Monday, July 22, 2013

Blue Blood

Waking up to social networking updates and news about the royal birth and that too a male heir to Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, I smile. Hate it or love it, the lives of the monarchy continue to fascinate us. Quite reminds me of the movies I've been watching in recent times about the nobility and aristocracy of England.

A movie that stayed in my mind was "The Duchess" based on the life of Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, who was quite a fashionista and created quite a scandal in the late 18th century. Keira Knightley does a brilliant job portraying the character of the Duchess and the trials and tribulations that she faced for not bearing a male heir till much later brings out the social prejudices prevalent. Not so different from the mindset of majority of our population in our nation where giving birth to a son is still paramount and female infanticide is pretty common.

This obsession with giving birth to boys reminds me of a whatsapp group conversation with our friend, Ashwini last week. The lengths people go through to have a male child. Apparently, since male baby causing sperms die very quickly, they work best only on the exact day of ovulation and the closer it is deposited to the cervix, the better the chances of fertilization, so there are techniques to get there. Several other superstitions abound such as eating asparagus before coitus (am too influenced by Sheldon  from TBBT these days) and not eating strawberries as they can cause a girl child to be born. Phew!

Back to the royals, the conservative nature and rigidness of the royal customs were and still are a sharp contrast to the infidelities and betrayal played out in their lives. Guess it was a kind of rebellion against very strict protocols. In modern times, it seems to continue going by the tabloid gossip of royal lives such as Prince Charles, Lady Diana, Prince Andrew, Sarah Ferguson and now Prince William and Prince Harry.

Our obsession with the monarchy remains even after we realize that all those fairy tales we read about finding our Prince Charming and living happily ever after is not so true. It sometimes takes a few takes before happily ever after such as in the case of Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee for whom King Edward abdicates the throne. If you watch the movie W.E. based on the life of King Edward VIII, you realize that it was not quite happily ever either. W.E. is a must-watch brilliant movie for those interested to get a sneak peek into the lives of royalty and is produced and directed by Madonna.

Talking about royalty, wonder why we still cling on to old institutions such as the monarchy that are inherited and not merit-based even in these times of so called democracy? Is it because there is something so romantic about the royal lineage that we hate to let go of archaic conventions our minds have grown so used to after reading all those stories of kings and queens across the world and spanning centuries?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Who or What Inspires Us?

LinkedIn sends me a mail to get inspired by the most followed Influencers. I go through the list and see the names of a few bigwigs and smile. Oh well, now are they going to dictate who should inspire me? :)

Are we supposed to be inspired by only folks in the rat race and who've made huge sums of money judging by the list? Social media does have a way of pandering to people's egos and hyping things up to such an extent that you start to believe in it. However, if you delve a bit, you will find that it's all about visibility and often the achievements are hollow and there is no real depth or quality to it.

Am I supposed to be admiring Ambani or Mallya for their ill gotten wealth and ways of flaunting it through monstrosities like Antilla and yachts and high flying calendars even in cases where their employees have not been paid for months while they live the high life or the majority of people in our nation live in dire poverty? It's not in their business interest after all to part with their wealth especially when there are loopholes in the system where they can avoid payouts to those who deserve it. Isn't it the job of the government to look after the welfare of its citizens? Why should these big folks care as long as their names make it to the richie rich list every year?

It's like the music channels these days that keep playing such horrendous music till it's drilled into your senses and you start believing that it's top of the charts although the lyrics make no sense or the music is plagiarized from another popular number and at times even outright non-melodious. Or those endless movie promotions that keep being replayed on television channels and celebrities on social networking sites who promote it even though it may be the crappiest movie ever made and you go and watch based on their feedback and once you do, you realize that it was a huge mistake. After all, in these times it's more of driving up a hype, ass-licking, and doing favors for people rather than honest and quality feedback.

It's like I shout out all your so-called achievements from the rooftop and you do the same for mine. Or was it you scratch my back and I'll scratch your's? :) Oh well, these days you don't even have to shout from rooftops; all you need to do is broadcast it across social networking sites and there you go, it's creating a  breed of self-obsessed, attention-seeking, narcissistic individuals. This attention-seeking is like a drug and at times often promotes mediocrity and cheating one's way to so-called success like all those voting contests that you come across. The more the votes, and that is what determines the outcome of one's success. And sorry, you may send me repeated requests but am still not going to vote for anyone's child on any social networking site. I wouldn't know what to judge and isn't it unfair on some other deserving candidates whoever they are just because I am an incompetent judge? :P So hate me but still not voting.

I watch the news and see more self-promotions happening even in the aftermath of the Uttarakhand tragedy. The army, locals, NGO's and some extraordinary humans doing some amazing work and helping those affected without shouting it out from the rooftops and there you have our politicians squabbling and boasting about flagging off relief material when isn't it their duty as public servants to ensure the welfare of the citizens? Do they need to spend funds that could be used in rehabilitation work in running large newspaper ads promoting the so-called relief work that their leaders are engaging in?  And then you get to know that the stuff flagged off is rotten or hasn't even reached the folks who require it as the trucks are still stuck in some other state. Politicians have ceased to surprise me these days with their insensitive and incompetent ways.

Back to influencers, even though I do admire some of the famous ones such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Azim Premji, and the Tatas for all their charitable contributions, it's still my low-profile colleagues, friends, acquaintances, and some extraordinary strangers who I've met that amaze and inspire me for their large hearts with so less resources.

Ordinary folks who are wealthy in their thoughts and deeds and who are making a huge difference to the lives of others every day. The ones who teach impoverished kids for free, undertake campaigns and promotions to provide them access to free education, school kits etc, the ones who work with orphanages and differently abled people, the folks who help slum dwellers day in and day out, those friends who help the homeless, and women who have been violated and abused, striving against all odds despite having access to limited funds or welfare. At times they even face a deep risk to their lives by helping others and yet that does not deter them from their chosen path.

Those nameless faceless folks who shy away from the limelight and public praise. They may be your neighbor, colleague, friend, acquaintance but each day they tirelessly thrive to help others. I do know that we live in times where the shallow world of social media and the material wealth folks accumulate will continue to dictate who the achievers are and who we should admire, but for me it's these folks who quietly go about changing lives without a care for rewards or praise who are the real heroes!