30.6.09

Angels and Demons

Expressions of love can be so varied. I usually prefer old songs from the B&W era; I haven’t seen many of those films but the potent feelings that come through with just words and music have transported me to worlds I may never know.

However, there have been more contemporary songs that have used the Bollywood formula and created a language quite different.

Chupke se is the Angel factor of love. The imagery is soft and flowing. There seems to be no hurry…in fact, there is time to talk…about poetry by Mir (Taqi Mir) to the strains of Raga Marwa…

haule haule marwa ke raag mein

Mir kee baat ho


Chupke Se



* Movie: Saathiyaa
* Singer(s): Sadhana Sargam, Murtaza, Qadir
* Music Director: A R Rahman
* Lyricist: Gulzar
* Actors/Actresses: Rani Mukherjee, Vivek Oberoi
* Year: 2002

At the simplest level, the next song may not appear too different. Watch it closely. There is something animalistic in the movements, the expressions – they flow not outward but inward, as in reaching a yogic trance through some much disciplined movements to climax. The sublime is sexual.

Interestingly, it is a long song and yet there is a frenzy. For me the brilliant touch is the use of a classic Ghalib verse that is woven into the lyrics, “Ishq par zor nahin”. (There is no force in love). The lovers are challenging each other, and they do it with the arsenal of lust. Note the voice dropping several octaves, a voice in the throes of passion, a voice inviting punishment:

Satrangi Re




* Movie: Dil Se
* Singer(s): Kavita Krishnamurthy, Sonu Nigam
* Music Director: A R Rahman
* Lyricist: Gulzar
* Actors/Actresses: Manisha Koirala, Shah Rukh Khan
* Year: 1998

27.6.09

Eat your heart out?


Would you like a ‘Quadruple Bypass Burger’? Would you like to get a heart attack? At 8000 calories, the juicy stacked snack that is served at the Heart Attack Grill in Chandler, Arizona, comes with a medical disclaimer.

Is this supposed to be funny? The restaurant has a hospital theme, the staff are dressed as nurses and after the patient/patron has eaten, s/he is given a wheelchair ride.


I wanted to puke just reading about it. Not because of the burger but due to how completely stupid we are becoming as a society. It is a mockery of illness, of those who genuinely suffer, of the very idea of excess.

A parody is fine on stage or writing. But this is luring people into believing they can taste risk. In a country where people are sued for coffee that is too hot, I do not understand this mindless attempt at innovative hospitality.

You might well counter with the argument that people are going there, which means they do find it interesting. People go on rollercoaster rides, scream their lungs out and then want to repeat it. Like bungee jumping. These are risks taken with the knowledge that one is brave and fearless. It is about testing one’s mettle, not the organs in one’s body.

I wonder how this sort of thing is permitted. Next someone will serve contaminated food or a bar will offer you piss with a disclaimer.

Why don’t people just poke their fingers into electrical sockets and be done with their fun?

My brother in Islam?



"You wrote a long article on Jackson but no mention of his being our brother in Islam.Are you denying it?Are you not wanting to understand Islam when people are coming to it?What use analyzing when he is gone to Allah." The tone of the note was deadpan.

Today, a friend sent me a message asking if he would be buried. When I chided him in response, he retorted, "Aap kafir?" (Are you an infidel?)

I'd say my friend was merely curious and it was banter. But, what about that note? Why is his conversion of any consequence in death? If he did convert due to his convictions, then his belief was valid when he was alive. Allah would have mattered to him if he felt the need when he was here. There is absolutely no reason for people to make claims on him only because he chose a certain faith. Let us not forget that in some societies where this faith is followed as a political credo music, even if it is played in devout ecstacy, is considered blasphemous. These double standards do not do much for religion or for music.

The other query not posed to me but insinuated about the media is that everyone was jumping in to have their say. Are we mere voyeurs? I have blamed the media often and some of the stuff being churned out is silly, like Indian newspapers discussing about the political ramifications of his Mumbai concert in 1996. Or putting up tasteless old jokes. However, there have been some interesting opinions and as I was telling someone for me understanding pop culture is about exploring social mores.

I got another interesting letter where the person contradicted me saying that women did swoon over him. My response is that unlike Elvis, the Beatles, Sinatra in his prime or even Mick Jagger, Jackson outside the stage arena did not have that effect. And it was a good thing, as good as his rejection of American pie-ism.
- - -
My mother introduced me to Michael Jackson. One day when I returned home late, I could hear sounds from the telly. It wasn’t sounds I was accustomed to. Sounds of a weepy woman in a soap, sounds of some wonderful old Hindi movie song, sounds of the phone ringing, sounds of waiting…my mother was waiting. I rang the doorbell and walked into the room. The TV was on and a man was singing even as he moved.

I knew it was Michael Jackson, but I did not know my mother would be watching him, listening to him. English was not the primary language of communication at home. Our music was Indian semi classical, old Hindi film songs, some folk, some Sufi.

Yet, Ammi often switched on MTV. When I asked her why, she said it was a relief from all the same news, news about deaths, about destruction or telly serials where everyone was either dying or living deaths. She enjoyed what this guy did. So I grabbed my dinner plate and started watching him. Transfixed.

I did not know his religion but I could see he worshipped music.

26.6.09

Michael Jackson as Tramp

Michael Jackson as Tramp: Man in the Mirror
by Farzana Versey
Counterpunch, June 26-26

There may never be a Graceland for Michael Jackson. He was the wrong kind of Bad. He could not be the rake you would love to hate. He did not have the charisma that made women go weak in their knees. If he ever took out his shirt to throw at the audience, they would see his skeleton covered with skin.

He died long ago. And was born many times. It was the rebirth of a wilful retard. Oscar Wilde wrote, “For he who lives more lives than one more deaths than one must die."

Some might say he does not even deserve a tribute because he was accused of several crimes. Social morality is as pat as it is divisive. The American media made late-night jokes of his exploitation which proved just how exploitative they were.

If he was a joke, then it is more likely it was, as Bob Fosse said, in the Charlie Chaplin mould. He was the quintessential tragi-comic hero. Dangerous more to himself than anyone else.

The Child

Chaplin explained to Mark Sennett how he worked on the tramp character in these words: “You know this fellow is many-sided – a tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure. He would have you believe he is a scientist, a musician, a duke, a polo player…However, he is not above picking up cigarette butts or robbing a baby of its candy…”

Between a lost childhood and delayed adulthood, Jackson created an adolescent haven. Neverland was his utopia – a teenaged Shangri-La of fairytale rides and bubbles that never burst and chocolates that didn’t melt; it was a protection from a world that was not growing up but moving away. He could not grasp it. He was losing it. There was no boyish mop, no sideburns, no devilish rolling stone, no dervish rant. Imagine, no Imagine!

Jane Fonda got it right when she said, “His intelligence is instinctual and emotional, like a child's. If any artist loses that childlikeness, you lose a lot of creative juice. So Michael creates around himself a world that protects his creativity.”

He was comfortable with older women because they comforted the child in him, the thumb-sucker.

The Man

He was the wilful arbiter of his own life. Michael in the raw stood for something intangible. The emotional possession was cut short at some point. It was then that he made bold to insinuate that we liked him for his inadequacies, not ours. He made us feel good about ourselves.

How must it feel to be man, woman, child and product, all rolled into one, fashioned into a most exquisite piece of crystal, but always afraid of the mere nudge that could drop you to the floor into a thousand shards, each with a distinct identity and that terrible piercing feeling? Like a gymnast on a beam who wanted to perform a perfect 10, he was not unduly worried about falling down because there was a safety net.

