STARRY, STARRY NIGHT

This is absolutely spellbinding.

Pandaemonium

This is an extraordinary night sky video made by the US photographer Thomas O’Brien out of half a million images he took over a period of seven years and stitched together using the LRTimelapse software. It is hypnotic, haunting and strikingly beautiful. And do check out Thomas O’Brien’s website, his time-lapse films and his Flickr account.

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“Go to the mango trees, the body of your daughter is there”

….the father of one of the victims was informed over phone by the police. The mango tree – the shade of which may have been a respite from sweltering heat, the fruits of which may have attracted little kids, and the leaves of which would fill the air with its herbal fragrance has become a symbol of death and misery.

The gang rape and murder of two teenage girls in Uttar Pradesh has reminded us of the morbidity that lurks into the dark hearts and minds of some men in our country. Sadly, when such brutality is afflicted on one girl, it does not confine itself to that specific case. It sends shivers down the spine of every Indian girl, her mobility is hampered, the darkness in the streets she normally passes through become more pronounced, a random, but diligent stalker becomes a grave threat, and her parents become more proactive in regulating her movement. All these steps do not necessarily contribute to safety, they just close all avenues to women that are integral to a normal life.

Badaun

Sun sets behind the tree where the two girls were hung after being gang raped (Source – The Indian Express)

In the race for women in this country to elevate themselves above the conventional roles, in the constant struggle to avoid succumbing to the patriarchal authority, in the effort to avoid subservience to the lopsided societal structure, two lamps were extinguished and left to hang on a tree so that everyone watched and absorbed the darkness. I wonder what the final conversation of the girls may have been like- the words they may have spoken in normalcy before they were converted to agitated screams of pain as the men continued to destroy their innocence, moment by moment, movement by movement.

If the Nirbhaya case had faded away from our minds, the image of the the two girls suspended from the tree does more than just remind us of the evils of society. It has given us other cruel visuals to choose from. While Nirbhaya’s case was an open demonstration of sexual violence towards the Indian middle class – a section that she represented, the two girls hailed from a small district that may have had its share of unfortunate circumstances before this incident too.

Once again, the Indian populace is disgusted with the details in the background of this episode. It is a typical case of one despicable situation cascading into another, and this one eventually resulting in death. The two girls became easy targets of this crime because they had ventured into the fields in the shadow of  night to relieve themselves as sanitation facilities were unavailable around their settlement. To think about this, what we do incidentally on a daily basis turned out to be a fatal adventure for the innocent girls. In hindsight, the perpetrators would have been at ease too, as the custodians of law and order – the police – displayed their lackadaisical approach to the situations. A response so listless and apathetic, that the officials on duty now face suspension.

If the officials responsible for taking action against the criminals failed to convince people, how could the ones providing lip service from centuries enjoy from a distance? This was a lip service the politicians wished they never provided. When a journalist quizzed Akhilesh Yadav on the brutal episode and women safety in the state, the CM retorted back asking if she herself didn’t feel safe. To an agitated crowd that is forced to reconcile with sexual violence and threat to life, this comes off as morbidity with its own class. This represents a political system bereft of moral values that have guided the country for decades. And in the parlance of a less humble India, the response of the CM is plain rude, uncouth and insensitive. (That’s still very, very humble)

Before the politicians and law enforcement authorities even half heartedly set out to perform their duties, they need to undergo a mental revolution. Take a hiatus, if necessary, and understand  their countrymen from scratch. We know they run a diverse country, but their response to the public and journalists should not be an extension of their inability to control the situation. The human heart, especially in such vulnerable times, is often tender and grieved. When confronted with images of girls suspended from the trees like bloated branches, the least one can expect is kind consideration and warm words of reassurance. In their hearts they may be itching to go back to the confines of their plush houses and devour a customary feast, but when given the mandate to run a state and queried about a tragedy, leave the impression that they too are human beings, or had been at some point in time.

Though everyone hopes for a fast redressal of this case and harsh punishment befitting the act, I know that the criminals have outlived their crime. With their hideous actions that they may have managed to wrap up in minutes, they have plunged a family into deep despair, depriving them of days that could have been marked with the activities of the young girls. The girls could have been mentally assuring themselves of rising above challenges, developing ideas or simply indulging in innocent dreams, just the way we do at times while answering the nature’s call. But the aftermath for the girls was far from relief. The two families have been robbed off two mouths to feed each, but for a long time, even the little food at home will go untouched by the bereaved family.

