31.10.08

Hell-oween

Since I don't know much about Halloween...and I have a chocolate treat everyday, here is something that shows the fearful face of our future:

And for those who enjoy some fun, try this link!

30.10.08

Vultures and funerals

They chop arms to take away bangles and cut fingers to take away rings. You see these people scavenging for the leftovers of accident victims. People propelled by greed.

What about those who work stealthily and use death?

Just like vultures in Parsi deaths prey on corpses, these people prey on mourners. It isn’t to express sorrow but to use that sorrow to further their agendas.

It could be as harmless as a family friend wanting to discuss a rishta for me years ago when my Nani died. Everyone knew how close I was to her, but this hawk-like woman was evaluating me. And right there, as my Nani lay and my tears would not stop, she went up to my mother and said, “Aapki beti mujhe pasand hai, yeh sab nipat jaaye tau phir kuchch baat chalaa sakte hai.(I like your daughter, once you are done with the funeral we can talk about it)”

Ammi was in shock. She managed to mumble that this was not the right time and I made my own decisions.

A few years ago a close relative died. Her sister, who we rarely met, followed me to the kitchen where I was getting some water for the visitors. “Do you know of any good girl for my son? You know so many people…” I could not believe it. Her sister, barely a couple of years older, lay dead in the next room and this is what she could think about? She repeated this performance at the kabristan even before the body was buried.

A little over a week ago, something similar happened. This vulture behaviour is way too cunning. Someone I know lost his sister. He sent an email to a friend, a woman he has known for years but who he says he has been barely in touch with. In a way the guy’s behaviour was equally predator like. She is not even in the same city in the foreign country they live in, so why did he think it important enough? “I knew she would be polite because she wants to be in touch with me.”

Indeed.

“She wrote back to say she was sorry.”

Anyone would. But there had been undercurrents in their relationship earlier, and she had made her intentions clear. She asked him for gifts, and he sent them. Gestures. He is big on them. Maybe it is a game he likes playing – to keep things covertly active so that you can tap resources when you are running dry. She had publicly declared her feelings, naming him, after receiving a gift that she had supposedly demanded. “This is how she talks to all men,” he had said. For personal reasons, he later told her to remove it.

There was nothing going on except a few emails…and then this one. Soon after that note, she did what any true-blue vulture does. She broke her silence and again publicly addressed him with poems – one for the death and then like a bee filled with the honey of her intent she stung him with the tried and tested Neruda, “I will die of love because I love you,/Because I love you, Love, in fire and blood.”

She also managed to sneak in a verse from the book he had earlier sent:

“Write to me,” it ends.

His emotional body, now numb and dead, was being revived by the lard of the syrupy weight she carried. For one who claims the soul matters, she spreads herself and the dough-like form waddles across his screen in many pixels – thighs, breasts, chins and folds of belly. She is desperate, and there is every reason to feel sorry for her. Partly, he does. He says, “I don’t dislike her”, which is hardly what one would say about a friend who you feel the need to inform about the death of one so dear to you.

He enjoys the attention. He is the cadaver with beak marks all over his body feeling for the moment that his grief will be purged through those holes. The vulture holds a piece of flesh and chews on it, slowly, slowly, and watches through wrinkled eyes for when he might wake up and give her what she wants.

He is biding time. “I can get whatever I want,” he says. As easy as that. Right now, of course, he is still clothed in black emotions of the loss. But he has also gained along the way. Been given choices.

The cadaver may become a vulture and the vulture will merely change beaks, like cars change gears.

Is it any wonder that no one mourns for vultures?

Signs

Signpost put up by the Army at one of the highest passes in the world...

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Results of earlier poll

The Indian cities/states that represent India best


Mumbai - 3 (17%), Delhi - 4 (23%), Kerala - 2 (11%), Tamil Nadu - 3 (17%), Kolkata - 1 (5%), Gujarat - 2 (11%), UP - 2 (11%), Bihar - 2 (11%), North East - 0 (0%), None - 5 (29%)

29.10.08

Objectifying Sarah

Why is Ms. Palin being made out to be a bimbo when everyone else is in the process of selling themselves as well? Had I been a US citizen it is most certain that I would not vote Republican, but I find the treatment given out to Sarah quite distasteful.

How many American feminists have raised their voices against the look-alike strippers at a gentleman’s club in Las Vegas who were judged based on how much they resembled the senator wearing a swimsuit? What is the reasoning behind such reductionism? That she is a former beauty queen? How about a contest for McCain lookalike war heroes? Or Obama-type lawyers? Or community workers? Or Joe Biden anti-Viet heroes?

The sexism isn’t restricted to gender alone, but to a certain kind of woman. Strange. Mother Teresa was against abortion and she got a pedestal. Hillary Clinton ‘stood by her man’ and was deified. And what about her make-over? They are talking about Sarah’s wardrobe. Yes, it costs a lot of money, as much as getting cheerleaders and other symbols of support.

