Sensual desires

“… sensual desire is never quenched by indulgence any more than fire is by pouring ghee in it. No object of desire – corn, gold, cattle or women – nothing can ever satisfy the desire of man. (…) We can reach peace only by a mental poise beyond likes and dislikes.”

Yayati explains this to his son Puru after indulging several years in a sensual life.

(Mahabharata by C. Rajagopalachari – p.38)

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The state of India

In the days when society is losing its moral roots, it is becoming ever so hard for the tree of civilization to survive, let alone flourish. We have become the gears in turning the society into a mechanism of greed and of crime – both however seem to have their roots in each other. Crime happens for greed and greed harbours crime.

We must beware of trying to build a society in which nobody counts for anything except a politician or an official, a society where enterprise gains no reward and thrift no privileges.

– Sir Winston Churchill

It is painful to admit that India of late, has successfully built the diseased society that Sir Winston Churchill described. Every Indian at birth comes with a price tag on his soul. It does not take much money to have someone killed. It is very easy to start a communal riot.

It is said that India has never attacked any other nation in all its history. It was perhaps because we Indians never had time to do so, as we were, and still are busy fighting each other. Truth be said, the real Indian does not exist anymore. There are only north Indians, south Indians; Bengalis, Biharis, Malayalis, Tamilians, Punjabis, Kannadigas, Gujaratis, Marathas; Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs; hundred other sub-castes under each of them; and lastly the rich and the poor. It is hard to believe that India is a single democracy. It is more like an unwilling unity between communities of people living separately under one flag. The only solace in this dysfunctional existence is that it beats the alternative. If India were actually broken down into separate countries, we would have fought and killed each other long ago.

The world sees India as the land of the intellectuals, the software hub of the world and the “yoga-land”. That’s all true, however there is a magnanimous skew in the ratio of such people who are contributing to the progress of the country to persons who leech off the loop holes in the system, the worst possible way. There is a way around every law in this country. Got caught over-speeding? Want to avoid the ticket? Cost Rs. 100 (~$2); Free, if you are the son of the brother of the barber of some minister. That’s how far and deep corruption has engulfed us. Many of our ministers and bureaucrats have criminal investigations pending against them – such are the people who are running this country. Rapists and murderers are released without so much as a slap on the wrist; and justice in many cases is an eluding illusion. Celebrities and cricketers are worshiped (literally) as Gods while soldiers who fought for the country are abandoned. Our women are not safe – female infanticide, rape, eve-teasing, molestation, dowry-related violence, domestic violence – have plugged them into a shell of insecurity.

India Corruption

When security (Police), well-being (Housing, Health, Water, Electricity) and literacy (Education) departments in a country are among the top corrupted, there’s very little to say about what remains. We Indians suffer from the disease of complacent indifference towards all these social vices. And unless there is an intellectual and social revolution, the situation will not improve.

How the “Bechdel Test” is going to spoil every movie for me

 

Have you heard of the Bechdel Test? Read no further if you wish to enjoy your movies or books (stories) anymore. Why? Well, because of this peculiar rule, I’ll now have a mental checklist every time I watch a movie! The Bechdel Test is described as follows:

The Bechdel Test, credited to Liz Wallace, was introduced in Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. In a 1985 strip titled “The Rule,” an unnamed female character says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements: (1) It has to have at least two women in it, (2) who talk to each other, (3) about something besides a man.

This blog post introduced me to this topic and opines that the above rule exists as a litmus test for Hollywood directors to check how much they cared for their female characters. I’m somewhat bothered by this. No offense to women but isn’t this somehow destroying the experience of a movie to every one? If a story does not permit having two women, will a director or story writer be forced to introduce unwanted characters for the sake of satisfying this rule?

That said, let’s break down the rule. Firstly, it says, the story must have two women in it. That isn’t asking much considering not many stories (or movies) exist without two women. (An extension of this idea is that both these women must be named characters – that is, it cannot be a random cleaning woman who would just appear on the screen). Secondly, these named characters must share a dialogue. This is where it gets a little tricky. You have your two women, right; now why should they be forced to speak to each other? Finally, this is where it gets confusing – now that they are talking, they should not talk about men?

I remember a story that I had read in my school days – Dusk by Saki (H H Munro). It has no female characters. But a great short story nevertheless. (Read it online) My story – The Cold Rain – also fails the test. Although it has two named female characters, there is no dialogue between them.

The only sane explanation that could have an “irritated woman” come up with this rule for herself, and by extension to every other person who feels the same way is that, in the 80’s there were an exceeding number of movies that ‘used’ women in unimportant roles and all male characters drove the story. Was it the case? I do not know. I haven’t watched many movies from the 80’s.

The question is, how relevant is this test in today’s cinema? Of course, Hollywood and Bollywood, the world’s two most money-raking franchises are male-dominated, with actors being heavily overpaid than actresses. In fact, the 2012’s list of 10 richest celebrities do not feature an actress at all.

On a lighter note, here’s the list of IMDb’s top 10 movies and whether they pass this test: **

Rank Rating Title Pass
Bechdel
Test?
1. 9.2 The Shawshank Redemption (1994) No
2. 9.2 The Godfather (1972) No
3. 9.0 The Godfather: Part II (1974) No
4. 8.9 Pulp Fiction (1994) Yes
5. 8.9 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) No*
6. 8.9 12 Angry Men (1957) No*
7. 8.9 Schindler’s List (1993) Yes
8. 8.8 The Dark Knight (2008) No
9. 8.8 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) No
10. 8.8 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) No*

Notes: ** Tabulated from memory; may not be completely accurate. * Tabulated from sources; again, accuracy questionable. If you know of variations from the above, please leave a comment, I’ll fix it.