31.3.08

Pakistan gets a boob job

Yousuf Raza Gilani, the new prime minister of Pakistan, appears to have given a high to both the moral-keepers and the political book-keepers. A video clip on YouTube shows him brushing his arm repeatedly against the breast of another PPP member, Sherry Rehman. (Ironically, those who are complaining the loudest are also the ones flaunting the link; you won’t get one here, that’s for sure.)

He did this during their rally days. Of course, the past always chases people, especially when they are in power. But I do think Pakistanis should stop whining about this. If it construes harassment, and it does, then Sherry Rehman should be protesting loudly, as loudly as she shouts “Jiye Bhutto”. She ought to put an end to this cyber tamasha because she is looking like an object, not the guy feeling her.

Am wondering: What if he had not become the PM? Would this clip have become so popular? No. May I ask why? Does the crime decrease?

I must admit I have been out of the loop where news is concerned, so I am unaware of what the Pakistani press has been saying about it. But taking him on in this incident will not make sense. Morality has larger dimensions. It is disgusting to believe that a man can do whatever he wants in private. What people do in private is as crucial and reveals their value system. True, this sort of vulgar display is uncouth and unbecoming, but then if Gilani is the sort who likes groping he might do it within the four walls, at private parties where no camera will capture the event.

(In India we do recall ‘super-cop’ K.P.S.Gill’s antics where he slapped the bottom of a senior IAS officer, Rupan Deol Bajaj. The idiots in power and the media said this ought not to come in the way of his role as a ‘national asset’. She took him to court and although he got away with a light sentence a strong message had been conveyed.)

If Pakistan is really concerned about its image, then it ought to drag this man to court for misdemeanour and perhaps even molestation. Impeach him and get back Musharraf!! (At least this guy only played with his dog…)

Chhupa lo yun dil mein pyaar mera

I love everything about this song...the lyrics may seem regressive, but I see it as a higher plane of subsuming rather than submission.

Think about it:

chhupaa lo yuu.N dil me.n pyaar mera

Ke Jaise mandir mein lau diye ki

That flame never dies...

20.3.08

Ask the vexpert - 3

Question: Since I have been masturbating for the past six years, the size of my penis is the same. It hasn't increased in size and it's not very fat either. I am very disappointed. I am getting married next year. I am very nervous and I want to increase my penis size. Is it possible to do so with any medication? Also, is it ok to remove my underwear before sleeping?

Sexpert: Growth stops after 18 years of age. So, you will have to go to marriage with the instrument you have. You can sleep nude if you wish to do so.

Me: The problem my friend lies not with you but your penis. It suffers from low self-esteem and complete lack of ambition. Except for the Sensex that dips dangerously, almost everything shows some sort of growth. And since you have been working at it and on it, this must come as a rude shock to you. Another possibility is that it could have joined the fashion fad and believes anorexia is so in and it must blindly follow the trend. You ought to give it an ego boost and tell your P-pal that fat is the new thin. Being fat is fine as long as the cholesterol levels are within limits.

Exercise and nutrition are the best medications. Put the darn thing on a rich diet together with a few good minutes of sweating it out to build muscle tone. If need be, get a personal trainer.

Regarding removing of your underwear, you have not specified whether it is before sleeping or before going to bed. If it is before sleeping, then you may have it on while in bed and chances that you may doze off are there. In which case, the said underwear, unaware of your intentions of discarding it, may continue to cling to you. This attachment could prove to be a long-term commitment. Do make your priorities clear at the outset.

17.3.08

Hail Pakistani democracy!

Just when they gave the bootwaala a boot, and everyone was talking about how democracy has finally made it and people have thrown out the ‘dictator’ (sorry, it will always be in single quotes for me…Pervez Musharraf did more for democracy in actual terms, except for that horrific attack on the Lal Masjid, than many democratically-elected leaders), we have everyone willing to sleep with everyone. I suppose this is indeed called democracy.

Those who recall some of the stuff I have written on Indian elections will know that I have vehemently stated how ‘marriage’ between political parties is a total deceit for the electorate and who you cast your vote for may end up having an alliance with someone you detest.

It is happening in Pakistan. First. Asif Ali Zardari said he would become the prime minister. Then the man who was the frontrunner, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, said people had trust in him. I don’t know what both these gentlemen can do, but Zardari can most definitely not be trusted even with a hole in the wall.

There is even better news. They have five people in the running…besides Fahim they have Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Yusuf Raza Gillani and Azra Pechaho. Azra who? Azra is Zardari's sister. And he is nominating her. And his decision, one understands, will be final.