There is not much issue-based opposition going on. It is not necessary to respond to bimboesque behaviour in a similar manner. Dumbing down does not work when the stakes are high.
- - -

The idea of objectification itself is complicated.

Someone told me at a time when I was posting pictures of parts of me that I was objectifying myself. It led to an internal monologue (parts of it were posted earlier in the soliloquy series):

Me 1: “Why do you do it?”

Me 2: “Perhaps I want to put myself up there by removing myself from me.”

Me 1: “So you objectify yourself?”

Me 2: “One gets objectified anyway by others.”

Me 1: “Why do you want to play their game?”

Me 2: “It isn't the same. They see disembodied parts. Eyes, mouth, nose, neck, breasts, waist, hips, hands, fingers.”

Me 1: “And you are not? You are doing precisely that.”

Me 2: “I am turning this objectification on its head. If you notice, I have distorted as well. I do make a statement. In my put up ‘parts’, I made a cross over it, essentially saying this is cut out, deleted, unimportant.”

Me 1: “So you are reducing yourself?”

Me 2: “I am reducing the idea of the Self as parts.”

Me 1: “Who is going to see the metaphysical when the physical hits you first?”

Me 2: “I know I am not a Barbie; you cannot just put a key in me and get me started. That level of self-esteem is there, which is why it is possible for me to do what I do. That is also the reason I do not feel devastated by feministic critiques that tend to be hugely one-dimensional.”

Me 1: “The question remains: will anyone get it?”

Me 2: “That’s not important. Seeing something is of the senses; understanding requires more. Besides, don’t people visualise things?”

Me 1: “I still feel there are pitfalls here. It can become a cause for humiliation.”

Me 2: “One does not have to put parts of oneself to invite humiliation. People find ruses – words, actions, shared moments, confidences, the past, the present…everything becomes removed from the person one is. I do not fear the kind of humiliation that comes with putting up these ‘objects’ because I have control over them. They are truly mine and do not need the crutch of another. But it depends on the way of seeing. And perceiving. There can be several truths.”

Me 1: “As in truth is relative?”

Me 2: “Also, the truth has to work within the parameters of several lies, so it breaks itself up into several truths.”

Me 1: “Can truth be objectified?”

Me 2: “It can be ‘subjectified’ to fit into our worldview. Therefore, what we call objectification is what I see as ‘subjectification’. As subject I do not fall prey as object because I have the benefit of a conscious decision. This exhibit can raise hell, so to speak.”
- - -

Returning to Sarah Palin, I think she is aware of her role. Her gaffes may become as comedic as Bushisms, but no one walked the ramp in a fire helmet or a torchlight aimed at some godforsaken cave to humour him.

Heat of the sun

There are different ways to celebrate festivals. Poems, music convey those sentiments better than most dhamakas. Here, it is about giving yourself up to god...the happiness that comes with giving yourself to something is unspeakable...
This song is from a little-known film Parinay. The visuals in this clip somehow take away from the beauty of the words and music. I like the straightforward tone in the beat. Nothing against the deities, but to enjoy it best you might need to shut your eyes, as you would if you try to look straight at the sun…
Suraj ki garmee

28.10.08

Burney 'pissing and pissing' peace

Pakistani human rights activist Ansar Burney has received the 3rd annual Mother Teresa Memorial (International) Awards for Social Justice. Despite other numerous accolades, he thinks this one is special: “Yeh dil se dilko jodne wala award hai (this is an award to join hearts).’’

Why? Whose hearts are being joined together in this? He got Kashmir Singh out of prison. And we all know that Kashmir Singh admitted upon his return that he was an Indian spy.

Burney said, “They issued fatwa from the mosques against me. My family members were scared to go out for quite some time as they felt threatened. But I remained committed to the cause. If to save one innocent life, I have to die 10 times, I will not flinch.”

Fatwas are a joke. He has been making trips to India, which means he gets his visa. And just for the record, people are not cats; they die just once. Dramebaaz.

And I repeat for the nth time:

As for all the hosannas being sung for Mr Ansar Burney, what has he done for those missing POWs? I know I have been ranting about it for years and do take a look at ‘54 Indian POWs versus Sarabjit Singh’.

I had written a letter to Mr Burney on January 8, 2002. There was no response. I provided links, offered all help. Zilch.

Meanwhile, it is amusing to see him follow our celebrities’ path. They all go the Ajmer Sharif dargah and the Siddhivinayak Temple to get blessings and provide a photo-op. Here he is with his son Fahan at the temple. The main caption called it ‘DIVINE HELP’.

Now I can imagine if some maulana rants about it and issues a fatwa. Burney saab will say, look, this is what happens for dil se dil jodna. I’d like to remind him that actress Meera too had this fatwa thing issued because she kissed an Indian non-actor in one of those forgettable films. She too talked about being a peace ambassador. He should have at least gone to some mohalla type place and sung, “Jumma chumma de de…” It would be paisa and peace vasool

26.10.08

Are armymen involved in the bomb blasts?


