Anuj came running with sweat dripping from his face, a heavy school bag on his back, muddy black shoes, his tie hanging loose, his shirt popping out of his tight white-black striped belt. “Ma, tell me, where did I come from?” he said trying to contain the tears.
Amused, mother looked at him and before answering his question, she held him close, loosened up his tie, unbuckled his belt and started unbuttoning his shirt when he jerked himself away from her, “Nooo, you first tell me, where did I come from?” His mother, laughing, said, “Come near me, I will tell you in your ear, don’t tell it to anyone!”
“You first tell me. You are not telling me what I am asking.”
“Nunnu, you came from the sky,” said his mother trying to gather him.
“You go and tell this to Neetu,” he said angrily.
“Why? What did Neetu tell you?”
“She told me that I am the son of that dirty old woman in the village and you got me from her because she could not take care of me.”
“Oh no honey! You are very much my son,” said his mother taking out his shirt. The shirt was wet with sweat and the sleeves had distinctly marked black lines, which he got while skidding on the balustrade of the stairs in his school. She looked at those lines and gave him a stern gaze. Anuj, like always, quietly looked down. He had perfected the trick by instinct.
She then took off his pants and there stood the young man aged six in his white vest and blue underpants exposing the soft supple masculine shoulders, biceps, thighs, legs.
Before his mother could dress him up in his regular t-shirt and half-pants, “Oye Nangu!” said Neetu – Anuj’s elder sister – as she entered slightly bent forward with a heavy broad school bag on her back.
Without minding the latest teaser, he said, “Mummeee! Now tell her that I am your son and not of that old woman.” Mother laughed again and said, “He is my son Neetu and you shut up!” Neetu went into her room smiling at mother’s banter.
Mother’s strict verdict did appease Anuj but not completely. Not after long he asked, “But mummee, where did I come from?”
“What do you mean honey?” said his mom, as she arranged the utensils for lunch.
“I am your son. That is fine. But where did I come from?” said Anuj, talking like an octogenarian.
“Go and ask your father, I don’t know,” she replied getting fed up. She sighed with relief as he made his way out of the lobby.
Anuj went to his father, who was in his office room buried under some half-open books with his spectacles hanging at the tip of his nose and was busy working up something on a calculator.
“Hmmm…” replied his father without moving his head.
His father gestured, asking him to wait a minute, then kept his calculator on the table and lifted Anuj in his lap, saying, “Yes my chicky-bone, what’s the problem?” as he pecked him on the cheek.
“Dad, where did I come from?”
“What did you say?” asked his father after a pause.
“Dad, I was asking Mom where did I come from and she sent me to you,” said Anuj with frustration mounting on his face.
“Arrey Shaanti! What are you teaching your kid?” he shouted to his wife. His wife came out of the kitchen with the top end of her saree tucked on her waist, “Arrey Baba! What can I teach him, he is teaching me instead.”
“Someone rightly said, child is the father of man.” Father with a big smiling face answered, “Sweetie! you came from the heavens up above,” and laughed to himself.
The answer suddenly lit up Anuj’s face and he jumped out of his father’s lap. Sooner than anything else he ran to update Neetu. He muttered to himself, “Mom says I came from the sky and Dad says I came from the heaven up above.” He went into the open yard and looked towards the heaven up above to see if he could witness the marvel of babies falling from the sky or being driven in a carriage pulled by winged horses, as he had seen in TV serials likeRamayana. After burning his eyes in the bright sun and failing to watch the spectacle, he thought may be the kids come in the night when the bright sun cannot scorch them. Satisfied, he walked into his Amma (grandmother) and Baba’s (grandfather’s) room, to discuss the findings with his Baba. He had built a rapport with his Baba, who had been in Anuj’s house over the last few months, owing to his ill health. Baba with his huge collection of stories and poems was a constant source of entertainment for Anuj. Anuj was in turn an object of amusement for everyone in the family. Siddharth, his elder brother, was his story book. In the struggle between Neetu and Siddharth, when both of them competed to get Anuj to sleep with them, Siddharth used to take him away by luring him with a story.
“Ma, where did I come from?” asked Anuj, reconfirming her answer. She was stirring the curry she was making for dinner. She was sweating all over – working in the kitchen always made her do so – and was in no mood for fun.
