Hope……Or The Lack Thereof

I hate diverging from my focus on travel on this blog.

But the events of the past few weeks have forced me to make an exception.

  • A reputed gallery threatened for showing a nude art retrospective by renowned Indian artists. (Kudos to Ashish Anand for not buckling under pressure.)
  • A ‘Fatwa‘ issued against a teen girl band.
  • Salman Rushdie prevented from attending a literary meet.
  • A movie banned for scenes found offensive by religious leaders in only one state (mine :-() despite being passed by the censor board.

These – more sensational – instances of bullying have been attributed to ‘fringe elements’. But it isn’t these bullies that I am scared of….I expect no less from those ’empty vessels’

It is the mute liberal bystanders that frighten me.

The thought of these acts possibly being orchestrated by those in power.

Of a government reluctant to take a stand, for fear of letting the opposition gain mileage.

And worse, some of my educated friends who forward chain mails justifying one or the other of these bans!

What is happening to us?

Where is the secular nation, that was once a happy alloy of the divine message of the Vedas,  the seductive charms of a Tawaif and the erotic instructions of the Kamasutra?

Yesterday watching endless, fruitless debates on TV, my sense of despair reached its absolute nadir, when for just one brief moment, I found myself wishing for emergency rule.

I have no idea how to deal with this on a personal level. This is my token of defiance.


I wish I had a more explicit nude 🙂

And I hope against hope, for the children’s sake, that Guruji’s prayer is answered before we implode.

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

61 thoughts on “Hope……Or The Lack Thereof

    1. You are right. And I inderstand this might be offensive to some. My issue is with forcing ME to agree with them 🙂

      1. It shouldn’t be offensive to anyone living and breathing on this Earth.. any judgement of it shows bloody hypocrisi!!!

  1. Oh, you are right. The amazing things our leaders (religious and political) can stoop to. The fatwa against the girl band really upsets me. Those girls are GOOD… and full of talent, promise and hope – not for themselves but for the entire state of Kashmir. And to slam a fatwa on them is an unpardonable act.
    But for some reason, the bystanders just stand and watch, motionless.
    Does only a gangrape elicit a protest of measurabled proportion? I wonder.
    Great post, Madhu… a much-needed rap on our collective knuckles! And I love this sculpture!

    1. Glad you agree MJ. I am of the opinion that ANY ban is bad. We are setting precedents that are going to be hard to reverse. And if these events are politically motivated, they are playing with fire. Once let out, the genie cannot be forced back into the bottle.

  2. I have had that feeling for months that one fights the fight alone now. You have to take care of yourself and only you can do that. I have seen the lack of community in the neighborhood I live in, I have seen it in the workplace (not a pretty scene), I have seen it in public (the rudeness). I choose to be a little more kind and compassionate to myself and the others I encounter on a daily basis:) Happy Hump Day

    1. You are so right. And there is very little we can do other than create a cocoon of compassion and kindness around us. Apologies for the late response….Happy Hump Day to you too 🙂

  3. Oh, Madhu, I’m sorry you’re in such despair, but I perfectly understand it. I also am infuriated by censorship on religious grounds, or any grounds for that matter. I hope that the bystanders won’t remain silent and will speak out against such oppression of artistic expression. When we let these things happen, I’m sorry for all of us. Hugs xxx

  4. Dear Madhu,
    What an eloquent post–so well said. It is very discouraging when hope turns into hopelessness. But as long as there are reasonable people like you who think for yourself and speak out, there is hope.

  5. Hi Madhu,

    The world is in a sorry state. The more I read the more I want to run away. At least you have a voice here, a place to express those emotions.

    Totally off topic, I just dragged myself away from the computer for a mini yoga session and tonight I am off to my meditation group. These are the places I run to for a bit of tranquility.

    Oh and I love Rodin’s The Kiss 🙂

    1. Yoga is my escape too, and I thought Rodin’s “The Kiss” was a perfect token of defiance against our moral police 🙂 Appreciate your stopping by.

  6. You are not alone in these feelings but I have a sense that the extremists and fundamentalists around the world prey on such hopelessness. The strength to fight it ebbs and flows within me – and maybe it is a global low tide?
    Keep the faith.