Before we go any further, a warm welcome to Hindutva terrorism. Please note: I have used the term Hindutva, not Hindu.

Some of us have been saying that it existed long ago. Now the police are convinced that those behind the Malegaon blasts last month were rightwing. But, then, this is not news. Certain political parties and leaders are not unlike terrorists.

The latest reports have found two former armymen - a jawan and a retired major – to be involved in those blasts. I have one problem with the reason dished out:

The Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) is investigating the source of the RDX used in the blast and how the accused acquired the expertise to execute the blasts. “It’s not easy to procure RDX for a layman and use it to cause an explosion. One needs some training and it’s being investigated,” an officer said.

Why do you think this question has come up? We have had bomb blasts before and people are arrested on suspicion alone, even if they are young boys hawking vegetables. What is different this time that laymen are being protected?

I will tell you. This time the culprits are not ‘Islamic’ terrorists. This time the accused are from the saffron brigade. One of them happens to be a Sadhvi (she took sanyas in 2006) Pragya who was a member of the Akhil Bharati Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which is not much different from SIMI.

Apparently, one of the army guys was quite enamoured of her. Reports do not tell us which one. Maybe the sadhvi is a democrat and would not like the hierarchical nature of her admirer to be mentioned. But, whether it was the jawan or the major, the guy is supposed to have been enraptured by her religious speeches.

I would think that since reports call her feisty, it must have been this aspect, or that she rode a motorcycle. Anyway, whatever floats his boat...

Come to think of it, how many of you recall that at the height of the BJP’s golden moments following the rath yatra of 1992 quite a few army personnel had joined the party?

I understand that even today many of the services personnel are right-wing. This surprises me at one level and not at all at another. It surprises me because the army is class conscious and that comes from what position you occupy; the bunker and the mess are great levellers. A friend from a well-placed family with some fancy lineage told me that as a junior officer straight out of college with not much by way of worldly etiquette, he had a rather embarrassing experience at the mess table. While using his cutlery he was making a bit of a noise. He was ticked off twice gently; the third time he was asked by the senior to walk around the room “to make him understand” table manners. It did not matter what his background was.

However, the right-wing affiliation does not surprise me because, like several intellectuals who get taken in by brainwashing that sounds rational, armymen too are victims of manufactured consent. This is easy for those who are taught to follow rule-books. The basis of the existence of an armed force is an opposition. The Opposition here is the enemy and due to reasons that history has left us with, it starts with Pakistan and ends with jihad, a term that neither those who call themselves jihadi nor those who pronounce them as such seem to understand.

Therefore, when the saffron parties go all out on their reclaiming of culture binge, it appeals to some soldiers, especially the part about ‘party discipline’! Besides, Hindutva has cannily called its movement nationalistic. How many armymen would want to be anything but that, as per the prevalent view?

To return to the current allegation, if indeed army people are involved then it is disturbing not only for the minorities but for the nation. As I said earlier, learning to assemble bombs and procure substances of destruction is not difficult anymore. But the moment former services people get involved we have to start rethinking about who is protecting whom.

We already have a situation where the police force often follows diktats issued by parochial forces in the respective states they are posted at. The role of cops during riots has been well-documented. We do not want a situation where the army too is under suspicion as an institution. And please do not dish out the ‘few bad eggs cannot give it a bad name’ line because I will turn around and ask you why the hell don’t you think that up when a few terrorists go on a rampage?

Why tarnish a whole community then? How would you feel if we now say that due to what has happened in the Malegaon blasts all Hindus are closet terrorists? How would you feel if we said that because some army fellows have been detained and may be involved the whole Indian Army is full of terrorists?

It is a sad moment, but it is such moments that lead to introspection.

Think about it, and smell the cognac, you jolly good fellows.

- - -

Image: Sadhvi Pragya

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Click on label indian armed forces below for more on the subject.

Ask the vexpert - 11

Question: I masturbate by inserting my penis inside a vacuum cleaner’s pipe. Is this harmful to the cleaner, or maybe myself? Please suggest some alternate equipment for the same.

Sexpert: All I can tell you is to not start the vacuum cleaner while you are at it. You may find your penis sucked into the dust bag. I think it is harmful to both — the cleaner and the one who uses it. Why not stick to the good old method of using your hand or a pillow? That will be quite similar to what you will feel during intercourse.

Me: I refuse to believe that it will harm either instrument. If the pipe can handle termites and dust, yours is a pretty easy rider. If anything, press on the lowest level, this will give a quick swish to the insides of the pipe and clean it; once momentum builds up and your efforts see fruition, there might be no need to wash the pipe.

Now, coming to your instrument, the process of suction works the same way that all these sexologists talk about to increase pleasure – the stop and start method. If you are lucky and the air good, then it may pump you up; should there be any dirt particles and they cover you, it will only have a salutary effect. You’d be one gritty guy.

