Shakespeare- the common man’s hero

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The persona of the man we know as William Shakespeare is tough to comprehend. The figure that is Shakespeare is tainted by history, fiction, fame, and politics. Some consider him the father of English literature, some the world’s foremost playwright. But whichever may be an individual’s pick, it is very difficult to understand William, the man.

The film ‘Shakespeare in love’ has attempted to step off a literary pedestal and look at him as a common man- one who had a wife he did not love; one who had to produce lines for a living; one that desired the female company to the extent that he had to visit local brothels; one that drowned his sorrows under the influence of ale; and one who was jealous of his contemporary.

The film traces the creation of Romeo and Juliet and the rise of Shakespeare into the limelight. As is common knowledge, Elizabethan England frowned upon plays. The clergy endorsed only morality plays, performed in the church yards and disregarded any theatre company as the playground of the devil.

Furthermore England had just been hit by another wave of the plague owing to which theatres like the Rose were ordered to shut down. In such a sticky situation, if a young playwright had to leave his mark on society, he had to achieve something extraordinary.

The young Will, not only struggled with writer’s block (which he went to a therapist to resolve), he had to face daily threats of being fired from the owner of the theatre. This man starts out as a village boy trying to make it big in the filth and glamour of London. He fears that he will have to get back to the country to his unloving wife, the marriage to whom was a mere financial contract.

This is a man who is bursting passion. He has a sonnet on his lips for beautiful women and is in search of his muse. The renaissance symbolized rebirth; rebirth of ideas and forming new opinions. It was a world away from the conservative society of the past.

England had a female ruler who drove the country to greatness. She had just won a religious battle against the Vatican and had managed to keep peace between the Catholics and the Protestants in the nation. Furthermore, the common man could finally find means of expression.

Books were being published in the common tongue. Primary education was on the rise. For instance Shakespeare’s generation was perhaps the most literate population England had ever seen.

The classics, that were previously only accessible to the Latin speaking elite, were now available to the masses in English. Theatre was endorsed by the queen herself which is why theatre houses like Rose had survived and people like Shakespeare were employed.

Not only does Shakespeare do things differently in his plays, his complete disregard for the classical rules of drama (like Aristotelian Unity) showed that he was open to experimentation. Due to the lack of props, he had to make do with words and that he did well. Shakespeare was a master of his words. Every sentence he produced did something to the audience.

It was popular belief that all the audience wanted was some comedy (often slapstick), and some fighting as their theatre diet. William changed it. He gave the world a romantic tragedy. He gave the world- Romeo and Juliet.

The story is not just about the relationship between a man and a woman, it is a struggle to find a safe spot in the new world. Although the new thoughts had entered England, the old traditions and believes still existed. Both Romeo and Juliet, face a political divide and yet struggle to find love and hold on to that love despite the protests of their respective families. They end up dying. But the beauty of the story lies in the fact that at the end, they made their own decisions and that Juliet, a woman, had the courage to face the society.

Viola, who was the inspiration for Juliet and also William’s lover, was a very different kind of muse. Unlike previous muses who were overshadowed by the artists, Viola held her own. She, a lady who came from wealth, had the courage to dress like a boy and follow her dreams. She lead a duel life- in one she was Lady Viola full of poise and grace ready to do her father’s bidding, and in the other, she dressed like a boy and played Romeo in front of the audience.

It is the courage and determination of Viola that epitomizes the renaissance. Romeo and Juliet made the audience weep. The queen herself applauded the performance as the first work that got the concept of love right.

Shakespeare’s story is an everyman’s story. It is the attempt to break out of the situation one is born into and make something out of one’s life. Rajnikanth reminds me of William Shakespeare. If the former’s popularity is viewed in context of his background, it is plausible to come to the conclusion that the phenomenon mirrors that of the latter’s.

Shakespeare’s was an all too familiar struggle of the rural against the urban, of the common man against the lords and the mob’s against the regimes. His story resonates with the common man’s and he will always remain their hero.

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To the little girl who was afraid of the sea

When you were six, you hardly ever spoke. When in the company of strangers, you would hide behind my back and hold on to my shirt. When you were eleven we went to the sea and you were scared of how the waves splashed against the shore. You were terrified of the sound and smell of the water. You held on to my hand and refused to go anywhere near the it.

When you were five, we went on our first flight together. You were so shy that whenever any passer by tried to talk to you, you would squeeze my hand in a death grip. The nights they fought, we would lie close together on the bed holding each other while we shed tears.