He took umbrage in asexuality. Chaplin had chosen this path for a while and reasoned that like Balzac who believed that a night of sex meant the loss of a good page of his novel it took away precious time. It was only natural then for Michael who wanted to give a lot and take a lot to be lost to himself. He unabashedly created an androgynous persona and wanted to look and sing like Diana Ross at a high feminine pitch.

To make up for this sexuality-denying gesture, he performed the public shag. He was thrusting it in the faces of the spectators. According to an American critic, it was "to reassure himself the arguably Virgin King keeps publicly touching it".

It would appear that much like the low whisper which seemed to hold secrets he was rising above the body to become "someone who has connected with every soul in the world".

The Commentator

If Chaplin was inspired by the two world wars and the Depression, Michael had the Gulf War and the post-Woodstock yuppie punks to cater to. The gizmos he used onstage were those in-your-face things that appealed to the me-too generation of pretender beatniks.

There was orgiastic release through sex and scandal, but it had the veneer of ‘I smoked but did not inhale’ and the crustacean judicial impeachment that was rather soft within. Michael did not have too many social messages. He was the social message. However absurd may have been his attempts to become fair, straighten his hair, sharpen his nose, soften his lips, he was caricaturing himself. Is that why he rehearsed for hours in a room without mirrors? Was he avoiding his own image, the creation of a persona that he thought would be deemed acceptable? He was escaping Black and therefore rarely spoke up for it. He was the caustic commentary of our times.

He wasn’t trying to be the White man; he was only wearing a mask. He was telling them, “You're throwing stones to hide your hands”. He always wore gloves, diamond-studded gloves, and rhinestone jackets. He did not want to play the poor guy with Harlem knocking on his door wearing baggy trousers and a baseball cap, walking like he would in the streets looking for leftovers. He was the boy who had made it. He was not going to be apologetic about it.

He chose the moonwalk, a formless form, where the ground was never too close and yet not too far. “Who am I, to be blind? Pretending not to see…”

For him the baubles were discardables, a stinging statement on the state of entertainment itself, which is why he truly began to perform only when shorn of all those appendages, punishing his sinewy body to perform impossible feats because somewhere deep down he felt, "though you do not need me now, I will stay in your heart".

Unlike many pop icons, he broke the barriers of restrictive nationalism and race, and gender too. The oxygen mask he wore was perhaps not to protect him but to create an illusion of posterity. His own little tribute to the breath of life, a self-created obituary: "Just call my name and I'll be there."

Nothing can beat it.

24.6.09

Einstein's Tongue


He is a brand. He could stick anything out and it would sell. He chose his tongue. As tongues go, it is decent enough. Not too long, not too short, not dry, not slobbering. I wish the picture were in colour so I could ‘read’ it more clearly. The shade of the tongue tells you a lot. I wish I could see taste buds. Or little lines running across and meeting each other.

This tongue is political, though. Albert Einstein was not caught in a candid moment; he showed his tongue to photographers and later wrote that his gesture was aimed at all of humanity.

The tongue jutting out can be an apologetic gesture in some cultures or a cocking a snook in many. It is frisky and it aims at reducing others to blubbering idiots by playing a blubbering idiot.

That is why I like Einstein. It has nothing to do with his E=Eminem square or whatever. But why aim it at humanity? Humanity is about humanism. Humanism isn’t about the Red Scare or the McCarthy anti-Communist hearings of the 1950s, which he said was the reason he did what he did.

Old Albert, I think, was a smart fellow. He probably dropped a consonant while speaking or maybe found a button missing from a part of his clothing and in that ‘oops’ moment his tongue just pushed against his grimacing lips and hung there, desolate and wet. He had to do something about it, so he went into those explanations.

It really does not matter. Someone paid $74,324 to get a signed picture of him.


"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." - Einstein

Art on Trailers

A forward worth sharing...this is amazing art:

Here are 7 pictures of European trucks whose trailers are decorated to look like the sides are missing and the products they are hauling are painted on the sides and back.

The first one is of a bottle of beer and looks so real, like it is coming out the side of the trailer.



The second is of a canvas tote bag.



The third is of Pepsi cases and they are all stacked on the ceiling, and the bottom of the trailer is empty.



The fourth is of another truck with the windshield facing the back, a driver painted in the driver's seat looking back over his shoulder to appear like he is driving backwards. (Now this one is just plain scary, even when the German reads 'On the wrong way?')



The fifth one is of an aquarium with fish swimming in it.



The sixth one is of a bookshelf with books lined up in it and a post-it-note with an advertisement on it, probably for the company that sells the books.


The last one is for Pringles-Hot & Spicy. The 'inside' of the trailer has the appearance of having been through a fire.

23.6.09

The way we are - 6

Wife beats man for not buying a bigger home

The demands for more are not unusual. Many women in our society are told to expect better lives, better opportunities to do things after they are married, things they are denied in their parental homes. She is transferred from one ‘boss’ (the father) to another (the husband).

Therefore, when I read about this guy called Aman complaining it seemed plausible. Him being beaten up also wasn’t really way-out impossible. But him shooting the whole scene while he was being thrashed with a broom does seem a bit stagey.

Video grabs of the clip the victim shot while he was allegedly being beaten up by his wife for failing to purchase a flat. The last grab shows an injury he suffered due to the beatings



Since both have filed non-cognisable offences are various times at the police station, to say that this was to produce as evidence is unusual. Did he know when she would start beating him? Did she not grab the camera when she saw it? If it was carefully hidden, then how did he manage to get fairly clear grabs of her in the act?

There are several cases with the police station, and he is a bus driver, so I am surprised it became a media story. Obviously, everyone wants a bit of the limelight and life has become a reality show. The newspaper also had a picture of the couple on their wedding day.

This man is very savvy. After saying that his wife has left several times, he approached a NGO, the ‘Madat Seva Sanstha’.

“Despite our fights, I prefer to live with my wife, as we have a five-year-old daughter. When women face such problems, they usually approach NGOs. Hence, I thought of approaching them to save my marriage.”

Very few women do, and they don’t take pictures when they are being beaten up.

- - -

HIV-positive woman branded

An HIV-positive woman was branded stuck with a label that read ‘HIV Serum positive’ on her forehead and paraded through the wards in a Rajkot, Gujarat, hospital to “warn other patients about her status’’. Only corpses are labelled after post-mortem.


That this was done by medical professionals is itself cause for concern. She was pregnant and had gone for a check-up; they suggested an abortion. After she underwent the surgery, this was done. A voluntary organisation that visited her house found out that her husband too was HIV-positive. She has been so troubled that she wants to end her life because of the humiliation.

The nurses and doctors responsible for this ought to be arrested. We live in a society where such a stigma will follow her forever. All efforts to educate people don’t serve any purpose if we are to continue in this manner of public display of degradation. If people who are supposed to know better don’t understand, how can the layperson? If they were concerned about her spreading the disease, they could have told her to stay away from other patients; it is not as though people were thronging to meet her because she underwent an abortion.

Plain disgusting.

- - -

Worth his weight?

Being Under-Secretary-General in the United Nations is one thing – it helps you get a ticket to many goodies, including the Indian Parliament and a ministerial berth. I thought Shashi Tharoor would at least bring in some newness and steer clear of religion as a publicity stunt. No such luck.