I have been thinking about an alternative you ask for. It could be the hole in a bark of a tree. Try the woodpecker act. Yeah, got the idea from the latter part of the bird…err…its name. Just go tap-tap; the roughness of the bark and the moistness of the weather will work. This would be an organic orgasm. Go green.

Diwali for dudes

Got this in the mail :)

Diwali through the eyes of NRI kids

A young second generation Indian in the US was asked by his mother to explain the significance of Diwali to his younger brother; this is how he went about it...

"So, like this dude had, like, a big cool kingdom and people liked him. But, like, his step-mom, or something, was kind of a bitch, and she forced her husband to, like, send this cool-dude, he was Ram, to some national forest or something... Since he was going, for like, something like more than 10 years or so… he decided to get his wife and his bro along... you know... so that they could all chill out together. But Dude, the forest was reeeeal scary shit... really man... they had monkeys and devils and shit like that. But this dude, Ram, kicked ass with darts and bows and arrows... so it was fine. But then some bad gangsta boys, some jerk called Ravan, picks up his babe (Sita) and lures her away to his hood. And boy, was our man, and also his bro, Laxman, pissed... And you don't piss this son-of-a-gun cuz, he just kicks ass and like... all the gods were with him... So anyways, you don't mess with gods. So, Ram, and his bro get an army of monkeys... Dude, don't ask me how they trained the damn monkeys... just go along with me, ok...

So, Ram, Lax and their monkeys whip this gangsta's ass in his own hood. Anyways, by this time, their time's up in the forest... and anyways... it gets kinda boring, you know... no TV or malls or shit like that. So,they decided to hitch a ride back home... and when the people realize that our dude, his bro and the wife are back home... they thought, well, you know, at least they deserve something nice... and they didn't have any bars or clubs in those days... so they couldn't take them out for a drink, so they, like, decided to smoke and shit... and since they also had some lamps, they lit the lamps also... so it was pretty cooool... you know with all those fireworks... Really, they even had some local band play along with the fireworks... and you know, what, dude, that was the very first, no kidding... that was the very first music-synchronized fireworks... you know, like the 4th of July stuff, but just, more cooler and stuff, you know. And, so dude, that was how, like, this festival started."

24.10.08

Designer exploiters

Getting disgusted won’t get me anywhere, but once again something at a fashion show has put me off. Look, why don’t these people stick to their sticks walking the ramp and stop messing around with social issues? The last time I got upset was when they had exploited toilet cleaners; now they are using blind women.

One of them embossed Braille on the front of one garment and the English alphabets at the back. She said, “It is the blind that feel and ‘see’. The ones that have vision are really blind. The blind don’t want compassion, they want respect.”

Is this respect? The bloody gall of designing clothes with Braille. Do they think that the visually impaired are stupid? Do they imagine that they are going to run their hands over their clothes to read about fabric and silhouette and such other details…or is it detailing? And as this picture shows, the blind women are not even wearing the so-called designer clothes; they were brought in as gimmicks.

If you want to help the blind then, even though it sounds insensitive, make your models walk blindfolded. Watch them trip (and please do not try a wardrobe malfunction trick to capitalise on boobless boobs) and then play some violin music to convey tragedy, darken the auditorium and flash the social message - the blind cannot see, but ‘see’.

Damn. They might even take this suggestion seriously.

Another cuckoo case this ‘season’ dealt with the issue of fascism. And how did he convey it? By using Nazi skinheads! As though we don’t have home-grown fascists. Here, too, we cannot get rid of our foreign obsession.

Some are now trying the no-makeup look with models dressed in sack cloth walking barefoot. Honey, if you are so desperate at least make sure the ‘super model’ has nice feet. Stop kidding around. Fashion is about clothes, beauty, upfront physical appeal. Leave the issues for another time.

- - -

This is an extract from an earlier post…Fashion, my foot:

We need to shut shop. This fashion parody has been going on for too long and makes no sense. I believe there was one show where all the male models were dressed as Sikhs because it was a sporting line and Sikhs are sporty! What next, a cocktail line should have Malayalis because they drink like crazy, and a lounge line ought to have Bengalis for they are always lounging?

There is this Bong designer, Sabyasachi Mukherjee. I remember his early days when he would smile and do ordinary things with clothes which made them wearable. Now he talks about using leather and jute and all that crap and he invariably gets the models to look deglamourised in a trendy way – they mostly wear large glasses and bindis with any kind of outfit. It just looks terribly stagey and hardly dramatic.

What is the point being made here? That you can be a plain Jane and carry it off? Who the hell is some designer to convey that? These clothes are pricey and lack basic aesthetics. Talking about silhouettes is not going to change the fact that wearing long tunics over short capris will always make you look like you are a behenji who has rolled up her churidar for a little dip in the beach waters because your shauhar said, “Chalo ji, kuchch paaon tau geele kar lo!”