However illuminating the sun may be in Uttar Pradesh, it will be gloomy in Badaun. And even more, under the shade of that mango tree.

The Folly of Exam Scores

Source - http://news.distractify.com/culture/satirical-paintings/?v=1

Created by Polish artist – Pawel Kuczynski

“I started studying from the beginning of the year; I revised daily, attended extra classes and even went to coaching institutes in order to excel in my examinations. I am very happy with the outcome, all my hard work paid off,” – says the UAE topper in the CBSE board exams to a newspaper.

The results of the 12th Board examinations (CBSE) were announced on 29th May, 2014 and to the amusement of many, these were some of the best scores in the recent years. The student quoted above scored a staggering 98.2%. The toil of the thousands of students had finally come down to a number, that, though expresses in absolute the achievement of the individual,  will always be inevitably held relative to the performance of his or her immediate peers and the school at large. The final reports on the performance of students reek of statistics and numbers too – the percentage of students who passed, those who scored above 90%, classification of achievers between boys and girls and so on.

One cannot discount the hard work put into the preparations – of students, teachers, and even of friends who constantly aid each other with notes and many a times with the much needed moral support. The joy of receiving good scores is, at least in that moment, unparalleled. While the news of good grades is certainly a reason to celebrate, one cannot ignore that the academic landscape, especially that of CBSE and India at large, is archaic and static with students spending consecutive years in bettering just one thing – scores.

I am a product of the same academic structure and I have spent my life as a student on the crossroads of two contrasting views – one, that competitive scores are an integral means to better opportunities for higher studies and employment, and the other that  marks are merely rudimentary indicators that are inferior to  psychological strength and street-smartness. Unsure if it is for the better or is an addition to my dilemma, I have not managed to lift myself from this middle ground.

I recognise that marks are not the sole pedestal to leverage ones strengths, and that gathering experience, reading, interacting with influential people and other activities can often lead to development of the self in cases where great academic scores may fall short. At the same time, I am in complete disagreement with the popular free-wheeling  notion of absolute futility of decent marks. Trying and achieving good grades is the most basic disposition of heavy financial investment in one’s education. More over, achieving good grades need not be taken at face value. It reflects several attitudes and aspects of the achiever – the dedication, drive to excel, ability to grasp concepts and convince examiners. My point is not to shun the concept of marks, but to go beyond it.

What is being completely ignored in this mix of academics is the importance of encouraging students to think beyond their text books and seek inspiration from the surroundings and nature. I don’t remember a single moment in the classroom when our teachers asked us or made us read the educational plight of unfortunate children around the globe. We were never recommended reading material that depicted the effects of war and reveal the specific ramifications of turmoil while we sat largely insulated from and  insensitive to human sufferings. What does money really mean? What happens if banks themselves go bankrupt? How did the financial crisis of 2008 alter family relations? In addition, never was our mind conditioned to delve into the lives of the non-teaching staff – the janitors, the bus conductors or the ones who served us palm sized pizzas in the canteen. Our paths cross often, but we never stopped for even a brief greeting. Where did they live? What made them happy? Do they have children at home who they wish studied with us? What was the proudest moment in their life? Do they feel their youth returning to them from a bygone era when they deliver their lecture, or do they feel bogged down by the weight of the course structure? Why did they choose the subject they teach? Do teachers have any regrets?

Not wandering into these philosophical tendencies of the mind has created brains that erupt into erratic activity in moments before the exam, to absorb something that they may never care to remember again. What they study reflects in their answer sheets, but not in their personalities. Not inquiring into these prominent aspects of society, we miss out on opportunities to emancipate ourselves from a sedentary lifestyle that is too comfortable to be permanent. We lose the chance of expanding our imagination and making various elements of society a part of our natural thought pattern. Here, not just creativity is killed, but the natural affinity for inquisitiveness and inquiry is stifled under the iron fist of academic lessons.

