to incite the Austro-Hungarian emperor to conquer the Kingdom of Serbia, which would obviously be in favor of the Germans since there was rivalry between them and the Russian Empire. Russia was their enemy.

From the seeds of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, society in Europe saw the rise of modern communism, with Germans Marx and Engels. But it was in Russia where its heights reached a peak thanks in part to the initiatives of the Bolsheviks and Lenin. They embraced the ideas that meant to represent the working class with such power that all others who wanted to confront Imperialism looked up to them.

However, although between the abolition of the monarchy and the flourishing of the Nazis Germany was a Republic with communist inclinations, people were deeply affected by the Great Depression during this period (1929), and gradually needed an explanation or "blame" for such circumstances. This probably could explain one of the "many" enigmatic reasons why Germans dared to even support Hitler.

Alongside all of this, there is the question regarding anti-Semitism. Perhaps breaking it down to its discerning roots can get too complex so I'll try to focus the subject matter to the enigma of Germany's mentality at the time.

I believe Anti-Semitism was not only a common feeling in the West, but also a persistent set of prejudicial ideas through history, due to three factors: the "fame" that some members of this ethnic group have acquired in many fields like religion, finances, science, and the arts ("fame" being in this case a widespread popular recognition of the achievements of a person that transcend cultural barriers); their lack of a guaranteed state for many years until the creation of Israel in 1948; and their religious followers being in slight confrontation with Christians, with statements of Jesus where he dared to say he was the son of God, to which till today many Jewish have not agreed, and therefore having paid their differences with punishment knowing that most of the western world has been namely Christian.

These three factors are interrelated with one another. Could people like Calvin Klein, or even Steven Spielberg and Roman Polanski, be victims of such animosity? Maybe not so apparent with them, but when you have firms like Goldman Sachs, the world's biggest investment bank; or Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer, whose indirect contributions were used for the creation of the nuclear atomic bomb and the Manhattan Project; or Sigmund Freud, father of psychotherapy and possibly modern psychology... you can start to realize that jealousy and envy could have a possible place here, being all of us of course "human" at the end of the day. Achievements of such heights can become lethal weapons of patriotism and nation identification, and given that they are inherently "non-Christians" and "stateless" a shared anti-Semitic feeling could have ascended gradually till the culmination in times of Nazi Germany.

This could be the reason, and not the mere justification, of why anti-Semitic attitudes prevailed. Jewish being blamed for the prices to pay of the Treaty of Versailles; accused of world domination and conspiracy above all through their illusory Protocols of the Elders of Zion, exhibits of such ideologies through figures like Henry Ford and even Richard Wagner….are a tiny recollection of the many examples out there.

Like my dad tells me all the time, human society is like a huge farm, where one is the shepherd and the rest are sheep. Tyranny still exists, both in the form of single shepherds or as entities who govern behind the scenes. But what is most fascinating is how the sheeps follow so incessantly, when they’re fed and given instruction to where to walk. Is the people who believe in these tyrants like Hitler what really is intriguing; their quest for good being the same as anyone else, but their whole perception of it being totally different.

The silent babbler speaks for the first time...

So for the first time I've decided to try and recollect anything I see, hear and experience in life that interests me and just put it down in written form. People who are close have always encouraged me to do so and finally I've decided to come forward. I'm not a brilliant writer but I do find writing to be a great practice to keep my brain fresh...

So without further ado, I'll unleash the "silent babbler" inside me.... :)