  7. Reminds me of the words of pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group:

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the socialists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for the Catholics,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Catholic.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

    In the UK Christian values are being changed in favour of more liberal ones. However nothing will shake me from my Christian upbringing and beliefs and I hope that the Churches in Scotland and England will speak up against these liberals.

    Doing nothing is not an option.

  8. a thoughtful post Madhu and Iam sure every one who has a conscience shall stand by the people who are fighting against such abuse and bans.the narrowmindedness of some cannot be taken a s an opinion of the whole country and society,for the selfish means of theirs they find a way to degrade such forms of art and artists are the first ones who are attacked because they have the right and the power to express the truth.

    1. Thanks Soumya.
      I know most people are against such restrictions on their freedom. It is our powerlessness to stop those who use this to polarise society that is worrying.

  9. Excellent article Madhu. Well-timed too! What is the difference between us and the Russian Govt that imprisoned a girl band? Our government has stooped so such unimaginable standards it enrages me. We are the poster child for hypocrisy within a democracy. Do they not realize that the more they force censorship upon the people, the more the people want to defy it. It is like we are slowly progressing backwards. Okay I think I should end my rant now. On a personal note, I think I love it when you digress from travel talk sometimes 🙂

  10. Your sense of misunderstanding and confusion…. is the same of many of us…
    I personally believe that a world without religion and political hegemonic power could be better. In some way… But still “maybe” because we can’t be sure of it. For this reason I try to believe that all is not lost, yet observing the evolution of the races in this world of madness and confusion, I can only be afraid for my children, for my children’s children. Madhu, is the sad reality, but we can only have self-pity…
    With my family members, we follow the Buddhist philosophy, a choice with consciousness… Perhaps, we may hope, when there will be more people to follow these fundamental teachings (so similar to those of the monotheistic religions, before they were manipulated at will ….) you can believe in an improvement.
    Let me share your pain, maybe so, it will weigh less to you…
    Serenity Claudine

  11. Dear Madhu!
    Yesterday I was watching on the news that issue of the ban to a girls band of music, and also some update about the trial of the horrible men who kill that poor woman after awfully abused of her…
    I think something is going very badly in some men´s minds…And I can not believe all that has only a religious reason…It is religious, it is social, it is racial, it is something rooted indeed indeed their souls…I wonder why this is still going on…

  12. Sometimes, especially when things come in clusters like this, it seems as if the lunatic fringe is winning and making the governments of the world cave in. What seems alarming, since 9/11 is how the so-called ‘silent majority’ seems to have fallen into step with them – heads down, bums up, not willing to see, or be seen. It’s at times like this that we must speak up – as you have, so eloquently. Leadership, and courage are what is required from us all.

  13. Well spoken in a bewildered world. The bystanders – yes. I’m, afraid of them too. Jane’s log said what I would have quoted. If we don’t speak up for others – who will speak for us? Sometimes I just feel lost, and I guess that’s what they want…”they”. You have spoken well. Let’s follow your example. The only way is to raise peoples minds to what’s happening. In Sweden the radical right wing forces are rising – and there are many bystanders.

  14. I don’t follow politics much, Madhu, and all that happens in the world in the name of religion is extremely depressing. But poems such as that quoted by Janeslog do make you ashamed of not being more proactive. I applaud your stand, my dear.

  15. “It is the mute liberal bystanders that frighten me.” Doing nothing in the face of injustice is worse than committing the original unjust act. The world will wake up – but not until it’s been roused from its somnolent stupor by another atrocity of epic proportions.

    1. That’s what I am scared of. A power hungry few prey on the greed and fear of the masses, to write that recipe for disaster.

  16. I love this post. I completely understand your hesitation to write about topics like these. But it’s so important for us to speak up, particularly as people who write and whose writing is read by others. Your act of defiance is PERFECT and I laughed out loud with support as my scrolling revealed the image of love and passion. The ending prose is wonderful, too. Thanks for sharing and bravo for taking a stand in a thoughtful and beautiful way.

  17. When liberal bystanders and educators are in silent, that becomes the biggest worry since those in power and government take no stand for people.