“Beta! you get out of the kitchen.”
“No! I am fine, You first tell me – I came from the heaven, right?”
“Go and ask Amma,” she said getting rid of him. So Anuj went to his Amma.
His Baba sat there huddled together wearing a white dhoti and a white shirt. Amma was also sitting by the side of the bed peeling oranges.
Amma was not very fond of Anuj as he asked a lot of questions. She preferred docile kids. But Anuj, without caring what his Amma thought, shook her and asked her loudly, “Amma, where did I come from? Daddy says I came from heaven, is it?”
“Ya, right!” said his Amma. His Baba gestured to him to sit by his side and offered him an orange slice.
“What’s your question?” asked his Baba.
“Baba, Daddy says that I came from heaven. But Neetu says that I came from Ma’s stomach,” he said as if sharing his anguish with a friend.
Hearing this, Amma got scandalized and chaffed him but Anuj was in the safe custody of hisBaba. Had it not been for Baba he would have got one on his head.
Baba raised his eyebrows and gestured to Amma asking for an explanation to Anuj’s question. While Amma shied away, Baba thought to himself, “Where do we come from? And where do we go? No one really knows…”
“She was showing me a picture from Siddharth’s biolology book. It had a photo of Ma with stomach bulging out and a baby sitting inside, rolled up,” continued Anuj.
Neetu, who was doing her homework on the dining table in the lobby, overheard him. “It’s not biolology. It’s biOlegy stupid!” she shouted.
Now Amma could not take it anymore and almost chased him out of the room and poor oldBaba said, “Arrey! what are you doing? Keep your cool, he is a kid.”
“Ya! You only let these kids talk such scandalous things. You better not promote this,” warnedAmma.
Baba usually avoided conflict. Especially with women he would revisit Tulsidas’ “Dhor, Ganwaar, Shudra, Pashu, Naari; Sakal Taadana ke adhikaari” to vindicate himself.
Meanwhile Anuj had escaped to the safe zone of the lobby, where Neetu had now engaged Siddharth in helping her get through her homework. His mother was also taking some fresh air in the lobby as she wiped the sweat from her face, hand, neck, stomach.
“Come here!” she called Anuj in a strict tone.
“What did Amma say to you?”
Neetu and Siddharth sat there smiling at each other.
“She called me scandalous,” said Anuj, as if happy with the compliment. “I was telling Babathat Neetu told me that I came from your stomach and not from the heaven up above. Neetu showed me a picture in Siddharth’s biogy book.”
“BiOlegy stupid!” said Neetu and got a tap on her head from Siddharth, who was explaining something to her.
Before his mother could say anything Anuj reached for Siddharth to confirm the knowledge he had received.
“No dear, babies do not drop from the heaven. Bacchu! I will tell you where you came from.”
The idea that Siddharth was going to expand on the process, mortally terrified mother. She was wondering what to do, what to tell, where to run and hide her face. She was sweating again.
After a brief pause, Siddharth added, “I will tell you the full story tonight, will you sleep with me or Neetu?”
Nunnu Wants A Toy
Nunnu was returning from his evening session of sports, which was guaranteed to him by his father. If it was left to others like his mother, grandmother or siblings he would have to spend all his evening in front of books pretending to study. Nunnu was not particularly studious. He studied just enough to escape the wooden ruler, which was an active instrument of learning in his school. He had his own ways of attracting punishment though, but the thrill involved made it all worth it. He never thought so – he just did it.
One summer evening, when the sky was done with the shimmering saffron ball and wanted the cool white one, when birds were done with the fight that each day brought and flew in a “V” across the sky cackling and wanting to retire to a good night’s sleep, Nunnu, after a long day at school and then later in the park with his so-called friends, decided to give vent to his wish. It had long been on his mind, but today his tryst with Rahul took the water above his head.
Nunnu, along with a couple of friends, played in a park which was just a couple of blocks away. They played football by keeping two bricks as the goal posts. Since the football belonged to Rahul – the rules of the game were ruled by Rahul. If he said it was a goal, it was a goal. If he said the ball was too wide or too high – so be it. He did not like Rahul’s snobbery, which became utterly frustrating when Rahul would just pick up his ball and start walking back towards his house. Nunnu hated to stop him and play with such a loser. But he had no choice. So he decided to ask his father to save him from such embarrassment and frustration.
