Writing

IMG_1337

The art of writing begins with simplicity. When I started law school, I had a habit of being verbose in my writing. I also believed that I was quite a good writer; so when in my first year I received a C in Research and Writing, I could not understand why – I blamed the teacher’s incompetency and ignored my own.

Two years and sixty credit-hours later I entered my Advanced Writing classroom; my professor, Ron Richards – a lawyer and partner at one of Michigan’s most prestigious law firms. He had a very simple demeanor; he exhumed ‘I am your guide’ more than ‘I am your teacher and I know best.’

Over the next thirteen weeks I learned writing. He taught me to be simple, precise, and consistent. His lessons had a poetic rhythm; he was never harsh in his critique, nor dominating in his guidance. Though, he was the toughest and most diligent grader.

For our first assignment we had to condense a twenty-page contract down to eight pages. Obviously, I panicked. Not only did I have to eliminate verbosity, I also had to preserve the document’s legal and intended integrity. I never had and never have since spent more time editing a piece of writing.

Professor Richards was always available for guidance and critique. For the next four weeks, I emailed him, hounded him in and out of class, relentlessly trying to outperform myself. I think he enjoyed my zeal almost as much as my cynicism – I challenged his word-choices and sentence structures.

He encouraged this scholarly dialogue. He always said, “yes, you can write it your way – just be simple and precise” or “you can use any citation method – just be consistent.” I received a B-, the highest grade in class for that assignment. Somewhat disappointed with myself, I continued learning.

In the remaining nine weeks, I fell in love with writing. Class became fun; a healthy competitiveness grew within each student – instead of competing with each other, we began competing with ourselves.

I strove to sharpen my own craftsmanship. Classmates challenged one another, to help each other be better. Be simple, precise and consistent. This became our chant. This has become my chant. I got an A- for my final grade – more importantly, I learned the art of writing.

Clipped

IMG_0491

 

My circumstances have led me to my graveyard of failures. My choices have been my rebellion – I have never been, and never will I ever be, a slave to a world created for me. Why should I live in someone else’s dream? Why should my nightmares come from choices made for me?

So I have shunned and insulted, demeaned and assaulted my circumstances by choosing to be free.

My biggest mistake has been expectation. I expected unconditional love, truth, faith and loyalty – honesty and humility – kindness and happiness. I expected all these romantic notions from all the romanticized people – I expected duty and justice, and received a reality that is my life.

My expectations have crippled me – though, freedom is relative. Rebellion has given me wings.

Fine-Print Tax – An Open Letter to President Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

Thank you for your service. I am proud to have voted for you and am writing this open letter in the hopes that you will address the issues of income inequality, predatory corporate ideology, and an ever-cumbersome quality of life for majority of America – and coincidentally, or consequently, the world.

I noticed something recently; the cost of living has tripled since 1986. I was four at that time; the cost of my favorite orange Popsicle has tripled in the last 28 years. Today fewer kids can afford it, it has shrunk in size, and corporate profit margins have never been higher.

Interestingly, this Popsicle inflation I speak of has happened in India. But eerily similar compounding inflations have happened in America. Gasoline in middle-America – Danville, Illinois – cost 98 cents in 2000; it has more than tripled. And again, corporate profit margins have never been higher.

I see nothing wrong with capitalist progress and the ‘free market’ economy, nor with the ultra-rich who set trends, hike up prices, and predatorily lure the masses and their wallets. But I do have a problem with the manner in which it happens – the lay person gets tricked by the corporate machine.

Specifically, we get tricked by fine-prints –manipulative advertising and marketing strategies geared to do one thing: grow profit margins for the corporate engine. Fine-prints come in all forms, shapes and sizes. The most infamous among them, sub-prime mortgage fine-prints that nearly sank the global ‘free market’ in 2008-2009. Other fine-prints are less obvious. For example; pricing gasoline at $3.99, and then nearly tripling the font of the dollar amount. This creates an optical and mathematical illusion that a gallon of gas costs three dollars when it actually costs much closer to four.

A more tortuous example is selling food and drink items in flashy packaging that attracts the consumer to the brand, while miniaturizing health hazard warning signs like “Contains Phenylalanine” or “Products contain added Monosodium Glutamate – Not Recommended for Infants below 12 months.” There are some things fundamentally wrong about this. First, it distracts the consumer with advertising gimmicks while practically hiding potentially crucial health information in plain sight. Second, and more importantly, it places a burden on the lay person to find and know about those chemicals and their effects.

You once famously said, “It’s Arithmetic.” You were absolutely right; everything is arithmetic, a set of mathematical calculations. Except, fine-prints create a second, illusory mathematical parallel universe. It makes lay people believe they have bargained for and received a much different product than they wanted, let alone needed. And a father of three earning minimum wage, with a wife taking care of the kids, cannot afford to believe he paid thirty dollars for gas when he actually paid closer to forty.