Now you have grown up and I know are a strong independent woman. You were always the brains of the family and you always tried to do good by everyone. You are my little over achiever who aims to please. But amidst the world of thick books and medals, I hope you don’t leave your childhood behind.

Don’t make the same mistake I made at your age. Do not aim to please. Enjoy the sunshine after sleepless nights of hanging out with friends; enjoy the hangovers and the love pangs; enjoy the school dramas and the world of movies. Get your fill of sleep because after eighteen, you can bid goodbye to that. Get your fill of your family because people grow old and apart with age. Explore territories that you haven’t before. Fail once, fail twice and fail again because failure is a better teacher than success.

Dream a dream and then change that dream the next day because now is when the possibilities are most. Fall in love and realise the difference between love and infatuation. Get a job at McDonalds and understand that there is a lot of value in the smile of the boy who is given a happy meal by his father.

Join a cause and fight for it because if not now, when? When they ask you, “what do you want to be?” tell them that you want to be happy. When they ask which university, tell them the name of all possible ones because there is no end to learning.

Learn that experience is more valued than mugging up facts and that you can always change what you want. There is always a new dawn after a bad day.

Dear kid, don’t be sorry for not knowing what you want to do and for wanting something no one wants to give. It is okay. You will fail. You must fail. But you will come out of it shining, just like the time you boarded the plane on your own and made friends with the other passengers.

If a shy little kid could become a confident woman, there is nothing in this world you can’t do. I wish you knew how proud I was of you and I wish I could be the one you had your first smoke with and told all your secrets to.

But alas! It is what it is. All I know for a fact is that I will always watch over you even if it is from behind a screen.

Perfect Human

The world dominated by the perfect human scares me. Imagine looking at all the fashion magazines and seeing the Dolce Gabbana clad models- perfect in their waist size, hair length, height, hair style, eye makeup and clothes; and then looking at yourself. You, clad in the old pajamas with pimples over your face; possibly above the golden weight, already feel way beneath the freckle less beauties. You have an inferiority complex and start to starve yourself. After a year of forcing yourself to vomit out every meal you have eaten and matting yourself with mac makeup, you might achieve that golden weight. But to what cost? A failing digestive system and a draught stricken body that will fall down at the slightest blow of air?

Now place yourself in a world of the perfect human- one that did not have to starve itself to look good. One that has it in their gene. One engineered to beat the highest specie on the food chain- itself. The Homo sapiens would have perfected its flaws and become invincible. The parents just need go window shopping- choose the hair color and the waist size along with the gene that makes your IQ above that of Einstein’s’. How would you- the mere ‘natural born’ who has a fit of cough and cold every other day that makes you slow in performance and bed ridden even when you don’t wish for it- then feel among the almost Gods?

I, for one, would declare myself a hermit and go reside in the deepest jungle with the lesser adequate species for company, all the while living in the fear of seeing a human. Such a world would come. I am sure it would. But does that make it fair or does that make it just another form of evolution?

Let’s start from the beginning- the world as we know it now (with the primates) only came into being after five ice ages- all of which annihilated life forms. Now in a future where we manipulate nature (another name for chance- chance for the kind of genes you inherit), we would be stopping evolution. My limited knowledge of genetics teaches me that mutations (another kind of chance) are not all bad.

For example, a nucleotide combinations- ATTTGCC- that is otherwise non-coding (also called intergenic region in DNA) and seemingly useless to us may become a new combination of nucleotides- say ATCTGCC- in the child which has had a natural birth. This new combination might code for a gene that continues the evolutionary process. In my little mind, I want this gene to make our eyes go the full 180 degree in opposite directions just to increase our spectrum of vision. Call it wishful thinking; but I call it evolution.

In the world of which we talk (the one in which making a baby is equivalent to making a custom made outfit) this would not be possible. We would already be perfect. But doesn’t perfection differ from person to person and from circumstance to circumstance? Today a perfect life for me is when I can sleep 9 hours a day. Tomorrow my perfect life might entail not sleeping at all.

So in such a world what happens to choice? How is it any different from Lenin’s communist Russia or Hitler’s Nazi Germany? Having said that, it is safe to conclude that our world 500 years hence will be bereft of choice and will hinder evolution.

Now think of what would happen to the spiritual realm. There would certainly be no God. Though an agnostic myself, the fear of the Supreme Being does prevent people from committing a lot of heinous actions. For that, I am grateful to the abstraction that is God. In this society of perfection, the fear would not exist and what happens when everybody becomes God? It’s a one word answer- bloodshed and revolution.