Nunnu had a football at home, which was abandoned by Siddharth after the stitches on the white-black jacket wore out and the orange colored bladder started peeping out. The ball could not even be inflated to a pressure that made it hard enough since the orange bladder would pop out. Consequently the ball became very soft and sluggish like Rahul, a chubby boy, round like a football. His cheeks and tummy jumped up and down, very much like the football Nunnu had. The ball when hit would take the whole toe inside, as if making love with it. Not just that – the white patches were peeling off to reveal the dirty underskin and since it lay in the dusty cobwebbed store room, it had assumed the same dusty appearance.
Nunnu’s father generally came back from office while he was playing out. Sometimes, while his father drove on his gray Bajaj Super, his friends would point out to him that his father was coming, with the expectation that Nunnu would be scolded and asked to come back home, like other parents did. Nunnu would take a break to wave a ‘Good evening, dad’ to his father and resume playing.
Today he finished his game earlier than usual and waited for his father. He waited for a middle aged man – impeccably dressed, with well combed hair, and a composed serious demeanor driving a gray-colored Bajaj Super – turning into the lane towards his house.
His face lit up as he saw his father on the scooter approaching the house. His father always maintained his scooter very well. Every day before he left for office, he would wipe it clean with a wet cloth except on Sundays when Siddharth would do it in return for a small drive around the block they lived. The first thing his father did after returning was to change his clothes, wash himself up and settle down for a tea. All the kids in the house were instructed not to disturb their father, till he had relaxed for a while at home. He needed some time to get on with the business of the house and hated being bombarded with the concerns of family life straightaway.
He opened the door with a cheerful “Good evening, dad.” Every evening when his father came from office, he got a bag full of vegetables and seasonal fruits. This was summer, a season of mangoes, of Dushehri. Dushehri mangoes were the only thing that could replace his father’s tea.
Nunnu closed the door behind his dad, who walked with the scooter turned off. He offered to carry the bag inside, which was not quite light for a young man of his age, as his father put the scooter on stand and took out his small office bag.
“You did not go to play today?” asked his father.
“I had gone but came back early,” he replied. “I don’t like playing with Rahul,” he added.
“And why is that?”
“He is so be-imaan. He cheats at every step and if you tell him anything, he takes his football and walks away.”
“So, what do you guys do when he does that?”
“Nothing, what can we do. We have to agree with him.”
His father nodded his head as if trying to solve the issue. Nunnu was just about to put a proposal for a possible solution when he remembered the protocol and waited.
Nunnu’s mom brought a cup of tea as his father, dressed in a neat white kurta-pyjama, flipped through the pages of the Times of India, briefly stopping at the page which carried the advertisements for a car or a car loan. He was one of the very few amongst his peers who drove a scooter, everyone else drove a four-wheeler. He had been wanting to buy a car for a long time.
“Get me some mangoes first,” he said on seeing the tea.
“This will get cold,” Nunnu’s mother blurted out. “And then you will ask me to make a new one, because re-heated doesn’t taste good,” she added sarcastically.
Before anything else was said or done, Nunnu froze. He knew this tone and it took his senses no time to set the alarm bells ringing portending an altercation – some heated words, some red eyes, a pinch of anger and loads of pain. It did not even occur to him that his wish for a football had been suddenly wiped off his mind, right now he just wanted to escape being a witness to this.
“What’s wrong?” said his father in a not particularly cajoling tone. His mother did not reply and angrily took the cup of tea as she headed back to the kitchen.
Nunnu was surprised at this breach of protocol laid down by his mom herself – not to trouble his father till he had relaxed for a while – and was baffled by the disruption of the queue when he thought he was the first one with his wish for a football.
“Okay, get me the tea only, I will have mangoes later,” his father cajoled his mother. His mother came briskly and kept the cup of tea on the table looking straight into the eyes of his father, who was hovering on the brink of an outburst after a dog-day-work at office, yet he added, “Will you sit here for a while?” So his mom sat there staring into the blank wall. His father sipped the tea and then coolly, as if by a sudden spark, barely concealing his laughter, said, “What do you want?” He had lived with her long enough to know what was on her mind.