Here he is performing before god and the worshippers (and the electorate?):



Union minister Shashi Tharoor performs ‘thulabharam’, a ritual in which devotees offer goods equal to their weight to the deity, at the Guruvayoor temple on Sunday


- - -
Results of blog poll:

Which case must be acted upon first

1984 anti-Sikh riots - 8 (44%); 1993 Bombay riots - 4 (22%); 2002 Gujarat riots - 6 (33%); Afzal Guru -7 (38%); Ajmal Kasab - 4 (22%)

I am happy that the few who do visit this blog at least have their priorities right.

Is the offical 9/11 version a big lie?

I got this from a friend. People have always asked questions and the relentless pursuit of facts has still left us with hazy details. The purpose of sharing this here is so that we can hear a few more voices. This is the note I received and the links:

This email is for those who are not conspiracy theorists but who are intelligent and open minded enough to hear out arguments that do not concord with the 'official' and 'politically correct' version of events.

These videos show respectable people -- mostly Americans -- who are, or have been, engineers, physicists, airline pilots, military pilots, air traffic controllers, intelligence officers, FBI agents, high ranking military officers, high ranking diplomats, elected members of legistative bodies like national parliaments, business executives and survivors from the Twin Towers who "were there" and family members of the victims along with several other credible witnesses who make very convincing arguments that the 9/11 official version of events is a BIG LIE.

You must see ALL 12 parts ... This is not sensational journalism. I wouldn't waste your time...

"People should be ashamed for not seeking the truth" A bereved father of a 9/11
victim

1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5thLh7UuaM&NR=1 ( view time 7 min 7 sec)
12 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2M_prRX0mA&NR=1 (10 min 12 sec -- last six minutes are credits)

21.6.09

Do we care what Sharukh Khan thinks of the Prophet?

He can say what he wants and I find both sides talking utter rubbish.

Those who are taking up for him come up with the same old argument that the Prophet would forgive him. Please. Prophets and gods and other religious figures need to concentrate on more important issues, like there is very little water left in the dams in Mumbai and if we don’t get rain on time many people, mostly the poor, will suffer a great deal. Do something about that.

Those who say he is wrong have gone and filed a FIR (First Information Report) against him for using “unparliamentary language” against Prophet Mohammed.

When the Prophet lived there was no Parliament or parliamentary language, no Bollywood, no stupid Lifestyle magazines trying to ask supposedly profound questions to celebrities about religion and politics and history.

Who are these Muslim groups that spring up and decide what Islam is?

They say they won’t bury him in Maharashtra. Was the Prophet Maharashtrian or something?

Why does the media ask him about Islam? He is not a scholar or commentator or a victim of riots. It is a stupid interview.

Q: According to you, who is the most impressive figure in history?

A: There are lots of them, some negative ones like Hitler, then Napoleon, Winston Churchill and if I can call it history, then Prophet Mohammed and from recent time — Nelson Mandela. And there are the nice ones like Gandhiji and Mother Teresa.

The question was about history, not religion. Both sides are ignorant. You might well say that religions have historical roots, fine. But we do not discuss the war of Karbala as history, do we?

It is a badly constructed reply…I mean, “nice ones” for Gandhiji and Mother Teresa! But even if he placed the Prophet alongside Adolf Hitler, it would be his personal viewpoint. I want to ask those Muslims who have been denying the Holocaust on what grounds can they object to this, if indeed it was uttered? If there was no Holocaust then Hitler wasn’t such a bad guy, after all. So, make up your minds and grow up.

Now, Sharukh says there is no more important figure than the Prophet. If he has been misquoted then he should publicly take the person/magazine to court since the matter is so important and he wants to play the perfect Muslim. I wish these people had the courage to stand up for their utterances. If the rich and famous cannot do so, then can you imagine the state of the poor? The Imranas suffer because the powerful guys want to play along. He wants to please the mullahs and the media. He has called it an error in writing, not outright mischievous misreporting. Although, it is clear it is bad writing.

As for the reason touted by those for filing a case against him, if your sentiments are hurt then say a few prayers and ask god for forgiveness on his behalf till he returns from shooting. Later, you could sprinkle as much zam zam on him as you want to purify him. And make sure you call a press conference to project your sad selves as good Muslims.

Sunday ka Funda


“. . . judiciously show a cat milk, if you wish her to thirst for it. Judiciously show a dog his natural prey, if you wish him to bring it down one day.”

- Charles Dickens, A tale of Two Cities

19.6.09

Obama and Peta: The Fly Whodunit

Ah, now President Barack Obama cannot say he wouldn’t hurt a fly. Since everyone knows what he did in the studios, I found just one quote that makes me think of several instances when he could have uttered those words, “That was pretty impressive, wasn’t it? I got the sucker.”

Was the fly a sucker, as in naïve and vulnerable, or was it the sort of insect that sucks and feeds on blood? In either case, the Prez has got himself a new pun: “SWAT Operation”. I am sure someone at the White House must be thrilled to bits.

Watch the man in action here being interviewed by John Harwood and his ‘flyotus interruptus’:




For all his efforts, some people are not happy. As expected PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) thinks it amounts to cruelty to animals and are sending him some device to trap house flies that can be released outside.

This wasn’t a house fly. It was a fly on the make, trying to get its 15 minutes of fame before the cameras by getting too close to the most powerful man in the world. It isn’t something that happens to mere mortals. The fly could have been a mole, the fly could have been something from the past – skeletons are rather passé, the fly might have been the head of a cult called The Fliers whose sole purpose is to make the high and mighty get a laugh at their expense, you know like David Letterman. Or, the fly could have been an innocent victim that got trapped inside and was rather famous among its own. In that case, this wasn’t simple murder but assassination.

The FBI ought to order an enquiry and check whether the fly was American, to begin with. Was it racist? Did it belong to some Islamist group? Was it there to sneak into the Obama well-fitted suit and check out the potential of a date in New York at a Broadway musical?

These are exceedingly important queries that need to be addressed.

Meanwhile, the PETA guys might like to take a look at their own most exploitative ads. Recently, they released an image that showed German-Filipina model Mia Gray inside a cage to highlight the plight of animals in zoos.

I do not think anyone is thinking about any animal in a zoo while seeing this ad.

18.6.09

The Royal Challenge

No more 'Raja', 'Rani', 'Kunwar', 'Begum'. India will finally do away with the vestiges of royal titles. This is the official stand of the Congress party. Will it stop its usage among those who still fancy a bit of pomp and splendour?

At a fashion show

Even our fashion designers have their regal collections and manage to rope in the scions of such families to tog themselves up in their heirloom jewels while they are dressed up in recreated tradition. One would think that tradition is the preserve of royalty alone. What about the traditions of those who create magic weaves and those wonderful palaces and artefacts?

Vasundhara Raje Scindia

Even today a Vasundhara Raje Scindia is referred to as ‘Maharani’ and poses like she is in some fancy dress competition while campaigning for elections! Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi continues to be referred to as Nawab although he was arrested for poaching. Worse, his son who is a yuppie Bollywood actor is referred to as Chhote Nawab.

The pink 'prince'

And then there is the pink prince, Manvendra Singh Gohil of the erstwhile Rajpipla state, who has become the global face of the Indian gay movement.

We see many of these royals being flaunted in society pages even if they have transformed into hoteliers.

Hotel Rambagh Palace

Gayatri Devi modelled for diamonds and who cares if they were limited edition?