While the academic structure remains more or less the same, our surroundings are changing rapidly. What mattered to people yesterday has been compromised for what they can afford today and we students today are compelled to study from literature that would make little difference tomorrow. Instead of probing into the difficult questions, we are preparing ourselves to directly answer in examinations. In the heroic quote of the UAE topper that I mentioned in the beginning, I sense an ominous blanket of fullness and nothingness at the same time. Fullness of the positive attitude towards setting everything forthright for a successful academic venture, and the nothingness in the failure to express what a young student can achieve without being confined to closed doors of incessant academic training. I sense the nothingness in disregarding the role of art and nature in achieving a successful and happy outcome, the nothingness from not pushing oneself to understand the environment and the society deeper, and the nothingness in knowing that this quote will be stuck on refrigerators of middle class Indian parents as a reference for their children.

The folly of marks is not just in what one ignores, but also what cannot be changed. Marks still remain one of the most important aspects for relief in academic fees and competitive scholarships, and it still remains the reason for pride and happiness in an average Indian household. And disappointingly, it will still be a reason for me to occasionally fret over losing a few extra digits.

We’ve already spent a significant amount of our time studying static texts off books mandated by the course. It is  now time to pick a leaf from the books of people who can fascinate us with stories, only if we went beyond the chapter titled ‘scores’.

Out Of My Comfort Zone

This is something I had written a little more than 2 years back. As college has come to an end and I’ve left what I believe is certainly one of the best cities to be in, this article helps me jog my memory to those wonderful days. It’s a revelation to myself to, what I thought about the new city in the first few months. This is for you, Pune. (Minor changes have been made from the original one)

The sun rose again, my room inviting the warmth to fall upon its interiors. But how different was this morning from the ones that went by, greeting me with the shimmering light while I lay flat with laziness? It was the same sun, but I was not in Dubai anymore. The sun rose to greet me thousands of miles from my home, in the city of Pune too. Out of My Comfort Zone. Inspired from the title of the autobiography of former Australian Cricketer – Steve Waugh’s, there is a difference in the implication of the same in the two lives. While that man achieved heights in cricket that are now lauded in the world, I am an 18 year old Media Student who can only speak in great volumes of his decision to give up (perhaps temporarily), the great peace and leisure of living a life dependent on family, familiar surroundings, tantalizingly delectable food and greater insulation from hardships.

But after almost eight months of my life as a student of SIMC UG, I wonder if looking at that morning differently can be justified. Pune for me has turned out to be a home without unnecessary attention, a lifestyle that enables me to choose between the a modest pace of activity with ample time for introspection and a pace devoid of rapid work, self-development and success. Noises, noises that I hear throughout the day from home to college and back whirl in the head like it’s an integral part of my sanity. The distinct noise of the Auto-Rickshaw amidst the crowded streets of Pune brings vibrancy, while some are in cars, and many more on bikes. The six-seated rickshaw (‘Tum Tum’ as is locally known) cannot go unnoticed on the roads. Running mostly on main roads that link important locations, these ‘Tum Tums’ help people of all economic strata commute with convenience (not if you mind squeezing in yourself and your ego). Simply hearing the conversations of the commuters portrays the cosmopolitan aspects of Pune. One will find people speaking in Hindi, Marathi, English, Tamil, Malayalam, and so much so even Persian.

My favourite element that goes in living out a day in Pune, however, will always be the tea-stalls (As every interesting thing carries a local name, this one’s ‘Tapri’). In corners where an establishment is unimaginable, one comes to term with what keeps these Punekars charged up throughout the day – Tea, with ‘Vada Pavs’ devoured for good measures. A few taxing months and I’ve already started seeing my fuel in those ‘cuttings’.

Source - marketplacehandworkofindia.wordpress.com

What Pune runs on

In this admirable and eclectic city, why would one not interact with the populace one comes across? When I’m not slogging my way into flagging down the atrocious fares, I’ve spoken to Auto drivers asking them about their life and daily routine. It’s simple, I’ve learned. They wake up very early in the morning, launch their ride on the roads, and return home late. In the process of this seemingly simple routine, they have dropped numerous passengers to their respective destinations, most of the time arguing against bargains in the process. Speaking to students of my age, I’ve gathered from many that they sleep at the stroke of dawn, and wake up when it’s dark. I still reflect upon the first day of my college.

