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India Walking Away Into The Twilight Zone

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Roaring Into Twilight[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Shoma Chaudhury
Executive Editor
<table width="200" align="right"> <tbody><tr> <td>
</td> </tr> <tr bgcolor="#cccccc"> <td>[FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Illustration: ANAND NAOREM[/FONT]</td> </tr> </tbody></table> [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]ONE UNSUSPECTING MORNING three years ago, my father walked down the stairs and never came back. He was on his way to drop my three-yearold son to school when his great head suddenly tilted gently over his shoulder with a sigh, and he lost consciousness under the mango tree in front of my house. The doctors said, the lights went out in his brain. He had had a massive haemorrhage. He was a little short of 75.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The shock hit us hard. There had been no preamble, no illness, no creeping frailty, and for a long while after, whenever I was alone, especially in a plane staring at the borderless void outside, a shooting pain would jolt through me, unbidden, unlatching itself like a toy box hinged on a faulty spring. But slowly, as unbidden, a curious sense of calm and invulnerability came to replace the pain.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]My father was not a well-known man but he left a grand legacy. For 40 years he had been a doctor in some of the most neglected corners of India — the tea gardens of Bengal and, later, in the primitive Bihar district of Madhepura. In the absence of any medical infrastructure, he was all things to all patients — a general practitioner, an orthopaedist, a neurosurgeon, a gynaecologist, a plastic surgeon, a paediatrician. He was blessed with that increasingly rare gift — a doctor’s intuition and a humanist’s brain, and he performed impossible surgeries in impossible conditions. Delivering stuck breech babies, building absent stomach walls, fixing abdomens gored by elephants, restoring life (and sometimes beauty) to victims with 95 percent burns. All on a makeshift operation table under the light of an inverted table lamp. And no air-conditioning. He had a pithy dictum he lived by. Mind over matter, mind over matter, he would say, and with that inexpensive ammunition he took everything in his stride.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Strangely, as the first months passed, my father’s death left me with a powerful gift. Each time I thought of him, I’d smile. Remembering his boundary-less love of mangoes and boiled eggs. His sudden guffaws. His fullthroated anecdotes of rampaging animals and drunk tribals and despairing tea-planters. His understated wisdoms. Death suddenly meant very little, and the fear of losing was replaced by the unassailable calm of having known someone who had lived fully and without regret.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]TEHELKA’s special edition this week — The Elixir of Youth — celebrates this triumph of the lived life over the assaults of age and death. It features extraordinary men and women — 75 and above — who are still in youthful mid-stream, joyously, defiantly in the thick of life.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Ninety-four-year-old MF Husain dashing about the globe like a sci-fi gypsy, buying luxury cars and painting with feverish excitement. Eighty-sixyear- old Ram Jethmalani still picking burly fights with the powerful and the corrupt, and thrashing younger men at badminton. Seventy-eight-yearold Bejan Daruwalla bellowing hellos to his Ganesha idols, while chuckling at the antics of Tom and Jerry. Seventyfive- year-old Waheeda Rehman sitting in sub-zero cold without complaint to finish a shot. Eighty-year-old Krishnammal travelling from village to village, sleeping on whatever mat comes her way, tirelessly fighting for the landless. Eighty-five-year-old RK Laxman still capable of cracking a daily pungent joke on India. And 101-year-old Rashid Saheb still strapped to the pleasures of his soaring throat.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Old age usually comes packed in fearful stereotypes: complaints, loneliness, a calling in of old debts, a demand for duteous love. A crippling obsession with failing sap and aching bones. The young avoid the old, simultaneously bored and terrified of this image of what they will become. But these men and women prove that old age is a contagion you can by-pass. And dipping strength, sickness — even death — can be merely immaterial fluctuations in the great business of life.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]In the 50-odd portraits in this issue, different people have spoken of different ruses: meditation, yoga, diets, a regimen of exercise. But the real weapon they collectively wield is an impetuous zest for life and a vivid frame of mind.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The first string in this frame — the one most undervalued — is the capacity to take boundless pleasure in things, both frivolous and deep. Shanti Bhushan in his soap serials; Charles Correa in his sudokus; Bhanu Athaiya in her hairbands; Akbar Padamsee in the quality of rain; Shyam Benegal in a new film; Homai Vyarawala in spicy food; Soli Sorabjee in the company of women. It keeps them interested; it makes them interesting.[/FONT]
<table width="250" align="right" border="1" cellpadding="5"> <tbody><tr> <td bgcolor="#cccccc">[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]These men and women prove that dipping strengths — even death — can be merely immaterial fluctuations in the great business of life[/FONT]</td> </tr> </tbody></table> [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Then there is the great quartet: passion, curiosity, continuing engagement and zero sense of entitlement. Part of the legend of MF Husain is that at 94, he has the curiosity of the new born. He is freshly learning Arabic; is fascinated by new gadgets; the thoughts of the young; and the innovations of a new century. Exiled from a country he has loved, at the fag end of his life, he wasted no time in querulous complaint and waited for no one to hoist his refuge for him. He built himself a new world and placed himself at its joyous centre. He lives as if there is no end in sight; and because of this, when the end does come, he will have subdued its importance.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]This issue may be centred on people above 75, but all its inspirations are for the young. We picked well-known people so that their stories would resonate for everyone. But the real beauty of these eminent people is that their spirit can be exhilaratingly commonplace.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]I had never noticed my father was growing old: he had given no sign of it. He gave no notice for his death either. All we were left with when he was gone, then, was the memory of a rich man and the glorious elixir of his life.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The physical passage of years is inevitable; but the offence of old age is not. The stories of the men and women in this issue is public proof of that hopeful thought.[/FONT]