I am not terribly taken up with her so-called dignity. I have had two ‘encounters’ with her and both left me unimpressed. The first time was at the Polo Bar of her palace-turned-hotel in Jaipur. She walked in wearing a paisley print chiffon saree and sat on the sofa across from where we were. She lit a cigarette and everything, from her deportment to her way of talking, seemed like that of any socialite in the elite metros. It was only when the high-turbaned stewards started addressing her as “Hukum" that I took a closer look.

The other time was on a hopping flight, from Udaipur to Jaipur. There were no class barriers on this small aircraft. I was squeezed in the middle. I turned to my left as the plane took off to see the clouds as I always do. The lady seated near the window did not seem to like it; I could not see her face and was not interested.

Later, the gentleman on my right leaned forward and addressed her, “I have read your book. Really liked it.”

I pushed myself back so that they could converse.

A heavy voice on my left replied, “Oh, just leave me alone.”

Gayatri Devi with her memories

That was Maharani Gayatri Devi.

When the service started, they handed over packets of sandwich and soft drinks. The attendant addressed the ‘princess’. Not only she did not deign to look up, but she just waved a dismissive hand.

Despite the fact that I was not hungry, I took the packet, opened it and started eating. No royalty was going to act pricey. If she did not like the smell of cheese, then tough luck.

At Jaipur, she disembarked. I saw her retreating back from the window, a woman in a saree that suddenly looked synthetic. There was a lone ‘khaadim’ in white waiting for her.

I almost felt sorry.

Sorrier was the public battle she fought for property with her grandchildren. Is this becoming of one who is touted as the epitome of all that is regal and classy, not to speak of beautiful?

True greatness can shine by the way you beam your light on those less fortunate than you. And it does not matter what honorific you are born with or is bestowed upon you.

17.6.09

Taking the shiney off him

"Hey, he is a good-looking guy. I have been dying to tell you about him."

"What?"

"He is a good actor, too."

"So what is the news about him?"

"Oh, he is involved in some rape case. Remember, you liked the film?"

"Yes. But how did this happen?"

"Dunno. His maid has accused him of rape."

- - -

This guy could have got anyone...wonder why he went for the maid."

"Hmm."

"People like that can just be shut up with a few bucks."

- - -

These are conversations between supposedly educated and intelligent people, the first initiated by a woman.

Shiney Ahuja, an actor with not much work to show, 'allegedly' (that's the term being used) raped his maid when no one was at home. He has said the sex was consensual. The cops have found injuries which suggest there was violence used. Also, she is 17-18 years old.

It may be inappropriate to damn him yet but to indulge in the kind of exchange above is rather sick.

His wife said at a press conference that he is innocent and it is a honey trap. This would be valid, if we want to push the argument, were the girl a wannabe starlet. And if Shiney Ahuja was someone in a position to make a difference to her career. Or if he was 18 and she was old enough to ensnare him.

Right now Shiney Ahuja has got a whole lot of mileage. The girl is unknown. So, what has she got out of it? If the motive is blackmail, how can she succeed at it after incriminating him? If he has been framed, then by whom and for what? It is okay to throw around these words but is there a basis?

Why are TV channels quoting the junta? One had the gumption to say that maids are always looking for sex. There is a limit to this citizen journalism and vigilantism. If the maid is using him then these people are misusing the situation.

There is some talk about how he is not a big enough celebirity like Salman Khan or Sanjay Dutt who also had other cases against them. This is puerile. Analogies are fine but does it take away from the possibility of ANY crime?

It is disgusting to see him get certificates based on him being a "disciplined actor" or an introvert or that he did not attend any non-work related parties.

Fact is, Shiney Ahuja is a celebrity today because he has been arrested on rape charges.

The law will decide. Meanwhile, I find it strange that in a case that is sub-judice the wife is permitted to call for a press conference.

I wish the maid's family had such access.

Even if they did, would anyone listen?

- - -

Updated on June 18:


Anupam Ahuja is calling her husband her ‘soulmate’, which is nice. But by asking whether anyone has seen the medical reports, she is casting aspersions on the doctors and the police.

And these are her words:

“Rape is a very heinous crime and in today’s time it can be committed not just by a man. Even a woman can do it and we all know.”


Technically, when a woman initiates it the term rape is not applied. I am shocked that some newspapers are giving examples of Demi Moore in the film Disclosure. That was a woman in a powerful position. I have already stated that there are cases where women can trap men and have. I would like to know if Mrs Ahuja would say the same thing about the men from low income groups who commit rape – would she still insist that the victim could have raped the man?

Has she ever talked with rape victims?

And if Shiney has never made a move on his co-stars, do remember that the consequences would be worse.

Here is one of those sympathetic letters in the paper today:

“I think Bollywood actor Shiney Ahuja is being targeted for all the wrong reasons. According to me few of the reasons are: He is not a Page 3 person, he does not dance at rich people’s weddings, he acts in sensible films like Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi, Woh Lamhe, etc. Only, he refuses to act in films that don’t go off the beaten path. He does not make appearances on reality shows etc. and lastly, he is not a Khan.”


Acting in sensible films makes him non-culpable as a natural course? He is now a Page 3 person. He did a bit role in Fanaa, a mainstream film and the media is applauding him because apparently he agreed to do it because the character shared his father’s name. He is being touted as a proud son! What next?

What is happening now is a reality show. And trust me, his career is not over. It has only begun. Remember Fardeen Khan got into the news because he was caught with drugs and then started getting films. Shakti Kapoor was indicted in a sting operation for making advances at some woman. He was invited on debates in respected channels and his career went zooming up. So Shiney has plenty to look forward to.

We are a starved society willing to bite anything that barks.

Observatory

No one’s really going to talk about it. Or at least get judgemental. This isn’t the Taliban, you know.

Orthodox Jews can be orthodox Jews and even have their own search engine, Koogle, which is a play on the names of a Jewish noodle pudding and Google:

The site, at www.koogle.co.il, omits religiously objectionable material, such as most photographs of women which Orthodox rabbis view as immodest, Altman said. Its links to Israeli news and shopping sites also filter out items most ultra-Orthodox Israelis are forbidden by rabbis to have in their homes, such as TV sets.


Kosher, but so restrictive. The jihadis are way better off. They can get to watch Osama talking to them from his latest digs or some warlord or the other giving instructions on the mobile phone which the media manages to get hold of, but no one else seems to be able to trace.

- - -


German TV host (L) looks on as a guest on the show (partly hidden) opens the bras of 25 models with chopsticks in the Spanish Island’s capital Palma de Mallorca

Does this serve any purpose at all? If my research is good (hah!), then I believe men have a problem doing the unbuttoning even with their fingers. So, I guess this was some feat and I am sure the man can now have his sticky rice without dropping a single grain.

16.6.09

The Writer in a Wasteland

We have in the past had whore to writer, seller of toothpastes to writer, upright police officer to writer, retired army person to writer, drug-addict to writer, criminal to writer.

Maverick: The Writer in a Wasteland
by Farzana Versey
Covert, June 16-30

I must admit that the first thing I wanted to know when Kamala Das died was about her last rites. Critical as I was of the reasons for her conversion to Islam, it seemed par for the course. However, do we accord writers a similar courtesy of political and religious views? More importantly, are those views to be considered personal or potent weapons of change?

We have in the past had whore to writer, seller of toothpastes to writer, upright police officer to writer, retired army person to writer, drug-addict to writer, criminal to writer. It would appear that you need to be something other than a writer to be a writer.