Everybody has her own way of asking things.
“Today Mrs. Arora sent an invitation card for her daughter’s marriage this Saturday,” whimpered Nunnu’s mother. There was a pause as his father sipped the tea and waited for further elaboration on the problem as an invitation card could not be the reason for someone’s anger.
“I don’t want to go to any party. I am not going to attend any marriage-varriage,” she said as her angry sadness filtered through her voice. “I have been crying to get a pair of bangles for ages. I am not going anywhere to make a fool of myself looking like a beggar.”
By now Nunnu had reached his limit of tolerance – he couldn’t bear this interplay anymore. He looked for Neetu, who was his regular escape plan from such a situation, but she was nowhere to be found, so he went back to his mom asking for her, “Ma, where is Neetu?”
“I have no clue where the hell she is,” said his mother.
“Why are you taking out your anger on him,” bantered his father, but before his father could call Nunnu, he had escaped to his Baba’s room, where his Baba and Amma were having tea together. That room had its quietude no matter what, primarily because Baba and Amma always talked in a hushed tone such that absolutely no one could overhear them. Even he had tried sometimes but would not understand anything – he often heard names of people he had never known. Yet he would listen intently trying to make some sense of the sentences.
Nunnu heard his Amma say something like, “Jewels for the wedding ceremony…trip to Vaishno Devi is eternally postponed,” and then a contortion on her face followed by a long pause. As usual it did not make any sense – but Vaishno Devi struck a spark in him. “Baba are we going to Vaishno Devi?” asked Nunnu enthusiastically.
“Why don’t you go and ask your mom?” replied his Amma, with her very own acerbic tone.
Baba frowned at her and gestured to Nunnu to come and sit in his lap. Nunnu nestled into his Baba’s lap, while his Baba very cautiously held the teacup in his right hand. Nunnu started playing with his Baba’s wrinkled and sagging cheeks which were similar to the deflated football he had. He rubbed his supple cheeks against the white stubble which tickled him. The memory of an irritating friend, the wish for a football, his mother’s anger or the remarks of his Amma, nothing was potent enough to disturb him as he nestled in his Baba’s lap.
Nikhil was a little slow. He took time in responding. But he was never embarrassed about it. He had developed the cutest smile to avert any averse reaction. In all other matters he was just as smart as the other kids – like he would never do his homework, play in dirt, not get up early in the morning, not drink milk and similar matters. He played quite a lot and still managed to remain cutely chubby. I think he managed to escape all the ball chasing and similar stupid things by some method of his own. Though he could not escape a complexion given to him by excessive exposure to the sun.
I used to teach him during summers. I had appeared for high school exams and had three months before school started. I was teaching Nikhil and two more kids. It was the only way for me to make some money to buy a wristwatch for myself. Besides, teaching was fun. These kids I taught were some 5-6 years younger than me. At some point of time, I had also played with these kids.
I taught Nikhil all the subjects. Nikhil’s mom was particular about Mathematics. She thought he was weak in Mathematics. Truth was he was weak in everything. I would get bored of teaching Mathematics because it did not encourage any dialogue. I liked teaching English. It had stories and even if they were stories for kids, I enjoyed them. And through stories I could talk to him, which I liked.
One day I was teaching him a story which had an Elephant and there was reference to its tusks in it. I asked Nikhil to read it and he read the word tusk as tuks. I stopped and said “It is not tuks, it is TUS-K”. He said “TUKS” and gave his million-billion-trillion-dollar smile. I emphasized “No No, not TUK-S but TUS-K”. He immediately responded “tuks” and again gave his cute smile and added “Bhaiyya! I can’t say it”. I saw no reason why he could not place one consonant before the other. It was perfectly simple for me. I said “Of course you can say it”. Nikhil seemed a little worried now.
I said “Ok! Say TUS”
This appeared weird to him. But I was not to give in so easily. I thought – he could pronounce both the consonants, now he just needed to put one before the other. So I raised my voice and said “Say TUKSAA” and Nikhil grinned. Immediately realizing my mistake I said “NoNo sorry! Say TUSKAA”, in a more humble tone.
He smiled and said “Leave it bhaiyya! I won’t be able to say it.”