Nor can a single mother working two minimum-wage jobs afford to take unpaid vacation days to take her daughter to the doctor because she was too overwhelmed to read all sides of the packaging of her daughter’s lunch sandwich. That duty that fine-print imposes on the average lay citizen is villainously inconspicuous and omnipresent in the corporate landscape. And this all happens for one reason: To increase corporate profit margins. Coincidentally – or intentionally – the surplus fine-prints create make the ultra-rich richer while hundreds and thousands of people lose their homes, develop severe illnesses, and cannot make ends meet.

I am not saying the big, bad ‘fine-print’ wolf is the only contributor to a tougher and more stressful way of life for an increasing number of people. But I am saying, it has a major role to play. So in the face of this problem, I would very much like you to discuss the pros and cons of legislating a tax on fine-print.

All businesses that use fine-print in their advertisements, legal documents and product labels must pay a tax. The logic: it unreasonably encumbers the fundamental rights of lay citizens to utilize any and all available faculties for the purposes of pursuing life, liberty, and property.

Fine-prints impose an unreasonable burden on the lay citizen to understand and agree to drastically inequitable and complex business contracts when pursuing such fundamental objectives as getting an education, buying a house, buying a car, saving for the future, etc. It creates an unjustifiable duty for people to find, know and understand that the companies they trust put unnecessary harmful chemicals in their food. It fraudulently tricks cash-strapped people into believing they are paying less.

Our government must strive to make resources that promote general welfare and safety of its human citizens more readily available than corporate tax shelters. It must strive to make the lives of its citizens better. A fine-print tax will not tax an individual citizen; it would, however, impose a rightful duty on businesses to streamline their thinking and execution. And coincidentally – or consequently – bring in revenue from upper echelons of the dollar ladder without directly compromising personal fortunes of the ultra-rich. I hope you will consider. I await your public response.

Sincerely,

FullSizeRender(1)

Oeishik

Ratna

Bharat

Spiders and geckos, and sweet mango pickles;

Roses and lilies, and buses with ruffles;

Lights at odd times, and sounds of all things;

This is the wondrous place of my dreams.

Elephants training and bulls guarding temples,

Weavers of all kinds, and all of their thimbles;

Rivers that rumble, and mountainous streams;

This is the wondrous place of my dreams.

When it cyclones, when it monsoons;

I remember these: clouds will soon disappear,

A sunshine is always near, glimmering through the trees.

Lefty

Sacred Heart

My right hand is your left hand

My right hand is my left hand

My left hand is your right hand

My left hand is my right hand

I see this place differently than you

You see this space differently than me

I live in this place, along with you

You live in this space, along with me

Just opposite, directionally

Just parallel, dimensionally

Across from you

You Across from me

India

IMG_0883

Once you accept the overwhelming heat, humidity, smells of all kinds, and just simple randomness – like a religiously-clad man leading an even more religiously-clad bull down a city thoroughfare, asking people for money – there is something divine about India.

There is something very erotic about India. Once you get past the unhygienic nature of urinating in public – hundreds of thousands of Indian men very proudly unzip and relief their bladders everywhere and anywhere. Just as many walk around without underwear, wearing only a piece of cloth or a lungi.

There is something oxymoronic about India. In the same communities where the Mother Goddess reigns religiously supreme, women are subjected to subservience – female infanticide and various assaults on the blatantly feminine occur every day and receive impunity.

There is something incredibly real about India. Here poverty means living on the streets with your family, fetching food from dumpsters and begging for change from passersby. And prosperity can be found right next to it in the Rolex shop – their customers do not carry change.

I am strangely familiar with these social discrepancies, yet find them so alien. I am not rejecting as I would have been had I always existed in a sterile environment of the ‘First-World.’ But I am constantly flabbergasted by these reminders of being from a place as dichotomously cohesive as the Cosmic Dance.

On Earth

I

I am from earth.

I was born to India and raised by America.

I was born in India and raised in America.

I am from earth.

I live and breathe.

Sometimes I think – most times I don’t.

Other times my pendulum mid-swings.

In a place between time and space.

I live and breathe.

Some same mistakes I repeat.

From others I learn something new.

How to be, not to be; want more or need few.

Here on earth, on my two feet.

I live and breathe.

Police Abuse

Rise

 

It cannot be that the very institution founded for the general welfare and safety of society turns out to be the oppressive baton slamming down upon innocent students exercising their right of expression. It cannot be that the police oppress the very tenets they were created to protect. This simply cannot be.

But it has become so – because we have allowed it to be. And it has happened over and over again, in shantytowns and school buildings, in Jadavpur University and the Colony Arms Building. An epidemic of institutional abuse has transcended borders and oceans, continents and governmental paradigms.

A police force must only operate to protect the rights of citizens. Any police action that inhibits, suppresses and abuses citizens’ rights and dignities violates that very purpose. And in that instant it loses its credibility, its moral, populace-based authority. And it must be upended and recalibrated.

I asked a friend why and how this can be; he aptly said, ‘because they can.’ The responsibility falls upon each of us to say, ‘no, they cannot.’ No, they must not – because if they do, the society we faithfully call civilized will be humanity’s biggest fallacy. No, they cannot stampede our God-given right to be free.