T. S. Eliot dismissed the “mystical belief in herd-feeling” that he felt was apparent in extreme nationalism and communism, but he made a spirited defence of Christianity, when faith is also about a herd feeling. If he was truly a proponent of individualism why did he reject George Orwell’s Animal Farm, dismissing it with, “I take it to be generally Trotskyite. We have no conviction that this is the right point of view from which to criticize the political situation at the current time”?

This was during World War II, and silence would not have been an option for the sensitive thinker. Isn’t literature supposed to voice those very thoughts that rebel against prevalent beliefs? The Orwellian dystopia is even more apt today; he used his characters in a minimalist fashion to show us how debates can be dumbed down.

It is indeed surprising that writers have to pen elegies and get co-opted by ideologies. This applies to dissent as well. Nadine Gordimer is known for her activist role in the anti-apartheid movement in her country, South Africa. Some of her books had been banned during the time. She remains an outspoken critic of various leaders. I was, therefore, a bit distressed to hear her say, “Looking back, it would have been an insult if they hadn’t been banned. It was an honour.”

What was she trying to convey? That the protest would have been in vain had her works been accessible through legitimate channels in her country? Or was she aiming to reach only the outside world? Isn’t the role of the writer as activist to well and truly portray such angst and make it known to those who are suffering from it?

What about the millions who go through privations without either the benefit of a voice, literary or otherwise, and swallow the indignities heaped upon them? They are not banned or sent off – they become slaves of society and give writers and artistes the raw material required to portray the trauma.

This is not to suggest that writers are exploiters – although, in some ways it is true because all of us who choose the medium of expression are using people and places imbued with our understanding and biases. Can we make a blanket call for freedom of speech without fathoming its deeper undercurrents and repercussions?

Salman Rushdie got tetchy when his bodyguards decided to reveal a bit of tittle-tattle about him while he has been happily holding on to his expose of religion for better understanding. What about the freedom of speech of those who oppose his views and think a book of religion is literature? Many of us were told to read the Bible in our convent schools only for its literary merit. Has Rushdie been able to deconstruct the Quran’s seminal message?

The moment a writer uses a position to affect opinion, s/he become responsible for it. Therefore, it was disingenuous of Arundhati Roy to state, “I am a writer and want to be identified as a writer only. One should not define me as an activist. I am not an activist.”

After The God of Small Things, she did not write anything that was not activist in nature. Her collections of essays and interviews were about subjects that have to do with a society in turmoil. Surely, a committed writer ought to be able to stand up for what she did all these years.

In a world where wastelands thrive, memorials to such mortuaries deserve a bit more than a few good metaphors.

15.6.09

News meeows - 21

What an eyewash and a convenient alibi.

The Ram Pradhan Committee had given the Mumbai Police a clean chit in the 26/11 attacks. This blog had recorded the ridiculousness in the words of those who were directly affected.

We have news for you:

The two-member committee headed by veteran bureaucrat Ram Pradhan to investigate the police response to the 26/11 terror attacks on the metropolis has singled out then Mumbai police commissioner Hasan Gafoor for his complete failure to provide leadership during the hours of crisis.


They discovered it now? Why did the earlier report then give a clean chit? And does anyone fancy stuff like this to explain away what happened?

Through much of the attack, Gafoor stationed himself at one spot near the Oberoi and asked crime branch chief Rakesh Maria to take charge of the control room…Above all, Gafoor’s attitude created an impression among subordinates that they were not part of the high-level police team tackling terror.”


1. One man can be only at one spot. If he was not anywhere, then he has shirked his duty.

2. Someone has to take charge of the control room which becomes the hub during such times. Who better than the crime branch chief? Incidentally, the panel has given Maria a clean chit as also the then Maharashtra DGP A N Roy.

3. If Gafoor was at one spot, then how did his subordinates get the impression that they were not a part of the high-level team tackling terror? I am seriously trying to understand the mechanism involved here. Does someone tell the cops that, look, you are handling terror when they are there doing precisely that? What is high-level and low-level here? When we hear of stories about ordinary citizens trying to save others, do the cops need their egos to be massaged in the midst of such a crisis?

Heads do roll. That is the only way governments can save their skin. So, Hasan Gafoor is out and D Sivanandan, chief of the state intelligence department, comes in.

Fine. He is already giving sound bytes about how he will act more and talk less. Given that he has already started with talk, I guess he is getting it all out of his system.

A mention must be made of all these four officers, as many others. One sees their pictures in Page 3 glossies. They are human and all and need to party, but the tendency to become celebrities does not quite go with the position and sensitive nature of their work. They need to understand that. Does not the Bombay Police Manual say anything about it? If they must attend such functions, and it could be a birthday party of some aging actor, then the least they can do is insist that their faces are not splashed in the papers.

No wonder they cannot figure out when there is an attack on the city; they could well be partying. Oh, if I recall correctly, wasn’t Mr. Sivanandan in the news for taking to task a nutritionist who he accused of using chemicals after he tried her weight-loss programme? See, that’s what I know about our top cops!

- - -

Remember Chand Mohammed and Fiza, both of who converted to Islam to get married and then divorced and there was a lot of bitter exchange? Okay, now the MLA says, “I love her more than ever... and want to come back.” One wants to tell the guy that he need not bother; she never went away and was hogging the limelight. Both are just attention seekers.

As I have said earlier, where are all those mullahs and why are these two being permitted to make a farce of the religion? No fatwa? No excommunication? Have you heard anything remotely Islamic from them?

They deserve each other and can join some spooky cult and live happily ever after.

- - -

It is wonderful that Meira Kumar has been appointed the Speaker of the House. Indian Parliament would do well, I am sure. But is it necessary to mention her gender (which is visible) and her caste everytime? Even worse is this:

Soft-voiced, seemingly unfit to instil order in the Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar dismisses the criticism that her vocal chords are a handicap. She is confident she would be heard in the House.


Utter nonsense. Unfortunately, she went on to give an explanation that thus far people were used to listening to men who were Speakers but if she can he heard in her constituencies then she can be heard in Parliament too.

She does not need to say all this. She can just smile and go on with her work. No one, no MP and no journalist, has any business to discuss this issue because it is not an issue.

Here is an extract from the interview in TOI:

Q: But in Parliament, you appeared to prefer the identity of a woman against the popular focus on your caste

A: Unfortunately, caste is a dominant factor in society. Ours is a janmapradhan and not karmapradhan society. All achievements — character, learning — are incomplete till your caste is revealed.

Q: That makes you uncomfortable as you appeared to have played down the caste factor in your acceptance speech?

A: No. I have always felt that certain sections need empowerment. They don’t need patronage but social justice. We have to talk of them, regardless of who we are. It is myopic to think that only if you belong to a group can you talk of it. And because I am from that group, I cannot shy away.


Confusion, naturally. That is the idea behind such stupid inquisitions. The Speaker has no constituency and must be non-partisan. Enough.

- - -

What did I tell you here about the ones who stay tight-lipped for convenience? Here are two quotes close to what was said by them.

June 9:

'Nothing much to say…'

June 14:

'Aww, no…something wrong here…why was she called a smuggler?'

Huh? She was called that even before June 9. But as I said in that post:

No comments? Wait for a while. You will hear them after others have spoken and they will peck on those carrion words later depending on how the case swings.

Touche to me…

13.6.09

Inter-faith blah

Hindu and Catholic leaders had a dialogue which they assume will solve the problems of minorityism.