I said politely “I am sure you can say it”.
“See! There you go…”
I never forgot that smile. In all the years since I taught him, in moments of severe doubt when I have no strength left to carry on, when I am sure that I will fail, I remember Nikhil’s tuks as they brightly shone through that day.
There are many reasons one could go for a protest march or organize one. I shall speak for myself and let me also confess, the reasons are totally selfish.
The most important reason – health. You fast for a day and then shout and walk. If you do this for a week, I guarantee better results than any other Diet plan.
Most of us lead a very sedentary life. Even if we do something physical our vocal chords are never exercised. We are all polite and gentlemanly, mostly. Slogans overhaul the whole sound system of your body very well. And what better way than uttering “Bharat Mata ki Jai” & “Vande Matram“.
When in a crowd with mostly strangers around, one gets a strange sense of companionship. The person next to you is equally concerned about the issue. Feeling of being an Indian.
Passion: People often think that passion is sort of an emotion, it is. But it is almost a muscular apparatus which needs some exercise for proper functioning. Once you march and shout and hope and be positive about future, the passion that emerges from this whole exercise, I hope, will also contribute to other efforts. It’s almost a character transformation. Well, if you are in mid life crisis, are depressed, have low enthusiasm – this agitation will cure you.
It is funny when you come home in the evening and see the senior government officials fumbling on TV. You can almost hear the ghost conversations between Sonia and Manmohan – These guys along with others in the coterie would be getting nightmares. All this because I march. The result is as instantaneous as hitting a ball for six!
Even if corruption continues, I have had my kicks. And just in case Corruption goes down, the children of this nation will reserve a seat for me in heaven 🙂 Day by day the parliament rocks, the home minister eats his words, the Spokesperson & others hide. The Corrupt fumble as I march, we march.
And though our education system taught us Civics, a protest is a hands-on experience of democracy, civil disobedience and people’s power.
The corrupt beware, the conscience of this nation is on a march.
Bharat Mata Ki – Jai.
Vande – Matram.
Annaji aap aage badho – Desh aapke saath hai.
On 8th August 1942, amidst all the chaos and differing opinions about whether India should ask for complete independence from British rule, Gandhiji in a speech in Bombay urged the country to launch a massive Civil Disobedience Movement. (Nehru thought this was premature. Jinnah was against the call, thus Muslim League gained the support from the oppressors.)
9th Aug 2011, about 70 years later. Anna team which is asking for cleaning up of India and once again there are people, very widely and commonly known as the corrupt, who are attacking this team from various fronts. They just want India to continue as their harem. (Watch this video about Robert Vadehra). It is important to note that at no point of time in the history would there have been a consensus. I’m sure that even during the Freedom Struggle of 1857 when Rani Laxmi bai would have stepped out the way she did, there would have been a significant opposition from her own brethren. But amidst all this plurality one has to make a clear choice that governs the future of a community. Not making a choice is a much worse option. Inaction has much long-lasting and far-reaching negative consequences.
Last Night, it was a wonderfully overcast sky in South Mumbai at Azad Maidan. Thousands had gathered to listen to Arvind Kejriwal and see Annaji. Anna Hazare has become the face of this revolution. People vowed to not work for six days from 16th August and that there is going to be a massive protest on 16th August at all the places throughout the country. Anna’s plea to protest at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi has been rejected though. Anna team provided a full dose of Civil Disobedience – Intelligent speeches, enlightening words, enthusiasm and a good 5 kms walk.
Why this revolution? It’s the next step in the evolution of the Re-Public of India. It is indeed a process of re-public-ation of our country. The process started with the RTI Act. Anna Hazare had to struggle for 11 long years to get the RTI bill passed. It is a consequence of this bill that a whole lot of scams are now in the public eye. Anna has some 12 police complaints against him, lodged by various politicians with whom he went loggerheads. Anna sat on an anshan for some 11 days in the same maidan a few years ago, until this bill was passed.
This bill brings out all the information about scams but it does not necessitate an action against the perpetrator. It is a consequence of the RTI that 2G scam information is coming out, CWG Scam was brought to light and many more.
Did you guys know that 13 RTI applicants were killed last year! Please note that all these applicants would have been reasonably well read, decently connected people with family and friends. A farmer does not lodge an RTI Application.