I am really tired of this….then they go on about cuts and lines. We are Indians; we have curves. Real curves. And we like it. As women. We don’t give a damn what some men, and to hell with designers being gay, want. If you care so much for the flat look then just dress your male models as women, like you made them dress like Sikhs. Not too tough. The androgynous look is what you want, and what you will get.

23.10.08

Monkeys and money

Got this in the mail

Once upon a time a man appeared in a village and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each.

The villagers, seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them.

The man bought thousands at $10 and, as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He next announced that he would now buy monkeys at $20 each. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.

Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so scarce it was an effort to even find a monkey, let alone catch it!

The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50 each! However,since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would buy on his behalf.
In the absence of the man, the assistant t old the villagers: 'Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has already collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each.'

The villagers rounded up all their savings and bought all the monkeys.

They never saw the man or his assistant again, only lots and lots of monkeys!

Now you have a better understanding of how the stock market works.

Cool desert

Years ago I heard her. The first time her voice crackled through the music system I wanted to water her parched throat; the sand specks seemed to pierce my eyes as she let the words echo in the desert. She transported me to a world I did not know about but seemed to intuitively understand.

Reshma, the Pakistani folk singer, became my oasis. Here, try and slake your thirst:

Hai o rabba nahin ladga dil mera


22.10.08

For Rahul Gandhi

My dear Rahul:

I understand that you are a very sweet boy (in India we call people boys and girls if they are not married or if they are married but act in television serials or films). Now, sweetness has its limits. The reason some of us like Laloo Prasad Yadav is because he minces no words. He did not like what Raj Thackeray was doing, so he called him “mental”.

You, on the other hand, said this: “What Raj Thackeray is doing is wrong; this will divide the country.”

No. If you look long and hard you will see that the country has been divided for many years. If it isn’t the migrant problem there are separatist movements; there are problems of divisions among the rich and poor, rural and urban. How can Raj divide the country when his uncle did not manage to do so? If the northies are prevented from working in Mumbai, the first people who will complain will be the Marathi maanus. They are so accustomed to sitting in Mantralaya and sipping tea from saucers that they will miss the auto rickshaw, taxi wallahs and paan wallahs. The hawaldars will miss their hafta!

You say, “The more walls you raise the more divisions are created; either India or no India.”

This is almost a Bushism. These walls are only curtains set on fire. Just make sure that mummyji does something with Shivrajji and gets him to move some motion, as they say in Parliament speak.

You said, “There’s nothing like North India or West India or South India—it’s only India and this you should remember.”

If you stand for elections will you dump the family constituency and contest from the South or Gujarat? It is easy to mouth these homilies and ask others to follow such honourable ideas. Besides, I do not think identifying yourself with an area is wrong; we have professions and ideologies we identity with. I feel very strongly about being a Mumbaikar. But I relish other places as well. These add to our repertoire. We are fortunate to have so many cultures.

By the way, by your logic there should not be coalition politics too.

Finally, you end, “If you start identifying yourself as a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, the differences will only grow and a Bal Thackeray will exploit it and someone else in another state.”

These exploiters brand you. That is different from identification. Incidentally, do ask your boys in the Congress, and girls too, to stop playing with that Imam Bukhari and other useless people for vote bank reasons.

Does it strike you that you gave this speech in Uttarakhand, which separated from its own due to identity reasons?

Otherwise, all is well that bends well, na?

Grandpa's new GPS System

I want your baby…

says the VHP!

Calling all Hindus to raise the bar:

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has decided to launch a campaign against family planning and will use a book to urge Hindus to ensure that they produce at least four male children — “two for the family and two for the Hindu cause”.

What happens to the female children? True, they have been asked to ‘Prepare’. Sounds frightening. Prepare for what? To produce these male children? And will the male children be differentiated based on what cause they will be espousing? Like family ones will get less protein and Hindu cause wallahs will get a better diet? What happens if any of them are attracted to the RSS, which espouses celibacy? What is the use of producing children who don’t want to produce children? How will the VHP ensure that only male children are born? Will there be some booklet giving tips to the faithful about when and how to conceive appropriately?

To spread its new strategy among the Hindu masses, the VHP will circulate a book Bharat mein Hindu Bahumat (Hindu majority in India).

I thought the Hindus were already in a majority. Instead of going to all this trouble why don’t they just conquer Nepal and be done with it? We can save on badaam doodh. You can’t keep milking the gau mata dry for your ulterior motives.

“It is a good move by the VHP, as the family planning system introduced in India by the Congress is anti-religious. Our religious books do not give permission to control births,” said Mahant Ram Kripal.

Very funny. These guys are also saying that family planning is a “Christian and Muslim strategy to make Hindus a minority in India”. Hello? Since when have Christians and Muslims taken over these laws? On the contrary, they have been accused until recently of not allowing FP, and priests and maulvis give the same ‘god says no to planning births’ line. Religious books say a lot of things – karam kar phal ki chinta mat kar…don’t worry about the fruits of your labour. Just do it. Yo, plug for Nike!

