Monday, December 24, 2012

India And A Bleeding Christmas

"Koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota, usse behetar banana padta hai." - Rang De Basanti.
I am a part of the youth of India. A part of the "We don't care generation." The same generation that has been out protesting against our nation's government for the last three days and counting. The same generation that demands change. The same generation that wants India to be "Our" country and be proud of it. Not a country where rapists, killers and brutal assassins are "held into custody" and an innocent youth is arrested, her father's clinic, the only source of the family's income is destroyed. All because she "liked" one innocent Facebook post against a dead political leader. This is India, the largest democracy in the world.
I've performed in 6 countries and several cities within India, I've met more people than I can remember and whenever I'm asked, "Where are you from?" My chest swells in pride, a smile comes onto my face and I say, "Delhi." And a bunch of people start thinking, "The capital of India. A metropolitan city. One of the fastest developing cities in the country." The last few days have murdered my pride. Now when I say I'm from Delhi, people are going to think, "Oh, he'll never respect women."
I have women who are friends of mine, some of them are 17 years old, some are 25. I have a 70 year old aunt and a 6 year old niece. None of them feel safe. Not a single women I look at feels safe. Every girl I bump into on the street, I feel like telling them, "Please. Go home. Go home, now."
I read a blog about a 70 year old women, limping on her walking stick who was groped by a teenage delivery boy, I read a story of a teacher who raped a 3 year old girl. I read a story of one women or the other being raped almost everyday and it makes me feel horrible. It makes me feel bad that I'm a man. It makes me feel sorry for what my side of the sex has done to traumatize and scar innocent women for the rest of their lives. 
Just yesterday I was playing cricket with a few friends when the ball flew out of the park and hit a lady walking by on her knee. I ran out, saw she was hurt, instantly got her water, a chair to sit on and a rickshaw to escort her either to a medical centre, her house or wherever she wanted to go. The moment she became calm, the first words out of her mouth were, "Get out of my face. Just go!" And I was left there wondering what was it that I'd done wrong. Surely, me or any of my friends hadn't purposely hit her with a ball, it wasn't in our control. We didn't even expect that a rubber ball could hurt someone.  
But then it dawned upon me, she didn't feel safe in the company of a man, even if it was one who was genuinely trying to help her. She might have gone with the image that I was somehow going to take advantage of her. And I don't blame her for thinking that way.
Our government doesn't allow peaceful protests, the Indian National Congress becomes true to their symbol and uses the, "Talk to the hand" policy. Water canons are used on men, women and kids. Tear gas used on protestors, and women lathi charged by the police. The same people who swear they'll protect us. Our home minister, Mr. Shinde says that people should be "happy" that Sonia "Ji" met them. Sir, you should be happy that the government hasn't been taken over by angry students who actually have managed to do more than your puppets have done in the last two sessions.
Dear Government Of India, if you're incapable of punishing the rapists, take a lesson from The Momento or Ghajini, put permanent tattoos on their foreheads that say, "I am a rapist" and let them go. It'll be a shame if more mosquitos get to them before you can. If you're incapable of changing the country for the better and not just filling your pockets, step down. Because each of you is defined by another Rang De Basanti dialogue, "Ghar ki safai mein, apne haath gande kaun kare."
Let 21 year olds run the country.  Let us change our country so that every brutal man doesn't mentally undress a women the second he lays eyes on her. Let us change our country so that every women feels safe to be walking on the street at anytime of the day or night. Let us change our country so that silent protestors aren't beaten up, innocent people aren't water cannoned or tear gased. Let us change our country so that we don't have labels of safe cities and unsafe cities, we have a safe nation. Let us change our country, so that it is OUR country. The country of the "We don't care" generation. 
And no Mr. Prime Minister, we're not going to look over our shoulders and ask somebody if what we said is okay or not.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pick A Card, Any Card - A Decade Of Magic

I've been blogging for two years, tweeting off an on for a year and a half, managing a Facebook page for close to three and a YouTube account which is probably the most successful failure Google would have ever seen. All for the undying, ever growing, constantly evolving love of hearing people applaud.
In my decade of doing magic, and my years across social media, never ever have I written or spoken about myself. Even when I'm invited by institutions and organisations who are sweet enough to sit and listen to me talk about pursuing passions, I never include myself as a subject or someone to look up to and I have absolutely no humility. But I'm pretty sure that I'm not a person who people can or should look up to. But off late a few people have been asking me to write about how I feel about magic, what I feel about showmanship and the beautiful world of performances, so my tiny little thoughts, much like most of my days, start and end with the phrase, "Pick A Card, Any Card."
But it's not all magic.
I've torn ligaments, bruised my thumbs and scratched my fingers. Who thought sleight of hand and mind reading could hurt you so often? I've been ignored by some friends and called a donkey and someone whose wasting his life doing magic by some people from my school.
I've acted across Delhi. I've played Voldemort, a Punjabi Police Officer and a British Rapist. Nasser Abdullah thinks I'm scary, Ayushman Khurana says he hasn't felt more shocked in his life. I've shared tech with Rajiv Makhni, I've been called creative by Farhan Akhtar. Hariprasad Chaursaia thinks I can play the flute a bit. Ranbir Kapoor has had coffee with me and Rannvijay thought that I'm India's answer to David Blaine. All I can question is why is it only men who praise me?
Kirron Kher kissed me on my forehead and said my magic is more of fooling people but I have an honest smile. Yes, finally a woman. MS Dhoni said he wants me to get inside of the opposing captain's head and Sachin Tendulkar has said a nonchalant "Good Job" to me.
I've performed outside one of the world's largest Apple store and Didier Drogba said he'll never be able to get me out of his head and I've successfully read Derren Brown's mind and left him with a smile. Yet, after all this some old uncles insist on wanting me to make their wives disappear or take a rabbit out of the hat for their grandkids.
After every performance, I reach home after hearing beautiful, all consuming applause only to be told by my mother that I should clean my room. After every performance, I begin to miss the applause, become lonely and go into a phase which I like to romanticise as the dark place creative people go into from time to time.
Shah Rukh Khan calls me "Yaara" and my 3 old nephew thinks I'm PC Sorcar. I like to think he's young and stupid.
I'm over ambitious and see myself as my biggest competitor. Just to have that feeling of bettering myself. I stand on stage time after time, making it a point to keep one seat in the front row empty, just to imagine a younger version of myself sitting there laughing at me and saying that he was better. I smile back at him at the end of every performance and think in my head, "Next time, I'll be better than you."
And now I smile at all of you reading, who've supported me throughout. And because you're here, "Pick A Card, Any Card..." and it all starts again. To be continued, after another decade.