Then and now, has Pune already become close to home? Have I judged this city in haste, and probably there’s more to what I see? Will this phase of moderate inner bliss remain the same as years pass by? Are there major parts of the city that are yet to be discovered? Will I finally become adept at speaking Marathi, and probably boast about successful attempts of haggling down the Auto-Rickshaw fares in the driver’s own language?

These questions probably instil within me the drive to explore Pune beyond the perception of an average NRI. It’s not very sunny anymore; looks like the sun would like a nap. As I draw the curtains, the tapri outside tempts me with its tea. It’s time to refuel, perhaps within my new comfort zone.

Homs Without Homes

Image

This is not an image of some post-modern recreation. Not unless the many armed factions – some state sponsored while other rebelling independently – would want to classify their work of violence as one. While post-modern critics may try to justify the use of minimalistic brush strokes or stare with a squint eye at the wild splatter of colours, the rampage on the streets of Syria cannot be justified but be shunned as one of the most disappointing things humankind has had to put up with.

This is the image of Homs, and also is not the image of Homs. It does not matter in what angles the picture may have been taken in, what elements may have taken priority and what may have caught the photographer’s attention more – it all looks the same.The level of destruction endured by this city in the war has devoid it of any semblance of the usual  past when a functioning city sat in its place. In a way, this is but it is also not the city of Homs.

Razed to the ground and caught in rapid crossfires between the army and the rebels, Homs seems to rest peacefully in its final rites. The rubble remains complacently non-suggestive of the many colours that once constituted in the households. Scattered in the dark shades of grey and occasionally giving a peek into the creamy walls, the debris is the only piece of real estate that remains on the ground. Clearly, the men fought without a blueprint.

A desolated optimist could still argue that since the multi-storied buildings have fallen to their knees, the sun now shines brighter on the vast canvass of this ruthless painting. The real darkness is visible in the lives of those who still enter this city to search for their belongings. I say that they can return with a smile if they have at the least been able to identify where their houses once stood.

The shattered glass is like an invitation to break the barriers between neighbourhoods, just that there is nobody to welcome a guest. The dangling wires are the sole warriors in charge of reminding the people of a past marked with infrastructure and power, but their swords are blunted by the more progressive powers of bullets and shrapnel.

Decimation of this kind increases the threshold of pain.

If so much can be wiped off that I’m left with nothing to see, then perhaps I can be severed from this world too. For the root of houses may have been of concrete, but my hope is strung by a loose thread. 

Cycle of War

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The onslaught of destruction in Syria does not seem to come to a halt. If anything civil, it is the fresh Presidential elections that the world is looking forward to. But people, the few who seemed to have survived but not without scars of the war – some physical while other deeply psychological – look at the bloated pictures on bullet-ridden walls the man who is expected to gain an easy victory – Bashar al-Assad.

But there’s a more poignant angle to the ruinous state of affair in Syria. And these are brought out by rare but moving pictures like the one I have used here. It depicts a man painfully clinging onto the bicycle of his child. The bicycle could be the only contraption that carries a memory of the boy who belonged to the family now desecrated by an unending war.

With his whole house completely ripped apart by the shelling of men in arms, a thing as unassuming and trivial in comparison to what has been blown to smithereens has made this father realise of his loss – his family, his boy, the shared dreams, the gentle fingers on the handles of the bicycle, memories of initial struggle at using the pedals, its first repairs, the dream that the boy who glides the bicycle would also glide the family’s fortunes, the first time ever his mother may have allowed him to ride further than the neighbours’ – which, by all estimates, may also have stories of property and families destroyed.

Syria has seen more violence than what its people can bear. Destruction has stripped the country off its history and the many people who had routine problems like taps running dry and medical facilities not being enough. Now there’s a stream of blood running down the streets which often run dry.

Even the blood has lost hope of reaching to safety.

 This war has reduced the populace of Syria to a few melancholic faces, holding on to the destroyed remains of things belonging to those who have perished.

Inaugural Blog Day ends, and I’m off the mark

Inaugural day of my blog comes to an end. Meant for an assignment but planning to take it up seriously, was long overdue anyway. Just realised how complicated wordpress looks like. Which further makes me realise how much time I’ve wasted on things that I could have instead invested in understanding this portal and authored more posts.

Better late than never, though.

Hello, WordPress. Looking forward to many encounters with the hot coffee beneath the cool froth.