Naturally, the press labelled it a “path-breaking Hindu-Catholic dialogue”. They agreed that there would be:

“No violence against minorities. No forced conversions. A pooling of resources for social work and charity.’’


The first one is supposed to be a Hindu problem. The second one is a Catholic problem. The third one is no problem. Nice.

The Hindu group was led by the Sankaracharya of Kanchi, Sri Jayendra Saraswati. He likes deciding what India should do; very political this swami is. His reason for speaking out on violence against minorities is that India is a deeply spiritual country. So spiritual in fact that it should not be called secular but spiritual. Therefore, if he decides to let out a few secrets of some high-flying politicians, then maybe we will be called The Spiritual Republic of India.

We can then meditate each time there is disaster or even a minor calamity. We do it anyway. No rains? Conduct some havans to propitiate the gods, use up precious wood, ghee and other unguents, feed priests and there will be rains because they are expected within the next few days. If they are delayed, which happens, then no one ever makes these guys accountable. Never. We curse the weatherman, we curse global warming; even these sadhus curse these factors. But they do it spiritually. They meditate to wish global warming away.

The report further added:

The Sankaracharya also made it clear that he did not approve of conversions and foreign funds for running educational and charity projects.


Unless the charities and schools are run by religious institutions, they come within the purview of the state government. The government decides. His approval or agreement will not be solicited in these matters. He was trying to take a shot at such funds for missionary-run establishments. Perhaps, he might like to look into the temple donation lists and check where much of the money comes from. Also, for the saffron parties.

The Catholics on their part were told not to indulge in forced conversions.

This meeting took place in a hall and there was a press conference. Do these discussions serve any purpose? What did you learn from all this? I did. One thing. Did you know that India had a papal ambassador to Delhi, Archibishop Quintana? Why do we need one? Why was he at a meeting to discuss what goes on in India and has political ramifications?

Do such ‘meeting of minds’ result in anything concrete? It is not even a feel-good thing.

Does the poor person in a village who is a victim of violence want such pontificating? Does the convert think beyond the money and hope for a god, which is where this spiritualism comes in and in fact negates the whole idea of the discourse?

Spiritualism does not need an agenda. It is an intensely private belief in seeking something that is beyond oneself. Religion has got nothing to do with it.

Honey, I shrunk the kids


Aamir Khan has turned down the state government’s offer to campaign against child labour. The reason he gave:

“I’m doing a lot of public service messages and I didn’t want to dilute the (message in the) ads that I’ve already done by doing another one.”


Smart fellow. As some of us know, there is a concerted move by the state labour ministry to take action against children working in TV serials, comedy acts and music programmes; this could include kids in films. It is indeed silly, but Aamir cannot do this campaign with a straight face after how he has ‘used’ children. But catch him admitting to that.

And while we are on child labour, those children who were employed in the election campaigns would also come within its purview. Shouldn’t someone make the agencies and organisations that started these campaigns answerable?

No. No one cares. Mr. Straight-face Aamir will still be seen as the guy with “credibility”.

- - -

An old article Belabouring over child labour gives a more detailed picture

11.6.09

On and off – 6

Not on…

The Late Show host David Letterman said on his show that Sarah Palin “bought makeup at Bloomingdale’s to update her ‘slutty flight attendant’ look”.

Wonder where he buys his makeup to update his 'Hugh Hefner who lost all his bunnies' look. I do not understand what passes for humour in the media, especially television. He even took a potshot at Palin’s teenage daughter. Reacting to it, she said:

"Acceptance of inappropriate sexual comments about an underage girl, who could be anyone's daughter, contributes to the atrociously high rate of sexual exploitation of minors by older men who use and abuse others."


Absolutely.

As for the slutty look, not only has he insulted an individual but also a profession. What is so slutty about flight attendants? When he flies, is he seeing the women who serve him his drinks and bring him the napkin to wipe his face after he has puked on his own jokes as sluts? Is this his fantasy?

I am sure there are ways to hit out at Palin for her political gaffes or her opinions (or lack of them) on issues.

But, then, is he smart enough to come up with one-liners on those?

On…

Thomas Beatie, the ‘Pregnant man’, gave birth to a second child. Born a woman, he is legally male but decided to keep his female sex organs.

There are several questions that need to be examined here, but I give it the thumbs up for now because he did it again. If it was a one-off, it might have been a publicity stunt or just idle curiosity.

Although I am not suggesting it is the only aspect, it does indeed give fatherhood a more nurturing face.

With his wife and daughter when he was pregnant

9.6.09

Countdown to the One Millionth Word?

This is among the worst instances of dumbing down. They are catering to everyone’s fantasy of concern - something from fashion, pop culture, the greens, music, sports; they are also trying to balance cultures and countries.

Tomorrow, June 10th, 2009 at 10:22 am (Stratford-on Avon Time) The Global Language Monitor in Austin, Texas will announce the winning word. I find the location rather quaint. Maybe these Texans just wanna go on vacation. Are you not all excited to know whether Indian women’s panties, “cuddies”, will get the green signal or will it be the real green McCoy, locally- produced “locavores” that are part of “slow food” which isn’t fast?

Now, there is something for fast moms called “octomom” that is, believe it or not, “the media phenomenon of the mother of the octuplets”. Huh? Do the sperms like consult newspapers and TV channels about how to hit different ova at the same time so that you get a few nice bundles of eight?

You can “de-friend” someone from your social network and if you send them steamy messages via email you will be “sexting” them. You may send steam and sauna in other ways, but there is no word for it.

The US President's popularity would be “Obamamania”, which is kind of lame, but what is surprising is “Mobama” – relating to the fashion-sense of the US First Lady. I thought it would be green, given her penchant for dresses and gowns that look like they are made from feathers or the colour of flora and fauna.

After the success of the film Slumdog Millionaire, two words from India figure. “Slumdog” would qualify as slang although it goes under the ‘politically incorrect’ category and “refers disparagingly to someone living in the slums”. If it is disparaging, then why is it qualifying at all? And “Jai ho” is a phrase taken from a song.

The issue is not with words from varied cultures; English language speakers and writers do employ Latin, French, Spanish phrases, and ancient English is nothing quite like we know it now.

My quarrel is with the limited idea of “the coming of age of English as the first, truly global language”. One does not need to blow trumpets to announce such an event. Languages evolve and those speaking it in different countries add bits and pieces of the local dialect. No one goes to check whether such a word has been anointed by the English dictionary or this gimmick.

But these Language Monitor people are serious:

“Due to the global extent of the English language, the millionth word is as likely to appear from India, China, or East Los Angeles as it is to emerge from Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home town.”

This isn’t expanding the horizons but clasping them in a clinch to draw attention to their ethnicity. How does it add to a language?

The Chosen Word will depend on citations, usage, appearances in the media, the Net, blogs and networking sites. This is just to confirm the celebrity status of the words, irrespective of whether they make sense or not.

Poland’s contribution is about predatory lending practices, bankers behaving like gangsters. Every stud imagines he is a “bangster”. I don’t even want to think about some guy in a suit and tie ripping me off my money…even if he is one in a million.

We’d be poles apart.

Page 3 Media Vultures

No one is interested in asking questions. There is a bit of legalese thrown in, but the attention is on what the woman arrested was wearing, including details of her “downplayed” jewellery and makeup, not forgetting “lower lids rimmed with kohl and white liner on the inner side” and “firmly in place was the emblem of her social status – oversized bumblebee glasses.”