- - -

Results of earlier poll

You read books that

Win international awards - 2 (16%), Get negative reviews -1 (8%), Get flattering reviews - 2 (16%), You like the subject – 10 (83%), You have read the author before - 2 (16%), Books? I watch TV - 1 (8%)

21.10.08

Time to rail?

Here are some interesting train analogies about the candidates for the US elections...

New meeows - 18

Smoke


I am all for banning of smoking in public places, but this logic beats me:

The Health ministry is ready to allow the depiction of iconic characters like Churchill and Sherlock Holmes with their favourite poison sticks because, “People know about them and their on-screen smoking won’t influence the audience behaviour much,” a senior Health ministry official said.

People know about Dawood Ibrahim and Pappu Yadav; they too are icons for many, especially of a certain class. The whole lingo of the filmi tapori is based on them. The government has just declared that being gay is a crime, but many icons are gay. Why can ordinary people not do things that icons can?

And how ridiculous it is to believe that only because people know about them their on-screen behaviour won’t influence the audience. Quite the contrary. These government officials live on some weird island. Don’t they know about the power of cinema and how memorable the characters become?

An educated professional I met told me the other day when I mentioned Ustad Zakir Hussein, “Oh, that fellow in the ‘Wah! Taj’ ad?!” Yup. This is also a reality.

Fire

I was within kissing (okay flying kissing distance) of Raj Thackeray when he was sent to two-week judicial custody by a court in Bandra in Mumbai this afternoon. Two truckloads of Rapid Action Force personnel were stationed outside the court for security. His 2000 supporters were shouting slogans. The stone-throwing had started in the morning.

Cops were stationed at regular intervals. No traffic. Shops that had not downed shutters kept them half-open. At one store, I heard a most interesting conversation between two sales girls.

Yeh sab pathhar baazi ho rahi hai, ab kaam ke baad ghar kaise jaayenge? (With all this stone-throwing how will we reach home after work)?”

Said the other, “Agar koi badee hastee ko arrest karenge tau aisa hona hi tha. (If you arrest some prominent figure this is bound to happen)”

Phew, Raju ban gaya gentleman? The MNS leader is now a big hastee? See, this is how public imagination is set afire. These girls were not Maharashtrian.

The other consequence is fear. Most people would rather lose business than have their shops damaged. This will unfortunately be construed as support for Raj.

Why is the state government not asking him to shut up? Because the NCP’s alliance with the central government is shaky. Because Bal Thackeray is opposing his nephew, so the state can use Raj stealthily as a replacement for the Shiv Sena. And in Maharashtra the SS can manage the biggest rallies. And politics is about how big you appear to be.

Raj’s people may talk about the arrest as vengeance, but he is not going to be in custody for long. Remember the tamasha when Balasaheb was arrested some years ago for a few hours?

And for all this idiocy, I could not get my KFC greasy snack.

Heat

Arundhati Roy has demanded a judicial inquiry into the Jamia Nagar shootout; she was not buying the police theory on the incident. She also accused the middle class of shunning its liberal values in not questioning the police, which was making the situation "very dangerous". "I am just one of the thousands of people who are asking some very serious questions from the police... thousands of people are saying a lot of things.”

As one of the thousands who said something when it happened (this post says it), I wonder why Roy has now woken up.

Why is she blaming the middle class? How many rich blokes have come and asked questions? How many poor?

Why is she sounding like a gossip monger... “people are saying a lot of things”? Should she not elaborate and nail someone down? Why this ghus-phus about “not buying police theory” and then playing safe by saying about the killings that she "was not calling it fake" but wanted an inquiry? This sounds so bureaucratic. The whole world wants enquiries into everything.

Steam

India and Pakistan will open a historic trade link across divided Kashmir for the first time in six decades on Tuesday, a step aimed at reducing tensions between the two countries.

So today some apples and things were packed and sent across, as in this picture. Great. No tensions anymore? Apples or oranges?

18.10.08

Want some fame?

The White Tiger's Stripes and Gripes

The Autobiography of a Half-Baked Indian?

The White Tiger's Stripes and Gripes
By Farzana Versey
Counterpunch, October 17/20, weekend edition


I was Pinky Madam. Almost. What saved me was empathy with the calloused hands that knocked on the car window, the meetings with the “half-baked Indian”. It is easy to be a Pinky Madam in any of India’s metros. You hold on to the arm of a foreign-returned hubby, slip in the backseat of the car to drive to a lunch with ladies in short dresses, sipping on strawberry daiquiris and nibbling on a meal that is arranged at the centre of the plate with the sauce extending like arms towards the edge. It is a visual treat.