And do you know what everyone is saying? It does not matter if we have to compromise, it is all for Pakistan. Of course, it is…surely no one thought you had a cottage industry to breed politicians.

Among those who are talking such nonsense are Imran Khan and the Nawaz Sharif-Zardari groups. That means virtually the whole of the ruling elite. These same people who were rabidly against Musharraf are now quiet about what they plan to do with him.

I am sure he is feeling like a cat that has licked all the cream. They will need to milk him for all he is worth, and currently that is quite a bit.

11.3.08

The media and I

A few 'gems' of dealing with the big behemoth...and this is just one example.

Today, everyone is discussing the media. There are a number of cases where this happens with greater subtlety.

I am tempted here to share my own experience in the past.

November 29, 2000: I submit my column for Mid-day. I call up the next day to check. Am told by the Op-ed editor, “Don’t you know?”

“What?”

“Your column has been dropped.”

That Saturday, December 2, I did not touch the paper. People I knew called. A film-maker visiting from the US wanting to get in touch with me called the paper and was told by the News editor that he had not seen the paper!

No explanations were given. Nothing. Till date.

I did the most unusual thing. Called up the VHP president in Mumbai. He was surprised to hear from me and that I would even have the temerity to suggest that he or the Hindutva parties were behind it.

The subject of the column was extremely topical about the ceasefire in Kashmir. Feeling lost, I recalled the name of a website and mailed it with a short snappy Intro. I got an immediate response saying, “We will use the old Intro.”

Old Intro? I wrote back and they sent me a link to one of my articles they had published on June 29, 2000. I had no clue how it got there, but I started surfing the pages. It was all very interesting and different for me – and then I saw this post which completely took me by surprise:

June 30, 2000 9:12am PT

dear farzana

welcome….

i got your regret note on the anniversary party. not cool.
we object to being dismissed as "Mid-Day etc" especially since this article was written specifically for us (incidentally, we have copyright on it) and when you are yourself a "respected author and columnist".
anyway, nice to see you here, i think you'll be a much bigger hit here than you are in bombay.

Regards

It was signed by the then Editor of Mid-day!

Do you know of any editor who is in touch with you, has your email address and phone numbers coming on a public forum to ask you why you did not attend an office party?

Does the editor of a paper go around welcoming people on another website?

Yes, this was my column for Mid-day, but as a freelance columnist there was no issue of copyright. (He has published five articles on the same website and he did not mention the source. He even contributed a piece recently, trying to mourn about the treatment meted out to a Pakistani singer trying to be popular…)

Do you know of any editor who says that his columnist will be a bigger hit elsewhere than in the paper he edits? (He could not alas be popular or get sufficiently noticed either at the website or in the paper he edited. Incidentally, till the very end the ‘Mailbag’ carried several letters in response to my articles and they were prominently displayed together with my picture, for god’s sake. So, either he had no say in the matter or he was playing a double game.)

And double game it was. Someone had posted my first piece without my knowledge or consent. It was only much later that I bothered to find out. It came from an email address that was faked in my name not by some twit, but from the newspaper that I had been a columnist of for 11 years! I was shocked. Obviously it could not have been done without the knowledge or consent of someone high up…I should have been angry, but considerable time had passed; instead I feel sorry and perhaps even a bit flattered for being given this much importance (the media’s devious methods were exposed in my essay When Puppets Hide Behind Pomposity that first appeared in an anthology.)

That column ran for 11 years and survived four editors. They had their differences with me, but there was no discord. After he joined, he in fact gave me a carte blanche to choose the slot. For a while I was the only columnist in that spot – the top half of the edit page. Later, they got others…and we never had any run-ins.

It really became sad when he came to the site to announce, “I have sacked her.”

The publisher put the onus on the Editor and the editor had to show he had power. He made a rather petulant comment about the Introduction which stated: “Farzana Versey is a widely read and respected author and columnist in India. Her columns appear in Times of India, Indian Express, Mid-Day etc. She is particularly famous for her extremist and anti-establishment views”. What a sneaky thing. Since I did not post the first piece or the Intro, this was a way of hitting out at me…and this does not even sound like something I would write.