  18. I believe every generation faces the same challenges regarding censorship…especially dealing with the arts. It is the first to be criticized. Compromises have to be made and unfortunately the strongest group wins if it isn’t challenged, but it must be done with mutual respect and that is what is missing. Teaching tolerance begins at home. Well said,Madhu and how long ago was it that Tagore said those words.?

  19. Thanks for putting this out. There was an article in the Hindu that summed this up nicely, “The Republic of the Offended- we have become a nation that takes offence easily for all the wrong things”. What irked me really was that all the CM of Kashmir could say was, Hope these girls will not give up just because of a few angry people. If he was so concerned , he could have ensured that they continue playing rather than being just a bystander- one who has power but no gumption.

  20. Thanks for speaking the truth with courage and with passion. Nudity is an art. It’s what’s people thinking and maliciousness that makes it dirty. With all the vulgar showing of the flesh on the t.v., this one is so tame. It is a beautiful sculpture and art which the world needs to see. Sorry that you had to go through all these because of some people can be so narrow minded.

  21. i fully agree. Being a resident of New Delhi it is hard to see the governement and opposition play snakes and ladders with peoples rights and sentiments. I am a bystander too.

  22. amen to that … so sad these things confront you … it is the same all over the world with right wing extremists shutting down the options, trying to limit freedoms, pouring out words of fear and hate … while those who should know better stand helpless and mute …. trying to tred a middle path so they don’t alienate wealthy supporters or lobby groups … pitiful! all we can do is speak out as you have done madhu, may many hear you …

  23. Beautiful photo of a stunning sculpture. Madhu, sometimes I really happy that I’m not a teen again – what is things leading for the young. No wonder they commit suicide. It’s like in US – they are allowed to show films on TV where men beat women and kill them – and each other, but they can’t show a naked breast or two people having sex ??? What message does that send out to our young.

  24. I appreciate your courage and especially your thinking mind. I will pray to the one God that has many names that things do not get worse in your country. I can understand how it must be terribly frustrating when freedom of expression is becoming increasingly restricted. It is only when people are free to express their ideas and others have access to creative expression, that minds can grow.

  25. It is amazing how much censorship still occurs in the world. We had a Mapplethorpe exhibit come to Cincinnati years ago and it was banned. I couldn’t believe it! If you don’t like it, don’t go. But for the city to actually ban it??? Crazy.

  26. We need more people like you in the world Madhu who have the courage to speak up and take a stand. Unfortunately this takes place not only in your country. Mine has similar problems as well. I like to think of myself as a positive person but have found myself lately gravitating towards thoughts of hopelessness too. You have chosen a beautiful sculpture with which to emphasize your stance. Thanks for writing such an eloquent post.

  27. I agree with you 100%…such sadness, such cruelty going on in the world. For absolutely no reason at all.

    And I agree with LuAnn…you’ve written this post so eloquently. I admire that about you Madhu.

  28. I know what it feels like, which is why I sometimes give myself a break from following the news at all. But I do not lose hope, because I meet so many people, like you, who in all the dispair stand strong. I am certain that before every light there has to be darkness, and I am also certain that the light will come, because the worse it gets the more bystanders will have had enough. But it does take time.

  29. It seems that we are all of one mind about the state of the world here. I recommend “Stones from the River”, a novel by Ursula Hegi, for a fascinating look at the complicity of silence. You have chosen your protest well. Who can censor Rodin?

  30. “Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way”
    If you find that place, Madhu, you will be for that time, in Paradise.
    Certainly, if we change the details, living in the United States fits your description. To name just one thing, we live in a paradise of guns and death-dealing violence.
    This is very hard to bear.
    I think we cannot despair; I think Tagore would not despair; perhaps we can pledge each other to commit to hope.

  31. In an attempt to sanitize our minds they paralyze many others… It’s all tedious attempts at control and none of it makes sense. I hear you! 🙂

  32. Thanks for this post. The hopelessness you refer to is “death”. The death before creation that comes with “living” anew — from this moment. It’s the breathless pause between inhaling and exhaling where there is no “being” no “doing” just “observing”. And observe you did! Then, you turned around and birthed a wonderful blog post. Thanks for sharing this. I needed something to meditate upon before starting my day!

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