The funny thing about perfection is that although it is advisable to chase after it, it can never be achieved. It would be like a dog chasing its own tail. Does that mean we stop genetic research? No, we don’t. We are doomed to create a society of the perfect human, only to be wiped out of this Earth by that very idea. What has to be, will be!

The girl who worked in a bar

“I dropped out of a college, changed my stream, started over and worked in a bar.”

-Words I need to say in order to repel people or to get them to judge me. The aunty in the bus with her kid on her side becomes the cat on high alert. Her ears perk up and her hands cover her daughter’s ears. But she can’t contain herself. She has to go on and ask me; or atleast try to figure out why a girl from a ‘good family’ worked in a bar or dropped two years.

“Umm…but beta why?”

None of the explanations I give satisfy her. In her mind, I have already failed in more exams than I can count, got rusticated for rowdy behaviour and conducted myself in a shameful manner (slutty too).

“But all those men in the bar…was it safe?”

She might as well have asked me how many times I was raped or did something that would elicit the response ‘shame shame’ from her friend group.

The uncle I tell these words to looks at me like I am a piece of meat. Suddenly the wisdom in his eyes is replaced by lust. He is licking his lips mentally. Yum!

What I am doing now doesn’t matter. What matters is what I did. And what I did defines who I am right?

The girls my age run away from me. They have their morality to protect. Their mothers would disapprove. The guy I give my resume to is confused. A 8.0 gpa and then a dropout. Why?

Choice is not something I am allowed to have.

A girl from a good family cannot work in a bar because ‘those places are dangerous for women…’ As if only men drink. And a woman doesn’t have a voice, lest hands and legs.

Our girls should be kept in parda at home; should not have relationships of any kind before marriage; should not go out of home after 5 pm; should not have opinions; should not disobey- says the regime.

Marriage is the only solution for women. Once married, they are the property of their husbands and the slaves to their children. Marital rape is normal. There is consent of course- hey lady, you signed a social contract. Remember always,- the regime continues.

Why blame the regime. My gynecologist told me to not have premarital sex. ‘It can lead to all sorts of problems,’ she said with a wink.

Let’s not come to sexuality. I don’t have one. I can’t have one. The only desire I am permitted to have is that of wanting a kid. Where do kids come from? The angel plants it in my belly. In my case, the angel is my husband offcourse.

I am not allowed to be a single mother. “Shame shame,” Pammy aunty says.

Now our union minister has said surrogacy is not an option for homosexuls, single mothers and partners in a live in.

There goes my chances. After all, who will marry me? I am the girl who worked in a bar remember?

Damn I am doomed. And I am so bloody happy being doomed!

The editor’s tale

It’s not always that I get to open my laptop and scrutinize the work of others. Today, after procrastinating and coming to terms with the weight on my shoulders, I finally sat down with a cup of black coffee and read the first line of some obscure article.

It made me cringe- not in disgust but in apprehension. Someone out there, at some point in my life, will look at my work with the same hawked eyes and critique every coma that I use. That day, I would be sitting helplessly on the other side of the veil waiting for the verdict like a sinner on judgement day.

But not today. Today was my day of power and authority. I could feel my heartbeat quicken; the writer’s fate was in my hand and in some small way, I was going to make or break his life. ‘Impact it’, if you may. It would either be a crash landing or it would  be a smooth one.

The sadist in me looked at the doc file with glee. It could finally use the virtual red ink on every misspelled word, every misplaced punctuation and every wrong usage- sometimes out of spite, too. If the words are a writer’s baby, it was time to go on a kidnapping spree for the sadist ‘me’.

The more rational part was, however, scared. I would be blamed for any additional coma in the article by people unknown to me. I was transported to the veil again. Only this time, both the writer and I were huddled together like a bunch of scared kids waiting to be reprimanded.

God! What pressure to be faced for one damn article and God what a dilemma to be faced by one small mind- to kill or try not to be killed!

Promises to the world

I solemnly swear to make this minuscule space on the internet, that I claim as mine, a place of refuge for my thoughts and a way of letting all my pent up emotions out. This space will contain magic of all sorts and will not be subjected to morality, ethics or any other masochistic nonsense. It is dedicated to free thought and action.

I am a storyteller and this is how i choose to tell my stories- with pomp and circumstance. My stories will be told through free verse, prose and poetry. It will contain art and through these mediums of expression, I wish to create an imaginary world where thoughts are free and the mind has the strength to take actions in accordance to those very thoughts.