This was my response to a letter posted by someone who was supportive:

Thank you for expressing your concern. Yes, my “widely read” column of 11 years was dropped without prior intimation. And do not tell me about how things are done in the US, for if I were to follow that principle, people would be in deep s-h-i-t here. I must admit I did have second thoughts about responding to you on this Board, but I did not start it, so I guess it is perfectly legitimate and also fair to you; as you are aware, I had ample opportunity to make a noise about it were I the type. All I can say is there are kinds and kinds of people, and if I start stooping to their level, how different will I be? Incidentally, those who titter about my “anti-establishment” credentials had insisted on using the bottomline, “Farzana Versey refuses to sit on the fence…” in their paper! You are right about the misuse of a public forum, but I can only feel sorry for them. In fact, I admire the fact that this place can convert cowards, who do not have the guts to personally inform someone about their intentions, into gloating “sackers”. Just one small point: I have been an independent columnist who wrote with the courage of her convictions, so my column can be done away with. I cannot be “sacked”. Only employees, and that includes editors, can be.

Caution? Me? No, that is for wimps and media puppets posing as poseurs.

As for the rest: RIP.

No letters in the newspaper, and the fact that seven years later there are people who still recall that column clearly means that the letters were not being published. When I questioned them, they put up one. I wrote a response:

The Editor
Mid-day
Mumbai.
Jan. 10, 2001

Dear Sir,

This is with reference to Dr. A.A.Shaikh's letter (Mid-day, Jan 6) "Where's Farzana?" and your admission, "Farzana Versey's column has been discontinued".

Since this has appeared after a month of my request to you to let the readers know that my column had been dropped and it was not I who had run away from the heat, I do hope you will give me the opportunity that has been denied to me to address my readers, many of who have made attempts to get in touch with me and have come to their own conclusions.

Dr. Shaikh has rather uncharacteristically gone through the pains of mentioning my last article, the assumption being that writing about Hindus and toilet seats could have been the problem. Dear readers, this was 'editorial discretion'. I would like to categorically state here that in the 11 years that my column appeared, only a small part of it was addressing communal issues, and as a journalist I saw it as my duty, more than a right, to do so. My being a Muslim has always been incidental to my existence, and more so to my professional persona.

None of the past editors has agreed with my views completely, and the fact that I survived their disagreements, without meeting them or attending their parties I might add, reveals that there was room for my kind of thinking. I am in no mood for syrupy goodbyes and it goes against my grain, anyway, but I must thank those of you who have read me. I am aware that I provoked/hurt/irritated (ahem!) many of you, but you went through it all, which is why I can say in all honesty that my emotional involvement with this paper was entirely justified.

I am today even glad that my column was spiked without any notice or the chance to bid you farewell, for I can come to you where you are rather than from the ivory tower. When I look back, I can be extremely proud of the fact that it was always my writings that mattered, for better or for worse; I did not become a recognisable 'face' - even the editor will not be able to spot me. This I think has been the most satisfying part of my career.

Sure, nobody is indispensable, but by merely blowing out a flame, you cannot douse the potential of fire.

Since my columns were never censored, I am hoping that this letter is carried as it is, and I know it will be because truth must always prevail. And for a publication that prides itself on the readers' supremacy, I do not think it can selectively shirk from this responsibility now.

So, should we just celebrate silence?

Yours sincerely,
Farzana Versey
Mumbai

My letter was not published. An insecure paper, an insecure editor.

PS: That editor now writes for Pakistani papers regularly; he writes as a champion of secularism. People who don't know or those with short memories won't give a damn about this. Even if they do, they won't, especially since his writing is 'simple'. Hypocrisy rules. Surprising it is when people talk about freedom of expression.

This is what I meant when I wrote When Puppets Hide Behind Pomposity. Please do read it here.

9.3.08

How gay!


This is for all my gay friends who call me homophobic...

I love not being normal.



Reporting rubbish

Talk of sensationalism and here is a headline: “When Arundhati Had to Flee”. Nothing in the report conveys it.

I am not interested in commenting on the subject of the debate Fascism and Terrorism: Two Sides of the Same Coin. Instead, I will reproduce the AR relevant parts:

- Arundhati Roy was in the hall but she did not go to the dais. She sat among the audience. It would emerge later that she had not been warned that there were going to be politicians. “I don’t share stage with politicians. I am ok here,” Roy whispered to the Urdu Press Club’s general secretary Tariq Faizi.

- Meanwhile Roy, who by now had moved to a sequined sofa from the bare plastic chair in the back row, appeared restless. She wanted to leave. But then she was offered the mike. “My Hindi is bad. Can I speak in English?” asked the celebrated writer who was clad in a sleeveless kurti. A shawl was wrapped around her thin shoulders. Speaking in broken Hindi, generously interspersed with flawless English, Roy confessed, “I spoke on the same subject in Turkey recently.”