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] No Country for Old Men[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The Internet is one of the most striking markers of the 21st century’s spin on the generational divide, says Rashmi bansal. the older lot may resist what cyberspace is doing to norms and relationships, but the young have made it their home[/FONT]
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[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]DID YOU KNOW?[/FONT]​
</td> </tr> <tr> <td>
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]3.7 crore and growing
Of india’s 3.7 crore Internet users in 2006, 34 lakh were college students. They spent 37% of their time on information and education-related
searches, 35% on e-mail, 14% on chat and 9% on entertainment
</td> </tr> </tbody></table> [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]It’s close to 10 pm. In bunches of twos and threes, on cycles and on foot, gulping down a still-hot coffee, leaving the remains of a Maggi, the girls are heading home. Ten o’clock is curfew time at the iit Roorkee girls hostel — no such restrictions for the boys, of course. Locked up in a pwd cement castle, like ‘decent’ girls ought to be. And yet not gazing out forlornly at the world. “Jab hostel mein Internet hai to kya problem hai?” Who can feel like a prisoner with a 24-hour, high-speed connection to the virtual world?[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] A world where the normal rules don’t seem to apply. A world which the people who make the rules barely understand. A world where who you are and what you wish to be can, in a brief and shining moment, collide.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] Or, at least, that’s how we — who grew up in the pre-Internet era — think of it. We rationalise, we analyse, we numeralise. The Internet and Mobile Association of India estimates that school-going kids spend an average of 322.3 minutes a week on the Internet, while college students spend an average of 433.2 minutes a week. And that’s just the average. There are a lot of young people who log hours and hours more.[/FONT][FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] [/FONT]
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[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]In a world we can enter with our minds alone, the young have grown the gills, the fins and the aqua intelligence to swim a sea of sex, spam and scraps from ‘dude123’[/FONT]​
</td> </tr> </tbody></table> [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Why do they it? Because this is the only life they know. [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]My seven-year-old daughter hears of a country called Finland on TV. “Mummy, where is it?” she asks. “Find out,” I exhort. There is a globe on her study table, an atlas, and more than one dictionary. “I know,” she says triumphantly, “I’ll look it up on Google Earth!” [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Not just Google, but a specific Google application.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] Every generation is different in a single, definitive way. My parents learnt English as a language. I think in it. We still see the Internet as a utility. The younger generation lives in it.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] Those over 30 use the Internet. E-mail, Google Search, Skype, booking airline tickets — these are the tools that facilitate their lives, rooted in a real world. The more adventurous among us blog, use flickr, explore YouTube. But the majority is too busy or too intimidated to learn so much that’s new. More so because much of this stuff has no specific purpose.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] And that is precisely the attraction of the Internet for the young. Sure, they look for jobs, spouses and movie reviews online. But, equally important, they hang out. Orkut is nothing but a virtual adda — albeit a slightly more democratic one than in the real world. [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Guys who would never have had the courage to say hello to that girl at their bus stop now breezily leave scraps with six exclamation marks. The girl won’t reply, most likely, but chance to liya na. And, hey, once every hundred times or so, someone hits bullseye. [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Which hope is reason enough to keep trying.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] So why does it upset us so when we see our kids, their eyes glowing, their fingers racing nimbly across the keyboard? Almost as if under a spell.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] Why does an iit Bombay, which first filled the student cup to overflowing with high-speed Internet access, now declare, “What we have given, we can also take away?”[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The reason, I think, is that this new world our young people have discovered is like Lucy stumbling through the wardrobe into the magical world of Narnia. Who would have thought there could be something like that hidden away in an ordinary wooden cupboard, full of mothballs and old coats?[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] In a similar way, the computer was supposed to lead our youth down the path of knowledge — to software jobs and global careers. We bought it for ‘educational purposes’. [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Laments the parent. “Now look — all he does is play online games!”[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] It’s a betrayal of sorts. The computer is no longer a ‘course’ but a box with as many mindless — and endless — possibilities as television. Both lead to new and radical ideas. [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]They say evolution takes millions of years. That if the world were suddenly to be flooded, we would not be able to simply adapt and grow gills. [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]That is Nature’s way. [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]So we trick it. We create a world which we can enter with our minds alone — and the young quickly grow the gills, the fins, the aqua intelligence which lets them swim serenely through a sea of sex, spam, shayari forwards and scraps from ‘dude123’.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] It’s us oldies who are left on dry land, in the real world, after short dives in and out of this orgasmic online ocean. Shaking our heads, and gasping for breath.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Bansal is founder-editor of jam magazine (www.jammag.com)[/FONT]​

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