Tumhari, Sulu

The movie began. Would it be about pen pals? Love affair? Scene after scene passed by – but it didn’t feel like a movie at all, forget about the plot.
The lead actress, the supporting actors, their setting, and props – nothing looked or felt as if it was a movie. Probably for two reasons: either I had been too conditioned about what a movie should be – perhaps I expected superheroes and sirens frolicking in fantasy land. Or, and more seriously, perhaps the movie was about something so common that it didn’t come to my notice as movie stuff.
Yes, that is what Tumhari Sulu is about: an everyday story of the woman next door, whom we meet so often, whom we mock so often, who we are so much so, that we have to be sequestered into a movie hall to spare two thoughts about.
Had I not met such Sulus myself, I would have hated the movie. Instead, I watched on. I saw the woman who waltzes through her daily mundane tasks so that others can do what they can, the woman who suspects that she *can do* [it] but has had no chance to discover quite what, the autistic education system that can sense only the academic scores, collective mediocrity, movie actors as benchmarks of performance, sprouts of warmth and belonging, striving to survive in a relationship without sunshine, the pole-vaults of assertion indenting the lows of question-less submission and compliance.
Worst of all, a toxic family.
Writers, poets, and women themselves have revealed enough about the dark realms of the in-laws. But, who talks about the refusals, denials, and put-downs that come from one’s own parents and elder siblings? Some parents sound legitimate, but they actually discriminate against one child – because one (usually the elder) is bright in a regular way, but the other (usually younger) is ‘differently able’.
Experiences like that are so historically painful that they hurt without one realizing where the pain comes from.
The movie dramatizes the story by handing Sulu a job when her husband’s job is in jeopardy, while she is asked to do what is somewhat questionable. But what about other Sulus who are stopped, questioned, criticized, assaulted, branded and stereotyped, ostracized, and punished, just because they are trying to discover who they can be? Why is their struggle laughable just because they could not discover it earlier in school? Why is their discovery any lesser because it does not involve marks in schools?
Let’ talk about it.
Tumhari Sulu is not a movie, this is a slice of life from a large percentage of women you and I meet every day – and God forbid, live with.

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Do you smell a flower? Or …

What happens when you smell a flower? 

You say it smells sweet (or something like that), right?

When you put a drop of honey in your mouth, you say that honey is sweet, right?


What if it was not right?

Today I was browsing Kaushitaki Brahmana (कौषीतकि ब्राह्मण) and came across some text – interesting piece even if slightly turned around in meaning.
न वाचं विजिज्ञासीत वक्तारं विद्यात् न गन्धं विजिज्ञासीत घ्रातारं विद्यान्न रूपं विजिज्ञासीत दृष्टारं विद्यात् ….न कर्मं विजिज्ञासीत कर्तारं विद्यात् न सुखदुखे विजिज्ञासीत सुखदुखयोर्विज्ञातारं विद्यात् … न मनो विजिज्ञासीत मन्तारं विद्यात् …।
For the uninitiated: we all know there are four Vedas, right? Right. Each of the Vedas have four – let’s say, subsystems, or modules. Samhita, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads.
The Sanskrit text above translates thus:
Let’s not try to find out what speech is, let’s know the speaker. Let’s not try to find out what smell is, let’s know the one who smells. Let’s not try to find out what form is, let’s know the seer… Let’s not try to find out what action is, let’s know the doer. Let’s not try to find out what pleasure and pain are, let’s know the one who knows pleasure and pain… Let’s not try to find out what mind is, let’s know the one who possesses the mind.
Yet, the way our senses and our understanding of sensory signals work, we do precisely the opposite. We smell the smell (perfume) of the flower and we claim to have smelled the flower. We taste the sweetness of honey and we say we tasted honey. We experience (some/few/one or two) qualities of a person and we say we know a person. We have experienced a bit of life and we say we have known the life. How accurate is that?
Sometimes (much more than ‘some’ times) we fall prey to stereotypes and generalizations. we seek the sweet middling tendencies, universally applicable ‘truths’ and deny the other person any deviation from that ‘normality’. Although the passage above is about knowing the Brahman, I read it in a more worldly fashion. Think about the empathy and sensitivity to the uniqueness in the other it implies.
We think that ‘scientific’ approach is superior, but that is also miserable. In the name of science and ‘systematic’ approach to creating knowledge, we get tempted to take abstractions at such higher levels that they no longer apply to the chunk of reality we have in our hands. There is nothing wrong with grand theories, but in the name of grand theories, we misplace the actual point of interaction between ourselves and what we experience. And all the while, we think that we have a universal, objective truth. We think that ‘the reality’ is objective, and one for all. We establish standards and ‘cut-off’ s of ‘normality’ and brand the deviations.
It might be fine at times, and necessary at some others. But a habit of making a conclusion at a level higher than where the experience occurs is a gross error. While we do smell the smell, we do not smell the flower. Saying that we smell a flower is a gross denial of all the parts of a flower that either do not smell or have a smell that human nose cannot register. Think of what it means when applied to our interpersonal ties with others.
Does this paragraph not knock on the doors of dynamics of leadership and interpersonal relations?? What do you say?
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