These shades happen to be the trend and even college students wear them, although more likely unbranded ones.

In a disgusting display of depravity in writing; a report said:

Before her arrest
Whatever may be the emotional upheaval and humiliation churning inside, her appearance showed no signs of it.


After her arrest
The Sheetal that walked out of court seemed eerily exposed.


The case in short is this: Sheetal Bhagat, wife of industrialist Atulya Mafatlal, is caught with jewellery and accessories worth a little over Rs. 50 lakh. She is an NRI and travels often, so they are suspecting there must be some smuggling racket.

Her husband alludes that the police were tipped off; there is a family feud going on and the matter is money.

High society is in a tizzy. Some must be gloating; others are worried.

Let us get to the nitty-gritty. If this is the reason and the jewellery were not gold biscuits or loose diamonds, they were ornaments. In our country carrying back anything above Rs. 20,000 makes it liable to customs duty. She should have been asked to pay up the duty. Besides, any piece of jewellery, even a small diamond ring, costs that much and is today worn by many Indians as a matter of course. What about the camera, cellphone, laptop we carry? Is there any way to ensure they are old and not bought for sale?

And let me tell you, not that you unaware of it, there are customs officers who are informed about the bigwigs travelling and they flag those people off irrespective of what they are carrying. The bigwigs arrange for their minions to be at the airport to arrange just such a deal. Envelopes are delivered later.

The person in question may also have done similar things in the past. This time something not connected with official duty has happened. I know it is a case that will be tried, but she did not get bail. I find it absolutely amazing.

You might want to ask: does this not happen to hundreds of people who are not famous? Absolutely. It does. For no reason at all. It should not, and no one will accuse me of not taking this up in my writings. But it does not mean we do not expect the law to be followed and start patting honest officers because, even if that were the case, it was a fluke. Trust me. You can be asked for “perfumes for the wife, chocolates for the kids, and booze for myself only”.

What does this Page 3 journalism that has jumped to Page 1 do besides the piffle I quoted above? It interviews her husband and asks him about the rumours of his marriage being in trouble. How really degrading is this.

At some point he is queried about her love for jewellery and the possibility of that getting her into trouble! The guy does mention that she likes her ornaments, to which the so-called sympathetic society journo shoots back, “In that case, will there be a bauble awaiting her as a welcome gift when she steps out of jail?”

I am surprised she was not given a really nasty retort. Be as critical as you want, but examine it as a case.

The lady here – who incidentally I think has appalling taste because you may wear the best designer labels but if you heap it on it looks like a store not a body – was wooed by the same pink champagne crowd that went ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ because that is what they are toilet trained to do.

And for those flashy supposedly frank commentators to say “I have nothing to say” is precious piffle. They are the ones who feed on these very high jinks for their comments; this is what they always aspired to be and managed.

No comments? Wait for a while. You will hear them after others have spoken and they will peck on those carrion words later depending on how the case swings. Or when they are invited to a bigger, maybe electronic, forum where they can flash their bangles, earrings, chokers, all in antique finish.

Vultures.

8.6.09

Tracking Naheeda, the Pathan Village Woman

There was no chariness that Salim and Ali were chatting so openly with me, sitting cross-legged on a cot. Both the brothers liked their free-spirited young aunt, Naheeda.

Tracking Naheeda, the Pathan Village Woman
by Farzana Versey
State of Nature

She had not let childbirth and housework mar her looks, although some chubbiness had settled on her cheeks and chin. Her head was uncovered and her black hair was tied in a loose braid. ‘I want to work too, but I get no time. The schools are far, so I have to drop the children there. Women rule in the house. If I were under any restrictions, do you think I could talk to you in privacy? My husband is there praying, he could have stopped me.’ Just then he called out to her. She returned within minutes. ‘He has asked me not to let you leave without having lunch with us. He has to remind me to be a good hostess, I just talk so much that I forget basic manners.’ And what happened to the education she had acquired? ‘In future I don’t know, but for now my children will benefit. And it shows in the way I conduct my life. No one can boss over me.’ While her husband and mother-in-law were busy with their afternoon prayers, she did not feel it necessary to join them.

(Rest of this extract from A Journey Interrupted: Being Indian in Pakistan is at the link or the Journey blog)

7.6.09

Twittering on the edge

The yellow rose was waiting for me. I imagined someone had read that the only roses I like are yellow. It wasn't that easy. I had to click a link, register at the site and claim that rose from someone I did not know and who did not know me. Chances of him wanting to know me were remote. I was just an email address he had added to the list of people he was showering with flowers.

I am distressed at the way in which social interactions have been reduced to twittering, facebooking, orkuting, myspacing, necking…okay, cut that out.

Like many of you, I am urged by people to check out their photos. Or to share files with them and write something on their ‘walls’. Again, you have to register and soon everyone is everybody's friend. I do not blame the networkers for the phrasing of such invitations because the sites have these standard ones which go to the extent of saying that if you do not respond, Osama or whoever will commit suicide by drinking your bile. Of course, I am exaggerating. What do you expect me to do?

With the exception of a few people I do know, or get to know, most of these invitations are from strangers who have never interacted with me.

I find it utterly ill-mannered. If they do believe you are worth it, the least they can do is send a message prior to the invite or after. Do they assume you are desperate? One of these blokes sent me some nasty abusive feedback on an article and then had the audacity to add me to some list. I got a reminder saying that if I did not respond, then Mr Hogwash would think I was ignoring him, followed by a sad smiley. Like hell.

In the era prior to all this, people would add you to their messenger lists. Just like that. You have never corresponded, not even a word, and you get added. There is no courtesy of a message. Since I rarely sign in, I see many of these later. Some leave offlines. One said, "We can chat whenever I am here." I went down on my knees to say Grace or whatever it is Islamists say.

On occasion, due to their professions or whatever, there has been access to my cellphone number. Again, it is not always possible/interesting to go on and I am sensible enough to accept that the other individual would feel the same. But how can they keep sending SMSes? They are not filthy, ok? But if god has been kind to them to help them make my acquaintance, then they should thank god, na? But no. I am supposed to send a smiley to say I agree! This is god’s plan, not mine, so ask god to do the needful.

Also, if people have found Allah, Eeshwar, God, I’d say good for them. Is there any need to ask me to join in prayer to thank the concerned omnipotent power for such discoveries? Do we thank Alfred Nobel for every fart that occurs in the world?

Coming back to networking, I have looked at one such site twice, both times to make sure they were from the sources mentioned in the invites – the names were common and I know both of them. One was fine; the other was the right one too, but I was shocked to find he had lied about his location. I don’t know what other lies were there because I am not registered. This was what was visible. Why did he do it? Isn’t it misleading people?

This sort of forum can provide some fun to teenagers or those who seriously believe it will help in their work.

All my exchanges are in my writings and my responses. I value these a lot. Yes, in the course of such exchanges it is possible to get to know people better and outside the realm of such discourse. Here, too, I have made some grievous errors in the past, the times when a friend told me, “After three emails or so, do you have to give your whole bloody Ram kahani?…people will take advantage. I would if that is how I got to know you!”

So, I stick to being 'starchy'.

Will I twitter? Do you think I can manage to recount how my toenail broke, forget the life story of my toenail, in 140 words, or is it characters?

PS: If you don’t read this I will think you are ignoring me :(

Ask the vexpert - 19

Question: I am a 37-year-old man. I had a habit of giving six to 12 v AC power supply to my penis for five to 15 minutes. With this I experienced a vibration in my penis. I do not like nightfall, so I put a rubber band on my penis. Will this cause problems in my married life or affect my sperm count?