Janlokpal is the next step in the sense that if this bill comes into action the corrupt will be punished immediately and their private wealth confiscated by the government. The government disagrees! So amidst all this bosh job that the Congress is trying to do – they are simply not doing anything.
Now the government has also come up with a version – but if that version was to be tested – since the BOFORS to the current 2G or CWG, none of them would be uncovered or taken action against.
Well the truth is that nothing is going to change with the government’s version of the Janlokpal bill. Government’s version is actually designed to deter the whistleblowers. Because if the whistleblower cannot prove the charge then the minimum jail term for such a person is 2 years and if proven guilty the corrupt official has a minimum jail term of 6 months (that is after he/she gets a free advocate.). There is no better indicator of what’s in the heart and minds of our august parliamentarians.
Also under the government’s version following categories are exempted: PM, MP, MLA, CBI, Judiciary, Central Govt. Employees of Group B, C, D.
Yeah yeah… I was also like “So who is covered…”. Very rightly so this bill has been named as the JOKEPAL Bill.
The problem with the governance is that it controls everything including the prime criminal investigating body CBI. This has become a system of the most corrupt.
Essentially because MPs and MLAs were given the protection by the constitution that they cannot be investigated so parliament has become the home and breeding ground of all the criminals and miscreants.
Another slogan shouted last night was “Kapil Sibbal – Chor hai!”
It is still monsoon in Mumbai and there were light showers in between but not a single soul moved. Umbrellas came up a bit and then went down.
It was so empowering to be standing in that gathering, where we were all strangers yet there was a commonality in all of us. A very tangible feeling. I guess it was an exclusive feeling of belonging to the country. At every other gathering there is a different purpose, this one was for the country for ourselves and for all of us.
A lesson in Civil Disobedience – we have all heard of the various Civil Disobedience Movements done during the long struggle against the British Imperialism. But last night it was a lesson in that. A live case study if you would.
Kejriwal said “Angrez to chale gaye lekin angreziyat chhod gaye. Pehle gore desh ko loot ke London paisa le jaate the ab kaale desh ko loot ke Switzerland paisa le jaate hain.”
Kejriwal is an eloquent speaker and with the clarity of a truly engineering mind. Much of what he said was welcomed with huge applause and his speech ended with Bharat Mata Ki Jai, Vande-Matram.
Annaji quoted “Congress Spokesperson said these people from outside cannot dictate terms” and then added “Arre yeh outsiders nahi hai, yeh tumhare maalik hain. Inhone tumhe yahan bithaya hai”. He then stressed on the meaning of “Vidhan Sabha“, a gathering which is elected by us to make good laws for us. “Vidhayak” – we elect you so that you go and make good rules and laws for us. “Tum kya kar rahe ho wahan baith kar!?”
After all the speeches, we sang the national anthem. No recording, no music, thousands of us sang the National Anthem and it was one of those rare occasions where a national anthem feels like a national anthem unlike some other times (before watching a film!).
After the national anthem we were supposed to go for a march from the Azad Maidan to August Kranti Maidan. It was about 5 kms from there. I had never walked as much in South Mumbai. This was right through the heart of South Mumbai. There was a massive traffic jam, where ever we went. Felt sorry for the folks. Then we crossed the huge south mumbai style traffic lights and all the traffic was stopped. By this time, it was dark and the sea-wind fuelled us for louder slogans. A couple of kilometers into the journey a group also got some Mashals. As we passed through the residential areas there was a huge crowd of onlookers and some of showered flowers on us and by god, this was the first time in my life I was participating in something which was welcomed like this. It was not pre-arranged, it could not be! This was for real, there is no greater approval to this effort.
Shouting slogans & sweating in the end, we reached the August Kranti Maidan. Originally there was a plan to take an oath on the ground that we will sit in Anshan from 16th August with Annaji but it turned out that the maidan was not as big.
Well guys please ask your family and friends to contribute to this movement by joining in the anshan for whatever duration they can and also read up about it, understand it. www.indiaagainstcorruption.org
In my opinion constitution is not meant to be written, it is meant to be MADE! like prepared and we are in the process of making that biggest change. The most desperately needed change. It is the time to get some real freedom. Then only will be a true REPUBLIC. A true Gan-Tantra.
