Tag Archives: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

The Game Of Life


By Sarvesh Mehrotra

All the reading that we do, the education that we get, and the experiences that we go through are to one end: to help us to live our potential. Life wouldn’t have created us, if it didn’t want us to bring an aspect of it  to life, or if it didn’t believe in our capabilities to do so. If we’re here, it is because we’re endowed with the ability to manifest an aspect of the Divine in this three-dimensional world. So basically our main objective in life should be to find out what our unique abilities are, and set about bringing them to life.

Instead, we get lost in distractions. These come in many forms: money and the things it can buy; family, friends, relatives: all well-meaning and good-intentioned but driving us away from what we should be doing at any moment; job and responsibilities taken to impress other people; TV, Internet, social media; habits like smoking and drinking; sleep. Society around us isn’t set up to help its constituents shine. It’s set up to keep them alive and well-fed and clothed, and we have invented numerous and amazingly complex mechanisms to ensure survival.

Staying alive is important, of course. Keeping  our bodies fed and clothed is too. However, getting lost in just ensuring these is like keeping a car well-oiled and serviced and sparkling clean, but never taking it out of the garage. Things are getting better and better, to the point that we don’t really need those improvements. Our cars are getting faster and more powerful as the space to drive them in shrinks. Our phones now have more technology than a space-ship of a few decades ago. We’re creating better software and spending money and time to create better robots and artificial intelligence. And while our problems have only become different from the generations before us, our state of mind as individuals is the same as, if not worse than, before. I think as a society, we’re getting carried away with our ability to keep “the car well-oiled and serviced and sparkling clean” so to speak, and are solving problems that needn’t be solved at the expense of those that should. What point better and “smarter” phones, when our relationships are breaking down and divorce rates are going up? We have trouble communicating with and understanding each other, and we’re busy making it easier to speak, text, or tweet.

However, there’s a reason why we’re like this. The Divine Intelligence that permeates us and all that we see didn’t make a mistake by planting in every individual the desire for heroism, while letting us create a society that is dead against it. The reason for that is simple. We’re able to walk only because there is friction between our feet and the earth we walk on. Movement is possible only through pushing against a force that resists it, and only when we push against a resisting force, do we learn our lessons such that they’re never forgotten. If discovering and manifesting our deepest potential were easy, it wouldn’t be worth anything at all. And if it’s the reason we exist, there’s got to be a formidable force set up against it, which must be overcome.

Individually too, if living the courageous and superlative life of a hero were easy, there would be no joy in success. The whole journey of running into opposition, failure, criticism, and doubt yet persevering makes success that much sweeter. It creates the stories that inspire generations, and keep the world running. There would be no Mahatma Gandhi if there were no British Raj, and Martin Luther King wouldn’t still be remembered if the society that created slavery didn’t exist.

And so it’s important for those of us who aspire to live a fulfilling life, one in which the potential that we hold within us has fully come alive, to remember that the world and people around are meant to be the distractive forces that they – sometimes despairingly so – seem to be. They are the frictional force that we push against and learn to walk. They’re the rules of the game of life, the boundary and the court within which the game must be played and mastered. Without the rules, restrictions, and opposition, where’s the game?

Outcaste: A Memoir

Outcaste Book Review

Book Review

Outcaste: A Memoir encompasses the voices of three generations of the Jadhav family, beginning with the grandsire and protagonist, Damu Mahar and his wife, Sonu, then goes on to the author himself and ends with the author’s daughter, Apoorva’s perspective. The story begins with Damu, performing the customary Yeskar duties of a Dalit by announcing the arrival of the Mamledar in the event of a mishap.

After the mamledar’s departure when he looksforward towards having his meals, he is told by the Fauzdar to guard the dead body until the policearrives. Damu’s obeisance and hard labour is awarded by abuses, whippings and insults to his mentor and God, BabasahebAmbedkar when he refuses to bend down further to the dictates of the higher caste Fauzdar.

The whippings and the insults damage Damu’s sense of self-respect more than his body and he takes the decision to leave the village forever. The story about his past life unfolds during his journey with his wife towards freedom. The flashback sequences show the trials and travails of his childhood.

Both Damu and Sonu hailed from extreme poverty-stricken agricultural families, and their hardships were augmented by the fact that they were Dalits. They were looked down upon as sub-humans and their shadow was believed to pollute the sanctity of the religious place of worship. But the city life proved to be an eye-opener for Damu who tasted freedom from casteism in his friendship with Robin whom he addressed as Missybaba, understood the concept of human rights by listening to speeches and imbibing the values of B.R.Ambedkar.

Damu’s success lies, not only in his transformation from a “country bumpkin” to a broad-minded and somewhat educated man but also in applying Ambedkar’s call of “Educate, Unite and Agitate” to his life and educating his children to ensure a better future for them.               

The book is a personal narrative of the social and historic transmutation of the Dalits in India. Jadhav intermeshes personal and national history to recount a touching tale about the state of affairs of the lowest of the low castes in India. The story is multi-dimensional – at one level, it is a personal saga of a man’s journey from untouchabilty to touchabilty, at another level, it is a loving tribute from a son to his parents and at a third level, it is full-fledged historical account of the caste system and its debilitating effects.

The text is a social and political documentation which gave me an insight into the Dalit issue in context of their awakening under the leadership of B.R.Ambedkar, the Independence Movement, The Civil Disobedience Movement, Mahatma Gandhi’s relation to Ambedkar and the mass conversion of Dalits to Buddhism in 1956. B.R.Ambedkar’s call to “Educate, Unite and Agitate” reverberates throughout the text.

Written as a first person narrative, this book gives the perspective of NarendraJadhav’s parents, (Damu being the main protagonist here) and deals with the issue of the caste system in its contemporary reality.

The hypocrisy of the caste system is unveiled through incidents which reveal that although the upper castes felt “polluted” and “defiled” by the mere touch of their lower caste counterparts yet this did not prevent them from hitting or beating them whenever necessary. Damu’s metamorphosis from a servile village bumpkin” to his eventual assertion of dignity is related with amazing simplicity and poignancy.

We hear the author’s own voice in the fourth part of the text which gives an account of the perpetuation of the caste system in modern India. An unfortunate but indelible truth of our society remains that “whatever heights a man might scale, his caste is never cast off….” Caste remains a stigma and the destiny of a man.

The author’s question – “Will I ever be able to free myself from the bondage of my caste?” – is answered by the eventual realisation that the dignity of man lies in his own heart and mind and not in the society.

Although it begins as a heart-rending tale, the story is interspersed with humorous episodes in the lives of the protagonists. This serves to lighten the heavy atmosphere of oppression and deprivation. The text ends with a ray of hope when Apoorva claims, “…I know who I am. I am just Apoorva; not tied down by race, religion or caste.”

I knew about the rigidity of the caste system through history books but I realised the whole implication of it only after I read this book. This text’s relevance to mass media studies lies in the fact that it addresses the social, cultural, religious and political issues which is the basis of media studies.