- She kept her speech on Muslim persecution short. At the same venue a week earlier, Roy, along with Girish Karnad and many other intellectuals, had battled for Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen. Now seated among a predominantly Muslim crowd, Roy described Taslima differently—“She is not a great writer. Don’t waste your energy on her.”

- The presence of VHP’s Surendra Jain and journalist Manoj Raghuvanshi did not comfort her. She knew they would not stomach her diatribe against the “fascists”. She clearly wanted to leave, but was persuaded to hang around for some more time. So she stayed and heard Raghuvanshi slam “pseudo-secularists”.

- The discussion was no longer about fascism and terrorism. And Arundhati Roy had long left the hall.

Just some queries:

1.Why was Arundhati Roy’s name used in the headline?

2. Does anyone realise the irony of this: She kept her speech on Muslim persecution short. At the same venue a week earlier, Roy, along with Girish Karnad and many other intellectuals, had battled for Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen. Now seated among a predominantly Muslim crowd, Roy described Taslima differently—“She is not a great writer. Don’t waste your energy on her”?

3. Is wanting to leave the same as having to flee?

8.3.08

Happy Women's Day, Bitch!

This article I wrote was published sometime in 2002, I think...have fun!

Say that you are a bitch. Why am I making you do this? Today? On International Women’s Day, when malnutrition and unborn female foetuses will be on the agenda, why am I asking you to celebrate the most derogatory term and make it your own? Only because I feel a subliminal desire to be a bitch, why must I project it on to you? Because, I seriously believe that there is some good in it. Of course, there are kinds and kinds of bitches, and if you do not find yourself in any of these it is time you took a good hard long look at whether you are a woman at all.

Yes, there are good bitches and bad ones. See where you fit in, okay?

The Gharelu Bitch

I don’t like her. But she is all over the place. In nice houses. On the TV screen. At the marketplace. The fancy malls. Draped in clothes that smell of new money and old attitudes, she is full of womanly concern. Of course, no one will ever call her a bitch. She starts as ‘aadarniya putri’, graduates to ‘susheel kanya’, then ‘pativrata’, with a veritable variety of ‘parivar ki laaj’, ‘ghar ki Lakshmi’, ‘aangan ki tulsi’, ‘sadaa suhaagan’, ‘sati savitri’, ‘mamata ki prateek’, ad nauseum. (The terms are all about being the ideal girl/woman.)

If you think I have been watching too many Hindi films, then you probably haven’t looked around you. This kind of woman rules like a dominatrix, while pretending to put on the façade of being an ideal woman, wife, widow.

While middle-class homes are full of them in their obvious state, there is a genuine hurly-burlyness in their lives that makes them mesh with their surroundings rather than trying to stand out. In the charmed circle, on the other hand, these women are too busy choosing the right silver ‘puja thalis’, the right sarees to portray their social position (the organdy must be so stiff that even when the wind billows, the creases do not move a bit), the right jewellery to convey their mental state (for the posh funeral a couple of discreet solitaires in the ears will do just fine, thank you). Now, it would be perfectly all right if this B kept all her nonsense to herself; instead she goes out of her way to convert others. No one notices that beneath the ‘pallu’-covered head is a shrewd mind calculating every currency note and cutlery that appears before her hawk eyes. And woe betide anyone who poses a challenge to this citadel. Who would challenge her? Ah, every other woman in her immediate environment.

And to think that we straightforward opinionated Bs get the flak whereas these real bulldozers romp through society as perfect ‘naaris’!

The Gucci Bitch

Muuaaah! That was an air kiss. I cannot hate this babe because she keeps me in mirth. She has got her act perfected, from the coiffure to the cough. Again, I would enjoy the streaked hair, the cleavage passing off as class, tarty sarong-like things being touted as designer wear, and the jewellery making a name for itself, quite literally, and the bags enough to hold some plastic money and visiting cards that speak of a synthetic and flimsy professional connection.

But the problems start when this B gets into overdrive. You know, the Ritu Beri syndrome. Tell the world you are important not by shouting, but by whispering sweetly. Honey works as no bee sting ever can. And if this creature has got something else on her mind, then she has made it, baby.

What do I have in mind? Oh, you know, the feng shui, vaastu, counting prayer beads on an airline ticker (seriously!), vipaasana, soul-enhancing route. And when she gets out of her thingies into a ‘salwaar-kameez’ (only Tahiliani or The Boys, please) ready to squat on the floor for the ‘havan’ that will take her straight into bitch heaven, boy, I know she is trouble for a whole lot of people.

I have nothing against those who lead two lives, but what happens is that they are artfully promoting a dozen versions of just one. And to think that the really multi-faceted women get beaten up for being mavericks by these mannequins!

