Watching sports and great sports-persons always amazes. Tonight, as we watched the Great Fed and Murray battle it out, amid bouts of rain at Wimbledon, we talk about sports as a talent, as an attitude. Yes, certain people are immensely talented at sports. I have known those with great accuracy, great body coordination, great stamina, great focus, great instinct, great reflexes and all sorts of combinations of the above.
The two men in my life I have known best- my dad and my husband have had, in addition to a smattering of the above talents, had that other ability that, in my opinion, really makes or breaks a sports-person. The killer instinct, the ability to be so keenly competitive that you fight for every single point as if is a matter of life and death. Interestingly, these are two gentle and civil people. The killer instinct manifests itself through intense strategy, rarely via aggression. The strategy disarms opponents, but players who can match their intelligence throw them off their feet and offer real challenge. Rahul appreciates the same ability in an opponent, I’ve seen the pleasure he gets out of playing when evenly matched and how easily he tires of opponents who are as skilled but less cerebral in how they play their sport.
Now me, I’ve never been much of a sporting person. Even at things other than sports, I get too complacent too soon and give up easily when challenged beyond my comfort zone. I wish dearly I had more of a fight in me. Back at school, we had a classmate called Shariq who was our house captain. He pushed me to try new things at sport. I did reasonably well at stuff like shot put and discuss, but what he discovered in me was a sort-of talent for long distance walking! The first time I competed, he ran many laps with me, ensuring I didn’t slow down or give up. So I’m hoping (not in sports, but in life) maybe I’m one of those slow and steady sort of winners. I’m hoping the tenacity and long-term stamina that I think I have can make up for the lack of the killer instinct! Someday…
Some days leave me amazed at the sheer number of immensely talented people I know, who have struggled and worked relentlessly to
doing what they love. Piyush Mishra is a classic example. Back when we were in SPA, Piyush was a large presence in our lives. Us, the theater walas, were members of a group called Spandan, the naatak company of our college, SPA. And certainly, for us, Spandan was the heartbeat (that’s what spandan means) of our student life.
Piyush, a product of the National School of Drama, and a hardcore Mandi house product (anyone who has hung around that place would know what I mean) had a special connection with SPA. His wife Priya was our senior. And so, we had the privilege of him directing some of our productions and composing music for others.
I never acted in any of the productions he directed, but I was a part of the initial build up, the script reading sessions, the improvization sessions and so on and so forth. The manic activity back stage and the riotous joy after the performances can still send most of us on a high. Piyush was a hard taskmaster. A buddy we were all a little scared of. Someone unafraid to speak his mind, capable of immense affection and immense rage, all in the span of a few minutes.
I did, however, act in a production titled “Accidental Death of an Anarchist”. A Dario Fo script, we were directed by Arvind Gaur, who is now a well-established personality in the theater world. Many members of his group Asmita, performed with us, lending their presence to the songs and crowd scenes in the play- some of them Manu Rishi, Deepak Dobriyal are making their place in the meaningful side of the Hindi film industry now.
Notably though, Piyush wrote lyrics and composed music for this intensely political script. I distinctly remember the day of the performance at the Air Force Auditorium at Subroto Park (we were being paid to perform, it was beyond our imagination at that time!). Piyush was making us rehearse the songs and we were all tired and nervous. A few things weren’t coming together as we wanted and there was tension in the air. In the middle of the rehearsal, Piyush screamed at me. “Tum to gaayak ho Mukta, tum besura kyon gaa rahi ho!” – You are a singer, why are you singing off tune. The disappointment and anger directed towards me shook me to my core. I didn’t dare cry or react…the only choice ahead was to improve.
I see that kind of single minded focus, especially towards his lyrics and music in Piyush’s work today. I enjoyed his lyrics in Aaja Nachle, but his work in Anurag Kashyap’s Gulaal (acting, lyrics, music) really seemed like an extension of that passionate man I saw in action back in college. And now, this piece from Gangs of Wasseypur haunts me, taunts me to go back to my music again.
One in seven people in the world are migrants. Yet, the common view of migrants is negative. Governments perceive as migrants to be those who are at the bottom of the income pyramid, do not pay taxes because they work in the informal economy, cause crime, etc. This is not only true of the opinion governments in the US, UK and continental Europe have about immigrants from East Europe and the Middle East. It is equally true of what the Delhi government thinks of migrants from Bihar and UP, though not with as much clarity perhaps!
I did some of my masters level research work on immigration and have always been fascinated by the sociology of immigration. The entire process of families relocating, sometimes out of choice and many times under duress, to an alien land, assimilating new culture even as they struggle to retain vestiges of their identity is a complex process that tells quite a tale about human behavior. Doing the research as an Asian Indian in the United States back in 2000-2002 (at a time when the suspicion of brown-skinned South Asians and Arabs hit a new high thanks to 9/11), I was always partial to the migrant community.
I do not believe migrants are bad news. Instead, I wonder where societies hope to get cheap labor from if migrants were to stop coming into urban centers of relative prosperity. Moreover, the hatred of migrants reflects the kind of intolerance in society that I am beginning to abhor and that is putting inside me a terrible fear that grows everyday! Migrants bring diversity, so essential to sustaining cities.
My views were supported by a host of experts at a UN-HABITAT and UNESCO International Seminar on ‘How could we enhance inclusiveness for international migrants in our cities: Urban policies and creative practices?’ held in Mexico City in November 2010 and the group has continued its work since. Some of the views held by researchers are worth a look:
1- Migrants have a creative potential that cannot be utilized because of their poor status in the city
2- Cities are dynamic by definition; new residents change the urban landscape and therefore, in a sense, sustain the dynamism
3- Migration tests our democratic values; in accepting migration, we are forced to open our eyes to a variety in ethnicity, religion, spoken languages, cultural traits, customs, etc.
I am, therefore, interested in a new way of evaluating cities, by their openness. The OPENCities Monitor is a new city benchmark developed by BAK Basel Economics on behalf of the British Council. A unique collaboration and learning tool to measure city openness, it is defined as “the capacity of a city to attract international populations and to enable them to contribute to the future success of the city”. Strategies for management, inclusion and integration form the core of their work with cities across the world.
It would certainly be a great idea for some Indian cities to introspect along these lines. Alas, urban consciousness and identity in India is still low; add to that poor or indifferent governance and we still have a long way to go!