Beneath The Froth

This happens almost every time. I sip onto the rich, thick foam of coffee and gracefully acknowledge it as my first encounter with the romantic journey that would last one cup (at a time). After a couple of subsequent sips from the creamy layer, my tongue is met – to its burning surprise – with the hot liquid coffee liquid. The tip of my tongue goes numb, and quite so to my advantage for if it could then speak, it would remind me of the numerous times it’s cried out to be careful and not be misled by the lukewarm texture of the forth. 

The steaming coffee after the creamy froth is like a jolt to my sleeping thought. It reminds me of how the surface of any situation – despite the rich, creamy and gentle countenance – has a lot to more to offer. The depth of this situation is multi-dimensional and it should be approached with ease and calm lest you get carried away with the creamy froth and burn your tongue before you can even enjoy the coffee. The first sip of the hot coffee is always critical, and more often than not, this inaugural sip is the difference between the joy of your receptive tongue or the numb sensation of a repulsive one. Quite to our disappointment, the depth of our situation can at times be contrary to its froth. How often have we left our coffee unfinished despite slurping onto a delectable froth?

I believe the same is with the world around us. There’s a lot to be mined and learnt from the elements of society. Scratching the surface can only be a start to an endless quest to understand more about a situation. In every failure could be a story of vanity, and in every success a legacy of disappointments. Every new concept ever propounded could have remnants of what we already know, and everything we know could have a surprise of the unknown. Everything that seems comfortably predictable could have an unearthed reason for uncertainty. Everything that makes you unique could have a connect with me, and everything that’s peculiar to my life, could surprisingly be peculiar to yours too.

Beneath the gentle froth is hot, steaming coffee. And if the temperatures of both match perfectly according to your tongue, something’s really wrong. Heat the coffee again…look for new information.

The Mirage of Money

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I stare at the still frame of what I believe was my early indoctrination into the concept of money and wealth. The memory of this photographed moment is rather fuzzy. I was told that I’d have to drop a coin or two every day in this little ‘piggy bank’. (And till date, I never quite understood the significance of this little box shaped as an animal)

And there I stood with a coin almost half-way into the slit of the porcine back, but still held gently between my fingers. It seems like I was hesitant to drop the coin into the box. What I don’t remember is the sound of the coin meeting the base of the metallic bank. It’s like a frozen moment. There’s an air of uncertainty in this monochrome image clicked by my mother, the fear of unknown.

Money has created a world of its own and mankind has made it an integral part of his universe. But the question that many people have asked and to their dismay, have always had to be content with unsatisfactory, and sometimes an abstract answer is – “What is Money?”

Money – the cause of both material pleasure and anxiety. It is the driver of most arguments and the agent of many settlements. We hoard it in case we don’t die, or sometimes, we spend it all knowing that we eventually would. There’s variety in money too, going beyond the usual differences in colours and denominations. There’s good money, black money, blood money, booty money, hush money. It has managed to boost sentiments of the general public, and at the same time has brought their dreams crashing down.

What is it in this instrument of paper – the currency that usually represents money- that has been detrimental in deciding as much as the leadership of nations? What is apart from the complex and often argued irreplicable chemicals in use that gives money some intrinsic value, something of its own to cherish. Is there anything called value that could justify this sensitive relationship we have with money?

We are married to money and we fear to divorce it. The trust we have managed to put into this mysterious lover is insurmountable. Money has never managed to assign itself some value and it has always been at the mercy of individual perceptions and validations. Like the character of Gekko said in the 1987 film ‘Wall Street’ – “Money itself isn’t lost or made, it’s simply transferred – from one perception to another. Like magic. “ So if we tried to define money, it would be something ‘X’ that buys us something ‘Y’, with that something ‘Y’ having an implicit value. So a commodity vouches for the worth of the money that has bought, thus proving its innocence in this quest for merit and a rational assessment.

But think of this – are the stacks of jeans in a Levi’s store or the gleaning MacBooks lined up in an Apple Store devoid of any value till we assign it a monetary backing? The money that exchanges hands for these commodities does little to support the worth of its construction, engineering and labour in its entirety. And to be fair, the fact that pieces of paper adjudge the value of such wonder products is, to put it humbly, a little demeaning of sorts.