Feed me back, your likes dislikes.
Frame it as you would but judge me not
Coz’ tomorrow I will not be me.
Couple of months ago I went to watch a film because a dear friend of mine had written dialogues for the film. It so turned out that it was a terrible film. Despite my trying to sit through it, I couldn’t sit beyond the intermission. Also, it was one of those rare occasions, being alone made it only worse. Anyways, I got out of the Cinema Hall and in the evening called my friend and couldn’t keep it from him. Told him the truth “I couldn’t sit through the whole film”. I have always taken pride in being truthful never ass-licking, because I think ass-licking someone is insulting his intelligence because I can smell the ass-lickers the moment i see that dripping oh-so-sweet smile on the face.
In days to follow this friend of mine stopped calling me, ignored me and was just a little short of hostile. He had been not only a friend but a mentor or guide of sorts too and that he was quite senior to me. The reason I blurted out what I did was because he had often joked with me and that I was comfortable telling him as it is. Clearly it was not the healthiest thing to do.
If you are in the field of filmmaking, acting, writing or any arts for that matter, you would have faced this scenario when a friend shows you his work and you think to yourself “This is shit! What do I say now?”
Apart from the above incident, since I act, watching films and commenting on them is almost a part of my profession. Many a times I was in a situation where I had a difference of opinion even judging a piece of work by an unrelated artist. And saying something unreasonably critical of something that someone else like may also have its repercussions.
This got me thinking – How does one give feedback? Because each film involves work of literally hundreds of people with such huge amounts of money at stake while we by a simple stroke bring it down. Similarly for other arts too – how many hours and years does a writer spend in coming up with the novel or short stories or poems or whatever. And apart from money of-course, one of the things that an artist looks forwards to is the reaction of its audience. Also, no matter how big or small an artist is, there is a genuineness in the motivation to do the work. What comes out is altogether a different matter.
So, while giving feedback, there are primarily two broad approaches : One, you try not to say anything rude or unpleasant & Two, you just say exactly what you feel like saying.
In the first approach, one is being overcareful either about the relationship with the artist or other such factors. The basic problem with such a feedback is that it is not a feedback at all. It becomes an exercise in diplomacy. It does not help the artist, except may be his ego (make no mistake Ego Massage can do wonders!), which will also not be healthy in the long run, for him or for you or for the bond between the two.
Second approach, though one may think that saying it exactly as it occurs in your head is the pure objective truth which the artist has somehow failed to see. Well “truth” isn’t that simple a thing even if it is about the one’s reaction to a piece of art – play, film, poem, painting whatever. See I might love ‘Pyaasa‘ or say ‘Apocalypse Now‘ but many others may not. Similarly there might be a Box Office Blockbuster but I might not want to spend a paisa on it. What I want to establish here is that what we call truth is never “objective”, it is always “subjective” – more so in the context of reaction to a work of art.
So what do we do now? We can’t speak as we feel and it’s useless to be over polite. It makes sense to think – why are we giving feedback? What is the artist’s intention in asking for it? Or why this process of feedback. Well the answer is rather simple – so that the artist can improve his work.
“Improve his work” – The sole objective is to help the artist get better otherwise there is no point of this whole exercise.
An approach that works best for me and which takes care of the above dilemma is when we express our reaction in terms of “This is what I liked, these parts I really loved. This thing was ok and these things did not work for me or jarred.” And it takes effort to do this. It is far too simplistic, in fact lazy, to just say ‘Oh i didn’t like it’ or ‘it was shit’ or ‘it is awesome’. What contributes to the artist is when one says ‘Oh this line was awesome, really loved it’… ‘the way it was said was great’….”her being in this dress when he suddenly drops in is inappropriate, felt jarring… and so on…”
Once the artist hears what works and what does not work and for whom – he or she is in a much better position to make choices about how he wants to take it forward.
Having done our job of giving honest reactions, it is the job of the artist to take the feedback the way it is meant to be.
Having gone through a significant introspection I actually put this question to the same friend whose film I had to walk out of – “How does one give feedback?”. He spoke some good words of wisdom and in the process also forgave me. I continue to respect his work and our relationship. He helps me, guides me and also sometimes looks forward to my feedback.