The Gutsy Bitch

A friend sent me this. Take a look…

Three guys, a lady and myself were sitting at the bar talking about our professions. The first guy says, "I'm a YUPPIE, you know.... Young, Urban, Professional, Peaceful, Intelligent, Ecologist.”

The second guy says, "I'm a DINK, you know.... Double Income, No Kids.”

The third guy says, "I'm a RUB, you know...Rich, Urban, Biker.”

They turn to the woman and ask her, "What are you?"

She replies: "I'm a WIFE, you know.... Wash, Iron, Fuck…,Etcetera.”

Then, they suddenly look at me and immediately I said, “I'm a BITCH! What does a Bitch mean? Babe In Total Control Of Herself.”


She told me to tell you that next time somebody calls you a Bitch smile. And say thank you!

I know it isn’t easy. I must also confess that although I have been called all manner of names, this one has eluded me, and I feel cheated, even before this definition came my way. What was I seeking through it? Control of myself? Does that help in the real world, where you have to control the rest? I admit that is not big in my scheme of things. But I do feel the need for release, often from imagined shackles.

I was thrilled to bits about the news of a three-star hotel in Zurich that is exclusively for women. The staff is female, guests can walk in their dressing gowns, wardrobes are designed for feminine requirements, the mini-bar has health snacks, and as a report says, “Women are relieved that they can sit alone in the hotel’s restaurants without people making them feel as though they are looking for men.”

However independent we may be, in fact the more we are the greater the problems in this area, there is no escaping the male presence. Oh no, don’t misunderstand me. I love men. It is just that I find it difficult to like them. And if perchance you do chance upon such a specimen to like, rest assured he would think you love him and run away. And what does a real B do? She smiles and waves him goodbye, even if he does not turn to take a second look. That is my kind of bitch.

Are you one?

~FV

6.3.08

Shadows


Remorseless. Shadows. Chasing. Sun. Hundred. Suns. Erasing. None. Dipping. Into. Another. Horizon. Leaving. Darkness. Chasing. Hounds.


Picture 1: Came upon my shadow on the wall quite suddenly.

Picture 2: Made it look ghoulish, a metaphor for how sometimes what follows is not your own shadow.

4.3.08

Meera

For many days now, I have been humming “ek raadhaa, ek miiraa dono.n ne shyaam ko chaahaa”.

Ravindra Jain is probably among the most under-rated lyricists. He has beautifully expressed the longing of two kinds of love – one seeking fulfilment, the other sublimation. I still get completely bowled over by the line: “Ek jeet na maani, ek haar na maani”…

The picture here is of a doll, one among many, that my mother has made down the years. This was especially for me (there is also a peacock dancer, and Anarkali). These are not dolls you play with; you admire them. And god knows how many people have been gifted these. I dread to imagine their fate.

She is more generous. Or, creation is all that counts to her…she does not think of what is destroyed.


- - -

ek raadhaa, ek miiraa dono.n ne shyaam ko chaahaa

antar kyaa dono.n kii chaah me.n bolo

ik prem diivaanii, ik daras diivaanii

ek raadhaa, ek miiraa ...

raadhaa ne madhuban me.n Dhuu.NDhaa

miiraa ne man me.n paayaa

raadhaa jise kho baiThii

vo govind aur daras dikhaayaa

ek muralii ek paayal, ek pagalii, ek ghaayal

antar kyaa dono.n kii priit me.n bolo

ek suurat lubhaanii, ek muurat lubhaanii

ik prem diivaanii, ik daras diivaanii ...

miiraa ke prabhu giridhar naagar

raadhaa ke manamohan

raadhaa din {sh}R^i.ngaar kare

aur miiraa ban gayii jogan

ek raanii ek daasii, dono.n hari prem kii pyaasii

antar kyaa dono.n kii tR^ipti me.n bolo

ek jiit na maanii, ek haar na maanii

ik prem diivaanii, ik daras diivaanii ...

Music: Ravindra Jain; Lyrics: Ravindra Jain; Singer: Lata Mangeshkar; Film: Ram Teri Ganga Maili

1.3.08

How many miles to Fucking?

There is really such a town in Austria:









So as the forward I got asks…

Are the residents called Fuckers?

What are the mothers called?

What would you be learning at the Fucking High School?

Does the Fucking Hospital help you with anything else?

If your friend came from another town, he wouldn't be your Fucking friend.

And this report is hilarious:










PS: My comment pop-up window is not popping up, so thanks for the comments...will wait for the pop.