Sexpert: You will not find a battery at the end of the vagina. You will experience the act sprinkled with love and desire of the partner. So if you must, then do it on your own once in a while. Nightfall is a natural act, so tying bands will not help; it will not spill out in your urine. Stop before a problem occurs in the sphincter of the bladder.

Me: Besides the wastage of electricity, there is a danger of your penis becoming an automaton. Our organs have sensors that are attached to the brain. If the message gets the vibrations from a source such as this, it will immediately realise that this is how the said organ must respond. Also, with the possibility of power failures the signals may get all mixed up; it could create a fear psychosis in your organ that will be transmitted to the cells in the brain, which might decide to indulge in its own short circuiting method.

Regarding your second query, I would suggest you try and sleep during the day. Day sleep has different dynamics because there is no Rapid Eye Movement. REM is in fact the cause of intense subconscious sexual activity; the rapid blinking of the eye and the internal state of repose mimic the real act, therefore the nightfall.

Putting a rubber band will in fact suggest to the penis that it needs to expand and be as elastic as the band. I would prefer you used a naada (a string used to fasten the salwaar in our part of the world) but it is only a temporary cure because it might give rise to a penile attitude problem: dressed up and nowhere to go.

5.6.09

The Oprahfication of Obama

The Oprahfication of Obama: Walk like an Egyptian
by Farzana Versey
Counterpunch, June 5-7

Barack Hussein Obama was not addressing the Muslims; he was talking to the American people to seek legitimacy for himself. The once-upon-a-time Muslim’s landmark speech was about the Other World. A distant Barbaria.

To make the otherness more palpable, he used a couple of literary/marketing devices: Empathy and Confession. A good novelist or advertiser employs them to get under the skin of the characters. As creator, Obama appeared to be playing devil’s advocate when what he was in fact drawing attention to is that the devil has no horns, thereby demonising a whole community and making suspicion a valid possibility for the ‘potent minority’ is invisible.

In confessional mode he revealed his roots; it was the sort of thing Oprah Winfrey does. Take a situation, look pained about how it has come to such a pass, and regurgitate it. Repetition is the true modus operandi of a confession. In Obama’s case it was: I am a Christian, but I have a little Muslim skeleton in my cupboard.

That immediately imbued him with a halo. He was the come-back kid, the prodigal had returned, the baptism was complete. When such an admission is made, people are forced to listen. The assumption is that the person knows his marbles. By quoting from the Koran, Obama was drilling home the point that you cannot talk to the Muslims without bringing in religion. The Obama Empathy essentially gave a travel guide version of Islam, with algebra and calligraphy as throwaway pebbles in the stream of stereotypes that he was swimming in.

It is typical retail therapy when he says, “America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition”. He is buying a stereotype. Make no mistake about that. “And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

Why is it his responsibility? Is he in some ways accepting that the US is responsible for creating those stereotypes? Where was the Taliban before the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and the US decision to assist it? Why did Ayatollah Khomeini sweep through the Iranian landscape after the Shah of Iran was being wooed by both the Cold War chiefs? What happened to the modern state of Iraq?

His idea of negative stereotypes was no different from the good guy versus bad guy dumbing down that has become so popular. They keep a roster and at last count some one billion Islamic fundamentalists were said to be stomping all over the world.

That gave him a perspective to get down to the serious business of trying to seek a connection between 9/11 and “tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate”. It was a pathetic attempt at using the religious wars when making a case for the United States, which made him sound more like Rev. Jesse Jackson than Martin Luther King.

He was bringing in a simplistic version of history by making it seem that the West is a single conglomerate. Worse, he referred to it as a “Cold War” between the West and Muslims, quite forgetting its implications. Some commentators have already said that Afghanistan is Obama’s Vietnam. By doing so there is passive aggressiveness being conveyed about how tough the US is.

The reason being touted was reeking of the superficial Obama empathy: “the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam”.

Does modernity mean the vivid imagination that could conjure weapons of mass destruction and imagine that by bombing civilian areas they would find Osama bin Laden? Does globalization mean intervention and feeding the Americans such xenophobia? No one wishes to deny 9/11, but 9/11 is not the symbol of world devastation. A world where countries have 3000 people dying in a single communal riot, or when cities are bombed. If the US government wishes to use this as an example, then it must remember the several acts of terror in other Western societies or else it will be a selfish motive.

Like Hollywood, Obama used the guilt perspective. It is a Zionist model and naturally a good place to start. There was absolutely no reason to refer to the Holocaust during the speech, because the Palestinians or the Arabs or the Muslims – and the President must know these can be disparate groups – were not responsible for it.

The President made one of the most educated people in the world, the Palestinians, seem like they needed help “to develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel's legitimacy”. The most vicious occupation was dismissed as “continued Israeli settlements” whereas the “Palestinians must abandon violence”.

The passive aggressive quality is again manifested in his pursuit of al Qaeda. Recently, he talked about moving 17,000 troops to Afghanistan. But at Cairo he said, “We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.”

It is all about America. He talked about money being given to set up schools, hospitals; he did not mention money given as military aid. He had earlier pledged to “invest in Pak democracy” to “get the job done”.

It did not take long to see that the knight-in-shining-armour persona was carrying a sheathed sword: “Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of another's.” This is the very nature of religion. You are a believer of a faith only when you accept it unconditionally. The purpose of measuring it is about pitting it against another. It does not mean that people do not accept the existence of other faiths, but they will nullify that ideology if it does not suit them. This also applies to nations. Colonialism is proselytisation; it need not be geographical. US colonialism sells the American Dream. The issue of tolerance is touted, but it comes on its own terms.

The reason the US is one of the most nationalistic societies is because it has no choice; it has to make sure the indigenous mental space is not trod upon. The politician needs cheerleaders. Obama himself is a manufactured totem; he appeared at a time when Americans needed to get a break from the lies that were supposed to transform them into greater patriots when their country has spent about 675 billion dollars since 2001 for nothing.

They did not vote for a war veteran.

People are not fools. Not the Americans. Not the Arabs.

4.6.09

These are a few of my favourite things?

There was this questionnaire from a serious source. They thought I was a serious client and they wanted my feedback to make sure I remained serious.

After a series of serious questions about what I thought about them, their work, their ability to satisfy me (I love this), they asked me stuff about my favourite things. I have a few favourite things but with mood swings I like a bit of change…anyhow, I decided to sound serious.

I will skip the usual ones…then they got me to thingies:

Watches: Patek Phillipe, Tissot.

My reputation was at stake or else I would have said Chunibhai’s shop, where I got that big one with a purple dial that does not work and cost me 250 rupees.

Cuisine: I lay it on…French, Thai, Mexican, South Indian, Italian, Chinese, Tibetan, Burmese, Nepali, Burkano Fasoan, Frontier (yo, mah jihadi basic instincts)…okay four of them I did not mention.

What I wanted to say? A regular supply of chocolate walnut brownie with triple scoop ice-cream and Bailey’s Irish cream and sprinkled with nuts.

Favourite apparel: None. Really. I said it. Now the envelope has been sealed and delivered.

Pity they didn’t ask about favourite position. I guess their zeal wasn’t missionary enough to get a woman on top to fess up about how every doggie has its day.

Since I like being upfront, here it is: Left of Centre.

Seriously.