Okay, I feel like a cow. Among the many meanings of the word maverick, there is one that says, “Calf or yearling found without an owner's brand”.
So a stupid Texas cattle owner forgot to brand his beasts and those were named after him, Samuel Maverick.
The other definitions are, “Someone who exhibits great independence in thought and action” and “individualist, unconventional person”.
Am not sure being any of these helps much. Strangely enough you are the first to get ‘branded’. All sorts of names come your way. Not much you can do, but sit back as others wait for you to make the wrong move, say something unconventional, go against the tide and in essence be ‘abnormal’.
As I picked up the newspaper in the morning, I had to make a choice – was I a cow or abnormal? Or an abnormal cow? Maybe an unconventional cow that refuses to chew cud?
I think I am pretty conventional. I just don’t like walking the straight line. I like to see the world upside down. I am sure there are tribes where this would be considered normal behaviour or bungee jumpers who will hug me for managing to do this without being hung from an elastic rope on their ankles and thrown off a cliff.
To come straight to the point. Today my new fortnightly column Maverick (the first one is titled Citizen Cane) has started in the Op-ed page of The Asian Age; ask them why they wanted to call it that. You can also check it out directly at Deccan Chronicle, the other paper that will carry it. Even better, get the newspaper.
For me it is still the best medium because when I am angry I can crush the pages in my hands and I do feel ecstatic to smell the ink and see those occasional black blotches on my fingertips.
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Updated on Feb 16 for the column to be accessible...
The Asian Age, OP-ED Feb 6
Chances are you are being co-opted into believing that the banning of the film Parzania is evidence that your rights are being trampled upon, that if you support Taslima Nasreen’s plea to live in India you are socially-aware, that you are a patriot if your face is painted in the tricolour, that you are alive to the environment only if you send SMS messages responding to a TV poll on the Nithari killings, pesticides in colas, racism against a film actress.
Chances are that you truly believe you are being empowered.
Welcome to the world of Citizen Cane where they dangle a carrot of consciousness before you and you assume it is a stick to beat the system with.
You, the common man and woman, are being taken for a ride to serve the purpose of those who think they "make a difference."
Let us see what difference is being made.
Parzania traces the story of a Parsi family whose son has disappeared during the Gujarat riots. The state government has banned it. It is based on a real-life incident. The father of Azhar Mody has said, "This film was our last hope. It shows my son’s picture in the end and gives a contact number. If somebody sees Azhar, they can report on that number. He might be here in Gujarat, but the motive stands defeated if we can’t show the movie here."
While I sympathise with his personal situation, does anyone realise the irony that the visible victims of the riots are still waiting for compensation, the culprits have not been identified, let alone tried? Does anyone have the time to ask what has happened to Zahira Sheikh who was used as the poster girl and then branded a liar, a young woman who saw her house go up in flames and 14 members of her family killed? Why do we seek to ignore the ground reality and look for a manufactured reality that is at best symbolic?
Did Rahul Dholakia make this film with the purpose of tracing the boy? Then, should his responsibility not go beyond selling his celluloid cause? Why blame an insensitive establishment that has anyway shown scant regard for a large section of its people?
No one is interested in large numbers. Has anyone asked you to give your opinion on the plight of 20 million Bangladeshi "illegal immigrants," many of who crossed the border after the 1971 War? It has been 35 years, enough time for them to become naturalised, but they are still harassed and often considered a security threat. The "concerned lobby" will not publicly campaign for them.
Taslima Nasreen’s is a different story. It is the story of "exile," of intellectual freedom. The freedom to write in an Indian magazine, "Burn the burqa." She does not speak up for the refugees from her country of birth. She does not talk about the "Barbie-fication" of women. She does not know that about 12 women die every hour in India from a pregnancy-related cause. She is not even addressing women in burqa, for the vast majority would not read her; they do not have the luxury of claiming rights and making choices.
When the dance bars were being shut down, who do you think were the spokespersons of the social strata most affected? The elite. An ad man had the audacity to announce on national television that if the wives knew how to keep the men at home then they would not go to such places. Is this what we have come to sanctify as the citizens’ movement?
The 22-year-long peaceful battle of the Narmada Bachao Andolan is taken over by the actor of Rang De Basanti, which promotes violence. On what grounds does a film like this become the "voice of the nation"? Who decides that Gandhi has been reinvented in a preachy little blockbuster? Why is communal harmony the preserve of those who congregate in their martini moment of truth and exorcise other people’s demons before the cameras?
I won’t even go into the fast-track justice reserved for those who treat it as a Formula One spectator sport. Or the Nithari killings where a small-time Noida businessman is described as an industrialist and we are given graphic accounts of the recipes for baby-flesh kebabs. Or how TV panel discussions transform into kangaroo courts. Causes are important only if they are about AIDS, drugs, acid attacks. You go clean the streets in a photo-op where a film-star wearing Nike flashes a broom around. The Art of Living is now a posh course you take to survive stress.
If you have managed to reach till here in, say, five minutes, then five people have by this time died of TB in our country. No, TB does not stand for Tattoo Boredom.