This intriguing nature of money elevates in criticality when the entire macro scenario of a country is regulated with a money generating mechanism. The sub-prime crisis, the credit crunch, cash-strapped banks lobbying for bailouts, and today, entire nations demanding for the same altogether has led to a phenomenon called Quantitative Easing, or QE. It is a tool used by Central Banks to increase the influx of money in the market. As arbitrary as it sounds, it is indeed simply printing more currency, and voila, the result of such printing gives us another member to the family of names – Fiat Money. This controversial mechanism pumps billions of dollars into the economy annually. Once created, it dissolves in the market like magic. But it does all this not without entering the realm of sensitive economic variables, like inflation.    

So much for being devoid of any implicit value, money fails us on any ornamental worth as well. Pick up a note of any denomination and you read a text “I promise to pay the bearer on demand a sum of (denomination)” It has a historic context and it means that upon producing  this currency, the holder is promised to be redeemed Gold of the same value. So that no one is left baffled by this revelation, the previous statement started with the words ‘historic context’.

This scenario of exchanging gold for money would prevail in the Gold Standard System. But after several tries of revival, most importantly through the Bretton Woods Agreement post World War II, the Gold Standard System was abandoned in early 1970s. It now remains inked on the notes as a rhetoric statement that would never make sense. If we took the Gold out of the question, like we rightly should today, an inquiry could sound funny. If the bank promises to pay me a sum of Rs. 100 for a sum that I already have, why do we even need or have this promise? It’s a paradox of its kind – a promise that cannot be kept because it has already been fulfilled.  

Citing these very elusive aspects of money and also to combat the pressing problems of the global economy, some economists now argue that a return to the Gold Standard would be a worthy alternative. We couldn’t know if this return is the answer to the pressing problems of the economy, but what we do know is that this would help the Central Banks of all countries make sense of a statement that has lost a direction it was never headed for.

I try to recollect those hazy moments from my past. I probably don’t remember listening to the sound of the chink of coin because it never made any. After all, I was yet to grow up in a world where money quite comprehensively reigned over sentiments, mood, success, failure, celebration and dismay and where money made the loudest noise. I was yet to grow up in a world where the difference between value and materialism would be bridged by money, where people placed their undying faith in an instrument. And in a world where people, apart from carrying their own identities and the pictures of their loved ones, would carry a few inexplicable promises in their pockets.

Everybody Has An Ayatollah

Ayatollah Khomeini Returns to Iran During Iranian Revolution

Iran’s theocratic system is marked by one of the most simplest (simplest only to the layman’s tired mind) form of rule – though there is democracy where the population votes for its President periodically, the final say with regard to countries most important and strategic decisions resides with one man who basks in probably the most envious titles in this world – The Supreme Leader of Iran. Also a spiritual leader of sorts, he is known as an ‘Ayatollah’ – which means the ‘Sign of Allah or God’ in the Arabic language. The final dictate resides with him and to appease him and guard his happiness is an obligation every citizen of the country promises to bear in thoughts and actions. It’s a form of salutation and respect he enjoys because of the rare position he is bestowed with. The significance that this individual enjoys in the highest rank of national and political affairs is sometimes dismissed as absolutism, and sometimes held as proof to state the redundancy of any affiliation to democracy in the country. And often this political structure is seen as the paradox of modern Iran.

What matters to me at this moment, for a change, are not the implications of this theocracy and the challenges it could pose to the strategic functioning of a country. Rather, I’ve felt a queer urge to peep into private lives and observe what looks like possibly a similar sort of arrangement. It wouldn’t surprise anyone, it did not surprise me. But the slightest possibility of making this interesting connect fascinates me, and at times this explanation could help to fall back on when accepting a few unpleasant realities of life. And even if one cannot accept them, the unbreakable pattern and arrangements that come out of such explanations may make sure that one’s personal aspirations reveal the impossibility of a situation and corner him away from a peaceful and happy scenario.

