Reminiscence Matters - contd
by Pushpa Raghuram
Back to PART 1
A title song shook Janaki up from her slumber. Many names appeared on the screen. This movie was no longer about Ram and her travel. It was a period film, the period covered being the latter half of the twentieth century and the first quarter of the twenty first century; changing times, with the world getting smaller.
OMG! Was she a part of the festival of short films? Most of the films were spun around "Time and Space”, like son et lumiere - videos of light and sound. "Was it in an IMAX Theatre? Was the screen 3D or 4D?
Janaki felt as if she was swinging like a pendulum, seeing short films, while also going back and forth between various events of the previous decades.
Janaki was born during the pre-independence period in a freedom fighter's family, in the same corner room that had seen the birth of many children of the joint Family. She reminisced that she and Ram too had never claimed any 'Space and Time' for themselves. The reason was simple – space was anyways limited while me-time was considered unimportant. Others’ time was, many a time, taken for granted. The passage of time though brought in the concept of 'Time and Space' amongst family members, and partners too. Janaki was aghast when people wanted to mark clear boundaries for themselves. In time though, she learnt not to intrude into others’ space or time. She also learnt to value them.
The era of post-independence opened up new avenues for youngsters. Seeds disperse far and wide by spluttering, thus causing cross pollination. Youngsters flew like birds over mountains, swam like fish or cruised across seas following their passions. Janaki, for one, encouraged the youngsters in her family to migrate to other countries, be it for pursuing academic achievements, to gain professional excellence, or graze on the greener pastures. But then, when they did not look back at all, as if they had gone to a point of no return, she became sad.
Be that as it may, Janaki was now a spectator of the films at the festival going on in her mind’s eye. The short films were on various topics like tradition, media, globalisation, digital/ cyber world, man becoming beastly and so on. Janaki could now, in most cases at least, read the names of the stories / script writers and directors. She could even recognise names of many cinematographers, actors and actresses of these short films. A few of them were her school buddies, college mates or colleagues. They had marched ahead, many of them overtaking Ram and her, left, right and centre; bearing the torches or carrying their individual crosses. Janaki had long ago realized that looks could be deceptive and what was visible to others need not be the complete truth.
Janaki was perturbed when she saw youngsters discard their traditional attire and take to western wear as if they were the ramp-walking ambassadors of those brands even as many westerners were trying to shine in traditional Indian outfits.
Janaki was perplexed that boys and men who became DWIJAS (one who is twice born) after wearing the sacred thread on their left shoulder removed it with no qualms whatsoever and hung it up on a hook. She was at her wits’ end when women took off their Mangalasutras and wedding rings to keep them safe. She was appalled seeing traditions thus turn topsy turvy!
Changes were seen in every sphere, even in the world of media. Books, which were read again and again, were now forgotten on shelves and covered with layers of dust collected over years. Vividha Bharati transmission was overshadowed by countless TV channels and YouTube. Channels like Amazon Prime and Netflix allowed film buffs to pay and watch films in various languages at their convenience. Letter writing was
long passé. E-mails too were becoming limited to official communication. Family and friends had started chatting on WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Landline telephones were out of use in most places having been replaced by mobiles.
The millennium brought about many changes that were embraced by the youngsters but frowned upon and kept at arm’s length by the older generations. The consequences of this were many - parents and children were torn apart thus creating gaps - geographical, since the children were already abroad, and psychological, since time and inter-cultural differences played a vital role in communication.
Millennium change ushered in globalisation. The film on that topic gave Janaki a closer insight into the advantages and disadvantages of the issue. The astute ones were either offered more perks that enabled them to spread their wings and fly faster and higher, or were given training to strengthen their gills to help them swim deeper. Planet Earth shrunk for them. International organisations became a spring board for them, often enabling the most passionate among them to travel in space shuttles, and target the Moon and Mars to hoist their respective country’s flags. Gender was no longer a barrier in such cases.
With globalization came more money and various inventions and discoveries which led to their abuse, nuclear power and plastic being just a couple of examples. Mother Earth's wrath in response too became evident at various times and in various places. She got busy avenging herself through tsunamis, landslides, floods and cloud bursts; often taking the lives of millions of innocent people. Janaki's heart melted for the affected and grieved ones.
Janaki sat speechless when she saw the film on digitalisation. Data of any and all kinds was now available at the click of a Mouse. Computers, laptops, tablets, mobiles, etc. became tools that enabled people to work from home. Amazon, Flipkart, Quikr and the like encouraged on-line shopping from the comfort of homes or offices. People mastered HTML, Excel, Java and JSP scripts, in the process putting the script of their mother tongue out of use. Computer Engineering taught people in their teens and twens to think in bits and bytes without a break, unaware that, bit by bit, their peace of mind was being eaten away.
Janaki was horrified to see films on social themes like honour killings, women being molested, a family member stabbing the other, and so on. Newspapers and TV serials too carried such news and stories with alarmingly increasing frequency. Familial ties, marital bonds, and friendships were snapping like stretched rubber bands. These bonds were becoming null and void just like legal bonds. Janaki did NOT want to see films on such issues. Her dry eyes were welling with tears. She closed them as if wanting to withdraw herself from the outside world like a tortoise does.
But the break of dawn did not let her do that. The milk vendor was ringing the bell. Stirred but not shaken, Janaki walked to the door in a stupor, wished him ‘Good morning‘ and collected the milk sachets.
She walked into the kitchen, recalling that it was her wedding anniversary today and she had to plan a special menu for her family and friends who might visit them during the course of the day.
She stood for a while in the 4’ X 4’ Gods’ room, saying thanks to the Almighty for the blessings he had showered on her, Ram, and her family and friends, and the faith he had instilled in her that, come what may, they were all just a phone call away, irrespective of where they were.
Janaki stood firm on her roots, praying “Sarve Jana Sukhino Bhavantu, Samastha Sanmangalani Bhavantu. Om Shanthi, Om Shanthi, Om Shanthi hi!”
As she set about organizing her work for the day, she wondered if she had heard a distant but distinct voice say ‘Tathastu’. ***