Pinky Madams are. They avert their eyes, eyes you cannot see behind Gucci shades, and fish for lip balm in standard Louis Vuitton bags. Clones walk and talk as glitter glistens on tube-bronzed skin.

Is this the Darkness or is darkness in the being of the man behind the wheel?

They were dark eyes. Brahmdev was the driver when I was a could-have-been Pinky Madam. He was from a village in Bihar. He was the last one in a line-up of four who drove us, my ex-husband and me. They were all from distant villages in the northern hinterland.

Was he anything like Balram Halwai, the protagonist and in some ways the sutradhar (weaver of the chain of stories) in Aravind Adiga’s Booker prize-winning novel The White Tiger? Yes and no.

The book is being lauded for not entirely the right reasons and I confess to speed-reading it. It is a fast-paced novel where the message and the massage work so much in tandem that one quite forgets the demarcation.

This is not the first time Indian literature in the English language has tackled what has been referred to as the underbelly. To smirk at stereotypes would be wrong because they constitute mass behaviour; neat stratifications are a part of every strata of society.

Balram has been described as “Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer.” Why is he any different? It is imperative to note the author’s understanding: “Even though the middle class—who often have three or four servants—are paranoid about crime, the reality is a master getting killed by his servant is rare.” This is not quite true. Murders by domestic helpers are on the rise. And using the generic term “middle class” is a fallacy.

The middle class is mall-centred and on the make; it does not have the luxury of several servants. The hub of Gurgaon, which is a village-turned-upwardly mobile sprawl outside Delhi, is for the nouveau riche. This is the huge segment that is obsessed with consumerism; it does not differentiate between an America or China made product; both are ‘foreign’ and hence sought-after. There are stores that market “Buy anything for Rs. 100” like the dollar/pound stores in the US and UK. Fake gizmos prevail to provide a feel-good factor in the factory of ennui.

There are no Pinky Madams here. If they do step in, it would be on the rare occasion where there is a boutique that displays Swarovski crystal. The Pinky Madams would constitute the upper class or the middle-class that has broken through the false ceiling to become entrepreneurs. These are the children of the License Permit Raj that gave way to Liberalisation.

India is still ruled by inherited money, old and new, or the corporate class of heads of multinationals. Page 3 glossies are where you spot them, paying in cash or kind to be seen on those pages, attending a breakfast, brunch, lunch, high tea, dinner, nightcap, premiere, walking the ramp for AIDS, throwing bashes to alleviate poverty. You see them make a mockery of themselves as they set out to mock the world, showing their backless backs in gowns that reach their kundalini, the point where you can manipulate desire to rise.

In these rarefied environs the class system is the caste system. It does not mean that caste disparities have ceased to exist. It is more obvious among those who have moved from the village to the city; years of conditioning have not forgotten it. Money talks for the poor too, but they cannot hush the prejudices in champagne flutes.

Therefore, is it prudent to romanticise the Balrams? Is India really about “Men with Big Bellies and Men with Small Bellies”? I think this is a misnomer. Things have changed. Big bellies can be the hideous protrusions on the bodies of dehydrated children; and a flat stomach is the dream of those who can afford to suck out fat or sweat it out in Zen-like health clubs.

The “growl” of the poor does not emanate from under mosquito nets. Brahmdev lived in a tenement with eight others from the same village. When he realised I was not the prototype Pinky Madam, he talked politics. He wore a red mark on his forehead and folded his hands whenever we passed a temple, but he was cynical about clay gods. Gods we elect, he elected. Therefore, is the public obsession with elections “like eunuchs discussing the Kama Sutra’’? This is so wrong. Technically, the sexual potential of eunuchs has been tapped, interestingly enough by the likes of the protagonist. Besides, people at the ground level know their politics; they are the beneficiaries of the rigging; they are the ones who fill the trucks to go and cast their votes.

They are no different than the rich who are bought in different ways. The barter system prevails both ways. The author says, “If you were a poor man you’d have to pick China over India any day because your kids have a better chance of being nourished if you’re poor. Your wife is more likely to survive childbirth. You’re likely to live longer. There are so many ways in which India’s system fails horribly.”

Many of us have written about Indian democracy being a farce, but this is a simplistic analysis. The poor man is not interested in China. Neither is the rich man. Except as a metaphor for doing an America on America, China remains the powerful man’s Tibet in the popular imagination –a refugee from the dregs of Communism.

The poor Indians are not all that confused by the superficial strides India is making.

Gurcharan Das in Unbinding India had used a similar character of Raju who worked in a roadside eatery in a Tamil Nadu village. I had asked Das if this was his idea of heroism. He said, “What I marveled at is that it was his summertime job, an urban and rather western concept. He earned Rs. 450 a month, which he spent on computer lessons. His dream was to run a computer company. I asked him where he got the idea from and he said he saw it on TV, about someone who he called Bill Gay.”