Like it or not, but my surroundings scream out that everybody has an Ayatollah. If not the same as the one from the theocratic set up, then a more refined version – the Ayatollah he should be. Each one has that one person in life that is critical to his or her daily functioning. The Ayatollah doesn’t merely witness higher presence of people around him, but their minds and their thoughts tug along to the well-being of the Ayatollah. The rate at which this happens is constant, which only increases with time as the Ayatollah’s expertise in dealing with the person’s private matters increases over time contributing to the greater significance of his presence. Placed at a pedestal that is highest in stature, the Ayatollah of Iran is not disconnected with the dynamics of the Iranian economy pertaining to agriculture, trade, power generation and other such elements.

The Ayatollah of the man is at the pulse of his endeavours and constantly in check of the vagaries of his life. Often the first one to receive important information, he is the most experienced to analyse and use this information to improve the person’s life. People live by a single minded dedication and affiliation to their respective Ayatollahs. Largely insulated from developments from the outer perimeters of this strong relationship, they are intrinsically driven to worry about the Ayatollah in times of distress. Their support for the leader is vehement and leaves little room for challenge from those who may seek an occasional chance of stealing some of it. And if the others do manage to fathom the support, they’ll realise it wasn’t the support they ever aspired for, it would never be a support marked by robust vehemence.

The care and concern for the Ayatollah is clearly a reciprocation of what they duly receive – anything divine is a blessing, and blessed is the Ayatollah and his people. All thoughts, strategies and plan revolve around the combinations of how acceptable it would be to the beloved Ayatollah. The person feels a sense of solitude and calm with the Ayatollah’s presence in a noisy crowd, and the person feels at ease with his mere memory without his physical presence. And all this, while others silently strategize their next move to inch closer to form this blessed relationship, only to find their ambitions playing a prank with their minds. Discouraged, they retreat to mull over the present situation and plan their next move, while the blessed ones have seen another layer of bond blossom in their shared space.

Referring to them in their absence becomes an added task which the men beautifully execute. This constant reminder becomes imperative for others to hear lest they may feel they’ve spotted an outside chance of getting closer. Their place and roles in the lives of these men is duly defined at that moment, and their role in this world is best never discussed about. Any form of opposition to or criticism of the Ayatollah by the others is instinctively resisted with an arsenal of love, affection, reverence and an unwavering concern for his happiness. His happiness is made to be impregnable over time and not be susceptible to any form of discomfit that may arise through an unpleasant remark – be it rhetoric or a substantiated opinion.  Any strain in this relationship – genuine or trivial, between the Ayatollah and his men is a cause of deep concern. A touch of sadness is visible in their demeanour. Fixing this strain becomes top priority to avoid the possibility of a decision delay from the supreme command, or perhaps simply to avoid the desolated feeling one would get of not being with your go-to man. Though not formidable, an air of incompleteness reflects in their eyes and stays on till they realise that long and warm greetings were not exchanged for two days too many. A few wider smiles towards the end of the day, the country has been fortified ever more strongly.

With the kind of role played by the Ayatollah, one may find himself guilty of being envious of the position. Envious because eyeing the position of Ayatollah is tantamount to challenging divinity’s grand plan of events and desired roles to be played by individuals. The devout would rather accept the scheme of events as they are and push grand ambitions into the darker recesses of his mind. Or, for consolation, prep up to become the Chief Nuclear Negotiator of the country, and of the man – a position that maybe isn’t half as decisive, absolute, vehemently supported, or noted in the eyes of people. But it’s a position that assumes much significance while dealing with the volatile situations of power generation. The Chief Nuclear Negotiator takes the brunt of questions from influential and powerful entities and his answers reflect the preparedness of the country in handling situations of complex nature. Though less prominent in the lives of people and barely manages to salvage care and concern, he is someone who people can do without only in short spurts. Kicked from his sedentary state, he is constantly reminded to work harder each time and never forget to turn away before his heart hopes for a kind gesture from someone. The Chief Nuclear Negotiator cannot be the Ayatollah, and perhaps never will. For the one who helps generate power cannot be the same who exercises it.

In a world that doesn’t exist, if we were ever given a chance to choose from either of the positions, what would that be? This is a question I’ve asked myself too but never been able to convincingly answer. You can either be an Ayatollah to one or the Chief Nuclear Negotiator to many. I would ask my ambition to feign an injury and sit back than regret later on. I would choose to become the chief negotiator with its limited and diluted capacity. Because to me it seems like there’s nothing to pick from. Perhaps because non-Ayatollahs never have a choice – and that is the paradox of life.