I will challenge tradition, rant when i want and most of all, be honest in the way i think and write. I will show all aspects of the human mind and revel in its complexities. Furthermore, I will take the side of those who are voiceless and less powerful. I promise to not be scared of authority and to ask questions where I deem necessary.

I will be my own master and this space invites all those who wish for a better world and are ready to work towards it. Oh and, I guarantee the reader absurdity for absurdity leads to laughter and a healthy life. My blog will feature crooked men, the girl who looked like a guy, pedestrians, exiled writers and pot bellied artists.

Movie reviews, color of ice cream, beef steaks, depression, LGBT rights, women issues, political jibberish, dreams, etc are my best friends.

So, let the absurdity begin!

Batman vs. Superman

Today I am angry.
 
Angry at history, angry at geography, angry at science, angry at God, angry at language and most of all angry at myself. The west created our modern day terrorist clad in a burqa or in facial hair. Anyone who wears the hijab or has Ali/Muhammad and the likes of it to his name; anyone who carries the kirpan; anyone who wears a skull cap or anyone who comes across as anti-social is a terrorist as deemed by our Lords. Yet we wash their feet and accept every lie they ever told us.
 
Then the mind thinks: who is they and who is us? Is there any distinction really? Pammi aunty might seem Indian- punjabi with high moral ethics. But our epitome of the Bharatiya nari with her sari clad in the right places, paying respect to the national anthem and getting covered with goosebumps once India wins a match against Pakistan, goes to Bangalore and says to the bus conductor “sorry I don’t speak South Indian.”
 
George sitting in California is a huge fan of the Indian culture. For him India is about Shahrukh Khan and chai and Bollywood and a landscape that looks like Punjab. If George went to university, he would know that the Kashmir issue is a lot like Israel and Palestine- nothing to do about it really; just nod your head and pretend you understand, then after two minutes of silence get back to your game. Sea Hawks is winning. When I talk to George, I am enraged. But then again, what do I (I, who considers myself a well-travelled Indian) know about Mizoram. For me, north east is just north east. If I visited Assam, I know what Arunachal looks like. Can’t blame poor old George for that, can I?
 
I feel angry when my Muslim friend gets stopped at the airport for surprise checks and I am left to go. I blame the government. I blame the country’s media. Hell I even curse Arnab Goswami in my head for a while. But then again, I can’t deny that when I see three men sporting beards and skullcaps, mostly keeping to themselves, in my flight across the aisle, I feel the chills. I don’t sleep in that flight, always vigilant about where their hands are going and adrenaline pumping just in case of a hijack. Who am I to blame the security guards?
 
Speaking of Arnab Goswami, as much as I curse him in my head, the first thing I see in my evening news is his ever entertaining show. ‘It has a comic value’, I say to myself. He and Chetan Bhagat are leading the new India- the new generation equipped with IPhone imported from the states, reciting feminist verses and talking about freedom.
 
Hey now, don’t get me wrong: I care. I do. After all Virat Kohli is God and well he is such a Ram for protecting his Sita. Purity is written all over him. So what if a plane got hijacked and a capital got bombed. It’s not within our country, is it? Let us just watch ‘A Wednesday’, recite the Aam Aadmi speech and feel good about ourselves.
 
‘We, the mango people, solemnly pledge that we will, to the best of our abilities, protect our own turf the best we can (that means at most dropping into some protests and screaming till our voice gets shrill and then getting back home and catching the first show of Kapoor and Sons) and if we feel too generous, we might just talk about the turf wars elsewhere.’
 
Donald Trump might win the elections- now I am scared. But what the hell? I have Modi to protect my ass. Another Batman verses Superman. India is a rising star waiting to burn bright. Anyway, I will be an American citizen within the next few years. Let’s hope Trump can hold on to his horses till then. He should let me into the promised land and then feel free to close the floodgates behind me.
 
Reservation, freedom, sexuality, feminism, terrorism, communalism, communism, fascism, media-ism and all the other isms in the world- believe me I care, I swear on my Beetle I do.
 
Who am I? I am the hypocritical human. I am the other half of every self-righteous me. I am the Hades to my Zeus. I am the Yin to my Yang. I am the balance of the universe. I am just me. And I am angry to be me. But hey the universe…gotta pay my respect to its wishes right? So I’ll just go drink another scotch and call it a night.
 
A very hypocrite night to all of you!