Is Raju the dreamer here, or Das? If you asked the writer, his riposte would be, “Just as we had midnight’s children, there will be the children of 1991.” For him life began after the liberalisation of the economy. How, then, would he define the industrial giants of old in terms of Indian capitalism? “One cannot admire them in those terms because the bottomline is that we did not create the Industrial Revolution. It bypassed us. Those business houses got their capitalism in a bureaucrat’s office, not in the market. Which is why I am interested in the conflict between old money and new money and the difference between, say, Rahul Bajaj and Narayan Murthy. There are only two countries where democracy preceded capitalism – America and India, which became truly capitalist only in 1991. Yet I think India will be the white elephant, unlike Korea and China which went and capitalised the bazaars and farms.”

Balram, the white tiger, rejects the white man and believes that the brown and yellow will prevail. It is perhaps his creator’s belief. That is the reason the chauffeur kills his master and becomes an entrepreneur - apparently, a person in command. Instead, he turns into a squealer to expose India – from the quick-fix business books to the farce of welcoming visiting dignitaries. (Incidentally, no one offers foreign guests “sandalwood statues of Gandhi”; they give away deities.)

The device of using this little man turned big man to write letters to the visiting Chinese premier and thus wiping off the sheen seems a bit stagey. The avowed purpose of shunning the exotic is made redundant when you read a passage such as this:

“It is an ancient and venerated custom of people in my country to start a story by praying to a Higher Power.

I guess, Your Excellency, that I too should start off by kissing some god's arse.

Which god's arse, though? There are so many choices.

See, the Muslims have one god.

The Christians have three gods.

And we Hindus have 36,000,000 gods.

Making a grand total of 36,000,004 divine arses for me to choose from.”

This is puerile. The latent intent, besides of course making us seem like a bunch of religious fools, is to also show communal harmony. In this Adiga is quite politically correct; he has shown the world the ‘real India’ mirror, but played safe to give the right position on the right issues.

Servants’ quarters are cramped; they gossip; they quietly take a swig of drink. These are all realities. They listen to conversations. But you know they may just turn against you.

They know where their priorities lie. Brahmdev would greet me even when I was to ‘unbecome’ the Madam. As the months passed and he knew I was out of the house and that life, he would barely acknowledge me.

I can see him transform into a Balram writing frustrated notes about his little life. To give him an epic role to show India as it is, “a mainstream” reality, is really to throw up your hands and say, “Don’t shoot me, the dog did it.”

Whether we make him into a hero or a harlot’s keep, the man outside remains at the edge of the precipice with polished shoes in which the sky can shine. It could be India; it could be the hole in his roof.

- - -


The story:

For those who have not read the book, this piece is more about the portrayal of India and not a review. However, here is a brief description:

Balram Halwai, son of a rickshaw puller in Bihar, works part time in a tea shop. He gets employment with the son of a rich man, Ashok. The wife is a Pinky Madam. Balram one day kills Ashok; he later becomes an entrepreneur. That is when he writes the letters to the Chinese premier who is to visit India talking about the wrong impression we give foreigners about India Shining.


17.10.08

On and off - 5

Not on…

The Kerala government confirmed two Muslim police drivers were removed from BJP leader L K Advani’s convoy during his visit to the state but the state’s home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan clarified,. “No one was kept out intentionally. There were also four Hindus who were taken off.’’


Slamming a statement made by external affairs E Ahamed criticizing the removal of the Muslim drivers, Balakrishnan said the Muslim League leader’s view was in contrast to the country’s secular values.

Wow. Look who is talking about secular values. If we are so darn secular, then please whenever there is a bomb blast do not mention the religion of the ‘alleged suspect’, okay? Don’t say things like Muslim ghetto or Christian locality. Don’t talk about how Muslims are like this and like that. If you can’t, then stuff your holier-than-thou moral stance.

It seems hundreds of cops were deployed. How many Muslims were in that group? One is compelled to ask only because of what has happened. Otherwise, who cares who protects these politicians? If Mr. Advani is going around giving lectures on secularism, then the right signal would have been to retain those two Muslim policemen.

On…

A judge has thrown out a Nebraska legislator’s lawsuit against god, saying the Almighty wasn’t properly served due to his unlisted home address. State senator Ernie Chambers filed the lawsuit last year seeking a permanent injunction against god.


He said god has made terroristic threats against the senator and his constituents, inspired fear and caused “widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants”.

I love this guy Chambers. In one smart move, and I don’t care whether it was intentional or not, he has made god answerable. A god with no fixed address. A god that can reside anywhere in anyone and therefore can cause all the ills he accuses the respondent of.

In a sense it is a most democratic suit. No individual based on specific affiliation can be blamed. Even the god is non-generic.

Chambers conveys that if a country refuses to call itself atheistic, then he has a case. As he stated, “The court itself acknowledges the existence of god. A consequence of that acknowledgment is recognition of god’s omniscience. Since god knows everything, god has notice of this lawsuit.”

Touche.